I apologise for the delay in getting back to this story, been pretty blocked of late, and this section I was at wasn't helping matters. So I've decided just to try and push my way through and get this story back on track.
* * * * *
Northern Polar Region
Ocampa V, Delta Quadrant
Ocampa five was a dry planet. Whatever the Caretaker and his people had done to the planet had left it barely habitable; unable to produce rain, high levels of UV radiation baked the surface, soil unable to sustain even the simplest bacteria. Plants had died off, rivers and oceans had dried up leaving behind nothing but desert, whilst at the poles all the ice had evaporated and there was nothing but grey rock formations, whilst the temperature was only slightly lower than elsewhere on her homeworld.
Transporting eight thousand, seven hundred and eight-three men from high orbit onto the surface of a planet was more taxing than Kes had expected. So she had taken some time to centre herself once again, but as she tried to meditate she was bothered by the recollection of the Maje’s emotions, the dark and degrading imagery his mind had been filled with was worse than any other Kazon she had encountered.
But even that paled in comparison to the sudden surge she had sensed. She knew it was Susperia, having felt her presence even since she had moved Tanis and his people to Ocampa five, but she had managed to keep the alien entity from making contact to her followers and vice versa. Susperia’s ability to break through her defences showed Kes just how exhausted she was—but then again she had been overdoing it a lot in the last couple of weeks, and even her abilities weren’t infinite. She had known from the minute she had decided to reunite her people that a confrontation with Susperia was unavoidable.
Since bringing the station into orbit, she had erected a telepathic defence barrier to keep Susperia away from them in both mind and body, but now she had found a crack, Kes knew it would only be a matter of time before the entity forced her way through. Before that happened, Kes wanted to deal with Susperia on her own terms. So she lowered the barrier around her, opening up the north pole but keeping the station and the subterranean city safe.
Now she waited, using the techniques shown to her by Tuvok to quieten her mind and focus her abilities.
“Hello Kes.” The voice was hoarse and sounded old, with the slightest hint of menace.
Opening her eyes Kes looked upon an Ocampan girl, no more than half a year old, wearing a lightweight pink dress which fluttered in the breeze. Slowly, her muscles groaning and joints popping, Kes got to her feet, never taking her eyes off the being before her.
“Hello Susperia,” she replied, keeping her tone level. On the edges of her mind she could feel the Caretaker’s mate trying to crack through her own mental shielding, but she kept her barrier firmly raised and held fast. Going mind-to-mind with the alien was something she did not want to attempt as she had no knowledge of just how powerful Susperia was.
The girl looked around at the barren spires of stone and the cloudless sky. “It has been a long time since I was last on your world; it was a different place then.”
“You were here before the Warming?”
Susperia nodded. “It was quite beautiful then.”
“Why did your people experiment on the atmosphere?”
“Merely an experiment we were carrying out—the principles of which are too great for your simple mind to comprehend.”
Kes felt her push a little harder on her telepathic screen. “Trying to anger or upset me won’t work. I fully accept that your science is beyond anything I know, but my mind is far from simple.”
Susperia smiled, which was both sweet and nasty at the same time. “So I see. You have come farther than I ever suspected an Ocampa to achieve. How did you manage that?”
“A species I encountered a few years ago somehow managed to warp my abilities. Since then they have grown and continue to develop.”
“Indeed. I must admit I am impressed. Psionic teleportation isn’t easy, and you did it over eight thousand times—into the middle of a desert.
“Tell me, Kes, have you ever seen someone die from exposure or thirst? A horrible way to expire but it is a sentence you have given each and every one of those Kazon. I would never have imagined such barbarism from you.”
Kes felt a flicker of doubt and remorse and then Susperia pushed. Momentarily weakened, Kes could feel her defences buckle against the sudden and unyielding force. Her head was ringing with pain and every nerve she had felt as though it was on fire.
“Stop,” Kes whispered, her voice lost on the soft breeze.
Susperia pushed harder and deeper. Kes could feel her searching her memories, pushing past every defence she tried to erect, charging straight through every thought maze she tried to hide behind. In her mind’s eye, Kes could see the savage smile on the sweet girl’s face as she searched for what it was she wanted. Kes didn’t know what Susperia wanted, so had no way of protecting the knowledge she was trying to rip from her mind.
“The weak shall perish.”
The triggered memory of Species 8472 brought with it all she remembered on the alien invaders from fluidic space. As soon as it began, Susperia followed the trail of neuro-chemicals an edge of accomplishment tinged her presence in Kes’ mind.
Finally knowing what it was she was after, Kes was able to muster all of her defences, drawing on all the energy her mind could generate, she blocked the memories and pushed back, hard.
The blast of psionic energy flung the little girl back and into a rocky outcropping, whilst Kes dropped to her knees. Winces of pain shot through her body and she felt blood-soaked fabric cling to her legs. Exhausted, Kes tried to push aside her physical pain and focus on keeping her mind fortified. Slowly she looked over to where Susperia lay prone, but she knew that the being wasn’t quite as fragile as she looked—her mind was proof of that.
As she looked at the girl, she noticed an arm twitch, then a leg moved. Slowly, she sat up and glanced at Kes, who noticed a trickle of blood coming from her nose. She also saw a flicker of apprehension in Susperia’s eyes—she obviously hadn’t expected Kes to be able to stop her, though in truth Kes was surprised she’d been able too. Susperia got to her feet quickly, but Kes stayed where she was, not trusting her own legs to support her weight—even as light as she was.
“When did you encounter them?” Susperia demanded.
Kes shook her head. “I won’t tell you anything.”
“I have ways of making you tell,” she stated, but with the slightest waver of her voice.
Kes smirked. “If that was really true, you’d have taken that knowledge from my mind. I assure you that was your only chance to get inside my head.”
“Tell me what I want to know!”
“Why?” she challenged, pushing past the pain that filled her mind.
“Tell me!” Susperia growled, taking a step forward.
Seeing an opportunity, Kes pushed out with her mind without hesitation. Just as the alien had done to her, she forced her way into Susperia’s thoughts as her defences wavered. The effort was challenging, as the mind was so alien compared to all the others she had touched in her short life, but she kept going. She saw places and events she’d never dreamed of, wonders she’d never be able to put into words and horrors that would stay with her for however long she had. Amongst the chaos of Susperia’s mind she caught a glimpse of Ocampa five before the Warming, and the alien had been right, the world had been truly beautiful and advanced—more so than she had expected, a whole history that had been lost to her people since they’d moved underground.
From there, Kes could feel Susperia’s thoughts branch off in multiple directions, though all in a similar pattern—what happened on her world wasn’t the first time they had interfered with other races. As she tried to push down those memory paths, she could feel Susperia close in on her and trying to force her out. It only took Kes another second to find what the alien being didn’t want her to know, then she withdrew.
Susperia fell back onto the hard rock, looking dazed.
“What gives you the right to play god?” Kes asked, winded from the effort of burrowing into Susperia’s mind. “You have done much good for some of the races you’ve visited, but also much misery and my world isn’t even the worst you’ve done—you created them.”
The little girl focused once again, fear radiating from her.
“You made a mistake, one that made them too dangerous to keep around, so you disposed of them into fluidic space. Why?”
“We were trying to make them better,” Susperia admitted.
“Just like you tried to do here?”
She shook her head. “Our experiments were on your environment, not your people. Once it failed and my mate remained to care for your people, I saw the potential the Ocampa had—so that was why I took those that I did.”
“You were trying going to engineer our genetic makeup, why?”
“To make you more than you were, to exploit your full potential. After what happened to your world, my mate objected to my plan, so that was why we parted company.”
“That’s why you extended their lifespan and enhanced their abilities.”
Susperia nodded. “They developed further than I expected, but you are something truly unique.”
“I’m a monster, no one should have the power that I do—it’s taken a great toll on me.”
“The effects of your aging could be reversed—”
Kes shook her head. “It’s not the aging. I’ve lost who I was. The girl you met before is no longer inside me. It is not something I would wish on anyone, especially not me people.”
“They matter greatly to you.”
“After I started to change, I believed they would be afraid of me and what I could do—I am. But I now know what I can do for them. Their power reserves are almost depleted, this world will never sustain life on its surface and the Kazon will continue to fight over it. Their only chance of survival is to leave here, which was why I reunited them.”
Susperia looked off into the distance, the spires of rock and the deep crevices gave the pole a dramatic landscape, beautiful in its own right, especially in the twilight of the setting sun. There was a long, silent pause. Susperia wasn’t in a rush to speak and Kes wasn’t about to rush her—their previous engagements had taken it out of her and she didn’t believe she had another in her.
“I envy you,” Susperia said still looking out at the landscape, sounding a lot like the little girl she appeared to be. “Returning to your people...even for a short time.”
“Can’t you go home?”
“When my mate and I were left behind, it was not intended for us to return.” She finally turned to look at Kes once more, her eyes on the verge of tears. “I am alone.”
“There are thousands of worlds where what you could offer would be welcomed.”
She paused again for a moment, before walking over to where Kes knelt. They were almost eye-to-eye when the girl came to a stop, a look of sadness on her face.
“A gift for you to help your people.”
With that, the girl touched Kes’ forehead with one slim finger. In the blink of an eye her mind filled with images, of something magnificent—something which would be more than a help, but a lifesaver. When she opened her eyes again, the girl was gone.
, Kes called out, hoping she would hear.