- VII -
Xylion had been assigned a small hut in the settlement which wasn’t much more than a single room with a cot, a chest as well as a table and a couple of chairs. It was of course more than sufficient for him. It wasn’t the spartanly furnished accommodations that concerned him but the odd behavior of the settlers.
At first he had attributed Tela’s interest in him as nothing more than some sort of physical attraction exasperated by her youth and her lack of Vulcan mental discipline. But the fact that Vorik, her father and a Vulcan elder seemed to be as insistent that he not only marry his daughter but also procreate as soon as possible was unlikely and unexpected. Regardless how living in isolation had affected many of the younger Vulcans over the years, Volik was clearly a man who had spent a great amount of time following pragmatic Vulcan ways and so his illogical behavior was much more difficult to reconcile.
And then of course there were the many other oddities about the settlement he had come across. He had of course noticed the lack of children which seemed strange considering Volik’s resolve on preserving the future of the settlement. The most likely explanation could have been some sort of sterility which had affected the male Vulcans but initial scans did not support that theory.
A knock on the door of his hut interrupted his considerations.
The door opened and Tela slowly entered. “Xylion, may I enter?”
She gingerly stepped inside, almost as if she wasn’t sure if she were welcome here. “I have come to apologize for my father’s behavior.”
“It was not right of him to announce our marriage in such a way without consulting the matter with you first,” she said.
“Agreed,” said Xylion and stood.
“Especially since you had already indicated previously that you had no intentions of taking me as your wife.”
“It had been a premature decision considering that we had only just met at the time.”
She nodded. “But now you have joined our settlement.”
“Is your father pressuring you to bond with me?”
She quickly shook her head and stepped closer. “Not at all. This is my decision. I wish to become your wife.”
“Even though you have known me for only a very short period of time?”
“I understand that marriages on Vulcan are usually prearranged during childhood. We do not have that same option here.”
He offered a minuscule nod to accede to that point. “True. But regardless, you must understand that what you are proposing is highly uncommon in most societies. It is much more customary to allow some time for two people to get to know each other before proposing marriage. This in turn will ensure maximum compatibility between the betrothed parties.”
“But is it not proper to be wed before procreation?” she said.
His eyebrow climbed towards the ceiling. “You wish to procreate?”
“For the good of the settlement.”
“The future of the settlement does not depend on our procreation at this time.”
She didn’t seem to have an answer to that. Instead she took another step closer. When Xylion didn’t seem to react to this gesture, she placed the palm of her hand onto his chest and looked up at him. “How long has it been since you have been with a woman?”
“I do not understand the relevance of that question.”
She pushed herself even closer. “You find me attractive, do you not? Do you not wish to have my body?”
Xylion reached out for her and she closed her eyes when he touched her shoulder and his hand moved towards her neck. Then they opened wide suddenly when she felt a sudden pinch.
Tela went slack and Xylion grabbed her before she could fall. “I apologize for having to take this action, however your behavior is leading me to believe that you are not being entirely honest with me,” he said as he carefully placed her onto the floor and sat her up against the bed. He considered her peaceful features for a moment. “I must also apologize for what I must do next. I believe that neither you nor the other settlers have provided me with satisfactory answers and I am convinced that you are keeping information which may be vital to our survival,” he said and reached out for her face. He spread his fingers and then carefully touched her in various places near her nose, temple and cheekbone to initiate a mind meld.
This was not something he did lightly. But the evidence had been mounting that something was very wrong with the settlement and the Vulcans who lived here and Tela’s latest, illogical behavior had given him enough reason to attempt such drastic action.
It had been a long time since he had attempted a meld and the first time he had done so without the other person’s permission. It was of course an intrusive procedure, an assault on another being’s mind and privacy. Xylion saw no other option.
He closed his eyes as he concentrated on making contact with her mind. Not knowing what he would find there, he probed very slowly, intending to be as non-intrusive as possible. In the unlikely even that Tela had spoken the truth he didn’t want to hurt her or invade her privacy too deeply.
He met resistance almost immediately and it surprised him. A mind like Tela’s with no learned Vulcan disciplines should have opened up to him like a book, especially considering her current state of unconsciousness. Instead he found something very much aware and ready to defend itself. And more than that, something immensely powerful.
His curiosity getting the better of him, he decided to dig deeper and push harder and past those initial defenses to see what lurked beneath the surface.
It took a great deal of effort, sweat pearls began dripping into his eyes and he could feel his own concentration slipping. And yet he pushed on.
He found recent memories of hers most of which were clearly focused on him. The most prominent memory which stood out was also the most disturbing.
Xylion could see as if through her eyes, as she travelled from the settlement to the canyon in which the runabout had been stranded. But this was not a memory of one of the visits he had been aware of. This one had taken place during the night. And she had not come to seek him out. Instead her only interest had been the runabout itself. And like an experienced engineer, she knew exactly what she was doing. She had gone directly to the access panel which had housed the thruster module and removed it like an expert. Once complete, she could have easily returned to the settlement. Instead she stayed and lured an unsuspecting Ensign Srena outside. She surprised the other woman and just when the Andorian had let down her guard, Tela struck with unrelenting violence. She was too fast for her unprepared victim and unleashed blow after blow until Srena no longer moved.
Deeply disturbed by these images, Xylion penetrated deeper still and past the outer layers of her mind which contained her recent memories. What he found was a flood of thoughts. And not those of a twenty-three year old Vulcan woman but an endless amount of information belonging to a being many times older. It was far too much for him to handle without having prepared for this.
His eyes shot open to see her dark eyes staring back at him.
You should not have done that.
The voice blasted through his mind with such ferocity he flinched noticeably.
Then he felt something else. It reached out for him and he realized too late that this was not in his mind. No, this was something very much physical and it struck him in the chest with such force he went flying backward through the room, crashing into a couple of chairs which splintered under the impact.
Slightly dazed, he still managed to get back onto his feet. Tela remained sitting by the bed, her eyes closed again and she looked for all the world like nothing more than a young Vulcan woman, sleeping peacefully.
Xylion now understood that this was not the case at all. She was not Vulcan and neither were any of the settlers on this world. They had not crashed on this planet two decades earlier and they were not interested in growing their colony. They were interested only in him and what a merger between them could mean for these beings. He wasn’t entirely certain what that would be, only that he could not allow it.
He found a phaser and an emergency subspace beacon, both of which he had brought from the runabout before it had left, and quickly departed his hut.