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[BACK / PLOT LOG] Com Ivanova, Praetor Vrith Tr'Bak | "Where Stars Were For Shining" pt 4

Posted on 242001.28 @ 21:36 by Commodore Rochelle Ivanova & Vrith Tr'Bak

Mission: Genesis
Location: Brown's Peak, Arizona - EARTH
Timeline: December 27th

December 27th
1700 PST
Brown's Peak, Arizona - EARTH

For two days the Commodore lay in that bed, drifting in and out of various stages of consciousness and never quite regaining full lucidity. The first time she ‘woke’ it had been in the deepest, darkest part of the night and her sudden, shrill cry woke Tr’Bak from his sleep with a start. It hadn’t been a cry of pain or fear, it had been a far more primal cry. A warrior’s cry as they landed that last, fatal blow and just as swiftly as it rose, it disappeared under the veil of night and the woman lay silent and limp once more.

Leaning against the door frame of her room, the Romulan had stood for the better part of an hour with a triumphant smirk plastered across his face. She was alive and she was returning and he knew full well that it could easily mean that his death lay there before him, waiting to awaken.

That next morning, Tr’Bak returned to sit at her bedside and read one of the old Terran novels he’d found stashed away in an old cedar chest up in the cabin’s loft. Had it not been so insensibly cold and drafty in that part of the building, he’d likely have turned it into his roost… His command center. His aversion to hypothermia and displeasure with random gusts of wintry wind precluded that effort from the very beginning. Sitting beside her was the next best choice. At least then, neither one of them was alone and he knew he’d be there if she woke. No one deserved to wake up from a nightmare like the one she’d been caught up in, alone.

At first he was certain that the movement of her eyelashes was nothing more than an errant shadow, maybe a bird had flown past the window. It was soft and fluttery like bird shadows often want to be. The second time it caught his eyes, he knew it for what it was. She was waking, not just stuck in some REM cycle. The book closed and was carefully set on the floor beside his chair, not near the sterile medical equipment he’d kept close at hand as a fail safe or the water he ceremoniously emptied and refilled daily for when she woke and needed to quench the dryness she undoubtedly would suffer throughout her mouth and throat.

When at last Rochelle’s bright blue eyes flashed open, they were unfocused and blinking rapidly in the light - fighting to find reason and rhyme to the brightness and the location. Her mouth tightened. Her nose wrinkled. He could see the way her pulse and breathing quickened with every flash of her elegant throat. “Jolan tru, Commodore.” He greeted almost gently, offering her one of those winning smiles, “Welcome back.”

She screamed.

An angry, assaultive, attacking, savage sort of scream that genuinely startled the Romulan and sent him reeling back.

She screamed… And she swung. It was more of a lunge, but she swung for him none-the-less and he watched, both horrified and impressed, as the motion and follow through of that swing sent her body tumbling over the side of her bed and onto the cold, hard, cruel wooden floor between her bed and his chair. Somewhere in the middle of all that calamity had come the impact of her tiny little fist colliding with the astonished Romulan’s right eye socket, sending the resounding ‘crack’ of flesh meeting flesh through the cabin - and probably the entire damn canyon, or so he’d later think when sulking.

It wasn’t time to sulk.

Rochelle was nearly hyperventilating as she lay against the floor. It took entirely way too long for her body to engage itself enough to let her push her upper torso off the deck, weakened by inactivity and injury as she was. All she could remember was the sensation and sounds of the crash. All she could remember was the melee and deluge of emotions and feelings associated with the moments just before impact and the scant few seconds she had remained conscious after. They didn’t line up with the situation she found herself in now.

Tr’Bak was there, haunting whatever nightmare it was that she was having - or at least she would have believed it was a nightmare had it not been for the fresh discourse of pain and the metallic taste of her own blood that came from having split her own lip in this latest introduction to gravity. “You son of a bitch!” She hissed, forcing herself to look up at him where he still sat in his seat, “What the fuck have you done to me?!”

“That’s how you thank me for saving your life? Come now, Commodore, you wound me.” He tutted, shaking his head with a soft, disappointed sigh and a roll of his eyes. He was prepared for a fight, to have her launch up at him like some sort of fire demon in search of the extinguishing of his mortal soul as a form of penance and retribution to the wrongs she felt he’d committed.

It didn’t happen.

Her breathing became more ragged in heavy puffs punctuated by near whimpers he recognized as the sound of physical strain. “I can’t move my legs! What did you do to me?!”

Tr’Bak’s eyes flashed down to the coltish length of them tangled in the unraveling silk that had bound her body for healing. The paleness of them stood out in stark contrast to the dark wood and shadows under the bed and his mouth lost it’s typical smugness as he regarded their lifelessness. “You can’t move them.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement, dark and dreary.

Finally he left his seat, well aware of the way her eyes followed his every move. If looks could kill, he’d be in the burn pile with the men that had been supposed to put her back together. Soundly. God damn them.

“No, I can’t move them! What did you do?!” Christ alive… She hated him. She hated him with every fiber of her being and then some. The landed punch had only been a singular beginning note in her overture of pure, unadulterated desire to see him dead for everything he’d done to Landon. To Javaan. To Vindicator. To her. Now face to face with no one there to look and watch on with disapproving eyes, she had her chance to cut him out of the roll call for good and still she was denied by the way her legs remained limp and refused to rally to her call for power no matter what she tried.

Worse.

Her arms were getting tired. Everything was getting tired. “You did this… You crashed the Liberty.” Epiphany. It tumbled from her lips with the same bitterness as the frost and ice clinging to the window.

What she found disarming, however, was the way he patiently held up a hand to silence her and slowly crept forward, “We’ll discuss that later. There’s more pressing matters right now.”

“Like what? What you’re going to do to me? We all know that answer.”

“Right. Sure we do.” He drolly replied, not bothering to meet her eyes as he stooped down - out of range of her left hook - and reached for her, albeit slowly, “Don’t be absurd.” He cautioned, running the nails of one hand down the center of her right foot. It twitched in response and the Romulan’s eyes closed briefly in relief.

It was the sake of morbid curiosity and sheer fear that Rochelle allowed him his little experiment without becoming absolutely venomous. She could have reached any number of things to use as a weapon against the unarmed Praetor, but something told her to remain still and simply watch. The reaction of her foot under the stimuli he provided left her feeling the wash of heated relief spreading out over what had once been cold terror. Being paralyzed wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time.

Her tongue ran over the chapped roughness of her lower lip and she released the breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, “So…”

Tr’Bak’s eyes reopened, one a little less as the tissue around it began to swell and bruise, and they found hers and the litany of questions held within. For the first time, none of them appeared to be accusatory in nature. The ice - for now - had abated and left a curious and concerned woman in place of the rash Commodore he had known. For that, the tired man was relieved and emboldened, “You’re not paralyzed. You’re just out of practice, Commodore. It’ll take a bit of time until all feeling returns, but you’ll survive and return just as you left.” He explained, drawing his hand away from her with his palm exposed as a white flag between them. It was the only part of him that held any semblance of a scar - and it was ugly. The skin rose and twisted in the hideous fashion that only a significant burn scar could, it’s overall pattern distinct. A delta.

She recognized it for what it was and how it had gotten there.

Landon. On Apsha, shortly after Javaan’s existence had made itself known, Landon had branded the then Romulan Senator at the celebration of the Stenellian Empress’s birthday. A fine gala that had been ruined by the hobgoblin’s appearance.

Rochelle recoiled, forcing herself up to sit tall and use the base of the bed as a brace against her back, “I’ll return just as I left… Right.” She sneered at him, “Right after you use me as bait? Who exactly are we trying to lure this time? Landon again? Almar? My father? You do remember what happened the last time we met, don’t you?” She asked, gesturing towards his hand.

“Do you?” Tr’Bak countered as he too steeled himself further away, putting a fair bit of distance between himself and the pensive redhead. Even without her full faculties, she was dangerous and he wasn’t interested in a fight - especially not like the last one they’d entered in. He’d feared her dead after each of them had laid waste to one another’s ships. “I’m not here to waste my time in a pissing match with you, Commodore. I’m here to…” He paused, shaking his head.

For once, words abandoned him, “Will you accept my help to get you back into bed? I give you my word as a Romulan that no harm will come to you here.”

She snorted. It was a sharp, undignified, unladylike noise, but it got its point across without fail, “No good. I’ve known too many Romulans.” Went without needing to be said, but was said all the same.

Tr’Bak couldn’t help but smirk and his naturally inclined brows rose even more as he nodded, “Smart girl. I wouldn’t trust a Romulan either.” He sighed, pursing his lips and realizing they were at an impasse. Swallowing the knot of annoyance that had begun to gather in his throat, he ran a hand through his disheveled hair. It was uncharacteristic of him to be flustered, but the man was damn near exhausted and now he’d come face to face with the Phoenix in a situation that hardly lent him credence.

“I have eyes and ears everywhere, Rochelle,” He started, noticing the way the ice flashed in her eyes when she spoke her given name so candidly. It was toying with fire, but it assured him that he had her attention and her primal brain would pause long enough to listen to what it was he had to say. Ever the warrior… The tactician… He admired her guile and zeal.

“I pay well to be informed of any and everything worthy of note.” The explanation felt needed, it lended to the authenticity of the moment, though the deeper it went the more he felt he should have prefixed the entire thing with ‘forgive me, father, for I have sinned.’ “As it would happen, I became aware of a plot from within the strongholds of the Federation, of Starfleet, that circulated around your death. It was to be made to look like an accident, maybe point fingers towards your pet Cardassian,” His head shook, “But the ending was to be the same. Aksel Ravnsson wanted to destroy you like some common street cur.”

It was Rochelle’s turn to raise an eyebrow, “You want me to believe that out of the goodness of your heart you foiled a plot to assassinate that was created by the head of Starfleet Intelligence?” Her head shook, “I’m supposed to be the crash victim, but you’re the one who seems to be suffering from head trauma.”

“Are you done?”

“Oh there’s more?”

The Romulan nodded tersely.

“Well then, by all means do proceed with your saga.” The redhead hissed in response.

At least she was still listening.

“He aims to start war with the Stenellis and Romulans, maybe even the Klingons, but the goal is all the same. The fool wishes for himself to rise as saint and savior to the Federation. He means to usurp Sean Archer’s role and surpass it, but in his twisted mind it would take a shake up to make the people feel fragile and vulnerable enough to grab onto his ideals of strength and a new world order in which only certain races are worthy of inclusion while the rest are more or less utilized as bait, as you so eloquently put it, and phaser fodder.” It sounded absurd even to him, but the truth was often far more twisted and stranger than fiction could ever be. He knew it. He knew she knew it, and that was far more important than his own convictions.

Silence pervaded. So much so that he would have thought she’d fallen back asleep or expired had it not been for the blink of her eyes and the slow rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. There was no sign of panic, no sign of anger or apprehension. If anything, it was unnerving. Rochelle was weighing his words, the options, and all that came with them.

“He’d poisoned you once before,” Tr’Bak added to the litany of information he’d more or less vomited, “The day the Stenellis on your ship and the Vorta on Theta were taken by the Naussicans. He poisoned you, left you weakened enough that he could operate while all eyes were fixated on you and bringing you back from your little spell.”

That caught her attention. Her jaw lifted and eyes brightened in understanding and recognition of the incident he spoke of, “He had visited that morning.” She admitted. “The men that kidnapped Si’a?”

“His.” Tr’bak responded with a tired nod, “The goal was to dispose of her, profit, and start a war between the Federation and the Stenellis and you were supposed to cooperate and be the golden child that went off to war with his perfect flagship.”

The noise she made in response fell somewhere between a snort and a scoff. Her jaw tightened and she cast her gaze towards the day’s dying light as it feebly grasped hold of the windowsills in its last, foolhardy attempt to illuminate in the room. Soon she’d be left in the dark with the heathen. “And I foiled that.” She finally responded.

“You more than foiled it,” He laughed, his eyes glittering in good humor at her understatement, “You had your men raize the base. It’s now cinders and ashes, Commodore, they did what you asked and perhaps a little more. Your people love you, yes, but they helped you paint a target on your back and list you as one that can’t leave well enough alone.” The laughing stopped, but his eyes continued to harbor the emotion long after the tone left his voice, “That combined with your heritage and legacy?” His head shook, “You had to go, according to him, but creatures like you and I… Our stories don’t end like that. They simply aren’t allowed to.”

“So you rescued me from my own foolish pride?” Rochelle asked, narrowing her eyes in inquisition, “Spirited me away from certain death, and I’m supposed to what? Thank you? Forget the last ten years existed?”

“Yes, I rescued you. Not from foolish pride, but your moral compass certainly doesn’t align with Ravnsson’s and no, you cannot forget the past. Nor should you. It’s made you who you are, galvanized you, maybe even gilded you.” He strained as he found his feet. The eye she’d socked was beginning to throb as the blood filled the contusion and left him with nary a slit to see through.

He could feel her watching him as he exposed his ‘blind side’ to her as he walked to the night table and took up a dermal regenerator, “You thank me by surviving and going back to reclaim your rightful place and send Ravnsson tumbling out of his comfy little nest.” Tr’bak continued as the medical device sang its little song and did its little dance, “and we pretend like none of this ever transpired.”

“Then why don’t you release me now?”

The Praetor had expected the question far sooner than it had come, but understood the value of it all the same. He’d asked himself the same; why hadn’t he tipped her crew off and allowed them to take her once he was sure she was stable? “Because Ravnsson, like I, has eyes and ears positively everywhere. It’s possible even James Archer spies for him, though I doubt it.” He nearly snorted. The boy Archer was clearly smitten with the flame-like woman, or so his mother had regaled many a time and the sentiment appeared to be backed up by his actions. So many countless times he’d done her bidding or come to blows to defend her honor.

“Either way, I cannot release you until Ravsson least expects your return. His men are on high alert, afraid to admit defeat now that they have failed to produce a body for him to bury. You’ll need to be ready to defend yourself, and right now…” He deigned to look in her direction, still finding her in a disheveled tangle of limbs, silk, and copper upon the floor, “you don’t stand a chance.”

“Landon would come. Almar too…”

“Your Cardassian is being watched, no doubt. And do you truly believe the good Captain would believe a word I have to say?”

“You’re expecting me to buy your story, aren’t you?”

It was the Praetor’s turn to give an undignified snort as a response, except it came as more of a chuckle and a sigh than a true snort. “My dear Commodore, the difference is that you’re far more likely to connect the dots and listen to reason where he is far more likely to act upon impulse.”

The fact she was considering his words and weighing them at face value was likely the direct result of the remnants of a traumatic brain injury, or so her logical side attempted to berate her as she continued to mull the entire story over. They had merit. He had merit, as much as she hated to admit it. A cramp in her hip forced her to move, and while sluggish, she was able to coil her leg up closer to her. He’d been right about that, he hadn’t left her paralyzed from the waist down and subject to some experiment or another. At least not yet.

Point of the matter was that sense had been made and she, as hateful as she was, was tired. So very, very tired. No matter how she assessed and rolled the odds, they never turned up in her favor when it came to besting him in a physical fight in her current condition. She was stuck with him, lucky to be alive, and beholden to him as her last best hope for getting out of there - wherever there was - alive. “Where’s the Vindicator?”

He simply pointed upwards and continued working on his eye, and she was left to nod and push down the burning desire to swipe his legs out from under him in an attempt to dot his other eye.

“Landon and Javaan?”

Tr’Bak set the regenerator down and blinked a handful of times before he turned to face her. Even in the dusk he could make out her refined features, the paleness of her freckled skin standing out in stark contrast to everything dark and dreary, “Out west,” He answered truthfully, choosing to omit the part where his men had warned of Landon poking around near the crash site. There hadn’t been an update since, “I’m not a monster, Commodore, I have no desire to toy with the wellbeing of a child.”

Air rushed into her lungs, giving her the power necessary to combat him verbally, but it left her sounding much the same way a leaky balloon would as she deflated and instead chose to meet his eyes in the dark as if to dare him to lie to her again.

Had she not been so frail and recovering from what should have been her final curtain call, Tr’bak would have found it amusing. Instead, he found it troubling. The lankiness of him shrank as he squatted low before her, resting his elbows on his knees, “Had I known of your pregnancy, I wouldn’t have allowed the Vindicator to be fired upon. I have my limits and morals too, Commodore, just as every other being in this universe.”

“I guess we’ll never know, won’t we?” She retorted sharply, refusing to shrink away from him, “There’s still more questions that need answers before I even begin to believe this story.”

His head shook in response, “If it’s all the same, I’d like very much for you to get back in that bed before you undo all of my hard work and let Ravnsson win the war before you’ve even had a chance to fight.”

“I’ll get up there myself. If you touch me, I’ll gut you while you sleep. This isn’t over, Tr’Bak.”

One look, one glance, one meeting of her eyes told the Praetor that the threat wasn’t made in jest. She intended to follow through with her promise if he so much as dared to lay a finger upon her satin skin. It was a thrill for him for a myriad of reasons, but chief among him was the undeniable fact that her spirit had returned.

“As you wish. There’s water waiting for you on the night table.” His hands rose to show her his palms once more as he rose back to his statuesque height, “Should you need me, or decide to gut me, I’ll be right next door." The Romulan spoke casually as he stretched and slowly took his leave. He'd nearly made it clear of the door before he paused and rocked back on his heels to regard her one last time, "Oh... Happy belated Birthday, Commodore."

As he left her to herself, the only response he received would be a rather contrite hiss of something he couldn't quite make out followed by the sounds associated with a rather determined little woman managing to force her exhausted body to pull itself up and into her bed and the telltale noise glass made while being drug across a table top.

Indomitable indeed, her spirit had returned and with it had come the stubborn will to do far more than simply survive. She was going to live.

Setting himself down against a rickety old couch, Tr’Bak couldn’t help but smile knowing well that his own death likely lurked just the next room over.

---
To Be Continued...
---

Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer
USS VINDICATOR, NX-78213

Vrith Tr'Bak
Praetor
Romulan Star Empire

 

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