T’saath sat in a pew in the middle of the temple, her focus wavering. Captain Harris was dead, and she had not been at his side. She had returned to the Mackenzie and briefly met the new assistant chief science officer, another Vulcan, in passing as they headed to the planet. She had failed as the executive officer. There was no excuse for what had happened. She had long known her CO’s weaknesses but had not been there to advise against them. Now, she had lost a captain and possibly her career. Logically she had not fulfilled her duties. Instead, she stood by while a Devore Imperium officer murdered Captain Ambrose Harris. She attempted to focus once more.
It had been a long time since T’Penga had been to a Vulcan temple. Being on extended missions in space does not lend itself to getting to a temple. As such, she decided to take advantage of the temple at Starbase 72. She needed to meditate and reflect on her witnessing of the death of Captain Ambrose Harris. T’Penga decided to wear a Vulcan robe that indicated her attainment of Kolinahr as opposed to her uniform.
For the time of day, T’Penga expected the temple to be empty; however, it was logical that Commander T’saath, the Executive Officer of the Mackenzie, would be there. T’Penga glided up to where the woman sat and tented her fingers about her waist. She cocked an eyebrow. “Commander, may I join you?”
The younger Vulcan looked up and nodded quietly, “Company would be welcome, Lieutenant.” She shifted over and resumed her staring contest with the front of the temple. She was silent for a time before speaking again, “Have you ever lost a commanding officer?”
T’Penga sat and braced herself mentally for any emotional outbursts that may come from the Commander. Not everyone had purged all emotions. She answered the question without turning from the front of the temple. “Indeed I have Commander. I believe it comes with the profession we have chosen. Does it not?”
T’saath wrestled with the next part of her question. She was young in comparison, and while her emotional control was well in hand, the experience of loss was not familiar. It had been a part of her emotional control training, and she had indeed read, studied, and thought about it plenty. But the experience was something she was not prepared to handle. “Yes, it comes with the profession we have chosen – that is the logical perspective to adopt and the path to follow.” She played with her hands nervously and felt her embarrassment at the fraying of the edges of her control in view of another Vulcan. “And yet…,” she turned to the veteran, “There is an escapable weight I feel pressing upon me. The failure to protect my captain, to ensure his safe return…my position as executive officer is marked by my failure.”
T’Penga nodded as the events replayed in her mind. She, too, thought that her logic had failed the Captain. However, she also knew the path of logic that the Captain walked. “Commander, as you are no doubt aware, logic dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. If we continue down that path of logic, we, as Vulcans, can understand why the Captain did what he did. For he knew that logical axiom and followed it to its conclusion. You were left in command of the ship as the ship needed a capable commander. I pointed out to the Captain that he should have left moments before he walked into that room and to his death. However, he disagreed and continued into the room. For he knew that the needs of the confined crew came before him.” T’Penga paused and stared at the front of the temple pensively as she pondered what she said and how she would proceed. “Logic does not fail, and therefore you have not failed. What you are feeling is loss, and it is normal. As you are aware, we Vulcans do feel emotions. We just choose to suppress them for the pursuit of logic. If you wish to experience this emotion, then that is your choice. You may also choose to suppress it and that I can help you with.”
The Vulcan XO let out a rare sigh, “Your argument is logical, T’Penga.” She used her first name as her usual defenses dissolved, her eyes searching the walls of the ornate temple, “But something has shifted in me. I have…I am having trouble controlling the feeling of loss…and I am unsure if I wish to restrain it.” She leaned back against the pew, “I do not think I can continue in my role within Starfleet and the Mackenzie.”
“Sometimes a break from this life of ours is warranted. Perhaps you should return to Vulcan and seek the guidance of the High Priestess. For she may be able to set this right for you. Who knows in due time you may decide to pursue Kolinahr and then return to the fleet. I, myself have been away from the fleet for a time and then returned. This is nothing that Starfleet is not accustomed to. However, I would caution you that you make sure this is the right decision for you. For the Mackenzie needs an Executive Officer, one that knows the ship and the crew. Remember the needs of the many….” T’Penga thought for a moment then turned to face T’saath. “T’saath should you choose to remain aboard the Mackenzie. I will guide you through this sense of loss. I will assist you in any and all ways possible.”
The younger Vulcan swallowed the array of emotions that were washing over her with the tides of feeling. T’saath leaned back in the pew, her face breaking with a look of sadness, “I have often thought of myself as a strong Vulcan…that my journey had given me strength enough to continue without experiencing such pain…such sorrow that I had felt in my younger days.” She held out her hands before her, “There is a children’s story that was told to me when I was younger…of a Vulcan who battled The Darkness…who used his strength to push back against it…but in the end failed.” She flexed her hands, “In the end as the darkness consumes the last bits of the world around him, the man looks at his hands and reflects on how they are strong hands…but not strong enough.” She looked up to T’Penga, “My hands are strong…but they are not enough…and I fear even with your knowledge of the ages…you may not be enough to hold back the darkness that shrouds my spirit.” She stood, haltingly, “I must return to Vulcan…and seek out the light of life.” T’saath let out another rare sigh, “Thank you for your words, T’Penga. I will look forward to our next meeting – wherever that may be.”
“Your hand alone may not be strong enough. However, with assistance anything is possible. I would very much want to converse again as you said whenever that may be.” T’Penga turned to T’saath not with a look of disdain that some Vulcan’s may have at the sight of such emotion. However, T’Penga looked as a teacher would look on a student as they began the path of enlightenment. T’Penga extended her hand in the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper T’saath.”
The commander returned the gesture, “Peace and long life to you.” She took one last glance at the temple and walked slowly down the long walkway and out the door into the noisy corridor, leaving T’Penga in her thoughts.
T’Penga turned toward the front of the temple and reflected not only on the events involving the Captain but the conversation that just took place. She realized that she had been wrong all these years. T’Penga thought that she was at the end of her path. However, after this conversation she realized that she was in the middle whereas T’saath had just begun. T’Penga had so much more to learn.