With the training instilled into her by her adopted parents, T’Loran focused her meditation on her feelings about Crewman Suder. She imagined her incipient panic and the flash of remembered pain to be dark clouds surrounding her. She let the calming winds of logic blow them away from her until they vanished over the horizon. Each time she practiced this technique, it became easier. In the week since she’d reached her decision, she had forced herself to consider the man and to relive the attack. Today was the first day that doing so did not incite any emotional response.
She was ready.
Blowing out the candles, she left her new quarters and made her way to the chambers that were Lon Suder’s home and prison. Nodding to the guard stationed outside, she pressed the button that would sound the chime inside, telling Suder that he had a visitor requesting entrance.
“Lieutenant Tuvok?” Suder’s voice came out of the comm station.
“No, Mr. Suder. It is T’Loran. I would like to speak with you.”
“Ensign T’Loran?” he asked. He sounded both curious and delighted. “Please, come in.” The doors parted and T’Loran stepped into the room. Shelves filled most of the space. They were covered with potted plants — orchids, it looked like. “Please, have a seat, Ensign. I would like to apologize to you for what I did.”
“I accept your apology, Mr. Suder.”
“I just wish there were some way I could make it up to you.”
“Perhaps you can,” T’Loran said carefully. “As you are aware, I am not human. I am a Betazoid like you.”
“Yes. I realized that on the evening when I attacked you, Ensign.”
“I was raised on Vulcan. My parents believed I was human. I have never been trained in telepathy. I was wondering if you could help me,” she said calmly.
“I’m afraid that my own telepathic and empathic skills are quite low for being a Betazoid,” he sighed. “However, I can try to teach you what I was taught. It may not work so don’t get your hopes up.”
“I will not.”
Suder studied her for a long moment. “You’re maintaining a shield around your thoughts and emotions, aren’t you? You’re blocking out everyone else and you’re also preventing yourself from sending out any signals. I can tell that much, at least.”
“I am,” she nodded.
“You can relax that now. There aren’t many telepaths on board.”
“I do not know how to release my hold on such things without being bombarded by everyone else’s thoughts and emotions.”
“I see. No wonder you look like you’ve been spending time in a Cardassian prison camp. Betazoids don’t block everything out like you’re doing. It’s too draining on our minds. It causes you to burn through your psilosynine. If you do it long-term, you can damage your paracortex.”
“Then what do Betazoids do to keep from being overwhelmed by everyone else’s emotions?”
“You learn to absorb them,” Suder replied calmly. “Much as I have been doing since my own telepathy and empathy increased slightly after the mindmeld. You let them in. You know that they are not your own thoughts and feelings. They will always feel…different. In time, they fade to background noise.”
T’Loran closed her eyes and consciously released the hold she had on herself. Instantly, she became aware of the emotions emanating from the man sitting near her. She could also sense the boredom in the guard outside. When someone else walked down the hall a minute later, she could feel their sense of resolve. Discordant thoughts echoed in her mind. She wanted to block them out but, instead, she allowed them to flow through her. Several moments passed before they began to fade into a distant hum. She opened her eyes and was surprised to find her body shuddering and sweat pouring down her face.
“It really is difficult for you,” Suder observed. “You should have been developing your telepathy after adolescence. Apparently, you’re a late bloomer. Maybe all the mental and emotional techniques you learned growing up on Vulcan prevented you from being aware of it,” he guessed.
“Are you suggesting that I discard my Vulcan heritage?”
“Not at all. Vulcan techniques can be useful. I am using them myself. They help me to keep control of my temper. Don’t discard them, T’Loran, but don’t try to be a Vulcan. Our telepathy is very different than theirs. It’s something you’ll have to get used to — much like they have to get used to the way that humans act irrationally and illogically.”
“Thank you, Mr. Suder. Your instructions have been…most enlightening.”
“Thank you for coming to see me. If you would like…come here whenever you want. I’ll tell you everything I know about our people and our homeworld.”
“I will return,” she promised, “but Vulcan is my home. It’s the only home I remember.”
“I understand,” Suder said softly. “Still, I can tell you about your parents’ homeworld and try to teach you all the things they would have taught you had you remained with them.”
“I understand you visited Mr. Suder today, Ensign,” Lieutenant Tuvok said when he spotted T’Loran in the mess hall.
“I did, Lieutenant.”
“I hope that your visit to him did both of you some good.”
“It was most instructive.”
“Indeed. I am glad you chose to receive instruction from him instead of continuing your sessions with Ensign Vorik. Betazed telepathy is very different from Vulcan. Ensign Vorik, skilled and dedicated as he may be, is not the best instructor for you.”
“I am aware of that. However, Ensign Vorik was there for me when no one else was. His assistance allowed me to gain some control over my native abilities until such a time as I could find more suitable guidance.” Despite herself, T’Loran felt insulted at the implication that Vorik had done anything wrong.
“I realize that and I intended no disparagement towards Ensign Vorik. Both of you are quite young and inexperienced in dealing with those who are not Vulcan. Tell me, Ensign, having learned that you are not human, have you decided to embrace your Betazoid heritage?”
“I am Vulcan,” she said softly, her voice like silk sliding over cold titanium. “I was raised on Vulcan. I embrace logic and dispassion. My biological heritage may be Betazoid but my mind and my katra are of Vulcan.”
“I see. If you are Vulcan, Ensign, then why are you absorbing the thoughts and emotions of those around you?”
“Because blocking them, as biological Vulcans do, would cause me injury. I must handle my telepathy the way a Betazoid would, Lieutenant. However, that in no way makes my family and my home less mine than they would be were I human instead of Betazoid.”
“Forgive me, then, Ensign. I presumed that you were acting without thought.”
“Apology accepted, Lieutenant,” T’Loran said, relaxing slightly. “I can see how, logically, you would have reached such a conclusion.”
“Do you plan to continue learning how to handle your abilities with Mr. Suder?”
“I will speak with him myself regarding Betazoids. Perhaps we can both be of assistance to you. Tell me, are your new quarters allowing you to rest more comfortably?”
“They are,” she replied. “I no longer find myself unable to sleep due to the thoughts and dreams of those around me.”
“That is good.” Tuvok rose to leave.
“Lieutenant,” T’Loran said cautiously. Tuvok turned to face her. “Would it be inappropriate for me to continue my camaraderie with Ensign Vorik? I find that his absence has grown…quite noticeable.”
“It would not be inappropriate, Ensign,” Tuvok replied. “It was inappropriate for others to engage in lurid speculation concerning the two of you. Friendships are a rare gift that should not be cast aside lightly. It is most illogical to detach oneself from those who can help one attain more perfection and insight.”
“I see. Neither of us had considered that.”
“You are both young,” Tuvok said. “It is not unexpected that either of you would be unable to see it.”
Vorik wondered what it was that Lieutenant Tuvok and Ensign T’Loran were discussing. He had noticed that, instead of blocking out all emotions and thoughts from others around her, T’Loran seemed to be absorbing them. He was curious as to why she was doing that but did not think it appropriate for him to approach her and ask. Eventually Tuvok finished his discussion with the other Ensign and looked around the mess hall. Spotting Vorik, he headed over to the other Vulcan.
“Never allow the words and actions of others to dictate your choices in life, Ensign,” the lieutenant said calmly. “To let others determine your path is most illogical.”
“Thank you for your wisdom, Lieutenant,” Vorik replied. Without further comment, he took his tray and walked over to sit across from T’Loran.
“Lieutenant Tuvok and I were just speaking of you,” she said by way of greeting.
“He and I just spoke of you and I as well.”
“He told me that friendship is a rare gift that should not be discarded without reason.”
“He told me that it is illogical to allow others to dictate one’s path.”
The two shared a look and then both smiled slightly. “He is most wise,” T’Loran said softly. “Your absence is most noticeable.”
“I understand you have visited with Mr. Suder,” Vorik said after a brief pause. “Has he been able to instruct you in Betazoid telepathy?”
“He has. He recommended that I stop blocking everyone’s thoughts and emotions since doing that, for Betazoids, drains our neurotransmitter levels and can damage the paracortex. Instead, I am practicing absorbing them and keeping them separate from myself. It takes some effort but I find it much less draining than maintaining the constant wall.”
“Interesting. I had not considered that aspect,” Vorik replied as he quirked one of his eyebrows and pursed his lips in thought. “I would be interested in learning more about Betazoid telepathy. If you have no objections, perhaps I could accompany you to your future sessions with Mr. Suder.”
“I will ask if that can be allowed. Remember that Mr. Suder is under arrest and has only limited visitation privileges. Lieutenant Tuvok may visit him because he is counseling Suder. I may visit him because he is helping me with my telepathy in a manner consistent with my biology. I am not certain that permission will be extended to you but I will ask.”
“I understand. I will also attempt to secure more information from the ship’s computer and the EMH concerning the differences in our telepathy. I have already studied Betazoid history and find it most intriguing how similar and yet dissimilar our native species are.”
“I have been saving my holodeck privileges to explore that very thing,” T’Loran said with a grin. “Perhaps we could combine our alloted time and study them together?”
“That would be most satisfactory,” Vorik agreed with a small grin of his own.
“Looks like the Logic Team is back together again,” Tom Paris muttered. “You have the worst taste in women, Harry.”
“Shut up,” Harry winced. “Besides, just because they’re talking to each other again doesn’t mean that they’re more than friends.”
“Harry, give it up. T’Loran isn’t going to fall in love with you. I’m not sure she can fall in love at all. She’s practically Vulcan. Set your sights on someone a little less emotionally reserved.”
“Enough about my love life. Tom, why do you want to leave Voyager? Do you want to remain in the Delta Quadrant for the rest of your life?”
“I just can’t stay here any longer,” Tom huffed. “It’s too confining. I feel like I can’t breathe without having an officer come down on me like a ton of bricks. I think I’ll just try to find a nice world, someplace fun, and settle down.”
“Could you just give it another few months? Just try. At least another few weeks…”
“Fine, Harry. Another few weeks.”