Torrik Nils - We Walk Alone

A dark haze hung low over the stripped mines of Keldek, one of Bajor’s wealthier cities. The late evening sun cast the bowl of the quarry into deep shadow. A small group of children and teenagers ran quietly beneath the lip of the bowl, desperately trying not to be seen. The eldest, Torrik Nils, bent low beckoning to the smaller children to follow him away from the horrific camp. The adults would have started the distraction by now and this escape was the only chance they would get.

“Quiet and keep moving,” said Nils in a frantic and hushed tone. The Norins twins, two blonde girls about six years old rushed past him holding hands. They had tears streaming down their faces. He heard them lamenting the fact that the wanted their mother. One of them, Nin perhaps, paused and looked over her shoulder at the barely visible labor camp that had been her home all her life.

“You have to keep going,” said Nils as he pressed his hand to her back.

That small action almost brought the child to complete hysteria and he saw it in her eyes. He bent down on one knee and grabbed her arms gently, turning her to face him.

“We have to go, but please take heart. The Prophets will always walk with us.” He thought his words emboldened her, if only a little bit. She grabbed her sister’s hand once again and followed the line of fleeing children.

Yellow phaser fire screamed through the darkness…wailing children…cries of terror.

Nils woke suddenly drenched with sweat, unsure for a moment where he was. He clutched at his chest trying to catch his breath. His eyes were wide and full of fear. The chaos of his nightmare faded as the reality around him came into focus. He was on Megiddo Station. This was his first night on station as he awaited assignment. He took a deep breath and sat up, hanging his feet over his bed.

He glanced around the temporary quarters he’d been assigned for the night. Quickly he found the chronometer.

“Not even Oh Three Hundred…” he said miserably. He rubbed his hands to his forehead and temples and stood up. He knew that any night he was visited by this particular nightmare was a night that he would find no rest. It wasn’t unusual for him to have the nightmares when he slept in unusual places.

After washing his face and staring blankly in the mirror for a few moments he decided to check his comm queue. He found the standard Starfleet forwarding information and duty summaries he’d expected and also something which caught his eye. It was a letter from his father. He debated whether or not he even wanted to read it.

He tapped the desk monitor deciding it best to just read it and get it over with.

Your mother and I received word of your departure from Earth. We had hoped you would come to Bajor for a time before your deployment. It has deeply hurt us that you practically passed us by on route to your new duties. Know that we are well and would welcome any more correspondence you may offer. It has been too long. I’m certain were you to return to Bajor the Prophets would once again accept you into the fold. They will always walk with us. You were so near your appointment to mylar and…

Nils violently tapped the viewscreen deleting the message. The message made him feel sick to his stomach. The prophets didn’t walk with the Bajorans. They never had. He turned his back to the monitor and walked away without a new destination. He only wanted to be far away from the monitor.

“The prophets will always walk with us…” He said the proverb aloud, turning it around in his mind. It made his forehead ache. Visions of yellow phaser fire and screaming children filled his memory. The Prophets had abandoned him long ago.

::Office of Doctor Olivia Stabler, Psychology Department, Megiddo Station::
::Stardate 59316.5::

“Is this totally necessary?” asked Nils in mild frustration. He sat uncomfortably in a soft chair somewhere in the psychology department on station. Instead of leaning back and relaxing as he had been instructed, he sat forward with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hand.

“I’d think you would be used to this by now, Mr. Torrik,” said the attractive woman seated opposite him. “Psych evals are as common in Starfleet as Ferengi at a going out of business sale.” She smiled warmly, obviously trying to make him feel at ease. “And to answer your question; yes, it is totally necessary.”

Nils drew in a long breath in frustration and flopped back in his seat. “Have at me then, Doc. Eval away.”

For a moment Dr. Stabler just sat with a soft smile watching Nils. He kept glancing over at her, not moving his head, and averting his gaze when he became too uncomfortable. When he thought he couldn’t take it anymore she finally spoke.

“Your personnel record says you were born on Bajor.”

Again she only sat silently.

“I know,” he said sardonically.

“2357. That was during the Cardassian Occupation,” she continued, again waiting for him to respond.

It never failed. This was standard procedure for every psych evaluation he’d endured. They always want to talk about Bajor during the occupation. They want to talk about the Cardassians. They want to see what kind of damage was inflicted on his tender Bajoran psyche.

“Look doctor,” he began. “Let me save you some time here. Yes, I was born during the occupation. Yes I saw Cardassian cruelty at it’s worst. And yes I lost a lot of people I cared about. But my family and I lived through it. We survived.”

Doctor Stabler nodded slowly. “I understand that it’s probably frustrating to be asked the same questions over and over. I know that it must not be pleasant to have to revisit those experiences every time the brass deems it necessary to have your head examined.”

“It does get old.” Nils wanted this to be over. “Let me assure you, I rarely think about those times. I’m very much over it,” he lied.

“Ok,” she said in response. “Let’s just hit the high points and I can sign off on your file.”
Nils liked the sound of that. It sounded quick and painless.

“Perfect,” he said.

“So you must have been twelve or thirteen when the Cardassians left Bajor, right?”

Nils nodded.

“That’s a pretty resilient age. I’m assuming life improved for you after that time?” she asked.

Nils sensed she was baiting him. He decided to go with the flow and get it over with.

“Not entirely,” he started. “Right before the end of the occupation my parents and I, along with some others from our work group, were removed from Bajor. It was a while longer before the occupation ended for us.”

“How much longer?”

“A few years,” Nils sighed. “I was eighteen before I saw Bajor again.”

“That must have been hard,” she said kindly.

Nils only nodded. As far as he was concerned he’d volunteered as much information as he was going to.

“Lucky for you that you had the Prophets to walk with you,” she added comfortingly.

But the words stung Nils. He felt as if he’d been hit in the face.

“Why would you assume that since I’m Bajoran that the Prophets or any of their nonsense hold any credence with me,” he snapped sharply.

“I apologize,” she said sincerely. “I admit I did make that assumption. I can’t say that I’ve met any Bajorans who didn’t lean on their faith through those times.”

“Well now you have,” he snapped again.

“Let me ask you this, Mr. Torrik,” she began. “Why are you so angry?”

“I’m not angry,” he said.

“Well, then why are you so hurt?”

“I’m not hurt either,” he said with genuine intensity.

“I have to say, your tone tells me different. It’s clear that you went through some trauma. And it’s clear that you didn’t come out completely unscathed.”

“I told you, my family and I survived.” He dropped his eyes to the floor.

She leaned forward and tilted her head, forcing Nils to look her in the eye. “Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.”

“Are we done,” he asked quietly.

She sat silently for a moment and only looked at him. He didn’t like her moments of silence. They unnerved him.

“No,” she said almost apologetically. “Not even close.”

“What?” he said in disbelief.

“I’m going to recommend your assignments be postponed until we’ve had a few sessions. I realize this was only supposed to be a one-time evaluation, but you have to remember something, Mr. Torrik. This is not the alpha quadrant. And as volatile as things are there, they are even more intense here at times. Your mental health is very important, not only for the fleet here, but also for you.”

“Doctor, I’ve been evaluated more times than I can count. This is totally unnecessary.” Nils was furious. The thought of talking over his “issues” appalled him.

“I’ve already told you that this is totally necessary. We’ll meet regularly until I feel more comfortable signing off on your file.” She smiled. “It isn’t the end of the world.”

Nils didn’t return her smile. He was frustrated. He’d been excited to head out to the Gamma quadrant. Not only did he have high expectations of exploration and new scientific discoveries, but he’d also been more than happy to leave behind the Alpha quadrant and the history it held. Now this head shrinker was going to pull it all through the wormhole.

“I’ll send a schedule of sessions through your senior officer. I think you’ll be glad after it’s all said and done.”

“I don’t,” said Nils rudely before he could stop himself. He stood up and turned toward the door. It hissed open as he approached. He paused before exiting and turned around. “I apologize for my attitude, ma’am. I know you’re only trying to help.”

Doctor Stabler nodded still wearing that smile. “Until next time.”

Nils stood uncomfortably for a moment and then turned and left. The old Bajoran adage was that “Confrontation is better than avoidance.” Despite his choice to avoid the past, it seemed as though a confrontation with it was coming his way.

::Office of Doctor Olivia Stabler, Psychology Department, Megiddo Station::
::Session 1::

There she was. Doctor Olivia Stabler sat behind her desk fiddling with this or that. This was the woman who had decided Nils was just shy of “fit-for-service” and had stalled out his assignment to a starship. Nils strode into her office and fell into one of the comfy chairs. He stretched out his feet and wrapped his arms over his chest.

“Fix me, Doc,” he said with a sarcastic smile.

“Well if nothing else you seem a bit more chipper,” she said as she rose from her desk. She confidently rounded her desk and delicately sat down in the chair opposite him, PADD in hand.

Nils shook his head. “Of all the people who have come to know me, very few have called me “chipper.” But I suppose it is your remarkable counselor perception boring into my inner self that allows you to see that secret chipper side of me.” He was acting like a rebellious teenager and he knew it.

“I hope you plan on continuing to speak. I don’t think you said as much in our entire first meeting as you’ve said in the last sixty seconds.” If he wanted to start out playing a game of verbal cat and mouse she could oblige him.

“Maybe it’s your lucky day,” he said with a dark grin.

She chuckled lightly. “Oh, I’m sure it is. Shall we begin?”

He shrugged and let his eyes fall to the floor.

“I’ve reviewed your records in detail and I have to say, I’m impressed,” she said as she looked over the PADD in her hand.

“What can I say,” Nils quipped. “I’m an impressive kinda guy.”

“Not really,” she said dryly. “I’m impressed that of the six psych reviews you went through during the Academy, not one mentions any type potential problems. In fact, most of these reports mention how very well adjusted you were.”

“Well good,” Nils started. “I’m glad this is all cleared up. You can go ahead and send my “sane” papers through now, right?”

“Don’t you wish,” she said wryly. “Actually what I’m impressed about is how completely you managed to fool the Academy screening system. It’s abundantly clear you don’t want to talk about what goes on in your head, or what has gone on in your history. And up to this point you have coasted through, not raising any of my esteemed colleagues red flags.”

“Your point?”

“My point, Mr. Torrik, is that you have made no attempt to hide your feelings from me. You may not be willing to share any details, and your words tell me you think you are fine. Yet you have presented yourself to me in every way as someone who is emotionally troubled…by something.”

Nils only sat quietly as the cocky smile slipped from his face. She was right. He’d always been a much better actor. He’d never tried to be warm or friendly, but he had always done his best to hide what was really going on inside him. He must be losing his edge. Perhaps the long journey to Megiddo station had exhausted the barriers he’d set up. Or maybe the letter he’d received from his father had shaken him more than he realized.

“Why do you think that is?” she asked him.

His insides suddenly felt like a boiling hurricane. He couldn’t name the emotions he felt but he knew they’d been boiling for a long time. He clenched his jaws tight, attempting to hide what he was feeling. He didn’t answer her question. Her stare bore into him and felt every bit as penetrating as a phaser set to vaporize.

“Today we don’t have to discuss what happened to you. We can leave Bajor and the occupation off the table for now. For now, let’s work backwards. I’d like you to tell me why you think you suppress these memories and feelings.” She leaned forward with a look of genuine concern. And still she stared at him.

Nils’ eyes shot around the room. He looked for a place they could rest, but found no haven. Finally they found a safe spot at his feet.

“I’m not sure,” he said assertively. “I’ve never been one to talk about how I feel.”

“Fair enough,” said the doctor. “You’re listed as a part of the science department. How were your marks at the Academy?”

This was a sudden turn. “They were good,” he answered. “Very good in fact. I’d already studied for four years at the Bajoran Science Institute prior to joining the Academy, so I suppose I had a considerable head start.”

“You must have started your studies directly after your return to Bajor?” she said probingly.

Nils nodded.

“At the Academy, did you have a lot of friends?”

“Of course,” he answered. “Most people do. It’s close quarters.”

“And these friends all knew what you’d been through? Before you began studying I mean…” She spoke fast and furiously not really giving him a chance to think.

“Well not all of them,” he said.

“Some of them?”

“Some of them…I guess,” he said in a non-committal tone.

“Who?” she asked.

“I’m sorry?”

“Who?” she repeated. Her voice was gentle but firm. “Who did you tell what happened to you?”

He sat in silence. He hadn’t told anyone. And he suspected that she knew that. After he didn’t answer she began speaking.

“Do you and your family talk about what you all went through?”

She’d found another sore subject. He decided to answer her questions honestly but without any show of emotion. Perhaps that tactic would get her off his back.

“Not really. Being that I’m so far from Bajor we don’t communicate all that often.” He hoped that answer sounded benign enough.

“Why not? There are many ways that you could keep in touch with them despite the distance. It is the 24th century after all,” she chuckled.

“I suppose we just fell out of touch,” his face flushed. Again he’d been caught.

She nodded with understanding. “Did any of your Academy buddies get assigned out here? In the Gamma quadrant I mean.”

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said truthfully. He really had no idea where any of the people he’d known at the academy had gone off to. He hadn’t bothered to ask.

“Have you met anyone aboard the station? Or at the colony?” she asked.

“Besides you?” he said with a disarming smile.

She returned his smile. “Besides me.”

“I only just arrived. I truly haven’t had the opportunity to do much. And I’ve been studying specs for the station and the fleet.” He felt like he was making excuses.

“Mr. Torrik, what you’re telling me is that you have no connection here on the station. You have no connection with anyone from the Academy. You have no real correspondence with your family. Who is it that you are connected to, Mr. Torrik?” Her question was direct and on target. They both knew it. He didn’t bother answering.

“Have you heard the old Earth expression, “No man is an island,” she asked him pointedly.

He shook his head confirming that he in fact had not.

“In the late 16th century, a clergy man named John Donne wrote a meditation in which he stated “no man is an island, entire of itself”. He went on to say, “any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” Do understand what he is saying?”

Nils felt his insides quivering. Somehow the words sounded wise and true. He nodded. “I think so.”

“Donne had the idea that all mankind is interconnected and not isolated from one another. We all affect each other.” She paused and let her words sink in. “That is true nowhere more than out here. And even more so aboard a starship. It worries me that you seem to live like an island. You bear your own burdens and you refuse to let anyone in. That is unacceptable when you are part of a crew. There is no such thing as a crew of one. There will be times when you need help. There will be times when others need your help. If you cut yourself off, you may be putting yourself and everyone in your crew at risk. You need to learn to trust your crewmates and they need to be able to trust you.”

Nils refused to look at the doctor. He sat deathly still and weighed her words. The truth was he wasn’t in the academy anymore. This was real life and not some training mission.

“Do you think you are involved in mankind?” she asked him directly.

Nils finally gave in and met her gaze. She had a pleasant look on her face and waited patiently for him to answer. He shook his head, gritting his teeth and fighting back an urge to lash out…or cry. Her question echoed over and over in his mind. It gripped his thoughts violently. “Do you think you are involved in mankind…” He knew he wasn’t.

“We’re done for today,” she said quietly. “I want you to think about what we’ve talked about. And I want you to consider ways of getting involved in mankind. One way might be to talk to someone about what you’ve been through.”

Nils remained utterly silent. He nodded. He couldn’t think of anything to say.

She stood up and crossed back to a small bookshelf that held several hard-back bound paper books. “Before you leave I want you to take this. Now it is part of my personal collection so know that it is just a loner. But it contains many of John Donne’s meditations. He dealt very much with death. He lived in a time when death was a constant companion to life. It’s somehow applicable out here.” She held out the book towards the young Bajoran. “Death has been a constant companion in your life, hasn’t it,” she added sympathetically.

Nils took the book. It felt cumbersome and bulky. He much preferred a PADD.

“Thank you,” he said softly. He knew he’d been defeated here today. But maybe he needed to be defeated. Maybe he needed to allow this siege of the walls he had built around him.

Doctor Stabler smiled. “Until next time, Mr. Torrik.”

He almost smiled back, but instead turned and fled slowly from the office.

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness…. No man is an island, entire of itself…any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne, Meditation XVII

::Torrik Nils Temporary Quarters, Megiddo Station::

Nils reclined on his bed and pored over the book Dr. Stabler had lent him. It had been a long time since he granted any amount of his time to studying religious material, but he thought since it was Terran he could make an exception. This tome had nothing to do with the Prophets. He actually found it quite fascinating. Ancient humans were devout and profound judging from this book. He quite enjoyed it.

=/\= “Megiddo comm to Torrik Nils” =/\=

=/\= “Torrik here. Go ahead.”

=/\= “Incoming long range transmission from the USS Denver” =/\=

That was odd. He couldn’t imagine who would be contacting him from the Denver.

“Patch it through please. Torrik, out.” =/\=

He pulled himself up off his bed and crossed the cramped room to his personal viewscreen. Its shiny black surface was suddenly replaced with the Starfleet logo, and then with the face of someone Nils thought he should recognize.

“Well look who I finally found,” said the young man. “Do you know what kind of strings you have to pull to get a comm channel authorized through that wormhole? Took me most of the morning just to get clearance.”

Nils started to match the face with a name. He knew this man from the Academy. They had had classes together. His name was some common Earth name; Kenny or Ronny…

“Must have been a hassle,” said Nils dispassionately.

“Well I need a consult urgently. And you and I worked together on that temporal mechanics seminar together third year. I recall you had a hell of a knack for that stuff and I thought maybe you could lend me your brain,” said Kenny. Or was it Ronny?

Nils gave him an empty smile. “Anything for an old Academy buddy,” he said, not even convincing himself of his sincerity.

“Here is the sitrep. The Denver is doing survey missions in largely uncharted parts of Alpha. We’re gathering data on a type-4 quantum singularity, which barely registers on sensors by the way, when we get a distress call. We can’t find a carrier wave of any kind but the call is coming in, none the less. We’ve got some guys over here thinking that the distress call is coming from a ship inside the event horizon of the singularity.” Kenny or Ronny was getting more and more excited as he spoke.

Nils was starting to remember this guy. If it was the guy he was thinking of he hadn’t been able to tell the difference between a graviton polarimeter and a flux spectrometer. And Nils thought that was shameful.

“Here is where it gets weird. Or weirder I should say,” Ronny laughed heartily. Or was it Kenny? “The ship claims to be the USS Horizon NCC-176! Which is insane right? Well we’ve been shooting every conceivable comm signal and scan into this singularity trying to establish some kind of contact. So far we got nothing. First off…do you think it is even possible for this to be the Horizon? And secondly, how the hell do we raise her on comm?”

Nils liked this problem. It wasn’t something that required feelings. He didn’t have to pour out his inner most secrets and turmoil to a head shrinker and he didn’t have to think about interacting with anyone or anything…other than the science. The science had always been his solace. The science was sure and true. It was proven and accurate and quantifiable and didn’t cause him any anxiety. It wasn’t based in faith and belief and it didn’t require anything of him other than his intellect.

His fingers were already dashing over his computer. He pulled up records from memory alpha on the Horizon and the Daedalus class vessels.

These things were old. Supposedly the Horizon had been destroyed near Sigma Iotia II over two hundred years ago. These were some of Earth’s oldest warp ships ever made. They were the first of the long range explorers for sure.

Nils considered the possibility of an old earth ship getting trapped in some type of time bubble or causality loop or some other rare temporal phenomenon. It was conceivable, especially considering the proximity and involvement of a type-4 singularity. Those things were never run of the mill black holes. The crew of the Denver would have a hell of a time picking up chronometric pulses or chronitons without actually being inside the event horizon themselves, so he couldn’t think of a way to confirm any temporal displacement. However, there was a way to communicate with the ship if in fact it were still there.

“Dekyon particles,” he said out loud to Ronny. Or Kenny.

“What the hell is that?” the young science officer asked.

“They‘re subatomic particles with properties that allow them to travel across all manner of temporal displacement. They’ve also been known to weaken the threshold of an event horizon. I won’t go into the nuts and bolts of it, but if there is a ship intact inside that singularity, and my opinion is it could be the Horizon, a dekyon pulse transmission should be able to contact them,” Nils said. He loved the science.

“Excellent!” said Kenny. “I knew I could count on you.”

Nils suddenly realized that somehow he’d made an impact on this guy. Despite his emotional uninvolvement in others lives and his isolation, somehow this guy had remembered him. He hadn’t just remembered him, but remembered things about him - the fact that he enjoyed temporal mechanics for example.

This was what the Doc was talking about. Ronny had been engaged in Nils' life, yet Nils didn’t even know what Kenny’s name was. He decided to take a step. If nothing else, he could brag to the doc in the next session that he was trying.

“So,” said Nils looking for something to talk about. “I see you made Ensign.” The pips on the collar are always a good place to start.

“Yep! Can you believe it? Ensign Jimmy Heinold. Sounds good, huh?” he gloated.

“Jimmy!” thought Nils. “Of course!”

“That’s great,” he said with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. Which wasn’t much.

“What about you? Gamma quadrant, huh? You assigned to a ship yet?”

And with that Nils shut down. He completely aborted the attempt to make a connection. He had no intention of telling “Jimmy” that he was not assigned to anything but the psych ward until his inner pah-wraiths could be exorcised. He knew when to fold.

“Gotta run, Jimmy,” said Nils coolly. “Urgent Gamma quadrant business.” And with that he ended the transmission.

“To hell with this,” said Nils to himself. “I need a damn drink.”

And he strode out into the corridor looking for the nearest bar.

::Office of Dr. Olivia Stabler, Psychology Dept, Megiddo Station::
::Session 2::

Nils sat in Dr. Stabler’s waiting room dreading the session that was imminent. His head hurt. He made a mental note to steer clear of mojitos. Granted it had made for an interesting night, at least what he could remember of it. A wicked grin crept up the side of his lips as he put some of the images he rememberd back togehter. It had been a very interesting night. He slumped back in his chair and waited for what he knew was coming. The door to the doctor’s office opened and she poked her head out.

“Mr. Torrik,” she said smiling. She always seemed pleased to see him, but he knew it was her job to at least appear that way. “Please come in. We’ve got a lot to cover today.” She stepped back and gestured into the office.

Nils only sat stock still with his fingers pressed to his lips, watching her. He didn’t want to do this…again. Finally, he roused enough will to stand and slowly stalked into the room. He took his usual seat in the comfy chair and she purposefully walked over to her chair.

“How’ve you enjoyed the reading,” she asked pleasantly.

“I was surprised to find it mildly enlightening,” he answered. “It’s been a while since I’ve devoted much time to religious study of any culture.”

“Well, I’m pleased you are enjoying it.” She tapped her PADD a bit and looked up. “I’m glad you brought that up, actually. I thought today we could discuss some of your Bajoran heritage. You know, just chat about your childhood and whatever else comes up.”

Nils shook his head slowly. He didn’t bother protesting. He’d resigned himself to the fact that this woman was going to have her way. “What do you want to know?”

“The real question is, what do you want to tell me, Mr. Torrik.” She gave him a smirk. Let the games begin.

“First off, you can call me Nils. I’d prefer not to be called Torrik unless I have to. And before you ask,” he said raising a hand slightly to forestall her coming question. “Yes, it is because I don’t want to be reminded of where, or more accurately who, I come from.”

“Wow,” she said in mild surprise. “That was forthcoming, for you Mr. Tor…Nils.”

“Yeah, well,” he said with an over confident smile. “I probably had too much to drink last night. I think I’m still hung-over.”

Dr. Stabler decided to abandon that line of conversation in favor of the previous one. “So there is more bad blood between you and your family than you first let on? It’s my understanding that Bajorans prefer to be addressed by their surnames.”

“For most Bajorans I suppose that’s true. And maybe there is a little bad blood. My parents didn’t want me to join Starfleet.”

“Why not,” she inquired.

Nils shrugged. “My family is very religious. They didn’t want me studying science – said it was a faithless pursuit. They thought it somehow diminished the power or influence of the Prophets or some nonsense like that. My parents didn’t like the fact that the Federation was involved in Bajoran reconstruction either. They thought it was a spiritual matter and should be left to the kai. And maybe to the provisional government too, I don’t know.”

“What made you go against their wishes?” she asked stoically.

“It wasn’t their choice,” he continued. “When I finally did return to Bajor it was Starfleet that had brought salvation. The Federation had pledged protection of Bajor and was providing for the actual needs of the people. I thought it was noble. I wanted to be a part of something that I thought really mattered. Something that I thought really made a difference. It sickened me to think I’d have to return to any type of religious training. I really don’t have much use for the faith.”

“That doesn’t seem very Bajoran of you,” she noted.

“I think other than my genetic heritage, I’m not so Bajoran,” quipped Nils mockingly. “That culture never belonged to me.”

“Why do you think that is,” she probed.

He only returned with a cynical laugh.

“Something funny?”

“Not at all,” he said. “I think it’s very obvious why I don’t claim the Bajoran culture.”

“Enlighten me,” she said. “Perhaps it isn’t as obvious as you think.”

Nils hesitated before answering. He had a feeling she was more in tuned with what he was saying than she let on. But he decided to answer her anyway.

“By the time I was born, Bajoran culture was a wrecked shadow of what it had been. The Cardassians raped our planet,” his tone stung with old hurts and bitterness. The more he talked the more angry he felt. His voice was deep and intense, yet somehow empty of emotion. “Then when they left our planet they took me with them. My family and I were plucked off our world and carted off to a work camp on some dark moon. I watched as people I knew my whole life just withered up and died. I watched as my mother was…” He abruptly cut himself off. He was finished talking about this. “Let’s just say that although I may know what it means to be Bajoran, I never had the chance to let that knowledge sink in. Its growth was stunted.”

The attractive doctor watched him talk sympathetically. When he was finished she let his words rest before responding.

“I understand that what you went through must have been hard. It must have been unbearable at times,” she said kindly.

“The only unbearable thing is that nothing is unbearable,” he said coldly. The harshness of his words paled next to the anger he felt inside.

“Nils, I know this was very difficult, especially for a child, but your story is not unique. The Cardassians didn’t just occupy your family. Your entire planet was occupied. Many Bajorans bear the scars of that time, but they also seem to have drawn some strength from it. It made them more devoted, or more dutiful, or more sure of who they are. Why do you think you feel so lost?”

And with that she’d solidified everything he’d been scared to reveal. His secret was out. From this point on he couldn’t pretend like he was hiding anything from her. He was lost and he knew it. And she’d said it out loud. He felt his bottom lip quiver a little and then steeled himself. His chest felt like someone had hollowed it out and filled it with white hot stellar gas. He clenched his jaw and didn’t answer.

Sensing his reluctance to answer she pressed harder. “So many Bajorans turned to the prophets. So many found the will to endure through their faith. Why is it that you seem to be so intent on walking alone?”

“Because we all walk alone,” he said with cold fury. “I don’t know who the Prophets are or what their game is, but they clearly are not worth my devotion. You see, I once held the Prophets in the highest regard. I once devoted my life to their service. I was going to follow an ancient line of Torriks who had been mylars, and vedeks, and prylars and even a kai dating back to a time before humans had stepped foot off their planet. Through all of our suffering my mother and my father kept their eyes on the celestial temple, knowing that the prophets would guide us – knowing that the prophets would walk with us.”

Nils felt himself losing control. Tears stung his eyes. He had to bite his lip to keep it from quivering. The taste of his own blood filled his mouth. The emotion finally overcame him and he collapsed into his hands. “They all died. I was supposed to take them to safety… The children…my own brother…”

And he was through. He wept. He bent over in his lap and let himself cry in front of Dr. Stabler. She knew it was exactly what he needed and only let him do it. She didn’t even offer him a tissue knowing that any interruption could halt the release he was finally allowing.

For a long time they only sat there. Nils pulled himself together but kept his face in his hands. He couldn’t bring himself to look at the doctor. He’d fought these feelings for as long as he could remember, and to finally allow them to hold sway was humiliating to him.

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Dr. Stabler asked gently.

::Bajor 2368::
::Cardassian Labor Camp near Keldek::

Torrik Viggo rushed behind one of the lean-to shelters they’d been living in for almost fifteen years. He’d shared it with his wife Elys and their two sons Nils and Jachin, along with a half dozen other Bajorans forced to work in these quarries.

“We must be ready tonight,” he said in a frantic whisper. “Mullibok has arranged space on a Ferengi smuggling vessel leaving Terok Nor. But the ship leaves tonight.”

Torrik Elys and Jendro Wyk looked nervously around the camp, making sure none of Cardassian guards were within earshot. “Will our distraction be ready for tonight,” asked Jendro.

“It will have to be,” he replied forcefully. “Baltrim and Keena will have the shuttlecraft positioned a fair distance to the north. If we buy them enough time, they will have a chance to get there and then rendezvous with the Ferengi.”

“You trust the Ferengi,” asked Elys again. She’d been worried over that part of the plan from the beginning.

“We don’t have a choice,” said Viggo. “The exchange was set up by a Ferengi man on Terok Nor who some say has a noble core.” Elys wasn’t sure.

“I worry the children won’t be able to make it to the shuttles. What if it is too far?” Wyk was not convinced of their plan either.

“Nils can lead them. He has a good sense of the stars. He will know which way to go,” Viggo assured his wife and friend.

“I will make the final preparations then,” said Wyk as he took his leave.

Viggo drew close to his wife and held her tightly for a moment. He couldn’t allow the Cardassians to see their display of affection. It was not permitted. But he had to offer her this brief comfort. “I will speak to Nils now,” he said letting her go. “He must know how important this is.” Elys nodded. And they scrambled away from each other, attempting to look busy.

Viggo found Nils at one of the ore refinement stations a short time later. He watched his eldest son proudly. Despite his twelve hard years of life he had a strong faith which made Viggo thankful to the prophets. He hoped one day his son may even rise to the ranks of kai. It was not beyond the realm of possibility. The child’s conviction was as deep as anyone’s Viggo had ever known. He called the boys name as he approached. Nils looked up at his father with an intensity that belonged all to him.

“Come here, son,” called Viggo. “We need to discuss some of the refinement techniques you’ve been using,” he said.

“Coming,” said Nils as he bounded out of the quarry. He seemed so unaffected by all the darkness around him. Viggo smiled.

As soon as Nils was close enough Viggo pulled him by the shoulders off to the more remote areas of the camp. “Remember how I told you that you and the children would be making a journey,” asked Viggo.

“I remember, father,” answered Nils. “I’m to take my brother and the other small children to some friends. And the friends will keep us safe,” chimed Nils. “I remember it all, father.”

“Well the time has come for you to make the journey. Tonight in fact.”

Nils nodded. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew this was very important. It made his stomach hurt.

“Do you know which way is north,” asked Viggo intently.

Nils pointed over the bowl of the quarry, due north.

“Yes,” said Viggo nodding. “Very good.” Viggo pulled his son close in a brief embrace.

“I’m scared,” said Nils.

“Bah,” said Viggo, pulling back. “You know the Prophets will always walk with us and guide us. They have already laid out the path before you. All you have to do is follow it. Look to the Celestial Temple and the Prophets will always show you the way.”

Nils closed his eyes and said a prayer. He let his faith tell him everything would be ok. The Prophets would watch out for him.

::Two hours later::

Viggo and four other men finally finished dropping remote activated photonic grenades around the camp as they had been doing throughout the latter part of the day. By now all twenty four of the blinding explosives would have been placed somewhere inconspicuous. All of the children were in one of the larger tents on the northern side of the facility. Elys and some of the other women were giving them final hugs and instructions. They were ready to begin. The men took their places around the perimeter to the south – all except for Viggo who stayed behind to keep an eye on the children.

“The guards have passed by,” whispered one of the woman who was peeking out of the tent.

“It’s time,” he said kneeling down before Nils and his youngest son Jachin. The two boys were less than a year apart and looked so much alike they were often confused by the others in the camp, especially the Cardassians. “Take care of your brother, Nils. And Jachin you follow him wherever he goes.” The two boys nodded.

“They must hurry,” whispered the woman by the tent opening again.

The adults gathered the children and hustled them out of the door. Once outside, they all headed in different directions. Nils’ mother led them to the edge of the encampment and only motioned them on without turning around. Nils’ could see she was crying despite her attempts to hide it.

Suddenly they were on their own. The traveled all the way down into the quarry and made their way up the other side. A dark haze hung low over the stripped mines of Keldek, one of Bajor’s wealthier cities. The late evening sun cast the bowl of the quarry into deep shadow. The small group of children ran quietly beneath the lip of the bowl, desperately trying not to be seen. Nils bent low beckoning to the smaller children to follow him away from the horrific camp. The adults would have started the distraction by now and this escape was the only chance they would get.

“Quiet and keep moving,” said Nils in a frantic and hushed tone. The Norins twins, two blonde girls about six years old rushed past him holding hands. They had tears streaming down their faces. He heard them lamenting the fact that the wanted their mother. One of them, Nin perhaps, paused and looked over her shoulder at the barely visible labor camp that had been her home all her life.

“You have to keep going,” said Nils as he pressed his hand to her back.

That small action almost brought the child to complete hysteria and he saw it in her eyes. He bent down on one knee and grabbed her arms gently, turning her to face him.

“We have to go, but please take heart. The Prophets will always walk with us.” He thought his words emboldened her, if only a little bit. She grabbed her sister’s hand once again and followed the line of fleeing children.

Muffled explosions sounded from behind them and the sky lit up. “I’m afraid, Nils,” said Jachin. “Where are we supposed to go?”
“The Prophets are guiding us, even now,” said Nils as he turned around to see the bright lights behind them.

Some thing caught his eye. High in the darkening sky, over the camp, Nils saw a waning flash in the heavens. At first he took it for a bright star. But he dismissed that thought quickly. It was far too bright. It seemed to twist and turn and dance. “The Prophets,” he said out loud in awe. He watched the light for a few moments longer and then he knew what he must do. His father had said that he had to go north. To find the shuttle. But the Prophets had sent him a sign in the sky.

“Wait,” he said raising his voice. All of the children stopped. They turned to look at Nils, expecting his direction. “We have to return. The Prophets are guiding us back the other way.”

All of the children were too young to know better. And they had faith that the Prophets would show them the way through their friend.

“Hurry,” said Nils as he took off back down into the bowl. Jachin followed right behind as he was told. And the other children followed suit.

The sounds of chaos roared from the camp as they approached. The children struggled up the steep hill, but before they could reach the top a group of Cardassians poured over the ledge. Yellow phaser fire streaked past Nils head and the children started to wail. He turned to see one of the Norins twins struck by the burst of energy and then she collapsed to the ground. He faced the oncoming enemy again and caught a boot to his face. The world spun around him and became blurry. More sounds of screaming phasers filled the air as he fell to the ground. His head hit a rock when he landed and sharp pain rattled his skull. The last thing he saw before his eyes faded to black was his brother, who had been following right behind his big brother, taking a bolt of Cardassian phaser fire in the chest. The younger boy fell to the ground and didn’t move again.

:: Dr. Olivia Stabler’s Office; Psychology Dept; Megiddo Station ::
:: Present Day ::

“I woke up several hours later,” said Nils wiping a tear from his cheek. “My mother and father were with me. They were…I don’t know. They were crushed with grief.”

Nils lifted his eyes to the ceiling, not wanting to risk catching the doctor’s gaze.

“I don’t know what that light in the sky was – maybe a starship in orbit, or maybe a weather satellite. Hell it could have been a super nova two hundred light years away for all I know.” Nils sighed remembering the terrible night all over again. “But I know what I believed it was. And I know that my faith destroyed the lives of all of the children. Except for me. My faith killed my brother.”

Doctor Stabler sat in silence taking in the story he’d shared with her. Being a counselor for Starfleet she had heard numerous stories over the years. She’d shared in the grief of many beings during her career. But it didn’t matter how many times she heard these horror stories, it never got easier.

“I’m sorry for your loss. And for the years of hard emotions it has caused you,” she said. “But you have to know, that wasn’t your fault. You were only a child. To you the light in the sky…”

“I don’t know a lot, doctor,” he said forcefully interrupting her. “But one thing I do know is that it was no one’s fault but mine.” He stood up suddenly and headed toward the door. “My time is up,” he said sadly without turning around. And he left.

:: Office of Dr. Olivia Stabler; Psychology Dept; Megiddo Station ::
:: Final Session::

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” said the doctor. “Which do you want first?”

“I don’t care,” said Nils. “Surprise me.” He was uninterested in anything she had to say today. As far as he was concerned this entire experience had been a disaster. Not counting meeting Jillian, but then, that hadn’t ended well either. He planned on avoiding her completely, as well as any alcohol. What with the break down he’d had in front of the doctor and the drunkenness and the…girl. Well it was more than he felt like dealing with. He was through.

“I’ve decided to sign a release for limited duty,” said Dr. Stabler with an expectant smile.

“Tell me that’s the bad news,” said Nils cynically.

“Uh, no,” she answered. “I thought you would be pleased.”

“Doctor, you may find this hard to believe, but I didn’t spend eight years learning the intricacies of astrophysics and travel across the galaxy for ‘limited duty,’” he said never looking her way. He felt angry. The sarcasm was his natural response.

Her smile faded. “Nils, I think that you’ve made real progress in a short time. You really opened up in our last session and that gives me hope that you want to open up. Small steps are best.”

“Well don’t keep me waiting, doc,” said Nils ignoring her. “What’s the bad news?”

She sighed. “The bad news is that your limited duty requires you to leave the station for a while. I don’t know the details but it’s worked out with your superiors.”

The bad news didn’t sound as bad as he thought. Leaving the station was just what he needed. No more being cooped up with the doctor. No more being cooped up in his temporary quarters. And no chance of running into the girl.

“Then I suppose I’d better run off and pack,” said Nils standing.

“Wait wait wait,” she said, standing up with him. Nils, although at six feet, towered over the slight woman. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to talk just a little more. Officially, you don’t have to. But if you wouldn’t mind indulging me.”

Nils stood motionless for only a short time and nodded. He sat back down and took a deep breath.

“First,” started the doctor. “I just want to say that I noticed something in you the first time we met. It was troubling. And until you opened up to me in our last session I couldn’t put my finger on it. But it concerns your faith.”

“I don’t have any faith,” he snapped.

“Hold on…” Dr. Stabler sat down and crossed her legs. “I don’t think that’s entirely true. From what you’ve told you me had a very deep and profound faith. It was something that defined you and your family. But you felt that faith betrayed you.”

“I know this doctor,” Nils was loosing patience. This was not something he was in the mood to talk about.

“But I think you are wrong about something, Nils. Sometimes shattered faith is worse than no faith at all. And I think your faith was shattered. You can’t let one experience, no matter how awful, define you like you’ve let it.”

“With all respect doctor, the Bajoran faith is based on aliens who live outside of our space-time. They are not all powerful gods. And that is the truth.”

“Sometimes what we believe is more important that the truth, Nils,” she said sweetly. “The Bajoran people are a strong and resilient people not because of what is true, but because of what they believe.”

Nils considered her words. There was a certain logic to it, but he didn’t see how it pertained to him. His beliefs were his and his alone.

“I’m not going to argue doctrine with you,” continued Doctor Stabler. “That’s not my place. But I want to encourage you to find something to believe in. Something larger than you. And let that new belief begin to define you instead of your past and your pain.”

Nils didn’t know what he believed in. She was right in that it seemed that the realm of possibilities did end where his intellect began. He decided give some consideration to what she said. And he acknowledged that with a nod.

“Secondly,” she added. “And don’t miss this. This is the most important part.” She paused completely waiting for Nils to make eye contact. He finally did. “Make a connection. Don’t exist by yourself. Get involved in someone’s life. Nils you are not alone here. And if you gave some of these people half the chance they could show you that.”

Nils immediately thought of Jillian. He had accrued a few hours with her at most, but for some reason he thought of her. Maybe because he wished he could do what the doctor was asking of him. Maybe that beautiful smile of hers had given him hope that he wasn’t alone.

“No man is an island, huh doc?” he said with a genuine smile. “Which reminds me, I’ll return your book before I leave station.”

“Keep it for now, Mr. Torrik.” Dr. Stabler stood and put out her hand. “You can return it to me another time.”

Nils stood and took her hand. He felt truly thankful to her and he wanted to convey it somehow. He had told this woman things he’d never told another soul. If nothing else, she had listened.

“I…” he muttered. “I’m not very…” His mouth hung open, but the words wouldn’t come out.

“You’re welcome, Nils,” she said smiling. The shook hands slowly and finally Nils turned to leave. He looked over his shoulder once and gave the doctor one more sheepish wave. And then she shut the door.

And Nils knew exactly what he wanted to do…

::Thirty Minutes Later::

“Jillian, I really don’t want you to say anything,” he said looking at the floor. “But there is something I want…I…need…to say.”

Nils took both of her hands in his and moved close finally looking up. She gazed at him with her kind and deep eyes. He drank in her stare like a man dying of thirst.

“I’m leaving for a little while,” he said forcing the words to come. “I don’t know for how long. But I was hoping that when I come back that maybe we could…I don’t know…” He stopped and tried to regroup his thoughts.

“I know we don’t know each other very well…er…at all,” he started nervously. “But there is something in you that makes me feel…like I do know you. I’m always so afraid to talk to people. To open up… But with you I didn’t feel that. I wanted to force through it and tell you things I’ve never told anyone.”

Jillian sat silently like he had asked. Nils stammered on. “I’ve never had a girlfriend or even a close friend for that matter. And I keep all of these things inside of me bottled up.” Nils felt his chest tightening up. It was the same feeling he’d had in Dr. Stabler’s office before he broke down. He didn’t want to break down now.

“I’ve been through a lot. My life has been empty and hard and I’ve been alone and lost because I can’t get over the things in my past that hurt me. And I hold people away. I won’t let them know me. Every moment feels like I’m trapped inside a small room and the walls are slowly creeping in on me…” He needed to hurry. He felt the wracking sobs trying to burst out of him.

“But the time I was with you, it felt like I wasn’t alone. I felt like you were really looking at me, and I was letting you look at me. I’m not going to blame it on the alcohol, because I’ve been drunk before. It was something else – something in you. Something about you in those moments gave me hope that life wasn’t all dark and empty. You made me feel happy. And you made me laugh. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve laughed?” A tear escaped his eye and ran down his cheek. “And when I was with you I didn’t feel alone anymore. And…” he let go of her hands and put his head in his palms.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I just wanted to say, that if you would let me… I’d like to see you again. I’d like to be your…friend. I want you to help me not feel alone.” And he couldn’t say anymore.

Jillian gently rubbed his head like she had that night in the bar. She didn’t say a word. Nils lifted his head and looked at her letting himself fall into her eyes. Their faces slowly drew closer. Nils closed his eyes.

“Computer, end program,” he said finally. The hologram lost cohesion and Nils sat alone in the room. He stood up and wiped the tear from his cheek as he walked alone out of the holodeck.


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