trekwriter151: by <lj user="cedarrapidsgirl>" (malcolm hoshi)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Another story focusing on two of my favorite characters, Hoshi and Malcolm. Hoshi's linguistic skills are needed to unravel a conspiracy, but there are others who want to possess those skills for their own goals. [In other words, Hoshi and Malcolm get put through the wringer. Again. LOL.]

Ensign Bernhard Mueller belongs to Volley. :) Crewman Trieste and Ensign Birkenwald are my OCs. [From "Boomer Bust" and "Five Weddings and a Funeral for my Sanity".]

Please R&R. Thanks.

Rating: T

One

As soon as they'd received the distress call, Enterprise had swung into full rescue assistance mode. Malcolm Reed always marveled at how the crew moved smoothly into their assigned roles. Doctor Phlox and Crewman Cutler recruited volunteers to help set up triage areas in the cargo holds. Ensign Mayweather pushed the warp engines to their limit to shave hours off their arrival time. Commander Tucker outfitted all the available shuttlepods to carry as many refugees as possible.

Malcolm kept a vigilant eye on the sensors, just in case the ones who attacked Trianara Four returned to finish the job. Yet his gaze kept straying across the Bridge to Ensign Hoshi Sato. The communications officer's musical voice echoed in the tense silence of the Bridge, a calm anchor of normalcy in an emergency situation.

"I'chala hasterti ki'evaratu," she said. "Ee'lai bharti na p'truiash kr'aiova." Hoshi listened to the reply, then nodded. She glanced over at Captain Archer and said in English, "Captain, the Trianarans have gathered all of their most serious injuries in their university hospital. Doctor Va'nai asks us to tell Phlox that they're setting up multiple trauma stations."

Archer nodded at her from the center seat. "Acknowledged, Ensign. Any word from the Kikuron Rescue Group on their ETA to Trinara? I thought they'd said they'd get there before us."

Another flashing light on her console attracted her attention. "I think they're sending us a communique right now, Captain. Give me a moment."

Archer nodded again, then a corner of his mouth went up in grim humor. "The KRG always had good timing."

Travis, at the helm, made a sound of agreement. "They always have, Captain. It's always amazed me how their rescue teams get to the scene before anyone else."

Hoshi pressed the earpiece into her ear and this time, her replies took on a different kind of music. "Sh'rru bi orka-uiappt, typrltu ksahai no..." All conversation ceased as she switched dialects and languages with ease, from the gentle rhythms of Trianaran to the more strident, gutteral tones of Kikuron.

Malcolm privately marveled at her remarkable talent for languages, how she could stop in mid-sentence in one, then flow smoothly into another. He noticed how her expressions changed as she did so. Now her brows were knitted together, her eyes narrowed, her lips pressed together in intense urgency. Hoshi's entire posture stiffened like a cadet on a review march, shoulders squared, back straight. Malcolm mused whether or not she was aware of how her body language had changed.

She is like a chameleon, he thought. Showing many faces to the world, but reserving her true face to a select few. The thought brought a dry smile. That certainly sounds most familiar, doesn't it? Malcolm quickly stifled the smile as she turned back to address Archer again.

"Their ETA is forty minutes Captain. They're sending three medical frigates and five support ships."

Malcolm raised his eyebrows and commented, "They're not sparing any reserves for this mission."

Travis glanced at him and shrugged. "Better to have too many medical resources than too few, Lieutenant."

"True," Malcolm admitted.

Trip Tucker's voice interrupted them on the comm. "Tucker to the Cap'n."

Archer hit a button on his chair. "Go ahead."

"Cap'n, we've got Shuttlepods One, Two, Three, and Five all prepped and ready to go. Phlox is checking over the medical supplies now. If you could spare Travis, I'd like him to pilot one of the shuttles."

Travis looked over at Archer at the sound of his name, and the captain nodded at him. "I'll send Travis down as soon as we get into orbit, Trip."

"Thanks, Cap'n. Travis, is there anyone else you want to pilot the other shuttles?"

Travis thought for a moment. "Crewman Trieste, for sure. Lieutenants Bailey and Foster, and probably Crewman Saldoti as well."

"Thanks, Travis. Send 'em down when you're ready. Tucker, out."

Archer nodded at Travis and a bright smile came over the Ensign's face. Malcolm couldn't help but smile as well; the captain had just indicated that he trusted Travis's recommendations. It would surely boost Travis's confidence in himself and his decisions.

He looked over at Hoshi, who wore a proud smile herself. The happy glow in her eyes reflected Travis's own. That glow lit up her entire face, and Malcolm silently thanked the captain for boosting their morale, even in the middle of a tragedy.

Archer turned to Hoshi. "Wake up Crewman Trieste and the others and notify them they're on standby for shuttlepod duty."

"Aye, sir." She turned to do so with cool efficiency; Malcolm listened at the professional tone as she called Trieste and the others. Again, the nuances in her voice changed according to the situation. Again, Malcolm thought the comparison to a chameleon was remarkably apt.

The captain's order broke into his musings. "Lieutenant, I want you to organize security teams for our medical personnel. We don't know who attacked the Trianarans and I'd rather be safe than sorry."

"Aye, sir," he replied. He nodded at Archer with approval; in the past four years, Archer had become less cavalier about security protocols, and Malcolm thanked whatever Deity that had made him see sense. Granted, the captain still tended to go into some situations with his usual impulsiveness, but at least he'd gotten better at consulting with Malcolm about it.

Malcolm paged Ensign Bernhard Mueller, his second-in-command to have the security teams meet in the shuttlebay. Then he nodded at his relief officer to take his place at the Tactical station. Before he left he Bridge, he caught Hoshi's smile of encouragement. Despite the smile, he saw the worry in her eyes, and he felt a corner of his mouth turn up in reassurance.

Be careful, Malcolm, she mouthed silently.

He gave her a slight nod. I will, love, he mouthed back. Her smile was the last thing he saw before the lift doors hissed closed.

*****

"It came out of the middle of nowhere, Lieutenant. We weren't expecting to be attacked in the middle of the luncheon hour." Marshal Kyran Subronn shook his head as he struggled to coax information from the planet's shattered defense computers. "Whoever did this knew exactly how to disable our defensive shield and knew where to shoot."

Malcolm nodded grimly. "Which means someone sent that information to your attackers."

Subronn huffed angrily. "My security forces are loyal, Lieutenant. They would never do such a thing."

"Perhaps so, but it still means someone compromised your planetary security."

Before Subronn came up with another retort, a calm voice interrupted, "I believe I may be able to provide a partial answer to that question, gentlemen."

Malcolm hid his relief as he turned toward the main computer terminal. "Commander T'Pol?"

The Vulcan pushed buttons and an image came up on the screen. A few areas were missing, but the majority of the information was still intact. T'Pol gracefully got up from her seat and came up to Malcolm and Subronn, placing her hands behind her back. "It appears that the individual shielding around your karacite mines went off-line several minutes before the first concentrated attack, Marshal. Here, here, and here."

Subronn's mouth dropped open in utter shock. "That-that is impossible! Only a handful of people know the shielding codes for the mines, and they are all loyal to me---"

"You're sure about that?' Malcolm asked him darkly. "It appears that your security codes have become general knowledge, Marshal Subronn."

The Trianarian's knees buckled under him, and only Malcolm's reflexes saved him from a spill onto the floor. T'Pol immediately called for a medical team, as Malcolm helped Subronn to a chair. Subronn gave him a weak smile.

"Forgive me, Lieutenant, but this is quite a shock to my system. I've trained most of my security forces myself, and the thought of one of them betraying me like this..." Subronn shook his head, "...is most distressing."

"Understandable," Malcolm said, with a hint of sympathy. He tried to imagine if Mueller or Birkenwald or any other member of his Armory team giving classified information to the enemy and shivered. After the shock, he'd be angry as hell, and Subronn appeared to be quickly getting there.

"The karacite mines are your livelihood, are they not?" T'Pol asked Subronn. "They provide most of the income for your planet's trade."

"Yes," Subronn answered hoarsely. "The karacite is used for a number of purposes. Energy generation, medicines, communication relay systems...it is valuable to us."

"Apparently, it's become a valuable commodity to others as well," T'Pol said. "Will it be possible to access the operation reports from the mines?"

Subronn nodded. "Of course. I will provide any information you require." He glanced apologetically at her and Malcolm. "Although they will be encrypted, and then the original files will be written in the mining caste's dialect. The official reports will be in the formal language, but---" The marshal smiled grimly, "---I doubt any incriminating evidence will be in those official reports."

Malcolm looked over at T'Pol. "Ensign Sato could translate those original reports, Commander."

Subronn gave him a skeptical glance. "Your communications officer? I believe she only knows the administration caste's dialect. The mining caste uses a tradespeak that bears only a hint of similarity."

T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "Ensign Sato is qualified to do such translation, Marshal. Her expertise could provide us with valuable clues in the identities of the saboteurs."

"Indeed. I have confidence in her abilities to help us, Marshal."

Subronn opened his mouth to say something, then thought better of it. "Very well. If she is willing to assist us, I am grateful for it."

T'Pol gave Malcolm a significant look. "Inform Captain Archer that we are in need of Ensign Sato's skill set, and ask whether or not she can be spared for this investigation."

"Of course, Commander." He inclined his head to Subronn. "Excuse me, Marshal."

"Lieutenant." As Malcolm turned to make the call to Enterprise, he heard Subronn ask T'Pol, "Is this officer truly as skilled as you say?"

He couldn't help a proud smile as T'Pol replied, "Very much so, Marshal. Very much so."

Two

Hoshi Sato knelt in the dust and dirt of a farmer's field, one hand on her UT and the other hand upon a woman's forehead. Frantic blue-green eyes looked up at her, her lips trembling as they tried to form words as quickly as possible. Hoshi caught every movement of her lips with the UT, every breathy sound that floated past its tiny speaker. Phlox knelt on the other side of the woman with a sorrowful expression, his scanner relaying the unavoidable truth.

"Meh' rui la de ke sairti, Da'rhina, " the woman whispered. "Je, je, nia lahrti ve de la naita. " Her eyes widened abruptly. "Ne, ne, dellru dji'pati. Dellru dji'pati..." Finally, the weak voice lapsed into silence and Phlox's scaner emitted a steady whine.

"I'm sorry, Ensign. She's gone." The Denobulan turned off his scanner with a shake of his head, then reached over and closed the woman's eyes. "Did you understand any of that?"

Hoshi sighed and shook her head. "Not much, I'm afraid. Each level of Trianaran society has their own dialect, their own tradespeak, depending on their station in life. She was the wife of a farmer and not a government official. One thing was sure, though...she was angry with her Gods at the end."

"Angry?" Phlox asked in a surprised tone.

"She said, dellru dji'pati."

"Which means?"

Despite herself, Hoshi chuckled. "It means, 'I'm not ready yet'. She wasn't ready to go."

He shook his head with a rueful smile. "Death comes for us all, whether or not we feel we are ready, but as long as there is will, there is hope." At her weak smile, he added, "A Denobulan saying. Come, Ensign, there are too many people who need our assistance."

Hour after hour crept by as Phlox and his teams struggled to save as many lives as they could. Hoshi conducted interviews among the survivors; she filled data chip after data chip as the victims eagerly told her all they could remember about the swift and brutal attack. She concentrated on each word, each expression, for they differed according to the person's age, occupation and status. Although each dialect seemed dissimilar from each other, Hoshi picked up on the common characteristics of each and applied them to the whole.

Why would such an advanced society insist on separating its people not only by language, but by birthright as well? Hoshi talked to families who remained in the same social level for generations and never intermingled with any other. In time, their dialect and their isolation ensured their compliance.

"Excuse me, are you Ensign Sato? Forgive me for interrupting you."

She glanced up to see a brown-haired man in the green field medic uniform of the Kikuron Rescue Group. The KRG was renowned in this sector for their humanitarian efforts; even Phlox was impressed by their ability and their tenacity. The best medics in the sector worked for them, and this young man's demeanor indicated he was one of them.

"Yes, I'm Ensign Sato, and you are---"

"Doctor Rydnar Oberu, from the Tellura system." He pressed his hands together and bowed his head; Hoshi copied the greeting. "Many apologies, but you have a man on the communication band who insists on speaking with you."

She nodded. "Thank you, Doctor Oberu. I will see who it is."

"Opahra, Dia'rranta," Oberu said in his native tongue. He genuflected again before returning back to the medical tent.

Hoshi made her way to the main command tent and found a portable comm terminal. She was expecting Captain Archer, or perhaps even Malcolm, but instead, she found herself face to face with the scowling visage of a Trianaran government official.

"Greetings," he said in the formal administrative dialect. "Am I speaking to the translator of Captain Archer?"

She nodded. "Yes, I am Ensign Hoshi Sato. How may I be of service?"

"I am Prefect Gavva. I understand that you have been talking with the various survivors of the attack and recording their testimonies. Am I correct?"

She raised her eyebrows. The only ones who knew were Phlox, Malcolm, T'Pol and Marshal Subronn of Trianaran Security. It was conceivable that Subronn might have told Prefect Gavva, but her instincts warned her to be careful.

"Yes, I have, by the request of Trianaran Security. I was under the impression that they wanted to find the attackers and bring them to justice as quickly as possible."

Gavva bared his teeth in the Trianaran version of a smile. "Indeed. The Ruling Council and I would be interested in these testimonies as well. We have various representatives from the multitude of castes that make up our society that could assist you in a more...rounded perspective."

Hoshi inclined her head. Rounded like the tip of a sharp needle, as Trip would say. "I would welcome any assistance, Prefect, once I have gathered enough information to provide a clearer picture. The issue of multiple dialects and tradespeak is challenging, but not impossible."

"Excellent. I have requested the presence of your Captain Archer and Marshal Subronn when the Council convenes. We appreciate your diligence in helping us find the culprits of this attack."

She nodded again. "I am subject to the orders of my captain, Prefect Gavva."

"Then I will inform him when the Council is ready to discuss on how to proceed with the investigation. I look forward to meeting you at last. Gavva, clear." His image faded from the screen, leaving it in blackness.

Hoshi sat back and thought about this strange conversation. Gavva's intentions were clear: he had no desire to allow anyone to know the truth of what had happened to his planet. He expected her to meekly give his Council full and complete access to the testimonies she had gathered, then say nothing else about it. Gavva dismissed her skills as a translator; he had refused to refer to her by name, and only called her "the translator of Captain Archer", like some sort of servant. His haughty demeanor and stilted phrasing made that quite clear.

He wouldn't expect me to even breathe without Captain Archer's permission. It was irritating, yet humorous in a dark sort of way. Gavva might underestimate her, but she would know better than to underestimate him. After all, she knew exactly which medical camp she was in, so he probably had eyes everywhere.

So she turned and flagged down a passing medic. "Would it be possible to contact my ship from here?" she asked.

The medic nodded and reached over her to program the correct frequency. Once he was finished, she thanked him and took out one of the UT data chips out of her pocket, hiding it in her hand. She slid it into the transmission slot, and activated an encoded scrambler that would hide her transfer from Trianaran channels.

Captain Archer appeared on the screen. "Hoshi! I was just about to call you. How does the situation look from where you are?"

She told him about her experiences with the various people in the medical camp, then about her conversation with Prefect Gavva. Jon's face darkened as she relayed Gavva's so-called "invitation" to the Council. As she talked, she surreptitiously transferred a copy of the information into Enterprise's data banks from the four data chips she'd filled so far. Gavva would take the originals, but at least she would still have a copy.

"Interesting that the Prefect would decide to contact me indirectly and not tell me face-to-face of his intentions," Jon said in an ironic tone. "If I read about his specific caste correctly, I'm about his equal."

Hoshi shrugged. "And I'm supposed to be the equivalent of a servant. He probably assumed I'd tell you what was going on because Trianarians of his caste speak through intermediaries."

He shook his head. "Delusions of grandeur," he muttered. "In any case, Commander T'Pol and Lieutenant Reed request your presence at their current location in the southwest part of the continent. I'll have Ensign Mayweather take you there via shuttlecraft. Once you arrive, you will be under the commander's direct jurisdiction and the lieutenant's direct protection. Am I clear?"

Hoshi nodded. Such formal language was hardly Jon Archer's style, but he suspected, as she did, of their conversation being overheard. Gavva, or any of his lackeys, would presume that Hoshi was indeed even less of a subordinate and needed "guidance". The necessity of the deception rankled her, but she understood it.

"Yes, sir. I understand your orders." He nodded at her, indicating that he had received her information and that their conversation was at an end. "Archer, out."

"Sato, out." She cut the connection with a sigh. She hated politics, but there were times they had to play that game. The upper-level Trianarans knew more than was apparent and she was going to find out what it was.

She didn't see Doctor Oberu hovering nearby, his dark eyes glittering in the low light of the tent.

*****

Malcolm Reed hated politics with a passion, especially at this particular moment. He stood just outside the range of the computer screen as Marshall Subronn consulted with his direct superior, a man named Prefect Gavva. After a full ten minutes of formal greetings and courteous gestures, Subronn finally made his report on the security issue. Although Malcolm couldn't understand their words, he could read their body language.. Gavva's mouth was lifted in a permanent smirk; Malcolm knew a bully when he saw one, and Gavva definitely fit the bill.

He wasn't the only one who noticed the prefect's behavior. Commander T'Pol observed the proceedings with a raised eyebrow. Unlike Malcolm, she was clearly visible within the monitor's pickup. Gavva regarded her with a sneer and said something that made Subronn grit his teeth. The security man's tone became frostier than an Andorian winter, but Gavva clearly enjoyed the marshal's unease.

Subronn turned reluctantly to T'Pol and asked, "Commander, it seems that Prefect Gavva has already made Ensign Sato's acquaintance. He called her at the medical camp she was assisting in. Apparently, the prefect wishes to meet her in person, as well as your captain."

T'Pol raised her eyebrow. Malcolm shared her skepticism, even more so. She said, "Indeed? I have not had the pleasure of meeting the prefect. I understand he is considered the head of state of Trianara."

Subronn translated her words to Gavva, who said something to him in reply. "He regrets that he has not had the chance to exchange words with Captain Archer's subordinate, but hopes there will be time for a meeting before your ship departs."

"Perhaps," she said in a neutral tone. "If the prefect wishes it."

Gavva's tone changed into one of slight scorn as he said his next words. Subronn flushed purple, but he still turned to T'Pol to relay the message. "In our caste, it is traditional for the host to inquire whether or not a young female guest is...attached, to clear up any potential misunderstandings. We would not dare give offense to her...keeper."

Malcolm pressed his lips in a thin, angry line. Keeper? Is that what they call a woman's significant other? Hoshi would be furious if she ever knew what kind of attitude Gavva's caste had regarding females. Little wonder Gavva was speaking through Subronn, instead of directly to T'Pol. Subronn had no problem with the Vulcan's presence, so Malcolm doubted it was a just a caste issue.

And underneath the dismissive attitude, Malcolm suspected that Gavva had more than just a token interest in Hoshi. If that man lays one hand on her...

T'Pol seemed to read his thoughts, for she only raised her eyebrow again at Gavva. "Ensign Sato is under the protection of our Armory officer. If she must attend an important meeting like the one you propose, he must be present as well."

Gavva's eyes flashed briefly in irritation, but then the smiling politician was back. Subronn shifted uncomfortably as he relayed the next words, "Then he wishes to consult with the Armory officer regarding Ensign Sato's status."

Malcolm nodded stiffly and stepped into range of the screen. He met Gavva's direct gaze, and for one moment, the prefect lost his confident bluster. Malcolm suppressed a smirk as the prefect addressed him and not Subronn. The marshal still translated for him.

"He apologizes for any accidental insult made toward the ensign and assures you that no harm will befall your...mate." Subronn flushed again, and Malcolm suspected he had made a last-minute change of words. "The prefect will consult you regarding the safety of her and your captain, once all is prepared."

Malcolm only nodded. Let Gavva believe he was silent and deadly. Judging from Gavva's expression, the prefect was still unsure of how to regard him, and that suited him fine. It would make Gavva---or any of his cohorts--- think twice before doing anything to Hoshi or Archer.

"The prefect wishes you both a good day and will relay further information later. He says farewell." Subronn nodded at Gavva, who promptly ended the conversation. The marshall slumped forward and put his head in his hands. "Forgive me. I had no idea he would be such a....a..."

Malcolm only put a hand on his shoulder. "That couldn't have been easy, Marshall. Obviously, Gavva holds no one but himself in high regard."

"I find it disturbing that the prefect had not mentioned anything regarding the security breaches or the rescue efforts on his planet," T'Pol commented.

"Yes. Quite disturbing." Subronn looked over at her. "We should bring her here to access the mining caste's information right away, before Gavva can block or destroy the information. It pains me to think our prefect may be involved in such a treacherous act upon our people, but---"

"---his behavior certainly sheds doubt upon his sincerity, yes." T'Pol agreed. She turned to Malcolm. "Lieutenant Reed, inform Ensign Sato and Captain Archer that we must make haste in translating the karacite mine's information. It would be faster if Enterprise beams the ensign up to the ship, then send her here, rather than employ a shuttlecraft."

Malcolm nodded; he knew how Hoshi felt about using the transporter, but speed was of the essence. The clock was ticking loudly, and he could hear every second.

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May 2012

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