Notes: What happens when you suddenly can't communicate with those around you? Not only have you lost the ability to speak, but to understand and to write as well. There is more than one way to get a message across, as we'll find out.
Pairings: R/S, TnT
The first thing she felt was the pain. The biting cold wasn't too far behind. She opened her eyes to see a close-up view of the instrument panel, cold and lifeless like the space beyond the viewscreen. Her sluggish brain tried to remember what had happened, but everything was all a chaotic blur. Who was she? What was she doing here? What had happened? Was there anyone else with her? It was silent all around her; she missed the hum of engines, the chatter of the flight computer, the hearty laugh of her teammates...
Who were they? Images surfaced, but hovered just beyond recognition. She grasped at the memories, but they floated just beyond reach. A choked sob rumbled deep within her throat, but it hurt too much to let it out. It hurt, just to breathe, just to stay conscious. It would be easy to sink back into oblivion, but some strange urgency kept her here, and wouldn't allow her into the shadows. Something important, something that was a matter of life or death, but what was it?
Then a gentle hand dropped on her arm, a feather-light touch that was both commanding and reassuring at the same time. A voice spoke, but it was not her language, and it sounded strange to her tried to reply, but her mouth was too dry. Who are you? What's happened? Where am I?
More gentle hands manipulated her body, lifted her from the twisted and mangled remains of her seat, and laid her on the floor of the shuttle...Ah, that's where I am. I'm in a shuttle? I was going somewhere, but where? She heard the hum of machinery, then more voices in that strange, but melodic language. Her sharp ears detected variation in some of those voices...so whoever these saviors were, they were obviously not from the same place.
Her mind idly tried to identify those variations, but without any frame of reference, save her own limited one, she couldn't tell whether one was the standard version over another. Still, the sounds comforted her and reassured her of one fact: she was still alive.
Again, a voice asked her questions that she couldn't understand. Her throat tightened with frustration; if she could only comprehend what was being asked, she could give the correct answer! The sense of urgency increased...it became crucial that she told them that...that...
What? She couldn't remember. Desperately, she racked her brain for the words, but couldn't find them. Then strong arms lifted her up and cradled her against soft fabric; she turned her head so her cheek rested on the fabric and she heard a rhythmic melody: lub-dub, lub-dub. The soothing pattern lulled her to sleep, and the last thought she had was how she felt safe and protected.
She was in a jungle. At least, it sounded as if she was in a jungle: squawks and hums, beating wings and clicking claws against metal. Yet the air around her felt cool on her skin. This had to be the strangest jungle in the universe, or the climate controls were malfunctioning again.
A hypospray hissed against her neck. At least, that was one sound she recognized without any trouble. Then she opened her eyes and saw an unfamiliar face: hair parted on either side of the top of his head by ridges, blue eyes that looked at her with compassion and concern, an impossibly wide grin that split his face in two.
He spoke in a soothing tone, but the words made no sense to her at all. When she didn't respond, the smile vanished and he repeated what he said, but to her mind, the tones all ran together in a mix of gibberish. There was no distinction among the sounds; even the intonation seemed wrong.
She shook her head and said, “I'm sorry, I don't understand you at all. Who are you?” That was what she thought she said, but the other person's frown only deepened. So she tried again, “I don't speak your language. I'm sorry.” There was no response; she felt a stab of frustration as she tried to make herself understood. Finally, she only lifted her hands and shrugged her shoulders.
That seemed to get the point across, for the man's expression softened. He reached over and squeezed her wrist in a “stay here” gesture, then crossed the room to a speaker in a wall. She listened as she talked to someone else, frantically searching her memory for the meaning behind the words, and finding none.
A wave of fear paralyzed her throat. Where am I? And why can't I understand what he said?
Some time later, the doors hissed open and others walked into the room. They weren't like the first man, the doctor (she guessed his function on board this strange ship when he gave her more medicine through a hypospray). Their faces were different: no ridges, different colored eyes, different heights. The one in the lead held himself straight and tall; this man was born to command. A whole slew of emotions flashed across his face: dread, fear, sympathy.
“I know you,” she said, “but I can't remember your name.”
The sound of her voice startled him. He looked over to the doctor, but the doctor said nothing. Then he looked back at her and tried to reassure her that everything was going to be all right. That was how she interpreted his tone, for he spoke that odd language too. She narrowed her eyes in concentration as she listened to the sounds and tried to associate them with anything familiar. Unfortunately, her mind drew a blank.
So this is like some sort of code, she reasoned. A completely new language that I've never heard before. It's harsh and musical at the same time. Quite expressive and it seems to have many variations among its speakers. The sense of urgency returned...she must learn this new tongue as quickly as possible, she must make herself understood among the members of this new species. There was something she had to tell them...
Movement out of the corner of her eye alarmed her and her head snapped in that direction. There was a third man in the room, but he'd kept himself so still that he hadn't noticed him until now. The expression on his face was carefully neutral, but the emotions shone within his eyes. The intensity of the gaze frightened her, but she couldn't look away. With an effort, she managed to refocus her attention of the tall, brown-haired man who was now in hushed conversation with the doctor.
The doctor nodded, then he stepped forward again. He raised his hand and tapped his chest and said, “Phlox.” She felt a smile tug at the corner of her lips. His name! He told me his name! In response, she began to mimic the gesture, but froze when she realized, What is my name? I don't even know who I am!
The quiet man came to her rescue. He gently took her hand and placed it on her chest and said something. Huh-sh-ee. Is that my name? She repeated it, slowly and tentatively, letting it roll off her tongue. No, that didn't sound quite right...she repeated it, trying to copy the exact sounds, but it took an effort to wrap her mouth around them. Finally, she got it just right. Hoh-shee. A thrill of happiness went through her...she'd managed to make herself understood! The man smiled, but it held a touch of sadness and she wondered at it.
She refused to dwell on that. Instead, she took his hand and placed it on his chest. He nodded and said a word that she knew was his name. Mah-kul-mu. It was full of unfamiliar sounds, more difficult than her own name, and no matter how many times she repeated it, she couldn't get it exactly right. Tears of frustration filled her eyes, but then he only shook his head and said something else along the lines of, Don't worry, you'll get it. Oddly enough, she found herself believing him.
The brown-haired “leader” (as she mentally dubbed him) was “Jhonn”. She repeated the three names to herself like a mantra. It seemed like an innocuous beginning, but just being able to trade names was a big step forward in getting to know these people. If she could find out what had happened to her, then the missing pieces of the puzzle would fall into place.
Or so she hoped. She had a feeling that the universe depended on it.
She held the device with both hands and gazed at its screen with awe. With the touch of a button, she could fill that screen with characters and pictures. So much to learn, so much to discover, and it filled her with joy and excitement. She went from page to page, listening to the prompts and murmuring the responses.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the doctor---Phlox, she reminded herself---watching her with great interest. He fetched a container on a nearby shelf and unscrewed the lid off the top. Hoshi allowed the picture device to fall into her lap as she saw him withdraw---a worm?---out of the container. He gently dropped it between the bars of the cage of one of his animals. It reared its head and snapped up the morsel. Hoshi watched as it chewed and swallowed it; the sight both fascinated and repulsed her, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the sight.
“My pets need to be fed every day,” Phlox said in a conversational tone, “or they become quite irritated indeed. This is my Jhorian feathercat. Would you like to say hello, Hoshi? Don't worry, she won't bite.”
He made a gesture towards the cages. Curiosity warred with caution, but curiosity won out in the end. She slid off the biobed and shuffled towards him. It still felt odd, moving like this; it was as if her body was familiar, yet foreign at the same time. She'd observed how Phlox and the others managed to move around---walk around---but she hadn't quite gotten used to the movement yet.
“Hold out your hand like this,” Phlox instructed, holding out his hand to the feathercat's snout. “That way she can familiarize herself with your scent. That way, she'll know who you are.”
Slowly, she copied Phlox's gesture. The feathercat swiveled her nose to Hoshi's hand, sniffed at it, then gave a massive sneeze. The explosive sound made Hoshi jump back, but the feathercat made no move to bite her. Instead, she had a nonplussed expression on her face as her nose continued to twitch. The sight was so hilarious that Hoshi broke out into giggles.
“She likes you,” Phlox said with a grin. “She wouldn't have sneezed if she didn't.”
“F'thr'kat? ” Hoshi asked as she put her hand out to the feathercat again. “F'thr'kat?”
“That's right, Hoshi. It's a feathercat.” His startled expression became one of pride, then he gestured toward a second cage. “Would you like to meet the rest of my menagerie?”
She slowly nodded. “Yes,” she whispered. The word brought out another smile from Phlox. She wondered if the doctor was perpetually happy, or if he just acted that way. The thought amused her to no end.
Hoshi spent the next half hour getting acquainted with the other animals. Phlox showed her how to feed blood worms to the Pyrithian bat and how to handle the Regulan eels without being bitten. Hoshi asked him the names of every creature, then repeated those names several times until she pronounced them correctly. Phlox didn't seem bothered by her incessant questions; in fact, he encouraged her to speak as much as possible.
“Like f'thr'kat ,” she said.
“Malina's claw clippings can be ground up and used to heal broken bones,” Phlox said, “so she's a very important part of the group.”
“Pet...good.” Hoshi frowned as she struggled to put her thought into words. “Like pet.”
“You know, Captain Archer---Jon---has a pet as well. He has a dog, Porthos. Do you remember Porthos?”
The name stirred some faint recollection, but she couldn't bring it to the surface. Phlox seemed to understand her frustration; he crossed to the speaker on the wall and said some words into it. When he returned, he gave her another bright grin. “Perhaps seeing Porthos will help you regain some of your memories, Hoshi.”
Ten minutes later, the doors hissed open to admit Jon. He held a squirming, furry animal in his arms, one with long ears and four feet. Hoshi automatically held out her arms and the next thing she knew, she was inundated with slobbery licks on her face. She buried her face in the warm fur and murmured, “Porthos.”
Jon looked over at Phlox with astonishment. “She remembers Porthos.”
“Pets have been instrumental in helping patients heal,” Phlox said. “She responded positively when I introduced her to my menagerie; I thought that if she saw Porthos, it might jog her memory. Porthos seems nonthreatening enough to her---”
“Obviously, she doesn't remember how Porthos reacts when you tell him he can't have any more cheese.”
Hoshi's head came up at the irony of Jon's tone. Why did he sound so ominous? He noticed her worried frown and smiled at her again. “It's a joke, Hoshi.”
Phlox shook his head. “Human expressions can be confusing, Captain. I still have some difficulties with the subtle nuances of your language.”
“T'Pol does too. You should see the looks she gives Trip when he mixes metaphors.” He chuckled and reached over to pet Porthos as the dog continued to lick Hoshi's face. She didn't understand the conversation, but she didn't care, for she was overwhelmed by the feelings of safety and utter contentment that washed over her at the little animal's actions.
Family, she thought. Where did that word come from? Then a pleasant memory surfaced:
running through a reddish-gold field under a purple sky, laughing and singing. She glanced over her shoulder to see others like her...they were playing a game, one that tested their skills in tracking and evasion, one that she was good at. The warm sun felt wonderful on her skin; she looked down in fascination at her arm as the skin there slowly turned a dusky rose from its iridescent pearl hue. She raised a hand to her head to find short, curly hair that tumbled over her shoulders. Her fingers found a raised pattern on her face, a ridge that circled her right eye and crossed the bridge of her nose and extended down her cheek to her neck. Then she turned her attention to the fingers themselves, six of them, long and slim, ending in sensitive pads.
Something whuffed at those fingers and startled her out of her daydream. A pair of joyous brown eyes met hers, and Hoshi remembered she still held Porthos. The dog gazed at her with an expectant look, then whined a little.
She looked askance at Jon and Phlox, who were watching her with curious expressions. What did they see? Neither man seemed disturbed at her appearance; she had already figured out that each person looked different from one another, so that couldn't be the reason for their sudden interest. These people seemed to take those differences as a matter of fact. For some reason, that eased her fears a little.
“Doctor, Porthos expects her to take him out for a walk. Would you object if I went with her? Maybe walking around the ship will help bring back her memories.”
“No, I don't object, but watch her carefully, Captain. Seeing familiar places and people may jog her memory, but it might also cause her undue stress. If she becomes upset, bring her back here immediately.”
“Understood, Doctor.” Jon turned to Hoshi again. “Porthos needs to be taken for a walk. Would you like to go with us?”
“Go?” she echoed. Her grip tightened on Porthos. “Go?”
“Don't worry, Hoshi, we're taking him with us.” He reached over and attached some sort of long strip to Porthos's neck, then whistled a high-pitched sound. Obediently, Porthos jumped off her lap to the floor. Jon coaxed her to her feet as Porthos jumped and yipped in excitement. He handed her the free end of the line, then inclined his head towards the door.
She realized she would have to leave the safety of the medical bay. Her heart sped up in nervous anticipation. Of course, she couldn't stay here forever. She would have to venture out into this new place, sooner or later. She tried to smile, but she felt it tremble at the edges.
“It's all right, Hoshi. Porthos and I will be with you every step of the way.”
She nodded and took a step forward. One step became two, and three, and more. The action felt familiar, as if she did this every day. In fact, she probably did, for her limbs moved automatically without hesitation. This was her physical body, yet it also felt like a stranger's. How was that possible?
Porthos, relieved to be moving at last, bounded toward the doors, which hissed open at their approach. The corridor outside was busy with all sorts of activity. The first thing she noticed was how narrow and cramped the hallways were. A sense of unease nibbled at the edge of her consciousness, but then Porthos pulled her and she was forced to keep up with him.
She distracted herself by observing the passers-by. They all wore the same kind of jumpsuit that Jon wore: blue, with colored stripes on the shoulder and strange pins on the right side. The number of pins varied. Jon, she noticed, had four, and no one else seemed to have that many, but they varied between one and three. More than a few people greeted her kindly with smiles and words, but she only returned a tentative smile. They all seemed friendly enough, but she wasn't quite sure yet if she could trust them.
“Are you hungry? We can go to the Mess Hall.” At her questioning look, he mimed eating and drinking. “Food?”
Hoshi brightened; that was a word she recognized from the game on the datapad. Yes, it was time to refuel her body with...“Food,” she repeated with a nod.
The doors opened to reveal a huge room filled with people. She would have hesitated at the threshold, if Porthos hadn't literally dragged her inside. Her eyes scanned her surroundings; the bright lights gave the place a cheerful atmosphere, and as she watched, the people laughed and talked as they ate. The sights and smells nearly overwhelmed her senses, but she couldn't help but feel a wave of comfort, of home.
“Hoshi! Good to see you up and about! Y'had us all worried, y'know.”
The voice reminded Hoshi of a lazy summer day on a slow-moving river; simple on the surface, but complicated underneath. It belonged to a light-haired man sitting at a nearby table. Next to him was a dark-skinned man who was putting food in his mouth at a rapid pace. Hoshi hoped the second man wouldn't choke on what he was consuming.
“Didn't mean to interrupt your lunch, Trip---”
“You're not interruptin', Cap'n. Have a seat. How 'bout we get you somethin' to eat, Hoshi? Chef's got your favorite shrimp marinara and chocolate cheesecake for dessert.”
The other man finally slowed enough to add, “Just stay away from the meatloaf, Captain. It tastes a little off.”
“I'll take your word for it, Travis. Can you watch Porthos while we get something to eat?”
“Certainly, Cap'n.” The first man bent and scratched Porthos behind the ears as Jon motioned for Hoshi to follow him to the serving line. The other members of the crew stepped aside to let them go ahead, thus confirming her supposition that Jon was the leader of the group.
She looked at the various offerings, all in bright colors and beautiful arrangements, but none seemed appealing at the moment. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jon pick up a dish of something drenched in a kind of white sauce and sprinkled with green flecks. She hesitated for half a second, then selected the same item. The smell assaulted her nose and she had to make an effort to keep her composure. Then she watched him open a cabinet and saw pieces of creamy pastry on plates. This time, her hand automatically went to a brown slice of...chocolate cheesecake.
How did she know that? Of course, the blond man---Tuh-rriph, Trip, Jon had called him---had said it was available, but how did she distinguish it from the multitude of pastries in the serving case? Are my memories returning? Am I remembering bits and pieces of my life, like my food preferences?
She tried to contain her excitement as she returned to the table and sat between Jon and the third man---Tuh-rafus., Travis. She tried not to stare at both men. Their names are similar, at least the first sound is similar. Are they are related? They look nothing alike. One is light, the other dark, but they both share the same kind of easygoing friendliness. I wish I could ask them. There were more pressing matters at the moment, like eating.
Hoshi glanced at Travis, who was still consuming the items on his plate with a pronged utensil in one hand. So she picked it up and proceeded to use it to scoop up the slimy, snake-like strands on her plate. Like walking, her body seemed to move of its own accord, and knew the motions. But the moment she placed the morsel in her mouth, she coughed as the taste overwhelmed her.
“Hoshi?” Travis immediately pounded her on the back. “You okay?”
“Here, drink this.” Trip thrust a glass of water into her hand, and she gulped the liquid without a second thought. After she finished the glass, she closed her eyes and thought, This is horrendous! How can they consume this...food without poisoning themselves?
Travis still gazed at her with concern. “I guess we should stay away from the marinara, too.”
Trip sampled a bite from her plate and said, “Dunno, tastes okay to me. Maybe her stomach's upset. I bet the chocolate cheesecake'll make you feel better, Hoshi.”
She opened her eyes and gave the innocent-looking pastry a dubious look. Silence fell over the table when she made no move toward it. Jon cleared his throat, but she didn't react.
“Okay, we all know that Hoshi doesn't refuse chocolate,” Trip said, “even if she was drunk or dying.”
Cautiously, she poked her “eating utensil”---fork, she remembered, feeling another burst of pride at knowing the word and its meaning---into the chocolate cheesecake. When it didn't jump, squeal, or make faces at her, she slipped the small piece into her mouth. Her eyes widened in delight, then one forkful became two, then three. In minutes, the dessert plate was empty.
“Whew! Had us worried there, for a minute,” Trip breathed. “Thought that maybe you'd sworn off chocolate for life.”
“Or maybe an alien had taken over her body,” Travis quipped. At Jon's sharp look, he raised his hands and said, “Just saying. We've run into many weird things out here that the thought came to me. If she'd decided not to even touch the cheesecake, I would've called Phlox. Obviously, she does remember her favorite dessert, so maybe her memories are coming back.”
“It'll just take time,” Jon said with a slight smile at her. “We want you back, Hoshi.”
“Yeah. It's not the same without you,” Trip chimed in.
Hoshi managed a smile at the words. She brought her gaze over the other tables and saw Mal-khum---Malcolm---sitting nearby with his back to the wall. He made no move to join the others at her table, but only watched. Again, she felt that odd feeling of being protected; as long as he watched, no harm would come to her. But why? She didn't understand it, but at the same time, she felt grateful to him for it.