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Faith- Part 5
"FAITH OF THE HEART"
SUMMARY": "When members of the crew go suddenly missing, Captain Archer finds the only witness is unable to tell them anything. Lt Reed takes it upon himself to turn detective."
* * * * *
Travis Mayweather looked up at the viewscreen. "There it is, Captain!"
Captain Archer leaned forward in his chair, eyes narrowing. "Good, I don't want to go any closer until we know a little more about what we're dealing with. Lt Reed?"
"I want you to scan for any power signatures. What kind of technology, weapons etc they may have down there. Also scan for lifeforms."
Lt Reed watched as the Captain vacated his chair.
"Where are you going, Captain?"
"I need to see a man about some visions." He paused at the look on Lt Reed's face. "Trip." He clarified. "Somehow Commander Tucker knew this planet was here. Knows our people are trapped down there. I want to know how he knows. You have the bridge, Lieutenant."
* * * * *
It was so weird. Surreal almost. Sub-Commander T'Pol had been drifting. Happy in Trip's thoughts, the two of them conversing more and more easily as they adapted to the unique mind meld. Distance was no object. It was as if they could relax in the depth of sleep and make connections the like of which they could only wish for on waking. Those precious hours were sliding out of her hands now. She could feel him fading away. Angst. Grief. Frustration. Loss. A myriad of negative emotions began to swamp her earlier euphoria. Her joy at having found him. *Trip! Don't leave me, beloved* But he could no longer hear her. His thoughts no longer connected to her. Sorrow heavy and dull chained her heart to the waking misery that was her new life. Slowly she surfaced. Gradually becoming aware that rough hands were on her. Prodded and played with she felt a surge of such anger and loathing that Kaarg actually took a step back as she struck out.
"Do NOT touch me again!"
A throaty racking sound told her that the Hirogen Captain was amused. He deliberately ignored her warning. Touched her with his thick rough fingers, pleased to stir such a violent reaction out of her. He did not crave pliant flesh. Either for his table or his bed. The Sub-Commander shuddered with revulsion. Was too weak and hemmed in to escape him. She shut her eyes and tried to regulate the frantic beat of her heart. He pinned her back and watched as she struggled against his superior strength. One hand exploring and parting her legs while the other prevented her from escaping his unwanted attentions. He watched frustration pool in her eyes and pressed his fingers inside her. She was still raw and tensed in pain. Gritting her teeth she swore at him in Vulcan. He grinned, his humour rising with her anger. The pain was sharp, intrusive but nothing compared to her shame and humiliation. She thought of Commander Tucker. Trip. How could she turn to him now? Damaged and despoiled she was no longer the proud and worthy Vulcan who had won his heart. She closed her eyes as she continued to curse her tormenter and for the first time in her life wished she had the means to end her existence. Surak forgive her.
Kaarg did not waste words with idle conversation. He arranged T'Pol to his satisfaction then lined himself up. Watching her intently he was annoyed to see that she had closed her eyes again. Roughly he shook her until her teeth rattled and hissed. "Look at me!"
T'Pol wanted to resist him on every level but a quiet nagging voice pleaded in her back brain, begging her to live to fight another day. If not to return to Enterprise then at least to die with her teeth in her enemy's throat. On some level that should have been funny. The Hirogen was more than twice her height and several times her weight, almost all of that was solid muscle. The hand inside her twisted making her cry out. She opened her eyes and just stared at him. Making sure he kept eye contact, Kaarg penetrated her slowly. His thick engorged muscle ramming into bruised flesh. His heavy hips driving himself in deep until she felt as if he was going to ram himself right out the other side. She bit her lip and watched the impassive face glaze over with smug satisfaction as he began to pump hard and deep into her. T'Pol could not stop crying. The tears her only recourse. Her mind numb with the violation, her thoughts searching for somewhere to hide. She thought of Trip and felt her heart breaking. The ragged walls slowly soaking in blood to match the weeping flesh staining the rough fabric of borrowed cloth.
She lost count of how many times the brute satisfied his unseasoned lusts. Her eyes heavy, her body a drag on upright bone. Her skin lacklustre and tacky with sweat. The malodorous pungency of the fetid air made her sick. Turning her head she began to vomit. Once she began T'Pol found she could not stop. Angry, the Captain struck her hard across the face and she fell to her knees. Strong hands lifted her and took her to a deep sink. A cask of water was sloshed over her to wash off the vomit. She was then lifted out, shaken, and locked in metal frame to dry. Disheveled and disgusted with herself, T'Pol looked down at the swaying shadow she cast. Emptiness yawned like a chasm before her. Death would be a sweet release. A welcome embrace. But that little insistent voice would not let her relinquish even the ghost of hope. She had to hang on. To survive if only to find her way one last time into Trip's arms. The thought of him holding her, loving her with such quiet passion made her weep anew. The tears only stopped when she passed out.
* * * * *
Captain Archer was concerned. He had gone to see Commander Tucker and had difficulty waking him. Silent tears were coursing down his cheeks. When he managed to rouse him Trip could not explain his distress only that something was terribly wrong. The Captain was glad he had brought Dr Phlox with him. He glanced around the Commander's quarters as much to give his friend time to pull himself together as anything else. The room was neat and orderly with everything stowed away carefully. All the PADDs were stored in order on a shelf next to his desk. Books and schematics were stacked with care. Everything placed within easy reach of the desk. The Captain turned to face Trip, noticed he was now sitting up on the bed. He sat next to him. Dr Phlox waited patiently, curious to hear what the Commander had to say.
"Trip, what's going on?"
"This isn't normal, Trip. I've known you almost nine years and I've never seen you this emotional. Talk to me. Tell me what's going on."
The Commander sighed and tried to order his thoughts but everything was so tenuous. He took a deep breath and decided to do the best he could. "I don't know. At least, it's real confusin' and at times I feel like I'm goin' outta my mind. Other times it's like all the pieces are slottin' into place. Makes no sense."
"Just tell me as much as you can. Maybe we can help put the pieces together."
He looked doubtful but nodded anyway. He would try. "Well, you remember when me and T'Pol were real close? We could hear each other thinkin' and a passion bound us that was like nothin' I'd ever experienced in my life before. It was the same for T'Pol. Now I know that had to stop. We can't afford for the Vulcans to know that their officer has 'gone native' with the humans and we kept that promise, Cap'n, hard though it was. Neither of us wanted to jeopardise T'Pol's place on Enterprise or risk the mission gettin' cancelled." He paused and wet his lips. He looked so sad that the Captain was tempted to say something but forced himself to remain silent. He was not sure he would have been so strong had their roles been reversed. "Then I was woken by T'Pol's voice inside my head. The night the women were taken. I never even stopped to think, Cap'n. It was instinct pure and simple. I reacted but wasn't able to stop the aliens takin' T'Pol." He swallowed hard and knitted his fingers together to stop his hands from shaking. "Since then I keep gettin' the feelin' that T'Pol's tryin' to reach me. I can't hear her while I'm awake but I get the strangest feeling that I can talk to her when I'm asleep..."
The Captain frowned and looked at Dr Phlox. He said nothing. Just gave a slight shrug. The Commander glanced carefully at the Captain, needing to see how he was taking this. When Captain Archer did not say anything he carried on.
"Often during the day I can feel her emotions. They come and go and sometimes it's downright frustratin'. I know for instance that she's frightened, in pain, and exhausted. I can hardly bear it, Cap'n. Not bein' able to get to her and help."
"I was coming to that, Trip. We're in orbit around that planet you told me about."
His expression brightened. The hope burned fever bright. He jumped up. "That's great, Cap'n. What're we waitin' for?"
"We need to be careful, Trip. We have no idea what might be waiting for us down there."
"Cap'n while we're bein' careful they could be dyin' down there!"
The Captain nodded. Realised his friend was right. But it still did not stop the nest of rattlers stirring in his gut from waking up and joining hands. "We'll do this by the numbers, Trip. No darting off and getting separated - okay? I've asked Malcolm to sort out two landing parties. Fully armed and with orders to go in quick, retrieve our people then get out again."
"I'm coming too."
He shook his head. "Absolutely not."
His lips compressed into a thin tight line. "I have to go down..."
"No, Commander. You have to stay here, monitor everything."
Trip realised what he was doing. His voice dropped, a gentle quiet whisper with an underlying hint of steel. His eyes fastened on the Captain's face. Mind already made up. "You can't wrap me in cotton wool, Jon. I have'ta go and you know it."
He wanted to shake his head. Deny that was what he was doing but they had been friends for too long. Were way too close to stomach even a white lie living between them. How could he tell Trip he was terrified something would happen to him? That he was dreading the moment his tender hearted friend saw what had happened to T'Pol and the others? How would he cope with the sight of him falling apart before his eyes when Trip saw what they had done to the Sub-Commander? Trip was his friend. Closer to him than family. Sure, he was worried about the others but despite his devotion to ship and crew only Commander Tucker was irreplaceable. He should hate himself for feeling that way but it was honest and he would not take back the realisation no matter how much it hurt him to admit it. Even to himself. Trip was more than his friend. He was the voice of his conscience. The one person who knew him best. Understood him on levels too instinctual to put into words. He loved him. Trusted him. Wanted him to be happy. Was pleased he had found such a deep love and friendship with T'Pol but was also paradoxically insanely jealous. Not because he had designs on him himself but because a small, tiny, lost piece of himself was terrified that if Trip and T'Pol got too close there would be no room left for him. He did not want to be shut out. Left behind. Lonely. He knew it was a stupid fear but that did not make it any less traumatic. So he gave his friend a solemn smile and a reluctant nod.
"Okay Trip , but when I say we're taking no risks I mean it or I'll keelhaul your ass all the way back to Starfleet, is that understood?"
"Wipe that grin off your face."
* * * * *
The ship was travelling at warp six. Captain Vornak was not happy. The Vulcan ships highly specialised sensors had detected the Hirogen ship even though it was cloaked. Controlling his anger beneath a scowl of disapproval he hailed the vessel. At first he actually thought the ship would try to make a run for it. A foolish miscalculation at best. After a moment the vessel dropped out of warp and de-cloaked, the hail being answered by a heavily set and surly Hirogen male.
"Captain Kaarg. What are you doing here?"
The Hirogen did not look pleased to be brought to account by the Vulcans but kept his temper in check. "We were following our prey."
Captain Vornak raised an eyebrow in a manner that managed to mock the Hirogen assertion without calling him a bald faced liar to his face. "In direct pursuit I see." He said in a cold dry voice.
Kaarg cleared his throat. "We have no quarrel with you."
"You are outside the boundaries agreed upon."
"Our prey does not keep to boundaries."
Something hard glinted in the Vulcan's eyes. "You overstep your mark."
The Hirogen took a breath then slowly inclined his head. "I apologise, Captain."
Suspicion stirred in Captain Vornak's mind. The stiff necked Hirogen never acquiesced so meekly. "Did you catch your prey?"
"We are Hirogen!" He asserted with pride.
Captain Vornak nodded slightly. "Indeed. Power down your engines and prepare to be boarded."
Anger flashed in the Hirogen's face. "We are going back to our hunting grounds."
The hint of steel in the Vulcan's eyes hardened further. "*After* we have spoken to you face to face." He paused then added mildly. "Unless you have something to hide?"
Captain Kaarg shook his head and barked something in Hirogen. The engines powered down. Captain Vornak nodded and cut the connection. Lieutenantt Rolrak was wary. "He is lying."
The Vulcan Captain nodded. "Of course."
"We should destroy his vessel. It it outside the permitted corridor."
"Agreed but first I want to know what it is doing here. We will take the ship apart if we have to. After all, they will not be going anywhere afterwards."
* * * * *
Captain Archer stared at Lt Reed. It looked as if the man had single handedly emptied the ship's armoury. He stared at the landing parties, tilted his head at the body armour and the phase rifles. "Lt Reed, are you expecting a war?"
The lieutenant was grim faced and completely devoid of humour. "No, sir, but bearing in mind how much stronger the enemy is and the fact that we do not know how many may be waiting for us down there I do not intend to be placed at a disadvantage."
He almost smiled. Commander Tucker was impressed. "I don't supposed you brought any personnel mines?"
Lt Reed shook his head, a grim smile playing across his tight lips. "No Commander, sorry."
Captain Archer indicated for them to board the two shuttlepods. "I think we have enough firepower gentlemen. If we take anything else with us there will be no room to bring back our crewmembers."
His words silenced the friends. Captain Archer turned his head to look for the doctor and spotted the Denobulan struggling with two boxes of medical equipment. Commander Tucker hurried to help him. The Captain flicked the com on the wall. "Travis, you have the bridge."
One last look at the rescue teams and Captain Archer gave a grim nod. "Okay, let's do it. One way or another we are not leaving without our people."
Taking one medical box with them, the Captain and the Commander went with one group, the doctor and Lt Reed with the other. The shuttlepods were cramped but no one was complaining. The Captain had tried to plead for a smaller rescue party but Lt Reed had been adamant and Trip had backed him up. It felt weird going down to the surface in utter silence. The Captain took a surreptitious look at Trip's face. Noticed how pale he was, a far away look in his eyes frosting the clear blue ocean he had come to know so well. As soon as they were down they checked their tricorders and followed the muted lifesigns to what looked like some caves up ahead. Commander Tucker was nervous, anxious and on edge. Captain Archer kept glancing across at him, concerned about him. "Are you alright, Commander?"
Trip nodded but did not look at him. He was following doggedly in the Captain's footsteps. Heart racing like a wild thing. The breath trapped in his body and unable to form anything as coherent as words. The Captain wanted to tell him to calm down, that everything would be alright, then stopped himself. Who was he kidding? If anyone had a hint of what was waiting for them it was his friend. That knowledge did not reassure him.
They almost reached the cave mouth before the first volley of weapons fire sent them diving for cover. Lt Reed used hand signals to set his men up in a cross fire. Captain Archer left him to organise the assault and fell in beside Trip as they advanced on the Hirogens. The fighting was bitter and fierce, some of the Hirogens stepping clear of any cover in order to get a clearer line of fire. As if their bravado was the equal of body armour. Captain Archer had never seen beings so grotesque, their guttural voices bubbling up with the excitement of battle, the blood lust rising strong and vibrant in them and pushing them on even after sustained weapons fire had riddled them with holes. They took time to die and bought every second dearly. When the fighting tapered off the silence was heavy, laboured and painful to the ears. Trip shuddered as he stepped over the foul creatures. Memories of being choked and shaken then thrown bodily across T'Pol's room filled his mind. He was even more worried now. He could not feel her. Sense her. The smell of blood was nothing to him, he pressed on, almost running now. Captain Archer caught the movement and called after him. "Trip! Wait for the rest of us!"
Lt Reed heard the Captain call, and jogged after the Commander. Jerking his head to his men to follow. At least four of the landing party were injured but from what the Captain could see they were fairly minor wounds. He left them in the doctor's capable hands and ran after Trip and Malcolm. When he caught up with them in the winding cave system he skidded to a horrified halt. They had found their women crew but none of them was prepared for the state they were in. Some were lying like broken things. Others were locked in some kind of hanging metal basket. Many were near naked, others wore coarse cloth smocks. Blood was smeared on the walls, the floors, on their tattered clothing. What hurt most of all was the way the women wept when they saw the rescuers from Enterprise. Lt Reed could feal tears of rage burning his eyes as he spotted Ensign Sato. Hoshi barely raised her head. Trip was hammering at the huge metal gate, his eyes frantically searching for the one face he needed most to see. The one face that was missing.
He felt Malcolm Reed's hand on his shoulder, his words hissed in his ear. "Step back, we're going to shoot the lock off."
In a daze Trip stepped back. Captain Archer was breathing heavily beside him. The grief in his eyes matching the grief in Trip's heart. "Oh my God, Trip..." He said in a low harsh breath filled with horror.
The Commander had no words. As soon as the locks had been shot off the metal gate they filed quietly into the prison cell and began to see to the women. Trip stood for a moment, eyes blinded with tears. Lt Reed ran to Hoshi, gathered her gently in his arms as he fiddled with the chains that bound her. By the time they had freed those locked in the damnable metal frames as well Dr Phlox had joined them. His normally ebullient personality dimmed by sorrow and distress. Quietly and calmly he gave what aid he could and in a solemn line they carried out their rescued people like mourners accompanying the dead. Commander Tucker stood in the bloodied empty cell and stared without seeing. His mouth was dry. His heart empty. The hope in his eyes was gone. Captain Archer finished helping Lt Hess to one of the shuttlepods and went back to get his Chief Engineer. Trip did not look at him. There were only the two of them standing in that vile place now.
"She isn't here, Cap'n." He said dully.
Captain Archer did not know what to say. Did not want to ask him if he could sense her. Was she still alive? What would Trip do if T'Pol had been killed?
"Trip, I'm sorry..."
There was no reaction. For several moments neither spoke. The Captain not wanting to bully the Commander when he was obviously in shock. He let the minutes stretch and placed a hand on the Commander's shoulder. "When you're ready, Trip."
It took another minute or two for the Commander to realise he had spoken. He turned and nodded. No more tears. No more anything. Trying to hide his concern, the Captain walked back to the shuttlepods with his friend and exchanged a look of concern with Dr Phlox. The doctor gently guided the Commander into the second shuttle. With a heartfelt sigh of pain and loss, the Captain climbed in after him and gave the signal to return to the ship. Once back on the Enterprise everyone pitched in to help ferry the traumatised women to sick bay and help treat the wounded. Hardly anyone spoke. Trip stared off into space and did not react to anything or anyone. The Captain was concerned but right now the raped women came first. Gently he coaxed Trip to his quarters and sat him on the bed.
"You should try to get some sleep, Trip."
The Commander nodded but he was not looking at the Captain. Captain Archer bit his lip and hunkered down, undoing the Commander's shoes and talking quietly to him. There was no reaction. The Commander obediently lay down when instructed to do so and stared up at the ceiling, eyes unblinking. The Captain did not know what to do. How to help him. There was nothing he could say and little he could do. He felt his eyes mist up again and patted him on the shoulder. "Close your eyes, Trip, and get some sleep."
He watched the red rimmed eyes slowly close and let out a sad breath. He shook his head and looked at his friend for a moment then draped a blanket over him and quietly left. He had no idea what he was going to do but right now he wanted to go to sickbay and see how the women were faring. This was one adventure that would not bear repeating. With a heavy heart he knew the next command he would give would be to turn the ship around and make the sorrowful return back to Earth.
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Eight hardy souls have made comments
Ooh. Hirogen. Keep it coming please
This is disturbing, but bloody good. Keep going!, BTW, it's RUSSELL Watson who sings the theme, not Robert.
Well, if emails can be red-faced, Alison sent me a red-faced one today asking me to correct the error. Thanks for the heads up, Sarah. We've corrected the name, and Alison apologizes to her readers.
Wow! This is excellent. Very visual and intense. I'm anxious to read more!
Bucky the former linguist stepping in here. Actually "countenance" has multiple meanings. As noun it does, indeed mean "face," etc.; however, as a verb it means "give moral approval."
This is GOOD, sad but GOOD! Hope you post another chapter soon!
wow. excellent. I love the R/S parts especially- you have Malcolm's character down brilliantly!
What an emotional roller coaster. It will be interesting to see how the crew draws together due to this.