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Be Careful What You Wish For - Ch 3
Be careful what you wish for
by Evalyn A
Disclaimer: Not making a dime off of this, they belong to Paramount, they don’t belong to me, although finally they’re starting to act as if they did.
Admiral Forrest looked sternly at Captain Archer from the viewscreen in his ready room. “Jon, the council’s direction is the same as before; do what you have to do, but Earth can’t be seen to be officially involved in this. The last thing we want is to have more groups pointing their fingers at us for starting this war, or more Earth citizens angry at us for getting Earth involved. This has to be completely under the radar.”
“Understood, sir,” Archer replied. “Wish us luck,” he suggested with a wry grin.
“You’ll need it, Jon,” Forrest concluded. “About the only thing I can think of that would make the situation between the Vulcans and the Andorians worse is if the Klingons decided to get involved. Keep your nose clean,” he concluded, and his image on the viewscreen was replaced by the Starfleet symbol.
Archer called in his second in command and briefed him on the outcome of his conversation with Admiral Forrest. “Well,” Tucker said, “we’re in it up to our necks for sure. Shall I tell Hoshi to get started?”
Archer nodded, and Tucker departed through the ready room doors.
T’Pol walked quietly down the back streets of the bustling city, heading slowly but purposefully towards her destination. To appear in too much of a hurry was to attract the wrong type of attention. The spaceport area of Almara was a place where information could be easily bought and sold, much of it accurate, more of it not. She had been working to set up this meeting for nearly two weeks, and her contact would likely become highly uncommunicative at any sign of outside interest in her Vulcan client.
She stopped outside the door into the small shop and casually glanced to see if she had attracted any followers. Satisfied that she was alone, she entered into the small shop front to the accompaniment of a gentle chime.
Dried herbs and plants hung from the ceiling, blocking movement in every direction but towards the counter. On each side, jars of pickled vegetables and fruits were stacked on ornately carved shelves. The floor was covered with barrels full of ground spices and aromatic sands. The room was redolent with so many competing odours that T’Pol felt her head begin to ache – a sure sign that she was not caring properly for herself, for healthy Vulcans never got headaches. She was far from a healthy Vulcan, of course, but with a proper regimen she was able to keep her Pa’nar in check. In fact, her original interest in this shop had arisen from her search for the herbs suitable for a remedy that Dr. Phlox had recommended.
“It will stimulate the regrowth of the neurons,” he had said to her during her last visit to Sickbay, smiling that ever-optimistic smile of his. “While it is not a cure for all the neural damage you have suffered in the Expanse, this recipe and plenty of rest and relaxation will do much to restore your health if you practice your healing postures,” he had advised. “Here is enough for a week, make sure you brew yourself a cup each day before bed.”
It had been two months since she had left Enterprise, and thirty-five days since she had departed Vulcan – she had not brewed the herbal remedy since that time, and she was definitely aware that Phlox’s recommendations should have been more closely adhered to. She had begun to recover some of her more normal feeling of vigour over the last few days, through use of the tisane, regular exercise and meditation. However, her appetite still was not strong, had not been since they had returned from the Expanse, and she had to force herself to eat regularly. She pondered the spice bins, each spice guaranteed to restore a variety of lost faculties. She filled a small bag with one that promised to stimulate appetite, and two more with the ingredients Phlox had specified.
The shopkeeper appeared from the back room as T’Pol approached the counter. “Aaaah, you returrrrn,” the old Valadian murmured, smiling gently. “I have obtained what you hafff requesssted,” she continued, waving a stubby hand with long fingernails towards the back room. T’Pol followed her in, gratefully breathing the fresher air in the back portion of the shop. The door closed solidly behind them. “Hafff you the payment?” the old woman continued, her smile unchanged.
T’Pol reached into her inner pocket and retrieved the small packet she carried there. It contained a finely ground material that the shopkeeper examined carefully using a rather sophisticated scanner that seemed out of place in the antique environment. “Exssssellent,” she whispered. “A month’s supply of snuff at least for a Tellarite. It will do,” she continued. “There issss a group looking to barter information on Andorian troop deployments on Rakos III. Their prrrice is steep. This leadsss me to believe the information is likely genuine, but of courssse, there are no guarantees.” She handed T’Pol a small data chip that presumably contained the particulars of the rendezvous location. “I can assist in arranging transssport for you, if you wissssh,” she offered, pleasantly.
“I will arrange my own transport, thank you,” T’Pol replied neutrally. “Thank you for the information, and the herbs,” she concluded.
“A pleassssure,” the shopkeeper replied, smiling still. T’Pol left through the back door. It was a ten-minute walk to the hangar where her small shuttle was docked, fully stocked with supplies. With her recent purchases complete, there was nothing to keep her in Almara; she headed briskly to the spacedock to prepare for departure.
Rakos III was a dark planet with dismal weather and even more dismal natives. Each hemisphere suffered from a perpetual misty rain half the year, a never-ending miasma that seemed to yield little but rotting vegetation and a dank odour of death. Unfortunately, her informants had chosen to locate themselves on the wet half of the planet for this discussion. T’Pol could not understand why individuals who obviously had access to space could not find a more clement location to conduct business. Perhaps it discouraged all but the truly serious from making the trek.
She entered the small tavern and was relieved to find the interior warm and inviting, with a large fireplace almost filling one wall, opposite the serving counter. The tables were largely empty, but one in the corner was occupied by two figures, each wearing a heavy waterproof robe, and each with a steaming bowl in front of them. T’Pol took them in with a single glance, and then headed to the fireplace to warm herself. She hung her robe on the drying hook beside the crackling flames, then walked over to the counter.
“What do you recommend?” she asked the server. He smiled, showing several bad, somewhat purplish teeth.
“Waal, I’d recommend the stew, but I’d guess you’re not a big fan of targar-meat,” he replied genially. “I’ve got a new recipe here, oden-toi soup, that should warm you up,” he suggested. T’Pol nodded and placed a credit chip on the counter. He doled her out a generous, steaming hot portion, and gave her a small bowl with a yellowish paste on the side. Suddenly, she realized that she was hungry, for her mouth watered as she smelled the savoury odour. She took the bowl and spoon, and seated herself at a table within earshot of the other two hooded patrons.
One spoke lightly in Vulcan. “Perhaps you would care to join us? It is a cold day to spend alone. We could share a tale or two.”
T’Pol acquiesced with an inclination of her head, and slid in across from the two figures. From in front, their features were now quite visible. Her eyes widened in shock as a hand darted across the table to take a slice of something bread-like from the basket on the table.
“The bread’s really quite good, try it,” the first figure recommended, taking a delicate bite. “We’ve been here a few weeks waiting for you, and I’ve spent some time in the kitchen helping the cook improve on his recipes. I guess when the climate is this bad you have to spend some time learning to enjoy indoor occupations,” Ensign Sato concluded with a smile. Lt. Reed blew on his soup, and then consumed a spoonful with a rather impolite slurping noise. “Manners, Mr. Reed,” Sato murmured reprovingly. “What would your mother say?”
“She’d ask what the hell I was doing on this soggy backwater and how I was keeping my underwear dry,” he replied acidly. “She was never much for the niceties, really.”
T’Pol realized that the two were using their banter to give her a few moments to get her bearings. She took a piece of the bread and chewed thoughtfully. “You are correct, the bread is quite flavourful,” she said. “Where are the others?”
“Not far, on the galactic scale,” Reed replied. “But we’re keeping a low profile, given everything. Perhaps once we’ve eaten we could go somewhere a bit more private to conclude our business?”
Hoshi looked at him queryingly, and he said, somewhat indignantly, “It’s damn good oden, even if it is vegetarian, no point in letting it go to waste!” Hoshi looked oddly pleased by this comment. “And our guest looks a bit hungry, too,” he pointed out.
Hoshi had to admit that T’Pol was consuming her food with more relish than usual, and considering the way her skin sat on her cheekbones, it was clearly sorely needed. They finished the meal in companionable silence.
Enterprise had been waiting for two weeks in a small gas cloud nearby, anxiously maintaining radio silence. Only once had a combatant in the war come anywhere near, a small battlegroup of Andorian vessels that had passed by without noticing their presence. While technically they were not in the disputed area of space, there had been a number of small firefights throughout the quadrant as the Vulcans and Andorians tested each other’s mettle. There had been no full-pitched battles, but the standoff continued, as Vulcan resisted all diplomatic intervention, while Andoria still threatened the use of the Xindi weapon if the Vulcans did not leave disputed space.
As Shuttlepod One docked with Enterprise, Archer paced impatiently outside the hangar. A hooded and robed T’Pol followed Malcolm and Hoshi through the hatchway, and Archer gave her a warm smile. “It’s good to see you, T’Pol,” he said sincerely, but quietly. “We’ve missed you.”
T’Pol wondered to herself just who constituted the “we”. The welcoming committee, consisting of Captain Archer alone, was decidedly singular. She chastised herself, and then replied equally quietly as they strode down the hall side by side, “It is pleasant to return to Enterprise, Captain. But the subterfuge seems excessive.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew the mood on Earth. As far as the record’s concerned, you are an information broker from Rakos III. Hoshi’s lent you her quarters, and I need you to stay put in there overnight.”
“Very well, Captain,” she agreed as she stepped into the lift beside him. “Does chef at least know that I am here?”
The Captain looked amused. “I’m afraid not, but I have requested vegetarian cuisine, so hopefully he’ll dip into his Vulcan repertoire for you,” he said, as he motioned her out of the lift. Her assigned quarters were a few steps away.
After entering, T’Pol dropped back the hood of her robe, placed her bag on the bed, and perused the interior. “Please thank Ensign Sato for vacating her quarters for me.”
The Captain chuckled. “I think she was looking forward to having a sleepover. Uh, an overnight party,” he continued, as T’Pol gave him a quizzical look. “Movies, popcorn, makeup, talk about boys … anyway, let me or Hoshi know if there’s anything else you need. Hoshi’s put a modulator on the comm. unit, so your voice will be disguised if you need to call. It won’t be long, we will be at the rendezvous point in about 12 hours. In the meantime, you might as well get some sleep.”
“Thank you Captain,” she replied, and Archer headed for the door. He stopped briefly, turned, and said, “It is good to have you back, T’Pol.” She nodded, in truth afraid to speak for fear her voice would not be entirely steady. He smiled understandingly, and departed, leaving her alone.
It was unsettling to be back on Enterprise. The circumstances were unusual – she was not in her own quarters, and most of the crew did not know she was there. Despite this, she still felt more at home than at any time over the past two months. Here, she could almost forget the decisions she had made, the path she had taken, that had led her away from Enterprise. From Enterprise, and from the man who was inexorably involved the best, and the worst, that had happened to her over the past year.
Her isolation of the last two months had been almost complete, with little or no social interaction outside of her time spent on her assignment to obtain intelligence on Andorian troop strengths. She only now realized how much she had missed the companionship of her crewmates on Enterprise, the casual conversations, the dinners at the Captain’s table, the quiet talks with Trip about anything and nothing.
She even missed the physical contact that the humans offered her, something she would have found inconceivable when she was first posted to Enterprise. She suspected that she would never now be able to adjust back to the Vulcan way of living – there would always be a feeling of incompleteness, of something missing. She bowed her head momentarily, and then unpacked her candles and her herbs from her bag, to prepare herself for meditation and then sleep.
The next morning at 0700 the door chimed. “Breakfast, ma’am!” T’Pol heard Ensign Sato announce behind the door. She thumbed the door release and stood back against the wall, which allowed Hoshi to enter while not exposing herself to curious eyes in the corridor. Once the door had closed, she took the tray from the communications officer and placed it on the worktable. “The Captain will pick you up in 20 minutes,” the ensign informed her. “Is there anything else you need before then?”
“No, thank you, Ensign,” T’Pol replied. “I appreciate your allowing me to stay here,” she added.
Sato grinned. “Oh, Liz and I had a fun time last night,” she said. “Just as long as it doesn’t last too long,” she added, with a warning look as she departed.
After consuming the plate of surprisingly fresh fruit, she pulled on her robe to await the Captain. When the door chimed, she pulled up the hood, and stepped out into the corridor. Archer was dressed in nondescript civilian clothes. They crossed the hall to the lift. “I am eager to hear just how you believe we can proceed,” T’Pol murmured. “You already know my opinions on the trustworthiness of the Andorian people, and Commander Shran in particular.”
Before Archer could answer, the lift doors opened in front of them, to reveal the two other occupants. One was Lt. Reed, also dressed in civilian clothes. The other man, impeccably groomed in his Starfleet uniform, and staring at the wall in front of him, was the subject of her disturbed dreams of the previous night, Commander Charles Tucker III.
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A handful of people have made comments
Very good but I am missing Trip! We get a tiny glimpse at the beginning and one at the end and that's it. Can't wait for the next part. Great story. Ali D :~)
I'm looking forward to the next section.
Lovely. Liked Hoshi and Reed very much in this story and I'm relieved to know that T'Pol is having disturbed dreams about Trip!
Love how this story is shaping up. Looking forward to your next posting. :-)