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Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Author - plumtuckered | G | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Drama | Main Story | Rating - R
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GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
Rating: R (for violence), general, drama
Author's Note: I've actually been suffering from a bad case of writer's block lately so this is my attempt to get past it. Please bear with me!
This story takes place just after the episode "Precious Cargo". All reviews are welcome, both good and bad.
"Sir, we're being hailed," said Ensign Hoshi Sato from her communications station.
Captain Archer nodded to her then turned his head to the bridge viewscreen. The small alien vessel was quickly replaced by the face of what appeared to be an alien male. He was similar in appearance to humans save for the dark blue hair and stark white skin. His eyes were a brilliant blue and their coldness sent a chill down Archer's spine.
"I'm Captain Jonathan Archer of the starship Enterprise. What...."
Sub-commander T'Pol immediately stood from her station and moved to the center of the bridge when the captain vanished from his chair in a shimmer of light.
"Where is Captain Archer?" she asked evenly, staring at the viewscreen. She saw Commander Tucker rise to his feet out of the corner of her eye. He moved to stand behind Lieutenant Reed.
"We aren't interested in your captain, Vulcan. We want your chief engineer," the alien responded. Two other aliens appeared behind him holding the captain firmly between them. Archer had a bruise on his right cheek but otherwise appeared unharmed. "We will return your captain if your chief engineer will identify himself."
"Why do you want our chief engineer?" asked T'Pol. She could hear Tucker shifting on his feet behind Reed.
The alien sighed impatiently. "We have been offered a large sum of money by our client for his safe delivery. If he doesn't step forward in thirty seconds, we will kill your captain. Then we will start transporting over members of your crew until we get to your engineer!"
Captain Archer began struggling. "Get out of here, Sub-commander! That's an order!" he yelled. One of the men who held him hit him hard in the stomach and the captain gasped in pain.
"I'm the chief engineer!" shouted Tucker angrily. "Now let the cap'n go!" He stepped down to stand beside T'Pol.
"Trip, no!" Archer managed.
The alien smiled then he nodded his head and the commander vanished from the bridge.
"Target their engines, Lieutenant," ordered T'Pol.
Reed's hands moved quickly over his console then he nodded to T'Pol in affirmation. Suddenly Captain Archer appeared beside her. She reached out to steady him then gave Reed the order to fire weapons. Just as the torpedo launched, the alien vessel went to warp and disappeared.
"Follow them, Travis!" ordered Archer.
T'Pol quickly returned to her station, her eyes locking on her monitor.
"Captain, their speed is passing warp 6. We're losing them!" shouted Mayweather, exasperation clear in his voice. "They're gone, sir!"
The bridge went silent.
"Captain, I am picking up traces of their warp trail. I may be able to determine a possible course before it dissipates."
Archer stood in front of his chair, watching T'Pol's face as she worked. After a few moments, she looked up.
"I have a course plotted. If I am correct, Captain, there are three Minshara class planets on their trajectory." T'Pol hesitated for a second. "One of them is Krios Prime."
"Krios Prime? That's the princess' homeworld," gasped Hoshi and the science officer nodded.
"Seems like more than a coincidence, don't you think?" asked Archer through clenched teeth. He looked down at his helmsman. "Set a course, Travis."
The first sensation Trip felt was pain. His head throbbed and his wrists hurt where they were bound tightly behind him. He slowly opened his eyes and tried to focus on his surroundings. He was in what looked like a small cargo hold, propped up against one of the dozen boxes that lined one wall. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to clear the fog from his mind. The last thing he remembered was the strange feeling of being transported then nothing. He hoped that the captain had been returned to Enterprise and that his friend wasn't still being held as well.
The door slid open, casting a bright light into the dimly lit room. Trip squinted, trying to see the face of the figure who approached him.
"What do you want with me?" he asked, surprised at the weakness in his voice. He could now see the figure was the man who had hit the captain. The light glinted off the hypospray he held in his hand. Trip tried to move away but his muscles wouldn't cooperate fast enough. He felt a sting on his neck then the room started spinning. He felt himself falling over and then there was only silence and darkness.
Jonathan Archer stood at the viewport in his ready room trying to mentally unravel the knot that had formed in his stomach two days ago. He knew it wouldn't go away until Trip was back safely aboard Enterprise. He sighed and dropped his head. They were still twelve hours away from Krios Prime. He knew the alien vessel that took his chief engineer would arrive there far ahead of them. They had said "his safe delivery", Jon reminded himself. He could only hope his friend was still safe when they arrived. The knot tightened as he briefly wondered if they were wrong in going to Krios Prime. If it was indeed just a coincidence after all. He shook that thought away quickly. Trip had to be there. He turned away from the viewport and moved to the door.
When Jon stepped onto the bridge, he was surprised to see the night crew on duty. He hadn't realized how late it was. He saw Sub-commander T'Pol sitting at her station with her back to him. She had been working a lot of hours since Trip's disappearance, only taking the occasional break. He knew she had to order Malcolm, Travis, and Hoshi to leave the bridge to get some rest but he doubted any of them were actually getting much sleep. Everyone on board was worried.
"T'Pol, why don't you call it a night? You must be exhausted."
The Vulcan turned in her chair to face him.
"I am not tired, Captain."
He looked at her closely. Her face was expressionless but he could see a look of determination in her dark eyes. He nodded his head.
"All right. I'll be in my quarters if you need me."
Trip shook his head in bewilderment. The last twenty four hours since he'd awaken from his drug induced sleep on the alien vessel had been a nightmare. He had been hauled off the ship by four men in military uniforms and shoved into the back of an open air motorized ground transport. The ropes that had held his wrists were replaced by heavy metal bands, each set with a blinking green light. It hadn't taken him too long to realize what it meant when those lights turned blue. He had managed to overtake the two guards who sat in the back of the vehicle with him and had jumped, hitting the ground hard. As he had struggled to his feet, pain like he had never felt before hit him full force. He had collapsed to his knees immediately, the pain so intense it made him sick. The guards had found extreme satisfaction from kicking him repeatedly, telling him it was only the beginning.
Now as he sat chained to a wall in a small, dark cell, trying to stretch his bruised body, he wondered what they had meant. No one had come to see him since he'd been locked in the cold cell. He knew he was more than likely on Krios Prime as he recognized the guards to be of the same species as the Princess Kaitaama. Trip could only guess that somehow Kaitaama's father had found out about that night he'd spent with his daughter two weeks ago and that now he was going to be punished for it. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. He wondered what the punishment was for sleeping with the future First Monarch of the Sovereign Dynasty of Krios Prime. He remembered the conversation he'd had with Kaitaama in the escape pod. He now hoped she was only joking when she said they'd cut off his hand if he made a pass at her.
The sound of buttons being pressed brought him back to his current situation. The cell door slid open and two guards stepped in. One held a small device Trip recognized as the control unit for the bands on his wrists. The other unlocked the chains that held his hands and feet. He yanked the engineer to his feet and pushed him towards the door.
"Where are you taking me?" Trip demanded.
"Move!" yelled the guard who had pulled him to his feet. He shoved Trip again. Trip turned on him in anger then instantly regretted the move when a jolt of pain shot up his arms and through his body. He forced himself to remain on his feet but he gasped for the breath that had been taken from him. When the guard shoved him again, he decided it was best not to fight him.
Trip was pushed through a corridor and into a large room. A long table sat at one end and Trip was positioned in front of it. He was forced down on to his knees. A group of five people entered, three men and two women, all in regal attire. They all took seats at the table. Trip found himself looking up into the face of a man who could only be the First Monarch. He was the male version of the princess but while her hair was long and dark, his was short and streaked with gray. Trip thought he was probably in his mid-fifties.
"You are Commander Charles Tucker III of the ship called Enterprise?" asked Kaitaama's father, his dark eyes full of anger. Trip felt suddenly afraid as he nodded his head in response.
"I am Kai, First Monarch of the Sovereign Dynasty of Krios Prime. You have been accused of the sexual violation of my daughter, the Princess Kaitaama," the man continued.
"Rape?!" Trip gasped. He tried to stand but was held down by the two guards. "I'm being accused of rape?"
"By our laws, this crime is punishable by death."
"But I didn't rape her, sir! You've got to believe me! Where is the princess? If I could just talk to her..."
"She was so traumatized by the assault she has not spoken a word since. She is in isolation, under the care of my physician." The First Monarch's voice was quiet but menancing.
"I swear to you, sir. I did not rape your daughter! She was perfectly fine when she left Enterprise!"
"Do you deny that you had sexual relations with my daughter?"
"No sir. But it was consensual. You've got to believe me, sir! Please!"
"If it was consensual, how do you explain the bruises that covered her body! The bruises on her face where you hit her when she fought back?!" The older man rose to his feet, slamming his fist against the table.
Realization swept over Trip. Kaitaama really had been brutally attacked. She hadn't simply told her father a lie to protect herself.
"Is she going to be okay?" he asked quietly, his voice trembling.
"Physically she is recovering but emotionally, she will be scarred for life."
"I didn't do this to her, sir," Trip pleaded. "The attack must have happened on the ship that docked with us, the one that brought her back here."
Kaitaama's father shook his head in disbelief. "You expect me to believe that one of my people hurt their own princess?"
Trip nodded. "I swear I didn't hurt Kaitaama, sir. I could never hurt her," he said quietly. "Wait a minute. There was a guard at the door of your battlecruiser when your daughter left. Ask him. He'll tell you she was fine when she left Enterprise!"
Kai sat back down. He was silent for several moments, his angry eyes locked on Trip's face. The engineer had to fight to hold that steely gaze.
"That guard is our key witness, young man, along with my first advisor, Tol, who was also aboard our vessel," he responded quietly, gesturing to the man who sat to his right. Kaitaama's father exhaled then rose to his feet. The others at the table stood as well. The two guards pulled Trip up and held him between them.
"You have been found guilty of this heinous crime. Punishment will commence at first light tomorrow."
"No, please! I didn't do it!" Trip shouted. He wrenched himself from the guards' grasps and stepped toward the table. He instantly dropped to the floor, writhing in excruciating pain as the lights on his wrist bands turned blue. "Please!" he gasped. "Please!"
Captain Archer was first to step out of Shuttlepod One into the morning sunlight, quickly followed by Sub-commander T'Pol. They were instantly surrounded by six members of the Sovereign Guard and led from the landing site into the front entrance of the royal quarters. They were left in a large conference room, two guards remaining at the door, both brandishing rifles. A servant brought in a tray of colorful fruits and a steaming beverage that Jon thought smelled similar to coffee. She set the tray on the table that sat in the center of the room then quietly exited.
"Where is he?" Jon asked after several minutes had passed.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting, Captain," said the First Monarch as he entered the room. The man looked at the untouched food and gestured towards it. "Please, enjoy our hospitality."
"No thank you, sir. We'd really like to find out why you hired someone to kidnap my chief engineer," Jon said, the impatience clear in his voice.
"First of all, Captain, I allowed you to come here so that I could thank you for saving my daughter from her captors. And also to assure you that I do not hold you responsible for the crime committed by your crewman."
"To what crime do you refer?" asked T'Pol.
Jon audibly gasped. He looked at T'Pol and briefly saw the shock reflected on her face.
"You're accusing Trip of raping your daughter?!" Jon shouted angrily. "That's impossible! Princess Kaitaama was healthy when she left my ship!"
"Since you refer to your engineer by what I assume is a nickname, I will guess that you are close to him?"
Jon leaned on the table, fighting to control his anger. "Yes, I am close to him. He's my best friend! What does that have to do with these ridiculous accusations you've made?!"
"You are protecting him, aren't you?"
T'Pol stepped forward and looked into Kai's eyes. "What evidence do you have?" she asked evenly.
"I have the word of one of my guards and the word of my first advisor."
"They are lying to you, sir," continued T'Pol. "Believe me when I say that Commander Tucker would never harm your daughter."
"I have never known a Vulcan to protect someone," the older man responded. "I think you have been living with these people far too long, Sub- commander."
"What does your daughter say?" Jon asked.
"She has not spoken since the attack."
"Did you ask her if Trip attacked her?" Jon pressed.
"I have two witnesses, Captain. There was no need to make my daughter relive her nightmare!"
"No need?!" Archer shouted.
"How were you able to identify Commander Tucker as your daughter's attacker if she was unable to speak?" asked T'Pol suddenly. "Your guard and first advisor did not board Enterprise so neither of them met the commander."
The First Monarch paused. "Tol must have boarded your ship. He knew Commander Tucker was the one who rescued Kaitaama from the stasis pod. And that he was the one who was with my daughter down on that swamp world." He shook his head. "Your Vulcan High Command would be sorely disappointed in you, Sub-commander, for lying to protect this criminal!"
"I believe it is Tol who is lying, sir." T'Pol replied.
"He is one of my most trusted advisors and my dearest friend. He would never lie to me."
"And Trip is one of my most trusted officers and my dearest friend, sir" Jon said quietly. "You need to ask your daughter what happened. Please, sir."
The First Monarch looked from T'Pol to Captain Archer. He was silent for several moments.
"Please wait here," he said then turned to leave the room.
"May we see her with you, sir?" asked T'Pol. She hesitated, shifting on her feet uneasily. "Please."
He tilted his head back, closing his eyes briefly. Then he looked down at her and nodded. "Follow me."
The room into which Trip was taken was small and stark white. The engineer immediately noticed the two chains that hung from the ceiling and he felt his stomach tighten. He looked down and saw there were two metal bands with chains attached to the floor as well. As the guards started lifting his arms, Trip wrenched himself away. He was prepared for it when the pain hit, but he gasped as it coursed through his weary body. He fell forward, cursing himself for being so weak. He tried to crawl, but was hit with another searing jolt. The guards yanked him roughly to his feet and attached the metal bands on his wrists to the chains that dangled from the ceiling. Trip's feet barely touched the ground so the bulk of his weight was on his arms. He watched helplessly as the guards removed his boots and his socks then locked the metal bands around his ankles. One guard closed the door then they both put their weapons down and turned to face him, their fingers curling into fists.
"Cap'n," Trip mumbled helplessly. "Where are you?"
Time seemed to stand still as Trip endured blow after blow from the two guards. He tasted blood, not sure if it was coming from his nose or if he was spitting it up. He hardly was aware of it when the door opened. Though his vision was blurry, Trip recognized the first advisor, Tol, as he stepped into the room. The tall, dark-haired man motioned to the guards to leave. After they exited, he turned and pressed some buttons on the door panel. Then the older man turned to look at Trip with a strange smile on his face.
"There, now we won't be interrupted." Tol moved to Trip, his face only inches from the engineer's. "I am sorry for this, you know."
Trip tried to back away but his feet slipped on the smooth floor. His arm muscles screamed as they took his full weight. He scrambled to regain what little footing he could get. Tol slowly unzipped Trip's uniform then began unbuttoning the black undershirt. Trip tried to kick but the chains held his feet firmly in place. He could feel his body shaking and briefly wondered if it was from the beating or from his fear. Tol opened the black shirt, exposing the bright blue tank. He grabbed the material in his fist.
"Did she do this?" Tol whispered as he ripped the fabric. "I know she must have wanted you."
"Wh...what?" Trip stammered in confusion.
"Kaitaama is a very passionate woman. But you already know that, don't you." Tol ran his hand down Trip's bare chest, pressing his fingers into the bruises along his ribcage. The engineer tried to back away but again fell, his shoulders jarred by the impact of his weight. He grimaced in pain.
"Are you afraid of me, too, Commander?"
Trip shuddered at Tol's words. "You raped her," he gasped.
Tol started laughing and Trip angrily spit in his face. The First Advisor calmly wiped the liquid from his cheek then stepped to a console which stood in the corner of the room. He picked up several electrodes then came back to his prisoner. He attached them to Trip's upper chest and abdomen then moved back to the console. He flipped a switch and the device hummed to life.
When they entered it, Kaitaama's room was bathed in darkness only broken by the few streams of sunlight that shone through the closed curtains of her windows. Her father carefully opened the curtains, the light revealing the princess sitting in a rocking chair staring down at her hands tightly clasped in her lap. A plate of untouched food sat on a small table by her side. T'Pol remembered the vibrant young woman she had briefly met and was shocked at the person she saw now. The once flowing dark hair now hung limply over shoulders that were far too thin. Kaitaama looked up and T'Pol thought she saw recognition in her dark, lifeless eyes. Her father moved to kneel in front of her. He gently took her hands in his and kissed them.
"This is Captain Archer and Sub-commander T'Pol, Kaitaama. Do you remember them?"
The young woman continued staring at her visitors. She tilted her head slightly and T'Pol could see the healing cuts and fading bruises standing out against her pale skin. Tears suddenly filled her eyes. Her father whispered calming words to his daughter but her eyes never left T'Pol and the captain.
"Sweetheart, we finally found the man responsible for....hurting you. But these two won't believe me when I say he's guilty. I need you to tell them what happened. Can you do that for me, Kaitaama? Can you do that for your father?"
"Trip," Kaitaama whispered. The tears fell from her eyes to drip on the front of her dark red robe. Her father stood and turned on Archer and T'Pol with raw anger in his eyes.
"I told you it was him!" he shouted. "Now go back to your ship and forget about your Commander Tucker!"
The First Monarch looked down at his daughter. "What?"
"Not Trip." she responded with a trembling voice. Her father knelt down again. He gently wiped the tears from his daughter's cheeks.
"Sweetheart, it's alright. He can't ever hurt you again."
"No, Father," Kaitaama said with more conviction. "Trip didn't hurt me. It was.....oh please don't hate me!" The young woman started sobbing uncontrollably, the tightly held emotions released.
"Hate you? I could never hate you, Kaitaama. You're my daughter."
T'Pol suddenly stepped forward and knelt beside the First Monarch. She reached out and gently laid her hand on Kaitaama's arm.
"Who did this to you?" she asked softly.
Kaitaama looked at the Vulcan woman for several moments, her frantic sobs slowing and then finally stopping.
"You care for him, too. Don't you?" The princess whispered.
T'Pol paused. "Yes. And he is about to be punished for a crime he did not commit," she finally replied. T'Pol couldn't help but be slightly surprised by her own response. Although she had realized months ago that she had a great affection for the crew of the Enterprise, she had never actually admitted to herself the depth of her affection for a certain Chief Engineer. The fact that this young woman saw it was a disturbing.
Kaitaama looked at her father again. "Please, Father, don't be angry with me. Trip didn't hurt me. He would never hurt me. Promise me you won't be angry."
"Tol did this to you, didn't he?" Kai asked. He rose to his feet when his daughter nodded. He bent forward and kissed her forehead. "I will be back and we will talk more. I love you, Kaitaama."
T'Pol and the captain followed Kai into the hallway.
"We have to hurry!" The First Monarch bolted down the long hall then stopped at a panel in the wall, the captain and T'Pol right behind him. He pushed some buttons and a voice responded.
"Yes, Your Highness."
"Jittar, you are to free the prisoner immediately! He is not to be harmed!"
"But sir...it's too late."
"Stop, please," Trip moaned. He could no longer stand, his legs too weak to hold his weight. His arms and shoulders felt like they were on fire but there was no way to relieve them of the weight they were bearing. Trip lifted his head and forced his eyes to focus on Tol. The First Advisor stepped away from the console and stood in front of the engineer. He ran his hand down Trip's chest again.
"You're strong, Commander. I can understand why Kaitaama was attracted to you."
"Why did you hurt her?"
Tol chuckled and shook his head. "She was so happy when she left your ship. I had never seen her so happy before. I knew what she'd done. What you'd done. She betrayed me, Commander. As soon as she ascended to First Monarch, I was going to ask for her hand in marriage. It was going to be perfect. She laughed at me when I told her. Kaitaama should never have laughed at me." Tol dropped his hand to his side and seemed deep in thought. "She should have never laughed at me," he repeated quietly. He took a step closer to Trip. "You shouldn't have touched her. She was mine!"
Trip could hear the cracking of the bone as he slammed his head into the bridge of Tol's nose. The man screamed in pain and stumbled backwards, his hands covering his face. When he removed them, Trip could see the dark blood flowing freely. Tol stumbled to the console then shot Trip an icy glare before he reached up and pushed a button. The next scream Trip heard was his own.
Jon heard and instantly recognized his friend's voice as they rushed into the prison complex.
"By the gods, no!" Kai cried as they ran, following two of the Sovereign Guard down the corridor. When they reached the last room, one of the guards punched the keypad by the door.
"Shoot the panel!" Kai commanded when the door didn't open. Both guards raised their rifles and fired. Sparks flew everywhere as the panel disintegrated. The door slid open to reveal a bruised and bloodied Trip hanging in the center of the room, his body jerking helplessly.
Jon gasped in horror at the sight. He instantly moved toward his friend. Phaser fire sounded and he turned to see the First Monarch gripping a rifle. He followed Kai's gaze and saw a man slumped against the wall behind a console, tiny wisps of smoke coming from the gaping hole in his chest. The next shot hit the console, sending sparks flying again. Trip's body stopped jerking and the young man hung limply, swinging slightly from the momentum of the jolts. Jon grabbed the engineer around the waist and held him up, trying desperately to relieve the weight from his arms. One of the guards reached up and released one of Trip's wrists. He lowered his arm gently then moved to free the other wrist. T'Pol and Kai both worked to free Trip's ankles. Jon carefully lowered himself to the floor, keeping his friend in his arms. He frantically felt Trip's neck for a pulse then squeezed his eyes shut in relief. He was alive. He quickly removed the electrodes still attached to Trip's chest and stomach then pulled his friend close.
"Jittar, Tamry." Kai shouted as he motioned to his guards. They stepped forward and reached down to pick up the commander. Jon glared at them, refusing to let Trip go.
"You've done enough! We'll take him back to Enterprise," he said through clenched teeth.
"Captain, my personal physician is only across the compound. He is very skilled. Please let him help."
"Captain, Commander Tucker needs immediate attention," T'Pol said evenly, the softness of her voice clearly conveying her concern. She knelt beside the captain, her eyes never leaving Trip's face. "He may not live long enough to reach Enterprise."
Jon looked down into the still face of his friend and realized she was right. He nodded and the two guards carefully lifted Trip between them. They all moved into the corridor, leaving Tol's body slumped in the corner.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am, Captain," Kai said. Jon looked at him, still feeling the anger in the pit of his stomach. They waited outside one of the guest chambers while Kai's physician, Dr. Weyn, treated Trip. T'Pol stood next to him, lost in her own thoughts. Kaitaama sat in one of the chairs that stood against the hallway wall, and Jon noticed the young woman's coloring was better even though her expression conveyed her worry for Trip.
"Please, Captain, I ask for your forgiveness," Kai continued. Jon briefly wondered how many times the proud First Monarch had ever admitted to being wrong. He sighed and leaned back against the wall.
"You believed the word of your best friend. I guess I would do the same thing in your place," Jon admitted reluctantly, thinking of Trip. "What did your guard say? The one who backed up Tol's story?"
"He said that Tol promised him a powerful position in the government after he married Kaitaama. He will be punished, you have my word." Kai looked down at his daughter. "I don't know why Tol ever thought I'd approve of such a union. I want my daughter to love and be loved. I want her to have what I had with her mother." He reached down and gently touched his daughter's cheek. She took his hand in hers and squeezed it in response. Her dark eyes still looked haunted and Jon wondered sadly if she'd ever be able to let a man close enough to love her after what had happened.
"Is that your wife?" asked T'Pol, looking up. She had moved to stand below a large portrait that hung on the wall in the hallway. The woman in the picture was strikingly beautiful.
Kai nodded. "Yes, that's my Tiama. She died almost ten years ago now. We both miss her terribly."
The door to the guest chambers opened and the physician motioned the group into the room.
"How is he, Doctor?" asked Jon, immediately moving to Trip's bedside. The young engineer's face was horribly bruised, his left eye swollen badly. Jon reached down and grabbed Trip's right hand, grasping it firmly in his own. He was surprised when his friend's eyes slowly opened and focused on him.
"He'll live," Trip responded in a weak voice. Jon smiled and squeezed Trip's hand.
"He's a very lucky young man," said the physician. "Are all humans as stubborn as he is?"
"Don't answer that, Cap'n."
"No, Doctor. They are not." T'Pol responded from where she stood at Trip's other side. Jon chuckled softly as Trip somehow managed to give her one of his patented "what the hell is that suppose to mean" looks. The knot he'd had in his stomach finally began to loosen.
"I'm so sorry, Commander," Kai said. He stood at the foot of the bed, his daughter close beside him. Kaitaama's eyes met Trip's and held them for several moments before she looked away. Again, Jon was struck by how much the attack had changed her.
Trip closed his eyes. "You were just trying to find some justice for your daughter, sir. Any father would have done the same thing."
"But I was too quick to judge you and I will never forgive myself for that, Commander. If you'd died, I...." Kai's voice faltered and the room fell silent.
"Well, my patient needs to rest so if you all wouldn't mind?" said the doctor motioning towards the door.
"I'll see you later," Jon said, giving Trip's hand one more reassuring squeeze. He turned to follow the First Monarch and Kaitaama from the room but paused in the doorway for to wait for T'Pol. The science officer remained at the side of the bed looking down at Trip. Her face gave no sign of emotion so it surprised Jon when she slowly placed her hand over Trip's where it rested on his stomach. His friend opened his eyes and looked up at T'Pol in surprise. He then slowly turned his hand to gently grasp her fingers.
"Get well, Commander."
Trip sat on a bench in the palace courtyard, his face turned to the sun. The warm light felt wonderful after having spent a full week indoors, ordered to stay in bed by the First Monarch's physician. Dr. Phlox had come down from the ship immediately after being contacted by the captain. Trip had thought the Denobulan would allow him to go home so he was very disappointed when the ship's doctor had agreed with Dr. Weyn. Although he had spent most of the week sleeping, he still felt like he'd pulled ten consecutive shifts of hard duty in engineering. His body ached, especially his arms and shoulders. That morning, though, both doctors had agreed that he was well enough to get back to Enterprise. Trip smiled and closed his eyes. He was going home.
"Hello, Mr. Tucker."
Trip opened his eyes to find the princess watching him. She sat down on the bench next to him but was careful to leave a large space between them. She had been to see him only a couple times over the week and she had never come alone.
"You're leaving today?" she asked.
"Yeah. I'm just waiting for the cap'n and T'Pol to finish up with your dad. It's nice of him to give us that drilling equipment."
"He feels it's the least he can do to try to make amends."
Trip looked over at Kaitaama. She was still beautiful and exotic but the spirit he'd known was no longer there. He hoped it was just hidden somewhere within her and that one day she'd find it again.
"Are you going to be okay?" he asked quietly.
Kaitaama sighed. "I think so. I start therapy sessions tomorrow so hopefully those will help. It's funny, though. This whole experience has brought my father and I closer together. After my mother died, we drifted apart. He hardly ever told me he loved me. Now he tells me all the time."
Trip pondered her words. "Maybe if you cling to that, it will make everything you went through have some sort of purpose."
"What about you? Are you going to be okay?"
Trip grinned. "Me? Ahhh, I'll be fine. This was nothin'."
"I guess I don't have to worry with the sub-commander there to watch over you."
"T'Pol!?" Trip said in surprise.
The princess nodded her head and smiled warmly. It was the first genuine smile Trip had seen from her over the last week.
"She likes you, you know."
"I annoy the hell out of her! She barely tolerates me!" For some strange reason, Trip felt his face flush.
"You annoy the...hell out of me and I like you," Kaitaama said softly, looking away from him.
Trip had absolutely no response so he just smiled and stared at the ground before him. At that moment, he heard the voice of Captain Archer. The engineer slowly rose to his feet, gritting his teeth against the aches and pains. The two walked the stone pathway toward the palace patio where the captain, T'Pol, and the First Monarch stood chatting.
"You ready to go, Trip?" asked the captain as the engineer approached. "Malcolm should be landing any minute."
Trip nodded, too winded by his little walk to respond verbally. Kaitaama quickly moved to her father's side and clutched his arm. The First Monarch and his daughter walked beside Jon who was carrying the drilling equipment, while T'Pol and Trip followed. They headed to the transport vehicle that waited several meters away. T'Pol held Trip's elbow in support and the engineer smiled down at her in thanks. She acknowledged him with a slight lift of one eyebrow.
When they reached the transport, Trip waved off Kai's attempts at more apologies. He extended his hand in friendship to the First Monarch who took it, a look of relief on his face. While Kai said his good-byes to Jon and T'Pol, Trip turned to Kaitaama. He was surprised when she timidly reached out to embrace him. He held her gently, knowing how hard it was for her to make the gesture. They parted and the princess instantly returned to her father's side. With Jon and T'Pol's help, Trip climbed into the vehicle then they headed to the landing site.
"Good to see you, Commander," greeted Lieutenant Reed. He took the equipment cases from the captain but smiled warmly at Trip before turning to load the cases into the shuttle pod.
"Good to be seen, Malcolm," Trip responded. Jon climbed out of the vehicle then helped his engineer. He noticed that Trip was looking tired. His friend leaned heavily on him as they walked to the shuttle.
T'Pol climbed in first then with Malcolm's help, they both assisted Trip through the shuttle pod hatch. The Vulcan settled the commander on the back bench while the lieutenant took the pilot's chair. Jon climbed in and closed the hatch behind him. He sat down in the chair to Malcolm's right and swiveled around so he could watch Trip. T'Pol had pulled a blanket out of the storage compartment and had put it around the engineer's shoulders. She sat down next to him on the bench.
"Malcolm, make sure Dr. Phlox is waiting in the launchbay when we get back to Enterprise," Jon directed over his shoulder.
The shuttle pod shivered slightly as it was powered up. Within seconds, the little craft was airborne, leaving Krios Prime fading away behind it.
"We'll have you home in no time, Trip," Jon said. His friend nodded then leaned his head back against the wall. Within seconds, he was sound asleep. By the time they entered the launchbay on Enterprise, the engineer's head had slipped down onto T'Pol's shoulder. Jon couldn't help but smile at the sight before him. The slight shudder of the pod landing woke Trip and Jon thought he actually looked embarrassed at the position in which he found himself.
"Oh, uh, sorry Sub-commander," he stammered. Jon had to work hard to stifle a chuckle.
"It is quite alright, Commander," T'Pol responded evenly. The hatch opened and the smiling face of Dr. Phlox appeared.
"Ah, Commander. Welcome home!" he all but chirped.
The next morning, T'Pol was checking in with Lieutenant Anna Hess when Commander Tucker entered engineering. When his crew saw him, they cheered loudly. He waved at them, looking pleased and embarrassed at the same time.
"Commander Tucker, I was unaware you were back on duty," said T'Pol. She joined the engineer where he stood just inside the door.
"Just wanted to see my engine, Sub-commander. Make sure she was still runnin' like a fine oiled machine."
T'Pol still couldn't understand the need for humans to place gender on inanimate objects but she no longer questioned them when they did. She watched Commander Tucker as he took in the sight of the huge warp core before him. He still looked weak and tired, but some brightness had returned to his eyes. When he turned and grinned at her, T'Pol suddenly felt relieved. She couldn't pinpoint exactly when it had happened or how it had happened, but sometime over the last year and a half, the commander had become important to her. She remembered telling the engineer that Vulcans did not get scared but when he had disappeared from the bridge just over a week ago, she wondered if she had felt fear for the first time in her life. She had been concerned for the captain's well-being as well but only as her commanding officer and her friend.
His voice brought her out of her thoughts. He was looking at her, his head tilted slightly to the side.
"Are you with me?"
"I apologize, Commander. What did you say?"
"I was askin' if you wanted to go get some breakfast with me."
"Yes. That would be acceptable."
Emotions were dangerous things, T'Pol reminded herself as they walked out of engineering together. Especially when they involved a certain chief engineer. She knew she was going to have to work hard to control them but as they walked in companionable silence down the corridor, T'Pol allowed herself a moment to revel in their warmth. Then with a pang of regret, the Vulcan buried her feelings and stepped into the mess hall beside her crewmate.
THE END.....FOR NOW
The story continues in Deceptions and Truths
Three people have made comments
This was wonderful! A good story, well told, but poor old Trip. He really does go through the mill and I loved it how T'Pol keeps a weathered eye on him while pretending not to really care quite so much. Lovely story, thanks so much. Ali D :~)
Very well done. I want to think "Poor Trip" but sometimes he's just too eager to "Go where no man had gone before." It might be nice if he and T'Pol's friendship progresses and then, becomes something more.
Well done, a lovely story. I haven't seen the episode yet, but I know the story enough to relate to the characters here. Yes, poor Trip, but I always write him in trouble, too, so this was right up my street. Keep up the good work.
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