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The Xindi Trap
Author - plumtuckered | Genre - Drama | Main Story | Rating - PG-13 | T | X
Fan Fiction Main Page | Stories sorted by title, author, genre, and rating
THE XINDI TRAP
A/N: This story takes place after the episode “Carpenter Street”. The idea hit me while watching the Xindi council scenes in the recent repeat of “Rajiin”.
As always, reviews are most welcomed and appreciated.
“I still can’t believe you and the cap’n did all that yet returned here just a second after you left,” said Commander Charles Tucker III with a shake of his head. He turned to look up at T’Pol who was kneeling behind him. “At least you can’t say time travel doesn’t exist anymore.”
T’Pol took the engineer’s head between her hands and turned it back forward then she placed her fingers once again at the base of his neck. “Breath, Mr. Tucker,” she instructed. “And I do not yet believe time travel actually does exist. Crewman Daniels could have very easily transported us across light years to Earth without sending us through time. The city we visited may simply have been---behind the times as you would say.”
Tucker chuckled lightly and shook his head. “You’re really something, T’Pol,” he said, the amusement clear in his soft voice. He flinched. “Ouch! Not so hard!”
“I apologize,” said T’Pol. “However it is because you are so tense this evening that this session is so painful.” The Vulcan sub-commander flattened her hands and rubbed the palms into her companion’s muscles. When she felt the tension ease slightly, she again began using her fingertips. “Is something disturbing you, Mr. Tucker?”
The commander shook his head and remained silent. He dropped his chin until it rested on his bare chest then he expelled a long breath through his nose. He was seated on a pillow on T’Pol’s floor, his legs crossed, his elbows resting on his knees. T’Pol shifted slightly closer to him and drew him back against her thereby giving her a better angle with which to apply downward pressure into his taut shoulders. He flinched again and she felt his muscles contract. She again flattened her hands and began massaging in small circles.
“Ah, now that feels good,” Tucker sighed as he leaned into her.
“You have a highly competent crew, Commander,” admonished T’Pol lightly. “Why do you choose not to use them?”
“What’re you talking about? I push them harder than I should already,” replied Tucker. “If I push ‘em any harder, they’d collapse.”
“So it is acceptable that your crew get appropriate rest but not you?”
Tucker shrugged. “I get appropriate rest, thanks to you,” he replied softly.
T’Pol continued the massage. “I have noticed a change in your appearance since the funeral. I don’t believe you are rested at all.”
The commander sat forward and turned to face her. In the candlelight, the dark circles under his eyes seemed more pronounced. The flame cast by one of the candles reflected the hint of anger in Tucker’s eyes yet he remained uncharacteristically silent.
T’Pol sat back on her heels and regarded the engineer. “Mr. Tucker?”
“I’ve been busy with the repairs so yeah, maybe I haven’t been getting enough rest lately,” Tucker admitted.
“The repairs were completed a week ago.”
Tucker stood suddenly and reached for his shirt where it lay in a heap on T’Pol’s bunk. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea tonight.”
T’Pol stood. She watched as the commander pulled on his shirt then turned to the door. His hand hesitated over the keypad then dropped to his side.
He tipped his head back and he looked at the ceiling. “Why’d you let him do it?” he asked quietly.
“I don’t understand,” T’Pol replied.
Tucker turned to face her. “The captain. Why’d you let him create Sim?”
T’Pol felt her stomach constrict into the proverbial knot.
“I’m not saying I’m not grateful,” Tucker continued. He stepped forward and looked down at T’Pol. “I’m just wondering why you let him do it.”
“I informed him of the ethical implications involved with his decision but he had already given the order.”
“Then you didn’t agree with what he did.”
“I understood his reasons.”
Tucker stepped closer. “But you didn’t agree,” he pressed quietly.
T’Pol’s eyes settled on the commander’s mouth and she wondered briefly if his lips were as soft as Sim’s. She lifted her eyes quickly to meet Tucker’s. “I did not---disagree,” she admitted.
Tucker stared at T’Pol for a long moment, his eyes seeming to search hers for something then he took a step back and ran a hand through his hair. “I just don’t know how I’m supposed to feel,” he sighed, his voice heavy with exasperation. “On one hand I’m just so damned grateful to the cap’n and to Sim but on the other hand, I never wanted anyone to die for me.”
“It was Sim’s choice.”
T’Pol looked squarely at Tucker. “Yes. I spoke with him before the surgery.”
“The cap’n told me it was Sim’s decision in the end and that he did it for my sister---our sister---but I just wasn’t sure.”
“The final decision was Sim’s, Mr. Tucker,” replied T’Pol. She reached forward and lifted Tucker’s shirt. “Now if you’ll disrobe, we can continue with your treatment.”
Tucker smiled shyly at her and removed his shirt, tossing it onto her bunk.
“Please lie on your stomach,” T’Pol directed.
The commander reclined across the pillows resting his chin on his crossed forearms. T’Pol carefully straddled his hips, her knees on either side of him then she leaned forward, pressing her hands into the small of Tucker’s back. He exhaled a long breath and she felt his muscles relax under her touch.
“So did he annoy you as much as I do?”
T’Pol paused in her ministrations briefly. “I beg your pardon?”
“Sim,” replied Tucker. “Did he annoy you like I do?”
“I do not find you---annoying, Commander.”
Tucker turned his head to look at her, his eyebrows lifted in surprise. “I annoy the hell outta you, T’Pol,” he said with a sideways smile.
T’Pol pressed his head back down with one hand then continued her massage. “You challenge me, you do not annoy me.”
“Oh I like the sound of that,” Tucker chuckled. “I challenge you. So did Sim challenge you?”
“We did not spend enough time together for me to answer that question, Mr. Tucker.”
The engineer sighed and his body relaxed even more under T’Pol’s hands. She continued only using her palms as she worked her way slowly up Tucker’s back.
“How much time did you spend with him?”
T’Pol arched a brow at the commander’s persistence. “We worked on the repairs together and we discussed his plan to free the ship.”
“Ah, I see,” mumbled Tucker against his forearms. He shifted slightly beneath her. “The doc said Sim had all my memories and my feelings. Did he,” the engineer paused briefly. “Did he say anything about me that was, well, embarrassing?”
“Not to my knowledge,” T’Pol replied with honesty.
Tucker exhaled. “Good,” he murmured softly. He shifted again.
“Though I am not well-versed in what you might find---embarrassing. Perhaps if you could give me an example?” T’Pol immediately felt the muscles in Tucker’s back tighten. She found his discomfort at her question illogically rewarding.
“Uh, never mind, T’Pol,” the engineer replied uneasily. “Forget I asked.” He turned his head and rested his cheek on his forearms then closed his eyes.
“Very well. Now breath,” directed T’Pol. She continued her ministrations in silence and the muscles under her hands finally gave in completely to her constant pressure.
After several minutes, she realized the commander had fallen deeply asleep. Carefully she stood and pulled the blanket from her bunk. She gently laid it over Tucker who then rolled onto his side. He instinctively pulled the blanket up under his chin then settled his head deeper into the pillow on which it rested.
T’Pol sat on her bunk and observed her companion. His lips parted slightly and his brow furrowed momentarily; this was not the frighteningly blank sleep she had witnessed in sickbay only mere weeks ago. She watched as his eyes shifted under their lids and knew he was beginning to dream. She wondered briefly if his thoughts were of her then she silently chided herself for her self-centeredness.
Sim had said he wasn’t sure if his feelings were his own or Tucker’s but T’Pol could only deduce that they in large part were Tucker’s. And yet that didn’t mean, she reminded herself, that she had a place in Tucker’s dreams. In fact, she really had no idea where she stood with the man before her but she knew where he stood with her.
The realization of her affection for the commander had hit her hard at the very moment Sim had confessed to her. As hard as she had tried to deny their existence, the feelings were there and simply could not be cataloged away with her other emotions. She had to examine them first and acknowledge their power then accept them as a part of the person she was.
Now as T’Pol watched Tucker sleep, she wondered where along their recent journey together through the Expanse had he ceased to be just another human comrade to her. He was now Charles, a man she wanted to keep safe from harm above all others.
Quietly, she lay down on her bunk, her eyes never leaving the engineer’s peaceful face.
“Morning, Trip,” greeted Captain Jonathan Archer. “You’re up early. Or should I say late?”
Trip turned and smiled at his commanding officer. “I was just about to call you, sir.”
Archer immediately looked curious. “What’ve you got?” he asked as he crossed the command center to stand at Trip’s side.
“Look here,” Trip said as he pointed to a spot on the image displayed across the big wall screen. “There’s a ship down there and its metallurgy matches the Xindi probe.”
Archer furrowed his brow. “This planet looks to be uninhabited.”
“I’ve run several scans and I’ve found no signs of life,” Trip acknowledged with a slight nod. He hit a few buttons, the feeling of anticipation building quickly inside him. “The air is breathable, Cap’n. I’d like to take a shuttlepod down and have a look at that wreckage.”
Archer looked at Trip. “I don’t think so, Trip,” he replied gently.
“Come on, sir. The doc’s given me a clean bill of health, all the repairs are finished, and I’m dying to get off the ship for a while,” Trip pleaded then he smiled at his friend. “What could happen to me on an uninhabited planet?”
Archer chuckled and shook his head. “To you? Anything.”
Trip snorted. “Thanks a lot.” He turned his eyes back to the screen and the dark spot that represented the Xindi wreckage. “I’ll be okay, Cap’n,” he urged.
“Trip,” Archer sighed. “Alright but T’Pol and I are coming with you. By the way, where is T’Pol? I would have thought she’d be up already.”
Trip shook his head. “She was still sleeping when I left this morning,” he replied then he stopped, heat suddenly engulfing his face. He looked at Archer who stared back at him with lifted brows. “I sort of fell asleep on her floor during our session last night.”
“I see,” Archer replied evenly but Trip could see the twinkle of amusement in his long-time friend’s eyes. “Well, she’s not due on duty for another thirty minutes. Lets you and I go to the mess and get some breakfast.” The captain patted Trip on the back. “Then we’ll prep a shuttlepod and go have a look at that wreckage. With a little luck, maybe it’ll give us a lead.”
“Sounds good, sir,” Trip replied with a sigh of relief.
Malcolm Reed stepped out of the shuttlepod and surveyed the scene before him. He rested his hand absently on the holster of his phase pistol as his eyes moved over the landscape.
“See anything?” asked Trip who exited the ‘pod behind him.
“No, sir. Looks quiet. Ominously so.”
“Quiet is a good thing, Malcolm,” Archer responded as he stepped to Trip’s side.
“Of course, Captain.”
T’Pol joined the three men then Trip pulled the ‘pod’s hatch closed. The Vulcan science officer held her scanner out at arms length and turned slightly to her right.
“You picking up something?” asked Archer.
“There seems to be more wreckage a kilometer in that direction,” T’Pol replied. “It appears the ship split in two when it impacted with the ground.”
“Are you picking up any life signs?”
Archer nodded. “We’ll split up then. T’Pol, you and Trip have a look at the other site. Malcolm and I will see what we can find here.”
“Understood,” replied T’Pol.
“You two keep your phase pistols and communicators handy.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Trip.
Malcolm watched the two senior officers walk away then he glanced at the captain.
“They’ll be all right, Lieutenant. We’ll keep an eye on them from here.”
“Of course, sir,” replied Malcolm but Archer’s reassurance didn’t entirely alleviate the growing apprehension he felt.
He followed the captain to the site of the downed ship, which rested nearly a quarter of a kilometer away amidst a grove of dead trees. As they approached, Malcolm pulled his phase pistol and held it at his side. He was pleased when Archer did the same. Gone was the captain who approached every away mission with boyish exuberance and optimism and Malcolm did not mourn the loss.
Archer looked down at his scanner then nodded at Malcolm. “All clear,” he said.
Malcolm nodded and entered the ship first followed closely by Archer. Daylight shone through the breaks in the hull illuminating the interior of the ‘pod-sized vessel. Malcolm moved to the pilot’s chair and leaned over it, looking closely at the flight controls. He then knelt and pulled open a panel. He stopped. There was no wiring visible, no power source at all.
“Lieutenant,” said Archer from behind him.
The armory officer quickly stood and faced his captain who held a panel door in his hand. They stared at each other and realization suddenly hit Malcolm like an anvil.
“It’s a trap,” gasped Archer. He quickly pulled out his communicator. “Archer to T’Pol.”
There was no response.
Malcolm tightened his grip on his pistol and moved to the door. Archer appeared at his side, his scanner held in his hand.
“Do you have them, sir?” asked Malcolm.
Archer nodded. “They’re surrounded by---,” he began as he was already heading out the door. “They appear to be insects.”
Malcolm’s eyes darted to every tree. “Isn’t one of the Xindi species Insectoid?”
“Damn it,” cursed the captain.
The two men ran back to the shuttlepod and quickly climbed aboard without incident. Archer took the pilot’s chair and kicked the engines to life as Malcolm sat at the weapons station. He scanned for and found Trip and T’Pol’s bio-signs then they suddenly vanished. One by one, he watched as the Insectoid bio-signs disappeared as well.
“Captain,” breathed Malcolm. “I’ve lost them, sir.”
The underground tunnels through which they were forcefully pushed were cold and dark. Trip could smell the moisture in the thick air and he shivered.
“Are you alright, Commander?” asked T’Pol who walked close by his side.
“Yeah, I’m great,” replied Trip tersely. “You know, I hate bugs. Especially big, ugly bugs.” He turned to glare at one of the Insectoids behind him. It chittered something then pushed the commander with the barrel of its rifle.
Trip faced forward and kept moving. They’d been caught completely by surprise as they’d approached the wreckage of the Xindi ship. Only seconds after T’Pol had picked up their life-signs, the two officers had been surrounded. They’d been roughly stripped of their technology including their translators and then forced into the Insectoids’ underground haven. Trip could only hope that the captain and Malcolm had escaped.
The commander stumbled then felt the claw-like hand of one of the alien’s close around his arm. He pulled away in fear and disgust but the Insectoid held tight. It pulled Trip along at its side as they continued to move ever downward into the bowels of its home.
Finally they drew to a stop in front of a small dug out room. T’Pol was shoved in followed quickly by Trip. A heavy door swung shut, sealing them in their prison cell. Trip could hear the Insectoids clicking and chittering outside then only silence. He quickly approached the door and knelt before it.
“Is there a way to release the lock?” asked T’Pol as she leaned over his shoulder.
“Its an old bolt lock,” Trip said in surprise. “It latches automatically when the door closes.” He sat back on his heels. “I wonder why they used such a primitive security device.”
T’Pol placed her hand on the wall and dug her fingers into the dirt. “This structure was built only recently. Perhaps they don’t intend to stay long.”
Trip nodded. “You’re probably right, especially since it appears it was all a trap to lure us here.” He leaned forward again and looked at the lock. “If we can slip something between the bolt and the door frame before it closes, we’re home free.”
“My belt,” T’Pol said.
Trip turned his head to see the sub-commander removing the belt from her hips. “That should do it,” he said with a smile. He took the belt from her and slipped it in the small space between door and frame. He nodded his head in approval then sat back on his heels again. “Now all we have to do is wait for them to come back.”
Trip stood then took a moment to look around the small cell. He looked up and was surprised to see that the light source was daylight shining through several small holes in the ceiling.
“I estimate we are several meters below the surface,” commented T’Pol. “Insects can be very efficient builders.”
“You can say that again.”
T’Pol looked at him blankly.
Trip waved his hand. “It’s a figure of speech, T’Pol,” he said lightly. He slumped back against the wall just next to the door.
“I see. Curious, I still wonder why humans feel the need to have so many of these---figures of speech,” commented T’Pol. She settled against the wall next to Trip.
Trip shrugged. “Heck if I know.”
“Communication would be much more efficient if you’d eliminate such nonsensical terms from your language.”
Trip couldn’t help but chuckle. “I can’t argue with you there.” He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes then tipped his head from one side to the other in an attempt to ease his tense muscles. “I sure hope the cap’n and Malcolm got away.”
“As do I.”
The commander nearly jumped when he felt warm fingers touch him just behind and under each ear. He quickly opened his eyes and met T’Pol’s dark brown gaze. She stood directly in front of him, her arms extended, her fingers pressing in small circles against his skin.
“Be still,” T’Pol directed softly but firmly.
Trip immediately felt relief at her touch. He held her eyes, marveling at their deep, rich color. Strange, he thought as he gazed down at her, how it no longer mattered to him that she was Vulcan. She was T’Pol, kind, intelligent, funny, sensitive, and heartbreakingly beautiful T’Pol. He wondered if she could see the flush he felt washing over his face or feel the heat as it crept up his neck to his ears.
“T’Pol, I----,” the engineer began then he swallowed, his throat suddenly like cotton.
T’Pol stopped the movement of her fingers and slid her hands down until she held Trip’s face gently in her palms. “Yes?”
Trip swallowed again. “I---,” he began then he cleared his throat.
T’Pol dropped her hands from his face. “Someone is coming,” she whispered.
The door swung open suddenly and Trip pushed T’Pol behind him in one swift motion. He felt her remove the belt he still held from his hand.
The first Xindi in the door motioned to Trip with its rifle and clicked something unintelligible at him.
“We’re not going anywhere,” stated the engineer defiantly.
A second Xindi entered, chittered something, then grabbed Trip’s arm in a vice-like grip. It pulled him off his feet and all but dragged him through the door. Trip turned his head to see the other Insectoid block T’Pol’s way.
“Where are you taking him?” demanded the sub-commander.
Trip heard the door slam shut then he was hauled down the dark tunnel to another room. Despite his struggles, the engineer was lifted easily and dropped onto a metal table, his wrists and ankles immediately cinched into straps.
Then he was left alone.
Trip looked around. The room was small, the table on which he was strapped the only furniture visible. One wall was transparent and he could see four Xindi Insectoids standing on the other side of it watching him.
A hissing sound drew his attention to his right and Trip turned his head to see a small metallic canister filled with green liquid on the floor.
Then he froze.
“Sonofabitch,” Trip breathed as fear gripped him. He pulled against his restraints with all his strength but they wouldn’t give.
As the engineer continued to struggle, the air began to move around him.
“Bridge to Captain Archer!”
Jon took two long strides to the wall comm. “Go ahead,” he responded.
“Captain, there’s a ship, sir,” said Ensign Hoshi Sato. “It appeared---it just appeared out of nowhere.”
“I’m on my way,” Jon replied then dropped his hand from the comm. “Lieutenant, you’re with me. Major, brief your people on our plan then be ready to depart at 0930.”
“Understood, sir,” acknowledged Major Hayes with a nod.
Jon left the command center and entered the bridge with Reed right behind him. As the armory officer moved to his station, Jon stepped up to stand in front of his chair. He looked at the large vessel displayed on the front view screen.
“It appeared from one of those vortexes, sir,” said Ensign Travis Mayweather from the helm.
“Go to tactical alert and polarize the hull plating, Lieutenant,” directed Jon then he looked at Hoshi. “Hail them.”
Hoshi pressed a button then shook her head. “No response, sir.”
“Captain, they’re charging weapons!” shouted Reed.
Jon braced himself for the impending impact as he saw two bolts of energy shoot out from the alien vessel. Enterprise lurched from the blow.
Reed fired and Jon watched as the torpedoes hit the other ship.
“Report!” shouted Jon.
“They’ve taken damage to their port nacelle,” reported Reed. “Captain, I don’t think they’re trying to destroy us.”
Jon looked at Reed in surprise. “Explain.”
“At this range, we should’ve taken more damage. They’re weapons fire only grazed us yet they had us dead to rights, sir. Either they’re terrible shots or---.”
“Or you’re right and they don’t want us destroyed,” finished Jon.
Another stream of energy lit up the view screen and Enterprise shook again.
Jon stepped down next to Travis. “They don’t want us to mount a rescue,” he said as realization dawned.
“Sir?” replied Travis.
“Malcolm, can you take out their weapons?”
“I’m not sure, sir. They’re heavily shielded.”
“How about their launch bays?”
“Their launch bays, Lieutenant. I don’t want them leaving that ship when we launch our shuttlepod.” Jon glanced at Reed who was smiling in acknowledgement.
T’Pol pressed her ear against the door and listened. She detected no movement outside her prison so she slowly and carefully opened the door only a few centimeters and peered out. The commander’s idea had worked and now she gripped her belt in her hand as she stepped quietly from her cell. Keeping close to the wall, T’Pol made her way down the tunnel, her ears straining for any sound of movement.
As the sub-commander approached a bend in the dark tunnel, she heard the swishing of insect bodies moving and the steady stream of their clicking language. T’Pol lowered herself closer to the ground then looked around the corner. Three Xindi stood in the middle of the tunnel their rifles slung over their shoulders. Beyond the three was one more. It stood in front of a glass wall staring at something intently.
T’Pol craned her neck a little more than stopped. “Charles,” she whispered. She could see him through the glass fighting against restraints that had him bound hand and foot to a table, his expression that of sheer panic.
Logic dictated to T’Pol that her best chance at helping the engineer was to make her escape then get help. But for one of the few times since her childhood, T’Pol let her emotions dictate her actions. She gripped the belt tightly, an end in each fist and turned the bend at a run. She lunged at the nearest Xindi and threw the belt around its thin neck. While pulling the belt taut with one strong hand, T’Pol reached for the alien’s rifle. Her fingers closed around the weapon and she lifted it and fired three shots, each hitting its mark dead center. Then she snapped the neck of the Insectoid in her grip and let it drop to the floor with its companions.
T’Pol then turned and kicked the door open. She hurried to Tucker’s side.
“Get out of here!” Tucker shouted frantically. “They’ve released something into the air!”
“I won’t leave you,” replied T’Pol firmly. She ripped at the restraints and soon had Tucker free and on his feet. “We must hurry.”
Side by side they moved out of the room then paused to grab the Xindi rifles. Tucker took two, slinging one over each shoulder while T’Pol grabbed the last one. Then the two moved up the dark tunnel.
They met with resistance immediately. T’Pol dropped to one knee and fired, taking out two Insectoids while Tucker hit the other three. The two officers then leaped over the fallen bodies and continued their journey up the winding tunnel. Four more Insectoids came up behind them and T’Pol turned just as phaser fire lit up the dark. She felt a burning sensation on her left upper arm but managed to return fire. Then Tucker had her by her good arm and pulled her forward.
Through a haze of pain, T’Pol could hear her companion coughing. “Are you alright?” she managed.
Tucker’s head was down but he nodded. “How’s the arm?”
“It’s only a flesh wound. I will be fine.”
Tucker nodded again. T’Pol could hear him gasping as they continued up the tunnel and her concern for him increased. Then he stopped and bent at the waist, releasing her arm. He was fighting for air.
“Something’s wrong, T’Pol,” Tucker managed. He coughed violently, one hand going to his chest.
T’Pol knelt and placed a gentle hand on his forehead finding it hot and damp with perspiration. “You’re ill.” She stood and took his elbow. “I’ll help you. We must get to the surface.”
By the time the two officers exited the tunnel, the commander was leaning heavily on T’Pol. He stumbled and T’Pol tightened her grip as she looked closely at him in the daylight. His eyes were closed, his head down yet he forced himself forward.
A rustling from behind her drew T’Pol’s attention and she released the engineer, pushed him behind her, then lifted her rifle and turned around, her finger pulling the trigger simultaneously. The first Insectoid fell but the second dropped to its knees and T’Pol’s next shot went over its bulbous head.
In that split second T’Pol knew it had her.
The Xindi hissed as it took a shot directly to the middle of its chest then fell in a heap over its comrade’s body.
T’Pol turned her head to see Tucker fire again. She stepped to his side and grabbed his wrist, gently forcing him to lower his weapon. “You did well, Charles,” she said softly.
Then his knees gave out and he collapsed against her.
Trip felt T’Pol’s strong arms grab him before he hit the ground. He worked furiously to keep his legs under him so that she wouldn’t have to take his full weight but they stubbornly refused to cooperate. His chest hurt, as did his entire body and his vision kept fading in and out. He shivered as the cool breeze hit his sweat-damp uniform.
“We must find a place to hide,” said T’Pol, her breath gusting against Trip’s hot cheek as she maneuvered him around.
Trip closed his eyes. “Just leave me. Its me they want, not you.”
“No,” T’Pol replied evenly.
“T’Pol, I’ll keep my weapons, I can hold them off while you get away.”
“That is not an option.”
“It’s the logical thing to do and you know it,” Trip pressed. He opened his eyes and looked across at his companion’s profile. “Now go.” Trip tried to pull away but T’Pol held him tightly.
“I will not leave you. And may I remind you, Commander, that I am still the first officer and therefore outrank you?”
Trip coughed harshly and he felt his chest contract painfully. “Damn it, T’Pol. I don’t want to lose you, now please just go,” he gasped. He coughed again and felt T’Pol’s arm tighten around his waist.
“As I stated quite clearly before, Mr. Tucker, that is not an option,” replied the sub-commander.
“You’re too stubborn for your own good, you know that?” managed Trip.
“Perhaps I have been spending too much time in your company.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” asked Tucker. “Are you saying I’m stubborn and I’m rubbing off on you?”
Trip couldn’t help but chuckle then he coughed again and a mind-numbing pain engulfed his chest. He hunched over gasping for air that wouldn’t come then darkness surrounded him.
T’Pol braced herself and took Tucker’s full weight against her body as he passed out. His head lolled onto her shoulder and she could feel the heat radiating off of him. Her heart rate increased with her level of concern and she fought to keep her breathing controlled as she pulled her companion toward a row of dense foliage.
Gently, T’Pol lowered Tucker to the ground then hurried to cover their tracks. When she felt sure the Xindi couldn’t track them, she moved back to the commander and sat beside him, both of them hidden by the shrubbery.
Tucker was beginning to stir. “Lizzie,” he murmured as his head rolled from side to side. “Elizabeth!” Then he awakened with a jolt looking around in confusion. “Where is she? My sister, where is she?”
“Your sister is dead, Commander,” said T’Pol gently.
“No she’s not. I can save her. There’s still time.”
T’Pol placed her hand on the engineer’s forehead and cringed inwardly at the warmth of his damp skin. “Your sister is gone, Charles.”
Tucker squeezed his eyes shut then he coughed violently, one hand grabbing at his chest.
“You must rest,” urged T’Pol. She slid her hand down to hold the side of her companion’s face for a moment then she pulled it back into her lap.
The commander nodded then he opened fever bright eyes to look at her. “Did you just call me Charles?” he asked incredulously.
“I did. If you feel it is inappropriate---.”
“No, no,” gasped Tucker. “I kinda like it actually.” He managed a sideways smile at her. “Never really liked my name but it sounds nice when you say it. Real nice in fact.” Then the smile faded. “I couldn’t think of a better going away present.”
T’Pol started slightly. She wondered briefly if Tucker knew of the gift she had given to Sim but his expression was one of only innocent gratitude just as Sim’s had been.
Then she realized the meaning behind his words. “You are not going to die,” she stated evenly.
Tucker coughed. “We both know what was in that canister, T’Pol. They were testing the bio-weapon.”
“Dr. Phlox has had time to study the canister the captain and I retrieved. Perhaps he has found a treatment.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Tucker replied. He closed his eyes and his hand clutched at his chest again. “Damn, its hard to breath,” he gasped.
T’Pol rested her hand on the engineer’s forehead again. “You must relax, Charles. And be still.”
“Its hard to relax when each breath I take---may be my last,” Tucker replied tersely. He opened his eyes again and looked at T’Pol. “I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to---snap at you.”
“It is a very human reaction.”
Tucker smiled weakly. “Thank you---for not leaving me behind. I know I told you to but the truth is, I don’t want to die alone.”
“As I said before, you are not dying.”
Tucker reached up and took T’Pol’s hand from his forehead. “You are stubborn,” he said then he brought her hand down and held it against his chest. “Thank you,” he whispered then his eyes slid shut.
T’Pol didn’t pull her hand away. Illogically, she took comfort in his touch. Then his warm grip loosened and the hand that held T’Pol’s so tightly fell away. She flattened her hand against his chest, willing him to continue breathing then looked at the sky, hoping the captain would arrive in time.
“I’ve got them,” reported Jon. He shifted uneasily in the shuttlepod’s pilot seat. Keeping one eye on the thick canopy of treetops in front of him, he checked his scans again. He swallowed hard. Trip’s bio-sign was weak.
“Any sign of the Xindi?” asked Major Hayes.
Jon refocused. “Yes. I’m picking up at least a dozen bio-signs in the area.” He turned his head just enough to catch a glimpse of the major. “Are you ready?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Hayes from the rear of the ‘pod.
Jon heard the six MACOs preparing their weapons behind him. He reached a hand down to his hip and felt the oddly comforting shape of his phase pistol against his palm.
They’d managed to take out the Xindi’s launch bays ensuring the Insectoids could not send down more forces but they had still been faced with the weapons fire when Shuttlepod One had launched. On Enterprise, Reed and Mayweather had skillfully managed to keep the aliens in a defensive stance as Jon and the MACOs made their way safely to the planet’s surface in the ‘pod.
Now the away mission was faced with a ground assault and Jon could feel his adrenaline rushing through his system at the thought. His best friend and his first officer were out there and he was not about to lose them.
Jon set the ‘pod down in a small clearing among a stand of old trees. Stealthily, the MACOs exited and immediately faded into the landscape. Jon powered down the engines then turned to Hayes.
“Stay close to me, Captain,” said the major and Jon didn’t question him. The man was much more versed in the ways of ground warfare and Jon knew it. The captain followed Hayes out then shut the shuttlepod hatch. Quietly and quickly, the two men moved into the trees.
They’d only gone a half-kilometer when Jon heard weapons fire. Hayes signaled to his men and everyone moved into action. The captain followed close behind the major but fought the urge to bolt ahead when he saw T’Pol standing behind a tree returning fire at an unseen foe. Jon couldn’t see Trip at all and he felt his stomach drop.
Then the countryside erupted around him. Hayes pushed him behind the cover of a dead tree then followed his men into action. From the captain’s viewpoint, he could now see Insectoids hidden in the underbrush, their attention turned on the new enemy. Jon could see T’Pol kneel and knew instantly Trip was down. Again, he fought the urge to bolt forward.
The fight was over in mere minutes, the MACOs easily taking out the Xindi resistance even though they were outnumbered two to one. When the last Insectoid fell, Jon broke cover and ran toward T’Pol.
“Captain, stop!” the Vulcan shouted.
Jon slowed his pace.
“Commander Tucker is ill! If you come any closer, you’ll risk infection!”
The captain stopped then he shifted sideways until he could see Trip. Even from a distance, Jon could see the unsteady rise and fall of his friend’s chest.
“He’s still alive, Captain, but he requires Dr. Phlox immediately!”
With cold fear gripping his gut, Jon pulled out his communicator. “Archer to Enterprise.”
“Go ahead,” Reed replied.
“We have them, Malcolm, but Trip’s sick. He’s more than likely contagious. I need you to get the other shuttlepod down here immediately to take the others back to the ship. T’Pol and I will get Trip back in Shuttlepod One. Have Phlox waiting in decon.”
Jon pocketed his communicator, his eyes still focused on Trip’s motionless body. “Hang on, Trip. Please just hang on,” he whispered.
“I’ll have one of my people retrieve an EV suit from the ‘pod, sir,” said Hayes quietly from Jon’s side.
“Thank you, Major.”
Phlox stepped out of the decontamination chamber to see the captain and Lieutenant Reed waiting for him.
“How is he?” asked Archer with trepidation.
“I’m giving him courses of antibiotics, Captain. I should know something within the hour,” reported Phlox.
“That’s it?” snapped Archer. “You’ve had the contents of that canister for three days, Phlox. Don’t you have something more to give Trip than courses of antibiotics?”
“I’m doing all that I can, Captain.”
Archer turned and began pacing, a practice Phlox was used to observing when the captain was upset.
“Can we see him?” asked Reed.
“I’m afraid not, Lieutenant.”
Archer stopped. “Then it is contagious.”
“I haven’t been able to determine that yet with any amount of certainty,” Phlox sighed. “But if this disease was developed specifically to attack human physiology, Captain, then I can only assume that it is in fact highly contagious.”
“How is T’Pol?” asked Archer.
“She sustained a phaser burn to her upper arm but otherwise, she’s unharmed.”
“So she’s had no symptoms at all?” questioned Reed.
Phlox shook his head. “Which only supports my theory that the Xindi developed this disease with only humans in mind.”
“And Trip was the guinea pig,” muttered Reed bitterly.
“It appears so, Lieutenant,” replied Phlox. “Now if you gentlemen will excuse me, I need to get back to my patient.”
“Doc, wait,” said Archer. He moved to Phlox’s side. “If this---disease was created to kill humans then what are Trip’s chances?”
Phlox frowned. “I’ll know more within the hour, Captain,” he replied gently.
For a brief moment, Archer looked like a man who knew suddenly that someone he loved could be lost to him. Phlox had seen that same look when he had been forced to tell the captain that his chief engineer had extensive neural damage and that he would more than likely not survive.
But as before, the Starfleet captain quickly replaced the shattered friend and Archer stood straight, pulled back his shoulders, and lifted his chin. “Keep me posted,” he barked and walked away. Lieutenant Reed lingered a moment then followed his commanding officer down the corridor.
Phlox sighed and shook his head. He turned and stepped back into the outer room of the decon chamber then, after pulling on his protective clothing, slid the door open to the inner room. T’Pol was still standing at the side of the bio bed he’d set up, one hand resting on the engineer’s arm the other on his forehead.
She looked up at Phlox. “There is no change, Doctor.”
Phlox moved to Trip’s other side and ran a quick scan then adjusted the engineer’s oxygen mask. “I’ve only just begun the treatment, Sub-commander. Give it time,” he replied as he ran his tri-corder down Trip’s body. “Hmmm.”
“What is it?”
“I’m picking up numerous microscopic spores on the commander’s uniform.” He turned and set his scanner down on a small table. “I’ll need to remove his clothing then treat his skin with antibacterial gel.” He looked across Trip’s still form at T’Pol. He knew she would give the commander his privacy but he was surprised when she hesitated. “I’ll take care of him, T’Pol,” he said gently.
T’Pol looked at Phlox then back down at Trip. “I will need to apply the gel as well, Doctor, since I entered the room and was in close contact with him.”
Phlox nodded and handed her a small container.
A few minutes later, Phlox pulled a sheet up over Trip then ran another scan. He frowned and tucked his chin.
“Are you finished, Doctor?”
“Ah eh, yes,” Phlox replied distractedly.
T’Pol appeared quickly at the side of the bio bed dressed in a fresh pair of Starfleet issued pajamas. “How is he?”
“His breathing is still labored and his temperature still elevated,” Phlox replied. “But his condition has not degenerated any further.” He looked at T’Pol. “All we can do is wait, Sub-commander.”
T’Pol nodded and rested a hand on Trip’s forearm. To Phlox, the action seemed quite natural for her.
“Tell me, T’Pol, how have the neuro-pressure treatments been going?”
“They have been helpful in allowing Commander Tucker to sleep,” replied T’Pol. “Although I don’t believe his sleep is entirely restful.”
“Last night he fell asleep on the floor of my quarters. He---tossed and turned for only a few hours then he awoke and left.”
“Has he talked about his sister at all?”
T’Pol shook her head. “No.” Her expression softened as she looked down at Trip. “He is most adept at suppressing his emotions in that matter.”
“Yes, I have discovered that as well. For all his emotional outbursts, the commander is actually very guarded about what he’s feeling. I doubt even Captain Archer knows all that goes on in that active mind of his.”
Phlox glanced down at where T’Pol’s hand rested gently on Trip’s arm. “You and the commander have gotten quite close over these last several months,” he observed.
T’Pol looked directly at him and arched one brow. “Doctor, I would appreciate it if you would cease in your attempt to analyze my relationship with Charles.”
Phlox tucked his chin in surprise. “Charles?”
T’Pol’s eyes widened momentarily but she quickly recovered her composure. “Is it not true of human friendships that each participant refer to the other by his or her given name?”
“Yes,” began Phlox. “But you’re not human, T’Pol. And from what I know of Vulcan culture, calling the commander Charles could be construed as something much more than friendship.”
She cast him a look that told him quite clearly he was trying her carefully controlled patience then something in her broke and she looked back down at Trip.
“There is nothing wrong with what you’re feeling,” Phlox prodded gently.
“I did not expect this.”
“I don’t think anyone ever does, T’Pol,” replied Phlox. “Have you discussed these feelings with Commander Tucker?”
“Don’t you think you should?”
“I am quite comfortable with our evenings together, Doctor. It would be a significant loss in my life if those moments with Charles were to end.”
“But you could have so much more, T’Pol.”
“I am not willing to risk what I have now for something that may never be.”
“Did you ever consider that maybe the commander feels the same about you?”
T’Pol nodded. “I believe he does but I still find the probability of loss far too great.”
A quiet sigh from the bio bed drew Phlox’s attention and he quickly switched on his tri-corder.
“Doctor?” prompted T’Pol.
Phlox smiled. “His fever has broken,” he announced then looked down at his patient with affection. “I do believe our good commander here has managed to dodge another bullet.”
Phlox chortled. “Something I’ve heard Ensign Cutler say on occasion. Now if you’ll excuse me, I should inform the captain of Commander Tucker’s condition.”
The doctor turned to go then stopped. “T’Pol, if you’d like to continue our conversation, I will be glad to make myself available.”
“Thank you, Doctor, however I don’t believe there is anything more to discuss.”
Phlox pursed his lips. “Very well then but you know where I am if you change your mind.”
Malcolm followed the captain out of the turbolift and onto the bridge.
“I’ll be in my ready room,” said Archer briskly.
“Aye, sir,” replied Malcolm. As Archer disappeared, Malcolm moved to his weapons station and sat down. He could feel both Travis and Hoshi watching him.
“Lieutenant?” prompted Travis.
Malcolm looked up from his monitor. “We won’t know anything for a while, Ensign.”
“But if it’s the bio-weapon---,” began Hoshi.
“I said we won’t know anything for a while,” repeated Malcolm a bit harsher than he intended.
“Yes sir,” replied Hoshi curtly.
Malcolm sighed. “I’m sorry, Hoshi. I didn’t mean---.”
“I understand, sir. We’re all worried,” said the young ensign with a small smile. “And scared,” she added.
Malcolm nodded. “I won’t argue with you there. Dr. Phlox will no doubt be able to make some sort of vaccine against the weapon, though. So once we get it to Earth, the bio-weapon threat should be greatly diminished.”
“Still doesn’t help the commander,” said Travis. “And we just got him back.”
“I can’t help but feel angry,” admitted Hoshi.
Malcolm tipped his head. “Angry?”
“At the captain for letting Commander Tucker go down to that planet, at the sub-commander for not keeping an eye on him, and,” she paused. “And at the commander for endangering himself again.” She shook her head. “I know it doesn’t make much sense.”
“No, I think it does actually,” agreed Travis.
Malcolm sighed. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault,” he said. “Its this damned mission.”
“We know that, sir,” replied Hoshi. “Like Travis said, though, we just got him back. We all gave away a piece of ourselves when we agreed with Captain Archer’s decision to create Sim and I don’t regret that but---well, now we might lose him anyway and---.” Her voice cracked. “And it just isn’t fair.”
Travis shook his head. “You’re the head of security, Lieutenant. Can’t you just keep someone with Commander Tucker for the rest of the mission? Keep him out of trouble?”
Malcolm couldn’t help but smile at Travis’ serious tone. He looked across the bridge and saw Hoshi wiping at her eyes but she was smiling as well.
Travis looked from one to the other. “What?” he asked.
“Maybe Phlox can just put one of his wrist monitors on Trip so we know where he is at all times. Would save on manpower anyway,” offered Malcolm.
Travis grinned and shook his head. Then his young face grew serious. “I hope he’s gonna be alright,” he managed.
Malcolm swallowed. “We all do, Ensign.” His attention was drawn to his left as Archer stepped out onto the bridge. The captain had a relieved smile on his face. “Captain?”
“Trip’s fever broke,” Archer replied, his voice heavy with emotion. “Doc says he thinks he’s going to make it.”
“Thank God,” breathed Malcolm silently.
He slowly became aware of a voice calling his name from a great distant. Gathering all of his strength, Trip willed himself to follow that voice.
He opened his eyes.
“Ah, welcome back, Commander,” greeted a very cheerful Dr. Phlox.
Trip closed his eyes again. “No offense, Doc, but I think I’ve had my fill of waking up to your face for a while.”
Phlox laughed good-naturedly.
“If you’d keep yourself out of trouble, Trip, then Phlox wouldn’t have to keep saving your sorry ass.”
Trip opened his eyes again and smiled. “Hey, Cap’n.”
“How’re you feeling?” asked Archer as he laid a warm hand on Trip’s shoulder.
“Weak and tired but otherwise, pretty good,” replied Trip then he furrowed his brow in confusion. “Wait a minute. How come I’m still here?”
“We’ve been working on an answer to that very question, Commander.”
Trip smiled and turned his head to see T’Pol appear at Phlox’s side. She stood straight and tall as usual, her small yet strong hands clasped at the small of her back.
“And?” Trip pressed.
“Dr. Phlox and T’Pol believe that whatever data Rajiin was able to gather from us was skewed because of the mutagenic virus Hoshi and I still had at the time.”
“The disease the Xindi engineered was based on faulty data,” explained Phlox.
“But what about Crewman Bartlett? Did the Xindi just toss his data because they thought it was abnormal?”
“It appears so,” replied T’Pol.
“Hmm, makes sense I guess,” said Trip. “So I was never in any real danger?”
“On the contrary,” replied Phlox. “Without treatment, you would have most certainly died. The disease hit you quickly and hard, Commander, because your defenses were still in a weakened state due to your recent recovery but---.”
“But you gave me a clean bill of health,” Trip interrupted.
“To return to full duty, Commander, not to go out and inhale deadly microscopic spores,” scolded Phlox.
“Oh,” Trip replied sheepishly.
“Now as I was saying, even in perfect health, you would have required treatment.”
“Then we’re really no better off than before. If our mission fails and the Xindi launch their bio-weapon, everyone on Earth is a goner.”
Archer shook his head. “Phlox was able to develop two vaccines, Trip. Hoshi’s already transmitted the formulas to Starfleet. And thanks to you, we know the disease can be treated after infection occurs.”
Trip sighed as relief washed over him. He rubbed his fingers through his hair. “Did you say two vaccines?”
“What color was the content of the canister used against you, Commander?” asked Phlox.
“The canister the captain and I retrieved contained a bright yellow liquid,” said T’Pol. “It appears the Xindi were developing two bio-weapons.”
Trip lifted his brows. “Or the five species of Xindi aren’t entirely united.”
“Trip?” prompted Archer.
“Daniels told you that the Reptilians traveled back in time to Earth in order to hide while they developed their weapon, right?”
“Well who were they hiding from?”
“The other four species,” guessed T’Pol. One lovely eyebrow lifted and Trip knew she understood where he was going.
“And the Insectoids hid on an uninhabited planet while they developed their own weapon,” finished Archer. “Damn it, Trip. I think you’re right.” He turned and took one step then swung back around. “They’re working against each other.”
“Right,” agreed Trip. “Now if we can find some way to capitalize on that, then maybe our chances at finding that weapon just got a hell of a lot better. Worse case, it may buy us more time.”
“We already believe they’re afraid of us so we’ve got that advantage as well.”
“While you and T’Pol were on the planet, Enterprise had an encounter with a Xindi ship,” explained Archer. He lifted a hip and sat on the edge of Trip’s bed. “Malcolm’s theory is that the Xindi believe if they destroy us, a whole armada will be sent from Earth.”
“So because they know humans will have the capability to annihilate them in 400 years, they may think we could do it now as well if they tick us off by, say, destroying Enterprise?”
“That’s Malcolm’s theory,” replied Archer. “And I think it’s plausible.”
“Hmmm. Might explain why they haven’t hunted us down this whole time we’ve been in the Expanse.” Trip turned and looked at T’Pol. “What do you think?”
“I believe it is a significant leap of logic, Commander, but as of now I can think of no other reason why the Xindi haven’t simply destroyed us.”
Trip yawned suddenly and a feeling of complete exhaustion hit him.
“My patient needs to sleep,” announced Dr. Phlox. “I’ll let you both know when he awakens again.”
Archer patted Trip’s shoulder. “Do as the doctor says, Trip,” he said kindly. “I asked Admiral Forrest to send me a batch of football games and I was hoping we could watch at least a couple of them together.”
Trip smiled. “I’d like that, Cap’n,” he replied. “Just give me a day or two.”
“You got it.” Archer stood up then patted Trip’s shoulder again. “I’ll check in on you later.”
“Commander,” said T’Pol with a nod of her head.
“Wait, T’Pol. You gotta minute?”
T’Pol looked at Dr. Phlox who had a hypospray poised at Trip’s neck.
The Denobulan sighed. “Only a minute, Sub-commander,” he said then he walked with Archer to the doors.
T’Pol stepped up closer to the head of the bed. “Yes, Commander?”
“What happened to calling me Charles?” asked Trip.
“I am on duty, Mr. Tucker.”
Trip smiled. “Then I didn’t imagine it.”
“No, you did not.”
Trip met her dark eyes and he searched them for any hint that her feelings were as intense as his. She cared for him, that he knew, but what he couldn’t figure out was just how much. Would she even consider a human as a mate? She had said that if they were having a romantic relationship, it wouldn’t be anybody’s business. But could Trip just assume by that statement that the idea didn’t repulse her?
Trip started out of his reverie. “I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I just wanted to thank you for saving my life.”
“You would have done the same for me.”
“Without a second thought, T’Pol.”
T’Pol shifted somewhat on her feet and she lifted one hand to touch Trip’s briefly. “Sleep well, Charles,” she said quietly then she turned to go.
She turned, her hands clasped behind her back again, her posture straight.
“Are you free Tuesday night?”
T’Pol arched one elegant brow. “1900 hours?”
Trip smiled and nodded then he watched her exit sickbay. She cast him one final glance before the doors closed behind her.
Have a comment to make about this story? Do so in the Trip Fan Fiction forum at the HoTBBS!
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Wonderful! Deep joy and heartfelt thanks, I loved this. Ali D :~)
Oh, I really like this story. I like how the mutagenic virus was worked into the storyline. Also like the continued slow development of the Trip and T'Pol relationship.
absolutely amazing!!! the interactions between trip and t'pol were just great! lets hope theres a sequel!
I loved this!! Sequel please :)
Loved it! I always look out for your stories and this is another winner. Thanks Vanishingp
Beautiful, beautiful story! And so many wonderful lines:
But for one of the few times since her childhood, T’Pol let her emotions dictate her actions.
Please, please, please: Write a sequel!
Absolutely wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed that, your stories never disappoint. I hope you continue with this. I'll wait in anticipation.!
Ah, such wonderful elements. Trip and T'Pol, plot, Archer-Trip friendship, Phlox, Malcolm being friendly, not Vulcanish, with the crew.
Yes, we can only hope for a sequel. Although this story did a great job of tying up loose ends, unless I missed something.
Good story. Are you going to continue it or write a sequel? One tiny nit: you used "breath" (the noun form, e.g. "he took a breath") twice when you should have used "breathe" (the verb form, e.g. "he breathed" or "he was breathing")
Already told you how much I enjoyed this story... guess I have to do it again. The friendships, the relationships... very cool very well done.
Lovely, lovely story. Excellent!
I love the way you tie your stories in with the current arc. Excellent really good writing.
We need to see this caliber of action-based, as well as deft character development combined, on the series. Submit to TPTB by any means possible!
I loved it but you should have made it longer and got Trip and T'Pol together. But it was the best story so far.
Ok I've now read about five of your stories and my reaction to all of them at the end has been..."awww"! lol I don't know why, but your stories give me warm fuzzies inside! ;) I love them! Great job!
Ok I've now read about five of your stories and my reaction to all of them at the end has been..."awww"! lol I don't know why, but your stories give me warm fuzzies inside! ;) I love them! Great job!