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Ceti Alpha V

Author - Shouldknowbetter | C | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Drama | Genre - Romance | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
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Ceti Alpha V

Pen Name: ShouldKnowBetter

Rating: PG13.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, the Star Trek franchise and the universe. I just use them for my own private, non-profit making amusement.
Summary: Tucker’s lost Enterprise, he’s lost T’Pol, and now he’s being asked to do something stupidly dangerous.

Author’s Notes:
1. This is a sequel to ‘We’ll Always Have Enterprise’. It won’t make any sense unless you’ve read that. It ignores the recent spoilers regarding T’Pol’s behaviour in ‘Azati Prime’.
2. The story is loosely based on a synopsis of a never-made sequel to ‘Casablanca’ called ‘Brazzaville’.
3. The ‘Ceti Alpha V’ of the title is probably not the same planet as the one in ‘Twilight’, but I picked out the name before I saw the episode, and then it was too late to change.


“Trip! Wake up!” Thus addressed, and with the added provocation of having his pillow unceremoniously removed, Tucker rolled onto his back and groaned. “Get your lazy butt out of that bed, Captain Tucker, and get it out now!”

“Go to hell.”

“Too late. We’re already there.” Cole grabbed the top edge of the sheet that was all that was protecting the engineer’s dignity. “Get up.”

Alarmed into wakefulness, he grabbed back. “Why?”

“Because we’re going for a run.”

He groaned again. “It’s dark!”

“You wanna go for a run at midday when it’s over 30C, Trip, that’s fine by me.”

“I hate you.”

“I don’t care. Get up!”

“Okay, okay.” Grudgingly, Tucker sat up, still clutching the sheet. “But only if you get out.”

“I’ve seen it before,” Cole’s grin was impudent, “and believe me, Trip, I’ve seen better.”

He threw the remaining pillow at her retreating backside but missed, grumbling under his breath as he crawled reluctantly out of bed and into the first clothes that came to hand. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate Amanda’s support in helping him kick his alcohol dependency and in getting back into shape. It was just that he wished she could have been a little less enthusiastic about it, particularly first thing in the morning. He didn’t mind mornings, but he would have been happier if they had started a little later in the day – around 0630, for preference. An 0400 start was just too much.

When he stumbled out of the building, Cole was bouncing on her toes, already stretched out and toting a 20kg pack – she’d spared him that torture so far. “Ready?”


She ignored him, of course, just grinned mockingly and loped off into the gloom. Tucker gave a long-suffering sigh and jogged after her. He hated assertive women.

An hour and 10km later, warmed up and mindlessly content with the rhythmic exercise, Tucker relented slightly on that one. He hated assertive Human women. Vulcan ones who loved him were an entirely different matter, and why the hell had he let T’Pol go when she had been willing to stay with him? If he hadn’t been a complete idiot, he could have been in bed now, with a warm, sensuous woman cuddled up to him, and nothing better to do all day than make love to her.

Tucker shook his head violently to dispel what was nothing more than a fantasy. Maybe T’Pol would have stayed, although if he hadn’t urged her to leave with Archer, he was fairly sure that, when it came to it, she’d have opted to remain with her captain. Even if she had stayed, she wouldn’t be around any more. She’d have returned to space and to Archer long since, bored with the limited life on Earth and worried about the captain’s welfare. Fantasizing about T’Pol was a luxury Tucker knew he couldn’t allow himself. Life was hard enough as it was, without making it harder by thinking about what might have been.

“Tucker! Move your butt.”

He grimaced but made the effort to accelerate up the low rise, focussing fiercely on the present. Cole was far too cheerful this morning. That sunny mood must mean that Mayweather was due in again. She might claim that she just took advantage of a handsome man, but Tucker was starting to believe that Travis could be onto a winner –and good luck to them both. In their sorry world, you had to grab at whatever happiness was on offer - and preferably not let go once you’d gotten hold of it.

Tucker panted up to the top of the hill and dropped to a crouch, snatching for breath. “You wouldn’t even pass a MACO admission test, Trip.”

“Fine.” He dropped back onto his buttocks. “What about a Starfleet one?”

“Oh, them! Maybe.”

“Then let me die in peace.”

“I thought that you had put that option behind you, Mr Tucker.”

The engineer lifted his head to scowl at the Vulcan, who had appeared from nowhere; he didn’t like the fact that the other man could sneak around quite so effectively. “What the hell are you doing here, Soval?”

“Keeping an appointment.”

Cole grinned, taking a few steps towards the Vulcan to give herself a clearer view of the collapsed Human. “Just what you ordered, ambassador. One engineer.” Her grin widened maliciously. “Slightly soiled.”

Tucker rocked back a little to allow him to glare at the pair watching him. It was bad enough having Soval deliver withering remarks several times a week. It was worse having Cole on his back every day. When they joined forces, it was plain unfair. If it hadn’t been too weird to contemplate, he’d have been suspicious of the relationship between the former Vulcan ambassador and the ex-MACO corporal – they got along far too well, particularly when given the opportunity to gang up on him.

They were still looking disparagingly down at him and he sighed and scrambled to his feet. At least when he was standing, they had to stare disparagingly up. It wasn’t much, but it made him feel fractionally better. “Checking up on me again, Soval?”

“Indeed.” The Vulcan moved a little closer, dark eyes scanning Tucker’s tanned face attentively.

He scowled, but accepted the scrutiny. He didn’t know what game Soval was playing, but if it was anything that required a reliable pawn, then the unlikely coordinator of Earth’s resistance cell had a right to check whether the pawn had been hitting the bottle when no one was looking, but he didn’t have to enjoy the process. “If I’d known I was up for inspection, I’d have shaved.” And cleaned his teeth, brushed his hair and found a tee shirt without holes in it. But he was sober and had been for months. Four very long months.

“An omission you may come to regret.” Soval nodded to Cole, who had been waiting nearby. She grinned and leapt away down the hill, waving a hand to them as she went.

Tucker shot an irritated look at the Vulcan, annoyed that the entire charade had clearly been arranged without his consent. “Come on, Soval, why …?”

He noticed the whine first, a second before the dreaded tingle became evident. “Soval! What the hell’s,” the protest was cut off in mid flow, to be completed in a very different environment, “going on?”

The final words were delivered in a much less forceful tone, as Tucker looked slowly around the room in which they had materialised. Clean, functional and containing a Vulcan woman who was staring at him with … Tucker sighed. He’d seen that expression before – the outrage of a female with an extremely sensitive sense of smell, confronted by a Human who’d just been engaged in physical exercise and hadn’t showered yet. Someone should have warned her to use a nasal inhibitor. “Where the hell are we?”

“The Ti’Mur.” Soval stepped off the transporter platform to a comm. outlet, delivering a brief statement in Vulcan before turning back to Tucker, who had titled his head, alert to the change in the ship around him.

“We’ve gone to warp.”

“Captain Vanick did not wish to remain in orbit longer than was necessary.”

“How did a ship the size of the Ti’Mur enter orbit in the first place without the Xindi spotting her?” He got only a bland look and a gesture towards the door. “She’s cloaked!” He was too annoyed to take note of their surroundings or the others who pulled away from his unwashed body. “D’you know how much it would mean to the Free Humans to have access to cloaking technology?”

“Something we can discuss at a later date.” They had halted at a door and Soval laid a hand on an access panel to open it. “In the meantime, a cabin has been put at your disposal. I suggest you make use of the facilities.” Tucker grimaced, again made aware that he was unkempt even by Earth’s poor standards, and met Soval’s calm gaze, for once devoid of disapproval. “Please, Captain Tucker, reserve your questions for later.” The very evenness of the other man’s tone tightened the muscles in Tucker’s back, but it wasn’t until he was in the cabin with the door closed behind him that he identified the root cause of his unease. Soval had addressed him as ‘captain’ and he was damned certain that that was no casual slip. If he knew nothing else about the Vulcan, it was that Soval never said a word that he hadn’t carefully considered beforehand.

It wasn’t until Tucker stepped out of the shower – not a real water one as he’d been hoping, but one that seemed to be based on ultra-sonics – that he realised that he didn’t have anything to wear. Rummaging through the scant storage space in the small cabin didn’t help much: the only outfit available was the one neatly folded on the bunk. He tried another glare, but it still refused to be anything other than a male version of the uniform T’Pol had worn during her first two years on Enterprise, and he was damned if he was going to wear one of them.

He was still naked and grumpy when Soval walked in, although the Vulcan’s appearance distracted him momentarily from his own grievance. “They didn’t give you an option on what to wear either?”

An eyebrow climbed. “My commission and my posting to the Ministry of Security were reactivated shortly after the Xindi invasion of Earth.”

Tucker scowled as he worked through the implications of that one. “So you’ve been working for the Vulcan High Command all along?”

“Naturally. You are not dressed.”

“I’m not putting on a Vulcan uniform.”

“Why not?”

The question was far too reasonable for Tucker’s current frame of mind and he responded with characteristic irrationality. “Because I’m not being given a choice.”

“But you do have a choice, Captain Tucker. You may appear naked before Captain Vanick, or you may wear the clothes provided. I will await you outside.”

Tucker wore the uniform. He remembered Captain Vanick from a disastrous meal on Enterprise and there was no way he was going to give him the chance to look disdainfully at sweat-stained, filthy running gear, or a naked Human for that matter. The uniform was actually more comfortable than he’d been anticipating – he’d always had a private theory that Vulcans had a rod up their backs – but he was still uncomfortably self-conscious when he sidled out into the corridor.

Soval’s scrutiny and resigned flick of one eyebrow didn’t help. “It does not suit you,” the Vuilcan observed briefly and headed down the corridor, Tucker hurrying to keep up.

“Where are we going?”

“Captain Vanick has condescended to invite you to breakfast.”

“I meant, where’s the Ti’Mur heading?”

“You will find out in due course.”

Tucker gave a frustrated sigh and looked around for distraction before he tried shaking the Vulcan warmly by the throat: he was fairly sure that he’d end up flat on his back if he tried. His gaze alighted on Soval’s uniform, transferred briefly to his own, then a smile began to form. “What rank do you hold, Soval?”

“When my commission was suspended fifty five years ago, I held the rank of sub-commander.”

“And you still do.” Tucker was openly grinning by now. “So I outrank you.”

“The difference in our ranks, Mr Tucker, is entirely notional.”

“But I still outrank you.”

“You resigned your Starfleet commission.”

“You put me in a captain’s uniform.”

“An error that can be rectified.” Soval hit an access panel rather harder than was necessary. “After you, Captain Tucker.”


The good mood engendered by finding out that – notionally – he outranked Soval didn’t last. Vanick’s opinion of Humans hadn’t improved over the last five years. He ignored Tucker, addressing himself solely to Soval and that in Vulcan. Then there was the woman seated opposite. She didn’t really look anything like T’Pol, but the uniform was the same, and the haircut, and she had a hard stare, and it was enough to bring the other Vulcan woman too vividly to Tucker’s mind. It forced him to admit how atrociously he still missed her company, and the trust that had developed between them. During their last months together on Enterprise, he’d talked to her about anything and everything, and while she’d never fully reciprocated, he’d known that she trusted him too, even if he’d had no more idea than she how deep her feelings for him ran. He’d never felt as close to anyone, even Amanda, despite the fact that he had so much in common with the MACO, and the past three and a half years hadn’t stopped him missing that. He knew he was being a fool. He and T’Pol had both changed over the intervening time, and the fact that they’d tumbled into bed together on Earth didn’t really mean anything. They didn’t know each other any more and if they ever had the chance to be together again, they could easily discover that they didn’t like the changes. But that piece of logic didn’t stop him wanting the chance.

Tucker’s miserable reflections were interrupted by the comm., from which a brief statement issued. He followed suit as the rest rose to their feet, catching Soval’s eye. “Your questions are about to be answered,” he was told. “We have reached the rendezvous point.”


That he was very much a fool was reinforced for Tucker when the airlock cycled open and Admiral Forrest stepped through, followed by Captain Ramirez. The disappointment that gripped him took his breath away. Had he really been hoping that it was Enterprise they were to meet? Evidently he had.

“Trip.” Forrest’s tone was non-committal. “You’re looking well.”

It took Tucker a moment to collect his scattered wits and focus on reality rather than hopeless dreams. “You too, admiral.” He exchanged a brief nod with Ramirez, whom he’d never known well, reflecting that he’d lied. Forrest didn’t look any better than he had the day he’d called Enterprise to break the news that Earth had been overrun.

The admiral had survived the Xindi attack for the same reason that Soval had – both men had been on Vulcan, attending a meeting of the High Command, where Forrest had been appealing for the Vulcans’ help in defending Earth if the need arose. The plea had been tragically ill timed.

Enterprise hadn’t been anywhere near Earth either, and Tucker knew that he wouldn’t be alive if she had been. They had still been limping home from the Delphic Expanse, barely able to maintain warp 2, when Forrest had contacted them, using a Vulcan frequency. Tucker had taken the call in the ready room, already worried, and he’d known that something was terribly wrong the moment the admiral’s image appeared: the man looked ill, old and ill. “Captain Tucker.” Forrest had had to stop, clearly unable to continue, and Tucker had gone cold.

“What is it, admiral?”

“Earth. The Xindi attacked. I’m sorry, captain.” Forrest had stopped to breath, to calm himself. “You’ll have to tell your crew. We think the majority of the population has been killed.”

Tucker had stared back, stunned. “How many survived?”

“Estimates say … maybe fifty thousand.”

“Out of five billion.” It was too big, he hadn’t been able to take it in. Numbers like that didn’t mean anything. Death was Lizzie, Archer, T’Pol, Malcolm. Not five billion. Death was his parents, sister, brother, nephews, nieces. “What happened?”

“They attacked. Waves of ships. Came out of those sub-space corridors you reported.” Tears had been sliding unnoticed down Forrest’s face. “Starfleet tried – but it was useless. The last order from HQ was to scatter. Some did. Some kept fighting, turned their ships into weapons, rammed the Xindi … It made no difference.”

Tucker had known he wasn’t reacting properly, that he was probably in shock, because he seemed to be thinking quite clearly. “How many of our ships are left?”

“Five, including Enterprise.”

“The colonies?”

Forrest had swallowed, finally wiping his face as if just realising that he was crying. “The Xindi overran them too. Fewer casualties, but …”

“What d’you want Enterprise to do?”

“Report to Vulcan. The High Command has agreed to offer shelter – temporarily.” The admiral had seemed to make an effort to focus on the present. “Captain, are you all right?”

Tucker had nodded and then decided that more was called for. “Yes, sir.”

“No heroics, Trip.” For a moment, it had been the old Forrest. “Bring them back in one piece.”

“Yes, sir.” Tucker had felt himself start to shake. “Enterprise out.” He’d stayed in the ready room for an hour, until he’d had himself in hand, so that he could tell the rest what had happened without giving them the impression of a captain who was about to shatter – the impression of a captain who didn’t desperately wish that he’d had the chance to destroy himself and his ship rather than have to live in a world that was suddenly, unbearably, empty.

Sato had told him later that he was wonderful that day, calm and supportive while the rest of the crew reeled in shock and cried, screamed or retreated into silence according to their natures, but he didn’t remember any of it. All he remembered was that when Amanda had come to his cabin that night, he hadn’t turned her away as he had every previous time, although all they’d done was hold each other through the sleepless hours, until it was time to get up and try to find the energy to carry on living.

“Captain Tucker.” Soval’s quiet voice brought him back to a present that wasn’t a lot better than his memories of the past, and he realised that the rest of the group were already metres away and that the Vulcan was watching him with something that verged on concern. He drew a deep breath and started after the others. Now would also not be a good time to shatter.


Tucker took one of the remaining seats at the briefing table, uncomfortably aware that not only was he wearing a Vulcan uniform, but that he was on the Vulcan side of the table, flanked by Vanick and Soval. The fact he was even glad Soval was there was frankly weird, but then it wasn’t every day that you had to face a man who, last time you’d spoken, had called you a spineless coward.

If Forrest’s opinion had moderated over the last eighteen months, it didn’t show in his expression as he opened the meeting, eyes fixed firmly and disquietingly on Tucker. “You’re aware of the losses that the Free Human movement has suffered over the last six months?” Tucker nodded, since some response seemed necessary, and no one else volunteered an answer. “We believe that there’s a traitor in our ranks, someone who’s passing on information about our movements.”

Tucker straightened, abruptly angry. “You think it’s me! How the hell am I supposed …”

“Captain Tucker,” Soval’s firm interjection cut off his protest. “Everyone here knows that you have been incapable of any useful action, whether for good or ill, while you have been on Earth.”

The engineer subsided, scowling, and Forrest continued, “The Vulcans tell us that some of their covert operators have also been lost in similar circumstances. Whoever is selling us out has access to both Human and Vulcan logistical information.”

There was a waiting silence, which Tucker finally broke with an accusing look at Soval. “Just how closely have the Vulcans been working with the Free Humans? Last time I was involved, you were too busy sitting on the fence to even think of helping us.”

“That’s not true, Trip, and you know it.” Forrest’s diplomatic and not quite truthful answer gave Tucker a fairly accurate picture of the current state of play. “We wouldn’t have ships in space today if the Vulcans hadn’t given us access to their maintenance facilities.”

“Our initial action may have seemed inadequate to you, Captain Tucker,” Soval was responding to the glare still levelled in his direction, “but it did exist – as my continued presence on Earth proves. It took time for us to recognise that the Xindi were a common enemy, not merely a terror that your species had unleashed upon yourselves, but we acknowledge that now. We consider ourselves,” he paused to select a suitably non-committal word, “associates of the Free Humans.”

“Then help us!” Tucker’s voice was suddenly fierce. “If we hit them hard enough …”

“If we hit them hard enough,” the Vulcan’s tone stopped Tucker dead, even in the midst of his anger, “they will destroy Vulcan as they destroyed Earth. We do not have the ships to stop them.”

Tucker had to leave the table, the movement necessary to keep his rage and despair in check. It hadn’t just been the knowledge that Archer had taken away the only thing that he still held precious that had broken him and sent him to hide in a miasma of drunken self-pity on Earth. He’d been close to the edge already and that had just been one thing too many. Always in the back of his mind, and just now brought bitterly to the forefront, was the feeling that Humanity was doomed. That however hard they tried, whatever minor victories they might achieve, the Xindi would eventually wear them down. And unconsciously Soval had just reinforced that belief. However much he might resent the Vulcans for holding back Earth’s warp programme, Tucker had always acknowledged their technological superiority. If Vulcan couldn’t fight the Xindi, then what hope did a handful of Human-built ships have?

Behind him the others were waiting in silence, and it was finally starting to get through to Tucker that he had been invited to this meeting for one reason only – they wanted something that only he could provide. With an effort, he forced his emotions back under some degree of control, and turned to face his … review board? “Why am I here?”

Forrest gestured to the chair he had vacated and Tucker returned reluctantly to the table, pouring a glass of water to avoid meeting too many assessing eyes. “What do you know about Ceti Alpha V, Captain Tucker?”

So he was back to his old rank with the remnant of Starfleet too? Maybe you couldn’t resign from an organisation that had effectively been destroyed. “Not a damn thing.”

A frown creased Forrest’s forehead at the insolence and Soval slipped into the breach. “Ceti Alpha V is a Minshara class planet that the Xindi have taken to use as their base in this region of space. Other species are welcome there if they are prepared to ignore the Xindi’s ultimate agenda. Both the Vulcans and the Free Humans have tried to introduce agents into the colony in an attempt to infiltrate the Xindi hierarchy. Both have failed.”

Tucker gave the Vulcan a long, hard stare – he’d learnt a few tricks from T’Pol in that department – while he reached a conclusion. “Then why d’you think I’d succeed?”

“Because you are uniquely qualified.”

“Soval’s right, Trip.” Forrest rejoined the argument. “You dropped out of the Free Human movement – rather spectacularly, if I might say so. You’ve never made any secret of the fact that you have issues with the Vulcans. And you’re a damn fine engineer.”

“You lost me on that last one, admiral.”

“The Xindi are aware of the Vulcan cloaking device.” Soval’s voice was flat, but Tucker had the impression that the man had a great deal riding on the outcome of the discussion. “We propose that you help them defeat it, as a means of inveigling yourself into their organisation.”

“You want me to give the Xindi your cloaking technology?” Tucker couldn’t believe his ears.

“We want you to appear to do so, whilst ensuring that they never, in fact, penetrate the device. In parallel, you will report any pertinent information regarding Xindi technology and logistics.”

“Son-of-a-bitch.” The engineer’s voice was quiet with disbelief and Forrest took advantage of his shock to continue the pressure.

“We know it’s a lot to ask of you, Trip. I hope you know that we don’t ask lightly.”

“T’Pol spoke highly of your ability to assimilate alien technology,” Soval observed and Tucker scowled at him, coming to his feet again to pace to the far side of the room, a hand rising to rub the back of his neck.

“How d’you know I won’t just crack up again?”

“We don’t.” Forrest glanced across the table. “But Soval believes that you won’t.”

“Thanks!” Tucker threw the sarcastic response over his shoulder, his hand moving around to rub his eyebrows before he turned back to the men waiting for him. “You have to give me some time to think this one through, admiral. I,” he stopped, shaking his head, “I can’t give you an answer right now.”

Forrest came to his feet, even as he sent Vanick a reassuring look. “We can give you an hour, captain. Soval can’t risk being away from Earth too long.” Tucker nodded reluctant acceptance, wondering how the hell he was supposed to come to a decision in such a short time, and Forrest dropped a hand briefly on his shoulder on his way to the door. “Welcome back, Trip.”


Tucker had ten minutes of his hour remaining when the door chime sounded. “Come in.” The answer was instinctive, spoken before he’d remembered that he was no longer expected to be available every hour of the day to crewmen who needed to talk to their captain. The realisation that he was slipping back into the habits that went with the uniform deepened the scowl he directed at the Vulcan who entered. “You set me up.”

Soval remained standing, hands clasped behind him in an attitude that was unsettlingly familiar. “I thought that the time had come for you to contribute once more.”

“And what was wrong with doing that on Earth?”

“Any action taken against the Xindi on Earth is ultimately pointless, Captain Tucker. I trust you have not deluded yourself otherwise.”

“No.” That was something he’d forced himself to accept in the past hour. Restlessly, he rose from the bed where he had been lying to stare out of the view port. “Soval,” he hesitated, knowing he was likely to get a rude answer, “have you ever done this sort of thing?”

“Why do you ask?”

Although the Vulcan could move as soundlessly as T’Pol when he chose, Tucker knew that Soval had closed the gap between them. “Because I never have. It’s not something they covered at Starfleet academy – not in the Engineering Stream, anyway.” He turned his head sideways to meet the older man’s dark, forbidding eyes. “Have you?”


“What’s it like?”

They were close enough that he was sure there was a flicker of emotion across the rigidly controlled features, and the unexpected answer confirmed it. “Lonely.”

Tucker looked away, embarrassed. “I’ve never been good by myself.”

“But you are the only one qualified for this role.”

“So you keep telling me.”

The engineer wandered to the other side of the room and Soval turned to keep him in view. “Will you accept?”

“D’you know where Enterprise is?”

The Vulcan paused only briefly before answering. “I understand that the ship has been dispatched towards the Gamma Quadrant, to search for minerals needed by the Free Humans to trade for armament supplies.”


Soval didn’t react to the shocked exclamation at the news that the Human’s only surviving warp 5 ship was being used for such a mundane purpose. “It was considered politic. Captain Archer’s behaviour has become erratic.”

Tucker drew a shuddering breath. “But they can’t replace the hero of the Delphic Expanse.”


He shook his head, banishing his half-formed plan to force a bargain on Forrest. For a few minutes, it had seemed like a good idea to say he’d take the job if he could have Enterprise back afterwards, but it wasn’t – it was the hopelessly romantic pipedream of a man who’d abandoned his ship once and didn’t deserve to regain either her or the woman he loved.

“Captain Tucker?”

“I’ll do it.” He leant back against a wall, both hands pressed briefly to his face before he dropped them and looked resignedly over at the Vulcan. “What the hell else can I do that’s any damn use?”


One year later

It was very quiet and very dark in T’Pol’s cabin, purposely so. She was not even meditating, just sitting in the small room that was lit only by faint starlight penetrating the transparent aluminium windows, her mind carefully blank. She did not want to think. She did not want to do anything but sit and let the silence sink into her. No one was insisting on pursuing his own, irrational course of action. No one was pleading for understanding. No one was shouting. Neither was anyone teasing her, asking her opinion, telling her about his work. It was very quiet.

The door buzzer was an unwelcome intrusion that for a moment T’Pol considered ignoring, but such irresponsibility was not in her nature. Instead, she unfolded herself carefully from the bed, raising the light levels as she went to the door.

“T’Pol.” Phlox’s normally cheerful expression was grave. “May I come in?”

It was an unusual request. She and the Denobulan should have had much in common, the only aliens in a Human crew, but although they had shared the occasional confidence, they had never become close friends. Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were also doctor and patient, perhaps the very fact that they both came from reserved cultures. T’Pol did not know the reason and currently did not care. But she stepped aside to allow Phlox to enter, holding herself erect, hands clasped behind her. “Doctor?”

He seemed a little uneasy, taking a good look around her immaculate quarters before turning to face her. “I thought I should see how you were.”

“I’m fine.”

He looked away again. “You’ve suffered a very intimate loss. It would be understandable if you were,” he paused to find a word that would not give offence, “grieved.”

It was T’Pol’s turn to look away, although not to conceal the emotion that Phlox thought she must be experiencing. In many ways, she considered the man she had respected as a captain and valued as a friend to have died at Azati Prime. The Archer they had buried that morning had been little more than a caricature of the man she had first known, suspicious, paranoid and untrusting even of her by the end. The blame lay with the Xindi, not with Archer himself, but it was sometimes hard to remember that. Hard not to resent the fact that he had seemed oblivious to what she had lost when she did as duty and friendship prompted her, and left Enterprise in search of him. The only emotion she had felt the last two days was relief, but that had to be hidden and not just because she still considered herself a student of Surak.

“I know how close you were to Captain Archer.” T’Pol realised that she had kept silent too long, encouraging Phlox to respond to what he saw as evidence of her grief. “He relied on you a great deal, and not just as a first officer. The neuro-pressure therapy …”

“Neuro-pressure is an intimate technique.” She knew that she had interrupted the Denobulan brusquely, but she was tired of hypocrisy. “It does not necessarily lead to intimacy.”

“Of course not. Although I understood …” He trailed off under T’Pol’s stare that dared him to speculate further. “Captain Archer was certainly most unwell the last few months. You did very well in keeping the extent of his disability from the crew. They’ve had enough to deal with the last few years.”

She still had no idea where the Denobulan was heading, but he had given her an opportunity to direct the conversation. “How are the crew reacting to Captain Archer’s death?”

“They’re upset, naturally, but,” the Denobulan shrugged, “perhaps not entirely surprised. What is concerning them,” again he paused, “is who will be taking his place.”

“That is for the leaders of the Free Humans to decide.”

“Of course.” Phlox was clearly uncomfortable, but doggedly determined to do his duty. “T’Pol, this isn’t something I could say when Captain Archer was alive. Perhaps you won’t want to hear it even now, but this hasn’t been a happy ship for the last year or so. You couldn’t entirely hide the fact that Captain Archer’s condition was deteriorating. The crew needs a captain who understands their fears, one who shares their weaknesses and who isn’t afraid to let them see that. One who is very Human. T’Pol, Captain Tucker was very popular with Enterprise’s crew. There was even a good deal of sympathy when he,” again he sought for a polite word, “left.” He stopped to let her speak, but T’Pol refrained from comment, head turned away. “I’m sure that the Free Humans will offer you Enterprise’s captaincy, but perhaps it’s time to consider whether Captain Tucker is fit to return.”

“I will consider your advice, doctor.” T’Pol’s voice was very calm when she added, “Dismissed.”


Ceti Alpha V wasn’t one of Mayweather’s favourite stops. In fact, it was a place he’d have preferred to avoid, but it had become the centre of the drugs trade and, however much he might dislike the fact, drugs seemed one of the few ways Humans had of subverting the Xindi. It wasn’t for the drug dealing that he disliked Ceti Alpha V, however. A significant proportion of the population were Human, slaves shipped in by the Xindi so that they had people to exploit. Maybe the living conditions were no worse than on Earth, but then Mayweather didn’t like Earth either – even though Amanda’s presence had certainly cheered up his recent visits. But what really turned his stomach on Ceti Alpha V were the other species, the ones who dealt with the Xindi, prepared to trade with a race who had only stopped short of genocide because it was more satisfying to oppress the few left alive. The Andorians, the Rigellians, the Klingons, and a whole lot more turned a blind eye to the enslaved Humans. Fortunately, they also looked the other way when offered a good price for illegal merchandise by another Human who took good care not to be seen openly.

It was Mayweather’s third trip that year, the rest of his time divided between the overrun Human colonies and the occasional, more cautious rendezvous with a Free Human ship. His quarry this time was a Naussican trader he’d arranged to meet in one of the many bars, but all thought of his real purpose went out of his head at the sight of the man seated alone at the counter, one finger idly tracing the rim of the mug in front of him.

“Trip?” Mayweather really hadn’t quite believed what he was seeing, but the sharp lift of the other man’s head put it beyond doubt. Not that he bore much resemblance to the tired, grubby engineer Mayweather had last seen waving him off from a dilapidated spaceport on Earth. This Tucker was expensively dressed and immaculately groomed, and staring at Mayweather with a lack of expression that the younger man found distinctly unsettling. “Trip?”

“Travis. What are you doing here?”

Even the drawling Southern accent seemed to have faded. “That’s what I was about to ask you.” Mayweather made to take the stool next to Tucker, but found himself steered towards a table in the rear of the bar before he had time to protest. “Who are you hiding from?”

“They don’t get many Humans in here.”

There was still no warmth in the blue eyes watching him and Mayweather was getting more confused by the second. Even when he’d been drinking heavily, Tucker hadn’t had that detached look about him. About the only point of similarity with the man he’d last met was that Tucker was still tired, dark circles under his eyes. “You’re here.”

“Well,” the faint smile that curved the engineer’s mouth wasn’t pleasant, “the rules don’t always have to apply.”

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” The other man’s attitude was getting under Mayweather’s skin just as quickly as his drunken indifference had done. “Amanda said you left Earth with Soval. How did you end up here?”

“Long story.” Tucker’s finger was again tracing the rim of his mug and Mayweather noticed absently that the engineer had lost the torn nails and ingrained dirt that he’d picked up on Earth. “Want the truth?”

“Try me.”

“I sold out to the Xindi.”

The pilot stared back as he assimilated the bald statement, wavering for a moment before shaking his head. “I don’t believe you.”

“Why not?” Tucker’s tone was lightly mocking. “Everyone else does.”

“Because you lost too much to the Xindi, and even when you were dead drunk, you never stopped hating them. I don’t know what game you’re playing, Trip, but you haven’t sold out.”

The time the man’s smile was genuine, and there was a flash of his old warmth in his eyes as he glanced up at Mayweather. “Thanks.”

“So what are you doing here?”

“It’s still a long story.”

“I’ve got a few hours.”

“But I haven’t.” Tucker was looking behind Mayweather, towards the entrance to the bar. “Come around to my place after dark. The barman can tell you where I live.”

He was already moving away and Mayweather turned to watch, frowning as the engineer approached a fair-haired woman, strikingly beautiful at a distance. She wound an arm around his neck as soon as he came within range, smiling as he tilted his head for a kiss – she was barely a couple of centimetres shorter than he. Tucker led her to a prominently placed table, arm around her waist, and Mayweather could see the man’s wide smile, the almost conscious injection of charm that had replaced his earlier reserve.

Unsettled, Mayweather turned his back. It was none of his business, but he’d thought … He grimaced, shrugging mentally. It had been a long time, and remaining in love when the object of your affections was light years away with another man wasn’t all that likely. But it was still a pity that Trip and T’Pol had never been given the chance at a long-term relationship.


Wary after her previous experience on Earth, and without Archer’s impatience to deal with, T’Pol waited until all was quiet and dark in the maintenance block before approaching. She remembered the way to Tucker’s room and the moonlight filtering into the building gave more than enough light for Vulcan eyes to pick out a clear path. One hand on the door, she paused, conscious that her heart rate had increased.

The only issue was whether Captain Tucker was in a fit condition to return to duty. That was what she must focus on. Not the fact that she was about to encounter a man to whom she had once been warmly attached. She must not let physical attraction and the need for companionship master her, as it had the last time they had met. That way lay irrationality and this was not the time for an irrational decision. If Tucker wanted Enterprise, if he was fit to command the ship, then perhaps there would be time later for them to decide if they still wanted more than a professional relationship. But that time was not now.

Composed again, T’Pol pushed open the door, but went no further. The room was empty and had been for some time. No trace of Tucker’s scent lingered and the room was neat and tidy, stripped of personal effects. Slowly, T’Pol let the door close and considered her options. One was obvious and perhaps she should have made that assumption from the start. She went back down the stairs to the living quarters on the lower floor, located the most likely room by a process of elimination and knocked.

Cole opened the door within seconds, hair rumpled but as alert as ever, although she stared at the Vulcan woman in surprise. “Where is Captain Tucker?”

“He’s not here.” The Human woman drew T’Pol into her room and closed the door. “What are you doing on Earth, sub-commander?”

“Where is he?” T’Pol did not want to be drawn into an explanation of her presence. Cole would undoubtedly draw the wrong conclusion.

“I don’t know.”

“Then I will await his return.”

“No, I mean, I really don’t know. He’s not on Earth.”

T’Pol looked steadily back, a strange sensation in the pit of her stomach. “When did he leave?”

“Over a year ago. He never contacted you?”


“I thought …” Cole broke off, shrugging. “I guess not.” A frown creased her forehead as she observed the other woman’s slightly glazed expression, her eyes now fixed on the far wall. “You could ask Soval. He was the one arranged it.”

Brown eyes snapped back. “Thank you.”

The Vulcan headed for the door and Cole added hastily, “Trip was doing good last time I saw him. Just a little grumpy that I’d kicked him out of bed.”

T’Pol’s stomach tightened further, even as she opened the door. It was to be expected. The Human woman had always been attracted to Tucker and there was no reason for him to remain faithful once she had returned to Enterprise. No reason at all.


Finding Tucker’s apartment wasn’t difficult, but getting in would have been if Mayweather hadn’t taken the precaution of disguising himself. The Klingon makeup wouldn’t have stood up to close scrutiny, but in poor lighting and under a deep hood, he’d passed muster several times before, and few questioned a Klingon too hard. The concierge passed him in after a fierce growl, whereas Mayweather knew that most Humans would have been tossed out into the gutter again.

The disguise didn’t fool Tucker. He took one look and stood aside to allow Mayweather past him. “It’s a good look for you.”

The pilot grinned at the remark that harked back to Enterprise’s chief engineer, although the smile faded as he studied the frankly luxurious room. “Nice place.” The muffled words reminded him to remove the teeth, the least comfortable part of the ensemble.

“The reward of betrayal.”

“Can we talk here?”

“Sure.” Tucker didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “The place is clean. I sweep it – daily.”

“Then what the hell’s going on?”

The engineer slumped down into a chair, hands scrubbing over his face and disarranging his carefully groomed hair. “Soval sent me here to infiltrate the Xindi hierarchy.”

“You’ve been here ever since you left Earth?” Tucker nodded. “No wonder you look like crap!” That brought a faint smile to the other’s mouth. “Is it working?”

“I guess.” Tucker rubbed his eyes again. “They haven’t strung me up yet, anyway. When are you leaving?”

“I just got here!”

“The planet.”

“Tomorrow. It doesn’t take long to pick up the sort of cargo I’m after.”

“I need you to take some data crystals with you. Can you make contact with a Vulcan or a Free Human ship?”

“If I need to.” Mayweather was frowning, although the expression didn’t show through the Klingon prosthetic. “Don’t you have a regular communication channel?”

“Yeah, but he’s two weeks overdue.”

“Does that often happen?” Tucker shook his head, grimacing, the tension clear on his too-thin face; he’d never been fat, but Mayweather reckoned that the engineer had lost 20lb since they’d last met. “Trip, if you need a way out, there’s space in my cargo hold.”

“No.” Tucker came to his feet, shaking his head. “I haven’t got what I came for yet.”

“If your contact’s compromised you …”

“He hasn’t!” He was wandering restlessly around the room. “I told you, I’m still alive. They’re not on to me yet.”

It was Mayweather’s turn to grimace, not liking the situation one bit. It was clear to him that Tucker was wound so tightly, he was close to breaking, and he’d seen that happen before and it wasn’t pretty. The news he had to pass on wasn’t going to help, but the other man had a right to know. “Trip, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but,” there was no easy way to say it, “Captain Archer’s dead.”

Tucker stopped his prowling, turning slowly to face the younger man. “What happened?”

“I guess you could say the Xindi finally got him.” Mayweather shrugged. “The way I heard it, he’s been ill since they captured him. Phlox couldn’t do anything.” Tucker’s expression had blanked again and Mayweather couldn’t tell if he was grieving for his old friend or not. It was a series of associations that made the pilot add, “Who was that woman you were with, Trip?”

“Her name’s Maria. She’s a Xindi spy.”

Mayweather started at the flat, emotionless statement. “Are you sure?”

“Positive. She looks Human, but I ran a DNA scan. She’s Xindi-Humanoid. They must have surgically altered her.”

“Then they are on to you!”

“No. Beseker, the new head Xindi here, he’s suspicious, but they want what they think I can give them.” He slumped down into a seat again, rubbing his eyes. “She’s just checking me out.”

“So she doesn’t mean anything to you?”

Tucker’s smile was reminiscent of his old grin. “You know me, Travis, I never could pass up a pretty face.”

“There’s still space in my cargo hold.” The only answer was a firm headshake. “You want me to pass any messages along with those data crystals?”

For a second, there was a hint of pain behind the mask, then it was gone. “No.”


Despite the lateness of the hour, Soval was still awake. He looked up sharply when T’Pol slipped unannounced into his rooms, but allowed no other indication of surprise to escape him. “T’Pol. I trust your presence here has not been detected.”

“I have been careful.” She paced slowly towards his desk. “Where is Captain Tucker?”

The elder Vulcan laid his book aside carefully. “Why do you ask?”

“Captain Archer is dead. Enterprise needs a replacement.”

“I heard of Archer’s death. Should I offer you my condolences, T’Pol?” There was disapproval in his voice and T’Pol’s expression tightened.

“He was my captain,” her glare increased in intensity, “and my friend.”

“He was dangerously unstable.”

“Where is Captain Tucker?”


“Enterprise needs him.”

“Does it? Or is it you who needs him, T’Pol?” She came very close to flinching and Soval continued implacably, “You have always had a fascination with the Humans, T’Pol. Do not continue to allow your affection for individuals amongst them to overrule logic.”

“You misjudge me. Enterprise needs a Human captain.”

“One who betrayed the trust invested in him once before?”


“Your logic fails you, T’Pol.”

“Where is he?”

Soval rose and moved to stand in front of the woman. “I cannot tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because Captain Tucker is engaged in a confidential operation. You will endanger you both if you try to find him.”

If anything, the anger in T’Pol’s eyes intensified. “You have sent him into danger!”

“Few of us are safe in these times, T’Pol.”

“You used him because you disapproved of the relationship between us.”

“You mistake me.” The man’s voice was even. “I used Captain Tucker because he was best qualified. Besides,” he raised his chin fractionally, waiting to be sure he had her attention, “he told me that your relationship was over.”

Pain flickered across her expression before she turned and stalked from the room, and Soval’s mouth pursed in frustration. He only hoped that once T’Pol had regained her composure, she would allow logic to direct her actions, not witless emotion.


Why the Xindi had chosen Ceti Alpha V as their base of operations, Tucker didn’t know, but they clearly planned on staying. The orbital maintenance station they had constructed was impressive, designed to allow them to keep their ships in normal space without long trips back to the Delphic Expanse. Tucker could understand that. If he’d been given the chance to live outside, he’d have taken it too – but not at the expense of five billion lives. In response to that thought, he felt himself tensing and deliberately shunted the concept to one side. There were Xindi in the shuttle making the short hop from planet to space station, and he couldn’t risk an uncontrolled fit of temper. In fact, he couldn’t risk a single uncontrolled moment, and he knew the strain was telling on him, in sleepless nights, headaches and loss of appetite. It had been the same the first few weeks on Ceti Alpha V, when he’d been constantly terrified that the Xindi would spot the double game he was playing and stop him – slowly and painfully. He’d adjusted finally, learning to cope with the isolation and the sense of terrible vulnerability, spurred on by the knowledge that the information he was passing back was making a difference. But now a sense of failure was dogging him as he consistently failed to penetrate the upper layers of the Xindi security service and discover the identity of the one who was still betraying both Human and Vulcan operations.

The shuttle docked and he let the Xindi file off in front of him before entering the station. If the guards were new, it sometimes took time to convince them that, Human or not, his security pass was valid. This time they knew him, however, and waved him through with no worse than a sneer – a time or two, they’d felt the need to beat him up just for the hell of it. Again he thrust that memory aside before it could trigger an emotional reaction, and turned into the engineering facility where he was supposed to be helping the research team develop both cloaking and cloak-penetrating technology. In some ways, that aspect of his brief was even tougher than the espionage. Engineering had always been a passion and a solace. During the worst periods of his life, even after he’d taken command of Enterprise, he’d been able to lose himself in problem solving. But he couldn’t do that here. He’d been given a crash course on Vulcan stealth technology during the trip to Ceti Alpha V and, within a couple of months, he could have adjusted Enterprise’s sensors to detect a cloaked Vulcan ship inside two hours and built a cloak that no Vulcan sensors could penetrate inside two days. Here, he had to plead ignorance and bend all his efforts to constructing one flawed device after another. And it didn’t help that the Xindi-Sloth and Xindi-Humanoid teams he was working with were good engineers, dedicated to finding a solution because it was an interesting problem. The fact that yet more people would die if they succeeded didn’t seem to occur to them and he dared not push the point – someone who’d changed sides wouldn’t give a damn about the consequences of what he purported to be doing.

“Trip!” The whisper came from one side and a hairy paw beckoned urgently. He ducked obediently around the edge of a bank of equipment and found himself confronted with the youngest and brightest of the Xindi-Sloth engineers. “Beseker’s here.” Tucker’s back tightened at the name, even as the other Xindi took a nervous look around. “The latest cloak failed. The ship was destroyed and the crew killed.”

That knowledge didn’t surprise Tucker in the least. The latest design worked in theory. It even worked under test conditions. But subject it to the stresses of a warp field and, within a few hours, it was reduced to a useless pile of junk. “We told them that we weren’t through testing.”

“I know.” The young man took another look behind him. “I tried to tell Beseker, but he wouldn’t listen. I think he’s out to get you, Trip.”

“He’s always out to get me.” Tucker squeezed a bulky shoulder comfortingly – under different circumstances, he could have liked the other members of the team. “We’ll just have to keep trying.”

“Of course, of course.” The Xindi-Sloth produced a data recorder and thrust it at Tucker. “I had an idea last night.”

“I’ll look at it,” Tucker promised and moved away, cursing silently. The most cursory of glances showed that the boy was on the right track. Now what the hell was he supposed to do?

“Tucker!” The aggressive roar told him exactly what he was supposed to do in the next fifteen seconds, so he banished that problem for the moment, to concentrate on short-term survival as he emerged from behind the bank of equipment.

“General Beseker?”

“Human!” It was never good news when Beseker reverted to calling him by species instead of by name. “Explain this!”

Reluctantly, Tucker moved up alongside the Xindi-Reptile, watching the replay that showed the destruction of the supposedly cloaked Xindi ship. “We told you it wasn’t fully tested, general.”

“Fully tested!” The Xindi’s outrage was clear. “It was flawed! By you!”

“I told you from the start, general,” Tucker managed to force aggrieved and petulant defensiveness into his voice, “I don’t know a whole lot about Vulcan cloaking technology. I’m guessing here.”

“Then stop guessing at the expense of Xindi lives! Fifty of my men died on that ship.”

And five billion died on Earth! Briefly, Tucker closed his eyes, fighting the urge to scream that aloud. He had to remember that this was part of a larger war. “We’re nearly there, general. I know where we went wrong.” Of course he did. “We can fix it.” And provided he could get word through to the Vulcans in time, no one except Xindi need die because of him.

“Then do so.” The cold, reptilian face was thrust into his. “Because my patience with you is running out, Tucker-Human. One less of your species might make no difference – but it would give me great satisfaction. Understand me?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.” The Xindi stalked away and Tucker dropped his head, sucking in a deep, steadying breath. It was starting to unravel, and he was fast losing confidence that he could hold it all together.


The door to his apartment was unlocked. Tucker stared at the access panel, anxiety levels rising. He knew damn well that he had locked the door on exiting, because such simple security precautions had become second nature, and never mind the fact that there was no incriminating evidence on view. He was a known Xindi collaborator and that was enough to make attacks against him a possibility. But he couldn’t stand in the corridor all night. Cautiously, he pushed the door aside and scant seconds later received a warm, luscious armful of woman as Maria ran across the room to clasp him close. “Darling! Where have you been?”

“How did you get in?” Tucker knew he didn’t sound as appreciative as he might, but he was still shaken.

“The concierge let me in.” Plausible: Maria had been spending a lot of time with him the past few weeks. “Poor darling.” She was stroking his face. “Bad day?”

“I’ve had better.”

He responded willingly to her kiss and Maria smiled warmly afterwards. “Why don’t you just give them what they want, Trip? Wouldn’t it be easier?”

“Maybe it would – if I knew the answer.”

“But you’ll work it out one day, won’t you?”

“Sure. One day.”

“Oh, Trip.” Gentle fingers were still exploring his face. “Are you sure you don’t know? It would be so much nicer, darling, if the Xindi weren’t so suspicious of you.”

Tucker laughed softly, pulling the caressing hand away from his face to kiss the fingertips. “What d’you take me for, honey? Some kind of hero? I’m just an engineer trying for the soft option.”

“Are you sure?”

Her smile was warm, teasing, and Tucker’s answered hers, even as his arms tightened, pulling her closer. “Positive. Now since you’ve gate crashed, honey, how about showing an overworked engineer a little compassion, huh?”


T’Pol located Tucker’s apartment, situated in one of the best areas of the colony, and pressed the buzzer firmly, even irritably. It had taken considerable time and effort to track down the illusive, future captain of Enterprise, and, if he was drunk, she felt that she would have every right to be aggrieved. Then the door opened and her carefully prepared speech regarding Enterprise’s need fragmented. So Soval had been right: her reasons for finding Tucker were entirely selfish and she currently did not care, not now that he was standing there, almost within touching distance. “Charles.” He was looking at her with stunned surprise, but she could hardly blame him. The strength of her own reaction had shocked her, too. “Charles.” She took a step closer, hands outstretched in case he needed any encouragement or doubted why she had come. It wasn’t until his hands closed tightly on her forearms that she registered that his shock had been replaced and not by pleasure.

“You have to go.” His voice was low and intense, and T’Pol blinked, really not believing what she heard. “Things have changed, T’Pol.”

“Yes.” Of course, he would not understand the situation. “Captain Archer is dead. Charles, we can …”

“Just go, T’Pol. It’s best.”

His grip on her arms was hurting as he tried to push her out of the door and she pulled free, still not willing to accept that she was not wanted. “But …”

“Trip?” The woman’s voice came from inside the apartment. “Who’s there?” Then she appeared, tall, blond, beautiful and Human, to stare at T’Pol even as she dropped an arm around Tucker’s shoulders, her other hand resting possessively on his arm. “Oh.”

T’Pol felt something twist inside her and took a slow step back as the truth finally began to bite. “Charles?”

She sounded utterly bereft, but nothing changed in Tucker’s carefully blank expression. “I’m sorry, T’Pol. I did tell you to go.”

She went that time, in undignified haste.


Maria stretched out a hand to close the door on the Vulcan woman’s retreating back before turning into Tucker’s arms, lifting her mouth for a kiss. “Something from your past?”
“You could say that.”

He wasn’t really looking at her and Maria raised an imperious hand to turn his head towards her. “Charles?”

For a second, the remote, unfeeling expression didn’t alter, then he was grinning down at her, deepening the lines beside his mouth and eyes. “Says it all, I guess. Only teachers ever called me that.”

“So I should stick with Trip?”

“That’s what my friends call me.”

She moved even closer, angling her body invitingly into his. “But I thought I was so much more than a friend, darling.”

“Sure you are.” There seemed to be a slight catch in his lazy drawl, but then she was doing her best to arouse him. “A whole lot more.”


T’Pol made it back to the camouflaged shuttle pod and half way through the pre-flight checks before her control crumbled and she had to clutch at the console to keep herself upright in the pilot’s chair. It had not been until she made the decision to go in search of Archer, leaving Enterprise in the hands of the one man who might be able to repair the ship, that she had been forced to admit how much an unruly and vulnerable Human engineer had come to mean to her. She was suffering a similar reaction now. She had not known how much strength she had drawn, the last few, lonely years, from the certainty that Charles loved her. Vulcans did not dream. They certainly did not indulge in daydreams. But tucked away in a corner of her mind had been the memory of his voice, with its distinctive accent, saying softly, ‘You’re all I think about’. She should have known then that she was in danger of becoming too attached, because it had never occurred to her to doubt that the clone was reflecting Tucker’s feelings, not its own. Even after three years’ separation, when they had met on Earth, it had seemed that nothing had changed. ‘D’you know how much I loved you, how much I still love you?’ he had said to her, and she had believed him because she had wanted to.

Now that had been taken away from her. Charles did not love her anymore and, not only that, but he had found a replacement, perhaps several. She should have listened to Cole and Soval. She should not have deluded herself that she was searching for Tucker because Enterprise needed him. She had come to Ceti Alpha V because she needed him, because she did not want to be alone anymore. And now she was more alone than ever.

T’Pol wiped the back of one hand fiercely over her cheeks. It was over. She was Vulcan. She would take command of Enterprise. There was nothing else to be done.


As he had told Mayweather, Tucker’s contact had failed to keep their last rendezvous, so while the engineer turned up at the agreed place at the next allocated time slot, he wasn’t hopeful. His surprise was therefore doubled when someone slipped into the seat opposite and he looked up to find critical eyes observing him from under iron-grey hair, neatly brushed into regulation style. “Soval!”

“I see that you have not learnt discretion.” There was a note of resignation in the Vulcan’s voice and Tucker bristled.

“Who are you to call me indiscreet? How are you gonna explain your absence from Earth?”

“I cannot.” The irritation in Soval’s voice made Tucker sit up and take notice. “Which I trust will convince you of the significance of my presence here.”

“What’s happened?”

“Kov is dead.”

Tucker frowned, not wanting to accept something he had already half suspected. But not Kov, who had put aside his ideological differences with Vulcan society to enter covert operations after the Xindi threat manifested itself outside the Delphic Expanse. Not Kov, who had still not understood his Human contact, but who had been willing to risk his life for him, knowing that being V’tosh Ka’tur made for an excellent cover story.

“We know that the Xindi captured him.” Soval was continuing into the silence that Tucker couldn’t bring himself to break. “We know that he is dead. We do not know if he compromised you before he died.”

Tucker drew a deep breath and banished his grief and anger to the place inside himself where they could live with all the other reasons why he hated the Xindi. “He can’t have done. I’m still alive.”

“Perhaps. Or perhaps the Xindi are simply waiting for the chance to force from you all that you can tell them.”

“Then why haven’t they? I’d break under torture, they must know that.”

“Perhaps they over-estimate your stubbornness.” Soval’s tone was perfectly level and Tucker couldn’t tell if he’d just been insulted or complimented. “But we cannot take that risk. I am here to terminate your mission.”

“Why you?”

There was an irritated flick of one eyebrow. “It was not known whom else you would trust when presented with such an order.”

Tucker was forced to a wry grin in acknowledgement of the irony – and the truth – of that statement, but still shook his head. “I can’t pull out now.”

“I did not make myself clear. I am ordering you to leave Ceti Alpha V, Captain Tucker.”

The Human’s grin flashed out again. “Ordering me, Sub-Commander Soval? I don’t think so.”

Soval’s irritation visibly increased. “What do you hope to achieve by your death?”

“Soval, I’m close, I know I am. The Xindi are more suspicious than they’ve ever been, but I can fix that.”


“I’ve been working on a worm programme to destroy their central computer. As a side effect, it’ll take down their security system and give us temporary access to their top secret files. It’s nearly ready, but I’ll need to activate it from within their computer system.”

“I still do not follow your logic.”

Tucker leant forward over the tabletop, eyes holding the Vulcan’s. “One of their engineers has cracked your cloaking system. I’ve been stalling for days, but now you’re here, I can go ahead. I’ll give them what they want – a way through your cloak – but tell them that I need more access to their design logs to make a working cloak. They’ll trust me by then and raise my security clearance – then I can activate the worm.”

“In exchange for which, you will have compromised every Vulcan ship in range of a Xindi vessel!”

“No, I won’t. Not if you pass word back to the High Command. Besides, it’ll only be temporary. I can tell you how to upgrade your cloaking systems so Xindi sensors can’t penetrate.”


Soval’s voice reflected his displeasure at the implication that a Human could improve on a Vulcan design, but Tucker was too focussed on his own plan to take offence. “I just need a few more days. Can’t you trust me that long?”

The Vulcan looked away, frowning in thought, while Tucker held his breath until he received a brief nod. “Very well. I will inform the High Command of your intent.” Soval sighed faintly. “But I believe that I will remain for a short time – in case your plan fails.”

Tucker gave a short laugh. “Thanks!” He knew he sounded sarcastic, but the fact that he would have backup – even if it was Soval – was a comfort. He relaxed just a little and asked his usual question. “Any other news?”

There was a disconcerting pause during which the Vulcan scrutinised him closely, then said quietly, “Captain Archer is dead.”

“Yeah.” Tucker grimaced at the mixture of emotions that knowledge had unleashed. “So everyone keeps telling me.”

“Do they?” Soval was still watching him closely and Tucker felt a prickle of unease run up his spine.

“What’s wrong?”

“Enterprise has lost contact with T’Pol.” Tucker sat back, conscious of a constriction across his chest. “She left the ship six days ago. The crew expected her back within four days, but have heard nothing.”

“She was here.” He swallowed painfully. “Four days ago.” There was no change in Soval’s expression. “You knew?”

“Given Enterprise’s location, T’Pol’s destination was obvious. Evidently I failed to convince her not to try to find you.”

“Shit.” The engineer raised a hand to rub his eyes. “Where the hell is she?”

“A very good question. What happened between you, Captain Tucker?”

“I sent her away.” He dropped his head, hands running over his hair. “I had to. Maria was there. You know about her?”

“I have read your reports.”

“T’Pol hadn’t. But I couldn’t explain, there wasn’t time.”

“You believe that T’Pol may have done something,” Soval paused, “foolish, as a result of your infidelity?”

“No! T’Pol’s sensible. She wouldn’t do anything stupid.”

“Such as undertaking a solitary and sentimental mission in search of a Human to whom she has an irrational attachment?” Soval’s tone was sarcastic even by his standards and Tucker flinched. “Of course not.”

There was nothing the guilty Human could do in response except groan and wish he’d never been born. Every instinct might be screaming at him to find T’Pol and tell her that he hadn’t meant a word of what he’d said, but he couldn’t, and not only because he had no means of tracking her down or even of leaving the planet. As he seemed to be telling everyone these days, he still had a job to do. If he survived it, maybe then he could try and put things right between them – but that was a very big ‘if’.


T’Pol no longer had any idea how long the Xindi had held her. She had tried to keep track, just to give herself something to focus on, but after the third set of drugs it had not been possible. It was even becoming difficult to remember how she had been captured, although she was humiliatingly aware that she had not even made it out of the Ceti Alpha system before her shuttle had been intercepted. At least she had not yet betrayed Enterprise, perhaps still waiting for her a discreet distance from the planet that had been her destination.

Wearily, T’Pol finally managed to raise herself from the floor where her captors had tossed her, hugging her knees to her chest to rest her forehead on them. Yes, she was fairly sure that she had not betrayed Enterprise. She did not think the Xindi had even asked about the ship that had brought her here. All they had asked about … T’Pol curled tighter. She should not have come, but she had missed him so much, even if she had not allowed herself to acknowledge that whilst Archer still lived.

The door opened and an expressionless, reptilian face looked down at her for a moment, before she was yanked to her feet and propelled out into the corridor. Weak from the drugs already given her, T’Pol could only go where she was taken, which was into the presence of a Xindi she didn’t remember. She did recognise the humanoid who came forward once she had been strapped to the table – he had taken meticulous notes of her reactions to the various drugs.

The new one peered down at her. “You say that she has refused to say anything?”


“I’m tired of waiting. Increase the dose.”

“But, General Beseker, we know little about her species. She’s proved resistant and if we increase the dosage too rapidly …”

“Enough excuses. Make her talk. Just ensure that she doesn’t die first.”


By the time he had finished answering questions about the new sensor modifications, Tucker was exhausted and the hefty bonus granted him for the ‘breakthrough’ didn’t improve his mood. He could buy any luxury on the planet, but the only thing he wanted was out of his reach – and he was worried sick about her. Soval had agreed to pass back the information that T’Pol had gone missing after leaving Ceti Alpha V – Tucker hadn’t bothered asking about the Vulcan’s lines of communication, knowing that he wouldn’t get an answer – and the engineer had had the distinct impression that Soval’s excessive sarcasm reflected his concern for his former protégé. But there was nothing either man could do.

He stepped out of the orbital shuttle onto the planet’s surface, too focussed on what might have happened to T’Pol to notice that someone was trying to attract his attention. It wasn’t until Maria tugged at his sleeve that he came out of his abstraction, cursing himself for the lapse in concentration. “Hey, didn’t see you there.”

She accepted his kiss, but wouldn’t be distracted. “What’s wrong?” He slipped an arm around her waist to urge her forwards. “Trip?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Of course there is.” Maria stepped in front of him, placing a finger over his lips. “I know you, darling. Didn’t the Xindi accept your new ideas?”

“Sure they did.” He captured her hand, grinning down at her. “That’s why I didn’t see you. I was too busy working out how to spend the money.”

“Really?” She curved her back to press against him. “I hope you were planning on spending it on me.”

“Let’s have dinner and I’ll tell you about it.”


T’Pol tried to resist, to channel and ignore the pain as she had been taught, but she was too tired, too vulnerable, and perhaps she really had been away from Vulcan for too long. When someone caught her hair, pulling her head back, she screamed as the action aggravated her sensitised nerve endings.

“Tucker.” Beseker’s voice grated in her ears. “The Human you visited. Why is he here?”

“I don’t know.” She hardly recognised her own voice, hoarse with thirst and screaming.

“Then why did you come to see him?”

“Enterprise needs him.”

“Then he’s still a member of the Free Humans!”

There was triumph in the Xindi’s voice and T’Pol moaned, less at the pain than at the knowledge that she had said too much. “No. He left. They hate him.”
“Then why did you come?”

“He’s needed.”

“Because he’s a spy.”


A hand closed on her throat, digging into the puncture marks left by the injections. “He’s a spy.”

“No.” Another shaft of agony shot through her and she screamed again.

“Why would you want him back unless he’s a spy?”

“Because he’s mine!” The admission was torn from T’Pol, more real at that moment than Enterprise’s theoretical need for a captain or Soval’s hints of a secret mission. “He was always mine.” The reptilian was still bent over her, ripping away the last of her defences against the emotional pain she had been suppressing for so long. She gave in at last, tears sliding from her eyes as she began to sob weakly. “I wanted him back. He’s mine.”

The pressure on her neck relaxed, although T’Pol barely noticed, continuing to cry as Beseker turned to look at the man behind him. “Well?”

The doctor shrugged. “She’s in no condition to lie to you. I’d say she was telling the truth.”

“She came here for love?” The Xindi-Reptile sneered. “How pathetic.”

“What do you want done with her?”

“I’ll take her down to the planet with me.”


The sneer was almost a smile now. “They’re sentimental, these Humans. If Tucker knows I’m holding her, he’ll walk straight into my hands. I’ve not had a Human to play with in months.”

“But Maria told us he sent the Vulcan away.”

“He’ll come for her. I’ve never believed a word Tucker-Human told us – and you scientists should have done the same.”


The message light was blinking when Tucker and Maria reached his apartment and he went to answer it in blissful ignorance, because no one who knew of his mission would contact him so openly. He tensed when Beseker’s face appeared, but out of habit, not presentiment.

“Tucker!” The Xindi’s mocking smile sent a shiver down the engineer’s back, as Beseker’s hand shot out and dragged T’Pol’s wilting form in front of the monitor. “She tells me that she owns you.”

Tucker couldn’t have spoken, even if could have thought of anything sensible to say. T’Pol looked terrible, paler than he’d ever seen her, wisps of hair sticking to her sweating face, but it was the pain and loss in her eyes that rendered him speechless: eyes that saw him, because her lips moved soundlessly on his given name, but which still remained hopeless.

“I knew you were lying with every breath you took.” Beseker’s voice was little more than a triumphant snarl. “Visit me, Tucker-Human, unless you want her death on your conscience.”

The screen blanked, but Tucker didn’t move, eyes still fixed on an image no longer visible to anyone but him. “Trip?” Maria sounded scared, her hand on his shoulder trying to turn him to face her. “Trip, you can’t go. He’ll kill you.”

“Why should I go?” His voice was huskier than usual and he still wouldn’t look at her. “I sold out.”

“You still love her, don’t you?” Maria’s voice was rising and, if Tucker had taken notice, he would have spotted that she wasn’t acting a part now. “What about me? Us?”

He finally turned to face her, shades paler than normal. “I’ve not seen T’Pol in a long time. She went off with my best friend. I’d be crazy still to be in love with her.”

“Where are you going?”

He had crossed the room to open a concealed compartment, pulling out a handful of the metal strips that passed as high denomination currency on Ceti Alpha V and stuffing them into a pocket along with a couple of data crystals. “To arrange our passage off planet.” He came back towards her, still pale although he looked like a man who had made a decision. “Stay here.”

“Trip?” He glanced back from the door. “You’ll come back for me?”

“Sure,” but he had already turned away and Maria couldn’t see his face.


The door opened with a caution that Tucker would have appreciated at any other time, although now it just infuriated him. “Let me in!”

Soval sent a quick and clearly annoyed look up and down the corridor, then stepped back, closing the door as soon as Tucker was inside. “Do you realise that you endanger us both by coming here?”

“Beseker’s got T’Pol.” There was nothing else that really mattered to Tucker just then, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the Vulcan tense at the news.

“How do you know?”

“He told me.” The engineer took a deep breath and said something he’d never expected to have to say. “I need your help.”


Beseker’s personal bodyguard let Maria past without comment, well accustomed to her visits both on Ceti Alpha V and half a dozen other planets where she had worked with the general. Beseker was prowling when she reached his office and she recognised the signs of anticipation when he turned to face her. She could almost pity the Vulcan woman curled in a small, protective huddle in one corner, if she hadn’t been in possession of something that Maria wanted for herself. “You’re a fool, Beseker.”

The Xindi growled in annoyance and came to stand over her. “Get out.”

Maria was too much of a professional to show any nervousness. She’d manipulated her reptilian ‘cousin’ many times before. “You’ll have to postpone your fun, Beseker. Tucker’s not coming.”

“He will.” The general gestured to T’Pol, who had lifted her head, perhaps reacting to the Human’s name. “For her.” He opened his mouth in a reptilian grin. “Evidently you’re not as irresistible as you thought.”

“You’re a fool,” Maria repeated, carelessly this time. “You were too obvious. I was with him when you called. He guessed that I must have told you where to find the Vulcan. I had to kill him – in self-defence, of course.”

“Tucker’s dead?”

“That’s the usual result of being killed.” The Xindi roared in fury and Maria backed hastily away. “Really, Beseker, my ears!”

He stormed past her, out of the room, and Maria dropped her languorous pose to hurry across to where T’Pol sat slumped, bending to grip one of the Vulcan woman’s wrists.

“You killed him.” T’Pol’s voice was low and despairing, and Maria gave her a contemptuous look.

“Of course I didn’t! I love him and I have no intention of letting him be killed because of you. Can you walk?” She didn’t give T’Pol time to answer, pulling her to her feet and shaking her when the Vulcan staggered. “Come on! I thought you loved him. Do you want him dead?”

“He’s mine.”

Maria ignored T’Pol fierce whisper, dragging her across the room. “I don’t think so, dear. Maybe he did love you once,” her tone suggested that she doubted it, “but he doesn’t now, and I do have very personal evidence of how much I mean to him.” She propped T’Pol against a wall as she began to work on the release mechanism of a discreetly placed rear exit, then whipped around at the furious shout from the other door.

Beseker stood there, his gun aimed squarely at the Xindi-Humanoid’s chest. “Traitor!” he roared again and pulled the trigger, the blast catching Maria in the chest. She screamed and fell backwards, toppling T’Pol with her. Beseker walked slowly towards them, casting a contemptuous look at Maria, then fixing his eyes on T’Pol where she lay trapped beneath the other woman’s dead weight. “And you …” He raised the weapon again, but flinched, his shot going wide, as a projectile sunk into his neck. Snarling with fury, he swung around to face his attacker just in time to meet Tucker’s waist high tackle, as the Human flung himself across the room, his concealed weapon only capable of firing a single shot.

They struggled viciously, all their mutual hatred of each other’s species reduced to a very personal encounter, but even wounded, the Xindi-Reptile proved too much for the under-weight and exhausted Human. Beseker’s gun had gone flying when Tucker first hit him, but it wasn’t only undercover agents who carried concealed weapons. Too angry to think of anything except killing the other man, Tucker didn’t realise what his opponent was doing until the knife sunk deep into his right bicep and twisted cruelly as it was yanked out, to leave the arm crippled and streaming blood. The engineer rolled away, half thrown off by Beseker, half in instinctive retreat from pain, and the Xindi snatched his gun back into his hand, laughing silently down at the wounded Human, oblivious to his own injury.

Tucker stared back, still furious, but with himself now as well. He’d failed and T’Pol was still going to die because of him. Almost as bad, Soval had been right: a one shot device wasn’t a good assassination weapon. “Kill me and you’ll never get a working cloak.” It wasn’t much, but he was in no condition to do anything but try to buy a little more time.

The Xindi only laughed again. “I’m not going to kill you, Human. Not until long past the time when you’ll wish that I had.”

A soft sound made Tucker glance around, to find T’Pol struggling to free herself from Maria’s body, tears sliding silently down her face as she watched him, but it wasn’t T’Pol who had made the noise. With sudden, desperate hope, he returned his attention to Beseker, pulling himself into a sitting position, gasping in pain as he cradled his useless right arm to his chest – not a hard reaction to simulate, it hurt like hell. “I won’t tell you anything.”

“You will. I remember Archer. He couldn’t stop talking after a while.”

Tucker stiffened, surprised at how much that admission angered him. “You tortured my cap’n?”

Beseker mouth opened in another silent laugh. “Personally!”

It was his last laugh. Soval closed the final distance between them from where he had entered by the rear door, his hands closing expertly on the back of the Xindi’s neck. There was an audible click and Beseker dropped bonelessly to the floor.

Tucker met the Vulcan’s sardonic gaze over the dead body. “Thanks. But didn’t I tell you to stay outside?”

“Fortunately, I do not take orders from Humans.”

Soval turned away to inspect the room and Tucker half crawled, half staggered across the floor towards T’Pol, wondering how it was possible to be annoyed with someone who had just saved your life – again! He had a hand on Maria’s body to pull it away from the Vulcan woman when he realised with sick shock that the Xindi-Humanoid wasn’t yet dead. Her eyes flickered open and she whispered through blood-caked lips, “Trip.” A hand groped weakly for him. “I love you.”

She was dying and, even if he’d never forgotten for one moment that she was Xindi, she had shared his bed. With reluctant compassion, he took the hand that was already cooling, seeing her mouth twitch in a parody of a smile as she died. He grimaced, ashamed that he’d used her when she’d been more personally involved than he’d realised, and looked up to find T’Pol’s eyes fixed on him, full of hurt and loss again. “T’Pol.” He stretched out his hand towards her and she flinched away, turning her head to the wall.

“Captain Tucker!” Soval’s sharp interjection came at a bad moment, but Tucker looked obediently around to where the Vulcan was bent over a computer terminal at the desk. “I believe this may be the opportunity you were looking for.”

Tucker cast another, rather desperate glance at T’Pol, who was still ignoring him, as he finally managed to roll Maria’s body away from her. “What is it?”

“Beseker was accessing the Xindi database.” Soval was bent over the terminal, expression intent as he scanned the information displayed, and didn’t look up. “Do you have the means to download the data and spread your worm programme from here?”

“Yeah.” Tucker tried to help T’Pol to her feet, but she pulled away and, even weak as she was, he wasn’t in any condition to fight her.


With an effort, he forced himself to focus on what was important. This was what the last fifteen months had all been about. The fact that T’Pol wouldn’t even let him touch her was irrelevant. He went to join Soval, fumbling awkwardly with his left hand for the data crystals, dropping them onto the work surface to sort through them.

Soval raised his head to watch, finally taking note of Tucker himself. “How badly are you injured, captain?”

“It’s not good.” Blood was dripping from his fingers and moving his right arm was impossible; Beseker had very efficiently disabled him. He dropped a crystal into the slot and began the download, flinching as Soval began to wind an improvised bandage around his arm. “I don’t think ....” He was forced to break off, gasping in pain.

“I would prefer you not to bleed to death before we have completed our mission.” The Vulcan pulled the bandage brutally tight and Tucker had to clutch at the terminal in front of him to stay upright. “Remaining conscious would be an advantage.”

Deliberately, the engineer took a couple of deep breaths, willing the darkness back from the edges of his vision, and nodded his thanks, cautiously releasing his grip on the terminal to remove the crystal and pass it to Soval. “Get T’Pol. I’ll set the worm going.”

The Vulcan moved away and Tucker loaded another crystal, this one far more destructive than the first. Programming wasn’t his speciality, but he’d spent a lot of time on this; if it had time to propagate, he sincerely hoped that its effect on the Xindi computing system would be catastrophic. It took only seconds to activate, then he turned to find that Soval had T’Pol on her feet, although it was obvious she was only staying there because he was holding her up. “How is she?”

“Unwell.” Soval gestured with Beseker’s gun towards the rear entrance by which he had entered. “I suggest we try that way. The few guards I encountered should still be incapacitated.”

At another time, Tucker would have demanded an explanation of why Vulcan’s former ambassador to Earth had all the skills of a covert operative and all apparently in full working order, but he was hurting too much. He just followed the older man, stooping to collect the rifle from the first Xindi guard they passed: not dead, this one, but deeply unconscious. He really wanted to see Soval’s CV.

They passed through the building without incident and emerged into a little used corner of the Xindi compound. “Did you arrange our pick up?”

“Of course.” Soval was making a close survey of the area, so Tucker didn’t bother – he was worried that he was going to go into shock and it was taking a lot of effort to convince himself otherwise.

“How long?”

“Six hours, twelve minutes.”


The Vulcan flicked him an irritated look. “If you believe that you could have done better, Captain Tucker, you should have done so. Do you know of a safe location where we may wait?”


“Then think of one!” Soval’s voice held a definite bite and Tucker forced himself to think, knowing that he’d deserved the rebuke. All their lives were at stake, not to mention the data that was more valuable by far, and he wasn’t being much help. The Vulcan had signed up to getting T’Pol off the planet, not saving both her and her would-be rescuer.
“There are caves about 5km to the north.” He was thinking aloud. “We need transport.”

“The Xindi will expect us to attempt to steal a ship.” Soval’s voice was calm again. “Is it possible to leave the settlement on foot without being detected?”

“Maybe.” Tucker was frowning with the effort of formulating a plan, but at least it kept him alert. “We’re inside the Xindi compound. That might make it easier.”

“Then proceed.”

“What about T’Pol?”

Soval glanced down at the woman who was leaning listlessly against him, head drooping almost to her chest. “I can carry her if necessary. Move, captain. I do not believe that the Xindi will allow us much more time to escape.”


As on all Xindi-run planets, their enclave was some distance from the settlement where other races lived, and protected by force fields. This meant that security within the compound was light, which allowed the Human and two Vulcans to reach the northern perimeter undetected. Beseker’s demise could not remain undiscovered indefinitely, however. It was probably the returning guards, dispatched to confirm Maria’s report of Tucker’s death, who raised the alarm while the engineer was still struggling to deactivate the force field without anyone noticing. They heard the shouts from the building they had left and Tucker swore at his own clumsiness, even as he finally managed to enter the right sequence of commands. The force field shimmered then winked out and they made haste to cross the boundary before it reactivated behind them. Soval raised an eyebrow at the narrow time window Tucker had allowed them, but for once refrained from comment, leading them at a brisk pace away from the compound; their only hope was to get beyond range of hand-held sensors before the Xindi worked out that Beseker’s assassin was no longer in the vicinity.

They’d covered over half the distance to the caves where they hoped to shelter when Tucker stumbled, fell to his knees and couldn’t summon the strength to get up again. From a few metres ahead, Soval glanced back and halted, T’Pol sagging against him, still unable to stand unaided.

“Go on.” Tucker twisted to sit with his back to a tree, pressing his left hand as hard as he could bear against the wound in his right arm. “I’ll catch you up.”

“I think not.” Whether Soval’s comment referred to leaving the Human behind or the possibility that he would rejoin them, Tucker didn’t know, but he still scowled half-heartedly at the Vulcan as he lowered T’Pol gently to the ground.

“You can’t afford to wait for me.”

“T’Pol will benefit from the rest.” Soval frowned at Tucker, the poor light not preventing him from noting that the engineer was in a bad way. “Your arm is still bleeding?”

“Yeah.” He’d tucked it into his jacket for support, and now his side was sticky with blood. Soval had done an effective job under the circumstances, but the wound needed proper medical attention, not primitive first aid and a quick journey over rough terrain. To distract himself from his own injury, Tucker peered at T’Pol, although that only made him worry more. “She’s getting worse, isn’t she?”

“As Captain Archer proved, the Xindi care little for the side effects of the drugs they use.” Soval had been studying their surroundings, but now crouched down beside the woman, surprising the Human by gripping T’Pol’s chin between thumb and first finger to tilt her head to his as he spoke gently in Vulcan. She blinked apathetically up at him and replied in the same tongue. Tucker thought the elder Vulcan sighed before he added something else then released her, allowing her to slump down again.

“What did she say?” The engineer found himself uncomfortable with the idea that Soval was actually fond of anyone, even if it was T’Pol.

“That she wishes to go home.”

Tucker grimaced and leant his head back against the tree behind him. “Can’t say I blame her.” He could hear the aching bitterness in his voice. “All she’s ever got from staying around Humans is pain.”


Soval gave his patients fifteen minutes’ rest then forced them on again. Tucker would have been quite happy to stay where he was, but the Vulcan had an annoying habit of making him do things he didn’t want to do – probably because he knew that failure to comply would result in heavy sarcasm. They’d covered another kilometre or more when the sound of pursuit reached them and Tucker cursed under his breath. For a moment there, he’d started to think they might make it. They hurried on, Soval literally having to drag T’Pol with them – she seemed barely conscious now, certainly oblivious to their surroundings – until the pulse from an energy weapon impacted a tree nearby and they dropped into cover.

Tucker shoved the rifle he’d been carrying at Soval. “Here. I’ve a feeling you’re a better shot than me.” The Vulcan took the weapon without comment, snapping off a shot at movement Tucker had barely detected. There was a sharp cry and the Human sighed. “Did you really spend the last fifty five years in the diplomatic service?”

“Of course.” Another Xindi fell to Vulcan night vision and deadly accurate fire. “But you were not the only one whom Ms Cole felt it necessary to re-train.”

“Amanda?” Tucker actually managed a brief laugh, even as he returned fire rather wildly with Beseker’s handgun – he just wasn’t any good left-handed. “Son-of-bitch! You agreed?”
“For a Human, she has a remarkably forceful character.”

They both ducked as incoming fire came too close. “How many are there?”

“Too many.”

Tucker grimaced at the calm assessment, which unfortunately matched his own. He would have liked to explain things to T’Pol before he died, but that was looking less and less likely.


Beseker’s gun ran out of power a little before Soval stiffened, head cocking slightly as he frowned. “What is it?” Tucker had dropped the useless weapon and eased himself around to lie with his back to the fallen tree they were using as cover, a position from which he could see T’Pol’s motionless body. He didn’t think he could stay conscious much longer, but he was damned if the Xindi were going to stop him looking at the woman he loved while he had the chance.

“A ship.”

“Xindi?” If their pursuers had called in aerial support, they had seconds left. Then his hearing finally detected what Vulcan ears had heard far earlier. “Shuttle pod.” He struggled up on his left elbow. “That’s a Starfleet shuttle pod.”

Soval gave him a sharply disbelieving look and snapped off a couple more shots, just as the ship emerged over the treetops, swinging gracefully down in a tight arc that would have done Mayweather proud if he had been at the helm. It landed fifty metres from their position and a number of grey-clad figures jumped out, already firing as they fanned out. Tucker leant over and wrenched the rifle from Soval’s grip. “Go. I’ll cover you.” He had enough energy for that, but not a lot else, and the shuttle pod couldn’t afford to stay down long.

For a second, it looked as if the Vulcan was going to argue, then he turned to T’Pol, easing her over his shoulder and, as Tucker hoisted himself up and started to fire randomly at the trees in front of them, sprinted for the shuttle pod. The rifle gave out as suddenly as the handgun, although Tucker was too exhausted to even groan at his misfortune, simply slumping down behind the log, rolling his head sideways just in time to see that Soval made it to safety.

“Captain Tucker!” It sounded like Hayes, which brought a faint smile to the engineer’s lips. Enterprise to the rescue – just like the good old days. “We’ve got you covered. Come on.”

He ought to move, Tucker thought hazily, because if he didn’t his crew would probably try something stupid and dangerous to rescue him. Except they weren’t his crew any longer so perhaps it didn’t matter too much. Gasping for breath, he tried to lift his head to tell them not to bother, but it was too much effort. The last thing he heard before he finally blacked out was the sound of a lifting shuttle pod, so at least he went down into the dark with the comfort of knowing that the others had made it.


Tucker’s first conscious thought was that he’d better get down to Engineering ASAP, because the warp engine wasn’t running quite right and, if he didn’t correct the problem, he’d have Archer on his tail before breakfast was half over. Then he tried to sit up and gasped in pain as his right arm gave way.

“Ah, Captain Tucker.” Phlox’ cheerful voice was instantly reassuring, as were the firm, competent hands helping him to sit up. “I see you’ve decided to rejoin us.”

“Doctor,” he acknowledged half-heartedly, and squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, pressing the fingers of his left hand to the bridge of his nose. His last memories were chaotic and mostly unpleasant. “What the hell happened?”

“You were rescued. Not before time, I might add.” Phlox held out a hypospray, expression questioning, and Tucker nodded gratefully. His arm still hurt – a lot. “Major Hayes says that you ‘owe him one’.”

“I thought I heard the shuttle pod take off.” With the analgesic flooding his system, thinking was a little easier.

Phlox shrugged, less interested in details than in his patient. “It must have come back.”

“Is T’Pol OK?” A quick look around had already shown Tucker that he was the only one in sickbay.

“She’d been given some very unpleasant combinations of drugs, but I’ve been able to clear the residuals from her system. She’s still weak and her emotional control seems a little shaky, but she won’t suffer any long-term effects.”

Tucker sighed with relief and swung his legs over the edge of the biobed. “Can you get me some clothes, doc?”

“Certainly not.” The Denoulan was already trying to force him back down. “You lost a great deal of blood and your arm needed surgery to repair the damage. I must insist that you stay here for another twelve hours at least.” He absorbed the implications of the stubborn expression on Tucker’s face and sighed. “But when did you ever take my advice?” He waved a hand at the neighbouring biobed. “Over there.”

Moving carefully to avoid proving Phlox correct by falling flat on his face, Tucker approached the pile of clothing, feeling his heart contract painfully. He hadn’t been expecting the neatly folded blue jumpsuit, and certainly not the small box, placed squarely on the top. His hand was shaking as he reached out for it, and not because of the lingering effects of his injury. The lid flicked up to reveal the four pips and he had to bite his lower lip to keep back the sudden flood of regret. His own rank insignia had gone down a waste disposal chute in a fit of furious rejection. He knew whom these had belonged to, but he turned the box over to check anyway, blinking against the threat of tears that blurred his view of the neat engraving: Captain J Archer, 2148.

“T’Pol brought the uniform.” Phlox’ voice was quietly informative. “She seemed to think you might be needing it.”

“Yeah.” Tucker’s voice caught and he cleared his throat; he didn’t have time to break down now. “Can you give me a hand with this, doc?”


Tucker stepped warily onto Enterprise’s bridge, unsure of his right to be there, and halted as Sato looked up from the command chair. “Captain Tucker!” Her smile was every bit as warm as he remembered as she came quickly over to him, hugging him carefully with due regard for his wounded arm, that Phlox had immobilised across his chest. He hugged her back, grateful for the greeting, even as he registered ruefully that captains really shouldn’t let junior officers hug them – particularly on the bridge. Sato smiled up at him, hands gently rubbing his back as if sensing his need for reassurance. “You look terrible, sir.”

He gave a grunt of laughter. “Thanks, lieutenant.”

She grinned and finally stepped back. “Sub-Commander T’Pol’s in the ready room, sir. She’s waiting for you.”

His expression clouded, something in Sato’s tone warning him that nothing was ever easy, and crossed to the door, hesitating before buzzing for entry. It wasn’t in the least clear to him what his current status was and barging in might not be a good idea. The door slid open and he stepped inside, halting as T’Pol rose from behind the desk, clad in the severe grey of a Vulcan uniform. He’d seen this T’Pol before: she was the one who’d refused to shake his hand when they first met.

“Captain Tucker.” Her voice was flat, emotionless. “I have received word from the leaders of the Free Humans.” He took the PADD she held out, eyes on her face. “They have reinstated your commission and confirmed your appointment as captain of Enterprise.” His mind had gone blank and, after a slight pause, T’Pol moved from behind the desk, heading for the door. “That also contains the record of my decision to leave Enterprise and return to Vulcan.”

“T’Pol.” Tucker’s heart was pounding unpleasantly, reacting in terror to the thought that he’d finally destroyed the feelings that she’d retained until so recently. He had no idea if she’d even listen to him. “I know I hurt you, but I had a job to do.” She had halted by the door, still facing away from him. Even her back looked unforgiving. “Won’t you stay? Give us another chance? Enterprise still needs you.” A slim hand reached for the door panel and he finally got to the point. “T’Pol, I never stopped loving you.” She hadn’t turned, but she hadn’t left either, and he could see the rigid shoulders begin to shake. “T’Pol,” he moved a few steps closer, knowing that he was pushing unfairly, but too desperate to care, “you stayed with one Enterprise captain out of loyalty. What about staying with another one for love?” She drew a gasping breath and twisted her head back to look at him, her eyes enormous and full of such a mix of emotions that he couldn’t put a name to most of them, except to know that her controls were in tatters. “I love you. I need you. Stay with me.”

He caught her to him the moment he saw her resistance shatter, holding her tightly as she clung to him, shaking violently, belatedly cursing himself for forcing her so far beyond her normal comfort zone after what she’d so recently suffered at Beseker’s hands. He’d have held her as long as she needed if his legs hadn’t started to shake, and he had to release her to clutch at the nearest support. “Sorry,” he muttered, as their roles abruptly reversed, and she helped him collapse into the padded chair behind the desk, managing to pull her down with him so that she ended up on his lap.

They rested against each other, exhausted both emotionally and physically, until Tucker summoned up the energy to rub his cheek against the head resting on his shoulder. “We should probably move.”

T’Pol snuggled closer. “No.”

He was too tired to cope with an irrational Vulcan and never letting her go seemed like a good idea. He wriggled into a more comfortable position and let his eyes close, at peace for the first time in years.

When Sato finally summoned Phlox to the bridge, concerned about the prolonged absence of Enterprise’s captain and first officer, they found them both sound asleep, curled tightly into the too-small chair.


They dropped Soval off a couple of days later on a vessel headed for Vulcan, both captain and first officer escorting the former ambassador to the airlock, where he stopped to observe the woman sourly. “There is still time for you to change your mind, T’Pol. Your talents could be better used on Vulcan.”

“Enterprise needs me.”

“Does it?” Soval glowered at her. “I understood that you had recovered from your unfortunate affliction. I see that I was wrong.” The captain tried not to look smug and failed, earning himself a frown. “You may have won a small victory, Captain Tucker, but your war with the Xindi is far from over.”

The Human’s amusement faded; he’d keep his sense of humour to the end of his life, but the light-hearted engineer from Enterprise’s early days was gone beyond recovery. “That’s not something I’m gonna forget any time soon. But we will win it, or our children will.”

“Perhaps.” The two men regarded each other for a moment in silence, the prickly tension between them for once replaced by tolerance, if not something warmer. Soval broke the mood, a faintly malicious look crossing his face as he stepped towards the airlock, that Tucker politely opened for him. “Farewell, Captain Tucker. I suspect that we will meet again.”

“Is that a threat or a promise?”

T’Pol directed a disapproving look at her captain for the rude rejoinder, that had fortunately been delivered to a closed door, and turned away, hands clasped neatly behind her back. “Commander Hess tells me that you have been spending a great deal of time in Engineering.”

“Maybe.” He sounded shifty.

“You must recall that you are Enterprise’s captain, not its chief engineer.”


“Then perhaps you will adapt your behaviour accordingly.”

“Sure.” He frowned over that one for a few moments. “Would you care to join me for dinner tonight in the captain’s mess, Sub-Commander T’Pol?”

“Very well.”

“Neuro-pressure afterwards?”



“There is a great deal of paperwork requiring your attention. We should work on that.”


T’Pol tilted her head to observe Tucker’s plaintive expression. “Paperwork.”

For a moment longer, he kept his composure then laughed for the sheer pleasure of being alive, slipping an arm around her waist. “You’re never gonna turn me into a model captain, honey.”

She resisted for all of two seconds, then yielded, turning so that they were facing each other in the empty corridor, Tucker’s hands on her waist, hers resting on his chest. “So I see.”

He sobered rapidly again as he stared down at the woman gazing calmly up at him. “I’m not gonna let you go this time, T’Pol. Not for the Xindi, not for Soval, not for anyone.”

“Then it is fortunate that I intend to stay.” The words were prosaic, but T’Pol’s expression was tender as she closed the distance between them to prove that she had no intention of behaving like a model first officer either.

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A whole mess of folks have made comments

I can only say this... "Awwwwwwww, what a great story!!!!" That was cute... if you decide to do more on this I'd be the first to read it!

great story I like to read this
please whrite more I like you story's

Awesome. Great follow up story. Your alternate universe is filled with trajedy, angst, adventure, action, romance.... and a happy ending for our favorite couple. Pity about Archer. BUt no big loss.

Oh I enjoyed this immensely! Wonderful plot and of course a happy ending for Trip and T'Pol! I loved Trip's reaction to receiving Archer's pips. His friend was still very important to him and I'm glad you captured that. Thank you so much for sharing this!

Oh damn that was good so darn wonderfully good. Tons of angst and great story telling.

*SOB* the damn pips! I was holding it together through all of this till the damn pips!


Well done.

This was absolutely superb. I loved how Soval was true to character and gorgeously snarky. I love the relationship between him and Trip, I felt that it was beautifully illustrated. Of course, my most favourite part of the story is how you brought Trip and T'Pol together.

Ah, the agony, the angst, the longing! *laughs* I enjoyed this sequel very much. Bravo!

Thanks for another great story! I also like the fact that you gave us the entire story rather than break it up into alot of chapters....It is refreshing to read one that is not done that way.
Thanks for giving Trip a mission to get him back on track, to be a hero again for humanity! I wish we got to see a bit more of Archer's last days and how T'Pol had to deal wih her emotions of staying with Archer because of duty/loyalty and having to watch him slowly waste away. It was great to see how you tied in the some of the characters from Enterprise (MACOs Cole and Hayes) and shipmate Mayweather and gave them meaningful roles! Alot more than what they would have gotten with UPN's version! Thanks for sharing with us and please continue to write more, especially in this format.

Brilliant! I adored the ending which left me all kinds of sappy and with the dopiest smile on my face. Just love it that Trip and T'Pol ended up together again and I really loved how you wrote Soval, retaining that unbending quality of his yet with a hint of warmth for Trip which though hidden peeked through at odd intervals. Lovely job, thanks, Ali D :~)

Awesome story. I actually like Cole in this story. And I like how Travis had a big role in the story. As for Archer.. is it wrong that I didn't care when Archer passed away? lol. I'm not anti-Archer in the slightest but in this universe he was an annoying character.

As for the ending, happy T/T is great!

Wow! Another wonderful fiction from by you. I look forward to each and every one.

Thank you for the wonderful ending!

I liked your story very much, an excellent followup! I particularly liked that you chose not to go into too much detail about Trip's undercover mission but focused on the characters instead. You have done a wonderful job describing how his secret mission has changed Trip. Generally, all the characters are very well written! But most of all, I loved how you assassinated Archer's character. Is there even one single nice word about him in the whole story? Great job! :-)

And thanks to the aptly named General Beserker, we finally know how to get a confession of love out of T'Pol! All it takes is days of heavy torture ... Who would have guessed it would be *that* easy? And why did I never think of that before? Perhaps my ex-girl-friend *did* love me after all, but I just didn't know how to ask? ;-)

I'm waiting anxiously to learn more about Captain Trip and his non-model first officer. Now, that stupid Archer is out of the way, defeating the Xindi should be a piece of cake. Go Free Humans!

If I was able to put up a smiley waving Pom Poms, I would...I love this to bits..

I agree with Peter...

It would have been so easy to get trapped into writing up huge chunks of Trip's undercover mission, but you didn't and that was refreshing...

Chapter after chapter of meaningless techno-babble is too much reminiscent of the mistakes that the show makes...keep it about the characters and the audience are just gagging to find out how it ends...

If I didn't already know you don't like Archer...this might have made me guess...that's what the Pom Poms are for! :)

Amazing followup story!! I really loved the pacing of both stories written. I pretty much echo everyone else's feelings on your writing talent's ... you really know how to put together a meaningful storyline. Please continue with this series, especially since Soval says to Tucker "you may have won a small victory, Captain Tucker, but your war with the Xindi is far from over". It just screams out for more. Keep up the good work.

Another wonderful story!! Brilliant, what else can I say. I hope to see a continuation of this storyline. Thank you.

You've made me actually like Soval! That, alone, is pretty amazing... throw in Trip spying on the Xindi, T'Pol under pressure, and you've got me in real awe.

A wonderful story -- a fabulous combination of action and romance -- and extremely well-written. With the Xindi not yet defeated, I'm hoping there's much more coming in this series! Thanks for sharing it.

Your writing is so consistently engaging. I haven't provided feedback until now because I wanted to weigh your work vs. other writers, and I know now, your stories are the ones that keep me coming back. Your grasp of the characters is uncanny. I love hearing the dialogue because I know it's what they would say. It was brilliant the way you tied in the Casablanca continuation as well as Enterprise continuity, especially little turns of phrase. The show's writers would be lucky to have your imagination.

Still making my way through your works. This is another winner. You have such a sure sense of pacing and character. It makes me green with jealousy. Here's hoping you'll write some more.

I believe that I know the screenwriter who introduced the "Captain Vanick" character, and he created that character after a conversation that he and I had one day, where I told him I'd love to be on the show. When the real episode with Captain Vanick aired, I thought I was hearing things, but my wife confirmed the guy's name was indeed "Captain Vanick". Too funny. The screenwriter's name is Andre Jacquemetton.

I believe that I know the screenwriter who introduced the "Captain Vanick" character, and he created that character after a conversation that he and I had one day, where I told him I'd love to be on the show. When the real episode with Captain Vanick aired, I thought I was hearing things, but my wife confirmed the guy's name was indeed "Captain Vanick". Too funny. The screenwriter's name is Andre Jacquemetton.

I believe that I know the screenwriter who introduced the "Captain Vanick" character, and he created that character after a conversation that he and I had one day, where I told him I'd love to be on the show. When the real episode with Captain Vanick aired, I thought I was hearing things, but my wife confirmed the guy's name was indeed "Captain Vanick". Too funny. The screenwriter's name is Andre Jacquemetton.

Very enjoyable story!!!