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Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Angst | Genre - Drama | H | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
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This series begins with “Down a Dark Road” which was originally part of the at TRIP! Fiction contest. The complete series is as follows:
T’Pol gave him a questioning look and Archer realised that his snort of derision for his own stupidity had been audible. He indicated for her to continue and returned to the sort of idle speculation that he kept telling himself to avoid: T’Pol and Tucker. The engineer was fully focussed on the briefing, eyes narrowed in concentration, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Vulcan woman’s eyes frequently turned in his direction. Archer had noticed her doing that a lot over the last couple of days although the only affect it had on Tucker was to make him nervous when he caught her doing it. The captain shook his head. He was pretty sure that his old friend was in love with the science officer. He was less sure of T’Pol’s feelings but she was certainly interested – and if she did want Trip, she was going to have to be a lot more direct than simply glaring at him. Not many people realised it, but Trip was as shy as hell around women if his feelings were engaged. He could flirt with the best of them but only if the outcome didn’t really matter to him. No, if T’Pol wanted Trip, she’d have to back him into a corner and tell him – and Archer had no idea if Vulcan women took the initiative in relationships and doubted that T’Pol would stay in the room long enough to let him advise her. And, the captain concluded sternly for his own benefit, inter-personal relationships were simply not appropriate under the current circumstances. He should damn well stick to business and hope that his science officer and chief engineer were professional enough to do the same – then if they ever got out of the Delphic Expanse alive, he’d lock them in the brig until they’d sorted out what they wanted from one another.
“To conclude,” T’Pol’s even voice stated as the captain registered that his return from idle speculation had been timely, “a little less than two hundred years ago the Rihannsu were destroyed by the Xindi in a concerted attack on their world. The woman that the captain and I encountered appears to have been the last, perhaps the only, survivor of that attack.”
“Thank you, T’Pol.” Archer nodded his appreciation. “Comments, anyone?”
“Yeah.” Tucker was frowning. “I just don’t get it.”
“What, precisely, do you ‘not get’, commander?” the science officer asked with resignation and Tucker’s frown turned into a scowl.
“The whole lot of it! For starters, why did the Rihannsu stay in the Delphic Expanse? They knew there was a safer region of space outside.”
The Vulcan shifted in slight unease, “This fragment of the Rihannsu people appear to have considered their encounter with the Delphic Expanse to be a punishment for their rejection of the teachings of Surak. Their stay here was seen as a penance for that rejection.” She met Tucker’s eyes reluctantly. “They were awaiting Surak’s return to lead them back into normal space.” He looked solemnly back for a moment then began to laugh. “Commander Tucker!”
“Sorry!” He struggled to control his mirth. “It’s just …”
He cracked up again and T’Pol glared harder. “Your own planet has similar beliefs.”
“But I never thought Vulcans …”
“They were not Vulcan!”
“I’ve a question, sub-commander,” Reed said impatiently. “If the Xindi were capable of destroying the Rihannsu two hundred years ago, why didn’t they attack Earth then? We barely had basic satellites in orbit.”
“We can only assume that at that stage they had not been made aware of the threat Earth would one day pose them.”
“But why didn’t they leave the Delphic Expanse anyway?” Tucker asked. “If you’ve got space ships and you see a thermobaric cloud ahead of you, wouldn’t you go have a look at what’s on the other side?”
“Perhaps they lack the destructive curiosity of the human species.”
“Or perhaps,” Archer suggested, “they were told not to leave.”
The Vulcan woman sighed faintly. “Speculation is futile. However, it may be significant that the Rihannsu’s first encounter with the Xindi was their last. Until that time they had not encountered the species although they had mapped the entire area.”
“You think the Xindi might not be native to the Delphic Expanse?”
“As I said, speculation is futile.”
The captain grimaced in reluctant agreement. “So the information from that planet doesn’t move us forward at all.”
“Not necessarily.” T’Pol changed a screen on the rear wall from a view of the murals to one of a star chart. “The historical element may be irrelevant. This, however, may be of more use.”
“Then why the history lecture, sub-commander?”
“I merely followed your request for a complete briefing, captain.” Behind the woman’s back Tucker caught Archer’s eye and grimaced in sympathy for the rebuke. “As I stated earlier, the Rihannsu mapped the Delphic Expanse. Comparison with data we have collected suggests that it is accurate. There is a point here described as ‘Origin’.”
“Origin of what?”
“That is not stated. However, the coordinates lie within or very near to the thermobaric clouds which surround the Delphic Expanse and are within a few days’ journey of our current location.”
“You think it’s the origin of the Delphic Expanse,” Tucker said softly and T’Pol gave him a reproving look.
“I do not know.”
“At least it’s somewhere to start,” Archer said firmly. “Set your course, Mr Mayweather. Let’s see what human curiosity can do for us.”
The thermobaric clouds ahead of Enterprise looked exactly the same as they had when the ship had approached from the other direction many light years away. Unreasonably disappointed, Archer turned to T’Pol for encouragement. “Are you detecting anything interesting, T’Pol?”
She straightened from her scanner. “If you are referring to any anomalies in the thermobaric clouds, then no.”
“How far are we from the coordinates, Travis?”
“At the speed we entered the Delphic Expanse, about an hour, sir.”
Archer glanced between T’Pol and Tucker who had drifted to his side, getting silent agreement from them both. “Take us in, Travis.”
The tension on the bridge hadn’t been so high in a long time as the ship edged through the swirling clouds but there was nothing to report until the full hour had elapsed then almost simultaneously T’Pol said sharply, “Captain, I am detecting …” to be interrupted by Mayweather’s exclamation. “Look!”
They snapped around to face the view screen, all squinting instinctively to try to bring the hazy image into focus. “Hoshi?” Archer queried and the communications officer shook her head.
“Sorry, sir, that’s the best I can do.”
“Hold our position, Travis.” Archer crossed to the science station, one eye still on the image behind him. “What have you got, sub-commander?”
“There is an increase in the density of the thermobaric clouds in this vicinity.”
“Is that what’s affecting the view screen?”
“I believe not.” She looked over the captain’s shoulder towards the engineering console and Tucker shook his head as if sensing her silent question.
“It’s not.” He was frowning at the readings he was getting from his own terminal. “But whatever we’re seeing,” he raised his head to meet Archer’s impatient frown, “it’s as if it’s not really there.”
The science officer had returned to her scanner and the captain turned to her for confirmation. “What do you make of it, T’Pol?”
“Commander Tucker is correct.” Again she glanced over at the engineer before looking to Archer. “The structure is insubstantial.”
“But it is a structure?” She nodded and he returned to the command chair. “Take us closer, ensign – slowly.”
This time it was Archer who saw the change, all the rest being focussed on their terminals, and it brought him to his feet as ahead of Enterprise a space station began to appear as if the view screen was gradually coming into focus. It was the size of the thing that had Archer on his feet, however, for it seemed to stretch away into infinity as Mayweather adjusted their course to take them past at an angle. “Trip? T’Pol?”
“I’m getting it,” the engineer confirmed. “But I don’t know what I’m getting.”
“How big is it?” Archer demanded and this time T’Pol supplied an answer.
“I estimate a length of 25,000km, a diameter of 7,000.”
“As big as a planet,” Mayweather muttered and then warned, “Captain, it’s going again!”
They watched the massive object swim out of focus then Archer returned to his chair. “Back us off to a safe distance, Travis. T’Pol, we’re going to need some answers.”
“I will endeavour to find some.”
“If,” Reed mumbled sarcastically for Tucker’s ears only, “we knew what the question was.”
“That’s easy,” the engineer muttered back. “What the hell is it?”
They retired to the situation room again to hear T’Pol’s latest report – what there was of it. “It is probable that the structure is the source of the thermobaric clouds.”
There was a pause then Archer frowned. “That’s it?”
“The technology used in its construction is beyond the scope of our instruments to analyse.”
“You can’t even tell how old it is? Why it swims in and out of focus?”
The Vulcan’s expression became pained. “Readings from the outer skin suggest that construction will be sometime in the 31st century.” Archer grimaced. “Commander Tucker has a theory regarding the insubstantial nature of the structure: one that he cannot substantiate.”
“Trip?” The engineer had had his head together with the science officer for most of the last hour - very close together most of the time. Stop speculating, Jonathan!
“Maybe it’s not fixed in time.” Tucker shrugged at T’Pol’s disapproval. “Something’s happening that means we can’t see it clearly for more than a few seconds.”
“How long between appearances?” Archer queried.
The captain paced a few steps away them came slowly back. “Could we destroy it?”
“No, sir.” Reed was definite about that at least. “We don’t carry that sort of firepower.” He glanced briefly over at Tucker. “Unless you’d care to sacrifice the warp core, captain.”
Again Archer turned away, this time to frown at the schematic of the structure on a wall-mounted display. “Could we get in?”
There was silence from behind him and looked around into a sea of doubtful faces. “You heard me. Could we get inside?”
He watched his first and second officers exchange a quick look before T’Pol said reluctantly, “Possibly, although precise timing would be necessary.”
“All right. Trip, go power up a shuttle pod. T’Pol, you’ll be in command …”
“Cap’n, you’re not thinking of going by yourself, are you?”
“That’s precisely what I’m thinking, commander.”
“Yet you always stress, captain, that ‘going solo’ is not an option.” T’Pol’s voice was calm but Archer sensed a certain implacability behind the statement.
“So we thought we’d go along with you, Cap’n,” Tucker concluded cheerfully and as the captain frowned at the presumption T’Pol added, “Your intention to investigate the structure alone was predictable, captain, and also most inadvisable.”
“You two discussed this?”
“I am not prepared to risk …”
“We’re going, Cap’n.”
“It would be sensible, sir,” Reed offered and then his mouth pulled into a thin smile. “Besides I’m getting rather fond of your chair.”
Archer sighed and gave in. He had promised himself that he’d listen to his officers’ advice. It had just escaped his notice that they would gang up on him when he was trying to keep them out of danger.
The shuttle pod dropped away from Enterprise and they watched for a few moments until the bigger ship turned tail and headed for the safety of real space that hopefully lay only an hour ahead of them. Archer didn’t really have much hope that Reed would stay there indefinitely waiting for the shuttle pod to return but at least the Englishman was starting out with a show of obedience. Satisfied that he’d done all he could to ensure the safety of his ship, the captain turned to the pilot’s console and sent the shuttle pod towards the insubstantial shape ahead of them.
From close range it was easier to see the changing focus of the structure as it coalesced in front of them and that gave them a few seconds’ warning. “There.” Tucker leant between the two front seats, pointing to the left. “Could be a docking hatch.”
Archer nodded and eased in that direction and the structure was abruptly there, as solid as their own ship. He kicked in the thrusters and twenty seconds later there was a clang as their docking ring clamped around that of the space station. He drew in a quick breath and exchanged a look with Tucker.
“Too easy,” the engineer said quietly and grimaced as T’Pol shifted the view screen to the rear scanners. “Hell.”
Where there should have been thermobaric clouds with their swirling patterns there was nothing but impenetrable greyness. “It would appear,” the science officer said calmly, “that we have been taken wherever this structure goes.”
The last of the thermobaric clouds faded from the view screen to be replaced with clear space and Sato sighed with contentment. “I never thought I’d be so pleased to see space again.”
“Don’t get too used to it, ensign,” Reed said dryly. “We’ll give the captain a few hours then go back in.”
“Lieutenant!” Hassan’s voice from tactical was urgent. “A Klingon warbird’s de-cloaking behind us.”
“Tactical alert.” The response was instant even as the Englishman shook his head at the vagaries of fate. “Hail them, Ensign Sato,” and as the face appeared on the view screen he sighed. “Not again! Captain Duras, what a surprise.”
“Then prepare to die!”
The screen blanked and Reed sat back in the command chair, expression grim. “Not this time, Duras. Hassan, target their weapons.”
None of them recognised the material of the bulkheads they passed although the warm, slick feel of it was familiar to T’Pol from her trip to the future – if that was what it had been: she still entertained some doubts on that subject. There was nothing of interest to be seen, however, and after fifteen minutes wandering Tucker sighed. “What are we looking for?”
“Me!” They all froze at the bright interjection as one of the walls disappeared to leave them facing a large chamber, its solitary occupant striding towards them. “So nice of you all to visit!”
Archer stared open mouthed at the Vulcan approaching them, knowing there was something familiar about him, but it took T’Pol to jog his memory. “Crewman Daniels. You appear … altered.”
Enterprise and the warbird were well matched, Reed acknowledged after the first few shots had been exchanged. No doubt the Klingons had made the most of their time in the Delphic Expanse but then so had he and Tucker: there were a few tricks to play yet. “Hassan, tell them to load up the modified torpedoes.”
“Sir?” She sounded surprised but he ignored the implicit doubt. Admittedly they hadn’t actually trialled the new version but the simulations had looked promising.
“Do it, ensign. Travis, set a course away, maximum impulse, but be ready to come about.”
It was true, Archer admitted. Under the regulation haircut, slanted eyebrows and pointed ears were definitely the features of Enterprise’s steward who had proved to be an agent of some player in the Temporal Cold War that gave the captain a headache whenever it was mentioned. He looked older than the human Archer remembered, however, and there was something in the eyes that made the captain’s back tighten. “Are you Daniels?”
“I was.” The man beamed at them, which didn’t sit well with the ears. “”But I prefer to be known as Storr: a family name.”
T’Pol raised her head from her scanner, expression scathing. “You are human.”
‘Storr’ waved a hand in airy denial. “I rejected my human heritage years ago. The other humans were so insufferably smug.”
“He’s crazy,” Tucker muttered in Archer’s ear but not quietly enough. Fortunately the fake Vulcan didn’t take offence.
“Do you know,” he said conversationally, “that’s exactly what the others said. I was forced to deal with them.”
“What happened to you?” Archer asked cautiously. He was in full agreement with Tucker’s assessment and a madman in control of the technology that could create and maintain the Delphic Expanse was not something that filled him with joy.
“So kind of you to ask!” Daniels retreated to a couch beside a bank of controls, arranging his robes carefully. “There was an accident with a time-transfer. Well, they said it was an accident. I prefer to call it an act of fate. It made it all so clear to me.”
“You’ll have to excuse our ignorance. What became clear?”
“That the Vulcans had been put upon by you humans, of course! For years! When you were still crawling around hitting each other with sharpened bits of metal, we were exploring the stars. Then you invent a warp engine and all at once expect to become top-species! Disgraceful.”
Archer swallowed and glanced at his officers who were regarding Daniels with the same astonishment the captain felt. “So what are you doing here?”
“I’m putting it right. I’m going to make sure you humans are totally disgraced so that Vulcan can take its rightful place in history.”
Archer was too stunned to speak but Tucker latched on to one thing. “You’re behind the Xindi attack on Earth!”
“You murdering bastard!” He would have flung himself at the other man if Archer and T’Pol hadn’t both grabbed him. He struggled briefly then subsided panting with anger and the captain released him cautiously to turn back to Daniels who had watched with amusement.
“And the Suliban? Are you the one controlling them too?”
Daniels flicked a hand dismissively. “Amateurs, amateurs. They can’t even kill you, can they, Captain Archer?”
“How will encouraging the Xindi to attack Earth benefit Vulcan?” T’Pol inquired from Tucker’s side where she was maintaining a firm grip on the engineer.
“Oh, I’m so glad you’re interested, T’Pol, because you’re really as much to blame as the humans, you know. I don’t know what you see in them.”
“Well, I’m sure you remember that I took your captain to the 31st century. Everyone thought that was a mistake at the time but they were wrong. What I read there about the Romulan Star Empire! So inspiring. It made me realise what a bad thing humans had been. Of course, that timeline had been deleted and I couldn’t recreate it so I had to find another way. That’s when I thought of the Reunification.”
“The Reunification between our people and the Romulans. It takes place in the 26th century. What better time could there be to get rid of the humans than that of the greatest event in our history since the days of Surak? So I thought I’d start a nice little war that will culminate in humans obliterating another species. The rest of the Federation won’t tolerate that sort of behaviour so they’ll wipe out humanity and Vulcan can take its rightful place. Clever, don’t you think?”
“But,” Archer said, hopelessly confused by the story and unclear whether it would have made sense even if Daniels hadn’t been totally insane, “we first came into the Delphic Expanse because the Suliban told us where to find the Xindi. Then you told T’Pol that that was a false trail to try to precipitate the war. Now you’re telling me that you want to start the war after all but that you’re nothing to do with the Suliban.”
“Those Suliban, so incompetent! I don’t know how he puts up with them, I really don’t, but our aims sometimes coincide. Why should I bother contacting you when the Suliban were going to it for me? As for my human self … such a nuisance. I don’t know how I put up with him for so long.”
“But why,” Tucker demanded fiercely, “create the Delphic Expanse?”
“To hide in, of course, while I created the Xindi.” He smiled brightly at the puzzled looks – his transformation into a Vulcan was skin deep at best. “You didn’t think they came about by chance, did you? I made them, my own personal instrument of destruction. They’re good, aren’t they? You wouldn’t believe that two thousand years ago they had barely crawled out of the oceans that spawned them.”
“That is not possible,” T’Pol said flatly and Daniels looked affronted.
“And that from someone who used to think time-travel impossible! Really, sub-commander, I thought you’d have learnt better by now.”
“Why destroy the Rihannsu in the Delphic Expanse if you favour your Vulcan heritage?” the real Vulcan asked and Daniels shrugged carelessly.
“They were expendable. My children needed the practise.”
“Weren’t you a little early?” Tucker said sarcastically and got a frown.
“Do you know how difficult evolution is, Commander Tucker? So I was a little early. There’s no need to be rude about it.” He smiled brightly at his dumbfounded audience. “Any more questions? I’m quite happy to answer, you know, because there’s absolutely nothing you can do to stop me.”
“This place?” Archer asked, deciding that the more information they had the better even if a madman provided it.
“It’s rather good, isn’t it? State-of-the-art in my time. I stole it.”
“Is it fixed in time?” Tucker asked hopefully and Daniels gave him one of his wide smiles.
“How did you guess that? No, it cycles through a period from about two thousand years in your past to four hundred years into your future so that I can keep an eye on everything. I’ve been here about five years. Would you like a tour?”
“No,” Archer said firmly as Tucker muttered, “Told you so,” to T’Pol.
“Oh,” Daniels sounded disappointed. “Well, it was nice of you to drop by. Feel free to call again.”
“We’re not going yet.” Archer took a step closer to the crazed human. “Daniels …”
“Storr! Please, captain, pay attention.”
“You have to listen to me. You’ve already killed millions. What you’re planning will kill millions … billions … more.”
“You’re murdering innocent victims!”
“Humans. Who cares?”
“We care!” Tucker was struggling futilely to break T’Pol’s grip. “You killed my sister, you bastard!”
Archer spared a glance to be sure that his first officer had Tucker under control although he was little less angry than his friend. “It’s not just humans who’ll die. What about the Xindi? Did you create them only to have them destroyed?”
The other man nodded negligently. “That’s right.”
“You crazy bastard.” It wasn’t the most diplomatic statement Archer had ever made but probably one of the most accurate and Daniels finally took offence.
“Really, captain, who are you to judge? Remember that you killed your first officer. T’Pol wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t saved her.”
“I know how many deaths I’ve caused,” Archer said low and bitterly. “And it’s nothing to the destruction you’re planning!”
“Oh, you know, do you? Well, here’s another two to add to your total!”
It took a second for the threat to register then Archer spun around to see that a faint shimmer had developed around the area where Tucker and T’Pol stood and that his two friends were staring around them, clearly not able to see out. “What have you done to them?”
“Torpedoes are loaded, lieutenant,” Hassan reported and Reed nodded in acknowledgement.
“Ensign Mayweather, do you think you can pull off that trick you used when we first entered the Delphic Expanse?”
“Trust me!” With the briefest of grins behind him the helmsman started the manoeuvre – although he did slacken speed first. First-rate pilot he knew himself to be, but he wasn’t a stupid one.
The rest hung onto their seats as the inertial dampers did their best to compensate and Hassan warned, “The Klingon ship’s onto us. They’re trying to follow.”
“Let them,” Reed said calmly as he came to her side to watch the shifting positions of the two vessels. “Keep a lock on their main engines, ensign.” He waited a few more seconds then added sharply, “Pull out, Travis.”
Having known what was coming the young man responded quickly, levelling Enterprise out from her stressed loop and swinging her through an equally gut-wrenching 180o turn in a different plane. Not expecting the change of orientation, the Klingon ship sailed past and Reed allowed himself a slight smile. “Fire.”
The modified torpedoes shot away, chasing the warbird’s tail before slamming into opposite nacelles on the ends of the sleek wings. Twin explosions blossomed and then the ship was tumbling gracelessly, subsidiary explosions visible although the warbird kept its integrity.
Reed returned to the command chair, a smug smile refusing to be dismissed from his face. “Hail them, Ensign Sato. I’d like a chat with Captain Duras.”
When the walls formed around them, Tucker stopped struggling against T’Pol’s firm grip on his wrists and she released him slowly, exchanging a startled look as they turned to survey the small enclosure, no more than a cylinder three metres wide. He pushed experimentally against the wall but there was no give in the material that seemed to be the same as that they had encountered earlier. “Damn crazy bastard,” he muttered again and frowned at T’Pol who was looking worried. “What’s wrong?”
“The air pressure has dropped.”
“Don’t feel anything.” Restlessly he paced the small area, raising a hand to wipe sweat from his face. “Did you buy any of that crap Daniels was spouting?”
“I believe we have little choice other than to believe him. Commander,” she put out a hand to restrain him, “remain still. You are exasperating your lack of oxygen.”
“You are not!” A strong hand on his chest pinned the engineer to the wall. “Recall your training. The sufferer is the last to recognise the symptoms of hypoxia.”
Tucker just shook his head irritably and brushed the Vulcan aside. “We have to get out. The cap’n might need us.”
“It would be of more use to the captain,” T’Pol said acerbically, “if you remained calm.” Tucker scowled at her and stumbled into the wall, wiping at his face again as she glared back. “Will you believe me now?”
“Why’s he doing this?” He was starting to labour for breath, chest heaving, and let himself slide down the wall to a seat on the floor.
T’Pol knelt beside him. “To punish Captain Archer.”
“Oh, yeah.” He leant his head back, eyes closed. “I feel sick.”
“I would be grateful if you did not vomit.”
“I love you too.” There was a long pause and Tucker turned his head, squinting as he tried to force his blurring vision to focus. “Did I say that out loud?”
“Mental impairment is another symptom of hypoxia.”
“Sorry.” His speech was slow, starting to slur. “Know you and the cap’n …”
“We are friends.”
“Oh.” T’Pol could see the blue tinge to his lips as his eyes grew heavier. “Wanna go out with me instead?”
“Really?” Surprised even in his half conscious state he tried to focus on her again and T’Pol reached out slowly to lay her fingers against his mouth. “Commander, be silent.”
He made a pathetic attempt to smile and sagged towards her. “OK.”
Confronted with a furious Klingon on the main view screen, Reed simply let Duras shout at him for the first several minutes, waiting patiently with arms folded until the other man had run out of breath before saying firmly, “We defeated you in battle, Duras. Again!”
The Klingon had recovered his breath. “Then destroy us!”
“That’s not our way.” Reed took a step nearer the view screen. “You’ll await Captain Archer’s pleasure. I’m sure there are one or two things he’d like to discuss with you.”
The Englishman appeared to consider the accusation. “I don’t think so. In the meantime, can we provide you with medical assistance?”
Duras roared in impotent fury and cut the connection.
Daniels smirked in response to Archer’s furious question and moved to stand close to the shimmer that surrounded Tucker and T’Pol. “I’m killing them. Didn’t I make that clear?”
“Let them go!”
“Now why should I do that?”
“If you want to kill someone make it me.” The captain tore his gaze from the cell where his officers were trapped to glare into Daniels’ smug face. “Won’t that have the right effect?”
For a moment the man appeared to consider the offer then shook his head. “That would be so crude, don’t you think? I prefer my plan.”
Archer gritted his teeth and took another look at his friends, Tucker clearly distressed although T’Pol seemed unaffected. “What are you doing to them?”
“I’m evacuating the chamber. Not too fast, of course. Commander Tucker has another … let’s say three minutes … before he passes out and then another five before he suffers irreversible brain damage. T’Pol about twice that long being so naturally superior.” He peered into Archer’s furious, anxious face. “But I’m a humane man. I’ll let you save one of them, if you like. Just tell me which one and we’ll have him or her out of there at once. Then we can watch the other one die.” He grinned at the other’s shock. “Who’s it to be, captain? Commander Tucker or Sub-commander T’Pol?”
It wasn’t Duras who made the request but one of his under-officers. Reed listened courteously and agreed to dock Enterprise with the warbird in order that the injured Klingons could be treated. Mayweather swivelled to face Reed as soon as the call ended. “Lieutenant, are you really going to trust them?”
“Not for a moment.” Reed was having fun and wasn’t about to let anyone spoil it. “Ensign Sato, would you ask General Casey to step up to the bridge for a moment?”
Once apprised of the situation, Casey was all in favour of the armoury officer’s plan, although he immediately set about improving it. The loss of three quarters of his marines had hit the general hard, not helped by the fact that Starfleet’s orders to avoid direct confrontation had reduced the demands on his people just at the time he could have used the distraction. So the chance for a little controlled violence was as welcome to him as to Reed.
The Klingons had tried for subtlety. Instead of rushing screaming through the airlock waving disruptors and batliths, Duras had gone to the trouble of persuading his warriors to feign injury so they were helped to stagger onto Enterprise by their colleagues. Before they could reach for their concealed weapons, however, they found themselves surrounded by a ring of bristling Earth weaponry in the hands of marines and armoury personnel, including a smirking Reed. “Tell them,” he said pleasantly to Sato, “to drop their weapons.”
She did so then, when they didn’t move, repeated the order several decibels louder, Casey reinforcing the matter with a nicely calculated hefting of his plasma rifle. The leading Klingon looked doubtfully around him but remembered in time that death in battle was an honour. He swept his batlith out from under a disguising blanket and charged at Reed with a roar to be dropped by a shot from one of the marines. The armoury officer, who hadn’t moved a muscle as the Klingon rushed him, smiled pleasantly at the remainder. “Drop your weapons.” They dropped their weapons.
“You’ve only seven minutes remaining, captain.” Daniels wandered around behind Archer who was watching his trapped offices, breathing nearly as heavily as Tucker. “Not a hard choice to make surely? I know how fond you’ve always been of Commander Tucker. It must have been such a disappointment that first time you asked him out and he spent all his time flirting with the waitress.” He grinned widely at Archer’s shocked look. “Oh, you’d be amazed what we used to watch on a quiet night when the supervisors weren’t around.”
With the ‘wounded’ Klingons all disarmed and crowded into the brig, Reed and Casey led their combined teams onto the warbird where they met minimal resistance. The crew hadn’t been large to begin with and Duras had sent nearly all his uninjured men to attack the Starfleet vessel. They confronted the Klingon captain on his bridge where he had better sense than to attempt anything suicidal.
“Now,” Reed said pleasantly, “shall we discuss the treatment of your injured crew, Captain Duras?”
With something approaching resignation, T’Pol drew Tucker’s head down to her shoulder, clasping his shuddering body. It was imprudent when she had not yet fully considered the implications, but he was dying and so was she and whilst dying with one’s chosen human in one’s arms did not make one any less dead, there was a certain defiant comfort in holding him. Let that crazed individual who had done this to them rant about the necessity of maintaining Vulcan superiority. She would show him that, pure bred Vulcan or not, she was prepared – possibly – to accept a human lover.
Tucker’s forehead pressed into her neck, and she wondered if he retained sufficient awareness to know that she was holding him. It was a great pity that they would never have the opportunity to investigate if the anatomical studies were correct in concluding that humans and Vulcans could mate successfully. She knew that Commander Tucker would have been interested in the experiment; that he desired her was obvious to her sharp senses whenever they touched – and she had touched him a good deal lately - even without his sudden declaration of intense feelings for her.
He was growing heavier in her arms and T’Pol’s own vision was starting to blur. Nor could she remember how long a human could endure oxygen debt without brain damage, a sure sign of her own hypoxia. T’Pol closed her eyes and ducked her head to rub her check against the dark blond hair that smelt not unpleasantly of human and cleansing fluid. She could wish that humans were not so fragile. If Commander Tucker were awake he could hold her too. Then perhaps she would not feel quite so reprehensibly scared of this long drawn-out death.
“Of course,” Daniels tone was still lightly mocking, “you’ve been sniffing around Sub-Commander T’Pol for months, haven’t you? That was terribly misguided of you, captain. Look at her now.” In the chamber, T’Pol had Tucker in her arms, her face buried in his hair. “I wasn’t on Enterprise for long and even then I could see what was going on between those two. They look so sweet together, don’t they? A shame they’re both dying. Which is it to be, captain?”
“You sick bastard!” Archer’s fragile hold on his temper snapped and he lashed out at the other man, none more surprised than himself when his fist connected solidly: he’d fully expected it to pass through a projected image. Daniels staggered back and Archer leapt after him, smashing another fist into the man’s face that left him unconscious and bleeding on the floor. The blood was red, the captain noted with satisfaction. It took more than a strange haircut and stick on ears to make a Vulcan!
He raced to the bank of controls by Daniels’ couch, randomly pressing buttons when a quick scan failed to show anything obvious. A gasping breath from behind told him he’d been successful and he whipped around to see T’Pol sucking the thicker air into her lungs. He was at her side in seconds, trying to pull Tucker’s limp body from her although she held on tight. “T’Pol,” he was hoping she had a short recovery time, “we have to get out of here.” He wasn’t in the least sure they could actually escape the station but he was sure as hell going to try.
“Captain.” Her dark eyes focussed on him although they were wide with something as close to panic as he’d ever seen in her.
“We have to get out,” he repeated. “Can you give me a hand with Trip?”
She blinked and looked down to where her arms were still full of chief engineer. “Is he …?”
“He’s alive.” He didn’t think Tucker had been unconscious long enough to suffer brain damage but the sooner they got him on oxygen the better. “Come on, T’Pol, I need your help.” She nodded, still breathing hard, but allowed him to get one of Tucker’s arms around his shoulders as she lifted from the other side although he could see the effort it cost her. “Can you manage?” She nodded again and they began to drag the engineer back the way they had come.
They hadn’t got very far with Tucker only just starting to stir between them when a laugh rang out, seeming to come from all around them. Archer cursed silently and jerked his head for T’Pol to keep going, however futile it might be. “Oh, very well,” Daniels voice was amused, “I guess I’ve had my fun. Off you go.”
The shuttle pod replaced the space station around them and after barely a second’s stunned surprise Archer let Tucker slide to the floor, not in the least surprised when T’Pol stayed with him, cushioning the engineer’s head in her lap. The captain spared another few seconds to toss her an oxygen mask then dived into the pilot’s seat although the view ahead of him halted what he had intending. Slowly he corrected the pod’s idle spinning, scanning the view of normal space then reaching out to activate the comm. as they were hailed.
“Captain Archer,” Reed sounded surprised too, “where did you spring from?”
“Long story.” Archer drew a deep breath. “Lieutenant, why is Enterprise docked with a Klingon warbird?”
“Long story,” and his armoury officer must be feeling pleased with himself to risk a joke, the captain reflected. “Do you need assistance to get home, captain?”
“Negative.” The shuttle pod was fully operational, just not in the same place it had occupied two minutes before. “We’ll dock in ten minutes. Have Phlox meet us in the launch bay. Shuttle Pod 1 out.”
He set the course and looked behind him as a groan indicated that Tucker had regained consciousness. The engineer was trying to sit up although he collapsed back with another groan as T’Pol said severely, “Remain still. You are likely to experience dizziness and headache.”
“T’Pol?” he mumbled and Archer drew a relieved breath at that sign of intelligence. “What happened?”
“You have been asphyxiated.”
“That’s nice.” He sounded very tired. “Did you push me out an airlock?”
“No.” The Vulcan had been concentrated on the man in her lap. Now she carefully withdrew the hand that had been resting on his hair and raised her head to look over at Archer, her expression composed although he read the question in her eyes.
“Amnesia,” the captain said gently. “It’s not unusual.”
“Indeed.” She looked back down as Tucker shifted, settling his head into a more comfortable position.
“Anyone ever tell you that you make a real nice pillow, sub-commander?”
She pushed him – fairly gently – to the floor and went to take the seat beside Archer.
If Archer would rather not have come home to find his brig full of Klingons he kept quiet about it, congratulating Reed on his action. The armoury officer nodded his appreciation then acted on his feeling that only part of his captain’s attention had been on the report. “If I might ask, captain, what happened in there?”
“You’ve every right to ask.” Archer sighed and shook his head. “I’m just not sure what to make of it.” He summarised their encounter for the other’s benefit, glad of the opportunity to put his impressions in order without his usual confidantes available: Tucker was in sickbay and T’Pol had stated indisputably that she needed to meditate.
Reed looked suitably stunned by the time he had finished, shaking his head in his turn. “Admiral Forrest isn’t going to like this.” Archer grimaced, acknowledging the point. “But why did Daniels let you go, sir? He could obviously have killed you all or even destroyed Enterprise if he’d felt like it.”
The captain rose to study the view beyond his viewport, hands braced on the sill. “Because he thinks there’s nothing we can do to stop him.” He turned his head to look at the other man and Reed had never seen his captain quite so determined. “He’s wrong. We’ll find a way, lieutenant. I don’t know how but we’ll find a way.”
T’Pol looked up as her door buzzer sounded then rose slowly to answer it, meeting Tucker’s eyes calmly as he fidgeted outside. “Commander,” she said evenly when he failed to speak, “you are recovered?”
“Yeah. Just tired.” He hesitated again, watching her nervously. “Uh, T’Pol, when we were trapped … did I say anything … embarrassing?”
“Oh.” He visibly relaxed. “That’s good. Are you OK?”
“I am quite well.” T’Pol studied him carefully, aware of her temptation to indulge herself and demonstrate to the human engineer that Vulcan women were as capable of giving and receiving sensual pleasure as those from Krios Prime. But Captain Archer had been right to warn her not to hurt Commander Tucker. As she had discovered for herself, he was very vulnerable and she did not want to cause him pain. She needed to be certain that she was prepared to commit to a relationship with him before allowing him to see that such a thing was possible – and she was not yet quite sure. It might even be that his feelings for her would fade as rapidly as they appeared to have grown, perhaps prompted merely by gratitude for her help in dealing with his grief. She would wait a while longer.
“Good.” He was backing away, still not comfortable in her presence. “Well, goodnight then, sub-commander.”
“Commander Tucker.” He halted, watching her warily. “Do you not wish to meditate?”
“Er … yeah, I guess.”
She backed away from the door and he entered cautiously, keeping a respectful distance from her. T’Pol dropped gracefully to her knees on one side of the candle, watching Tucker lower himself to the other side. It was pleasant to have his company - which perhaps indicated that her ultimate decision was less in doubt than she believed.
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Nine of you have made comments
I liked how you tied Daniels in to the expanse. He was rather nuts in this story, though wasn't he? I can't believe you're going to tie everything together in just one more chapter. I'm looking forward to it.
This whole series has been wonderful, and the appearance of Daniels in his crazier form has certainly thrown a wrench in to the works.
It looks like T'Pol has quite the decision on her shoulders,or perhaps she doesn't. We'll just have to wait and see. Keep up the excellent writing.
Excellent story construction and a nice exotic spanner thrown in the works with Daniels now crazy and seemingly megolomaniacal. What I can't quite understand is why the Captain threw away a golden opportunity to get to grips with exactly what Daniels had done and what he was up to when he knocked him out. After all, he only has the madman's words that he was telling the whole truth. Daniels may not be as all-powerful as he wants the Captain to believe and that little demonstration with Trip and T'Pol was a chilling slide into evil. Can't wait to see how you wrap this up. Well done on a great series, Ali D :~)
I was on the edge of my seat with the whole saving one or the other thing. Top work
Great story, Should! May I call you Should? Anyway, great pace, terrific characterizations, and throwing Daniels in there as a psycho was awesome. Thanks and I'll be watching for your next installment!
ah psycho daniels and confessing enigineers! what a day! love the story, a little slow but worth it none the less.
Excellent story! I was glad to see another chapter posted and very pleased to see how you've added more depth and suspense. Can't wait for the final chapter to see how things turn out.
Oh I finally got a chance to read all the stories up to this one tonight! Bloody excellent.
Oh Daniels! Wow crazy as a loon for sure.
T'Pol you won't hurt him he loves you!
Hmm. I'm intrigued by Daniel's assertion that Archer wanted something more from Trip than friendship. Are we to think this is a result of his madness or is he really on to something? Really liked this. Was fond of the Trip/T'pol action when they were trapped and really, really liked Archer asking T'pol not to hurt Trip. You made me like him (Archer). And I don't always.