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Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Drama | Genre - Romance | Main Story | R | Rating - PG-13 | T
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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:
It was late in Enterprise’s night but her captain was still awake, propped against the headboard of his bed as he idly tossed the water polo ball from hand to hand. It had been a long, confusing day and Archer was still not happy with the outcome of his discussion with Starfleet. Had he expected to be? Grudgingly he admitted that, in truth, he could hardly have expected the admirals to believe yet another outrageous story. They were too remote from what was happening out here, what had happened over the months that Enterprise had spent in the Delphic Expanse where the unbelievable seemed to occur even more regularly than it did in normal space. That being the case, was he really arrogant enough to believe that he was the only one in a position to make decisions that could affect the course of Earth’s history? And the answer to that one, Jonathan, was … maybe.
With sudden determination, Archer tossed the ball back onto the shelf behind his bed and headed for the door. At least this time he wouldn’t make a decision without consulting his officers.
Despite the lateness of the hour, T’Pol answered her door buzzer promptly, raising an enquiring eyebrow but seemingly unsurprised at finding her captain outside her cabin so late at night. “Have you seen Trip this evening?” Archer demanded without preamble. “Phlox said he’d discharged him but he’s not in his quarters or in Engineering.” The Vulcan hesitated briefly then stepped to one side to allow Archer to see into her cabin where Tucker was slumped on the floor, clearing asleep. “Sorry!” the captain said, immediately contrite, and got a stern look.
“Commander Tucker joined me for meditation. He fell asleep – a not uncommon occurrence.”
Archer didn’t bother asking why she hadn’t simply woken the man and sent him home. “I need to talk to him – and to you.”
She gestured for him to enter but went to wake the engineer herself, a hand on his shoulder. He jerked awake, blinking sleepily up at her until he caught sight of Archer and staggered to his feet, a look almost of panic on his face. “Cap’n! Aw hell, sir, there’s nothing going on, I swear. We were meditating and …”
“So T’Pol said.” Archer was frowning, puzzled. “Trip, relax. What you and T’Pol get up to off-duty is your own business. Just keep it …” He stopped as T’Pol’s glare told him that he had anticipated something that hadn’t yet happened and belatedly realised that Tucker’s reaction hadn’t been that of an officer caught fraternizing but that of a man found in a compromising situation with his best friend’s property. “Trip … you think T’Pol and I …?”
The younger man stared back, eyes widening as they flicked between the other two. “Aren’t you?”
“No!” Tucker’s look of relief was almost comical and Archer sighed. “Trip, you’re my best friend. Don’t you think I’d have told you if there was anything to tell?”
“Phlox said …”
“Whatever he said, he was wrong. And you’re an idiot.” The captain clouted the engineer affectionately on the shoulder, turning to include T’Pol in the conversation. “I’m glad to find you both here. We need to talk.”
T’Pol was still looking hostile but after a placating look from her captain she gestured to a chair and seated herself on the bed leaving Tucker to the floor cushion again. “Trip,” Archer began as he sunk down sideways on the chair, “have you had a chance to look at the damage reports on the Klingon ship?” The engineer nodded briefly, a frown forming. “Can you fix it?”
“Sure,” and Archer knew he didn’t have to worry about over-confidence: if Tucker said he could fix something then he could. “But why should we?”
Archer hesitated and T’Pol said very softly, “It has a cloaking device.”
They both looked at her in surprise, Tucker at the comment, Archer at being anticipated. “That’s right,” the captain said equally quietly. “I think it’s time we paid the Xindi a visit.”
There was a moment’s profound silence before Tucker shook his head slightly as if to clear it. “What do Starfleet say to that?”
Archer leant forward, arms resting on his knees. “They won’t authorise it.”
“Have you asked?”
“I have.” The captain had been staring at his clasped hands but now he tilted his head back, forehead crinkling as he regarded the other two. “My orders are to head home.”
“Not unreasonable under the circumstances.” T’Pol’s voice was even. “We have fulfilled our latest mission to investigate the origins of the Delphic Expanse.”
Archer swallowed, studying his hands again. “I told Forrest that our only option is to contact the Xindi, try to convince them that they’re as much victims in this as we are. He agreed – up to a point.”
“He doesn’t think it should be us,” Tucker stated and Archer nodded, glancing over at the engineer.
“Earth Government wants to organise a full diplomatic mission but that’ll take months to reach the Xindi even if the Vulcans help out with transport.” He drew a deep breath and met the eyes of his friends. “I don’t think we have that long.”
“You have no basis for that hypothesis,” the woman pointed out.
“I know that, T’Pol. Call it human intuition.”
“You do not believe that Starfleet can defend Earth should the Xindi launch their weapon?”
“I think it won’t matter if we can or not. If the Xindi launch another attack on Earth it’ll be war – and we’ve been told the ultimate outcome.”
“Heads they win, tails we lose,” Tucker said bitterly. “Cap’n … I can’t even begin to get my head around this temporal crap but … Daniels told T’Pol that you weren’t to contact the Xindi. Before he went crazy anyway!”
“Maybe what he’s done since has changed that. You’re right, Trip, we can’t hope to understand the temporal mechanics operating here. We can only do what we think is right.”
“And you believe it right to disobey the orders of your government?”
“Well, sub-commander,” Archer managed a creditable smile at her, “I seem to remember someone who disobeyed her orders to leave Enterprise, so I guess I’m in good company.”
“It’s a hell of a risk, Cap’n.”
“I know that, Trip. But I don’t know what else we can do.”
Unfortunately, neither did the other two.
Tucker was bent over a console in the damaged warbird when T’Pol visited him, handing over a Universal Translator. “Ensign Sato has provided a new translation matrix.”
“I sure hope it’s better than the last one.” He entered a few symbols and looked dubiously at the result. “What d’you thinks ‘main stink’ means?”
The Vulcan woman gave him a hard look and checked the result herself, correcting the input. “Main power. I suggest that you proceed more carefully.” He sighed and scrubbed both hands over his face. “You are tired.”
“Yeah.” Moodily he turned back to the console, a hand kneading the back of his neck as he flipped through the menu system. “This is taking too long.” Then he gasped as warm fingers moved his aside to continue the massage.
“You have not assigned repair crews.” T’Pol’s voice was as uninflected as always but Tucker had to swallow several times before he could force out an answer.
“No. T’Pol … what are you doing?”
“Your trapezius muscles have tightened. If they are not relaxed you will develop a headache, further decreasing your effectiveness.” It wasn’t just his muscles that had tightened and he had to force himself to breath evenly, trying to ignore just who it was touching him. “The lack of repair crews?”
“Oh.” Maybe he’d died and gone to heaven. “I thought … if the Cap’n wants to go off by himself … best not to involve … too many people. T’Pol … you’re gonna have to stop that.”
“You have not yet relaxed.”
“I don’t think I’m gonna!” The deliciously effective hands moved down his back, fingers finding the knots in the tightened muscles and he couldn’t stop the moan of pleasure, tension finally draining away. T’Pol ran her hands back up to his neck, evidently confirming that he had fully relaxed, then stepped to one side.
“I find that perseverance usually results in success.”
“No kidding?” Tucker was so relaxed he couldn’t move: not that leaving the shelter of the console was a good idea at present.
“Do you intend to accompany Captain Archer when he approaches the Xindi?”
Shaken out of the blissful languor induced by the massage, he rolled his head sideways to meet an assessing pair of brown eyes. “Do you?”
“You did not answer my question.”
“Neither did you.” They stared at each other for some moments then Tucker smiled mockingly. “Then I guess we’re both going.”
“Logic dictates that you should remain here.” T’Pol had turned away, inputting various symbols to the Universal Translator.
“How d’you work that one out?”
“I have already resigned my commission. There is no need for you to endanger your career.”
Tucker glared at the averted head. “When the Cap’n said there wasn’t anything going on between you, I guess that was just his opinion, wasn’t it, T’Pol?” Her head jerked around, eyes wide. “Sorry, sub-commander, but that’s not gonna work this time. He needs me too.”
For a second longer she stared up at him then swung away and strode out of the room, back rigid. Tucker returned to figuring out the interface, swallowing against the constriction in his throat. He hadn’t thought that T’Pol would stoop so low in order to get her claws into Archer.
“Captain’s log, 28th …” Archer halted, shaking his head at his own foolishness and stretched out a hand to re-set the recording. “Personal log, 28th January 2154. We’ve left Enterprise and headed back into the Delphic Expanse in the Klingon warbird. Trip and I filed our resignations from Starfleet. Lt Reed will forward them at the same time he tells Admiral Forrest what we’re doing – in two weeks’ time. It’s a five-week trip to the Xindi home world. I want to be well on our way before Starfleet has the chance to recall us.” He paused to rub a hand over his mouth, still struggling to accept the reality of what he was doing. “T’Pol volunteered to come along too. She said she had less to lose than the rest of the crew and we need all the help we can get to keep this ship running.” He paused again but there wasn’t a lot else he wanted to commit to a recording medium. “End log.”
He pushed the PADD to one side and checked the pilot’s console again to confirm their course although Tucker had assured him that the autopilot was up to maintaining a simple heading. It would have to be. With a crew of three they were grossly shorthanded but there was no way Archer would have involved any more of his crew in this current madness. If he could, he’d have left them all behind but that simply hadn’t been possible.
The bridge doors opened behind him and he turned to see T’Pol step inside, her features rigidly controlled. Not that he had seen the slightest flicker of emotion from her in days, unlike Tucker who had been grossly short-tempered even with his captain. Archer sighed. He didn’t know what had caused it but his two friends had clearly had a vicious fight and now wasn’t the time to try and put things right between them. It was probably fortunate that the duty schedule they had drawn up meant that none of them would be seeing much of each other.
“Captain, it is time for your rest period.”
Archer swung the chair around to face the Vulcan. “Don’t you think you could make that Jon, T’Pol? I’ve resigned.”
“I understand that human custom entitles anyone commanding a vessel to be addressed as captain.”
Tucker came to stand to one side of the helm and Archer nodded, not taking his eyes from the image of the planet before them, slightly blurred by the effects of the cloaking device that was allowing them to remain undetected in high orbit. “That’s it: the Xindi home world.”
“Now what? Assuming you’re not gonna agree to blowing the place sky-high.”
Archer looked up sharply, noting the tightly folded arms and the muscles visible by the side of the engineer’s jaw. “Not an option, Trip.” He allowed a moment’s silence in which the other man caught his eye and relaxed slightly, grimacing in rueful acceptance of the mild rebuke. “T’Pol’s monitoring their planetary communication channels and news networks to see what the situation’s like down there. It’ll take a while to filter through the information. How long can we stay cloaked?”
“Another hour. There’s a heavy power drain and I wouldn’t wanna run the reserves down too far.”
“I’ll pull us back in forty five minutes. T’Pol should have collected enough data by then and we don’t need to stay in orbit while she analyses it.” He turned for a longer look at the younger man. “Go get some sleep, Trip. We can manage without you right now.”
“With the entire Xindi species only a few thousand kilometres below us?” Tucker looked back at his captain with a tight smile. “I think I’ll stay up a while longer, Cap’n.”
“Jon,” Archer suggested, hoping to break the tension and saw his friend’s smile widen a little.
“Old habits, Cap’n. Hard to break.”
It took even T’Pol over twenty four hours to make sense of the array of data collected from their stopover at the Xindi home world, an analysis she undertook while they lurked inconspicuously in a conveniently situated asteroid field. When they gathered to hear the verdict it was the first time all three had been in the same room in weeks.
“There is a civilian planetary government,” T’Pol stated crisply, “led by an elected president.” That surprised Archer who would have put money on a military dictatorship. “It appears that this form of government is a recent innovation, developed within the last fifty years. There is a strong military organisation, nominally under government control although it appears to act independently in most matters.”
“What about us?” Tucker asked and got a stare for pre-empting.
“Earth is presented as the single most potent threat to the future of the Xindi species. The military are gaining much prestige from their determination to wipe out this threat. Interestingly, there is no mention of Earth as a future threat on the public information services. If the Xindi are aware of their role in the Temporal Cold War that information is withheld from the general public.”
“Then why do they see humans as a threat?” Archer queried.
“The Xindi wish to leave the Delphic Expanse and settle in the wider universe which is seen as a far safer environment than their own. They believe that Earth would violently oppose such a move.”
“I am merely reporting what the Xindi people believe, captain.” The Vulcan glanced back at her notes and continued smoothly, “The Xindi government’s backing for the military’s expansionist policy is not unanimous. There is a party within it who support a group of scientists who have developed a novel theory.” She paused to be sure she had everyone’s attention before delivering the next fact. “This group believe that the Delphic Expanse is not natural and could therefore be destroyed, thus obviating the need for the Xindi to resettle.”
Tucker whistled softly while Archer rubbed his mouth, forehead creased in a deep frown. “That’s … pretty amazing, T’Pol.” By a subtle inclination of her head she managed to indicate that while ‘amazing’ was not the word she would have chosen, she too had been surprised. “Any information on the weapon?”
“Yes.” The Vulcan met Archer’s gaze, her own very level. “It has been announced that a strike will be initiated against Earth within the next few days.”
His mouth twisted. “Then we don’t have long. Suggestions?”
“Find the weapon and destroy it,” Tucker said at once. “We can’t risk that strike being launched.”
“I believe,” T’Pol countered, “that it would be of more benefit to contact the scientific group who believe the Delphic Expanse to be an artificial construct. It may be that if we add our information to theirs we can add weight to the party who do not favour war with Earth.”
“That could take weeks. Months!” Tucker countered. “Besides, d’you really think Daniels would let us meddle in Xindi politics?”
T’Pol paused before answering, her expression thoughtful. “For a species that Daniels claimed to have created, I could detect no sign of obvious interference in their culture beyond an unprecedented technological development that slowed dramatically some two hundred years ago. Daniels stated that his time-station spanned a period in excess of two thousand years yet he also said that only five years had elapsed for him. It is unlikely that he closely monitors every event in the development of the Xindi. He may merely intervene at significant moments.”
“Wouldn’t this be one? Launching the weapon?”
“Quite possibly but I do not believe Daniels to be omnipotent even with the technology at his disposal. He is also insane. He may not take an interest in anything except that which directly affects his plan.”
“We’ll play it both ways.” Archer had come to a decision while the other two argued. “Trip and I will go down to the planet, see if we can contact this group. T’Pol, you’ll stay here and try to discover the location of the weapon. If we can’t make progress on the planet then we’ll consider our other options.”
Tucker nodded grudgingly but T’Pol glared at her captain. “I should accompany you, captain. Mr Tucker lacks the scientific background to present our evidence.”
Archer sighed; he’d had more than enough. “T’Pol, I know you’re only trying to keep Trip safe, but I’ll look after him, I promise.” It wasn’t fair that such a charitable intervention should earn him disgusted looks from both science officer and chief engineer.
The disguises that Phlox had prepared before they left Enterprise took over an hour to apply although T’Pol didn’t seem happy with the result, spending a long time adjusting the detail. “You will remember,” she cautioned eventually, “that the change is purely cosmetic. A medical scan will immediately reveal that you are not Xindi.”
“We know that, T’Pol.” Archer peered into a mirror and grimaced at his appearance. “I think I prefer the normal me.”
She ignored the comment, handing over a Universal Translator. “I have updated the matrix in accordance with the latest information available.”
“Thanks.” He rose to his feet, nodding to Tucker. “Let’s go.”
The engineer took a deep breath and followed his captain towards the transporter platform that he had spent much of the trip re-calibrating to reduce the risk to human passengers. They took their places, watching the Vulcan as she moved to the controls, checking their settings before raising her head to inspect both men. “Take care, Jonathan.” Archer’s mouth fell open in surprise and he thought that the very faintest of smiles touched her mouth before she dissolved before their eyes in the sparkle of dematerialisation.
They materialised in a back alley, carefully selected as both empty and not overlooked. Archer performed his usual quick check to be sure that he was all in one piece then caught Tucker’s hostile look, detectable even through the Xindi makeup. “Jonathan?” the engineer said bitterly. “Still think you’re just friends, Cap’n?”
“Positive.” Archer looked at the other man from under lowered brows, wanting to get on with their mission but aware that if he didn’t clear the air Tucker’s concentration was going to suffer. “Trip, are you completely blind? It’s you T’Pol cares for.”
“But … she tried to get me to stay on Enterprise so she could be with you.”
“Of course she tried to keep you out of danger! She worries about you, Trip. She delayed telling me you were fit for command again so she’d be sure I didn’t take you on that damn stupid weapon site raid.” The engineer’s consternation would have been amusing under other circumstances. “If you hadn’t been unconscious when Daniels tried to kill you both, you’d know that she cuddled you when she thought you were dying.” Archer drew a breath and calmed down. “Now, Commander Tucker, if we’ve got that straightened out, I’d like to get on with our mission.”
Tucker blinked, opened his mouth, shut it again and finally nodded. “Sh....” The word wouldn’t come out and he cleared his throat and tried again. “Sure.”
The science institute appeared unguarded and they followed a steady stream of other visitors into the entrance hall, trying to look around without attracting attention. Tucker nudged Archer towards a wall-mounted console and stood close to shield the Universal Translator while the older man searched for the department they wanted. “Top floor,” he muttered at last and nodded to a flight of stairs that led up from the back of the hall. “I don’t fancy the lifts.”
“It’s so damn normal!” Tucker murmured as they started up the first flight. “Could be Earth.”
“Maybe it’s Daniels’ doing,” Archer suggested and the engineer shook his head.
“He just … bred them.”
“No point having servants who can’t work unsupervised.”
“I’d be happier if there were guards everywhere.”
They came out onto a broad landing with three doors leading off, all neatly labelled. After a quick check with the Universal Translator, Archer gestured to the central one. “It says ‘director’s office’.”
Tucker looked dubiously at it. “Do we just knock?”
Even more unnervingly they were invited to enter, a Xindi looking up questioningly from the other side of a wide desk. “Yes?”
“Professor Xentnor?” Archer breathed a sigh of relief as the man nodded: T’Pol’s research had been thorough. “We’d like to discuss your theories regarding the origins of the Delphic Expanse.”
“Do you have an appointment?”
The captain had to take a moment to control the urge to laugh: seven million dead, six months journeying through the worst the Delphic Expanse could throw at them and they were asked if they had an appointment. No one would ever believe him. “No, professor, we don’t have an appointment, but we have come a long way.” Slowly he slid a PADD across the desk, displaying an image of Daniel’s time-station. “Have you ever seen anything like that before?”
The Xindi took a casual look at the image then snatched up the PADD for a closer scrutiny, rising to his feet. “Where did you get this?”
“We took the image in the thermobaric clouds that surround the Delphic Expanse.”
“You went in?” Archer nodded and the other man’s expression sharpened. “Who are you?”
“They’re Earthers, Xentnor, that’s who they are.” The snarled accusation came from the door behind them and Archer and Tucker whipped around to confront another man in the Xindi garb they had seen so many times before. The only difference was that this Xindi wasn’t pointing a gun at them. They exchanged a lightening fast look and charged at him but he anticipated, moving to one side to allow a trio of similarly clad Xindi to block the exit. The Starfleet officers could fight but so could the Xindi and they fought a lot more dirty. The humans kept on their feet for a minute, maybe more, then Archer saw Tucker go down under a savage blow to the side of his head and a second later an arm locked around his own throat and pulled chokingly tight as the second Xindi came to stand in front of him.
“Earther,” the man said with evident satisfaction and reached out with cruel fingers to rip the latex mask from Archer’s face. “Didn’t you know we bio scan everyone who enters this building? Fool.” He backhanded the human across the face. “So good to meet a live Earther. We’ve learnt much from your dead. Now we’ll see how well we can put the theory into practise.”
Tucker awoke disorientated and in pain, the memory of what had happened only returning when he raised a hand to his aching head and felt drying blood sticky against his fingers: beaten up by aliens again. He managed to get himself into a sitting position although it made him feel vilely sick and increased the pounding in his head. Concussion – nice change from asphyxiation anyway. Swallowing against nausea he investigated the source of the blood and realised that it was his own skin he was touching – his disguise had been removed. Well, T’Pol had warned them that it would be easy to penetrate. “Cap’n?” There was no answer, not that he had really expected one, and he tried to peer around, blinking as the light stabbed painfully. He managed to make out the walls of two small cells but both appeared empty so he let his eyes close again, leaning his head forward on his knees. They’d known this could happen, he’d just not really believed that it would. Now he was alone in a Xindi prison cell with no idea where his captain was or even if his friend was still alive and they had achieved absolutely nothing. They wouldn’t even get an honourable mention in Starfleet’s records since they weren’t officially here. And Archer had said that T’Pol cared for him … The engineer groaned and not at the pain in his head. If she did he’d almost certainly blown his chance by acting like a pig over the last few weeks, never mind that he was probably in the Xindi equivalent of a death cell. Why the hell hadn’t she said something? Then he answered the question himself: she’d tried to show him that time in the warbird when she’d massaged his neck. He’d just been too dumb and too jealous to realise that she wanted to protect him, not attract their captain. He should have grabbed her then and kissed her as he’d wanted to do for weeks. Then maybe if Archer was right they would have had some time together before … this.
Tucker groaned again and forced his head up, realising that he had been close to falling asleep: not sensible when he was concussed. Briefly he wished T’Pol was there with him then immediately cancelled that thought. Maybe with the cloak the warbird could make it out of the Delphic Expanse once T’Pol realised that her colleagues weren’t going to make it back. Then she could return to Vulcan and not have to worry about smelly, emotional humans again. Skon was a nice guy, he’d marry her for sure and they could have a dozen kids all with pointy ears and hard stares. The pointy ears were cute once you got used to them and he could still remember how she’d twitched when he’d rubbed decontamination gel on them – and her hands always felt real good on his skin when she touched him. A neck rub right now would be kind of nice.
Even concussed Tucker was aware that he was indulging in the sort of daydream that he had always firmly denied himself but it kept him awake and it probably didn’t matter anymore what happened in the privacy of his own head: he wasn’t likely to keep it much longer. He was still weaving increasingly erotic fantasies around Vulcan science officers when the door to the cell was thrown open and before he could get his eyes fully open another body was flung into the cell, crumpling across his legs. He groped for it, still having difficulty focusing and squinted into Archer’s slack-mouthed face. “Cap’n?” Terrified at the other’s limpness he shook the older man hard, wincing as the effort made his head hurt even more. “Cap’n!” He was rewarded with a soft moan and gasped with relief even as the Xindi in the doorway laughed.
“He’s not dead. Not yet! The general hasn’t finished with him.”
The engineer glared up at the guard, wishing he wasn’t still seeing two of everything. “Give us some water.”
There was a harsh chuckle. “Why not?” He snapped his fingers and a bottle was thrown into the cell and then the door closed again.
Tucker groped across the floor for the water bottle, finding it on the second attempt and crawling back to Archer’s side. The captain flinched away when Tucker pressed the bottle to his mouth but licked eagerly at the moisture when some ran into his mouth. “That’s right, Cap’n,” the engineer muttered and dibbled some more in what he hoped was the right place. “Cap’n, you with me yet?”
“Got it in one.” He tugged on the other’s clothing, managing to get Archer half upright although the bigger man slumped heavily against him but it was at least easier to pour more of the water down his throat. Belatedly Tucker realised that he hadn’t checked that it was just water he was feeding his friend and took a swig himself but it tasted like water and reminded him that he was desperately thirsty. “Cap’n, what happened to you?”
“Questions,” the man muttered. “Too many damn questions.” His head flopped sideways and came to rest against Tucker’s shoulder, the collar of his jacket pulling open to reveal the puncture marks on his neck.
The engineer growled softly and tipped the water to Archer’s mouth again. “What did they wanna know, Cap’n?”
“You could … call me Jon.”
For a dizzy moment, Tucker wasn’t sure if he wanted to laugh or cry. “What did they wanna know, Jon?”
The captain’s mouth quirked into a faint smile that faded quickly. “Why … we were here.”
“That’s why … we came.”
“I guess they didn’t believe you?” Archer shook his head and began to shiver violently. “Don’t worry, Cap’n, we’ll just keep telling the truth until they do.”
“Damn stubborn son-of-a-bitch.” Tucker shifted his position so that he could hold the other man close, trying to share his warmth although his next words were addressed more to himself than to his old friend. “I don’t think we’re gonna get out of this one, Jon.” Archer was too racked by drug-induced tremors to answer.
The door was slammed open with a crash that woke both men and they struggled into a sitting position, setting shoulder to shoulder for the comfort of each other’s physical presence. A guard leered briefly at them then stepped aside to reveal the man who had captured them in the Science Institute. Beside him Tucker felt Archer stiffen and guessed that it had been this man who had tortured his friend, leading him to wonder if it was worth making a run for it. A quick look at his captain made the decision easy, however; Archer might have stopped shivering but he was still an unpleasant shade of grey and on second thoughts Tucker wasn’t sure that he was in much better shape. He wasn’t seeing double anymore but his vision was still blurred and his head ached viciously.
It seemed that asking questions wasn’t on the agenda, however. The Xindi in the doorway moved to one side, beckoning behind him, and a moment later a collection of youngsters appeared, most in their early teens, a few younger still. Without a Universal Translator they couldn’t understand what the man was saying to the children but the fear on their faces was evident and Tucker sighed. “What d’you think he’s saying, Cap’n?”
There was a pause while Archer considered the matter. “The only good human’s a dead human?” Tucker managed a chuckle. “Trip, one of the kids is staring at you.”
“The smallest one by General Xerket.”
He squinted but his vision refused to focus. If he hadn’t been worried about dying he’d be worrying that his eyesight had been permanently damaged. “Probably thinks I’m better looking than you.” The door closed again and Tucker sighed and rubbed his eyes, wincing as the cut by the left one pulled.
“You still can’t see properly?”
“No.” In an effort to distract himself from the unpleasant present and a future that was likely to be both painful and short, Tucker reverted to his favourite subject. “You really think T’Pol likes me?”
Archer gave an exaggerated sigh, knowing what the younger man was doing and more than willing to play along. “Don’t start that one again, Trip.”
“What d’you mean?”
“The questions! ‘Does she really like me?’ ‘Do you think I should ask her out?’ ‘Suppose she says no?’”
Tucker’s shoulders shook with silent laughter. “Who was she?”
“You expect me to remember your girlfriends for you?”
“Can’t have been Natalie. Chloe?”
“Was she the one who broke up with you when you missed her birthday?”
“Yeah. She was real mad.”
“Most women are, Trip, when they’re stood up for a warp engine trial.”
“It was important!”
“You need to learn to prioritise, Commander Tucker.”
“And when was the last time you had a date, Captain Archer?”
Archer shook his head, half laughing. “I don’t even remember!”
“Are you sure T’Pol doesn’t prefer you?”
“Then why’d she call you Jonathan?”
“Because we’re friends. And if you don’t recognise a T’Pol-style insult by now, you should.”
“Who was she insulting?”
“Oh.” Tucker sighed and rubbed his eyes again, once more reminded of how rough he felt.
“You look terrible.”
“So do you.” There was no response from Archer and the engineer sighed. “It’s not your fault I’m here, Jon.”
“Hell, no. Ask T’Pol. She’s convinced I can get into trouble all by myself.”
The door opened again and both men tensed, very aware that this could be the last they would see of each other.
“On your feet.” The Universal Translator was back in use. They glanced at each other then hauled themselves up, having to hold onto each other to do so. “Move.” The gun gestured towards the open door and they went quietly.
“This lot are wearing different uniforms,” Archer muttered and Tucker sighed as he tried to avoid walking into walls.
“Is that good or bad?”
The captain couldn’t answer that one and they concentrated on staying on their feet as they were led out of the building and pushed into a vehicle only a little larger than a shuttle pod that immediately lifted off. Tucker leant back in a surprisingly comfortable seat and closed his eyes against the spinning in his head. “This is nice.” Archer nudged him and he opened his eyes to see a Xindi standing in front of them, a scanner in one hand. After a moment he appeared to shrug and turned away, speaking briefly to one of their guards who fetched a water bottle that he tossed to the two humans. “Looks like they want us alive.”
The captain took a long drink and passed over the bottle. “Is that good or bad?”
With nothing better to do they dozed through the hour-long trip, both ill enough to need the rest, waking as the vehicle landed. Outside there was vegetation and a large building into which they were hustled, ending in a basement room that contained little except chairs and low tables. They were left alone and Tucker collapsed into the nearest chair. “I wish they’d get on with it.”
The door reopened and another Xindi appeared, this one not in uniform – as far as they could tell – although he was flanked by guards. A smaller figure was clinging to his hand and he pushed her in front of him, hands on her shoulders. “Xera, be very sure. Are these the people who killed your mother?”
Tucker stiffened in astonishment, struggling to focus on the group by the door, aware that Archer had gone very still.
There was a breathless pause and then child shook her head. “No, daddy, they rescued me.” She pointed at the engineer. “That one did.”
Her father patted her shoulders and gave her a gentle push towards the door. “Return to your lessons.”
“Are you going to kill them?”
“I don’t know yet, Xera. Off with you now.” She went and the Xindi took a few steps nearer the dumbstruck humans. “I am President Xantok. You are Earthers?”
“We’re human,” Archer confirmed. “I’m Captain Jonathan Archer.” Using the rank seemed sensible under the circumstances. “This is my chief engineer, Commander Charles Tucker.” Tucker had risen to stand at his shoulder.
“If my good General Xerket is to be believed, you are here to commit atrocities against my people. Is this true?”
Archer swallowed against a sudden surge of hope. “No. No, it’s not.”
“Then why are you visiting a planet that has every intention of destroying yours?”
“We hoped to convince you that you’re just being used. That Earth isn’t really your enemy.”
The Xindi president took a seat, gesturing to the humans to do likewise. “Professor Xentnor informed me that you have data collected within the thermobaric clouds.”
“Which proves what?”
“That the Xindi people are just pawns in a larger conflict. The Delphic Expanse is artificial … and the Xindi are the result of forced evolution.” There was very little reaction from the other man and while Archer didn’t have much experience with the species he would have expected something – even if it was just a kick in the teeth. “You’re not surprised.”
“I assume that each species considers itself superior to all others but I have always doubted that the Xindi alone could achieve in two thousand years what it takes others many million. You merely repeat what a few of our scientists have been saying – quietly – for some time. Do you truly have proof?”
“I guess that’s for you to decide.”
“True. Will you give us the data?”
“I already have – shortly before General Xerket took a personal interest in me.”
“The military took charge of that copy. I would require another.”
Archer hesitated, looking across at Tucker who shrugged helplessly. His friend was right, Archer acknowledged: they had very little choice. “If I give you the data will it stop you attacking Earth?”
“I can give you no guarantee. Indeed I doubt very much that I can save your lives. But if what you say is true … it may profoundly affect the future of the Xindi.”
“I’ll need to contact my ship.” To do so would include T’Pol in their fate but she’d known the risk when she volunteered.
“That can be arranged.”
It took an hour for the warbird to slip in close enough for T’Pol to be transported to their current location, an hour during which Xantok spent a good deal of time in discussion with his security chief, trying, as he phrased it, to send General Xerket elsewhere. There were many questions that Archer would have liked to ask about the political situation on the Xindi home world but while Xantok remained polite the captain got the distinct impression that he was waiting for the humans to prove their good faith before he revealed anything further.
The Klingon transporter deposited T’Pol in the precise centre of the basement – risky on automatic but there was no other choice – and she turned for a stately survey of the room before studying her colleagues. “T’Pol,” Archer hauled himself to his feet again, “this is President Xantok. President, my science officer, Sub-Commander T’Pol.”
She nodded briefly and fixed the Xindi with a hard stare. “Captain Archer and Commander Tucker are in need of medical attention.”
“Unfortunately,” he responded evenly, “we are better at destroying other species than healing them – even ourselves, in fact. My physician does not believe they are in immediate danger.”
“T’Pol,” Archer put in quickly, “do you have the data?” She held up a PADD. “Professor Xentnor will review it,” and he indicated the Xindi scientist who had arrived a few moments before.
She handed it over then joined the humans as the professor retreated into a huddle with the president. “What happened to you, captain?”
“We got caught.” Archer didn’t feel up to long explanations.
“Evidently.” The Vulcan’s tone was dry and she unhooked her scanner from her belt, modifying the settings before directing it first at one man and then at the other.
“What’s the damage?”
“You have several unknown toxins in your bloodstream. Commander Tucker has a moderate concussion.” She glared down at the engineer who was squinting uncomfortably at her.
“Why can’t I see properly?”
She gave him a sharp look but adjusted her scanner again. “I do not know,” and her gaze returned to Archer, “but I would recommend that you both receive treatment as soon as is feasible.”
“I agree, T’Pol” Archer said tiredly, “but I don’t think that’s likely to happen.”
There was a pause. “We are prisoners?”
“I’m not sure.” He met an irritated stare. “The situation here’s complicated, T’Pol, and the president doesn’t seem to be in total control. The military held us first and they … weren’t nice people.”
Again the Vulcan women looked between the two humans then over at the Xindi guards by the door. “You believe that this group is ‘nice’?” Neither man cared to answer that one.
T’Pol was still standing protectively over her colleagues when Xantok approached, the Xindi’s expression pensive. Archer didn’t bother to get up this time: he was too tired. “Are you convinced?”
The president didn’t answer, taking a seat instead. “How long have you been in the Delphic Expanse, Captain Archer?”
For a moment he was ice cold again yet with fire instead of blood running through his veins and General Xerket droning questions in his ears. He drew a gasping breath, shuddering, and felt Tucker’s hand grip his shoulder tightly as T’Pol said anxiously, “Captain?”
“The drugs used during his interrogation are still in his system.” The Xindi scientist had joined them. “He’s merely experiencing a recurrence of the symptoms.”
“Merely?” Tucker’s arm was around his captain now, holding him upright as the older man continued to shake. “Can’t you do something about it?”
“I’m … all right.” The pain was receding and Archer drew a steadying breath, pulling away from his friend’s support. “We’ve been here … six months.”
“Six months.” The president didn’t sound impressed. “Then you have probably experienced some of the pleasures that the Delphic Expanse holds for those who live here. We expect to lose 85% of all ships we launch. I’m sure you can understand, Captain Archer, why my people would greatly prefer to live in what they have been told is a much safer region of space.”
“I can understand that.” The captain looked steadily back at the other man. “What I can’t understand is why you think you have to destroy Earth to achieve that.”
“Nor can I,” Xantok said simply, “but the military tell me it is necessary.”
“Do you believe,” T’Pol asked, “that the information we have supplied is accurate?”
The president looked to Xentnor who spread a hand in a gesture of ambivalence. “It is plausible.”
“Then can you not convince others that you are being manipulated by an individual who has no concern for your ultimate survival?”
“I can convince those of my own party,” Xantok replied calmly. “In time perhaps others can be won over. But the weapon that has been built to destroy your people is ready and General Xerket will permit nothing to stop him launching his attack.”
“Why?” Tucker demanded and received an answer he should have anticipated.
“Because it will increase his power: he will be a hero.”
“I can’t let that happen.” Archer rose to stand in front of the Xindi president. “I have to stop that attack.”
“There’s nothing you can do, Captain Archer. General Xerket’s men are probably already on their way here to regain control of you.”
“Let us return to our ship. We’ll find the weapon and destroy it ourselves.”
“Impossible. Even I do not know the location and it will not be unprotected.”
“The weapon is within two light years of this planet,” T’Pol said mildly. “I could detect few other ships in the area.” They all stared at her and an eyebrow cocked slightly. “You did instruct me to locate the weapon, captain.”
“I did.” Urgently Archer turned back to Xantok. “What do you have to lose, Mr President?”
The Xindi crossed to the other side of the room then came slowly back. “You will be throwing your lives away.”
“I prefer to take my chances than to be Xerket’s guest again.” Archer had been keeping deliberately quiet about the capability of the Klingon ship they had captured but the situation called for risks to be taken. “The ship we used to get here contains a device that keeps it hidden from sensors. We can get close.”
“You cannot.” Professor Xentnor looked apologetically around the group. “I heard the news just now. An alien ship was detected in orbit and destroyed.”
Archer dropped his head, silently cursing, while Tucker and T’Pol exchanged shocked looks. Now they really did seem to have come to the end of the line.
“I was not aware,” Xantok said with evident honesty. “I’m sorry, but I have no choice but to hand you over to General Xerket.”
“It may be possible.” They all stared at Professor Xentnor who addressed his president. “The military have always relied on the help of the Science Institute. One of our vessels may be able to approach the weapon unchallenged.”
“There is no precedent.”
“The weapon has not been ready before. A final inspection to ensure that all is well may be seen as legitimate.”
“You will die with the aliens, Xentnor.”
The scientist straightened. “I would be serving my people.”
The president turned away again but he was nodding when he turned back. “Very well, but you must leave at once. I will remain here to try to deflect the military.” He gripped the other Xindi’s shoulder briefly. “Be swift, my friend. I doubt you will have long.” Then he looked over at the humans and Vulcan. “I will not see you again, Captain Archer. If war comes … remember that not all the Xindi wished your species eliminated.”
There wasn’t any response to make to that except to nod and follow Xentnor from the room.
Xentnor had travelled to the president’s retreat in a vehicle much like the one in which the humans had been transported. No one asked questions when he loaded three aliens into it, nor was he prevented from taking it up into orbit to dock with a larger ship. The Xindi who met him at the airlock did ask questions, pointing an accusing finger at Enterprise’s officers. “What are those?”
“Earthers.” Xentnor tried to brush past the woman but she caught his arm.
“Really?” She peered closer. “They look different alive.” Then she hauled him back again. “What are you doing with live Earthers, Xentnor?”
“I don’t have time to explain, Xeta.”
“You do if you want to use my ship.”
He sighed and thrust the PADD that T’Pol had earlier given him in the other Xindi’s direction. “They brought proof of our theories. President Xantok is allowing us to help them destroy the weapon that General Xerket has built.”
“What?” She glared at the two humans and one Vulcan. “Are you mad? They’ll destroy us if we don’t act first.”
“No, they won’t, but they will attack us if we turn that weapon on them. Please, Xeta, you must trust me. We don’t have much time.”
“Oh, if it’s a matter of trust …” She strode ahead of him down the corridor. “Are you sure they’re Earthers?”
“Yes, Xeta.” He headed after her, beckoning Archer to follow him. “The female has the coordinates.”
“Of course!” They emerged onto a tiny bridge and the Xindi woman looked doubtfully between the aliens again. “Which one is the female?”
“I am.” T’Pol joined the other woman at what was obviously a helm and tapped in a few numbers. “What is the journey time?”
“Six hours.” The response was professionally crisp.
“Then,” the Vulcan took a quick look at her colleagues before addressing Xentnor, “Captain Archer and Commander Tucker must rest.” She frowned down Archer’s instinctive protest. “They are both unwell.”
“We need a plan,” the captain put in firmly and got a cool look.
“Agreed. I will discuss the matter with Professor Xentnor - whilst you and Commander Tucker rest.”
“It’s not a bad idea, Cap’n,” Tucker confirmed. “You still look rough.”
Archer scowled at both his officers but reluctantly gave in: he just didn’t have the energy to argue.
Xentnor led them to a small cabin – the whole ship was minute – and left them alone. Both men slumped down onto the bunks at once while T’Pol ran her scanner over them again. “The toxins in your system appear to be clearing slowly, captain. The commander simply needs to rest.” She crossed to the cabin’s small sanitary unit then seated herself on the side of Tucker’s bunk to dab gently at the gash beside his left eye. He flinched, trying to hold her away and she caught his hand in her free one. “The wound must be cleaned.”
“It will hurt less if you do not struggle.” She continued to bathe the injury and Archer bestirred himself to watch.
“How is he?”
Brown eyes met blue. “Obtuse.”
“Thanks!” Tucker winced again, instinctively tightening his grip on the hand still holding his. “You look nice when you’re kind of blurry.”
Archer sighed; Tucker had dropped straight back into self-defence mode, even when T’Pol had all but hit him over the head with her affection for him. “We have to prevent that weapon being launched, sub-commander.”
The Vulcan didn’t raise her head from her task. “I concur but until we have further information there is little that we can do.” She finally looked over at him. “Except rest.”
The captain rubbed his eyes and dropped back onto the hard bunk. “I heard you the first time, T’Pol.”
“Then do so.” She turned her reproving look onto Tucker. “Sleep will no doubt help restore your eyesight.”
“Hope so.” He eased himself flat but managed to keep his hand linked with T’Pol’s. “My head aches.” Warm fingers brushed his forehead then settled against his temples, circling with carefully calculated pressure. “That’s nice.”
“It will relieve your headache. Go to sleep, Commander Tucker.”
Archer smiled to himself as he finally let sleep reach out to engulf him. If you don’t believe me now, Trip, you really are an idiot.
The rest did revive both captain and engineer so that they appeared almost as alert as T’Pol when they joined her and the Xindi scientists on the bridge. In fact, Xeta gave them a suspicious look that clearly said she had always thought they were likely to turn out to be dangerous, but fortunately Xentnor had been too busy to rethink his decision to cooperate with the enemy. He nodded when T’Pol informed them that they had confirmed the location of the weapon. “We have indeed. Cleverly hidden unless you were looking for it and none of us ever did.”
“Why should we?” the other Xindi muttered and he waved a reproving hand.
“Because it is very interesting.”
Archer looked a question at T’Pol and she nodded. “Extremely interesting. Professor Xentnor has confirmed that it differs significantly from current Xindi design.”
“So they had help.”
“Could it destroy the Earth?”
The Vulcan paused briefly then nodded reluctantly. “Yes. Also any Starfleet or Vulcan vessel that tried to prevent it.”
“Then we have to get on board. What are the options?”
It was the Xindi who answered. “I will ask to pay a visit.”
“Just like that?”
“It is a plausible option, captain,” T’Pol confirmed. “Whilst we have been observing the vessel a number of smaller craft have departed. Most were destroyed by the ship itself - Professor Xentnor believes that they carried the last of the construction workers – but he also believes that the commanding officer returned to Xindi to receive his final briefing. A junior officer may be persuaded to allow a member of the Science Institute aboard since it is unlikely that the knowledge of outside help is widely known.”
“If they’re prepared to slaughter the construction workers …” Archer let the sentence trail off, shaking his head. “We can’t transport over?”
“This ship lacks a transporter.”
“How many in the crew?”
“The vessel is not designed for long term use.” The humans winced at T’Pol’s dry tone then Archer shrugged.
“We don’t appear to have much choice.”
“Thank you.” Xentnor’s tone was also dry. “I will contact them immediately.”
The captain had to admire the Xindi scientist’s quick tongue and sheer effrontery: it equalled anything he had ever come up with himself and it also worked. The Xindi on the weapon-ship knew he shouldn’t let anyone on board but eventually found himself agreeing that of course the head of the Science Directorate should be allowed to make a final inspection before the start of their historic mission to rid themselves of their enemies.
Tucker scowled as the connection was broken. “Does he even know he’s not supposed to make it back?”
“He knows,” Xentnor said as he gestured for Xeta to take their own ship in to dock with the larger one. “Didn’t you believe the same, Commander Tucker?”
The engineer grimaced, hunching his shoulders as he shared a quick look with Archer, deliberately not looking at the Vulcan who had taken up a position next to her captain, hands clasped neatly behind her. If they were going to die he would have liked to kiss T’Pol first, but even if she had massaged him to sleep a few hours earlier he couldn’t really visualise her letting him kiss her. He didn’t even know if Vulcans kissed! “Have you got any weapons on board?”
He sighed and exchanged another rueful shrug with the captain. He could just about see straight again but he still had a headache and the thought of hand-to-hand fighting didn’t fill him with confidence.
Xeta solved that problem for them, at least initially. The only person who met the science vessel was the officer who had agreed to let Xentnor visit. He started with a firm statement that he had thought better of his previous decision and backed the scientist into his ship despite the latter’s protests. Xeta waited until there was space behind the officer then hit him from behind, scowling at Xentnor’s surprise. “With the technology built into that ship we wouldn’t lose half the people we currently do. The military have no right to withhold the information.” Then she glared at Archer as he extracted the gun from the fallen Xindi. “You’re going to let the Earthers arm themselves?”
“Yes.” Xentnor pulled the woman to his side to allow the aliens through the docking ring. “I would rather they died than us, Xeta.”
The Xindi manning the weapon-ship might have been prepared to die for the greater good of their species, but they weren’t expecting to have to defend their ship from invasion. Enterprise’s officers managed to pick them off one at a time until they were the only ones left standing – with the exception of two extremely curious Xindi scientists. Leaving the pair accessing the computer, Archer bundled T’Pol and Tucker to one side. “We have to figure out the controls.”
“What are you planning, Cap’n?” They hadn’t planned beyond gaining access – it hadn’t really seemed worth the effort. “Turning it on the Xindi?”
Archer took a quick look at the scientists but they hadn’t heard the provocative remark. “T’Pol, has this got the firepower to take on Daniels’ time-station?” He saw the shock of the other two but didn’t let it distract him. “Has it?”
“I … believe so. But, captain, we saw that Daniels vessel is … insubstantial. We may be able to get this weapon to the correct location in space but …” She paused then added with the utmost reluctance, “Bringing it to the correct location in time is beyond any technology available to us.”
“We don’t know that. When I quantum dated the debris from the probe the Xindi sent against Earth there was a component in it that had been manufactured four hundred years into the future. There could be similar technology in this ship.”
“What was the purpose of the component you discovered?”
The captain was forced to grimace. “I’ve no idea.”
“Then even if we were to discover such technology here, we would not know how to use it.”
“She’s right, Cap’n,” Tucker confirmed. “I know Daniels told you how to reveal those Suliban ships, but we can’t extrapolate what you need from that.”
“Someone must know!” Archer’s frustration was growing with a solution seemingly so near at hand.
“Perhaps.” T’Pol remained unmoved. “If so, it is likely they were killed along with the Xindi who built this vessel.”
“Won’t it be enough just to steal the weapon, Cap’n? We can take it to Earth, let our people have some time to analyse it.”
“And leave Daniels free to help the Xindi build another one? You heard what President Xantok said – it’s the military that hold the real power here. If we remove this weapon we’re only delaying the inevitable.”
Tucker knew that Archer’s commitment was unshakable and he glanced at T’Pol, brief thoughts of survival dissipating again. “There’s that 30 second window. We got in once. Maybe we could again.”
“It’s worth a try.” The captain turned to the two Xindi. “Thank you for your help, but … you probably don’t want to stay around here.”
Xeta glared suspiciously at him. “What are you intending?”
“We’ll try to use this weapon to destroy the source of the Delphic Expanse.”
She stiffened in unmistakable surprise, turning to Xentnor for confirmation. “It’s as we thought,” he confirmed. “They brought the evidence we needed.”
“But …” The Xindi woman was clearly struggling with the concept. “We can’t let them take the weapon. Suppose they turn it on us? And to destroy …”
“To destroy the evil that we’ve been living in?” Professor Xentnor concluded for her and turned to Archer. “I believe that I’ll accompany you. I’ve always had a desire to see the inside of the thermobaric cloud layer for myself and Xeta is correct: we cannot take the risk that you have lied to us about your intentions.”
“Then I’ll stay too,” she added firmly. “Have sense, Xentnor, there are three of them. They could easily overpower you.”
He gave her a frustrated look even as Archer nodded, not willing to waste time in argument. “Then can you help us move this ship?”
“Of course.” The Xindi woman moved to the helm. “I’m a pilot and the board is standard. What’s our destination?”
T’Pol raised an eyebrow in well-controlled surprise and stepped forward to supply the information while Tucker folded his arms and scowled. It couldn’t be this easy.
There was something to be said for stealing a ship that had been constructed in a secret location: it wasn’t immediately missed. It was half an hour before they received a furious communication from someone who first demanded to know what they thought they were doing and then, when he received no answer, threatened severe reprisals if they didn’t immediately return his ship. They didn’t respond to that either but Archer frowned. “They’ll send ships after us. Professor Xentnor, do you know what sort of response we can expect?”
The Xindi shook his head. “I’m a scientist, not a tactician.”
“It is logical to assume that the Xindi will take action to destroy this vessel,” T’Pol pointed out. “If we do not immediately turn the weapon on them, they will probably deduce that we are taking it to Earth. Either action would be unacceptable to them.”
“You said this ship could destroy any Starfleet vessel?” She nodded. “Then we need to figure out how to use it ourselves. Professor Xentnor, will you …”
The Xindi held up a hand. “I will not help you kill my own people.”
“Even though they’ll be trying to kill you?”
Archer didn’t bother arguing with principle, although he was shaking his head as he turned to his officers. “Then let’s see what we can do ourselves.”
They managed to destroy the first pair of ships to come against them then the attacks ceased but they knew the pursuit hadn’t been called off. Sensors indicated that there were ships following but they never came within weapons’ range. They all knew that somewhere ahead of them the Xindi fleet must be forming up, preparing for one concerted attack, but there was nothing they could do about it so the two week trip back to the thermobaric clouds – the weapon-ship’s top speed was higher than that of the Klingon warbird – passed in an almost eerie peace that preyed on the nerves of the humans more than continuous action would have done. They were barely two days from their destination when Tucker finally cracked and sought out Archer on the bridge where the other man was taking a stint at the helm. “Cap’n, are we doing the right thing here?”
Archer turned for a long look at his friend, who didn’t bear much resemblance to a Starfleet officer anymore. Sanitary facilities on the weapon-ship had proved to be almost non-existent and most of the food was unsuitable for human consumption. They were both filthy, unshaven and hungry and Tucker looked as if he hadn’t slept in days. “What’s the alternative?”
“Maybe we should take it to Earth.”
“With the Xindi fleet in tow?” The younger man grimaced and Archer reached out to grip his shoulder. “I have thought about it, Trip, but … someone has to stop Daniels.”
“Why can’t people from his own time stop him?”
“If we knew that, maybe we could figure out why we got pulled into the Temporal Cold War in the first place.” He released the engineer with a brief shake and changed the subject. “Have you done anything about T’Pol yet?”
“Yeah, sure!” Tucker ran a hand through his unkempt hair, a reluctant smile forming. “I stink, Jon. Can you really see T’Pol letting me get close enough to tell her how I feel? She’s been backing away from the pair of us for days.”
Archer chuckled in helpless agreement. “At least you know she likes you.”
“Yeah.” The thought didn’t seem to fill him with joy. “Maybe.”
The object of their conversation stepped onto the bridge at that moment and Archer had to admit that the Vulcan’s expression was one of sternly repressed distaste. “Captain, Professor Xentnor requests your presence in the warhead chamber.”
“He would not tell me. However, he appeared … excited.”
The two humans exchanged a startled look and headed for the exit – and Archer couldn’t help but notice that T’Pol did indeed step well back to let them pass. He couldn’t decide who to be sorrier for: the Vulcan stuck in a ship with unwashed humans and no nasal numbing agent or the human stuck in a ship with a Vulcan he loved and no chance of telling her so.
Both Xentnor and Xeta were huddled in one corner of the room that housed the ship’s main payload, not reacting when the others joined them. “What’s the problem, professor?” Archer asked courteously and the Xindi finally straightened, stepping back to reveal a cube of grey material.
“I don’t know. Captain Archer, do you or one of your friends recognise this object?”
Archer shook his head, looking to Tucker and T’Pol who also looked blank. “Never seen it before,” the engineer confirmed and crossed to squat beside it. “It wasn’t in here yesterday.”
“Are you sure, Trip?” Archer queried and got a nod as Tucker stretched out a cautious hand that he jerked back at once.
“It’s kind of … buzzing.”
“Manual investigation of an unknown object is extremely foolish,” T’Pol informed him and activated her scanner, an eyebrow lifting.
“Got anything?” Archer asked hopefully.
“Absolutely nothing. My scanner cannot penetrate the outer casing.”
“You’ve never seen anything like it, professor?” The Xindi shook his head and the captain sighed in frustration. Great: another puzzle.
Tucker held out his hand for T’Pol’s scanner and after a moment’s hesitation she handed it over, although her expression became severe when he used it to poke the cube. “Mr Tucker!”
“You told me not to touch it.” He poked the thing again and nearly tipped over backwards as a three dimensional image formed in front of his nose. “What the …?”
“Nice going, Trip,” Archer remarked facetiously and moved closer to inspect the image. “Looks like a technical drawing.”
“Yeah.” Tucker had recovered from his surprise and was studying the detail. “I reckon it’s this warhead.”
“So it’s a leftover from construction?”
“No.” The engineer pointed to one corner. “There are modifications.” He looked up at Archer, frowning. “I think they’re meant to tie the cube into the warhead.”
“We have seen such projections before,” T’Pol said quietly into the silence that followed and added in explanation as Archer looked doubtfully over at her, “From the device that Daniels left on Enterprise.”
“You think,” he said slowly, “that this is from the future?”
She refused to answer that one and Tucker scowled. “We should toss it out an airlock! If Daniels had a hand in this it could do anything.”
“He’s not the only player in the Temporal Cold War.” Archer’s brow was furrowed. “You said it, Trip: why don’t the people from Daniels’ own time stop him. Maybe this is their contribution.”
“You wanna risk it?”
The captain crouched down to touch the cube himself, rewarded with a slow rotation of the image. “I think I do.”
They discussed it some more but in the end Archer got his way and they hooked up the cube to the warhead – with no visible result. T’Pol commented sarcastically that perhaps they should be grateful and left Archer and Tucker to contemplate the seemingly useless modifications. Tucker waited until the Vulcan had left then kicked the cube but even that sound engineering principle failed to produce a result.
The others were watching the massed ranks of the Xindi fleet ahead of them and didn’t react immediately then Archer moved to the pilot’s board, his expression grim. “We’re not turning back now.”
“Captain,” T’Pol said formally, “there are fifty ships between us and the thermobaric clouds.”
“I’m aware of that, T’Pol.”
“Even this vessel cannot survive such an attack.”
“There are too many to attack at once. Trip, get on the tactical board, target whatever you can. Professor Xentnor, you’ve still got time to leave.”
“I think not.” The two Xindi had taken up a place at the back of the bridge, still adamant about helping destroy their own people but stubbornly refusing to leave what everyone knew was little better than a suicide mission.
“Brace yourselves.” Archer’s voice was stern. “We’re going in.”
It was a rough ride but the captain’s assessment had been right: the Xindi had amassed too many ships to mount an effective attack, particularly when each ship seemed intent on doing its own thing. They destroyed or disabled a good many as they broke through then there were thermobaric clouds around them and no Xindi ships in pursuit. Tucker drew a sharp breath and glanced over at Xentnor who shrugged. “We’re not allowed to enter the boundary layer. Evidently their orders haven’t changed.”
“I can’t believe they won’t change soon.” Archer spun around in his seat. “Trip, arm the warhead then get yourself and T’Pol into the professor’s ship.”
“You heard me.”
“No way, Cap’n. If those ships come after you, you’ll need someone at tactical.” Tucker met brown eyes staring intently at him. “T’Pol can go with Xeta and Xentnor.”
“I will not.”
“I’m staying too.” Xeta glared at Xentnor. “Since this idiot finds it all so interesting.”
Archer shook his head but there was no time to argue. “Arm the warhead.”
Tucker moved to a different console, hands moving deftly over the controls then hesitating briefly before punching a final button. “It’s armed.”
“Ten minutes to contact.” Archer hadn’t slackened speed when they entered the thermobaric clouds, lethally damaging to the ship but they weren’t going to need it much longer. “T’Pol, can you tell whether the station’s near our time period?”
His mouth pursed but there was nothing they could do about that problem then the controls went dead under his hands and he cursed. “Trip, I’ve lost helm control! What’s happening?”
“I don’t know.” Tucker was punching frantically at the engineering board. “Everything’s dead.”
“Captain!” T’Pol had been monitoring the warhead. “The cube has activated.”
Everyone crowded around for a look at the screen where the cube that they had hooked into the warhead was glowing, pulsing gently. “Pretty,” Tucker muttered sarcastically. “What the hell’s it doing?”
“We should leave.” T’Pol looked up at Archer, her eyes just barely showing her agitation. “Captain, we have lost control of this ship. It would be pointless to remain.”
He gritted his teeth but nodded slowly. “You’re right. Let’s get to the professor’s ship.”
“Cap’n,” Tucker protested, “let me stay. I can work on …”
“No.” Archer gave his friend a shove towards the door through which the Xindi had already passed. “That cube’s in control.”
“I can cut the connection.”
“I doubt it.”
“Let me try. Jon, I need to do this! For Lizzie.”
Their eyes locked for a brief moment. “Five minutes.”
The engineer left at a run and Archer turned to T’Pol. “Get to that ship, sub-commander. That’s an order.”
“I am no longer under your command.”
“Please?” She glared at him but headed for the door. “I’ll get him there, T’Pol.” She gave him a brief glare and disappeared as he turned back to the monitor in time to see Tucker appear in the warhead chamber and fling himself at the cube – to be flung back with equal force before he was within two metres of it. The engineer hit the floor and stayed down and Archer was through the door before he had finished swearing, although he kept up a string of mental curses as he ran through the Xindi vessel. This was going horribly wrong and if he found that his decision to hook up that cube led to Earth’s destruction – well, hopefully he wouldn’t be alive to see it.
Tucker was stirring when Archer reached the chamber but the captain bypassed him to approach the cube cautiously, a hand held out in front of him. He encountered a yielding surface but he couldn’t push through it so all he could do was haul a dazed Tucker to his feet and drag him towards the docking hatch that closed as soon as they were through. There was the judder of separation and Archer pushed Tucker at T’Pol and headed for the bridge, hearing the other two following more slowly.
Xeta had the small science vessel well away from the weapon-ship but Xentnor had kept it on the viewscreen and raised a puzzled gaze to Archer as he entered. “It’s … fading.”
Teeth clamped on his lower lip, the captain watched as the other vessel slid out of focus before their eyes. “Have you seen the station?” The view changed to show the looming bulk of Daniels’ stolen vessel and the now ghostly weapon-ship gliding towards it.
“They are in phase.” The quiet comment came from behind and Archer glanced around to see that Tucker and T’Pol had joined them, the Vulcan seemingly having put aside her distaste for unwashed human since she had a supporting hand under the engineer’s elbow. Tucker’s lips were moving soundlessly, whether in prayer or profanity Archer couldn’t tell and even T’Pol’s eyes were wide as she stared at the screen. The captain took a deep breath and forced himself to watch as the distance between the insubstantial shapes decreased until they appeared to merge into each other then there was a muted flare, no more clear to the naked eye than the ships had been and then … nothing.
“What happened?” Tucker whispered, not daring to hope, and T’Pol moved to view the readouts from the science vessel’s sensors, Xentnor peering over her shoulder. Her eyes were still wide when she raised her head, looking from one human to another.
“The thermobaric clouds are dispersing.”
Archer realised he had been holding his breath. He let it out slowly. “Are you sure, T’Pol?”
He was seized in a tight embrace before he realised that Tucker had moved. “We did it, Jon!” His friend released him but only to grab his shoulders and shake him hard. “You did it!”
“I don’t think we know that yet, Trip.” Archer couldn’t share any of the elation the younger man was evidently experiencing.
“It is logical to assume that the Xindi fleet will move in this direction.” T’Pol had recovered from her momentary distraction. “We should leave the area.”
“Too late.” On the view screen the swirl of the thermobaric clouds was clearly thinning and Tucker pointed to the Xindi ships appearing before them. “They must have followed us in.”
“Damn,” Archer whispered almost to himself and watched T’Pol move to Tucker’s side, her shoulder brushing his. For a second the engineer stared down at her then tentatively took her hand, lacing his fingers through hers. They deserved more than a few moments together, Archer thought fiercely, and the fact that it was their own uncertainty that had kept them apart had nothing to do with the sudden anger that filled him.
“Xentnor!” The roar was from the comm. system and the scientist jumped before acknowledging the peremptory hail, the image of someone they all recognised appearing on the screen. “Xentnor,” General Xerket’s voice was harsh with fury, “what have you done?”
“What was best for my people.” His voice was surprisingly calm and Archer saw that Xeta had moved close to him much as T’Pol had done with Tucker.
“Where are the Earthers?”
Archer stepped forward, glad of a target for his anger. “Welcome to the real world, General Xerket.”
“That’s not what President Xantok wants.”
“Xantok’s dead! I killed him with my own hands. There’ll be no more ‘rule of the people’. We’ll destroy you Earthers and every other species that stands against us!”
“I think not.” The calm deep voice was in stark contrast to the Xindi’s ranting and it was clear that it could be heard on the general’s ship too. Xeta adjusted the screen and it split into four, the lower half showing the Xindi fleet and the ranks of ships now facing them, the upper showing Xerket and the impassive, disdainful face of Captain Vanik. Archer knew his jaw had dropped and couldn’t even begin to close it. “The fleet facing you,” the Vulcan continued mildly, “is sufficient to destroy your own. I recommend you withdraw to your own space. Should you wish to approach us in peace we will listen. If you attack we will meet force with force.”
Xerket was spitting with anger but he was no fool and one of his own people must have confirmed Vanik’s assessment of the firepower ranged against them. “You haven’t heard the last of the Xindi! We’ll be back and then you’ll regret this day’s work.”
His image blanked and on the lower half of the screen the Xindi fleet started to turn away. Archer turned a blankly disbelieving look onto Tucker and T’Pol, seeing his own confusion echoed in their faces then turned back to the screen as a familiar voice said cheerfully, “Enterprise to Captain Archer.”
“Malcolm.” The captain stared bemusedly at the image of his armoury officer and found he couldn’t continue.
“Good to see you again, sir.” The Englishman was plainly pleased with the effect his arrival had produced. “Would you care to come aboard?”
Tucker wasn’t sure how long he stood under the fall of hot water but it was considerably longer than usual and he still wasn’t absolutely convinced that he was clean. At least he probably didn’t smell too bad any more and that was the main thing. Even Reed and Phlox had assumed pained expressions when their colleagues had emerged from the Xindi science vessel so he really couldn’t blame T’Pol for having avoided him. But now .... Tucker shivered with anticipation as he slid into a uniform that was both clean and still his. If he hadn’t still been reeling in shock at everything else that had happened that day, he’d have been stunned at the news that not only had Forrest rejected his and Archer’s resignations but had managed to convince Starfleet to approve their trip to the Xindi home world. He was still a Starfleet officer and one day soon he’d sit down and work out just how much that meant to him but now … He took a quick look in the mirror and grimaced. His hair needed cutting and he looked exhausted but if T’Pol really liked him … Another shiver ran down his back at the memory of warm hands stroking his face. She had to like him. Vulcans avoided physical contact but she’d been touching him an awful lot lately – until he started to smell worse than a Klingon anyway.
There was no answer when he buzzed for entry at T’Pol’s cabin even when he repeated the action and he frowned. Maybe she was in the shower or on the bridge even though Phlox had ordered them all to rest for a few days. “Trip.” He turned at the quiet voice and found Archer a few paces down the corridor regarding him compassionately, an expression that made his heart contract painfully.
“Where is she?”
The older man approached slowly. “She’s gone back to Vulcan.” Tucker stared blankly at his friend, not quite believing what the words were telling him.
Archer grimaced, clearly not relishing having to pass on the news. “Skon came for her an hour ago. She told me she had personal business to see to.”
“Personal.” Tucker leant back against the wall, his voice sounding strangled to his own ears. “Yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Getting married. That’s kind of personal. If Skon was here …”
“You think they’re going to be married?”
“Sure. Why shouldn’t they? He’s a nice guy. Vulcan. Respectable. Loves her.”
Tucker’s voice broke and Archer stepped in, gripping his shoulders tightly. “Trip, you don’t know that.”
“No, I don’t.” He looked up into his friend’s concerned gaze. “Fair bet, though. I guess she decided she didn’t want a human after all.” Archer’s face twisted in shared pain and Tucker swallowed, trying to be sensible. “Did she say if she was coming back?”
“Well then …” He pushed himself upright, shrugging off Archer’s sympathetic support. “I need some sleep.”
“You need to eat.”
“Not that hungry right now, Cap’n.”
“We’re off duty: my name’s still Jon. And Phlox’s orders were for you to eat. Come on.” He had to tug hard but Tucker did follow him reluctantly down the corridor. “I’ll tell you why we had such an impressive welcoming committee.”
Understanding the situation sufficiently to make a definitive statement on the Xindi crisis took the entire trip back to Earth from what had once been the Delphic Expanse. The president’s address took place as Enterprise was approaching Earth orbit and everyone halted in what they were doing to listen to the speech, the bridge crew also getting to watch the image of the woman on the main view screen.
“People of Earth,” she predictably began, “I find today that words written three hundred years ago are appropriate now: ‘It was the worst of times, it was the best of times’. Just over a year ago, I certainly hope we experienced the worst that Earth will ever have to face when seven million of our fellow citizens were murdered in a pre-emptive strike that we had done nothing to provoke. Today I can categorically state that the threat to humanity that that attack brought to light has been reduced.” Clever, Archer thought cynically. The Xindi are still a threat but people will hear ‘categorically’ and ‘reduced’ and stop worrying. “Through the actions of the Starfleet vessel Enterprise and her crew, who boldly went into the Delphic Expanse where no man had gone before we now know our enemy. If we know them we can defeat them. Yet we must all hope that ‘defeat’ will be unnecessary as we strive to come to a pact of mutual non-aggression with the Xindi.” On Enterprise’s bridge, Tucker stirred restlessly then was still again as eyes turned in his direction. “In this we do not stand alone. When a Xindi fleet emerged recently from the Delphic Expanse it was Vulcan ships in combination with Enterprise who turned them back. We owe Vulcan a debt of gratitude and we will not forget.” The woman left a measured pause. “The immediate threat from the Xindi is over. Go in peace and go in hope for we can be confident that there is a future in which all space-fairing species will one day be joined to produce something greater than the sum of their parts.”
The transmission ended and the screen reverted to a display of Earth but the silence on the bridge drew out a few moments longer and Archer knew that his officers were all sifting the carefully chosen words and filling in the gaps from their own knowledge of the situation – which didn’t produce quite the same picture as the president had been painting. But then she was a politician and maybe it was better to keep the majority slightly in the dark. It was true that Earth was no longer in imminent danger of destruction and after the mental and physical damage caused by the first Xindi attack perhaps the positive image was necessary.
“Cap’n?” Tucker said quietly and Archer swung round, nodding permission to a request that the engineer had made some hours earlier. Tucker headed for the lift avoiding eye contact with his crewmates and the captain frowned after him, mentally reviewing all the things he had planned to say to a certain Vulcan science officer of his acquaintance if she ever dared show her face on Enterprise again.
The damage that the Xindi probe had inflicted had been repaired for most of its length, the deep gash filled in, new growth started, even some buildings erected. The tip of Florida had been designated as the official memorial, however, and here no repair work had been undertaken. The trench cut by the probe was 5 kilometres long, the full width and depth left untouched to leave an indelible record of the devastation wrought. The man-made memorial was at the centre of the scar, a slender pinnacle of polished stone soaring skywards with a terminal below that continuously scrolled through the names and images of the victims.
Tucker had the place to himself and approached the terminal slowly, interrupting the replay to seek out one specific image. He stood there for a long time, lost in a plethora of bitter memories, then turned away to find that someone else had entered the memorial and was waiting for him a dozen metres away. He walked slowly over, grief and weariness in his face as he halted to stare down at her. “What are you doing here, Sub-Commander T’Pol?” Like him, she was back in uniform.
“Captain Archer informed me that I would find you here.”
“Fine. You found me. Now get the hell out of my way. I wanna be alone.”
She looked steadily back. “I do not believe that would be wise.”
“And you care a damn about that?”
“I care a great deal.”
He had to swallow hard. “Afraid your former patient’s gonna go crazy again?”
“No.” Very slowly she reached out to touch the side of his face where a scar was still faintly visible.
Tucker jerked his head away. “Didn’t your husband tell you not to touch other men?”
The brown eyes holding his were very calm. “You are mistaken. I was compelled to return to Vulcan to attend the trial of the man who … violated … my mind and was responsible for me contracting Pa’nar Syndrome. Skon discovered his identity and my father insisted that justice be seen to be done.”
There was a pause. “You could have told me.”
“I believed that I would be obliged to remain on Vulcan after the trial. However, as you see, I have been permitted to resume my commission and my position on Enterprise … if you wish me to do so.”
“Commander Tucker, I am aware that you had … feelings … for me. I have also developed a considerable affection for you. If you still wish, I would be willing to take the relationship between us to a more … intimate … level.”
Tucker’s heart was racing. “Feelings? I’m sorry if it’s too human for you, T’Pol, but I love you.”
Gentle fingers touched his mouth. “As I am … fond … of you. But I do not know if I will ever be able to respond to your emotion as you would wish. Is affection enough for you?”
“I don’t know,” he said in a moment of blinding honesty, “but I’d like to try, T’Pol, I really would.” The brown eyes looking up at him were as warm as the fingers still caressing his face. Tucker sucked in his breath in something very close to a sob as something snapped inside him and caught the woman into his arms, hugging her tightly, face pressed into her hair, feeling slim arms close firmly across his back. They held each other for a long time in an affirmation of friendship more than of desire before Tucker raised his head, surreptitiously wiping away tears on the soft hair under his cheek although he didn’t think T’Pol was fooled. “Let’s get out of here.”
They climbed out of the crater then stopped at the top for a final look back, Tucker’s face again twisting with pain and regret. T’Pol turned to face him, hands tight on his. “You helped ensure,” she said softly, “that billions of others will have the chance to live.”
“Seven million still died.”
“You cannot change the past. You can only seek to influence the future.”
“Yeah, but right now … that doesn’t seem anything like enough.”
She raised a hand to caress his face again. “You have done all that you could – which was a very great deal.”
“The Xindi are still out there.”
“Yet perhaps even they have a brighter future because of what you have done. It is over.”
He gulped then his mouth found hers, briefly and awkwardly, but as he would have pulled away, heartily embarrassed at his lack of finesse, a firm hand on his cheek steered him back and the second kiss went much better.
When they finally broke apart Tucker had both arms wrapped tightly around the Vulcan, pressing her so close that she could be in no doubt as to the effect she had on him, although the fact that her arms were locked behind his back implied that she didn’t mind in the least. He gaped down at her. “Is that your idea of not responding?”
“I was referring to emotional response, not physical. I find you very attractive, Commander Tucker.” He blushed and T’Pol felt compelled to stroke his cheek again. He was very sweet – if she correctly understood the definition of the word as applied to sentient beings. But he was also frowning.
“Do you have to call me that?”
She paused, expression slightly disapproving. “You wish me to address you by your preposterous nickname?”
“Well … yeah.”
An eyebrow flicked in irritation. “Do you have an objection to your given name?”
“Yeah, but … OK, if you have to.” He waited expectantly. “Aren’t you gonna use it then?”
“I believe that we should first return to Enterprise.”
“Huh?” Slender hips moved against his and he yelped. “Don’t do that!” although honesty compelled him to add, “Not in public, anyway.”
“Charles, we have known each other for several years and we desire each other. Logic suggests that we act on those desires.”
“Uh ... don’t you think we ought to take it slow?”
“I trust that we will spend much time in each other’s company. However, I believe we would enjoy our time together even more if we are not experiencing excessive … tension.”
“Are you seducing me, Sub-Commander T’Pol?”
“Since you seem so reluctant, Commander Tucker, yes, I am seducing you.”
He laughed for the first time in months and tightened an arm around her waist. Whoever would have thought that T’Pol could be so wicked? This was gonna be fun. “My cabin or yours?”
Archer looked up as his two senior officers entered the captain’s mess, a smile forming as he moved towards them, a hand held out to each. “Congratulations.” Tucker grinned, returning the pressure of a hand on his arm with a vigorous thump on Archer’s back while T’Pol allowed the contact although her expression suggested that she thought her captain’s action lacked tact, but even she was looking more relaxed than normal. “It took you long enough.”
“We got there.” Tucker couldn’t stop smiling. In an afternoon of surprises – all of them pleasant for once – the fact that Vulcan women were passionate, responsive and imaginative lovers was the biggest. If he ever met up with Skon again he’d thank him big time – although maybe not. Such things were almost certainly not spoken of. “You don’t mind, Cap’n?”
“Mind?” Archer took his seat again, shaking out his napkin while he appeared to consider the matter carefully. “No, Commander Tucker, I don’t think I mind. Provided you and Sub-Commander T’Pol only see each other when you’re granted shore leave.” He regarded his old friend over the rim of his glass of iced tea, struggling not to laugh at Tucker’s consternation.
T’Pol moved gracefully to a seat, quite unperturbed. “Commander, Captain Archer is teasing you.”
The engineer spluttered in outrage and glared at his now chuckling friend. “That’s not nice!”
“I was just checking, Trip. I was sure you’d rather spend time with your engines than with T’Pol.”
The other man’s expression turned fatuous as he moved behind the woman to hug her. “Not this time, Jon. Hey!” She had firmly detached his arms.
“We have discussed the need for reticence in public.”
“Jon’s not public.” Her stern look contradicted his theory and sent him to take his own place across the table, where he could at least stare to his heart’s content and plan exactly how they could spend the next month’s downtime.
“Has anything yet been said, Captain, regarding Enterprise’s next mission?” T’Pol inquired politely and Archer had to hide another smile.
“Nothing official, but Enterprise is still Earth’s only warp 5 ship. I’m betting they’ll send us out there again.” He rose to his feet, raising his glass. “My friends, I give you a toast: to Enterprise, to her continuing mission … and to the future of human/Vulcan relations.”
Tucker laughed too hard to join in while T’Pol glared at both men and wondered just why she’d ever agreed to stay on an Earth vessel.
Have a comment to make about this story? Do so in the Trip Fan Fiction forum at the HoTBBS!
A whole mess of folks have made comments
Great series! very well written. Sorry to be so late in reviewing as I have really enjoyed reading each episode.
Brilliant! I loved how you resolved the immediate Xindi threat in such a neat way yet left the way open for future conflicts and/or adventures and I howled with joy at the notion of T'Pol getting impatient with Trip's slow progress and seducing *him*. Wonderful. It was also a pure pleasure to have Captain Archer actually putting his friends first. Deep joy. Heartfelt thanks! Ali D :~)
Wow. I really loved this one.
I especially loved the scene in front of the memorial, it was priceless. :)
Keep up the excellent writing!
I really loved this series. I started reading the first part today and spent a looooong time reading all the parts. It was well worth it, though. I enjoyed the different adventures, all tied in together, and I loved the character development, particularly Trip's. My fave was when he took care of the Xindi girl. That is so like him.
Even though we're now getting a different version of things since the season's started, I really like your version of events. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work. :)
This last story in the series was a great windup, vivid details and really believable characterizations esp. Trip and Archer getting captured (again). I also liked the happy ending - I was getting a little nervous there. The whole series was terrific. Looking forward to future works.
I LOVED this series, Should! You're imagination is unmatched! Thanks you and I do hope you write more soon!
Well done! You wrapped it all up so well and still left room for a follow up story. Great characterizations and a very engaging plot. I really enjoyed it and look forward to more of your excellent stories. :-)
I was glued to this masterpiece from beginning to end. You're one of the best fic writers out there. Keep up the great work.
Oh How I loved this little series! I wish you'd make just one more.. I don't know what exactly.. but I donno.. somethin' more.. this one is really sweet!
Very cool. An wonderful rich long series. Don't think you missed a thing... very well done.
Need to bronze that 2x4 lots of men and women need to get one upside their head.
Malcolm to the rescue.
Um Trip, agreed don't thank Skon.
The only thing I wish there'd been more of... the Xindi child... a bit more thanks on the President's part... a bit more acknowledgment.
Wonderful series. The TnT ... nicely done. Very nicely done.
Tracy--who hopes Trip has a discussion with Phlox!
Damn I loved this. It's well written and a masterpiece of FanFiction art. Honestly. Everytime I finished one chapter I longed for the next. Keep writing.
I just finished reading this series and previous to it, the other series you wrote and I must say ... I LOVE YOU! lol You are an incredibly talented fanfiction writer! I beg of you to apply to Paramount. I desperately want you to be the head writer for this show! Look! You've made me use five exclamation marks and only one period!
I just finished reading this series and previous to it, the other series you wrote and I must say ... I LOVE YOU! lol You are an incredibly talented fan/science fiction writer! I beg of you to apply to Paramount. I desperately want you to be the head writer for this show! Look! You've made me use five exclamation marks and only one period!
please come back and write some more soon..
I love it! At certain points I wasn't sure you were going with T/T but I kept with it, why else would it be on T/T site, right? Really nice :) Thanks
A fabulous series, wonderful in every way. Characterization, plot, pacing -- everything worked together. Loved the T/T aspects, of course (that's why I'm here!), but you didn't let it get in the way of a darn good story. Please, please let there be another lovely long series in the works!
I don't know how I could have missed this series, but I'm totally blown away. You've got a real knack for compelling, action-filled plots with plenty of the slow burn going between our fave couple!!! It was almost a bit excruciating, but the payoff was well worth it!!! THANK YOU!
Not to state the obvious, but...you're really good. :-)
I'm so very, very impressed at your work. I like your exploration of the Xindi arc better than I like the canon version. Superb work.
I see you have written anything new since last fall. Please come back! Enterprise fans need you.
Thanks again for all the time and effort it must have taken to write fic this terrific.