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There and Back Again (Plot #1)
Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Season 3.5 Story | Main Story | Rating - PG-13 | T
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There and Back Again
Summary: Trip and T’Pol work to reset the timeline and rid Earth of the aliens and Nazis alike, receiving unexpected aid from the Vulcans. Meanwhile, Reed and the rest of Enterprise’s crew discover Archer is still alive.
Category: Plot Summary #1, Trip/T’Pol Summer 2004 Challenge
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, the Star Trek franchise and the universe. I just use them for my own private, non-profit making amusement.
An hour on, Tucker still felt sick, but by that time, it was due to the evident misery of the population. The Washington through which they were walking had been utterly destroyed, in wars that no one had won, over sixty years before Tucker’s birth. Under other circumstances, he would have been fascinated to see buildings that, in his timeline, were no more than digital images - but not when seeing them meant that his world had been destroyed, as utterly as if the Xindi weapon had actually fired.
It was clear that this Washington had been through a war too, but one fought with technology consistent with the aircraft they had encountered over San Francisco. Many buildings showed blast damage, or were reduced to heaps of rubble, where some of the population were living under makeshift shelters.
“How long ago did this happen?” Tucker whispered to T’Pol, when they stopped on one street corner for her to take more readings, her scanner carefully screened between their bodies.
“Approximately 20 years.”
“And they haven’t rebuilt yet?”
From their left came the sound of a vehicle, the first they had seen. They followed the example of the others around them, pulling back against the walls of the building to their rear to watch it go past, the exhaust fumes making them both cough. “Did you see that?” Tucker muttered. “Nazi uniforms and insignia.”
T’Pol nodded, then started as a woman beside them turned and spat in their direction. “Collaborators!”
Tucker recognised the term, but only because he was a classic movie buff. Wary of the attention beginning to be focussed on them, he began to edge T’Pol away, but the whisper was spreading. “Collaborators!”
“Let’s go.” He had no doubt that he and T’Pol could take on anyone who tried to attack them – the locals appeared malnourished and unhealthy – but getting into a fist-fight wasn’t high on their list of priorities. Concentrating on the people behind them, he almost bumped into an over-thin man, who sneered into their faces. “Collaborators aren’t welcome in this district. Clear out.”
“We’re going.” Tucker had his hand in the small of T’Pol’s back, feeling her rigid muscles through the coarse material of the suit that the quartermaster had fashioned for her. “If you’ll just move aside.”
“Wrong way.” The man jerked his head behind them. “The rally’s up town. Go hear what the Fuhrer has to tell you about being a good little citizen of the Reich.”
“Fine.” Tucker took a quick look around, seeing that they had been penned in, leaving them only one way to go. He began to back away, knowing that T’Pol was doing the same, no doubt keeping a wary eye on her side of the crowd. It mattered little to them which way they went, as long as they avoided any violence that might reveal that T’Pol was not Human.
The crowd let them go, and, within a very few minutes, they found themselves in a more salubrious area of wider streets where, if there had been bomb damage, it had been repaired. “We can’t beam out from here,” Tucker muttered, and T’Pol answered without interrupting her study of the people around them.
“We must find this rally the man spoke of.”
“We should pull out! The longer we stay here, the more chance we’ll be spotted. We’re too well dressed. We stand out.”
“We have yet to discover anything of value.” She nodded her smartly hat-ed head uphill, to where the avenue they were in appeared to open out. “This way.”
The Vulcan marched off, and Tucker blew out his cheeks in frustration and followed her. He felt more exposed and vulnerable on this altered Earth than he had on many alien worlds, but if T’Pol felt the same, she wasn’t showing it. She had seemed calmer, the last few days, although much too quiet. Worse, she had been avoiding him again, ever since they’d learned that Archer hadn’t made it off the Xindi weapon. He hadn’t pushed – maybe because, if he was honest about it, he was scared to do so. T’Pol had seduced him, she’d told him her age, she’d been there for him when he’d finally broken down over Lizzie’s death. In an alternative future that, in retrospect, was a lot weirder than this one, she’d even married him. But the desolation he saw in her soft brown eyes whenever someone spoke Archer’s name had started a cold fear that her feelings for her captain were a lot more profound than any she might have for Enterprise’s chief engineer. At the moment, he didn’t feel up to facing the possibility that he was second best, a substitute because Archer would not allow himself an intimate relationship with someone under his command.
In the open area at the end of the avenue, a large crowd had already assembled. Tucker followed T’Pol as she made her way deeper into the throng, hearing snatches of conversations, mainly despairing, a very few anticipating whatever was to come. T’Pol finally halted barely twenty metres from the place where a podium had been erected, its rear protected by ranks of open-topped trucks, full of soldiers in grey uniform. All were armed with rifles or were manning machines guns: not as sophisticated as focussed energy weapons, but lethal enough to encourage obedience. Primitive loudspeakers had also been rigged, connected to a portable generator, and to the large microphone placed at the front of the podium. Whatever was to be said, it was obviously the intention that as many people as possible would hear the message.
There was a stir near the front of the crowd, from which silence flowed out as a man emerged from a car behind the podium and mounted the steps, sunlight glinting on the rows of medals on the left breast of his uniform. While Tucker’s mouth fell open and T’Pol drew in her breath in an audible gasp, Jonathan Archer faced the crowd and raised his right arm stiffly in front of him, fingers extended. “Heil, Xenan!”
On the west coast of North America, in a San Francisco that no longer contained Starfleet Headquarters, Reed and Mayweather were having an equally disconcerting, although rather less dramatic, experience. With the same brief as Tucker and T’Pol, to gather any information they could about the Earth they no longer knew, they had also wandered the streets, brushing shoulders with strained and nervous men and women, many in uniform. San Francisco was clearly a city expecting the worst, a worst that was reflected in the bomb-damaged buildings and the frequent signs, reminding the population of the location of bomb shelters and of the need to carry gas masks. But there was nothing to tell the two Starfleet officers why their planet had changed, until Mayweather suddenly nudged Reed. “What about in there, sir?”
The smaller man looked where the helmsman was pointing, his pinched mouth pulling into a humourless smile. “You really think we can just walk into a public library and find the answer, ensign?”
“Have you got a better idea, sir?”
There was a moment’s hesitation, then Reed’s smile relaxed into a more natural smile. “Actually, no. After you, Mr Mayweather.”
Tucker recovered his wits before T’Pol, who was staring at the man on the podium as if her heart was breaking. “T’Pol!” Desperate to get her attention, he caught her arm. “T’Pol, it can’t be the captain.” Slowly, she tilted her head to look at him and he swallowed hard at the suggestion of tears glimmering in her eyes. “If this is another Earth, it kind of makes sense that there’d be other version of ourselves. It might be another Jonathan Archer, but it can’t be ours.” She was still staring hopelessly at him, and Tucker felt his heart twist painfully. “Let’s get out of here.”
Neither had been paying the least attention to the sycophantic speech being delivered, but, as Tucker began to force a path for them through the now-packed crowd, they couldn’t fail to notice that a climax was approaching. As the crowd’s attention intensified, Tucker gave up on movement, still holding T’Pol by the arm, and looked towards the man who resembled his dead captain, as he drew to a conclusion. “In honour of the imminent fall of the rump of the United States of America, we are privileged to welcome a great man amongst us. Fellow citizens of the Reich, I give you the Fuhrer himself, Chancellor Xenan.” With a flourish, Archer stepped to one side, effacing himself in favour of another uniformed figure that stepped to the fore. “Heil Xenan! Heil, Xenan!”
With varying degrees of enthusiasm, the crowd echoed the cry as the Chancellor of the Third Reich, that had lasted over two hundred years, and looked good for another eight hundred, lifted his right hand in the Nazi salute. And Tucker and T’Pol stared first at him, and then at each other, shocked all over again at seeing an alien face on a world where Zephram Cochrane might never have been born, let alone constructed a warp-engine.
The atmosphere in the command centre was depressed when Enterprise’s senior officers assembled, and not just because they had lost their captain. Finding that the Earth they knew was gone had come close to sending them into shock, and it was only the knowledge that Archer would have expected them to find a solution that was keeping them going.
It was Reed who asked the question, when T’Pol and Tucker joined the rest, both back in their usual form of dress. “Anything?”
“Perhaps.” T’Pol had regained her composure again in the time it had taken her and Tucker to work their way into a deserted spot from which they could be beamed out. “We determined that the leader of the Nazi faction is not Human.”
And no mention of another Jonathan Archer, Tucker thought ruefully, as Reed nodded. “That backs up what we discovered. Ensign Mayweather and I visited a library.” He indicated a thick volume lying in front of Sato. “That tells an interesting tale.”
“They stole the book,” Sato interjected with evident disgust, and the Englishman grimaced.
“In the circumstances, Hoshi, I don’t think that’s going to lie heavily on my conscience.” He returned to the main topic firmly. “The history of this Earth seems to diverge from ours in September 1940. Nazi Germany won the Battle of Britain and invaded in the spring of 1941, after heavy bombing had all but destroyed the major cities and ports. Britain fell, then Russia, India, eventually all of Africa. Japan still attacked Pearl Harbour, but the United States never entered the war in the Pacific and, with Britain gone, there were no potential allies in Europe. They shut their borders and tried to sit it out. Oh, except for Canada. That joined the US as another state, replacing Hawaii. For the next century, the German Empire clashed with the Japanese one, and finally overthrew them. Then the Nazis turned their attention to North America. The east coast fell to them twenty years ago, and they’ve been moving west ever since, pushing up from South America too. They’re within a few months, maybe weeks, of dominating the entire world. And since 1942, the Chancellor of Germany has been Xenan: an alien.”
“But why did the technology stagnate?” Tucker demanded, more concerned with that than with the geopolitical situation, but Reed could only shrug.
“I’ve no idea. You’d think progress might even be faster in a world geared up for warfare, but it didn’t happen – except for one thing.”
“What?” Tucker prompted, irritated by the tactical officer’s dramatic pause.
“The Battle of Britain was lost because the Luftwaffe deployed planes with jet-engines, four years ahead of time relative to our history.”
“You are positive of this?” T’Pol queried, and Reed nodded.
“It’s the sort of thing my father made sure I knew, sub-commander, but I cross-checked with the historical database. The Messerschmitt ME-262 should have been deployed in 1944, but it flew over London in the autumn of 1940.”
“The aliens?” Tucker suggested hesitantly, and Reed shrugged again.
“It’s plausible. The first mention of them in the history books is in Augsburg, in southern German, early in 1940. That’s where the ME-262 was developed.”
“And the strangest thing,” Sato added. “I can’t find any mention of more than half a dozen of these aliens all through the next two centuries. Six of them – and they changed everything.”
There was silence for an uncomfortably long period as each of them absorbed the implications and tried desperately to think of a solution.
“They must’ve crashed,” Mayweather said eventually. “Maybe the Xindi weapon did something …” He let the sentence drift away, aware that he was hopelessly guessing.
“If that’s true, could we stop them somehow?” Sato asked in a small voice.
“It happened over two hundred years ago, Hoshi.” Reed managed to combine compassion and desperation in the statement. “It’s the consequences we have to deal with.”
“Where’s Daniels when you need him?” Tucker muttered, and scowled when T’Pol said evenly, “Daniels was a result of our timeline. If this one has replaced it, then logically he can no longer exist.”
“So everything’s really gone?” There was a shake to Sato’s voice now. “Captain Archer died for nothing?”
“No.” T’Pol did not sound unmoved either. “Commander Tucker, we still have some of the artefacts Daniels left on Enterprise, plus those that the captain and I retrieved from Detroit?” He nodded, confused. “Then start an investigation into the possibility of returning us to the time period in question.”
“T’Pol,” Tucker’s head was shaking, “you’re asking me to invent a time machine! Daniels was from the 31st century. I …”
“You will not succeed if you do not try!” She sounded as fierce as he had ever heard her. “Captain Archer’s death will not be in vain. Dismissed.”
They filed out obediently, even Tucker, although he hung back to see T’Pol drop her head, one hand clutching the console in front of her as the other hand brushed her cheek. He hurried after the others at that point, before the sight of her crying for their captain could tear him up more than he could bear.
It was hours later, when Tucker would have been in bed if he had had any hope at all of being able to sleep, before T’Pol sought him out again. She came quietly into the science lab and stood behind him in silence, watching him study an entry in the database that they had somehow omitted to hand over to Starfleet Engineering. Knowing that she was there, even though she hadn’t spoken, he waited a few moments before finally saying sarcastically, “Sorry, but I’m all out of miracles today.”
She appeared at his side, lifting her lovely face to his, saying in her soft, off-duty voice, “I apologise for my behaviour earlier. I was unjust.”
He melted, as he always did when she spoke like that. “We all miss him, T’Pol.”
It was the wrong thing to say. She looked away at once, her tone louder and firmer when she asked, “Have you found anything of use?”
“Not a damn thing.” Except that there was something worse than losing your best friend, and that was finding out that the woman you loved had probably been in love with said best friend all along.
“I have also been researching the problem.” T’Pol proffered a PADD that Tucker took reluctantly, remembering some of her more wacky suggestions for destroying the key sphere.
He flicked through the mathematical proof, frowned, and went back to the beginning. “T’Pol, you’re losing me here.”
She leant in close, filling his nose with the scent of the shampoo she used. “The basic premise is this.”
“Yeah.” He mastered the urge to grab and demand to know if he’d been second choice, frowning at the PADD instead. “Uh …”
“Bridge to T’Pol.”
The hail saved him from having to admit that she’d gone far beyond his understanding, even though he was flattered that she’d expected him to follow.
“Sub-Commander,” Sato sounded confused, “there’s a ship approaching. It’s Vulcan.”
Acting captain and acting first officer exchanged a startled look and headed for the door.
T’Pol made for the centre of the Bridge as soon as the lift door opened, Tucker moving to the science station that he had unconsciously adopted since T’Pol had assumed command. “Report.” Her voice was crisp, and Reed responded in kind.
“It’s a Vulcan cruiser, heavily armed.”
She gave him an alarmed look. “Tactical alert.”
“Earth is altered.” Her gaze was now fixed on the view screen, which showed the approaching vessel. “Vulcan may be also.”
“They’re hailing us, sub-commander,” Sato put in as the lights dipped in response to T”Pol’s earlier order, and she raised her chin proudly.
The image formed, and Tucker’s wasn’t the only jaw to drop at the sight of the grey haired man seated on the other ship’s bridge. T’Pol’s eyes widened, her emotionless mask faltering as the other Vulcan came abruptly to his feet, the frown line between his slanted eyebrows deepening. “Identify yourself.”
“I …” For a second, it seemed that T’Pol would not be able to comply, then she continued, “My name is T’Pol, acting captain of the Earth vessel Enterprise.”
“Do you take me for a fool?” Behind his impassive expression, the Vulcan man was angry and barely controlling it. “T’Pol is dead. Who are you?”
Her parted lips were trembling slightly, and Tucker decided to intervene, moving quickly to her side. “Ambassador Soval …”
“You flatter me.” The man on the screen switched his hard stare to Tucker, who finally noticed that the Vulcan was not dressed in the traditional robes of an ambassador, but the close-fitting grey uniform of the High Command. “My rank is captain. And how do you know my name?”
“That’s one hell of a long story.” Tucker glanced sideways, but T’Pol still appeared to be in shock. “Why don’t you come across to Enterprise, Captain Soval? We’ll explain – everything.”
On screen, the man who bore every resemblance to Vulcan’s ambassador to Earth, except that he clearly was not, looked sharply sideways, waited a moment, then nodded. “Thank you for your courtesy.” He didn’t sound grateful, and Tucker almost smiled: even in this mad universe, Soval couldn’t be polite to save his life. “But I must insist that you visit my ship. You and the woman, alone and unarmed.”
“Sure.” Tucker never doubted for a moment that the Vulcan captain had just received a warning from his first officer to beware of alien invitations. “We’ll dock with you shortly. Enterprise out.” The view screen cut back to show the Vulcan cruiser, and he turned to T’Pol, who appeared to be pulling herself together again. “Soval in command of a warship, huh? I’ll bet the Andorians are running scared.”
When Tucker and T’Pol stepped through the airlock into the Vulcan ship, they were greeted by two armed guards, as well as Soval and another man and woman, the former of whom raised a scanner, directing it first at T’Pol and then Tucker. It was evident from T’Pol’s affronted look that she resented the lack of trust, but, for once, Tucker found himself in sympathy with the Vulcans. This was one weird situation, and he’d have ordered similar measures.
“Well?” Soval asked brusquely.
“I’m not familiar with the male’s species.” The man with the scanner appeared to hesitate fractionally. “The woman is Vulcan.”
“Her DNA profile?”
Seemingly reluctant to answer his captain, the Vulcan held out the scanner, that Soval took with an irritated frown, to stare at the result, his mouth compressing. “So,” he said after a moment, his deep-set eyes rising to rake the two from Enterprise with a dubious look, “you say that you have an explanation for this,” he paused, “encounter?”
“Preposterous.” That seemed to be a word of which Soval’s first officer, a tall woman, nearly as grey as her captain, was fond. “The Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that time travel is impossible.” T’Pol had attempted to keep all mention of controversial subjects out of her narrative, but a few had crept in, particularly in the face of Soval’s stony silence. The captain had left the questions to V’Mir, but, watching the two Vulcans closely, Tucker had reached the conclusion that their partnership was well established. V’Mir asked the questions so that her captain could listen to the answers – and the engineer was not looking forward to the moment when Soval finally decided to join in.
The point came when T’Pol repeated Reed’s assessment of when Earth’s history had diverged. Soval leant forward slightly, resting his clasped hands on the table. “If what you say is true, there is nothing that can be done.” His voice was even, giving no hint of whether he believed the story or not. “If not,” slowly, Soval’s gaze moved from T’Pol to Tucker and back again, and the engineer felt a shiver run down his spine, “that can be determined. Whatever the case, I see no option but to escort you to Vulcan, where a full investigation can be conducted.”
“No!” Tucker’s protest was instinctive, but, glancing at T’Pol, he saw the same rejection on her face. “Captain Soval, we haven’t finished here. There may be something we can do.”
“As V’Mir so succinctly said,” if there was sarcasm in Soval’s voice, it was directed at his first officer, “the Vulcan Science Directorate has determined that time travel is impossible. If you are correct in that the history of your planet changed 214 years ago, there is nothing you can do about it.”
“How else d’you explain a bunch of Humans from that planet down there, on a warp-capable ship?” Tucker demanded, finally growing tired of scepticism, and Soval turned a cool look on him.
“I cannot. Which is why,” the Vulcan added levelly, “I have not disabled your vessel and taken the woman claiming to be T’Pol into custody.”
Her head came up sharply. “I am T’Pol.”
“Not the one that I knew.” The eyes of the two Vulcans met, and, for a second, Tucker thought he saw a resemblance between them, then put it down to the stubborn expressions on both supposedly unemotional faces. Soval rose to his feet, ending the interview. “Return to your ship. My science team have further work to do here. I will contact you when we are ready to leave.”
Tucker scowled at the curt dismissal, and looked to T’Pol for guidance, but her eyes were still firmly fixed on Soval. “Perhaps you would ask your science officer to consider this also.” Reluctantly he took the PADD she held out, not losing eye contact with her. “I will be available to discuss the details if required.”
“You gave Soval that time travel theory of yours?” Tucker asked, once he and T’Pol were back on Enterprise, and she nodded. “He’ll never buy it.”
“Perhaps not.” She raised those desolate eyes to him again, and he winced. “But he will ensure that it is properly assessed.”
“You and Ambassador Soval are close, aren’t you?” He wasn’t sure what had prompted the comment, unless it was the barely suppressed anger that this Soval had displayed at seeing someone he knew to be dead.
She sounded so tired and miserable that Tucker reached out to take one of her hands. “Why don’t you go get some sleep? You heard Soval, he’s got business to finish before he’ll get back to us.”
T’Pol didn’t answer for a moment, watching their joined hands. “I have been having difficulty sleeping.”
His heart twisted, but he didn’t hesitate to answer the tentative appeal. “Want me to help with that one?” She nodded and he squeezed her hand that was once more soft and perfect. “Meet you in your quarters in fifteen minutes?” Again the elegant head inclined in agreement and he watched her walk slowly away. If he could help her get through whatever nightmare was taking place inside her head, he would, even if it killed him – and from the pain in his heart, that didn’t seem such an empty phrase right now.
Even with a host of hopeless thoughts circulating in his brain, the neuro-pressure worked its usual magic, so that Tucker was able, the next day, to greet the news that Captain Soval wanted to talk to them with reasonable equanimity. T’Pol also seemed calmer, and he let himself hope that she’d also received some benefit from their session, even if she hadn’t wanted to talk.
They were still expected to visit the Vulcan ship, but this time the guards were absent, as was V’Mir. Meeting Soval’s hard eyes, Tucker wasn’t convinced that the absence of anyone else was a good thing. He’d never managed to exchange a civil word with Ambassador Soval, and it didn’t look much more promising with this version. The Vulcan surprised him, however, pushing the PADD that T’Pol had handed him the day before back across the table towards her. “V’Mir tells me that, if one leaves aside the fundamental impossibility of time travel, your theory is plausible.”
She laid her hand on the PADD, eyes steady on his. “Thank you.”
“I did not say I believed her.” His tone was dry, but Tucker had the sense that the disclaimer was spoken out of habit. The captain was looking in his direction now, and he forced himself to return the man’s stare calmly. “We have made a brief study of the planet you call Earth.” Soval was disapproving now. “It has confirmed, in part, what you told us yesterday. The plausible part!” he added, and studied Tucker again. “If you claim to be of the same species as those on this planet, Commander Tucker, I beg leave to inform you that I consider you to be appallingly violent.”
“We got better!” Tucker said heatedly, although honesty and the memory of the scenes he had witnessed in the alternate Washington forced him to add, “But not in this timeline, I guess.”
“First contact protocols forbid meetings with pre-warp societies.” Soval continued as if Tucker had not spoken. “My ship is only here because we detected a special anomaly that you now tell me was created by the ship that returned you here.”
“You state what we already know.” Tucker glanced over at T’Pol in surprise at her almost defiant tone, to find her glaring at the other Vulcan. “Enterprise is too badly damaged to withstand the stress involved in the slingshot effort required to return through time. Will you help us?”
Captain Soval leant back, looking down his nose at her in a manner that Tucker had often seen Ambassador Soval do, when about to deliver a blistering put-down. “As I said,” his voice was silky, “my ship should not be here. The High Command would debate fiercely whether I should have any contact with your colleagues, as members of a species who are not warp-capable.”
“Are you gonna help us or not, Captain Soval?” Tucker demanded, annoyed at the equivocation, and found himself ignored as the man kept his eyes on T’Pol.
“Will you?” she asked again, and again he waited a beat.
“Yes.” Tucker and T’Pol exchanged a disbelieving look, and Soval added sarcastically, “Reserve your thanks. The attempt will fail.” They both glared at him and he raised an eyebrow in exaggerated surprise at having to point out the obvious. “The Vulcan Science Directorate has, of course, determined that time travel is impossible.”
“I don’t like this.” It was at least the third time that Reed had expressed that opinion, and this time T’Pol came close to losing her temper.
“We have no alternative!”
Reed shot her a startled look, and Tucker hurried to cover her outburst. “T’Pol’s right, Malcolm. We can’t use Enterprise for this. I don’t know why Captain Soval’s agreed to help, but he has. We can’t pass up the chance.”
“But we don’t know these people! You said it yourself, sub-commander, the Vulcans could be different in this timeline.”
“It would appear they are not.”
She had buried her temper again, so Tucker felt justified in getting in a gentle dig. “Except Soval! I could almost like this version.”
He received a glare. “You should consider that Captain Soval has never met a Human before.”
“You mean a little more exposure and he might turn into the bad-tempered, prejudiced old Vulcan we all know and hate?”
While Tucker frowned over whether he had just been insulted or not, Reed returned to the attack. “I don’t believe Enterprise’s two ranking officers should leave the ship together at a time like this.”
“I have every faith in your ability to command Enterprise in our absence, lieutenant,” T’Pol said firmly, then halted as they turned a corner to find a pair of MACOs waiting outside the airlock that gave access to the Vulcan ship with which they were still docked. “Lt Reed?”
“I took the liberty of assigning a security team.” He nodded to the shorter one of the pair. “Corporal Cole speaks some German. I thought it might come in handy.”
“Unnecessary.” The Vulcan woman directed a hard stare at the Human one. “The Universal Translator is quite capable of dealing with Earth-based languages.”
“It’s not a bad idea, T’Pol,” Tucker cut in, and found himself the subject of the stare instead. “We have no idea what’s gonna happen.”
“And you can’t rely on the Vulcans to provide help on the ground,” Reed added bitterly. “I didn’t see any Vulcan ships helping defend Earth when the Xindi weapon dropped out of sub-space.”
“Very well.” T’Pol stalked to the airlock, while Tucker gave Reed’s shoulder a friendly thump in passing and followed her, noting that it wasn’t only the Vulcan woman who was annoyed with him. Cole sent him a black look as he passed, and he sighed, admitting that he’d earned it. With the hectic pace of events over the last couple of weeks, he’d never found the time to explain that maybe she’d got the wrong impression about the nature of their friendship. It hadn’t been until she turned up in his cabin during their trip in the Aquatics’ ship, with an offer of practical help in dealing with Archer’s loss, that he’d got around to a halting explanation. That she’d been hurt was obvious. That she jumped to a conclusion was perhaps inevitable given the gossip. That he’d failed to handle the entire fiasco was a given. So now Amanda was furious with both him and T’Pol – just the sort of person to be taking along for protection on a sensitive mission.
Soval’s first officer, V’Mir, met them at the airlock, her disapproval deepening when she saw the two heavily armed MACOs. The ensuing scene bordered on the unpleasant, because the MACOs didn’t take kindly to being told to disarm by potential hostiles. In the end, however, they were persuaded to ground their rifles and equipment packs. T’Pol and Tucker left them glowering at the Vulcan guards called in to supervise, while V’Mir escorted the officers to the Bridge.
Tucker noted the furtive looks T’Pol kept directing at the other Vulcan woman, and wasn’t surprised when she asked, once they were in relative private, “How did,” she hesitated, clearly wondering how to phrase the question, “T’Pol die?”
V’Mir stared coldly at her. “She was killed in the fighting when the Andorians tried to retake Paan Mokar.”
“I guess there’s no doubt of that?” Tucker asked, more to fill the uncomfortable silence that followed than out of any real expectation, and V’Mir glared at him.
“None. We were the first ship to reach the scene. Captain Soval found T’Pol’s body himself.”
Tucker winced. He knew how painful it was to discover the body of someone one knew. It couldn’t have been easy for Soval, even if he was Vulcan.
“I trust he was not,” again T’Pol paused, her voice uncertain, “distressed.”
“I find that comment in poor taste.” V’Mir’s tone edged towards contempt. “Whoever you are, it would appear that you have forgotten the rules that govern us.”
T’Pol’s expression reflected her pain at that remark, but the lift doors opened before she could respond. V’Mir strode out, and Tucker nudged T’Pol gently to get her to follow the other woman, smiling encouragingly when she raised her eyes to his. Not nice to be told that you didn’t know how to behave, though even he had seen that T’Pol’s behaviour hadn’t been classically Vulcan recently.
Soval was ensconced in his command chair, while his crew quietly performed their duties around him, but turned his head to give the newcomers a steady look as they exited the lift. “You have refined the parameters of this manoeuvre?”
“Yes.” T’Pol held out a PADD, her voice professional again. “Lt Reed has identified the date when the aliens first appeared as no later than 10th January 1940.”
The captain indicated that she should hand the data to the helmsman, who set to work impassively, although another man was less restrained. “Captain Soval, I must protest this attempt. Even leaving aside the stress to our superstructure, the potential damage …”
“I am aware of the risk, Sub-Commander Selen.” Soval sounded mildly irritated. “You have informed me – several times.”
“Then if you will not heed me, captain, I will lodge a formal protest.”
“Do so.” Soval’s head finally turned to allow him to regard the other man. “Once you have ensured that everything has been done to ensure our safety.”
Selen inclined his head and left the bridge, while V’Mir frowned. “Sub-Commander Selen has a valid point, captain,”
He silenced her by the simple expedient of not taking a blind bit of notice, turning to Tucker and T’Pol to say almost idly, “Selen is my chief engineer. A man much concerned with the minimisation of his workload.”
“I can sympathise with that,” Tucker murmured, although his surprise that the Vulcan had agreed to try out T’Pol’s plan was deepening. Soval had clearly gone against the advice of his senior officers, but why? It hardly seemed likely that it was because it was T’Pol who had asked, but that really only left rampant curiosity, and neither affection nor curiosity were attributes he had ever associated with Ambassador Soval. Maybe one day he ought to try to address a civil word to the ambassador and see where it led – always assuming that their utterly ridiculous plan paid off.
“The course is set, captain,” the helmsman reported, and Soval nodded fractionally.
“Engage.” The flicked a quick look at Tucker and T’Pol, still standing to one side of his chair. “You may wish to secure yourselves. Whatever the outcome, I do not anticipate a smooth journey.”
Soval’s words proved prophetic. As the Sh'Raan accelerated on her close-to-suicidal trajectory towards Earth’s sun, the inertial dampers failed to compensate fully for the forces threatening to rip the ship apart, with the result that anyone not firmly anchored was tossed around. Clinging to a rail with one hand and to T’Pol with the other – knowing that she was easily strong enough to protect herself couldn’t stop his instinctive grab – Tucker was certain that they weren’t going to make it. And the really worrying thing was that a small part of him welcomed the prospect: life had been a bitter pill to swallow, the last few days.
Then their flight levelled off and everyone breathed a sigh of relief – or would have done, had they been Human. Soval simply released his grip on the arms of his chair and said calmly, “Report.”
“Minor structural damage.” V’Mir’s tone matched her captain’s. “No injuries.”
“But where are we?” Tucker asked, and Soval inclined his head towards the view screen, where Earth rotated peacefully.
“Apparently, back where we started.”
“Then where is Enterprise?” T’Pol said firmly. “What of the star positions?”
The science officer bent over his scanner, that looked remarkably similar to T’Pol’s on Enterprise, stiffened, ran some more checks, then raised a face rigid with doubt.
“Well?” Soval demanded, and the other Vulcan said reluctantly, “From the positions of the stars, captain, we appear to have …” He broke off and the captain frowned at him. “We appear to have travelled back in time 214.13 years.”
Tucker glanced at T’Pol for a translation into something he could make sense of and she said softly, “3rd January 1940.”
Beside them, Soval leant his elbows on the arms of his chair, clasping his hands, first two fingers of either hand extended together. “Launch a standard spread of probes, V’Mir.”
“Captain,” T’Pol protested, knowing better that Tucker what a standard Vulcan survey would cover, “will you also scan for ships in the vicinity?”
“In the vicinity of a pre-warp planet?” he asked dryly, took a look at her set expression, and nodded to V’Mir. “Do it.”
“And on the surface?” Tucker suggested, encouraged by the Vulcan’s cooperation, although he found himself suddenly as sceptical as the Sh'Raan’s science officer. Surely they hadn’t really just moved through time?
Soval flicked an indifferent eyebrow at the request, but again nodded to V’Mir, then fixed T’Pol with a steady gaze. “I would talk with you – privately.”
Her lips thinned, but she nodded and Soval rose to his feet, but before the two could withdraw, V’Mir said urgently, “Captain!” He looked around and she continued, “We have detected something unnatural on the surface.”
“A small vessel containing elements not found on this planet.”
There was little alteration in the captain’s expression, but Tucker was certain that he saw the muscles shift along the Vulcan’s jaw. “Do you have a visual fix?”
“Yes, captain.” She flashed it up on the main screen without having to be asked, and Tucker caught his lower lip between his teeth, silently cursing, before breaking into speech.
“We’re too late.” The image was clearly that of a crash site, the skid marks visible, as was the crumpled hull – and it was nothing that could have been constructed on 1940s Earth. “It’s already happened.”
“Scan for non-indigenous life forms.” Soval needed no encouragement this time, his gaze intent on the screen.
“Confirmed.” If V’Mir was surprised at her captain’s interest, she had it well under control. “I am detecting six, all within 20km of the crash site.”
“Damn.” Tucker raised a hand rub his eyebrows. “Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn.” Then he lifted his head abruptly. “T’Pol, can we go back again? Just a week or so, to …”
“No.” Her answer was unequivocal. “The possibility of error is too great.”
“What about the transporter?” He swung on Soval. “Do you have a transporter? Can you beam them up?”
“Yes and no.” The captain’s answer didn’t invite argument. “The transporter is not for the movement of living beings.”
“To hell with that!” Tucker gestured violently towards the screen, unaware that, in direct response to his rising temper, V’Mir left her station to hover protectively at her captain’s shoulder. “They’re changing my planet’s history! Have you any idea how many’ll die? What …?”
“Fewer died untimely on the Earth I encountered, Commander Tucker, than on the one you claim to come from.”
Soval’s flat statement pulled Tucker up even in the midst of his anger, and he glanced frantically at T’Pol for support that never came. “Captain Soval is correct,” she said gently. “Without the development of nuclear and biological weapons, the killing was limited.”
“But what about all those who never had the chance to be born?”
“An unanswerable question.” It was Soval who spoke, although Tucker had the strongest feeling that T’Pol would have said much the same. The captain turned to his first officer, who was still regarding Tucker with suspicion. “Have you identified any technology that would enable the native population to detect a shuttle?” She shook her head and he took another contemplative look at the screen. “Prepare an away team, V’Mir.”
“That vessel risks contaminating this planet’s natural development. Protocols specify that we minimise the risk.”
“Captain, that protocol refers to risks engendered by Vulcans.”
“Indeed.” He directed an ironic look at T’Pol. “And I find that a Vulcan is at the heart of this enterprise. An away team, V’Mir. Immediately.”
The Sh'Raan’s shuttle was more spacious than those of Enterprise, but when occupied by three Humans and six Vulcans, it still seemed crowded. Crammed into one corner, Cole was neither comfortable nor happy, even though she was reunited with her rifle. When she became aware that she was under scrutiny by the Vulcan captain, it only served to irritate her further. She scowled at him, feeling her hackles rising. She had already been out-manoeuvred by one Vulcan in the last few weeks, and she wasn’t about to let another one get the better of her. “Hey.” Sheer devilment made her hold out her right hand, knowing that she was breaking the rules. “My friends call me Amanda.” The grey-haired man frowned slightly, clearly not understanding the gesture, so she added firmly, “It’s a greeting custom.” Peripherally, she was aware that T’Pol was glaring at her, almost certain to intervene with a rebuke for inappropriate behaviour. But before the Vulcan woman could, Soval leant forward, hand closing on Cole’s.
“A strangely intimate one.”
His grip was warm, dry and strong, and she felt an unexpected shiver of anticipation run though her as dark eyes met hers. Maybe Tucker’s preferences weren’t as irrational as she had thought. “Nothing wrong with intimacy.” She was absolutely convinced that the expression in the Vulcan’s eyes was appreciative.
“Not in the right circumstances.”
Watching the interplay between Cole and Soval, and having a pretty accurate understanding of what had prompted the woman to behave so rudely, Tucker first smiled reminiscently, then sobered as Cole’s mouth curved into a familiar smile. What the hell was she thinking of? Soval was Vulcan! Plus he was Soval: bad-tempered, bitter, sarcastic, prejudiced, and old enough to be her great-grandfather.
“Corporal Cole!” T’Pol’s tone plainly informed Tucker that he wasn’t the only one to notice that Cole and Soval appeared to be vying for the longest handshake on record. “Your action is intrusive.”
Human and Vulcan finally released each others hand and sat back, Cole’s mouth still curved in a smile that managed to combine self-satisfaction and promise. “I apologise, Captain Soval.”
“Unnecessary.” He held her eyes for a moment more, then turned a bland look on T’Pol. “You should challenge your preconceptions, T’Pol. You appear overly concerned with tradition.”
From the expression of shock that formed on T’Pol’s face, Tucker deduced that she was starting to doubt whether the Vulcans in this timeline were indeed the same as the ones she knew. The fact that Captain Soval appeared to have an eye for a pretty woman was even stranger than seeing Jonathan Archer in the role of a high-ranking SS officer.
They came into land at the crash site in the Rauher Forest in southern Germany in the middle of the night, to ensure that there was no visual record of their passage. Tucker would have been out of the shuttle in seconds, but Vulcan procedures, that Soval refused to overlook for mere Human pleading, kept them inside for a full half hour. It was cold when they finally emerged, their breath clouding the air that smelt of pine and, very faintly, of burnt metal and plastic. Soval sent his two guards, plus Cole and Chang, off to scout the area despite the lack of detectable life signs, while Tucker and T’Pol approached the crashed ship, the engineer scowling over his shoulder at the Vulcan captain. “Who put him in charge?”
T’Pol gave him a surprised look as she heaved herself into the skewed hatch that gave access to the vessel. “He does outrank us both.”
“He’s not Starfleet, and you’re not a member of the High Command anymore.”
“Feel free to tell him so.”
Her tone was dry, and Tucker grimaced reluctant acceptance. Captain Soval might be positively warm and cuddly in comparison with his ambassadorial counterpart, but he also gave the impression of a man who expected to have his orders obeyed. And so far, there was nothing in those orders to which Tucker could take serious exception. He joined T’Pol in scanning the interior of the small ship, frowning. “This is weird.”
“What is it?” T’Pol moved closer, and he tilted the device for her to see.
“No warp engine. It can’t have come far.”
“You jump to conclusions.” Soval’s cool voice brought them around to face him as he climbed into the compartment.
“Something Humans do a great deal,” T’Pol informed him. “Sometimes they are even correct.”
Tucker scowled at her wry tone. “What other deduction can you make?”
“Several.” Both Vulcans spoke together, and exchanged an amused look before T’Pol expanded. “We know that the aliens are extremely long-lived. They may have travelled a great distance at sub-light speeds, or they could have come from a warp-capable mother ship.”
“More probably,” Soval was poking at a sealed door, “the propulsion system is one you do not recognise.” The door folded back and he stuck his head through. “T’Pol.”
She moved obediently to his side, leaving Tucker to resent the easy assumption that he couldn’t interpret alien technology. If this ship could exceed light speed, he’d eat plomeek broth for breakfast for a week. “Commander.” If it had been Soval who’d summoned him, he’d have stayed where he was, but, since it was T’Pol, he slipped through the door, to find both Vulcans bending over an alien corpse. T’Pol tilted her head back to look up at him. “It is the same species we encountered in Washington.”
He nodded and asked half-heartedly, “D’you recognise the species, captain?”
“No.” Soval straightened, casting another look around. “Attempt to access the computer core. V’Mir and Telen will investigate the propulsion system.”
He exited, presumably to inform his own officers of his orders, and Tucker glared at T’Pol in frustration. She got in first, however. “Given that Captain Soval is not familiar with your skills, his orders are logical.”
“He could ask!”
“The computer core is located in the next compartment.” He sighed and followed her, deciding that being back with other Vulcans was having a bad influence on T’Pol. Much longer and she’d be back to the stiff-necked woman he remembered from the first few weeks on Enterprise.
They drew a blank with the computer core: the language was not one that the UT could even start to translate without reference points they did not have. Frustrated, Tucker followed T’Pol back towards the Vulcan shuttle, where she hoped that the more sophisticated translator might have more success, but touched her arm lightly when they were half way across, a grin forming. “Will you look at that?” She directed her gaze to where Cole had evidently returned from her scouting duties and was reporting to Soval. It was the far from professional smile the MACO was wearing that had attracted Tucker’s notice, however. “Looks like those two are hitting it off.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
As if to prove her a liar, Soval tilted his head slightly and said something that made Cole laugh. Tucker knew that laugh; she liked the Vulcan, and was pretty confident that he liked her. He grinned and reached for T’Pol’s hand, fears over their future temporarily banished by fond recollection. “Now if you’d just shaken hands with me when we met, Sub-Commander T’Pol, maybe we’d have gotten along a little better.”
She pulled free. “Vulcans avoid physical contact with strangers.”
He promptly recaptured her hand. “Captain Soval didn’t.”
“He is in a first contact situation. Protocols urge a more flexible attitude in such cases.”
He sneaked another look at the Vulcan captain. “Well, if he gets any more flexible with Amanda, I’m gonna be asking him what his intentions are.”
It wasn’t a very sensible thing to say. T’Pol glared at him, jerked her hand free, and stalked on towards the shuttle. Tucker sighed and decided that he’d be better employed elsewhere, although why T’Pol should be so annoyed at the possibility of another Vulcan finding Humans acceptable, he didn’t understand.
T’Pol was still in a state of undeniable annoyance when Soval joined her, silently perusing her preliminary results before speaking. “You have discovered nothing.”
She waited a moment before responding, as she had often had to do when Archer was at his most frustrating. “The language is entirely novel. Success is unlikely without additional data.”
“Indeed.” Alerted by the barely discernable indifference in Soval’s voice, she lifted her head to stare challengingly at him, and he added after a moment, “Your relationship with Commander Tucker extends beyond the professional, I believe.”
It was part way between statement and question, but she ignored the opportunity for denial. “Is that any business of yours?”
“Hardly.” The answer was immediate, but Soval paused before continuing. “There are many marriages between Vulcan and Human in your timeline?”
She stared at him in shock. “None.”
“You surprise me. I find them,” he seemed to consider the matter, “intriguing.”
“I thought you found them intolerably violent.”
“Perhaps. Yet they appear able to experience emotion without allowing it to master them.”
“The first contact team also found the Humans intriguing.” T’Pol’s tone would have made an iceberg seem warm. “It was quickly discovered, however, that they were unruly, wilful and reluctant to accept guidance.”
“And yet you choose to have an intimate relationship with one.”
She glared at the one Vulcan, who, in her own timeline, could be guaranteed to object to any suggestion of affection for a Human. “I do not have a relationship with Commander Tucker!”
It took the Vulcans a while, but eventually they reached the same conclusion as Tucker: the crashed ship could not exceed light speed. “What the hell does it matter?” The engineer finally lost his patience. “We have to find those aliens before they change history.”
“I concur,” Soval said, to Tucker’s lasting surprise. “V’Mir, return to the Sh'Raan. Transport all non-indigenous material from this site off the planet and commence an investigation into its origins. I will check in with you periodically.”
“Captain?” The Vulcan woman’s surprise was evident. “You will not be returning with us?”
“I will remain here to supervise.”
Tucker’s exclamation was drowned out by V’Mir. “Captain Soval, protocols state that …”
“I must be accompanied by a senior officer and suitable security personnel,” he concluded for her. “T’Pol will suffice for one, and the Human soldiers for the other.”
“Captain, that is not …”
“V’Mir, kindly return to the Sh'Raan and carry out my orders.”
She glared at him for a moment, clearly frustrated, but equally clearly knowing that he wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. Finally she inclined her head and turned away, and T’Pol took the opportunity to say firmly, “Captain Soval, this is inadvisable. We are likely to encounter Humans. You will be too conspicuous amongst them.”
“Then you will accompany me, should I return to the Sh'Raan?”
She practically rolled her eyes in annoyance. “I have lived amongst Humans for some years. I am familiar with their habits.”
“My initial service was as an intelligence officer.” Soval’s tone was polite but implacable. “I am trained to infiltrate alien cultures.” He turned to confirm that V’Mir was following his orders by assembling the rest of the party for takeoff, then nodded to Cole and Chang, who had been interested spectators to the whole exchange. “We will proceed on bearing 025. Take the lead.”
The MACOs exchanged a quick look, then turned smartly to comply with the peremptory order, not bothering to check with the woman from whom they should have been taking orders. Tucker winced a little as he fell in at T’Pol’s side. The tensions between the two groups on Enterprise had never entirely disappeared, and that had looked very much like a calculated piece of insolence to put himself and T’Pol very firmly in their places. Maybe it was just as well that Captain Soval had taken charge.
It was mid-afternoon before they reached the edges of the forest and the outskirts of Augsburg, where the alien bio-signs had led them, slowed slightly by Captain Soval’s interest in the local flora and the detailed briefing on Human culture that he had extracted from T’Pol. Reed would have been gratified to know that they were being led directly to the Messerschmitt factory, but Enterprise’s tactical officer was 214 years away, so they couldn’t tell him that his theory looked to be panning out.
“Perhaps,” T’Pol suggested when they halted to take stock in the fitful daylight that was all that could penetrate the heavy cloud layer, “the aliens hope to find technology to repair their ship.”
“Won’t happen.” Tucker was adamant. “It’ll never fly again. Even if,” and he directed an evil look at Soval, “the Vulcans hadn’t stolen it.”
“Removed a potential source of cultural contamination,” the Vulcan corrected him, and held out a hand for T’Pol’s scanner. “The aliens’ location appears stable. We will wait until an hour after sunset and then move in.”
“We can’t wait that long!” Tucker protested. “We don’t know what damage they’re doing.”
“We are more likely to be discovered in daylight.”
It seemed that Captain Soval had an unhappy knack of prophesy where Humans were concerned. They had halted on the very edge of the forest, where it merged almost seamlessly into the back garden of a large house. The Vulcan had barely finished speaking before a small dog pushed through the bush screening them and began to bark excitedly. The two MACOs covered it automatically, while Tucker bent just as instinctively to calm it, and a high-pitched, rather wheezy voice said hopefully, “Otto? Where are you, Otto? Good dog, where are you?”
They all stiffened, but the damage was done. A stout, elderly woman rounded the bush, took one look at Soval, who was closest, shrieked and collapsed in a dead faint. The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, and Tucker couldn’t resist a malicious grin. “You have quite an effect on women, don’t you, captain?”
“Not usually this early in an acquaintance.” The dry answer rendered the engineer speechless, and Soval inclined his head at Cole and Chang. “Determine where she came from.” They jumped to obey him, and he turned an enquiring look on T’Pol. “Is their nervous system comparable with ours?”
“Convenient.” He bent to apply his fingers to the junction of the woman’s neck and shoulder. “She should remain unconscious for some time. Well?”
The last was directed at the returning MACOs, and Cole responded promptly. “It looks like a lodging house, sir.” He frowned and she clarified. “A building where many people live.” Her eyes shifted sideways towards the officers to whom she should have been reporting. “Maybe we could pick up a change of clothes.”
“It’s a thought.” Tucker looked up from where he was still scratching the ears of the now ecstatic dog. “I don’t like the idea of sitting on my butt while those aliens change history.”
“Agreed.” He was never sure whether T’Pol took his advice because he was correct, or because Soval was frowning disapprovingly at the idea, and she had finally grown tired of taking his orders. “Show us the way, Corporal Chang.”
Suitably attired, they managed to approach the Messerschmitt factory without attracting attention, but then encountered a problem: the site was surrounded by a wall topped with barbed wire, and the gates were guarded by men in grey uniforms, who stopped anyone who wanted to enter.
“We could take down the guards,” Cole offered helpfully. “Or the wall,” and received a crushing look from T’Pol.
“We are attempting to avoid detection, corporal.”
“It should be possible to infiltrate the complex at night.” Soval had been ignoring the gates in favour of studying the surrounding area. “Other buildings encroach closely on the west, providing cover. And now,” he added pointedly, “if you have satisfied your curiosity, we should leave.”
They really should have listened to him the first time he advised waiting for nightfall. A huddle of five people near a sensitive installation in Nazi Germany wasn’t going to go un-remarked. “You, there.” The voice wasn’t friendly, and they found themselves facing a suspicious officer, two armed troopers backing him. “What are you doing here?”
“Nothing.” T’Pol’s cool reply didn’t appease the German.
“Show me your papers.”
“Identity papers.” The man was even more suspicious now, backing off a step as he noticed Cole and Chang moving to flank his men. “Halt!”
“We have not yet been issued with them.” The set of T’Pol’s jaw told Tucker that she didn’t expect to be believed; she was just trying to buy enough time for the MACOs to take action. Hoping that the officer was mostly focussed on T’Pol, Tucker caught Cole’s eye and nodded. She leapt into action, Chang half a beat behind her as they jumped the two soldiers.
Cole forgot that she was wearing a skirt, however, and overbalanced as she went to kick her opponent’s rifle out of his hands, succeeding only in grabbing it and pulling the startled soldier over her head as she fell. His rifle went off and then he was being throttled by a very determined woman, who was a lot stronger than any man he’d faced in basic training.
On the other side, Chang was also dealing efficiently with his soldier, while Soval grabbed the officer’s right wrist, wrenched him around and applied accurate pressure to send him into unconsciousness. Then the captain dropped to a crouch beside Tucker, who was clutching T’Pol to his chest, staring down in horror at the blood running freely down the side of her face. His expression rigid with the effort of control, Soval gently pushed her hair aside to reveal the wound where the rifle bullet had struck her a glancing blow, then tapped her cheek sharply. “T’Pol!” There was no response, and he frowned, glancing up into Tucker’s shocked face, then behind him to where the MACOs had dealt with the immediate threat and were waiting, their hands on their concealed weapons, as they scanned the area.
“Captain.” Cole had realised that Tucker was in no state to respond to the information. “More soldiers approaching. All armed.”
Soval took another look at the unconscious woman, on whose head his hand had come to rest. “Commander Tucker,” his tone didn’t invite argument, “withdraw with T’Pol. We will provide cover.”
Tucker pulled himself back from the edge of despair that had threatened when he thought T’Pol was dead, responding to the authority in the other man’s voice as he gathered her limp body and eased it over his shoulder.
Soval came to his feet, drawing his weapon, the MACOs following suit with obvious relief. The trio opened fire on the unsuspecting patrol approaching them and three fell to focussed energy beams, whose prototypes would not be developed for another two centuries. The remaining pair were too surprised to move before they were taken down too. Soval and the MACOs fell back, a wary eye on their surroundings, but they were temporarily out of enemies, and any civilians in the vicinity had prudently disappeared the moment the rifle went off. They had nearly reached the start of the park-like area through which they have arrived, when Chang said sharply, “Three o’clock”, firing in the same breath.
Cole whirled to support him, Soval adding his help a moment later, but it could have been the use of terminology that the Vulcan didn’t understand that cost Chang his life. This time, the German soldiers had time to fire and the MACO staggered, his gun slipping to the ground. Soval, Cole and Tucker, who had halted a few metres ahead in the cover of a tree, took down the rest, then Cole dropped beside Chang, who had slumped to the ground.
Soval barely glanced at the MACOs at his feet, moving instead to where Tucker was waiting, still burdened with T’Pol. “Go,” the Vulcan said simply, “before others arrive.”
Tucker grimaced, looking over to where Cole was propping up her wounded colleague. “We stay together.”
“And thereby increase the risk to us all.” Soval wasn’t looking at T’Pol, but at their surroundings again, but Tucker wasn’t surprised when he added, “I found T’Pol dead once, Commander Tucker. I would rather not repeat the experience. Find shelter in the woods. Contact me in an hour. We will rendezvous later.” He turned to Tucker long enough to scowl at him. “Go!”
Still Tucker hesitated, as anxious as the Vulcan to keep T’Pol safe, but aware of his responsibility to the MACOs. “The others …”
“Will be safe enough with me. You have your orders, commander.”
Reluctantly, Tucker nodded and, with T’Pol still a lifeless weight over his shoulder, headed back into the tree cover they had used to reach the factory in the first place. Soval moved back to the other Humans, crouching to look first at Chang and then at Cole, who was holding the man’s hand, her face set and angry. “I won’t leave him.”
“I did not ask you to. Can he be moved?”
She shook her head and Chang’s eyes flickered open. “Amanda. Don’t wait.”
“You’ll be okay,” she said in spurious reassurance, and the faintest of smiles touched the man’s bloodstained lips.
“You always were … a rotten liar.”
“But a damn good shot.” Her teeth closed hard on her lower lip at the end of the rejoinder as Chang coughed, fresh blood coming from his mouth.
“All those films … got it wrong. No German … ever shot straight … in the movies.”
“I’ll write a complaint,” she whispered unsteadily, but his head had already fallen sideways. “God damn it all to hell!”
“Corporal.” Soval’s firm voice brought her head up. “We must go.” She nodded, starting to stand before he added, “Remove any technology he carried.” She nodded again, struggling to keep her face blank as she retrieved Chang’s communicator and the stun grenades he had stashed in various pockets, transferring them to her own. Soval adjusted the setting on his own weapon and took aim at the rifle Chang had dropped. It disappeared in a flare of light, and Soval reached down to pull Cole to her feet, searching her face for an instant before turning towards the trees. “I suggest we hurry.”
They were no more than a few metres within the tree line when the Vulcan halted, head cocked as he listened. “What is it?”
He was looking behind them and Cole said firmly, “More soldiers. We can’t let them follow Commander Tucker.” She got an assessing look, but if Soval doubted her resolution, he was wrong. She might not be in charity with either Tucker or T’Pol at the moment, but Major Hayes had always been very clear that the MACOs main responsibilities were the success of the mission and the safety of the Starfleet crew. She wasn’t going to let the major down, just because he wasn’t around anymore. “I’ve four stun grenades.”
Soval nodded absently, even as she finally heard a vehicle pull up in the road behind them. Then the Vulcan was gesturing for her to follow him, as he moved quietly through the trees, in parallel with the road, while the sounds behind them indicated that soldiers were being unloaded from the truck and given orders to search the woods. He stopped after only twenty metres or so. “Give me a grenade.” She handed it over as he pointed further into the woods. “Detonate another fifty metres ahead, then return to this position.”
Cole was too well trained to ask unnecessary questions, working her way as quickly and quietly as possible through the trees, hearing the tramp of many feet through the undergrowth behind her. Running out of time, she activated the grenade, tossed it a few metres ahead, then retreated quickly, ducking behind a tree to shield herself from the detonation. Shouts informed her that she had definitely got the Germans’ attention and she legged it back towards the road. The second explosion came from ahead and a little to her left, followed very closely by a third that lit up the gloomy sky as the truck’s fuel tank ignited. Under cover of the shouts of confusion and pain, plus random gunfire, she picked up her pace, dropping at Soval’s side where he crouched, calmly assessing the confusion they had caused. “Their training leaves much to be desired,” he murmured, and indicated a northerly direction. “I believe we have done enough. Come.”
Still torn over whether he had been right to follow Soval’s orders, Tucker had covered perhaps half a kilometre when he heard the explosions behind him. He halted, lowering T’Pol to the ground and looking anxiously behind him, but there were no signs of pursuit, nor of Soval and the MACOs. Not in the least reassured, he bent over T’Pol, checking her wound that was still bleeding sluggishly, and she finally stirred as his fingers slid over her hair. “T’Pol?” His hand lingered on her shoulder, shaking gently. “T’Pol!”
Her eyes opened slowly, blinking dazedly at him. “Trip?”
He couldn’t help but smile. Only the second time she’d called him that, and under no more propitious circumstances, but he’d treasure the moment. “How d’you feel?”
She raised an unsteady hand towards her head, eyes closing. “What happened?”
Not exactly an answer, but at least she felt well enough to ask. “You got a little too friendly with a bullet. It knocked you out.”
“Captain Soval and the others?”
Tucker grimaced, knowing that she would be no happier with his answer than he was. “Chang was hit. Soval and Amanda stayed with him.”
“Where are they?” T’Pol’s eyes were open again, a little more focussed than before.
“I don’t know. Soval told me to get you clear.”
“And you obeyed him?”
“He said he’d look after the others. T’Pol,” Tucker swallowed, but the memory of the fear that had gripped him when he thought she was dead was too vivid for him to remain silent, “you were unconscious. I couldn’t risk losing someone else. Not after Elizabeth and the captain.” He knew there was too much raw emotion in his voice, but he couldn’t help it, not with T’Pol gazing back at him, her eyes wide and vulnerable. “T’Pol,” he managed to get his tongue under control just in time, “we should keep moving. Can you walk?”
She nodded and let him help her up, although she swayed, needing to hold onto him to remain upright. “We must locate Captain Soval.”
“Later.” He put an arm around her, urging her forward. “Let’s find someplace to hide first.”
North had not been a good choice. Cole and Soval ran into more troops almost at once, and the Vulcan turned them east, over Cole’s protest. “The town’s this way!”
“I have always found it easier to hide amongst many people.”
“You do this a lot?”
He flicked her a brief look at the sarcastic note in her voice. “I did at one time.” Both halted on the edge of the trees, studying the area ahead of them. Soval nodded to where a road led off, almost directly in front of them, a few people in civilian clothes visible. “We will walk slowly in that direction.”
“Couldn’t we run?” She was already following him.
“And draw unnecessary attention to ourselves?”
“Halt!” The shout came from behind them, and Soval sighed.
“Now we run.”
They sprinted for the start of the built-up area, both shooting somewhat randomly behind them as gunfire began, bullets whipping around them, fortunately as inaccurate as their own shooting. Soval turned back as they reached the first building, leaning close to the wall as he selected a target and took out the officer in command of the patrol. Cole saw him flinch, then he was urging her on, ducking down first one alleyway and then another, in an attempt to throw off pursuit.
They almost ran straight out into a main street, pulling up just in time to exit the alleyway at a sedate pace, joining the pedestrians who were mooching along, seemingly oblivious to the gunfire that must have been audible only minutes before. Cole drew a deep breath and took a good look at Soval, almost certain he’d been hit. “You’re bleeding.”
“It’s not serious.”
“It’s the wrong colour!” People might take no notice of a man with red blood on his hand, but the green was a little more noticeable. The brief, frowning look Soval sent her said that he’d overlooked that obvious fact, but wiping the back of his hand down his overcoat didn’t stop the trickle of blood from reappearing. Cole hustled him into a doorway, fishing a handkerchief from a pocket; it was about the only practical item in the entire ensemble that she had been forced to wear.
He let her tie the material tightly around his left wrist, where a bullet had clipped him, stiffening suddenly. “We must head south.”
“Huh?” They had been going north, but she saw the reason as soon as she lifted her eyes from her first aid. A hundred metres ahead of them, a truckload of soldiers were disembarking and fanning out across the road to stop passers by. “Damn.”
It took them only a few minutes to find that another roadblock prevented them moving south, and Soval calmly turned them east, moving deeper into the city. “Now what?”
“We avoid capture.” The Vulcan still sounded unconcerned, but Cole was starting to feel nervous. Undercover work hadn’t featured in MACO training, and she found that she didn’t like it. Then more troops appeared ahead of them. “Captain?”
“I see them.”
They halted, and Cole edged a little closer to Soval, who was studying the street carefully. “We’re trapped.”
“I trust not.” He nodded towards a narrow opening across the street. “Through there.”
“Captain,” her breath coming faster as she followed the Vulcan down the alleyway, “I think they saw us.”
“Keep moving, corporal,” but she saw Soval’s hand move to the pocket of his overcoat where he had hidden his gun. “I would prefer not to be discovered. V’Mir would be most displeased.”
The alleyway ended a metre of so ahead of them in a blind wall, and Soval scowled at it, drawing his weapon. Behind them, even Cole could hear orders being shouted, and the ominous sound of projectile weapons being primed.
In the woods, a kilometre to the south and west, Tucker was also aware that the pursuit was on. Whether T’Pol knew that they were being followed was debatable, however. Her weight was dragging on his arm, her head hanging down, and he’d have considered carrying her again if he hadn’t thought that might slow them up even more. Then behind them, still a fair way off but unmistakable, he heard a dog bark. It sounded like a large dog, and one that was excited, and he shivered. With the advent of highly sophisticated scanners, canines were no longer used on search-and-rescue missions, but he knew what they were capable of, and he’d seen the films. Unless they could throw the dogs off the trail, he and T’Pol were as good as caught.
More concerned with what was happening behind them, he practically stumbled into a stream, barely hesitating before leaping down the low bank, then turning to lift T’Pol down. She gasped as the icy water bit into her legs, but he didn’t have time to apologise, dragging her onwards. He wasn’t entirely sure that wading through water wasn’t one of those clichés that didn’t work in practise, but at the moment he was out of other ideas.
From the sky above them, white flakes began to filter down through the trees, rapidly becoming so dense that visibility dropped to a few metres. T’Pol stumbled on the rough streambed and would have fallen if Tucker hadn’t managed to get an arm around her in time. She clung to him, gasping with cold and effects of her head injury, and the dogs barked again, closer this time - much closer.
Soval backed into a recessed doorway, beckoning Cole to join him. “Corporal ...”
Whatever he had been going to say was lost as the door behind them opened. Both Human and Vulcan jerked around, weapons rising, and a voice said urgently, “This way.” Before Cole had a chance to assess the offer, Soval had pushed her roughly through the door that closed behind them. “In here.” She had no time to register their surroundings, just the narrow opening in the opposite wall of the room they had entered. “Quickly!”
She crawled through, finding herself in a space barely big enough to lie in. Soval crowded in after her, and a wooden panel was rammed into place behind them. A curtain dropped after it, sealing them in total darkness.
Squinting through the falling snow, Tucker dragged T’Pol a few metres further on, to where a tree grew close to the stream, its lower branches only a couple of metres above ground level. He removed his arm from around her waist. “T’Pol, can you stand? T’Pol?” She blinked at him, dazed and shocked, and he shook her. ‘T’Pol!”
Finally her eyes focussed, and she nodded weakly, releasing her grip on his jacket. Quickly, before she could collapse, he jumped for one of the branches overhead, hauling himself up. It barely shifted under his weight, and he stretched a hand down, gripping the slender arm T’Pol held up to him. She was practically a dead weight, but fear gave him the strength required to pull her up beside him, then he edged them back closer to the trunk. “C’mon, T’Pol, time for a little tree-climbing.”
Cole didn’t know what the space had been designed for, but it hadn’t been meant to contain a Human and a Vulcan. Soval might be shorter than most of his species, but unfortunately he was more solidly built. She knew that very well, because he was lying half on top of her. She could feel his heart racing just below his sternum – peculiar in itself – although he barely seemed to be breathing. Then behind the wooden panel concealing them, she heard a door opening and harsh voices shouting orders to search, and she stiffened, closing her eyes even though it made no difference at all in the dark. The MACOs were frontline assault troops. She hadn’t thought twice about the risk involved in the street fighting, but she was finding that it required a very different sort of courage to face being hunted. And lying in the dark, waiting to be dragged out and shot, was very nearly intolerable.
Soval’s lips brushed her cheek and, before she could ask if he really thought these were the right circumstances for intimacy, his hot breath caressed her ear. ‘Deactivate your communication device.”
Acknowledging the point, she groped in her pocket, only just managing to manoeuvre the communicator out, and hoping that her memory was accurate enough that she had turned it off: a bleep right now could kill them both. Judging by Soval’s stealthy movements, he was doing the same, then he settled quietly against her again, a hand resting on her waist; there was nowhere else he could put it.
From outside their hiding place, the sounds of searching and the occasional raised voice could still be heard. So tense that she was almost trembling, Cole forced her mind away from thoughts of discovery, concentrating instead on the amusing fact that she was alone in the dark with a Vulcan, in just about the most intimate position possible. In other circumstances, it could have been fun. She found Soval rather attractive, despite the differences in their ages, and it would certainly have been a challenge, seeing if the interest she had noted in his eyes could be translated into a physical response. She’d never heard of a Human getting intimate with a Vulcan before, but if Trip could do it, she’d lay money that she could too.
Boots tramped past their hiding place, and a door opened and eventually closed again. There was silence for a few moments, then a scraping sound as the panel was moved back. In the sudden light, Cole saw Soval’s head only centimetres away, twisted behind him as he looked towards the narrow entrance.
“They’ve gone.” The whisper sounded very young. “You can come out now.” Getting out of the cramped space was harder than getting in had been, and Cole was grateful to accept Soval’s hand to help her to her feet. She noticed his faintly puzzled expression first, then finally took in the small, dark room, and the teenage boy staring solemnly at them. “You are Jews, perhaps? Or spies?”
Cole waited for Soval to answer, before common sense reminded her that, however experienced he might be at infiltrating alien cultures, he would hardly be able to come up with a cover story when he knew almost nothing of Earth’s history. “Spies. From America.” The boy had seen their weapons. Maybe they could explain them away as foreign innovations.
“America!” The solemn expression split into a wide smile. “One day I would like to travel to America. But now you must hide in the attic until my father comes home. He will be able to help you. Please, come this way.”
“Wait!” Cole took another look at the Vulcan beside her, but whether he approved or not, she couldn’t let the child endanger himself. “We can’t stay here. If we’re caught, you’ll get in trouble too.”
“I understand that. We all do, but father says we must do what we can. This way, please.”
She gave in and followed the boy up two flights of narrow stairs, then a ladder into a drafty attic room, where the solitary furnishing was a mattress in one corner.
“It is not very comfortable,” the boy said apologetically, “but perhaps you will not have to stay here long. Grandmother is making fresh coffee – the soldiers drank the rest – and I will bring you some soon. You will stay here and not make too much noise?”
Cole nodded, helpless in the face of such innocent surety, and he disappeared back down the ladder, pulling a hatch into place behind him. With a sigh, she sunk down on the mattress, kicking off her shoes. “Shall I call Commander Tucker?”
“Not yet.” Soval was moving soundlessly around the small room, peering out of the two small windows that lighted it. “It may not be convenient.”
“I guess not.” She was, she suddenly realised, tired, cold and hungry. Enterprise seemed a long time ago, and Florida a lifetime away.
It was half an hour before sounds of the search receded, and at least that again before Tucker dared help T’Pol down from the tree they had climbed. They were both wet through and shaking with cold, and he sighed. “I hate to say this, but Soval was right. We should have waited for dark.”
“We must locate the others.” T’Pol’s voice was unsteady, and she had her arms wrapped tightly around herself.
“They’re not answering hails.” He had tried a couple of times in the past thirty minutes, and was as worried as T’Pol, but, at that moment, there was nothing they could usefully do. “We have to find shelter and get you warmed up a little.”
The fact that she reluctantly nodded told him how ill she must feel. “Very well.”
“Then let’s head a little deeper into the forest.”
The weather didn’t do them any favours. The snow that had helped hide them from the men and dogs continued to fall, and T’Pol’s shoulders became yet more hunched. Tucker couldn’t blame her. He wasn’t too happy himself, and he wasn’t from a desert planet. The best shelter they found was in a thick clump of undergrowth, where a fallen tree had helped create a living cave – a small and rather leaky one, to be sure, but better than nothing. They crawled in, T’Pol curling up with her arms locked tightly around her raised knees. Tucker settled beside her, then reached under his backside to remove an uncomfortable rock, which at least gave him an idea. He managed to gather a reasonable pile of stones, then directed his phase pistol at them. The resultant glow was rewarding, and a lot less visible than a fire would have been, even had he been able to locate any dry wood.
T’Pol barely reacted, and he had to unlock her fingers from the arms of her wet coat to ease it from her so that she’d get the benefit of the warmth. Her first sign of life was when he found an antiseptic wipe in his pocket and began to clean her head wound gently. She flinched and turned sunken eyes on him. “We must find Captain Soval.”
“We will.” Tucker removed his own coat, laying it where there was half a chance that it might dry out a little, then reheated the rocks. T’Pol was still shivering and he manoeuvred himself close, holding out an arm. “Here.” She looked doubtfully at him and he summoned up the ghost of a mocking grin. “I’m not gonna take advantage in a snowstorm, T’Pol. We’ll both be warmer, that’s all.”
Still a shade reluctant, she leant into him, and he wrapped his arms around her, gradually feeling her tremors ease and some of the tension drain out of her rigid body. It was very quiet, so quiet that he could hear the hiss as drops of melting snow fell onto the pile of warm stones in front of them. Maybe it was the sudden silence after the weeks of frenetic activity on Enterprise. More likely it was just the feel of T’Pol’s body nestling trustingly against his. Whatever the reason, Tucker was led to say softly, “D’you wanna tell me about it?”
She stiffened at once. “About what?”
“About whatever’s wrong with you. You said it’d be hard to deal with by yourself. I’m here for you, T’Pol, if you need me.”
There was a long pause, then she said softly, “I know.”
His throat tightened and he had to clear it before he could speak again. “Then talk to me.” Her head rocked slightly in the negative. “Why not?”
“When this is over.”
It wasn’t an answer, but he knew it was all he’d get for now. Then she added unexpectedly, “You miss Captain Archer.”
Tucker closed his eyes, not sure that was a subject he could handle very well himself. Jonathan Archer had been as central to his life as any engineering project for over ten years. There was a little of himself that had died on the Xindi weapon along with the captain. Neither the gradual decline of their friendship, nor even his fears over T’Pol’s real preference, could change that. “Yeah.”
“So do I.”
“I know.” He tightened his arms around her, wondering which of them he was comforting. “T’Pol …” She twisted her head to look up at him when he faltered, and he forced himself to ask the question that had been plaguing him for days. “Why me?” Her expression was uncomprehending, as well it might be at such a meaningless question. “Why’d you chose to explore Human sexuality with me?” And then he got to the worst fear. “Was it because the captain turned you down?”
“Captain Archer was my friend.” There was mingled grief and anger in her voice, and he really wasn’t any the wiser.
“And I’m not?”
She met his eyes for a long moment and, for once, he couldn’t read her. “No.” She turned away, settling back against him again, while Tucker wished that he’d kept his damn fool mouth shut, and spared himself a little misery. Then she added, “You are something different.”
Soval finally stopped inspecting their new hiding place and came to stand over Cole, frowning. “I do not understand why the boy aided us, when he knows nothing of who we are.”
“I guess you’re getting a crash course in the Human species.” She tilted her head back to look up at him. “Even when we were slaughtering each other, there were always a few who’d risk their lives for others. You’ve seen the best and the worst of us in half an hour.” Then she grimaced, staring down at her hands resting in her lap. “Actually, not the worst. Not the concentration camps, the nuclear weapons, suicide bombers, genetically engineered viruses: the list goes on. Wars continued for more than a century after this time, until we all but wiped ourselves out.” Suddenly, she couldn’t stop talking, all the grief and loss of the last few months catching up with her. “We had ninety years after First Contact when it got better, then the Xindi killed seven million of us in seconds. Now it’s all gone. Everything we built replaced by a god-awful world like this one. And Chang gets killed by one of us! By one of his own damn species!” She broke off with a gasp, biting her lip, closing her eyes against the sudden desire to howl. It hadn’t just been because she thought Trip needed comfort that she’d gone to him a few days back. She’d lost too many friends over the last weeks, and she’d wanted some comfort too – only he hadn’t been interested.
A strong hand gripped her shoulder tightly. “I recognise your loss.” On the verge of tears, she opened her eyes to see Soval crouching in front of her. “But if you give in to it, you will be incapable of action, and we are not safe yet.”
The need to bury her head in his shoulder and sob her heart out was very strong. The temptation to press her mouth to his, and hope that he’d be willing to help her prove that life was worth living, was even stronger. But even as the idea formed, she rejected it. Soval was Vulcan. It was only wounded pride that made her think he was attracted to her. Besides, she was a MACO and she was on duty: crying and sex were both out of order.
His voice was gentle, and Cole had to swallow hard. Didn’t he know that it would be a lot easier to get a grip if he was horrid to her? She shook her head irritably, banishing self-pity. Major Hayes would be furious if he could see her now. “I’m fine.” She took a deep breath. “I’m fine.”
Soval squeezed her shoulder and released it, and she smiled at him, determined not be to stupid. His expression didn’t change, but they were very close, and the look in his eyes didn’t match his impassive face. It was probably fortunate that the boy returned with the coffee, before she cast aside good intentions and tried a little experiment.
On Enterprise’s Bridge, the depressed silence had remained unbroken for the last hour. Waiting was never easy, and this was worse than usual: there was absolutely nothing they could do. Even Reed had stopped pretending to supervise the repair crew, who were slowly clearing up the remaining damage to the Bridge, and was browsing through the history book that he and Mayweather had borrowed – permanently – from the San Francisco library. The helmsman had given up suggesting that they assist the beleaguered American forces with a little aerial bombardment and had joined the repair crew. Only Sato was still at work on the unending task of monitoring the primitive radio transmissions from the planet below them.
No one took any notice when she stiffened, running back over the last few messages, an expression of dawning hope forming on her pale face. “Lt Reed!” He looked up, alarmed at her sudden urgency. “Captain Archer’s alive. The Nazi’s are holding him.”
“What?” Reed dropped the book to cross to Sato’s station.
“Captain Archer! He’s still alive.”
“Hoshi,” the Englishman’s tone was doubtful, “the captain didn’t make it off the Xindi weapon. You know that.”
“I tell you, he’s alive!”
“We’d all like him to be, but …”
“I’m not delusional, lieutenant.” The young woman was certainly angry. “I picked up a series of messages between the general in charge of the western front and the Nazi headquarters in Washington. The general wanted to know why Colonel Archer had been found in a field hospital near the California border. Word came back that Colonel Archer – he’s the senior SS officer in America - was in Washington with the Chancellor. The man in the field hospital is badly burned, but it’s definitely Jonathan Archer. He’s being transferred to the east coast for questioning. It’s the captain! We have to rescue him.”
“It’s someone who looks like the captain, anyway,” Reed said cautiously, and Mayweather, who had been listening in, joined the debate.
“Hoshi’s right, lieutenant. We can’t ignore the chance that it could be Captain Archer down there.”
“Of course not.” Decision make, Reed became brisk. “Hoshi, find out where he’s being taken. It looks as if you and I will be putting on the fancy dress again, Ensign Mayweather.”
Cole awoke with a start when Soval moved from her side, following his silent gesture to take up a position to one side of the hatch that gave onto the attic. She was stiff with cold, despite the fact that the Vulcan had joined her on the mattress, as chilled as herself and questioning Earth’s classification as Minshara-class. She had dozed off while he was engaged in a low-voiced conversation with his ship, and now it was dark outside the attic windows, and colder than ever.
Again, sensitive Vulcan hearing had warned Soval long seconds in advance of Cole. They were in position when the hatch rose, although both relaxed slightly when the boy, Karel, emerged – then stiffened again as a man climbed out after him. “This is my father,” the boy said simply, and added, “They haven’t told me their names.”
“Naturally not.” The man looked to be operating under some terrible strain, for which Cole couldn’t blame him. Coming home to be told that you had two spies hidden in your attic would be enough to make anyone turn white.
“We’re very grateful to your son for hiding us, sir.” They had agreed that she would do as much of the talking as possible. The less notice Soval attracted, the better. “We hope we haven’t put you in danger.”
“Not at all.” The courtesy was half-hearted. “But I’m afraid you must leave at once. Under the circumstances …”
“Of course, sir.” Cole glanced at Soval, who nodded. “Sir, there were two more of us. Have you heard if any strangers have been arrested today?” The captain had still been reluctant to contact Tucker and T’Pol.
“No. No, I’ve heard nothing.” The man gestured vaguely. “Karel will show you a quiet way out of town.” He started down the ladder and the boy watched him go with concern, then turned an apologetic face on Cole and Soval.
“I am sorry. Usually my father would assist you. But the last few days …”
“That’s okay. You’ve done more than enough.”
“You see,” Karel continued, “he works at the Messerschmitt factory. You know of it? He has been most concerned over the war work and two days ago …” He hesitated, oblivious to the startled look that Cole had thrown the impassive Vulcan at her shoulder. “I believe something happened to distress him greatly. He has not been himself since.”
“In that case,” Soval took matters into his own capable hands, “I believe that we must speak with your father again.”
Archer had no idea where he was, or even what had happened to him. His recollection of the Xindi weapon was hazy, events before that even more so. All that really currently mattered was the pain that seemed to have been with him as long as he could remember. There was light, dark, occasional movement that made the pain still worse, but nothing that made any great impact on his consciousness. His first lucid moment came when the pain receded abruptly.
“Who are you?”
He blinked, trying to move a hand to his head, but his arms seemed to be restrained. “The weapon … Were we … in time?”
“Who are you?”
“Earth? Did we … succeed?”
A hand gripped his jaw, and he cried out involuntarily at the return of pain. “You’ve been given morphine – not a great deal. If you want more, tell me who you are.”
Finally, he managed to get his eyes to focus, staring up at the man bending over him. “What …?”
The familiar face moved closer, hazel eyes hard. “Tell me who you are and who is behind the plot to replace me! Or shall I call my interrogators to ask my questions for me?”
Archer gazed back at his own face, incapable of answering even if every battered instinct hadn’t led him to refuse to respond to any question asked with menaces.
“Very well.” Colonel Archer straightened. “Then you will discover how enemies of the Reich are treated. I’m sure your tongue will be loosened soon enough. Doctor! Begin.”
They found Karel’s father staring blankly at an empty fireplace. He looked up with that shocked, unseeing gaze, and Soval said baldly, “You have encountered people not of your world, have you not?”
The man blinked, focussing only slowly. “Karel said …” He shook his head. “You’re Americans. You can’t know … Even myself … I can’t be sure …”
“Be sure,” the Vulcan said quietly and, to Cole’s astonishment, pulled off the close fitting knitted cap that he had been wearing. “There is life beyond your own planet. You have met members of one species already. Now you have met another.”
“But …” For moment, Cole thought that the man was going to faint. “I don’t …” She caught his arm and guided him to a chair.
He gaped at her. “You, too?”
She shook her head. “I’m Human. But I am from the future.”
“It’s a long story.” Very much in a mood of revenge for the Vulcan’s unexpected action, she added, “Captain Soval’ll explain.”
Moving through the forest in the dark hadn’t been easy, but it had served both to warm them up, and to give Tucker something else to think about than whether it was better or worse to be ‘something different’ to a friend to T’Pol. They had left their impromptu shelter in the morbid belief that they were the only ones left to complete the mission. Neither Soval nor the MACOs had responded to hails, and that was adding to Tucker’s guilt over having followed the Vulcan captain’s orders to save T’Pol. Whatever logical justification the man might be able to produce, Tucker knew that both he and Soval had acted out of affection alone.
The bleeping of his communicator made him jump, then he grabbed for it urgently, as T’Pol raised an anxious face to his. “Tucker.”
‘Trip.” Cole sounded as relieved as he felt. “Are you okay?”
“We’re fine. What about you?”
“Chang didn’t make it.” For a second there was a catch in her firm voice. “Captain Soval wants you to meet us 200m due east of the factory gates. Can you make it?”
He looked at T’Pol, who nodded. “We’ll be there in five minutes.”
There was a brief pause. “We’ll take a little longer. Cole out.”
Tucker pocketed his communicator, looking down at T’Pol, who was still a little pale, but steady on her feet again. “What d’you reckon they’ve been up to?”
Yet another pair of sentries jumped to attention as Reed and Mayweather passed, and the younger man glanced at Enterprise’s tactical officer in some amusement. “Seems like you’re known here, sir.”
“It’s the uniform.” Reed sounded slightly smug. “The SS are the most feared branch of the service.”
“Not to mentioned that you made yourself a colonel!”
“Just recognising my potential, ensign.” He halted outside a low building in the military complex, sobering again as he took a surreptitious look at the scanner concealed in his pocket. “This is it.”
“Not very impressive for the central interrogation facility.”
“You don’t need fancy facilities to make people talk.” Reed’s tone was grim. “We’re going to have to search the building. One Human bio sign looks much like another.”
“After you, sir.”
“I had a feeling you might say that.”
Tucker and T’Pol had been in position for some time before the sound of stealthy movement through the snow-covered undergrowth warned them that people were approaching. Both drew their weapons, pressing closer to the tree trunk against which they were sheltering, until a voice from behind them said dryly, “You have forgotten your training, T’Pol.”
She froze for a moment, then deliberately re-pocketed her gun, not bothering to look behind her as Cole stepped out of the trees in front. “Perhaps you have remembered yours too well, Captain Soval. A scientific mission rarely calls for covert tactics.”
“I will remember that the next time I encounter the Andorians.” Soval advanced another metre or so and Tucker, who had turned at the Vulcan’s first comment, saw another dark shape behind him. “This is Herr Dietrich. He has encountered the aliens and is willing to help us penetrate the factory.”
T’Pol swung around, as surprised as Tucker at the laconic statement, and Dietrich looked carefully at her, then back at Soval. “She is like you?”
“You told him the full story?” There was shock and disbelief in T’Pol’s voice, but Soval was unmoved by her disapproval.
“It was the logical thing to do.”
“What of the cultural contamination?”
“It would seem that that has already occurred. Since we cannot prevent it, we must seek to limit it. Explain your plan, Herr Dietrich.”
The man stared nervously around the small group of aliens and people from the future. “Lorries bring in components throughout the night. If you could steal one, I can ensure that it is allowed through the gates.”
“We should just destroy the place,” Tucker said firmly. “Soval, could your ship knock out the factory from orbit?”
“Undoubtedly. But even given the mayhem you Humans seem to thrive upon, it would be a little noticeable. T’Pol?”
She nodded slowly. “Very well. But first we must acquire a vehicle.”
“You can leave that one to me.” They all turned to look at Cole, who smiled wickedly. “Trust me.”
Cole’s plan caused T’Pol to fold her arms in outrage, although the three men watched with some – purely professional – interest as the Human woman sauntered out into full view of the road, some three hundred metres short of the factory gates, hitched up her skirts, placed one long leg on a convenient bollard, and proceeded to adjust her stockings. “She is a very,” Dietrich hesitated, “out-going young lady.”
“She certainly has very,” Tucker began to observe, then realised the complete folly of what he had been about to say, “good hand-eye coordination.”
From T’Pol’s faint sniff, he hadn’t covered well enough, but Soval drew the heat when he remarked coolly, “And well proportioned legs.” Tucker and T’Pol both turned shocked looks on him, and he added, “From an aesthetic point of view.”
“Have you lived away from Vulcan for long?” Tucker couldn’t help asking, and the captain raised an eyebrow.
“Why do you ask?”
“Because you’re not a bit like other Vulcans I’ve met. And certainly not like our Soval.”
He got a long, considering look that Soval eventually turned on T’Pol, before replying. “It would seem that Vulcan has been changed by its contact with Humans, Commander Tucker – and not for the better.”
The sound of an approaching truck reached them, and they all turned to await the outcome of Cole’s stratagem. If the driver had been the least bit professional, it shouldn’t have worked, but he evidently shared Soval’s opinion of the MACO’s legs. The truck slowed to a halt as the driver leant out, calling a cheerfully rude comment that Cole answered with a grin, lowering her leg to the ground. He was still laughing at her reply when she stunned him, leaping onto the running board to deal out the same treatment to the other man in the cab, almost before he knew what was happening.
Tucker and Soval ran to the back to check for other guards, but it was empty apart from the components destined for the Messerschmitt factory. They were dragging the two unconscious men into cover before Tucker spotted the flaw in their plan. “Who’s gonna drive this thing?”
“I will.” T’Pol was already climbing into the cab. “I paid close attention when Captain Archer drove a similar vehicle.”
It was fortunate that it was only a few hundred yards to the factory. She quickly found that the gears in a 1940s truck were far harder to manage than those in an early 21st century motorcar. Luckily, none of her passengers were seriously injured by her jolting progress.
Gaining access to the interrogation facility had been easy enough, but roaming its corridors was proving harder. The guards were SS themselves now, and less impressed by Reed’s uniform than the common soldiers had been. After fifteen minutes, and some increasingly suspicious looks, all that they had really been able to discover was that they wouldn’t be able to search the entire building.
“He has to be in there, sir,” Mayweather muttered at last, when they halted around the corner from a heavily guarded door that boasted not only armed guards, but also a captain in charge. They hadn’t even tried to bluff their way past.
“He could be anywhere!” Reed said in disgust. “This is hopeless. Let’s get back to Enterprise. Phlox may be able to narrow the search area with the additional data we’ve collected.”
The tramp of heavy boots alerted them to potential trouble, but no one rounded the corner and, mainly out of curiosity, Mayweather edged himself close enough to peer out into the main corridor. “Lieutenant!”
His urgent whisper brought Reed to his side. “What is it?”
“See for yourself.”
The tactical officer took a cautious look, breath hissing between his teeth at the sight of the tall man in casual conversation with the officer on guard. Jonathan Archer, beyond a shadow of a doubt, although the uniform was similar to Reed’s, and he didn’t like the smirk on the handsome face. Then the guarded door was opened to let the man through and Reed pulled his head back quickly. “We have to get in there.”
“Ever heard of brute force and ignorance, ensign?” Reed pulled his gun, that wasn’t a Luger but a well-disguised phase pistol. “On my mark.”
The story that Dietrich spun to explain why he was escorting a shipment of supplies into the factory didn’t sound terribly plausible to Tucker, hidden in the back of the truck with Cole and Soval, but it worked. It was even possible that he was assisted by the fact that the driver was a very pretty woman; it meant that the guards might not have been listening as hard as they should have been. Whatever the case, no one objected when T’Pol drove the truck slowly into the factory yard and parked it untidily outside the building Dietrich indicated.
“They’re staying in here,” he whispered nervously once they were all assembled again, and T’Pol nodded confirmation, after she had consulted her scanner.
“On the third floor.”
“Thank you for your assistance, Herr Dietrich,” Soval said formally. “Now I suggest that you return home.”
“And forget that you ever met us,” Tucker added fervently. He had a terrible fear that too many people already knew about this venture for the timeline ever to be corrected.
“Who would believe me?” Dietrich stared first at Soval and then at T’Pol. “I’m not sure that I believe myself.”
“Continue with your disbelief.” Soval inclined his head in obvious dismissal, and the man sank back into the shadows, still muttering. “Corporal Cole, kindly guard this entrance. T’Pol, check for a rear exit and remain there. Commander Tucker, come with me.”
Both women glared at him, for once united in their opinion. “Captain,” T’Pol said firmly, “there are six of the aliens in this building. You and Commander Tucker cannot handle them alone.”
“Yeah, Trip’s a lousy shot.” Tucker glared at Cole, but she wasn’t even looking at him. “You need me.”
“May I remind you that I have a great deal more experience than any of you?” Soval was distinctly irritated and Tucker grinned.
“Now you sound like our Soval! Face it, captain, they’re not gonna agree to stay outside.”
“I do not require their agreement, merely their obedience.”
“I am not under your command,” T’Pol pointed out, and drew her handgun. “Do you wish to continue this discussion until we are discovered?”
She headed into the building and, as he followed hard on her heels, Tucker saw Soval’s mouth compress in barely contained annoyance. The captain definitely didn’t appreciate having his orders ignored, particularly when it meant that T’Pol walked straight into another dangerous situation.
The guards had fallen without a sound, but Reed knew that they had very little time before someone noticed the three unconscious bodies and raised the alarm. Fortunately, the other Archer had progressed no more than a dozen metres down the corridor, and wasn’t expecting a colleague to grab his arm, spin him around and pin him to the wall. “You’re holding a rather special prisoner.” Reed had watched too many movies containing explosions: he sounded like every screen villain ever created. “Where is he?”
“Who are you?” Colonel Archer struggled, but not very hard. Reed’s arm lock was painful, and this Jonathan Archer preferred inflicting pain to receiving it. “Who are you working for?”
“Interesting question.” The Englishman was enjoying himself. “In some ways, you could say we’re working for you.” He increased the pressure on the man’s arm. “Where’s the man who looks like you?”
“Through there.” The head jerked towards the next door.
“Very good.” Reed slackened his grip, but not before he had pressed the muzzle of his gun just under Archer’s right ear. “You’re going to walk in as if nothing’s happened – and if you try to warn anyone, I’ll kill you. Clear?” He received a nod. “Carry on then.”
The factory building seemed deserted. It wasn’t until they reached the third floor itself that they heard the sound of voices coming from behind a pair of closed doors. T’Pol checked her scanner again, and said quietly, “The aliens are all in there. Also two Humans.”
Cole groped in the shoulder bag that she was still carrying. “Stun grenades?”
“We wanna be careful,” Tucker warned. “If either one of those Humans played a significant role in our past and we kill them …” He broke off with a shrug, not able to keep his tenses straight, but T’Pol was unmoved.
“A risk we have to take.” To Tucker, she seemed more focussed than she had in hours. Whatever was wrong with her, the need to take action appeared to help her control. “Ensure your weapons are set to stun. Proceed, corporal.”
Cole waited until they had taken up places a little back from the doors, then activated a grenade and eased one door open to toss it inside. She gave them the count on her fingers, covered her ears on one, then dived into the room before the echoes of the explosion had died. The rest followed her, searching for targets and ducking quickly into cover as it became clear that the aliens carried their own weapons and had not all been disabled by the unexpectedness of the grenade attack. Cole got in a clear shot on one who showed too much of himself, but he merely staggered back when the beam caught his chest, shook his head and fired back. She ducked hurriedly. “Ma’am, the stun setting doesn’t work. Permission to shoot to kill?”
T’Pol didn’t hesitate. “Granted.”
It was a vicious fight, made harder because the aliens seemed extremely robust. It took a lot to take one down, but Tucker eventually solved the problem. A wayward shot from his phase pistol struck an oxygen cylinder propped against the back wall and the resulting explosion caught the aliens in their unprotected rear. Only one dragged himself to his feet and headed for a door at the back of the large room. Cole raced after him, dropped to one knee in the corridor outside, and shot him squarely in the back. She smiled in grim satisfaction and came gracefully to her feet, turning to find that Soval had followed her. “I said you needed me.”
“So I see.” His tone was gently mocking, and she flushed faintly, avoiding his eyes as she moved back into the room, that was a mess of smashed equipment and broken bodies.
T’Pol looked up from her examination of one of the aliens. “Where is the other one?”
“He’s dead, ma’am. What about the Humans?”
“They’ll both be okay.” Tucker joined the group. “Once their ears stop ringing. Now what?”
“I suggest we destroy the evidence.” Soval had been browsing in the wreckage, and now held out a diagram. “I do not believe that this device is consistent with this time period.”
“A solid fuel rocket?” Tucker shook his head. “It’s a few years early.”
“What about them?” Cole indicated the two unconscious Humans. “Won’t they know stuff they shouldn’t?”
“German scientists were behind the development of the first rocket motors to boost satellites into orbit,” Tucker pointed out with a shrug. “Maybe this is where it all started. Whatever, we can’t just kill them.” He turned to T’Pol. “Are all the aliens dead?”
“Any idea where they came from?”
“My science team provided a hypothesis that might interest you.” Soval had given up on his search. “Certain sub-molecular anomalies suggested that this species originates outside our universe.”
“Universe?” Tucker questioned. “Don’t you mean galaxy?”
“I mean a reality where the physical rules that govern our space are subtly different. It explains why the aliens you encountered in your 22nd century were the same as these ones here. Their aging process was suspended.”
“How’d they get here?”
“V’Mir had no explanation.”
“A great deal of energy was released when the Xindi weapon was destroyed,” T’Pol suggested. “It is possible that it opened some form of rift between our universe and theirs.”
“As long as it was just an accident,” Tucker said tiredly. “I’d hate for this sort of thing to keep happening.”
“Ma’am.” Cole rejoined the group. “I’ve set charges by the remaining oxygen cylinders.”
T’Pol nodded acknowledgement. “Then we should withdraw.”
The explosion was impressive, shattering windows in neighbouring buildings and bringing guards running from all sides. From the shelter of a low wall, Tucker sighed. “D’you think it worked?”
“I don’t know.” T’Pol sounded vulnerable again, and he reached out instinctively to touch her arm.
“Let’s get out of here while those guards are busy. I don’t wanna have to explain what just happened.”
“Where’s Captain Soval?” Cole’s sudden question brought both their heads round, to see the MACO looking blankly around. “He was beside me. I didn’t see him go.”
Tucker and T’Pol looked at each other with sudden hope, then he said practically, “We still have to get out. We can think about that one later.”
The room bore some resemblance to an operating theatre, but it was clear that its purpose was entirely opposite. Not that Reed and Mayweather had time for a detailed analysis of its content; they were too busy covering the white-coated individual bending over the man strapped to the bed. The doctor looked up in frustration. “What is the meaning of this?”
“The meaning,” Reed said with clinical precision, “is that your little game here is over.” He glanced briefly at the man lying as still as death, and grimaced. “Step back.”
Both the doctor and Colonel Archer retreated obediently into a corner, while Reed stepped up to the bed, mouth twisting in pity at the sight of the other Archer’s disfigured face. “Captain? Captain Archer?”
The head moved very slowly in his direction. “Malcolm?”
“We’ll have you out of here in a moment, sir.”
“The weapon … What …?”
“It was destroyed, sir.” There was no way he was going to attempt an explanation of the consequences of that destruction at the current time. Instead, he pulled out his communicator. “Reed to Enterprise.”
“We’ve located the captain.” Reed felt his mouth twitching into a smile at those words, and pulled it straight. “Lock onto my signal. Beam up the nearest three life forms. And have Phlox meet us in the transporter room.” He glared across the room at the two men penned in the corner, not trying to suppress the sneer this time. “Give my regards to the Fuhrer!”
Back in the woods opposite the factory, Cole said plaintively, “I don’t understand. What happened to Captain Soval?”
“It would appear that he no longer exists.” T’Pol sounded unconcerned. “We must hope that his disappearance means that the timeline has been corrected.”
“You mean he’s dead?”
“He never really existed.”
“Tell that to him!”
“Don’t worry, Amanda.” Tucker tried to lighten the mood. “I’ll introduce you to the real Soval. Then you won’t feel so bad about it.” She scowled at him and turned away, and he belatedly realised that she was genuinely distressed at the Vulcan captain’s disappearance.
“That will not be possible.” He frowned at T’Pol, and she pointed out the obvious. “If Captain Soval and his ship no longer exist, we have no means of returning to our own time.”
He stared at her in shock, mind refusing to accept that they were marooned, and a voice said cheerfully, “I think I can help you with that one.”
“Daniels?” T’Pol regarded the 31st century Human suspiciously. “What are you doing here?”
“Rescuing you, of course.” He beamed at them. “Congratulations. You achieved the impossible. We’re very proud of you.”
“If you’re here now,” Tucker said slowly, “why couldn’t you have gotten rid of the aliens yourself?”
“Because while they existed, your timeline and mine was erased. We only found out what happened when the timeline was restored.”
“Perhaps I should just return you to Enterprise. There’s someone there you’ll be very glad to see.”
There was no warning, no sensation of movement, nothing. One moment they were standing in a snowy Bavarian forest. The next, they were in Enterprise’s Sickbay, still in their pilfered clothing, Reed and Phlox staring at them in astonishment. And not only Reed and Phlox. Weakly, Archer raised his head, propping himself up on one elbow to see the newcomers, a faint smile touching his lips.
“Captain?” Tucker gasped in astonishment, more shocked at Archer’s reappearance than he had been at the thought of being stranded in the past. Beside him, T’Pol made a small sound, almost a sob, and he turned his head to see her raise a trembling hand to her mouth. It broke his stasis. With a firm hand on her back, he thrust her bodily forward, stretching out a hand to grip the arm Archer held out to him, seeing the captain take T’Pol’s hand with his free one. He still had no idea whether he had any hope of a relationship with her, but, for now, the three of them were together again and maybe that would be enough.
“Bridge to Captain Archer.” Sato’s voice was vibrant, and there was a definite smile on Archer’s face as he disengaged himself from his first officer and chief engineer to answer. “What is it, Hoshi?”
“Sir,” she stopped as if to take a deep breath, “Starfleet Command just contacted us. They want to know where we sprang from.”
Tucker was the first to react, throwing back his head in the first laugh he had had in days. Unable to resist, he took T’Pol’s hand in his. “Looks like we’re on for that drink, T’Pol. 602 Club, tomorrow night. And make sure you wear that purple outfit.”
No one noticed when Cole quietly left the room to break the news to the remaining MACOs that yet another of their colleagues hadn’t made it back. And if she also grieved for a Vulcan captain who had never existed, no one noticed that either.
It took more than a day, of course, before they could gather in the 602 Club. There were families to visit, endless reports to write, even more interminable debriefings, and then the task of putting Enterprise back together to initiate. It was over a fortnight before Tucker finally managed to gather his team for the celebratory drink he had promised them. His pleasure was somewhat muted when Archer and T’Pol arrived together, even if she had remembered his request to come in the purple jumpsuit that ensured she shone down every other woman present. At least she didn’t remain at her captain’s side, circulating around the group of engineers with an ease that was new to her. Not that Tucker was watching her, naturally – not more than fifty percent of the time, anyway.
She reached him eventually and, with a knowing grin that made Tucker’s toes curl with embarrassment, Rostov absented himself, leaving them alone. “Hey.”
For a second, it looked as if that was going to be all the conversation they would exchange, and Tucker groped frantically for a safe topic. “So … will you be joining Starfleet?”
“No.” She had been gazing up at him, seemingly her old, composed self, but then her eyes slid past him. “I have been spending a good deal of time with Ambassador Soval.”
“Yeah. The captain told me.” She hadn’t seen fit to tell him herself and that had hurt, but he’d been glad to know that she was re-building a few bridges with someone she clearly cared for, even if it was Soval.
“I will be permitted to resume my commission.”
“Yes.” She looked back and then away again. “I told Ambassador Soval,” she hesitated, “a good deal of what happened in the Delphic Expanse.”
Tucker couldn’t help but grin. “Even about the time travel?”
She met his eyes briefly, and he saw the gleam of amusement. “I omitted certain topics.” The glint faded and his smile along with it. “Ambassador Soval was,” the echo of old surprise sounded in her voice, “understanding - eventually. He gave me much advice. Some of it,” again the puzzlement, “reflected that of someone else.” Eyes focussed on the front of his shirt, she seemed to draw a deep breath. “Trip,” one of her hands hovered on the verge of reaching out to him, “there are some things I must tell you also.”
“Sure.” He took the hand she couldn’t quite bring herself to offer, hardly aware that he drew it to his chest, holding it there while T’Pol’s fingers spread against him. “Any time.”
“And then perhaps you would help me,” she seemed to be struggling a little to get the words out, “explore.”
“Uh.” Tucker’s mouth pulled doubtfully to one side. “I’m not sure that’d be a good idea.”
“Not Human sexuality.” Her eyes were unsure. “My feelings for you.”
He gulped, stunned and suddenly, wildly hopeful. “I’m always up for a challenge, T’Pol, you know that.”
“Indeed.” Her response was typically Vulcan - apart from the hint of amusement in her voice, and the relief in her eyes that was chasing away the uncertainty.
Common courtesy towards the rest of the group separated them moments later, but Tucker, at least, was infinitely happier for the exchange. He still didn’t know where his relationship with T’Pol might lead – but it would lead somewhere, he’d make sure of that.
The Soval/Amanda story is continued in Soval's Annex by: A Truth Universally Acknowledged
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A whole mess of folks have made comments
:) Good story. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Great story, my husband could not believe I got away from my b-day party to check for updates to this website. So your story made a good birthday present
Lovely! Your version of the premiere of season 4 will be a hard one to beat by the actual screenwriters-the alternate versions of Soval and Archer was a wonderful touch!
Great story!! Action packed... loved it.
Excellent story and a very original take on what might have happened next. I particularly loved the alternate Soval and for Daniels popping up out of thin air was neatly done in way that made sense and rounded off the story. Well done and thanks, Ali D :~)
That was great! A kind and gentler Soval; who would've guessed? I'd love to see Amanda put the moves on the real one. :-)
Excellent story -- very exciting and fast moving. I liked this Soval very much and even Daniels seemed plausible (at least as plausible as a guy from the future who pops in and out of timelines gets!).
Good story. Nicely paced. Loved the new and improved Soval and Amanda. Interesting ending or should I say beginning for Trip and T'Pol.
Great job. I loved your Soval. Not to mention his interaction w/ Amanda. I could just see the sparks. Thanks for sharing this story with us! Well written and possessing all the necessary elements to make a great story.
Another great story. Loved Capt. Soval and his interaction with Amanda, though I thought she was given short shrift by the crew when she had to go back alone and tell the remnant of the MACOS about Chang.
Not so sure about Trip in this one. I much prefer the Trip from "A Logical Proposal". This one was a jumble of emotions and inappropriate exclamations.
Nice ending, very sweet and understated. I'm ready to read anything you write so keep it up.
Oh and good luck!
I finally got around to reading this and I'm glad I did! It was very good and I loved the ending! :) Thanks for entertaining us!
I loved the story. It is very engaging and exceptionally well written. I particularly loved the subtle humor, like, that *this* Archer wasn't used to receiving punches; there were dozens of funny double meanings like that just thrown into the text. Great job!
I'm also quite impressed how simply yet consistently you have explained that little nazi/alien/timetravel problem. Now that I have read it, it's perfectly obvious! Honestly, I am willing the bet that the episode actually aired will deliver something far *less* inventive than this explanation.
Thanks for writing this tale, ShouldKnowBetter.
Loved every minute of it. Great job!
Interesting story, but one little quibble. If you look at the screen caps, the planes that attacked the shuttle were US made P-51 Mustangs, with US markings. How do you explain armed US fighters in the sky over San Francisco and Nazi occupiers in Washington DC? If US radar was active to vector the fighters onto the shuttle, that means an army to defend them and an infrastructure to support them. The Nazis would be far too busy getting killed to occupy anything.
This was fantastic! Why can't we get as good in canon? Please continue wowing us.
Now, THIS is what the second half of the season ender should be! One can only hope that the "official" episode is even half as good as this one. I loved the interaction of Trip and Capt Soval.
This story should also be put on the Soval Annex! Excellent job!
Excellent and compelling as usual. I only wish that we could have known the differences between Captain Soval's Vulcans and T'Pol's Vulcans were.
I really love your stuff. And again, I will profess that I'm thoroughly converted to Soval/Amanda, no matter how illogical.