If you are seeing this paragraph, the site is not displaying correctly. You can see the content, but your current browser does not support CSS which is necessary to view our site properly. For the best visual experience, you will need to upgrade your browser to Netscape 6.0 or higher, MSIE 5.5 or higher, or Opera 3.6 or higher. If, however, you don't wish to upgrade your browser, scroll down and read the content - everything is still visible, it just doesn't look as pretty.
The Mean Old Vulcan and the MACO, by ShouldKnowBetter
The Mean Old Vulcan and the MACO
Subtitle: The Author Indulges in Unseemly Curiosity about Widowed Vulcans
Summary: Soval and Cole take a quick trip away from Earth to disrupt Xindi ambitions.
1. This is set in the same universe as ‘We’ll Always Have Enterprise’, part way through the time that Tucker spends on Earth. Be warned, though, it’s a T/T free zone.
2. This story was meant to be a response to myst’s challenge to have Soval appear as a character in a Bogart film, but it’s not worked out very well. The mean old Vulcan just isn’t as annoying as Katharine Hepburn.
With studied patience, Soval closed the thick volume he had been studying and pushed it gently across the desk. “Perhaps you should consider reading a good book.”
Half-heartedly, she lifted the cover and wrinkled her nose. “It’s in Vulcan!”
“Learning the language would alleviate your boredom.”
She scowled at him. “It’s all right for you! You get to know what’s going on elsewhere.” There was no response and she grimaced. “What’s the point in being in a resistance cell if we never do anything?”
“I suggest you cultivate patience.”
“I want to do something!”
“I thought you came to Earth to look after Mr Tucker, Ms Cole.”
The ex-MACO snapped to her feet, crossing to the window to stare out. “Maybe I was wrong. What harm can anyone do the Xindi in this god-forsaken place?”
“You may yet be surprised.” Soval reached for his teacup, taking a delicate sip. “I have not yet forsaken this place, as my presence here bears witness.”
Cole growled in angry frustration and threw the Vulcan a killing look as she turned to leave. She hated him, not least because he remained so damned calm that it was impossible to pick a fight with him, and she needed a fight. She recognised her mood. Major Hayes would have told her to snap out of it. Trip, on a good day, would have hugged her and let her cry her eyes out, but this wasn’t a good day. She was on her own, deep in a bout of depression, and she didn’t like it one bit.
An unpleasant sight greeted Soval when he entered the maintenance yard office a week later. Cole was slumped at a table, head in her hands, a position in which he frequently encountered the former captain of Enterprise. The woman’s growl of protest at his greeting was also familiar. “Go away.”
He came to stand over her. “I was not aware that you shared Mr Tucker’s weakness for alcohol, Ms Cole.”
She raised her head just enough to peer blearily at him. “I told you I was bored.”
“An intelligent person is never bored.”
“Go condescend elsewhere!”
“If you wish.” Soval turned away, adding dryly, “I apologise for disturbing you. I believed that you would be interested to know that, even for you, someone has a goodly purpose.”
He was very nearly through the door before the implications of his remark finally penetrated Cole’s headache. “Wait!” He turned back, an eyebrow cocked. “You mean you’ve got a job for me?”
“I believe that was what I said.”
“You really are a mean old bastard.” Cole had learnt her opinion of Vulcans from Tucker at his most bitter. “What’s the job?”
“It required us to leave Earth briefly.”
“Yes!” She leapt to her feet, hangover forgotten. ‘I’m in. Give me five minutes to pack.”
The ship with which the Xindi had supplied Soval was small and rather ramshackle, but it had the advantage that it lacked a Xindi pilot. While the ex-ambassador proved that he could still fly a vessel into orbit, Cole explored, an activity that filled her with mingled outrage and delight. “Will you look at this?” She erupted back onto the flight deck, dumping an armload of supplies onto the console in front of the Vulcan. “Andorian ale, a whole locker full of food, even chocolate. Chocolate! Hell, I’ve not seen chocolate in two years.”
“The Xindi have access to all the resources of your former colony worlds.” Distastefully, Soval removed the clutter from the helm. “Do you not want to know why the Xindi have permitted us to leave Earth?”
“I guess.” Cole slumped into the co-pilot’s seat, carefully peeled a wrapper from a chocolate bar and took a bite, her expression turning blissful. “But couldn’t we just stay out here for a few months? There’s even a shower in back.”
“We cannot simply remain in a remote backwater of space until your species becomes extinct.” The Vulcan looked on distastefully as Cole started on a second bar. “Or until you have made yourself ill.”
“Do you know that chocolate has the same chemical effect on Human women as sex?”
“There are some facts, Ms Cole, that I would prefer not to know. Our mission?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
Soval appeared to perform the Vulcan equivalent of counting to ten, then stated baldly, “The Xindi have requested that I contact the Klingon Empire on their behalf.” Cole’s relaxed demeanour disappeared and he continued levelly, “To offer them an alliance.”
“Oh, Lord.” You didn’t have to be a political genius to spot the consequences and Cole had never been stupid. “That means …”
She broke off, reluctant to voice the unacceptable implications, so Soval did it for her. “The Xindi are attempting to expand their sphere of influence. Given the spatial proximity of Qo’noS to Earth, the Klingons are a logical starting point.”
“And you agreed to help?”
“Of course.” Soval met Cole’s hostile glare calmly. “The Klingons trust no one, but they have agreed to a meeting. A warbird will meet us part way to Qo’noS. We will destroy it.”
She took a long look at the Vulcan seated opposite, but he appeared to be in his right mind. “This ship isn’t armed. I checked.”
“But it carries a generous supply of warp plasma. I believe that you should be capable of contriving sufficient explosive power to destroy the warbird.”
“You expect me to construct some sort of torpedo in the next few days? Sorry, ambassador, engineering miracles are Trip’s department. I’m just a MACO.”
“But one with explosives training. I do not expect you to contrive a guidance system, Ms Cole. This ship will suffice for that.”
“A suicide mission? No way!”
“I concur. Fortunately, this vessel is supplied with escape pods.”
Soval looked affronted. “I assure you, Ms Cole, the risk is acceptable.”
“Acceptable to who?” She didn’t give him time to respond. “Even if we did succeed – and survive! – the Xindi’ll kill us for disobeying orders.”
“Not when I explain that the Klingons fired first.”
“They’ll never buy it.”
“Perhaps not, but the diplomatic furore should ensure that a Xindi/Klingon alliance is delayed. Where are you going, Ms Cole?”
She glared back from the door. “To get more chocolate!”
The argument continued until they were sufficiently far enough from Earth’s orbit to go to warp, by which time Soval was reduced to long, disapproving silences and Cole was on such a caffeine-induced high that she jumped on the opportunity to complain further. “How come you know how to fly this thing?”
“I was briefed.” His tone was curt.
“No simulator experience? No supervised piloting?”
“No!” The Vulcan’s non-existent temper had been threatening to show for some time and he snapped the answer even as he prepared to take the elderly ship to warp. It was a wild ride. Cole was nearly pitched from her seat within the first five seconds and spent the next few minutes clinging to the console in front of her, swearing, while the ship did its best to tear itself apart.
In the silence that descended once Soval finally managed to balance the fuel flow to the plasma injectors, she scowled at the Vulcan, panting. “You did that on purpose.”
“Hardly.” He turned to look at her and she would have been prepared to swear that he was amused. “Perhaps additional practise is required, although the experience was,” he paused, apparently struggling to find a suitable word, “exhilarating.”
“You really are one crazy son-of-a-bitch!” Cole reached for the bottle of Andorian ale that had fortunately been wedged securely. “Wake me when it’s over.”
When Cole surfaced hours later, Soval was still at the helm, his attention focussed on a PADD propped in front of him. She experienced a belated stab of guilt that she had been indulging herself rather than pulling her weight, although it was momentary: Soval’s brief, contemptuous look banished any fellow feeling. “Where are we?”
He didn’t respond verbally, simply pulling up a display that indicated their position.
Immediately irked by the Vulcan’s silent treatment, Cole tilted the bottle of Andorian ale she had been sampling, frowning when she found it empty. She knew she hadn’t finished it; if she had, she wouldn’t currently be vertical. “Did you drink this?” She got nothing except the back view of a regulation Vulcan haircut. “You didn’t, did you? You just emptied it down the waste disposal chute. Because no Human can be trusted to behave themselves!” Still nothing. “Damn you, talk to me! Doesn’t it say anything in that book about tolerating other species?”
Finally Soval raised his head, turning a neutral expression on her. “I find it is other species, Ms Cole, that we Vulcans are put in this universe to rise above.”
“My God, d’you know how self-righteous that sounds? Okay, so I got drunk. I was out of line. I apologise.”
“It was not your drinking to which I objected.”
She gave him a bewildered look. “Well, what else?”
“Your refusal to take part in this mission.” Two pairs of brown eyes met. “I had assumed a greater interest in the survival of your species than I see is the case.”
For a moment, Cole remained rigidly in place, then took an aggressive step forward. “You have no right to question my commitment.”
“Yet you left your post to come to a ‘god-forsaken place’.”
“You know why I did that!”
“Loyalty! Someone needed to look out for Trip.” She turned away, throwing a parting remark over her shoulder. “Now for your information, Ambassador Soval, I’m off to turn this ship into a torpedo – and I hope you live to regret it!”
If Cole had been less angry, she might have taken more care in her renewed search of the ship for destructive materials, although it probably wouldn’t have stopped her exclamation – MACOs don’t scream – when she pulled open an overhead locker. She was tough, but having a decaying corpse fall on your head was enough to shake anyone.
It was a small ship and she hadn’t screamed quite loudly. Soval arrived within seconds, to find her still desperately brushing at her jacket, while simultaneously trying to shake maggots from her hair. Forgetting their earlier disagreement, she turned a pleading look on him. “Get them off me!”
It was clear that she was genuinely distressed and he sighed with the resignation of someone who was expected to do outrageous things for Humanity. “Stand still.”
Unfortunately, the act of freeing her hair from its untidy bundle also freed several maggots to slip down her neck. Cole gasped with disgust and wriggled frantically to dislodge them. “Aw, hell.”
Soval caught her arm in an unbreakable hold. “Stand still!”
She had little choice but to obey, shooting a distasteful look sideways at the corpse instead, while he efficiently brushed her down. “Who d’you think it was?”
He too spared the body a brief look. “A Human. Perhaps one trying to leave Earth. Do you wish to investigate?”
She shuddered in involuntary horror. “No!”
“Do you wish me to investigate?”
“Aren’t you gonna tell me it’s not logical?” Unconsciously, she was huddling closer to the live body behind her. “To want to know the name of one person, when so many died that we don’t even know the actual numbers.”
There was a fractional pause. “Your species used to respect the dead. If you allow the Xindi to take that from you, they win again.”
She looked around sharply, surprised both at the words and the lack of bite in them. “Then I’d like to know.”
She hadn’t noticed that the Vulcan’s restraining grip had relaxed and that both his hands had come to rest on her arms. A second later, however, Soval did notice. He stepped back, frowning. “I will collect a DNA sample prior to disposal.” His voice was cold. “I suggest you change. The stench is unpleasant.”
Cole did not return to the flight deck until much later in the day, having spent the intervening hours investigating the feasibility of turning the ship into a weapon. From his kneeling position on the floor, she assumed that Soval had been meditating, but he looked up sharply when she entered, frowning as she flung herself into the pilot’s chair. “How long until we hit this rendezvous?”
“One hundred and two hours, twenty seven minutes.”
She grimaced at Vulcan accuracy. “A little over four days? I can probably get the ship ready to go bang by then.”
“I would prefer you to be positive.”
“Then you should have brought Trip.”
“Undoubtedly.” His dry tone made her grimace at the slur on her competence as he climbed to his feet. “Do you intend to remain here?”
“Yeah, I need to run a few calculations.”
“Then I will retire. The course is set. You may call me if the need arises.”
“Okay.” Cole wouldn’t have objected to company, even Soval’s, but apparently he didn’t share her tastes. “Hey, ambassador,” she had cast a casual look at their heading, “is this the right course?”
Already at the door, he stilled for a moment then moved slowly back to check, adjusting the heading after a few moments’ study. “Evidently the autopilot is unstable.” He didn’t even glance in her direction as he entered a few more commands. “An alarm will sound if the course changes again.”
Cole wrinkled her nose at his departing back. “Thanks for checking!” As expected, she got no reply to the sarcastic comment, so poked her tongue out instead, then settled down to work. If the miserable old Vulcan didn’t like her company, he shouldn’t have invited her along.
It was difficult to avoid each other on the small ship, but after two days, during which Cole worked diligently on her explosives project, she became certain that Soval was deliberately keeping out of her way. The only time she saw him was when she went to the flight deck to check on something – it contained the only computer outlet on the ship – and then he would promptly leave. He’d even given up on telling her to call him if anything happened, but that didn’t stop her hailing him when the blip appeared on the sensor output.
“What is it?” He’d taken his time to arrive and sounded distinctly irritated, which didn’t improve Cole’s mood. He was supposed to be in charge and it wasn’t her fault she’d had to disturb his afternoon nap.
“The sensors have detected something trailing us.” She gave him a few moments to glare at the sensor output then asked, “What is it?”
“A ship,” he stated to her vast annoyance. What else could have kept pace at warp? “I do not recognise the configuration.”
“And we can’t even shoot at it.”
“Your desire to destroy something that you cannot identify, Ms Cole, does you credit.”
Soval was lucky. The comm. sounded before Cole had thought up a suitably rude response – or hit him. “This is the free trader Orion Queen. Drop out of warp and prepare to be boarded.”
Cole snorted rudely. “Pirates! Told you we need to shoot it.”
“We should be able to outrun them.”
“Should? Ambassador, I’m a MACO. It’s not a big ship, there can’t be many people over there. Let them board us. I can handle it.”
The Vulcan ignored her, the ship beginning to shake as he increased their velocity. Cole subsided into the co-pilot’s chair, muttering imprecations against non-professionals who wouldn’t take advice, even as she continued to monitor the sensors. “We’re not losing them.” In fact, the pirate ship was closing, as evidenced a moment later when they were rocked by incoming fire. “Ambassador, this isn’t working!” A power conduit failed behind them. “Ambassador Soval!”
He didn’t appear to hear her, although she was certain that he was just being stubborn for the hell of it, but he did adjust their heading. The jolt that shook the ship a moment later tossed the unprepared Cole to the deck as the lights and several more power conduits failed, then everything went quiet enough for her to hear a muttered comment in Vulcan; she was damn sure it was rude. “What the hell did you do?”
“I avoided pursuit.” Emergency lighting belatedly flickered to life and Cole sat up, rubbing a bruised shoulder, to find Soval watching her. “Are you injured?”
Grudgingly, she shook her head. “Just how did you avoid pursuit, ambassador?”
He turned back to the helm. “By passing unusually close to the corona of a sun.”
“And I thought Trip had pulled some crazy stunts in his time! Even I know that’s damn dangerous.”
“It worked. The other ship was destroyed.”
“And we’ve lost main power.”
Soval came to his feet in one quick, angry motion, looming over Cole, who hadn’t yet bothered to get up. Her breath caught, even as she reminded herself that Vulcans prided themselves on their self-control. “Then kindly assist me in replacing the power couplings.” His tone was even, but she wasn’t deceived. Soval was one angry Vulcan and perhaps it would be wise to stop complaining – for now, anyway.
The task was relatively simple, but it soon became apparent that they had lost power while still within the gravitational well of the sun Soval had used for his less than risk-free manoeuvre. It started to get hot and Cole forgot her good intentions regarding not annoying her companion. “Did you forget to tell me something?”
He leant across to inspect the power coupling she had installed. “You appear to have completed the task correctly.”
She scowled at his wilful obtuseness. “How long until we get too close to that sun?”
“Approximately ten minutes.”
“Only approximately?” They could complete the repairs but it would be tight. The torque wrench slipped in her sweating hand as she attempted to free the next coupling and she dropped it to peel off her shirt, wiping her hands down her tank top before attacking the fused coupling again. It still refused to budge and she growled in annoyance. “Ambassador, I need a hand here.”
Soval laid down his own tools with calm precision and turned to face her, and Cole suddenly wished that she hadn’t stripped as his eyes travelled over her. She moved back quickly to give him room to work, chiding herself for imagining things. Soval was too old, too uptight and too prejudiced to look at her as if he liked what he saw and besides, it was well known that Vulcans didn’t do sex. Except for T’Pol, of course, but she’d had some excuse: having the cutest guy on Enterprise in your cabin three nights a week was enough to tempt anyone.
Soval freed the coupling and returned to his own repairs, ignoring Cole as she slid back into place, but she remained a little too aware of his presence, particularly when he moved closer to replace the final coupling. She took a surreptitious look sideways, and began to wonder if he was ill. He looked hot and irritable and, while she hadn’t had much to do with him since she’d arrived on Earth, he’d certainly not been complying with her preconceived ideas of normal Vulcan behaviour since they left the planet. She finished replacing the coupling and sat back on her heels, studying him doubtfully and cursing herself for worrying, but the habit of looking out for colleagues was hard to break, even if it had landed her on a desolate planet with a man who mostly didn’t care if she was there or not. “Ambassador, are you okay?”
He didn’t even look around, but the answer came a little too quickly; she’d heard that from Trip all too often when he was clearly anything but okay. “Are you sure?”
Soval’s reaction was more extreme than she’d bargained for. “Will you cease questioning me?” He jerked around to face her, eyes raking her half dressed body again, breathing heavily for a moment before coming to his feet. “Finish here.” He was striding to the door. “I will start re-initialisation procedures.”
Cole chose the course of discretion and hurried to complete the installation. It seemed to be her fate to have to deal with men who walked out on friendly concern.
By the end of another day, Cole had grown sufficiently bored of her own company to convince herself that she had overreacted to Soval’s outburst the day before. It had been hot, they’d been under pressure and she’d been aggravating, so it wasn’t surprising that he’d snapped at her, and as for imagining that he found her attractive … That was plain stupid and just showed that she needed to try and persuade Trip back into bed again – if he ever stayed sober long enough.
Satisfied with her explanation, she collected a couple of vegetarian food packs and headed for the flight deck, determined to make Soval talk to her. She was even determined to be polite.
He scowled at her when she arrived and immediately made to leave the pilot’s seat. “Sit down!” Cole could bark orders too, when she wanted to. “We have to talk.”
The dark eyes under the slanted grey eyebrows narrowed. “We do not.”
“Yes, we do.” She held out a food pack. “I brought you dinner.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Hell, can’t you even have a meal with me?” Being polite was difficult in the face of flat rejection.
“I said I’m not hungry!”
She flinched at the raw anger in Soval’s voice, carefully not looking at the food he had thrown against the wall. “Okay,” she drawled softly, even as she took a step back, instinct and training telling her to get out of a dangerous situation. But she still halted by the door, damning her conscience. “Are you all right, ambassador?” She knew it was a stupid question, because she couldn’t fool herself this time that the Vulcan’s behaviour was normal.
He stared back at her for a moment, breathing quickly. “Just,” he paused, visibly struggling to control himself, “leave me in private.” She shrugged reluctant acceptance, halting again as he added unexpectedly, “Amanda.” She hadn’t known Vulcans would ever stoop to informality. “Arm yourself.”
If he wanted her to leave, it was the wrong thing to say. Cole took a cautious step back into the room, more curious than ever. “What’s going on, Ambassador Soval?”
He turned away from her, breathing deeply as Tucker had once instructed her to do. “Nothing that need concern you.”
“When someone tells me to arm myself, I get concerned. I thought we were on the same side and there’s no one here but us.”
“A fact of which I am well aware!”
Cole could see that Soval’s hands were pressed tightly together, thumbs and forefingers aligned. “Why would you be a danger to me, ambassador?”
“I will not be if you leave me alone!”
There was fury in the last word. “Maybe we should return to Earth.”
“No.” His hands were still pressed together, but they were shaking now. Cautiously Cole edged sideways for a better look; his eyes were closed. “We are closer to the rendezvous point.”
“But if you’re ill …”
“I am not ill.” Cole didn’t think she had made a sound, but Soval’s head snapped around to face her as once again he lost control. “Get out!” Then louder, “Get out!”
This time she didn’t even consider arguing.
Cole was asleep when the alarm sounded, although she was on her feet within seconds, gun in hand – she wasn’t one to pass up a warning. It took her a moment to register that it wasn’t boarding Xindi she had to deal with; it was just the alarm that had been rigged to alert them to unauthorised course changes. Grumbling under her breath about shoddy Xindi workmanship, she headed for the flight deck where the lights had been lowered, so that she had to make her way to the helm mostly by feel. She deactivated the alarm and began to reset the course, belatedly wondering why Soval hadn’t already done it. A vague feeling of unease suggested that she ought to try to find him in case he really was ill, but on the other hand he hadn’t appreciated her concern the last two times she had offered it. Settling for caution, she was on her feet and two steps closer to her bed when she finally realised that she wasn’t alone. “Ambassador?” The shadow by the door moved and she confirmed her tentative identification; she’d been fooled at first because Soval had removed his outer robe, leaving him dressed in something that looked suspiciously like pyjamas.
“What are you doing here?”
He sounded breathless and Cole frowned. He had to be ill and if so, they were stuck; her medical training covered Human first aid only. “The autopilot alarm went off. Didn’t you hear it?”
“I was meditating.”
“Well, we’re back on course.” She approached the door, but Soval didn’t move out of the way, forcing her to stop. For no reason that she could identify, a prickle of unease ran down her back. “Are you feeling better now, ambassador?”
“Why did you change the heading?”
“Huh?” In the darkness, Cole squinted pointlessly to try to get a clearer view of the Vulcan. “We were off course. I put it right. Wanna check?”
It seemed that he did, abruptly brushing past her to reach the helm, where he rapidly entered a new set of numbers. Annoyed, she followed him back. “Maybe my record does say I’m just a MACO, but on Enterprise Trip made us cross-train. I can set a course. Hey!” She had been following his actions. “That’s not right.”
Soval’s head turned slowly in her direction, eyes narrowed; she thought he looked half asleep. “I must return home.”
“Home? You mean Vulcan? But,” she was hopelessly confused, “we’re supposed to go to Qo’noS.”
“Qo’noS?” His head was hanging now as he leant over the helm, weight supported on his arms. “Then there’s no time.”
“Ambassador, what’s wrong with you?” Cole was growing uneasier by the second. She had been brought up to think of Vulcans as, well, as superior, but Soval had clearly lost the plot.
“Wrong? Nothing.” He ran a hand over his face, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment. “Everything. I thought I was past this.”
He began to reset the course again and Cole’s patience snapped. “Past what?”
Her anger seemed to feed his. “Why will you not respect my privacy?”
“Because I don’t know what’s wrong!” She grabbed at him as he turned away without answering, a serious mistake. He thrust her away and she hit the opposite bulkhead hard, too winded to move as he stared at her.
“You must,” he seemed to be labouring under severe internal pressure, “stay away from me.”
Painfully, Cole hauled herself up onto one elbow, easing her gun from the holster at her waist. “Because you’ll kill me?”
“Because I will take you.” It took a moment for his meaning to penetrate then she gasped, even as he moved slowly towards her. “You wish to know what is wrong? It is the pon farr, the time of mating, and I am far from home. And you are here.”
Cole was sensible. She shot him before he could get any closer.
On a low setting, the blast didn’t put Soval out for long, but it gave Cole time to tie his wrists and ankles, then she settled down to wait, gun nestled in the crook of her arm. Her mother might have recommended a boot to the privates as a good way of discouraging unwanted men, but Cole had always preferred the discharge from a focussed-energy weapon.
The Vulcan passed rapidly from unconscious to conscious, struggling only briefly when he found he was imprisoned, before shifting to sit against the wall. “Did I hurt you?”
He sounded calm, but Cole didn’t allow herself to be lulled. “I didn’t give you the chance.”
“Commendable.” Soval’s eyes had been closed, but he opened them to fix her with a determined stare. “Now you must lock me away.”
She ignored the instruction – in the short term, anyway. “I don’t get it. I thought you Vulcans prided yourselves on your self-control. Now you’re saying you can’t be trusted not to jump me. How’s that work?” The deep-set eyes closed again and the man’s expression turned stubborn. “Come on, ambassador! I have a right to know.”
“It is private. Deeply so.”
“So’s being raped.”
His face twisted and, as she identified self-disgust, Cole realised how very far from composed Soval really was. “Then do as I tell you. Put me in an escape pod and jettison it.”
“You cannot secure me anywhere else!” She could see his temper rising again. “These,” he jerked contemptuously at the cables binding him and she saw them give, “will not hold me long.”
“What’ll happen if I shove you out into space?”
“You will continue with our mission and destroy the Klingon warbird.”
“I thought the plan needed you to convince the Xindi that the Klingons fired first.”
“Unfortunately, I will not be available.”
Cole scowled, not amused by the dry humour. “What’ll happen to you?” He didn’t answer. “Ambassador?” Still nothing. “I’m not gonna do something without knowing the consequences. What’ll happen to you?”
“I will die. Fortunately,” he added as Cole gasped, “removed from your incessant questioning. I begin to sympathise with Mr Tucker’s drinking habits.”
“Because of this ‘time of mating’ thing?” He nodded reluctantly. “You need to have sex or you’ll die?”
“I am sure you find that amusing.”
The bitterness made her angry. “No! You said you needed to go to Vulcan. Would that help?”
“Pointless. It would take too long.” He stopped to breath deeply, his hands clenching. “Amanda, for your own safety, you must do as I say.”
“No.” She was pacing the small flight deck. “There have to be alternatives.”
Probably against his will, Soval’s eyes were following her, and Cole was starting to feel flustered. It was all very well in theory to have guys going crazy over you, but when it happened for real, it was decidedly unsettling. “Tell me anyway.”
He shook his head in frustration, but complied. “Meditation, but I have tried that route before and failed. Combat, to eradicate the urge.”
“Combat!” Elated, Cole stopped in front of the Vulcan. “You’re on.”
“Fool.” There was definite amusement in Soval’s voice, along with contempt. “I would overpower you too quickly – and then I would still take you.”
“You don’t know how good I am.”
“I know that you are Human.”
The bald statement reminded her how easily she had been tossed across the room earlier. “Damn it!” The use of Tucker’s favourite protest against life, the universe and everything sent Cole into another fit of pacing. Her erstwhile lover would call her every sort of fool for what she was about to suggest, but she was tired of death. Maybe it was time she saved a life instead of ended one. She took a deep breath, consciously dropping her shoulders as she released it. “Well, Ambassador Soval, it looks like we’re gonna be hitting the sack together.”
He stared at her, stunned into silence, and Cole allowed herself a momentary grin at having shocked a Vulcan, although it faded as she knelt to untie his bonds. “No!”
“It’s the only option.”
“You do not understand what you are undertaking.”
“I understand that you’re helping us Humans. Dunno why, but I guess maybe we owe you. So I’m paying.” She met his eyes, courageously resolute. “It’ll be okay.” She had expected him to pounce as soon as he was free, and was half annoyed when he simply sat there, frowning at her. She drew back a short way, seating herself cross-legged on the floor, staring thoughtfully back. “You hate this, don’t you?”
He leant his head back against the wall, eyes closing once more. “To have my logic, my control, stripped from me. To be reduced to a mindless creature, subject to primitive urges. What rational being would welcome such a thing?”
“Are you married?” It wasn’t strictly relevant, but he seemed unusually talkative and if there were a Mrs Soval somewhere, she wanted to know. If T’Pol was any example, Vulcan women were as possessive and jealous as their Human sisters.
“I was. She died.” Fascinated, Cole saw the pain that crossed Soval’s face. “Many years ago.”
She would certainly never again believe that Vulcans were emotionless. The mean old Vulcan had loved his wife and somehow that made him seem more real. “So what do you usually do about … this?”
“There are procedures. Friends, colleagues …”
“I’m a colleague. What’s the problem?”
“You are Human.”
“You’d really rather die than go to bed with me?”
He shook his head irritably. “A Vulcan would understand. There is nothing like this in your culture.”
She frowned, replaying his words even as she tried to match them with the Soval she thought she knew. The Soval who thought Humans were inferior, who had actively conspired to hold back Earth’s warp programme and so helped leave Humanity vulnerable to the Xindi. A man who preferred to die rather than force himself on her, even when she had consented, because the situation was alien to her culture.
His head was back against the wall again, eyes on the ceiling, his breathing erratic. “To be subject to blind need with no choice.” She thought he was talking to himself, but then he added. “And you are as trapped as I.”
Cole grimaced. She had seen the desire when he looked at her, but she hadn’t really appreciated how little her identity mattered to him. Any female would do, and it was just unfortunate that they were the only people on the ship. No wonder Soval had been trying to avoid her. But at least she knew that he hated the thought of what had to happen between them and that made it much easier. “Ambassador.” A flicker of pain crossed his face, but he kept his head turned away. “Soval.” This time she came close enough to slip a hand into one of his; it was dry and burning hot. He turned to look at her, fingers tightening around hers. “You’re not forcing me. This is my choice.” He was very close to losing all control, but still fighting it. “Let’s just get on with it.” Before her nerve broke.
Shaking, Soval stretched out his other hand to brush her cheek with the backs of his first two fingers. “I’m sorry.” Cole held still and he continued to stroke her face, eyes reflecting the desire he’d been keeping in check until then. Again surprised that he hadn’t simply grabbed, she closed her eyes; Soval certainly wouldn’t care if she thought about someone else and it was quite pleasant if she didn’t look. Then his hand pressed against the side of her face and she cried out as emotions swept over her, recognisable but alien in their intensity: anger, loss, searing regret and bitter self-disgust, but, overlying the whole, overwhelming need. She sobbed as it raced through her and clutched at him as he pulled her close.
Cole awake slowly, with a vile headache and a parched mouth. Miserably uncomfortable, she groaned and a quiet voice said, “There is a drink by the bed.”
Memory returned abruptly and with it sharp embarrassment, although the thought of liquid overrode all else. Pinning the sheet firmly above her breasts, she rolled over and grabbed, gulping down half the mug of lukewarm tea and only then looking cautiously around for her companion, to find Soval seated on the floor on the other side of the small compartment, just about as far from the bed as he could get. “Is it over?” He was fully dressed and impassive again, but she felt it worth checking.
“That’s good.” She felt bruised and sore all over, although not all of that was Soval’s fault. She swallowed more of the lemon and ginger tea, then forced herself to meet his eyes. “What happened to me?”
For a moment, it didn’t appear that he was going to answer but eventually he said neutrally, “It appears that you experienced the condition with which I was afflicted.”
“Does that often happen?”
“Between Vulcans, yes.” He didn’t appear comfortable discussing the subject, but at least he was still talking to her. “I did not expect it to be possible with a Human.” His eyes shifted to study his clasped hands. “The pon farr amplifies the empathic sense innate in all Vulcans. Evidently it was sufficient in my case for you to experience my … need.”
“Oh.” There didn’t seem to be anything else to say. It had been a strangely impersonal experience for something that should have been so intimate. All that had mattered was that they were male and female; personalities hadn’t come into it. It hadn’t been actively unpleasant, but it wasn’t something she’d be volunteering for again.
“We are two hours from the rendezvous point.” The Vulcan’s tone was suddenly crisper. “Are you well enough to complete your preparations?”
“Sure.” The headache had eased, but her instinctive movement towards the side of the bed halted almost as soon as it started. Soval might have seen her naked, but she wasn’t going to give him another look. “Um…”
He rose slowly to his feet and she suppressed a grin; he was stiff and trying to hide it. “I will be on the flight deck.”
Soval didn’t look up when Cole joined him, although his question made it clear that he knew she was there. “The device is ready?”
“Yeah.” She slipped into the co-pilot’s seat and brought up a screen she had configured earlier. “Shall I arm it?”
“I would prefer not to give the Klingons warning of what we intend.” He cast a quick look at the screen in front of her. “Get to an escape pod, Ms Cole.”
“I can arm the device myself. Your presence is not necessary for dealing with the Klingons.”
“I’m not leaving until you do.”
“If you are indulging in a fit of sentimentality, Ms Cole, I advise you not to bother.”
She scowled at him, even though it was wasted when he wasn’t looking. “I’m being practical, Ambassador Soval. Having two of us here increases the odds of success.”
“Marginally. The risk to the individual increases significantly. Leave.”
“Now who’s being sentimental?” That finally produced a glare and Cole grinned – mostly in triumph at having provoked him. “I’m staying.”
An alarm sounded from the helm and Soval returned his attention to the board. “The argument has become academic. The warbird has arrived.”
“Vulcan.” The face that appeared on the small view screen was visibly sneering. “You came.”
“To demonstrate Xindi good will.” Soval’s tone was a great deal more pleasant than normal, Cole noted, and smiled: cynical old Vulcan.
“Are you armed?”
“You stipulated not. Scan the ship if you wish.” Soval raised an eyebrow at Cole, who nodded confirmation; until the device was armed, it wouldn’t show up as suspicious.
The fact that they had – apparently – obeyed the rules didn’t improve the Klingon’s opinion of them. He sneered some more at cowards without the honour to defend themselves, then returned to business. “You will dock with us.”
“As you wish.” Soval cut the connection, adding with his usual dryness, “Convenient.”
“Very.” Cole tried to match his tone, but was belatedly regretting not having ducked out earlier. “Won’t they notice you’re trying to ram them?”
“Undoubtedly. However,” he put their ship into motion, “they may not react until too late.”
“If I was them, I’d fire at us.”
“Klingon weapon signatures on the hull fragments would be advantageous.”
“As long as we’re not part of the fragments!”
“Vulcan!” The Klingon was back on the comm. “Your approach vector is wrong.”
“My apologies.” Soval nodded to Cole, who flicked the ‘arm’ switch even as he locked their course. “A slight problem with helm control.”
Cole was out of her seat, releasing the floor hatch that gave access to the escape pods. As she let herself downwards, she could still hear Soval calmly assuring the irate Klingon that there was no serious problem. You had to like a guy who could lie through his teeth, although she wouldn’t care to play poker with him. She just hoped the idiot Vulcan didn’t leave it too late to get clear – it would be such a waste of the fact that she’d just saved his life.
It had been a relief when she heard the unmistakable sounds of her escape pod being retrieved, but Cole was less happy when the hand that yanked her out proved to belong to a Xindi-Humanoid. It was instinctive to fight, but completely pointless. She took down the first man, but the other two overpowered her, then the first booted her in the ribs to demonstrate that Humans shouldn’t fight back. Never one to take a hint, she kept struggling while they dragged her through the ship, then she was flung onto the deck in front of a pair of boots. Breathless and angry, she sat back on her heels and glared up at their owner, who was looking down at her with contempt. At least Soval despised her because he knew her; this Xindi despised her because she was Human. And where the hell was the bitter old Vulcan?
“What are you doing here?” The Xindi captain didn’t sound particularly interested, but Cole didn’t think his boredom would save her. “Where have you come from?” He left a brief pause then sighed. “Tell me or I will order your immediate execution.”
She suspected that answering wouldn’t really extended her life by much, but Major Hayes had been of the opinion that the longer you stayed alive, the more Xindi you got to kill, and that had always seemed a good plan to her. “Earth.”
“Really? Where are your papers?” She said nothing. “You know that no Human can leave Earth without authorisation. Where are your papers?”
“My ship was destroyed. I lost them.”
“You’re a member of the Free Humans.”
“Then what are you doing away from Earth?”
Well, the crazy Vulcan who runs the resistance movement on Earth wanted an explosives expert to help him stop your species forming an alliance with the Klingons. Yeah, right, Amanda, good story!
“Answer me!” She couldn’t because she hadn’t thought to ask Soval what his cover story for her was. The captain stooped and caught a handful of her hair, yanking her head back so hard that she yelped. “You will be executed.” The Xindi’s voice was almost polite, but Cole believed him. “You have the choice of whether it will be quick or painful. Answer me!”
“Captain.” The new voice was a welcome interruption, his words even more so. “We found another one.”
The grip on her hair relaxed and she twisted her head around to confirm that it was Soval the guards brought in – on his feet and unrestrained, of course. He probably considered it undignified to struggle as she had done.
“So,” the captain sounded resigned, “what’s your story, Vulcan?”
Cole didn’t have a good view, but she just knew that an eyebrow had climbed at the rudeness. “My name is Soval. I am here at the request of Ugarke, head of the Earth garrison.”
There was a moment of profound silence. “Prove it.”
“Of course.” He sounded slightly surprised that he should be asked to do so, but perfectly confident that he could. “But perhaps first you would release the woman.”
“You admit that she’s with you?”
“Naturally.” Soval’s confidence must be paying off, Cole thought. No one stopped him when he approached her and offered her his hand. Startled, she let him pull her up, still more surprised when he didn’t immediately release her. “Her name is Amanda.” His dark, unreadable eyes met hers as the pressure on her fingers increased to the point of pain. “She who is my wife.”
Despite his warning, she very nearly yelped a panicked protest, but common sense intervened just in time. They’d gone to bed together for medical reasons only and that was it. He’d have told her if there were any long-term implications. Wouldn’t he?
“Your authorisation to leave Earth?” The Xindi captain seemed a lot less shocked at Soval’s claim than Cole was.
Calmly, Soval reached inside his robe and produced a data recorder that he proffered, keeping his tight grip on Cole’s hand. She presumed it was a warning to keep her mouth shut, which was fine by her.
“Hmm.” The Xindi was studying the document. “You were supposed to rendezvous with a Klingon ship. What happened?”
“It attacked us. Our ship was destroyed.”
“Yet you managed to escape.”
“We were fortunate.”
“What became of the Klingons?”
“The warbird was also destroyed.”
“Let me be clear on this.” Cole didn’t like the Xindi’s tone as he paced behind them. “You claim that you were attacked by the Klingon ship sent to meet you. Somehow both your ship and the Klingon one were destroyed, but you managed to escape.”
“I claim nothing. It is the truth.”
“Hmm.” Again the captain peered at the data recorder the Vulcan had produced, which did indeed carry Ugarke’s authorisation. “Can you prove it?”
“My ship was about to be destroyed. I did not stop to download the sensor logs.”
“You could scan the debris field.” Cole had decided that Soval’s tone was becoming sarcastic enough to annoy the Xindi captain. For a professional diplomat, he was one of the least diplomatic people she had ever met. “Look for Klingon weapon signatures.”
It might have been the wrong thing to do, because the Xindi halted in front of her, staring at her for a disconcertingly long time before turning for a brief glance at Soval, then looking back. “You married him?” Cole managed a brief nod, hoping she looked sincere. “Why?”
“Well,” she glanced frantically sideways, but Soval could hardly help her with that one. She straightened her shoulders. “It seemed the logical thing to do. And,” she added, struck by sudden inspiration, “he brings me tea in bed.”
For a moment longer, the Xindi stared at her then stunned her by giving a short bark of laughter. “Women! Very well, I’ll return you to Earth – if the debris confirms your story.”
In a decent ship, it took only a couple of days to reach Earth, although it was two days too long for Cole, confined in a cabin with a sarcastic Vulcan. Soval spent most of the time meditating, which made it worse; she couldn’t even amuse herself by arguing with him. And on a Xindi ship where conversations might be monitored, she couldn’t ask the most important question of all.
It was certainly right at the top of her priority list when the airlock closed behind them, imprisoning them back on Earth. Soval headed immediately for the settlement, but Cole dragged him to a halt. If a fierce grip on his robe didn’t match up to his dignity, tough. “That stuff about us being married – that wasn’t true, right?”
He kept her waiting just long enough to get her really worried, then removed her hand and continued on his way. “It was a lie.”
She drew a deep breath and followed him. “You really get a kick out of winding people up, don’t you?”
He actually seemed to consider the question, one eyebrow indicating reluctant consent. “Perhaps.”
“Mean old Vulcan.” She muttered it very quietly, but Soval demonstrated that he had the excellent hearing of all his species.
“Assuredly.” She grimaced and he added levelly, “Which reminds me.” There was a definite pause and Cole looked around curiously as he frowned. “I have been acquainted with your species for a long time, Ms Cole, but you still have the capacity to surprise me.”
“By being rude?”
“By your generosity.” She blinked and he added a little haltingly, “I never thanked you, but I am grateful for what you did.”
Cole winced, sure that Soval was just as embarrassed as she was. “Like I said, we owe you. Now can we just forget about it?” The incident already seemed unreal and the sooner it was pushed to the back of her mind, the better. Having sex with Soval? Not the sort of thing a girl would want to admit to.
“I would certainly be grateful if you would remain reticent on the matter.”
“Who’d believe me, anyway? You must be, what, three hundred? Four?”
“Was that another insult, Ms Cole?”
With surprise, she realised that Soval was amused and grinned internally. “I wouldn’t know about that, Ambassador Soval.” At least now, when Trip’s behaviour became unbearable and she was going mad with grief and impotent fury, she’d have someone else to scream at. She’d seen the mean old Vulcan off his head with anger and lust, and that calm, indifferent front wouldn’t scare her away in future. “But you do make very nice tea.”
A whole mess of folks have made comments
I love that tea is the only thing Amanda seems to like about Soval!
New story soon please!
This is an awesome story! I like Soval written with integrity, and a really wonky affection for "inferior humans" that he won't admit he has... and I like Cole: she has great taste in men (Trip), a great sense of loyalty, and she could definitely go 10 rounds with a grumpy Vulcan -- on all the required levels.
"Cole was sensible. She shot him before he could get any closer." -- You have to like this girl! Great story and good use of a (previously) minor character. I like this AU very much -- I hope you have more stories planned!
I enjoyed this thank you.
Great story! It fits in well with the main story line. You just have to continue this whole series.
this is a great story. A good sequel would be to have them realize that they bonded during the Pon Farr. Maybe have them come together and have their relationship grow. Give the guy a little lovin'!
Just waiting for Soval to offer Amanda a bar of chocolate. :D Keep going! An unexpected couple, and I love their interactions!
HATED IT no sex
I just read this the second time. The first time it was shortly after discovering Soval/Amanda through your other stories: "There is No Sin but Igorance" and "A Truth Universally Acknowledged", so it was weird for me to see Soval and Amanda this way.
However, on the second read, I really got a kick out of it! Very funny... and at the same time, a little HOT. A very naughty part of me wished that you'd gone to an R-rating! LOL
(I'll admit, that part of the reason that I reviewed this fic again is because I'm planning to address pon farr in my own upcoming Soval fic.. and I didn't want to inadvertantly plagiarize this one!)