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Clarity

Author - Ludjin | C | Genre - Alternate Universe | Genre - MU CHALLENGE Fic | Main Story | Rating - R
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Clarity

By Ludjin

Email: begoniagrasshopper@hotmail.com
Rating: R (language and adult themes)
Genre: MU, Trip/T'Pol
Archive: No.
Disclaimer: The characters are Paramount's and are brought to life by their fabulous actors and actresses. I'm making no money from this and intend no infringement. That said, Berman and Braga have an awful tendency to treat something of exquisite value like a piece of trash. It's pitiful.
Spoilers: In a Mirror Darkly, I and II. All events from TATV are completely and utterly ignored. Period.
Summary: T'Pol is slated for execution. Tucker isn't happy with the new Empress. It's time for some action.

Author's notes: IaMD,II. Hmm. Here's my answer, spawned while I mused on the show's ending. Many thanks to tripslittleminx, stub, and pookha for all their help!
Constructive criticism is very much appreciated. (Seriously. Give me hints, tidbits, whatever. Email, if you feel like it. I'm a newbie at this writing stuff, and I want to learn. :) )


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"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

--I Corinthians 13:12

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Chapter One

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There was nothing else she could do.

Captain Forrest was dead. Soval was dead. The Avenger was destroyed. T'Pol assumed Phlox was dead; if he wasn't, he was soon to be executed. As was she, in a matter of 10.2 hours. Or was it less? With a strange twinge of anxiety, she realized she had lost track of time. But did it matter? There was no hope, no chance, no possible outcome than the one that now lay before her. She was to be made into an example. Perhaps, in the years to come, she might be labeled as a martyr by the rebels that glowered and hid beneath the soiled depths of the Empire. Those musings were worthless, though; debating her possible martyrdom was an entirely fruitless endeavor.

Then again, there wasn't a great deal of time left for her to dwell upon even fruitless thoughts. Empress Sato had informed her of exactly how and when she would be executed. Vaporized with 23rd century technology, the entirety of the spectacle would be broadcasted to every planet and every starship in all the systems under the Empire's grasp. Her execution would be performed at a penultimate moment of the Empress' speech; T'Pol did not doubt that such examples of strength would only aid in bending the rebellion into submission. The Defiant was the key for complete supremacy in the entire sector -- a key now held by humans and humans alone.

Certainly, all other species would be forced to either cede completely to the Empire's demands or suffer death, death that did not number in individuals, but in whole populations on entire planets. Vulcan, she was sure, would be violated, destroyed. Despite her own enslavement, she knew where many of the troubles for the Empire had originated. Her species, as a whole, were not easily cowed, even if they had been slow to anger. Now, they would be annihilated by technology she had aided the humans in acquiring. Perhaps her execution was a merited punishment for the sins she had unknowingly committed, for the foolish mistakes she had made in her own arrogance. If she had become as arrogant as a human, she then deserved only death.

Yet in the end, there was still no hope. Not for her, not for her people, and not even for the innocents who lay humbled beneath those who reigned. Innocent. A foolish notion. What could be defined as innocent? What reasoning could there be for sparing those supposed innocents? Who were the innocent? There were none. All things were defined as pawns and power-plays, moves to be made and opportunities taken. There was no other way.

And yet . . .

And yet, there was. In as much as the DefiantThe United Federation of Planets. While she had never been fond of giving in to whimsy, there was a strange, lilting timbre that surrounded that name, even when she spoke it only in the hidden depths of her mind. The name itself had been enough to give her hope. However, that foolish hope had only brought her to a shameful end, laid out upon the sleek, white bunk that ran the length of one of the Defiantís brig cells. She was defeated, as had been Forrest, and then the rebels. And while they had been given only moments to realize their impending death, T'Pol was forced to face what was coming and to revel in her failure.

A desperate, frustrated scream threatened, burning at the back of her throat, but she found the strength to contain it. It was nearly all she could do in her pathetically weakened state. Dark bruises and emerald stripes were the visible evidence she bore of the human's ministrations, but the throbbing pain in her leg spoke of a far more severe injury -- one that effortlessly destroyed any chance for escape she might've been tempted to take. Travis Mayweather, a disturbingly quiet human, had taken an inordinate amount of glee in striking her, either with his feet, his hands, or his weapon. At the time, she had simply endured, wary of the plasma rifles aimed so fastidiously at her by the other guards; now, she wished that she had lashed out, reacted in some way, any way, so that they might've been forced to subdue her -- even better, kill her. She was far stronger than any human; she should've taken that opportunity. Yet, she didn't. In truth, she hadn't even observed the opening until it was too late.

The physical pain was sufferable; however, the mental pain was quickly becoming too much to endure. She was able to, in part, ignore her injuries, but her capability to keep the demons in her mind at bay was becoming severely compromised. Those demons fought passionately at the edges of her control, drawing slowly inward on her, made all the more frenzied by her faltering self-discipline. She wondered what her counterpart in the other universe would think of her. She had lost all things, failed all things, and now -- now, she was losing what it fundamentally meant to be Vulcan. The cruel irony of the situation burned her heart.

The T'Pol of the United Federation of Planets had been successful, renowned, distinguished. First Vulcan member of Starfleet. A member of the much-vaunted crew of Earth's first deep-space exploration ship, Enterprise. A hero in the eyes of humanity for her role in the Xindi conflict. A prominent figure in the rediscovery of the Kir'Shara, and a leader in the reformation of Vulcan. A hero again in the Earth-Romulan war. An ambassador. A wife. Mother. Grandmother and great-grandmother.

Too often, her thoughts strayed to that distant twin. What could have been -- no, what should have been -- would not be forced from her mind. Indeed, her control was so frayed and her desperation so complete that she could not escape the other T'Pol. She wondered if this truly were madness creeping on her, slowly and inexorably; yet, in all her conceived notions of insanity, the hope she had held to desperately for those precious hours -- when it had seemed that escape was possible -- was as far from madness as the Defiant was from its original universe. Perhaps it was her mind's last, futile attempt to deny her coming death -- and to deny her ultimate failure, the most crushing blow of all. Why had she been convinced she could succeed? How could she have possibly believed that the humans wouldn't, once again, over-power and out-maneuver a Vulcan, any Vulcan?

All she had known for her entire life was the steady, ruthless advance of humanity. Upon her species fateful first contact with Earth, they had become a tide that could not be stopped. They were as blood-thirsty as Klingons, cunning as Romulans -- quick, intelligent, treacherous, and relentless. The pacifistic, methodical ways of her own species and the unerring, shrewd adaptability of the humans had quickly led to Vulcan's humiliating defeat, and as Earth's people had armed themselves with Vulcan technology, they had quickly and subversively gained dominion over other species: the Tellarites, the Andorians, the Denobulans, and more. Too many more.

T'Pol lifted a hand to touch the long cut on her face. Dried blood still crusted the wound. Suddenly, fury welled and fought at her mind, causing her fingers to tremble. She gasped and fought in return, willing herself to find some sort of calm, any sort. The white-hot onslaught had been foreign to her for so long; yet, in the past two days, she had felt that rage surface, boiling within her, triggered by the momentous epiphany of a life that could have been lived so differently. Finally, she managed to ward off the demons, although she realized -- once again -- she had no true idea of the time that had passed. Her hands were clenched in angry fists and sweat glistened on her skin. Her long nails bit painfully into the flesh of her palms, and a trickle of green blood spilled down onto her wrists.

This was the rage her ancient ancestors must have battled. Yet, if such fury were so blinding, so powerful, what had kept it dormant within her and the rest of her people for so long? Were those peaceful, logical advances so sacred that Vulcans would be easily beaten into submission, rather than give in to their hidden passions? T'Pol would have gladly give free rein to her rage than allow all of Vulcan to be enslaved. And yet, when that ancient zeal had finally reared itself in her mind, she had still fought for some semblance of control -- and still did. The thought of being enraged beyond tangible thought frightened her; she had never experienced something so extreme and powerful. But, if given the choice between complete annihilation as a species and regression into what their ancestors had struggled so deeply with, which was the correct one?

And the most pressing question of all did not concern herself or any other Vulcan, at all. This was the question she tried frantically to understand, and yet failed. Why were humans so inexorably different in the other universe?

Perhaps the cruelest of all ironies was the simple fact that Captain Archer's parallel twin had been another key figure in recovering the Kir'Shara. Through him, in a large part, the true words and teachings of the great Surak -- whom she had truthfully begun to doubt existed -- had spread throughout Vulcan, revolutionizing their ways. Of all people, of all species, it was Archer who's name was lifted in high honor on Vulcan for that very reason. His fame did not end there, however. He had been the driving force behind the forming of the Federation. His name was legendary, and in all that she had read, he had been . . . good. Truly, plausibly good.

What had made the thirst for power the overarching force in her universe? What had twisted the humans so deeply and terribly that they saw their lives only in terms of self and of advancement?

No. Not all humans sought only advancement. Yet the rare human who did not live for power had been broken, used, and ultimately killed. She had even used such humans, an action she now regretted. The words of one such human haunted her.

You're goin' to regret what you did.

He had spoken the truth. She had simply aided humanity in breaking those perceived as weak. She had taken an opportunity that she had seen -- had been ordered to, in fact -- although that particular arrangement was far different than what she had expected it to be. Would he now live only for power, too? She'd picked from his mind the gentleness he was capable of, a gentleness that she found had been directed -- surprisingly -- at her; however, she had used that new-found knowledge against him, despite the discomfort that had come, unbidden, to bring her strange doubts. She had subsequently dismissed those doubts and carried out her orders. She realized that, in as much as the thirst for power controlled humanity, so too had it controlled her. There had been no other choice to be made, even before the discovery of the Defiant. Now, though . . . She now knew that supposition to be entirely false -- but it was too late. Would he rejoice in her death?

Her questions would not and could not be answered; that frustration was enough to bring the demons back, but she fought them through long, slow breaths, willing her racing heart to calm itself. Finally, she found her control. She wondered if these small episodes would only increase in strength and time as her moment of execution approached. Perhaps, as a final humiliation, she would be nothing more than a snarling, enraged animal when the Empress aimed a weapon -- which should have been 100 years into the future and a universe away -- at her and she then ceased to exist. And perhaps, that would be fitting.

Unanswered questions and barely tangible thoughts of despair raced through her mind. For her aching body, it was too much. She slipped unknowingly into sleep.

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A pulpy thump, followed quickly by a loud thud and a clatter, roused her. She sat up quickly, wincing as the sudden movement sent a sharp pain down her right leg. She did not waste time in blotting out the throbbing ache. Her senses were oddly piqued, as those sounds were not what she should have heard were it time for the execution. The brig seemed empty; however, her view of the oddly shadowed room was greatly limited. Various other sounds reached her ears: footsteps, a light clunk, and the sound of something heavy and clothed being dragged. And then, two bodies came into sight.

Commander Tucker.

The engineer was dragging the now unconscious guard toward her cell, his half-scarred face twisted into a fierce scowl. The guard's plasma rifle was slung over the Commander's shoulder and another weapon -- one of the Defiantís standard phasers -- was tucked into the leather belt of his jumpsuit. He stopped just outside the cell and dropped the man's arms, the guard's head flopping unceremoniously to the gleaming floor. Tucker's nearness to the force-field cast a curious glow on his damaged features. Although he did not meet her gaze, she studied him, her heart rate increasing as adrenaline suddenly began to flow.

Tucker's fingers flew over the cell's locking relay, punching in a code she was certain he should not have known. With a brief, crimson-colored flicker, the force-field buzzed and vanished. His face was once again plunged into half-shadow, but not before she recognized the stark desperation in his eyes that she knew, without doubt, was mirrored in her own heart.

He lifted his gaze from the panel to meet hers. His brow furrowed and he abruptly spoke. "Dammit, woman. Move!" Without waiting to see if she complied, he bent to grab the guard once more, roughly taking his arms and pulling him over the threshold of the cell. Once the body was inside, Tucker straightened and nudged the unconscious man none too gently with his booted foot, his scowl deepening as he stared down at him. He seemed to suddenly realize there was a complete lack of action after his growled order: his head jerked up and he glanced sharply her way. "What the hell's wrong with you? We've got to get out of here. Now!"

T'Pol's throat had become disturbingly tight and her tongue thick. Finally, she managed to force her voice through, although it was rough with an emotion she could not label. "My leg is broken. I . . I cannot."

"Sonofabitch," was the engineer's muttered response. "Which side? I'll carry you." T'Pol swallowed convulsively and glanced down at her hand hovering over her right thigh. With a swift smoothness that caught her by surprise, he bent and scooped her up and over his shoulder. She gasped at the sudden pain, and the metallic heat in her mouth informed her that she'd bitten her tongue. He took great care in avoiding her leg, bracing her instead with his forearm across her buttocks and his other hand cupping her undamaged left thigh. She fought down all thoughts on the indignity of the situation; the tension in his body spoke of urgency -- and at this point, she did not want him to have any doubts as to his actions.

Satisfied that his cargo was secure, Tucker turned and quickly left the cell, stepping over the body and pausing only long enough to re-activate the force-field. "Sorry if I jar you," he said as he punched in the code. "We've got to move fast. And I can't carry you all the way."

She refrained from asking him what he expected her to do, instead, but held her words. Indeed, he was jarring her; every stride he took meant a sharp stab down her upper leg, tingling into her lower. Frustrated with her lack of self-discipline, she forced herself to focus and segment her mind: forget the pain, control her reactions, and concentrate on where the Commander was taking her. She soon found that his route would neither be direct nor easy.

At the far end of the brig, an access tunnel stretched upwards. Normally, it would have been inaccessible, but due to the work of the Tholian's slaves, many such access-ways were now plainly visible, with wires and cables jumbled and tangled into a disorienting mess. As he gripped the rungs and began to climb, she realized this is how he entered the brig and why she hadn't heard the tell-tale rumble of the bay's doors. They climbed in silence for a minute; then, at a juncture that crossed the tunnel perpendicularly, he gently deposited her. "Not sure if you'd want me to drag you, but I can't really carry you in here."

"I can manage." Her voice was still oddly rough.

He nodded and slipped around her, careful not to touch her right leg. He reached back and laid his hand with surprising tenderness on her shoulder. She lifted her eyes to meet his. That desperation was still there. "Just follow me. We've got to hurry, though. Internal sensors'll only be down for another twenty minutes." Without waiting for her response, he turned and began crawling away, his body oddly hunched as he crept along on hands and feet. She set her jaw as she twisted around, quickly but carefully maneuvering her leg so she could drag it. Her attempt to copy his efficient crawl was hampered, but she did manage. She was certain the adrenaline helped.

Ahead of her, Tucker paused at another junction. He glanced back, a frown twitching at his mouth. Beads of sweat prickled her forehead, but she was pleased to note that she wasn't too far behind him. He jerked his chin in an odd nod before setting off again, turning left. She followed, noting that they were headed in the general direction of the outer edges of the ship. She quieted the questions that were on her tongue; Tucker more than likely had a good reason for his continued silence, as she had hardly known him to ever be reticent in her presence.

In fact, her first memories of him involved a leering grin and a thinly-veiled comment regarding her breasts. She had responded in kind, and his leer had only grown. She also remembered her sensitive nose detecting that his grin wasn't the only part of his body that had increased in size. Their relationship -- professional and personal -- had been a distinctly odd one from that moment on. For all his bitterness and anger, he had always sought her out for reasons she had never fully understood. And for all that he was a human, she hadn't minded.

Unlike many others, who had found his visage sickening, she did not think the scars repulsive; in moments when she had allowed herself, she had instead considered them to be simply the opposite. He was not unpleasing to look at. Nor were his sexual skills unappreciated. It was only in those moments, firmly captured in his arms, naked and sweating and aching for release, that she forgotten the position she dwelled in: a slave to humans, a second-class citizen who served on a human ship in a human empire.

She had actively seduced him under her Captain's orders. Beneath his body, she had forgotten who she was. In his tender, post-coital embrace, she had found a gentleness that she hadn't known existed in humanity.

She wondered if he had accessed his own file in the Defiantís database.

Abruptly, she thumped into his shoulder. He had stopped.

With a small grin, he quickly reached out to steady her. "You're thinkin' to hard," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. He moved his hand to her face, lightly moving her hair away from her eyes. His rough fingers briefly brushed against her cheek, and she noticed concern in his eyes. "You okay?"

She could only nod; the pain and emotional turmoil were too severe at the moment for her to attempt to speak. He removed his hand and gestured at yet another junction. "From here, we go down. You might want to hold on, piggy-back style." At her blank stare, he gave a short, quiet laugh. "Put your arms around my neck and hang on from behind." She translated his words into a mental image before nodding. They maneuvered quickly and awkwardly, and T'Pol wondered how bloody and tattered the inside of her mouth would be at the end of this particular undertaking. The pain in her leg would not be dampened by her self-discipline, and her teeth gnashed in response. Still, she would not complain.

Tucker's descent was sure and steady, although the speed at which he went rung after rung was enough to blur her vision. He seemed to be making up for lost time. Her sweaty arms slipped against his equally sweaty neck, and he grunted slightly; quickly, she leveraged herself up using her armpits, hoping that she wasn't choking him in any way. Surely he'd say something if she were. She took the moment to breath in his scent as sweat trickled down the back of his neck. He in part smelled of engine grease and ozone; stubborn remnants, perhaps, of Enterprise's Engineering. There was also his sweat, the sharp, bitter tang no doubt there because of his fear. His unique scent, so evident this close to him, was what pleased her the most, though.

Impulsively, she pressed her lips against the wet flesh visible above his collar. Without pausing in his descent, he ducked away from her mouth and shook his head. She desisted.

She became aware of a red light pulsating through the access tunnel, and he abruptly slowed and then stopped, stepping off the last rung and onto the grated decking of one of the corridors. Inwardly, she was thankful; her arms had been tiring. She let go of him, slipping gingerly down his back and settling the majority of her weight on her left foot. Without ceremony, he turned and once again hoisted her over his shoulder. Again, she suffered that small indignity. However, there was finally a question she couldn't keep from voicing. "Is there a radiation leak?"

He took a moment to answer her, his boots clunking dully against the corridor floor. She noticed, from her strange vantage, that he held his right arm at a steady angle; he had most likely drawn the phaser. She wondered if she should unhook the plasma rifle from over his shoulder. If anything, she could be useful to watch for whoever might come from behind. "Nah. That was just phase one. Radiation's sure to keep everyone away for long enough."

She blinked as she digested that information. Whatever Tucker was now carrying out, it seemed to have been planned well in advance. To sabotage the Defiant as he had done could not have been an easy task, nor one undertaken lightly. Another thought came to her and spilled out before she could stop it. "How long have you been planning this?"

"Since Archer told us about this damn ship." His words only spurred further questions, but she resisted asking them. He stopped suddenly at a seemingly inconspicuous part of the corridor and gently set her down. As soon as she was steady on her feet, he tackled a panel that was attached along the bottom half of the wall. "Sorry, but I can't really carry you from here," he said, wrenching the panel off. "Wish I could say I was that strong, but we need our stuff."

From within the dark wiring of the panel, he pulled two silvery-gray bags. "Take the rifle," he said, thrusting the weapon into her hands. He looped the straps of the bags over his right shoulder, the phaser still firmly in his grasp. Then, he turned to her and held out his left arm expectantly. "I'll help you walk."

She slipped into his secure grasp, embarrassingly grateful for his assistance. Laden and handicapped as they were, they still managed a steady speed as they made haste down the corridor. And then, finally, they were in front of the shuttle bay doors.

Tucker hit a panel with the back of his hand. The portal hissed obligingly open, and he quickly helped her inside. In the dark, pulsing red light, the shuttle craft Columbus II waited; of what she knew of Earth's history, she found the name apt. It seemed she, too, would soon be on a journey to a New World. Once they had reached the shuttle's doors, he put a code in another panel, set along the shuttle's sleek side. The doors slid apart, revealing the shadowed cabin within. She had never found the inside of any craft so pleasing to look upon.

"Go ahead and get inside. I'll be right back." He dropped the bags beside the door and jogged away. She watched him, unable to tear her eyes from his retreating back. It wasn't until he stopped and bent over a console that she forced herself to heed his words; after two futile attempts, she managed to leverage herself into the shuttle. The act was painful, but she suppressed the frustrated growl that hid behind her thinned lips.

The inside of the craft was bathed in shadow. The soothing blue tones were darkened to midnight hues, although it was not difficult for her to hobble to the forward control center. She collapsed into one of the seats and took only a moment to situate her injured leg. The plasma rifle was summarily stowed beneath her seat, its settings checked to ensure it was on stun. An accident would not be beneficial to their situation. Then, she turned her attention to the instruments set before her.

In the time it took for her to power up the shuttle, Tucker had returned, hastily throwing the bags inside and clambering in after them. The craft's doors hissed shut and he quickly took the seat next to hers. "Glad you didn't try to leave me," he remarked with a wry grin.

"It would be illogical to do so."

He chuckled slightly at that, although his attention had been turned to his own set of controls. "'Cause of what I did to the sensors and communications systems, I had to write a sub-routine to get us out of here. We should get goin' . . . now."

True to his words, she felt a sudden motion as the craft was spun on its landing pad. Through the windows at the front of the craft, she saw the shuttle bay doors slowly swing open. Despite the fact that the Commander had never flown a 23rd century shuttle craft, he gently and steadily took the sleek ship forward and out, nosing it away from its parent vessel and out into the darkness. Through the small windows, she saw the spider-like arms of Jupiter Station cradling its prize. Oddly, all was dark, the large station lit mostly by the heated glow of the planet below. She wondered how complete his sabotage had been.

"That's actually sort of planned," he said, as if in response. "All the technology of the Defiant isn't exactly compatible with the station's systems. They're doin' a bit of a quick overhaul." She glanced over at him; at her angle, only the mutilated half of his face was visible. A grin stretched his mouth. "I just made their problems seem a bit more, well, problematic."

"I see." She did, but only somewhat. She turned back to the controls. A quiet beep alerted her to a problem. "The Helios is on an attack approach."

"Shields up," was his quick response, his fingers flashing over the controls. Moments later, the little ship shuddered. "No damage; still, we've got to get out of here."

She didn't answer him, assuming that his comment was rhetorical. He took the ship into a sudden dive; the responsiveness and agility of the craft was enough that even she marveled. They plunged beneath the bulk of the planet and aimed for one of the moons, Io, only to quickly level out and jump to warp.

At her sharp glance, he again grinned. "Hey, I've got to see what this baby can do."

"Risking our lives, after undoubtedly expending a great deal of energy in planning this escape, does not seem like a wise course of action."

His laugh was sharp and short. "So that's how you thank me, huh? Nag at me for a while?"

She dropped her gaze, returning it to the instrument panels in front of her. "Your efforts are appreciated, Commander."

His reply was severe and unexpected. "Don't call me Commander." Momentarily shaken, she again glanced at him. He was staring down at the navigational array, an angry scowl pulling at the scarred tissue. She had unconsciously kept the craft's lights dimmed, and the soft, warm light from the array cast a harsh halo around his face. She turned back to her instruments.

Several minutes of silence stretched between them, broken only by gentle blips and beeps. Finally, he spoke. "The Helios and the Avenger have probably locked onto our warp trail, but they can't catch us." He patted the console affectionately. "We're way too fast for them. And I've got some diversions to get them off of our backs." He stared at the readings his instruments gave him for several moments longer. Finally satisfied, he leaned back in his chair, spinning it around to stare at her. "I'm guessing you want to know what the plan is."

She didn't bother nodding. He continued: "She's really got only three days of fuel at the speed we're goin', and even then, that'll be stretchin' it. That's all we're goin' to need, though. We're meetin' the Karplak in the Venari nebula. From there, we're headed to Orion space. They've gained back a lot of ground back recently, and they're definitely goin' to want what we have. So are the Klingons. Maybe even the Romulans."

"And the Defiant?" she asked.

He chuckled. "Dead for at least four days. Maybe more, if I underestimated things." He shook his head and rolled his tongue against his cheek. "You know the really crazy thing? I was a damned warp theorist in that other universe. Designed some engines, too. They based those engines back there off of what I came up with. How 'bout that, huh?" He paused, watching her intently. If he had intended to prompt a reaction from her, she was uncertain what that reaction should be. It was enough to contain her growing apprehension.

At her silence, he continued. "Well, anyways. That ship'll be dead in the water long enough for us to get away. And with the technology we've got, any of the Empire's enemies are goin' to come crawlin' to us." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Although, I don't mind crawlin' to them, as long as I never have to set foot in the Empire's space, again. I just want out."

He fell silent, still staring at her. A defensive glint steeled his one good eye; it was typical for him, and it only vanished during and directly after intercourse, replaced by a softness she found strangely alluring. And suddenly, that same softness eased the light reflecting off his face into a gentle glow. She found she could not break her gaze from his. An unknown sensation stirred in her gut.

If he knew about his achievements in the other universe, he assuredly knew the rest of his counterpart's history. He would know that he had three children, all of whom were only half-human. He also had seven total grandchildren, and at the time the Defiantís record of history ended, he had ten great-grandchildren. But, they were not his alone.

"You sent that doctor to sabotage the ship. You should've asked me."

She couldn't have the conversation his words were slowly edging them towards. Her control was too tattered. Much had happened in too few of hours. The taste of freedom was too new, too unknown for her to truly believe in it. Not yet. So, she responded with the cool reserve she had hidden behind for so long. With narrowed eyes and a lifted chin, she replied, "I was unsure of your allegiance."

"You were the one who got in my head. Shouldn't you've known what I would've done or not done?"

"A mind meld is not as simple as that." Aggravation suddenly chafed the edges of her discipline; she could feel her throat tightening and heard her voice rising. It was sudden and severe, and she struggled against it. She hated what she had been reduced to.

He watched her in silence. She didn't doubt her struggle was visible, and it shamed her that she could be so transparent. Finally, he threw his hands into the air with a dramatic flair and turned back to his console. "And still no 'I'm sorry' for putting me in that damn booth for four hours." She in part felt relief for the light, sarcastic tone of his voice; he wouldn't make mention of what he had just seen. Another part felt further humiliation in the sensitivity he had just shown to her plight. Humans were not supposed to be empathetic.

She realized she had never truly understood the man sitting next to her. Used him, yes -- but never understood him. His lack of ambition was noteworthy, although his innate intelligence and talent had still brought him far enough. Despite the fact that he apparently had renounced his rank, becoming a commander in the Empirical fleet was not an easy task. Nor was it safe. The higher one stood in the chain of command, the more enemies you had. Still, there was no place entirely safe: to climb through the hierarchy was simply a choice between assassins lurking at your door, ready to kill you and take your place, and the status of an underling, your life dependent on the whims of those above you.

There were those who thrived on the vicious dichotomy in which they all dwelled within the Empire. There were others who simply wasted away beneath its rigid confines. The human next to her was one of the latter. "I do regret that my actions led to a punishment of that severity."

He turned his head and regarded her for a long moment, his gaze thoughtful. Questions -- both of a business and personal nature -- tickled her mind, but she wished him to speak again, first. Suddenly, he blinked, frowned, and glanced down. "Damn. Your leg. I forgot."

He spun his chair around again and left her side, his long stride quickly crossing the cabin's carpeted floor. He bent and unzipped one of the large bags he had thrown in, his hands disappearing as he rummaged around within it. She debated bringing up the lights, but he quickly straightened, a metallic kit in his grasp.

"Considerin' what I've seen in the Defiantís medical databanks, this'll be kind of a crude fix. But," he added with a grin, "it's 23rd century crude fix." He knelt beside her chair and carefully swung it around so that she faced him. She winced as she shifted her leg, silently glad that he did not see her pain; he had momentarily busied himself with opening the kit and sorting through its contents. He lifted a medical tricorder and flipped the small object open. Its odd tone filled the cabin.

"Fractured in two places along the femur," he muttered, running the tricorder over her upper leg. A frown tugged at his mouth. "Who kicked you?"

"Mayweather. He was quite attentive to his orders." She surprised herself as the brief hope that the sergeant would die, assassinated by those even more power-hungry, flitted through her mind. She did not typically wish death upon another person.

His response was a grunt. "Did'ya hear that he's the new Empress' consort? The man can barely string two words together. Maybe that's why she wanted him." He shook his head, silencing the tricorder as he snapped it shut. Replacing it, he searched again through the med-kit. "God, I hate that woman. Hope she burns in Hell."

Her heart gave an unusually loud thump. Commander Tucker told me I should give you a few pointers in that area. Coolly, she asked, "Were you not also one of her lovers?"

His head jerked up, surprise clearly in his eye. "What the . . Hell, no! She's a ragin' bitch!" He snorted softly as he held up a small, nondescript piece of metal. "Here's your cast. And why the hell would you think Sato would've bothered with me? She was too busy jumpin' into all the captains' pants. And Mayweather's. And who knows who else." As he spoke, he laid the piece of metal along her thigh. Depressing a small button she hadn't noticed, it expanded and lengthened in small segments as he pulled and tugged on it.

"How is it you know how to operate these technologies?" His brow furrowed at her change of subject, but she knew he was too stubborn to be sidetracked, despite her small diversion.

"We had a few injuries in Defiantís Engineering while we tried to figure it all out. The Tholians left things pretty hazardous. And, frankly, I hated that damn doctor, so I did a lot of it myself." He paused, settling further back on his heels and lifting her calf. Once her leg was straight, he continued to work on the strange cast. It molded oddly to her thigh and half of her lower leg. "You didn't answer my question."

She hesitated a few seconds before speaking, breathing through the renewed pain. She was grateful for his ministrations, but it was not without some suffering. However, Doctor Phlox would have undoubtedly treated her far less gently. The Denobulan had gleefully reveled in another's distress, even his patient's. "You were the chief engineer on Enterprise; as such, you knew the ship far better than any other crewmember. Once aboard the Defiant, it was you who brought the systems online and managed to repair the warp engines. If Ensign Sato were in search of a logical advancement for control, she would have secured you as an ally, as well."

"Ah. So that's the only reason you came after me, huh? Get in my head. Set me up. 'Cause I knew the ship the best." The bitterness in his words was an odd contradiction to the deft care he took with her leg. Still holding it straight, he reached once again into the med-kit and withdrew an oddly colored bundle of material she surmised was the equivalent of gauze tape. He quickly began wrapping her leg, securing the metal splint as he went. She knew it would be uncomfortable attempting to walk with a fixedly straight leg, but it was an alternative she would accept.

"Captain Forrest . . . ordered me to seduce you. However, he did not order me to continue our arrangement." At his scowl, she rephrased, "Our relationship. That was my own choice, as well as yours."

He snorted. "You're just like all the others--"

She cut him off. "I did not do so to seek advancement." That was true; three times, she had sought him out simply for the mindless pleasure she found with him. He had never complained.

"Like hell you didn't. Somehow I doubt you'd have sex 'just for fun' starin' up at a face like this." Finished with the cast, he waved his hand vaguely at the right side of his face. From where he knelt, that side of his face was cast in deep shadow, but occasional glints of light reflected off the too-smooth scar tissue. The defensive steel in his eye had returned many minutes ago, but now his gaze seemed even harder, colder. A sudden thought occurred to her: assuredly, those scars were but a mere echo of the ones on his mind and his heart.

"You are not unpleasant to look at."

"Stow it, Commander." His voice had lowered to a growl. She narrowed her eyes, annoyed at his sullenness. She held her tongue, though; they had time, it seemed, to argue later. He was once again sorting through the med-kit, apparently intent on ignoring whatever reply she might've been tempted to make. "D'you want a pain killer?" he asked, not looking up.

"No." If he was intent on being stubborn and sullen, she could be also. However, his head gave only a brief nod, and he searched the kit for a moment longer. Finding what he needed, he plopped several items onto her lap and kept one slender package in his grip, which he opened with a quiet rip. The strong scent of an antiseptic filled the cabin and tickled her nose.

"Are those the only open cuts you have?" he said, gesturing at the contusions on her belly and the long slice on her cheek. At her nod, he leaned forward, meticulously cleaning and removing the dried blood from the boot-patterned abrasions along her right side. She tried to ignore the puffs of air he breathed across her stomach and the sting of the cool antiseptic pad.

They were silent for a few minutes as he tended her wounds. His treatment was thorough and gentle, although some of his more rough movements incited blood to well up. A muttered apology was followed quickly by a tender dab with a small piece of dry gauze. He grabbed the dermal sealer lying in her lap and quickly applied it, and when he was done, she turned her face to the side and leaned forward. He repeated his care on the knife wound, there.

"How'd you get that?"

"I was caught stealing information files. Sato and a MACO were taking me to the Captain. I resisted."

He frowned. "How'd you lose?"

She dropped her gaze to her lap and he had to force her chin back up with his finger. "I miscalculated."

His laugh was short, but without malice. "I'll say. Next time you plan a rebellion, do it in more than a few hours." He applied the dermal sealer before standing, his knees cracking in protest to his sudden movement and the cramped position he had kept them in. Leaving the med-kit and her for a moment, he returned to the silver-gray bags. He reached in and withdrew an unusual black case. With a click, he opened it; numerous data disks stood in neat rows within. "All of the Defiantís database. In triplicate. And we've got the Columbus's computer, too." A satisfied smirk lit his face as he shut the case and placed it on one of the seats that lined the port side of the craft.

"Your attention to detail is to be admired."

He laughed again. "Too bad you never said that while we were in bed. Speakin' of bed, it's better if we had someone near the controls at all times, even if she's on auto-pilot. Since you've got the broken leg, you get to sleep first." He returned to her side and collected the contents of the kit, moving to place it near the black case.

"I am not fatigued." There was a petulant note to her voice that surprised her.

He grinned in response. "I don't care. Now, c'mon, or I'll carry you."

She'd had enough of being carried for one day, so after two failed attempts, she managed to stand upright. The splint was effective, but she realized she still needed his assistance -- even more so now that weariness suddenly swept over her. She was silently grateful for his demand that she sleep. Her balance faltered and he slipped an arm around her bare waist, bracing her against his body. She leveraged her arm against his shoulder and took a tentative step forward, then another. Perhaps, at some point, she could create something of a crutch with whatever extra materials were onboard; relying on another for the simply action of walking was, suffice to say, an embarrassment. They slowly maneuvered into the second, rear cabin of the craft. At the doorway, he left her standing for a moment; soon enough, he had readied a bunk for her.

"The bathroom's there," he said, straightening and pointed to a rounded wall set against a back corner of the cabin. "It's a bit different from what we're used to, but it works all right." He regarded her, gaze sweeping down to her leg, then on the cuts and bruises that were visible on the rest of her body. "So, you okay?"

She nodded, using the wall to aid herself as she moved to sit on the bunk. Her leg stuck out oddly, and with a grin, he stepped over it and moved into the threshold of the door. "Can I call you 'gimp' now, Commander?" At her sharp glare, he laughed. "I'll take that as a 'no'."

"You have not informed me of how I am to call you, if you would prefer me not to use your rank. However, I would also prefer it if you would not refer to me as 'Commander'."

"It's nice to be leavin' all that behind, isn't it?" There was an amused gleam in his eye that she hadn't often seen. "Just call me Tucker, for now. And you?"

"T'Pol," she answered.

He nodded, then hesitated, his hand tapping idly against the wall paneling. She found it odd that they, again, simply stared at each other as though they were nothing more than strangers. As she knew his body intimately -- memorized it, in fact -- such moments of awkwardness were unwarranted. "Well. G'night, T'Pol," he finally said. He ducked his head and left, the door closing quietly behind him. The darkness he left in his wake was oddly reassuring, and she swung her injured leg onto the bunk before settling herself down. Despite her fatigue, thoughts chased each other through her mind.

She was comforted to note, however, that the despair which had plagued her so horribly a bare two hours before was no longer there. She was alive, and with her life, she once again had reason to hope.



Chapter 2

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A whole mess of folks have made comments

ooh that's amazing. Hurry up and continue it. I really didn't like where the MU episode finished. This is much better.

Wow! This is great! and it has my three favorite letters: "T B C" !!

Great story. I'll be waiting for the ongoing adventures of MU TnT! This is much better than the way the episode ended.

very impressive. looking forward to the sequal ( sequals? ) nicely written.

Brilliant! Like Rae I didn't like the MU episode finish but this is fantastic. Keep it up. Need more fic :D

OK, that's down right sexy! *burr* Gives me chills reading it! Please continue, this made my day!

VERY well written. I'm really looking forward to more of this one!

I'm so glad Trip didn't abandon her! I've been wondering what would happen after Hoshi announced that she was Empress. I'm glad you've picked up the story--I can't wait for more!

Very cool idea. I look forward to finding out where you go with this.

If we'd gotten a Season 5, I would've loved Season 5's next MU episode to go like this. Love the juxtaposition you've created with these two former lovers feeling like strangers and trying to find their way with each other outside of the backstabbing and duplicity to which they are both accustomed.

Can't wait to see your next installment... soon, I hope!! :)

Very good; can't wait for the next part.

Ah...loved it! I really wanted to know what happened next in the M/U...thank goodness for great fic writers!!!

More...

;)


What a great POV! I liked the MU episodes, but in retrospect they left a lot of questions unanswered.

Aside from being very well written, I like the fact that it shows a direction I had never even imagined.
And for that alone it is a real standout here. Thanks, please keep it up.

Wow Great!!! So are they gona meet up with Vulcan's, Andorians, or other enimies of the Empire? Id hope they'd go to the Vulcans and work on a way of makin their own Defiant, and Kick that "Bitch's" Ho-shi's arse.. Loved the RU research info that MU T'pol dug up. :) cant wait for the next chapie.

Excellent!

I love how in character MU Tucker is - with both the gentleness of our beloved RU Trip, and the bitter hardness of the MU.

I like the way you are carrying on the MU story, while still presenting us with glimpses of the RU (the real RU, not the horrid Bermanga AU of the f***nale).

Looking forward to more. This has the makings of a great saga.

Nice setup. Can't wait to read the rest.

great take on the MU episodes...I can't wait to see your next update. fantastic job!! :)

Ooooooooh, this is good! :)

Tough guy, yet smart, funny and tender when he wants to be -- my kinda man!! Can't wait for more!!!

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I really like it. Can't wait to see where you are taking this one.

this is PERFECTION. i've been waiting for this fic just hoping someone would write it. looks like you fit the glass slipper.

Wonderful, wonderful start!

Like the others, I can't wait for more. I had it in my head that MU Trip might indeed have gotten her out of that situation after the credits rolled. I'm looking forward to see where you take this.

You've definitely started fleshing the characters out a bit more and have really kept the MU tone in the way you describe everything. Well done. :)

Whoa! Nicely written, great pacing & dialogue. Looking forward to your next intstallment

This is superb! I'm so glad that there's going to be more.

Excellent!!!!

Really loving this and can't wait to see what happens next! Well done, Ali D :~)

Wow, this if the first time I've ever left feedback. This was a tremendous fic! The MU T/T intrigued me and you wrote such a great tale. Can't wait for more. Nice job!! :)

I like it! I reeeeeeeeeeally hope there's more, this is just too good to leave there! Oh, wait, TBC! Yessssssssss! Excellent. (rubs hands together eagerly) Can't wait! :)

Awesome!! I love it!!! Please don't wait long to continue!

Excellent story! I was completely engrossed in this MU. You've taken it way beyond what the writers gave us while staying true to the story it's based on. I can't wait to see where you're taking this!

i love this story! hurry up and finnish it up!!! i need something to cheer me up..

Yes! My favourite, Kickin'Ass&Takin'Names!Trip rules

I loved it! Trip and T'Pol runnin off together! Great Mirror Universe idea, somethin that isn't feasible in the RU but it's great to see! Especially with the two of them fightin to figure out what they feel....Trip's got some major issues of insecurity to get over and T'Pol some committment issues ;)

btw i liked the lighting imagery in the shuttlecraft, it sounded quite romantic ;)

I agree with Ta'al, I like the "Kickin'Ass&Takin'Names" Trip. Love reading a continuation from Mirror Darkly with T/T.

Great disclaimer. All events from the finale (TATV) SHOULD be completely and utterly ignored. It was a stupid holodeck scene set over 200 years in the future. The running theme in ST is the malfunctions and inaccuracies of the holodeck, and the inaccuracies that are perpetuated about history. The writers were lazy and didnít even write an enough (without TNG characters) to fill up a half hour episode.

Heck, the writers didn't even get the facts straight about the Pegasus episode, let alone the canon set in Enterprise's run. So .. I'm happy to ignore TATV. More than happy, actually.

Thanks for the comments, all! Part two should be up near the end of the week. I'm getting quite a kick out of playing around in the MU.

I've been happy to read the MU stories. They have been great and this is a nice continuation of the Mirror episodes. Great story.