By Distracted

Rating: R

Genres: adventure dark drama virtual season

Keywords: non-consensual sex(abuse)

This story has been read by 663 people.
This story has been read 980 times.

This story is number 9 in the series Virtual Season Five

Rating: I’m gonna go with R on this one. It’s not any more explicit than my usual stuff, but there’s a scene of a sexual assault which may be disturbing to some. (Hopefully it’s at least a little disturbing to everyone.)

Disclaimer: Paramount owns these characters. I’m not making any money doing this.
Genre: Action/Adventure, Angst, Romance
Summary: A sequel to my story, Show and Tell. To fill the need for additional security on board, Enterprise gets some new crew members… including one who is not what he seems. T’Pol is proven wrong in her claim that a human attacker poses no threat to her, and Trip learns something disturbing about his father. This one’s very angsty and soap-opera-ish. Please comment and let me know what you think.

A/N: If you’d like to find out more about ketamine and other “date rape” drugs… and how to avoid them… try http/www.. For those of you seeking more information on alcoholism and its effects, try http/ (I know it all sounds kinda serious and boring now that I’ve given you those references, but it’s still an interesting story… I promise!)

A big thank you to Rigil Kent…my military man with the military plan. I took some liberties with the advice you gave me, Rigil. You said that in RL, no self-respecting soldier with any sense would ever go off alone, because Rambos get themselves killed. All I can say to that is… sometimes a Vulcan’s gotta do what a Vulcan’s gotta do.

Lieutenant Malcolm Reed stood in the Armory, gazing with approval at his new and improved security force, standing erect before him and presenting themselves for inspection. Starfleet Command, after reviewing the translated manifesto purportedly presented to the Vulcan High Council by the Seheik’uzh, had contacted Chief Minister T’Pau. When faced with the undeniable fact that the Humans were aware of the existence of the terrorists, she’d had no choice but to confirm the threat of an impending attack on Enterprise. Starfleet had responded by granting every single one of Lieutenant Reed’s requests for personnel and materials. He felt like a child at Christmas time. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his commanding officer enter the Armory… followed by the proper and aloof First Officer.

“Captain on deck!” Malcolm cried, in a voice that could be heard in every corner of the large room.

The row of crewmen and women before him snapped to full alertness, assuming, if it were possible, an even more rigid stance. Malcolm snapped proudly to attention as well.

Enterprise’s newest crew members were the elite of Starfleet security. Malcolm had requested that the added security force be regular Starfleet personnel and not MACO’s because he wanted no uncertainties in the chain of command. These twenty men and women reported to the Chief of Security… and no one else. There were very few people that Lieutenant Reed trusted completely. The safest strategy was to trust himself.

Captain Jonathan Archer surveyed the scene. Commander T’Pol stool on the sidelines, observing. Lieutenant Reed appeared to be in his element

“At ease, ladies and gentlemen,” said Archer. The row of intense faces before him visibly relaxed. He looked them over as he walked down the line. They looked young and eager for the most part, but there were a few older, more experiences faces in the group. He smiled approvingly. A little experience could go a long way in an emergency.

“Welcome to the Enterprise. I’m sure that the Chief Security Officer has briefed you on why we are in need of your services. The passengers that we are transporting are civilians, and should be treated as such, but because they are avowed members of Terra Prime and have refused to sign a pledge of good conduct toward non-Humans, they have chosen deportation. We will be transporting them to a Minshara-class planet, along with the supplies and equipment that will allow them to establish a viable colony. You are our insurance policy… the buffer between vital areas on Enterprise and potential saboteurs or assassins among our passengers. You must remember, however, that there are innocent women and children among them. Use restraint. You must be diplomats as well as soldiers.”

Archer stopped walking in front of a particularly grizzled looking older man. The man was staring straight ahead, not making eye contact with anyone.

“Some of you have more experience than others. I am counting on you to be alert for problem situations. If an emergency should arise, take the lead so that cooler heads may prevail,” continued Archer. The older man met his eyes respectfully then, acknowledging Archer’s statement with an almost imperceptible nod. Archer continued his stroll, stopping next before a young woman.

“Your appearance may frighten the children. Some of you may be more adept at dealing with children. I expect all of you to learn to be reassuring as well as threatening.” The young woman’s lips quirked in a tiny smile, and she also acknowledged him with a look before her eyes returned rigidly forward.

“I know that all of you will be more than capable of protecting the Enterprise. Welcome aboard,” finished Archer. He nodded at Lieutenant Reed and turned toward T’Pol as she waited near the entrance to the Armory. As they walked together back toward the bridge, she turned to him.

“I fail to see why you required my presence, Captain,” she said in a puzzled voice.

“Moral support, Commander… I hate speeches,” replied Archer with a rueful grin. He glanced at her as they walked along. “Um… How did I do?”

T’Pol raised a brow. “Your remarks were… appropriate,” she told him. At the very least… there was no mention of gazelles, she thought wryly.

Red kept his eyes fixed firmly forward as the idiot captain shot his mouth off about how they were all gonna protect the Enterprise from assassins and saboteurs. It was all he could do to keep a straight face. The rigid posture he was maintaining didn’t come easily to him, and his scalp itched badly.

Damn hair dye! I told ‘em I was allergic... but could they find a redheaded guy for me to replace?… of course not! That would be just too goddamn much trouble.

His eyes returned to the cool, collected Vulcan standing in the doorway. He squinted at her slightly, and then suddenly realized why she seemed so familiar. He clenched his teeth to keep his jaw from dropping in astonishment.

She was with Tucker all along! he thought in disgust. She was the hottie in the pool!

His eyes took note of her curves, accented rather than hidden by her close-fitting uniform. He felt his arousal building... and his anger.

I coulda been done with all this... home enjoyin’ my money and screwin’ my girlfriend!

He was furious now. The bitch deserved what he was gonna do to her. He glanced at her speculatively before returning his gaze forward again. A nearly imperceptible smile appeared on his lips.

It’s not a long-distance job this time, you Vulcan slut. I’m lookin’ forward to gettin’ real up close and personal.

Commander Tucker was in Cargo Bay Two for the third time that day. Apparently the “colonists”… . or were they prisoners?... he still wasn’t too clear on the distinction... were complaining again, this time because the bathroom facilities that had been constructed for them were inadequate.

“Commander, their chosen spokesperson wants to meet with you personally. He says your father is a friend of his,” said Crewman Scott.

The crewman was one of the many members of Enterprise’s maintenance crew that had been pulled from their usual duties to construct the maze of chambers and corridors that allowed the colonists to occupy the cargo bay, thus avoiding the need to give them access to other areas of the ship. Housing the Terra Primers in a secure, isolated area had been considered necessary for the safety of Enterprise’s crew, but the structural modifications and sanitary engineering requirements were about to drive Commander Tucker over the brink.

Trip Tucker laughed. “Well, that’s about as likely as a snowstorm in July… but I’ll talk to him for ya.”

He walked past the pair of security guards stationed within the cargo bay doors and, nodding at them as they recognized him, entered the huge chamber. The noise was overwhelming. Children chased each other around in circles on the periphery of the multi-level modular living quarters that had been designed to house one hundred….. and now housed one hundred and forty-seven... colonists. Trip sighed. The courts had identified and exiled a new batch of colonists just as they’d completed the structure. There had simply not been time to find more space or do any more construction before their tenants moved in. Fortunately, the voyage was only scheduled to last three weeks. It had only been one week, and the natives were getting restless.

A heavyset, grey-haired man approached Trip with a broad smile on his face and extended his hand. Trip gave him a guarded smile and reluctantly shook hands.

“Commander Tucker!” said the colonist’s spokesman, shaking Trip’s hand vigorously. “I’m Jake Jackson….It’s so nice ta finally meet ya! Your dad’s told me so much about ya and how well you’re doin’ in Starfleet an’ all.” His accent was pure Mississippi Gulf coast. Trip looked at the man in puzzlement.

“You really know my dad?” he asked.

“You bet I do, son! Me ‘n him are drinkin’ buddies. Before the guvment decided ta stick its nose in our business an’ kick us off our own planet, we used ta talk with each other regular over at Frank’s Bar in Bay St. Louis. I always though he’d join us… but I guess it’s a good thing now he never made it official, ain’t it?”

Trip just stared at the man, unsure of whether to believe him or not. “Yeah,” he finally responded absently. “That is a good thing.”

The older man seemed oblivious to Trip’s discomfort. “Well… seein’ as how your dad an’ me was such good buddies,” he continued. “I was thinking maybe you could see yer way clear ta doin’ somethin’ about this bathroom situation.”

Trip sighed. He pushed his personal concerns aside and followed Mr. Jackson to inspect the problem.

Malcolm Reed wearily entered his quarters. Keeping track of the sheer number of people now under his command was proving to be more challenging than he’d anticipated. Just the duty rosters had required two hours of intense concentration. He hadn’t even begun to schedule the security drills or the crowd control training sessions for those less experienced in dealing with large numbers of civilians. He laid the PADD he was working with on his desk.

The room was in shadows, lit only by a small reading lamp on his desk and the soft glow emanating from his computer screen. He heard a soft rustle from the direction of his bunk, and turned rapidly, one hand going instinctively to the phase pistol at his belt as he dropped behind the cover of the desk.

A quietly amused voice whispered, “Why, good evening Lieutenant! A tough day at the office?”

Malcolm exhaled and stood up from behind the desk. “Hoshi! I’ve told you before! You can’t do this. It’s not safe.” He looked at her in exasperation.

“Maybe not, but it sure is fun!” she responded with a soft chuckle. “You should have seen the expression on your face!”

Malcolm approached his bunk in the near-darkness, and realized that the communications officer was in it, tucked securely under the covers and waiting for him. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness of the room, he saw her pull back the sheet and pat the mattress next to her invitingly. From what he could see of her exposed torso as she did this, she appeared to be wearing nothing but a suggestive smile.

“You’re out of uniform, Lieutenant,” he told her teasingly. Something in his law-abiding British soul was warmed when he thought of her recent promotion. At least being with her was no longer a court-martial offense. Now, the worst that they risked by continuing their relationship was separation.

“Yes I am, Lieutenant… .. and I expect to see you in a similar state without delay,” she ordered firmly. The effect of the order was immediate and dramatic. Malcolm shed every stitch of clothing on his body in record time and joined her beneath the blankets. His eyes closed and an involuntary groan escaped his lips as she languorously rolled her body on top of his, and all he felt was an unending expanse of warm, smooth skin in contact with his. She began kissing his neck.

I suppose that I’m not that tired after all…was his last coherent thought for the day.

A week into the voyage to transport the Terra Prime colonists, Jonathan Archer was beginning to seriously regret the fact that Enterprise had been chosen for this mission. That day he’d been visited by Lieutenant Reed, whose new security force was having difficulty with a contingent of teenaged pranksters among the colonists who insisted on bombarding them with spitballs from the top floors of the temporary housing structure; Commander Tucker, who was still trying to find a way to make six bathrooms adequate for roughly one hundred and fifty people and failing abysmally; and Chef, who was mortally insulted that the colonists were refusing to eat some of his menu items. It was enough to give him a nervous breakdown. He was attempting to wind down by watching a game of water polo when the door chime to his quarters sounded. He caught the water polo ball he’d been bouncing off the ceiling, held it to his chest, and paused the game.

“Come in!” he called, exhaling hopelessly and sitting up on his bunk to face the door. He hoped for once that it was good news, but realized the chances of that were slim.

Commander T’Pol entered his quarters, looking cool, calm, and collected as usual. If she was taken aback by the fact that he was sitting on his bunk in nothing but a t-shirt and undershorts, she showed no sign of it. She stood in the center of the room with her hands clasped behind her back and waited for him to acknowledge her presence.

“Is there something I can do for you, Commander?” asked Archer ironically.

T’Pol met his gaze and then looked away. If he hadn’t known better he would have thought she seemed rather… reluctant.

“I would like to request that you authorize Lieutenant Reed to remove the guard detail from outside my quarters, Captain,” she said.

Archer looked puzzled. “I thought we’d already been through this, Commander. You’ve been personally threatened with assassination, and are one of only two alien crew members on Enterprise. Phlox has to live with guards outside of sickbay, and you’re safer under personal guard, especially now while we have a whole cargo bay full of avowed alien-haters on board.”

T’Pol made eye contact with him then. She had a determined look on her face. “The threat to my life was made by a Vulcan terrorist organization, Captain. It is most unlikely that any of the colonists would choose to ally themselves with such a group,” she told him reasonably. “Furthermore, the extensive security precautions that are in place around the colonists make the likelihood of an attack from that quarter extremely remote. Even if it occurs, I feel confident in my ability to defend myself in close quarters against any human,” she finished.

Archer exhaled. “Why does the security detail bother you, Commander?” he asked softly. She looked at him and raised a brow, surprised by the personal nature of the question. He looked back at her with genuine concern. She sighed and gave in.

“I am having difficulty with sleep and meditation. It is beginning to affect my efficiency while on duty,” she admitted. “I believe this to be at least partially due to the invasion of my privacy. The experience of having someone standing directly outside the door of my quarters at all hours of the day and night and following me everywhere I go has been unexpectedly disconcerting.”

She didn’t mention, of course, the fact that Trip found the presence of the security guards so nerve-wracking that he was fearful of making love with her in her cabin, lest they make a suspicious noise. Since the guards followed her everywhere, even to her station on the bridge, they couldn’t very well sneak off anywhere else either. They still had their time together in the white space, of course, but making love inside their heads didn’t hold a candle to the real thing. Both of them were showing signs of end-stage frustration. If this went on much longer, the results would not be pretty.

Archer’s eyes narrowed. Despite her bland expression, she sounded as if the security detail was genuinely distressing to her… at least as distressing as anything could be to a Vulcan. He nodded reluctantly. “All right, Commander. I’ll speak with Lieutenant Reed in the morning,” he told her. She opened her mouth as if to say something… was that impatience he saw on her face?... and then seemed to think better of it.

“Thank you, Captain,” she told him, and then turned and left his quarters.

Archer smiled, happy that he could at least solve one of the many problems that seemed to be plaguing this mission, and restarted his game.

Trip and T’Pol sat on the floor in her quarters facing each other across the meditation table. The only light in the room was provided by the single meditation candle in the center of the table. T’Pol could sense Trip’s turmoil. It was keeping both of them from reaching the white space that evening.

You are distressed, t’hy’la. Did something happen today? she asked silently. Since the institution of T’Pol’s guard detail, they rarely spoke aloud of personal matters. He could sense her concern in the bond.

One of the Terra Primers told me today that he was a friend of my dad’s, Trip admitted with obvious discomfort. At first, I didn’t believe him... but now I’m not so sure.

T’Pol raised a brow. If your father has spent time with a member of Terra Prime, that could explain quite a lot about his initial reaction to our relationship, she responded with cool logic.

Trip looked at her in puzzlement. What are ya talkin’ about? Dad was happy for us when we told him we were married.

That is true, husband, but in the restaurant when he discovered that we were sharing a room, his anger was quite obvious. I do not believe that he was initially pleased by the idea of his son taking a non-Human lover, she replied.

Trip thought about that for a moment. He hated to think of his dad being under the influence of a hate-mongering group like Terra Prime, but he’d never been prejudiced against anyone when Trip was growing up. Maybe she had a point.

I suppose I should call him before I jump to conclusions, huh? He gave her a reluctant smile.

Speaking with him might allay your fears, t’hy’la, but it’s too late to do so tonight, she told him.

She stood and took him by the hand, leading him silently to the bathroom. She turned on the shower at full force, and then began to unfasten his uniform.

What do you think you’re doin’, darlin’? Trip asked her with a befuddled smile. There’s a guard with perfectly good ears right outside that door!

You are in need of comfort, husband. The guard is welcome to listen in, but the flow of water has tremendous noise-masking properties. As long as we are at least somewhat discreet, all he will hear is that I’m taking a shower, she answered, as she finished divesting him of the last of his clothing and began to work on hers. Her face was calm and untroubled, but he could sense her impatience in the bond.

And what’s he gonna think if you’re taking a shower while I’m still in here supposedly meditating with ya? Besides… . didn’t ya tell me the Captain’s gonna remove the guard tomorrow?

T’Pol pressed her body against his and forced him backwards beneath the stream of warm water. She captured his mouth with hers, kissing him hungrily. Her desire and his blended in the bond into an overwhelming need which overrode all restraint or caution. Their tongues entangled as they feverishly caressed each other’s hot, wet skin.

Let him think what he wishes to think... but I am tired of waiting, came T’Pol’s determined thought as he backed her up against the wall of the shower and lifted her so that she could wrap her legs around his waist.

Trip stopped arguing with her. He really didn’t want to win this time anyway. As a matter of fact, in this particular situation, losing seemed like the best idea he’d had in at least a week.

Red felt a tiny gob of sticky wetness on his forehead. For the tenth time in an hour he wished he could just cut loose and shoot the little bastards. If it hadn’t been an action that was sure to blow his cover, he would have done so already... multiple times. He stood at attention in front of the cargo bay doors, ignoring the dozens of small blobs of wet tissue paper that stuck to his face and the front of his shirt. His orders had been clear. Do not acknowledge the existence of the harmless pranksters, and they would get bored and go away. Thus far, the strategy had been an abysmal failure, the main problem being that the young people in question had absolutely nothing else to occupy their time.

It didn’t help that Red had already been in a piss-poor mood when he started his duty shift that morning. He’d been given the new duty roster. For some damned reason the Captain had decided to stop assigning guards to the hallway in front of the Vulcan’s quarters. He’d been counting on his rotation in the duty roster to eventually get him into a position to be alone in the hallway with access to his target so he could work undisturbed. Then he’d join the colonists… they had it all arranged….. and escape the ship at the new colony with all of the other Terra Primers. After a few months laying low on the planet, he’d use his money from this job to hire a supply ship to bring him wherever he wanted to go. It was a great plan….. but he had to kill the damn Vulcan first. He was gonna have to go to Plan B… the one that he’d never intended to use because it stood a very good chance of getting him killed… and he was gonna have to distract Tucker… maybe even off him… to get to the Vulcan. He disliked killing Humans, but the guy was in the way, and he had it comin’, after all. What kinda real Human would be regularly screwin’ a Vulcan, anyway? He had to admit, though, that in T’Pol’s case he could sort of see where the guy was comin’ from.

A soggy mass easily three times the size of all the others hit him right between the eyes, interrupting his train of thought. He wiped it off with a disgusted look on his face, eliciting quite audible giggles from the top level of the colonists’ temporary quarters. He squinted up at the culprits, trying to see their faces.

That’s right… stay hidden you little brats! If I ever find out what you look like, when we all get to that colony world together, your daddies are all gonna be lookin’ for ya. I might even let ‘em find the pieces!

In the second week of Enterprise’s mission to transport the colonists, Captain Archer gave permission to re-institute movie night as a tension reliever for the crew. All of the additional security measures had the entire crew on edge. Malcolm’s solution to the problem turned out to be a classic film entitled “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. Trip and Malcolm sat side-by-side, repeating fragments of dialog to each other incoherently under their breaths and then laughing hysterically. Hoshi found the movie humorous, but she found T’Pol’s confused reaction to it almost as funny. She finally took pity on her and moved from where she was sitting beside Malcolm to sit beside the Vulcan First Officer.

Hoshi leaned over and whispered, “It’s okay, Commander. Not everyone understands British humor.”

T’Pol looked at her with a truly puzzled expression. “Why is one man running behind another and striking the two halves of a tropical nut together considered funny?”

Hoshi’s eyes filled with tears of mirth as she bit her lip, and then she gave up the fight, joining Trip and Malcolm in helpless laughter. T’Pol stared at the three of them in complete bewilderment, and then focused her attention to the screen with great determination.

I am quite obviously missing something, she thought.

After several moments of intense observation, during which she continued to remain entirely baffled by her crewmates’ obvious enjoyment of the film, she decided that it was time to get popcorn and something to drink. Rising from her seat, she approached the refreshment table, usually staffed in rotation by volunteers from departments all over the ship so that the galley staff had equal opportunity to view the films being offered. Being the newest arrivals on Enterprise had meant that members of the new security staff had been “volunteered” when they arrived that evening. She nodded wordless thanks to the young man who handed her the popcorn and a cup of iced tea and returned to her seat. His eyes followed her to her seat. Unnoticed by anyone else in the room, he whispered something to his fellow volunteer, and then left.

Red figured he had about twenty minutes or so, depending on how fast the Vulcan drank that tea he’d spiked, to get her someplace private and do what he needed to do. First he had to distract the engineer. Walking rapidly down the corridor toward Engineering, he approached the guard standing at the door with a broad smile on his face.

“Hey, Morris! Ain’t you an Englishman?” he asked him in a friendly fashion.

His fellow security guard looked at him rather glumly. “Indeed I am,” he confirmed. “And how was the film? Did you enjoy it? It’s a classic of British humor, you know.”

Red grinned even more broadly. “It ain’t over yet! If ya want me ta take yer place you could go watch the rest.”

Morris gave him a grateful smile. “Well, aren’t you the thoughtful chap! Thank you! Just let me know and I’ll be happy to return the favor!”

“Just go on, man,” Red told him rather impatiently. “Yer missin’ the movie.”

Morris nodded with a puzzled expression at Red’s irritability, and strode eagerly down the hall. Red waited until he was out of sight, and then entered Engineering. He ducked behind a work console to remain unseen, and then, using the basic security override codes given to him as part of his duties, set every fire alarm and fail safe alarm in Engineering to go off all at once… with a two minute timer. He then ducked back out of Engineering and went straight back to the dining hall. He didn’t enter the hall… no use letting Morris know he wasn’t at his station… but waited in the hallway for the klaxons to sound. He counted slowly to ten, and then entered the dining hall at a dead run, going directly to Commander Tucker and whispering urgently in his ear. Tucker, indicating to his friends to stay and enjoy the movie, got up, left the dining hall and headed directly to Engineering. Red left the dining hall with him, but the Commander was too preoccupied to notice that the security guard never arrived in Engineering. Red ducked down a side corridor, counted slowly to ten again, and then returned to the dining hall. When he arrived, he saw the communications officer whispering something to the Vulcan with a concerned look on her face. The Vulcan appeared to be reassuring her. For a moment he was afraid he was too late when he saw the Vulcan lean forward in her chair, but she was merely reaching for her tea where she’d set it on the floor. He watched as she drained it with a satisfied smile on his face, and then he approached her.

He stood in the aisle by her shoulder and looked down at her. From that angle he could clearly see the curve of her breasts beneath the fabric of her uniform. He resisted the temptation to touch them. That would come later.

“Commander T’Pol?” he whispered politely. She looked up at him. Her pupils were already starting to dilate, making her eyes seem huge in her elfin face. She just looked at him expectantly. She appeared to be having some difficulty focusing.

“Commander Tucker requires your assistance in Engineering, Ma’am.”

T’Pol’s face rapidly sobered and her expression became businesslike. She leaned toward Hoshi and whispered her excuses, and then left with the security guard. As they walked down the hall toward Engineering, T’Pol became unsteady and nearly stumbled. Red caught her by the elbows from behind. Her back brushed his chest, and he suddenly felt the need to find someplace more private.

“Are you okay, Ma’am?” he asked as he began to steer her down the hall toward her quarters instead of Engineering.

“I appear to be having some difficulty with balance and with focusing my eyes, Crewman,” she said indistinctly. Her speech was beginning to slur. “I believe you should take me to Sickbay.” As she said this, her eyes rolled back into her head and she lost consciousness. Red was out of time.

Damn! he thought. Now I’ve gotta carry her! If anybody sees us, the jig’s up!

He picked up her slight body in his arms and boarded the turbolift. Fortunately, nearly the entire ship’s crew was either at the movie or dealing with the artificial emergency he’d manufactured in Engineering. They reached the Vulcan’s quarters without being seen, and Red entered the security override code, carrying her inside and locking the door behind him.

T’Pol watched her husband as he spoke with the frightened security guard.

Do you require my assistance, Commander? She felt his amusement at her use of his rank, but she really couldn’t help it. In public, she found it difficult to call him anything else, even in the privacy of their minds.

Don’t think so, darlin’, he replied, having no such inhibitions. You just stay here and enjoy the movie.

She felt his amusement as her feelings about the dubious entertainment value of the film in question traversed the bond on his way out the door.

T’Pol sipped her tea. She felt a sensation of peace and calmness steal over her, despite the noise in the room. The image on the screen doubled, and her brow wrinkled as she attempted to focus and make sense of the dialog… something about a “holy hand grenade”, of all things. She leaned forward rather unsteadily and placed her tea on the floor beside her chair.

“Are you all right, Commander?” whispered Hoshi’s voice in her ear. T’Pol turned her head to answer, and saw two of Hoshi as well. Strangely, the sensation caused her no concern. She felt disconnected from the event… as if it were happening to someone else.

“I am quite well, Lieutenant,” she replied softly, and then turned to retrieve her tea from the floor, draining it in one gulp. Her mouth was dry and she felt vaguely queasy. She heard a soft voice at her shoulder, and looked up to see the same young security guard who’d come after Trip. Following him seemed the logical thing to do. Trip needed her assistance. She didn’t stop to think that if her husband needed her he could have simply called to her in the bond. In the hallway, when the drugs took effect, she had no time to be concerned. She lost consciousness with the same odd disconnected feeling… peacefully and calmly.

Red looked down at the woman sprawled bonelessly on the bunk with eager anticipation. He’d waited a long time to get this close to a helpless Vulcan. He checked the chronometer on his wrist. He figured he had about fifteen minutes tops before his absence at his post would be noted in the pandemonium. He pulled an impermeable polymer laundry bag from his pocket, and then stopped, conflicted about what he should do with this particular Vulcan. Just killing her seemed to him to be an awfully damn big waste of a golden opportunity, but the longer he spent in her quarters, the more likely he was to get caught. His eyes lingered on her breasts and hips, accentuated by her tight uniform. Cursing under his breath, he let his lust prevail and, throwing the bag on the floor, roughly turned her face-down on the bed and stripped the uniform off her limp and motionless body. He rolled her face up and looked her up and down with a hungry look on his face as he pushed his own uniform down below his hips and fell upon her unresponsive form, shoving his tongue into her mouth and grasping her breasts in a grip which would have been excruciatingly painful had her mind not been entirely disconnected from her body by the drug. After a few seconds of this, he pushed himself off of her, cursing.

It’s like tryin’ ta screw a damn corpse! he thought in disgust.

He stood up by the bed and backhanded her forcefully across the face, putting his whole body into the blow. He did it once… twice… three times… until a trickle of green issued from the corner of her mouth. She remained motionless and unresponsive. Still cursing, he threw himself on top of her again and ground his pelvis against hers, trying to force his body to respond to his plans. The Vulcan’s complete unresponsiveness and his building panic prevented him from becoming adequate for the job. As he reached his hand between them, trying to stimulate a little cooperation from his recalcitrant organ, T’Pol’s eyes opened and she turned her head. It was an eerie thing, this sudden return to consciousness. It seemed unrelated to anything he was doing. Her pupils were widely dilated, and her face was serene. Only her mouth moved. Her body remained flaccid beneath him.

“He is coming,” she whispered in a low sepulchral tone. “You’re a dead man, now.”

Her words caused a flare of unreasoning panic in her attacker. Scrambling off of her with a cry of, “Damned Vulcan witch!”, he pulled his uniform back on hurriedly, grabbed the polymer bag from the floor, and shoved it over her head. Drawing a length of cord from his pocket, he viciously cinched it around her neck, creating an air-tight seal. Then he left her quarters at a dead run, boarding the empty turbolift on his way to Engineering.

“What do ya mean, there’s nothin’ wrong?” shouted Commander Tucker over the racket as he pored over the internal sensor recordings being displayed on the console in front of him. He turned to Lieutenant Hess with his hands on his hips.

“If nothin’s wrong, why is every single damn alarm in the whole department goin’ off at once?” he yelled.

Janice Hess returned his gaze with embarrassment and shot a meaningful look at the ensign who stood at the workstation across the room. He immediately reached out and, with the push of single button, stilled the alarms. The silence was deafening.

“I’m sorry, sir,” Hess replied quietly. “It must have been a sensor malfunction.”

Trip sighed. He’d been having so much fun at the movie!

“All right Lieutenant… let’s see if we can figure out what triggered the alarms and repair it so it won’t happen again.” He rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger, suddenly seeing double.

I must be more tired than I thought, he mused.

He stepped away from the console he’d been leaning on and staggered slightly.

“Commander?” said Hess in a concerned voice.

Trip felt off-balance… but the sensation was oddly distant, as if it belonged to someone else. Then he realized that it did. He closed his eyes and tried to connect with his wife. He couldn’t find her conscious mind… it was almost as if she were asleep and dreaming… but he’d left her wide awake at the movie.

T’Pol? he called silently.

The images he received from her were wordless… colors of every description… mathematical formulae that somehow seemed lovely in their precision. She was calm… unnaturally so. He felt no sense of danger from her… no fear. He knew something was terribly wrong.

T’Pol, where are you?

For a moment, Trip didn’t think his message had gotten through, and then her pain struck him in the face like a physical blow, and he was able to sense her location.

Hang on, darlin’! I’m on my way!

Trip opened his eyes. The entire exchange had lasted only a few seconds. He started for the door, calling over his shoulder at a startled Lieutenant Hess.

“I’ll be right back to help you with repairs. Contact security and have a team meet me in Commander T’Pol’s quarters… I think she’s in trouble.”

Trip raced down the corridor and caught the turbolift, shouldering past the crewman in the security uniform who was getting off without glancing at him in his rush to get to his wife. Arriving on E-deck, he ran to T’Pol’s quarters and keyed in the entry code. The usual code didn’t work. He had to use the security override code to get in. The scene that he discovered when he entered was like something out of his worst nightmares. He heard the security team stampeding down the corridor behind him.

Trip threw himself over T’Pol’s body to conceal her nakedness and clawed frantically at the clear polymer bag which was being forced in and out of her open mouth by her futile attempts to gasp for air. He ripped it from her face and untied the cord from around her neck with shaking fingers as she gasped reflexively for oxygen. Then he pulled the bedspread around her, tenderly wrapping her in it as if he were swaddling an infant. Although she was breathing, she did not seem to be aware of her surroundings. Her eyes stared vacantly off into the distance. He called to her softly, both verbally and mentally, but received no response. Distantly, he heard Malcolm’s voice in the room behind him, giving orders to seal off E-deck and cordon off T’Pol’s quarters until they could be examined for evidence. He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder as he sat on the bed rocking T’Pol’s blanket-wrapped form in his arms. He looked up to see Malcolm’s concerned face.

“Do you need some help getting her to Sickbay, Commander?” asked Malcolm, his warning look reminding Trip that behaving this way with the ship’s First Officer in a now very public area would just add fuel to the rumors already circulating about their off-duty activities.

Trip blinked back tears and gave his friend a grateful smile. “No thanks, Lieutenant… I’ve got it covered,” he replied. He stood with her in his arms and gave Malcolm an intense look. “You just concentrate on catchin’ the bastard that did this to her, okay?” he told him under his breath.

Malcolm nodded in grim agreement as he watched his two closest friends leave the room.

T’Pol’s attacker had better hope that we’re not alone when I locate him, thought Malcolm. If I ever find him without witnesses, there won’t be anything left to stand trial. The smile that appeared on his face at this thought was not a pleasant one.

Several hours later, T’Pol’s condition remained basically unchanged. Dr. Phlox was conducting his forensic analysis briefing in Sickbay. Captain Archer and Lieutenant Reed stood looking at the display screen the doctor had called up to illustrate his findings. Trip listened in from where he sat at T’Pol’s bedside with her hand firmly grasped in his. He’d refused to leave her, fearful that she’d wake up while he was gone and be afraid. Her eyes were swollen shut now, and she had green-tinged bruising on her face and around her neck. Phlox had imaged her face, however, and fortunately her strong Vulcan bones had withstood the attack without breaking. She still seemed unaware of her surroundings, but she would occasionally become agitated, murmuring under her breath unintelligibly in Vulcan. Her body remained motionless and limp, and when he gripped her hand, there was no answering pressure from her fingers.

“The agent her assailant used is called ketamine,” the doctor explained. “It’s a dissociative anesthetic that’s been in common veterinary use for centuries on Earth. It was even used for a short period of time on Humans until its side-effects made newer agents much preferable. In the early 21st century it gained notoriety as an agent used by perpetrators of sexual assault.” Phlox paused at the look of pain on all three men’s faces.
Malcolm recovered first.

“How was it administered, Doctor?” he asked with forced professional detachment.

“In T’Pol’s case, it appears to have been ingested… so I would suggest investigating all sources of food and beverage intake for approximately one hour prior to the attack. Ketamine is very rapidly acting. The Commander would have shown at least some signs of being affected within fifteen to twenty minutes of such a large ingestion.”

“When will it wear off, Doc?” asked Trip from across the room. Phlox turned to face him.

“I’m afraid I’m not entirely sure, Commander.” admitted Phlox. “I found no references in the literature about ketamine’s effect on the Vulcan body, but the amount of the drug that she was given would have been fatal several times over if given to a Human. Fortunately, her body seems to be metabolizing the drug quite efficiently. We’re just going to have to wait for the effects of the drug to wear off.”

Trip nodded in reluctant understanding, and turned back to focus his attention on the still form occupying the biobed. Having received the information he needed, he ignored the remainder of the doctor’s presentation. Phlox turned back to the Captain and Lieutenant Reed, and said in a softer voice, “If you’ll turn back to the display, you’ll find a detailed description of the remainder of my findings.”

He silently called their attention to the section of his report detailing the forensic DNA analysis.

“Two samples of Human DNA?” said Archer in a puzzled voice.

Phlox nodded. “This one was from external combings… a piece of Human hair… pubic hair.” Both Archer and Reed looked sick at that.

“I was unable to find a match for it amongst the crew’s DNA profiles or the colonists’.” Phlox said. “It’s a Human male… genetically Caucasian, blue-eyed and red-headed.”

“We can’t assume the attacker’s coloration will be the same. If he’s posing as a member of the crew, it’s likely that he will have disguised himself to better match the hair and eye color of the crew member he’s replacing,” said Malcolm. “So we either have a stowaway, or someone on board is not the person their medical file says they are.”

Archer looked at him in startlement. “Is that possible?” he asked.

Malcolm shrugged. “If there wasn’t much time, I suppose a person’s record could be altered enough to allow an impostor to pass an ID check without having to substitute a new DNA record. It would be risky. Dr. Phlox would pick it up the first time he scanned the person for any significant problem, but if the impostor didn’t think he’d be on board for long, he might be willing to risk it for a truly important mission.”

Archer’s eyes narrowed. Malcolm sounded entirely too comfortable with this false identity business.

“So we’ll have to do a DNA scan on every man aboard and compare it to the DNA analysis of the attacker?” asked Archer. “That sounds time-consuming.”

“Let me do some more investigation, Captain,” Malcolm replied. “Perhaps I can narrow down the field a bit.”

Archer nodded. He looked back at the DNA analysis.

“If this goes to trial, the media will have a field day,” he said ruefully. All three men looked with bleak expressions at the results of the analysis of the second sample of Human DNA found on the victim… this time from a considerably more incriminating area of her body. It belonged to one Charles “Trip” Tucker the Third.

T’Pol was awakened by a dull ache in her face, neck and breasts. She could sense Trip’s presence nearby, and felt his hand clasped around hers, but his conscious mind was dormant as he slept soundly in a chair by her bedside. She managed to open her eyes… just a crack… and discovered that she was lying on a biobed in Sickbay with absolutely no memory of how she’d gotten there. Pulling her hand gently from Trip’s grasp, she felt her face gingerly with her fingers, noting widespread swelling and soft tissue injury. She opened and closed her mouth experimentally. Nothing appeared to be broken. Her neck was tender circumferentially, and she had widespread, colorfully green-yellow bruises over her torso, but her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. She had no memory of how or why they had been inflicted. Her last clear recollection was of trying valiantly to comprehend that ridiculous movie. As she performed her inventory, Trip stirred. He opened his eyes and saw that she was awake. His face bloomed in a joyous, tender smile, but his eyes filled with tears.

Trip’s relief that she was awake blended with his grief over what she had suffered, creating a bittersweet emotional wave which passed through the bond and swept over her, nearly bringing tears to her eyes as well. She brought a hand to his face in concern. It hurt too much to speak aloud, so she spoke to him through the bond.

You are grieving, t’hy’la, she sent. He sensed her distress over his pain. What has happened? Are you injured?

Trip’s brow wrinkled in puzzlement, and then he gave her a sweet, sad smile. He took both of her hands in his.

What’s the last thing you remember, darlin’?

Lieutenant Malcolm Reed straightened his uniform and then pressed the door chime. After a short delay, Hoshi answered the door. It was obvious that she’d been crying. Her tear-streaked face brightened into a welcoming smile which gradually faded into a look of concern as he failed to return her smile.

“Malcolm?” she asked him. “Are you all right?”

Malcolm cleared his throat. He looked at Hoshi apologetically, and then said, “Lieutenant Sato, I’d like to ask you a few questions concerning the recent assault of a fellow crew member. I understand that you were the last person to speak with her prior to the incident. May I come in?”

Hoshi nodded with a sober look on her face and stepped aside to allow him to enter. He stepped past her. As soon as the door closed behind him, she was in his arms, clinging to him as if her life depended on it. He held her tightly with her head tucked beneath his chin, inhaling the sweet fragrance of her hair. He could feel her trembling.

“I’m so scared, Malcolm! If he could do that to T’Pol, he could do it to anyone,” she whispered.

“I don’t think he will, sweetness,” he told her as he gently caressed her back. “And even if he has plans to do this again… I have no intention of giving him the opportunity.”

She pulled away from him. “How are T’Pol and Commander Tucker?”

Malcolm’s brow wrinkled a bit at her choice of words. “T’Pol is recovering… and Commander Tucker was never injured… so the only reason I can think of that you would ask about him is that you already knew what I discovered today.”

Hoshi’s eyes widened. “Phlox did DNA testing!” she said. She closed her eyes and sighed. “Oh no, what a mess!” she said, shaking her head. “As if they didn’t already have enough to worry about.”

“The testing did yield some useful information, though. I think we’ve got a sample of her attacker’s DNA,” replied Malcolm.

Hoshi got a horrified look on her face. “You mean he…?”

“No… no, not that,” Malcolm reassured her. “It was a hair sample.” He deliberately refrained from telling her what type of hair sample. She was frightened enough as it was. He led her toward her bunk so they could sit down face to face.

“How long have you known that their relationship was more than just a rumor?” he asked curiously.

She smiled reluctantly. “I’d suspected something ever since her illness when we had to transport them both to Vulcan.”

Malcolm chuckled and shook his head. “Everyone suspected something then, Hoshi, but then it all seemed like a false alarm. We all knew he had feelings for her, but none of us ever saw either of them do anything about it.”

“I became certain while Lianna was aboard,” replied Hoshi. “Eventually I spoke with T’Pol and we came to an understanding.” She looked up at Malcolm hesitantly. “She knows about us, Malcolm.”

“You told a superior officer about our relationship!” he asked her in amazement. “Why would you do that? Do you want to get us posted on separate vessels?”

Hoshi looked down, upset by his distress, but unable to fully explain her actions. “I needed to talk to someone, Malcolm… another woman. And I knew she wouldn’t give away our secret. She’s got too many secrets of her own.” She smiled at him then, asking silently for his understanding.

“Well, her secret is blown, now!” said Malcolm. Hoshi raised a brow at him and said nothing. His eyes narrowed as he took in her expression. “…Isn’t it?”

Hoshi smiled secretively and still said nothing. Malcolm looked at her in frustration. What secret could T’Pol and Commander Tucker possibly have that would be so important for Hoshi to keep? He knew T’Pol wasn’t pregnant… that would have showed up in Phlox’s report. That left only one thing he could think of. He looked at Hoshi in astonishment.

“They’re m……?” Hoshi’s mouth covered his, smothering what he was trying to say.

When she broke off the kiss, she whispered, “If we never had this conversation, then I never broke my promise to T’Pol, right… ?”

Malcolm smiled at her and shook his head in wonder. Then he pulled out the PADD he was using to record his investigative interviews and activated it.

“Tell me, Lieutenant Sato, exactly what you were doing on the evening of the incident, and what you recall about the behavior of the victim and everyone she came in contact with,” he began. Hoshi smiled back at him and began her recitation. It was remarkably detailed. She had a gift for remembering the small things that no one else would notice.

Four days following the assault, T’Pol sat with her legs folded beneath her in the silence of her quarters. The lights in the room were dimmed, allowing her to focus on the flame of the meditation candle on the table in front of her. She heard soft, female voices outside the door of her quarters as her guard changed shifts for the evening. The Captain had insisted on re-instituting her personal guard detail. Lieutenant Reed had been the one to make the surprisingly sensitive and logical suggestion, since the DNA analysis had confirmed that her attacker was male, that her guard consist of shift rotations among the female security personnel only. The flickering light of the candle played along the features of her face, the shadows concealing much of the residual mottling and green-yellow bruising on her face and neck. The swelling was gone, and she was physically capable of returning to duty, but for reasons of both morale and personal safety, both Dr. Phlox and the Captain had insisted that she remain confined safely to her quarters until more was discovered about her attacker and his motives. She’d been prepared to argue until she’d noticed the reactions to her appearance evidenced by the few members of the crew that she’d come in contact with in Sickbay after the incident. The males uniformly responded to her with protectiveness and anger… even the ones like Crewman Morris, the security guard who’d been stationed outside of Sickbay when she was released, who… she was certain… had never seen her as a woman, but merely as a superior officer. Crewman Cutler’s reaction had been different from the men’s response. T’Pol had seen stark terror in the woman’s eyes. When she’d addressed the issue with the doctor, he hadn’t seemed surprised.

“Commander, you must understand that for the female members of this crew, you are a role model of feminine power and strength. To see you in this condition is an extremely frightening experience for them. It makes them feel vulnerable,” he’d told her.

T’Pol had not previously though of herself as a role model to anyone. It was a humbling sensation. She was beginning to realize, though, that a lesson in humility was precisely what she needed. Her pride was what had gotten her into this situation to begin with. She clearly recalled Trip’s opinion during her initial weeks on Enterprise, so repetitively and aggressively expressed back when he was simply Commander Charles Tucker… only one of an entire ship full of malodorous, incomprehensible aliens… that she was just “a stuck-up Vulcan pain-in-the-ass” who thought that Humans were beneath her. T’Pol had thought she’d progressed far beyond that… but her lack of a healthy respect for the capabilities of a determined Human assassin had proved to her just how much she still underestimated Humans. She wouldn’t make that mistake again, but it didn’t ease her guilt over the error which was now causing so much pain to so many people all over the ship.

Trip’s pain was the worst of all. When she’d awakened in Sickbay, his grief had been so intense she’d been certain that someone had died. At first, when he’d realized that she had no memory of the attack, he’d refused adamantly to tell her what had happened. She’d repeatedly asked, and then cajoled, and then finally demanded that he tell her… insisting that it was her body and that she had the right to know. When he reluctantly agreed with her but was unable to find the words, she’d melded with him to make his task easier. She hadn’t been afraid until she’d seen the scene of the assault through his eyes. She realized then that had it not been for the bond between them, she would most certainly be dead. The fear was what caused her to agree to everything… the guard… relief from duty… even isolation in her quarters. She felt weak, vulnerable and timid… feelings which she had not admitted to since childhood. She wanted to hide from the world and retreat into meditation, but her emotional turmoil made it impossible to meditate.

Before the door chime sounded, T’Pol could sense Trip in the bond. She heard his soft, courteous greeting to the woman who stood guard at her door. She stood and opened the door just as he pressed the chime.

Trip smiled at T’Pol politely, conscious of the crew woman’s curious face as she observed their interaction.

“Hello, Commander,” he said quietly. “Ready for our meditation session this evenin’, or should I come back another time?”

T’Pol raised a brow at him, saying nothing as she stepped aside to allow him entry. After the door was firmly shut and locked, Trip took her tenderly in his arms and held her. Then he pulled back and looked at her quizzically.

I’m not on duty now, darlin’, he reminded her silently. You can drop those barriers you have up.

T’Pol looked down in resignation and complied without argument. Trip inhaled sharply as her overwhelming guilt, fear and shame flooded the bond. He pulled her back into his arms. He had no words to comfort her. As tears flowed down his cheeks, he drew her to the bed and lay down, pulling her into his arms. Making no pretense at even attempting meditation, the two of them spent the next several hours simply lying there, trying to comfort each other. It wasn’t enough, but it was all they could do.

Captain Archer, Lieutenant Reed, and Commander Tucker met for a briefing concerning the search for T’Pol’s attacker at 0800 the following morning. Enterprise was scheduled to arrive at the colonist’s drop-off point… an uninhabited Minshara-class planet dubbed “Second Chance” by some clever reporter on Earth at the time of the colonist’s exile… within three days. The DNA scans of the colonists were complete. Thus far, the evidence was pointing toward the attacker being a member of the crew rather than a colonist. This was posing some serious security issues for all of them.

“My interrogation of the witnesses to the Commander’s behavior on the night she was attacked revealed information leading me to believe that the attacker may be one of the new security personnel,” said Malcolm reluctantly. “They were brought on board recently, and the volunteers at the refreshment table, who were both new crewmen from the security unit, had access to T’Pol’s food and beverages that evening. It wasn’t the galley staff. The time period between T’Pol’s evening meal and the attack was too great … and her quarters were sealed when Commander Tucker arrived with a security code only given to command level officers and security personnel. ”

“So we’ve narrowed it down to just two men?” Trip asked in disbelief. “Why aren’t they both in the brig?”

“It’s not that simple,” replied Malcolm. “No one remembers which two of the new men ended up volunteering,” he said in disgust. “I’m going to have to interrogate all of the new crew members, and once I start doing that, it will tip our hand. The impostor may do something reckless and hurt someone if we force him out into the open.”

“What about setting a trap for him?” asked Archer.

Malcolm looked at him speculatively. “I could allow males to rotate as guards again on T’Pol’s quarters. The one that seems too eager to take the job is probably the…”

“No!” said Trip adamantly. “I won’t let you use her as bait! She’s been through enough!”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to second that, Lieutenant,” said Archer. “But if you could come up with a similar plan that doesn’t pose a danger to T’Pol, I’d be willing to consider it.”

Malcolm’s eyes narrowed. He really didn’t want to capture T’Pol’s assailant… he wanted to kill him. The best way to do that safely and without witnesses was to get him completely off the ship.

“I believe I may have a safer alternative, Captain,” he said.

After his duty shift was completed, Trip made his way directly to T’Pol’s quarters, eager to discuss Malcolm’s plan with her and to hear her opinion of it. When he arrived, he noticed that the security guard was not at her post. He was unable to sense T’Pol’s presence within her quarters, so instead of ringing the door chime he simply punched in an override code and walked in. The cabin was empty. Pleased that T’Pol had felt confident enough to leave her quarters, and thankful that she’d evidently taken her guard with her, he closed his eyes and searched for her in the bond. What he felt made him sprint from the room in a panic, heading directly toward the Armory and the source of her intense concentration and controlled aggression. T’Pol was under attack.

Lieutenant Reed stood watching the scene before him with a satisfied smile on his face. His new staff had recently been complaining that standing around getting bombarded with spitballs while babysitting a bunch of colonists was not sufficiently challenging an occupation for them. Hopefully, they now considered themselves adequately challenged.

Doctor Phlox roamed the periphery of the practice arena, doing portable scans of facial lacerations, broken noses and dislocated fingers… and surreptitiously doing DNA scans on every would-be combatant in the process. On the practice mat, T’Pol faced her third group of attackers… this time only three at once since she’d managed to incapacitate everyone else who had faced her thus far. She was shifting her attention smoothly from one attacker to another, not allowing herself to become trapped in a position where one attacker was not within her line of sight.

Commander Tucker entered the Armory and ran directly toward the practice mats with a look of sheer panic on his face. Malcolm moved toward him and grabbed him by both arms, forcefully blocking Trip’s progress with his own body.

“Let me go!” said Trip angrily. “I can’t believe you’re lettin’ her do this after all that’s happened!”

“Wait!” said Malcolm urgently. “Stop for a minute and watch. She needs this!” Trip blinked at him for a moment in bewilderment, and then looked over his shoulder at T’Pol.

With a blindingly fast roundhouse kick, obviously done with reduced force so as not to seriously injure her attacker, she downed the muscular male to her right, and then spun to her left, grasped the woman advancing toward her by one arm, and, stepping up to bring her body in contact with her opponent’s, flipped her over one hip to land with a loud thud onto the mat. Trip could sense her focused concentration and self confidence. For the first time since she’d experienced his memories of her assault, he could sense no fear or guilt from her. Trip looked back at Malcolm in sudden comprehension. Malcolm released him and they stood side-by-side, just watching her in admiration.

Both of T’Pol’s downed opponents wisely crawled away as she faced off against the last man standing. He looked frightened, even though T’Pol had yet to inflict an injury any more serious than a broken nose, but, to his credit, he stood his ground. He was an older fellow, with a nose that looked as if it had already been broken a few times before. T’Pol eyed him cautiously. He seemed more experienced than the others. Perhaps that was why he’d waited until the last group before entering the arena. He’d had time to study her fighting style. Her bruised face remained completely calm, but she focused even more intently. This opponent was not one to take lightly.

The grizzled veteran came barreling forward as if he were trying to knock her to the ground. She side-stepped, and stuck her leg out in a deceptive lateral sweep, knocking him to the mat. He grabbed her leg, pulled her down with him, and threw himself on top of her, trying to use his greater mass to pin her to the mat long enough to get her to admit defeat. When she lifted her head to head-butt him and break his nose, he bent his neck forward and took the blow on the crown of his head, stunning them both for a moment. T’Pol, recovering first, used her superior strength to reverse their positions, pushing him face-first into the mat and, climbing on top of his back, pulled his arm up behind him in a hold which threatened to break it.

“Will you yield, Crewman? It would be illogical to disable you in a training exercise,” she said impassively, barely even breathing hard from her exertions.

The crewman, grimacing in pain as she maintained constant pressure on his arm, was only too happy to oblige. “Yes, Ma’am!” he replied between gritted teeth. “I yield, Ma’am!”

T’Pol released him and then offered him a hand to assist him in rising from the mat. He looked at her in surprise, and then took it.

“If you’ll excuse me for saying so, Ma’am… I thought Vulcans didn’t do this,” he said as he rose with her help, nodding at their joined hands.

T’Pol looked back at the man with respect, and briefly gripped his hand in an honest-to-goodness handshake before dropping it.

“You were a worthy opponent today, Crewman. Thank you for your assistance with the demonstration,” she replied. The man nodded and grinned at her reluctantly before walking off the mat to have his turn with the doctor.

She walked toward Trip and Malcolm as they stood open-mouthed at the edge of the practice area.

“Sure… shake his hand the first time ya meet him, but ya wouldn’t give me the time a’ day!” Trip joked.

You didn’t come very close to defeating me in one-on-one combat, Commander,” she replied dryly.

“So if I’d a’ let ya whup up on me some, ya might a’ liked me better?” he countered with a teasing smile.

T’Pol raised a brow at him. “That is illogical. Vulcan’s don’t ‘like’ anyone,” she told him.

Malcolm just stood and watched them bicker with a huge smile on his face. Now that he knew, it was really quite obvious. He wondered why he’d never noticed it before.

“Braga, Berman… Crewman.” read Phlox to the assembled attendees of the latest investigative briefing. “Eye color… blue. Hair color… brown. Height… seventy-two centimeters. Weight… ninety-one kilos… at least that’s what his medical file says… but the man on board Enterprise is not Crewman Braga.”

“Are you certain he’s the one?” Archer asked.

“Absolutely, Captain,” Phlox confirmed. “His DNA matches the sample we collected from the Commander with over 99 accuracy.”

Archer turned to Lieutenant Reed. “Can we lure him out safely? Did you receive the cooperation we needed?”

Malcolm glanced at Trip before responding. “We hope so, Captain… but we have alternatives available if Mr. Jackson proves not to be as cooperative as he seems.”

Archer then turned to Trip and T’Pol. T’Pol’s face still showed signs of discoloration, but she seemed to otherwise be fully recovered from her ordeal. He noticed, though, that Trip sat protectively close to her, and seemed unusually solicitous. Not for the first time, Archer wondered if the two of them were prepared for their role in the plan.

“If you two would prefer to stay aboard, we can do this another way,” he told them.

T’Pol eyed the Captain with a determined expression. “Attempting to apprehend my attacker while he is on board Enterprise poses a danger to the entire crew, Captain. What if he should choose to take a hostage… or attempts to kill someone else in order to get to me? Luring him down to the planet would seem to be the safest course, especially as we now have allies among the colonists who are willing to assist us...”

Trip interrupted her. “We can’t trust ’em, though… You realize that, right?”

T’Pol looked at him in poorly disguised frustration. “I am quite aware of that, Commander. There is no need for you to be quite so overprotective and….”

“Okay!” Archer announced. He gave both of them a reproving look. “It’s a go, then. The colonists begin shuttling down to the surface in thirty minutes. Braga… or whatever his name really is… goes as security with the first batch, along with Lieutenant Reed. He’ll likely try to break away and go into hiding. When he finds out that Commanders T’Pol and Tucker will be coming down to get the colonists’ generators working, we’ll have our trap set. As soon as the rest of the security team is on the surface with the next shuttle, we can catch him safely… Do the colonists know to stay clear? “

Malcolm shook his head. “No one knows about this except Trip’s good friend Mr. Jackson,” he said with a wry smile. Trip rolled his eyes. “The assassin may have connections within the group… it wasn’t safe to tell everyone.”

Archer nodded in understanding. “Then it will be your job to lead him away from the colonists before any weapons are used,” he told Malcolm.

Malcolm raised a cool, almost Vulcan brow at that. “I believe I can arrange that, Captain. It’s been quite a while since I have participated in the hunt. It’s quite the traditional thing now in Britain… I may actually enjoy it.” He had a small, rather disturbing smile on his face as he got up and left the room. Trip and Archer exchanged worried looks. Malcolm was enjoying this entirely too much for their comfort.

Malcolm stood to one side to avoid the stream of disembarking colonists. He held a plasma rifle in both hands. He eyed Crewman “Braga”, similarly armed and occupied. The man was completely unremarkable… from his washed-out blue eyes and drab brown hair to his average height and average build… there was absolutely nothing about him that would draw a second glance.

Which is very likely to be why he was chosen for this mission, Malcolm thought.

Mr. Jackson, the colonist’s designated spokesman, approached the two of them with a look of hesitancy. Malcolm sighed. If the man didn’t stop looking at Braga like he might bite, the plan would be finished before it had begun.

“Um… Sir?” asked Jackson. Malcolm smiled at the man encouragingly. Jackson glanced nervously once over at Braga before continuing.

“We’re havin’ trouble with the generator… gettin’ it started, I mean,” said Jackson. “Ya think maybe Commander Tucker could come down an’ have a look at it?”

Malcolm nodded. He activated his communicator.

“Reed to Enterprise.”

“Archer here. Is there a problem, Lieutenant?”

“Sir, Mr. Jackson’s people are having a bit of trouble with the generators. Is there an engineering team available? He’s specifically requested Commander Tucker.” There was a pause as Archer presumably determined if Tucker was available.

“All right, Lieutenant. Commanders Tucker and T’Pol will be down on the next shuttle to see to your problem. I don’t have to remind you to watch security with Commander T’Pol mixing with the Terra Primers, Lieutenant, but Mr. Tucker insists that he can’t do the job without her. “

Malcolm rolled his eyes and exchanged a knowing glance with Braga. “Acknowledged, Enterprise… Reed out,” he replied.

Malcolm pocketed his communicator and remarked casually to Braga, “Looks like the Commander just can’t wait to get planetside for a little R and R with the ice princess.”

Braga eyed him cautiously. Lieutenant Reed had never addressed him so casually in the entire three weeks he’d been stationed on Enterprise, but then he’d never been alone with him before either. He braved a response to the Lieutenant’s comment.

“Do ya blame him, sir? I mean… just look at her!” Braga made brief eye contact with Reed, grinned, and then looked away, returning his attention to the colonists he was supposed to be observing.

Malcolm chuckled dryly. “She’s a Vulcan, Braga! What’s that expression you American chaps have… ‘All show and no go’?... Definitely not my type.”

Braga smiled briefly. Maybe this Lieutenant wasn’t as tight-assed as he seemed. “I know what ya mean, sir.”

The second shuttlepod landed, delivering a few colonists, some more equipment, Commanders Tucker and T’Pol, and five members of Enterprise’s security force, who surrounded the two commanders with a nearly impenetrable wall of fire power.

Hot damn! thought Red with a rueful grin. Archer sure ain’t takin’ any chances with golden boy an’ his Vulcan slut. I guess he doesn’t realize these colonists are all a bunch ‘a wusses… otherwise they’d a’ never got caught ta be sent here in the first place.

He watched Lieutenant Reed walk up to the Ensign in charge of the security detail and speak with her angrily. Apparently he didn’t approve of the wasted resources, and sent the entire lot of them packing back over to the shuttle. He saw Reed gesture to Braga and himself, as if to say that the two of them were enough to do the job. Reed walked back toward him.

“Braga, I’ll stay here and keep the peace while this batch offloads. You go with the Commanders and make sure none of this lot causes trouble for them while they’re working,” said the Lieutenant.

Red nodded, an eager grin appearing on his face. Finally! he thought. “Yes, sir,” he said.

Trip knelt with his head in the bowels of the generator.

“’Spanner,” he grunted. T’Pol placed it into his greasy palm without comment.

What’s he doin’? he asked her silently as he tightened the connection that he’d just loosened a few minutes before.

He is simply watching us work, she reassured him. There has been no change.

Trip straightened with a groan and wiped his hands and face on the rag that T’Pol offered him from the tool kit.

“That should do it!” he said dramatically.

He turned and started the generator, which purred like a kitten. This was not surprising to him since it had never been broken to begin with. He snuck an arm around T’Pol’s waist and nuzzled her neck. She tolerated the gesture and made eye contact with him invitingly. He smiled at her.

Looking up at Braga, Trip asked with a sly grin, “How’s about lettin’ us disappear for just a little while behind those trees over there? I won’t tell if you won’t tell.”

Braga shrugged and grinned. “Fine by me, Commander.”

He watched as they disappeared over the hill, and then began walking quietly through the trees in a flanking maneuver to the west of their location. He made almost no sound in the heavy brush. In mere seconds, he’d transformed himself from Braga the security guard into Red … the hunter.

Lieutenant Reed silently gestured to the five other members of his hand-picked security team as they fanned out through the underbrush in three teams of two. They had donned camo gear prior to leaving the shuttlepod, where they had concealed themselves until Braga had safely left the landing site, and so they were nearly invisible to the naked eye. The sensor baffles in their helmets scrambled tricorder readings as well. Malcolm firmly believed in the benefits of “not being seen”. The tracer that Malcolm had placed on the impostor’s plasma rifle… with the understanding that his weapon was the one article the assassin would not part with when he went into hiding… was still sending out a signal detectable by tricorder to anyone within a one-klick radius of his position. Braga appeared to be tracking the two commanders, whom Malcolm had also supplied with tracers for safety reasons. The two had stopped about a half-klick away in the shelter of a group of trees and low-lying brush. Malcolm smiled grimly. They were certainly doing their best to look like a pair of lovers trying to find an out-of-the-way place to hide, but the place that they’d chosen was not easy to get to, and was poorly defensible. He was surprised that T’Pol had allowed Trip to get her into such a predicament. She very likely knew the basics of field strategy better than Malcolm did.

“Contact… Two-five meters,” came Morris’ whispered voice over the personal comm system they wore. Malcolm glanced to his right, his eyes narrowing as Morris directed his attention with hand signals. The target was ten degrees northeast of them and heading eastward toward the two commanders. Morris was on their eastern flank, so Malcolm directed the westward teams with hand signals to move in a northerly direction in order to surround the target from the rear. He noted that the tracers identifying the commanders’ location had begun to move again eastward toward an area of ravines and rocky terrain. He smiled in satisfaction. Finally… someone had some sense.

T’Pol was doing her best to talk some sense into him, but he wasn’t listening. They were trying to make as little noise as possible, but every step cracked a branch or disturbed the local wildlife. The assassin would have no difficulty at all locating them.

This underbrush may look like a good place to hide, Trip, but we cannot see him coming from here, and the assault team will not have a clear shot. We must get out into the open, she sent insistently.

And let him get a clear shot at ya? No way, darlin’! We’ve gotta stay hidden.

T’Pol’s brows both went up. You know as well as I do that the plasma rifle he is carrying is non-functional, husband. Lieutenant Reed assured us that he would take care of it.

And what if he’s got another gun we don’t know about… or he’s somehow got the rifle to work again, T’Pol? Trip replied in a spectacularly illogical fashion.

Trip… sent T’Pol, as she grasped both of his hands in hers and looked into his eyes, Do you recall what I told you after we had our first mind meld concerning my time with the Security Directorate? Trip nodded wordlessly.

Then will you trust me when I tell you that I know what I am talking about, or must I become your superior officer again instead of your wife and order you to move from this location? He felt her amusement in the bond. Here they were… in a potentially life-threatening situation… and she was teasing him!

He smiled back in embarrassment over his panicked reaction to her suggestion that they leave cover for open ground, and then kissed her gently.

I’ll follow ya anywhere, darlin’, he sent sincerely. Just lead the way.

Trip and T’Pol entered a cave at the top of a scree-covered slope. To one side was a deep ravine strewn with boulders. T’Pol gazed about her with satisfaction at their eminently defensible position. She pulled her tricorder from her belt and studied the screen, and then began walking toward the cave entrance with her phase pistol in hand.

Stay here, she sent to Trip without looking back. I will return shortly.

Oh, no you don’t, darlin’! Trip sent back as he caught up with her and grasped her by one arm. You’re not goin’ anywhere without me!

T’Pol gazed at him evenly. The risk is too great. You may be injured. You will remain here.

He looked back at her in disbelief. You’re gonna go after him by yourself?... Why risk it?... Let’s just stay here and let Malcolm do his job!

T’Pol shook her head and sighed. It would obviously not be possible to protect Trip from the grim realities of their situation. He would have to be told in order to win his cooperation.

If I allow him to be captured and tried in court, t’hy’la, our secret will be revealed, and we will be separated. He must be killed before he can be apprehended, she sent to him blandly. Her face revealed nothing, but he could feel her eagerness to go out and kill the man who’d attacked her. She was actually looking forward to it. Her impatience chilled Trip to the bone.

He looked at her with a confused expression. So you’re just gonna go out there and blow this guy away all by yourself? he replied, attempting to clarify the situation.

That is essentially correct, she confirmed.

Well, I’m not lettin’ you leave here without me! he sent back.

T’Pol raised a brow at him. And exactly how do you propose to stop me?

Red climbed the boulder-strewn slope toward the cave where he’d seen the lovers hide for their tryst.

It’s about damn time! he thought in frustration. They must really wanna be alone!

He got to the crest of the hill and found himself looking down into the bottom of a rocky ravine.

“Put yer hands up, you cowardly son-of-a-bitch,” came an angry voice from directly behind him. Red raised both of his hands slowly over his head, still holding the plasma rifle. He turned to see Commander Tucker pointing a phase pistol at his chest. He gave him a friendly, puzzled smile.

“Well, there ya’ll are! I was startin’ ta get a little worried about ya’ll… so I came lookin’,” he said.

“Shut up, Braga… or whatever your name is… I know what you did to her… and I’m gonna kill ya for it,” Trip replied. His face bore no resemblance to the friendly, open countenance that Red had seen so far aboard Enterprise. Had T’Pol been present, she would have recognized this Trip, but she was nowhere to be seen. This Trip had been born in the Expanse, after the Xindi had destroyed his home and the sister that he loved. T’Pol’s care had tucked him away for a while, but he’d come out to play with Red… and the game he was playing was deadly.

Red saw the change, and he was afraid.

“Look, man… it’s not my fault, okay?” He tried to lower his arms, and Trip indicated with the muzzle of the phase pistol that he should keep his arms up.

“Throw down the rifle.” Trip said brusquely. Red took one look into his eyes, and then obeyed without question.

“Ya gotta believe me!” begged Red. “They’ve… um… got my girlfriend… yeah… said they’re gonna kill her unless I do this one thing for ‘em!”

“Right!... And so you just have ta rape mine before ya kill her!” replied Trip harshly.

Red’s eyes widened. “But I didn’t!... I promise!” he said sincerely.

“Not for lack of tryin’, I bet,” growled Trip. “Maybe I should just shoot it off and leave you alive.”

Red swallowed. This guy was too close to the truth for comfort.

“Um… look… ya can’t shoot me… I got information… somethin’ ya really need ta know or that Vulcan girlfriend of yours is definitely gonna die,” he bargained.

Trip’s eyes narrowed. “Tell me or I will shoot ya… how’s that for a bargain?” he said.

“It’s about your dad,” said Red. “But I won’t tell ya unless ya promise not ta shoot.”

Trip stopped breathing for a moment. Was his father a target? Was he in danger? He stared into Red’s eyes, and then lowered his weapon slowly.

“Tell me,” he said. Red waited expectantly. Trip sighed in resignation. “I promise I won’t shoot.”

Red smiled triumphantly. “Your pervert of a dad is a Terra Prime informant. His information nearly got that Vulcan slut of yours killed on the rooftop of the Atlanta Spaceport Hilton. I’m the one that made the decision ta call off the hit… so you owe me one.”

Trip raised his weapon again, his struggle not to believe what the assassin had told him plain on his face. It was a losing battle. The man knew too much not to be telling the truth. Trip’s finger was poised on the trigger of his weapon.

Red looked from Trip’s face, to the weapon, and back to his face again. He grinned.

“You know ya won’t shoot me, man… I’ve been straight with ya… and you promised!”

The bolt of a plasma rifle came streaking from behind Trip’s right shoulder, taking Red right between the eyes. His body toppled backwards into the ravine, landing on the rocks at the bottom with a very satisfying moist crunch. Trip lowered his weapon and turned with a confused and very surprised look on his face. Malcolm Reed, dressed from head to foot in camo with his face painted in streaks like a primitive Celtic warrior, stepped out from behind a boulder.

“I never promised not to shoot the bastard,” he said matter-of-factly. He strolled casually over to the assassin’s discarded plasma rifle, removed the dummy power-pack… the one that flashed green even though it was empty… and replaced it with a fresh pack. Then he tossed the rifle over the cliff.

Activating his personal comm with a flick of his fingers, Malcolm said in a businesslike voice, “Target neutralized. Send a shuttle for pickup at my location. Reed out.”

With housekeeping details taken care of, he brushed his hands briskly together, and then looked around in puzzlement.

“Where’s T’Pol?” he asked.

Trip gave him a guilty look. “She went nuts on me Mal… tried to go off half-cocked all by herself ta off the guy, so I pulled out my phase pistol, set it on stun, an’ I…” he winced suddenly as a wave of fury hit him in the bond. A woman’s voice shouting something in Vulcan could be heard from inside the cave above them, reverberating through the ravine. Trip looked at his friend in panic and moved behind him, trying desperately to hide.

“Ya gotta save me, Mal! She’s gonna kill me!”

T’Pol sat in silent meditation in her quarters. Her face revealed none of the turmoil that was taking place within her mind. The door chime sounded. She knew quite well who was at the door. She could sense his sincere repentance from several decks away. She ignored the chime.

T’Pol, darlin’?... It’s me, came a small, forlorn voice in her mind. Lemme in…. please? It’s been eight hours… ya gotta eat!... There was a brief pause, and then he put all of his cards on the table. I’ve got pecan pie…, he coaxed.

She got up from the floor, silently let him in, and then sat down again, completely ignoring his presence. Trip put her supper tray on the floor next to her, and then sat on the bed and gazed at her helplessly. He couldn’t sense her feelings in the bond… the impermeable shields she had up blocked every trace of emotion… but he had a pretty good idea what her predominant sentiments were.

“T’Pol, I know you’re real mad at me…,” he began. It was a relief to speak aloud after so many weeks of telepathic conversations and furtive, silent lovemaking. The security guard had finally been removed from the hallway in front of T’Pol’s quarters. “… but I love ya, and I couldn’t let ya go off by yourself and get killed.”

His blue eyes, tear-filled, begged appealingly for forgiveness. T’Pol refused to look at him. After a long moment of silence, she spoke.

“I find I have gained considerable respect for your mother’s strength of will following these recent events,” she said.

“My mother?” repeated Trip in a baffled voice. “What’s my mother got ta do with all this?”

“I am having a considerable amount of difficulty doing … only once… what she has done apparently dozens of times in her lifetime,” replied T’Pol.

Trip winced, and then looked down in shame. “I guess I’m not that much different from my dad, after all… am I?” he asked her without meeting her eyes.

T’Pol looked up at him then in surprise. “You believe that I am having difficulty forgiving you for shooting me,” she said in sudden realization.

“Well… yeah,” Trip answered with a puzzled look. “Isn’t that what we’re talkin’ about?”

T’Pol looked down at her hands briefly, and then, looking directly into his eyes, deliberately lowered her shields.

Her affection for him hit him first… like a warm wave washing over him. His eyes filled with tears of relief. She understood why he’d done it… she really did! Before his relief could show itself on his face, he began to sense the real problem… the reason why she’d been hiding in her quarters for the past eight hours, unable to face her husband and crewmates. The guilt and self-recrimination he felt from her made him want to go to her and just hold her… to rock her like an infant until she stopped hating herself. He restrained himself at her warning look. She didn’t want pity. She wanted to explain.

“When we instituted the plan to capture the impostor who was impersonating Crewman Braga, I convinced myself that not only would simply capturing him put the entire ship at risk, but that I was the most logical person to perform his execution. Lieutenant Reed would have endangered his career had he failed to follow proper procedure when taking the accused into custody… and you, I was certain, had neither the temperament nor the training to successfully complete the task,” T’Pol told him. She swallowed and continued.

“When you confronted me with the illogic of pursuing the fugitive alone, I refused to listen to you, even though all of my training and my instincts dictated that a team effort would have been a safer and more logical course of action. I have since come to realize that the reason I did not want you with me had nothing to do with your safety… and everything to do with what my true plans were for Braga once I was alone with him.”

T’Pol’s eyes wandered the room, and then returned to Trip. “I did not wish to simply kill him, t’hy’la,” she whispered. “I had every intention of discarding my weapon and tearing him apart with my bare hands.” Her voice took on a disgusted tone as she continued. “I wanted revenge… and I am unable to forgive myself for wanting it. Vulcans do not take revenge. Revenge is for beasts… not for logical, intelligent beings.”

“T’Pol, what that man did to you was horrifyin’! He deserved everything he got!” Trip protested. “I’m not sayin’ I woulda just stood by and let you tear him apart with your bare hands… but feelin’ so angry with him that you need ta see him punished is normal, darlin’!”

He knelt on the floor in front of her. “You are not a bad person for feelin’ the way you’re feelin’… and if you can’t forgive yourself, then let me do the forgivin’ for you.” He took her hands and sent love, reassurance, and forgiveness to her with all of his might. T’Pol closed her eyes. He felt her grief… and her gratitude.

“Will you stay with me and meditate?” she asked, opening her eyes. Unshed tears shone in their depths. Trip smiled.

“I’ll stay as long as you need me to, darlin’… but you’ve gotta eat somethin’ first.” He leaned forward and pulled the tray forward. There was enough for two.

“See? Mmmm…,” he asked, loading the fork and raising it to her mouth. “Doesn’t this look good?”

T’Pol raised a brow at him in amusement at his antics, and opened her mouth to accept the offered forkful of pecan pie.

Trip left T’Pol sleeping soundly in her bunk, and made his way wearily back to his own quarters in the wee hours of beta shift. He was too disturbed by the day’s events to sleep, so he checked the subspace window times for their current location. It was ten am in Bay St. Louis. He requested a subspace connection, and sat back to wait for the call. He was dozing lightly in his chair thirty minutes later when the call came through. His mother’s worried face came on the vid screen.

“Hey, Mama,” said Trip with a sleepy smile.

“Trip!... Is everything all right?” Catherine Tucker asked with a concerned expression. “You look exhausted, son!”

“Everything’s okay, now, Mama… it’s just kinda late here,” Trip replied. “Listen… is Dad around? I need ta talk to him about somethin’ real important.”

Catherine smiled ruefully. “Your dad’s not here, Trip… Is it somethin’ I might be able ta help ya with?”

Trip grimaced and shrugged. “I’m not sure, Mama…,” He hesitated a moment and then forged ahead. “Do you recall whether he’s ever talked about bein’ friends with a guy named Jake Jackson?”

Catherine’s eyes widened. The cat was out of the bag.

“That wouldn’t be the same Jake Jackson that got arrested and deported for refusin’ ta sign the good conduct pledge, would it?” she asked casually. Trip’s heart sank. He nodded.

“I told your daddy that man was trouble, Trip… but all he could see was a good ol’ boy that had lost somebody to the Xindi, too,” said Catherine.

“Where’s Dad?” Trip asked again. “I really hafta talk to him, Mama.”

Catherine sighed. “Your father’s in an alcohol rehab hospital in Biloxi, son,” she admitted. “After what happened in Atlanta, I finally put my foot down. I told him I’d leave him if he didn’t get treatment. He went in as soon as we got home.”

Trip’s jaw dropped. “I always knew he liked the booze… but I never thought it had gotten that bad!”

“It wasn’t a problem before the Xindi, Trip. He’d go out once in a while and have a few too many… sure… but after Lizzie died it was every night… and he hung out with a bad crowd when he was drinkin’, Trip… a real bad crowd,” Catherine replied.

Trip’s eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute…! You said ‘after what happened in Atlanta’…” His eyes opened wide in sudden realization. “You knew he told the Terra Primers where ta find T’Pol and you didn’t tell me!” His voice choked with emotion and his eyes filled with tears, Trip gazed pleadingly at his mother. “Why, Mama?... How could you not tell me somethin’ like that!” Trip’s heart felt like it was breaking. Both of his parents had betrayed them.

Catherine’s eyes filled with tears as well, and she looked down in shame. “Your daddy swore to me it was the only time he’d done it, and that he’d called the number right back that same night after he met T’Pol and told the man he’d been wrong… that she wasn’t at the hotel after all.” She met his eyes with tears streaming down her cheeks. “By the time your daddy told me about it, it had already been a couple a’ days… so I figured we were out a’ the woods… and your daddy made me promise not to tell you. He was afraid you’d never forgive him.”

“Well he wasn’t too damn wrong about that!” Trip said with poorly suppressed fury. “… and I’m not too happy with you, either, Mama!”

Catherine Tucker nodded in reluctant understanding. “I didn’t figure you’d be too pleased with either of us if you ever found out about it, son,” she said, sighing.

She met his eyes with a forthright expression. “I’m makin’ no excuses for myself, son… I’ve been goin’ to meetin’s with your dad, and I’m just startin’ ta realize that the way I’ve been givin’ in ta him is part of the problem… but I hope that someday you’ll think about what I’m tellin’ ya and realize that we both love ya, son. What your dad did was wrong… but it was the booze and the pain talkin’… not the man who loves ya…and not the man I married.” Catherine wiped the tears from her face and sat up straight in her chair.

“You tell that sweet girl a’ yours that we love her… and when you’re ready to talk again you call us back, all right?” she said sadly. “Your daddy’ll be home in a week, Trip. If you’re ready, I’m sure he’d be glad ta hear from ya.” Catherine paused, gazing at Trip’s bewildered and betrayed expression.

“We love you, son… don’t ever doubt that.” She gave him a tearful smile. He smiled reluctantly back at her, not trusting himself to speak. Before he could say anything, she leaned forward and cut the connection.

Trip sat for a long time, just staring at the blank vid screen.

I guess T’Pol’s not the only one needin’ forgiveness lessons, he thought.

Trip rose from the chair and lay down on his bed, but sleep refused to come. He was still thinking things over when his alarm rang. Putting his personal concerns aside, he got out of bed and dressed for the day. It was time to return to his engines. He found the thought comforting. At least he could trust them never to betray him. He left his quarters with the beginnings of a smile on his face.




That's some hard hitting subject matter - very dark.  But somehow the humour was just perfect.  I was left feeling guilty -  I knew that something unspeakably awful was about to happen to T'Pol, but Monty Python and the Holy Grail is my most favourite film EVER (spot the Brit!) and I found myself cringing at her plight and choking with laughter at references to the holy hand grenade and the coconut shells.  

Trips devotion to his wife was perfectly written and heartfelt, whilst Malcolm in full commando gear determined to "Kill the bastard" was wonderfully believeable.

It took a lot of courage to write a chapter with this kind of subject matter - especially as the earlier chapters were quite sweet and fluffy, I never expected your story to take such a turn.....  I commend your bravery on this one, it worked out so well x x 

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