Louder than an Echo

By Lady Rainbow

Rating: R

Genres: romance smut challenge

Keywords: challenge Columbia Orions

This story has been read by 1312 people.
This story has been read 5385 times.

This story is number 1 in the series Shadows and Echoes


Chapter One


Rating: R in some chapters

Challenge: I've got a challenge for Lady Rainbow. Assume that "Affliction" and "Divergence" never happened. A broken-hearted Trip has gone off to serve on Columbia. Would T'Pol decide to continue serving on Enterprise and put the past behind her or would she try to get Trip back? If the answer is the latter, how would she manage it?

Okay, I originally thought I was done with this, but after some remarkable first betaing by Just Trip'n and Honeybee, they both gave me some very good ideas to improve the story. And it just...um...grew.

Vulcan phrases and Vulcan ceremonies are based on the ones outlined in the Vulcan Language Institute website.

Hope this was worth the wait, Dinah! And thanks for the challenge!





Chapter One

He was gone. Gone, not in the sense of “ceasing to exist”, but it was a physical departure nonetheless.

At first, life went as normal. Enterprise continued on its mission of exploration; the crew successfully completed one first contact and discovered one new Minshara-class planet. T'Pol gathered as much data as she could and sequestered herself in Science Lab One to process the results. She'd isolated herself  there for the better part of a week now.

It wasn't unusual for the science officer to be wholly engrossed in such a task. She took her meals in her quarters, retired at the usual time, and attended the normal staff meetings with Captain Archer. T'Pol avoided the questioning looks from Hoshi Sato and Malcolm Reed, the solicitous inquiries from Travis Mayweather and Phlox. Jonathan Archer knew better than to press the subject, but he knew something was clearly wrong.

If only the Captain knew the depth of her problem. A part of her was missing and it ached like a diseased tooth. The abscess slowly spread into her soul, but she had no idea how to cure it.

He was gone, had transferred to Columbia because of her. Regret was an emotion that spilled out despite her efforts to suppress it. Finally, she forced herself to address the lingering question:
What was she going to do now?

He was there, and it was more than just illogical. It was maddening. Before, she heard mere echoes of his presence, as if she could overhear his conversation with his engineering crew aboard Columbia. She saw flashes of his daily life, dinners in the Captain's Mess, but with Hernandez instead of Archer. Their movie night was on Thursday, not Tuesday, and she glimpsed the week's showing through his eyes. It was quite unnerving.

His thoughts were quite unnerving: Damn, this isn't the same. It'll never be the same. But I can't go back, not now...

And this time, he managed to “come back” --  in a fashion. With exasperating Tucker ingenuity, he had chosen a method that was pure torture for her. The first time he appeared in her nightly meditation space, he looked around him with that expression of shock that was heartbreakingly familiar.

“T'Pol? Where the hell am I?”

“I come to this space to meditate, to clear my thoughts. Your presence here is--”

“Annoyin'? No doubt about that. I was in my office, thinkin' about a problem Captain Hernandez asked me to solve, and you're in my daydream! Believe me, you're not the only one who's annoyed!”

“Commander ...Trip. I ask that you leave me alone. I have not meditated properly, and--”

“What?” He frowned, the expression on his face immediately turned from irritation to genuine concern. She felt that concern roll off him like waves on the shore...it was overwhelming but oddly comforting.

“I said--”

“I know what you said. How long?”

“I do not understand your question--”

“How long since you've meditated properly?”

She hesitated, then answered honestly, “Nearly three weeks.”

“Three weeks? Dammit, T'Pol ...” Suddenly, she felt his hands at the neuropressure points on her neck and shoulders. How did he ... how could he ...? The tension eased, her shoulders relaxed, the gnawing emptiness in her stomach no longer bothered her. She closed her eyes and savored his touch.

I have missed this. The realization hit her like a thunderbolt. He must have felt the surge of emotion, for his fingers hesitated for a brief moment.

“Better?”

She took a deep breath and answered, “Yes. Thank you.”

“No problem.” Suddenly, he stiffened and glanced over his shoulder. “I gotta go. I can hear Captain Hernandez callin' for me.”

No, I do not want you to leave again. She firmly suppressed the cry and hoped he could not hear it. “Then you must return to your work. I am sorry to have distracted you from it.”

“I don't mind the distraction. It's nice to see you again ... in a matter of speakin'.” He chuckled, then added, “Take care of yourself, T'Pol, and the Cap'n and everyone else.”

She nodded. “And be well. Give my regards to Captain Hernandez.”

“I will. See you around.”

The white space dissolved around her and reformed into the familiar shadows of her quarters. T'Pol sat there, trying to analyze her tumultuous feelings. It was not possible for Enterprise and Columbia were nowhere near each other. It must have been a dream, her longing made manifest ...

Except Vulcans did not dream.

Nevertheless, she felt more contented than she had been in a long time.




He kept his promise. T'Pol heard nothing more of him, save for the occasional status report from Columbia. It seemed that Captain Hernandez's crew was rapidly achieving the same status as Captain Archer's as far as stumbling over opportunities was concerned. T'Pol never had a reason to listen to the “gossip grapevine” before, but she found herself doing so, in the hopes of hearing about Columbia's exploits.

“Heard they've done some modification to their engines,” said Crewman Mike Rostov. “If Commander Tucker's calculations hold out, Columbia will be the first to hit warp 6.5.”

Commander Kelby bristled at the mention of the former chief engineer. “If those calculations are right. I've seen 'em, and I'm not as confident as he is that it'll work. Worst case scenario, he'll blow their engines to kingdom come.”

Rostov scowled. “You just want him to fail.”

“I'm just being cautious. I wouldn't put half of those new adjustments on Enterprise's engines-”

“You don't want to do anything he would do, even if it'll improve things around here.”

“Watch it, Rostov. That's getting pretty close to insubordination.”

T'Pol stepped through the hatch leading into Main Engineering. “Is there a problem, gentlemen?”

Both men snapped to attention. Kelby shot Rostov a glare and replied crisply, “No, ma'am.”

She nodded coolly at him. “The modified Engineering shift rosters, Mister Kelby. As far as Columbia's goals are concerned, it is useless to indulge in speculation before the fact. Commander Tucker reports the warp trials will commence in two days' time. Only then will we all ascertain whether or not his modifications are successful.”

“I know that speculation is 'illogical', Commander, but would it really bother you if Tucker isn't successful?” Kelby asked.


She raised an eyebrow at Kelby. “Hardly. Allowing the results of an experiment to 'bother me' is an emotion, Mister Kelby.” She inclined her head and began to make her way out of Engineering, but her Vulcan hearing caught Kelby's comment before the hatch closed.

“I guess the rumors aren't true. She certainly doesn't act like she misses him one bit.”

T'Pol's mouth tightened as she headed for the lift that would take her back to the Bridge.



 
The voices vibrated in her mind, disjointed at first, then suddenly, they were crystal clear. She made an effort to block them out, and was successful for a short time. Then they resumed, echoing within her mind, growing in strength, until they transported her to a very different place.

“Diverting power to structural integrity, Commander...”

“It's workin'. Keep an eye on the matrix, Thomas...”

“Warp 3, 3.5...”

“Looking good so far.”


T'Pol blinked and looked around the Bridge. What was happening? Alpha shift was quiet as Enterprise cruised along at a steady Warp 3. Captain Archer was reading reports from the command seat, Ensign Sato worked on the universal translator, and Lieutenant Reed on security protocols from the tactical station. Reed glanced up from his console and raised a questioning eyebrow at her. T'Pol shook her head and forced her attention back to the stellar data on her computer.

“Warp 4. Warp 4.5, 4.75...”

“Starting to read destabilization in the intake manifolds, Commander.”

“That happened the last time, on
Enterprise. Angle the flow another two degrees, see if that'll help...”

“Warp 5, 5.1, 5.2...”

T'Pol felt the vibrations in her bones, heard the groan of the support struts and the nacelles. A jolt of fear hit her, but she automatically reached out to it, soothed it as best as she could. T'Pol recalled what had happened the year before, when Trip had been severely injured in an accident in the engine room, and Sim had been created to save him...

Not again. I will not bear it if it happens again.

“Warp 5.5...Warp 5.75!”

Something sparked to her right, and she involuntarily ducked in response. T'Pol clenched her hand on her console to keep herself steady. Under the fear was a heady thrill of excitement, of achievement. This was going to work ... this was going to actually work.

“Warp 5.9...Commander, we're losing it--”

“A couple more seconds!”

“We've got to abort, sir! Now!”


“Damn! Shut it down! Shut it down, now!”

“Warp 6.2, Warp 6.25!”

“I said, shut it down!”

“There's something wrong, sir, we can't shut it down!”

T'Pol closed her eyes and concentrated on the frantic efforts to shut down Columbia's warp drive. She could see the readouts from the engineering computer, trace the plasma flows from the relays to the intake manifolds, detect the rising temperature from the core itself. Failsafes, the failsafes, something is wrong with the failsafes. That flash of insight, led to another, and another. Her hands flew over the console, trying to balance the flow, rerouting around the affected areas ...

And just like that, the red line of imminent destruction brightened to yellow. Not quite in the green, not yet, but it was holding. It was holding...

“That's it! Thomas?”

“Warp 6.5, holding steady at warp 6.5...”


“Son of a bitch! We did it! We broke Warp 6!”

Jubilation broke out on Columbia's engine room and her Bridge. T'Pol felt the thrill of accomplishment and the sense of giddy relief. We did it, Darlin'. We really did it!

“Yes, you did,” she whispered. “My congratulations.”

Captain Archer's voice broke into her thoughts. “Did what? T'Pol?”

She started, pulled abruptly out of the mental link. Reality returned, and with it, the curious stares from the Enterprise Bridge crew. T'Pol shook her head, still confused. “Excuse me, Captain?”

“Are you all right?” Archer seemed concerned for her welfare. “Shall I call Phlox?”

She shook her head and replied, “No need, Captain. Forgive me, my mind was ... elsewhere.”

 


 

End of Chapter One


Comments:

WarpGirl

OMG How did I miss this? Wait I know, I'm dating. Anyway I'm sorry this is wonderful. It's nothing like I expected it to be. I wish you had written this for the show. I would have loved that show. Your characterization is excellent. I loved the interaction with Kelby especially T'Pol was perfect. Really well done. I'm going to read the rest now.

Dinah

"A part of her was missing and it ached like a diseased tooth. The abscess slowly spread into her soul, but she had no idea how to cure it."

I really like that.  It's just how I think T'Pol would feel when Trip left.  I'm also glad that she acknowledged that he'd left because of her.  Warp 6.5 -- Trip is building a life without her.  That would have been hard for her to take.

Poor Kelby still has issues with Trip.  Some things never change. 

Excellent chapter! 

Aquarius

Mmmmmmmmmmmm.....!  Dreamy bond mojo!  ;)  Love this so far.ny

Honeybee

Love it. Such a wonderful, low key story. I love the expansions so far. 

Asso

TERRIFIC!!!

VERY TERRIFIC!

I am not exaggerating. 

Alelou

Very interesting.  It's kind of nice to imagine they could have this mental relationship at this point that seems so devoid of anger.  Sure seems potentially dangerous in terms of focus, though I guess it didn't get in Trip's way during all that.

Distracted

Terrific "link" scene.  I'm assuming this has just become AU, since if she doesn't realize by now that they're bonded she's an idot.  But I love it.

panyasan

Woah! Nice chapter one. Can't wait for the next one.

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