The Highest Price

By AuroraBorealis

Rating: PG-13

Genres: angst drama

Keywords: bond planetary exploration

This story has been read by 824 people.
This story has been read 1141 times.


Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Star Trek characters or ideas or whatever.
Summary: This story takes place about two years after the episode “Demons”. Trip and T’Pol are captured on an alien planet. Major Drama.
Spoilers: I don’t think there are any.

A/N: I want to thank my Beta Dinah. She picked up a lot of things I missed and my story wouldn’t be as good without her.

This is the first part in a two part story. Be warned. There is a major character death. Also, if you don’t like the first story please at least skim the second one, then re-evaluate how much you hate the story.

Anything words that have asterisks (*) around them instead of quotation marks are T’Pol and Trip speaking through the bond.

=/\=

It had been two weeks since their last M-class planet, and even that one hadn’t held any intelligent life. The crew was getting stir crazy. Captain Archer was relieved that something had finally happened.

“Captain, I’m getting an automated distress call from the Vir’gid colony,” said Hoshi.

“Put it through.”

Hoshi pushed all of the appropriate buttons with speed that came from years of experience. “On screen.”

An image popped up on the bridge’s main monitor. The picture was fuzzy and distorted; only bits and pieces of what was being said could be heard.

“Let me see if I can clear that up.” Hoshi adjusted the dials and the image came into focus.

“This is the Vir’gid colony.” The man on the screen looked human except for his striking violet eyes and a V-shaped ridge on his forehead. It was similar to a Klingon’s except that it was singular and much less severe. “This is to any ship in the vicinity. We need assistance. Our main power converter is down. It runs the entire compound. We’re running on emergency power. Please help us.”

“We are the starship Enterprise.” Captain Archer replied. “Can we offer you assistance?”

The automated message turned off and was replaced by a similar scene of the same man. “Hello, I am Leader De’vork,” he said to Archer. “What is your business in this space?"

"We're explorers. We picked up your distress call and decided to reply."

The man looked at him suspiciously, and then went on. "We need help with our main power converter. It’s badly damaged, and we don’t have enough supplies to fix it. We would be most grateful for your help.”

Archer signaled for Hoshi to put the transmission on stand-by and then addressed T’Pol. “What do we know about these people?”

“Several Vulcan science vessels have made contact with this world. The Vir’gid tend to be suspicious of outworlders, but once they have deemed someone trustworthy they are a friendly people. Their world's climate is similar to that of Vulcan’s; however, there are few cities on the surface. The inhabitants emigrated from a world called Seer’vet and colonized here over one hundred years ago. In that time they have made close to no advancement in technology but have made numerous discoveries in the field of agriculture. There was a civil war thirty-eight years ago, but it was quickly resolved. Since then there have been no reports of violent behavior from these people. However, the last time a Vulcan ship surveyed this planet was almost three years ago.”

“Well, they sound peaceful enough” Archer smiled, “and it sounds like they could use a hand.” Archer nodded for Hoshi to reestablish the connection. “We would be happy to help,” said the Captain. “If you give us the coordinates, we’ll send down a shuttle pod”

“Thank you.” The alien beamed, revealing odd, pointed teeth.

“If you need anything else just contact us.” Archer smiled back. Hoshi cut off the communiqué. “Well, I think we may have just made some new friends. T’Pol I want you to assemble a landing party.”

“Sir,” Malcolm inquired, “do you think it wise to beam down to a potentially hostile world?”

"Malcolm, their war ended thirty years ago. Not to mention we already agreed, so I don’t think we have much choice.”

“Of course, sir. However, I would feel much better if you allowed a security team and me to accompany the landing party.” “No, Malcolm, we need you up here. Besides, if we bring down a security team, we’ll be the ones who look hostile.”

"Captain, the lieutenant's concerns may be valid,” T'Pol noted. "As I stated earlier, it has been over three years since the last science vessel came to this world. We know nothing about their current situation."

“Sir, two MACOs, please.”

Archer thought for a moment. “All right two MACOs. Side arms only though.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I think Commander Tucker and I will be able to repair the power converter,” said T’Pol. “I will contact the ship if we need more people. Also, I would prefer to have Sergeants Hughes and Carey accompany us, since they both have had extensive desert combat training.”

"Ok, that sounds fine, but why are you going down?”

Her eye’s shifted from his for a fraction of a second. If he hadn’t known her for six years he wouldn’t have even noticed.

“I am the Chief Science Officer,” she said impassively “As I stated earlier, the people of this colony have made a number of advances in agriculture. It would be very interesting to see how they coped with the environment. Perhaps there are even some similarities in their agricultural methods to Vulcan's."

Archer gave her a small grin. She could rattle off a million reasons why she should go but he knew why she was really going. Trip had an atrocious track record when it came to away missions, and he wasn't much of a diplomat. She was going with him to make sure he didn’t screw things up.

“What do you find so amusing Captain?” T'Pol asked.

“Nothing,” he said quickly. “You’re right. You should go. I want you to contact the ship every hour.”

She nodded, thanked the Captain, and left the bridge.

=/\=

Despite the high winds and unfamiliar territory, Trip landed the shuttle pod with expert skill. He opened the shuttle’s hatch and stepped out. Trip had hated deserts since his survival training in Australia. He hated the heat and the grit and the way the sand made his feet feel, but he would have been blind not to admit to the beauty of this particular desert.

Sand danced around him in every shade of orange and red. The sand in Australia had been a drab tannish color, but this was like crushed rubies. Trip picked up a handful and let it slip through his fingers. The flecks shimmered and sparkled as they left his hand. Then he looked up.

The sky was a very light pink and had two suns on either side of the horizon. The one on the left was smallish and very bright, and while the one on the right was almost two times larger, it looked more like a giant glowing ember than a sun.

The landscape was barren except for a huge metal building about two kilometers away. Trip decided that since it was the only building in sight it was most likely their destination. T'Pol, Trip, and the two MACOs gathered their supplies and started off toward the compound.

=/\=

The doors of the compound opened upon their arrival. The man who had conducted the earlier communiqué hurried them into the building.

“Hello,” he said cheerily. “Welcome to our city.”

It was completely different than the world outside. The room was full of lush trees and exotic flowers. There were thick vines covered in tiny purple flowers that snaked up the walls and covered the ceilings. There was as much variety in the shades of green in the trees and vines as there had been in the shades of red in the sand. Flowers of all different sizes bloomed in purples, blues, yellows, and oranges; and as if the landscape wasn't dazzling enough, everyone was draped in striking blue robes. It looked as though it could have been the lost Garden of Eden, if it wasn’t for from the dim emergency lighting illuminating the room.

“Wow!” Trip exclaimed unconsciously.

“The compound is usually much livelier than this. We haven’t been able to water any of our plants for almost two days. Perhaps you will get to see our compound in its full glory once we’ve fixed the energy converters.”

“Sure thing.” said Trip excitedly. He had not seen this much variety in plant life since the last time he had visited Florida. “Just tell me where they are and I’ll get started.”

De’vork frowned slightly. “Have you ever ridden a mak’fa?”

Trip gave him a look of confusion. “I’m gunna’ have to say I haven’t.”

“Well, we could walk, but it would take much longer.”

“It will take longer to get where, and what’s a mak'fa?”

“They are a large reptilian species indigenous to the planet,” De’vork replied.

Trip cringed. He had had his fill of large reptiles in the Delphic Expanse.

They are our main source of transportation outside the compound. Since we rarely leave the compound they are sufficient.” De’vork smiled. “I can show you one if you like. Then maybe you can decide whether you want to ride them to the energy converters.”

Trip scowled. “Where are your energy converters?” He was starting to think that this little trip was more than he had bargained for.

“Well,” De’vork said. “You must understand that to maintain a place of this size the converters must be very large.”

“Ok.” Trip said flatly

T’Pol gave him a look. *You should try being more diplomatic,* she scolded through their bond. *Humans have never made contact with this species and you don’t want to make a bad first impression.*

Trip agreed and turned his attention back to De’vork.

“The converters also give off radiation. It’s fine to be near them for a couple of weeks, but after that they can be harmful to humanoid life forms. So for the safety of our colonists we’ve installed them five kilometers away from the compound.”

“You mean in the desert?”

De’vork almost blushed. “Yes. However, once you get to the converters there is a structure surrounding them. You will be shielded from the elements.”

Trip chuckled. “Well, this sounds like fun. Ok, let me see one of those mak'fas. I don’t think I want to walk five kilos in the desert.”

De’vork led them to the right wing of the compound. “This way.”

=/\=

The mak’fas were really just like De’vork had described; they were giant lizards.

Trip climbed onto one of them. “This isn’t that bad,” he said cheerfully. “Kinda’ reminds me of ridin’ horses.”

De’vork looked at him. “What is a horses?”

“Well, they’re kinda’ like big furry mak’fas.”

*Trip, I do not feel comfortable riding these creatures. They remind me of the le’matyas on Vulcan.*

Trip comforted her through the bond.

*Don’t worry. They wouldn’t ride them if they were dangerous.*

“Come on, Commander, they won’t bite,” Sergeant Carey joked, sensing T’Pol’s unease. “Wait, will they?” she asked De’vork seriously.

“Of course not.” He replied smiling at Carey’s question. The closest mak’fa to T’Pol whipped out its tongue. She jumped back in alarm. Trip laughed and T’Pol glared at him as if she blamed him for the creature’s actions.

“Don’t worry commander she’s just getting to know you,” De’vork laughed.

T'Pol said nothing and silently climbed onto the mak’fa’s back. Trip kept on smiling.

The doors of the compound opened to the desert.

“Don’t wander off. It’s hard to find your way back if you’re not familiar with the desert,” De’vork shouted over the wind. “Just stay close to me the whole way.”

With that said, they started out into the swirling sand.

=/\=

By the time they reached the energy converters, Trip was sure he never wanted to see another grain of sand again. He had grit in his mouth, up his nose, and in his ears. De’vork looked like he had just taken a leisurely walk in the park and, despite her obvious dislike of the mak’fas, T’Pol looked about the same.

*That was terrible. I would rather go through the transporter than go back out there again,* Trip complained

*The elements weren’t as unpleasant as the mak’fas.*

“We have two technicians here. If you need any materials or tools just ask one of them,” said De’vork. “However, the main reason we needed your assistance is we don’t have all the supplies necessary to repair the converters. The next cargo ship from our home world won’t be here for another three months. We were hoping that we could work out a trade of some sort.”

“Trading isn’t a problem,” Trip said. “But what could you offer us in return for materials.”

“Well,” De’vork began, “like I mentioned before, we have very few technical components we could offer you. We do, however, have a large selection of fruits and vegetables we would be happy to share with you.”

Trip stared at him for a moment to assure himself that De’vork wasn’t joking. “Ok, we’ll consider it. Commander T’Pol will have to talk to the Captain first. Until then, I’ll get started on the repairs.”

“Wonderful. I have to go back to the compound. If you need anything,” he said, pointing to a dark haired engineer, “Eas’el will show you where the message transceiver is located.”

“We will try to have the repairs finished as quickly as possible,” said T’Pol. De’vork nodded and then left.

=/\=

“Captain, I’m picking up a transmission,” said Hoshi. “It’s Commander T’Pol.”

“Put it through.”

“T’Pol to Captain Archer,” said the voice on the other end of the transmission. “We have arrived at the energy converters.”

Archer glanced at the chronometer. “What took you so long to get there?” he asked, puzzled. They had left almost three hours ago.

“They keep the converters in a remote area. We had to travel here on the backs of creatures called mak’fas,” she said with a hint of irritation in her voice. Archer decided that she had not enjoyed the trip.

He smiled to himself. It amazed him how much easier it had become to read T’Pol over the years. “Ok, so what’s your status?”

“The leader of the Vir’gid colony would like to make a trade.”

“Trade what?”

“In return for supplies to fix the energy converters, he will give us a large quantity of fruit.”

Archer almost laughed. “Well, that's definitely the most interesting trade proposal we've had in a while. It’s fine with me. I can’t remember the last time I had a nice plum...” He paused. “…or the equivalent to one. Where can I contact De’vork?”

"De’vork left the energy converters approximately twenty minutes ago. He should be back to the compound by now. You can contact him there.”

“Ok, Archer out.”

=/\=

As soon as he had cut off his transmission to T’Pol, Archer asked Hoshi to contact the compound.

“Hello,” said a familiar face on the screen.

“Hello,” Archer replied. “T'Pol contacted me about your trade proposal.”

“Oh, yes. I’m sorry we have nothing else to offer you for your kindness.”

“It’s fine with me, but there’s just one problem.”

“And what is that?”

“Well, we don’t know if your food is edible.”

De’vork looked puzzled. “Captain, I can assure you--“ He suddenly understood. “Oh. You mean for your species. Of course. I will have someone send up a sample of all of the fruit we have to offer. Your doctor will be able to test them for their edibility, correct?”

“Yes. It shouldn’t be a problem.” Archer smiled broadly. He could see future relations building before his eyes.

“We will beam the samples up shortly.”

Then the screen went black.

=/\=

Trip had been working on the same conduit for hours. He couldn’t for the life of him figure out where the power drain was coming from.

“Is there any way I could be of assistance, Commander.” Trip jumped, startled. He had been concentrating so hard he hadn't felt her coming.

“T’Pol, don’t sneak up on me like that,” he groused.

*I thought you might be hungry.*

*I wonder how you could have guessed,* he smiled. *What did ya bring me?*

*Sergeant Carey had some E-rations in her field vest. I asked if I could have them.*

*That’s real sweet, T’Pol, but I think I’ll wait until we get back to the ship.* E-rations weren’t exactly his favorite food. T’Pol set them aside.

“You did not answer my question,” she said.

“I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start. This thing didn’t just break; it was all but torn apart.”

“Perhaps if you knew what caused the damage, you would be more able to fix it,” she suggested. Trip smiled. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of that. He was just about to go ask Eas’el when Eas’el came down the stairs.

“Well if that’s not perfect timing, I don’t know what is,” Trip said to no one in particular. “I was just about to come lookin’ for you.”

“There is a large sandstorm coming this way,” Eas’el started hastily. “It cannot harm us while we are in the building, but the storm has properties similar to a dampening field. You won't be able to resume your work until the storm passes. You should contact your captain before it arrives and assure him of your well being.”

“Ok,” said Trip. “Well, since we’re about to get hit with something that will make it impossible to work on this,” he said motioning to the generator, “I guess my question can wait 'til later.”

Trip flipped open his communicator. “Hey Cap’n, its Trip. We’re about to be hit by a sandstorm, so you won’t be able to contact us for about—“ He looked over at Eas’el who held up two fingers in response. “Two hours,” Trip finished.

“Are you going to be okay where you are?”

“Yeah, Eas’el said we’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“Ok, two hours, and then I’m gunna start worrying.”

“Don’t,” reassured Trip. “We’ll be fine.”

=/\=

Fifteen minutes after Trip had finished talking to Archer, the storm came.

The lights died and all the humming noises in the room shut off simultaneously. T'Pol decided that the storms on this planet were similar to the sand fires on Vulcan. Something hit the ground close to the compound, spraying sand against the walls like rain; it felt unnatural somehow. There was a rhythm to it: a pitched whine, a heavy thud, and then the crash of sand. The noises outside began sounding more and more like phaser fire hitting metal. Finally, Trip gave Eas’el a confused look.

“Do the storms usually sound like that?”

Eas’el turned to him after a moment. “No, I’m afraid we’re under attack.”

“Attack!” Trip had not been expecting this. “By whom?” Eas’el just stared at the door. “Why don’t we do something?”

Eas’el gaze didn’t change. “There’s nothing we can do. The Black Faction is much like a sandstorm. They come quickly and they leave quickly. They use a dampening device so that no energy weapons can work except for their own.”

“Why didn’t you detect them earlier?” asked T’Pol with her unfaltering Vulcan calm.

“They look identical to a storm on sensors,” Eas’el replied. “That is where the name Black Faction comes from. How did you think the energy converter was damaged?"

"Well," said Trip, "if we had known that it was because of a war we would have never come down here. We're not supposed to interfere in civil disputes.”

Just then the door to the compound was torn off its hinges. The two MACOs took defensive positions in front of the Vir’gid engineers. T’Pol and Trip followed suit. Trip picked up two heavy rods that had been lying on the floor. He tossed one to T’Pol.

Twelve heavily armed men ran into the room. They looked very much as the Vir'gid colonists did, except for their darker, sun-tanned skin. And rather than the brilliant blue cloaks the Vir'gid colonists wore, they wore cloaks as dark as night. As soon as they were in, they started shooting.

Trip attacked anything that came close to T’Pol. One of the largest of the attackers came at her with a wicked looking dagger. Before he could reach her, Trip struck him in the head with his heavy metal rod.

While Trip was contending with his attacker, another charged for Eas’el. Sergeant Carey pushed the engineer to the ground, taking the energy blast meant for him. She screamed as it landed solidly against her chest. With no one left protecting him, the engineer fell almost immediately after.

While Trip was defending T’Pol against her third attacker, another charged her, but was quickly deterred when T'Pol landed a solid blow to his head. The fallen guard’s companion caught her off guard and struck her across the face with the butt of his energy gun. She fell to the floor. The guard smiled and aimed the gun at T'Pol's head. A wave of rage boiled inside Trip unlike anything he had ever experienced.

He hit the man from behind and kept hitting him even as he lay on the ground, obliviously dead. He was about to move away from his victim when an energy blast pierced his side, slamming him to the ground. There was another scream and the second engineer landed, dead, beside him, then everything went silent.

The men surrounded them. Trip sensing a lost battle looked around to assess the damage. Sergeant Carey lay on the floor, dead, along with the two engineers and six of the attackers. Trip was relieved to see that T’Pol seemed uninjured except for a large bruise forming across her face. Sergeant Hughes was being checked for weapons and the guards emptied the pockets of his field vest. Hughes looked good, too, except he was holding his arm. The apparent leader of the group took a step toward Trip.

“You are the engineer from the earth ship, are you not?” he smirked.

=/\=

Archer hoped they were ok. It had been an hour since he had last contacted them. Of course, they were probably fine, but he hated leaving his companions without communication. He looked down at the chronometer. Now it had been an hour and four minutes since they had last contacted the ship.

“Malcolm, when is that storm supposed to dissipate?” he asked.

“Not for another sixty-two minutes, sir,” Malcolm replied.

Archer sighed. He had never been very patient.

“I’ll be in my ready room.” He said finally. “Call me if anything changes.”

He got up and left the bridge.

=/\=

Trip stood up, clutching his side. “Yes, I’m the chief engineer.”

Trip's side felt as though someone had set it on fire. Even though he hadn't caught the full brunt of the blast, it had been enough. He could feel the damage. The force of the blast had cracked one of his ribs, it had blacked most of the area directly beneath his rib cage, and scarlet blood oozed from the burned flesh. It hurt to breathe, to stand. Trip allowed himself one grimace, but then buried the pain deep within himself.

“Commander, are you all right?” Hughes asked

Trip ignored him and addressed the guard.

“What do you want?” Trip asked angrily.

“You,” the leader replied coolly.

"If you know who I am then you know we have a ship in orbit. It won't take them much to find us."

The man smiled, “You would be surprised how much interference a sandstorm can cause. We need your assistance. You will come with us and fix our weapons systems. If you don’t, we will kill the rest of your companions. Then we will kill you.”

Trip scowled. “That doesn’t sound much like an invitation.”

“It’s not. Oh, and you may call me Oh’lak.”

=/\=

They walked in the desert for at least an hour, until they finally came to a compound almost identical to the Vir’gid colony’s. Their captors lead them inside. Aside from the obvious similarities in the outward appearance of the structure, it had nothing in common with the Vir'gid colony. The walls were made of metal; they were plain and drab with no decoration or color. It was hard to imagine that they were even the same people.

Two guards led them inside a cell and locked them inside. The cell didn't look much different than the rest of the compound. The floor was rough concrete and the walls were made entirely out of metal sheets, except for the front wall with the door. It was constructed entirely out of some kind of thick strong metal bars. There was no port to see outside the cell, and there was much more space than was required for three prisoners. Hughes decided that more prisoners were usually kept in the cell at one time.

Trip slumped against the wall, obviously exhausted. T’Pol sat down next to him.

“Let me inspect your wound, Commander,” she ordered. He scowled at her, but lifted his shirt in compliance. “Sergeant Hughes, give me your field vest.” Hughes quickly obeyed and handed the vest over to T’Pol. T’Pol ripped out the thin lining of the vest, tore it into strips, and then she wrapped them around Trip’s waist. She put the remaining cloth in a pile next to the wall. Trip smiled.

“You’re gunna put Phlox out of a job.”

“I’m only applying basic aid.” she responded softly. “You need Doctor Phlox.” It was unclear to Sergeant Hughes if she was irritated or worried, but who was he to read a Vulcan.

“Don’t worry about it, T’Pol...I’m fine.” Trip grit his teeth and pushed himself up straighter, as if to prove his point.

“I am aware of human biology, Commander. You are not ‘fine’.”

Shortly after she had finished tending to his wound, two guards entered the room.

“You, engineer,” the tall one commanded while pointing at Trip, “come with us.” Trip moved to get up, but T'Pol intervened.

“Commander Tucker is seriously injured. He cannot go with you.” Trip wanted to agree with her. Getting up was taking more effort than he thought it would. When the guards saw his hesitation, one of them grabbed T’Pol, turned her around, and pointed an energy gun at her head.

“Come with us, or we’ll kill the female.” He said flatly.

Trip got to his feet as quickly as he could manage.

“Let her go, I’ll come with you.” He said desperately.

“Commander, in your present condition, you will not be able to efficiently repair their systems,” T’Pol pleaded.

“Well, if you’re dead, you won’t be able to very efficiently do anything.” Trip said as he walked past T’Pol and to the door. “You comin’ with me?” he asked the guards. They pushed T’Pol away and shoved Trip to the door. He winced but followed them out the cell and down the hall without any further hesitation.

=/\=

Trip had just finished interchanging the field flux multi synthesizers, when the two men who had taken him from the cell came to him requesting yet another update.

Squeezing into conduit openings and recalibrating field inducers had taken a heavy toll on him. It was all he could do to stay upright.

“How close are you to finishing?” one of them asked.

“I just about--“ Trip interrupted himself with a coughing fit. “I’m almost done with the recalibration. After that I just have to reintegrate the system into your computer.”

Trip leaned against the wall. “I’m exhausted. You’re gunna’ have to give me a break or this isn’t gunna’ get finished.”

“You will finish the repairs, and then we will take you back to your cell,” the guard responded flatly.

"Listen,” Trip growled, “I’m not gunna’ be able to fix anything unless you let me sit down.”

The guards’ expressions remained unchanged. “If you discontinue your work before it is finished, we will kill one of your companions.”

Trip’s expression immediately turned to one of defeat.

He went back to the resequencer and started recalibrating. He bent down to pick up a hyper spanner. Another coughing fit erupted from his throat. He looked down at his hand and was alarmed to find a spattering of blood. When he stood back up and the room swam around him, he grabbed a guard rail in an attempt to steady himself. Then he closed his eyes hard and reopened them, to clear his vision. Instead the room went dark.

=/\=

“What is the status of the communicators?” T’Pol asked.

“I’ve been working on them the entire time we’ve been here,” Hughes replied. “There’s a dampener covering this building. Nothing works.”

“Well, then we will have to find another way to contact the ship,” T’Pol argued.

“I don’t think there is any other way.”

T’Pol stood up and started running her hands across the walls.

“What are you doing?” Hughes asked.

“I’m looking for imperfections in the surface of the wall. If any of this metal is loose, perhaps we can make a weapon out of it. It nothing else, it will be sharp.”

“And then what Commander? We take on the entire compound? Even if we could over power them, which we can’t, we don’t even know where we are.”

T’Pol glanced at him and continued running her hands against the wall.

A couple moments later two guards dragged Trip into the cell and dropped him heavily on the floor. He landed with a thud and a groan.

T’Pol went to him. “That wasn’t necessary,” she said, glaring at the guards. They said nothing, locked the cell, and left. T’Pol rolled Trip over onto his back and propped his head up on the remains of Sergeant Hughes’ vest in an attempt to make him more comfortable.

Ten minutes later, Trip was still lying on the floor. He was pale and had a thin sheen of sweat covering his face. When T’Pol looked at Trip, there was something in her eyes that Hughes interpreted as tenderness. He had never been one to listen to gossip, but he was beginning to believe the rumors involving Trip and T’Pol’s coupling may be true.

“I should not have let them take him,” T’Pol said softly.

“There was nothing you could have done.”

T'Pol's face darkened and her voice shook with anger. “I could have fought them.”

“What would that have accomplished?” Hughes was startled by her tone. He had never seen an angry Vulcan. Nor was it something he desired to see. “Are you feeling alright, Commander?” he asked nervously.

“I’m fine,” she said, immediately regaining her control.

She went back to running her hands against the wall.

=/\=

The sound of the cell door slamming roused Trip from his sickly stupor. He moved to the closest wall and propped himself up. T’Pol had immediately noticed his consciousness. She walked over to him with a can of something in her hand.

“The guards brought us something to eat. They obliviously plan to keep us here for some time.” She sat down next to him in one graceful motion. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m not as bad as I look.” He gave her a small smile, but T'Pol wasn’t convinced.

“My concern for you, Commander, is not based on visual observation.” She handed him the can. “You should eat this. You have not eaten in 14 hours.” Trip gave the can a look of disgust.

“I’m not exactly hungry right now.” The truth was that he felt weak, nauseous, and had a pounding headache.

“You must--“

“T’Pol,” he interjected. “I’m fine.” She looked into his eyes as if she were searching for a truthful answer. He hadn’t fully closed his mind off to her, but T'Pol could tell there were things he was keeping from her in shady, dark areas of his mind.

“Trip,” she said leaning in so only he could hear her, “please.” He sighed and took the can from her.

“Fine.” He sat poking at the mush like an unpleased child. T’Pol sent a wave of satisfaction through their bond. He smiled and took a few bites of the food. When he was done, she took the can from him and set it aside.

T'Pol felt useless. She was angry at herself for letting her mate come to harm in the first place. Even though she told herself this was illogical, she couldn’t help but replay the scene over in her head, thinking of all the things she could have done differently.

“You should try to sleep.”

“No, I just got done sleeping,” he groused. “Give me one of those communicators. Maybe I can rig one of them to break through this damn dampener.”

“Sergeant Hughes has been working on them for hours. We haven’t found anything yet.”

“Well maybe I can find something.”

“Commander Tucker, T’Pol is right. I think if there was something there, we would have found it by now. Just take it easy until the rescue party arrives,” Hughes urged.

Trip scowled at Hughes. “Rescue party? What rescue party? How the hell are they supposed to find us? We can’t just sit here and wait,” Trip yelled. He started coughing again. He spit the resulting blood into the empty can.

“Commander, when we were in the desert, I dropped a series of distress beacons on our way here. If the Enterprise picks them up, they may be able to track us. There’s nothing else we can do,” said Sergeant Hughes. Trip slumped more heavily against the wall as if the argument had exhausted him.

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” Trip said. Even carrying on a conversation seemed to drain him.

He tried to think, but he was too tired. If an idea entered his head, it was blurred away into oblivion before it could even finish forming. Eventually everything around him faded and thinking turned into dreaming.

=/\=

Trip was in his quarters. He heard the door chime. It was T’Pol, of course. This was their two year anniversary.

“I fail to see why our being bonded for a two years is cause for celebration.”

He almost frowned. “Why? You don’t think it’s significant?”

“No, I just plan on us being bonded for much longer.” The corner of T’Pol’s mouth rose up slightly in a gesture that Trip had come to recognize as her equivalent to a smile.

“Well, so do I.” He smiled. “I just want an excuse to do something special for you.”

“What did you have planned?” she asked. She moved to the bed and sat down.

“You’ll see,” he said. A platter with a white cloth caught T’Pol’s eye. Trip followed her gaze and smiled when he saw what she was looking at. “This,” he said moving over to the platter, “is your surprise.” T’Pol arched one elegant eyebrow. Her eyes moved from Trip to the platter and back again. He removed the cloth with a flourish. What appeared under it almost made T’Pol gasp.

“P’legaro fruit. These are rare, even on Vulcan. How did you acquire them?” she asked still shocked. Trip’s smile broadened to almost the size of Phlox’s. He loved seeing her so excited.

“Well it cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it just to see the look on your face. T’Pol gave him an odd glance and looked him over as if looking for missing limbs.

“Since you seem to have all of your appendages, I suppose that is another odd human expression.”

Trip laughed. “Well are you going to try one?” he asked anxiously. She took the knife and cut into one of the p’legaros. Purple juice sprang out of the fruit and landed on Trip’s uniform. T’Pol looked embarrassed.

“Don’t worry about it. Just tell me if they’re still fresh. They’ve been in stasis for a month, so I wasn’t sure.” T’Pol took a dainty bite of the fruit.

“It tastes exactly as it should. They are beautiful, Trip. Thank you.” Trip smiled and picked up the cloth napkin he had used to hide the fruits. He used it to try and wipe his uniform clean of the juice. When he looked at the napkin it was covered in something red, definitely not juice. It looked more like…blood. It was blood, his blood. He put his hand to the place he had just tried to clean and looked at what covered his hand. More blood. Suddenly he doubled over as a sharp pain stabbed him in the side.

“Trip? What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know.”

She went to him. “You’re bleeding.” Her voice was tense with concern. She touched the wound with her hand. Suddenly an identical wound appeared on her. She fell to the floor gasping for air. Blood was flowing freely out of the deep gash, soaking the carpet a sickly green.

“T’Pol!” Trip cried. He ran to the comm panel. It disappeared into the wall before he could reach it. Trip ran back to T’Pol and picked her up. He sprinted towards the sickbay. He could see the doors but no matter how fast he ran he couldn’t get any closer to them.

Exhausted, he fell to the ground. T’Pol tumbled out of his arms. Her breathing was labored and shallow now.

“T’Pol” he called her name again. “T’Pol, don’t. I need you,” he cried. Her eyes were searching for his as if she couldn’t see. “T’Pol,” he said again. “Please.”

Her body went limp and her breathing stopped. “No,” he sobbed. “No.” T’Pol’s beautiful body turned to dust and started to blow away. He tried franticly to gather the dust into a pile to keep it with him, but it all slipped out of his grasp. He tried to chase it, but he was too exhausted to move. He lay in the corridor completely alone.

“T’Pol.”

=/\=

Trip woke up to T’Pol calling his name. Relief washed over him, then a wave of nausea. The room looked distorted and blurry.

“I’m here, Trip,” T’Pol said. Her voice seemed detached and distant. A guard opened the cell door.

“You didn’t finish your job, engineer,” the guard said, pointing to Trip. “We gave you time, now you need to finish what you started.” Trip didn’t move from the wall. He was so tired.

“He cannot even stand, let alone repair anything. You will have to find someone else to fix your equipment,” T’Pol pleaded.

The guard snorted and took three quick strides over to where Trip was sitting. He hoisted him up and started to half walk, half drag him out of the cell. Recalling the guards’ threats to kill T’Pol, Trip cooperated as best he could. Before he could get to the cell door, however, his legs buckled under him; he slumped, dead weight, into the guard’s arms. The guard let him drop to the floor with a heavy thud.

“Leave him here,” T’Pol insisted. “I am the science officer on the ship. I may be able to finish what he started.”

The guard looked at her for a moment as if considering what she had said. T’Pol thought that the guard might actually take her instead. She was wrong. Instead, the guard turned around and kicked Trip in the side.

“Get up!” shrieked the guard.

Trip cried out in pain and crawled away from his attacker. Another coughing fit racked his body. He vomited blood and the white mush into a puddle on the floor, and then he collapsed in a heap beside it. Panting, he held his chest and waited for the next blow. It never came.

With a sound that resembled a growl, T’Pol tackled the guard and snapped his neck in one smooth motion. Sergeant Hayes gave her a look that was a mix between shock and fear. She ignored it and, as quickly as she had moved over to the guard, she was back at her mate’s side.

Trip lay, shaking, on the floor. Waves of pain crashed over him in a steady rhythm. T’Pol wrapped her arms around him and shifted his weight so that he was leaning against her. She moved her lips to his ear and softly comforted him.

“Do not worry, ashal-veh. Nothing else will harm you.” She held him until the shaking stopped. Trip seemed completely unaware of the dead guard lying two feet away from him.

T’Pol laid him down and lifted his shirt. The wound from the weapon had re-opened and was bleeding as heavily as it had been when it had first occurred. T’Pol changed the blood soaked cloth.

“No,” he pleaded softly, remembering the dream. She ignored him and went on bandaging the wound. When he saw that she was uninjured, he calmed down. Then T’Pol shifted his body so that his head lay in her lap. T’Pol gently wiped the blood from his mouth and the sweat from his face. She combed her fingers though his sweat-matted hair. Finally, Trip's breathing steadied and his body relaxed aside from the occasional shiver.

T’Pol frowned.

T’Pol hated the guards, hated the people who had brought them here, hated the man who had shot her mate.

She erased the scowl from her face so that Trip wouldn’t see it. She began stroking him again, then lightly placed her fingers of the pressure points of his face and closed her eyes.

A scream tore through her lips.

Trip opened his eyes, at first confused, and then he realized what T’Pol was doing. Sergeant Hughes jumped into action, startled by T’Pol’s cry.

“Get her off me, now!” Trip yelled hoarsely, while trying to push T’Pol away from him. Hughes was still confused about what was happening. Now T’Pol was sobbing as all of Trip’s physical pain and emotional grief ran through her at once.

“NOW!” Trip shouted again.

This time Hayes sprinted over to T’Pol and ripped her off of Trip. T’Pol spun around with inhuman speed and strength. She pinned the sergeant to the ground, bearing her teeth. When she realized who she was attacking, she quickly released him. “I apologize, Sergeant.”

“Don’t ever do that again,” Trip said softly. “I can’t let you do that, T’Pol. I love you too much.” T’Pol suppressed the growing feeling of anxiety that had welled up inside of her. She had failed in protecting her mate. T’Pol now knew the extent of his injuries, what Trip had been hiding from her.

Trip had propped himself up against the wall again. T’Pol carefully went over to where he was and sat down beside him.

Sergeant Hughes turned away from where they were sitting. He felt like he was disrupting something private.

“If that is what you wish, tal-kam,” she answered. T’Pol knew that there was nothing she could do but watch her mate die. T’Pol grasped his hand tightly in her own and flooded the bond with thoughts of peace and comfort.

Eventually, Trip grew tired again and lay down on his uninjured side. T’Pol lay down next to him, and listened to her mates breathing until she was sure that he had fallen asleep. She lay in the dark waiting for the guards to return but they never did.

=/\=

T’Pol got up with a start; she had heard a sound coming from the hallway. She quickly took a defensive position in front of the door, ready to kill anything that tried to harm her mate further. The cell door opened and…

“Captain!” T’Pol said, obviously surprised.

“What’s your status?”

“Sergeant Hughes and I are fine, but Commander Tucker needs immediate medical attention.”

“Where is Sergeant Carey?”

“She was killed when we were captured,” answered Hughes solemnly. Archer frowned and looked over at Trip.

“I’ll beam down Doctor Phlox.”

=/\=

Doctor Phlox rushed into the cell with two other med techs. He glanced around the room. T’Pol looked uninjured except for a large bruise on her face. His eyes moved over to Trip. He kneeled down next to him and ran his tricorder over Trip’s unmoving body.

“I’ll have to stabilize him here.” Trip had lost so much blood; Phlox was concerned.

Archer gave his friend another glance. It was hard to see his usually vivacious friend so lifeless. He looked so white and weak.

T’Pol looked haggard and her gaze never left Trip.

“How did you find us?” she asked.

“We picked up some beacons. It took us a while to track them here. There was a lot of interference.” He looked back over to Phlox who was still kneeling next to Trip.

“How did you gain access to the compound without imprisoning yourselves?” asked T’Pol.

“The people at the Vir’gid compound were very helpful. They have dealt with these people on a number of occasions. They had a gaseous sedative; we flooded the compound with it. No one was harmed and security teams from the Vir’gid colony are here to take them into custody.”

Archer looked over at the body of the guard lying on the ground. “What happened there?” he asked. T’Pol looked over, and then turned her attention back to Archer.

“I killed him,” she said simply, “It was necessary.”

Phlox gave Trip another hypo spray full of something. “It’s okay to transport him up to the ship now,” he said flatly. The two med techs gently lifted Trip onto a gurney.

“Seven to beam up.”

=/\=

“I’ll need to repair some of the damaged tissue surgically” Phlox explained. “He's lost a lot of blood. I'm not sure --- All of a sudden Trip’s breathing became erratic, as if he was chocking on air itself.

Then he stopped breathing altogether.

The piercing sound coming from the monitor pushed everyone into action.

“I need the defibrillator!” Phlox shouted over the noise. He placed the nodes in the appropriate places and gave Trip a jolt. Nothing changed. He let one of the med techs take over while Phlox pressed a hypospray to Trip’s neck.

“Again,” he shouted.

Nothing.

“Again.”

After the eighth time with no change, Phlox stopped, tears made his blue eyes sparkle. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “There is nothing else I can do.”

Archer had been watching T’Pol since they had gotten back to the ship. Now the expression on her face frightened him. The only way he could think to describe it was emotionless fury. Her face was blank, but her eyes were full of feral rage.

Abruptly, she attacked Phlox. “You,” she growled, pinning him against a wall. “This is your fault. You could have saved him,” she shrieked. “Why didn’t you save him?”

Archer, alarmed by his first officer’s actions, intervened. “T’Pol, what are you doing?” he shouted. She turned her attention towards Archer.

“He could have saved him. You could have saved him. You should have found us sooner. Why didn't you?” She pointed an accusatory finger at Archer.

She seemed confused by her own actions. Archer inched towards her but she immediately backed away. T’Pol began sobbing and collapsed to the floor.

“This is my fault,” she whispered between sobs. “I am responsible for his death.” Phlox moved over to where she was and injected her with a sedative.

“What just happened?” Archer asked. Phlox picked up T’Pol and placed her in the biobed next to Trip’s.

“That, Captain, is Vulcan grief. Losing touch with one's control, utter despair, and possibly even…death.”

“She’s going to die?” Archer asked in disbelief.

“I will do everything I can, Captain. I was afraid this would happen. It’s not uncommon on Vulcan. If a bond mate dies abruptly, the other dies shortly after. She would have a much better chance with a Vulcan doctor aboard.” Phlox’s tone indicated that he felt the entire world rested upon his shoulders.

“Bond mate? What… never mind.” Archer went over to the comm and hit the button with his fist. “Hoshi, contact the Vir’gid colony. Tell them we’ve recovered our missing people. Also inform them that we can be of no more assistance. Travis, set a course to Vulcan maximum warp. And Hoshi, one more thing.” Archer blinked back tears. “Tell Lieutenant Commander Hess that she has been promoted to Chief Engineer.” He almost choked on his words.

“Yes, sir,” Hoshi answered, her voice faltering.

“Malcolm, you have the bridge.” He cut of the comm link. “I’ve already lost my Chief Engineer. I’m not about to lose my First Officer too. Do everything you can for her.”

“Of course, Captain.” Phlox said seriously.

Archer took one last look at Trip’s lifeless form. Then he pulled the white sheet over his friend’s face and left the sickbay.

=/\=

When Archer reached his quarters, he stood at his door until he heard footsteps coming down the hall, then he went inside and sat down.

He pulled out a bottle of bourbon that Trip had given to him on his last birthday. He had been saving it for a special occasion, but it seemed like that moment would never come now.

He poured himself a glass and wished that Trip was beside him.

He stared at the chair Trip had always favored. He knew that now it would always be empty.

He thought about the last breakfast they had shared together and knew they would never have another.

His best friend was gone and there was nothing he could do about it.

As he thought of these things, tears started to stream down his face. He sat there thinking until the silent tears turned into audible cries.


Comments:

Ezinma88
Enjoying the story so far, but one major niggle... the link to the sequel doesn't work! More, I tell you! I want more! E88
Auroraborealis
[b][/b]Thank you all very much for your comments. The fact that you read my story means a lot to me!!:D
Alelou
Congratulations on your first story, AB! I particularly liked Trip's dream --it was vivid and believably nightmarish.
Dinah
Congratulations on finishing your first story! I really like your description of Trip's dream. You've done a very good job of making us aware of the emotions the characters are feeling.
justTrip'n
I read through half and it's exceptional. A lot of imagination went into creating this planet, it's people, it's plant life, and it's problem. I'm enjoying this story. Later!
Asso
[b]framework4Hmm[/b], I have seen the way teenage fools act. Frankly I don't think they act like these Trip and T'Pol.;) And, [b]Blacknblue[/b], I too don't usually go for stories with major character death, but something tells me that we have to await . I hope I'm not mistaking.:p
George S. Patton
These begging fools need a rain of torpedoes. Archer should demand their leaders head and the heads of most of the government for the deaths of his crewmen. What would have happened if the Klingons had answered their pathetic whine? At the very least, their power system should be destroyed.
Blacknblue
I always get renewed optimism when I see new stories by by fresh talent appearing. Keep writing, whatever you do. Keep writing, please. I am going to be following your work with interest. This is not a bad beginning at all. I don't usually go for stories with major character death, I will admit that. But I am still going to be interested to see where you take this anyway. Whatever you do, please keep writing.
framework4
Hmm, your Trip and T'Pol are very out of character. These two act like teenage fools.
Asso
If the following is as fantastic as the beginning, I have to sit,looking forward to your next installment and biting my nails with anxious waiting.:D

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