T'Marui reveals to T'Pol the dark side of politics within the Vulcan Science Academy. A TnT moment when Trip comes to T'Pol's rescue. Vulcan politics become more complicated, and the mysterious ship makes a second appearance.
T'Pol kept watch throughout the long night, and her concerns about T'Marui's condition increased. The scientist tossed and turned in her sleep, muttering about the Lost Colonists and those who wandered the stars. T'Marui muttered a word under her breath, lanka-gar, a bird. Not just any bird; a night-flier, a nocturnal predator. T'Pol paged through her PADD until she found the image of the underground mosaic of the “birds” taking Vulcans into the skies.
The more she gazed at it, the more she wondered if this was not just a creative interpretation of a mythical story. The logical part of her mind said, You have found no proof of it. All you have is a work of art and the ramblings of an injured woman.
The aftershocks rocked the valley and sent showers of loose rock and gravel on her head. The roof over them held, but T'Pol resolved to move T'Marui to a safer location at first light. She switched off the PADD and unfolded herself from her cross-legged position. Slowly, she went through her stretching and limbering exercises to restore the blood flow to her extremities.
A more logical explanation would be that the Colonists fell victim to a massive earthquake, she reasoned. It took them unawares---hence the interruption of normal daily activities in the underground city.
It had happened so quickly that they had no time to prepare for the outcome. Yes, that was the more likely explanation, and the simplest. Occam's Razor. T'Pol felt a stab of pity for T'Marui and her misguided beliefs; over four decades of work to prove a dream.
She finished her exercises, then checked T'Marui, who was still asleep. Quietly, she retrieved her canteen and T'Marui's and went out for water. A cool stream ran close to Daha'Kahr and spanned the floor of the valley. T'Pol had found it during her vigil, much to her relief. It only confirmed to her the wisdom of her ancestors and their courage to survive.
T'Pol bent and filled the canteens, then a flash of silver caught her eye. What is that? She followed the gleam of metal through a copse of trees. A trench about three meters deep branched off from the stream, the bottom of it damp with mud, but there was no water within it now. This trench was lined with stones in a rough checkerboard pattern.
An aqueduct? It made sense; the Lost Colonists would have to find a way to transport water over long distances to their settlements. T'Pol frowned as she saw the remnant of a camp at the edge of the aqueduct. Cooking implements were scattered around a rough firepit, the skeleton of what looked like an emergency shelter had long collapsed onto the ground. No one had lived here for some time now.
Her foot crunched on gravel as she approached the camp. A quick examination revealed that whatever calamity that befell the refugees was swift and brutal. Her scanner showed trace particles of blackened food in the pots and scorch marks on the remains of the shelter. More ancient storage devices lay haphazardly at the edge of the camp, but they were damaged beyond repair.
“Who were you?” she whispered. “Why did you come here to Beta Polaris? Was it an accident, or were you trying to unlock its secrets as well?”
T'Pol, come back. I need you.
She stiffened at the mental voice. T'Marui? I am coming. She turned and headed back to Daha'Kahr, picking her way carefully through the brush. Now that she could see in the morning light, she noticed details about the buildings that she had missed the night before. Many of the crumbling walls bore similar scorch marks. Unlike the underground city, Daha'Kahr had been close to completely gutted, its treasures carried off by rough hands. T'Pol stifled another surge of sadness at the irreparable loss.
Control thy emotions, T'Pol! Initiate level one of thy kolinahr discipline! She flinched at the sound of High Priestess T'Lya's stern rebuke, as if T'Lya was there with her. T'Pol closed her eyes and concentrated to keep the emotions at bay. The rising tide within her began to ebb and the conflicting impulses faded. She opened her eyes and felt the cool touch of logic once more.
“T'Pol, I see you went for water?” T'Marui rasped. Her face was tinged with green, with a slightly darker shade of emerald around her lips. Her hands clenched and unclenched involuntarily, as if she was staving off the inevitable.
Alarmed, T'Pol dropped to her knees next to T'Marui and ran her scanner over the scientist. “Your injury is worsening, T'Marui. We must find help.”
“Go...try to contact your ship and the others. Leave me here.”
“No, I refuse to leave you here to die.”
T'Marui managed a smile. “T'Pol, I have found what I have spent my entire life searching for. I have found proof of the existence of our Ancestors and their eventual fate. I am sure you and your captain will relay our findings to your mother and V'Lar.”
“It would have more meaning coming from the discoverer herself.”
“No, it wouldn't---” A spate of coughing interrupted T'Marui's words, and T'Pol held on to her until the racking shudders faded. Her eyes drifted shut, then snapped open, blazing with the desperate determination of a dying woman. “T'Pol, help me...at least, stem the pain. I am too weak for a healing trance, now, but I refuse to go mad like a le'matya in mating season! Please...do this for me.”
T'Pol hesitated; what T'Marui wanted involved a mind meld, the brief joining of thoughts. She felt an unspeakable chill go through her at the prospect. Again, T'Lya's voice reminded her, A Vulcan does not meld indiscriminately. Thy bondmate Koss desires a closer bond with thou, but only if thou allow it. He does not have the right to force himself on thy mind.
“I will not invade your thoughts, T'Pol. I may be unlike your typical Vulcan, but I will not impose myself upon you. No matter what your mother may believe of me, I do believe in the ethics of the mind disciplines.”
She nodded. “Very well. I will try to help ease your pain.”
T'Marui smiled slightly. “Thank you, T'Pol. I will be forever in your debt.”
T'Pol gently guided T'Marui's hand to her face as she found the corresponding psi points on T'Marui's face. “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts...” She sought comfort in the words of the ritual. “Breathe through the pain, allow it to lift from your mind and body, make your soul at peace from it, you no longer feel the pain...”
She felt a stab of agony slice through her, then it eased as she helped T'Marui raise a barrier between herself and the agony of her injury. There was little else T'Pol could do; even if they were miraculously transported to Doctor Reed's Sickbay, Malcolm could only ease her suffering, like T'Pol was doing now. Despite herself, she felt a thin thread of regret, that such a brilliant mind like T'Marui's would be lost.
And even as she formed the thought, she felt T'Marui's presence slacken, as if the scientist was already fading away. T'Pol grew alarmed as the protective barriers around her consciousness weaken as well, despite her best efforts.
And a lifetime of memories and sensations rushed into her, dazzling her with their intensity.
Shi’Kahr. The Vulcan Science Academy. T'Pol sat in a darkened auditorium with about a hundred other Vulcans. A spotlight came up on the sole person on the stage: T’Marui. She turned to her holoprojector and began her lecture. A Comparative Examination of the Lost Colonist to the Modern Vulcan.
As she talked, T'Pol felt the rising tension of the audience all around her. It swirled around her, smothered her, but kept in check by the strongest of shields. After the lecture, T’Marui invited questions from the audience. The voices around her babbled incoherently, angrily, and T’Marui grabbed her materials and left the stage.
T'Pol rose and went to the side exit. T’Marui stood there, waiting, her face a terrible mask. Her voice came unbidden, and T'Pol realized she was reliving one of T’Marui’s memories.
“Are you unharmed, T’Marui?” T'Pol asked.
“Those fools,” T’Marui said flatly. “Even when I attempt to show my work in a ‘logical' fashion, they refuse to even entertain the possibilities. And they call us emotional?”
And T'Pol's words came out of their own accord. “They are saddled with decades of misconception. We cannot overturn that in a single day. You planted the seeds of doubt among them. Give the seeds time to sprout.”
Then T'Pol found herself in a large room with a round table in the center. Harsh Vulcan sunlight streamed through the windows. Doctor T’Les, High Minister V’Lar and Security Minister T’Pau sat on one side of the table. T'Pol glanced to the side and saw T’Marui, dressed in plain robes. She does not wear any sign of her rank or position in the Academy. The thought put a lump in her throat.
“T’Marui, daughter of Stranek and T’Hel, the Vulcan Science Academy and the High Command have decided on your case,” said V’Lar. Cold impassivity shone in the minister’s eyes. “We cannot reinstate your position at this time. It has been determined that your work has caused controversy among the members, to the point as where productivity has been decreased.”
T’Marui’s mouth twitched. “Is that not the goal of science? To discover the answers of the universe? To form theories to be debated and tested among the members?”
“Yes, but the Science Academy deals with facts not fiction, T’Marui,” T’Les said.
“I have submitted my ‘facts’, T’Les—“
“Which are unsubstantiated, T’Marui. We cannot prove any of your theories and suppositions.”
“Because you do not bother to try.”
V’Lar took control of the situation before it degenerated into bickering. “My apologies, T’Marui, but our decision stands.”
The blatant arrogance of her mother and V'Lar, her godmother, appalled T'Pol. Intellectually, she understood their reasoning behind their decision, but the incident revealed the darker side of politics within the Vulcan Science Academy. The general belief that Vulcans had no emotions was a carefully crafted misconception; T'Pol had spent three months at Mount Seleya learning to control hers.
She'd been the victim of similar manipulation at the Vulcan Ship and Operations, which was the real reason why she had left that Ministry. T'Pol thought, They are scared, they know that this is the truth. How can we get them to accept the truth?
Yes, how? T’Marui’s voice echoed.
Images blurred past T'Pol, too quickly for her to make sense of it, but he heard T’Marui’s thoughts in his mind. She had worked slowly over the decades, consulting with other Vulcans not connected with the Academy and off-world sources. Refining and testing their theories. TMarui held debates, roundtables, and talks with her former students. Convincing a new generation to open their minds.
T’Marui and others went to outside financiers and convinced them to fund expeditions. Others offered ships and resources for deep-space assignments. There were those in V’Lar’s government who were dissatisfied with her absolute suppression of any “extraneous information”. Word was spread through veiled communiques and secret meetings.
Then the discovery of Beta Polaris. T’Marui seized the opportunity and made good on those favors she’d acquired from the government. The Enterprise. Doctor T’Les’s daughter volunteered for the mission, as well as the Human doctor, Reed. To T'Marui's utter delight, the unexpected manipulation of the ship's rosters also brought Lieutenant Commander Tucker, Commander Mayweather and former Diplomat Jonathan Archer to the Enterprise crew. This was the sign T’Marui was waiting for.
Again, T'Pol felt a stab of regret that T'Marui would not be able to redeem herself in the eyes of the Vulcan Science Academy. In response, the memories around her faded away into a blank white space, and T'Marui stood across from her.
“I cannot stay,” T'Marui said with genuine regret in her voice. “I am sorry.”
T'Pol tried to control her breathing, but it still came out in ragged gasps. “You promised not to invade my mind---”
“It was uncontrollable, T'Pol. The moment my body ceased to function, the barriers around my mind failed as well. It was not my intention to do this to you.” The slight smile vanished. “My body is dead, but you now possess every iota of information I have gathered over my lifetime. My memories, my intentions. Search them now...my goal is to save Vulcan's future by preserving our past.”
“But---” T'Pol's eyes widened. “You transferred your katra to me?”
“In a matter of speaking, but it is not a true transfer. My essence will not take up residence in your head, T'Pol.” T'Marui smiled wryly. “I will not float around and whisper in your ear like Commander Mayweather's ghosts. My work here is finished and I go to my rest in peace.”
“Why did you show me these...memories?”
“Because you alone would understand them, and why I did the things I had to do. You and I are kindred spirits. We share some aspects in common.” T;Marui glanced over her shoulder at some unseen summons. “When the time is correct, T'Pol, you will remember what I have given you, and act accordingly. Now, I must go, and you must return to the outside world. Forget now, but you will remember again.”
“Wait---” T'Pol reached for her, but the space around T'Marui brightened to blinding intensity, and she was gone. Gradually, she became aware of a voice calling her name. A male voice, with an incomprehensible drawl.
“T'Pol! T'Pol! Dammit, she isn't breathing!”
“Her body is in shock,” came the grim voice of the Vulcan doctor. Kov, T'Pol remembered his name. “If she was in mental contact with Doctor T'Marui when T'Marui died---”
“Breathe for her, Trip. Kov, I will need your assistance.”
She felt her physical body being laid gently flat, and her mind registered the edge of Trip Tucker's panic. Sorry about this, Darlin'. I know Vulcans hate to be touched, but it's necessary.
I understand. Do what you must. T'Pol's mind hardly registered the fact that neither had spoken aloud. She felt his mouth on hers, breathing oxygen into her lungs, but she was a detached observer. T'Marui had gone on a different path, and soon she must follow...
Oh, no you don't! We need you here, T'Pol! A whole bunch of us promised your mom and Soval that we'd look out for you and I aim to keep that promise!
The burst of intense emotion startled her. Dazed, she thought, Why? Why am I so important to you? You hardly know me...
There was a hint of hesitation, then he admitted, Well, I guess I need someone to make sure I don't run off and do something stupid and illogical.
Her mind-voice laughed despite herself, and she felt his surprise. I suppose I should assist in that worthy endeavor, then.
He gaped, then Wait a minute. You...you just teased me? What the...
T'Pol drifted off into a deep, healing sleep, wondering how often he was left at a loss for words.
“What the---” Trip felt light-headed, his thoughts in a confused muddle. He could have sworn he'd heard T'Pol talking to him, but that wasn't possible, she was unconscious. He felt Malcolm's hand on his shoulder.
“You can ease up, Lieutenant Commander. We've stabilized her condition, but we need a way to transport her up to Enterprise.”
The authority in Malcolm's voice was a splash of cold reality that cleared his head. Trip took a deep breath and glanced sideways at Kov. The doctor shook his head, sorrowful, and closed T'Marui's eyes. “We have come too late. She is gone.”
“I'm sorry, Kov.” Trip winced. The other Vulcan members of the expedition were gathered nearby, and although Trip was hardly a mind-reader, he could feel the regret and sorrow rolling off them in waves. He caught Malcolm's raised eyebrow and knew the doctor could also feel it.
“It was as if they knew T'Marui and T'Pol were in trouble. They wouldn't let a bunch of mountains stand in their way between them and their leader.” Trip winced again, this time as a muscle in his calf twinged in strain. They'd hiked through most of the night to get to this valley; only the consideration of the Human security and mediccal teams had convinced the Vulcans to stop briefly for a rest.
“Indeed,” Malcolm said in a low tone. “They have---they had the utmost repect for T'Marui.”
Sysek rounded the corner with three of his men. He raised an eyebrow at the sight of T'Pol still lying in Trip's lap, but chose not to comment on that. “Lieutenant Commander Tucker, there is something you should see.”
“What is it?” Trip gently extricated himself from being T'Pol's pillow and managed to get back on his feet.
“It is a disturbing sight, one that has me quite concerned for the safety of the expedition.”
If Sysek had reason for concern, then it was important. “All right, lead the way, Sysek. Malcolm, you're with me. Kov, stay with T'Pol. T'Rhis, Crewman Foster, Ensign Welsh, defense perimeter. Try to contact Enterprise or the captain.”
The group acknowledged his order and scattered to their assigned duties. Trip exchanged a grim look with Malcolm as they followed Sysek.
Travis Mayweather sighed as he paced the upper deck of the Bridge. He hadn't heard from Captain Sato or Lieutenant Commander Tucker; although Trip still had another hour to go before his formal check-in, Travis had heard stories of how he seemed to attract trouble wherever he went. According to Jon Archer, Trip always managed to get out of it unscathed.
He looked up at Lieutenant Bryan Trace at the Tactical Station and Ensign Murdo at the Comm station. Both men shook their heads simulataneously. Travis sighed and resumed his pacing. One part of him was relieved that the Bridge crew was adapting to a routine, another part of him worried about the captain. He should have never let her lead the rescue team underground after an earthquake. He...
Don't second-guess yourself. She would have overrode any of your objections. Captain Hayes warned you about how stubborn she could be. An involuntary smile quirked his lips. Matt Hayes knew Hoshi Sato better than anyone else, so if he called her stubborn...
There was a flurry of activity at the Tactical station, then Lieutenant Trace said, “Commander, we have a Vulcan destroyer on approach. It's the S'tranek.”
Travis frowned. “What's a Vulcan destroyer doing here? Ensign Murdo?”
“They haven't hailed us yet, sir.”
“Wake up Lieutenant Commander Archer and get him up here. Lieutenant Trace, call yellow alert.”
Three minutes later, Jon Archer rushed onto the Bridge, one hand still attaching the pips to his collar. Ensign Murdo moved to relinquish the comm station to him, but Travis indicated Murdo to stay where he was. “I might need you as a diplomat, Lieutenant Commander,” Travis told Jon. “That's the S'tranek out there.”
Jon frowned in confusion. “The S'tranek? That's Captain V'Krus's ship. He's a hard-liner from the Vulcan High Command, one of Minister Soultek's supporters. He was against the expedition in the first place.”
Travis made his way to the command chair and sat down, as Jon came up on his right. “Something must've happened on Vulcan if they sent him here. Ensign Murdo, hail the S'tranek.”
“Yes, sir.” Murdo worked his board, then nodded. “They're responding.”
The viewscreen lit up with the image of the S'tranek's Bridge. The Vulcan commander gazed at Travis with an impassive expression. Travis got up from the command chair and met the hostile gaze; Jon Archer stood ready to back him up if necessary. His presence seemed to put a check on the Vulcan commander's behavior, for the Vulcan managed to keep his tone civil.
“I was expecting Captain Sato. To whom am I speaking?”
The abrupt question surprised Travis, and judging from Jon's scowl, it was rude as hell. Travis kept a neutral tone. “I'm Commander Travis Mayweather, First Officer. Captain Sato is on the surface of Beta Polaris, and I'm in command while she's there. Can I help you, Captain?”
V'Krus glowered at him, but he grudgingly replied, “We are under strict orders to retrieve Doctor T’Marui alive and to confiscate any information in her possession. This is an internal Vulcan matter, Commander Mayweather. Once you have recovered Lieutenant T'Pol, your obligation to us is finished.”
Both of Travis's eyebrows shot up at the matter-of-fact tone. “Indeed?” he asked in a frosty tone. “Under whose orders?”
The commander raised an eyebrow. “Vulcan High Command's Minister Soultek has relayed his permission through Ambassador Soval I have my orders, Commander.”
Jon's eyes suddenly lit up in a “putting-it-all-together” sort of look. He addressed V'Krus in Vulcan.. “This...information contains...highly sensitive material, doesn’t it?”
He nodded slightly in confirmation. “More than you realize, Diplomat Archer.”Jon noticed that the commander had pointedly ignored his new Starfleet rank. “Ambassador Soval has the utmost confidence in you, but you must understand...there are issues that must remain uniquely Vulcan.”
Jon nodded slowly. “Indeed. I see your point.”
"I am gratified that you do. Please let us take care of our affairs in our own way." V'Krus switched back to Standard; his demeanor changed into one of wary respect. “Commander Mayweather, I understand you are following orders issued by your Starfleet and the Vulcan Council. I will relay a copy of ours to Diplomat Archer; they are quite specific. S’tranek, out.” His image vanished.
Travis scowled, his dark eyes flashing. “Why do I get the distinct feeling we’ve been told to back off?”
“Because we have.” Jon's stony expression didn't change. “Once we rescue T’Pol, the Vulcans consider our part in this affair over.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“They want to take care of T’Marui in their own way and their own time and they don't want us to interfere with that.” Jon glanced at Travis, the corners of his mouth turned down grimly. “Captain V'Krus is correct; T'Marui is a Vulcan citizen and not a member of Starfleet. If her work is considered a threat to Vulcan sovereignty, the situation becomes a High Command matter, not a Science Academy one.”
“But can they actually go in and take over like that?”
“Not usually, which is why I want to see those orders. V'Krus is honorable, if unbending in his beliefs. And I need to talk to Soval; he would have never agreed to something like this without a damn good reason.”
“Go ahead, Lieutenant Commander. I'm as concerned about this as you are---”
“Commander Mayweather!” Lieutenant Trace shouted from Tactical. “Our mystery ship is back!”
Travis's head snapped toward the viewscreen as the unknown ship coalesced into existence in front of them. He wasted no time as he sat in the command chair. “Red alert, raise the shields.”
Trace nodded. “They’ve powered up weapons, Commander. The S'tranek is responding. They’re targeting the winged ship's engines!”
Jon had reclaimed the comm station from Ensign Murdo. “V'Krus is issuing an order to stand down or be destroyed. No response.”
The strange bird-like ship lashed out a split second before the S’tranek did. The energy beams struck the Vulcan ship, causing its shields to short out for a brief moment. S’tranek ‘s reply was just as spectacular.
“Direct hit on the winged ship's engines. They’re coming around in an arc.”
A jolt shook the bridge, nearly shaking Travis out of his chair. “What was that?”
Commander Phlox's voice filtered from below decks. “Some sort of energy pulse is interfering with the shield generators. Compensating now.”
Trace's alarmed tone overlapped Phlox's report. "Commander---"
“I see it,” said Travis. “Ensign Dougherty, Z-minus twenty degrees. New heading, one-seven-zero mark two.”
“Aye, sir,” Doughtery replied.
Enterprise dropped gracefully out of the way between the two combatants. Now that the winged ship couldn’t hide behind Enterprise, it fired at the S’tranek as the destroyer went past. Their port nacelle flashed crimson and began trailing sparks.
“Direct hit on S’tranek’s port nacelle. Their speed is dropping...warp’s gone, they’re switching to impulse.” Lieutenant Trace squinted at his scanner. “The winged ship is going around for another pass.”
“How long before we can intercept them?” Travis asked.
“One minute, fifteen seconds.”
“Target their engines, Lieutenant Trace.”
“Aye, sir.” Trace scowled and added, “I'm having trouble getting a lock.”
“Best guess, Bryan. Fire.”
The phase cannons missed its target as it shot past, but it didn't turn to fire back at Enterprise. Instead, it arced again and attacked the S'tranek with a fiery laser barrage. The destroyer's shields brightened, but held.
Phlox's voice echoed again from the speakers. “Commander, I’m still reading fluctuations in the shield generator. I need a few more moments to compensate.” Suddenly, the Denobulan's tone rose sharply. “I have a problem.”
"What's wrong, Phlox?” demanded Travis.
"I'm getting interference---"
Lieutenant Trace shouted, "Torpedoes, twelve-hundred meters---"
"Hang on everyone!" yelled Ensign Dougherty. Travis braced himself for the impact...but the torpedoes missed Enterprise by a few thousand meters to port and struck the S'tranek instead. The destroyer buckled under the blast, heavily damaged. The winged ship arced away and vanished again.
"Damage report!" Travis called hoarsely, hoping someone could manage to do it.
Trace nodded at the information on his board and replied, “Minor damage on Decks C,D and E. No injuries, no fatalities.”
Phlox added from Engineering, “The shield generators are back to one-hundred percent, Commander. Whatever was interfering with their output has vanished.”
Travis blew out a relieved sigh. “Good. Stand by, Phlox...we might have to provide some aid to a Vulcan destroyer that decided to drop by. They got the worst of the attack.”
“Acknowledged, Commander, I'll have repair teams standing by.”
“Commander...the S'tranek's taken moderate damage,” Trace reported. “Their shields and warp drive are down.”
Jon glanced over his shoulder. “Captain V'Krus insists they can handle the damage themselves.”
Travis snorted and shook his head. “I'm sure they can. Lieutenant Commander Archer, tell them that we are willing to assist if they need it, but we'll respect their wishes. Bryan, start analyzing the sensor readouts of the attack. See if you can identify what was interfering with our shield generators. If our unwelcome friends have some sort of secret weapon they can use against us---”
Trace nodded grimly. “I'm on it, Commander. Why did they attack the S'tranek and all but ignored us?”
“That's what's bothering me.” Travis nodded at Jon. “Ready Room. We're going to talk to Soval.”
The crew is reunited on the surface of Beta Polaris. Jon reads Soval the riot act, but Soval has hidden connections to help the Enterprise crew. Malcolm shows shades of his "Armory Officer" persona, and Trip volunteers to help T'Pol with her "problem" with Soultek and Koss.
“The poor bastards,” Trip muttered.
Malcolm said nothing as he knelt at the edge of an indentation in the ground. It had been half-hidden by a stand of trees; Sysek and his team had nearly missed it. Wind and erosion had swept away the top layers of dirt. The skeletons within lay sprawled, face down, as if they'd fallen into the grave and died wherever they landed.
“Definitely not from the Lost Colonists. Whoever they were died rather violently and painfully.” Malcolm used a stick to lift a layer of leaves from one of the skeletons. “Broken ribs on this one. The one over there had the back of the skull crushed like an egg.”
Trip winced as he surveyed the two other skeletons. The bigger one lay upon the smaller one at an angle, as if he had turned his back at the last minute to protect the other. Husband and wife? Father and daughter? Lovers?
Trip yanked his mind from that track. “There aren't any signs of markers or any upkeep of the site. Nameless and forgotten. Damn.”
“There might not have been anyone left to do so.” Sysek gracefully got to his feet. “About how long ago, Doctor?”
“Judging from the rate of decomposition from my preliminary scans...probably twenty years ago. It's fortunate that enough of the remains are left after all this time, considering the climate.”
“Human remains? Vulcan? Someone else?” Trip asked.
Malcolm frowned as he deliberately closed his medical scanner with a snap. “Vulcan.”
Sysek stared at him. “You are sure?”
“Humans and Vulcans are similar in their physical attributes, but the few differences are striking. Yes, Sysek, I'm sure.”
Trip gave Sysek a measured gaze and said, “Looks like someone else beat T'Marui in discovering the Lost Colony.”
“If there had been a previous expedition to Beta Polaris, we would have known about it.”
“'We'?” Malcolm asked with a raised eyebrow.
“The Vulcan Security Ministry.” Sysek returned Trip's gaze steadily. “Minister T'Pau's contacts are more widespread than is known.”
Both men looked at each other, then Trip slowly nodded. “All right. If it was an accidental crash, who killed the survivors, and why?”
“I cannot say. There is not enough information to form a conclusion, Lieutenant Commander---”
Sysek's head snapped to his left, as if he'd heard something. Malcolm had also gotten to his feet with one hand on the phase pistol on his belt. Trip heard the distinct rustling of leaves, the crunch of dry grass; he waved at Malcolm to take cover, while he and Sysek waited for the intruder to show himself.
There was the sound of sliding, then a stream of Vulcan invective in a distinct feminine voice. Trip tried not to burst out laughing at the pure venom in the tone.
“Captain? Are you all right?” came another woman's voice. Crewman Christine Mason.
“I'm fine. Remind me to bring climbing equipment on our next Away Mission, including spikes and pietons...” There was splashing, then “Ponfo mirann!”
Trip glanced at Malcolm, who had raised his eyebrows at the curse, but humor danced in the blue-gray eyes. Sysek winced at the unladylike language, but Trip still felt his amusement.
And Captain Hoshi Sato stumbled out of the trees, her tan uniform covered with dirt, dust, and mud; her long dark hair in disarray. Mason followed, her appearance just as haggard. Hoshi glanced around her and her dark expression grew as she took in the sight of the skeletons in the shallow grave.
“Cap'n,” Trip said quietly. “Damn, you're a sight for sore eyes!”
Her head snapped up. “Trip!”
He smiled in relief as he approached her, but that smile faded at little as he took in her appearance. “You look like hell, but I'm glad to see you. Mason?”
“Yes, sir.” Crewman Mason managed a slight grin herself. “I managed to keep the captain out of trouble.”
“No mean feat, that.” Trip's humor faded as Hoshi glowered at him for that remark. “Cap'n, we managed to find T'Pol and T'Marui. T'Pol needs to be in Sickbay---”
Hoshi narrowed her eyes at that. “Is she all right? Where are they?”
Malcolm shook his head as he joined them. “She has undergone some considerable physical and mental trauma.T'Marui...she died minutes before we got to her. Doctor Kov is with both of them now."
Hoshi closed her eyes in sorrow., then opened them again. “Damn. I was hoping---I see that there are more remains here.”
She nodded at Malcolm and jerked her head in the direction from where she'd come. “Two skeletons, off to the side of the mountain trail that leads into the valley. Both in a shallow grave, and Mason thought it was a hasty burial. We found the remnants of a ship crash, but there wasn't enough of the ship left to tell who it'd been. One thing's sure...the crash itself was pretty violent; bits and pieces were scattered for at least half a kilometer.”
Trip and Sysek exchanged looks, then Sysek said, “It confirms our suspicion that there were others who came here before the expedition, Captain. These Vulcans---” he pressed his lips together as he indicated the shallow grave, “---had met an abrupt and unceremonious end.”
Mason frowned. “They're Vulcans?”
Malcolm nodded in confirmation, but his eyes were still on Hoshi. “Yes, Crewman.”
“The other two we found also showed signs of trauma, Doctor. Broken bones, shattered ribs...”She shivered, despite herself. “It wasn't a pretty sight.”
Hoshi took a deep breath and said, “I'm beginning to understand why the Science Academy was so reluctant to allow us here. Something happened here that isn't in the official history books.”
“Indeed,” Malcolm agreed, “but our first priority is T'Pol's welfare. She needs medical care.”
“Take me to her, Malcolm.” Hoshi unhooked the communicator from her belt and tossed it at Trip. “I managed to reroute some of the circuits and it picked up a weak signal about two hundred meters that way. If we can boost the receiver, we might be able to contact Enterprise and get T'Pol to Sickbay.”
Trip caught the communicator with a slight smile. “Thanks, Cap'n. Sysek and I'll get right on it.”
She wiped the grime off her face with the back of one hand, then gave Malcolm an expectant look. He reached over and put a hand on her shoulder, then directed her back towards the ruined city. Trip watched them go with a bemused expression.
“They are...attuned to each other.”
Sysek's observation startled him. “You can tell that just by watchin' them?”
The Vulcan nearly smiled. “Like you, I notice the subtle things.”
Travis felt the tension between Jon and Soval. The Vulcan ambassador's features were closed off, inscrutable, but Jon's face clearly showed the anger that Travis also felt. He said nothing and allowed Jon to talk to Soval.
“Has the Vulcan Council and the High Command lost their collective minds, Soval? Two groups who pride themselves on their logic are certainly not thinking logically!”
“Unfortunately, I must agree with the sentiment, if not the exact wording, Jonathan.” Soval said gravely. “There is much at stake here, not to mention the stability of our social structure as it is now.”
He crossed his arms and said, “Soval, you are a logical and honorable Vulcan, but the Council and the High Command are reluctant to share vital information with us. We risked our lives to gather information on Beta Polaris, which turned out to be a virtual landmine. The S’tranek shows up and tells us that once we retrieved T'Pol, we weren't involved in this matter anymore.”
Soval said nothing, although he didn't seem surprised at the rage in Jon's leaned forward and continued, “We were involved from the time the crew rosters were tampered with and our orders changed.”
“Jonathan, I assure you—“
Travis raised a hand and broke in. “And I assure you, Ambassador, that since Lieutenant T'Pol and Captain Sato are still on the planet's surface, Starfleet is involved. So, if High Minister V’Lar is still interested in multi-species Starfleet crews, I suggest that she keeps an open mind concerning other races. That means cooperation between us.”
The ambassador glanced at Jon, but he realized there would be no help coming from that quarter. Soval gave a silent sigh, then said, “Very well, Commander Mayweather. I will tell you what I can, but I must also remind you that I am still bound by High Minister V’Lar’s instructions. As your people would phrase it, ‘my hands are tied’.”
“Understood, Ambassador,” Travis said, and Jon nodded in agreement.
Soval’s jaw was set, but he went on. “Our race was not always ruled by logic. Millennia ago, we were emotional...irrational. Surak brought the tenets of rationality and logic to our people. The transition was slow, but eventually, the Vulcans turned away from war and destruction. We would rather present an united front to other races, but like any other race, we do have our...differences.”
He closed his eyes, as if in pain. “Eventually, the followers of Surak prevailed. Our people embraced logic and turned their attention to the stars. Vulcan established its own colonies, for exploration and defense. Over the years, they were abandoned, for reasons unknown, the original Colonists vanished as if they never were. Beta Polaris was re-discovered by a manned Vulcan craft that crashed onto the surface, but the crew managed to send their information before all contact was lost.”
Jon's frown deepened at this new information. “Wait, Soval. How long ago was this?”
“Twenty-two point three five years ago.”
“And this is the first we've heard of this?”
Soval opened his eyes and reluctantly admitted, “It was not a scientific exploratory craft. It was a ship from the Vulcan Security Ministry, sent by orders of the High Command.”
“Minister Soultek,” Jon said flatly. Travis glanced at him, struck at the utter lack of emotion in Jon's voice. “He wanted to find out whatever secrets Beta Polaris had.”
“And whatever T’Marui found there just opened a new can of worms,” Travis added.
“Indeed.” Soval’s eyes flashed in anger. “Fifty years ago, Doctor T’Marui became the head of the archaeology department at the Science Academy and began her research into the Lost Colonies. Her work was...controversial to say the least. It caused an uproar in the scientific community and she lost her research grants. Personally, I believe T’Marui’s work to be spun of lies, fiction and wishful thinking. Her reasoning is hardly rational. The High Council ignored her and tried to downplay her zealous claims.”
Jon frowned at Soval's words and traded looks with Travis. Travis thought, Fiction? The data and evidence T'Marui gathered seemed pretty logical and rational to me. Something isn't right here...it sounds like they're trying to suppress her findings.
“But now, for some reason, they're taking T’Marui’s fiction seriously.”
“Yes, Jonathan.” Soval looked directly at him. “Soultek is convinced that T’Marui and her followers will destabilize Vulcan society with their work.”
“High Minister V’Lar and Minister T’Pau have never struck me as overly paranoid, Soval. Why the sudden change? Will T’Marui be able to achieve what they fear?”
“It’s not like you'd would throw away two thousand-plus years of logic and go back to being ‘irrational’,” Travis pointed out. “Like us.”
A ghost of a smile appeared on Soval’s lips, but it vanished so quickly that Travis wasn’t sure it had been there in the first place. “Yes, High Minister V’Lar’s and Minister T’Pau’s reactions seem highly illogical. They have not seen fit to share their rationalizations with me, but I suspect that they know more than they have communicated. And with T’Pol—“ Soval’s voice trembled slightly, but again, he recovered so quickly that Travis missed the lapse, “—Doctor T’Les is also not thinking clearly. I must admit it is difficult to do, and logic becomes uncertain, when a family member is concerned.”
“So much for the belief that Vulcans don’t have emotions,” Travis groused.
Jon chuckled and said, “How many times to I have to tell you? They have them; they just control them better than we do. It seems they don’t have them when they’re completely in control.” The flash of humor was gone as quickly as it came. “And Soultek sent V'Krus to take T'Marui and the expedition into custody.”
“Yes. I lodged a formal protest at the...irregularity of procedure, but the final order was confirmed by V'Lar herself.” A shadow of a smile passed across Soval's lips. “Yet I do have the power to make requests of my own.”
“Sneaky, as Trip would say,” Travis muttered to himself.
Soval raised an eyebrow, but replied, “Indeed, though I prefer the word 'cunning'.” He deliberately ignored Travis's look of complete shock. “Diplomat Archer, I address you now as a member of the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps, and Commander Mayweather, as Starfleet's representative on Captain Sato's behalf.”
The authority in Soval's tone definitely ended the 'off-the-record' part of the conversation. Travis nodded and said, “Yes, sir.”
“Ambassador Soval?” Jon asked. “How may I serve?”
“Diplomat Archer, I charge you with the welfare of Doctor T'Marui and her team. On their return to Enterprise, she and the others will again come under Starfleet protection. Do not worry about Captain V'Krus; I will explain the situation to him. Commander Mayweather, upon retrieval of Lieutenant T'Pol, proceed in due haste to Vulcan, and the Medical Academy. Please inform Captain Sato of what we have discussed, and impress upon her the gravity of the situation.”
Travis nodded at the formal words. Sneaky is right. I never expected it from the ambassador, but I guess I should have. “Yes, Ambassador.”
“I shall relay the formal request through the Vulcan High Council and ask Admiral Forrest to formalize Enterprise's orders. Minister V'Lar wishes that the Beta Polaris Expedition return as soon as possible, and I agree that the process should be expedited as quickly as possible. Diplomat Archer, Commander Mayweather, do you understand the duties I have impressed upon you both?”
“Yes, Del'haiu. I shall do as you command.”
Soval nodded in satisfaction. “I will meet you on Vulcan upon your arrival. Soval, out.” His image disappeared from the screen.
Travis let out a long whistle. “Wow. I'm impressed.”
Jon smiled dryly and said, “Soval's a politician. He knows how to play the game better than anyone else I've seen. If there's a way around things, he'll find it.”
“And you've learned a trick or two from him, I'm sure.” He gave Jon a wide grin. “I'm glad you guys are on our side. I'd hate to think if you two were our enemies.”
The whistle from the comm interrupted Jon's reply. “Ensign Murdo to Commander Mayweather. We've got a weak signal from the surface. It's Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
Travis nodded at Jon and said, “Pipe it to the Ready Room, Ensign.”
“It's pretty spotty, but I'll do my best to boost the signal, sir. Transferring now.”
Trip's voice was distorted by static, but they could still hear him. “...---prise, do you read? This is Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
“Good to hear your voice, Lieutenant Commander,” Travis replied. “We've been having some communication difficulties; Lieutenant Commander Archer's working on them.”
Jon broke in. “We've got interference and signal leakage, Trip, similar to what happened on Augrada, so don't be surprised if we lose you for a brief moment while I chase out the gremlins.”
“Sic Porthos on 'em. That'll fix the gremlins real quick.” Trip took on a more formal tone. “We need a medical team down here, Commander. Most of us are okay, but Lieutenant T'Pol needs help ASAP. The Cap'n and Crewman Mason ended up slidin' down a ravine and into a stream. Needless to say, the Cap'n's not exactly in a good mood.”
“I'll get Lieutenant Cutler down there right away.”
“Travis, Jon...” Trip hesitated, then went on, “We've got a casualty. Doctor T'Marui died of a head injury three hours ago. She was already gone by the time we got to her. I'm sorry.”
Jon's eyes widened and Travis swore under his breath. That changed everything.
“The members of the Expedition are pretty adamant about takin' her body back home to Vulcan for a formal burial. I don't blame 'em.”
“Neither do I. All right, I'll send a team down. Trip, the S'tranek's in orbit around Beta Polaris, with orders to accompany us back to Vulcan. We leave as soon as possible.”
There was a slight pause, then Trip said, “The S'tranek? Captain V'Krus? Damn, they really know how to choose an escort. If you could let the S'tranek know what's going on, I'd appreciate it, and Jon, have V'Krus contact me? He and I have some stuff to to discuss.”
Jon's smile didn't reach his eyes. “Unfinished business?”
“Somethin' like that.”
“I'll let him know.
“The Cap'n wants to hold a briefing when we're all aboard. It's been one hell of a stay down here.”
Travis sighed. “That's an understatement, Lieutenant Commander. Talk to you when you and the Cap'n get up here. Enterprise, out.” He looked over at Jon. “The Augrada?”
“One of Hoshi's and Trip's more colorful adventures when they served together on the Madagascar with then-Captain Forrest. Their comm frequencies had been tapped by someone who looked like a friend but was really an enemy.”
“I wouldn't be surprised if V'Krus was eavesdropping from S'tranek. And the 'unfinished business'?”
Jon's tone was deadpan. “Soval isn't the only one with connections, Travis. I'll be on the Bridge.” And with that mysterious comment, he left the Ready Room, leaving a bemused and confused Travis in his wake.
The first thing T'Pol was aware of was the sound of medical equipment. It woke her from her healing trance and she opened her eyes to see the harsh lights of Sickbay overhead. She blinked, her inner eyelids automatically shielding her vision from the glare.
“T'Pol? How are you feeling?”
The slightly English-accented Vulcan could only have come from one person, Malcolm Reed. She must be on Enterprise; so her hazy recollection of his presence, and Trip's, had not been a dream. She blinked again, this time in confusion. Trip? Lieutenant Commander Tucker? Why would I think of him by his nickname when I barely know him?
“I...am thirsty,” she rasped, her harsh croak sounded nothing like her own voice.
“Here.” Malcolm pressed a glass of water into her hands and helped her sit up. “Sip it slowly. You're still recovering.”
She gratefully did as he advised, and leaned heavily against the pillows when she was done. “T'Marui? Is she---?”
Malcolm shook his head sorrowfully. “I'm sorry, T'Pol. We reached her moments after she died.”
She squeezed her eyes shut against the surge of grief, and called upon her training to stem the pain. “She hit her head and there was nothing I could do.”
“The most you would have been able to have done is to keep her comfortable.”
His words woke the faintest hint of an echo, deep within her memory, but it disappeared before she could retrieve it. She opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. “At least...she did not die in agony.”
“You melded with her?” She heard the concern in his tone, despite his efforts to hide it. “You could have easily died with her, T'Pol.”
“She pleaded with me not to allow her to die in pain. It was...most distressing.” The admission drained her. “I could not let her...”
“'The spear in your heart is the spear in the Other's. You are he.' You don't need to explain your actions, T'Pol. Compassion at the suffering of others is also part of the Vulcan way.”
She nodded, grateful that Malcolm understood. Of course, he would have understood; he was a doctor, dedicated to saving lives and easing the pain of those who couldn't be saved. “Her body---”
“Her body is in stasis, and there it will stay until we reach Vulcan. Enterprise is on its way there, accompanied by Captain V'Krus and the S'tranek.”
The words were like a blast of icy water and she shivered. “The S'tranek? What is V'Krus doing here?”
Malcolm sat heavily in the chair by her bed and rubbed his eyes for a moment before he answered. “Your future father-in-law sent him to take T'Marui and the others into custody, for potential treason.” His smirk held no humor. “Of course, V'Krus was quite displeased when he found out about T'Marui's passing. I believe he was looking forward to detaining her on his ship.”
“T'Yalle, T'Illiya, Kov, and the others?”
“They are detained on Enterprise, per Soval's direct request.” He told her about the attacks on Enterprise and the S'tranek, about Soval's conversation with Jon and Travis, and and about all that had happened since T'Marui's death.
“This winged ship...I would like to see the tactical analysis and sensor readings from the two separate attacks. If it is a design I have seen before in my time in the Ship and Space Operations Ministry, I may be able to identify it.”
He replied, “I can have Commander Mayweather and Lieutenant Commander Tucker send those to you. There is more...” He told her, and her eyes widened at the revelation of the Vulcan Security Ministry's previous visit to Beta Polaris and the discovery of the Vulcan skeletons.
“I served briefly with the Security Ministry and heard nothing of this.”
“Soultek wouldn't have told anyone who didn't need to know at the time,” Malcolm pointed out. “Especially you. He wouldn't have trusted you enough not to tell your mother or Soval.”
She gave him a grudging nod. “Logical, at the time. I have...renegotiated my status as Koss's bondmate.”
This time, Malcolm's smirk was cold. “And he wants you to spy for him, correct?”
“How did you know? I've told no one---”
“If I were in his position, I'd find a way to acquire the information I need, using whatever resources at my disposal.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “You sound like a member of the Security Ministry yourself.”
He shrugged and replied, “It's only logical. Such thinking requires a certain mindset...and remember, my father once worked for Her Majesty's Defense Ministry himself.”
T'Pol gazed at him. For one moment, she could see him in Security, just as she could see Trip Tucker in Engineering. She shook her head and mused over the ironic fact that the son of Admiral Stuart Reed, a weapons designer for the Royal Navy, was a doctor.
“Indeed. Will you inform Captain Sato of my...arrangement?”
“I won't. You will.” Malcolm returned the steady gaze. “It is only fair, considering she is your commanding officer now, T'Pol. Technically, you are compromising her trust in you...and also compromising security of the ship. I'm sure Trip would understand your difficult situation, if you explain it to him.”
“This will also assume that Lieutenant Commander Tucker...Trip...would not immediately arrest me on the grounds of being a security liability and potential traitor to Starfleet.”
His look was beginning to unnerve her, but again, a slight smile creased his lips. “On the contrary. I believe that he would be sympathetic to his plight.”
She sighed and thought, Who is supposed to watch over whom? Aloud, she said, “I will take your advice, Malcolm, and speak to him about this matter.”
To say that Trip was disturbed at T'Pol's admission was understating it a bit. He kept his own emotions at bay as she confessed her agreement with Koss, especially regarding information regarding Enterprise and her crew. Yes, he was upset, but more at Soultek and Koss than at T'Pol. He didn't envy her position at all; in fact, he knew exactly how she felt.
By the time she'd finished, he'd already had several ideas on how to tackle the problem. Trip nodded as she fell silent and said, “I'm glad you came to me with this, T'Pol. Yeah, I'm pretty angry, but not at you. I'm pissed off at those men who put you in this mess.”
Her eyes widened at the vehemence in his tone. “I agreed to the arrangement in exchange for delaying the formal wedding ceremony. It was a selfish impulse---”
He snorted. “Selfish? I know you grew up with the 'needs of the many' credo, but sometimes the 'needs of the one' can be just as important. Listen, I got a couple of ideas that might help.” Trip took a deep breath and outlined his proposal.
T'Pol waited until he was done, then raised a thoughtful eyebrow. “What you have proposed is intriguing, Lieutenant Commander, but will that not be falsifying official Starfleet reports?”
“Nah, we won’t be falsifying anythin’. We’ll just agree on what to tell the High Command,” Trip pointed out. He glanced at the closed door of her quarters, then at the black box sitting on her dresser. Trip had borrowed a “little piece of equipment” from now-Captain Matt Hayes a long time ago, one that enabled him and T’Pol to talk about this in privacy.
She leaned back among her cushions of her couch and frowned. “Ah. So if Soultek decides to verify the truth, it will bear up under his scrutiny.”
“Right. We’ll double-check it with Hoshi and Admiral Bronson at Starfleet Security, but I don’t see why we can’t do it this way.” Trip shook his head and sat back in his seat. “Lemme get this straight: this Soultek guy is effectively your father-in-law?”
“No,” she objected, her voice more forceful than Trip had ever heard it. “No, he is not my father-in-law. I am betrothed to his son, Koss; I have been since I was seven years old. Yet we are not yet married and will not be until my service to Starfleet is ended .”
“That might be a while, T’Pol. And till then, Soultek and Koss are basically in the driver’s seat, as far as controlling your future.” That left a bad taste in Trip’s mouth. How in the world did T’Les allow her daughter to be joined with a snake like Koss? It just didn’t make any sense to him.
Her mouth trembled, but she nodded. “Yes. Soultek is influential in the High Command, second to Minister T’Pau. Koss’s family is traditional and have a long, distinguished line in the defense of Vulcan. At the time, my mother believed they would be adequate for a suitable family.”
“Tradition. I should’ve known.” T’Pol’s eyes flashed, but he raised a hand. “Look, I’m not knockin’ tradition. It can be a great thing to have, a guide for your life. But sometimes, even the stiffest tradition’s gotta change.”
“I agree. Tradition would say that Humans are illogical, rampantly emotional and unsuitable for companions.”
Trip blinked and tried not to choke at the words. She’d said them utterly deadpan, so he’d been ready to defend Humanity’s greatest qualities. Then he caught the slightest glimmer of humor in her eyes and the arguments died in his throat. Damn the woman, she’s good. I nearly fell for it.
Instead, he reached for his PADD and said, with greater dignity, “Well, now that we've got that settled...Malcolm told me you used to work for the Vulcan Ship Operations Ministry.” He keyed the images of the unknown winged ship, then handed her the PADD.
She took it with a curious frown, then she narrowed her eyes at the foreign ship. It was a subtle gesture, but Trip saw it. "T'Pol, do you recognize it?"
"I may have seen the design before, but I cannot recall where," T'Pol replied, her words soft and careful. Malcolm had mentioned that she had spent twelve years working for Vulcan's Space and Ship Operations Ministry, so it was possible that T'Pol had seen it before. “Have you asked Commander Mayweather?”
"Travis? Nothing he's seen, and he's seen some strange ships, growin' up a Boomer. It doesn’t match anything in our database. Any way you can ask anyone in the VSSOM?”
She thought, then nodded. “I still have contacts within my old department. Perhaps I may be able to find some information.”
“That would really help. Thanks.” He smiled and got to his feet. “Our ETA to Vulcan in in ten hours, so I suggest you get some rest. You went through the wringer on Beta Polaris and---” he hesitated, then he said, in accented Vulcan, “---I grieve with thee, on the death of thy friend.”
She froze for a split second. Although her face was still impassive, her eyes betrayed her gratefulness. “Thank you, Lieutenant Commander.”
His smile softened. “It's Trip, okay? I'd be really honored if you'd use the name. Good night, T'Pol.” He left quickly before he was tempted to say anything else.