Disclaimer: I don't own Enterprise (well, I do have a tiny one that my husband gave me for Christmas) or any of the regular characters, and I'm not making any money from this story.

Warning: This is another not-so-nice story. I tried to write a happy story but I didn't like the way it was coming out, so I wrote this one. Be prepared for some pain (hopefully not on the reader's part, however!).


Signs of Life

Chapter 1: Hunting Party

Day 1: 1100 hours

"Just look, Cap'n! They're practically sitting on the surface!" Trip pulled back from the viewer and turned to Archer with eyes shining greedily. "Come on, we gotta go get some," he said eagerly.

"Relax, Trip, that dilithium isn't going anywhere," Archer replied with a grin at his engineer's enthusiasm. "Let's take it one step at a time, all right?"

Archer leaned back in his chair and studied the viewscreen, which showed a blue and green marbled planet much like Earth. The northern hemisphere was a complete blank-for some reason their scans hadn't been able to read any information from that half of the planet. The southern hemisphere was dotted with small, infrequent pockets of red, indicating people groups, and several large splotches of orange which delineated enormous dilithium deposits.

"Captain, I would advise against a mining expedition to this planet," T'Pol put in. "The inhabitants appear to maintain a hunter/gatherer society, with no advanced technology. Our presence may irreparably harm their culture."

"They won't even know we're there. We can land here, see?" Trip said, crossing to the viewscreen and pointing at an uninhabited area. "There's no people living anywhere around there. We can scoop up some crystals and be gone in a couple of hours."

"What you are proposing is theft, Commander," T'Pol said evenly.

"Oh, come on, T'Pol. It's not like they're gonna need them, and besides, there's plenty. Just a couple of those babies'll power this ship for a long time." Tucker turned to the captain. "We've been gone a whole lot longer than we intended, Cap'n. Our supplies are getting low, and who knows when we'll be back in space dock? It might not be for years. You don't wanna be stuck in space with a worn-out crystal and no spares, do you?"

Archer contemplated for a moment. "You make a good point, Trip. What's the minimum amount you could collect that would make it worth our while?"

"I think a couple of kilos would be just fine. That wouldn't even make a dent in those deposits down there, but it'll be plenty for us for a long time."

Hoshi spoke up from her spot at the end of the briefing table. "I'm a little concerned that we're not able to get any scans of over half the planet, Captain. We have no idea what might be out there."

"Who cares?" Trip shot back before Archer could respond. "I mean, we're not going to the northern hemisphere, so what does it matter what's there?"

Archer shot Tucker a look and he immediately stopped pacing and dropped back down into his seat. "That's a valid issue, Hoshi," the captain said. "Have you been able to get any information from the sensors?"

"Nothing at all, Captain. It's almost like the northern half of the planet doesn't exist, at least for the sensors. The only information we have is what can be seen with the naked eye, which isn't much. The southern hemisphere is a different story. As you can see, we have lots of details there."

From next to Hoshi, Malcolm put in his two cents. "I'd like to take a security detail on any away team, Captain. We don't know what we may encounter on the surface."

"Hold on there, Malcolm. T'Pol's right-we need to keep our presence on the planet to a minimum. I don't see a problem with helping ourselves to a few crystals,"-Archer held up a hand to forestall the comment that he knew was about to come from T'Pol-"provided we avoid all contact with the natives. That's more likely to happen with a small landing party than with a large one." Everyone around the table nodded in agreement.

"So who's going?" Trip asked quickly.

"Would two people be able to set up the equipment and do the job?"

"I guess so."

"Then I'm sending you and T'Pol," Archer said. Identical expressions flitted across both Tucker and T'Pol's faces, one of skepticism mixed with slight irritation. T'Pol's expression was quickly suppressed, while Trip's lingered a little longer. Archer decided to ignore them. "How long will the project take?" he asked Trip.

"No more than three or four hours."

"All right, get your supplies together. You can leave in two hours. I'll have Travis drop you off and come back for you when the job's finished. I don't want to risk leaving a shuttle on the surface for that long. In the meantime, Hoshi, keep trying to scan the northern hemisphere. You're dismissed."

Day 1: 1330 hours

"Geez, Travis, can't you keep it steady?" Trip called from the back of the shuttlepod. He shot out a hand to keep a piece of fragile equipment from hitting the floor as the pod bounced again.

"I'm sorry, sir. Usually re-entry isn't this rough. Must be air turbulence." Mayweather's shoulders tensed as he fought to keep the craft stable.

The pod bounced several times, hard, almost knocking T'Pol out of her seat. Trip caught her with his other hand. She straightened herself up primly without looking at him, and said nothing. You're welcome, Trip thought sarcastically. This was going to be quite a fun little outing, he could tell already. T'Pol seemed to be in one of her 'moods', which she of course would deny to her dying breath. He could just hear her, "Vulcans don't have 'moods'," she would say. Yeah, right.

After several uneventful minutes, the shuttle finally landed in a small clearing surrounded on all sides by trees. Trip immediately opened the hatch and began to unload the mining equipment, with help from T'Pol and Travis. When everything had been off-loaded, T'Pol went back for the emergency kit.

"We're not gonna need that," Trip told her. "We're only gonna be here for a few hours."

"By definition, Commander, an emergency is an unexpected event. We should always be prepared for the unexpected."

Trip shrugged. "Whatever. It's just one more thing we'll have to reload when Travis comes back." He waved to Mayweather, who was climbing into the shuttlepod. "We'll call you when we're done."

Travis waved back. "See you then," he called as he sealed the hatch. Trip and T'Pol stood back as the pod lifted off and soared away.

"I guess we'd better get started," Trip said eagerly. He began to spread the equipment out on the ground. T'Pol took out her tricorder and commenced to slowly pace back and forth across the clearing, head bent over the device. Oh, don't worry about the heavy stuff, I got it, Trip thought in irritation. With an effort he kept his tongue because he knew that anything he said would just be thrown back in his face anyway.

Trip opened the cases and checked to make sure all of the sensitive equipment was intact. It would be just his luck to end up with a broken drill bit. T'Pol would sure give him an earful if that happened. To his relief everything appeared undamaged. He took the surveying gear from its case and began to assemble it.

"I have located a vein of dilithium ore which is very near the surface, approximately one meter down," T'Pol reported, breaking Trip's concentration on his task. He looked up at her, squinting into the sun which made her look like she had a halo, sort of like a surreal pointy- eared angel/demon combo.

"Where is it?"

"Approximately fifty meters south of here. I have marked the spot." T'Pol scooped up two of the equipment bags along with the emergency kit, then turned on her heel and walked away toward the south.

With a scowl, Trip loaded himself up with the rest of the containers and struggled to follow. He hoped they could finish this job quickly because T'Pol was definitely in one of her moods today.

When they reached the spot, they quickly set up the drilling equipment. As soon as it was assembled, Trip activated the drill and hovered over it anxiously while T'Pol wandered off again with her tricorder.

Nearly two hours later, Trip finally looked up from his work long enough to scan the sky, and was surprised to see a line of black clouds squatting threateningly along the northern horizon. The weather had been completely clear when they had touched down, and scans had shown cloudless skies for a hundred kilometers in every direction. While he watched the clouds grew bigger and blacker, and were definitely moving their way.

"Hey T'Pol," he called. She stopped her pacing and looked up at him with her eyebrow raised. "Check out the clouds to the north."

"I have been observing the cloud formation for the past thirty-one minutes. I believe they are moving in our direction."

Great, thanks for telling me, Trip thought. Aloud he said, "Do you think we should be worrying about it?"

At that moment, a bright spike of lightning flashed through the sky, followed a second later by a loud clap of thunder. Almost immediately the sky darkened as clouds gathered with unbelievable speed.

"I believe we should take cover, Commander!" T'Pol shouted over the rising wind. Trip just nodded. They gathered up as much as they could carry and both ran toward the relative shelter of nearby trees. Halfway there, Trip slipped, twisted his right knee, and dropped one of the containers, which popped open and spilled pieces of machinery all over the ground.

"Shit!" Trip dropped to his knees, ignoring the pain, and frantically began to collect the tiny metal bits. Fat drops of rain started to fall, hitting the ground with audible splats. Within seconds he was soaked to the skin, with water pouring into his eyes from his saturated hair. Another flash of lightning lit the darkened sky, followed less than half a second later by another peal of thunder.

Suddenly T'Pol was beside him. She snapped the case closed and hoisted it, along with another of the bags, up over her shoulder. "Commander, we must get under cover!" she yelled at him. With a sigh of frustration he grabbed the rest of the equipment and limped after her.

Trip slid to a stop under the shelter of the trees just as lightning flashed again, so bright it almost blinded him. With a loud sizzling sound the bolt struck the drill, which was still set up in the clearing. A shower of sparks flew. The thunder which sounded at the same time covered the sound of Trip cursing vehemently.

Beyond the edge of the protection of the trees, the rain began to pour even harder, creating a noisy racket as the drops hit the leaves and ground. Even under the trees they were surrounded by dripping water.

T'Pol flipped open her communicator. "T'Pol to Enterprise," she shouted over the din. There was no response. She repeated the hail with the same result. Trip pulled out his communicator and tried as well, but was met only with static, then silence.

"I do not believe they can hear us." The Vulcan closed her communicator and returned it to her belt.

"Great, just great!" Trip push back the wet strands of hair plastered to his forehead and wiped the rainwater from his face. A cold trickle dribbled down the back of his neck, causing him to shiver involuntarily. The surrounding temperature had dropped precipitously with the advent of the storm, and in his wet uniform, Trip was feeling every degree.

"Remove your wet clothing," T'Pol said. She zipped open the emergency kit and extracted two foil blankets.

"What about you?" he asked her quickly.

"My garment is made from a water resistant, quick-drying fabric which warms even when wet. Your garment is made from cotton, which absorbs water and is slow to dry. If you remain in your uniform, you are likely to suffer a loss of body temperature which may lead to coma and death. I assume you would like to avoid this outcome?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," Trip retorted as he sat down and began to unlace his boots.

"A cogent argument, to be sure." T'Pol tore off the wrapper from one of the blankets and shook it open.

Trip tugged off one sock. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Your arguments are not known for their logic." She wrapped the blanket around herself and sat on the ground.

"I managed to convince the captain to let us come here, didn't I?" He peeled off the other sock and tossed it with its mate on top of his discarded boots.

"An excellent case in point."

"You just don't wanna be here." Trip stood up and unzipped his uniform.

"Very perceptive, Commander."

"Yeah, well, I have my moments." His undershirt joined the pile of cast off clothing.

"Unfortunate that they are so rare."

Trip put his hand on the damp trunk of a nearby tree to steady himself while he pulled off his pants. He peeled off the right pant leg, then gingerly balanced his weight on his injured right knee while he pulled off the left pant leg. "Ya know, you could have said no," he said with rising anger. "I'd have been much happier to have Malcolm along with me instead of you."

"No doubt." T'Pol held out the second blanket, still in its plastic jacket. "Are you injured?"

"I'm fine, thank you very much." He snatched the packet from her outstretched hand and tore the wrapper off with his teeth. "The underwear is staying on!" he said before she could comment. Trip wrapped the blanket around himself and sat down beside her.

"Very well." She dug in the pack again and came up with two protein bars, one of which she handed to Trip.

He curled his lip in disgust. "Is this all we got?"

"Yes, and I suggest you get used to it. There are two more for breakfast."


"If you do not wish to eat it, I will save it for later." T'Pol held out her hand impatiently.

"I'm gonna eat it, all right? Quit hassling me."

"Then eat and do not complain."

"God, will you quit already! You're drivin' me crazy!"

"You seem to be able to reach that point quite well on your own." T'Pol fished around in the bag again and came up with two pouches of water, again handing one to Trip.

"I knew it! You're never gonna let me forget that rock people thing, are you? You still don't trust me."

"I was under the impression it was you who did not trust me, Commander."

"Come on, T'Pol, I got over that a long time ago. I thought you did too. You even gave me a compliment the other day."

"I did?" T'Pol's eyebrow climbed.

"Yeah, you called me 'resourceful'."

There was a long pause. After a moment, Trip looked up from his 'dinner' so he could see her face, which was as completely devoid of expression as ever. Finally she spoke. "That was not a compliment, Commander."

"Oh." Trip's shoulders sagged. He took a small bite of the protein bar and chewed it thoughtfully. "You don't trust my judgment, do you?"

"You often make impulsive decisions, without thinking through the consequences."

"Like coming here, you mean."

"That is one example, yes. Several others come to mind. You also speak rashly and your comments display a stunning lack of logical reasoning."

"Well, I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm not a Vulcan, thinkin' everything to death before takin' any action. Oh wait, if I were a Vulcan I'd hafta look down my nose at everybody all the time, so I guess I'm not sorry about that!"

"Your remarks exemplify my words, Commander. I believe it was one of your human philosophers who said, 'it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than open one's mouth and remove all doubt.'"*

Trip opened his mouth, but no words came out. He gaped at her for a moment, then closed his mouth and turned away without speaking.

After a moment of silence, Trip heard a rustling sound as T'Pol disposed of the wrapper to her protein bar and put away what was left of her water. Out of the corner of his eye he could see her calmly emptying a container and setting it out to collect rainwater.

By this time, it had been nearly an hour since the storm broke, and it showed no signs of letting up. Since the sky was almost completely dark, it was impossible to tell where the sun was or if it had in fact set already.

"I will take first watch," T'Pol said matter-of-factly. "I will awaken you in four hours."

"Fine," Trip responded flatly. He pulled his blanket up around his neck and lay down on his side facing away from her, but with the wind and constantly dripping water, along with the throbbing pain in his left knee, found he could not sleep. He kept replaying the argument in his mind. He could think of no appropriate comeback to T'Pol's last comment. The only thing that came to mind was, "Are you calling me a fool?" which he was pretty sure wouldn't earn any points. He found that he was frustrated with himself more than with T'Pol. She seemed to be able to push all of his buttons, and he just couldn't stop himself from rising to the bait and making stupid remarks. Trip lay awake on the cold, wet ground for nearly two hours before sleep finally overtook him.

Day 1: 1930 hours

"How long have they been down there, Hoshi?"

Hoshi Sato looked up from her post next to Malcolm, where they were in the middle of their umpteenth attempt to properly calibrate the sensors to read the northern continent. "About six hours, sir," she said patiently. About fifteen minutes longer than the last time you asked, she thought with a slight twinge of irritation.

"Let's try hailing them."

"Aye, sir." Hoshi moved to her station and opened a channel. "Sato to Sub- Commander T'Pol," she said. There was silence, then static, then silence again. "Sub-Commander, come in please." More silence.

Hoshi frowned at her commpanel. The channel was definitely open, but there was no evidence that T'Pol was receiving her hail. "Sato to Commander Tucker," she said, a little more urgently. More static, more silence. By now the captain was sitting up in his chair watching her anxiously.

"Malcolm, can you pick up their biosigns?" the captain asked.

"It'll just be a moment while I recalibrate the sensors for their location."

While she waited, Hoshi tried again to contact both T'Pol and Commander Tucker, but without success. Finally Malcolm spoke up again.

"Sir, I'm scanning their position, at least I think I am, but there's nothing there."

"You can't pick up their comm signals?"

"No, I mean I can't pick up anything, sir. The landing site is as completely invisible to our sensors as the northern continent is."

The captain was on his feet now, walking around to stand behind Malcolm's shoulder. Hoshi repeated her hail once more then moved in to look over Malcolm's other shoulder.

"It should be right here, sir." Malcolm pointed to the spot on the map, which based on the last scans should contain a large orange splotch to indicate a dilithium deposit, but as he had said it was now a complete blank.

"Scan the surrounding areas," Archer ordered.

Malcolm touched the controls to widen the scan, and they quickly found that everything from the landing site north was now unreadable. Areas south of the site were still accessible.

"Captain, we could take a shuttle down here," Malcolm pointed to a spot which was still visible on the map. "then hike to their last known position. It's only about ten kilometers from the original landing site."

"I don't want to risk any more people until we know what is causing these sensor blackouts. Hoshi, you and Malcolm keep working on it. I'll assign a team from Astrometrics to help you."

"Aye, sir. We'll work from the Astrometrics lab if that's all right. The equipment there is much more sensitive."

Archer nodded. "Get to work. Let me know what you find out."

Day 2: 0645 hours

Trip awoke with a start. He sat up, rubbed his face quickly and looked around the campsite, hoping T'Pol would still be sleeping and not have noticed that he nodded off while on watch.

T'Pol was nowhere in sight. Her blanket was neatly folded and tucked away in the emergency bag, and she had apparently laid out his clothes before she left. But where the hell had she gone? She must be pissed at him for falling asleep. Well, pissed probably wasn't the right word. Maybe disappointed. But that was no reason for her to take off.

Trip stood up and headed over to where his clothes were laid out, limping to avoid placing weight on his left knee which seemed to have gotten worse in the night. He touched the fabric and found that it was still damp.

Trip flipped open his communicator and raised it to his mouth, then he stopped. He had heard a sound, a small scratching noise followed by the snap of a branch being broken, coming from some nearby bushes.

"T'Pol?" Trip called warily. He took a careful step toward the source of the noise. Suddenly something struck him on the head from behind and he crumpled to the ground senseless. The communicator slipped from his fingertips and landed on the dirt beside him, where it was picked up by an oversized, fur-covered hand.


*this quote is variously attributed, but may have been either Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain.