What Does Not Kill Us

By Thalia Drogna

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, I'm just borrowing them.

Author's Note: This story is one I've been tossing around in my head for a while. It gets quite dark in places so be warned.


Hoshi Sato, Malcolm Reed, Travis Mayweather and Trip Tucker sat around a table in the empty mess hall. Before them on the table was an arrangement of small white tiles with patterns on them. In front of each of them was a rack with a few of the same tiles sat on it. Malcolm, Hoshi and Travis had been trying to think up things to keep Commander Tucker's mind off his insomnia and this was Hoshi's contribution to the plan.

"What did you say this game was called, Hoshi?" asked Travis.

"Mah Jongg," said Hoshi.

"Can we start again? I think I got lost somewhere between the dragons and the bamboo," said Trip.

"Okay, the object of the game is to collect three of a kind or four of a kind until you have discarded all your tiles," said Hoshi, as if she was explaining something to a small child. "There are three suits, Characters, Circles and Bamboo. Winds and Dragons get you extra points. If your hand has certain combinations then you get even more points, for example, if you collect all one suit. But I'll explain those once we've played a hand."

"And a dragon is one of these funny green patterns?" asked Malcolm.

"That's a green dragon. This is a red one," said Hoshi holding up a red symbol, "and this is a white dragon." She found a white dragon in the pile of tiles and pulled it out to show them.

"None of those look like dragons to me, Hoshi," said Trip.

"And I suppose an ace of spades looks like a spade?" said Hoshi.

"She has a point there, we don't even call a spade a spade," said Malcolm, grinning.

"I suppose not," said Trip. "Okay, so we pick up a tile and then discard one?"

"Yes but you can also Chow, Pung and Kong," said Hoshi.

"This is sounding really complicated," said Travis. He was beginning to wish that he hadn't agreed to learn this game, but Hoshi had been so excited about teaching it to them that he would have felt mean turning her down.

"Sounds like the menu at a Chinese restaurant to me," added Trip.

"Commander," said Hoshi in an exasperated tone, giving him her "be serious" look.

"Sorry Hoshi," said Trip in a more contrite tone.

"My grandmother taught me this game when I was seven, I'm sure that three Star Fleet officers can manage to learn it," said Hoshi.

"The problem is that we're Star Fleet officers who don't read Chinese," said Malcolm.

The com sounded "Archer to Commander Tucker."

Trip went to answer it. "Yes, Captain, what can I do for you?"

"Trip, I'm sorry to do this, I know you're off duty, but could you come to the bridge? We've just received a distress call and we could do with your expertise," said Archer.

"No problem, sir, I'm on my way," said Trip.

"Are Travis, Hoshi and Malcolm with you?" asked their Captain.

"Yes, sir," replied Trip.

"We could use their help too, if they're up for it," said Archer.

"I'm sure they will be, just give us a moment to put away the Mah Jongg," smiled Trip turning around to look at the relieved faces of Malcolm and Travis, and the disappointed face of Hoshi.

"The Mah what?" said Archer.

"I'll explain later, Captain," replied Trip with a grin.

"Okay, Archer out."

"You're not off the hook you know," said Hoshi. "Once this is all sorted out, you all have a date with me and my Mah Jongg set."

"Okay Hoshi, I promise we'll play later," said Trip. "Come on the Captain's waiting for us."


The ship sat dead in space. There were life signs and the distress signal was working, but life support was at a low level and the engines were off line. The hull material was something that they hadn't come across before and was making it difficult to take accurate scans, so it was hard to tell how many life signs there were and exactly where on the ship they were.

"Have we been able to identify them?" asked Archer.

"Not as yet, Captain," said T'Pol. "They appear to be a race which we haven't previously encountered."

"Are you having any luck hailing them?" Archer asked Hoshi.

"No sir, I'm trying all frequencies but I've had no reply so far," said Hoshi, her eyes fixed on her console.

"How about the distress call?" Archer asked the linguist.

"The Universal Translator had it correctly. It just keeps repeating "This is a general distress call. Our ship is badly damaged, we are in need of technical assistance." It's being broadcast on a wide band of frequencies," said Hoshi.

"Captain, looks like they could do with an engineer," said Trip good naturedly. "Permission to take a shuttle pod to the other ship."

A few months ago Archer wouldn't have hesitated to let Trip take a shuttle pod and go and offer his assistance to the stricken ship, but now they were in the Expanse there was the mission to consider and everything had taken on a more sinister outlook. Even taking that into account, Archer couldn't ignore a distress call. Especially since if a passing ship hadn't answered Enterprise's distress call they'd still be limping home after sustaining damage in a Romulan mine field.

"Permission granted, but I want you to take Lieutenant Reed and one of the Marines, just in case this turns out to be more than it looks," said Archer.

"Wouldn't have it any other way, sir," said Trip as he and Malcolm headed for the turbo lift.


Trip piloted the shuttle to the other ship. He was the most qualified pilot of the three of them, although Malcolm could just as easily have done the job. Trip liked to fly the shuttle to keep his hand in and he didn't see why one of the privileges of rank shouldn't be that he got to do the flying. Jon did it to him all the time. Admittedly a shuttle pod wasn't exactly as much fun as some of the things he'd flown over the years but then the shuttle pod was all they had.

Trip docked the shuttle as gently as he could. They had no idea as yet what awaited them inside the ship. It showed no external signs of damage but the scans could always miss something and the last thing they wanted to do was make matters worse by jarring something loose. As it was the hatch refused to open and Trip had to spend a couple of minutes hot wiring the controls before they could work the airlock.

Once they were inside the ship, it was obvious that the ship had been put on low power and minimal life support, although the air was breathable, it wasn't very warm.

"I'm beginning to wish we'd brought Hoshi," said Trip looking at the writing on one of the corridors. The UT was having considerable trouble working it out. Hoshi had programmed it with everything that she knew about the alien language but that wasn't much and a written language wasn't the same as a spoken one.

"She'd only give us a lecture about how dense we are when it comes to learning Chinese board games," said Reed ruefully.

"Chinese board games?" asked Corporal Romero.

"Mah Jongg," said Trip.

"What's Mah Jongg?" asked the bemused Marine.

"Believe me, Corporal, you don't want to know," said Reed.

"To be honest, I'd rather have Hoshi, lectures and all," sighed Trip as the UT made another futile stab at the sign. "Let's try this way," he suggested pointing down a corridor. The ship had a definite air of age about it and the bulk heads looked as if they had seem better days. In fact Trip was certain that in some places there were patches of rust, something that appalled him as an engineer but he also found alarming. The people on this vessel placed their life in the hands of the space-worthiness of the ship and Trip wasn't sure that he would have wanted to do that. He hoped that the engines were in a better condition otherwise he didn't hold out much hope of fixing them.

There was no sign of the people who were supposed to be on the ship. As they navigated through the corridors they kept their eyes open for any sign of occupation but so far they hadn't even found a cold cup of coffee, or whatever the alien equivalent of coffee was. Eventually they came across the engine room.

"Okay," said Trip, "I think I'd better get started on this, it could take me a while to figure out. Perhaps you two had better see if you can find the bridge and our missing aliens."

"Right," said the Lieutenant. "But I want you to check in with us every thirty minutes. And keep your phaser handy."

"Fine," said Trip, but Reed could see that his mind was already on the engines and not on his two escorts. "Let me know how you get on." With that he went to investigate one of the control panels on the wall beside the engine housing.

Reed and Corporal Romero left Trip to see what he could do about the power and engines and went exploring. They were about twenty minutes away from engineering when Trip worked out how to restore the life support systems to full power and they felt a breeze blowing through the corridors. Reed silently thanked the engineer for his fine skills and hoped he'd work out how to get the lights up to full power as well soon. Running around in a half-lit ship with an unknown number of aliens aboard who may or may not be hostile was not Reed's idea of good odds.

They were cautiously investigation a series of cargo bays when Corporal Romero heard a noise. At first Reed couldn't pick it out but as they moved down the corridor towards the last cargo bay it got louder and louder. Someone was banging on the door from the inside.

"What the hell?" asked Reed. He motioned to the Corporal to take up position to one side of the door and cover him as he opened the hatch. Reed threw open the door and aimed his phaser around the door frame. The scene which met him was not at all what he had expected. Inside the cargo bay were about six or seven aliens. They had copper coloured skin and were tall and very thin. Or perhaps it was more that their bone structure seemed to be very light, Reed couldn't decide.

The problem now was that he and Corporal Romero were covering seven aliens with only two phase pistols and all the aliens were trying to talk at once which was overloading the UT. The UT suddenly made a hideous squawking sound which shut the aliens up almost immediately. Reed decided to take advantage of the opportunity and get some of his own questions in, in the hope that they had some translation device which could interpret for them.

"I'm Lieutenant Reed from the starship Enterprise. We came to help you. Can you tell me what happened?"

One of the aliens stepped forward and said something in his own language. Reed pointed the UT at him and hoped that he would say enough that the UT would start working soon. Eventually it got there but only after Reed had repeated his question and a few more and the alien had talked for a bit longer. The whole procedure took about twenty minutes.

"My name is Iot, this is our ship. We were attacked by some," here the alien used a proper name that the UT couldn't translate, "who boarded our ship and locked us in here. We don't know why. We're not carrying any cargo, we're a missionary ship on our way to Eridani Signus 5 and have no weapons."

"Who did you say you were attacked by?" asked Reed. The alien answered but again the UT squawked an incoherent sound out. "Perhaps you could describe them to us?" asked Reed. "For example they didn't have boney bumps on their forehead?" Reed was hoping and praying that they weren't going to have to contend with Klingons in the Expanse as well as everything, but this attack was exactly their style. They had been being chased by Klingons when they entered the Expanse and it would not have surprised Reed if the Klingons had eventually worked up the courage to follow Enterprise into the Expanse.

"No," said the alien. "They were more like insects."

"Xindi," said Reed and Romero together.

"Yes, they call themselves Xindi," said the alien, the UT finally taking that moment to work out what the proper name meant. "We haven't heard them leave yet," added the alien.

"Trip," said Reed anxiously, pulling out his communicator. "Reed to Commander Tucker."

"Tucker here, what's up Malcolm, I only checked in ten minutes ago," said Trip. Which was true, he had checked in while they'd been trying to decipher the alien's language.

"Commander, the ship was attacked by the Xindi. I want you to drop whatever you're doing, we're coming to get you, we think they may still be on board."

Trip didn't answer. "Commander!" shouted Reed into the communicator. Reed set off at a flat-out sprint towards engineering, followed by Romero a few steps behind him. Please don't let anything have happened to Trip, prayed Reed silently as he ran. It took them a few moments to get back to engineering and then find the exact area that Trip had been working in. His tools sat open on the deck, but the Commander was nowhere to be seen. At least he hadn't been lying dead on the floor when they arrived thought Reed, who was always thankful for small mercies, even if they were very small.

The two humans quickly searched the whole of engineering without success, Trip was not there.

"Lieutenant!" called Romero. "I think I've found something."

Reed came over and Romero pointed to two spots of something red on the bulkhead. It was blood, it had to be Trip's blood. Only a small amount though, not enough to be life threatening. Another small mercy, thought Reed, hopefully they would all add up. The blood drops continued down the bulk head and through one of the hatches. By the hatch lay Trip's communicator.

"This way," said Reed and led Romero out of engineering and back towards the docking ports. Something shook the deck. "That felt like a shuttle docking," said Reed. Then he corrected himself, "or undocking." How had he been so stupid? Of course the Xindi would head straight for the docking ports. "Reed to Enterprise," he said into the communicator.

"Enterprise, how's it going over there?" asked Archer.

"I don't have time to go into detail now, but there's a shuttle taking off from the ship and I have reason to believe that they have taken Commander Tucker with them against his will," said Reed, quickly.

"Understood, Lieutenant," said Archer.

"One other thing, we think that they're Xindi," said Reed.

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant," replied Archer. He knew he'd get the full story from Malcolm soon but now they had to stop that shuttle and there was no point in asking questions which he didn't need to know the answers to.

Reed could hear Archer order the Armoury officer on duty to target the shuttle's engines over the open com link. Then he heard T'Pol say something impossible.

"They have gone to warp," said T'Pol.

"They can't have," he heard himself say, but he knew that if T'Pol said they had gone to warp then that is exactly what had happened. They had gone to warp and taken Trip with them.