What Does Not Kill Us

By Thalia Drogna

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


Trip was drifting in and out of consciousness when he heard the distant explosions which shook the whole room. Ven Dath had enjoyed using the nanoprobes to electrocute him and had employed them several times more before Trip finally passed out. There hadn't been any questions, this was just pain for pain's sake. He had discovered that Ven Dath liked to brag about his plans so, even though Trip had no way to use the information, he now knew more about the nanoprobes than he had before.

The explosion pulled him back to at least semi-consciousness. Ven Dath was no where that he could see in the room, but tied down as he was, he couldn't turn around to look behind him. The constant shocks had made him weak since they used his own body's energy against him. The nanites converting his energy for their own use in small quantities wasn't a problem, but this had been a huge drain of power. He was exhausted and hungry.

He closed his eyes and tried to communicate with the nanites. Their voices were very faint. He heard the "energy reserves low" message being sent to him, but their chatter was much quieter than usual. He wasn't sure if the nanites were really being quiet or if he was having trouble hearing them. Either way, he didn't think that it was a good thing. He felt himself drifting back into unconsciousness, when suddenly someone was shaking.

"Trip," said the voice. "Come on Commander, wake up, we have to get out of here and I can't carry you."

British accent, registered Trip. "Malcolm?" he asked as he opened his eyes. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Rescuing you, again," said Reed, untying Trip's restraints. "Can you walk?"

"Tired," said Trip, fading out again.

"Yes, but can you walk?" asked Reed impatiently, shaking Trip's shoulder.

"I think so," said Trip.

"Come on then," said Reed, pulling Trip out of the chair and putting a shoulder under Trip's arm so that he could support him.

"Where's Ven Dath?" asked Trip, sleepily.

"Who?" asked Reed as he pulled Trip towards the door.

"The guy who brought me here. He's responsible for turning the nanoprobes into a weapon," said Trip. "That tank in the middle of the room is full of nanoprobes, they do all the maintenance for the outpost. Except now he has some new nanoprobes which kill."

"That black liquid is nanoprobes?" asked Reed.

"Yeah, billions of them," said Trip. "We've got to find the red ones, they're the ones that kill."

"Where are they?" asked Reed.

"He showed them to me," said Trip. "They're somewhere in here. He was going to use the nanoprobes to infect Earth and make it so we couldn't use technology to defend ourselves against the Xindi."

"So when the weapon arrived we'd be completely defenceless," said Reed. "You have to admire its twisted elegance."

"I'm glad you think so, Lieutenant," said an ominous voice from behind them. "Now please put Commander Tucker down, and your weapon on the floor." It was Ven Dath and he was holding a Xindi rifle.

"Ven Dath I assume," said Reed. The Xindi bowed slightly but kept his eyes firmly on Reed. The security officer didn't have any other options immediately available to him so he did as he was told. He lowered Trip to the floor and then put down his rifle. Just as he did so Ven Dath pulled out a small black box and pressed a button on it. Trip cried out and writhed in pain on the floor.

"Stop it!" said Reed.

"Just a small demonstration of what I will do if you don't co-operate, Lieutenant. Sit down in the chair," Ven Dath said and indicated the chair which Reed had just moved Trip from. Reed did as he was instructed, waiting for his moment when he could turn the tables. Ven Dath went to a lab bench near by and produced a hypospray. Inside Reed could see a red liquid which moved in a bizarre way, very like the black liquid in the tank in the centre of the room. It didn't take a genius to work out that these were the red nanoprobes that Trip had spoken of and that Ven Dath intended to inject them into Reed.

"It's a shame really that I couldn't keep you both as test subjects, but once the red nanoprobes get to work there isn't much left of the test subject. Of course this means I can continue my experiments on Commander Tucker," said Ven Dath. Reed looked over at Trip, he was still out cold on the floor from the latest shock. The idea of leaving Trip to be a lab rat after everything he'd been through appalled Reed, but so far there wasn't any way he could get out of this without getting both of them killed. Ven Dath tossed Reed the hypospray and held his weapon on him. "You're going to inject that into yourself or Commander Tucker will suffer. Understand?"

"Yes, I understand," said Reed, holding the hypospray of strangely moving red liquid.

"Go ahead, Lieutenant," said Ven Dath and then suddenly there was the sound of phaser fire. Ven Dath fell to the ground. Reed looked over to see Trip looking back at him, rifle in his hand. Reed leapt up from his seat and dragged Trip back to his feet.

"I thought I was meant to be rescuing you," said Reed, taking back his phase rifle from the Commander's trembling hands.

"One good rescue deserves another," said Trip, barely conscious. "Is he dead? I didn't have time to check the settings, he was going to make you inject those nanoprobes..."

"Sorry, Trip, I think he's dead," said Reed. He knew the rifle was set to stun a Xindi reptilian and the Xindi sloth were much less robust. "You saved my life."

"And if you hadn't had to come and rescue me again, I wouldn't have needed to," said Trip. "I really am a grade A idiot, aren't I?"

"There'll be plenty of time for recriminations later, right now we have a shuttle to catch," said Reed. He put the hypospray containing the red nanoprobes on the ground, aimed his phase rifle at it and watched it burst into flames with a satisfied smile.

"He took some of my nanites. They may have carried information about Enterprise in them," said Trip. "We've got to destroy those too."

Reed looked around the lab. He fired his phase rifle at the contents of the lab benches until he was satisfied that all traces of the red nanoprobes were gone. Trip's blood sample that Ven Dath had taken was amongst the casualties. "Come on let's get out of here."


T'Pol had waited as long as she could, they would have to take off soon if they wanted to escape the explosion that was about to be set off and she still hadn't heard from Lieutenant Reed. It was at times like this that she wished for the punctuality and certainty of her fellow Vulcans.

Her communicator beeped. "Reed to T'Pol," said the communicator.

"Go ahead Lieutenant," she replied, her voice sounding calm but inside she was wrestling to control a number of emotions, one of which she was surprised to discover was irritation at being kept waiting.

"I have the Commander but I don't think we can reach you in time. In any case I doubt we could squeeze both of us into the cell ship," said Reed, he didn't see any point in mentioning that Trip was having trouble just staying conscious and he knew they wouldn't make it through the forest in time. "I'll take him out on the shuttle."

"Very well, Lieutenant. We will rendezvous in orbit."

"Understood," replied Reed.

"Get us out of here, Ensign," said T'Pol to Mayweather. The MACOs were once again packed into the cell ship and Mayweather started up all the cell ship's systems and lifted them off the ground as quickly as he could.

"Any sign of the shuttlepod?" asked Hayes, his eye was on the clock ticking down the seconds until the second wave of explosives detonated.

"They are lifting off the surface now," said T'Pol.

"They're cutting it fine," said Hayes.

The cell ship sped through the atmosphere, followed by the shuttlepod a few kilometres behind. Underneath them the planet turned into a raging inferno of flames as the high energy explosives that the MACOs had planted detonated in an impressive display of pyrotechnics. The force of the explosion hit both craft in a wave rushing out from the outpost. The cell ship was further from the blast and suffered less badly, but the shuttlepod took quite a hit from the detonation.

"T'Pol to shuttlepod, are you intact Lieutenant?" asked the Sub-commander.

There was a moment's delay and then Reed's voice replied, the sound of alarms in the background as he spoke. "We're okay, just a bit shaken. Best have Phlox standing by when we get back, Commander Tucker didn't have a very good time as a guest of the Xindi."

"Acknowledged," said T'Pol. The ships flew side by side towards Enterprise.


Archer had taken Enterprise to warp as soon as the two small craft were back on board. He hadn't been pleased to learn that Trip had once again been tortured, nor of the Xindi's final plan for the nanoprobes. According to Malcolm, Trip had passed out as soon as he'd got back to the shuttle, and was apparently no longer under the influence of the nanoprobes. The mission had been a success though, they had the data from the computer, which T'Pol had already begun to analyse. And the nanoprobe threat had been neutralised. Mostly. There were still the nanoprobes that were inside Trip to consider and he would have to decide what to do about that problem.

Trip was once again lying in his quarters, this time under heavy sedation. Phlox had diagnosed Trip with exhaustion and prescribed complete rest for the next twenty-four hours. He had also inserted a drip into Trip's arm to give him the required nutrition and re-adjust his unbalanced electrolytes. Archer didn't know how Trip could even function considering what he'd been through, and he'd saved Reed's life while they were escaping, something Reed had emphasised in his report. Archer suspected that the Lieutenant was afraid that Trip would get into trouble for stealing the shuttlepod, but Archer had no intention of blaming Trip for something which he obviously had no control over.

It was late according to his chronometer and he really should consider getting some sleep, but instead Archer now sat in his ready room going over the various reports he had received from the away team. They were all clear and concise, as he had come to expect from his senior staff. He was always amazed at the way Lieutenant Reed could write how he had taken life and death decisions as if they were everyday occurrences.

"I suggested to Sub-commander T'Pol that I retrieve Commander Tucker while she and Ensign Mayweather took the data to safety," was what Reed had written. Translation: "I decided to risk my life in order to rescue Trip, who once again had got himself into trouble, knowing full well that T'Pol might have to leave without us." Archer read on and got to another typical Reed understatement. "Commander Tucker had been injured and required assistance to make it to the rendezvous with Sub-commander T'Pol. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to make the rendezvous at the cell ship and instead returned in the shuttlepod which Commander Tucker had arrived in." Translation: "Knowing that the building was about to explode, I once again risked my life helping Trip, who could hardly walk due to being tortured by a vindictive Xindi bastard. He might be a bloody pain in the neck but I wasn't going to leave him behind." Sometimes part of the fun of reading his Tactical Officer's reports was working out what Reed had really wanted to say.

He heard the door chime sound, he shouted for his visitor to enter. It was T'Pol.

"It's late Sub-commander," said Archer. "What are you doing working at this hour?"

"I thought I should bring you my preliminary report on the computer data. It makes for interesting reading, especially concerning the nanoprobes," said T'Pol, pointedly not saying the Archer was working equally late.

"Give me a summary, T'Pol," said Archer.

"According to Ven Dath's notes, it is impossible to remove the nanoprobes once they have become integrated into the host's system. In the experiments which Ven conducted the subjects died," said T'Pol.

Archer sighed. "So Trip is stuck with the nanoprobes forever? He's not going to like that. And we have no guarantee that the Xindi won't use them to spy on us, or to capture Trip, or any of the other things that we know they can do."

"It is true that we can't get rid of the nanoprobes but we managed to download information on how to reprogram them," said T'Pol. "I believe we can wipe their memories and disable all of the Xindi command functions. In effect we should be able to render them safe so that they will not be able to influence the Commander and he can return to work once he has recovered from his injuries. They will however retain their base programming and be able to carry out the functionality for which they were originally intended. Maintenance, repair and diagnostics."

"So we wipe the slate clean and Trip is in control of what he teaches them," said Archer.

"Exactly," replied T'Pol.

"Okay, do it," said Archer. "It's the best solution we're going to get and I need my Chief Engineer back." Although he reminded himself that there was still the problem of getting his Chief Engineer to want to come back. Trip still hadn't set foot in Engineering since his rescue from the Xindi ship nearly two months ago.

"Yes, Captain," said T'Pol. "I will see to it immediately."

T'Pol left and Archer returned to reading Lieutenant Reed's report. He almost burst out laughing when he read the next line.

"Whilst leaving the Xindi outpost the shuttlepod sustained some damage. Separate damage report to Engineering attached." Translation: "Almost every piece of equipment on the shuttlepod sustained damage, we nearly didn't make it home. When Trip comes round and finds out what I did to his shuttlepod he's going to kill me."


"Mah Jongg," said Mayweather.

"I don't believe you," said Reed in a disappointed tone, "show us."

Mayweather displayed his tiles to the three other people sat around the table in the mess hall with a grin. He had indeed got Mah Jongg and won the game. For the third time that evening.

"You know, I think we should have stuck to cards," said Trip.

"I was really close that time," said Reed.

"Sure you were," said Trip, a little sarcasm creeping into his voice.

"It's great that you've learnt the game so quickly, Travis," said Hoshi, casting a look at Trip. "Shall we play again?"

"Might as well let Travis make it four in a row," said Trip, smiling at the helmsman. The four of them started setting up the tiles for the next game.

"So, you must be happy to get the casts off?" asked Mayweather, trying to deflect attention away from his winning streak.

"Yeah, except now I have to put up with Phlox's physiotherapy sessions. I swear I come away from them feeling worse than when I went in," said Trip, "and I'm pretty sure I never did bend in the direction he asked me to this morning." He sat with his newly mended foot supported on a spare chair and a walking stick which Phlox had thoughtfully provided resting beside him, he still found getting about quite tricky.

"I know he's tough about the exercises but they will do you good," said Reed.

"Yeah, but they hurt like hell. And I still think he's overestimating when he says I won't be back at work for another two weeks," said Trip. He still wasn't sure whether he was pleased or upset about the delay to get back to work. He was pretty sure that he'd put most of his bad feelings about Engineering behind him thanks to Phlox's counselling sessions, but thinking about it and going down to D deck were two different things. At least he felt more able to talk about things now. "Anyway, Hess has invited me down for an inspection tour tomorrow afternoon. I guess that will be the real test."

He guessed that Hess's invite had been prompted by Phlox and was just another part of the Doctor's counselling. Everyone around the table knew how important that inspection tour would be for Trip.

"If you want someone to come with you, I can make time," said Reed.

Trip could easily have taken Reed's offer of help the wrong way and maybe, before the Lieutenant had pulled him out of the Xindi base, he would have done. However, now he took it for what it was, a friend offering support during what was going to be a difficult exercise. "Thanks Malcolm, but this is definitely something I have to do on my own. I think it's about time I reclaimed my own department, even if Phlox won't let me do more than look for another two weeks." He had had similar offers of support from Archer and, surprisingly, T'Pol, but had turned those down as well.

"But what about the nanoprobes?" asked Hoshi, "aren't they going to be a problem anymore?"

"Nope, T'Pol worked out how to wipe their memories so that the Xindi can't control them anymore. They shouldn't cause us anymore trouble. I would have been a lot happier if we could have just got rid of the lot of them but I guess I'm stuck with them. I'm kinda looking forward to finding out more about what they do. The files you guys downloaded from the Xindi computer core have a hell of a lot of stuff about Grenan Dath's original designs so I've got a lot of reading to do."

"What sort of thing can they do?" asked Mayweather.

"You want a demonstration?" asked Trip.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" asked Reed.

"I told you, they're completely harmless now. Get me that pack of cards we were playing with earlier," said Trip to Hoshi. He was still stiff and couldn't move all that quickly.

Hoshi picked up the pack of cards that they'd left sitting on the table beside them. "What are you going to do?" asked Hoshi.

"A card trick," said Trip. He fanned out the cards. "Pick a card, Hoshi."

Hoshi picked a card. "Do you want to see it?"

"Not yet, but remember what it is and put it back in the pack," said Trip. Hoshi did as she was instructed. "Okay, shuffle them." Hoshi shuffled the pack expertly and put the pack face down on the table. "Right, what was your card?"

"Five of diamonds," said Hoshi. Trip picked up the top card from the pack and turned it over. It was the five of diamonds. "How did you do that?" asked Hoshi, her eyes wide in astonishment.

"It's a trick," said Reed. "He marked the card somehow."

"No, I didn't," said Trip smiling. "You want to give it a try?"

"Why not," said Reed and they went through the same motions, Reed watching Trip's every move intently. Reed's card was the ten of clubs and when Trip turned over the top card from the pack, it was the ten of clubs.

"Okay, I give up, how did you do it?" asked Reed.

"Look at the pack," said Trip.

Reed fanned out the cards. "Hang on a minute, there are two five of diamonds and two ten of clubs. How did you do that?"

"I just got the nanites to change the top card of the pack into what you said, plus a little theatrics to make you think it was card trick," said Trip, grinning.

"Very clever," said Reed.

"They manipulate the matter somehow. I can't wait to get back to Engineering and put them under the microscope and find out how they tick," said Trip, smiling happily.

Reed realised that he hadn't needed to worry about Trip's return to Engineering at all. His curiosity might get him into trouble but it was also one of his defining characteristics. Through all the fear and pain he'd endured, one constant would always remain, Trip would always be an Engineer.


The End


Although there may well be a sequel...