TITLE: Out of the Dark

AUTHOR: plumtuckered

RATING: R (swearing, implied violence, sexual situations)

DISCLAIMER: Nope, don't own any of these characters.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story has references to events and characters from the first season episode "Oasis" and the second season episode "Stigma". There are no real spoilers for any episodes after "Kir'Shara", just guesses on my part.

Reviews are most welcomed and appreciated! Thank you in advance!

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CHAPTER ONE

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Trip Tucker braced himself against the big warp reactor console as Enterprise shook violently. All around him, he could hear his crew fighting plasma fires and working to make hasty repairs.

"Archer to engineering," crackled the comm next to Trip. "How are you holding up down there, Trip?"

The commander fingered the comm. "We're getting hammered, sir! I'm not sure how much longer we can keep this up!"

"We're through the worst of the asteroid field, Trip. I'm on my way down."

"Aye, sir!" Trip released the button then looked at the readings before him. He swallowed hard. "That can't be right," he hissed. His fingers flew over console. "Damn it!"

"How are we looking, sir?" asked Lieutenant Anna Hess.

Trip shook his head. "We've got particles flooding the intake manifold, Anna. If it causes a primary injector flare, we're in big trouble."

Hess stepped up to the platform to stand at Trip's elbow. "What do you want me to do, sir?"

Trip turned his head to look at the young woman. "I think you should evacuate engineering, Anna."

"Sir?"

"If I can't figure out a way to clear the manifold, there's more than likely going to be a breach. I don't want to lose anybody. Understand?"

"Yes, but----."

"Now, Lieutenant," ordered Trip. "No one is to be in here, do I make myself clear?"

"Aye, Commander, but what about you, sir?"

"Anna, now."

Hess nodded. "Aye, sir---be careful, Commander," she said quietly then reached out to lightly touch his hand.

Trip started slightly. Her hand was cold. He locked eyes with the woman, reaching back into his memory for exactly what he didn't know. He knew there was something locked away, something about a cold touch, but the thought was just beyond his grasp. He shook his head of the strange feeling and smiled reassuringly at Hess. She smiled in return then turned and dropped down to the deck. As Trip worked over the console, he could hear the lieutenant yelling for everyone to leave.

"I'll stay with you, Commander."

Trip instantly recognized the voice of Crewman Michael Rostov from behind him.

"You're going to need help," continued the crewman.

"Thanks, but no thanks, Mike. If something goes wrong, Anna is going to need you to help with repairs, understand?"

"Commander-----."

Trip turned around and peered down at his subordinate then smiled. The younger man was obviously worried and scared for him. "I'll be fine, Mike. Now get your sorry ass out of here, understood?"

Rostov hesitated then nodded reluctantly. Trip watched him leave the cavernous room then heard the door latch behind him. He turned back to the console and keyed in his personal lockdown code, knowing when Jonathan Archer arrived, he'd no doubt want to be at Trip's side. He smiled at the thought of his closest friend.

As his fingers worked, he allowed his mind to briefly touch on each of his friends – Malcolm Reed, Phlox, Travis Mayweather, Hoshi Sato, Anna, and all the others. He thought of his family and of Lizzie. Then he allowed his mind to settle on T'Pol. He couldn't remember how long he'd been in love with the Vulcan first officer and it still hurt that they weren't together. He knew in his heart they could have had a beautiful, fulfilling life and he still held hope that T'Pol would come around to his way of thinking.

Trip snorted softly. "Too late now, Trip my boy," he mumbled sadly.

The incessant chirping of the comm. snapped Trip from his reverie. He hit the button.

"Trip! What are you doing?" demanded Archer.

"The only thing I can to save the ship, Cap'n," replied Trip.

"Let me in. I can help."

"No can do, sir. This is a one-man job."

"Commander," said T'Pol. "What you're proposing to do---."

"I know, T'Pol," interrupted the engineer. "I know, but I don't have a choice here. Engineering will be one hell of a mess, but at least Enterprise and her crew will see another day."

"Trip," said the Vulcan, her voice lower.

Trip swallowed around the sudden lump in his throat. "I have to, T'Pol," he managed.

"Trip, get out of there!" ordered Archer. "There's got to be another way! Don't do this!"

"Sorry, Cap'n," replied the commander. He hit the comm., turning it off, but he could still hear Archer in his mind, pleading to let him in.

The engineer jumped off the platform and headed for the ladder that would take him to the top of the big warp reactor. As he climbed, he said a silent prayer that his friends would survive. He moved quickly to the manual control panel and lifted the cover. His hands worked smoothly and efficiently. He knew his hair-brained plan was beginning to work; the system was regulating itself and the reactor was shutting down.

Trip knew the minute he heard the high-pitched hum of pressure being released that an explosion was within seconds. When the blast hit him, his final thought was strangely of Anna Hess.

Her touch had been ice-cold.

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"You back with us, Trip?"

Enterprise's Chief Engineer opened his eyes. Slowly his world came into focus and he looked up to see three concerned faces watching him closely.

"Trip?" prompted Archer again.

"You're okay? The ship----?"

"Commander?" asked T'Pol.

Trip looked at the Vulcan in confusion then shook his head. "I----um," he stammered groggily. "I---I don't know." He tried to sit up, but stopped when a wave of dizziness washed over him.

"Take it easy, Commander," urged Dr. Phlox. "You've sustained a mild concussion."

"What the hell happened?" asked Trip, realizing suddenly he was lying on the deck in engineering.

"You took a fall when the ship hit some spatial turbulence," explained Archer. "You don't remember?"

"No," replied Trip. He squeezed his eyes shut. "Anyone else hurt?"

"Just some bumps and bruises," replied Phlox. "Nothing too serious."

Trip opened his eyes and blinked then slowly sat up and looked around. It had all been a dream. Engineering was in one piece and he found himself in the middle of a circle of worried looking crewmen, all of whom were very much alive.

"You okay, sir?" asked Hess. "You gave us quite a scare."

Trip nodded then rubbed the back of his neck. "Just a bump on the head, Anna. I'll be fine."

Archer stood and reached a hand down to the engineer. "Let's get you to sickbay," he said.

"Nah, I'm okay, Cap'n," replied Trip. He took the proffered hand then his eyes widened. "Your hand is cold."

The captain hesitated slightly then smiled. "Guess I'll have to ask my chief engineer to look at the environmental settings."

Trip scowled.

"Are you all right, Commander?"

The engineer stood then released Archer's hand. "I'm fine, T'Pol," he replied quietly.

"Did you hurt your wrist?" asked the captain.

Trip looked down to see that he was absently rubbing his wrist. "No," he replied. "I---I don't think so anyway."

"Why don't I have a look, hmmmm?" offered Phlox. He stepped forward and took Trip's hand in his own.

The commander started. "Your hand is cold, too, Doc," he observed uncomfortably.

"Ah, well, Denobulans have lower body temperatures than humans, Commander. I'm surprised you haven't noticed before," explained the doctor as he scanned Trip's wrist.

Trip pulled his hand away and stepped back. "What's going on here?" he asked, hearing the fear and confusion in his own voice.

"Trip?"

The engineer looked at his captain, the man who'd been his best friend for over a decade, and he suddenly felt uneasy in his presence.

"Come on, Trip, I really think you should let the doctor check you out. Let's get you to sickbay, okay?" urged Archer gently.

"Commander," said T'Pol quietly. She moved to Trip's side. "I believe you should go with the doctor. Your injury may be more severe than originally diagnosed."

Trip looked down and met her dark eyes. Gone was the normal warmth they'd held only for him over the last few months, the warmth that showed to him alone the depth of her friendship. He reached out and took her hand then dropped it immediately.

Her flesh was cold to the touch.

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Trip Tucker was caught in the world between wakefulness and unconsciousness, drifting helplessly, unable to move or to pull himself into full awareness and away from his dreams. He could feel the touch of metal encircling his wrists and ankles and realized distantly he was being restrained. Then the fingers contacted his bare flesh, so cold and so cruel, poking and probing at him ruthlessly.

Sudden pain shattered the darkness, the black turning brilliant red as Trip felt something sharp penetrate his skin. Heat spread over his chest and down his ribcage, but it didn't warm him. The pain increased and the metal clamps tightened like vices. A pair of ice-cold hands grasped his head, firmly holding it in place.

Trip bit his lip, but was unable to stop his scream.

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CONTINUED