Warnings: Violence. Graphic injury. Intentional self-harm.
Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money, yadda, yadda, yadda.
"We missed the rendezvous this morning," Trip said, lifting a wary glance to the guard towers high above them.
Malcolm nodded as he trailed a hand along the wire fence. He well knew that they'd missed their meeting with Enterprise, but he didn't want to belabour the point. He realised that Trip just needed to talk, and he was certainly willing to listen. After all, he didn't have much else to do at the moment.
Squinting against the bright sunlight, he looked through the wire to the tall stone enclosure, about nine metres away. There had to be some way of getting past all that, but if there was, he hadn't yet found it.
His thoughts were interrupted when Trip stopped moving. As the other prisoners walking the path began streaming around them, Trip whispered, "Enterprise should realise that something is wrong."
It was Malcolm's turn to hurriedly glance at the guards, and he yanked on Trip's arm. "Keep walking. We don't want to call attention to ourselves."
Trip frowned when one of the prisoners bumped him. As the man passed, he glanced back at the two of them, his hostility readily apparent.
Trip gave Malcolm an uncomfortable smile. "Any more than we have already."
Malcolm grimaced, and they walked on.
The shuttle bay was empty - or at least, Malcolm thought it was empty until he heard a soft series of words being muttered from near one of the shuttlepods.
Malcolm stepped around the ship and saw Trip lying on his back, his head and shoulders hidden underneath the shuttle. "Trip," he said, trying not to startle the man. When the imprecations stopped but Trip didn't answer him, he gently nudged Trip's foot. Trip pushed himself out from under. Already knowing the answer from the look on Trip's face, Malcolm asked the question anyway. "Everything all right?"
"No, everything is not all right," Trip replied, clearly frustrated. "We need a replacement valve."
"Don't we have -"
"Another replacement valve?" Trip interrupted, emphasising the first word. "We've already used the ones we came with, and the one in Pod One is at death's door. We're about to have two completely useless shuttles." He sat up and, leaning back against the side of the ship, wiped a rag across his dirt-smeared face. "Crap."
"Indeed," Malcolm replied.
Trip raised an eyebrow in response. He pushed himself up and stalked to the wall comm., slapping a palm against its controls. "Captain, can you come down here a minute?"
As Trip spoke to the captain and explained the situation, Malcolm watched his friend. Trip looked...well, Trip had looked better. He was exhausted and grease-smeared. He'd obviously been working on this for a while.
After Trip finished speaking with the captain, he leaned an arm against the wall. Head down, he stood there for a moment.
Malcolm stepped to his side. "Are you all right?"
Trip nodded. "Tired," he said, turning to face Malcolm. "Just tired. I've been working on this thing for hours, trying to cobble something together that might work as a replacement..."
When his voice trailed away, Malcolm added, "Any luck?"
"Creating a valve from gum and bailing wire?" Trip spat, suddenly agitated. "I'm not freekin' MacGuyver."
"Who?" Malcolm asked, surprised at Trip's sudden change of mood.
"Mac - oh, never mind." Trip suddenly looked deflated. "Sorry. I'm - " He stopped suddenly and Malcolm saw that the captain had just come through the door, trailed by T'Pol.
The captain started speaking as soon as he entered the room. "T'Pol has an idea," he said, reaching their side and nodding at his counterpart.
T'Pol turned to Trip. "We're about to pass a planet which the inhabitants of this region call Noitol. Although atmospheric conditions prevent us from monitoring the planet itself, we've been listening to transmissions of the other planets in the region, and we've picked up information about Noitol and its inhabitants. They are quite technologically advanced." She glanced down at the padd in her hand, then back up to Trip. "I suggest we try to obtain appropriate parts."
Malcolm watched as a smile spread across Trip's face. "Sounds great," he said enthusiastically. Then, seeing Archer's expression, he frowned. "So, what's the 'but'?" At T'Pol's look of confusion, Trip continued. "There's obviously a problem, so out with it."
T'Pol's eyebrows flew up to her hairline, but she continued in her normal calm voice. "The people on this planet are technologically advanced; much more so than the other peoples in this area, but..." She cast a pointed glance at Trip. "...they are extremely xenophobic."
Malcolm felt himself tense as Archer spoke. "So going down there is risky, Trip. You'll have to be undercover."
Trip gave a tense nod, then glanced at Malcolm.
Malcolm asked, "Are the other planets not options?"
"Unfortunately not," Archer said, concern creasing his brow. "Their technologies are pretty basic. And you'd said that this valve was pretty complex."
Archer continued. "It seems Noitol is our best chance."
When no one spoke, T'Pol said into the silence, "Human physiology appears to be quite like that of the native peoples of this planet."
Malcolm had to interrupt. "Still, it would be safer if I went alone."
Archer nodded in agreement. "Yes it would, but we need Trip there so that he can identify items that might work. We'll keep the landing party small," Archer added. "Just you and Trip."
"Leaving the shuttle down there, unguarded..." Trip said, letting his voice trail away.
"Since we can not be certain of the situation on the planet," T'Pol said, "I suggest that we take you down in a shuttle, dropping you somewhere fairly remote, but close enough to walk to a major settlement. The shuttle would then return to Enterprise."
Archer turned to Malcolm. "Travis can drop you off and come back for you later."
"A couple days at least, Captain," Trip said.
Archer nodded. "Let's talk to Travis about rendezvous point and time."
"We have been able to obtain images of the Noitol," T'Pol added. "So we should be able to outfit you in such a way that you will not be obvious..."
As the conversation continued around him, Malcolm felt himself growing more and more anxious. This could be a dangerous mission. They knew so little about these people, and yet they were expected to somehow blend in with the population. He glanced at Trip, and Trip returned a nervous smile. This plan needed to work, and it was up to him to keep Trip safe.
Their plan could have worked, too...