This story got out of hand. I had imagined a one-shot vignette and it has become a multiple chapter thing. Well, I hope you'll forgive me… ;-)
I couldn't find a decent title for it, so Roaring Mice came to my rescue with this wonderful suggestion. It's a quote from Sir Charles Georges Douglas Roberts's poem Domine, cui sunt Pleiades curae:
Father, who keepest / The Stars in Thy care/ Me, too, Thy little one/ Childish in prayer/ Keep, as Thou keepest / The soft night through / Thy long, white lilies / Asleep in Thy dew
Gabi 2305 and Roaring Mice were my beta readers, and as usual they improved my story tremendously. Thank you!
Lost and found, set around the end of Season Two.
§ 1 §
Blowing out a frustrated breath, Trip wiped the back of his hand on his brow while he cast a look of pure hatred to the mess of circuitry in front of him. He had spent the past hour trying to get this transceiver to work, but now he threw a hand up in the air. Not even bloody MacGyver could fix it.
Bloody? He chuckled softly. Someone was definitely having a bad influence on him.
Trip jumped, and had to reach out to one of the Shuttlepod's chairs to steady himself. He turned and looked through the open hatch at the very man, his only companion in this adv... misadventure.
During an away mission to test some upgrades in Shuttlepod One, a sudden and mysterious energy burst had damaged their instruments and they had had to make an emergency landing on a planet, fortunately one with a breathable atmosphere. Now the Shuttlepod's systems had given out on them for good.
"Do you hafta slither up on people?"
"I did no such thing," Malcolm replied in his clipped accent, matching it with one of his more aristocratic frowns. "I can't be held responsible if you are not aware of what goes on around you, Sir." He grinned. "Slither! You make me sound like a bloody snake."
"Slither, creep, worm, tiptoe… pick your bloody choice. Just don't do it any more."
The British swearword had the effect of making Malcolm's mouth curve into a wider smile. "Nice to see you're expanding your vocabulary," he quipped.
"Dialects can be fun," Trip drawled flatly, throwing the soldering iron into the open tool-box. He expected a biting retort but Malcolm ignored the ribbing. He was too busy following Trip's every movement as he stepped out of the pod.
"Does this mean the transceiver is a lost cause?" Malcolm asked with a grimace.
It was only a half truth, for Trip was pretty sure the transceiver was a lost cause, but he wasn't ready to admit it yet. Walking past his friend, he didn't spare the frowning man a glance.
"It means I'm taking a toilet break. Ah - and Malcolm…" Trip turned to put a restraining hand on the Lieutenant's chest. "I think it's safe enough to water the local flora without a bodyguard."
"What about the local fauna?" Malcolm challenged him, raising eyebrows à-la-T'Pol.
Trip mirrored his expression. "I'm not plannin' to water any, unless they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong moment."
Malcolm chuckled, shaking his head. "Scream if you need me."
"Ensign?" Archer prompted his Communications Officer, rising from the Captain's Chair and approaching Hoshi's station.
Hoshi turned to him, looking concerned. "Nothing, Sir," she said, and her brow furrowed slightly.
"Are we at least sure they landed on that planet?" Archer asked tautly.
It was T'Pol who replied. "We haven't detected any explosions, and there is no debris within scanning range, Captain," she said, ever the voice of reason. "It is…"
"Logical to assume they did," Archer concluded for her, wincing: reassuring as the words may be, logic frustrated him when his emotions were in turmoil. "What went wrong? And why can't we locate them?"
The Vulcan Officer tilted her head gracefully. "We registered a strong and inexplicable energy burst in the Shuttlepod's area of space: it is likely it was responsible for the problems Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed encountered. As for your second question, something is interfering with our scanners. I am trying to get past it." A slight note of something suspiciously akin to frustration entered her voice.
Archer pinned her with his gaze, painfully aware of the concern that was clear in it. He couldn't help his human nature from coming through when his crew were in trouble. "Keep working at it," he said. Then, turning away, he headed for his ready room.
There was a rustling sound and Trip stretched his neck to peek out of the open hatch. Malcolm was emerging from the dense vegetation with an armful of something – it vaguely looked like dry wood – which he released to the ground with a huff.
"Have you activated the emergency beacon?" Malcolm panted out, unbuttoning the top of his black undershirt as he tried to catch his laboured breath. Gravity on this planet was a bit higher than on Earth, making any kind of physical exertion more tiring than what a human would be used to.
Trip leaned with a shoulder against the hatch and jerked his chin in the direction of the pile at Malcolm's feet. "What's that for?"
"Hopefully a fire, provided it behaves like its Earth equivalent, as my scanner seems to indicate," Malcolm replied, adding wryly, "If our scanners are working properly, of which I'm not totally convinced. We know the planet is uninhabited, but it's unlikely that it supports no animal life whatsoever, as this instrument would have me believe."
Trip took out his own scanner and checked the readings, moving it in a semicircle. "Hmm. You're right."
Malcolm rubbed his hands clean; then wiped a sleeve across his sweaty brow and winced. "Soon it will be dark. And likely colder. And our shuttlepod is dead. A fire might not be a bad idea."
Trip groaned. "Hell, I've been so busy tryin' to get somethin' – anythin' – to work, that I forgot about that little detail. That damned energy burst fried all of our systems."
"So, the beacon…?"
"It's activated all right, but I have my doubts Enterprise can pick it up. They'd've been here already. There must be some kind of interference, and it seems to be scramblin' our scanners."
Arms crossed over his chest, Malcolm considered the words for a moment. "Well, hope for the best, prepare for the worst," he muttered philosophically. "I'll get some more of this --" he waved a hand at the wood-like chunks he had collected, "Stuff."
"Don't wander too far," Trip shouted, as he watched him disappear again through the weird-looking foliage.
"Yes, mother," Malcolm's fading voice replied.
Hoshi pressed her earpiece more firmly into her ear and closed her eyes to concentrate even better, but all she heard was white noise. She had been hoping to pick up a transmission from Shuttlepod One for hours now, and she was getting tired and beginning to feel her body ache with the accumulated tension. She knew Trip and Malcolm were competent officers; they had been in their fair share of misadventures together and always come out of them, but still… these were her friends, and this protracted silence had caused a feeling of despair to creep up on her.
Get a grip, she told herself angrily. Malcolm will take good care of Trip. And Trip of Malcolm.
She wasn't the only one this badly on edge either, she mulled, looking around. After bringing Enterprise in orbit of the planet where Shuttlepod One was supposed to have landed, Travis had refused to go off duty even if there was no piloting for him to do at the moment. He sat at the helm with an uncharacteristically grim expression on his face, looking like he was itching to do something to help.
T'Pol had been totally focussed - the way only a Vulcan could - trying to get the ship's scanning equipment to get past the interference and give them some readings. She might keep her emotions off her face, but Hoshi could see from subtle hints in her body language that she was becoming concerned as well.
The Captain had burrowed in his ready room and not emerged since. He had, however, already summoned T'Pol twice, and that alone spoke of how anxious he was for some breakthrough.
"Archer to T'Pol."
Make that three times.