Warnings: Angst. Swearing.
Spoilers: Possible very slight spoilers for season four's Affliction and Divergence
Notes: Vague (and not-so-vague) influences by an episode of SG:1 - one of the few I've seen, so don't ask me the name or season or anything, although I believe it may have been called "Legacy." The idea for the "...or something" riff is from that episode.
This is set in the first season, sometime after Shuttlepod One and the incident at P'Jem.
Trip swears a lot in this one, but for good reason.
Malcolm placed a pill on his tongue, following it with a quick mouthful of water from his canteen.
Trip moved closer on the bench and ended up almost sliding into him when the shuttle bounced a bit in the planet's atmosphere. "Are you okay?" he asked, obviously having seen Malcolm take the medication. His concern was reflected in his eyes, and he kept his voice low so Travis and the captain, who were seated at the front of the small ship, wouldn't hear. Hoshi was on the bench across from Malcolm, but, dark head bent over her padd, she was so wrapped up in the data there that a bomb could have gone off and she'd not have noticed.
"Yes," Malcolm responded, trying not to let the pain come through in his tone. He sat back against the bulkhead and shut his eyes. "Allergies," he summarized. He had a slowly building sinus headache, which was not unusual. He'd had them seemingly forever, and so long as he took the appropriate drugs early enough, he'd be all right. In fact, Phlox had given him his own supply of light analgesics and decongestants so he could manage on his own. It was rare, now, that it got bad enough to interfere with his work.
"Yeah," Trip said, leaning back against the bulkhead. "I've heard that this place is pretty hot and jungly."
Malcolm opened his eyes and gave Trip his best "what are you on about now?" stare.
"What?" Trip said, brushing a piece of lint from the knee of his sand-coloured uniform. "I know you hate that."
" 'Jungly?' Is that even a word?"
At that, Trip gave him a self-satisfied smile. "It is now."
The shuttle made a wide curve, and Malcolm turned his attention to the front viewscreen. The city loomed briefly before the ship banked right and the imagery changed to lush green sub-tropical foliage. From this distance, the landscape seemed quite similar to that near his parents' house in Malaysia.
Although they'd been to this planet once before, it had been to a different region well over halfway across the globe. This time, the captain had asked and been granted permission to investigate an archaeological dig, more for Hoshi's sake than for anyone else, although Malcolm had to admit he was looking forward to the visit, heat and humidity aside. The people here were quite friendly, and they'd dealt with them before - it was actually one of the few missions that stood clear in his memory, as there had been no trouble during it. It would be a welcome respite to return here, now that their dealings with the Andorians and the Vulcans were at an end. Still, he felt a bit on edge. These were a peaceful people, but one never knew, and it was his job to keep the landing party safe. Yet despite that, his anxiety was tempered by his own enthusiastic curiosity. He loved history, and this particular location promised to be steeped in it.
The ship flew over a clearing and Hoshi looked up, her dark eyes bright with excitement. Since last they'd visited this planet, Hoshi had been doing research into older forms of the local language. She actually thought it had some relationship to the ancient Thracian languages back on Earth, but how, he had no idea. It wasn't as if this planet and Earth were close neighbours, and it wasn't as if people from thousands of years ago on Earth had space travel. More likely these people had somehow visited Earth, and there had been an influence on the Thracian language from that direction. For that to be true, they would have had to stay for quite a long time. It was interesting to think about. He wondered why they'd visited, and why they'd left.
Travis, at the helm, brought the ship in for its landing, and Malcolm returned his attention to the view out the forward viewscreen. As the greenery rose up in a wall before them and a series of low, vine covered buildings made themselves known, he allowed himself a small smile. This promised to be interesting.
Trip wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of one hand, and gratefully stepped into the cool of the building's shadowed interior. He stood still a moment, letting the relative cool wash over him as the others in his party entered the room, and he felt grateful for the break.
The area outside really was jungly, no matter what Malcolm had to say about it. It was even sunnier and more humid than Florida in August, if that were possible. Still, unlike Malcolm, he didn't really have a problem with sunny and humid. At least not normally, not when he could dress appropriately, but here, their heavy uniforms just weren't working. They were designed for desert heat, but still weren't exactly ideal for this particular hot-and-humid environment. He cast a glance to their guide, who was dressed, head to foot, in a long, light colored robe. They'd have been better served dressing more like the locals.
Other than the landing party and their guide, the room he'd stepped into was empty, their footfalls echoing off the chamber walls as they spread around the large space. Hoshi immediately went to the closest wall, peering carefully at something there, while Jon and Travis wandered around the large room with their guide. As usual, Malcolm was keeping a close eye on everyone, but physically staying closest to the captain.
Trip could see why some people might call Malcolm paranoid, but he knew that Malcolm was usually right. If the man was paranoid, he had reason to be. His focus on those sorts of things had saved their collective asses on more than one occasion.
Trip moved to the nearest wall, standing close and touching its surface with a finger. The building had been hewn from either rock or some sort of clay block, and he could feel the texture and the cool of the stone despite the energy field that protected it from his touch. He pulled his hand away and stepped back, sweeping the wall with his gaze. The large bricks were definitely made from some sort of stone, and based on what their guide had told them, had to be several thousand years old. The fact that he was actually allowed to touch them amazed him. Their guide, Nar, had explained that the field protected the objects from dirt and oil, so they could be handled, while also allowing the objects themselves to breathe, sort of. That was more or less the gist of it, anyway. He'd love to have a look at the tech behind that thing.
Trip let his gaze move up, only then noticing that the surface of every block was covered in writing, the script moving around the walls and even up onto the ceiling in places.
Nar came up beside him, his short, stocky frame reaching only to Trip's shoulder.
"What is this place?" Trip asked, glancing at the fair-haired man.
"This particular building has a special place in our history. See here?" Nar ran a hand along one line of text. "This is written in the ancient Xandtian language, which we'd never been able to translate. This here?" He pointed to a line below it. "This is Trellian, and this...," he said, hand moving to a third line, "...is the same thing in Dorish. This building..." He smiled, black eyes glinting despite the low light. "It may not look like much, but it was the first time all three languages were found in one place, and doing so allowed us to translate this line in Xandtian." His arm moved, taking in the rest of the room and the writing on every wall. "It was only after translating that one line that the rest of this began to come clear, and we were able to read the first written language of our ancestors."
"What does it say?" Trip asked, peering closely at the line of Xandtian text Nar had initially indicated.
Nar pointed with his hand, fingers closed as was custom, and the dim light made his pale skin glow almost silver. "Sheia xharm ialo das przeldam po..." His tall, tapered ears twitched, indicating amusement.
Hoshi, who was squatting and scanning the text along the floor, laughed. "Please wash your hands after using the facilities."
Nar nodded and smiled at her. "Yes. This was, basically, their communal bathroom. This building was surrounded by those of the community, including the temple, school, medical buildings..."
Trip leaned toward Malcolm, who'd come up beside him. "Funny that something so significant ended up being about the bathroom," he said, keeping his voice low.
Malcolm shrugged. "Our own Rosetta Stone was mainly concerned with tax law."
As their guide went on talking to Hoshi, Trip saw Jon head toward the exit, and then he watched Malcolm's gaze as it followed Jon out the door. Trip caught Malcolm's eye and raised an eyebrow, and Malcolm responded by rolling his eyes with a hint of amusement and a long-suffering expression. Knowing that he and Travis could stay behind with Hoshi and the guide, Trip nodded, and Malcolm followed the captain out.
Malcolm squinted against the bright sunlight, lifting a hand to shade his eyes. His headache had lessened in the cool of the building, but the intense light caused it to flare, and he winced.
He saw Archer enter the next building, its doorway almost completely hidden by the vegetation growing across it, so he followed. While it was the case that their past experiences here had been peaceful ones, it was best that the captain not be wandering off on his own. He pushed aside the greenery and entered behind the man, earning himself a smile when Archer caught sight of him.
This building was much larger than the last. It seemed to consist of one large room, with an arched ceiling reaching high above them. As his eyes adjusted to the low light, he could see that, as with the other building, every surface was covered by patterns of scrolling text swirling across walls, ceiling, even the floor under his feet. Although unlike the previous building, these were done as frescos, rather than carvings, and here, the writing seemed more stylized - writing as art, likely indicating that this structure was a bit more than a bath. Between the decoration and feel of the space, it somewhat reminded him of the Islamic temples back home.
As Archer strode toward the far wall, Malcolm made to follow him but, noticing something slightly different about one particular area of the nearest wall, he paused, then moved closer. The fresco in that area curled around a built-in, rock-hewn ewer, the basin coming a good half metre out of the wall. He ran a hand down inside the curved bowl. It was very smooth, likely worn by time and handling.
Hearing footsteps nearby, he turned, expecting to see Archer there, but the captain was still across the room. He was about to turn back to the basin when he felt a chill, and...
A whisper to his left, and he turned only to hear,
From behind him. He twisted around, but clearly no one was there. What in the world? Heart beating wildly, he blinked and cocked his head, letting his eyes go unfocused as he listened. No one on this planet even knew his first name, so how -
He heard again, this time from the middle of the room, so he walked there slowly, carefully observing the space around him. Other than the quiet voice, the room was silent, save for the soft padding of his own footfalls. Brow furrowed, he stood in the centre of the space, eyes going to the ceiling spreading above him as he listened. Nothing.
He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"You okay, Malcolm?" Archer said, expression showing his concern.
He replied with a hasty, "Yes, Sir. Sorry. Did you just hear something?"
"No," Archer replied. "Other than the rain." He nodded toward the entry, and Malcolm could clearly see water dripping from the leaves covering the room's entrance.
He nodded crisply. "That must have been it," he said, but he didn't believe it. He knew what he'd heard.
"Come on," Archer said, nodding toward the doorway as he started moving. When Malcolm reached his side, he added, "Have to admit, you're sort of the last person I expected to catch unawares."
"I was just..." Malcolm stopped and forced a smile, taking a last look around at the frescos as he tried to cover his disquiet. "Beautiful building, isn't it?"
Malcolm handed one of the blankets to Hoshi, reaching into the supply cabinet beside his bench to pull out another for Travis, who was again piloting. As Hoshi moved to bring it and the one she'd collected for the captain to the front of the ship, Malcolm pulled his own tightly around his shoulders. They'd all become drenched on the way back to the shuttle, the rainfall having only grown denser with their time at the site. By the time Hoshi felt she had enough data for her work, the rain was coming as a steady downpour, and they'd had to dash for the shuttle.
Those strange voices hadn't reoccurred, for which he was grateful. He chalked the experience up to the tiredness and distraction brought on by his headache, and left it at that.
Trip, across from him, sneezed, and the entire crew burst out in a chorus of "bless yous." As Trip then proceeded to try to dry his hair with the edge of his blanket, Malcolm couldn't help but smile. The blankets were useful - it was cool in the ship, and he was sure his shipmates were feeling as chilled as he himself was. But in the end, they weren't particularly absorbent, and he thought towels might have better served. He made a mental note to speak to the quartermaster about his idea once back on Enterprise.
"Do you guys mind if I raise the temperature in here a little?" Travis shot back from the front, echoing Malcolm's own thoughts.
"Yes, good, please," Hoshi said in response, settling back onto the bench beside Trip. "I didn't even get a chance to visit the other buildings," she said, addressing Trip. "Apparently, one of them, the whole thing is covered in a history of their people, up to about two thousand years ago, and there's so much there, they haven't even finished translating it yet."
As Hoshi and Trip discussed what she'd learned on the planet, Malcolm pulled his blanket yet tighter and let his eyes fall shut, their words flowing past him. His headache was still there, a low buzz of pain just under the surface, and it was beginning to wear him down.
His eyes flashed open. Pulse racing, he looked over at Hoshi and Trip, whose heads were bent over Hoshi's padd. "Did you just call me?" he asked, nerves now on edge.
They both looked up at him. "No," Hoshi said, seeming puzzled.
Trip shook his head. With a smile in his eyes, he said, "I think you feel asleep."
"Sorry," Malcolm said, feeling more than a bit sheepish.
At Hoshi's reassuring grin, he let his eyes close again, and his friends returned to their exchange. He let the sounds of the shuttle lull him; the pulse of the engines and the soft buzz of the conversations around him creating a blanket of white noise.
There was an odd rattle, growing until it became the centre of his focus, piercing through the rest of the ambient noise. Turning his head toward it, he opened his eyes and frowned. It was the supply cabinet door. It certainly was loud. He rested his fingers lightly on it, feeling the vibration, and looked at Hoshi and Trip. They were still enmeshed in their conversation, and didn't seem to have noticed. How could they not? The sound was all out of proportion to what it was normally.
He pulled his hand away, trying to relax, but the grating of the door was almost all he could hear. He slammed his eyes shut and started humming, very softly so the others wouldn't notice, trying to make the music his point of focus, rather than the noises around him. After a while, he drifted off, the headache, the meds, and the events of the day finally tugging him under.
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