Counting Down to Zero

A/N: Done. I tried to end this in such a way as to logically lead into "Zero Hour" (because the T'Pol at the end of "Countdown" is pretty different than the one in the beginning of ZH.) Yeah, it's short, but this whole fic was mostly an attempt by me to write something that's canon friendly (which is saying a lot given how much I really don't like canon.) You be the judge if I succeeded or not.

Z Minus Three

The chirp from the computer drew T'Pol's attention from the faltering candle.

Without a hint of the frustration simmering within her on her face, she rose to her feet. Meditation had been far less productive than she would have liked. Admittedly, her mental control felt stronger than it had in many weeks, but there was no denying that she was still in less than optimal condition. If the situation were any less bleak, T'Pol would have turned over command of Enterprise to Trip, and allowed him to accomplish their coming task, something she should have done at Azati Prime when she realized how unfit for command she was.

On the heels of that thought, however, T'Pol realized that it would be unfair to put even more burdens on him. With the captain retreating from everyone emotionally and her own out-of-character actions of late, Commander Tucker currently had enough problems to deal with, particularly since everyone aboard looked to him for guidance and leadership whether he realized it or not. It hadn't escaped her notice that, despite his own personal troubles, he remained the one person aboard Enterprise who seemed fully capable of holding the crew together.

Another long moment passed before she realized that she had begun pacing again, and T'Pol forced herself to stop, all the while wondering when she had picked up the habit from Captain Archer. Her frustration continued to mount – the meditation was supposed to have assisted her in finding control, not accelerating her loss of it! – and she dropped into the chair in front of her personal computer without any of her usual grace.

The data now crawling across the screen was exactly as she had expected it to be, though being proven right in regards to a theory didn't improve her mood. She spent several long minutes studying the simulations as they played out before exhaling heavily. Would the Vulcan High Command act accordingly if she forwarded them this data on how quickly the Expanse was growing, or would they allow their myopic focus on Andoria cloud their judgment?

Somehow, she suspected it would be the latter.

With a sharp gesture, she deactivated the simulations and brought up the crew roster. Several intra-ship messages were awaiting her examination, and T'Pol gave them cursory glances before deciding most were not of sufficient importance to worry about until after their current mission was complete. Two were from Chef and listed his (perceived) grievances in regards to the chief engineer's priorities, as if a malfunctioning refrigeration unit should take precedence over a potential leak in the port deuterium tank. Another message was from the quartermaster and concerned the dwindling supply of spare uniforms available for crew use. Three were automated system messages reminding her that annual performance evaluations were overdue.

The seventh was from Trip.

T'Pol frowned at the datestamp attached to the message as well as the routing code as it indicated Trip had sent the message from Engineering forty-three minutes earlier despite her relieving him of duty for a full eight hours. She should have expected this from him. The man had been in Engineering less than a week after brain surgery, after all; the only way she could have made sure he was in his quarters for the entire eight hours was if she had sedated him or rendered him unconscious. Forcing her displeasure down, she accessed the message and studied it.

As usual, Trip's reporting style was fascinating, a combination of the formal and the casual that was elucidating and entertaining at the same time. In short, concise sentences, he detailed his crew's progress – they had finished rerouting most of the power conduits and were moving on to realign the main power grid according to the plan. Though it was not immediately apparent from anything stated in the report, T'Pol had learned enough about Tucker's shorthand to recognize he was worried about the feasibility of the plan.

To her surprised, disgust, she realized she was fidgeting as she finished reading, though she was unsure if it was due to the chief engineer's unspoken fears about the failure of their mission or if it was something else. Regardless, it was a reminder that her meditation had proved to be ineffective ... or at least less effective than it should have been. With every gram of her self-control, she forced herself to remain still for a long moment. Her eyes drifted back to the message and she stood quickly.

She needed to speak with Trip.