Bridge, A deck, 1300 hours, May 17 2154
Commander T'pol had just been beamed off the bridge and reports were coming in from other parts of the ship about people vanishing. Trip had called in from Engineering to say that two of his people disappeared and there had been a few reports from the corridors and the mess hall. Now the comm beeped again.
"Sickbay to the bridge."
Archer had a pretty good idea of what Phlox was calling about; he just hoped that he was wrong. "Go ahead, doctor." The current count for abducted crew members was seven, and it seemed like that number was about to go up.
"Ensign Olenick just disappeared. Has this happened to anyone else on board?"
The Captain closed his eyes and nodded absently, even though he knew that Phlox couldn't see him. "Yes, doctor. Half a dozen others were taken, including T'pol. We're on it. Archer out."
He punched the comm shut, trying to get rid of his anger so he could think clearly. We'll get them back. Our mission just got more complicated, but we can handle it. Archer looked around the bridge at his people, stopping when his eyes fell on the tactical station.
Malcolm was sitting at his station pale and motionless, frozen in shock. He didn't seem to hear Archer get up or see him reach across the myriad switches on his console, but when he noticed the captain's hand on his shoulder his eyes shot up to Archer's face. "Sir. . ." His voice trembled slightly and he trailed off, not trusting that he'd sound steady if he said any more.
The captain patted him awkwardly and Archer's eyes locked on his, staring at him intently. "We'll get her back, Malcolm. I promise that we will." Archer went back to his chair and sat down, staring at the stars on the main viewer as though he were looking past them. He frowned, speaking half to himself as he glanced over at the empty seat behind the science station. "We'll get them all back."
Even as Malcolm numbly nodded in agreement his mind began to race, in a panic about her safety. Where did she go? What was happening to her? Will she be alright? How will we get her back?
But he only allowed himself to think along those lines for less than a minute. Them. Seven others had been reported missing. The questions became where had they gone, what would happen to them and how would the crew get them back. While he was thinking this, another report came in which brought the number of missing personnel up to nine.
The captain would get their people back. This crew could handle themselves and whatever problems the Borderland threw at them. Malcolm knew that, but he still couldn't help worrying about Jean. He'd only proposed to her a month before and they were still trying to decide whether to have the wedding on Earth or on Enterprise with Captain Archer doing the honors. . .
Focus! Work now, worry later. That had become something of a mantra for him whenever his concern for Jean's safety threatened to distract him from his duties. Once he could concentrate, he started running every scan he could think of to find the Orion vessels.
Jean materialized in a holding cell surrounded by aliens from half a dozen species that she didn't recognize. She went over to the bars and pressed her face against them, trying to see if she could get her bearings or spot any familiar faces. She had only been there for a few minutes when she was hauled out of the cell and dragged over to a sort of processing stand by a very large green-skinned man. He attached something to the side of her neck, but before she had a chance to wonder what it was, an incredibly strong electrical surge ran through her body.
The pain was blinding. It ran from her brain down her spine and made her nerves burn, blocking all thoughts except make it stop! A second later the surge stopped and she gasped for breath, not even aware until that moment that she had stopped breathing. With that first breath she cried out in pain, but the man who was still holding her up shook her quiet before he started bellowing in her ear.
"You are now the property of the Orion Syndicate. Break the rules and you will suffer. Obey the rules and you will suffer less."
He shoved her towards another large man with green skin who dragged her past several full cages before he opened one and shoved her into it. Once she was inside the cage with half a dozen others he didn't hurry to lock the door. He knew that the electrical restraints would prevent any escape attempts.
It was several hours before she saw anyone else from Enterprise and then the person she saw was the Captain himself, walking through the slave market with Soong in tow and trying to look inconspicuous by wearing an old leather jacket. When she saw him she got up from where she'd been sitting in the corner of a cage surrounded by aliens. She stood up quietly to avoid drawing attention to herself and started to head over towards the bars, eager to hear some news about the situation. The captain held up a hand, gesturing for her to wait. She nodded silently and sat back down.
She knew that the captain was there to rescue her and the other crewmen; she'd heard the reports over the comm of other people going missing before she was kidnapped from Sickbay, but how he meant to get them all out of there was a mystery to her.
Less than an hour later she heard a deep-voiced cry of 'the restraints are off' and along with her cage-mates she forced the cage door open and then rushed one of the guards. Slaves were breaking out of their cages all over the compound, and during the chaos Jean caught a glimpse of the Captain and Soong standing behind some console. She smiled. They must have de-activated the restraints.
Just as the thought registered, her view of the melee in the compound dissolved and suddenly she found herself standing on the transporter pad with four other crewmen. Once all eight had safely materialized they were shepherded to Sickbay and assigned to beds. Ensign Pierce had come back on board earlier and had been resting in Sickbay ever since his neural restraint was removed. That left only three bio-beds available, so five cots had to be brought in for the remaining crewmen. Only two of them had been seriously injured by the restraints, but Phlox ordered all of them to rest for a day at least before returning to duty.
Removing the restraints took some time because of their complexity and because the doctor didn't have anyone to help him take care of all nine patients. Ever since they had gone into the Expanse there had been a few crewmen who'd been drafted as medics and medical assistants, but the only other real doctor on the ship was a patient at the moment.
As soon as the Captain called the bridge to tell them that he and Soong were back on board, Malcolm gave Trip a very clear look. It was painfully obvious that he wanted to go to Sickbay and check on Jean, but he wouldn't leave his post unless the Commander gave him express permission to.
Trip understood. He understood what it was like to love someone so much that it hurt, but he wasn't lucky enough to have his someone love him in return. Sure, T'pol cared about him and that meant a lot coming from any Vulcan, but she was married to Kos now so he didn't expect anything from her in terms of romance. They were close and, as T'pol's mother had pointed out, he was in love with her, but he couldn't actually do anything about it.
He couldn't rush down to Sickbay to welcome her back or comfort her or try to help her feel better about being abducted. T'pol didn't need his help with that, not really anyway.
But Jean needed Malcolm just as much as he needed her, and Trip wasn't about to stand in their way, not now. He swiveled the captain's chair around to face Tactical and nodded to Malcolm, tilting his head towards the turbo-lift. "G'won Malcolm. Make sure that she's alright."
The lieutenant paused for a fraction of a second, glancing guiltily down at his console. "Sir. . ."
Trip turned and gestured for a crewman who was working at a panel at the back of the bridge to come over and stand by the tactical station. "Hodges can cover Tactical for awhile. Just go, but we'll need you back up here eventually."
Malcolm bobbed his head and smiled hugely before shooting out of his seat and over to the turbo-lift. Once he was inside and the door had slid closed, Travis turned to Hoshi. "So, when are they gonna get married?" He had a big silly grin on his face, immensely relieved that the danger had passed and wanting to talk about something that wasn't risky or mission-related.
She just shrugged and smiled. She'd been rooting for those two before anyone else on the ship knew about it except Phlox, and ever since they'd gotten together she'd been asking herself the same question. "Soon, I hope. And they'd better invite us to the wedding."
Malcolm made it from the bridge to Sickbay in record time and found Jean before he'd even stepped through the double doors. She was lying on a cot in the middle of Sickbay and her eyes were closed. He only caught a glimpse through a small part of the glass that wasn't frosted, but from what he saw in that instant she wasn't badly hurt. As the doors opened he rushed through and over to her side, taking her hand in his and squeezing it gently.
She opened her eyes and smiled at him, sitting up a few seconds later to put her arms around his neck and draw him down to her for a kiss. He didn't fight since it was what he'd been wanting to do since he left his station. Their lips met, reassuring each other silently and passionately that they were both alright and both very happy to see each other.
When they broke apart for air she kept holding him close and nuzzled her face fondly into the area where his neck and shoulder met. "Can we get married already?"
The question was sudden and she asked it without much thought. He answered similarly, cuddling her close and speaking into her hair, ignoring every smell and sensation that wasn't related to her. "I'll start making calls as soon as this mission is over, and in our off hours. You still want to have it on Earth, with friends and family?"
She nodded. "And the bridge crew. They'd never forgive us if they don't get invited. I don't want a big thing, just people we're close to." She paused, fiddling with a bit of his hair and listening to his laugh as it started deep inside his chest and then spilled out for the rest of the world to hear.
"Of course. I was thinking of Trip for best man. What about food?"
She shrugged dismissively. "I probably know someone who knows someone. But what about a venue? I'd like an outdoor ceremony if the weather cooperates. . ." All of a sudden she trailed off, her shoulders shaking with laughter.
"What? What is it?" He pulled back from her slightly, trying to get a look at her face.
"It's just, we're having this conversation pretty much on the floor in Sickbay, surrounded by eight other patients and with Phlox in the room. It isn't really the most intimate or romantic of settings."
Taking this as his cue, Malcolm stood up and turned around to find Phlox bending over one of his many other patients, taking a scan. "Doctor, is Jean ready to be released?"
But before Phlox could answer, Jean tugged at his sleeve and he looked down to see her shake her head. "I can't go back to our quarters yet."
He frowned slightly and his eyebrows scrunched together. "Why not?"
"I'll probably need some looking after until the morning. There isn't anyone to take care of me in our quarters, and there won't be until your shift is over this evening. No, Mally," she shook her head again to discourage him "and don't offer to take the rest of the day off. You can't. They need you on the Bridge." She smiled, gently pulling him towards herself and he let himself be drawn back down onto the cot.
He smiled and reached out to tuck a stray wisp of hair behind her ear with a mildly curious expression on his face. "How did you know I was thinking. . . ?"
She bit her lower lip sheepishly and looked up at him with a hint of mischief on her face. "You might just be a teensy bit predictable."
He looked away, smiling, but his eyes turned back to her a few seconds later. He didn't like being predictable, felt that it wasn't a good thing to be, especially from a tactical perspective, but Jean kept insisting that it was beneficial sometimes. It did seem to be a good thing, too, at least in their relationship. Knowing each other so well meant that there were fewer misunderstandings and more pleasant surprises, at least when it came to presents and doing things for each other. Like just now. Of course he had been about to ask Phlox to release her straight away. That really didn't require any guesswork, seeing as he'd asked the Doctor if she was ready to be released, but knowing that he'd offer to take the rest of his shift off to look after her. . . Thinking about it, though, that correct guess wasn't too hard either. He'd drop anything to make her feel better. She didn't have to ask. As much as he tried to tell himself different, there were times when his loyalty to her trumped his duty to the ship. He didn't like that it was the case, but there they were. She came first.
"Are you sure you'll be alright?" He squeezed her hand nervously, not sure which answer he actually wanted to hear.
She squeezed his hand back, running her thumb over his skin and smiling up at him. "I'll be fine, sweetheart, and I don't think the Orions'll be too happy when they catch up with us. They'll keep you busy for a while. I'll see you this evening?"
He bent down to kiss her forehead, then moved to kiss her lips, and then he kissed her cheek, as though trying to reassure himself that she wasn't going to disappear again. "Of course, pet." He left Sickbay reluctantly, looking back at her worriedly on his way out.
She settled back onto her cot after he left and closed her eyes tiredly. "Phlox?"
"One second ensign, I'll be with you as soon as I've finished scanning Ensign Mesaro." He was done several minutes later and then he came over and stood by her cot expectantly. "Now, what was it you wanted to see me about?"
Jean smirked up at him, reaching up one hand under her pillow. "Would you be interested in attending a human marriage ceremony?"