Author's Note: I'm on a role, trying to get these old chapters uploaded. Again, minimal tweeking. EK RULES!
Trip watched Jon rush around his hospital room with a heavy limp at an impressive speed. A grin spread over his face. The man was relentlessly dedicated. That was sometimes his greatest flaw. He'd seen his friend go days on end without sleeping because of a mission or the mere thought of one. The result was usually a face plant on the table during a conference with Admiral Forrest at the conclusion of said mission. "I thought the doctor put you on bed rest for another week."
Jon looked up from where he was tugging his uniform on. Relief rested heavy in his eyes when he saw it was Trip. "They did, but I'm not about to let my project stay in the hands of a Vulcan. How has it been going?"
"Well, the short and happy version is – it ain't." Trip stepped in, letting the door shut behind him. "It's on hold until T'Pol finishes her investigation. She says it was sabotage too."
Jon's fingers tensed as he pulled the zipper up on his suit in anger that hadn't been there a moment ago. "Of course she did," he said angrily. "Because that way the project isn't a unanimously approved decision. That way she can say how it should be shut down and Soval can do a little happy dance on its grave and he can sit in front of the High Command with the news that humans have once again been prevented from delving deeper into space exploration technology. She was just assigned to help, she said so herself! She doesn't care at all about it! What happens to it now would make her happy, just to throw it away and get back to her precious Vulcan Compound."
While he ranted on Trip just sat on the edge of the bed, watching his friend with a bemused eye. "Yeah," he said, letting his feet drag across the floor as he swung them back and forth. "That's why she and I have been up for three days straight with no sleep trying to find out who did it. 'Cause she don't care."
The comment took Jon by surprise and he froze in the midst of his erratic dressing movements. He slowly turned to look at his friend, confusion and more than a little shame in his eyes. "Really?" he asked softly. Trip's dedication didn't surprise him. His best friend helped him out on everything. T'Pol's actions, though, that was something unexpected. Vulcans simply did not show that kind of commitment to anything non-Vulcan.
Trip nodded. "She told Soval the project could continue. That production and testing could proceed. You know…she's not so bad for a Vulcan." He smiled a little. "Kinda funny, actually. I don't think she means to be or maybe I'm just sleep-deprived, but I laughed at her words more than once. Don't think she really appreciated that."
Jon paused, surprised at the sudden heat that rushed his face at the thought of Trip and T'Pol alone at night in the command center. "So you two have been working together on this exclusively?"
"Yeah." Trip stretched out over Tony's bed, yawning loudly. "Dead tired from it, too."
"And did you find anything?"
He opened one eye and looked up at his friend. "Took a while to get there, didn't it," he teased.
Jon's eyes narrowed playfully at him. "Come on, Trip, stop gloating. What did you find?"
Trip swung his legs over and sat up again, his face serious. "Well, it ain't good news and it ain't bad news."
He was getting frustrated with Trip's tap dancing around the issue. "Then what is it?"
"A Vulcan," he said simply.
That took Jon by surprise. Despite all his arguments with T'Pol, he had really expected it to be a human. After all, some humans didn't agree with the decision to create fighter planes in space. They though it was just asking for trouble from the more violent species they had heard about.
But a Vulcan inflicting that kind of harm on a human project was unheard of. Vulcans used legal channels. Never, since first contact in 2088, had they ever heard of a Vulcan raising a hand in anger or repulsion to a human. They were such a logic-driven species that it made no sense for them to commit acts of sabotage and terrorism. So shocking was the announcement that Jon began to doubt it. "How did you confirm this?"
"I didn't," he admitted. "T'Pol did. She found some altered security footage that she was able to clean up and showed it to me. It was a Vulcan who sabotaged the ship. She says she doesn't know who it is. We ran it through the Vulcan Database and came up with nothing."
Jon's eyes narrowed. "And what's she doing with the info?"
"I told you, she's suggesting that the project continue, only this time she's asking for enhanced security settings with no Vulcan interaction allowed outside authorized personnel." Trip grinned. "Kinda cool, huh?"
"Yeah..." He buttoned the top of his uniform. "I need to go see Forrest. Go back and keep an eye on the plane, okay? I should be there in a few hours."
"Sure." He stood up and headed for the door, but Trip paused in the doorway to look at him. "You should go say something to T'Pol," he added. "She deserves it."
Jon glanced up as Trip walked out of the room. A Vulcan who deserved his gratitude? What was the world coming to?
The office of Admiral Maxwell Forrest was packed with humans and Vulcans, a fact neither race appreciated. Ambassador Soval was with one of his aides, gazing coolly at the bumbling humans across from them. On the other side of the room were Captain Walton and Admiral Green. With the entrance of Jon into the fold it made the tension in the air that much thicker. Jon was not the most diplomatic presence. Forrest took a deep breath, preparing for the civil unrest to turn into full out war. "Lieutenant Archer, so good to see you up and about," he said warmly. Green nodded his head curtly at him, but otherwise continued staring darkly at the Vulcans. Walton shook Jon's hand warmly – the two were good friends who hadn't seen each other since Walton had taken up his spot on Jupiter Station.
Soval and his aide waited until the emotional human introductions were over with before speaking. "Lieutenant Archer, it is agreeable that you suffered no permanent injury from the unfortunate accident."
"Sabotage," Jon shot back in quiet anger. "By a Vulcan, as I was told."
Forrest stood quickly. "Yes, well, that's what we're here about. Soval doesn't believe that Major T'Pol's readings were accurate or else a face would have been found in the Vulcan Database. He wanted the data rerun and the project to be continually placed on hold."
Of course he does, Jon thought violently. "No," he argued. "We have who did it, we just need to find them. With the additional requests for security the place should be fine while she finishes up her investigation. I don't want to be held up and longer than we already have been."
"Lieutenant, the fact remains that the Vulcan could not be identified," Soval said calmly. "It could just as easily have been a human disguised as a Vulcan."
"I was wondering when you'd get to that particular theory," he said coldly. "It was a Vulcan. The security's been doubled. Now I want to continue."
Forrest glanced over at Green. He was the admiral in charge of security at the orbiting space dock. "I think with the extra security we'll be fine," Green said coldly, his gaze murderous to the Vulcans. He'd always suspected them of some sort of espionage and now they finally had proof. "I will have to insist that no Vulcans be allowed on for the time being," he added.
Soval's jaw tightened as he looked to Forrest. "Admiral, you must realize that this is a mistake. Vulcans would never harm humans in any way. We seek mutual assistance, not sabotage."
"Then explain how a Vulcan showed up on tape," Jon demanded.
"That is why we will begin an immediate investigation on our side." Soval straightened as he prepared to leave, a move Jon had come to be very familiar with. "Major T'Pol will conclude her investigation and return to the Vulcan Compound." With that, the Vulcans left. Everyone in the room began to relax.
"Damn Vulcans," Green said with familiar vulgarity. "Every time we take a step forward they shove us back a kilometer." He looked at Forrest. "I'll get a security detail set up around the station and surrounding area."
"Thank you, Admiral," Forrest said, but his eyes were locked onto Jon. "Would you mind giving the lieutenant and I some time alone?"
"Of course not." Green saluted them and left. Walton followed suit, winking at Jon as he headed out.
Forrest sat back down behind his desk with a sigh. "This is an awful mess," he said without pretense. "If it really is a human playing a Vulcan then we'll have serious issues with the High Command about security for their people. And if it really is a Vulcan - "
"It is," Jon insisted. "It's the only explanation."
"A Vulcan not in the Vulcan Database?" Forrest raised a eyebrow at the rather ludicrous suggestion. "I must say, I was surprised you didn't offer the most obvious explanation."
Jon looked confused and frowned at him while he took a seat behind his desk. Forrest smiled a little. "Major T'Pol is the only Vulcan with immediate access to every part of this project."
Jon pursed his lips in thought. "I don't think she did it," he said quietly. "She's too...Vulcan to do such a thing."
"But she is the most logical choice," he pointed out with a slight smile. "I think you don't hate her, Lieutenant Archer."
He couldn't help smiling. "She's not as...bad as I thought she'd be. She's quite neutral about it all."
"She's a good officer and a good scientist. If you're not against it, I'm going to recommend to Soval that he let her stay on as an advisor." He sat up a bit. "She's good for you, Jon. You need to start letting your guard down some."
Jon shook his head, looking away. Forrest was always trying to make Jon more cooperative with the Vulcans. He'd never really understood the reason for it. After all, Jon was a pilot. There wasn't much cause for a pilot to have to worry about a Vulcan. In fact, Jon liked it that way. All he worried about was space and his own ship. There was no diplomacy, no political correctness. It was just himself and the freedom of the space before him.
Forrest had been speaking for some time until Jon realized it. "...temporarily reassigned Tucker to assist in the investigation. He seems to work well with Major T'Pol. When they're finishing up you can continue with the actual flight schedules."
He nodded slowly, again surprised by the warm surge of anger that came with the thought of Trip and T'Pol alone together. "Thank you, Admiral. I should probably get going. There's a lot of work to do."
The two men stood up and Forrest smiled at him again. Ever since the loss of Henry Archer he had felt responsible for the boy who was now a man and a great pilot. Forrest saw massive potential in Jon. He could be a great leader, a captain of his own starship. All this was assuming that he could get the man to cooperate with people he didn't like. Stubbornness was Jon Archer's worst trait. The inability to get along with Vulcans was his second.
It was late, so late that even the guards were nodding off outside. In the command room T'Pol was still running data against the nameless Vulcan they'd found. None of his facial aspects had come up in the system and it was beginning to drive her a little crazy. Pulling the data again, she began her calculations from scratch. There must have been something she was missing.
Every Vulcan was in the Vulcan Database. The only explanations she could come up with was either the image was too broken for an accurate analysis or this Vulcan was not a Vulcan. Neither thought was very comforting. Soval had already told her multiple times to come back to the Compound, but she was unable to pull herself away. If this was true then they needed to know who it was. Vulcans were not murderers or saboteurs and she would prove it.
The crushing blow to her head was enough to send her sliding across the ground into the opposite wall. Something warm was running down her face and her vision was dizzy at best. She stumbled several times trying to force herself up. What was going on?
She turned over in time to see a large fist pummel her hard in the stomach. She lost her air and began gasping for breath as she curled over on her side. Her eyes shifted upwards in hopes of catching a glance at her assailant. Whomever he was, she didn't know him. He was Vulcan...the pointed ears were far too real looking to be synthetic. And the force of his strength made it clear he was no weak human. Reaching down, he flipped T'Pol over hard and pressed his knee into her back. The pain began to make her cry out. She tried to claw her way free, but the unknown Vulcan refused to let up. Why did he not speak? Why did he attack her?
With a vicious twist followed by a sickening snap, T'Pol felt her arm break. Tears began to slip down her face as she fought back the desire to vomit.
But he wasn't done.