Author's Notes: Well, asking what's up with T'Pol all of a sudden is a bit ignoring the way I've been suggesting she ain't in a right state of mind for some time, now. I've been hinting since the first Heronas fanfic that she's not doing all that well. Or Trip, for that matter. Gee, both are having trouble sleeping. I wonder if there's a connection there...
It's all there in the text, if you look. Really!
The general theme of the final Gone in 65 Seconds episode is: Speed & Relaxation.
It was the morning after the punch, and life was not amazing for Trip Tucker.
It was downright embarrassing, was what it was.
The split lip healed nicely, yeah, and the bump...but so far he'd already gotten a Get Well card from the bridge crew with a cartoon old man in a wheelchair on the front of it, a pair of roller skates with the laces tied together from Engineering, and a map of the ship and a flashlight from Maintenance.
Even Wong was in on the card. I have no idea why he's not Mr Stick-in-the-mud any longer, but it's starting to get disconcerting. The one constant in my life was him being vaguely hostile and cold, and now he's cracking jokes with Sawyer and helping them prank his commanding officer.
And here he was, in his quarters with a couple of ice-packs while T'Pol ran things on the bridge.
It was his ship. His engines. His modifications. And the first official speed record would be made without him on the bridge.
Traitors, the bunch of'em. Ought to bring back keelhauling.
Ow. After he'd healed up.
He stared at the wall, going through everything said and done the evening before.
She had been upset. Angry with him. That wasn't news. What was news was that she had punched his lights out. A single punch, too. In fact, if he wasn't so damned sure she'd somehow held back, she could easily have done a lot more damage.
So something was wrong. He'd managed to order her to do something about it. Now, he knew she was a master of weaseling out of such agreements, being not only Vulcan but having served under Jonathan for five years as well, so he had to check on her, preferably within the next ten hours. Problem was, his concussed noggin failed to agree with him on that point. Every time he tried to stand up...
...the nausea wasn't even what kept him lying down. It was the giddiness. That light-headed woozy constant mild euphoria, coupled with his amusement at his own predicament that whispered in his ear that he should have noticed all the warning signs. Yes, even the ones he had never seen before.
But the absolutely most awful, worst part was, he was missing movie night. Watching a film with a concussion...not fun. Unless you liked introducing the mess floor to the contents of your stomach.
The Court Jester next week. Fair was fair, Wong had abstained on his previous turns at choosing, so he was allowed one free change of schedule. This applied to every crewman whose turn it was to pick. Ensign Carter's choice would just be moved to the week after.
Still, a horror movie would have been better. The Fly, maybe. Or, oh, a Hammer film. Yeah, those were fun. All the fake corn syrup-blood flowing while Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing hammed it up.
Maybe some time in the future.
He felt the thrumming through the floor before he heard it. Engines revving up. Then the stars outside his window became elongated lines, and there was a very faint jolt of induced motion. He looked away from the spectacle outside his window.
So damned unfair.
And he'd missed out on chef's risotto. While he could eat, he'd been too nauseous to try.
She really ought to consider professional boxing.
Lieutenant commander David Wong watched the display light up green all across the board and smiled slightly to himself.
"Warp six and holding."
"Very well. Hold the course for thirty minutes, then take us out of warp." Commander T'Pol leaned back slightly. To David she seemed slightly less hollow-eyed than yesterday, but it could have been just the lighting. In any case, it was oddly fun to have the Vulcan commanding for once. No jokes, no yawns, just business.
"Aye, holding course."
The commander looked around, watching their displays briefly, then switched on the comms. "Bridge to Engineering."
"What is your status?" Oh, yes. All business.
"Everything's green down here, commander. The observers are observing, the warp drive is warping...if we were doing any better I'd have to go knock on Phil's wooden head here for luck. We're expecting Romulan boarders or Klingon raiders any moment with this luck."
"I doubt that will occur. Our course is well within the Coalition sphere of influence. We will maintain this heading for..." Brief look at the clock. "...approximately twenty-eight minutes. I trust that will not be a problem?"
"Not even slightly, commander."
"Very well. Bridge out." She let go of the switch and leaned back again. "Lieutenant Sawyer, run a weapons check."
"The most unassumingly unrelated thing can sometimes affect greater systems and cause failures. I have ordered various crew members to perform random tasks at set intervals to make certain it will not affect performance."
The weird thing was, that made perfect sense. When he was twelve his father caused a brownout at his office by simply turning on the lights in the cafeteria, even though the systems were seemingly unconnected.
"Helmsman, calculate the course we will undertake after arriving at our destination."
"Aye, commander, calculating course."
Earth. Starfleet Headquarters, Supplies, Storage & Reallocation Facilities.
On the screen, operative 38 shrugged. "Things are going just fine. Any trouble we expected has been conspicuously absent."
Director Harris leaned back in his chair, allowing the operative a glimpse of the view outside. It wasn't the actual view, of course, or even the same office as last time, but it always helped to keep any agent in the dark about just exactly where their employer was located. The vista outside was at the moment set to a recognizably Venetian street. It was only if you watched it for more than an hour that you noticed it looped.
"No sabotage, no thefts, nothing?"
"No, sir. The commander has been acting a bit erratic, and the captain had a bit of a clumsy spell earlier, caught a concussion. The commander settled down, though, and is in charge of the actual warp trials while he recovers."
Clumsy spell? "I see. Well, that's good. Seems my fears were ill founded. I suppose it's a good thing the Romulans haven't figured out how to infiltrate this far, yet. Still...keep an eye on him for me while you're still there?"
Cameron Rhetz smiled and nodded. "Certainly, sir. Section 31 takes care of their own. Oh, and sir? I have to say, Burkhart is a perfect front. Everyone's so busy hating him that nobody thinks twice about me. I barely had to do anything to keep cover. 38 out."
The screen went dark, and Harris switched background vistas before starting to go through the Heronas comm traffic. Personal letters, official notes and memos...movie night was The Prisoner of Zenda, the Stewart Granger version. Hm. He preferred the one with Peter Sellers. More true to the novels. No tacked-on happy ending.
Oh, he'd keep checking up on Tucker from time to time. It never hurt to have an eye out for those who once worked for you, not the least because they posed security risks in the long run. He'd considered using some kind of memory blanking, or simply taking care of the man permanently, but had decided against it. If the Section was to keep operating under Starfleet funding indefinitely, they had to adapt. Acting like old-Earth intelligence agencies with murder and blackmail and brainwashing was a good way of making sure the big project the brass was discussing failed before it even got underway.
Besides, it wasn't as if they didn't have more elaborate, elegant methods these days. One of the things scientific breakthroughs had brought with them were ways of acting that had never been possible before. In the old days, murder and blackmail had been the only way. Today, you could simply make sure you had trustworthy people to begin with.
As to the fact he was deliberately confusing his own operatives as to his location, well, he might trust them, but that just meant he knew they wouldn't voluntarily talk. The Romulans and Klingons weren't quite so subtle as the Section.
Something caught his attention. An official medical notice from the Enterprise to the commander. He opened it. Privacy was something that happened to other people.
What he read made him frown. It both explained a few things as well as concerned him, because if it was true it meant a key person of the crew was compromised. It also meant the good captain had not, in fact, tripped or fallen on anything, not even his own feet. Possibly afterwards. Judging by the brief log of the treatment, it had resulted in a mere concussion, which meant swift physical violence and nothing else. Still, it was worrying.
A follow-up letter from the commander to Phlox confirmed his fears. This was...not good.
It would be easy to write Harris off as an aloof, cold-hearted bastard, and it was true he cultivated this image to prevent anyone from taking advantage, but truth of the fact was, he liked his agents. He hand-picked them, he made sure they got proper training and resources, and at the end of the day he made sure they got an actual retirement in whatever manner they so desired. If it was one thing he had learned from observing intelligence agencies of the past it was that agents who were under-appreciated or expected death and/or torture from their own superiors were agents who were simply waiting to betray you. Happy agents were loyal agents.
And this did not bode well for happy. Or, for that matter, usefulness. While he liked Tucker and his other operatives, temporary or not, he was also enough of a manipulative son of a bitch to realize Tucker, T'Pol and about three hundred other sentient beings at the moment were assets to be nurtured and encouraged, and losing one could spell disaster for Starfleet's long-term plans. Liking them didn't mean he didn't calmly consider them chess pieces. It was just that they weren't pawns.
Take Archer. The man had his flaws, that was no secret. Impulsive, erratic, sometimes prone to speechifying and mildly inconsistent on his choices...but he was also a natural-born diplomat and had already made the political situations in Andoria and Vulcan more stable than they'd been in centuries by the actions of him, his crew and his allies.
And he had five operatives constantly shadowing his every step, acting as crew of the Enterprise. At any time all five were prepared to lay down their lives to keep Archer in the land of the breathing. The reason, aside from Archer being the captain of the ship, was that losing Archer would lose them the Andorians, very likely the Tellarites, and definitely the Vulcans. Oh, the green-blooded bastards would still be allies of a sort, but they wouldn't have the personal connection that they currently held. For one thing, he was fairly certain minister T'Pau had the Vulcan equivalent of hero worship regarding the good captain. Not romantic, as such, but definitely a touch of admiration bordering on overly friendly. God only knew why.
Which brought him back to Tucker and T'Pol. The amusing name his subordinates had invented for them, the Dynamite Duo, was surprisingly apt. Apart, they were brilliant. Together, they were miracle workers. Kill one, break the other. Break one, break both.
So he kept an eye on them both. He hadn't managed to get an operative on board the Heronas until the observation of the warp drive modifications went underway, but that would change, in time. Rhetz was a double observer, there to observe the engine trials, yes, but also to observe the captain and his XO, make sure they weren't too distant to one another. Her report was both encouraging and worrying. The medical information he had just gained was worsening the worrying part.
He reached for his comm, and thumbed a specific frequency to the only agent he trusted with more than just assignments.
"Carmine? I want you to study the files I send you, and return to me with everything you got on the subject as well as solutions."
The voice on the other end was wryly amused. "Sir?"
"Consider it a priority. Oh, and did you get the file on the Axanar?"
"Yessir. May I ask what brought on this new...priority?"
Harris hesitated. "Call it an investment."
"Yessir. I'll get back to you tomorrow."
"Excellent." He released the dead-man's grip of the switch. Another 'improvement' brought on by security measures of the war. Like the new turbolift controls that required you to hold onto a control rod to keep the lift running, with built-in security scanners that made certain the one holding it was who he said he was, or wasn't under duress or dead. All it took was one Suliban pretending to be a Starfleet officer to cause disaster.
...then again, the Suliban had been laying low for some time, now. Since just before the troubles with the Romulans began. He pursed his lips. He'd have to check into that...
USS Heronas. Tearing up the tarmac.
"We are officially at warp 6.5 and holding steady. Minor vibrations reported during transitory phase, but warp field is smooth as silk."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "That is satisfactory. Hold the current course and speed for thirty minutes, then come out of warp, set a new course and repeat the process."
It would be superfluous to mention that the Enterprise had shook more when she first reached higher warp, or that she intended to attempt 6.6 and higher once the trials for 6.5 were over. After all, the finished engine and fine-tuned improvements had made the ship very much more able to handle the stress of high warp than it had been when out of space dock.
Perhaps I should call Tr...the captain up to the bridge for those attempts. He would appreciate observing, at least.
"Commander, Engineering reports everything still in the green."
She leaned forward slightly. "Let them know we have attained our current course, and tell them the duration we will maintain it."
Technically, they were going in a square pattern. A half hour thataway, a half hour thisaway, a half hour themsaway and a half hour thoseaway. But in fact they were moving in a slow, square spiral, with each stretch increasing the size of the shape. A half hour at warp 5 was a much shorter distance covered than a half hour at warp 5.1, and so on.
In his mind, David Wong played connect-the-dots with the course changes. It was something to do.
"Coming out of warp, commander."
"Very well. Power down the engines while they're being inspected. I believe we can send you off to lunch in shifts, as per reglations."
"No way. You keep saying it, I can't see it. And what do you have for evidence, huh? A grainy newsie photo from over a year ago? Nah, they're not an item now, and I doubt they ever were." Sawyer leaned back, looking smug.
David held back a sigh, and instead just shook his head. "You're so caught up with thinking it's all about the Rhetz woman that you can't see the obvious. You mean you don't notice how she keeps sneaking peeks at him? Or how when she looks distracted, he seems to get headaches? There's something up there, I tell you."
He wished Nessler was there. The man might only speak two words at a time unless prompted, but he was observant like a damn cat. He'd know if anyone did. But Nessler was still on bridge duty, and would only go to the mess after they'd returned. It was actually sort of amusing, picturing the quiet, efficient Vulcan and the laconic German just sitting there, dead quiet, on the bridge.
"...no. Besides, she's Vulcan."
David blinked. "...yes. The sky is blue, what's your point?"
"Well, Vulcans don't have those kinds of emotions. I don't think they have any at all."
He smirked. "Spoken like a true Terra Primist. You think they'd evolve as a species if they didn't have feelings? Procreation kind of requires it."
She waved her hand airily about. "I'm not a racist, it's just, y'know. Vulcans. Call them names, all they do is raise an eyebrow. They got rid of their emotions, everyone knows that."
"You can't just get rid of emotions, they're complex neurochemical reactions. They probably just bury them or something. Keep them hidden. Look, I got top grades in xenology, and one thing the text was very clear on was that Vulcans do not touch. Ever. Not in public, at least. And the photo might be grainy, but it's pretty blatantly obvious what it's of."
"Bah. Details. Besides, I heard from a friend of a friend who served on the Enterprise that Archer and our dear commander were totally knocking boots."
This deserved the withering look of 'I have a lovely bridge to sell you'.
"This friend, would she be the one you told us convinced you that Tellarites sleep upside down like bats?"
Sawyer squirmed uncomfortably. "...okay, so she's not always the most trustworthy source of information. Still, I'd believe that before I'd believe it of the captain and first officer."
"Well, I know what I see. And sooner or later, you're gonna see it too."
"That would be right about the time we go to warp 6.5 and see pigs zooming along with us, right?"
His smirk deepened. "Oh, ye of little faith..."
"...which then go into the mixing valves here. I hear Starfleet has been working on plans for an engine area the size of a beer-bottling plant, but that would be at least a century into the future, if at all. Just imagine the warp-core that would support!"
"Wow. So, these coolant tubes, it's just water?"
"Oh, no, it's a carefully mixed blend of..."
Dawkins carefully hid a smile. This was the third time this week Fujisawa asked a bunch of innocent questions about the engines, smiling and nodding and hanging onto Armando's every word as if she gave a hoot. The amusing thing was, he probably had no clue why she was so intrigued by the engines all of a sudden.
Why mister Gutierrez, would you mind showing me the way the pumps go in...and out...and in...and out...
Don't mind if I do missy Attractive Hardbody MACO, now, while I kneel down here by the pistons, why don't you lean suggestively over me with your chest an inch from my face until I blush and stammer and lose my train of thought?
She giggled at the mental image, thankful that the plasma relays next to her were buzzing loud enough to drown it out. Those two were hilarious.
The smile she had on vanished when doctor/professor/whatever Burkhart popped his head into her field of vision, frowning.
"I fail to see what's so amusing. Maintenance of engine parts is a serious undertaking."
She held back the glare that wanted to skewer him to the wall, and instead gave him a pained but patient smile. "Yes, it is, mister Burkhart. Do you have anything to add? You could hold the grating while I weld it onto the relay cover, but I'm afraid you're not wearing protective gear. Unless you don't need it?"
She smiled sweetly at him with the last. He looked a bit confused as to her tone, probably wondering if she was being sarcastic.
Why, yes, yes I am. Amazing that you're the one with four titles after your name and I'm the lowly engineering tech.
"Well, then. I, uh, suppose you know best in this situation."
Damn straight I do. Damn theorists.
"Now, if you don't mind?" She held up the plasma torch and kept the sweet smile on her face until he backed off. "Thank you."
Lowering her visor, she started humming to herself. Well, at least they'd be back to normal shifts after today...
...wait, weren't double shifts 'normal' for them by now?
Trip woke up, and for a brief moment thought he was at the beach house, listening to the surf crashing onto the shore outside. He was vaguely hot and sticky, too. But the rushing of the waves was just the rushing of the blood in his ears, and the hot and sticky thing was because he'd slept a sedative-caused whole bunch of hours. He glanced at the watch. By now they'd be watching the movie.
He sat up, slowly, and noticed a general improvement. Everhardt was right. Modern medicine was a wonder. At this pace, if he avoided pissing off or agitating his first officer again he'd be on his feet and commanding by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.
So what had triggered it all? Well, he knew she wasn't feeling quite well. Neither was he. What was it she'd said?
"...all. Your. Fault."
He had to talk to someone about this.
The screen showed a somewhat befuddled Phlox, dressed in sleep-wear. The night-cap was hard to take seriously. "Yes? Oh, captain Tucker. How may I help? And please, make it brief, my sleep period is coming on like a Klernathian rhino."
"Yeah, I'm asking if there's anything you might be able to tell me about my first officer's current health?"
The Denobulan doctor looked taken aback, maybe even a tad insulted. "I most certainly will not. That's doctor-patient confidentiality you're encroaching upon, captain."
Trip waved a hand in mild annoyance. "No, no, that's not what I'm saying. I'm asking if there's anything you can tell me about it. As in, anything related to my health."
Phlox raised his eyebrows, puffed up his cheeks a little, then nodded. "Perhaps if you describe any symptoms you might have? Do you have an up-to-date medical profile?"
"Sure thing, doc. Even got a fresh cat-scan, though I had a slight concussion while it was taken."
"That shouldn't be too much of a problem. If you'd send it, I could do a cursory exam right now."
A few quickly typed commands sent his updated medical records, and shortly afterwards the doctor was perusing the scans on his display. "Interesting."
"'Interesting'? That's never a good sign."
"That depends. Your brain has...well, it's for the most part a healthy human brain, as far as I can tell, but with a few discrepancies. For one thing, this area here," he indicated a somewhat more colorful spot on the scan, "should be more subdued. If this is indicative of your normal state of mind..."
Trip watched the man scratch idly at his hip, then yawn. "...what?"
"...hm? Oh, right. Sorry. Well, maybe I should put this in a more simple form. Having trouble sleeping lately, captain? Migraines? Any other odd symptoms you might have left out to your ersatz medical officer?"
Damn. He'd hoped he wouldn't have to tell him about that. "...yeah. Bad dreams, sometimes bad headaches. There's...me and T'Pol, we have this, sort of...well, we had...a kind of bond."
"...yes, I am aware of this."
"Really? ...I guess you would, at that...anyway, that bond, it meant we could share what we felt, at a distance. Theoretically, any distance, considering I could feel her while on a ship lightyears away. But the bond...I think I messed something up."
He gave the doctor the rest of the necessary details, trying not to take Phlox's look of disgust and anger too personally. When he was finished, the Denobulan sat down on his chair and rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"I think there may be a connection. Oh, you'll be fine, captain. Just fine. While the synaptic activity in your brain is unusual, it won't damage anything permanently, at least not for some time yet. However, if there is a...bond, as you say, there is a chance that her condition is affecting you. However, to reveal anything further I require her explicit consent. I'm sure you understand."
Trip just nodded. "Thanks anyway, doc. Sleep well."
"I intend to. Farewell, captain Tucker. May we meet under better circumstances."
The screen went dark, and Trip leaned back in the chair, rubbing his cheeks to keep from falling asleep again. So it was related to T'Pol not being well. It was his fault, according to her...
He felt himself go pale.
When he faked his death, he'd asked the Aenar on Andoria to help him mute the bond. They'd insisted it wouldn't damage him permanently...but they probably wouldn't have known how it would affect her.
Goddammit, Trip. You screwed up. No wonder she's pissed.
He pursed his lips in thought.
Time for Plan A.
About an hour later he exited the Requisitions offices triumphant, carefully locking the door behind him. Thanks to movie night, ensign Castor had been absent and couldn't log the captain 'borrowing' a few items, not to mention wouldn't know what those items were. He wasn't sure how to resolve it all yet with regulations and all, and it was best if the crew was unaware for now. The items secure under his jacket, he made his way to the kitchens, picked up a clear, tall vase from the cabinets and hid it inside a bag of potato chips after having emptied the bag's contents in a recycler. If anyone asked, he'd grabbed a late night snack to make up for his lack of dinner.
Fortunately, nobody asked. He made it back to his quarters safely, locked the doors against casual entry, and set to work.
He hadn't done this since first grade, but it was surprising how easily it came back to him. Cut the red silk paper, scrunch it up, tie it together, attach it to the green faux-stem, and done. About...a dozen would be enough. No water in the vase, but he had a bowl of little decorative polished glass pellets left over from his futile attempt to grow a bonsai tree during the first week of recovering after the genetic scrubbing. Boredom was a word that failed to convey his personal feelings about that time.
Once that was done, he picked up a pen and the other thing he'd 'borrowed' from Requisitions, and got to writing. There was really only one way of saying this, without getting his lights punched out again. He did not look forward to another couple days of bed-rest.
T'Pol returned from movie night feeling slightly nauseated for no apparent reason, uncomfortable and ill at ease. It had not been a pleasant experience. The crew had enjoyed the entertainment, but she had not.
Perhaps it was the subject matter. While the film had ended happily, she had read the novels before attending, as was her custom. The way the young protagonist was forced to stay away from the woman he cared for due to duty and tradition and loyalty was not something she found appealing.
As the door slid closed, she noticed that someone had been in her quarters. Nothing had been disturbed, that she could see, but...on the desk was a somewhat bizarre arrangement of what at first glance appeared to be a vase full of red roses, along with a small, bright red folded card of the human greeting variety.
The roses were made from fine paper, however, that and thin, green sticks posing as stems, apparently made from pressed wood and green paint.
She looked at the card. In metallic red lettering was written the words "Be My Valentine".
Her cheek twitched. Valentine's Day. February 14th. Not a date she remembered willingly. Then she opened it, and read the contents.
I apologize about the card, it was the best option available. I suppose you're wondering what this is about, so I'll get to the point right quick.
I'm sorry I never told you, I'm sorry I went to the Aenar and messed up our bond, and I'm sorry I hurt you.
...now, the only reason I'm saying it like this is because I think if I told you this in person you'd lay me flat again, and I think we'd both prefer if we could avoid that.
Not saying it's your fault, far from it, that's probably my fault too, just saying there's no point tempting fate.
Anyway, if you hate me now I guess I can accept that, and if you want a transfer feel free to tell me. Just...don't hit me again. People will ask questions.
She stared at it for a long time, then the artificial flowers that she now realized he must have made by hand, then the card again.
She very pointedly did not sigh.
I'm going to have to tell him all of it.
Her mouth curled in a faint expression of distaste, followed by another not-sigh.
But I do not have to be in his presence while I do. He is right about tempting fate.
She reached for her desk console and sent a request for the captain's quarters.
She raised an eyebrow. He had been asleep? Apparently the sedative private Everhardt had prescribed had been highly potent. She suppressed an irrational urge to reach out and muss his hair, seeing as he was on the other side of the ship and only present on the console display.
"Captain. We need to discuss something."
He blinked, then seemed to become more alert. "...go ahead."
"First of all, I do not desire a transfer. Not at this time."
He seemed to sag with relief. She had to clear her throat of a sudden obstruction before continuing.
"Secondly, an issue with my health that might be affecting the both of us requires me to seek counsel from the most renowned experts on neural injury and recovery available. Unfortunately, they are not what I would consider...appealing."
"...don't tell me. The Tellarites?"
She couldn't help frowning slightly. "...I would prefer the Tellarites. No, I am speaking of the Betazoid."
He stared at her blankly for a long moment. "...the what?"
The End...of this episode.
Star Trek Heronas will return with the next episode: The Betazoid Connection.
On the next episode of Star Trek: Heronas...
"What kind of monster could do something like this?"
"Captain, maintenance reports a crew member has failed to log in."
"Jesus, the neck's almost severed..."
As realization dawned, a shadow detached itself from the ceiling behind him. He quickly reached for the comms. "Captain! It's in the-"
Claw-like hands closed around his throat, forever silencing what he was about to say.
"We traced the transport back to a human Boomer colony, but before that, who knows? All we know is, it's killed twelve men and women here, and now it's on your ship."
"We're too late, captain. She's dead."
All this, next on Star Trek: Heronas.