Disclaimers, etc.: in Part I.
Author's Note: So, after over two years and 200,000 words, we're done. It's been a fun ride. I would be remiss not to thank the show's creators and performers for giving us something we could have so much fun playing with, and Chrissie's Transcripts Site and Memory Alpha for making this kind of undertaking much easier than it might have been otherwise. Thank you to those who've read and - most of all, of course - to those generous souls who've reviewed. I may eventually try to take a shot at a worthier finale episode for our heroes, but that probably isn't going to happen anytime soon. So happy reading and writing, and here's to our favorite crew.
When the lights came up again, Captain Archer was pacing and Mayweather was sitting against the wall and watching his captain pace.
"You're going to wear the floor out, sir," he said.
"That might be the only way we ever get out of here," Archer said, and stopped to stare longingly up at the lights Tucker and T'Pol had climbed. "I hate waiting around."
"At least it's warmer. I wonder who we have to thank for that?"
Suddenly the red lights appeared on the floor in an empty corner of the cell and Reed and Sato materialized – now clad in simple tunics and in the act of chewing bars of some kind.
More lights glowed in the opposite corner and Tucker and T'Pol materialized, still clad in their underwear; Tucker's hand was up and he was saying, "…no, wait!"
He blinked, adjusting the sudden change in locale. "I guess they didn't wait."
"Report," Archer said.
T'Pol said, "Commander Tucker succeeded in communicating with Major McKenzie. It remains to be seen what may result from that, but we learned that Enterprise has thus far been successful in holding off any attempt to board the ship or capture the crew."
"Did you come up with ideas for getting us out of here?"
T'Pol glanced at Tucker. "Possibly."
"Possibly?" Archer said.
"We don't know how open the Mendrosans are to opportunities for profitable hydbridizing," Tucker said loudly. He looked up meaningfully. "They might not be READY for quite that level of success."
Archer grimaced. "They are monitoring us?"
"They have the capability," T'Pol said. She hesitated. "Their room from which they monitor and communicate appears somewhat primitive. They also don't appear to actually watch or listen with any great attention. I believe they prefer to rely on their alarm systems." She examined her wrists. "Having discovered that we had removed our transponders, they installed new ones."
Tucker held out his wrist. "In the exact same spot." He rolled his eyes.
"They may believe we are cooperating now," T'Pol said, a touch reprovingly.
"Because…?" Archer said.
"Well, at their request I did order McKenzie to have the entire crew beam down in lots of six … and I told her they might as well come in just their underwear and bare feet, to save time and trouble."
Archer blinked and nodded slowly. "I see."
Tucker smirked at Reed and Sato and said, "So they may not watch their captives very attentively, but it was kind of hard to miss you two on one of their monitors. They were quite pleased with your level of cooperation."
Both Reed and Sato flushed red. "Looked convincing, did it?" Reed said stiffly.
"Very," Tucker said.
"Hey, it brought you some relief from the cold, didn't it?" Sato said. "And we got to eat."
Trip said, "I'm the one who got them the relief from the cold."
"You can't know that, Commander," T'Pol said.
Mayweather had been watching Sato and Reed rather hungrily. "Speaking of eating…"
Sato gave him what remained of the bar she'd been chewing. "They're actually better than our own ration-paks," she said.
"Who can say what's in them, though," Reed said, and offered his half-consumed bar to Archer.
"No thanks," Archer said. He turned to Tucker and T'Pol. "Did they feed you?"
"No," Tucker said, so Reed offered him the bar, but Tucker shook his head dismissively. Reed tried T'Pol, then Mayweather, and looked just a trifle disappointed when Mayweather accepted it.
Tucker turned to T'Pol. "We're still in our underwear. And they didn't feed us. Do you think they decided I was full of it?"
"I would have," she said.
He was making a face at her when utter darkness fell … and continued to just sit there, darkly.
"This scene transition is way too slow!" Deanna complained.
"That's because it's not a scene transition," Beverly said.
"Trip?" Archer said in the darkness. "Any idea what's going on here?"
"They do say be careful what you ask for," Tucker said. "We suggested McKenzie send a computer file to the Mendrosans."
"And it appears they may have opened it," T'Pol said.
Reed said, "Then any shielding around this place should be down. Why aren't…"
Suddenly six transporter signals lit up the darkness.
"Ta da," Beverly said, and the lights came up on bridge, where the members of the landing party had returned to their usual posts. Captain Archer, dressed in his uniform again, was listening to Major McKenzie's report, "Most of the ships in their fleet also suffered sudden power losses; they appear to functioning on back-up systems."
"And our shuttle pod?" Archer asked.
"It's on its way up now."
Archer smiled. "Excellent work, Major."
"Thank you, sir."
Sato said, "Captain, I'm receiving distress calls from Mendrosan ships."
Archer sighed. "Are you kidding me?"
T'Pol said, "They appear to actually be in distress, Captain. I detect only minimal life support."
From the engineering station, Tucker said, "No propulsion either. What was in that file you transmitted, Major?"
McKenzie said, "A sub-routine designed to shut down their systems for a period of about two hours. We didn't expect it would actually take them that long to clean it out, though. We didn't count on getting more than ten minutes. Actually, we were a little surprised when it worked at all."
"I wouldn't underestimate the lack of sophistication of this particular bunch," Tucker said. "They're working off a bunch of scavenged systems strung together."
"Is anyone going to die if we don't do anything?" Archer asked.
Tucker shook his head. "I don't think so. They'll just get a little chilly."
Reed said, "I can live with that."
Archer said, "So can I. Travis, let's get out of here. Hoshi, I want you to prepare a general warning about this species and this region of space. Let's make sure they can't lure anyone else in."
"It's hard to believe any space-faring species could really fall victim to these idiots," Tucker said.
"What does that say about us, then?" Reed said.
"Well, we're back, aren't we?" Tucker said. "And no real harm done."
Archer said grimly, "I'll be in my ready room," and stalked out.
Tucker looked over at T'Pol. "What'd I say?"
"You forgot about Porthos," she said.
"Oh," Tucker said, cringing.
Then he got a thoughtful look on his face.
Deanna turned to Beverly. "Don't tell me they have a supply of puppies on this ship."
"Well…" Beverly said, even as the lights dimmed and came up again on the NX-01's tiny sickbay. They watched a humming Dr. Phlox inject something that looked like a white bag with something, then hook it to a nutrient feed in a chamber full of liquid. "Their Dr. Phlox was very unconventional physician. He's actually a rather controversial figure in the history of Starfleet medicine."
"Because he did extensive research into a banned procedure in which creatures called 'mimetic clones' were created from a species of Lyssarrian larva. Originally, this kind of clone could live only a fraction of the original being's life span, but Phlox discovered a way to stabilize them into a near-normal life span."
"But cloning is illegal. Surely it was then, as well."
"Oh, yes, for Humans at least. Phlox was eventually censured pretty heavily by Starfleet Medical for his research, but he simply went back to Denobula and carried on – using animal subjects only, of course. But his papers didn't help with some rather persistent rumors that the real Commander Tucker had died in the Expanse and had been replaced by a mimetic clone."
"Really? Is there any chance that actually happened?"
"No, of course not. Never mind how completely unethical it would be to create a clone of a Human. Commander Tucker lived into his late nineties. Clones are never that robust."
"Late nineties isn't that old."
"It is if you had Commander Tucker's medical history. You wouldn't believe how much damage that man took! Besides, we're talking over 200 years ago. In any case, a clone probably couldn't have made it past sixty or seventy."
The holo-deck had been treating them to a montage of quick scenes of a fetus developing in the chamber. "That's definitely a puppy," Deanna said, pointing. "So does that mean this cloned dog is going to have a rather short lifespan?"
Beverly chuckled. "Does it matter? This holo-fic author obviously knew about the rumors and decided to have some fun with them. It's no more realistic than anything else in this fic."
x x x
The scene shifted to Archer's quarters. The captain was lying on his bed in his sweats, and rather disconsolately throwing his water polo ball up at the ceiling. The door buzzed.
"Come in," he said, and sat up with a sigh.
"There's someone we'd like you to meet, sir," Tucker said, walking in with a small dog in his arms. Dr. Phlox and Commander T'Pol followed him in.
Archer's stare was hard. "What is this?"
Phlox said, "Captain, I know we agreed that there would be no more use of Lyssarrian cloning for Human patients. But Porthos is a dog…"
"Porthos is dead," Archer said brusquely. "Are you telling me this is his clone?"
"Yes … a mimetic clone … stabilized to live a near-normal life span," Phlox said.
Tucker put the dog down and he raced up to Archer and put his paws up on his legs.
Archer hesitated, then picked the dog up. It licked his face joyfully.
"He remembers me?" he said.
"Obviously," Phlox said.
"You'll be happy to hear he remembers all his training too," Tucker said. "Though he is a bit younger than Porthos was when we lost him."
"You put the doctor up to this?" Archer said.
Porthos still in his arms, Archer turned his attention to T'Pol. "And you actually agreed to it?"
The Vulcan said, "I did, Captain. Enterprise needs her captain. And her captain needs his dog."
"Well…" Archer said. "Other than a little concern about how I'm going to explain the sudden reappearance of my dog to Starfleet … I guess all I can say is thank you."
"You're welcome," Tucker said, and patted T'Pol's shoulder to signal they should leave.
"Captain," Phlox said, with a large Denobulan smile, and took his leave as well.
Archer sat back down on the bed, petting his beloved beagle and accepting many happy dog kisses in return. "I guess all's well that ends well," he said, and shook his head, smiling.
Deanna was about to open her mouth and comment, but closed it again as the lights dimmed and opened on Ensign Mayweather and Major McKenzie locked in a passionate kiss while they floated in zero-G in an unfamiliar part of the ship. "How are they doing that?" she asked, even as the scene faded to Reed and Sato re-enacting their recent cooperative activities in the comfort of Sato's quarters. The scene then faded to Tucker and T'Pol in her candle-lit cabin, as Tucker leaned forward from his position behind T'Pol to suck the tip of her ear, eliciting a visible shudder of arousal in the pajama-clad Vulcan.
"Oh my," Deanna said, even as the lights dimmed and the holodeck reappeared.
"You'll just have to imagine the rest of that," Beverly said.
"Okay, that was kind of sweet. But it was also total nonsense!"
"Of course it was. But so was what you saw with Commander Riker. And I prefer this total nonsense to that. Just think of it as an antidote."
"I wonder what these people would think if they could see the way we're playing with them."
"Does it matter? The real people had their own lives and then they died, and we will never really know what went on there. But these versions belong to all of us. They'll never stop having adventures; they'll never stop falling in love with each other. They're immortal in a way real people can never hope to be."
"Speak for yourself," Deanna said tartly. "I plan to live forever."
Beverly chuckled. "Well, good luck with that."
"You never know," Deanna said. "Maybe someday somebody will write a program with us in it."