Disclaimers, etc. in the teaser.
Author's Note: Sorry this has taken me awhile. If I'd been a good girl and outlined the whole thing from the beginning, I'd have realized Act Five is too long and rearranged my acts a little. Oh well. Since the only pay in fanfic is reviews, I guess I don't have to worry about running time. (Many thanks as always, reviewers.) Also, thanks to Putaro for beta help with this one.
Next, we return to the Missing Scenes and wrap that series up.
A cold, damp wind laden with the odors of what Gral called "the spring manuring" blew across the barely-lit roof of the facility as a squadron of the planet's special forces waited quietly in a semi-circle around the door to the lift. Jon zipped his jacket up further and reflected that T'Pol probably would have found the environment even more unpleasant than he did.
Not that she would have let it stop her, especially with Trip at risk. But T'Pol was not welcome here; even if he had pushed the issue by sending her down anyway, the Tellarites might not have accorded her any authority. "You know," he muttered to Gral, who was standing next to him, "You're throwing away half the talent in your population with your oppressive policies towards women."
It wasn't terribly diplomatic of him, but one was supposed to insult Tellarites, after all.
"We don't oppress them," Gral said. "We merely divide our roles more appropriately than you Humans do. We avoid your hormone-driven free-for-all."
"What do you call this, then?" Jon grumbled.
"The lift is ascending," a soldier announced.
When the lift doors opened to reveal Lieutenant Reed alone, Archer yelled, "Hold your fire!" and Gral signaled the Tellarite CO to echo the command.
Malcolm walked out, hands obviously bound behind him, his mouth set in a grim line. "He wants me to send the lift back down for him. He also said he'll kill Commander Tucker if he sees a single weapon pointed at them."
Archer stared at Gral, and his scowling commander ordered the arrayed forces to lower their weapons. A Tellarite officer sent the lift down, while another released Reed from his bonds. "Report," Jon said.
Reed said, "He seems pretty resolute, but he's also getting very nervous. I would suggest keeping this transfer as low-key as possible. Is Patania here?" He looked around anxiously.
The Tellarite commander nodded to someone, who ran off and returned shortly, leading a smaller person. Archer couldn't help cataloging the features of the first female Tellarite he had ever seen: she was a bit round, as most Tellarites seemed to be, with a head of flowing blonde hair from which two distinctive ears protruded, and a simple white dress and long velvet waistcoat that appeared to be cinching in – here Jon's eyes widened involuntarily – three pairs of ample breasts, beginning in the usual spot and continuing all the way down to her waist.
Proof, he reflected, that you really could have too much of a good thing.
It was hard not to notice the many Tellarite males in the room suddenly standing to attention and focusing all their attention on their visitor as well, who blushed and scraped her feet, and said nothing.
"Patania?" Archer said.
"Sir?" she responded, not quite meeting his eyes.
"You're willing to depart with Shev as he wishes?"
Her eyes rose to his in obvious surprise.
The Tellarite commander said, "Of course she is." He addressed the young woman. "Wait here quietly until we tell you what to do."
The lift door suddenly opened onto Trip, looking apprehensive, with Shev peering around him. To Archer's relief, the Tellarites' weapons stayed down. Trip shared a scowl with Jon and with Malcolm as Shev nudged him forward.
"Where's Patania?" Shev demanded.
The commander prodded her out into plain view.
Shev hesitated for a moment, as if he perhaps doubted the woman's identity, then nodded. "Okay, good. Are you well, Patania?"
She nodded, eyes wide.
He turned his attention to Gral. "The ship?"
Gral pointed across the roof, to where a sleek Tellarite runabout waited, gangway open, with only its running lights on. "We've fulfilled our side of the bargain."
"So far," Shev said, and pushed Trip ahead a few paces. "Patania, please board the ship first."
Patania looked questioningly at the Tellarite commander, who nodded, so she turned and walked – with frequent looks over her shoulder – towards the ship. Trip exchanged a long, grim look with Jon as Shev marched him over to the ship as well, just as planned. Shev had decided he needed a bargaining chip that would allow him to safely leave Tellar Prime.
Jon scowled in frustration as the doorway folded up and closed with his chief engineer on board, then took off. But at least he was still alive and well. He whipped out his communicator. "T'Pol, two to transport."
"Three," Gral corrected him, stepping closer.
Jon sighed. "Three," he said, and then the transporter took them.
x x x
Trip stood, his right hand cuffed to a handle bar in the tiny bridge of the Tellarite runabout, and was forced to hold onto it with his left as Shev took them abruptly up into the atmosphere and space. Shev had already buckled Patania securely into the only other seat and warned her to keep her harness on for safety reasons, though she had been trying to adjust it ever since to accommodate her mind-bogglingly extensive bosom.
Somehow he doubted there would ever be a Human-Tellarite pairing. Maybe on a desert island…
He'd said that about T'Pol once, hadn't he? But T'Pol made it easy to stray from the Human genome: everything was in the same place, not to mention glorious. The only differences really were complexion and temperature, and that pesky little detail that once 'mated' with her you were bound forever. But then, he rather appreciated that, now that they were getting along so well.
He found himself idly wondering what Tellarite pornography looked like even as he carefully evaluated all the equipment within reach of his free hand. Unfortunately, he couldn't read Tellarite, and none of it looked particularly useful to a securely handcuffed man in any case.
"Your ship is following us," Shev told Trip.
"As agreed," Trip pointed out, reassured to hear that Enterprise was keeping up with them. Worst case scenario, maybe they could simply transport him home.
Shev peered down at something in his scanner. "Hmm."
"What?" Trip said.
"There's another ship at the edge of my sensors. I said no other ships."
Trip swallowed. In theory, at least, his continued existence depended on Tellar's cooperation with Shev's demands. "Could be a coincidence. This is a busy area of space."
Shev said nothing, monitoring, then apparently became more satisfied and turned towards Patania. "You must be feeling a little overwhelmed, sweetness."
She just stared back at him, eyes wide.
"You must be Patania," Trip said. "I'm Trip."
Her eyes flickered his way, but if anything she just looked more freaked out. Perhaps she'd never seen an alien in person before.
"I told you I wanted us to be together forever," Shev said. "And you agreed that would be nice."
She swallowed, and finally found her voice. "I was being polite."
"This may not be the ideal way to begin our life together," Shev said. "But don't worry - we'll have time to adjust." He frowned a little. "I have to admit, you look different than I remembered." He sighed. "That place was pretty dimly lit, wasn't it?"
"In heat there can be no reason," she said.
Shev frowned uncomfortably and turned back to his panel. "Guess you're past that now," he said, without looking back. "Still, I'd say we were drawn to each other pretty profoundly."
Trip watched her eyebrows rise skeptically. "You know," he said, "there's still time to stop all this."
Shev said, "We just need time to get reacquainted."
She cleared her throat. "Please don't take this personally," she said, "but I don't want to get reacquainted. I want to go home. I don't understand why you're doing this."
Shev turned and stared at her for a moment, then assumed an extremely reasonable tone. "Sweetness, if you still feel that way a year from now, I promise I'll find a way to send you back. But wouldn't you like a chance to actually raise your own children? To have your own family?"
"A family?" she said, clearly aghast. "What are you - a reactionary?"
"This is pointless, Shev," Trip said. "Let her go. Enterprise can take her back to Tellar Prime."
Shev stared at Trip for a long moment. "And what am I supposed to do?" he said. He peered down at his sensors again. "It's back."
"Sensor ghost?" Trip suggested, though he didn't believe it. More likely the Tellarites were trying to monitor Shev from just outside his sensor range, and screwing it up.
Shev was silent.
"Hail Enterprise," Trip suggested. "Ask them to warn whoever it is off."
Instead, Shev suddenly pulled the throttle back and the tiny craft went straight up into a tight 180 that left Trip hanging on for dear life. Patania gripped the edges of her seat and looked sick. Apparently Tellarites didn't believe in wasting resources on robust inertial dampeners.
Or maybe they considered this a sporty ride.
Or maybe Shev was just the worst pilot ever.
On the screen, Trip saw Enterprise loom larger and larger until it sheared off to Shev's port. "What the hell are you doing?" he screamed at Shev.
Shev continued right past Enterprise. "Let's see if whoever it is backs off," he said darkly. "As per our agreement."
Trip watched anxiously as whoever it was – and it didn't look particularly Tellarite – instead grew steadily larger in the view screen.
Shev pulled the phase pistol out of his pocket and glanced over his shoulder at Trip.
Damn it. He really didn't want to have to die just because Shev was throwing a hissy fit about some other ship that had blundered into this little drama. "You don't even know who they are," he said. "Don't do anything you'll regret."
"Too late for that," Shev said. He pressed a button, "Vessel, identify yourself."
The view screen suddenly filled with a man in a robe with an ornate Coridanite mask covering his face. "We meet again," the man said.
"What are you doing here?" Shev said. "I didn't request your help."
"You didn't need to," the Coridanite said.
"I don't want you here," Shev said.
"I'm afraid that's not an option," the Coridanite said, and dropped the connection. On the screen, the craft loomed ever larger.
Trip said, "Call Enterprise, ask for assistance."
Shev said nothing.
"It's not too late, Shev," Trip said. "You could request asylum. Or claim temporary insanity."
Shev abruptly executed another unnerving loop back to his original course, then flipped a switch on the helm. "Shev to Enterprise. Prepare to transport over your engineer." He looked over at Patania and said roughly, "You want to go with him?"
She looked at Trip, as if hoping he could give her the right answer. Shev was, after all, still holding a rather nasty-looking phase pistol.
"Take Patania, too, Enterprise," Shev said, apparently deciding on his own. "You can…"
But then a massive concussion hit them from behind and everything went to hell.
x x x
T'Pol was at the transporter, where she had maintained an obsessive lock on Trip for the last ten minutes, when the captain told her to include Patania in that as well, then quickly amended that to "Transport all of them if you can!"
She resisted the urge to tell him that re-establishing locks on all three risked losing the lock on Trip and started over, though she soon realized she would have had to do that anyway in order to compensate for the little ship's suddenly chaotic trajectory.
Finally, she got all three figures to materialize - not one of them upright. "Medical emergency at the transporter," she said. "I have three casualties," then climbed up to where Trip lay, moaning, his right wrist and arm twisted in brutal compound fractures. She laid her hand on his forehead, hoping to soothe him, and perhaps also to reassure herself. "What happened?"she asked him, but his eyelids were fluttering and he passed out.
As she frantically pulled out her scanner to assess his condition, she heard sniffing and crying from the female. "Patania?" she said.
"Ye-es," the female said, voice hitching. "It hurts."
"Help is on the way," she said, even as Phlox and a group of assistants arrived, bearing stretchers.
Phlox did a quick survey of all three patients, medical scanner at hand, and quickly focused his attention on the male Tellarite, who did look the most damaged. "Immobilize him and get him to sickbay," he said, directing two of the MACOs who doubled as medics, then turned to Trip. "He'll be fine," he said to T'Pol, and told the others to bring Trip along after. "Take care with that arm. This young lady…"
"Patania," T'Pol told him.
"Patania, you're going to be fine. You have a minor case of whiplash and some bruising," Phlox said. "Neck brace for her, please."
"Plus fifty milligrams of anaprovaline and one unit of sonambutril," he added curtly, and took off after the stretcher with Shev in it.
x x x
From the tactical station, Reed said, "They've attached a grappling line to the runabout."
"Can't have that," Jon said.
Malcolm frowned in concentration, then nodded and fired. The aliens' grappling line broke, which left the battered Tellarite runabout rolling aimlessly in space again, this time trailing a length of cable.
"Nice shot," Jon said, and Malcolm smiled.
Gral said, "That's definitely not a Tellarite ship."
"Coridanite?" Jon asked the new ensign at the science station. Erika's cherry picking had resulted in new duty posts in most departments.
With admirable calm, Ensign Cheng said, "At this scan level their species is not easy to distinguish from a number of other Humanoids, sir. However, they do appear to be wearing metal implements on their faces, possibly masks."
"The weapon they used was not typically Coridanite," Reed said. "Nor does their warp signature match any known Coridanite configuration."
"Definitely not Tellarite?" Archer asked Cheng. "Or Orion?"
"Definitely not, sir," she said.
Malcolm added, "It doesn't match anything in the database. Perhaps it's custom-built."
"Captain!" Travis said. "Two ships, bearing down fast."
They were already in tactical alert, so Jon just looked at Reed, waiting. "Not Tellarite," Reed reported. "And their weapons are charged."
As Jon had feared, Hoshi's hails were ignored. "Do we have any ID at all?" he asked, hesitating to fire, but they settled the question of their intentions by firing first.
The bridge shuddered, and Reed reported, "Their weapons appear to be similar to our own. Forward hull plating is down to 80%."
"Evasive maneuvers, return fire," Jon said, and turned to Cheng. "Anything, Ensign?"
"Same species as the first ship, same hull alloy, slightly different configuration."
Jon turned to Gral. "You did call in the cavalry?"
"They should arrive momentarily, Captain," Gral said.
"That would be nice," Jon said. On a sudden hunch, he told Malcolm, "Blow up whatever's left of Shev's runabout."
Malcolm looked a bit perplexed, perhaps at the distraction from what he surely considered the higher priority, and launched a torpedo at the wreck just as Enterprise absorbed another round of fire.
The runabout exploded into a flash of light followed by a cloud of particles, a show matched by the more immediate showers of sparks on the bridge.
"All three ships are moving off," Mayweather said.
Gral said, "Cowards. They must know that our ships are on the way."
Or perhaps there was nothing there for them anymore, Jon thought, and sat back in his chair. What had they been hoping for? Did they think Shev had the database on him? Did they want that phase pistol? If so, didn't that suggest a pretty serious security breach somewhere on Tellar?
He considered ordering a pursuit course, but the Tellarite fleet still hadn't shown up and Enterprise had already taken damage and would obviously be outgunned.
Still, the mystery irritated him. It was probably Coridan, but they would never be able to prove it.
Hell, for all he knew, it was Harris.
x x x
T'Pol watched Trip straighten up with a slight wince as the captain and Ambassador Gral walked into sickbay. He had made a fast improvement since the surgery Phlox had performed on him the day before, but still faced a great deal of therapy to regain full use of his arm and hand.
She'd felt a surge of pure fear from Trip when Phlox told him, "Ignore my instructions the way you usually do, Mr. Tucker, and you could be end up a right-handed engineer who can't use his right hand. Of course, we could choose to replace it with a prosthesis if necessary."
Her bond mate had paled.
"I will monitor his cooperation," T'Pol had said.
"Good," Phlox said. "Commander, I'm not simply trying to scare you. The truth is that even with the best therapy, we may not be able to get your hand back to 100%. So let's make sure we give it our best effort, hmm?"
"Of course, Doc," Trip had said faintly.
He still struck her as subdued now as he joined the captain and Ambassador Gral at Shev's bedside. Shev, who had only now been declared stable enough for travel, was due to be transferred today - if he wished.
"You can still request asylum," Trip told him. "The ambassador says Tellar won't object."
"Where's Patania?" Shev had asked.
Gral said, "On her way home – at her request."
Shev blinked up at the ceiling. "What a fool I've been."
"Well, if it makes you feel any better," Trip said, "I've been a fool for love plenty of times." He looked over at her and winked, and T'Pol experienced an odd moment of pure gratification.
However, it was followed by some concern. Just how many times had he been a fool for love? And was this a pattern he expected to continue into the future?
Gral said, "Obviously, asylum with the Humans would exile you from Tellarite society forever. But if you choose to return home, there will likely be severe consequences for your actions."
"Perhaps if Shev had an idea what they might be…" Trip suggested.
Gral said, "I'm not a judge, Commander Tucker. Assuming that Shev did not in fact intend to share any vital information with Coridan, he will probably escape the most severe punishment. There are provisions for youthful indiscretion in our judicial code."
"I just want to go home," Shev said.
x x x
Released to his quarters at last, Trip waited until his door had shut on them both and then turned to kiss his bond mate … his wife – though, in truth, until that was made official on Earth, he sometimes had a hard time thinking of it that way.
As much as she had hovered over him in sickbay, for example, they had been forced to maintain the token fiction that they were merely fellow officers. And that rankled.
She kissed him back, carefully. "We mustn't injure your arm."
"And we won't," he said, pressing her up against the wall with everything but his arm.
When they came up for air, she said, "So you've been 'a fool for love'?"
"Of course" he said, smiling. "I was a fool for love when I let myself get into a relationship with a beautiful woman in the same chain of command. Not that I regret it now."
She frowned. "I was not a Starfleet officer at the time. Nor did you report directly to me."
Her face darkened. "If it was inappropriate then, surely it still is."
He grinned. "Oh well. Are you going to try to claim that you've never been a fool for love?"
"No. I have been, more than you know." She sat down on his bunk and suddenly looked very serious.
"Well, you did get involved with a smelly, emotional, short-lived Human."
"I did much worse than that," she said, utterly failing to match his light tone.
Was this was what she had been hiding from him? He sat down next to her. He grabbed her right hand in his good hand. "Tell me."
She looked searchingly at him. "You won't like it."
"Tell me anyway."
She swallowed. "It involves Trellium-D."
x x x
Shev woke up in a soft bed, staring up at a soaring ceiling with rustic wooden beams.
"He's awake," an unfamiliar female voice said.
He turned his head. An older female sat in a rocking chair at his side, and Patania was hurrying to them.
Was this a dream? "Patania? What am I doing here?"
"Instead of sending you to prison, the judge decided to detail you to our compound," the older woman said.
Patania smiled shyly down at him. "I'm sure we can use your skills in the collective."
"We can be together?" he asked, stunned.
"We're all together here," she said.
"I don't understand," he said. "Where's the punishment in that?"
The two women looked uncomfortably at each other. "There was some sacrifice involved."
"Your testicles were surgically excised," the older woman explained, "to prevent your particular tendencies from reappearing in future generations, and allow you to live peaceably among us."
Shev stared at her in horror. What?
She smiled. "We hope you will be very happy here, Barrow Shev."