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Author's note: If anyone wants to consider this an alternate universe, they are welcome to do so.

The Katra of T'Pol

Aeryn Alexander

Part One

"Captain, we've managed to hold them off, but we could really use some help down here." said Commander Tucker into the communicator. The sound of disrupter fire had ceased, but Trip continued to grip his phase pistol with white knuckles. He glanced at Sub-commander T'Pol, who was studying a tricorder that she held in one hand. Her other hand grasped a phase pistol.
"They are still close." she informed Tucker coolly.
"Trip, it's too dangerous for us to use the transporter right now. Can you put some distance between the aliens and yourselves?" asked Captain Archer.
"Sir, if we leave the shelter of these rocks, we'll be sitting ducks." answered Trip, looking around.
T'Pol and Tucker, after being unceremoniously chased from some ruins by aliens who were presumably guarding those ruins, had managed to fight their way to an outlying collection of boulders that provided some protection. All around them as far as the eye could see was a rolling prairie of high, dark orange grass that provided concealment for their enemies, but no protection for them.
"There are too many biosigns in your area to make beaming you out feasible." Archer told him.
"I understand, captain, but couldn't you send Lieutenant Reed and some of his boys down with some rifles or something?" asked Trip.
"The cavalry is prepping a shuttle right now, Trip, but that's going to take time. Can you hold out for a while, Commander?" he asked.
Trip looked at T'Pol and she met his gaze.
"They are forming a circle around our position, Commander. It is too late to run." she told him.
"Did you get that, captain?" asked Trip.
"I heard her. Hold your position. Help is on the way." said Archer.
"We will do our best, captain."
"I know, Trip. Archer out."
"Commander, they are closing in. I suggest that we prepare ourselves for combat." said T'Pol, tucking the tricorder away.
Tucker could hear an eerie rustle in the grass even above the monotonous whistle of the wind. Within seconds of T'Pol's calm announcement, aliens armed with powerful disrupters began firing upon their position. And they returned fire until the air was heavy with the scent of discharged weapons and thick with dust. The aliens seemed to be retreating toward the ruins, thwarted by the ferocity of Trip and calm precision of T'Pol, when Tucker heard T'Pol cry out in pain behind him. One of their enemies had clambered on top of a boulder and caught T'Pol by surprise. She shot her foe with her phase pistol before falling to the ground.
It was silent as Trip looked at her, as though the wind had ceased and their enemies fled soundlessly. His heart was pounding in his chest. He looked at the sub-commander and the green stain of Vulcan blood on her uniform. He could see nothing else, just the blood and the terrible expression of pain on T'Pol's face. The world had ceased to move around him as he knelt next to her and groped for something to do or say.
"Commander, we have driven them off." she managed, coughing weakly.
"T'Pol ..." he started to say, but couldn't. It felt as though something was stuck in his throat.
"We were out numbered, commander. It is not logical that we have prevailed at all." she said.
"Don't talk, T'Pol. If you lie still and quiet until the shuttle gets here ..." he began telling her.
"There is nothing that can be done. The blast was at close range. It will be fatal." she told him mechanically.
"Can I do anything?" asked Trip, concern and grief touching his features.
"I don't want to ask this of you because you are ... human, but who else will do this for me?" said T'Pol, coughing again.
"What?"
"Take my katra back to Vulcan so that I may find peace."
"Your what?"
"My soul."
"And you want me to take your soul back to Vulcan for you?"
"If it is not too much to ask, commander."
"I would do anything for you."
"Thank you, Trip." she said, her expression softening despite the pain.
Her hand was shaking as she reached up to touch his face. Commander Tucker closed his eyes as her fingers settled into position.
"What are you going to do?" he asked.
"I am giving you my soul."
All was quiet. Nothing around him seemed to stir. Then he heard the faraway voice of T'Pol speak a single word that reverberated through his consciousness and all of his being.
"Remember."

When Trip opened his eyes, he was lying on the ground, looking up at the green-gray alien sky. For a moment he didn't know what had happened.
"There was a fire fight. T'Pol was injured. Her katra?" he questioned himself mentally as he slowly sat up.
He turned and looked at T'Pol. Her uniform was soaked through with blood, but her face was peaceful. She was dead. For a brief instant it was agonizing to look at her lifeless body, but it passed, or rather it diminished. He touched her hair and sighed.
"I'm sure going to miss you." he said aloud.
His communicator chirped and he answered it without a second thought, "Tucker here."
"The shuttlepod will be landing in five minutes, Trip. How are you holding up?" asked Archer.
"I am fine, captain, but Sub-commander T'Pol has been killed."
"What?" asked Captain Archer in disbelief.
"Sub-commander T'Pol was killed by a close range disrupter blast. Our enemies have since retreated." replied Trip. He looked up into the sky just in time to see Shuttlepod One make its descent. "It looks like the cavalry has arrived. Better late than never, I guess." said Commander Tucker.
"Are you sure you're okay, Trip?" asked Archer.
"I am not injured, but what's wrong will take some explaining. I'd rather do it aboard the ship, sir."
"Whatever you say, commander. Archer out."
Just minutes later Lieutenant Reed and three heavily armed security officers strode into the sheltered areas among the rocks. Commander Tucker came to his feet as Malcolm's eyes rested on T'Pol.
"She's dead, commander?" asked Reed.
"Unfortunately, yes." replied Tucker, shaking his head and heaving a sigh.
"I'm sorry, sir." said Malcolm. "I'll have my men carry her back to the shuttlepod."
"No, I'll do it myself. She isn't heavy." Tucker told him, reaching down and scooping T'Pol up into his arms. "I wish I could have done this when you were still alive." he thought. "Let's get back to the ship, lieutenant. I have to have a conversation with Captain Archer." he said stiffly.

"Her soul, commander?" said Archer in obvious, undisguised disbelief as Trip related what had happened on the planet's surface.
"Yes, sir. She called it her katra, but I guess it's about the same thing. She gave it to me so I could return it to Vulcan for her." explained Commander Tucker.
"I am having some difficulty believing this, Trip. Do you have any proof that you have her soul?"
Tucker frowned and asked, "Do you have any proof that I don't?"
"Commander, it doesn't seem reasonable to go to Vulcan without some kind of confirmation or evidence. It's a long way off."
"At our maximum warp it is only two weeks, two days, and about ten hours. To give Sub-commander T'Pol's katra some peace, I think it would be worth the time spent."
Archer felt a chill as Tucker rattled off the estimated duration of the journey. The precision was not like him.
"And you agreed to do this for her?"
"She asked me to do it if it wasn't too much trouble. What was I supposed to say to her, sir? 'Sorry, T'Pol, but I think your katra can make it back to Vulcan on its own.' She was dying, captain, and it seemed so important to her."
"Before I make my decision, we should probably have Dr. Phlox check you out. Maybe he can verify whether or not you have her ... katra." said Archer.
"And if he cannot verify it, sir?"
"I don't know, Trip. I just don't know."

"Despite your ordeal, you are in excellent condition. Everything seems to check out. Actually, your blood pressure seems to be slightly improved. That is unusually considering the circumstances - all that excitement down there and the death of Sub-commander T'Pol - but it is certainly no cause for alarm." Dr. Phlox told Trip and the captain. They had not revealed the reason for their visit. The captain wanted an unbiased assessment.
"Mentally?" asked Tucker, hoping the answers would be found there.
"Cognitive function ..." he began. Then Phlox frowned and looked at Tucker. "Would you mind if I performed a few more scans?" the doctor asked.
"Not at all." said Trip.

Almost an hour later Phlox presented the information he had collected to Archer and Tucker.
"The commander's cognitive function seems to have improved somewhat since his last physical. I cannot pin point the cause, but it is certainly very interesting. The pattern of the changes reminds me of something, but I can't seem to recall what." said the doctor.
"Vulcans?" asked Commander Tucker.
Phlox looked very startled and replied, "Yes, exactly. But how did you know?"
"Can I tell him what happened, captain?"
"Go ahead, Trip." said Archer, losing some of his doubt.
"T'Pol gave me her katra to take back to Vulcan for her."
Phlox laid his instruments aside and sighed.
"Does Trip really have something of hers?" asked Archer before the Denobulan could speak.
"You should have told me that in the first place. I could have told you that it wouldn't show up in the medical scans anymore than the commander's own soul would." replied Phlox.
"But the tests?" questioned Tucker.
"Inconclusive."
" But ..." started Trip.
"I'm a doctor, not a priest, commander."
Commander Tucker turned and looked at the captain and asked, "Will you do what has to be done, sir? Will you take her back to Vulcan?"
"Is it advisable to allow Trip to continue his duties for the next two weeks?" Archer asked the physician.
"I don't see why not. You might even find that he has developed a knack for the sciences." said Phlox, smiling.
"Then I should have Travis plot a course for Vulcan at our highest speed." decided Archer.
"Thank you, captain." said Trip.

The Enterprise had never run more smoothly than it did during those two weeks they spent in transit to Vulcan. Captain Archer and much of the crew were aware of a change that had come over Commander Tucker. He was still the same fun-loving and gregarious Trip that everyone knew and loved, but he had developed traits, meticulousness and clarity of thought, that had often been more readily attributed to Vulcans in general and the late Sub-commander in particular. Some of his shipmates, most notoriously Malcolm and Hoshi, teased him about growing pointed ears, but he never did.

When they reached Vulcan and established their orbit, Archer immediately communicated their situation. An answer came swiftly: send this Charles Tucker III, son of Charles to the surface. Captain Archer was more than a little nervous, but Trip seemed calm, almost passive about the summons.
"Trip, do you want me to go with you?" he asked his best friend.
"I don't think it's necessary. Everything will be all right." he replied.
"Take care, Trip."
"You know I will, sir." he said, shaking hands with Archer and preparing to board the Vulcan shuttle that had come for him.

When Commander Tucker stepped out of the Vulcan shuttle, he could see a high mountain before him. The beauty and majesty of it left him awestruck.
"If I could send my own soul to any place when I die, I would send it here." he said aloud as his eyes followed the many steps up the mountain.
"T'Pau awaits you at the mountain top. Do not speak unless you are spoken to. This is a holy place." the pilot of the shuttle told him.
"Who is T'Pau?" asked Trip.
"She is a priestess and holy woman of Vulcan, though she is young, and she is very powerful. Treat her with utmost respect."
With those words, Trip walked up the mountain, Mount Seleya, by its many thousand steps. Vulcans in robes and hoods that hid their faces stood here and there by the way. Time did not seem to pass while he was upon those hallowed stairs and much of his journey seemed as though it were a dream. But then he saw her: T'Pau.
She was indeed young and very beautiful to behold. Commander Tucker marveled: she seemed only a few years older than T'Pol, despite the garments that she wore, which declared her to be a Vulcan priestess. She rose from her seat and motioned for Trip to come forward.
"Thou art the human who bears the katra of T'Pol of Vulcan?" she questioned him in English. She had a strange accent, but she spoke to him without use of a translator.
"Yes, I am, ma'am. I am Commander Tucker of the Enterprise."
"Come forward, Commander Tucker of the Enterprise. I wish to question thee."
His feet moved forward, up a few more stairs, and to a position a few feet away in front of T'Pau. He felt as though he was in a trance.
"Why have you come here?"
"I told T'Pol that I would return her katra to Vulcan so that she could have peace."
"Why did you agree to this?"
"She was dying, and it was important to her."
"Where is the logic in this? It has cost thee much in time and resources to come here."
"T'Pol was my ... friend."
"Friend? What is friend?"
"I don't know how to explain. She was special to me."
"I should speak with T'Pol then and learn where she stands in all of this."
"But she's dead."
"No, she is with thee." said T'Pau, seizing Trip by the side of the face, just as T'Pol had done when she gave him her katra.

For an instant everything went black and Trip wondered if he were unconscious. Then he began to hear quiet voices. Many were Vulcan, but he picked out the voices of the crew of the Enterprise too. Over and over he heard his own voice. Then he began to see or perceive flashes of events: the cave where T'Pol had stunned him, the mess hall on the ship, sickbay where he was lying unconscious and hypothermic, and the planet where T'Pol had died. These were some of the scenes, the memories, that had mattered most to her, although Trip did not know it. Then he could see himself as though in a mirror. Then everything faded away to darkness and silence again.

"Commander Tucker of the Enterprise!" intoned the voice of T'Pau.
Trip opened his eyes and found himself standing on Mount Seleya again. T'Pau was seated and looking at him curiously.
"Ma'am?" he questioned dizzily.
"T'Pol is at peace."
"Where is her katra now?"
"It remains with thee."
"But I promised to return it."
"Her katra is yet unready to find peace in this place. Her only peace is with thee. If you object, I will remove her katra from you, to both thine detriment and hers, though it is illogical to do so. I cannot force thee to keep what is not thine own."
Commander Tucker was suddenly and keenly aware of the loss he would feel if the katra of T'Pol was removed from him. The sorrow was great.
"No, I will keep it, ma'am."
"It will find its way here again. Thou hast kept thine vow well enough."

"You've kept her katra, Trip?" asked Captain Archer, echoing the disbelief he had expressed only two weeks and two days earlier.
"Their priestess T'Pau told me that I should, sir. She said it would be to both our detriments for me to let her katra go." Tucker explained.
"It is your decision, but are you exactly sure this is wise?" asked Archer.
"Sir, everyone on this ship lost Sub-commander T'Pol once. If I gave up her katra, I would be losing her a second time. If it were the right thing to do, I would understand, but it isn't, so why should I be expected to do it, to lose her twice, if it doesn't help anyone?"
Archer nodded slowly and asked, "Are you comfortable with this, Commander?"
"I've gotten used to the idea." said Trip with a smile.
"Will it interfere with your duties or the performance thereof?"
"Not in the least."
"Then we need never even mention it again."
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