Genre: Um, this might be pure sap.
For all of those people who take issue with the idea of a tragic and noble death ...
If you like a tragic and noble death, then just read the first two chapters. Please.
Author's note: see bottom of page
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Sacrifice

Aeryn Alexander

Part Three

"Captain?" asked Ensign Cutler, peering into Jonathan Archer's ready room. It was very early, but Sub-commander T'Pol told her that he was there.
"Yes, ensign?" asked Archer, turning his attention away from his computer. He smiled softly when he saw her. Cutler's eyes were still red and puffy, no doubt from reading the report she had been given just the night before. It was not light reading by any means.
"Are there plans to retrieve the body, sir?" she questioned.
"Have a seat, ensign." he instructed.
Her shoulders shook as she sat down and looked at her commanding officer, but she retained her composure.
"Sir?" she prompted as he looked at her.
"I wish we could, ensign. I just don't think it's possible. Trip, Malcolm, and Hoshi barely escaped with their lives. Additionally, our scans aren't doing much good down there. I want to see him returned home to Denobula as much as anyone else, but I just don't know if it's feasible, ensign." he explained to her.
"If you need a volunteer, sir, I will go."
"That's very brave, ensign, but ..." he began to tell her.
"Please, sir."
"Did you love him, ensign?" he asked. The question was very personal.
"Yes, sir, I ... did." she replied firmly, wanting desperately to sound strong, although the tears in her eyes betrayed her. She blinked them away quickly.
"If T'Pol can get a fix on the body, I will consider it, ensign, but I wouldn't hold out much hope."

She was crying at her station when the call came over the comm system: "Ensign Cutler, report to the shuttle bay immediately." It was Captain Archer's voice. She left her station and hit the corridor at a run.
When she entered the bay, she collided with Lieutenant Reed, who was examining a phase rifle.
"Ensign." he acknowledged as she collected herself.
"Sorry, sir."
"Are you ready for this?"
"I believe I am, sir."
"Ensign," called Archer from near the shuttlepod, "there has been a temporary break in the weapons fire on Gamma Alpha V. The two of you have maybe an hour to collect the body of our fallen comrade and return. No heroics. Get in and get out. Got that?"
"Yes, sir." said Cutler.
"No heroics, sir?" questioned Malcolm quizzically.
"You know what I mean, lieutenant."
"Yes, sir." he said.
"Then get going. You don't have much time."

"We are going to land in an urban war zone, ensign. There might be sniper fire or worse. Be prepared." Malcolm cautioned her as they approached the planet.
"How far will we be from his location?" she asked after giving him an acknowledging nod.
"Twenty-five meters, more or less. The body is in an alley."
"Good. Not far then."
"Ensign, it's all right. Everyone knows how you feel. You don't have to put up a facade while we're in the air."
"I know, lieutenant, but I don't want to go to pieces when we get down there. I want to be a professional."
"Understood, ensign." said Malcolm.

Lieutenant Reed put the shuttlepod down in a small, deserted plaza. Some of the nearby buildings had obviously been hit by artillery fire. The scent of sulfur was still in the air, although it was very faint. The shelling had occurred during the early morning hours. It was nearly noon, and that part of the city was quiet. As Cutler left the shuttlepod, she looked around in frightened wonder. She had never seen an area that had fallen victim to war before. The history books did not do them justice.
"We should hurry, ensign." said Malcolm as she surveyed the horrors.
"Which way?" she questioned, her mind returning instantly to the task at hand.
"Over there."
The alley was very similar to the one that the away team had fled down when the army began their search of the buildings near the downtown area. It was narrow and shadowy even in the noon day sun. At the far end Cutler could see a figure slumped against a far wall that marked where the alley turned. A soft cry escaped her lips and she broke into a run, heedless of the destruction around her or any danger therein. Malcolm followed her like a forgotten rear guard, clutching his rifle to his chest as he ran.
Cutler crumpled to her knees with a choking sob when she reached him. The front of his shirt was soaked through with blood. One side of his face was caked with it as well. Cutler had never heard the order given to the soldiers: "shoot them in the head and then shoot them again." But she could recognize that he had been shot with a propulsion weapon. She cradled his head in her arms, gently smoothing his disheveled hair and weeping silently.
Malcolm couldn't help but to feel a twinge of regret as he approached them and thought, "We should never have left him, knowing what they would do. We should have cut our way out of here instead."
The young lieutenant could not bring himself to intrude upon the privacy of the moment. Cutler deserved a few minutes to mourn her friend and colleague in peace. Malcolm shouldered his rifle and pulled out a tricorder. He needed to know how long he could give her without risking their safety.
"Strange," he thought, frowning, "I'm getting three bio-signs here." He tapped the instrument, but it continued to show three life-signs. Malcolm glanced at the tricorder again and then at Phlox in Cutler's arms. He cleared his throat, and she looked up at him with anguished eyes.
"Sir?" she croaked.
"Ensign, he isn't dead."
Cutler slow moved one of her hands to his neck and found a soft, faint pulse there. Her lips moved, but she couldn't say anything.
"We must get him back to ship." said Malcolm.
"Of course." she agreed, scrambling to her feet and wiping her eyes.

It was no easy task moving him down the alley and into the shuttlepod, especially since they had to be very careful of his injuries, which were substantial. Privately, Malcolm wondered if he would survive the ride in the shuttle, but he did not share this concern with Cutler.
"Stay with him, ensign." Lieutenant Reed ordered her as she prepared to take her seat.
"Yes, sir."
She sat quietly on the floor on the shuttlepod next Phlox, not saying a word as she gripped one of his cold hands. Her heart was pounding, but she felt calm as she looked at Phlox and knew that he was alive. It was more than she had ever hoped for.
"Reed to Enterprise." said Malcolm into the shuttlepod's communication system.
"Enterprise here. Did you retrieve ... the body?" asked Hoshi, taking a deep breath as she spoke.
"Um, yes and no." said Malcolm, glancing backward for a moment.
"Come again?"
"He isn't dead, but we need someone to prep sickbay to receive a casualty. He's injured pretty bad, Hoshi."
It was quiet on the other end for a moment.
"I've relayed your message. Auxiliary medical personnel will be ready to receive you."

"He looks good, don't you think, ensign?" asked Malcolm as they stood next to the biobed where Phlox lay. He was still unconscious, but the blood was gone and the wounds bandaged.
"Yes." whispered Cutler, who had only left his side for a few minutes when the bullets were removed. She had been afraid that she would faint.
"He's going to be all right." Malcolm reassured her for the tenth time. He had made the report to the captain while she remained in sickbay.
"I know. Phlox was very lucky."
"Lucky to be Denobulan. Those injuries would certainly have killed a human."
Ensign Cutler shivered a little. Lieutenant Reed was blunt, but he was correct in his observation.
"They say he could regain consciousness tonight or tomorrow morning."
"Do they now? That is good news." said Malcolm. "Are you planning to stay here until then?"
"Someone should stay. If he wakes up, he could be in pain or confused. He might not know that he's safe."
"Of course, ensign." said Reed, nodding. He admired her loyalty, her devotion to the ship's doctor. Phlox would certainly have been lost without her.

For all intents and purposes, Cutler had gone without sleep for almost forty-eight hours. It was not surprising then when she slowly began to doze during the earliest hours of morning during her vigil. She leaned forward in her chair and rested her head against the biobed.
"I'm just going to rest my eyes for a few minutes." she told herself.
It was hours later when she felt soft, careful fingertips touch her hair.
"Ensign Cutler?" questioned a weak, but familiar voice.
"Phlox?" she asked in return as she raised her head.
He looked a bit disoriented, but he was smiling.
"It wasn't all a bad dream, was it?" he asked, touching his chest where he had been shot.
"No, but it's over." she assured him.
"Did the rest of the away team make it back safely?"
"Yes, because of you, they all came back alive."
"Good." he said softly, relaxing and closing his eyes again. For a moment Cutler thought he had returned to unconsciousness. Then he spoke again, "Have I been here very long, ensign?"
"Less than twenty-four hours."
"How am I doing?"
"How do you feel, doctor?" asked Cutler.
"My head aches, and I feel a bit sore."
"Can you remember what happened?"
He was silent for a few moments. Cutler began to wonder if he had drifted to sleep when he took a deep breath and opened his eyes again.
"Yes, of course I remember. I was shot."
"Do you want anything for the pain? One of the crewmen who attended you left a hypo of Anaprovalin just in case."
"No, I'm fine, ensign."
"Do you want to rest?"
Phlox chuckled and said, "Yes, I suppose I should. You look like you could use some sleep yourself."
"Maybe." Cutler admitted, relieved to see his buoyant humor returning.
"Then go to bed. Everything is going to be all right, and I imagine you've sat here long enough, ensign."

~

When this mission began, no one imagined that it would be concluded in such a fashion. A simple away mission to explore an unfamiliar planet, Gamma Alpha V, turned into a situation where one of our most valued crew members was lost, presumed dead. Then it turned into a recovery mission of the most unpleasant kind. That mission, in turn, became one of unexpected hope. Dr. Phlox was returned to the Enterprise wounded, but alive. He has since recovered, thanks to Ensign Cutler, to whom he owes a great deal. Without her persistence and loyalty he may have been left behind. Thankfully, he was not. This crew learned a great many lessons from Gamma Alpha V. The greatest of which is to never give up nor lose hope in the face of an impossible situation.

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Author's note: I never really intended to write this chapter, but ... well here we are. I read some of the reviews and started to feel bad about how it ended. I also started to get a really inflated ego. Thanks! Additionally, I hate endings anyhow, so if this one sucked, consider it a character flaw of the author. Good God! Haven't we all suffered enough? Oh, and the difference in format ... it's unfortunate.