Time-line: In the midst of the Romulan war. The last parts take place one year after the Romulan war.
Author's notes: Song by Lyle Lovett – Will Rise Up / Ain't No More Cane. Malcolm Reed mentions in this chapter an investigation that ended in disaster. It's a reference to my story The Captives. Thanks to Transwarp, Honeybee, Paulinem, Crystalwolf, JiNX-01 and EntAllat for shaping and beta-ing this chapter.
Disclaimer : Enterprise and its characters are property of CBS/Paramount.
Thank you reviewers for your kind comments and don't worry Trip-fans, more Trip to come in the next chapters.
Red. She tasted the red soil of this planet as she lay there on the ground, unable to move, her body covered by a pile of rocks. Next to her she saw Johnson's motionless body, blood seeping slowly from a head wound. She heard the sounds of footsteps all around her. The Romulans were inspecting the bodies of her team, all of whom had fallen after they had been ambushed. In a matter of minutes, they would discover she was still alive and kill her. As they came closer, she heard Johnson mutter something unintelligible. There was a phaser blast, then silence. She would be next, so she prepared herself for the last moments of life.
The blast didn't come. The voices and noises became softer, then dwindled away to silence. The next thing she noticed was a sharp smell in her nose, a liquid burning her face, and her throat filled with a suffocating, burning sensation. Her eyes stung beneath her closed eyelids. What had they done? As she lay on the ground, the symptoms slowly disappeared. There was only the unrelenting heat of the sun on her face. Her throat felt dry. She licked her lips in a desperate attempt to quench her thirst.
Hours went by. Her face felt battered by the heat. Her lips cracked. Small spots of her face, probably the results of the liquid the Romulans had used, prickled and itched. Her body was burning and her legs, buried under the rocks, were on fire. There was nothing she could do to lessen the pain. A vague, strange smell entered her nostrils. Her stomach was empty, and she felt nauseous.
Time passed and the sunlight slowly dimmed and disappeared. Cold came with the darkness and a soft rain began to fall. She tried to drink the rain to dampen her overwhelming thirst, but it began to come down harder, until it poured from the sky, soaking every part of her not covered by the rocks. She shivered from the cold, despite the burning in her legs.
The burning turned into flames. Red tongues of fire surrounded her. Lightning flashed through the grim, dark sky. She started to sweat, and she wanted to scream.
"Take my hand," a voice said.
She turned around. She was standing on a beach. A soft breeze was blowing and she could feelgrains of sand beneath her feet. The taste of the sea filled her mouth and she saw blue waves gently rolling ashore.
This was her home. The late evening sunlight colored the sky in beautiful shades of red and orange. An old man sat cross-legged in the sand, holding a guitar. A girl dressed in a cut off jeans and acolorful t-shirt, her brown hair in a ponytail, sat before him. The young girl listened intently when he began to play and sing in a baritone voice:
"In the darkest hour, in the dead night,
As the storm clouds gather, and the lightning strikes,
And the thunder rolls, and the cold rain blows,
The future it holds, what God only knows.
And I will rise up, and I will rise up,
Though I be a dead man, I said yes and amen.
And I will stand tall, and I will stand tall,
Until I meet my end, until I meet my end"
He was the one person she had always trusted and whose advice still guided her. "Grandpa!" she called.
He looked up. His face was like she remembered: short, gray hair above a sunburned face with brown hazel eyes. He smiled that smile that she loved when she was a child; the one that made her feel loved and accepted. She walked towards him, but a bright beam of light crashed into the sea, the beach, her grandfather and it all vanished in a flash of white.
She woke up with a shock,chilled to the bone. The rain had stopped, but the burning in her legs had increased and the smell had become worse. She tried to ignore the cramps in her stomach; a human could live several days without food.
Slowly it grew lighter. Mild sunlight caressed her face, but within hours the sun would be become stronger. She tried to sleep again, when the heavy silence was broken. A crack. Footsteps. Voices. Romulans. They must have returned.
She suppressed her fear and prepared herself to face death.
"The area is clear, sir."
Shocked, she realized the people approaching were Humans. She was saved. She wanted to call out, but a shrinking sound was all that escaped from her lips. It was enough. Suddenly a friendly female face was above her and hands were checking her vital signs. The woman called to her teammates, telling them someone was alive.
"Lay still," the woman said, "I am field nurse Cutler of Enterprise. We are here to rescue you. Can you tell me your name?"
Her lips seemed glued together, her throat hoarse, but she was able to utter "Corporal Cole. MACO-team…" Another face appeared, more familiar. The man had black hair and eyes of a peculiar gray color.
"Corporal Cole? It's Lieutenant Reed. We're going to remove these rocks and transport you to sickbay." He gave her a short smile that never reached his eyes. "You're a strong person. You're going to make it."
She felt the heavy weight of the rocks taken away from her, one by one. The nurse sat next to her, reassuring her. "Everything is going to be alright, Corporal."
But when the rocks were removed, that horrible, putrid smell filled the air. She heard the shocked mutter of Reed, saw the surprised movements of the field nurse and she knew nothing would be all right again.
Amanda Cole opened her eyes. It took her a second to get reoriented. She was no longer on the planet. The unmistakable smells of sickbay made that clear. The burning pain in her legs had disappeared, replaced by a stinging, tingling sensation. She moved her body upright. Amanda stared at the blanket, how it was draped over her legs. She saw at once that her legs were… different.
"Doctor," she called out. Doctor Phlox's kindly ridged face appeared in her field of view.
"You're awake," he concluded.
"What happened? What have you done with me?" she asked.
"After you were transported, you lost consciousness. You suffered from burn wounds, mostly on your face. I did some constructive surgery and they will only leave some very small scars. I also used a spray to treat your eyes and you will have to continue to use it until they are completely healed."
Phlox paused and continued, "We also had to deal with another injury."
Fear crept into her throat. "What's wrong with my legs?" she wanted to know.
"Corporal, I am afraid I have some bad news," Phlox started. "Your right leg was infected by a virus."
Her world froze. She wanted to move, but her body felt like she was trapped in quick sand. The image of Phlox with that pained look on his face burned into her brain as an everlasting memory.
"What virus?" she asked, dread coloring her voice.
"Like nothing I've seen before," Phlox explained. "We had to take drastic measures to prevent it from spreading. Otherwise you would have died."
His voice seemed to come from great distance, yet he was standing only two inches away from her.
Drastic measures? Amanda moved her hand down her right leg. It seemed to take her forever. She felt her upper leg first, then the knee and then... nothing. Just a void and a tingling sensation.
"I was able to save your left leg, but just barely," Phlox explained. "We couldn't save your right leg below the knee. I am sorry."
Her blood rushed to her head. The realization of what had happened came with a blow, inciting an anger she had never felt before. She wanted to scream that Phlox was lying. She wanted to hit him. "You cut off my leg? Two thousand years of medicine, and all you can do is to cut my leg off?" she yelled.
Abruptly, she stopped and stared at Phlox. This was not happening to her. She would wake up any moment and realize this was all a stupid nightmare.
Time passed, but the dark nightmare didn't go away. She lay in sickbay, boiling inside with fury. She'd lost her leg. No more walking. No more being a MACO. She was an invalid.
It all seemed so unreal. From time to time she touched her right leg to convince herself it was true, that her leg had been amputated. But when she felt the stump and visitors expressed their sympathy, Amanda felt like she was watching a play in which her visitors were the actors, and the curtain would fall at any minute.
Not that they weren't interesting actors. First there was Archer. His visit to sickbay was short, pain obvious on his face. He looked like he was suffering from a migraine. He continued to make routine visits, inquiring about her health, but his eyes stared past her. His mind was on the war.
Tucker and T'Pol made an interesting scene. Tucker looked older then the last time they'd met, with lines around his mouth and eyes. He was in full Commander mode, asking her questions that she answered in clipped sentences. T'Pol hardly spoke. Amanda watched them as they walked away, inches from each other, their shoulders almost touching. She saw Trip exchanging a reassuring smile with T'Pol. Her body relaxed at once. For a couple that was reported to have broken up, they seemed very much together.
Her true moment of reality came when a short, bald man with piercing blue eyes walked into sickbay. It was Major Carroll, the MACO Intel officer who had worked closely with her team leader, DeVries. She knew if anyone would find the truth about what happened to her team, it was Carroll.
He talked briefly with Phlox, before he briskly walked toward her bio bed. His eyes wandered off to her legs for a brief second. "I was sorry to hear of your injury."
She shifted her body upright. Carroll always had kept his distance and the interactions between always had been swift and precise. However, this time she noticed some warmth in his voice. "Thank you, sir," she replied.
"Doctor Phlox has informed me you are fit to be debriefed. Someone will be by for you in half an hour."
"I'll be ready, sir."
She asked the nurse for her uniform. After five minutes the nurse returned with a MACO uniform, washed her and helped her to get dressed. Right on time, one of the ship's armory ensigns collected her, placed her in a wheelchair and wheeled her to the debriefing room. She hated every step the ensign took and every second she was pushed in a wheelchair. She didn't want to depend on any one.
Two MACO's were present; Major Carroll from Intel, and Lieutenant Preston, Commander of Enterprise's MACO detachment. He was a broad-shouldered man in his fifties. Amanda had only met him a few times. Lieutenant Reed and Commander T'Pol were also there.
First she was asked to summarize the mission of her MACO team. "The team was sent to a small place called Yuk'tane in the Tahari desert on the planet Velen," she explained. While she spoke, vivid images of the red planet on which ground she had spent so many hours came to her mind. "The planet is strategically situated and has been supportive of the Coalition. Several attacks have been made on government buildings and military facilities by a group called the Haren, led by a man named Fetor. We had intel that his latest hiding place was in Yuk'tane. Our orders were to infiltrate Yuk'tane, locate Fetor, and retrieve him."
"According to intel, this rebel group has taken the Romulan side," Preston added.
"Yes, the government of Velen believes that the Haren is a pro-Romulan group. Their main objective is to overthrow the government," she confirmed.
Then they asked what happened after landing on the planet. In great detail she told them about their arrival, about locating and making their way to the camp without incident or evidence of being detected. They had moved to the target with great ease and overpowered the small rebel group without much of a fight. Everyone was captured, including Fetor.
"So it looked like a success," Carroll concluded.
"Yes, that should have warned us. It was too easy. We moved back to our shuttle, always observing the surroundings. As we were working our way up a rocky ridge, we took hostile fire. There were rommies positioned on the crest."
In her dreams, she had relived the moment of the first shot and that first look at the alien soldiers with masks covering their faces.
"We looked for cover and we fired back, but the Romulans were too many. My guess is that they were at least six to eight men, maybe more. They were shooting from above in prepared positions. We didn't stand a chance."
"How do you know they were Romulans? We've never seen them," Reed asked.
She turned to him. Reed was his calm, professional self. For some reason she was glad to see him.
"We've never seen them, but the instant I saw them, I knew they were Romulans. They were broad shouldered, tall men. They moved with perfect precision. They covered their faces with masks. They were helping a pro-Romulan group. Later on I heard them talking, muffled, speaking with a communication device in their headgear, like they didn't want anyone to see or hear them. Who else could they be?"
She went silent for a moment, reliving the fight and how it ended. "During the fight, some boulders on the hillside came loose. I was trapped beneath the rocks. I think the Romulans thought I was dead, or dying. They must have sprayed a liquid everywhere they had been. I felt it on my face. Doctor Phlox told me it was a kind of cleaning product, probably meant to eliminate every trace of them. It fits the profile of the Romulans."
"Can you describe them in more detail?" Commander T'Pol spoke. "Any detail would be beneficial."
"I can do better," she said. "If you give me a PADD, I can draw them."
So she drew her first of many drawings, illustrating and explaining how the soldiers were situated, what they looked like, and how they were deployed. They asked her questions about the exact time she'd seen the Romulans, how long the fighting took and how the unit operated.
"What happened to the rebels? How did they react?" T'Pol asked.
"It looked like they had been expecting it. The only surprise was when the Romulans started to shoot them too. I saw two rebels killed by the Romulans."
"We found five bodies that belonged to the rebel group. Fetor wasn't among them," Reed informed her.
"That's the whole group," Cole answered. "There were five rebels and Fetor. So, he escaped. Or the Romulans took him."
They pressed Amanda for more details. They inquired about the Romulan's weapons and equipment, and she made more drawings. She felt sick and exhausted. The stylus in her hand trembled slightly.
It didn't go unnoticed by Reed. "I know we still want to discuss the team performance, what went right and wrong and what should be done to prevent such event again, but I feel the Corporal Cole should rest. She just is recovered from surgery."
"I agree," Major Carroll said. "Get some rest, Corporal. We will continue this in three hours."
Amanda went to sickbay and crawled back into bed, only to return in three hours. When the debriefings were finally over, she was so tired that she fell asleep without the usual sedative.
The day after the debriefings, she woke feeling refreshed. She made no attempt to move. It was nice to not have to do anything, just to lie there and listen to the noises of sickbay. She breathed in. Her lungs filled with air. She laid her hand on her chest, feeling the slow drumming of her heart. She was alive. Crippled, but alive. She thought of her teammates, in the room next door. She tried to sit up in her bed and called Phlox. He was close by, talking to Lieutenant Reed. At her call, he stepped over to her bio-bed.
"I assume my teammates are in the morgue," she said simply. "I'd like to see them and pay my respects."
Phlox nodded. His voice was warm when he replied, "I see. One of the nurses could bring you."
Malcolm Reed had overheard the conversation. "I could bring you," he suggested.
It wasn't like Lieutenant Reed to step in like that, but she was glad for his offer.
Malcolm pushed her wheelchair to the room where the bodies were stored. It was cold. In silence Reed opened the door to one of the chambers and pulled out the shelf on which a body lay. He lifted a blanket back. Amanda saw the face of Johnson. His eyes were closed. He looked so cold. She could still see the marks of his head wound. "Lieutenant Johnson," she said, her voice raspy. Reed continued the procedure: opening a door, letting the shelf slide out and pulling back the blanket. One by one she viewed and named them: Karlson, Giovanni, Jones and team leader DeVries. One by one she forced herself to confront the reality of their deaths.
When the final team member was placed in the chambers again, Reed turned to her. "Are you all right?"
She nodded, but Reed was not convinced. He gazed at her. "You should get some rest."
He started to push the wheelchair to the door, but she put her hand on the wheel. She took a breath. "I never thanked you for saving me," she said. "I would be dead if you hadn't come."
"I only did my job. When your team failed to report back on time, we knew something was wrong," he told her. With more feeling he added "I only wish we could have been there sooner. We might have saved more."
"Don't fool yourself, Lieutenant," Amanda replied. "They were dead in minutes. No one would have saved them. "
Reed nodded. "At least we could have saved your leg."
"I am still alive," she said, repeating that one line that had kept her going these days.
Reed gave her an earnest look. "You lost a body part, a part of you. It's only natural to grieve when you lose a part of you."
He sounded so sad. However, Amanda kept her face straight. Her emotions were none of his business. Deep inside she did appreciate his remark, knowing the man rarely spoke about personal things.
Reed abruptly changed the subject and guided her back to sickbay. She stayed for a couple more days of debriefing, before being sent to Earth for physical therapy. Reeds words had played through her mind. She didn't want to grieve. She wanted to get well, she didn't have time to mourn her loss. But she realized she had to one day.
On her last day, Lieutenant Reed came by sickbay. He saw her sitting in the wheelchair, ready to leave.
"Corporal, I heard you were leaving," he said. He shook her hand. "Get back safe to Earth. Good luck with the PT. It's tough, I've heard."
"Weren't you the one you said I was strong person and that I was going to make it?" she remembered his words, and clung to them.
The corners of Reed's mouth curled slightly. He looked at her and it was like they both saw each other for the first time. "I am not taking that back. You're strong. You will get stronger."
She thanked him and said her goodbye. But his words stayed with her on her travel back to Earth.
Red. Every time Malcolm Reed thought about Amanda Cole, lying down in sickbay, he saw in his mind the clouds of red dust of the planet, the dead bodies lying around and Amanda Cole trapped under a pile of rocks. It was hard to forget the horrid smell that filled the air when they removed the rocks and the horror he felt. After all the misery he had seen in this war he had thought the scene wouldn't made such an impact. But it had. He even talked about with Trip, who told him that he would visit Cole, because Enterprise rescued her and she had been through a lot. "We aren't exactly friends any more. We haven't talked in years," he explained.
"Really," he had responded.
"Let just say, she noticed my mind was somewhere else," Trip said.
"On somewhere or with someone else?" he couldn't resist saying, which caused his friend to roll his eyes and change the subject of their conversation.
In a way he was kind of relieved that Trip had revealed how his relationship with Cole had ended. He had to admit he had become somewhat intrigued by her. Of course, she wasn't, so he concentrated on his work like he always had been.
To his surprise he received a message from her, a month after she had gone back to Earth for her revalidation.
I have been in contact with doctor Phlox concerning some medical documents,"she wrote, "and he told me you had been asking about my condition. What better way than to tell you myself."
She wrote shortly about her whereabouts and her revalidation. He wrote her back, not expecting another message. But within a week she wrote back, a short letter with all kind of news about Earth and Starfleet that would interest him and a little bit about her life.
With the fourth letter they exchanged, she told in her rehabilitation center everybody had to choose a goal to focus on. Amanda's goal was clear: to go back to the MACO's and fight in the war. "I would love to hear what's happening in the war right now. It will give me a purpose to get back on my feet. No stories about top secret mission, but some that will give me an idea what is going on."
In the next letter he tried to do. "We are working on the new program to detect enemies ships. That has been our main problem." In an attempt to joke he added in writing "You never guess what our next main problem is. Nothing to do with engineering or security, but the food has been horrible these past days. Chef needs some new supplies soon."
In the months to come they kept on writing. She soon suggested he would call her Amanda, but he never got around to ask her to call him Malcolm. Amanda didn't seem to mind, she started to call him Reed in the letters. In the beginning she mostly wrote about her revalidation and her time to get adjust to her artificial leg.
"Yeah, Reed, yesterday I became officially robot-woman. The new leg has arrived. I hate it. It itches when I put it on. I am dead tired just walking with it. And it's butt ugly. Must say my real leg was much prettier. Looking back I had great legs."
As the war continued and became bloodier and gruesome by the day, he had a hard time finding time to write. But he did, because the letters had become important to him. He liked to write her, especially now when his friends on Enterprise had so much on their mind. "We were heading to the planet Verticon where a colony of Earth had been attacked. We patrolled the area, but the Romulans were gone. We were going to another location, when we were attacked by two Birds of Prey. We survived, but only barely."
In her next letter Amanda expressed her happiness that Enterprise survived and told him she finished her revalidation. She started working as firearms instructor at the MACO's. She wrote more about her life in San Francisco and about her work as he did about his life on Enterprise.
In the last year of the war, more battles and planet side fighting were taking their toll on every one in Starfleet. There wasn't a day without a person to be mourned. "This week we lost about 35 persons in one night. I noticed I feel so numb I hardly grieve about them. The mood is grim. Starfleet is getting desperate. We need a success soon,"he wrote.
Amanda answered in her most personal letter so far. "Deep in my heart I know Earth in going to win this conflict. We are going to succeed. And when we do, Reed, you will find space to grieve. Because, like you told me years ago, we all need to grieve what we have lost."
A massive bloody battle that took almost a week marked the ending of the war. When the end came, he was relieved. He was alive. His friends had survived and were safe. When he returned to serve on Enterprise, his letters to Amanda and her to him became less.
Yet, when the day come that he lost his best friend in a stupid accident, the only person he could think of to write was Amanda.
"Amanda, I wanted to write you this news in person. I don't want you to find out another way. My hands are stillshaking.I can't believe it. Trip Tucker, my best friend, just died."
Red. The first thing Malcolm noticed when he walked into the hall of his apartment was the red envelop on his doormat.
He was dressed in a sweat suit, ready for a jog. He had developed the habit of jogging every day after breakfast when he stayed for a short leave in his San Francisco apartment.
For the past two weeks, the jogging had not only helped him keep in shape, but to order his thoughts.
Two weeks ago he had written the letter to Amanda that Trip Tucker, his best friend for almost ten years, had died in an accident. It all went so quickly afterwards. Within days he attended Trip's funeral. To his surprise Amanda had been there. After all the letters they had exchanged, she had become somewhat like a friend and he didn't have many.
During the funeral he realized for the first time that strange feeling he was having ever since Trip died, was suspicion. Something was amiss with Trip's death. Something was terribly wrong. Why hadn't Trip called security when he met those aliens? Why hadn't he thought of a diversion or another way out, rather than blowing himself up? He was the one who liked blowing things up, not Trip.
Before he knew it, Malcolm had started discreetly asking questions. But everyone he asked seemed to close ranks. He hit a brick wall and got no answers, only more questions.
He had to try a different approach. Bribes. He found out that MacKenzie, one of the secretaries at Internal Affairs, had huge gambling debts. He left some bait by promising, not in so many words but clearly enough, that his problems would be over if MacKenzie would have a talk with him.
Could this be MacKenzie's answer?
Malcolm opened the envelope and removed a note. The note was written in a neat, precise fashion. The handwriting looked feminine and Malcolm had the feeling he'd seen it before.
I require your assistance.
Please meet me today on 10.00 am at G. Gym.
It is urgent.
Finally she had contacted him. He had told her at Trip's funeral that if she needed help, he would be there. But she never had and he wondered if the words he had spoken had even registered. She had looked so distant.
But why leave a note like this? He couldn't wait to get the answer to that question.
G. Gym, or more correctly Gozani's Gym, was a huge complex full of sport facilities. Because the sport facilities at Starfleet Headquarters had been destroyed during the war, many Starfleet officers had become regular visitors at Gozani's.
He arrived at the Gym just before ten. He showed his pass and walked quickly toward the fitness area. T'Pol hadn't given him any details of where to meet, but from what he knew of her habits, she would be there.
He was so intent on his mission that he barely noticed other people on the way. He bumped into a person going in the other direction, a woman with a familiar face.
"Reed," the woman spoke, "It's not like you to not watch where you're going." The woman had long, brown hair that she wore in a ponytail, and was dressed in a red top with black shorts. Her artificial leg was clearly showing. She smiled at him with amusement. Amanda Cole.
Malcolm liked to see her again, but the thought of T'Pol waiting made him keep their talk brief. "You know, you still owe me that drink you promised a year ago," Amanda remarked at the end of their conversation. "What about tomorrow? I have the afternoon off. Say 5 pm at Harvey's at Admiral Forrest-street?"
"Sure," he agreed quickly, greeted her and walked on.
He found T'Pol, slowly working on one of the fitness machines. She looked tiny. He sat next to her, pretending they were friends who had accidentally met.
"Why did you contact me?" he asked right away.
T'Pol leaned towards him. Her eyes were dark pools, and in spite of her natural complexion, she looked pale and tired. "I have been investigating Commander Tucker's death and one of my sources told me you have been too."
"That why I wanted to speak to you in the first place. I've sent you a couple of messages, but you didn't reply," he answered.
He could catch a small surprise reflecting on her face, but she didn't respond to his words. "Yesterday I was followed by people from Internal Affairs and my Starfleet credit card was blocked, she only said in a low voice. "When I inquired at Starfleet Headquarters, the clerk said it was an administrative mistake, but..."
It hit him. "They are after you," he interrupted her. "One of my sources mentioned that there were rumors that Internal Affairs was leading an inquiry about your role in the war. He even suggested they wanted to arrest you."
Malcolm had dismissed the whole idea. It sounded too ridiculous. T'Pol was one of most respected officers in Starfleet. The last investigation into T'Pol had ended in disaster and would make them hesitant to start a new one. Besides, his source was an alcoholic clerk, working in one of the offices at Headquarters. He had been drinking and the alcohol had loosened his tongue.
Whatever the truth, the events of the last two weeks had made him realize he would have a much harder time finding the truth if T'Pol was under guard at Internal Affairs. She had to find a hiding place and stay low while he continued with his investigation. They needed a place somewhere no one would think to look, some one he trusted. Suddenly Amanda Cole came to mind.
Red. All he could see were red spots before his eyes. It was like a sword stabbing into his brain, again and again. He felt sick and all he wanted was some peace, to lay down in a dark room with no light.
He heard the buzz of the scanner. Phlox wouldn't leave him in peace. Not after he stumbled into Phlox's sickbay at Headquarters, hardly seeing anything because of the spots before his eyes and his headache pounding away.
"Lay still, Captain," Phlox ordered him, pushing him gently down. "It is only going to work if you don't move."
The buzz stopped and he closed his eyes. "Breathe, Captain," Phlox instructed him, "Nice and slow." Jon breathed, focusing on his chest going up and down in a slow rhythm.
Jon sat up and felt the blood rush to his head. "What's wrong with me?"
Doctor Phlox looked up from the screen he was watching. "You appear to have a huge migraine."
"I've had headaches before, but nothing like this," Jon sighed. "Just give me a shot and get it over with."
"I will give you some medication and you need to rest," Phlox said sternly. "But it will not treat the cause."
Jon sensed where this conversation was heading and he wanted to avoid it at all cost. "I've got a lot on my mind. One shot and I'll be fine again."
"You keep yourself busy, because you are feeling guilty. Like me," Phlox emphasized every word. "Ignoring it will not make it go away."
"There was nothing I could have done," Jon called out, "The Section Thirty-one agent gave us an ultimatum: Trip leaves on the mission immediately or T'Pol is arrested and charged with treason right away. Can you believe it? Accusing T'Pol of being a traitor?"
He slowly came to a sitting position. "Trip and I both knew that he was the best man to investigate the leaked plans. Trip was our best hope of proving T'Pol's innocence. I wanted to tell her, but if I did the deal was off. Faking an accident and telling her that Trip was injured so badly you had to put him in stasis before treatment was the best excuse I could come up with."
Phlox gave him an earnest look. "Telling T'Pol that story still wears on my conscience, Captain. I didn't like it then and I still don't like it. Now that we know Trip died during the mission, we must do the right thing and tell her the truth."
Jon got more upset by the minute. Phlox had expressed the one thought that had plagued his mind. As T'Pol's friend he should tell her the truth. However, he was also a Starfleet captain. "T'Pol and Trip are almost family to me. I hate not telling her. But I have direct orders from Admiral Black."
"As her doctor I am obliged to tell her," Phlox said, giving him the look of a determined man. "Especially now that I've learned about her medical condition. I tried to contact her, but she wasn't at her home or at Headquarters. "
Jon had trouble digesting what Phlox was saying. Medical condition? T'Pol was sick? "I don't think you will be able to reach her," Jon finally shared the news he heard this morning. "I just got word she's fallen off the radar screen. She has been missing since yesterday."
Phlox's face became even more serious. "Then she is in real danger, Captain."