This is a story totally unrelated to my Endeavour series and begins early in Enterprise Season 2, sometime after "Dead Stop" (the automated repair space station), but before the character assassinating "A Night In Sickbay." Everything after "Dead Stop" is either invalidated or fair game. Obviously, this story is a major AU as it was birthed from my musings on how one could use the Stranded! motif and tell an epic (hopefully) Star Trek story. There is action (it's me, after all), romance, adventure and hopefully a couple of surprises along the way.
The shriek of alarms roused her to consciousness.
Ignoring the dull pain that stabbed through her left leg, Subcommander T'Pol climbed to her feet, even as Shuttlepod One shuddered and shook. Her memory was hazy as to how she got on the floor; the last thing she clearly recalled was Commander Tucker asking her to check the emission output of the sensor mask they were testing.
The commander was strapped into the pilot's seat, and T'Pol suppressed a wince at the livid bruise that covered the left side of his face. Blood was trickling from his ears and his nose, but his attention was focused entirely upon the controls. He gave her a glance, before quickly returning his eyes to the sensor feed in front of him.
"Port thrusters are out," he declared as she dropped into the seat before the engineering station. "And we're venting O2."
"What happened?" T'Pol asked. She began cycling through the damage report as rapidly as she could. It was distressingly bleak.
"No idea," Tucker replied. Already, the exterior of the 'pod was beginning to heat up as the commander sent the small craft diving planetside. With Enterprise at the periphery of the star system and thus out of range, the pre-warp planet was their best option for the moment. "Dammit," Tucker snarled in the half-second before the 'pod abruptly slewed hard to the left. T'Pol felt her breath catch slightly, as she realized that the primary impulse drive had failed. They were now little more than a fast-moving, oddly-shaped rock.
"Two minutes to impact," T'Pol announced before raising an eyebrow at Tucker's rapid unhooking of his seat restraints. She recognized his intent instantly, and slid into the seat the moment he vacated it.
A quick glance over the flight computer revealed that the starboard jets were still functional. The docking thrusters also worked, and T'Pol activated them at once; against the planetary gravity, they would be of negligible use, but she estimated that they might slow their rate of descent slightly. An alarm began sounding as Commander Tucker opened the access hatch to the impulse drive, but T'Pol ignored it as she strained against the flight controls. Through the viewport, she could see a mountain range looming closer. Seconds flashed by.
With a whine, the impulse drive suddenly came online, and T'Pol fired the braking thrusters while raising the nose of the 'pod. A sharp crack echoed through the small craft as the sudden change in momentum ripped the port winglet free and sent it spinning away. Warning lights flashed and audio alarms shrieked as the shuttlepod struggled against the implacable pull of the planet's gravity. T'Pol could taste blood, and realized abruptly that she was biting down hard on her lips. She could hear Tucker muttering something, but didn't try to comprehend what he was saying.
The impact of the shuttlepod against the ground seemed almost anti-climatic, and T'Pol heaved a discreet sigh of relief at Commander Tucker's quick repairs. She glanced back at him, noting without surprise that he was already examining the small craft's primary drive system with a scowl on his face. As if he sensed her eyes, he glanced up.
"Nice flyin'," he complimented as he studied his hand scanner. T'Pol quirked an eyebrow in response, before turning her attention back the flight station. She frowned slightly at the nonfunctional communications equipment and fought to restrain a sigh at their lack of sensor capability; they had no idea if their approach had been detected or not. Although the natives of this planet hadn't yet reached warp capability, they were well into the atomic age and could have possibly tracked the shuttlepod's descent on radar or some other form of primitive scanners if the sensor mask they had been testing had failed.
The mask had been a joint effort between T'Pol and Commander Tucker, although the engineer had really done most of the work despite having given her the majority of the credit. In the days after their encounter with the Romulan mine, Mister Tucker had spent nearly all of his free time studying the captured Suliban cell ship currently aboard Enterprise. To T'Pol's disappointment, the commander had significantly curtailed his attendance at the captain's mess, often claiming that he was simply too busy. Captain Archer seemed to understand, but T'Pol found herself slightly frustrated at the loss of her more interesting dinner companion. The captain was a capable conversationalist, but his deep-rooted animosity toward her species (admittedly less intense now than when she had first joined Enterprise) and their lack of mutual interests inevitably made the dinners less ... enjoyable.
"The sensor mask is fried," Tucker said after a few silent moments. As was his custom in recent weeks, he didn't make eye contact with her as he spoke, and T'Pol wondered if he was angry at her for some reason. If she didn't know better, she'd almost say that he had been avoiding her. She frowned slightly when she realized that he also seemed to be avoiding the captain as well. Perhaps that had been the reason Captain Archer had sent the two of them on this mission alone.
"Was it functional when we entered the atmosphere?" T'Pol asked, and the engineer shrugged.
"I have no idea," he replied. A sour look crossed his face as he continued. "It's gonna take me at least an hour to figure out what's wrong with this thing," Tucker grumbled while pointing toward the engine.
"We may not have an hour," she pointed out. "We should focus on repairing the communications array and report our status to Enterprise." He grimaced at that before nodding.
"Yeah." The engineer began rooting through his tool box. "Wouldn't want the cap'n to send a rescue party for ya until we know where we stand." T'Pol raised an eyebrow at the hint of bitterness in the commander's words.
"It would be illogical for him to risk detection for two officers," she reminded him. The tragedy with the Paraagan colony had gone a long way in convincing Captain Archer about the importance of discretion; as this was the first planetary system that Enterprise had encountered since the Paraagan incident, it was also understandable that the captain was hesitant about acting without further intelligence.
Within minutes, Tucker had managed to get the communication system functioning, and, once more, T'Pol found herself marveling at his talents. Her initial estimate had been that the comm system was beyond salvage, but the engineer surprised her yet again with his creative repairs.
"Bottom line it for me, Trip," Captain Archer ordered once they made contact and reported their situation. The tension in the captain's voice was thick, and for good reason; Enterprise's long-range scanners had detected several large radio telescopes on the planet that were more than capable of detecting the Starfleet vessel if it emerged from behind the planet's largest moon.
"Right now," Commander Tucker replied grimly, "I don't have a clue, sir." He pressed his tongue against the inside of his cheek without thinking. "I need at least an hour, probably more, to find out what happened."
"Is there any indication that our presence has been detected?" T'Pol asked.
"Not that we can see," the captain said in response. "Hoshi is monitoring their radio chatter, but I don't think they saw you crash." Archer was silent for a moment. "We'll remain where we are for now and keep an eye on the situation. Let me know once you figure out what happened."
"Aye, sir," Tucker responded, before turning back toward the barely functional engine.
"Stay out trouble, you two," the captain finished. "Enterprise out." The comm line went dead.
"How may I be of assistance?" T'Pol asked her colleague. He gave her a quick glance, before sighing and gesturing toward the impulse drive.
"I've got this handled for now," he stated while returning his full attention to the impulse manifold, prompting her to quirk an eyebrow. "If we're gonna get this thing off the ground, though, we're gonna need to track down the O2 leak and repair it."
For the briefest of moments, T'Pol considered asking him if he was angry at her for some reason. Patching the oxygen lines was utterly illogical if they were going to be forced to abandon the shuttle entirely, and she could only theorize that Commander Tucker did not want to work alongside her as they had in the past. That thought left her unexpectedly sad. She had thought that they were friends.
"I will attend to it at once," she responded as she turned away. There would be time later to discern how she had evidently upset the commander.