author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG … mild language, violence, and adult situations.

Summary: Two officers, believed killed in action, are stranded on a prewarp planet and must work together to survive while the rest of the NX-01 crew learn to carry on without them. Begins a very AU season 2.

This story is unrelated to my Endeavour series.

Disclaimer: The only thing I own are my hopes and dreams ... although I did pawn both a while back for rent money.

4: T'Pol

Her ears would not stop ringing.

As she picked herself out of the debris, Subcommander T'Pol winced as sharp pains stabbed through her body, beating time with her pulse. Sporadic after-images danced across her field of vision, ruining her already poor night vision; the inner eyelid that all Vulcans possessed had likely kept her from permanent blindness when she had risked a glance back at the maelstrom. In that instant, another of the bombs had detonated, leaving her flash-blind and in worst straits than before.

The glance that left her in this current situation had been an attempt to locate Commander Tucker. In the chaos of their sudden flight as the explosives fell from the skycraft, they had been separated, and T'Pol found herself suppressing a very strong sense of worry for the engineer's well-being. He had an unfortunate habit of getting himself injured while on landing parties, and she hated to imagine what sort of peril he could get himself into while primitive but still quite deadly explosives fell from the sky.

Blinking the spots away, she scrambled to her feet and quickly took stock of her condition. Apart from the vision problems and a temporary loss of hearing brought on by proximity to the explosions, T'Pol could detect no other significant injuries. Her left ankle throbbed, but it was not sufficient to slow her down. She frowned slightly when she realized that her communicator was missing.

She jumped in surprise when Commander Tucker's hand dropped onto her shoulder, and shot him a dark look that he ignored. Never before had she realized how much she relied on her hearing for perception; she hadn't even heard him approach! As the commander gestured and spoke, T'Pol glowered at her inability to understand his meaning; given their current situation, such a disability could prove to be lethal. She studied his lips in the hopes of comprehending his meaning, before giving up.

"I cannot hear you," T'Pol told him, speaking perhaps a bit louder than necessary. Her voice sounded, to her, oddly hollow and distorted, though she knew that she wasn't truly hearing anything right now. With his left hand, Commander Tucker reached toward her face, fingers touching her right ear, and T'Pol nearly gasped at his audacity; if he had been Vulcan, it would have been a wildly inappropriate action, and T'Pol schooled herself to absolute stillness. He did not need to know how sensitive her ears were. He withdrew his fingers, now damp with blood, and a worried look crossed his face. Nodding his understanding – or at least that's what she hoped he was nodding about – Tucker gestured rapidly to the two of them before pointing in a direction away from the explosions. She gave him a nod of her own.

Within seconds however, T'Pol found herself growing more frustrated. Her vision had cleared, but night had fallen completely, and, with the overcast sky blotting out the planetary moons, she found it nearly impossible to see anything. With each hesitant step, she fell farther behind Tucker, and, for the first time in her life, she realized she was envious of a human.

It was an uncomfortable experience.

"Commander," she said, glad that at least her hearing was beginning to return. Her voice still sounded a little odd, but the ringing had faded. Tucker glanced back, then stopped walking entirely as he waited for her to catch up. His eyes, T'Pol realized, were studying her legs, as if he were seeking an injury. "Your night-vision," she told him, "is much better than mine."

"Right," he muttered. Tucker reached for her left hand and put it on his survival pack. "Better?" he asked.

"Yes." It was almost embarrassing to be forced to rely on him like a child, and T'Pol wondered if he saw the humor in the situation. She, who was two to three times stronger than he was, over twice his age, and with far more survival training, had to hold onto him so as to not fall or get lost. For a nanosecond, she seriously considered letting go of his shoulder, but logic reasserted itself. Clinging to him might be undignified, but it was much safer than attempting to traverse this area alone.

They made slow time, pausing every hundred meters or so to allow Commander Tucker to get his bearings, but T'Pol found her faith in him growing with each step. It was a curious sensation, one that she would never have expected to experience with a human, and it reminded her of a Vulcan teamwork exercise; by placing her fate entirely in the commander's hands, she was gaining better appreciation of his talents.

"Dammit," Tucker growled sometime later. By her calculations, T'Pol determined that nearly four hours had passed since the first bombs had fallen. They had paused for rest, and the commander was tinkering with something that she could not make out in the low light. Leaning closer to him, she finally identified it as his communicator. "Shrapnel damaged it," the engineer grumbled, before glancing up. Their faces were mere centimeters apart, and T'Pol wondered at the curious expression that flashed across his face. "Yours?" he asked, swallowing as he did.

"I lost it during the bombardment," she admitted. "Can you repair yours?"

"No idea," Tucker replied, a sour look on his face. "Maybe." Worry was clear on his face. "Without better light to see what's damaged, I don't wanna risk opening it up and messin' it up more." He gestured along their path. "It looks like there's a road of some kind down there," he said, and T'Pol strained her eyes in an attempt to see it. "There's also some lights down there that might be vehicles or maybe even civilization. D'ya think we should risk it?"

"Yes," T'Pol said without hesitation. "They may have communication equipment," she continued, "which could allow us to contact Enterprise." She didn't need to remind him that Ensign Sato had been monitoring the primitive radio signals of this planet.

"All right." Tucker shrugged, a wan smile on his face. "You're the boss," he said unnecessarily. He spent long moments studying the route they were planning before sighing heavily. "We should wait until dawn, though," he said. "That's gonna be a rough climb to begin with, and you really need to see where you're going."

"Aerial patrols will be able to see us more easily," she pointed out.

"Have you ever tried to climb in the dark?" Tucker asked. Shadows concealed his face, and it was disconcerting to hear him but be unable to see him. "It's at least a hundred meter drop, T'Pol, and you have to be able to see." He leaned forward abruptly. "You can put me on report when we get back to Enterprise," the commander stated earnestly, "but I am not gonna try and climb that at night."

T'Pol exhaled softly as she grudgingly admitted that his arguments were logical. "Very well," she agreed, and the commander leaned back. They spent a moment in awkward silence, before she broke the silence. "You should attempt to rest, Commander." Even in the dark, she could see that he tensed, although she didn't know why.

"Yeah," he muttered, his voice just soft enough to be heard. "I should." He leaned back against his survival pack, and said nothing more.

Extracting a hand scanner from her pack, she quickly programmed it to inform them of approaching life signs. It only had a radius of seventy-five meters, but in this terrain, that should be more than enough. Checking the setting on her phase pistol, T'Pol shifted awkwardly on the uncomfortable rock and awaited the dawn.

In the distance, she could still hear the explosions.


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