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.

A/N: A local day on this planet is 21 hours long. 10 days (8.75 Earth days) have passed since chapter 1.

14: t'pol

The sound of distant gunfire woke her.

Her first instinct was to leap to her feet, but Subcommander T'Pol winced at the twinge of pain that accompanied her first attempts to do so. Grimacing, she let herself relax back onto the vehicle seat that Commander Tucker had insisted she rest on. It was barely long enough for her to stretch out on, but was cushioned and far more comfortable than resting on the hard stone surface of the garage. With the doors of the groundcar closed, it was also less exposed to the cold wind that continually rattled the dilapidated building they were hiding in, and combined with the thermal blanket from her survival packet, proved to be a more than adequate bed.

His own thermal blanket wrapped around him, Commander Tucker appeared to be deeply asleep in the driver's seat of the stolen groundcar. With his head propped up against the window of the vehicle's door, T'Pol had an excellent view of his profile, and she spent a long moment studying him. In slumber, he appeared to be even younger than she knew him to be, and the worry that had hounded him since their crash landing was temporarily absent. His breath fogged up the glassite window that his head leaned against, and T'Pol found herself momentarily mesmerized by the steadiness of his respiration and the peace on his face.

Ripping her attention away from the sleeping commander, T'Pol gave their surroundings another look. Three days had passed since Enterprise had last made contact with them, leaving her and Commander Tucker to fend for themselves, and they had done little beyond rest and plan in that time. Initially, she had been concerned at their vulnerability in the wake of the commander's shooting of the law enforcement officer, but that fear had been assuaged almost as soon as dawn broke on the first day.

"Sounds like they're gettin' an early start today," Tucker murmured as sporadic gunfire increased in volume. He straightened in his seat, wincing almost at once before massaging his neck with one hand. His comment did not require a reply, so T'Pol remained silent as she listened to the sounds of war.

It had begun – or, more likely, resumed – as the sun rose on the morning after Commander Tucker had found their current hiding place. Artillery and aerial strikes by military units encamped outside the city pounded the buildings, reducing the most prominent and exposed of them that weren’t already smashed to burning rubble. The inhabitants of the city retaliated with their own salvo of primitive yet still lethal fire. Each day, the aggressive firefight would trail off with the setting sun only to resume once dawn arrived. Whether the cessation of hostilities was entirely due to the nightly rainstorms or something else, T'Pol had no idea. It was a most inefficient way to wage a war.

"I was thinkin'," Tucker said after a moment. He pressed his tongue against the inside of cheek but kept his eyes fixed on the closed garage door. "We need to get outta the city, right?" T'Pol nodded fractionally in response, and the commander continued. "Which means we're gonna need supplies." Instantly, T'Pol realized what he was considering and frowned slightly.

"You will not venture into this city alone, Commander," she said flatly. He had suggested this course of action several times over the last three days, and each time T’Pol had overruled it. Though he had not admitted it, she suspected that her injury was the only reason he had obeyed in each of those instances; leaving a wounded comrade behind simply wasn’t in his personality. Tucker gave her a sidelong glance before returning his gaze to the entranceway.

"I’m not sure if you’re thinkin’ straight," he declared after another long moment. When he turned his attention to face her, T’Pol barely recognized the grim resolve in his features. "Stayin’ in this city is suicide," Tucker continued. "Especially with you injured." He smiled, but it never touched his eyes. "After all," he smirked, "I’m the logical choice to go get what we need."

"You don’t have the necessary training for a mission like this," T’Pol argued.

"And you do?" he snorted.

"Yes," T’Pol replied evenly, drawing from him a startled look. "By nightfall, I should be well enough to accompany you."

"I wanna be outta the city by then," Tucker said. "If the natives have bad night vision like you said, it’ll give us the advantage over ‘em if we move at night." T’Pol frowned at his assumption; she had based her theory about the night vision of the natives on the relatively high albedo of the three planetary satellites that orbited the world they were currently stranded on. Providing the rainstorms that had plagued them since the day after their crash-landing were only a seasonal event, it was logical to presume that species evolving on this planet would do so without the need for night vision as acute as the commander’s.

"Need I remind you, Commander," she pointed out, "That my night vision is also deficient?"

"Yeah, but you’ve got me," Tucker replied almost absently. He wore an expression that T’Pol had often seen while he worked out a particularly complex engineering problem. "I’m pretty sure that I spotted a store a couple of blocks down the road when I was on the roof last night," he said. T’Pol successfully fought back a frown at that; she had instructed him not to climb onto the roof, even if it provided a better vantage point of their surroundings. As in most things, however, the commander obeyed her only when it suited him to do so. He continued. "We need new clothes, maps, campin’ supplies, food-" At that, his stomach gurgled loudly, reminding her that they had consumed the last of their rations two days earlier; she too could feel the gnaw of hunger but unlike the commander, was better able to ignore it. She opened her mouth to argue again, to point out the inherent danger in him trying to gather supplies for them when he wasn’t trained for such a thing, but found that the words would not come.

He was right.

It was most annoying to realize that she was allowing personal sentiment to cloud her judgment in this matter. Commander Tucker – Charles, she reminded herself – was the logical choice for a mission like this. He was unwounded, in excellent physical shape, and had superior technology at his grasp. Furthermore, a glancing examination at him would not reveal his extraterrestrial origin, something that could not be said of her. Her hesitation was understandable, though; in the short time she had known him, the commander had proven extraordinarily effective at getting himself injured.

"I’ll be careful," Tucker stated as he opened the door of the groundcar. He shot her a look that T’Pol couldn’t possibly comprehend. "I know I’m not your first choice of companions on this rock," he said almost sadly. Emotions that she did not recognize played across his face. "But give me some credit, will ya? I’m not a complete idiot." He pushed the door closed before she could respond and, by the time she had extricated herself from the vehicle, the commander had vanished into the city beyond.

For nearly a full minute, T’Pol stood quietly beside the vehicle, examining the unruly emotions that battered at her weakened control. With a start, she realized that she had not meditated since prior to their crash-landing over ten days earlier; there simply had not been the time or opportunity. The last three days she had spent mostly in a healing trance as she pushed her body to recover more quickly, and while that helped somewhat, it was not an ideal replacement for meditation.

Abruptly, T’Pol narrowed her eyes suddenly as something occurred to her: during the three days she had been mostly unconscious, Tucker had been left with only himself as company and, as she had learned since arriving aboard Enterprise, the commander was very much a social animal. Worry thundered through her then as she realized that he may have decided to act out of a desire to simply do something. He was too reckless for this mission. Too reckless, too emotional, too illogical. Knowing him as she did, T’Pol had no doubt that he would get himself into life-threatening trouble and would need her to rescue him. Her tenuous control wavered and she grimaced at the realization that she had retraced Tucker’s steps to the garage entrance; the urge to pursue him was so overwhelming that she reached for the door before catching herself.

It took more effort than she would have expected, but T’Pol managed to push down the urge to charge after him. Mediation was no longer desirable, it was necessary.

Commander Tucker would have to look after himself.

 

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