Something wasn’t right.
Opening her eyes, Subcommander T’Pol rose to her feet in a single, fluid motion, ignoring the twinge of discomfort that shot through her body as she forced her wounded shoulder into action. With four quick steps, she crossed the distance to the nearest window of the dilapidated fueling facility, drawing the phase pistol as she did. Her every instinct was screaming that she was in danger, though T’Pol knew not why.
For a single, extended moment, she was completely still as she strained her senses to identify the source of her distress. She was about to relax when she heard it again: the muffled creak of leather and the soft ring of metal against stone. Her breath caught when she realized what it meant.
Someone was scaling the mesa.
Instantly, T’Pol sprang toward the ladder leading to the roof the fuel depot. It took every gram of her self-control to keep from groaning as the still-healing muscles in her upper body protested, but she persevered and scrambled up the rungs. She was only partially surprised that the roof door opened without a sound; Commander Tucker had visited the roof several times that she was aware of and it was entirely within his character to pause long enough to conduct some minor repairs.
Once on the roof, she crawled toward the edge, keeping as low a profile as physically possible. Silhouetting herself on the roof would be the act of a rank amateur, and T’Pol had far too much experience to make such a mistake. She paused when she reached her destination, patiently waiting for some telltale sign that she had been detected. A long moment passed in relative silence; the far distant booms of artillery fire and explosions could still be heard and felt, but they had become so common that she had become accustomed to them. It was strange how easily one could adapt to such chaos. Satisfied that she was still undetected, she slowly rolled onto her back and pulled her scanner free from its holster.
Of Vulcan manufacture, T’Pol had modified the device heavily to appear as little more than a standard issue Starfleet scanner, mostly out of necessity. Possession of this particular model of scanner outside the Ministry of Security was technically illegal, after all, and she doubted that the Ministry would be pleased to learn what she had listed as battle loss had in fact survived. The moment the scanner vibrated in her hand, T’Pol lifted it into place some three centimeters below the lip of the parapet encircling the roof. Using her thumb, she input a specific key sequence and an antenna-like rod slid noiselessly from the scanner’s body, telescoping into place above the parapet. A second later, the small display screen flickered into existence as the micro-camera atop the antenna began recording.
She was unsurprised to see shadowy figures slowly ascending the mesa. Though the resolution of the image was far too poor for her to accurately count their numbers, T’Pol grimaced slightly and fought the urge to sigh. Even a single such soldier was one too many, especially if their grasp of tactics was beyond rudimentary. Upon attaining a foothold, logic would dictate they establish a defensive perimeter so additional soldiers could join their strike team.
Another quick key sequence triggered a laser pulse from the micro-camera atop the antenna and instantly, the distance between the camera and targeted soldier flashed across her screen. T’Pol grit her teeth as she retracted the antenna; if her calculations were correct, she had less than twenty minutes before that native reached the summit of the mesa.
Abandoning stealth for speed, T’Pol scrambled to her feet and darted for the ladder leading back to the garage. Using the specialized training she’d received, she divorced her mind from the pain radiating from her shoulder wound so she could gather their gear more quickly. There would be a price to pay later – additional time in a healing trance or perhaps even permanent loss of some sensation – but for now, she was able to function mostly unimpaired.
Once their gear was gathered, T’Pol slid into the driver’s seat of the groundcar and examined its controls. They were rudimentary at best and she quickly worked out how to maneuver the vehicle. Satisfied, she exited the groundcar and walked to the garage door. It slid open without a sound and with a modicum of effort, prompting her to once again suspect Commander Tucker had been at work. Seconds later, the garage was behind her.
Without an immediate destination in mind, T’Pol directed the groundcar in the direction of the ‘store’ Commander Tucker had mentioned before departing their safehouse, relying heavily upon her admittedly flawed memory to do so. The sound of a rapidly approaching land vehicle caused her to swerve her groundcar into an alleyway to avoid notice and she bit back a sigh when she realized it was Mister Tucker, now piloting a three-wheeled vehicle similar to the one they had utilized days earlier. He failed to notice her and she spent several long moments attempting to reverse the direction of her own groundcar one-handed. The screech of metal grinding against the stone edifice to her left was proof she wasn’t entirely successful.
“Where the hell-” Tucker began to say as she skidded the groundcar to an awkward stop before him, but T’Pol cut him off with a sharp hand gesture.
“There are soldiers ascending the mesa,” she snapped, gesturing in the direction of where they would be appearing. By her calculations, they had only minutes until the first of the soldiers appeared. To his credit, Tucker comprehended her haste instantly and reached for the two survival packs. He quickly lashed them to the frame of his newly acquired vehicle – a vehicle that had several cloth bags and what appeared to be large metal cans already secured to its frame. T’Pol asked no questions as she slid into the passenger’s seat of the groundcar. She imagined she could hear the commander’s pulse racing.
Tucker had only just climbed into the vehicle and engaged its engine when the first of the soldiers appeared. Almost instantly, the four men detected their presence and began shouting at them. The commander didn’t hesitate as he applied acceleration, and the groundcar’s wheels squeeled in protest as it slewed around. Subsonic cracks echoed around them as the soldiers opened fire with their primitive slugthrowers and T’Pol heard her companion curse loudly as the rounds whined past them.
Ignoring Tucker’s flash of panic, T’Pol reached for her phase pistol and selected its highest setting. She took careful aim – not at the soldiers – and squeezed the trigger. The beam flashed out, slicing into the fuel compartment of the now parked law enforcement groundcar.
It exploded with rather spectacular results.
A second later, Tucker took a hard turn and the garage vanished from sight. He made several more course alterations, each seemingly chosen at random, and spent nearly five minutes at what appeared an inherently unsafe level of speed before wheeling the vehicle around into a skidding brake. Before T’Pol knew what he was doing, he had backed them into a mostly gutted building and idled down.
“Tell me that wasn’t fun!” Tucker grinned, eyes glinting from the adrenaline coursing through his veins. T’Pol raised an eyebrow at his reaction to their narrow escape but chalked it up to human idiosyncrasy. Despite her best efforts, however, one corner of her mouth quirked upward fractionally.
“Fun?” she queried, inexplicably grateful for the reappearance of the old Charles Tucker. “I would not classify it as fun.”
“Of course you wouldn’t,” he chuckled before quickly sobering. “You okay?” he asked, a frown suddenly appearing on his face as he studied her shoulder. It was, T’Pol realized, bleeding once more; in the heat of the moment and with her steadfast refusal to acknowledge her pain, she had failed to notice.
“I am,” she answered. Almost at once, T’Pol grimaced as another wave of agony pulsed through her upper body. “Or rather,” she corrected, “I am in the same condition I was before this latest…”
“Escapade?” Tucker offered with a wan smile. T’Pol nodded at his choice of words. “With all those bullets flyin’ around,” he started before inhaling sharply. “The fuel cans!” he blurted out as he jumped from the driver’s seat. With her shoulder injury slowing her, T’Pol was still climbing out of the groundcar when he spoke again. “We were lucky,” Tucker declared from where he stood at the back of the vehicle. “One of the duffel backs got hit, but they missed both of the fuel cans.”
“That is fortunate,” T’Pol remarked. She touched one of the cloth bags and gave him a questioning look.
“Long story,” the commander remarked with a shrug. He glanced at the skyline and pressed his tongue against the inside of his mouth. Not for the first time, T’Pol observed the gesture with fascination, all the while wondering why she found it so … interesting. “We’ve got about three hours until the sun starts to go down, right? Maybe three and a half?” The question required no spoken response so T’Pol waited, recognizing the commander was verbalizing his thought processes. “They should stop tryin’ to kill each other in about two hours,” he continued, chewing on his lip as he did. He pinned her with his eyes and T’Pol wasn’t able to look away though she didn’t know why. “I wanna run the blockade then.”
“Before dark?” she asked. It was a brash suggestion and one entirely within the parameters of Tucker’s psychological profile according her superiors, but T’Pol had long since realized how inaccurate that profile was. More often than she cared to admit, the commander had surprised her with his decision-making process; to Vulcan standards, it was admittedly emotional but she had learned to trust him.
“Yeah,” Tucker admitted. “If our luck holds out,” he said, “we can catch ‘em napping.”
“I don’t believe in luck,” T’Pol stated flatly.
“Well, you don’t believe in time travel either,” the commander smiled, “but I won’t hold it against you.” Once again, Tucker locked eyes with her. “What d’ya say?” he asked. T’Pol nodded.
“Two hours,” she agreed.