It was dark when he reached the airfield.
To someone like him, who had grown up a proverbial stone's throw from an actual international airport that never, ever slept, no matter the hour or day or weather, this place was barely worthy of the name. Four buildings squatted around a dirt path that served as the landing strip, with a fifth appearing to serve as the equivalent of a flight tower and headquarters. The latter was the only construction that was more than a single storey and behind it, half concealed by an outlying shed construction, a very loud generator growled and rumbled, apparently providing power to the entire airfield if the various wires stretching away from it were any indications. There were four propeller-driven single-seat planes parked alongside the runway and two large refueling trucks sat between the aircraft. A third truck was next to the tower building, although it looked more like a troop transport than a fueling vehicle, and a trio of four-wheeled vehicles he took to be the equivalent of a jeep were parked next to it.
A rickety-looking fence encircled the entire airfield, with perhaps a dozen small guard towers scattered along its length. The only thing that gave Trip pause was how bright the entire area was – he counted at least fifteen lamps of varying intensity just in the vicinity of the control building alone. A dozen or so Ekosian soldiers could be seen – some were walking the perimeter of the fence, some were inside the guard towers, and some were simply loitering outside the various buildings. None of it was going to stop him from entering either the airfield or the headquarters building, though.
Because T'Pol was inside.
He could feel her through this weird as hell psychic connection thing they had going on. It had pulled him along for four, almost five days, steadily growing more intense as he drew closer. Now, it was like a soft rumble inside his head – he thought of it as thunder without sound – and the exhaustion and pain he'd barely been holding back was gone, washed away under the unrelenting call only he could hear. Only by focusing entirely on developing a plan to get T'Pol was he able to suppress the nearly overwhelming urge to draw both weapons and run screaming forward, killing any and everything that dared get in his way. They would certainly need to talk after this – a deeply-buried, primitive part of Tucker was howling in fear at what she might have done to him; did he even still have free will or was this some Vulcan mojo that made him little more than her puppet? – but right now, he could care less about the whys or whats. All that mattered was getting her out, safe and sound. Until then, nothing else mattered. Nothing else was important.
With the binoculars from his survival pack set to night-vision, he swept up and down the fence in an attempt to find a likely entry point for his assault. As barriers went, it was pretty pathetic – a single strand of some sort of metal that looked a whole lot like barbed wire was stretched between wooden posts set about three meters apart. The wire was about waist level and appeared to be a lot older than the rest of the facility.
Trip lowered the binos and considered. With the lights illuminating the whole damned complex – if it could truly be called that – getting in undetected would be virtually impossible. He glanced in the direction of the generator before looking down at the phase pistols strapped to either side of his belt. If he came in from the south, he might be able to get within range of that shed without being detected. Two shots fired at maximum power should kill all of their juice. Trip nodded. The plan sucked, but he liked it anyway.
Twenty minutes later found him within ten meters of the generator building. He was flat on his stomach, having been forced to crawl most of the way to avoid being detected by the spotlights periodically sweeping the area. Moving as quietly as possible, he slid forward over a small hill and took aim with one of the pistols while fumbling for the scanner with his other hand. Satisfied there was no one inside the generator building, he placed the scanner back on his belt, drew the second pistol, aimed and fired.
The resulting explosion was … anticlimactic.
Sparks flew for barely a second as the twin lances of phased energy burned through wood, metal and wire. Almost at once, the lights throughout the airfield flickered twice and died, dropping the entire area with darkness so abruptly that it was almost jarring. Trip was up and sprinting toward the fence even before the last of the lights faded away, and he could hear some cries of surprise, dismay and annoyance at the sudden loss of illumination. He hurdled the low fence easily before darting in the direction of a door leading into the main building, holstering one of the pistols in the process. With that empty hand, he reached for the handle.
And in that moment, the door began to open.
Trip jerked back out of sight as two Ekosian soldiers exited, rifles slung and holding aloft what smelled like kerosene lanterns. Neither appeared to notice him as they leisurely walked toward the generator shed, but an all too familiar sensation tickled the back of Tucker's brain. It was worse than simple déjà vu – he could actually remember seeing these two even though he knew that he'd never met them before – and they were barely three steps away when the pieces fell into place.
T'Pol. These were two of the Ekosians that had captured and beaten his T'Pol.
His hands trembled at the effort it took to keep from simply throwing himself at these men in an unreasoning fit of madness and fury to avenge what had been done to his Vulcan. With his self control in ragged tatters, Trip instead glanced around for a weapon and, upon finding a fairly stout stick that reminded him far too much of a baseball bat, he seized it.
Neither man even had a chance.
He dragged their unconscious bodies out of sight and left them there, beaten and bloodied but still alive. Fury continued to build within him, an insane, murderous wrath that felt … alien even to him, but Trip shoved it into the same corner of his brain where the crippling physical pain from his still unhealed injuries was locked away so he could continue to function. His heart pounded a fierce refrain and its rhythm sang a familiar tune: t'pol t'pol t'pol.
Grabbing one of the rifles and slinging it over his shoulder, he quickly darted to the door and ducked inside the building. The invisible tether tugged him toward a door several meters distant and Trip followed it, his grip on the rifle tightening with each step he took. A pair of Ekosians – a white-haired man who had to be seventy or eighty, and a slender woman with a prominent nose and an overly elaborate coif of hair – stood in front of a window looking into a darkened room. Neither of them paid attention to his approach as they continued their soft conversation.
"You must speak to him," the old man was stating passionately while gesturing toward the window. "He listens to your voice."
"But he may be correct," his companion countered. "We may need this woman."
"That thing is not a woman!" the man nearly snarled. Trip drew alongside them, his eyes automatically locking on the seated figure of T'Pol through the glass. A pompous-looking reject straight out of the worst sort of bad war movie was circling her, a swagger stick in hand. As Trip stared at T'Pol through the window, the two Ekosians finally seemed to take notice of him. The woman gave him barely a glance but the white-haired man began to frown.
"She is a woman," Trip countered softly in their dialect, drawing their full attention. The man's eyes widened in fear at the sight of the phase pistols at Tucker's side and he seemed to freeze completely in place. "And her name is T'Pol."
The woman reacted with surprising speed, half-turning and springing away from them and toward some sort of device secured to the far wall. Trip was ready though, and tackled her into the wall before she could reach what he suspected was an alarm. His body-check appeared to knock the wind out of her and, although it went against everything his dad had ever taught him about not hitting girls, Tucker clocked her across the jaw. She went limp and he glanced up at the sound of the old man collapsing to the floor. He was gasping and clutching at his chest in the same way Trip's grandfather had when Charles Tucker Senior died of a massive heart attack. For the briefest of seconds, Trip considered going to this man's aid.
But the moment passed. He couldn't … he wouldn't do anything for this man, not with them treating his Vulcan like she was some sort of feral animal.
Instead, he pushed down what his reflex told him to do and headed for the door leading into the large interrogation room. Through the apparent one-way mirror, Trip could see the flamboyantly dressed man walking toward the door as well, so Tucker hefted the rifle. As soon as the door opened, he struck, smashing the butt of the weapon forward into the face of the unsuspecting Ekosian man who staggered back in pain, dropping his swagger stick as his hand came up automatically to cover his smashed nose. The anger and confusion and fear swimming in his stomach gave Trip more strength, and he attacked again, this time slamming the rifle butt into the Ekosian peacock's vulnerable belly. With a gasp, the man collapsed to his knees and Tucker brought the weapon down across the back of the Ekosian's head slightly harder than was probably necessary.
T'Pol was slumping slightly in her chair, but her unblinking eyes were wide and locked on him as he approached. He tossed the rifle aside when he noticed that she was shackled to the uncomfortable looking chair by crude-looking cuffs.
"Trip?" she asked softly, as if she wasn't entirely sure that he was actually here.
"Lucy," Tucker replied with a pained smile, "I'm home." T'Pol gave him a confused frown, but he ignored it as he drew one of the pistols, took aim at one of the chain links holding her in place, and fired. The metal parted like water and Trip quickly took care of the other three. "Can you walk?" he asked.
"You came for me," T'Pol replied as if that was actually an answer to his question, her eyes swimming in and out of focus. She smiled then, a large teeth-baring smile that just looked wrong on her Vulcan features and sent a shiver up Trip's spine. Her eyes fluttered and, a half second later, she was unconscious.
"Wonderful," Trip muttered as he pulled her out of the chair and hefted her onto his shoulder, grunting at the effort it took. For such a delicate-looking woman, she was heavy!
The old man was still alive as Trip exited the cell, but remained slumped on the floor, his back to the wall and one hand clutching his chest. He stared at Tucker with wide, terrified eyes, as if he was expecting impending violence, but Trip simply gave him a dark look and headed toward the back door. Pushing it open with one of his toes, he exited the building but angled toward the parked groundcars instead of retracing his steps out of the compound. Leveraging T'Pol into the car was difficult – and sent a flash of déjà vu through him as he recalled doing something similar after she'd been shot – but once she was secure, he gave his surroundings another quick look. No alarm seemed to have been sounded, which made him suspect they often had trouble keeping on the lights. Still, it would only be a matter of time before one of the people he'd knocked out regained consciousness or somebody stumbled upon his handiwork.
Moving as quickly as he could manage while still being silent, Trip darted to each of the other parked vehicles and used the phase pistol at its highest setting to burn through the engine block. He then spent several more agonizingly long moments liberating the full jerry cans from the now useless vehicles and transferring them to his and T'Pol's groundcar. Once satisfied that he'd gotten everything he could from them, he turned in the direction of the aircraft and leveled the pistol once more, this time aiming at the fuel trucks. Holding his breath – there was no way the phase pistol beam wouldn't be noticed; he just hoped they'd be too busy trying to save the planes or putting out the fire to react – Trip fired at both of the refueling tanks.
Unlike the generator, these explosions would have made Malcolm proud.
Shouts of alarm sounded instantly, and, a few seconds later, soldiers streamed out of the four smaller buildings, most barely dressed, and raced toward the burning vehicles, gathering buckets and other paraphernalia that appeared to be intended to fight the fire or save the already damaged planes. Trip waited for only a few heartbeats before sliding into the seat of the off-road vehicle and starting the engine. It caught instantly, but no one seemed to have noticed as all eyes were focused on the chaos he'd just caused. He flashed a quick smile in T'Pol's direction – she was still unconscious, with her head tilted back and her mouth open – before putting the groundcar in gear and punching the accelerator.
The single strand of wire didn't even slow him down – it snapped apart when the jeep-like vehicle hit it at twenty kilometers an hour – but Trip slowed to a stop as soon as they were out of visual range to make sure it hadn't gotten tangled up in the wheels. He then drove to where the ATV he'd liberated days earlier was concealed and transferred all of the important gear – his rucksack with all of their remaining Starfleet gear, the two canisters that still had fuel in them, and the wooden box of extremely bad-tasting military rations he'd discovered in the ATV's backseat on the second day after its theft – to the jeep. Just to be safe, he pulled the pistol and burned through the engine housing so it wouldn't be going anywhere soon.
As he returned to the jeep, Trip glanced once more in the direction of the airfield. Even though it was concealed from view by a slight hill, the sky over it was brighter than normal, with sporadic flashes of fire appearing as the fuel continued to burn. Nodding tightly, he reclaimed the driver's seat and gunned the engine. South, he decided. They would go south.
He didn't stop driving until dawn.