She derived a great deal of satisfaction from watching her mate sleep.
It was an illogical waste of time that could be better spent attending to her duties aboard the T’Muna-Doth, but in the weeks since she and Trip had become intimate, T’Pol had found it increasingly difficult to pry herself away from his sleeping form. He looked so peaceful, so innocent, so … young while he slept that she could spend hours simply observing him. Even the scars from the bear attack – which he hated with a terrible passion – could not mar his beauty, and in those twilight hours, it took every gram of T’Pol’s willpower to keep from touching him.
And sometimes, like this morning, even that was not enough.
Trip’s skin was slightly cool to her touch, although she had long since become accustomed to this fact and, in fact, had grown to appreciate it more than she had thought possible. Their differing body temperatures added an unexpectedly exotic flavor to their sexual relations and T’Pol flushed lightly at the memories that abruptly flickered across her mind’s eye. Her strict upbringing in T’Les’ home had left her ill prepared for the sensations and feelings Trip could evoke in her with nothing more than a heated look, but the part of her that remained uneasy with how her life had unfolded was rapidly becoming overwhelmed by the contentment her relations with Trip provided. He brought something to her life that had been missing since her father was lost, something that she was loath to give up no matter that she sometimes felt it made her less a Vulcan.
Eleven days had elapsed since their recovery of the surveillance satellite and two since their return planetside. There had been no further sign of whoever was responsible for the various global positioning satellites arrayed over the two planets, although T’Pol had detected some curious energy patterns on Ekos’ sister world. If their supplies had not been nearly expended, she would have recommended that they investigate, but in the end, decided it was too risky. Trip needed more food than she did and the few remaining edible protein packs were insufficient for him, particularly in light of the considerable physical exertion he had been doing for quite some time now. In between daily sexual encounters – often two or three times a day, although they were finally discovering a long overdue equilibrium in that regard – her mate was becoming quite proficient with both Suus mahna and the lirpa, a fact that never ceased to amuse and arouse her. Trip had been surprised when she explained the role the ancient weapon played in Vulcan tradition, but insisted on learning how to wield it nonetheless.
“This is an important part of your culture,” he said when she asked him why, “so that means it’s important to me too.”
And, after they recovered from the sexual encounter those simple words had spawned, she’d acceded to his request and began teaching him. There was something quite appealing about seeing a shirtless Trip with a lirpa in his hands.
A subtle chime echoed throughout the T’Muna-Doth, causing T’Pol to stir and slowly pull away from where she was stretched out before Trip. Silently, she slid out of bed and pulled on the undershirt he had been wearing the previous day. Her illogical preference for his clothes never ceased to make Trip smile and, as he became less outwardly emotive to assist her in maintaining her own stability, it was always pleasant to see a hint of the man he once was. She paused beside the bed, her eyes automatically tracking over Trip’s sleeping form, and T’Pol swallowed the sadness that suddenly swelled within her stomach. It was unfair, she reflected bitterly, that he had to change so much just for her. She sighed and caressed his lips briefly with the fingers of her right hand before reaching for her pants and heading toward the door.
The results of her latest scan were flashing on the main monitor when she climbed into the command deck and T’Pol studied them with a slight frown. Upon their landing, she had programmed the T’Muna-Doth’s sensors to sweep the atmosphere for indications of extraplanetary activity. While not conclusive, there was certainly sufficient evidence to indicate that someone was routinely traveling between Ekos and her sister planet using what appeared to be primitive nuclear pulse propulsion. T’Pol unconsciously raised an eyebrow and directed the sensors to concentrate on the global positioning satellites. If she could access their crude software algorithms, not only could she and Trip utilize the GPS when they inevitably departed this island to obtain additional supplies, but they might also be able to identify the creator of the satellites. Providing they were not hostile (which was never a guarantee in this galaxy), they might prove to be beneficial allies.
Of equal importance was the data downloaded from the retrieved surveillance satellite. By feeding it into the T’Muna-Doth’s computers, T’Pol was able to get a far more accurate overview of Ekos than any of the local maps. She now had a solid understanding of where the largest population centers were located at, where prominent military facilities could be found (and thus, avoided), and had even developed a hypothesis concerning the detonation of the atomic weapon based on this visual evidence. If she was interpreting the scans made by the satellite correctly, ground zero for the fission device was deep in the heart of a densely populated continent and occurred on a military testing facility. It seemed probable that the scientists responsible had grossly miscalculated the destructive yield of the weapon and, as a result, been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of their countrymen in their rush to produce a decisive victory.
Of course, she had also not ruled out sabotage. On this world, it seemed just as probable that an outside force was responsible for the tragedy that appeared to triggered a regional conflict.
Using the T’Muna-Doth’s sensors to intercept the various radio transmissions on the planet was not difficult, and T’Pol scanned through a number of different stations before finally settling on one from the continent of Tandos that seemed to focus on the Ekosian equivalent of jazz. The instruments were obviously not the same as what would have been found on Earth, but the emotions at the heart of the music were certainly no different. A great number of the songs seemed to be overly commercialized, as if an outside force had dictated to the musicians what was required of them, and T’Pol was quickly able to discern which pieces were intended to act as propaganda for the regional government and which were not. A surprising number of pieces bordered on the seditious if she comprehended the meaning behind the words.
Every twenty minutes, the music was interrupted by a news broadcast, usually detailing ‘heroic victories’ against the enemy, the identity of which was often left unclear, or the ‘good works’ of the Alliance government. On the third broadcast, however, the canned news program was replaced by a live update announcing the confirmed execution of Staff-Adjutant sut’Tanaros Mikal Ferran and three of his lowborn co-conspirators – among them, Pater Undil – for treason against the state. The broadcast went on to detail Ferran’s supposed crimes, but T’Pol heard none of it. Instead, she powered off the radio transmission and retreated to the meditation chamber.
Surak asked, “Can you return life to what you kill?”
And T’Pol knew that, ultimately, she had killed Ferran and Undil, even if her hands had not been on the weapons that took their lives. Trip would no doubt say that they had deserved their fates, that justice had been done for those who had been murdered by the two, and indeed, a part of her was pleased that both men were dead, but Surak’s teachings were clear that this sort of thinking led to the barbarism her culture had put behind them. She frowned – when was it appropriate to do violence in the name of Vulcan, she wondered. And how could the High Command still claim to follow Surak’s tenets when so many of their actions were diametrically opposed to what the Father of Logic taught?
She was still trying to meditate when Trip woke and the pleasant feel of his sleepy mind automatically reaching out toward her made T’Pol’s lips quirk upward slightly. When he entered the meditation chamber long minutes later, he was already dressed.
“So that’s where my shirt got off to,” he said in lieu of a more traditional greeting as he crouched before her. T’Pol gave him a quick look, hoping he did not notice the subtle flush of emerald crawling up her neck. From the soft, affectionate smile he gave her, though, he did see it, but thankfully said nothing. Instead, Trip caressed the side of her cheek with two fingers and the warm hum of his mind brushed against hers. T’Pol automatically leaned into his touch but was surprised when she didn’t feel the rush of blood fever arousal that usually accompanied such gestures.
But the moment was shattered when Trip’s stomach growled.
T’Pol looked up at him, one of her eyebrows climbing in amusement even as she struggled to contain the smile the threatened to spoil her poise. Her mate rolled his eyes before sighing.
“The sun isn’t up yet,” he said calmly, “so I’m going to go try and catch some fish before it does.” T’Pol opened her mouth to comment, but Trip continued over her. “I need some real food, not those damned mango-nuts you seem to like.” His expression barely changed, although she could feel the hint of suppressed disgust he felt at the idea of consuming another of the tropical fruits. “I figure it can’t be that hard to make a good fishing rod out of nothing but sticks, right?”
“I suppose not,” T’Pol conceded although she had given very little thought about how one would go about constructing such a device. Even the thought of consuming such a creature caused her stomach to squirm in discomfort although she did not begrudge Trip for doing so.
“I could always try spear fishing if I can’t get the rod to work,” Trip mused. T’Pol let one corner of her mouth curl up.
“And failing that,” she remarked, “you will have your phase pistol.”
“I’m not going to shoot the fish, T’Pol,” Trip retorted with a shake of his head. He pushed himself to his feet. “When I get back,” he said, “I want to give our transporter another try.” T’Pol pursed her lips but did not comment about their ongoing attempts to construct a functional replica of Doctor Erickson’s matter teleportation device. Thus far, thanks to their limited supplies aboard the T’Muna-Doth, they had been unable to maintain pattern cohesion for more than twenty percent of their attempts, even with the inclusion of the transmitter tags that T’Pol had recommended.
Once Trip departed, T’Pol returned to her meditation, but found herself unable to fully concentrate, knowing as she did how accident prone her errant human could be. She exhaled softly before rising and making her way to the command deck. A quick glance at the sensor display allowed her to easily locate Trip – he was already near the beach, some fifteen meters away from the T’Muna-Doth – and T’Pol input additional commands into the board. With a subtle hum, one of the stealthy aerial sensor drones launched from the port tube and began a slow circuit of the island with instructions to keep a silent watch over Trip.
Just in case.
Easing back slightly in the chair, T’Pol brought up the orbital scans of the continent Tandos once more so she could study them. They had hoped to have the transporter functioning before their food stores were completely expended as it would make obtaining supplies from the Alliance far less dangerous than attempting to obtain them physically. Unfortunately, it appeared that time had run out and, unless Trip successfully pulled a metaphorical – what was that human phrase? – monkey out of his engineering hat, they would be forced to risk venturing into one of the cities before they could even consider departing the planet and begin what could very well be a long journey to civilization. There was already the matter of the deuterium aboard the T’Muna-Doth being inadequate for an extended trip, but without food? That would only lead to a slow suicide.
With a soft sigh, T’Pol leaned forward and pushed all other concerns away. If they did end up being forced to enter an Ekosian city as it appeared was likely, then she wanted to have a target already selected.