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: 500 Earth days have passed since chapter 1. It's September, 2153.

83: trip

On the day of his and T’Pol’s departure, the Zeons threw them a parade.

 It was a positively surreal experience, standing at the base of the ramp leading up to the T’Muna-Doth while the denizens of this underground city filed by in lazy columns. There were marching bands playing instruments bearing only a passing resemblance to what he would find on Earth, uniformed soldiers (or at least Trip thought they were soldiers; they might be the Zeon equivalent of police officers instead) carrying foreign-looking weapons, and even slow-moving floats with excited, dancing children atop them. Once the last of the vehicles passed them by, the speeches began as each member of the Council stepped forward in turn and began a long-winded proclamation broken up by frequent, boisterous applause. The day vanished into early evening and still … still they talked. 

At least they’re not shooting at us, Trip told himself wryly when the urge to fidget started to become too much to bear.  

At his side, her expression calm and resolute, T’Pol did a nearly perfect job of pretending that she was actually paying attention to the procedings, although Trip knew for a fact that she had discreetly turned off the translator earpiece almost two hours earlier. He had filed the information away for later harassment – he looked forward to hearing her tortured reasoning as she explained to him why doing so was in any way logical – but made no effort to bring it to the attention of the Zeons. 

Instead, he focused on watching the locals. This was why he had joined Starfleet in the first place, to see things no humans had seen before and visit worlds that Earth had only imagined. He intended to enjoy the moment, no matter how unbelievably bored he actually was. 

And God help him, he was bored out of his skull. 

Eventually, the speeches began to wind down, no doubt encouraged by the waning attention of the crowd – there were fewer and fewer applause lines, more attendees carrying on their own conversations, and quite a number simply walking away. When First Elder Sarai came to the podium, her remarks were short and succinct – Trip didn’t know what she said, but it resulted in laughter and cheers.  

“Think you better turn your earpiece back on,” Trip muttered under his breath. T’Pol gave him a sidelong look, complete with raised eyebrow. Less than a heartbeat later, her lips curved up ever so slightly in that not-quite smile he loved so much. 

“Yes,” she murmured so softly that he had to strain to hear her, “that certainly seems the logical course of action.” A slight frown marred her otherwise flawless features. “I believe they expect me to make a speech,” she announced softly, dismay and nervousness lurking in her eyes. 

“Pity the captain’s not here,” Trip said with a tight smirk. “He loves this sort of thing.” T’Pol responded only with a flat look before returning her attention to the podium. 

A speech was expected and Trip watched as she took the stage. Not for the first time, he wondered how to reference her in terms that made sense to a human. Girlfriend seemed too … high school and not serious enough for what they were; the word lover didn’t fit either as it carried illicit undertones that simply weren’t apt; and unlike her, he wasn’t entirely comfortable using the term ‘mate.’ Partner almost worked, although that too wasn’t entirely the correct word. Shaking his head to clear it – you can think about this later, he told himself sharply – Trip focused on the words of the petite woman who had so changed his life. 

“We thank the Council and the Zeon people for their assistance,” T’Pol said in a seemingly calm voice that would have fooled him a year ago. She was beyond uncomfortable and he automatically took several steps closer so that he was at her shoulder. From where she stood, Dena paused slightly before resuming her translation from Tandosian to her native Zeon, but Trip ignored her. T’Pol continued in a stronger voice, thanking individual people – Dena’s family received special accolades – before she shifted into a more professional-sounding speech that was tantalizingly familiar. Long minutes later Trip finally realized that T’Pol was regurgitating, word for word, one of Jon’s better First Contact speeches. 

It took every gram of his self-control to keep from grinning, although from the glances she gave him, T’Pol knew he was laughing inside. 

The applause T’Pol received when she finished was so loud and extended that it caused them both to flinch. To Trip’s surprise, T’Pol discreetly reached for his hand. He blinked in astonishment – she so rarely initiated physical contact in public that it almost seemed out of character for her – and then barely kept from grimacing when she maneuvered him to the podium that had the microphones atop them like a ridiculous-looking basket of alien fruit. The flicker of nearly malicious amusement that flashed through his head had a distinctly Vulcan feel to it. That’ll teach me, he reflected while forcing another smile on his face. The crowd went silent absurdly fast and he swallowed. 

“I am not especially good at this sort of thing,” he said in his best Tandosian, pausing to allow Dena to translate before resuming, “so I will keep this short.” The smile he flashed this time was heartfelt. “First, thank you for not shooting at us,” he said wryly. “I cannot speak for T’Pol,” he added, “but I lost my taste for that after the first dozen times.” Laughter rippled through the crowd. Trip inhaled – what to say next? T’Pol had covered all of the important parts and he had never been any good at this in the first place – before straightening his posture slightly. “Second and far more important,” he said with another smile, “be excellent to each other.” The movie fan buried deep inside him snickered at the resulting applause – who knew stupid comedies from the twentieth century were good for speeches? – and, on instinct, he lifted his hand and saluted the audience with the ta’al. He felt rather than saw T’Pol start at his adoption of the Vulcan gesture. The urge to tell them to ‘party on’ was nearly overwhelming. 

When he stepped back from the podium, the crowd once more erupted in cheers, and the First Elder swept in to take his place, once more chattering away in the gibberish they called a language. Trip reclaimed his place next to T’Pol. 

“An interesting phrase,” T’Pol murmured softly and Trip smirked. 

“At least I managed to avoid mentioning gazelles,” he replied in an equally low voice. “For a second there,” he added, “I thought you were going to mention how you once watched sehlats grazing near the Forge.” T’Pol glanced at him before pursing her lips. Even through the magical psychic connection linking them, Trip could not tell if she was amused or irritated. From her body language, though, he guessed it was a little bit of both. 

“Be well,” Dena instructed as she gave them both a quick hug. T’Pol froze in surprise and discomfort at the blatant physical invasion of her personal space but just managed to not flinch or recoil. She backed away from further contact and, without hesitation, Trip stepped forward to run interference. He smiled and shook hands and accepted back-slapping hugs, all the while slowly backing toward the T’Muna-Doth. At the open hatch, he paused and offered a wave to the assembled Zeons gathered around the Launchpad. Their applause was deafening. 

“Finally,” he murmured as he stepped onto the ship and pressed the button that sealed the hatch. T’Pol was already halfway for the ladder leading to the command deck, so Trip made a beeline to the reactor room where he spent several long moments re-checking the various readouts and displays. Nothing had truly changed – while relatively advanced, the Zeons were still not a warp-capable culture so they hadn’t developed any way to obtain deuterium, which left the T’Muna-Doth dangerously low of the isotope. The supply of warp plasma was equally limited, although Trip was less concerned about this since they wouldn’t be able to maintain a steady warp four for very long. Hell, he wasn’t sure they could stay at warp three! 

“We have received clearance for departure,” T’Pol’s voice crackled out of the nearby wall panel. 

“Bringing reactor online now,” Trip said in response. He frowned at some of the fluctuating readings – nacelle number three continued to worry him – but nothing was below the danger threshold. “All systems reading amber,” he said with a slight smirk. “You are good to go.” 

“Acknowledged.” A subtle tremor rolled through the floor as she engaged the engines and slowly fed power into the maneuvering drive. Automatically, Trip activated one of the wall displays that provided the exterior view. He felt the tension in his shoulders ease as the Zeon landscape rapidly fell away. It was not that he had distrusted them – out of all the aliens he’d met over the years, they’d been among the friendliest, but by God, they liked to talk. Trip smiled: Jon would have been right at home. 

“Accelerating to warp factor one,” T’Pol announced long moments later. Soft chimes echoed throughout the ship and Trip leaned forward to watch his panel. Excitement warred with trepidation, but he pushed it aside and focused on making sure everything was working as expected. The T’Muna-Doth shivered slightly as they went superluminal and the nacelle temperatures spiked more than he expected, but it was well within safety parameters.  

“You are go for warp two,” Trip said. T’Pol did not respond vocally as she eased the starship to eight times the speed of light. “Now bring her up to warp three … slowly …” 

“I have done this before, Commander,” T’Pol remarked, her voice nearly dripping with amusement. “Transiting through the heliopause … now.” 

And just like that, they were out of the system.

 

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