The Klingon ship was a mess.
Staying at an absurdly slow half impulse to avoid potential detection, they intercepted the bird of prey three days after arriving in-system as it continued its slow transit away from the planet. Docking was never an option as the structural damage inflicted by the other three Klingons had thoroughly ruined the mating hatch, so T’Pol secured the holed derelict by way of the T’Muna-Doth’s tractor beam. The three day travel time had also given them more time to study the data at their fingertips which forced T’Pol to alter her original plan; rather than hide on one of the many satellites orbited the massive gas giant, they angled toward the moon of the deuterium colony. Not only was it safer – the colony wasn’t spewing lethal radiation and even the moon furthest from the Jovian monster was probably still too dangerous for the work they had to do – but the colony moon was also closer and required expenditure of a lot less fuel.
After lowering the Klingon derelict to the moon’s surface – they chose a spot sandwiched between two fairly impressive peaks on the dark side to avoid detection from planetside – T’Pol set the T’Muna-Doth next to it. For the next week, they stripped the bird of prey of anything salvageable … which sadly, turned out to be not a lot. There was just enough warp plasma available to replenish their supply, though Trip had to jury-rig a syphon system which was both exhausting and frustrating, particularly since much of the work had to be done in uncomfortable EV suits designed for Vulcans. As T’Pol had indicated, the Klingon sensor suite was complete junk and they didn’t even bother raiding it for spare parts. The comm array was only nominally better and incorporating it only extended their real-time communication by about a light-hour. Fortunately, the Zeons had provided them with plenty of foodstuffs because what little remained of Klingon rations looked to have been barely edible before the ship got all shot up to hell.
To Trip’s silent relief, they found surprisingly few bodies. Most of the crew appeared to have been lost via hull breaches … of which there were a lot … and four of the five corpses they did find were barely recognizable as such. At a glance, Trip suspected they’d been too close to a major EPS conduit when it ruptured. In the span of a single second, they’d been enveloped by electro-plasma likely hovering at several million degrees. They were probably dead before they even what was happening.
Still, it was a pretty terrible way to die.
The sole body they found that could be recognized as a Klingon was the helmsman, though T’Pol suspected he was also the ship’s captain based on the decorative insignia on his jacket. Cause of death wasn’t immediately obvious – if the hull breach hadn’t asphyxiated him first, the duranium girder that impaled him to the deck certainly did the trick. His features were relatively intact and, strangely, he’d been smiling when he died.
Or maybe that was a grimace. Trip honestly couldn’t tell and truthfully didn’t look too closely. Klingons were insane, after all.
The final thing they salvaged from the Klingon wreck was one of the functional disruptor cannons, which turned out to be the most labor intensive job of them all as well as the most psychologically difficult. As much as he hated to admit it, Trip knew the weapon was absolutely necessary but at no time as he struggled to marry the Klingon tech with Vulcan components did he ever once exult at the increased firepower. It wasn’t anything to get excited about, not like when they broke the warp five barrier or when Doctor Erickson developed the first successful sub-quantum teleportation device. In this case, he was hoping it would act as a deterrent more than an actual weapon – Klingons might suck at sensors or warp drives, but man, their weapons could pack a punch – especially since he doubted the T’Muna-Doth’s hull could stand up to much more than low-intensity lasers. If they were very, very lucky, Trip hoped they wouldn’t even encounter a single soul between now and reaching civilization; it wasn’t that he didn’t look forward to visiting strange new worlds or encountering new species. He was just sick and damned tired of getting shot at. Rare were the aliens they encountered who were not openly hostile and belligerent, and even the friendly ones had their own goals that did not often coincide with those of humanity. The dream of peaceful space exploration had died long ago, and Trip was too much of a realist these days to even try to fool himself into thinking that the best form of diplomacy wasn’t a well-charged phase cannon.
Knowing T’Pol shared his discomfort over their wonderful new career as scavengers was no consolation. If anything, it made the entire situation worse and highlighted a serious drawback of this bond thing. Trip’s disgust over them turning into vultures, necessary or not, fed upon hers and was reflected back onto him, now twice as intense. This promptly led to a further intensification of his sense of revulsion, which he would then accidentally broadcast at her, which she would unconsciously reciprocate and so on, creating an ever-escalating feedback loop that threatened to turn them both into backetcases. The only way to break the cycle was to replace those negative emotions with something equally intense or at least wholly distracting. Sex worked really well for that – boy, did it; if anything, the Vulcan Love Slave vids, which Trip would go to the grave swearing he had never watched let alone owned while serving aboard Enterprise, underestimated the sheer passion of a horny Vulcan – but it didn’t last long enough for either of them and wasn’t all that constructive. Pleasurable as hell, yeah, but not very constructive.
As it turned out, burying themselves in work was an even better solution. As long as they were too busy to do much thinking, everything was fine, so they decided upon wildly unrealistic deadlines for their repairs and installation and then, did their best to actually meet them. Being Vulcan, T’Pol should have required less sleep but the necessary meditation period and her constant fatigue – likely the damned Pa’nar coming out of that strange remission – led her to retire at the same time Trip did, which almost always led to another burst of exhausted passion and lovemaking before they both collapsed into an unconscious stupor. When one woke – usually T’Pol – both of them did, and they would start the whole process over again.
By the tenth day of this insane workload, neither one of them was thinking straight and it showed.
“I wish Malcolm was here,” Trip remarked shortly after they abandoned their latest attempt to trick the disruptor cannon into working and retreated to the kitchen to eat. The damned thing was touchier than the phase cannons had ever been aboard Enterprise and the systems aboard the T’Muna-Doth were being even more recalcitrant than normal. Thus far, they’d had six false starts, at least that many power surges, and a pair of energy spikes that had threatened a runaway cascade failure throughout the entire EPS conduits.
“I do not,” T’Pol replied flatly. “We do not have adequate gravity plating to absorb unnecessary plasma recoil.” Trip blinked.
“That wasn’t my fault,” he said sourly. T’Pol offered him a tight smirk – God, he loved seeing her do that, even though he worried about how she would be treated by her fellow Vulcans because she dared to show emotion – and continued working on whatever it was she was doing. He suspected she was still attempting to rebalance the power draw against the shipboard necessities, even though they’d gone over the numbers a dozen times. “This isn’t working,” Trip said after a long moment of silence. “We need external access and I sure as hell don’t want to try installing this thing while I’m wearing an EV suit.”
“Agreed.” T’Pol frowned but did not look up from the data-slate she was working on. “I am having difficulty identifying several objects in orbit over the colony,” she said a moment later. At his questioning glance, she offered the data-slate and Trip gave the display a quick glance. “Their placement indicates artificial satellites,” T’Pol added as Trip grunted at the complete lack of useful data. As far as the T’Muna-Doth was concerned, there was six, maybe seven, objects in orbit over the deuterium colony, no two closer than fifty kilometers. Until they lifted clear of their current hiding place, use of the optical-imaging scope wasn’t available since they couldn’t get a direct line of sight on even one of these things and the sensors were simply returning a fuzzy, indistinct energy signature that told them exactly nothing. He made a mental note to recheck the sensor array – had their attempts to tie the disruptor cannon into the network screwed something up? Trip opened his mouth to reply – they could take their time and be cautious – but a strident alarm began sounding.
He and T’Pol were both up and heading for their respective stations – she the command deck, he engineering – before either of them had fully comprehended what the alert meant. In mid-step, recognition flared and Trip shot her a quick, surprised look before throwing himself into a quick sprint. He covered the short distance from kitchen to engineering in a handful of steps and skidded to a stop in front of a flashing console. Once, he would have cursed out loud and maybe kicked the wall, but now, he simply glowered slightly. They didn’t have time to waste on him venting.
“Life support is failing,” he reported over the intercom. “We’ve got ten, maybe fifteen minutes.”
“Understood.” Additional consoles began flashing and the muted hum of the main reactor trebled in intensity. “Initiating maneuver drive now.” His eyes still locked on the flashing displays arrayed around the reactor, Trip quickly input a rapid series of commands and swapped out several of the unnecessary status reports for a live feed from the bridge. T’Pol wasn’t wasting any time he saw: the T’Muna-Doth climbed rapidly, blowing by the peaks of the concealing mountains and rapidly orienting toward the planet. He grimaced at several new alerts – oxygen levels were dropping dramatically – and pulled up a diagnostic of the system. Almost at once, he recognized the problem: their last failure with the disruptor cannon had fried several dozen circuits, which caused the primary fan on the atmo-scrubber to freeze. It was an easy fix … normally, but right now? With them uncovering new faults every step along the way? Trip shook his head. They’d been damned lucky to get this far. Now they just needed their luck to hold a little bit longer…
Naturally, it didn’t.
As they entered the upper atmosphere of the planet, every panel in engineering went dark. The overhead lights flickered and died, and to Trip’s surprise, the rumble of the maneuver drive faltered before going silent. T’Pol’s sudden flash of horrified surprise confirmed his worst fears: they’d lost power. Trip didn’t hesitate for even a moment: at any moment, the T’Muna-Doth could start tumbling, end over end, and the G-Forces would make action impossible. He had to act now.
He covered the distance to the reactor master control in a single, diving leap. The subtle hum of the warp core was all the proof he needed that the system failure they’d experienced wasn’t catastrophic … well, if you didn’t count being aboard a powerless starship tumbling out of orbit with no systems online as catastrophic. Using only his sense of touch and thankfully excellent memory, he found the mesh cage that protected the master reset button and pried it open, losing only a tiny bit of skin in the process. The three buttons underneath the small metal shield he stabbed in rapid sequence: one, two, three. Intantly, every display in engineering snapped on and the ‘Stand-by’ prompt appeared. Overhead lights began powering back up, but Trip kept moving. In his head, he raced through the emergency start-up sequence he’d memorized weeks before they even lifted off from that desert island on Ekos.
Kneeling before the primary reactor manifold – the T’Muna-Doth was starting to tremble and shake as the outer atmosphere buffeted her; any second now, they might start rolling and that would be that – he yanked one of the floor grates free and reached for the emergency levers hidden underneath. The left one slid into place easily enough, but he had to struggle with the right one but it finally clicked into position and he was rewarded with a hiss as fuel flow was restored. Just behind those levers was another valve: this one he had to pull out, rotate exactly ninety-three degrees – stupid fricking Vulcans; why ninety-three? – and then push back into place. He risked a glance up at the monitors and winced. The computer was taking too damned long to reboot!
Trip sprang to his feet and scrambled toward another set of controls. Already, the deck was tilting – dammit … they were running out of time! – and he reached out for the console to keep himself from falling. The progress bar was in Vulcan and it took him an impossibly long second to recognize that it was only at seventy percent. That’ll have to be enough, he thought. He flipped another mesh shield up, reached in with both hands and turned the two heavy switches to the left.
EPS junctions sparked and blew as the sudden power draw proved too great for T’Muna-Doth’s antiquated electro-plasma system. Alarms began shrieking – he sincerely hoped they weren’t useless ‘danger, power loss detected’ alerts – but he ignored them as he staggered across the wildly tilting deck toward the final console in this sequence. Each step turned into a mad dance – gravity pushed at him, desperately trying to hurl him backwards into a waiting bulkhead – and Trip gave a wordless shout as he threw himself the final meter and a half. The metal protective shield resisted his initial attempts to flip it up and he was certain that he’d torn a fingernail completely free before getting it up. He jabbed his hands in, grabbed the thing keys and turned them.
But the switches would not turn.
Panic very nearly undid him then – his own fear and T’Pol’s swelled, feeding upon one another – but somehow, he found an inner reserve of control and bit back the hysterical scream building in his throat. Trip wasn’t sure if it was all him, or T’Pol brushing aside his terror, or a combination of the two, but he inhaled deeply, let his mind flash through the emergency manual startup sequence again to see what step he’d missed. Grimacing, he shook his head in disgust.
And then, he turned the switches the correct direction this time.
The T’Muna-Doth’s sublight maneuver drive roared to life and Trip felt a flash of T’Pol’s relief stab through their magical bond before it was swept away by a tide of other emotions that came too quickly for him to even remotely comprehend. He glanced up at the nearest monitor and winced – they were coming in too fast, too steep; there was no way in hell that their arrival had been missed by the colony. Hell, they were probably leaving burning contrails that could be see halfway across the damned planet.
“Brace for impact,” T’Pol’s voice ordered sharply across the intercom. Trip grimaced again – the functional crash harness was on the other side of the reactor room; he’d raided the other five throughout engineering for spare parts. He silently cursed Vulcan engineering: this entire reboot sequence was supposed to be done by three people, not one, and it sure as hell wasn’t supposed to be done while they were falling from orbit. Once again, gravity pushed down at him as T’Pol tried desperately to keep them from crashing. According to the digital altimeter flashing on one of the screens, they had maybe thirty seconds before they hit ground. Inhaling sharply, Trip braced one leg against the bulkhead and then used it to push off. He staggered drunkenly toward the crash harness.
And he almost made it.