He ached all over.
His head pounded furiously, beating time with his pulse and hurting more than the worse tequila hangover he'd ever experienced. The scalp wound that he'd gotten following the T'Muna-Doth's extraordinarily rough landing had finally dried, but Trip still hadn't had time to wipe it clean, not with the danger they were currently in and the absolute lack of options on-hand. Not for the first time, he was thankful for T'Pol's pain management training – it required a bit of concentration, but he was able to push aside the nearly crippling agony of cracked ribs and bruises that decorated his body like a second skin; the pain was locked away in a tiny little box at the back of his mind so he could continue to function while the situation remained severe. Eventually, of course, he'd pay a price for this, would probably even lose a couple of days or a week as his body stitched itself back together, but at the moment, they were simply out of time.
Throughout the entire ship, power was out and Trip had absolutely no idea why. Everything had been fine as they descended – okay, not fine per se, not with them screaming toward the ground at terminal velocity, but they'd at least been able to fire the rebooted maneuvering drives to bleed most of their speed – and then, at around five thousand meters, everything just went insane. It was as if the ship simply started powering down again. Not just one system, but everything. The lights and the gravity and the atmo scrubbers and the main drive and the sensors … they all just slowly faded away to nothing. Even their handheld devices – T'Pol's scanner, their firearms, the mouth sterilizer, for God's sake! – just went dark. Thankfully, T'Pol had wisely kicked in the landing cycle before they lost everything, so the T'Muna-Doth came to thudding stop nearly smack dab in the middle of a wide valley.
Exitting the ship had been difficult enough – they'd had to manually unseal the airlock, which frankly sucked even worse than it sounded, especially in the pitch black where T'Pol was less than useless thanks to her crappy eyesight in the dark – but now that they were out, things were already starting to get worse. There, just now cresting a ridge, were a quartet of riders, all oriented in their direction. And Trip just knew they weren't going to be friendly…
"Klingons," T'Pol announced grimly. Trip blew out a frustrated breath. Of course it had to be Klingons. It was far too much to ask for them to be friendly, happy aliens who were just out to lend a helping hand because they were genuinely nice people. "They are all armed with bladed weapons," she continued with a frown and narrowed eyes. "I observe no energy weapons."
"Maybe they're stuck here too," Trip muttered. T'Pol studied the approaching riders for a moment before her eyes slid to him.
"Get the lirpa," she instructed. Concern coursed across the magical bond, along with tendrils of dread, fear and an anger that could melt steel. For a moment, Trip hesitated, but only for a heartbeat or so. He nodded and quickly darted back into the darkened interior of the starship, relying on his nearly perfect memory to retrace his steps to the living quarters where he hefted the ancient Vulcan weapon. By the time he had rejoined T'Pol, the Klingons were almost within spitting distance.
Up close, they looked even more barbaric than normal, with heavy woolen longcoats hanging off their shoulders and filthy stains that Trip hoped wasn't blood upon the rest of their clothes. One of the Klingons was a woman … he thought, though she was as muscular and as ugly as the other three so it was kind hard to tell. The animals they were riding were even worse – they looked like some bizarre melding of a monstrous dog and a lizard, maybe with a bit of chicken thrown in for good measure – and the four slid off their steeds with casual grace, drawing their curious half-moon weapons. Bat'leth, T'Pol had called them. All of the Klingons wore prominent sigils of some sort upon their hardened cuirasses and Trip could feel the instant T'Pol recognized it. Her concern fell away and was quickly replaced with an even more intense anger.
"They will divide by pairs," she murmured. She did not bother reaching for the lirpa and Trip realized with some surprise that she meant him to use it. Panic almost set in – what was she going to use? – but it vanished the instant he felt her sharp determination. She'd already picked her target. When things went sideways (like they always did), she intended on taking a weapon away from a Klingon.
Words were exchanged in that gruff, aggressive language of theirs – T'Pol sounded almost contemptuous when she responded, though if he was honest, Trip would have to admit that might just be because their language sounded like she was trying to hack up a lung – and whatever she said made the four laugh. Two of them split off from their party at a gesture from the ugliest of the four and approached.
"They mean to murder us," T'Pol ordered. "Do not hesitate to kill if necessary." Trip swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, pushed down the instinctive urge to start trying to talk his way out of this, and instead forced his body to relax. His foe was several centimeters taller than him and was weaving that bat'leth thing around like someone who knew how to use it but appeared to be distracted. Trip followed the Klingon's eyes for a heartbeat. Ah. He recognized T'Pol as the superior combatant and thought Trip would be easy meat. Okay. Trip could work with that. Overconfidence was an excellent tool in the arsenal…
He took three quick steps forward, intentionally telegraphing his wild overhand blow in the hopes that his attack would look sloppy, and it worked marvelously. The Klingon almost leisurely blocked the strike with his bat'leth, most of his attention still focused on T'Pol. Even as Trip felt the shock of impact from the parry, he was reversing the blow, driving the heavier bludgeon at the base of the lirpa forward in a blinding counterstrike. Caught unprepared, the Klingon staggered back, blood and shattered teeth spraying from his mouth. Reflex drove Trip on then – he came in low this time, pivoting on one leg as he spun, allowing the momentum from his turn to add velocity to the strike. The blade sliced deeply into the Klingon's leg and he howled, dropping to a knee. Letting his grip slide down the lirpa shaft as he straightened, Trip brought the bludgeon back and over his shoulder like a sledgehammer, smashing into his opponent's collarbone with a bone-crushing snap.
The Klingon fell.
Acting on instinct, Trip danced back a step, just in time for the sudden arrival another Klingon – it was the female and her eyes were furious. She came in strong, her bat'leth whistling as she tried to simply decapitate him. Trip let his body collapse back into a sideways roll that carried him just out of the way. His feet slid across the dirt and something – it had to be T'Pol who was probably still keeping an eye on him even though he could feel and hear her own duel transpiring – urged him to strike now. He thrust the blade of the lirpa forward, even before his feet were fully set, and the shiver of impact as the weapon struck true very nearly tore it from his grasp.
Eyes wide, the female Klingon froze, her bat'leth held high. She looked down in disbelief at where the blade was buried deep within her belly, having punched through her cuirass easily enough, and her own weapon clattered to the ground as it slid from nerveless fingers. Trip blinked – he realized with some surprise that his breathing was still even, his heartbeat was still calm – and then pulled the lirpa free. Blood spurted from the deadly wound instantly, even though the woman tried to stem the flow. She fell forward, still struggling but rapidly weakening.
Out of the corner of his eye, Trip could see that T'Pol had already downed her first foe – he was also on his knees, hands on his throat as he desperately tried to breathe through a collapsed trachea – and was facing off with the leader, spinning a captured bat'leth with a skill and ease that made Trip feel like a four year old swinging a stick but insisting it was a sword. She flowed past the Klingon's defenses, batting aside his counterstrike and knocking both weapons out of alignment, which left him wide open for her coup de grace.
It was a brutal, crushing kick.
In the groin.
Trip winced from where he stood as the Klingon went down into the dirt with a loud clatter. With perfect poise, T'Pol knelt, seized his bat'leth and sent it spinning away into the distance. Her eyes swept the brief battlefield – she looked first at Trip, then at the three other downed Klingons – and Trip could sense her mind racing as she tried to identify their next course of action. He hesitated not in the slightest, first driving the lirpa blade first into the ground before darting into the darkened interior of the T'Muna-Doth where he grabbed a handful of items from engineering. T'Pol's eyebrow climbed slightly at the tape though she nodded approvingly when he began to bind hands and feet together.
Only then did he break out the first aid kit.
As it turned out, none of the Klingons were dead. While he was attending to the unconscious woman and ensuring she didn't bleed to death, T'Pol performed an emergency tracheotomy on her first victim. Without the use of their scanner, Trip had no idea how bad off these clowns were but from the wary, almost disgusted way T'Pol watched them, he suspected the universe wouldn't miss them if they shuffled off this mortal coil. And that told him everything he needed to know about these Klingons.
"The House of Klunk," she identified coolly when she caught his curious look. "They have a well-deserved reputation for brutality and barbarism." The other bat'leths joined the previous one and she quickly patted their foes down, locating another nine weapons, all sharp, lethal, and well-used. "They are considered a dying House," T'Pol continued, eyeing the slowly recovering leader. "And a strange one." At Trip's questioning look, she glanced skyward. "They are scavengers," she said darkly, "and one of the things they prefer to utilize against ground targets are Wewokiun pulse dampeners – airborne devices that emit a specific resonance wave neutralizing most modern technology." She frowned slightly. "Vulcan has never been able to replicate the effects."
"I've never heard of these … Wewokiuns."
"You have never heard of them because they are extinct." T'Pol turned her cold eyes on the leader. "The House of Klunk murdered the last of them three years after Vulcan made first contact with Earth." Again, her eyes flickered. "Four of them," she mused. "If they follow their standard procedure, there will be at least another eight still in the camp." She knelt before the now stirring Klingon leader and snapped out several questions in his guttural tongue. He snarled some responses – from his body language, Trip guessed they were threats – and T'Pol gave him a cold look before reaching forward to render him unconscious. At the last moment, the Klingon tried to snap at her with his teeth, but she'd clearly anticipated this and applied the to'tsu'k'hy with her other hand.
"What now?" Trip asked as she straightened. He winced at the flood of emotions thundering through their magical psychic connection.
"Something foolish and exceptionally dangerous," T'Pol replied. "We need to disable the pulse dampeners," she continued, "but attacking a fortified position will not be easy." Again, a pulse of hardened emotion – discomfort, fear, anger, more fear – stabbed at him, but Trip managed to keep from grimacing. Right now, the last thing he wanted to do was show how badly he was affected by T'Pol's concerns. "I have a plan," she said slowly, hesitantly, "but it will require you to do something … dangerous."
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Trip inhaled deeply.
"I don't," T'Pol said tightly. And then, she told him her plan.
No, Trip decided sourly, he didn't like this at all.