She was almost within striking
distance of her target when Trip made his dramatic appearance.
From where she was crouched, in the shadows of one of the large rocks overlooking the small mining facility, she had a clear line of sight for his approach and had to admit that his choice of avenues was ideal. Dressed in heavy Vulcan expedition robes with the hood drawn up to conceal his features, he had a vaguely ominous appearance as he led the four surprisingly docile khruns forward. The quartet of Klingons, still safely secured by meters of vacuum tape, swayed in the saddles they were strapped to, which provided Trip with an immediate air of danger.
Trip's appearance drew every eye in the colony – the locals who were herded together in pens along with the stinking corpses of their dead looked toward him with visible hope and desperation, while the Klingon looters paused. The biggest of the raiders was a burly male with dark hair going silver and gray, and T'Pol could see him frowning as he studied her mate's bold approach. When Trip stopped a dozen meters before the colony, tension ramped up. Would this work? It had to. There were no other options in the limited window of opportunity before them…
"I am here to chew bubble gum and kick ass!" Trip bellowed in English, his voice carrying across the suddenly silent valley. He braced the lirpa over one shoulder as he pulled the four bat'leths he'd taped together off one of the khruns and tossed them to the ground in front of him. "And I'm all out of bubble gum!" Quickly suppressed amusement skittered across their psychic connection – at another time, Trip would likely have been snickering, though T'Pol did not know why.
Silence reigned for a long moment as the Klingons bickered amongst themselves. T'Pol was too distant to make out the specifics, but from what she could hear, she quickly deduced that they were arguing over what Trip had said. None of them appeared to comprehend English and they were all confused. By their body language, she suspected at least a sliver of fear was involved as well. She fought back the urge to smile.
"Do none of you speak a civilized language?" Trip called out loudly a moment later in Vulcan. His natural accent was nearly gone which T'Pol felt a flash of pride over. It had been difficult, training him to speak without backsliding into bad habits, but the results were more than slightly appealing.
"I speak tongue of Vulcans," the lead Klingon declared in a booming voice. Surrounded by most of his warriors, he stalked toward where Trip stood and T'Pol held her breath for a long, extended moment, her eyes darting for the most logical location for the pulse dampener controls. There. One Klingon was hanging back, trying very hard to look like he wasn't actually lurking around a handful of boxes that were certainly not from this world. T'Pol frowned slightly – he was wearing type IV ballistic armor with protective neck guards that would make application of a nerve pinch impossible. "You are bold one."
"That I am." Trip jerked his free hand back toward the unmoving forms atop the khruns behind him. "I am returning these four to you," he said in a boastful, arrogant voice that expertly concealed the trepidation and fear swimming across their cerebral linkage.
"I am Krapp, son of Kink," the Klingon said and the blast of hysterical amusement that thundered through their bond very nearly caused T'Pol to cry out loud. Even at this distance, she could see Trip's body language – he was trying very, very hard to keep from laughing.
"And I," her mate stated, "am Spartacus." He glanced between the Klingons spreading out in a semi-circle around him. "I had heard the House of Klunk fought by the Old Ways," Trip said as he gestured with the blade of the lirpa.
T'Pol pushed the conversation away as she ghosted forward, keeping low and making sure that the lurking Klingon never had a clear view of her approach. The acrid stench of the rotting dead threatened to make her gag, but she suppressed the urge, focused on the mission. With each moment that passed, she drew closer to her target, neared her goal …
"You would challenge us?" the lead Klingon demanded. He laughed before hefting his bat'leth. "You face death, Vulcan!"
"I am not a Vulcan," Trip snapped. He pushed his hood back.
Rocks clattered as T'Pol drew closer, but the Klingon guard was too focused on Trip's exceptional distraction to notice her approach and, by the time he did realize he was danger, she was already on him. The ballistic vest would absorb any of her blows and she could not afford to allow him to cry out, so she targeted his throat. She struck hard with her left fist, kicking at his knee the moment he started to reel back. With a half-gasp, half-gurgle, he started to fall, but T'Pol struck again, this time with a roundhouse kick that caught him in the temple. The Klingon toppled, unconscious and struggling to breathe but still alive, and she spent additional long seconds securing his hands, feet, and mouth with Trip's welding tape. According to her mate, nothing shy of solvent would remove these restraints.
The ring of metal against metal caused her to look up – her heart lurched at the sight of Trip battling with the Klingon leader while the others watched – but she forcibly suppressed her turbulent emotions and flipped open the hardened case before her. Yes. It was exactly as she expected. The controls were hidden underneath a protective sheet of transparisteel that would resist even a disruptor at high intensity. If memory served, however, there was a hidden switch located…
With a soft click, the transparent metal detached and T'Pol let it slide to the dirt as she studied the unlabeled controls. The language was foreign to her – it certainly wasn't Klingon – and she quickly abandoned attempts to decipher it. Instead, she grabbed the nearest heavy, blunt object and smashed the device into fragments.
Instantly, a soft whine echoed around her as the unfamiliar technology ceased its dampening effects, allowing various bits of technology to being functioning as intended once more. She drew both phase pistols, gave them quick glances to confirm that they were functional and charged, and then threw herself forward. Her legs ate the distance quickly – the grunts and sounds of battle pulled her toward him – and finally, her rapid approach drew attention. Several of the six Klingons watching as Trip dueled with their master started to turn.
T'Pol opened fire.
The sudden streams of phase pistol fire caught them by complete surprise – two fell instantly, stunned, and then another, before the rest fully realized they were under attack – and Trip took advantage of her sudden appearance without hesitation. As Krapp jerked back in shock, his head snapping around to find the source of the energy discharge, Trip slid forward. The bludgeon of the lirpa slammed into the Klingon's stomach, folding him over with an explosive gasp, and her mate spun, shifting his hold on the weapon before bringing it down, as if he were chopping wood. Again, the blunt end of the lirpa struck home – Krapp's skull – and the Klingon collapsed in a motionless heap. By then, she was there, the phase pistols still tracking her downed targets.
"Krapp," Trip muttered. He was breathing faster than normal, but apart from that and a few nicks upon the Vulcan robes, he appeared fine. When he glanced up, his eyes flashed brightly. "I just beat the crap out of Krapp," he said.
T'Pol felt her lips twitch.
"So it would seem," she replied. One of the Klingons was beginning to stir so she stunned him again. "I do not think we have adequate tape to secure them all," she began before the sound of approaching feet caused her to look up.
The surviving locals had armed themselves with a wide variety of weapons – T'Pol saw pickaxes, shovels, welding torches, and even what looked like a hydro-drill – and they were approaching with murder in their eyes. She watched for a moment and then, just to make a point, fired another stun burst into one of the Klingons. It was enough to cause the infuriated locals hesitate.
"Greetings," she said in her native language. "Do any of you understand me?"
"They do not," a heavyset male with dark skin replied, "but I do." He was the one carrying the hydro-drill and spoke Vulcan passably well. T'Pol's left eyebrow shot up at the same moment that she felt Trip's sharp inhalation of surprise.
This man was human.
"I'm Esteban Morales," the human said before speaking slowly in a language T'Pol did not recognize. A moment later, the survivors relaxed slightly. Several sprinted away, back toward the mining colony. "They'll secure the Klingons for now."
"Wonderful," Trip muttered. Despite the overwhelming curiosity his body language betrayed to her, her mate was watching the rest of the crowd of locals without actually relaxing. T'Pol glanced at him, then passed over one of the phase pistols.
"I expect they'll want to … Dios!" Morales' eyes had widened. "You're Charles Tucker!" he gasped before his gazed snapped to encompass her. "And Commander T'Pol!"
"Subcommander," T'Pol corrected calmly. She took a tiny step closer to her mate and spent slightly more time than was probably appropriate examining him for any sign of injury.
"From Enterprise!" Morales continued, as if she had not spoken. The name of their former ship caused an immediate change in the mood of the locals. Gone was their aggression and rage, and in its place was … something she did not recognize.
"Enterprise." The name was repeated, over and over, as if a mantra, and then, another name began working its way through the crowd. T'Pol blinked in surprise and exchanged a confused look with Trip.
Why were these people whispering Cutler's name?
"Everyone thought you were dead!" Morales said. Trip gave him a cool look.
"Long story," he said. He nodded toward the Klingons, some of whom were beginning to stir again, and glowered. "Let's get these morons secured and then we can talk."