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Teaser

Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG-13 … harsh language, action, and adult situations.

Summary: The search for the traitor in Starfleet Command leads Admiral Archer to a chilling discovery...

Disclaimer: I own nada.

The Teaser very consciously emulates the style of the "teaser" to Dan Abnett's Xenos novel. I highly recommend the entire Eisenhorn trilogy to anyone who likes good, solid sci-fi.

I'd be remiss if I failed to thank Kevin Thomas Riley for giving me astounding assistance throughout the creative process.

The revised look of the Endeavour was originally developed by Mark Ward for the NX Class Mod Pack for Bridge Commander, although it was credited as the NCC-05 Atlantis. Mr. Ward has graciously given me permission to use this “skin” for the look of Endeavour – if I had discovered this thing before writing Vigrid, the -06 would have looked like this all along.

This is the sequel to Endeavour: Grendel. It'll be a little difficult to follow without reading that first. Like my previous fics, I'm writing this as prose and using the basic screenplay format (Teaser + 5 acts)

Act one

Captain's starlog, December 23rd, 2157. Per Starfleet's instructions,we are extending our combat patrol of the Tau Ceti Corridor by another two weeks. It has been over two months since the last recorded sighting of a Romulan ship in human space. Even though I know it's not the case, I can only hope that we've seen the last of them.



As the latest recording ending, Captain Charles Tucker felt a serious headache coming on.

He had been stuck in the command center for nearly six hours now, reviewing the data on the Endeavour strike group's most recent battle drill as he learned – the hard way – how to coordinate four ships at the same time. Under normal circumstances, this would be the job of a commodore, or an admiral, but the dearth of qualified (and competent) battlefield flag officers meant that the task instead fell to Trip. Before Endeavour had shipped out, Admiral Archer had jokingly referred to it as a lateral promotion to the nonsensical rank of fleet captain; there was no increase in pay to accompany the corresponding increase in duties.

Yes, this was all Jon's fault.

It was remarkably easy to blame the admiral for Trip's current situation. Following the unmitigated disaster that had been Acheron, the new vice chief of naval operations began reorganizing the entire fleet into faster, more maneuverable battle groups capable of surviving longer and fighting in packs. The destruction of the Saratoga by the Romulan bird of prey that nuked Earth had only further highlighted the vulnerability of the older Iceland and Neptune-class ships; without shield capability, the older hulls were simply unable to be effective against a dedicated warship like the birds of prey. All remaining hulls of those designs were redeployed to planetary defense and Starfleet Training, while the uglier and tougher Daedalus-class was moved to the forefront. Archer's decision to completely abandon the current fleet concept for smaller taskforces met with some initial skepticism, but to Trip, it made total sense: right now, the only serious advantage Earth had against the Romulans was speed.

To that end, Endeavour had departed the Sol System nearly two months earlier with three Daedalus-class escorts. Trip barely knew the commanders of the Odysseus or the Telemachus, but had been inexplicably glad that Hyperion under Dan Hsiao was at his back. It still amazed him how quickly the Hyperion had been returned to service; instead of spending weeks repairing the damage to the primary hull, the drydocks simply replaced the entire spherical section, as if it were just one big spare part. A part of Trip envied the Daedalus-class for such interchangeability, even as a larger part of him was revolted at how it robbed the original ship of its soul.

"These numbers aren't good enough," he grumbled as he tossed his personal PADD onto the nearest flat surface. Standing ramrod straight, Lieutenant Commander Rick Eisler studied the master display with total focus and a frown on his face. He had become Trip's de facto second during these operations mostly due to his extensive knowledge of all things war-related; Rick had an instinct for tactics and strategy that Trip doubted he would ever match, and logic dictated that Tucker use the assets he had at his disposal.

His mood soured even further at that thought.

As the duties of group commander devoured more and more of his time, Trip had been forced to effectively turn over command of Endeavour to T'Pol. She kept him apprised of the important matters that he needed to know – he was still listed as the commanding officer of the NC-06, after all – but she was basically running the ship in his absence. That it reduced the time he actually saw her during the day even more was another level of annoyance that Trip didn't want to deal with.

"Hyperion is reacting faster than either Odysseus or Telemachus," Eisler commented, interrupting Tucker's mental rant. The tactical officer was nodding toward the data on the master display. The most recent simulation's results were far from encouraging; according to the tactical computer, fully sixty percent of the strike group's combat capability was lost during the imaginary engagement because the two ships Rick referred to hadn't responded fast enough to the instructions they received. "Which makes no sense," the tactical officer continued. "Hsiao doesn't have the command experience that either Smith or Wong have."

"But he knows how I think," Trip pointed out with a frustrated glare. "And that gives him the edge over 'em." He pressed his tongue against his cheek as he gave the problem additional thought. "Any ideas?" he asked when he realized he had no idea how to bring the two commanders up to the necessary level of skill.

"You could try yelling at them, sir," the tactical officer deadpanned, and Trip laughed out loud at the unexpected foray into humor. He didn't know how it had happened, but in the last couple of weeks, Rick had started making sarcastic comments that seemed totally out of character for him. "I'm not joking, Captain," Eisler said grimly. He gestured to the main display. "If they don't get their heads out of their asses, a lot of people are going to die."

His amusement at the lieutenant commander's comments vanished, and Trip glowered at the master display. Rick was right, he realized with an annoyed sigh, but that didn't make the coming confrontation any better. Through most of his Starfleet career, Trip had employed a more relaxed leadership style that generally eliminated the need to verbally chastise his juniors. It was primarily rooted in the work ethic that his parents had instilled in him, as well as the deep-rooted belief that good officers should lead by example.

"All right," he groused, not looking forward to this in the slightest. "I want to see the Three Amigos within the hour," Tucker decided before hesitating. He gave Rick a sidelong glance as another way of displaying his anger occurred to him. "No, cancel that," he smiled. "I want you to brief them, Rick." The tactical officer offered a tight smile of approval at Trip's thinking; by sending an officer that was junior to the two captains of Odysseus and Telemachus, Tucker's displeasure would be quite obvious. It was a derivation of the Good Cop/Bad Cop routine, and Rick fell into the role of Bad Cop so easily and efficiently that it was sometimes frightening. "Use my name and rank liberally," Trip continued. "But light a fire under their ass."

"Aye, sir," Eisler responded. From the expression on his face, he was eager to rip into a pair of senior officers, and Tucker almost felt sorry for the two commanders. Trip nearly chuckled at the mental image that flashed across his mind's eye, and he wondered if Rick knew about the reputation that the tactical officer was starting to get. 'Tucker's Doberman' was how Commander Wong had once referred to Eisler, erroneously believing that she was out of T'Pol's hearing range; Smith had taken it a step further, calling him the 'Rabid Doberman.' Knowing Rick as he did, Trip suspected that the ex-MACO would get a kick out of hearing those nicknames.

"Let me know if there are any problems," Tucker ordered, and Eisler nodded sharply as he headed toward the door. Left alone in the command center, Trip spent another few minutes studying the data on the master display. His stomach growled slightly, reminding him that he hadn't eaten since yesterday, and he began powering down the console.

He took a detour to the Stellar Dynamics lab, knowing that T'Pol would be there since she was officially off duty. The lab had become her domain, so much so that Trip had briefly considered having Hess make a new sign for the door to reflect this fact. Doing so would probably be a misappropriation of resources, though, and Tucker didn't know if T'Pol would appreciate the joke, so he ultimately decided against doing so.

As expected, she was so completely focused on her latest experiment that she seemed to not notice his arrival. Trip glanced at the complex formulas that were on the wall monitor, and shook his head in quiet amusement. Micro-singularities. Again.

"All work and no play makes Polly a dull girl," Trip commented as he wrapped his arms around her from behind for an illicit hug. She stiffened almost instinctively, her eyes quickly darting to the now closed door that led to the rest of the ship.

"My name is not Polly," she reminded him sharply before carefully extricating herself from his hold. "This is not an appropriate place, Trip."

"I know," he shrugged. "Just haven't seen much of you in the last couple of days." T'Pol seemed to relax slightly in the face of his silly grin. She opened her mouth to respond, a teasing glint in her eye, but the voice crackling from the comm panel interrupted her.

"Bridge to Commander T'Pol," the voice of Lieutenant Devereux stated. Trip frowned slightly at how off-tenor the lieutenant sounded. His mate reached for the comm panel instantly.

"This is T'Pol," she said.

"We're receiving a distress signal from a Vulcan ship," Devereux declared. Trip exchanged a glance with T'Pol, knowing at once what she was thinking. The Romulans had used this trick before in the past, but never before with a Vulcan ship.

"This is Tucker," Trip said into the comm line, not caring how his presence in the stellar dynamics lab would be spun. "Inform the rest of the strike group, and set a course. Warp five." T'Pol quirked an eyebrow slightly, and Tucker nodded at the thought they shared. "Go to condition yellow." It was a new policy handed down by Starfleet Command that dictated the threat level of the ship; condition yellow was a general alert status, whereas condition red was battle stations.

"Aye, sir," the communications officer replied before the line went dead. T'Pol was already heading toward the door, pausing briefly at the threshold when Trip sighed. The question in her eyes made him shrug.

"So much for us having a merry Christmas," he muttered.

=/\=

It was turning out to be anything but a merry Christmas.

As this latest briefing on the state of the war dragged on into its second hour, Rear Admiral Jonathan Archer realized that he could no longer feel his backside or upper legs. He grimaced slightly as he shifted his position, hoping to restore circulation without drawing too much attention to himself. Admiral Gardner gave him a discreet glance as he moved, however, but returned his attention back to the speaking officer.

"-confirmed that it was a false sighting," Captain Assad was saying as he finished up his latest strategic overview of the war. Nothing had been stated that Jon didn't already know. Against all common sense, the Romulans had not pressed their advantage and escalated the war. Aside from the one lone attack on Earth over two months earlier, there hadn't been a single engagement between the warring forces.

"Anything else?" Gardner asked, his expression tight. The captain shook his head in response. "Intelligence," the admiral said, shifting his focus on Commander Oquaye. A native of Ghana, the commander had a reputation for being as emotionless as any Vulcan; the Ice Queen nickname that she had been given was ironic, given her homeland.

"We still haven't been able to locate Commodore Casey," Oquaye stated grimly, and Jon found himself struggling to fight against frowning. In the wake of any concrete evidence linking the missing commodore, Archer found himself growing more and more convinced that Casey was the traitor responsible for leaking Starfleet IFF codes to the Romulans. Circumstantial evidence was overwhelming, and Casey's abrupt and unexplained disappearance only made him look that much more guilty.

Not for the first time, though, Jon felt overwhelmed. By training, he was a pilot who had some diplomatic skills and an unlikely talent for bringing people together. He was not an investigator, and as the days crept by with no new leads into who was actually responsible for so many deaths, he found himself desperately wishing that Malcolm Reed were still alive, or T'Pol was still under Archer's direct command. Both of them knew how to conduct a criminal investigation of this magnitude without attracting notice from the wrong people.

His faith in Harris' organization was minimal at best; the entire Klingon incident of '54 had made them look like absolute fools, and nothing that Harris had done so far had assuaged Jon of his doubts. If anything, the spymaster's inability to accomplish the relatively simple task of finding a single man only intensified Archer's suspicions of incompetence, and made him regret bringing the man into the traitor hunt. Jon shuddered at the thought of that organization under the control of someone who knew what they were doing.

"We're working on the assumption that he may have been abducted by Romulan agents," the commander of Starfleet Intelligence continued, her face reflecting none of the frustration that she must be feeling at the dead ends that kept popping up.

"Do you have anything to back that up?" Gardner asked, and Oquaye shook her head.

"Not at the present, sir." The dark-skinned commander grimaced slightly. "My office is coordinating with UEIB," she said, spelling out the acronym for the United Earth Intelligence Bureau as she spoke, "But there is a lot of data to sift through, especially in the aftermath of the last attack." As Oquaye began to discuss the various efforts being made to track down the missing commodore, Jon glanced down at his personal PADD, once more wondering if he should reveal Daniels' warning about a traitor in Starfleet Command.

On the heels of that, however, quickly came worry over what could happen if he told the wrong person. Since telling Harris in a moment of exhausted weakness, he had spoken to no one else regarding Daniels' warning, not even Trip or T'Pol or Hoshi. The possibility that he might be overheard by someone who didn't need to know was simply too great to risk, and imagining the chaos that could ensue if word got out to the general populace about a traitor kept Archer up at night. Lieutenant Reynolds clearly suspected something though, if his leading comments were any indication, but Jon had hesitated each time an opening presented itself to bring the lieutenant into the fold.

The PADD was currently filled with biographical data of every member of Starfleet Command, no matter their rank, and Archer was slowly making his way through each entry, highlighting discrepancies as he encountered them. It was slow, tedious work, especially given his already overwhelming workload as the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, but it was absolutely necessary. So far, his careful examination had already revealed a steady string of security breaches by officers who knew better, and, once the traitor was found, Jon intended to read the riot act to the sloppy men and women. With the fate of humanity at risk, now was most assuredly not the time to ignore basic security protocols.

"All right," Gardner said grimly, his voice interrupting Oquaye's report. The commander stopped speaking in mid-sentence, her expression displaying no indication as to whether she was offended by the CNO's abrupt interruption. "Send me a full report," the admiral ordered, before glancing in Jon's direction. Gardner said nothing, and Archer frowned at the unexpected – and unnecessary – eye contact. "I have a meeting with the president in five hours," Gardner announced, and Jon's eyes narrowed fractionally in surprise. There was no such meeting that he was aware of, and as the V-CNO, he was supposed to kept abreast of such things. "So I want full reports on my systerm by noon." He rose, and the rest of the officers rose with him. "Dismissed."

Jon intercepted the admiral outside the older man's office, and Gardner gave him a sidelong glance. Once again, Archer felt a shiver run up his spine at the odd expression on the CNO's face. It was difficult to define, but seemed tired and terrified, all at once.

"Something you need, Jon?" the CNO asked as he entered his office. Archer followed without a word.

"I wasn't aware of a meeting with the president," he admitted, and Gardner shrugged as he began filling his briefcase with clipboards and data PADDs.

"The president's office called this morning," the admiral stated. "Just before the briefing."

"Do you need me to come along, sir?" Jon asked.

"Not this time." Gardner smiled slightly, as if amused at something. The emotion never touched his eyes. "If it was up to me," he said, "I'd let you go in my place." With a click, the admiral's briefcase locked as he closed it. "I trust you can hold down the fort while I'm gone."

"Aye, sir," Archer replied. His stomach abruptly felt like it was filled with ice. "Is there something wrong, Tom?" he asked carefully, personalizing his question like he had never done before. The admiral shook his head.

"Everything's fine," he responded as he began walking toward the door. He paused suddenly, as if he wanted to say something, but shook his head slightly and gave Archer a sad smile. "I'm just tired," Gardner admitted. "Tired and scared that I'm the wrong man for this job." He sighed heavily, seeming to age decades as he did. "I wish Max was still alive," he said, and Jon nodded in agreement. "Hold down the fort, Jonathan," Gardner said.

And then, he was gone.

For a long moment, Archer was rooted in place as his mind raced over the unusual conversation. A frown once more crossed his face, and he stared at Gardner's back as the CNO disappeared around a corner. Maxwell Forrest and Thomas Gardner had never gotten along, and Jon knew it. The two men loathed one another, especially once Archer was given Enterprise over Gardner. Without pausing to think, Jon turned and quickly strode toward his own office.

"Tyner," he said as he swept into the luxurious workspace, "I need Reynolds ASAP."

"Aye, sir," the yeoman responded, and turned to press several buttons on his desk.

Dropping into his chair, Jon activated his systerm and quickly scanned the data that appeared on his screen. He then quickly brought up a real-time itinerary of all Starfleet flights leaving San Fransisco between now and five hours from now. As he suspected, there were none heading toward Geneva. A second data search revealed that the president was scheduled to be meeting with the Alpha Centauri governor in four hours; the meeting was expected to last at least two hours and, if the past was any indication, could go as long as six.

Why did he lie? Jon wondered, as he leaned back in his chair. The idea that Thomas Gardner could be the traitor seemed inconceivable. No one still serving in Starfleet had sacrificed as much as the current Chief of Naval Operations, and Archer would be hard-pressed to find another man who was as patriotic as Gardner. And yet ...

And yet ...

Some of Gardner's decisions since the war started remained questionable at best. For example, reassigning Endeavour to the Icarus Project had never made much sense, even if removing Trip and T'Pol from the front lines did. And then, suddenly putting the NC-06 back on combat duty after a second refit in her remarkably short career?

Anger flared up as Jon realized the extent of his own stupidity. By focusing so exclusively on the missing Commodore Casey, he had blinded himself to other possible threats. If Gardner was the traitor and Casey had discovered the truth...

"You wanted to see me, sir?" Reynolds asked as he entered. Jon nodded, gesturing for the lieutenant to shut the door. As Reynolds obeyed, Archer reached into his pocket and removed the anti-eavesdropping device that Malcolm had given him years ago.

"I need you to do something for me, Scott," Archer said calmly, hiding the unease that he was feeling with effort. With a flick of his thumb, Jon activated the jammer; to any surveillance devices, it would sound like he was asking the lieutenant to pick up his drycleaning. "I need you to watch Admiral Gardner for me."

"Sir?" Reynolds was confused, and it showed. Gambling on the younger man's loyalty, Jon spoke quickly.

"Agent Daniels warned me that there was a traitor in Starfleet Command," he revealed. The lieutenant's eyes widened slightly, then suddenly narrowed as he realized the implications of Archer's previous request.

"Consider it done, sir," Reynolds announced.

"Do this through back channels," Jon ordered. "No Security involvement. This may all be a misunderstanding."

"Understood." The lieutenant suddenly smiled grimly. "I know just the person to help, Admiral."

"I'll tell Tyner that you're going home to visit your family," Archer decided. "Oklahoma, right?" At Reynolds' nod, Jon continued. "Keep me informed, but, Scott, don't do anything stupid."

"Don't worry, sir," Reynolds smiled. It was the smile of a predator. "I'll be discreet."

=/\=

Their arrival was anything but discreet.

With flash of light, Endeavour slowed from warp, flanked by the three Daedalus-class cruisers. From her station, T'Pol frowned slightly at the data already appearing on her screen; Trip's unspoken request washed into her awareness, and she activated the main display in response. Instantly, it snapped to life, revealing an old Vulcan transport, battered and nearly broken by hostile fire.

"Detecting massive damage to the engineering section," T'Pol announced off of her readings. "Hull integrity is holding, however, and I am detecting numerous life signs." She raised an eyebrow in surprise as the transport's integrated identification finally appeared. "It's the Vahklas," she stated.

"Hail them," Trip ordered from the command chair. A wave of poorly suppressed fury radiated from him through the bond as his subconscious immediately linked the damaged ship to both of Tolaris' attacks on her, but, apart from a subtle tightening of his lips, there was no indication of the anger on his face. He gave T'Pol an apologetic look for his momentary loss of control, and she accepted without hesitation. It was one of the elements of their relationship that she still struggled to understand; where she gave Tolaris and that incident no further thought (or at least as little thought as possible), Trip remained furious about it, as if he were responsible for the mental trauma that she had experienced.

The image on the main viewer abruptly changed to a flickering shot of the Vahklas' bridge. Damage appeared to be everywhere, and the transmission froze and stuttered at random moments. The Vulcan that entered the shot seemed vaguely familiar to T'Pol, but she could not immediately place him.

"This is the Vulcan transport Vahklas to Starfleet vessel," the Vulcan male said, wincing as he spoke; dried blood covered most of his face. "We request immediate assistance."

"It's on its way," Trip replied without hesitation, before glancing toward the tactical station. "Deploy the STAB teams," he ordered, and Lieutenant Commander Eisler nodded. "How many casualties do you have?" Tucker asked the Vulcan.

"I don't know," came the pained reply. Behind the male, a team of Starfleet personnel shimmered into existence; each was armed and encased in the combat armor that was so distinctive of the STAB teams. The Vulcan reacted to their arrival with surprise stamped upon his face, but made no effort to slow or hinder them.

"Can we dock with them?" Trip asked, causing Commander Eisler to tense for reasons that were entirely understandable. The negative response from Lieutenant Mayweather seemed to ease the tactical officer's concerns. "Then we'll use the shuttlepods," Tucker decided. "Marie, I want engineering and medical teams from all three escort ships standing by," he stated before pressing the comm button on his chair. "Tucker to Phlox. Stand by to receive Vulcan casualties."

"Acknowledged, Captain," the Denobulan's voice crackled from the vox. Trip rose from the chair, ignoring the slight frown that T'Pol directed toward him. He could not, however, ignore Commander Eisler.

"Sir," the tactical officer said without a trace of emotion in his voice. "Until my people have secured the area, I'm going to have to insist that you remain aboard Endeavour." Before Trip could reply, Commander Eisler added, "Standing order number seven, sir."

If she had been human, T'Pol would have laughed at the annoyed outrage that flashed across the captain's face. Shortly after Acheron, she had convinced him to revise the standing order that barred her from boarding or landing parties without his express consent; the new order gave the senior tactical officer the authority to prevent any and all officers or crewman from leaving the ship if security was an issue. The captain could overrule him, of course, but doing so would go directly against Trip's command style.

"As soon as the situation is secure," Eisler continued, a hint of morbid amusement in his voice as he headed toward the exit, "I'll let you know." He disappeared through the doorway, and T'Pol suppressed the urge to smile at the sour look her mate shot the departing lieutenant commander.

Nearly an hour passed before the tactical officer signalled that the situation was secure to his satisfaction, and another thirty minutes had elapsed before T'Pol entered the ruined engineering deck of the Vahklas. Trip was already deep in conversation with another Vulcan male; this time, however, T'Pol recognized him.

"-was not expecting Orion raiders," Kov was saying as T'Pol approached. The entire left side of his face was badly bruised, and he held himself gingerly, as if it was painful to put too much pressure on his left ankle. He had also lost considerable weight since the last time T'Pol had seen him. "Vahklas is not a warship," the Vulcan continued, his eyes narrowing slightly at T'Pol's presence.

"She put up a helluva fight though," Trip commented as he glanced in the direction of the silent warp core. Five of Endeavour's engineers were circling it, scanners buzzing. "Have you seen the doctor?" he abruptly asked, crossing his arms and adopting the stern expression that T'Pol thought of as his 'captain's face.'

"Once my crew have been treated," Kov replied with the barest hint of a grimace, "I will do so."

"Captain?" Lieutenant Commander Hess addressed Trip from where she stood in front of the warp core, and Trip turned in that direction.

"Excuse me," he said to Kov as he strode toward Endeavour's chief engineer.

"It is agreeable to see you again, Commander," Kov stated, automatically slipping into their native tongue. "You appear to be in far better shape than the last time I saw you." T'Pol quirked an eyebrow at the comment.

"Is Tavin no longer Vahklas' commander?" she asked, opting to focus on the immediate circumstances, not the past. She had no desire to recall the moment they had last interacted; those memories were still too painful.

"No." Kov's expression darkened slightly, but he gave little other indication of emotion. "The apostate Tolaris murdered him when he made his escape from Vahklas." Surprise must have shown on her face, as Kov continued. "Tavin had him incarcerated after Captain Archer informed us of his assault on you. Unfortunately, we underestimated Tolaris. He very nearly caused a core breach to conceal his escape and murder of the commander." He was silent for a long moment. "I regret that your first encounter with the Vahklas led to such trauma."

"It is in the past," T'Pol pointed out. She suppressed all memories of their previous meeting under a layer of rigid control. "And Tolaris is dead."

"That is unfortunate," Kov stated, causing her to give him a sharp look. "I had hoped that he would be punished for his crimes."

"He was," she replied softly. The memory of Tolaris' screams as Soval melded with him was not something she wished to dwell upon.

Once more, Kov studied her with narrowed eyes, prompting T'Pol to shift fractionally under his gaze. There was something in the male's eyes that caused her mild discomfort, a wildness that only occurred at certain specific intervals.

"You are returning home?" T'Pol queried, and Kov looked away, exhaling sharply as he did.

"It has become ... necessary," he replied softly. "We have been charting the Delphic Expanse since the dissolution of the thermobaric clouds," he continued. At her look, he added, "Discovery of the Kir'shara allowed most of us to be reintegrated into society, and the Science Directorate offered us a commission." Once more, he glanced at her, frowning slightly as he did. "You are bonded," Kov said abruptly, half-stating, half-questioning. It was an entirely understandable question; if he was unable to make it home, Kov would be required to seek alternate means to slake the septennial urge that affected all males of their species. It was only logical for him to confirm that she was unavailable to assist if circumstances demanded it.

"I am," T'Pol said. Almost instinctively, her eyes sought out Trip, and he glanced in her direction as if she had called his name. Kov raised an eyebrow at the exchange.

"Fascinating," he commented wryly, "but not entirely unexpected. Trip was quite ... interested in Vulcan sexual practices when we first met." T'Pol could not help but to experience a flicker of surprise at the revelation; she had been unaware of any such discussion, and silently decided to discuss the matter with her mate when the opportunity presented itself.

"Hess thinks she can get your core operational again," Trip announced as he rejoined them. He was frowning and studying Kov was a hint of suspicion in his eyes. "She also told me that we're detecting a Starfleet power signature in one of your cargo bays."

"That would be the shuttlepod we discovered several months ago," Kov replied, once more in English. "I believe Enterprise lost it during your brief conflict with the Xindi," he continued.

"We didn't lose a 'pod in the Expanse," Trip said. He pursed his lips slightly, and T'Pol raised an eyebrow at the sudden memory of the shuttlepod that had crashed immediately following the Expanse mission. That had been on Earth, over two hundred years earlier. She had always wondered what happened to it once the timeline was restored.

"Indeed?" Kov seemed slightly surprised. "Although it is quite old, it is clearly marked as one of Enterprise's shuttlepods." T'Pol's breath caught as a thought occurred to her, and she swallowed the lump that closed up her throat.

"How old?" she interjected sharply before her mate could respond. She could feel the sudden flare of understanding within him as he comprehended what she was asking. Enterprise had not lost a shuttlepod during the Expanse mission...

But Lorian's Enterprise could have.

"Curious that you should mention that," the Vulcan commander responded. "My science officer was baffled at the readings we took. According to our scans, it is-"

"Over a hundred years old," Trip interrupted, his eyes locked on T'Pol's. She could feel the emotion thundering through him – through them – and nodded slightly at his unspoken question. Both of them turned their attention to a confused-looking Kov, and they spoke in unison.

"Show us."

=/\=

"Show me."

The sudden and unexpected comment from his companion broke the silence that had descended upon the room, and caused Scott Reynolds to jump slightly with surprise. He shot her a quick glare before returning his attention to the archaic camera pointed toward the walled compound that was Admiral Gardner's home. With the sun down and the admiral retired for the evening, Scott had retreated to this vantage point for the night, hoping that he would be able to get some sleep himself. It was rented quarters in a mostly abandoned apartment building, and had cost more than Reynolds wanted to think about to obtain, but the absolutely fantastic view of the admiral's home was well worth the cost. From here, the entire compound could be seen.

He had decided to use an ancient but still functional camera with a telephoto lens instead of modern surveillance equipment to limit detection. Using little more than a series of lenses, the camera did not rely on sensor waves or lasers, thus making it quite difficult to counter if one was not aware of its presence. Admittedly, he lost a great deal of the more advanced capabilities that modern equipment could provide, but the anonymity it provided was more than worth it.

"Are you even listening to me?" Amanda Cole asked from the couch where she was seated, and Scott fought the urge to sigh. He had hoped that this covert operation would allow him the opportunity to apologize to her for their last fight (a fight that he still didn't know what the cause had been), but so far, she had done little beyond complain. He remained hopeful, though, that it wasn't a lost cause; all he had needed to say was that he needed her help, and Amanda had dropped what she was doing. She hadn't even asked why they were doing this more than five times.

"I am listening to you," he replied as he moved the camera, quickly snapping digital images of the compound activity. There were twelve guards tonight, he noticed. Up from the seven the night previous. He wondered if that meant anything.

"Then show me the damned answer," Cole insisted. Scott glowered darkly for a moment, before smoothing away the irritation and turning toward his onetime lover. He still didn't understand why she had broken it off between them this time, and her insistence that he was too emotionally distant didn't fly with previous comments she had made about him. Before this latest spat, she had been complaining about how he was moving too quickly, and that he needed to stop taking their trysts so seriously.

The portable computer that was on the table before her hummed as Scott approached, and he frowned at the numerous PADDs she had strewn about. If he had learned anything about her habits while they were sleeping together, it was that she was one of the least organized persons he knew. Somehow, she always knew exactly where everything was, but if there was a method to her madness, he still hadn't discovered it.

"Here," Reynolds said as he pointed to the appropriate passage on the computer screen. Doing so required him to lean over her shoulder so their heads were only millimeters apart, and Scott inhaled the familiar scent of her hair. It smelled like berries. "Known as the Father of Earth's Post-Modern Reformism," Scott read, "Bell galvanized the people and government of the United State of America when he led an uprising in San Francisco's Sanctuary District "A."

"Dammit," Amanda muttered as she made a note on a personal PADD. He tried not to smile at her continuing difficulty with history, although it baffled him. She could name every single bone in the human body, could go on in disgusting length about how the intestines worked, and could even explain the physiological differences between humans and Vulcans in a manner that he almost understood, yet had problems remembering who Khan Noonien Singh was, or what effect Henry Starling had on the computer revolution in the late twentieth century, or even what year the Eugenics Wars ended. "I hate this stupid class," she grumbled, causing Scott to chuckle. "What?" she demanded.

"Nothing," he smiled as he retraced his steps to the camera.

"I'm going to medical school," she complained. "What the hell do I need to know this crap for?"

"Same reason they expected me to take biology and chemistry, I suppose." Scott snapped several more pictures of the chief of naval operations' compound, once again wondering if Admiral Archer had overreacted. "Besides, a man named George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it," Reynolds smirked.

"That's rhetorical nonsense," Amanda muttered. She made another note on her PADD before hesitating. "First Contact was on April 5th-"

"April 4th," Scott corrected absently as he resumed his operation of the camera, and Cole grunted in annoyance before tossing the PADD onto the table. Reynolds tried not to smile at the all too familiar action; whenever she was frustrated, Amanda would give up for a few minutes and vent at the impossibility of the work before her. Following that, however, she would start over and force herself to finish. Sometimes, the cycle repeated itself four or five times before she finished the assignment she was working on at the time.

"Why did you ask me to help you?" Amanda abruptly asked, and Reynolds tensed. He glanced over his shoulder, noting without surprise that she was watching him with that weighing look of hers.

"Because I needed someone to watch my back," he replied. "You're the only one I completely trust to do that." She smiled at the comment, and Scott realized the compliment he had unintentionally paid her. It was true, of course, but he really hoped that she didn't think he was saying that just to get into her pants again.

Not that he would complain if she seemed interested...

"And Archer asked you to do this?" Amanda continued. He nodded in reply.

"Off the record," Scott reminded her.

"It's a little weird," she commented as she stood up from the couch and approached the camera. "Spying on the head of Starfleet."

"The admiral has his reasons," Reynolds replied, and Amanda gave him a sidelong look of amusement.

"That are classified," she smirked. "Are you sure this isn't some elaborate ploy to get me in bed?" Scott smiled.

"Pretty sure," he said in response.

"But not positive," she murmured, a seductive tone in her voice, and Reynolds felt his brain shutting down. A part of him was angry that she could always do this to him, that all she had to do was smile or wink and he was ready to throw his career out the window for her. It must have shown in his face because she suddenly glanced away. "I'm sorry," Cole said. "This is business, and I keep forgetting that the job always comes first with you."

"Amanda," Scott started, but she shook her head and gestured toward the fold-down bed.

"You should get some sleep," she declared, refusing to make eye contact. "I'll keep an eye on the admiral's house for a while."

Reynolds hesitated. He wanted to talk to her, to convince her to give them another try, but she was right: the job did come first. And right now, nothing was more important than finding the traitor that Admiral Archer was searching for. Not even the woman he wanted more than life itself. Nodding in agreement with her, he turned toward the bed.

"Scott," she suddenly said, and he glanced back, frowning. He couldn't remember hearing her voice tremble like that before. Amanda was frozen in front of the camera, eyes wide as she half-turned to face him. "Gardner has a visitor," she continued, horror in her voice. "It's Rajiin."

 

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