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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 two

Face set in a fierce scowl, Nathaniel Hayes stepped onto the hard soil of Voriolas.

It was a border world, one that the Klingons had seized decades earlier during one of their expansionist periods. Little of consequence was manufactured here; apart from raw materials gouged from the planet and shipped to more important colonies, there was little reason to even visit the planet. The air was thick with smoke from far distant fires, and the dirt that seemed to encase everything was an off-color gray. Each step required just a little bit more effort than human standard, and it was slightly warmer than Nate was accustomed to. Glowlamps were everywhere, bathing the entire landing pad with an eerie cerulean light that compensated for the darkness that seemed to shroud the entire planet.

Frowning, Hayes glanced up as he mentally reviewed what he had learned of Voriolas during the long trip. Every sidereal year, at the same approximate time, the planet's largest moon blotted out the distant star that fed the system, plunging Voriolas into a twenty-day (local) eclipse. During that time, the sky was dark red as the black orb that was the moon dominated the skyline, enveloped by a flickering scarlet corona. To Nate's eyes, it seemed as if there were a hole in the sky, leading to some hellish plane of existence for sinners.

But then, no one voluntarily came to Voriolas. It was to this border planet that those who had been disgraced were sent, to serve out their time in dishonor and squalor. And it was ideal for his needs.

When his control officer had initially briefed him on this mission, Hayes had been convinced that the older man was insane. Inserting an agent into Klingon territory would be difficult enough, but the idea that any single man, no matter his gifts, could manipulate a stellar nation the size of the Klingon Empire into conducting raids into Romulan territory was ludicrous. When Reed outlined his plan, however, Nate had realized that it could work, providing the right man was that operative.

And Hayes was undoubtedly the right man.

The recent plague that had stripped the Klingons of their forehead ridges was rooted in the same genetic manipulation that had been responsible for Hayes' birth, so with a little bit of cosmetic surgery, he was easily able to pass as one of them. A subdermal implant kept his melanin levels higher than normal, artificially darkening his skin to more closely approximate a Klingon appearance. His vocal cords had been surgically cut so he could not accidentally reveal his lack of nativity with the language; a single, distracting scar covered his throat to explain this handicap. From everything that Nate had read of the Klingons, they would appreciate a warrior who had survived such a horrible wound.

He was unconcerned about the language itself. In his three week transit time, he had spent virtually the entire trip with a Vulcan learning program that imprinted the language on his speech centers. Eventually, the imprint would fade, but Nate was sure that his total immersion in the culture would aid him in retaining what he needed. He had learned at an early age that he picked up new languages remarkably fast; it was, he supposed, an advantage to his genetically engineered brain.

There was only a single place to truly go from the dirt field that served as a landing pad, and Hayes strode slowly in that direction. A long, wide structure, it appeared to be a communal building of some sort, combining living quarters with the other necessities of life. A half dozen smaller structures that had the look of personal domiciles were scattered around the massive building, but most of them appeared dilapidated or abandoned.

A pair of burly Klingons stood outside the building. Both were nearly two meters in height, but their muscle was running to fat, and Nate doubted that either of them had been in an actual fight for years. The shorter of the two glanced in Hayes' direction, eyes narrowing slightly, and Nate recognized the look of a bully. He refused to be cowed, however, and continued forward at an easy, unhurried pace. His eyes met those of the short one, and the Klingon blinked first. The two stood aside.

Upon entry, Nate was surprised to discovered himself in a massive hall that seemed straight out of the Dark Ages. Large tables dominated the chamber, and Klingon males were roaring with laughter as they drank themselves into oblivion. Light streamed in from decorative windows that, upon a second look, were revealed to be glowfloats. A fire raged in a massive center pit, over which some sort of local animal was being roasted, and a filthy-looking barrel filled with some sort of liquid was next to it.

As he strode forward, Hayes realized that all eyes were on him. A hush fell upon the revelers as they studied him. Inwardly, he frowned; this would be the test that would decide if he could pull this off. Failure now would likely mean death.

To his surprise, however, the interest he had sparked faded almost at once. Laughter rang out once more as the revelers ignored him and returned to their feast. He blinked in slight surprise, before heaving a soft sigh of relief. Luck was apparently with him; he needed to gather intelligence first. He approached a mostly vacant table, hoping that he could maintain a low profile until he had a better grasp of the politics of this gathering.

"Damn you, slave!" a burly Klingon bellowed as he backhanded a young woman. Instinct spurred Nate into action, washing away common sense, and he took two rapid steps forward. Grabbing the upraised hand of the furious Klingon, he kicked out slightly, his blow knocking the feet out from under the angry man. With a surprised squawk, the immense man fell to the floor, smacking his head against the table as he did.

He was on his feet almost instantly, nearly incandescent with fury as he lunged toward Nate, a wide blade in hand. It was almost too easy to redirect the man's clumsy attack into a judo throw that sent him sprawling into the middle of the hall. Hayes sprang up, already regretting his abject stupidity as he assumed a ready stance. So much for keeping a low profile, he reflected bitterly.

"Hold!" A voice rang out as the burly Klingon scrambled back to his feet. Limping forward, a lean Klingon of advancing age stepped into the open space, gesturing for Nate to approach as he did. The older man's hair was still dark, but was running to silver. Despite his age or perhaps because of it, he stood upright, holding himself straight and proud.

"I demand satisfaction!" the burly Klingon growled. "This ... targ struck me!"

"Then the challenge is issued," the old Klingon stated, eyeing Hayes as he spoke. "But this newcomer does not have a weapon," he stated.

"He can use my mek'leth," a fat, balding Klingon declared loudly. He tossed a weapon toward Nate leisurely; catching it, Hayes hefted it slightly, his inexperience with the weapon showing. The burly Klingon laughed as one of his friends brought him his own weapon.

"I'll turn your skull into a goblet, boy," he promised darkly as he began displaying his prowess with his own weapon. With a howl, the Klingon lunged forward, bat'leth flashing...

And died on the point of Nate's blade.

A murmur of surprise rumbled through the hall as they took in the unexpected image of Hayes standing several meters from his fallen foe, hands empty. Instantly, Nate felt worry creep into his consciousness. Throwing the mek'leth had seemed like the quickest way to end this unnecessary battle, and an unfamiliar weapon in his hands would likely be more dangerous to him than his opponent. If the weapon had not stopped his foe, Hayes had been more than ready to use his bare hands. From the reaction to his unexpected tactic, however, he wondered if he had perhaps made an error.

The fat Klingon began to chuckle.

Soon, the entire hall was filled with laughter, as the assembled Klingons expressed their mirth at how their comrade died. It wasn't glorious, or worthy, but ridiculous and anti-climatic. Chortling, the obese Klingon waddled to the corpse and pulled his mek'leth from the dead man's skull. He raised the bladed weapon up high, instantly causing another wave of hilarity.

"Let us raise our cups to Kahless!" the immense Klingon bellowed, and there was a rumble as the males present pounded their mugs on their tables. The obese figure glanced at Nate, frowning as he took in Hayes' emptyhandedness. Snatching a mug from a table, he stomped toward Hayes and pushed the cup into his hands. "Drink to Kahless!" he declared.

Nate hesitated.

He had no idea who this Kahless person was as his flash training hadn't gone into that. Was it some sort of spiritual invocation? Or was the man that Hayes had just killed named Kahless? At his hesitation, the hall almost instantly quieted, and the fat Klingon speared him with a look.

"Will you not drink to him?" the man asked. Realizing that boldness was his best weapon, Nate shook his head.

He did not imagine the gasp of surprise.

"Why not?" The question was soft and dangerous, despite the thickness of the jowls from whence it emerged. It was an eludicating response: clearly, this Kahless was a spiritual figure of some sort. Expression tight, Nate lifted his left arm and, with his right hand, peeled back the cloth that concealed the voice synthesizer strapped to his arm. He ignored the rumble of surprise as he quickly input a command.

"Because I am unworthy," the device pronounced. The tension in the hall transformed into something else, and Hayes could see every Klingon present adopt a dour expression, as if they had just realized something about themselves that they did not like.

"We are all unworthy wretches here," the fat Klingon declared. "How are you named?" he asked, and Nate input a new command.

"Khellius," the device pronounced his name.

"A strange name for a strange warrior," the rotund Klingon declared before hefting his mug. "To Khellius!" he roared, and it was echoed by dozens of voices. "The only honest one among us!"

"This belongs to you," the old Klingon said a moment later, offering the dead man's bat'leth. Nate accepted it, unsure if he could refuse it without causing another incident. You've already dodged one bullet today, he told himself.

"And the slave as well," the hefty Klingon said, gesturing to the female who had unwittingly been responsible for this entire fiasco. She was kneeling where she had fallen, her face shrouded by her hair. Mentally, Hayes groaned. A slave? He didn't realize that the Klingons were that barbaric. "She can take you to your lodgings." At Nate's look, he chuckled. "We follow the Old Code here. You keep what you kill. Korak owned her, and now you own her." Abruptly, he offered his hand. "I am Goron, and you may call me friend." Hayes clasped the man's arm in the warrior's grip, smiling tightly at the grimace that his new ... friend made as they tested their strength.

The slave led Nate to a large living area deep within the great building. She did not speak during the entire trip, and kept her head downcast. Anger began simmering within Hayes as he realized how horribly she must have been abused. The moral code that his father had taught him, bent nearly out of shape by Harris' deceptions but not broken, recoiled at the idea of treating her like a slave.

Once inside the living area, his anger resurfaced at the human-sized cage in the far corner of the room. Death was too good for that sonuvabitch, Hayes growled when he realized the purpose of the device.

"What is your name?" he asked her through voice synthesizer. She gave him a wide-eyed look, but never met his eyes.

"I have no name, Master," she replied, and his stomach seized with anger. The urge to march back to the great hall and begin killing the monsters that would allow this happen nearly overwhelmed him. He swallowed his fury, pushed it down, and stepped closer to her. He put his hand to her chin and lifted her face so their eyes would meet. Shock washed through him when he saw her ears.

She was Vulcan.

Or at least part Vulcan. The idea that a member of that noble race would be reduced to this made him sick to his stomach. Twice, she attempted to look away, but each time he made her look at him. When he was satisfied that she would not look away, he began typing.

"I am Khellius," he informed her. "Not Master. I was a slave once, and I will not own another person." It wasn't entirely true, but was close enough. His research into the programs that Lieutenant Commander Eisler mentioned in their very last conversation had opened his eyes to the lie that his life had been based upon. He frowned at the sheer panic that crossed her features. "I will provide for you as best I can, but you are not a slave." To prove his words, he crossed to the cage and began ripping it free of the wall. It was poorly constructed, he realized, and was probably more for psychological effect than actual imprisonment. He hoped its destruction would have an equal effect on her.

"Now," he typed once he was done, "what is your name?" She swallowed, glancing at the shattered remnants of the cage.

"I have never had a name," she revealed softly, and Nate felt his heart go out to her. He tapped her chin, once more bringing her eyes up to meet his.

"Can I call you Briseis?" he asked. She blinked in surprise before offering a tentative nod.

=/\= =/\=

He nodded in response to the question that had been posed to him, but Trip Tucker had no idea what he had been asked.

As he stared at the closed door of the turbolift that was taking them to Vahklas' cargo bay, Trip could feel Kov's questioning eyes on him. Silently, Tucker gave thanks for the innate Vulcan reticence and sense of privacy; a human friend would have asked him if he was all right when he was anything but.

A sharp pain began building at the back of his head, and Trip breathed in cautiously as he focused on controlling his emotions. Through the bond, he could feel T'Pol doing the same. It was completely necessary; as they had discovered several times in the years since they acknowledged the bond, when both of them experienced extremely intense emotions, it was like an ever-escalating feedback loop. During sex, it was a fantastic sensation, but the shared distress that was now bouncing between them was rapidly becoming physically painful.

The lift door slid open, and Kov preceded them through it, evidently recognizing that neither Trip nor T'Pol were particularly interested in conversation. Grimacing at the lance of fire that seemed to be burning through his skull, Tucker followed. He kept his eyes locked on Kov's back, knowing that if he looked at T'Pol, he would see his worry reflected in her eyes.

"We found the shuttlepod adrift," Kov announced in Vulcan. He was limping as he walked toward the door leading to the cargo bay, and Trip felt a sudden flicker of guilt that they had pressured the Vahklas' commander to act while he was still wounded. "There were three bodies inside the craft," he continued, and his words caused Trip's breath to catch. "We have them in stasis."

"Human bodies?" T'Pol asked. Only someone intimately familiar with her would recognize the effort it was taking for her to remain stoic.

"Mostly," came the cryptic response. Kov quirked an eyebrow at their simultaneous intake of breath. "My chief medical officer determined that one of them appears to be one-quarter Denobulan." At this, Trip felt a wave of relief wash over him, but it was instantly swept aside by an almost crippling sense of self-disgust.

With a loud rumble, the cargo bay door opened. The lights in the bay began to systematically activate in response to the opened door, and Trip felt his pulse rate begin to accelerate. It took every gram of his control to keep from reaching for T'Pol's hand to steady himself, and he could feel her discomfort as well. The confusion that flashed across Kov's face at their momentary hestitation reminded Tucker that Lorian and the entire incident with the second Enterprise was still classified; swallowing, he stepped through the doorway and into the cargo bay.

He had thought that he was prepared for sight of the 'pod, but Trip still felt his stomach lurch as he approached it. It was exactly as Kov had stated: battered and scarred, the 'pod was easily recognizable as one of Starfleet's by its shape, but several major modifications immediately drew Tucker's notice. The impulse manifold had been completely replaced with a larger one that almost seemed cobbled together out of spare parts. Armored plates covered the outer hull of the small craft, and the bubble viewport at the front had been replaced with a slab of metal.

"Structure seems intact," Trip muttered as he made a slow circuit around the 'pod. The whir of T'Pol's scanner was loud in the cramped space of the cargo bay. "These look like superchargers," he commented as he studied the jury-rigged impulse drive.

"They are," T'Pol declared off of her scans. "I am unfamiliar with much of the components used."

"These are Xindi," Tucker identified as he leaned closer to examine the modifications. "And Illyrian too, I think." He placed his hand on the cool metal, allowing himself – if only for a moment – to imagine the hardships this craft had witnessed. Sensing eyes upon him, he glanced up to find both of the Vulcans studying him. T'Pol's expression spoke of empathy and shared pain, whereas Kov had poorly concealed confusion in his eyes.

Without another word, Trip keyed his personal access code into the shuttlepod's access pad, hoping that it would fail. Instead, however, the 'pod hatch cycled open with a loud hiss. Internal lights began activating, and, out of the corner of his eye, Tucker saw Kov purse his lips before glancing at T'Pol. She returned the look without a hint of visible emotion, and the Vahklas' new commander looked away.

Unlike the exterior, there were very few changes to the inside of the 'pod, and Trip grit his teeth at the familiarity of it. The pilot's seat was new, he instantly noticed, and all of the other seats appeared very well-worn. He lowered himself into the chair before the flight instruments and let his eyes travel over them. A scratch above the engine coolant gauge drew his immediate attention; it was jagged, almost shaped like a lightning bolt symbol, and was nearly worn away by time. He let his fingers trace the scar before glancing again at T'Pol.

The Enterprise shuttlepod that had crashed on New Elysium bore the exact same scratch.

His communicator chirped, and Trip had never been more thankful. Reaching for it as he stood, he flipped the device open with a practiced gesture.

"This is Tucker," he said, clambering out of the 'pod as he spoke.

"Captain, this is Commander Hess." Trip frowned fractionally at her form of address. By identifying herself in the way she did, Anna was relating her concern over a possible security problem. It had been one of the procedures put into place by the ever-paranoid Rick Eisler. "I'm in engineering," Hess continued. "Could you come down here? There's something I'd like to run by you."

"On my way," Tucker responded. He glanced in T'Pol's direction, and she nodded slightly to his unspoken question. Being apart for a few minutes might help them get over the shock of learning that the second Enterprise had evidently survived, and, as science officer, she clearly wanted to study the 'pod a little longer. Burying herself in work was how she coped with shocks like this; it had taken him a long time to figure that out about her.

"If you don't mind, Captain," she said, mostly for the benefit of Kov, "I would like to examine this craft in more detail and perhaps study the Vahklas' logs."

"Do it." Trip paused, before adding, "And arrange to have it transferred to Endeavour." He frowned slightly at Kov. "You still need to visit sickbay," he remarked before heading for the door.

Once in the turbolift, Trip let himself sag back against the metal door. Shock was rapidly wearing off, with anger and self-loathing replacing it. They had been so sure that Lorian's Enterprise had been invalidated from the timestream! His stomach rolled and twisted with disgust at the thought of having abandoned the crew of that ship. If he closed his eyes, he could still see Lorian's face...

Straightening, Tucker drew in a steadying breath and spent a long moment struggling with his unruly emotions. There was a job to be done, after all, and there wasn't any time to waste crying over spilt milk. Worry about what is, his father had always told him, not what might have been. It was good advice, and Trip pushed down the urge to howl. There would be time for that later.

He paused only briefly on the way back to engineering to comm Eisler about T'Pol's whereabouts; the tactical officer grumbled darkly under his breath about security risks and foolishly brave senior officers, before dispatching one of the Roughnecks to join her. It left the security team stretched thinner than Tucker liked, what with most of the Roughnecks already tasked to escorting the injured Vulcans to their destinations throughout the taskforce, but knowing that someone was keeping an eye on T'Pol made Trip feel better, especially given her atrocious record at getting injured.

Thoughts of his timelost son and concerns over the security problems vanished as he approached Hess. She was standing before the silent warp core, a fierce scowl on her face as she stared at a PADD. Trip felt his stomach clench, and he tried to brace himself for whatever she was going to drop on him.

"We've got a problem," Hess announced instantly. Her voice was low, keyed only for Trip's ears, and he took the hint. When he spoke, it was also in a hushed whisper.

"Explain," he ordered while reaching for the PADD. It was the results of her earlier work, and Tucker began scanning over it.

"The damage to the warp core was not battle damage, Trip," she revealed, unconsciously slipping back into her old address of him. At his look, her expression darkened even further. "It was sabotage," Hess said grimly.

"Are you sure?"

"Positive, sir." Anna pointed to the PADD. "It's all there ... someone wanted this ship to be disabled."

"And now," Trip added darkly, "whoever was responsible is out there, on one of our ships."

Silence answered him.

=/\= =/\=

The silence was deafening.

Horror warred with anger as he stared at the photographic evidence before him, and Jonathan Archer fought the urge to be suddenly and violently sick. It was almost too much to take in, and Jon knew that a large part of him had thought – had hoped! – that Reynolds wouldn’t turn up anything on Gardner. Archer had desperately wanted this to be a wild goose chase that was good for a few laughs in five or ten years. In the event that the lieutenant did find damning evidence, though, Jon thought that he had prepared himself for this, thought he was ready to learn that Thomas Gardner was, after all, a traitor to humanity.

Clearly, he wasn’t.

Reynolds and Sergeant Cole were sitting together on the small office couch, stunned and frightened expressions on their too young faces; they had barely moved since arriving at his office and collapsing in the couch as if their legs could no longer keep them upright. The part of Jon that wasn’t reeling in horrified shock couldn’t help but to notice that they were holding hands tightly, clinging to one another for desperately needed support. In Archer’s opinion, Cole looked a little better than Reynolds did, but she even looked like she was on the verge of losing her dinner.

You’ve got a job to do, a voice that sounded suspiciously like his father reminded him, and Archer drew in a steadying breath as he tried to rally himself. Guilt churned in his stomach but he pushed it down; there would be a reckoning later for his mistake, for his error in letting Rajiin go free during the Xindi campaign. Right now, though, there was work to do.

Without a word, Jon reached his vidphone and activated it. His fingers danced over the keypad, inputting his home number. It chirped twice, and the recorded message answered, calmly informing him in his own voice that he wasn’t home right now but would gladly return the call as soon as possible. When the beep sounded, he quickly hit four buttons in rapid succession – 1-4-3-1 – before disconnecting. Harris would know to contact him, but Archer had no idea how long it would take. Previous contacts had taken between twenty and forty hours.

Jon didn’t plan to wait that long.

"Mister Reynolds," he said softly. The lieutenant looked up, once more wearing the mask of professionalism that Archer had come to associate with him. It was a good sign. "I need you to assemble a strike team of people you trust completely." Jon’s mind was racing as he spoke; he couldn’t involve Security with this. Inevitably, someone would talk to the media and if the general populace learned that the highest ranking member of Starfleet Command had been suborned by a telepathic alien, the resulting panic could be catastrophic. Daniels’ comment about Jon’s future self concealing the identity of the traitor suddenly made complete sense.

"Give me forty minutes, sir," Reynolds replied, standing as he did. Cole rose with him, her face a mirror of the lieutenant’s resolve. They hadn’t yet released one another’s hands, Archer noted; at any other time, he might have even found that amusing.

But not tonight.

"Count me in, sir," she said. Scott’s expression tightened fractionally, but he nodded nonetheless.

"Me too." The voice nearly caused Jon to jump and he shot Tyner a dark frown. He hated that the petty officer could be so silent that Archer would completely forget about his presence. The yeoman was standing in the doorway, eyes wide and frightened.

"You’re not combat trained," Lieutenant Reynolds said sharply. "I can’t use you." The words were cold, and caused the younger man to give the lieutenant an injured look; somehow, Archer doubted he meant it to come out quite as abrasive as it did.

"But I can," he interjected. "I have to be with that team, but I need someone to run interference for me here." Jon took in Tyner’s dejected expression and recognized it for what it was: a mistaken belief that his job wasn’t as important as other occupational specialties. All too often since even before the war began, Archer had encountered this sort of thing from officers and enlisted men and women who had chosen (or been selected) to serve in Admin or other, less glamorous duties that were no less essential. Ex-MACOs (and pilots, Jon had to grudgingly admit) were especially bad about speaking of the "inkmonkeys" with snide and utterly unwarranted contempt.

"I know it’s not what you want to do, Tyner," Archer pointed out, "But if I disappear, people are going to start asking questions."

"Yes, sir." Tyner straightened his back and drew in a deep breath. "You can count on me, Admiral."

"I know I can," Jon smiled. He started to turn his attention back to Reynolds when the yeoman spoke again.

"What about your interview, sir?" Tyner asked. "The one with Gannet Brooks?"

"Dammit," Archer hissed. He’d forgotten about that and not just because seeing the reporter would remind him of Travis. Twice, he’d managed to avoid this interview, citing duty both times, but this time, Brooks had gone over his head and somehow managed to involve the president herself. The orders had come down from the Iron Lady herself that the "Hero of the Xindi Mission" would sit down and answer questions; unfortunately, that was a directive that Jon couldn’t just ignore no matter how much he wanted to.

Abruptly, an idea occurred to him. Brooks was still Starfleet Intelligence! Unofficially, of course; it wouldn’t go over well with the civilians in government and the media if that fact was revealed, but Jon saw an opportunity. They would need an outside record of proof that Rajiin was present, and, as far as Archer knew, Brooks had some field training.

"Use her private number," he said quickly. "Get her in this office ASAP."

"Aye, sir."

"And tell her to bring her field gear," Jon added as the petty officer retreated from the office.

Reynolds and Cole were busy at his desk, scribbling names on a notepad and comparing them with the personnel files he had available on his systerm. Jon let them work and began pacing to vent the nervous frustration that built with every second. He was still in shock, he realized, that Rajiin had reappeared and in such a fashion. When she escaped from Enterprise, he had thought she was an ally or at least a potential one. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect for her to show up again. His circuit of the office carried him by the desk and he grabbed one of the photographs to study.

After a moment, Jon realized that something about her looked different. He briefly considered the idea that this wasn’t Rajiin at all, but rather another of her species. Just as quickly, though, he discarded the notion; unless all females from Oran'taku looked exactly the same, it was undeniably her. She was wearing human clothes now, and her hair was dyed dark brown, but otherwise she was the same. There was something … unusual at her temples, though, something that almost looked like decorative metal studs. Archer ground his teeth in annoyance as he glared at the photo; even if it was proven that Gardner was influenced by Rajiin, this would utterly destroy the man. Your fault, the image seemed to be saying with a mocking laugh. Your fault…

"Dammit," Reynolds growled, and Jon looked up from the now crumpled photo. The lieutenant was frowning at something on the terminal screen. "Sergeant Suresh is a no-go."

"He’s the best com-tech I know," Cole muttered. "We need him if we’re gonna pull this off."

"Weren’t you listening?" the lieutenant asked almost angrily. "He’s a no-go. Suffering from radiation poisoning and is on medical leave."

"What about Ansip?"

"Deployed." Reynolds glowered at the systerm. "I can’t think of any other com-techs who can do this job."

"I can," Jon said grimly.

=/\= =/\=

The doctor was grim as he spoke.

“They are who they appear to be,” he said, a frown on his face, and T’Pol felt her stomach tighten in disgust. With effort, she swallowed the distress that swelled up in response to Phlox’s statement; the realization she may have abandoned a child of her blood overwhelmed the amazing sense of déjà vu accompanying the doctor’s comment. In Vulcan society, there was nothing more contemptuous than the abandonment of family.

The three bodies were stretched out on biobeds in Endeavour’s medical ward, having been transported here nearly an hour earlier. T’Pol had recognized one of them immediately: Greer, the tactical officer on Lorian’s Enterprise. She had not interacted a great deal with the man, but had seen him several times nonetheless. Guilt washed through her then as she recalled that she hadn’t interacted much with any member of that crew, so intent had she been on hiding from a future she both desired and feared.

“All three of them appear to have died of wounds sustained from hand-held plasma-based weapon systems,” Phlox continued. The results of his findings were currently displayed on the central monitor, but the doctor barely looked at it as he spoke. His eyes, T’Pol noted, were fixed on the smallest of the corpses. “I cannot say with any certainty how much time has elapsed since they succumbed to their wounds although I can say that it took place at least a week before they were placed into stasis.” Almost in mid-sentence, the Denobulan seemed to falter and lose his focus. “I would have liked to have known this child,” he mused sadly as he continued to stare at the smallest body. Only a quarter or an eighth Denobulan, the boy would have been the doctor’s grandson or possibly his great-grandson in the alternate timeline, and T’Pol felt another stab of anger and sadness wash through her. It was a reminder that she and Trip weren’t the only ones who had lost someone.

“I don’t understand,” Kov declared from where he stood. The Vulcan engineer-turned-captain had insisted on overseeing the transport of the bodies, and T’Pol had finally relented, knowing that it would put him in Phlox’s proximity for much needed medical care. Already, Kov looked better than he had earlier; the large bruise that had dominated his face was rapidly fading and he no longer had any difficulty walking. Unfortunately, he was now more aware of his surroundings since he no longer had to dedicate a significant portion of his mind to divorcing himself from pain, and that was already leading to difficult questions. “Did you know these people?” Kov asked.

“No,” T’Pol replied instantly.

“Yes,” Phlox said at the same time. He immediately shot T’Pol an apologetic look as Kov raised a questioning eyebrow. “That is to say, we didn’t really know them per se,” the doctor started to dissemble, and T’Pol interrupted to prevent him from disclosing more information than Kov needed; Phlox was, after all, an exceedingly poor liar.

“That information is classified,” she stated coolly. Again, Kov quirked an eyebrow, but made no further query. From the calculating light in his eyes, however, T’Pol knew that he would interrogate Trip later on this matter and knowing her mate’s gregarious nature, would learn what he wanted to know. “I will need to examine your sensor logs,” she told him in hopes that it would distract him from seeking further information. “Specifically,” T’Pol continued, “those relating to your discovery of the shuttlepod.”

“You think you can retrace its flight path?” Phlox asked almost eagerly. It was to be expected, of course. Many of the crew of Lorian’s Enterprise had been descended from the Denobulan and he had lost as much if not more than she and Trip.

“I do not know,” T’Pol replied noncommittally. The doctor gave her a knowing nod, perhaps sensing her doubt as well as her poorly concealed anguish. Once again, she became aware of Kov’s appraising eye upon her. With another subtle frown, she turned toward the door. She had barely gotten five steps beyond sickbay when Kov’s voice followed her.

“Commander,” he called out, and T’Pol slowed her rapid pace. “A word, if you don’t mind.” At her slight nod, Kov hesitated and glanced around, drawing her attention to the busier than normal corridors. Tentatively, she stretched out through her bond with Trip in an attempt to discern the reason for the activity, but her mate was deeply involved in something at the moment and she decided against interrupting him.

“Follow me,” T’Pol ordered and resumed walking; this time, she angled toward one of the nearby unmanned auxiliary power stations. Kov followed without a word, but she could almost feel the curiosity and discomfort rolling off of him. Once inside the small station, she gave him a cool glance.

“Who is Lorian?” he asked without preamble, and, unable to contain her surprise, T’Pol drew in a startled breath.

“Where did you hear that name?” she demanded, anger leaking into her voice. It should have bothered her that her control had slipped, but the emotions thundering through her were too intense to completely suppress.

“In the Delphic Expanse,” Kov replied. “Or rather,” he corrected himself, “the area that was once the Expanse.” He narrowed his eyes slightly and studied her. “He was a Vulcan evidently linked to Starfleet in some fashion.”

“In a manner of speaking,” T’Pol dissembled. She paused, wondering how to address this new twist, but Kov pressed on.

“We detected traces of Vulcan genetic material within the shuttlepod,” he stated calmly. “Hair and skin cells primarily, but also traces of blood.” T’Pol felt her stomach clench once more and struggled to keep it from showing on her face. “Curiously,” Kov continued, his eyes locked on her, “the scans seemed to indicate that this Vulcan was also half-human.”

“Fascinating,” T’Pol responded. Even to her ears, her voice sounded dull.

“During our time in the Expanse,” Kov said after a moment, “we interacted with numerous species that referenced a ‘Captain Lorian’ of the starship Enterprise.” He tilted his head slightly as he continued, eyes narrowed. “As you were the only Vulcan serving aboard Enterprise,” he continued, “logic dictates you would know the identity of this individual.”

A long moment passed as T’Pol struggled to find the appropriate response. Had Trip not been so busy in that moment – and what was he doing that required so much of his concentration? – she would have allowed herself to sink deeper into the mindlink with him to gain his insight into Kov. Inhaling slowly, she realized her tongue was pressing against the inside of her cheek in one of Trip’s bad habits. Forcing herself to desist, she decided to gamble on her mate’s instincts about people.

So she told Kov the story about Lorian. Not the entire story, of course – he had no need to know about her insane addiction to trellium or the confused state she’d been in after having mated with Trip under the influence of the drug – but enough for him to gain some understanding about her timelost son. Kov accepted the recitation surprisingly well; he did not interrupt but his reaction to the revelation of time travel being involved could be measured by the rapid climb of his eyebrow.

“Fascinating,” he murmured when she ended her tale. “I will inform my officers to expedite your search, Commander,” Kov said after the briefest of delays. “You will have unlimited access to whatever data we obtained during out mapping expedition.”

“Thank you,” T’Pol said. “The incident with Lorian’s Enterprise is classified,” she informed him but, again, he surprised her.

“I will say nothing of it,” he promised before turning to exit. At the door, he hesitated and glanced over his shoulder at her. “Fascinating,” he repeated softly before triggering the door release and striding from the auxiliary power station.

It was several minutes before T’Pol felt sufficiently in control of her emotions to venture forth once more.

When she did, she immediately noticed a heightened sense of alert among certain members of the crew. Lieutenant Commander Eisler’s security personnel were everywhere, prowling the corridors in teams of two or three, and all of them were more heavily armed than they had any reason to be. As one of the wounded crewmembers from the Vahklas limped around the corner, obviously heading for sickbay, T’Pol noticed the wary manner in which the Vulcan’s security escort eyed him. Frowning at the incongruity, she walked quickly toward them. Chief Petty Officer Mitchell straightened fractionally at her approach, but continued to discreetly watch the wounded Vulcan he was several steps behind.

“Ma’am,” the chief petty officer said by way of greeting.

“What is your assignment?” T’Pol asked without preamble.

“Escort,” Mitchell answered instantly. He answered her next question before she could ask it. “Threatcon bravo sierra,” he said and T’Pol raised an eyebrow at the coded declaration. While ‘bravo’ was an indication of heightened threat, it was the inclusion of the word ‘sierra’ that warned her that security was concerned about potential danger from their guests. It could mean only one thing: Commander Eisler feared they had a saboteur aboard.

Without further addressing Mitchell, T’Pol turned and strode toward the nearest turbolift. Her place was on the bridge and she needed to find out the nature of this threat as soon as possible. From her sense of Trip, he was aboard Endeavour once again and she extended a tentative mindtouch toward him. He reciprocated instantly, but she could almost taste his distraction and withdrew.

The lift deposited her on D Deck and T’Pol had taken only a few steps when a subtle but out of place sound drew caused her to pause. Her breath caught as she realized the noise was of a pitch too low for humans to detect naturally and, without hesitation, she darted toward its origin some twenty meters distant.

In her haste, T’Pol slammed her hand against the door annunciator harder than absolutely necessary and didn’t allow the hatch to fully open before lunging through the entranceway. At her unannounced and rapid entrance, a crewman wearing the red of engineering jumped in surprise from where he knelt in front of the main computer console; T’Pol recognized him instantly as the duty crewman responsible for monitoring the core.

The pitch of the sound altered substantially; where before it was emitting a low-pitched and steady thrum like a heartbeat, now the tempo increased rapidly. T’Pol glanced around the massive room quickly before abandoning any hopes of locating the source of the sound before it reached its zenith. She grabbed the crewman and half-threw, half-pushed the man toward the exit. He stumbled into the corridor, T’Pol a step behind him. Less than a second later, the pulse of the sound reached its pinnacle.

And fire and lightning engulfed the room.

 

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