Author's Note: This is Trip and Malcolm’s episode, so these particular missing scenes really should remain missing. But then I’m not doing this for Trip and Malcolm, am I? As always, many thanks, reviewers!
The shuttlepod was slowly tumbling in space. Nobody had responded to their hails. There was no sign of major damage from the explosion they had seen on their sensors, but clearly all was not well. T’Pol scanned for bio-signs. “Two Humans, Captain. But their readings are quite faint.”
Archer swallowed. “Deploy the grappler.”
“The transporter would be faster,” T’Pol said.
Archer looked over at her. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with. If there’s a pathogen involved . . .” His brow creased suddenly. “Aren’t you the one who should be warning me about that?”
“The probability that two men in a shuttlepod light years away from any inhabitable planet would have received any exposure to alien pathogens is quite small. The internal cabin temperature is below safe levels. The weakness of their bio-signs could be a sign that they are freezing to death.”
Her slight indulgence in hyperbole worked, as she had known it would. Archer immediately straightened. “Tell Phlox to meet us at the transporter. Travis, you have the con. Reel that shuttlepod in as quickly as you can. I want to know what happened.”
When the two men materialized on the transporter pad Tucker was curled protectively around Reed, both huddled in blankets. Neither showed any sign of consciousness. T’Pol leaned closer and was surprised by a strong odor of alcohol mixed in with perspiration and … potatoes?
“Trip!” Archer said, gently patting his cheek. He added, with some alarm, “Damn, he’s cold.”
“Yes,” Phlox said, scanning. “They are both suffering from significant hypothermia … as well as some degree of intoxication. Gently now. We need to get them to sickbay as quickly as possible, but please do not jar them along the way.”
They carefully lifted the men onto stretchers. T’Pol took the back of Tucker’s stretcher as Archer set off at a pace not entirely consistent with Phlox’s instructions about avoiding jarring movements.
How irrational Humans were. Didn’t they realize that alcohol would increase the rate at which their bodies lost heat? Or had Mr. Tucker perhaps assumed that the increased facial hair he was sporting would serve as some kind of insulation? The effect was somewhat primitive, but not unattractive.
Once she and the captain had gently lifted the engineer to the bio-bed, it struck her somewhat forcefully that she had never seen this man so utterly still. It sparked an odd surge of protectiveness in her.
Lieutenant Reed lay just as still on the next bio-bed. His face sported a great deal less hair. Oddly, that peculiar protective impulse did not arise to nearly the same degree as she regarded him.
Phlox and Cutler immediately set to work stripping off the men’s jackets and setting warming compresses along strategic places on their bodies, then covering them up again with warm blankets. “This is going to take time,” Phlox told Archer. “Probably hours to get their core temperatures back up to normal. But I don’t believe they’re in any danger.”
“Mr. Tucker’s heartbeat is somewhat irregular,” T’Pol said, looking up at the monitor.
“Yes, T’Pol, but it will settle down as his body warms. Luckily I see no sign of frostbite. I imagine they will come out of this none the worse the wear … except perhaps for the hangovers.”
“That will teach me to leave my bourbon in a shuttlepod compartment,” Archer said with an amused shake of his head. “T’Pol? Let’s go see what the story is on that pod.”
She followed obediently. It was illogical to remain any longer in sickbay when there were important questions to be answered. She glanced back at Commander Tucker.
Phlox saw her looking and smiled. “I’ll let you know if there are any changes in their condition,” he said.
“Thank you, Doctor.” She quickened her pace. Archer was already in the corridor.
Tucker was dreaming, his eyes darting under their closed lids. What long lashes he had.
“It’s really about time you woke up, Commander,” Dr. Phlox said, with a little shake of Tucker’s shoulder.
Tucker’s eyes flew open and he stared wildly about for a moment, at least until he noticed her staring at him and his face flamed a most peculiar shade of pink. “Subcommander,” he said. “I take it this isn’t the afterlife. Can’t imagine you’d be caught dead there.”
She stared down at him, nonplussed. Wouldn’t one by definition be dead if one were in an afterlife?
“Malcolm?” he asked.
“He’s fine,” Phlox said. “I discharged him two hours ago. You must have been missing some sleep; you’ve been out cold for seven hours.”
Tucker winced. “I have a headache.”
“I’m not surprised.” Phlox pressed a hypospray to his neck. “If you don’t mind me saying so, drinking to excess in dangerously low temperatures is not a terribly bright idea.”
“Yeah, well… It’s not like there was a hell of a lot else to do.”
No? On the shuttlepod, there was evidence that someone had spent considerable time attempting repairs. Mr. Reed had also clearly spent a great deal of the time composing personal letters, or so T’Pol had concluded from the many personal files created by him during their mission. He had appeared quite relieved earlier to learn that none of them had been forwarded to their recipients and had in fact asked that they be deleted.
Mr. Reed had also filed what was, for him, an oddly dramatic mission report. For his part, Tucker had merely filed the minimal required reports as mission commander, reporting the bare facts with an almost Vulcan detachment, never even mentioning the likelihood of their deaths. It was a peculiar contrast, for in their daily work, Reed was by far the more reserved and professional of the two men. She did not know what significance, if any, to give to their apparently quite different ways of coping with their likely demise in the middle of space.
Of course, it was not that different. They had, after all, joined in drinking far more alcohol than was healthy. She said, “It makes little sense to lower the temperatures to dangerous levels to extend your air supply if you were then going to shorten your lives by virtue of becoming intoxicated.”
Tucker just gave her the eyebrow equivalent of a shrug.
“Hypothermia can make the mind quite sluggish and irrational,” Phlox noted. “Indeed, it is not unheard of for victims to rip their own clothes off before lapsing into a coma.”
“I’m glad that didn’t happen,” Tucker said, with a grin. Then his brows drew in. “It didn’t happen, did it?”
“No, Commander,” she said. “You were both fully clothed. Although in that situation, skin to skin contact with Mr. Reed might have extended your survival somewhat.”
“Well, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.” He got a glint in his eye. “So if we’re stuck in a freezing shuttlepod, you won’t mind getting naked, huh? That’s good to know.” He couldn’t quite contain a smirk. “I’m sure Mr. Reed would be quite happy to know that, too.”
Phlox raised his voice. “I fear Commander Tucker’s brain may still be a bit addled by the cold. If you don’t mind, Subcommander, I’d like to examine my patient now.”
“Of course, doctor.” She turned and left.
It was agreeable to be able to report to the captain that the ship had recovered its officers and that they would each fully recover.
However, she could have done without Mr. Tucker’s smirking.
Next installment: Fusion.
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