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"The Locum"
By Alelou

Rating: NC-17
Disclaimer: Star Trek belongs to CBS/Paramount, not me.

Author's Note: Thanks to JustTripn for beta.

Part 7

In the morning Kendra awoke to see T’Pol seated on the floor in front of the table, apparently meditating. Tucker was sitting across from her, apparently meditating as well.

Kendra quietly got up and slipped into the bathroom. She wanted a shower, which required getting fully naked. She shot another finger at the wall and stuck her tongue out for good measure. She showered quickly, but the hot water was comforting and she couldn’t help thinking that having no privacy was no doubt one of those things a person would get used to if she had to.

When she came out, Vehlen’s voice came from a comm device on the wall. “I have programmed the replicator to respond to English commands,” he said. “No guarantees on what you’ll get out of it. Please be prepared to begin your work in one hour.”

“Our work?” Kendra said, but there was no response. She went to the replicator. “English breakfast tea, hot, with milk and sugar,” she said. She got something hot and sweet, though it was certainly not English breakfast or any other tea she recognized.

Tucker got out of bed and made a hand signal for beverage, complete with puppy dog eyes.

“You want me to try for coffee?” she said.

He nodded.

“Cream, sugar?”

He wrinkled his nose.

“Coffee, hot,” she said, and the replicator created something that smelled like the real thing at least. She handed it to Tucker, who took a sip and looked pleasantly surprised.

Kendra poured her ‘tea’ out and got herself some sweet, milky coffee instead. “That’s better,” she sighed, and sat down.

“How’s your head feel?” she asked Tucker.

He shrugged.

“Try to repeat after me,” she said. “Dah.”

He screwed his face up in concentration, but all that came out was “ah.”

“Well, you got part of it,” Kendra said, trying to be positive.

He gave her a disgusted look and grabbed her hand, using his finger to write something on her palm that she couldn’t follow. “Slower,” she said.

“4-E-V-R?” he wrote, as she spoke the letters aloud.

T’Pol looked over.

“No, I don’t think so,” Kendra said. “But it may take a lot of work to get it back. I have to admit I’m curious to see what happens when that device comes out…”

His hand clenched on the device as if he might try ripping it out right there and Kendra stood up, prepared to fight with him.

“Trip!” T’Pol said, coming over. “Trip, you mustn’t.” She put her hand over his. “Please. You know the first rule.”

Kendra looked up, curious.

“Survive,” T’Pol said, simply. She briefly caressed Tucker’s head. “Survive,” she repeated, and headed off to the facilities.

He bent his head over his coffee.

“I wonder what work he’s going to give us,” Kendra said. Then she realized how frustrating it must be for Tucker not to be able to respond, and decided she would just focus on breakfast.

He took her hand and spelled “LAST NITE?” She hoped the bad spelling was just shorthand, but who knew with an engineer.

“With Vehlen?”

He nodded.

She raised her eyes involuntarily to the ceiling, knowing Vehlen would hear anything she said. “He helped me interpret the scanner’s findings. It appears that you do have some inflammation in a part of your brain associated with language expression and speech. You also have quite a bit of older scar tissue that might be involved or might not. I hope the damage may be reversible. If not, I’m hopeful we can train another part of your brain to handle that work.” She lowered her voice. “He said he would kill you if you got in the way.”

Tucker made a sour face. She dropped her voice to a whisper and leaned into his ear. “Any chance Enterprise will find us?”

He shook his head. “UP TO US,” he spelled into her palm.

T’Pol came out and raised her brow at finding her mate holding hands with the doctor. He let Kendra’s hand go and grinned at T’Pol.

Kendra smiled, a little amazed at how quickly Tucker’s mood could change.

She tried smiling at T’Pol too, but the Vulcan’s return look was cold. Helplessly jealous, Kendra realized, not sure whether to be amused or concerned. She got up to see if the replicator could handle their breakfast requests.

After they ate some items that more or less approximated eggs and bacon for Tucker, cereal and milk for Kendra, and a fruit platter for T’Pol, they cleaned up. When Tucker went to use the bathroom, Kendra grabbed T’Pol’s hand and led her over to the foot of the bed. Angling her body to protect her hand from view (she hoped), she pointed up at the bed hangings.

T’Pol looked up. And paled. She looked back at Kendra.

Kendra nodded grimly.

T’Pol blinked a few times in consternation before her face resolved into its usual dispassion. She leaned close to Kendra and murmured, “Don’t tell him.”

Kendra eyed her uncertainly. Was she going to tell Tucker? Or leave him in the dark?

When Tucker came out they were sitting and waiting for Vehlen, who soon arrived. He smiled brilliantly at them and said, “Starting time!”

For the next four days Vehlen had them scrub his entire ship – except for the bridge, assuming he even had one. Certain doors were kept locked. They never saw anything that looked remotely involved with control, and he only allowed them in his engine room and his study – which turned out to also be his quarters, once you got past a layer of drapes – with direct supervision. But everything else was open to them, as long as they worked steadily. If one of them sat down or even went to the toilet for more than a few minutes, his voice would blast at them to get moving.

Tucker, still struggling with a weak right side, was easily exhausted and would move increasingly slowly as each day wore on. T’Pol stayed close to him, making up for any lack in his efforts. For her part Kendra found the cleaning oddly relaxing – she could forget about their situation while focusing on grease or grime, and she took ridiculous pleasure in the gleaming results. She feared this meant she made excellent slave material.

Each night, Vehlen allowed them to eat and then took Kendra away to his study. The first night he told her everything he’d learned about her – which was quite a lot, including material that could only have come from her Starfleet file. “Who’s giving you this information?” she demanded.

He smiled blandly at her. “No one you need to worry about.”

Every night he also asked her what she had decided about treating him should the need arise – he continued to insist the question was hypothetical. She continued to say she hadn’t decided, which was true. She wasn’t sure how dangerous he was yet, and until she did she was going to have a hard time deciding.

He would check in on Tucker and T’Pol regularly. “You told them,” he accused her. “I knew you would. I’m not getting any action anymore.”

“I didn’t say a word,” Kendra said, which was technically true. “Tucker’s exhausted.”

“Should I back off?” Vehlen asked her. “Am I shortening the life of my investment?”

She bristled. “I don’t give investment advice.”

He smiled. “As a doctor, then. Should I give the patient more time to rest?”

She chewed her lip.

Vehlen raised a brow. “Or perhaps a tired Tucker is less likely to get himself killed?”

She met his eyes; that was exactly what she’d been thinking.

“I am concerned about his inability to speak,” Vehlen said. “What can we do about that?”

“Why do you care?” she said. She remembered what T’Pol had said, about this possibly being a gambit.

“Frustration can get a man killed,” he said. “And Tucker could be useful to me, if I could ever trust him.”

Kendra just stared at him. He actually thought they would resign themselves to this life and serve him faithfully? Or was he dangling some kind of bait?

“Without better facilities, I can’t help him,” she said. “He may also need a specialist. I’m neither a neurologist nor a brain surgeon. I’m trying to help him with some therapy, but he’s too tired to get much of that done.”

“I can’t get him a specialist,” Vehlen said. “I can’t even get myself a specialist. I’m afraid you’re on your own there.”

“If we could just remove the device from his neck…”

Vehlen snorted. "Someday, my dear -- if you're all very good."

One night he turned to her and said, “Tell me about your children.”

She went rigid.

“Gabriela and Hector,” he said, his Spanish pronunciation impeccable. “Five and three, respectively, when the Xindi weapon annihilated them.”

“Leave them out of this.”

“My children are dead too. Though in my case, it was my own stupidity that got them killed.”

“I won’t discuss them with you,” she said.

“Why not?”

She didn’t answer, just turned away from him.

“I asked you a question, slave!” he said, his tone turning harsh.

“Because this is some sort of sick game for you!”

He stared at her for a moment, then turned back to the computer, pulling up Tucker and T’Pol in their quarters. Tucker was snoring. T’Pol was sitting on the bed meditating next to him. “Whatever,” he said, sounding annoyed. “Polish my shoes, then.”

When she was done, he said, “Do you know how to play cribbage?”

She just looked at him.

“It’s a simple enough question,” he said.

“Cribbage? What’s next? Backgammon? Tea and crumpets?”

“A friend on Earth taught me the game. I found it quite addictive. By the Praetor, woman, haven’t you ever had a lonely moment since your husband died? Would you really rather clean the bathroom again?”

So they played cribbage.

Once the ship was clean and his luxurious wardrobe impeccable, Vehlen seemed to run out of ideas of what to do with them. He told them they could have the day off, and left them in their quarters all day. Tucker raised his head at one point, then wrote in T’Pol’s hand that they had dropped out of warp.

The next day they waited, but Vehlen never came. “Think of it as a long weekend,” he said over the comm. “I can’t be bothered to think up things for you to do right now.” Tucker spread his hands on the bulkhead behind the drapes and listened. “IMPULSE,” he spelled.

Kendra worked with Trip as she had the day before, giving physical therapy to his right arm and leg, trying to help him regain some speech. He could manage to approximate a vowel, but it was as if his tongue had forgotten how to form consonants. With some effort he could make a “huh” or a “puh” sound, but not a “tuh” or a “nuh” sound. The concentration required for him to produce any sound at all would raise a film of perspiration across his forehead. Eventually he got so frustrated he just got up and walked away to the dubious privacy of the toilet.

“Have you learned anything about Vehlen?” T’Pol asked abruptly.

“Well,” Kendra said. “He’s said things, but I don’t know what to believe. He said his children are dead and it’s his fault. That he can’t get a specialist for himself. He wants to know if I would treat him as I would other patients. I think he must have some medical concerns, but I haven’t seen any particular sign of ill health.”

“We need to find out as much as possible.”

What was she suggesting? “I’m a doctor.”

“He seems to enjoy your company.”

“He probably just thinks I’m the weakest link. Or he’s trying to decide whether he can trust me to treat him.” She looked meaningfully at the bed. “I think he also wants to give you two time alone.”

T’Pol frowned, then looked up at Kendra with concern. “Does he attempt…?” She raised her eyebrows and let the question trail off, but Kendra thought she knew what she was asking.

Kendra shook her head. “No. Not … seriously.”

“Are you afraid of him?”

Kendra was suddenly very conscious that Vehlen might be privy to their conversation. She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of thinking he scared her. “No,” she lied.

Vehlen didn’t come for her that night either. Then he didn’t come again for the third morning. They didn’t even get a message from him. “Maybe dead,” Tucker spelled into T’Pol’s hand, which she said aloud for Kendra’s benefit.

T’Pol said, “Perhaps he has left the ship for a period of time.”

Kendra raised her voice. “What’s up, Vehlen? Don’t you have any work for us?”

No response.

Tucker shook his head impatiently. With hand signals he indicated his very strong feeling that they should try to escape now.

T’Pol stared at him for a moment, then nodded. He promptly got up and went to one of the cabinets in the kitchen, ripped it off its hinges, pulled the hinge out, and took it over to the door, where he started to pry open the door controls. When the door slid open a few inches, an alarm began to sound.

Involuntarily, they paused a moment, expecting retaliation of some kind, but nothing happened. So Tucker got further into the compartment, ripped out components, and the alarm silenced.

T’Pol pushed the door open the rest of the way. They hesitated again, still expecting punishment to fall upon them. It didn’t.

Soon they were in the corridor. Tucker headed straight for one of the doors they hadn’t been permitted access to and started working on gaining access. He was nearly in when T’Pol suddenly gasped. She dropped to the floor as her body jerked to an unseen hand.

Tucker dropped to her side. He began to yell inarticulately, sounding even more agonized than she did. T’Pol’s gasps were becoming choked screams.

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it, Vehlen!” Kendra screamed over Tucker’s frantic howling.

Finally, the device must have been shut off, for T’Pol lay still, her eyes fluttering. Trip pulled her into his arms. Tears were rolling down his face.

“Back to your quarters,” Vehlen’s voice came. It sounded strained.

“Come on,” Kendra said, and helped a trembling Tucker hoist T’Pol, who was a dead weight. They stumbled back into their quarters and lay the limp Vulcan on the bed. T’Pol’s eyes rolled in their sockets.

Kendra checked her vitals and was heartened as T’Pol began to take deeper, longer breaths and finally regained control of her eyes. The Vulcan reached out a hand for Tucker, and Kendra backed off, leaving them to each other. She walked to the door, which still stood wide open and disabled.

“My quarters, doctor,” Vehlen’s voice said. “Now.”

She looked over at her comrades. Tucker’s face communicated rage and helplessness; T’Pol was simply dazed.

A sharp stab of pain shot reverberated down her spine, just enough to remind her of the device she was wearing. She couldn’t imagine enduring it for as long as T’Pol had.

“I’m coming!” she said, and went quickly.

Continue to Part 8
Back to Part 6

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