Author's Note: Thanks to JustTripn for beta. Thanks to the reviewers for the reviews! And yes, some of you correctly guessed some of this. This one is short, because the next chapter is the one some may wish to skip.
“Where and when is this attack supposed to occur?” T’Pol said, her voice even, her bearing suggestive of skepticism more than anything else. Tucker, on the other hand, looked deadly serious.
“This may shock you,” Vehlen said, “but they haven’t been keeping me apprised of all the latest details.”
“Then what makes you so certain of their plans?”
“When I attempted to make my report to the Senate, they didn’t want to hear my conclusion that Earth was not a threat to Romulan territorial integrity. Instead, my report was twisted to portray your people as intent on spreading their way of life throughout the galaxy. The Empire was already mobilizing for war. Indeed, my naïve attempts to question the wisdom of this course resulted in my current reduced circumstances.”
T’Pol said, “Earth has powerful allies. What makes the Empire think they can defeat them too?”
Vehlen snorted. “You put more faith in Earth’s alliances than I do.”
T’Pol shared a long look with Tucker, who was staring hard at their prisoner. “We must verify this information,” she said softly.
Tucker looked unhappy but gave her a curt nod. Kendra looked on, confused.
“Vehlen, I wish to join your mind,” T’Pol said. “This will allow us to confirm that what you are saying is the truth.”
He paled. “Romulans aren’t telepaths.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? I find that somewhat surprising. But you don’t need to be. It is not painful … especially if you cooperate.”
“You have no choice.”
“I refuse!” He turned a pleading look on Kendra. “Surely there’s some Starfleet code that applies.…”
T’Pol said, “I believe any relevant Starfleet code has yet to be written. In any case, that will not prevent me in a matter of this importance.” Her voice had taken on a tiny waver of uncertainty, however. Kendra wondered if giving a mind meld to an uncooperative prisoner might carry some risks. Or perhaps she simply considered the prospect distasteful.
“Stay away from me!” Vehlen hissed, backing up as far on the bed as the cuffs would allow him.
Tucker tapped T’Pol on the shoulder and guided her away to the desk, where he wrote something.
“Agreed,” she said, and raised her voice. “Doctor, perhaps you could attempt to monitor us with that scanning device?”
“Of course,” Kendra said. “I’m not sure I’d recognize trouble if I saw it, though.”
“It will have to do,” T’Pol said, with a quelling look at Tucker. “The only alternative is to attempt to stun him with this weapon, but he might not survive that in his current state of health.” She approached the bed. Vehlen shrank back further and raised his knees defensively.
“Trip,” T’Pol said, and Tucker, grimacing, advanced as well. Working together, they grabbed his flailing legs, then Tucker literally sat down on them.
“Is this really necessary?” Kendra said.
“I would not attempt it if it was not,” T’Pol said. She straddled Vehlen’s chest and reached her hand up to his face, though he tried to turn his head away.
“My mind to your mind,” she said.
“Go to hell!” he snarled.
“My mind to your mind,” she insisted, and to Kendra’s surprise, Vehlen suddenly went limp under her hands and blinked trustingly up at her. The two faced off for some time, head to head, in silence.
Kendra exchanged a glance with Tucker, who frowned anxiously.
“Ah?” he said.
T’Pol took a deep breath. “You have been given new orders,” she said softly. “You are to go to Earth. Show me.”
Mind melds were hard work. That much was obvious. T’Pol laboriously prodded Vehlen along as he established an identity, made contacts, and gradually wormed his way into a relationship with a Starfleet officer, Lieutenant Sonia Remley – a lonely young attaché in Admiral Gardner’s office who had a taste for blindfolds. That came in handy later when Vehlen decided, regretfully, that she posed a danger to his mission.
It was bizarre listening to T’Pol’s voice drone, “You have been splendid, my dear. I’m so sorry I had to do this,” as Vehlen relived the memory of injecting the woman with fast-acting poison.
T’Pol gasped and went silent until Tucker reached for her shoulder and shook it.
She fell back against him, all the while staring at Vehlen, who grimaced sullenly back at her.
“Ah?” Tucker said.
“I need…” T’Pol said. She swallowed hard. “I need some time.” She turned and leaned against the engineer’s chest, apparently too exhausted even to get to her feet.
He looked at Kendra, the question clear.
Kendra stared at her scanner. “As far as I can tell, she’s okay,” she said. “Why don’t you take her to the other room, let her rest.” She turned to check on their prisoner – but he was already either asleep or unconscious himself.
Tucker half-carried T’Pol out.
Kendra moved nervelessly around the room, cleaning things up, wondering what was going on elsewhere in space, whether Humans might already be dying at the hands of Romulans.
Wondering how many other lovers Vehlen had meticulously killed in his career.
Kendra gasped awake. She had dozed off in the armchair. She wiped her face of its trail of drool.
Tucker was sitting at the computer, intently searching through files. He had opened a translation window: Kendra saw horizontal English script scrolling alongside the vertical Romulan type.
He picked up a data pad and used a stylus to write, Let’s take the device off your neck.
“Are you sure that’s safe?”
Yes, he wrote.
She nodded and sat down and let him work. It didn’t take long. Even with the device removed, she still felt an odd tingling up and down her neck, and told him so. He shrugged and wrote Will fade.
Right. He’d dealt with these devices before.
Get mine off, he wrote.
“But I don’t know how.”
I’ll show you. He smiled encouragingly at her. He picked up her discarded device and pointed at a red symbol and mimed pressing the tool into it, then the blue one, then back to the red one. He did it a few times. Red blue red, he wrote. Easy.
“Maybe we should wait for T’Pol.”
He shook his head decisively and handed her the tool.
Kendra swallowed and got started. It was indeed easy with him patiently guiding her, and soon she was gingerly pulling it from his neck.
“Better?” she asked.
“Es,” he said, and grinned broadly. “Es! Iuhyawk!” His face darkened and he tried, harder, to say it again, but it was still garbled.
“The effects fade,” she reminded him. “I think you’ll get it back eventually.”
“Opso,” he said, then smiled and nodded. Then his eyes lit up. “Pah!” he said, smiling, as the Vulcan walked in. “I uyawk!”
Her hand went up to her own neck, where her device was already missing. “You removed the devices without consulting me,” she said, plainly irritated.
“Uteh ell ughexeugh oo, itayown eyevuh?” he said, then shook his head in frustration with his own incoherence, or possibly with her attitude. “Ugh!” he said, raising his hands in the air.
Kendra said, “He’s already much improved.”
“Good,” T’Pol said curtly. “I must resume this meld.” She turned and stared at the bed with obvious repugnance and sighed heavily. It was a sound Kendra was not sure she’d ever heard the Vulcan make before, and she turned and shared a concerned frown with Trip.
T’Pol, meanwhile, remained focused on their prisoner. Vehlen was mumbling and moving restlessly in his sleep.
Kendra checked the scanner. “His fever is rising again,” she said. “I’d say he also needs a break from those cuffs, but...”
“He wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of any opportunity,” T’Pol said. “They stay on.” She looked around. “At least the odor in here is slightly less appalling than earlier.”
“Yeah, I cleaned a bit,” Kendra said, sharing another look with Trip. Perhaps T’Pol had been affected by the mind meld with a more emotional being?
Tucker pointed at Kendra and then turned to T’Pol and said, “New ’ose.” Kendra had changed out of the shapeless tunic the Orions had issued them into a warmer robe and leggings she had found in Vehlen’s belongings. She’d had to roll up the leggings and tie them at the waist to get them to stay up, but at least she no longer felt half naked.
“He has plenty of stuff in his closet,” Kendra said, and Tucker went over and started looking. “Why don’t you get something to wear, T’Pol?”
T’Pol ignored her and advanced on the bed. “You may need to hold his legs,” she said.
“He should probably have some more water first,” Kendra protested.
“This is taking far too long already!” T’Pol said vehemently, and swung herself over Vehlen’s chest. He awoke with a grunt and panicked for a moment before T’Pol’s hand clamped onto his face and he stilled.
Tucker hurried over from where he had pulled on a pair of Vehlen’s pants and eyed them both with concern. T’Pol and Vehlen blinked silently into each other’s eyes.
“Oh-ay?” Tucker asked Kendra, gesturing at the pair, still locked in silent communion.
Kendra looked down at the mystery that was her scanner, feeling helpless. “I don’t know.”
Tucker reached out and put his hand on T’Pol’s shoulder and she shuddered briefly. “You must return home. You must make your report,” she said shakily. “Report,” she commanded, sounding a little steadier.
Apparently Vehlen had not lied about trying to argue against invasion. They listened as his frustration at his superior’s reaction was followed by sick realization and horror as he was forced to flee for his life, as he learned of his family’s deaths, as he used his intelligence skills to find a hiding place on an outlying colony. There, he contracted the recurring illness that had seriously damaged his heart. He had bargained with a doctor to operate on him in secret; the doctor in turn had apparently tried to turn him in to the authorities. Vehlen no longer knew who he could trust, no longer had access to what had once been substantial wealth, and his attempt to return to his hiding place on this planet had instead left him in this orbit, hiding from three war birds just as the illness recurred. The Empire was clearly desperately intent on capturing either him or Tucker or both.
“And now my time is at hand,” T’Pol said raggedly. “And there is no one here for me.”
Tucker grabbed her shoulder again. “T’Pah!”
“I need… I must…” T’Pol moaned, and Kendra realized with sick horror that she had begun to grind her pelvis against the Romulan’s chest.
“T’PAH!” Tucker said, and literally yanked her hand from Vehlen’s face and dragged her away from the bed. Vehlen moaned and arched as if to follow her.
T’Pol stood weakly, clinging to Tucker. “He’s … it’s the blood fever,” she said. “The pon farr. When a Vulcan … when a Romulan must mate or die.”
Tucker’s eyes turned to flint. “Den le’em die.”
“You agreed to serve me!” Vehlen moaned, twisting on the bed.
“He didn’t lie to us,” Kendra said, not sure why she felt the need to point that out.
“We should determine whether those ships are still in orbit,” T’Pol said shakily. “We need to get this information to Starfleet. Perhaps it is not too late.” But her attempt to exercise authority broke down rather dramatically when she began to nuzzle Tucker’s neck.
“T’Pah,” he said warningly. “Ships?”
“Trip,” she growled, and reached up under his tunic, then began to mutter insistently in Vulcan.
Tucker turned a frantic look on Kendra.
She said, “He must have set her off somehow. The mind meld? The physical contact? I don’t know.” She raised her voice, hoping to get through to T’Pol. “Is there any way to stop this, T’Pol?” she said. “To delay it?”
T’Pol said something in Vulcan and pushed Tucker towards the door. He tried to hold his ground, but T’Pol was strong. Tucker was grim and red-faced with the effort he was making, and Kendra suspected that being manhandled by a petite woman, even if she was a Vulcan, probably wasn’t helping his mood any.
“Trip,” Kendra said. “My guess is that the more frustrated she gets the more dangerous this could be. Maybe you’d better just…” She raised her hands helplessly.
Trip stared at her for a moment, and then they were gone. In his moment of distraction, T’Pol had pushed him out the door.
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