"Payment" - Part Twelve
Rating: R (Violence, Strong Language, Adult Situations, Brutality)
Note: Vulcan terms used in this story were taken from the online Vulcan Language Dictionary, the Vulcan Language Institute, or I made them up myself.
Tucker told the engineering Crewman, “Like this. Set the forcefield emitter here.” He placed the small instrument against the base of the reactor. “Now put the next one here.” He placed a second emitter exactly 1.12 meters away from the first. “Continue to space them around the perimeter at those intervals. The back end will remain unshielded, so remember to flare out the shielding at the rear so it intersects with the rear bulkhead. Got it?” She nodded. “The set the next series on top of the side panels, orienting the emitters so that the dispersion will intersect diagonally with the lower row. Repeat the process with the third row at the top of the catwalk.” On the opposite side of the reactor, Rostov was providing one of Ghengis Khan's ensigns with identical instructions.&
T'Pol continued dragging a thick power cable up the catwalk ladder and pretended that she did not hear the conversation. This trip was proving to be quite illuminating in many ways. For one thing, she had never guessed that engineering involved so much brute manual labor. T'Pol vaguely recalled being pleased at Tucker's muscular physique during her time with him, but the fever had distracted her from paying much attention to details. She had since noted that he was relatively strong by Human standards, but assumed it was due to frequent workouts in the gym. She was beginning to revise this theory.
Because of the well known strength of Vulcans, T'Pol had been assigned to those tasks that required maximum physical effort. On the face of it, this appeared to be an entirely logical decision. T'Pol's difficulty lay in the fact that she had spent the last decade living and working under Terran gravity. As a consequence her muscles had atrophied and she was no longer three times as strong as the average Human woman of her size and body type. She was more like twice as strong as a slim Human woman now, if that much. In other words, about as strong as the Human men she was working with.
She recalled her knife duel with Sato and flushed in humiliation. Had T'Pol still possessed her normal strength and stamina she could have defeated the tiny Human woman effortlessly. At the first grapple she could have broken Sato's wrist, and her neck with a follow-up blow within seconds. Instead...
Arrogance had been her downfall in so many ways. Living among Humans she had seen no urgent requirement to maintain Vulcan standards. And she had paid the price. It was humiliating to acknowledge, even to herself, but T'Pol was beginning to suspect that some of the larger Human males might be stronger than she was. The labor she had been assigned was quite strenuous and she was having real difficulty with it. But asking for assistance was out of the question. Even if she could bring herself to ask, there was virtually no chance of receiving aid. Not for her.
The earlier announcement of Colonel Reed's demise had not caused a significant disturbance among the engineering crew. Various shrugs and mutters had occurred, culminating in scattered chuckles until Tucker abruptly ordered everyone to get back to work. Significant glances continued to pass back and forth among the engineering crew, but the commentary ceased. At least, comments pertaining to Colonel Reed's death ceased. T'Pol continued to note frequent, brief but intense interchanges between Tucker's crew and a few specific members of the Ghengis Khan's engineering staff. The newcomers, once apparently briefed, again sought out a select few of their colleagues. The majority of the engineering staff however, including the chief engineer, was not brought into the fold.
T'Pol observed this byplay with deep interest and began preparing herself for a probable outbreak of weapon fire in the near future. Experience had long ago taught her that such clandestine communications almost inevitably heralded a change in the chain-of-command. This being a different ship, Tucker's precise intention was difficult to deduce. But he undoubtedly had a plan that was in the process of being activated. In which case it behooved her to remain alert for any possibility to demonstrate her potential usefulness.
Unless she wanted to remain chained to a fence for the rest of her life, or caged like a Le’Matya in a zoological garden, she needed to demonstrate to her mate that she was willing and able to be an effective assistant. The idea that Tucker would ever accept her as a partner was ludicrously unlikely. But she might conceivably attain the status of concubine. Logically, it was the best she could hope for. There was no place for her among the Vulcans now. Even if the rebellion succeeded, her own people would still cast her out for what she had done. Only if the mutiny had succeeded and Tucker had died with her secret intact could she have returned home. Now that her crime was known, she was forever outlawed by her kind. No other non-Terrans would have her – none would dare trust her. Especially since her own kin called her traitor. Her only place was here, and only Tucker stood between her and slow death at Sato's hands. Her one chance for survival was to earn his approval. She anticipated that it would take several years. But on the other hand, she wasn't planning on going anywhere.
As T'Pol connected to the power cable leads she noted that Tucker was unobtrusively making small adjustments to each of the control consoles. He would pause briefly at each console while Rostov and at least one of the Ghengis Khan's crew stood nearby, then casually move on. Afterward the crewman would instantly take position at the console Tucker had just vacated and begin working on something. In a few moments new equipment began arriving. From her viewpoint on the high catwalk, T'Pol observed that several items remained packaged and were swiftly carried from their transfer crates to ship's storage units without being itemized on the inventory report.
T'Pol eliminated possibilities and extrapolated probabilities at maximum speed. A picture began to emerge, but it was unfocused. Still, the likelihood of violence seemed greater than ever. She shifted her attention toward monitoring the location of Chief Engineer Rotterdam. She noted that Commander Rotterdam was still in his office, whence he had retired after being informed in no uncertain terms that the presence of a Vulcan in his engine room was something that he was going to tolerate, whether he liked it or not. Rotterdam's intolerance for non-Terran's of any breed was well known among the fleet. Non-humans went to extreme lengths to avoid posting to the Ghengis Khan, even those who were not engineers.
The main entrance doors to Engineering whooshed open, and T'Pol glanced over in mild curiosity. She froze in position while transmitting a telepathic shout of danger and alarm.
Tucker dropped the PADD and snatched at the phaser on his belt. Rostov whirled and grabbed his own weapon while scanning the room. “Boss? What?” Tucker blinked and shook his head. The vision had come in a flash, like an after image. But it was crystal clear. And he could still hear T'Pol's wordless voice ringing in his ears, crying out in fear.
“Trouble,” he said softly. “Security from Defiant.” Rostov nodded and slipped off to the side, gesturing toward a group of Defiant's crewman to follow. Tucker put the phaser back on his belt and straightened from his crouch, counting slowly to two hundred. Then he sauntered forward to greet his visitors.
It was Macomber, Delgado, and Weijeira. Tucker felt his scalp tighten. They were Reed's best executioners. Whoever had taken over for Reed wasn't wasting any time. Cole most likely, she was as viscous as a cobra and about as patient. He shrugged. He had expected no less.
“You boys need something?” he asked bluntly in an un-welcoming tone.
Weijeira spoke up. “Colonel Reed left standing orders in case of his death, Commander,” he informed Tucker politely. “Lieutenant Commander Cole has instructed us to carry them out.”
Tucker snorted. “Lieutenant Commander? Already? I see Reed kept her busy. Is she too sore to sit in his desk chair?”
Weijeira ignored the slur. “The colonel ordered that in the event of his death, if no other cause of death could be proven beyond a doubt, his successor was to conclude that you were responsible and was to take appropriate action.” He smiled. “We are the appropriate action.” He moved for his weapon and T'Pol struck him in the middle of his back at the bottom of a flying dive from the catwalk. They both hit the deck with a sickening crunch. Human blood began to pool out from beneath the tangled pair. Meanwhile, a collection of phaser beams emerged from various points in the engine room and intersected at two separate foci, one centered on Macomber, and the other centered on Delgado. Both assassins glowed brightly for an instant, then vanished.
“What the hell is going on here!” Rotterdam came storming out of his office, red faced and sputtering. He caught sight of T'Pol laying atop Weijeira's body. “By the Empress' teats, I knew it! I knew letting one of those murdering aliens aboard was trouble. You should have known better yourself, Tucker. After what they did to your people on Enterprise, how could you think it would be safe to have one anywhere around? I talked the Captain into spacing the ones we had aboard as soon as we heard about that mutiny, and what happens but you turn around and bring back another one! Well I can fix that.” He drew his old style phase pistol and took aim at T'Pol.
Tucker snatched his weapon and fired in a single smooth motion. Rotterdam didn't have time to twitch, much less know what killed him. Tucker sighed, replaced the weapon and turned to look at T'Pol. She turned to face him with a bloody nose and said, “Mission accomplished, sir.”
T'Pol sat in Rotterdam's former office and held a cloth to her bloody nose. Tucker had unceremoniously dumped her there and instructed Rostov bluntly, “Watch her. Keep her there. Keep her alive. If she causes trouble, stun her, but only if you have to. If you stun her, it bothers me too.” Then he walked out, heading for the bridge. Rostov had taken position at the doorway with his phaser in hand, for once not looking quite as hostile toward T'Pol as usual. She was neither shackled nor tethered, strangely enough.
With Tucker's departure the entire engine room burst into low voiced chattering and whispering. T'Pol attempted to pick out individual conversations, with minimal success. The word 'replicator' was being repeated frequently, along with 'shielding' and 'drugs'. She also heard an extremely faint reference to 'regenerative therapy', which caused her to sit upright suddenly and pay closer attention. Her mind raced. Logical connections began to fall into place. References to drugs and regenerative therapy, in conjunction with undocumented equipment being shipped to the Ghengis Khan's engineering personnel, equipment that quite probably included spare parts and specifications for constructing 23rd century replicators... It was all beginning to make sense.
Tucker had eliminated Rotterdam, and he had done it in such a way that he could plausibly claim self-defense. With Sato's carte-blanche to requisition any personnel he desired, Tucker would be able to make sure that the most senior remaining personnel were the ones that he chose. No doubt they would be engineers that he personally knew and trusted, most likely they would be ones that he had leverage over. With this, plus the added incentive of advanced technology from Defiant to provide them with additional status and political power aboard the Ghengis Khan...
T'Pol's eyes narrowed. Yes. It was all becoming very clear. The scope and daring of the plan was quite impressive. If Tucker could manage to infiltrate and insert his own people, engineers who were personally loyal to him alone, aboard every warship in the fleet he would be unstoppable. He would need to proceed with extreme patience, but Tucker had already demonstrated extreme patience and self-discipline many times.
At any point, if Sato or Mayweather gained the slightest hint of a suspicion about what he was doing, the legendary tale of his death would live for generations in song and story. But if he succeeded, then Tucker might very well become the first emperor in history who could never be toppled. No one would ever be able to being him down. No one would ever be able to marshal the physical resources to do it. Without ships and weapons, no one could strike. And without the engineers, there were no ships and weapons to be had.
T'Pol sat in a stunned fog and realized that she faced the potential opportunity to become the bonded concubine of the most powerful Terran Emperor who had ever lived. She might be able to use her influence to gain untold advantages for her people. But first, she would have to gain Tucker's willingness to use her. Then, she would have to keep him alive along enough to finish his work. Then, she needed to help him succeed.
It was going to be a very busy 23.64 years.
Tucker paced back and forth in his quarters and ran a hand through his hair. He was bone tired. T'Pol sat on her mat next to the lavatory with her leg chain fastened and watched him curiously. Her face was smooth but the curiosity came through the bond clearly. He stopped abruptly and asked her, “What did they do to you, anyway?”
She raised an eyebrow. He really hated that. For some reason it got under his hide, and she kept doing it just to aggravate him, she was sure of it. “To what do you refer?” T'Pol replied coolly.
“Ever since those Vulcan fossils did whatever it was that they did to you, this bond feels different. What changed?” Tucker demanded with irritation in his voice. “Before that, I could barely feel you even if I concentrated, even when you were asleep and I was drunk. Now, I can pick up everything. Even when I don't want to. What did they do?”
T'Pol closed her eyes and sighed. “I was blocking you. I did not wish you to become aware of the bond, so I maintained shields, and I did everything I could to maintain barriers between us” She looked at him. “By minimizing contact, I prevented the bond from developing past the initial stage. But when the elders probed me, the strength of the invasion caused my subconscious mind to instinctively reach out for reinforcement to my bonded mate, in other words you. The surge of telepathic power opened the synaptic pathways in my brain to their most active state. Once activated, they will not return to their previous levels unless...” she trailed off.
“Until I die,” he finished for her. She nodded and looked away.
He growled and resumed pacing. “What am I supposed to do with you now?” he wondered. “You warned me. I could feel it.” He stopped and glared at her. “You dove right into him. Didn't you stop to think that you might have been killed? You fool! It might have occurred to you that I was ready for him. You knew that I was warned.”
“I did not think,” T'Pol admitted quietly, looking embarrassed. “It was instinctive. He was threatening my bondmate.”
“Bull,” Tucker snorted. “You tried to have me killed. Now you claim that the sight of me in danger causes you to get all teary-eyed and protective? Tell it to Security.”
T'Pol hunched her shoulders and looked at her lap. “I did not try to kill you myself,” she pointed out. She raised her head. “I never arranged to have you attacked directly or deliberately. I knew that you would probably die, I admit this. But I did not specifically order your death, nor did I deliberately arrange to be present when it happened. Even then, with our bond at its most preliminary level, I would not have been able to stand by and watch it happen without acting to defend you. Even knowing indirectly that my actions would probably result in your death was intensely painful to me. Believe this or not, as it pleases you.”
“Nothing about this pleases me,” Tucker muttered. He turned away and walked over to the port, looking out at the stars. “I should have let you die,” he said distantly. “Better yet, I should have given you to Reed. He would have gotten some real enjoyment out of you, and I might even have been able to use the gift as leverage to buy some influence.” He ignored the small sound she made. Tucker turned around and walked back to stand in front of her again.
A sharp whistle sounded, and the comm erupted in Rostov's voice,
Tucker replied sourly, “Tar Baby.” The comm clicked off. T'Pol blinked and looked inquisitive. He twisted his mouth and said, “Hippity-hop. Bunny rabbit, get it? Long ears? Security just tried to monitor my quarters again. Rostov activated my secondary defenses. Not a problem.” He shook his head while she looked interested.
“Are you confident in the security measures you have in place?” she asked him softly.
“Yeah,” he looked curious.
T'Pol pressed her lips together, then told him, “I believe I have deduced at least a portion of your objective. I wish to assist you.”
Tucker rubbed his eyes and sighed. “Have you now? It figures you would. If I can pick up this much on my end with no more telepathic talent than a Human brain has, I can only imagine how much you are sifting out.”
“Surprisingly little,” she admitted. “Your mind is respectably disciplined. But I have excellent hearing, and there was considerable conversation aboard the Ghengis Khan.”
Tucker barked a laugh. “I'm tempted to issue ball gags next time. But then they couldn't do their jobs. Lose, lose, either way again. You see? Just like you. I know exactly what to do to make sure of your loyalty, but I can't make up my mind whether or not I dare use it.” He walked over and sat down on the bed, looking sad.
T'Pol stiffened, then hurriedly stood up. “Whatever it is, I will submit to it willingly,” she told him. “Your service is my only path now.”
He looked at her speculatively. “I studied the database, ya know.” She nodded. “I looked up everything I could find about Vulcan bonds, especially anything it had about bonds between Vulcans and Humans. I was really surprised at how many times Humans married Vulcans in that other universe. Hundreds of them. And most of them had kids.” T'Pol looked shocked.
“Hundreds? There were hundreds of half-... There were hundreds of bi-species children?” She looked as if she couldn't decide whether to be appalled or astonished.
“Thousands,” Tucker went on grimly. “'Cause those kids had kids too, ya know.” She sat back down quickly, looking pale. He saw her swallow. “Makes you sick, huh?”
“N-No,” she protested. “It is merely unexpected.” She swallowed again. “It is a new idea. As such, time is required to adjust. However there is no reason to expect such a mated pair to refrain from reproducing. Logic dictates that the early results must have been acceptable, or subsequent matings would not have taken place.”
“Huh,” Tucker grunted. “You still look a little yellow around the gills. Here's something that will really churn your stomach. Wanna hear it?”
Her mouth tightened. “I repeat, I am not repulsed. Merely surprised. Further information is not going to 'churn my stomach' as the Human saying has it.”
Tucker said softly, “Really? How's this then. The first ever recorded Human-Vulcan hybrid was Elizabeth Tucker, daughter of Charles Tucker III and T'Pol, daughter of T'Les.”
T'Pol buckled over. She clenched her fists and buried them in her belly, then rolled into a ball. Tucker stood up and wavered, undecided. The waves of pain and despair that he felt rolling off her were almost enough to drive him to his own knees. In some ways it was even worse than when the High Council had banished her. But he wasn't about to put his hands on her. Hesitantly, he moved toward the drawer where he kept the hypo with a Vulcan sedative. Then he stopped in mid-step. A small keening was issuing from her, almost impossible for his Human ears to make out.
Tucker let his shoulders sag. He couldn't do it. “Shit. If she kills me, at least I won't have to deal with Cole.” He walked over to the mat and knelt beside her. “Hey.” Tucker reached out, winced, and gingerly grabbed her shoulder. “T'Pol. Look at me.” The sound tapered off. Her eyes opened in surprise. She looked at his face, then at his hand on her shoulder. She did not move. “Sit up, I am going to show you something. I know I am going to regret this for the rest of my life, but everything else I have ever done connected with you is something that I have regretted, so why should this be any different?”
He stood and stepped backward to the edge of his bunk and waited until she sat up, watching numbly as she brushed away tears. “First, check me on something. I want to see if I was right on what I felt through the bond. Why were you crying?”
T'Pol's chin lifted stubbornly and she met his gaze for a moment. Then she dropped her eyes in defeat. “You already know. Must you humiliate me by forcing me to say the words?”
“Maybe I know,” Tucker spoke as gently as he knew how. “Maybe I don't. This telepathy doesn't come naturally to me, remember? Just tell me, so I can know if I am right. Why did you cry?”
She refused to meet his eyes. “Because I can never have children. Even if we were not bonded, no Vulcan will have me now. Before we found Defiant, I did not believe it was possible for a Vulcan and Human to reproduce. Now that I know it can be done, it is still not possible for me. You would never give me your child. Even if you would, your genes have been damaged by the radiation from the NX warp core. I will die alone, and my line will die with me.”
“That's about what I thought was coming through,” Tucker said. “Remember what you said before, about jumping Weijeira because it was instinctive? That agrees with what the database said. But it also told me some other things.”
T'Pol tossed her head and looked at him. The bond informed her that something had changed recently. Six days ago, Tucker had applied a sedative to her before she slept for the first time since the beginning of her captivity. He refused to offer an explanation for this action. The following morning she sensed through the bond that his attitude had moderated for some reason. She had immediately visited the lavatory to check for the most likely cause, but found no evidence of nocturnal rape. Still he seemed significantly less hostile for some reason. And now, incredibly, she felt real sympathy leaking through as a result of her loss of control. Whatever the cause of it, this was an opportunity that she could not afford to pass up.
“What other things? I know you will believe Defiant's database, whereas you will always assume I am lying unless proven otherwise. This is acceptable to me. I recall the database as being accurate, at least those portions that I have personally read.”
T'Pol braced her hands behind her and leaned back, deliberately pulling the cloth of her coverall tightly across her chest. She had noticed since the opening of the bond that Tucker was readily susceptible to visual stimulation. If Hess could catch his attention by swaying her hips and thrusting her breasts, so could T'Pol. It was working too. She could tell through the bond that her mate was becoming frustrated by having two females that he considered visually appealing flaunting themselves at him simultaneously. No Human male could withstand such temptation indefinitely. She was confident that when his self-control finally broke, the bond would ensure that he turned to her for relief.
She saw him lick his lips and turn away quickly. Satisfaction warmed her. It could not be much longer. None of the Human instructors at the indoctrination center could have held out even this long. The sudden thought darkened her mood and forced her to invoke the Disciplines. She steadied her breathing and concentrated on paying attention to what Tucker was saying. He was continuing on with his recitation of facts that he had gleaned from Defiant's database.
“The reports all agreed that what you said was correct,” Tucker seemed to be distracted about something. He kept looking at the far corner of the room for some reason. “It said that there had never been a recorded case of a sane Vulcan physically attacking their bonded mate. Apparently once the bond is complete it acts to protect itself somehow. Neither partner is able to take direct action against the other. Your own instincts would prevent it. For Vulcans anyway. A Human partner is still capable of violence toward the Vulcan partner though,” he added pointedly, “since we aren't programmed with the same instincts. So don't get cocky.”
“I would never dream of doing so,” she assured him. Tucker staggered and shot her a look of pure disbelief.
“Ri-i-i-ight.” He cleared his throat. “But that's not good enough. Like you mentioned. Even if you can't shoot me yourself, you're still capable of getting someone else to do it. Or setting a trap and waiting for me to spring it. I need something that will keep you from even thinking about getting me killed. I need some way to force you to want me to stay alive.”
“You already have that.” T'Pol stood up again and fingered the collar she wore. “Even without this collar, my life depends on yours. If you die, I would never survive. If Sato did not kill me, Hess or Rostov would. If none of them did, the rest of the crew would enjoy watching me die, simply in revenge for what I did on Enterprise. I have nowhere to go and no one else to protect me. You are all I have left.”
“Then you're in sad shape, lady,” Tucker said tiredly.
T'Pol raised another irritating eyebrow. “This is true,” she agreed. Tucker growled and threw up his hands. Then he walked over to the far side of his quarters to stand beside the ventilation grating. He swung open the grating and reached for the hinge, manipulating it until a click sounded. A small panel directly beside the grating slid aside, revealing a cylinder approximately a third of a meter long by fifth of a meter in diameter. Tucker removed the cylinder and carried it over to hold it in front of her.
“What is?” she asked calmly. Tucker didn't answer immediately. Instead he examined the cylinder carefully, while he held it cradled gently in his hands, as if it contained something precious.
“I've been taking medicine,” he told her abruptly. “We all have. Everyone in engineering.”
“I have speculated about this,” T'Pol told him. “There was mention of drugs earlier. Also something was said about regenerative therapy.”
Tucker snorted, then chuckled, then broke into honest laughter. Through the bond she felt his sardonic amusement. “You really don't need telepathy with those ears, do you?” He grinned at her in admiration, causing her to be taken aback. Something had most definitely caused a change in his attitude. “Since we stole a doctor now, there's not much point in hiding it. Of course, nobody is going to advertise what we did. But Hoshi and Travis aren't stupid enough to block his access to the medical database. And the first time he examines someone from engineering he will see it. The drugs we take have repaired the radiation damage from the NX engines.” He looked at her. “It even repaired the existing genetic damage.”
T'Pol tightened every muscle and stopped breathing momentarily until she could properly regulate her autonomic functions. There was anticipation coming through the bond. He was leading up to something with this line of talk. And now, now, NOW she suddenly recognized where she had seen a cylinder like that before. Shivers ran up and down her spine, uncontrollably.
“So that was why you chose to sedate me,” she said tonelessly.
“Smart girl,” Tucker told her. “You've figured it out, haven't you?”
“There is nothing I can say, and nothing I can do, that would be sufficient assurance for you,” T'Pol told him, staring fixedly at the cylinder. Alternating waves of cold and heat were splashing through her. She raised her hand and reached out to touch it, but Tucker was a few centimeters too far away. She sent him a pleading look, but he shook his head.
“Let's hear it first.”
T'Pol looked back at the cylinder. “Only an assurance of my loyalty that was based on Vulcan physiology would be sufficiently powerful to satisfy you. And only then, if it was supported by the information in Defiant's database. We are already tied with a mating bond. There is only one other connection that could increase my level of commitment to you.” She stopped, never taking her eyes off the bio-cylinder.
“Yeah. You're sharp all right,” Tucker said flatly. “I searched high and low, back and forth. This was the only thing I could find. According to what I found, loyalty to the blood is everything to a Vulcan.” He waited, but she neither moved nor spoke. She just kept staring. “You don't have anymore close blood relatives. They are all dead. At least nothing closer than third or fourth cousin. I checked your service record.”
“Yes,” T'Pol answered as if in a dream. “My parents were killed in service to the empire. All my relatives either died in service or were murdered by the empire.”
Tucker winced. “Yeah. I know. But the point is, you don't have any real close blood relatives to hold your loyalty.” He stopped and lifted the bio-cylinder. “Or at least, you didn't until now.” He handed it to her. T'Pol took it with hands that trembled and eyes that dripped. She bent her head over the self-contained life support mechanism and faintly, almost imperceptibly, deep within, she could feel the whisper soft trace of new life. And she could recognize it.
Distantly she heard her mate continuing. “Loyalty to the blood. I kept running into it over and over. And everything kept telling me that loyalty to the blood of the Child was the most powerful of all. Because the blood of the Child was also the blood of the Self. And the second most powerful loyalty, was loyalty to the other parent of the child. Because the blood of the Child also ran in the blood of the other parent. It said that in all of recorded Vulcan history, no one had ever documented a case where a sane Vulcan mate had betrayed the father or mother of their children. Not for any reason.”
T'Pol knelt on the mat and hugged the bio-cylinder to her breast, weeping silently and unashamed. Tucker hesitated for a moment, then he knelt in front of her. “We have to keep this a secret, you know that don't you?”
T'Pol saw the surge of emotion knock her mate backward and fought hard to contain the torrent of blazing rage. “Yes,” she said thickly. “I understand. No one must know of this. Not even your staff.”
“Too late for that,” Tucker told her. “Rostov knows.” Anger kindled. How dare he endanger their child? “Calm down,” he ordered. “I needed his help with this. But I can trust him. He owes me, big time. And I know enough to put him and his whole family into a labor colony for the rest of their lives. He won't say anything.”
“Hess!” It came out between bared teeth. “She must die. She will kill our child if she knows.”
“No.” Tucker told her firmly. “I need Hess. I know that you and Hess have issues. Keep it under control. Hess is no more dangerous to the kid than anyone else.”
“You desire her!” T'Pol lashed out. “You wish to keep her as a second concubine! You shall not! You are my mate now!”
“Easy! Take it easy...” Tucker backed up warily with his hands raised. He looked nervous. T'Pol felt his uncertainty tinged with fear and realized that her unshielded emotions and lack of control were becoming dangerous.
“I-” She took a deep breath. “I regret my lapse of control. I plead the shock of surprise, and my deep concern for the safety of our child.” Tucker started to loosen up.
“OK,” the tension started to leave his shoulders. “I- um- anyway. I think I should put the bio-cylinder back in its hiding place for now. It will be safe there for the next few weeks. Then we will need to transfer the fetus to the bigger cylinder in our aid station in engineering.”
“Agreed.” T'Pol stood up. “Release me. I need to be free to move if our child needs protection.” Her tone did not allow for disagreement.
Tucker eyed her narrowly. Finally he nodded and knelt to unlock the chain. “Remember what I said earlier,” he warned. “I can still stun you if you get out of hand.”
“Noted,” she said shortly. “You will not have cause. Our goals are the same now. We must both survive and succeed, for the sake of our child.” She placed the bio-cylinder tenderly in its resting place and reached for the hidden switch to close the door. After swinging the grating closed she turned to look at him. “I will need to know the full extent of your plans if I am to assist you.”
“No, you don't,” he informed her. “You don't and you won't. Live with it.”
“As you wish,” she told him reluctantly. “Husband.” He flinched at the word and she made a note not to use it excessively in the future, even though it was functionally correct.
“Let's get some sleep,” Tucker suggested, “0430 comes early.”
“Agreed.” As T'Pol moved toward her mat her mind was ablaze with plans and contingencies. It was absolutely necessary that Hess die. Tucker might, or might not, be considering her as an alternate source of sexual gratification. That issue was almost irrelevant. Almost irrelevant. What mattered was the fact that Hess would instantly perceive that she could never have Tucker for her own mate as long as T'Pol and Tucker shared a child. Killing T'Pol would still leave Tucker with a half-Vulcan child to raise, something that Hess would never be willing to tolerate. Their child would not be safe while Hess lived. Since Tucker would not do it, and would not agree to it, she would have to proceed with caution.
She laid down and glanced at her mate, hearing him sigh with relief and noting the evidence of extreme fatigue. He was working too many hours. She needed to persuade him to delegate more. T'Pol fidgeted briefly, then reversed her position so that her head was pointed toward the opposite end of her mat. This allowed her to see the far side of the room where the bio-cylinder was hidden.
“Cole is another difficulty,” she mused. Lieutenant Commander Cole had long resented Tucker for refusing her advances several years ago. The accident that resulted in the loss of her hand escalated that resentment into blind hatred. While Cole was far from Tucker's equal in intelligence her position as the new head of security gave her the potential to be dangerous. She must be eliminated. This was going to be even more delicate than removing Hess.
Meanwhile, Tucker's plan needed to proceed. The new doctor would either need to be recruited, telepathically influenced, or removed. Despite Tucker’s optimism, knowledge that her mate had been secretly making use of Defiant’s technology to enhance his position among the crew could not become available to Sato and Mayweather. The potential for harm was too high. She would decide the best approach to take with the doctor once she had met him and been able to form a preliminary opinion.
“I should sleep,” she decided. “Tomorrow will be busy. Our child will inherit an empire. I must be ready to do my part to ensure that it is a worthy one.”
(to be continued)
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