trekwriter151: by <lj user="cedarrapidsgirl>" (malcolm hoshi)
[personal profile] trekwriter151
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: What's happened to Malcolm and Captain Archer? You'll find out. And the rescue team has a rather unorthodox plan to extricate our heroes out of the mess they're in...and in the process, Malcolm comes to some rather startling conclusions about his own feelings. BTW, T'Pol had been in the Vulcan Security Ministry. It makes sense that she'd been on undercover missions before and can act the part to throw off any suspicion.

Language translation (German, Bernhard and Hoshi): "Verzeihung, Fräulein, aber bitte, kriegt es nicht in die falsche Kehle. Nichts für ungut."(Sorry, Miss, but please don't take this the wrong way. No harm meant.") "Du hast die Stern. Du riskiert Kopf und Kragen, verstehst du?"(You have some nerve/You've got some cheek. You're risking your neck, you're aware of that?) "Er wird mir nichts tödliches gemacht, Liebchen. Nicht so, hoffentlich." (He won't kill me, love. At least, I hope not.")

Brief spoiler for Season 1, "Shuttlepod One" and a "blink and you miss it" reference to my story, "Reed's Raiders." Anyone following the Enterprise RPG on Twitter might catch another inside joke. And there's Saurian Brandy.

R/S and TnT

Please R&R. Not too many chapters after this. :-)


Seven


Malcolm had learned early in his life to trust his instincts. Sometimes that meant not believing everything he saw or heard, and that tendency had saved him more than once. Many people interpreted his caution as mere standoffishness or hostility. He told himself he was there to do his job, not to be liked.

It was that facade that gave him the opportunity to think of a plan to get himself, Captain Archer and Hoshi out of here and back to Enterprise. None of the Trianarians suspected a thing as he leaned casually against a doorway and watched Archer talk with one of the "trade delgates". An Orion male regarded him with a suspicious eye; he merely turned and met the man's stare with his own. The Orion flushed, averted his eyes, and found other prey elsewhere.

Malcolm smirked inwardly. Of course, I might be overplaying the "deadly bodyguard/assassin" act somewhat, but at least they're leaving me alone. He watched as one of the Trianarian medics approach him with a hypospray. The poor man hesitated before finally whispering his question.

"Are you feeling faint, Kv'ohraiy Reed? Do you require a tri-ox supplement?"

He only regarded the medic with cool disdain. "I am fine."

The medic bowed quickly and left him alone. Malcolm resumed his watch on Captain Archer, who was now chatting with one of Prefect Gavva's councilors. He narrowed his eyes as Archer laughed at some witty remark and clapped his hand on the councilor's shoulder as if the two were old friends. Agent Daniels had mentioned a "Federation" of the future, and Archer's role in it, and Malcolm admitted that the captain would be a superb politician.

If we were really here to foster good relations, he would be highly successful right now. Malcolm suppressed a sigh of frustration. When he and Archer had woken up in a guest room of Gavva's mountain retreat, several "delegates" had tried to convince them that they were here on Starfleet's behalf, to observe and moderate the "trade talks" held on Trianara. Archer had been skeptical, until one of Gavva's medics had gotten him with a hypospray of "tri-oxygen." After that, the captain seemed to accept the fiction of their new "mission."

They had also given Malcolm a dose of the same medication, but to his surprise and relief, it had no effect on him. He was clear-headed and well aware of their treachery. Yet he had played along and pretended to be overly protective of Captain Archer...which wasn't any different from what he'd been doing for the past five years. Every morsel of food and drop of drink had to pass his inspection, which annoyed Archer to no end, but Malcolm insisted on doing his job.

And that job mainly involved silently watching everyone in the room. His cold expression kept the curious onlookers at bay. Prefect Gavva avoided him, but Malcolm knew that Gavva kept a close eye on him in particular.

Why did the "tri-oxygen" affect the Captain, but not me? He wondered about that, and hoped against hope that they hadn't done the same with Hoshi. Gavva told Archer that Hoshi was arriving momentarily, but where was she? He found himself worrying more about her with every passing second.

Then she was there, as if she had materialized out of his thoughts. She was chatting with a second Councilor, her bright smile free from any cares or worries. Malcolm's heart sank like a stone; whatever they had drugged Archer with had also affected Hoshi. An older Trianarian woman and an Orion shadowed her like two guardians, their sharp eyes watching her like a hawk. Malcolm revised his escape plan in his mind; this new complication made it more difficult to get his crewmates out of here.

The Trianarian woman gazed at him for a long moment, then she touched the Orion's arm and murmured something in a low voice. The Orion nodded, smoothly interrupted Hoshi's conversation, and whispered in Hoshi's ear. Hoshi's head came up and she spotted Malcolm and a soft smile came over her face. His heart skipped a beat at the unguarded emotion he saw there.

That cannot be...it's impossible that she would-- He didn't finish the thought, for Hoshi nodded at the Councilor and walked towards him. Before he could react, she had wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him into a kiss, deep and full of promise.

God... For once in his life, he didn't care they were in full view of delegates from six different races. He slid his arms around her and kissed her back. Even if this was a result of some crazy mind-control, he was determined to treasure this moment for as long as it lasted.

"So, this is your Kv'ohraiy, Hoshi?" asked the Orion woman.

Hoshi broke the kiss and smiled up at him, her eyes shining. Despite himself, he felt the corners of his mouth turn upward in response. So much for the deadly assassin facade, he thought dryly.

"Yes. Malcolm, this is Sorcha. She's been showing me around and introducing me to the others. And this is Lady Nhori, Prefect Gavva's mother."

His eyes widened as he regarded the older woman, and he immediately saw the family resemblance to Gavva. Nhori extended a hand; he bent over it like a gentleman to hide his surprise. "Ni'Chara. Lady," he murmured.

"You have chosen your mate well, Hoshi. Respectful and devoted. If I were younger, I would be envious of you." Nhori smiled to take the sting out of her words. "My husband needs a bodyguard as well as a translator. Would you be interested in a change of employment?"

Hoshi translated Nhori's question. It took him a considerable amount of self-control to keep the anger from his face, but he only replied, "I am subject to the orders of my captain and my superiors, Milady."

"Then I shall consult with Captain Archer after the conference is finished. Far be it for me to separate you from your Kv'ohraiya." Nhori glanced at him, then at Hoshi, and added, "Any children you would have would be stunning."

Malcolm bit his tongue even as Hoshi flushed crimson to her hairline. Her blush was an interesting contrast to the orange gown she wore. He deliberately ignored how well it fitted her, though he knew he'd probably pay for that later...Don't be such a cad, Malcolm Reed. She is a friend and a subordinate officer. Another part of his mind mocked him, Who are you trying to delude, you stupid git?

Loud voices echoed from the hallway and drew the delegates' attention. Malcolm frowned as one of the Trianarian councilors strode in with a harried expression and whispered something to Gavva. The prefect rolled his eyes in two different directions, then nodded, He plastered an overly fake smile on his face and crossed to the door. A moment later, a six-foot tall Human/lizard hybrid in an elaborate robe slithered into the room. Malcolm's eyes widened in surprise at the sight. What the bloody hell is that?

"The Chieftain of the Saurian Confederacy offers his utmost greetings to the Prefect of Trianara," the being said, with only a trace of a lisp. "Visarr brings his own greetings from his House and is honored to be present here."

Gavva nodded gravely as Hoshi interpreted the words and he replied, "The Prefect of Trianara is honored by Visarr's presence and that the Chieftain of the Saurian Confederacy has seen fit to give him that honor. Would Visarr like to partake of the refreshments before the start of the trade talks?"

The Saurian bobbed his head in approval. "Visarr would like to offer his own gift to the Prefect of Trianara and to the Captain of Starfleet." He extended diamond-tipped claws at the Human bodyguard at the door, who came forward with two brown-colored glass bottles. Gavva's mouth turned upward into a smile.

"Saurian brandy. Of course, we would be willing to partake in a glass or two of such a fine beverage." Gavva accepted his bottle, then inclined his head at Archer. "The captain is there, if you can get past his protector. I believe he may have Vulcan blood, for all the emotion he shows."

Visarr waved a dismissive hand. "Perhaps we can wager a bet, Prefect of Trianara. Visarr's bodyguard against the Captain of Starfleet's protector. Whom would you believe would be victorious in a battle?"

"You would be willing to provide that sort of entertainment at the conclusion of the talks?"

"Why not? If Visarr's man wins, Visarr reserves the right to a larger share of the total profits from the keracite. If the Captain of Starfleet's man wins, both the Prefect of Trianara and the Captain of Starfleet gains a significant share of earnings from the trading of brandy." Visarr waggled his brow ridges at the bottle in Gavva's hands. "Tempting, yes?"

A slow smirk came across Gavva's face. "Assassin versus assassin, then? To the death?"

"On such a historic occasion? Wounded only. Cannot afford to turn the gullets of the weak, correct?"

Malcolm allowed himself a slight smile, for he recognized Visarr's "bodyguard." It took him a hefty amount of his self-control to not laugh at Bernhard Mueller's ridiculous wardrobe. The rather peeved expression on Bernhard's face was most probably not faked at all. The Bavarian positively glowered at him with a look that said, The humiliations I put myself through to save your arse, Herr Kommandant. You owe me for this one.

Malcolm bit off a chuckle and thought, Indeed I do, Bernhard. I am aware that your covert missions for the past two years seem to involve unsightly constumes. Discretion was the better part of valor, though, and he narrowed his eyes as if assessing his enemy's strengths and weaknesses. For his part, Bernhard returned a humorless smile.

A cool voice interjected, "'Gullets of the weak? I resent your implication of our constitution, Visarr. You promised us a grand showing of our joint wealth. Do not dare deny us what we are entitled---"

Visarr waved a hand at the woman who stood just within the doorway. Hazel-amber eyes glared balefully at him as the prominent reptilian brow ridge wrinkled in disgust. Her mouth was turned down in a sneer that Malcolm had never seen before. The royal purple hood hid her ears, but he would know those eyes anywhere.

Visarr made another disparaging gesture at her. "Patience, dear. Business before pleasure, you know that. What say you, Trader? Would you enjoy such a display?"

A silent man stepped into the room and halted next to the hooded woman, who was now sulking at Visarr's dismissal. Malcolm looked into the blue eyes and resisted another grin as he shrugged at Visarr in a careless manner that clearly said, I don't give a rat's ass what you do, as long as you give me a front row seat. Visarr gurgled in laughter and turned back to Gavva. As the Saurian distracted everyone's attention, the Trader gave Malcolm a slow but deliberate wink.

Figures that Trip would be in charge of this rescue. He probably raided his closet for the disguises.

Gavva turned slightly to Malcolm. "What say you, Kv'ohraiy? Are you up to the challenge?"

Archer frowned at Bernhard, as if searching his memory on where he'd seen the Armory man before, but there was no sign of recognition. Malcolm nodded and thickened his accent as he answered, "Very well, then. Wounded only, but only because his master wishes it."

"Very well...business before pleasure, then." Gavva turned to his mother. "Maaaman, will you please escort the delegates to the confernce room, Let us get started on these talks without further delay. The sooner we reach an agreement, the sooner we can enjoy the...entertainment."

Nhori smiled and replied, "I would be happy, my son. Hoshi, if you would assist me?"

Hoshi nodded. She kissed Malcolm on the cheek and whispered, "I'll see you later."

"Of course," he murmured.

She left his side and went among the delegates. She, Nhori and Sorcha began herding everyone toward the door. Malcolm stepped out of the flow of the crowd and watched the various races pass him. It was ironic that this show of "solidarity" was motivated by pure greed instead of a genuine interest in working together. If Captain Archer and Hoshi knew the truth, neither would willing participate in this farce. It was their good natures and "treacly optimism" that allowed the Trianarians to control their minds.

What does that say about myself? Malcolm shoved the uncomfortable thought to a deep corner of his mind. He didn't have the time to wonder about that; the answer unnerved him more than he cared to admit.

He heard a shrill voice over his shoulder and turned to see Commander T'Pol haranguing Captain Archer with a steady stream of chatter and complaints. Malcolm raised an eyebrow at her perfect acting ability; no one would even think that she was actually a calm, rational Vulcan under that disguise. Archer, for his part, looked down at her with a strange expression of tolerant amusement and dawning comprehension. The captain narrowed his eyes at her with another expression that Malcolm knew very well.

Don't try my patience, Commander. It reminded Malcolm of their first year on Enterprise, when Archer and T'Pol had their differences of opinion on how to explore the galaxy. The false cheer in Archer's face vanished for a split second, then his green eyes lit up in understanding.

"Will you permit me to escort you, Milady?" he asked her, gallantly offering her an arm. "I'm sure you and I have some issues to discuss."

T'Pol stopped mid-rant, sighed, rolled her eyes as Malcolm had seen Trip do on occasion, and reluctantly took Archer's arm. Together, they followed the other delegates. Trip appeared on Malcolm's far side and Malcolm heard his words.

"We got a plan to get evidence and then get you guys out of here," Trip told him in a low voice. "Watch Bernhard; he'll give you a signal and when you see it, act accordingly. We'll take care of the rest."

"What kind of signal?"

Malcolm couldn't see Trip's mouth, but he swore he saw the engineer smirk. "You'll know when you see it."

He sighed and resigned himself to fate. What in the world was the rescue team up to? He was about to find out.

*****

The trade talks began just as Malcolm expected: plenty of heated words, disagreements, miscommunication, and self-serving posturing. Malcolm watched from his position behind Archer's shoulder; T'Pol sat on Archer's other side, and Trip next to her. Bernhard stood behind Visarr, and another familiar face guarded another Saurian representative. Travis Mayweather nodded at Malcolm, crossed his arms, and played his role as bodyguard to the hilt. As the discussions dragged on, Travis leaned forward and whispered into Visarr's ear.

"And what about the transport routes from Somai to Arcturus Prime? That skirts dangerously close to the Klingon border; what kind of protection can the Trianarian governnment guarantee the Chieftain of the Saurian Confederacy? Or Starfleet? Or the Orion Syndicate? The Prefect of Trianara must admit that specific route cannot be overlooked."

Malcolm nodded in approval. Travis, with his knowledge of the Boomer routes, was coaching Visarr on what to say. Then Hoshi turned from where she sat next to Gavva and translated Visarr's questions. Her brow wrinkled in concentration, but she was definitely within her element. Again, Malcolm marveled at her ability to slip in and out of several languages at once, without missing a single beat.

T'Pol affected a bored expression and brought out a cosmetic mirror. Malcolm guessed it was a recording device; she captured the images of every person at these "talks" and every word said. Gavva's security cameras also recorded the proceedings. For blackmail purposes, Malcolm thought sourly.

Finally, Gavva called for a brief recess. The delegates rose up from their seats. Hoshi got to her feet and headed in Malcolm's direction...

Bernhard moved so fast that Malcolm wasn't expecting it. Bernhard stepped in front of Hoshi, wrapped an arm around her waist, and dipped her into a passionate kiss for all to see. Hoshi managed a choked exclamation, her dark eyes wide with surprise. Malcolm scowled at the sight; although he knew it was all an act, he suddenly had the primal urge to smack his second-in-command. His face flushed as he realized that the rush of emotion was genuine.

Bloody hell. What has come over me? Hoshi is her own woman; I don't lay any claim to her...Malcolm mentally kicked himself. Right, and who are you kidding, you sodding idiot?

Bernhard finally straightened and eased Hoshi back on her feet with the feather-light touch of a Prussian gentleman. Unfortunately, Hoshi's reaction was less than amorous. Malcolm heard the crack as she slapped him, hard, and couldn't help but wince. Yes, his Hoshi was quite the spitfire...

Wait a minute. My Hoshi??

For his part, Bernhard only grinned as he touched his cheek, which by this time was red from where she'd slapped him. "Verzeihung, Fräulein, aber bitte, kriegt es nicht in die falsche Kehle. Nichts für ungut."

Hoshi stared at him, then Malcolm saw she was torn between laughing and ripping Bernhard's head off. He saw her, the real Hoshi, unaffected by any mind-altering drugs, then she glared up at Bernhard with righteous indignation. "Du hast die Stern," she replied coldly. "Du riskiert Kopf und Kragen, verstehst du?"

"Er wird mir nichts tödliches gemacht, Liebchen. Nicht so, hoffentlich." Bernhard laughed again and rolled his eyes at her. Then he glanced at Malcolm and the humor vanished as quickly as it had come.

Malcolm swore and headed towards him, only to be held back by Captain Archer and Trip. "He dares to touch her," he growled in a low voice. "Prefect Gavva, allow me to teach this...man a lesson."

Hoshi translated his threat, putting as much indignation at the words as she could muster. Of course, Gavva and the others had never heard German before; they assumed it was yet another language of the traders. Gavva smirked and nicked his head toward the doors. As Malcolm made his way through the crowd, he could hear Trianarians and non-Trianarians alike taking bets on the outcome of the "fight". He glared at Bernhard; the Bavarian only regarded him with a dismissive shrug of his shoulders, but Malcolm saw the twinkle in his eye.

Yes, they were going to give them one hell of a show, one that Gavva wouldn't likely forget.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Quite a lot happens in this chapter. The calvalry comes to the rescue. Sort of.

There's a bit of mental communication between Trip and T'Pol, via their bond. Those conversations are in bold. Language translation: German, Bernhard: "Verdammt noch schoen! " (Pretty obvious). "Du wirst nicht allein gehen. Wasser hat Dir gar nicht gern." (You aren't going alone. Water really doesn't like you (or Water and you don't mix). Part of this came really close to being a DMM chapter, but I've got another tale for that in the works.

Spoilers: ENT "Bounty" and "Exile".

Rating: T for language.

Please R&R. Thanks.

Eight


It took all of Trip's self-control not to burst out laughing at Bernhard's antics. The whole set-up had been Travis's idea, with some judicious help from Bernhard and the Armory team. Malcolm's reaction had only confirmed what they'd all suspected for quite some time. Trip felt the not-completely-feigned anger coursing through Malcolm's body as he and Jonathan Archer held him back from pounding Bernhard into the floor. Jon gave Trip a look of amusement over Malcolm's head.

Nope, the Cap'n is no dummy. Even he can see what's in front of his face, even if Malcolm can't, or won't. T'Pol sent a wordless thread of agreement; if that kiss Hoshi had given Malcolm any indication, the comm officer shared the same feelings for the armory officer.

I believe it is that closeness that has counteracted the mind-altering drugs and the Orion pheromones.

Trip blinked in surprise at his mate's observation. What? Kinda like how our bond protected me when the Orions triplets were on the ship? But we've got a Vulcan bond and Malcolm and Hoshi aren't Vulcan. They aren't telepathic. He hesitated, then asked, Are they?

It was T'Pol's turn to hesitate, then she replied, Do you remember that incident in the Expanse with the exiled telepath, with whom Hoshi stayed for a time? He nodded slightly; Malcolm had been close to unbearable to be around during that particular time. She went on, It is quite possible Ensign Sato may have some latent telepathic ability, but she may be unaware of it.

Makes sense. Trip narrowed his eyes as the huge crowd gathered around the marble pavilion just outside the doors. The Trianarian sun shone brilliantly down on them, with the rushing river far below. He made his way through the throng of people to where he could get a good view. Malcolm and Bernhard stood on opposite ends of the plaza, glaring at each other like two gunslingers at the final shootout.

"All's set, Commander," Travis murmured. Trip jumped; he hadn't heard the helmsman approach. "Enterprise is waiting for Commander T'Pol's signal."

He nodded and asked, "How're you holdin' up, Travis?"

"I'm okay, sir." Travis sighed and wiped away a drop of sweat from his forehead. Despite the younger man's reassurance, Trip saw a faint gray sheen under Travis's dark skin. "The anti-phermonone is still working, though I don't think it'll be a good idea to stay here much longer."

"Yeah, I know." Timing was crucial for this operation; it had to be just right. Phlox did what he could at such short notice, but he warned the rescue team that a permanent counter to the pheromone was still far from widespread use. They needed to get out of here now.

He closed his eyes. Darlin'? You hear that?

I did, indeed. I am directly behind Ensign Sato right now.

Careful. That old hag and that Orion are watching Hoshi like two maiden aunts.

T'Pol's reply was dry. I rather doubt they are concerned with Ensign Sato's virtue, T'hy'la.

Trip bit his lip. No, probably not, judging from the old hag's calculating glances between Hoshi and Malcolm, as if she was already planning what to do with their offspring. The more Trip saw of the upper-class Trianarian society, the less he liked it.

There was a blur of activity as Malcolm threw a punch at Bernhard's head. Bernhard sidestepped it easily and countered with an elbow to his side, which Malcolm avoided. Although Bernhard had the distinct advantage of size and raw strength, Malcolm had the speed. Both men put their Armory crew through weekly combat drills, so they knew each other's moves.

T'Pol looked suitably impressed. Although she was familiar with many fighting styles, she seemed mesmerized by the two men's ability to come within inches of harming each other without actually causing too much damage. That definitely took skill.

When Bernhard said they were gonna put on a show, he wasn't kidding, Trip thought. He winced as Malcolm's high kick came within inches of Bernhard's head, and it would have knocked the Bavarian on his ass, had it connected. Bernhard swerved at the last moment, and hooked his foot around Malcolm's ankle, jerking him off balance. Malcolm hit the ground, rolled, and bounced back on his feet. He deliberately wiped a thin trail of blood from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand, and the crowd stirred with anticipation.

"There will be no mercy," Gavva murmured. Trip shuddered at the delight in the prefect's tone. "He will kill the one who dared touch her."

"No death," Visarr reminded him. "Not today."

"I agree with you, but I cannot say the same for Kv'ohraiy Reed. See the glint in his eyes? He is a killer."

"The Protector is an honorable man."

"One does not necessarily preclude the other. It is all a matter of circumstance."

Malcolm could probably kill someone with his own hands, but he followed a code of honor. That was the difference between Malcolm and someone like Gavva. He hid behind subterfuge and lies and caused death from a distance. Trip throttled down the urge to give the man a taste of his own medicine. Situational ethics, my ass.

He truly believes he can do no wrong, T'Pol agreed. Her mental tone carried the disgust she would never say aloud.

Trip heard movement behind him and discreetly slipped Captain Archer a phase pistol from under his cloak. He knew that the rest of the Away Team was getting ready for the huge surprise. Archer moved right behind Gavva, but the Prefect didn't even notice as Bernhard's fist connected with Malcolm's stomach and Malcolm went down on one knee. The crowd gasped in fascinated horror; Trip swore he heard the rustle of credits changing hands.

"No!" Hoshi cried. She made a considerable effort to break away from the old hag's grip, but anyone who knew about her aikido skills saw her attempt to distance herself from Lady Nhori.

Malcolm remained kneeling in front of Bernhard, one hand on his stomach, the other hand out of Trip's view. Bernhard glowered at Malcolm for a several minutes, then he winked.

That was when all hell broke loose.

*****

Hoshi twisted out of Nhori's hands as she heard the shouts from the back of the crowd. Sorcha grabbed her shoulder, but her aqua eyes abruptly rolled into the back of her head and she fell like a sack of potatoes. T'Pol calmly withdrew her hand from the neck pinch as she nodded at Hoshi.

"Commander T'Pol," she said, her voice full of relief. Hoshi spotted a flicker of amusement in the Vulcan's eyes and felt another blush on her cheeks. Everyone knew about her feelings for Malcolm now; that kiss she'd given him had surprised her more than him. She resigned herself to the inevitable teasing, but T'Pol, bless her, invoked the Vulcan sense of priority.

"Are you unharmed, Ensign?"

"Yes, thank goodness."

Hoshi sidestepped a shrieking Orion woman, grabbed her arm and redirected her into T'Pol's second nerve pinch. Hoshi didn't have time to breathe before a melee broke out between the delegates' bodyguards and Enterprise's security teams. She and T'Pol had their hands full just avoiding the worst of the fighting. No one followed any sane rules; Hoshi wove, ducked and dispatched as many attackers as she could. She even bit a furry arm or two.

She'd lost sight of Malcolm, Bernhard and the others in the chaos. The hum of transporters signaled the arrival of more reinforcements from Enterprise. A few of the delegates managed to escape, but Hoshi didn't worry about that for now. She had other concerns at the moment.

A hand closed over her shoulder and jerked her off balance. A harsh voice shouted, "Ve'kah'he uianiar, so'ha!" Green bands passed over her vision and her last thought was, Oh no, not again...

*****

"Sorry about that last hit, sir."

Malcolm grimaced and muttered, "You could have pulled back a little."

"It would not have been convincing enough--" Bernhard broke off as he stunned a Thakamir bodyguard who had been aiming for Commander Tucker. Trip looked over his shoulder, then nodded his thanks at Bernhard.

"I'm sure. And you complain I enjoy my job a little too much." He nodded as he saw a Saurian militia squad materialize behind a group of cowed delegates. "The Saurians are on our side, I see."

"Visarr is a Constable who's been after Gavva for a long time," Bernhard said. "He jumped at the chance to to help when we--Verdammt noch schön!"

Malcolm saw a Trianarian transport beam whisk Hoshi away before anyone could stop it. Behind him, another beam swallowed up Gavva. At the last moment, Captain Archer grabbed the Prefect's arm, and he also disappeared.

"Bloody hell!" he shouted. "Gavva's escaped and Hoshi and the Captain are with him!"

T'Pol came up next to him, her hood down on her shoulders and her ears exposed. Her features were again cool and composed.. She pointed at the tracking device around Malcolm's arm. "We can track them, Lieutenant. We have modified the ship's sensors to detect Human life signs."

Visarr slithered up to Malcolm and bared his teeth. "The Prefect of Gavva tries to hide. We will find him, Protector."

"Glad to have you along, Constable," Malcolm said. "MacKenzie!"

"Here, sir!" Major Fiona MacKenzie answered. The MACO soldier gave him a quick salute.

"Take Corporal Money and DiAngelo and round up the Orions. Make sure you keep the women in a separate room away from the Security men." Malcolm saw MacKenzie's smirk and decided to ignore it. "One of the Trianarians is Prefect Gavva's mother."

"We'll take care of her, sir."

"On your way, Major." Mackenzie hurried off and joined Travis, who was already herding the delegates back into the mountain retreat. Malcolm looked over at T'Pol, who was consulting with Trip about the readouts on her scanner. "Commander?"

"Enterprise to Commander Tucker."

Trip flipped open his communicator. "Tucker."

"Sir, we've got multiple ships trying to break orbit, but the Saurian ships are blockading most of them. We've disabled a Trianarian courier ship that tried to escape at high warp," reported Sergeant Nate Kemper.

Before Malcolm could panic, T'Pol shook her head. "There, on the other side of the river. I'm reading both Ensign Sato and Captain Archer, with Prefect Gavva."

"They are not on the Trianarian ship?" Trip asked her.

"I believe that ship is only a diversion."

Trip scowled and shook his head. "Probably, but better safe than sorry. Kemper, get a security team together and detain everyone on that courier. Pull people if you have to."

"Yes, sir. Doctor Phlox also requests permission to beam down and assist any injured."

"Tell him to go ahead. Oh, and tell the Kikuron Rescue Group that they might be able to return to the surface soon to resume humanitarian efforts once we get things settled down here."

"They'll be happy to hear that, sir. Kemper, out."

"Tucker, out." He snapped his communicator closed and shoved it back into a pocket. "I've gotta get back up to the ship. We've got practically the entire senior staff down here and someone's gotta sort all the headaches up there. T'Pol, you stay down here and help Malcolm with the search."

She nodded, accepting his order despite the fact she outranked him. "Ensign Mayweather may be helpful in calming some of the traders."

"Good idea; I'll take Travis with me." He nodded at Malcolm; it was obvious from Trip's expression that he wanted to stay, but someone had to return to Enterprise. "Get them back, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir, we will." Malcolm traded a salute with both Bernhard and Constable Visarr, and they followed T'Pol down a steep staircase that led from the pavilion, down to the cliff to the banks of the river. He grabbed the railing and carefully followed it. One misstep could be his last, for the stairs were as slippery as Andorian ice.

"There is a bridge fifty meters in that direction that will take us to the other side," T'Pol told him. She had to shout to be heard over the river.

Visarr muttered something under his breath in his native tongue and glared balefully at the swift current. "My people are not fond of fast-rising, bone-chilling liquid. Even the Ones who distill the Waters of Life do not venture out into the river themselves."

Malcolm felt a smile tug on his lips despite the situation. For some reason, the fact that Visarr disliked the water as much as he did made him feel a little better. "The ones who make the Saurian brandy, you mean."

"I will offer you and your mate a whole case's worth, when we finally apprehend the Prefect of Trianara." Visarr bared his teeth and added, "And I would be honored to share a glass or two with you, Protector."

"I look forward to it, Constable."

The bridge loomed large ahead: a sturdy wooden structure that was wide enough for two people to walk abreast. It hung several feet above the raging river, but as Malcolm watched, the occasional surge spilled over the open railing and splashed against the walkway.

"The water's rising. We must get to the other side quickly."

"Can't we just transport to the other side?" Bernhard asked.

T'Pol shook her head. "The rock formations around us make transporter locks difficult. We were able to beam in the security teams only because the pavilion was high above the mountain valley."

"Ach. This just had to get more difficult, nicht wahr?"

Malcolm shook his head. "We don't have a choice, Bernhard. The bridge it is, then. Watch your step, everybody."

Visarr clambered up the bridge steps, using his claws for traction. "Protector, I should cross first and secure the opposite side. The Prefect of Trianara would know we are in pursuit."

"It would be safer in pairs," Bernhard added.

Malcolm nodded; he liked Visarr's tactical thinking. "All right. Commander T'Pol, follow Constable Visarr. Bernhard, we will be rearguard."

"Jawohl," Bernhard agreed, then muttered under his breath, "Du wirst nicht allein gehen. Wasser hat Dir gar nicht gern."

Visarr cautiously made his way across the bridge. Malcolm caught a glimpse of the unease in T'Pol's eyes; Vulcan was a desert planet and the prospect of taking an unscheduled swim in an icy river was hardly appealing. She kept a firm grip on the railing, even as the misty spray soaked them both.

"Our turn," Malcolm said in a low voice.

"Yes, sir."

He took a deep breath and gripped the railing. The thunder of the rushing water reverberated all around them, magnified by the walls of the valley. He resolutely concentrated on just putting one foot ahead of the other. One hundred meters. Fifty. Twenty-five. The wood creaked as the swells pounded against it. An unexpected wave hit the bridge and doused him from head to foot. He grabbed the railing with one hand and steadied Bernhard with the other.

Concentrate! Hoshi needs you! You need to get to the other side to save her, so get going!

By the time they reached the opposite bank, his teeth was chattering so much it made his jaw ache. Bernhard wasn't much better; he looked like a giant drowned rat. Malcolm thought sourly, As long as none of us catch pneumonia, we should be all right. Aloud, he called, "Constable? Commander?"

"I am here, Protector," Visarr called back. He poked his long reptilian snout from the foliage and underbrush. "There is a path cut deep behind this ridge."

"The lifesigns are also in that direction, Lieutenant," added T'Pol.

Malcolm traded glances with Bernhard. "Let's go find them."

`

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May 2012

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