Travis poked his head out of the shuttle hatchway. "We're ready sir."
Archer nodded and surveyed their work on Shuttlepod Two. It was a patch job but it'd have to do. I hope you were right about this new technology, Malcolm, or there'll be three Starfleet officers at the bottom of that ocean very soon.
He turned to Crewman Michael Rostov. "Tell your boss to keep working on the transporter. We may need that as a backup plan."
Rostov nodded, "Aye sir."
Archer entered the shuttlepod, closing the hatch behind him. Travis was already in the pilot's seat, running through the pre-flight checks, so Archer slid into the co-pilot's seat and hit the comm. button. "Bridge, we're ready."
"The shielding is working?" came T'Pol's voice.
Archer looked at Travis, who nodded. "Energy shielding is at ninety-eight percent Captain, and holding."
Archer nodded and turned back toward the comm. speaker. "It's working. We're taking off."
"Understood. Good luck, Captain."
Then the shuttle bay doors opened and they dropped into space, then the clouds of the upper atmosphere of the planet, until finally the surface of the ocean parted to swallow a second Starfleet vessel.
Malcolm chuckled. "That's not how it goes."
"The lyrics are made up as you go," Trip argued with a mischievous smile.
Malcolm snorted, "Yes, but there are always a few verses that are traditional, and I don't think there's anything about shape-shifting pirates with plasma weapons in sea shanties from the nineteenth century."
"Well, there should have been."
Malcolm laughed, then shook his head and adjusted a circuit in the open panel in front of him. With Trip's encouragement he'd managed to adjust life support to a comfortable level. If he didn't think too hard about it, they could have been in space, just waiting to rendezvous with Enterprise.
He searched his memory for another song and considered a few of the more bawdy ones he could recall. They certainly would have been appropriate, considering the direction of the conversation for the past twenty minutes. But then he smirked, a trace of irony on his face as another came to mind.
"This next one would have been appropriate the last time we were both stuck in this shuttlepod," he said as he stopped his tweaking for a moment. Then he leaned back and sang:
Whiskey is the life of man,Always was since the world began.
Whiskey-o, Johnny-o,Rise her up from down below...
With a startled expression, he stopped abruptly before he'd finished the chorus. Singing the words out loud had sent a chill through him. "On second thought, it's eerily appropriate for the current situation," he murmured to himself as a shiver went up his spine.
Turning back to the open panel of wires, conduits and circuit boards, he could feel all the amiable good spirits that had developed over the last hour vanished in a mere moment. "I hope the captain has more luck ‘rising us up from below' than I've had with this bloody mess," he snapped at the mangled comm. system. "I'm certain salt water's gotten into it somewhere but I don't know what to bypass..." he waved a hand at the helm in frustration, "...since half the diagnostic systems are shot as well." He could feel the anxiety starting to bubble up again. How was Enterprise going to be able to find him if he couldn't help the efforts from his end at all!
Before he could turn to glance at a watery grave waiting outside the shuttlepod window, a warm southern drawl continued the unfinished chorus:
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o,Up aloft this yard must go.John rise her up from down below.
Oh whiskey straight and whiskey strong...
When Trip didn't finish the next verse, Malcolm hung his head and sighed. The mental shock had reminded him that the enjoyable company wasn't really real and singing along seemed vaguely ridiculous all of a sudden. He rubbed his face. It felt vaguely of something else too, but he was loath to name it. He thought he'd gotten over this. He'd spent two years getting over it!
He shook his head to clear the thought. This was just his mind keeping panic at bay. He'd had a concussion after-all, had been nearly suffocated and was only functional now because of the ready-made cocktail of pain-killers that'd been in that hypospray. That's all this was. Unfortunately in the last hour, every time he caught the other man's eyes he felt the stirrings of another kind of vague panic, and he was beginning to welcome every possible task that'd keep him from looking in that direction. His hallucination hadn't made avoidance easy, somehow always remaining in his peripheral vision, and, whether nearer or farther, it had the same effect upon him.
The silence hung there, waiting for Malcolm to decide.
In the end he surrendered to what he wanted apparently more than rescue, set down the hypospanner, looked over at Trip, and finished the verse:
... give me some whiskey and I'll sing you a song.
Trip smiled and continued on to the next verse:
I thought I heard the first mate say...
Malcolm smiled and finished the traditional line:
I treats me crew in a decent way!
That brought to mind a unexpected vision of T'Pol with a tankard of Klingon blood wine, Phlox's Pyrithian bat on her shoulder, saying ‘me crew'. The open panel completely forgotten, it took Malcolm a minute of choked laughter before he turned his back on the panel, sat down and looked up at Trip again. Thinking of someone's Starfleet blues, he offered up another verse with a wicked smile:
Now whiskey made me pawn me clothes,
And whiskey gave me a broken nose.
Trip grinned and sat down next to Malcolm before adding another:
I like whiskey hot and strong,
I'll drink whiskey all day long.
With no trace of irony, Malcolm sang:
Some likes whiskey, some likes beer,
I wish I had a barrel here.
Trip's laughter filled the small space before he added:
Oh whiskey here and whiskey there,
Oh I'd have whiskey everywhere.
Suddenly feeling warm, content, and a little drunk even without a drop of the oft-mentioned whiskey, Malcolm finished the song with the chorus again and this time Trip joined in.
Whiskey-o, Johnny-o,Rise her up from down below.
Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey-o,Up aloft this yard must go.John rise her up from down below.
Malcolm leaned back with a smile and closed his eyes. To his surprise, the gentle rocking sensation of the sinking shuttlepod felt soothing now. The interior space was quiet and comfortable, the atmosphere recyclers having done their job over the last hour to clear the air and, with a deep breath, he realized just how tired he was. Though he couldn't feel the other man's presence, he knew Trip was there, sitting shoulder to shoulder with him. Real or not, it was enough to permit him to relax and give in to the exhaustion.
An hour later a sharp thud rocked the shuttlepod and shook him from his doze. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and tried to focus.
The rocking sensation had vanished and the floor of the shuttle had a more solid, stable feel to it. He scrambled to his knees, then hauled himself up into a chair to check what little status indicators still worked on the helm. The one that had ticked away the meters as the shuttle sank now rested on a number: 7,000 meters.
"This is not good." Trip's tone was dark.
Malcolm rubbed a shoulder and shook his head. "The shuttle can easily handle that depth and pressure. And we've stopped - we're no longer sinking. That's a good thing."
"No, it's not."
Malcolm frowned, "Why not? Look, I really don't want to argue with you right now."
"Technically, you're arguin' with yourself."
Malcolm sighed. "Trip." He'd made his decision. He refused to acknowledge the fact that he was speaking to thin air. Not when things were looking up and he'd seemingly managed to beat his phobia to the farthest corners of his mind. In fact, he hadn't felt this content in a long while. The war was momentarily forgotten, as were status reports, endless repairs of battle damage, and worries about friends near and far. He just wanted to enjoy the company, the closeness and the absence of everything else, even if it wasn't real.
"It's not good," Trip repeated, his tone laced with urgency.
Malcolm stubbornly refused to be deterred from his previously good mood. "Happy thoughts, " he prodded. "Remember? Let's just think happy thoughts."
His answer was nothing but silence, so Malcolm turned his head to give his phantom companion a pleading look. He was startled to find Trip just inches from his own face and his heart beat faster as he stared into clear blue eyes, a warm, tropical-waters color he always thought fit the man they belonged to.
Water. Malcolm blinked. Trip's gaze went to the floor and, heart in his throat, Malcolm's own eyes followed.
The floor of the shuttle was covered in an inch of water. With a shock, Malcolm realized that the impact of the landing must have fatally weakened the already damaged hull.
The shuttlepod was leaking.