Captain Jonathan Archer hated it when he didn't get his way, and it went against his nature to not fight for what he wanted. When he put his mind to something he was almost a force of nature either going around or through obstacles and barriers, but this time he came up against the bureaucracy of Starfleet, which was something not even he could move.
"I'm sorry, Jon, but Tucker stays in our system. The Corp of Engineers and the Fleet Ops both want him working on The Columbia," Admiral Forest stated.
"He's my chief engineer and first officer, sir, I need him," said Jonathan Archer in a voice that betrayed his feelings. He was also his best friend and one of the men he trusted most in life.
"Hernandez will be your first officer. She can use the seasoning before she takes over as captain on a NX starship," said Forest.
"But she was slotted to be the captain of the Columbia," he interjected.
"AG will be the captain. He's had a bucket of Admirals, Vice Admirals, and Rear Admirals from Gardner, Black, Morse, Chan, and Petrov calling for him to be the next NX captain," said Forest. "They also want the Columbia to be faster and tougher than the Enterprise and giving Trip twenty-seven more months to work on its engine and other systems will more than likely assure that."
And having Trip will be a boon for AG not me, thought Archer. He sighed then stood up and started pacing in from of Forest's desk. Admiral Forest was used to this sort of display. He often that Archer should have a command treadmill instead of a command chair since he hated standing still.
"What about my chief engineer? Who do I get?" he asked.
"We've promoted Kelby to Lieutenant Commander and offered him the position. He's brilliant, okay not on Trip's level, but he's excellent. Plus, you'll have Trip's trained staff, except for Lieutenant Hess," Forest said.
"He's young. Plus, I have no idea how he manages people."
"He's only two years younger than Trip at twenty-eight."
"I suppose you're already spoken to Trip about this," said Archer.
"He wasn't happy. He asked for Hess as his number two, so U gave her to him," said Forest.
"Damn it I hate losing him, Max," said Archer. "Trip is the best and I want the best on my ship."
"Jon, you have to accept this," said Forest.
"There is no way I can convince to let me keep Trip," said Archer.
"No and that's final," said Forest.
Archer came to attention and then said, "Yes, sir."
Trip entered the 602 wearing his flight suit uniform and a brown bomber leather jacket. It had been a long day on the Enterprise having his stuff shipped off the starship and sent to his new place in Wyoming near the Cochran Shipyards. He immediately spotted Jon and AG sitting at a table glaring at over glasses of scotch. Heading over to the table he sat down and joined them.
"I hope you two captains let me join you," he said.
"Sit, Trip," said Archer.
"My new chief engineer," AG said goading Jon a bit. "Always glad to have you join us."
"Cap'n, I wanted to stay but Admiral Forest gave me no choice," said Trip.
"I know, Trip, so don't worry about it," sighed Archer. "I now have even bigger fish to fry, a Vulcan observer has been forced onto me."
AG laughed until he was red in the face, while Trip tried to hide his amusement. He knew Jon held a deep resentment towards for how they delayed the warp 5 program never allowing his father to see his engine work.
"Who is it?" asked AG.
"Some diplomatic adjutant," he said. "It was going to be this real stick up the ass known as T'Pol, but she was called back to Vulcan because her finance is ill. Now, it is going to be this guy name Skon."
"Well, good luck with that, Jon," said AG, who lifted his scotch up and toasted him.
"Cap'n, I wish I could be there for you," said Trip.
"I know, Trip," said Archer.
"I tell you, Trip, I've got you now and I won't give you up with a war," said AG.
Archer laughed at this. All Trip had to do was succeed in getting the Columbia up and running quickly and the bucket heads at Starfleet will put him on the next NX to get ready. They know a good thing when they see one.
Thirteen Months Later
Admiral Forest Office, 1430 hours.
"At least, let me have Lieutenant Hess," said AG. "Promote her to my chief engineer if you are going to take away Trip."
Forest sat behind his desk and watched at Captain AG Robinson used his long thin body as a form of intimidation. His placed his hands on Forest's desk, leaned on them, and brought his body forward so he was almost in Forest's face.
"This isn't fair to me or to Trip. He wants to be in space not just building ships in dock," said AG. "Damn it, Max, he is a spacedog and you are keeping him grounded building ships."
"Commander Tucker will be rewarded in time. He is none of concern now, so I recommend that you get your hands off my damn desk or I'll reinstate flogging and have you flogged in from of midshipmen at the academy," said Forest.
AG stood up looking more than a little rebuked. He then took a deep breath and spoke.
"Who will be my chief engineer?"
"Commander MacFadden from the Daedalus-Class starship Relentless will be your engineer. He is going to be training with Tucker for the next two weeks before your shakedown cruise," said Forest.
"The Vulcan's are pleased with the working relationship developed on the Enterprise with Commander Skon as liaison," said Forest. "We are going to have a similar situation on the Columbia, except Commander T'Leah will act as your XO. She has ten years of deep space exploration on her resume, so she should be an asset."
"You've got to be shitting me," he said.
Forest looked at AG, as if he was going to have him thrown in the nearest brig.
"Captain Robinson, I recommend that you thank me that you will be leaving dock so far ahead of schedule then keep your mouth shut and leave my office," Forest said coolly.
"Yes, sir," said AG snapping to attention. "Thank you, sir."
He then turned abruptly and exited the office. Forest picked up the PADD and studied it. Because of Tucker and his skill, drive, and genius, they had the Columbia ready and the Atlantis and Discovery only four months away. The Challenger and Endeavour were in their beginning stages of construction with additions that included an engineering section to go with the saucer section that would allow for additional crew quarter bringing the crew to a compliment of 250, and the Valley Forge was on the drawing board.
According to estimates the Atlantis and Discovery would be capable of cruising at warp 4.8 and reach a top speed for several hours at warp 5.8. The Challenger and Endeavour would have added upgrades and changes to allow them to cruise at warp 5 and have a top speed at warp 6 for ten hours. If the upgrades and changes work then the rest of the NX will be upgraded with them when they return to Jupiter Stations for refitting and crew rotation. AG was right about one thing and that was he owed Tucker. If he had his way then the Valley Forge would be his starship from drawing board to his sitting in the command seat as its captain.
A race of aliens they never heard about before sent a weapon to Earth and cut a scar across its landscape killing millions. Commander Charles Tucker was at work when he heard about this act of terrorism and war. Rear Admiral Jefferies knew that he had family in Florida on the panhandle, so he called him personally with an update. It took days to find out that Trip's parents were killed in the Xindi attack. His baby sister Elizabeth was visiting him, as she just graduated grad school with a degree in architecture, so at least she was safe. Also, his brother David and his wife and two kids lived in Ireland, while his sister Ellen was a college professor teaching Xeno-literature at Yale. His family was safe except for his parents.
Since it was an Energy Directed Weapon there wasn't anything for the Tucker Family to bury. Instead they held a memorial service at a Baptist Church and had two gravestones placed in the cemetery where his parents bought a plot. It was a rainy day as they stood graveside and the preacher imparted his words. Trip was dressed in his dress uniform, which consisted of ankle high black boots, black pants, a grey shirt made of all-weather material with a high collar with rank pips, and finally a short white jacket with his Starfleet insignia, medals, and rank insignia in gold on his sleeve. On top of this he wore a black trenchcoat that he had tied tightly around him, as he held an umbrella over Elizabeth's head.
"I hate this, Trip. They should be alive," she said softly.
The rest of their family stood close by them. Trip scanned the crowd and saw Admiral Black, Lieutenant Hess, Rear Admiral Jefferies, others from the Wyoming shipyards, and Captain Archer. Trip made eye contact with Archer. Jonathan smiled sadly and nodded his head. Trip, whose face was a mask of aloofness, nodded in return.
The preacher finished his little graveside sermon and the crowd started to break apart. Their uncle William Tucker, whose house was spared from destruction, was having a post funeral get together for family friends at his home. Trip handed the umbrella to Elizabeth.
"Go with Ellen to Uncle Bill's," he said. "I see you there."
"Where are you going?"
"I need to talk to someone," he told her.
"Okay, Trip," she said.
Taking the umbrella she shuffled over to her sister, who took her arm and walked her to a waiting hovercar. Trip thanked the admirals for coming and told them about his uncle's place telling them that there would be some good food there then he moved on to Archer.
"Sunny Florida," said Jon with a slight smile.
"The weather hasn't been the same since that damn weapon was fired," said Trip.
"I'm sorry, Trip."
"Can we go to a bar and get a drink?" he asked Archer.
"Sure. The first three drinks are on me," said Archer.
The two men moved off in an opposite direction from the rest of the crowd.
The two officers sat in a booth at a bar called Cooters. They had a pitcher between them on the table and mugs in front of them along with shot glasses filled with whiskey. Trip threw back the shot then he took a swig of beer from his mug.
"I heard that you and the Columbia are going to the Delphic Expanse," he said.
"We are, Trip," he said.
"I tried to convince Forest to get me aboard one of the ships, but he won't do it," growled Trip.
"Listen, Trip, the Enterprise is leaving dock with upgrades making it faster and stronger because of you," said Archer. "Our chances of success of increased because of that, because of you."
"I've been told by Admiral Forest that he wants me to work exclusively on the Valley Forge. If the Enterprise is a heavy cruiser, he wants the Valley Forge to be the first battleship," Trip told Archer.
"I hate this. These ships were supposed to be for exploration and now we are making them warships," said Archer.
"I heard the Vulcans are pulling support."
"They want nothing to do with our mission to the Delphic Expanse," said Archer.
"Then damn them and their pointy ears and superior attitudes," snapped Tucker. "Get those bastards for me, Jon."
"I will, Trip."
Trip took another swig of his beer. He put the mug down and stared at Archer.
"How is Kelby doing?" he asked.
"He's not you," said Archer.
"Well, since I can't go I've arranged for a young talented engineer to go with you. His name is Lieutenant Bertram Monroe. He's got talent, Jon," said Trip.
"How about Hess? Can I have her?" he asked.
Trip smiled and shook his head from side to side.
"She is going to make a fine chief engineer… for me," he said.
"Something you want to tell me about there, Commander," said Archer.
Trip chuckled. "You think Beth and I are having an affair? Jon, I know the frat rules of loose but not that loose and I seeing someone else."
"Okay, what's her name?" asked Archer. He liked the fact that his friend was finally smiling. If he could get Trip to forget about his mother and father for five or ten minutes, he'd feel like he accomplished something.
"Commander Alicia Rossi. She works in Fleet Ops. She's part of Black's staff building a competitive fleet," he said.
"I'd like to meet her someday," said Archer.
"Come home a hero and she and I will take you dinner," he said.
"Really," smiled Archer. "All I have to do is come home a hero."
"You better be fast, too, because I'm going to get this Valley Forge built quicker than anyone expects," Trip stated.
Archer heard the determination in his voice and he had no doubt that Trip would get his ship built and running in record time. He lifted to beer mug.
"To Charles Tucker II and Elaine Tucker may they be resting in the bosom of God," said Archer.
Trip's eyes started to water as he fought back tears. He lifted his mug and said, "Good toast, Jon."
They clinked mugs and drank their beers.
The Enterprise and Columbia were four months gone and Starfleet had already started to make major changes. The Daedalus-Class warp 3 starships were retrofitted and upgraded into warp 5 capable cruisers with better armaments, armor, and a crew of 190, while the Intrepid-Class warp 3.5 capable starships were being retrofitted and upgraded into warp 5 capable frigates overloaded with weapons and with smaller crews of no more than 55. Next, the MACOs were folded into Starfleet as Marines. They would have fire teams on every ship acting as boarding and ground troops and as a backup to ship's security. Finally, they changed the Starfleet uniform.
Trip looked in the mirror at himself in his new uniform. Gone were the flight suit uniforms. They had been replaced by simple, yet more military in style, uniforms. The new uniform consisted of short black boots, black pants with a belt that carried a bio-monitor, and a colored zip up the front long sleeve shirt. The color of the shirt was based on division: gold was command and ops, red was security and engineer, and blue was medical and science. On sleeve of the shirt was rank insignia in gold, pips on the collar, Starfleet badge on the left breast, and ship patch on the left upper sleeve. Trip looked at his new dull gold shirt with its captain insignia and pips. On his left upper sleeve was his Valley Forge patch. Today they finalized his ship's design.
Since regulations stated that the bio-monitor only needed to be worn while on board ship, during an away mission, or unless assigned, he took it off and placed it on the chest of drawers. He didn't need some Starfleet Medical personnel checking his pulse during the presentation. Looking at the chronometer he saw that it was 0700 hours. His meeting with Admiral Black and Rear Admiral Jefferies was at 0830 hours giving him plenty of time to have breakfast. Alicia would be there at the meeting, yet all he could think of was getting his ship okayed and into production.
Taking a look out of the window, he saw that it had snowed overnight. He grabbed his Starfleet regulation winter coat. It was December and soon be Christmas. His mother and father were murdered, so there would be no Christmas for Trip. He'd work through the holiday and he'd keep working until the Xindi were stopped.
The ECS Newton was a day out from Proxima Colony. The cargo ship had a cargo hold of supplies for the Earth colony. Captain Malby had promised his crew a five stopover at Proxima and some much needed shore leave. He stood on the Bridge of his ship and watched as his crew worked.
His crew was twenty-eight strong. Everyone was related either through birth or marriage. Of course, his pride and joy was his twenty-six year old daughter Angela, who would someday take his place as the captain of the Newton.
"Captain, I've got three blips coming our way," said Philip, his sensor technician.
"Put their signature through the computer and tell me who they are," he said.
Philip did as he was told.
"Sir, they're three Orion Marauders."
"What the hell are they doing so close to Proxima!" he barked. "Bring up shields and ready our plasma cannon. Make sure everyone is armed."
His stomach turned. There was no way they would be able to fight off three Orion Marauders. The bastard pirates would take everything in his cargo hold, as well as those they thought would make either a good sex slave or slave laborer, and then kill the rest. This was what Starfleet should be doing hunting down pirates and other threats, not exploring space. Damn them, damn Starfleet for not being here.
Cadet Elizabeth Tucker finished her morning calisthenics. Against her big brother's wishes she joined Starfleet shortly after the funeral of their parents. With her degrees in architecture and advanced mathematics, she was placed in an accelerated program so that she could breeze through the Academy in two years instead of four. She was actually enjoying the challenge.
Unfortunately, one thing she didn't enjoy was the fact that almost every teacher already knew her because of Trip. Unlike her brother she wasn't an engineer genius, though she did know her way around an engine because of Trip. As it turned out she was shaping up to make a fine science officer with a specialty in astro-cartography.
She began her post calisthenics three mile run. Her roommate Anji Sen came up beside her.
"So do you have anything planned for this weekend?" she asked.
"Yeah. I'm visiting my brother in Wyoming."
"Damn, Liz, you need to have some fun."
"I enjoy time with my brother, Anji. Anyway, he was just promoted to captain, which makes him one of the youngest captain's in Starfleet history. He already was one of the youngest full commanders in Starfleet history," she said proudly.
"I'm going to have to meet him someday," she said.
"I don't think so," said Elizabeth. "He's not your type."
"He's my brother," she laughed.
Elizabeth started her run. She joined Starfleet not for revenge but to protect people. What happened to their parents shouldn't happen again and she wanted to make sure of that. She was worried about Trip because he was full of holy vengeance since their parents' death. That wasn't Trip and she wanted to make sure that the brother she loved didn't get lost in this new vengeful one.
Admiral Black and Rear Admiral Jefferies sat on the conference room couch and stared at the holographic mockup of the Valley Forge that floated above the smart table. Both men were impressed with the look of the starship.
Commander Adam Stein, who wore one of the new red shirts, stood beside the smart table. He had trip had designed this ship together. He was describing the ship to the admirals, as Trip stood off to the side with Commander Rossi beside him.
"Nestled between the catamaran split secondary hulls is the Bridge. This helps to bring even further protection to the Bridge. At the back of the bridge there are emissary docking hatches and just below that the circular hatch is the captain's lifeboat, which is warp 2 capable. The rear view at the back of the saucer is the main shuttle bay and shuttle control center, where up to eight shuttles can be kept. This area is also well protected tucked down between the hulls and below the weapons pod flanked by the Nacelles," explained Stein.
"How much fire power does it have?" asked Black, who had a smile on his face.
Stein looked over at Trip and nodded. Trip came walking up to the smart table then he looked at the admirals.
"Length, 464.43 meters; beam, 316.67 meters; height, 87.43 meters. The mass is 3,055,000 metric tonnes," he stated.
"That's a big ship," Black mumbled.
"The holds a crew of 500 and in emergency can transport 1000," he stated.
"Okay, but how are you powering it?" said Jefferies.
"One 1200 plus Cochran warp core feeding the two nacelles, as well as two impulse engines," he said.
"Okay, you are giving it plenty of power," said Jefferies.
"Weapons?" asked Black.
"Eight phase cannons and fifteen torpedo tubes, as well as one railgun mounted under the main deflector array," Trip stated then he looked at Stein.
"We also believe that we might have cracked defensive shields," said Stein.
"From observing Vulcan shields and reviewing sensor logs from the Enterprise of shielded ships we know that deflector shields operate by creating a layer, or layers, of energetic distortion containing a high concentration of gravitons around the object to be protected. We believe that shield energies can be emitted from a network of grid emitters laid out on the object's surface, such as a starship's hull," explained Trip. "All we need is permission to add this to our design."
"I'll get you permission, gentlemen," said Black, "add it."
Black over at Jefferies who was the warp and engineering specialist. Jefferies smiled.
"The only problem I can see is that this ship is so big and expensive that we are only going to be able to build one for now," he said.
"One will make a statement for now," said Black to Jefferies then he looked at Stein and Trip. "You two have definitely given us a battleship. Well done. I want to get on the comm to Fleet Admiral Wentworth to get the go ahead. Why don't you two take Jefferies and Commander Rossi and show them how you expect to build this monster here at Cochran."
Stein chuckled. Black looked at him as if he was insulted.
"Did I say something funny?" Black asked.
"No, sir," said Stein. "It's just that Captain Tucker already has a plan that will quicken the process and may make it cheaper."
Black looked at Trip and said, "Explain."
"We build pieces of the ship down here at Cochran and parts at the moon shipyard, but we put it all together in a space dock, like one of the space docks in Jupiter Station. This way one shipyard is not overly burdened and we don't have to worry about building the ship and getting it off the planet without problems," he said.
"We could even bid pieces out to private contractors," said Black.
"Just as long as we get to inspect the pieces and they pass our quality inspection," said Trip.
"This could cut down on the construction time of this ship, right?" said Jefferies.
"By at least half, sir," said Trip.
Black laughed, "I can see that you want to get out into space real bad, son."
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"I'll talk to Wentworth," said Black.
"Tell him it has my support," said Jefferies.
Stein turned to Trip and offered him a smile. Trip gave him a nod. The two admirals stood up. Both men appeared to be thrilled with what they had seen and heard. Black patted Jefferies on the back then he turned and faced the two younger officers.
"Gentlemen, let's get to work," said Black.
Trip begged off dinner with Alicia, so she returned to San Francisco with Black, while Jefferies stayed in order to spend more time with the Valley Forge specs. Trip was in his office working on his latest idea of added power to the phase cannons by running them through the warp engine. He knew that Adam has upgraded the torpedoes from photonic torps to Mark I photon torpedoes. The more cutting edge tech in the Valley Forge the better was Trip's motto.
Elizabeth shuttled into the Cochran Shipyards at 2100 hours. She was late getting out of the Academy due to demerits she had to work off from her hand to hand combat class. The Marines mixed marital art that they called Semper Fu was almost beyond her ability to master even the basics. Fifteen laps around the track and her demerits were wiped out.
Wearing a winter coat, she made the trek to the check-in post. After checking in with security, she went to Trip's on base apartment to find that no one was home. With her duffle bag over her shoulder, she headed to his office next. She knew her brother well enough to know that he had work issues, as in he didn't know when to stop working. Reaching the office building, she was let in by security and escorted to Trip's office. There she found him working on his computer.
"Liz, damn it, I forgot you were coming," he said as he stood up to give her a hug.
"Alright, Trip, let me guess – do you have anything in your apartment to eat?"
"I got some frozen food and I think there is some pizza in the fridge from last night," he smiled.
"Come on, Big Brother, let's go. I have lots of stories to tell you and I have no doubts that you have plenty to tell me," she said, as she led him out of his office.