An aura of anger hung around Jonathan Archer. Without having to be told his crew knew not to bother him unless it was important. The Romulans made a suicide run on Earth and managed to inflict pain and suffering, though not as much as they could have because of Trip. His former Chief Engineer and best damned friend he had ever had, Charles Tucker III, risked his life and that of a crew of volunteers to stop the damned Romulan. Damn it, I should have been there.
China had been hit by a nuclear missile. Millions were killed in Hunan Province and the damage to the area was incalculable. The Vulcan Government in exile had offered the use of their best scientist to help with the radiation cleanup. And that was from one missile. Those bastards fired four missiles, but Trip was able to stop three of them.
Archer sat on his command chair waiting to give the order to warp back to Earth. The recall for the Enterprise came from Admiral Forest, Chief of Fleet Operations. As a senior captain, Archer was being called back to take part in planning sessions. All that was stopping him from warping away was the arrival of Shran and the Andorians. With the treaty signed the Andorians agreed to send ten ships to P'Jem to guard the area from Romulans along with the remaining Starfleet starships. They would set up a base there on the planet, as well as participate in the Starbase.
"Sir, we are being hailed by Commander Shran," said Tatupu.
"View screen," he snapped.
Shran appeared on the view screen. He was the first to speak.
"My condolences for what happened to your planet, Archer. These Romulans are barbaric cowards to use such a sneak attack like that. Your people will be avenged," said Shran.
"Thank you, Shran."
"We are here to let you go home, Pinkskin," said Shran. "Go home."
"Thanks. I think I will."
Archer nodded to Tatupu, who killed the connection. It was time to go home. Archer stood up.
"Travis, plot a course to Earth then take us home at warp 5.5," he said.
Archer looked over at Reed who stood over by Tactical making the new Tactical Officer, Lieutenant Eggerton, sweat more than he needed to sweat. Since Eggerton was his replacement he expected a great deal from him.
"XO, the conn is yours," snapped Archer. "I'll be in my Ready Room."
"Yes, sir," said Reed, as he started to the command chair.
Archer stormed off the Bridge and with him he took a sense of tension. The Bridge crew started to relax and Malcolm sat down in the command chair.
"Eggerton, why don't you run some simulations on targeting of the cannons and torpedoes," said Malcolm.
"Yes, sir," said Eggerton.
"I expect your scores to equal or exceed my scores," said Malcolm.
"Yes, sir," said Eggerton, barely able to hide the frustration in his voice.
Travis smiled at the exchange then looked over at Tatupu, who was suppressing a laugh. Malcolm sat back in the command chair. The UE was at war. Yes, it was an undeclared war since the Romulans refused to answer any and all forms of communication, but it was a war nonetheless. Malcolm had been feeling in adequate as the XO of the Enterprise. T'Pol was the incarnation of efficient and she had Trip to help her with personnel problems. Malcolm had a steep learning curve, but as an XO during a war, he felt more comfortable. He hated to admit it but he was better suited for wartime and now he could prove it.
Lieutenant Commander Katsu broke his left thigh bone; Carver had three cracked ribs; Hanna George herniated a disk in her back and broke her right forearm; Trip had a second degree concussion and bruised ribs; and T'Pol had some bruises. Vulcans were tougher than they looked. The rest of the Endeavour's crew had an assortment of broken bones and bruises. Getting caught up in the shockwave from the explosion of the three nukes and the bird of prey was a tough ride. They were beat up, but heralded as heroes. With the tragic bombing of the Hunan Province in China, the UE and Starfleet had decided the public needed heroes to give them hope for the coming war and the temporary crew of the Endeavour was chosen as the first heroes of this war with the Romulan Star Empire. The two heroes who would be front and center for the rest of the crew were their Captain and SubCommander T'Pol.
Each and every member of the volunteer crew was being awarded the Star Cross, while Trip and T'Pol were chosen as recipients of the Starfleet Medal of Honor. The Endeavour managed to save the Earth from an even greater disaster than the one which happened. It would have been inconceivable at the damage and loss of life if all three missiles had impacted Earth.
As the temporary captain of the Endeavour, Trip had become a media sensation, even though he wanted nothing to do with it. The media had told the story over and over how he took command along with volunteers of a ship that wasn't really ready to leave space dock. It was a recruitment poster moment, as one journalist remarked. He was a natural to receive the Medal of Honor. Since anti-alien sentiment was up, T'Pol was chosen as the other recipient. As it was her ability to track the energy ripple by accessing as many sensor arrays as she could, the UE and Starfleet had a Vulcan hero to offset the anti-alien sentiment. Terra Prime wouldn't be allowed to make inroads on this tragedy.
Irritated by the media attention and receiving the Medal of Honor, Trip dressed in his new dress uniform, black pants with long white tunic jacket, for the ceremony being held at Starfleet Command. In his opinion Jonathan Archer was the kind of man you gave a Medal of Honor to not him. Trip just didn't see himself like Captain Archer. He was an engineer pretending to be a commander of ship, while Jon was born to it. Someone rang his door. The honorary guard had arrived at his temporary Earth billet that he had been given to Trip for duration of his recovery. He hated this billet because it kept him from being intimate with T'Pol. Rather than a medal he'd take a weekend alone with her.
He knew that one of the members of that honorary was Captain AG Robinson, while the other was supposed to be a surprise to Trip. His quarters' door rang again. Trip answered it to find AG in his dress uniform along with Captain Jonathan Archer.
"Cap'n, what the hell are you doing here?" blurted out Trip.
"Where else would I be when one of the best damned officers who ever served under me and my best friend is getting the Medal of Honor?" Archer said then stepped into the quarters and hugged Trip.
"Our little lieutenant is all grown up, Jon," said AG. "I remember when he was irritating Vulcans by telling them they were wrong getting right in their faces, too, and he was right. Yes, sir, it turned out that he was right about your father's engine."
Trip stood back. He couldn't believe that Captain Archer was there. It was overwhelming to think he'd rush back to Earth for this ceremony.
"I knew you had it in you, Trip," said Archer then he slapped him on the shoulder.
"I heard we can thank you for having Andorians as an ally now," said Trip wanting to change the subject.
"Well, it looks like we are going to have a lot of drinking to do tonight after the ceremony and dinner," said AG.
"Ball not dinner," smiled Archer then he looked into Trip's eyes. "Your mother, father, and Lizzie are here. You'll see them at the ball. They told me that Dennis and Rebecca couldn't make it but at least one of them is proud of you."
AG looked at Trip with a bemused expression on his face.
"My sister is a peacenik. She believes that all the troubles in the universe are caused by Starfleet," smiled Trip.
"Sounds like my kind of gal," AG beamed.
"Come, Captain Tucker, you have to accept a medal," said Archer.
Trip sat on the main stage with T'Pol seated beside him and mush of the crew of 28 seated behind them. She was dressed in formal Vulcan robes. Prime Minister Nathan Samuels had just finished giving a speech where he declared the militarization of Starfleet in order to stop the Romulans and protest Earth and its colonies, as well as a new policy called Fortress Earth. There would weapon platforms protecting Earth, and a fleet that would keep the fight away from Earth. He also thanked the Vulcans for their help and knowledge in upgrading our fleet and made an offer for whatever was left of their fleet to join Starfleet.
From what Trip could tell the audience, which was a mix of dignitaries, media, politicians, Starfleet, and guests of those receiving medals, loved his speech. Now it was the turn of Fleet Admiral Masamoto to give a speech then hand out the medals.
"We are here today to recognize heroism in the face of tragedy," Masamoto began his speech.
Through their still nascent, yet ever growing stronger, bond Trip felt T'Pol's calm. As best as he could he put up his mental shields to protect her from his emotions. He was getting better at it, though he knew he still had a long way to go, but he didn't want her to experience his nervousness. No, his nervousness was his own. Trip took a deep breath and tried to listen to the speech, but his mind was skating all over the place. He couldn't wait for the ball and some food and a stiff drink or two. Until then all he could do was look like he wanted to there, when he'd rather be cleaning some EPS conduits on a starship.
"It appears that we have an enemy out there that has no conscience when it comes to killing civilians. Three million innocent men, women, and children died in the Hunan Province. Their killers must be brought to justice, the Earth must be protected, and to do so we need more allies like the Vulcans and now the Andorians. We need to reach out to those who deserve it and offer friendship, while prepare to deal with those who do not want peace," Masamoto went on with his speech.
The ball was held on the academy's ground in the primary and largest function room. Everything from speeches to graduations to balls took place in this room. It was a massive room, which had tables, a dance area, and band playing on the stage set up. Trip sat at a table with his mother, father, sister, AG, Archer, and Vice Admiral Jefferies and his wife, Carolyn. Appetizers and drinks had been served. The wait staff picked up the empty dishes and asked if empty glasses needed refills.
"I tell when we got back from breaking warp 2.5 I thought we were all going to end up in the brig," said AG.
"Refill, Captain?" asked the attractive young woman.
"Yes, please. It was Bourbon," Trip said.
Since he wasn't going to get a chance to see T'Pol alone getting drunk seemed like a second best thing to do.
"Make that three," said AG, who then pointed at himself and Archer.
She nodded and left to get their order.
"Trip was already halfway there to the brig," said Archer.
"Best part of the whole thing was Jon here found himself a buddy for life in Trip. They used to talk engines, water polo, football, and exploring space," said AG.
"You men seem intent on getting drunk," said Jefferies with a smile.
"Well, sir, we decided that this might be the last time for a while that we get a chance to get drunk together, so we plan on going until leave is up on Monday or we fall flat on our faces," smiled AG.
"Now I know who to stick close to tonight," said Lizzie with a chuckle.
"Elizabeth Anna Tucker, you are not going drinking with your brother and his fellow captains," said Elaine Tucker.
"Liz, trust me you don't want to spend the night with us. We are boring, especially AG," said Trip.
"I can see that, but I know Jon can be fun and you are my favorite sibling," she smiled.
"She has always knew how to play you, Trip," said his father.
"She's had Trip wrapped around her finger since she was four years old and decided he was going to be her protector," said Elaine.
Elizabeth Tucker smiled.
"And now he's my protector and hero," she teased, knowing how Trip hated to be thought of as a hero.
The wait staff returned with the three bourbons. She then addressed the table.
"We offer three selections for dinner: Lemon chicken with pilaf and asparagus, a vegetarian lasagna, and steak with baked potato and creamed spinach," she told them.
Archer smiled, "I can make this easy for you: the captains will take steak."
"So won't the Tuckers," added Charles Tucker II.
"And the admiral and his wife," added Carolyn Jefferies.
"I'll get your dinners," she said with a smile.
After dinner came dessert. As it turned out the whole table agreed on dessert, which was the German chocolate cake. During dessert the band began to play and people began to socialize. The first to come to Trip's table was Lieutenant Commander Shintaro Katsu and his mother and father.
"Captain Tucker, may I introduce my father Toshio Katsu and my mother Tamao Katsu," said Katsu, who walked with a cane, as his leg healed from regen therapy.
Trip stood up and bowed then offered his hand to Mr. Katsu, who shook it, "Your son is a fine officer. I hope to offer him the position of XO on my ship when it completed."
Shintaro Katsu heard this and beamed with delight.
"My son would be honored to serve with you," said Toshio.
"May I introduce the table," said Trip then he proceeded to introduce everyone at the table.
And so it went for the next forty minutes. Angus MacFadden came by with his wife, then Carver with his family, and George with hers. After each visit either AG or Archer made a sarcastic comment under their breath about Trip's diplomatic skills. Finally there was a lull in the visitors.
"So, Jon, tell us about some of Trip's exploits when he was your Chief Engineer," said Lizzie.
"Well, I could tell you about our last mission before we came home. Trip rescued the heir apparent of Krios and she ended up falling for him. We found them on a swamp planet in their underwear," said Archer, causing Trip to blush. "Now what was her name again? I think it was Kat something."
"Kaitaama," said Trip.
"Kaitaama is the First Monarch of Krios Prime," said Soval, who arrived at the Table along with Solkar and T'Pol, who like Trip wore her Medal of Honor medal around her neck.
"Soval, this is a surprise," said Archer. "We were just talking about the First Monarch and how much she liked Trip when we ran into her."
Trip suddenly felt a hot flush of jealousy through their bond. He glanced over at T'Pol. To most she would have appeared calm, but he noticed the tension around her mouth.
"Fascinating," said Soval turning his attention to Trip. "It appears that we are constantly underestimating you, Captain Tucker."
"Krios Prime is a potential ally in this coming war," said Solkar. "They share a border with the Klingons and seek allies who are strong."
"We are taking up a discussion about Krios Prime sometime soon with the UE and Starfleet," said Soval.
"Maybe you should be involved in those discussions, Captain Tucker," said Solkar.
Trip stuck his tongue in his right cheek for a moment before speaking.
"I'm just a newbie captain. Something as important as that deserves a captain with diplomatic skills like Captain Archer," said Trip. "He'd be prefect for the job."
"It is worth considering," said Soval.
Trip looked at Archer, whose expression threatened violence.
"We came by your table in order to congratulate you, Captain Tucker. You managed a great feat in stopping a cloaked Romulan starship," said Solkar.
"I'd that SubCommander T'Pol deserves the lion's share of the credit. She was the one who picked up the energy fluctuation. The rest of the job was easy in comparison," said Trip.
"Even so, you have acceded expectations, Captain Tucker," said Soval.
"Well, that depends on whose expectations you are talking about," smiled Trip.
Soval couldn't help but look annoyed at Trip, while Solkar seemed interested in him.
"We must have a meal together someday, Captain. I believe that is one of the ways that Humans get to know someone," said Solkar.
"It would be my pleasure, sir," said Trip.
"I would suggest on Friday but Soval and I are travelling to China in order to show our support," said Solkar.
"Well, sir, I guess then we'll do it when it is more convenient for you," said Trip.
Again, he and T'Pol made quick eye contact. He wanted to be with the woman he considered his wife, his adun'a, but keeping their relationship a secret for now was important to T'Pol.
"We must pay our respects to Fleet Admiral Masamoto and Prime Minister Samuels," said Soval, who then offered the Vulcan salute, the Ta'al. "Live long and prosper."
Trip returned the Ta'al with one of his own and said, "Peace and long life."
Soval raised an eyebrow in surprise then nodded. The three Vulcans moved on.
"So, T'Pol was your XO for a while, huh?" AG said to Archer.
"She was an excellent first officer," said Archer. "Why?"
"She's a mighty attractive woman. I don't know if I could have concentrated with her around me all day," said AG.
"She's Vulcan, AG. Vulcans are a little chilly," said Archer.
Trip didn't enter the conversation, but instead hid his smile behind taking a sip of his bourbon. Elizabeth Tucker noticed the smile, though, and this produced a smile of her own. She knew her brother too well not to have seen the furtive glances and the smile. There was something between Trip and this T'Pol. She'd leave it alone for now but only for now.