Tyvak wore the clothes of a refugee as he walked around the Vulcan refugee encampment. His brown robes were made of rough, thick material and were ill fitting. With the hood of the robe up, he could wear an earpiece that allowed him to listen in on conversations, as he passed by groups of Vulcans. His training as part of V'Shar made him aware of minute details, such as odd uses of Vulcan grammar or words. He searched for anything that would lead him to believe someone was a Romulan spy.
Of course, he was also an expert in Romulans. Though, they looked much like a Vulcan, except for the protruding ridge of their brow, it was their emotional makeup that made them truly different. They were easy to anger and found violence an acceptable solution to a great many situations. In general a martial lifestyle was permeated their society. Tyvak's communicator click making him aware that he had an incoming comm. He took it out of his sleeve's pocket and answered it.
"Tyvak," he said.
"T'Pal here. I have found a most interesting group of Vulcans who have shared information with me that could be of paramount importance," she said.
"Send me your coordinates," he said.
He followed the coordinates to an adobe-like building much like the other buildings. Tyvak rang the bell. It was answered by T'Les.
"You are Tyvak?" she asked.
"I am," he answered.
"Good. Syrann wishes to speak to you."
Trip wasn't a huge fan of space walks in EV suits because zero gravity had a tendency to upset his stomach, but the chance to walk along the hull of the Liberator was one he wasn't about to refuse. His hull design wasn't so much forward thinking as backwards thinking. It was a double hull, two layers of a duranium and tritanium mix metal acted as the hull material. If one layer was damaged or pierced then there was another hull to damage or pierce. Ships carrying oil in the oceans of Earth had double and triple hulls in order to try to avoid leaking oil. Trip's concept was simple: if the shields failed then there were two hulls to take damage before a hull breach. He wanted this ship to be a tough ship.
He and MacFadden walked along the bottom of what was now called the engineering section towards the saucer section. The magnets in their boots caught and released as they strode slowly along. Of course, Trip being Trip he had redesigned the saucer section to look more like an arrow in shape than saucer under the guise of aerodynamics during warp.
"Well, Angus, what do you think?" Trip said into his helmet mic.
"The skin of this beast is tough and beautiful, but now we have to work on the innards," replied MacFadden.
"How is Solaris doing?"
"Brilliant but sometimes he doesn't see the forest for the trees," said MacFadden.
"Let me guess: he can do the most complex math in his head, but he doesn't see simple solutions like bleeding the EPS conduits," said Trip.
"That would be him," said MacFadden.
"Captain Tucker, Admiral Black and Solkar have requested your presence and Commander T'Pol's," said Ensign Mai through his helmet communicator.
"Did they say when my presence was needed, Ensign?" he asked.
"Immediately," she replied.
"Let T'Pol know and get a shuttle ready. I'll be headed back."
Trip took a deep breath and exhaled. He didn't want to leave the work that was being done, but he was obligated to come when called by Admiral Black and Solkar. He looked at MacFadden. The ginger haired engineered looked back at him.
"You know how I like things done, Angus," he said.
"Aye, I do. Great engineers think alike," MacFadden said.
"She's going to be a beautiful ship, isn't she?" said Trip.
"The best damned ship in the fleet," said MacFadden.
"I'm glad you are part of this, Angus."
"I am, too, Captain," said MacFadden.
T'Pol sat beside Trip in the conference room. She could feel his uneasiness flowing through their bond. Bringing her right hand under the table, she took her index and middle finger and touched and caressed his index and middle finger in the Vulcan show of affectation called ozh'esta, finger embrace. This allowed their emotions to merge for a few moments. This simple act calmed Trip and brought a smile to his face.
The door opened and Tyvak, T'Pal, Admiral Black, and Solkar entered the room. They sat around the table. Black broke the silence.
"This is Tyvak and T'Pal. We've mentioned them before," said Black.
Trip and T'Pol nodded towards them and Tyvak and T'Pal nodded back.
"Tyvak and T'Pal met with Syrann while on Proxima. He informed them about something that could be a game changer," said Admiral Black, who then looked at Solkar.
"One of the reasons Vulcan fell so easily to Romulus was because we are not a people united as we should be. Syrann offers us the ability to unite Vulcans in a way that they have not been united in centuries," said Solkar. "Intellectually curiosity and some moral guidelines are not enough to make a people one, but as Surak saved us in the past, he can save us again."
"You speak of the Kir'Shara," said T'Pol.
"Yes, the writings of Surak, unfiltered, unedited, and filled with his original intent," said Solkar. "But there is more, Syrann carries Surak's katra. I have melded with him and felt it, so has Soval. We know his veracity."
"I think this is great for Vulcan and Vulcans, sir, but why am I here?" asked Trip.
"Oh, we'll get to that, Captain, believe me," snapped Black.
Solkar raised an eyebrow at Admiral Black. Black kept his eyes trained on Trip ignoring Solkar.
"Syrann has his followers. T'Pau is a remarkable young Vulcan female who is already a Kohinahr Master. According to Syrann she is a future leader of Vulcan. Another of his followers is T'Les, the mother of T'Pol," said Solkar.
Trip looked over at T'Pol, who merely cocked her right eyebrow at her mate.
"Syrann said he will only trust T'Pol and her mate, Captain Anthony Tucker III, to assist in the recovering of the Kir'Shara," said Solkar.
Trip closed his eyes and exhaled. He, T'Pol, and their relationship had been exposed by Syrann. Now he knew why Admiral Black was glaring at him. This had to be a career ender.
"We believe the Kir'Shara can become something for the Vulcan people to rally behind in order to take back their planet," said Black.
"So far we, as a people, have been taken the invasion and subjugation of most of our people logically and with patience," said Solkar. "Admiral Black hopes the katra of Surak and the Kir'Shara will set a fire to our people's katras."
"Tyvak and T'Pal are now under your command, Tucker," said Black with a hint of annoyance in his voice. "You will also deal with Syrann and his people. I want that ship of yours up and running soon. We are going to plan an attack on Vulcan in order to recover the Kir'Shara. We might not take the planet back but it will shake things up."
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"Oh, I need to speak to you in private when this meeting is over, Tucker. We have something important to discuss," growled Black.
"Before I forget," interrupted Solkar, "I must offer to T'Pol and Captain Tucker my wish for equanimity and prosperity in their mating. I have arranged for a Vulcan monk to verify your bond, so that your bonding can be entered as an official marriage."
"Um… Thank you, sir," said Trio hesitantly.
"I am in your debt, Solkar," said T'Pal.
"As my bloodline leads back to Surak's Clan and yours to T'Klass we are almost of the same clan. You owe me no debt, and I look forward to getting to know your mate better," said Solkar.
T'Pol nodded in her in acknowledgment. Solkar looked at Trip.
"Do you have orders for Tyvak and T'Pal, as they are now under your command," said Solkar.
Trip looked over at Admiral Black then back to Solkar.
"I'll talk to them after I meet with Admiral Black," said Trip.
"I think that is wise," said Solkar.
Trip almost was sure he saw a hint of a smile on the older Vulcan's face.
T'Pol along with Solkar, Tyvak, and T'Pal waited in the small antechamber outside of the conference room, while inside the conference Trip was confronted by Admiral Black.
"What the hell were you thinking? Wait, don't tell me because I don't want to know what you were thinking, but what you were thinking with," yelled Black.
"Sir, I'll take whatever punishment you deem necessary, but just let me finish the Liberator first," said Trip.
"Captain Tucker, I recommend that you sit quietly and let me get this out of my system before you talk again," said Black.
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"Now, Starfleet rules on fraternization are not strict, just simple: no fraternizing within the chain of command, otherwise it is up to captain's discretion. The captain of the ship allows what he will allow. Now that means the captain, XO, and second officer are kind of screwed because they are the top of the command chart. It appears that you saw no problem with fraternizing within the chain of command. What the hell were you thinking?" Black barked.
"Sir, our relationship started when she was Vulcan High Command not Starfleet," he said.
"Tucker, you spoke and I'm even angrier, so let me make this crystal clear to you – you fucked up. Now the part about this that really rankles me is that you are going to get away with this damned behavior. I would love to right now tell you that you better get a JAG lawyer and prepare for a court martial but I can't. No, I have to allow you to get away with marrying a Vulcan, who is in your chain of command and I have to let her stay in that chain of command. Solkar and Soval, who at least seems as disturbed by this news as me, have explained that bonded Vulcans serve with each other in the Vulcan High Command. Because of cultural sensitivities and the need to foster relationships with alien races, I am going to accept your relationship with Commander T'Pol," said Black. "I find myself in a position that I need you and I also need to show the Vulcans that we are an open minded people, even though groups like Terra Prime make that difficult at time."
"I understand, sir," said Trip.
"Do you understand? I don't think you do, Captain Tucker. I am going to keep your relationship secret and so are you. You are going to be quiet about your relationship for now and I am going to write a report and not file it for now," said Black.
"Sir, I will need to let certain people know on board the Liberator," said Trip.
"Your XO, CMO, and two other officers you deem necessary and that is it," said Black.
Back in the antechamber the Vulcans stood and waited patiently, as they used the superior hearing to listen to Admiral Black's dressing down of Trip. Solkar looked at T'Pol.
"Your mate will need your support," he stated.
"My mate has my complete support," said T'Pol.
"May I ask a question?" Tyvak spoke up.
"You may," said Solkar.
"How is it to be mated to a Human?" he asked.
"Why do you wish to know?" T'Pol asked him.
"I find them a fascinating race, though often I have difficulty understanding their reasons for their actions, as well as their humor," said Tyvak.
"It is challenging but I find it satisfying to be mated to a Human," said T'Pol.
"I have found that the emotions that play on the surface of some Humans are not their true emotions. They are capable of layers of emotions and subterfuge," he said. "It is problematic in learning to read them, but it is also fascinating."
T'Pol nodded not responding to his statement then she turned and looked at Solkar.
"Soval does not approve of my bonding," she said.
"He is agitated by it," said Solkar. "I believe the one redeeming aspect about your bonding with Captain Tucker is that he has at least grown a deep respect for him. He believes that Captain Tucker is capable of open mindedness."
Back in the conference room, Admiral Black now sat staring at Trip.
"A Vulcan, really? I heard you had a way with alien women, Tucker, but a Vulcan? They are the ultimate cold fish," said Black.
"They're not cold fishes just different. It's different," said Trip.
"I'd say so," said Black. "Now what does it mean to be bonded? Solkar and Soval gave me an explanation that Vulcans develop some kind of psychic bond with their mate."
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"You have such a bond with T'Pol?"
"What does that mean?"
"Vulcans don't speak about their bonds. It is considered a very private matter," said Trip.
"Well consider me your CO and you aren't a damned Vulcan," growled Black.
"I can sense her emotions and she can sense mine," he said.
"That's all?" asked Black.
"It is a young bond and growing stronger," said Trip. "After a full year it will be fully matured."
"I see," said Black.
The admiral became thoughtful giving Trip a chance to reach out and feel how T'Pol was doing. Her mental barriers were up and strong. She was blocking him. He was starting to hate when she did this.
"She'll be your science office and Second Officer," said Black. "Be discrete and remember that a minimum number of people can know about this for now."
"I understand, sir," said Trip.
Black shook his head, "Well, at least, she is beautiful to look at, Captain Tucker. I don't know if you are the luckiest man alive or someone who can't help but get into trouble."
"I am the luckiest man alive, sir," smiled Trip.
The ECS Harper, Montauk, and Rival kept a tight formation behind the UES Molly MaGuire. The Molly Maguire was a refitted Intrepid-Class starship, which was the forerunner of the NX-Class. It was a durable starship and with the new Vulcan shields and added weapons, it was a tough, well-armed starship.
The new policy was that ECS ships which wanted to Starfleet protection from Orion Pirates or Nausicaan Brigands that they needed to travel in a convoy of a minimum of three ships. For every three ships one frigate would accompany them. It was thought to be a safety measure set in place by Starfleet Command.
Most ECS preferred to be a lone ship traveling from pickup location to delivery point. Their captains reasoned that their polarized hull, one ion cannon, and warp three capability would be enough to avoid most trouble. So far it was true for the ECS but the Romulans had changed all that. They had brought chaos and violence to once peaceful sectors.
The Molly MaGuire's captain didn't like travelling at impulse but the Montauk's warp engine needed repairs. Commander Gregory had his ship on high alert as they traveled at a snail's pace towards the delivery point, which was a new Earth colony called Hoffnung, which meant Hope in German. This new colony was an agrarian one and the ECS ships were carrying food supplies, seeds in stasis, farm equipment and research equipment.
It was unfortunate for the Molly MaGuire that running with shields up and weapons hot was going enough. Four Romulan Warbirds de-cloaked on its bow and they immediately began to fire their disruptor cannons. Captain Gregory knew that he didn't have enough firepower or support to handle this onslaught. He was able to have his comm officer release a deep space buoy with an encoded message telling Starfleet about the fate of the Molly MaGuire and the ECS ships.
The war was heating up.
Archer reported to Rear Admiral Douglas Williams' office promptly at 0700 hundred hours. Williams was waiting for him with a cravat of coffee on his desk and an empty mug. Archer sat down then poured himself a steaming cup of coffee. He took a sip and smiled. It was good coffee.
"As Commander of BETCOM, I've been tasked with two major roles, Jon," said Williams.
Douglas Williams and Jonathan Archer had known each other for at least twelve years. Archer thought of him as a friend, but friendship was hard to maintain with a superior officer. Williams' word was now final.
"My first task is to set up a line of defensive which can quickly become an offensive. We have the starbase at," he paused for a moment. "What is the name of that place?"
"P'Jem," Archer answered.
"Yeah, P'Jem. Well, we need more starbases. We are developing an alliance with the Andorians, but there are more planets that we can approach, such as Krios Prime, Axanar, Coridan, and Risa. I want you to put a small task force together, no more than four starships, two NX and two frigates, along with the Enterprise making the rounds to these planets. You are going to be our emissary to these planets. They know the Romulans and understand what war will mean," said Williams.
"Who is the priority of these four planets?" asked Archer.
"Krios Prime has a modest empire and fleet, but Coridan has shipyards and some say the best warp engineers," said Williams. "Personally, I want a starbase protecting Risa. I've never been there but it sounds like a helluva a place to visit."
Archer laughed. Risa was everyone's favorite planet, at least everyone who liked a hedonistic vacation spot.
"I understand the need for allies, but I'm not a diplomat," said Archer.
"You are my Fleet Captain, which means you will do whatever job I need done, Jon. Plus, you have more deep space experience than UE diplomats," said Williams.
"What's my timetable on this?" he asked.
"Considering you'll be barnstorming four planets in the Beta Quadrant, I think we are looking at six to nine weeks," said Williams.
Archer stood up, "I better start choosing four starships for my little diplomatic task force."
"Task Force: Good Neighbors," smiled Williams.