Trip could hear the argument between MacFadden and Solaris. It was logical, quiet, dignified, and filled with Vulcan stubbornness. Solaris refused to believe that MacFadden's idea on changes to the intermix formula was even worth trying. Since he was the chief engineer, he expected MacFadden to do as he said without argument. Solaris didn't understand that Chief engineers number two had an obligation to argue a point if he thought it was for the best of the ship, at least the number two did in Trip's Engine Room. He cleared his throat and made his appearance know.
"Gentlemen, may I know the problem?" he asked.
Both men turned and faced me. MacFadden looked relieved to see Trip, while Solaris remained Vulcan cold.
"We have a bit of a disagreement, sir," said MacFadden.
Trip looked at Solaris for an explanation. Solaris explained the situation coolly and succinctly. Trip nodded then he looked at MacFadden. The now Lieutenant Commander, who had taken a temporary reduction in rank in order to be part of this ship, smiled.
"Aye, sir, that's the problem. I believe my changes will give us a more stable warp bubble and a more stable warp bubble leads to greater speed," said MacFadden.
"We are well within parameters of stability as it stands now, Captain," said Solaris.
Trip nodded then he stuck his tongue in his cheek for a moment before he spoke.
"Run a simulation using your formula," Trip said to Solaris, "and then one using MacFadden's changes. Whichever is the better will be the one we use."
Solaris raised his left eyebrow in surprise and irritation. Trip knew he was about to say something Vulcan-like which was going to annoy him, so he decided to pull rank.
"Remember, I am not only the captain of this boat, but I am a highly qualified engineer. I expect better than well within parameters on this ship. Is that understood, Commander?" snapped Trip.
"Yes, Captain," said Solaris.
He nodded then headed out of the Engineer Room. As the pneumatic doors opened with a hissed and closed behind him, he started walking the nearly completed corridors of the Liberator. It was a big ship, roomy, and designed to take advantage of that space. The second cargo bay could be configured in a training facility for his Marines, since he was told that Recon Marines like to stay razor sharp by Major Joshua Hayes. A top of his class graduate of Lunar Annapolis, Hayes made Malcolm seem like a lax, easy going bloke.
Walking with his hands behind his black, he thought about his ship and the slowly growing crew. When the ship was fully crewed there would be 285 Starfleet and 34 Marines. It was a big ship indeed. The Daedalus-Class carried a crew of 180. His ship had the biggest warp engine, two impulse engines and a backup, more cannon banks and torpedo rooms than any other ship in the fleet. The Liberator could explore, but he had to admit that it was built for war.
Walking towards him was his XO Commander Shintaro Katsu. He'd describe Katsu as a young man, but he was the same age as him, which just made Trip feel too young for the job he had.
"Sir," said Katsu.
He stopped and Trip stopped walking.
"Commander," Trip nodded.
"Our COB, Master Chief Walton Krieg, has arrived. I took his orders and sent him to the quartermaster to be assigned quarters," said Katsu.
"What is he like?" asked Trip.
"He's a real warhorse. He served on the Republic and the Daedalus. The man has a sterling reputation and a chestful of medals and commendations. I wouldn't want to get on his bad side," smiled Katsu.
"Well, we have a big crew with a lot of noncoms and moving parts, so it will be good to have someone like him on board," said Trip.
"I agree, sir," said Katsu.
Katsu looked as if he had something else he wanted to say, but he was holding back.
"Is there anything else, XO?" asked Trip.
"Are you taking a walking tour, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, I am."
"May I take one with you?" he asked.
"Fall in," Trip smiled and he started walking.
Katsu walked beside him. Trip liked Katsu. He had an immediate trust of the man.
"I haven't had a chance to tour the ship," said Katsu.
"Let's rectify that now, XO."
The two men continued down the corridor taking in the ship. Admittedly, the Liberator would not have been possible without Vulcan assistance. Their ships were larger, more powerful, but Starfleet added touches of comfort which the Vulcan couldn't understand the need for them. Of course, Trip was also proud of the fact that the Liberator was faster and more powerful than anything in the Vulcan fleet. Yes, the Liberator was turning into something special.
Malcolm was sure that he had never seen an ugly Risan woman. He was starting to think that they didn't exist, and if they did that they kept them hidden. Hell, he had to admit that he hadn't seen any ugly Risan men, either, but they didn't interest him. Now the women interested him. He and Captain Archer sat in the plush office of the planet administrator Janal, who was a white haired male.
"We have heard of the stories of how the Romulans have started attacking indiscriminately ships of many races," said Janal. "It appears that they are efficient and leave no one alive."
"The Romulans are conquerors by nature, Administrator. They conquer and if you resist they kill leaving no one alive," said Archer.
"Please, call me Janal, Fleet Captain Archer," said Janal.
He took Archer's words to heart. It appeared that he knew that he was speaking the truth.
"Then you must call me Jonathan," said Archer.
"Jonathan, we are a peaceful planet and we prefer to stay neutral," said Janal. "We have no warships or culture of war. We are just a peaceful people."
"We do not ask you to join any coalition or added ships and people to our fleet, Janal. All we ask is that you allow us to build a starbase in your system, so that we can protect your planet from attacks," said Archer. "All we ask of you is permission to build the starbase."
"Give me details on what a starbase will mean. Are we talking about a great deal of ship traffic?" said Janal.
Archer looked over at Malcolm, who sat with a placid expression on his face and ramrod straight posture. Sometimes it was like he still had T'Pol by his side.
"At all times there will be a minimum of five ships in the system, but more importantly the starbase will be somewhere other coalition ships can stop for repairs, supplies, and, if you give your permission, shore leave for its crew. During a war shore leave becomes important for a ship's morale," said Archer.
Risa was a paradise, but it was a paradise where the inhabitants counted on tourism to retain their lifestyle. Archer was offering him tourism from the coalition. He was offering them a great deal of potential income.
"Who makes up this coalition so far?" Janal asked.
"The refugees of Vulcan, the Andorian Empire, Teller, Denobula, Rigel, and Earth," smiled Archer.
Axanar had refused joining the coalition, though Teller agreed. Starfleet then added Rigel to his list of planets to visit and Rigel joined, while Krios Prime preferred to defer for the moment. Of course Denobula joined without much fuss. Dr. Phlox had spoken highly of the Enterprise crew. Archer hated to admit it but he was exhausted and then still had Coridan to visit.
He observed the Planet administrator as he calculated a steady stream of shore leave visitors. Allowing a starbase just might be a boon for his world and its citizens. Plus, he'd rather deal with this coalition than with the Romulans.
"I need to discuss your offer with the council. It is their approval that is necessary. I am a bureaucrat who runs the planet, while the council makes decisions. If it isn't an in convenience, I can put you up in a hotel suite for a few days, Jonathan, while they mull over their options," said Janal.
"That sounds like an inconvenience that I can live with, Janal," smiled Archer.
He stood up and Malcolm did the same. They offered a gesture of thanks then Archer and Reed left the office. As they walked down the hallway to exit the building Malcolm whispered.
"I believe the administrator likes the idea of shore leave from coalition ships. They may be a peaceful people, but they are also one that likes to make a living off of visitors to their planet," he said.
"I noticed that, Malcolm," smiled Archer.
"I believe you have another starbase for Starfleet Corp of Engineers to build, sir," remarked Malcolm. "I have a feeling that Risa will allow us to build a big starbase in their system."
"That will make three," said Archer.
"Starfleet Command will be happy with you, sir," said Malcolm.
"I hope our next mission has more teeth to it. Diplomacy is necessary but I'm a starship captain not a some trained diplomat," added Archer, as they exited the building.
It was a beautiful day. Above them was a crystal blue sky and a perfect weather for a day at the beach. Malcolm's eye caught the eye of yet another attractive Risan female. She smiled at him. He smiled back.
"Having this place for shore leave just might win us the war," commented Malcolm.
"It wouldn't hurt, Malcolm. It definitely wouldn't hurt," said Archer.
"I look forward to it," smiled Malcolm.
AG sat in his command chair reviewing a PADD with approved shifts by his XO Lieutenant Commander Cole Paris, who stood beside his command chair waiting for orders. Paris had a spit and polish reputation and so far he had lived up to his reputation. He handed the PADD back to him.
"Looks good, XO," said AG. "You did a good job."
"Thank you, Captain."
"I want to start running some targeting simulations. Let's get tactical's proficiency up. I want to make sure we hit what we fire at," said AG.
"I'll arrange for simulations with the Tactical and the armory," said Paris.
"Captain," his comm office interrupted their conversation.
"What is it, Ensign?"
AG shifted his chair to look at the comm officer.
"I'm picking up a distress call from Hoffnung Colony and the UES Riesling, sir," said the Ensign.
"Send a response telling them that the Atlantis is on the way," said AG, who then looked at his helm officer.
The young office came to attention in his seat. AG wanted to chuckle but he suppressed it.
"Set a course of for Hoffnung and engage at maximum warp,"AG ordered.
He sat back in his chair. The war was heating up and this was going to be his first chance for the Atlantis to show off. He wanted his new ship and crew to be at its best.
"What is the ETA?" AG asked.
"Thirty-three minutes, sir, at warp 6," said the Helmsman.
"XO, shields up and weapons hot," ordered AG.
"Yes, sir," said Paris, who then turned and looked at Tactical. "Shields up and all weapons hot. Have torpedoes at the ready."
"Aye, sir," said Lieutenant Mann.
AG nodded his head. The chances were that thirty-five minutes was at least twenty minutes too late. Romulans struck hard and fast.
T'Pol's quarters were beside his quarters, which made for a certain convenience. They both had started sleeping in their quarters even though the ship wasn't completed yet. He knew that it had been a difficult several days for her, so she was in deep meditation tonight. Since he was having trouble sleeping, he got dressed in his casual uniform, which was a pair of uniformed pants, grey British naval style sweater with his rank insignia and pips, and boots, and headed off to his Ready Room. Instead of sleep he could get caught up on correspondence and paperwork.
Entering his Ready Room, he turned on the IS system and opened his messages. The first one to catch his eye was from his sister. He played the message.
"Hey, Trip, my birthday is in six days. I expect you and T'Pol to be at the party and to stay the weekend at ma and dad's place. It is going to be a strict close family affair. Rebecca can't make it, so I expect you to make it. Oh, and I told ma and dad that you and T'Pol are an item so you only need one room. You can tell them how you are mated and why you didn't inform them about that sooner. You shouldn't keep that a secret for too long, Trip. They are looking forward to meeting her. Love you, bro," she said with a big smile.
Trip sighed. His sister had told his parents about T'Pol. Now he had to go to her damned birthday party. He deleted the message. The next one was from Malcolm.
"Hello Mate, I miss your presence on the Enterprise. We have been running a diplomatic tour, so it been boring so far. I can't get used to be being the XO. I could use your advice about a few things. Of course, you are getting used to being a big shot captain," said Malcolm. "Drop me a line."
The next message was from Archer.
"Hey, Trip, I've decided to keep in touch with my fellow Fleet Captain and I started with you since you are also my best friend. I'm playing diplomat rather than starship captain at the moment. We both know how much I love being a diplomat. Since you're still in the Sol System I was hoping you could get some water polo matches for me and send them my way. I need the distraction," said Archer. "Hope to hear from you soon, Trip."
Trip marked the message as important then went to the next one.
"Captain Tucker. I am Syrann. We must find time to talk. You are part of our mission, so I think it best that you get to know me and I get to know you," said Syrann.
Trip marked this message as urgent then stopped. A birthday part, water polo, and Syrann, life was getting more and more interesting for him.
"T'Pol and my mother," he said to himself, ""I don't know if I'm going to survey the birthday weekend."
The Atlantis exited warp speed as it entered the system. Immediately, they were met with the debris from several ships. AG stood up from his command chair as he stared at the view screen.
"Lieutenant Dyson," he called to his science officer.
"Yes, sir," she replied.
"Can we beam some of this wreckage into the cargo bay?" he asked.
"I believe I can, sir, if I bring the shields down for three minutes," she said.
"Then do it," he said.
"Yes, sir," she said.
"Helm, take us to the colony," he ordered.
His XO walked up beside him. Lieutenant Commander Paris leaned in close to speak to his captain, so that no one could hear him.
"The Riesling was here with another frigate called the Delta. There is no sign of either ship," he said.
"Well, Cole, I think the wreckage is the Riesling and the Delta. I think the damned Rommies have been here," AG growled.
The ship came up on the colony. The science officer began scans of the planet and colony.
"Sir, I am picking up massive damage and destruction. Many of the areas are still hot, which means the bombardment stopped fifteen minutes ago at a minimum. Our sensors say that the damage was done by disruptor fire," she said.
"Survivors?" AG asked.
"So far I have picked up no survivors, but there is a series of caves which my sensors can't penetrate. Some survivors could be hiding in the caves," she told him.
"XO," he barked.
Paris stood up straight and waited for his orders.
"Go grab our two fire teams of marines and get down there and search those caves for survivors," he ordered.
"Yes, sir," said Paris.
"Collect evidence, also, while you are down there," said AG.
"Yes, sir," said Paris, who then headed towards the Bridge's exit.
"Oh, Cole," AG said stopping Paris.
"Yes, Captain," said Paris.
"Be careful down there. I'm just starting to get used to you as an XO," smiled AG.
"Yes, sir," said Pairs.
Paris continued his way off the Bridge.
It was a fancy dress celebration for the agreement the council made to allow Starfleet to build a starbase in their system. Many of the crew of the Enterprise were attending in their dress mess uniforms. The large room with doors that lead out to a pool area was decorated with flowers. Risans and some other races were there to mingle and celebrate. Wine and sparkling wine flowed, as did appetizers. Phlox found Malcolm at the buffet table by the pool sampling the food.
"Mr. Tucker would have liked to have been at this party," smiled Phlox.
"Yes, he would have," said Malcolm.
Phlox looked at some of the dishes on his plate and his smile grew even more.
"I truly enjoy those heitz balls wrapped in manna leaves. They are very flavorful," he said.
"I'll try them," nodded Malcolm.
They both noticed Captain Archer schmoozing with the dignitaries of Risa. He seemed to be enjoying himself, though Malcolm had come to know him well enough to know that he'd prefer to be in shorts and playing in the surf of one of the beaches.
"Our captain makes for a fine diplomat," said Phlox.
"He hates doing it," replied Malcolm.
"Maybe so, but he good at it. Being of different races trust him. That is a gift. He should be proud of it," said Phlox.
"It also means that we will be called to do this sort of duty more," he said.
"You don't like diplomacy, Commander," said Phlox.
"I'm more of a warrior than diplomat, Doctor," said Malcolm.
"Maybe so, but by the end of this way we are going to need both warriors and diplomats," smiled Phlox.