T'Les stood on the sand dune with her daughter watching two fire teams of Recon Marines and Major Hayes train along with Syrann, Spanek, and Syvak. Trip stood out under the intense sun alongside Admiral Black. T'Pol could feel his discomfort and his energy flag from what he considered extreme heat and she considered comfortable.
"We have not talked yet about your mate, daughter" said T'Les.
"There is nothing to talk about," said T'Pol.
"I am not here to rebuke, daughter, though one would have thought with the death of Koss and the state of Vulcan, you would have bonded with a Vulcan instead of a Human," T'Les said. "Syrann is impressed with him. He found his mind fascinating when they mind melded."
T'Pol decided to ignore this comment since she was furious that Syrann had melded with her mate.
"I bonded with whom I was meant to bond with, mother," said T'Pol with finality.
T'Les exhaled slightly. For her it was a sign of annoyance.
"I suppose he will be able to deal with your emotions better than a Vulcan. You have always carried your emotions close to the surface," said T'Les.
"I am who I am, mother," said T'Pol wishing their discussion to stop.
"You sound like your father," said T'Les. "He encouraged some of your more unique behavior."
T'Pol greatly missed the presence of her father in her life. She had joined the V'Shar because he was an operative for them. The day Soval came to their home in order to tell them that he had disappeared on a mission was one of the saddest days of her life. It was the first time she cried since she had learned emotional control at the age of six.
"Is it wrong that I should share some of his characteristics?" asked T'Pol.
T'Les thought about her answer for a moment. She considered carefully the similarities between her daughter and her late husband. Pangs of sadness began to rise within her, but T'Les suppressed them. Too much emotion was dangerous for a Vulcan.
"It is not wrong, but it does make your life difficult," said T'Les.
T'Pol felt Trip's frustration and near heat stroke. She closed her eyes and tried to send calm back to her K'diwa.
"Is your mate being overly emotional?" asked T'Les.
"Even though he comes from a part of Earth with a warmer climate, he does not like the heat. I assume this comes from growing up on the beach near the water, which provides a cool breeze and relief," said T'Pol.
"You should attend to your mate then," said T'Les. "We will have time to speak."
"I cannot say that I look forward to that discussion," said T'Pol.
She strode away from her mother and towards Trip. As she got closer to him, she thought she heard his voice. I'm sweating like a pig and all I'm doing is standing out in the sun. Imagine if I was training with the Marines.
K'diwa, I can hear your thoughts.
T'Pol saw Trip's face morph from surprise to a mask of calm in seconds.
Darlin', you are going to have to train me how to block you out or this might get a tad embarrassing for me.
I shall train, K'diwa.
Thank you, darlin'.
Jonathan Archer stared in the mirror at the new pips on his collar and snarled. His latest bit of diplomacy had bought him a promotion to rear admiral. He wasn't ready yet to give up his position as captain and on top of that he already thought Starfleet had too many admirals. There were only three saving graces to this promotion: one, Erica Hernandez was replacing him as fleet captain; two, he was now superior in rank to AG; and three, they put him in charge of the 2nd Fleet making him almost as powerful as Rear Admiral Douglas Williams. He'd have more than a little say on how BETACOM will deal with the Romulans and the first step will be to argue that BETACOM and the 2nd Fleet should be in charge of establishing the DMZ.
The doorbell to his temporary quarters on Starfleet Headquarters compound clanged. Archer answered the door to see T'Pol with a coppery tan and beside her a sunburned Trip. Before he could even control himself, Archer laughed.
"Very funny, Rear Admiral," said Trip. "I'm sorry we couldn't be at you promotion ceremony, but T'Pol and I were in the Sahara observing two fire teams of my Recon Marines train."
"Damn, Trip, did you forget the sun block?" asked Archer.
"Yes, sir, I did," he answered.
"Come on in you two," said Archer.
They stepped into the apartment. T'Pol inclined her head towards Archer and said, "Congratulations, Rear Admiral."
"Thank you, T'Pol," said Archer.
He saw his former officers standing there side by side and smiled. Personal space was always an important matter for T'Pol on the Enterprise. As he found out that as a touch telepath, she preferred to have a buffer zone between herself and other beings. Here she was standing so close to Trip that their knuckles touched. They had a story to tell and he hoped to someday to hear it.
"Erica has agreed to meet us at an Italian restaurant in Haight Ashbury so we can celebrate both your promotions," said Trip.
Archer smiled. He looked forward to seeing Erica, who was now serving under him in BETACOM.
"Why Italian?" asked Archer.
"There are a lot of different vegetarian pasta dishes there for T'Pol to choose from," answered Trip, "and there is spaghetti with meatballs and Italian sausage for you and me."
Trip grinned, which made Archer grin. He missed the company of this man. Archer never had a problem making friends, but he always kept them at a certain distance because he viewed them as either competitors or potential contact who could help him achieve his goals. Charles Anthony Tucker III was the first person he allowed to truly become a close friend.
"Is Erica meeting us there?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"Well, let's get going," said Archer.
"Aye, aye, sir," smiled Trip.
AG was on his fifth scotch on the rocks at the 602. He sat at a table by himself and toasted the dead. Duvall had assured him that his actions were justified, but he could help but feel that he had run when he should have stayed and fought. Then again, Duvall and Starfleet Command had put Rear Admiral Dmitri Ivanov in command of the growing 1st Fleet. He lifted his glass and took another long drink of his scotch.
When they returned to Starbase 6, which had become ALPHACOM's headquarters, he half expected an IAD investigation or perhaps a court marital for incompetence. The very least he expected to lose his position of fleet captain. He saw the newly promoted Captain Malcolm Reed enter the bar. He was there along with Lieutenant Commander Mayweather and Lieutenant Commander Sato, as well as an attractive female Marine. Her rank was Gunnery Sergeant. They were probably here to celebrate Reed's promotion, as well as their former commanding officer Jon's promotion.
AG lifted his glass in a toast to Rear Admiral Jonathan Archer and finished off the liquid in it. It looked like once again Jon had beat him to the punch. AG looked at a waitress passing by and grabbed her.
"I'll have another," he said.
"Are you sure about that, handsome? You already drunk," she said.
"Not drunk enough," he said.
"I'll get you another," she said.
The waitress headed over to the bar. AG looked over to the table with the former Enterprise officers. They were ordering drinks from Ruby. They had more to celebrate than he did. His star had faltered, but he wasn't down and out yet.
Archer entered the office of Rear Admiral Williams. This was their first meeting with Archer having been put in charge of the 2nd fleet. Archer had heard rumors that Williams was against his promotion, which didn't surprise him. When he was a commander and an aide to Admiral Forest, he was against Archer getting the Enterprise. He was one of those who thought AG would have been the better choice.
"Hey, Jon," said Williams, as Archer entered.
There was a smart table set up in the middle of the room and a holographic image of the Beta Quadrant. He could see that Williams had been studying it.
"Sir," said Archer.
"We are the same rank now, Jon. Call me Doug. Can I get you some coffee?" asked Williams.
"I've already had three cups, Doug," said Jon.
Williams motioned him to take a seat in one of the chairs in front of his desk. Archer chose one and sat down.
"Fleet Admiral Masamoto has decided that establishing a DMZ will now be a joint operation between ALPHACOM and BETACOM," said Williams.
"Should I prepare a small fleet to participate?" asked Archer.
"No," said Williams. "Fleet Captain Hernandez and twenty-give ships and Fleet Captain Robinson and twenty-five ships will become Task Force: Fence. You and your 2nd Fleet will be on standby to move in with support in case they need assistance."
"You want one hundred twelve ships on standby?" asked Archer.
"I'm sorry but it's necessary. We can't have another disaster like the last time we tried to set up this sensor net with the buoys establishing the DMZ," said Williams.
"Do we have any intel on what the Romulans have established in the area?" asked Archer.
"No," said Williams.
Suddenly, Archer had a little more respect for Section 31. I bet Section 31 has intel for me to use, he thought.
"What is the ETA for this?" asked Archer.
"The sooner the better."
AG and a combination of twenty-five frigates and cruisers under his command were tasked with dropping the buoys to setup the sensor net. He sat on his command chair acting as if was a frying pan because he couldn't sit still. He kept shifting right butt cheek to left butt cheek. Captain Hernandez and her mainly cruisers were flying CAP for them.
"Sir, ships are reporting in and we only have sixty buoys left to drop," said Lieutenant Commander Paris.
AG was about to respond when his science officer interrupted.
"Sir, on long range sensors I am up an armada of 125 starships. According to our records the ships appear to be Xindi-Reptilian and Xindi-Insectoid ships," he called out.
"Shields up" he demanded. "Make weapons hot."
Paris joined the Tactical Officer and started to prep weapons and targeting.
"Comm, get me captain Hernandez," AG called out.
"Aye, aye, sir," said comm officer.
AG watched the view screen waiting for Erica's face to appear. Finally, it did. She looked calm.
"Did you pick up the same thing as us?" he asked.
"Yes, AG, we are in for a tussle."
AG had to laugh. She was cool as a cucumber. He had to admire her.
"So, we fight?" he asked.
"We fight. I just talked to Jon. He is on the way with the 2nd Fleet," she said.
"I'm recalling my ships and setting up a v formation," he told her.
"Sounds good to me. Hernandez, out," she said.
As the commander of the 2nd Fleet, Jonathan could plant his flag on the ship of his choice. He let Malcolm have the Enterprise, even though his whole being wanted to make it his flag ship. Instead he chose an upgraded and retrofitted Daedalus-Class cruiser called the Invincible. It had a crew of 120 and fifteen Marines.
He chose the Invincible because it had just been upgraded and had even greater firepower than the Enterprise. But, of course, it wasn't the Enterprise. His old ship was on his port. He was sure that she would acquit herself well in the coming fight.
"Comm, put me on fleet wide," he ordered.
"Aye, aye, sir," she said then she linked him to every ship in the fleet. "Channel open, sir."
"This is Rear Admiral Archer. We are about to go into battle against an enemy we have fought before. Captains, trust your ships and crews and you shall prevail. Crews, trust your captains and know that fight with right on your side. Godspeed," he said then made the cut off signal. "Com, contact the hospital ship and tell it to say in the rear until the battle is over. Also, assign two frigates to stay with it."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"Helm, plot an intercept course at best speed," he said.
AG had his ships break formation early and engage. They were quickly overwhelmed with enemy ships. The Atlantis was being pounded but was holding up pretty well so far.
"Target all cannons and fire," he ordered. "Concentrate the torpedoes on the ships in front of."
Come on, Jonathan, get your ass here, AG screamed inside of his head.
On the view screen he saw two of his frigates go down in battle. His own ship was being overwhelmed.
"Evasive, delta, epsilon, alpha," he ordered the helm.
"Aye, sir," called out the helmsman.
Malcolm sat forward in his command chair. He saw several Starfleet ships were about to be overwhelmed.
"Torpedoes, full yield, wide pattern," he ordered the Tactical Officer.
"Aye, sir," he called.
"Helm, attack pattern omega," he ordered in clipped English.
XO Travis Mayweather joined the Tactical Officer to assist him in targeting of enemies. He looked over at his captain and smiled. Even though they were hip deep in Xindi, Malcolm looked like he was enjoying himself.
Erica's knew the Columbia's aft shields were almost gone. She needed to keep the Xindi off her tail, if her ship was going to survive.
"Helm, defensive pattern alpha omega," she ordered.
As her ship turned, it bucked from taking incoming fire. Her Science Station exploded in a burst of sparks, electrical discharges, and a small fire. Her XO acted immediately to get the situation under control.
"Tactical, fire all aft torpedoes. Make it a wide spread," she ordered.
If she was going down she was going down with a fight.
The Xindi had more ships, but Archer was seeing that the ebb and flow of the battle was finally turning in their favor. So, far the 2nd Fleet was acquitting itself better than he had hoped. Most of the captains were newbies and few had been blooded and battle, yet they were starting to take the battle. He could feel it in his bones.
"Tactical, fire all forward and aft cannon and prepare Mark IV torpedoes," he ordered.
There was no better time to test the new torpedoes than in battle, he thought.
"Sir, torpedoes are ready," the Tactical Officer called out.
"Target the Xindi-Reptilian battle heavy cruiser and fire," he ordered.
"Aye, sir," said the Tactical Officer.
AG knew his shields were down to fifteen percent, but when he saw Erica's ship in dire trouble surrounded by four Xindi ships, he knew he had to do something. His hands grabbed onto the arms of his command chair. He held on so tight his knuckles turned white. There was only one thing he could think to do.
"Helm, put us between the Columbia and those damned Xindi ships," he ordered.
"Yes, sir," said the helmsman.
"Tactical unload everything we have on those ships," he ordered.
"Aye, aye, sir," replied XO Paris, who was supporting the Tactical officer.
"Ready, sir," said the helmsman.
"Well, get our ass moving," he said.
Erica felt blood dripping down her face, as she took over the helm from her fallen helmsman. Her Bridge was in disarray. Her XO was more than likely dead and only her comm officer and tactical officer were still functional. A thick acrid smoke almost choked her from electrical fires, and on the view screen the Xindi was about to pound her ship back in the 20th century.
She started to lay in an evasive course, when suddenly on the view screen the Atlantis showed up pounding away at the Xindi and taking a pounding in return. A big smile broke out on her face.
"You go get them, AG," she said.
She wasn't sure if either ship was going to survive this battle, but if she did she was definitely putting AG and his crew in for some serious medals. Even if temporarily they had saved her ship and now she was able to plot a course away from the Xindi. She owed AG a drink or two at the 602.
The Bridge of the Atlantis was destroyed. The ship itself was merely floating in space. Lieutenant Commander Paris dragged his injured and bleeding right leg towards the command chair. A girder had fallen from the ceiling crushing the command chair and the captain. Paris got to the command chair and reached in and checked his Captain's pulse. Captain AG Robinson was dead.
"Damn it," said Paris.
Next, he dragged himself over to the helm and tried to see if there was any impulse power left to move he ship. There wasn't. He pushed the dead helmsman out of the chair. Though he hated to be so disrespectful, he needed to sit or he was going to fall down and pass out. Someone had to be awake and alive on the Bridge when rescue and damage control teams showed up. Paris wiped his forehead of what he thought was sweat. When he brought his hand down, he saw that it was covered in blood.
He heard someone prying open the Bridge doors. Turning he saw it was Lieutenant Commander Michel, their Chief Engineer. Paris stood up to greet them then felt all his energy drain away and he collapsed to the deck. The last thing he heard as he faded into unconsciousness was Michel swearing in French then he said, "Now this was a final stand."
The UES Mercy was filled with the seriously injured. With a six starship escort, all cruisers, Archer sent the Mercy back to Sol System at best speed. He now sat in his Ready Room reading the butcher's bill on his PADD. Total they had lost thirty-five ships and crew, as well as another fifteen were damaged beyond repair. So far, the list of dead was at 1523 souls. The number of injured tripled that number. It was a victory but at a cost.
Archer came across the name of AG Robinson. He was listed as DECEASED. Suddenly, he felt older and more tired than he had just a moment before hand. Out of panic, he checked for Erica's name. She was listed on the UES Mercy in stable condition. He breathed a sigh of relief.
Jonathan looked up as his XO entered his Ready Room. Commander Nate Hurst came to a stop in front of Archer's desk.
"I just got off the comm with Captain Crow at Starfleet Headquarters. Command wants us to scuttle ships which are beyond repair then tow ships that can be repaired to the nearest starbase," he said. "Once that is done, 2nd Fleet should return to Sol system for repairs and retrofit. And to bury our dead."
Archer nodded then he spoke, "Before we leave I want the sensor net up and working and I want the nearest starbase to be monitoring it."
"Yes, sir," nodded Hurst.
Hurst stood for a few seconds then he spoke again, "Rear Admiral Williams has been reassigned from BETACOM."
"Did Crow mention who was in charge?" asked Archer.
"Forest is taking over temporarily," said Hurst.
"Carry on, Commander," said Archer.
Through their bond, T'Pol felt Trip's deep sorrow. She adjusted the collar of Trip's dress uniform, as they were about to exit the hovercar in order to face the press before heading to where the coffin lay. She then made sure his mourning badge was on his left sleeve, as he was one of the pallbearers for AG's funeral. The six pallbearers were Rear Admiral Jonathan Archer, Admiral Forest, Rear Admiral Williams, Fleet Captain Ramirez, Fleet Captain Tucker, and Ruby, which brought a smile to everyone's face when they found out.
"It is time, K'diwa," said T'Pol.
"I know, darlin'," Trip said softly.
They exited the hovercar. Trip nodded to his wife, as she headed into Starfleet's chapel. He joined his fellow pallbearers at the funeral hearse. AG had left instructions that he wanted a Lutheran Minister, since his mother used to attend services regularly. He also requested bagpipes play Amazing Grace.
Archer saw Trip in his white tunic and black pants with his ribbons and medals and felt a momentary sense of pride. Once he saw the value of Trip as a friend and engineer, he made sure that he stayed on the same path as him. He was glad to see that Trip had succeeded beyond of his expectations for him.
"Trip," he said then offered him a sad smile.
"Admiral," Trip replied.
"Gentlemen, are you ready?" asked Forest.
"Yes, sir," they answered, except Ruby who was crying.
Trip put his arm around the shoulder of the woman and gave her a squeeze then he looked at Forest.
"Can someone carry the coffin for her?" he asked.
Forest looked around and saw a Marine in his Dress Blue Uniform standing at attention.
"Marine, come over here," he said.
The Marine came over.
"You are going to carry the coffin for this young woman," he said.
"Yes, sir," replied the Marine.
"Okay, Gentlemen, let's take AG in," said Forest then he looked at Ruby. "Ruby, just walk beside the Marine."
"Thank you, Admiral."
The men picked up the wooden coffin. Trip found himself behind Archer and across from Ramirez. They carried the coffin up the steps of the chapel and when they entered a bagpiper started playing Amazing Grace. They carried the coffin down the aisle and then placed it in front of the minister, who stood in from the altar.
The pallbearers then went to an empty pew in the front and sat down. It was now time to say goodbye to one of the fallen and a friend.