Trip sat on the edge of his bio-bed in a new uniform. He looked at Phlox with annoyance as the doctor put his right arm in a sling. Before Trip could make a comment, the doors to Sickbay opened and Captain Archer walked into the medical facility.
"Wear the sling for two days and you are on light duty for four days," said Phlox, then he offered Trip his inhumanely wide smile.
"Don't argue, Trip, and that's an order," said Archer.
Trip rolled his eyes then stuck his tongue in his right cheek and rolled it around. Archer chuckled. Phlox turned and looked at Archer.
"Can I help you, Captain?" asked Phlox.
"I came to collect my chief engineer for dinner," said Archer.
"Well, then, he is yours to have," smiled Phlox then he turned and looked at Trip. "If you have a headache, you must tell me. You had a serious concussion, Commander."
"I'll let you know, Doc," said Trip.
"Come on, Trip," said Archer.
The two officers exited the Sickbay leaving Phlox with his menagerie of therapeutic creatures. Walking down the corridor towards to the turbolift, Archer broke the silence.
"I expect you to take Phlox's advice. Light duty for the next few days," said Archer.
"Yes, sir," said Trip.
"I've heard from Admiral Forest," said Archer. "The Vulcan refugees are already arriving to Earth. Some are being rerouted to Proxima and others to Alpha Centuri. They expect eight million by the time the exodus is over."
"Eight million," whistled Trip.
"UE fears being overwhelmed by the Vulcan refugees. They are trying to set up protected encampments for them," said Archer.
"Vulcan was a planet of a billion people. How many are dead? How many are now under the Romulans?" Trip said more to himself than to Archer.
"Soval, Solkar, and Tos are acting as representative of the Vulcan Government and are in deep negotiations with Prime Minister Samuels. Forest said that they are desperate to set up a function government in exile and safety for the Vulcan refugees," said Archer.
The turbolift doors opened and the two men entered. The doors closed.
"What are they negotiating for exactly?" asked Trip.
Archer smiled then he looked at Trip. Reaching over he stopped the turbolift in an emergency stop.
"What is it, Cap'n?" asked Trip.
"I hate to take advantage of a situation, but they are negotiating an exchange of technology for sanctuary and rights for the refugees. We get deflector shields, tractor beams, and an upgrade of weapons, as well as help with our warp engines," said Archer.
"I don't believe it. They are letting our hands into their cookie jar," said Trip.
"It gets better. There is even talk of a joint venture building a battleship. It will have the best of both Earth and Vulcan tech and be a warp 7 capable or better," said Archer.
"Damn a joint venture. I'd love to be part of that," said Trip.
Archer started the elevator again. His smiled widened.
"Do you mean that, Commander?" he asked.
"A warp 7 engine," Trip said, "yeah, I mean that."
"Good. Forest is thinking of putting you on the team to build this ship. There is this rumor that you are the best engineer in Starfleet and Rear Admiral Jefferies agrees," said Archer. "So what do you think?"
"I'm not sure what to say," said Trip.
The doors opened and the two men exited the turbolift and started walking to the entrance to the Captain's Mess.
"What do you think, Cap'n?" asked Trip of his friend.
"I don't want to lose you because you are the best and my friend, but I think you can help give us a starship that anyone would be jealous of," said Archer. "You are going to take it."
"I'm going to think about it, sir."
Archer looked at his friend.
"See what you miss when you spend two days in Sickbay," said Archer.
"I didn't want to be there, Cap'n," said Trip.
They entered the Captain's Mess. T'Pol was seated at the table. Archer was shocked when he thought for a moment that he saw a slight smile from his Vulcan First officer. The two officers sat down in their usual seats.
"Good to see you, T'Pol," said Trip.
"It's good to see you out of Sickbay, Commander," she said.
"Thank God I've got a hard head or it could have been worse. Phlox told me he was surprised I didn't crack my skull open with that fall," said Trip.
"Well, Trip, I always knew you were hard headed," smiled Archer.
Trip rolled his eyes at his captain.
"I told Trip about the potential treaty being signed between the Vulcan refugees and the UE," said Archer.
"Have you discussed the potential refit and upgrade of the Daedalus Class?" asked T'Pol.
Trip looked over at Archer.
"If the treaty is signed then Prime Minister Samuels wants the Daedalus Class ships refitted and upgraded first. Shields, warp 5 engine, tractor beams, and new weapons. All fifty-five remaining Daedalus will be converted followed by the fifty Intrepid Class which will be refitted and upgraded and used as a frigate used for planetary protection," said Archer.
"And the NX?" Trip asked.
"The Enterprise will go in for a refit and upgrade and the rest of them will have all the added new goodies," said Archer.
"It appears that Earth will have a strong fleet sooner than it intended," said T'Pol.
"You don't think we can handle it, T'Pol?" asked Archer.
"If the treaty is signed, the UE will have great responsibilities. Vulcan ambassadors and their advice will no longer be an excuse for you. Your mistakes and your successes will be your own," she said.
"Don't you trust humanity to do the right thing, T'Pol?" asked Archer.
T'Pol looked at Archer then at Trip before she spoke.
"I believe in some Humans to do the right thing," she said.
Trip looked into T'Pol's eyes. He wanted to say something to her, but the words just didn't flow. Instead he smiled and held eye contact with her.
Archer watched his two trusted officers and grinned. He would be losing them both when they got to Earth, but he had feeling that they wouldn't be losing each other.
"I propose a toast," said Archer, who reached for a wine glass that was on the table.
He lifted the glass, as Trip did his and T'Pol lifted her glass of water.
"To friendship, may it see us through the difficult times ahead," toasted Archer.
Councilman Stonn was brought into the council chamber by the four Romulan Guardsmen. They stood him in front of Admiral Mendat. The serious faced, black haired Romulan turned from his observing of the impressive and large council chamber. He looked at Stonn and smiled grimly.
"Councilman Stonn, this is an impressive chamber. It's a bit aesthetically full for Romulan taste, but impressive in its size and austere nature," said Mendat.
"We Vulcans are an austere people," Stonn said.
"Some not all. Some are traitorous swine who sell their people for the perception of power, such as the 12 new councilman and women that we are empowering as of Monday," said Mendat.
"They may sit in seats of authority but they will wield no authority and the people of Vulcan will not follow them," said Stonn.
"Emotionless, logical, people," smiled Mendat. "You are our cousins. Your suppression of emotions will be over soon enough."
"We are not as weak a people as you think," said Stonn.
"I know," said Mendat, "which is why I need to deny the Vulcan people leadership."
Mendat nodded. One of the Romulan Guards pulled his dagger, came up behind Stonn, and snuck his blade through his spine and into his heart. Stonn dropped dead to the floor.
"Have someone clean him up and throw him away," said Mendat.
One of the other guards marched out of the council chamber to have someone take the body away. Mendat continued to look around the chamber. He was both impressed and bored by Vulcan and its people.
"This Chamber needs some murals. I'm thinking a mural for the Battle of Vulcan, the defeat of the Vulcan people at the hands of the Superior Romulan people. I think I'll commission a painter to get started on it tomorrow," Mendat smiled.
Archer stood beside his command chair. Trip had joined in on the Bridge and stood beside him. They had arrived at Earth. Archer looked over at Hoshi.
"Ensign Sato, hail Starfleet Command," he said.
"Yes, sir," she smiled.
The view screen showed at least fifty ships in orbit around Earth. They were Vulcan registry ships carrying refugees. Trip looked out at the ships and wondered how the Vulcans were going to adjust to no longer being the dominate partner in their relationship with Earth.
"Sir, I have Rear Admiral Gardner for you," said Hoshi.
"Put him on the view screen, Hoshi," said Archer.
The image of Rear Admiral Sam Gardner came on the screen. He was a former pilot in the same program as Archer and AG Robinson. All three were up for the warp 5 starship with Gardner getting promoted to admiral and Archer and Robinson competing for the position. Archer got the Enterprise, Erica Hernandez got the Columbia, and AG Robinson was up now for the Atlantis.
"Archer, good to have you home," Gardner insincerely said.
"Admiral, good to be home," said Archer then he smirked.
He knew that Gardner would have given up rank to have been a captain of one of the warp 5 starships. As the first captain, Jonathan Archer knew he had achieved some fame and he knew that irritated Gardner.
"A manifest will be transferred to you by the Detailer's office," said Gardner.
The Detailer's office was the admiral in charge of assignments. Archer sighed. His crew was going to be pillaged.
"Before you take your starship to Jupiter Station where it will be refitted and upgraded, Commander Tucker and SubCommander T'Pol should be shuttled down to Starfleet Headquarters. They should arrange to have their belongings to whatever billets have been assigned them," said Gardner.
"I take it we signed a treaty with the Vulcans," said Archer.
"The official signing is tomorrow. Also, once you drop your ship off at Jupiter, you should report to Starfleet Headquarters. The UE Senate and Prime Minister are re-tasking Starfleet from Exploratory and Defense to giving it a mandate as a military organization. The MACOs have being reorganized as Starfleet Marines and our fleet will take a more aggressive stance against potential threats," explained Gardner.
"We should not be throwing our exploration mandate, sir," said Archer.
"We won't be throwing it away. It will become tertiary in our mandate," said Gardner. "Now I don't have the time to argue with you, Captain Archer. Send Tucker and T'Pol down ASAP. They are expected for a meeting with Admiral Forest, Vice Admiral Jefferies, Captain Williams, Solkar, T'Pam, and Tavin."
"Yes, sir," said Archer, who then made the cut connection sign to Hoshi.
The view screen returned to the ships in orbit. Archer turned and looked at Trip then at the seated T'Pol.
"You two better pack, arrange with the quartermaster where to have your things sent, and then grab a shuttle pod down to Earth," said Archer.
T'Pol stood up gracefully.
"Captain, I would like to thank you for my time serving with you. It has been enlightening," she said.
"I have a feeling you're not done with us quite yet," smiled Archer.
Trip met T'Pol in the Shuttle Bay. Archer along with Lieutenant Reed was waiting for them. T'Pol had changed from her uniform to Vulcan robes, while Trip was in his uniform with a duffle bag slung of his right shoulder. He looked like a young man about to leave home.
He offered Archer his right hand. They shook hands. He did the same with Malcolm. They shook hands. These two men were his best friends.
"I don't know when we'll see each other again," said Trip.
"Easily done. I'll expect you at the 602 for drinks in two weeks," said Archer. "How does that sound?"
"Like a date," said Trip then he looked at Malcolm. "You'll be there?"
"Of course, mate. I'll share a pint a bitters with you and we ask Ruby, which one of us she liked more," said Malcolm.
Trip laughed and then slapped Malcolm on his left shoulder. He joined T'Pol and they got into the shuttle pod along with a pilot. Once the hatch was closed, they strapped themselves in for sequencing to be dropped out of the Shuttle Bay doors. Trip looked over at T'Pol and smiled.
"I intend on staying in touch with you if possible, T'Pol. I consider you my friend," Trip said to her.
T'Pol looked at him. He could see she was struggling with her response. From observing her for a year, he knew when she was processing and suppressing emotions. Trip waited allowing her the time to process.
"I have come to appreciate our relationship, as well, Commander," she finally said. "I would not be against staying in contact with you."
The shuttle dropped and the pilot headed towards Earth. The ride down took less than fifteen minutes. Soon the picturesque view of San Francisco could be seen through the porthole. Once they had a good view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Trip looked automatically at Starfleet Academy and Starfleet headquarters right beside it then his eye drifted to the Presidio, where Starfleet Engineering lab and classrooms where located.
Soon the shuttle pod set down on the shuttle pad. Trip stood up and opened the hatch then he looked to the pilot.
"Thanks for the ride, Crewman," he said.
"My pleasure, sir," said the Crewman.
T'Pol exited followed by Trip carrying his duffle bag. Waiting for them was the adjunct for Admiral Forest, Commander Amanda Patel.
"Commander Tucker and SubCommander T'Pol," she said with a smile then noticed that Trip was carrying a duffle bag.
She turned and motioned a non-com to grab Trip's duffle. The non-com walked up to Trip and took his bag from him.
"I'll take that, sir," said the non-com.
"I have a temporary apartment for you in the Presidio," said Patel.
"Really," smiled Trip.
"The Vulcan embassy has taken care of your needs, SubCommander," said Patel.
"I see," replied T'Pol.
"Now if you follow me, we have a meeting to attend," said Patel.
In a conference room inside of Starfleet Headquarters, Trip and T'Pol sat at an oblong table with Admiral Forest, Vice Admiral Jefferies, and Captain Williams, as well as Solaris, T'Pam, and Tavin.
"We are here to discuss the joint venture between Vulcan and Earth scientists and engineers in the design, the technology used, and building of battleship prototype," said Solaris.
Trip looked at the aloof and handsome Vulcan, who was the first ambassador to Earth. His hair now was more white than black and there were crow's feet around his eyes.
"A suggestion was made that we submit a Vulcan team and an Earth team. We are here to finalize those teams," said Solaris.
"As you know Vice Admiral Jefferies will be our team leader. He has chosen Commander Tucker as in second in command," said Forest.
Solaris nodded. T'Pam looked ready to speak, but Solaris raised his hand to quiet her.
"T'Pam will be our team leader. Her second in command will be Tavin for now, though that might change," said Solkar.
"Now you also agreed at our last meeting that the ship will be under the Starfleet flag with a Starfleet captain and XO. The chief engineer will be Vulcan and the officer third in line will be Vulcan," said admiral.
"We want the approval of the captain," said T'Pam.
"Starfleet captain, Starfleet approval," said Forest.
Solkar looked at T'Pam with disdain the spoke.
"The purpose of this starship is to build a ship able to deal with the Romulan fleet and their inherent advantage," said Solaris.
Trip looked at Forest, Jefferies, and Williams, who seemed to understand what Solkar was talking about when he said inherent advantage. He decided that he was going to ask about this advantage.
"May I ask a question?" Trip spoke up.
Solkar nodded in the affirmative.
"What is the Romulans advantage?" asked Trip.
"They have cloaking technology. It makes their ships virtually invisible until they either de-cloak or fire their weapon," said Solkar.
"Cloaking device," said Trip.
His mind started to process the information. A device that allows a ship to bend light making it appears to be invisible.
"The power output to maintain a cloaking device must be immense," said Trip.
Tavin looked at Trip with a raised eyebrow.
"You are correct," said Tavin.
"How big are their ships?" he asked Tavin.
"A bird of prey carries a compliment of 30 to 35 crewmen and a Warbird has a crew compliment of 200," said Tavin.
"Both ships can cloak?" asked Trip.
"Yes," answered Tavin.
"They must run on minimal systems when cloaked," said Trip, "otherwise the energy output would too great to maintain the cloaking device for long."
The Vulcans looked at each other for a moment. Solkar spoke to T'Pam and Tavin in Vulcan. T'Pol understood what they were saying. He asked if this was the Human you wanted to keep off the project. They didn't answer. T'Pol looked over at Trip. She remembered the description she was given of him by the V'Shar, Vulcan intelligence. He was the type of Human many Vulcans feared because he was emotional yet his intellect was strong enough to argue with a Vulcan.
Solkar looked at T'Pol and spoke in Vulcan.
"How is Commander Tucker to work with?" he asked her.
"He is challenging, but you will find his work is excellent and his intuition finds solution to problems where logic has failed. It does not make sense, but it has happened," said T'Pol.
"He is not overly abusive or difficult?" he asked.
"I have grown used to his manner," said T'Pol.
"You do not mind working with him?" asked Solkar.
"No, I do not mind working with him," she answered.
Solkar bowed his head T'Pol then he spoke in English.
"I believe we can come to understanding about teams," said Solkar.
"Excellent," said Forest.
Trip looked from Solaris to T'Pol. He was befuddled, but he kept quiet. His mind then went back to the idea of a cloaked enemy ship. Whatever they were building it needed several things: the best sensors, weapons that could take a ship out with one shot, and to damned tough. It needed to be so tough that it could take a few hits without deflector shields or polarized hull. This was going to be a challenge.