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Author - Shouldknowbetter | D | Genre - Action/Adventure | Genre - Angst | Genre - Friendship | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
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Summary: When Archer is critically injured in a shuttle pod accident, his replacement leaves much to be desired.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, the Star Trek franchise and the universe. I just use them for my own private, non-profit making amusement.
NB: This story is part of a series. You may want to start at the beginning:
7. Cry Havoc
A soft whine from the command chair brought her head up, full mouth compressed. “That creature should not be on the bridge.”
The rest directed their attention to the offending beast who settled down again, eyes apparently focussed on the planet visible on the view screen.
“He knows something’s wrong,” Sato offered and Mayweather backed her up.
“The captain keeps him in the ready room sometimes.”
“But not on the bridge.”
“He’s not doing any harm,” Reed suggested and the persecuted woman suppressed her irritation but barely.
“Commander Tucker.” The engineer looked up in the manner of one who hadn’t been paying attention to the preceding conversation. “Did you bring the captain’s dog here?”
“Then kindly remove it.”
The man sighed and hauled himself to his feet, crossing to scoop the beagle up into his arms, scratching its head. “He’s lonely.”
“It is not a sentient being.”
“Doesn’t stop him being lonely.”
The potential argument was aborted as Sato said urgently, “We’re being hailed from the planet. It’s Dr Phlox.”
“On screen.” The Vulcan science officer crossed to the centre of the bridge with noticeable haste, while the beagle protested Tucker’s suddenly tightened grip and Enterprise’s chief medical officer appeared on the view screen.
“Ah, Sub-Commander T’Pol, Commander Tucker, what a surprise.” The Denobulan’s tone was sarcastic.
“Report, doctor.” Her response was curt.
“Captain Archer is going to be fine.” There were whoops of delight from around the bridge, as Tucker gulped for breath and sunk back into the command chair, several shades paler than normal. “He will require an extensive period of convalescence but his life is no longer in danger.”
“Thank you, doctor.” T’Pol nodded acknowledgement to Enterprise’s other resident alien. “Will you be returning to Enterprise?”
“Not for the moment. I feel I can be of more use here.”
“Very well. Enterprise out.” The view screen flicked back to show the planet and T’Pol turned to view the relieved antics of the bridge crew with disfavour, although the impact was muted as she immediately after directed her gaze at the chief engineer. “Commander Tucker?” Her tone was noticeably softer.
“I’m OK,” he said automatically then looked up to meet her concerned gaze and, after a momentary pause, laughed and bounced out of the chair to pull her close in an enthusiastic hug.
“Mr Tucker!” She freed herself, glaring, although he only grinned.
“Didn’t I tell you the cap’n’d be OK?”
Tucker’s head appeared around the bank of equipment. “You’re just curious.”
“But in a friendly way.”
“There’s nothing to tell.” The engineer had disappeared again, peering inside an access panel.
“What the …?” Tucker glared at his friend and identified the overly innocent expression. “No, she didn’t.” He brushed past the other man to inspect another bank of monitors. “We’re friends. That’s it.” He was certainly glad that Archer seemed to have given up his pursuit of T’Pol but he could do without his captain’s sudden interest in his own affairs. It just made Tucker more frustrated that T’Pol wouldn’t agree to something they now knew they both wanted. He glared at the readouts and swung back to lean over the pilot’s board. “You sure you can’t find anything wrong?”
“Not a thing.” Archer’s gesture took in the array of green lights. “Trip, stop fussing. This is the third time you’ve run a complete systems check.”
“There’s something not right.” Tucker disappeared into the back again and Archer shook his head, smiling, raising his voice once more.
“If you’re not going to tell me about you and T’Pol, what did you think of the Tro’Ga?”
“Seemed friendly enough. Not shooting at us or putting us in jail’s always good by me.”
“Me too.” Archer paused, looking thoughtful. “You didn’t think they were a little too friendly? Not cautious enough?”
“I’ll just start calling you Malcolm, shall I?” The captain chuckled. “We gotta meet some good guys mixed in with the bad. You sure there’s nothing showing on your board, Cap’n?”
“Green all the way.” He turned to regard the engineer who was standing with his hands on his hips, scowling at the instrument panel. “Take a break, Trip. We’re less than three hours from Enterprise. You can pull the shuttle pod apart then.”
“I guess.” Disconsolately Tucker poked a final few keys. “Wanna drink?”
“What have we got?”
“Unless you’ve stashed more bourbon on board, coffee.”
“Better make it coffee then.” The other disappeared behind more equipment. “I haven’t forgotten you still owe me a bottle of bourbon, you know.”
“Sorry, cap’n, but …”
Tucker never got to finish his explanation as the pilot’s console erupted in an explosion that tossed Archer’s body against a bulkhead amid a storm of debris.
It was hardly surprising he was hungry. He had hardly eaten the last few days, literally sick with worry over Archer’s condition. “If you need a break, commander, you are at liberty to take one.”
“Come with me?”
“It would be inappropriate for Enterprise’s two ranking officers to be absent from the bridge at the same time during their shift.”
“Ah, c’mon, T’Pol, we’re orbiting a planet. Nothing’s gonna happen.”
His eyes narrowed in speculation. “You’re pissed because I hugged you.”
“Vulcans do not become ‘pissed’.” It was the old mantra and he would have rebutted the ascertain and probably started an argument for the sheer hell of it if Cato hadn’t interrupted.
“Sub-commander, I’m receiving a transmission from Starfleet Command.”
The woman moved to face the view screen, nodding to Cato to put the message through. The image of a seated man formed. “Admiral Forrest.”
“Sub-Commander T’Pol, I wanted to inform you that a replacement for Captain Archer will be arriving shortly.”
That gave even the Vulcan momentary pause. “We were not anticipating that a replacement would be necessary.”
“I’m afraid, sub-commander, that Starfleet doesn’t feel comfortable leaving an Earth ship without one of their own in charge for any period.”
Tucker came to T’Pol’s side, annoyance showing. “How long will this be for, admiral?”
“That will depend on Starfleet’s assessment of the situation, commander. Captain Krajewski will be docking at 1900. Out.”
Once more silence fell, a rather stunned silence this time, until Mayweather said resentfully, “They must have dispatched him before they even knew if Captain Archer was going to survive.”
“A not unreasonable action.” T’Pol had perched on the edge of the commander chair, gazing thoughtfully at the screen. “As the admiral observed, Starfleet do not want one of their ships in Vulcan hands.”
“Don’t trust us to keep out of trouble,” Tucker grumbled. “We could have stayed here and taken leave.”
“Hardly an efficient use of a valuable asset.”
“So what do we do now? Roll out the red carpet?”
An elegant eyebrow cocked at him. “I suggest we have lunch.”
As the docking port echoed to the gentle impact of a mating craft, T’Pol took a final look around the assembled senior staff and wondered if an order to suppress their resentment would have any effect. On the whole, she thought not. Even she was conscious of a trace of the same emotion at having this new captain foisted upon them when their own was anticipated to make a full recovery. Perhaps Captain Krajewski would not be sensitive to atmosphere, particularly with a group of people he had never met before.
The hatch open and T’Pol directed her attention towards the man who stepped out, short, erect, grey hair clipped close. “Captain Krajewski,” she had made a brief inspection of the rank insignia to be sure, “welcome to Enterprise.” The later pleasantry was unnecessary since he was already there and hardly welcome but she had learnt that humans set store by such trivia. But not this one, it seemed.
He flicked a cold eye around the group. “Dismissed.” He didn’t even wait to register their surprise before turning to T’Pol. “Sub-Commander, I want an immediate tour of this vessel. I assume I will meet all personnel at some point,” a baleful eye met Tucker’s, “when I expect all officers to be properly attired. Come.” He marched off and after a slight pause T’Pol followed, an eyebrow lifting in well-regulated surprise. This was remarkably … efficient.
The rest gave him a careful appraisal while he continued to fidget. “Well,” Sato said eventually, “your zipper’s a little low.”
“Huh?” She stepped over to him, pulling the offending article up from his breastbone to a more regulation height. “Is that it?” The comm. officer reached up to tug at his collar line, patting it mendaciously into place, expression mischievous, and he batted her hands away. “Cut that out!”
“Why, commander, I thought you liked women fussing over you.”
“Not that kind of fussing.” He glared at his colleagues in a rare exercise of authority. “Well, you heard the captain. Get going and prepare to be inspected,” and if anyone noticed that Tucker was perfectly capable of not slurring the rank they were too polite to mention it.
“Don’t you dare die on me, you hear?”
Fighting rising panic again, he flung himself to the far end of the shuttle pod, running a quick diagnostic and muttering profanely when he had to re-route around damaged circuitry. It took some minutes and he paused twice to reassure himself that Archer’s shallow breathing hadn’t ceased, then the channel finally opened. “Shuttle Pod 1, this is Enterprise.” Cato’s trained voice was blessedly normal.
“Hoshi,” he had to stop to breathe, “we need you here asap.”
“Commander Tucker,” T’Pol had clearly detected his distress, “what has occurred?”
He wanted to shout at her to get Phlox there to tell him what else he could do, but she needed to know. “We had a blow-out on the pilot’s console. The cap’n’s badly hurt.”
“Are you injured?”
“No.” He was in no mental condition to wonder if that was Enterprise’s first officer asking or a close friend. “Get here fast, T’Pol. Jon’s real bad.” It also didn’t occur to him that he was using his friend’s name in an official communication.
Tucker only grimaced and rather viciously speared an unassuming potato while Reed sighed. “It didn’t go well.”
“If the inspection of the armoury just ‘didn’t go well’, you were lucky.” The chief engineer attacked another harmless vegetable. “I’ve not been that humiliated since high school.”
“Do you think it’s us, or does he treat everyone like that?” Sato asked and the others shrugged then looked up as T’Pol appeared at their table, staring in surprise at what she carried with the utmost distaste. She thrust the beagle at Tucker who took Porthos automatically, rubbing the dog’s ears.
“The creature was still in the ready room. It had had an … accident. Captain Krajewski was not amused.” She glared at the dog. “I would have concurred with his desire to have it ejected from an airlock if I had not known of Captain Archer’s fondness for it.”
“Poor Porthos.” Cato took the dog from Tucker. “I’ll feed him and take him for a walk. Can he stay with you, commander?”
“I guess.” She gave him a warm smile and left, talking to the spoilt dog, while T’Pol went to the drinks dispenser, surprising Reed by returning to take the seat Sato had vacated. He was about to leave in an attack of embarrassment but first officer and chief engineer stopped looking at each other as Tucker abruptly returned his attention to his half eaten meal.
“If I might ask, sub-commander,” Reed was looking for a distraction, “what did you think of Captain Krajewski’s tour?”
“He is certainly thorough.”
“I know Captain Archer doesn’t insist on strict adherence to protocol but is it true that we’ve become sloppy?”
“No.” The reply left no room for negotiation. “Efficiency ratings are higher now than when Enterprise left Earth. In that period there have been only minor troughs and Captain Archer always responded promptly to my recommendations for improvement.”
“Then why is Captain Krajewski jumping down our throats?”
“I believe he is ‘making his mark’.”
“I can understand that, I guess,” Tucker had given up eating, “but he’s sure not gonna do much for morale if he keeps on like this.”
“I will bring the matter to his attention at an appropriate time.”
“Do you know what our next mission is?” Reed asked and T’Pol shook her head briefly.
“Captain Krajewski has not informed me. However, our course is towards a relatively uncharted sector. I assume we are to resume mapping the area.”
“Mapping!” the armoury officer said in disgust and Tucker managed a half-hearted grin.
“Never mind, Malcolm, maybe we’ll find something you can shoot at.” He pushed himself to his feet. “I’m turning in. ‘Night, folks.”
“Is Trip all right?” Reed enquired and T’Pol turned from watching the engineer walk away to view him coolly.
“I have no reason to believe otherwise. Good evening, Lieutenant.”
And that was what he deserved, Malcolm decided as the woman stalked away, for having implied that a Vulcan might know better than he did how his friend was handling the situation.
“Don’t know.” His voice was hoarse and he sounded dazed. “I thought there was something wrong. Couldn’t track it down. Jon said to leave it … the console blew. I don’t know, T’Pol. I just don’t know!”
He was staring at her, silently pleading and she knew what he was asking for. If she had been forced to wait one hour and fifty-three minutes for rescue, watching him slowly dying before her eyes, she would undoubtedly want the same thing. It was just extremely unfortunate that his need was so ill timed. Tucker had always been there for her when she needed him and, whatever else they might be to each other, they were, first and foremost, friends and he was human, far less inhibited than she about the need for comfort. But she just couldn’t do it, not in public.
T’Pol turned towards Phlox. “Doctor, what is Captain Archer’s condition?” There was a movement behind her and then a slight pressure on her hip and shoulder and she knew that Tucker had sidled closer, seeking the physical contact she hadn’t been able to offer.
“In a moment, sub-commander.” The Denobulan didn’t even look up although the medic shot them a frightened look and T’Pol felt Tucker begin to shiver.
“Commander, are you hurt?” He shook his head absently, staring past her to where Archer’s body lay and she resorted to unfair tactics. “Charles, are you hurt?”
“No.” This time he responded then under her level stare actually thought about it. “Just my hands.”
If she were human, she would have winced at the state they were in when she looked, blistered and crisscrossed with cuts, but she would tell the damage was superficial if painful. It wasn’t that that was making him shake.
Reed joined them from a cursory inspection of the pod, expression grim. “It was a sizeable explosion.” He too was looking towards Archer. “I’m surprised they’re not both dead.”
T’Pol clasped her hands behind her back. Tucker had contrived to stand so close that their bodies were in contact again and she couldn’t quite bring herself to put a decorous distance between them, but the temptation to touch him was growing. “Shuttle pods have a robust design. It takes a good deal to puncture the hull.”
“But not a lot to puncture a human body,” the armoury officer observed sourly. “Should I start an investigation, sub-commander?”
“I’ll get on it,” Tucker muttered. “Just gimme an hour.”
T’Pol caught Reed’s sceptical look and realised that clarification was in order. “You cannot be involved in the investigation, commander.” She met Tucker’s eyes and saw the sudden fear.
“Oh, jeez.” He shuddered violently and sagged a little more heavily against her. “Oh, jeez, if this was my fault …” She gave into the inevitable and squeezed his hand then glared at Reed who had seen what she had done and had his mouth open. The armoury officer responded with a slight nod of apology and patted Tucker’s shoulder awkwardly in support.
Finally Phlox and the medic transferred Archer’s motionless body to the trolley and the doctor approached the waiting group while his assistant wheeled the captain away. T’Pol rose to her feet from where she had been kneeling beside Tucker, who had sat down rather abruptly a few minutes before, resting his head on his knees. “How is Captain Archer, doctor?”
“He is being prepared for surgery.”
It wasn’t an answer and they all knew it. “What is your prognosis?” T’Pol demanded and the Denobulan again delayed answering as he began to run a scanner over Tucker. “Captain Archer, doctor?”
“I’m not hopeful.” The man’s voice was flat. “He’s suffered massive trauma. I doubt I can repair the organ damage. The surgery might allow me to stabilise his condition. Alternatively, it might hasten his death by a few hours.” He met T’Pol’s eyes. “I assume you wish me to continue?”
“Yes.” Her gaze moved to Tucker who had dropped his head again, visibly shaking. Reed was rubbing his back; she presumed it was the right thing to do for a distressed human. “And Commander Tucker?”
“Smoke inhalation. Minor tissue damage to his hands. Mostly delayed shock.” He administered a hypospray. “Nothing that can’t wait. I’ll discharge him into your care, Lt Reed. Hot drinks, a hot shower and bed. He can report to sickbay once Captain Archer is out of surgery.”
The armoury officer looked questioningly at T’Pol then when she made no response nodded his acceptance of the task. How dare he think that she might want to put the engineer to bed herself? Such a thought was … unthinkable. “You will keep me informed of the captain’s condition, doctor?”
The Denobulan hurried away and Reed sighed gustily, then began to haul Tucker to his feet. “Come on, Trip. The captain’s in good hands. Let’s get you to bed.” T’Pol left him to it.
“Heard anything more about Captain Archer’s condition.” She gave him one of her warm, kind smiles. “I would have told you if I had, commander.”
He dropped his head, abashed, then looked back at her, smiling ruefully. “Thanks, Hoshi.” He squeezed her shoulder. “I owe you … several.”
“I might just take you up on that, sir.” Her smile was teasing this time. “What are you doing tonight?”
“Commander Tucker!” Captain Krajewski’s voice cut harshly across the easy camaraderie and Tucker straightened, pulling nervously at the fastening of his jumpsuit. “Commander, I don’t know what sort of sloppy behaviour Captain Archer allowed you to get away with, but let me inform you that I will not tolerate it.” He glared around at the rest of the bridge crew. “I demand that my officers adhere to protocol at all times and behave with a professionalism befitting their rank. Do I make myself clear?”
The last was directed at Tucker and the engineer stared back, temper starting to slip.
“I know what my commission means.”
“I’ll have no insolence, commander. Now do you understand me?”
“I do, Captain Krajewski, sir.”
It still earned him a glare that moved on to encompass Sato as well. Then Krajewski turned to T’Pol. “Sub-Commander, are you aware of any inappropriate relationships between members of this crew?” His tone made it clear what he meant by the term and implied that he would deal harshly and with disgust with any instance of inappropriateness he discovered.
“I am aware of none.”
Krajewski’s suspicious gaze returned to Tucker whose annoyance was visibly growing. “If you’re implying that Hoshi and I …”
“I suggest you stop there, commander, before you get yourself into trouble. Your duty station is in Engineering, I believe. Dismissed.”
Tucker stormed off the bridge. It was as well that turbo lift doors could not be slammed.
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