"Out of the Loop"


EPILOGUE

The next week was busy for every one on Enterprise. The Nekkaton's turned out to be a very kind people, with a passion for privacy, which explains why most of the sector thought they were extinct, but once they got to know a species they were really quite likeable.

Archer got all of this information and more directly from his chief engineer. It turned out that Tucker was still able was able to speak the Nekkaton's language in addition to being able to converse in his own once again, so Trip was relegated to wearing the hat of translator for the duration of the Nekkaton's visit. Hoshi wanted to have a shot at using the Nekkaton's translation device but Archer forbade it. The Nekkaton's may be friendly and they may understand how their technology works, but the captain still thought the risk was too great. Hoshi was going to have to settle for being second best behind Trip this time around.

But Trip only devoted a part of his time to translation work. Tucker had spent the last six months being out of the loop and he wanted to catch up on all the news he'd missed, all at once. Soon the engineer was hip deep in reading past mission reports, engineering updates and news facsimile's from home, and if he wasn't reading, he was talking. Not just to the Nekkaton's, but to anyone who got into range. Far from being annoyed at getting their ear talked off, the crew was thrilled to have their commander back.

Even after the Nekkaton's left for their home world Tucker was still playing catch up. Archer found his friend at a table in the mess hall, buried in a pile of padd's. It didn't surprise John at all to see Trip reading in such a public place. Tucker had spent far too much time alone in his cabin during these last few months and John fully understood Trip's unconscious desire to be no longer be alone.

"Hey, Trip." Archer greeted his friend, pushing aside a pile of padd's from a seat so he could sit down. "How's the reading going?"

"I can't believe how much explorin' you've done in the last six months, Cap'n." Trip gestured to all of the padd's that surrounded them. "It'll take me forever to get through all of these."

"And by then we'll have found another dozen of new worlds to investigate, with a corresponding fifty new status reports to read."

Trip sat back with a groan and leaned back in his chair. "At this rate I'll never get caught up."

"Don't worry about it." Archer shared a good natured laugh with his friend. How good it was to talk to Trip again. "Most of that is supplemental information. I'll fill you in on the really important stuff, starting with this."

Archer handed Trip yet another padd, but this device didn't contain another status report or engineering update, but something quite different. Something so unexpected that Trip wondered if he was having a relapse. "I can't be reading this right."

"Oh, but you are." John settled back. This was a big moment in Trip's life and John was pleased that they were able to share it together. "You are reading that exactly right, my friend. You, Charles Tucker the Third have, really and actually won the 'Cochran Award for Science and Engineering' this year."

"But... but... but..." Despite Trip's recent re-acquisition of the English language, Tucker was at a loss for words. The honor was just too great. "I really won the 'Cochran Award'?" The awed engineer finally was able to stammer.

"You really did." Archer assured him. "Now that we can talk again, Trip, I want to tell you how proud I am of you. Not just for inventing the tractor been and for winning this award, but for the way you kept yourself going through the entire ordeal. I know it couldn't have been easy."

"No it wasn't." Trip said, dividing his attention between the captain and the padd. He still couldn't believe that he really won the darn thing. It was a wonderful complement, but it didn't totally make up for the agony and frustration that he struggled with during the last few weeks. "Sometimes I thought I'd go insane. It was so lonely."

Archer sympathized with his friend. He could only imagine how horrible it had been. John was about to offer some more words of comfort, but Tucker continued before he got the chance. "But when I got the lowest I'd always try to picture what you'd do if you were in my situation. I drew strength from that, Cap'n, I really did. Sometimes it was all that kept me goin'."

Archer was floored. He'd received many complements and accolades during his long career, but nothing ever touched him so deeply. "Trip, I don't know what to say."

That made Trip laugh. "For a change you're the one who's tongue tied."

Archer shared a chuckle with his friend. "I guess so.

The two men were quiet for a moment. While Trip was relieved that his nightmare was over, he was almost glad that it happened. He knew that he was stronger for having survived the ordeal, and he knew that his friendship with John was stronger too. "Come on." Trip handed Archer a padd. "Fill me in on this 'Hitarian' first contact."

Archer cheerfully started to tell Trip about all the little details that Tucker had missed out on, and with their chief engineer now returned to them, life on Enterprise set back onto an even keel once more.


Finis