California

"Gosh, Lizzie, I think of you every day," Charles Tucker, a man who had spent the last two days sleeping in a Greyhound station using his bag as a pillow, whispered as he stroked the photo of him and his younger sister, Elizabeth. "I can't believe that you had to go the way you did."

Swallowing hard, Charles sighed and tucked the photo back inside his bag, one of the few things of his sister's that he had managed to steal before his parents threw him out. Elizabeth had been killed in 9/11 and his parents had simply refused to talk about her since and had stopped him from also doing it.

Wanting to do something rather than go work in a backwater police station after graduating with a dual degree Bachelor's in Policing and Mechanical Engineering, Charles had signed up for the military and had gotten through basic training before daring to break the news to his parents. They had not been pleased, to say the least, and had demanded that he quit and go work at a safe police station.

Charles had refused and his parents had thrown him and his few belongings out, forcing the young man to go live on base. He had quickly risen through the ranks in training and within a few short years, he had the rank of Lieutenant with many honors for helping the less adept get through. He had also achieved several certifications in Advanced Diving, Crisis Response, and other rescue specialities.

The area had gotten too comfortable and boring after a while, so when his commanding officer had offered him a transfer to one of the newer bases, an Emergency Response Base in San Francisco, Charles had taken it eagerly along with a promotion to Commander and he was now on the bus there.

Letting out a heavy sigh, Charles gripped his duffel bag, laid back, and closed his eyes to rest.


"…San Francisco!"

Shaking himself awake, Charles gathered his things and got off the bus when it stopped in front of the station that looked as if it could use a paint job. He looked around before heading inside, wondering how many nights he would have to spend in the station before someone from the base came for him.

As Charles sat on a bench to kill time, a tall, thin-man wearing combat jeans, boots, a t-shirt, and a trenchcoat sauntered into the station with sunglasses on his face and a hat over his head, "You lookin for someone, sir?" Charles called out, eager to help while he killed time. "I'm new to the area, but…"

The man sauntered over to him and removed his sunglasses, "Jon Archer," he replied in an amused voice, extending a hand to Charles as he smiled. "I'm Captain of the Emergency Response Base."

Swallowing hard, Charles got to his feet and saluted, "Oh, you're one of those guys, are you?" Captain Archer replied in an amused voice, grinning. "I'm a military Captain, yes, but you can shake my hand."

Charles nodded and returned the handshake before following Captain Archer outside to a rustic looking Army jeep that looked like it belonged in a museum, "Let's hurry it up," Captain Archer said in an amused voice as they got into the Jeep. "Which drive-thru do you like? You look terribly hungry."

"Um, sir?" Charles asked nervously, gripping the bag on his lap. "You're my CO and…"

Captain Archer chuckled, "You're more uptight than Christopher Pike, one of my Lieutenants!" he replied with a vigor in his voice. "You look like you haven't eaten in about three days, buddy."

"Um, I guess Burger King would be good," Charles replied quietly, unsure of how to react.

Nodding, Captain Archer turned the key and put the Jeep into gear, "Done!" he said eagerly.

Charles frowned and gripped his duffel for dear life as Captain Archer sped off down the street.


NX-01 Enterprise Military Base

The base itself consisted of many buildings and barracks, but Captain Archer drove straight to a large brick building that had 'Infirmary' across the top in big red and white letters, "Gotta get you cleared before I can put you to work," Captain Archer said calmly as he parked and turned off the Jeep.

Charles nodded and held his duffel protectively as he followed Captain Archer into the building and eyed the many cots and pieces of medical equipment warily, "Phlox, are you here?" Captain Archer bellowed.

There was a silence and a middle-aged man with brown hair and glasses came out of a side office wearing blue scrubs, boots, and a white cardigan, "A new soldier?" Phlox asked in a curious voice.

"A transfer from DiMello Base," Captain Archer replied calmly. "Commander Charles Tucker."

Phlox nodded and gestured for Charles to follow, but Captain Archer took his bag, "I will put this in your new quarters and come back," Captain Archer said kindly. "I promise you Phlox doesn't bite."

Charles nodded and followed Phlox into the back of the infirmary, "Have a seat," Phlox said in a kind voice as he patted the exam bed. "You look a little tired and hungry, but in overall good health, so I see no need for a complete exam right now. I'll just do a simple physical and take some blood, all right?"

"Most military docs make ya strip and they poke the ever living scotch out of ya," Charles Tucker said as he sat down and sat perfectly still while Phlox felt his neck, under his arms, and his abdomen.

Phlox nodded and proceeded to check his ears, eyes, and tongue in silence before getting a stethoscope and sticking it under Charles's back, "Breathe," he instructed in a calm voice. "A nice set of lungs."

"You seem perfectly healthy, but I want to see you again in a few days for a chat," Phlox said in a pleasant voice as he scribbled some notes on a paper and handed it to Charles. "You're clear."

Charles frowned, "If I'm clear, why do you want to see me?" he asked in a worried voice.

"I am also the base psychologist and I do all the assessments, but you look tired and I'm very sure you would like to get a proper meal," Phlox said calmly. "It will be a good opportunity for you to socialize."

Charles nodded and silently left, wondering why Phlox seemed so eager for him to get to work rather than make him go through hours of agonizing waits. Captain Archer was waiting for him and motioned for him to follow since the Jeep wasn't there. Charles kept silent as he raced to keep in step.

Captain Archer led him into a building named 'Boyce Barracks' and into a room not too far from a small common area where tables and chairs sat along with a pile of board games and a small fridge, "People are allowed to socialize in their common rooms after curfew, but there'll be so much training going on that everyone will be too tired," he explained kindly. "We do Crisis Training simulations every day in a variety of environments so we're prepared when the government gives us a real emergency."

"Do I have a roommate?" Charles asked as he entered the room and saw his duffel bag on the bed.

Captain Archer smiled, "You're the second in command here, so no," he replied pleasantly.

"Second in command?!" Charles replied in a stunned voice. "My old CO never told me that."

Captain Archer chuckled, "I just did," he replied calmly. "The group's out on a training sim right now, but they'll be back in less than half an hour for supper and campus chores. Supper's in the canteen."

Charles nodded and silently opened the closet, revealing a uniform of camo pants, a gray t-shirt, and a jacket that had 'Enterprise Rescue Base' emblazoned on the back. The front of the coat had a pocket and CMDR C. TUCKER was written on the front just below it along handmade pips on the coat's collar.

"Chef's making lasagna with homemade rolls tonight," Dean Archer said in a calm voice.

Charles sighed and carefully pulled the uniform from the closet, "You have time to write or call your family to let them know you got here safe," Captain Archer said calmly. "The phone's in your…"

"I don't have anyone to call, so I think I'll change," Charles said quietly. "I'll find the canteen later."

Dean Archer frowned, but nodded and left the barracks in silence, "I could die at this base and my parents wouldn't even care," Charles said softly as he closed the door and removed his street clothes.

The uniform was loose, but Charles knew that is what came of not having food for two days because he had no way to pay for both food and the bus to San Francisco. Sighing, he folded his street clothes and set them and the few other clothes in his new drawers before setting the picture of him and Elizabeth on top of the dresser. He hadn't been able to bring any books with him from his family's home.

Charles silently put his wallet in his pocket and decided that he would go to the canteen early enough to grab some food and sneak back to his room before anyone saw him. He then left his quiet dorm.


Canteen

It took some time for Charles to find the canteen and by the time he did, the place was filled with officers from all over the country and a few out of the country. He kept his head down as he went to the food line, grabbed a tray, and allowed himself to be served two squares of lasagna, a bit of green salad with ranch dressing, and two rolls that looked like they had just been made several hours earlier.

Whispers filled the canteen and Charles felt every eye on him as he silently took his tray over to an empty corner table; it was obvious that he was now a gossip topic. As Charles ate, he kept his eyes focused on his food and his mind on the library building he had seen while searching for the canteen.

There was a silence and a small thump as someone suddenly sat down, "I took some time to look up your service record," Charles suddenly heard Captain Archer say calmly. "I'm sorry about your sister."

"Can we not talk about that, please?" Charles replied tersely. "I don't talk about Lizzie with people."

Captain Archer nodded and smiled as a woman and another man, both of them in uniforms bearing different ranks, suddenly joined the table, "Hoshi, Travis, this is my new second-in-command, Commander Charles Tucker," he said in a kind voice. "Commander Tucker came from DiMello Base."

"DiMello's amazing!" Hoshi replied enthusiastically. "It's got more space for rescue practice!"

Mayweather grinned, "I personally like Alacatraz Island for training," he replied enthusiastically, smiling at Charles. "Oh, by the way, I'm Ensign Mayweather and this is Ensign Hoshi Sato of Rescue Squad."

"Where's Reed at?" Captain Pike asked in a worried voice. "Is he still out drilling with Christopher?"

Before Hoshi could reply, the doors opened and a grubby looking man in combat fatigues came in looking both mortified and cross, "That does it!" the man shouted. "Pike's off my circuit!"

"Malcolm, not so loud," Captain Archer said as the grubby man approached the table. "What?"

The chatter increased, as it was a well-known fact that Lieutenant Reed came from a fancy background and hated drilling with anyone who would show him up. It was also well known around base that Lieutenant Christopher Pike was good at most things simply because he prepared a great deal for them.

"You didn't kill Christopher, did you?" Captain Archer asked worriedly. "That's not allowed."

Reed swore and stomped over to the food line, "That's Lieutenant Malcolm Reed," Hoshi whispered.

As the chatter continued, a skinny young man in combat pants, boots, and a t-shirt came into the canteen and eyed the people warily before moving to the food line, "Um, Reed, my jacket's gone missing," the young man said in a quiet voice. "I think those goons from Bracket Hall have it again…"

Reed sighed heavily, "Eat your supper, Christopher," he replied in a clipped British accent. "Now."

"That's Lieutenant Christopher Pike," Captain Archer spoke in a low voice, watching as Chris got a tray and got his supper. "He's under your watch and his best friend, Lieutenant George Kirk, just went off to Riverside Hockey School to play for the infamous Starfleet Team, so he's a little lonely and a terrible target for bullies."

Suddenly reminded of his younger sister, Charles watched with wonder and curiosity as Chris got his food.


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