A FAIR TRADE
Disclaimer # 1 Paramount owns the characters from 'Enterprise', I'm just
borrowing them. But if they don't look after them…
Disclaimer # 2 No financial gain is being made from these stories,
Archive Gladly, just let me know where, please.
A/N#1 'italics' in inverted commas = peoples' thoughts
A/N#2 I'm from the UK, and so is my spelling.
"Commander Tucker, your attempts to break my concentration are both transparent and childish."
Trip Tucker sat back in his seat and gazed at the speaker, Sub-Commander T'Pol of Vulcan, Science Officer and currently second-in-command of Enterprise.
"What did I do?" he asked, his face a picture of bemused innocence.
"You refuse to sit still, you constantly sigh, and when I go to make a move, you make noises to suggest that you disapprove."
"I do all that? I'd no idea, T'Pol, honestly. I'm sorry, guess I'll just sit here an' look at ya instead."
"Why don't you stare at one of the other participants, Commander? Perhaps you can distract them."
"I hope you're not implyin' that I'm tryin' to cheat? 'Cause Tuckers don't need to cheat. We've been whuppin' asses at this game for generations."
T'Pol chose to ignore his colourful expression. "Indeed, I'm intrigued to know how you managed to win our first match. What strategy did you use?"
Trip gave her a mega-watt grin. "My Granddaddy, Charles Tucker the First, taught me to play chess when it was still played on a paste board, none of this fancy three-level stuff we've got here. Chess is all about logic an' mathematics."
T'Pol's look of scepticism was thinly disguised; the commander was definitely the most illogical human she'd ever encountered. His moods ranged from being a total charmer to furiously angry and vitriolic, sometimes seamlessly, and although he was mostly the former, she knew that even in Engineering, his crew gave him a wide berth when his mood was foul.
Almost as if he knew what she was thinking, Trip continued.
"Ok, so I'll admit I'm no great shakes in logical thought, but in my line of work ya gotta be good at mathematics. In engineering if ya get your equations wrong, things tend to go 'kaboom'."
T'Pol's eyebrow rose at the unusual word. Trip filled her in.
"'Kaboom', ya know…'loud bang' equals Malcolm deliriously happy. So anyway, I use mathematics to play chess. You figured me for a sap in our first game and underestimated me, so I whupped your ass. In the second game, I wasn't concentratin', still relishin' my victory I guess, an' ya beat me."
"I believe I 'whupped your ass' Commander."
Trip grinned in appreciation of her choice of words. "Ok, so now we're in the play-off, an' I'm not usin' gamesmanship, but if you could just make your move some time in the next week…it's been 20 minutes already."
"There is no limit to the amount of time one is allowed before making a move. Are you in a hurry to be somewhere else, Commander?"
"Yeah, as a matter of fact, my shift begins in…aw heck, the time's up. I gotta go, T'Pol, we'll have to finish this another time. Hey, Cap'n, great idea, this chess tournament."
Jonathan Archer looked up from the table he was sitting at, where he'd been deeply engrossed in his match against Dr Phlox. He fired a grin at Trip as the engineer left to start his shift.
Yes, this had definitely been one of his better ideas for crew morale, and he was especially pleased that T'Pol had agreed to participate. She rarely joined the crew in any extra-curricular activities, preferring to remain apart to read or meditate. This, at least, was helping to integrate the crew. The sound of the intercom interrupted his thoughts.
"Reed to Captain Archer."
Jon crossed to the wall and pushed the button.
"Go ahead, Malcolm."
"Captain, we're receiving a distress call from a vessel on the outer limits of our scanners. Should I respond?"
"Hold on, Malcolm, I'm coming up to the bridge. Find out everything you can about the ship. Archer out."
He turned to his chess opponent. "Sorry Doc, duty calls. Is it ok if we leave the games here in sickbay?"
"I see no problem with that, Captain, unless you anticipate a sudden influx of patients."
"Until we know what this distress call's about, I can't say for certain. Move them out of the way if necessary. Sub-commander, I'll be on the bridge."
The visual link with the Dyland, a transport ship on its way to a penal colony, was grainy and full of static. The audio link wasn't much better.
"Hoshi, can you clean that up anymore?"
"Sorry, Captain, that's as good as it's going to be." Hoshi Sato, communications and Linguistics officer shook her head. Jon nodded before turning back to the main view screen.
"Captain, we're having difficulty picking up your transmission. Can you repeat, how can we help?"
"Explosions on bo…several deaths of crew…systems failing…can't last much lon…"
"We'll be with you in twenty minutes. Is your docking port damaged?"
"Think its ok…please hurry."
Jon turned to address his young bridge crew. "Ok people, let's make the best time to the rendezvous point. Malcolm, have a security detail ready at the docking port, we don't know anything about their passengers, and we can't afford to take any chances. Archer to sickbay."
"Go ahead, Captain."
"Doctor, we'll be picking up survivors from an explosion in about twenty minutes. I'm sure you and your people will be ready."
"Quite so, Captain. Do you have any idea of the number of survivors?"
"No, and their ship's falling apart, fast, so I'm just hoping that there will actually be survivors to rescue. Archer out."
He thumbed the intercom again. "Archer to Engineering."
"Tucker here, Cap'n."
"Trip, I want you on the bridge. We're going to be docking with a damaged vessel sometime in the next twenty minutes. I don't want any nasty surprises, so I want detailed engineering scans of the alien ship before I put Enterprise at risk."
"On my way, Cap'n, with ya in five."
Jon sat back to admire the finely tuned machine that was the Enterprise crew, efficiently carrying out the assigned tasks with only a frisson of excitement at the opportunity for a new first contact. There were no histrionics, no doubts about whom these people might be; the first priority was to execute a rescue.
The turbo-lift delivered Trip onto the bridge and he quietly relieved the crewman at the engineering station.
"What d'we know about the ship, Cap'n?"
"Not much. From what we can work out, it's a Zenalese transporter taking prisoners to a colony. We sent a message to Zena, telling them of the accident, and requesting identification of the crew and prisoners, but so far, we've had no reply. Their Captain said they'd had an on-board explosion with some casualties, and their orbit was starting to decay. Are you getting anything on scan?"
Trip had been looking into his viewer during Jon's speech and nodded as he looked up.
"Their orbit's definitely decayin', and fast. It mightn't hold out. I'll bring the grapplers online, but if we can't grab her, we might have to use the transporter to get them off."
"Ok, do what you can. Travis, increase to Warp 5; let's see if we can get there in time."
"Aye, sir, Warp 5." Travis Mayweather, ship's helmsman and baby boomer, hated to see any vessel nearing the end of its life. But he knew the captain and Commander Tucker would do everything they could to save not only the people on board the Dyland, but also the ship itself.