He Who Fights With Monsters
By Thalia Drogna
AN: Thanks to everyone who has reviewed and for hanging in there on this marathon that I ended up writing. This is the final chapter. I hope you've enjoyed it. This has been a story about the lines between good and evil, nothing is ever that simple...
Special thanks to my husband, Stuart, for help and support and putting up with being a fanfiction widower to this story. When I had the ideas without the physics he was the one that filled in the gaps.
Archer sat at the controls of Shuttlepod One, he was piloting it down to the new planet below with Shar Jen and Sharien sitting in the back. After much deliberation they had decided to name the planet Ishtar. It meant "goddess" in both Tien and Kriel. The Tien ship's name, the Rel Ishtari, meant "light of the goddess". It was the first thing that the two of them had agreed upon, for which Archer was eternally grateful.
Shar Jen and Sharien had spent some time discussing their positions on Tien and Kriel affairs with Archer acting as referee. He would have preferred to use the term mediator but somehow that really didn't fit with what he'd just experienced. There was now a peace treaty though, ready to be signed at the celebration, after the Tien had honoured Trip and Malcolm with whatever that entailed.
Archer had asked Shar Jen about why the scripture passage had prompted her to talk to Sharien and make peace. The content was obvious but why Shar Jen should take it so seriously was not. Shar Jen just shook her head and said "you really haven't understood us at all, have you?" And Archer wasn't sure that she was wrong. These people really were alien to him, their motivations, their morals and their religion. But then he was dealing with a people who considered it quite acceptable to use human components in their computers and had committed genocide over who was the "chosen" people of the goddess even though they were all the same race, just different universes.
After the two women had talked they had both asked to call the highest ranking representatives of their people. From what Hoshi had translated, they had both given orders not to attack the other faction once they reached the planet. Instead Shar Jen had ordered them to begin preparations for the celebration and Sharien had told her people not to interfere. When the lifepods reached planet fall not a single life was lost and the two sides were on amicable terms although still keeping their distance.
A third of Enterprise's crew was going to be present at the ceremony and it was also being piped directly to Enterprise so that those who weren't actually physically present could watch it. Archer wished he could have given everyone the day off but in the Expanse that just wasn't possible, it was business as usual as far as most of the crew was concerned. Lieutenant Reed had of course insisted on a suitable security provision, so the majority of the Security staff were now mingling with the gathering crowd on the surface.
Archer, Shar Jen and Sharien were to be the last to arrive and their arrival would signal the start of the proceedings. Trip and Malcolm would already be on the surface, no doubt Malcolm was pacing and Trip was fidgeting. He could almost see them now. Of course that only reminded him that Trip was angry with him still, he really had hoped that once Trip had seen that Archer had no choice then he would have backed down, but no Trip was still as stubborn as ever. And Archer wasn't entirely sure that Trip wasn't well within his rights to hate him. Trip had told him no and he'd ignored it. Archer knew that in a similar situation he'd have been angry too and the problem was Trip had no context to place it against. He had no idea if the memories he'd lost had been important or not, and Archer was sure that, to some extent, it was that lack of knowledge which was causing his current anger.
Archer had hoped that Trip would see, in the cold light of day, what Archer had done was for his own good. He hadn't though and it didn't look as if he would. Trip still maintained that it didn't matter what had happened to him, he was capable of deciding what happened to him and how he was treated. Trip had trusted Archer and that trust had been broken. Of course it didn't help that Trip still hadn't recovered from the Vor Devrees virus which sapped his strength and, although his movement and speech skills were still improving, they weren't back to normal yet. Maybe time was all that Trip needed, but Archer feared that he had lost his friend for good.
He set the shuttle down on the virgin grass beside the hastily erected amphitheatre. The Tien had spent some time working on it and were now arrayed around the left side in their seats. The Kriel sat on the right side, with a suitable gap between them and the Tien. In the middle of the stage waited various Tien and Kriel dignitaries, Sun Neer being the only one that he recognised, with Trip (Phlox hovering beside him), Hoshi and T'Pol.
Archer accompanied Shar Jen and Sharien to the stage. "Where's Lieutenant Reed?" he asked T'Pol.
"Checking on security arrangements," said T'Pol. Just as she finished the sentence, Reed came running from the left of the stage.
"Sir, I have to report the theft of a phase pistol," said Reed, slightly out of breath and looking like a child who'd just told his parent he'd broken something valuable.
"When and where?" asked Archer, immediately falling into business mode.
"About five minutes ago from Ensign Prior. Someone attacked him. We found him unconscious behind the stand. Phlox is seeing to him, but apart from a sore head he's fine," said Reed. "We're already looking for whoever it was."
"There's nothing we can do about it now, Lieutenant," said Archer. "We won't find them in this crowd and we've got a peace treaty to sign."
"Sir, one of these people has a weapon and I can only guess at how they intend to use it but I'm betting it has something to do with that peace treaty," said Reed.
"Me too, Lieutenant, but we can't postpone the signing. Without it these people will be at each other's throats," said Archer. "Just keep your eyes open."
Reed didn't look happy but he said "yes, sir," and went to stand with Trip.
The medal ceremony was led by Shar Jen and Sharien and wasn't long but Archer and Reed both spent the entire time scanning the crowd for anyone who might have decided to use the stolen phase pistol.
Reed received his medal with considerable embarrassment at the nice things that were said about him, he also had his honorary rank of Squadron Leader conferred on him permanently and was given the rank insignia to go with it. He was amazed that Sharien added to his list of achievements that he had rescued her from the Vor Devrees, which was a distortion of the truth at the very least.
"I thought Kriel didn't lie," whispered Reed as she approached him to give him the Kriel equivalent of the medal that the Tien had just bestowed upon him.
"We don't. You did rescue me. I just didn't realise it at the time," whispered Sharien back. Reed allowed himself a small smile.
When it came to Trip's turn, he pushed himself out of the wheelchair and stood slightly unsteadily, Phlox standing unobtrusively nearby in case he wasn't able to stay upright. Shar Jen listed his achievements as Patriarch of the Rel Sevanne, how his orders had saved countless Tien lives and prevented the loss of more Kriel lives. Another stretch of the truth he thought, as Shar Jen placed the ribbon of the medal over his head and Sharien did the same, but a necessary one if the Tien and Kriel were ever to get along.
Finally, they came to Enterprise's contribution. How Archer and his crew had saved first the Tien and then the Kriel by disabling the inter-reality cannon and helping in the evacuation. It was all met by thunderous applause and cheering, although perhaps more from the Tien side than the Kriel.
"We have one final duty to perform," said Shar Jen, "Sharien and I have negotiated a treaty between our two peoples that will ensure our continued peace and prosperity on our new home of Ishtar. I quote from the Book of the Tien and the Book of the Kriel:"
"The Goddess stood on the shores of the new land and cried out to her people: "War is over, put down your weapons and fight no more. There will be no more blood spilt in the new land. Make peace with your enemies and walk in my path. Both light and darkness are required to make the day." And the people rejoiced in the wisdom of the Goddess and dwelled happily in the new land for the rest of their days."
And then something remarkable happened, the entire crowd chanted in unison. "Ishtar sanvigo rel sevanne dare sophista con biblos di telaru se tren vor devrees legat." It was exactly as Shar Jen and Sharien had responded when Archer had shown them the passage from the Tien holy book.
"What does that mean?" Archer asked Hoshi in a whisper.
"The goddess, through the light of ages and the saints, gave us wisdom in the book to guide us through the long night. The word of the book is law," replied Hoshi. "The Tien and Kriel ancient languages are more similar than the modern ones."
Archer nodded. It all made sense now. The word of the book was law and if the book told them to make peace then that is what they did, and coming from Trip, as it had, Shar Jen had regarded it very seriously indeed.
The treaty was laid on a table ready to be signed by the two parties concerned. Sharien stepped forward to sign it for the Kriel but rather than Shar Jen signing the treaty for the Tien, she instead helped Trip to the table and placed the stylus in his hand.
"You want me to sign it?" asked Trip, unsure. "I'm not sure that I have the authority."
"Until you depart this system, you are still Patriarch and therefore the highest ranking Tien official," said Shar Jen.
"Shar Jen, I don't remember being your Patriarch," said Trip.
"That isn't important. What is important is that the peace treaty between the Kriel and Tien is signed," said Shar Jen. "And you are the one, En, who should sign it."
Sharien signed her name in scrawling Kriel script and waited for Trip to append his signature to the document.
"Stop!" came a shout from the crowd. A low murmur rose from the crowd as one of the Kriel stepped forward, holding Ensign Prior's phase pistol.
"Nordiss," hissed Sharien. "I thought that you were dead."
"You're looking good for a dead woman as well. This is not lawful!" shouted the Kriel Exarch.
"The word of the goddess is law!" said Sharien.
"Both Kriel and Tien agreed that this was the will of the goddess. The book is very clear," said Shar Jen.
"I don't care what the book says. This is not the Kriel way," said Nordiss. "You won't do this to our people." He turned the phaser on Trip and fired. Archer didn't even think, he just reacted. Trip was in danger. He ran towards Trip and pushed him to the ground, feeling the phaser burn into his back as he did so. Trip had the wind knocked out of him as Archer slammed into him.
"Trip, you okay?" said Archer in a strained voice, the blond head nodded weakly and Archer passed out.
"Phlox!" yelled, Trip. He didn't have the strength to move the Captain off him but he could already tell that the wound was serious.
Reed had already pulled his phase pistol and was covering the wounded Captain and Trip. He motioned for Phlox to stay out of the way until the gunman was dealt with, they didn't need another person to be shot by this mad man. The rest of the security officers had heard the commotion and were on their way towards the stage at top speed, but weren't in range yet. At the moment it was a stand-off between Reed and Nordiss.
"Hold it there, Nordiss," said Reed. "I have you covered, it's hopeless. You've lost your chance, and you're surrounded. You're not getting to Commander Tucker." The crowd had gone completely silent.
"That treaty is not being signed," said Nordiss, angrily.
Sharien moved towards Nordiss, her hands held out in a placatory gesture. "This is the future of both our peoples," said Sharien. "Please don't jeopardise that."
He turned the weapon towards Sharien. "If you don't put that weapon down, I'll kill her." He started to pull Sharien in front of him.
Reed fired once, aiming carefully to avoid Sharien and Nordiss fell to the ground.
"Doctor!" shouted Reed, immediately going to the Captain and pulling him off Trip. Trip tried to sit up but found that his chest was very painful. Phlox pushed him back down, before he went to examine the Captain.
"Severe phaser burn. He was lucky that he didn't get the full blast, it would have killed him. He must have moved through the beam, when he pushed Commander Tucker out of the way," said Phlox. "We need to get him back to Enterprise now so that I can tend to his wounds." Two of Reed's security men loaded the Captain face down onto a stretcher and made their way back to the shuttlepod. Phlox turned round to Trip and ran his scanner over him. "Commander, you have a broken rib."
"That explains why it hurts so damn much," said Trip. "Just give me some painkillers, I'll be fine."
"I'm glad to hear that you think so but as your doctorate isn't in medicine, perhaps you'd listen to me. You're going back to Enterprise too, so that I can set your rib," said Phlox.
"I've got to sign the treaty first," said Trip.
Phlox sighed, pressed a hypospray of painkiller to the Commander's neck and watched as Lieutenant Reed helped him up and over to the table. Trip made his spider's crawl of a signature before Reed helped him back to his wheelchair. Suddenly a cheer erupted around the amphitheatre, the whole of the people were celebrating their new found peace.
"Typical," said Trip, as T'Pol wheeled him back towards the shuttlepod.
"What is, Commander?" asked T'Pol.
"That's going to be one hell of a party and even though I'm the honoured guest, I'm going to miss it," said Trip.
"I'm sure the doctor will let you come back once your wounds have been tended to," said T'Pol.
"That's not it, T'Pol. There's someone I need to talk to and I don't think he's going to be awake for a while."
Reed looked down at his captive. Nordiss, the Kriel Exarch. He had been completely loyal to Corvas and when Sharien had been about to make peace with the sworn enemies of the Kriel, he had seen no alternative but to assassinate the Tien Patriarch. Even though Trip was no longer wired into the Rel Sevanne, it was clear that the Tien still regarded him as one of their own, and Reed hated to think what would have happened if it had been Trip who had been shot. It was bad enough that the Captain had been shot protecting Trip, but if Trip had been killed or even only injured, the Tien would have blamed the Kriel and no doubt it would have restarted all the feuding. Things on the planet were going to be hard enough, without more bad feeling between the two races.
"What are you going to do with him?" Reed asked Sharien.
"We don't have a brig yet," said Sharien, "we had hoped not to need one so soon. A number of my security men survived and some of the Tien security force, between them I'm sure we'll work something out."
"Everyone saw what he tried to do," said Shar Jen. "Even the Kriel aren't supporting him."
"Unlike Nordiss most of my people respect the word of the goddess," said Sharien.
"Will Trip En and Captain Archer be okay?" asked Shar Jen.
"Phlox is taking good care of them. I should think they'll be fine, although it might be a little while before the Captain is up and about again," said Reed. "So what happens now for the Tien and the Kriel?"
"Shar Jen and I have agreed that we will be joint Matriarchs of our people," said Sharien.
"We have decided that as we are now all one people that we will be known as the Ishtari," said Shar Jen.
"I would have thought that the way you two argue about everything you'll never agree on anything," said Reed.
"We've come to realise over the past few days that there are more similarities than there are differences between out people," said Sharien.
"I would like to say goodbye to Trip En," said Shar Jen. Reed hesitated. This woman had been nothing but trouble but he couldn't think of a good reason to deny her access to Trip to say goodbye since he probably wouldn't be returning to the planet before they left. Shar Jen remembered all the time that they had spent together even if Trip didn't.
"You'll have to be quick the shuttle will be taking off soon," said Reed. With permission given, Shar Jen ran for the shuttlepod.
"She is so impetuous," said Sharien.
"Yes, you may look the same but you aren't," said Reed.
"There is one thing that we have in common," said Sharien. She took a step towards the Lieutenant and suddenly she was kissing him. Reed was completely taken by surprise. Eventually she broke away. "We both fell for Enterprise officers," she said and with that she walked away, giving orders to the Ishtari security officers as she went. Reed stood, stunned for a moment and then turned and went towards the shuttle.
As he approached he saw Shar Jen talking to Trip who was sat in his wheelchair beside the shuttle.
"I just wanted to say goodbye," she said to Trip.
"I would say it was nice meeting you, but to be honest, I'm not sure that it was," said Trip, coldly.
"You did understand, once," said Shar Jen.
"Yeah, when I was being brainwashed by your computer," said Trip.
"En, you had to accept what the computer told you. If you had rejected it, the conjoining would have failed," said Shar Jen. "The Rel Sevanne told you that you needed to protect the Tien, but you felt the emotions and lives of two thousand Tien. The reason why you tried to commit suicide was because you could no longer feel the ship, it was like you'd suddenly lost your entire family. Being part of a living ship is a powerful thing."
"I don't believe you," said Trip.
Shar Jen took his hand and Trip tried to pull away but she held on. "Remember," said Shar Jen. Suddenly Trip felt part of his mind unlock and out spilled memories that he thought Shar Jen had erased. His face went pale. Reed was beside him and he hadn't even seen him approach.
"Trip, are you okay?" asked Reed.
"I remember," said Trip in amazement.
"Oh no," said Reed, a cold weight descending on him. "What did you do that for?" he asked Shar Jen angrily. "Isn't it enough that you took him to be part of your computer, drove a wedge between him and the Captain, now you have to do this?"
"No, Malcolm, it isn't what you think," said Trip. "She didn't give me my memories back. She gave me hers." He turned to Shar Jen. "You really do love me."
"Yes, En," said Shar Jen. "But you don't love me."
"Jen, I'm sorry," said Trip, gently. He knew that he couldn't hide anything from an empath. "Even if I did love you I couldn't have stayed. My life is on Enterprise."
"I know," said Shar Jen. "Your friends will take care of you."
"Yeah, they will," said Trip. "They always do."
When Archer awoke in sickbay he was surprised to find Trip asleep in his wheelchair beside the bed. Firstly as far as Archer was aware Trip hadn't conquered his fear of sickbay and secondly Trip hadn't said two words to him since their conversation two days ago.
"Ah Captain, you're awake," said the cheerful voice of Doctor Phlox.
Archer was lying on his front, and tried to twist around to see the doctor but his back protested and he remembered why he was in sickbay in the first place. He managed to turn onto his side without too much pain.
"What's the damage, Doctor?" asked Archer.
"You have a severe phaser burn across your back. It's going to take some time to heal, even with my help. I've applied an antiseptic to the wound and dressed it, but I'm afraid it is going to be quite painful. I've also put in an IV line to replace your lost fluids and administer antibiotics to prevent infection."
Archer nodded and then looked over at Trip. "How long has he been here?"
"Ever since he returned from the planet, shortly after we brought you in," said Phlox.
"He doesn't like sickbay," said Archer.
"I know. It was quite an internal battle for him to come in here, but he didn't want you to wake up without him being here," said Phlox.
"Is he okay?" asked Archer.
"He had a broken rib, which I've set and given him painkillers for but apart from that he sustained no further injuries."
"I hit him too hard," said Archer, guiltily.
"If you hadn't moved quickly, he would be dead," said Phlox. "You saved his life."
"I'm not sure that he'll thank me for that," said Archer.
"I think you'd better discuss that with him," said Phlox. "I was going to wake him anyway, he'll wake up with a stiff neck if he continues to sleep in that position."
Phlox shook Trip by the shoulder gently and he woke with a jolt, looking around him with frightened eyes before he took in Phlox and Archer and relaxed. He's still getting bad dreams, thought Archer, and coming into sickbay can't have helped him.
"Hey, you're awake," said Trip, smiling.
"Yeah, sorry about the broken rib," said Archer.
Trip laughed. "You save my life and then apologise? You've got nothing to apologise for, Captain. But I guess I have something. I shouldn't have been so angry with you about deleting my memories, you did what you thought was right given the available information and the mission that we're on. I've been proud to call myself your friend over the years and I hope you'll accept my apology."
Archer looked at Trip, he couldn't quite believe what Trip was saying.
"You see I thought that you didn't really care about me, you just wanted your Chief Engineer back, but then you saved my life by putting yourself in danger, and I realised that wasn't what this was about at all. And then Shar Jen shared her memories with me of everything that's happened and I know just what you've been feeling recently."
"Wait, Shar Jen did what?" asked Archer
"Well I was upset about the memories that I'd lost, you know that. So Shar Jen gave me hers," said Trip.
"She can do that?" asked Archer.
"Seems that way, helped me sort out a few things," said Trip. "At least I know why Malcolm dyed his hair now," he grinned. Then he was serious again. "But you have to realise, Captain, that I really did know what I was saying when I asked you not to take my memories. My wanting to commit suicide had nothing to do with the Rel Sevanne conditioning, it was more like culture shock. I'd been used to feeling the emotions of two thousand Tien and hearing reports from across the computer constantly. Suddenly I was completely alone and it was scary and it hurt. But I think Phlox was right, therapy would have worked eventually."
"What are you saying? That I was wrong but you forgive me?" asked Archer. Privately he wondered if they would have been able to keep Trip alive for long enough for therapy to have worked, but he didn't want to destroy things between him and Trip again, so he kept quiet.
"Pretty much," said Trip. "I understand why you did what you did. And now Shar Jen has given me her memories I can piece together enough of what happened from the reports and her memories to get a picture of what happened. It's really bizarre watching your life through someone else's eyes but it'll do. Are we okay?"
"Yes, Trip, we're okay," replied Archer.
"Good, because I've been saving this for a rainy day, but since it doesn't rain in space and I think we could both use some cheering up..." Trip pulled out a data-chip from the top pocket of his uniform. "Stanford versus UCLA."
"Water polo?" asked Archer.
"Of course," replied Trip. "Unless you're not feeling up to it. I can always save it for another day..." Trip started to move as if to leave.
"Hold it right there," said Archer smiling. "I'm always well enough to watch water polo."
It was a week since the Ishtari had wished Enterprise well on their mission and they had continued further into the Expanse. Archer found himself on his way down to Engineering once again.
"Trip what the hell are you doing down here?" he asked as he approached his Chief Engineer. Trip was still sitting in a wheelchair, as that was the easiest way for him to get about at the moment, while members of the Engineering staff bustled around him. "Doctor's orders were that you're off duty for at least another two weeks."
"Yeah, yeah," dismissed Trip. "It's just that I've got all this Engineering data from the Rel Sevanne going around my head and the nanites have been working on some simulations for me and I thought..."
"Trip, no," said Archer. "You're meant to be resting."
"I don't have time to rest," replied Trip.
"Hand them over," said Archer.
"What?" asked Trip.
"The padds with the schematics on," said Archer.
"Aw come on Captain, I'm bored out of my mind sitting around doing nothing," said Trip.
"Do I have to order you to watch a movie again?" asked Archer.
Trip blinked at the sudden change in tone. "Do I get to pick?" asked Trip.
Archer knew that he was going to regret this. "Sure, you get to pick," said Archer, taking the handles of the wheelchair and pushing Trip out of Engineering once more. He had a horrible sinking feeling that he was going to spend the rest of his evening watching black and white horror movies. Which meant, he thought happily, that things were back to normal.
Anyone want a sequel? I have one more story in this saga...