Disclaimer: Enterprise doesn't belong to me, if it did then I wouldn't have cancelled it after only four series.
Archive: yes, just ask first.
Spoilers: United, The Aenar, Affliction, Divergence and most of Season Three.
AN: Sequel to The End of Everything. Set after The Aenar and during Affliction and Divergence.
Small plug for the Virtual Fifth Season, we're still looking for writers and episodes. There is now a VS5 Yahoo group set up which has all the details of the story arc etc. See my profile for more details.
"What the hell was he thinking?" shouted Archer.
Doctor Phlox had just told Captain Archer that Commander Tucker would not be on duty for the next forty-eight hours. He was supposed to be recovering from radiation poisoning but Trip being Trip had ignored Doctor's orders. He'd helped T'Pol put together a telepresence chair, which Phlox had allowed him to do on the understanding that he take time to rest afterwards, but instead of taking time off he'd worked a straight twenty-four hours before almost collapsing from exhaustion. Phlox had chased him out of Engineering and put him to bed, with instructions not to appear in Engineering for at least forty-eight hours.
Lieutenant Reed and Doctor Phlox exchanged a look.
"He was thinking that he'd just asked to be transferred and he needed to get his mind off it, sir," said Reed.
"When Commander Tucker is upset he tends to work," said Phlox.
"He promised me that he wouldn't do this again," said Archer, more quietly.
"Again?" asked Reed.
"It's not the first time he's worked himself to the point of exhaustion. He broke up with one of his girlfriends. I don't even remember her name now. He worked a week straight before he keeled over. Didn't sleep. Didn't eat. I made him promise that he'd come and talk to me if he ever got that upset by something again."
"For someone as outgoing as he is, he really doesn't talk about things," said Reed, although he remembered their brief conversation whilst in Decon about a certain Vulcan officer. Trip had never suggested that he might put in for a transfer though.
"His body is still weak from the radiation poisoning and it can't take this sort of abuse," said Phlox.
"He wanted the transfer and I gave it to him. He should have been pleased," said Archer, but Trip's face when he asked for the transfer had told him that he didn't really want to go. It was one of the reasons that he'd pushed the point, calling in their friendship to try to make Trip reconsider, but it hadn't helped. "Have either of you got any idea why he wants this transfer?"
"He hasn't confided in me," said Reed, which he knew was a half-truth at best, but Trip obviously didn't want his Captain to know about his feelings for T'Pol. Reed respected his friend's wish for privacy and wouldn't discuss something that he didn't really have the full facts about.
Phlox just said nothing. Archer was certain the doctor had some idea why Trip wanted to leave but he had no intention of giving it up.
"I've tried talking to him and he wouldn't say anything," said Archer.
"Isn't there any way that we can persuade him not to leave?" asked Reed.
"When Trip sets his mind to something there's no way to stop him. He's as stubborn as they come. Especially if he thinks he's doing the right thing for everyone concerned," said Archer. "He asked me as his friend to put this transfer through and I can't deny his request. I thought about denying it on manpower grounds but I couldn't make it fly if he wants to appeal it. We're all sorry to lose him but there's no good reason for me to turn him down."
"I just think he's making a big mistake," said Reed.
"So do I, Malcolm. So do I," replied Archer.
T'Pol had been searching for Trip all day. She strongly suspected that in fact he was avoiding her. He was always busy when she came down to Engineering, which was not surprising considering he would be leaving the ship that evening and he had to finish up any projects that he was working on. What had been unusual was the way that his crew had been ensuring that no one got as far as Trip's office.
"The Commander's got a lot of work to do before he leaves and can't be disturbed," said Lieutenant Hess in no uncertain terms, and dealt with the information that T'Pol needed herself.
The same thing had been happening all week, in fact ever since the Captain had informed her of Trip's decision to leave Enterprise. Every time T'Pol came up with an excuse to visit Engineering she would be deflected by Lieutenant Hess or one of Trip's other officers. It was becoming frustrating, but she knew she had to talk to him before he left. She couldn't simply let him walk away, it wasn't in her nature, even though it might actually be the best thing that she could do.
She didn't understand why Trip leaving was causing her so much difficulty. They weren't in a relationship. She had slept with him once, and they had both agreed that it was not a good idea to repeat that encounter. At least she thought that they had both agreed, but now she was beginning to wonder if Trip had been as positive in his assertion as she had. She was even beginning to wonder if she had really been as positive as she thought she was.
She finally tracked down Trip in his quarters. He stood looking out at the Columbia, his bag half packed on his bed.
"She's a thing of beauty," said Trip.
"Columbia's virtually identical to Enterprise," T'Pol replied, refusing to let such an emotional statement stand.
"A good Engineer can see the differences," Trip said wistfully, and T'Pol knew he meant that Enterprise was the superior ship. Even being a Vulcan she could see the wrench it was for him to leave. Enterprise was the ship on which he had fine tuned the engines, carried out hours of work to make her run more smoothly. Only Enterprise could travel continuously at warp five point two, Columbia's maximum was still warp five and a rough warp five at that. The experiment that had landed Trip in a coma had meant that Enterprise was now faster and better than her sister ship.
"You coming to the mess hall later? My going away party." Trip changed the subject, as if it hurt him to talk about the differences between the ship he was leaving and the one he was joining.
"I don't understand the logic behind this transfer, you're not being promoted…"
Trip cut in before T'Pol could continue. "You think I'm doing this to advance my career?"
No she didn't think that at all, but she couldn't voice her suspicions. "You wouldn't leave Captain Archer without sufficient reason."
"For one thing this is a new challenge. It took me a year to fine tune Enterprise. I figure I can do the same for Captain Hernandez in half the time. She needs a Chief Engineer who's been out there, has the experience." Trip shrugged in self-deprecation, despite the fact that T'Pol knew he was underselling his own expertise. She was also certain that he was lying to her. Maybe he had convinced himself that was the reason he was leaving, but she was certain that she knew him better than that.
She had hoped to avoid asking him directly but there was only one way that she could deal with this situation and that was to be blunt. "Are you leaving because of me?"
"Starfleet's approved the transfer," said Trip, avoiding answering while he desperately thought about how to reply.
"You didn't answer my question." She was not allowing him to wriggle out of this so easily.
"This may come as a shock," began Trip, already regretting the words he was about to say. "But not everything in my life revolves around you." He couldn't have been more surprised when T'Pol blinked, said nothing and left his quarters. She wasn't supposed to care why he was leaving and it shouldn't have been a shock, or even mattered, to her that she wasn't that important to him. Yes, it was a lie, but one that he'd hoped would make it clear that this wasn't her fault. Instead he'd ended up hurting her feelings and lying to someone he respected. He stood for a second wondering how he'd allowed things to get this bad between them. How had he allowed it to get so far that he had to leave to be able to move on.
He wondered why he couldn't say to her everything that he felt. Why couldn't he tell her that he was in love with her? And yes, god damn it, he was leaving because of her, because he couldn't work with her distracting him, and he couldn't stand by and watch while she put herself in danger. She meant so much to him but it was obvious that he meant nothing to her. He was a friend perhaps, nothing else. He needed to remember that if he was ever going to move on and forget his feelings for T'Pol.
The going away party in the mess hall was well attended but definitely subdued. Trip was well liked on the ship, especially by his Engineering crew and he would be missed. T'Pol was notable by her absence.
Captain Archer tapped on a glass and everyone was quiet.
"I know Trip doesn't want to make a big deal out of all this so I'll keep my remarks short. I think it's safe to say that no one knows Enterprise like you do. I couldn't have wished for a better Chief Engineer and my loss is Captain Hernandez' gain. I know that you'll whip Columbia into shape in no time and the latest addition to the fleet will be in good hands. This crew has been to hell and back over the past few years, with everything that we've seen and done, and if it hadn't been for a safe pair of hands in Engineering then I know there are some situations we might never have got out of. You may not be the most conventional Engineer in the fleet but as far as I'm concerned you sure as hell are the best." Archer raised his glass. "To Commander Tucker, one hell of a Chief Engineer."
The assembled party raised their glasses and repeated the toast while Trip blushed furiously.
"Speech!" shouted Hess, and her call was followed by more.
Trip was shaking his head but Archer motioned for him to go ahead and say something. Everyone again quietened down as Trip started to speak.
"I was hoping to avoid this," said Trip, not sure if he just meant giving the speech or that he was leaving. "I'm not one for long goodbyes or long speeches. I've been privileged to work with one of the best crews in Starfleet and Columbia has a tough act to follow. I've made a lot of friends here and I'm real sorry to be leaving you all. It's been an honour serving with every single one of you." Trip paused and raised his glass. "To Enterprise and all who sail in her."
"To Enterprise," repeated the room.
Lieutenant Reed came over to Trip. "Nice toast, Commander."
"Thanks, Malcolm," said Trip, sadly. "This is all being a lot harder than I thought it would be. Starfleet's supposed to be all about going where you're needed. I guess I let myself get too attached."
"I could say the same thing. I don't think I'd want to leave Enterprise yet," said Reed. "I never thought I'd say this, but I've made too many friends here."
Archer wandered over and joined his two officers. "I hope that wasn't too sentimental for you, Trip."
"You could have said a lot worse. I was expecting you to drag out all those embarrassing moments that you've been storing up," said Trip.
"I'm saving them for when you make Captain," replied Archer with an amused smile. "When's the shuttle due?"
"In about fifteen minutes, so I should be getting down to the shuttle bay," said Trip.
Archer held out his hand for Trip to shake but pulled him into a hug at the last moment. "If you don't stay in touch Commander then I'll be having words with your CO."
"Yes, sir," replied Trip.
"That goes for the rest of us too," said Reed holding out his own hand to be shaken vigorously. Trip didn't try to hug the Englishman, knowing that it wouldn't go down too well if he did. "It won't be the same ship without you, Commander."
Trip nodded deprecatingly, a small smile on his lips and turned to leave his home of the past three and half years.
To say that Columbia was different would have been an understatement. Despite the fact that it had almost exactly the same layout as Enterprise, it was as unfamiliar as it would have been had Trip never stepped on board an NX class ship. Everything was just slightly different, right down to the emblem on the Captain's dinning room wall. They'd tried to include a few upgrades in Columbia's design from the original specifications for Enterprise and that made her even more unfamiliar, a pale imitation of Enterprise. All of the differences just reminded Trip of Enterprise and how much he missed her. It was like breaking up with a girlfriend only to go out with someone that looked almost exactly like them, but didn't have their personality.
Columbia was not Enterprise and he had to get used to that. It didn't have the same soul that Enterprise did. It didn't feel like home in the same way that Enterprise did. Trip had spent years getting used to Enterprise's quirks. He remembered how when you changed the relays on junction ten they stuck slightly if they weren't aligned to the left by a couple of microns, and the scratch in the paintwork that he never had got around to fixing, and the week old intermittent fault that no one had been able to track down on sensor array two. It was all someone else's problem now and he hoped that they were taking good care of his baby. It really was hard to let go. His engine had been a thing of beauty, incomparable to any other because it was his.
In comparison, the Engine on Columbia was in sorry shape. Whoever had been in charge of putting the thing together hadn't been too careful about calibration and the dilithium matrix was well out of alignment. The field stabilisers and the injector assembly were in an equally bad state and would probably need to be taken apart and rebuilt before they'd work to his satisfaction. He was beginning to realise that he'd discovered a hell of a lot working on Enterprise for four years and just how much he ignored the specs laid down in the manual. It hadn't seemed like he'd changed that much on Enterprise but he guessed it had all been done over a long period of time. His own Engineering team knew Enterprise as well as he did and never had to ask why the dilithium matrix should be aligned to within point three variance. He'd learned with his crew and now he was having to break in a new one who didn't have the benefit of four years on Enterprise. Just another thing he'd have to get used to.
He worked his new crew hard, expecting as much from them as he did from himself and finding it nice to be so busy that he didn't have to time to think about Enterprise or the missing Doctor Phlox. Unfortunately Captain Hernandez was a good Captain and after she'd reminded him that he should have reported to her on his arrival and that he would need to change the shoulder patch on his uniform, she invited him to dinner. Trip couldn't turn down his new Captain's invitation, so he had no choice but to accept, despite the fact that he would rather have just kept on working.
Over dinner he realised just how sharp his new Captain was. She asked him why he'd decided to accept the transfer and was obviously not taken in by his answer. She had seen that damned interview that he'd done where he'd told the interviewer that he couldn't see himself serving on any other starship. He knew from the look in her eyes that she'd worked it out where Jonathan Archer hadn't. She understood that he'd left Enterprise because he'd been hurt by someone. Archer was a great Captain, but he wasn't always the best at reading people, something which Trip had exploited in the past. He was going to have to tread more carefully with his new Captain.
His bizarre day dream about T'Pol definitely didn't help his feeling of being displaced any and he was certain that his crew now thought he was completely mad. He never used to day dream in Engineering. It was looking more and more like he'd made the right decision when he left Enterprise. He hoped that T'Pol wouldn't continue to occupy his thoughts. The distance he'd put between them, literally and metaphorically, was supposed to make things better. Instead he was missing her more and nothing he did seemed to help.
He finally admitted to himself that he was homesick for Enterprise and T'Pol, but despite everything, he was just as proud when Columbia cleared the docks as when they'd taken Enterprise out for the first time.