Disclaimer: Paramount owns the Star Trek franchise, all its characters, and the worlds; I'm not making any money from this. I just borrowed a couple characters to play in my sandbox. I also reference events that occurred in Dave Stern's books Daedalus and Daedalus Children. No infringement intended on any front.
Disclaimer #2: While there are similarities between Phoenix and Rigil Kent's Endeavour series … I claim only mere coincidence. I had written most of Phoenix before reading Rigil's Endeavour story. (I have a witness that can verify this, since he and I have a mutual subject expert.)
A/N: I am a firm believer that the true finale of ST: ENT was Terra Prime. That other thing didn't exist.
Technical babble: Timeline: 2164, 101 years after Zefram Cochrane's flight and two years after the end of the Romulan War and the signing of the Federation Charter. (According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia Timeline, which was written before Enterprise, so it's might be slightly inaccurate). Alpha-Beta Quadrant Maps I used are from the Star Trek Star Charts Atlas, which lists the founding members of the Federation as Earth, Alpha Centauri, Vulcan, Andoria and Tellar.
If I made an error with the technical stuff … oops!! It's fiction .... don't freak out.
Most of the ships in my story are named after NASCAR race tracks, including my flagship, Phoenix. It wasn't until I was half way through writing it and re-watching First Contact that I had a "doi" moment about the name Phoenix.
Lastly, (geez, I feel like I'm accepting an emmy!) I want to thank my sister, Bob, Deb and Melinda my beta readers, 2Distracted and the many others who have helped me write and fix this story. It's been written, chucked, re-written, tossed in the corner, picked back up, betaed, grammar checked and spell check at least a 1000 times. Any mistakes still in there at this point belong to the ghost on deck eleven.
Phoenix. The adventure begins
Jonathan Archer sat in the backseat of the hover-cab and stared blankly at the rain beating on the window. Thoughts of the upcoming Alliance Conference he was going to attend swirled around in his head. Assigned to attend, he mused silently. I've been promoted to Admiral and I'm still ordered around. He shook his head and sighed. He was not looking forward to working behind a desk.
A jerky stop and the blasting of the cab horn jolted his thoughts back to the moment. Archer leaned over and peered through the windshield. Brake lights, Archer scowled under his breath. He sat back and looked at the chronometer on the dash. Ten twenty eight. If traffic didn't clear up soon, he was going to be late. He ran his hand over his brow, and scrunched up his forehead. He hated being late
"Hey buddy, can't you speed it up a little?" Archer called to the driver from the backseat. "I have a meeting in a couple of minutes."
The driver, an older man with thick gray eyebrows and a weathered face, wearing a faded Giant's T-shirt, was cursing aloud and waving his arms to no one in particular. He paused in the middle of his colorful antics and yelled, "Whaddya mean ya moron? Faster? Faster?" he waved his hands around motioning at the traffic out the window. "Whaddya want me to do? Fly over the cars?"
Archer shook his head and stared out the window again. It was only a couple of blocks to the café where he was to meet Trip for breakfast. At the rate the traffic was moving, he could probably walk quicker than waiting for the cab, although it would mean getting wet, possibly soaked. He sat in silence for a few more seconds then leaned forward and replied to the driver, "Forget it, I'll walk. Let me out here."
"Whaddya mean you want out?" the driver barked out as he shifted the hover-cab into park. "Didn't ya notice it's comin' down like buckets?"
"Yea, well, I won't melt." Archer replied as he pressed his thumb on the payment pad in front of him. Once the hover-cab settled down on the ground, Archer opened the door and climbed out of the vehicle.
"I'm chargin' ya full fare, ya moron!" The cabbie yelled out as Archer slammed the cab door. The Admiral rolled his eyes and stared the back of the cab as it flew off. What ever happened to customer service, he thought to himself, then ducked his head from the rain and ran down the street.
Squat and Gobble was a local breakfast café that had been a part of the landscape in the Cow Hollow district of San Francisco for over 195 years. The interior hadn't changed much since it opened. The décor was made up of exposed brick and rough oak floors weathered by years of chairs scraping across them, and the occasional spilled meal. The wood tables with mismatched chairs were covered with white wax paper and crayons filled a cup holder by the napkin dispenser. The daily menu was written on chalkboards, a tradition started in the late 1990's.
The aroma of sweet sticky syrup and fresh sizzling bacon assaulted Archer as he opened the door to the café. The noise level was a low murmur as light jazz played in the background. He scanned the crowd looking for his friend's face and then heard a familiar voice behind him.
"Cap'n, over here."
Archer turned to greet the voice, Captain Charles Tucker the Third where he stood by a table tucked in a corner by the window. Archer walked in his direction, shaking his head slightly to get some of the rain out of it.
"Good to see you Trip," Archer said, extending his hand to his friend.
"You're soaked Cap'n" Trip replied. "Did ya run here from your apartment or sumthin'? You could'ah taken a hover-cab."
Archer settled himself in his chair before replying. "I did take a hover-cab, at least for the first couple of blocks." He rolled his eyes in frustration before continuing, "I just don't understand why people haven't learned to drive in the weather. It's not like it never rains out here."
"Yea, well, that's a mystery that is yet to be solved. Thank god there aren't traffic jams in space," Tucker smiled and rubbed his hands together. "Since you were late, I took the liberty of ordering for you."
Archer looked at his friend in dismay. "Oh no, that is why I ran the last couple of blocks." He laughed nervously. "What am I eating?"
Tucker sat back in his chair and tried unsuccessfully to be serious. "The special."
The Admiral looked up at the main chalkboard and read the special aloud. "Mexican Omelet? Great, are you trying to kill me? You know that will give me heart burn." A server walked by and set a pot of fresh coffee on the table. Archer turned the cups over and poured the hot liquid and creamer into them.
"Aw, Jon, it will just make ya a lil' more feisty on ya upcoming mission." Tucker said taking a sip of his coffee, a sly expression dancing across his face.
The two continued in idle conversation for several minutes until the server brought their breakfast to the table. Archer smiled in approval as he inspected his real meal, scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, and a side of pancakes. "Better choice," he commented. "You're lucky … otherwise I would have to consider busting you back down to Commander."
Trip choked back laughter as he took a swallow of his juice. The liquid spilled out of the glass and ran down his face. He set the glass down and wiped his face with his napkin still laughing. "That's ok, I'm sure that Admiral Ford will find a way to do that on his own." Tucker dumped half the bottle of maple syrup over his own pancakes and cut them up into bite-sized pieces. "He is so fond of me ya know."
Archer laughed and set his fork down. "I'm not the teacher's pet either. However, I'm a little confused as to why you think he doesn't like you. I don't even think he knows you."
"Oh he knows me …," Trip muttered ruefully. "Let's just say that it's probably not 'work' related."
Jon leaned forward at that. "Ah, come on, now you got my curiosity up, what gives?"
Trip was silent for a moment and ran his tongue across the inside of his cheek. "Remember Linda Oliver? Red hair, medium height, attractive?" He looked over to his friend to see if he was catching on, when he realized he wasn't, he continued. "I dated her when we were doing the flight tests on the Warp Five engine."
Archer nodded and replied. "Hmm, yeah. She was in her final year at the Academy and was completing an internship in our department." Archer took a drink of his orange juice and then waved his hand around at nothing. "If I remember correctly I think I warned you about the "fraternization" policy back then."
Trip picked up a slice of bacon and bit off a piece. "Well, I wish I would have listened because after a couple of months I hooked up with Natalie." He took another bite of the bacon and then a drink of juice before he continued. "I thought I could see both of them and 'not get caught' being as they were on different sides of the country and all."
Archer started to laugh understanding the typical Trip behavior. "How did that work out?"
Trip rolled his eyes and blew a puff of air out of his mouth before continuing. "It didn't. Natalie made the mistake of calling my apartment one morning when Linda was there. Guess who answered the phone?"
"Ohh, nooo" Archer replied laughing.
Trip shook his head again thinking back to the confrontation that followed shortly after. "Anyway, needless to say, Linda and I broke up shortly after that."
Jon was quiet as he moved the eggs around with his fork. "So how does Ford play into all of that?"
Trip looked up at him and sighed. "Ugh….Linda is Ford's niece."
Archer grimaced "ouch" as Trip continued.
"You can see why the guy hates me now. He never married and doesn't have any kids; Linda always talked about her Uncle Al, and said he was like a father to her. I didn't make the connection until much later when Jim Williams told me."
"Yeow." Archer replied sympathetically. "Trip, do you honestly think he would be holding a personal grudge?"
"Jon, seriously, if some guy broke your daughter or niece's heart, wouldn't you hold a grudge?" Trip sat back in his chair frustrated. "The guy has never been nice to me since."
"Trip, we were in space for over nine years, when did your paths even cross? Ford was assigned to the Academy the entire time we were gone." Archer questioned him. Trip didn't answer and avoided eye contact with Archer. After a moment Archer continued, "I think you are over reacting."
Trip moved his food around on the plate with his fork for a few moments and then looked out the window. "Yeah, well, I guess that remains to be seen. Look, can we just drop it? I don't want to talk about it anymore" He turned back toward the Admiral before continuing. "What about the 'mission' you've been assigned? I thought Admiral Cooper was the official representative on the Diplomatic Task force."
Archer ate the last bite of bacon from his plate and sat back in his chair. "Well, he is technically, but apparently he has a more important engagement to attend." He was silent for a moment thinking about the mission. "If anything, at least I'll be back out in space again for a while, and I'll have the chance to meet some new species, especially the Anoree. Phlox told me they have some medical resources that may be of interest to us."
Trip tilted his head and asked the question, trying to sound interested. "What type of medical resources?"
"Advanced Infertility Sequencing. Apparently their race has had severe problems in the past decade with reproduction and they have developed several effective techniques to counteract it."
Tucker rolled his eye and looked seriously at his friend. "Are you for real? You can't tell me you're looking forward to going to that?"
Archer took a deep breath and the muttered. "No, I'm not looking forward to it all. I actually could care less. However, that is what Starfleet wants me to do, so that is what I'll do. Besides it will give me a chance to catch up with Mayweather."
"Mayweather," Trip questioned. "I thought he was teaching at Starfleet."
Archer sat back and smiled. "Well, rank does have some privileges. He was teaching, but I requested him as part of my detail. Captain Harvick didn't care because his senior helmsman had just been transferred to a position on Earth." Archer's eyes twinkled at Tucker.
"Wha, you son-of-a-" Tucker replied jokingly. "I don't suppose you had any influence T'Pol being assigned as the science officer of the Phoenix?"
Archer didn't respond at first because the smile on his face had given him away. "Like I said, rank does have its privileges."
Tucker smiled and pointed his spoon at him. "Well, I guess I owe you for that. Now can you do something about getting the 'Ole Man' off my bridge?"
Archer shook his head. "You know a hundred and fifty years ago it was common practice for an Admiral to be assigned command of an aircraft carrier."
Trip looked up at Archer with a raised eyebrow. "An aircraft carrier? That's your analogy? Aircraft carriers had crew compliments of over 5000 people. They were a city. They needed a mayor. Phoenix can carry maybe 370 at max capacity. That's no different from Mulligan's Pub on a Friday night. Shoot, all we need is a bartender."
Archer snickered, "Comparing yourself to a bartender? You've been on earth too long my friend."
Trip leaned forward at the table. "No, think about it Jon," he said thoughtfully. "Captains are like bartenders, in a sense. A bartender controls the flow in the pub. They give direction to a group of people, listen to everyone's problems and then give advice or make decisions based on what they have heard." He took a sip of coffee before continuing. "They keep order and try to please for the most part ... and then in extreme cases, order people out or delegate someone else to do the dirty work." He looked up at Archer with a twinkle in his eye.
"You learned all of that watching the bartender at Mulligan's?" Archer questioned.
"Nahh, I learned all of that watching you." Trip smiled at his friend. "Stu and the Gervase made the correlation."
"Yea, well, the premise is sound," Trip replied smiling. "Besides that still doesn't get 'Ole Man' Stewart off my back."
Archer took a sip of coffee and stared out the window for a moment. "Admiral Stewart thinks very highly of you Trip. You could probably learn a thing or two from him."
Trip shifted his weight in his chair. "Oh, I don't doubt that at all Jon. I really like the guy. It's just kinda like getting your first apartment after ya move out of your folks place. Ya just want to be alone for the first few nights."
Archer stared at his friend a moment. "No one doubts your ability Trip, especially Stewart"
Trip stared into his coffee for a few seconds and looked up at Archer with a mischievous grin on his face. "I guess the least I can do is take the Admiral on a test drive around the block a couple of times." He waved down the server for a refill of his coffee. "He's already told me that he is gonna to sit in the backseat for the most part. I put up with you for ten years. A couple of day trips with him ought to be a piece of cake."
Archer sat back in his chair and looked at Tucker before glancing at his watch. "I think Admiral Stewart will be getting the better end of the stick. Captain Tucker is worlds away from the young Commander Tucker I flew with."
Tucker glanced at Archer and pointed at him with his spoon. "You're probably right … I have matured in the past ten years. I owe a lot to you."
Archer looked down at the table and said nothing for a moment. Memories of their time together flashed through his mind, many good times, some not so good times, but great memories all the same. The silence at the table was quickly replaced by the sounds in the restaurant, the murmur of voices from the surrounding tables, and the barely audible jazz in the background. Archer blindly surveyed the sights in the room. In a couple of days, life as he knew it, life as it had been for the past ten years was going to change. Trip would launch back into space on a new ship, the fastest in the fleet. He would stand on the bridge as the Captain, not a Chief Engineer.
In that brief moment of silence, Tucker reflected as well. He noticed the gray in Archer's temples. The man he always thought of as a brother more than his commanding officer was getting older and moving on. When the Phoenix left space dock in a couple of days, Jonathan Archer wasn't going to be his Captain anymore. Trip would be on his own, commanding his own staff, maneuvering his own ship …. at least in theory anyway. Admiral Stewart was officially the Commanding Officer of the ship, but Trip would be on the bridge, leading her out on her maiden voyage.
Both men were awakened from their trance as two servers ran into each other at the counter and dropped a tray of food. Archer shuffled his feet and glanced at his watch. "I could stay here all day and reminisce with you Trip, but I've got packing to do."
Trip took a last drink of his coffee and nodded. "Yeah, this is no time to get all mushy and nostalgic." He stood up and put on his jacket. "I'm playing racquetball with Stu in an hour. I can't be all teary eyed when I see him."
Archer smiled and patted his friend on the back. They weaved through the tables to the door and walked outside of the café. It had stopped raining and the sun was trying to peek through the clouds.
"You walkin'?" Archer asked.
"Yeah, Stu's place is just around the corner. I told him that I would meet him there after breakfast."
"Ok, well, have a good mission. We'll do this again in a couple of weeks." Archer shook Trip's hand and then stepped over to the cabstand at the curb. Tucker turned and headed down the block in the opposite direction. A hover-cab pulled up a few moments later. Once it settled on the ground, Archer opened the door and stepped inside. The driver turned slightly to the right and yelled over his shoulder at Archer.
"Where ya goin' Mister?"
The faded Giant T-shirt caught Archer's eye as he looked at the driver. Oh great, he thought to himself. "Starfleet Headquarters." Archer replied staring out the window.
"Starfleet headquarters?" The driver mumbled to himself. "Now there is a place filled with a bunch of wise ass morons."
Archer shook his head, not believing his odds of ending up with the same cab driver. The driver put the car in gear and the hover cab lifted off and flew down the street toward Starfleet HQ. Archer leaned back in the seat and rubbed his hand across his brow again. He was really going to hate working behind a desk.