For Want Of A Nail
By Blackn'blue (aka Bluenblack)
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek. I wrote this for fun. Anyone is free to download and/or redistribute this story as long as you keep it complete and intact, and as long as you don't make any money from it.
Note: Vulcan terms used in this story were taken from the online Vulcan Language Dictionary, the Vulcan Language Institute, or I made them up myself.
This is the first fanfic story that I ever published. It originally went live on the old HoT site, and was intended to be a stand-alone finale fix. Urm.... Things kinda got out of hand. It ended up being the first story in my four story series called, "The Road Once Traveled".
Since this story was originally posted all at once, I am doing to do the same thing here for sentimental reasons. I want to once again offer thanks to everyone for encouragement, advice, patience, harassment, merciless critique, and most of all friendship.
Chapter 5 - Conclusion
T'Pol keyed the intercom on Phlox's desk. "T'Pol to engineering."
The reply came very quickly. "Tucker here. How's it going up there?"
"The healers have finished their examination and confirmed Dr. Phlox's original results. I will now be able to file the required paperwork to have Elizabeth declared a Vulcan citizen." T'Pol winced and drew back a little at the victory yell that came through the speaker. "I also wish to visit the Vulcan compound immediately to obtain some warmer clothing for her and some other Vulcan baby supplies that I need. Would you like to come with us?"
"Don't go anywhere without me. I am on the way. Tucker out."
"You are welcome to ride with us Commander," Healer Kerlek gallantly offered. T'Pol accepted the peace offering with dignity. She hoped that Trip could contain his irritation long enough for them to get to San Francisco without incident.
The best laid plans of mice and Vulcans gang aft agley however. T'Pol was still assembling her diaper bag supplies and waiting for Trip to arrive from engineering when the intercom went off with a screaming alarm.
"Tactical Alert! Tactical Alert! All Hands To Battle Stations!"
T'Pol sprang like a cat to hand Elizabeth to Phlox, who took her in one smooth motion as if they had been practicing for years. She turned and dashed for the door, yelling over her shoulders, "All three of you will remain here until you receive further instructions."
She took off for the turbo lift at a dead run, passing other crew members heading in both directions. Everyone kept their heads down and focused all their attention on getting their backsides to where they were supposed to be at top speed, paying no attention to what anyone else was doing. The lift stopped and T'Pol leaped aboard, stumbling straight into Trip's chest. The door closed and he steadied her as they resumed the ascent to the bridge.
Her look told him the answer before he asked it. "You don't know what happened either?" She shook her head. The door opened and they got to their posts in a hop and a jump, relieving the beta shift officers who turned over the reins with visible relief.
Ambassador Soval was on the main view screen talking to the captain. "Our personnel are evacuating as quickly as possible Captain Archer. If the information that your prisoner provided is accurate the bomb is scheduled to go off in precisely 7 minutes and 9 seconds. This will not be sufficient time for everyone to escape from the compound. However, it will at least allow time to save our women and children. We are deeply grateful."
"Don't give up yet Ambassador," Archer said between his teeth. He turned to the engineering station. "Trip, get down to the transporter and start locking on Vulcan life signs in the compound down there. Beam them up as fast as possible. Start with the Ambassador himself, that way he can direct you with the rest."
"I'm on it, Cap'n." Trip was already in the turbo lift by the time he finished.
"Send us your coordinates Ambassador," Archer instructed firmly. Soval gave him a look and sighed.
"Very well captain." He manipulated something off screen. "They have been sent."
"Got them sir," Hoshi murmured. "Sending them down to Commander Tucker." Soval stood up, shimmered, and disappeared from the screen.
"He's here, Cap'n," Trip's voice came through.
T'Pol told them, "I am routing sensor data directly to Commander Tucker's console."
"I'll just start at the back of the compound and work my way toward the front. That work for you, Soval?" Trip's voice sounded again.
"It seems as logical an approach as any," Soval agreed. A moment later a muted whine came through the intercom and Soval was heard briskly telling someone, "Please clear the pad for the next arrival. Proceed down the corridor and await further instructions."
"Perfect," Archer sagged back against his chair. "T'Pol, is there anything you can do to help from up here?" She shook her head. "Then head down there and organize a welcoming committee for our guests. Warn Phlox in case some of them are hurt or sick. The ones that aren't hurt can go to the mess hall or wherever you think we have room. Let's keep this operation tight people. Malcolm, make sure that your team keeps an eye on things. I don't want any nasty surprises. And post someone in sickbay to watch over Elizabeth."
T'Pol stopped at the turbo lift and looked back. "Thank you... Jonathan." He grinned and waved her onward.
In the end not everyone made it out. But Trip's mastery at the transporter controls got enough people away from the center of the blast zone to ensure that nobody died or was permanently damaged. Emergency response teams flooded the compound while police and MACO squads cordoned the area tightly.
The secondary Vulcan compound in Cairo was not prepared to accept so many refugees without some time to prepare. Rather than move everyone around again, Starfleet just shipped up some camp beds and basic supplies. Cargo holds one and two were converted into dormitories and the environmental controls were re-set to Vulcan normal.
The refugees were advised to settle in for the next few days until their new homes were ready. Chef was beside himself with the culinary opportunities. He happily declared that he had never imagined there were so many different things that you could do with plomeek. Someone soon introduced the Vulcan children to the wonders of chocolate, to the deep chagrin of their parents. Things started shaping up to be an interesting few days.
An hour after the final Vulcan was beamed aboard Trip and T'Pol sat in the briefing room with Soval, Archer, Phlox, the three Healers who had examined Elizabeth, and Admiral Gardner who had flown up for the consultation. No one looked thrilled to be there but all present acknowledged that it could have been much worse.
"So what's the deal Cap'n?" Trip asked, rubbing his forehead. "Are you telling us that Massaro gave you the tip about the bomb?"
"Not quite Trip," Archer replied. "The tip was turned in by Gannett. I am sure you remember Gannett." He looked to the seat beside him. "She was aboard our ship for a while Admiral. We even thought at first that she might be a Terra Prime operative herself, but it turned out that she was working undercover trying to find the mole."
Admiral Gardner looked his age at the moment but his voice was by no means weak. "As it happens one of the access codes that your man Massaro gave us worked to unlock a system that she had been trying to hack into for weeks. It is only by the grace of God that we found out about this when we did. If the information had come even a few minutes later it would have cost hundreds of lives. The timing is amazing."
"I'n't it though?" Trip muttered sardonically. He shot a glance at T'Pol, who could have made a fortune at any poker table in the galaxy.
"The timing that concerns me is the fact that Trip and I were just about to visit the compound with Elizabeth when the alert sounded," T'Pol said. "I gather from what you said Admiral that Terra Prime was responsible for the bomb. What was their reasoning? Revenge for the Earth embassy on Vulcan?"
"Partly," Gardner sighed. "Partly sheer cussedness. They want to cause trouble and turmoil any way that they can. We have Paxton and his chiefs, but the main body of Terra Prime is still out there. It will take a long time, perhaps even years, to eradicate this particular cancer."
T'Rul said coldly, "Meanwhile no Vulcan will be safe on Earth."
Soval looked reprovingly at her while the humans looked down at the table. "That is hardly the case Healer T'Rul. I regret to say that I find your statement highly illogical. Terra Prime is no more representative of humans generally than V'Las and his associates are representative of Vulcans. Neither of our races is perfect. But at least we are both trying to improve ourselves. What more can we do?"
"Elizabeth's safety is what matters to me," Trip broke in roughly. "From the sound of things it doesn't seem like it will be safe for her on Earth for a long time, if ever."
Archer looked exceedingly unhappy. "Trip..." He stopped and took a deep breath. "Massaro wasn't going to kill you. We were wrong about that. He..." The captain looked away for a moment.
"What?" Trip said very softly, his eyes never leaving his friend's face.
Archer looked back in the suddenly silent room. "You were right to begin with. His orders were to kill Elizabeth. Paxton sent out the command just before he was locked up. He expected her to die you know. In fact he counted on it. But if Phlox somehow managed to save her, Massaro was instructed to make sure..." Archer couldn't stand to look at Trip's face any longer. Neither could Gardner. The Vulcans politely turned away to spare another the shame of having such blatant emotion be witnessed publicly. Only T'Pol reached out to him and grabbed his hands.
"Is Massaro still aboard?" Trip managed to force out the words in a barely audible whisper that was still sentient. But only just.
"No," Archer said emphatically. "When Admiral Gardner arrived we sent him back down immediately on the same shuttle. I wanted him off my ship and Starfleet wanted him in their interrogation chambers just as badly."
"Good," was all Trip had to say on the matter.
"Logically, of Elizabeth's two possible home worlds Vulcan would seem to be the safest option at this time," T'Pol said flatly. "Ambassador. I wish to enter a request for a hearing to have my daughter declared a citizen of Vulcan based on her genetic heritage."
"Certainly. I will forward your request to T'Pau immediately along with my endorsement. However I believe that approval is a foregone conclusion." Soval looked across the table at the young couple. "Considering that you are one of the three who found the Kirshara, and that Commander Tucker led the Enterprise into single handedly preventing war between Vulcan and Andoria, I sincerely doubt that the Council will have any objection to declaring your offspring a citizen.
"What about me?" Trip sat up and ignored the stares he suddenly got from the head of the table. "What would I have to do to immigrate?"
Four gray Vulcan eyebrows rose in unison. T'Pol just beamed at him without allowing her expression to so much as twitch. Trip made a note that someday he was absolutely going to have to figure out how she did that. Soval said slowly, "I am not certain what you mean Commander. Surely you will be allowed to visit your daughter whenever you wish. If you desire to take up residence on Vulcan there is a human compound..."
"No," Trip shook his head vehemently. "No compound. No separation from the rest of the world. I want to live with my family in a normal home and give my daughter a normal life. Or as normal as it can be with an alien for a father."
"I…." Soval looked floored. He looked at T'Pol, who simply held up her left hand to show him her wedding band and said nothing more. Soval blinked and stared for a moment, then came back to himself. "I see. In that case the situation is entirely different Commander. As the husband of a Vulcan citizen, you are automatically entitled to make your home on Vulcan if you choose to do so. This right is unassailable and irrevocable. Even if something happens to T'Pol now, your status will not change."
"Dammit Trip!," Archer slapped his hand on the table in frustration. "I just got you back from Columbia! Are you seriously going to resign your commission now? Throw away the career that you spent your life building? If you quit now you will never know what you could have accomplished."
"No, he is not going to give up his career. I will not allow it." T'Pol said decisively.
"Oh really," Trip turned to look at her. "It's all right for you but not all right for me? Anyway don't they have engineers on Vulcan?"
"Assuredly we do," Soval said. "Some additional training might be required to accustom you to our technology. But you could certainly find employment on Vulcan."
"But not as a warp field specialist, which is your area of expertise," T'Pol pointed out.
"So exactly how long have you two been married Commander?" Gardner asked, scowling.
"Exactly 19 hours and 12 minutes Admiral," T'Pol replied with unshakable equanimity. "By the way. I hereby resign my commission."
Admiral Gardner groaned and sat back looking like he had a headache. "We can't fill positions to begin with. Then as soon as we fill 'em our best people start spawning and bail on us." He ran a tired hand through his hair. "Hernandez is still trying to come up with a chief engineer that satisfies her. And we haven't got half the senior officers picked out for the NX-03 yet even though she is due to launch in 17 months."
"I sincerely sympathize Admiral," Soval told him. "We have the same problem. It seems that some things are universal."
"With all due respect Admiral," Archer looked put upon, "you are not the one losing both your chief engineer and your science officer plus your first officer all in one fell swoop."
"You are not going to lose your engineer Captain," T'Pol returned. "We will work something out. Trip and I will discuss arrangements."
"And just what gives you the authority to make statements like that?" Trip demanded, starting to get steamed. "I thought on Vulcan wives were supposed to obey their husbands, not the other way around."
"We are not on Vulcan, husband," she pointed out reasonably. "You married me by the laws and customs of Earth. There was nothing in our marriage oath about obedience."
Gardner snorted. "We used to put that in our vows, but gales of hysterical laughter kept interrupting the ceremonies." He looked at Trip. "I take it that your main concern here is having time with your family. As long as we could figure out a way for you to have that, you would stick?"
Trip looked intrigued. "Sure. I would love to stay. But I gotta put my family first Admiral. I am not gonna leave my baby girl to grow up without her daddy. I can't do that to her. I am sorry, but it just i'n't gonna happen."
"Well for at least the next few months we can arrange for you to stay on Enterprise but be granted frequent extended family leaves." Gardner told the room, "With everything that has been happening in the last few years, Starfleet has instituted a new policy. Now that we have more than one of them we are going to keep at least one NX class vessel within three day's travel of the home world at all times, just in case of emergencies."
Captain Archer nodded emphatically. "As much as I would love to be back out there, I can't argue with the logic of that."
Admiral Gardner told Trip, "While you are away from the ship on Vulcan you can be working on detached assignment with our R&D team. We have a new set of theoretical designs that need to be fine tuned and I believe that you are just the man to do it. These theorists are fine and dandy at drawing pretty pictures. But pretty pictures don't make a ship fly. I want a man to look at those designs who understands how things work in the real world and knows what it means to get his hands dirty. If these designs pan out we will be building warp six engines in less than ten years."
Trip's eyes lit up. "I... I suppose I could take a look at them..."
"Great," Gardner said and stood up. "We will work out the scheduling once this emergency is settled. Meantime I need to get back to my office. That gold mine you tapped, Jon, has caused the Terra Prime thugs to start scurrying like rats from a burning barn. I have a dozen teams right now out with nets, ready to scoop them up."
"Good hunting Admiral," Archer told him with a grim smile. "I will arrange a shuttle for you."
"Captain," Soval spoke up. "If I might impose. There are several items in my office in the compound that I have need of. Particularly those related to filing the request for baby Elizabeth's citizenship. Given the location of the bomb and the strength of the blast, it is likely that my office is still somewhat intact. Might I impose for transportation down to the compound?"
"Certainly, Ambassador." Archer turned to Gardner. "You wouldn't mind sharing a shuttle pod would you sir?"
"Absolutely not," Gardner replied. "Glad to have the company."
"Cap'n," Trip looked concerned. "You better let me go with him. It's not like he's in shape to do rock climbing. There's gonna be debris, and some of that stuff is no doubt unstable. I can go in and get the stuff for him if he will tell me what he wants and where it is."
"That is inadvisable," T'Pol said tightly. "There is no logic in risking yourself husband. Terra Prime considers you a traitor to your species. You have been marked as a particular target. You should not go down there."
"I am not gonna let those..." Trip visibly got a grip. More calmly he said, "I am not going to let terrorists drive me away from my own planet T'Pol. I refuse to live my life in fear of what might happen. If I start to do that I might as well cut my own throat and be done with it. Besides, I may be a target but I am no more of a target than Soval is."
She still looked unhappy. He softened his tone and took her arms in his hands. "T'Pol," he said gently. "I will be as careful as I can be. I promise you that. I have no desire to get hurt, believe me. I have far too much to live for now. I have you, I have Lizzie. I have it all. I won't take any risk I can avoid, I swear."
She closed her eyes and drew in the deepest breath she could hold. She let it out and nodded, then she opened her shining eyes. "You have no way of knowing what those words mean to me husband. I will wait for you. Please come back soon."
"I will." He gave her a quick peck and went to join the Admiral and the Ambassador where they waited at the door to the briefing room.
Trip piloted the shuttle down to Starfleet HQ without incident. Once there it was easy for Admiral Gardner to summon ground transport to carry Soval and Trip to the compound. Soval casually waved his credentials and vouched for Trip, which got them through the barricade.
The compound was a mess. Trip visualized some giant with a ten story high mixer thrusting the beaters into the center of the compound and hitting the switch for high speed. The main residential area was hardest hit, with the school being completely flattened and the married/family housing almost completely destroyed. The medical offices next door were crumbling and slumping into a rough hill of dirt and stones that leaned against the corner of the diplomatic offices. The debris had shifted down and uprooted a tree, throwing it over and into an ornamental pond where a few hardy water fowl still paddled around looking befuddled.
Humans in uniform were everywhere. Taking pictures, measuring things, taking samples. Soval led Trip over to the front of the diplomatic building where they discovered a major setback. The front door had caved in. So had the five stories on top of it. This did not seem auspicious. The two men withdrew to discuss options.
"Hello Commander, Ambassador."
Trip turned with Soval to regard the young woman. "Hello Gannett." He felt a warm rush of friendly feelings mixed with embarrassment for his earlier suspicions. "I... uh... thanks for the help. I'm sorry about before. You know, on the ship."
She grinned. "I'll find a way to let you make it up to me somehow Commander. I'm just grateful that no one got killed here. That would have been too much. And as far as thanks go, I think we all owe you thanks. I understand you were the reason Paxton's beam hit the water instead of the city."
"Well, yeah." Trip felt a little sheepish.
Ambassador Soval stepped forward with his hand raised and fingers spread. "Peace and long life to you, Lady. Your timely warning saved the lives of many of my people. A debt is owed, and it will not
"I was only doing my duty Ambassador," Gannett told him politely. "I am sure you understand. I am here to serve." She bowed.
Soval raised his eyebrow. "In that case, perhaps you know of a safe way that we might enter the diplomatic building. I am urgently in need of some items from my office if they can possibly be obtained."
She wrinkled her brow and considered. "I heard some of the rescue workers mention that the side door was unblocked. But I don't know if you want to try it. They went over that pile of debris to get in, but they are trained and had special gear."
"Necessity impels me to make the attempt," Soval replied and started forward.
"No it doesn't," Trip said, stepping in front of him. "It impels you to wait right here while I make the attempt. You aren't as young as you used to be Soval. Besides somebody needs to be out here to yell for help if I get into trouble." The Vulcan didn't put up any real fight about it.
Gannett pulled out her recorder and started taking shots as Trip cautiously approached the pile. "What are you doing?"
"I am a reporter you know," she retorted, aiming the recorder to catch a shot of Soval watching Trip set his foot on the first big rock. Trip didn't say anything else. All his attention and breath was spent on climbing. He soon found that scrambling up a pile of loose dirt and shattered concrete was not in any way comparable to rock climbing. It was much, much, worse. Every time he started to make any progress he slid backward to the bottom.
Soon a few casual observers ambled over. As his audience grew, remarks became wagers and Trip started to simmer. Finally he backed off and took a running start. When he hit the pile he started scrambling like a madman on all fours. By dint of furious effort and dogged determination he finally made it to the top of the pile. Filthy and triumphant, he turned with a smile and looked down at the observers below. He saw Gannett with her recorder smiling and giving him a thumbs up sign, which he returned.
Then the rock he was standing on shifted and flew out from under him. Trip hit the slope rump first and already picking up speed. Stopping was hopeless. Slowing down was futile. Steering was laughably unlikely. He did manage however to get enough purchase on the slope with his hands to change his angle of descent. Instead of heading feet first for the place where he started, he ended up pointed head first at the pond.
The splash was quite impressive. So was the eruption of waterfowl. Soval started forward along with several others to offer assistance when Trip exploded up from the bottom of the pond. Soaked to the skin, covered with slime and mud, scraped from the slide, draped with water lilies, and directly underneath an outraged mother duck along with her four half grown ducklings.
In strict obedience to immemorial instinct, the momma duck attacked. Trip tried to stand up but his feet kept sliding out from under him on the slick mud of the algae infested pond. Meanwhile the duck braced herself atop his brow and alternated between jabbing at his face with her beak, and flogging him about the head and neck with both wings while quacking at the top of her lungs.
Trip flailed wildly and finally gained enough control of his arms to shove her off. The irate matron left, but not without placing a final notice of her stern disapproval in Trip's hair. Trip let himself flop back down into the water in defeat. Chest deep in stinking green slop, he reached up and wiped away a handful of something slimy from the side of his head. With his other hand he numbly unwrapped the water lily necklace and flung it away. Then he sighed tiredly.
Gannett was holding her sides and down on her knees laughing herself sick. "I got it all! From the bottom to the top and back down again! If I don't get a Pulitzer there is no justice in life!"
Soval asked in real concern, "Are you injured Commander?"
Trip sat staring glassy-eyed at his erstwhile nemesis for a moment as she waddled off, still quacking to her trailing brood. He shook his head. Soval repeated his question. "Are you injured Commander? Commander Tucker. Are you all right?"
The Vulcan saw the young human blink and turn to look at him for a moment. He listened in total incomprehension as Trip muttered, "This nails it to the barn. That boy is definitely out of the will."