Conflict Imminent

By ginamr

Rating: PG-13

Genres: virtual season drama angst romance general adventure

Keywords:

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Star Trek-The Continuing Voyages of the Enterprise
A Virtual Season 5 Series-Revised

By ginamr

Disclaimer: Only new characters and the new plots are mine. The original characters belong to Paramount. I receive no monetary reward for my work; my only reward is the joy of creating.

Genre: Science Fiction/Angst/Action/Adventure

Possible spoilers: Broken Bow through Terra Prime

Author's Note:
I'm going to assume Vulcans can tell white lies. ;) So, when T'Pol says she and Trip "hadn't been intimate in six years ("These Are the Voyages"), I'll assume she fibbed and that what she meant was that they hadn't been intimate on regular basis and that their intimacy wasn't common knowledge. As for anyone being suspicious...they (most of them) think they're meditating together and/or comforting one another.

Additionally, I'd like it noted that this story is the equivalent of a two-hour season premiere.

A/N # 2: For those of you who pick about information that seems meaningless to the story, this supposedly meaningless small talk and chit-chat throughout the story is meant to relax and lighten the mood in order to make the action more dramatic.

Last time on Star Trek: Enterprise... Ragnarok, Part Three



**SPECIAL SEASON FIVE PREMIERE**


5.07-Conflict Imminent (PG-13)

  

Summary: There's trouble on Betazed Archer and crew go to help only to find themselves in the midst of battle. They struggle to save the inhabitants of Betazed while also trying to keep Enterprise intact.

 

 


 

 

San Francisco, California, Earth-Starfleet Medical

September 3rd, 2155-0322 hours

Archer sat at Erika's bedside, waiting. The doctors had told him that she'd come out of her coma a few hours ago and had asked for him. He laid a shaky hand on top of hers before tightening his grip, stroking his thumb over the back of her hand.

He heard a sudden intake of breath and looked up to see Erika's eyes open and study him. "Jon?" Her voice was soft and feeble causing Archer's throat to tighten.

"Yeah, it's me," he replied, brushing the knuckles of his free hand over her cheek.

"What happened?"

Archer smiled weakly. "You hit your head, sweetheart. The doctors were worried you wouldn't wake up."

"What aren't you telling me, Jon?" Archer frowned. "I can see it in your eyes."

"Erika..."

"Tell me."

Archer sighed. "Do you remember the last time we...were intimate?"

She nodded. "A month ago...after the incident with Phlox and the Klingons."

Archer swallowed roughly. "The accident...Erika you were pregnant."

She gritted her teeth and pursed her lips tightly. "'Were'?"

"You lost the baby when..." Archer turned away to hide the moisture in his eyes.

Erika became stiff and gripped Archer's hand tighter, nearly crushing it. "There's more, isn't there?"

Archer winced. "The accident caused some severe nerve trauma and..." Archer let out a shaky breath. "They repaired the damage but...the doctors said you might not...be able to walk again."

Erika's eyes closed tightly and her features tensed. "Damn them. I'll walk again if it kills me."

"Erika..."

"No, Jon. I don't give a damn what they say. I'll walk again."

Archer nodded confidently and paused. "I know this isn't the time or the place...but I don't think I'll sleep until I say this. My heart broke into a million tiny pieces when I heard what happened. I was so scared when I thought I'd lost you. I love you, Erika. I love you more than anything. I don't know what I'd do without you. And no matter what happens, I'll always love you and I'll always want to be with you. Erika Hernandez, would you do me the great honor of being my wife?"

Erika stared at him speechless for a moment. "Jon..."

"This isn't just about the baby or the doctors' diagnosis. I'd love you even if you weren't able to have children and even if you never walked again. It took me nearly losing you to realize just how much you mean to me."

"It may be the most impulsive thing I ever do, but this feels too right for me to say anything but 'yes'. Hell yes, I'll marry you!"

Archer laughed kissing her forehead, and then her eyes, finally covering her lips with his. "I love you, sweetheart."

She smiled. "I love you, too, Jon."

"You can come in now, Commander."

With this, Trip entered the room, T'Pol at his side, and approached Archer, clapping him on the back. "I'll take it she said yes."

Erika looked at Trip, surprise crossing her features before her gaze returned to Archer. "You planned this?! Even after..."

Archer smirked. "Somehow, I knew you couldn't say 'no'."

Erika chuckled, shaking her head. "You're incorrigible."

"I have found that human males tend to overestimate their effect on the opposite sex."

Erika grinned while Trip and Archer looked at the Vulcan in twin looks of shock, surprised at her bluntness. "Aren't all men like that?"

"True," T'Pol conceded.

Trip grinned. "So...when's the wedding?"

"We'll plan things after Erika has recovered."

Out of the corner of his eye, Archer saw Erika trying to get out of the bed. He forced her to lie back down, not removing his hands. "Lay still, sweetheart."

"Jon, my back is sore and I'm stiff as a board from lying in this damned bed. Just across the room."

"Erika..."

"Either you help me or I'll do it myself. It doesn't matter to me."

"But the doctor said..."

"Damn him! Now if you would be so kind as to help me..."

Archer sighed. "Fine, but if you start feeling any more pain, I'm depositing you right back into bed. Understood?"

Erika grinned. "Aye, Commander!"

Archer chuckled. "Ready?" Erika nodded and sat up slowly, wincing as she slid her legs off the bed, her feet touching the floor softly. Archer went to her other side, one arm wrapping around her waist as she wrapped one of hers around his shoulders, her free hand gripping his at her waist. With a nod, Archer helped her to standing position. Once she'd gained her balance, she took her first step and winced, her legs giving way under her. Archer caught her, helping her to stand up straight again. "Easy, sweetheart. Take it slow."

"The fact that I can stand has to be some kind of miracle," she gritted, taking another cautious step.

"You're doing fine. Just go easy." Several more slow, painful steps and she was on the far side of the room. "Just a few more steps, Erika. You're almost there." She took yet another step, but this time her legs gave way underneath her. Archer caught her, pulling her back up. "Does it hurt?" She gritted her teeth, nodding. "That's it. You're going back into bed."

"No. I'm almost there." She gripped Archer's arm tightly as she took her next few steps. At last, she made it back to the bed, leaning against it and gritting her teeth against the pain.

"Let me help you, sweetheart." Erika turned to look at him and nodded. Archer tucked one arm under her knees and the other under her shoulders and lifted her onto the bed. He set her down, smiling and kissed her forehead. "You did great. You'll be walking again on your own in no time."

Erika smiled weakly. "I hope so or I might go crazy from being condemned to this bed." She sighed. "So how did things go with the Briliarins?"

"As well as can be expected. One of the women was murdered. Trip was found at the scene of the crime and accused of committing the murder. It turned out the whole thing was cover for a rebellion..."

"Another civil war averted by the famous Captain Archer," Erika teased. "Did you...meet anyone...interesting?" Trip brought up a hand to cover the grin forming on his face. Archer frowned. "I heard a rumor or two..."

"What kind of rumors?"

"You carried her to Sickbay? And you kissed her?

"She was hurt. And it was just her way of saying 'thank you'. It wasn't more than a quick peck. Ask Trip. He was standing right there."

Erika turned to Trip for confirmation. "Just a quick peck?"

Trip nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Just that." He didn't add the look Archer had given her on her way out of Sickbay. He would have looked too if he hadn't been so sure T'Pol would have caught him. This earned him a raised eyebrow from the woman standing next to him. Damn!

"You see, Erika," Archer began. "I was worried sick about you. The last thing on my mind was other women."

Erika smiled, and nodded.

Just then, a nervous young ensign entered the room and approached Archer. "There's a priority message for you, sir...from Admiral Greene." The ensign held out a padd and Archer took it, perusing the contents and frowning.

"What is it, Cap'n?" Trip asked.

"The Romulans. They're blockading a planet called Betazed." He paused and turned to T'Pol.

"The Betazoids are a culture of telepaths. Their appearance is very human and it is speculated that Betazoids and Humans could produce fertile offspring. Their marital ceremonies typically are done with no clothing worn."

This earned raised eyebrows from both Archer and Erika, while Trip smiled, trying to keep himself from laughing. "Characteristically, it is an egalitarian society, though women traditionally hold many positions of authority."

"So, what're our orders, Cap'n?"

"Enterprise and Columbia are being ordered to take any necessary measures to stop it. Starfleet thinks the Betazoids would be a valuable ally."

T'Pol nodded. "Would you like me to contact Enterprise?"

"Yes. Inform Mr. Reed that leave appears to have been cut short."

T'Pol nodded and exited the room, Trip following closely behind. Archer turned to Erika, squeezing her hand tightly. "Erika..."

She shook her head. "It's all right, Jon. You've got your commitments and I've got mine."

He leaned down, kissing her forehead. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

"I'll be right here. Where can I possibly go?"

Archer chuckled, giving her a lingering kiss. "I love you."

Erika smiled. "I love you, too."

Archer released her hand slowly, watching her adoringly as he backed out of the room.

 


 

Captain's Starlog-September 4th, 2155

Enterprise is en route to Betazed to assist in any way possible with Columbia not too far behind. I've reviewed the information about Betazed that T'Pol retrieved from the Vulcan database. I must admit that despite the circumstances, I'm looking forward to this first contact. No doubt it will be an interesting experience for all involved.

 


 

Enterprise-Bridge
September 4th, 2155-1428 hours

Archer entered the bridge with an air of anticipation despite the fact that their mission objective could lead to a battle. "Report?"

"There's no sign of the Romulan fleet, Captain."

Archer frowned. "Full ahead, Travis. Be ready, Mr. Reed."

"Aye, sir."

"Sir, we're being hailed," Hoshi quipped from her station.

Archer frowned. "By whom?"

"Its configuration matches that of a Betazoid C-class cruiser," T'Pol replied.

"Put it through, Hoshi." Sato nodded and entered the command before looking up and nodding again. "This is Captain Jonathan Archer of the Earthship, Enterprise. We received your urgent message and are ready to assist you."

The viewscreen changed to show the smiling face of an elderly woman with dark eyes and long, wavy blond hair that Archer guessed fell to the woman's middle back. "Captain. I am Lisara Grax of the Thirteenth House of Betazed. I represent the people of Betazed."

Archer's brow furrowed in confusion. "The message stated that your planet was under blockade," he said slowly.

"I apologize then, Captain, for the miscommunication," Grax said, smiling kindly. "Our long-range communications still have a couple of minor glitches due to a system failure that occurred a short time ago." She paused. "We believe that the Romulans may be plotting an invasion. Our encounters with them indicate that they are an imperialist race and are very territorial."

Archer nodded. "We've had a couple of run-ins with them ourselves. They did everything in their power to break down peace talks between the Andorians and the Tellerites. It looks like they consider an alliance a threat."

"That makes sense," she conceded. "If they are truly trying to expand their empire, then an alliance would threaten that goal."

"Then it seems an alliance is just what we need," he replied, smiling.

Grax nodded sharply. "I agree completely, Captain."

"Captain, I'm picking up six other ships approaching," Reed called from Tactical.

"Can you identify them?"

T'Pol  nodded. "Two Andorian warships, two Tellerite warships and two Vulcan D'Kyr vessels."

"I would like to invite representatives from each species aboard to begin talks toward an alliance," Grax began. "If there is no conflict, I will see you in a half-hour." With this, the comm. was cut.

"Hoshi, T'Pol, you're with me."

The two women nodded and followed Archer off the bridge.

 


 

Betazoid Ship Valatie-Conference Hall
September 4th, 2155-1530 hours

"Captain, I am pleased to at last meet you in person."

Archer nodded. "As am I, your Eminence. This is my first officer, Commander T'Pol and my Communications Officer, Ensign Hoshi Sato." The two women nodded, Hoshi offering Grax a small, warm smile.

"May I introduce the other members of the council, Visana Elbrum of the First House of Betazed..." A rather small brunette with smart, dark, almond-shaped eyes inclined her head. "...Nivina Troi of the Fifth House of Betazed..." The tall, dark haired woman on Grax's left bowed her head. "...her sister, Carine Troi, also of the Fifth House of Betazed..." a blond to Grax's right smiled kindly. "...and my sister, Lisana Grax, also of the Thirteenth House." Another dark-haired woman with a heart-shaped face, whom stood to the side of Nivina, inclined her head.

"Mother, you didn't tell me that Human males were so attractive," came a voice behind them. Archer turned to see a young woman with brilliant red curls stalking toward them, eyeing him in a lusty manner, an indulgent smile upon her lips.

"Captain, this is my daughter, Kestra Grax."

Kestra took Archer's extended hand, flirting openly. "You may call me Kestra...if I may call you Jonathan."

Archer smiled nervously, and unnoticed by him, T'Pol raised an eyebrow slightly behind his back. Lisara gave her daughter a stern look. "Now, now, my dear. You know outsiders are uncomfortable with our telepathic abilities."

Kestra pouted prettily. "But Mother not ALL outsiders are THAT uncomfortable with our abilities." She was, of course, referring to the Andorian male she had been chatting up earlier.

Archer cleared his throat, unintentionally recapturing Kestra's interest. There was an awkward silence until a familiar voice behind him spared him from having to fend the young woman off. "You're looking well, pink-skin."

Archer turned, smiling. "Shran. It looks like you got a new command after all."

Shran nodded. "The Imperial Guard has granted me temporary command of the Shelek. I'm their most experienced diplomat, after all."

"What are you going to do when you return to Andoria?" T'Pol asked.

"I've been thinking it's about time I settled down and started a family."

"Jhamel?"

Again, Shran nodded. "I miss Talis a great deal, but, as the human expression goes, 'Time heals all wounds'."

"So you and Jhamel are happy?"

"Of course. She's not as bold as Talis; but, she's special in her own ways," Shran replied, an uncharacteristic twinkle in his eye as his antennae twitched in approval. Archer grinned and nodded.

"Commander Shran," Grax greeted, smiling broadly. "I am so pleased you could make it."

Shran smiled, bowing slightly. "On behalf of the Imperial Guard, thank you for including Andoria in this conference, your Eminence."

"Captain." Archer turned and was surprised to see Ambassador Soval standing there next to T'Pol.

"Ambassador," Archer took Soval's proffered hand. "I didn't expect to see you here."

"I'm here to represent Vulcan, Captain. These talks are important to all of us. I daresay this could be the beginning of an everlasting, ever-reaching alliance."

Archer nodded. "A Federation of Planets perhaps."

"Indeed. Our peoples will need such an alliance to prevent the Romulans from expanding their empire at the cost of our ways of life."

"Ambassador Soval." He turned to see Grax inclining her head at him. "I have heard a great deal about you. It is a pleasure to at last meet you."

"It is agreeable to meet you as well, your Eminence," he replied offering her the Vulcan gesture of greeting, inclining his head slightly as well.

"I trust your journey went smoothly?"

Soval nodded. "It was quite uneventful, thank you."

"Ambassador, Commander Shran, may I introduce my daughter, Kestra?"

The two men inclined their heads. "A pleasure," Shran replied.

"You're from Andor?" Shran nodded. "Is it cold there?"

"For pink-skins such as yourself, yes. But those from Andor are well adapted to the climate."

"Pink-skins?"

Shran said nothing, returning his attention to Archer. "I assume you've been keeping out of trouble, pink-skin?"

Archer sighed. "If only, Shran. Apparently, trouble finds me wherever I go."

"If everyone would accompany me to the dining lounge," Grax said over the many voices. "...our cook has prepared a special feast in honor of these talks. As my grandmother always said, no sense forming an alliance on an empty stomach."

"Wise woman, your grandmother," Commander Cross offered, earning a gale of laughter from around the room. They followed Grax into the lounge and Hoshi's eyes widened at the variety of foods. A look at the table revealed a large bowl of egg drop soup.

Phlox will hate missing this, she thought.

Archer, Soval, and Shran sat the closest to the head of the table, T'Pol sitting on Archer's right. Hoshi sat between an Andorian and a Tellerite who were making somewhat interesting conversation.

"Is this your first trip to Betazed, Commander?" Grax inquired of T'Pol.

"No, your Eminence. I was here as a small child with my grandmother. I found the Janaran Falls to be most aesthetically pleasing."

Grax grinned. "That was one of my favorite spots as a girl. Did you get the opportunity to visit Lake El-Nar?"

"No, I did not. Perhaps if time allows, I will explore the area."

"I would be happy to show you," Kestra added from across the table.

T'Pol nodded and then paused. "Would you like to meditate with me this evening?"

"Meditate?"

"It is a way of organizing the day's events and thoughts. I thought perhaps you would find it...relaxing."

Kestra grinned and nodded. "I would love to, thank you."

"Perhaps afterwards, I could offer you a tour of Enterprise."

"Really?"

"If Captain Archer approves..."

Archer smiled and nodded. "Permission granted."

"Wow! This is going to be fun! Are there more men aboard your ship?"

T'Pol nodded. "Two thirds of the crew is male."

"Are they married?"

"A majority of the males aboard Enterprise are unattached."

"This IS going to be fun," Kestra giggled.

Archer looked over at T'Pol and swore he saw a glint of amusement in the Vulcan's eyes; but as quickly as it had come, it was gone.

"This was a very satisfying meal, Your Eminence. Thank you for your hospitality."

Grax smiled and nodded. "It's my pleasure, Captain."

"I feel obliged to return the favor. In fact, I think that a formal dinner aboard Enterprise is in order."

Shran, the Tellerite Ambassador, T'Pol, and Grax nodded in agreement. "I'll inform my crew," Shran replied.

"As will I," the Tellerite ambassador confirmed.

"You can count on our attendance as well," Grax added.

Archer grinned. "I'll have Chef get started on the menu the moment we get back."

Grax nodded and stood. "If everyone's appetite has been satiated, then perhaps we should begin the discussion of terms for our new alliance."

 


 

Enterprise-Archer's Quarters
September 4th, 2155-2012 hours

"How was the conference, Cap'n?" Trip asked as Archer set things up to watch the polo match.

Archer chuckled. "First time in years I've had a woman under the age of 50 making passes at me."

Trip looked at him incredulously. "Who...?"

"The matriarch's daughter. She's 40 as far as the Betazoids are concerned; but considering they live longer than us, I'd say she's about 27 in our years."

"How did you...?"

"T'Pol. I suppose she noticed the symptoms. Betazed women undergo a ritual called the Phase at age 40 where their sex drive increases drastically."

Trip's eyebrows shot up and he chuckled. "And of all the gents there, she picked you?"

"It just goes to show that no matter how old you get, women love the adventurous type."

Trip grinned. "Uh-huh. That's you all right, isn' it, Cap'n?" He paused. "Is she the woman I saw earlier in the Mess Hall with T'Pol?"

Archer nodded. "T'Pol invited her aboard."

Trip's eyebrows shot up again and he pressed his tongue against the inside of his cheek. "Hmm. That doesn't sound like her."

"I think it would be good for T'Pol to have a woman friend to talk to. Hoshi has been busy with Malcolm lately and there's really no other women on board that she seems close to..."

Trip nodded. "Almost got it set up?"

"Got it."

"Ya know, if we'd done this more often in the Expanse, maybe things wouldn't have been so hard."

Archer sighed. "I thought at the time that I was doing what I needed to do as Captain. Maybe things could have been different."

Trip and Archer sat as the game started.

 


 

Enterprise-T'Pol's Quarters
September 4th, 2155-2100 hours

T'Pol's eyes snapped open when she heard the door chime. "Enter," she called turning toward the door. When the doors parted she was surprised to find Trip standing there.

"Sorry if I'm interruptin' anythin' important."

"You're not," Kestra interjected. "T'Pol and I were just meditating. Would you like to join us?"

Trip nodded, watching T'Pol's reaction out of the corner of his eye. "Sure."

He sat down close to T'Pol, trying to ignore the way the young Betazed was eyeing him.

"Do not worry. I have my sights set on your helmsman," Kestra offered, smiling. Trip looked at her, startled. "Do not misunderstand. You are attractive, Trip; however I know that you are involved with another and that your species chooses one mate only."

Trip looked at T'Pol to gauge her reaction, but she only raised her eyebrows at him.

"Did you tell her we're..."

"I did not say anything."

"Then how did she...?"

"She is telepathic."

"I'm sorry if I have offended you. My mother has warned me of others being offended by me using my telepathic abilities without permission."

Trip smiled. "I'm not offended. Just surprised is all."

Kestra nodded. "It is still new to you. In time, you will become accustomed to it."

"Jus' how much do you know about...T'Pol and I?"

"I know only what you know, Trip."

T'Pol's eyebrows shot up. "Then you know that Trip and I have not been physically intimate for some time."

Kestra smirked and nodded. "Yes. I know."

Trip didn't quite understand where that had come from until suddenly, images of him and T'Pol together flashed through his mind, ones of events that had never occurred. His cheeks colored slightly when he realized T'Pol must have picked up on the young Betazed's thoughts.

T'Pol turned to Trip momentarily before once again focusing on the flame. Trip nodded, doing so as well, Kestra following their lead.

 


 

Enterprise-Mess Hall
September 5th, 2155-1300 hours

"Is this seat taken, Travis?"

Mayweather's head shot up to find Trip looking at him inquiringly. "No, sir. Go ahead."

Trip smiled and sat down. "So...from what I hear, there's a woman onboard who has her eye on ya," he teased.

"And where did you hear that?" Travis asked, sounding surprised.

"Straight from the horse's mouth...if you'll pardon the expression."

There was a moment of silence. "Who is it?"

Trip chuckled. "You'll find out soon enough."

"When?"

Trip looked toward the door, grinning. "I'd say right about now."

Travis turned to see what Trip was looking at and to his surprise, he saw a woman with brilliant red curls and dark eyes gliding toward him.

"Hello," she said, her lips curving shyly.

Trip stood, offering her his chair. "Here, darlin'. Have a seat. I was actually just headin' back ta Engineerin' ta purge the intake manifolds."

Kestra slid slowly into the chair and smiled, nodding her thanks. Trip picked up his tray, winking at Travis before walking toward the exit on the other side of the Mess Hall.

"Hi," she said again.

"Hi."

There was a moment of silence between them before Kestra asked "Is he always like that?" She indicated Trip as he left the Mess Hall.

"Like how?"

"Such a gentleman."

"It's the way he was raised. He's a real nice guy and a brilliant Engineer."

Kestra smiled. "I sensed strong empathy from him when I first encountered him. His presence was warm and calming."

Travis nodded. "He has that effect on people."

There were several moments of silence before Kestra spoke again. "Your presence is full of joy. I sense great kindness in you."

"Thanks...I think."

"It was meant as a compliment."

They sat in silence for a moment before Kestra laid her hand gently on top of his, smiling faintly. Travis was taken slightly by surprise as a feeling of warmth settled itself in the pit of his stomach. He cleared his throat. "I'm Travis, by the way. Travis Mayweather."

Kestra smiled. "I am Kestra Grax, Daughter of the Thirteenth House."

"That's quite a mouthful."

Kestra giggled. "You may call me Kestra."

"Kestra. That's a beautiful name."

"It means 'Daughter of the Gods'. My mother is always saying I am a blessing from them."

Travis grinned. "My mom always tells me I'm her miracle."

"Could she not have children?"

Travis shook his head. "I've got an older brother, Paul. My birth had some complications and they almost lost me. Paul's been teasing me about it my whole life, how I wasn't ready to come out."

Kestra smiled. "It must be nice...having a sibling. I only have cousins and we don't get along that well."

"Sometimes I wish I had an older sister instead of an older brother, but I love him regardless of how stubborn he can be sometimes."

"I understand. I love my mother despite how unconventional she can be. The others respect and revere her, but they find her informal relations with others disturbing. I will not allow myself to be surrounded by such stiff personalities when I am matriarch."

"You sound pretty sure of yourself."

"Well, I've been dreaming about it since I was a little girl." Kestra smiled. "I'm 40."

"But I didn't..."

"I'm telepathic. You were thinking it."

Looking slightly embarrassed, Travis cleared his throat. "Fair enough."

"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you."

"It's all right ."

An awkward silence fell between them during which neither met the other's gaze. Again, Travis cleared his throat. "I should get back to the bridge." He paused. "My shift ends at 1730 hours. Would you like to join me for dinner in my quarters at 1800 hours?"

Kestra smiled. "Yes, that sounds nice."

"All right then. I'll see you at 1800 hours."

With this, Travis stood and picked up his tray, heading toward the other end of the Mess Hall with Kestra smiling dreamily after him.

 


 

Enterprise-Reed's Quarters
September 5th, 2155-1938 hours

Hoshi took a sip of the champagne that Reed had poured for her, rolling it over her tongue to savor the flavor.

"It's White Chardonnay from 2102. It was a Christmas gift from an American friend. I've been saving it for a special occasion."

"It tastes wonderful."

Reed took a sip of his, nodding in agreement. "He always did have good taste...for an American."

"Have you known this American friend long?"

"Only about four years," Reed offered.

Hoshi smiled. She'd been nervous about tonight. She'd almost refused Reed's offer of dinner in his quarters. After their near-kiss back in January, things had been very awkward and neither had spoken of the incident again until last week when he'd at last admitted his harbored feelings for her.

She slid a forkful of her meal into her mouth, chewing delicately. "Mmm. This tastes magnificent. You cooked this yourself?"

"With a little help from Chef, yes."

Hoshi smirked. "Hmm. How much help, I wonder."

Reed smiled sheepishly. "It took a number of tries to get it right...and even then Chef helped a little." He paused. "So you must have limited free time...with all of the incoming and outgoing messages..."

Hoshi laid her hand on top of Reed's and smiled. "Let's not talk about work tonight. It's just us."

Reed cleared his throat. "I haven't had much practice with...small talk."

"Have you gotten any communiqués from your sister lately?"

Reed grinned. "As a matter of fact, yes. She sent along pictures of her newest addition. His name is Adam."

"Ooo. Do you have the pictures?"

Reed nodded. "If you'll excuse me for one moment while I retrieve them..." He stood, laying his napkin carefully on the table, and went to find the photos. Moments later, he returned with a pad containing all of the pictures and handed it to Hoshi.

"Oh, how adorable." She smiled and looked up. "The eyes must run in the family." She turned the pad and indicated the eyes. "They're almost like yours."

Reed chuckled. "People were always telling Maddie and me when we were kids that we could pass for fraternal twins." He paused. "What about your family? Have you heard from them recently?"

Hoshi sighed. "Yes. My father is trying to pull me into an arranged marriage...again, mother's taking his side and to make matters worse, my brother has introduced them to one of his friends and they adore him so much that they've decided I will be married to him."

Reed frowned. "If you tell them you've found someone else, will they perhaps allow you to be free of an arranged marriage?"

"Father won't let it go unless someone else offers for me...and that someone has more wealth to offer than Yiroshiko."

Reed smiled, gripping her hand in his and gently tilted her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. "I'm sure you'll figure something out, love," he whispered brushing her lips slowly and gently with his.

Hoshi closed her eyes to savor the moment, returning the kiss. "Mmm."

Reed pulled back gradually, brushing his knuckles tenderly over her cheek. "You're so beautiful, Hoshi," he said tenderly.

Hoshi sighed softly. "Can I stay with you tonight?"

"Of course."

"You want me to stay?"

Reed smiled. "I was hoping you'd ask."

 


 

Enterprise-Travis's Quarters
September 5th, 2155-1938 hours

Kestra sighed as she hugged close to Travis. "Who would have thought we wouldn't last ten minutes?"

Travis grinned. "I thought five."

Kestra laughed. "Looks like we were both wrong."

"Yeah. What was it? Two and a half?"

"Two minutes and three-zero point four seconds."

Travis laughed. "That precise, huh?"

"What can I say? I'm good at math."

"Among other things..." Travis teased.

"Mmm. You were incredible, too."

"That has to be the best it's ever been for me."

"Don't you have sex very often?"

Travis shook his head. "In fact, this only makes the second time since Enterprise left dry dock." He smiled. "I was more than happy to leave the alien women to Commander Tucker."

"He has had many encounters?"

Travis nodded, counting them off on his fingers. "There was that Xyrillian female that got him 'pregnant' with that glowing box of rocks...that princess, what's her name? Kaitaama...and that one woman Lianna...the one time he didn't return the woman's affections, Phlox's wife, Feezal..."

"I thought your species was monogamous?"

"Phlox is Denobulan. Each man has three wives and each wife has two other husbands."

"So this Feezal was looking for husband number three?"

Travis shrugged. "Whatever she was after, Commander Tucker didn't want anything to do with it."

"Because she was married?"

"That probably was the main reason...but she was pretty forward, so I imagine she scared him off. And most of the crew is convinced that he and Commander T'Pol were romantically involved for a time...some of us are convinced they're still involved..."

"What about your Captain?"

"Besides having his brain muddled by Orion pheromones, none that I can think of...then again, all of the men on board except Commander Tucker were affected."

"Why was Commander Tucker not affected?"

"I guess the only ones who know that for sure are him, T'Pol, the Captain, and Phlox."

Kestra sighed. "All of this exercise has made me hungry."

"Well, maybe we can sneak into the Mess and see if there's anything left over..."

Kestra grinned. "Deal."

 


 

Enterprise-Bridge
September 6th, 2155-0910 hours

"Is it just me, or is everyone in an extremely good mood this morning?" Archer asked.

T'Pol's eyebrows shot up while the other three grinned mischievously.

"We're being hailed by the Betazoid ship, sir."

Archer nodded. "Put it through, Hoshi." He smiled as the screen blinked before showing Grax sitting on what appeared to be a throne. "Your Eminence..." Archer said respectfully, bowing his head slightly.

Grax smiled as well. "Captain. When would you like us to arrive for the formal dinner?"

"Chef says he'll have the majority of the food ready by 1400 hours. So perhaps 1430 hours."

Grax nodded. "Agreed. 1430 hours. I will see you then, Captain."

"I look forward to it," Archer replied. With a last smile, Grax cut the channel.

"Hoshi, get me ship-wide, please." Hoshi's fingers slid over the controls and then she nodded. "All hands, this is the Captain. There will be a formal dinner in honour of our new alliance taking place in the Mess at 1430 hours. You aren't required to wear your uniforms, but please do dress semi-formally."

 


 

Enterprise-Mess Hall
September 6th, 2155-1449 hours

"The whole point of this get together is to get to know our new allies, sir, not to hang around the sidelines like a wallflower."

"Easy for you ta say. You don't have a group of Betazoid women following ya everywhere."

Hoshi grinned, looking over Trip's outfit, which consisted of a long sleeve dress shirt with thin, vertical light blue stripes and a pair of light brown trousers with black dress shoes. "Maybe you should have 'forgotten' to shower, sir."

Trip snorted. "Doubt that would stop 'em."

He jumped, startled, when he felt a hand on his arm. He let out a sigh when he realized it was only T'Pol. "Thank the Lord it's you. I thought it was Tesira again. I swear if I'd known I was going ta be chased all night, I would have worn my uniform."

Hoshi smirked. "You'd probably have more than four Betazoid women after you if you had."

Trip chuckled. "My, my. You're awful forward tonight."

Hoshi shrugged. "I always am."

"I'd say ya came closer than usual ta complimenting a superior officer's physique," he teased.

Again, she shrugged and looked around. "Where's Malcolm?" He was supposed to be here by now."

"Still in the Armory I'm guessing. He had a couple more adjustments ta make ta the phase cannons."

Hoshi rolled her eyes. "That man and his phase cannons."

"What's everyone doing over here?"

The others turned to see Archer coming toward them dressed in a white polo shirt with a smooth chocolate-colored jacket over it all matched with a pair of black trousers and black dress shoes.

"Hiding from my fanclub," Trip muttered.

"I'm waiting for Malcolm," Hoshi replied.

"He should be here soon." Archer turned to Trip, his eyebrows raised. "Fanclub?"

"Yeah. Those four Betazoid women that've been following me since I came in."

"Looks like the brilliant, young Chief Engineer beats out the old, rugged explorer anytime, right, Trip?" Archer teased.

"Cap'n, at this point, I'd switch places with ya in a nanosecond."

"Trip..."

Trip groaned. "Lord help me," he muttered.

Tesira moved forward, gripping Trip's arm and gave him a simpering smile. "I've been looking positively everywhere for you."

He offered a strained smile. "Just been talking with my friends."

The Betazoid turned to look around at each of them, frowning when her gaze fell upon T'Pol, who, for her part, merely raised her eyebrows. "I...I must find my mother." With this, the young woman practically sprinted away.

"That wasn't a very nice thing ta say, T'Pol."

"If you do not appreciate the gesture..."

"No, no. I appreciate it more than you know, but ya still didn't have ta threaten her."

"I did not threaten her. I merely informed her that you were not interested."

Trip smirked. "If that's what ya want ta call it, fine by me."

Archer looked at the two, confused, while Hoshi smiled knowingly.

"So...what've I missed?" came a familiar voice. Malcolm stood behind them dressed smartly in a long-sleeve maroon dress shirt, black slacks, and black dress shoes.

"Finally. What took so long?"

"Sorry, love," he said, kissing Hoshi on the cheek. "Had to wash up. I was all greasy."

Hoshi grinned. "You look very handsome," she said, tugging at his collar.

"You look rather lovely yourself." He stepped back a little to scan the outfit, a black, knee-length strapless dress and a pair of strappy black sandals. Reed turned to T'Pol and smiled. "I didn't think Vulcans owned dresses."

"I don't. This is borrowed from Lieutenant Hess. She suggested that I dress up in something besides my uniform or robes this evening."

"Good thing Hess is about your height. Can't imagine you walkin' in wearin' somethin' of Hoshi's." T'Pol's dress, as it was, came just above her knees. The dress was one-shouldered colored a dark salmon color with matching closed-toed shoes that had nearly no heal.

Reed smirked. "Anything shorter than what she's wearing now and you wouldn't have been the only one being chased. Hess told me about your fanclub on the way in, Commander."

Trip grinned and shook his head. "Might just make her purge the intake manifolds all by herself tomorrow."

"Not a chance, Boss. Ethan would help me with very little persuasion."

Trip turned, laughing, to see Hess standing in front of him in a periwinkle blue, sleeveless dress with a pair of tall, cutesy white shoes. "Got a bit of a thing for ya, has he? Might need to keep him busy, then, clearing up the port assembly coils."

"You're in an awfully good mood...for prey."

"I think my 'fanclub' is clear now on the fact that I'm not interested."

"It seems that this is the most involved conversation in the room. Do you mind if I join you?" a voice behind them asked.

Archer turned to find Lisara Grax standing behind him. "Not at all," Archer replied grinning.

"Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves," Grax said looking around the room.

Hoshi nodded. "This was a great idea, sir."

"Best one he's had since that first year Christmas-New Years party," Trip added, chuckling.

"By the way, Commander, thank you for that bottle of wine you gave me three Christmases ago. It came in very handy last night."

Trip grinned. "I'm glad."

Suddenly, the deck and the walls of the small room shuddered violently. Archer sprinted to the nearest comm. "Archer to Bridge. What the hell is going on?"

'We're under attack, sir,' came the Ensign's shaky reply.

"Understood. We'll be there in a moment. Archer out." With this, the comm was cut. "Excuse me," Archer called over the loud chorus of voices. Trip let out a loud whistle and the crowd quieted. "Remain calm. Please return to your ships or find shelter in Sickbay. My crew to your posts."

Within moments, there was a loud rustle as many bodies crammed out of the room.

 


 

Enterprise-Bridge
September 6th, 2155-1512 hours

"What's our situation, Mr. Reed?" Archer asked. As Reed approached his station.

"Romulan ship off the starport bow at 5,000 meters and closing."

Archer furrowed his eyebrows. "Are you sure there's just one Mr. Reed? It seems ridiculous to send in one ship to attack seven enemy ships."

"Yes, sir. Just one. The ship is approximately 95 meters shorter than Enterprise. Weapons are minimal." Reed looked up. "They can't even scratch the hull, sir."

"This has to be something to distract us from the bigger picture. You don't send a lone ship in against seven others to attack them and then invite them for tea."

"Captain, there are two more Romulan ships. They came out of nowhere."

"Cloaking technology?"

Reed nodded. "A possible explanation, sir."

"The Betazoid, Tellerite and Andorian ships have disengaged and are coming about," T'Pol reported.

The deck shuddered beneath Archer's feet indicating that someone was firing on them.

"Evasive maneuvers, Travis."

"Aye, sir."

"Could there be more than three ships? The others are just cloaked?"

"No, sir. I'm not picking up any other fluctuations...Captain! The Romulan ships are concentrating their fire on the Betazoid ship!"

"Are the Andorians and the Tellerites firing on the ships?"

"Yes, sir." Reed frowned. "I'm detecting some kind of energy field around the ships, sir, that seems to be absorbing most of our fire."

"Travis, put us between the Romulan ship and the Betazoid ship. Hoshi, hail Columbia."

"Aye, sir. Columbia's responding."

Again, the deck shuddered; but there was no sign of serious damage to the ship.

"Adjust the power frequency of our weapons and fire at will, Mr. Reed. Put them through, Hoshi."

There was a short pause before Cross's voice came over the comm. 'Orders, sir?'

'We need to protect the Betazoid ship. They have minimal weapons.'

'Aye, sir. Cross out.'

"They're taking pot shots at us, sir."

"Like a horse flipping its tail at an annoying fly," Archer muttered.

"There's been significant damage to the Betazoid ship. More fire and the ship will be destroyed."

"Target the power conduit on the underside about 5 meters in from their aft nacelle and it will disable their weapons," T'Pol suggested.

Reed nodded and there was a moment of silence. "Their weapons have been disarmed, sir. They're moving off, as are the other two ships."

"They'll be back," Archer muttered. "Report?"

"Minor damage to the phase cannons." Reed frowned in concern. "Sir, it seems one of the 'pot-shots' directly hit Engineering."

Immediately, Archer was on the comm to Engineering. 'Archer to Engineering. Status report.' A moment of silence. 'Trip, status report!'

'This is Hess, sir. Commander Tucker's unconscious and Engineering took some heavy damage from that last hit, sir. Panels are sparking everywhere. We have two others with minor injuries and one with severe plasma burns. Phlox is taking care of them as we speak.' He heard Hess suck in a breath. 'And Novokavitch.' There was a splintered sob. 'He's dying.'

 


 

Enterprise-Sickbay
September 6th, 2155-1519 hours

"How is he, Doctor?" Archer asked upon entering Sickbay, closely followed by T'Pol, who was far too relaxed considering what had just happened.

"He'll be fine, Captain. His injuries were very minor. A black eye and a fractured wrist bone as well as a small cut on his forehead. It would seem he hit his head on something. Amazingly, the cut is only superficial and there is not evidence of head trauma."

Archer looked around at the rest of the biobeds in Sickbay, seeing men and women in various states of injury. "What about the others?"

"They'll be fine as well captain. Mr. Rostov suffered only first degree burns. He was very fortunate. Lieutenant Hess has a fractured clavicle as well as a fractured right femur."

"Sir, Crewman Novokavitch...he shoved me out of the way of an exploding plasma conduit."

Archer turned to find Hess standing right behind him. "Lieutenant," Phlox began sternly. "I really must insist that you keep your weight off your leg."

Archer helped Hess up onto a nearby biobed, placing a hand on her lower back to steady her. "Tell me exactly what happened," he said softly.

"I...I had run to get the extinguisher and I was putting out a fire when I felt something heavily collide with my shoulder. I fell to the deck and looked behind me at the precise moment the conduit exploded. I covered my eyes until the bright light was gone and when I opened them..." she said, tears trailing down her cheeks. "I saw him lying at my feet burned so severely that I scarcely recognized him. He was still breathing, but barely.

"I looked around and most of the Engineering staff were unconscious. The ones that weren't were still moving about putting out fires. I looked in the general direction where I had last seen Commander Tucker and he was sprawled on the deck unconscious. I moved toward the nearest comm panel and got through to Phlox in Sickbay. I told him that we had injuries and that we needed a medical team.

"There was another explosion and I moved toward it. A hissing noise indicated that there was a leak nearby. I followed the noise, grabbing a nearby plasma torch and a piece of metal that had been knocked loose from the upper platform in the blast to seal the hole. I was just finishing up when you commed for a status report, sir."

"T'Pol?" they heard a hoarse voice say. Everyone turned to find Trip leaning back on his elbows, looking over at them. T'Pol moved to his side, trying to get him to lie back down. "What happened?"

"You smacked your head," Hess replied smiling weakly.

"How is everyone? How are the engines?"

Hess laughed weakly. "The engines are fine, boss."

"What about Rostov? Novokavitch?"

Suddenly, Hess sombered and Trip frowned. "Novokavitch is hurt?"

Hess turned away, tears streaming down her cheeks and nodded. "Y...yes, sir."

Trip slid off the biobed and enveloped Hess in a hug that he seemed to need as much as she did, stroking her hair. "God, Anna. I'm so sorry."

She buried her face in his shoulder, sobbing softly. "It...it was less than a half-hour ago that he was proposing to me."

"How did he...?"

"He...he pushed me out of the way of an exploding plasma conduit."

Everyone was silent for a few moments at a loss for what to say. "If you'll sit down for a moment, Commander, we'll deal with your wrist," Phlox said at last.

"What's wrong with my wrist?" Trip asked softly.

"Just a fracture. But you should wear a wrist cast until it heals."

Trip nodded, releasing Hess and climbing onto the biobed, careful of his injured wrist. Trip looked thoughtful as Phlox put the cast on his wrist. "Is he goin' ta be all right?"

"He's stabilized. If he makes it through the night, I expect he'll make a full recovery with time and rest."

"Thank God," said Trip and Hess softly.

"That should do it. I want to see you in three days to check how it's healing, hmm?"

Trip nodded. "I need ta get back ta Engineerin'. Check out the damage."

"Be very careful, Commander. I don't want you straining your wrist. Don't lift anything heavy."

Again, Trip nodded. "What 'bout you, Anna. The Doc cleared you yet?"

Hess shook her head. "Afraid not. I'm going to be off my feet until I heal up. Fractured femur."

Trip grinned. "Be lucky it wasn't your head. Got a headache fit ta murder me."

Hess smiled. "Just bad luck, huh, boss?"

"Yeah, just bad luck," Trip replied, laughing.

T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "Of that, you seem to have an ample supply."

Trip said nothing, merely grinning and looking extremely pleased. "Ya know, we could use a bit of help with the repairs in Engineerin'...that is, if ya can spare her, Cap'n."

Archer nodded. "I can have Malcolm go over the Tactical data. If he has any problems, Hoshi can help him. From the sounds of the status report, you're going to need an extra hand down there."

 


 

Romulus-Senate Chambers
6th day of
et'Khior, Year of the Sark-15.12 hours

"You were told not to attack! You were told to let the enemy make the first move! You know very well that that is the Tal Shiar's policy, Colonel!" the praetor said gruffly.

"I understand, praetor, but the time was ripe. Their alliance would have been dangerous. I was merely trying to help the Empire..."

"Yet you failed."

Radaik bowed his head. "Yes. But the Earth ships were at a great advantage. They had previous knowledge of our experimental drone ship and knew our vulnerabilities."

"Enough excuses! You have initiated the exchange of hostilities so you will finish what you started." Radaik was about to speak, but the praetor cut him off. "It is your duty, General. I don't care for your excuses! This time, your failure will come at a greater cost than a reprimand."

Radaik stood speechless for a moment before he nodded emphatically. "Yes, praetor." With this, he rushed from the chambers, the doors closing loudly behind him. He would not fail this time. He would take more than three ships and he would make them pay for his dishonour.

 


 

Enterprise-Command Center
September 6th, 2155-1804 hours

"Status reports?"

"The phase cannons are back at full efficiency, sir."

"And Engineerin' is cleaner than it was. Another hour an' we should have all the loose ends tied up."

Archer smiled and nodded. "Good work."

"Malcolm and I managed to extract some very valuable information from the Tactical logs as well, sir. We've got the frequencies their cloak and shields run on. They won't surprise us again. And we know that we're at an advantage since their weapons are no match for ours."

"What about the Betazoids, Andorians, and Tellerites?"

"If they can adjust their weapons ta a higher yield it should give them a better chance at knocking out the Romulans's shields."

"Good. When they come ambling back, we'll be ready for them. Let me know when Engineering's up and running. Dismissed."

The senior staff stood and slowly filed out of the room, Trip and T'Pol at the very back. "Trip, T'Pol," Archer called. The two exchanged a look before striding toward Archer.

"I've thought about what you said the other night, Trip, about how sticking together would have made things easier in the Expanse. I can see an immense war on the horizon and based on today, the best way to win it will be for all of us to stay close. Without trust, we're headed to hell in a handbasket. So, on that note, I'd like it if you two could join me for dinner in the Captain's Mess once we get this whole mess straightened out."

Trip smiled. "I'll be there, Cap'n."

T'Pol inclined her head. "As will I."

Archer grinned. "See you then." With this, Archer brushed past them, exiting the Command Center.

Again, Trip and T'Pol exchanged a look, though this time of concern. "Today really got to him," Trip commented.

"So it seems."

"Reality's hit now, I guess. There's not enough time to explore when you're trying to keep your ass from being tossed to the dogs."

"There is one thing I found curious about today, however."

"What's that?"

"In all of Vulcan's dealings with the Romulans, they have never initiated a conflict. Their usual method is to wait until the enemy attacks in order to test their resilience."

"Well, I think we showed 'em today that we're not goin' ta be that easy ta bully."

"Perhaps, but they will not be so disadvantaged the next time. No doubt they will bring more ships and they will upgrade their shields."

Trip frowned. "I just hope our plan works. We know where they're vulnerable and we know their cloak frequency. That's goin' ta take the surprise right out it. So at least we'll be prepared."

"Let us hope being prepared will be enough."

 


 

Enterprise-Bridge
September 6th, 2155-2001 hours

"Like the calm before a storm," Archer muttered.

"The only thing our scanners have picked up in the last hour and a half is a couple of stray dust clouds."

"Maybe they're still repairing their ships..."

"Sir! There are six ships incoming 1000 meters off the port bow!"

"Polarize hull plating! Target their weapons."

A few moments and Reed replied. "Weapons fire had no effect, sir."

"Looks like they learned from last time. Evasive maneuvers, Travis."

"Sir, they're targeting the Betazoid ship again."

"Give them everything we've got."

"The other ships are converging on the Romulan fleet as well, sir."

The deck shuddered as the ship continued to be hit. "Two of the Romulan vessels are breaking off from the fleet."

Again, the deck shuddered. "Travis, time for some fancy flying."

"Aye, sir."

Suddenly, a panel exploded behind Reed, who, luckily, jumped out of the way just in time to avoid being burned. The moment it was clear, he moved back to his station. "They're still with us, sir. Minor breaches on Decks C & D. That last hit knocked out the engines. We only have half impulse."

"Captain," T'Pol began. "The Betazoid ship has set course for the sun."

"Follow them in, Travis, half-impulse."

"The other ships are changing course to follow, sir. The Romulans included."

Archer stood and looked around at his crew. "Suggestions?"

"Captain, tri-fluoride is a very explosive substance. If we could integrate it into a photon torpedo, the explosion would be enough to cripple any vessels in the path of the flare."

"Do it."

T'Pol nodded, exiting the bridge with Reed following her.

"Hoshi, send a message to the Betazoid ship to let them know what we're doing."

 


 

Enterprise-Armory
September 6th, 2155-2010 hours

"Man, you never quit needin' my Engineerin' skills, do ya?"

T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "So it would seem."

"Everything should be here so let's get started. Cover comes off first."

T'Pol nodded and got to work removing the cover as Trip pulled out a clear case.

"All right, got ta be careful with this stuff. It's dangerous."

He set it carefully inside the torpedo and reached into his tool box for a set of pliers. As T'Pol held the handlight, Trip stripped the three wires and connected each of them to the knobs on either side of the case.

"There. Careful now."

The three eased the cover back on and Reed and Trip wheeled it slowly and carefully to the tube as T'Pol moved to the nearest comm.

"The torpedo is ready, Captain, and Commander Tucker is programming the coordinates."

"Acknowledged. Standing by."

She turned to Trip and they exchanged a look that was followed by her nod.

"Ready, Captain. I'm transferring the coordinates to the Tactical station."

"Got them. Now we wait."

"We're on our way to the Bridge, sir."

"Acknowledged. Archer out."

 


 

Enterprise-Bridge
September 6th, 2155-2014 hours

"They're nearly within range, sir."

"Get ready, Lieutenant."

Reed stayed poised over the controls, ready to fire.

"Betazoid ship is out of the way. Romulan fleet is in range."

"Fire!"

There were a few moments of silence after the shot was fired and the bridge was thick with tension.

"Two ships have been destroyed and two of the ships have been disabled. The four ships that weren't destroyed are retreating."

Archer sighed. "Good work, everyone. Now let's get away from this star before the heat gets through the hull plating."

"Setting a course back toward the planet, sir," Travis reported.

 


 

Captain's Starlog, Supplemental-September 7th, 2155

We've returned to Betazed and I've received news from the Betazed cruiser, Valatie, that one the Council was responsible for the concentration of fire on the Betazoid ship. It came as a surprise when I was informed that her Eminence's own sister conspired with the Romulans. Though she is still being questioned, it is supposed that she wanted the throne of Betazed. Also, I have received news that her Eminence was severely injured in the attack and wishes to see me.

 


 

Betazed-Imperial Palace, Grax's Chambers
September 7th, 2155-0030 hours

Archer entered the chambers to see Grax lying flat on her bed, gasping for breath.

Phlox turned and frowned. "I'm afraid there's nothing I can do Captain. She was injured too severely."

"Captain," Grax breathed. "I am glad you are here." She coughed heavily. "On behalf of all of the people of Betazed, thank you for all you have done for us."

Archer smiled. "It was an honour, your Eminence."

"Quickly, I must have a witness. Come. Nivina, please note: I, Lisara Grax, the dying, do hereby declare my daughter, Kestra Grax..." Archer looked next to the bed where Kestra knelt, holding her mother's hand with tears in her eyes, sobbing quietly. "...to be the official heir and new head of the Council of Betazed, with Captain Jonathan Archer of Earth and Doctor Phlox of Denobula, to witness."

"Captain, Doctor, your signatures as witnesses."

Both signed quickly, and Nivina signed as well before turning to Grax smiling and taking her hand. "It is done, your Eminence."

Grax smiled weakly. "Good. Now I may rest in peace knowing that I left my people in good hands."

"Please, Mother. Do not go," Kestra sobbed.

Grax lifted a hand weakly, running it through her daughter's hair. "It is my time, my darling. Remember, I will always be with you..." She then slid her hand down, placing it over Kestra's heart. "...in here." Her hand slid slowly away and she took one last gasping breath before her eyes closed and her soul was given over to eternity.

Kestra threw herself on top of her mother, sobbing wildly. Archer dropped to his knees, placing a comforting hand on the young girl's shoulder and she turned to him, throwing her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, sobbing into his shoulder. Archer hugged her in return, rocking gently.

"Thank you," she whispered.

 


 

Enterprise-Mess Hall
September 7th, 2155-1722 hours

Archer frowned. He hated giving funeral speeches. It tore him apart to see so much death. He'd seen enough in the Expanse to last him a lifetime. He cleared his throat and stood.

"We have all suffered a great loss. I would like to propose a toast to an extraordinary woman. To her Eminence, Lisara Grax of the Thirteenth House of Betazed."

"To her Eminence," the room chorused.

"I think this would be an appropriate time to add to this loss a gain. Lieutenant Anna Hess, please step forward."

Hess, startled, stood and walked toward the Captain, the thunderous applause echoing in her ears. Her eyes widened as she saw Trip approach the Captain's side with a box in his hands. Archer took the box from Trip, nodding. She stopped in front of him and snapped to attention. When Archer opened the box, Hess gasped.

"It is my privilege to present to Lieutenant Anna Hess, on behalf of Starfleet and Anna's direct superior, Commander Charles Tucker, the Bronze Starfleet Cross for her dedication to this ship and her excellent judgment in the face of controversy." He then pinned the metal onto Hess's uniform, smiling. "Congratulations, Lieutenant."

"Thank you, sir," Hess said, smiling through her tears. She had only prayed that Ethan survived. When he had, that was all of the good she expected. But this was an absolute honour.

Again, the thunderous applause started pierced with a couple of whistles as Hess returned to her seat.

"There is a life-changing war on the horizon. If we stay together, we can win. Don't let events like today shake your resolve. Together we fight, together we win."

The applause continued followed by loud shouts of approval. It would be hard from here on out, but they weren't going to give up so easily. They would fight...together.

TBC...

 

 


Comments:

Pennjazz

Hehehe...My favorite line...

 

"You're in an awfully good mood...for prey."  :p

 

Love that line...;)

anonymous

Definitely worth the wait.

Hurry, admins, hurry! :)

Asso
Ginamr, I was waiting very long that you was back. The wait has been worth. :D
BnB
I am beginning to like this version of Erika very much. Looking forward to seeing her back up and around. You are taking Archer in an interesting, and slightly different direction than usual in this one.

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