Winds of Change - Part 1

By ginamr

Rating: PG-13

Genres: virtual season au adventure general


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

Series Notes: This season of the series is in the process of major revision. Four or five new scenes were added to Paradise Lost, Part One alone. I encourage you to read not only for the new scenes, but as a review for season 6, which should be released June 15.

Possible spoilers: Broken Bow through Terra Prime

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.

Story Notes: Hoshi's regained her hearing, yay! And, of course, Erika's back in action! Oh, and the italicized text in quotes is Japanese translated into English since I couldn't find an English-Japanese translator.


And I know I keep changing which canon details I'm including...But I don't think I'm breaking too much from canon...the only thing in These Are The Voyages that's wrong in my universe is that T'Pol has met Trip's parents before and that Trip isn't really dead.


Last Time on Star Trek: Enterprise...Into the Lion's Den

5.08-Winds of Change, Part I

Summary: The winds of time are changing lives in irreversible, unforeseeable ways. The crew of the Enterprise fights to track down a mysterious murderer while keeping the talks for an alliance alive. Will they be able to keep their plans from falling through?



Earth-Starfleet Headquarters-Airlock 1A
September 29th, 2155-0800 hours (San Francisco Time)

He walked toward the hatch that would admit them to Starfleet Headquarters, his thoughts on visiting Erika at Starfleet Medical. He wondered if she'd given the doctors and nurses there the hell he'd expected her to give over being confined to a bed.

She hadn't been very pleased about that confinement the last time they'd talked. He and Trip stepped through the airlock and Archer was surprised to find Erika waiting for them. She appeared slightly tired, but the smile on her face reached her eyes as her gaze met Archer's. The civilian sleeveless blue shirt and jeans she wore somehow seemed less fitting than her uniform. The clothes gave her an image of vulnerability that didn't quite suit her strong-willed nature.

Archer grinned. "Back on your feet already?"

Her response was a shrug and a smile. "I'm stubborn. As old-fashioned as they are, crutches were the only way the doctors would let me out of the ward."

He chuckled, knowing better than anyone about her mile-wide stubborn streak. During their first months together in their youth, she'd had a hell of a temper. It seemed that she'd learned better control since then, but she could still be as stubborn as a mule.

"It would have been a shame for you to miss the conference."

A grin spread across her features, acknowledging the teasing tone of his remark. "Quite a shame."

He grinned. "Will they be putting you back on Columbia after the conference?"

She nodded. "I'm trying to win Admiral Gardner over to my side on that same topic."

"With any luck, you'll be back in that Captain's chair in no time...once all parties are satisfied..."

This earned him a raised eyebrow. "With the Vulcans alone, a 'logical agreement' could take days. So I wouldn't get your hopes up."

Trip chuckled. "And who knows what the Tellarites and the Andorians will have ta say?"

"I assume the others are in the Main Officer's Lounge?"

Archer nodded. "Taking a break before the talks begin. Doctor Phlox is still on board finishing up a vaccine for Beta Colony on Altair Prime, and I believe that Lieutenant Reed is with Hoshi visiting her parents. Phlox should be joining us shortly. I'm assuming Lieutenant Reed will be along later."

Erika smiled and nodded, pausing for a moment. "I heard Commander Cross did a splendid job as acting Captain. I'm pleased."

"His record is exemplary, and he's a brilliant officer."

An unusual silence fell over the three as Archer and Erika stood there, lost in their own thoughts. Observing the small reunion, Trip felt a smile tugging at his lips, his own thoughts wandering to T'Pol.

"Well if y'all will excuse me, I need ta have a word with T'Pol before the conference starts." He smiled and turned toward Erika. "I'm glad you're back on your feet, ma'am. I don't suppose you'd like ta join Jon, T'Pol, and me for dinner at my parents' new place?"

She hesitated, wondering if the invitation was because she was Jon's fiancé or if it was a genuine invitation in the interests of a blossoming friendship. Commander Tucker's parents were an unknown to her, and she pondered how welcome she would be in their home. She was a stranger to them, and regardless of her relationship with Jon, she couldn't think of any reason to force her company on them simply because Trip felt it only polite to invite her along.

"I don't want to intrude..."

Trip chuckled, shaking his head. "Aw, you won't be intrudin'. My parents would love ta have ya there."

Erika smiled. "Then that sounds wonderful, Commander. Thank you."

Trip nodded and turned, headed for the small room where the others were waiting.

"Is there anything you need to do before the conference?"

Erika shook her head. "No, but how about we take a little walk?"

Archer's eyebrows shot up. "You're sure?" he asked.

"Yes...and you can tell me all about your latest mission."

Archer nodded. "Sounds like a plan."



Earth-Osaka, Japan-Home of Hiroshi and Miyu Sato
September 29th, 2155-1700 hours (Osaka Local Time)

"What does he have to offer you?"

Hoshi hesitated and then was surprised when Malcolm stepped forward. "Mr. Sato, I don't have an excess of material possessions...but I care for your daughter very much. I can provide her with a comfortable life and the love that she deserves."

Hiroshi still seemed hesitant, frowning at the two. Reed paused, recalling the speech he had planned in case her father was resistant even after his first plea. "Mr. Sato, I have had the pleasure of serving with your daughter for four years. She's the most beautiful, kind, gifted woman I have ever known. Nothing would please me more than to spend the rest of my life with her."

Hiroshi paused for a moment. "You will be staying for dinner?"

Malcolm cleared his throat softly, resisting the urge to fidget under the man's intense gaze. "I don't want to intrude..."

"Nonsense, Malcolm. You may join us," Miyu protested.

Reed nodded, visibly relaxing as Hiroshi's gaze shifted to Hoshi, a grin of approval spreading across his features. "Thank you."

"Dinner will be in an hour," Hiroshi added.

"I'm going to show Malcolm the gardens."

Hoshi then tugged Reed from the room.



Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker
 September 29th, 2155-1830 hours (Mississippi Local Time)

The autumn air was bitingly cold, heralding the approach of a bitter winter. A thin layer of colorful leaves lay by the side of the road and the scent of pine and ocean water carried on the winds as the SUV loaded down with four people pulled into the driveway of the Tucker home. The three passengers and driver slid out and approached the front door.

As they approached, Trip scanned the exterior of the new house and compared it to his childhood home. The place was certainly larger and it was an older style, reminding him of houses he'd seen in the decades old pictures in his high school text book. The pale paint looked fresh, leading him to believe that his parents had painted the house recently-possibly only a couple weeks ago.

The back porch was just visible from the driveway and he saw a bench-like swing that looked a lot like the one his Aunt Lucy had at her place. He'd spent many a cool summer night making out on that bench-swing with Lisa, his first love, under the stars. The intensity of those first tentative explorations was something that he wouldn't ever forget.

They arrived at the front of the house, and Trip knocked loudly on the oak front door. "Mama! Anybody home?"

"I'm comin', honey!" A moment later, a short, portly woman with strawberry blonde hair and deep blue eyes emerged through the front door, wiping her hands on her apron. "Trip, honey, it's good ta see ya back home in one piece." She hugged him tightly, planting a kiss on his cheek. She turned to Archer and hugged him as well, grinning from ear to ear. "Jonathan, honey! I haven' seen ya in ages! You're lookin' real good."

Archer grinned. "You look as radiant as ever, Catherine."

The older woman blushed. "Ya always were a smooth-talker, darlin'. If I were a good fifteen years younger..."

Trip chuckled. "Now, mama. I don't think his fiancée will appreciate your teasin'."

Catherine turned to Erika, who was standing beside Archer. "You must be Erika." To Erika's surprise, Catherine hugged her as well. "Trip's told us all about ya."

Erika raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

Trip grinned sheepishly. "All good of course, ma'am."

Catherine turned to T'Pol next and looked at her for a moment before hugging her as well. "And you must be T'Pol. Trip's letters have just been chock full of praise 'bout ya, darlin'."

T'Pol was surprised by his mother's gesture of welcome, but her time among humans had accustomed her to the often unsolicited contact. She returned the hug awkwardly, her cheeks taking on a slight green tint as she took in Catherine's last statement. She'd heard much from him about his parents, but she certainly didn't expect he'd tell them about her.

Trip's cheeks flushed. "Mama..."

A tall, slightly stout man with dark blonde hair and brown eyes came into view behind her, a grin on his face as he wiped his greasy hands on a rag. He wore a pair of faded jean overalls, a plum flannel shirt and a pair of brown work boots, obviously having just come from the garage. "What're ya up to now, Catherine? Stop embarrassin' the poor boy. He got enough of that when he was a sprout."

Trip sighed, a half smile on his face. "Thanks, pop, but the damage is done." He turned, indicating Erika. "The fine lady standing there on crutches is Jon's fiancée, Erika Hernandez..."

Charles nodded, a half-smile on his face, giving Archer a pat on the back before returning his attention to Erika, taking her hand in a firm handshake. "Charles Tucker. Mighty pleased ta meetcha, ma'am. It's about time that rascal was settlin' down."

"And this is T'Pol," said Trip, indicating the rather subdued and wary looking Vulcan to his left.

Charles nodded. "Heard a lot 'bout ya, darlin'," he said offering a hand.

T'Pol took it, hesitating for a moment in slight surprise at the unexpectedly strong grip, and nodded. "Trip has spoken of you as well."

"Are David, Mae, and the kids here yet?" Trip asked.

Charles nodded. "I think that's them pullin' up now."

At that precise moment, a pickup came to a halt in the driveway, and the doors opened. A little boy with straight, dark blonde hair dressed in dark overalls, a white short sleeve shirt, and a pair of blue, grey, and white running shoes jumped out and ran toward them screaming "Uncle Trip, Uncle Trip!" A moment later, the lad collided with Trip, hugging him around his knees.

Trip chuckled and reached down, lifting his nephew into his arms and ruffling his hair. "Hey there, kiddo. How've ya been?"

"Great, Uncle Trip! You'll never guess what happened!"

Trip grinned. "What?"

The boy laughed. "Mama and Daddy got caught makin' out in the bathroom at the gas station!"

Trip laughed. "'S that right?"

"Yeah! The station owner got all red in the face and chased them out!"

"Now, Seth, ya weren't supposed ta tell anyone about that." T'Pol's eyes flitted to David, Trip's brother, and she realized that the two could have been twins were it not for David's dark hair and the age difference between them.

The little boy flushed. "But I had ta tell Uncle Trip, Daddy!"

Trip couldn't help the grin that lit his features, remembering when he'd gotten the same lecture from his dad at that age. "Still gettin' inta trouble with that slip of a gal of yours, huh Dave?"

Mae stood beside her husband, her eyebrows raised high. "Watch it, Trip. As I recall, you and a certain redhead got inta a fair bit more trouble than David and I ever have." The tall, willowy woman's green eyes held a teasing glint as she regarded her brother in law, her red hair, round face, and freckles giving her the quality of a child picking on a schoolmate.

Trip flushed. "Now Mae, I thought ya weren't going ta tell Dave about that? I might just have ta tell him about the time I saw you and Billy Cook doing all that kid kissin' behind the barn."

"I wasn't with Dave when Billy was teachin' me how to kiss. Besides, that was twenty years ago, darlin', and from what Dave tells me, your still getting inta trouble with women. First human male ta get pregnant by an alien female-ya've made the record books in record time."

T'Pol's eyebrows shot up slightly, remembering with perfect clarity the incident of Trip's accidental pregnancy. The irony of the situation hadn't escaped her, recalling conversations she had overheard in her time on Earth of human females talking of how human males did not understand the emotional and physical burdens of carrying a child. During a search of the database in an attempt to identify the symptoms of female human pregnancy, she had discovered that Trip had experienced many of the symptoms, among them being greater emotional sensitivity. It was a topic that still slightly upset him when it was brought up.

Trip frowned, all humor gone from his tone. "Ya just don't play fair, Mae. I didn't know that stickin' my hands in a glowin' box of rocks was going ta get me pregnant!"

Trip heard a giggle and looked around Mae's knees to see his light blonde, curly haired five-year-old niece. "Where's my little Carrie bee? What're ya hidin' for, darlin'?"

Trip set his nephew down and lifted his niece into his arms. Her green eyes sparkled in the afternoon sun, contrasting magnificently with her yellow sundress, white hat, and white sandals, her plump, heart-shaped face aglow with purity and happiness.

Trip grinned. "Well, aren't ya just the prettiest thing? Getting' more like your mama every day."

The little girl giggled again. "Yer pretty, too, Unca Trip."

"Why, thank ya, darlin'! See Mae? Someone thinks I'm pretty."

This earned yet another giggle from the little girl. "Yer silly, Unca Trip."

Trip tossed her up and caught her, giving her a sloppy kiss on each cheek. "Now silly is one thing I can do." Carrie let out an excited squeal and clapped her hands.

T'Pol watched, her head tilted slightly to the left. She felt an indescribable contentment in watching Trip and his niece together. She also felt a slight pang as she pictured Elizabeth in Carrie's place. Trip would have made an exemplary father.

"Aren't ya goin' ta introduce us?" asked Mae pointedly.

Trip sighed. "Why couldn't ya'll just get here at the same time as everyone else? The poor girl on the crutches is Jon's fiancée, Erika Hernandez, and the woman on my right is T'Pol."

Mae smirked. "Well, well-looks like both of the remainin' bachelors have found their matches."

A half smile appeared on his face, giving him the quality of an innocent little boy saying Oh, no, Ms. Green. I didn't dip Suzie's pigtails in ink! "Now, it isn't like that, Mae. T'Pol's just a friend."

"Mmm-hmm. She isn't goin' ta be just a friend fer long," she muttered.

T'Pol caught the comment, her cheeks flushing slightly. They claimed to be friends, but the bond between them spoke of a more intimate relationship. No matter what they might say, they shared a connection that only lovers could share.

Looking for a distraction from a discussion that was entering dangerous waters, Trip drew attention to the baby in Mae's arms, who was squirming restlessly. "The bundle in your arms must be Tina."

Mae rocked the babe gently, attempting to settle her back to sleep. "Yeah, this is her." The child continued squirming and only settled back to sleep when she found a finger to hold.

"Me, Unca Twip!"

Trip chuckled, his attention going to the little girl standing in front of him, who just barely reached his knees. "Yeah, can't forget about li'l Katydid." He scooped the little girl of four up with one arm, and she hugged his neck tightly. The tall, thin hazel-eyed child had inherited her mother's red hair, the curly strands just barely brushing her shoulders.

Suddenly, everyone laughed. Puzzled, T'Pol looked down to find Seth hugging her knees.

"Friendly kid," Trip said with a smile.

"So it would seem." She hesitated for a moment before picking the little boy up. He threw his arms around her neck and she raised an eyebrow when Trip gave her an impish grin.

Her attention returned to the boy and she felt a sudden, unexplained lump appear in her throat. The boy very closely resembled Sim at his age, though she could see the difference around the eyes.

"Did Uncle Trip show ya my picture?" Seth asked.

T'Pol nodded. "Yes, he did. Did you draw that by yourself?"

Seth grinned proudly. "Yep. I've never seen a Vulcan up this close before though."

T'Pol arched an eyebrow. "It was very well done. After the evening meal would you like to show me how you drew it?"

"Yeah!" he said, grinning. "Then I can draw you another one!"

T'Pol nodded, reminded very much of Sim once again. "That sounds most pleasing."

"Dinner's almost ready." Catherine turned to Trip. "Honey, why don't you and T'Pol set the big table and the kid's table on the back porch? It's awful nice weather and the kids might enjoy the fresh air."

Trip nodded. "All right, mama. I'll show T'Pol where the dishes are."



Earth-Osaka, Japan-Home of Hiroshi and Miyu Sato
September 29th, 2155-1924 hours (Osaka Local Time)

Reed shifted slightly, unaccustomed to sitting on the floor while eating. Hoshi frowned and Reed stilled. He took the bowl of rice Hoshi offered and spooned a small portion onto his plate before passing the bowl to Miyu.

"So, Malcolm. What do you do on board Enterprise?" Miyu asked conversationally.

"I'm the armory officer," he replied. "I make sure that the ship is protected against internal and external threats."

Hiroshi nodded, impressed. "You must be very good at what you do if you have reached the rank of Lieutenant."

Reed nodded slightly. "I always do my duty, sir. That's how I've gotten where I am." He paused. "Until I met your daughter, I put my duty ahead of my personal life. It's different with your daughter, sir. Make no mistake. My duty is important to me, but nothing is more important to me than Hoshi's happiness."

Miyu smiled. "Then you understand why we must be skeptical. We want only the best for our little girl."

Reed grinned. "Yes, I understand completely. You're her parents. You want her to be happy."

Hiroshi paused. "You make her happy?"

Reed nodded, without hesitation. "I do all I can to make her happy."

Hiroshi sat his teacup down gently. "Will we be meeting your family soon?"

Reed frowned. He hadn't expected that her father would want to meet his family.

"I haven't been in contact with them for some time, but yes...if you wish we could visit them," said Malcolm hesitantly.

Hiroshi grinned. "Good. We shall leave in the late morning."

A startled expression crossed his face, curious about the rather hurried departure. But Reed retained his composure and nodded. "I'll contact them tonight."


Earth-Moss Point, Mississippi-Home of Charles and Catherine Tucker-Guest Room
September 29th, 2155-2000 hours (Mississippi Time)

Trip sat down on the end of the bed with his back toward her.

"You deceived your mother," T'Pol said.

Trip turned and blinked at the accusation. "What?"

"You told her you were ill and you caused her to worry."

Trip sighed. "Well, what was I supposed ta tell her? That I could sense through our bond how bad the smell of the meat was upsettin' ya and it made me nauseous, too?"

T'Pol paused. "I apologize if my discomfort disrupted your meal. I have tried blocking certain feelings through the bond, but I haven't been entirely successful."

He grinned. "Hey, we're both new at this. It's goin' ta take some time ta get used ta blockin' things out."

Her features softened and she slid her hands over his shoulders for a moment before she removed them, straightening her posture. "Perhaps we should only perform the less advanced postures this evening as we do not have but a short time. Please disrobe."

Trip grinned eagerly, and then did as she asked. He lay down on the bed, sighing softly as she began working the neural nodes along his spine.

Trip sighed. "Ya know, I think this is just what we needed. Ta get away from work for a while and do somethin' relaxin'. Maybe I'll show ya how ta fish tomorrow." Trip chuckled as he sensed her agitation. "We'll let them go after we catch 'em. The whole point is ta have fun tryin' ta catch 'em."

She paused. "Perhaps we could do something that requires more physical agility."

Trip's eyebrows shot up. "Such as?"

"In my studies of Human culture, I have come across a game played with a stick and a ball that sounds most fascinating..."

Trip arched an eyebrow. "Baseball?"

T'Pol nodded. "I believe the term used in the database was stick ball... Please sit up."

Trip chuckled and sat up to face her. "Same difference. Only stick ball's a little less rules and a bit more fun."

"Isn't competition the reason for Human games?" she asked as she began working the nodes in his broad shoulders.

Trip nodded."We do like ta compete and show off, yeah...but we play sports for the adrenaline rush and the horseplay, too." He paused. "Sometimes it isn't whether ya win or lose. It's how ya play the game."

"I have not had the fortune to observe a Human game that was not competitive."

Trip grinned. "Well,'s about time ya did. If we're not too beat when we get done with the conference, maybe we could play a game with the kids."

She nodded. "That sounds most pleasing."

He paused. "How long's it been since you've had neuropressure done?"

"I believe I haven't had the procedure performed since your application of it just after Elizabeth's death."

He stood and moved behind her, leaning close to her ear. "Ya look kind of tense, darlin'. What do ya say I perform a bit of the magic you've done for me on you tonight? You'll feel a lot better in the mornin'."

Again, she nodded. "Perhaps it will allow me to sleep more restfully."

She slid the straps of her borrowed low-cut nightgown from her shoulders, bunching the thin, silky pale blue material at her waist, her arms relaxing at her sides. She couldn't help the slight color that crept into her cheeks as she realized how exposed she was should anyone walk in.

He grinned as he pressed hard into the correct nodes. "This was the first position ya showed me, remember?"

She sighed, any worries of someone walking in dissolving from her mind. "Yes, I recall. You misinterpreted my actions. You reasoned, incorrectly, that I was offering myself for sexual relations."

His cheeks flushed slightly. "Yeah, I did. You were right about neuropressure bein' really intimate."

She nodded. "Perhaps I should have approached the situation differently."

Trip sighed softly and smiled. "No matter which way it happened, it happened. It really helped me ta get through Lizzie's death-and the nightmares."

Her mind was only partially on the conversation as his hands skillfully worked the nodes, applying just the right pressure. She focused on slowing her breathing and her eyes fluttered closed, a fiery sensation building in her abdomen.

The intensity exploded within her like a fire bursting suddenly to life. Molten heat coursed through her veins and she gasped softly.

Behind her, Trip smiled knowingly as he felt her response through their bond, the press of his lips against her neck adding to the assault. Her passionate response inflamed his heart and her name escaped his lips as a whisper.

His thoughts ran wild as he heard her soft moan of reply, his fingers pressing harder into the nodes. Her body stiffened momentarily, a soft sigh escaping her lips as she relaxed. She paused, allowing the sensations to wash over her once more before sliding the gown back into place.

T'Pol avoided his gaze, her cheeks slightly flushed. "Perhaps we should end the session for the night. We will need our rest for the conference tomorrow."

He nodded, his head tilted slightly as he gave her an affectionate grin. "Yeah. We do have a long day tomorrow."

She then stood and strode toward the bedroom door. "Goodnight, Trip."

He followed and leaned down brushing his lips gently against her cheek, lingering slightly and he buried his face into her neck, trying to hold on to the warmth of her presence as long as he could. "Goodnight, darlin'."

T'Pol closed the door slowly and made her way back to her room, her mind reaching out to his through the bond, seeking comfort in the familiarity of his mind. His presence in her mind eased her into calming sleep.


Starfleet Headquarters-Conference Room 50A
September 30th, 2155-1135 hours (San Francisco Time)

Archer massaged his temples, attempting to rid himself of the headache that had been slowly forming over the last several hours. The talks were on a downhill slide and the arguing was getting them nowhere.

"These trade sanctions are unacceptable. Tyforian ore is a perfectly legal substance! It is used to fuel our planet's power generators!" Gral, the Tellarite Ambassador, protested.

Shran, who was representing Andoria for the talks, turned toward Gral, the Tellarite Ambassador, livid. "Tyforian ore is also used to create deadly biological weaponry."

Gral snorted. "You would know, Commander."

Shran stood, staring him down. "Just what are you implying, Ambassador?"

Kestra, the head of the Betazed ruling council and representative of Betazed for the talks, sighed. "Gentlemen, please. This is neither the place nor the time."

The two glanced at her and then again at one another before retaking their seats. Neither looked very pleased, but they kept their tempers under control in the interests of the alliance.

"Admiral, perhaps we should break for lunch and give everyone a chance to unwind before we continue," Archer suggested quietly.

Greene nodded and raised his hands to silence the squabbling. "We'll take a brief recess and return to negotiations after lunch."

The others nodded their agreement and stood, filing out slowly, pleased to leave the stuffy environment of the conference room.



Starfleet Headquarters-Main Mess Hall
September 30th, 2155-1145 hours

A majority of Archer's lunch break was being consumed by the politics of being an ambassador. He sometimes grimaced over the weight of his responsibilities. Under normal circumstances, he was very blunt about his thoughts and objections; but in his current position, the situation was far more delicate. If he gave offense to the other representatives in any way, it could spell disaster for the interplanetary alliance Starfleet was attempting to form.

"Captain," Gral greeted him.

Archer inclined his head in acknowledgement. "Ambassador."

Gral paused. "What is your opinion on Starfleet's suggested trade sanctions?"

Archer paused a moment for effect before continuing. "Well, Ambassador, the sanctions are meant to protect alliance citizens. As for the banning of Tyforian ore, I'm sure Tellar can find another fuel source."

Gral narrowed his eyes, growling. "We have been using Tyforian ore for hundreds of years. Why should we change our ways because you cannot agree?"

His posture stiff, Archer looked the man directly in the eye. "Because, Ambassador, we wouldn't want someone to accuse Tellar of stockpiling biological weapons in preparation for a strike against the alliance, would we?" The two stared hard at one another for several moments before Archer straightened with a scowl on his face. "Ambassador." He then walked toward where Trip and T'Pol sat, conversing quietly.

"What'd he want?" Trip asked, tilting his head to where Gral stood in conversation with several other ambassadors.

Archer sighed. "He wanted my opinion on the trade sanctions, but I get the feeling he was trying to pressure me into using my influence to get Tyforian ore removed from the list of illegal trade substances."

This statement was greeted by a sigh and a shake of the head by Trip. "Manipulative, aren't they?" he said softly.

Archer nodded his agreement, keeping a close eye on the Tellarite ambassador. "I didn't let him win, and I don't think he's too pleased with me for it."

"Understandably not," T'Pol murmured, taking a sip of her tea. "Despite how appropriate your reaction was to the situation, it may perhaps cause a slight amount of friction in the negotiations."

Archer grimaced, finding it hard to imagine any more friction than there had been. He wondered if he shouldn't start carrying hypos with him for headaches. With his luck, they would become a regular part of his day until the signing ceremony.

Trip offered a sympathetic grin, massaging his own temples. "Personally, I don't know how I've made it this far inta the day. I can't seem to say or do anythin' right as far as the Tellarites are concerned. Gives me a headache just tryin' to keep straight what insults them and what doesn't."

This earned a wry grin from Archer, who had been up until the early hours receiving his 'welcome home' present from his fiancée. Erika's injury didn't put a damper on her enthusiasm, though it had put limitations on how they could make love. He'd had to be very careful not to further aggravate her spinal injury. The gentleness he'd needed to use had nearly shattered his control. He still couldn't believe he'd held out as long as he had. He wasn't a young man anymore. Admittedly, he felt less stressed today than usual, but he was a lot less patient due to lack of sleep. I'm getting too old for this.

Trip frowned. "Sit down an' eat somethin', Jon. Ya look dead on your feet."

Archer sighed, shaking his head. "I don't think I'm going to have time to sit."

Several moments later, Admiral Greene called for the ambassadors to return to the conference room for the talks to continue. Resigning himself to another several hours of headaches, Archer offered a wry smile in exchange for the wishes of luck from Trip and T'Pol before making his way back toward the conference room.



Archer's Apartment-Uptown New York
October 1st, 2155-0923 hours

Archer lay in his bed holding Erika close to him when he heard a beeping coming from the monitor on his desk. He groaned, pulling the pillow over his head.

"Jon, answer it. It could be Lt. Williams with an update on the talks," said Erika softly.

Sighing, Archer climbed out of bed and slipped his sweatpants on. Rubbing eyes heavy with sleep, he sat in the chair and entered a command that brought the communiqué up on the screen. It surprised him when the face of Admiral Greene appeared, looking somber.

Admiral? Is it 1200 hours already?

Greene sighed. Something serious has happened, Jon and we need you here as soon as possible.

Archer frowned slightly, almost afraid to hear the news. What's going on?

Greene hesitated, a slight scowl on his face as he searched for the best way to phrase the situation. The junior Vulcan ambassador has been murdered.

Archer frowned. Murdered?

Greene nodded. We still haven't been able to find the murderer, but Starfleet Medical has determined the cause of death. Greene paused a moment before continuing. Asphyxiation. There weren't any prints at the crime scene.

Archer nodded. We can be at Headquarters in a matter of hours.

Greene paused, frowning. Jon, if we can't find the person responsible for this...

He frowned, knowing the consequences. The alliance was already on the edge of a cliff. This new development could be the slight push that sent it careening toward destruction, shattering all that they had struggled to achieve thus far.

We'll find them, sir, Archer said fervently.

Greene nodded. I sure hope so, Jon. We can't afford for these talks to fall through.

Yes, sir.

With this, Greene cut the communiqué.

He turned to Erika, who now stood behind him frowning.

Archer sighed. "I'll contact Trip."




Finally something great and clear and really enchaining, after all the gratuitous and blind angst, the useless "racking own brains", the incomprehensible destruction's desire I had to go through recently! Foolish me, who wanted to read this sort of stories!
Go on, Ginamr, go on thus. You're my consolation.

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