Jonathan Archer hand-delivers messages from Echo One. Certain people have good news from home; others do not.
April 24, 2151
Jon Archer downloaded the information from Echo One and watched as the status bar crept across his screen. This was usually the last thing he did before ending his shift for the day. Of course, he could have directly transmitted the incoming messages to their recipients. It certainly would have made his job easier, but he wanted to give this daily ritual the personal touch, so to speak.
His board pinged when the data was processed. Jon copied the messages to several data chips, then marked each individual chip with the receiver's name. Just in time; he heard the chime of bells announcing the change from beta shift to gamma. Jon logged out of his board and handed control to his assistant with a welcome smile. After bidding farewell to the rest of the Bridge crew, Jon began his rounds on the ship.
“Ah, Lieutenant Commander Archer! I assume that I have some messages?”
Jon grinned as he tossed the data chip to Commander Phlox. The Denobulan caught it easily one-handed. “One from the Interspecies Engineering Exchange, one from your wife on Denobula. Feezal, I think her name is?”
“That must be the recipe collection I requested from my third grandmother. Captain Sato asked me whether or not my people indulge in sweets. Feezal found my grandmother's recipe for junja. I plan to surprise her with it.”
“I'm sure the captain would appreciate it, Phlox,” Jon said as he nodded at the engineer. “I've got more messages to deliver, so I'll see you at dinner?”
“Of course. We can practice your Denobulan. I'll see you then, Jonathan.”
Phlox slipped the data chip into his computer and read the first message from the Interspecies Engineering Exchange:
Qa'pla, Phlox, my old friend. I hope you are well. My salutations to your lady captain and your brave complement of warriors, including the one with wings. Will you be available to assist in a project of mine? It will require us to meet at least once...this is no simple warp-field equation that I can transmit over subspace. Please let me know. Hail to the Klingon Empire. Your comrade-in-arms, Klaang.
“Interesting,” Phlox murmured. He accessed the second message, which was a listing of Denobulan recipes. A welcome face popped into view at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. He smiled as his second wife, Feezal, began to speak:
“Hello, Phlox. I hope you're doing well when you get this message. As you requested, I managed to wrangle the junja recipe from Third Grandmother Sha'ela. She puffed up with pride when I explained you wished to make it for Captain Sato! Sha'ela insisted on listing every item for a proper Denobulan feast; thus, the size of the file. I hope it isn't a problem.
“In any case, let me know how your foray into the culinary world turns out. I miss you and await your next transmission. Farewell, my love.”
Ariel the Pyrithian bat squawked from her perch. Phlox tossed her a blood fly, then settled back to look at the data. He smiled and paged through the recipes, missing his wife and the food back home.
Jon stopped by the Armory next. Crewman Gherick saw him and pointed towards the hatch to the starboard phase cannon. Jon nodded his thanks and headed in that direction. A minute later, he heard a raucous clang, followed by a string of expletives.
“You okay in there, Trip? I think my ears are scorched from that last one.”
“Crap. Sorry, Jon. C'mon in. It's a tight fit, but I think you can manage it. Watch your head on that hatch, though.”
Jon ducked low as he entered the phase cannon array. Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker crouched at the other end of the passageway, in front of an open panel, with a toolbox next to him. Jon slowly made his way over to Trip's side, but his tall, muscular build was a distinct disadvantage in the cramped space.
“How do you move around in here without banging your head every few seconds? I would've knocked myself out long before now if I wasn't careful. It's worse than Hoshi's ready room.”
Trip shrugged. “You adapt. Yeah, it's a tight fit, like I said. The only ones who can actually work in here comfortably are Ensign Dehl and Ensign Cooper.”
Jon remembered both Dehl and Cooper. “They're both slightly taller than Malcolm. You know, if Malcolm worked in the Armory instead of Sickbay, he wouldn't have a problem in here, either.”
“Hoshi, too.” He grinned at the mention of the captain and the chief medical officer. “Any scuttlebutt about the shore leave rotations for Risa?”
“I know I'm on the second rotation, as well as T'Pol, Kov and Liz Cutler. Travis is on the third rotation, I think. Hoshi, Phlox and Malcolm are part of the first; captain's prerogative, I think.”
“I'm scheduled for the first one too. Hoshi and Malcolm on the same one? That's...interesting.”
Jon raised his eyebrows and tried to stifle a grin. “Isn't it? But keep it quiet; the majority of the crew aren't aware of what's going on.”
Trip nodded, but he still looked concerned. “Yeah, but rumors are still gonna make the rounds. Remember Betazed?”
Jon's grin vanished as he recalled his conversation with Diplomat Saphia Daro. Saphia seemed certain that Hoshi and Malcolm were meant for each other, but where did that leave Matt Hayes? Hayes was a friend as well as a fellow Starfleet officer. Jon didn't want to be anywhere around if—when--the proverbial stuff hit the fan.
“I remember. It's got me worried, too, Trip. Matt's a good man.”
“I don't wanna be in the same star system, if things go the way I think they're gonna go.”
Jon winced at the echo of his previous thought. “Me, neither. Anyway...you've got mail from Earth.”
Trip's eyes lit up with relief at the change of subject, and he said, “Mail? Probably Lizzie, tellin' me all about that beau of hers.”
“The fellow architect?”
“Yeah, the one I threatened to do the background check on.”
Jon snorted. “Aren't you a little paranoid?”
“Hey, this is my little sister we're talkin' about. If you had one, I think you'd do the same thing.”
“I'll take your word for it.” Jon was an only child, so he had a more difficult time imagining such measures. He passed the data chip over to Trip. “Here...I need to do a few more deliveries.”
“Go on...I'll talk with you later. I need to finish aligning this damn targeting scanner anyway.”
“Catch you later.” Jon slowly backed out of the passageway and reached the hatch. Unfortunately, he straightened up a little too soon and banged his head on the low edge of it.
Jon's swearing echoed over the Armory, and Trip couldn't help but chuckle in sympathy.
Much later, Trip sat in his office and slid the data chip into his computer. After he input his security code, the image of Elizabeth Tucker appeared on the screen. Trip grinned as his sister began to speak.
“Hey, Big Brother. Just a quick note to tell you we're all doing fine. Mama's already hard at work in the garden; it's been a warm spring so far. Dad's snagged a construction job at the old Space Coast Station. Alex's second-grade class is comin' back from Spring Break tomorrow. And I've got a major presentation next week in London. Yeah, Jamie's company is holdin' bids on a new communications buildin' along the Thames. Yeah, we're still together. And no, you can not do that background check on him. He's done nothin' wrong. And no sendin' that British doctor to do your dirty work. I've mentioned Doctor Reed to Jamie.”
Trip rolled his eyes as Lizzie finally paused for breath. How did she know that he'd asked Malcolm to do a bit of friendly snooping? After all, his dad had worked with the Security Ministry and Interpol...
“Anyway, it's getting' late here, so I'd better sign off for now.” Lizzie smiled brightly and blew a kiss at the camera. “Till next time, Big Brother. I love you.”
Her image winked out. Trip raised a hand and put it on the screen. “See ya later, Little Sister.”
Jon walked into the Recreation Room on Deck E, just down the hall from Sickbay. He spotted the broad back of Commander Travis Mayweather; Travis faced Malcolm across a chessboard. Jon quietly approached them, being careful not to make a sound. The doctor's mouth quirked upward in acknowledgment of Jon's presence, but Malcolm didn't take his eyes off Travis. The science officer frowned, then moved his bishop.
“Check,” Travis announced.
Malcolm nodded to himself, then surveyed the battlefield like a general. He said nothing as he moved his queen. Then he said, “Checkmate.”
Travis's mouth dropped in surprise. Jon's eyes widened as he realized that most of Travis's pieces were still on the board, while Malcolm only had a handful left. Travis picked his jaw up off the table, then muttered, “You sacrificed those pieces on purpose. I thought I had the upper hand—”
“--and became a bit overconfident.” Malcolm softened his rebuke with a smile. “You learn quickly, Commander.”
“Travis. I'm off duty.” He glanced over his shoulder and added, “Lieutenant Commander Archer?”
“Jon. I'm off duty. You've got mail, Travis.” He placed the data chip in Travis's hand. “The daily download from Echo One. That one's from the Horizon.”
“Probably my mom. She's always complaining I don't write often enough to suit her.” Travis regarded the chip with a rueful expression.
Malcolm chuckled and shook his head. “Mothers will always make that claim.”
“Even yours, Doc?”
“Especially mine, I think.” Malcolm sighed and crossed his arms. “When she and my sister Madeline join forces, their tactics are quite effective. If I leave it too long, my father calls me to tell me to write them, if only to save his sanity.”
Travis laughed out loud. “That sounds familiar.”
Jon smiled and shook his head. “I'll take your word for it, gentlemen.”
“Yeah...you're an only child, right? At least you didn't have to share a room, or 'accidentally' get locked in a cargo container as a kid.”
“But you couldn't blame anyone else if you got caught doing something stupid.”
Malcolm snorted and said, “Even though I had a sister, I still was blamed.”
“See, sometimes siblings can still be a real pain,” Travis insisted, with a roll of his eyes. He tucked the data chip into the right breast pocket of his uniform. “Thanks, Jon.”
“You're quite welcome. I have a couple of more messages to deliver before I'm done, so I'll see you two later.”
“Okay, but remember, you're picking Movie Night this week. Let me know what you want to see,” Travis said.
Jon nodded and left the Recreation Room with a brief wave. Maybe I might convince Crewman Reynolds to part with the Stanford vs. UCLA water polo semi-finals...
Travis slipped the chip into his computer and waited for the video to play. He didn't have to wait long. The image of his mother, Rhianna, appeared on the screen. She wore the smile he knew so well, but the lines around her eyes were deeper, and the normal sparkle within the dark orbs were muted.
Something was wrong.
“Hello, Travis. I hope you're doing all right. I got your subspace letter last week. Good to know that they're finally giving your crew some leave. I wish we could meet you on Risa, but we're on the other side of the sector right now. Your father and Paul are doing some tricky negotiations with the Palorians. Looks like the Head Arbiter is going to crack soon...these docking fees are outrageous.”
Rhianna looked straight at the video pickup. “Everyone's heard about what happened on Altarra...I think it's prudent that most of the Boomers are hanging back until they get themselves sorted out in that civil war of theirs. And that brain-altering conditioning technique that your Doctor Reed discovered...we're still figuring out how many of our people might have fallen victim to that. It'll be impossible to know exactly how many, but we'll try to help them.
“Paul talked to some Charran traders the other day. Sounds like there might be some potential business expansion for us in the future. I've added some entries from their database; maybe you can show them to your Diplomat Archer and your captain. Might be handy.” Rhianna smiled again. “Next time you come our way, let us know. Maybe we can meet you somewhere for a little while, have dinner. Take care of yourself, son, and I'll talk to you next week. I love you, Travis.”
`He sighed deeply, then leaned back in his chair. Part of him was glad that he was able to help the Boomers stay out of potential trouble spots. Another part of him knew that they were liable to find trouble anyway. That was the appeal—and the danger—of deep space trading.
Travis popped an empty chip into the slot of his computer. Then he typed in his passcode and the destination of his message: The Horizon. Finally, he took another deep breath.
Jon took a deep breath and rang the chime to T'Pol's quarters. Her reply was muffled, but he heard her permission to enter. He stepped into her darkened quarters; sweat immediately popped on his forehead at the level of warmth in the cabin. His eyes needed a few moments to adjust, but they focused on her shadowed form. She sat on the floor, her legs folded in meditation.
“I didn't mean to interrupt--”
“I've just finished.” She unfolded her legs, then got to her feet. “I assume those are the daily messages.”
“I suppose I've gotten to be somewhat predictable.”
T'Pol gave him a small smile, but answered, “On the contrary. This is a ritual that brings you a certain amount of calm, for knowing the messages reach their intended recipient without mishap.”
He chuckled as he sorted that out. “Very true. Crossed wires can be a hazard in my profession.”
She inclined her head. “Crossed wires...ah, misunderstandings. Lieutenant Commander Tucker uses the expression quite often, both literally and figuratively.”
“He nearly became an engineer. Go figure. In any case--” He handed her two data cards. “One from your mother, the other one from V'Lar.”
“There is none from Koss or Soultek? They have both stated that they would send me information.”
Jon raised his eyebrows, but shook his head. “No...come to think of it, I haven't seen any messages from either of them to you since we left Vulcan. I'll be sure to relay any that come into the queue.”
“Thank you, Jonathan.”
“You're quite welcome, T'Pol.” He bowed slightly to her, then stepped back out of her quarters. As soon as he was gone, T'Pol went to her computer and slipped the card from T'Les into the receiving slot. The sigil of the Vulcan Science Academy appeared for a brief moment, then the image resolved into T'Les's solemn face.
“Greetings, Daughter. I hope this message finds you well. There is much activity within the Science Academy these days, with the new discoveries on Beta Polaris. Doctor V'Nes believes that more answers to our ancestors' history may lie within the abandoned colony of Gekana Five. She has given me permission to relay the information to you. Please make sure that Commander Mayweather receives it as well. Doctor V'Nes asks for his—and Jonathan's—insights.”
T'Pol stifled a smile. A year ago, T'Les would never have asked the opinions of Human colleagues regarding a Vulcan matter. So...there was the possibility of change for the better.
“The Clan remains divided, concerning your betrothal to Koss. He has faithfully paid the bride price, but Soultek still pushes for the ceremony to go forward. I am quick to remind him of the agreement we have set...that there will be no marriage until your obligations to Starfleet are fulfilled. I believe Soultek fears a reversal of fortunes for his Clan in the future, and thus tries to secure it.”
T'Les inclined her head, but her voice remained cool and even, as if she was merely discussing the weather. “Please send my regards to Jonathan, to Malcolm, and the rest of your crew. And Soval extends his own greetings to Charles. I will be in contact again soon. Live long and prosper, T'Pol.”
Her face winked out and left the screen in blackness. T'Pol frowned; her mother was usually more circumspect concerning matters of the Clan. Recent events must have altered Soultek's plans. If there was the possibility of his Clan falling into disfavor, Soultek would do all he could to prevent it.
A marriage to a Clan in good standing could enhance their own reputation. What mother would allow her daughter to marry into a Clan of dishonorable blood? T'Pol winced. T'Les said—in so many words—that she would allow no such marriage as long as she lived. T'Pol was glad that the two of them were in agreement.
Still...it was troubling, that Soultek would apply that sort of pressure on T'Les. T'Pol could see the deft touch of both V'Lar and Soval in the 'diplomatic refusal'.
T'Pol accessed the message from V'Lar. Unlike her mother's, V'Lar's was text-only. T'Pol glanced over the short words, blinked, then read them again. Menos has avoided capture yet again. We believe he may be under the protection of the Orion Hegemony. Data to follow.
Her eyes raced across the screen. It took her very little time to read it, though it relayed more through what it didn't say as opposed to what it did. T'Pol sat back, considered her options, then left a message on Trip Tucker's personal mailbox.
His duty finished, Jon finally headed to his quarters. The moment the door slid open, Porthos bounded out, tail wagging and tongue hanging out. Jon knelt and patted the beagle on the head. He was glad that Captain Sato had allowed him to bring Porthos on this voyage. It was a reminder of home.
Porthos, too, had his own way of communicating. The dog raced around in joy at the sight of his master, then bounded halfway down the hall towards the Mess. Jon chuckled and shook his head.
“All right, let's see if Chef has anything special for you tonight, but remember...no cheese. Remember the last time you had it. Chef had to air and disinfect the Galley for twenty-four hours. He wasn't in a good mood after that. But...since you've been good today, we can stick our head in there. Come on.”
He yipped and raced for the turbolift. Jon laughed and followed the errant beagle. Yes, he had a reminder of home, every day.