auswitcheroo151: AU Sato and Mayweather (Default)
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Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Fifth in the Switcheroo Series. Here is the story of how Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker met Ambassador Soval. Trip's birthday isn't explicitly stated in Enterprise canon, so I assumed it is the same as Connor Trinneer's, which is March 19.

A picture of the IDIC symbol is located on the Memory Alpha (Star Trek Wikipedia) website. Just look up IDIC in the search feature.

This has been revised from the original version to reflect current changes in the series. Kov is mentioned, though he isn't in this story. There are many Switcheroo cameos including Lizzie Tucker (alive and well in this AU), Captain Ramirez (Intrepid's captain in the "Real Universe", Nathan Kemper, and many others.)

Rating: T

Please R&R



One

19 March 2151

a week and a half after "The Batty Engineer"


T'Pol blew out her meditation candles and began to roll up her mat. This was one part of her busy day she cherished; the quiet time for contemplation to calm the mind. "Still the mind, still the soul," she murmured to herself. Healer T'Kuir had taught her that as a child; she considered it as true now as it was then.

The door chime interrupted her musing. "Enter," she called.

The door slid open to reveal Lieutenant Commander Jon Archer. He glanced at the still-smoking meditation candles and the mat. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you, T'Pol. I can always come back later."

"You are not interrupting, Jonathan. I had just finished." She gestured him to a soft floor pillow. "May I get you something to drink? Saya juice, perhaps?"

He smiled and shook his head. "Actually, I just came by to drop a package off for you."

She raised her eyebrow and repeated, "A package?"

"From Soval." He pressed a palm-sized box into her hand. "He didn't tell me what it was, but he said it would comfort you, should you need the comfort."

She examined the plain wooden box, but the outside of it gave no indication of its contents. Her curiosity got the better of her and she slid the top of it open. Nestled inside was a copper circle with a tiny emerald stud in its northwest quadrant. A triangle bisected the larger circle, its point touching the emerald. The whole symbol was mounted on a disk of sea blue glass.

Her breath caught as she lifted the symbol out of the box. It was strung with a copper chain, with an emerald-colored clasp. The low lights sparkled on it and revealed colors hidden within it.

"Kol-Ut-Shan," she whispered. "K'lalatar prnak'lirli. I have never seen it represented in such manner before."

Jon chuckled. "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. IDIC. That has always been my favorite Vulcan concept, T'Pol. I think it explains the Universe."

"Indeed." She gazed at him. "Thank you, Jonathan. It is...stunning. I must send Soval my gratitude for such a gift."

He nodded and got up from the pillow. "Tell him hello for me. I have to drop off another package, T'Pol, so I will see you tomorrow morning."

"Another package?" she asked before she could stop herself. "Also from Soval?"

He smiled. "Actually, yes. It's a birthday present for Trip."

Her gaze became confused. "A birthday present for...Lieutenant Commander Tucker?" she repeated. "From Soval?"

Jon gave her one of his 'come on, he's not that bad' looks. "Remember, Soval knows Trip too. I introduced them to each other about ten years ago, when I first arrived at the Vulcan Consulate in San Francisco."

"Ah." She raised an eyebrow, this time in understanding. "So that is how the three of you first met. I recall Soval mentioning a young security man assigned to the Consulate...that must have been Lieutenant Commander Tucker."

His grin widened. "Yes, and it's quite a story. I'm sure he'd tell you all about it, if you asked him. Why don't you tag along while I drop this off at Trip's quarters?"

T'Pol opened her mouth to refuse, but she was genuinely...intrigued at the prospect of knowing the details of Trip and Soval's first meeting. Soval was cool, logical and Vulcan. Trip was passionate, illogical and Human. How could the two become—and still remain—friends a decade later?

"Very well," she said. "I will accompany you. I'm sure this is quite the story."

*****

Trip Tucker smiled at the young woman on the screen and shook his finger at her. "Now, young lady, I want to know every sordid detail. Who is he, what does he do, and does he have Mama and Dad's approval? Does he treat ya right? 'Cause if he doesn't, I'm gonna hop the next transport home and beat the crap outta him."

Elizabeth Tucker rolled her eyes. "For God's sake, Trip, don't pull that big brother act on me again. The answers, in order: his name is Jamie, he's British, he's a fellow architect, and Mama and Daddy have met him. Alexandra and Eddie have also met him and they like him. And Ian absolutely adores him; you know your nephew, Trip, he's got an internal radar that rivals Mama's when it comes to people." She stuck out her tongue at him and finished, "So there."

"He's got Ian's approval? Already? Wow!" Trip chuckled as she glowered at him. "Then he's gotta be somethin'. Though I gotta wonder...what the hell is it with these Brits? I got one who keeps after me for a physical— "

Elizabeth's grin was positively sadistic. "I bet she wants more than just a quick 'physical'."

He glared at her. "The doc is a he, Lizzie, and no, I don't think of him 'in that way'. I'd rather sleep with a Tellarite first."

"Be careful what you wish for, brother mine. Aren't you guys supposed to push back the borders of the known universe?" Trip sputtered and she laughed. Then her grin softened as she continued, "But hey, I called you to wish you a happy birthday, Trip, not talk about my love life, and definitely not about the prospect of shagging a Tellarite."

"Listen to ya. You already sound like a Brit."

Lizzie rolled her eyes. "I hope your Armory guys threw you a party. They didn't give you a fireworks display, did they?"

"Nah, I think the cap'n would've had a fit if they did. And they didn't tie me to a torpedo and threaten to shoot me off the ship. In fact, they—"A chime interrupted him. "Enter! Anyway, they decided to keep it quiet-like and—" His grin widened as he saw his visitors. "Jon! T'Pol! Hey, Lizzie, Jon decided to show up!"

Jon Archer smiled at the blonde-haired woman on the screen. "Hi there, Lizzie."

She matched the smile, her blue eyes sparkling, so much like her older brother's. "Hello, Jon. Keeping Trip out of trouble?"

"Trying my hardest, but you know him—"Jon left the sentence hanging and Trip mock-glared at him. "Don't let me interrupt, Lizzie."

"Don't worry about it, Jon." Her eyes drifted over to the Vulcan woman. "You must be Lieutenant T'Pol. My brother has talked a lot about you."

She raised an eyebrow at her easy familiarity. "And he has talked a lot about you. It is a pleasure to meet you, Elizabeth."

"Call me Lizzie. Everyone else does." She frowned at something, then glanced back up. "Well, I've just about reached my calling limit here. I'll tell Mama and Daddy you're doing okay, Trip. Take care of yourself, okay?"

His eyes softened. "You too. Love ya, baby sister."

"Love ya too, Big Brother." Lizzie smiled and her image winked out.

Trip sighed and ran a hand through his short blond hair. "Yeah, that was my younger sister," he answered T'Pol's unspoken question. "I got an older sister, a younger brother and Lizzie. I'm the eldest son and the second kid."

T'Pol nodded. "She seems rather pleasant, Lieutenant Commander." At his glower, she amended, "Trip."

"Lizzie's the type that gets along with most people," Trip said. He glanced at Jon. "You two missed a hell of a party in the Armory."

"Sorry, Trip, but I had some things that came up," Jon apologized, "and I was hoping to make it up to you with a bottle of good Kentucky bourbon and a present from Soval."

He blinked. "A present from Soval? Don't you dare." He accepted the flat box from Jon and opened it. A twin of T'Pol's present lay there nestled in velvet, but instead of an emerald, the smaller sphere was of a more bluish stone. "Wow. This is pretty, but Soval knows I'm not really big on jewelry..."

"It is a symbol from Vulcan philosophy," T'Pol said. "The English translation is 'Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations', or IDIC for short."

Trip grinned and said, "Yeah, that sounds like something Soval would believe in. Well, I should send him a thank-you note in the mornin'." He deftly unhooked the chain and slipped it over his head, then hooked it again. "Noticed you got one too. It suits ya. Interestin' he'd send one of these IDIC things to both of us..."

"I am curious as to how you know Soval," T'Pol said. "You have said it is—"

"—a long story. Yeah, I did, didn't I." He chuckled. "Well, you might as well pull up a chair, 'cause it is. Break out the bottle of bourbon, Jon, and I'll get scrounge up some tea for T'Pol. Can't say I'm amiss in my hostin' duties—"

T'Pol sat comfortably on one of the padded chairs as Jon and Trip busied themselves with the drinks. She hid a smile as she thought, Yes, I expect it to be an interesting tale indeed.

*****

Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco, March 11, 2141

Ensign Charles Tucker the Third sighed as he approached the security gate of the Vulcan Consulate. The unsmiling guard on duty looked down on him with an impassive expression. Although Trip Tucker was tall for a Human, this Vulcan topped him by at least seven inches and fifty pounds. I wouldn't want to run into this guy in a dark alley, he thought.

"Ensign Tucker?" the Vulcan asked. He extended an open hand; Trip moved to shake it, then remembered in time that Vulcans didn't like to be touched. Instead, he handed the guard his PADD with his orders on it. "You are to be one of the security detail here at the Consulate?"

Trip nodded soberly. "That's correct, sir."

The guard's mouth twitched as he read the orders. "You do not need to call me 'sir'. I am Third Officer Somek, and as Third Officer, I believe your rank supercedes mine."

"Ah—" Trip felt the color rise in his cheeks. "I didn't know that."

"That is understandable." Somek handed the PADD back to him. "The Ambassador's assistant is expecting you. Go through those doors and wait for him."

"Thank you, Third Officer." Trip nodded and set off in the direction Somek had indicated. Now that has been a first impression: embarrassing himself in front of a junior Vulcan officer. There's something about that kid, though, something endearing behind that stiff exterior. He chuckled under his breath. Yeah, that's real good. You don't need to go corruptin' Vulcan kids.

The foyer of the Consulate was a large, airy room, well lit by skylights in the ceiling and huge windows. The honey-colored walls reflected the sunlight, a marble fountain gurgled in the corner, and the sweet smell of Vulcan flowers wafted through the air. Trip felt his tension melt away, but he automatically surveyed the room anyway, noting the possible exits. He noticed the security cameras placed high in the corners, the silent scanners built into the walls. It was an ingrained habit; after all he was a security officer.

Soft voices echoed off the walls. Two voices: one quiet and subdued, the other harsh and strident. Trip frowned and turned towards the spiral staircase set in one corner of the room. He recognized a handful of words..."unnecessary, emotional, difficult", but most of the argument was muffled and distorted. Were they discussing him?

He took a deep breath and went through some mental exercises to calm himself. The last thing he wanted to do was fly off the handle and make himself an ass in front of the Vulcans. He'd rated highly on weaponry certifications and unarmed combat, and had even began studying some Vulcan martial arts. If the Vulcans didn't want him here, he could always go back to the Weapons Development Division at Cape Canaveral...

A Vulcan in a military uniform made her way down the staircase, her boots ringing off the marble. Her gray tunic had no decoration, but the insignia marked the woman as Head of Consulate Security, with the rank of Major. Trip immediately snapped to attention as she approached. She was much shorter than he was, with glossy black hair in a tight twist on the back of her head. Her eyes were orbs of brown ice.

She said nothing for several moments, but just looked up at him. The officer radiated a sense of cold, no-nonsense efficiency that Trip identified almost immediately, but it was mixed with a dangerous aura. This woman was used to being obeyed. Uh-oh, this gal is bad news, he thought.

"Ensign Charles Tucker, I presume?" The cool tone had a touch of haughtiness.

"Yes, ma'am," he replied.

"My name is Major T'Lydya, Ensign, and I expect to be addressed as such. Am I clear?"

He stifled a wave of irritation and said, "Yes, Major T'Lydya."

"Good." She walked around him once, as if assessing him. "You are assigned to the security detail protecting Ambassador Soval's new assistant. Your Human commanding officer is Captain Carlos Ramirez. You will report to him from now on, is that understood?"

Trip stifled a wave of relief. He knew it was unprofessional, but he dreaded having to deal with the hostile T'Lydya. "Yes, Major T'Lydya."

"Soval's assistant is well-regarded in diplomatic circles, but he has the tendency to find himself in rather...tense situations. His casual acceptance of the most basic of security measures is quite unacceptable. It is hoped that he would respond more positively to a uniquely Human approach."

The dry irony struck a chord within Trip. He'd had to do bodyguard detail on high officials who hadn't the faintest clue of how difficult it was to protect them. Was Soval's assistant one of them? Trip suddenly thought, Was the major talking about Soval's assistant when she was upstairs and not me? If the man was as casual about protocols as T'Lydya implied, then he understood why Captain Ramirez needed an extra security man on the premises.

"I'll do my best to impress upon him the necessity of security protocols, Major T'Lydya."

She didn't smile, but Trip felt her humor all the same. He also got the feeling that the major was relieved she didn't have to deal with Soval's assistant. Trip had the mental image of an elderly, crotchety man with an attitude problem.

Great, what have I gotten myself into?

The rest of the morning passed in a whirlwind of activity. Although T'Lydya ran a tight unit, she also insisted in following some enjoyable traditions. One of them was a formal banquet for their newest officer. Trip met some of the enlisted men and women who would be under his direct command. To his surprise, none of the Vulcans seemed upset at having a Human commander. On the contrary, they asked him questions about Human customs where he came from.

"They know you're from a different area of the planet," explained Captain Ramirez. The Head of the Terran Security detachment chuckled and added, "You should've seen them when I arrived, Ensign. I had to explain the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo and they wanted to hear every detail."

Trip grinned and took another sip of his Vulcan tea. "Well, curiosity is a Vulcan trait."

"Most of them are very dedicated to their job, Ensign. I don't think you'll run into any problems. If you do, just let me or Diplomat Archer know."

"Archer?" Trip repeated. He frowned in confusion. "I thought Henry Archer was the head of Starfleet's Engineering Research and Development. He's supposed to be workin' on a faster-than-light engine, last I read."

Ramirez inclined his head. "You an engineer, too?"

He shook his head in a rueful negative. "Nope, not formally, but I got some interest in that kinda stuff. I took some courses at the University of Florida; one of 'em just happened to be a design lab and I got into weaponry there." He chuckled. "Got into security protocols and tactics and here I am."

"I went to Florida State." Ramirez grinned and added, "Football season is another holiday over here. The Vulcans don't understand it, but a few appreciate the...statistics."

Trip choked on his tea. "Aw, the statistics. Yeah, right." He glanced casually around the room and noticed a tall, brown-haired man in a Vulcan-style tunic. The man chatted with Major T'Lydya, who seemed to only tolerate him. Despite her standoffishness, he still treated her with respect due her rank.

The man bowed to her and she returned it, albeit grudgingly. Then he turned and spotted Trip. The man's eyes sparkled with humor, his mouth stretched in a genuine smile. The aura of eagerness reminded Trip of a friendly dog...Pomeranian? Naaah, beagle, maybe. The man hurried over to Trip's side.

"Ensign Tucker? I'm Jonathan Archer." Archer extended his hand and this time, Trip allowed himself to shake his hand. "Major T'Lydya just told me you've arrived."

"Just stepped off the transport this mornin'," Trip answered. So, this was the new assistant to Ambassador Soval. Archer had his father's look around the eyes, the same benign face Henry had, as if he was sympathetic to your cause. Trip understood that skill would be invaluable in Archer's line of work.

"You sound like you're from...Missouri? Arkansas?"

Trip chuckled and shrugged. "The panhandle of Florida, actually, but I have relatives in Mizoorah and Ar-kan-saw," he replied, laying on the Southern accent a little thicker as usual.

"Glad to finally meet you. T'Lydya was concerned that we might have some kind of personality conflict, but I'm willing to work with you on whatever protocol you deem necessary." Archer smiled and glanced at Ramirez. "And a good afternoon to you too, Carlos. How's your wife doing?"

Ramirez chuckled. "She's more than ready for our daughter's appearance, Jon. Doctor Reed says it should be any day now."

"Well, I have confidence in the good doctor's skills." Archer's admiration for this particular doctor's skills sounded genuine, and Trip made a mental note of it. "Well, since you're officially off-duty, what should I call you, Mister Tucker?"

"I go by Trip, sir."

"Jon. I'm not on duty, either." Archer gave him a quizzical look. "'Trip'? Isn't that a strange name for a security officer?"

Trip sighed and rolled his eyes. "It doesn't refer to my sense of balance, if that's what you're worried about. It's a nickname."

"I'm sure that's quite a story," Jon commented. "Mind sharing it?"

Trip grinned at the curiosity in his voice. "Sure. Sit back and I'll tell ya all about it."

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Timeline note: In this AU Universe, the Vulcans make first contact in 2063 like the "real universe", so Trip's story (in 2141) occurs only 78 years after First Contact here. There are still some wrinkles in Vulcan/Human relations to be ironed out.

Rating: T


Two

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise


"Wait a minute...you thought I was some old, crotchety guy with an attitude problem?"

Trip chuckled at the nonplussed look on Jon's face. "I didn't know it was you, remember? From what T'Lydya told me, that was the image I got in my mind's eye. Sorry."

T'Pol inclined her head. "T'Lydya? She had interned in T'Pau's department before coming to San Francisco."

"That's right. I think T'Lydya said once that T'Pau taught her everything she knew."

She nodded. "She was so much like her aunt. I met her once, while I was briefly at the Security Ministry. Very calm, collected...I wanted to be like her."

Trip raised his eyebrows. "T'Lydya is T'Pau's niece? Okay, that makes a lot of sense now."

"She was T'Pau's niece. She had been originally assigned to capture Menos, long before I was given that job."

Trip stared at her. Menos, the Vulcan who had tried to derail Enterprise's First Contact with Betazed. Suddenly, T'Pol's behavior during that event meant more sense, and her unspoken words told him that T'Lydya was no longer alive. Jon gave him a slight nod, confirming his thoughts.

"That's right...you were at the Security Ministry for, what, a year?"

"Eighteen months, before I worked for the Ministry of Space and Ship Operations. It was not a pleasant experience, but T'Pau and T'Lydya made it more tolerable."

"I'm sorry, T'Pol. I didn't know." Trip opened his mouth to say something else, but his door chimed. "Enter!" he called.

Commander Travis Mayweather stuck his head in the door. "Hey, is this a private party or can anyone join in?"

"C'mon in, Travis. The more, the merrier." Trip gestured for Travis to take a chair while Jon poured him a generous splash of the bourbon. "I was just tellin' a story."

"This oughta be good," Travis said as he made himself comfortable. "What story?"

"How I met Jon and Ambassador Soval. Lucky you came in close to the beginning. Just told them about the first reception at the Vulcan Consulate in San Fran."

Jon matched Travis's broad grin. "And he'd thought I was some old, crotchety geezer."

"Like I said, blame T'Lydya. She had me thinkin' you were." Trip summarized the story so far, and Travis nodded.

"Well, it being your birthday and all that, thought I'd give you a little gift." The first officer handed a basket to Trip. It was decorated with blue and green ribbons and filled to the brim with a dozen oranges.

"Oranges? Fresh oranges? Don't tell me you raided Chef's stash."

"He'd kill me if I did. I got this from my brother on the Horizon." Travis grinned and gave him a shrug. "I told him you were from Florida and he sent this over."

"Gotta send him a thank-you note too. Thanks, Travis." Trip set the basket on his desk and its citrus scent filled the air. "All right, if we're all settled, lemme get back to the story—"

*****

Vulcan Consulate, San Francisco, March 11, 2141

Captain Ramirez and Trip spent the entire afternoon going over security protocols for the Consulate, specifically as concerning both Diplomat Archer and Ambassador Soval. Trip had heard of Soval, the Vulcan ambassador to Earth for the past nineteen years, but had never met him.

"You'll get your chance in the next few days," Ramirez said with a slight smile. "He's off-planet now, attending the wedding ceremony of his mother's first cousin, but he's due back soon."

"Vulcan family trees are enough to give anyone a headache," Trip quipped. "Everyone seems to be related to everyone else in some way."

"Not quite everyone," Ramirez said with a chuckle. "Vulcan's a big planet. Ever been there?"

"Nope, though I'd like to see it sometime."

Finally, Ramirez showed him to his new quarters, just down the hall from Archer's and around the corner from Trip's new office. Trip was surprised that he, a mere ensign, had been assigned an office, of all things. Ramirez said it was standard for anyone working at the Consulate.

"Dinner is at nineteen-hundred hours in the Dining Room, Ensign. I'll come by and pick you up."

"Thanks, Captain. I appreciate your help, sir."

After Ramirez left, he settled into his new home. There were several messages on his computer terminal: one from Major T'Lydya, one from his mother back in Florida, and one from a Doctor Samirah. Trip frowned and accessed the last message. A dark-skinned Human female smiled at him from the screen.

"Hello, Ensign Tucker. My name is Doctor Janeese Samirah," she said with a soft, exotic accent. "Starfleet Medical at Cape Canaveral have forwarded your records to the main Medical complex here in San Francisco. I am one of three Human doctors assigned to the Consulate. Please return my call as soon as possible to schedule your baseline physical. If I am not here, leave a message with either Doctor Ayakamura or Doctor Reed and I will get back to you. Thank you very much."

Trip sighed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Knew that was coming," he muttered. He enjoyed physicals about as much as having a root canal at the dentist. "Might as well get this over with."

His call to Samirah's office was transferred to one of the other doctors. The petite Asian woman on the screen looked up at him with a bright smile. "Ensign Tucker? I'm Doctor Michiko Ayakamura. Doctor Samirah said you would call."

Her cheerful voice brought a smile to Trip's face. "Yeah, I got her message. I need to schedule an appointment with her."

"Shouldn't be a problem, Ensign—" There was a slight chime from behind her and she said, "Excuse me. That's my pager." She glanced down and read the message on it. "Hm. Looks like I'm going to have to cover some extra patients. Let me transfer you to Doctor Samirah's assistant and she'll get you set up straightaway."

"Thanks, Doctor Ayakamura." To Trip's surprise, scheduling the appointment was a lot easier than he'd expected. Then again, Starfleet Medical in San Francisco was at least twice as big as the one at Cape Canaveral, and expediency was critical in a place like that.

Suddenly, someone pounded on his door. Trip jumped, his hand going to the sidearm at his belt. "Who is it?"

"It's Captain Ramirez." The captain's voice was calm, but Trip heard a note of panic in it. He went to the door and opened it to find a slightly flustered Ramirez. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have Major T'Lydya escort you to dinner tonight, Ensign Tucker. I just got a call from Doctor Reed."

"Your wife's having the baby?" Trip asked. No wonder Ramirez looked like a nervous wreck.

He nodded. "I've got to get to the Medical Complex."

"Then you'd better get going, sir. Babies won't wait." Trip realized that must have been the page that Doctor Ayakamura had gotten during their conversation. She must have had to take over Reed's regular duties at the office.

"You sure you're going to be all right? T'Lydya isn't the easiest person to get along with—"

"I'll be fine. Go, Cap'n, or your wife's gonna be mad at you."

"I have the feeling she's going to be mad at me anyway." Ramirez gave him a weak smile, then hurried down the hall. Trip watched him go.

Poor guy, Trip thought. Then he realized he'd have to spend the evening with a cranky Vulcan. Yeesh. Poor me.

*****

"This stuff's pretty good. What is it?"

T'Lydya raised an eyebrow in surprise and her mouth tightened somewhat. For a moment, Trip feared she was going to get angry, but he saw the unwilling sparkle in her eyes. The Vulcan was trying (and failing, at least according to Trip) to hide her humor. "That is called pok tar, Ensign. We usually have it for evening meal."

"I've had some vegetarian dishes, but this one rates near the top of the list."

She inclined her head. "I will let Chef Sunet know of your approval."

The dinner party included several Vulcans and a few Humans, but Trip noticed the two groups kept their distance from each other. In fact, he caught a few suspicious glances from the Human contingent, and more than a few from the Vulcans. Trip had to remind himself that although Vulcans and Humans had known each other for eighty-one years, there were still some issues between the two races. Some Humans, like Archer, Ramirez and himself didn't have any trouble working with Vulcans, but that didn't mean others wouldn't have a problem with it.

"Ensign Tucker? May I speak with you for a moment?"

The quiet, polite voice over his shoulder held a hint of apology. Trip glanced at the man and noticed the uniform. MACO. He hadn't know there were any assigned to the Consulate, but it didn't surprise him. "Of course, Mister—"

"Kemper, sir. Corporal Nathan Kemper, of the 521st Division, sir."

Trip raised his eyebrows. "521st, huh? Pleasure to meet you, Corporal." He glanced at T'Lydya, who was not at all pleased at being interrupted, but he noticed she hadn't ordered Kemper away. "Permission to withdraw for a moment, Major?"

She nodded, but not without spearing Kemper with a look of disapproval. "Granted, Ensign."

Kemper led him to the garden just outside the Dining Room. "Sorry to interrupt your meal, but I thought I'd give you fair warning, sir."

Trip frowned, though he had an idea of why. "Fair warning, Corporal? About what?"

"I don't know if you've noticed it yet, but there's some tension between us and the Vulcans over certain areas," Kemper said. He lowered his voice, although he really didn't need to. "Some of my colleagues are convinced the Vulcans are arrogant, condescending and just want to be a pain to Humans in general."

"And you?"

"I don't share the same sentiments, sir. They keep it in check when Diplomat Archer is around, or Ambassador Soval, but when they aren't...it can get rather ugly, sir."

No wonder T'Lydya looks like she's swallowed a gallon of prune juice, Trip reflected. "Some Vulcans aren't happy with us, either, but we gotta learn to work together, whether they like it or not." He nodded. "Thanks for the warning, Corporal."

"You're welcome, sir. I gotta get back...I told 'em that I was gonna warn you about the Vulcans; they think you're under their spell or somethin'."

Trip snorted. "Not likely. I'll be careful, Corporal. Hey, why don't you stop by my office tomorrow and you can tell me more about what's going on around here?"

"No problem sir. Captain Ramirez was planning on telling you anyway, but—" Kemper shrugged. "It might be a bit tense with him not around now."

"I'll keep an eye out. Thanks again."

Kemper saluted with perfect military precision, then turned on his heel and strode back into the Dining Hall. Trip watched him go, sighed and shook his head. This is gonna be a long night. As he followed in Kemper's wake, he became very aware of T'Lydya's gaze on him.

*****

Trip's Quarters, Enterprise

"Kemper? As in Major Nathan Kemper?" Travis repeated, his eyes wide in realization.

"Yeah, the kid's on the Columbia as Captain Hayes's Tactical Officer," Trip confirmed. "Y'know, if our orders hadn't gotten screwed up before we launched, he might be sittin' here instead of me."

Travis nodded. Kemper had been chosen as Enterprise's Armory and Tactical Officer, but a mix-up of rosters had put Kemper on Columbia instead, and had replaced him with Trip Tucker. They all noticed that T'Pol was studying the depths of her tea, for it had been the Vulcans who had messed up the assignments. Travis brought the topic back to Kemper.

"Whoa. Talk about a small world."

"You were with Hayes on the Montana, right?" Trip asked him.

The first officer grinned and replied, "I was his Science Officer. Captain Hayes can be hard, but he's a fair commanding officer. I know that some people don't appreciate his command style—"

"—but there are some who think he's all right, like a certain science officer," said a voice from the doorway. Everyone turned to see Captain Hoshi Sato there. She waved her hand as they all started to stand at attention. "At ease. I don't mean to crash your party—"

"—then don't just stand there in the hall, Cap'n. Get in here." Trip was about to vacate his seat for the captain, but Jon Archer beat him to it. "We've got some fine Kentucky bourbon, if that's to your taste."

She shook her head. "Bourbon's not on my list of favorite drinks, but if you have any tea, I'd be grateful."

"One Vulcan green tea coming up," Jon said and went to get it.

"I just got off-duty. Sorry I missed your party, Trip," Hoshi said. "I wanted to give this to you before the night was out." She gave Trip a bottle with a red-and-yellow ribbon tied around it. "Happy birthday."

He glanced at the label of the bottle and whistled. "Wow. I didn't really peg you as a sake drinker, Cap'n. I thought you didn't drink very much."

"I don't, but my father sent this to me to give to you. He's one of the best distillers in Kyoto, you know." She grinned. "This is from both of us."

"Wow. Onegaishimasu, Cap'n. Thank you." He carefully set the bottle of sake on his desk, right next to the basket of oranges from Travis.

Hoshi nodded at T'Pol, who sat serenely in the ring of senior officers. "Lieutenant T'Pol, how are you feeling?"

"I am well, Captain. The stomach ailment passed quickly, thanks to Doctor Reed's quick care." She glanced back at Trip and went on, "That reminds me...why did you not tell us you knew Doctor Reed before being assigned to the Enterprise?"

Trip's laugh was rueful. "Um...I didn't. Not really."

"But you were both at the Vulcan Consulate at the same time, were you not?"

"Doc Reed was actually at Starfleet Medical, and not exclusively at the Consulate. He was one of the few Human doctors who didn't mind working with Vulcans at the time." Trip laughed again and Hoshi gave him a sympathetic look. "I knew of him; after all, Ramirez sang his praises after Isabella was born. Unfortunately, I didn't get to actually meet Malcolm until about five weeks ago. Every time I got curious about our resident medic, he always seemed to be on duty or gone for some reason."

T'Pol gave him a strange look, one that was touched with a sudden comprehension. Trip raised his eyebrows, but she only shook her head and said, "Curious."

"I thought so, too. If I hadn't known better, I would've thought he was avoiding me on purpose, but like I said, neither of us really knew each other then." He shrugged and took a sip of his bourbon. "I usually saw either Doctor Samirah or Doctor Ayakamura, so it really wasn't an issue to me at the time."

Jon frowned. "I hadn't known about that, Trip. I'd always assumed you met Malcolm at one point or another. That is strange."

Trip shrugged again. "Sometimes things happen. Why don't you ask the Doc next time you see him?" He took another sip, then said, "All right...where was I?"

*****

Vulcan Consulate March 16, 2141

Trip adapted quickly to the routine at the Consulate. He accompanied Jonathan Archer to breakfast at the Dining Hall, where he usually discussed his schedule with his security team and other business with other diplomats. Trip shadowed Jon as he went through meeting after meeting, argument after argument, polite dance after polite dance. Trip was impressed at the man's patience and aplomb; not many people could handle a touchy meeting between the Vulcan Trade Minister and the Andorian representative.

At lunch, Jon would ask him of his impressions of the people they had met. The first time, Trip was reluctant to give his opinions, but Jon clarified, "You're a trained security officer. Sometimes you see things I can't. I'd like to know what you saw in their body language, their unspoken words. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes." So Trip told him, and together, they both saw insights neither one would have seen alone.

Jon Archer seemed to follow all the security protocols perfectly, so Trip didn't know why Major T'Lydya had been worried. Trip chalked it up to different personalities and different views on doing things. Corporal Kemper had been right; there was an undercurrent of hostility between the Humans and the Vulcans at the Consulate, but Trip couldn't tell where it stemmed from.

Then, five days after his arrival, Trip was thrown for a loop.

*****

"Trip! Nathan!"

Trip heard Jon's call from the open door of his own office. He immediately reacted to the alarm in Jon's voice. Three seconds later, he was at Jon's door with an equally worried Corporal Nathan Kemper. Jon Archer was sitting at his computer terminal, his gaze on someone standing at the corner of the room. Kemper raised his EM-33, but Trip put a hand on his arm.

A young Vulcan woman stood there, her arms up, her hands curled into claws. Her long black hair hung in tangles waves over her shoulders. She glanced at Trip and he took a half-step backwards at the madness within her eyes.

"T'Saiya," Jonathan said in a soft voice. Then he added a few words in Vulcan that Trip didn't understand, but Trip thought were supposed to be soothing. He finally recognized her: T'Saiya was the receptionist of the Vulcan Consulate. She was polite and friendly to everyone who came by her desk.

She definitely didn't look friendly now. Her cheeks were flushed bronze-green and sweat covered her brow. T'Saiya turned away from Jon and took a step towards Trip, who responded by taking another half-step backwards into the hall. Kemper kept his aim trained on T'Saiya without wavering.

"T'Saiya," Jon repeated, this time with a strident note in his voice.

She shook her head and muttered something under her breath in Vulcan. Then she advanced towards Trip and Nate, who both retreated in her wake. Trip heard commotion behind him, but he didn't dare look over his shoulder. The gleam in T'Saiya's eye was hungry, predatory, as if she was a crocodile and he, Trip, was an appealing snack.

Another soft voice said something in Vulcan. Major T'Lydya. I didn't know she could sound like that, he thought. The gentle tone was completely at odds with the Major he'd met. He couldn't see her face, but the voice was light, lyrical.

T'Lydya's words seemed to have an effect. T'Saiya stopped in her tracks and cocked her head to the side as if listening to some inner voice. Then she slowly began to drop her hands to her side and took a step away from them...

Then she moved faster than anyone Trip had ever seen. T'Saiya leaped forward like a pouncing tiger, nimbly avoiding Kemper's shot and knocking Trip down flat on his back. She was heavier than she looked and the wind flew out of his lungs in a gush.

"Don't let her touch you, Trip!" Jon shouted.

He grabbed her hands and struggled against her. With a grunt, he threw her off him, but in the process, her right hand brushed against his temple. Stars exploded in front of his eyes, followed by blackness.

*****

He awoke in a daze. What the hell just happened? His memories were fuzzy, indistinct...all he could recall was a pair of dark, crazed eyes and claws ripping into his skin...

"You are awake," said a calm voice. "Do not attempt to move. You have been hurt."

"Jon?" he rasped. "Nathan?" He realized he was lying on a couch in one of the Consulate's meditation rooms. A fire pot in the corner provided the only light and heat. There was a large shadow sitting in front of him. That shadow turned and he saw a gray-haired Vulcan in ceremonial robes.

"They are awaiting word on your progress," the Vulcan said, "but I would like to check you first, with your permission."

"Yeah...I guess," Trip mumbled. "What're you gonna do? Read my mind?"

The Vulcan said nothing for a moment, but his voice held dry humor. "No, Ensign Tucker. We Vulcans do not 'read minds' unless the situation is quite dire. I will ascertain whether or not T'Saiya's attack has had any inadvertent effects on your mind."

"You a Healer?"

"Of a sort. I come from a long line of diplomats and healers, Ensign." His mouth went up in a slight smile, startling Trip out of his daze. "I understand we have not been introduced yet, Ensign Tucker. My name is Soval."

"Ambassador Soval?"

"Yes."

He swallowed hard. So this was the formidable Vulcan ambassador and Jon's boss. "Pleased to finally meet ya. Wish it was under better circumstances."

Soval nodded gravely. "As do I."

"Ambassador—"

"I am not in that capacity right now, Ensign. My name is Soval, as I have said."

"Then you can call me 'Trip'. Ensign isn't my first name, either."

Soval didn't quite laugh, but Trip felt his amusement. "Very well...Trip. You will have to explain the significance of the name later. It is unusual for a security officer."

He sighed and rolled his eyes and thought, Aw, no, not again. "Ask Jonathan Archer. He knows the story."

Soval nodded at that and Trip sighed again in relief. "I shall, then. Please, try to relax. If there is any discomfort, I will discontinue the link. Agreed?"

Trip nodded in turn. "Agreed." He closed his eyes as Soval's long fingers rested on his face, and he felt a stir of warmth from the touch. Son of a...he thought in wonder.

Then another world opened in front of his eyes, a world different from his own.

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October 2012

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