Author's Note: Our boy did not behave entirely well in "Civilization" and I felt he needed to suffer some consequences. Thanks as always for the reviews.
"Commander, if you would please join me in the ready room."
Trip swallowed. "On my way," he said.
At least the ship wasn't taking fire anymore. T'Pol's idea of beaming the reactor adjacent to the Malurians and then blowing it up had obviously worked.
And he was a horse's ass.
x x x
Nobody on the bridge quite looked at him as he exited the turbolift and shifted over to the ready room. Trip licked his lips and tried to contain his growing sense of dread.
"Reporting as ordered, Sub-Commander," he said, and stood at attention.
T'Pol said nothing for the longest time, just stared at him.
He stared straight ahead and resisted the urge to explain, to apologize, to suggest that he would never do it again. After all, this was at least the second time he'd disobeyed her orders on the bridge, let alone what he'd done under the influence of those spores. Speaking out of turn right now would just be one more example of his inability to control himself.
Finally, she spoke. "Would you care to explain, Commander Tucker, why you countermanded my orders and threatened to render this ship incapable of warp speed during a critical combat operation?"
He cleared his dry throat. "I mistakenly believed you were about to abandon the captain, Sub-Commander. I know that doesn't excuse my actions, which were impulsive and irresponsible and ..." He swallowed painfully. Might as well get it over with. "... Grossly insubordinate."
"Yes. They were."
He waited, blinking away an embarrassing degree of moisture in his eyes as he tried hard to maintain his straight-ahead stare. Although he'd never been one for a lot of spit and polish, Trip took real pride in his rank and accomplishments. He couldn't believe he'd possibly just thrown it all away.
And why? Because she was Vulcan? Because he'd watched her stun that Akaali woman and had been reminded once again that she was an alien whose logical thought processes could take your breath away with their heartless efficiency? Was it because she'd taken his job? Or was it because, damn it, he was the Chief Engineer and he could damn well say when this ship went anywhere, or didn't?
The silence drew on. Archer was probably heading back on the shuttle by now. He swallowed again, trying and failing to moisten his dry throat. Would Jon's return improve this situation, or make it worse?
"Tell me, Commander Tucker, what would you do with a senior officer who had just behaved the way you did?"
For Pete's sake, couldn't she just get it over with? Why did she have to torture him like this? He sighed. He supposed it was possible she genuinely wanted his advice, though he found it hard to believe she hadn't already absorbed every disciplinary manual Starfleet had to offer. "I'd probably put him on report and confine him to quarters until I could consult the matter with the captain."
"And would you have a recommendation for the captain?"
He slumped a little. "I don't know. The punishment has to include something ... public ... so that the whole crew understands that this sort of thing won't be tolerated." He supposed he ought to be glad that keel-hauling didn't work in space and that public whippings had gone out of style, too. He sighed. "Perhaps reducing his rank." Damn it. But perhaps he had risen too far too fast. He knew some in Starfleet thought so. These were some of the same people who thought Jon had been a damned fool to take a second who was so young - and a personal friend to boot. "A recipe for disaster," Duval had called it -- Trip had overheard him in the 602 Club. "The fair-haired boy is going to screw up sooner or later, mark my words."
He really, really, really hated to give that idiot the satisfaction of being right.
"Very well, Commander," T'Pol said softly. "You are hereby on restricted duty, confined to your quarters, until I can further consult this matter with the Captain. Dismissed."
For the first time, he dared to look her in the eye. She looked tired. It finally occurred to him that T'Pol could be interpreting his behavior as a personal betrayal as well, especially after she'd decided to stay on Enterprise, a stranger in a strange land. Especially after she'd possibly even taken his advice about doing it.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, desperately clinging to protocol, and turned to go. At the door, he hesitated a moment and looked back. "I'm sorry, T'Pol."
She met his eyes for the briefest of moments, before her gaze shifted down and away, and somehow he felt even worse.
He really was the biggest damned horse's ass in the whole damned galaxy.
A tip for further reading: In looking around for other entries, I discovered a nice little story that makes a little more hay with this issue, from multiple points of view: It's called "Responsibility," by IchthusFish.
Next installment: Fortunate Son.
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