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"Mentem Mortalia Tangunt"
By Drogna

Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I donít own these characters, Iím just borrowing them.
Description: Enterprise make first contact with a race of aliens who turn out to be enemies of the Xindi, but trouble is around the corner for Trip.

Author's Note: Mentem Mortalia Tangunt is Latin from Virgilís Aeneid and means ďOur Mortality Cuts us to the HeartĒ.


Malcolm Reed was of the opinion that the reception in the mess hall was the dullest event that he had ever been to and he had stood through his fair share of interminably dull events. He particularly remembered a boring Royal Navy ceremony for his father which his parents had insisted that he attend, probably in the hope that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Navy. These new aliens which they were now “entertaining” gave even the Vulcans a run for their money when it came to their inability to have fun. To make matters worse he had had to squeeze himself into his itchy dress uniform, which made him even more uncomfortable. He hoped that Commander Tucker would arrive soon to liven up the party, but Trip had been held up in Engineering and had left a message with the Captain that he was going to be late.

They had met the Jorgans a couple of days earlier whilst they were navigating their way through a particularly difficult nebula in the Expanse. The two ships had both been having difficulty re-calibrating their sensors to cope with the various particles present in the nebula, as it turned out they had been working at the problem from opposite ends and Trip was able to merge the two approaches to form a single solution. According to sub-commander T’Pol, both ships were now able to navigate the nebula much more efficiently. The Jorgans had been very grateful for the assistance and Trip had been in seventh heaven getting to examine another ship’s engines and sensors.

In a more interesting development, at least as far as Reed was concerned, they had discovered that the Jorgans were old enemies of the Xindi. Captain Archer was hoping that the Jorgans would have information that would help them in their search for the weapon the Xindi were building. Reed was extremely suspicious of the convenient meeting, but he realised that Archer would have to try and exploit the situation. He couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass, even if it turned out not to be an opportunity, without trying to get as much information out of the Jorgans as possible. Archer had become much more hard-nosed lately about his decisions and where he would have offered the hand of friendship unconditionally before, he now saw enemies waiting everywhere. In many ways Reed was pleased that Archer now took the security of the ship more seriously but Trip had been worried by the change which had come over the captain, and Reed respected Trip’s judgement.

The Jorgans had been invited to visit Enterprise to discuss the Xindi and in an effort to cement the friendship between the races. The Jorgans had also brought some traditional Jorgan wine with them and the senior offices now stood around making polite conversation with the aliens and sipping the yellow Jorgan wine.

The Jorgan captain and his first officer were talking with T’Pol and Archer about some aspect of the Jorgans’ culture which Reed didn’t understand. Travis Mayweather had found the helmsman of the other ship and was comparing notes with her. Lieutenant Hess, Trip’s deputy, was talking engineering with a Jorgan engineer. And Hoshi was as usual having a great deal of fun learning the language of the Jorgans. She had cornered a Jorgan named Meran by the window of the mess hall and was deep in discussion about the finer points of their language. Her almond eyes showed deep concentration as she persuaded her mouth to form the exact sounds of their language. The Jorgan seemed to be enjoying teaching Hoshi.

Reed’s idea of hell was having to exchange pleasantries with his opposite number on the Jorgan ship, neither one of them wanting to give away anything important. Besides the Jorgan weapons officer looked as if he was having too much fun chatting up a couple of female Ensigns. How the Jorgan could possibly be attracted to females from a completely different species, he wasn’t sure. Reed was debating making his excuses and leaving, when an out of breath Commander Tucker entered the mess hall. He had come from Engineering via his cabin and a change of uniform. His blond hair was still damp from having just got out of the shower and he pulled at the neck of his dress uniform. Archer nodded to him as he entered but continued his conversation with the other ship’s captain. Reed thought that Trip looked tired, he’d been working long hours to keep Enterprise’s engines in peak condition while in the Expanse, the spatial anomalies had been causing havoc with the ship’s systems and it didn’t help that he still wasn’t sleeping that well.

“Did I miss anything?” said the Chief Engineer homing in on Reed. “Those upgrades to the warp plasma injectors took way longer than expected.”

“Just some bloody boring speeches about co-operation,” whispered Reed. “T’Pol and the captain finally seem to be getting down to the nitty gritty of how much our new friends really know about the Xindi.”

“You have to be a bit subtle with this sort of thing, Malcolm,” said Trip.

“If it was up to me I wouldn’t have fixed their sensors until they told us everything they knew about the Xindi,” said Reed in reply.

Trip rolled his eyes, “yeah and we’d have an intergalactic incident on our hands every five minutes if you were in charge.”

“With all due respect, Commander,” began Reed but he didn’t get to finish the sentence as Archer called them both over.

“Captain Milas and First Office Magin have some things to discuss with me that they would prefer to talk about in private, so the sub-commander and I will be adjourning to my private dining room. Can I trust you to keep the party going while we’re busy?” said Archer.

“You bet, Captain,” replied Trip, “you can count on us.”

“More wine, Captain?” asked one of the Jorgan crew members, who had been delegated the task of dispensing the Jorgan wine.

“Thank you,” said Archer. He was about to follow T’Pol and the Jorgans when he turned back to Trip and Reed. “On second thoughts, I think I’ll need a clear head for this. Trip, you haven’t tried the Jorgan wine yet, take mine.” Archer handed Trip his glass, sighed and made his way out of the mess hall.

“What do you make of these aliens, then?” said Reed.

“Seem nice enough, a bit serious,” said Trip, taking a gulp of the wine which Archer had handed him. “Hey, this isn’t bad,” he added looking slightly surprised, “not exactly your Californian Chardonnay, but not bad.” His previous experience of alien beverages had been rather less pleasant.

“Yes, they do seem nice enough,” said Lieutenant Reed, “that’s what’s worrying me. They haven’t told us anything about why they don’t like the Xindi.”

“I’m guessing that the Captain will be asking them that as well,” replied Trip. “I don’t suppose there’s any food at this party? I missed lunch today, and breakfast as well come to think of it and this wine is going straight to my head.”

“I think there are some sandwiches over there,” said Reed, “you really should take better care of yourself, Trip.”

“Yeah, yeah, Dr Phlox keeps telling me that,” said Trip and went to find the sandwiches. He finished the glass of wine and placed it on the table beside a plate of sandwiches. Suddenly he didn’t feel so good, a wave of dizziness swept over him and he made a grab for the edge of the table. He missed and only succeeded in sending his empty glass flying to the floor as his legs gave way and he crumpled in a heap beside the table.

Reed heard Trip’s glass smash and, fearing trouble, he quickly made his way across the room to the Commander. A couple of Jorgans had gathered around the prone form of the human, not really knowing what to do and Reed pushed them out of the way.

“Trip!” he said, “are you okay?” He didn’t get an answer, so he knelt beside the Engineer and felt for a pulse. “Trip, can you hear me?” he repeated. The pulse was strong but Trip was out cold. Reed went to the intercom. “Reed to Dr. Phlox, I need to you to come to the mess hall, Commander Tucker has collapsed.”

“On my way,” replied the Doctor, jovial as ever.

Reed went back to Trip and checked his pulse again. There was no change and he seemed to be breathing fine. Probably a bad reaction to the wine, thought Reed, after all he said he hadn’t had any food today. He must have been living on coffee and that was never a good idea, not least because Commander Tucker had a fiery temper when he was in a bad mood.

Phlox arrived with a tricorder and took readings. “Let’s get him to sick bay,” he said to Lieutenant Reed and signalled for two crewmen to help him put the Commander on to the gurney he had brought with him.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Reed.

“I’ll know more once I’ve completed my scans,” said Phlox in his usual impenetrable way. Reed knew that there was no point trying to elicit any further information from the Denobulan, the usually good-natured doctor could be as stubborn as a mule when it came to his patients. “You might want to let the Captain know that we are taking Commander Tucker to sick bay though,” he added. With that he and the crewmen wheeled Commander Tucker away and left Reed to contact the Captain, not a task he relished.

****

Archer had interrupted his talks with the Jorgans to come to sick bay and he wished that Phlox would just give him a straight answer. All he needed to know was what was wrong with Trip, surely that shouldn’t have been so hard to answer. He had left T’Pol with their guests but it looked bad form for the Captain of the ship to leave a meeting to he second in command, even if she was a supremely efficient Vulcan. He was torn between his duty to return to the meeting and his duties as Trip’s friend and commanding officer.

Lieutenant Reed had also made his way to Sick Bay and was now pacing just inside the entrance with his arms folded across his chest. Arched lent against a counter while Phlox took further scans of Trip behind the drawn curtains which surrounded the biobed Trip had been placed upon. He could just see Phlox through the gap in the curtains consulting the padd in his hand and looking up at the monitors above the biobed occasionally. A couple of times, he heard the soft hiss of a hypospray being administered. Eventually Phlox emerged.

“Well?” said Archer.

“Commander Tucker is still unconscious,” said Phlox, “but I expect him to come round soon.”

“Why is he unconscious?” asked Archer, his patience already being tried by the Denobulan.

“A foreign substance has found its way into the Commander’s blood stream, it caused him to experience a temporary loss of consciousness,” replied the doctor.

“I don’t understand,” said Lieutenant Reed who had been listening intently to the conversation so far. “A foreign substance? Are you saying that Commander Tucker has been poisoned?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying, Lieutenant,” said Phlox.

“Poisoned? How?” said Archer in disbelief. His Chief Engineer had a way of getting himself into trouble but he hadn’t even left the ship and here he was lying in sick bay. “Something in Engineering? A leak of some sort?”

“Perhaps, although the poison is organic. I can’t tell you any more about its composition at this stage. From the way the substance entered his blood stream, I’d say it was in something that he ate, which judging from my scans is not very much today. That should help you narrow your search.”

“He did say he hadn’t had breakfast or lunch today,” said Reed looking at the Captain. “He generally keeps himself going on that disgusting brew that passes for coffee in Engineering. And he had a glass of that Jorgan wine at the reception.”

“I must talk to the Commander about his eating habits when he regains consciousness,” said Phlox.

“Malcolm, I want you to find out how this happened. Talk to his staff and find out if any sort of cross contamination could possibly have happened,” Archer said and Reed nodded.

“Yes, sir, I’ll get on it right away,” said Reed, he glanced at the biobed on which Trip still lay oblivious and headed towards the door.

“Oh, and Malcolm,” added Archer, “make sure you get a sample of that Jorgan wine as well.”

“But, sir, we all drank the wine,” said Reed.

“I know,” said Archer, “but let’s cover all the possibilities.”

Dr Phlox approached Archer and Reed with a tricorder, “I can’t detect the toxin in your blood, whatever it is it only seems to be in Mr Tucker’s system.”

“At least it’s not effecting all of us,” said Archer.

“Finally, some good news,” said Reed and with that he left sickbay.

There was a groan from the biobed that signalled Trip’s return to consciousness. Phlox and Archer made their way over to the curtained off area. Trip was half sitting up and rubbing his head.

“How do you feel, Commander?” asked Phlox.

“Like I drank too much of that Jorgan wine,” said Trip. “What happened?”

“You appear to have picked up a toxin somehow,” replied Phlox. “We’re not yet sure how the substance entered your system, but it was responsible for your losing consciousness. I am currently trying to ascertain what other effects it may be having upon you.”

“Toxin?” said Trip, “what sort of toxin?”

“We don’t know Trip,” said Archer. “But I’ve asked Lieutenant Reed to find out as much as he can about how this happened.”

“Am I going to be alright?” he asked in a worried tone, accentuating his southern drawl.

“I need to do some more analysis before I can answer that question,” said Phlox. “I’d like you to stay here so that I can conduct some more tests.”

“Look I’m feeling much better now, I’d rather get back to Engineering if it’s all the same to you.”

“I don’t think that’s wise, Commander, I have no idea how this toxin is going to affect you,” said Phlox.

“Trip, I think you should stay here and let Dr Phlox do his tests,” said Archer.

“But Captain…” began Trip. He was thinking about the long task list which he had left undone in Engineering in order to attend the reception for the Jorgans. He’d assumed that he would be an hour at most at the reception and had planned to work for at least a few hours that evening in order to get everything done.

“Do you want me to make that an order?” Archer asked his Chief Engineer.

“No, sir,” sighed Trip, defeated. He had been waiting for Archer to pull that card, but had hoped he’d gotten away with it this time. “Come on then Doc, do your worst,” he added to Phlox lying back on the biobed.

“I doubt that I will be doing my worst, Commander. I wouldn’t be a very good doctor if I didn’t do my best for my patients,” said Phlox.

“I’ll check back later, Trip,” said Archer.

“Yeah, whatever,” said Trip, down-heartedly. Archer smiled his best conciliatory smile and headed off to find T’Pol.

****

Lieutenant Reed had begun his search for Trip’s poison in Engineering but it had soon become clear that this was a dead end. He’d questioned Trip’s staff. They had told him that the Commander had reported for work that morning and hadn’t left Engineering all day, up until when he had to go to the Jorgan reception. Even then, Ensign Green told him that Trip had finished his modifications to the warp plasma injectors before he left, and that was why he had ended up being late for the party.

As for food, Ensign Green had gone for lunch with the some other crew members and remembered them asking if the Commander would like to join them. He had refused lunch but Ensign Conway had fetched him another cup of coffee. Ensign Conway thought that Trip had said it was his fifth of the day, but maybe that had been the day before. She’d noticed that he’d been drinking a lot of coffee lately and missing lunch breaks. However neither she nor Malcolm could think of anyway that something could have got into the Commander’s coffee. If there was anything leaking in Engineering then they would have known about it by now. Besides they were always very careful not to drink or eat in the work area. Commander Tucker would have drunk his coffee in his office, and the cupboard which passed for Trip’s office in Engineering certainly didn’t have any dangerous chemicals in it, just a lot of paperwork waiting to be done.

A nasty idea was forming in the back of Lieutenant Reed’s mind that he didn’t like one bit, he hoped that he wasn’t right. He headed back to the mess hall to get a sample of the Jorgan wine and try to talk to some of the people at the party. When he arrived there, the stewards were clearing away the debris of the party and he located a bottle of the wine before they could dispose of it. He would take it to Phlox and get him to analyse it, he could visit Trip while he was there too. No doubt his friend would require a bit of cheering up, Reed knew how much Trip hated being cooped up in Sick Bay from his experience after their enforced time together in the shuttle pod. Suddenly he had another thought, he went over to the table which the Commander had been standing beside. Luckily the clean up crew hadn’t reached this corner of the room yet, the broken glass was still lying where it had fallen. Reed located a paper napkin and used it to carefully wrap up the largest shards of glass.

“Can I help you, sir,” asked one of the crewmen on clean up detail.

“No thank you, crewman, I have everything I need,” replied Reed and headed back down to sick bay.

****

Trip was beginning to feel like a pin cushion. The number of times Phlox had drawn blood made him wonder if he would have any blood left by the time the doctor was finished with him.

“Are you trying to drain me dry, Doc?” he asked plaintively.

“No, Commander Tucker, nothing of the sort. This is the last one for the moment,” replied Phlox.

At that moment Lieutenant Reed came into sick bay. “Doctor, I wonder if I could ask you to help me. I need you to test this Jorgan wine and let me know whether it contains anything which could have caused the Commander to collapse.”

“Hey, what you got there Malcolm,” said Trip, drawing back the curtain around his bed. He jumped off the biobed and began to pull on the top half of his uniform.

“It’s the wine from the reception, I thought I’d get the good doctor to analyse it,” said Reed.

“Commander Tucker, I really must insist that you get back into bed,” said Phlox.

“I feel fine Doc, give it a rest will ya,” said Trip, just a little annoyed.

Phlox raised his eyebrows, but said nothing, instead he turned to Lieutenant Reed. “Right Lieutenant, let’s look at that wine.” Reed passed Phlox the bottle that he had collected and Phlox dripped some of the wine onto a slide and put it under the microscope. A collection of molecules appeared on the screen in shade of light green, revolving slowly. “Hmm, very interesting. Ethyl butyrate, anthranilate, damascenone, your basic fermented fruit juice. Very similar to Denobulan “firtan”.”

“Firtan? Is that poisonous?” asked Lieutenant Reed looking at the screen.

“On the contrary, Lieutenant, it is quite pleasant, although best drunk in moderation, as with your own fermented grape juice,” replied Phlox.

“So the wine’s not poisonous?” said Trip, coming over to look at the screen.

“No, Commander, not of itself anyway. Although my tests will tell me if you had some sort of bad reaction to it, that your fellow humans did not,” said Phlox in a matter of fact tone.

“I thought you checked it to make sure that it was human compatible,” said Reed.

“Yes, I did, but human physiology is a slippery thing. Each human is an individual. Need I remind you of your various allergies, Lieutenant?” said Phlox.

“Point taken, Doctor, but are you saying this could be a simple allergy?” asked Reed.

“You mean it may not be a poison at all?” added Trip hopefully.

“Your reaction was not typical of an allergy, Commander, but the tests will tell us the answer to that question.”

“There’s something else I wanted you to have a look at,” said Reed. He carefully unwrapped the napkin on the counter next to the microscope to reveal the broken pieces of glass.

“This was the Commander’s glass?” asked Phlox.

“Yes, Doctor, I recovered it before the clean up crew had reached it,” said Reed.

“If it wasn’t the wine, how is the glass the wine was in going to help?” asked Trip.

“You don’t have nearly enough of a suspicious mind, Commander,” said Reed.

“That’s what I have you for,” replied Trip. Reed ignored Trip’s comments and concentrated on the screen.

“There’s not much to work with here, Lieutenant, but I’ll do my best,” said Phlox. He swabbed the glass carefully. “Ah, this is most interesting. Look here Lieutenant,” he said pointing at the screen.

“What am I looking at?” said Reed.

“The wine in the glass Lieutenant, it has been contaminated with a substance that I am not familiar with, however I am fairly sure that it shouldn’t be there,” said the doctor.

“You’re right Doctor. That definitely should not be there. The question is what is it and if that’s the toxin, was it intentionally put there?” said Reed.

“I would say that is the most likely explanation, Lieutenant,” said Phlox.

“Malcolm, you remember I arrived late to the party?” said Trip, suddenly looking concerned.

Reed nodded. “You were doing some upgrades on the warp plasma injectors, you told me.”

“Captain Archer gave me his glass,” said Trip, waiting for Reed to see it too.

Trip watched as the light of realisation dawned in Reed’s eyes. “We’d better find the Captain right away,” said Reed. Reed went to the intercom and got hold of Hoshi to find out where the Captain was.

“There is no “we” about it, Commander Tucker should not be leaving sick bay.”

“Look you’ve taken all the blood you need, you’re running the tests, you don’t need me any more.” Just as the doctor was about to protest Trip added “I promise the first sign of anything I’ll come straight back here.”

Phlox knew when he was fighting a loosing battle and it might do the Commander some good to take his mind off his problems for a little while. “Very well Commander Tucker, but I want you to report back here at 2200, by then I should have the test results.”

“The Captain’s in his private dining room with T’Pol,” said Reed having finished speaking to Hoshi. “Come on Trip, let’s go and break the news to him.” Trip didn’t need a second invitation.

****

The Jorgans had been taken for a tour of the ship by a couple of enthusiastic Ensigns. Captain Archer was mulling over the information the Jorgans had given them, which didn’t really amount to much. Apparently some time in the past the Jorgans had been at war with the Xindi, although the Jorgans missed out some details which Archer would like to have known. Like who’d started the war in the first place. The Jorgans certainly seemed bitter about the whole episode though, after telling Archer and T’Pol about the atrocities that the Xindi had committed on Jorga, Archer had decided that they all needed a break and had suggested the tour of the ship.

“You seem to be in deep thought, Captain. Do you not believe what the Jorgans told us?” asked T’Pol.

“Something doesn’t feel right, T’Pol. I just can’t put my finger on what it is,” replied Archer.

“Indeed, there would seem to be no reason to doubt the Jorgans given our past experience with the Xindi. Nor have they shown hostility towards Enterprise in any way,” said T’Pol.

“And you don’t think Trip collapsing at the party has anything to do with them?” asked Archer.

“The Commander has been under considerable strain lately. Until Dr Phlox has completed his report on the incident I am unwilling to draw any conclusion,” replied T’Pol with her usual Vulcan calmness, her hand clasped behind her back. Although she too felt there were some inconsistencies in the Jorgan’s story, her role was to look at the situation logically rather than emotionally. It worried her slightly that when she heard that Commander Tucker had been taken to Sick Bay she had had to suppress a series of unwanted emotions that had unexpectedly assailed her. That had been extremely illogical.

However, at that moment Lieutenant Reed and Commander Tucker entered the dining room.

“Trip! I thought Phlox told you to stay in sick bay,” said Archer, about to give him a dressing down for disobeying the doctor.

“He gave me a reprieve, mainly because of what Malcolm and I found,” said Trip.

“We think that the glass containing the wine that the Commander drank had some sort of toxin on it before the wine was poured into it,” said Reed. “That’s why it hasn’t affected any of the rest of us. There’s just one problem.”

“What’s that, Malcolm?” asked Archer.

“Captain, I was late so I didn’t get time to pick up a glass and you gave me yours,” said Trip.

“The Captain was the intended victim,” said T’Pol seeing the connection before Archer got to it.

Archer felt a sudden pang of guilt. They’d been after him but Trip had been the one to be poisoned. “Did the doctor say anything new Trip?” he asked, hoping that Trip would say it was all a false alarm.

“He said he’d have the test results by 2200. He’ll know more then. Does anyone else think that it’s too hot in here?” he asked, pulling at the collar of his uniform. Malcolm standing behind him exchanged a worried glance with Archer. Trip noticed them. “Hey, what was that for? Isn’t a guy allowed to be a bit warm?”

“The temperature is at normal levels, Commander,” said T’Pol.

“I’m sure it is if you’re a Vulcan! Damn desert planets. If anyone wants me I’ll be in Engineering until 2200,” said Trip and stormed off.

When Trip had left, Archer turned to Reed. “Malcolm, we need to have a talk with Captain Milas about the crewmen he asked to be stewards at the party. And I want to be there when Phlox gives Trip the results of those tests.”

“The Commander may not find the presence of his Captain acceptable,” said T’Pol. “From my experience humans can be quite…” she paused searching for the right word in her English vocabulary, she knew the exact word in Vulcan but the human translation was very imprecise, “private about their physical malfunctions.”

“As can Vulcans, Sub-Commander,” replied Archer.

“Indeed, Captain,” replied the Vulcan, without any sign that she saw the irony of her earlier comment.

“In any case, this isn’t just about Trip, this was an attack on one of my crew, an attack on Enterprise, and I don’t want it to happen again,” said Archer. “Malcolm, find Captain Milas and bring him to my ready room.”

“Yes, sir,” said Reed and went to find the tour party.

****

Trip had made his way back to Engineering. He still felt too warm but was putting it down to the stress of everything that had happened. He couldn’t get it out of his head that the poison had been meant for the Captain. Okay, the two of them weren’t quite as close as they had been before Enterprise moved into the Expanse, but Archer was still his best friend. Trip could imagine how he would have felt if the Captain had become sick. Then he thought, except now its me that might be sick. He pulled the zipper on his uniform down so that it exposed more of his undershirt. I really need to check the environmental controls when I get a moment he thought. He ignored the small voice in the back of his head which was telling him that no one else was getting too warm.

“Damn Vulcan,” he muttered to himself as he started work on some relays that had been playing up recently. “Why can’t she keep her opinions to herself?” Although he knew that to be honest he wasn’t really cross with T’Pol, he was taking out his anger on her because he was frustrated that there was nothing he could do until Phlox had completed his tests. Engines he could fix, biology was something else, something that he’d never been able to get a grip on. Machines were predictable, they did what they were programmed to. Biology was unreliable and mysterious as far as Trip was concerned.

He felt a twinge in his side and winced. Must have been working-out too hard last night he thought, then he remembered that he hadn’t been able to get to the gym for days. It’s just a twinge, he thought, now this poison thing has me worrying about every little ache. He wiped sweat off his forehead with his sleeve and in the process dropped the hydro spanner he’d been using. He cursed loudly, causing a couple of Ensigns near by to look in his direction. Now I’m just being plain clumsy, he thought, my mind’s not concentrating on what I’m doing. He picked up the spanner, tried to forget about everything else and concentrated on adjusting the relays.

“Phlox to Commander Tucker,” said the com.

“Tucker here, go ahead Doc,” said Trip.

“I have completed your test results, Commander, could you come down to sick bay?”

Trip checked the chronometer in Engineering, it was 2200 and he’d completely lost track of time. “I’ll be there as soon as I’ve finished this relay,” said Trip.

“I would prefer it if you came as soon as possible,” said Phlox.

“Not good, huh Doc?” said Trip, with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“I’ll tell you when you get here, Mr Tucker. Phlox out.”

Trip arrived in sick bay to be greeted by Phlox and Archer conversing while looking at the screens above the scanner.

“Ah Commander,” said Phlox cheerfully. Trip couldn’t decide whether it was false joviality or if the doctor really was pleased to see him. He suspected the doctor was trying to put him at ease but it wasn’t working.

“Come on, spit it out. You’ve brought the Captain down here so I know it can’t be good,” said Trip.

“Actually, I asked the doctor if he wouldn’t mind,” said Archer. “He hasn’t told me anything that you don’t know already. So if you don’t want me to hear this, then I can leave.”

“I guess you’re going to get a report from Phlox on it at some point, it might as well be now,” said Trip in a resigned tone.

“Perhaps you would like to take a seat, Commander?” said Phlox.

“I’ll stand thanks. Come on Doc, what’s the verdict?” asked Trip, in a no nonsense tone.

“The poison is attacking your central nervous system, Commander,” said Phlox, suddenly much less jovial than he had been and now looking very serious. “At the current rate, I would say you have approximately 24 hours until the damage it is doing is enough to kill you.”

The colour drained out of Trip. “And before it kills me?” he said in a worried tone.

“You will most likely suffer a loss of motor control, dizziness, headaches, blurred vision and inability to regulate your body’s temperature,” said Phlox. Archer shot Phlox a glance at that point. “Other than that I can’t say. This toxin is completely new to me and I haven’t been able to find any studies which relate to it.”

“Is there anything you can do for Trip?” asked Archer.

“I have taken samples of Commander Tucker’s blood containing the toxin. I shall be doing my best to find a cure, however in the mean time I can give the Commander various medications to help with any discomfort and the other symptoms.”

“And what are the chances that you will find a cure, before, you know…” said Trip, trailing off, not wanting to say the words out loud.

“I will do my best, Commander,” replied Phlox inexpertly dodging the question.

“Awe come on Doc, just tell me the truth,” said Trip, getting angry.

“I will enlist the Sub-commander’s help, but you wanted the truth. Poisons are notoriously difficult to treat and without a sample of the poison in its pure form, finding the antidote is like the proverbial needle in the haystack. I’m sorry Commander,” finished Phlox.

“I see,” said Trip. He hung his head and leant on a biobed, gathering his thoughts.

“Trip, we’ll do everything we can,” said Archer putting his hand on his friend’s shoulder.

“There’s nothing to be done, Captain.” Trip sighed and visibly collected himself. “Anyway, I’ve got work to do. I might as well use what time I’ve got to work on the engines.”

“Commander, I would be happier if you remained in Sick Bay,” said Phlox.

“I’m sorry Doc, but no,” said Trip, “no way am I spending my last 24 hours in sick bay!” He raised his voice in anger.

“Okay, Trip,” said Archer, trying to calm his friend. “Doctor, Trip will report to you if he needs you.” He turned to Trip, “and if I find that you haven’t reported to the doctor then you will have to answer to me. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” said Trip.

Phlox nodded. “Very well, you don’t have to stay, but if you need pain relief then I will be ready with a hypospray.”

Trip was calm again at hearing he wasn’t going to be kept in sick bay. He nodded. “Sorry I snapped Doc,” said Trip.

“It’s perfectly understandable, Commander,” said Phlox.

“Come on, Trip,” said Archer. “I’ll walk with you to Engineering.” Trip nodded and the two officers left sick bay together.

“Phlox to T’Pol,” said Phlox into the com unit after his patient had left.

“Yes, doctor,” replied T’Pol from the science lab.

“Have you made any progress with your analysis?” he asked.

“I have not. It is as we thought, the alcohol content of the wine has denatured the protein of the toxin. It is no longer pure. Without a pure sample we are unable to design an antidote,” said T’Pol.

“I am well aware of that, Sub-commander,” said Phlox. “I suggest you bring your research to sick bay and we will compare results, maybe if we combine the blood test results with your findings we can find a solution.”

“I highly doubt that will produce more accurate findings, Doctor,” said T’Pol.

“Please, Sub-commander, just humour me,” said Phlox.

“If that is what you wish, Doctor. I am on my way. T’Pol out.”

Phlox hadn’t wanted to admit it, even to himself, but Commander Tucker’s condition made him angry. The health of this crew and the prognosis for Commander Tucker were his responsibility, and somehow he felt he had been remiss in his duty to them. He was angry at himself for being unable to do more to find a cure for the Commander. Although Trip could be quite annoying when a patient, Phlox couldn’t help but like the human. When he discovered the full nature of the Commander’s condition he had felt a deep sadness, something he couldn’t afford as a doctor, so he hid his feelings and put on his professional face again. The Commander had taken it surprisingly well, he had seen lesser men crumble with such news, but Commander Tucker was an officer of Enterprise and therefore not a usual human.

****

Archer and Trip walked down the corridor to Engineering. Damn it, thought Archer, what do you say to your best friend who’s just been told he’s got 24 hours to live. All the words of comfort he could think of sounded flat even to his own ears. He felt so inadequate. Here he was the captain of Earth’s first warp five starship and he couldn’t even protect his best friend.

“I was thinking about upgrading the inductor coils,” said Trip.

Mentally Archer thanked Trip for his choice of topic, it seemed neither of them was ready to talk about the current situation. “Do you think we have enough manpower at the moment?” he asked.

“I think we can do it if I re-arrange the shifts slightly,” said Trip. “I’ll send you the duty roster and you can let me know what you think. It’ll mean we have slightly less people on the main shift but it shouldn’t result in any loss in efficiency.” Archer was about to answer Trip when suddenly the engineer clutched his stomach and bent over in pain letting out a groan.

“Trip!” said Archer, moving to help.

“I’m okay, Jon,” said Trip straightening and waving Archer away. He put out a hand to steady himself against the wall.

“Trip, I can’t pretend everything is okay when it isn’t,” said Archer.

“It’s only going to get worse,” replied Trip. “Look, the only way I can deal with this is if I pretend it isn’t happening. I’m going to keep working for as long as I can and I need your help on this, Jon. I can’t let my staff know what’s happening. I’ll never get anything done if they keep on asking how I am every five minutes.” Trip tried to inject some humour into the situation but it fell flat.

“Okay, Trip, if that’s the way you want to do it, I’ll play along with you. But you have to promise me that you’ll let Phlox help you if you need it.”

“Jon, I don’t see as how I have much choice. I know I’m only going to get more sick and I’ll need all the help I can get. Just don’t expect me to like it,” said Trip.

“I don’t like it either, Trip,” said Archer, “but don’t go through this alone.”

“I’m not,” said Trip. “But just give me a bit of space.”

“Sure, Trip,” said Archer. He looked at his friend. Trip’s skin was flushed and beaded with sweat, and Archer couldn’t do anything to help him. They reached Engineering.

“I’ll see you later, Captain,” said Trip.

“Okay Trip, but let me know if you need me.”

Trip nodded and headed into Engineering, while Archer made for the bridge.

“Lieutenant,” Trip shouted as he stepped through the hatch, “get me today’s duty roster.” Pain shot through him again and he tried to ignore it. He was too hot and his eyes weren’t working properly. They refused to focus completely and it was like looking through a misted glass. He blinked twice and concentrated on clearing his vision. It worked for a bit and he moved towards his station. Come on Trip, he told himself, just stay with it long enough to get through this shift.

****

Archer arrived on the bridge to find Lieutenant Reed looking for him.

“I have Captain Milas waiting for you in your ready room, Captain,” said Reed.

“Thanks, Malcolm, I have some hard questions to ask him,” said Archer. “Did you complete your questioning of the crew who attended the party?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Reed. “No one saw anything useful. Although we are fairly sure that the poison was introduced into the glass just before it was served. According to Captain Milas, none of the Jorgans have admitted to being the one to serve you the poisoned glass. No one had time to poison the glass after you took it or while Commander Tucker had it.”

Archer nodded, “thank you Lieutenant, I guess this confirms that I was the target.”

Reed nodded his agreement. “Captain?” he asked, hesitantly and then as quietly as he could, “what is Commander Tucker’s condition?”

“Not good. The Commander would prefer that as few people as possible know about his condition. Phlox has agreed to let him return to duty for the moment,” said Archer.

“I understand, sir,” said Reed. He understood alright, Trip was ill, seriously ill, but didn’t want people worrying or offering him sympathy. He could be damn stubborn when he wanted to be. Reed had feared the worst when he had seen the Commander earlier but the Captain’s comment had just confirmed it.

“Let’s talk to the Captain,” said Archer. Reed followed Archer into his ready room where the Jorgan captain and his first officer waited for him.

“Captain Archer, you wanted to see us?” asked Milas.

“One of my officers has been poisoned and we traced the source of the poison to a glass of the wine that you brought to my ship. I want to know why and what the poison was,” said Archer in a determined voice.

Milas looked worried, and then, was it guilty? Archer found it hard to read the alien. “What aren’t you telling us?” he asked, angrily.

“We are not hiding anything from you, Captain,” said First Officer Magin.

“Then you won’t mind if Lieutenant Reed speaks to the Jorgan crewmen who were acting as stewards at the reception,” said Archer.

“Of course not,” said Captain Milas. “We have nothing to hide.”

The ship rocked underneath them. “What the hell was that?” shouted Reed. Archer left the ready room and ran onto the bridge with Reed following him.

“Travis, report,” said Archer.

“Internal sensors say we just lost the port warp nacelle,” said Travis. “That can’t be correct.”

“He’s half right,” said Reed, looking at his own console’s readings. “All sensor readings have been cut to the port nacelle but the nacelle is still there. Engineering should be able to tell us more with their sensors.”

“Archer to Engineering, report,” said Archer.

“We just lost all our telemetry on the port side, Captain,” replied Trip. “Something blew on the nacelle. I’m trying to find out what happened but it might be a while.” His voice didn’t have quite his usual self-assured tone.

“Okay, Trip, keep me informed,” said Archer.

“This can’t have been accidental, sir,” said Lieutenant Reed. “Internal sensor readings were all green up until the explosion.”

“You and I have some things to discuss, Captain” said Archer looking directly at Milas. “I want you to tell me what the hell is going on and why I appear to have a saboteur loose on Enterprise!”

“For some time we have believed that the Xindi placed a spy on our ship,” said Milas. “We have had no evidence, but too many things went wrong without explanation. It was too much to be a coincidence.”

“I thought you said the Xindi were your enemies. Why would any of your crew act as their spy?” asked Archer.

“Things are not as clear as that between us and the Xindi,” said the Jorgan. “There are those amongst us who took the side of the Xindi. Before the war with the Xindi began there was a rebellion on our outer colonies which we managed to put down after a long and bitter war. On some of those colonies the Xindi managed to persuade the local population that the Xindi were in the right and that they should side with the Xindi rather than their fellow Jorgans. The Colonial War was a very shameful one for us. It would have been fairly simple for one of those colonial factions to place a man on board my ship.”

“And you allowed this member of your crew to come onto my ship,” said Archer in a tone which barely hid his contempt for the way the other captain ran his ship. “Lieutenant Reed, I want you to round up all the Jorgans on Enterprise and escort them back to their own ship.”

“With pleasure, sir,” said the Armoury officer and left the bridge to get his security team together.

“Tucker to the bridge,” said the com.

“Archer here, what’s the damage Trip?” He tried to keep his tone light but his thoughts were already thinking about worst case scenarios and contingency plans. There were lots of delicate parts that a saboteur could destroy on a starship and while they were in the Expanse they would have no way to replace them.

“It’s bad Captain,” said Trip. “Someone planted some explosives on two of the plasma conduits and it took out part of the port nacelle support structure. We’re not going anywhere at warp for a while. All my telemetry is acting up as well so until we start repairing the damage I’ve got no way of knowing what else it may have taken out up there.”

“Okay, Trip, do your best,” said Archer.

“I always do, Captain,” replied Trip and for a moment Archer forgot that his friend was seriously ill. Then he heard a gasp of pain over the com. “Trip?” he asked.

“It’s okay, Captain, just not looking what I’m doing, Tucker out.” replied Trip. Archer knew very well that Trip wasn’t the careless type. When working in Engineering, it was too easy to get killed that way. However, what concerned him even more than Trip’s illness was the fact the Enterprise was now without warp capability. They were a sitting duck for any alien race which wanted to come by, the only saving grace was that they still had functioning weapons. Although what good the weapons would be without manoeuvrability was anyone’s guess.

****

Down in Engineering Trip hoped that the Captain hadn’t picked up that he was trying to hide the fact that he had just burnt himself on an open relay. He hadn’t even noticed that he hadn’t closed the panel. His head just felt fuzzy, his eyes were getting worse and his hands were shaking. Engineering was in chaos, there was so much to be done and Trip certainly didn’t feel up to pulling a double shift today, but he knew that’s what it would take to get the ship back to even a basic level of readiness.

He had already delegated more than he wanted to Lieutenant Hess and his other officers but even he knew he couldn’t handle his usual work load. The Engineering staff knew something was wrong but so far no one had dared to ask him what yet.

Five hours later, after crawling through jeffries tubes to fix the internal sensors, he was getting worse and he knew it. He ached all over and he’d dropped tools several times now. He went to see Phlox in the hope that he could help him enough to get him through this one crisis.

When he arrived in sick bay he was greeted by the sight of T’Pol buried in her research. She looked up to see Trip leaning on the doorway to sick bay.

“Commander?” she asked. “You do not look well.”

“Why is it that Vulcans always have to state the obvious?” he asked.

“It was simply for your information, Commander,” she replied, but went to his side and helped him to sit down on one of the biobeds. Trip seemed to be in considerable pain. “You should have come to sick bay sooner, Commander. It was illogical for you to wait this long.”

“I didn’t know that you cared, T’Pol,” said Trip.

“The efficiency of this crew is of primary importance to the mission,” replied T’Pol, but even she herself found that it was not her only reason for her attention to the Commander. She had spent considerable amounts of time with the Commander while she had been teaching him Vulcan neuropressure and during that time had realised that he was important to her. She didn’t know when this had happened but she had grown close to the Commander and would now consider him to be her friend. She went to get Dr Phlox.

Phlox emerged from his office with T’Pol a couple of seconds later. “Commander, how do you feel?”

“Not so good, Doc,” said Trip.

Phlox discussed exactly what levels of pain Trip was experiencing and his other symptoms. He filled two hyposprays and injected them into the Commander. “Give that a minute or so and they should start to work, Commander,” said Phlox. “Just lie down while it takes effect.”

Trip nodded and lay back on the biobed. He waited and slowly his vision started to clear and the pain faded to a bearable level. He couldn’t quite believe how much better he felt, he still knew that he was sick but compared to how he felt before it was a huge improvement. He carefully sat up, still taking a mental inventory of his aches but he didn’t feel any worse for being upright. “Hey, this is great, what did you give me?” asked Trip.

“The first hypo was a strong painkiller, the second one was to stabilise your motor functions. I’m afraid both are only temporary and will wear off in a few hours. I can’t give you anything stronger without knocking you out,” said Phlox.

“This’ll do fine, Doc,” said Trip jumping off the biobed and headed for the exit.

“Commander, come back in three hours and I’ll repeat the procedure,” said Phlox.

“Thanks Doc,” replied Trip and left Sick Bay.

On the way back to Engineering, Trip made a detour to his quarters. He sat down at his desk and pulled up a document on his screen. He scrolled through it, found the part he was looking for and started to dictate to the computer some lines to add. It took a little while but eventually he was happy with the result. He transferred it to a padd and was about to leave again for Engineering when the door buzzer sounded.

“Come in,” he shouted.

Archer opened the door and came in. “I stopped by Engineering and they said you were taking a break.” Archer had also stopped by Sick Bay where Phlox had told him Trip had come in to get some medication and T’Pol had updated him on their lack of progress finding the antidote. Archer appreciated T’Pol taking care of this personally, she would have been well within her rights to have assigned one of her deputies to the analysis.

“I just had some personal business to finish up,” said Trip and handed Archer the padd. “I’d appreciate it, Jon, if you’d take care of this for me.”

Archer looked at the padd Trip had handed him. It was entitled “Last Will and Testament.”

“I’d like you to be my executor,” said Trip. “Everything goes to my parents, apart from a few things for my friends on Enterprise.” His mortality had caught up with him rather faster than he had expected it to and he hadn’t updated the will since he’d been assigned to Enterprise. He really hadn’t expected to be needing the document this soon, although it had always been a possibility as soon as he stepped onto Enterprise.

“I’d be honoured to be your executor, Trip,” said Archer. “But I’m sure Phlox will come up with something soon.”

“I think you and I both know that isn’t going to happen, Captain. I admit that I’d always hoped that I’d die old and in bed, after a long, full life playing with Enterprise’s engines, but that just isn’t the way it’s going to be,” said Trip.

“I’m sorry, Trip,” said Archer.

“What have you got to be sorry about?” he asked his friend. “This is the life I chose. Seeing new planets and people, being the Chief Engineer of Starfleet’s first warp five starship, I couldn’t have asked for more really.”

“But that glass of wine was meant to be for me,” said Archer.

“Yeah, but it’s not as if you knew it was poisoned when you handed me the glass,” said Trip.

“I know, but I still feel responsible,” said Archer.

“You had nothing to do with it, Jon, it’s just bad luck,” said Trip. “Imagine what would have happened if it had been you that had drunk that wine. Enterprise would now be in complete chaos without its Captain and whoever did this would have accomplished their mission. Enterprise can do without its Chief Engineer, I’m just a grease monkey, anyone can do my job.”

“That’s not true, Trip. Enterprise needs you as much as it needs me,” said Archer and looked down at the padd, something caught his eye as he read. “You want to give T’Pol your harmonica?” he asked incredulously.

“She has this beautiful Vulcan harp in her quarters. She played it for me once. She’s the most musical person I know, I think she might appreciate the harmonica,” said Trip quietly, as if he’d just shared a very private part of himself.

“And you want Lieutenant Reed to have your Go set?” asked Archer.

“He needs the practice. He hasn’t managed to beat me at it yet,” replied Trip. Even in a situation like this Archer noticed that his Chief Engineer still had a sense of humour. “Besides he’s our Tactical Officer, if anyone can understand Go then I guess it will be him.”

Archer nodded, Trip had been thoughtful as ever. He had left something each for Hoshi, Travis, Phlox, Lieutenant Hess, and the last item on the list was for Archer. Everyone had something that they had commented on or was appropriate for them. Hoshi had been left Trip’s “Art of War” by Sun Tzu, it was in its original Chinese, more of a curiosity for Trip considering he didn’t understand the language, but special to him none the less, it was required reading (in translation) at the Academy. Travis had been given Trip’s model of Enterprise, it was the scale model he had built from the original schematics and was one of his most prized possessions.

Archer had been left a picture which one of Trip’s friends had taken of the two of them standing outside the hangar of the first warp three starship commissioned by Starfleet. Trip had framed it and put it on his wall the day he arrived on Enterprise. Archer didn’t know what to say as he read the list, but he felt the emotion rising in him as he read and desperately blinked back tears. The last thing Trip needed now was to see the pain that his illness was causing his commanding officer.

“I had a lot of trouble trying to think what I should give everyone,” said Trip.

“This is very thoughtful,” said Archer, his voice wavering but he pulled himself back from the tears he knew he wanted to cry.

“I’m not going to be needing it,” replied Trip. He paused and then added, “I’ve got to get back to Engineering.” He took two steps towards the door, stumbled and fell.

“Trip!” shouted Archer as he moved towards him.

Trip was winded but tried to pick himself up off the floor, however his arms and legs just wouldn’t co-operate. “I thought Phlox said at least three hours before the drugs wore off,” said Trip, trying to pretend that he wasn’t lying on the floor.

“Just hold on, Trip,” said Archer, “I’ll get Phlox.”

“Oh god it hurts,” whispered Trip. He curled up in pain. He felt Archer checking his pulse and then he saw him go to the intercom before the dark edges around his vision became all that he saw and he passed out.

****

Lieutenant Reed and his security staff had been rounding up the Jorgans who were visiting Enterprise. They were all accounted for, apart from one, a Jorgan called Mentan.

“Reed to Archer,” he said into the com.

“Yes, Malcolm,” replied Archer after a few seconds.

“I think we know who our saboteur is,” said Reed. “I’ve located all the Jorgans apart from one. He’s one of their Engineering staff, a Jorgan called Mentan. He would have been quite capable of working out where to plant the explosives,” said Reed. “With your permission, sir, I’d like to start a ship wide search for him.”

“Permission granted, Lieutenant. Take all the men you need, I want that Jorgan found. And alive if possible,” said Archer.

“Yes, sir. I have some questions that I’d like to ask him,” replied Reed, “especially regarding the Jorgan wine served at the reception.”

“Okay, keep me informed, I’ll be in Sick Bay if you need me,” said Archer.

“Sick Bay? Commander Tucker? Trip?” he asked.

“He collapsed again, he’s still unconscious. Phlox is examining him now,” said Archer. “Its not looking good, Malcolm. I’ve just told the staff in Engineering that Trip is seriously ill, and won’t be coming back to duty. Lieutenant Hess has been promoted to Acting Chief Engineer. She wasn’t happy, but she understood.”

“She’s a good officer,” said Reed.

“There’s one other thing, Malcolm. Let people know discreetly that if they want to visit the Commander then they had better come soon.”

“Yes, sir,” said Reed. “Reed out.” Reed didn’t like his Captain’s tone one bit. He certainly didn’t look forward to telling Trip’s friends that the Commander was most likely not going to be around much longer and that if they wanted to say goodbye then now was the time to do it.

****

Archer had followed Phlox and Trip back to Sick Bay. Phlox and a couple Ensigns moved Trip onto a biobed and Phlox busied himself taking new scans of the Commander. All Archer could do was wait to hear what the doctor had to say about Trip’s condition. T’Pol sat at a terminal at one of Phlox’s lab benches.

She noticed Archer pacing and looking worried so she turned away from her console to address him. “Doctor Phlox is a very competent medical professional,” said T’Pol. Trust a Vulcan to use six words when she could have used three, thought Archer, but he knew that this was high praise from T’Pol.

“Have you made any progress identifying the poison?” asked Archer.

“We identified elements of the toxin almost immediately, but unfortunately the structure of the toxin was affected by its dilution in the Jorgan wine. We have had no further success in determining the remaining elements. I am currently working on a process of elimination but this will take considerable amounts of time,” finished T’Pol.

“And Trip doesn’t have considerable amounts of time,” said Archer, disheartened.

“As you would say, Captain, we are working against the clock,” replied T’Pol. She did not add that she would miss the Commander’s presence on the ship if they were unsuccessful, or that she had opted to remain in Sick Bay to continue her work rather than returning to the Science Lab when she heard the Commander was being brought back to Sick Bay.

“I know you’re doing all you can, T’Pol,” said Archer.

“It would be a great loss to Enterprise if we are unable to save the Commander’s life,” said T’Pol before directing her attention back to the compound that she was studying. Archer realised that for T’Pol this was her way of saying that she’d be upset if Trip were to die, quite something for a logical Vulcan. Trip had a way of persuading people to like him. His infectious charm apparently even worked on Vulcans.

Phlox came over to Archer. “The toxin has acted more quickly than I anticipated. I’m going to have to keep him here now in order to monitor his medication levels. I’ve increased the dose of painkiller and motor stabiliser, so he should come round fairly soon. I anticipate that I may require your help in persuading him that he has to remain in Sick Bay.”

Archer nodded. “I’ll do my best, Doctor.”

“I can hear you, y’know,” said a voice from the biobed. Trip had woken up.

“Then you know that I can’t let you back on duty,” said Archer coming over to Trip’s side. He lay on the biobed, hooked up to various monitors and with a drip plugged in to his arm. He managed to push himself up into a sitting position when Archer came over, but he looked pale and his skin was damp with sweat. He was in obvious pain but trying to hide it, however over the years Archer had come to know Trip very well and not much escaped his attention.

“If the Doc can keep me dosed up on this stuff then I should be fine,” said Trip, “right, Doc?” He looked at Phlox hopefully.

“The toxin is being unpredictable, Commander, and I have no way of knowing how long each dose will last. I have to be able to monitor you in order to adjust the medication dosages and stabilise your condition. If you collapse again while working in Engineering then you could seriously injure yourself,” said Phlox.

“Doc, I’m dying, how much worse can it get?” said Trip.

“Trip, Lieutenant Hess has enough problems on her hands at the moment without worrying about you as well,” said Archer.

“So you’re telling me I’m a nuisance and I have no choice, I just have to lie here until I die!” said Trip, angrily. He immediately regretted the comment when he saw the hurt look on Archer’s face. He knew that the Captain couldn’t have a sick man in Engineering. If it had been one of his staff he would have told them to stay in Sick Bay as well. “I’m sorry Captain, it’s just frustrating. I know the state that Engineering’s in at the moment and I should be down there getting it all fixed. Hell, we can’t even go to impulse without shearing off the port warp nacelle!”

“I know, Trip,” said Archer. “I know. But that’s Lieutenant Hess’s problem now.” No one was going to feel the lack of Trip’s presence in Engineering more than he was. “You need all your strength to fight this poison, Trip, so I don’t want you worrying about what’s going on in Engineering.” Archer knew that he was asking the impossible of Trip, but he hoped that he would listen to his commanding officer on this occasion.

“There is still a chance that T’Pol and myself might be able to find the antidote,” said Phlox.

“I know you’ve been working real hard with T’Pol, Doc, and I do appreciate it,” said Trip. “It’s just that by my reckoning I’ve got about eight hours left and I don’t think you’re going to find it between now and then.” Trip sighed.

“Never the less, we will keep looking,” said Phlox. “It is a little premature to give up at this point.”

“How about I get someone to bring you some reports to go through? Or you could catch up on your reading, you’re always telling me you never have enough time to keep up with all the journal articles that come out on warp theory,” said Archer.

“Yeah, I guess that is true,” said Trip. “Okay, I’ll be a good little engineer and lie here quietly.”

“Thank you, Mr Tucker,” said Phlox, smiling. “I prefer it when my patients co-operate willingly.” Trip had the nasty feeling that he wouldn’t have wanted to find out what happened to the ones who didn’t co-operate willingly.

****

Lieutenant Reed had security officers searching every part of the ship. So far they were drawing a blank. As his teams checked in without any new data he was beginning to wonder if his information had been correct. Perhaps Mentan had found a way to go back to his ship and he was wasting his time trying to find the saboteur, while his friend was lying dying in Sick Bay. Reed wanted to go and see Trip but he didn’t feel he could leave his post while they were still searching the ship.

Reed was still collating reports from the various security teams and wondering if he’d missed something, when Captain Archer came into the Armoury. Archer had just had a very gloomy status report from Hess in Engineering and was hoping that Malcolm might have better news for him.

“Any luck, Malcolm?” he asked.

“Not so far, sir,” replied Reed. Archer’s heart sank. “All the Jorgans have returned to their ship. We counted them all on to Enterprise and counted them all off again. We’re still missing one Jorgan, but I have conducted three separate sensor sweeps of Enterprise and none of them have produced a Jorgan biosign. I have every security officer available and some of T’Pol’s science staff out looking for the missing Jorgan but they’ve all come up with nothing. There are only a couple of places left to look and after that I’m out of ideas.”

“Have you been down to see Trip yet?” asked Archer.

“I haven’t been able to break away, but I should have a moment soon,” said Reed.

Archer nodded. “I know he’d be pleased to see you, Malcolm.”

“I’m not actually sure that he will be, sir,” said Reed in his clipped British accent.

“I don’t understand Malcolm,” said Archer, wondering why the Armoury officer suddenly looked so guilty.

“I can’t help but think that if I’d done my job in the first place then none of this would have happened. I fully expect you to reprimand me for my poor conduct in this matter, Captain,” said Reed. “Not only did I allow a saboteur to board Enterprise but I let him poison the Chief Engineer and plant explosives on the port warp nacelle.” His tone said it all, he was disappointed with himself for not having prevented this from happening. Archer couldn’t agree with Reed’s assessment of the situation though.

“None of that happened because of you, Malcolm,” said Archer. “Phlox tested all the wine and it wasn’t poisoned. We scanned everyone when they came aboard for pathogens and weapons and we didn’t detect anything. You did everything by the book. I certainly hadn’t intended reprimanding you.”

“Maybe if I’d done more than go by the book Trip wouldn’t be lying in Sick Bay and we’d still have out port warp nacelle intact,” said Reed.

“Lieutenant, even if any of this was your fault, which I still doubt, we’ll conduct the usual inquiry after this is all over and find out exactly why this happened. Until that happens I need you to focus on the task in hand. We have to find that Jorgan before he can cause any more trouble for us.”

“Yes, sir,” said Reed. He mentally pulled himself together, after all feeling bad wasn’t going to help anyone. “I just don’t understand why the sensors haven’t detected any Jorgan life signs when we know that there must be one.”

“There are parts of the ship that sensors cannot penetrate, isn’t that right Lieutenant?” asked Archer.

“Yes, sir,” replied Reed. He called up a schematic of the ship on his screen. “Obviously the catwalks on both nacelles are shielded too well and there are parts of engineering that the sensors cannot penetrate for similar reasons. Although we do have basic internal sensors in those areas. But security searched all of the restricted access areas and we didn’t find the Jorgan.”

“Okay, if he’s not there, then where else could someone hide?” said Archer.

“You’re asking the wrong person about this, Commander Tucker knows this ship like the back of his hand,” said Reed and then realised what he’d said. “Sorry, sir, I guess we’ll have to do without the Commander’s help.”

“I don’t see why we should,” replied Archer. “Bring those sensor logs and let’s go to Sick Bay.”

“Yes, sir,” said Reed, brightening slightly at the thought of seeing Trip.

****

When Archer and Reed arrived in Sick Bay they found Trip in his Starfleet issue light blue pyjamas leaning against the wall in Phlox’s office. He had taken the cover off the air conditioning unit which was attached to the wall and was working on something inside the unit intently.

“I foolishly mentioned that the air conditioning in my office had been malfunctioning recently,” said Phlox, looking slightly bemused. “Commander Tucker insisted on looking at it and to be honest I didn’t see the harm. I can monitor his condition and medication. He hasn’t left Sick Bay and it’s keeping his mind off other things.”

“And there I was thinking he’d be bored stiff,” muttered Reed. Trust Trip to find something mechanical that needed fixing.

A loud curse emanated from the doctor’s office as Trip dropped the screwdriver that he was holding on his toe. “This would be a hell of a lot easier if you’d let me put my uniform back on,” said Trip, bending down in search of the dropped tool. “At least then I’d have pockets.” He put a hand out to steady himself as the motion caused his head to spin but it didn’t help, the room continued to swim. He shook his head to try and clear the dizziness but it wasn’t working. The painkillers were keeping the pain at bearable levels but that was about it, nothing Phlox had given him seemed to be helping his dizziness now.

“Maybe I’d better go and lie down for a bit before I finish this,” he said half to himself, however Phlox was on hand to help him back to his bed. Which Trip thought was probably just as well as he was suddenly feeling really tired and his legs were being very unhelpful when it came to walking. “Sorry, Doc, I just need a moment and then I’ll get it sorted. It’s just a couple of loose bolts need tightening and a tweak in the environmental controls,” he said as he settled back on the biobed. Phlox spread a blanket over his patient and rearranged the pillows so that Trip could sit up.

“I’ll ask Lieutenant Hess to send someone down, Trip,” said Archer.

“Captain, Malcolm, sorry I didn’t realise that you were here.” he added as greeting to the two officers. “You look as if you’ve come with a mission.”

“Trip, we could use your help,” said Archer.

“Please, don’t be too long, he needs to rest,” said Phlox and he left them to it.

“Speak for yourself,” said Trip, annoyed by Phlox’s last comment. He knew the doctor meant well but he just wished that people wouldn’t fuss over him. “What’s the problem?”

Reed explained their reason for visiting him and handed over the padd with the sensor logs on it. “The search teams have covered everywhere, and you know as well as I do that there are only limited places to hide on a starship where you can’t be detected by the sensors,” said Reed.

Trip scanned the sensor logs and the search team reports, his hand shaking as he held the padd. He blinked twice and tried to persuade his eyes to do what he wanted them to, Phlox’s hyposprays seemed to wearing off faster and faster, however he managed to persuade them to read the padd. His brain took a little more coaxing before it was able to process the information, but he refused to give up and kicked it into working.

Archer saw the visible effort that Trip had to make to read the padd and even keep hold of it. He wondered if he had made a mistake coming to Trip for help, he seemed to be far worse than when he had left Sick Bay earlier, but he’d hoped it would make the Engineer feel as if he was still doing something. Archer knew that even at less than a hundred per cent Trip had an affinity with Enterprise that no one else did and that knowledge was hugely valuable in their search for the saboteur.

“This is weird,” said Trip, after few moments studying the information.

“What is?” asked Archer.

“These sensor readings are all wrong,” said Trip. “Look, these are the tolerances for the radiation in engineering in the restricted areas.” He called up the file on the padd to show to Archer and Reed. “This isn’t the right sort of radiation. Not even close. This is more like that Suliban cell ship that we took apart,” he tried to remember when that was but his head hurt and was going fuzzy again. “Hey, Doc, have you got that file on my arm, you remember when it got dosed with cloaking radiation.”

“Yes Commander, right here,” replied Phlox, bringing over a second padd. Trip scrolled down to the radiation readings that Phlox had taken. They were a very close match.

“Well I’ll be,” said Reed. “We didn’t spot it because it was radiation and in the right place, no one thought to check the frequencies. Trust an engineer to notice. We’re looking for an invisible Jorgan.”

“This Jorgan is using cloaking technology to evade us?” asked T’Pol who had heard the voices and come over from her workstation.

“Yes, Sub-commander,” said Reed, “and now I know what to look for we should be able to pinpoint him easily.”

“I find this quite difficult to believe,” said T’Pol. “Cloaking technology has only ever been used on starships to my knowledge and I believe the radiation which a cloak emits to be harmful to organic life after prolonged exposure.”

“T’Pol’s probably right, looking at the frequencies of radiation, but I’m guessing that this guy doesn’t have much regard for his own life,” said Trip, sleepily. He was desperately tired and couldn’t remember when he’d last slept, it must have been some time before all this started. His chest was hurting now too and getting tight, it was becoming an effort just to breathe. Trip shifted his weight to get into a more comfortable position, but nothing seemed to make any difference. His hand went into a painful series of spasms and he dropped the padd that he had been holding on the floor. He closed his eyes in pain as he tried desperately to pull oxygen into his lungs. A low groan escaped his lips.

“Malcolm, get Dr Phlox, will you,” said Archer in as calm a tone as possible. Malcolm left Trip’s side to get Phlox.

“I’m fine, I don’t need the doctor,” said Trip, opening his eyes but still gasping for breath.

“That is an obviously false statement, Commander,” said T’Pol.

“I suppose you’re an expert,” breathed Trip between gasps.

“I do have a number of qualifications in alien biology,” replied T’Pol. For a moment Archer wondered why T’Pol was arguing with Trip when he could hardly talk, but then he realised that T’Pol was distracting him while they waited for the doctor.

Reed returned with Phlox who quickly scanned his patient. “When did this start?” he asked.

“A couple of minutes ago,” said Archer, feeling completely useless as he watched Trip struggling to breathe.

“The toxin has begun to effect your autonomic nervous system,” said Phlox. “I’m going to put you on oxygen, Commander.”

“This is a hell of a way to die,” Trip said breathlessly, angry at what was happening to his body. The last comment was almost too much for Archer to bear.

Phlox slipped an oxygen mask over Trip’s face, administered a hypo and after a few moments Trip began to breath slightly easier. He closed his eyes again and was soon asleep. Phlox shooed Archer, Reed and T’Pol away from Trip’s bed and pulled the curtain around the area.

“How long, doctor?” asked Archer in a voice that was barely above a whisper.

“Four hours, five at most,” said Phlox. “I will continue to work on a cure but we just don’t have enough time,” he added in a frustrated tone.

“And if we get you a sample of the poison?” asked Reed.

“Then I should be able to synthesise an antidote fairly rapidly,” said Phlox.

“But we don’t have a sample of the poison,” said Archer, he felt as if he had let down his friend badly. He couldn’t let Trip die. How would he ever be able to forgive himself if that happened?

“Captain,” said Reed, “Mentan might still have the poison on him or at least I can question him about what he used. With the data that the Commander has given us I should be able to locate him. I’ll let you know as soon as I have him in custody,” said Reed and left Sick Bay.

“Sato to Archer,” the com sounded.

Archer went to answer it. “Archer here, what’s the problem Hoshi?”

“Sir, we have detected a ship approaching. We think it may be Xindi.”

“I’m on my way, Ensign,” replied Archer.

“I will accompany you,” said T’Pol. “There is little else that I can do for Commander Tucker at this time.”

****

Archer and T’Pol arrived on the bridge just as the ship came within visual range. T’Pol took over her science station and started to run scans.

“Captain, the ship approaching is definitely Xindi and is considerably better armed than Enterprise. They are more than a match for both ourselves and the Jorgans. We should leave before they find us,” said T’Pol.

“Bridge to Engineering,” said Archer.

“Hess here, Captain,” replied the Acting Chief Engineer.

“What’s your status, Lieutenant?” asked Archer.

“If we weren’t in the middle of the Expanse I’d want to go back to Jupiter Station for repairs. But as we don’t have that choice we’re doing the best we can with what we have. I’ve had to cannibalise some of the internal bulkheads from C deck to shore up the nacelle support structure, but we should be able to give you warp capability in about 5 hours time,” said Hess.

“Lieutenant, we have a Xindi battleship approaching us which will be arriving in approximately…” Archer looked to T’Pol for a time estimate.

“Two hours, Captain,” replied the Vulcan.

“Two hours, we’d rather not be here when it arrives and I need those warp engines on line,” said Archer.

“I’m sorry, sir, but if we go to warp now we’ll rip off the port nacelle, and it would probably take half the ship with it. I wouldn’t even recommend trying impulse. I need more time,” finished Hess. Hess felt as if she was having to explain physics 101 to the Captain and she silently wished that the Commander was here to take the brunt of this crisis.

“Do as much as you can, Lieutenant. I want to know the second that we have warp capability,” said Archer. “Looks like we’re not going anywhere for the moment, Sub-commander,” he said to T’Pol. He turned to Hoshi, “Hail the Jorgans, Ensign.”

“Yes, sir,” she said and then a few moments later, “I have Captain Milas for you, sir.” The Jorgan captain appeared on the screen.

“Captain, we have detected a Xindi ship approaching. My Science Officer tells me that they have superior weapons to our own. I suggest that you leave this area of space immediately to avoid a confrontation,” said Archer.

“Thank you for your warning, Captain, but we won’t leave Enterprise in its current state unprotected,” said Milas. “It is the least we can do considering the circumstances.”

“Captain, I don’t think you quite understand the situation,” replied Archer. “The Xindi ship is considerably more powerful than the combined fire power of both our ships. Even with Enterprise undamaged I doubt the two of us could hold it off.”

“The Jorgan military code is very strict in this matter, we cannot leave an ally’s stricken ship unprotected. We are not prepared to negotiate on this. We will be in touch once I have consulted with my officers to discuss our battle plan,” said Milas.

Archer looked over at T’Pol for assistance, but she simply looked back at him and gave a slight shrug. “Very well Captain, thank you for your assistance, Archer out.” Hoshi disconnected the link. “It seems that despite our problems we’ve made some new friends. T’Pol, I need you to help me come up with a defence plan to use both ships.”

“Yes, Captain,” said T’Pol.

“As long as we have our weapons we can still protect ourselves and with Captain Milas’ help we might even be able to get out of this in one piece,” said Archer, it was said more for the benefit of the bridge crew than for his own. He knew the odds of getting out of this alive and they weren’t good.

****

“What part of the Jorgan military code were you referring to, Captain?” asked First Officer Magin. “I can’t seem to recall it.”

“The part which says this is our war not theirs,” replied Captain Milas.

“Archer mentioned a Xindi attack on their home world,” said Magin.

“It was not the war with the Xindi which I was referring to,” said Milas. “Our mistakes in the colonies are for us to resolve and the humans should not have been forced into fighting our battles. No only that, we need all the allies that we can find in our war against the Xindi.”

“But the Xindi obviously sent orders for the saboteur to attack the human captain and his ship. We know that the spy revealed our position to the Xindi after we made contact with the humans,” replied Magin. “I think the Xindi are more interested in the humans than they are in us.”

“I can see your reasoning but that doesn’t absolve us from our responsibilities. We must give Captain Archer as much help as we can,” said Milas. “Even if it costs us our ship.”

****

Reed and his security team made their way to the catwalk. His scans told him this was where to find the intruder and they were homing in on his position now. However actually catching the invisible saboteur was going to be interesting, the scans could only give the a rough position and nothing more. They knew he was in the catwalk but apart from that they were blind. The catwalk was dark, and even if the Jorgan hadn’t been cloaked they would have had trouble finding him.

“Set your phasers on stun,” he told his team.

Reed decided to try the direct approach. “Mentan, this is Lieutenant Reed, if you surrender now you will be treated fairly,” shouted Reed. “We know you’re here it’s just a matter of time before we catch you.”

“Don’t come any closer, human,” said the Mentan, “I will kill you.”

Not smart, thought Reed, the reply gave him a rough position on the Jorgan. Reed indicated to his officers to take the other side of the catwalk and try to get behind where the voice had come from.

“So far you haven’t killed anyone. Commander Tucker is still alive, just tell us what the poison was,” Reed shouted. He was thinking that Commander Tucker was alive, but he wouldn’t be for much longer if they couldn’t get Mentan to help them find the antidote.

Suddenly a phaser fired from further down the catwalk, Reed ducked behind a railing and fired back in the direction the blast had come from. Mentan fired again and Reed signalled to his team to close in on the Jorgan’s position. As far as he could see Mentan hadn’t realised that Reed wasn’t alone and he was only firing in Reed’s direction. His security team moved quietly further down the catwalk and fired towards where the shots were coming from. Finally the Jorgan stopped firing.

“Mentan!” shouted Reed. He didn’t get an answer.

“I think we got him, sir,” said Ensign Gordon.

“Well where is he?” asked Reed. “He must still be cloaked.” How the hell do we find him now, thought Reed. “Fan out and search,” he instructed.

The security officers did as instructed, phasers still drawn. Usually a phaser stun lasted about an hour but there were never any guarantees with alien species that it would be the same amount of time.

One of the security team tripped over something, “I’ve found him, sir,” said the crewman.

“Let’s get him to the brig,” said Reed, “and hope we can work out how to turn that damn cloak off.” He went over to the intercom, and contacted the bridge. “We have the Jorgan saboteur, sir. We’re putting him in the brig until he wakes up. I’m afraid we had to stun him.”

“I’ll meet you there, Lieutenant,” replied Archer.

****

It only took a small amount of investigation to discover the miniature cloaking unit that the Jorgan had strapped to the belt of his uniform and detach it. Lieutenant Reed sent it down to Engineering for them to investigate how it worked, maybe it would come in useful later and they could always use more knowledge of how cloaking devices worked. Reed called Doctor Phlox to ask him to come and look at the prisoner. Not only was this standard procedure with a stunned prisoner but Reed wanted Phlox to check that the cloak had not had any adverse effects which would prevent them from questioning the Jorgan.

Phlox arrived looking flustered and was shortly followed by the Captain.

“When can we question him?” asked Archer, once Phlox had given his new patient the once over.

“As soon as he wakes up, which should be shortly,” said the doctor. “The cloaking device radiation has had some impact on his skin, hence its terrible condition, but other than that I would say that he hasn’t been using the cloak for prolonged periods. The radiation hasn’t harmed him in any other areas.”

“Good,” said Reed, “I’ve got lots of questions that I need him to answer.”

“Captain, if I might have a word with you?” asked Phlox.

“Yes, Doctor,” said Archer.

“It’s Commander Tucker, I’ve had to put him on life support,” said Phlox.

Archer felt something inside himself turn to ice and he bowed his head. Trip would never have wanted to die like this. “There’s nothing else that you can do for him?”

“I’m afraid not. Shortly after you left his condition deteriorated further. Even if we do find an antidote now, his systems are shutting down and are already badly damaged by the poison,” said Phlox. “I won’t give up, but as time passes it becomes less likely that we can save him.”

Reed listened to the whole conversation feeling more despairing at each word. Trip was probably his best friend among the crew and he still felt that his lack of action had meant that the Commander was dying. If he’d seen the radiation was unusual sooner then maybe they could have questioned the Jorgan spy in time. If he’d even bothered to check the Jorgans as they came onto the ship more carefully it may have meant none of this would have happened.

Both men had known when the doctor had first told them about the poison that Trip was dying but the reality of it actually happening hadn’t sunk in until this moment. The very idea of an Enterprise without Trip was almost unthinkable but it seemed to be becoming a reality.

“Keep me informed, doctor,” Archer said in a strained voice, it was all he could manage.

“Yes, Captain,” replied Phlox and left the brig.

There was a low moan from the cell, Mentan was waking up.

“Lieutenant, I want you to find out everything that Jorgan knows about our current situation and I don’t care how you do it,” said Archer.

“Yes, sir,” said Reed with feeling.

****

Archer returned to the bridge feeling as if a piece of himself was missing. All he really wanted to do was go down to sick bay and sit beside Trip, but he knew his duty to the ship came first over his friendship with Trip. It hurt so much though knowing that his friend lay dying and it wasn’t because of anything that Trip had done, it was because he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Archer would have given anything to change places with Trip. He felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest.

T’Pol stepped over to the Captain’s chair from her science station. She handed Archer a padd with some calculations of the weapon strength of the approaching Xindi ship. It looked as if the hull plating might survive a couple of direct hits but not more than that.

“Dr Phlox informed me of Commander Tucker’s condition,” said T’Pol. “I am very sorry that I was not able to be of more assistance.”

“You did everything that you could T’Pol,” said Archer.

“I have observed that humans often blame themselves when something of this nature happens. I thought you should know that this was not your fault,” said T’Pol.

“Wasn’t it?” asked Archer. “I wish I could be so sure.”

“I believe that Lieutenant Reed also expressed concern that he had not done his duty in this matter. I have checked the logs and the Lieutenant followed all the necessary procedures with his usual efficiency. Neither of you were in dereliction of your duty,” said T’Pol.

Archer nodded, he knew what T’Pol was trying to say and he knew she was right, but he wasn’t ready to hear it at the moment. “If we can’t do something about that Xindi battleship then Trip won’t be the only casualty from our encounter with the Jorgans. What are our chances?” he asked her.

“In our current condition, approximately two thousand five hundred and sixty seven to one,” said T’Pol, taking Archer’s change of topic in her stride. “However this has been improved by the Jorgans’ decision to stay and fight with us and will improve further if Lieutenant Hess can afford enough repairs of the port nacelle to enable us to manoeuvre on impulse. I have spoken to the Lieutenant and she believes that this is an attainable goal before the Xindi arrive. We also have the nebula in our favour. Commander Tucker’s modifications to our sensors should give us an advantage over the Xindi when it comes to navigation.”

“Didn’t we pass an asteroid field on our way here?” asked Archer.

“Yes, Captain. But we cannot reach it in our current state,” said T’Pol.

“Not at the moment. Tell the Jorgans to meet us there and we’ll join them as soon as we’re able to,” said Archer. “Maybe some old fashioned hide and seek will confuse the Xindi enough to give us the upper hand.”

“Yes, Captain,” replied T’Pol.

****

Lieutenant Reed was getting annoyed by his prisoner. He didn’t have time to waste playing games.

“Why were you ordered to kill the Captain? Why do the Xindi want Captain Archer dead in particular?” asked Reed for the third or fourth time. “What was the poison that you used?” He sighed as the Jorgan remained silent. “You haven’t killed anyone yet, so far all we have on you is destruction of Starfleet property. Your Captain tells me that is punishable by imprisonment on Jorga. Now murder, that’s a different matter. I gather that Jorga doesn’t have the death penalty, but Earth does,” Reed added his voice taking on a vindictive tone. He approached the Jorgan more closely, so that he could look directly into his eyes. It was a lie of course, the death penalty on Earth had been abolished many years earlier, but Reed thought it was unlikely that Mentan would know that.

“What do I care if I die, its just one more death for the hundreds that the Jorgans killed in the Colonies,” snarled the Mentan.

“And I suppose the Xindi have never killed anyone?” said Reed sarcastically.

“The Xindi supported the Colonies in the war. They have never committed any atrocities close to what the Jorgans did to us,” said Mentan.

Could it be that Mentan really didn’t know the situation between Earth and the Xindi, thought Reed. He certainly didn’t seem to have a very balanced view of his employers. One thing was certain, Mentan was an idealist not a mercenary, and idealists were susceptible to argument. “Let me explain something to you, the Xindi sent a weapon to my home planet. It killed millions of people. That was the first contact we had with the Xindi. The next thing we found out was that they were planning on wiping out our entire race,” said Reed. “Now perhaps you could tell me why I should be concerned about the life of one Jorgan spy compared to the millions that were killed on Earth by your Xindi friends.”

“It’s not true,” said Mentan. “You’re just trying to turn me against them.” He didn’t really sound convinced about it though. Reed suspected that Mentan had already seen that potential in the Xindi in his dealings with them. In fact Reed was almost certain that he knew Mentan’s type, he thought that he was fighting for a just cause, if Reed could disillusion him of the Xindi’s image then perhaps he had a way to get what he needed out of the Jorgan.

“Ensign, get me the footage of the devastation from the Xindi probe,” said Reed. “I think our friend needs some further proof of exactly who his friends really are.”

They watched pictures of the Xindi probe cutting a swathe of destruction across America. Reed winced inwardly as he thought about the huge loss of life. The beam weapon had missed Britain but he felt the tragedy just as deeply as if it had been his own family that had been killed, maybe more so considering his current relationship with his family. Next they showed Mentan the pictures of what the weapon had left behind. Finally Reed brought up a picture of Elizabeth Tucker from Trip’s personal files.

“This is Commander Tucker’s sister, she was killed by the Xindi probe. Commander Tucker is the person who is lying in Sick Bay at the moment, dying because of what you did to him. Tell me what the poison was you used and maybe one less person will have to die because of the Xindi,” finished Reed urgently.

The Jorgan swallowed hard and in a shaky voice said, “it’s a two part poison. It’s harmless on its own but when mixed with the wine it becomes toxic. It’s called Amerin. The Jorgan ship’s database will have its molecular structure and antidote on file.”

“Thank you,” said Reed. He immediately went to the intercom and relayed the information to the doctor in Sick Bay.

“That makes much more sense,” said the Denobulan. “It explains why we weren’t able to identify its formula and why we didn’t detect any harmful substances on the Jorgans when they came aboard. I’ll get right on synthesising the antidote.”

Reed then contacted Captain Archer. “He’s given us the name of the poison, sir. Dr Phlox has accessed the Jorgan database and is synthesising the antidote now.”

Archer couldn’t describe the wave of relief which swept over him when Reed’s voice came over the intercom. “Good work, Lieutenant,” said Archer. He would have liked to say more in thanks but the fact he was on the bridge prevented him from being more openly pleased by the news. It was only the possibility that Trip was too ill for the antidote to work that worried him now, but Trip just had to pull through. As far as Archer was concerned it just wasn’t an option that he wouldn’t.

Reed returned to his Jorgan prisoner. “Why was it so important to kill Captain Archer?” asked Reed.

“The Xindi told me that he was pivotal in the outcome of their war against you. They didn’t tell me how, just that they had information that if Archer could be killed then the humans would be defeated. When I failed to kill him with the poison they told me to disable the ship so that they could come and finish the job. They knew you’d be looking out for another attack on Archer,” said the Jorgan

“They were actually quite pleased when they heard it was the Chief Engineer that had been poisoned,” Mentan continued, “they thought that if they couldn’t get Archer perhaps Commander Tucker’s death would help them. This was meant to be an assassination. Just one man, Captain Archer. I was killing someone I thought was an evil person. At the very least I was repaying the Colonies debt to the Xindi for the support they gave us. You have to believe me that I didn’t mean to kill your Engineer, he was just unfortunate. I worked with him on the sensor upgrades and I liked him, if it could have been avoided I wouldn’t have killed him.”

“He’s not dead yet,” said Reed. “How do the Xindi know that Archer is going to be important in the war? I mean, more important than anyone else. We have several capable starship captains after all.”

“Someone was giving them the information,” said Mentan.

“Who was giving them the information?” said Reed.

“I don’t know, but they were the same people who provided the cloaking device,” said Mentan.

“The Jorgans don’t have cloaking technology?” asked Reed.

“No, we’re not that advanced. Our technology is of a similar level to yours,” said Mentan.

“The Suliban?” asked Reed, not willing to let the matter rest with what Mentan had given him so far.

“I don’t know that race. All I know is that whoever told them they needed to kill Archer, they weren’t Xindi.” Mentan looked at Reed hoping that the Lieutenant would accept the truth for what it was. Reed looked as if he might ask for more detail but the com sounded.

“T’Pol to Lieutenant Reed,” said T’Pol.

“Reed here, Sub-commander,” said the Lieutenant.

“You are needed on the bridge, Lieutenant. The Captain wishes to discuss tactics for our imminent encounter with the Xindi,” said T’Pol.

“On my way, Sub-commander,” replied Reed and left Mentan to think about what trouble he might be in, not only from the Jorgans but also from the Xindi he had just betrayed.

****

Archer, T’Pol, Mayweather, Hess and Reed stood in the situation area behind the bridge and looked at the course of the approaching Xindi ship. Archer had briefly outlined the plan of attack and was now sounding out his senior staff to see if there were any problems.

“The Xindi ship should be within weapons range in less than an hour,” said T’Pol.

“I’m about half an hour away from completing the basic structural strengthening on the port nacelle, it should give us enough strength that we can manoeuvre on impulse without any problems. It’ll be another three hours before I can give you warp capability. I’m sorry but we’re working flat out and I just don’t have anymore manpower to throw at the problem,” said Hess.

“We’ll just have to hope that impulse is enough for now. I know things in Engineering are tough at the moment Lieutenant and I appreciate that your staff have all worked hard to get us this far. Sub-commander, what did our Jorgan friends have to say?”

“Captain Milas agreed with our assessment of the situation, we will rendezvous with the Jorgan ship in the asteroid belt as soon as we are able to move at impulse. Their intelligence on the Xindi sensors also concurred with our own, the Xindi do not have comparable modifications to those carried out by Commander Tucker and will most likely have difficulty coping with the high metalicity of the nebula,” said T’Pol.

“Travis, that asteroid field is pretty dense. Are we going to have any problems getting Enterprise through it?” asked Archer.

“I checked the scans of the asteroid field and its not so dense that we can’t manoeuvre, but it might be tight in places,” said the helmsman. “I can do it Captain.”

Archer nodded, if anyone could do it then it was Travis Mayweather. Archer had never seen a finer helmsman than the young boomer pilot. “Okay, I guess that’s all we can do for the moment. I want everything to be in top condition for when the Xindi arrive so if you have to do any systems checks then do them now.”

****

Archer spent the remaining time in Engineering helping Lieutenant Hess with her repairs, he was used to lending a hand on the ship wherever it was needed. There certainly wasn’t much else for him to do on the bridge, T’Pol had everything running like clockwork. Reed was checking the weapons, which was a one man job and Archer knew Reed had to do it himself before he’d be satisfied with their readiness. Mayweather was running another diagnostic on the helm control to make sure that his controls were all working as perfectly as possible. Engineering however could use all the manpower it could get at the moment.

It wasn’t quite the same as when he popped down to give Trip a hand. Usually Trip gave him a hydrospanner, pointed him at a panel that had whatever needed fixing behind it and let him get on with it. He and Trip would have chatted while they completed their work. Hess was a little jumpy having her Captain working with her and didn’t say much other than to give him status reports while they and some other engineers shifted another support stanchion into place on the port nacelle. Finally they had completed enough repairs that Hess was happy to sign off on using impulse safely and Archer was needed on the bridge for their move into the asteroid field.

However, he decided that he could spare five minutes to check in on Sick Bay on his way back from Engineering. When he arrived in Sick Bay he found Phlox setting up yet another machine beside his patient. Trip’s skin was pale and he now lay flat on the biobed with a tube coming from his mouth to the life support machine, his chest rose and fell in rhythm as the machine breathed for him. Tubes and machines surrounded Trip and he looked small, vulnerable and very young. His arms lay on top of the blanket that was pulled up to his shoulders, and into a vein on each arm passed a tube with light blue liquid running down it.

“Any news, Doctor?” asked Archer.

“I have only just begun to administer the antidote. It was an extremely complicated molecule to synthesise and it took a little time to make the required amount to begin treatment. As you can see it has to be administered intravenously in quite large quantities. The antidote should remove the poison from the tissue and bind the poison to itself before it leaves Commander Tucker’s body,” said Phlox. “My only concern is the damage that the poison has already done. When I last checked his liver enzyme levels I wasn’t at all happy with them. Often these things repair themselves without intervention but until I’ve removed the poison I won’t know the full extent of the damage.”

“When will you know if the antidote is working?” asked Archer. He didn’t like the comment about the damage that the poison might have done already but he didn’t have time to think about that at the moment.

“Within the next couple of hours,” said Phlox. “He has age and fitness on his side. Once I have more news I’ll be happy to call you, or you’re welcome to come and sit with the Commander. I firmly believe that it benefits my patients to have someone talk to them while they are unconscious.”

“I’d like to sit with him, but unfortunately we’re expecting our Xindi friends to arrive in less than half an hour. If everything goes according to plan I’ll be back here as soon as I can,” said Archer. He was already aware that if they couldn’t defeat the approaching Xindi ship then all of Phlox’s efforts wouldn’t make any difference to whether Trip lived or died. The Xindi would destroy Enterprise without even a second thought if they were given the chance.

“I understand Captain. Sub-commander T’Pol had already contacted me to alert me to the possible need for Sick Bay’s services regarding the approaching Xindi ship,” said Phlox. “Don’t worry, I’ll make sure Commander Tucker isn’t forgotten.”

****

Archer looked out the view screen at the swirling orange gas particles of the nebula. It was a stellar nursery, according to T’Pol, a place where new stars were born and they glowed with a fierce bright light. The nebula was high in sodium which gave it the orange glow. A very spectacular sight, last year they would have stopped to study it and Archer would have enjoyed finding out its secrets. Instead they had found the Jorgan ship and stopped to talk to them about the Xindi, but had never intended to stay long. He had concentrated on navigating through it, not even considering the area of space that he was passing through, more annoyed by the fact that they couldn’t go around it due to its size, than impressed by the spectacle. Not for the first time Archer regretted how their mission had changed with the attack by the Xindi.

The asteroid field now surrounded them and the Jorgan ship lay off the starboard bow, almost invisible to the naked eye although sensors picked it out clearly. The Xindi must already know their rough position but it was unlikely that they would be able to pinpoint them exactly in the swirling orange fog of the nebula. It was what Archer was counting on in fact. They watched as the Xindi came towards the two waiting ships.

“Signal the Jorgans to take up position,” said Archer to Hoshi.

“Yes, sir,” replied Hoshi. “They’re on the move, sir,” she said once she had completed the conversation.

“Good, let’s do the same. Travis, take us to the other side of that large asteroid,” said Archer.

“Yes, sir,” replied the helmsman. He guided Enterprise carefully through the asteroid field and brought them to a stop beside the asteroid.

The tension on the bridge was almost visible in the air. The Xindi ship came closer as the two allies hid in the asteroid field waiting for the Xindi to get into the right position. The Xindi were being cautious and approaching slowly, they knew that Enterprise was in the nebula somewhere nearby but they hadn’t worked out where yet.

“The Xindi are conducting sensor sweeps of the nebula,” said T’Pol, “as we expected the frequencies which they are using are not optimal for penetrating the nebula. I estimate their range is little more than our own before the modifications were made.”

“Are the Jorgans ready?” Archer asked Hoshi.

“Yes, sir,” said Hoshi.

“Send them the signal. Travis take us within weapons range, Malcolm fire at will.”

A chorus of “yes, sirs”, was followed by frantic action. Enterprise left its hiding place and passed over the top of the Xindi ship firing its phase cannons as it did so. At the same time the Jorgans appeared from the other side of the nebula and fired at the same target that Enterprise was aiming at. The ships passed within a few miles of each other and Archer breathed a sigh of relief that both ships had excellent helmsmen. The ships disappeared into the asteroid field and nebula gas again just as the Xindi worked out what was going on and began to shoot back. Luckily the Xindi missed both the Jorgans and Enterprise, Archer hoped that their luck would hold.

Archer wasn’t finished yet though. “Bring us round again, Ensign. Did we do any damage?”

Lieutenant Reed answered. “Looks like we’ve put a hole in their forward armour, but we missed the weapons. Sorry, Captain, looks like I was off by about a metre.” Reed had a slightly disappointed tone to his voice.

“We were lucky we hit it at all first time round,” said Archer. He knew that being off by a metre wasn’t much considering the firing window that they had had, the distances involved and how little they knew about the Xindi ship. Reed of course wouldn’t accept anything other than perfection, sometimes Archer was very glad of this attribute in his Armoury Officer.

“The Xindi are looking for us but they have not detected us so far,” said T’Pol.

“Signal the Jorgans that we’re making a second run. Let’s give it another go, Lieutenant,” said Archer.

“Yes, sir,” said Reed. “I’ve adjusted the targeting, we should be spot on this time.”

Mayweather brought Enterprise around and made another run on the target. This time the Xindi were ready for the two ships. As Enterprise and the Jorgans passed over the Xindi, Enterprise felt a jolt as the Xindi hit them with a beam weapon.

“We managed to hit one of their cannons, but they jarred us as we fired and we were off target again for the second,” said Reed.

“Damage report,” snapped Archer.

“Hull plating is holding,” said T’Pol.

“Fires on A and B decks. Fire crews are dealing with them. Several minor injuries being reported but nothing serious,” said Hoshi.

The Xindi kept firing as they followed Enterprise into the asteroid field. There was no doubt about it, the Xindi weren’t interested in the Jorgans, they were after Enterprise. The Jorgans however had noticed the Xindi chasing Enterprise and had turned to follow. The Jorgans kept firing at the Xindi ship’s engines but so far it wasn’t having much effect. The Xindi hull plating was too tough for them to penetrate without Enterprise’s help.

“Travis, we need to shake them. Get as close as you can to those asteroids,” said Archer, as Enterprise rocked again from another impact.

“Any closer and we’ll be part of those asteroids, sir,” said Travis, in an alarmed voice.

“Rear hull plating has failed,” said T’Pol, as another shot from the pursuing ship hit home.

“If we don’t shake them soon it won’t matter,” said Archer to Travis.

“Captain,” said T’Pol, “two asteroids ahead of us are about to collide. I suggest we avoid them.”

“That’s what we need. Warn our Jorgan friends to back off,” said Archer to Hoshi. Hoshi nodded in acknowledgement. “Travis, take us through the middle of those two asteroids.”

“Yes, sir,” replied Mayweather confidently.

Archer vaguely heard T’Pol say “Are you sure that this is a logical course of action?” He ignored her, jumping to his feet as Travis pulled yet another near miss.

Enterprise sped through the asteroid field as quickly as Mayweather could pilot her, twisting in and out of the course of the rocks that crossed their path. It was faster than he would have liked but if they were going to pull this off then he had to push Enterprise to its limits. They were already at full impulse but he pushed the engines a little harder in the hope that there was some more power there that he hadn’t tapped. Trip would kill him if he ever found out how hard he’d pushed the Engines. The Xindi either hadn’t noticed the crashing asteroids ahead or didn’t care about them and continued their pursuit of Enterprise. Mayweather turned Enterprise on her side as he flew through the two asteroids that were about to meet, it was so close he almost felt the rock scratch the paint work. The Xindi weren’t quite as lucky and impacted with the two asteroids, crushed in the middle as the two collided.

Archer collapsed in his chair as Enterprise was rocked by the explosion of the dying Xindi ship.

“Good flying, Travis,” he said to the young Ensign. “Now let’s get out of this asteroid field more slowly and preferably before we become permanent residents.”

****

Archer sat next to Trip in Sick Bay. Trip looked very much as he had done when Archer had dropped in to Sick Bay before the battle with the Xindi ship. That had been almost twenty four hours ago and Archer had been sat beside Trip for most of that time. Phlox’s “couple of hours” before they knew whether the antidote was working had turned out to be considerably longer.

Archer was reading a padd, it was the critical systems damage report. He thought to himself, perhaps I should add my Chief Engineer and best friend to this list. Trip was, after all, a critical system as far as Enterprise was concerned and, Archer had to admit, as far as he was concerned as well. He wished Trip could be fixed as easily as a few damaged bulk heads or the shuttle bay doors. At least the repairs to the port nacelle had been completed. Archer was tired but didn’t really feel like sleeping, he rubbed his eyes and tried to concentrate on the padd.

He and T’Pol had discussed with Milas what to do about the saboteur Mentan. Milas would have happily let Archer take him back to Earth for trial but that wasn’t practical and both Captains had agreed that Mentan should be transferred back to the Jorgan ship to be tried on Jorga. Archer would have dearly liked to make the Jorgan pay in full for what he had inflicted upon Trip but when he had seen the pitiful specimen that now sat in their brig, all his hatred had left him. From what Lieutenant Reed had reported, the Jorgan was as much a puppet in this as anything, he hadn’t even known about the Xindi probe. Reed would arrange for transfer of the prisoner as soon as the damage from the battle had been taken care of.

It bothered Archer a lot that they still didn’t know who had provided the Jorgan spy with his cloak. Someone was behind this, helping the Xindi with information and technology and Archer was going to find out who, but not today. Reed was sure that Mentan didn’t know who it was and Archer wondered if even the Xindi knew who they were really dealing with.

Archer had begun by talking to Trip, telling him about his Xindi worries, but to be honest it made him feel self conscious talking to the comatose engineer in an otherwise quiet sickbay. At some point Phlox had come and detached the tubes from Trip’s arms and replaced them with a conventional drip. Archer had hoped that meant that the antidote had worked but Phlox had explained that was just the complete dose that he was able to give Trip. Phlox drew blood from Trip’s arm and took it away for analysis.

Archer hated this waiting. He almost wished that he was back in the fight with the Xindi at least then he had been doing something to safeguard the lives of the crew. He couldn’t do anything about saving Trip’s life, it was all down to some alien chemicals and Trip’s own tenacity.

He was jerked out of his reverie by one of the machines beside Trip beeping loudly and insistently.

“Doctor!” he shouted, dropping the padd on his chair.

Phlox emerged from his office. “It’s nothing to be worried about,” said Phlox. “It’s just an automatic alarm to let me know that his medication needs replenishing.” Phlox went away and returned with another bag of something which he fixed to the drip. “I do however have some good news, it seems the antidote is working. His blood count seems to be returning to normal and the poison is being leeched from his tissue as it should be.”

“What about the damage the poison did while it was in his system?” asked Archer still worried.

“He has sustained some organ damage but I think it is treatable. His kidneys and liver took quite a hammering while trying to get rid of the poison from his blood,” said Phlox.

“What does that mean?” asked Archer, he wasn’t sure if Phlox was giving him good news or bad at the moment.

“Well it will affect his ability to fight off illness, but I think the prognosis is good. Eventually he should make a complete recovery,” said Phlox and smiled broadly at Archer.

“Thank god for that,” said Archer. “I really thought we were going to lose him this time.” Phlox couldn’t help but notice the huge relief and tiredness in Archer’s voice and made a mental note to check that their Captain got some rest soon.

More alarms sounded from one of the machines that kept watch over Trip and Archer looked down at his friend.

“He’s waking up,” said Phlox, moving to check his patient’s vital signs.

“Come on Trip, you can do it,” said Archer. “Just open your eyes.”

Trip heard the voice and half recognised it. He’d been in a dark place for sometime now and he wasn’t really sure how to leave it. Every time he wanted to leave something stopped him, until he had finally decided that his only option was to remain in the dark. Somehow the voice was drawing him away from the dark though. The voice was telling him to open his eyes, so he tried and although his eyelids felt too heavy to move he finally prised them open. The light was bright and he blinked. Two fuzzy shapes were visible and as he looked, and blinked, they turned into people. One of them was Jon.

He tried to speak but he couldn’t, something was stopping him. Suddenly he was very worried, why couldn’t he speak? What was going on? The only thing which prevented him from outright panic was the presence of Jon, it couldn’t be that bad if Jon was here. He attempted to sit up but none of his muscles wanted to work. He felt so weak and helpless.

“It’s okay Trip,” soothed Archer, seeing a look of fear in the blue eyes that had just opened. He put a reassuring hand on Trip’s shoulder. “Just relax. You’re in Sick Bay. Everything’s going to be okay.” Trip looked at Archer and then at Phlox in a questioning manner.

“We had to put in a tube to help you breathe, Commander. Be patient a moment and I’ll remove it. This will probably feel a bit strange,” said Phlox. Archer stood back, wincing inwardly for his friend as Phlox went through the uncomfortable procedure of withdrawing the tube. Trip coughed violently once it was out but eventually he settled down again.

Trip decided that he had to try to talk even though his throat hurt like hell and his mouth was a dry as a bone. He had too many questions. “What happened?” he whispered. It set off the coughing again but it didn’t last so long this time.

“The poison reached your autonomic nervous system and I was forced to put you on life support when you dropped into a coma,” said Phlox.

Trip nodded he vaguely remembered feeling more and more dizzy and not being able to breathe. “How long?” he tried again. It was meant to be “How long have I been out for?” but that was just too long a sentence to manage at the moment.

“Nearly two days,” said Archer. “You’re getting better now though. The doctor has cleared the poison out of your system, right Doctor?”

“That is correct, you should start to feel better soon. However, you will be weak for a while yet,” said Phlox. He didn’t want to over burden his patient with information just yet, Trip had quite a way to go before he was back to full health again, but they could discuss things when he felt better. “How do you feel?” asked the doctor.

Trip thought about it for a second, “I’ve been worse,” he said and gave them a weak smile, a pale shadow of his usual warm grin.

“You’ve been better,” said Archer.

“Tired now,” mumbled Trip. He shut his eyes and was soon asleep. Archer ignored Phlox’s attempts to get him to leave, picked up the padd that was on the chair where it had fallen and sat down to continue reading his report. Somehow the damage that they had sustained didn’t seem to be quite so bad as he remembered it. Perhaps, he thought that was because he could scratch one Chief Engineer from the list of replacement parts required.

*******

Epilogue

After a few days lying in Sick Bay, too ill to do much more than sleep and breathe, Trip began to start noticing his surroundings again. For a start he’d noticed that Jon was spending a lot of time in Sick Bay reading reports, at least a couple of hours each day. Then he discovered that Jon wasn’t the only one who was making regular visits to Sick Bay, T’Pol seemed to have a regular session with Phlox each day to discuss some aspect of alien biology. When she was finished she would stop by to say hello to Trip and let him know how the repairs were going.

Malcolm would stop by each lunch time to see how Trip was doing. When he started feeling well enough, Malcolm brought Trip’s Go board down from his quarters. They would play and Trip would try to explain where the Armoury officer was going wrong in his tactics.

“Defeating Xindi warships is one thing,” said Malcolm. “I just can’t get my head around this board game.” To be honest Malcolm was pretty good, it’s just that Trip had an affinity for the game and had always been good at it. Anyway, it wasn’t as if they played for the sake of playing, it was more so that they had something to do while Malcolm and he talked.

Hoshi always visited him in the early evening when she came off her shift. She tried to teach him Klingon but he was no linguist, although he was doing pretty well with the basic phrases. Neither of them took the efforts very seriously and often Trip’s attempts at pronunciation had Hoshi in fits of laughter. It was just what Trip needed to keep his mind off other things.

Travis usually came to visit late in the evening and always checked with Phlox first before going over to Trip’s corner of Sick Bay. If Trip was asleep already then Travis didn’t disturb him. Trip tried to make sure he stayed awake, he enjoyed Travis’ company and that he didn’t mind if Trip went on about warp engines. Travis knew a few things about warp engines too so he enjoyed their conversations as much as Trip.

In fact the almost constant procession of visitors meant that Trip hardly noticed that a week had gone by and he was still in Sick Bay. Admittedly the first few days of that week had been spent mostly asleep but he was spending more and more time awake. He wanted to go back to his own quarters and more than anything he wanted to get back to being an Engineer.

Phlox had fully expected the Commander to want to leave Sick Bay as soon as possible, but as he had explained countless times, he needed recovery time. Trip’s argument was of course that he had had quite enough recovery time and he didn’t want to spend anymore time lying around. All his visitors had brought him things to read or do but there was only so much reading he could do before he got bored. He was an Engineer for crying out loud, he worked with his hands as well as his head and that’s what he missed. By the end of the week Phlox and Trip had already gone head to head on how long Trip had to remain in Sick Bay several times. It was one of these arguments which greeted Archer when he arrived mid-morning for his usual reading session.

“No Doc, I don’t care what you say. I’m feeling better. I want out,” said Trip, his voice raised in frustration.

“Mr Tucker, how many times do I have to tell you, you will be here another week before you can return to your quarters. It will be another week after that before you can return to light duties.”

“Two weeks!” said Trip. “That’s it. I’ve had enough.” Trip pulled out the needle of the drip that was still connected to his arm, threw back the blankets and put two feet on the ground. He steadied himself against the biobed as his muscles protested about the movement.

“Commander!” said Phlox. “This is really not helping your condition. Your immune system is still depressed and your organs are still repairing themselves. You need to rest.”

“Look, Doc, I’m fine,” said Trip, ignoring the drops of blood that were appearing on his arm from where he had removed the needle. The only problem with his plan was that Trip couldn’t move, he knew his legs would buckle the moment he let go of the biobed, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to give in that easily. He’d think of something in a minute, but for now he was just going to concentrate on hanging on. He hoped that Phlox didn’t notice.

“Perhaps we can make a compromise,” said Archer from the door where he had watched the whole scene. “Let me talk to him, Doctor.”

“Very well, Captain,” said Phlox and disappeared into his office.

Trip smiled. “Thanks Jon,” he said. Trip checked that Phlox wasn’t back and added, “Now will you get over here and give me a hand before I fall over.”

Archer laughed but went to help Trip back into bed. “What I should do is tell Phlox to sedate you until you’re well enough to be discharged from Sick Bay,” said Archer.

“You wouldn’t,” said Trip. “Would you?” he added, not so sure, as Archer settled him back on the biobed.

“If you don’t behave then it’s always an option,” said Archer. Although he wished Trip would just do what the Doctor ordered, he was secretly pleased to see Trip arguing with Phlox. It was a good sign, if Trip was putting up a fight about being in Sick Bay then it meant he was well on his way to getting better. “Trip, what can I do to persuade you to listen to Phlox? Have you forgotten just how close you came to dying?” said Archer gently.

“No, I haven’t, which is why I’m fed up of lying around here doing nothing,” said Trip. “I heard about what you did to my Engines while I was out of it. And Travis’ pulling barrel rolls between asteroids! God only knows what that’s done to the stabilisers. Then there’s the rear hull plating problems and whatever the hell Malcolm did to the targeting sensors which blew out six sets of relays. You can bet that isn’t all of it either, I heard Phlox telling Hess that she wasn’t allowed to worry me, so if that’s not supposed to worry me…”

“Okay, okay,” said Archer holding his hands up for Trip to stop his tirade. “You’re just going to have to face the fact that its going to be a couple of weeks before you’re even allowed to set foot inside Engineering. So you might as well forget about all of that stuff and enjoy the time off.”

“And how am I supposed to do that?” grumbled Trip.

“Look at you, you can hardly stand and you want to be back at work. It’s just ridiculous, Trip,” said Archer, hoping that Trip would see it was ridiculous too. “Look I’ll make a deal with you, if you can do a lap of Sick Bay on your own, I’ll persuade Phlox to let you go back to your quarters.”

“But…” started Trip. He knew it was going to take him several days to work up to doing a lap of Sick Bay.

“No buts, its either that or the sedatives and I would think you’ve been asleep long enough,” said Archer seriously and then added less seriously, “of course there is the small matter of Dr Phlox outranking you until he discharges you and your disobeying a senior officer. Normally that would be two weeks scrubbing plasma conduits.” Archer grinned at Trip.

Trip gave Archer his “I don’t believe this is happening to me” look and gave in. “Okay, Jon, you’ve got a deal.”

****

The End

****

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