The comm from the bridge caught Jon
Archer in the shower.
Since assuming command of Enterprise, he had quickly learned that the captain was never off-duty, no matter what the duty roster said. He couldn't count the number of times that he had been interrupted during a shower, or while napping, or, embarrasingly enough, while sitting on the toilet. It had become such a regular occurrence, that he was convinced either the bridge staff was doing it on purpose or the universe had an amazingly morbid sense of humor.
Without stopping the shower, he leaned toward the nearby comm panel and depressed the TRNSMT button.
"This is Archer," he said loudly.
"Sir, we're picking up some odd readings on the planet," Lieutenant Reed declared. Even through the commline, Jon could hear the armoury officer's discomfort at relaying the information; it nearly caused Archer to smile since Reed had been the one who urged the captain to get some rest while Enterprise was out of direct contact with the downed shuttlepod.
"What kind of readings?" Archer asked.
"We don't know, sir."
"All right," Jon replied. "I'll be there in a couple of minutes. Archer out."
As he killed the stream of water and reached for a towel, Jon let his thoughts drift toward the two officers currently stranded planetside. Unconsciously, he frowned. He had hoped that this little mission would let his two senior-most officers to deal with whatever it was that was bothering them. Almost at once, though, he recognized that Trip would likely cut off his own hand before admitting that there was something wrong; for someone who was always ready to listen to someone's problems, Tucker had a frustrating tendency to internalize his own issues.
Stepping out of the shower, Archer let his mind wander as he toweled off. It hadn't escaped his notice that Trip had started steering clear of Subcommander T'Pol, and Jon had a pretty good idea why his old friend was doing so. Based on a couple of offhand comments that Tucker had made, it seemed obvious that the engineer thought that there was something going on between the captain and T'Pol, something above and beyond their jobs as commanding and first officers. At first, Jon had been amused at such a ridiculous notion, but he hadn't yet corrected Trip's misconceptions in the hopes that he could first figure out what to do. Anyone with eyes could see that Tucker was infatuated with the subcommander, and, though she was a more difficult person to read, Archer was pretty sure that the Vulcan was attracted to the engineer. A relationship between the two almost seemed inevitable, but the chain-of-command issues that would crop up in such an event made Jon's head hurt.
He had nearly finished dressing when an obnoxious alarm began sounding. As he turned toward the comm panel, Lieutenant Reed's voice echoed from it.
"Action stations!" the armoury officer shouted. The phrase wasn't immediately familiar to Jon, prompting him to suspect that the lieutenant was falling back on his Royal Navy training. "All hands to general quarters," Reed continued, and Archer did recognize that. "Captain to the bridge at once!"
Jon was out of his quarters and sprinting toward the turbolift even before the armoury officer had finished speaking. In the year plus that he had served with Reed, Captain Archer had gotten to know the man well enough to realize that the lieutenant was nothing if not professional. An emergency summons like that would actually be an emergency.
The tension of the bridge was immediately noticeable as Jon stepped out of the lift. Reed was already at his station, shoulders squared and a grim expression on his face. Ensign Sato was hunched over her board, one hand quickly inputting commands while the other pressed against the earpiece. It was a little odd, seeing someone other than T'Pol at the Science station.
"Report," Archer demanded as he approached his command chair.
"We're detecting multiple explosions on the planet's surface, sir," Lieutenant Reed replied at once. When he looked up, the lieutenant's face was bleak. "Atomic explosions," he continued. Jon's breath caught, but he pushed the worry away and focused on being The Captain.
"Any word from Trip or T'Pol?" he asked, sounding much calmer than he felt.
"No, sir," Hoshi responded. She didn't look up as she continued to work. "I'm trying all frequencies, but we're getting a lot of interference."
"The weapons being used might be causing an electromagnetic pulse," the ensign manning the science board stated.
"Keep trying," Jon instructed, and Hoshi nodded. "How close was the shuttlepod to these detonations?" he asked the science officer.
"They weren't on the same continent, sir," Ensign Ling replied, and Archer exhaled softly in relief as he began to pace, his mind whirring. More than anything, he wanted to order Travis to put Enterprise in orbit over the planet so they could beam Trip and T'Pol out of danger. Doing so could only lead to more trouble though; Jon could only imagine how the warring factions would react to seeing an alien starship suddenly appear in their sky.
"All right," he said, once more trying to sound like he knew what he was doing. "Travis, keep us where we are." The junior officers gave him an incredulous look, even as Reed began nodding in understanding and approval. "Hoshi, I want a status report from Lieutenant Hess. Malcolm, get as much information as you can about the weapons they're using. Doctor Phlox may need it for the decon procedures when we get our people back."
"Yes, sir," the armoury officer said in response. Out of the corner of his eye, Jon saw the ensign manning the science board shift, clearly awaiting orders. For a long moment, Archer remained silent as he tried to remember the young woman's first name; he hoped that it looked like he was coming up with new instructions.
"Keep an eye on things," he told her, deciding to opt for direct eye contact since he couldn't remember her name. She was new to the crew, after all, and usually on the Gamma Shift. "Malcolm, you have the bridge."
The moment that the ready room door closed behind him, Jon let out a worried breath. He should have expected this sort of thing to happen with Trip out there. Trouble seemed to follow the engineer like a stray dog. At least T'Pol was there to keep him out of trouble. Frowning, Archer tried not to think of how many times she had gotten herself into trouble; she was nearly as bad as Trip when it came to these sorts of things.
An hour passed without incident, and Jon found himself staring at the chronometer on his desk systerm, wishing that the time would pass more quickly. In another hour and thirty minutes, they would be able to see the landing zone again. His fingers drummed rapidly along the desk, and he jumped when the door annunciator chirped.
"Enter," he called out as he stood. Hoshi's appearance was something of a surprise, and Jon felt his stomach lurch at her forlorn expression.
"Sir," she began softly as she handed him a PADD, "I've detected something I thought you would want to see." Archer began scrolling through the data, unsure of what he should be looking for. It all looked like gibberish to him.
"What am I looking at?" he asked.
"Intercepts from the two nations at war, sir." Sato's expression grew even more sad as she appeared to struggle with something. Jon was about to ask her to explain when he saw it: no longer listen to your lies about a space vehicle, a vehicle that even now lurks behind one of our satellites awaiting the proper time to rain down fire and death upon my people...
"Oh God," Archer whispered as guilt crushed down upon him. He felt his legs give out and he collapsed into the desk's chair. It was Paraagan all over, only this time, they were to blame.
They had started this war.