He hadn’t been looking forward to this.
Standing quietly with his hands behind his back, Ensign Travis Mayweather stared morosely at the small lectern that had been erected near the back of the mess hall. The United Earth Space Probe Agency seal was prominently displayed on the wooden stand, and two flags dominated the wall behind it. For a moment, Travis wondered where they had obtained the Vulcan flag before recalling what the quartermaster was capable of. Large photographs of Commander Tucker and Subcommander T’Pol, blown up to three times actual size, were resting just beneath the two flags; they were transposed, with Trip’s image beneath the Vulcan emblem while T’Pol rested under Earth’s.
It seemed oddly appropriate.
Captain Archer stood silently at the lectern, his somber expression reflecting the general mood of the assembled officers and crewmen within the mess hall. Directly to the captain’s left stood Lieutenant Commander Reed, and to Archer’s right stood Anna Hess; both of the commanders wore bleak, almost angry expressions, and Travis wondered if they were still blaming themselves.
Three days had passed since Enterprise departed the system that had (presumably) claimed the lives of her first officer and chief engineer, and in that time, at least six memorial services for the two fallen officers were aborted due to ship emergencies. All but one of those emergencies had been due to the ever temperamental warp drive throwing a fit, and, while well-trained and more than competent, Hess simply wasn’t as skilled at soothing the beast that was Henry Archer’s design as the absent Commander Tucker had been. To a superstitious Boomer raised on tales about the almost mystical bond between engineer and ship, it seemed to Travis that Enterprise herself was grieving over their losses.
To no one’s surprise, Captain Archer was taking the deaths the hardest. Though the captain tried to conceal his anger and grief, Travis had learned to read him well enough to recognize how little sleep the older man was getting. Almost overnight, Archer seemed to have aged a decade; now, instead of the ready smile he had worn since Travis first met him, the captain wore a mask of intent resolve that would have been at home on the sternest of Vulcans.
Despite his emotional pain, though, the captain seemed be everywhere at once, offering soothing words and an understanding ear to any member of the crew who wanted to talk, no matter how mundane or pedantic the topic. Archer’s tone was never condescending or belligerent as he listened to the anecdotes about the two lost officers or worries about the coming inquest. Talking seemed to help everyone come to grips with the losses.
Everyone but the captain.
“When I first met Charles Tucker,” Archer began, his hands gripping the lectern tightly, “He was arguing with a Vulcan.” Despite himself, Travis started to smile as the memory of Commander Tucker’s sometimes heated discussions with the subcommander came to mind. From the soft chuckles of many of the crew, he wasn’t the only one who thought that. “This was ten years ago, right before the NX-Alpha incident that some of you may have heard of.” The captain was silent for a brief moment and seemed to struggle with something. “And without Trip’s help,” he said passionately, “We might have never broken the warp two point five barrier.
“He was the best friend a man could have,” the captain continued, blinking away tears as he spoke. “Brave, smart, funny, but always there when you needed him.” A number of people – Travis included – began to nod in agreement. “Over the years, Trip became the little brother that I never had…” Another long moment passed as Archer struggled to regain his equilibrium; Travis found himself staring at the UESPA seal, unwilling to watch as the captain fought with powerful emotions. If he did, Mayweather suspected that he would lose his own composure.
“As to Subcommander T’Pol,” Archer said loudly, “I didn’t know her as well as I would have liked.” At that, Travis fought a smile. Fully half of the crew – Mayweather included – suspected that the captain was romantically involved or at least interested in the Vulcan subcommander; the other half – including Hoshi – argued that it was Trip who had attracted her eye. Once or twice, the arguments had even gotten out of hand, but usually only among the junior enlisted crewmembers; Elizabeth Cutler and Ethan Novakovich, for example, no longer even talked to one another over it.
“It’s no secret,” the captain stated, “That I initially resented her presence aboard Enterprise.” A sour look crossed his face but was gone so quickly, Travis wasn’t sure if he’d imagined it or not. “In the short time she was aboard, though, she proved to be as loyal and as dedicated to our mission as any of us.
“Nowhere was this more evident than in the respect that grew between her and Commander Tucker.” Archer smiled slightly. “On numerous occasions, I saw these two put aside their differences and disagreements to accomplish some task. They were,” he remarked with a hint of amusement, “One helluva team.”
“So today,” Archer pronounced sadly, “We grieve the loss of two officers … of two friends who helped us further our journey into the stars.” The sense of finality began pressing in on Travis and he shifted awkwardly in place; at his side, Hoshi sniffled and, to his surprise, reached for his hand. He took it, clung to it, and tried not to weep. “Though they are no longer with us, we must never forget them or forget the lessons they taught us.” Archer nodded to Reed.
“Detachment,” the acting first officer snapped, his words loud and harsh. “Stand at attention!” Travis let go of Hoshi’s hand as he straightened his posture.
“We cannot commit their bodies to the deep,” Captain Archer said softly. “But we can wish them – wherever they may be – a safe journey.” Anger began leaking into the captain’s voice, displacing the sadness and reminding Travis of how vociferously Archer had argued with Starfleet Command over this very matter. To the admirals back on Earth, the two commanders were officially listed as Missing Presumed Dead, while Captain Archer wanted them to be listed as merely Missing. It seemed a minor squabble, but a MPD tag meant that no resources would be expended to verify their actual status.
At the captain’s nod, Lieutenant Commander Reed toggled something held in his hand. Instantly, a mournful tune began playing through the ship’s speakers. Seconds later, Travis could feel a pair of subtle vibrations through the deckplates. Beyond the viewport behind the lectern, he could see two slow-moving objects arc away from Enterprise and toward a far distant star.
The memorial service broke up soon afterwards, with a few of the crew departing for duty stations. Travis remained behind for a little while longer, noting how the captain stood before the viewports and watched the empty torpedo shells until they were out of sight. There was little emotion on Archer’s face as he stared at the glittering stars.
“How’s he doing?” Travis asked softly as Hoshi joined him, and the linguist gave him a sad look that spoke volumes. There was no need for Mayweather to identify who the “he” was; the two of them had discussed at length the captain’s reaction to the deaths of his two friends.
“Not good,” she replied just as quietly. “He spoke with Trip’s parents before the memorial.”
“They didn’t talk long,” Hoshi revealed, glancing at the captain once more. “But whatever was said, it really tore him up.” She blinked away tears and returned her attention to the glass of whatever it was she was drinking. Travis glanced away in understanding; though she’d never confirmed it, he had begun to suspect that Hoshi had something of a crush on the captain. Over the last couple of months, she’d grown out of it somewhat, but every now and then, it resurfaced when she thought Captain Archer was feeling down.
And he was most assuredly feeling down right now.
At a loss for anything more to say, Travis surveyed the crew still in the mess hall. Everyone who wasn’t on duty was present with the notable exception of Doctor Phlox who repeatedly pointed out that attending such a service for people who weren’t dead was a disservice to them. At first, Travis had been mildly insulted by the doctor’s refusal to even make an appearance, but Hoshi had explained it as a Denobulan social custom; without direct, incontrovertible proof, Phlox would continue believing that the two commanders had survived, no matter how slim their chances.
For some reason, that had made Travis feel better.