She hated serving as the officer of
For the tenth time in the last hour, Hoshi shifted in the captain's chair, hoping to find a more comfortable position even though she knew that wasn't likely. Logically, she knew her discomfort was almost entirely in her head, but that didn't stop her from at least making the attempt. Perhaps one day she'd find a perfect equilibrium or, failing that, she'd learn a much better way to hide how badly she hated being the person in charge. Unlike Travis, she'd never had any desire to command.
Almost instantly, her expression soured slightly at thoughts of Lieutenant Mayweather – how long had it been since she interacted with him in person or even in a non-work related manner? The instant Commander Hernandez appointed him as acting-commander of the Minnow, he'd turned into a stranger. His every communication (which she, as Enterprise's chief comm officer, had access to) was stiffly professional, reminding her how any junior officer acted when an admiral was nearby. Even during Commander Hernandez's daily officer briefings which he'd attended from the bridge of the Minnow, Travis had stood ramrod straight, both hands clasped together at the small of his back. Everyone had been addressed by their rank, even her! She was certain something was going on with him, even if Amanda still thought she was crazy. But then, the MACOs had nothing but good things to say about Travis' leadership style these days which was frankly kind of weird given how indifferent (or openly irritated at) Cole had been with how either Captain Archer or Commander Hernandez commanded. Hoshi frowned. Apart from Travis, Weapons Officer Galahad Reed, and Lieutenant Taylor, the crew of the Minnow was almost entirely MACO. Had Mayweather gone native with the military types? That might explain why Amanda and the rest of her team were so enthusiastic about him.
The science board pinged softly, drawing all eyes. As this was the middle watch, none of the personnel on duty were officers and Petty Officer Alumbaugh took several long moments to identify the reason for the chime. Hoshi glanced away, both to hide her slightly amused smile and to give the science specialist time to work without the senior officer looking over his shoulder. Nothing irritated her more than when the captain … when Captain Archer had done that, back when he was still alive so very long ago, even though she knew he had not been trying to catch her in a mistake but had simply been curious as to her process.
"Unknown sensor contacts at extreme sensor range, ma'am," Alumbaugh announced. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught his grimace. "I'm having trouble getting a solid lock on them." Hoshi pursed her lips. They were very near the edge of what had been the Delphic Expanse and, thus far, had not encountered any hostiles in the three week transit from the remains of Sphere-41. Still …
"Why is that?" she asked calmly, taking great effort to ensure her words did not sound accusing.
"I don't know, ma'am," the science specialist replied hesitantly. "The thermobaric clouds have mostly vanished, but there's still a lot of interference making it hard to get an ID."
"Pass that on to Minnow and Kumari," she instructed. For a moment, she considered raising the alert status of Enterprise but just as quickly discarded the thought. Extreme range, even at this steady warp factor four would take a while to reach. "Keep working on it," she added, "and let me know the instant we have a positive ID." That sounded sufficiently competent so she went back to the PADD in her hand, well aware that the enlisted personnel manning the duty stations were watching quietly.
It was strange, reading the words of her alternate self and seeing a life she had not actually lived unfold before her very eyes. Hoshi was still a little creeped out over the very notion of being involved with Phlox – she liked the doctor well enough, but not like that! – and had turned to these personal journals in an attempt to figure out what could lead her to him. To her mild surprise, the answer had been staring her in the face the entire time and made her squirm with even more discomfort.
Based on what she had read thus far, when her closest friend aboard Enterprise died in that alternate timeline, it had hit her hard and her personal journal, a habit she'd carried over from childhood, reflected that unexpected trauma. Phlox had helped her recover and they'd been content. Nothing in the journal reflected any sort of passionate love for the doctor, which clearly bothered the alternate Hoshi quite a bit. She spent a great deal of time beating herself up for this even though she insisted that her Phlox seemed quite satisfied with their relationship. And when she passed away from old age, her Denobulan husband had made several final entries to her journal that revealed he'd been completely forthright in what he told his wife. The marriage customs of his species did not call for the kind of romantic, storybook love that she'd struggled over not possessing. But it was one particular paragraph that Hoshi kept re-reading.
My greatest regret, Phlox wrote, is that I was never able to help Hoshi fully recover from Lieutenant Mayweather's death. She cared a great deal for me for which I am grateful but Travis was her one great love and neither of them had the opportunity to realize it. Even in her last hours, it was not her husband of thirty years she called for, but rather the young man who died fifty years ago. While I cherished my time with her, I can only hope that she is finally at peace with the one her inner spirit longed for even if she herself was blind to that fact.
Hoshi leaned back in the captain's chair and tried very hard not to reveal how twisted her emotions were at the moment. Was it really that simple? Yes, she'd nearly thrown a fit when Amanda repeated some of the rumors about Travis' behavior over on the Minnow with one of the female MACOs – when her brain kicked back in, she'd recalled that there weren't any MACO females over on that little boat, which made Cole's intent suspect in the first place – and yes, she really missed just talking to or joking with him, but … but …
"Bakayarō," she muttered under her breath. How the hell did this sneak up on her like this? She was a smart woman who was an expert in body language. How could she have possibly missed this? Her eyes darted to the communications station as the idle thought about hailing Minnow and chewing Travis out for doing this to her came to mind, but Crewman Kamnitzer automatically tensed under her gaze. Hoshi glanced away.
"Contact!" Alumbaugh declared, his eyes wide. "Ma'am, they're pinging Starfleet!"
Hoshi fell back into the captain's chair, relief and giddy delight blasting through her so sharply and suddenly that she nearly giggled. That would not do, though, not for an officer, so she simply nodded and gave Kamnitzer a look.
"Hail them," she ordered. "Let's get confirmation before we wake Commander Hernandez up." Even as the crewman was turning to obey, Hoshi was continuing. "Alumbaugh, get an ID on them. Let's find out-"
"We're being hailed," Kamnitzer said sharply. The crewman was grinning broadly as she stabbed a button. Instantly, the main viewscreen flickered and resolved into …
He was sitting on an almost identical bridge though this one was filled with a handful of strangers Hoshi did not recognize. The image froze and stuttered slightly – Hoshi did some quick mental calculations and deduced that there would probably be a nine or ten second delay due to distance and the still unrepaired damage to Enterprise's transmission array – which seemed to make the captain speak almost out of sync with his video capture, sort of like those really badly dubbed movies that Commander Tucker had loved so much.
"This is Captain Jonathan Archer of the United Earth Ship Challenger to Enterprise. Please respond."
"Challenger?" Alumbaugh repeated but Hoshi paid him little mind.
"This is Lieutenant Sato of Enterprise," she replied quickly. "It's good to see you again, Captain." On the screen, she saw Archer's delayed reaction. His face lit up with a broad smile.
"Hoshi! It's good to see you again!" Even on the stuttering image, she could make out the concern lurking in his eyes and knew what he didn't want to ask.
"I can have Commander Hernandez on the bridge in five minutes, sir," she said, trailing off when the comm board pinged and Kamnitzer split-screen the image. Travis was suddenly there, larger than life and beaming.
"Or better yet," he said quickly, "let's surprise her!" He had that devil-may-care glint in his eyes again and Hoshi could not help but to return his grin. A long moment passed before Captain Archer received both of their messages. The smile he gave them robbed him of at least a decade.
"Now that is a fantastic plan," he said. "But I expect that sort of thing from the two of you. Maintain your present course. We'll rendezvous with you in … six hours." His eyes danced. "See you soon, Lieutenant Sato, Captain Mayweather."
"You realize that the commander is going to murder you when we spring this on her," Travis said the moment Captain Archer's transmission ended. The bridge crew snickered at the remark and Hoshi chuckled herself.
"I'm going to tell her it was your idea," she retorted. "Any chance you can get us a revised flight plan to shave some time from the captain's estimate?"
"On it." Travis glanced away, frowning slightly. "You get to tell Shran though. Minnow out."
The rest of the duty shift flew by and Hoshi marveled at how the mood of the bridge crew had so completely transformed. No longer did they sit quietly at their stations and try to avoid being noticed; now, they laughed and joked and teased one another, sometimes even including her. When Madeline Reed – acting Lieutenant Commander Reed, Hoshi reminded herself – exited the turbolift at exactly zero five twenty to prepare for her rotation as morning watch officer, she visibly hesitated at the exuberance she saw, which caused Hoshi to laugh. The white-eyed woman nodded in approval once Hoshi filled her in.
"Commander Hernandez can certainly use the good news," she declared in a soft voice. "I have the bridge, Lieutenant."
"You have the bridge," Hoshi replied automatically. She flashed another grin. "I'll run cover for you," she added. "There are a couple of things I need to go over with the commander and they should take ..." Hoshi glanced at the time. "At least another hour and a half," she finished.
Keeping Hernandez distracted turned out to be a whole lot easier than Hoshi expected as the commander was knee deep in reports and her daily review of shipwide status. Rather than simply read the division updates from the ready room, Commander Hernandez tended to drop in personally where she would spend at least a couple of minutes chatting in with the officer-in-charge and any enlisted personnel on duty. Today, she was touring the Armoury and as Amanda had taken over Malcolm's job, Cole was there as well. Neither of them seemed to know quite what to think about Hoshi's presence, but they mostly let her tag along without questioning. Everyone knew that Hoshi was still recovering from what the Xindi did to her and, for the first time ever, she flagrantly abused that.
"We just dropped out of warp," the commander said with a frown when the ambient sounds of Enterprise changed. She had just started to turn toward the nearest wall panel when Madeline's voice echoed across the intraship.
"Commander Hernandez to port docking airlock." Automatically, the acting captain groaned.
"If this is Shran being difficult again," she muttered, "I'm going to punch him in his smug, blue face." Hoshi snickered even as Amanda's fingers flashed in those MACO hand gestures. Sergeant Chang obeyed immediately, pulling one of the pulse rifles free from where it was secured in an armored locker and tossing it to her. Cole checked the weapon quickly, then fell into place behind Hernandez. Barely a step behind her, Chang followed suit.
The airlock was just beginning to cycle open when they reached it and Hoshi held her breath. With a soft hiss, the hatch slid away.
And Malcolm Reed returned to Enterprise.
Hoshi heard Amanda make a single, inarticulate sound that could have been delight or surprise, and then, the MACO shoved her rifle into Chang's hands without bothering to see if he actually held onto it. A moment later, Cole had closed upon Reed, her eyes wide and gleaming as she very nearly tackled him. He grunted and staggered back a step under the force of her fierce embrace, almost colliding with Captain Archer who nimbly stepped aside, his grin so broad it very nearly split his face. He winked once at Hoshi before turning to face Hernandez.
"Permission to come aboard, Captain?" he asked. A moment later, he too was being tightly hugged and Hoshi watched with tears streaming down her face.
They were home.