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Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five

author's note

Genre: Action, Drama

Rated: PG …mild language

Disclaimer: Not making a dime off of this, they belong to Paramount, they don’t belong to me, because if they did, I'd be married to T'Pol.

Summary: The Romulan War begins with a single battle...

Cover Art: The absolutely spectacular cover art is by Chris Garner. Thanks, Chris!

Author's Note: This completely discards TATV as the absolute piece of garbage that it is. It simply did not happen. 'Cause it sucked. Hard.


  • Ensign O'Connor originally created by Eratta and appeared in Of All the Times, Places, and People!

  • Hailey Burke created by Zane Gray and appeared in Differential.

  • T'Run created by Ragua and appeared in Miscommunication.

  • The Krazny Oktyabr originally created by Tom Clancy and appeared in The Hunt for the Red October. Man, I can't believe nobody called me on this...
  • Scott Reynolds (aka The Professor) created by Yours Truly. Feel free to use or abuse him as necessary although I do ask that you be gentle...

Warning: Major character(s) will die, major character(s) will be injured, and Very Bad Things will happen.

Act Five

Columbia wasn't moving fast enough.

Seated in her Command Chair, Erika Hernandez glared at the blank viewscreen as she silently urged her ship to go faster, to push the envelope a bit farther than they already were. For the briefest of moments, she contemplated giving the order to increase their current speed, to coax just a little more out of the already straining engines, but discarded the idea at once. They would be no help to Enterprise if she burned up their warp drive.

If there still was an Enterprise.

Nearly ten hours had passed since the sudden communique from Admiral Gardner, nine hours and fifty-three minutes since he had informed her that Enterprise may be walking into a Romulan ambush and that he could not regain communication with Archer, nine hours and fifty-two minutes since she ordered Hess to push the warp drive harder than it had been pushed before, harder than it was ever intended to be pushed. Official Starfleet specs stated Columbia could hold a maximum warp factor of 5.125 for just over an hour.

They'd been redlining at 5.5 for nine and a half.

"Six minutes," her XO announced from the TAC, board and Erika felt the tension on the bridge spike. With a nod, she turned her attention to her communications officer.

"Anything, Pilar?" Hernandez asked, easily concealing her growing concern that they would arrive too late to help Enterprise, too late to help Jonathan. It was essential that she appeared calm, in control, rational.

Even if she was dying inside.

"No ma'am," Ensign Benitez responded and Erika frowned. At this range, they should be able to get something, some sort of outgoing signal, even if it was just a passive comm-link. Her eyes jumped to her XO once more.

"Tactical alert," she ordered and Commander Cross nodded in acknowledgment of the command. Around them, lights dimmed as the weapons systems and defensive suites sucked up energy. It might be overkill, going in loaded for bear when they didn't know what was going on, but Erika had learned since launching from Spacedock just how cold, how hostile the universe could be.

"Dropping out of warp," Ensign du Bois announced from the Helm station exactly six minutes after Cross had last spoken.

"Tac-Ops," Erika demanded as Columbia slowed to impulse. It was one of the idiosyncrasies that marked her as different from so many other starship captains, that she preferred to have a tactical display of the immediate area surrounding her ship instead of a visual of the target zone. The last year had been a grim reality check, one that had transformed her from an explorer into a soldier. She hated that.

"I read ... one displacement, ma'am," Lieutenant Commander Jansen said from the science board, her voice smooth and clear. "Scanning ... hull composition matches ... it's Enterprise." Erika let loose a breath she had not known she was holding and, from the sound, she wasn't the only one. Jansen continued, her tone suddenly bleak. "I'm reading heavy damage on Enterprise, minimal power."

"Action stations," Hernandez barked, her eyes not leaving the Tac-Ops display on the main viewscreen; it was little more than a 2D representation of the immediate area - only about 25,000 kilometers total - but was better than going in blind. Already, she was formulating battle plans and possible escape routes. Alarms began sounding throughout Columbia as personnel not already on alert raced to their duty stations. "Life signs?" she asked the science officer.

"Indeterminate," Jansen replied, her eyes glued to the sensor feed. "We're not close enough, ma'am, and there's some serious interference."

"On screen," Erika ordered. The viewscreen flickered as the Tac-Ops display transformed to a distant shot of their sister vessel and someone gasped in shock; she wasn't entirely sure that it hadn't been her.

Enterprise was a wreck. It drifted without power in a massive debris field that could only have come from another starship. Nearly half of the saucer section was simply ... gone, missing as if some great stellar beast had taken a huge bite out of the prow of the starship, a bite that extended through five decks. The port nacelle had been completely destroyed and the starboard one was dark, leaking warp plasma even now; less than a quarter of the starboard pylon remained intact, damaged, no doubt, by the exploding nacelle on the port side. Gaping holes in the outer hull revealed massive internal damage and jagged scars had been carved across her surface.

And yet, swarming around the ravaged starship were dozens of lifeboats. Hernandez felt a surge of hope well up within her, felt it struggle with the rage that simmered there.

"Someone's alive," she declared with a tight smile. "XO, have emergency teams standing by." Erika didn't even try to hide the giddy relief in her voice as she blinked away tears. "Helm, set an intercept course, maximum impulse. Science, maintain sensor sweeps; I don't want anyone sneaking up on us." She paused. "Comm, get me Starfleet Command."

There was still hope.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

There was no hope. Hope had died with Malcolm.

Hoshi Sato knelt on the deck plating, her eyes looking but not seeing, her heart fractured beyond repair, her mind numbed by grief. Around her, the sounds of repair crews hard at work echoed loudly but she did not hear them, was unaware of the sad looks she received as she caressed Malcolm's cold hand, didn't see the understanding on the faces of the Columbia crewmen assigned to the body collection detail. She wanted to cry...

But there were no tears left.

She wasn't even supposed to be here, in this temporary morgue, not with her injuries, but she couldn't find it in herself to actually care, couldn't dredge up any desire to be elsewhere. Her place was here. With Malcolm.

It wasn't really a morgue, just an empty cargo bay being used for that purpose, but she doubted that she would ever be able to look at a cargo bay in the same way. There had been no other choice in the matter; the medbay, damaged or not, had never been equipped to handle this many casualties.

And there had been so many casualties...

Hoshi knew that she was stronger than this, knew that she would survive and emerge stronger than before, but in this moment, she couldn't think of the future, couldn't imagine life without Malcolm. Unconsciously, she released his arm and splayed her hand across her stomach. Her child, their child would never know his or her father, would never see the glint of mischief in Malcolm's eyes when Trip convinced him to do something ... improper, would never hear Malcolm's laughter or see his smile or...

She drew in a deep breath and tried to focus on the PADD that Captain Tucker had given her. He wasn't actually a captain - not yet, anyway - but most of the surviving Enterprise crew had taken to addressing him like one after Columbia had arrived. Word that Starfleet planned to frock him and give him command of the NX-06 when they got back to Earth had made the rounds at faster than warp speed; she'd heard him complaining about that, wondering if there was some way to bottle the rumor mill and use it instead of a warp drive. Hoshi wanted to smile, knowing that Trip would make an excellent captain, knowing that T'Pol would go with him when she recovered, that together they would be greater than apart, but she couldn't find any strength.

She felt empty.

Her attention finally centered back on the PADD and she spent long minutes staring at it without comprehending what it actually said. It was a marriage certificate, signed by Acting-Captain Charles Tucker, witnessed by Doctor Phlox, Lieutenant Burke, and Sergeant Cole. A marriage certificate that stated she and Malcolm were newlyweds, that, by Starfleet law, she was his next-of-kin and entitled to his belongings, to his name. Trip hadn't officially submitted it to Enterprise’s computers but a subroutine written into the PADD would backdate it if she clicked the Submit button.


"It's your decision, Hoshi," Trip had said when he gave her the PADD hours ago. "I know Mal wanted you to be his wife and not just 'cause you're pregnant." That had shocked her momentarily out of her grief; she didn't know that Malcolm had told anyone and Phlox wouldn't have. She had started to protest, to point out that Reed hadn't proposed until after she revealed her pregnancy but Tucker had smiled an impossibly sad smile and told her something that shook her world: "Hosh, he bought that ring six months ago."

Submit or Delete. In the end, it came down to those two words. She wished she knew what to do. She wished she knew why it was so hard to decide. She wished...

Another memory came to her, this time of Phlox as he cautioned Commander Tucker against stopping the crew from calling him 'captain.' Hoshi hadn't meant to eavesdrop but everyone always forgot that her hearing was nearly as acute as T'Pol's.

"Most sentients need to have hope, need to know that something good comes out of a tragedy," the Denobulan doctor had told Trip, giving him an annoyingly cheerful smile that looked - even to Hoshi's eyes - forced. "Let the crew see your impending promotion as one of those good things. Give them hope again."

Hope. She had none for herself anymore. Malcolm was gone. Forever.

Somehow, she had always known he would die in service, would be killed defending others, would come home on his shield instead of carrying it. His was a life of danger, the life of a soldier trained to kill with little more than his bare hands. Hands that had touched her and made her feel alive. She couldn't remember feeling anything anymore. She wanted to go home.

"Hosh, he bought that ring six months ago."

She stared at the screen for a very long time.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

He had stared at the screen for far too long.

Phlox leaned back in the seat, relaxing for the first time in over twenty-three hours, and immediately felt a wave of fatigue wash over him. He was...nine? ten? hours into his scheduled sleep cycle and had been relying heavily on stimulants to keep himself awake and alert for much of that time. His hesitation about using another was grounded in more than simple dislike for them though; Phlox had no desire for his reliance on stims to turn into a full blown case of addiction and he was already treading dangerously close to overuse. Rubbing the bridge of his nose in a curiously human manner, he studied Columbia‘s medbay.

They had transferred the most critical patients here as soon as Columbia arrived in-system; even with the transfer of the recovering patients, such as Lieutenant Sato, to the temporary recovery ward that had been the Mess Hall, space was at a premium. Simply put, there were too few beds and far too many patients.

He almost sighed.

The ping of a biobed alarm drew his immediate attention and he hurried to Captain Archer's bed; Commander Tucker had momentarily abandoned his vigil at T'Pol's side and stood cautiously at his friend's side, anxiously watching. Phlox gave him a reassuring smile as he studied the biobed's readout carefully: the Captain was waking up again.

"Trip?" Archer's voice was slurred and his eyes unfocused, an unfortunate but entirely expected side effect of the powerful painkillers he was on. That he was even aware of his friend's presence was astounding.

"Right here, sir," Tucker quickly responded, dropping his hand onto his captain's good shoulder. "How ya doin'?" he asked with a forced grin. "'Cause you look like crap." Archer gave him a weak smile.

"I feel okay ..." The captain's words trailed off and Phlox double-checked the biobed's readouts; Archer's vitals remained strong. "Enterprise?" Tucker visibly winced before replying and Phlox thought it a good thing that the captain was too out of it to notice.

"Don't worry about it, sir; I've got everything under control." He squeezed Archer's shoulder again, a gesture conveying his concern. "You just focus on gettin' better, okay?" The captain smiled again.

"Okay..." Unconsciousness rolled back over him and he slept once more. Tucker glanced up at Phlox, his face creased with concern.

"Is this normal? Him driftin' in and out like this?"

"Absolutely," Phlox nodded, noting the sheer exhaustion on Tucker's face. "When did you sleep last, Commander?" The engineer shrugged, his eyes drifting away from Archer and back to T'Pol's face. She was three beds away, silent and unmoving but still alive.

"Dunno," Tucker replied. "Too much to do." He frowned, his eyes locked on the Vulcan's sleeping form, and when he spoke, his words were soft, meant only for Phlox's ears. "And how can I sleep while she's hurt?" The pain in his voice cut like a laser.

"Please, Mister Tucker, you must remain calm."

"Calm?" He drew a ragged breath as tears sprang into his eyes and anger leaked into his voice. "How the hell am I supposed to be calm after you tell me she can't have kids?" Phlox opened his mouth to correct the engineer, to remind him that he had merely said he was uncertain if T'Pol could bear a child, that the fracture of her pelvic ring was extremely severe - not to mention the inherent difficulty in cross-species mating, but Tucker was oblivious, momentarily lost in his grief, grief that he had been keeping contained for far too long. "I've been sittin' in here for God knows how long, feelin' like absolute shit 'cause Malcolm...'cause some of my best damned friends just died and all I can think about is how much I wanted to see Lorian again and you want me to be calm?" A sudden whimper - a feminine whimper - snapped Tucker out of his growing tirade and he reacted even before Phlox had completely recognized the sound. Taking two long strides, Commander Tucker crossed the distance to T'Pol's biobed and reached out to touch her arm; she stilled almost immediately, soothed by more than just his mere physical presence. If Phlox hadn't already known about their bond from careful observation, her reaction would have confirmed any suspicions.

"For your mate's sake," Phlox whispered to him. "You must remain calm! Your emotional state affects hers as well!" The engineer gave him a wide-eyed stare, abruptly realizing he was ranting about private matters in a very public location. Phlox smiled comfortingly at him. "I must admit," the doctor said, "I'm a little surprised the two of you have discussed children already." Tucker smiled bitterly.

"Hell, doc," he replied, reaching out to stroke T'Pol's face; he caught himself before doing so, no doubt remembering that they were in public, and merely brushed some hair from her closed eyes. "We've been talkin' about kids since..." His words trailed off and another infinitely sad look flashed across his face. Phlox knew at once who he was thinking of.

"Elizabeth." Tucker nodded, lowering himself into the uncomfortable visiting chair.

"Yeah." He did stroke her face this time. "Guess it's just not meant to be," Trip muttered softly, sadly, and Phlox felt his heart break.

In that moment, he made a pact with himself, swearing to whatever higher powers there existed in this universe that he would dedicate the rest of his life if need be to see that this couple - his friends - could be parents. Whatever it takes, he promised as he patted Trip on the shoulder and moved away; there were other patients to check on.

Minutes - or perhaps it was hours; he had lost track of time once more - later, the door to the sickbay slid open, allowing Captain Hernandez entry, and Phlox forced a wan smile onto his face. She gave him a slight nod, taking in the vaguely funereal silence without comment; her eyes automatically sought out the unconscious Captain Archer and Phlox saw the unmistakable concern of a woman for her lover. How interesting, he thought to himself as she frowned.

"Hello, Captain," Phlox greeted her, not moving from where he monitored Petty Officer Fuller's erratic vital signs. He hoped that surgery would not again be necessary.

"Doctor," she said in response. Another frown came to her and Phlox couldn't help but note how...militaristic her bearing had become since he last interacted with her. The last year must have been hard on Columbia. "Doctor Hayes isn't here?" Her tone was tinged with annoyance; apparently, she expected Columbia's chief medical officer to be more than human.

"I sent her to her quarters," he replied with forced cheerfulness. "An exhausted doctor is a useless doctor," Phlox said, a rueful grin on his face. Hernandez gave him an appraising look. "Christine will relieve me in..." He glanced at the wall chronometer. "Three hours." The captain nodded.

"I'm looking for Commander Tucker," she said and Phlox gestured toward the engineer as he spoke, his eyes still riveted on Fuller's vitals.

"Can it wait, Captain? Mister Tucker has been awake for over forty hours and needs to rest." She started to reply but hesitated, blinked, and then offered a slight smile that softened her features. Phlox glanced at Tucker and fought his own grin. It's about time! he thought to himself.

Still seated in the visitor's chair, the engineer had finally dozed off, the accumulated stress and grief having taken its toll at long last. Instead of reclining in his seat, however, Tucker had leaned forward to rest his head on T'Pol's biobed; using his left forearm as a pillow, he breathed deeply and evenly, in perfect unison with the Vulcan, the doctor realized. Even though she was heavily sedated, T'Pol abruptly shifted closer to Trip, her left hand seeking his right, and her entire body seemed to soften toward him. Staring at their intertwined fingers, Phlox realized that, for the first time in far too long, both appeared to be completely at peace. A remarkable image, he thought to himself with a smile.

"Well," Hernandez muttered under her in breath, her comments not intended to be heard by Phlox. "That explains why he wanted to get back to Enterprise." She didn't sound annoyed or even particularly surprised and for that, Phlox was relieved. Glancing back at him, her expression became serious once more. "What's the butcher's bill, Doctor?" she asked and he nearly frowned; he'd heard that expression before and had hated it at once. In this one instance, however, it seemed absolutely appropriate.

"Thirty-nine." Hernandez almost winced and glanced away, no doubt thinking about the crew on her own ship and putting faces to that number. "There are still seventeen criticals and nearly everyone else is injured."

"How's Jon?" she asked softly.

"Captain Archer has suffered serious injuries that will take a considerable amount of time to recover from." He gave her a smile to counterbalance this information. "But he will recover."

"And Commander Tucker?" The relief in her voice that Archer would make it was telling.

"Ah, Mister Tucker." Phlox smiled again, amused despite himself. "It appears that the commander has somehow miraculously escaped injury." He paused, then smiled again as he recalled the engineer's explanation. "I believe he referred to it as the law of averages working in his benefit for once." Hernandez shook her head in amusement.

"What about Commander T'Pol?" she asked curiously, her eyes drifting back to the unexpected scene of a Vulcan deriving comfort from the presence of a human. It was fortunate, Phlox mused, that she looked away when she did; it prevented her from noticing the brief expression of sadness that flashed over his face.

"Her injuries are not life threatening," he answered cryptically. Hernandez gave him a look. From her expression, she expected him to elaborate but he said nothing more, merely gave her a blank look that gave away nothing.

"Will she recover?" Hernandez pressed and he studied her for a moment.

"Time will tell, Captain." he told her, smiling his inhuman smile.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Smiling was too much effort.

Arms clasped at the small of his back, Trip Tucker stood before the viewport, jaw aching from the fierce grimace that he wore on his face. He stared at the image before him, unblinking and unmoving. A part of him was screaming to turn away, to close his eyes to the nightmarish scenario being played out in the hard vacuum of space, but doing so would have felt like betrayal.

Nacelles dark, Enterprise drifted. She was a shattered wreck now, incapable of supporting life for even a minute and hazardous even to the repair crews. In the three days since Columbias arrival, four members of the salvage crew had been injured during rescue operations, forcing Captain Hernandez, as the ranking officer in-system, to order everyone from the NX-01.

Trip had been the last one to leave.

Even now, he felt anger warring with despair as he studied what remained of Enterprise. For nearly ten years, she had been his one true love, and the starship had been a jealous mistress. His relationship with Natalie had fallen apart because of his obsession, and, in his less rational moments, he had wondered if his relationship with T'Pol would suffer the same fate. Even before the first duranium bulkhead had been crafted, or the first seam welded, Tucker had eaten, breathed and dreamed of Enterprise.

And now, she was gone.

The door annunciator chirped, and Trip scowled darkly before glancing toward the entrance.

"Enter," he snapped, even as his eyes returned to the unmoving husk of a ship.

"Shouldn't you be resting?" Captain Hernandez asked the moment she entered the cabin, and Trip grunted in response. Phlox had ordered him to quarters, going so far as to prescribe a sedative, but Tucker had insisted it wasn't necessary. That wasn't entirely a lie: Trip was so tired that he knew he'd fall asleep the minute his head hit the pillow, but he couldn't tear his attention from the ship he'd abandoned.

His ship.

"We've received word from Starfleet Command," Hernandez continued after a moment, evidently realizing that Trip wasn't going to reply. It was enough to draw his notice, and he shifted his attention to her reflection. "These ... Romulans nuked three other colonies," she revealed grimly. "As well as the Salem One station, Deep Space Two and Cold Station Five." She paused for a moment, visibly reigning in her anger. "The Vulcans have dispatched a ship to help tow Enterprise back to Earth. It should be here in seventy hours."

"Good." Trip couldn't manage more than that and his eyes drifted back to the dead ship beyond the viewport. He could sense Hernandez's study of him, but made no comment. Finally, she spoke.

"Jon is awake," she stated, and once more, he shifted his attention back to her reflection. "And I think he wants to talk to you." Grimacing slightly, Tucker turned slowly from the viewport, straightening his uniform as he did so. More than anywhere else, he didn't want to go to Sickbay right now.

It was ironic, he mused, that one of his best friends was a physician, yet Tucker couldn't stand the too familiar smell that seemed almost universal at every medical facility around the galaxy. Admittedly, he had far too many negative memories associated with sickbay to be entirely unbiased, whether it was the shock of learning that he was pregnant because of putting his fingers in a bowl of rocks, or discovering the hows and whys of Sim's short life, or watching an unexpected but not unwanted daughter slowly slip away and not being able to do anything about it. More recently, Phlox's pronouncement that T'Pol might not be able to have children only added to Trip's growing hatred of medical facilities.

Exhaling softly, Tucker forced a smile on his face as he tried to suppress the emotions that suddenly threatened to overwhelm him. T'Pol needed him to be positive right now, and Doctor Phlox had pointed out that he wouldn't know for certain until the Vulcan healed. Besides, as T'Pol had argued, they could always adopt when the time came, or use the same process that had birthed Elizabeth. Focus on the positive, Trip ordered himself as Captain Hernandez preceded him out of the cabin.

His smile faltered slightly at the number of Enterprise personnel assembled in the medical bay, and Trip felt his mouth go dry. Every one of them was eyeing him, and more often than not weren't even trying to hide their smile. Phlox was standing before Hoshi Sato, currently seated in an uncomfortable-looking wheelchair. Jonathan Archer was lying still upon his biobed, dressed in an ugly one-piece hospital gown. Despite his apparent weakness – he had just undergone surgery, after all – Jon was grinning, and the smile was so bright it robbed him of several decades. For a few moments, the war weary veteran that Trip had served under for years now was gone, replaced by the eager commander who had wanted to prove to the galaxy that humanity was ready for the stars.

Trip gave his old friend a quick nod before turning his eyes to T'Pol. Stretched out atop her bed, she looked tired, but in otherwise good shape. Like Archer, she was wearing the hospital gown, but, in Trip's opinion, it looked much better on her than the captain. She gave him that not-there smile of hers as he approached, and Tucker returned it with a slight smile of his own.

"Couldn't convince them to let you out of bed, huh?" he asked flippantly. The Vulcan quirked an eyebrow in response.

"Obviously not," she retorted. Their fingers touched – discreetly, of course – and he felt the flood of her emotions swell through the bond. She was exhausted, he realized, and more annoyed about being ordered to remain in bed than she appeared. Her concern over his own tired appearance made him smile again.

"Commander Tucker," Jon said abruptly, speaking in a formal if somewhat raspy tone, and Trip felt his stomach twist slightly when he realized why Archer had wanted him present. After all of the missteps he'd taken in his career, Tucker had given up the distant dream of ever experiencing this, and now that it had come, he realized that he still wasn't ready for it. He shoved aside the butterflies that were playing football in his stomach, and walked the short distance to where Archer reclined. On the other side of the captain's bed, Hoshi straightened in her wheelchair and lifted a PADD. Without being told to, Trip assumed the position of attention before his commanding officer, and Jon nodded to Sato.

"Attention to Orders!" Hoshi said loudly. To Trip's mild embarrassment, the nurses and orderlies in sickbay snapped to attention with a loud clack of boots striking. Every one of the wounded officers and enlisted personnel who could walk did the same, and Tucker could feel his ears reddening. Even the bedridden crewmen straightened.

"The President of United Earth," Sato continued, "has reposed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, valor, and fidelity of Commander Charles Tucker the Third." As she paused, Archer smiled and reached into his hospital gown pocket, wincing with each movement. He removed a small box, and nodded discreetly to Hoshi. She continued. "In view of these qualities," the lieutenant declared, "and his demonstrated potential for increased responsibility, he is, therefore, promoted to the rank of captain, effective 15 March 2156."

"Bend down here," Archer ordered with a broad grin. Trip knelt, feeling a rush of emotion that was not his. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see T'Pol watching from her bed, eyes glittering with pride. "These were mine," Archer revealed as he extracted the four pip rank insignia. "And I want you to have them."

"Thank you, sir," Trip whispered softly. His voice cracked slightly as he spoke, and his old friend grinned once more. Without further comment, Archer removed the commander's rank from Tucker's uniform and pinned on the four pips.

"Congratulations, Captain Tucker," Jon said loudly, offering his hand. The moment that Trip took it, the assembled patients and caregivers broke out into applause. Phlox was especially vocal, going so far as to attempt a whistle. The doctor quickly abandoned the attempt, however, when both T'Pol and Hoshi winced, and shot him identical looks of annoyance.

"Detachment, present arms!" a familiar voice shouted, and the ten MACOs present saluted crisply. From where she stood at their forefront, Sergeant Amanda Cole offered a tight smile. "Order arms!" she ordered, and the salutes were lowered just as sharply. Cole strode forward, offering her hand. In the back of his head, Trip felt T'Pol's irrational dislike of the sergeant, even though she knew that Amanda was hardly a threat.

It made him smile.

"Congratulations, Captain," Cole said. Her grip was slightly stronger than Trip's, and his smile faded slightly.

A dizzying number of Enterprise crewmembers wanted to offer their own congratulations, and every one of them asked if Trip had a place for them on Endeavour once the NX-06 launched. Every single one. It left him reeling in mild shock that they trusted him enough to ship out under his command. He lost track of how many times he shook hands with someone he barely knew, or promised that yes, there was a berth on Endeavour for them.

"You look shell shocked," Jon told him after things settled down, and Trip gave him a nod.

"That's 'cause I am," he replied. "Never would have expected all of them to want to go back out there," Tucker continued. "Not after what happened..."

"They trust you," T'Pol pointed out from her bed. Her mood had soured since the ceremony; Phlox had steadfastly refused to allow her to stand in order to offer her own congratulations, and had even threatened to have her sedated if she tried.

"I still don't see why they didn't promote you," Trip said. That wasn't entirely true, though. He did understand the reason behind that, even if he didn't agree with it. As a relative newcomer to Starfleet, T'Pol didn't have the requisite time in service to be given her own command, even if she had more time in space than most of the admirals. There had nearly been a revolt in the officer corps when Admiral Forrest gave her a commission at the rank of commander, thus bumping her past many junior officers who had spent ten or fifteen years in service attempting to earn such a coveted rank. The truth was that Starfleet just wasn't ready for a Vulcan captain.

That Starfleet Command had deemed him worthy of a captaincy still puzzled him. When he had ordered Enterprise into Andorian space against orders, Trip had done so knowing that it would doom his career. Ultimately, it had worked out, and both Ambassador Soval and Minister T'Pau had written glowing commendations for his work in preventing a war, but there were too many flag officers who had hadn't forgotten that Tucker had ignored a direct command. Promotion had seemed unlikely at best.

The Romulan attack changed everything.

Overnight, Starfleet found itself involved in a war it didn't want and wasn't prepared for. Trip's mistakes suddenly seemed less important than the fact that, against all odds, he was an excellent combat commander.

Two hours later found him evicted from sickbay at Phlox's order. Though Trip wished he could visit longer, the doctor had been adamant that his patients needed their rest. Tucker couldn't really argue that, as Jon had already dozed off due to the painkillers he was on and T'Pol was doing a poor job of hiding her own discomfort. Realizing that he hadn't eaten in nearly two days, Trip made a beeline for the mess hall.

Once there though, Trip found himself standing before the viewport and staring at the endless blanket of night with a growing frown. Five years ago, he realized darkly, he would have looked at the twinkling stars with hope and eagerness. Five years ago, they held nothing but the promise of a better tomorrow, a chance to boldly go where no man had gone before, and to explore strange new worlds.

Now, they only seemed to represent death and destruction.

He had been an optimist when Enterprise launched, and now, so many years after that fact, looked back at how naïve he had been with the kind of mild scorn one generally held for their idiot cousin. How many more lives, he wondered, would be lost as mankind tried to find their place in the stars? How many more Malcolm Reeds, or Travis Mayweathers, or David Kelbys would die? Anger and grief pressed in on him, and Trip closed his eyes against the tears that wanted to flow. He couldn't afford to grieve, not yet. Not while the Romulans were out there, waging their war against humanity. Not while there were people relying on him.

Trip opened his eyes. There was work to do.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

"Three years ago, Earth was viciously attacked without provocation by an alien species manipulated into thinking that humanity was their enemy. That date, March 24th, joined December 7th, September 11th, July 7th, and October 1st as a date that will forever be seared into our consciousness. Now, another date has joined them, and it too will live on in infamy.

"Yesterday, March 15th, 2156, four human colonies and three human space stations were suddenly and deliberately attacked by the forces of the Romulan Empire.

"We were not at war with this species, nor was Earth infringing upon their sovereign territory. At no time have we harbored any ill will toward these our brothers from the stars, and have even extended the hand of friendship to them in every way we can. And yet, despite our attempts, we have been rebuffed in the most savage way imaginable.

"It must be noted that the distance between the seven locations that were attacked, and the timing of these attacks makes it obvious that this was deliberately planned and cannot be construed as anything but an act of war. We do not have an accurate death toll yet, but early estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands, with as many as one and a half million possibly slain in an unprovoked attack.

"Therefore, as the commander in chief of United Earth forces, I have directed both Starfleet and the Military Assault Command Operations to take any and all measures for our defense. I have further asked that the Congress declare that a state of war now exist between the territories of Earth and the Romulan Empire.

"At 1700 Hours Zulu today, Congress has responded and passed a unanimous resolution that backs this request.

"As of this moment, Earth is at war.

"And may God have mercy on our souls."

-Excerpts from UE President Anastasia Molyneux's speech before Congress,

March 16, 2156.


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Author's Final Note:

I have recently revised and revamped Elysium to better bring it in line with the Endeavour series. There are minor adjustments throughout the body until you reach act 5 ... which is significantly adjusted. The "22 Years Later" elements of Elysium have been completely excised and replaced with two scenes that, in my opinion, work better as a set-up for Endeavour: Vigrid.

This returns Elysium closer to the original ending that I envisioned when I first began writing the fic. I hope you enjoy the adjustments...