Log Rhythms - Season Two
Cormack sat impatiently on the biobed. A curtain separated the medical bay from the rest of sickbay, giving her a modicum of privacy. There was a lengthy line of crewmembers beyond the curtain, and as she had waited for her turn several others had passed her on their way out. Lieutenant Reed had been among them. He'd given her a smile and a nod of encouragement as he'd gone by.
Phlox pressed a hypospray against Cormack's neck, and she flinched instinctively. "I'm sorry, Ensign. Did I hurt you?"
"No. It's just a conditioned response. I don't like hypos."
"Ah, yes. I remember your dislike of them. You're free to go. Please come see me if you suffer any of the potential side effects."
"Side effects?" demanded the ensign. She'd stood up and was ready to make a speedy exit when the doctor's words stopped her in her tracks. "You didn't mention the side effects before you gave me the shot."
"Didn't I? I’m very sorry," said Phlox, surprised. "I've warned so many people already, perhaps I lost track for a moment."
"So what are these side effects?"
"Headache, nausea, and diarrhea are the most common. Very few people ever suffer from all of them—if they experience any at all. And one's reaction is usually mild."
"Great," snapped Cormack.
Phlox's expression remained pleasant, but there was a slight edge to his voice. "It's not as if you were going to be exempt from the vaccination, Ensign. The lymphatic virus I detected this morning is quite contagious; everyone must be inoculated. You're welcome to return at any time if you feel any ill effects."
"Thanks." She shook her head. "Sorry I snapped at you, Doc."
"Apology accepted. Now please move along. I still have a number of people to see."
"Right." Cormack stepped outside the curtain. She looked at the crewman who was next in line. "Have fun," she said flatly.
She left sickbay and hailed a lift, ready to return to work. She was looking forward to getting back to recalibrating the torpedo launchers. She heaved a sigh as the turbolift made its quick descent to F-deck.
"Hey, Lieutenant," she called as she entered the armory.
Reed glanced up and smiled. "Welcome back. Everything go all right in sickbay?"
"As all right as possible, I guess. Ask me in a couple of hours when I'm puking my guts up." She didn't really expect it to happen, but she was feeling grumpy and a bit pugnacious.
"Thank you for that lovely imagery, Ensign," said Reed dryly.
"Sorry. How's the recalibration going?"
"Slowly, but on schedule." A red light flashed suddenly on the control panel in front of him. "Of course, I spoke too soon." He ran a quick query to find the source of the problem. "Damn. It's a fault in the power conduit in the port launch tube."
"Where?" asked Cormack, looking at the computer screen. She spotted it the same time Reed spoke.
"There," he said, pointing.
"Damn is right. We can't access that through the jefferies tubes. I'll have to go into the launch tube proper. Give me a second to grab a toolkit."
"I can go," offered Reed. He opened the launch tube hatch.
"It's okay, Lieutenant. I'm over that little claustrophobia issue, remember? Besides, with those shoulders, you'll just get stuck." She crossed the armory and opened a locker, retrieving a standard toolkit from its interior. She headed to the port launch tube. "Just don't shoot me out the other end, eh?" she joked.
"I'll try not to," he replied lightly. He handed her a communicator, which the ensign tucked into a sleeve pocket. "The fault is only about four meters in, but it'll be easier to use a communicator than trying to shout at each other."
"Thanks. That's a good point," agreed Cormack. She laid down on the torpedo pad and wriggled her way into the launch tube, pushing the toolkit before her.
Twenty minutes later, she was sincerely regretting her actions. Fortunately, she was almost done. One last screw to replace, she reassured herself, and you can get out of here and go die somewhere. The "possible side effects" Phlox had spoken of were making their presence known. Her head throbbed worse than any hangover she'd ever experienced, and the pain was causing her stomach to do unnatural flip-flops.
After what seemed like forever, she had the small access panel back in place and was ready to come out. She pushed herself back toward the launch tube's opening, dragging the toolkit with her. The noise of the plastic case scraping on the metal tube was nearly enough to send her over the edge, but she clamped her mouth shut and gritted her teeth, and finally she was out.
"Well done, Ensign," said Reed as she emerged.
Cormack didn't hear him. Letting go of the toolkit, she slid unceremoniously off the torpedo pad and onto the deck. She leaned against the bulkhead and let her head rest on her knees. Hiding her eyes behind her arms, she tried to block out any and all light.
"Stephanie?" Reed asked, concerned. He knelt next to her, placed a hand on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"
"Headache," she mumbled indistinctly.
Now he understood. These were two of the three things Phlox had warned him might accompany the inoculations against the lymphatic virus he'd detected that morning. "Can I get you anything?"
"Uh-huh." Cormack took a steadying breath, willing back the nausea. "Phlox and a bucket and not in that order."
It was Ensign Cutler who responded to the hail from the armory. She squatted next to her bunkmate and scanned her quickly. "How are you feeling?" she asked as she ran the medical scanner over her friend.
"Like shit," was Cormack's tight-lipped reply. Reed had found an empty storage canister, and she'd already used it rid her stomach of what little remained of her breakfast. Since then, she'd been alternately shivering against the bulkhead and dry heaving into the container.
"You're having an allergic reaction to the vaccine," Cutler told her. She pulled out a hypospray. "This will calm your stomach and ease your headache enough to get you to sickbay where the doctor can take a closer look. Okay?" She pressed the hypo against Cormack's neck; again, the blonde woman winced in reaction. "Sorry. Now just try to relax. It shouldn't take long."
"Is she going to be all right, Ensign?" asked Reed, worry creasing his brow.
"Yes, sir," Cutler assured him.
Already, Cormack looked better. She was still pasty white, but her shivering had stopped and she appeared to relax a little.
"Can you stand?" Cutler asked her. "Or should I order a litter?"
"I can stand," said Cormack weakly. "I think." With the help of Cutler and Reed, she rose. She took a moment to get her balance.
"Do you need a hand getting to sickbay?" offered the lieutenant.
"No, thanks," Cormack said. "I can make it."
Cutler put an arm around her. "Lean on me," she said. The pair made their way unsteadily into the corridor and to the nearest turbolift. Cutler hailed the lift and they stepped inside. Cormack moaned involuntarily at the motion as it ascended. "Shh. It's okay. We're nearly there."
It wasn't far to sickbay, and they made it the rest of the way without mishap. The last of the crewmembers to be inoculated was just leaving. He gave the women a dubious look.
"You should worry," Cormack told him, her voice harsh from vomiting. "This could be you in half an hour."
"You're not helping," Cutler whispered as the crewman retreated swiftly.
"I don't care."
"Doctor?" called Cutler as they entered sickbay.
"Hello," said Phlox, emerging from the back of the large, curved room. He was surprised to see two women facing him. He'd expected the numerous calls complaining of the various ailments resulting from the vaccinations. He'd logically assumed the call from the armory would be yet another, and that Cutler would return from it on her own. "What's the trouble?" he asked. He put an arm around the ailing ensign, and between him and Cutler, they got Cormack to the central biobed.
"Allergic reaction to the vaccine," said Cutler quickly.
"Try to relax, Ensign," Phlox said to Cormack. "I just need to take a brief scan." Cormack nodded weakly. Phlox slid the bed into the imaging chamber, and sealed it. In moments the scanner had done its job, and he opened it once again. The bed slid smoothly out—but not smoothly enough for Cormack.
She sat up immediately, her eyes wide. One hand covered her mouth, the other clutched her stomach.
Recognizing the signs, the doctor grabbed a bio-waste pan and held it under her chin. It served little purpose. Cormack shook as the dry heaves wracked her body, bringing nothing more up. She continued to gasp and gag uselessly.
Phlox regarded the panels above the imaging chamber, assessing the situation. "What did you give her?" he asked Cutler.
"Ten c.c.s of inoprovaline. It seemed to help, but now "
"Take this, just in case." He handed her the pan before stepping to a medicine locker.
Cutler took the pan and held it in one hand before her friend. She wrapped her free arm around Cormack, helping hold her steady.
Phlox returned quickly and administered another hypospray to Cormack's neck. Almost immediately her violent reactions ceased. She stopped choking and began to breathe more normally. Cutler set the pan aside, but continued to hold onto her.
Cormack leaned heavily against her bunkmate, unable to remain upright on her own. She took a slow, deep breath. "Somebody, please, kill me now," she said weakly.
"No such luck, I'm afraid," teased Cutler consolingly. "Lie down." She eased the blonde woman down so she was once more lying on the biobed. Instinctively, Cormack rolled onto her side and curled up into a fetal position. Cutler didn't like the wan look on her friend's face. She glanced at Phlox. "I'll get a blanket."
"Thank you, Ensign." Phlox examined the panel above Cormack's head once more, pleased to see the medicine he'd given her was working as it should. "We're going to have to clear the vaccine I gave you earlier out of you system," he informed her. "I've never seen anyone react so severely to it. It's most unusual."
Cutler returned with the blanket and spread it over Cormack. She'd also brought a hot washcloth with her. "What can I do, Doctor?" she asked as she gently wiped the chilled sweat from Cormack's face.
"Regulan blood worms," Phlox said with authority. "They're the most efficient method of clearing toxins from the blood. And we'll need a saline I.V. She's very dehydrated."
Cormack heard his words and wanted to protest, but she was too exhausted and miserable to say anything. Later, her spinning mind promised her. I'll protest the worms later.
"Come on in," called Tucker at the sound of the door chime.
Reed entered the captain's ready room a bit reluctantly, uncomfortable to be there when the captain wasn't even on the ship. "I've finished recalibrating the torpedo launchers, and I've redirected the computer resources back to Main Engineering," he informed the Acting Captain, handing over a datapad. "We can bring the warp engines back online anytime now."
Trip lit up at this information. "That's the first good news I've heard all day," he said. He glanced at the chronometer that sat on the desk. It read 2203. "And it's been a hell of a long day!" He sat back heavily in the chair.
"You'll get no argument from me," replied Malcolm. He pulled up another chair and sat. "Half my team is down with a variety of ailments from that vaccine Phlox gave everyone."
"Damn. I knew something like this'd happen. A bunch of my people are out, too. Phlox promised it'd only last a couple of days, though. And it needed to be done." The tone of his voice indicated he sincerely needed confirmation on this point.
Malcolm nodded. "It did. Better to have a crew with a few headaches and upset stomachs than suffering from a lymphatic virus." He'd been fighting off a mild headache, himself, since not long after his own inoculation that afternoon. He decided not to mention it to his partner. Trip obviously felt guilty for giving Phlox the go-ahead to vaccinate everyone. He didn't need to add to it. Instead, Malcolm decided to change the subject.
"How did your impersonation act go?" he asked.
Trip sank further into the chair. "Fine, I suppose. I must have fooled Captain Tavek, or he wouldn't have given me that 'important message' Admiral Forrest sent to the Captain."
"What was the message, anyway?" Malcolm wanted to know. "Or is it classified?"
"No, it's not classified."
"So, what is it?"
"Cal beat Stanford seven to three."
There was a stunned silence in the ready room. "You're joking," Malcolm said at last.
"I wish I was."
"You went through all that just to get a water-polo score?" He tried not to laugh, but he couldn't help it.
Trip gave him an annoyed but sheepish look. "Don't mention it to anyone else, okay? My reputation is dubious enough. I don't need this little incident added to it."
"No one will ever hear it from me, I promise you," pledged Malcolm. "But you might want to take the extra rank insignia from your uniform."
"Huh?" Trip sat up straighter and looked down at himself. He was still sporting the four pips indicative of a Starfleet Captain, which he'd donned before contacting the captain of the Nyran. "Thank you," he said sincerely, removing the extra pip. He relaxed noticeably with it off. "You hungry? Or did you already have dinner?"
"I'm famished," said Malcolm.
"Join me in the mess hall? Assuming there's anything left."
"Not the Captain's Mess?" asked his partner, unable to resist the gibe.
His question only garnered him another pursed-lipped glare. "I don't think so. Lunch was plenty."
"All right." Both men rose. "Do you mind if we make a quick stop at sickbay on the way?"
"Something wrong?" Trip was immediately concerned.
Malcolm was glad he hadn't mentioned his headache. "I just wanted to check on Ensign Cormack."
"Right. Of course." Caught up in his own immediate concerns, the Acting Captain had forgotten about Cormack. He'd been notified by Phlox of the ensign's violent reaction to the inoculation, but it had slipped his mind.
"I can meet you in the mess hall after I've seen her, if you'd prefer," offered Malcolm
"No, no. I should check up on her, too. She's a member of my crew," he added firmly. He willfully set aside his personal feelings about blonde woman. "Let's go see her."
Reed was pleased to see Cormack looking so much better than she had that afternoon. She was still pale, and she looked drained, but the lines of pain were gone from her face and she was no longer shivering.
"How are you feeling?" he asked her.
"Rotten," answered Stephanie. Her voice was rough from the trauma her throat had undergone. "But less rotten than before. I hate to admit it, but those Regulan blood worms of the doc's really know what they're doing."
Malcolm blanched. His own experience with the invertebrates wasn't a pleasant memory. "You think so? I can't abide the things myself." He glanced over his shoulder and caught Trip's eye, then turned back to the woman on the biobed. "There's someone else here to see you. He wanted to make certain you were doing all right."
The perplexed look on Cormack's face only increased when Reed stepped aside to reveal Tucker. The Acting Captain stepped forward, and Reed subtly faded into the background—not far, but out of the way.
"You look like hell, Ensign," Tucker said by way of a hello.
Reed flinched internally. Not the opening line I'd have gone with, he thought. He continued to watch their interaction carefully, hoping to see some breaking down of the barriers Tucker had built between himself and the ensign.
"Yes, sir," said Cormack. "I expect so."
"But the doc says you're doing better." His stomach gave a sympathetic lurch as he looked at her. He'd been in her position more than once, and he knew how much it sucked. She appeared tired and very vulnerable lying there, plugged into an I.V. and with all sorts of medical readouts glowing on the screen above the biobed.
It was a fascinating study, when Reed managed to distance himself from the scene enough to be objective. He'd never seen Trip so uncomfortable around anyone. It puzzled him profoundly.
"I'm sorry you had to go through such a rotten time," the commander continued.
"Thank you, sir," Cormack replied, grateful but still completely bewildered. She supposed it made sense on some level. He was in command and he wanted to make sure his crew were all right, so he'd stopped in to see her.
"Well feel better." Trip was at a loss as to what else to say. It was unusual for him. He didn't have trouble thinking of things under normal circumstances. He'd never had trouble talking to Malcolm or Jon or anyone else he'd visited in sickbay over the course of their mission. That was different, he said to himself. He turned to go, then paused and looked back at her. "You're excused from duty 'til you're feeling better, of course," he said.
"Yes, sir. That's what Doctor Phlox told me."
"Right. Well " he said again, "I'll see ya later." He turned to go once more, desperate to escape the awkward and uncomfortable situation.
"Sir?" said Cormack.
He paused and looked at her. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for checking up on me. I appreciate it."
"Sure. No problem." He glanced at Malcolm. "I'll wait for you outside," he mumbled to the lieutenant before making his escape.
There was silence in the medical bay for several seconds after Tucker's hasty departure.
"So, did you put him up to that?" asked Stephanie finally.
"No," answered Malcolm. "It was his idea. He is trying, you know."
"I know. I just wish there was something I could do."
"You can get better."
"I mean about him and me," she said, mildly chiding. She recognized Malcolm's attempt to change the subject, and wouldn't let him. "If I knew what I'd done to make him hate me, I'd apologize."
"He doesn't hate you!" exclaimed Malcolm immediately.
"Okay. But he dislikes me. You can't deny that." She yawned.
"I'll go. You're tired."
"Yeah, I am. I really appreciate you stopping by, Malcolm. I hate being stuck in here."
"I know the feeling," he agreed wholeheartedly. "At least Phlox hasn't put you in decon."
"Without the vaccine in your system, you're vulnerable to the lymphatic virus. You're lucky he hasn't quarantined you in decon to keep you clear of it until the air scrubbers have cleaned it from the ship's atmosphere."
"Oh my gods!" whispered Stephanie with as much vehemence as she could muster. "Don't give him any ideas!"
Malcolm chuckled softly, though the issue still bothered him. "Sorry. Will the doctor be releasing you tomorrow, do you think?" he asked, offering the opposite possibility to being quarantined in the hopes of cheering her up.
"He said maybe when I asked. I'm trying to be good so he won't make me stay."
"Very wise. I'd better go. I'll come see you tomorrow, wherever you are."
"Thanks." Stephanie yawned again, tried to stifle it with the hand not hooked up to the I.V.
Malcolm slipped quietly out of the medical bay, shutting the curtain behind him. He hesitated only briefly before approaching Phlox.
"Doctor," he began softly, "I'm a bit concerned about Ensign Cormack."
"She'll be just fine, Lieutenant," the Denobulan assured him. "It was a particularly nasty reaction, I'll admit, but there won't be any permanent ill effects."
"It's not that." He hated to go against Stephanie's wishes, but felt in this case it was necessary. "I'm concerned that without the vaccination, she's susceptible to the lymphatic virus. Shouldn't she be quarantined to protect her? Perhaps in her quarters?" he added hastily. He felt guilty about making the suggestion at all; he wasn't going to be the one to suggest decon.
"Not at all. I did a blood work-up on her once we got her system settled. I'm happy to say the vaccine did its job before causing all its nasty little problems. It turned out it was the inactive ingredients in it that were causing all the trouble for her."
"Inactive ingredients?" Like all armory personnel, Reed was a trained field medic, but that training hadn't gone into great depth on medicinal compounds.
"The inert carrier solution for the actual inoculant," Phlox explained. "It may also ease your mind to know that I'm also carefully monitoring the ship's air filtration system. The computer will alert me immediately if the virus spreads, or when it's been cleared from the atmosphere. Until then, Ensign Cormack will be fine right where she is."
Reed nodded gratefully. "Thank you."
Reed emerged from sickbay to find Tucker waiting in the corridor as promised. They strolled toward the mess hall in silence.
Finally, Malcolm spoke. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" he asked.
Trip shook his head. "I guess not."
"I really wish I knew what the problem was between you two."
The engineer shrugged and made a noncommittal noise.
"She'd like to know, as well," Malcolm added. "She said she'd apologize, if only she knew what for."
"I don't know what for, Malcolm," said Trip abruptly. "Can we not talk about this right now? If you remember, I didn't exactly get lunch, and I'm real hungry."
Malcolm did remember. He and Phlox had rather unkindly ganged up on Acting Captain Tucker that afternoon in the captain's private dining room. Malcolm had found that while he and the Denobulan often disagreed about methods and procedures, they actually had a lot more in common than not. In fact, Malcolm had long ago discovered Phlox had quite an interesting sense of humor. Together, they'd played Trip a little cruelly over lunch.
He needed it, Malcolm told himself. He was getting a bit big for his britches. And it hadn't just been his own and Phlox's interruptions that had kept the commander from his meal. Hoshi had called in twice with requests from Captain Tavek of the Vulcan ship Nyran to speak with Captain Archer.
He decided to let the subject of Ensign Cormack go for the time being, as something of an apology for his earlier teasing. "Let me buy you a drink," he said as they entered the quiet mess hall. "I think after the day you've had, you've earned it."
Trip was sorely tempted, but declined. "Can I take a rain-check? Just until the Captain gets back? I don't want to do anything that might impair my judgement while I'm Acting Captain." I've made poor enough choices today without the help of alcohol, he thought sardonically.
"Sure," agreed Malcolm. He smiled. "Just name the time and place."
Ensign Fraser surreptitiously eyed her bunkmate across the breakfast table, judging whether or not it was a good time to begin her inquisition. She decided it was.
"How much do you know about Ensign Cormack?" asked Fraser suddenly.
The question caught Lawless off guard. "Huh?" she said. When her brain finally processed the question, she added, "I know she's still in sickbay. Why?"
This was news to Fraser. "She's in sickbay? What happened?"
"Allergic reaction to the vaccine. Liz said Doctor Phlox had to use Regulan blood worms to get it out of her blood stream."
Both women squirmed at the thought. "Ugh," said Fraser. "She's going to be okay though, isn't she?"
"Yeah. In a couple of days."
A silence fell over the pair at the table. Bonnie sipped her cup of tea thoughtfully. Her initial question hadn't gotten the conversation she'd hoped for, and she was pondering how else she might approach the subject she wanted to discuss.
"So," she tried again, "when did you say you and Cormack met?"
"The first day of Starfleet Basic Training. I told you that before. Remember?"
"Right. So you never met before that?"
"No." Mae set down her latté and eyed her bunkmate curiously. "It's too early in the morning to be so enigmatic," she said at last. "What are you trying to get at?"
Faced with such forthrightness, Bonnie abandoned her attempt at subtlety. "Did you know she was in a band once?"
"That's what all this is about? You had me freaked out for a minute. Yeah, I know about the band, but don't mention it to anyone else."
"Why not? It was a good band."
"She just doesn't want it getting around the ship."
"Okay." Another silence fell, again broken by Bonnie. "I saw them play, you know."
Now Mae was intrigued. "You did? When?"
"Junior year of high school. They played at the university in Yellowknife. My friends and I went road-tripping to see them."
"All the way from Inuvik? My god, why?"
"They were good!"
"Had you heard them before?"
"No, but we'd heard of them. Word gets around the college circuit. My cousin Cari was a freshman at UNWT, and she invited us down for Spring Break. My friends and I were young and bored, so we went."
"So was it worth the trip?"
Bonnie smiled. "Oh yeah."
"You're not telling me something," accused Mae. She pushed her empty cereal bowl aside and leaned on the table. "What happened?"
Bonnie hesitated. She took a quick glance around to make sure no one was nearby, then she lowered her voice conspiratorially and leaned in over the table. "I didn't know anything but her stage name—"
"Cordelia," put in Mae equally softly, mimicking her bunkmate's clandestine attitude.
"Yeah. Daughters of Lear."
"I know. Go on." Mae was intensely intrigued. Part of her felt she shouldn't be gossiping about her friend when that friend was flat on her back in sickbay. Another part of her insisted there would be no harm in learning a little more about Cormack's band days.
"Well, I only figured out why I recognized her just the other day. She looked totally different back then."
"Yeah, yeah. I've seen pictures."
"You have?" Bonnie was stunned.
"Yeah. Long story. You go first."
Bonnie hesitated again, but she knew she wouldn't learn Mae's story until she had told the engineer her own. "She was pretty screwed up back then."
"In what way?" She had a guess from what she already knew, but didn't want to reveal anything unnecessarily.
"She was a raging alcoholic," said Bonnie even more quietly. "Obviously she's not now or she wouldn't be here," she added, feeling a sudden unaccountable need to defend the absent ensign. "I mean this was, like, ten years ago."
"I know. She and I've talked about it. We were roommates for a year, you know," Mae reminded Bonnie. "But she said she cleaned up her act when she got together with Regan and Goneril."
"Not immediately, I guess, because when we saw them, she was a mess. She could still play the guitar and sing—basically—but she was completely fucked up. Not that I minded," Bonnie added almost bashfully.
Mae was amazed to see her bunkmate blush. "What the hell happened at that concert?" she demanded.
"Nothing happened at the concert."
Abruptly, the mess hall comm chirped and they heard a female voice say, "Engineering to Ensign Lawless."
"Shit!" exclaimed Mae, causing a number of people in the mess hall to start or snicker, depending on their inclination. She scrambled to her feet and hurried to the comm panel by the door. She punched open the communication. "Lawless here, go ahead."
"Were you planning on joining us this morning, Ensign?" asked Lieutenant Hess.
Damn! thought Mae. What time is it? She'd gotten so wrapped up in Bonnie's story, she'd lost track of time. She checked the ship's chronometer only to discover she was five minutes late for an engineering staff meeting. "Sorry, Lieutenant," she said into the comm. "I'll be right there." She closed the connection and would have hurried off immediately, but she spared a moment to return to the table where her bunkmate still sat. "You're going to tell me the rest of this later."
"You bet," the helmsman assured her. "Because I want to hear what you know, too."
"So what you're telling me," said Captain Archer, leaning his elbows on his desk, "is that nearly one-third of my crew is out with the runs?"
"Not just that, sir," Tucker hastened to assure him. "Also headaches, nausea " He trailed off, realizing he wasn't helping the situation. "We weren't going anywhere, and Phlox said he really needed to inoculate everyone—"
Archer held up a hand to stop him. "It's all right, Trip. I'm just grateful I wasn't here to be exposed to the lymphatic virus myself."
Tucker hadn't been expecting Archer and the others back from their mission so soon. He'd figured this whole vaccination problem would be over and done with before he returned, and the captain would only have to hear about it in retrospect. No such luck, Trip thought.
On the other hand, Trip was glad the mission—whatever it had been—was over so quickly. He didn't like not knowing where Jon was or what he was doing, particularly when he was off on some secret mission for the Vulcans. Still, it had all ended well, and the Vulcan ship that had been hanging off Enterprise's bow for the last eighteen hours was gone. That fact alone made him breathe easier.
"I hear you received a message for me," Archer said, drawing Tucker from his thoughts. "Something from Admiral Forrest?" He tried to keep his expression impassive, but Trip could read him too well. The engineer's shoulders slumped.
"Permission to speak freely, Captain?" Trip said.
"Don't ever do this to me again, okay?" He knew it was a hopeless request. There would always be the possibility of the captain being called away on some classified mission, leaving Tucker in charge but out of the informational loop.
"I'll do my best," was all Archer could say. Tucker nodded in understanding. "So what was the message?"
"Cal beat Stanford seven to three," the younger man informed him unenthusiastically.
Archer grinned at the news. "You can impersonate me anytime if that's the kind of intelligence you end up gathering," he said with a laugh.
Tucker couldn't help but share in his mirth. "Yes, sir!"
"So, have you purged those impulse manifolds like you said you would?"
"Lieutenant Hess is working on it now. In fact, I'll think I'll go check on her progress. I expect she's about done." He was eager to retreat to the comfortable familiarity of his engine room after his harrowing day in "the big chair."
"Great. And, Trip?"
"Yeah, Captain?" The engineer paused at the ready room door.
Trip smiled. "Thank you, sir."