This isn't exactly the same as "Two Days and Two Nights". How many differences can you spot? And a nod to a certain piece of fan artwork? LOL! (Sorry, Bluetiger. This just fit perfectly in this chapter. :-p)
Spoilers: ENT "Two Days and Two Nights", "Acquisition". Torchwood, "Captain Jack Harness". (BTW, Harper's dead, but he isn't gone forever. He'll be back.) Kanar is a Cardassian alcoholic drink (TNG "The Wounded", DS9). Nuvian Masseuses are mentioned in ENT "Fallen Hero" and a Nuvian female was seen in ENT "Raijin".)
Time relative to Enterprise (2156)
February 18, 2152
(-3 years, 1 month, 17 days)
Trip walked down the boulevard, taking in the sights and sounds of Risa. The sun shone brilliantly in a perfect azure sky, with the salty smell of the ocean mixed with the aroma from the restaurants. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine being back in the Florida Keys on a summer afternoon. He smiled at the sight of children at play on the beach, at tight clusters of people having lunch on the patios, and couples strolling hand in hand on the boardwalk.
He saw a group of lifeguards gathered at a first aid station, obviously in the middle of a training exercise. Yes, there were Humans, but a Vulcan, a shapely Andorian woman, and...was that a Klingon man, bare-chested and long, black hair flying in the wind? Trip blinked, rubbed his eyes and looked again. He wasn't seeing things.
Okay, that got to be the weirdest thing I've ever seen. This was definitely not the Risa he remembered, not if a Vulcan, and Andorian and a Klingon worked together on a lifeguard team. Hell, a Vulcan swimming in the ocean was shocking enough, much less a Klingon cavorting around without his armor and abat'leth.
So far, there didn't seem to be any pressing crises to solve, so why did the TARDIS leave him here, high and dry, with no way to find out what was going on---
Wait a minute. Yes, there is. With a little old-fashioned pavement-pounding, I should be able to figure out why we're on Risa...He picked up his pace through the crowd, dodging anti-grav skateboarders and skaters on the way. When he turned off the main boulevard to a side street, he found what he was looking for: a public information terminal. The first thing he noticed was the date.
February 18, 2152. Trip stared at it for a moment and tried not to blush in response. Of course...the infamous two day, two night shore leave. He winced as he remembered when he and Malcolm had been tied up in a basement wearing nothing but their Starfleet blues. Certain members of the crew still wouldn't let him live that down, almost four years later.
It was the time stamp next to the date that caught Trip's attention. 13:15, Risan Local Time (RLT). He tapped more keys and brought up more information. Yes, there was the hotel reservation he had booked for his stay. It had been a double suite, with Malcolm next door. Trip shook his head; neither of them had ended up sleeping in those rooms, either by themselves or with pleasant company.
He frowned. There was something missing. He scrolled back a page, then forwards again. The only name on the reservation was his. Malcolm's wasn't there at all. In fact, there was no mention of a Malcolm Reed anywhere. So where was he?
Events had already been changed. Someone tapped him on the shoulder and a feminine voice asked, “Excuse me, are you finished with that terminal?”
He nodded quickly. “Of course. Sorry, ma'am.” He stepped aside and out of the flow of traffic, reached into his pocket and found a standard issue Starfleet communicator. Trip flipped it open. “Tucker to Enterprise.”
“This is Enterprise,” came the cool tones of Sub-Commander T'Pol. “Do you require anything, Commander?”
Trip's mouth twitched as he thought, Well, at least that hasn't changed a bit.Aloud, he asked, “Sub-Commander, can you locate Malcolm Reed for me?”
There was a slight pause, then T'Pol answered primly, “The Lieutenant Commander's transponder has been turned off. I assume he wishes to spend his shore leave in private.” The meaning was clear: None of your damn business, Commander Tucker. Leave the man alone.
Trip gaped at response. Lieutenant Commander? When did Malcolm get a promotion?He closed his mouth and said, “That's all right, Sub-Commander. I'm sure I'll talk to him when we get back to the ship.”
“Very well. I shall inform Captain Robinson that you have checked in ahead of schedule.”
Robinson? A.G. Robinson? Trip nearly dropped his communicator in surprise. “Uh...thanks. Tucker, out.” He snapped his comm closed and shook his head. A.G and Jon had been the two candidates for the captaincy of Enterprise.Apparently, A.G had won the coin toss in this universe.
Then where's Jon?! His instincts were working overtime, and they were all screaming at him. Something was definitely wrong here, and he needed to find out what it was.
He put his communicator back in his jacket pocket and felt something else there. He pulled out a folded up, yellow sticky note and unfolded it. The red lettering said, Confirmation of appointment at Twelve Palms, with Nuvian Masseuse Tinatha. Tucker, C. 14:30. Bring a friend if you have one.
Despite himself, Trip grinned widely. Nuvians had twelve fingers on each hand and were renowned for their massage parlors on Risa. He hadn't had a chance to visit any of them on his first visit here, but now...first time for everything, I guess. He tucked the note back into his pocket. He needed to find where this Twelve Palms was located. Then he needed to get something to eat, and figure out how to find an Armory Officer who apparently didn't want to be found.
He found a small seafood place off the beach. A tall, gray-skinned alien greeted him at the door and ushered him to a table on the back porch, facing the ocean. The man's smile rivaled Phlox's on a good day, despite his thick, snake-like neck and cranial ridges.
“My name is Gan Tikat. May I recommend the Risan swordfish, with the finest vintage of kanar and th'kak souffle for dessert.”
“An alcoholic drink from my homeworld. There are several varieties. The light purple one is mild, but the black one can bring down a 400-pound Tellarite.”
“I think the light purple one's good,” Trip said. “By the way, where are you from? I don't think I've seen your people before.”
Gan Tikat grinned widely. “Lakarian City, on Cardassia Prime. As for not seeing anyone like me, that doesn't surprise me. We have just joined the Interstellar Coalition recently, thanks to your great diplomat. My family was among the first to settle on Risa and open this restaurant.”
“'Great diplomat'?” Trip asked, though he had his suspicions as to whom Gan Tikat referred.
“The great Jonathan Archer. His Interstellar Coalition has brought so many of us together, where there might not have been hope for the future.” Tikat tapped Trip's order into his tablet. “I will return with your food.”
“Thanks.” Trip sat back with a stunned expression. The great Jonathan Archer...his Interstellar Coalition...was this what Daniels was hinting at, when he said that Archer was an important person in the future? In this particular universe, Jon had succeeded much earlier than in Trip's, and apparently, was much beloved on many different worlds.
Jon Archer was a diplomat, A.G. Robinson was the captain of the Enterprise, T'Pol was still a Sub-Commander and Malcolm Reed was a Lieutenant Commander, somewhere on Risa. Definitely not my universe at all.
To Trip's delight, food was served in a timely manner, by Gan Tikat himself. He entertained Trip with stories about Cardassia and his misadventures on Risa since his arrival two years before. Tikat was quite the raconteur.
“...And then this tall fellow just waved this thing like a wand and the killer robots froze in their tracks, just like that! It had to be some sort of sonic jammer, but I'd never seen that particular make or model before. Then he turned to me and said, 'Right, then, Mister Tikat, I'll be on my way. Oh, and I do hope this will pay for the damages.' So he gives me a fistful of Coalition credits, enough to pay for expansion and then some...”
Trip laughed. “You've got to be kiddin'.”
Tikat raised his hand as if taking an oath. “I swear to you, Mister Tucker, it was a fortune's worth, and this man just shoved it at me as if it was of no consequence to him. Perhaps it didn't, or perhaps he had no idea how much it was to begin with. Then this blonde woman says, 'So all's good, yeah?'. And I bow to her and tell her, 'Madame, if your presence lights up the darkest star, then I cannot hold you responsible for what wasn't your fault to begin with.'”
“No harm meant to her, but her companion wasn't amused by it. His demeanor changed like quicksilver, I tell you.” Tikat set his face in grim lines and said, “'Very well, we should be going. Come along, Rose, the rest of the universe awaits!' Then he turned and strode off, his long brown coat flying in the wind, like some sort of nobleman.”
“So the young woman's name was Rose, huh? That's isn't a common name among my people anymore,” Trip commented. He tried to keep his tone steady as he asked, “What about the man with the magic stick?”
“She called him 'Doctor', but I didn't catch his name. I assumed he was a medical man, but he seemed at ease with unfamiliar machinery, so perhaps he was some sort of engineer or designer.” Tikat shrugged as if it was no consequence. “I've seen him back here, occasionally, he comes for some kanarand some flounder and salad, but he eats very little of it. He's more interested in the people, what happens where, that sort of thing.”
Trip finished the swordfish; it was cooked to perfection, flaky and melted in his mouth. Tikat used spices that complemented the taste of the fish. He'd never had anything like this before. “This is delicious. Mind partin' with the recipe?”
Tikat gave him a mock glare and answered, “And give away one of my most well-kept secrets? I'd be out of business faster than a Risan feathercat with its prey. My apologies, Mister Tucker, but even for you I wouldn't betray my dear mother's memory.”
“Your mom taught you how to cook? A good way to honor her, then.”
“Family is an important part of Cardassian culture. I think of her every day, while I'm in the kitchen.”
They chatted for a while longer, before Trip had to leave for the Twelve Palms. He invited Tikat to come along, but Tikat demurred, since he couldn't leave his kitchen unattended. Tikat told him that he was welcome back at any time.
“And if this Doctor or his lovely friend reappears, I'll be sure to mention you are interested in meeting him.”
“Yeah, we engineers tend to talk shop whenever we get together. I'm curious to know if he's come up with anythin' useful.”
“I'll make sure he gets the message. Give Tinatha at the Twelve Palms my regards.”
“I will. Thanks.”
Trip left the restaurant and walked down the street. So Tikat had actually seen the TARDIS's crew, this Doctor and Rose, and they were no strangers to Risa. The Cardassian had implied they visited Risa fairly often, and that they showed up without warning at the restaurant. Were they here at this moment and if so, where were they? Trip decided to do some more investigating at the massage parlor.
“Ah, you must be Commander Tucker! Welcome, welcome! Tinatha waits for you in the patio!” called out the receptionist. The Nuvian woman grinned at him, her deep-set aqua eyes sparkling under a network of cranial ridges that emphasized her beauty. She gracefully waved an arm in the direction of a curtain.
“Thanks.” He pushed his way through the curtain to a large outdoor pavilion next to the beach. A set of massage tables were strategically placed around a huge steam-pool. To Trip's surprise, only one other client lay on a table, a dark-haired, broad-shouldered man being attended by a purple-haired Nuvian masseuse.
“I am Tinatha,” whispered a soft voice at his shoulder. “Please, allow me to pleasure you to your satisfaction.”
Trip started and looked over at the tiny Nuvian standing close to him. Her violet eyes gazed up at him, a perfect counterpoint to her jet black hair. She reminded him of Hoshi Sato for some reason, both in height and stature. He couldn't prevent the blood rushing to his face at the implication of her words.
“Your first time here? Come, I can show you where to change and prepare for your session.”
The changing area was as elaborate as the rest of the parlor, with marble benches and a soft, cream-colored carpet. Moments later, Trip was on the massage table next to the other client. The man seemed familiar, but Trip couldn't place him. Tinatha helped Trip stretch out on his stomach and she began applying oil to his back and shoulders.
“You are tense,” Tinatha murmured. “Please, relax.”
“There is no need to apologize, Charles. Your mind is preoccupied, and so your body follows in the same manner. Let your thoughts drift, and you shall be free of worries.”
The man next to them murmured to Trip, “You're in for a treat, friend. Just let her do her job.”
The American accent caught Trip's attention and he grinned. “You sound like you've been here before.”
“Every chance I get, which isn't often enough.” He turned his head, which was pillowed on his arms. The blue eyes caught and held Trip's and Trip found himself blushing all over again. The man smiled--- and he has a nice smile, Trip thought---and continued, “Sorry, couldn't help but overhearing...you're Charles?”
“Yeah. Commander Charles Tucker the Third, known as Trip to my friends.” Trip groaned as Tinatha's skilled fingers found a knot in his back.
The man raised his eyebrows. “Trip? That's an odd nickname.”
“It's short for 'Triple', since I'm the third Charles in my family.”
“Ah, I get it. I'm...James Harper. Captain James Harper.” Harper sketched a little bow, as best as he could on his stomach. “Pleased to meet you, Trip. Been long on Risa?”
Trip relaxed as Tinatha moved to his shoulders and neck. Her touch was warm and gentle and seemed to melt the stiffness in his muscles. It took him an effort to remember Harper's question. “Just here for couple of days for leave.”
“Enterprise? I know your captain. A.G is one hell of a guy. I talk to him now and then.”
Trip was surprised that Harper knew A.G Robinson. “You a Starfleet captain?”
“Former. I run my own ship now. ECS Torchwood. We pop in on Risa now and then on business. Then afterward we make sure to enjoy the scenery, if you know what I mean.”
“You're a Boomer?”
“Not originally, but I get around the universe,” Harper laughed and waggled his eyebrows, “in all manners of speaking.”
Trip rolled his eyes; it was amazing how Harper seemed to turn everything he said into some sort of innuendo. Yet there was a sense of weariness under the words, as if he carried a heavy weight on his shoulders. Trip sympathize with Harper's burden of command; he'd seen it on his Jon Archer's face too many times in the Delphic Expanse.
Tinatha turned to her little equipment table and carefully scooped out a flat, black rock from her water brazier. With a flourish, she arranged the set of rocks on Trip's back and shoulders. The heat seeped through his skin into his very bones. Trip closed his eyes and drifted...Damn, I should have come by here the first time. Didn't know what I was missin'.
“Been here before?”
“Yeah, once...went to a club with a buddy of mine and got into a lot of trouble.” Trip hadn't felt so relaxed in a long time. “Got mugged by a couple of women who weren't really women...”
Harper laughed and his tone turned sympathetic. “Shapeshifters, huh? Yeah, they get you every time, and you don't realize it until it's too late.”
“Never gonna get myself into that again. Embarrassin' as hell the first time---”
“We all have our really embarrassing screw-ups.”
“Yeah, walkin' round in nothin' but your underwear...”
“I've walked around in public places without my underwear.”
Trip opened one eye and regarded Harper with a look. “You don't sound like you minded.”
“Why would I mind? If you've got it, flaunt it, I always say.”
“Bet you got the local women throwin' themselves over you, then.”
“Hey, it's Risa. They're gonna do that anyway. Might as well enjoy it.”
“You aren't inhibited one bit.”
“You miss a lot of things if you're inhibited, my friend. You sound like you're from...um, Alabama or thereabouts?”
“Southern boy. You sound like you need a guide to the delights of Risa.”
Trip rolled his eyes again. “I'm not some sort of damn hick."
"Didn't mean to imply you were. You strike me as a smart guy, but just in need of some direction, as far as Risa goes."
Harper made a scoffing noise. “Mister 'I'm-petrified-by-walking-around-in-my-
“I've got a collection of 'em. They're like a token of appreciation. If you get one from a lovely lady, you're in for one hell of a ride.”
Trip laughed. “Don't tell me you're carryin' around a whole bagload of 'em.”
“As a matter of fact---”
“Aw Gawd. You're a walking hormone, Harper.”
“Like I keep saying, it's Risa. What happens here, stays here. Unless of course, you draw attention to yourself by being embarrassed by walking around in your underwear.”
Harper laughed and shook his head. “See?”
Trip glared at him, then laughed too. If anything, this would be an interesting shore leave, much interesting than the first go-around. Malcolm was good company, but this Harper sounded like one hell of a party animal. It looked like he was going to have another chance at Risa...without the undignified ending.
Ah, what the hell. This opportunity isn't going to come again. Aloud, he said, “Fine, Cap'n Harper. You've got a deal.”
Harper was right about one thing: the Risan nightlife was wilder than Trip even dreamed. Obviously, Harper knew all the social clubs on Risa, especially the ones not go to, and it didn't really surprise Trip that the one club he and Malcolm had gone to was on that particular list. What really surprised him was how everyone knew Harper and his alcoholic preferences. Most of the women (and some of the men, for that matter) knew him from previous encounters.
Trip took this in with amusement. Harper made a dashing figure, with black slacks, blue shirt and suspenders. Yet the not-so-friendly denizens took one look at at Harper's old-fashioned pistols and a huge laser gun on his belt and kept away. Trip felt a niggling hint of jealousy at Harper's popularity, but for the most part, the steady stream of people at the bar kept him occupied.
“Risan Sunrise, sir?” said the three-eyed woman behind the bar. “Made from the freshest tropical fruits.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Trip said as he accepted the second Risan Sunrise of the night. The flame-haired bartender smiled at him, reached over and ran a finger up and down his arm after she served the drink. Trip chuckled and patted her hand.
“You busy later?” She waggled her delicately sculpted eyebrows at him. “Looks like your friend over there is probably going to be too occupied to notice anything else much.”
“Yeah. Well, he's a popular guy.”
“Captain Harper? He's the definition of popularity. And it's a pity that when he's around, no one pays attention to someone as handsome as you.” She winked and added, “I'm Laila.”
“Trip. Nice to meet you.”
“I'm off in about an hour or so, if you're interested?”
He grinned. “I'll be here.”
As the night wore on, Trip made his rounds on the dance floor. There was no shortage of eager partners for him or Harper. He noticed many small statuettes changing hands and remembered Harper's mention of the hor'gahns. Now that he knew what they meant, it didn't surprise Trip to see those couples disappear shortly afterwards.
“And so we meet again, Hew-man. I should have known you might be here with him.”
Trip froze at the familiar tone. He glanced down to see one of those big-eared orange trolls who had tried to hijack the Enterprise during the first year. That smile was predatory...but for a completely different reason.
“Of all the bars in the universe...” Trip muttered.
“We weren't properly introduced the first time. I'm Krem, and you helped destroy my livelihood and my honest reputation. Rule number ten: 'Never forget your worst customers, the Great Wheel of Profit will bite them in their---”
“Oh, for God's sake. Can't we settle whatever this is later?” Trip mentally kicked himself. Of course, something had to happen on Risa. If it wasn't shape-shifters, it was a diminutive orange troll. He didn't know what happened between this universe's Trip Tucker and Krem, but if it was anything like what happened in his universe, this might become ugly.
“No. We settle this now. Here.” Krem grabbed his arm. “I've been wanted to do this for a long time---”
Trip didn't know who threw the first punch, but the fight exploded up and down the length of the bar. The place dissolved into chaos as customers and dancers stampeded to the exits. He saw Laila defending herself with bits of broken bottles and a tray of oysters.
Krem's right hand flung out and a thin electric whip sliced the air. At the last minute, someone shoved Trip out of the line of fire. He stumbled over a bar stool and hit the floor. Harper flew bodily over him, thrown by the electric discharge. To Trip's horror, he slammed into the opposite wall and slid limply to the ground.
Trip crawled over and pressed his fingers to Harper's throat. No pulse. Harper's head lolled at an awkward angle, the blue eyes already clouding over. Captain James Harper was dead.
A dark surge of anger overcame Trip. He pushed himself to his knees and saw Krem, who kept everyone at arm's length with that whip. Trip gathered himself and tackled Krem below the knees. The troll bleated as he went down, his weapon flying out of his hand.
“You killed him!” Trip rasped. He lifted Krem by the collar; the troll was surprising heavy for someone so short. “I oughta---”
That was all he got out before another burst of energy caught him square in the back and darkness slammed down upon him like a heavy curtain.
Trip didn't know which was worse: waking up and finding himself tied up in a basement, or waking up and finding himself in the equivalent of the Risan hoosegow. Either way, being stunned was not on his list of favorite things to be. He groaned as he slowly sat up on the narrow cot. Warm Risan sunshine shone brightly through the one high window and blinded him.
Memory came back in bits and pieces. The Cardassian restaurant, the Nuvian masseuse, Captain Harper...and how Harper had sacrificed his life to save Trip's. Grief and shame overcame him; even thought he and Malcolm had embarrassed themselves the first time around, no one had died in the process. In this particular timeline, Krem had scored a lucky shot that had killed Harper. If Trip got his hands on that little orange troll...
“Commander Tucker? Good, you're awake. On your feet, sir. You're free to go.”
“Wha--?” He felt himself being hauled on his feet. “What about---”
“Mister Krem is being taken care of. As for your friend, his crew has reclaimed the body. Don't worry, you won't face any punishment; you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. We won't tell your commanding officer as long as you stay out of trouble from now on.”
Reclaimed the body. It hurt to hear Harper being referred in that way, especially after seeing him in the bar: larger than life, taking every opportunity with brazen abandon. Eat, drink and be merry, for one day...Trip shivered at the thought. Harper had definitely lived life to the fullest, as though he'd known what was going to happen. It still didn't make Trip feel any better.
Trip found himself shoved out into the quiet morning street. The waves pounded the beach, loud in the silence. No one was up and around after a long night of partying. For once, Trip was thankful for that. He glanced around to get his bearings, then slowly made his way towards the hotel where he'd booked that suite.
He walked past a gated courtyard, dotted with tables and chairs. It looked like a private eating area for the adjoining hotel. Trip glanced through the bars of the gate and stopped short. He turned and stared at the couple sitting at a far-off table near the hotel door.
Nah, can't be...Trip rubbed his sore, gritty eyes and looked again. Nope, I'm not seeing things.
Hoshi Sato sat at the table, wearing a strapless red dress that showed off her perfect porcelain skin. A vast array of fruit was spread in front of her, and next to her sat...
I'll be damned. Despite his own tragic night, Trip couldn't help but grin widely. The sly dog. So here's where he's been all this time. Malcolm Reed's plate was littered with half-eaten pineapple, and he reached over and poured tea from the pot on the table into his cup, then Hoshi's. She smiled and picked up a strawberry and took an experimental bite. Then she took a kiwi and tried it. Malcolm leaned towards her and murmured something that made her smile.
Finally, she rose gracefully from the table and took Malcolm by the hand. She led him to the hotel doors, where they both disappeared from Trip's view. Trip's mouth dropped at the expression on Hoshi's face, one that he'd never seen on the communication officer. And the way she'd taken the initiative, instead of Malcolm...
“The lady knows what she wants,” Trip whispered. “Go Hoshi. Show him what he's been missin'.”
He felt a familiar warm tingle at the back of his mind, looked up, and saw the TARDIS at the end of the street, as if she'd been there this entire time. For all Trip knew, she probably had, making sure Malcolm didn't get into too much trouble. Of course, Hoshi would make sure he didn't...or would she?
Trip chuckled and shook his head. He knew better than to underestimate Hoshi Sato, and with her together with Malcolm...they were a formidable team. Maybe Malcolm had finally realized that.
About damn time he did, too.
The TARDIS hummed a melodic welcome and Trip had the mental image of a grandmother opening his arms to hug him. He knew his smile was bittersweet...if this meant that Malcolm found a little bit of happiness, Trip knew he'd endure the past 24 hours again.
“Hey, girl,” he whispered. “Mind if I crash for a while? I'm worn out.” There was a soft hum of agreement, and his smile became genuine. “Okay, you make sure Hoshi don't wear Malcolm out too bad. I need him in one piece.”
The TARDIS “laughed” in agreement. Trip snapped his fingers, the door popped open, and he walked right inside.