Spoilers for ENT "The Expanse", "E²", and some lines from "Twilight". And I adapted the self-destruct code from "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." I'm sure the NX-01 has one, but thank goodness Archer never got around to using it... And maybe a wee technological borrowing from TNG "Best of Both Worlds, Pts I and II".
Doctor Who: "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow". This is one of my favorite technobabble lines, first uttered by the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee). Yes, this was before "Ghostbusters" in 1984 and "Star Trek the Next Generation" in 1987.
"Why do you have to be so...Human?!" The Eleventh Doctor said this to Rory in "The Big Bang".
Relative Time to Enterprise NX-01 (January 2156)
Enterprise, Sol system
(-3 years, 2 months)
“Jupiter Station is scrambling defenses, Captain,” reported Major Hawkins from the Tactical station. “Io and Ganymeade are also responding, but the entire force is less than forty ships. Columbia is docked at Jupiter Station---” At Trip's sharp look, Hawkins continued, “Their shakedown cruise was delayed several days, sir. They're stuck there.”
Trip shook his head in frustration. “Damn. Bad timing to be stuck...time to intercept?”
Travis's answer was immediate as he said, “Sixty seconds. Intrepid will get there first.”
Daniels gazed through his viewer and added, “Power spikes all over the Sphere...I think it's preparing to fire on Jupiter Station!”
“Torpedoes, full spread and phasers, Hawkins! Fire!”
Enterprise lashed out with both torpedoes and phasers, a split second afterIntrepid did the same. The joint attack slammed into the Sphere's primary cannon and actually knocked the ship off course as it arced away from Jupiter Station. The Xindi hadn't expected such resistance, and that element of surprise had been enough.
“Positive damage to their main weapon, but the power signatures are cycling again. I've never seen these before---" Hawkins shouted.
Daniels's voice overlapped Hawkins's. "They're secondary and teritary energy loops. I think it's trying to repair itself!"
“Don't give 'em a chance to recharge,” Trip ordered.
"Aye, sir!" Hawkins fired another spate of torpedoes, cutting into the previous damage and doubling it. "Looks like we've disrupted their regeneration signal---Damn it, the Sphere just fired their beam at Intrepid! It's a glancing blow, butIntrepid's power output plunged down to forty percent!"
Trip snapped his head towards Travis. "Distract them from Intrepid!”
Travis nodded and warned, “Hang on!
Trip gripped the arms of the command chair as Travis threw Enterprise into a tight arc and headed back towards the Sphere at full impulse. Minutes later, Hawkins hit the torpedo release again and a rain of destruction fell on the rotating rings around the Sphere. One of the rings broke apart with agonizing slowness, the debris scattering in its wake. Somehow Travis managed to avoid the worst of the it.
“Power drop from the impulse engines. I'm trying to compensate,” Travis said.
"It's similar to the power drop Intrepid experienced," Daniels added, "but it's not permanent. Intrepid's energy output's back to normal."
Trip narrowed his eyes at the Sphere. "Does it disrupt energy fields?"
"It can explain why it didn't trigger anyone's proximity alarms at Pluto or Jupiter Station." Daniels's expression added, or Mars Colony, or Earth, the first time.
"They didn't know until it was too late."
"Precisely, Captain Tucker."
Trip nodded at the comm station. "Relay the information to Captain Reed." DeClerk began tapping out a message to send to Intrepid.
The intraship com came to life without any warning. “Engineerin' to Bridge. What in the name of sanity are you doin' to my ship?”
Trip suppressed a grin. How many times had he wanted to say that exact phrase to Jon Archer? “Savin' it, Jamie.”
“I'd appreciate a little warnin' next time! Blast it! I'm gonna have to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow---”
“Reverse the what?”
MacCrimmon hastily replied, “Ah...a little trick I picked up from some Coridan engineers...anyway, give me a few minutes and you'll have full impulse again. Engineerin' out.”
“'Polarity on the neutron flow'?” Trip muttered to himself. “It's got a polarity?”
"It's an engineering thing," Daniels murmured.
"I'm an engineer and I've never heard of it."
Hawkins interrupted the tense banter. "It's moving again. Energy spikes are off the scale, Captain!"
The Sphere rotated once, then unleashed its power on the assembled Jupiter Station defense fleet. One moment it was there; the next, they weren't, as if the ships were soap bubbles on the wind. A shocked silence came over the Bridge at the expanding debris field.
“They're gone, Captain,” Hawkins whispered. “All of them.”
Daniels's voice was grim. “It's re-acquiring a target lock on Jupiter Station.”
“Heartless bastards,” Trip growled. The shock gave way to cold rage. All those people...“Give 'em hell, Major Hawkins.”
Hawkins gritted his teeth and replied, “Aye, sir.”
Enterprise let loose with more torpedoes and phase cannon fire, as Intrepid did the same from the opposite side of the Sphere. The targeting sensors on the death beam were thrown off kilter and the beam itself missed Jupiter Station by several thousand kilometers...still too close for comfort.
“Message from Utopia Planetia and Copernicus Base,” called Lieutenant DeClerk. “Earth is mobilizing their defense grid and activating all available ships for defense.”
“We've got to buy them time,” Trip murmured. “If we don't stop the Xindi here, Earth doesn't have a chance.”
“Indeed,” murmured Daniels. “There's no way Earth's defense grid will be able to repel this weapon---Captain Tucker, we've got another ship approaching.”
A third silver shape came into view and Trip silently cheered. “That's---”
“Captain Hernandez of Columbia sends her regards,” confirmed DeClerk, “and apologizes for 'joining the party late, but you try cold-starting a warp engine from dock'. That's an exact quote.”
“Tell her she's just on time,” Trip replied, “and give her engineer my condolences.”
DeClerk barely stifled his laughter. “Aye, sir.”
The Sphere rocked from the angry firepower of three starships, and parts of it crumbled away under the onslaught. A well-aimed barrage of torpedoes fromIntrepid destroyed what was left of the rotating ring, and Columbia's phasers cut a huge swath across its far side.
“Incoming!” Hawkins shouted. “Brace for impact!”
A second later, Trip's world tipped ninety degrees and flipped him out of the command chair. He hit the deck hard, rolled down the inclined plane, unable to stop, until he collided with the railing. Note to self, he thought dazedly, seat belts for the next upgrade. I'll write up the work order myself.
Travis's shout snapped him back to reality. “Report!” he bellowed, as he pushed himself back onto his feet, ignoring the twinge in his left shoulder. Smoke poured from damaged computer systems and blanketed the Bridge.
“Shields are down! They absorbed seventy percent of that impact!” Hawkins yelled back. “Remind me to drop a thank-you note to General Shran.”
“I'll sign it too. Ship's status?”
Hawkins shook his head as he replied, “Casualties on all decks, sir. Hull breaches on B Deck, C Deck, but automatic patches are active and holding...we've lost torpedo control from the Armory, and engines are down...wait, we've got half-impulse now and increasing steadily! MacCrimmon must've done something---.”
“Jamie, you're a miracle worker,” Trip muttered. A noise from the science station made Trip turn stiffly in that direction. “Jack?”
“It's changing course, heading for the asteroid belt,” Daniels warned. “It's resuming a course directly for Earth.”
“Keep with it, Travis! We have to stop it from reaching Earth!” He tapped his comm. “I hope you've managed to reverse that polarity thing, Jamie. I need full impulse now!”
“Full impulse, Captain Tucker!” MacCrimmon said triumphantly. “Whenever you want it!”
“Go, Travis!” Power thrummed through the walls as Enterprise followed in hot pursuit. Trip got up and went over to Daniels's side at the science station. “What do we need to do to shut that damn thing down? We had three starships pounding on it and it's still tickin'!”
Daniels scowled and said in a low tone. “This wasn't supposed to happen like this. All of our projections indicated that Enterprise and Intrepid stopped the weapon at Jupiter Station.”
“Well, it looks like your projections were wrong. Unless we think of something fast, it's gonna hit Florida like it did the last time.”
Daniels bit his lip as he brought up the last science scans. “It looks like they've designed it to instantly reroute power the minute its hull is breached. It delays the recharging process, but it doesn't stop it.”
“We need one massive knockout punch,” Trip murmured, “somethin' so overwhelmin' that it won't be able to compensate.”
“And once that happens, it'll lose cohesiveness and explode.”
Trip frowned as he glared at the screen. Suddenly, Lorian's voice whispered in a conversation that never happened with him, but with Captain Archer:
“I had one last chance. Use Enterprise itself, set a collision course with the probe. But I hesitated, my emotions took over. I couldn't give an order that would kill my crew. By the time I realized my mistake it was too late, the probe was gone. I won't let my emotions get in the way again. I will not let Earth be destroyed.”
I won't let my emotions get in the way again.
Trip closed his eyes briefly, then opened them again. “Would a starship crashin' into its engines do the trick?”
Daniels started in surprise, then stared at him. “You aren't serious, are you?”
“Answer the question, Jack.”
Deep silence blanketed the Bridge as the crew strained to listen to this conversation. Trip didn't have to turn around to see Travis's stunned expression. Daniels winced, then slowly replied, “The damage would be too great for the Sphere to repair itself, yes. It would overwhelm its systems. Captain Tucker, might I remind you of your obligation to your crew?”
“You can, and I'd say that I'm saving my crew and the whole population of Earth too.” Trip gave Daniels a sad smile.
“Captain. Charles. You can't die here.”
“Whoever said anythin' about dyin', Jack?” He turned to address Travis. “Exec, give the order for all personnel to board escape pods, and we'll launch 'em as soon as we reach Earthspace. Clear the Bridge.”
“Hell no, Trip.” Travis shook his head. “I'm staying.”
The vehemence took Trip aback. He couldn't imagine the Travis from his universe speaking back that way. “That's an order, Travis.”
“All due respect, sir, I'd like to stay too,” Hawkins spoke up.
DeClerk nodded and piped up, “Ditto, sir.”
Trip rolled his eyes and muttered, “I should write you all up for disobeying orders.”
Daniels smirked. “You'd have to put one in my file too, Captain.”
And MacCrimmon's voice echoed from the comm; Trip hadn't realized it was still on. “You've all gone nutters, the whole lot of you...why do you have to be so...Human?!”
“Because we are, Jamie,” Trip replied blandly, even as Travis and the others gave him a questioning look. “Fine. Travis, give the order.”
“Aye, sir.” Travis nodded at DeClerk and issued the command. Minutes later, he announced, “Earth space in three minutes, Captain.”
“I'm detecting an energy build-up in the Sphere,” Hawkins reported. “It must be charging up its weapon.”
“Confirmed,” Daniels concurred.
“Travis, launch lifeboats. Then join me at the engineering station.”
Trip motioned for Daniels to join him at the engineering station, and Travis followed. Moments later, Trip stared at the words on the screen, words he'd hoped never to see.
Authorization codes accepted. Tucker A1A-Zulu-Alpha-Alpha. Mayweather CC3-Omega-Omega-Tango. Daniels Y6Y-Epsilon-Delta-Phi. Time to self-destruct? (enter time parameters)
Carefully, Trip typed in, 1:00. One minute.
Awaiting final code for one-minute countdown.
Trip tapped in: Zero-zero-zero. Destruct zero.
MacCrimmon's voice came back with a hint of alarm. “Grab onto somethin', we're gonna---” The deck shuddered once, then he finished lamely, “---chuck a wobbly.”
The screen flashed its response: Destruct sequence has been activated---Automatic computer timer has been disabled. 0:56.
Trip glared at the screen and muttered, “You've got to be kiddin' me.”
"It's the dampening field," Daniels said.
"Not just that. It felt like something just broke." He slapped the comlink. “Hell of a time to blow a gasket, Jamie! I just set the self-destruct and we've lost the timer!”
There was a pause, then a panicked, “Oh no, that's bad, that's very, very, very bad. How much time do we have?”
Daniels sighed and answered, “Fifty seconds, even.”
“With no computer control, we'll have to pilot the ship into the sphere manually, using our momentum,” Travis said. He straightened and said, “Permission to resume my post, Captain.”
Trip took a deep breath and nodded. “Granted, Commander. Let's finish this. Confirm lock to target.”
“Confirmed,” Hawkins said quietly.
“Forty-five seconds,” added Daniels.
“Issue a warning to Intrepid and Columbia not to get too close,” Trip said. He narrowed his eyes as the battered surface of the Sphere. It was reforming,regenerating, right before his eyes as its defense systems shunted power where it was needed. No, this was going to stop here, stop now.
If the price was going to be his life, so be it.
“Thirty seconds, Captain.” The walls shook as Sphere gathered itself to launch its death beam at Earth. Daniels kept his gaze riveted to his own chronometer. “Twenty-five---”
Trip's world dissolved into golden sparks, and the Enterprise's Bridge was gone---
---and he blinked as he found himself on a transporter pad. He stared at Travis, who looked as stunned as he felt on the next pad. “What the---”
“Welcome aboard Intrepid,” came Malcolm's voice from the transporter controls.
Trip grinned at his friend's smirk and said, “Thanks for the save, Malcolm.” He turned and did a quick head count, and the humor fled as quickly as it came.Travis, Hawkins, DeClerk, himself... “We're missing two people. Daniels and MacCrimmon.”
“Daniels?!” Malcolm repeated. He glanced at the transporter tech, but the man only shook his head.
“We had a lock on four people, sir. No more, no less. There weren't any more biosignals,” the tech stammered.
Hoshi's alarmed tone echoed over the comm. “Malcolm, you'd better get yourself to a viewscreen!”
He crossed to the opposite wall and punched a button to access the ship's comm network. A gray screen coalesced into the image of Enterprise on a collision course for a weapon port. The port opened to reveal the gathered energy of the death beam, but before it could fire, Enterprise slammed down the monster's throat at full impulse.
“Brace for impact!” Malcolm roared, as the explosion struck Intrepid and the entire universe turned upside down.
Trip clawed his way back to consciousness. The first thing he heard was the squawk of animals and his first thought was, Sickbay? I'm in Sickbay? Soft voices overlapped the noise, but he couldn't make out the words. Where was he? Was he back on Enterprise? What had landed him in Sickbay this time? Was this the fourth or fifth time this week--?
“Ah, Captain Tucker, I see you're back with us?”
He blinked several times. Captain Tucker? His vision cleared to reveal a familiar face. “Phlox?”
“Captain Reed warned me about your penchant for heroics. You're lucky you survived with just a mild concussion.”
Everything came back to him in a rush. The Xindi's weapon, the space fight in Jupiter's orbit, Enterprise's destruction. Trip shook his head, but the surge of guilt and grief refused to let go. “Where am I? Is everything all right? Is Earth safe?”
Phlox gave his shoulder a reassuring pat. “You're in my Sickbay on Intrepid.Don't worry, Earth is safe, but I've heard the clean-up of the debris is quite an undertaking.”
Trip sighed and closed his eyes. Earth is safe. Lizzie and the others are alive. We did it. His sense of relief was tempered with the memory of Daniels' and MacCrimmon's sacrifice. They had died so Earth could live...but Trip knew that he'd see both of them again, sometime.
“You have a visitor, Captain.”
He opened his eyes as Phlox stepped aside. The sight of his visitor stunned him so hard he couldn't breathe. There she was, tall and proud, her blonde hair in a hasty ponytail. She wore a bright yellow shirt and blue jeans with sneakers. The dark blue eyes sparkled with pride and worry at the same time.
Elizabeth Tucker smiled at her older brother, like she did in Trip's dreams since her death in his own timeline. But there she was now, in the flesh.
He sat up so abruptly that he nearly tumbled off the biobed. “Lizzie? I---”
“You're a hero, Big Brother,” she teased as she gently steered him back onto the bed. “You saved the entire planet. Not bad for a day's worth, huh?”
“You're alive. You're really alive---” he choked out.
“Of course I'm alive.” Lizzie frowned at Phlox. “You sure he only has a minor concussion, Doctor?”
Phlox frowned and stepped forward with his scanner in hand, but Trip waved him off. “I'm fine, Doc. Sorry, it's all just hittin' me right now.”
The Denobulan nodded in sympathy. “You're only Human, Captain. I understand. The damage that weapon could have done to your planet would be incalculable.”
“Why do you have to be so...Human?!” MacCrimmon's last words made Trip smile a little. He knew the answer: because he couldn't be anything else.
He looked up at the couple at the door. Malcolm and Hoshi smiled at them; Hoshi had her arm around his waist, while Malcolm draped an arm around her shoulders. Trip saw the unabashed joy in Malcolm's eyes that he didn't bother to hide.
“Thanks,” Trip whispered. He could feel his eyes mist with tears.
Lizzie glanced back at him. “You sure you're okay?”
“Yeah, I'm good.” He hugged her hard. “It's good to see you, Little Sister.”
“You too.” Lizzie murmured into his ear. “I'm here now, and I won't leave.”