Notes: This is written for “Wasn't it a Grand Explosion?” Month. Yeah, it's a day late. Sorry...RL's been complicated lately. This is dedicated to my husband the Computer Engineer, and to all the old computer hardware parts that are hidden away in the closets in our house, “just in case they're needed for somethin'.” And hubby has that pack-rat mentality of “It might still be useful...even if it's been eight years.”
Trust me, I'm married to an engineer.
This story is based on a real-life visit to a Fourth of July celebration in Lititz, Pennsylvania several years ago. The year before we went, their fireworks display had been delayed two hours because of a glitch in their computer system that timed their explosions. Needless to say, everyone wasn't too happy with their outdated equipment (at the time), so they dispatched it the following year in a most...unusual way.
And although this is from Trip's POV, Malcolm plays a major role in this story. And there's a small reference to another one of my stories, “Trip Gets Stuck.”
R/S and TnT
Please R&R. Thanks.
Waste Not, Want Not, or How to Dispose of Cranky Technology
The Amarites worshiped technology with almost god-like fanaticism. They held all sorts of ceremonies to celebrate a new engine design or to retire an old one. Being a project manager was considered one of the highest honors and to have a new operating system named for you...well, having astarship named after you paled in comparison. The Amarites honed their craft until they lived and breathed it.
Trip Tucker enjoyed what he did for a living as an engineer, but this was a bit much, even for his tastes. After all, he had other things to occupy his off-time besides schematics and technical journals. Like his harmonica and scuba diving and learning Vulcan from Hoshi, not to mention arguing with a certain Enterprise First and Science Officer. All work and no play, that sort of thing.
When the Amarites found out he was the Chief Engineer, they insisted that he come down to witness one of their many ceremonies. Trip had felt a brief flash of paranoia. The last time he'd been asked to come down to a planet because of his engineering expertise, he'd ended up getting stuck in a hole. Literally.
“Not to worry, Commander,” Malcolm reassured him. “I'll be accompanying you this time.”
“The Amarites asked you to assist in whatever ceremony this is,” Trip said, with a roll of his eyes. “Are you sure you can't tell us what it is?”
Malcolm gave him a mysterious smile. “Sorry, Commander. They insisted that I keep silent about this. It is one that may cause you some...discomfort.”
“Discomfort, huh? What, they've got you sacrificing some electronic chips or somethin'? How's that going to upset me?”
“Trust me, Commander, and be assured that I tried to explain that as an engineer, this might be a bit painful for you to witness, but they said you would understand when all is explained.”
Trip glanced at Hoshi, who only sighed and gave Malcolm a look of exasperated fondness. Malcolm's evasiveness drove both of them crazy, but she'd learned to curb her impatience. She does have the patience of a saint, Trip considered, but considering she did agree to marry him...The thought brought another smile to his face. Now that had been a special covert operation worthy of James Bond, and Trip remembered his part in it with a wide grin.
Captain Archer and Commander T'Pol entered the transporter room, right on time, as usual. Trip nodded at the captain, who gave him a sympathetic smile. To his surprise, he felt a flash of wry amusement from T'Pol, although her face was as impassive as ever. He raised an eyebrow at her, and thought, Is there somethin' wrong, Darlin'? Something I should know about?
T'Pol only arched her own eyebrow in turn. It is nothing to be alarmed at,T'hy'la.
Trip tried to stem his own irritation, but it spilled into the mental link despite his best efforts. Why is everyone treating me with kid gloves on this mission? What is it that has everyone worried about me? Is this ceremony so awful that I'm gonna faint or something?
She hesitated, and that only made him more concerned. No, but it might disturb you. I understand Lieutenant Commander Reed has given you fair warning?
Archer's voice interrupted their conversation. “All set?”
“Aye, Captain,” Malcolm confirmed. He gave Hoshi a sideways smile as she stepped onto the transporter pad next to him. Trip shook his head and took his place, followed by T'Pol and Archer. The captain nodded at the technician and they beamed down to the surface of Amari Prime.
They found themselves in the middle of a wide field, on one side of a transparent durasteel fence. Trip frowned as he saw a pile of old equipment on the opposite side: screens, keyboards, molecular brakes, converters, cables...it was a treasure trove of used parts that could be either recycled or sold with little effort. Being an engineer, his mind was already thinking up ways to do that. His father, Charles Tucker, Junior, had impressed upon him the habit of frugality.
“Waste not, want not. If you can figure out how to re-use something, do it,” his dad had told him.
His mother, Elaine, had ruffled Trip's hair and laughed as she added, “Worse comes to worse, you can always make it into a creative art sculpture. Think of all the galleries in the world that would appreciate a piece that's not only aestheticially pleasing, but practical too.”
Trip sighed now, as he had done then. His folks were practical people.
“Commander of Technology?”
The soft whisper jolted Trip from his thoughts. He looked around to see who had addressed him and didn't see anyone. Then he glanced down to see an Amarite woman looking up at him. Two of her four hands held the equivalent of a PADD, the third pressed a comm transtator in her ear, and the fourth directed the incoming crowd to blankets spread across their side of the field. She blinked her faceted eyes once, then gave him a wide grin. Trip couldn't help but shudder a little.
Man, every part of their body is wired. Even their teeth are shaped like data chips. He put aside his unease and summoned up a smile. “Yeah, I'm Commander Tucker.”
“Please follow me to the place of honor. Your Commander of Detonation is conferring with the other Ceremonials, and your crewmates are already present at the place of secondary honor.” The Amarite paused and nodded at the buzz in her earpiece. “If you would please.”
Commander of Detonation. Malcolm? Trip had never heard Malcolm referred to that way, although it was pretty accurate. His sense of unease grew as he followed her to a raised platform above the rest of the crowd. The High Engineer (Trip admitted to himself that the leader's title was a good one) welcomed him and bade him to sit on a blanket with the rest of his Amarite Network.
He narrowed his eyes as he saw Malcolm on the opposite side of the fence. The Armory Officer was gesturing to some point beyond the pile of old (yet still usable, Trip's mind insisted) equipment. Trip was too far away to see Malcolm's expressions, but he swore that he followed the other Amarites with a jaunty spring in his step.
The sense of unease in the pit of Trip's stomach only increased as the High Engineer activated his microphone and his deep bass voice reverberated across the field. Respectful silence fell over the crowd as he made his proclamation.
“My people, as you may recall, the last Ceremony was delayed because of a malfunction in our primary computer control system. It caused us great worry and unease at the time. This time, we may give thanks to our new friends from the stars, who have provided us with the upgrades and connections needed to correct the problem. I want to thank, in particular, their Commander of Technology, for making this possible.”
Electronic feedback on the speakers made Trip wince, even though he knew it was the Amarite equivalent of applause. The distortion reminded him of cats yowling in a burlap sack. He didn't want to imagine how it sounded to Hoshi's delicate hearing.
“As we all know, the face of the universe is constantly changing from the old to the new. To signify this transition from the old and unreliable to the new and improved, we shall begin this Ceremony with...a 'bang'.”
The High Engineer nodded to an unknown point across the field and a high-pitched whistle sounded, making Trip squirm again. A stream of Amarite words poured from the speakers, followed by the translation in Malcolm Reed's dignified English accent.
“Fire in the hole!”
Trip jumped and muttered, “Holy sh---”
And the pile of used electronic equipment blew up in a blaze of unholy glory. The durasteel fence glowed, but held fast. A roar of applause erupted from the crowd at the demise of the unreliable computer system that had delayed their previous Ceremony. Trip blinked in surprise and felt an odd pang for the loss, then he thought of all the times that he, as an engineer, had to deal with uncooperative technology on Enterprise. He'd lost a lot of sleep and scorched the walls of Engineering with creative curses, and he thought of all the times he just wanted to flush certain computer programs and protocols out the airlock.
But still ...the frugal voice in his head yelped in protest. All those parts...
Hush, he told himself. You still have those old DY-100s scattered in your quarters somewhere. When're you gonna get around to usin' 'em? T'Pol keeps stumblin' over those DF-225s every time she's in there...
Frugal Engineer muttered, I was getting' around to it...
Another flash in the heavens brought him back to reality. He craned his neck to see a bloom of color in the sky, a shimmering curtain among the stars. It took Trip a moment to register what was happening. Fireworks...it was a fireworks show.
Malcolm was probably in his idea of Heaven right now, launching the fireworks to the enjoyment of all. Trip laughed aloud and shook his head. No wonder Malcolm had been so closed-mouthed about his part in the the Ceremony. Blowing up a pile of old tech still brought a wistful pang to his heart, but Trip understood the reason.
He laughed again and settled back to watch the show.
Afterwards, the Enterprise crew rendezvoused at the beam-out site. The High Engineer exchanged some pleasantries with Captain Archer and T'Pol, as Trip, Hoshi and Malcolm discussed the lightshow.
“Wasn't it a grand explosion?” Malcolm asked. He looked like a giddy kid at Christmas, except this kid had gotten to play with fireworks as his present.
“It sure was,” Trip answered. “I gotta admit, I was thinkin' up ways to use that stuff you blew up, but when the High Engineer explained why they were doin' it, I had to admit, it was a pretty creative way to do it.”
Hoshi laughed and rolled her eyes at her fiance. “They do have a flair for the dramatic, but you have to admit, they know how to put on a show.”
The High Engineer took his leave of Archer and T'Pol, but before he left the Away Team, he nodded his thanks to Malcolm, then turned to Trip. “As a token of appreciation, Commander, I would like you to have this.” He pressed something into Trip's palm, then bowed and went back to the platform.
Trip glanced down at the gift he'd been given: a stack of DZ-664 circuit boards, dating back to the advent of warp technology, rare and valuable. He closed his hand around the present and looked up with a smile. Malcolm reached over and clapped him on the shoulder as he and Hoshi went past him to join the others. T'Pol gave him a tolerant raise of her eyebrow, but her eyes showed the humor that wasn't on her face.
He grinned and thought about the collection of stuff in his quarters. Something old, something new...