Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Dear Annie (23 – 33)

Dear Annie

by Mara

Summary: Hoshi writes home to a friend.

After Stigma

NOTES: It was difficult to tell how much Hoshi knew, and when she knew it…to
coin a phrase. So, this is a compromise. Thanks to ponygirl, allie, and
Josephine for giving me their opinions. And thanks, as always, to Captain
Average, the superhero who rocks 🙂

* * * * *

Dear Annie:

I can’t remember the last time we had this much excitement without someone
either shooting at us or threatening to shoot at us. (And isn’t that a
depressing commentary on my life.)

Unfortunately, much of the excitement involved T’Pol nearly being recalled to
Vulcan. Again. That’s getting to be nearly as commonplace as Trip and
some alien babe. Speaking of which…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

There’s a great deal I don’t know about what’s been happening, and I don’t want
to pry into T’Pol’s personal life. Certainly a comm officer often has to do that
whether she wants to or not, so I prefer to avoid it when I can. But it all
comes down to the fact that I’m worried about her.

The Captain is nearly frantic, which tells me that whatever has happened, it’s
serious. And since all of this excitement has taken place at a conference of the
Interspecies Medical Exchange, presumably it’s over something medical.

Granted, that may be an unwarranted assumption. Perhaps T’Pol is fighting with
the Vulcan Science Directorate over what brand of dilithium to use in the warp

But I don’t really think so. We came to this conference so Phlox could attend,
and suddenly I received a stiff note from the conference organizers that he was
no longer welcome as an attendee, and three Vulcan doctors descended on us to
meet with T’Pol and Phlox.

I didn’t find out about her being recalled until the Captain asked me to find a
loophole, a way to delay the recall legally. “Tie ’em up with their own
regulations” is how he put it. And I’m proud to say I did.

Turns out they had to give T’Pol a hearing before they yanked her back, so she
and the Captain set out to convince these doctors to let her stay on Enterprise.
The nosy part of me wishes I could have been a fly on the wall, but I suppose it
doesn’t really matter why they let her stay, just that she’s staying.

As I said, I’m assuming it’s something medical. And if she wants to stay here,
then presumably she believes Phlox will be able to help her just as well as her
own people. I’m sure he can, he’s an amazing doctor.

Then there’s Trip and the latest alien babe, except that this babe is a)
Denobulan and b) married to Phlox. Yes, boys and girls, this time Trip was
chased by our doctor’s wife. How does he do it?

Phlox’s wife Feezal came aboard to help install a neutron microscope in sickbay.
I’m not exactly certain why it was necessary to have the chief engineer
installing a piece of fairly standard equipment like that, but I suppose Trip
just hates having new toys aboard unless he gets to play with them.

(And no, I didn’t mean Feezal. Really.)

But Feezal apparently shares with every other alien female in the entire
an attraction to our Mr. Tucker. According to what he, rather
shamefacedly, told me at lunch, she was quite blatant in her regard. I think he
would have preferred to not tell me, but I’d been pestering him to explain an
odd meal he and I had the other day, and you know just how persistent I can be
when something bothers me.

We were eating, and everything was perfectly normal until Feezal showed up. Trip
was trying to convince me to stay aboard to watch the movie with him, but it was
some horror film. Yuck. Do you remember what happened the time you made me watch
that slasher movie? I thought Mark was going to faint when I jumped into his lap
in fear.

In any case, from Trip’s reaction, I honestly thought he’d slept with Feezal. (I
suppose I owe him an apology, although he certainly looked embarrassed enough
for that to be the case.) Apparently he was blushing because she was fondling
his leg with her foot, and I can’t really blame him for that, can I?

Although I do wonder why all the alien females seem to glom on to him. (I used
“glom” the other day, and then I had to find it in the dictionary to prove to
Liz it was a word. Ha! The linguist wins again.)

What other excitement did we have? Well, much of the crew got to take at least a
brief shoreleave on the planet. I didn’t have a chance to learn too much of the
language, but enough that I was able to attend and enjoy a live theatrical
performance. It reminded me a bit of pantomime, in the sense of humor that it

In other news, Travis, our little boomer daredevil, managed…wait for it…to
injure himself. I’m beginning to think he needs a keeper on shoreleave. This
time, it was playing some kind of sport involving live animals, of all things.
From his description it sounded like a greased pig contest, quite honestly, but
Travis insists it was great fun.

The animals apparently got a bit overenthusiastic, however, and Travis ended up
in sickbay. He was lucky the injury wasn’t all that serious, and even luckier
that Phlox’s intended lecture on safety was cut short by all the other events.
Travis swears he’ll be more careful next time, but somehow I find that unlikely.
Is there some reason I’m surrounded by men dedicated to getting themselves hurt?
Is this some death wish that Starfleet imparts to the male cadets?

And on that cheerful note, I’m almost due for my next shift, so I should finish
up this letter and get ready. I hope all is well on Earth.


After Ceasefire

NOTES: Written on a plane somewhere over the Midwest, with my husband grumbling
on one side, and a restless stranger jabbing his elbow into my other side. Typed
up during my lunch break on my first day back at work, after three hours of
sleep. Thanks for the beta to Captain Average, the superhero who is welcome to
gush over my writing any time he pleases ::grin::.

* * * * *

Dear Annie:

Final score? Humans: 1, Vulcans and Andorians: 0. Go humans!

I’m so excited I can barely sit still long enough to tell you about what we’ve
accomplished. Okay, it was scary and there was some shooting, but everyone
survived and if we haven’t actually created peace out of chaos, we’ve at least
slowed the rate of entropy around here.

It all started with a call from Admiral Forrest, which I put through to the
captain’s ready room. When he came out about 15 minutes later, he looked like
he’d just been told that the moon really was made of green cheese, and
the Klingons had taken a slice–you know, surprised, disbelieving, and unsure
how to react.

I was really worried for a moment, but it didn’t seem like whatever had happened
was really bad…just strange. And when the captain gathered his wits enough to
call a meeting of the senior staff, we were all pretty shell shocked as well.
You see, the Vulcans and Andorians were fighting over this tiny planet,
practically ready to go to war, and the Vulcans wanted our assistance to

Malcolm’s jaw dropped, Trip said hell had frozen over, Travis and I stared at
each other. And T’Pol?

She raised an eyebrow. You have to love that Vulcan calm.

Seriously, even she looked a bit shaken, although you’d have to know her
pretty well to see it. She made the captain repeat himself, which for her is the
rough equivalent of screaming aloud in hysteria and running around in circles.
After he’d repeated the admiral’s message, she seemed more willing to accept
that this wasn’t some odd example of human humor.

It took us three days to get to this planet and I took the time to read up a bit
on what was going on. Apparently, the Vulcans and Andorians have been fighting
over this barely habitable rock with little more than an atmosphere for over a
century. The Andorians got there first, but the Vulcans say it’s so close to
their home world, the Andorians must be using it as a military outpost.

They’ve been yelling back and forth for 100 years with an occasional break to
shoot at each other, and for some reason they wanted us there. I was a little
concerned they’d decided to shoot at us instead, but it was also exciting
to go play diplomat.

We arrived and–in grand military tradition–both sides made us wait. Finally,
the Vulcans deigned to come by for a visit. Lucky us, our good buddy Soval was
there representing the Vulcans.

Did my sarcasm come through clearly enough?

It turns out, the Vulcans hadn’t asked for us and, true to form, didn’t much
want us there (thus restoring my worldview). It was the Andorians.

I don’t think I ever told you about our experiences with the Andorians, did I?
Well, suffice it to say, they’ve been ambivalent at best, but apparently the
captain impressed the Andorian commander, Shran, so much that he insisted on our
presence to oversee and mediate.

I wasn’t in the meeting, but I can’t imagine Soval was too thrilled by this, and
since I know he has a particular knack for annoying Captain Archer, I was a
little concerned. But this time, the captain came out of the meeting grimly
determined. And Trip said he was quite astoundingly calm and cool during Soval’s
rudeness. Another point for out side, I’d say.

The captain waited until the last possible minute to tell Malcolm that no
security was joining the mission to meet with Shran–only the captain and T’Pol.
Malcolm was…furious. Incandescent with fury. Not that he said anything, he
really didn’t have to. His body was nearly shaking with fury and it didn’t help
that the captain looked faintly amused.

Oh, I wasn’t there, they were in the captain’s ready room, but I would have
heard any shouting, and I saw them when they came out. It took half an hour for
Malcolm to calm down enough to talk, he just went to this station and savagely
punched buttons. Scanning the area, I suppose. Even Trip, in command for the
duration, left him alone.

The first words out of his mouth, as we waited, were, “They’re going to go

“They’ve got phase pistols,” Trip said, looking alarmed.

“But he plans to leave them in the shuttle.”

“And the Sub-commander agreed?” Travis asked.

“Unbelievably, she did,” Malcolm said. “And there I thought she had more sense
than that.”

They went, they met with Shran, and he demanded to meet with Soval. I still
can’t believe it worked, but the captain convinced Soval to go down and meet.
(Did I mention the Andorian ships on their way to bring reinforcements and
heightened tensions?) Once again, they went with no security and plans to leave
the weaponry in the shuttle.

Worst of all, as far as I was concerned, once they made it into atmosphere,
Andorian jamming kept us out of contact. Do you know how nervous it makes a comm
officer to be unable to comm someone? I know I was reluctant to take this job in
the first place, but you know me, once I’m committed, that’s it.

So, we were all waiting and worrying, when yet another arrogant Vulcan commed us
with the bad news that they saw weapon fire and the shuttle going down in an
emergency landing. Malcolm and I immediately started searching for any way to
track their signal, their biosigns, anything.

Meanwhile, Trip and the Vulcans got into a pissing contest over the rescue
efforts and the Vulcan implied we were so inferior, we’d never find our
crew without them. You know how I react to that kind of attitude. Unbelievably,
Malcolm and I did it, through some cross-referencing and filtering and some
serious jury-rigging. I was able to isolate something I was 90% sure was human.
There seemed to be two other biosigns, so we had some hope for T’Pol and Soval
as well.

Unfortunately, just as I was making some progress in pinpointing their location,
the Andorian ships arrived and moved into a face-off with the Vulcans. It looked
like there was going to be shooting, and Trip got this pissed-off look.

I could tell he was angry and frustrated and worried. Which, oddly, seemed to
make him a better captain. He had Travis move Enterprise between the Vulcans and

Yup, right in between. Mind you, this was more symbolic than anything, because
they could always have shot around us, but symbolism can be useful.

The two sets of ships hailed us and Trip (who looked sick and tired of the whole
situation) said he didn’t care to take sides and he was going to shoot
anyone who moved toward the planet. Malcolm got to arm the phase cannons,
and the look of glee on his face was a sight to behold. (I think it made up for
his earlier frustration with the captain!)

We hung out in space, deadlocked, and I waited for someone else to get tired of
waiting and shoot at us, when suddenly both sets of ships started moving toward
the planet.

Trip really didn’t want to shoot anyone, but Malcolm was getting ready to, when
the captain hailed us, saying the ships had everyone’s permission to approach.
This prompted palpable relief on the bridge.

There was a lot of toing and froing, as Captain Archer helped sort things out,
and I got the story of what happened on the planet from Trip. To make a long
story short, they were shot down by Shran’s second-in-command, who has no desire
for peace with the Vulcans.

They chased each other around, Soval was snide, there was shooting, and Shran
and Soval finally met and managed to not kill each other, thanks to T’Pol and
the captain.

Negotiations and such will continue, but we’ve made a contribution. It may be
the mission I’m proudest of, although I’m glad it’s over.

Yes, I’m glad there’s no more immediate danger of shooting, but also…did I
mention that the last treaty took eight years to work out? It’s 1200 pages long.
(Reminds me of Reshma’s dissertation, actually.) I’m glad we don’t have to stick
around, if that’s normal.

I was going to close by saying that, for once, nobody got shot, but that’s not
technically true–Soval was shot in the general disarray. But at least for once
it wasn’t one of our crew that ended up in sickbay, so I’ll count that as a

Hmm, my life is certainly different than I expected, isn’t it? Remember when we
were going to travel around together, a freelance anthropologist and linguist? I
don’t think those fantasies ever included Andorians, slime monsters, or treaty
negotiations–at least not that I can recall. But I find myself oddly satisfied
with my life as it is.

If only people would stop shooting at us. Love to everyone and I hope you two
have fun on your vacation. Soak up some sun and drink a few cocktails for me.


After Future Tense

NOTES: Thanks to Starsearcher, saragirl, jyorakku, court, and marais for their
assistance and opinions on the contents of this letter. Much appreciated 🙂 And
thanks, as always, to Captain Average, the superhero who encourages.

* * * * *

Dear Annie:

I’m not sure how much sense this letter is going to make. (Yes, I know. You’re
smirking. “And how much sense do you make the rest of the time, dear?”) In all
seriousness, there are things I can’t tell you, but I don’t know what’ll be left
once those are removed.

I can’t tell you some of the biggest secrets–you know how bad you are at
keeping secrets. After all, there was the surprise party incident, and the thing
with the cheesecake, and well, you know.

So, you may get the problem without the solution, I’m afraid. Well, let’s get on
with it and see what develops, as Dr. D used to say.

It all started with a derelict ship floating dead in space. Now, we haven’t
exactly had much luck with random floating ships, so you might think we’d be a
bit wary, but you’d be wrong. We dumped it in launch bay two and Malcolm and the
captain rushed right down. Even Mr. Cautious (Lieutenant Cautious, I suppose)
barely took the time to scan it for weapons, he was so excited.

I was stuck on the bridge, of course, but from what they tell me (and from the
scanning T’Pol was doing from the bridge) Malcolm just used a phase pistol to
crack it open and they jumped in without doing any analyses of the air, the
metal…If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’d lost their minds.

But they climbed around in this tiny little ship like boys with a new toy, and
while Trip and Malcolm were investigating, they found–and you’ll never believe
this–that the ship was bigger inside than outside. I didn’t believe it either,
originally. T’Pol frankly thought they were kidding. (I think she’s encountered
too many stupid jokes recently, as she seems a bit quick to assume humor.)

After discovering the rather grisly body of the ship’s lone occupant, Trip and
Malcolm found a bit of technology in the ship emitting a weak signal, which they
brought it out with them. But before they could learn anything, we were attacked
by, well, by the X. Remember, the species I couldn’t tell you much about? Yeah,

They claimed prior salvage rights to this ship, but the captain wasn’t buying
that. Besides, any ship with technology to make it bigger inside than out is a
ship we want to hang on to.

Then, the X started shooting and some managed to infiltrate the ship, knocking
out Trip and nearly venting the launch bay with him in it. (I’m glad I didn’t
realize that until later.) Malcolm was pretty pissed that he failed to take out
their engines before they vanished.

The captain immediately had me request help from the Vulcans. It was about time
they got their arrogant selves out here and backed us up against the X with
bigger and better weapons. Unfortunately, the nearest ship was still a few days
away. That made for some anxious sailing, I can assure you.

Then came the next surprise: Phlox’s genetic analysis of the body found in our
derelict ship. It was human, and a few other things besides.

The captain thought maybe the body was Zephram Cochrane, the only human we could
think of who might have made it out this far. Maybe we’d solved one of history’s
great puzzles–and I wish that were true, but it wasn’t him.

While we were running around worrying about this, we were also making tracks to
meet up with the Vulcans. Trip took to hanging over his engines, worrying every
time they pinged, the captain paced, and Malcolm kept his precious cannons ready
to fire at any instant. He drove the armory crew absolutely wild, and
engineering was considering staging a mutiny at one point.

Then, a new species showed up out of nowhere and demanded we turn over the
derelict ship. This time, it was someone called the Tholians, whom T’Pol said
the Vulcans consider rather xenophobic. (You’ll be pleased to know I
successfully resisted the urge to say “Pot. Kettle. Black.”)

The worst part was my utter inability to get a good read on the Tholian
language. We got a lot of clicking and beeping, along with some translated
words, and I can’t figure out what’s wrong. I’ve been working on it in my spare
time, but I haven’t gotten anywhere.

Let’s see, after the Tholians insulted the captain (or at least that’s what I’m
assuming it was), they threatened to shoot us and we ran away.

Now, do you remember way back at the beginning I said that Trip and Malcolm
removed something from the derelict ship, something that was emitting a weak
signal? Well, Trip had been working on it all along, and he developed a theory
that it might be some kind of transmitter.

Meanwhile, the X showed up again, just a few minutes away from our rendezvous
with the Vulcans. They blasted away at our launch bay, nearly breaking through.

As we got closer and closer to our rendezvous, the Vulcan ship suddenly came
into view…disabled. Not destroyed, but completely unable to help us.

Arrowing away from it, Tholian ships engaged the X and suddenly Enterprise was
the bone in a tug-of-war between two mighty powerful dogs. There wasn’t much we
could do, but we engaged in a series of last-ditch efforts while the Tholians
were destroying all the X’s ships. The captain thought there was a chance that
the derelict’s transmitter might just be an emergency beacon, and he ordered
Trip to get it working.

So, while we were being shot at, Trip was trying to fix up this bit of
unfamiliar technology, Malcolm and Captain Archer booby-trapped the derelict
ship in case anyone got it, and general chaos reigned.

The Tholians broke into the launch bay and put a tractor beam on the derelict
ship; unfortunately, they were also able to somehow remotely defuse the booby-
trap. Just as they were about to get away with it, Trip succeeded in his task:
The transmitter sent its unknown message to unknown people.

Within moments, the ship, the body, and the distress signal all disappeared.
Just vanished. We’ve got a pretty good idea of where they’ve gone, but sad to
say, that comes under the heading of things I can’t tell you about. Maybe

With no further ado, explanation, or apology, the Tholians took off–leaving us
gasping in relief and ready to help the Vulcans put their ship back together

And what have we learned today, children? Have we learned to not go around
picking up random derelict ships? Perhaps we’ve learned that poking around in
said ships can be hazardous to our health? Maybe we’ve learned a little lesson
about not depending on the Vulcans to save our asses?

I doubt it.


After Canamar

NOTES: Thanks to ponygirl for allowing me to use her suggestion from the
Linguistics Database Forum. And Em Gomez is borrowed with permission from
Jessica and Chrysa. My eternal and continuing thanks to Captain Average, the
superhero who edits.

* * * * *

Dear Annie:

You know, I never get used to crewmembers nearly dying. I thought maybe it might
get easier, but it doesn’t.

Especially when they have a knack for nearly getting killed while on routine
missions. It’s getting to the point where any time someone leaves the ship, I
start mentally preparing their eulogy. That can’t possibly be healthy.

This time, it was Trip and the captain, off on a quick visit to the Enolian
homeworld. We went to pick them up at their rendezvous, but all we found was
Shuttlepod One, floating end over end–with no biosigns.

I won’t make you suffer as long as we did: they’d been snatched off their ship
by a prison transport that thought they were smugglers.

D’you know, I don’t think we ever found out what it was they were supposed to be
smuggling? How odd.

In any case, the government official that T’Pol got hold of, wasn’t going to be
very helpful, but nobody does stubborn like a Vulcan. Eventually, he found the
transport that was taking Trip and the captain to a prison called Canamar. We
practically had to kidnap him to get him to go with us to meet the transport–to
make sure there were no other misunderstandings, you know.

Of course, things couldn’t possibly go easily. One of the criminals, a
particularly nasty Enolian named Kuroda, managed to get loose and take over the
transport. Well…actually he had a Nausicaan accomplice.

Our Enolian official informed us his government wasn’t going to take any chances
on Kuroda getting out again: if we didn’t find the transport first, there was a
good chance the Enolians would blow it to pieces.

Typical. Shoot first–don’t bother with the questions. Damn the innocent men,
full speed ahead!

So, we tracked that transport. But we still might not have succeeded in saving
the two men, if not for a coded message from the captain. It was pretty sketchy,
considering that he had to code it in Morse code, but since he was trying to
pilot a ship using controls he couldn’t read, I was pretty impressed he managed
even that.

And it gave us enough information to track down the ship that was supposed to
pick up Kuroda and his Nausicaan buddy.

Here’s where it got tricky. We had to take the ship without doing any serious
damage, and find out what was going on. Malcolm and his team did a great job!
There was a little bit of damage where they essentially broke in through an
airlock, but engineering patched over it so Kuroda wouldn’t notice.

So, we had a shuttle with a couple of Enolian criminals, and no idea what to do
next. Now, these criminals knew we weren’t the Enolian government, so there
wasn’t much chance of using that angle. Instead, Malcolm came up with the
devious idea of playing master criminal. (Since the option of beating the
dickens out of them was ruled out.)

T’Pol okayed the plan, but decided she wasn’t up to the acting involved–
although she did an amazing job of playing judge, jury, and executioner when
Trip and that chickie were lost. So, Malcolm drafted me and two of his armory
crew (Crewman Orsini and Lt. Emmanuelle Gomez, who can both look very menacing)
to play the part of henchpeople.

In one of the most terrifying improvisations of my life (and yes, I know you’re
responsible for all my theatre experience), we convinced the two Enolians that
we were bigger and badder criminals than Kuroda. We told them that they and
Kuroda could join our organization or die. When they agreed, they told
Malcolm how the rendezvous was arranged.

At which point we dumped them in the brig. Malcolm and a couple of burly armory
officers hopped into their ship, with Travis as pilot. Travis was thrilled to
see some action, although I rather wish he’d agreed to stay out of the way of
weapons. No, he didn’t get hurt, I just worry, because he’s not security

Anyway, they met up with the prison transport, Kuroda opened the door to his
accomplices, and Malcolm and gang entered, weapons presumably blazing.

I’m told there was some scuffling before Kuroda and the Nausicaan were knocked
out, the prisoners were taken off the transport and…oh, I forgot to tell you
that Kuroda was planning to kill everyone else, so the transport was in a
decaying orbit.

The captain, of course, refused to leave until everyone was off. Malcolm swears
he only turned his back for a second, but the supposedly unconscious Kuroda
slammed the door shut, trapping the captain with him. Malcolm blames himself,
but honestly, I think Captain Archer is completely capable of nearly getting
himself killed without anyone else’s help.

More scuffling ensued, while Travis fought to keep the two ships docked, and
Malcolm considered blowing the door open. The captain finally got the door open
and Malcolm says he was still trying to save Kuroda. Malcolm had to drag
him off bodily.

Once again, all’s well that ends well! The boys returned, tired, hungry, and a
little bit worse for wear and I think we all came out of this experience a
little more wary of varied cultural conceptions of justice.

Even I, with all my years of anthropology classes, find it hard to believe that
the Enolians can so cavalierly dispense with any kind of trial before
imprisonment. It’s always interesting when we find our own cultural prejudices,
isn’t it? I hadn’t realized how fond I am of the old “innocent until proven
guilty” formulation.

Time for me to finish up and send this letter, as I’m having dinner with Em
Gomez. I haven’t really spent much time with her, but after working closely on
the interrogation, I found I really liked her. She’s tough, no-nonsense, and is
prone to saying whatever’s on her mind, and to hell with the consequences. In
fact, she reminds me a lot of you. We’re planning a good bitch session this

Hey, aren’t you and Amanda coming up on your first anniversary? Maybe by the
time you get this, it’ll be past already, but just in case, happy anniversary!


After The Crossing

NOTES: This would have been done sooner if I hadn’t had to make an emergency
trip to New Jersey for the weekend. Thanks to Captain Average for the beta, and
for an explanation that Hoshi attributes to Trip.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

I’ve missed you and Earth all along, but lately it’s been even worse–ever since
I got a little taste of home. The captain brought us all back, but I’ll admit
that there’s a little piece of me that wishes he hadn’t. I know, I know, you’re
tapping your fingers on the desk, waiting for me to explain.

This alien ship showed up at Warp 6 and our weapons and engines just…stopped.
Then, it gobbled up Enterprise, like whatsisname and the whale.

There were no life signs and no transceiver, so while I tried my best to contact
whoever or whatever was piloting the ship, there didn’t seem to be anything to
contact. There were just these glowy things, flitting like butterflies,
invisible to our sensors.

Captain Archer, Trip and Malcolm went out to see what they could see, and one of
these glowy things went into Trip. (You’d think eventually we’d stop
sending him on away missions, since everything apparently happens to him…and
while we’re on the subject, why’d the captain take him when the engines so
obviously needed to be fixed, anyway?)

When the being came out again, a few moments later, Trip swore he’d been back in
Florida, with some ex-girlfriend. Phlox couldn’t find anything wrong, so Trip
went back to working on the engines. I kept trying to communicate, and T’Pol
tried to find these glowy things on our sensors.

Oh, and she also kept up-to-date on how the crew was reacting our being stuck. I
hadn’t really noticed what a good network she’s been building up. She’s really
learning how to read humans and what’s important to us, and in return, people
are learning how to talk to her, and how to explain things to her. It’s all very
neat to see.

While Trip was down in engineering, the glowy thing–which Malcolm dubbed a
“wisp”–took him over again. Rostov figured it out when Trip called him “sir,”
and he called the captain immediately.

T’Pol, Malcolm, and the captain, tracked “Trip” to the mess hall, where the wisp
was eating pretty much everything in sight. Liz tells me their conversation was
really weird, because it sounded like Trip, but not quite. I’m glad I never met
the wisp in Trip’s body. It would have…bothered me. Although not as much as
the one in Malcolm…but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

The wisp told Captain Archer that his people were subspace explorers–
noncorporeal beings who were just curious about us. After that, it left again,
and Trip described riding along with Hopalong Cassidy and spending time with his

Just when we thought we were clear, one of the wisps tried to take over Phlox,
but failed. Then it got Malcolm.

Apparently, he ogled Deb Strauss in the hallway and was incredibly forward and
rude to Melissa Chamberlain in the turbolift. She told me later it sounded like
the universe’s worst pick-up lines: Me man, you woman, wanna get it on?

But that’s not the strangest part! Then it went to T’Pol’s quarters and told her
to take off her clothes. T’Pol wouldn’t say much more than that, but I’m pretty
sure it didn’t hurt her. She looked more annoyed than disturbed. (Yes, I
am learning how to read Vulcans. Or at least one particular Vulcan.)

While all of this was going on, I was hearing all kinds of strange things from
around the ship. Hess trying to kiss Josephson, Em was found dancing, and
Rostov got taken over while working on the engines. The captain had me send
security teams to pick up anyone acting oddly–although Travis made the
excellent point that we didn’t know if those security teams were themselves, but
what else could we do?

We started locking people in their quarters and Phlox figured out how to
determine who was possessed by a wisp. Very handy, that. (Although we never did
figure out why the wisps didn’t just take us all over at once.)

Then, Travis was being chased by one of these things, and he ran up into the
catwalk…and it stopped. Apparently, the osmium shielding of the catwalk (where
we hid from that storm) somehow stops them from floating through.

So, the captain had everyone evacuating to the catwalk again, and shifted bridge
control there. And that’s pretty much the last thing I remember, because I was
taken over.

Those of us who were possessed have been trying to figure out a way to describe
it to others, and there hasn’t been much agreement, except that it wasn’t scary
at all. Whatever they were doing with our bodies, we were nowhere nearby.

I can’t even remember all the places I was, but it was…it was amazing and it
was wonderful. Yes, intellectually I resent having my body stolen and the idea
the wisps were going to take our ship, but I can’t regret the experience.

I was home first, I remember that, sipping tea with my mother–that English
stuff she used to sneak in to annoy my father when he wanted green tea. No
arguments, no demands, just a relaxed tea ceremony.

Then, I was there for a meeting between Humans and Vulcans–before everything
went bad, back when they were studying the two languages and communicating. It
was incredibly exciting.

I saw San Francisco, too: my apartment with everyone there for a party, eating,
drinking, laughing. I walked in the park with you and Mark and Tracy, and we sat
in the Japanese tea garden, just like we used to do.

Next thing I knew, I awoke in sickbay, next to a somewhat bruised and battered
Trip–who didn’t look much happier to find himself here. It’s as if we were
given the times and places that made us happiest or interested us the most. At
least, that seems to be true for everyone I’ve talked to.

Em told me about whitewater rafting down the best river she ever found, and
making fresh tortillas with her grandmother. Rostov blushed a little and mumbled
something about gardening with his father. Liz got an incredibly nostalgic look
on her face and described traveling the Galapagos Islands with Charles Darwin.

Malcolm changed the subject. Three times. T’Pol came as close to glaring as I’ve
ever seen when I asked her, so I had to give up on her as well.

Oh, I suppose I haven’t told you the end of the story, have I?

When we last saw our brave heroes, they’d retreated to the catwalk, leaving the
possessed crew locked in their quarters, and Phlox–immune to the wisps–running
around the ship.

Apparently, the wisp possessing me called Phlox claiming my leg was broken, then
tried to knock him out when he came to fix it. Fortunately, our intrepid doctor
is no babe in the woods, and he came armed with a phase pistol and a hypospray,
the latter of which he used to knock me out.

Meanwhile, T’Pol convinced Captain Archer to let her try a daring plan: leave
the catwalk and allow a wisp to try and possess her, hoping she could learn
something from it. To my mind, it’s a mark of T’Pol’s and the captain’s
desperation that they went ahead with this plan, because honestly it’s the most
harebrained and illogical plan we’ve ever hatched. Stupider even than the time
we tricked those Klingons by moving a village six meters to the east. What made
T’Pol so sure she could resist, just because she’s a Vulcan? And just because
the wisps could apparently pull out some of our memories, doesn’t mean the flow
goes both ways.

The really astounding thing, though, is that the plan worked! T’Pol was able to
push out the wisp through force of will. Or sheer Vulcan stubbornness.
Take your pick.

Well, it turns out these “explorers” were actually riding in a deteriorating
ship and couldn’t survive in airless space. Why would noncorporeal travelers in
subspace have this problem? I don’t know, I’m just the comm officer. Trip
suggested that the incredible cold of space could slow down the wisp’s energy
signature, thus killing them. Too bad he’ll never be able to test his theory.

In any case, they planned to take us all over and hijack our ship, until Phlox,
T’Pol, and the captain hatched a clever plan to use gas to knock us all out–
basically choking us so the wisps would leave. The plan was nearly derailed when
it turned out that one of the wisps had stowed away in Trip’s body and he
overheard the plan. He knocked over poor Travis on his way to stop Phlox from
releasing the gas.

Phlox looks rather pleased with himself these days, and I suppose he should be:
it’s not often the doctor sees this much action!

Captain Archer isn’t looking quite so pleased. In fact, Trip says he’s not
eating very well and he’s been sighted pacing the halls late at night. (Hey,
T’Pol’s not the only one with a network of informants.) I would imagine the
captain’s feeling guilty because he blew up the wisps’ ship on the way out, and
I can’t blame him–for the guilt or the explosions. They were planning to take
over any compatible minds they encountered, and yet, I can’t help wishing we
could have come up with a way to save them as well as ourselves. Some way to
learn about how they did it, some way to go back to the places they sent us.

All of which leaves us in a strange position: one-third of the crew disoriented
and saddened by our sudden removal from happy places. We’re like recovering
addicts, willing to do almost anything to get our drug.

Phlox thinks that as certain brain chemicals return to their normal levels we’ll
all start to feel better, but it’s not all that pleasant while we wait. Which
reminds me, I’m due in sickbay in a few minutes for a last checkup, so I’ll sign
off now.

Send me a letter soon, something long and chatty, as I’m feeling homesick. I
miss you.


After Judgement

NOTES: Thanks as always for the beta go to Captain Average, the freelance
superhero, and also a big thank you to the LD Forum folks for encouragement. I
may have tipped the scales on the ol’ sarcasm-o-meter this time…

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

In theory, I suppose I should probably be fascinated to learn so much about the
penal system of an alien race–except for the part where they were going to
execute Captain Archer.

We should be used to encounters with alien laws that don’t work in our favor.
From Porthos peeing on a sacred tree, to Trip and the captain getting hijacked
onto a prison ship, this entire mission has just been chock full of legal fun.

Well, this time we got in trouble for answering a distress call. No, wait,
that’s happened before too, hasn’t it? Good grief, I think we’re repeating
ourselves. At least we could come up with new and interesting ways to nearly get
ourselves killed, don’t you think?

But we answered a distress call and found the most pathetic bunch of refugees
you’ve ever seen–you’d have cried. They were stranded in a ship that was
providing them oxygen for life support, and not much more, stuck too far away
from their destination.

Apparently their colony was annexed by the Klingon Empire, which stayed just
long enough to strip any available resources and then disappear. The colonists
were in danger of starvation and other such exciting things, so they set out for
the nearest habitable planet, but their ship couldn’t handle the journey…at
least half the colonists died on the way.

Naturally, we took them in–over Malcolm’s security concerns, of course. While
Trip and his crew were climbing all over their poor ship, trying to see if it
could be fixed, the Klingons showed up. Lucky us.

The captain of the Klingon ship–a thoroughly unpleasant specimen named Duras–
demanded we turn over the refugees, whom he called rebels, for trial and
probable execution.

Naturally, there wasn’t a chance in hell of our turning them over, so after some
exchanges of testosterone, we got down to the shooting and running. It didn’t
look good, but the captain came up with a plan to run into the rings of a nearby
planet and ignite the plasma to cloud their sensors.

It worked, and gave us enough time to drop the refugees off safely, but not
enough time for anyone to get here to back us up when the Klingons showed up
again. We’re just lucky that it wasn’t Duras or someone of his ilk that came for
us, or I wouldn’t be alive to tell you this story.

But since they obviously had the drop on us, we had to let them take Captain
Archer; they said they were going to put him on trial for conspiring against the
Klingon Empire. T’Pol nearly had to forcibly restrain Trip from beating the crap
out of the Klingons that came to take him, and Malcolm looked like he was going
to implode.

What with the damage to the ship and other such details, it took some time
before we made it to Qo’nos where the captain was being tried, and when we got
there, we were told he wasn’t allowed any visitors. Cue another explosion from
Trip and more near implosions from Malcolm.

It took another day before Phlox came up with the plan: We told the Klingons
that Captain Archer suffered from a disease that required medical treatment. I
think I held my breath most of the time until Phlox came back–apparently the
Captain was doing pretty well, if a bit hungry because Klingon food is just that

Then we just had to wait. The Klingons refused to give us any details about how
the trial was going, except that the captain was “honored by the appointment of
Kolos as his advocate.” And the Klingon who told us that didn’t look any too
pleased that the captain was given this honor.

That was pretty much the last information we received, up until the moment they
announced the verdict: Guilty.

The magistrate, thanks to all the things Enterprise has done for the Empire–
uncovering a plot to infiltrate them, saving a freighter–chose to commute the
death sentence.

So, he sentenced him to hard labor in the Rura Penthe dilithium mines, and then,
when Kolos objected, the advocate got sent there as well.

Captain Archer says we shouldn’t blame Kolos for the guilty verdict, that he did
the best he could in an impossible situation. He says his speech was pretty
inspiring, in fact. (I’ll take that with a grain of salt, though, since the
captain is not exactly known for his ability to concoct inspiring speeches, for
instance, there’s his penchant for animal analogies…)

T’Pol and Trip argued over attempting a rescue, but the Sub-commander convinced
us that, deep in the heart of the Empire, it wasn’t exactly advisable for us to
try and attack a prison transport. Well, there’s also the fact that Captain
Archer essentially ordered us not to endanger ourselves attempting his rescue.
Naturally we’d ignore that if we had half a chance–even a quarter of a chance.

So, the captain labored in the dilithium mine while T’Pol found old contacts of
hers throughout the Klingon bureaucracy. She was absolutely amazing! She refused
to give up, just kept working through every Klingon she knew and every other
Klingon they knew, until she found the right palms to cross with
currency. Who would have thought a logical Vulcan could be so darned
sneaky. Even Trip and Malcolm were impressed.

After a great many bribes, we were sent to the captain of a dilithium hauler and
some guards who were willing to be bribed themselves. Malcolm was smuggled down
to the mines to find Captain Archer. He said it was cold, barren, and generally
miserable, something like New York City in the winter. Ah yes, Malcolm humor–
seldom seen, but always worth a chuckle.

So, he went in and nearly had to drag the captain out of there, since there was
a very short window in which the bribed guards were in control. The captain used
much of that time trying to convince Kolos to come with him, but the advocate
insisted that the only way he was going to change the Klingon system was from

I never met Kolos, but from what the captain says, he sounds like our kind of
guy! I wish him all possible luck.

Mind you, I’m very glad we got the captain back in one piece, but I wonder what
the consequences of this particular rescue are going to be. I mean, surely even
the Klingons will notice that one of their prisoners has escaped! How are they
going to react? Somehow I doubt this is going to do good things for Qo’nos-Earth

But how could we have done anything else? Even T’Pol in her caution, and Malcolm
in his paranoia, wouldn’t have left these people to be tried and executed by the
Klingons for the horrible crime of trying to survive. This was a no-win
situation if I ever saw one.

One thing I’ve learned in over a year aboard Enterprise is that the crew of a
ship takes its mood from the captain, so with some certainty I can say that the
predominant mood right now is gloomy. We’re all thinking about Kolos and the
Klingons and all the other colonies out there being occupied. These are not
thoughts guaranteed to make one feel better, let me tell you.

Great, I’ve written you another letter filled with doom and gloom. You must
think that all we do out here is sit around and angst. To prove that incorrect,
let me assure you that as soon as I finish, I’m on my way to movie night with
Trip and Em. They’ve promised me a light-hearted comedy, and they’d better

I hope all is well on Earth, and that you and Amanda are happy. Thanks very much
for sending the pictures. They made me homesick–but in a good way, if that
makes any sense. With this letter, I’m sending some pictures that Trip has taken
of the crew. I think you’ll really like the food fight one. Remind me to tell
you that story some day. Be well!


After Horizon and The Breach

‘m sorry you don’t get two separate letters, but RL kinda sucks. Thanks
for the beta to Captain Average, the superhero with dental issues even worse
than mine.
DEDICATION: Once again, to Jessica. Long distance hugs and get better soon.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

Can you imagine two groups of people who hate each other so much that they have
a series of wars, then literally have no contact for 300 years? Apparently,
that’s been the case between the Denobulans and this other race called the

We only found this out because an Antaran ended up in sickbay and refused to let
Phlox treat him. Why he was there at all has to do with a message from the
Denobulan Science Academy that arrived for Phlox. It seemed pretty urgent, and I
needed an excuse to get off the bridge for a few minutes, so I ran the card down
to him personally.

He was feeding his menagerie and introduced me to the cutest little furry thing
you’ve ever seen, called a tribble. Unfortunately, this tribble wasn’t one of
his medical creatures–it was lunch for something else. I gave him his message
and left rather abruptly for the bridge. Call me crazy, but I find it unsettling
when things in cages eat moderately large furry animals.

The Denobulans asked Enterprise to divert to a nearby planet that–due to a
recent revolution–had taken a turn for the xenophobic, and wanted all the
aliens to disappear. Apparently the Xantorians were perfectly willing to shoot
anyone who wasn’t gone by their deadline. Unfortunately, a group of Denobulan
geologists were deep inside a series of caverns and couldn’t be reached via

So, our experienced climber, Travis, took Trip and Malcolm on a rescue mission
while Captain Archer negotiated a three-day hold on shooting aliens on sight. In
theory, Enterprise planned to spend those three days waiting, but I was
listening to the evacuation and the tumult on the planet, and I heard one of the
refugee ships in deep trouble.

They had a warp core breach and needed to land and get immediate medical
attention for their crew, but the Xantorian government wouldn’t let them.
Naturally, we couldn’t just let them get blown up or die of their injuries! So,
we grappled the ship, took the wounded to sickbay, and sent our engineers to
help repair the ship. I’m sure Hess was missing Trip, but she did a great job. I
think I heard the captain say something about a commendation for her, which I
know will thrill her!

And Phlox did his usual amazing job healing the wounded and juggling an
overloaded sickbay, until this Antaran arrived. While the guy was unconscious,
it was okay, but once he was stabilized and Phlox needed to do some sort of
cellular repair, he awoke and refused to be treated by a Denobulan.

Meanwhile, Travis, Malcolm, and Trip trekked through these caverns and managed
to slip and slide their way into an injury for Travis–a broken ankle and some
torn ligaments. Why does he like climbing so much if he always hurts himself?
Although this time it was apparently Malcolm’s fault.

Poor Travis. He’s really been having a tough time recently. We doubled back
toward Earth a few weeks ago, and happened to pass right near his parents’ cargo
ship, the Horizon, so he thought he’d drop in for a few days of leave. Then just
before the rendezvous, he got a message that his father had died, before Travis
got to talk to him. God, he was devastated, our usually cheerful boomer, he
wouldn’t talk to anyone.

Well, he did end up taking his leave on the Horizon, and he’s been happier
since–now that he got to work some unresolved things out with his family.
Still, he didn’t need to come back and immediately hurt himself.

Unfortunately, he did, and Trip and Malcolm had to leave him behind to keep
looking for the scientists. When I went to visit Travis in sickbay, he said he
wasn’t that concerned about being stuck and injured, but he was absolutely
terrified that they’d hurt themselves or get lost without him.

Meanwhile, our Antaran patient still refused to be treated, and I have a
suspicion the captain tried to order Phlox to conduct the procedure anyway.
(It’s kind of a catchphrase around here: “That’s an order, Ensign.”) I remember
the uproar when Alison (that’s Crewman Rhodes) refused to let Phlox use one of
his particularly creepy crawlies, saying she’d rather let her wound heal more
slowly. Liz was in the corner laughing hysterically and she said Phlox tried to
convince her, but since Alison was adamant, Phlox backed off. Mind you, Alison
was back a week later, in serious pain, but Phlox refused to treat her against
her wishes, so I doubt he’d have treated this Antaran, no matter what the
captain said.

I’m basing all this speculation purely on my knowledge of Phlox and the captain,
mind you, and the frustration on both their faces throughout this entire
experience. I really wish there was more cultural information available on the
Denobulans, so I could help the captain understand the doctor. Those insular
Denobulans don’t exactly welcome cultural anthros with open arms.

I wish I could have been there to see how Phlox convinced the obstinate Antaran-
-I’ll bet it was an interesting cultural clash. But I suppose the important
thing is that he succeeded, the surgery was done, and the Antaran survived. It
gives you a little bit of hope about the fate of the universe, doesn’t it?

Trip and Malcolm used this time to find our lost sheep, er, Denobulans, only the
obstinate idiots didn’t want to leave. They said they weren’t in any danger from
the Xantorians where they were, proving they hadn’t listened to a thing they’d
been told. Trip says he was standing there, filthy, tired, frantic about the
situation on the surface, and these smug Denobulans dismissed him–that was it,
he lost his temper. By the time he was telling me about it, he couldn’t remember
exactly what he said in his fury, except that it involved the threat to tie them
up and drag them out personally.

Whatever he said, it worked and they were on their way back. Mind you, we
didn’t know that, and as the deadline for the Xantorians to start shooting
approached, we got antsy. I was scanning every comm signal on the planet,
desperate to hear their voices, and the captain divided his time between
hovering over my shoulder and checking on the repairs to the evacuation ship.

But I heard nothing. Well, that’s not precisely true–I heard dozens of escaping
refugee ships, terrified families uprooted from their homes, visiting scientists
and exchange students thrown out on their ears. No sign of our crew or the
missing Denobulans as the deadline rapidly approached, and Captain Archer was
nearly apoplectic.

But that apoplexy was dwarfed by his fury when a Xantorian patrol started
shooting at the area above the caverns. The captain had me get the governor on
the line and the sanctimonious bastard had the nerve to say the patrol was
shooting at soldiers from the previous regime, and it had nothing to do with us.

That was truly the final straw for the captain, who had T’Pol arm our weapons
systems, and threatened to destroy the patrol if they didn’t stop shooting. He
essentially told the governor that if he didn’t let our people get out
unmolested, he’d be starting a war with Earth before the weapons were even cold
on their little revolution.

It was a bluff, pure bluff. Okay, sure, we might have been able to destroy their
patrol ships, but there’s no way we have the authority to declare war…but the
governor was apparently worried enough that he stopped the patrol. And then we
waited. And waited.

Two long and painful hours after the deadline, we finally got word from the
shuttlepod that everyone (even the scientists) were safely aboard. They took off
and were making their way out of the atmosphere, when a patrol ship started
shooting at them. That patrol was moments away from being blown out of the sky,
when Trip and Malcolm told us not to shoot, it was warning shots instead of
killing shots.

The shuttlepod made it safely back, thank goodness, and we transferred the
Denobulan scientists as well as the Antaran onto a transport ship heading in the
direction of their homeworlds. That was a little adventure in and of itself,
involving a long conversation between Phlox and the scientists, before they
agreed to ride on the same transport–as long as the Antaran agreed.

We’ll never know how that goes, unfortunately. Will the Denobulans and the
Antarans spend the entire trip avoiding each other? Maybe they’ll have a frank
conversation, leading to further rapprochement. A girl can dream, right?

I hope all is well at home by the time you get this message. I’m terribly sorry
to hear about your knee, but I’m sure that the doctors will figure out what’s
wrong and make it better. Long distance hugs and get well soon, okay? Tell
Amanda I said to pamper you, because you deserve it.


After Congenitor

NOTES: The quote I attribute to Annie was actually said to me by Jess many years
ago. It’s just one of many reasons this series is dedicated to her. Thanks as
always for the beta to Captain Average, the superhero who praises.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

Trip really got into it this time. And the worst thing is, while it’s easy to
see how stupid he was in retrospect, I don’t know that I would have acted any

Practically for the first time on this voyage, we met a friendly species called
the Vissians. Not fake friendly, either, really truly interested in meeting
other species and talking to them. We ran into the Vissian ship when we diverted
to check out a hypergiant, an incipient supernova, and saw a ship closer in than
we could go.

The captain had me hail them, they offered to help modify our sensors to gather
more data, and we invited them for dinner. (Interesting side note for you:
Apparently they found human food rather bland, not in taste, but in smell–which
is more important to them. I’ll send you my notes under separate cover.)

In any case, several of their crewmembers came and we introduced them to various
foods, and they introduced us to the fact their species has three sexes: male,
female, and cogenitor. The latter, who make up approximately 3% of their
population, provides a vital role in creating a child, some enzyme apparently.

Trip and a few other folks were pretty weirded out by this, although most of the
crew took it in stride. Honestly, compared to the space station that tried to
use Travis as a calculator, and the time Trip got pregnant, a little thing like
a third sex just isn’t a big deal. (Although I wonder if the pregnancy thing is
what made him so uncomfortable with the idea of a sex/gender setup unlike human-

The chief engineer of the Vissian ship and his wife were the ones trying to have
a baby, and they invited Trip over to see the engines. He seemed uncomfortable,
but I think he’d have walked through fire to see their engines, so it all
balanced out.

Meanwhile, our captain set off in a little pod with the Vissian captain to go
see the inside of this hypergiant. The Vissians asked me nicely, so I gave them
some cultural files, like a complete Shakespeare and the Tao Te Ching, all of
which they loved. These aliens read and learn incredibly fast.

Trip came back from the Vissian ship coveting their engines and even more
bothered by the cogenitor. Or rather, bothered by how the Vissians treat the
cogenitor, which is rather like a pet. Cogenitors aren’t taught to read and
don’t really live like the rest of the population. I know Phlox and T’Pol tried
to explain that we couldn’t judge Vissian culture by our own, or by the tiny
slice of it we saw, but he didn’t listen. I swear, that man redefines the word

Despite everything he was told, Trip still snuck away from his Vissian hosts to
talk to the cogenitor, teaching it how to read. After that, he brought it to
Enterprise for a tour, and they apparently watched some movies. I haven’t gotten
many of the details out of Trip because he’s been staying in his quarters
since…well, since everything went wrong.

When the Vissians realized what was going on, they kicked him off their ship,
but it was too late–the cogenitor escaped and requested asylum aboard
Enterprise. And that’s when the captain got back and flipped out.

Just between you and me, though, I think Captain Archer is being a bit
hypocritical, because he’s certainly intervened in plenty of situations without
sufficient information. Remember when I told you he helped the X escape from a
prison camp? Classic case of act first, justify later.

But he’s the captain and the decision of whether to grant asylum was in his
hands. He talked to T’Pol and met with some of the Vissians, in the end deciding
to send the cogenitor back. Trip was pissed, and I’ll admit I wasn’t too
pleased, but no way was I getting between Trip and Jon when they’re fighting.
I’d rather face down an angry Klingon.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, I got a call from the Vissian
captain, sounding a lot less happy to be talking to humans, demanding to speak
to Captain Archer. I found him in his quarters.

It turns out the cogenitor killed itself.

The ship’s pretty tense right now. The captain can’t decide whether he’s angrier
at himself, or at Trip, or at T’Pol for not stopping everything. He’s just
generally angry.

Trip has barely spoken to anyone since we got the news, so I finally trapped him
in his quarters; he’s devastated–blaming himself, blaming the Vissians, blaming
the captain. He introduced the cogenitor to all the possibilities inherent in
sentience, then it had to go back to captivity.

Which brings me back to my original point. It’s easy for me to look at this
situation in retrospect and invoke cultural relativism to explain why Trip did
the wrong thing. But, as you once said to me so succinctly, “Cultural relativism
is not moral relativism.” If I’d been in Trip’s shoes, could I have left things
alone? Or would I have done the same thing?

I like to think that my anthropological training would protect me from the same
mistakes, but the history of our field says otherwise. A lesson in humility for
all of us, I think.


After Regeneration

NOTES: As always, my eternal gratitude for the beta goes to Captain Average.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

I’m sure the news coverage of our latest adventure completely missed the mark–
it always does. Even if it was close to accurate, no talking head who wasn’t
there could convey to you what it felt like to encounter this latest…I’m not
even sure what to call them. Menace?

What do you call a species that reproduces itself by taking over the body
of other species and just dragging them along for the ride? Parasite, I suppose.

I’m fairly certain you’ve heard about the expedition to the Arctic Circle that
disappeared, right? Well, they found these remains, alien remains, but several
different aliens with a ton of mechanical parts. Cyborgs, I guess. I find it
hard to believe, but these cyborgs woke up after being frozen for at least one
hundred years. Then they took over the scientists on the expedition.

I didn’t recognize most of the scientists’ names, but one of the archaeologists
was Marian King. Remember her? She gave that guest lecture in Barbara’s class,
and Mark decided he was in love. Mooned over her for a month, as I recall.

She’s gone, you know. They’re all gone. We couldn’t save them.

They started turning into cyborgs and took off in a shuttle, forcing us to chase
after them.

We only tracked them down when I got a distress call from a freighter. Thank
goodness the message was in a language related to one already in the UT, or I’d
never have been able to translate it quickly enough.

By the time we got to the freighter, though, the cyborgs had done a lot of
damage, but we managed to find two of the aliens alive. We got them to sickbay,
but Phlox found they’d been injected with nanoprobes that seemed to be turning
them into cyborgs.

Malcolm wasn’t any too thrilled about having these guys on board, but we
couldn’t leave them to die, so he posted a guard. Meanwhile, the captain and
T’Pol started looking for information on these things, these cyborgs.

Buried in the later years of Zephram Cochrane’s life, Captain Archer found a
story about cybernetic aliens from the future. It was during one of his more
pickled periods and he immediately recanted the tale when he sobered up, so
nobody took it seriously. T’Pol is frankly skeptical, and despite the captain’s
enthusiasm, I lean in her direction.

Okay, we encountered strange cyborgs, but that doesn’t automatically validate
the drunken ramblings of Cochrane, no matter how much Captain Archer worships
the man.

But that’s beside the point. Of much more concern to me were the two aliens in
sickbay, who woke up and attacked Phlox, injecting him with the same nanoprobes.
Then they began climbing through the ship, just as we resumed our chase of the
transport containing the other cyborgs.

I’ll be honest, between expecting these aliens to jump me in a corridor, or
their buddies to blow us up, I was terrified. I was even more scared for Malcolm
and his team–chasing the cyborgs throughout the ship and finally, cornering
them in a section where they’d begun modifying the ship in some way.

Somehow the cyborgs were able to shield themselves against phase pistols, so the
captain made the only decision he could. He cleared the section and blew the
hatch–venting them into space before they could do any further damage, or
attack anyone else. It was heartrending to watch him: desperately wanting to
save these two aliens, whose species name we didn’t even know, but unable to
sacrifice his crew.

Then we settled in for the long chase after the transport. I went to the mess to
get something for Phlox and his menagerie, since I suspected he might forget to
eat. Chef (who adores Phlox’s love of food) sent all his favorites.

Phlox looked even worse than I expected, tired and scared and frantic to figure
out what was happening. He refused to eat, lest it fuel the nanoprobes, and he
didn’t even want me to stay in sickbay.

It hurt to leave him. I kept thinking of all the hours he’s spent fixing our
injuries, both physical and mental. He was really my first friend aboard, and
he’s still one of the first people I come to when I’m sad or homesick.

But he was so afraid of turning into a cyborg and hurting me that I had to
leave. I was actually upsetting him instead of comforting.

The engineering staff was trying to undo what the cyborgs had done, but it was
slow going. Then we found the shuttle.

We came roaring up, guns metaphorically blazing. I say metaphorically, because
the captain and T’Pol weren’t in agreement over whether we should simply destroy
the transport or try to save the people inside. It was always possible that
Phlox might find some sort of “cure” for the nanoprobes.

But it became rather a moot point when the transport sent a signal that
activated the cybernetic bits that our proto-cyborgs had installed, and the
signal shut down most of our power. It became a race between Trip trying to undo
what they’d done, and the cyborgs aboard the shuttle.

They’d tricked us, lured us into bringing our booby-trapped ship to them, and
they were going to turn us into cyborgs as well. So, while Trip got as much
working as he could, Malcolm and the captain used the transporter to get aboard
the shuttle and plant a bomb.

It was nerve-wracking, sitting on the bridge, wondering which side would win.
The cyborgs made it aboard our ship, but thankfully they didn’t manage to inject
anyone else before the shuttle beamed them back, just in time to get blown up.

So that left just one person alive and infected by nanoprobes: Phlox. Somehow,
while power was fluctuating left and right, he managed to dose himself with some
kind of radiation that killed the nanoprobes.

But while he was under their influence, he says he remembers a message being
sent out–it wasn’t a very complicated code, so I cracked it. The cyborgs were
giving our location to the folks back home. From the distance the message was
intended to travel, it looks like we’ve got some time–in the realm of several
centuries–but eventually they’ll be back. And I doubt they’ll be very happy
with humans.

Well, they can join the club.


After First Flight and Bounty

NOTES: I’ve been procrastinating on finishing off the season for long, it took
another commitment to goad me back to this…In any case, thanks as always go to
Captain Average for the stupendous beta.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a dark matter nebula lit up like a fireworks
display. It was so beautiful, so awe-inspiring, it almost made everything
else worthwhile. I hope Captain Archer feels the same way, because he’s been
having a particularly rough time of it recently.

The beauty of the nebula was also a nice change of pace from our usual hectic
schedule of getting injured, shot at, and insulted in new and exciting
languages. Mind you, T’Pol wasn’t entirely certain there was such a thing
as a dark matter nebula, so naturally the captain had to prove her wrong. He and
Trip came up with a plan to shoot some kind of charge that would make the dark
matter show itself. Don’t ask me to explain it, I’m no physicist, as you well

The captain and Trip were having a pretty good time until Admiral Forrest called
with bad news: one of the men who’d worked on the NX project with them was
killed recently in a climbing accident. I suppose Captain Archer wanted to be
alone, because he jumped in a shuttle to go shoot charges at dark matter,
leaving poor Trip behind. At the last minute, T’Pol insisted on going, so at
least he wasn’t flying around alone.

When I got off duty, I found Trip sulking in engineering and dragged him to get
some dinner. It took half an hour to make him a bit less grumpy, but finally he
told me the story of how he met the captain and all about the man who died.

Trip was a lieutenant working on the NX program and the captain and this other
man (AG Robinson), were test pilots. Robinson was chosen to fly the first test
flight. He screwed up by refusing to abort, blowing up the ship and nearly dying
in the process.

The Vulcans panicked, Starfleet panicked, and the NX program was shut down. But
the captain, Trip, and Robinson conspired to–get this–steal the other
prototype to prove that the design worked.

Trip didn’t put it this way, but I get the feeling that one of the reasons
Captain Archer and Trip are such good friends is the faith that Trip showed in
Henry Archer’s engines. There aren’t many things in the world that mean more to
Captain Archer. Of course, I would imagine it doesn’t hurt that the first time
they met, Trip was apparently busy yelling at a bunch of high-handed,
interfering Vulcans. Some things never change.

Anyway, Robinson and the captain flew the prototype, leaving Trip to get taken
into custody by Starfleet. But it didn’t matter because they’d already proved
that the design worked, it could fly above warp 2.

Forrest couldn’t decide if he was excited or pissed as hell, apparently, and he
bawled out all three of them. But the project was back in business, as even the
Vulcans couldn’t argue with a successful flight.

Trip was very nostalgic about the engineering and the time he spent working with
the captain, but a bit less so about Robinson. “I never liked the sonuvabitch
that much,” he said, “but Jon did, and I worshipped Jon. And he seems pretty
broken up about AG’s death.”

Just then, somebody behind me shouted, and we both nearly fell out of our seats.
But when we looked out the windows in the mess, we forgot everything else.
Trip’s charges had done the trick and the dark matter nebula glowed like nothing
I’d ever seen before.

The captain was looking a lot less stressed by the time he and T’Pol returned to
the ship. I wonder what the two of them talked about while they were out there.

Anyway, it’s too bad things couldn’t stay so peaceful for very long. We did some
exploring in that sector, finding what the astronomers and physicists assure me
are some fascinating stellar phenomena.

The geologists went gaga over one particular planet that was uninhabited, but
had a breathable atmosphere, so T’Pol, Trip, and the captain took a couple of
teams down to explore. They were really enjoying themselves, too, so I hated to
interrupt, but a Tellarite ship showed up and demanded to talk to the captain.

He, Trip, and T’Pol all came up, but T’Pol got stuck in decon. The Tellarite was
very strange, first quite rude (as we’d been assured Tellarites acted normally),
then offering to show the captain around the planet. Over Malcolm’s objections,
the captain agreed, and the Tellarite docked with Enterprise and Trip and the
captain went down to meet him.

Next thing I knew, my sensors lit up, informing me of weapon fire on D deck!
Before security could get there, the Tellarite ship broke away–taking a few
bits of Enterprise with it…such as our captain.

Unfortunately, with T’Pol stuck in decon for the foreseeable future and the
captain gone missing, Trip was stuck in command, instead of supervising the
repair of his beloved ship.

The repairs went quickly, although, between Trip pacing and Malcolm’s sotto voce
cursing, it seemed an interminable wait to those of us on the bridge. They
always forget how good my hearing is, you know. I was impressed, though, as I
didn’t realize he could curse in quite so many languages. If his repertoire
could be expanded, we might just make a linguist out of him yet.

With repairs completed, we began tracking the Tellarite ship, all of us trying
to figure out how we were going to get the captain back without blowing it up.
When we dropped out of warp and found…a decoy, emitting a facsimile of the
Tellarite ship’s signal.

We had to start over, which led to more cursing. T’Pol was still out of
commission and we were starting to get worried. I don’t think any of us had
realized what a calming influence she is when she’s present. Not to mention, she
builds a mean escape plan when necessary.

We found the signal again and, hoping against hope the Tellarite only had one
decoy, set off at top speed.

By the time we found the source of the signal, the Tellarite was gone. Another
ship was there, the sole occupant was doing some repairs, so we contacted him.
He told us the captain was “probably halfway to Klingon space by now.”

I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised that the Klingons want him back, but
it’s been a while since we got him out of Rura Penthe. I suppose we’d put the
problem out of our minds and gone on with our jobs. Malcolm’s low cursing became
so creative, I started to think there might be a monograph in it.

Trip ordered us on our way to Klingon space and went back to wearing a hole in
the deck plating. (Apparently they teach pacing the deck in command school. Who
knew?) Just when we really needed T’Pol back on the bridge, she must have taken
a turn for the worse. Phlox said she’d left sickbay and we had to evacuate the
rest of the deck and send down a security team in EV suits to find her. Malcolm
had to stun her, but at least he got her back into treatment. Poor guy. Not only
did he have to shoot a woman he…admires, but he had to shoot a superior
officer. Kind of a nightmarish day for an armory officer, what with having lost
his captain earlier.

Just when we were beginning to despair of finding our captain, a message came
in. From the Tellarite. Trip looking ready to shoot the guy personally, but
thankfully the sense of the message got through before Trip said anything rash.

On the Tellarite’s instructions, we took off at top speed for the Klingon ship
that now had Captain Archer–depending on the word of the alien who had
kidnapped him in the first place.

We arrived just as an escape pod ejected from the Klingon ship and they were
maneuvering to grab it. In a brilliant piece of flying, Travis got us in,
grappled the escape pod into launch bay two, and got us out of Dodge.

The captain looked a bit worse for wear, but Phlox was able to fix him up pretty
quickly. Ah yes, Phlox, our friendly neighborhood miracle worker. Happily, while
the captain was shooting his way off the Klingon ship, Phlox was finally curing
T’Pol. She walked onto the bridge along with the captain by the time our next
shifts rolled around. I think if she hadn’t frowned so repressively at us, we
might have cheered.

It felt good to have things back to normal. And poor Trip, I’ve never seen him
so happy to give up that captain’s chair. He practically ran off the
bridge in order to get to engineering.

We’ve got everyone back safely, and the ship is more or less back in one piece.
Not bad. I’ll count that as a win, I think. It makes me yearn for the days when
my biggest problems were being turned down for a date by that guy from Mexico
(what was his name again, anyway?) or the possibility of getting a B+ on
an exam instead of an A because you dragged me out the night before.

Well, at least I only have to worry about the crew’s safety, not yours. At least
as long as you don’t go climbing any mountains! But I know that’s about as
likely as me becoming an avid spelunker, so I won’t worry. Hugs to everyone.


After the Expanse

NOTES: Okay, folks, this is the end of the line for regular additions to this
series. I’m tired and I’ve got a lot of other writing I want to get on with! But
let me take this opportunity to thank Captain Average for his patient yet speedy
betas of almost every single letter. Cap’s kept me grammatical and on track, and
often contributed wonderful ideas to these letters. Thanks also to everyone who
told me how much they liked the series and how much they wanted to get to meet
Annie. Without you folks, there would never have been a series.

* * * * *

Dear Annie,

I’m so glad I got a chance to spend some time with you and the gang and finally
meet Amanda. I just wish it hadn’t been under such horrible circumstances.

My mother kept begging me to stay on Earth where it was safe, instead of
charging off into the Expanse. I tried to be patient, but I kept wanting to
yell, “Haven’t you seen the pictures? Why do you think Earth is any safer?”

It’s still too much to take in, you know–seven million dead, all that land
plowed up, turned into a desolate canyon. Some people made pilgrimages there–to
mourn the dead, to pray, to stoke their anger–but I couldn’t. I couldn’t face
the reality. The pictures Starfleet sent were more than enough.

Trip went down to look at what used to be his home, where Lizzie was living.
It’s pretty much a given she’s dead, since nobody’s heard from her. Malcolm went
with him and they both came back grim and focused, but while Malcolm’s managed
to relax a bit, Trip just gets angrier and angrier. I’m worried.

He lost it at Malcolm in the middle of a corridor even, when Malcolm tried to
get him to talk about Lizzie. How’s that for a role reversal?

Malcolm’s been bleeding off his aggression with his new toys–some kind of fancy
torpedo–and in the gym, working out with our new military contingent. It feels
strange to have them here, especially since it’s still unclear where they fall
in the hierarchy.

They’ve been keeping to themselves mostly, sitting together and eating at odd
hours, working out together, spending time in their quarters. So far they
haven’t come to movie night either. I’ve managed a bit of light conversation
with two of the guys, but that’s it.

They’re rather handsome men, really. Where do they find these guys, I wonder?

Damn. It feels…superficial to think like that. I forget for a few moments why
we’re heading toward the Delphic Expanse, and pause to admire the looks of
Corporal Romero. Then I remember, and I choke up.

Phlox says it’s a normal reaction, that even though I didn’t lose anyone close
to me, just viewing the pictures can cause post-traumatic stress.

I’m so glad he decided to stay on board, it’s been great to be able to go down
to talk to someone whose planet wasn’t just attacked, someone who can be
objective about the whole mission. Not to mention someone who always has
something wise or comforting or funny to say.

He’s kind of my substitute for you, I guess. Keeps me sane in between your
letters. A tough job but somebody’s gotta do it.

Sure, the guys usually help too. But Malcolm’s been busy with our new additions
and Travis hasn’t had the heart for any good practical jokes and Trip is barely
talking to anyone. I’m really worried about him. I said that already, didn’t I?
It’s just…no smiles, no laughter, nothing but work and sleep and alcohol.

And the captain’s not much better. I’m not sure he’s even noticed how badly off
Trip is. I suggested to Trip he might want to speak to Phlox and he said some
rather hurtful things I’ve chosen to ignore. Then I suggested to Phlox that he
speak to Trip and he said that Trip needed to acknowledge he needs help first.

Great. It’s like a catch-22. Am I just supposed to watch Trip disintegrate? I’ll
have to think about this problem.

So, we’re in the Expanse and things are peaceful right now. Getting in here was
another matter, of course. So many things have happened, I can’t think where to

Oh, I forgot to say that T’Pol elected to stay aboard. We were on our way to
drop her off on Vulcan, when the captain came out of his ready room and told
Travis to set a course for the Expanse, because we weren’t going to Vulcan. I
wanted to grin at T’Pol, but figured the gesture would be lost on her.

Then there was the long grind of getting here. The biggest problem was cabin
fever, combined with a crew that still hasn’t recovered from the attack on
Earth. We’ve got a strange form of survivor’s guilt about having been light
years away when it happened.

Out of the blue, people say things like, “You know, I was in Florida just before
Enterprise’s launch,” or “My cousin used to live in Venezuela and I visited her
every summer.”

Somehow it seems like every conversation leads to somebody’s sister’s husband’s
old babysitter who hasn’t been heard from since That Day. Do people still say it
like that on Earth? You know, capital letters as if there’ve been no other
events worth mentioning? Phlox says that’s normal too, that we can’t stop
talking about it, and eventually, it will fade a bit in our memory. I can’t

Well, this may be my last letter for a while, since who knows what
communications are going to be like from here on out. You take care of yourself
and the wonderful woman who’s foolish enough to love you, okay? And if you could
check in on my parents every once in a while, I’d appreciate it. I hadn’t
realized how worried they were until this visit, since their letters had seemed
so calm.

We’re off to find the Xindi. What we’ll do when we find them…I can’t think
about that just yet. I’m torn between what I hope, what I believe, and what I’m
afraid of.

Enterprise is out here to represent Earth to the rest of the universe. What we
do now may very well affect humanity’s place among all the races for generations
to come. I’m terrified by the responsibility, but I couldn’t possibly have let
the ship leave without me, no matter what my mother said.

I’m here with my friends, my family, and we’re going to do our best. I guess in
the end that’s all we can promise.

Take care, Annie. Keep me in your thoughts, as you’ll be in mine even if we’re
out of touch.


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