"Graduation Day"

Author - bat400 | Genre - Alternate Universe | Genre - Deathfic | Main Story | Rating - PG-13
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home

Author: bat400
E-mail: batfic400@yahoo.com
Part: NEW, 1/1
Rating: PG, for some violent images (Li has rated this PG-13)
Codes: T, R, violent images, deathfic, probable AU to canon Xindi Arc.
Betas: Quiz Mistress, M.S. Damn, fine comments.
Archive: Any House of Tucker, Warp Five Complex, EntST*. All others request please.
Summary: The full measure of devotion. Story from an alternate ending of the Xindi Arc. A long version of this tale may appear at a later time.
Disclaimer: Characters, places, and various incidents belong to Paramount. No monies were requested or received for this fiction.


Stirring martial music played as the one hundred and sixty-four cadets to be graduated slowly marched onto the exercise field and took their seats in folding chairs. This was not the regular Academy graduation, but was a commencement exercise for Tactical School.

The six-month course of study was required for all cadets who had chosen and been accepted to the Command and Security tracks; and strongly suggested for all the branches of the Star Fleet officer corps as well as non-commissioned crew. Those who did not choose its rigor, or were invited to leave, could still achieve an overall Academy graduation, but only outside Command and Security, by taking the less stringent tactical courses within the regular course of study.

The Heads of Star Fleet Academy and the Tactical School were on the speaker’s platform already, along with guests. This year they included the Vice President of the Terran World Government, and the Federation Ambassador of Andoria.

There was another figure on the platform, less imposing. His dress uniform reflected only a Commander’s rank, and was spotted with only a few service ribbons and medals. He was obviously retired. One could tell not only because of his great age, but because the uniform issue had changed more than once and his was of an earlier era – still with a necktie and lapels, of all of the old-fashioned trappings. He was a small, thin man, with a full head of white hair, neatly trimmed. He was the only person on the platform who had been there every year since the first class of Tactical School had graduated, forty-four years earlier. He himself had not graduated from either Tactical or the overall Academy – neither had been formally instituted before he had begun his service career.

The students all knew him, though. They called him “The Commandant,” although he did not hold that position at the Academy and never had. He had, at one time or another, managed to speak to them all, and despite his age, his presence at the school was as common and unremarked on as the ozone smell of energy weapon discharge that hung around the campus or the rain in San Francisco every winter term.

Various speakers rose and spoke. The valedictorian and salutatorian both made speeches. The oratory style of the day had become achingly ornate, martial, and formal. It was too formal for the old man on the platform in his old-fashioned uniform. He thought it was rather ironic, since he had often been accused of being too formal in his youth. And stogy, and cold, and militaristic.

Finally, he was introduced. His introduction was short and to the point. Not that even that was necessary, for his name was on the lintel above the building entrance. His photograph from forty-four years before, alongside the photo of another man (that image was a bit older), was in the front hallway outside the office of the officer who was actually listed as the Commandant in the directory.

“Before we present the graduating class, Commander Reed will speak.”

When he rose the Captain of Cadets bawled out, “Attention!” and the combined noise of the students leaping to their feet covered some of the longer time it took him now to cover that path to the podium. The favoring of his left side was much more noticeable now than it had been when he had first crossed that stage. The parents and friends of the students in attendance did crane to see him better. Of the still living crew of the original NX-01 mission (they were loath to call the ship by its given name these days) Malcolm Reed was the most public figure for this yearly speech alone.

By the time he was ready and looked out at the students, it had grown very quiet. The birds and the sound of the breeze were noticeable. He began and his voice was low but very serious and strained.

“I have never been a religious man. But here is something that I know is true.

“’Greater love has no man than this: that a he lay down his life for his friends.’

“Not his planet, not his species, not his creed. But his friends. And in the white heat of danger, the people you serve with and the people you serve are your friends. At that moment, your only friends. They will be your friends whether you ‘like’ them or not. And so will you be, to them.

“The only thing that can corrupt this friendship -- this sacred bond -- is for the one to have to lay down his life for no good reason.”

Here he paused. He had no notes. He did not need them. He had decided the proper thing to say forty-four years earlier, and he had seen no need to change it since then. It allowed him to really look at the students while he spoke. He hoped he could see the future in their faces, and some years, he felt that he had. They were right on the edge, most of them, between being too old to be changed and not old enough to remotely understand him.

“This school was founded to teach you to prepare for possibilities, and position yourself and your command to take the best advantage in any situation. In order to prevent the betrayal of friendship. You who are here, today, have managed to absorb those lessons. You are as well prepared as we can make you.

“One day many of you will have a command. And even if your rank and position is not that of the commander of a vessel, even if the insignia you wear does not indicate ‘command,’ many of you will order others. Being in command means using your resources. Your resources will include the men and women you command. And using those men and women will sometimes mean using them up.

“There is nothing in this that betrays the bonds of service. Sometime there will be no other choice. Sometime there will be no time. Sometime there will be no option.

“But if a commander has not taken advantage of every means available to him or to her; if command fails to prepare for the decisions of each mission by research, consideration, and advice of their specialists; then there is nothing to prevent the needless sacrifice but sheer luck and coincidence.

“Needless sacrifice is a fundamental betrayal of friendship. There is nothing romantic or praiseworthy or valiant to the survivors of such a betrayal. There is only waste.”

Reed stopped speaking. He slowly turned and returned to his seat. As he did, he had an unnerving memory of when he had turned, nearly a half century earlier, and had seen Jonathan Archer looking back at him. Finally, on that day, forty-four years ago, Archer had understood him at last.

On that day Reed had returned to his seat as an uncertain applause had begun. Then, as the graduates were called, Jonathan Archer had spoken to him under the cover of the names being read out and said, “You never have forgiven me.”

Malcolm Reed had turned to him and said, “No, sir, I never have.”


Reed was tired, more so than usual, but he had not made any arrangements to leave immediately after the ceremony. He got a lot of satisfaction out of seeing the students graduate. When he had been younger he would have never guessed how much satisfaction it would give him. He had never considered himself to be an educator at any level.

When he had been put on restricted duty after returning from the Xindi War, due to physical impairment, he had, at first, tried to fight the transfer to Star Fleet Weapons Research. Even though Reed had received commendation for service, along with the surviving half of the Enterprise crew, and a promotion to Lieutenant Commander, he could not help but see it as a demotion. Travis Mayweather had urged him not to see it that way.

“Malcolm,” Travis had said, “It’s important that you are here, working on practical force fields, especially now that we’re losing ships out there. Out in the area where we found that minefield.”

“But I ought to be on the Enterprise,” Reed had told his friend, “I can’t just stay here in San Francisco. I was able to do weapons research on board ship before.”

But it had been obvious that Reed could not do much of the rest of his job on the Enterprise any more, not after the injuries the Insectoids had inflicted on him during his capture, when Archer had ordered the manned exploration of the Hive World instead of using the robotic surveillance units and long-range sensors. Reed, Major Hayes, and Private Marino had covered the escape of the science team. Then the three of them had backed themselves into a corner and fired until they had no ammunition left, no energy in the backpacks, and their attackers were pulling back the massed piles of their dead fellows in order to reach them.

When the Xindi had the three of them immobilized, paralyzed with some injected drug, Reed had lost consciousness just after they had opened his chest cavity. Maybe the Insectoids hadn’t sensed pain in the same way humans did. Maybe it just hadn’t mattered to them. Reed’s last memory of the procedure was a Xindi's hand-foot clamping on his shoulder for leverage while another one was busy retracting his ribs, one by one. Reed had come to, sewn back together, hanging suspended by his ankles in that dark, humid compartment, hearing Hayes whimpering somewhere behind him.

Ironically the Insectoids seemed to have been conducting an experiment; they hadn’t intended to kill them then. They had apparently felt that some of Reed’s internal organs were redundant, and removed them for study; just as they had removed portions of Hayes’ brain, and just as they had sampled tissue from Marino’s heart and spinal column – a few too many biopsies. Missing his left lung had done the most to disable Reed. And at the time, he hadn’t even thought about how Archer’s decision had put them there in the Nest tunnels unnecessarily. He had other things to blame Archer for. Things had been so abnormal in the Expanse that Reed hadn’t even considered, on his rescue, how Star Fleet would view his condition.

Age had not improved it. Now they always tried to get him to sit still. "May I get you something to drink, Commander?" "Is there anything I can get you Commander?" "If there's someone you wanted to see I can ask them to come here, Commander." They were polite young people, more so than he thought he and his peers had been at that age.

He didn't know how to tell them that he couldn't possibly sit in a folding chair for any length of time without pain; it was better to move around. If he had said that, he thought he knew what would happen. "Get a better chair for the Commander. You there, get the instructor's lounge open. Bring out one of those chairs."

So, now he meandered through the reception, still on his own feet. Reed was vaguely aware that he was constantly being tailed by several cadets. Over the years they had started this, and each year they got closer and closer, with more elaborate signals to hand him off from one surveillance team to another as he moved about and spoke to instructors, guests, and graduates. The cadets didn't want to speak to him; not at all. They were trying to prevent his sudden death by tripping over his own feet, choking on a biscuit, falling in the Gents, or some other equally embarrassing way for a ninety-year-old man to die.

It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad way to die, he mused, to be walking and chatting with some vivacious young cadets, the sunlight on their shiny hair and clean limbs, and to suddenly fall and strike your head on a step.

An unbidden thought edged into Reed’s mind: much better than having some enemy to do it for you, to be forced down with your hands tied behind you, and that crushing blow come from out of nowhere and cave in the back of your skull.

He took a deep breath and shook it off. He must be tired, getting old and tired to have such grim thoughts come out “topsides.” It wasn’t how he had died; it was how he had lived. And Reed thought of good things from all those years ago, pleasant talks, and sharing a meal, and a laugh, and an argument.

Reed knew plenty of healthy and active people in their tenth decade, including his own sister. However, he was not one of them. He'd gone through with the terribly time-consuming repairs back in his forties to remove the scar tissue where his lung had been taken, when the pain got to be too debilitating when he exercised. He had an artificial kidney now, too; his own remaining one had failed. But it was electro-mechanical, not vat-grown from his own cell structure. Reed still thought it fairly ironic that so many of the fixes human medicine had developed would not work on his own compromised DNA.

Of course Phlox had reversed much of the changes caused by the Lokek virus. But the additional genetic material lingered in their systems, merged into their human genetic code. His own Lokek-tainted hands had been on the controls that had sent the bio-torpedo to the nesting areas of the Hive World. The Captain said he had preserved the virus as the legacy of that vanished species. But having used it to infect the Insectoid Xindi, Star Fleet and Earth had thought saving it appeared premeditated.

It was Archer’s big decision, the decision they had been backed into. And how could Archer, or any of them, be censured for that action? The genocide – a sort of a non-death genocide – had made the other Xindi pause just long enough to listen to them.

Archer had had that talent; he made others listen to him. Reed could only curse Archer for his inability to listen back.

He was jarred out of his own thoughts again. Reed felt a bit dazed today. He had just had the valedictorian present her parents to him, when he was aware of a portly, mature Vulcan male approaching him.

"Commander Reed?" He said. And when Reed turned his attention, he spoke again.

"I'm not sure if you will remember me. I met you over fifty years ago when you were a Lieutenant on the Enterprise."

And then, Reed did remember him. Any number of cautionary thoughts sprang into his mind. This Vulcan had been part of a crew Reed would have rather, at this hindsight, have seen marooned, dead decades before in cold, faint reaches of space without any rescue from the Enterprise.

"I am --"

"Kov," Reed finished with him. "You were the engineer on Captain Tavin's ship." The being did not offer in hand in greeting and Reed gladly kept his own behind his back.

Kov said, "Yes, I worked with Commander Tucker when he very kindly helped us with repairs."

Reed found himself saying coldly, "It was his job to follow Captain Archer's orders. What brings you to Earth, Mister Kov?"

"I returned to Vulcan only three years ago, Commander Reed, and I was surprised to hear that your crewmate T'Pol had returned to Vulcan at the end of your mission into the Expanse only to leave again. That she has been living on Earth for many years. I was concerned to hear about her condition, when I learned of it. From what I heard I believe I know the source of her illness. I found myself thinking about the visit I, we, made to your ship. Personal business kept me on Vulcan, but now I've been able to travel. I will be on your planet through your New Year and into the early part of the coming year."

What was Kov after? "If you want to see T'Pol, I'm afraid she doesn't see many visitors. Her condition is very fragile now."

"Commander Reed, I was surprised that she was still alive. It's extremely unusual for someone afflicted with Pa'nar to live this long."

Reed interrupted, "Perhaps she's gotten better care here on Earth than she might have on Vulcan. Humans have found that personal care, with a bit of emotional interest, can often give a patient the will to live."

Kov winced, and the very emotional reaction made Reed reconsider his words. Kov had seemed like a decent sort at the time. Trip had liked him.

Trip had trusted Kov. Poor Trip had trusted too many people, including his friend, Jonathan Archer. Put himself in Archer’s hands like a trusting younger brother. Let Archer put him into harm’s way – with the Xyrillians, on the desert planet, with the Enolians, the cargo ship with the woman in the status pod – and finally with dubious aliens who promised to tell us about the Xindi weapon.

Reed shook it off. Why was he so distracted today? The Vulcan's next words made Reed disassemble a few of the barriers he'd put up so automatically.

"I didn't want to subject T'Pol to any unwanted visit. I had two reasons to come and see you, Commander. I learned once I arrived that you are one of her few visitors from the crew of the Enterprise. I didn't feel as if anyone else might relate to her what I have to tell you. Tolaris, the Vulcan who – assaulted her – is dead. He's been dead for many, many years."

"Should that make a difference to T'Pol?"

"No. But once we understood his – nature – his violent tendencies – Captain Tavin and the rest of us did the only thing we thought proper. We were unwilling to return to Vulcan space and hand him over to the authorities – for a variety of reasons. So, we tried and sentenced him an exile. We marooned him on an uninhabited moon. When we returned many years later we found that he had died in the mean time. Apparently of suicide.

"I didn't want T'Pol to think that we had allowed him to continue his crimes."

Reed was taken aback. "But, you were. You left the Enterprise with him, as if there was nothing wrong."

Kov looked at him closely, and finally said, "We didn't know what he had done. Even when we exiled Tolaris, we had no idea that he had attacked the sub-commander. We certainly did not know that he was afflicted with the disease. Our Captain was ordered to leave without much explanation –"

"Wait," Reed interrupted, "you didn't know? Captain Archer didn't tell you what he did to her?"

"No," said Kov, earnestly shaking his head. "It was only when I returned to Vulcan that I heard about T'Pol, when she had been afflicted, and I concluded who must have been responsible. I was surprised that your Captain let Tolaris go."

At the time Reed had not been surprised because he had not known what Tolaris had done, either. When he had finally learned the actual facts from T’Pol, years after the attack and the first occurrences of the disease, Reed could almost understand why she might have refused to accuse her attacker. But he had never been able to understand why Captain Archer and Doctor Phlox had allowed the criminal to go on his way.

Reed suddenly realized, looking over Kov's shoulder, that two of the graduating cadets had come very close, no doubt attracted as his conversation with the Vulcan had become more intense. They suddenly veered off, embarrassed, at a glance from “The Commandant.”

Reed motioned for Kov to walk with him, and they moved away from the crowd. He realized that that he had suspected evil complicity or criminal indifference where there was none. They walked silently, Kov waiting for Reed to speak.

Reed finally stopped and stood as straight as he could. He said solemnly to the Vulcan, "Mister Kov, I will tell T'Pol what you’ve told me, on the first opportunity that I find her alert, and capable. She has never expressed a desire to return to her own people. But, if she does, may I ask if you would be willing to help her, if I’m unfit to do so?"

"Yes," Kov nodded, "Gladly." And Reed was surprised to hear the amount of warmth in his voice.

Reed relaxed. "You said you had two reasons for coming to see me. What was the other?"

Kov glanced, appreciatively, Reed thought with some pride, around at the class-room building, the firing range and the grounds.

"I had heard," Kov said, "about the Academy that your Star Fleet had developed. I also heard about this school you founded, as a memorial to your shipmate. I wanted to visit it, and to see humans that he had served with. I don't know if you realize what a great service Commander Tucker did for me. I didn't realize it myself when I was young, and considerably more arrogant."

Reed smiled. "I didn't really found the school – certainly not without the help of many with the same goal." He wished that he had been more welcoming to Kov. Reed said, “I was working in weapons research. But when the plans for Star Fleet Academy were being developed, I felt there was a greater need for an intensive course of study to better prepare the officer corps for the danger they would meet – that we had met – in space. The Enterprise lost too many people, for no good reason. I thought we could do a better job of preparing our people. I wasn’t the only one to think that way.”

“A laudable goal,” said Kov. “And one you seem to have achieved.”

“I like to think so, but we can always do better.

"Would you like to visit the memorial?" Reed asked. He very much wanted Kov to see it, now.

"Yes, I would – like that."

They slowly traced the path around the main building and off of the exercise ground. Trees had been planted here, and some of them were mature. They came onto a stone path, with moss and leafy ground covers growing in the shade. When they stepped into the flagstone paved circle, there were several students there having rather solemn photographs taken. The voices were low and reverent. They came to startled attention and Reed had to give them a nodded recognition. He and Kov moved to one side and the cadets hurriedly finished their visit and left, one of the women leaving a fresh spray of flowers below the statuary in the center, and removing a faded one.

When they were alone Reed took Kov over to the center of the paved area.
The carved stone display was of a work bench, life sized. Its drawers were forever closed. On the work surface were representations of PADDs of a design from fifty years earlier. There was a stylus, and tools, an inspection light, and measuring and scanning instruments. All in carved stone, all strikingly realistic.

Kov examined the display very intently. He finally turned to Reed and said, "The engineer has left his work. But only for a while. He meant to return."

"Yes,” Reed said, "that's right."

Below the bench, to one side, was a stone with an inclined surface. A metal plaque was set there. The inscription read, "This school is dedicated to the memory of Commander Charles Tucker. His was a life of great promise cut short. Lest we forget. 2118 - 2153"

Kov read it and raised his head. Reed followed his glance. Through the leaves of the trees, one could just make out the name over the entrance of the main building, "Tucker-Reed School for Tactical and Security Studies."

"I never thought the name was entirely appropriate," Reed said. "My intention was for this place to be a memorial to Trip's memory and for what he stood for: the real drive to take Humanity out into a voyage of exploration. That Tactics and Security were the tools to allow that real work to be performed, the tools to prevent the wasteful loss of life."

"But I you worked so hard for this place,” Kov said. "Your own engineering work speaks of enormous design and development achievement, and yet, during the same time period, you were advocating that this school be opened as part of your Star Fleet Academy. That you devoted the time and effort to this – practical memorial – speaks to your determination. It seems to me that having your name associated with the school is extremely deserved."

Kov added, “And as I’ve tried to integrate emotion into my life against the wishes of my people, I also admire the way in which you’ve mastered negative emotions to produce such a fine program for those who will follow you in your planet’s exploration of space.”

Reed shot the Vulcan a hard glance. “You may be willing to face your own emotions, Mister Kov, but don’t imagine that Human’s familiarity with emotions gives us an advantage. Or that we find emotions commonplace.

“You heard my speech to the class. I’ve said that twice a year for almost fifty years. It’s as raw and necessary for me to say it now as when Trip’s dead body was retrieved from vacuum after his captors cycled him out an airlock to help cover their own escape. I can never forgive the actions of his killers or the decisions that put him on their ship without appropriate security.

“Giving up ‘negative’ emotions, forgiveness, has had nothing to do with my work here. Friendship has had everything to do with it. The people I serve, and serve with, are my friends. I count these students among my friends as well. My friends, more of them than I dreamed I had, help put me on a path where I could help start this program, this school. And Trip was my friend, too; he still is. Friendship has kept me sane, and helped me find some contentment.”

Reed shook his head, looking up at the words over the building entrance, "This place, this focus, was necessary. But, my name detracts from it. It certainly wasn't my damned idea to put it up there." He did not add how it had been done without his approval. It had been well meant, but it was not a gift he would have willingly accepted from the giver.

"But Rear Admiral Archer must have wanted to honor your hard work," said Kov, and as he saw Reed look away toward the ground, he haltingly continued, "at least that is what I read."

The first class commencement had been the last time Reed had spoken to Archer, and the first time he had spoken to him since the official name of the school had been announced. Archer had never come to another commencement and despite the effort he had put into the formation of the Tactical School, supporting Reed’s work, bulling his way through in that overpowering, hectoring manner he had had, people now had almost succeeded in forgetting that the Tucker-Reed Tactical and Security School would possibly have never gotten its start without Jonathan Archer’s support and arm-twisting and emotional blackmail.

Archer. Star Fleet’s corpse at the wedding. Back then you couldn’t have avoided him if you tried, and yet no one had wanted to be the first to point out that he was right there standing by the punchbowl. They had all been a bit ashamed of Archer, and guilty. They, all of Earth, all of Star Fleet, had used Archer, sent him out with not much more than his own trembling moral compass, and begged him to save them all. The hysteria after the Xindi attack had allowed no reflection, and Earth’s inability to protect itself from a concerted space borne attack had made that hysteria realistic.

Archer had done exactly what Earth had wanted. And most were embarrassed and horrified when they discovered just how well he had accomplished that job, and the cost to Humanity’s reputation, the cost to his own crew, and the cost to even Archer himself. Star Fleet would have been happy if Archer had understood, taken his promotion and then quietly retired. Instead he had longed to stay in active duty and was crushed when they had insisted that instead of a command position he was “needed” in the research programs to “continue Henry Archer’s legacy.”

And Reed had used him, too. T'Pol had advised Reed to seek out Archer for support of the school. And Reed had sought his help, as hard as that had been for him. Archer had never understood completely how Reed's desire for a specific training program had been a direct repudiation of Archer and his flaws. And when he had made his speech to that first graduating class nearly fifty years before, Reed had been as incapable of continuing to hide that repudiation. It had been cruel to Archer, but it had also been the truth, one he had not been able to hide anymore.

Kov, of course, did not realize how good humans could be at denial and rationalization. Burying emotion to achieve an end was not a uniquely Vulcan skill.

Reed suddenly realized that they had left the memorial. Kov was ushering him away. He had lost his concentration again, for a moment. He heard the voice of a cadet ahead of them on the path, "Commander Reed is showing a guest the memorial."

They came into the light and Reed saw that a few cadets had blocked the path so that he and Kov were allowed those moments without intrusion. There were several cadets and their families, all waiting to pay their respects at the memorial. Reed saw bright young faces, open, and serious, purposeful.

Kov was concerned for the elderly man at his side. He had stupidly forgotten on his journey to Earth how there would be so few left that had known Commander Tucker in life. Humans aged so quickly. It didn't seem logical that some of them had to cram so much into such a short span of time. No that was, wrong. It didn't seem "fair." That was the right word.

Reed said something, and Kov strained to hear it. "Look at them all," Reed said, looking with dim eyes at the graduates. "I'm very proud of them. I wish Trip could have seen them. I think we did a good job. They won’t see the mistakes we saw." The sun was low and very, very bright, shining right into their faces. Reed squinted his eyes against it and his grimace was more like a smile.

And suddenly Reed’s legs buckled under him. He folded as neatly as a collapse at a demolition site. Several in the families shouted out. A cadet darted forward, getting strong arms under the Commander before his head and shoulders hit the ground. Kov and the cadet laid Reed out flat. Someone handed a jacket that was folded and put under his head. Coms were out, multiple calls to emergency services. One of the Academy instructors, in science blue uniform, knelt and examined the fallen man.

“He’s had a stroke,” said the doctor, and pulled out a hypo. She hesitated for a moment, looking into Reed’s confused expression, before injecting him. She then loosened the collar and tie of the uniform. The cadet kneeling by Reed’s side across from Kov was a young man of average height, and sandy colored hair, and Kov saw Reed fix his eyes on him. The cadet said, “The Commander’s saying something.” They bent closer. The humans could make out nothing.

The doctor saw a medical tag under his shirt and pulled it out, giving it a cursory glance. In the distance there was a siren, but the doctor suddenly stiffened to attention. She ran the scan again, put one hand against the Commander’s neck, and then said, “That’s all.” She reached out to close the dead man’s eyes.

The cadet gasped and made to start resuscitation. The ambulance was nearly there. But the doctor put out a restraining hand. “No,” she said, “there’s a ‘No Resuscitation’ request on the tag.”

They all stood back for the medical technicians and the doctor identified herself and explained the situation. Kov watched the play of emotion of the faces of the Humans while the Commander’s body was put onto a stretcher. The doctor was stoic, calm, but she twisted one hand against the other. The cadets had no pretense of hiding their emotions, although they may have thought they were. Shocked, pale faces; ones that were trembling with anger; a few red with excitement, of heightened feeling; several who sobbed out loud and clung to their fellows.

The cadet who stood near Kov suddenly spoke out as the medical technicians lifted the stretcher. The young man snapped upright, and with a voice cracking into a high pitch, he sang out, “Attention!” All the cadets stood very straight.

When the ambulance had gone, Kov solemnly turned and started to walk back in the direction of his lodgings. How sad, he thought, how these Humans had such a short life, and how stoic, to determine not to allow every effort to cling to every possible moment, no matter how reduced.

Kov heard steps in the grass behind him. He turned, and a young man, the cadet who had helped Commander Reed when he had collapsed, was running toward him.

“Wait,” the youth cried. “Please, sir.” He hesitated, and asked, “What did he say? What did Commander Reed say?”

Kov watched the straining, taunt figure. On Vulcan he would have been not more than a child. As a human, he had already used up a sixth of his lifespan.

“Did you know the Commander?” Kov asked.

The face showed a pained confusion. “Why, sir! We all knew Commander Reed!”

Kov said softly, “Commander Reed was remembering someone.”

The cadet blinked several times. He said, “I hope the Commander wasn’t – in pain, or out of his head.”

It took Kov a moment to realize the meaning of the youth’s words.

“Don’t think that. I do not believe it is true.”

Kov had seen it, and heard the words too low for living Human ears.

The Commander had looked up into worried blue eyes. And Reed had murmured, “It’s all right, Trip. I really am fine.”



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Half a dozen of you have made comments

Yes, Archer is going to get somebody killed because he thinks he is always right. Let's hope it's not one of our boys! Great story.

God, that was intense. If you wanna know, I'm sitting here and crying right now.

okay, this is the sixth time I've read this and I'm STILL tearing up. Exquisite. *snif*

I read this story yesterday. I had my detailed review ready, but the feedback delay feature wouldn't let me post. I can't remember the details, but I really liked this story. I'm so glad that Reed didn't turn into a bitter old man. He was able to achieve something huge in the last part of his life. The monument to Trip was touching. The last part sent chills down my spine. Excellent.

very nice, k we all know archers gonna kill sum1 but Trip? not a nice thought. Lovely to read great interpretation of an aged Reed.

I REALLY hope that you decide to expand this story. It was a sad, yet great read.



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