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Story Notes:

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Travis gets a command...sort of. Since he's the best helmsman in the fleet (and a Boomer), I thought Travis needed a spotlight.

There's a LOT of intraship communications. Those are in italics, while Travis's thoughts are in bold.

Author's Chapter Notes:

Captain Mayweather tries to best Malcolm Reed at his own game: starship tactics.

There's a lot of intraship communications in this story. Those are in italics. Travis's thoughts are in bold.

Travis Mayweather stretched at his station and checked his readouts for the thousandth time. The helm control was running as smooth as silk; Enterprise continued on course without any problems. Another quiet day. Usually, Travis didn't mind quiet days; they were nicer than being boarded or shot at by the Alien of the Week. When the Week was nothing but empty space and clear sailing, the helmsman needed something to keep sane.

In fact, it was so quiet that both Captain Archer and Commander T'Pol were absent from the Bridge, leaving Lieutenant Malcolm Reed in charge of the Bridge. The only other Alpha shift officer was Hoshi Sato; she was working, as usual, on her universal translator.

He glanced at Malcolm and smiled broadly. The Englishman raised an eyebrow at the silent challenge. Travis gave him a deliberate shrug as he asked, "How about a sim run, just to keep in practice, Lieutenant?"

Malcolm chuckled as he drew the captain's console closer to him as he sat in the command chair. Travis had the feeling he was only waiting for the question. "Very well, Captain Mayweather. I've modified some of the program's protocols since the last one."

He laughed at the almost sadistic glee in Malcolm's voice. "You mean after I blew up the last one, huh? You do know that was completely by accident, right?"

"Yes, I'm aware of that. You'll find some new surprises in the program."

Travis activated a secondary screen on his console. These simulation runs were meant to stretch his piloting skills to the limit; he'd asked Malcolm to design these tactical games to keep his mind sharp. Once Travis had explained his ideas, they'd worked together to make a series of sims. The first few "battles" had been interesting, with Travis captaining the "Enterprise", while Malcolm posed as the "enemy".

Travis grinned to himself as he read the parameters for this particular "engagement". This time, he'd be in charge of a Class-J transport, similar to his family's ship, the Horizon. His goal was to reach the Vega system relatively intact. Typical for Malcolm, he gave no information on his "ship" or when he would "attack", which meant Travis needed to be on his guard at all times.

He glanced at Malcolm and nodded once. Then he turned his attention back to the screen. Minutes passed and Travis was on his way. After successfully taking on cargo at "Bernet Five" and refueling at "Ninvuh Station", the transport Raven headed for its destination. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Malcolm's glance at the communications station, then a tiny smirk appeared at the corner of Malcolm's mouth.

Aw, no, don't tell me he's got Hoshi in on it...Travis groaned inwardly. He's bad enough by himself, but when he's with Hoshi...well, he did say he made some changes to the protocols. Still, no fair ganging up on me.

Then a line of text appeared at the bottom of his screen. Hey, Captain Mayweather. Engines are runnin' fine. Need some moral support?

Travis stifled a laugh. So, Trip Tucker was in on the simulation too, even from way down in Engineering. So Malcolm had some mercy after all. He typed back: Yeah, the Terrible Duo are in cahoots. I'm gonna need some help.

Since T'Pol and the Captain aren't around, I guess you mean the Loo-tenant and Hoshi.

Travis grinned at Trip's literal spelling of Malcolm's rank. Yeah.

Well, I snuck in some modifications of my own for the engines and the hull plating. Gimme the word and we'll have some fun.

Travis's mouth dropped open. He glanced over his shoulder, but Malcolm seemed absorbed in his end of the simulation. Sure, Commander. Um..does the Loo-tenant know?

You aren't the only one who needs to stretch his abilities, you know. He'll forgive me. Eventually.

Now Travis was having difficulty choking down his laughter, but managed to keep a straight face long enough to check his real-life helm console. The Enterprise was still on-course and at warp two. So he returned his attention to his "other" ship. Trip's last message faded from view to be replaced by new text.

Captain Mayweather, we are getting a distress signal from a nearby ship. Shall I put it on speakers?

Travis glanced at Hoshi, who gave him a demure look. He saw the wicked gleam in her eyes, though, and thought, She's picked up some of Malcolm's habits. Uh-oh. I don't like the look of that smirk. He turned back to his console and typed back, Text is fine, Ensign Sato.

Another line of text appeared. Please help us. We are under attack. Engines failing-

The words stopped, indicating the "transmission" had been cut off. Travis frowned thoughtfully. If he'd been captaining the "Enterprise", there would be no question. He would be flying to the rescue at high warp and with fully polarized hull plating. Unfortunately, he was in a Class-J transport, and from personal experience, he knew Raven was nowhere near as battle worthy as an NX ship. Not to mention he was carrying precious cargo that needed to be somewhere at a certain time.

And Malcolm still had to make his appearance.

This was certainly the most interesting simulation he'd thrown at Travis yet. Most of the previous ones were straight-out space battles with clear-cut objectives: destroy the enemy before he destroyed you. There were no moral dilemmas or tough command decisions to make. This time, though, Travis was in the hot seat, put in Captain Archer's real-life position.

What would Captain Archer do? Travis tapped his keyboard for the "sensor data" and found that he was the only ship anywhere close to the attack area. Of course. There was an "unidentified ship" just inside sensor range, drifting perilously close to an asteroid field.

If I were Malcolm, I'd be hiding in that asteroid field, waiting to ambush me. He did the equations in his head: at full impulse, he could reach the crippled ship in an hour and a half. Deal with Malcolm, save the ones in trouble, turn around, and reach the Vega system at just over the allotted. That wouldn't do. He could count on one hand the number of times his father or Paul had arrived late with a shipment. If the Horizon was supposed to be at a certain place at a certain time, it was there, come ion storms or freezing comets.

He texted Trip: Engineering.

Here, Captain. Trip had been waiting for his order.

We need to reach these coordinates as fast as we can. Think we can pull it off?

Didn't I tell you I made some modifications? We'll get you there in plenty of time.

Travis chuckled. Full impulse. We're going in.

Yes, Captain.

Then he told Hoshi: Communications, keep monitoring the frequencies. Send a message to Ninvuh Station, with copies of the transmission and our sensor data.

Hoshi's answer was immediate. Yes, Captain.

Travis glanced over his shoulder at her and her look was one of respect. He wasn't going to charge into danger without letting someone know where he was going. Perhaps some of Malcolm's paranoia was rubbing off on him, but the idea made a lot of sense to him.

He inclined his head at her and turned to Malcolm. The tactical officer now wore a thoughtful expression and Malcolm input commands into his console.

This was going to be interesting.

An hour and a half later (in reality, just fifteen minutes) later, the Raven approached the ships' last coordinates. Travis asked Hoshi about the distress signal, as she replied, Captain, I've lost their signal.

"Figures," he muttered aloud. He could feel Malcolm's eyes on his back as he ordered Trip to bring up the transport's meager defenses. Although he knew it was just a simulation, his nerves tingled up and down his arm as he waited for the attack that was sure to come. And, just like reality, it was that: a waiting game. The longer the wait, the more likely he'd crack under the pressure.

But Travis Mayweather was a patient man. He watched his screens with the calm air of a captain expecting trouble, but not panicking. The "crippled ship" came into view and he winced at the large hole in the main cargo hold. No one would have survived that explosive decompression. Travis shook his head, feeling an odd pang for the fictional cargo transport crew. Damn, they were gone before I got here.

His sensors blared an alert as a shadow flickered on his screens. Cloaking device? In an asteroid field? Okay, that's new, if kinda impossible. Then again, if there was anyone who could pull it off, it was Malcolm Reed. Travis quickly analyzed the readings from the brief contact. Malcolm had chosen a design he had never seen in his life, probably a combination of known vessels in the database. He assessed the enemy's capabilities, and of course they were much superior than his transport's systems, but Travis hoped Trip's words weren't just bragging.

He was about to ask Hoshi to contact the mystery ship, but the Raven "shuddered" under weapons fire. "Okay, scratch that," Travis told himself. He began evasive action, avoiding the next few shots and pieces of space debris. Engineering!

Got your back, Travis, Trip told him. The status readouts on Travis's screen changed from red to green. He smiled as he saw his shield capability double and his weapons increase by a third, just like that. Malcolm made a strangled noise that nearly made Travis howl in laughter.

Shields? You never told me this bucket had shields!

Ah...a little project the Lieutenant and I've been working on. Let's see if it works. We've been fixing to try this out on a small scale; might as well be now. Travis glanced briefly over his shoulder to see a blush spread over Malcolm's neck. He wasn't sure if the tactical officer was angry, embarrassed or both.

"I'll have a few words with your engineer, Ensign," Malcolm muttered. "Though perhaps I should have seen this coming-"

Captain Mayweather deserves the best, said Trip, and you can't argue with that.

"No, I cannot," Malcolm murmured.

While Malcolm and Trip had their little conversation, Travis "scanned" the enemy "ship". Despite its strange design, he located the shield generators and the engine manifold. The enemy was much larger than Raven, but Travis could use his size to his advantage.

More laser fire peppered the space around him and he was forced to avoid the worst of it. Travis scowled as he saw Malcolm's strategy: the tactical officer was driving Travis closer and closer to the asteroid field, then detonating the asteroids. Augmented shields or no, it was a matter of time before the Raven's defenses failed.

Travis decided to take the offensive for once. Commander, I want a series of concentrated bursts, here, here and here, he instructed.

There was a pause, then Trip said, That's practically spitting distance, Captain. They'll give us a good bit of hurt.

We'll get through it. On my mark, Commander. 

Travis brought Raven around in a slow arc and headed directly at Malcolm. A volley of particle fire came close to his starboard side, but Travis subtly altered the attitude controls so the Raven missed being blown up by inches. The "status board" indicated some hull damage where the new shields were taking a beating. Travis swerved to and fro, back and forth, keeping tight to the enemy ship's hull, following the curves of its own design.

Malcolm couldn't do much at such close quarters; any attempt to damage the Raven only meant more damage to himself. But the Raven was hurting from the stray debris. Systems began red-lining, despite Trip's efforts.

I'm not sure how long the shields will hold, Captain! They're a hair away from shorting out on their own. If we don't do something fast-

Fire short range lasers, then full power to whatever's left of the shields!

Travis mashed the "weapons" button and the Raven's short-range weaponry lashed out. Normally, their effect would be minimal, since they were only a "transport", but mere Class-Js didn't have a mad engineer or a daring captain.

As soon as the short but powerful beams pierced the bigger ship's shields, Travis made short work of the generator, then managed only a glancing blow at the weaponry. Travis pulled up and away as "debris" flew all over the screen. The Raven tossed and turned in its wake.

Finally, Travis managed to stabilize his course. He winced as he looked at the readouts. Commander, damage report.

Trip didn't reply for a long while. Then, his text popped up hesitantly, as though he was reporting bad news to Captain Archer. That little stunt of ours just wrecked the hell out of environmental systems, Captain. We've got air and one-third gravity and a little heat and that's about it. The impulse engines are in okay shape, and we've got some punctures in the hull. Nothing's blown to space, though, the cargo holds still have integrity.

"Those shields of yours?"

Gone. Didn't last very long. Looks like it's back to the drawing board for us.

"They lasted long enough to make a difference, Commander. Let's get the hell out of here before he gets his engines going." Travis said aloud. He pointed the Raven away from the battle arena and boosted the impulse engines on full. More readouts flashed onto his screens, including estimated time of arrival. The Raven would arrive at Vega on schedule...if they didn't spring a leak between here and there. Travis had confidence in Trip's abilities, though...

A quiet voice behind his shoulder said, "End simulation."

Travis blinked and remembered where he really was: on the bridge of the Enterprise and he was Ensign Mayweather, not Captain Mayweather of the Raven. The full implication of what he had just done hit him. Lieutenant Reed was standing directly behind him and he thought, Oh, crap, I'm a dead man.

"That was quite an interesting battle strategy, Ensign. What was your method of thinking?"

Travis took a deep breath and swung around to face the tactical officer. He would have stood up at attention, but Malcolm shook his head, and he remained sitting in the helm chair. "I knew my transport wasn't a match for your larger ship, sir. So I concentrated on disabling it and getting out as fast as I could."

"Ah. And your enhanced weapons and shield systems? I find it rather unlikely a transport captain would have afforded such upgrades to his ship," Malcolm pointed out. The corner of his mouth twitched in humor.

Travis managed to keep a straight face. "Any transport captain would employ the best he can find, and I had the best engineer on my ship. Sir." There was a snort of laughter from the communications station, but they both ignored it. Then the turbolift doors opened and Malcolm turned in expectation. 

"Quite the strategy, Ensign," Captain Archer said. "Sometimes the best way is the simplest way. A captain thinks about the welfare of his crew first, about protecting them. A long, protracted battle isn't always a good idea. Disable your enemy, then get your crew to safety."

Travis's eyes widened and his mouth worked for several seconds before he stammered, "Sir, how did--"

"I was observing in the engine room, standing next to Commander T'Pol and Commander Tucker."

Travis felt the color drain from his face. He stared at Malcolm, then at the captain. The captain and T'Pol watched everything? They were all in on it? This was a test?

"I wasn't expecting the ensign to run a gauntlet of my weapons fire, sir," Malcolm said, "but he aimed for my engine drive and my defense systems with the intention of disabling me, not destroying me. Once he was successful, he--"

"--ran like hell," finished Trip Tucker, who leaned against the engineering console next to Archer. "and still managed to make his rendezvous."

"I had help," Travis admitted, smiling at Trip. "Thank you, Commander."

"You're welcome, Ensign. I wanted to see if my enhancements really worked. Maybe a little tweak later, but--"Trip shrugged. "Hey, if ya need another engineer, I'm signin' on."

"Or a comm officer," Hoshi said, silent till now. Travis shot her a grateful look. When he turned away from her, he caught a slight smile from Malcolm Reed.

"Or an armory officer," Malcolm added.

Travis grinned and said, "Thank you. Thank you all."

Two months later...

"Congratulations, Lieutenant Mayweather. You deserved it."

"Thank you, Captain Archer," Travis answered. Happiness and surprise still made him giddy. He raised a hand to the two pips on his collar. "It's still hard to believe."

Archer smiled and turned to the group in the Mess Hall. "All right, everyone. Formalities are over. Chef?"

Chef rolled in a huge cake on a trolley, right on cue, to the cheers of the crew. As they were all being served, Travis glanced across the room at the newly promoted Lieutenant Sato and Lieutenant Commander Reed. They both turned to him. Hoshi grinned at him and waved her fork. Malcolm raised his champagne glass in salute.

"Hey, Captain!" Trip shouted, and the crowd roared as both Archer and Travis looked up at him.


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