Title: Twenty Percent

Author: Joules Mer

Author's e-mail: julia_ocean_child@yahoo.co.uk

Author's URL: http://jmenterprise.popullus.net

Date: Posted to EntSTSlash 06/12/2004

Archive: Yes to EntSTCommunity.  Everyone else please ask first.

Fandom: Star Trek Enterprise

Category: Slash

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: T/R

Summary:  The beginning of a new future.

Series:  The Grandfather Paradox (third in series, sequel to A Minimal Solution)

Beta: None

Spoilers: The Council (major spoilers), Countdown, Anomaly, and The Expanse.

Disclaimer: Enterprise is the property of Paramount.  Characters just borrowed for fun.  No profit was, or will be, made by this story.  

    On my first day of security training we were divided into groups of five.  The commodore told us to take a look at each person in our group, because if we were sent on a mission it would be acceptable for one of us not to make it back.  One in five.  Twenty percent.  I'd always thought that sounded like an awfully large number.

    Since then my life has been spent making sure none of my crewmates wind up as a "one in five."  If someone has to be a statistic it's better me than one of them anyhow.  I like to think I've done a pretty good job.  Or, I did a pretty good job up until the Xindi mission.

    Hawkins was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.  There have been too many deaths on this mission, far too many of them on my watch.  So far I've swallowed my complaints because of what we're here to do.  Who would I talk to, anyway?  The captain is so focused on "our mission" he can barely see straight.  Trip has an insatiable thirst for vengeance, and T'Pol has been running around as if she has a screw loose.  I'm stuck biting my tongue and sitting on my hands.

    I wasn't lying to Hayes when I said it happened very fast.  Travis managed to shout a warning to us, but we couldn't see anything inside that damned sphere.  I don't know how Hawkins spotted it before me, but he managed to somehow.  I tried to destroy it.  I know I hit it a few times even after it had him, but the effort was too little too late.  It happened so bloody quickly, but his strangled scream still rings in my ears.

    "Malcolm?"  I wearily raise my head.  I'd hoped no one would bother me if I hunkered down in the corner table.  It's Trip.  "You okay?"  Before I can tell him I'd rather be alone he sets his mug on the table and slips into the chair across from me.

    My habitual "I'm fine" sticks in my throat so I just manage to choke out the truth.  "No."

    Brow furrowed in concern, Trip leans across the table.  "What's wrong?"

    What's wrong?  I almost laugh at the absurdity of the question.  What else can you do when you're in a situation where nothing is *right*.  "Just..."  I scrub a hand over my eyes and talk down into my cold mug of tea, "Hawkins was killed... Inside the sphere."  I have to clear my throat before I can continue, "There were these... arms.  One grabbed him in its pincers.  I think he was vaporized."  I shake my head gently, but the image doesn't disappear, "He was trying to fight it, even hitting it with his hands."

    "I'm sorry, Malcolm.  I know you did everything you could."    

    The words grate in my throat as I speak, "Blood on my hands, Trip."

    His face is ashen.  "Malcolm..."  Trip gulps convulsively, which I notice with mild interest.  It's almost as if he cares.  When Fuller died he only cared because it would make it harder to carry out our mission.  Back then Trip saw our mission as a "one way ticket."  He wasn't about to mourn each loss along the way.  All he cared about was vengeance, I don't dare let myself hope that he might have changed.

    "I yelled at T'Pol."  My voice sounds flat, but I can't bring myself to care.

    "What?  When?"  Trip's eyes are wide and he's looking at me as if I've just sprouted another head.  

    "In the shuttlepod, on the way back."  I take a shuddering breath and notice that my eyes feel prickly.  "Twenty-three, Trip."

    He frowns slightly, but then enlightenment dawns.  His voice is small, "People?"

    I nod and continue softly, "Twenty-three men and women have died on this mission.  That's far too many."

    "We knew the risks, Malcolm.  Every single one of us knew how dangerous this mission would be, but we all signed on."

    "T'Pol said 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.'  She said everyone here understood that."

    "Smart lady."

    "But it's my job to look after the few."  I swipe at my eyes in an effort to keep from breaking down.  "I've failed."

    "You haven't failed, Malcolm.  From what I can see you've done a damn good job given the circumstances."

    "Hayes blames me.  For Hawkins at least."

    "You don't know that."  His face suddenly fills with anger.  "Did he say something to you?"

    I shake my head.  "He requested a 'full report' on the incident.  I haven't asked him directly if he blames me, but how can he not?"

    "Because he knows you'd have done everything in your power to prevent it.  Because he knows you're not reckless or negligent.  Accidents will happen and people will die, that doesn't mean it's your fault."

    "I..."  I'm still not so sure.

    Trip reaches across the table and lays his hand over mine.  He waits until I look up and then speaks slowly and clearly, "It wasn't your fault, Malcolm."  His words are like a benediction and I can feel a weight lifting off my shoulders.  Not my fault.  When I look into his earnest face, I think I can believe it.