Expletive Deleted

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Title: Expletive Deleted
Category: Humour/Drama
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Intrepid chief engineer Commander Charles Tucker III is about to receive his hardest mission yet: no naughty language for 24 hours. Damn...
Author's Notes: I originally intended to have this finished and posted by Halloween 2003... yeah, right... ;)... finished March '04.

o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o


30th October 2152 : 1049 hours
"Ah, dammit!"

This was the yell that echoed throughout Engineering as Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker found himself in a rather... compromising position. A position that involved a heavy piece of scanning equipment somehow slipping out of his grip and falling straight onto his left foot. Hard.

Did he mention that it hurt? A lot? Or that he was balanced on a ladder barely wide enough to accommodate him? Or that he was a good SEVEN METRES away from solid deck? Or that the scanner had then continued on its merry way from the now bruised foot until colliding with said decking, and smashing to little pieces upon impact?

No. He didn't think so somehow.

"Ah, dammit!"

This was the yell that echoed throughout Engineering as Lieutenant Hess found herself the unexpected - and quite the outside - winner of the day's pool. Commander Tucker had become known throughout his department for his use of cuss language, and later on he became infamous among every crewmember on Enterprise for his apparent flair and creativeness when, well, cursing. Hence the pool in Engineering. It was quite simple really. Pick a cuss word (one per participant) before the beginning of Alpha shift, and the first one used by Commander Tucker that had been selected that day won; in order to win, there had to be two or more witnesses to the cuss, to eliminate cheating and so forth. Hess always picked "dammit", although it was rarely used any more (the most popular choices in the pool were "goddamn" and "hell" in any context; the other favourite options varied from week to week).

Lieutenant Bathurst, the pool's creator and organiser, left the station he was working at and went over to where Hess was standing stock-still, a small grin starting to form on her face. She had actually, finally won. Well, it had taken long enough.

"Congratulations," he offered to her with a grin. "You'll get your prize later." He then stepped away quickly as a thoroughly disgruntled-looking Commander Tucker emerged from where he had been working, the still-blinking remains of what used to be a scanner scooped up into his hand. Scowling, he dumped the metal pieces on a clear workspace and all but stormed out of engineering, limping a little and muttering to himself along the way. Crewmembers closer to his path were able to catch a rather... colourful assortment of language, even including what sounded suspiciously like Denobulan to unpractised ears, although nobody could really tell for certain.

o o o o o

31st October 2152 : 0927 hours
"Trip, if you'll just stop one moment to try and understand that -"

"No way, Cap'n! What I don't understand is what the hell you called me in here for! I gotta schedule to keep down in Engineerin', and those repairs you wanted finished aren't goin' anywhere unless I get back to work!"

Jonathan took a deep breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. This wasn't going to be easy. Another deep breath. "All I'm trying to say, Trip, is that there have been several... incidents... recently where your language has been... less than exemplary."

"Exemplary?" Trip repeated in disbelief. "What, am I back in kindergarten now or somethin'? You can't go and give me... detention on the basis of what I say! Even coming from you, that's just plain ridiculous!"

"I know, Trip," Jonathan replied carefully, trying to tread very carefully indeed, "but what I'm suggesting is that maybe you need to... tone it down a little."

Trip just stared at him.

Time to play the trump card; Jonathan stood up and crossed the ready room to where his friend was standing. "Do you know about the pool in Engineering?"

"What? What pool?" Trip asked, mystified.

Jonathan sighed. Evidently not. "Apparently, your team of engineers has a daily pool as to which swear word you're going to use first each day." It sounded preposterous, even to him, but apparently it was the truth. "It's got to stop, Commander," he finished. "Please."

Trip considered his response for a moment. "Jon, there's no way I can control what I do and do not say," he said almost helplessly. "It's not that simple."

"I challenge you," Jonathan said softly.

"Come again?"

"I challenge you," Jonathan repeated, louder this time. "I challenge you to a full day without swearing, and I'll make it worth your while."

Trip looked more than a little nervous at the prospect, if truth be told. "Not even 'damn'?" he asked, smiling weakly and looking faintly hopeful.

His friend shook his head and tried to look firm. "Not even 'damn', Commander," he said, then looked at the chronometer. "It's nine thirty," he added. "Twenty-four hours, Trip."

"What do I get out of it?" Trip asked, not even willing to contemplate a whole day of no... no. "Just what is in this for little ol' me?"

Jonathan shrugged. "The pride you'll feel at maintaining superb self-control?"

"Nope. Not good enough, Cap'n." Trip folded his arms. "I'm waitin'."

Long, deliberately drawn-out pause. "Pecan pie. Chef's finest... and it'll be all yours - providing you stay clean for the whole day. Any... lapses will be duly noted in the galley."

Trip grinned. "Good enough fer me. See ya tomorrow, Cap'n!" He then left the ready room.

o o o o o

31st October 2152 : 1156 hours
Lieutenant (jg) Hermes Bathurst checked his notes for the day's pool and grinned to himself. Following the very unexpected success of "dammit" the day before, that had been one of the first options to go this morning (to an excitable Delta-watch crewman), and almost every conceivable expletive was down on today's list. He couldn't take part himself, of course, but the way he saw things it was just as much fun working from behind the scenes, although his breakfasts of late had been harangued by engineering crewmembers eager to get their swear word of choice before somebody else did.

But the strangest things had been happening down in Main Engineering this morning, where Hermes had been on the go since 0800. Commander Tucker had arrived at about a quarter to ten, with an odd, defeated look on his face. He had then proceeded to throw himself headfirst into the repairs that needed doing to the mechanisms behind one of the warp nacelles, and had for some unknown reason taken all the jobs that required manoeuvring around the tight access tubes, without any company... and for reason or reasons unknown he had refused to take a communicator with him.

It was while he was out of sight, earshot and all human manner of detection that Captain Archer had informed the whole ship that Tucker was 'abstaining' from swearing for 24 hours, and could everyone please chip in to make sure he 'behaved' himself, as it were.

Hermes had also heard rumours that Tucker's quarters had been rigged up with surveillance equipment to monitor everything that was said inside those four walls. It was a highly amusing idea, although he wasn't sure how much of it had an actual basis in truth, given his informant's reputation for 'exaggerating' the truth on more than one occasion in the past.

After the captain's announcement, everyone who had taken part in the pool that day (which was pretty much everyone in Engineering) had then spent the rest of the morning shift coming up with assorted means and plans to make their commanding officer slip up, so that one of them would win the bet.

It was actually rather funny, Hermes thought to himself as he tucked into a ham-and-lettuce sandwich. At the rate his colleagues were planning on going, Commander Tucker wasn't going to last the afternoon, let alone a whole day.

o o o o o

"Captain, don't you think that perhaps we're taking things just a little too far?"

Jonathan turned to look at his armoury officer as they made their way through the corridors of D-deck. To his credit, Malcolm appeared to be dutifully bashful at having to install audio surveillance equipment in a senior officer's quarters... but the shameless smirk tugging at the edges of his mouth definitely implied otherwise.

"Not at all, Malcolm," Jonathan replied neutrally, struggling not to smile. "Did you manage to talk to Chef about what he has to do?"

Malcolm's smirk was quickly replaced by a scowl. "He asked me to inform you, and I quote," he began, "'I do not need some English ponce to teach me how to use a radio'. I won't go into the rest of it."

"You didn't take him too seriously, I hope?" Jonathan asked a little uncertainly.

Malcolm shook his head. "Of course not, sir," he replied. "After all, I do value my food free of harmful substances."


They turned another corner. "Chef's also made it quite clear to me that the application of penalties will be down to him and him alone," Malcolm added, "although he has assured me that he won't be too harsh with the, ah, points system."

"I should hope he won't be," Jonathan smiled as they turned another corner.

"Mmm," Malcolm grunted noncommittally. "Although I am concerned about this pool in Engineering."

Jonathan turned to face him. "What do you mean?"

The armoury officer shrugged his shoulders. "You said there was one winner each day?"


"Well, won't they be determined to have a winner today as well?" Malcolm asked sensibly, as the pair reached their destination.

A nearby chronometer blinked thirteen hundred hours exactly.

o o o o o

31st October 2152 : 1419 hours
Back down in Engineering, Hess and Hermes looked up as Commander Tucker slunk back in the doors, looking more than a little down around the mouth. As they watched, their commanding officer avoided making eye contact with anyone as he took the workstation furthest away from anyone else and settled down to what looked like very depressing and dreary work.

Neither lieutenant looked at each other as they made their way around from the opposite end of the warp reactor and took up positions facing each other over Tucker's head, and both began staring intently down at their consoles, before striking up a quietly audible conversation.

"See the movie last week?"

"Yeah. Great, wasn't it?"

"Mm-hmm. My sister's been raving about it ever since she first watched it."


"Yep. Apparently, it's listed as one of the thirty most expletive movies made in the twentieth century. The uncut version, I mean."

"Damn. I could've done with something like that."

"Heh. Me too."

"Have you seen the uncut version?"

"What do you take me for? Of course I have!"


"And what?"

"Best lines. What were they?"

"Better than you can imagine. It was as though they'd let Kevin Smith loose with a whacking great huge thesaurus on one of the Jay and Silent Bob movies."



"I have to see it uncut."

"My friend, you have not lived until you have."

"C'mon though, give me a little bit."

"Not in polite company, idiot. I'm not going to risk my ass getting busted just because you wanted to know what goes on in foul-mouthed films. Come now, be reasonable. I'll tell you later, okay?"

"You better."

Both engineers grinned when they realised that their dear commanding officer had now gone a deathly shade of white and was staring blankly at his own console.

"Are you okay, sir?" Hermes enquired innocently, successfully managing to repress a smirk at his commanding officer's condition.

Tucker's head snapped up, and registered Hermes' concerned expression. "Fine, Loo-tenant," he said shortly. "Jus' fine." He got up and left, muttering something under his breath as he went, unknowingly catching the attention of a crewman hidden underneath one of the workstations by the door, who then swung out from underneath and slipped over to the nearest comm panel.

Hermes turned back to Hess. "We're going to do it," she said, a cat-like grin still on her face. "We'll get him sooner or later."

"Hell yeah," he replied in a modest imitation of Tucker's distinctive accent.

They both cracked up laughing, and a couple of people turned to look at them before shaking their heads and returning to their own work.

o o o o o

31st October 2152 : 1424 hours
Down in the galley, Chef registered the first penalty committed by the chief engineer, and made the suitable appropriations.

One pecan nut was removed from the glass jar and placed back with the others that he had in storage.

o o o o o

31st October, 2152 : 1836 hours
Lieutenant Malcolm Reed couldn't believe what he was reading. According to this report, there had been more incidents involving minor accidents centring around the chief engineer than there had been in total since Enterprise had left spacedock. Today, Trip Tucker had spent more time in Sickbay than he had cumulatively spent in there in the past six or seven weeks.

And, as chief of security, it fell to Malcolm to assess the aforementioned accidents, and to judge whether said chief engineer could pose a threat to his own health and safety, and thus to the rest of the crew.

He hated this part of the job.

He knew exactly why Trip was 'suffering undue levels of injury', as the report had oh so tactfully suggested. The only real problem was that there wasn't really all that much that he could do about it. Bar reprimanding the entire engineering team (and possibly throwing them in the brig for good measure - tempting, but it wouldn't be practical anyway; there wouldn't be enough room for all of them in there at the same time), Malcolm's choice of options was severely limited, and eventually he admitted to himself that there was nothing that he could do that would have any import whatsoever on the situation at hand.

He only hoped that he wasn't throwing his friend to the wolves in the process.

o o o o o

31st October 2152 : 2157 hours
Trip was having trouble sleeping. For the better part of two hours he had been tossing and turning in his bed, unable to sleep for more than twenty or thirty minutes at a time; whenever he did manage to sleep, he found himself being faced down by his friend, his buddy Jon holding a pecan pie just out of his reach, while various Enterprise crewmen hurled expletives and invectives at him, forming a sort of gauntlet; at the other end was Jon holding the half-eaten pie (and managing to get through most of what was left of it by himself), and behind him was a large grey wall... there was nowhere left to run...

Trip shot upright in bed - again - sweating and holding onto his pillow. It took a few minutes for his breathing and pulse to return to normal, and within seconds he was sound asleep again, curled up inside the now untidy mound that was once a properly made bed.

It was only a matter or minutes before he woke up again and scowled at his surroundings... and resisted the urge to let loose verbally at the four walls around him.

Tempting, though... so goddamned tempting...

Head resting in his hands, Trip stared blearily out through the gaps in his fingers and looked over at the chronometer... it wasn't even twenty-three hundred yet...

This was going to be a long, long night.

o o o o o

1st November 2152 : 0849 hours
Lieutenant (jg) Hermes Bathurst was a wanted man. He hadn't even finished his breakfast yet (something on toast), and already half of the people who had taken part in yesterday's pool had come up to him demanding to know who the winner was. Severe apathy had then taken over, and so far (which was generally the time by which the more popular options had been taken) there was not a single participant for today's offing.

Things hadn't been this bad since the day he'd first proposed organising something like this to the engineering team (with their commanding officer safely out of earshot, of course), but even then he'd had a cautious couple of offers from the crew.

This, this was not good, and the way he saw it, it was very simple. Bet from the captain or no bet, Tucker had to swear today, or Hermes was going to be out of a pastime.

Bloody Americans, he thought to himself as he warily watched Commander Tucker enter the mess hall with a strange grin on his face. They can't get anything right...

o o o o o

Charles "Trip" Tucker was a very happy Southern camper this morning. Despite the clear lack of sleep he'd had the night before, despite the evil looks on the faces of his engineering staff floating around mind all of yesterday, last night and indeed this morning... heck (and he felt so proud thinking that)... heck, he was quite proud of himself... however much he was starting to sound like Malcolm. Minor point... very minor...

Outside the captain's mess, he thumbed the panel by the door and waited; a couple of seconds later the mechanism chirped and he went inside.

"Mornin' Cap'n," he said with a grin. "Lovely day, isn't it?"

"I've not had much of a chance to tell so far," Jonathan replied, indicating a chair for his friend to sit in, "and you seem fairly... cheerful today."

"Yep." Trip leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest.

There really was no point in beating around the bush. "I've talked to Chef."


"He seemed pleased with your... performance yesterday."

"He better be."

"He's... asked me to give you something."

Trip grinned in anticipation. "Now we're gettin' somewhere!"

"I also had a little chat with Malcolm just now."

Now this didn't sound too promising. "Okay..."

"You'll pleased to know that he's in full agreement with Chef." Jonathan leaned into the middle of the table, and lifted the covering off the single plate that was there. "You deserve this, Trip. Well done."

And what a pie it was. The chief engineer's eyes lit up when he saw it, but then a slightly downcast look took over. "Ya know, Cap'n... I can't have this right now. Can I come back for it later?"

Jonathan smiled; he had expected as much. "It'll still be warm by dinnertime," he assured his friend.

Appeased, Trip leaned back again. "D'you want to know somethin'?" Without waiting for an answer he continued. "I had an epiphany last night... yesterday I went a whole day without swearin' or bein' verbally crude in any way at all... except maybe once... an' against all the odds, I survived it."

"You certainly did."

"I think I'm goin' to try an' cut down on my swearin'," Trip said seriously, looking at the pie. "I mean, if I can do one day, then I can do more days, right?"

Jonathan considered this. "It makes sense," he replied.

"Well," Trip added, getting up, "I gotta get myself down to Engineerin', see what those little rascals on Delta shift have done to the engine."

"See you later, Trip," Jonathan said. "Have a good day."

o o o o o

1st November 2152 : 0936 hours
Lieutenant (jg) Hermes Bathurst was a desperate man. Things were definitely the worst today than they had been... ever. He was bored; most of his mornings over the past year or so had been taken up with organising and running the cuss pool, and this morning... there was absolutely nothing.

He was therefore a little mollified to see Lieutenant Reed (one of Tucker's main antagonists onboard ship, whether it was unintentional or not was still a mystery to many) walk into the department with a padd in his hand, seeking out the chief engineer. Hermes called him over, and watched as Tucker and Reed headed over to one of the wall displays, presumably so the armoury officer could reveal whatever hare-brained scheme he was pursuing this time. They were soon deep in conversation, and Hermes returned to his own work, leaving them to it.

A few minutes later, however...

"Goddamn it, Malcolm! What the hell are ya plannin' ta do with that kinda power... I swear, if ya don't move quick I will kick your sorry ass so far you won't know where the freakin' hell it is!"

Hermes considered this... outburst... for a moment, looked around, caught the eyes of the two other crew on duty and grinned as they looked at him speculatively.

He was back in business.

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