When Malcolm had been fourteen, and about to finish middle school, he had seen a Vulcan in person for the first time. The teacher had gushed with excitement when she announced their guest speaker. The Vulcan was on a visit to Malaysia. Malcolm hadn't been certain what to expect, and at first he'd been impressed by the man's cool demeanour. And then the alien had started speaking.
Quietly, he'd impressed upon the class the superiority of Vulcans. Every sentence, every response to a question had been laden with subtle insults. After years of listening to his father talk to his mother, Malcolm was adept at hearing those kinds of jibes.
One girl had asked why Vulcans didn't smile, why they didn't seem to find joy in life. Their visitor had calmly stated that concepts like joy and actions like smiling were the signs of a primitive, emotion-burdened species with little self-control.
It had grated him that these creatures, so arrogant and joyless, freely explored space, while human efforts were hamstrung.
Four days later, his father had looked at him across the dinner table, and decided his future. "You'll go to the Naval Academy."
Carefully spearing a piece of beef -- eating meat was another primitive trait -- he'd met his father's eyes. "No. Starfleet." His future was his to decide.
* * * * *
He has a picture of himself graduating. He can't remember who
took it, but when he looks at it these days, he is always
Unsurprisingly, he'd easily slid into the regimented lifestyle. Years of living with his father had made it less of a decision than an automatic move. He thinks perhaps this also played a role in his inability to make close connections with his classmates. He participated in the bonding and the outside activities, but the emotions he had known he should feel were on the surface only.
Only the classes were truly exciting. He thrived on the work, excelling at engineering, tactical theory, and security. Courses on astronomy and navigation were rife with images of space, and piloting simulations. They only built his longing to be there in person, strengthening his resolve to get there by whatever means possible.
During his second year, he was called into the office of the head tactical and armoury instructor. His strengths were spelled out for him, reinforcing his own thoughts. The instructor informed him that he would make an excellent armoury officer. Together, they set out a career plan.
It was in his second year that he realised that in the academy, there was always subtle attention to the ways in which humans were kept low on the galactic hierarchy by the Vulcans. Later, he began to understand that students who responded in the right way to these lessons were targeted for specific training. He had been picked up that year, and began to learn more about Starfleet's true agenda. Eventually he'd realised how deeply the secrecy extended. Starfleet is not a shadow organisation with a hidden agenda. It's simply one part -- the most crucial part -- of a larger objective with a long history.
He learned that Starfleet fronted itself with the true dreamers, the earnest and innocent ones. So far, it had been enough to fool the Vulcans and lull them into a sense of security. In reality, the organisation is primarily made of people with an alternative agenda and limited patience for the Vulcan attempts at controlling humanity's future.
Since he'd been a young child, he'd grown accustomed to compartmentalising his life for different situations. It had been an act of preservation in his household. It was a skill he improved upon during Starfleet training. It had been necessary in order to maintain the deception and secrecy that surrounded him. What had been a matter of survival became interlaced with duty.
* * * * *
He supposes it is ironic that a man fighting for a better place for
humans is in many ways disconnected from the things
He remembers the childhood anger he'd felt at humans being denied the
adventure of exploring space. Mostly, he tries to
Mayweather is interesting to him for this reason. He'd grown up
in a close-knit environment, where family members are
"They think the Vulcans have us on a leash, that we're their lapdogs.
They know we don't have the weapons or the warp
Nodding, he'd silently approved Mayweather's understanding of the situation.
Most would simply blame the raiders, or
He's since allowed himself to relax slightly in Mayweather's presence, an action which has cemented the man's loyalty to him. When they went on their mission to the ice comet, Mayweather had smiled in joy at the snow. He is the kind of person who will save the human species -- someone who knows what it will take to raise humans to their rightful place, but who has not lost his sense of joy and wonder at the universe.
The pointed ears on the snowman had annoyed Archer and likely the Vulcans.
It had looked like a harmless prank, but he
* * * * *
His assessment of Trip is different. The man's loyalty to Archer has been distressing from the outset, particularly when Malcolm realised exactly what a valuable asset Trip was. Starfleet can ill afford to lose Trip's knowledge and expertise. So, Malcolm went about laying the groundwork that would eventually make Starfleet's true agenda palatable to Trip.
It had started as a mission, albeit one he'd designed himself. It had
turned into something unexpected, something he now
It doesn't take long for him to realise that this is something different altogether. The last time he remembers feeling more deeply for a person was as a child. For years, he's reserved his passion for the goal of getting humans into deep space.
That passion is beginning to be intertwined with what he feels building for Trip. He's not sure when it started, but he knows it's a weakness. He should put an end to it. Unfortunately, it is no longer something he wants to end. The sacrifices he's aware he will make in order to keep Trip are troubling in the extreme.
* * * * *
When the coded transmission comes, he isn't expecting it. He knew
eventually it would come, but time and distance had
Archer is the captain of Enterprise, but Malcolm and most of the crew
members have always known that this would be a
Some are simply not receptive to Starfleet's message. Archer's father had been one of that group. Starfleet, recognising the importance of the man's skill and intelligence, had simply fed him stories of exploration and peace. The senior Archer's passion for space had been more than enough to drive him to design better warp systems.
Unfortunately, he had passed on his idealism to his son. In many ways, Jonathan had been the ideal starship captain: loyal, intelligent, passionate, an excellent leader. He had been the natural choice for Enterprise's leadership, especially since his earnest demeanour was the perfect shield for Starfleet. Forrest and the others had hoped he could be swayed to their perspective. Malcolm's careful analysis of Archer's actions had demonstrated otherwise. They all saw it as a loss.
Finally, the other ships that had been built in secret have been launched. The secret officers hidden in Vulcan embassies and missions are taking action. Earth is officially at war with the Vulcans. It helps that the pointy-eared bastards are currently embroiled in serious hostilities with the Andorians.
Admiral Forrest's image looks at him seriously. "You have had some dealings with the Andorians, correct?"
"Can you make contact again?"
Indeed he can. He'd made arrangements for this very possibility. "Yes. I think they will be receptive to an alliance."
"Arrange it. What about the Klingons?"
He shakes his head. "It would be a mistake to engage with them. I do not think they will aid the Vulcans."
"They are an unknown quantity. However, I do have some contacts with arms dealers. Shall I attempt to negotiate?"
"Yes. As for Captain Archer -- your recommendation still stands?"
"Regretfully, yes." His observations of Archer had convinced him
that the man was simply unsalvageable -- and he had
Forrest sighs. "Very well. You know what to do."
The comm image flickers out.
On his way to Archer's quarters, he thinks about the time the man had
worked so hard to ensure his safety on Terra Nova.
His orders are to take Archer into custody and place him in the brig. Other actions are only excusable if there is trouble. The man is, after all, somewhat of a hero, and there are some residual hopes that Archer can be persuaded to understand things as they truly are. However, Malcolm's thought about it, and he knows Archer will never accept the new regime that is being built. He knows that custody is not truly an option. But there's more to it than that. In the end, he is doing Archer a mercy. Prison colonies are not pleasant places.
Archer opens his door at Malcolm's request. "Malcolm. Come
on in. Is something bothering you?" He's smiling,
"No thank you, sir." Absently, he crouches to pet Porthos, who wiggles excitedly at his feet. The dog is cute in its own way.
"So, what brings you here?"
Straightening from his crouch, he pulls the phase pistol from his boot. Pointing it at Archer's chest, he calmly says, "I'm sorry, sir," and fires.
The surprised look stays on Archer's face as he falls.
He surveys the room, and after a moment of thought, he begins to move
furniture and personal items so that they are in
His actions are probably unnecessary, but it is not in his nature to leave loose ends.
Afterwards, he turns and leaves the room, telling Porthos he'll be back later. He drops the phase pistol near the door to be found. He has another in his other boot.
On his way to T'Pol's quarters, he doesn't think of much except his duty.
* * * * *
The rest of the ship is easily controlled. Most of the crew had
expected this anyway, and those who hadn't are quickly
After he apprises the crew of their new orders and sets the ship on a course to the first weapons trading planet, he leaves the bridge and heads to Trip's quarters. Trip had been off-duty and in his quarters when it all occurred. It had been an ideal situation, as far as Malcolm is concerned. He'd put an armed guard on Trip's door, ensuring that he would be unable to leave.
One the way, he stops by Archer's quarters, picking up Porthos. When he arrives at Trip's, he nods to the crewman standing security outside the door.
Trip is sitting at his desk, looking confused and angry. He jumps
up when Malcolm enters the room. "What the hell is
He will have to play this very carefully. "Trip...I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but Captain Archer's dead."
Trip pales. "What? How? Did one of these yahoos," he gestures at the door, "kill him?"
Malcolm shakes his head. "No." He pauses, working his expression into remorse. "I did, and believe me, it was the last thing I wanted to do."
He schools his face to a horrified expression and begins his story.
"Something was wrong with him. He'd been hiding
Trip's face tenses in confusion. "The Vulcans?"
"Starfleet has been aware for some time that the Vulcans have been sabotaging our actions. Archer had never been a suspect, so I wasn't sure what to think. This morning I went to Archer, asked him what was going on. He went wild. He was nothing like the man we thought we knew. He had a phase pistol in his quarters, and he started firing. He disintegrated a table, Trip. The pistol wasn't set on stun. I barely missed being hit. We wrestled. I got the pistol. And...I'm sorry, Trip. It was an accident."
Trip looks stunned. "An accident. He tried to kill you?"
"Jon? Workin' for the Vulcans? It doesn't sound like him."
"I know. He was unrecognisable. I didn't want to kill him.
I thought perhaps Dr.Phlox could help him. We know the
Trip is silent for a long time. Eventually, he meets Malcolm's eyes. "You ok?"
"Some bruising, but I'm fine."
"Who's in charge of the ship?"
"I am. I contacted Starfleet. Admiral Forrest made me acting captain."
"She...she died too. But not before she took out Kelly and Hansen."
It's easy to blame the deaths of the two crewmen
There's more silence, and Trip moves to stare out of the window. "Why am I locked up?"
"I'm sorry, Trip, but Starfleet is aware of your friendship with Captain Archer. Admiral Forrest isn't convinced you're not compromised as well. I know you're not. But even so, I've been ordered to put you under guard for a little while, until I can convince them otherwise. It's for your own safety too."
"I'm not a traitor, Malcolm."
"I want out of here."
He reaches out and lays his hand on Trip's shoulder. "I'll get you out. In the meantime," he gestures to Porthos, curled in a small ball on the floor, "I think Porthos misses his captain. Can I leave him with you?"
Absently, Trip nods.
"Thank you. I'm sorry, but I have to get back to the bridge. Will you be all right for a while? I'll be back as soon as I can."
Trip keeps his eyes on the stars. "Sure." His voice is quiet.
Malcolm stays for a few more moments, then quietly slips out of the room. Trip doesn't turn to watch him go.
* * * * *
When he returns, the lights are dim but not off. He knows Trip has left them this way for him. Trip is curled on the bed, clearly naked under the blankets. Porthos lies at his feet, but jumps off the bed, tail wagging. Malcolm puts down the food and water bowls he's carrying, and scratches the dog's ears before standing. Quietly, he removes his uniform and lays it neatly across a chair. He pads to the bed, and slips under the covers. He reaches across Trip, pulling him close, and breathes in the mingled scents of fear, anger and grief that rise from Trip's skin.
After a few moments, Trip wakes and groggily turns to him. "Hi."
"I didn't mean to wake you."
"S'okay." Trip looks drained, and it's not simply from his abrupt
awakening. It's obvious the man needs some sense of
Even in the dim light, he knows Trip can see the bruises developing
on his chest. He and Dr.Phlox had been careful to
They are fortunate that the inter-species medical exchange had found them a doctor and culture willing to adhere to their agenda. The Denobulans, while far from a war-faring species, have come to understand the human perspective. Malcolm is uncertain, but it is possible that Phlox's people once had a similar experience with a species holding them back.
"He really did bruise you."
Trip ignores the words, and moves to gently mouth at the bruise by his
collar bone. He licks and sucks at the skin for
Malcolm sighs at the attention, stroking his hand through Trip's hair.
"That's lovely." He lets Trip's mouth meander
Mindful of Trip's need to be in control, he resists the urge to reach down and hold Trip's head tight, to fuck his mouth fast and hard. Instead, he gives himself over to Trip's pace, one hand curling lightly in his hair. Warm mouth, welcoming throat -- it's been too long since they've had the time to do this. Trip swallows him, then backs off, teasing gently with his teeth and tongue. The pattern is repeated over and over, pushing him to the edge, until Trip pulls back almost entirely. He knows this means Trip wants to taste him as he comes. Teeth graze him again, and strong fingers stroke his balls, and he comes, fast and long.
Slowly, Trip releases him, and flips him gently onto his stomach. He
doesn't protest as his knees are pushed underneath
Trip licks and kisses along his spine and shoulders while stretching him. It's not particularly gentle, but Malcolm doesn't mind. It still feels good, even if he's unused to it. He can hear himself moaning involuntarily. He grows hard again.
Eventually, Trip's fingers slide out, caressing him briefly. "Malcolm? You ok?" His voice is a whisper.
Malcolm nods into the pillow, and groans again as Trip spreads his legs wider.
He tightens his grip on the sheets, and Trip pushes into him, slow but relentless. The long thrust in is matched by a slower withdrawal. The pleasure is overwhelming and sweet.
"Do you like this?" Another slow thrust inwards.
Malcolm groans, as long and drawn out as Trip's movements. Trip's mouth is on his ear now, worrying the flesh.
"I asked if you like this."
He can think of many sarcastic comments to make, but he reminds himself that this is time it's mostly about Trip. "Yes.Yes."
Pulling back slowly, Trip whispers, "Good." Then he pushes back into Malcolm, fast and much harder than before.
Malcolm's back arches and he clamps down on a howl as Trip settles into
a hard, fast rhythm. Fingers dig into his hip,
He's panting, harsh sounds of pleasure coming from his mouth. Trip is uttering nonsense words above him.
"Malcolm...you're perfect...love this..." The thrusts into him are impossibly harder. He's being ridden with rare abandon, and he finds himself thinking inappropriate thoughts about finding other ways to make Trip handle him in this fashion.
He's close, and a few more strokes bring him to the edge. He comes, head thrown back, willing himself to stifle his yell behind tightly closed lips. Trip keeps moving through the orgasm, drawing it out. Malcolm collapses slightly, enjoying the way Trip is riding him through the aftershocks. A few moments later, Trip stiffens and his teeth clamp down on Malcolm's shoulder. His flesh muffles Trip's groan of pleasure.
Collapsing on top of him, Trip lies still for a little while. When his breathing finally returns to normal, Trip pulls away and rolls to his back. Looking anywhere but at Malcolm, he asks, "Why did he do it?"
Malcolm throws his left arm and leg across Trip's body, enjoying the
slight twinges the movements make. He's tired of
There will be a memorial service tomorrow, partly for Trip's benefit. It will do him and the crew good to let go and move on. Phlox has done an admirable job with preparing the body and dressing it in a dress uniform. Archer looks like nothing but a credit to his species.
* * * * *
Mayweather is on the bridge the next morning. "Any progress on Sato?"
The ensign shrugs. "She's confused. Give her a little while, she'll come through. She just doesn't know what to make of it at the moment."
"Will she go to the memorial service?"
"Yes. So will I. See you there?"
He knows Mayweather, like the majority of the crew, regrets the necessity
of Archer's passing. However, they know where
"That's only fitting."
He turns away from the conversation. He has weapons sales to negotiate, and Andorians to contact. Nodding to the bridge crew, he heads for his ready room. It has already been swept of Archer's possessions.
It isn't until after he's contacted Shran and found favourable conditions that he remembers Daniels. He'd never been overly impressed with the crewman, who had struck him as spineless and dull. ''Surprise'' hadn't covered what he'd felt when they'd learned about the future and the supposed Temporal Cold War. He still didn't entirely believe that story, but the technology that remained sealed in Daniels' quarters would certainly be useful.
Hitting the comm, he speaks. "Lieutenant Rostov. Please meet me outside of Crewman Daniels' quarters."
* * * * *
The security seal is easily removed, and he and Rostov enter the room. It takes a while, but what they find is more than worth the time.
They've got star charts and defence capabilities; ship plans -- Vulcan, Klingon, Xyrillian, Andorian, a few he's never heard of -- and weapons design plans; warp drive technology information is matched with shielding information. Some of the technology looks futuristic, but who knows if it's simply from a more technologically-advanced culture.
It doesn't matter. It's theirs now.
Rostov barely contains his excitement, but a few moments of looking
over ways to improve Enterprise leaves him slightly
"Sir, this is amazing, but if we're to make use of it, I think we'll need Tucker's help. It's not just a question of building these things from scratch -- we can do that with these plans. We also need to fit them into Enterprise's systems, and for that we'll need someone who knows everything about the ship."
Coldly, he answers, "Commander Tucker, Rostov. He's still above you in the chain of command."
They spend more time looking over everything, choosing what is most
likely going to be immediately useful. Eventually,
"We really will need Commander Tucker to make these work."
He nods. "I am aware of this. I'm working on it."
Rostov looks hesitant, then asks, "May I speak freely?"
"I'm not sure we'll ever be able to trust the commander. He cared about Archer, and it's not easy to keep information from him. It might be better to simply give him no other choice but to do as we say. I'm certain Starfleet Command could come up with some kind of leverage."
Malcolm's already thought about it. Trip has family he's close to, an obvious and potentially exploitable weakness. He's unwilling to go to these extremes unless absolutely necessary. It's not that he disapproves in general -- after all, sacrifices must sometimes be made in pursuing a larger goal. However, he's honest enough to admit to himself that he's unwilling to make Tucker hate him. "That is not an option, Rostov. Commander Tucker would not easily accede. He would find some way to sabotage the situation. My way is better. You're dismissed."
He can see that Rostov doubts his judgment, that he thinks Malcolm is too involved.
He finds it slightly disturbing that he doesn't care.
* * * * *
He tries not to betray his impatience with Trip. They've been over this before, and it's starting to grate on his nerves.
"I just don't get it, Malcolm. There must have been something
wrong with him. And the Vulcans? Since when are they
Unclenching his jaw, he makes his tone unbelieving but reasonable. "I know, Trip. I can't believe it myself. But there's more information you need to know." He raises the PADD in his hand.
Trip ignores him, still caught in the rant. "I've known him for years. He was my best friend. He had more reason to resent the Vulcans than any of us! And T'Pol - she saved all our asses more than a few times." He turns on Malcolm, face tight and suspicious. "You kill her too? What's your story for that one, Malcolm?"
Damn it. He lets his anger show through. "Oh yes, Commander,
of course I did. However did you guess? You must have
There was a long silence. Then, "Sorry, Malcolm. I don't know what's goin' on with me."
He slumps to a chair, doing his best to look defeated. "It's understandable. I can't expect you to forgive me." Hopefully he's not taking it too far.
Trip crouches down beside him. "There's nothin' to forgive. I'm just a little wound up."
They're quiet for a few minutes, then Malcolm pushes himself off the chair. "We all are. I have to go." He heads to the door, turning just before he leaves. "By the way, Rostov shot T'Pol. She was attempting to sabotage Engineering. She'd already killed Kelly and Hansen." His voice is dull, defeated.
It's the story that all the engineering crew on duty at the time will confirm. They all know where their true loyalties lie. Only the unfortunate Kelly and Hansen would have told otherwise.
He leaves his PADD on the table. It has the same information that the other confined crew members are getting. It contains images of the effects of Vulcan attacks on Earth, pictures of Vulcan ships firing on Starfleet ship-building facilities. There are lists of dead civilians and Starfleet members, and intelligence reports on Vulcan actions. The information has all been carefully selected and doctored so that the Vulcans look like the true aggressors.
In a sense, they are. If they hadn't done their damnedest to keep
humans planet-bound and scared of the universe; if
* * * * *
That night, he stops in at Trip's quarters. The guard is still outside.
Trip is sitting on the bed, his knees drawn up as he reads the PADD.
After a few moments, he looks at Malcolm. "I miss
"I know. You're not alone."
"This," he waves the PADD, "I just can't believe it. I mean, I believe it. But it's so unexpected. I just never thought..."
"Nor did I."
"Are we returning to Earth?"
He nods. "We're on our way. We have a few stops to make first. The Andorians want to to talk."
"They're a bit weird, Malcolm."
"They're potential allies. We need allies."
"The Vulcans have sure screwed them over, anyhow."
"I think they must have been controllin' Jon. It's the only thing that makes sense."
He looks remorseful. "I agree. I don't understand how I missed it."
"Malcolm?" There is a brief pause. "I miss you too."
He smiles tentatively. It's been a hard few days for them.
"I'm goin' crazy sittin' in here all day."
"I came to tell you that Starfleet has given me permission to use my judgment about whether to release you. Your next shift was scheduled for 0700 hours. You can take it, if you want it."
Trip looks relieved. "I can't wait to get out of this room."
"Do you want to go for dinner?"
"Sure." For a moment, Trip looks stricken. "Not the captain's mess though, ok?"
He smiles kindly. "Of course not."
The meal is tense. They don't spend the night together, but he understands. Trip has many things to work through.
* * * * *
In the morning, he goes to Trip's office to brief him. "Things are not going well for us, Trip. The Vulcans have superior technology and numbers. We're making allies with the Andorians, but we need more help. Rostov and I went and looked at the technology in Daniels' quarters."
"I was about to suggest doin' that."
He smiles. "We've got a few things to add to Enterprise. I hope you'll have some ideas."
"I'm sure it'll be a challenge."
"A couple more things. Apparently, Starfleet Command had feared
this kind of thing for some time. They'd secretly
Trip ignores the compliment. "They knew this would happen?"
"They suspected. I'm only just learning that there was much that most of us were never told. It was all kept as tight as possible."
"Did they know about Jon?"
"No. Nobody suspected. I think it was a recent thing."
Trip looks troubled, but after a moment he shrugs it off. "I'll start looking at Daniels' information."
Trip is already absorbed in the shielding information.
* * * * *
Two days later, it's all going well. Trip has succeeded in starting to incorporate Daniels' technology into Enterprise, including vast improvements to their warp capabilities. They've sent coded transmissions to Starfleet with some of the preliminary information. The adjustments should be being installed in the other ships right now.
The Andorians will rendezvous with Enterprise tomorrow, and Shran had
told him to expect a positive outcome. The
Mayweather has informed him that Ensign Sato believes the story she has been fed, and is prepared to come back to duty. She will be a valuable addition to the discussion with the Andorian delegation.
He estimates they'll be back in Earth's system in twenty days.
He's in his quarters, waiting for Trip to arrive at the end of his shift. They deserve some down time, even if much of it will involve talking about about the war. He's had Cook prepare a decent meal, complete with pecan pie. He wants Trip to spend the night with him. It has been too long, and he is beginning to wonder if Trip is avoiding him.
Trip spots the meal as soon as he walks in the door. "That's exactly what I need."
Digging into his food, Trip mumbles, "You should know."
Trip has yet to call him "captain". If Malcolm gives him orders,
he simply nods and undertakes them. Once in a while
"Thanks for gettin' dinner." Trip gestures to the mostly demolished remains of his meal.
He smiles. "You're welcome."
"Did you already eat?"
"Yes, earlier. I'm sorry, but I was too hungry to wait."
"Not a problem." Trip sets his fork down. "So, I was talkin' to Hoshi."
He's uncertain why he suddenly feels tense.
"She's been goin' through the communications records. She saw
somethin' weird, and you know what she's like. She
He tries to take it as a good sign that Trip is referring to the former captain as "Archer" now, and not "Jon".
"So, we're thinkin' maybe it was somethin' from the Vulcans, sent on the sly to Archer. Could be useful if we can decode it."
Trip is looking at him intently, so he forces himself to nod. He knows what the coded transmission is. It's Admiral Forrest's message to him. He's fairly certain that the conversation was not recorded. The best that Sato and Trip will be able to find is that it's a Starfleet transmission to someone on the ship. If they are very, very good, they'll be able to trace it to his quarters.
Closing his eyes briefly, he reminds himself that Trip and Sato are both excellent at their jobs. This has the potential to blow his story out of the water.
He forces himself to speak. "Nice work. Keep on it, but any information in that transmission is probably outdated. This isn't a priority. We're heading into a war, Trip, and I want this ship as defence-capable as possible. This transmission we'll deal with later."
Trip's face is closed to him. "I thought if we could see the message, it might help us understand why Jon...what happened."
Damn it. This is a personal quest. Softening his voice, he says, "I know you want to know. We all do. But we'll have time for that after the rest of this is over. There are people depending on us at home."
Trip is silent for a few moments, avoiding Malcolm's eyes. Then, "Yes, sir." He pushes himself from the table. "I'd better get back."
"You're not on duty this shift."
"Yeah well, I've got a lot to do. People dependin' on us and all."
Malcolm closes his eyes again, hears the swoosh of the door open and close. Damn.
Locating Sato, he asks her to meet him in his ready room in fifteen minutes. He'll keep her busy with Andorian details and other work so that she won't have time to discuss this with Trip for a while. In the meantime, he'll have to find some way to plausibly delete the transmission record. It will have to look like an accident.
* * * * *
After three more days, they finish meeting with the Andorian delegation. A treaty has been drawn up and approved by both governments, and Malcolm is feeling rather pleased about the outcome. Enterprise has resumed course for Earth's solar system, and barring any major incidents, they should be arriving ahead of schedule.
The element of surprise will be useful. The war is progressing, and the Vulcans continue to have the upper hand. Things are far from desperate yet, and the treaty with the Andorians will make a difference. Even now, Starfleet and the Andorians are working on tactical plans together. Hopefully the Vulcans will not be expecting the xenophobic, paranoid Andorians to be working with outsiders.
He finally has a little time to deal with his other problem.
Arriving in Engineering, he searches for Trip, finally finding him lying on his back with his head in an isolated access tunnel. Tools are strewn around the outside of the tunnel.
Crouching down, he speaks, "Trip?"
Grunting slightly, Trip pushes himself out of the tunnel. "Oh, hi." He grabs a couple of tools, and returns up the tunnel. "What's up?" His voice is slightly muffled.
"I think we need to talk."
Turning on his side, Trip sighs loudly. "Look, I'm doin' the best I can, ok? Those plans of Daniels' were very specific, but it takes time to integrate that level of technology with Enterprise. I know it's not goin' as fast as you'd like, but I don't want to take any shortcuts this time 'round."
It's a slight chastisement of Malcolm's actions when installing the phase cannons all those months ago.
"So if you let me get back to work, I'll have everything ready by the time we reach Earth."
He grits his teeth. "I'm not here to talk about the ship's modifications. You're doing a wonderful job with those."
There's a long pause, and he can hear small crackles and thuds as Trip works on whatever it is he's doing. He can imagine the look of concentration on Trip's face. Finally, "What then?"
"Why are you avoiding me?" He hopes his voice doesn't sound too plaintive.
"I think you are. We barely spend any time together, and when we do, it's mostly to discuss the latest developments."
Trip sighs again, and pushes himself out of the tunnel. "I don't want to distract you. I know you have a lot on your plate."
"Your behaviour is distracting me."
Trip isn't meeting his eyes. "Can we talk about this later? This isn't exactly a good time."
"My quarters, 1800."
"Yeah." Trip is back in the tunnel before he's finished saying the word.
* * * * *
He frowns as he sits in his ready room, watching Trip and Sato talk on the monitor. He doesn't need the distraction that is Trip's behaviour. It grates him that he's had to rig security monitors in Trip's office, and both Trip and Sato's quarters. He should be able to trust them to trust him, but instead, he's had to resort to this kind of subterfuge.
It's beginning to annoy him.
"I don't know, Hoshi. I told him about the transmission and he brushed it aside." Trip looks pensive. "I'm beginning to wonder what's going on with him."
Sato's face scrunches prettily. "He just brushed it aside altogether?"
Trip shrugs. "Not really. He just pointed out that any potential information would be outdated. It's probably true, and he's right that we have other priorities right now."
"So why worry about it? We'll do it later, when things quiet down. He probably doesn't want to overwork you."
They're silent for a while before Trip speaks again. "There was just this moment, when I told him...he kind of froze. He looked -- odd. I can't explain it. Like he was maybe hiding something. I know him pretty well, and I've only seen him like that when he's really pissed off."
"He has a lot of responsibilities right now. We're all tense. And, he's probably feeling a lot of guilt about..." she trails off briefly, "Well, it just can't be easy for him." She doesn't sound entirely convinced by her argument.
"That's just it. I'm not sure he does. It's like he's compartmentalised parts of himself off. We all know he can do it -- we know what he gets like in insecure situations. I just feel like he thinks he's in one now."
"We're at war. None of us is in a secure position."
Trip throws up his hands. "But that's what I'm sayin'! He's on top of all the war stuff. He's calm and collected about it. It's just around me that things get weird. Honestly, sometimes he's startin' to creep me out a little."
Sato reaches out and takes Trip's hand. "He killed your best friend by accident. Do you honestly think he can brush that aside quickly?"
Trip slumps in his chair, crossing his arms. He mutters, "I don't think that's what it is."
"Then what is it?"
"I'm not sure I want to know."
They both sit quietly for a while, frowning.
Eventually, Trip looks up again. "What about the strange things
you and Mayweather noticed? What kind of stuff was
Bugger. Malcolm sits up quickly, remembering the lie he'd told early on. It had been a slip, his mind occupied with other matters.
Sato is looking confused, about to start asking questions. He
taps the comm. "Ensign Sato? Could you meet me in the
She moves to a wall comm, and as her lips move, he hears, "I'll be right there." She turns to Trip. "I guess we'll have to continue this later." Nodding, she leaves the room.
Malcolm turns off the monitor, but leaves it recording as he thinks of an excuse for summoning Sato while she is off duty.
Trip will be arriving in his quarters soon. He'll have to make
sure he leaves enough time to make a sweep of the room for anything that
might be suspicious.
* * * * *
Trip arrives fresh from a shower, his uniform clean and his hair slightly wet. He looks vaguely nervous standing at Malcolm's door. "Uh, hi." He holds up a bottle of something a rich, deep red. "I thought maybe you'd like this. Been savin' it." He hands the bottle over.
Reading the label, Malcolm smiles. "This looks lovely. Thank you. Would you like a glass?"
They silently sip the wine for a few minutes, Trip looking less than relaxed. Malcolm covertly admires the view, taking in the familiar lines of Trip's profile. There is something about Trip when he's tense that has always made Malcolm want to pin him to the closest surface and make him scream. With pleasure, of course. He clamps down on the urge. It isn't appropriate just yet.
"So...I've been looking at those plans of the Vulcan ships."
"Yeah, it's pretty easy to see where their weaknesses are. Should even up the odds a little."
Carefully, he sets his wine glass down on room's small table and walks towards Trip. "I really don't care about that at the moment." His voice is more angry than he'd intended, and Trip looks mildly startled.
"Ok. So...what then?"
"I'd like to know what the hell is going on in your head."
"My head?" Trip's tone is incredulous.
Trip's eyes narrow, his voice begins to rise. "*MY* head? I'm not the one who's been acting like the King of the Covert Ops lately. If you got any more close-mouthed about this war, you'd be a vacuum! So don't start asking me what the hell is wrong with my head."
"Oh very nice, Commander," he sneers, "I'm sorry I don't discuss every little detail of this situation with you. I wasn't aware that my orders require keeping Charles Tucker the Third up-to-date on every action and tactic that has been classified as 'eyes only'. Face facts, Trip. You're angry with me and it has nothing to do with how much I'm telling you about my orders."
Drinking his wine too quickly, Trip suddenly looks tired. When he speaks, he's subdued. "Look, this isn't about Jon, ok? I know you did what you had to do. None of us could have expected it. I don't blame you. I miss him, yes. I want to understand what made him do what he did, sure. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't had some unpleasant thoughts about you. But I know it wasn't your fault." He takes a deep breath. "You're just getting a bit creepy sometimes. You're taking all of this so easily, like you expected it. There's no uncertainty in you at all -- you don't even question why it is we're suddenly at war with the Vulcans. The *Vulcans*, Malcolm. They might be a pain in the ass, but they never came across as our enemies. And since *when* did Starfleet have other ships in the works? Why was this a secret? You're not even asking these questions!"
Moving back to the table, Malcolm sits on a chair, and leans on his
elbows. He closes his eyes as his fingers begin to
"I have asked these questions. I don't know if Captain Archer knew about Starfleet's production of ships. I certainly didn't. I don't know why the Vulcans suddenly turned on us. But they did, and people are dying because they did. I'm trying to do my best to help ensure we're not slaughtered like cattle." He sighs. "I'm trusting the chain of command, and believing that our entire government and the whole of Starfleet Command don't have some kind of hidden agenda." Opening his eyes, he reaches for the glass and drains it. "I'm sorry if that is creeping you out."
"I'm sorry Malcolm, but something seems off to me. I just thought you'd see it too."
He's always loved that Trip challenges him. They've had plenty of arguments during the mission and as frustrating as many of them have been, they've also been stimulating in their own ways. This is nothing of the sort. He's rapidly losing patience with the endless deception he has been forced into by Trip's lack of trust in him. Losing his temper at this juncture would be futile, but it is tempting. Instead, he closes his eyes again and focusses on taking even breaths. "I'm not sure what to tell you."
"Are you lying to me at all?"
"Apart from keeping silent on orders I can't discuss with anyone? No."
He hears movement, and looks up as Trip sits down next to him. "Maybe
that was all I needed to hear." Trip doesn't look
"Traded for it with those cargo haulers months ago. I thought you might like it."
It was a thoughtful gesture, and so very typical of the man.
The following silence is somewhat awkward, but as they drink the wine,
Trip begins to visibly relax. They begin to talk
Finally, glass empty, Trip stands. "I should go and feed Porthos. He's probably lonely."
Malcolm nods, clamping down on the disappointment. "Thank you for the wine. And your company."
Trip nods, somewhat sadly. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."
They watch each other for a few minutes, and he wonders if he should move towards Trip. Instead, he stands still as Trip nods again, and leaves the room. The urge to throw his wine glass at the closest wall is nearly overpowering, but he sets it down carefully, all the while staring at the door. He's so intent on keeping control that he nearly jumps as the door chime sounds.
What now? He's hardly in the mood to deal with some crewman's problems. "Come in."
Trip's tentative smile is the last thing he expects. "Hi. I was just thinkin'...maybe you'd like to come with me. It's still early." His eyes are strangely flat.
Malcolm blinks slowly, then smiles back. "That would be lovely."
They end up opening a bottle of brandy, sipping at it quietly as Porthos eats, and then carouses for their attention. They are both lulled by the alcohol, but he is still surprised when Trip takes the glass out of his hand, and pushes him towards the bed. He lets himself be undressed, trying not to be bothered by the flat expression on Trip's face.
Soon, they are both naked, Trip straddling Malcolm's hips and slicking
lube onto his cock. He groans as Trip sinks down
After, Trip remains above him, his cheeks flushed for the exertion, but his eyes still strangely unseeing. Eventually, he reaches out and traces Malcolm's lips. In a soft voice, he offers the capitulation that Malcolm has been waiting for. "I don't want to lose you too."
He smiles. "You won't."
His face expressionless, Trip answers, "I believe you, Malcolm." Gently, he pulls off and away, shifting to lie on his side.
Listening as Trip's breath evens to a sleeping rhythm, Malcolm concentrates on the words. He tries to ignore the vague sense of foreboding that Trip's blankness engendered. Even after his declaration, that blankness is unsettling.
He has no idea if they'll win the war, or come out of it alive. What
he does know is that he still has to take care of destroying the remains
of the Admiral Forrest's transmission to him. He knows he'll have
to keep watching Trip, and Sato as well. Eventually, he hopes that this
nonsense will fade, and Trip will return to his side without further questions
on this matter. He's willing to wait, at least for the moment. Right now,
they have a war to which to devote themselves.
Series/Sequel: sequel to a section of'Splintered'
Disclaimers: No my characters, not my show. No harm intended.
Summary: An AU universe where Reed and Starfleet aren't what they seem.
Notes: This is an expansion on the spy-Reed/bad-Starfleet scene
in my story 'Splintered'. It is an AU of a less
WARNINGS: This Reed does some unpleasant things. I won't
say what, but be aware that this is a darker story than my
Thanks: Kim has been very helpful with this story, suggesting some structural
stuff, as well as discussing
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