|The wind blows across the deck, bringing with it light sprays of sea
water. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed squints as sunlight bounces off the
water, threatening to temporarily blind all on deck. It 's a beautiful
day, the kind of day his grandfather had waxed poetic about. The
salt breeze makes him feel alive.
He hates it.
Alexander finds him looking up into the clouds. "See anything interesting?"
He shakes his head 'no'. The naval ship is on the wrong side of the planet to see the departure of Earth's first deep flight ship, the Enterprise. Not that anything will be visible from sea level anyway. He can watch it later, a vid of the ceremony and the speeches and the flight to the edge of the solar system. He won't bother though.
Alexander is oblivious, and stares up at the sky for a few moments. "It'll probably rain tomorrow." The man has the weather-sense of generations of sailors. It's something that has apparently by-passed Malcolm, although it would never do to let his father know that.
Naval training had been long and hard. He knows he is one of the fleet's best tactical officers, and come the need for combat, he will be ready.
Not that there will ever be the need for combat on Earth's seas again. At most, they'll see action if the planet is attacked and land and sea troops land. Even then, they'll always be second best to Starfleet.
"Your father left a message. He'd like you to come visit them while we're docked at Kelang."
He nods, barely managing not to scowl. Wonderful. "Thanks. Would you like to accompany me?"
Alexander makes a face. The last time had hardly been pleasant. "Sure. At least I know what to expect this time."
"Thanks." He smiles tightly at his partner, and watches as the breeze ruffles his short hair. Alexander loves the sea, he loves Malcolm, and they never would have met if Malcolm hadn't acquiesced to his father's wishes, and chosen the Navy over Starfleet. It's a fact that his father doesn't like to remember.
They stand together, watching the crewmen perform their duties, watching the sea birds dive into the water, breathing the clean air.
He hates it. He closes his eyes and thinks of space.
* * * * * *
He sits at his desk, staring at nothing. What the hell had gone wrong?
The plan to free Archer, Tucker, Rostov and Kelly had been so clear, even Phlox had agreed. T'Pol had been hesitant, but no other solutions had arisen.
Instead, the backlash had damaged them all, killing Archer outright. The alien is dead, but Tucker and the others lie comatose and are likely to remain that way for the rest of their lives.
He's failed the captain and the ship. His commission is probably lost.
His father's mocking words taunt him. He'll always be a failure.
* * * * * *
Klaxons continued to sound as Malcolm raced down the hall. Dodging pieces of the ship and dead bodies - more human bodies than alien - he tried not to gag at the thick air. The smoke made his eyes feel gritty, causing him to blink almost constantly. It played havoc with his aim.
The attack had come out of nowhere, a ship appearing dead ahead where space had only been. A few shots had disabled Enterprise's engines, killing everyone who had been in engineering at the time. He'd managed to weaken the enemy's shielding with the phase cannons, but it hadn't been enough to stop the firing.
Then boarding parties had appeared.
They were woefully outnumbered, and completely outgunned. They barely had enough phase pistols to arm two tactical teams, much less to put up an adequate fight. And the phase pistols were outclassed anyway.
At first he'd thought they were more renegade Vulcans, but a closer look showed faint physical differences, and garish clothes. Whoever they were, Starfleet would meet with them again, sometime.
Archer was dead, so were Tucker and T'Pol. Hoshi didn't have long, and the last time he'd seen Mayweather, he'd been trying to get her to Phlox.
Then the section with sickbay had collapsed. He only hoped the collapse took a few of the hostiles out with it.
He'd sent out a distress beacon to Starfleet, a last-ditch attempt to pass on everything he knew about their attackers. It should have been Archer's job, but here he was, the acting captain.
Behind him, he heard the telltale whine of the aliens' energy weapons, and ducked and rolled behind a collapsed bulkhead. Carefully, he took out the two pursuing him, rolled to his feet and kept running.
He wondered if any of the escape pods had safely launched.
Smoke cleared in front of him, but not in time to stop him almost running into two of the aliens.
* * * * * *
Newly appointed armoury officer Malcolm Reed stepped onto the Enterprise for the first time. It was only two weeks to the launch date, and last-minute work was being completed.
"Yes. Ensign Mayweather?"
A quick nod. "Nice to meet you. Where would you like to begin the tour?"
Anywhere was fine, he'd memorised the ship's plans. Still, it'd be best to create the right impression. "Let's look at the tactical systems, shall we?" Mayweather grinned at him.
As they walked he remembered that the phase cannons had yet to be installed. He'd have to talk to someone about that, make it the next priority.
After all, a mission well-planned was a mission well-armed.
* * * * * *
The voice was tentative, and it took a few moments for Malcolm to register that it was aimed at him.
Blinking slightly, he turned away from the window and his view of the stars. "Yes, Ensign?"
"Communications says the Klingons' ETA is twenty minutes."
Internally, a voice started yelling about how twenty minutes weren't enough, and what the hell had the ensign been thinking, letting him know so late. In reality, he knew the Ulysses was as ready as possible, and he'd told Ensign Dalaat exactly when to notify him.
"Thank you. Tell Lieutenant Blake to arm all phase cannons and ensure that all crewmen are carrying phase pistols. We'll greet the delegation in the manner they expect." Dalaat nodded, and left the room.
The meeting with the Klingons was Starfleet's initial attempt to broker some kind of deal. Tensions between humans and Klingons had been building for over a decade. He imagined that the various encounters Enterprise had had with the species hadn't helped. However, some of the Klingon High Council had felt honour-bound to have this meeting, remembering how Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew had fought to bring Klang and his secrets back to Qo'noS.
He had little faith that the process would work. More likely than anything, the Klingons wanted a first-hand view of the Ulysses, the latest long-range Starfleet ship prototype. Still, he'd do his best, drawing on everything he'd learned about their culture. Starfleet had told him he was their first pick for the assignment, given his armoury background and first-hand experience.
Hopefully, the meeting wouldn't end in a bloodbath.
* * * * * *
Arching into the warmth surrounding him, fingers clenching the bed sheets, Malcolm bit his lip to keep himself quiet. The walls on Enterprise were appallingly thin at times.
He was getting the most wonderful blow job of his life. He'd have to make sure he was properly appreciative later. Slick fingers pressing behind his balls sent him over the edge, and he muffled his cry this time with his forearm.
A few minutes later, he opened his eyes. Trip's hair, usually so tidy, was a rumpled mess, and his smile was slightly wicked. "Like that?"
'Yes' would be an understatement. "You have no idea."
Trip laughed. "I think I do, Malcolm. How do you think I learned everything I know?"
Arrogant man. But -- images of a younger, inexperienced Trip, diligently applying himself to learning to give head made him shiver. Rolling over, he pinned Trip to the bed. "We should have done this sooner."
Trip smiled at him blindingly. "Yeah. Might've meant less fightin' about the phase cannons."
Perhaps. He grinned back.
* * * * * *
The shuttlepod was freezing, but his own adrenaline warmed him a little bit.
Shivering, he looked down at a stunned and unconscious Tucker. The man was always going to be a thorn in his side, pulling idiotic stunts like this. Tucker had refused to back down from his decision to double Malcolm's air, so he'd been forced to shoot the pistol. He'd managed to catch Trip awkwardly, cushioning the worst of his fall from the airlock.
Tucker probably would never thank him for his actions, but Archer certainly would. It might have been a secret, but Malcolm was well aware of the relationship between Archer and Tucker. It would hardly do to have a ship run by a grieving captain - it would simply place the rest of the crew in danger. His job was to protect the captain, and if that extended beyond physical protection, so be it.
Sitting down, he shifted over to Tucker's unconscious form, and wrapped himself around it. There was no use in wasting body heat. He'd wait as long as possible, and then enter the airlock himself if he had to. But he'd wait first.
* * * * * *
Gasping in the heat of the sun, Malcolm dragged the water to the hiding place. The few others there looked warily out at him, but relaxed when they recognised who he was.
They were lucky that the terrain of the planet provided caves and grottos in which to hide themselves. The escape plan had been a long time in the making, and it wouldn't do to be caught easily. It was unspoken, but they all knew they'd die before going back.
A life of drudgery to the Suliban had hardly been what he'd imagined for himself. He'd only pretended to submit to it, all the while plotting.
Sliding down against the cool stone wall, he allowed himself to remember the last day on the Enterprise, near the end of the temporal cold war. They'd never really understood it, but in the end it hadn't mattered - the Suliban had gained the upper hand. By the time the Enterprise was boarded and the crew subdued - it had been a long battle - Earth had already been under attack. T'Pol had informed them that Vulcan and several colonies had been infiltrated by Suliban operatives, and the Vulcans were not doing well. Superior technology from the future, and a well-planned attack had been utterly unexpected.
The Enterprise crew had been split up. He and a few others had been brought to this godforsaken planet, where they'd met other human captives from Earth and a few transport ships. Humans were essentially slaves now, although he held out hope that there were a few isolated pockets out there, fighting. Maybe on Earth.
He doubted he'd ever see home again, but at least he was no longer scrubbing Suliban palaces - newly built - or submitting to their whims and perversions. He shivered at the memory of their hands on him, the papery texture and dry taste of their skin in his mouth.
Damn, it was hot.
* * * * * *
Captain Archer grinned briefly in his direction. "Ensign Mayweather, let's find Mr.Reed something to blow up."
He smiled back, trying to keep his grin less than feral.
* * * * * *
If the Vulcans had known then what they knew now, they never would have decided to investigate Zephram Cochran's warp drive experiment.
They'd arrived on Earth, and had decided that humans had learned from the mistakes of the past. And they had been correct. World War Three, the Eugenics Wars, the riots in major cities - they'd taught humans to be more suspicious, to play the game all the more carefully.
Starfleet had eventually formed, and fronted itself with a false image, showing only the dreamers, the earnest ones, those who truly believed in peaceful exploration and cultural exchange. Jonathan Archer and his father were just two examples. Humans had played the role of innocents, a young bumbling species ruled by emotions. Malcolm had witnessed first-hand Admiral Forrest's acting ability, and had been briefly amazed that this earnest man was more than he seemed.
The Vulcans had never imagined humans could be as coldly logical as themselves. They'd never realised that the Enterprise was only one of many ships being built. Enterprise was the ship for public eyes, minimally armed and exploring-eager. The crew had been trained to hide their true allegiance from the few innocents - Archer, Tucker, Hoshi, T'Pol herself, not quite as superior as she had liked to think. They had been enough to make the mission look genuine.
Archer's surprised look at being shot had been genuine. Malcolm had pushed aside the slight twinge of regret at killing the man. After all, people like Archer just spelled humanity's doom. Starfleet Command had initially wondered if Archer could be turned, but Malcolm's reports about the captain's insatiable desire to do 'the right thing' had convinced them otherwise.
T'Pol hadn't looked surprised at having a pistol aimed and fired at her head. So typical of her.
He held out hope for Hoshi and Tucker. Hoshi was close with Mayweather, and he would allow the ensign time to try and turn her around. She was, after all, a valuable asset. Meanwhile, she was in secured quarters.
Tucker was his own project. He'd explained the truth - that Starfleet had launched the other ships from their hiding places. Vulcan ships had been captured, and human teams were appropriating and incorporating their jealously guarded technology. Innocuous agents planted here and there, some so-called 'diplomatic missions', the true plans of the upper echelons of Starfleet - it had all been underway for decades. He'd told Tucker how Enterprise was now on her way to join the fighting, stopping at a few planets he had noted would be willing to sell superior weapons.
He was charged with brokering an alliance with the Andorians, who were all too eager to join against the Vulcans.
Malcolm was certain he'd played all the right cards with Tucker. He had brought up the tantalising image of new technology. He had talked about the Vulcan's treacherous leanings, how they had brainwashed Archer so long ago. Kissing Tucker, he'd reminded him of the pleasure they'd found in each other's bodies. It was just a matter of waiting for the man to turn around to the right perspective. Lesser officers suggested that Tucker was a lost cause. Malcolm knew better.
Sometimes he wondered, though. He knew he was one of Starfleet's best successes. They'd told all their special officers-in-training that everyone had a weakness. It was best to identify and master that weakness.
For a long time, Malcolm had been convinced he didn't have a weakness. He'd cut all ties to his family, lived a spartan life. He didn't have friends so much as colleagues. He'd supposed that perhaps his love of weaponry and his job had been a weakness, but that had been a bonus more than anything else.
Now, he knew he hadn't quite escaped. Tucker was his weakness.
* * * * * *
He woke up from a dream of cold-weather survival training, a miserable time that he'd been glad to see end.
The shuttlepod was still freezing, and automatically, he looked around for Tucker. The pod was empty, but for him. What the hell?
The comm blinked that it held a message. Slowly, he unwound himself from the blankets, and made his way to the front of the pod. He hit play.
"Hi, Malcolm. Sorry 'bout leavin' you alone like this, but it looks like Enterprise won't be gettin' here in time to save both of us."
Bugger. He knew where this was going. The image on the screen looked cold. Behind Trip's shoulder, he could see himself, sleeping and shivering.
"I figure Jon needs you more than he needs me. I might be able to work the weapons, but you've got the strategy. Rostov and a couple of the others do just fine with the engines, they'll be ok without me around to supervise." The image smiled ruefully at him. "Hell, it'll give 'em a chance to shine a little."
Trip was infuriating. The man was a horse's ass. Rostov was competent, but no one would ever match up to Trip's instinctive knowledge and understanding of Enterprise.
"From where I sit now, we've got two hours of air left. I'm gonna double that for you, maybe Jon will get here in time. Take care, Malcolm. Sorry I ribbed you about the messages you were leavin'. I've left a couple for some of the crew, for Jon, for my family. I'd appreciate it if you passed them on."
Trip's image looked resigned but determined, and for a moment it looked up at the airlock. It looked back down and smiled out at Malcolm. "It was fun, huh? I wouldn't have traded it for anything."
The recording ended. From the corner of his eye, he saw the flash of light that signalled a ship falling out of warp. A crackle came over the comm.
"-terprise to Shuttlepod One. Shuttlepod One, do you read? Commander? Lieutenant?"
He tried to make his jaw work, to push past the lump of ice in his throat.
He refused to look at the airlock.
* * * * * *
Waking up, he stretches slowly. It's his last morning on Earth for who knows how long. Enterprise is leaving ahead of schedule, transporting some valuable cargo. He has yet to see the Klingon, but he will. Hopefully the journey will give him time to assess the dangers going to their planet might hold. From the few hints he's received, Klingons are not exactly friendly and open.
The thought momentarily stuns him - a new planet, a new species, a culture humans have never encountered before. It was everything he'd hoped for when he'd joined Starfleet all those years ago. He regrets nothing - not the final, permanent rift with his father, not the years of training and patience, not the shallow, brief relationships he'd decided were all he could afford.
Pushing the covers aside, he stands up and heads for a shower. It's sure to be an interesting day.
* * * * * *
Standing on the seashore, he enjoys the waves lapping at his toes. It's a beautiful day. The clouds were thin wisps across a light blue sky. It reminds him of Alexander, dead two years now. Alex had loved the sky like this. He'd hated it when Malcolm called him 'Alex'. He smiles ruefully, ignoring the dull ache under his breastbone.
Malcolm is old. The sun's warmth takes away some of the aches in his joints, but it can't mask the reality that his body is failing him. He doesn't mind. He's had a long life, one with some distinctions. He can think of worse times to die.
On days like this, he thinks about his youth and the dreams he'd had. He'd always wanted to go off world, and his time had come when Starfleet made friendly contact with a species on a planet ninety-eight percent water. Naval expertise had been requested, and he'd been transported with a few colleagues.
The planet had been enjoyable, the mission challenging, and he'd wished that Alexander could have been a part of it.
The starship had been a nightmare. So enclosed, so grim. He'd wondered how the crew could stand it. After two days, he'd wondered if he'd make the two week journey in one piece. Stepping into the clean, salt-water air on the alien planet had been a greater relief than he's ever been able to articulate.
If the starship was the price of exploration, of experiencing more action, it was a price he'd soon realised he was unwilling to pay. He'd returned home to Alexander and the Earth's seas, content in a way he'd never been before.
His legs hurt, so he sits down in the sand, then lies on his back. The waves continue to tickle his toes, slowly moving up to his ankles.
It's a beautiful day.
Pairing: R/T; R/m
Spoilers: anything in season 1 might be mentioned
Disclaimers: Not my characters.
Summary: Multiple parallel universes - multiple possible Reeds.
NOTE: This story plays with the idea of multiple parallel realities - it's snapshots of Reed in different universes. This is an experiment for me. (Yes, I loved the TNG ep with Worf passing from parallel reality to parallel reality!)
Thanks: very much to Kathleen, who read the first draft of this and made super-helpful suggestions. Kipli helped with organisation of the snippets, which was wonderful. Kim did her usual great job of proof-reading and character/scene suggestions. Thank you, all of you! Any remaining mistakes are my own.
WARNING: Parts of this story are dark. Malcolm isn't always nice, nor is his life necessarily happy. Sometimes he *is* nice and happy though. That's all I'm going to say.
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