"Crack The Mirror"
Title: Crack the Mirror
Author's Web site:
Summary: Tucker/Reed in
a mirror universe.
This is a nonprofit fanfic. No copyright infringement is intended or should be
Comments: Inspired by
Susan's quirky foible question: "If this were the Mirror, Mirror Universe and
ensigns became lieutenants, lieutenants became commanders, so forth, by
assassinating their direct superiors, who would be Captain? Would Archer have
died long ago? Can a friendship, any relationship thrive without trust, in such
a parallel universe? Could we even recognize those Mirror people, if we dropped
in overnight?" Also answers my personal bonus question, "What if the Suliban
were the first alien species to contact Earth?" In the past, many of you have
been kind enough to say you appreciate the comedic element of my writing. THIS
IS NOT LIKE THAT. It's a little bit dark (as I told Leah, more twilighty.) Not
exactly a deathfic, but not for the super-squeamish.
Beta reader(s): Extra
special thanks to Leah, the fastest beta reader in Texas. Any remaining
paragraph imperfections are entirely my own fault.
Archived to EntSTSlash
Trip*Malcolm with the author's express permission.
Lieutenant Reed could
hear the man coming before he even entered the armoury, but he didn't let on.
Instead he sat, his back to the door and a disassembled phase pistol in his
hand, until Ensign Hawkes was just a few metres behind him. Then, in one fluid
motion, he snapped the pistol back together, turned in his chair, and shot the
ensign at close range. The smell of burnt fabric and flesh filled the armoury as
he fell back and stared unblinkingly at the ceiling. Reed removed the phase
pistol from the man's hand and replaced it in the case. Then he called for a
medical team to come and dispose of the body, and went for lunch. It served
Hawkes right, he thought, over his resequenced vegetable soup. It was too soon
to make a move. Reed had been patient to earn his promotion. He'd bided his
time. He had worked, in fact, for six months under Lieutenant Woodgate on
Jupiter Station before making the attempt. And he had succeeded. There was no
chance of success now, not when they were only three weeks out of spacedock. No,
he thought, it was just as well that Ensign Hawkes had died. He didn't need
impatient people on his team.
Reed looked up as the
doors to the mess hall slid open. Commander Tucker, looking delectable as always
in his black uniform jacket and trousers, came in and, after automatically
scanning the room for any of his engineering subordinates, went to the
He sat alone--no one
over the rank of crewman ever socialized with anyone else, under any
circumstance--but within Reed's field of vision. Reed couldn't tear his eyes
away, even when Tucker glanced in his direction. For a split-second, their eyes
met, and Reed could have sworn he saw the briefest of smiles cross Tucker's
lips. But of course, that was impossible, Reed knew that, and went back to
focusing on his own soup. No one smiled in Starfleet. Smiling was emotion,
emotion was weakness, and weakness was death.
In the armoury later
that afternoon, not for the first time, Reed found his thoughts drifting back to
Commander Tucker. He had caught Reed's attention from their very first meeting,
and not in the usual way people caught Reed's attention. Normally, his first
instinct, like that of all officers, was to examine his subordinates and judge
how and when each of them was likely make their move, so he could anticipate how
to counter those moves. His second thought, again like all officers, was to
judge how and when his direct superior might be likely to let his guard down,
and how he could best take advantage of that.
As neither his
subordinate nor his direct superior, Commander Tucker normally wouldn't have
registered with Reed at all. But when Reed looked into the man's blue eyes and
heard his unusual, distinctive accent, Reed felt something strange. At Starfleet
Academy, they'd been taught the only appropriate feelings--the only ones that
fulfilled Starfleet's mandate and would ensure the continuation of
humanity--were ambition and self-preservation. The feelings Tucker stirred in
Reed were neither of these. He didn't want Tucker's job. It wouldn't have been
possible anyway, since they were not in the same Work Unit. Instead, Reed
thought with some interest, a little confusion, and a great deal of nervousness,
he wanted Tucker's body.
Sex was of course
permitted by Starfleet Command. A sexually frustrated soldier was not an
efficient soldier. It was for that reason that there were four brothels,
catering to every possible taste, on Jupiter Station alone. Reed had used them,
of course. It was not optional. But he'd never enjoyed the experience, and he'd
been glad to get away from the station. He remembered the acute disappointment
he'd felt when Command had informed them that there would be regular shore leave
throughout the mission, and they would be expected to engage in intercourse on
every one of the trips.
From the first day, Reed
had taken to watching Tucker whenever he could. Which wasn't often. As they
weren't in the same Work Unit, the two of them had no reason to deal with each
other. Occasionally, Tucker's subordinate, Lieutenant Hess, would come to
request information about the weapons calibrations and Reed, who had never
concerned himself with other officers' subordinates, found himself watching her
closely, with the same kind of attention he paid his own subordinates. Wondering
how she would attempt it. Wondering if Tucker would be able to protect himself,
as he clearly had before, since he was still alive. Wondering how and when
Tucker was going to go about fulfilling his duty towards his superior, Captain
Archer. Wondering why he, Reed, couldn't decide whether he wanted Tucker to
succeed in that mission or not.
Naturally, Reed kept his
thoughts to himself. The closest he came to even hinting at any of them was when
Captain Archer called him to his ready room.
Captain Archer was
Reed's direct superior. Which meant that, technically, Reed should have been
plotting against him, but the Code dictated that he would only be expected to
try if Tucker attempted, and failed, to kill him. If Tucker succeeded, Reed
would then be expected to do away with Tucker to succeed to his position. An
idea which, for some reason, made Reed feel distinctly uncomfortable, so he
didn't think much about it. Instead, standing at attention in the ready room, he
tried not to look at the snarling Rottweiler in the corner, and focused instead
on the captain.
Eighteen years of
constant stress had taken their toll on Archer. Scars, lines and the dark
circles of someone who always slept with one eye open--all the more difficult
because he had lost his left eye years earlier--made him look far older than his
forty-five years. But Reed knew that the worst was over for the Captain.
If he survived this
mission, he would be given an admiralty position, the one Starfleet rank that
could be obtained without murder. Direct murder, anyway. There were a fixed
number of admirals in Starfleet, so Archer's promotion would mean the
elimination of another. Which meant that, in addition to Commander Tucker,
Archer had to worry about assassins hired by the admirals who didn't feel like
losing their jobs-and their lives-to make room for a newcomer. No wonder, Reed
thought, glancing at the Rottweiler, the Captain took extreme measures to
protect himself. At the moment, Porthos was munching on a large raw steak, blood
dripping down his jaws.
"You need to be apprised
of a situation which has arisen." Reed was vaguely surprised, but he didn't show
it. Mainly, Work Units kept to themselves. He would be called to the bridge if a
ship needed destroying, but it was rare he would know anything about its
occupants or the information they had contributed, willingly or not, to the
ever-expanding Starfleet Database. Which was just as well. Reed had a lot on his
mind already without thinking about each individual civilization that he helped
"Yes, sir." Reed
"Commander Tucker will
be boarding the next ship we come across. Under the guise of helping them repair
their engine, he will be extracting as much information as possible for the
Database. Upon his return, you will be required to dispatch with the ship and
"Yes, sir." Reed waited
for the explanation as to why Archer was telling him this. Usually, he would be
ordered to the bridge just before he was ordered to fire the torpedoes.
"While the Xyrillians
seem like a weak species, it is possible that Commander Tucker may be in some
danger while he is on board their ship. I will require that you arm him
sufficiently for this mission." Reed blinked again. He was too well-trained to
let any emotion show on his face, but he was surprised. Not that Archer should
want Tucker to die on the Xyrillian ship. It was not Code to involve third
parties in the elimination of a subordinate, nor was it Code for the superior
officer to make the first move. But, in all practicality, Reed wouldn't have
expected Archer to go out of his way to protect Tucker.
Reed had heard rumours
about Archer and Tucker. They were much too farfetched to be true, but this made
him wonder. Rumours that they were...friends. Personal friends. Which was of
course absurd. Relationships of any kind were actively discouraged by Starfleet
Command, and relationships between Starfleet personnel were forbidden. An
outside friendship would only corrupt one officer, the reasoning went, but a
friendship within Starfleet would corrupt two.
And corrupt officers met
the same fate as unprepared, or unlucky, subordinates. Archer and Tucker weren't
friends. It was preposterous to even think it. Just as it was preposterous, Reed
thought as he returned the armoury, to be glad he could help Tucker survive, at
least a little while longer.
"I hear you've already
done away with one of your subordinates." Tucker said, out of nowhere, as Reed
lay the phase pistols and the miniature scimitars, (an idea stolen just before
they had destroyed a Klingon ship) out on the table. There was no need to
explain any of it to Tucker. The use of personal weapons was the one area in
which every officer was well-versed, regardless of their Work Unit.
"Yes," Reed confirmed.
"That was early." Reed
inclined his head. "It probably woulda taken me by surprise."
"I'm never surprised,
"Never?" Tucker raised
No emotion, Reed
reminded himself. No weakness. It was the one thing they had learned from the
Vulcans, before extinguishing more than half the race in one attack. The
remaining Vulcans, as far as Reed knew, lived a primitive, post-apocalyptic
existence, confined to the few square acres of their planet that were still
inhabitable. "You are well-prepared for anything you may come across on the
"I'm sure." Tucker
glanced down at the array of weapons. "But I can't carry them out in the open.
I'm going to have to conceal them."
"Naturally, sir." Reed's
throat suddenly felt dry.
Tucker held out his
arms, not moving. "Then you'd better conceal them for me."
Reed swallowed, then
took a half-step forward. He swallowed again, and put up a hand to touch one of
Tucker's jacket buttons.
"Hurry up, Lieutenant,"
Tucker barked. "The Xyrillians need their engine fixed today."
This time, Reed knew he
wasn't mistaken. There was a definite smirk on Tucker's face as he said it.
As efficiently as
possible, given the fact that his hands were shaking, Reed unfastened Tucker's
uniform jacket and shirt and, removing the tie, looked at the tight black
T-shirt underneath. Having been in decon with the man, there was little Reed
didn't know about his body. Yet, somehow, he found Tucker even more alluring in
this tight T-shirt than he did when they were all but naked in the
decontamination chamber. Perhaps, he thought, trying desperately to think of
something other than the man in front of him, that was because decon was safe.
The one safe place on the ship.
For one thing, it wasn't
permitted for subordinates and direct superiors to enter together, and for
another, it was the only place on the ship where it was impossible to conceal a
weapon. A deadly weapon, anyway, Reed amended, risking a glance down at the
crotch of Tucker's knife-creased black pants.
The risk turned out to
be too great. Tucker grabbed Reed's wrist, the one that had been hovering a few
inches from his chest.
"No point in concealing
anything there, Lieutenant." Another smirk. "There's no room."
"No, sir." Reed felt
dizzy. And immediately despised himself for it. Taking a step back, he
extricated his wrist from Tucker's grasp. He took a brief moment to compose
himself then, all business, he fastened the phase pistol around Tucker's
ribcage. Leaving Tucker to dress himself, he knelt at the Commander's feet and
strapped the scimitar around one strongly muscled calf. He was still there,
kneeling in front of Tucker, when his heightened senses told him there was
someone approaching. He stood up moments before the armoury doors slid open and
Lieutenant Hess came in.
"Commander Tucker. I
have the equipment you will require to maintain your cover."
"Thank you, Lieutenant."
There was a distinct coldness in Tucker's voice. Reed knew it was in his, as
well, when he spoke to his subordinates. While Code dictated that, until the
move was made, direct superiors and subordinates should maintain a civil working
relationship, in practice it was hard for any human, even ones as well-trained
as the Starfleet officers, to be civil to the people they knew were going to
attempt to kill them.
"I wish you the greatest
success. May you bring honour to Starfleet."
"Thank you, Lieutenant
Hess," Tucker repeated. "And thank you, Lieutenant Reed." Hess turned and left,
and Reed felt, rather than saw or heard, Tucker sigh. Then the Commander pulled
his pant leg over the knife, picked up his toolbox, and left the armoury without
a backward glance.
Reed made a mistake. Not
an Error, fortunately. Errors were inexcusable, and, in Starfleet, one's first
Error tended also to be one's last. But he did misjudge the recoil on the
explosion of the Xyrillian ship. It shook the 'Enterprise', and he was knocked
off-balance, hitting his head on the corner of his console as he went down.
Captain Archer did not
seem particularly angry, although he was clearly annoyed when he had to send
Reed down to sickbay. Where Reed was sitting, furious with himself for making
such a stupid mistake, when he saw Commander Tucker come in.
By-passing Reed, Dr.
Cutler went immediately to Tucker, drawing the privacy curtain around his
bio-bed. Reed watched, once again seized by a strange, unfamiliar feeling. It
was, of course, natural to care about Commander Tucker's well-being. If he died,
Reed would be expected to take over his position as Captain Archer's would-be
assassin. But Reed didn't fool himself for a minute. He knew that had nothing to
do with why he was worried about the Commander.
It was, however, what
Cutler assumed he meant when he asked her: "Is he going to be all right?"
"He will survive," was
Cutler's efficient reply, as she sutured his forehead. Cutler was very
efficient. She had dispatched with her direct superior, Dr. Blake, just five
days out of spacedock.
She was finished within
seconds, and a few minutes later, Reed was out of sickbay. He finished his
shift, putting in an extra three hours to make up for the thirty minutes he'd
wasted in sickbay, then went to his quarters. After a shower, he settled down
with a book.
There were several
off-duty activities that were required of Starfleet personnel. Physical training
was one, and Reed, along with all the other officers, spent several hours a day
in the gym. Study was another. There were a number of leaders-Stalin, Pinochet,
Pol Pot, Hitler-with whom Starfleet officers were expected to familiarize
themselves. Historical figures who, current thinking went, had had the right
idea, but had gone about it in the wrong way. It was unquestionably wrong to
oppress other human beings. But, as the founders of Starfleet had learned, by
applying those same principles to alien species, you could ensure the survival
of humanity. The survival of which had once, Reed well remembered, been in
He finished a chapter in
his annotated Starfleet edition of 'Mein Kampf' and was about to turn in for the
night when there was a knock at his door.
Commander Tucker was
standing in the corridor, looking dishevelled. His off-duty uniform shirt was
untucked on one side, his hair was disarranged, and there was a strange, wild
look in his eyes. It was a drastic change from what Reed was used to seeing from
Starfleet personnel. And it only got more bizarre when Tucker spoke.
"Can I come in,
Lieutenant? I have to talk about something."
No one talked in
Starfleet, not in the way that Reed suspected Tucker meant. The need to discuss
anything personal was weakness, and weakness was not permitted. There were of
course some people who couldn't handle the requirements of Starfleet, but they
were nearly always weeded out within the first few days of basic training.
Tucker was tough; if he hadn't been, Reed knew he would have died long ago.
Curious, Reed didn't refuse, which Tucker took as acceptance. He entered Reed's
quarters and Reed, well aware of what would happen to both of them if anyone
were to find them together during off-duty hours, let the door shut behind him.
He stood, waiting, while
Tucker paced around the sparsely furnished quarters. Finally, Tucker stopped and
turned to the Lieutenant.
"There was an alien on
that ship who thought I was attractive."
Tucker ran a hand
through his hair, leaving it even more unkempt, and continued: "Before I killed
it, it showed me something." Tucker sat down--collapsed, really--onto the edge
of Reed's bunk, placing his head in his hands.
didn't know what else to say. This was so far removed from the regulations, let
alone the Code, that it left him completely bereft of ideas.
Not that Tucker was
having an easier time. "I can't explain it, Lieutenant. I saw things..." He
looked up. "It was like here, but it wasn't. The Suliban..."
"Suliban?" Reed, who was
always alert, moved into near panic at the mention of the word. As any human
Tucker shook his head.
"But it wasn't like that. It was..." He cast his eyes upward, as if looking for
words. "Different," was all he managed to come up with. He glanced back down,
his eyes meeting Reed's. "And you and I..."
Reed, breath still
shallow and heart still pounding, saw yet another incomprehensible change in
Reed couldn't remember
much from Before. He had been sixteen when he'd gone into the internment camp,
but his experiences there and since then had all but erased the memories from
the first part of his life.
He did, however,
remember kissing a girl. He'd been about fourteen, in Malaysia, and she'd been
some teenage expatriate he'd had a crush on. The kiss had been disappointing,
all the more so because that was the only one he'd ever had. The prostitutes on
Jupiter Station weren't permitted to kiss, and he wouldn't have wanted them to
The kiss that Tucker
gave him was nothing like the kiss he'd received from Sophie Marshall-Hayes.
Leaping off the bed, Tucker pushed him up against the wall, slamming their
mouths together. Reed, who just a day earlier had sworn he was never surprised,
found himself swallowing his words. Along with Commander Tucker's tongue.
This entire concept was
so foreign to him that, at first, Reed was certain he was hallucinating. His
first thought was how he was going to hide this lapse, this weakness, from the
rest of the crew. His second thought, as Tucker pulled away panting, was how
much he wanted to do it again.
During his entire life,
Reed had always done exactly what was expected of him. By his parents, by his
commanding officers in the naval cadets, by the Suliban guards in the internment
camp, by his Starfleet superiors. As Tucker stepped back, Reed knew what he was
supposed to do. He could see that Tucker expected it of him.
Tucker had committed a
gross breach of regulations. He was now compromised, a danger to the rest of the
crew, and, as the tactical officer, it fell to Reed to dispose of him
appropriately. Reed was supposed to do away with him immediately. But instead,
looking at Tucker looking back at him with a mixture of resignation and regret,
Reed decided to surprise him. Scarcely believing he was doing this, yet unable
to conceive of doing anything else, he grabbed Tucker by his off-duty tie and
kissed him again.
Reed had always climaxed
during his encounters with the station prostitutes. It was expected, and the
prostitutes were required to submit reports to his superiors afterwards. If he
hadn't achieved orgasm, questions would have been asked. But while his body had
been sated, he had never felt satisfied internally. The prostitutes, while
technically very adept and happy to adapt to individual preferences, had always
been missing something.
Reed wasn't sure what he
wanted from sex, but since any need was weakness, he had preferred to repress it
altogether. It was only that evening, as he lay covered by Commander Tucker's
ejaculate and Commander Tucker himself, that he remembered the empty feeling
he'd had following his previous encounters. And that he realized he didn't have
that feeling now.
It hadn't been gentle.
It had, in fact, been rougher than anything he'd had with the prostitutes, and
towards the end of his stay on Jupiter Station, desperate to find what he was
looking for, Reed had asked for some fairly rough treatment. But Tucker's voice
was soft, almost hesitant, when he asked:
"Can I ask you
something, Lieutenant?" It was the first time either of them had spoken since
Tucker's initial assault. .
Personal questions were of course forbidden, but not even Reed could bring
himself to care about that now.
"What's your name?" It
was such an unusual question that Reed had to consider it for a moment before he
understood what he meant.
"Malcolm," he finally
replied, although no one had called him that since Before.
repeated, reaching out to draw a hand down Reed's sweating chest. "I like that.
I'm Charles, but people used to call me Trip."
Reed hesitated a moment,
then took the final step. "Charles."
And there it was. Use of
a first name.
The indication of a
personal relationship and a complete desecration of Starfleet's most important
covenants. There was no going back now. Sex, Reed supposed, while not excusable
could at least be emotionless. But the use of a first name indicated a personal
attachment. The boundary had been crossed. Reed sighed. And was immediately
distracted by a strange sensation on his chest. He looked down to see Tucker
sucking on his nipple. Surprised yet again, he yelped: "Commander Tucker..."
Tucker shook his head
and looked up at Reed. "Next time, could we do this as Malcolm and Trip?"
Next time. Reed's heart,
which had nearly returned to its normal rhythm, speeded up again. Tucker wanted
to repeat what they'd done, commit the same crime again.
Which was of course
unacceptable. Impermissible. Absolutely out of the question.
Tucker nudged him and,
when Reed looked back down, he saw something he had never seen on any Starfleet
officer's face. He didn't even realize he was wearing the same expression until
"Is that a smile,
Reed was so shocked, the
smile disappeared, only to return when Tucker, still smiling himself, put his
mouth against Reed's ear and whispered:
"Is that a yes,
If you weren't a
predator, you were prey. It was a lesson that Earth had learned the hard way.
They had been so excited at the prospect of meeting an alien race, the first who
had ever been in contact, that they hadn't considered for a moment the motives
the Suliban might have. Reed could remember how their main ambassador, Silik,
had charmed the UN. Charmed them so efficiently that three-quarters of the
world's population was dead or in internment camps before the UN had even
decided when to hold the official Suliban Friendship Month.
Reed had spent four
years in a centralized camp on the outskirts of London. Or what had been London,
until the Suliban razed it. His sister Madeline had died there, as had both his
parents. He wasn't sure how he had survived, but when the liberation, made up of
a coalition of ex-soldiers and ex-guerrillas from South America and Africa
finally arrived, he knew he had lived for a reason. As soon as the creation of
Starfleet, a new type of space program with a very new agenda, was announced,
Reed signed up. Despite everything, he had never regretted it. It was his duty
to make sure what had happened to his generation would never happen to any
other, no matter what the personal cost may be.
Reed had believed in
Starfleet when he signed up, and he still believed in it. The regulations and
Code had become a part of his life, so much so he couldn't imagine living
without them. Yet here he was, flouting them on a regular basis. Despite
Tucker's words, Reed had fully expected that to be a one-time occurrence. Until
he arrived back in his quarters after a shift to find Tucker waiting for him.
Which raised another
problem. Despite Starfleet's best efforts, it had proven too expensive and too
time-consuming to monitor every crewmember's quarters all the time. Instead,
Starfleet had instituted random checks. Each cabin had a camera in it: at any
time, day or night, that camera could be activated and the activities in those
quarters could be observed both by Captain Archer and by Starfleet command on
Earth. There was, of course, no warning when this observation was going to
Tucker found a way
around it. One night, when Reed joined him, he found Tucker kneeling next to a
panel in the wall.
"Just fixin' things,"
Tucker said, by way of explanation. "Routed the camera through to some archived
footage. Anyone checks on us, all they're gonna see is you, fast asleep." Of
course. He was an engineer.
"What if they check on
"I'm sleepin', too."
Reed liked that. So much
so, the sex that night was better than ever, although he couldn't have said why.
Much as Reed liked to be
touched by Tucker, he liked to touch even more, to feel the other man under his
hands, to see his body. When Tucker arrived one night and, without undressing
himself, pushed Reed down onto the bed and began to take off Reed's clothes, the
"Charles..." He couldn't
call the man 'Trip'. Stupid as it seemed after everything else that they'd done,
it was a line Reed just couldn't cross. He preferred 'Charles' anyway.
"No, Malcolm." Tucker
removed Reed's hands from the buttons on his off-duty uniform shirt. "It's your
turn tonight." And it was. Tucker kissed his way down Reed's chest, finally
putting his mouth where it would be of most use. Reed didn't last long. He never
did with Tucker. He collapsed, exhausted, back onto the bed, stars in his eyes
and his heart ready to explode.
He was so caught up in
his own ecstasy he didn't notice Tucker's discomfort until the Commander jumped
up and ran into the bathroom.
Reed didn't know what to
do. The correct procedure to follow when one's clandestine lover ended up
vomiting into one's toilet after a blowjob was not covered in the Regulations.
Reed lay, paralyzed, until Tucker came back, wiping his mouth on a towel.
"Sorry..." It was weak,
but it was the best Reed could come up with. And to his great surprise, it was
met by a tight, almost desperate, hug.
"Wasn't you, Malcolm.
Promise. I'm..." He pulled away, but kept his hands on Reed. "I'm sick."
Hess was the first
thought to spring to Reed's mind. "Poison?" There were definite disadvantages to
having a female subordinate. There were exceptions, of course, but by and large,
men made direct attacks with phase pistols or knives, and women used more subtle
methods. Poison being one of the major ones.
Tucker shook his head.
"Nothing like that." He hesitated and then, quickly, as if he was about to
change his mind, he pulled up his uniform shirt and showed Reed a lump on his
Reed stifled a sigh of
relief. It was grotesque, but it wasn't fatal. If it was a tumour, Dr. Cutler
would remove it. Tucker wouldn't even have to leave the ship, since physical
illness wasn't considered weakness. Only mental illness was that. "Cancer?"
"I don't think so.
Reed blinked. "Moves?"
"A parasite, then?" Reed
couldn't think of what else it might be. But he regretted voicing the suggestion
when Tucker burst into tears.
It had been a long time
since Reed had seen anyone cry. He stood stiffly, watching as Tucker sobbed.
Finally, uncomfortable, he put out an arm and touched Tucker on the shoulder.
Tucker responded by grabbing him and holding on like Reed's body was the only
thing anchoring him to life.
gasped, his ribs contracting under the pressure. Reed knew what his response
would have been if it had been anyone else holding him like this, but he was
loath to knock Tucker to the ground. "I can't breathe..." Tucker loosened his
hold a little, but kept his face buried in Reed's neck. It took a great deal of
effort for Reed to decipher what he said next.
"It's affecting my mind.
I nearly lost control twice in Engineering today." He pulled back far enough to
look at Reed with panic-stricken eyes. "What if they find out, Malcolm? I don't
want to die."
Reed put his arms around
Tucker. There were no words of comfort he could offer. If you didn't have
control, you had nothing, and if Tucker's control was lost, he would be
eliminated, for the good of the ship. Reed himself would likely be asked to do
it. It was the way it had to be, and Reed knew why the regulations dictated it.
But he didn't want to do it to Tucker. He rubbed the Commander's back as
comfortingly as possible while Tucker cried, trying desperately to think of
something to say or do. The best he could come up with was:
"Why don't you stay with
Tucker looked up at him,
releasing one hand to wipe his eyes. "I can't do that."
But the more Reed
considered it, the better the idea seemed. Reed knew what it was like to face
things alone. He'd done it his whole life. It wasn't something he'd wish on a
Suliban, let alone Tucker. "Yes, you can. If anyone checks, they'll see you
sleeping in your quarters anyway."
"What if we get called
to the bridge?"
"Then we'll go up to the
bridge. Separately." Reed smiled and ran a hand through Tucker's hair. "As long
as you're out of here before the night shift comes off-duty, no one will even
know." He leaned forward and kissed Tucker on the nose. "I don't want to be by
myself right now." An admission of weakness, yet again, but worth it if it
comforted Tucker. "Do you?"
Reed hadn't been sure
how Tucker would react to the suggestion. He knew, however, that he hadn't
expected Tucker to grab him even harder and whisper:
"I love you, Malcolm."
Reed blinked as
memories, rapid-fire and unbidden, coursed through his mind. His mother, serving
cake with marzipan at a childhood birthday party. His father, in a rare moment
of civility, letting a young Reed examine his collection of ships in bottles and
telling him stories about each one. His sister, humiliating his action figures
by forcing them to attend a tea party held by Miss Mouse and a Barbie in a
bikini. All three of them: his parents and his sister, lying dead in the Suliban
"Malcolm?" Reed came
back to the present to see Tucker looking at him with concern. "Are you OK?"
He wasn't. He hadn't
been OK for fifteen years. But this was as close as he'd come in a long time. "I
love you, too." It was true. And, most astonishingly, he didn't even surprise
himself with the declaration. Malcolm, who had spent so long repressing his
emotions that he'd come to believe that was the right thing to do, was
completely and totally in love with Charles Tucker. And he didn't care.
It was a foetus. A
Xyrillian foetus, the one thing not even Cutler had expected to find when she
operated on Commander Tucker. Within a very short space of time, the news was
all over the ship. Reed heard about it even in the armoury. He wanted nothing
more than to rush to Tucker's side, but of course he had to wait. Two days,
since Cutler refused to release the Commander until she'd ascertained if there
was any permanent damage. She hadn't found any, but as he spoke to Tucker, Reed
knew it was there.
"She dissected it,"
Tucker told Reed, in a calm, almost neutral, voice. "It's in some jars in
sickbay if you want to look at it."
"The Captain has ordered
me to be ready to destroy the planet when we arrive," Reed replied. Forced
pregnancy was worse than forced colonization. Any species that would plant a
representative inside a human body was a mortal enemy of Earth, almost as great
an enemy as the Suliban themselves. The Xyrillians had to be wiped out. Reed
knew that Tucker, as a Starfleet officer and a human being, understood this, but
his lover still shook his head.
"It's not right."
"After what they did to
"Do you ever think,"
Tucker took Reed's hands suddenly. "That maybe this is a mistake?"
unconsciously. "The Suliban..."
"They can't all be like
the Suliban. Maybe there are good aliens out there, Malcolm. But we'll never
know because we treat all of 'em like shit just because one species did that to
"They killed sixty
percent of the world's population."
Tucker ran a hand
through his hair. "And since then, we've done our damndest to make the other
forty percent wish they'd gone too. That place the Xyrillian showed me--"
"When it was colonizing
your body," Reed interrupted.
"It wasn't like this. We
were happy, Malcolm. When's the last time you knew anyone who was happy?"
"We can't afford to be
happy. We have a job to do..." Even to his own ears, Reed sounded less than
"I want to find it."
Tucker looked at him,
determination in his eyes. "I think it really exists, Malcolm. She wouldn't have
showed it to me if it didn't. I couldn't have imagined that stuff. That place
exists, and I'm gonna find it."
He lay back on Reed's
bed. Reed lay beside him, resting his head on Charles's chest and hoping that he
didn't choose to share that determination with anyone else.
It was a false hope. Not
twenty-four hours later, Reed was called into Captain Archer's ready room.
Porthos was lying in his
usual place in the corner, snarling. The Captain was staring out the window, and
kept staring for a good two minutes after Malcolm arrived. Reed stood at
attention, waiting, and eventually Archer turned around.
"I heard a rumour about
you, Lieutenant Reed," was his opening line. And it came very close to giving
Reed a seizure.
The years of training
and repression served him well. Even though his heart was hammering and his
stomach heaving, Reed was able to keep a calm demeanour as he asked:
"That you weren't
drafted." Archer continued, "You're one of those rarities, a man who actually
signed up for Starfleet."
Reed's panic hadn't
shown on his face; his relief didn't, either. "That's true, sir." Once his camp
had been liberated, there had been nothing else for him to do. Starfleet had
given him something to focus on, besides his own pain.
"I signed up, as well."
Archer hesitated, his one eye staring at some point just over Reed's left
shoulder. "Mine was one of the first camps liberated. Oakland."
Malcolm knew of it. That
one, along with several in the southern United States, had been liberated by the
"It was too late for my
family, though." Archer went on, "They got them all. My father. My wife. My
daughter." The eye flicked down to look at Reed. "Hoshi was six years old. How
do you kill a six-year-old child, Lieutenant?"
Reed took this as a
rhetorical question rather than a tactical one. He remained silent.
"You and I, Lieutenant,
we chose this life. I've never regretted it. I'm sure you haven't either."
"No, sir," Reed lied.
"Commander Tucker didn't
choose it. He was drafted out of university."
Reed knew that.
Charles's engineering degree had been interrupted by the Suliban attack. He'd
barely resumed it when Starfleet had got hold of him.
"He's done a good job."
Archer nodded approvingly, "He's survived for twelve years, anyway." Archer
looked at Reed with an expression Reed couldn't interpret. "I think he's had
enough." That was impeccably clear.
Reed concentrated on
breathing, just breathing, as his world was completely destroyed. He knew what
Archer was going to say next. And he knew it would kill both him and Commander
Tucker. Because he couldn't dispose of the man he loved, and he was well aware
of the penalty for failing to do his duty.
There was a beep as
Archer turned on the recording device, which Reed hadn't been aware was
disabled. Hadn't even been aware that it could be disabled.
"I want you to listen
very carefully to these orders, Lieutenant."
"Yes, sir," Reed's heart
"Very carefully," Archer
repeated, before continuing. "You will eliminate Commander Tucker. But I don't
want it done on board ship. I will send you on a charting mission in the
strongly believes there is another universe out there somewhere. A
more...peaceful place. He clearly cannot stay here with those dangerous
"It is also my belief
that Commander Tucker has developed an intense personal relationship with a
member of this crew. That person should accompany the Commander. For the good of
Reed didn't reply to
that. Something in Archer's tone of voice, and in his eye, had confused him.
Archer hesitated a
moment, then continued: "Once you have done your duty, I will expect you to
return here. I need not remind you of the punishment for desertion. I know it's
not something either you or the Commander would ever consider." Another
hesitation, and he repeated: "You would never consider deserting, Lieutenant."
Something flitted across
Archer's scarred lips. Reed, well-versed with the custom now, recognized it as a
smile. "I'm glad we understand each other, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
Reed turned on his heel.
He was almost at the door when Archer added:
"There have been some
mechanical problems with the shuttlepod lately, Lieutenant. I believe most are
fixed, but be careful. We wouldn't want you to disappear."
Reed understood his
orders perfectly. What he didn't understand was why he had been given them.
Captain Archer had a
reputation. Even if you separated what was probably fact from what was almost
certainly fiction, he was not a pushover. He was after all, Reed remembered, the
man who had invited the Vulcan ambassador Soval and his bodyguard to dine in the
Captain's mess, claiming he wished to discuss a peace treaty. Neither Vulcan had
emerged, and the only comment Archer had ever made about the dinner was: "Porthos
has a very sophisticated palate."
So why would Archer give
them this out? Reed couldn't understand it. There were no retirement parties at
Starfleet, nobody quit. You were in it until you died, no matter how long that
was. Archer knew that as well as anyone. Knowing that they were being recorded,
and knowing that all shuttle logs would be destroyed in the upcoming
'explosion', he asked Tucker:
"How well do you know
Tucker glanced over from
the helm. "We were in Oakland together." Tucker swallowed, and, just as Reed was
about to tell him he could stop if it was too painful, he continued. "The guards
weren't too fond of me. I had a big mouth and a really crappy right hook. The
Captain stood up for me a lot."
Reed couldn't picture
it, and Tucker obviously knew that. He went on:
"He was different then.
When his family died, we kind of stuck together. Jon's like my brother."
So, Reed thought, the
rumours had been true. Starfleet's hardest captain, engaged in a personal
relationship. With another officer, no less. A few weeks ago, Reed would have
been tempted to report him to the Command.
"He knows I couldn't
have killed him," Tucker continued, "and he knows what would have happened to me
if I didn't. And what would have happened to you if you didn't kill me." Tucker
sounded upbeat, confident, as he had since the shuttlepod had left 'Enterprise'.
Reed, on the other hand,
felt like he'd stepped off a cliff only to find, rather belatedly, that there
was no bridge beneath him. Reed was fond of bridges. Enclosed steel bridges with
"What are we doing,
Charles?" Reed asked, allowing himself to sound uncertain for the first time in
His lover leaned over
and put a hand over his. "The right thing."
Reed only wished he were
The explosion of
Shuttlepod One was witnessed by the entire bridge crew. Of them, only Captain
Archer tore his eye away from the flashy pyrotechnics long enough to catch a
glimpse of the shuttle itself disappearing under the cover of fire.
Archer's humanity had
died at the hands of the Suliban, along with his family and his dreams of
peaceful space exploration. He allowed it a brief resurrection now, as he
remembered one night in the bunkhouse at Oakland, when he'd looked over at a
sleeping engineering student and promised himself that, while he knew he was
doomed, he would make sure that one day Trip Tucker escaped. From the camp and
from the hell that he knew even then was going to follow.
Archer waited a good
minute after Lieutenant Reed's fireworks went off before saying:
Starfleet Command and let them know we lost the shuttle. And better tell
Commander Hess her life just got a hell of a lot harder." He turned on his heel
and went into his ready room, allowing himself a brief smile as he did so. He
hadn't been able to save Hoshi, or Kyoko, or Henry, or even himself. But he had
done everything he could to save Trip. He just hoped Reed could finish the job.
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