"Your Perfect World"
Your Perfect World.
Rating: PG-13/R for violence and mature content.
Summary: Tucker is
trapped on an AU Enterprise where many of the burdens he had before do not
exist. Is it a perfect world?
Archive: Please do not archive outside of House
Spoilers for "The Expanse", "Cogenitor", minor for "Minefield",
"First Flight", "Strange New World", "The Crossing", "The Andorian Incident",
"Broken Bow", "Candamar".
DISCLAIMER: The Enterprise (NX-01) and the
characters of Enterprise do not belong to me but to Paramount. I have neither
requested or received any payment for this work.
Ensign Kelly knelt in the awkward EVA suit and reached up into the external
manifold port with the positive electrode attached to the manipulator she wore
at her hand and forearm. Commander Tucker, stretched out beside her on the hull,
aimed the light to the section of manifold about a meter away from the negative
electrode he'd already attached.
Tucker watched as Kelly detached the manipulator from the electrode, but
waited until she had ducked back out of the manifold entrance and he heard her
calling, "Clear!" over the com. He answered, "Charging," and pulled the switch
on the power supply he had anchored to the hull near them. They had been at this
for a good forty minutes and they were nearly done. If he had known how trivial
the problem was, he would have had Rostov or one of the other engineering crew
come out here to clean the Impulse Manifolds of the final traces of isobaric
cloud residue they'd picked up at the edge of the Expanse. But the internal
cleaning sequence hadn't eliminated the problem, so he'd gone with Kelly to
check it out. Considering the effort of kitting for an EVA, the Chief Engineer
had decided they would clear the problem themselves on that trip.
to one side of the three meter wide port, watching as the electrical current
heated the structure and the debris cracked off and floated out due to the
positive pressure difference between the impulse engine at stand-by setting and
the vacuum of space. The bits glinted slightly in the beam of the hand lamp.
There were no stars nearby to light the surface of the Enterprise's hull and the
lamp made eerie shadows of Kelly and Tucker, the manipulators like the giant
claws of two monsters.
Monsters, Tucker thought. We came here to find monsters. The kind of monsters
who massacred innocent people in their homes. He'd often found himself wondering
what his sister Elizabeth had been doing when the weapon had torn through
Zephyrhills, Florida, and kept on going south. Had she been working in her
office? Napping? Had she seen the swath of destruction coming at her from over
the horizon, moving at more than a hundred kilometers an hours? He imagined the
beam of energy, a quarter-mile wide, sweeping over towns, orchards, lakes.
Burning a great hunk of his heart away. He felt as loveless and unloved as he
ever had in his life.
He wouldn't think about Lizzie now. Thinking about the Xindi was better.
Thinking about the Xindi was almost as good as thinking about work. Thinking
about work was best. He'd been running on automatic ever since they started the
upgrades on the Enterprise, once he and Reed had returned from his one short
visit to Earth. If Reed, or really anyone else, had visited Earth during that
time period, Tucker wasn't much aware of it. He and his crews, as well as
Jupiter Station's personnel, had been too busy. He'd wanted it that way. He
needed the work. When he didn't think about the work, he'd think about the
He realized his teeth were locked into place, his molars grinding away, and
he consciously loosened his jaw. Doctor Phlox had given him something for the
headaches it gave him, but had suggested a guard to wear at night to prevent
damage to his teeth. 'My headaches will stop,' he'd told the doctor, 'when we
find what we're looking for.' They would too, he thought with some satisfaction.
It had felt good to read the report Captain Archer had sent out to the last Echo
beacon they'd left behind, the report of destroying the Klingon ship at the edge
of the Expanse. It was self-defense, pure and simple. It was time they stopped
trying to be friends with aliens who wanted to kill them. He'd never thought he
might feel that way, but now he saw that it had been building for a long time.
He himself had been beaten up or held hostage too many times. Hell, Captain
Archer had nearly ended up being hung one time and rotting in a Klingon prison
another. Malcolm Reed had been right all along. They should have been more
suspicious, more alert, and more proactive.
Reed. Now that annoyed and angered Tucker. He knew, more than most, that
there was a lot more to Reed than the cold and calculating exterior he showed to
most people. But if there was one thing Tucker thought Reed would be dead
certain on, it would be need to find the Xindi and wipe them out, to prevent
them from any future attack on the Earth. Oh, Malcolm was pretty damn proud of
all those shiny new torpedoes. Tucker had watched Reed lovingly running his
hands over the castings and describing the yield, the accuracy of firing, the
reliability of the primer and warhead. But Reed would clam up and look as
worried as an old lady when Tucker talked about what they'd do with those new
weapons. The Klingon ship was just practice.
"I thought you liked firing back at other ships -- blowing those bastards
into vacuum," Tucker had said after the engagement.
Reed looked at him from around the rim of the mug he'd had in his hands and
had said, "I wished they'd just let us get on with it. I couldn't lock on to the
propulsion systems to knock them out. Just had to broadcast and breach the
Tucker had wondered what it had looked like. He'd been monitoring the
engines. He wondered if the Klingons had had a chance to think about what was
happening to them. He had realized there was a smile on his lips when he caught
Reed starring at him, a shocked look on his face.
Tucker had snapped out, "What?"
"Nothing." Reed had looked down into his cup. "We had to use too many
torpedoes. The shop crew and the Armory can only turn out two new castings and
arming mechanisms a day. I don't like being short, or wasting the raw
If Reed had any doubts, Tucker thought, he ought to stow them. Tucker would
get them wherever they had to go. Charles Tucker the Third would be fine. He
didn't need to cry and sob. He didn't need to moan or pray. He needed to see
ships flying apart in space. He needed to see the power readings in Engineering
showing him that the torpedoes were sucking the energy readings down each time
one was armed and left the ship to blow some alien bastards straight to hell.
When he thought about killing Xindi, he did feel vaguely unsettled -- but only
because he wished that reason for it had never happened. He wished they didn't
have to do this. But he also felt like he was heading for the end of a foot
race, his legs burning with fatigue. It was going to feel so good when it was
over. Then he'd be able to rest. Then he'd be able to think about something
The cloud of debris flying out the impulse manifold port thinned. Tucker
thumbed the power switch and called to Kelly, "Power off." They watched the
swarm of particles stop completely before he said, "Let's reset the electrodes."
And she answered, "Yes, sir," before they moved forward, climbing back into the
port. He aimed the light down into the manifold and they each grabbed hold of an
electrode. Kelly's had spot welded to the structure and wouldn't come loose. She
pried at it with the manipulator and Tucker left his own electrode in place to
grab hold of Kelly's electrode as well.
"Let's try this together," Tucker said, trying to get some leverage with his
other arm and body on the hull surface. He waited for Kelly to get into a stable
position. The magnets in their boots weren't much help like this. "One, Two,
Three, Pull," he said and they both tugged on the electrode to pull it free.
It came loose with a snap they felt rather than heard. There was one solid
clump of debris under the electrode and it came flying up, almost too fast to
see in the glow of the lamp. Tucker felt the impact on Kelly as her arm jolted
against him. The lights in her suit showed her wide eyed amazement, but no sound
came over the COM. They both were bouncing at the end of their tethers from the
impact, Tucker pulling the manipulator off his arm. Then Tucker saw the hunk of
debris embedded in the control panel on Kelly's chest. An emergency light came
on like a beacon on her chest panel and the telemetry link triggered the warning
bell in his own suit. Tucker saw a cloud of ice particles, like snow, streaming
away from her. Kelly's air had vented. She was suffocating -- no, it was worse,
she was breached to vacuum.
Everything went in a blur then. Kelly flailed in a sudden panic while Tucker
tried to pull the fail-safe seal control on Kelly's suit. If he could make sure
it was in place he'd link his own secondary hose to Kelly's secondary port. The
EVA monitor inside the Enterprise was shouting over the link, "Commander,
Kelly's vitals are off line. I've got a temperature spike in her power unit,
Tucker slapped Kelly's hand down and thumbed the seal control on her suit.
The visual indicator popped out. "I've got you sealed, Kelly." How stupid. She
wouldn't hear him until her suit was pressurized. He caught sight of blood on
her faceplate. Nosebleed and capillary damage, he thought. He felt the click as
he forced his secondary hose into place in Kelly's suit port, and heard the
whoosh of his air pressurizing her suit again.
Then he smelled it, a hot burnt insulation odor. Kelly had an ignition source
in her suit. Now that she had air Tucker could hear the Ensign as the fire
ignited. She was howling in pain. "--Burning," she shouted, sounding wet and
croupy. "Shut me off your system! Oh God, oh God." Kelly was trying to drag them
back down to the hull, hand over hand, on her tether, the manipulator getting in
the way. "Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, -- God, I'm burning up." Tucker's suit
was filling up with smoke as well.
His boots hit the hull and he latched on, and switched Kelly's suit off from
himself and started making his way to the air lock, dragging her behind him. His
suit was full of smoke and he was coughing. The light on the airlock was
blinking to him, calling him to safety. The EVA monitor was trying to tell him
something, but he just couldn't understand him.
Tucker was half way to the airlock and trying to hold his breath when he was
suddenly aware of someone on the hull with them. He jerked to one side. It was a
man. Just a man. He'd been walking beside Tucker, just keeping up with him.
There was no EVA suit. The guy was just walking along the hull in street
"What a piece of work you are," the man said, smiling. Tucker could
hear him as if they were standing in a room a few feet apart, not on the hull
with no COM link.
Tucker bolted as fast as he could and fumbled for the hatch. He sucked in
smoke filled air and shouted out, "Intruder alert --" over the COM before he
spasmed with coughing. He was trying to get both Kelly and himself into the
lock. He couldn't breathe. He was choking to death.
The man was pushing Kelly's body into the airlock after Tucker. "I really
shouldn't be doing this," the stranger said. "You can hardly get your little
tin-can-and-spit ship through space without pieces falling off it, and you're
sure you can deal out death and destruction to beings you don't even know?" The
fellow reached inside and palmed the control on the door jamb, starting the lock
cycle. Tucker slid to the deck, coughing uncontrollably. His eyes were streaming
from the smoke.
The last thing Tucker remembered as the hatch closed was the snide, superior
voice of the stranger. "No wonder they're so insufferable about the strides
they've made. You're positively medieval, Trip. I may call you 'Trip', may I?
The things you think you want. Nobody loves me; Earth won’t be pushed around
anymore; kill, kill, kill with veins in my teeth. How delightfully barbaric.
Tucker woke to familiar ship sounds. The background hum of the engines --
impulse, he recognized, probably about a quarter light speed, blowers, a COM in
the background. And a too familiar beeping noise. Medical monitors. He was in
He groaned and blinked his eyes, trying to focus. Someone came up and took
"Doctor, he's waking up," said Reed, standing by Tucker's side.
"Lieutenant," said Tucker, "there was -- someone -- on the hull --" he was
coughing again, great hacking coughs. Reed efficiently grabbed him by his arm
and the waistband of pajamas he was wearing and helped him roll over. Other
hands were on him -- he felt a firm hand cupping his back with light blows.
There was a woman's voice, "He'll be all right. He's not choking. Just clear
your airway, Commander."
Soon he was laid back. Someone was wiping his face with a damp cloth. It was
a woman, older, in her late fifties, maybe, tawny skin and iron hair, pulled
back. Who was she?
"Kelly?" he choked out.
"Resting. Getting better," said the woman. She was wearing a light blue smock
with 'science blue' piping. She had a Commander's pips at her shoulder. "Ensign
Kelly has moderately bad burns on her abdomen and one hip. Capillary damage and
frostbite from the vacuum, but she'll recover nicely."
Reed still had Tucker's hand in his. "You saved her, Trip." The Lieutenant
said quietly with a little smile, and squeezed his hand. That was odd. Reed
wasn't usually so -- friendly.
"What about that -- alien, or whatever he was?" asked Tucker.
Reed glanced to the woman, and back to Tucker. "Well, we heard you out there.
But we couldn't find any trace of any alien or a member of our own crew. There
are no warp signatures or other signs of ships. And nothing here inside
Enterprise, either. Kelly wasn't able to confirm anything about an intruder.
You'll need to tell us more."
Tucker described the figure while the woman examined the biobed's readings
and ran a scanner over him. (Was she an assistant to Phlox? Why didn't he
remember her?) "It looked like a human male. Tall, light complexion, dark hair.
It spoke -- English Standard." Reed and the woman look surprised.
"It spoke to you? You could hear it?" the woman said, "but it wasn't on a
"Yeah, yeah. Said a bunch of crazy stuff, too. Listen -- just who are you?
Where's Doctor Phlox?"
Now both Reed and the woman stared directly at him. "Commander. Trip," said
Reed, "this is Doctor Gupta. She shipped out on Enterprise over two years ago.
We don't have a Doctor Phlox here."
He would have fallen on his ass if he wasn't already lying down. The doctor
started taking more readings. Tucker was trying to get his head straight. What
the hell was happening? Malcolm was looking at him like he was sick or
something. The doctor was speaking directly to Reed now.
"Strike what I said earlier, Lieutenant. You're not going to be able to take
Mr. Tucker back to your quarters right away. I need to run some more tests."
Tucker half rose and looked from the doctor to Reed. " 'Our' quarters? When
did we start sharing quarters?"
Reed looked as if he'd been punched in the gut. The pale Englishman took
Tucker's hand again. His voice wasn't much more than a whisper, "It's almost a
year, Trip. September 2nd, you said -- a birthday present …" His voice trailed
away. Tucker looked at his own left hand in Reed's. They both had similar
looking silver bands on their ring fingers.
Tucker pulled his hand away. "You mean, like, we're married or something?" he
Reed mouthed something Tucker didn't catch and then asked, "Doctor, what's
The woman cut him off. She seemed horribly angry. "Commander Tucker," she
said. "Everyone likes your sense of humor, but this is in terrible taste. Kelly
is lying over there injured and sedated. You've warned us about some alien on
the hull. We're trying to help you!" She suddenly grabbed Tucker's right hand
and practically shook it in front of his own face. "Of course, you aren't
married! What do you think this is?"
He found himself staring. He had a mark, a tattoo of some kind, on the back
of his right hand. He glanced around as saw that both Reed and Gupta had similar
marks. He held his own hand up to his face. It was like a bar code of some kind.
Tucker looked up and said, "I don't know what the hell this is. What kinda game
are you playing? Who are you, Lady?"
Reed and Gupta looked to each other. Gupta was just puzzled and stern
looking. Reed looked absolutely horrified. Suddenly they were both all over him.
Trying to get him to lie down, making comforting, reassuring noises.
Tucker forced his way to a sitting position and put his legs over the side of
the bed. What was happening? He needed to talk to somebody. Talk to a friend,
someone who'd set Malcolm and this woman straight. "I need to see the Captain,"
he said. "Where's Cap'n Archer?"
"Now calm down, Trip," said Malcolm, standing at arms length and holding his
hands out toward Tucker. "Archer? Do you mean Jonathan Archer? Your friend,
"Jonathan Archer is back home, Trip. On Earth." The voice came from the door
into sickbay. It was familiar, but Tucker gasped when he saw A.G. Robinson
standing there, in uniform, wearing Captain's pips. "He's the director of the
Warp Seven Development Program. He's married, Trip. You were his Best Man. Don't
As Robinson walked toward him Tucker felt dizzy and very nauseated. A.G. had
never been on the Enterprise. A.G. was dead. He'd been killed in a climbing
accident nearly nine months before. The Captain had told him. What was going on?
What was wrong with him?
Robinson asked, "Commander Tucker. Trip. Do you know who I am?"
"You're A.G. Robinson. But, but you shouldn't be here. Jon Archer is
Enterprise's captain. I -- I don't know what's wrong. This all; this isn't
right. Something's wrong."
Robinson looked to the Doctor. She slowly advanced back toward Tucker and
scanned him again. He let her do it.
"Commander Tucker, you were unconscious for longer than I would expect. You
inhailed a variety of toxins, but none are known to have a neurological effect.
You don't show overt signs of brain damage, stroke, concussion, or oxygen
deprivation. Your vital signs are all elevated right now, but I don't think
that's unexpected considering your apparent confusion." To Robinson, she said,
"He doesn't seem to know me, and seems not to remember some past events."
"Commander Tucker." She said. "just humor me here." She started asking him
questions. Who was he, what was the ship's name and registry, when did they ship
out, what was his rank and job title, what was the date. He answered, and
Robinson and Reed both seemed to relax a bit.
Robinson asked, "Who are the ranking officers on the Enterprise?" When Tucker
answered, Robinson asked, 'tell me about the science officer and Doctor Phlox'.
He did, and the three faces fell. He answered questions about his engineering
team and the rest of the crew.
"Trip." Robinson said. "I'm sure there's some explanation for this memory
problem you've got. But there are no aliens in crew positions on this ship. The
first officer is Commander Nelson M'Butsu. You trained with him. We've got a
Tellarite advisor and a few alien Wards of Star Fleet, but they've got no place
in the chain of command. I don't know some of the crew you mentioned. There's no
Lieutenant Hess in Engineering. Chief Rostov is your second there. We've got 128
crew and twenty or so supernumeraries on board. There are only eight women in
Tucker found himself clutching at the neck of the pajama shirt he was in. My
god, what's happened? he thought. He'd been sick before. He'd been stoned on
alien pollen, but this. This seemed so real. It seemed as real as the things
he'd experienced when the Wisp Aliens had taken over his body. Maybe that's what
had happened. But during that 'Crossing' he hadn't considered how strange it
was. Things had just happened and he'd let them happen. This wasn't that way.
Not at all. He knew this wasn't right.
Tucker started. Reed had stepped up and put a hand on his shoulder. The
lieutenant took it away again, looking embarrassed and upset.
The doctor said, "Don't you remember any of that? " She gestured to Reed.
"Don't you remember your civil union with Lieutenant Reed?"
Robinson's eyes widened and he said, "But I performed the ceremony here,
Trip. On the Enterprise. Jon Archer and your folks were all on the sub-space
Tucker shook his head, looking at the worried faces around him. "No. Malcolm
and I are friends. I don't remember what you're talking about." Glancing at
Reed's fallen face, he muttered, "I'm sorry." There was a pause. "Wait a minute.
If that's what happened, why aren't we married? What's this 'civil union'
If the three people had looked concerned before, they looked baffled now.
Doctor Gupta seemed to be scanning the ceiling for some guidance. She finally
pointed to the tattoo on her own hand.
"Tucker. I want you to consider this very seriously. If there is any thing
you're not being truthful about, now is the time to be completely clear." She
tapped the mark.
"People who are sterile, can't be married. The marriage laws were conformed
world wide when Australia joined the World Union. Sterile people are allowed
civil unions. You, I, the entire crew, the crews of all extra solar ships as
well as people with Hazard One jobs back home, are sterile. It’s a requirement
of service. You can't father children, Commander. None of us are lucky enough to
be able to bring children into the world. I'm sorry, but it's true."
They all watched him. He thought about what he was hearing. He was farther
away from his own reality than he could imagine. This was a totally different
The doctor looked very sad, but understanding. She took his hand in a very
'mothering' way. "Some of us ... had a very hard time when we were tested. A lot
of men are very -- disturbed when they have to get the coding when they turn
eighteen. It was hard for me, too, when it happened, so I understand. With so
few live female births in the last fifty years, it's hard for any woman to have
to be coded."
But, it also allows us to do other things. I know how important the Warp Five
program was to you and Captain Robinson, and your friend Commodore Archer. The
Captain's told me about it, and how much you wanted to be on this ship and on
this mission. You wouldn't have been able to be here if you'd been able to marry
and have children. And consider your partner, here," she gestured to Reed who
was standing by with a sick look on his face. "Don't you want to tell us that
something has upset you? That something is bothering you, and that you do,
really, understand what's going on here?"
She thinks I'm faking this, Tucker thought. She thinks I'm emotionally
disturbed and trying to fool myself into some sort of denial. Malcolm thinks
I've gone nuts. Where the hell am I? And who is this "Robinson?"
"This" Robinson. "This" Malcolm Reed. "This" Charles Tucker. He was someplace
else. Or he was in the place of someone else. He realized that it didn't make
any sense to insist that "he" wasn't the Charles Tucker they knew. They
obviously thought he was.
He decided to be as truthful as he thought possible.
"Ma'am. Doctor Gupta? I really don't understand this at all. I don't remember
anything about getting checked out for fertility and 'marked' when I was a kid.
I remember other people on this ship and other things happening to me. I
remember a bunch of female crewmates, twenty-three. Lieutenant Reed's my friend;
one of my best friends, but he -- we're not a couple. You must think I'm crazy,
but it's like I don't belong here.”
There was a long pause and his companions looked at each other. Reed had gone
ashen. Tucker hadn't seen him this shaken since they were both sure they were
about to die on Shuttle Pod 1. Robinson looked stunned -- maybe the only time
Tucker had ever seen him that way. The Captain finally shook himself and
suggested that Tucker 'rest' while they spoke. The doctor called an aide in
(Tucker didn't recognize him either) and the three officers went to the office
He ran his hands through his blond hair. First a man walking and talking in
vacuum, now he woke up someplace 'else.' Tucker couldn't get his mind wrapped
around this. The man. The man on the hull. That's where it all went -- wrong.
Maybe Kelly remembered the same Enterprise he remembered. Maybe this creature
did something to them, both of them. He had to find out where he was and he had
to convince this Enterprise crew to look for a connection with the mysterious
intruder and his predicament.
He could see Reed gesturing toward him and nodding violently. Robinson seemed
to be reassuring the armory officer about something and the doctor agreeing too,
maybe a bit reluctantly. The three approached him again.
Doctor Gupta began. "Commander Tucker. We've taken a lot of data on you
today. We're going to analyze it and compare with baseline data taken in the
past. Maybe that will show us something. Tomorrow we'll start all over again,
and have more data for comparison. I can't tell you why you're -- not
remembering this correctly." That admission seemed to have been pried out of
some locked box.
Robinson chimed in. "Lieutenant Reed and the Science Department will review
all the information we have on any possible alien presence that you might have
seen or 'sensed' while you were on the hull. Maybe we'll find something this
time." Uh, oh, thought Tucker, they've already chalked this up as a
"Yeah, A -- Captain. Maybe this thing I saw has something to do with this. I
just think I'm not in the right place anymore. Isn't that a possibility?"
"What," said Doctor Gupta, "a fantastic alien presence moved you to some sort
of different plane of existence?"
He nodded slightly, watching the three dubious faces.
”We'll look at the readings, Trip." Said Reed. "Residue on your suit and
Kelly's, the air lock, the hull, the region of space we're in." he nodded
reassuringly. "If there is something, we'll find it." That made him feel better.
Malcolm almost sounded as if he was willing to try to believe that something had
happened to him.
"In the mean time," Gupta continued. "You can stay here in sickbay over night
-- the Lieutenant can bring you anything you need. Or, you can go back to your
quarters. Lieutenant Reed can make sure you don't have an onset of symptoms that
we need to see immediately."
Reed leaned in while Gupta and Robinson pointedly looked away, 'ignoring' the
conservation. Reed said with a lowered voice, "It's all right Trip. I won't --
badger you. You just might feel better if you're around your own things. Maybe
you might start to remember something?" he finished hopefully, his gray eyes
full of worry. "We've been friends a long time now. If you feel uncomfortable,
you can come back here to sleep."
Tucker considered this. Malcolm was his friend. He found it hard to believe
that this Malcolm Reed might be that different than the one he knew. Tucker
slowly nodded, "Yeah. Yeah, I think I'd rather be out of sickbay."
Robinson and Gupta both smiled with relief at this. The doctor asked the aide
to bring his uniform, brought from the kitting room. Reed and the doctor bustled
to give the orders that would continue some sort of investigation.
"Don't worry." Said Robinson. "We'll get to the bottom of this, Trip. Jon
said he'd skin me alive if I didn't keep you out of trouble." The man wearing
the Captain's rank smiled at him and Tucker gritted his teeth and tried to smile
"You're dead, A.G.," he kept thinking.
It was late. Reed's shift was well over. Reed took Tucker to the mess hall
for a meal before turning in. Tucker tried to remain non-committal and show as
little surprise as possible when he saw something or someone different than his
own Enterprise. The deck configuration was different. There was apparently a
huge science laboratory adjoining sickbay. They passed crew who welcomed him
back and said how glad they were to see him again. When he did recognize a
crewmate, he watched them closely for any difference. Malcolm was obviously
relieved whenever Tucker recognized a face or made a turn in the passageway
without prompting. But other friendly faces were ciphers to Tucker. He would ask
Reed, 'who was that?' and Reed, this face masked with a forced and fleeting
smile would tell him and add, 'Don't worry; you'll remember.'
They were sitting side by side and eating when Tucker felt himself nearly
tackled from behind; someone small throwing their arms around him. He was nearly
shoved into his plate, but he registered that the crew he could see in the mess
were all smiling. A voice, a bit too loud in his ear, cried "Oh, Commander Trip.
I'm so glad you're not hurt."
He thought he'd been shocked to see Robinson, but this was worse. Tucker
jerked back against Reed when he realized that his admirer was Charles, the
Vissian Cogenitor. The wiry figure flung itself down in the seat next to Tucker.
The big grin on its face fading when it saw him.
Reed misunderstood. He spoke to the Vissian in a low voice. "Charles.
Commander Tucker's not quite recovered."
The Vissian's plain young face registered worry. "I'm so sorry. I didn't hurt
you, did I?"
"No, uh, no, Charles." Said Tucker. He felt as if his heart rate had gone
through the hull. He was sweating. Here she was: the focus of the biggest
mistake of his professional career, sitting in front of him astonishingly alive
Reed could see something was wrong. He said in a low voice, "She's just come
from the Life Sciences Lab, for her meal before Ward Curfew. Haven't you,
So Reed called her 'she' just as he had. She had grown her hair longer and
tied it in the back. She was wearing a Star Fleet jumpsuit without any insignia
or rank. There was a plain patch on her shoulder with a number and 'WSF'. She
was speaking standard now. There was no echo as one usually heard when the COM
system translators kicked in. Tucker couldn't manage to do much more than stare
Charles hurriedly got to her feet. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you
He managed to say, "No. I'm okay. I just didn't think I'd see you -- tonight.
I'll feel better. It's really good to see you." He tried to give her a grin. She
shyly smiled and said goodbye, picking up a tray of food she'd left on a table
"Do you remember her, Trip?" asked Reed. "She's a ward. You brought her on
board yourself. Captain Robinson gave --"
"Her asylum." Tucker finished. He stirred his fork around in the food left on
his plate. He looked at Reed sideways. "I don't remember it happening quite that
way." He dropped the fork into his plate and suddenly covered his eyes with one
hand. He didn't want to have some sort of fit in the mess hall and he felt like
that was exactly what was going to happen.
He felt Reed's hands on his arms, pulling him up from the table. "Let's get
you back home," he said quietly. Tucker was nodding, his chin tapping against
his chest as Reed guided him out of the room.
Tucker felt well and truly exhausted, but less stunned, as they went into the
crew quarters. Reed walked slowly, Tucker supposed, so that he might have a
chance to 'remember' where their quarters were. But he didn't and felt ill at
ease when Reed stopped and keyed the lock code. But it was Tucker's own code
that was punched. The room was only slightly larger than his own quarters had
been, with an odd looking couch against one wall. (A hidden bed, Tucker
supposed, gritting his teeth. He'd seen similar designs on other ships.) There
were two small desks back to back. Two simple, but fairly comfortable looking
chairs. A shelf above the couch with a hot pot, a teapot and a caddy with
stacked tumblers and flatware (he recognized the pattern -- Reed had served him
with those mugs on more than one off duty visit). Photographs on the wall, an
exterior port, the door into the washroom.
But as he looked around he saw some of his own things. His old diving helmet,
a set of PADDs in an old case he'd had since school, a wooden desk set with
"Tarpon Springs" burned into the surface. Not much of the decor seemed to come
from Reed, but Tucker remembered a print of a sailing ship that had been in
Malcolm's quarters. He realized that Reed was watching him.
"Is any of this familiar?" he asked.
"A lot of it really." Tucker answered. He was looking at two chests built
into the bulkhead. One somehow seemed familiar, though he couldn't say why, and
he crossed over and opened the top drawer. He plunged his hand inside, moving
underwear aside and brought out his harmonica, wrapped in a clean handkerchief.
Reed smiled -- a beautiful, heartfelt smile as Tucker showed the harmonica and
said, "Right where I always keep it." It was true in a sense, just as he somehow
knew that the one set of drawers, a bit more worn and somehow messy looking,
belonged to him, and the other set, each drawer unblemished, carefully and fully
closed, belonged to Reed.
Tucker went into shower room, taking a fresh set of underwear and his sweats
with him. His mind was a blur. When Malcolm had smiled at him, he'd felt
supremely guilty and he didn't know why. And he had felt both guilt and shock
when he had seen Charles. She wasn't alive. At least not where he came from.
He'd seen to that. Killed her with good intentions. Suddenly the water felt
colder. What if he was stuck here? What if there was really something wrong with
him? Could he have not really done what he remembered doing? Maybe 'this' was
right? Was he really sterile? His mind jumped around like a bug on a griddle as
he shut off the shower and dried off.
When he came out into the room, the bed had been pulled down from the wall,
fairly roomy, thank goodness. Malcolm was on his computer, and he looked up
suddenly. Maybe a bit embarrassed? They hadn't talked much after they'd left
sickbay. Tucker thought perhaps he should just keep his mouth shut and try to
figure out more about where he was. When Reed, too, headed off to wash up,
Tucker went to his own terminal and logged in. His password still worked. He
found that he didn't seem to have access to all the engineering files. Damn.
Perhaps Malcolm had locked him out; had been told to lock him out. But he was
able to pull up the ship complement. About half the male faces he knew. Travis
wasn't the alpha shift helmsman, or even a crewmember. Meyer was still on Reed's
security team and Chef was still in charge of the galley. Of the eight females
he knew Kelly, Branigan, and a biology tech named Katana. Hoshi Sato wasn't
there. Neither were Hess, or Cutler, or any of the other female crew he knew.
And of, course as Robinson and Reed had told him, there was no Doctor Phlox and
The complement of each department was about the same as on his Enterprise for
the eighty odd crew he expected. Of the additional forty-six personnel, thirty
were in the science department, mostly listed as biologists and geneticists. The
sixteen balances were under Ship's Security and the Armory. He puzzled over this
until he pulled up a mission statement.
This Enterprise's primary mission was to collect, analyze and synthesize data
and possible solutions to Human infertility. Secondary missions included
negotiating and developing trade and transfer of scientific information,
particularly emphasizing biology, genetics, and fertility, and enhancing
security and protection for the Sol System.
He swiftly pulled up population stats for Earth, the Moon bases and Mars
Colony, as well as the outer planet colonies and Alpha Centari. Fertility stats
came up first and held not pride of place but a grim reckoning. In the last
fifty years the number of eighteen-year-old males found to be sterile in each
year's cohort had grown from 15 to 45 percent of the population. He thought
females faired a bit better, with 5 to 8 percent infertile, but then he realized
that the number of live births had also been dropping over the last half
century. In the last statistical year one quarter of all male births were early
miscarriages or stillbirths. Only 22 percent of total live births had been
female; there was a huge female mortality during pregnancy. In his own cohort
the population discrepancy was 65 percent male, 35 percent female. It was
horrifying. It looked as if the human race was dying out.
He suddenly couldn't stand the thought of looking at the hideous population
statistics anymore. Tucker had an overwhelming feeling that he was being
watched. He turned but only saw photographs on the wall. He slowly went over and
examined the photos.
He actually recognized some of the photos; he'd taken them himself. There
were shots of planets they'd visited, often with different people in the shot
from the picture he remembered taking. Here was Charles sitting next to him in
the Mess on a movie night; sharing a big bowl of popcorn. He was saying
something to whoever was taking the picture, and Charles was grinning at him.
There were a lot of photos of Reed. Reed training with his security team.
Reed sitting on a shingle beach, wearing ridiculously small swim trunks. Reed
and Tucker sitting on a bench outside an alien bar that Tucker recognized. They
were lifting their glasses to whoever had taken the photo. And there was a
slightly larger photo in a standup frame. Tucker picked it up, a bit ill at
ease. Unlike most of the others, it was a formal sitting, but obviously taken on
board ship. Both he and Reed were wearing their dress uniforms, a three-quarters
view. Reed had his arms loosely crossed, hands on elbows. He, himself, stood
behind Reed's left shoulder; his left hand lightly resting on Reed's left arm,
his chest against Reed's back. They leaned into each other subtly but
unmistakably. Reed looked supremely relaxed and contented; Tucker's own smile in
the picture was wide and almost dopey with pleasure. The photographer had made
sure the rings on their left hands were both visible. Tucker set the frame down.
It was unnerving to see his own wedding picture.
There was another wall frame with multiple small photos. His own parents. He
remembered taking the picture. Jon Archer with a handsome woman. She was holding
a baby and there were boys about seven and five years old standing with them,
holding Porthos' leash. Malcolm, younger, wearing a military uniform Tucker
didn't recognize, with a stern faced man and a short, tired looking woman -- his
Tucker choked when he saw the photo of Lizzie. He had never seen it before.
She was sitting at a picnic table with a man Tucker didn't recognize. They were
holding hands, but Lizzie was doing it pretty awkwardly because she was also
holding a baby. Also at the table was a curly-haired girl of about
eight-years-old and two twin boys, younger, sitting on booster seats. Tucker
starred. Who were these people with his sister? The realization hit him.
His hand smacked hard against the bulkhead. He started making incoherent
noises. He had hardly managed to holler out, "Mal, get in here!" when Reed was
standing next to him, in briefs and his hair wet from the shower. Reed's arms
wrapped around him, as if he needed to be pulled from a burning building.
"Trip," he cried out. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Tucker pulled one hand over his friend's as if to make sure he was anchored
to someone before he spoke. He couldn't pull his eyes from the picture. "Mal?
Mal, is Lizzie -- alive?" He wasn't aware how heavily he was breathing, or that
he was shaking.
One arm tightened around him and Malcolm put a hand to Tucker's brow. He
gently pulled Tucker's head back to touch his own. "Oh, God, Trip. Yes. Lizzie's
alive. Shhh, it's all right. Oh, love, you thought she was dead?"
And then Tucker was shuddering, with relief, with fear. He didn't know what
it was. Reed had pulled him down to sit on the edge of the bed and was trying to
comfort him, running one arm over his bowed shoulders and gripping one of his
hands. Tucker slowly got a grip on the shaking and looked at Reed.
okay." he said. "Ah'm alright." He swallowed, and lightly moved himself out of
Malcolm's grip. "Malcolm," he said. "Ya gotta tell me everythin', please tell
Reed looked at him, stricken. "I'll tell you anything you want to know," he
What did any of this mean, Tucker thought, closing his eyes? If this wasn't
where he was supposed to be, then what did it matter if Lizzie was alive? But
what if his reality: the attack on Earth, the deaths of all those people, Archer
being popped in and out of the future, Klingons attacking them as they went to
the Expanse; what if that had been some sort of delusion?
"First," he asked Reed. "Was there an alien attack on Earth -- with millions
of people killed?"
Reed stared at him, eyes wide. "What? An attack? When? You can't mean the
Vulcans. There were only a few hundred casualties. That was years ago; we were
both children then. There have been some alien meetings within the Sol system
since then, but no 'attacks.'"
"The Vulcans? What are -- No. No, that’s gotta wait. No, since then. Seven
months ago. An alien probe didn't just suddenly 'pop' into Earth orbit an' cut a
swath through Florida, an' Cuba, an' Venezuela?"
"No, Trip. Nothing like that happened ... Well, hmmm. Wait. There was an
incident. A probe, I suppose. It appeared suddenly in orbit over North America.
The defense grid disabled it immediately. They were never able to make much of
the wreckage. And enough alien material to assume a pilot, or test subject. The
power supplies were huge. The working assumption was that it was some kind of
alien warp drive." While Reed spoke he leaned over and picked up an undershirt
from off the bed and pulled it on. Tucker found himself glancing away. He
wouldn't have done that normally.
"So, we're not going off to find these bastards that scorched Earth?"
Reed shook his head. "No, we're in uncharted territory about 70 light years
out from Earth. It's believed to be one of the shipping lanes used by the
Enolians." And he named the sector.
Tucker continued, "I've gotta find out what else is screwed up in history,
but, hell, I'll let it wait. So, my family's safe? My big brother and my
sisters; Mom and Dad?"
"Yes, lov - Trip, they're all fine. All the children, too. You got a letter
from your brother only a week ago, on the Echo, and answered it right away."
"Kids." He looked to the photographs. "Those are all Lizzie's kids?"
Reed considered him very closely, a sad look on his face. He went to a shelf
and pulled down a large format PADD. He brought it back and sat next to
"Let's go through this, Trip." He said and opened the leaf and started
clicking through the views in the photo album.
The shocks kept coming. Reed had another chance to try to hide his shock when
Tucker didn't recognize a girl in a picture of his immediate family -- he
appeared to have a much younger sister, named Anne, in this place. The Tucker
family was lucky. Insanely lucky in some ways. The fact that his parents had
produced five healthy children was amazing enough, but having three girls (the
two oldest having turned out to be fertile, the third still too young to be
tested) was a great blessing. Both Rebecca and Elizabeth had married young (as
was usual) and started having children immediately. Tucker's face fell when Reed
indicated that they had both had more than one miscarriage, but Reed only
mentioned it in passing. It was obviously too common place to make much of.
Tucker and his brother had both turned out to be sterile. When his sisters'
children had started coming, Joseph had left his job as a teacher and took up a
government stipend to help with his sisters' families. He spent his time as a
member of both households, alternately. And of course, Trip's future seemed set
in Star Fleet by that time.
There were many photos of his nieces and nephews, only one of whom, Rebecca's
second, could he actually remember and recognize. Lizzie's older son, by ten
minutes, Malcolm said, grinning, was named Charles Tucker the IV -- it had
become common in their generation to use the mother's family name -- a reward of
child bearing. He found himself unable to stop staring at and lightly touching
the photos of Lizzie with his fingertips. She was alive. She looked happy. He
hadn't lost her.
"You're really very lucky, Trip." Malcolm said, "Even if you couldn't have
children of your own."
"What about your family, Malcolm? What about your sister, Madeline?"
Reed looked sharply at him. "Sorry, Trip. You're wrong on that. Our branch of
the Reed family closes out with me. Father, we both, begged Mother to stop
trying after fourteen years of miscarriages and stillbirths after I came
He was quiet for a moment. "It's odd you ask about 'Madeline'. Madeline was
my mother's older sister. They would have named any daughter they had
Suddenly Reed asked, "What is she like?"
Tucker didn't know what to say. "Malcolm? Do you believe me when I say that I
don't belong here? That somehow this isn't 'my' Enterprise or 'my' history?"
"Tell me what Madeline is like."
"Well, I don't know that many details. We aren't as -- as close over there.
She's a doctor, but I don't think a doctor of medicine. She's older than you by
a bit. Her hair's blond. She's serious, the way you are. You miss her more than
you miss your parents, but I don't think you're very close to any of your near
Reed mulled this over. "And us. As you remember. Just pals, mates? Do I have
anyone back on Earth waiting for me? A pretty woman? A strapping man?"
Tucker felt himself going a bit ill. "Yeah, we're good friends. You say your
family's on the Enterprise. You're good friends with the Helmsman, Travis
Mayweather, and Hoshi Sato the COM officer. You like to eat with the ship's
doctor and discuss things, but I think he kinda weirds you out sometimes. "
Reed looked a bit surprised. "That's it, hmm? " He suddenly smiled. "I think
I like this world better. My Mum and Dad are a bit stiff sometimes, but we
generally get along, better now than when I was a child. And you're going to
have to forgive me Trip, but you're the best thing that ever happened to me."
And Reed shyly got up and shelved the photo album.
Tucker thought he knew the answer, but he asked anyway. "Malcolm. Do you
think I'm crazy?"
Reed gasped. "No. No, Trip, I don't think you're crazy. But I think your not
well. I think something has happened to you, and I don't know what it is. That's
why we're going to keep examining for something that's done this to you, so we
can help you."
"But, what about 'Madeline?'" Tucker asked.
Reed sat down carefully by him. "I don't know, Trip. I really don't. You're
not making any of this up. I know you too well to be lied to by you. You really
believe you spoke to someone walking on the hull without an EVA suit. That's why
'Madeline' make me wonder." Reed looked pained. "But, love, it just doesn't make
sense. It's not the most obvious answer."
And if--. If, if it's something about us, Trip. I want to know that,
Tucker hung his head. It was hard to even think about this. "Mal," he finally
said, "I just do not remember anything like this. As far as I can remember,
there's nothing you find finer than a gorgeous woman's behind. We even went bar
hopping once, looking for alien babes."
Reed laughed, almost a cough. "Well, sort of 'looking', they were aliens
after all. On Risa. Yes, but we weren't together then. And we've always known
that we were both pretty 'flexible' in the past." Reed didn't shake his worried
look. He said very quietly, "Do you want to know when we did get together?"
Tucker swallowed hard. "I don't think that’s a good idea, just now."
Reed nodded silently and let it drop, with little sign that it bothered him.
He too, seemed to be truthful. He thought Tucker was sick, but that he would get
better. As if he seemed to know what Tucker was thinking, Reed said, "I know you
think you've been moved or exchanged. But you see, Trip, it's too pat. If you
were really transported from somewhere else, why would so much of it be the
"I don't know. I wish I knew how to answer. And I don't know how to feel. To
be happy or sad that over here Lizzie's safe an nobody we know of is about to
wipe out Earth. Ah, don't know what's right."
"Trip, you're exhausted. It's very late, you need to get some sleep. We don't
know what's going to happen tomorrow. You may wake up and be perfectly fine."
The thought gave Tucker a creepy feeling. Would that be good, or bad?
Reed offered to sleep on the floor, but Tucker waved him off. He'd slept
right next to Reed before, while on landing parties and during the time they'd
been stuck in the Catwalk. They lay down in their under clothing to sleep.
Tucker wasn't about to ask if that was usual or not. Reed lay against the wall
and Tucker found himself forcing himself to relax. They both said goodnight and
Reed thumbed the light.
Tucker lay still, trying not to move, but his thoughts were still racing
ahead of him. What if this was real? What if he'd somehow had a false memory in
his head? A false memory that substituted one horrible reality with different
one, even worse for the human race?
But not necessarily a worse reality for him, Charles Tucker the III. He'd
never have to worry that Jon was in a landing party. If anything happened to
Robinson he wouldn't have that nagging feeling that his judgement was totally
screwed up because his best friend was in danger. And Charles. Whatever he'd
done here, it had been accepted. She was safe, with them: a Ward of Star
And most of all -- Lizzie. His sister was alive. Alive. He could write her a
letter tomorrow. She'd read it with a baby sitting on her lap and the warm
Florida sunshine on both of them. She'd read his letter and think of him. She'd
It was a fine feeling. A comforting feeling.
Tucker wished Malcolm would fall asleep. Reed was obviously still awake and
holding himself as stiff and silent behind him on the bed just as Tucker was
trying to. Afraid of touching him and 'badgering' him. Relax. Try to relax,
Tucker said to himself.
"You know, " said a voice a few feet from the edge of the bed and slightly
higher than Tucker's head, "if you ever had any fantasies about Malcolm, you are
really missing your chance tonight."
It was the voice of the man on the hull. Tucker launched himself with a roar
from the bed, his fists up, toward the voice. He slammed, hard, into the wall
opposite. He managed to gasp out a warning to Reed.
"It's in here! That
thing I saw - shit!"
There was suddenly a light. Not one of the room lights, but a spot light,
aimed down from some great height, shining on the intruder, very human looking,
who was now leaning calmly against a desk.
"Because, he's so worried about you right now, you could suggest anything and
he'd do it. If you suggested a carefree romp using hot cooked vegetables, he'd
be down in the galley right now, boiling water."
Tucker stepped forward and swung a hard jab at the thing's head. His fist
seemed to pass through its jaw and he nearly over balanced and fell into it, but
the figure lifted one hand and forcefully shoved him back. Where was Reed?
Tucker glanced to the bed.
"Oh, don't worry." A light suddenly showed him Malcolm, still where he had
lain down, his eyes open, and utterly still. Tucker moved closer. Reed didn't
even seem to be breathing.
"What the hell have you done to him?" Tucker shouted.
"Now, now." Said the man. "He's fine. And that's not what you wanted to ask
"Jesus! Who are you?"
"A reasonable guess, but incorrect. Doctor Gupta's description -- I don't
know if I should be offended or not -- 'a fantastic alien presence.' But that's
still not what you want to know."
Tucker suddenly picked up one of the chairs and hurled it at the figure. The
chair passed right through him and disappeared, instantly reappearing in the
exact place where Tucker had picked it up.
"Stubborn. Stupid. Self-centered. Bracing, really. Now ask me what you really
want to know, Trip."
Tucker unclenched his fists, but remained at ready, or as close to 'at ready'
as someone might be in his situation.
"What have you done to me? Where am I?"
"At last." The man clapped his hands. "Me. I. Yes, what really matters to you
these days. You were actually just now realizing that this place might not be so
bad after all. Ah, yes, by the dumbfounded look on your face I see you realize I
speak the truth. But -- that wasn't much of a reach."
Tucker nearly screamed with frustration.
The figure raised a finger and rocked it back and froth at him. "Now, now.
I'll answer. You were 'here' before. And 'here' is not where you are now. Call
it 'there', if you will. You are actually right, Trip. Something did happen to
you, because I wanted it to."
"Wait, Trip, you were about to say, --"
"Put me back!" Tucker screamed.
The figure put up his hands, palms up, as if to say "Presto!" "But, wait,
Trip, there's more! This is your dream come true. Your perfect world."
"With Human's facing extinction? With us having wars with the Vulcans?"
"Oh pooh, the incursion? That was just a little spat to try to remove the
diplomats you were holding hostage. They refused to hand over their data bases
on the biology of races and planets throughout this section of the galaxy. You
patched that up with a little peace treaty years ago. Now they try to ignore you
while you blunder through the galaxy. You're just one more thing they try not to
"And as for extinction. That's not going to happen for centuries. What's it
to you? You may even find a cure. It is your mission."
Tucker was quieter now. "How'd it happen?"
"Ah. The last Human War. World War Three. The gift that keeps on giving. It
was just a wee bit worse right 'there'. Mutantigenic viruses -- that sort of
"Now, there, dammit! You said that again -- 'here' -- 'there'. Is this some
sort of parallel universe? Are you with the Suliban or Daniels? Is this some
sort of change? You went back in time and caused all this?"
"What does it matter? You're so Three Dimensional! But don't quote me, I
didn't coin the phrase."
It doesn't really matter. You're 'there.' The Earth is armed to the teeth to
propel invaders; you made sure of that after your little falling out with the
Vulcans. You'll find out Human's have a real rep out here, already. You're still
in charge of Earth's fastest ship; it's more advanced than you remember, too.
Your family is safe; your best friend is safe. When this mission is over,
they'll all be waiting for you."
'Welcome -- Home -- Tucker ! God's -- Own -- Engineer !' " The man thrust his
arm out, moving it as if tracing each giant word on a huge banner.
"You'll have picked up so many great technical tricks, Archer will put you
straight into the Warp Seven program. And for once, you're in a relationship
that isn't so shallow that it falls apart as soon as you belch at the wrong
moment. Malcolm loves you; I don't know why. Devoted, really. And its not as if
he's going to have a lot of female competition -- most women are fertile and off
limits to you. I'm sure you can get used to the physical aspect long enough to
realize how lucky you are to have him. He's pretty willing to go in for a penny
or a pound, depending on what you want, so I'm sure you can come to some sort of
accommodation. And you can't say you haven't tried it once before."
Tucker fumed. "I was a kid! I was drunk most of that week!"
"He talks back to protest his manhood -- how predictable. But no cursing this
"Why is 'this' so different?"
"Do I detect a hint of acceptance?"
"Oh, well. Why is it so different? Well if you were in charge of a world
where men are outnumbering women 4 to 1, what would you have done? What
government would like the idea of three-quarters of the male population, hot,
horny, idle and frustrated? Wouldn't you do a bit of encouraging? Not just some
people's natural individual inclinations, but 'Look on the bright side, you can
live with your fishing buddy and get a tax break?' The majority of civil unions
are based on non-sexual attachments; not that yours is one of those. Add
generous rewards for selfless service to one's fertile siblings and the
top-heavy aging population. The socio-biologists feel totally vindicated."
And in some ways it's not so different. The Malcolm Reed you know is actually
a sentimental little fool about several of his crewmates, including you. He's
just told himself that it's no more than a brotherly feeling. He'd rather you
all found him turned inside out inside his closet before he'd ever admit
anything else. This one's parents just saw which way the wind was blowing and
didn't spend twelve years grinding him down and encouraging him to get into
fights or act snotty to any other little boy who wanted to be friends with
In some ways the whole human race is better off. You're far more kinder to
one another. Far more focused. Nothing like fear of extinction and advanced
aliens landing, who might eat-your-lunch at any time? Humanity has really pulled
together 'there'. I rather like it in some ways."
"Well, I don't. Put me back where I belong!"
"Really?" The guy was right behind him, leaning over his shoulder. "Is that
what you want?"
And Tucker realized he wasn't sure.
The room went dark.
Reed suddenly started up and flicked on the light.
"Trip, what's wrong? Why did you jump up?"
"Good God, Malcolm. That thing was here in this room!" Tucker's chest was
heaving like he'd just run a mile.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth he almost regretted saying them.
Reed promptly and dutifully called in security and a science team, who were soon
crawling all over their quarters, taking readings and swabbing each of them and
all other surfaces for residue particles of something, anything. Nothing was
found. Their faces told Tucker nothing he wanted to know as they all shot
sympathetic looks toward Reed . They all thought he was crazy.
When the two of them finally fell into bed to get two hours of sleep, they
were too exhausted to bother not to touch each other. Tucker could feel
Malcolm's breath against his shoulder as he fell asleep.
end Part 1
to Part 2
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