"Your Perfect World" Part III

Author - wombat61
Trip * Malcolm Fanfic Home

Your Perfect World.
Author: wombat61
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.

Part Three.

He wrote to his sister, Lizzie, and to Jonathan Archer. He started multiple times on video messages. But he just couldn't manage to say what he wanted to. Finally he wrote to them both.

He told Archer more than he told his sister. He said that he thought he had been transplanted from one place to another and that no one on Enterprise had been able to find a good explanation for his situation. He explained some of the differences between his memory and the reality he was experiencing. He asked Archer if anything he had done or said in the past few months might indicate a clue of something that went wrong or that was changing for the 'there' Tucker.

To Lizzie, he wrote that something had happened to him, and although he was all right, he didn't seem to remember things the way he had before. He kept it short but told her how much her missed her and how much she meant to him and that he wanted her to know it. He told her all the things he wished he had been able to say again, or say for the first time over 'there.' He asked her to write, as soon as possible and let him know that she was all right, too.

It was the hardest letter he had ever written.

Tucker spent as much of his off-duty time reviewing data from the day of the accident as he felt he could. It was incredibly frustrating, because he himself, just as his crewmates before him, could find nothing out of the ordinary. There was no return of the alien he'd seen on the hull.

And finally he started reviewing the logs of their missions from the last two years, as well as reviewing history files when he found references that made no sense at all.

There were things that had not happened at all, like the discovery of the Vulcan listening post on P'Jem. But they were exploring tentative relations with the Andorians, outside of any events that had happened in Tucker's memory. They were an older race than humans, more warlike, longer in space, and intriguingly, having their own problems with population due to a complex reproductive system. They seemed astonished that the human's saw study of other races and species as a possible key to their own problems, and they were seen as prime allies to cultivate. Tucker wondered if there was a Vulcan post on P'Jem, 'there,' and what he should do about it.

There were events that were highly similar. They had returned Kaang to Quonos, with similar baffling interaction with the genetically enhanced Suliban. They had attempted to trade with the Klingons, to no avail. As they were similarly matched in technology and occupied adjacent space, future conflict seemed as unavoidable as in Tucker's own 'reality.'

By far, the Tellarites were their closest and most important space faring ally, with trading threaties and scientific exchanges already being exploited. The Tellerites were pragmatic but emotional, argumentative but not aggressive, merchants and fixers and finders. They were Earth's primary source of information by way of their experience, but Earth was rapidly surpassing them in technological expertise.

Tucker felt overwhelmed by the new information; it would have him some time to review and understand their own mission records for two and a half years. He was baffled by his situation and uneasy by the increasing realization that this was becoming his reality.

He spent time viewing the messages he'd gotten from Lizzie, some of them very recent. Shots of the kids playing, his brother, Joey, helping Lizzie and her husband. She had never had a career outside of the one she seemed fitted for physically and emotionally: bearing children for herself and humanity. She was funny and happy and just as vivacious as he remembered her. And Tucker had her back. She was right 'there' where he could see her.

So didn't he have what he wanted most of all?

As far as his own comfort level went, Tucker didn't know what to make of Reed. If there was any difference between this man and the one he knew, it appeared that this man was happier, and far more content to let time work some mysterious healing process than Tucker imagined his own friend would be in a similar situation. But for all practical purposes, this Reed was his Reed. He worried about doing a good job and meeting his responsibilities (which now appeared to include the care and feeding of Trip Tucker.) In tiny details Reed spoke with the same cadence; he curled his lip in the same way when he thought something was funny in an arch sort of way; he held his fork the same way, and chewed his food for what Tucker thought to be an excessive amount of time.

Of course there was the difference that this Reed was completely comfortable with having Tucker around. Close around. Tucker hadn't roomed with anyone since he'd been in training at Star Fleet. He'd made commander at an early age, and even as a lieutenant had never been stationed anywhere with accommodation so tight that he'd shared quarters. He'd never lived for any extended period of time with any of his several girlfriends. This Reed moved about their shared quarters with ease Tucker found disconcerting, and with knowledge of him that he found humbling.

Reed knew the order in which Tucker prepared and then dressed in the morning. He was used to applying paste to Tucker's toothbrush at the same time he loaded his own and handing it to him through the door of the washroom. (Tucker had always wandered around his room collecting his clean clothing while he brushed his teeth.) Reed made Tucker a single cup of coffee and used precisely the right amount of sugar the engineer preferred. Reed would sometime start (but recover) when Tucker showed his ignorance about similar preferences and habits that Reed obviously had. And Tucker found himself feeling guilty when he noticed that start and that acquiescence to his own ignorance.

On the one hand he felt like he should insist that they separate and room apart. On the other hand, Tucker realized the thought scared him. Reed was his touch stone here. Reed explained things to him. Reed was the only one who knew him intimately enough to tell him things about him self over 'there.' Without Jon Archer on the ship, he found that he trusted Reed more than anyone else. And he found he could talk to Reed without being worried that he was making a fool of himself.

The third night of his probation, Reed worked double shift and Tucker started out of his sleep when Reed came to bed, tapping him awake to move over. He started violently, thinking at first that the mysterious alien was back. Then he recognized Reed, his friend's voice snapping just a bit. "Hey, hey, Trip. It's just me. Let me into bed."

Tucker rolled against the wall and Reed settled in, sighing as he stretched out.

"You okay?" Tucker murmured. ”Sorry I was such an ass waking up just then."

There was a pause in the dark. "No, don't worry about it. I didn't mean to startle you, Trip."

Another pause. Tucker took a deep breath.

"I'm sorry this has happened."


"This. You know. This has got to be hell for you and I can't seem to make it any better. Malcolm, I can't feel about you the way you expect me to. You shouldn't have to put up with me being here."

"Doctor Gupta hasn't been harassing you about this again, has she?" Now there was some steel in that voice.

"No, no. Nobody has."

" 'Can't feel'? Or just 'don't feel?'"

"I -- I don't know. Right now, 'don't feel.'"

"Do you want to move out? To separate? Does this make you uncomfortable?"

Tucker thought about it. "Honest?"

"Yes!" Now there was the annoyed, tetchy Reed he knew.

"No. I don't want to move out. But I feel like I'm just using you, with it like this."

"Then let me worry about it. I don't want you out. I want you right here."

Tucker felt fingertips ruffling his hair. He didn't start. He consciously tried to decide if it bothered him. He was reminded of when he and his brother and sisters would visit their grandparents in Oklahoma, and he and Joey would share one big bed up in the attic.

"Does this bother you?" Reed asked, very softly. Tucker sighed inwardly; the man knew what he was thinking half the time.

"No," Tucker said quite honestly. "It doesn't."

"Does it bother you that I love you and think about you as my partner?"

"No. Right now, it doesn't."

Reed said, "Then it doesn't bother me, either." Reed's hand withdrew. "Go to sleep, Trip."

"Goodnight, Malcolm."


On the fifth day since his arrival 'there', Charles came to engineering and asking for someone to look at a malfunctioning respiration system in Life Sciences. It mixed and filtered a slightly different atmosphere for some animal specimens, and it was constantly giving indications to change the filter. Things were slow, so Tucker told Rostov where he was going and checked the parts list for the system Charles indicated. The he picked up a tool kit, a spare filter, and indicator.

He and the cogenator 'passed' out of engineering. Like all the wards, Tucker was wearing a small badge on his wrist during his probation. It passed him in and out of sections of the ship, restricted some of his access (Armory was the only place Tucker couldn't enter unescorted) and allowed his general location to tracked inside the ship if specifically needed. Unlike the wards he did not have an automatic lockdown curfew, and they hadn't required that he respond to multiple times a day to a superior to indicate his location.

He had not yet been in the Life Science Department. Charles led him through laboratory areas and storage areas. They entered a fairly large section with terrariums, aquariums and other animal enclosures down one side of the passage, and some sort of storage vats with opaque sides down the other. The rush of air from blowers and the gurgle of recirculating liquid were all around them, along with a faint odor of plants, soil, waste, food and animals.

Tucker hadn't seen much of Charles. He had been too busy, and her restrictions as a ward meant that he was not always going to see her in his off duty time, even if he was working the same shift she was. He felt very nervous around her. She obviously was his friend and seemed friendly and naïve and brimming with excitement, raw intelligence and good humor, just as he remembered her. But he had come to grips 'there' with how badly he had failed her. He still felt she had been treated cruelly by her own kind, as all of her gender apparently had been, but she hadn't been treated maliciously. And without a fundamental change in her own culture, secretly enlightening her to her own abilities had been a mistake on his part, and cruel indulgence. Tucker realized that 'there' he had been devious, and stupidly optimistic that the other Vissians would see her as he had.

To see her now, happy and active, instead of passive and cowed was a dream come true. Robinson's actions in allowing her to stay helped her at least. Tucker vowed to review the records, still unseen, to see if there was any indication that more than one individual had been helped.

Charles took him to a large transparent fronted case, about two meters long and high, perhaps not as deep. Inside were two lithe and active mammals, about half a meter long without including their long tails. They reminded Tucker of otters, although from the platforms and ropes on various levels in the cage, they were arboreal, and not aquatic. One of the creatures, slightly smaller than the other, ran down to the transparent window nearest to Tucker and rested its front paws on the surface. He knelt to slide the drawer of controls out below the case. The other animal, a male, if the anatomy was similar to Earth mammals, continued a repetitive circuit of the cage.

Charles said, "We get a signal that the filter is getting blocked once or twice a day. But when I look at it the visual indicator doesn't show and the filter doesn't seem dirty."

Tucker put the unit in standby and removed the indicator. As the fan stopped circulating the little animal near the window looked around suddenly and smelt the air in its cage. Tucker tested the continuity and rocked the indicator back and forth in his hand, trying to see if the switch would cycle. He saw the little animal making the same motion with one paw.

Tucker said to Charles, "This looks like a faulty indicator. In general if you get an electrical signal but no visual, it’s the indicator, probably a bad switch. There is nothing wrong with this filter."

"Good," said Charles, "I was worried that they might not be getting the right gas mix, even though a sample said it was still correct."

As Tucker closed the drawer on the repaired unit he motioned to the animals, "Do they always do this?"
The little female was copying every movement Tucker made with his hands. It now motioned to him, just as he had motioned to it.

Charles said, "Yes, the female mimics a lot. I'm afraid the male randomly paces. He hasn't taken to captivity as well as she has."

Tucker had read about animals kept under poor conditions pacing. He'd seen pictures of ancient zoos that either kept animals totally unsuited to captivity, or ignorantly, in tiny cages. As if to underscore Charles' words, the male suddenly threw himself down as if exhausted. The female immediately ran to its side and nuzzled its head and neck and encircled the heaving sides with its front legs and small paws.

"What do we keep them for?"

"Just part of the collection, but they have an interesting chemical secretion associated with the reproductive cycle. We're studying how it works to trigger the female's ovulation. She was carrying young when they were collected, but the male killed them when she gave birth. If she carries another litter, we'll remove her before she gives birth again."

The male had now risen and was following his endless, mindless path through the cage. The female now returned to the front and tapped on the surface. It had smeared food or waste on the surface at some time in the recent past. It almost looked like a pattern.

Tucker suddenly turned and looked behind him. Across the aisle on the front of one of the covered vats was a sign reading, "CAUTION: Do not disengage nutrient and waste tubes without suspension closeout sequence activated." Tucker looked back to the little furred creature, tapping on the surface. The smears resembled Standard letters written backwards: N - O - I - T - U - A - C.

"Charles," said Tucker. "It's spelled out the same letters as this sign. Is this thing intelligent?"

"Oh, yes, on a certain level," said Charles brightly. "They live in rock faces. We saw several different colonies; the largest one ran for a quarter kilometer along a cliff face five to fifteen meters high. They live in family groups. Each group had its own crevice or a wall woven from grass on an exposed ledge. They appeared to decorate the walls with paw prints."

"Can't we communicate with them? Did we just collect these two and take them with us?"

Charles shrugged. "You needed them," she said. "They have no advanced technology. Their tool making was very limited. They don't appear to have a spoken language."

"Neither do deaf people," said Tucker. This was wrong. He thought about hundreds, maybe thousands of these creatures living in a group taking up a quarter click, now in a box, just the two of them, two by two by a meter and a half.

He'd ask Malcolm about this. He'd review the protocols.

"Are you all right, Commander Trip?" asked Charles.

"Yeah, fine."

"You haven't been down here for a while," she said. "Would you like to see Tin Calla? She's getting big."

He nodded absently and began to follow Charles down the aisle. Tucker could hear the frantic tapping of the little animal behind him fade as they walked away.

Charles made a sudden turn and went into a small room. He heard her voice, "Oh, are you awake?"

He felt like someone had suddenly shoved him as he made the corner and stepped in. Charles was holding a baby, cooing and cradling it in her arms against her flat and boyish body. The infant was very small; too young to hold up its own head, perhaps no more than two months old, if it were a human. But it wasn't. Below a hank of fuzzy blond hair on the top of its head, there were the prominent "fans" of bone the Vissians' cheeks arched out to.

"All woke up from your nap, and still dry. What a sweet little girl. Oh, look, Tin Calla. It's Uncle Trip."
Charles turned away from the baby bed set up in this makeshift nursery and brought the baby where he could see it. He cautiously put out a finger to stroke the tiny hand and the baby grasped it and stared up at him with pale blue-gray eyes.

Charles was so focused on the baby she didn't seem to notice his shock. Where had it come from? Was it Charles'? No, Phlox had said that the Cogenitor did not carry the child, the female Vissian did. He remembered Calla and Massy in the mess hall, sitting across from him and explaining the presence of this 'thing,' this living, breathing, thinking marital aid.

"Whu--, where is her mother?" he asked cautiously.

Charles looked at him in surprise. "Down in Detention, Commander." By now she had heard about Tucker's 'memory problems,' but this was apparently a huge slip of the mind.

Tucker very carefully disengaged the tiny hand from his finger. "Ah've… Ah've got to go, Charles," he said. "Ah have ta' get back to engineering."

He went back the way he'd come to avoid having to ask the few crewmembers in the area the way out of Life Sciences. He walked faster and faster. When he passed the cage with the otter-creatures he was nearly running.


After the shift end he practically ran back to their quarters and pulled up the logs from the first contact with the Vissians. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. He thought he had done harm before. He appeared to be right only in absolute and not comparative terms.

He heard Reed enter the room. He glanced to Tucker and a smile faded on his lips.

"What's the matter, Trip?" he asked.

"I saw Tin Calla today. Charles showed her to me."

"Yeesss..." Said Reed, "She's okay, isn't she?

"She seems fine."

"Then what's wrong?"

"I didn't realize she was on the ship. And Ah didn't realize how we got her here."

Reed slowly sat down on the couch.

"Trip. Tell me what you remember about us meeting with the Vissians."

Trip did so. He said nothing to make himself look good, and acknowledged his fault. He ended, "An' three days later, the Vissian Captain contacted us and told us that Charles had killed herself."

"Because Archer hadn't given her asylum…"

"No, Malcolm, because Ah lied, ignored orders from a senior officer, an' promised a naïve kid that she'd climb mountains, when she'd have to live out her life locked in a crate. Ah was probably the first person to ever make her a promise. An' then Ah broke it." Tucker put all his effort into keeping from losing what little control he had left.

"But, now Ah find out just how much worse it might have been, if Archer had tried to keep her on the Enterprise."

Tucker came close to Reed and looked down at him. "Malcolm. Why th' hell did we think we could get away with keepin' Charles and kidnappin' the Vissian's Chief Engineer and their microbiologist? Why th' hell did we do such a thing?"

Reed was very quiet. He sat still with his hands folded tightly in his lap. After a moment Reed rose and walked over to the exterior port.

Finally he looked back at Tucker and said, "It was a decision of the Command staff. A bad decision as it turned out. No one doubted, once you'd found out how her own people treated her, that Charles deserved to be allowed to come with us, if she asked, and she did. But the information they had exchanged with us was so tantalizing. Intelligent, mammalian humanoids with a totally unique reproductive system. It was exactly the sort of information we were supposed to collect. Commanders M'Butsu and Gupta, as well as Lieutenant de Silvo wanted desperately to get more information, more data. What they had given us was not nearly enough."

While he spoke, Reed began walking back and forth along the longest wall of their quarters, turning at the desks, then turning back again at the opposite wall. He continued, "You read the log. The Vissians wouldn't comply. They were uninterested in an exchange of personnel, the offer of Star Fleet Wardship, or an extended stay in the vicinity. They weren't about to leave Charles with us, let alone female and male crewmembers."

Tucker shouted, "So we tricked 'em on board an' kidnapped 'em? With the Vissians in a ship capable of outrunnin' us?"

Reed interrupted, "That would never happen now. We've adopted new protocols to avoid that kind of risk to the ship and crew."

" 'That' kind of risk? What about kidnappin', like we were some kind of Vikings? Why in the name of God did you agree with that, Malcolm?"

Reed stopped pacing abruptly and looked at him with a dry, pale, tightlipped face. A face that had not an ounce of guilt in it, for this at least.

Tucker felt the bottom dropping out of his rage.

"You didn't agree with it," Tucker said flatly.

Reed shook his head, negative. "No. No, I didn't, Trip."

"But the rest of us did. We said, 'take the risk'. I said that," said Tucker in a sick voice.

Reed nodded and looked away, but resumed his repetitive circuit of the room. "It's not a democracy, Trip. Captain Robinson has every right to give orders. He asked our opinions. We gave them. He made the final decision. Once it had been made I was responsible for making sure it was done as safely as possible.

"The first shots I laid down damaged their engines, and more importantly took out their communication grid. They'd been so very helpful, all of them. We knew so much about their engines, their communications, their weapons systems. I suppose they simply thought us too primitive to really pose a threat. And we'd been so friendly to them to begin with.

"But the damage wasn't enough. They caught up with us a two days later. They were at a disadvantage because they didn't want to injure their three people. If they had been able to disable us, there was no telling what might happen after they'd retrieved them. We couldn't even negotiate; their COM was still out. Robinson couldn't wait to see what would happen. There was an opening. I took it. I managed to hit the weapons bays, and promote a chain reaction. Then there was a warp breach, and that was all."

Reed returned to the couch and dropped down on it as if exhausted. He wouldn't look at Tucker. He was now very still. Tucker could think of nothing to say. He sat down too, not particularly close to Reed. This was what they did. This was what they did for Earth.

The protocols for, "Collecting Biological Information" were so dry that when Tucker had first read them, it had no real impact on him. With an example before him, pieces fell together. It was really a system of compromises. Primarily, collect the data, the samples, and the specimens. Focus on intelligent, mammalian, humanoids. Always trade, buy, or accept free information first. But the rarer the prize, the higher the risk they would take. If races were unwilling to share information or samples officially, contact independent individuals who might be persuaded by trade, purchase, or what had been termed 'limited coercion'. Hide evidence of contact where appropriate. Avoid contamination of possible future relationships. Avoid antagonizing races with superior technology and overt aggressive tendencies. Tucker's signature appeared on the revisions, along with the rest of the senior staff.

Finally Tucker asked, "Have we ever done this again? Destroyed a ship?"

Reed turned and looked at him curiously, "What it this? Do you think I've been trying to hide this from you? Do you think this is just a day in the life of Malcolm Reed? 'Ah, well, let's just snuff out the lives of hundreds of intelligent creatures, today, won't we?' I was trying to save our ship and our lives."

Reed's voice rose. He was shouting at Tucker now. "That I've managed to do it before without killing everyone on the vessel attacking us, is only a comparative virtue, I know.

"That I follow orders is my job; that I do it to keep my crewmates safe. no matter what their decisions lead us into. is my responsibility; and that I do it for Earth and our mission is my honor."

At the end he suddenly seemed to grab hold of himself, and stopped with a shuddering cry.

After a long moment Tucker said quietly, "This was the 'rough patch' wasn't it?"

Reed turned away and wouldn't look at Tucker, but he nodded slightly. The Armory officer was bowed over, his shoulders taunt, his head hanging. Tucker moved over a bit to sit closer. 'Don't let him get the wrong idea,' Tucker prayed as he reached out and put his nearest arm around Reed's closest shoulder. Reed pivoted around to face him and Tucker pulled him in, his other arm and hands encircling Reed. Reed rested his head on Tucker's shoulder, his forehead against Tucker's neck and jaw. He didn't cry; he wasn't that far gone, but his body shook. Reed kept his arms in and his hands clenched together in his lap.

What have we done? Tucker thought. What have I done 'there', in this place?

After a while Reed began to relax. And finally he sat up and Tucker let him go.

Reed said, "You want to ask me more, don't you?" It really wasn't a question.

Tucker asked, "So Massy and Calla are locked up someplace?"

Reed said, "They've never fully cooperated. They are both designated as Star Fleet Wards. If we can ever persuade them to be more accepting of their situation, they could be given as much freedom as Charles has. Everyone has been hoping that the baby would help that. If it weren't for Massy I think his wife would have had the run of the ship long before now. There's a detention area on D deck. It's been used as a brig as well a few times. That's where they are."

"Do we … study them?"

"I don't know the details, but yes. It would be pretty pointless if we didn't. They refused to cooperate at all at first. It’s a bit better now. They're rewarded for cooperating: an occasional meal in the messhall, PADDs with music, or films, or novels. They're exercised regularly. They both manage to be civil with Charles, now. Calla even will use the name. I think she was the one who actually convinced them to keep on trying to have a baby. The baby is helpful in getting them to cooperate as well."

Tucker thought about how to say this.

"Malcolm. I know I helped write those protocols. I know I've supported our using these methods. But … is there anything we won't do to collect the information required by the mission?"

Reed was very firm here. "Trip. They didn't send us out here to do something easy. We're talking about the future of humanity. We need this information. We are explorers with a purpose. No, we've no interest in being cruel for cruelty's sake. We've helped beings where we could, like Figan, and primitive cultures being exploited by other off-worlders. We've no interest in conquest. Earth doesn't want an Empire, or glory, or even power -- they want a future."

"But if it will take developing an Empire, or being able to exert that kind of power, would we?"

Reed looked at him as if he was missing the point. "Yes. Yes, Trip, we would. But if we're careful, and chose our risks wisely, that won't happen. Right now, we're hoping to find an Enolian freighter. If we do, we'll take steps, according to the protocol, to get the information their government wouldn't give us."

Tucker said, "Tell me what we'll do. Give me details, Malcolm."

Reed paused. "If we find a ship with a suitable crew, males and females, not well armed, alone, we'll hail them. We make contact. Captain Robinson asks to trade for information; invite their Captain to parley. They may need repairs to their ship or supplies. We make a deal. We copy any information they have: medical texts, that sort of thing. Members of their crew submit to medical exams. If there's nothing particularly outstanding about the information we get, that's it. Life Sciences studies the data to their hearts content, we make our good-byes. If anything looks promising later, we come back and try the Enolians again. That's it."

"What if they don't want to make a deal?"

"Since we already know the Enolians won't discuss this with us, that's why we'll only hail a ship we clearly outclass. It's less risk for us and for them. They're less likely to risk a confrontation. They'll be more agreeable. If it's First Contact with a species that might be as advanced as we are, or even close, we don't push it; we made that mistake with the Vissians."

"What if Life Sciences finds something immediately, decides they need specimens?"

"Again, it’s a trade. Any volunteer can become a WSF. It can be an exchange for them. A chance to learn about our technology and culture, and chance to liaison between us and their own people in the future."

Tucker found himself trying to marshal his arguments, trying to get Reed to see. "And again, we chose a ship that can't fight us back, right? People easier to coerce. Likely to give in to our demands?

"Malcolm this is wrong. The only change we've made since the Vissians is that we're less likely to antagonize someone who might manage to kill us. We're forcin' people, even kidnappin' people, or taking them hostage. We're keepin' people locked up ta serve our interests."

Reed looked worried and sympathetic. Tucker realized that Reed had taken his hand, almost without his knowing it.

"Trip. You're confused. You're just not seeing this right. We have to do this. We have to. We want to do it by causing as little disruption as possible, as little harm as possible."

This is self-doubt. We all have it. You've helped me with mine. But now you've been … injured in someway. Someway we don't understand. This is just bothering you now. When you start remembering, or when you start understanding that you're right exactly where you belong, where you've always been, then this will stop worrying you, Trip. When Elizabeth and Archer answer your letters, you'll feel better. You've got to give it some time."

'No,' Tucker thought, 'I won't.' This was all wrong. What were they doing to everyone they met? And what were they doing to themselves? How many more 'rough patches' would Malcolm have before he couldn't do his job -- or anything else? Before he no longer felt anything at all when he'd destroyed other lives in order to collect one more specimen?

And how much longer might it be before Tucker was convinced that this was just and right?

end Part 3


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