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Author - Shouldknowbetter | Genre - Angst | Genre - Drama | Main Story | R | Rating - PG-13
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Summary: Whilst hiding from the Xindi, Archer starts to experience visions of a different reality.
This series begins with “Down a Dark Road” which was originally part of the at TRIP! Fiction contest. The complete series is as follows:
“I was called to sickbay.” He came to stand on the lower bridge, in front of the science station. “Ensign Gomez didn’t make it.”
“She was a capable engineer.” The statement was prosaic but Archer knew the Vulcan well enough to know that it was sympathy she was offering.
“She was.” Archer sighed, rubbing his eyes. “I should go see Trip. He’s not going to take this well.”
“Captain, you have been without adequate sleep for nearly sixty hours. If you do not rest, you will be of very little use to Enterprise.”
“Don’t tell that to the Xindi. Any sign of them?”
“None. We appear to have eluded their scout ships.”
“You’re sure we’re safe from their sensors in here.”
“Long range scans will not reveal us. Closer investigation may do so.” She paused. “You did express a desire for the Xindi to come to us.”
Archer gave her a tired smile. “There’s a very wise saying on Earth, T’Pol: ‘Be careful what you wish for: you might receive it’. Remind me of that in future.” He turned for a look at the shifting pattern of gases visible on the view screen. “I never thought our time in the Delphic Expanse would give us the opportunity for investigating so many natural phenomena.”
“Indeed. The Vulcan Science Directorate will be interested in our findings.”
“Let’s just hope we get the chance to tell them.” The captain sighed. “I’ll speak to Trip then turn in.” He headed for the lift. “Goodnight, sub-commander.”
“Captain.” He looked back. “Go to bed. I will deal with Commander Tucker.” She saw his hesitation. “I believe it to fall within the remit you gave me.”
He nodded reluctantly, but even he was prepared to admit that he really was too tired to deal with the engineer’s likely fury. “Thank you, T’Pol. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Wearily Archer keyed open the door of his cabin and Tucker looked up from the bed, his lean body relaxed in jeans and tee shirt. “Hey, cap’n. Wanna go shoot some pool?”
Archer blinked and before he had had time to fully register his surprise at Tucker’s change in attitude, never mind the fact that the man should have been fully occupied in repairing Enterprise, his chief engineer was gone and there was Porthos, jumping off the bed to patter across to greet his master. Archer bent to scoop the dog up, too dazed to object to having his face licked in enthusiastic welcome. Then he shook his head; T’Pol was right, he was exhausted and that had allowed his concern for Tucker to get the better of him. It wasn’t as if the old Tucker’s behaviour would have been anymore acceptable at the moment than was his burning desire for revenge. Even if Lizzie hadn’t died, the light-hearted young man who could always tease his friend out of a bad mood wouldn’t have had a place on Enterprise in the Delphic Expanse.
Archer gave Porthos’ ears a final rub and deposited the beagle on the floor: a shower and bed with man’s best friend to keep him company. That was about as much as he could expect from life these days.
Irritated beyond endurance by his inability to concentrate, Tucker swore silently and prepared to get stealthily to his feet, halting when brown eyes rose to his as an eyebrow cocked. “You are finished?”
“I can’t even get started!” He sighed, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, T’Pol, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I’ll get out of your way.”
He started to scramble up but again paused when she said calmly, “I do not believe that would be wise.” Tucker stiffened in protest but she continued evenly, “You current agitation indicates that you would benefit from meditation.”
“Maybe it would,” he responded irritably, “but I told you, I can’t.”
“Do you wish to discuss the reasons for your current problem?”
T’Pol wondered why she bothered asking. “Then let us try another technique.” He shrugged grudging acceptance. “Give me your hand.”
“Your hand.” She was holding out her own.
“I thought Vulcans don’t like touching.” She continued to regard him steadily and he sighed, offering his hand gingerly and resorting to babble. “Why d’you bother, T’Pol? You know that all the mediation in the world isn’t gonna make any difference to how I feel about …”
“Commander Tucker. Be silent.” He subsided, dubiously watching his hand where it lay on T’Pol’s. “Close your eyes.” He frowned and the Vulcan sighed. “I am not going to harm you, commander. Nor do I see why you should expect that I would.”
“I dunno. It’s just …”
“Close your eyes.” He finally did as he was bid and felt warm fingers pressing against his skin.
“Do you do foot massage too?”
The fingers stilled. “Do I need to remind you that this is for your own good?”
“Get on with it, then.”
Actually, the pressure on his hand was soothing and T’Pol’s soft voice murmuring instructions doubly so and he was only aware that he had slid into a trance when he came out of it to blink at T’Pol who was watching him with something close to approval. He blinked again, a little confused, but aware that he felt calmer than he had in days. “What happened?”
“The physical contact between us allowed me to send you into a deeper trance than it is currently safe for you to achieve alone.”
“Oh. I feel … good.”
“I am glad.”
“Thanks.” Tucker became aware that their hands were still joined and hurriedly drew back. “Why’d you not do that when we first started instead of making me do it the hard way?”
“The technique I applied requires a certain level of trust between teacher and pupil.”
He grimaced. “I do trust you, T’Pol. It’s just …”
“I am Vulcan.”
“No! I mean, I know you’re Vulcan, but … you’re our Vulcan.”
“I see. Is that a compliment?”
He looked dubiously at the hard stare. “Maybe not.”
Archer wasn’t sure what woke him, but it certainly wasn’t the alarm; he must have forgotten to set it. And not only that, but he must have left the shower running too – he could distinctly hear the flow of water in the small bathroom. God, but he’d been tired. Then he jerked properly awake at the sound of feet exiting the shower cubicle. Fortunately, he’d also been too tired to remember to return his phase pistol to the armoury and he snatched it up from the shelf over his bed, automatically checking the setting as he edged towards the bathroom door. “Whose there?” No response. “I have you covered. Step out with your hands up.”
There was still nothing and Archer became conscious of the feel of the silence: not that of someone keeping quiet, but of emptiness. On the bed, Porthos stretched in lazy unconcern and went to investigate his bowl, hopeful that today was one day when his meals would be on time. The beagle might be a hopelessly spoilt lapdog rather than a fearless defender of his master, but even he would have taken notice if there had been an intruder in the cabin – after all, a visitor might offer cheese or at least a good scratch.
Cautiously, Archer pushed open the door to the bathroom and peered inside. Empty. Feeling like an idiot, he checked inside the shower cubicle itself, but it was dry. After all, what sort of intruder would penetrate the captain’s cabin only to take a shower? Face it, Jonathan, you were dreaming. Now wake up, get a grip and go sort out the mess waiting for you on the bridge.
“Archer to T’Pol.”
“Would you are to join me for breakfast, Sub-commander?”
“If you wish. I can update you on the status of our repairs.”
“Good. Are you in your quarters?”
“Then I’ll pick you in fifteen minutes. Archer out.” A detailed review of the extent of the damage Enterprise had suffered might not help his digestion, but it would certainly rid him of any lingering doubts over whether he had had an unauthorized visitor that morning.
Trying to decide whether he should stick with cereal or indulge himself with eggs, hash browns and bacon, Archer buzzed on T’Pol’s door and waited for her invitation to enter, but the door slid open almost at once, although his greeting died on his lips. His first officer had Enterprise’s chief engineer pinned against a side wall, and before Archer could intervene to save Tucker from serious injury he realized that the pair would not appreciate his intervention at all - not for one moment. Stunned and suddenly, shockingly hurt, he stepped back and the door slid closed in front of him. When the hell had that happened? During all those meditation sessions that he had encouraged? And they’d never thought to tell their captain and friend that his two senior officers were engaged in a passionate relationship?
He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, then the door opened again. “Captain?” T’Pol’s greeting was cool, calm and unruffled, just as was the woman herself. “Is something wrong?”
“I …” He blinked at her, confused by the transformation from unbridled lust to her normal self. “Where’s Trip?”
“At this time of day, I assume that Commander Tucker will be in the mess hall, unless he has felt the need to visit Engineering. Can you not locate him?”
“I saw … I thought he was with you.”
“As I assured you I would, I spoke with the commander last night. We meditated as we often do and then he left. I had no cause for concern over his physical condition.” She paused, regarding Archer with barely discernable alarm. “Captain, has something happened to Commander Tucker?”
“No.” Archer felt distinctly off balance. “I don’t think so.”
With a strange look at him, the Vulcan woman crossed to a comm. outlet. “T’Pol to Commander Tucker.”
There was barely a pause. “Tucker here.”
“Commander, what is your location?”
“I’m in my office. You want me somewhere else, Sub-commander?”
“Not at this time. T’Pol out.” She turned back to Archer, who was still gazing at her door. “Captain, are you feeling quite well?”
He took a deep breath. “I’m fine.” The smile felt forced but he hoped she wouldn’t notice. “Just hungry. Let’s see what chef has got for us this morning.”
The armoury was the scene of industrious activity when Tucker looked in and he halted on the threshold, running an experienced and critical eye over the work in progress.
“Is everything up to your standards, commander?”
The slightly jibing comment stiffened the engineer’s back and he moved over to where Reed was standing before the auxiliary launch controls for the torpedoes. “I guess I’ll find that out when I check the completed work. Do you need any help here?”
“You mean you can spare your team for something important?”
Tucker’s jaw shifted but to T’Pol’s credit he didn’t sock the Englishman in the face. “No, lieutenant, I’m short-handed so I can’t spare anyone – unless you tell me you need the help.”
“Fine. Then I won’t waste any more of your time – or mine.” He headed for the door. “Report to me when you’re finished, Lt. Reed. I don’t want any of this brought on-line until I’m sure it’s been properly tested.”
In the corridor, Tucker took his frustration out on a wall, then performed one of the exercises that T’Pol had taught him, which had the advantage of being less painful. He was still wondering if he’d broken anything when Archer approached him half an hour later, peering over the engineer’s shoulder into the depths of a computer interface. “That’s a mess.”
“You said it.” Tucker pulled out another handful of scorched components and held them out to the other man. “Once the hull plating’s breached, we don’t have much defence against those high energy weapons.”
“Any ideas on that one?”
“A few.” The engineer turned his head from his contemplation of the damaged compartment to look reprovingly at his captain. “But someone expects me to fix his ship every time he gets it broken so I’ve not had time to work on it.”
Archer smiled; it was good to have Trip tease him again. “I’ll be sure to tell him not to be so unreasonable.” Then he caught sight of Tucker’s hand and snatched. “Trip! If you’ve been fighting …”
Tucker pulled his hand free with an irritated shake of his head. “No, cap’n, I’ve not been fighting. And if I had, I think the wall would have won.”
“Let me guess.” Archer leant back against the wall, arms folded. “Malcolm.”
His friend turned back to the damaged interface. “Leave it, Cap’n.”
“All it’ll take is for one of you to apologise.”
“Trust me on this one, Trip. You’re just hurting each other.”
“Is that an order, sir?”
“Just friendly advice.”
“Then until it’s an order, I’ll just continue to ignore your advice, Cap’n.”
Archer shook his head but by now he knew better than to push and he couldn’t make it an order. Chief engineer and armoury officer still performed their duties effectively. It was Trip and Malcolm who were the problem.
He watched in silence as Tucker resumed work, almost jumping when the engineer said mildly, “If you’re short of work, cap’n, I can always find you a repair job.”
“I prefer to watch the experts, commander.” For a moment, the repartee made it seem as if nothing had changed, then Tucker scowled.
“Damned Xindi! When are we gonna start teaching them a lesson, cap’n? Murdering bastards have had it their own way too long.”
T’Pol halted beside the compartment where Tucker was still working and for once didn’t come straight to the point. He glanced over at her pensive gaze after a few moments, his look half way between a frown and a laugh. “I’m gonna start selling tickets! What can I do for you, sub-commander?”
“The damage to the computer interface is extensive.”
“Have you been talking to the Cap’n?”
She gave him a wary look. “Why do you ask?”
“You both seem real interested in what I’m doing today.”
There was a thoughtful pause. “Commander, have you noticed any change in Captain Archer’s behaviour recently?”
“You see more of the cap’n than I do, T’Pol. You tell me.”
An eyebrow rose at the change in tone. “That I spend more time than you with the captain whilst we are on duty is inevitable given that we work mostly on the bridge and you are frequently in Engineering.”
Some of the tension left Tucker’s face. “He seemed OK when he was down here earlier. Is there a problem?”
“Evidently not. Good day, commander.”
Porthos waited patiently by the desk in Archer’s cabin, confident that if he sat there long enough some portion of his master’s dinner would come his way. He was proven correct when the human deposited his plate on the floor, the sight of steak making the dog’s tail wag.
Archer watched the beagle enjoying his snack and nudged the little dog with a gentle foot. “You’re getting fat.” He was ignored until the plate was cleared then again appealed to. “No, I’m not having any cheese tonight so neither are you.” Porthos sighed and plumped down on his haunches, pawing hopefully at a leg. “No! No cheese.” Archer looked down at his pet and sighed himself then reached across the desk to pick up a small ball. “Come on, boy, let’s go for a walk.” The beagle had seen the ball and was already at the door, tail busy; he knew what a ball meant.
Porthos also knew where to go when balls were being carried and trotted ahead of Archer to the cargo bay when they exited the lift, turning back expectantly to be sure his master was keeping up. Grateful for the distraction from the cares of the day, Archer grinned and keyed open the door, tossing the ball inside for the dog to chase and following him in – into a room that didn’t contain what he had been expecting.
Archer halted mid-stride at the sight of the half dozen Xindi facing him, heart beginning to race until he saw that they were chained to an equipment rack, arms twisted cruelly behind them. He was still trying to assimilate what he was seeing when a familiar voice spoke from one side. “The last one died without talking. Which one do you want tortured next?”
Reed came into view and the captain knew that he was just about to answer the Englishman when the scene faded and there was nothing before him but a cargo bay stacked with crates and Porthos trotting towards him, ball clamped firmly in his teeth.
As always Phlox was in sickbay when Archer entered, Porthos tucked firmly under one arm. The Denobulan came forward with a smile. “Ah, my favourite patient!” His tone was only mildly facetious. “The only one on the entire ship who doesn’t answer back and who doesn’t know better than his physician what’s good for him.” He took the dog and placed him onto a table. “What’s the problem this time?”
“Porthos is fine.”
“Then what can I do for you, Captain?”
“I think I’ve strained a muscle in my back.”
“Hmm.” Phlox picked up a scanner and ran it over the problem area. “I’m not detecting anything wrong.”
“It comes and goes.”
“Well, perhaps next time it comes, you could bring it here.”
“I’ll do that, doctor.” Archer turned, expression innocent. “How’s the crew? Any … problems?”
“Did you have something specific in mind?”
“No. Just … general well-being.”
“Physically they’re fine, apart from those recovering from injury, of course. Mentally … well, we’re all under a strain at the moment. Tempers can be a little touchy, but most people are coping.”
“The strangest sight I’ve heard of was Ensign Sato throwing Ensign Mayweather over her shoulder during judo practise. He suffered extensive bruising – particularly to his pride, I understand.” Archer smiled dutifully and Phlox gave him a knowing look. “Is there something you’d like to tell me, Captain?”
“Such as why you really came to see me tonight.” He smiled at Archer’s hesitancy. “I am a doctor, after all. It’s my responsibility to look beyond the surface of what my patients tell me.”
“Can you be more specific?”
“I’ve walked into rooms … and there are people there who … aren’t. After a few seconds, they simply … disappear.”
“Anyone you recognise?”
“Trip a couple of times, Malcolm … and just now, a cargo hold full of Xindi.”
The Denobulan nodded reassuringly, even as he reached for a scanner again. “I’m sure there’s nothing to concern you, captain. As I said, we’re all under stress and none more so than you.” He looked up from the results. “I’m detecting no sign of physical damage, but you are exhausted and a tired mind and body can play strange tricks. I’m going to give you a mild sedative.” He administered it before Archer had a chance to object. “Now I want you to go directly to your quarters and get a good night’s sleep.” He was already pushing the captain towards the doors. “Those are your doctor’s orders and I expect them to be obeyed. Come and see me again if the problem reoccurs.”
“Thanks, doc,” and he was genuinely grateful for the reassurance. “Goodnight.”
A fuller discussion of their status in the situation room the next day didn’t make the problem they faced any smaller. It would still take two days more before the engineering team could restore full capability and, as Tucker aggressively pointed out, the repairs were making a sizeable dent in their stockpile of spare components.
“I know that, Trip.” Archer had learnt not to give the engineer the opportunity to talk himself into a temper. “But the damage is done and we have to fix it. What we need to do is prevent it happening again. Any progress on a defence against those high energy weapons?”
“Not since the last time you asked, sir.”
“Captain,” T’Pol put in, “this may be the opportunity to give Commander Tucker the time he needs to work on a solution.”
“What, now you want me to go without sleep too?”
She ignored Tucker’s sarcastic interjection. “None of the remaining repairs are beyond the skill of the individual members of the engineering team. If I take over their supervision, then Commander Tucker would have the time to devote to Enterprise’s defense.”
Wary of an explosion from Tucker at the suggestion that someone else run his department, Archer looked over at the engineer who was staring fixedly at T’Pol. “What about it, Trip?”
Now that was a hell of a lot easier then he had expected – unless Tucker was planning a God-awful row with T’Pol later. “Good. Give it your best shot, Trip. If I can help …”
The engineer finally looked away from T’Pol with a crocked smile. “I’ll call you, Cap’n.” The smile faded at the man’s gaze moved onto Reed. “I’ll need Lt. Reed’s input.”
“Of course, commander. I’m always available to help the Engineering team.”
Archer brought the meeting to a close and retired to the ready room to study what data they had collected on the Xindi weaponry. Whatever Tucker’s opinion of his captain’s engineering skills, Archer had always believed that he could provide useful input – even if his suggestions were often laughed out of court.
He hadn’t been in there for more than half an hour when the door opened and he looked up in surprise at the unheralded entry; even T’Pol always respected his privacy. “Cap’n.” Tucker sauntered over to perch on the desk and for the first time Archer had the leisure to notice the changes, not so much to the man but to his clothing. “What d’you say we eat in your quarters tonight?” The smile was lazy, affectionate, and seemed to promise a good deal more than a quiet meal between friends. It faded slowly as Archer stared at the man who perhaps wasn’t his chief engineer at all. “Jon? Jonny, what’s up?”
“Captain!” Archer heard T’Pol’s voice before he saw her, then she solidified before him as the vision of the leather clad Tucker dissolved. “Captain Archer!” He stared up at her, mouth half open. “Captain, are you all right?”
He nodded more from instinct than because he was. “T’Pol … did you see … someone else in here?”
“No. Captain, are you sure you are well?”
“Positive.” For some reason, he didn’t want to confide in T’Pol just yet. “What did you want?”
She held out a PADD. “I thought you might care to approve the list of tasks I will be forced to postpone whilst assisting in Engineering.”
“I’m sure it’s fine. Is that all, sub-commander?” She gave him a doubtful look but left and Archer leant back and took a deep breath. Now that had been the weirdest one yet and whatever Phlox said, he didn’t think it was a hallucination. That other Trip had seen him, reacted to his own surprise. This called for a little discreet investigation – and then maybe he’d get his science officer involved.
Archer found Tucker in his cabin, bent studiously over a terminal. “Don’t ask me how it’s going, Cap’n.”
“That well, huh? Why the seclusion, Trip?”
“T’Pol was driving me nuts in Engineering. Kept coming in and offering advice.”
“Want me to tell her to back off?”
“Nah.” Tucker finally looked up. “She had a few good ideas. What’s up, Cap’n?”
Archer just managed to avoid reacting to the choice of phrase that echoed his earlier encounter. “Trip, have there been any radiation leaks reported?”
“No.” The younger man shook his head with a frown. “Why d’you ask?”
“Just a thought. No release of toxic gases from materials hit by the energy weapons?”
“No, cap’n.” Tucker’s hackles were rising. “Has someone said something? Because we swept the whole ship for damage and …”
“Calm down, Trip. Like I said, it was just a thought. I’ll see you later.”
Archer knew Tucker watched him as he left the cabin, but hoped the lure of an engineering puzzle would soon drive his captain’s odd questions from the engineer’s mind.
Even though he spent the rest of the day in researching hallucinations, temporal shifts and plain paranoia, Archer was none the wiser by the time he prepared for bed. He hesitated over the portable scanner he had appropriated but finally activated it and left it open within reach of his bed. Nothing else was going to happen, of course, but he’d kick himself if he didn’t take every precaution. Reassured by the notion that nothing was wrong, he stretched out on the bed and patted the blankets encouragingly. “Porthos. Here, boy.” The beagle jumped up, offered the hand that scratched him a goodnight lick, then turned round several times and subsided with a sigh: it was a hard life being a captain’s dog. Archer grinned, settled back against the pillows and turned out the light.
He’d left the shower running again. For a moment the fact didn’t worry him then Archer sat up, snatching at the scanner as the water cut off and someone stepped out of the shower, but it had gone. As close to panic as he’d been in a long time, he took a look around the room and saw that it had changed. Oh, the size and shape were much the same but the colour was now a warmer shade than Starfleet grey and the bric-a-brac strewn around was not his own.
“So you’ve finally woken up?” The voice was amused and Archer looked round in half-stunned acceptance as Tucker emerged from the bathroom, a towel round his hips as he rubbed his hair with another. “You need more exercise, Jon. I never used to wear you out so easy.”
“What are you doing here?” It wasn’t the most sensible of questions when Tucker had made it quite clear why he was showering in his captain’s quarters in the early morning, but Archer’s brain wasn’t up to anything else just yet.
Tucker laughed and dropped the towel from around his hips to wriggle into the tightest pair of leather pants Archer had ever seen. “I’m here because I wanna be. You don’t need to be jealous, Jon. T’Pol’s a possessive bitch but I love you.” The younger man was preening in front of the mirror and still hadn’t taken more than a casual glance at the man in the bed. “I’m just no good at staying faithful. You should know that by now.” He shrugged into a matching leather jacket and finally turned to face the bed. “I’m off. I’ll …” Then he froze, the look of cheerful unconcern fading. “Who the hell are you?”
Archer’s breath was coming fast as he realized that this time the vision – hallucination? – was different. This time he was really there. “I think I should be asking the same question.”
“Don’t bother.” Tucker’s hand flicked out and extracted a hand weapon from a nearby drawer. “Just tell me what you’ve done with Jon or I’ll get T’Pol in here and she can show you some real interesting ways of asking questions.”
“Morning.” T’Pol looked up as Tucker exploded into the captain’s mess. “Sorry I’m late.”
“Do not feel the need to apologise. The captain is also late.”
The engineer grunted and reached for orange juice, shrugging as he drained half the glass in a single gulp. “Maybe he stayed up late.” He practically snatched a loaded plate from the steward and began shoveling food into his mouth, drawing himself a disapproving glance.
“You are in a hurry, commander?”
He shrugged again since his mouth was full, nodding as he swallowed. “I got a real good idea about 0200 and it still looked good at 0600.”
“You believe that staying awake all night will enhance your inventive talents?”
“Nah.” He grinned at her and T’Pol wondered why they had never considered providing the engineer with work-related therapy before. “I slept between times. You up for meditating tonight?”
“I am rarely ‘up’ for anything, commander, but I must meditate every day. You are welcome to join me.”
“OK. I’ll catch you later.” He was already on his feet. “Everything all right in Engineering?”
“I will inform you if it is not.”
He turned to go and nearly bumped into the steward. “Does Captain Archer want his breakfast taken to his cabin this morning, ma’am?”
Tucker fidgeted, waiting to push past the other man as T’Pol rose to her feet to reach the comm. Why she couldn’t let the steward ask he didn’t know, although the lack of response pulled him back into the room as she repeated the hail. Then she looked over at him and he knew why she had bothered: T’Pol was worried and that meant he was now worried too. He met her look and nodded. “Let’s go.”
There was no response to the buzz at Archer’s door and Tucker reached over T’Pol’s shoulder to override the lock, grimacing at her surprise. “Someone needs to be able to get in.”
The door opened and they stepped inside, halting as Porthos looked up with a whine from the bed where he had been licking Archer’s face. Her face carefully blank, T’Pol approached the bed to lay a hand on the man’s shoulder. “Captain?” He lay still and she looked up at Tucker as he joined her, his expression grim. “Call Dr Phlox.”
Archer looked down the barrel of the dangerous looking handgun – somehow he didn’t think it came with a stun setting – and into the hard, accusing eyes of the other man. “I am Jonathan Archer.”
“I am.” The blue eyes narrowed dangerously. “Listen to me, Trip! It seems that … I’m not the Jonathan Archer you know.”
There was a pause. “Keep talking.”
Archer shook his head slightly, looking around the cabin again as he wondered where to start. “For starters … I’ve only known you ten years and we’re friends, not lovers.”
A flicker of surprise crossed the other’s face. “What stopped us?”
The captain ignored the question. “Enterprise is different too. Colour scheme, uniforms, weapons. Just the people are the same … but different.”
“Yesterday,” Tucker was frowning, “when I came into the ready room and Jon looked at me as if he’d never seen me before …”
“That was me. For a couple of days now, I’ve been seeing this ship. Just for a few seconds at a time. And now … I’m here.”
“Hell.” The other man sunk down on the far end of the bed although he kept the gun ready.
“Did your Archer mention anything like this?”
“No. When I called him on it, he said I was imagining things.”
“That’s what I thought.”
The door buzzer sounded, oddly harsh in the altered cabin. And then it sounded again. “You better get that.” The gun had disappeared but the captain knew it hadn’t gone far.
Archer hadn’t known what to expect, but his wildest nightmares hadn’t suggested a furiously angry Vulcan. T’Pol’s eyes were snapping with temper and her posture was rigid with it as she stalked into the cabin to confront Tucker, ignoring her captain. “You did not come to me this morning.”
“I was busy.”
“You don’t own me, T’Pol.” Tucker rose to face her. “And don’t say you’re gonna break my neck because we all know you like me in your bed too much to kill me. Besides, Jon’d kill you if you hurt me.”
She held still for a moment, breathing hard, then shot a burning look at Archer and flung out of the cabin, leaving a smirking Tucker looking after her. “Damn, but sometimes I think we should have spaced her when we took out Kos.”
“Who?” Not the most sensible of questions Archer had ever formulated but the encounter with a T’Pol who wasn’t T’Pol had shaken him even more than meeting a different Tucker.
“Her husband. One of Soval’s agents.” Tucker spoke casually as he turned back to face the older man. “Who’d you steal Enterprise from if not Kos?”
“Why would I steal my own ship? Starfleet assigned me to Enterprise.”
He saw the frown start before it began to fade before his eyes. “What’s Starfleet?”
Phlox looked up from Archer’s unresponsive body to where T’Pol and Tucker stood at the foot of the biobed. “There’s nothing more I can tell you, sub-commander. All my scans indicate that Captain Archer is awake.”
“Then how do you explain his condition?”
The Denobulan gave a small shrug, unmoved by the Vulcan woman’s hard stare. “I can’t. All I can suggest is that you allow me the time to undertake a more thorough investigation.”
She appeared unappeased, as did Tucker, then the engineer stiffened and lunged forward. “Cap’n!” He had a hand on Archer’s shoulder as the man blinked, raising a hand towards his head. “Cap’n, are you OK?”
The captain looked up at the younger man for a moment then around at the other faces, lingering on T’Pol’s. “I’m fine.” He sat up slowly as Tucker stepped back. “What happened?”
“When you did not arrive for breakfast this morning, Commander Tucker and I went to your cabin,” T’Pol informed him quietly. “We found you in bed, apparently unconscious.”
“Although your brain activity indicated that you were, in fact, awake,” Phlox added cheerfully and ran a scanner over Archer’s head. “As it does now. Captain,” he appeared to hesitate, glancing at the two witnesses, “have you had any more ‘visions’?”
“Yes.” Archer cleared his throat, not seeing the quick look T’Pol and Tucker exchanged. “Yes, I have. Only this time I was really there.”
The captain appeared oblivious to the concern of those around him. “I was on another Enterprise. One where Starfleet didn’t exist. Where the Vulcans,” he looked up at T’Pol with a frown, “weren’t … Vulcan. It was like … a reflection in a mirror.”
“Captain,” T’Pol spoke slowly, “are we to understand that this is not the first time this … phenomenon … has occurred?”
“Yes. No!” Archer rubbed his forehead. “I told you, this time I was there, I could interact with the people. Before I was just … watching.”
The first officer looked over at Phlox, her concern obvious, and the Denobulan said carefully, “The human brain has a tremendous capacity for deceit. Dreams can seem very real to the individual.”
“You’re saying the cap’n was dreaming?” Tucker asked doubtfully and Archer shook his head irritably.
“You said I wasn’t asleep, doctor.”
“Not in the normal sense, no.”
“It wasn’t a dream or a fantasy,” the captain said firmly. “Something strange is going on. I want to know what it is before it puts Enterprise in danger. T’Pol, I set up a scanner in my cabin last night. I want you to take a look, see if there’s anything anomalous showing up. If not, then extend your search outside Enterprise. I’ll join you – just as soon as the doctor supplies me with a uniform.”
“Which won’t be until tomorrow morning.” The Denobulan pushed the irritated man back onto the bed. “I’d like to keep you under observation until then, captain, and run some more tests. Besides, the inactivity will do you no harm at all.” He gave T’Pol a significant look and she took the hint.
The frown intensified. “Such as?”
“His trip to the 31st century. His encounter with the unknown individual who told him of the Xindi.”
Tucker’s expression was now just plain mad. “If you’re implying that Cap’n Archer is off his rocker, then you can stop right there, Sub-Commander T’Pol. Or if you wanna make something of it, then call Starfleet and see what Admiral Forrest has to say. But don’t try that approach with me!”
He stormed away and T’Pol watched him go with resignation. Human loyalty was admirable, but some individuals took it to excess.
It was late in the day when Tucker came onto the bridge and wandered over to the science console, taking up a position leaning against it. A quick glance informed T’Pol that the human had recovered from his earlier annoyance with her although she waited for him to speak. “Find anything?”
“Nothing at all beyond the fact that Captain Archer allows his canine to sleep on his bed.”
Tucker snorted. “The cap’n’s going crazy down in sickbay.” He correctly interpreted T’Pol’s wide-eyed stare and translated impatiently, “He’s frustrated! So what do we do now?”
“I see no option but to continue with our repairs in order to leave this region of space with all dispatch.”
“You think it could be the gas cloud affecting the Cap’n?”
“The evidence is circumstantial, but at the moment we have no better hypothesis.”
“Except that he’s crazy.”
The challenge in the blue eyes wasn’t aggressive but it was there. “I do not doubt Captain Archer’s sanity.”
“Phlox hasn’t come up with anything.”
“For which we should be grateful.”
“I guess.” He sighed and straightened. “You wanna grab something to eat?” and that was probably all the apology she would get for his earlier behaviour towards her.
“There are still some tests I wish to run.”
“OK”. He was at the lift when her terminal bleeped and he swung back. “Not again!”
If T’Pol shared Tucker’s disbelief, she didn’t show it. “Ships are approaching the perimeter of the gas cloud.”
He shook his head in resignation. “Call the Cap’n.”
Phlox knew better than to try and restrict his captain when he’d been summoned to the bridge so it was only a few minutes after T’Pol’s call that Archer stepped through the bridge doors and stopped abruptly as he took in the changes, although this time it was anger that gripped him rather than surprise. He didn’t have time for this!
“Cap’n,” Tucker rose from the command chair, “we got Xindi incoming. You wanna …” and even if the man wasn’t the Tucker that Archer knew, he had to admire the younger man’s composure as he realized what had happened and smoothly covered for it, “discuss our options in the ready room?”
The captain nodded and headed that way, for the first time realizing that his own clothing had changed to match that of his crew: black leather, not the most comfortable of outfits. The door closed behind them and Archer found himself confronted with a disconcerting display of knives, whips and swords surrounding a mural of a bleeding hand clutching a stylized dagger. “Nice décor.”
“Jon got a little carried away in here.”
“What did he say after I … left … last time.”
“Nothing useful.” Tucker folded his arms, mouth set grimly. “He thought he’d been asleep.”
“I need to get back!” Archer looked around him in frustration. “We had ships approaching our position too.”
“Then leave! I’m getting kind of tired of this myself.”
“Believe me, I would if I could.”
“We need to deal with those Xindi ships or someone’ll spot there’s a problem.”
“Fine!” Archer slumped into the luxuriously upholstered chair behind a desk that looked at if it was made of real wood. “Is this Enterprise in any condition to fight?”
Tucker frowned. “Sure, but there are a few too many ships out there. I made it a dozen, maybe.”
“Captain, do you want me to charge weapons or not?” Even over the comm., Reed sounded irritable. “A decision any time soon would be nice.”
Tucker reached over to answer while Archer was still reacting to the disrespectful tone. “Do it, Malcolm.”
“Who made you captain?”
“Just do it! And leave us alone for a while. We’re busy.” The line went dead and Tucker scowled. “Stupid Brit! You’re gonna have to take him out one day, Jon, before he decides he’s waited long enough for your job.”
“I don’t understand this.” Archer felt that some clarification was in order. “On my Enterprise, we’re in the Delphic Expanse to track down the Xindi following an unprovoked attack on Earth. We can withstand their smaller ships but not if they attack in force. At the moment, we can’t even do that – we’re still making repairs from our last encounter. And half my crew don’t want me dead!”
“The Vulcans sent you in?”
“No, the Vulcans didn’t send us in! They were against the idea, but Starfleet authorized the mission.”
“Starfleet? You said that before.”
“The Earth-based organization set up to promote space exploration. If you’re not part of Starfleet … what do you belong to?”
Tucker settled onto the desk, unsmiling. “I guess you could call us … the ‘Jonathan Archer World Domination Party’.” Archer blinked and Tucker continued impatiently, “Why are we having this conversation, cap’n? You wanna get home, I want my Jon back. Is this getting us anywhere?”
“Unless you’ve got any better ideas, commander, exchanging information seems the only way forward.”
“Commander?” The younger man grinned. “I could get used to that.”
“You don’t have any ranks here?”
“Jon and Malcolm and a few others belonged to Earth’s Security Force, but I think the Vulcans kind of noticed they quit the day we stole Enterprise.”
Archer shook his head. “Go back. It sounds as if your Vulcans have a different relationship with Earth than the ones in my world.”
“No kidding? Never tell me yours let Cochrane live?”
It was Reed’s irritated call that alerted those on the bridge to a problem. “Reed to Commander Tucker.”
The engineer moved away from the tactical display he had been studying. “Why aren’t you at your bridge station, Llieutenant?”
“Because the lift to the bridge isn’t working! Do you think you could manage to address a minor thing like that, commander?”
Tucker scowled at the taunting tone and crossed to the lift doors, flipping off the access panel to run a quick check and frowning at the result, even as he pressed the call button. The doors parted immediately and his breath hissed between his teeth. “T’Pol!”
She crossed to his side and together they watched Archer’s vacant stare from where his body stood motionless against the rear wall of the lift.
A couple of stunned seconds passed while Archer recovered from the shock of Tucker’s careless remark and the younger man watched him curiously. “Zephram Cochrane,” the captain said at last. “Inventor of the warp drive. First man to break the speed of light.”
“That’s him. Murdered by the first Vulcan to step onto Earth’s soil.”
“Not in my history.”
Tucker frowned. “But they killed your dad, right?”
“No!” Archer came to his feet, a hand rubbing the back of his neck. “I admit that relations with the Vulcans haven’t been easy, but they’re a reasonably peaceful people. I might not agree with their policy towards Earth but they’ve never resorted to violence to impose it.”
“Here they’re a bunch of murdering bastards. Earth’s been part of the Vulcan Hegemony for over ninety years and they’ve exploited us every step of the way.”
“That’s why you’re out here? To free Earth?”
The other man shrugged. “I don’t know I’d say ‘free’. Jon can be as big a bastard as any Vulcan. We just want a change of government – with us in charge.”
“So why are you in the Delphic Expanse?”
“Things were getting a little hot for us outside. The Vulcans didn’t like it when we started stirring up the Klingons and exploiting their technology so we thought we’d have a little downtime.”
“In the Delphic Expanse?”
“Sure. There’s some useful technology up for grabs - if you know how to ask nicely.”
Archer was sure by now that this Tucker’s idea of asking nicely wasn’t his. “This is crazy.”
“Believe me, I would if I could.” He paced around the small room, conscious that the other man watched him. “You’ve detected nothing out of the ordinary?”
“Apart from the fact that my boyfriend’s undergone a personality transplant?”
“Trip, will you take this seriously!”
Tucker moved fast, coming to stand facing Archer, barely inches away. “I’m not laughing, cap’n! I may be unfaithful and venal and all the rest of that crap, but I love Jon and I want him back.”
The door opened before either man had had a chance to move and a cool voice said disdainfully, “Mr. Reed said that you were busy. I see he was mistaken.”
Tucker didn’t move except to turn his head towards the door. “Go away, T’Pol.”
Looking in the same direction, Archer saw that the Vulcan woman was far more composed than the angry termagant from earlier in the day, but he still didn’t like the hard look in her eyes – not in the light of Tucker’s explanations.
“I thought you might wish to know that the Xindi ships are still approaching and Mr. Reed is eager to return to his questioning of the remaining prisoners.”
“Then let him.”
She ignored the engineer – if he was one in this very strange universe. “Captain?”
“Tell Malcolm to hold off the torturing for now.” Even on an Enterprise not his own, Archer wasn’t yet prepared to go that far.
“A good choice, Captain. Mr. Reed’s techniques are crude. I will take his place.”
An eyebrow rose in a fair imitation of the T’Pol he knew. “Surely you do not mean to give up your pursuit of information?”
“Unwise. It will be perceived as weakness.”
“She’s got a point, Jon.” Out of sight of the woman, Archer felt a sharp pricking in his side that really didn’t need further explanation. “T’Pol was one of Soval’s best, remember. Shame to waste the opportunity.”
“Then I will proceed.”
She left and Archer glared at the younger man as the knife was withdrawn. “This is still your captain’s body.” It wasn’t his own, he was sure of that. There was something subtly off, something he preferred not to think about too closely.
“But it’s you who’d feel the pain right now. You’d better start remembering that you’re not in command here. With my Jon gone AWOL, I’m in charge.”
“And he’d endorse torturing prisoners?”
“So? We want the information. You should think on it, Jon. It makes getting what you want a whole lot easier.”
T’Pol was aware of doubt in the faces of the humans gathered around the briefing table. While she did not share their feeling, she had to admit to a certain degree of … uncertainty. It was not unusual for a crisis to strike when Archer was away from Enterprise – indeed, his absence often initiated the crisis – yet to know that their captain was on the ship but unable to take part in her defense was unusual. “There are five Xindi ships. They do not appear to be aware of our presence but they are moving into the gas cloud. I estimate that it will take them no more than three hours to locate Enterprise.”
“We’ve restored full offensive capability,” Reed offered and glanced over at Tucker. “How’s the new shielding coming, commander?”
“I might have something in another few days. Not three hours.”
“We may not have three hours.” They all looked at Phlox who had been invited to join the discussion. “I’m afraid I’ve noted a deterioration in Captain Archer’s condition.”
There was a moment’s painful silence then T’Pol said flatly, “Explain.”
“The captain’s brain patterns are fading.” The Denobulan looked around the table at the confused faces. “I noticed the effect this morning but it was so slight I dismissed it. Now it’s happening again at a significantly increased rate. I estimate that all brain activity will have ceased in a little over two hours.”
“I wish I could tell you.” The doctor shrugged. “I have no explanation and no solution expect to leave this area of space and to hope that there is a causal relationship between our current location and the captain’s condition.”
“Then we need to get rid of the Xindi.” Tucker’s voice was hard. “I’m not letting those murdering bastards cause the cap’n’s death.”
Archer was pacing the floor of the ready room of the other Enterprise, furious with himself for obeying Tucker’s curt injunction to stay put but not knowing what else he could reasonably do. The balance amongst what he assumed he should still call his officers appeared fragile and he had no desire for a knife in his back – even if it wasn’t his own back.
Increasingly frustrated, he turned back to the computer records that had done no more than confirm the story Tucker had outlined for him. In this reality the Earth of the 22nd century was a place of poverty and social deprivation where a small elite held power under Vulcan protection, and he’d been one of the rising stars of that elite, Soval’s star pupil. That had made Archer smile reluctantly at the idea of himself ever earning the Vulcan’s approval, but there was still nothing that explained why he was here instead of on his own ship, where he could only hope that his real crew were working on a plan to get him back into his body as fast as possible. There might be something grimly compelling about this place but he didn’t want to be marooned in it indefinitely.
As he so often did, he turned to the view port where nothing was visible but the multi-coloured strands of the gas cloud – and realized just how off-balance this encounter had left him: he’d missed the obvious. Without waiting to weigh the risk of exposing himself to more of the strange crew, he headed onto the bridge, crossing to the science console where Tucker was working. The younger man looked up, mouth tightening in disapproval. “I told you …”
“Listen.” Archer made his voice firm, doubting that informed discussion was encouraged on this Enterprise. “My visions of this ship only started after we’d entered the gas cloud. Maybe it’s something within it that’s causing the effect. We need to move out.”
“With the Xindi sat outside?”
“Do you want your Archer back or not?”
That was said louder than he had intended and following Tucker’s scowl he saw that Sato and Mayweather were smirking at each other. “You know I do, Jon.” That was said more clearly than before and the tone was caressing then Tucker stepped closer to whisper in Archer’s ear as an arm snaked around his neck. “But if you don’t watch your step, I’ll seal you in Jon’s cabin until this is over.” The hand ran over the captain’s shoulder and down his chest, ending with a gentle shove. “Now I’ve got work to do.”
This Tucker was a much better actor than the man he knew, Archer acknowledged, but he refused to be dismissed so easily. “We need to leave.”
“When we’re ready.”
“Captain,” the woman who looked like Sato said, “the Xindi want to speak to you.”
The two men exchanged a long look then Tucker said softly, “Be careful, Jon.”
A little chilled by the implicit threat, Archer nodded to Sato and moved towards the center of the bridge, feeling his muscles tense as the Xindi appeared on the main view screen. Maybe this version of the species hadn’t attacked Earth, but his reaction was instinctive.
“You’re Jonathan Archer?”
He’d not heard a Xindi speak before; the voice was harsh. “I am.”
“You have my daughter aboard your vessel.”
Archer was still struggling with that one when Tucker stepped to his shoulder, making the captain wonder if he had been hovering because of a lack of trust or because he was never far from his own captain. “That’s right.”
The face of the Xindi seemed to contract. “What sort of men are you, to kidnap children?”
Archer very nearly snapped back that they weren’t the ones who had slaughtered millions of innocent victims, but remembered that in this place that was doubly untrue, even as Tucker said lazily, “We’re the sort of men who’d be quite happy to see your daughter dead if you attacked us, sir.”
“Animals!” The Xindi was struggling for breath. “What do you want in exchange for the Xindi lives you hold?”
“Safe passage away from here.” Archer got that one in quick. It wasn’t that he approved of kidnap and ransom demands either, but at the moment it served his own need and might even save a few of the prisoners from the imaginative hands of Reed and T’Pol.
“So that you can continue to wreak havoc in our space?”
“That’d be our preference,” Tucker put in cheerfully. “We’ll give you an hour to think on it, then we’ll start returning the hostages – piece by piece.” He gestured to Sato and the connection was cut. “Seems you might get what you want, Cap’n.”
In the situation room, Tucker was pacing restlessly while T’Pol and Reed engaged – uselessly as far as he could see – in an assessment of how long they could remain undetected by the Xindi. Deprived of activity again, the engineer could feel the hot anger bubbling up and halted by a display of the gas cloud’s composition to take a moment to contain it as T’Pol had taught him. Good as it felt to let go, he’d reluctantly been forced to admit that it was dangerous and rarely achieved anything – and God damn the Vulcan for being right. Superficially calmer if no happier with the situation, he ran a barely seeing eye over the display in front of him and stiffened. “T’Pol.” She looked up with a slight frown at the interruption. “There are streamers of hydrogen running through the cloud, right?”
He turned to face her, eyes intent. “What would happen if we ignited the hydrogen?”
She stared back, already ahead of him. “There would be a cascade effect throughout the cloud. It is extremely unlikely that a ship caught in the effect would survive.”
“How long would the cascade take?”
She moved to his side to make the calculation while Reed looked on doubtfully. “Less than 120 seconds.”
“So if we ignite the hydrogen with the Xindi ships within the cloud, they’d have no time to escape.”
“Neither would Enterprise.”
“We would if we were close enough to the edge.”
She turned away to run some further calculations, but was forced to shake her head. “The density of the hydrogen is lower at the periphery of the cloud. The cascade cannot be initiated from a position that still allows Enterprise time to escape.”
Tucker grimaced and leant in to confirm the result while Reed said quietly, “A shuttle pod could do it.”
They both looked up sharply and after a momentary pause T’Pol said just as quietly, “The fact remains that any vessel in the vicinity would not survive.”
“Enterprise and over a hundred lives against one shuttle pod?” The Englishman shrugged with apparent unconcern. “That sounds like a fair exchange to me, Sub-commander.”
“You omitted the life of the shuttle pod’s pilot. I do not believe that Captain Archer would accept such a sacrifice.”
“Maybe he won’t have to.” Tucker had returned to the display. “You said two minutes for the cascade to affect the whole cloud. But there’s a time lag on the front of that.”
“Agreed, but with manoeuvring thrusters only, neither Enterprise nor a shuttle pod can take advantage of it.”
“What about with the shockwave from an exploding shuttle pod engine?” The Vulcan’s eyes widened either in surprise or derision and Tucker indicated his own calculations. “Take a look.”
“It appears … plausible.”
“That’s good enough for me. I’ll go rig the charges. Get Enterprise moving.”
“Not so fast, commander.” Tucker swung to face Reed, affronted. “I’ll go.”
“Like hell you will!”
“Enterprise needs a chief engineer.” Reed glanced to T’Pol for support and she nodded slightly.
“Lt. Reed’s argument has merit.”
“It was my idea. I’ll accept the risk.”
First officer and armoury officer exchanged another look and Reed smiled suddenly. “Not this time, Trip.”
Archer let Tucker bundle him into the ready room again but only because he wanted to ask a few pointed questions. “Why wait an hour? I need to get back.”
“Because we’ve still got a use for those Xindi prisoners.”
“What, to keep T’Pol amused?”
Tucker grinned at the thought but shook his head. “A few planets back we got wind of a planet-busting weapon the Xindi are constructing.” His head cocked as he noted Archer’s reaction, a mocking smirk forming. “Has that got your attention, Jon?”
“What’s to say? We want it. Those Xindi in the cargo bay can tell us where to find it.”
“What would you do with it?” Archer’s throat was dry.
“My preference … turn it on the damn Vulcans.”
“In my universe, the Xindi are building a weapon to destroy Earth.”
“Not my problem.” This Tucker was also a tease and not a nice one. “But wouldn’t you like to know where it is, Jonny?”
The remaining bridge crew waited tensely on the far edge of the gas cloud from the searching Xindi ships, waiting for the shuttle pod to reach its target, which seemed to take longer than the few hundred kilometres could justify. The silence was broken by Reed’s voice over the comm. “I’m in position. De-coupling the engine now.” There was another pause then the Englishman added calmly, “The engine’s free. Preparing to detonate in three, two, one, mark.”
The flare on the view screen came almost immediately as, in response to earlier orders, Mayweather sent Enterprise surging out into free space while T’Pol leant over her scanner. “Well?” Tucker demanded in a fury of impatience from the engineering station and she said evenly, “The shuttle pod is emerging. Ensign Mayweather, please adjust course to intercept.”
“I see it,” the helmsman confirmed and set a course for the wildly spinning pod as behind them the gas cloud began to glow.
“That’s beautiful,” Sato remarked and caught T’Pol’s eye as the science officer straightened.
“Archer to the bridge.” The unexpected hail brought smiles all around from the humans, although T’Pol’s only reaction was a slight lift to one eyebrow as she responded.
“Captain, I see that you are back with us.”
“I am.” To the Vulcan’s sensitive hearing, the man’s voice sounded slightly … odd. “Everything OK up there?”
“Perfectly. The Xindi scout ships have been destroyed and we are in the process of retrieving Lt Reed’s shuttle pod – although it will require a new engine.”
“Good. I’ll speak with you later, sub-commander. Archer out.”
For once, Tucker didn’t object to visiting sickbay since he wasn’t about to be on the receiving end of any of Phlox’s remedies. “You dented the pilot’s board with your head, Lieutenant.”
“So sorry.” Reed looked up from the PADD he held. “I needed an excuse to catch up on a little reading.”
“Not James Joyce again? You’ve got concussion, Malcolm, shouldn’t you go for something a little lighter?”
“I am – Dostoevski.”
Tucker’s expression said enough and for a second or so the two men regarded each other a little shyly, before both started to speak at once. “Malcolm, I …”
“Trip …” Both stopped and after another moment Reed continued. “I owe you an apology.”
“No, you don’t.” There was no hesitation. “I … wasn’t thinking straight. You were just trying to help but I didn’t wanna hear it.”
Tucker grimaced. “I still don’t wanna hear it, but … I do value your friendship, Malcolm.”
T’Pol entered the ready room on Archer’s request, halting before his desk. Deliberately, he slid a PADD across the table towards her. “Sub-commander, please ask Ensign Mayweather to set a course for these coordinates, warp 4.5.”
A little curious at the unusual formality, she took a cursory look at the information, an eyebrow rising. “It will take us several weeks to reach this location, even at high warp.”
No further information was forthcoming so she was forced to ask. “What is the reason for our change in strategy?”
The captain’s lips thinned. “I’ve reason to believe that that location is the site of the weapon the Xindi are building to destroy Earth.”
“Indeed?” Still Archer volunteered nothing. “How did you come by this information, captain?”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You told me. On the other Enterprise.”
“Captain,” T’Pol spoke slowly, “you are proposing to direct our mission of the basis of a …”
“Hallucination?” He was abruptly angry, although T’Pol did not think that much of it was directed at her.
“I was going to say, a phenomena we do not understand.”
“It was real, T’Pol. I know it was.”
“You said yourself that the people you encountered were far less … moral … versions of ourselves. Is it not possible that this other T’Pol lied to you?”
“That is not a justification.”
Archer came to his feet. “I don’t have to justify myself to you, sub-commander. Are you going to ask Mayweather to set that course or not?”
The Vulcan regarded him for a long moment then politely inclined her head and left. Alone, Enterprise’s captain dropped back into his chair, eyes fixed grimly forward while one fist repeatedly clenched and relaxed on his desk. The fate of Earth was in his hands and he couldn’t afford to pass up any opportunity, however morally suspect. Perhaps if he told himself that enough times, he’d even start to believe it.
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A handful of people have made comments
This reminded me of the classic episode Mirror Mirror (was it supposed to?) except that where was the "other" Archer? Well written story and I really liked the ending. I rather suspected you'd write it this way, although it could have been that "our" Archer was snapped back right before he found out the information on the Xindi. I'm looking forward to the next installment.
Very nice. Yes, a definite reminder of the Alternate Universe episodes. I, too, was looking for the "other" Archer, although that would have taken away from what you wanted to accomplish in this story, not to mention made the story longer. Great job, can't wait to read the next one!
oh how interesting. Trip enjoying both Jon and T'Pol.... what a different universe...
What a marvelous ending.
Intriguing story ("Mirror, Mirror" was one of my favourites) and well-written. Interesting how "evil Trip and T'Pol" are still essentially the Trip and T'Pol we know and love. Hmm . . . I quite like this Trip.
I like your mirror universe better than the one we got from the powers that be. Trip warming both Jon and T'pol's beds. The mind boggles!