The hum of Enterprise was soothing.
Malcolm sat quietly in the darkness, his back to the wall, and stared at
the viewport without really taking note of what he was looking at.
The monitor of his desk terminal had long since switched to standby
mode, clicking off and leaving only the ambient light streaming in
through the viewport to illuminate his cabin. At any other time, that
wouldn’t have been enough – space was
dark – but the ugly gas
giant Enterprise orbited
was bright orange and red, which provided more than enough light to
A soft chirp from his desktop computer caused him to stir and Malcolm
half turned toward the monitor, his face betraying the tension
coursing through him more easily than the rest of his body language.
The noise was not repeated though, and, after long seconds, Reed
slumped back into his seat. He pulled a phase pistol from out of
concealment and studied the weapon with a dark look on his face. A
moment later, he pushed the weapon back into the seat cushions.
Exhaustion pressed down on him and he closed his eyes for a few seconds,
desperately wishing he could force himself to sleep. God, he was
tired. Nothing made sense anymore and he knew exactly when this
already insane universe had grown even more chaotic.
“I think there is a Suliban aboard,” Captain Archer had told him three
weeks earlier. He’d laid it out then, starting with the not quite
hallucinations he had been experiencing, delusions that would have
normally caused Malcolm to back away slowly and summon Phlox to
sedate the captain if Archer’s experiences hadn’t matched some
similar events that Reed himself had heard other crewmen discussing.
The kicker turned out to be Commander Hernandez’s unwitting
revelation – that she evidently thought Porthos was not aboard when
Malcolm specifically recalled letting her take the dog from Archer’s
temporary quarters on Earth. “We need to find this spy,” the captain
said darkly, “and stop him.”
Which was how Malcolm found himself awake at zero dark thirty yet again.
Initially, he’d considered bringing in some others to assist with
this hunt, but having witnessed firsthand how close the entire crew
was to utter collapse, he quickly discarded that notion and
shouldered the burden himself. If word got around that a Suliban had
been running amok on the ship for the last one hundred and fifty
days, Malcolm could only imagine the panic that would ensue. Everyone
was already stressed to the breaking point and this would be akin to
throwing pure deuterium onto an already raging fire.
Under the guise of random inspections to determine combat readiness,
Reed had visited every square centimeter of
Enterprise over the last
fourteen days, thoroughly earning the top spot on the unofficial
lists of most hated officer, and even though the target remained
elusive, his efforts had not been completely in vain. In
addition to confirming the presence of the Suliban – DNA scans were
still inconclusive, but Reed’s gut whispered it had to be Silik
himself – Malcolm had also discovered a dozen security breaches, two
of which were critical, five separate violations of the no-frat
policy, and a long overdue answer to who was behind that sickbay
break-in Reed uncovered back in March.
The security breaches were fairly easy to
resolve – threats and dire warnings of impending doom were simple
enough to hand out, especially given their current mission and
location – but the no-frat violations were a little more … sticky. A
year ago, hell, six months
ago, he wouldn’t have hesitated: discipline aboard a ship of the line
wasn’t just a good idea, it was necessary. Dalliances like the one
Lieutenant Taylor and Petty Officer Rostov were involved in had the
very real potential to endanger the entire crew. It didn’t matter
whether their … relationship imploded or was a love story for the
ages – every junior officer or non-rate would second guess any
assignment Taylor handed out if Rostov was involved, which could
easily lead to resentment or questions of favoritism. This deep in
the Expanse, with no one but enemies on all sides, was something they
couldn’t afford. Malcolm knew he would be perfectly within his rights
to come down hard on the
two. He could nail their arses right to the bloody wall and no one,
not the captain or even the first officer, would intervene on their
behalf. Everyone knew the regulations. And yet…
Automatically, his eyes darted toward his bunk.
Amanda was still asleep, her lovely curves barely concealed under the
thin sheet draped over her. Malcolm grimaced. At some point in the
last two or three weeks, the bloody woman had essentially moved in.
officially, her cabin was next door to his, but Reed couldn’t
remember the last time Amanda hadn’t slept over. For space reasons,
she wisely kept most of her spare uniforms and gear in her assigned
quarters, but the few personal items she’d brought aboard – the
ridiculous Mickey Mouse hat that looked nearly as old as she was, the
battered Klingon sword-thing Malcolm secretly coveted, even the
folded up blue and white flag from Israel – were all here. He should
have said something, should have complained or demanded she move the
items back to her own cabin …
But he couldn’t. God help him, he actually liked
having her here.
“You’re still awake,” Amanda murmured a few
moments later causing him to jerk in surprise. Clearly, he had
watched her for too long. She barely moved from where she was
stretched out as she gave him a sleepy smile and Malcolm felt
something stir within him. He frowned again.
“Work to do,” he said more sharply than he
intended. Even before the words were out of his mouth, he regretted
them for the simple reason that Amanda knew him too well. Exactly as
he feared, she blinked the sleep out of her eyes and gave him a long,
silent look. He tried very hard not to squirm.
“Is this about Mayweather?” she asked. Malcolm
winced and instinctively looked away. Travis still looked at him like
he was something to be scraped off his boots and, not for the first
time, Reed felt a swell of self-disgust. Yes, he still felt that
Travis was a little na´ve –
most of the people in Starfleet seemed na´ve to be perfectly
honest – but in this, Mayweather was entirely in the right. Commander
Hernandez had issued orders
to use non-lethal measures against the trellium mine guards … and
Malcolm had been barely paying attention to her when she spoke so
he never passed on those instructions. How many aliens died because
he was too tired, too angry, too unsuited for his current position?
How many more humans were going to die when he made more
mistakes like agreeing to allow Rajiin to come aboard? In the
unlikely event he actually survived this mission, Malcolm fully
intended to fall on his sword. He’d already recorded an in-depth
confession of wrongdoing and programmed it to be delivered to the
first officer and captain in the event of his death, but for the
moment, his expertise, his skills were needed…
But, by God, he was tired of having that sword
hanging over his head…
“No,” he replied softly. “It has nothing to do
with Travis.” Too late, he realized that his statement confirmed that
there was something.
“Crewman Masaro, then?” Amanda asked. She slid
her legs over the side of the bunk, holding the sheet up to cover her
body. Malcolm narrowed his eyes at the name and Cole smirked. “Give
me some credit, please,” she said simply. “I’ve noticed how you’ve
been watching him lately.” Her amusement vanished. “Why
are you keeping an eye on him anyway?” she added.
Malcolm frowned. He didn’t know how to answer
this without revealing some things he did not think she needed to
know. Only Captain Archer knew about the sickbay break-in and the
copying of genetic codes of the
Enterprise command staff, but even the captain remained unaware
that Reed had identified Masaro as the most likely culprit.
Additional digging and a judicious bit of hacking into personal files
strongly indicated that the crewman was at the very least a sleeper
agent for the Terra Prime organization, and the last security
briefing Malcolm had attended on Earth strongly indicated that the
terror group was expanding fairly rapidly. If Amanda knew, it was
probable that Joss would learn of Masaro’s dual loyalties and,
knowing Hayes, the crewman would shortly have a tragic accident in an
airlock. Admittedly, if even half of what Malcolm suspected was true
about Terra Prime, Masaro’s death wouldn’t be a total loss, but it
would also neutralize any chance Reed had of finding additional
He clearly hesitated a moment too long as
Amanda’s expression tightened. In the span of a single heartbeat, her
entire body language transformed. Gone was the sleepy lover and in
its place was the dangerous second-in-command of a MACO whisper team.
Malcolm silently cursed at his sloppiness. If only he wasn’t so
damned tired …
“He has Terra Prime affiliations,” he said a
moment later. “I need this to stay between the two of us, Amanda,” he
added when her face darkened. “I know you answer to Joss but …”
“The major is a hammer, not a scalpel,” Amanda
said with a nod. “If he knew about this crewman, his solution would
cut off any intel before it was gathered.” Malcolm gave her a wan
smile, hoping that she would drop the subject. He should have known
better. “But that isn’t why you’re sitting there, is it?” she asked.
“Or why you have a phase pistol in your cabin, which is, by the way,
against Starfleet regulations.” She frowned. “Do we have a saboteur
aboard, sir?” she asked, the honorific causing him to twitch. He
could count on one hand the number of times she’d used it or his rank
when they were alone. Belatedly, he realized she was making this an
“Dammit,” Malcolm murmured as he slumped back
further into the uncomfortable chair. This was why he hadn't wanted
to get involved with this woman. She was too bloody sharp. He reached
up to pitch the bridge of his nose. Why was it so damned hard to
think? The fury that had burned through him for weeks seemed to have
flickered and died, or at least become so muted that it might as well
not be present, and it had been the thing he relied on the most. Now,
he just felt tired. Tired and old.
“Mal?” Amanda was kneeling in front of him, the
sheet still wrapped around her body, and he didn’t recall hearing her
move closer. She was watching him with that worried but slightly
clinical expression he hated so much. “I can’t help if you keep me in
the dark,” she said simply. He nodded.
And made a potentially dangerous decision.
“Wait.” Malcolm half-turned toward his desktop
computer. As he expected, it drew her attention and so she did not
see him pull the phase pistol from where it was concealed until he
had it leveled at her. To her credit, Amanda did not scream or
recoil. Instead, she very wisely froze in place. “Computer online,”
Reed said aloud. The system chirped and his monitor sprang to life.
“Command: internal scan, this compartment. Scan parameters: use alpha
three tango four settings.” Another soft beep answered him. “Please
don’t move,” Malcolm said as Amanda met his eyes, rage and confusion
on her face. “My weapon is set to kill.”
She did not move.
A solid beam of light emerged from an
unobtrusive alcove set near the ceiling and swept through the cabin.
It passed over them once, then again as it split apart into multiple
horizontal and vertical shafts of energy. No surface of his
remarkably neat cabin was untouched. Another chime sounded the
instant the light vanished and Malcolm sagged in relief.
“Command: null field. Authorize on my
voiceprint.” He lowered the pistol, flicking it to safe with his
“What the fuck?!” Amanda hissed as she sprang to
her feet and backed away from him. “Have you lost your goddamned
“I wish it were that simple.” Malcolm gestured
toward his computer. “I’ve activated my surveillance
counter-measures,” he said and, at those simple words, her anger
vanished. “You asked if we have a saboteur aboard
Enterprise,” he began.
“Masaro?” she asked. Reed gave her a wry smile that didn’t touch his eyes.
“I wish it were that simple,” he replied. “No, we have a Suliban aboard.” Amanda’s eyes widened. “And I need you to help me catch it.”