author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG … mild language, violence, and adult situations.

Summary: Two officers, believed killed in action, are stranded on a prewarp planet and must work together to survive while the rest of the NX-01 crew learn to carry on without them. Begins a very AU season 2.

This story is unrelated to my Endeavour series.

Disclaimer: The only thing I own are my hopes and dreams ... although I did pawn both a while back for rent money.

A/N: 521 Earth days have passed since chapter 1. It's October, 2153.

84: Malcolm

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 see.  

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… 

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 conspirators.  

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 official inquiry. 

“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 thumb. 

“What the fuck?!” Amanda hissed as she sprang to her feet and backed away from him. “Have you lost your goddamned mind?” 

“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.”

 

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