|Noplace Like Home
Author: bethos PM
Trip Tucker is forced to use the transporter device during an unusual ion storm … with unusual results. (WIP)Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - C. Tucker & H. Sato - Chapters: 24 - Words: 27,501 - Reviews: 86 - Favs: 7 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 02-13-04 - Published: 07-24-03 - id: 1441985
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 24: Death Sentence
"Ah … Trip."
There was something strange in Captain Reed's voice as he stared out of the window in his ready room. All of Archer's personal effects had been removed, but not replaced by anything; it seemed that Malcolm did not have a lot of personal things to decorate his newfound office with. The room seemed barren and empty without the collection of action figures and small personal touches that Trip was used to; it was a little disturbing that this Captain Archer had shared so much with the one he knew as to have the same collection of action figures on his shelf, considering the circumstances.
"Yes, sir?" Trip said. He suspected that challenging the new captain's authority – authority that he'd been granted courtesy of Trip's balls and ingenuity rather than his own – was not exactly a good idea just at present, no matter the growing urge he had to punch the man in the face.
"We'll be at your … planet … within a matter of hours," Malcolm said. It was as though he found the words distasteful, and kept not looking at him. "Then, of course, you will beam down and back, and this charade will be over."
"Charade, Captain?" Trip said. "I don't understand."
"I don't know why you've chosen to do it this way," Malcolm said. "It's very unlike you. But if you want to send me on this fool's errand before I kill you, it's all the same to me."
Trip caught his breath at the anger rippling in Malcolm's voice. "So you don't believe me," he said levelly.
Malcolm turned to stare at him, darkness in his eyes. "Believe you?" he snorted. "I don't pretend to understand why you want to go back to that planet, but you have to admit that your proposition sounds ludicrous."
"I know it sounds crazy, but I don't think that should make it a lie. Why in the world would I make something like that up?" Trip said.
"I think you're stalling for time," Malcolm said in a low voice. "But whatever you're doing, it's not going to work. I just thought you should know that. To be fair, since you so charitably gave me this command."
"You're welcome," Trip murmured.
He knew immediately that he shouldn't have said it, from the wild anger that flashed across Malcolm's face. Malcolm hit him across the face with the back of his hand.
"That tongue may have got you in good with my predecessor," Captain Reed growled, his nose inches from Trip's. "But it won't get you anywhere with me."
"Look – Malcolm –" Trip started to say, trying to placate this man who was the spitting image of his friend.
Malcolm hit him across the face again, this time so hard that his fingernails cut into Trip's cheek.
"Stop talking," he said. "I don't want to hear it. You'll wait in your quarters until we get to your planet. You'll be taken under guard to the transporter. I will operate the machinery for you myself. And if you try anything funny – anything at all – it will be Ensign Sato's safety on the line, not your own. Do you understand?"
Trip paled. He had no idea what his other self was going to do when he regained possession of his body. What was going to happen to Hoshi? "Captain –" he started to say, but stopped at the murderous look on Malcolm's face. This was not a man in control of himself. "I understand," he said.
' Malcolm stepped back a little and dropped his hands to his sides. "Good," he said, in his clipped voice.
"May I speak with Hoshi before I go, since when I come back … ?" he said.
Malcolm stared at him for a moment. "So that's it," he said, sneering and skeptical. "You're resigning to this. All dignity. No fight. No caterwauling temper tantrum from Captain Archer's spoiled lapdog?"
Trip looked into his face. "Is that really what you think of me, Malcolm?"
Malcolm hesitated. "It used to be," he admitted, in barely louder than a whisper. "Now I don't know."
"You don't know what to make of me," Trip said slowly, his eyes steady on Malcolm's own. "You're afraid because you don't understand."
"I'm not afraid of anything!" Malcolm snapped, stiffening again, the momentary relaxation completely gone from his strained features.
"You're afraid of me," Trip said. "That's why you're going to kill me. You don't understand how I could have the captaincy in my hands and just give it to you. You're going to kill me so you don't have to wonder about it anymore. Wonder if I meant it. Wonder if I really am just being generous or if I've got some kind of ulterior motive, something you're not smart enough to suss. Well, I haven't. There's no way this is going to get me anything, except back home, to my own universe." He started forward and Malcolm backed away, apparently startled by his intensity. "Back to my own universe, right? Where things aren't crazy! Where Jonathan's not a sadistic bastard, where Malcolm knows what honor means, where Phlox has always been free, where Hoshi and Travis aren't battered and abused and miserable! Where the Enterprise is on a mission of peaceful exploration, not conquest! Where freedom and justice are more important than … than …!" He trailed off, gesturing wildly, trying to figure out a word to describe the perverted values that he'd been confronted with here, but words failed him and he gave up. "Dammit, Malcolm, I am tired, tired of this ship, tired of this crew, tired of this reality, I want to go home, that's all I want, and if you want to kill the me that gets off that transporter pad you are more than welcome because the man is a pathetic, abusive low-life who deserves exactly what you give him." He turned away from Malcolm's bewildered stare and tangled his fingers in his hair, feeling frustrated and angry, as though he were locked in a cage. "You don't have to believe me. I don't give a damn what you believe. I just want to go home. Okay? Home!"
He slammed his fist into the wall by the door and breathed deeply, trying to calm himself down.
"Where Malcolm knows what honor means," Malcolm repeated, in a quiet, broken voice. He started to speak, then, first softly and then louder and louder and closer to hysterics, his voice cracking and his eyes wild and wet with tears that he would not – could not – shed. "Did his father beat him, too, Trip? Was his sister killed by a Vulcan patrol, before the Emperor took the throne? Did he have to kick and bite and claw his way up through the ranks, did he join the Imperial service because he couldn't make it on the seas? Did he learn how never, ever, ever to be completely asleep? Did he see what happened to the ones that weren't hard, the ones that hadn't learned how not to care? The ones who never raped a girl, the ones who never tried to kill an instructor, never murdered a sergeant, never killed and maimed and raped and blackmailed and seduced their way into getting a good commission? It's take or be taken, kill or be killed, there's nothing else to be done. You do it or you don't do it and if you don't do it it's done to you and by God I was never going to let anyone do it to me again. I learned that when I was nine years old, Trip, nine years old, when my father held me under the water and screamed that I'd damn well learn to swim or he'd drown me like the spineless rat I was. You've saved me from the ocean's grasp – or your other self did, Mr. Tucker – and you know how afraid I am of water. You know I killed my father to keep him from drowning me. Did your friend have to learn that way? Did those things ever happen to him? Has he ever taken a weapon and fired it into the heart of the woman he loves more than anything in the world because he knew if he didn't kill her she'd kill him and prove his father right, prove that he is a spineless rat that should have been drowned before he was ten years old? Do you think if your Malcolm had had to do all of the things that I've had to do, if he'd lived through what I've lived through, if he knew what I know, that he would still know what honor means?"
"Then you believe me. That there is another universe, where things are …"
"Yes, Trip. I have to believe you," Malcolm said, "because I can't see how things could be much worse." He smiled, coldly, and it was the most terrifying expression Trip had ever seen on a human face. "And I hate it. And I hate you. Go to your quarters. The guards will make certain no one kills you. I may not know what honor means, Mr. Tucker, but I made you a promise, and you've been true to your word thus far, so I will be true to mine." He leaned forward, his eyes hard as stone. "All of my word, Commander. No funny business. No uplifting the masses against my newfound tyranny. No bloody slave revolts. Change can't come here just because you want it to. Just because you snap your fingers and tell us to heal ourselves . . . Your way may be the better way, but it won't work here, because your way can't work unless it's everyone's way. Understand?"
Captain. I understand," Trip said.