Title: "In a Mirror, Shaded"
Rating: R for potential violence and sexual content
Disclaimer: Do I own them if they aren't the real Trip and T'Pol? No? Aw man….
Spoilers: There really aren't any spoilers in this, since it takes place in an alternate universe. However, if you're reading this you already know there's a Mirror Universe episode planned for the show. So, hah, you've been spoiled. :-P
Summary: Trip and T'Pol meet for the first time amid political upheaval and dangerous plots.
AN: Some of you might be disappointed that this doesn't feature Trip in leather chaps being led around on a dog leash by a villainous T'Pol. drools
I had to decide between writing a story like that and writing something like this, which is as realistic a look as I can imagine for a real mirror universe. The characters are different, some more than others. But underneath, I decided not to radically change who Trip and T'Pol essentially are. Their life experiences have been very different and that has created different personality trademarks. But ultimately, neither of them is truly evil.
Welcome to a story featuring a T'Pol who has never contracted Pa'Nar and has never abused Trellium D, and a Trip whose outlook on life is decidedly pessimistic.
Oh, Malcolm Reed fans will find a comfortable home in this story. Finally, a place where my Malcolm love can take flight!
Thanks to Hopeful Romantic for being my awesome beta!
SubCommander T'Pol stood sedately with her hands folded neatly behind her back, staring at the image of a Vulcan ring ship exploding before her eyes. The bridge was silent save for the even, measured breathing of the crew. Underneath that silence, however, seethed a current of unmistakable tension. T'Pol was nervous, but years commanding a vessel had schooled her in the art of mastering her expressions and body language.
It had been difficult. She had struggled for years to attain the necessary level of control, a control which had eluded her since childhood. The Vulcan High Command had held her back for nearly a decade while she studied with the priests on Mount Seleya. Her background as an intelligence agent had helped, but it had still taken two separate emotional purges - and strict discipline - in order for her to be deemed competent to command.
"Lieutenant Solam, report."
"Seventeen of the twenty-three life pods from the Seleya have deployed. The Earth ships are regrouping. They are targeting us."
"Open a channel."
"Audio only, SubCommander."
T'Pol stumbled as the ship was rocked by the impact of torpedoes from the Earth vessel. She had not been allowed to speak a word. Sparks flew from a panel above the head of a young Sub-Lieutenant manning the tactical station. Quieting her inner distress at the situation, T'Pol turned to him and stared him down, predicting his reaction to the tense situation. The young Vulcan visibly controlled his facial expression.
He was the newest member of her bridge crew, only 34 years old. It would take time, but eventually he would become as immune to the rigors of negotiating with Earthlings as she was.
The encounter that had led to the destruction of the Seleya had been unfortunate. Under normal circumstances, three Earth ships would be no match for a single Vulcan ring ship, but these were not normal circumstances. The Seleya had been badly damaged in a firefight with the Andorians, and the Kolas had been sent to rendezvous and offer assistance. They had arrived too late.
Now it appeared that, buoyed by their victory over the wounded Seleya, the Earthlings intended to attack the Kolas. A foolish decision, to be sure. T'Pol recognized the lead Earth ship. It was called 'Enterprise' and served as the flagship for what passed for their fleet. Its captain was a man of considerable experience – one Jonathan Archer – but to T'Pol, though she was merely fifteen years his senior, he was but a child playing in the galactic sandbox: a bully who did not comprehend the intricacies of interstellar diplomacy.
T'Pol disagreed with the stance her government had taken towards the Earthlings. They were violent and unpredictable, prone to rash and illogical courses of action. They were intergalactic opportunistic parasites, worse than the Andorians in many, many ways. Yet the Vulcan High Command treated them like they would a wayward child. No matter how many times Earth betrayed them, no matter how many Vulcans the Earthlings killed in combat, the Vulcan government looked the other way.
Were T'Pol in their position, she would exact quick and decisive retribution. T'Pol did not want to harm the Earthlings without cause, but this pattern of complacence and placation was causing nothing but trouble. This time, however, the Earthlings had gone too far. They had attacked and destroyed a wounded opponent without reason. The High Command would not ignore this insult.
"SubCommander, our weapons are having no effect. The Earth ships are heavily shielded. We are taking heavy damage."
T'Pol whipped her head towards the viewer and felt the muscles in her neck tighten as the Kolas was hit again and again. As the Earth ships quickly surrounded the Kolas and disabled its engines, T'Pol realized that she had made a tactical error…
Captain Jonathan Archer paced in front of his chair on the bridge with excited energy, absently adjusting the collar of his black uniform shirt. Two Vulcan ring ships! Two! And Enterprise had taken no damage from either. The new shields worked perfectly; Archer no longer had any doubts about their origins. He would contact the Fleet command at once. Well, as soon as he took care of the prisoners, that is.
"Are their weapons off line?" Archer met the eyes of his security officer, Malcolm Reed.
Archer trusted him. Well, he trusted him as far as one could trust anyone these days. Reed shared Archer's vision for the future of the Fleet. Humans had the ability to move beyond all these other species. They were more resourceful, more driven, and better equipped to deal with a changing galaxy.
"Yes, Sir." Reed stared back at Archer until the older man looked away to his other officers.
Malcolm's involvement with Archer had begun years ago. It was a carefully crafted friendship born of convenience and mutual gain. Reed aspired to be in Archer's position one day, and the most expedient way of attaining that goal was to befriend the power base. Archer would not be on top forever, but for the time being Reed was well-served by staying in his good graces.
He still chafed when he used the word "Sir," though.
As Archer chattered amiably to Hoshi Sato, the communications officer, Reed pondered that relationship. He suspected that Archer was involved with Sato, and that the young woman was not entirely happy about it. But that was life. If she couldn't stand up for herself, there was nothing to be done. She wouldn't last long in the fleet. Reed had been observing her habits off-duty. She wasn't interested in advancement or even self-preservation. Her brilliance was wasted. Reed would do nothing to discourage the relationship. Archer did what he pleased, but Reed knew that involving oneself with a woman was almost always a fatal career move.
He turned his attention to the young man at the front of the bridge… Ensign Travis Mayweather. While Reed watched Mayweather, Mayweather watched everything else. There was something dangerous about him, something that left Reed with the unsettling feeling that he wasn't the only one keeping tabs on the rest of the crew and planning, always planning.
All Reed knew about Mayweather was that he had more experience in space than any of them, and that his entrance into the Fleet as an officer had been… unorthodox. Unorthodoxy tended to be Reed's enemy.
"Prepare a boarding party, Lieutenant. Find their captain and bring him to the brig."
"Aye, Sir." Reed stood immediately and headed to the armory. He was happiest in action. The last thing he heard as the doors closed behind him was Archer speaking to Commander Tucker over the comm.
Trip hit the comm button irritably.
"What." He heard a hesitation and smiled derisively. "Captain" Jonathan Archer could only be called that in the loosest sense of the word. The funniest part about it was that Archer would never dare to call Trip on his attitude and borderline insubordination. He was too afraid of the consequences.
Trip wasn't a bad man. He had once been a very good man, and a very good friend to Archer. But that had changed. Now Trip's life was filled with bitterness and anger. He was fiercely devoted to nothing but prone to obsession with everything where there once was happiness, pleasure, and a healthy balance between work and the life outside it.
"We've gotten our hands on an intact Vulcan ring ship. Take an engineering team over with Lieutenant Reed and see what you can find."
Trip put just enough sarcastic emphasis on the word "sir" to assure himself that Archer was suffering under the stares of the rest of the bridge crew. A tiny part of him thoroughly enjoyed humiliating Archer at every opportunity. The rest of him was dead to any feeling, pleasure or pain.
Enterprise, Brig, several hours later>>
T'Pol calmly and purposefully wiped a finger along her lower lip. It came away green with her blood. She would not falter. Earthlings in general were not capable of torturing indiscriminately for long periods of time. They were far too empathetic. It was their blessing and their curse. As for herself, she had been trained to sustain far worse than this.
She stared silently at the officer before her. He was of medium height, with dark locks and meticulously-groomed facial hair. His black uniform was crisp, and he watched her with a keen intelligence. His name was Reed, and he was clearly in charge. T'Pol appreciated that. It was much easier to endure these episodes when the person inflicting her punishment was uncomplicated and easy to understand. She had been captured by the enemy more than once.
Another slap sent her head whipping to the side. Several flecks of green blood dotted the closest wall. Reed had blood on his gloved hand as well. T'Pol wondered how long he would continue this method of extracting information before he realized it was useless. She could tolerate intense sensations of pain by simply shutting down her pain receptors. If the Earthlings had accepted the Vulcans' offer of alliance, Reed may well have known that by now.
"What are your plans for Andoria?"
T'Pol was momentarily confused. Vulcan and Andoria had been enemies for centuries, but they had achieved a certain balance. Vulcan ships were more technologically advanced than Andorian vessels, which curbed the Andorian tendency to attack before reasoning through a plan. Vulcans were not prone to violence, and did not use their technological advantage except when absolutely necessary.
T'Pol often felt that Vulcan was like the eye of a particularly rough storm. All around them chaos swirled, wreaking havoc and destruction. Vulcans held firm, allowing none of it to harm them. Recently though, the Andorians had increased their attacks, and had been more successful. For the first time, T'Pol wondered if perhaps the Earthlings and Andorians had come to an understanding. She dismissed the thought. Neither species was capable of remaining calm through the simplest conversation, let alone a complicated peace negotiation. No, it was impossible. The thought comforted T'Pol.
"I do not know of any plans."
"Yes, you do. We've been monitoring your fleet movements. We know you are planning to attack."
"Vulcans do not attack without provocation."
T'Pol let out an involuntary gasp as Reed's other hand connected with her jaw. He was wearing some sort of enhancement under that glove. Something metallic. She was surprised.
"We know that's not true, don't we, SubCommander T'Pol?"
T'Pol sat up straighter, if that was possible, and once again assessed the officer. She knew she had not divulged her name or her mission. Unless the Earthlings had an unusually talented code-breaker on board, they could not have accessed her computer files. Even if they had, they would need an equally talented translator to make sense of any of it. T'Pol doubted they had either, which meant Reed had come across her name some other way. No member of her crew – of those left alive – would have given up the information. That left her with the unsettling feeling that the Earthlings knew something and had information she did not. She was not accustomed to the sensation.
The Vulcans' sole advantage as the calm of the storm was that they were an old race, one with sources, connections, and history that other races did not have. Without these advantages, Vulcan was nearly defenseless as a planet. T'Pol did not know what Reed was referring to with his cryptic comments. She said as much.
In answer, Reed turned and left the brig area without further remark. He motioned to two other officers standing by, and they followed him out. T'Pol was once again alone with her thoughts in an alien jail.
"What did you find?"
Trip lounged back in his office chair, having refused to rise when Archer entered the room. He'd returned from the Vulcan ship a few hours ago with as much information from the computer as he could carry on a PADD at one time. He had spent the last several hours working to make sense of the information. He hadn't had much luck, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
"A lot, but it doesn't make any sense."
"I'll have Hoshi look at it."
"Oh no, she's not messing with this. This is my project. Besides, she doesn't know any more Vulcan than I do."
"This isn't up for debate, Commander Tucker. Ensign Sato is the communications officer."
Trip met Archer's eyes and leaned forward on his desk, jaw clenched. "Yeah, yeah, that's true. But I'm the engineer, and these are engine schematics. She won't know what to do with them anyway."
Trip tightened his hand on the PADD. He knew what Archer was doing. It wasn't an accident that Trip had spent five years on this damned ship without a promotion, while Archer's star continued to rise. Every time sensitive materials passed through the ship, Archer would have Hoshi "look at it." Somehow, it always led to Archer being one step ahead of the rest of the command structure. It always meant that, no matter how hard Trip worked, Archer took the credit. The same was true of Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Mayweather, but neither of them seemed to mind. Trip minded. Archer was piggy-backing on Trip's success and making it look as if the opposite was true. He'd had enough.
Trip won the staring contest. He could hear Archer's teeth click when his jaw closed.
"You will report any and all findings directly to me." Archer bit out the phrase without looking at Trip again.
"I'll need access to the Vulcan Reed captured."
Archer tuned and strode out, missing the smirk that twisted Trip's young face into something decidedly sinister.
T'Pol had lost track of time. She had entered into a light meditative trance to rejuvenate her mind and body. Sleep was not an acceptable option in this situation. When the doors to the brig slid open, T'Pol opened her eyes and peered at her newest visitor.
He was taller than Reed, with dark blond hair and piercing blue eyes. His facial features were unusually symmetric; unlike most Earthlings she had encountered, this young man showed no signs that he had ever suffered damage to the bones of his face. A pale scar crept from the lower left side of his jaw across his neck to stop at the lobe of his right ear. It was the only mark on his face.
The symbols at the collar of his uniform indicated he was a Commander, and thus probably the ship's first officer. T'Pol wondered if it was a good sign or a bad one that she had yet to see any sign of Captain Archer.
"You can leave." The man looked at her guard and pointed to the door. The guard left without protest.
Once he was gone, T'Pol's visitor looked up at the ceiling and around at the walls before sliding a finger along a panel and removing a small device. He then examined the floor and did the same thing. T'Pol realized he was removing listening devices. Her curiosity increased tenfold.
When the room had been checked to his satisfaction, the Commander pulled a chair up to the clear wall separating captive and captor.
"My name is Charles Tucker. I am the Chief Engineer on board this ship. Your name?"
T'Pol saw no reason to hide her identity at this point. It was no longer an advantage. "SubCommander T'Pol."
Tucker pressed a button, and the door to her cell opened briefly. Commander Tucker set a datapadd on the floor and nudged it with his foot, sending it skidding towards her. She made no move. "Take a look at that. Tell me what it is."
T'Pol leaned down and picked up the PADD, scrolling quickly down the page of information. He had extracted the Kolas engine schematics. She raised an eyebrow at him in surprise. Clearly her curiosity in him was not misplaced.
"They are engine schematics. No doubt you were aware of that."
Tucker smirked, and T'Pol felt her stomach clench pleasantly. She pushed the sensation away.
"You can't possibly be that stupid."
T'Pol looked up from her perusal of the data gave Tucker a cold stare. "I do not know to what you are referring."
T'Pol re-examined the data on the PADD. The information was written in Vulcan, but the phrasing of the language was slightly off, slightly archaic. She blinked.
"See? There's somethin' else there, isn't there?"
T'Pol composed herself and placed the PADD back on the floor. "I see nothing out of the ordinary."
"Oh, don't give me that!" He stood and paced for a moment. "I know that isn't right! There's a code underneath all that, and I'll bet with a little effort you could help me figure it out."
"Assuming you are correct, why would I wish to help you in any way?"
Tucker smiled and sat back down in his chair. "Because we both have something the other wants. I want to get off this damn ship and move on to better things. In order to do that, I need to have a breakthrough Archer can't steal from me. You want to get out of here, and I can do that for you."
"I will not place my personal safety above that of my planet."
"Yeah yeah… 'the needs of the many,' et cetera. But what if, by helping me, you were helping your planet instead of hurting it?"
T'Pol hid her reaction: dismay, tempered with interest. The fact that Commander Tucker was familiar with a Vulcan saying, any Vulcan saying, was enough to render her momentarily speechless.
"I do not see how providing you with access to sensitive information could possible help my planet."
"What if I was to tell you that Humans had formed an alliance with Andoria and were being given access to new technology that placed your precious Vulcan pacifism in jeopardy?"
"I would say that you are attempting to deceive me into revealing information I otherwise would not divulge."
Trip stared at the Vulcan woman in front of him. He'd gone into the room expecting a man, one of those stuffy old Vulcan males who only got sex once every seven years. No wonder they were so damned stiff. Instead of an unreasonable diplomat, he'd been confronted by quite possibly the most exotically beautiful woman he'd ever seen. He hadn't even noticed her ears at first. Then he'd busied himself checking for bugs. Reed was a sly one, and knew how to please Archer. That was enough to make Trip suspicious.
Now he watched as the Vulcan captain logicked her way through their conversation. He knew he was in trouble. In the five years he'd been on board Enterprise, Trip had managed to hide his fascination with the Vulcans from every one of his crewmates. It hadn't been easy. Now he was alone with one, face to face, for the first time, and he was infatuated. Dangerous, very dangerous.
"I'm not deceiving you." Trip spoke quietly, with intensity, and he got her attention. "I'm trying to help you. I'll bet you've never met a Human willing to help you before, and I'm pleased to be the first. All I want is off this ship. Maybe if you help me and I get you out, you could give me some sort of… protection, or something."
T'Pol considered him again. It was dangerous and unsettling, this impulse to believe him. But there it was. T'Pol had a great deal of experience examining and analyzing Earthlings and their behavior; she had never met one like this. She felt like she should believe him. His very demeanor, the way he looked at her, told her she could trust him, as implausible as that seemed.
Also, the intensity with which he spoke of escaping his ship bordered on desperation. He would not double-cross her if she could guarantee him safe passage away.
For the first time since being granted a command, T'Pol followed her instincts rather than her logic.
To be continued... feedback is my friend. :-)