Arguments in the Shuttlebay
Fandom : Enterprise
Rating : General
Pairing : Trip/Malcolm
Summary : An anxious Malcolm helps in the search for the missing officers.
Spoilers : Episode dialogue for 1
st Season episode, 'Desert Crossing'.
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek, Enterprise or any of its related series or characters.

Malcolm fought to keep his irritation down. His self-control was slipping and he was sure that Sub-Commander T'Pol could see it. Both Captain Archer and Commander Trip Tucker were missing in a desert battle-zone and the man responsible for their predicament, Zobral, seemed cheerfully unconcerned for their safety. At T'Pol's insistence, Zobral finally explained why it was that he had invitedEnterprise to his planet. The explanation was not what Malcolm wanted to hear.
"Eighty-nine," snapped Malcolm. "There were only eight-nine Sulliban prisoners, not thousands."
T'Pol ignored his loss of temper but Zobral seemed to regard it with interested confusion.
"And the army you defeated?" pressed Zobral, leaning towards Malcolm like a fond uncle.
"One would hardly call it an army," said Malcolm resentfully, looking away from Zobral in order to keep his anger in check. "It was a few dozen prison guards… and to be perfectly honest, they didn't put up much of a fight."

Zobral was frowning as if he wasn't sure whether or not to believe Malcolm. T'Pol stepped forward, implacable as ever. The stubborn set to her jaw forced Zobral to notice her.
"Jonathon Archer is an excellent starship Captain but he's hardly the invincible warrior described to you," said T'Pol firmly.
Zobral accepted this unhappily but couldn't quite give up altogether.
"What about his legendary desert tactics?" he asked.
"I'm the tactical officer on this ship," said Malcolm. "And I don't have any experience with desert warfare. I'm afraid you've come to the wrong people for help."

At this, Zobral seemed to slump and finally acknowledge defeat. He turned away and rested his hands on the railings of the shuttle-bay walkway.
"All this for nothing," he sighed.
Malcolm wondered if Zobral was once again trying to fish for sympathy or whether he was just enjoying the centre of attention. T'Pol exchanged a look with Malcolm that verged on irritation but was probably just to assess Malcolm's state of mind. He tried to look ready and supportive of any action she might order.
"What about our people?" asked T'Pol quietly.

Zobral waved a hand dismissively, "You have far better sensors than we do. I'm sure you'll find them in no time."
Malcolm thought about the couple of days that Zobral had spent onEnterprise and promised himself that he'd do a full inventory of the armoury at the earliest opportunity. He doubted Zobral would have any scruples about stealing from his hosts. He certainly seemed to have no scruples about endangering their lives.

"Our sensors are being disrupted?" she told Zobral, advancing a few steps along the walkway. "And the Terothans have threatened to fire on us if we launch a shuttlepod."
Zobral looked faintly disturbed.
"How did you get here without them seeing you?" asked Malcolm flatly, determined to get an answer.
"There is a narrow gap in their orbital detection grid," said Zobral, grinning at his own cleverness. "It occurs once every forty-six minutes but it is only open for less than one minute."
"I'll need all the pertinent data," said Malcolm, crossing his arms.
Zobral nearly laughed aloud, "You'll need more than that."

He looked down his nose at Malcolm as if he'd only just noticed who Malcolm was. Zobral obviously hadn't believed that Malcolm was the ship's Armoury Officer and doubted his abilities.
"The manoeuvres are extremely difficult. It took us years to perfect it," said Zobral grandly.
"I'm a quick study," said Malcolm.
"You will be shut down before you reach the atmosphere."

Zobral waved dismissively again and Malcolm wondered if he was trying to impersonate royalty. The show was certainly not fooling Malcolm.
"With you at the helm," put in T'Pol. "Our chances would be greatly improved."
Zobral waved aside her reasonableness, "I don't have time. My men are waiting for me."
Malcolm was sick of the waving, "Well, they'll have to wait a little longer. You're the one who got our people stranded down there…"

Zobral finally seemed to see Malcolm as a threat and squared off against him. The cheerful demeanour dropped and he towered over Malcolm by several inches and by more than a dozen kilograms.
"They are not my responsibility," shouted Zobral, as if sheer volume could prove his words.
Malcolm looked away, cursing himself for not having carried a weapon. He'd be no good to the two missing men if he got himself killed in their absence. Seeing Malcolm's capitulation, Zobral backed down. He swept the end of his robes over his arm ostentatiously and took a step towards his waiting ship.
"You're mistaken," said T'Pol.

At the command in her tone, both Malcolm and Zobral looked to her against their will. Malcolm buried his irritation and allowed T'Pol to pass him. Zobral took a step backward and watched her advance with deserved caution.
"The Terothans believe we've joined your cause," said T'Pol. "If Captain Archer and Commander Tucker are apprehended, they will be undoubtedly be treated as members of your clan."

Zobral looked uncomfortable and Malcolm wondered how exactly members of his clan were usually dealt with. He had a feeling that neither the Captain's determined negotiation or Trip's easy manner would save them from a grisly fate. He'd heard a rumour that Trip had been reluctant to visit the desert planet and the Captain had nearly invited Malcolm instead. Malcolm wished he had gone; the Enterprisecould suffer the loss of her Armoury Officer easier than the loss of her Chief Engineer. The Captain often insisted on personally attending to away missions and Malcolm had already uneasily accepted that his Captain was frequently placed in danger. It made Malcolm's job to protect him harder but it wasn't his place to judge the Captain's decisions.

Sensing the weakness in Zobral's determination not to care, T'Pol pressed on.
"They'll become victims of the same oppression you've been fighting all these years," said T'Pol. "You should feel as responsible for those two men as you do your own."
One thing could always be said for Vulcans; they always sounded too reasonable to disagree with.

Despite Malcolm's objection that more armed men would have bettered their chances, there were only three of them in the shuttlepod that left to rescue the missing officers and one of them was Zobral. Zobral piloted the shuttlecraft through the gap in the detection grid but Malcolm reclaimed the helm as soon as possible. Only T'Pol's intervention prevented any further fights between the two.
"Take another pass over the Eastern Basin," said Zobral.
Malcolm bristled at the presumption of the order but T'Pol responded first.
"Our sensors would have detected them," she said firmly.
"No," insisted Zobral. "There are magnetic deposits beneath that basin. They could be masking their bio-signs."
"If we increased our altitude, this would go a lot faster," said Malcolm.
Zobral wrinkled his nose, "We would also risk being detected."

Malcolm released his irritation by tapping the console a little harder than was necessary. There was silence in the shuttlepod for a moment but silence seemed offensive to Zobral.
"If this is your tactical officer, it's a wonder Enterprisehas stayed intact for this long," said Zobral flippantly.

Malcolm turned around to glare at Zobral for as long as he dared take his attention away from the task of piloting.
"Lieutenant Reed is a competent officer," replied T'Pol.
Malcolm knew that was as close to a compliment as he was ever likely to get from the Vulcan Sub-Commander. It was vaguely comforting.
"Is he always this jealous?" asked Zobral.
There was a pause before T'Pol answered, "That is an interesting interpretation of the situation."

At being defended by his superior officer, Malcolm felt justified in aggressively focusing his attention on the console in front of him. He tried not to think about how T'Pol had not denied Zobral's accusation. Malcolm was overprotective of the Captain and Chief Engineer but that was his job as Armoury Officer. Malcolm might be irritated and frustrated but jealousy was not a factor in it. In order for him to be jealous, he'd have to be attracted to one of the missing officers; unless Zobral meant he was jealous of T'Pol.

A light lit up on the console and Malcolm forced distracting thoughts from his mind.
"I'm picking up weaponsfire on the surface," he reported calmly. "Nineteen kilometres, due south."
Zobral leaned over Malcolm's shoulder, "A Terothan mortar."
"Would they be targeting one of your settlements?" T'Pol asked Zobral.
"We don't have any near there," shrugged Zobral.
"Set a course and prepare to fire," ordered T'Pol.
Malcolm turned to look at her, to confirm he hadn't misheard.
"I believe they've located the Captain and Commander Tucker," she said.
That was good enough for Malcolm and he swung the shuttlepod southwards.

Long after the mortar position had been pinpointed by sensors, Malcolm watched as a visible burst of light arced across the night sky. The targeted building was flattened and Malcolm refused to believe that the Enterprise's officers had been inside at the time. It would be too cruel a reality to contemplate after all the effort Malcolm had put into getting to know the two men.
"I've got a lock," he said eagerly.
T'Pol ignored his enthusiasm, "Fire."

Malcolm activated the shuttlepod's weapons and watched in satisfaction as the mortar position was obliterated. He took great exception to anybody shooting at his people.
"I see them," said T'Pol suddenly, taping a secondary console. "Two humans. Bearing 115, mark 3."

Malcolm brought the shuttlepod in low over the sand dunes until two stumbling figures were highlighted in the searchlights. One of the figures was desperately dragging the other across the night landscape and Malcolm's heart leapt into his mouth. He knew instinctively that it would be Trip who was injured. While Trip matched the Captain for bravery, he seemed to have a certain vulnerability.

He landed the shuttle but kept his seat as T'Pol reached out through the hatch to drag in an exhausted Trip. Trip collapsed in the back of the shuttle while T'Pol offered him a waterbag. Malcolm was briefly irritated that his view of Trip was blocked as Zobral dragged the Captain in through the hatch. The next moment, Malcolm was ashamed of his irritation; the Captain deserved his sympathy just as much as Trip.

Perhaps Zobral was right and Malcolm was jealous. He enjoyed Trip's company; in life-threatening situations, in arguments or simply while watching movies together. The cocky engineer had become his best friend. At that thought, he looked around the Captain to see Trip without caring how obvious it was to T'Pol or Zobral.

Trip looked drained, his eyes drooping but he looked up long enough to respond to Malcolm's gaze. The engineer smiled fleetingly at Malcolm and Malcolm felt his stomach flutter in response. Trip's eyes shut and T'Pol offered him water again. Malcolm turned back to the console and took off.

Malcolm felt uncomfortable now that he realised he had fallen for Trip. However, he was indescribably grateful that he still had the opportunity to make his feelings known. He had no idea how Trip would react but Malcolm refused to risk never telling him. He would, of course, wait until Trip had recovered from his latest escapade. The thought made him shiver in anticipation.