Blood, Sweat and Tears
Disclaimer: I make no money out of this and Enterprise doesn't belong to me.
Archive: yes, just ask first.
Spoilers: Small one for Daedalus.
Summary: Trip finds himself with an unusual problem after he returns from a planet.
AN: The story is set towards the end of Season Two, so no Xindi and no bond. This is a small homage to TOS and in the spirit of season four of Enterprise. The plot has been shamelessly stolen from "The Enemy Within", with a few twists of my own. Physics goes out the window here - we're now in Trek space.
It had been one of those missions where nothing went right from the very beginning. Trip left Enterprise in Shuttlepod One but he returned using the transporter and that was because things had gone very badly indeed. The shuttlepod was in pieces on the planet's surface and all his hard work had gone to waste. He was just lucky to have escaped with his life.
Trip materialised on the transporter padd to be greeted by the welcome sight of Lieutenant Reed, Captain Archer and Subcommander T'Pol. Their next reaction was completely unexpected. Suddenly Reed was reaching for his weapon. The Captain and T'Pol merely looked completely stunned, as if they hadn't been expecting to see him at all, which seemed very strange.
Trip put his hands up to show that he didn't have any weapons. "What's wrong?" His voice seemed to have a strange echo but right now he was just concentrating on the fact that he had a gun pointed at him.
"Trip, there are three of you," said Archer, a lot more calmly than he looked.
It was at that point that Trip caught movement out of the corner of his eye and looked to his right. Staring back at him in wide-eyed surprise was another Trip Tucker. He was exactly the same in every single detail, right down to the pips on his uniform and the colour of his eyes. The other Trip Tucker was looking past him at something else, so Trip turned to his left and saw a third version of himself, once again exactly the same in every detail.
All three Trip Tuckers looked to Archer and in chorus said, "What the hell happened?"
"Good question," said Archer.
T'Pol had merely raised an eyebrow.
"Captain, my recommendation would be to put them all in the brig until we can work out which one is the real Commander Tucker," said Reed.
The Tuckers were looking rather bewildered still, and seemed to be sizing each other up. They hadn't moved off the transporter pad.
Archer nodded. "I agree. Get some security officers up here to escort them to the brig."
"Aye, sir," said Reed, going to the nearest com point and summoning more security.
"Captain, this is me. I'm not dangerous," said all three.
"Trip," Archer started, but he wasn't exactly sure which Trip to look at so he ended up jumping between the three of them. "This is just temporary until we can work out what happened. You know we have to take every precaution."
"Why the hell does this stuff always happen to me," lamented the Tucker on the right, unhappily. It was the first time, one of the three had spoken alone.
The one in the middle just shrugged. "The sooner this is sorted and I can get back to Engineering, the better."
The one on the left didn't look at all pleased. "Fine, put me in the brig. When I get hold of the engineer that did the last maintenance cycle on the transporter they'll be scrubbing plasma conduits for a week."
The security officers arrived and ushered the three Trips off towards the brig, leaving Archer and T'Pol wondering how they were going to deal with three Commander Charles Tucker IIIs.
Archer stepped into the brig. The three Tuckers had been placed in three separate cells, but otherwise seemed to be completely indistinguishable from each other. There was nothing for it, he was going to have to give them numbers to tell them apart and probably work out some way of distinguishing them visibly. He stopped at the first cell where Tucker One sat, looking rather miserable, resting his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped. His head was bowed, forehead rested on his hands, but it snapped up as soon as he saw Archer approach.
"Hi Captain," said Tucker One. "Any idea when I can get out of here?"
"Doctor Phlox wants to have each of you in for a medical. T'Pol and some of your engineers are looking at the transporter."
Tucker One nodded, but he was looking very unhappy. "I just don't understand why you don't trust me."
"Trip, you've got to see that I don't have a choice. All three of you look exactly the same and I can't tell which of you is the real Trip. For all I know your two look-alikes could be aliens sent to infiltrate Enterprise or part of some other plan that I can't even guess at. Until we know what's going on, you're going to have to sit tight."
Trip sighed. "I guess I don't have much choice." His face brightened for a moment. "I don't suppose you could send T'Pol down?"
"T'Pol?" asked Archer, a little surprised that Trip would want to see the Vulcan. They hadn't exactly been on the best of terms lately.
"Yeah, T'Pol. I could really use someone to talk to."
"Okay, I'll ask her to come down when she has a break."
"Thanks, that's really appreciated."
"I'll see you later," said Archer and moved on to the next cell.
Tucker Two was on the floor, examining the plumbing in his cell, which baffled Archer slightly.
"Trip, what are you doing?"
"Oh, hi Captain," said Tucker Two, getting to his feet as quickly as he could. "I just noticed that this sink wasn't draining properly. I thought I'd take a look as I'm here. Can't do much without tools but at least I can make a start. I was actually wondering if you could get me some padds so that I can finish off working on those engine controller simulations."
"I'll see what I can do, but I'm not sure if Malcolm will be too happy with giving you any technology at the moment."
"Come on Captain, I've got work stacking up down in Engineering. At least I could use the time while you sort this out to get some work done."
"You know as well as I do what prisoners in the brig are allowed and what they're not. I can't bend the rules just for you. We have to wait until Phlox has cleared you."
"Yes, he wants to give all three of you medicals. Hopefully that will let us work out which of you is the real Trip."
"Well the sooner the better as far as I'm concerned. God knows what they're doing down in Engineering without me."
"I'll be back later to see how you're doing," said Archer.
"Thanks, Captain. It's appreciated."
Archer gave him a nod of acknowledgement and moved onto the third cell where Tucker Three was pacing up and down.
"It's about damn time you got here and let me out," said Tucker Three, coming up to the mesh of the cell wall. "What's happening, Captain?"
Archer realised that Tucker Three was pretty annoyed and this was not going to be an easy conversation.
"Trip, you're going to have to wait a little longer."
"God damn it, what do I have to do to prove to you that I'm Trip Tucker?" Tucker Three was pacing again.
"Phlox wants to perform a medical on all three of you and that should tell us which of you is the real thing. So until then, you'll just have to sit tight."
"When I get hold of the bastards that did this, I'm going to rip them a new one. Who do you think it is? The Klingons? Nah, they're not smart enough. Suliban? That'd make more sense. Or maybe those Romulan guys we ran into in the minefield? Or it could be someone new. Please tell me that you're looking for whoever did this to me."
"T'Pol's working on what happened."
"Well good for her, but that doesn't exactly answer my question."
"We don't have much to go on, Trip. We're doing everything that we can. The best thing you can do for the moment is sit tight and wait for Phlox to do his stuff."
Tucker Three thumped a hand into the glass in frustration. "Fine, I'll sit here and wait like a good little Engineer."
"Good. We'll get this all sorted as quickly as we can." Archer left Tucker Three to his pacing, and walked past the other two cells to exit the brig.
He headed back towards the transporter, thinking about his three encounters as he walked. They certainly all looked and sounded like Trip, but none of them were behaving exactly as he would have expected Trip to behave. Or perhaps they were. This was a stressful situation and Trip could be rather unpredictable under those circumstances. Nothing that any of the Trips had said was exactly out of character for the engineer but it was more that he wouldn't have expected such strong reactions from him. It was like all of the people in the brig were a little off. If he had to pick one of them then perhaps Tucker Two was the closest to what he would have expected, checking out the plumbing and desperate to get back to Engineering. Then again, he knew Trip had a sensitive streak and perhaps Tucker One's hurt at being placed in the brig was understandable. Although Trip wasn't normally so happy to show that side openly and he wasn't quite sure why One would want to see T'Pol.
Three's reaction was classic defensive Trip. He got angry in response to perceived threats and it was also how he usually hid his emotions. Three did have every right to be annoyed at being in the brig and he was sure that he'd have been just as angry in his place. Equally he'd want to know who to direct that anger at and there were a lot of aliens out there who didn't like Enterprise very much. Archer could certainly have added a few more to the list Trip had suggested.
Archer shook his head. Apparently talking to them wasn't going to reveal the one, true Trip, so it was down to Phlox now to work it out. He reached the transporter platform and found T'Pol and Lieutenant Hess taking it to pieces.
"Any idea what happened?" asked Archer.
"Not yet," said T'Pol. "However we have eliminated several systems either from tampering or malfunction."
Archer nodded. "Let me know if you find anything."
"Of course," said T'Pol and turned back to her work. Archer got the message that he wasn't wanted here and decided to head to the Bridge until T'Pol and Phlox had finished their investigations.
Archer, T'Pol and Reed stood in sickbay looking at the screen on which Phlox was displaying three sets of DNA results. T'Pol had her arms folded loosely across her body, and was intently studying the screen.
"In short, all three men are Commander Tucker and all three are not," said Phlox.
"That isn't terribly helpful, Doctor," said Reed.
"They all have exactly the same DNA, that is without doubt, and it is a match to Commander Tucker's before you ask. Then there are the brainwave patterns. I took all three's brainwave patterns when they arrived in sickbay, roughly at the same time. They matched Commander Tucker's down to a completely acceptable level of accuracy. As I'm sure you're aware, no two brainwave patterns match exactly, that would be impossible. We look for a high level of correlation, and these brainwave patterns were certainly within tolerances."
"I'm sensing a "but", Doctor," said Archer.
"I scanned their brainwave patterns again before they left sickbay and I noticed a divergence, again slight, but it was enough to make me wonder if it was actually significant. Their brainwaves seemed to be moving away from those of the original Commander Tucker, if at a very slow rate. I have no idea if this will manifest itself in the Commanders' behaviours, or if is something that will slow to a stop or speed up. All I can say is, at the moment all three men are as close to Commander Tucker as the man who left Enterprise this morning."
"So your conclusion is that all three are Commander Tucker," said T'Pol. "That would seem to be a logical impossibility."
"Could they be clones?" asked Reed.
"Not in my opinion," said Phlox. "It would show up much more readily in their DNA and I would expect to see copy errors."
"So, we're back to it being some sort of transporter malfunction?" asked Archer.
"I believe some of Doctor Emory Erickson's early experiments in teleportation resulted in subjects being split into several copies. Perhaps it is not as far fetched a theory as we had first believed."
"Those experiments were on inanimate objects, T'Pol," said Archer. "Getting two apples is not the same as getting three Trip Tuckers." Archer was getting increasingly frustrated. They couldn't all be Trip and he couldn't keep them in the brig forever. The ship really needed its Chief Engineer. He shook his head at the lack of facts that he had to work with.
"I will return to working on the transporter logs," said T'Pol, turning to go.
"I think we have to concentrate our efforts there," said Archer. "In the mean time, perhaps we should consider letting the Commander Tuckers out of the brig."
"They could at least be getting three times the work done," joked Reed, and then sobered slightly. "However, I would recommend assigning a Security officer to accompany each of them."
"Do it," said Archer. "And ask the Quartermaster to get two more uniforms in Trip's size in Science and Command specialism colours. We're going to need to tell them apart and that's the easiest way I can think of. We'll designate Science Trip "One", Engineering Trip "Two" and Command Trip "Three". You'd better point out that the number doesn't mean anything, it's just so that we can tell them apart."
Reed nodded. "Yes, sir. I'll see to it."
Archer watched Reed leave sickbay and allowed himself a sigh before he too took his leave of Phlox. He needed to place a call to Earth and contact his old friend Emory Erickson. He was probably the only person this side of the galaxy who might have any idea how this could have happened.
Trip Tucker One sat in the mess hall with Trip Tuckers Two and Three. They all had trays in front of them with identical meals on them, each of them had made exactly the same selections, and now they were eating in unison and it was freaking him out. He imagined that it was freaking out Lieutenant Reed even more, who was the only non-Trip Tucker at the table. They were certainly getting plenty of strange looks from around the rest of the mess hall and that was sort of getting to him as well. Trip One put down his fork for a moment and consciously waited a couple of beats before beginning to eat again.
It was a bizarre experience, sitting beside oneself in the literal sense rather than simply metaphorically being beside oneself with joy, or whatever other emotion it was. He was starting to notice things that he hadn't really ever thought about, like the way he chewed more on the right side of his mouth than the left and that his smile actually looked kind of goofy sometimes when he'd always been going for "teasing" or "whimsical". He was also getting a really good view of every single tiny imperfection in his face and skin, and the bit that he'd missed when he shaved that morning, before all of this happened. All three of them had that little tuft of four dark blond bristles on the left edge of the jaw. He'd felt his and checked just to make sure he wasn't going mad. Life really couldn't get much stranger than this.
All he really wanted to do was search out T'Pol. She always seemed to put his fears to rest, even when it probably wasn't intentional. What would she think now that there were three of him, however, and he doubted that she'd want to display affection for all three of him. He hadn't even persuaded her to show affection for him as a single person and this was just going to confuse matters even more. He began to think of ways to convince T'Pol that he was worth the effort and that he loved her, at least. Maybe he could persuade her that he was the best of the three.
Trip Tucker Two sat in the mess hall with Trip Tuckers One and Three. He was doing his best to ignore the other two Tuckers and, to be honest, all he really wanted to do was get back down to Engineering, but he wasn't exactly sure how they were going to work that one yet. He had a whole load of work that he'd left undone when he'd taken the shuttlepod out for its test drive. What his crew would think about having a Chief Engineer that was three people, he had no idea.
He started going through the transporter circuits in his head. Every single one of them would have been checked at the regular maintenance cycle earlier that week so it was very unlikely that something had failed and caused this to happen. However engineers did tend to live by Murphy's Law: "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". He wasn't an expert on transporters but he knew enough to take it to pieces and put it back together again, and some of the theory.
He had another thought, perhaps he'd be best using his time to help T'Pol find out what had happened to the transporter. He always enjoyed working with T'Pol. She was a very smart woman and great for bouncing ideas off. He wondered if Malcolm would let him go and help out.
Trip Tucker Three sat in the mess hall with Trip Tuckers One and Two. He was annoyed because the crew seemed to think it was feeding time at the zoo and the three Tuckers were being stared at by pretty much everyone who walked past. He would have thought that they'd be used to stuff like this happening by now, after all, they'd seen stranger things in their travels. He didn't like the fact that he had a guard, either, but there wasn't much he could do about that.
He was getting really fed up with people pushing him around and telling him what to do. He just wanted this to be sorted out as quickly as possible and he was pretty sure that he could do a better job of sorting it out than T'Pol was. He acknowledged that she was a good scientist but she really didn't have his touch with machines. Although she really did have a fine body, and he hoped that the other Trips weren't getting any ideas in that department.
Trip Two looked up. "Any idea when I'm going to be able to go back on duty, Malcolm?"
Reed looked a little uncomfortable. "Captain Archer isn't happy for any of you to go back on duty until T'Pol has definitely worked out what happened."
"Well maybe I should go down to the transporter pad and give her a hand," said Trip Two.
Trip Three noticed that he wasn't the only one that reacted to that suggestion, Trip One looked distinctly unhappy.
"I suppose that might be allowed," said Reed. "I'll have to check with the Captain first."
"What are we going to do about quarters?" asked Trip One.
"Yeah, I don't want to share with this pair," said Trip Three. "I'm told that I snore."
"I'm sure we can assign some temporary quarters until this matter is resolved," said Reed.
"Yeah, I'm sure we can, but which of us gets my quarters in the mean time?" asked Trip Three.
"I'm happy to move out temporarily," said Trip One. "I'm sure it won't be long before T'Pol gets this sorted out."
"I doubt I'll be in my quarters much," said Trip Two. "I just need somewhere to lay my head between shifts."
"Great, then no one'll mind if I take it," said Trip Three, with a grin. He had been planning to kick up a fuss if hadn't got his own quarters, but the other two didn't seem to care. Weren't they all supposed to be exactly the same person and therefore all want the same things? A quick look in Reed's direction made him wonder if the Security officer was thinking the same thing, he was certainly looking as if he was in deep thought.
"Malcolm, could you com the Captain and ask if I can help T'Pol out? I'd really like to be doing something useful," said Trip Two.
Reed looked a little surprise but gave a nod, and pushed his chair back from the table. "Of course, Commander. I'll be right back."
Trip Three noticed that the security officers that they'd been assigned were still hovering by the door as Reed went to the com port. They were all out of earshot however so this gave him a good opportunity to give Trip One and Trip Two a bit of a talking to.
"Now listen here, I don't know how this happened and I don't much care, but I'm going to set some ground rules. I know that I'm the real Charles Tucker and you two are the impostors. I'm going to be keeping an eye on everything that you do."
"Now hang on there," said Tucker Two. "If this was a transporter malfunction then we could all be Charles Tucker. We've just been split in three somehow."
Tucker One looked a little afraid and didn't say anything. He didn't get a chance after that because Reed returned to the table.
"The Captain seems to think that it won't hurt for you to help out T'Pol with the transporter. However he made it clear that you are to be supervised at all times."
"As long as I can be doing something useful then that's all I ask," said Trip Two with a grin.
"That goes for me too," said Trip One. "I know we need as much help as we can get down in Engineering."
"The Captain thought you might request to go down to Engineering and he agreed on the same conditions."
"It's fine with me, I just want to help," said Trip One.
Trip Three grunted. "Actually, what I'd really like to do is get some sleep in my quarters. Would anyone object to that?"
"As long as you're accompanied then you're pretty much free to do whatever you want on the ship," said Reed.
"Good," said Trip Three, picking up his desert from his tray and stealing Trip One's as he went past too. Three headed out of the mess hall and didn't look back. He knew he was being followed by one of Reed's security team, but he had his own plans for this evening, and none of them included anything to do with engineering.
T'Pol looked up from the current component that she was examining to see Commander Tucker come around the corner. This was the Commander Tucker that had been designated "Two" as he was wearing the red stripe of Engineering on his uniform.
"Hi T'Pol, I was wondering if you could use a hand. I'm kind of at a loose end," said Tucker Two.
"We need to check the phase converters," said T'Pol, and Tucker Two got down to work. He worked and worked and worked. In fact, he barely said two words to her over the next few hours and even then he only asked her questions about the transporter component that he was working on, or occasionally offered a helpful suggestion. T'Pol was impressed by his focus but at the same time was slightly perturbed by this change in Trip's character.
Tucker Two looked up and saw T'Pol looking at him. "Is something wrong?"
"You are normally more talkative," said T'Pol.
"Am I? I guess I've been too busy to make small talk." Tucker Two gave her a small smile.
"Indeed, discovering exactly what went wrong is a considerable task."
"I guess we're pretty certain that this was a transporter malfunction now," said Tucker Two, with a sigh.
"It seems to be the only explanation given the burnt out circuits that we have discovered."
"Yeah, but those were caused by the malfunction, not the other way round."
"I agree," said T'Pol. "We should examine the pattern buffer."
Trip nodded and stood, going over to the control console. He pressed a few buttons as T'Pol moved to his shoulder so that she could observe his work.
"Well the transporter definitely only detected one life sign and beamed up one life sign. Then the pattern got split and it re-materialised three people. That doesn't exactly help us with the why though. Maybe we should perform a test, see if it beams up anything else in triplicate."
"You are assuming that the transporter still works," said T'Pol.
"Well, there are a few damaged components but none of the major circuits. Everything is still getting power. I reckon it should still work."
"Very well. What do you think we should attempt to beam up?"
"Well, how about we try to lock on to a piece of the shuttlepod?"
T'Pol nodded and went to the transporter controls. She locked onto the obviously man-made signature of a piece of the crashed shuttlepod and activated the transporter. A whirl of light began to appear on the transporter pad and it materialised into three identical pieces of metal that had once been part of the transporter.
"I guess that answers that question," said Tucker Two.
"Perhaps we should check the Heisenberg compensators," said T'Pol.
"I doubt that they're the source of the problem or I wouldn't be standing here, but I guess we'd better check everything," said Tucker Two.
T'Pol found herself once again impressed by Tucker's continued application to the task at hand. He had never shied away from work, that was certainly true, but this new man in front of her seemed more logical in his thought processes and less easily distracted. She had contemplated her relationship with Commander Tucker on many occasions, and had come to the conclusion that it would never work. If this was the man that Commander Tucker really was, then perhaps she had erred in her judgement. She took a deep breath and rationalised that now was not the time to be having thoughts like this, especially with a Security officer looking over their shoulders.
"While you are doing that, I will start checking the molecular imaging scanner," said T'Pol, knowing that this would mean that they wouldn't be bumping elbows.
"Okay, divide and conquer seems like a good strategy." Tucker Two yawned.
"Perhaps you should get some sleep before we continue. You will be more efficient if you are well rested."
"I'd rather get to the bottom of this," Tucker Two replied.
"Nevertheless a few hours sleep will make little difference to our overall progress. We should both rest and return later."
Tucker Two narrowed his eyes. "I guess a couple of hours of down time won't hurt."
"I would suggest four hours minimum," replied T'Pol.
Tucker Two smiled at her. "Have you been taking notes from Phlox?"
"I am merely familiar with the amount of sleep that a human requires in order to function. Ideally you would sleep for longer than four hours, however given the circumstances, I am prepared to settle for a shorter period."
"Fine, I think I should have some quarters assigned to me by now."
"You are not in your usual quarters?"
"Ah, Three seemed pretty intent on being the one to get assigned my quarters. Something isn't quite right about him." Tucker Two shrugged. "I'll meet you back here in four hours." He gave her a little wave over his shoulder as he turned to go.
T'Pol watched him walk away down the corridor, followed by his Security officer. She called Lieutenant Hess to come and continue their work while she went off shift, and then went to her quarters. She meditated briefly and then settled down for a couple of hours sleep, it would hopefully be enough to keep her going until this was resolved.
She had been asleep for approximately an hour when her door bell sounded. She sat up and grabbed her robe from where she had left it, draped over the end of the bed. She wrapped it around herself as she activated the lights and finally opened the door.
Standing outlined in the light was Tucker One, identified by the uncustomary blue stripe on his uniform. He carried in his hands a small bunch of assorted flowers. T'Pol thought that she recognised them from the hydroponics bay, although they seemed rather wilted.
"T'Pol, you look beautiful," said Tucker One.
"Commander Tucker, I was attempting to get some sleep before returning to investigating the transporter malfunction. This is not the best time for you to visit my quarters."
"T'Pol, I love you," said Tucker One, offering her the flowers. "Sorry about the flowers. I wanted a dozen red roses but they didn't have much choice in hydroponics."
"Commander, this is hardly the time or place for this. Where is your security officer?" T'Pol looked up and down the corridor but was unable to see anyone else.
"Oh, I, er, lost him in a Jeffries tube. I thought it should be just the two of us for this. It's not everyday that a man declares his undying love for a woman." Tucker One was smiling at her and seemed genuinely sincere in his words.
"I think you should return to your quarters, Commander."
"You don't understand. I've been wanting to say this for so long and I'm not sure what stopped me. You mean the world to me. I know we've had our differences but we can get through them. All that matters is what I feel for you and I'm pretty sure that you feel the same way about me." His eyes were almost pleading with her, to say that she did feel the same way, but she couldn't do it. Not here. Not now.
She was finding having three Trip Tuckers around the ship extremely confusing. One moment she was revising her ideas about their future together and the next, she was deciding that any interaction with such an emotional human was most definitely a recipe for disaster.
"Vulcans do not have emotions," said T'Pol. "I suggest you go to bed and we will talk about this tomorrow. You are obviously overwrought and not thinking clearly. Goodnight Commander." She pressed the button that would activate the door. It slid shut between her and her visitor, and then she locked it for good measure. She heard Tucker One bang on her door.
"But T'Pol, I love you. Don't you understand? I can't live without you any longer."
Then bizarrely she heard what sounded like someone crying. She had known that Commander Tucker was emotional, even for a human, but had never seen him present such an extreme display before. She decided that she was not equipped to deal with this situation.
"T'Pol to Captain Archer. I have situation outside my quarters that I require your help with."
Captain Archer walked down the corridor towards T'Pol's quarters and from several doors down could see the crumpled form in her doorway. Trip One had his head in his hands and was sobbing uncontrollably. A rather wilted and squashed bunch of flowers lay discarded beside him.
"Awe hell," muttered Archer. The last thing he needed to deal with right now was a hurt and emotional Commander Tucker. He'd had experience of Trip after he'd been dumped by a woman before, but he'd never seen him this bad. He knew that Trip was a romantic at heart, after all he cried during movies, which was a source of much teasing, but this was a rather extreme reaction. He hadn't even been aware that Trip felt so strongly about T'Pol, maybe the accident had made Trip decide to seize the day. To be honest Archer just wasn't sure what to think. He reached Trip One and crouched down beside him.
"Trip, what am I going to do with you?"
"She doesn't want me," sobbed Trip. He looked up at Archer with red rimmed eyes.
"I don't think you're going to help your cause any by sobbing outside her door." Archer placed a hand on Trip One's shoulder. "Let's get you back to you quarters."
Trip One shook the hand off his shoulder. "I need to talk to her. I have to make her understand."
"I know you're feeling pretty bad, Trip, but you can't sit in the middle of the corridor forever."
Trip One gave a sad little nod and Archer helped him up from the floor. At least he wasn't actively crying anymore. He'd entered the sniffing and hitched breaths stage. Archer held him by the arm, offering more moral than physical support, as he ushered him down the hall to the guest quarters that he'd been assigned. He thumbed open the door and they stepped inside the unusually sparse quarters. They were smaller than Trip's normal quarters and seemed considerably less friendly. Archer was almost loath to leave his friend here, but, confusingly, his friend was also currently occupying his own quarters and the room next door.
"What am I going to do, Captain? She wouldn't even talk to me." Trip One sat down heavily on the bed. It hadn't been slept in by the looks of it, which suggested that Trip One had finished his shift in Engineering and then come straight to T'Pol's quarters, possibly via hydroponics to steal some flowers.
"Give her a bit of time, Trip. You rather sprung this on her and she probably needs some time to digest it." Archer was pretty much lying his socks off here, but he wasn't sure how to tell Trip One that he doubted T'Pol was interested in a human, much less one that had just been split into three.
Trip One was looking like he might burst into tears again.
"Why don't you get some sleep? I'm sure things will look different in the morning." It sounded lame even to Archer, but he honestly couldn't think of anything else to say at the moment. Any other time he'd be doing his best to get to the bottom of what was going on here, but working out exactly what had happened to Trip in the first place was a rather more pressing problem. Then he had a thought. "How about we have breakfast together? Then we can talk about this a bit more and see if we can't come up with a solution."
Trip One nodded, swallowing hard and definitely trying to hold back more tears. He seemed to pull himself together though. "Yeah, maybe you're right. I just need to sleep on this and clear my head."
"Yeah, it's been a very long day. For all of us," said Archer, remembering that he'd been pulled out of bed to deal with this minor incident. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Okay, good night, Captain. Sorry for falling to pieces on you. It's just that T'Pol's so great…" Trip One was once again looking like he might crumble. Luckily Archer was saved by the com.
"Reed to Archer."
"Archer, go ahead."
"Captain, Tucker Three has locked himself in his quarters."
Archer briefly closed his eyes in despair. "Just what I need. Another Tucker acting up. I'll be right there."
Archer was very glad that Reed didn't ask what he meant by "another". "I'll meet you there," the Armoury Officer replied and signed off.
It didn't take Archer long to reach Trip's actual quarters, and as he neared he could hear the sound of loud singing coming from inside. It seemed to be interspersed with rather raucous harmonica playing.
"What's going on?" asked Archer, of the Security Officer who was currently on duty and assigned to Tucker Three. Lieutenant Reed stood beside him, probably having just asked the exact same question.
"Standing orders were to check on Commander Tucker at every shift change. I just came on duty and he refused to open his door. I've tried comming him, but he isn't answering. I'm concerned that he's acting very out of character," said the rather beleaguered security officer.
"I'll say," said Reed. "With your permission, Captain, I think we should override the lock."
"Do it," said Archer.
Reed obliged, and they were treated to the sight of Tucker Three in one of his loudest Hawaiian shirts and a pair of faded, torn jeans, sitting on his bed with a bottle of scotch beside him and his harmonica in his hands. His quarters looked like a bomb had hit them. Padds, equipment, clothes and pictures were strewn everywhere. The bottle of scotch seemed to have about two thirds of it missing. Tucker Three took another swig from the bottle before he'd noticed that the door was open. When he did notice, his reaction was striking. He leapt up from the bed.
"What the hell are you doing? Get the hell out of my god damn quarters you bastards!"
Archer put his hands out in a placatory gesture. Trip was definitely drunk and very angry about something. "Trip, just calm down a second. We were just concerned about you."
"Well, ain't that just great. You're concerned. Well you've checked on me, done your duty, made sure that I'm not cracking up, so now you can leave. I've got some scotch to drink and this is a private party."
"I'm not leaving until you explain to me why you've trashed your quarters and drunk yourself into a near stupor." Archer was aware that Trip could be a bit of a maudlin drunk but he'd never seen him turn mean with it.
"You want to know why? Why not? No one ever gets to have any fun around here. I thought it was about time that I kicked back and took a bit of a vacation. I've had enough of your damn rules and regulations. You can screw Starfleet and your stupid rank structure. All I wanted to do this morning was climb back into bed and get a few more hours sleep. You know why? Because I'd just worked a double shift. Instead I had to get up and test the repairs to that damned shuttlepod, which aren't worth a damn because it's in pieces on the surface of the planet. So I decided to take a break.
Then, I thought, what about someone to keep me company. Someone good looking with a hot body, like our favourite Vulcan Science Officer. I went down to her quarters and guess what? She won't let me in because one of the other two has already been there. When I get my hands on whichever one of them it was, I'm going to kill them. She's mine, damn it."
"Commander Tucker, T'Pol doesn't belong to anyone," said Archer, coolly. He really hadn't ever seen Trip like this. This extreme reaction to T'Pol refusing to allow him to enter her quarters was just unfathomable. It was like a different man stood in front of him. This certainly wasn't the same man who was his friend and most trusted advisor.
Trip narrowed his eyes and gave Archer an appraising look. "I get it now. You bastard! You want her for yourself, don't you? I know that she's the hottest property on the ship but I'd thought you were too much of a stickler for the rules to try it on with the First Officer."
"Trip, you've got it all wrong. There's nothing going on between me and T'Pol," said Archer.
Tucker Three took the two steps required to close the gap between himself and Archer. "Like hell there is," he commented, sarcasm dripping from his words and then he took a swing at his target. Archer ducked the uncoordinated punch easily and Tucker Three didn't even get a chance to try again. Reed stunned him as he was pulling his arm back. He fell to the ground with the dull thud that only truly drunk people can manage.
"Put him in the brig," said Archer. "I have no idea what is going on with the Tuckers, but as far as I'm concerned Tucker Three is a danger to himself and others."
"On the strength of that performance, I'd have to agree with you, Captain," replied Reed, putting away his weapon. Once again Archer was interrupted by the com.
"T'Pol to Archer."
"This is Archer, go ahead."
"Captain, Commander Tucker Two has just been taken to sickbay. He collapsed."
"What?" asked Archer. "What happened?"
"I am unsure. We left the transporter padd earlier to sleep, but it appears Commander Tucker returned and continued working with Lieutenant Hess. I came back on duty to find him at work. We continued to examine the transporter however, Commander Tucker indicated that he did not feel well. Lieutenant Hess was about to escort him to sickbay when he collapsed."
Which meant that Tucker Two hadn't slept, and he'd been working all this time, so perhaps it could just be exhaustion. Given the other bizarre events that had happened today, anything was possible.
"Captain, I thought you might also be interested to know that I believe I have discovered the cause of the transporter malfunction," T'Pol continued.
Finally Archer had got some good news. "Okay, meet me in sickbay and maybe we can get to the bottom of what's going on here." Archer turned to Reed. "You too, Lieutenant, as soon as Tucker Three is back in the brig."
"Yes, sir," replied Reed, as he helped the Security officer manhandle Tucker Three up and drag him towards the brig.
Archer wouldn't have believed that things could have become anymore messy than they already were, but they certainly seemed to be heading that way.
Archer was the first to arrive in sickbay and he gave Phlox a run down of what had happened so far. T'Pol arrived a few moments later, a padd in her hands.
"Good morning, Subcommander," said Phlox, noticing her arrival. "I've conducted some further scans on Commander Tucker, uh, Two. Shall I give you the results or would you like to wait for Lieutenant Reed to arrive?"
"No need, Doctor," said Reed, entering sickbay through the double doors at a rapid pace.
"What did you find, Phlox?" asked Archer.
"Put simply, he's dying and by extension so are the other two, although of course I would need to confirm that by examining them." Phlox activated the viewing screen. "Here is the current brain wave pattern and this is Commander Tucker's original pattern. The two have now devolved from each other remarkably over the last few hours. I should have realised something like this would happen when I noticed the earlier change in the pattern. Of course if he had eaten anything in the last few hours it might have helped his stamina. As far as I can tell he hasn't eaten since he returned from the planet yesterday morning. He's also rather dehydrated."
"He was working so hard, he forgot to stop to eat or drink?" asked Reed. "I know Trip gets focused on his work, but he normally makes time to eat."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "The three Tuckers have all demonstrated facets of Commander Tucker's personality but exaggerated to an unusual extent. This does fit with my findings at the transporter."
"What did you find?"
"It appears that the annular confinement beam was split into three, which split Commander Tucker's pattern into three streams. The transporter compensated for this by using the existing pattern stored in the buffer, and created three Commander Tuckers with different aspects of his personality."
"So we ended up with Workaholic Trip, Lovesick Trip and Psycho Trip?"
Phlox nodded in agreement. "Well, I wouldn't have quite put it like that, but essentially we have one entity that seems to have his more empathic emotions, one that has his baser emotions, and the final one that has his work ethic and seems devoid of emotion."
"Looking at these brainwave patterns, it would seem that as time passes they are actually deteriorating and getting less and less like the original Commander Tucker. In short their personalities are becoming more extreme the longer they are in existence. It is my belief that we must find a way to recombine them, or risk such a serious deterioration that all three will die in a matter of days."
"How many days?" asked Archer.
"Three, maybe four at the outside," said Phlox, solemnly. "Looking at his readings, I'd say Two will be the first to go. He's been pushing a damaged body to its absolute limits."
"If one of them dies, we will lose the ability to recombine them into one entity," said T'Pol.
"It doesn't give us much time to find a solution," said Reed.
"Does he know?" asked Archer, indicating Tucker Two who was lying on a biobed at the far end of sickbay.
"He hasn't regained consciousness yet, but I expect him to recover soon."
Archer turned to Reed. "Round up the other two and bring them down here. I think sickbay is probably the best place for them for the moment. We'll put Three in restraints if necessary."
"Yes, sir," said Reed, and went to the com to organise some security officers.
"So how do we fix this?" Archer asked T'Pol.
"I suggest that we use the transporter on all three Commander Tuckers to store them in the buffer and then I will write a program to recombine them into one entity. However, unless I can discover why the beam was split into three and repair the transporter accordingly, this will not work."
"Do you have any idea what caused this to happen?"
"Commander Tucker Two and I had eliminated most of the transporter components as the source of the malfunction. This would suggest that there was something on the planet that has caused the problem. We beamed up a piece of debris from the crashed shuttlepod and achieved the same result."
"We could send a team down to the surface in a shuttlepod," suggested Reed, having finished his communication with his security officers.
"We still don't know why Trip's shuttlepod malfunctioned in the first place. I'm not sending anyone down there until I can guarantee their safety." Archer wished that he could have said yes to Reed's proposal but without a working transporter to recover anyone who got into trouble, he just wasn't prepared to take the risk. Besides, three versions of Trip were more than enough trouble. He didn't want three versions of T'Pol, or three versions of Malcolm or anyone else. "You'll just have to make do with the scans that we've taken."
"Very well," said T'Pol, making it clear that she wasn't entirely happy.
There was stirring from the end of sickbay. Phlox went to check the biomonitors above Tucker Two's bed.
"He's coming round," said Phlox.
Archer came over to the biobed just as Tucker Two's eyes opened. "Hi there, Trip. How are you feeling?"
"A bit tired. When can I get back to work?"
Archer exchanged a look with Phlox. "We want to keep you in sickbay for the moment. We're bringing the other two down here as well. Maybe I should let Phlox explain."
"It seems that when the transporter created three versions of you, it also split your personality traits."
Tucker Two sat up. "I should be helping to find out how to fix this."
Phlox shook his head. "By splitting you into three, it damaged and weakened your body. Your brain pattern is deteriorating. If we can't recombine you into one person, then you'll be dead in less than four days."
"Fine, that just makes it more important for me to be working on the transporter." Tucker Two seemed adamant.
Archer decided to continue for Phlox. "There's more Trip. You've been working so hard that you've made things worse. That's why you collapsed. I can't let you go back to work; you have to stay in sickbay."
"Then get me a padd and the diagnostic data and I'll work on it here," said Tucker Two, calmly.
"I suppose I can allow that," said Phlox. "As long as you don't leave your bed."
"It's a deal, Doc," said Tucker Two.
T'Pol appeared behind them, offering Tucker Two her padd. "I have the data here. You are welcome to work on this padd, I have other copies."
"Thanks, T'Pol." Tucker Two almost snatched the padd out of her hands and didn't give T'Pol a second look as he bowed his head over the data. He ignored everyone as they left him to his work.
The sickbay door opened and three security officers entered with Tuckers One and Three. Tucker Three had a security officer holding each arm and was still struggling, whereas Tucker One had entered on his own, the security officer a step behind.
"Put him in restraints," Archer ordered, pointing at Tucker Three.
"Get the hell off me!" Tucker Three shouted, as the security officers pinned him to a biobed and strapped him down. Tucker One looked a little scared by the display.
"Are you going to do that to me too?" he asked, worriedly.
Archer shook his head. "I don't see any need to. You're not violent and I have no reason to believe you'll try anything. I do still trust you."
"Thanks Captain, that means a lot," said Tucker One.
Archer could see the beginnings of a tear in Tucker One's eye, but he was saved from having to comfort a, once again, tearful Chief Engineer. The com sounded.
"Bridge to Captain Archer. I have Doctor Erickson on subspace for you."
"Archer here. Thanks Hoshi," said Archer. "I'll take it in my quarters."
"Yes, sir," said Hoshi. "Bridge out."
"T'Pol, I'm sorry about earlier," said Tucker One, catching sight of the Vulcan. "I just really needed to tell you how I feel about you."
T'Pol stiffened. "I should return to my analysis of the sensor data from the planet."
"I'll walk with you," said Archer.
"But, T'Pol, I was hoping that we could talk," said Tucker Two, that pleading look in his eyes.
"We are short of time. Perhaps later," said T'Pol, turning and walking swiftly out of sickbay.
"Keep me updated on their condition," said Archer, as he and Reed followed T'Pol.
"Of course, Captain," said Phlox, surveying his rather disrupted sickbay.
T'Pol was a few steps ahead of them as Archer and Reed left sickbay.
"Is there something between those two?" asked Reed, with a nod back at sickbay to indicate one of the Tuckers.
"I wish I knew," said Archer, watching T'Pol walk away. If anything T'Pol seemed interested in Tucker Two, but he didn't seem interested in anything other than his work. Tucker One obviously thought that he was in love with her, but Archer had no idea if that was just because he was a shard of Trip's personality that was normally repressed, or if Trip, when he was one person rather than three, was actually in love with her. Perhaps he was, Tucker Three certainly seemed jealous of Tucker One, even if he was more interested in her body than anything else.
"I'll keep an eye on these three," said Reed.
Archer nodded. "Thanks, Malcolm. Just remember that it's Trip. I know that he isn't exactly acting like it at the moment, but if you put all of those three people together…"
"I know, Captain, and I am remembering that. It's just a little difficult to reconcile Tucker Three with the man we know."
"Well we all know that Trip can have a bit of a temper and everyone has a bad side. Tucker Three is Trip's bad side with nothing to mitigate it."
"Yes, Captain, and I'll make sure everyone is aware of that," said Reed.
"Good. I'll let you know as soon as we've got something more," said Archer. "Anyway, I have a call to take."
"Yes, sir," said Reed, with a curt nod of acknowledgement before he headed back into sickbay.
Archer sat down in front of the vid screen.
"Jonathan, it's been a while. What can I do for you?" asked Emory Erickson, with a gracious smile. Erickson had known Archer's father and was someone that he was very close to. He was also the foremost expert on transporter technology on Earth and had gained the title "father of the transporter", so if anyone could help him with Trip's transporter accident then it would be this man. It was impossible to tell from the picture on the screen but Archer knew that the man in front of him was currently sat in a wheelchair. He had been injured in an accident during an experimental transporter test and was someone who was constantly pushing at the limits of science.
"We've had a problem with our transporter," said Archer, and then he gave Erickson the full details of what had happened.
"It sounds like you have an interesting problem," said Erickson.
"It's more than that. The three Tuckers are deteriorating. Phlox thinks that they have less than four days to live."
Erickson looked solemn. "So you're working to a deadline. I looked at the transporter log data that you sent me and I came to the same conclusion that your Subcommander T'Pol did. The beam was split in three. The question is how and whether it damaged the transporter."
"Yes, T'Pol's looking into that right now."
"Without being on the spot it's difficult for me to be much help. We did have a couple of tests which resulted in two or more objects appearing, but mainly that was because we had some issues with our imaging lenses, detecting more objects than were actually there. We had a couple of problems with some magnetic interference. There wasn't anything in your data indicating anything of that nature, so I'm not sure that is going to help you here. I'd be happy to send you the test files and anything else that related to those experiments. Maybe Subcommander T'Pol can find a link with your data."
"We'll take anything that we can get," said Archer.
"Your next problem is going to be combining the three beams back into one. I have some ideas about that. None of them have ever been tested before because this isn't your everyday problem, but at least it should give you something to work with."
"Okay, I'll bear that in mind and pass them along to T'Pol with everything else. I really appreciate your help, Emory. Trip's a good friend of mine and I'd like to get him back in one piece."
"Trip?" asked Emory.
"It's a nickname. His real name is Charles Tucker III. Trip is short for triple."
Erickson gave a short laugh. "Irony is alive and well."
"Apparently so," replied Archer, allowing himself the smallest of smiles in reply.
"I'll get those files to you by data burst in the next hour. Once you've got this all sorted out then I'd love to see your Science Officer's report."
"I don't see a problem with that, I'll make sure you get a copy."
"I hope the data helps. Don't leave it so long before you get in touch again, Jonathan."
"I'll do my best, Emory," said Archer. "Enterprise out."
The screen went blank, but Archer felt that he had at least found T'Pol some more data to work with. He went to let Hoshi know that she should expect a data burst from Earth in the next hour.
When Erickson's data came through Archer took it to T'Pol personally. He found her in one of the science labs examining geological data from the planet.
"I brought you the data from the early transporter experiments that Emory sent through," said Archer, handing T'Pol the data chip that he'd downloaded the data onto. "He also had some theories about how to turn the three Tuckers back into one person."
"Thank you," said T'Pol accepting the data chip and putting it into the reader on the console. She swiftly downloaded the data and scrolled through it. "This is most interesting."
"Good," said Archer. "Have you made any progress?"
"I may have identified the cause of the malfunction," said T'Pol. "Doctor Erickson's data also confirms my hypothesis."
Archer stood waiting for T'Pol to continue but she was still scrolling through the new data.
"T'Pol?" asked Archer.
"My apologies, Captain. I believe that the presence of a previously unknown magnetic crystalline substance found commonly on the planet's surface was responsible for both Commander Tucker's crash in the shuttlepod and the subsequent transporter malfunction."
"How could a crystal be responsible for both the crash and malfunction?"
"The planet has a strong magnetic field but each of these crystals produces a huge magnetic field of its own. Not only that but they have optical properties that could potentially affect the transporter's imaging scanners."
"So the magnetic field affected the shuttlepod in some way?"
"Without retrieving the black-box I cannot say for certain, however strong magnetic fields can interfere with navigation and engine control. I would theorise that this was what caused the shuttlepod crash."
"Okay, that I can understand but how could it do what it did to the transporter?"
"Transporters are sensitive to magnetic affects, but a larger issue would be the optical properties of the crystals. Given Enterprise's position at the time of beaming and Commander Tucker's position on the planet it is likely that our imaging scanner and confinement beam passed through one of these crystals."
"Just how big are these crystals, T'Pol?"
"The largest ones can grow as tall as 300 metres."
"That's as big as some of the skyscrapers back on Earth," said Archer, in surprise.
"They are very large structures. My current theory is that it acted like a prism and split the returning beam into three. Normally the transporter can compensate for such issues, however the magnetic properties of the crystals caused some interference. The transporter was unable to discern that the three patterns were, in fact, all part of the same man and should have been re-materialised as one."
"Great, so we know what happened. How do we fix it?"
"That is more difficult. Doctor Erickson has suggested several avenues that could work, but I need to narrow our approach to the most likely to succeed. It will also take me some time to write a program to control the transporter correctly and we will need to replace some damaged components. I have asked Lieutenant Hess to see to the latter immediately."
"Good. It sounds like you're doing everything that can be done," said Archer.
"Of course," said T'Pol, managing to get the slightest touch of hurt into her reply, that there was even a suggestion that she would do anything other than everything that could be done. "Commander Tucker is also my friend."
"Yes, I'd worked out that he liked you. Tucker One was making it quite obvious."
"My apologies on behalf of the Commander for any disruption that his approach at my quarters caused," said T'Pol, turning back to her console, head down. Archer thought he detected the slightest touch of green tinged blush to her cheeks.
"Do you feel the same way?" asked Archer.
"I would prefer not to discuss my relationship with Commander Tucker," said T'Pol.
"Look, it doesn't make any difference to me if the two of you are up to something," said Archer. "Fraternisation regs don't really apply when it's between two officers of the equivalent rank, however if it starts affecting the ship then I'll have to revise my decision."
"My relationship with Commander Tucker is complicated," said T'Pol. "Until I myself am able to understand it, I cannot explain it to you. You do have my promise that I will not let it affect my work in any way."
"I know that it's really none of my business, but Trip is a good friend of mine. If what I saw yesterday is any reflection of how his whole self feels about you, then he's serious about having feelings for you," said Archer. "Maybe you should stop pushing him away, T'Pol, and…"
"Reed to Archer." The com sounded interrupting his next sentence.
Archer went to the com point by the door. "Go ahead, Lieutenant."
"Sir, we have a problem. Tucker Three managed to get free from his restraints. He injured one of the Security Officers and has left sickbay."
"Where did he go?"
"I don't know, sir. I'm organising search teams to sweep the ship."
"I'll be right there," said Archer. He muttered an apology to T'Pol, told her to let him know when she was ready to try to recombine the Tuckers and left the science lab. He made it down to sickbay in record time and found Reed coordinating efforts to find their escaped prisoner.
"How did he get out of the restraints?" asked Archer.
"He somehow managed to palm a scalpel from one of Phlox's trays of surgical instruments, probably while we were wrestling with him to get him tied down. He persuaded Tucker One to loosen the straps while no one was watching and then it was easy for him."
Tucker One was looking guilty and rather upset. "I'm really sorry. It's just that it looked like the straps were hurting him. I'm really, really sorry."
Archer sighed. Of course Trip's better nature would be concerned about the welfare of their prisoner and he suspected that One had also got Trip's naivety. However, Trip could also be quite manipulative when he put his mind to it and Tucker Three seemed to have got that part of Trip's personality. "It's okay, Trip. He manipulated you into it." Archer looked around sickbay. "Where's Two?"
"He asked if he could take a shower and I didn't see any reason to stop him," said Phlox.
"He's been in there a while," said Reed, going to the door of the small bathroom in the corner of sickbay. He knocked on the door. "Trip? Are you okay in there?"
There was no answer. Reed was looking worried and keyed in the door override. The shower was on, but no one was inside the cubicle. "Bloody hell," he said as he and Archer both noticed that the tile in the ceiling of the shower room had been removed. "He climbed out. I don't believe it; two of them are missing."
Apparently all three Tuckers had Trip's knowledge of the ship and intellect.
Reed turned to Tucker One and Archer thought he knew what Reed had in mind. "You're part of him. Where would you go?"
Tucker One shrugged. "I don't know. I'd want to see T'Pol, but I don't think they're quite like me. Two's more worried about the transporter and getting it fixed. He doesn't like things to be broken. Three's just angry about being kept here. I guess he'll probably try to find a way off the ship."
"Which either means the transporter or the shuttlepod. Neither of which would be a good option at the moment," said Reed.
"Why didn't you try to escape?" asked Archer.
"You told me to stay here and I didn't want to disappoint you, Captain," said Tucker One.
Archer smiled at his friend. This version of Trip was like talking to a small child sometimes. "Well at least one of you can be relied upon to do as he's told. Let's start with the transporter and the shuttle bay."
"I'll got to the transporter myself. I'll send a team down to the shuttle bay," said Reed, ordering a nearby Security officer to do exactly that.
"I'll come with you to the transporter," said Archer. "Trip, I want you to stay here."
"Yes, Captain," said Tucker One, who suddenly lurched to one side and Archer had to catch him.
"Are you okay?" asked Archer.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Just a little dizzy spell. Go and round up the other two, I'll be fine here with Phlox," said Trip.
Phlox had his scanner out and was giving Tucker One a thorough check. "The deterioration is continuing. At this point none of them should be exerting themselves or it will shorten the time that they have."
"Understood, Doctor," said Reed. "We'll have both of them back as soon as we can."
Reed and Archer arrived at the transporter to find it empty. They heard someone approaching down the corridor and took up positions out of sight, but to Archer's surprise it was T'Pol who walked up to the transporter console. T'Pol indicated her own surprise at their presence by raising a single eyebrow.
"Tucker Two went walkabout," said Archer.
"I thought it was Tucker Three that had left sickbay," said T'Pol.
"It's both of them," said Reed. "We think Three will try to find a way off the ship and Two is obsessed with fixing the transporter."
Suddenly the cover of a nearby Jeffries tube was kicked off and a familiar looking pair of legs came into view.
"Hi there," said Tucker Two, as he realised he had an audience. He pulled himself to his feet, wobbling a little. He was clutching a padd in one hand and he looked rather pale. "T'Pol, just the woman I was looking for." He offered T'Pol the padd that he was holding. "I've been working on the data from the transporter and I think I've worked out a way to get the three of us back together."
"Trip, we've been looking all over for you," said Archer. "Why did you leave sickbay?"
"I had to get this padd to T'Pol," said Tucker Two.
T'Pol took the padd and examined Two's work. "This is most helpful, Commander."
"Why didn't you just ask us? We could have given this to T'Pol without you leaving sickbay," said Archer.
"You might have said no," replied Tucker Two.
Archer guessed that he shouldn't have been surprised by Two's answer. In the world of engineering things were always absolutes; they either worked or they didn't. He was still a little perplexed by Tucker Two's lack of trust, Trip could be trusting to a fault.
"You've given her the padd now, let's get you back to sickbay," said Reed.
"Actually I was hoping that I could stay and help T'Pol," said Tucker Two.
Archer shook his head. "Phlox was very clear. You shouldn't be exerting yourself. You need to conserve your energy. Malcolm, take him back to sickbay."
Tucker Two looked dejected but he gave a small nod. "Fine, I'll go back to sickbay."
Suddenly Tucker Three had slammed into Tucker Two. "You traitor! You've given them the goddamn way to kill us."
Reed grabbed hold of Tucker Three's shoulders and began trying to drag him off Tucker Two. Archer attempted the same thing from the other side but Three wasn't making it easy. Archer could hear T'Pol at the com requesting Security to the transporter padd. A few moments later three of Reed's Security officers appeared and together they were able to separate the two fighting Tuckers. Archer was glad that he'd insisted on the different coloured uniforms or they'd be having a lot of trouble trying to work out which Tucker was which after they'd been rolling around on the floor together.
"How does it make you feel, Captain, to know that you're killing three people?" spat Tucker Three. He was still struggling and swearing as the Security officers dragged him away down the corridor. "I don't want to die! Traitor!"
Tucker Two looked a little dishevelled, but Three hadn't managed to do any serious damage. Apparently all three Tuckers knew the exact same moves, so it hadn't been hard for Two to block and dodge. Tucker Two actually seemed completely unfazed by the entire incident.
"Are you okay?" Archer asked.
"I'm fine," Tucker Two said, brushing off the attack as if it hadn't happened. "It's not like any of us are actually dying. Although I suppose it depends how you look at it."
"There are some metaphysical issues," said T'Pol.
"Not as far as I'm concerned," said Archer. "I need my Chief Engineer back in one piece."
Tucker Two closed his eyes for a second putting a hand to his head.
"Get him back to sickbay, Lieutenant," said Archer, concerned for the health of this facet of Trip.
Reed took Tucker Two by the elbow and led him away towards sickbay. Tucker Two didn't protest and seemed to be getting weaker even as he walked away, leaning more on Reed and breathing heavily.
Archer turned back to T'Pol to find her watching Tucker Two as he left. She had a strange look in her eyes that Archer had never seen before. It suggested longing to Archer, as if T'Pol wished that she could follow Trip.
"How long before you can try recombining them?" asked Archer.
"Commander Tucker has given me some help with his work on the problem. If I merge this approach with the suggestions from Doctor Erickson, then I should be able to develop a transporter protocol in approximately three hours. However, some components were damaged by the magnetic field and need to be replaced. You will have to ask Lieutenant Hess how long that will take. I believe she is already on her way with the replacement parts." T'Pol turned to the transporter console and started to enter data. "I will contact you when we are ready." Archer decided to leave her to her work.
Archer headed back down to sickbay. It was about the only place that he felt he could be useful. It was one of the problems of being Captain, sometimes he just had to stand back and let his crew do what they were best at. He was fairly certain that if Trip had been a single person it would have taken them a lot less time to repair the transporter, and get him back to being one person, than it currently was. Hess seemed to be taking forever, but he had no option but to wait.
He looked around sickbay. Three beds were occupied, all with Trip Tuckers.
"They took a turn for the worse," said Phlox, seeing Archer's arrival. Each of the Tuckers was hooked up to a drip and was being monitored carefully. "Tucker One is doing the best but even he has needed some supportive care."
Archer looked around. All the Tuckers were wearing light blue scrubs. "How do you tell them apart?"
"I colour coded the biobeds," said Phlox, with a smile. "As per their previous designations, of course. Tucker One is blue, Tucker Two is red and Tucker Three is yellow."
Archer noticed the coloured stickers on the end of each biobed. Tuckers Two and Three both seemed to be sleeping although Tucker Three was still in restraints. Each biobed had a Security guard on duty beside it and Reed sat beside Tucker One's bed. The two were in deep conversation.
"They seem to be getting on okay," said Archer.
"I believe they are reminiscing about old times," said Phlox.
"Or talking about women," said Archer.
"One woman in particular," said Phlox.
"T'Pol?" asked Archer.
Phlox shrugged. "It wouldn't surprise me."
Suddenly an alarm sounded from Tucker Three's biobed. "He's going into cardiac arrest," called Phlox, rushing to the side of the patient in question. Medical personnel converged on Phlox and began assisting him to bring Three back from the brink of death. All Archer could do was watch as a third of his best friend slid away in front of him. Reed had stood and was watching from his position beside Tucker One. Tucker One was sat forward in his bed, looking worried and shocked as they tried to revive a version of himself.
After a few tense minutes, Phlox stepped back from the bed and Three's heart was beating once again.
"That was too damn close," said Tucker One, and burst into tears. Reed comforted him although from the look on his face he found the whole situation rather awkward. Archer guessed that it wasn't often that an Armoury Officer was required to comfort the Chief Engineer as part of his duties. However, on this occasion Archer thought that Reed was doing the right thing. Even split into three this was still Trip that they were dealing with and he needed to be dealt with as if he was a human being.
"God damn it, what kind of life will I have as a third of a person?" asked Tucker One.
"It won't come to that, Trip," said Reed. "T'Pol will work out how to fix this."
"If T'Pol doesn't hurry…" muttered Archer. The com sounded, jerking him from his thoughts.
"T'Pol to Archer, we are ready to try the recombination."
"We'll be right there," said Archer. "Phlox, we need to get all the Tuckers down to the transporter pad."
Phlox beamed. "Of course, Captain, I'll see to it right away."
It took a little time to get all three Tuckers onto the transporter pad. Tucker Three was out of it entirely and had to held up between Tuckers One and Two. Tuckers One and Two weren't looking at all well, but at least they were able to stand. They had still insisted on wearing their uniforms, as something of a point of honour Archer guessed.
"This protocol will beam all three of you into the transporter buffer and recombine you into one person," said T'Pol.
"We understand, T'Pol," said Tucker Two. "Just get it over with."
"I'll be back in no time," said Tucker One and gave T'Pol a wink, which she ignored.
"You should be aware that being recombined back into one person maybe stressful to your body," said T'Pol.
"I will be standing by in case there are any problems," said Phlox.
"Just remember who you are, Trip," said Archer.
"Will do, Captain," said both One and Two.
T'Pol turned back to the transporter controls. "Energising," she said, depressing the sliders on the control panel. Her eyes were firmly fixed on those of Tucker Two, who gave her an almost imperceptible nod in reply as he disappeared into the transporter's beam.
The transporter pad was empty as the internal computer began to do the work of recombining the three patterns into one. T'Pol checked the controls. "Reversing."
The swirling light of the transporter once again appeared and formed the shape of a man, in circling specs of light. Archer noticed that it was taking longer than usual.
"Is something wrong?"
"Lock in the auxiliary power," said T'Pol. She sounded calm but her shoulders were tense as she rapidly pressed keys.
Archer immediately went to the console and did as T'Pol asked.
"We are losing pattern cohesion," said T'Pol. "I'm narrowing the confinement beam."
"I've locked in all the power I can," said Archer.
T'Pol pressed another sequence of buttons. "Materialising the matter stream."
The sparkling light finally resolved itself into a single man, Commander Charles Tucker III. T'Pol moved out from behind the console and towards the transporter pad.
"Commander Tucker?" asked T'Pol.
Trip looked around him, like he'd never seen the transporter room before, and took a deep breath. "Wow, that was one hell of a ride."
"It's good to have you back, Commander," said Archer.
"It's good to be back," replied Trip. He took a step forward, and seemed to crumple. T'Pol moved a step over and was able to catch his shoulders to stop him from hitting the floor quite as hard as he would have. The weight of the falling man took them both to the floor, so that Trip ended up in T'Pol's lap. The Vulcan looked a little dazed herself, as she tried to reposition herself in a more dignified manner.
"Trip!" said Archer in alarm, dashing over to him. Phlox was already rushing forwards to see if he could offer assistance.
"I'm fine, just a bit dizzy, that's all," Trip protested as Archer and T'Pol helped him to his feet. "Hey, it's not everyday a man gets put back together again after being split into three."
"Yes, Commander, which is why I'd like you to come to sickbay so that I can give you a thorough examination," said Phlox, congenially.
"Doc, like I said, I'm fine," said Trip.
"Trip, just make everyone happy and go with the doctor. We've all been a bit worried about you these last few days," said Archer.
Trip sighed. "I guess if it'll make you happy, I'll go and get myself checked over."
"Think you can make it on your own?" asked Archer, carefully letting go of Trip to see how steady he was.
Trip nodded, "yeah, I'll be fine."
Archer noticed that the stripe on Trip's uniform was rather a strange multicoloured candy stripe. "We should probably get you a new uniform too."
Trip looked down at the stripe. "Yeah, maybe that's not a bad idea. That's a bit more psychedelic that I usually like." The motion of looking downwards seemed to give him trouble with his balance again and T'Pol had to put out a hand to steady him once more.
"Perhaps I should accompany the Commander to sickbay," said T'Pol.
Archer nodded. "I think someone should." He wondered if T'Pol was using this as an excuse to get some time to talk to Trip, and allowed himself an amused grin at the prospect.
"Well standing around here isn't going to get me checked over any faster," said Trip.
"I'll meet you there," said Phlox, bustling away. "You can take your time."
Archer watched T'Pol and Trip walk away slowly down the corridor, and heard the distant sound of the beginnings of a conversation, Trip and T'Pol style.
"Commander, if you would walk in a straight line this would be much easier."
"I am walking in a straight line. You keep pushing me left."
It seemed that things were back to normal on Enterprise, although he would have given anything to be a fly on the wall when T'Pol raised Tucker One's behaviour from the previous day. Archer was betting that sparks were going to fly before they both worked out what was going on.
It hadn't taken Phlox long to give Trip the all clear. T'Pol had hovered nearby through out, but hadn't said much, excusing herself once Phlox had given his verdict. Apparently he was a little dehydrated and coming down from a bit of an adrenalin high, but otherwise there was nothing wrong with him. Phlox suggested that he take the day off, rest up and make sure that he got three proper meals in him before returning to work. Given that over the last few days he'd crashed a shuttlepod, been split into three and recombined, Trip was planning to follow the Doctor's advice.
He headed back to his quarters and settled down for some serious relaxation in the form of catching up on his reading. Unfortunately he'd forgotten that Three had trashed his quarters while he'd been split, so he had to spend some time putting them in order again. Then he tried again to rest but his brain was refusing to shut up about what had happened over the past few days. He supposed that was only to be expected, but he really wished he could just forget the whole experience.
Phlox had questioned him about his memories of the past few days, as he wasn't sure how much Trip would remember. After all, he had been three people and now he was one. Had Trip taken on all those memories or just parts of them? As it turned out, he'd received all three Trips' memories, and they now appeared in his head like different viewpoints of the same event. He remembered everything that all the Trips had done and how they had felt about it. That was kind of scary because Tucker Three was a truly frightening part of himself to have held up to the daylight and he didn't really like what he saw. The other two he could just about cope with, although he was glad that he wasn't as extreme as either of them on a normal day. He reckoned that he owed a few people some big apologies, starting with T'Pol.
It was like having recovered from an intense form of split personality disorder. He wasn't quite sure how to reconcile the three people he'd been split into with the man that he was. None of them were Trip Tucker and yet they were all part of him. All of which didn't help him with his biggest problem which was that he'd confessed his love for T'Pol, in the middle of a public corridor and then to the Captain. In fact Tucker One had told anyone who would listen, how much he loved T'Pol and needed to talk to her. Of course, T'Pol hadn't exactly been receptive, so he was guessing that she didn't return his feelings. Although the more he thought about it, he began to wonder if there hadn't been a few subtle indications that she did have some feelings for him. Sometimes T'Pol was just so damn, impenetrably, Vulcan and he had no idea what a Vulcan in love looked like.
There was a knock at his door and when he went to answer it, the very person who had been uppermost in his thoughts stood there. She looked beautiful, with the light from the corridor catching the curves of her cheekbones. Trip could only stand there for a moment, completely stunned at her presence.
"I would prefer not to have this discussion in the corridor, Commander," said T'Pol.
"Sorry," said Trip, giving himself a mental shake. "Come in, take a seat."
T'Pol sat down on the only armchair in Trip's quarters. Trip took the desk chair, turning it to face his visitor. There was an awkward silence. T'Pol sat with her knees together, her back rigid and her eyes fixed on Trip.
"I find myself facing some confusion," said T'Pol, finally.
"You're not the only one," replied Trip. He started fidgeting with a micro-calibrator that lay on his desk. He was too embarrassed to actually look T'Pol in the eye.
"I realise that although the three Commander Tuckers were parts of your personality, a whole man is more than just those elements in isolation. Each of our personality traits reacts to and with the other aspects of ourselves. Although Tucker One displayed strong emotions for me, it is possible that this is merely a professional respect when tempered with your other personality traits," the words came out as if T'Pol had spent some time thinking about this. To Trip it sounded very much as if she was offering him a "get out of jail free" card.
He shook his head. "I guess I should tell you what you want to hear and say that you're right, but I can't. If this experience has given me anything, it's a good long hard look at myself and what's important to me. T'Pol, you're important to me. Every single part of me wanted to be with you. One might have been the most obvious, but it's no coincidence that Two was desperate to work beside you to fix the transporter and even Three… Well maybe I'd better not tell you what Three was thinking. I've just been kidding myself that it's some sort of passing infatuation that I'll get over, but it isn't." Trip finally looked up at T'Pol. "I love you, that's all there is to it. I just wish I'd had the courage to tell you that myself rather than having to be split into three, so my emotional side could cry on your doorstep when you rejected him. Just like you're going to reject me now."
Trip couldn't help it. The memories of the emotions that One had experienced were assailing him and now he found himself whole and in a very similar position to that of his third the previous day. He felt a tear form in his eye, and he scrubbed it away, annoyed at his loss of control in front of T'Pol.
"You have misunderstood the reason for my visit," said T'Pol, her brown eyes so deep as they stared back at him that he could easily lose himself in them. "I too saw something unexpected in your three personality facets. At first I felt most interested in Tucker Two. He was logical and approached problems in an intelligent manner. However I soon realised that many of the traits that I admire in you were not part of Tucker Two. I came to realise quickly that I did indeed want to pursue a relationship with Tucker Two, but only as part of you and not on his own. You have many good qualities, some of which my compatriots might regard as weakness. I, however, do not."
"What are saying, T'Pol?" asked Trip.
"That I am willing to see if our relationship has a future," said T'Pol.
"You want to try dating?" Trip was finding it hard to believe that a relationship which he had always regarded as a pipe dream could actually be within his grasp.
"I believe that is what you would call it," said T'Pol. "Vulcans have no such concept, however I am prepared to accept your customs in this area."
Trip put his head on one side, an expression of puzzlement on his face. "Just like that, we're going to start dating?"
"I do not understand your reticence. You made it clear that you have feelings for me. The Captain does not have a problem with a relationship between us as long as it doesn't affect our work…"
"You talked to the Captain about this? Don't you think it's bad enough that he saw me blubbering like a lovesick fool in the corridor outside your quarters? I'd like at least something that's just between us. Although I expect everything that One and Three did is all over the ship by now, so why the hell am I worrying?" Trip stood up and began pacing angrily.
"You saw parts of yourself removed from their context. I understand that this must be difficult…."
"Difficult? That's an understatement and a half. Here I am telling you that I can't ignore my feelings for you, but that means that I can't ignore that apparently I'm an angry, jealous, selfish, workaholic, bastard. Are you sure you want all that baggage?"
"I do not come without, as you say, "baggage" either. As a Vulcan I am constantly suppressing my emotions, especially those from my darker side. Vulcan itself was nearly destroyed by the force of Vulcan emotion. The teachings of Surak meant that we were able to become the society that we are today. Perhaps we have more in common than I had first thought." T'Pol stood and placed her hands on Trip's shoulders to stop his pacing.
Trip looked into T'Pol's eyes. They were so close now that could almost feel her breath on his face. His heart beat slightly faster as the silence between them became a charged moment of unspoken emotion. He wasn't sure who initiated the kiss, but it started tentatively and before he had given it much thought it had deepened in passion and fervour. It felt so absolutely and completely right. T'Pol fitted into his arms as if it was where she was meant to be. When the kiss ended he immediately felt its loss.
"I take it that we are both agreed that this is something that we would like to pursue," said T'Pol.
Trip could only nod in agreement. He was still reeling from the warm glow of an unexpectedly passionate kiss with a Vulcan, and was sure that he was grinning like an idiot.
T'Pol gently took a step back from his embrace. "My research into human courting practices indicated that we should have dinner together. I will see you in the mess hall this evening at 20:00, if you are agreeable."
Trip scrambled to make his brain work and catch up with what T'Pol had just said. "Yeah, sure. I mean, I'm agreeable."
"Very well, I will see you then," said T'Pol, and gave Trip a final peck on the cheek before she stepped out of his quarters.
Trip stood in the middle of the room for a long minute before he pulled himself together and went to the com. He had a few things to organise, because, god damn it, his first real date with T'Pol was going to be special. He wondered how the Captain would feel about giving up his mess for the evening.