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Trip and Malcolm get a nasty surprise concerning Atlantis's technology. You see more MU denizens, some in very different posts.

The latter half of this chapter is TnT, and another version of R/S.

Spoilers: ENT "Minefield" "Shockwave I and II", "Storm Front I and II"

DW: "The Sound of Drums/The Last of the Timelords"

Some clarification: Mac is the Ninth Doctor (Chris Eccleston), the 'Emperor' is the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant), the blond man seen at the end of the last chapter is the Master (as played by John Simms). You'll see who 'Tonek' is in the next chapter.

Also remember that Trip believes that the title of 'Doctor' is passed from person to person. He doesn't know about regeneration. So he doesn't know Nine and Ten (and Eleven, for that matter) is actually the same man,just at different times!

And where is Daniels? He'll show up very soon!

Time Relative to Enterprise NX-01 (January 2156)

Mirror Universe, ISS Atlantis (IX-03)

January 2155

 

(-1 year, 21 days)


News of the impending invasion swept through Atlantis. Trip stalked through the corridors, 'inspecting' the preparations. This ship's firepower was easily twice the strength of his Enterprise's. Colonel Archer gave him a tour of the Weapons Deck, which included the Armory. The torpedoes came in different variants: Mark I, II, and IIIs. The phaser emitters were directly built into the hull, instead of using phase cannons. Even the shielding was more concentrated.

“So you've gotten better at spinnin' em around to protect vital areas,” Trip murmured. “Damn.”

Archer literally beamed at the praise. “After that little dust-up on Andoria, I decided to do some particle experimentation. It took some doing, but it works.”

“Better'n plain old enforced hull platin', that's for sure.” Trip's heart sank as he glanced at the specs that Archer showed him. There was no way that Enterprisecould compete with Atlantis. If this was what Atlantis had, then a whole fleet of similar NX-ships would shred his Starfleet's defenses like tissue paper.

Future Guy...and the Doctor...they've arranged things, introduced technology more advanced than ours...talk about 'contaminating the time line'. No wonder Daniels nearly had a coronary when the Xindi messed up Earth's history. Where the hell is Daniels?

“You got it. Imperial R and D's been pretty active this year in the weapons department. Hell, even the MACOs got tricked out with new offensive hardware. At least it's enough to keep Reed out of my hair for a while.” Archer chuckled and patted the side of a torpedo casing with an affectionate gesture.

“Yeah.” Trip's tight smile felt unnatural on his face. “The Emperor's countin' on us not to screw this up.”

“Not to worry...if the invasion goes badly for us, it's won't be due to lack of firepower. You might want to talk to Reed about how he deploys his MACOs.”

“I'll do that.” That gave Trip the perfect excuse to look for Malcolm. “Everythin' has got to be perfect, or we're all dead anyway.”

Archer's cheerful expression sobered considerably. “The Emperor and his adviser have a long reach. I haven't heard anything about this Admiral Tonek person, and that worries me. Why would the Emperor give fleet command to a Romulan?”

Trip wanted to know the answer to that one, too, but not for the same reasons Archer did. “If you hear anythin' about this Tonek, lemme know.”

“You know I will. I wouldn't be surprised if this guy decides to turn traitor and grab for power himself. That's typical Romulan for you.” Archer nodded at an Armory crewman. “I'd better go see what that's all about. Breakfast as usual tomorrow?”

“Yeah. See you then.” Trip gestured for Mac to follow him out of the Armory. The Englishman kept pace with him as they went down the corridor. Just before they entered the lift, Mac swept it with his sonic screwdriver, nodded, and preceded Trip into to lift. Neither man relaxed until the doors hissed shut.

“Your ship's in a lot of trouble.”

“Understatement of the day, Mac.” Trip leaned against the far wall and rubbed his temples. “How are we gonna get out of this one?”

Mac slipped a PADD out of his jacket pocket and replied, “This might help.”

Trip accepted it and looked over the information. “These are...security codes? From the Armory over there?”

“Already had 'em. Bein' in Archer's department and your bodyguard has its perks.” Mac tapped the screen above Trip's index finger. “All we gotta do is transmit this to your Enterprise and your people should be able to shut downAtlantis's weapons of mass destruction.”

“This would help even the odds. Now we gotta find a way to get this to Enterprisewithout bein' detected.”

“Shouldn't be too much of a problem--” Mac broke off as the lift slowed and stopped. “Engineerin' deck, here we are.”

Trip took a deep breath; it wasn't difficult to affect a surly expression as he entered Engineering. Like the rest of the ship, the engine room was bigger, with multiple levels. Each station was manned by a crewman. Trip looked up at the warp core, a cylinder of pulsing energy that towered over them all. For some reason, it reminded him of the TARDIS's central column...

Crap...

Then he realized that unlike the Armory, no one had acknowledged his presence yet. He glanced back at Mac, who leaned against the nearest console, his arms crossed over his chest. The blue eyes glittered like ice chips as the minutes ticked by. Trip smirked back and continued on his slow circuit around the ground deck.

He caught several engineers in the middle of a card game and upbraided them on the spot. Commander Kelby, Atlantis's chief engineer, insisted he didn't know about the gambling or the engine hooch from the still that was attached to the warp core.

“You're pathetic,” Trip spat. “I'm comin' back in four hours. If this engine room isn't put to rights by then, I'm promotin' Hess in your place and kicking your whole shift out the airlock. I don't have time for this crap. Got it?”

Kelby literally took a step backwards, his eyes going wide in fear. “Uh...yes, sir, I mean aye, sir, I mean--”

“Get out of my face, Kelby.” Trip watched as the man scurried away. He felt a surge of guilt for yelling at Kelby, but he controlled it with an iron will. From what he saw on this ship, his crew respected him, but that respect came from fear. They were more afraid of what he could do to them than anything else.

Hell of a way to run a starship. Assassination makes sense, when you can't advance any other way. Trip recoiled from the thought. What was happening to him? He couldn't sympathize with these people; they weren't anywhere close to the crew Trip knew.

“Think of 'em as warped versions of the ones you know,” Mac murmured. “Basically, they're the same people, just brought up in a harsher environment. Unfortunately, that means their absolutely worst aspects come out and their good traits are nonexistent.”

“Not all of 'em,” Trip murmured back. Colonel Archer worshiped the ground he walked on, almost to the point of embarrassing Trip in public. He hadn't seen Malcolm, Jack or Rose in hours; he should try to find them...

Mac nodded at the unspoken question. “We can drop by 'Major Reed's' quarters. Unlike the rest of the MACOs, he's actually got a private room.”

Reed's quarters were located at the end of D Deck, not far from where this universe's MACOs were barracked. When Trip activated the door chime, there was no immediate response. Mac raised his eyebrows and raised his hand to put in his security code. Finally, the door hissed open and a dark-haired woman stalked out. Trip started at the ugly glare in his direction, but before he could react, she had turned the corner and was gone.

“Major Reed?”

A string of muttered oaths came from deep within the room, then Malcolm growled, “Well, what the bloody hell are you waiting for...Captain? Get in here or leave, but make up your mind.”

“I guess I could leave the barn door open, but all things considered...”

Trip heard muted snickers from farther down the hall. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a couple of green-clothed MACO peering around the corner. He put a hand on his sidearm as he stepped into the room, to add some fodder to the gossip mill.

Malcolm sat at the edge of his bed, buttoning up his jacket. His normally pristine hair was mussed, and Trip thought he saw lipstick stains on his face and neck. “Damn it--”

Trip gave him an evil smirk. “Sorry, Malcolm. Didn't mean to interrupt something important.”

Mac offered a handkerchief; Malcolm snatched it and began wiping his face and neck. He huffed, “Actually, I'm rather glad of your timing. She wasn't about to take 'no' as an answer.”

“So that was Hoshi Sato I saw stomping out of here?”

Malcolm's mouth twisted into a grimace as he nodded. “She took the news of her imminent promotion rather badly...so she came here to, ahem, 'let me know how much she would miss her'. I had the distinct impression she knew she was a marked woman.”

“She is. She and Travis both--”

“Commander Mayweather.” Malcolm scowled at the mention of him. “Yes, I've met him.”

Trip glanced at Mac, who nodded and updated Malcolm about the Emperor's orders. Malcolm's mouth dropped open in a rare show of complete shock, then he narrowed his eyes as he mulled over the words.

Atlantis has advanced technology. The MACOs armaments are more powerful than in our universe, and the warp core uses Gallifreyan energy, like the TARDIS. Bloody Hell.”

Trip gave Malcolm a PADD. “Here are the specs from the Armory and Engineering. Mac thinks he's got a way to transmit it to our Enterprise.”

“Good. At least it'll give them some sort of warning.” He scrolled down the screen, but then he looked up at Mac again. “Wait. The Doctor is the Emperor of this 'Terran Empire', but you said you're also a version of the Doctor. How many of you are there?”

Mac smirked before he answered, “Well, at my point in the time stream, I'm the ninth person to have the name. The so-called Emperor is the Tenth.”

Despite himself, Trip chuckled. “So you're Number Nine and he's Number Ten? And there was a Number One all the way to Number Eight before you?”

“Yeah, there were eight Doctors before me.” Mac frowned and went on, “Ten's a later...version, so to speak; my successor, if you want to put it that way. Which is why I'm keeping a low profile. Can't have the two of us cross paths, or it'll blow a hole in the space-time continuum the size of Belgium.”

“Time paradox. You knew about Ten before he became your successor, but Ten can't be Ten until you pass on the title of Doctor to him.” Trip rubbed his temples. “Oh, crap. I hate these things.”

Mac actually laughed. “Somethin' like that. Think what'll happen if Future Guy and his minions are successful. Paradoxes spawn more paradoxes. The universe would collapse into chaos.”

The mention of Future Guy raised another question that Trip needed to ask. “Who's the blond guy we saw at the end of the Emperor's transmission? His adviser?”

“He's more than his adviser.” Mac scowled and abruptly turned away, his arms tight around his body.

Trip read the anger, the pain, in the Ninth Doctor's unspoken language. “Lemme guess...this Time War of yours?”

“Let's just say that when my homeworld was destroyed, I'd believed I was the last of my kind. I wasn't. I didn't know it at the time, but another Time Lord...the Master...also survived the conflagration.”

Trip and Malcolm exchanged glances. “Another Doctor? An evil Doctor?”

“You could call him that, but he goes by 'The Master'. He's the blond man with that...Emperor. Of course, he looks different from when I knew him last, but that's beside the point. I'd know him anywhere.” Mac turned back to face them, his features shadowed. “I believe this 'Future Guy' needed help, and Master agreed...but for a price.”

Malcolm nodded grimly. “Control over the Tenth Doctor.”

“Yeah, the guy looked pretty smug in the brief glimpse I got of him,” Trip agreed. “We need to somehow break that Master's hold over number Ten.”

“I believe Jack is working on that problem at the moment, Trip. Our objective at the moment is to somehow avert this interdimensional invasion. No offense, but your Starfleet is no match for this Imperial fleet.”

Malcolm shook his head. “ This 'Admiral Tonek' doesn't sound familiar, but then again, we haven't actually met a Romulan face to face. We're familiar with their ships...and their minefields.”

Mac gave him a knowing look. “You've had first-hand experience with them.”

He nodded and glanced back at Trip.“My orders are quite clear. We boardEnterprise and take one prisoner. Our Captain Archer. Future Guy's goal all along.”

“A tidy little agreement, isn't it. They all get what they want in the end. So we gotta make sure that doesn't happen.” Trip took a deep breath. “Keep me informed on your end, Malcolm.”

“Yes, sir.”

Trip nodded and headed for the door. “And we gotta keep up appearances, so...”

“Understood.” He smirked. “I won't hold anything against you.”

The door opened just before Trip strode out of it. He turned and yelled, “I'd watch your ass if I were you, Reed, if you don't want it handed to you on a platter!”

“Go to hell, Tucker! Do your job and leave me alone to do mine!”

Trip stalked down the hall, passing by a tight clutch of eavesdropping MACOs. The men scrambled to attention, but Trip snarled, “Tell your boss that if the enemy doesn't kill him, someone else will.”

It wasn't until he reached the safety of the lift that he let out a ragged sigh. “We gotta get this done quick, Mac. I think bein' here is getting' bad for my mental health.”

Mac reached over and put a steadying hand on his shoulder. “It's an effect of being in an alternate universe. Focus, Trip, because if you allow this to overtake you, we've all lost.”

Trip squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. He felt something stir in his subconscious, like a buried memory or a faded image. Mac's warning resonated within his mind and he thought, If I lose myself, I die. It's that simple. And it doesn't take a knife in the back.

He managed to get to his quarters without meeting anyone else. The moment he stepped inside his quarters, he felt a strange tickle at the back of his mind. A second later, a slender form nearly mowed him down. A pair of lips muffled his startled yell as the force literally slammed him back against the bulkhead. He tried to move, but he was pinned to the wall with remarkable strength.

Images assaulted his mind: a red planet reduced to a ball of radioactive dust, a single night of terror-filled pleasure, veiled glances between the science station and the captain's chair...unspoken promises of protection against the ones plotting against them. Two souls united by a common goal, fused together by bonds beyond the understanding of either of them.

All that mattered was that it existed. He existed. They existed. And for a time, nothing mattered.

Mac winced, then murmured, “I'll just step outside. Ring me when you're done.”

Trip hardly heard him leave. He managed to grab her by the shoulders and literally pry her lips off his. He gazed into her eyes, so much like the ones he knew.

“T'Pol, what the hell are you--”

Her long, golden blonde hair framed her face, her lips swollen and trembling. The fact that she wore only a thin robe finally registered in his brain. He stared at the raw emotion in her eyes, unchecked by Vulcan discipline.

He barely heard her whisper. “It is you...yet it is not you. There is so much anger within, but also so much goodness. How is this possible?”

“It's...a long story.” He held her close, feeling the tremors through her body. “You have to keep this quiet, T'Pol. If anyone finds out, I'm a dead man. Understand?”

She nodded, her eyes still troubled. “Yes. They will kill both of us. We must stop this madness before it destroys everything else we hold dear. Trip--”

“Call me Charles. That's how I'm known here, right?”

“Charles. I will help you however I can. The Empire ruined many worlds, including mine.” Her eyes hardened as she said the words. “If it is not meant to be, I will help put it right.”

Trip blew out a relieved breath at the discovery of another ally on this ship. “Thank you.”

T'Pol brushed her lips against his again, and the force of her desire hit him like a hammer blow. “At least allow me to give you some respite...for just this little while.”

He struggled to maintain his grip on sanity, but it was a losing battle. “T'Pol, I can't--”

“Yes, you can.” She gently lifted her hand and found the contact points on his face. “Lay down your burdens for a few moments, and clear your thoughts for the struggle ahead.”

Trip's will crumbled under her onslaught. He kissed her again, this time without holding anything back. His hands clenched her shoulders as he steered her towards the captain's bunk.


The buzz of the alarm klaxon woke Trip. He sat up, then struggled out of the blankets. T'Pol scrambled out of the bed on her side and searched for her clothes. He remembered that her night vision was worse than his, so he barked out, “Lights!”
“Captain Tucker, Commander Mayweather to the Bridge,” a voice shouted over the comm speaker. Trip started as he recognized it: Elizabeth Cutler. What the hell is she doing on the Bridge? “All senior officers to the Bridge.”

“They have started ahead of schedule,” T'Pol said, her tone oddly blank.

Trip shook his head. “We're not even close to the rest of the Fleet. Maybe it's somethin' else. C'mon, we need to get to the Bridge.” He slid his pistol into its holster and waited for her nod of readiness. Together they stepped out into the hall, literally bumping into Mac.

Mac's eyes flickered towards T'Pol; Trip nodded. “Had a nice nap, Captain?”

“Don't even say a word.”

He smirked, then jerked his head towards the lift. In a low tone, he said, “Jack rang on my phone. They've decided to move up the invasion. So we're gonna divert course a bit.”

“How are you guys gonna pull that off?”

“You'll know when you see it.”

Trip braced himself for a different-looking Bridge. After all, both the Armory and Engineering had changed significantly from his Enterprise's. When the lift doors hissed open, it took all of his self-control not to gape in surprise. Like Engineering, the Bridge spanned multiple levels, with each console attended by a crewman. The captain's chair sat in its usual position, behind helm and navigation, but its padded cushion reminded Trip of a throne.

“Report!” he barked as he strode down to the chair, Mac closely shadowing. T'Pol hurried to a ladder on the far starboard side, one that would take her to the science station on the second level.

“Hostile ship detected, Captain,” answered Liz Cutler. She wore a uniform similar to T'Pol's; the blue top was made of a stretchable fabric that wrapped around her chest and left her midriff bare. The usual stripes denoting ship's department had been replaced by a silver wave edged with black. A silver pin shone prominently above Cutler's right breast.

Imperial Political Officer. His gaze continued downward , much against his will. The black pants looked like they were sprayed onto Cutler's lower half, and definitely left very little to the imagination. She smirked as though she knew what kind of effect her uniform had on him.

Then he felt T'Pol's mental slap like a board to the back of his head. Thanks, Darlin'. I definitely needed that.

You are quite welcome. An Imperial Politico is trained to take men off guard. Sometimes literally.

Trip narrowed his eyes at the fact Cutler hadn't vacated the command chair. “What kind of hostile? And get your butt outta my chair. Queen time's over...and don't stumble all ovr yourself on your way up. Your feet don't even touch the floor.”

Cutler flushed crimson and her blue eyes flashed dangerously at his words. He felt a stab of guilt at the harsh words, but they seemed to flow right out of his mouth. She rose out of the chair with as much dignity as she could muster, though the little hop to reach the floor marred that image. Muted chuckles floated in the air around them, but abruptly stopped at her glare.

Trip sat down, captain's dominance restored. The leather gave way under his weight; it would be easy to become too comfortable. “Can anyone give me a decent report, or do we need to play Twenty Questions?”

Colonel Archer replied from the Tactical station behind and to Trip's right. “Unidentified object, Captain, rectangular in shape. It could be a torpedo or an information probe. Either way, it's a threat.”

That's the TARDIS. I think she's gonna lead us on a wild goose chase for a little while.Trip resisted a huge grin of relief. “Why didn't we detect this thing before?”

Commander Mayweather's tone echoed from the speakers. “It showed up on our sensors five minutes ago. It must have been shielded against detection, but for some reason, those shields failed.”

Cutler muttered, “He's been down on the Auxiliary Bridge this entire time. Wouldn't surprise me if he was just being sloppy.”

So that explained Mayweather's absence from the Main Bridge. It made tactical sense; if the Main Bridge was taken out, the first officer could take over from a remote location. Judging from what he knew about this version of Mayweather, the fact that Mayweather hadn't already tried surprised him.

Of course, he might have done so in the past, with his now-dead counterpart.

Trip glanced over at Hoshi Sato at the comm board. At least that hadn't changed from his universe. “Any strange transmissions?”

“It's emitting a series of bursts,” Sato replied. She didn't bother turning to address him, but pressed the transtator deeper into her ear. “I'm running them through the computer. There's a pattern--”

Archer interrupted her. “It's come to a complete standstill. It's not even drifting, and I'm not detecting any stabilizing thrusters.”

“None?” That came from Cutler. “That's impossible in space. Its inertia would keep it moving forward.”

“I think it realizes we know it's there,” Trip said with a smirk. “Weapons lock, Colonel?”

Archer snorted in frustration as he tapped buttons. “I can't get a lock on it--”

Suddenly, the TARDIS spun completely round once, then took off at high speed. Trip's jaw dropped at how fast it went. “Holy--”

“If that's a spy probe, we need to follow it and destroy it before it can transmit its information,” Cutler said, her suggestion sounding like a veiled order.

“Exactly what I was thinkin',” Trip shot back. “Helm, pursuit course. Comm, jam its ability to transmit anythin'.” He punched the comm button to Engineering. “Kelby, gimme high warp and don't spare the horses.”

Kelby's answer was immediate. “Yes, sir! Warp 8 now!”

“Colonel Archer, the minute you get a lock, blow it to hell.” Trip sat back asAtlantis's power thrummed under his feet. He trusted the TARDIS to know where she was taking them, and to not get herself destroyed in the process.

I sure hope you know what you're doing, Darlin'.

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May 2012

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