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The attack Fleet receives its final orders from the Time Lord Victorious. Admiral Tonek's identity is confirmed. Trip and Malcolm discover they are again in mortal danger, but not just from the scheming members of their crew.

ENT "Shockwave I and II", "Storm Front I and II", "In a Mirror Darkly, I and II"

DW: "The Runaway Bride", "Human Nature", "The Waters of Mars"

Sarah Jane Adventures: "The Bane", "The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith", "The Death of the Doctor"

Artron energy: Anyone who travels through the Time Vortex absorbs this as 'background radiation". As a result, all the Doctor's companions have this to some degree, some more than others, and some tolerate it more than others. Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith both have elevated amounts of artron energy, so much that the Bane commented on it.

Time Relative to Enterprise NX-01 (January 2156)

Mirror Universe, ISS Atlantis (IX-03)

January 2155

(-1 year, 20 days)

 

“Its projected course takes it towards the staging point for the Imperial Fleet. We'll get there, but it's a roundabout way,” Archer said. He tapped a button on his PADD and the tactical plot changed on the screen. The TARDIS kept a steady speed and course, with Atlantis in close pursuit.

“An information probe,” Cutler said flatly. She glanced at T'Pol, who studiously avoided her eyes. “It came to gather intelligence on us and the invasion fleet, then planned to slip between dimensions with us and beam that data to the enemy on the other side.”

Trip scowled and glanced at Archer. “How long until it reaches the fleet?”

“At maximum warp, three hours. Even at our best speed, it still manages to keep just ahead of us. I can't get a solid weapons lock on it.” Archer slapped the table in frustration. “If we don't destroy it--”

“--we lose our element of surprise, and they'll know every single strength and weakness of the fleet.” Trip turned his glance to Hoshi. “Advise Admiral Tonek on Demonclaw that we've got a hostile incoming, and it must be destroyed at any cost.”

Sato nodded, her eyes glittering like a black widow's. “Yes, sir.”

“Timing is everythin', people,” Trip snapped, well aware of the irony of his words. “We need to be ready to move out at a moment's notice. Commanders Sato and Mayweather—sorry, Captains Sato and Mayweather—I hope you've got bag and baggage packed, 'cause we're beamin' you directly to your new commands as soon as we're in range of 'em.”

The two newly-promoted captains glanced at each other. “We're ready to go, Captain Tucker,” Mayweather said.

“Lieutenant Commander T'Pol, double-check the sensor net and plug up any holes. I don't want the star in the next local group to burp without me knowin' about it. Doctor Phlox, I want Sickbay at full readiness.”

Cutler raised her eyebrows at the stone-faced Denobulan who sat next to T'Pol. “Who's the primary physician on call?”

Phlox clenched his jaw, then answered, “I was, but Doctor Erickson re-assigned me as a battle medic for the MACOs.”

Battle medic? Trip thought. What. The. Hell? He remembered that his Phlox had been one in the Denobulan infantry, but in this case, it sounded more like being cannon fodder.

T'Pol explained briefly, He is a skilled physician, like your Phlox, but he had the misfortune in this universe to also have been born a non-Terran.

Damn shame, T'Pol. The Empire's run by a bunch of xenophobic bas—idiots. Trip modified that last word from what he really wanted to use, but he felt her sad agreement. He turned to Malcolm. “Major Reed, I assume your MACOs are rarin' to go.”

Malcolm smirked at Phlox, sat back and crossed his arms. “Of course, Captain.”

Trip hid a smile at the not-quite-sarcastic tone, and at Mac's not-quite roll of his eyes. “Good. All right, dismissed, and the next time I see you all, it'd better be at a victory party.”

Cutler's smile didn't reach her eyes. “All hail the Empire.”

They all saluted and echoed her words; T'Pol and Phlox did so with resigned expressions. Trip nodded and murmured, “All hail the Empire. Get outta here. Mac, Major Reed, stay. I need to have a word with both of you.”

Everyone scattered, and T'Pol sent a wave of support through the mental bond.Be wary of Cutler. She wishes to discredit you and take the ship for herself, much like Mayweather wanted.

I gotcha, T'Pol. I'll be careful.

T'Pol followed Phlox out the door, but Cutler hung back, despite being uninvited. Trip's scowl deepened at her stubborn expression. “Lieutenant Cutler?”

“I want to see this. It's not often you yell at these two in particular.” She smirked and sat on the edge of the conference table. “This should be good. Two Englishmen at each other's throats...I wish I knew about this ahead of time. I could've sold tickets. Box seats for you and your Vulcan.”

Mac glared at her and muttered, “Sorry to disappoint you, Lieutenant, but I'm restraining myself from throttling both you and Reed right now.”

“Knock it off, you two!” Trip wondered how he could get rid of the Imperial Politico Officer. Then he slowly smiled. “Actually, Lieutenant...”

“Captain?”

“Go ahead and stay.” He brought himself up to his full height, then abruptly slammed both his hands on the conferece table, which startled the other three in the room. “Gentlemen, I'm only gonna say this once, so you'd better listen up. I want you two to concentrate on what you're here for and it's not to kill each other before it's time. You got it?”

Malcolm snapped to attention. “Yes, sir.”

“Fine,” Mac added, with a pointed glare at the major. “He does his job, I do mine. And as long as he doesn't do anything stupidly idiotic to get himself killed just as he's becomin' useful--”

“Your concern is touching, Commander MacCrimmon. Forgive me if I don't shed a tear, you being a human shield for our fearless leader.”

“Your 'fearless leader' is the only reason why you're still alive, and your noble connections the only reason why you've advanced as far as you have. I forgot, how should we commoners address you lot? 'Your Grace'? 'Your Knighthood'? 'Your overswelled, egotistical pig-headed buffoon'?”

Malcolm narrowed his eyes; Trip barely managed to stay upright and not sink into a chair. Wait. Malcolm's family is English nobility in this universe? And class wars are still alive and well. Now Trip knew the reason why the Emperor 'had plans' for Malcolm after this interdimensional war.

Luckily, Malcolm recovered his facade much quicker than Trip did. His tone become colder than Andorian ice. “That's quite enough, MacCrimmon. Remember your place.”

Trip glanced at Cutler, who observed the sniping with sadistic glee. He knew that she would parrot every word to whomever she reported, and it would give both men more cover for what they needed to do. She looked at Trip with a 'Look, I told you so' expression.”

He sighed and rolled his eyes as if praying for patience. “If we get outta this alive, maybe we should arrange a gentlemen's duel, Lieutenant, and sell advance tickets to that.”

“I can still guarantee a box seat, Charles.”

“Good.” Trip glanced sideways at her and added, “Mind taking a look-see around and make sure people are doin' what they're supposed to be doin'? Oh, and if Kelby's still payin' more attention to his hooch, do me a favor and light a fire under him? Literally or figuratively?”

Cutler all but leaped off the table. “It would be my pleasure, Captain.”

“And if you decide to do it literally, let Hess know a promotion's headin' her way.”

“Of course. Hess has been waiting years for this...let me thank you on her behalf. We Imperial officers need to stick together.” With a pointed look at the others, she swept out of the briefing room like a queen. The minute she left, Mac secured the room with his sonic screwdriver, then nodded at Trip and Malcolm.

Trip sat down hard in his chair. “That was too damn close.”

Mac gave them a look of apology. “Sorry about that--”

“No offense taken,” Malcolm said with a sigh of relief. “Though it would have amused my father to know that he was nobility in another universe. Amused in an annoyed way. He's always prided himself on his ability to climb through the ranks with no interference from anyone.”

“The Reeds have been a stubborn lot in any universe,” Mac said with a grin. It disappeared as Trip stifled a muted groan. “Hey...you all right?”

“I just ordered Kelby's death warrant without a second thought, Mac. The words just poured out of me and I felt...some sort of sick sense of satisfaction, doin' that.” Trip's hands shook as he stared at them. “I can't believe I just did it...oh, hell.”

Malcolm looked alarmed. “Trip?”

“Dunno. I don't feel too good all of a sudden. My head hurts.” He swallowed hard against a surge of nausea. The mental bond with T'Pol wavered uncertainly; her surprise turned into a bulwark of support, just like that, but it wasn't enough. “Dammit--”

Mac perched on the edge of the table next to him and scanned him with the sonic screwdriver. He scowled at the results. “Just as I suspected. It's happening again, but this time, it's doin' somethin' absolutely mental!”

Trip kept his eyes shut and muttered, “Wait a minute...'again'?”

“What's wrong?” Malcolm demanded.

“Hold still...this should take less than a minute.” Mac scanned him as well, then glanced at the results. “When you cross multiple universes, you absorb what's call artron energy. It stays with you...any time traveler notices it and can tell you've also traveled through time. Usually, it's of a low enough level not to cause problems.”

“But--” Malcolm prompted.

“The two of you together have enough artron energy to power ten TARDISes. Normally, Humans with this much should be dead by now.” Mac's eyes hardened as he explained it. “But instead of killing you, it's altering your brain chemistry. Your memories.”

Trip pressed his hands to his temples. “We're literally turning into our counterparts. I'm startin' to remember things I never did. Things that are scarin' the hell out of me.”

Malcolm pressed a steadying hand onto Trip's shoulder. “How long do we have? And is there anything we can do to stop it?

“At this rate...maybe twelve hours. And normally, I'd send both of you back into the TARDIS. She'd protect you from the artron effects and reverse the damage it's done.”

“Jack gave me his Vortex Manipulator--” Trip began.

Mac shook his head. “You'd have to be in the TARDIS for an extended period of time. And if Captain Tucker and Major Reed disappear on the eve of a historic battle--”

“--it'd be noticed, and then everything would be screwed,” Trip finished grimly.

Malcolm blew out a frustrated breath. “Bloody brilliant.”

“Isn't it?” Mac agreed with an unsmiling smile. “And now that I think about it...that also partially explains why the TARDIS picked you two from your universe. Anyone else wouldn't have lasted as long as you have.”

“That's reassurin',” Trip said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. He managed to open his eyes and said, “Three hours until Atlantis reaches the fleet. We've gotta hang on till then.”

Malcolm nodded, then glanced at Mac. “I've got to get back to the MACOs before someone gets suspicious. Take care of him, Doctor.”

“I will. And you watch yourself, Malcolm. You'll be taking on the less savory habits and inclinations of your counterpart as time goes on. Try to restrain yourself from doing too much damage. The originals are dead...but for all intents and purposes, you are them.”

“Understood.” With a terse nod, Malcolm turned and left the briefing room.

Trip managed to steady himself enough to get back to his feet. With a wordless reassurance, T'Pol let him go, but he realized her presence in his mind felt so much fainter.

That definitely wasn't a good sign.


Trip waded through reports in the captain's ready room. The Imperial Intelligence Network both impressed and disturbed him in how neatly the data was organized. Still another glaring example of the differences between the two universes. One thing became obvious: this Terran Empire couldn't afford to lose this battle. So much manpower, ships and support diverted to this invasion fleet...if they were defeated, a whole society was doomed for chaos.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. There were no easy solutions, but when it came down to it, Trip's priority was safeguarding his universe. If it meant sacrificing his own life and the lives of this crew, so be it.

“Cutler to Tucker.”

He tapped the comlink. “Go ahead, Lieutenant.”

“We're within visual range of the fleet. Captains Sato and Mayweather have already transported to the Yamato and the Horizon. Admiral Tonek is hailing us from Demonclaw.”

“Get Colonel Archer and Major Reed in my ready room, Lieutenant, and pipe the message here.”

“Aye, sir. Cutler, out.”

Trip exchanged glances with Mac. “So, we'll finally meet the mysterious Admiral Tonek.”

“Yeah, and why the Emperor gave him command of the invasion fleet.” He stepped out of the visual range of the screen's pickup, just as Archer and Malcolm stepped into the ready room, followed closely by Cutler. At Mac's expression, she merely shrugged and stood on Trip's far side.

“On screen,” Trip ordered and braced himself for his first view of a Romulan...

The view was murky, as if he was seeing things through the bottom of a dirty pond. Suddenly, the screen brightened to reveal a simple office with greenish-gold walls. A shadow sat behind the desk; it stood and stepped into the light.

Everyone gasped, but Trip narrowed his eyes at the blurred image. The faintest outline of a man in a sparkling curtain of light, its details shifting from moment to moment. One minute, there was the tall antennae of an Andorian, then the pointed ears of a Vulcan, then the cracked skin of a Suliban.

'Admiral Tonek' met Trip's gaze, but Trip refused to back down. That's not a Romulan, not really. He might look like one for everyone else, whatever a Romulan looks like, but I can see through his deception. He must be using some kind of perception filter, like the one I've got. Can he see through mine, like I can through his? If he can, I'm dead.

A slight smile appeared on the being's face. “So. You are the famous Captain Charles Tucker. There is no need to salute me; I dispense with the unnecessary.” That last one was directed at Cutler, who was about to do just that. “Imperial Political Officer. Also quite unnecessary.”

Cutler flushed, but she said nothing. Trip resisted a smile; Mac didn't even bother to hide his.

“The Emperor has told me good things about you. I am the one honored to meet you.” Trip only nodded in response, then Tonek continued, “Your other captains have agreed to follow us into glorious battle, but only after some...persuasion. But I sense you are different.”

Trip smirked and said, “I'll take that as a compliment.”

“It was meant to be. The Emperor himself wishes to be present at this momentous occasion, as he should be. I have the means to transport him and his retinue to my flagship in the blink of an eye. He wishes to personally examine this...information probe that you have tracked here. It could prove useful in our attack.”

“The Emperor—he's going to be here?” Trip exchanged stunned expressions withAtlantis's crew. The only one who seemed unaffected was Mac, and he wore the same grim mask. If the Tenth Doctor and the Master were here, where were Rose and Jack?

Tonek inclined his head. “Indeed, Captain Tucker. He has specific orders thatAtlantis occupies the place of honor during the invasion, on Demonclaw's starboard side. Yamato and Horizon will enter the breach first, followed by the first wave, then we will make the crossing. I am transmitting the necessary modifications to Atlantis's shielding to your Colonel Archer now.”

A minute later, Archer's PADD beeped and he nodded. “I've got them, Admiral.”

“Very well. The fleet will cross the dimensional barrier in one hour. Demonclaw,clear.” The image winked out.

After a long beat of silence, everyone started talking at once. Trip let it run for a minute, then raised his voice. “All right, people! You heard the Admiral. We've got an hour. Move!”

Archer and Cutler fled the ready room. Malcolm was about to follow, but Trip said sharply, “Major.”

“Sir?” Malcolm asked, as the door hissed shut. The buzz of the sonic screwdriver echoed loudly as Mac secured the room.

“Malcolm, 'Tonek' isn't a Romulan. He's Future Guy. I saw through his perception filter.”

He nodded. “I did too. Obviously, he can alter his form to whatever he wants people to see. And he's bringing the Emperor and his adviser here.”

“That's a bad sign. It means whatever Jack was plannin', it didn't work. Watch your back, Malcolm.”

“I will.” He nodded at Mac, then left the ready room.

Trip frowned. “So...the Tenth Doctor wants his TARDIS back. That's why he's coming here.”

“The TARDIS would blow herself up first before she'd allow him to reclaim her as the Time Lord Victorious. It would mean her death—and his.”

“And yours?”

Mac shook his head. “Possibly. But surely the Doctors that come after him...the Eleventh, Twelfth, however many after that...will no longer exist.”

Again, a dormant memory stirred within Trip's memory. The Eleventh Doctor. “No, I won't let that happen, Mac. I won't. No matter what it takes.”
“Good man.” His mercurial mood shifted and he wore his manic grin once more. “Let's go save all of time and space, then.”

Trip sat in the command seat, listening to the hum of activity around him. If he closed his eyes, he could imagine himself as the captain of his own ship, with his own crew around him. This must be how Jonathan Archer felt at Enterprise's launch from Spacedock, four years or so ago.

Too bad this ship's mission was one of war and not of peaceful exploration.

He saw another ship in his mind's eye, one in the Sol system, pursuing the original Xindi probe and destroying it before it hit Florida. He saw Lizzie's bright smile, felt her warm hug, heard her enthusiastic voice. Somewhere, some-time, she was still alive. Trip felt a strange calm come over him, as if the burden of anger and grief had finally been lifted from his shoulders.

He felt T'Pol's veiled look in his direction and he smiled slightly. He didn't dare look back, not with Cutler and the rest of the Bridge crew watching him.

“Captain, that probe's stationary, about one hundred and fifty thousand meters from our starboard side, between us and Demonclaw. It's resisting all attempts to retrieve it.”

Trip opened his eyes and gave Archer a look of skepticism. “Tractor beam? Transporter? Hell, grappler?”

Archer gritted his teeth and hissed, “All ineffective.”

“Maybe the Emperor has a trick up his sleeve that we don't--”

An alarm on the Tactical board started to whine. “What the—it's gone. Our sensors lost it. Maybe the Emperor did retrieve it.”
Trip glanced at Mac, who only mouthed, She made it across.
The new comm officer glanced over his shoulder and said, “We're receiving an all-Fleet transmission from Demonclaw.”

“On screen, Lieutenant Navokovich.” Trip got to his feet, and everyone on the Bridge followed suit.

The main viewer lit up to show the Emperor—the Tenth Doctor, the Time Lord Victorious—standing on the Bridge of a Romulan ship, with the blond man—the Master—behind and to the right of him. Admiral Tonek—Future Guy--stood even farther back, almost out of visual range. Strangely enough, the Emperor wore a darker version of the pinstripe suit and a red tie. His hair still stuck up in all directions, and Trip guessed that he still wore the red athletic shoes.

Maybe it's good that we can't see his feet. Those can't inspire soldierly courage.

Smaller screens lit up around the perimeter of the main viewer, each screen showing the bridge of each starship in the fleet. Trip recognized both Mayweather and Sato, along with several other people he knew from his home universe. Erika Hernandez and Nick Duvall, as well as Hector Ramirez.

“Hail the Empire! Hail the Emperor!” All the crews immediately saluted at the order.

The Emperor nodded gravely, but there was a manic shine to his eyes. Trip saw a glint of silver and noticed that he held the fob watch in his right hand. Strangely enough, his long fingers played with the smooth oval, but he made no move to open it.

“This day heralds a new day for the Empire. We will crush our enemies and claim their territory as our own. Then the next universe, and the next, until they are united under our banner! They will all know the name of the Time Lord Victorious and the Empire!”

Tonek spoke up softly. “My Lord, the fleet awaits your command.”

The Emperor traded smiles with his adviser, who moved behind the helm ofDemonclaw. The Master tapped the controls, then nodded his readiness.

“Good,” the Emperor murmured. He raised his eyes to the awaiting captains. “First wave, you are clear to depart. Happy hunting. Demonclaw, clear.”

His image vanished from the viewscreen, to be replaced by the sight of Yamato,Horizon, and the first attack wave heading for the interdimensional border, a jagged crack of light through space and time.

“Here we go,” Trip muttered as Atlantis made ready to follow them.

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May 2012

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