“Commander, I am concerned about Lieutenant Reed.”
Trip looked up from his latest set of schematics in surprise, and cast an instinctive, cautious look around Engineering before replying.
“Malcolm? He seemed okay this morning. A little quiet, maybe.”
“He has been almost completely silent for the past three days.” T’Pol kept her voice down, but the fact that she’d deliberately contrived an excuse to come down and speak to him privately about this was worrying in itself, now he came to think about it. “This morning I deliberately created a sensor malfunction event at his console. His reaction time was five point five percent slower than normal, and afterward he did not mention the fact of its happening, nor consult you regarding it. As far as I know,” she added conscientiously.
“No, he hasn’t mentioned it.” He set down the padd a little reluctantly; he was in the middle of a big project and anxious not to lose any unnecessary time. “Perhaps he didn’t think it was that big an issue.”
“As far as the lieutenant is concerned, I have noted that everything that pertains to the ship’s weaponry is a ‘big issue,’” she responded a little tartly. “And furthermore, I believe that he has not been eating properly either.”
Trip smiled slightly to himself at the thought of the Vulcan ‘mothering’ Malcolm to the extent of checking he was eating his meals like a good little boy. He couldn’t work out which of them was the more unlikely for such a scenario: the donor or the recipient. Nevertheless, he sobered quickly. In real terms, a drop of five and a half percent in the efficiency of the weapons officer was quite a serious matter, and needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
“Well, I see that it’s not something that oughta be ignored,” he said carefully. “But shouldn’t you be talkin’ to the cap’n about this? Or Phlox, even?”
“That was my first thought. But on reflection it occurred to me that as his friend, you might be the person he finds it easiest to talk to.”
“You think he needs to talk to someone about somethin’?” He frowned. “Doesn’t sound like Malcolm. From what I’ve seen of him, he’s more the type to go off and sort things out for himself if he’s got a problem. You never know, that’s maybe what he’s doin’ now. Just shuttin’ down for a little routine maintenance.”
The look she gave him was probably as close as a Vulcan could get to ‘exasperated.’ “Commander, I would not waste your time or my own with this if I did not believe that it was far more serious than a matter of ‘routine maintenance.’” She paused. “Lieutenant Reed asked permission of the captain to end his shift early half an hour ago, pleading a severe headache as his excuse. But he has not been to sickbay and he is not in his quarters. I am forced to conclude that he lied.”
His first reaction was to think that maybe Malcolm had gone to the mess to get something to eat. If he hadn’t eaten for a couple of days he was bound to have a headache, and he’d try almost anything in order to avoid having to visit Phlox. But a memory touched him of getting into the turbo-lift that morning to find several people in it already, Malcolm among them. A bit of banter had ensued, the sort of exchange into which the acid-tongued lieutenant would normally have injected some kind of barbed comment. He hadn’t uttered a word. Come to think of it, he hadn’t even taken his eyes from the floor.
“It doesn’t sound good, does it?” He rose to his feet with a sigh. “Have you said anythin’ ‘bout this to the cap’n?”
“It is my belief that this is something of which the captain should not be informed if at all possible.” On which intriguing pronouncement she shut her mouth and looked even more Vulcan than usual, evidently in case he might be tempted to ask awkward questions.
“Okay.” He looked at her narrowly all the same. “I’ll go track him down. If I find out anything you need to know I’ll call you down to Engineerin’ to ask you somethin’ about Vulcan technology.”
"Agreed.” She made as if to turn away, and then stopped. “Please exercise caution, Commander.”
‘Caution’? With Malcolm? “T’Pol – is there somethin’ you’re not tellin’ me here?” he blurted out, before he could think better of it.
“If there was any pertinent information I could give you, Commander, it would be illogical for me to withhold it.”
Well, that told me, he thought as he left Engineering.
He looked in at the armory just in case; if Malcolm was missing, that was always a good place to look for him. Em was pleased to see him, but said she hadn’t seen ‘the boss’ all day. The mess hall turned up a similar blank. He had a quiet word with Chef, who was obviously too busy to keep a track on all the comings and goings but who couldn’t recall seeing the lieutenant today, nor for the past day or two either, though someone that quiet and unobtrusive might easily have slipped in unnoticed.
Checking the cabin was the next given. He might have slid back there in the interim from wherever he’d been. There was no reply. After a little hesitation, Trip used his security override to open the door. There was no one home, nor any sign that its resident had been there that day. The towel was hung neatly on the rail ready for after he’d showered. His computer was powered down, his belongings as tidy as ever. The room was Spartan, featured no family photographs or any indication that Malcolm had any home life to speak of. He knew from past glimpses that the contents of the fixtures were equally immaculately ordered; the lieutenant would never be guilty of the awful solecism of having so much as a sock out of place.
Trip bit his lip. He could order a security search, but that would draw far too much attention to the situation, and T’Pol’s unease had begun to affect him as well. It wasn’t like Malcolm to absent himself from duty without very good cause – he practically had to be tied down to make him rest for the appointed time after he’d picked up one of his regular injuries. To have him not only finish his shift early on a fabricated excuse, but go AWOL afterward, was beginning to look pretty serious.
He checked out the gym, without success, and then sickbay just in case, pleading a headache of his own as a cover story. Phlox obligingly gave him a shot he didn’t need and asked him to mention to Lieutenant Reed if he might see him that evening that his allergy shots were due. So that neatly answered the question he hadn’t got around to asking.
He sighed. His own shift was pretty nearly over and he was looking forward to a shower, a meal, and an evening’s relaxation. But he really did need to track the vanished armory officer down and make sure he was okay. Even if there wasn’t anything worse wrong with him than the sort of temporary ‘down’ mood that everyone has from time to time, and being unearthed from whatever lair he’d found for himself was greeted with one of his more acerbic retorts rather than overflowing gratitude.
Retracing his steps, he saw the alpha shift coming off duty. Hoshi and Travis were bickering amicably; he thought about getting them involved in the search and then thought better of it in a hurry. They were far too adept at putting things about on the ship’s rumor mill. Until he knew what he was dealing with, the fewer people who were involved the better.
For the next thirty-odd minutes he searched without success, growing more and more exasperated, and more and more worried. If he didn’t turn Malcolm up within the next quarter-hour he was going to get the captain on the comm. There was, after all, a remote chance that the two of them were having a discussion in the ready room, which would certainly explain why the rest of the ship was so completely void of English tactical officers. He might have thought of some reason why even more of the ship’s power ought to be routed through Tactical, and decided to corner his unfortunate commanding officer in the attempt to persuade him to agree to it – or at least to get him on his side in the dispute that was sure to follow. It was rather unlikely, as it would be bad protocol and Malcolm was a stickler for going by the rules, but it was no more unlikely than that he should have taken it into his head to just up and vanish. When the lieutenant got on to the subject of additional power for the armory he could wax quite tiresomely voluble, as Trip knew to his cost.
He was never quite sure why he thought of looking in the forward observation lounge. He’d passed it once already and seen all its lights off. But it was getting to the point now where he was wondering whether he’d have to start investigating the damned Jeffries tubes, so when he re-passed the doors it occurred to him that it might pay to just check the place out anyway, just to be on the safe side.
His caution paid off. Had his swift scan of the place been even a little more cursory, he might well have missed the silent figure sitting alone in the darkness, tucked close into a corner where he was almost invisible.
“So this is where you’ve been hidin’!” A command brought the lights up, and Malcolm’s hand came up swiftly to cover his eyes from the sudden brilliance. “What the heck are you doin’, sittin’ in here on your own?”
“Is there any reason why I’m not allowed to be here?” snapped Reed. “Sir,” he added as an afterthought, scowling from under the spread fingers.
“No, I guess not, apart from the fact that T’Pol’s had me combin’ the ship lookin’ for ya.” He put his hands on his hips and scowled back. “And I’ve got more interestin’ things to do with my time, let me tell you.” Then he looked a little more closely, and ordered the lights switched off again. “What’s up, Malcolm?” he asked more mildly.
“Nothing. I’m fine.” The stock answer was growled, but Reed wouldn’t look at him.
“Yeah. And I’m a targ-handler on a Klingon garbage scow.”
“Then I suggest you go feed your charges before they start eating the crew.” It was an attempt at humor, but the bite wasn’t there.
“They’ll wait awhile. First I’m gonna sort out what your problem is. And don’t tell me you haven’t got one, Loo-tenant. When it gets to the point that even a Vulcan notices you’re off your game, somethin’ needs fixin’.” He spoke a little more sharply. “Why didn’t you mention that malfunction on Tactical this mornin’ to me?”
“Because I didn’t think it merited it. I sorted it and ran a diagnostic and everything checked out fine. When you’re as busy as you’ve been the past few days, the last thing you need is me running to you every time I get a simple little glitch.”
“I’d buy that just fine if you didn’t do exactly that every time you’ve gotten a ‘simple little glitch’ in somethin’ that might mean the difference between the ship survivin’ or not – however busy I was!” He hesitated, walked forward and sat down on one of the chairs, trying to make the situation a little less confrontational. “T’Pol initiated that malfunction on purpose, Malcolm. She was checkin’ out your reaction times. And you were down on your usual – way down.”
“Marvellous. Now I’ve got the first officer running bloody diagnostics on me. Is there anyone else who might fancy a go at evaluating some other part of my performance while you’re about it? Any little checks need to be run on how often I –”
“Lieutenant!” The signs of a rising temper needed to be nipped in the bud, and fast. The friendly drawl was gone. “T’Pol was just doin’ her duty. And I’m goin’ to get to the bottom of this whether you like it or not, and if you won’t talk to me then by God you’ll talk to the cap’n!”
It was said more to shock than as an actual threat; Trip couldn’t imagine that anything could be wrong that merited such tactics as marching his junior officer to the captain under compulsion. Nevertheless there was no mistaking the way the man opposite him physically flinched.
There was no longer any doubt whatsoever that something was very badly wrong indeed. “That does it.” The engineer stood up. “You’re comin’ to my quarters, Lieutenant, and you an’ me are gonna have a talk.”
On any other day some risqué comment on this demand would have been forthcoming. The Brit hid a surprisingly vulgar sense of humor under that stiff and proper façade. Now he said nothing, but even in the semi-darkness his expression spoke volumes.
“I can make that an order,” said Trip coldly. “An’ I will if I have to.”
Resentment in every line of his body, the lieutenant rose stiffly. “Aye aye, sir!”
Tucker forbore to respond to the bitter sarcasm. Instead he led the way in silence to ‘E’ deck where the officers’ quarters were situated.
He punched in the code. The door hissed open and he led the way in. For a moment the other man hesitated in the doorway, obviously contemplating open rebellion; a glare of the sort that very few people had ever seen on Trip’s face was necessary in order to convince him that it really was not a good idea. He paused for a moment longer, just long enough to make it obvious that he was obeying under the most extreme protest, before he walked in. As a further gesture of protest he adopted the parade rest stance just as he would for Captain Archer, his gaze fixed on some extremely distant point well beyond the ship’s hull and his face rigid with hard-held anger.
The chief engineer sat down on his bunk and contemplated him in a silence that seemed ready to go on forever.
“You can stay there till you take root or you talk to me,” he said at last, in a perfectly level voice. “It’s up to you, Malcolm.”
The lieutenant said nothing.
Perhaps ten minutes passed.
“Fine. Then I’ll take a shower.” Trip stood up, stripped off, and walked to the bathroom. He took his time about showering, singing in a fine tenor that echoed around the cubicle. When he was satisfied that he was absolutely clean, he dried himself in the same unhurried fashion, and walked back in to get some leisure clothing.
“Still not feelin’ talkative?” A glance gave him his answer. He shrugged. “Fine. I’ll see you after dinner then.”
A tiny muscle twitched in Reed’s cheek. Tucker saw it and grinned to himself as he left. After not eating properly for days the lieutenant was probably ravenous as well as bone-tired. Still, it was his own damned choice to go on standing there.
Once at table in the mess hall, he made himself eat slowly, though normally he was one of the ship’s fastest at getting through his chow. It didn’t escape his notice that there were a couple of pieces of pineapple upside-down cake in the dessert cabinet, and as there was still one left when he finished he picked it up and took it with him, along with a spoon. Even cruelty had its limits.
He was whistling as he approached his door, mainly to exasperate even further the officer he’d have bet a year’s pay he’d find still standing stiffly upright on the other side of it, motionless in the dark. These were dirty tactics, he admitted to himself, but all was fair in love and war, and he was going to get to the bottom of this problem – whatever it might be – if he had to make the Brit stand there all damned night, ramrod straight in his defiance. What the heck had gotten into him?
Pinning on his most annoyingly cheerful expression, he keyed in his security code. Sure enough, the lights were still off and Reed was still where he’d left him, on the other side of the door.
Except that he wasn’t standing any more. He’d fallen and now lay crumpled on the floor. The lights didn’t wake him, and neither did his superior officer’s startled cry of dismay.
Trip punched in the comm code for sickbay and summoned help immediately. Then he crouched over the fallen man, touching his face with gentle fingers that registered the burning dry skin of a soaring temperature. God damn it! Hadn’t Malcolm the sense to say he was ill, to put a stop to things before they went this far? That was all it would have taken!
“Malcolm!” He tapped him softly, anxiously on the cheek. “Talk to me!”
The contact got through to some degree. The armory officer stirred sluggishly and mumbled something.
“What did you say?”
An arm came up to act as a shield, perhaps from the light, but the words were a little clearer, though still slurred. “Not the captain. Don’t tell the captain.”
Tucker frowned in bewilderment. “Why not? You think he’s gonna blame you for gettin’ sick?”
A strangled, splintering laugh. “Sick. God, if you only knew.” He jerked his arm down. The grey eyes were wide open now, blazing in a fever-flushed face. “I lied to him. I said I wasn’t scared.”
“You mean back on the planet?” Trip paused, marshalling his thoughts. “Buddy, they were gonna hang ya. ‘F there’s anyone on this ship wouldn’t have been pissin’ their pants, it sure isn’t me. And I guess you probably said it to take a worry off the cap’n’s shoulders for gettin’ you into that situation in the first place. Nothin’ there to be ashamed of.”
“Ah, but you don’t know the half of it. And nor does he.” An expression of almost crazed terror crossed his face. “Truth will out, they say, don’t they? Veritas vincit. Not quite the correct translation, but it’s close enough. That was one of Father’s favourite sayings. No wonder he couldn’t stand me. ‘Your sins will find you out.’”
At that moment the chime sounded to announce Dr Phlox’s arrival. Trip couldn’t remember ever being so glad to see anybody. “Doc! No, it’s not me. It’s Malcolm. He’s feverish – I think he must’a fainted. And he’s ramblin’.”
“My my, Lieutenant, what have you been doing to yourself?” Clucking in mild concern, the Denobulan bent over his patient.
“Lying, Doctor. Lying through my bloody teeth. One of my more egregious talents.” Reed rolled his head from side to side and chuckled unpleasantly, and then winced.
“No, I imagine that was not a pleasant sensation. You have a high fever, Lieutenant, and undoubtedly a very severe headache. I can give you something to help, but I will want you to come to sickbay for further tests.” Phox produced a hypospray from one of his capacious coat pockets.
“Take me anywhere you like, Doc. I suggest the nearest airlock. I’ll be pitched out of one sooner or later.” Horribly, he started to giggle and then cursed someone apparently standing in the empty corner of the room, his language suddenly shocking. “You can’t let go of me even now, can you, you fucking wanker? You know how useful I am, don’t you? Well you should have thought of that before. Fuck off and leave me alone!” He saw the hypospray getting near to him and knocked it flying. “No! You’re not getting me that way!”
At that moment the chime sounded again, provoking another round of curses from the lieutenant as he tried to get back on his feet, scrambling desperately away from the door. His voice rose on an almost hysterical note: “I’m not coming back, however many of the bastards you’ve sent!”
“I believe my assistance is required.” As the ship’s second-in-command T’Pol naturally had her own access override code. She stepped inside quickly. The noise must have carried to the corridor outside.
Malcolm stared at her without recognition, his nostrils flaring. “You’re dead,” he said very quietly. “You died five years ago, back on Thiaa Prime.”
“You are ill and delirious, Lieutenant. You are among friends. There is nothing to be afraid of.”
The grey eyes dilated. For a moment his expression struggled madly between laughter and tears. “Oh, I’m glad you think so. That’s so fucking funny you wouldn’t believe. You have no idea.”
“I think this has gone on long enough.” Phlox picked up the hypospray, which was fortunately undamaged. “Please assist me, Sub-commander.”
"Malcolm, don’t hurt yourself. Don’t fight us,” pleaded Trip, seeing the whipcord tension in the blue-clad body as the three of them advanced on him. He could envisage all too clearly that serious injuries could result if a battle royal kicked off in these cramped conditions, especially given the lieutenant’s fighting skills. He was unlikely to hold his hand if he genuinely believed in his delirium that he was being attacked, and Phlox for one wouldn’t stand a cat in hell’s chance against him. T’Pol, of course, was a different matter, but it could still turn really ugly if the two of them actually fought in earnest.
But even Reed, as good as he was, couldn’t fight off his fever and three adversaries at once. His reactions were slow and his judgment fatally impaired. In ordinary circumstances he’d have known that Phlox’s lunge was a feint, but his brain saw only an attack that he had to counter. It gave T’Pol the tiny window of opportunity that was all she needed. He only had time to scream, the high, wild sound of an animal in a trap, as he felt her fingers slide into the angle of his neck; then the terrible, twanging tension went out of his body as though it had been switched off, and he slumped unconscious to the deck plating.
“Thank you, Sub-commander.” Freed from the prospect of attack by the ship’s weapons officer, the doctor was finally able to press the hypospray to the relaxed, motionless neck. “I will keep him sedated for twenty-four hours to give his system time to recover. He will of course need to remain in sickbay so that I can monitor his condition.”
“Any idea what’s wrong with him, doc?” Trip watched the Vulcan pick Malcolm up as though he weighed virtually nothing, and marveled all over again at the strength in that slight frame of hers.
Phlox shrugged, though his blue eyes were worried. “I will be able to answer that question better when I’ve been able to examine him. Certainly he’s contracted some kind of virus. I can’t say yet how serious his condition is, or how long it will take him to recover.” The words ‘if he does’ hovered in the air, unspoken but clearly heard.
* * *
“I’m sorry I can’t give you any more definite information than that, Captain, but there it is. The virus must have got into his system while he was on the planet and somehow evaded detection during decontamination. Its nature is quite unfamiliar, that is probably why. It operates in much the same way as an allergy, but instead of triggering physical symptoms it appears to have a psychosomatic effect. In effect, the sufferer becomes so fixated on some real or imaginary issue that they become ill with worry over it. From what Commander Tucker tells me, Lieutenant Reed appears to have developed a sense of extreme guilt regarding having told you an untruth down on the planet, when apparently he informed you that he was not afraid.”
Both the captain and the chief engineer were standing in sickbay, studying the restless form of the sedated tactical officer. At that last sentence Archer raised his eyebrows incredulously.
“You don’t think I knew that already? Hell, I sure was! They were going to hang both of us. I don’t think any man wouldn’t be afraid in those circumstances. I thought it was just Malcolm doing the stiff-upper-lip thing.” He smiled faintly. “For a day or two afterward I still got the feeling of that rope round my neck myself occasionally, so I’m not surprised it’s played on his mind.”
“This is considerably more than ‘playing on his mind.’” Phlox glanced up at the bio-screen above the bed. “I’m in process of developing an antivirus; it should be ready in a few hours, and hopefully by the time he regains consciousness it will have taken effect. But should we ever return to that planet, he will need an inoculation to prevent this happening again. As, indeed, will every other member of the landing party as a precaution.”
“You needn’t worry about that, Phlox. We won’t be going back.” The captain spoke with a good deal of feeling. “We did a good job of contaminating their cultural development with one visit. We sure won’t be risking another in a hurry.”
“And I’d like to have a little more time to study that Suliban cell ship before we try usin’ it for real again.” Trip had been a silent listener up till now, but he spoke up dryly. “You’ll never believe how glad I was to see that radiation wear off.”
Archer patted him on the shoulder. “You saved our lives, Trip.”
The engineer shrugged a little self-consciously. “My pleasure, Cap’n.” Then, as Phlox nodded and went back to his laboratory area, he dropped his voice. “Jon, can I ask you somethin’?”
He hesitated, looking at the colorless face of the unconscious man on the bed. “He just got me really worried back there. Some of the things he said .... You were on the interview board. You went through his files. How much do we know about him before he came on board?”
The captain considered. “He worked for Starfleet security for a while. A lot of what he did was classified, even from me. But he was well thought of, by what they submitted.” He frowned. “Trip, I think you’re making too much of this. You know what he’s like. He beats himself up over everything even when he’s not sick. Give him a virus to help him along and he’ll go all the way to town on a bus.”
“I guess.” Tucker sighed. “Well, I’d like to be here when he wakes up anyway. Just to put my mind at ease.”
“We can organize that. I’d kind of like to be here myself. Just to show him I’m not an ogre, just in case he still has some kind of issue with me.”
“I’m sure he’d appreciate that. You know what he is – wantin’ everythin’ ‘ship-shape and Bristol fashion.’” He did an execrable job of imitating Malcolm’s clipped English accent, but the laughter helped to dissipate the remaining tension.
Meanwhile, he’d call by T’Pol’s quarters to fill her in on the situation: she was certainly due some recognition for picking up on this before anyone else did, and although he could bet she wouldn’t confess to being anything as emotional as ‘worried’ about Malcolm’s well-being, they could call it concern for the ship’s weapons officer’s efficiency. And then he was going to catch what was left of his evening’s relaxation and get a good night’s sleep.
* * *
The call from Phlox came through to Engineering late the next afternoon. He’d already notified the Captain, who was on his way down from the bridge.
“I’ll be there in a minute.” Trip laid down the padd with more alacrity than he had the previous day. For reasons he couldn’t identify, a small pocket of anxiety had remained in his gut overnight, interfering with his sleep. He wanted to see for himself now that all was well. Then and only then could he relax fully.
The dark lashes were fluttering open as the two of them entered sickbay. Phlox was standing by the biobed. His expression reflected satisfaction with the bio-scanner’s results, and he smiled kindly down at the lieutenant who stared up at him in blank bewilderment. “Good afternoon, Lieutenant. Are you feeling better now?”
“Good God.” Malcolm put up a hand to his forehead. “How did I ... bloody hell. Why don’t I just come and live here and be done with it?”
“Because fond though I am of your company, I suspect that your perpetual presence would have an extremely adverse effect on some of my creatures. They are of a rather delicate nature.” Unoffended, Phlox produced that unnerving Denobulan grin. “You contracted a virus, Lieutenant. You have apparently been ill for some days, and yesterday matters came to a head.”
“I remember ... some of it.” At that moment he evidently caught on that they had company, and his head turned quickly.
And Trip saw the icy shadow that fled through his eyes as they fixed on the captain. It was gone in a heartbeat, but it was there.
“Sir.” Reed struggled to sit up. “You should be on the bridge.”
“Easy, Malcolm.” Archer put a hand gently on his chest. “Give yourself a minute. You had a rough few days, from what I’ve heard.”
“It was nothing really, sir. I’m afraid I made a bit of a fool of myself.” With a self-deprecating grin he looked apologetically at Trip. “I’m sorry. I can remember saying some things that were really stupid. My behaviour was inexcusable.”
“A great deal should be excused in someone who was as ill as you were, Lieutenant,” Phlox said kindly. “The virus affected you mentally. It magnified and distorted your feelings of guilt about a very minor matter. In the circumstances, I’m sure the captain will excuse you the court-martial.”
“But only on condition you promise never do it again.” Captain Archer was grinning broadly.
“I think I can safely promise that, sir.” He looked back at Phlox. “Am I fit for duty now?”
“I think we will wait till tomorrow morning before I authorize you to meddle with weaponry. But you can certainly return to your quarters, as long as you promise to rest.”
“Now why did I guess that was coming?”
“You’ll follow the doc’s orders, Lieutenant.” The voice of authority spoke with mock sternness, and Malcolm dipped his head reluctantly.
“I’ll walk you back,” suggested Trip as the captain turned to go back to the bridge, satisfied that the crisis was over.
“Thanks. But wait till I get dressed. I’m not walking through the ship in my underwear.”
“Wouldn’t expect you to. Though I don’t suppose the ladies ‘d mind.”
A very British blush rewarded the sally. Yep, he told himself, Malcolm’s back.
“If you don’t mind, Commander, one public exhibition of my assets is more than enough.” He took the coverall that Phlox obligingly handed to him and pulled it on. He didn’t bother with the undershirt, plainly intending to shower as soon as he got to his room.
“I got ya a piece of pineapple upside-down cake from the mess yesterday,” Trip offered as they left sickbay. “I put it in stasis. It should be fine.” He hesitated momentarily. “By the way – I was a total ass yesterday. I shoulda known you were sickenin’ for somethin’, the way you were actin’. I’m sorry.”
“I should be the one who apologises, Commander. You could only act on the evidence, and from what little I recall I behaved like a total prat.” There was a reassuring note of rueful humor in the voice; the grey gaze was open. ‘One of my more egregious skills.’ The words ran through the back of Trip’s mind like a little warning voice. But surely it had been the virus talking; surely a guy as honest as Malcolm didn’t have skeletons that black lurking in his closet. Aw, Jon was right. The Brit always did make mountains out of molehills. This was just another instance of Malcolm being Malcolm.
He believed it. He had to believe it.
And only time would tell whether he was right or wrong.