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Bridging Worlds

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Deep breath. Calm. Absolute… Her white space enveloping her whole in its serenity. Three years on Vulcan have taught her more than she could have dreamed. Control. Centred. The fiery temper of her youth now channeled in the direction fate had mapped out for her all along. Granted, the heat on the planet had damn near sucked the life out of her, but under her Vulcan mentor's hand, she'd adapted. Even though he betrayed no feelings or shared no opinions on her evolution, she could see he was proud - in a very Vulcan way of course.

Now, it was time. Her tenure on Vulcan had come to an end. Earth needed an Ambassador to Qo'nos. She was that Ambassador.

Starfleet's flagship Enterprise would take her there.

Captain Jonathan Archer was sitting in his ready room, giving his screen an appraising look. Admiral Max Forrest - on his monitor - gazed back.

"You've read her file, Jon?"

"I have, Admiral. And frankly, I can't believe that Starfleet would be so reckless as to entertain the notion of keeping Soong's work alive, never mind building on it after the horrors of the Eugenics Wars."

"Soong's work was guiding more than anything else. Apparently she's is a natural step in our evolution. Believe me, I shared your misgivings when the nature of the project was presented to me too, Captain. That said, she has proven exceptional in so many ways. Under the guidance of the Denobulans and the Vulcans the project has moved at a pace that permitted a furthering of that evolution no one really expected."

"Instinct and intellect have reached a mutual understanding?" Archer looked nonplussed. "I'll believe it when I see it, Admiral."

"Well, I'm happy to be able to give you the opportunity, Captain. You and Enterprise will be accompanying the Ambassador on a diplomatic mission to Qo'nos."

"A diplomatic mission to the heart of the Klingon Empire? Are you sure Enterprise is the right ship for the job? I'm hardly Mr Popular with the Klingons and wouldn't want to jeopard—"

Forrest raised his hand. "Nice try, Jon. Columbia is otherwise engaged in business on Andoria so Enterprise has to go."

Archer didn't look convinced.

"You will be pleased to know that Kolos recently took a position on the Klingon High Council. He is paving the way for better relations between our worlds. Who knows? Soon we might have Klingons serving aboard Starfleet vessels."

Archer gave him a lop-sided grin and a raised eyebrow… "Now that's just crazy talk, Admiral…"

"Do you think they even realise they're doing it?" Chang whispered conspiratorially.

The Enterprise crew and Hayes MACOs team had received their orders: Enterprise was going to Qo'nos and the MACOs would be joining them. Much to Lieutenant Malcolm Reed's chagrin.

"No way. Love is blind you know," murmured Cole through slightly parted lips.

The crew had been given two weeks leave while systems on the starship were repaired, modified and put through their paces, but the security team and the MACOs had waived one of those weeks in favour of getting in additional training. It may be a diplomatic mission, but the Head of Enterprise security held no naive illusions about the nature of the territory into which they would be venturing.

Currently, Reed was making a fair attempt at demonstrating to Major Hayes the old adage, the bigger they are, the harder they fall…


"At least you're keeping your left up, Major, though perhaps a little closer to the body next time…"

"I'll take that under advisement, Lieutenant," replied Hayes, before rising to his feet quicker than a man of his bulk could be given credit for, lunging at the midsection of his opponent, and tossing him in a backflip, knocking the wind out of Malcolm, before pinning him to the mat.

"I'll give you that round, Major."

"Thank you, Sir."

Chang shot Cole a glance and a smirk.

"Something you'd like to share with the rest of the class, Corporal?" Damn. Hayes was highly attuned to the slightest nuances. He's like some kind of divining rod when it comes to his team. Chang should have known better than try and get one over on him.

"NO SIR!" He responded with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm. He could sense Cole trying to contain her own mirth. He'd deal with her later.

"Glad to hear it, Corporal."

"Right. You know the drill. MACO pair with Fleeter and get working on those moves. And try and mix it up. Klingons apparently fight with honour but that doesn't mean we have to."

Reed stood next to Hayes to observe the session.

"So you read the files?" Reed enquired.

"Yes, Sir. It's scant information at best but I thought it wise to familiarise myself with what we had. Also, they don't seem so different from our Earth version of the brutal steal-your-land, take-your-women warrior set."

That surprised Reed. He really didn't want to like the man, but was finding it more and more difficult to find reasons to dislike him. Still, good to maintain a healthy degree of coolness in his demeanour. He still got a kick out of annoying Hayes and downright relished the fact that he was his superior. Though maybe not as superior as he thought. "So you're a historian as well now, are you?"

Hayes shot him a quick glance. There were still times he wanted to bounce Reed's head off the nearest bulkhead, though those feelings were diminishing. Now that the pressures of the Xindi crisis had abated. Who knows? This mission to the Klingon home world might bridge the chasm that both still seemed to occupy either side of. Not as soldiers. But as men. Hayes snorted inwardly at the thought. Yeah. And maybe a Klingon might win a 20th century beauty pageant…

"Only when there is a need to understand your adversary. Sir. Offence being the best defence and all," responded Hayes levelly before turning his attention back to the training session.

"Quite." He can be such a smart arse, thought Reed. But then so can I when the mood takes me I suppose…

Her first up close and personal encounter with Enterprise.

She watched in silent deference as the shuttlepod glided along the sleek body of Earth's first Warp 5 Starship, breathing a silent thanks to the Universe for breathing life into her at this particular point in time. Humanity was finally doing what it was supposed to do. Sure, it had taken a few billion years but hell, it was worth the wait.

Her Uncle had always told her she was destined for something special, something more than she could comprehend. At the time, she had thought destiny nothing less than some cruel being created by an indifferent Universe that she wanted to grab by the throat and squeeze the life out of. It was her way of applying definition and explanation to the loss of her parents, taken so young. She remembered her mother's smile and her father's gentle laugh and clung to that memory like a lifeline to sanity - her first memory - as she lay wrapped in the warmth of their arms, eyes barely open. As she grew older, her perpetual anger warred with that memory, dimming it year by year. She had been so angry for so long that when Section 31 found her and took her under its wing, she was ready to self-destruct. Fortunately, Section 31 had recognised an anger and a potential that could be channelled. They put her through Starfleet Academy and that had been her grounding, the discipline she needed to tame her warrior-esque temperament. Despite her youth, she excelled. Extra covert training. Evenings and weekends learning about new life and new civilisations. Unforgettable experiences on Vulcan and Andoria - extremes to test and stretch her beyond her limits. And all the time collecting information on Earth's new Galactic allies. She had revelled in the thrill of espionage.

"Instinct aligned with intellect" they had called it, and she had not known what that had really meant until meeting the infamous Dr Soong…

Except she was a natural Augment. A rearrangement of DNA that sometimes spontaneously appears in a species. And Section 31 had exploited her for all she was worth to them. Not that she had cause to complain. She had been respected, admired and trusted, and she had never betrayed that trust. It was no doubt what had earned the role in which she presently found herself. Though how Starfleet Command had managed to convince Section 31 to part with her for this particular mission she couldn't begin to guess…

She felt the solid clunk of metal on metal as the pod docked and smiled. The mission aside, it would be interesting to catch up with an old friend too. The last time they had crossed paths was her Starfleet graduation ceremony, before she was whisked off to continue her training. She owed the man a lot. More than he ever knew.

Yes, it would be good to see Malcolm Reed again.

"If I may say so, Captain, I find this highly irregular."

Reed and Hayes had been summoned to the Captain's Ready Room to be briefed more fully on the nature of the mission to Qo'nos. Malcolm shifted uncomfortably, the memory of the last time he and Hayes had been reprimanded in this very position occupying a corner of his mind. They'd come some way from bruised kidneys and detached retinas but Malcolm still felt compelled to keep a close eye on his former adversary.

"I have to agree with Lieutenant Reed, Sir. It could potentially make the working environment… difficult."

"Noted, Lieutenant, Major. However, the orders come from Starfleet Command, the mission has been in planning for months and we are in no position to question it. You are both professionals - past experience aside, he mumbled - and I expect you to behave as such. For the duration of the trip, you are to treat her no different than you would any other Ensign. She understands her position and expects nothing less."

Malcolm sighed. An Ambassador posing as a member of the crew? Working in his Armoury? God, as if life wasn't complicated enough…


Archer stepped up to Reed and Hayes who stood to his left. "The matter is closed, gentlemen." He smiled then. "You've faced down the threat of Human extinction. I'm sure you can handle one little Ambassador…"

This wasn't going to be easy, thought Malcolm, as the senior staff headed to the Observation Lounge to greet the new crew members. However, orders were orders and if there was one thing Reed excelled at, it was respecting the chain of command. This mission was of the utmost importance, he didn't need that point reinforced. Qo'nos could be an incredible ally and would almost certainly give the Romulans pause for thought should they decide to take up where the Xindi left off…

"At ease…"

Malcolm was still lost in his own thoughts when the Captain's words penetrated the fog in his mind. It took him a moment to register the five crewmen standing in relaxed stance in front of them.

He glanced briefly at each before his eyes came to rest on a familiar but long since matured face… The wiry frame not unlike his, unmistakable shock of short-cropped, flame-red hair and bright green eyes with a glint in them so bright it would have put a binary star to shame. It had been eight years since he'd laid eyes on Meara Shaw, someone he'd considered his closest friend in Starfleet Academy, and more if she'd given any indication that she had been remotely interested.

Hayes was watching the series of expressions wash over Reed's face with abject fascination. "Something wrong, Sir? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Reed shook himself out of his reverie and composed his features. "Something like that, Major."

"… though you know you are the cream of Starfleet in order to have been chosen to serve aboard Enterprise, we expect it not to go to your heads," Archer concluded, with that trademark playful smile he used to charm all his crew.

"You've already met my first officer, Sub-Commander T'Pol," who gave a slight nod in acknowledgement to the new arrivals. "Crewmen Johnson and Richards, and Ensign Faulkner? This is my Chief Engineer and the man who will be bossing you around from now on, Commander Charles Tucker."

"Trip to ma friends but Sir to yawl," he said with just a hint of humour.

Looking at Reed, Archer continued, "Ensign Shaw and Crewman Marsh are part of the security staff and will be serving under Lieutenant Malcolm Reed."

Shaw immediately stepped forward and extended her hand. Her face expressionless, aside from that sparkle in her eye that Malcolm had never forgotten. "Lieutenant Reed. It's a pleasure to see you again. It's been too long."

Archer raised an eyebrow. T'Pol's expression a mirror of his own.

Reed noticed Tucker's mouth begin to flap open and say something to embarrass him no doubt.

"Ensign Shaw. Indeed. It's been a while. Serving Starfleet has obviously agreed with you. Crewman Marsh. Welcome aboard." Reed stepped back. "If you would both report to the Armoury at 0700 in the morning, we can assign you your duties. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some duties of my own to attend before the next shift. See you both in the morning."

Malcolm turned on his heel to exit the Lounge and glanced back to see Hayes introducing himself and Archer and T'Pol making small talk with the new Engineering crew. He didn't miss the knowing look on Tucker's face. Damn the man. He'd dig until he hit gold. Malcolm had always made a point of keeping a cool and professional distance from his colleagues. His role demanded nothing less than that. It was too easy to lose himself. He'd learned that the hard way. He saw every life on board Enterprise as his personal responsibility, no one no more or less important than the other. And now this. Of all the ships in all the Sol system… Damn. He'd imagined it wasn't going to be easy. He'd had no idea.

"You two know each other? Hotdamn, Malcolm, every time I think we're gettin' to the bottom of the mystery that is our Armoury Officer, another layer jus' gets peeled back!"

True to Trip form, after the meet and greet, he had followed the slightly perturbed Lieutenant to his quarters to grill him about his former life and where Meara Shaw fit into the picture.

"Well obviously I knew her long before her sojourn into diplomacy. We were cadets. I was — like a big brother to her I suppose, she being two years behind me."

"So how'd ya end up being pals? It's rare that senior cadets would collude with their younger counterparts…"

"I…. rescued her from a tricky situation. Outside one of the lesser known haunts of Starfleet personnel."

"Ha! Malcolm Reed. Born protector…"

"Actually, it turned out she was more than capable of looking out for herself. When a couple more thugs - for want of a better word - crawled out of the shadows, she actually came to my rescue. The rest, as they say, is history."

Trip was sitting on his bed, waiting for more, but Malcolm wasn't really in the mood. "Well, if you don't mind, Commander, I have some reports to finish on the repairs for Captain Archer."

Trip knew when the exceedingly British tone surfaced, he wouldn't get any more out of Malcolm. He drained his glass and stood up. "Just so ya know, Malcolm, this conversation ain't over," he stated with a smirk.

Yes. Malcolm knew that look. As if he didn't have enough to occupy his mind with the the largely unknown Klingon-shaped element looming on his horizon…

Hayes had planned on getting a headstart on the rest of the Armoury personnel. And on a more personal level, he loved being in the Armoury working away, before Malcolm arrived. He knew it grated him and Hayes enjoyed stoking that fire occasionally, just to keep the Lieutenant on his toes. Edgy, yeah. That's the way a Head of Security should be.

He entered the Mess at 0520 expecting to find it deserted. Much to his surprise, Ensign Shaw was sitting with a cup of coffee and a plate of eggs, seemingly glued to a PADD. Hayes went to the drinks dispenser and watched her thoughtfully. She looked fragile on the surface, though when he spoke to her yesterday, he could sense a latent strength beneath that practically seared his skin. And since then, he'd read her file and well…. astounding didn't come close.

"Coffee. Black." If she noticed his presence, she didn't acknowledge it.

He'd also been rather curious about Reed's reaction, and the surprise knowledge that they had been acquainted in a previous life. This piqued Hayes' curiosity. He'd been trying to penetrate that steely British reserve for months. Well, maybe he'd get some insights from Shaw, something he could use to rattle that cage.

"May I join you, Ensign?" Shaw looked up, a picture of intense concentration. She seemed to have to mentally shake herself to respond. She stood up in deference to rank.

"Major! Of course. Please. My apologies I was a little absorbed in my reading."

Hayes glanced down at the PADD. "You're reading… Klingon?"

She flashed him a rather disarming smile. Hayes wasn't sure anyone - man, woman or alien - had any right to look that good so early in the morning.

"Hoshi was kind enough to give me some pointers. I've read all the available material but there's no substitute for firsthand experience."

"I couldn't agree more. Ensign." They both sat, sipping their drinks in silence for a few moments.

"So. Ensign." Shaw looked at Hayes over the rim of her cup. "You know, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to keep calling you that, knowing what I know."

"On the contrary Major, you are doing an excellent job. And I plan to make it as easy as possible for you and Lieutenant Reed to adjust to my presence. In fact, I'm pretty good at blending into the scenery. Most of the time, you won't even know I'm in the Armoury."

Hayes smiled. "I guess you don't become an incredible diplomat without possessing certain skills. And you, Ensign, seem to possess a helluva lot of skills…."

So for the next hour, Hayes and Shaw talked about some of her adventures in combat training, trading stories and some of their more hair-raising missions. Hayes hadn't felt so comfortable talking to another human being for a long time.

Laughter in the Mess? At 0620. Malcolm stood outside the door for a moment to assess this unusual situation. He froze. Recognising Hayes' voice, mingling with that of Meara Shaw.

Damn. What on earth could they be laughing about? No… Not him, surely? Calm down, Malcolm. Stop being so bloody paranoid. He braced himself and pressed the entry button.

"Tea. Hot." Hayes and Ambassador - No Malcolm, Ensign - Shaw were still chuckling about something by the time he made his way over to their table. "A little early for levity, isn't it?"

They finally noticed Reed's presence and both stood. In unison they said, "Good morning, Sir."

"Please, don't stand on my account. We're not on duty just yet." He took a seat opposite Hayes. "Care to share the source of your mirth?" he enquired nonchalantly. Well, as nonchalantly as he could manage.

Hayes spoke. "The, err, Ensign and I were just sharing war stories about combat training. Turns out she's met a few MACOs that are actually mutual acquaintances. We were just comparing notes."

Reed noticed Hayes was practically glowing as he exchanged glances over his coffee cup with Ensign Shaw. Reed looked at her. That ever-present glint, infuriating in its attractiveness, held his gaze.

Reed cleared his throat before bringing his own cup to his lips. "I see. As long as she's not sharing any Academy tales? Those files are classified. Right, Ensign Shaw?"

"Oh absolutely, Sir. Couldn't have crewmates getting hold of such sensitive information. I'd hate to be the cause of an increased flow of traffic to Sickbay." Her words, however, were offset by the slight smile on her lips and the glance she threw Hayes.

"Glad to hear it, Ensign. See you both in the Armoury in 30 minutes." He rose and Hayes and Shaw followed suit. "No dawdling." He threw the comment over his shoulder as he strode with as much bluster as he could muster out the door.

"Well, I'd better get going. Wouldn't want to be late on my first day," Shaw stated as she drained her cup and grabbed her PADD.

She leaned down and in a low conspiratorial tone, whispered to Hayes. "I reckon you are more than up to being on the receiving end of a few bruises from our Head of Security, Major. What do you say you join me for a drink after our shift and I divulge some dirt from those classified Academy files?"

Hayes' grin would have had Phlox testing him for Denobulan DNA. "It would be my pleasure, Ensign Shaw."

With a quick nod and a wink, she departed.

It was plain as day. Well, plain as day to anyone who had eyes to see and who knew the good Lieutenant as well as Meara Shaw did.

At the end of her first day learning the ropes in the Armoury and getting to grips with the ship's weaponry, the MACOs and some of the crew had converged on the gym for some extra-curricular training. Reed and Hayes were exchanging blows and parries amongst the other pairings. Meara was watching them from the corner of her eye while she let Sato practice some offensive moves on her. Her REAL training session would take place in the mornings with Malcolm and Hayes. She smiled. She was looking forward to wiping the floor with both of them. Hopefully, a woman kicking their backsides would cause a move of solidarity between the two men.

The tension in the air between Reed and Hayes hadn't been lost on her at their introductions. Something similar had surfaced between her and Malcolm all those years ago when their paths converged. It was the night after she had met Dr Soong and the truth of what she was had been laid in front of her in all its glory. Meara was pretty sure it was a mistake. She just wanted to be a regular human being and so, in an effort to do that, she had gotten ridiculously drunk at some little known dive (and it took a hell of a lot for an Augment to get the beer buzz she craved that night). She had proceeded to embarrass a particularly distasteful excuse for a man in the bar, by basically drinking him under the table. His brothers were none to impressed and she should have guessed they wouldn't let the sleeping dog lie so decided to poke her as she headed down the street back to her quarters. Her reaction time was a little sluggish at first and by the time she had pulled herself together, the wiry British cadet had appeared, giving as good as he got, and he took a fair bit on her behalf that night.

She watched as the two men revelled in their sparring. Hell, it looked more like a dance. Meara wondered if any of the other members of the crew could sense it, but at the moment everyone was focussed on their own combatants…

After Meara had finished what the thugs had started, she escorted a hobbling Malcolm Reed back to her quarters, cleaned him up and gave him her bed for the night. As with the night before, the cold light of the next morning was a revelation for Malcolm as he recalled what had happened. He was a little in awe of the young cadet. Though shy and awkward at first, she could see something in him that she wanted to draw out and that's exactly what she did. A friendship was forged, and though she knew Malcolm wanted more, now that she understood and accepted the path that fate seemed to determine to march her down, she couldn't do that to him. She didn't hesitate however, to give him the confidence he needed to seek out relationships on his own terms. In some ways, he was more broken than her. He gave her perspective and an understanding in the fragility of being human that she only gained through her friendship with him.

Yes, there were advantages to having Augment attributes. Multi-tasking was as easy as breathing for a start. She could keep her mind on the mission and still have room on the side to help out an old friend. And that's exactly what she planned to do for Malcolm.

Hayes was mesmerised.

At 0900, he had arrived at the gym to find Shaw and Hayes already warmed up and just about to go a second round laying into each other.

Malcolm dropped his guard when he saw Hayes step through the door. "Well. How good of you to join us, Maj—!"

Hayes grinned. Malcolm's sentence had been cut short by an extraordinary combat move from Shaw, that had him with his face planted in the mat and in an armlock that he hadn't a hope in hell of escaping from unless Shaw allowed it.

"There's a time to drop your guard, Lieutenant. Standing in front of me when I'm itching to kick some arse isn't it."

"Nice to see you haven't lost either your touch or your quick wit, Ensign," Malcolm replied. Meara smiled and released him. She'd always found this was the way to begin breaking down Malcolm's guard. He was a fighter, a defender, a protector of those he perceived vulnerable. It had taken Meara a lot of time and effort to show him that it was his vulnerability that made him strong for others. An extended time in space, the loss of crewmates and a battle for their very survival, it would seem had undone all her good work. Well, it was nearly two weeks until Enterprise reached Klingon territory, and she'd have a damn good shot at waking up that sleeping beauty.

Meara looked over at Hayes and greeting him with a nod. She hadn't missed his appraising look as she squared up to Reed. He obviously had a type - slender, wiry and coiled with a concealed strength - was it, seemingly. There were many possibilities here to make two people very happy. There would be time to bridge the gap. First of all though, she was going to demonstrate to the both of them exactly why she had been chosen for this mission…

"Holy shit! That was—" Hayes' head was still spinning from the workout Shaw had just laid on them both. They were both walking the corridor en route to their respective quarters.

"Indeed." Reed was dripping with sweat. Meara had stretched muscles both men apparently had forgotten they had. Malcolm's body felt as though it had been pommelled in a way he imagined it might feel had a Sumo Masseur applied himself rigorously to the task. Even his bones felt stretched. If that were possible.

Neither man was about to admit that they'd both been turned on by the session in ways that extended beyond their physical exertions with Shaw. Thank the stars for loose pants and a semblance of self-control, thought Malcolm.

Hayes was rapidly losing his self-control, however. "See you in the Armoury, Sir", Hayes tossed out as they parted at a juncture. "Right you are, Major," responded Reed. God, I need a shower, Hayes thought. A really, really cold shower.

It was 1900. Having missed their appointed rendezvous the previous evening because a strategy meeting with his team had gone on longer than planned, Hayes was looking forward to his drink with "Ensign" Shaw. Also an entire shift wrestling mentally with Malcolm Reed had left him on edge and slightly drained. He was looking forward to relaxing for an hour or two.

He was standing outside her door with a bottle from his modest stash when he noticed her strolling down the corridor towards him in loose pants and shirt, looking incredibly relaxed - and damn hot if he was being honest with himself. He tamped that thought down remembering who exactly she was and what she represented to this mission. He first and foremost respected her, of course. But he could still harbour admiration - physical and intellectual - for the person without acting like a horny teenager.

"Major Hayes. Good to see you."

"You look like you've just spent 24 hours on Risa, Ensign Shaw. What gives?"

She laughed. "Well I'm glad my outward appearance is reflective of the inner calm. Sub-Commander T'Pol kindly accepted my request to participate with her daily meditation. I miss sharing the experience as I did while on Vulcan."

She keyed in her code and they entered her quarters.

Hayes nodded. "Of course. Vulcan. To be honest, I don't know a lot about them. The Sub-Commander is my first contact in that respect and she's not exactly easy to read."

"You couldn't be more right there, Major. There are more expressive glaciers than some Vulcans, though T'Pol is extremely expressive. Like my time on Vulcan, her time with Humans has made quite an impression."

She sat cross-legged on the bed. "So are you just gonna stand there all evening modelling that fine looking bottle or are you actually gonna grab a couple of glasses from over there and pour us a drink?"

Hayes obliged. He wondered what kind of energy the woman exuded that he felt so comfortable in her presence. He knew what she was capable of. Her file - or at least the part of it he had access to - would have had most normal folk quaking in fear. But then, Hayes could hardly be considered as a man existing within the realm of normal. He was good with that. Apparently, Meara Shaw was as well.

She took the glass from Hayes outstretched hand with a smile and settled back on her pillow. Raising the glass to her lips she swirled the contents and inhaled. "Now. I believe there is the subject of a person of mutual interest that we were going to address…"

Hayes raised his glass, smiling warmly. For sure, amongst many other things, he could see that Meara Shaw had a talent for breaking down barriers and repairing damaged goods. Maybe he'd learn something about himself as well as Malcolm through this burgeoning friendship. 

Malcolm's shift had ended. Two days had passed and having recovered from the initial surprise of Meara Shaw's re-entry into his life, he thought it was about time to hopefully pick up where they left off. She had been nothing but professional in the Armoury and during training. Malcolm had appreciated her giving him the space he needed to adjust to her presence. It made him realise how important she had been to him in the past, revisiting those memories of their time in the Academy had warmed him. He strolled towards her quarters and paused to take a breath before reaching for the chime on her door.

Voices? There was someone already here. His hand hovered as he listened in an effort to recognise the visitor. Hayes? HAYES?!

Malcolm dropped his hand to his side, clenching his fist, trying to calm his rising anger. Damn, if the man wasn't trying to undermine his authority, he was trying to muscle in on his friends. Bloody shameless! Malcolm contemplated overriding the access code in the hopes of finding them in a compromising situation and justifiably tear them both a new one…

He thought better of it. He'd save his rage for a sparring session with Hayes. He'd tear him a new one then.