Title: You Only Die Once

Author: MJ

Author's e-mail: mjr91@aol.com

Author's URL: http://www.geocities.com/coffeeslash/mj/

Fandom: Enterprise

Pairings: R/M, T/R, A/R, T/M (implied), T/o

Rating: R

Summary: An AU James Bond parody. Malcolm Reed, Agent 069, is sent to capture a newly designed spaceship for Her Majesty's Government. NO, it's NOT a "Moonraker" parody, exactly. Humor.

Author's Notes: If you've seen the movies but you've never read Ian Fleming's original novels, I'm actually borrowing a bit from them as well, particularly from the original novels of "Casino Royale," "Thunderball," and "Diamonds are Forever." In particular, there's a way Fleming describes casinos and the Bond Girls and writes about sex that the movies simply can't capture. Even though this is slash humor done as movie genre parody, I had to go to Fleming's actual writing style to convey some of the mood. Bond takes on a whole different look in print; I recommend it.

No similarities to Austin Powers are intended, nor should any be found. If you find them, shoot them.

Malcolm Reed, Agent 069, in "You Only Die Once"

The red Jaguar convertible pulled up to the drab entrance of Galactic Imports, located on a side street near the London docks. Several people stopped to admire the vehicle as it pulled to the curb, then stayed standing to watch its occupant, a slight man in a well-cut, highly tailored navy suit, emerge and walk into the building.

"Must be nice to be rich," one passer-by sighed.

"Bloody well ought to be if he's not; looks like that, he ought to be on stage," a woman standing nearby told the other.

The recipient of the stares was oblivious to the comments. F had called him into the Agency's headquarters for a meeting, and that always meant another impossible assignment to make possible. He strode up the stairs and down a hallway, to the office of Hoshi Sato, F's personal secretary and guardian of the gates.

"Hullo, Hoshi," he called to the young Asian woman whose desk, like her wardrobe, was immaculate despite the quantity of work she handled daily. "You look positively radiant."

She looked up, grinning. "Only because I've been expecting to see you, Malcolm," she teased. "Back from Berlin, are you?"

"In the flesh." He came over to her desk and kissed her on the cheek.

"Speaking of flesh, Commander Reed, am I ever going to see any of yours? I've been trying to reel you in for ages."

He shook a finger at her. "Now, Hoshi. I've told you. There are plenty of handsome, intelligent, lonely men out there. And—"

Hoshi cut him off. "And the ones you don't get are all mine. Yes, yes, I know. How was that French paratrooper you rescued, anyway?"

Reed raised an eyebrow. "Who says I…"

"I know you, 069. I don't have to know, I can figure it out. F's waiting for you, by the way. Go on in."

"Thanks, love. I'll buy you lunch when I'm back from this one." Reed pushed open the door to F's office. The Admiral, for, like Reed, he'd been brought to the Agency from Her Majesty's Navy, looked up at the sound, then laid down the files he'd been perusing.

"Come on in, 069. I'm glad to see you've recovered from Berlin—have you also recovered from your week in Marseilles after it?"

Reed approached F's desk and perched on a corner. "Has *everyone* heard about that French paratrooper I rescued?"

F stared at Reed. "Sit down, 069. No, I didn't hear about it. I know you well enough to presume it. And you did have Agent 777 meet you in Monte Carlo on the way back, so I know where you'd been. Now, if you can get your mind off your conquests and your baccarat for a moment, may we look at this file?" Reed nodded. F handed Reed a photograph. The man in it was spectacularly odd-looking, his skin rough and flecked. "His name is Silik. He's the president-for-life of the island republic of Suliban. He's a billionaire, educated, like the rest of his family, in Germany. His family's fortune is in oil, diamonds, shipping, and exploitation of peasant workers. He's recently become obsessed with space travel, and has built a fortress in the northern mountains of Suliban to build a spaceship."

"So he's a rich lunatic. Why do we care?"

Because," F explained further, "he sought outside financing for his project. He's in league with our old nemesis, KLINGON. They see control of a spaceship as a means to further their goal of world domination. If Silik turns this ship over to them, mankind is doomed, as usual."

"So I, as usual, have to go save mankind this week?" Reed groaned.

"You're the man for the job, 069. No one has saved the free world on a regular basis more often than you have. And of course, Her Majesty would be honored if you would kindly deliver Silik's ship into our hands. Can you manage to fly a spaceship?"

Reed pondered. "I *did* meet this young Swiss painter in Germany a couple of years ago. I remember dropping acid with him in his minibus and trying to drive afterwards while he was giving me head—I'm sure it would be something like that."

F buried his head in his hands. "Just once, 069, do you think you can complete an assignment without seducing anyone?"

"I'm sorry, Sir," Reed replied. "They keep throwing themselves at me faster than I can duck."

F handed Reed the file. "Out, 069. Phlox is waiting for you with your new gear."

Reed exited F's office past Hoshi's desk. "Where to now, Malcolm? Hong Kong? Cairo?"

"Looks like the Pacific Islands, Hoshi." He stepped around her desk and kissed her. "See you when I'm back. I mean it about lunch, love."

"I'd rather do dinner and a weekend in the country. If you ever change your mind about your men, Malcolm, you know where I am."

He chucked her under the chin. "Believe me, you'd be the first to know."

Leaving her office with the file, he headed down a corridor to the laboratory where Phlox, the Agency's resident designer, and his team were at work. Phlox, in his lab coat, was hunched over a workbench with a miniature screwdriver in hand.

"Ah, 069!" Phlox said brightly when he realized that Reed had arrived. "I've been working on some new toys for you."

"A car, perhaps?" Reed asked expectantly.

Phlox was crestfallen. "I'm afraid not, Commander Reed. You've destroyed two Jaguars, a Porsche, and a BMW this year, even though they weren't all your fault. And the cost of having a customized car shipped from here to Suliban is beyond reason. No, you'll be going with the light gadgets."

Reed tapped his foot. "Which means?"

Phlox produced a khaki shirt of a jungle cut. "Your safari shirt. The buttons are all explosive charges, which can be set off with a button on your watch." He handed Reed what appeared to be a Rolex. "A second button triggers a homing device. The third sends a distress signal to any NATO satellite within range. The nearest NATO force will be able to come for assistance once it's been triggered."

The watch went on Reed's wrist immediately. "Amazing, Phlox. And it even tells time. Anything else?"

"Oh, indeed! Here are my latest inventions." He handed Reed several small, square cellophane packets.

"These are condoms, Phlox."

Phlox clapped a hand on Reed's back. "Absolutely. But not just any condoms. These are lubricated with a very powerful narcotic. Anyone you're with will be unconscious for a good six hours afterwards. You've had too many scrapes with murderous henchmen trying to seduce you and kill you. F wanted me to be sure you had an out." The inventor reached down to a box. "Oh, and this is for you, too."

Reed accepted the object handed to him, blushing. "What am I expected to do with this?"

"I'm shocked, 069. You of all people ought to recognize a dildo when you see one."

"Yes, but…what on earth, Phlox?"

Phlox took the dildo back from Reed. "This is the battery switch. Works just like a regular one. But *this* switch," he explained, pressing a different one, "turns this into a radio transmitter. *Don't* try using both functions at once, please, on yourself or anyone else." He smirked. "We also have some dildo guns I've been trying out. They come in .38 calibre and .45 calibre. Would you like one?"

Reed mused. "Any distinguishing features between the two, other than calibre?"

Phlox nodded. "The .38 is eight inches and the .45 is nine inches. And a bit bigger around. They don't do the best concealed carry."

"*That* depends where you're concealing them," Reed told him. "And I want the big one. Most definitely."

"Be careful," Phlox cautioned, "if you use it the way you'd ordinarily use one of these, 069. There's a large steel barrel inside—it's extremely rigid."

A disingenuous smile graced Reed's face. "That's just how I like them, Phlox. Long, thick, and rigid."

"Yes, well…" Phlox puttered around his workbench. "Ah, here are the passports and visas. You won't want to forget those. You'll be posing as a very wealthy producer of pornographic movies, scouting locations and new talent for your next lavish production."

Reed was crestfallen. "But F says I'm not supposed to seduce anyone this time. How can I be convincing if I'm not exercising my rights to the casting couch?"

Phlox waved a hand. "Don't be silly, 069. F knows what your talents are. Just keep the numbers down to a low roar. Oh, I almost forgot!" He pulled a small pouch out of a drawer. "There you go."

The pouch was pocketed. "My penicillin?"

"Naturally. There aren't many VD clinics where you're going, so I set up your usual injectors. I threw in a few extra since you never know what you'll run into in the tropics. Just in case you contract something that's *not* sexually transmitted this time. Some ordinary condoms wouldn't hurt you, either, 069."


Reed left his flat the next morning, bags packed, passport and ticket in hand, preparing for the drive to Heathrow. There was a layover in Hong Kong, from which Suliban Air had connecting flights. Although the planes were small, they were said to be luxurious—the fleet was owned by Silik, so it stood to reason. Tourists and businessmen liked to visit Suliban's scenic areas and its fishing villages, and its busy casino as well. Reed fully intended to visit the casino. His dinner jacket was already packed.

No one appreciated how hard spying was—the wardrobe alone was back-breaking. He'd packed two tropical worsted suits, one in navy and one in gray, each with exploding buttons, two pairs of jungle khakis, again with exploding buttons. Shirts and ties. A belt with concealed razor edge. Two tuxedos—one black, one with a white jacket. Two shirts for the dinner jackets, and two exploding studs, one transmitter stud. A bottle of Dior's new men's scent, Eau Sauvage. His Walther PPK, his Smith and Wesson revolver, and Phlox's dildo gun. Condoms, and more condoms. Swimming trunks—two pairs. Scuba gear, which he ended up needing far more often than he liked. Thank God he didn't need to pack the ski gear this time, or the break-down rifles. How that Napoleon Solo over in the States managed to haul that UNCLE Special of his everywhere, Reed couldn't fathom. Pistols were more than enough.

He hauled his luggage outside, meditating on his cover of "pornographic movie producer," trying hard to think of what one would plausibly do or say. Suddenly, a horn honked from a car in front of his flat. It was a rented Peugeot. Reed peered down to see its occupant. He was in luck—it was his old friend and occasional partner, CIA agent Travis Mayweather. The handsome Black CIA agent wound down the passenger window. "Hey, Malcolm, need a lift to Heathrow? I'm heading out that way."

Reed laughed and nodded as he hauled his bags to the curb. Mayweather exited the car and opened the boot. Reed handed him the bags. Travis, what are you doing here?"

"Catching the same flight to Hong Kong as you, and then the shuttle to Suliban. A little bird tells me you're heading to the same place. The feds want me to tackle the KLINGON connection to President Silik's oil operations. I hear you've got the space operations problem. Better you than me."

"Thanks, I think." Reed climbed into the passenger seat as Mayweather steered expertly into the London traffic. He glanced admiringly at his friend—at his rugged good looks, at his strong, muscular physique, at his modified Omega watch that doubled as a two-way radio and electromagnetic field disruptor. At the belt buckle that clearly doubled as a miniature dart gun. Mayweather made him hot, no doubt about it.

Mayweather caught Reed's expression out of the corner of his eye. "Hey there, my friend, there's too much traffic for that kind of hanky-panky in the car. Wait till we get on the plane and *then* we can renew those Mile-High Club memberships."

"My pleasure. I *may* be able to hold out that long…" Reed purred, his hand caressing Mayweather's thigh. Perhaps his old friend was right—it was, after all, a *very* long flight from London to Hong Kong, even flying First Class.


Silik stood in the midst of his hangar, watching the progress around him with a decided frown. A slim, well-muscled blond man in a lab coat approached him with a clipboard. "President Silik? Would you care to review the results from today's simulations?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Tucker. Why is the work not proceeding more rapidly?"

The blond, Charles, "Trip" Tucker, Silik's lead engineer, a cheerful, blue-eyed American hired away from MIT at tremendous cost, ran a hand through his hair. "Well, Your Excellency, frankly, we're dealing with very unskilled labor here. I need at least two more good astrophysicists on this team before we'll finish this project."

This was something Silik understood. "Give me their names and where they work. My associates and I will offer them far more lucrative work than they can imagine now."

"What if they refuse?"

"Then they will work here all the same. This ship *will* be completed, Mr. Tucker." Silik placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder, admiring the physique that was evident even through the hanging white fabric of the lab coat. "Come with me. I must show you something." A hand on the small of Tucker's back guided him to Silik's office on the premises. Tucker entered the room, which, in carved teak and mahogany, with silk hangings, was luxurious by any standards and not just in contrast to the hangar and laboratories. Silik went to his desk and began operating a small electronic console. One set of silk wall hangings drew to the side, revealing a video screen.

A picture of a slight, well-dressed man with brown hair appeared on the screen. Tucker looked over the figure in open admiration. "Do you know who this is, Mr. Tucker?"

Tucker didn't, but certainly wished that he did. He wasn't going to say that in front of President Silik, however. The money and the chance to build the ship had been powerful inducements for Tucker to take the job, but he'd not known when he'd accepted it what the price to be paid in exchange for the privilege would be. Silik was both a rough and unskilled lover and a jealous one. Tucker didn't relish the thought of what would happen to him if he acknowledged the attraction of the man on the screen. "I've never seen him before, Your Excellency."

Silik sat at his desk and looked at the figure venomously. "That is British agent Malcolm Reed. My spies tell me he was seen coming into the country. It may be that he is merely on vacation, here to enjoy the casino or the fishing and the beaches, but I doubt it strongly. The British government would take the ship from us, Mr. Tucker. We must be prepared to stop him if he arrives here. We must be prepared to kill him, if necessary. Nothing must stop our plans for this ship. Do you understand?"

"Yes. Yes, of course."


Mayweather ushered Reed into the main salon of the Grand Suliban Casino, grinning. It was a pleasure to watch Reed in action at a casino; whether he had a system or was, as he claimed, merely lucky at times, he always left ahead of the game. Mayweather's own game was roulette, with an occasional bow to the siren's lure of craps; Reed's was poker, or, just as easily, if his funds could stand it, baccarat. Reed and Mayweather had booked adjacent suites at the casino for the week, posing as high rollers on their agencies' dimes. When it was time to split up, later in the week, Mayweather would head to the eastern oil port; Reed would go further north, to Silik's mountain retreat where the aerospace work was taking place.

Reed glanced in a mirrored wall, checking to be sure that his hand-tailored tuxedo was hanging properly, with no suggestion of his PPK, in its shoulder holster, showing. He straightened his tie slightly, and quickly reviewed the details to make sure that he was sufficiently irresistible to any men who might be looking his way. Mayweather, himself in an American Brooks Brothers dinner jacket, caught Reed looking in the mirror. "You're supposed to be a pornographer, Malcolm. Check out the *other* men, not yourself."

"Really, Travis, I want them to notice me, too."

"And if you strike out? What am I, chopped liver?"

A chuckle. "Hardly. Brown sugar is more like it, handsome. Speaking of handsome, Travis—who's the blond bombshell in the poker pit? The one beside the really ugly troll?"

Mayweather looked across the casino. "My God, Malcolm, keep your voice down. That 'troll' is President Silik. The blond with him is Trip Tucker, an American—he's chief engineer on Silik's spaceship project. He's supposed to be brilliant. Rumor is that someone, probably Silik, is keeping him. I hate to think what would make anyone go *that* far for a meal ticket." Mayweather shuddered at the thought. Reed reserved judgment. No one did anything without some kind of reason.

Reed looked around the room. "I feel lucky at blackjack tonight," he announced. Mayweather checked—the blackjack tables provided a good view of the poker pit while still out of Silik's line of view. He and Mayweather wormed their way through the crowd to the blackjack tables and seated themselves together at the one with the best view, preparing to be dealt into the next hand.

Reed was up by three hundred pounds and Mayweather down by fifty when it happened. Silik had been running a series of bad hands, and now, apparently, had gone bust for the evening. He threw his cards down on the table and stood up. "You can stay if you like," he growled to Tucker. "But I'm leaving." He reached in his pocket and threw a fistful of bills at Tucker, then stalked off in disgust, his security men following him closely as he stomped out of the casino.

Reed prepared to cash in his chips. "I'll see you later, Travis," he whispered. "I think it's time to play *stud* poker." He collected his winnings and, seeing no more guards near the poker pit other than the usual casino security, headed directly for Tucker's table.

Tucker was in the middle of a hand when Reed sat down and prepared to be dealt in. The table's stakes were at twenty pounds minimum, heavy betting indeed. No wonder Silik had folded. Reed bought two hundred pounds' worth of chips as Tucker cashed in at the end of the hand. Seven-card stud was the game at the table. The cards were dealt. Reed's up card was the Jack of Clubs; Tucker's was an ace. As yet, Tucker hadn't as much as looked across at him; the man was calculating intently. The three other players had a six, a ten, and a five, in order, up. Reed knew he had another jack and a queen face down; there was no telling about Tucker yet. He bought in at the minimum.

"I'll raise that." Tucker either had at least one ace in the hole, or supreme confidence in his bluff.

The five folded quickly, then the six. Tucker finally moved his head from his and everyone else's cards to read his opponents' faces; he looked at Reed and his eyes widened, as if in recognition. Reed could feel Tucker being thrown off his stride by the sight of him. Was it merely his incredible good looks, or did Tucker know who he was? Being recognized had happened before. Tucker's next move was clumsy; his mind wasn't on the game. The ten had folded; it was time to display their complete hands.

Tucker had a full house: two aces, three fours.

Reed had two jacks, three tens. The higher value triple always won in competing full houses.

Apparently feeling he'd had more than enough, Tucker threw in his cards, collected his remaining chips, and tossed a ten-pound chip to the dealer. Reed collected his winnings and turned as Tucker passed. "May I buy you a drink?"

The blond looked Reed dead in the eye. He was angry, but it didn't seem to be directed at him, despite the recognition. "Yeah, sure. I'd like that." Reed walked Tucker to a small bar situated at the corner of the main salon. The bartender leaned over to catch their orders. "Bourbon an' branch water," Tucker requested.

"Make it two," Reed suggested, tossing a ten-pound chip on the bar. "Bad luck that last hand," he told Tucker. "You bet too high with those fours."

Tucker buried his head in his hands, waiting for the drinks to arrive. "That's nothin'," he sighed. "Everything's goin' wrong this week."

"I'm supposedly a very good listener," Reed offered solicitously. "Care to tell me?"

A groan from the blue-eyed blond. "Dunno if I should. I think I know who you are, I've seen your picture…"

So they knew he was there. That was par for the course; leaks were everywhere in the business. "My name's Reed. Malcolm Reed. I'm in film production."

Tucker extended a hand. "Pleased to meetcha." The accent was decidedly Southern, though Reed wasn't the best at placing individual regions of the South by accent; he wondered if Mayweather could. "Charles Tucker. Most folks call me Trip." Reed took the other man's hand. The engineer had a good, solid handshake. "You're in films? Ain't what I heard."


"I'm an engineer; I work for President Silik. I guess you saw that little blowup in the pit before you joined the game. He showed me a picture of you the other day. Said you were some kind of spy."

The drinks arrived. "Now, really. Do I *look* like a spy?"

Tucker downed half of his bourbon in a large gulp. "Dunno what spies are supposed to look like. You're a looker, though, I'll give you that much."

Damn those American expressions; they were hard to follow sometimes. That was presumably a compliment, however. "You're not bad-looking yourself. Salud." He inclined his glass towards Tucker before drinking.

"Is your next line gonna be about puttin' me in pictures?" Tucker joked. "Always wanted to be in a Western."

"I don't do Westerns, I'm afraid," Reed apologized. "Although I *have* done a couple of cowboys in my time. I do adult films, by the way."

Tucker's eyes widened. "Lucky SOB. Is it true you get all that free tail?"

Reed chuckled into his drink. "Oh, I've gotten a lot of it in my time." That was hardly a lie. "Not many as attractive as you, I'm afraid." That wasn't a lie, either. Reed signalled for another round of drinks and threw another chip on the bar.

"I'm taken, you know."

"Silik." Not a question, but an observation. If Reed hadn't been told by Mayweather, he'd have known from Silik's display in the poker pit. He'd treated Tucker with the open disdain of a man who knew that the other would take the abuse like a beaten dog, still returning for more. A man could only bind another man that way with his love, his money, or his power. Keeping another man involved any two or all three.

"Yeah. He…he keeps me. I guess it's kind of obvious, huh?" Tucker downed the rest of his drink nervously. Even mentioning Silik seemed to make the man nervous.

Reed rolled his on-the-rocks glass in his hands. "No shame there if you care about him."

"I don't; that's the thing." The second round had arrived; Tucker clutched his new bourbon feverishly. "I'm scared to death of the man. That's how he runs everything on this damn island." He downed the drink in one long gulp. "Shit."

"I have the feeling I ought to see that you get home."

"Might not be a bad idea," Tucker sighed. "I've got my own place; it ain't that far from here." Reed downed his own bourbon, looked around to check that no one was watching him, and followed the blond engineer out of the bar. The only person watching was Mayweather, who flashed a "thumbs-up" at him from his seat at the blackjack table.

Reed walked Tucker the few blocks from the casino to his apartment in an extremely expensive-looking modern building. Suliban's capital was full of money, and full of such modernist construction. They took the elevator to the tenth floor and walked down a thickly carpeted hallway to Tucker's apartment. "Care to come in?" Tucker asked. "Nightcap?"

"I really shouldn't," Reed declined, waiting to see what would happen next. Tucker might merely have been trying to be polite, but it was Reed's experience that a man who didn't care for the man who kept him was liable to do almost anything when he had the chance.

Tucker grinned at him. "Who needs a drink? I was wonderin' if you'd like to stay over."

The word "no" wasn't often found in Reed's vocabulary. Once again, it was missing. Tucker was graceful, and highly temperamental; he gave off an aura of easy sensuality that Reed could hardly resist. The fact that he was President Silik's lover, albeit an unwilling one, and the head of the project Reed had been sent to foil only made the idea better; who knew what information Tucker had lying about the apartment? "I thought you'd never ask," Reed murmured, sliding a hand into Tucker's hair and pulling his face closer for a kiss.

Later, in Tucker's bed, Reed made a mental note to tell Phlox that the drugged condoms indeed worked. Tucker was sound asleep, his hair mussed by the pillows, and as good as unwakeable for the next few hours. Reed allowed himself to relax, wallowing in the remainder of the sensations of their lovemaking. After a while, he eased himself out of bed and found his dinner jacket, which had his miniature infrared camera in the pocket. It was time to go through Tucker's papers, secure in the knowledge that nothing would disturb the sleeping man.

Reed crept into the next room, an office of sorts, and began going through Tucker's files and drawers. There was a map of the plant where the ship was being constructed, several obscure but probably helpful diagrams, and pages of mathematical formulas with the phrases "warp engine" and "matter-antimatter" scattered throughout. Reed wasn't sure what they meant, but that was for the lab boys to figure out when they got the film. He snapped photos of nearly everything he saw, and planned to give the film to Travis to have it developed while he prepared for an assault on the mountain spaceship laboratories. He made sure that everything was back in place before leaving the room.

Returning to Tucker's bedroom, Reed dressed quickly. Best not to stay, in case Silik's men should come around for Tucker in the morning, and far easier not to look a lover in the eye after rifling their home and stealing their secrets, pretending that nothing was amiss. The sex wasn't the hard part of the job; that part was. He found a piece of paper and penned a brief note.

"Trip, you were sleeping so soundly I didn't want to wake you up. Thought it best for you if I weren't here in the morning. Have I told you you're wonderful? Will be at the casino the rest of the week if you need me. MR" It might not mean exactly what Tucker would take it to mean, but it was close enough to true. He left the note on the pillow beside Tucker, kissed the sleeping man's forehead, and let himself out. It was 4 a.m., he wouldn't be in bed until a bit past 4:30, and he could easily handle sleeping in until noon.


"Not a bad haul," Mayweather told Reed in his rented Ford after the pictures were developed. "Keep those floor plans—you're gonna need them to get in there. Too bad for me Tucker didn't have any of Silik's papers on the oil deal."

"That's not exactly his department," Reed observed, straightening his tie. "Now, who's this we're meeting?"

Mayweather pulled up in front of a ramshackle downtown building. "Her name's T'Pol. She's Silik's psychic advisor. Silik believes that a guide from the future speaks to him, and she helps him understand these messages. She's been working for us for about six months now—she feeds us what he's asking about. Who knows if she's legit, but her information's been dead-on." He led Reed into the building and down a dark, grimy hallway that prompted Reed to feel in his pocket for his Walther.

They entered a back room where candles and incense were burning. A slender woman in a catsuit was bent over a small spirit-lamp fixing tea, facing away from them. For a woman, Reed noticed, the view wasn't bad, even though it wasn't tempting. Nice bum, certainly, though Tucker's had been far more to his liking.

The woman stood up and turned around. "Mr. Mayweather? I am T'Pol." She nodded at him. Her hair was very dark and short-cropped; she didn't appear to be Asian, but she was something exotic that Reed didn't recognize. She turned to Reed. "Mr. Mayweather said he was bringing a friend."

If she was so psychic, she ought to bloody know who he was. "Malcolm Reed, ma'am."

"I see you doubt me, Mr. Reed." T'Pol set a teapot and three small teacups on the table. "Please, sit. I can only assure you that my gifts are quite genuine. As is my posterior anatomy, which you were just finding yourself admiring. I don't doubt, as you were thinking, that it was a bit of a surprise for a man like you to notice that, especially since you still have a particular blond gentleman's …er…assets on your mind. Shall I continue?" She poured the green tea, heavily scented with jasmine, and sat down.

"No need," Reed assured her. "I'm quite convinced." The woman was indeed uncanny.

"I presume that you want my most recent information. Mr. Reed, to begin with, I would watch out for further association with Mr. Tucker. President Silik has been inquiring of me lately whether Mr. Tucker is being faithful to him. Since the President is not the most pacific individual on earth, his guide has needed to assure him that Mr. Tucker is too busy to concern himself with anyone else. However, you may find Mr. Tucker sympathetic to the cause. He has only recently discovered that Silik is working with KLINGON. Until then, he had thought that this was a legitimate government project."

T'Pol stirred her tea and thought for a moment. "Silik trusts KLINGON. This is foolish. KLINGON has never worked for anyone other than itself. It can crush Silik, and Suliban, in an instant. But Silik's belief that his own inner guide is from the future and knows all, and that he must carry out its demands, will destroy him at some point. Right now, he believes that working with KLINGON is the best way to bring about the world domination that his guide promises him. I have tried to tell him not to trust this guide, but I cannot stop him."

"Anything else?" Mayweather asked, sipping his tea.

"KLINGON will be here this week to visit the oil refineries," she advised. "Silik asked me to see if the visit would go well. I advised him that the future looked cloudy. A strike on KLINGON at the refineries will go well, Mr. Mayweather. I see that quite clearly."

She turned back to Reed. "I have a message for you, Mr. Reed."


"The warning to avoid Mr. Tucker was a practical concern. This, however, is merely something I see in the immediate future. Be prepared to find yourself sacrificing your reputation, Mr. Reed."

"Could you be any clearer?"

T'Pol looked Reed dead in the eyes, staring intently. "Illogical as you may think this sounds, Mr. Reed, you're about to fall in love."

Reed raised an eyebrow. "Now, *that's* pushing it." He finished his tea. "Next thing I know, you'll be telling me he's tall, dark, and green-eyed." The cup went back on the table. "Travis?"

"If it's not me, Malcolm, it ain't gonna be nobody, so good luck." Mayweather grinned. "T'Pol, you just called the first bad prediction in your career."

"We'll see about that," the psychic replied. "And remember, Mr. Mayweather, attack the refineries, don't just scout them. You can hurt KLINGON badly with a well-placed raid right now."


It was another crowded night at the Grand Suliban Casino. Mayweather was away, meeting with several other CIA operatives regarding the oil refinery problem. Reed had no interest in crashing that party; the spaceship matter was more than enough for him. A second operative would be preferable to going it alone, but Mayweather wouldn't be there to cover him this time. He'd be on the island, but unavailable to Reed.

After coffee and a sandwich in his suite, along with a review of the plans of the mountain retreat where Silik hid the spaceship compound, Reed dressed and headed down to the casino. It was too much to expect that Tucker would be there; even if he were, the likelihood was that he would be surrounded by Silik and his guards. A brief look around indicated that no one from the Presidential party was anywhere on the premises.

Since it promised to be a slow evening, with no Mayweather and no prospect of the rather enticing blond engineer keeping him company, Reed calculated how much cash he had available and decided to waste the full amount on baccarat. It was as easy to lose your shirt on baccarat as on roulette, except that you could persuade yourself that a degree of skill might be required. In reality, all that stood between you and losing everything was which cards fell in your hand; it was nothing like poker. That, however, made the edge of playing that much more satisfying—with baccarat, all you could do was tempt fate with the shoe. All that mattered was whether the player or the bank would first make the eight or the nine.

Reed headed directly to the pit, behind the brass rail that separated the baccarat tables from the rest of the world. A tuxedoed host ushered him to a table that was slowly filling; he was the seventh at the table. Another host signalled a waiter to bring more champagne for the table. A small metal sign indicated that the minimum bet would be fifty pounds.

He looked around the table, trying to place the other gamblers from the information Mayweather had provided. At the first seat, willing to bet but unlikely to deal, was a plump British woman in a maroon evening gown, a Mrs. Damien, a divorcee cheerfully spending her ex-husband's capital. Beside her was a young, broad-shouldered athletic sort, entirely too hearty, who was apparently her current source of amusement. Better her than me, Reed thought. The next seat was vacant, but the petty dictator of a small African country noted for gold mines and diamond mines sat in the following seat, quite willing to stake himself with his nation's treasury. A Greek businessman with shipping interests was next, seated with his current mistress, an Italian actress whose talent was exceeded only by her bustline. Reed had seen several of her films and thought highly of her work, though not of her habit of losing her blouse on screen at frequent intervals. Her usual leading man, alternatively, lost his shirt on a far less regular basis than Reed could have desired. Finally, beside Reed, sat a Japanese businessman, from all accounts a steel mill executive attempting to negotiate a contract for steel shipments to Suliban contractors at highly favorable terms.

The Greek shipping magnate had finished dealing, having bet on himself and watching the bank win with a natural eight. He might have kept the shoe, since the bank had lost, but apparently he felt that his luck had run out with the hand. The actress, as Reed guessed, passed; women usually chose not to deal, in his experience. The Japanese businessman also passed; from his expression, Reed surmised that he was new to the game. The dealer slid the shoe to Reed.

One hundred pounds on himself. Four cards, two for himself, two for the house. A four and a two for himself, two threes for the bank. That meant another card for the bank—a five. Winning with a six was no thrill, but the hundred pounds to him was, at the least, cheering. Reed doubled his bet as the shoe went back around to the African.

A natural nine this time; the bet had been good. The British matron was looking at him all too adoringly as she moved her bet from the bank to the player. She needed to keep her eye on the soccer star, not on him, Reed shuddered.

Should he continue doubling? Only if the winning streak continued; the only way to win at baccarat was to maintain a winning streak, not even on your cards but on your bets on the player or the bank. Impossible to tell, with six shuffled decks, how the cards would fall. He continued his bets, blind luck favoring him with a winning average, though he'd bet on the bank once and drawn a natural eight.

The other players' bets were inching upward as Reed progressed through a series of deals. Well, if he was supposed to be rich, he might as well match them. F could bloody worry about the bill later if he lost—though he fully intended to keep anything over the original stake if he won. "One thousand pounds. Banco."

A seven to the bank this time, to his five. Another thousand in chips across the green felt towards his stake.

The maximum bet at the table was three thousand pounds. He looked at the chips he'd accumulated; he wouldn't walk away in the red if he lost this one. The pleasure of the bet was worth the risk of losing the money—which was staked by the Queen, not by his own pocket, anyway. "Three thousand pounds. Banco."

A jack and a six in the player hand; a ten and a five in the bank's. Foolish to take another card, even by the best standards, even if he'd bet on himself. "Stand." He dealt another card to the bank.

A four. Another three thousand in chips was pushed over to him. One of the hosts was starting to watch his betting, Reed noticed.

The African flagged one of the hosts and the callman. "This gentleman is very lucky," he pronounced with a heavy accent. I would like to make a proposition. I shall bank on my stake"—the head of state indicated a pile of hundred-pound and five-hundred pound chips that represented a large part of his homeland's annual income—"against him for dealing one hand. You," he explained to Reed, "must bet on your hand as the player. If you lose, I shall take your entire winnings. If you win, the bank is yours. No bets other than yours and mine."

Gambling with someone else's money is the easiest thing on earth. "Certainly, if the house will allow it." Reed paused for a glass of champagne while the hosts and the dealers deliberated. Finally, the callman came back with a new shoe and several packs of cards, offering Reed the opportunity to shuffle.

The shoe was loaded and passed back to Reed. Four cards again; two to him, two to Africa's youngest alleged republic, holding the bank.

The bank held seven.

Reed held a natural nine.

African languages were not Reed's strong suit, but, as the callman ordered the chips pushed to Reed's seat, the invective sounded every bit as if he could translate it into gutter Cockney. Comments about one's paternity and about one's mother's animal species sounded alike in all languages.

Undoubtedly, the best thing to do was to leave now and to hope that the head of state didn't have trained thugs waiting to rescue their nation's gross national product. Reed signalled a host for assistance in collecting and cashing in his chips.

After cashing Reed out, the host ushered him into the Casino's half-full night club with a flourish, seating him at a private banquette to the side of the front row with an unobstructed view of the stage, on which a singer was performing with a jazz trio. As a high roller, his drinks were on the house; might they send him more champagne?

Reed waved his hand. "Mai Tai, please, no crème de Noyaux, and heavy on the pineapple juice." It was his standard tipple, strong enough to kill pain when made properly, and suited to the climate of these ungodly tropical islands. It was hard to find one properly made, especially in England, but Reed was not averse to dictating to a bartender.

A note was being sent up to the stage by the host. It was common to notify the entertainers of birthdays and anniversaries, and also to the presence of the high rollers in the club. Anything important got special attention. And in a casino, money was always the most important thing. The singer looked over at Reed, nodding to the host. Reed had noticed the man's name on a sign on the way into the club—a Jon Archer. Archer was tall, broad-shouldered, green-eyed, in black tie with a white dinner jacket and black trousers that were elegantly suited to the climate and to the lounge's décor. That Archer had a voice, Reed knew from hearing the man singing as he'd entered the club, but he'd been unprepared for the body, and the face, that accompanied the baritone. The hawk-like nose, perhaps distracting if not unattractive on another man's face, suited Archer, as did his eyes. Reed was drawn to those eyes, glinting like emeralds in the glare of the spotlights. Archer was too attractive by half, and Reed wanted him badly.

He eyed the man on stage in open invitation. The singer was looking back, green eyes locking with Reed's own, and his closed lips turned up in a half-smile at Reed's own. Nothing more needed to be said; a man knows when another man has made, or accepted, an offer of a night's passion.

Archer, microphone back in hand, cued the pianist just as Reed's drink arrived. The beat of the music was not-quite Latin, the melody too deceivingly simple to be anything but Cole Porter. Archer's taste in music was sound enough, and his ability to move to it promised a pleasure in bed that Reed could nearly taste. That handling of the microphone, that close to his lips…Reed was intoxicated, and not by the drink in front of him.

Faintly, Reed realized that Archer *was* singing Cole Porter, and that the choice had been a bow drawn at a mark. Those green eyes were still on him from the stage, gauging his reaction to the proffered public seduction. "Strange, dear, but true, dear…When I'm close to you, dear…The stars fill the sky…"

Reed rested his chin on his hand, a finger at his lips. His only gesture was to raise his drink to the man on stage, as he continued to watch him.

The last verse was being flung out to Reed as a challenge. "So taunt me, and hurt me…Deceive me, desert me…" That was Reed's stock in trade, wasn't it? With his job, and with his men. For some reason, watching Archer wooing him from the club's stage, the fact suddenly galled. "I'm yours till I die…So in love, so in love…so in love with you, my love, am I…"

KLINGON drugs had never hypnotized Reed half as well as this man just had; he was barely aware that Archer had put the microphone down for a break between sets. The singer was not only off stage now, to applause from the audience, but he was seating himself at Reed's table, on the café chair across from the banquette. Archer's voice brought him back to attention. "I hear you nearly broke the bank at baccarat, Mr. Reed. That's no mean feat."

Reed shrugged. "Nothing but luck. And—my manners. May I order you a drink?"

Archer shook his head in a firm negative. "They'll be bringing me water. I never drink when I sing; it's hard on the throat. Can I do any requests for you?"

"I only have one request," Reed said dryly. "I want you to have dinner with me after the show."

"Only dinner?" Archer quipped. "You looked a bit more interested than *that* from on stage."

"Oh, I'm *very* interested, Mr. Archer."


"Certainly, Jon." A cocktail waitress dropped off the water Archer had mentioned. "My name's Malcolm, please." Reed turned his attention to his Mai Tai for a second. "But I understand the kitchen is excellent, and I do like to take my pleasures in order. May I offer you dinner tonight?"

"Certainly," Archer replied. "In the restaurant, or your suite?"

Reed smirked. "My suite, I think. Champagne and dessert are always better in bed."


A waiter had brought the offered dinner to Reed's suite: brie, and grilled wild game bird with wild mushroom ragout for Archer, and caviar, with tournedos of beef and pommes souffle for Reed, along with mousse au chocolat and two bottles of Taittinger 1951. There had been a valiant effort made to do justice to the chef's work, but when Archer's hand had found its way to Reed's thigh, and Reed's foot had met his under the table, the moment for attention to anything else was utterly lost. As was Reed, in Archer's green eyes.

The champagne and the mousse made it as far as Reed's bed, though it was entirely likely that the chef had never contemplated Reed's intended uses for his desserts. Reed remembered Phlox's condoms, then disregarded Phlox's warning. Archer might have come to his bed more easily, more willingly, than he could have hoped, but if this man worked for Silik or KLINGON, Reed was willing to take the chance. He didn't want to see this lover passing out on him thanks to Phlox's newest sleeping drug before he'd had the chance to enjoy what was happening. If that meant wrestling with a gun or a hypodermic afterwards—he'd been at the receiving end of either or both after sex on a mission often enough—he was willing to risk it this time, for this man.

Archer had just shrugged out of his dinner jacket when Reed took it from him and laid a hand on Archer's chest. "Don't. I'd rather you let me. Nothing spoils a present like unwrapping it too quickly." He reached for the taller man, pulling his head down slightly, and took Archer's mouth in a searing kiss that left them both breathless, then reached up to Archer's tie. Archer smelled of Caswell-Massey bay rum and champagne. "I'd rather take this slowly, Jon. Very, *very* slowly."

Later, propped up against Archer's bare chest, sipping at the Taittinger, Reed reflected that he would have done better to have ordered a tray of oysters sent up. Archer was a skilled lover, as well as an enthusiastic one; it was entirely possible, he realized, that he'd finally met his match in bed. The man was remarkably handsome, intelligent, and an astonishing lover; the thought he'd had during the show, that he'd finally met someone who could slow him down if not hold him, returned. But how could a British intelligence officer who never knew what country he'd be in the next night hope to try maintaining a relationship with an American singer with his own travel schedule, and how to keep him both safe and unaware of Reed's career? Similar thoughts had stopped more than one agent from making a commitment before. And ridiculous to be thinking this now, when they hadn't been together long enough to know if Archer was going to pull a knife on him or put knockout drops in the champagne.

His train of thought was interrupted as Archer pried the glass from his hand, murmuring, "Do you think I could interest you in an encore?" in his ear.

Archer certainly could, and he did.

The sound of running water woke Reed the next morning. Archer was in the bathroom. "Good morning," Reed called. "Would you like me to order up breakfast?" He was remarkably hungry himself; a good evening gambling, followed by spending half the night making love to Jon Archer, and waking up without facing the business end of a gun, did wonders for his appetite.

"Please," Archer called back. "Eggs, toast, and plenty of coffee, thanks."

Reed reached for the bedside telephone and placed an order with room service. As he waited for Archer, looking around the room with daylight filtering through the curtains, he noticed something odd about the way Archer's white dinner jacket hung on the chair he'd draped it on. He slid out of bed, felt in the breast pocket, and looked at his catch.

Damn and blast, why this?

Archer emerged from the bathroom with a towel around his waist, smiling. "I hate to borrow your razor, Malcolm, but…" He saw the look on Reed's face. "Malcolm? What is it?"

"We seem to have an insect problem in the suite."


Reed waved Archer's red silk breast pocket square at Archer. "There appears to be a bug in your jacket." The listening device was wrapped inside its folds. His other hand came up from under the sheets with his Walther in it; the gun was trained at Archer's chest.

Archer sat down heavily on the bed. "I'm sorry, Malcolm, I should have told you…but we both got carried away with things last night…"

"Told me *what*?" Reed snapped. "That KLINGON's got an earful of how we sounded? What?"

"My wallet," Archer said simply. "Left hip pocket. Open it up and look."

Still keeping the gun on Archer, Reed fished for the other man's wallet. He flipped it open and stared at the ID card. "*Captain* Jonathan Archer? United States Air Force?"

"Air Force intelligence. You can call Washington if you want—or Travis Mayweather; the CIA knows I'm here. And…I'm not really crazy about having a PPK in my face first thing in the morning."

Reed lowered his gun. "You might have told me. And I gather that your Air Force got that earful, then?"

Archer sighed. "Probably." He made a wry face. "I've been keeping track of what's been going on with the oil shipments, but then they put me onto this spaceship thing. We got word that you were being assigned to the spaceship matter, and I got told to make contact with you one way or another."

"So all last night was, was managing to make your contact?" Reed asked bitterly. "When was I supposed to find out? I gather they ordered the 'any means necessary' routine? Nicely handled, I must say—you had me quite convinced."

Archer stood, the towel slipping from his waist. He reached to Malcolm's gun hand, removed the Walther, and laid it on the nightstand. "All they told me to do was to make contact and to try to enlist your assistance. Last night…last night had nothing to do with that. I didn't know what it was going to be like, meeting you. Last night…that was us, Malcolm. Please believe me." He looked down into Reed's blue eyes, twin pools of ice, hoping to thaw them.

Reed looked up at the American spy, weighing what he saw. Better an earful at the Pentagon, he supposed, than a KLINGON weapon at his head. He was alive, he still wanted Archer, and Archer still seemed to want him.

And an affair with another spy on the same side was so much less awkward than trying to have one with a civilian…if Archer could just quit recording their performance for the government…

He slid his arms around Archer's waist and kissed him. "Room service said breakfast might be a while…"


Reed began dressing for the assault on the spaceship facility. Archer, already dressed in denims, a chambray shirt, and a thin sweater, with hiking boots, watched Reed preparing for action. Reed knew that Archer was set to go; he was carrying a .38 Beretta, a small .25 Colt as a backup, an Omega watch with a built-in laser cutter, and a transmitter disguised as a class ring. He had a miniature camera in his pocket, and a thinner-than-standard bulletproof vest under the shirt. Archer saw Reed pocketing his Walther and fitting his miniature camera into a pocket of his safari shirt. "You British agents always dress like you're planning to go hunt lions."

"Not much difference, when you think about it," Reed told his new lover. "They're hiding in miserable locations and they're dangerous as sin, especially when they're cornered." He put on his multi-functional Rolex and looked in the mirror. "I'm forgetting something."

It wasn't rope. There was already enough rope in the Land Rover outside to keep an entire S/M convention happy for a week; Archer had loaded that, grappling hooks, and a portable mortar and shells, which Reed had thought just a bit much.

"A parachute in case you have to jump off the cliff?" Archer suggested. He had a miniature one that concealed on the inside of his sweater.

"No, I've got that," Reed muttered. "The shirt lining in the back; didn't I show you?" He looked about and decided to pocket a tube of lubricant. He doubted that there would be time for them to amuse themselves, but he'd been an Eagle Scout; best to be prepared. Besides, you never know what else you might be able to do with it. He'd once foiled three KLINGON agents by spraying WD-40 all over a secret passage behind him. Since they'd had to try to crawl up the passageway, they had failed miserably. Yes, the lube was probably a good idea.


"I'm wearing a bulletproof undershirt our agency developed last month."

"Explosives? Grenades?"

"My shirt buttons, of course."

"Back-up gun?"

"*That's* it." Reed dug through his bag and pulled out Phlox's invention and a condom—one of the ones in the blue wrappers, not one of Phlox's specials, which were wrapped in black cellophane. He tossed them to Archer. "Could you wrap that for me while I use the bathroom?"

Archer stared at the items. "Malcolm? You need a second gun, not a sex toy."

"Just get that condom on it. And do be careful; the safety's off."

The American looked at the latex device more closely. "My God, is this a .45?"

"It certainly is."

"How are you going to carry a backup this size?"

Reed emerged from the bathroom. "With great pleasure, I assure you. Come along, you don't have that on it yet?" Archer tore open the packet and carefully rolled the condom over the dildo. "That's better, love. Now, shall I do this myself…or did you care to help?"

A grin. "We're doing fine on time…"

"Well, then." Reed sat on the side of the bed and ran his hand along Archer's leg. "Just be sure you switch the safety on. That one doesn't fire blanks any more than Prince Albert's did."


Reed steered the Range Rover up the narrow dirt road, not liking either the ruts in the road or the encroaching foliage all around it, so thick that you couldn't see a sniper if you tried. Archer was navigating, as well as holding a carbine in his lap in case of emergency. He opened a canteen and drank. "Water?"

"No, I'm fine. How much further is it?" Reed swerved to avoid a rut large enough to take out a rod.

"Another mile or so. We'll have to climb from there. I'll take the mortar along up—from these plans, it looks like we'll have to blast our way in through the rear."

"You'll get no argument from me." It wasn't elegant, but it beat trying to get in through the front door. From what he'd studied of the layout, the front of the plant was hardly conducive to a giant welcome committee. There was a level area, just before the slope upwards became ridiculously steep; Reed parked the Rover in some brush.

"Now," Archer asked as Reed clambered out, "what's our plan?"

Reed stared at Archer incredulously. "Haven't been at this game long, have you?"

"Only a couple of years. Why?"

"Because the only bloody plan I've got is called getting in there, taking care of the mission, and getting out alive. That's the only blasted plan I ever use. No way in hell to plan what's going to happen when you walk into something like this. And do you know anything about flying a spaceship?"

Archer shrugged. "I dated this hippie poet once in Berkeley; we were in this old, converted school bus he owned. I was on acid, trying to drive, while he was going down on me. I figure it'd be sort of like that, only more like a plane instead of a bus."

Reed nodded slowly. "You know, I was thinking something almost exactly like that."

"Where? Not California?" Archer handed a coil of rope to Reed.

"Germany. He was Swiss." Reed took hold of a set of grappling hooks and began scouting the face of the cliff. About halfway up, there was a ledge; it appeared to have doors of some sort opening into the facility. "I say we try for there," he told Archer, pointing. "Looks like we have to take down three guards on the outside."

"No problem." Archer took his own rope and climbing harness and headed for the incline, portable shoulder mortar firmly ensconced on him. "I'll tackle blowing up the door if you take out the outside guards."

"What about the ones inside?"

"If they're close enough to the doors, you won't have to worry about it." Reed nodded; he'd known there was something he liked about Archer. Well, besides everything else he liked about Archer.

They started the climb up, their progress covered by the foliage around them. Even the incline was heavy with plant life that grew out and over everything. It could easily have been a tropical paradise, but for the construction going on inside the mountain.

About halfway up to the ledge, Archer looked through the leaves and then stopped Reed. "Malcolm!" His voice was just above a hiss. "This is as good a place as any for me to launch a shell at those doors. You climb on ahead of me and tackle those guards while I set up."

"Right you are," Reed said, returning to the climb and reaching for his Walther. He could barely hear Archer's movements as the American spy began setting up the munitions. The foliage around him began thinning as the ledge grew closer. He saw one guard, facing away from him. Quietly, he scrambled to the top of the ledge and clambered out of the climbing gear.

Reed walked up behind the guard silently. "Hi, sailor. New in town?" The guard, a beefy German-looking type, probably a KLINGON operative, whirled around as Reed brought the Walther down hard on his head. "Funny, men just keep falling at my feet." The man crumpled while Reed backed away enough to avoid his body landing on Reed's feet. Reed looked around for the other two guards he was certain were there, but saw no one.

A whooshing sound from below suddenly became a small explosion as a shell took out the doors. Reed could hear Archer's movement now as the Air Force officer began climbing rapidly; another noise, behind him, had to be another guard. He kicked out, swinging about, taking the man in the knee. Another pistol butt to the skull sent the second operative out of commission.

"Malcolm—behind you!" Before Reed could react, Archer had fired his Beretta at the third guard, who was now down on his knees, holding his arm. Reed brought his arm around the man's neck and applied pressure. When he let go, the guard crumpled.

Three guards down.

Archer was at the ledge now, throwing off the harness. "No guards inside?"

"I don't hear an alarm, either," Reed said curiously. "They must have some kind of warning device, though…I wonder what."

"No clue, but we're going in." Gun drawn, Archer stepped inside the doors, Reed following suit. Small emergency lights illuminated a long, deserted corridor. "Not a lot of guards…" Two lay, apparently unconscious, near the doors. No point in checking on their actual condition.

"Probably alarms, if not video," Reed said, cursing to himself. He moved down the corridor pressed against the wall, Walther in hand. "I think we can expect a welcoming committee on the other end." He made his way further down the hall. "There's a freight elevator here. The area on the ledge must have been for loading."

"Looks like we're going steerage class," Archer said. There seemed to be no key or passcode needed for the lift. "And the only way this one goes is down."

"Never had a problem going down before." Reed pressed the button. "Don't see why I would today." The doors to the lift opened slowly; it was a huge cargo lift, clearly intended to carry enormous loads of supplies and materials. "Let's see where this gets us."

The lift moved slowly and all too noisily. When it came to a stop an eternity later, Reed was certain that it would open into a room crowded with goons waiting to beat them.

He was wrong. Six thugs wasn't a crowd. It was six too many, but it wasn't a crowd.

He and Archer managed to pistol-whip the first two to come at them, and Archer brought a third down with a well-placed kick, but the pile of bodies slowed them down against the other three, two of whom were the size of healthy refrigerators. Two of them held Archer, one of the large ones had Reed's arms behind his back. The one restraining Reed glowered. "President Silik's compliments, Mr. Reed. He'd like to meet you."

"Perhaps after lunch?"

"Now." Reed and Archer were shoved down a carpeted hallway and into an office, their captors still holding them firmly. A door on the other side of the office opened, and Silik entered, scowling.

"Welcome, Mr. Reed." The face and tone of voice belied the words. "I see you and your friend have decided to visit my little factory." Silik pressed a button and a wall slid aside, revealing a glass pane overlooking the assembly floor. Uniformed workers were at computer stations around a huge central area at which other workers were performing assembly on something large, metallic, and undoubtedly the spaceship Reed and Archer had seen in the photos of Tucker's drawings. "As you can see, gentlemen, I'm having the finishing touches put on my new spaceship. With a fleet of these ships, I can control the world markets, ship anything anywhere I want at any time; I can bring raw materials here from anywhere, even the moon. I can set up mining camps on Mars. And anyone who tries to stop me…" Silik laughed evilly. Reed was tired of lunatic villains with evil laughs; couldn't just one of the ones he had to meet be depressed?

"However, Mr. Reed, your presence is a serious inconvenience to me. I'll have to do something about that."

Reed turned, looking out the window again; he could see Tucker looking up, able to see what was going on in the room. There was no way to signal Tucker, but it was likely that the engineer might try to help. However, he wasn't going to hold his breath. Maybe he could stall for time. "So, Silik, what of my being here? Do you expect me to talk?"

"No, Mr. Reed, I expect you to die."

Bloody hell, that was what they all said. Christ, they weren't even original these days. "What'll it be, Silik? Lowering us over a tank of piranhas? Leaving us in a missile silo with a missile behind us? Underwater without enough air to make it to the surface?" At least Silik wasn't working with THRUSH; the last report from the States had mentioned Napoleon Solo's third bout in recent months with THRUSH experimental drugs. Reed preferred the old-fashioned ways of getting tortured himself. They were so much more creative.

Silik rubbed his hands together. "No, Mr. Reed. I wouldn't want to bore you with anything you've already had happen to you. My men will be tying the two of you up—and in honor of your badge with the agency, Mr. Reed, I think you'll appreciate the way they'll be tying you. Then they'll be lowering the two of you over a small pool with four *very* hungry sharks."

Reed looked over at Archer. His partner was mouthing something which Reed made out as "Not the shark tank *again*…" To be honest, Reed didn't think it was that original, either. He didn't know what was happening to standards any more. Even five years before, no decent villain would have used a death trap on him that was even remotely close to one he'd already escaped from. The sloppiness was just inexcusable.

The henchmen hauled Reed and Archer away and into another chamber with several other goons. Their hands and feet were tied; then, as Silik had promised, the thugs forced them onto the floor and into what would, if they'd been nude, have been a perfect 69. One of the refrigerator-sized thugs, looking at the effort, decided to move Reed's arms around Archer's hips as the workers finished tying them up. "Okay," the thug said, "slide 'em onto that board. Crank it up, and set it to start lowering into the pool. Then come on; we've got work to do."

The board, a wide wooden plank, was suspended by ropes at either end. The workmen wound it up to the ceiling quickly, then set an automatic timer. Someone hit a button in the all, opening the floor; there was a shallow pool with four sharks whose attention was focused on the sound of the motor that was beginning to lower the rope inch by inch. "C'mon, let's move it." The door was closed behind them.

"This is certainly annoying," Reed said, grunting. "I'm filing a protest when I get back. F sends me to horrid locations and I always get this kind of thing. That damn Solo chappie gets sent to good locations like Paris and Algiers *and* he's got that hot blond Russian boyfriend."

"Sorry about the travel itinerary, but what am I, chopped liver?" Archer tested the ropes around his wrists.

"No, you're tall, built, and you have gorgeous green eyes and an ass that won't quit, but I wasn't sure how you felt about the boyfriend part yet."

"Well, if we figure out a way to get out of here, I can show you what I think of it."

"Oh, escape," Reed sighed. "Quite. Can you possibly unfasten my belt with your teeth, love?"

"You have no idea what I can do with this mouth, but don't you think we should wait until we've gotten out of here for that?"

"No, I have a razor in it. Listen," Reed said. "If you can pull my belt buckle out far enough, we can start cutting some of these ropes."

"Right." Archer wasn't lying about his skills, Reed quickly realized. Archer had the belt unfastened almost immediately and began tugging at the buckle to free the belt from Reed's khakis. Reed wormed his arms down Archer's back to feel for the belt. Finally catching hold of the leather, he pulled on it and released the straightedge so that he could cut through the ropes at his wrists.

"Got them." Reed pushed himself up and turned slightly to find Archer's wrists. "Hold still, I don't want to cut you." He sawed through the rope around Archer easily. "That's more like it."

Archer and Reed pulled their legs up to untie the ropes around their legs. "One problem," Archer said, looking about them.

"What's that?"

"Make it two problems. How do we stop this thing and how do we get down without landing in the shark tank?"

Reed looked down at the sharks. "Good question." He thought for a moment. "This might get messy." He cut a button from his shirt and dropped it into the water. One of the sharks grabbed at it. "Now." He hit the detonator button on his watch.

Archer opened his eyes when the vibration from the blast subsided. "My God, that's disgusting."

"It did take two of the others out, too," Reed observed, shaking debris from his arm and looking at the mess.

"This is going to stink later."

"Bitch, bitch, bitch." Reed turned to Archer. "Did they get your .25?"

Archer felt down his clothing. "No." He pulled the backup out of his pocket. "Sloppy of them."

"Get ready to shoot."

They suddenly realized that the motor had stopped. Reed turned around to see that Tucker, still in his lab coat, had entered the room and turned off the machine lowering them towards the water. "Trip?"

"Silik sent me to see what the noise was," Tucker told them. He reached a lifeguard's pole over to the plank from the edge of the pool. "Can you make it down this?" Reed swung around and climbed down the pole; when he reached the edge, Archer followed him.

"Thanks, love," Reed told the engineer, sliding an arm around his waist.

Tucker shrugged. "I had to do something, you know." He handed Reed a computer disk. "These are the plans. Get them out of here." He looked at Reed. "You lied to me, y'know. Told me you weren't a spy."

Reed had the grace to look abashed. "I had to, you know."

"Shit, if you'd 'a told me, I coulda given you all the plans for everything here, easy as pie." Tucker shrugged. "But no, gotta do things the hard way."

"I still have to try to get the ship out of here," Reed said.

"We need to get him out, too," Archer replied, nodding towards Trip. It seemed only fair to rescue your informant, even if your boyfriend was running a hand over his ass with a move that suggested he'd been there before.

"Don't worry about me," Tucker said. "Just do what it takes to fuck over that slimy bastard." He looked around. "You'd better get out of here. And—do me a favor?"


"Knock me out. That way it won't look like I helped you escape."

"Right," Archer said, spinning his .25 butt side out. "My pleasure." He brought the gun down to the side of Tucker's head, watching the younger blond crumple.

"You didn't have to do it *that* hard, did you?"

"You didn't have to feel him up, either," Archer told his lover. "Please tell me you're not sleeping with him."

"Not since I met you."

"Well, you're not sleeping with him any more," Archer said, swatting Reed's ass. "That's what *I'm* for. Let's get out of here and find ourselves a spaceship."



"My gun. I'm not going out there without one." Reed patted down his pockets. "Damn, I left my S&W behind. Fortunately, I still have one on me. Wait up." He undid his khakis quickly, then dropped his underwear. "I didn't think they'd look there." He pulled everything back up, threaded his belt back in now that he thought of it, and peeled the condom off of the .45. He jammed Phlox's invention into his waistband. "And I shall use it on you first if you ask me if that's a gun in my pocket, or…"

"Shit, I was just thinking that." Archer put a hand on Reed's shoulder and pushed. "Come on." They slithered out into the corridor, looking for a way onto the factory floor.

"If we can knock out a couple of workmen, we can grab their uniforms," Reed proposed. "We'd be a little less obvious then."

"Right." Archer looked behind them. "Damn, those thugs are coming back."

"No problem," Reed said, pulling the tube of K-Y out of his pocket. "I knew this would come in handy." He opened the tube and squirted most of it on the floor, bending down to smear it across several tiles in each direction and well in front of the door to the room with the shark tank and an unconscious Tucker. He reached around to coat the doorknob. "We go *that* way. They'll be lucky to get in there for a while."

Still pressed against the corridor wall, they made their way to a recess and backed into it. At that point, the first of the goons slipped on the lubricant, triggering a chain reaction. Archer checked the situation. "Nice work. If we run for that ladder, they won't see us." There was a metal ladder welded to a ledge, leading straight down to an area behind the open workspace where most of the workers were moving about purposefully.

Reed climbed down the ladder, Archer following him. It deposited them in an alcove behind the massive computer operations that lined the walls of the main work area. From there, the two men could see most of the activity surrounding them, as well as the object of their interest. A huge metal-skinned construct stood within movable scaffolding, workers crawling about it. It looked—Reed groped for a description—rather like a huge, round metal baking dish with two enormous straws sticking out behind it off of a set of buttresses. Compared to the tiny sketches in Tucker's diagrams, it was altogether unbelievable.

"So that's what Silik's calling the Enterprise," Archer said quietly. "The diagrams suggest everything to the rear is engine-related. I wouldn't stand back there if they decide to test it."

"We have to get into it," Reed reminded Archer. "I'd suggest we grab a couple of workers and take their jumpsuits. Our best chance is to blend in and to make it up to that front scaffolding."

"Check." Archer moved closer to the opening of the alcove, looking for someone to come along whose uniform might reasonably fit him—something that was no mean feat, as he was hardly a small man. In fact, Reed thought smugly, Archer wasn't small *anywhere*, which suited Reed perfectly. Still, no time for that sort of thing right now, although the idea was certainly enticing enough. Archer reached out and dragged in a lone worker, arm around the man's throat in a chokehold. "This one's yours, Malcolm."

Reed finished the job of putting the worker unconscious, and then stripped him. "You'd think they'd have a more stylish uniform, wouldn't you?" As he began pulling the uniform on over his own clothing, Archer hauled in a second worker, of considerably larger dimensions. "Mmm, I think you're going to look better in these bloody things than I do."

Archer spared a glance towards Reed as he peeled the jumpsuit off of the second worker. "But it's going to be so much fun getting you out of them, isn't it?"

"Right answer, Yank." Reed grinned at Archer as he moved the gun to a pocket of the work uniform, watching as Archer donned the other worker's clothing. "Let's go steal a spaceship." They slipped out of the alcove, leaving the unconscious men behind them, and worked their way into the mill and press of the workers around them. A commotion on a balcony above them indicated that the thugs upstairs had finally gotten to their feet and had found Tucker unconscious. They weren't going to be able to waste any time getting to the ship.

Archer felt for the button on his transmitter ring. "I'm signaling out of here. I think it's time to call the reinforcements. We may need them to hold the fort when we try moving that thing out of here."

"Good idea." Reed reached for the signal button on his Rolex and tripped it. "The oil refineries aren't that far from here. Unless there's something happening there right now, we may have your CIA people on the doorstep anytime." He looked around cautiously. "Frankly, I suggest you take that way around, and I'll go to the left." He pointed through the crowds on either side of the ship. "I'll meet you at the scaffolding by the entry."

"Right." Archer headed towards the scaffolding on the right side of the huge operations area, past a throng of computer technicians. One of them tossed a stack of printouts at him, with orders to "give them to Hansen," whoever that was.

Reed was cutting through a gaggle of jumpsuited workers apparently heading for a break, one of whom slapped him on the back with a "say hello to Carlson." There were few, if any, native Suliban actually on the premises; everyone, KLINGON and otherwise, appeared to be imported from off-island. Apparently Silik didn't trust the capabilities of his own people. No surprise, as he'd done nothing for them as their president.

The henchmen upstairs must have gotten to Silik, or at least to someone who could make a decision, whoever that was. A loudspeaker crackled as a voice broadcast throughout the building. "We have been infiltrated by two enemy agents. Be on the lookout." Well, that was par for the course. A good thing they'd changed to costume. Reed worried about Tucker. Had the men moved him? Would they, or Silik, have guessed that he'd turned over plans? If Reed was caught again and the disk found on him, there would be no doubt of that. And Silik didn't strike him as the forgiving type. Reed wasn't about to take the American on with open arms—he had his hands, as well as his ass, full with Archer, who was really more his type—but there had to be a way to get Tucker out of there. He hoped Mayweather and his men would arrive soon enough to send Travis after Tucker.

Travis. Tucker. Now, there was a thought. After all, as long as he was seeing Archer, those intermittent buddy fucks with dear Travis were probably right off the list, and Mayweather *had* certainly given the engineer a good look-over back at the casino…Reed gave a half-smile, pleased with his own plotting. Now, Mayweather had better be leading the reinforcements.

It wasn't difficult looking busy, though trying to keep faces away from the KLINGON goons who were coming onto the floor to patrol now would be a bit tricky. Certainly it was slowing down the process of getting to the ship, but that might be just as well; rushing could appear just a bit obvious. This was not a time one wished to stand out in the crowd.

And what was Tucker doing out on the floor now? The engineer was on the floor, carrying a clipboard and a stack of folders, looking as if he were back on the job. But surely he wasn't up to it? Would Silik even let the man out, knowing that Reed and Archer were there somewhere? Surely Silik must have suspected Tucker's complicity in getting the agents out of the shark trap.

Tucker was looking for someone, obviously; he was peering his way through the throng, and not as inconspicuously as he might. Reed was unsure whether to make himself available to Tucker or to vanish; was Tucker part of a trap for Reed now? Or, more likely, was he bait? If Tucker was the bait, Silik surely wasn't planning to let the engineer live. Or was he out here looking for Reed on his own, unheeding of the group of armed men that were starting to appear around the mezzanine that rose well over a floor above where they stood? If he was on his own, he was as dead as if he were bait. Unlike Reed and Archer, Tucker almost certainly wasn't wearing Kevlar under his shirt.

The chance was always worth it. Reed came up to Tucker's side. "Trip?"

Tucker turned, then nudged Reed toward the scaffolding, away from the crowd, clipboard in hand, pen in the other hand, as if he were going over a checklist. "I grabbed these files when I left Silik's office. They're his KLINGON contacts, and some stuff on the oil deals. Take' em."

"Silik's going to realize they're gone," Reed said, accepting the files and hoping he could get into the spaceship with them.

Tucker shrugged. "I figure I'm as good as dead anyway. Silik's starting to figure out I'm sick of him, and he don't take rejection too well, y'know? Unless I get out of here with you two, I'm for it anyway." He peered at Reed. "You an' him—there somethin' goin' on there I should know about?"

"Jon?" Reed hesitated. "Not before I met you. There is now, though." He turned his body as a KLINGON henchman walked past.

"I kinda figured. Oh, well, you win a few, you lose a few."

Reed laid a hand on Tucker's forearm. "If we get out of here in one piece, there's someone I want you to meet."

"Oh?" Tucker raised an eyebrow, curious.

Just then, one of the KLINGON yelled from the mezzanine. "There's one of them!" He pointed his rifle towards Archer, who was nearing the ladder up to the entryway to the ship.

Reed pulled the .45 from his pocket and shot at the goon, winging him and causing the man to drop his rifle.

Guns were everywhere now, on the mezzanine and on the floor. Archer, ducking, had fired off his .25 at two of the KLINGON nearby on the floor, injuring one badly. He pulled the Omega from his wrist, and was aiming the laser at one of the men on the mezzanine. The henchman dropped the rifle, clutching at his stomach.

Tucker sent the clipboard flying at a KLINGON who was lunging towards him, catching the man in the temple and sending him sprawling.

"Nice aim," Reed said dryly.

"Hey, engineers ain't no sissies."

"I believe you." The two men scrambled for the scaffolding, as Reed kicked into the head of another KLINGON below him.

They were nearly caught up to Archer on the scaffolding when they heard the noise.

Archer grinned down at them. "I think the cavalry just arrived."

"Damn time." Reed muttered. A throng of uniformed Americans, led by some far more casually dressed operatives, were pouring onto the mezzanine and the main floor. The CIA operatives were spreading the SEALS out around the area, covering the KLINGON. A tall Black CIA agent in a navy pullover headed towards the ship.

"Malcolm! I see you still can't get by without me!"

"Travis, you git, late as usual."

Mayweather looked up on the scaffolding. "I see you and Captain Archer have met."

"We know each other," Archer called down.

"Several times by now, I'd imagine," Mayweather smirked. "Sounds like the gypsy found you the tall guy with green eyes after all, Malcolm."

"Go away and impound some KLINGON weaponry, Travis," Reed sighed. Mayweather turned to go. "No, wait up, you ignorant sod." He nudged Tucker and pointed down to Mayweather. "Travis? We've got one American engineer here who needs to get back to the States. He's got some information your boys might want. So I expect you'll take *very* good care of him."

Mayweather looked at Tucker, then nodded, smiling, at Reed. "I'll give him my personal attention. Come on down, Mr. Tucker." He held a hand up to Tucker to help the engineer back down the scaffolding when a series of horrible noises came from overhead. "What's that?"

"That's President Silik's helicopter," Tucker told him. "He must be getting' the hell outta Dodge."

"Should we go after him?" Mayweather asked.

"It's not worth it," Reed called down. "You still have the oil matters to clear up. He doesn't have too many places he can hide, and KLINGON doesn't need him; he needs them. In fact, they may go after him themselves since his business deals with them are crumbling."

"That's true," Mayweather said thoughtfully. He motioned to a number of military who weren't pinning down KLINGON just then. "Let's move this scaffolding. Agent 069 has a ship to get out of here."


"You're *sure* you know how to fly this thing?" Reed watched Archer adjusting a series of controls at the ship's helm.

Archer pressed another button. Lights flashed. "Nope. I read Tucker's file and I'm trying to follow the directions, that's all."

"So, Captain Archer, are you going to fly me to the moon?" Reed pressed up against Archer, wrapping arms around Archer's chest from behind.

Archer, deliberately or obtusely, missed the point. "I have no idea how well this thing would hold up. It's never been tested. I'm trying to get it towards Switzerland right now, that's all."

"Switzerland. What a good idea."

"Exactly. It's neutral territory, so your government and mine can slug out who gets to claim this damned flying saucer. That's what you were thinking?"

"No, you idiot. I was thinking that a week curled up by the fire in a ski lodge in Gstaad would do both of us a world of good. Now, put the bloody thing on autopilot and come over here. I've got a gun in my pocket, *and* I'm happy to see you…"

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