The next day, Major Reed called him to his office.
His day was already miserable, but this made it worse. Reed was a psychotic creep and he had no question in his mind that Cole had reported his visit to T'Pol and that Reed was ready to use it against him.
The day had started badly. As he woke up, Charles had a terrible headache and a general feeling of malaise. And his bad eye was hurting like hell. It looked like he had a huge hangover, but in fact he never took a drink when he was working. Especially now, with the stress he was under, he had to stay focused.
Major Reed smiled at him as he entered the office, which alarmed Charles even more. Of all the people you had to watch your back around (which was almost all of the senior officers) he distrusted Reed the most. Rumor had it that Reed and Empress Sato were having a sort of power struggle, which made the man in front of him more dangerous then ever.
Charles walked towards the desk and stood still.
“Sit down, Commander,” Reed started.
Charles preferred standing, but he sat down on the chair.
“I’ve been told…” Reed continued, “that you’ve made some progress in your research of the Defiant’s systems. The viruses are causing major malfunctions.”
“I know,” Tucker answered, surprised about the topic of their conversation. Sato and her advisors had been calling him every day for an update on the repairs. She really wanted the crises with the viruses fixed completely soon as possible. Reed, however, never showed much interest in his projects, no matter how important they were.
“As I reported in my daily debriefings,” Tucker continued, “We developed a re-route system for the computers that blocks the spread of the viruses. If ships use that re-route system, they can still operate primary systems: warp drive, weapons and life support.”
Charles looked at the man in front of him, wondering if anyone ever had told him his goatee looked ridiculous on him, and hoping this conversation would end soon. He had work to do.
“Empress Sato wants the virus crisis fixed today,” Reed answered calmly. “She says it makes the Terran Empire look weak if some rebel Vulcan group can so easily plant a couple of viruses and limit our maneuvering abilities.”
Charles was annoyed. “Empress Sato needs to be more patient. This can't be fixed in one day,” he replied.
“You can't fix this in a day?” answered Reed, almost cheerful. “Maybe we need another engineer to work with you. Another genius just like you.”
Charles knew he was the best engineer in the Terran Empire. He shrugged. “As long if this guy doesn't get in my way, I welcome the help. Do I know him?”
“I think you two will get along,” Reed smiled like a predator before attacking his prey. But Reed was wrong to believe he was going to be an easy target.
Reed took a PADD from his desk and handed it to him. Charles glanced at it and to his surprise he saw a picture of his youngest sister Lizzie. The report next to it read that she had been arrested at a free thinkers meeting at the university. He froze.
He had warned Lizzie about such events when she entered college to study architecture. Being the daughter of a registered traitor and bearing his last name, the intelligence services would watch her. For a normal person it was risky enough to be associated with the free thinkers, but for Charles's family it was even more so. The risks were too high. Once you were marked as a free thinker, or any one else who had a different opinion about the Terran Empire than its rulers, the Empire would put her claws in you, punish you and never let you go. Your friends were in danger too, guilty by association. How could she have been so foolish...
“Free thinkers. If people can think for themselves,“ Reed mocked. “But don't worry Tucker. Your unique engineering skills have saved you again. I’ll make you a deal,” Reed said. “Your sister made a huge mistake. I don't have to tell you that. I will use my contacts with the authorities and she and her friends will be off with a severe warning and without registration of this crime. In exchange, you’ll help me with my special project. For the glory of the Empire,” Reed ended with that last bit of slogan they all had been raised with.
“For the glory of the Empire,” Charles repeated automatically and added the full slogan “I will serve with my whole heart for the glory of the Empire.”
Reed grinned. Charles pinned him down. “First I want proof that you will help my sister,” he grumbled. “And what is this project you speak about?”
Reed waved another PADD. On it was a list of all the projects Charles had ever been involved with, from his Academy days until now.
“You’ve done a great variety of different projects,” Reed said. “Ranging from a scanning program that can track a man down out of a billion inhabitants on a planet, to warp engines, shield enhancements, studies on traveling through worm holes, your research on that ship from the future, the Defiant. With most of those projects, you worked with T'Pol. In fact, you get your best results working with her. She is a rotten little Vulcan with a big mouth, but she gets the work done.”
Reed paused to see his response.
His mouth felt dry, but he reacted coldly. “All my engineers get the work done, Major,” Charles answered. “Hess, Rodriquez, Colby, to name of few.”
His mind however, was not on his crewmembers. It was with T'Pol. Reed was right. He and T'Pol worked great together. T'Pol was cold and distant, and not exactly a nice person – but in his world no one but Lizzy could be could called nice – and he hated what T'Pol had done to him, but he had to admit he worked the best with T'Pol.
He always had clear pictures in his mind for solution to engineering problems, visualizing complex schematics and designs in his brain, but he had a hard time communicating them. T'Pol alone seemed to understand at once what he was talking about. In fact, with her looking at a problem from a totally different angle, it helped him develop even more new things, while he seemed to successfully challenge her to think outside the box. If he was honest, he missed working with her. When they worked, there had been a sort of chemistry that was fruitful. Until her pon farr messed up everything...
“Tolaris enjoys his work a little too much,” Reed broke through his thoughts. “He had to be stopped. I don't mind that T'Pol has been punished, but if he continues there won’t be much left of T'Pol for the Empire to use. Although… maybe we can find someone else to replace her.”
Tucker knew Reed didn't care what happened to T'Pol. But clearly he needed her for his projects. For Charles, it was different. He could still see those black, empty eyes that wanted him to cry inside. T’Pol was his weakness.
“We don't need to look for a replacement,” he replied to Reed. He quickly added, “Empress Sato was right in punishing her, but it would be a shame to lose the scientist.”
Reed smiled again. “For the glory of the Empire,” he said.
“For the glory,” Tucker repeated. They fully understood each other.