Note: This interlude has references to "A Batty Engineer" and "Empathic Tendencies".
Jon needed someone to watch over Porthos while he was on duty, and Hoshi volunteered to do it whenever she and Jon were on different shifts. Tonight, she strolled along the corridors of B Deck, with the beagle ambling in front of her at a steady pace. Passersby greeted them both and a few crew members knelt to pat Porthos on the head. His wide dark eyes begged them for cheese, but Hoshi shook her head.
“No cheese; it gives him an upset stomach, and Doctor Reed's pretty strict about that,” she informed the would-be accomplices. No one objected, for Malcolm's temper was legendary after the incident with Musica and the recent trouble on Altarra.
The lift at the end of the deck slid open and Lieutenant AnnaHess stepped out. To Hoshi's surprise, Hess wore a hawker's glove on her right arm and Ariel the Pyrithian bat sat on it. Hess paused when she saw Hoshi and would have saluted, but Hoshi waved it off.
“I think you're a bit occupied, Lieutenant,” Hoshi said. “I take it you're taking care of Ariel?”
Hess nodded. “Since Commander Phlox entered his hibernation cycle early, someone has to take care of Ariel. The engineering staff's taking turns making sure she's fed. Ensign Rostov had her yesterday, I've got her tonight and Kelby's got her tomorrow night.”
Despite herself, Hoshi tried not to smile. “Kelby volunteered to take care of her?”
The engineer smirked and replied, “I suppose she's grown on him. I think his exact words were 'As long as she doesn't fly around my quarters and make a nuisance of herself, she's fine.'”
“I hope Ariel behaves for all of you then.” She glanced at Porthos, who sat at her feet. The beagle gazed up at the bat with a questioning expression. Ariel matched the stare, wings still folded and eyes unblinking. The two continued to face each other, neither moving a muscle.
Then Porthos yipped once and made a leap for Ariel. Hoshi managed to grab the dog before he touched the bat, but it was enough to startle Ariel. She exploded from Hess's arm like a shot from a cannon, squawked in pure disdain, and flapped her wings to gain altitude.
“Oh, crap,” Hess muttered. “We're in trouble.”
Hoshi saw a pair of enlisted men round the corner and she shouted, “Hit the deck!” Both men immediately dropped to the floor as Ariel swooped above their heads. Porthos growled and tried to break free from Hoshi's grasp. She couldn't believe how difficult it was to hang onto a four-year-old beagle. With a jerk, he twisted out of her arms and took off after Ariel, barking at the top of his lungs.
The women glanced at each other before taking off after the errant duo. One of the enlisted men scrambled to get out of their way. Hess glanced over her shoulder at him as they thundered past.
“Alert Security!” she hollered. “And somebody call Doctor Reed!”
Hoshi said some choice Andorian curses under her breath. Great, Trip and Malcolm are going to yell at me. She dodged passersby as she tried to keep Porthos in sight. Some of the crew tried to grab either Porthos or Ariel, others froze in shock, and still others burst out laughing at the sight of their captain chasing a bat and a dog down the corridors.
She resolved to use Captain's Prerogative and put her name on the first shore leave list.
The lift at the other end of B Deck opened and Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker came out, followed by Lieutenant T'Pol. Ariel's screech pierced the air; T'Pol clapped her hands over her ears as it overwhelmed her sensitive Vulcan hearing. Trip tackled her out of the way as Ariel literally dive-bombed towards her. The bat missed both of them by inches and flew into the lift. Porthos jumped over Trip, managing to squeeze into the lift before the doors slid shut.
“Hold that lift!” Trip shouted as he slapped the controls.
“It's too late,” T'Pol said. “It has already arrived at its destination.”
Hoshi touched the comm. “This is the Captain. All personnel, we have a situation involving a beagle and a Pyrithian bat. If anyone finds a way to contain both of them, that person will get put on the first shore leave list. Sato, out.”
Trip grinned and shook his head. “That's motivation for you, Cap'n. You should've been a coach.”
“Ensign Roderigo to Captain Sato. They're on Deck E, heading for Sickbay.”
Hoshi groaned. “Malcolm's going to have a fit. C'mon, let's get them back before they cause more trouble.”
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. “I believe it is too late for that, Captain.”
“I'm amazed at these readings, Kov. You don't allow any stray thoughts cross your mind while in a state of empathic reading, do you?”
“No, Doctor Reed. Any stray thoughts may distort the result.” Kov breathed deeply as he brought his respiration and heartbeat back to Vulcan norms. “When one is trained in mind-reading, he or she is told to block out all extraneous distractions. Empathy is different; one is supposed to keep the mind open and receptive.”
“And we both know that could lead to disaster, if one isn't careful about how it's done.” Malcolm nodded at the scanner as he saved the readings onto his computer. “It's easy to lose yourself.”
Kov nodded. “Indeed. If I may be allowed a personal question--”
Malcolm inclined his head; he had a good idea of what the question involved. “Of course.”
“When you were on Vulcan, during your first internship, your empathy came upon you without warning. Such a matter requires a catalyst, a 'trigger' of some sort, to happen. Was it another patient, or--?”
Malcolm sighed and shut down his screen. It was a story he rarely told to anyone; the memories were more than just painful. “No. I was analyzing an unknown protein in the laboratory. There were no patients around me at the time. I was alone.”
“Completely alone? You were fortunate, then, that you are still here.”
He winced. “Indeed. Doctor T'Vau came in to check on me and found me in a state of great...distress. I had none of the mental shielding of a typical Vulcan. It took several Healers and a priestess from Mount Seleya to contain the damage before it became permanent.”
Kov's mouth dropped open in shock. He recovered quickly, but Malcolm saw the reaction. “A priestess? In Surak's name, if her presence was required--”
“Yes. Now you understand why I must exercise the strictest of controls. In our profession, empathy is considered an asset, but it can also be used as a weapon, although rarely.”
“As Jossen...and Menos demonstrated.” Kov crossed his arms in front of his chest. “But if you were alone at the time your empathy manifested itself...how did it happen in the first place?” His brow furrowed as he tried to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. After a few moments, his eyes widened in shock.
“Your remarks to Menos on Betazed...was he the one who first mentally attacked you? Is that the reason why--”
Malcolm stared at the blank screen. “He needed a test subject for his projective empathy, Kov. A Vulcan would have detected his attempt. A Human with no mental defenses was an easy target.” His mouth twitched in a grim smile. “Of course, he got more than he bargained for in the process.”
“But Menos is no Healer. How did he know...?” A flash of anger passed over his face. “Jossen.”
“Yes. Jossen was an acquaintance at the time, though I didn't know him very well. He knew I was newly arrived at the medical academy--” A commotion right outside the Sickbay's doors broke his train of thought. “What on earth--?”
The doors shot open as a black streak burst into Sickbay. It shrieked as it flew above the doctors' heads and knocked over canisters on the high shelves. Malcolm dove behind the computer table, but found himself nose to—snout with a overly excited beagle. Porthos all but ran him over in pursuit of the Pyrithian bat.
“Porthos!” he roared.
The doors opened again to admit Hoshi, Trip and T'Pol, with Hess close behind. The assistant chief engineer wore a hawker's glove on her right hand and carried a container of blood flies in her left. Porthos leaped and danced on the biobeds and along the counters. Trip made a grab for him, but the nimble dog avoided the Armory Officer.
“Captain!” Kov shouted. He tossed what looked like a large butterfly net in her direction and she caught it with one hand. Ariel swooped over Kov, knocking him down. He stumbled over T'Pol, who had just managed to restrain Porthos. Sickbay erupted into chaos as Hoshi tried to capture the bat while Trip and T'Pol ganged up on Porthos. The beagle's eyes lit up at the impromptu game. He ran between the biobeds, leaped onto the counter, knocked a set of test tubes from atop a filing cabinet, then ran into Kov's office and scattered Kov's PADDs all over the floor.
Ariel perched at the top of Malcolm's filing cabinet, her wide, unblinking eyes staring at Hoshi. Hoshi glared back, the net in her hands.
“Careful, Cap'n,” Trip warned her in a low tone. “Her claws hurt!”
Malcolm nodded at her as he closed in on Ariel from the opposite side. Somehow, he'd managed to borrow the glove from Hess, who had opened the can of blood flies. Hess tossed one in Hoshi's direction and Ariel dove for it.
Hoshi tried to trap Ariel with the net, but the bat angled herself mid-flight and Hoshi missed completely. Malcolm extended his gloved hand, his face calm, and simply waited.
And to everyone's utter surprise, Ariel settled on his wrist as she chewed her impromptu snack.
“How the hell did you manage to do that, Malcolm?” Trip burst out.
“Fascinating,” T'Pol murmured.
“Yes,” Kov agreed.
The door opened again to admit a somewhat groggy Commander Phlox and a harried-looking Lieutenant Commander Archer. Porthos yipped once and made a beeline for his master. Phlox stared bleary-eyed at his Pyrithian bat on Malcolm Reed's wrist.
“You've been a...very naughty girl,” Phlox slurred. “Can't sleep through that commotion. Anna, would you mind if you--”
“Of course, Chief.” Hess quickly relieved Malcolm of the bat and held a second blood fly. Ariel snatched it from her fingers.
“Sorry for all the commotion,” Hoshi apologized. Although it was directed to everyone, she gave Malcolm a sheepish look. “I was walking Porthos when we ran into Hess and Ariel in the corridor and...well, you all know the rest.”
Jon laughed as he claimed his errant pet. “I've managed to avoid introducing Porthos to Ariel...but I guess it was inevitable in a ship as small as this one.”
Malcolm tried to maintain a stern expression, but his mouth curved into a slight smile. “My Sickbay isn't meant to be a zoo, Captain. I would appreciate it if this didn't happen again.”
“Don't worry, Malcolm. I'll be a lot more careful next time.” She blushed under his intense look. “And hopefully, we won't have another incident like this.”
“Good.” He was suddenly aware of the expressions of the others and hastily cleared his throat. “It appears we have quite the clean-up to do, Kov.”
Kov didn't quite roll his eyes, but only answered, “Yes, Doctor.”
“I will assist you,” T'Pol said, as she scooped up a set of glasteel test tubes.
“Yeah, me too. I got a few minutes.” Trip whistled at the razor-sharp edge of the the surgical scalpels. “Lucky no one stepped on these. I think you could use 'em for dart practice, Doc.”
Malcolm sighed and glanced over at Hoshi. Jon deposited the now-calm beagle into her arms as Hess took Ariel out of Sickbay. Jon chuckled and said, “I'll pick him up in a couple of hours, Captain. Thanks for looking after him.”
“Hopefully, we won't have any more excitement tonight, Jon--” A raucous snore interrupted her and she spun around at the sound. Malcolm's head snapped towards the biobeds.
Commander Phlox lay draped over one of them, his arms and legs dangling toward the floor, sleeping the sleep of the hibernating.