Phlox of Denobula sat in his office and pored over the various reports that flooded his desk. “Fascinating,” he murmured to himself. “If this theory is correct, it could increase our top speed to at least Warp Seven. I wonder if we can modify the plasma injectors to compensate for the higher coolant ratios—“
He sighed. All of the theories and simulations in the world wouldn’t convince the Armory Officer to divert any more power to Engineering. Phlox couldn’t blame him, for Phlox himself was reluctant to spare any extra power to the Armory for “some really important fiddlin’.” Given all things, though, Tucker was more than generous in sharing his engineering and weapons systems idea with Phlox, so...
Perhaps it was not too late to convince Tucker to change departments. What a wonder he would be as a full starship engineer. A tiny voice asked Phlox, Aren't you worried that he may be promoted over you, should he make such a career move? Phlox firmly answered, Yes, but he would be completely deserving of it.
An undignified squawk from the corner of his office interrupted his musings. “Yes, yes, I know. Well, I suppose it’s time for your feeding, eh? Be patient. I’m sure the captain will be along shortly.” He heard a knock on his door and grinned widely. “Enter!”
“I hope I’m not too late, Commander Phlox,” Hoshi Sato said. “I just got off-shift.”
“No, you’re just in time. My Pyrithian bat was just reminding me to pull my head out of the world of warp theory and back into the real world.” Phlox laid the PADD aside with a small sigh. “The engines are running just fine; I finally located that flux that was driving Misters Kelby and Rostov ‘absolutely bonkers’. It was a simple matter to correct once we identified the problem.”
Hoshi chuckled at his turn of phrase as she carefully opened the bat’s cage. “‘Absolutely bonkers’. Let me guess. Rostov?”
"I’ve learned many turns of the vernacular from Mister Rostov, both polite and impolite. Being and engineer gives one plenty of opportunity to find names for parts that break down or don’t work as they should.”
“I can understand that, though if you’re learning vernacular from Rostov, I suggest you double check with Commander Archer before you use it in public.”
“I shall certainly take Jonathan’s advice under consideration.” Phlox promised. “Far be it for me to cause some kind of intergalactic incident.”
“Hmm...I suspect that’s more Lieutenant Commander Tucker’s specialty.”
Phlox chuckled; her dry observation had a hint of truth. The Armory officer, more often than not, always got himself into trouble, and dragged Captain Sato, Commander Mayweather or Doctor Reed with him. Lately, though, Reed seemed to be the unfortunate one. At least the Lieutenant Commander has the sense to include the doctor in his escapades, since it seems inevitable he’d be in need of Doctor Reed’s services before long.
“So, has the engineering crew gotten used to Ariel yet?”
"They've admitted she has her uses." Phlox had sent the Pyrithian bat into the bowels of the ship to find Crewman Holloway during a ship-wide emergency. The internal sensors had been off-line as well as communications. Not only did the bat find Holloway, but send back signals that Lieutenant Commander Tucker and Doctor Reed were able to track. Since then, the bat had been a mascot of sorts in the engineering department.
“Yes, I suppose she does. She’s immune to warp core radiation, isn’t she?”
“She is, or Doctor Reed would have banned her from Engineering. I suppose the alternative would be housing her in Sickbay, but I’m afraid the good doctor has an objection to that.”
“I think Malcolm prefers his Sickbay rodent-free, Phlox.” Hoshi chuckled. “As long as she doesn’t escape and go swooping on people in the corridors, that’s fine.”
Phlox chuckled; yes, there was an incident concerning Ariel, Porthos, and a chaos in Sickbay, all during his not-so-scheduled hibernation. Hoshi had proven she had a gentle touch with the animal members of her crew.
She glanced over her shoulder at him and asked, “Have you talked to Commander Mayweather?”
“The Commander’s informed me about the warning buoys. Lieutenant Hess and her team are programming those buoys as we speak. They should be ready to go when we reach the nebula.”
There was a hesitant knock on the door, then Lieutenant Michael Rostov entered the room. “Commander Phlox? The gremlin we saw before?”
“‘Gremlin’?” He considered himself well-versed in engineering terminology, but this was the first he’d heard of this. “Ah, the flux problem?”
“Yeah, it’s back. Kelby’s about to have a stroke out here.”
“Shall I page Doctor Reed?” Phlox asked, a note of concern creeping into his voice. If one of his staff was in serious medical danger—
“Uh...just a figure of speech, sir. Kelby’s getting so frustrated that he’s not sure what to make of it.”
“I’ll be right there, Mister Rostov.” He gave Hoshi a look of apology. “Forgive me, Captain, but duty calls.”
“Go take care of that problem. I’ll finish here, then grab a bite to eat. I’ve got phase pistol practice with Lieutenant Commander Tucker in an hour.”
“Very well, then. I will see you later, Captain.” As followed Kelby to Main Engineering, he wondered briefly why the captain was holding back her laughter. Then he re-directed his thoughts to the “gremlin” at hand.
Armory Officer Charles “Trip” Tucker the Third
“Eighty percent. That’s pretty good, Cap’n,” said Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker. The Armory Officer leaned on the holoprojector and studied the results on his PADD. He wore a bright grin and she returned it.
“Thanks, Trip.” She thumbed the safety of the phase pistol and handed it back to him. “Those extra lessons are paying off in spades.”
“Yeah. You’re not hittin’ the broad sides of barns anymore.” He laughed as she glared at him, and he raised his hands in surrender. She was so easy to bait, easier than Malcolm Reed. Of course, not many people could get away with teasing a starship captain who could whip your butt in aikido. “Just kiddin’. You’re better than most other members of the crew.”
“Is there anyone who hasn’t qualified on the new phase pistols yet?”
“Jon’s due for his second test. He didn’t do too well on his first one. Some of the junior officers have the same problem as him. He’s so used to the old EM-33s that he’s still compensating for the particle drift, even though you don’t have to do that anymore. ” Trip’s brow furrowed in thought. “You know, Doctor Reed’s scores are almost as good as yours or mine.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Malcolm? That’s odd for a medical officer.”
“I think he said somethin’ to the effect of him ‘knowin’ exactly where to shoot, if it’s necessary’. I guess bein’ a doctor has its advantages.” He hid a smile; Enterprise’s chief medical officer was full of surprises. “Honestly, though, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about our CMO defending himself. That’s one less thing I gotta be concerned about in a dangerous situation.”
“That’s a good thing. Considering you two seem to get into trouble a lot of the time. The crew’s dubbed you with a new name.”
Trip rolled his eyes. Those nicknames sounded more creative with each passing week, even when there was no trouble, whatsoever. "Again? Last week it was ‘Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum’. The week before that, it was ‘General MacArthur and Lord Admiral Nelson’. What is it this week?”
“The Disaster Twins.”
Trip snorted, then he considered the moniker and said, “Well, I guess that’s better than the other ones. It’s shorter and it kinda has a ring to it.”
Hoshi laughed, then became serious again. “How are the weapon upgrades coming along?”
“Nearly finished there, Cap’n. Here’re the updates.” Trip switched screens on his PADD and handed it to Hoshi. “Ran a few simulations. Looks like the port phase cannon’s better by about seven percent. Unfortunately, the starboard one’s gonna take some more fiddlin’ around. It’s beginnin’ to be a real pain in the behind, if ya know what I mean.”
Hoshi grunted. “I know you can’t sleep if the phase cannons aren’t working just right, but try not to overdo it, okay? I know you hate Sickbay with a passion—“
“Considerin’ I seem to be a frequent enough visitor.” Trip’s voice was dry. “At the very least, I can go bug Mal—Doctor Reed, I mean. Man’s got a bedside manner, if you dig deep enough.”
She laughed. “Don’t even start. Malcolm cares about the welfare of every member of this crew.”
“Yeah, I know, but it’s fun to see what’s behind that stiff British facade of his. I know he takes his job seriously, a little too seriously sometimes.” Trip believed that Malcolm Reed was one of the best doctors to come out of Starfleet Medical, bar none. A meticulous researcher with a gruff exterior, but he also had a sensitive soul.
Trip recalled a few times talking with him after a medical crisis of some sort. The last time was the debacle on Altarra. The man took his job very seriously. Although both Malcolm and Hoshi hid their horror and disappointment about the failed First Contact mission, Trip knew it bothered them more than they both cared to admit.
And despite what he'd heard about Hoshi's shore leave on Risa, he had the distinct feeling things weren't exactly resolved between the two. Trip chose his words carefully: “Seems like you’re the only one who keeps him off the deep end, Cap’n.”
She shrugged. “I’m the captain. It’s my job to make sure my crew is in top shape. And speaking of, I’d like to hear your thoughts about a personnel matter.”
“That too.” She told him about her thoughts about inviting T’Pol to dinner. Trip tried to keep his expression one of polite interest, but he found himself making suggestions to the captain about Vulcan food and customs. It was only fair, he thought, that Hoshi be informed as much as possible. It was only when he realized he was talking more than she was that he broke off with a blush.
“Sorry, Cap’n. I kinda got carried away. It’s just that I’ve been talkin’ with T’Pol a lot lately, y’know, tryin’ to make her feel more at home, but she just sits there with this cool look on her face, so I’m not sure if she’s even listenin’, or if she’s just toleratin’ me.” He shrugged. “The second one, I suppose.”
Hoshi inclined her head and regarded him with a thoughtful look. “Tell me, does she interrupt you while you’re talking?”
He frowned, not understanding the significance of the question. “Interrupt me? No, but I figured that was just Vulcan courtesy.”
“Does she tell you to leave? Get lost? ‘Thank you, Lieutenant Commander, but I have to program new navigational courses, preferably for Shuttlepod One, so you can find a distant star to orbit on your next Away mission?’”
Trip laughed at her dead-on impression of the Vulcan navigator. Then again, Hoshi was an excellent mimic; it was one of her talents as a translator, though it was usually impolitic to mock a potential ally during a First Contact. “Um...no. I wouldn’t put it past her, though.”
“But she hasn’t done it. Yet. And she seems to listen to you, even if she doesn’t say much. I don’t think she just tolerates your presence, Trip.” Hoshi gave him a bright grin. “That’s why I’d like to invite you to this meal. I think T’Pol would feel more comfortable if she sees a familiar face there.”
“Sure, if you think I won’t be gettin’ in the way.” He tried to keep his voice casual, but he knew he failed utterly. Time for a strategic retreat. “Well, I’m gonna run a few more trials on the starboard cannon.”
She nodded. “Carry on, Lieutenant Commander. I’ll take your recommendations about Vulcan cuisine and customs under consideration, and I’ll let you know when that dinner is scheduled.”
“I appreciate it, Cap’n.” The comm panel whistled; Trip immediately answered it. "Tucker."
"Trip, is the Captain there?" came Jon Archer's voice. The lieutenant commander's tone was calm, but he could hear an underlying tension beneath it.
"I'm right here, Commander," Hoshi replied. "What is it, Jon?"
"Could you both come up here to the Bridge? I've found something in the Luran First Contact Protocols that you need to be aware of."
They glanced at each other. If there was a potential problem with first contacts, Jonathan Archer was the one who usually found it before it became a problem. "On our way, Jon. Sato, out."
Trip closed the channel. "Jon's a good guy. He's smart, thinks on his feet, cares for everyone like he's their big brother. Think he'll be a good captain someday?"
Hoshi's smile was bittersweet. "If he can learn to put aside his empathy when the situation warrants it, he could be."