auswitcheroo151: AU Sato and Mayweather (Default)
[personal profile] auswitcheroo151
Five

The moment he materialized back on Enterprise, Phlox headed to Engineering, with Hess, Rostov and Kelby close behind him. The bat squawked and waved his wings at crew members going to their posts. More than one person did a double-take at the creature on the Denobulan's shoulder.

"Um..Boss, do you think the warp core's gonna harm it?" Rostov asked, peering at the bat with a look of distrust. "Or it's gonna start flying in circles over our heads?"

Phlox sighed. "The Rangers assured me that Pyrithian bats are hardy creatures. As long as he behaves, I see no reason to confine him right now."

Hess grinned and added, "Besides, Michael, I think he's kinda cute." Rostov snorted, but he still grinned. Kelby only rolled his eyes, but said nothing. Of the three junior engineers, the bat seemed to get along with Hess the best, though Kelby kept his distance.

They burst into Engineering, which was a hub of chaos. Phlox saw screens flicker on and off, while the lights turned blue, then red, before becoming clear again. "Status!" he roared, using his bass "operatic" voice that never failed to get his staff's attention.

"Gremlins, looks like," Masaro replied. "Gets worse as those ships get closer. They're emitting some sort of strange radiation—" The young engineer tapped his screen, which immediately went blank. He slapped his console and the information returned. "Some sort of weird frequency. Lieutenant Commander Tucker raised the new shields, and they're blocking most of it out, but what's leaking in is enough to make the equipment haywire."

Phlox muttered a Denobulan curse under his breath, then he got an idea. He hit his comm. "Phlox to Mayweather."

"Mayweather," came the voice of the science and first officer.

"Commander, I'm curious...the radiation patterns that are affecting us...are they similar to the ones coming from Pyrithia?"

"Similar, but not exactly, Phlox. They seem to share some characteristics. I've got exogeology and exochemistry running scans on the mineral samples you brought up from the surface, but the results will take a while. Since those ships seem to belong to those prospectors—" Travis's tone darkened, "—I bet they're connected in some way."

"You mean the stones are the source of the problem?"

"That's what I suspect, though I don't have any proof. Call it a gut feeling."

"Ah, an educated guess." Phlox chuckled, despite the situation. "I'd be curious to hear those results, Commander. It may assist us down here in Engineering."

"I'll get them to you as soon as possible, Phlox. Mayweather, out."

Phlox closed the channel and glanced at the bat. "It seems like your instincts are correct, Little One. You keep listening to them. Masaro, give me a spectral analysis on the radiation particles—"

"Already ahead of you, Chief." Masaro switched screens and put up the information. "Got this from Chimoka over in Astrosciences. He's highlighted the cycles—here and here—"

Hess tiptoed over Masaro's shoulder. "Bucking for a raise, Seth?" she asked with humor in her voice.

"Nah, just making good use of contacts," Masaro replied with equal humor, then he became serious again. "If we modulate Lieutenant Commander Tucker's new shields to match these harmonics, we could dampen even more of these 'gremlins'. I don't think we can shut all of 'em out, but it'll make our lives easier."

"Do it. Anna, assist him. Any shred of protection will help us. Richard!"

Kelby's head popped up from the warp engine console. "Chief! We're starting to show some problems with the warp drive. We'll have to shut it down temporarily until we get it under control."

Phlox vaulted onto the platform next to Kelby and saw that Kelby was correct. "All right. I'll inform the captain. Michael, Eleyna, Darren, let's—"

Just then, the lights went out, and the sounds of machinery ceased.

"Aw, crap," said Kelby.

The bat shrieked and waved his wings; Phlox's hand automatically went up to soothe him. Then the lights went back on and the Engineering team went on as if nothing had happened.

"Bridge to Engineering!"

"Here, Captain!" Phlox shouted.

"Report to the Bridge immediately!" Captain Sato's voice was unusually sharp. "Someone wants to talk to you."

"Talk to me?" he repeated. Who would want to talk to him right now? "I'm on my way. Richard, you are in command."

"Yes, Chief."

*****

Phlox burst out of the turbolift and onto the Bridge, then stopped short. A familiar face peered at him out of the viewscreen with a mixture of bewilderment and trepidation. Phlox grinned and a responding smile slowly spread over the other's face, a smile punctuated with sharp teeth. Phlox crossed his right arm over his chest, nearly dislodging the bat in the process.

"NuqneH!" (Hello, or literally, "What do you want?") the man greeted. "And I see you have a pet."

"Hello to you as well. I see they saw it fit to reward you with your own ship now. Quite a promotion from a junior engineer in the Denobulan Engineering Exchange, eh," Phlox replied, ignoring the stunned stares from the Bridge crew.

"And I see you have been assigned to a non-Denobulan ship yourself," the other answered. "Quite a demotion, is it not?"

Phlox shrugged and his voice grew harder. "On the contrary, my friend. I am learning much from Humans...they are more innovative than you give them credit for. Oh, and speaking of my esteemed colleagues—" He turned and favored Hoshi Sato with a slight bow. "May I introduce my captain, Captain Hoshi Sato of the Enterprise. Captain Sato, may I introduce Captain Klaang of the Wachboc, in service to the Klingon Empire."

Klaang glanced at Hoshi and gave her a brusque nod. He didn't seem impressed at Hoshi's relatively small stature, but that didn't seem to be a priority for him right now. "Lady Captain. On behalf of the Klingon Empire, I bid you greetings."

"And on behalf of Earth, I return the greetings," Hoshi said. "NuqneH!" She gave it the same stress and intonation Phlox had; Klaang raised his eyebrows in pleased surprise. The Klingon's eyes drifted over to Jonathan Archer, at the communications station. There was a flash of something like recognition, though Jon had a look of confusion. Klaang refocused his attention on Phlox.

"QuaStaH nuq?" Phlox asked. What is happening?

"We have some lost baby targ, whom we believe belong to you. They gave up without firing a shot, F'loch, and they were carrying these." He held up a broken shard of a red-orange crystal. "Radan."

Suddenly, Travis's face dawned with comprehension. "Radan...a rare mineral used for statuary and jewelry."

"Yes, young one." The man chuckled at Travis's words. He sobered again and addressed Phlox. "We are ordered to deposit them onto your Earth ship without harm."

Phlox bowed slightly. "You are quite kind, my friend."

"Do not expect us to be so lenient the next time we meet. They have intruded into our space and we do not tolerate interlopers so lightly. I am not exactly following protocol in conversing with you; it is only because I know you that I am even attempting to do so." Klaang glanced over his shoulder and barked an order.

Travis nodded and said, "We're receiving transporter coordinates and settings, Captain."

"Lieutenant Commander Tucker, assemble a Security team to meet our 'guests' in Transporter Room One," Hoshi ordered quietly, and Trip headed for the lift. "My gratitude, Captain Klaang."

"I suggest you keep a better leash on such targ, Captain Sato. As I said, I will not be so lenient on intruders the second time." Klaang inclined his head. "Perhaps we will meet on the field of combat someday."

"Perhaps," she said in a neutral tone. "Though I would much rather have you as an ally than an enemy, Captain Klaang."

Klaang threw back his head and laughed. "Perhaps. I wish you success, Captain Sato. And my friend F'loch, until we meet again."

"Until next we meet, Klaang. In the meantime, you might want to check the calibration of your impulse engines, just in case."

Klaang growled, but his eyes sparkled. "And you should check the quality of your air circulation systems, F'loch. Your Denobulan females pollute the air."

"I'm the only Denobulan currently on board, Klaang, and that last time wasn't Feezal's fault."

"Ah, so she claims. Be wary of her; she can give my mate a run for her money." Klaang laughed again, then saluted Phlox. "Qa'pla!" The Klingon's image disappeared, then his ship made a one hundred and eighty degree turn away from Pyrithia and vanished into warp.

Silence fell onto the Bridge. "Pleasant guy," Travis commented.

"For a Klingon, he is, actually," Phlox remarked.

Jon nodded and said, "Saphia Daro warned us about them when we were on Betazed. Argumentative, stubborn, honor-bound---"

Phlox shrugged and exhaled a long breath. "I can see why Diplomat Daro would think so of the Klingons, Lieutenant Commander." He glanced at Hoshi. "They are a warrior culture, Captain, but they pick and choose their own battles. You don't usually see them stray out of their own territory much...unless they feel threatened. Then they have no mercy."

"And he used to be an engineer?" Hoshi asked.

"Yes...a good one as well. If you ask me, he is wasted in command, but that is merely my opinion." Again, Phlox reached up and stroked the agitated bat on his shoulder. "It's all right, Little One. Klaang isn't a bad person, truly. Bats are not a delicacy among their kind."

Laughter rang over the Bridge, from all but T'Pol, who only raised an eyebrow. "I did not know you were familiar with Klingon culture, Commander," she said.

"It has been forty years since I last seen Klaang," he answered, "and I hadn't heard from him since he returned to Kronos, his homeworld. I am willing to share what I know about his culture, but Diplomat Daro's information may be more current."

"Any information might be helpful," Hoshi remarked. She gave Phlox a "We'll talk later" look, then tapped her comm. "Sato to Tucker."

Trip replied, "Sheez, this Klaang guy got these people completely spooked, Cap'n. They followed my Security guys like lamb to the slaughter. No muss, no fuss. What he do to 'em?"

Phlox sighed and deadpanned, "He did his usual convincing, it seems, Lieutenant Commander, and it can be quite effective." He glanced at Hoshi. "With your permission, Captain, I'll return to Engineering."

Hoshi nodded her permission and Phlox headed back to the lift. Travis asked in low voice, "I guess you and Klaang have some...inside jokes between you two?"

Phlox smiled. "You might say that." Then he left the Bridge.

Six

Phlox sighed and regarded the bat as he sat in his office. The bat had appropriated a metal bar at a corner of the room, one that displayed a diagram of lithium chain reactions in a warp core. Attached to the bar was a container of blood flies, courtesy of Mylene. Masaro had found the empty can lying around Main Engineering and soldered it to the bar, so the bat had an automatic food dispenser, as long as Phlox kept it full.

Of course, the bat preferred contact with his handler, so Phlox reached for the plate of blood flies on his desk and tossed one to the bat. He snatched it up greedily from the air and chewed in calm content.

"What shall I call you?" Phlox asked. "Very soon, according to Mylene, you will be too big for me to keep calling you 'Little One'."

Then he heard T'Pol's voice from the doorway. "What is the Denobulan word for 'bat'?"

Phlox glanced up at the Vulcan with a perplexed expression. "We do not have an equivalent lifeform per se on Denobula. I suppose the closest term would be 'aelnat', which means 'winged one'. Hmm...Aelnat. Ill-nath. Somehow, I'm not too enamored with the name."

She didn't quite shrug, but she replied, "It was only a suggestion, Commander. I have confidence that you will be able to find an appropriate name for your pet." She inclined her head. "May I sit and speak in confidence?"

"Of course, Lieutenant." Phlox gestured to the chair opposite him. He noticed that T'Pol did not look completely well; in fact, she looked sick to her stomach. "Are you feeling well? Forgive me, but you look somewhat more...greenish...than usual."

T'Pol shook her head as if dismissing his concern. "I am functional, Commander. I would like you to see your handiwork concerning the protection against this radan." She drew out a shiny metal box, its lid latched securely shut.

"Ah, so the design works," Phlox said, pleased at the result, "though I cannot take sole credit for it. Masaro, Hess, Chimoka and Commander Mayweather also made contributions. So, it prevents the radiation from leaking to the outside."

"Yes." T'Pol leaned forward and tapped Phlox's computer console. A set of readings appeared on it that caught his attention. "Once Commander Mayweather knew what to look for, he consulted geological records for this radan. At the left, you see the structure of the familiar form of the element. Compare it with the readings on the right, the ones of the samples from Pyrithia."

He blinked at the comparison. "Fascinating. The molecular structure of the Pyrithian samples are in perfect lattices and vibrate in complete harmony with each other. The 'normal' radan does not have that quality."

"Yes. That stable molecular structure allows the mineral to be used for artistic purposes, but radan as a whole is relatively rare."

"But in enough quantities—" Phlox tapped a value on the screen. "Hmmm...I wonder. Could this element be used as a capacitor to store energy?"

"Perhaps. It may be also used to convert energy from one form to another...but we need to subject this to more testing and refining before we can prove that assumption."

Phlox sat back in his seat, lost in thought, as he contemplated this new possibility. "If that is true, then I can see why the 'prospectors' were so eager to mine it, and if the trade consortia on Andoria and Earth knew of its properties..." He glanced sharply at T'Pol, who blinked rapidly in the relatively normal light of the office. "Lieutenant? T'Pol?"

The Vulcan woman didn't respond for several seconds and Phlox moved his hand to call Doctor Reed, but then she put a hand on his and startled him with the gesture. "Allow me a few moments, Commander."

"What is it?" he asked her. "Do you need medical attention?"

"No..I have not had the opportunity to meditate properly since we left Betazed," she admitted with downcast eyes. "It is beginning to affect my thought processes."

Phlox blinked in surprise. First Kov, now T'Pol. Did their unexpected adventure on Betazed did them harm that was not so obvious? "Then you should do so without delay. You are off-duty now, are you not?"

She nodded, but it had a distracted quality to it, as if something else in his office had caught her attention. The bat twisted his head to look at her, but made no sound. Phlox frowned, then said, "I will call Sickbay—"

There was a sharp rap on the door and Doctor Malcolm Reed stepped in. Phlox sighed in relief at the sight of the doctor. "Doctor Reed, Lieutenant T'Pol needs care—"

Malcolm nodded and asked, "She hasn't been resting or meditating, hasn't she?"

"She has admitted as much to me. I am concerned for her, and for Kov as well."

"As am I. I believe there may be some ill effects that we did not anticipate." Malcolm knelt in front of T'Pol and put his hands on her shoulders. Phlox's command of Vulcan was not perfect—he knew enough to deal with Vulcan engineers—but he understood Reed's question: "What do you see?"

She answered, "I am not certain. It all swirls around me in confusion. I cannot focus on a single image."

Malcolm switched to English and addressed Phlox. "This happens frequently when Vulcans do not meditate and clear their minds, Commander. A Human's thought processes and reaction times are compromised when they are utterly exhausted. Vulcans do the same, despite their reassurances that they are all right."

"She sounds...well, forgive me, Doctor, somewhat delusional. It is as if she sees things that aren't really there."

Malcolm nodded, though Phlox saw that his remark had struck an uncomfortable chord with the doctor. "Brain chemistry in Vulcans can be rather...tricky at times. Commander, will you do me a favor? I know that Lieutenant Commander Tucker is busy with our 'guests', but can you inform him to meet us in Sickbay at his earliest convenience?"

"Certainly. Though I do not understand...what does Charles have to do with this?"

"He was with her on Betazed when Menos reveled himself, then again when Jossen approached Kov. Perhaps he can offer some insight as to what T'Pol is seeing...or thinks she's seeing."

"Ah. Now I understand." Phlox suspected there was more than just that simple reason; Malcolm all but confirmed his previous suspicions without saying a word. A definite tie between Tucker and T'Pol, more serious than I had first thought. "I will let Charles know immediately, and please let me know about her condition. As I said, I am quite concerned for her."

"Of course." Malcolm touched T'Pol's arm. She blinked as if coming out of a deep sleep. "Come, T'Pol. You need a quiet place to gather your thoughts."

"Yes, Doctor." T'Pol glanced at Phlox; if a Vulcan could be embarrassed, she was definitely embarrassed. "Forgive me, Commander—"

Phlox waved off her apology. "No harm done, Lieutenant. Go with Doctor Reed; we will continue this conversation later." As soon as Malcolm and T'Pol left his office, he paged Tucker and informed him on the situation.

"Tell the Doc I'll be right there, Phlox. Tucker, out." Trip didn't sound surprised, but Phlox heard a definite note of tension in the Southern drawl. If the two were connected in some way, it made sense that he would feel what T'Pol felt. Were they aware of it? They had to be aware of it, Phlox decided. A connection that strong could not be ignored. Then it begged the questions: How? Why? And more important, What will happen now?

Phlox lanced over at the bat, who had been strangely silent this entire time. "Do you think there is more between Charles and T'Pol than meets the eye, Little One? I certainly think so. A Vulcan and a Human? The Universe is a strange place, is it not?"

The bat only squeaked a request. Phlox sighed and tossed another blood fly in the bat's direction. Phlox contemplated the radan in the box, then the information on his screen. It promised to be an interesting conundrum to solve.

*****

Phlox joined Captain Sato, Commander Mayweather, Doctor Reed, Lieutenant Commander Archer and Lieutenant Commander Tucker in the Captain's Mess. Hoshi seemed to use informal dinners to hear opinions and reports from her senior staff. The Denobulan didn't object to this practice; it gave him the opportunity to observe his colleagues. They all sighed with relief at Malcolm's and Trip's reassurances of T'Pol's health. The Vulcan had just overextended herself beyond her endurance, that was all.

"She did go through a lot since Enterprise launched," Jon admitted. "First the deal with T'Marui, then with Musica, and then finding out Menos is still around....it's taken her some time to adjust to it. Kov, too. It'll take him a while to recover."

"Mmmm," Hoshi murmured, as she pushed her empty bowl of plomeek soup. "Malcolm, should they need some time off?"

Malcolm shook his head. "I would suggest light duties for both, at least until they recover their mental equilibrium. Kov, especially, needs to feel useful."

"All right, light duty, until they've had time to rest and meditate." She turned to Phlox and asked, "How's your little friend adjusting to Engineering?"

Phlox grinned and replied, "He's made a home for himself in my office, munching on blood flies and flying about on occasion. The Engineering crew seems taken by his 'cuteness', as Lieutenant Hess puts it."

"Got a name for him yet?" Trip asked.

"Not yet...though I'm considering asking the crew to assist me..."

"A raffle or a betting pool?" Hoshi asked, her voice humorous. "I suppose it could be good for crew morale, Phlox."

Travis laughed and finished the beer in his stein. "It'd be interesting to see what the crew comes up with. I'm sure someone'll come up with something creative, Commander."

"I'm sure of that." Phlox sighed and regarded his lo mein. "What will we do with our 'guests', Captain?"

Hoshi sobered and said, "We're rendezvousing with the S'taaven in six hours, and they'll be taking the illegal miners into custody. I don't envy what's coming to them, though." Phlox felt somewhat relieved that the "targ", as Klaang had called them, would be punished for their crimes. She turned back to Archer. "Jon, anything from the Lhirana Consortium or from Andoria?"

Jon scowled and shook his head. "General Phaelen denies any involvement, of course, though there's some evidence that his off-world contacts might have been looking to make some profits on the side with illegal excavation of minerals and poaching of native animals. Phaelen's covered his tracks pretty well, so the military investigator has his work cut out for him."

"Who is he?"

"One of Phaelan's rivals...and a name that you should recognize, Captain. General Shran."

Hoshi nodded. "He was the one who helped Matt---Captain Hayes---during Columbia's stay on Andoria. Shran's stubborn; if Phaelan's guilty, he'll find the evidence."

Suddenly, the lights dimmed again. The captain moved towards the comm, but Phlox beat her to it as Rostov's voice paged him."We're getting some sort of interference again, Commander."

"I thought we placed every radan sample within the protective boxes, Michael."

"We did. This is different, Chief. Hess, Kelby and Massaro are trying to trace the source of the disruptions, but it's elusive. Just as we purge one system, another one acts up."

"Environmental systems?"

"Safe so far, and that includes life support and gravity. Everything else seems to be fair game, Chief."

Phlox sighed and said, "I'm on my way. Keep looking for the gremlins, Michael. Phlox, out."

Trip nodded and wiped his mouth. "Gremlins sound about right. I'd better head to the Armory and make sure everything's secure."

"Alert stations, everyone," Hoshi ordered. "Condition yellow."

The senior staff scattered at her words. Phlox took the lift down to Engineering and reached it just in time, for the power went out again after he'd taken a few steps out of the lift. He ran through the hatch and nearly ran into Kelby.

"Internal sensors off-line!" Kelby reported. "Re-initiating sensory start-up sequence."

"Everyone all right?" Phlox demanded.

"We've got a few people who were in the crawlways when the power went," Hess reported. "All of them got out...except for Crewman Holloway. The last we heard she was in FH-Ninety..."

Phlox consulted a mental map of Enterprise's myriad crawlways. "That's on the opposite side of the ship, on F-deck. If she hasn't responded, she might have fallen and gotten hurt."

"That's assuming she stayed in FH-Ninety. If she was on her way out, she could be anywhere, Chief."

Phlox bit his lip, then heard agitated noises from his office. The bat! Internal sensors might be malfunctioning, but he has his own built-in sonar! He could help us find Holloway! It was a crazy idea, but it might just work.

"Send a runner to Sickbay and have Doctor Reed or Lieutenant Cutler meet me on F-Deck, Junction FH-Ninety!" Phlox rushed into his office and pulled out one of the old hawker's gloves that Thala had given him. He clucked his tongue and the bat settled onto his right wrist as if he'd done it since birth. Then he barreled past a startled Hess with the bat perched precariously on his arm and they began to climb the emergency access ladder, heading for F Deck.

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October 2012

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