auswitcheroo151: AU Sato and Mayweather (Default)
[personal profile] auswitcheroo151
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: #7 in the AU Switcheroo series. Sorry for the long delay, but real life's been complicated for me lately.

Readers might see some familiar scenes based on ENT episodes in the “real universe”. Do you know where they're from? Something has affected Hoshi, and the crew must figure out how to save her.

Please R&R.

Rating: T


 
April 12, 2151
1 ½ weeks after Veritas, 4 days after A Dog and a Bat Meet in a Corridor... 


“For bloody Christ's sake, hold her down just long enough for me to---”

“Hurry up, Doc! I can't hang on to her!”

Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker gritted his teeth as he and Doctor Kov dragged a wild-eyed Hoshi Sato into Sickbay. The captain twisted and turned in an effort to get away. Trip nearly lost her hold on her and had to duck to avoid getting smacked in the face. He seized her arm before she had another chance to break free.

Kov said nothing, but literally lifted Hoshi onto the rolling bed of the imaging chamber. She kicked out, missing Kov's abdomen by centimeters. He threw himself on the captain's legs, using his weight to pin her down. Trip restrained both her arms long enough for both Lieutenant T'Pol and Doctor Reed to fasten the restraints. Hoshi screamed curses in several languages, including Vulcan, and T'Pol raised her eyebrows in response.

“She doesn't know what she's saying, O-krei,” Kov said grimly. “Do not take it personally.”

“I believe that last epithet wasn't directed at me,” she answered.

“It wasn't,” Malcolm muttered. “It was supposed to be meant for me.” He dialed the sedative into the hypospray and injected it into Hoshi's neck with a smooth motion. She fought the effects, but eventually, her ragged breathing calmed down, and her eyes fluttered closed.

“Damn,” Trip whispered as he and Kov finally let up on restraining Hoshi. “Is there anything you can do for her, Doc?”

Malcolm's expression was grim, but his eyes blazed with determination. “I need a complete scan and biochemical analysis, Liz. Kov, I need you to tell me exactly what happened over there. All of you. Don't spare any detail; it could be the key to helping Hoshi.”

Kov nodded and began to talk.


Twenty four hours earlier
April 11, 2151

I Kov


“Kov? May I have a word with you?”

He glanced up to see Jonathan Archer leaning against the doorway to his office. Kov smiled slightly and gestured to the chair opposite him. “O'toz'ot,” he greeted, using the title 'honored uncle'. Archer had known his family for years, and Kov considered him as such. “Of course. What can I do for you?”

Archer sat in the offered chair and asked, “I wanted to stop by and ask how you were doing. I hadn't seen you in the Mess Hall or the Arboretum lately, and you missed the last Movie Night.”

Kov shook his head slightly and temporized, “My apologies. I've been very busy of late. Doctor Reed has been 'under the weather' for almost a week now, and Lieutenant Cutler and I have been trading shifts in Sickbay.”

“Malcolm's still not feeling well?”

“Doctor Reed can be quite stubborn when his patients are concerned, O-toz'ot. It was only a matter of time before the cold virus affected him. He's recovering, but slowly.” Kov knew why Malcolm was so driven. After being forced to evacuate the Altarran hospital after their civil war broke out, he was determined to save as many others as possible. Kov felt the man's guilt and shared it; after all, how many Altarrans had died because they'd been ordered to leave?

Kov had never understood politics.

“Will that be a problem?” Jon asked. His sharp green eyes seemed to read Kov's soul; that was his profession, after all.

“Doctor Reed has contingency plans in place for any unexpected break in the Sickbay routine. And in any case---” he smiled again, “---he is officially relieved of duty until Lieutenant Cutler and I certify him fit to resume it.”

Jon chuckled and shook his head. “I bet the captain's strictly enforcing the good doctor's rest.”

“She makes daily inquiries of his comfort and of his progress. He insists he is well enough to work, but she pointed out that unless he is completely recovered, he cannot help his patients. Doctor Reed was forced to admit she is correct.”

“The captain's right.” He chuckled again and changed the subject. “I came to let you know that our shore leave to Risa's been delayed. We're due to pick up some medical equipment from the ECS Rorman and transport it to Cold Station 12."

Kov frowned and shook his head. "The crew will not be happy with the delay."

"No, but it'll only add a day or two to the transit time, Kov. The people on Cold Station 12 need this equipment, and we're faster than the Rorman."

"In that case, we are obligated to deliver what needs to be delivered." Kov smiled slightly. "I believe one of Doctor Reed's former colleagues is on Cold Station 12. A Doctor Jeremy Lucas. It will be a pleasure to finally meet him."

"Lucas? The name doesn't sound familiar...then again, I don't know the people in the medical community like you, Malcolm and Liz do." Jon smiled and went on, "Since it'll be a little while before we get to Risa, Travis scheduled Movie night. They're showing a version of the Vulcan epic Zhal-tor tonight. There are sure to be cultural questions afterwards. Will you come?”

Kov raised an eyebrow. Every Vulcan child knew this story, a pre-Awakening legend of a warrior who triumphed over the voices of doubt and fear on the eve of a decisive battle. How does Jonathan know that this is one of my favorite tales? He tried to read Jon's expression, but it impossible to see past the pleasant, diplomatic facade.

And after what happened on Betazed and Altarra, Kov was reluctant to use his empathy. It wasn't ethical, among other things. Malcolm had also revealed to him how Menos had inadvertently woken up his Healer's Empathy. Kov shuddered at the hell the older man had endured to control it. He shied away from the thought and re-focused on Jon's request.

So he kept a tone of pleased surprise as he asked, “Zhal-tor? The T'Nial version, or the one from Spolak?”

“I believe it's the T'Nial version. Soval told me he considers that one more 'accurate'.”

“Indeed. I've seen that one twice, but I will attend. There are nuances that are only apparent after multiple viewings.”

“Good. I'll come by at dinner time and we can discuss some of those nuances.”

“I would be honored, O'toz'ot.”

Jon laughed. “Honored Uncle? Kov, you don't have to call me that.”

“I consider you and Doctor Reed my mentors, and Lieutenant Commander Tucker like a brother.” Kov bowed his head slightly. “So I use the polite title. I won't use it if makes you uncomfortable---”

“Oh, no, I'm honored that you would address me so, Kov. So Malcolm's another mentor, Trip's like a brother...what does that make T'Pol? I've heard you call her Del'haia. That's even more formal than O'toz'tot.”

“Elder sister? It is the correct term. She and I have reached...an understanding, but we are still not close.” Kov tried not to show bitterness in his tone. “We are both Vulcans, but that does not guarantee more than a working relationship.”

Jon inclined his head. “Don't you think you're judging her a little harshly, Kov? She sympathizes with your situation more than you believe.”

“I remind her of...uncomfortable events. The last thing I want to do is disrupt her mental tranquility.”

“I can say with some authority that none of us have achieved total 'mental tranquility',” Jon said dryly, “especially after what Menos did. At least we know what he can do and can keep an eye out for him.”

“Of that, I am grateful. I fear for what may happen in the future if we don't find him.”

Jon shook his head, refusing to take the bait. “Talk to her, Kov. I think you two have more in common than you believe.”

He sighed and pretended to consider it. “I will...'think upon it', as Doctor Reed would say. But...I cannot make any promises.”

“Just consider it, okay?” Jon let the matter drop. “I'm glad you're familiar with the T'Nial version of the story. I'm going to need an interpreter for her artistic interpretation---”

A voice on the intercom interrupted, “All senior officers report to the Bridge.”

Jon looked over at the speaker with a mock-offended expression and Kov chuckled at how ludicrous it appeared. “Time to go back to work. I'll see you later.”

“Of course, O'toz'ot.”

Kov watched him go and allowed himself a small grin. Zhal-tor, one of the classics. Ironic, considering his life now.

“Ri'saul-tor du, kuv kup zhal-tor,” he quoted softly. “Don't shout, if you are able to whisper.”

*****
II Travis

“What do we have, Commander Mayweather?” asked Captain Hoshi Sato. She came out of lift with a purposeful stride and waved off the salutes.

“Looks like a disabled freighter, Captain,” Travis replied as he relinquished the center seat and moved to the science station. He frowned at the squat, oval-shaped spaceship with fins and square, chimney-stack-like protrusions stuck in it at strange angles. The surface was pockmarked with craters and scratched with silver claw marks.

"One of the Boomers?"

He shook his head. “No, it's nothing I recognize. Whoever they are, it looks like they've been through a rough time.”

Ensign David Greer spoke up from the Tactical station. “I'm not reading any power signatures from their engines. Shields are nonexistent, and minimal weapons. They're venting atmosphere, but there aren't any breaches in the hull. Whatever damage they have isn't showing up on our sensors.”

“That's odd,” Travis remarked.

“Life signs, Ensign Greer?” asked Hoshi.

“Seven so far. There may be as many as eleven, but sensors are unclear. The extra ones might just be echoes.”

Hoshi nodded and glanced over her shoulder at the relief comm officer. “Hail them, Ensign Dieter. Standard greeting, all frequencies.”

“Yes, ma'am.” Dieter pushed buttons and listened intently through his earpiece. “No response.”

The doors hissed as T'Pol arrived on the Bridge. She nodded at Hoshi and Travis as she went down the steps to the helm station. She gazed intently at the freighter on the screen.

“Look familiar?” Hoshi asked her.

She shook her head and glanced at Travis, who also shook his head.  “No, Captain. It is an unfamiliar design. I will check the Vulcan ship database to be sure.”

“Whoever it is definitely needs our help.” Hoshi glanced at Travis. “Wake up Trip and and page Jon and Phlox to the Transporter Room, Kov's on duty in Sickbay, isn't he?”

Travis nodded and made a mental note about the current roster.  “He's filling in for Malcolm while Malcolm's dealing with an Argellian cold. Though how our CMO picked up a cold on a starship, I have no idea...”

“The virus was lurking in a case of medical supplies. Apparently, it took quite an affinity to Doctor Reed,” T'Pol commented.

He sighed and bit back a sympathetic smile. Growing up as a Boomer, he'd had his share of strange illnesses. "Trust the Doc to pick up an alien bug."

"Indeed. It is quite fortunate that he has a hardy immune system," T'Pol agreed. She tapped the keys at her helm console. “Nothing in the Vulcan ship database, but the Interspecies Database might reveal its origin.”

Hoshi nodded at her. “T'Pol, hold our position. I want you to see if you can find a match, or at least come close."

Travis smiled in tacit approval; T'Pol's experience with the Vulcan Ship and Space Ministry would be invaluable, and Hoshi wanted her to use that previous knowledge to their advantage. Like my life with the Boomers or Jon's diplomatic experience. The captain's empathic enough to include all of us in the mission, but she's still practical. 

Her tone jolted him out of his musing. "Travis, you've got command.”

He nodded and said, “Yes, ma'am.”

T'Pol raised her eyebrows. “I recommend caution, Captain. We don't know if these people are hostile.”

Hoshi nodded as she headed back to the lift. “Agreed, but we're obligated to help anyone who might be stranded in space. I'll have Trip and Jon be extra careful. No wandering off and no being overly curious.”

He suppressed a smirk. I wonder how effective that'll be. The only thing I can imagine being more interesting is if Malcolm had been able to come along.

After Hoshi had left the Bridge, Travis and T'Pol exchanged humorously concerned expressions. He asked no one in particular, “Why does that not reassure me?”

She took his question literally. “Perhaps we all know what might happen when Lieutenant Commanders Archer and Tucker are on the same Away Team?”

He groaned as he sat in the command chair. “Got that right, T'Pol.”

*****

III. Jon

A rhythmic metallic clanging assaulted Jon's hearing as soon asshe materialized on the freighter. He winced at the sound as it reverberated off the walls like a cloister bell. Phlox had to yell to make himself heard over the din.

“Some sort of automated alarm.” He waved his scanner around him, then brightened as he found the source. “One moment, Captain, while I turn it off.” Phlox approached a rectangular box set in a niche in the wall, tapped it open, then yanked out several wires in one smooth motion. The alarm rang for several more seconds before it abruptly went silent.

“Thank you, Phlox,” Hoshi said as she rubbed her temples. “I appreciate it.”

“Me too,” Trip muttered as he gazed down the long corridor in front of them. “Sounds worse than cats in a dog fight.”

Jon's eyes still rang with odd sounds, even though the alarms had been turned off. He blinked in the dim corridor, as the chaos faded to a dull roar. Not enough to interfere, but at a low enough volume to irritate his nerves. He pushed the uncomfortable feeling aside.

“Cap'n, life signs, that way.”

“Confirmed,” Kov said, with a slight nod. “Five at the end of this corridor.”

“Lead the way, Trip. Phlox, the engine room---”

“In the same general direction, Captain. Once we find it, I can see to restoring power.”

“All right. Trip, Kov, lead the way.”

The dimly-lit corridor seemed to stretch into the bowels of the ship. Shadows played against the walls in eerie shapes. Jon noticed no doorways, no signage, nothing to indicate which deck they were on. All he saw was smooth, metal walls all around them. He resolutely pushed on. Focus on the mission. We need to find the people in trouble and help them.

“Hoshi, are you okay?” Jon asked in a low voice. Her claustrophobia wasn't common knowledge on Enterprise, but Jon sympathized with her in this case. And if his ears were bothering him, what about her, with her sensitive hearing?

“I'll be all right, Jon.” She tapped her right ear. “Sensitive hearing. I'm picking up every stray noise through the vents.”

“Perhaps you should return to the ship---”

“I'm already here. Besides, the sooner we rescue the victims, the better,” she answered. She pointed her chin at the Y-shaped branch at the end of the corridor. “Phlox?”

The Denobulan consulted his scanner. “The engineering section is to the left. There is a turbolift at the twenty-five meters at the end of the right branch. It should lead to the ship's bridge.”

Hoshi said, “Trip, go help Phlox in engineering. Kov and Jon will accompany me to the bridge. Keep me appraised.”

“Yes, Captain,” Phlox said. Trip looked like he was about to object, but he decided to hold his peace. The two followed the left-hand corridor, while Hoshi, Jon and Kov turned down the right-hand one.

The lift was where Phlox said it would be, a nondescript-looking pair of double-doors built into the bulkhead. Hoshi tapped the control panel and the doors slowly squeaked open. The tiny space within hardly seemed inviting and it was obvious at first glance that the three of them wouldn't fit inside at the same time.

“Let me go first,” Kov said, “and I'll assess the situation. Once I do so, I'll alert you both via communicator.”

“Makes sense,” Hoshi agreed with a nod. “Will you be all right?”

He wore a shadow of an amused smile. “I'm a Healer, but I still know how to defend myself, Captain. I will be fine.”

After he disappeared into the lift, Jon murmured, “He's been hanging around Trip and Malcolm too long.” Hoshi forced herself to chuckle in response, but it didn't fool Jon. “You sure you're all right?”

She shook her head, but before she could answer, Kov's voice echoed from her communicator. She snatched it off her belt and answered, “Sato.”

“Captain, there are six humanoids here, two are barely alive. If you want to ask them what has happened, I suggest that you and Lieutenant Commander Archer come here quickly.”

Jon said, “Go ahead, Hoshi. I'll be there right after you.”

She nodded and stepped into the tiny, cramped cylinder. The doors closed and the lift crawled upwards. The grinding of gears reverberated through the tiny space. Moments later, the lift stopped, reversed and came back down to Jon. He scowled as he thought, How small are these people? I'm a diplomat, not a contortionist!

"Any old port in a storm," he muttered .With careful Vulcan breathing routines and a creative use of space, Jon crammed himself into the lift and managed to push the button to ascend. The doors opened  and he quite literally tumbled out. He sat there for a moment, trying to restore the blood flow to his legs.

"A bit tight in there," he muttered to Hoshi, who was still recovering from her own journey.

Her lips twitched with grim humor and quipped, "Size really does matter."

The ship's Bridge was about the size of a small kitchen pantry. Jon winced at the sight of burned-out electronics and scorched fabric. A sweet-sour stench filled the air, not enough to be stifling, but he knew that would change very quickly. Kov knelt at the foot of a oddly-shaped chair; Jon's eyes adjusted to the dark enough to recognize the shape of a body. Humanoid, and wearing some sort of dark green flight suit of some kind.

“This one's dead,” he said grimly. “And the other two are there, on the other side of the deck, Captain.”

Jon stared at the tableau that was only a few steps away from him. A short, squat, orange-skinned humanoid lay sprawled on a smaller figure. Jon shuddered at the glassy expression on the man's face; he obviously hadn't been expecting the four thin claws that now punctured the middle of his throat. The woman's face was frozen in a rictus of anger and pain, her claws permanently embedded in a final act of defiance.

“Sh'rashda,” Jon muttered as he got to his feet. “They killed each other. It looks like a fight broke out here."

Hoshi nodded and turned away from the disturbing sight. Kov waved her over and she knelt at the side of one of the survivors. This man's appearance was the exact opposite of the first victim: tall, thin and silver-gray fur striped with black. The large aqua eyes darted around the room before settling on Hoshi.

“We're here to help,” Hoshi whispered. “Do you understand?”

Dai, dai, le redda,” the man whispered. He focused on her intently, every muscle of his body trembling with effort. “Vrai ku berennai. Berennai-” The spasms became worse, then he went limp.

“Kov?”

“I'm sorry, Captain. He was already dying long before I got to him.” He raised an eyebrow at her, then glanced over at Jon. “Did you understand any of that?”

Jon frowned as he mulled over what he'd just heard. “Sounded like dialect of Qu'tar, Hoshi, but I could be mistaken--”

She shook her head. “No, you're right. It's Qu'tar, but it's the trade dialect.”

“But he's definitely not Qu'tari. Why would he be using that dialect?”

“I have no idea, but he just gave us a warning.” Hoshi's dark eyes were haunted. “Yes, I hear you. But don't listen to the whispers. The whispers.”

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