Title: Damage Assessment
Summary: After Reed suffers a serious injury his friends try to help.
Disclaimer: This is Paramount's playground. I just sneak in after dark to play on the swings. I make no money writing this. The story is mine; the characters belong to Paramount.
A/N: Thanks to MeanOldCow for betaing and encouraging me to post something where other people can actually read it. Constructive criticism always welcomed.
A big thank you to everyone who took the time to review this story and make helpful comments. You are all very kind. I've redone it with breaks between the scenes that hopefully will stay in this time. Sadly, my solution isn't very elegant. If anyone knows a better way to do it please let me know. Sorry for any previous confusion. I'm still trying to figure out this upload thing.
Lightening streaked across the sky, thunder roaring right behind it like an angry predator. Lying on his back in the mud, Lieutenant Malcolm Reed would have had a spectacular view of the storm if his eyes had been open, but he had closed them against the torrential rain. He heard the thunder, though, and Trip Tucker's desperate voice.
"Damn it, Malcolm. You stay with us. Travis is on his way with the shuttlepod. Come on. Open your eyes. That's an order Lieutenant." Reed wanted to sigh in exasperation, but there wasn't enough air in his lungs. With an effort he pried open his eyes and fixed his gaze on Tucker's pale anxious face. Captain Archer loomed above the kneeling engineer looking no less worried. Reed glanced down at the wadded up shirt that Tucker was holding hard against his side. The dark stain was much larger now. That couldn't be good. There wasn't much pain at the moment, but his body felt strangely heavy and numb, as if it no longer really belonged to him.
The relentless rain continued to assault him. It stung against his skin, slithering over the planes of his face in thin rivulets. He shivered, feeling quite cold despite the jackets the others had draped over him, and let his eyes slide shut again.
"Malcolm! Damn you! Look at me!" Reed obeyed reluctantly.
"It's raining." He said faintly, trying to explain his reasons for keeping his eyes closed. He saw Tucker and Archer exchange worried glances.
"Yeah, Malcolm, I know it is." Tucker replied gently. For a moment Reed was confused by the response, but then he understood - they thought he was becoming disoriented. He huffed a breathless laugh.
"Gets...in my eyes." He elaborated, in part to reassure them that he wasn't quite that far gone. Yet.
Comprehension flashed in Archer's eyes. He shrugged out of his shirt and dropped to his knees in the cold mud, holding the garment up to shield Reed's face from the rain. "Better?" he asked quietly.
"Yes." Reed managed to reply. Damn. Why was it so hard to breathe? Had the knife nicked his lung? And where was Hoshi? Her absence was alarming because he couldn't remember seeing her after the attack. "Hoshi?" he asked. He struggled to raise himself up on his elbows but didn't have the strength or coordination to do so. "Where is she?"
"Take it easy, Malcolm." Archer replied quickly. "She's fine. She's keeping an eye on our would be bandits."
"Good." Reed mumbled, letting his trembling body relax back into the mud. He was panting in short sharp gasps that couldn't pull quite enough air into his lungs.
"Just hang in there, Malcolm." Tucker said encouragingly. "Travis'll be here any second now. You know, I've got a bottle of fine whiskey in my quarters. When you get out of sickbay we'll get drunk in honor of you savin' my life. I never even saw that guy comin'. Hey, you still with us? You need to stay with us. Okay?"
"Yes." Reed agreed. He was grateful for Tucker's relentless prattle. The other man's voice helped anchor him to consciousness.
Above the sound of the rain, he heard the sudden whine of a phase pistol firing. "Hoshi?" Archer called in alarm.
"One of them was waking up, sir. I took care of it." Hoshi Sato's voice was fierce. Reed smiled despite the lack of air.
"You...show 'em...Hoshi." He murmured, but his voice was lost in the roar of the descending shuttle.
Archer leaned against a biobed, his arms crossed, as he watched Tucker pace around the room. Mayweather sat on another bed, absently swinging his legs. Sato fidgeted with the bottles and boxes on a nearby counter, first arranging them by size, then by color, and then alphabetically before giving up and sitting down next to Mayweather. No one said anything as they waited for word on Reed's condition.
Archer straightened up and dropped his hands to his sides when Phlox finally exited the operating room. "How is he?" he asked anxiously.
"Lieutenant Reed's condition is stable for the moment." Phlox replied. Archer let his breath out in a soft sigh of relief as the doctor continued. "We repaired the damage to his lung, but I'm afraid his injuries were complicated by the presence of some kind of compound that prevented his blood from clotting properly. Given the high concentrations of the compound in the wound itself, I believe that it was smeared on the blade of the weapon he was stabbed with. Despite multiple transfusions, he lost a lot of blood. We managed to neutralize the compound, but until it clears his system entirely, the risk of hemorrhage remains."
"We shoulda killed those bastards when we had the chance." Tucker snarled angrily.
"Trip." Archer's voice held a hint of warning.
"Capt'n, they poisoned him! He might die because of them!"
"Don't give up on Malcolm so easily." Archer patted Tucker on the shoulder before turning back to Phlox. "How long before it clears his system?"
"It's hard to say. My guess would be several days at most."
"Can we see him?" Tucker asked. Phlox hesitated.
"I'm afraid not, Commander. He's still unconscious and I think it would be best to let him rest for tonight."
"Oh." Tucker wasn't the only one who looked disappointed.
"You'll keep me informed?" Archer asked Phlox.
"Of course, Captain. And now, I suggest that you all go get something to eat before retiring for the night." Phlox said as he gently herded the group out of sickbay.
"Did you hear the latest? Apparently, T'Pol caught Rahkir and Dawson making out in the EV kitting room. Rostov won the pool on both time and place. Travis is already taking bets for the next time, so you need to wake up if you want to get in on the action." Tucker looked hopefully at Reed, but the other man gave no indication of waking anytime soon. It had been nearly a week and a half since Reed had been injured and he had yet to regain consciousness. "Well, it's your loss." Tucker said in defeat.
He had been stopping by sickbay every day after his shift to talk to Reed. He felt a little stupid talking to a man in a coma and couldn't help but wonder if it was just an exercise in futility. However, Phlox had assured him that Reed might be aware of his presence and voice, and so here he was. He sighed softly and stood. "I have go. I'm meeting the Captain for dinner. I'll come by again tomorrow."
He started to move away but a soft, almost inaudible sound caused him to turn around again. "Malcolm?" He looked closely at the man on the biobed and started to grin when he noticed that Reed's eyes were open. "Hey, how are you feeling?" Reed made no sound, and his gaze remained fixed on the ceiling. "Malcolm? You okay?" Tucker asked, confused by Reed's unresponsiveness. He gently grasped Reed's chin and turned Reed's head until the dull gray eyes met his own gaze. "Malcolm?" Reed blinked slowly, but gave no indication that he recognized his friend or his surroundings. A cold chill crept up Tucker's spine. Something was clearly wrong. "Hey, Doc," he called "I think you better get over here."
"Commander? What seems to be the problem?" Phlox asked as he pushed through the privacy curtain.
"He's awake, but he...well, he doesn't seem quite right."
"Hmmm. Not quite right, you say?" Phlox pulled out a scanner and pointed it at Reed. Tucker crowded in, trying to peer over the doctor's shoulder to see the results.
"Is he okay?" He asked.
"Commander, perhaps it would be best if you waited outside."
"But..." Tucker started to protest, but Phlox made a little shooing motion with his hand.
"Go on, Commander, I will be with you momentarily." Tucker left reluctantly. He paced around Sickbay, unable to sit still. After an agonizingly long period of time, Phlox emerged from Reed's small corner of the room.
"How is he, Doc?" Tucker asked anxiously. "Is he gonna be okay?"
"Did Lieutenant Reed say anything to you when he woke, Commander?" Phlox asked with a concerned frown.
"I'm somewhat concerned by his lack of responsiveness. Nothing is showing up on my scans, but it's possible that there is some brain damage."
"Brain damage?" Tucker felt his stomach sink.
"It is not uncommon in cases of extreme blood loss. And I must admit that I am concerned about the effects the anticoagulant compound itself may have had on the human brain. It is an unusual chemical."
"But you said it had cleared his system."
"The chemical, yes. But any damage it caused may linger."
"You think that he might be..." Tucker couldn't bring himself to say it.
"I'm merely stating it as a possibility. His current behavior gives some cause for concern, but, as I said before, nothing is showing up on the scans. We'll be able to run more definitive tests when he wakes properly."
"If he does, you mean." Tucker said darkly.
"Now, now, Commander, we must remain optimistic. I still have reason to believe that Lieutenant Reed will make a complete recovery."
"...finished the upgrades on the warp engine today." The familiar voice nagged at the edge of his consciousness. "Probably would have been done yesterday but we had a little problem with those damn power relays on E deck again." Reed's exhausted mind fought against the return to awareness, but lost. "I had to pull Rostov and Ramirez off the upgrade work to deal with that mess." The room was dim for which Reed was grateful. He turned his aching head and struggled to focus his blurred vision on the figure sitting next to him. Tucker rattled on, immersed in his monologue. "Y'know sometimes I think it would be easier to gut that whole deck and start from scratch. That's what you get for going with the lowest bidder. Starfleet never shoulda contracted out."
"Trip?" Reed's voice was an inaudible whisper. Tucker continued speaking, oblivious to Reed's attempt to interrupt.
"Someday I'm gonna go through the construction records and see just who exactly was responsible for that particular mess and give them a piece of my mind."
"Trip." Reed tried again.
"You'd think that people would be a little more careful."
"Trip! Would you please shut up!" Silence followed. Reed sighed and closed his eyes.
"Malcolm? Are you awake?" Tucker's voice returned, more insistent than ever.
"No." Reed replied in irritation. "I'm not. So be quiet." There was another moment of silence that was quickly broken by a joyful whoop.
"Doc! Hey Doc! Get over here! He's awake!" Reed opened his eyes and fixed a baleful glare on Tucker's ecstatic face.
"Trip, what part of be quiet did you not understand?"
"Ah, Lieutenant. Awake at last, I see." Phlox said cheerfully as he came into view of the biobed. Reed frowned.
"What do you mean at last? How long have I been out?"
"That's not important right now." Phlox said, waving a scanner over his patient. Reed's frown turned into a scowl.
"How. Long." He asked insistently. Phlox sighed in annoyance, knowing from experience that Reed would not be put off.
"Twelve days!" Reed exclaimed in shock, pushing himself up into a sitting position. A violent wave of dizziness assaulted him. He gripped the sides of the bed in a futile effort to stabilize the world around him.
"Lieutenant, I must insist that you lie back down."
"Fine." Reed said faintly, falling back onto the pillow. "Unh. What happened anyway?" He noticed Phlox and Tucker exchange glances.
"What do you remember?" Reed rubbed his fingers over his eyes, trying to erase some of his vertigo as he searched his memory. It took several moments before he could retrieve a hazy picture of what had happened.
"We were ambushed weren't we? On the way back to the landing site."
"Yeah we were." Tucker confirmed. "What else do you remember?"
"It was raining and you were yelling at me to stay awake."
"Yeah. Sorry about that." Tucker said a little sheepishly.
"Don't be. It helped." Reed said. A small grin pulled at the corners of his mouth. "I also remember a mention of fine whiskey, but after that things get a little muddled."
"Not surprising. You'd lost a lot of blood by that point. You really scared us. I think the Doc here ended up dumping half the blood bank into you." Reed rubbed his eyes again.
"Twelve days, you say?"
"Yeah." Tucker said softly.
"Damn. The armory will be an absolute mess. When can I return to duty?"
"A few days yet, Lieutenant." Phlox replied. "Not to worry. I'm sure Ensign Tanner will be able to look after the armory for a little while longer."
"But I feel fine."
"You've been in a coma." Phlox reminded him.
"I suggest you get some rest now, Lieutenant." Phlox said sternly, cutting Reed's protest short. Reed gave him a scowl, but it was half-hearted at best.
"I don't need to rest. I've done nothing but sleep for twelve bloody days."
"Don't make me sedate you, Lieutenant." Phlox warned. "I will if I have to."
"Fine." Reed muttered with bad grace. Although he'd never admit it, he really was tired. Phlox beamed at him, obviously pleased with his grudging acquiescence. Tucker gave Reed a friendly pat on his shoulder, saying, "I'll check in on you later, Malcolm." Reed gave a martyred sigh and fell asleep almost as soon as he closed his eyes.
"He seemed pretty normal to me this time. That's good isn't it?" Tucker asked as he followed Phlox back to his office.
"Oh, yes." Phlox replied. "His scans look normal, too."
"Then he's gonna be okay?"
"It appears so. I'll run the neurological tests just to be sure, though. Medicine is as much an art as it is a science." Phlox said. "Scans don't always reveal everything. Sometimes we must rely on good old-fashioned diagnostic tests."
"Just what do these tests involve anyway?" Tucker asked.
"Oh, nothing too complex. The tests are designed to gauge any deficits in the patient's fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, spatial skills, and verbal and mathematical comprehension."
"No, I mean how do you administer them?"
"I will simply ask Lieutenant Reed to perform the tests."
"But then won't he know what you're testing him for?"
"I suppose he would."
"Well, that's no good."
"Why not?" Phlox asked, curiously.
"Well, if he knows that you're concerned about him being damaged and all, he'll get all worried about it. You'll rattle his self-confidence."
"Yeah, either that or he'll get defensive. He'll get upset if he thinks you're questioning his ability to do his job."
"Hmmm." Phlox said, intrigued by the engineer's desire to protect his friend from possible mental distress. Humans really were such a fascinating species. "I hadn't thought about that. What do you suggest we do then, Commander? I can't allow him back on duty without properly clearing him."
"Can't we test him without him knowing about it?"
"How do you propose we do that?" Phlox asked.
"Let me look at the tests. I bet I can come up with some alternatives. We just have to be creative. I'll get Travis and Hoshi to help out." Phlox smiled and wondered if he would be able to get enough data to write up a brief article on this odd aspect of human psychology for the Interspecies Medical Journal.
"Hey there. How are you feeling?"
"Hello, Travis. I'm feeling much better, thank you. What have you got there?" Mayweather shifted the box he was carrying nervously.
"Uh, well, you see, there was an accident with one of the phase pistols and..." Reed sat up in alarm.
"Was anyone hurt?"
"Uh, no. It wasn't that kind of accident." Reed frowned slightly.
"What do you mean?"
"I, uh, here." Mayweather thrust the box toward Reed. Reed took it and stared down at the jumble of phase pistol parts in horrified disbelief.
"This?" Reed lifted a tangled snarl of wires out of the box. "This was an accident?"
"No, this was a bad idea." Mayweather muttered under his breath. He knew he shouldn't have let Trip talk him into this.
"What do you mean by that?" Reed asked suspiciously.
"N-nothing." Mayweather stammered back. Dear God. If Malcolm ever found out that he had purposefully mutilated one of his precious phase pistols..."I just mean that you're still in sickbay. You're supposed to be resting. I didn't mean to get you upset."
"I'm upset all right." Reed growled back. "This is a valuable weapon, not some kind of toy. Just wait until I get my hands on the idiot who did this." Mayweather gave a small start and accidentally bumped into the water pitcher next to the bed. Reed grabbed it and stabilized it before it could go over and then went back to staring at the contents of the box. "You didn't happen to bring any tools along, did you?" He asked almost wistfully. Mayweather grinned.
"As a matter of fact..." With a theatrical flourish, he presented the small case he had been carrying in his other hand.
"Ah, very good. You know, I should check the sign out logs and see who last used this pistol." Mayweather's hand twitched and the case fell from his fingers. Reed caught it almost absently.
"We already did that." Mayweather said nervously.
"And?" Reed prompted.
"It wasn't, uh, signed out properly." Reed scowled.
"Hmm. I'll have to talk to the Captain about instituting some new security protocols." Mayweather shifted uneasily.
"The Captain already knows about this."
"He does? Good." Reed flipped the case open and scrutinized its contents. "Did you bring a microwelder?" Mayweather reached into his pocket and pulled out the requested item. Reed took it and placed it next to the other tools before starting to spread the phase pistol parts on the bed. "Maybe we can get Phlox to do a DNA scan?" he muttered. Mayweather gave another small start, this time bumping into the chair. There was an unpleasant screech as it skidded a short distance over the floor. Reed gave Mayweather an odd look.
"Malcolm, don't you think you're over reacting?"
"Hardly. Look at it, Travis!" Reed said, waving his hand at the parts spread in front of him. "This is no way to treat a good weapon."
"Well, I doubt a DNA scan will help. Too many of us have handled it already." Mayweather said as Reed started fitting the casing together.
"I suppose you're right. But I'd still like to find out who did this and teach him a thing or two about the proper way to handle a weapon." Mayweather recoiled from Reed's dark tone, this time managing to knock the chair over completely. It fell with a loud crash. The sudden noise caused Phlox's bat to start shrieking. Reed glared at the bat and then sighed. "Travis, would you please sit down before you hurt yourself. What's that matter with you anyway?"
"Me?" Mayweather asked, trying to appear innocent. "Nothing. Why?"
"You seem awfully edgy."
"No, I'm not. I'm not. Not really. I'm fine." Mayweather quickly righted the chair and sat down. "Uh, hey, did you hear the latest about Dawson and Rahkir. You will not believe where those two got caught last night."
"Who won the pool this time?" Reed asked with an amused smile.
As Mayweather filled him in on all the latest gossip, Reed continued with his task, inspecting each piece carefully before fitting it into place. An hour later, he was up to speed on all the latest scandals, betting pools, and personal crises, and had finished rebuilding the pistol. "There." He said in satisfaction. "Now we just need to test it." He started to get up, but Mayweather protested.
"I don't think Phlox would approve of you running off to the firing range. He hasn't released you yet."
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him." Reed said. "Besides if I don't get out of here soon, I'll go insane." He slid off the bed and immediately regretted it as his head began to spin and his knees began to buckle. "On second thought, maybe I ought to stay here for now."
"That's probably a good idea." Mayweather said as he helped Reed back onto the bed. "Are you okay? Should I get Phlox?"
"No. I'm fine. Just a little dizzy."
"Yes, Travis. I'm sure. I guess it'll be up to you to do the testing for me." Reed said, holding out the pistol. "Actually," he said, suddenly remembering Mayweather's earlier clumsiness "maybe you should get Tanner to do it."
"Sure thing." Mayweather grinned as he took the proffered weapon.
"You know, Travis. I bet we could find out who tampered with that pistol by looking at the security camera footage from the armory. Maybe you could get it for me and bring it by later?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure." Mayweather said nervously, stumbling into a cart full of medical instruments. The loud clatter caused the bat to start screeching again. "Gotta run, Malcolm. I'll catch you later." Reed watched in bemusement as Mayweather fled from sickbay.
"Hey, Malcolm. How are you doing?"
"We're off duty. Call me Trip. I bet you're just about out of your mind with boredom by now."
"I would like to get back to work." Reed admitted.
"Well then, how would you like to help me out on a project?"
"What kind of project?" Reed asked suddenly suspicious.
"Well, I've been overhauling the diagnostic algorithms for the environmental systems and I was hopin' that you'd check my math for me."
"Check your math?" Reed said guardedly.
"Why don't you just run it through the computer?"
"Well, with something as important as the environmental systems, I'd like to have someone do a manual check as well."
"Trip, in all the time I've known you, you've never asked for a manual check on anything. Why now?"
"I'm just tryin' to be safety conscious is all." Tucker replied a little defensively.
"And you want me to do it?"
"Oh no. Find someone else to do your mathematical scut work. You've got a whole team of engineers to choose from."
"Come on, Malcolm." Tucker wheedled. "You've already admitted to bein' bored. This will give you something to do."
"I'm not that bored, Trip."
"I could order you to do it." Tucker said.
"No, you can't." Reed countered. "I'm on medical leave."
"You aren't gonna give me any help on this, are you?" Tucker asked forlornly.
"Absolutely none." Reed said with a smug smirk.
"You won't even look at them?
"No. I have no desire whatsoever to peruse your algorithms, Mr. Tucker."
"Geez, Malcolm, you make it sound like I was asking you to do somethin' dirty." Reed rolled his eyes in response.
"Whatever. I'm still not going to do it. Now if you want to do something useful like discuss my latest proposal for rerouting more power to the phase cannons I'd be more than happy to accommodate you." Reed thought he saw a sudden spark of interest in Tucker's eyes.
"Tell you what. Let me get back to you on that this afternoon. See ya then."
"Of course." Reed said feeling more than a little confused as he watched his friend bolt out of sickbay.
"Hi Malcolm. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine, Hoshi."
"I thought you might be getting bored by now so I brought you some stuff to read." Reed accepted the PADD that she held out to him.
"Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you." Reed fidgeted slightly as Sato stared at him expectantly.
"Well, aren't you going to read it?"
"What? Now?" Reed asked. Sato flushed bright red.
"I thought we could, um, read it together."
"Together?" Reed was perplexed. Reading was, after all, a rather solitary undertaking.
"You know. Out loud."
"You want me to read aloud to you?"
"Yes. I thought we could take turns."
"Take turns?" Reed echoed again, wondering if he sounded as confused as he felt.
"I thought it would be fun."
"Well, all right then. I guess it's better than simply sitting here." He turned on the PADD. The screen lit up and he looked down at it for a long moment.
"Hoshi is this some kind of joke?"
"What do you mean?"
"I can't read this." Sato's face went white.
"W-what do you mean?"
"Did Trip put you up to this?"
"No! He didn't do anything! Malcolm," her voice trembled slightly "are you sure you can't read it?"
"Of course I can't read this!" Reed said angrily "And I'm not going to make a laughingstock out of myself by trying." To his complete surprise Sato's eyes started to fill with tears.
"Oh, Malcolm." She whispered as the tears spilled over onto her cheeks. Reed was horrified. He never knew what to do when people started to cry.
"Hoshi, don't cry. Please don't cry. I'm sorry." He reached out and patted her shoulder awkwardly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know it meant so much to you."
"Of course it means a lot to me!" She wailed. "How can you think that I wouldn't care? If you can't read it..."
"Here, now." Reed interrupted hastily. "It's okay. I'll read it to you. It's simply...well, 'Billabong Bob's Great Big Outback Adventure' wasn't exactly what I was expecting."
"Uh, I-I." Sato stammered as she pulled the PADD from his hand. She stared at it for a second before collapsing against him, her shoulders shaking violently. Reed put his arm around her and tried to quell his rising panic.
"Hoshi, please." He begged. "I didn't mean it the way it sounded. I just thought that as a linguist you would prefer something a little more, ah, sophisticated. Never mind. I'll read it. I'll even do voices for you if you like." He added desperately "Would you like that?" Reed fumbled with the PADD and started to read. "'Billabong Bob bounded and bounced onto the porch to greet the new day. The bright Australian sun was rising rapidly in the brilliant blue sky..." He continued reading, adopting different voices for each character and was relieved to feel Sato stop shaking. About half way through the book, his throat had become unbearably dry and he stopped. "Sorry, Hoshi. I need some water."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, jumping up to pour him a glass of water from the bedside pitcher. He drank it gratefully.
"You don't have to keep reading." Sato said quickly as he put down his glass and took up the PADD again.
"I don't mind, Hoshi. Really I don't. It's, uh, a very nice story."
"Yes it is, if you're a ten year old. Malcolm, I grabbed the wrong PADD. I meant to bring you a translation of an adventure novel I picked up on Risa." She waved vaguely at the PADD he held. "That's a book that I used to read to my nieces and nephews when I was babysitting them." Reed gaped at her in open-mouthed astonishment.
"But you...you were crying! If it was the wrong PADD why didn't you simply say so? Why did you let me...?" His indignant voice trailed off as she burst into laughter.
"I'm sorry, Malcolm. Once I realized which book it was, I was too busy laughing. And then I was just stunned. I couldn't believe that you were willing to read some ridiculous children's story for me. With voices no less." She smiled impishly at him. "You do wonderful voices, by the way."
"Great." Reed said burying his face in his hands. "I suppose this is going to be all over the ship in a few hours."
"Hey I don't come out looking too good in all of this either. If Travis ever discovered that I own a copy of 'Billabong Bob's Great Big Outback Adventure'..." She let the sentence die. "I won't tell, if you don't."
"Deal." Reed said quickly. Sato looked at him her face sober.
"Malcolm, I really appreciate that you cared enough to read it."
"Am I to assume, then, that under normal circumstances you prefer somewhat more complex literature?" he asked with a wry smile.
"Most of the time, yes." She hesitated and then asked "Are you mad at me?"
"I'm actually rather relieved to be honest." He said stifling a yawn. "But I still don't understand why were you so upset when I said I wouldn't read it. You were crying."
"Uh, well, I, uh, I didn't realize I had grabbed the wrong PADD. I spent a lot of time translating that Risan novel. When you said you couldn't read it, I thought you meant it literally; that my translation was incomprehensible. That's why I was so upset. I didn't mean to get so...emotional. I should really go now and let you get some rest." She hastily collected the PADD and started to turn away, but Reed grabbed her arm.
"Oh no you don't. You don't get off that easily."
"What do you mean?" Sato asked, her eyes shifting nervously.
"You said we'd take turns reading. It's your turn now."
"You're not serious?"
"Oh, yes I am."
"All right. I'll go get the adventure novel."
"You will do no such thing. Sit. Read. If I did it, so can you. Besides I want to find out what happens. After all when we stopped Bob was about to be eaten by a crocodile." He grinned and leaned back on his pillows. Sato laughed at his exaggerated expression of anticipation. She sat back down and started to read, but it wasn't long before Reed interrupted.
"You're not doing the voices."
"Malcolm, I don't..." She started to protest but he cut her off.
"I did the voices so you have to as well."
"Alright, but if anyone comes in, I'm going to stop."
An hour after Sato left, Tucker came back into sickbay with his own PADD. "Hey, Malcolm, I've got that proposal of yours here. I've made a few modifications that I'd like to go over."
"What kind of modifications are we talking about?" Reed asked taking the proffered PADD. He quickly scanned the information.
"Trip! We can't do this. It would overload the relays well beyond safety specs." Tucker looked at him in astonishment.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, your numbers are wrong. Look." Reed pointed to the offending equation. "If we did this we'd blow out half the systems on the ship!"
"Well, what do you know? You're right." Tucker sounded strangely pleased.
"Trip, what's going on? Are you feeling all right?" Reed asked. He knew very well that Tucker was a first rate engineer and a brilliant mathematician. It was unlike him to make such glaring mistakes.
"Never better, why?"
"You haven't been drinking have you?"
"What? No! 'Course I haven't." Reed sighed. What was wrong with everyone today?
"You know, maybe I'd better have a look at those diagnostic algorithms after all."
"There you go, Lieutenant." Phlox said as he injected the contents of the hypospray into Reed's neck. "That should take care of any residual dizziness."
"Thank you. That's much better." Reed hesitated for a moment and then asked "Doctor Phlox?"
"Did anything strange happen to the crew while I've been stuck here?" Phlox gave a small frown.
"Not that I'm aware of."
"No run ins with alien pollen or spores? No exposure to any kind of strange radiation?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, it's nothing really. It's just...well, everyone who came to visit me today was acting a bit...strange."
"Oh?" Phlox asked. "Strange in what way?"
"Well, Travis was unusually jumpy and clumsy. And Hoshi became quite emotionally overwrought at the mere suggestion that one of her translations wasn't right."
"And Commander Tucker?" Phlox asked intently. "Was he also acting strangely?"
"He came by with some modifications to a proposal I had made and there were, ah, quite a few errors in his equations. And you don't even want to know what he was going to do to the diagnostic algorithms for the environmental systems."
"Most disturbing." Phlox said as he picked up a PADD and began to make notes.
"Perhaps I'm overreacting," Reed said "but frankly, it has me a bit worried. Maybe you should check everyone over; make sure everything's all right." Phlox gave him a reassuring smile.
"It is almost time to begin routine physicals for the year. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to get started a little early."
"No, I don't imagine it would." Reed agreed, relieved that Phlox was taking his concerns seriously. After all, the safety of the ship could be at stake. "So, Doctor," he asked, "when can I get out of here?" He would feel much better if he could keep an eye on things himself.
"Oh, did I not tell you? You may go back to your quarters anytime. Barring any unforeseen complications, you can resume light duties the day after tomorrow."
"Wonderful. But aren't you forgetting something?"
"I don't believe so." Phlox replied.
"Well, it's my understanding that in cases such as mine a full workup should be done to screen for possible neurological damage. That is standard procedure is it not?"
"Indeed it is, Lieutenant. How very careless of me." Phlox said cheerfully. "Why don't you stop by tomorrow morning and we'll take care of it then, hmm?"
"All right. Goodnight, Doctor." Reed slid off the bed and left. As the sickbay doors shut behind him he could hear Phlox chuckling softly. Reed shook his head in exasperation. What had gotten into everyone today? If he didn't know better, he'd swear they were all suffering from some sort of brain damage.