Here is my entry for "Sir, we have a problem" Month (January). Warning: total silliness ahead!
I dedicate this story to Gabi2305, who put in such a fine and popular suggestion for a Special Month.
RoaringMice betaed, doing the usual great job.
§ 1 §
The rumour had started at o-seven-forty-five, when Michael Rostov, at breakfast, in the Mess hall, while looking for something sweet in the serving cabinet, had overheard a certain conversation. In the matter of minutes it had started its marathon around the ship.
By o-eight-ten it had already made a couple of laps in Engineering where, finally, it reached the Chief Engineer's ears.
Trip immediately went up to his subordinate, a frown firmly in place. "What's this I hear, Michael?"
"Sir, we have a problem," the man replied darkly. And he told him what he had heard.
"What?" Trip cried out. "Do you realise what that's gonna do to the crew?"
"Don't I ever," Rostov whined, raking a hand through his hair. Taking a more formal stance, he rephrased, "Yes, Sir, I do," adding with resigned courage, "but I'm afraid there is nothing to be done about it, at this point. It's too late to – "
"It's never too late," Trip muttered through a clenched jaw. "And there's never nothin' to be done."
With that he marched out of Engineering.
Around o-eight-fifteen Lieutenant Reed, standing at the main console on the elevated platform in the Armoury, glanced over his shoulder for the third time in the past five minutes at his three A-shift men. They had been whispering amongst themselves like bloody conspirators since the moment they had set foot in the place.
Malcolm slowly counted to ten; then turned all the way and crossed his arms tightly over his chest. The movement alone caused the three to stand at attention in a neat line, which was good to see. But it wouldn't let them off the hook. Oh, no. Not in Reed's Armoury.
"Are you three gentlemen labouring under the false hope that things in the Armoury this morning will get done by virtue of telekinesis?" he said, purposefully stressing his British accent, well aware that it was to the icy Lieutenant Reed stare what whipped cream was to strawberries.
Ensign Müller, his SIC, swallowed visibly and took a step forward. "No, Sir. It's that… I was just talking to Crewman Swanson, who got this from Ensign Paskowsky, who was told by Lieutenant Hess, who heard it from Rostov, Sir, and… Sir, we have a problem," he finally concluded. His deep voice had rung with a slight German accent, which in Malcolm's experience meant the matter was pretty serious.
Malcolm narrowed his gaze, as if by getting it sharp enough he might penetrate the man's mind and pry the answer forth before the predictable question was spoken.
A moment later Malcolm's mouth twisted in a lopsided smirk. "Bother." He cradled his chin with one hand. "I can see why you'd consider it a problem, with a crew like this."
"Like this?" Müller echoed.
Malcolm heaved an audible sigh. Did he always have to explain everything?
"Yes, Ensign, like this. Mostly human, mostly Occidental, mostly male. Well, bar that last bit," he amended, when a few particular female crewmembers came to his mind.
Müller still looked puzzled.
"Get to work," Malcolm ordered, making the three snap into activity. "I'll be right back."
He ran down the few steps to the main floor and let himself out of his domain. As the ship's Security Officer, he figured it was his duty to find out if the rumour was true and, if so, see what could be done about the impending consequences.
At o-eight-twenty Hoshi went through the Sickbay doors, rubbing her temples. She really enjoyed being a woman – except for once a month.
"Ensign," Phlox greeted her, peeking out from behind a partition. "Be with you right away."
A moment later, with his bouncing step the Doctor was coming towards her. "Headache?" he said, after but a quick look. "It's that time of the month, hmmm?"
Hoshi's eyes grew wide. "Are you a Doctor or a mind-reader?"
Phlox chuckled. "It doesn't take a mind-reader to tell. It's written all over your face, Ensign."
Hoshi groaned. "Just what a woman likes to hear," she sighed, leaning back against a bio-bed. She willingly stretched her neck to receive a hypo of analgesic. Another sigh left her lips as the drug took almost instant effect. "Have you heard the rumour that is going around the ship this morning?" she asked, now that she had full reasoning abilities again.
"You are the third person who has asked me," Phlox replied. "And if it's true I might have to prepare for an emergency, start working on something to alleviate the symptoms in those affected." His intrigued blue eyes roamed over Hoshi's face. "You don't seem very concerned, Ensign."
Hoshi smiled. "It's my Asian genes. I'm quite safe."
"Ah, but with a good percentage of the crew impaired, I daresay it won't be fun," Phlox countered. "Even for those not affected."
"I'll grant you that," Hoshi said, as she pushed off the bed. "I think it's a good idea to start thinking of an antidote. I'm afraid some of the crew may really suffer." She gave a supportive shrug and started towards the door. "Have a good day, Doctor."
At o-eight-twenty-five T'Pol, who was trying to illustrate an assignment to Ensign Marino, of the Science complement, looked straight into his hazelnut eyes and asked, "Is there a problem, Ensign? You appear to be distracted."
A blush crept up the lanky man's neck. "I'm sorry, Subcommander… it's that… Well, yes, Sir, we have a problem – uhm, Ma'am."
"A problem, Ensign?"
Marino licked his lips. "I met Ensign Mayweather before; and seeing as his face was really dark..."
"As is normal for his ethnic group," T'Pol reassured him, wondering if Humans could be so unfocused as not to notice certain things.
"Ah – uhm..."
For some reason the man's eyes were having a hard time staying fixed on hers, but T'Pol dismissed it as embarrassment.
"Therefore, as I was saying," she resumed.
"What I mean is…" Marino started at the same time.
T'Pol nodded for him to continue.
"Well, his dark face looked worried," Marino went on. "Dark face… worried face," he explained, jerking his head sideways. "It's a way of saying the same thing… I think," he said, and then muttered something in Italian.
It seemed that there was no end to the English language's 'ways of saying'. T'Pol found it entirely confusing. But illogical people would, after all, speak an illogical language.
"Did you ask him what made him worried, Ensign?"
"As a matter of fact I didn't have to, Ma'am. He told me himself."
And so it was that also the Ship's Second in Command learnt of the overheard conversation.
"It will not affect me personally," T'Pol said, latching her hands behind her back. "However," – she hurried to add, noticing the far-from-pleased expression her statement had brought to the Ensign's face – "you did well to inform me. I appreciate that it would put considerable… strain on the crew. I shall see what can be done about it."
As she hurried off to do just that, T'Pol mused that she didn't want to think of what it could do to a certain Chief Engineer. Mister Tucker was volatile enough as it was, without any help from unfavourable circumstances.
At o-eight-thirty, less than one hour from that fortuitous moment in the Mess hall, virtually everybody on board the ship had heard about the threat that loomed over them – except for the man in command: Captain Archer.
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