Disclaimer: Do I own any of the characters? No, of course not! Paramount does.
Summary: (I hate summarizing things.) Um, one of Phlox's creatures escapes and causes ship wide/ crew wide havoc. There's a little M/H thrown in. Okay, and a little less C/P (of course).
Rating: (What a question!) PG-13 (Language, Innuendo, Animal Cruelty, Violence)
Genre: Humor/ General/ Misc.
Author's note: The science sucks, but I tried. Oh, and it is a bit dialogue driven. Feedback? Sure!

The Orion Chameleon Snake

Aeryn Alexander

Captain Archer was reading a report in his ready room when the comm chirped. It was very early in the morning and it rather surprised him that anyone should be looking for him at that hour. More often than not, he was usually eating breakfast or just preparing to begin his day.
"Phlox to Captain Archer." said the voice of the ship's chief medical officer over the comm. He did not sound cheerful. In fact his tone sounded a bit reluctant and morose.
"Archer here. What's the matter, doc?" he questioned.
"I'm afraid I have had an ... escape."
"Escape, doctor?" Archer asked, frowning and instinctively lifting his feet from the floor as he thought of the creatures of Phlox's menagerie.
"Yes, sir." sighed Phlox.
"What kind of escape?"
"I am afraid to say that it is an Orion Chameleon Snake."
Archer groaned and said, "Tell me that it isn't poisonous, doc."
"I wish I could, captain, but it can be extremely poisonous to some people under some circumstances. I am very sorry, but I never imagined that it would escape. Chameleon Snakes are usually very restful, lazy creatures in captivity."
"Never mind the apology. To whom is it poisonous and when?"
"It is difficult to say. It's venom is toxic to anyone with a high amount of iron in their blood stream. The greater amount of iron, the greater the effects of the poison would be. Sub-commander T'Pol and I are relatively safe, but as for the human members of the crew ..." said Phlox, trailing off with a soft sigh.
"What about the human members of the crew?" demanded Archer.
"The venom can be lethal to humans, depending upon their body temperature and, as I have said, the amount of iron in their bodies when they are stung."
"You've got to be kidding me, Phlox!"
"I wish I were, captain. I do have some good news. I am certain that no more than half of the crew should be vulnerable to the venom."
"You call that good news?" asked Archer. Before the doctor could reply, he said, "I will alert security and have them begin a search for your snake."
"I appreciate it, sir."
"What does it look like?"
"It is a Chameleon Snake. It looks like its surroundings. It is naturally a dingy shade of yellow and has a needle-like tail, with which it administers its venom. It has fangs too, but it seldom bites."
"Anything else?"
"The venom can kill in less than ten minutes, so if anyone is stung, it is imperative that they receive treatment quickly."
"You have an antidote then?" asked Archer with some relief.
"Of course, captain."
"I will dispatch that security team immediately."
"Thank you, sir, and you may wish to alert the crew. After all, if they are looking for a snake, it is more likely that they will see it, if you know what I mean."
"Yes, before it strikes. Archer out."

"A snake, sir?" asked Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, looking up from his console on the bridge. Captain Archer had just informed him of the situation.
"You heard me, lieutenant. I need some of your people to help Dr. Phlox either recapture the snake or kill it before it injures anyone." said Archer.
"Do you want me to handle this myself, sir?"
"No, lieutenant, your place is on the bridge."
"Yes, sir." said Lieutenant Reed with a nod. "Might I make a recommendation, sir?" he asked uncomfortably.
"Of course."
"If this snake could be dangerous to half the crew, then perhaps everyone should travel in pairs for safety, sir."
"Good idea, Malcolm."

Five minutes later found Captain Archer and Ensign Mayweather, who was acting as his escort, in sickbay where two security teams were being briefed by Dr. Phlox. Lieutenant Reed had dispatched them immediately.
"And, please, gentlemen, only shoot the snake if you absolutely must." he concluded just as Archer and Mayweather entered.
The security teams had several small containers, obviously meant to contain the snake. They all looked rather uncomfortable. The security personnel had not signed up for snake-handling.
"Yes, sir." said the senior security officer present.
They filed past Archer and Mayweather as they left sickbay to begin the search. Phlox shuffled his feet as Archer walked over to him.
"Well?" Archer questioned him.
"It may take some time for them to locate the snake. Your decision to keep crew members in pairs is probably for the best." he said.
"That was Malcolm's idea. I hope it will be enough to prevent any sort of tragedy."
"So do I, captain. I am still trying to figure out how the snake got out of its container."
"In addition to that, doctor, you haven't told me why you had such a dangerous animal in your collection to begin with."
"Its venom is medicinally useful in very small doses. It can be used to treat various forms of mineral poisoning very effectively. There is nothing that compares to the substance when it comes to that." explained Phlox.
"And you think that out-weighs the risk?"
"As I said before, Orion Chameleon Snakes are very sedentary creatures in captivity. It should not have wanted to escape."
"You mean this thing can change colors?" exclaimed Ensign Mayweather.
"Yes, ensign. That is generally what it means when something is called a chameleon." answered Dr. Phlox.
"Let's get a pair of phase pistols, Travis. The more people looking for this thing, the better." said Archer.
"Do you want a container?" asked Phlox, reaching for a metallic urn.
"Doc, if I find this thing, I plan to kill it."
"Captain?" question the doctor.
"I know that some of these things are like pets to you, but I don't think I can afford to have a creature this dangerous on board."
"Yes, sir. I understand."

"Ouch!" yelled Ensign Hoshi Sato, grabbing her hand and backing away from her console on the bridge.
Malcolm instantly leapt to his feet and felt the blood drain from his face. His heart was pounding.
"Hoshi? What happened?" he asked, grabbing a phase pistol that he always kept handy.
She held up her hand and bit her lip. There was a small cut on her right palm. It was bleeding just slightly. Malcolm narrowed his eyes and scanned the area for the snake. There was no sign of it. Several other officers on the bridge were looking nervously around the bridge for it.
"I think I've been stung." Hoshi told Malcolm as he walked over to where she was standing and holding her palm gingerly.
"Don't worry, Hoshi." said Malcolm, tucking his pistol away. In a sudden motion he swept her up in his arms and headed toward the lift. He had a very determined look on his face. "I will have you to sickbay in just a minute. Stay calm." he said, entering his Armory Officer mode.
"I didn't even see anything." she told him, swallowing hard.
The lift seemed to Reed to be moving at half speed as he said, "I know. If I'd seen the bloody thing, I would have shot it myself for this." Hoshi shivered in his arms. "Do you feel all right?" he asked, alarmed, but keeping a stiff upper lip, or so he thought. To Hoshi, he sounded rather rattled.
"I'm fine. I feel fine." she insisted.
"Hoshi?" he questioned as the lift doors opened.
"I went to the rain forest, and I wasn't bitten or stung by anything poisonous. And now I'm on a star ship and I've been stung by an invisible snake."
"The irony." said Reed as he strode quickly toward sickbay.

"I have good news, ensign, lieutenant." said Phlox, smiling at Hoshi and Malcolm. "That is not a sting. As far as I can ascertain, it is a cut resulting from contact with a sharp metal object."
"You mean I just cut my hand on my console and panicked?" asked Hoshi, sitting up on the biobed. Her face was turning red and full of disbelief.
"Happily so, ensign." Phlox said, offering to show her the scan he had made of her hand. "I would have someone from engineering perhaps file down the edge." he added.
"Thank you, doctor." said Hoshi, finally manage to laugh.
"Any time, ensign."
"Let's get back to our stations before the captain has our heads." said Malcolm, who looked just as relieved as Hoshi and Phlox.
"Of course." she agreed.
As they walked out of sickbay together, they didn't happen to notice Phlox or the look on his face.
"If anyone here is injured or killed, it will be my fault. Pure and simple." he muttered, employing a human colloquialism.
Reed and Sato returned to the lift and stood momentarily in awkward silence.
"You know, you scared the hell out of me, right?" asked Malcolm, coughing nervously.
"Hey, it was my hand! Imagine how I felt!" she answered, finding it very curious that Malcolm had chosen to say anything about the incident, much less something so telling.
"Maybe I should get you a phase pistol."
"I would only wind up shooting the console if it 'bit' me again."
Lieutenant Reed chuckled and said, "Of course, Hoshi."
They returned to their stations without another word, but every so often Malcolm would glance up from his station and look at her on the other side of the bridge. Unbeknownst to him, Hoshi was doing the same thing, only perhaps a bit more discretely.

Meanwhile in the lower decks of the Enterprise, two security details and Archer and Mayweather were still looking for the elusive Chameleon Snake.
"Why isn't this thing showing up on internal sensors, captain?" asked Mayweather as they searched the launch bay.
"I suppose because it's so small." Archer replied.
"Maybe Sub-commander T'Pol could adjust the sensors to pick up the snake's biosigns." suggested Travis.
"I was hoping we could find this thing ourselves, but you may be right. I would like to see resolved before the end of the day. I don't want any of the crew to lose sleep over the situation." said Captain Archer, managing to crack a smile despite the tension.

"Sub-commander, do you think you can modify the sensors to locate the snake?" Archer asked through the comm.
T'Pol looked up from her station and said, "Yes, but it will take time."
"How much?"
"At least two hours, captain."
"Fine. Keep me posted, T'Pol."
"You are continuing the search with tricorders then?" she questioned, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm afraid so." sighed Archer.
"Exercise caution in your search, captain. There is, after all, a fifty percent chance that the creature's venom would be toxic to you." she reminded him evenly.
"Your concern is noted, sub-commander."
"Concern? I am merely reminding you of the risks involved in the task you have undertaken."
"Thank you. Archer out."

"Captain, we've had a possible sighting." reported Lieutenant Reed over the comm system.
It had been almost an hour since Captain Archer had instructed T'Pol to adjust the sensors. Mayweather and the captain had just finished checking the torpedo bay, where they had turned up nothing.
"Where?" asked Archer.
"An ensign saw something in one of the corridors near the junior officers' quarters."
Across the bridge Hoshi groaned out loud and thought, "It's going to be in my room. I just know it. It's going to be curled up in my bunk when I get off duty."
Of course, every other ensign on the bridge was having the same thoughts.
"Have you alerted a security detail, Malcolm?"
"Of course, sir. They are on their way to the corridor right now."
"Ensign Mayweather and I will meet them there. Archer out."

Several security officers were walking up and down the hallway with tricorders in one hand and phase pistols in the other when Archer and Mayweather arrived. A couple of them still had containers tucked under their arms.
"Any luck?" Archer asked the nearest crewman.
"No, sir, not yet." he replied.
"Where was the sighting exactly?"
The officer looked down the hallway, pointed toward where another member of the security detail was standing, and said, "I think it was over there, sir."
That crewman, who had overheard, looked up from his tricorder and said, "I've got nothing, sir. It could have been a figment of Ensign Novakovich's imagination."
"You can't find anything?" asked Archer.
"I don't think these tricorders were exactly designed for snake hunting, sir."

"I have some unfortunate news, captain." said the voice of Sub-commander T'Pol over the comm.
"Yes?" asked Captain Archer.
"I have adjusted the internal sensors and have performed several scans of the ship, but I cannot locate the snake. I have reached the conclusion that the Orion Chameleon Snake cannot be detected by conventional sensor methods."
"Suggestions, Sub-commander?"
"This creature must be found, captain. It poses too great of a threat to the crew to be allowed to remain free." stated T'Pol.
"I know that, Sub-commander."
"It will take some time, perhaps four hours at best, but with the assistance of Commander Tucker, the sensors can be modified to detect the subtle motions of the snake, instead of attempting to locate its biosigns, which are not detectable with the ship's internal sensors."
"If that's the best we can do, then by all means give it a shot."
"It is, captain, and I will."
"In the mean time I suppose we will just have to keep our eyes peeled. Archer out."
T'Pol raised an eyebrow at the unpleasant sounding colloquialism and switched the comm off before leaving her station. She was going to pay Trip Tucker a visit in engineering.
"Lieutenant Reed, you have the bridge." she said before stepping onto the lift.

"Let me get this straight. You want to turn the internal sensors into a motion detector?" questioned Trip.
"That is not a very technical way of looking at it, but, yes, I suppose so, commander." replied T'Pol.
The chief engineer was leaning on a console in a very comfortable and relaxed manner. The Vulcan science officer, however, was standing ram rod straight in a posture more suited to a piece of hull plating than a beautiful woman. Her stance seemed too artificial; his seemed too casual.
"But how will we differentiate the snake's movement from the crew's? People are always moving around on this ship, or hadn't you noticed?"
"Humanoids have different movement patterns than reptiles. We will be looking for something that slithers. Also, it seems quite probable that the snake will be inside a conduit or panel or somewhere else where one does not usually find crewman." said T'Pol, gracefully arching one eyebrow.
"Well, I suppose we had better get to it then." shrugged Commander Tucker, standing up straight and stretching before walking to another console.
It wasn't long before the pair were pouring over their work in silence. T'Pol gave her attention to a console while Tucker opened up a nearby panel, fiddling with the components inside.
"Can you reroute the sensor configuration module to this console, commander?" asked T'Pol.
"Just a minute ..." said Trip, reaching farther into the opening. Only seconds after her request, Commander Tucker howled in surprise and jerked his hand and arm out of the panel.
"Commander?" questioned T'Pol as he scuttled away and came to his feet muttering curses. He was cradling his right forearm.
"I think I found that damn snake." said Tucker.
"Are you certain, commander? Perhaps you just received a small shock."
He held up his sleeve, which was soaking through with blood, and said, "You call that a shock, T'Pol?"
She looked into the panel and raised an eyebrow before turning to him again. The snake was no where to be seen. Undoubtedly Commander Tucker had scared it away.
"It don't see it, but I believe it would be advisable for you to go to sickbay nevertheless. I will accompany you." she told him impassively.

"Yes, commander, this is a snake bite, but fortunately, your body temperature is almost one half degree below the human norm and the iron content of your blood is relatively low too. Under normal conditions I would advise you to change your diet, but not today." said Phlox, examining the deep puncture wound.
"So I'm not in any danger?" asked Trip, relaxing a little bit.
"I am going to give you an anti-toxin, but you should be just fine."
"At least we know where it is now." Commander Tuck said as the doctor filled a hypospray.
"I wouldn't count on that. It could be anywhere by now." said T'Pol.
"It is a fast moving creature when it's frighten or hunting." agreed Dr. Phlox.
"Hunting?" questioned Trip with an unpleasant expression on his face.
"It is a carnivore, after all." said Phlox.
"It wouldn't like dog by any chance, would it?" asked Trip.
It was Phlox's turn to make an unpleasant face as he answered, "I don't think it would, but ... one never knows. On Orion in its native habitat it fed on rodents of various kinds. I don't know how it would feel about canines, commander."
"The captain would not be pleased." stated T'Pol. There was an awkward silence. "Do you wish to continue assisting me with the sensors, commander?" she asked.
"Yeah, the sooner we get that motion detector working, the sooner we can catch the snake." agreed Tucker. He wanted to add, "And the less likely it'll be to make Porthos its next meal." But he thought better of it. Phlox looked as though he had enough to worry about already.

It had been more than eight hours since Phlox reported the snake missing. Captain Archer was beginning to believe that the creature was going to be a permanent and perpetual danger to his crew. Commander Tucker and T'Pol were still calibrating their motion detector. The device would have to be very sensitive to find the snake, which the doctor had informed them was less than one meter long and less than three centimeters in diameter. It was a tiny and dangerous thing, and it had already stung his chief engineer. The captain glanced at Porthos where he sat in the corner of his ready room. Trip had suggested that he keep the dog with him, although he had not said exactly why. Archer had put two and two together: hungry, carnivorous snake with a taste for red blooded mammals and Porthos all alone in his quarters. It was not a pretty picture.
He had searched several of the lower decks with Ensign Mayweather that afternoon before choosing to return to the bridge and then to his ready room. The security teams were not having any luck, and he thought it best to leave the matter to his science officer and to Trip, who had a score to settle with the snake. Revenge could be a powerful motivating factor, even if it was only against a reptile.

The doors of sickbay whisked open, startling Phlox as he stood at a computer and reviewed the information he had collected on the Orion Chameleon Snake. He left the computer, half expecting to see another patient, but standing in the doorway was Ensign Cutler.
"Any word on your pet snake?" she asked, taking note of the worried look on his face.
"Well, I wouldn't exactly call it a pet, but, no, I haven't heard anything since it stung Commander Tucker and that was several hours ago."
"It will turn up." said Cutler.
"I am sure it will. I just hope it does so before anyone else is attacked by it." Phlox frowned suddenly as he looked at her and asked, "Where is your escort, ensign?"
"She went ahead to the mess hall when I decided to stop off here. What about your escort, doctor?" she teased.
"I don't need one as I am not susceptible to the snake's venom."
"Then shouldn't you be helping in the search?"
"I wish I could, but someone has to be here in case there are any more ... casualties."
"Of course." Cutler conceded. She smiled and said, "I was kind of hoping you were free for dinner, but ..."
"Neither rest nor food for the weary, but perhaps some other time when one of my specimens is not causing havoc." said Phlox, managing to smile for the first time in hours. As Ensign Cutler turned to go, he cautioned her, "And do be careful, ensign. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that the snake venom would probably be at least a little dangerous to you."
Cutler made a face and said, "Thanks, Phlox. I'm sure to sleep better tonight."

"Is anyone sitting here?" asked Malcolm, looking down at Ensign Sato, who was dividing her attention between a plate of pasta and a data pad. He coughed nervously as she looked up at him in surprise.
"No, of course not. Have a seat." she told him. It was almost customary for Malcolm to eat alone in a corner, or with Trip and some of the other guys.
"Thank you, Hoshi." he said, a look of what could have been relief passing through his eyes.
They had a pleasant conversation during the meal, which was far better than the last time Hoshi and Malcolm had dined together. Rather unexpectedly, something touched Malcolm's leg underneath the table. For a moment he thought it was Hoshi's foot, but then he realized her legs were not nearly long enough to reach.
"Is something wrong, Malcolm?" she asked as the color seemed to drain from his face and he gripped the edges of the table.
"I think I know where the snake is." he said, sounding rather alarmed.
"Where?"
"It seems to be crawling up the leg of my uniform."
"Are you sure?"
"Quite." he said, moving one had slowly from the table toward his phase pistol.
"Malcolm! You can't shoot it! What if you hit yourself? Or what if you startle it and it stings you?" asked Hoshi incredulously.
"I'm not going to shoot it, Hoshi. The angle is all wrong. I want you to shoot it for me." said Malcolm, glancing at the pistol for a second. "The phase pistol is set on stun, so no worries." he told her, putting the weapon down on the table and sliding it slowly toward her.
"Are you crazy?" she hissed. "What if I hit you?"
"I will take my chances." he insisted. As Hoshi hesitated to take the phase pistol, he added, "Don't make me pull rank, ensign."
Hoshi cautiously took the pistol and slid her chair away from the table. She knelt and peered into the shadows next Lieutenant Reed's legs. Something was there, poking out of his left trouser leg. It looked like the tail of a snake, but it was difficult to be certain. Then it seemed to move a little, and Hoshi fired.
Malcolm yelped as the blast nicked his leg. The shadowy thing was gone. Hoshi scuttled back from the table, pointing the pistol at the deck and making every attempt to find the snake.
"Did you get it?" Malcolm asked, reaching down to touch his numbed limb. It was moist. He looked at his hand and saw traces of red. "Phase pistols don't cause tissue damage at stun." he thought.
"I think I missed." Hoshi told him, continuing to look around for the snake.
"Ensign?" asked a member of a security team that was eating across the mess hall.
"Snake." she told him.
Then pandemonium broke loose as the security detail left their table and drew their weapons, looking around for the snake. Suddenly one of the detail fired his weapon at a piece of deck plating. Another fired. Then another. Everyone was certain that they could see something moving. Hoshi even fired off an additional round. The unarmed members of the crew, mostly off duty engineers and science officers, climbed on top of tables and chairs to avoid both the snake and the phaser fire.

"Captain, I am getting weapons fire on E Deck, in the mess hall." Sub-commander T'Pol reported, looking up from the sensors. "A lot of weapons fire." she corrected, raising an eyebrow.
"Is the snake in there?" asked Archer from his seat on the bridge.
"I cannot verify that it is anywhere else, but the does not necessarily mean ..." she said coolly.
"Right. How about that motion detector that you were working on with Trip?" he interrupted.
"It was not meant to used in an area with so much ... excess motion and weapons fire."
Archer turned to the crewman at the comm station and said, "Patch me through to the mess hall."

The firing had ceased by the time Captain Archer's voice came over the comm: "What the hell is going on down there? Who's responsible for the discharge of weapons?"
Malcolm had a sinking feeling as he left his seat, using the table and chair for support, and said, "I think I am, sir."
"Malcolm?" questioned Archer, stifling a groan and thinking silently, "I should have known."
"Yes, sir, and I think the snake might have stung me."
"Get to sickbay, lieutenant." said Archer. "And, Malcolm, you didn't happen to get it, did you?"
"No, sir."
"Archer out."
Malcolm let go of the table and chair and started for the door, hobbling slightly. Hoshi strode up to him and offered him a shoulder to lean on.
"It's the least I can do." she said, sliding the phase pistol back into the holster at his hip and walking with him. Malcolm gratefully slipped an arm around her shoulders, shifting the weight from his benumbed and bleeding leg.
"Quite a reversal from this morning." commented Malcolm.
"Well, I can hardly carry you."
"I may have overreacted."
"It was sweet." she said as they stumbled along. Malcolm was keenly aware of the concern in her eyes, which she masked carefully with humor. "Do you feel all right?" she questioned as they approached sickbay.
"Yes." he answered stiffly, not to mention untruthfully. His lower leg was beginning to recover from the stun and to ache, and he felt light-headed.
When they stepped into sickbay, Hoshi didn't immediately see Phlox, who was reviewing his files for a second time, oblivious to the debacle farther down E Deck.
"Doctor!" she bellowed, helping Malcolm toward the nearest biobed.
"Ensign?" he questioned as he left his reading.
"I've been stung, doctor." Malcolm admitted as Hoshi helped him onto the bed.
"If I may say so, lieutenant, you don't look very well." commented Phlox as he picked up a medical tricorder.
"I also kind of shot him with a phase pistol." Hoshi confessed.
"On stun." added Malcolm quickly as the doctor looked at them both rather oddly.
"I was aiming for the snake."
"No one doubts that, I'm sure." said Phlox. He looked at the tricorder and frowned. "You are lucky to have been stung on this deck, lieutenant."
"Really?"
"Yes, I'm afraid that your body chemistry is rather conducive to the toxin. It is breaking down the iron in your bloodstream already." Phlox told him. He smiled and said to Malcolm, "But don't worry. I have several hyposprays of the anti-toxin ready." To Hoshi, he requested, "Hold him down for me, would you?"
Hoshi did not question the instructions, but Malcolm gave a short nervous laugh and began to ask, "Is this really necessary?"
But he felt a slight tremor as he spoke.
"Malcolm?" questioned Hoshi, who was holding him by the shoulders while Phlox removed the hypospray from a nearby rack. Lieutenant Reed's body convulsed, and his eyelids flickered.
"It's a mild seizure, ensign. It will subside just as soon as he receives the antidote." Phlox explained.
The doctor pressed the hypospray to Malcolm's neck and it hissed softly as it delivered the anti-toxin. The convulsions subsided quickly.
"What was that?" asked Malcolm, struggling to sit up.
"It was your body's reaction to sudden, but partial iron depletion. The anti-venom I gave you took care of the effects of the poison, but when this is all over, I would recommend increasing your intake of iron at least temporarily." Dr. Phlox told him. He smiled an Hoshi, who had maintained a firm grip on Lieutenant Reed's shoulders, and said, "You can let go of him now."
"Thank you, doctor." she said, blushing slightly.
"When can I return to my duties?" asked Malcolm.
"By my estimation, lieutenant, you should be off duty right now."
"I wanted to help the captain and the security details find the thing that stung me." insisted Malcolm.
"I am sorry, but it would be in your best interest to get a good night's sleep tonight instead of wandering the decks with a phase pistol."
"But ..." he began to protest.
"Ensign Sato, would you please escort Lieutenant Reed to his quarters? Doctor's orders." smiled Phlox.
Malcolm laughed and said, "Well, if it's doctor's orders, I suppose I don't really have a choice in the matter."
"I'm glad to do it." laughed Hoshi. Malcolm winced ever so slightly as Hoshi helped him from the biobed.
"Do you want anything for the pain?" asked Phlox.
"I think I can manage." said Malcolm, smiling over his shoulder at the doctor as Hoshi offered him her shoulder for support again. She did not happen to catch the smile, but Phlox didn't miss it.
"I suppose so, lieutenant. You are very lucky." he told Reed as he left sickbay with Hoshi. "Very lucky indeed." he murmured, looking at the medical tricorder as the doors swished closed behind the pair. It had been a very close call, even if Malcolm and Hoshi did not fully realize it.

Meanwhile Captain Archer was surveying the damage in the mess hall. The floor was splotched with twenty to twenty-five burn marks from the phase pistols.
"With all due respect, sir, how do you make visual confirmation on something that you can't see?" asked the crewman in charge of the security detail that had fired on the snake, and the deck plating.
The rest of the crew that had been involved had been dismissed from the mess hall, but the captain had held the off duty security officers back.
"It isn't that I don't see your point. I do. But at some point when this one sided fire fight was going on, someone had to think 'Gee, we aren't hitting anything, are we?' and maybe at that point someone should have called a cease fire. I'm not saying that someone is you, crewman, but didn't cross your mind?" asked Archer.
"Yes, sir, but Lieutenant Reed was in here ... I thought if someone was going to give that kind of an order, it should have been him."
Archer took a deep breath and simply, said, "Noted, crewman."
"Thank you, sir."
"You don't happen to know which way it went after all of this?"
"No, sir, I don't think so."

"I have completed a sensor sweep of the ship, captain." T'Pol informed him over the comm. Archer had just dismissed the security detail to quarters.
"Did you find anything?"
"Yes, I have an anomalous reading in the junior officers' quarters on D Deck."
"Have you alerted a security team on that deck?"
"Yes, captain, they are on their way."
Archer took a deep breath before saying, "Tell me it isn't in anyone's quarters, sub-commander."
"Unfortunately, according to the readings, it appears to be in the duct work of Ensign Cutler and Ensign Knight's quarters, and it is moving."
"Great." muttered Archer. "Let the security detail know I'm on my way. Archer out."

Ensign Cutler was flipping through a book on entomology when she heard a soft sound coming from the far corner of the room. It sounded very much like a quiet, snake-like hiss. Cutler closed the book and looked around. It had only been half an hour since she had stood on a table with another crewman while the security detail had taken pot shots at the floor. Was her imagination running away with her?
"Sub-commander T'Pol to Ensign Cutler. Please vacate your quarters. I have reason to believe that the snake is in your immediate area." said the science officer over the comm.
"Acknowledged." said Cutler, cautiously moving toward the door.
She backed away from the desk slowly. The door to her quarters swished open behind her, surprising her.
"Are you all right, ensign?" asked Captain Archer, moving her aside and allowing several security officers into the room.
"Yes, sir. Sub-commander T'Pol warned me that the snake was in my quarters. I thought I heard something, but I wasn't sure."
"It must be gone, sir." called the head of the security detail.
"You've got to be kidding me! How fast does this thing move?" asked Archer.
"According to our tricorders, nothing is moving in here."
"Fine." sighed the captain. "Get someone down here from engineering to seal temporarily any entrance to this room for Ensign Cutler's peace of mind." he ordered.
"Thank you, sir."
"You're welcome, ensign. Besides it removes one location from the long list of places this thing can hide."

"Maybe we should set a trap for it. Otherwise much of the crew will be at risk tonight while they sleep." suggested Dr. Phlox, looking at Captain Archer and Ensign Cutler, who had come to talk with him while her quarters were being sealed.
"What kind of trap?" asked Archer.
"On its home planet the snake preferred to eat mammals with a large amount of iron in their bloodstream. It is, of course, a carnivore, and by now, it is a hungry one. It also has a keen sense of smell. If we were to leave a quantity of raw meat for it, then it would perhaps be attracted by the odor of the meat. If there were security personnel waiting, they could either stun or kill the creature when it changed to its natural color to feed."
The captain considered the plan for a moment and said, "We would have to kill it, doc. It's just too dangerous."
"But you will use my plan?"
"It sounds like our best shot. With the motion detector T'Pol could even advise the security team of its approach and so forth. I think we have it this time."
"Where will it be done, captain?"
Phlox seemed regretful, but resigned as he looked at Captain Archer, who realized that the doctor was rather fond of his Orion Chameleon Snake.
"Do you have a preference, doc?"
"No, but if you are going to kill it, make sure the security team knows to do it quickly."
"Of course." agreed Archer, turning to go alert the security personnel and have someone fetch some raw meat from the kitchen.
Ensign Cutler looked at Phlox and said, "Well, at least it will be over soon. I'm sorry that it's come to this."
"You misunderstand, ensign. This morning when I first discovered that it had escaped, I thought it would be possible to simply catch it again and that would be that. I never imagined that it would be lively or resourceful enough to sting two members of the crew. I didn't think it would end quite like this."
"I imagine not." said Cutler with a soft laugh.
"Of course, it is better this way." he conceded.
"Yeah?"
"Well, at least I don't have to worry about it stinging you or anyone else now." he said, managing a smile.
"You were concerned?"
"Only a little. Your body temperature is high enough to cause concern, but I have a feeling that your blood stream contains less than optimal iron levels."
"Oh?"
"The Vulcan food that you have been eating lately is lower in iron and higher in copper. It is difficult to be sure, but I think you would have been relatively safe, but a snake bite is a snake bite. Of course, that is only speculation."
"That's good to know." She chuckled. "I don't suppose you will feel like a cup of coffee or a bite to eat after this is wrapped up?" Cutler questioned.
"Normally, I would be delighted, but not tonight."
"Have you eaten at all today?" she accused.
"No, but ..."
"I could always grab you a piece of pie or something."
The Denobulan's eyes communicated more than he ever would have said aloud: "I appreciate your offer, but my people handle these matters differently. It wouldn't make me feel that much better."
"I think I understand." she said.

"It seems to be moving down the corridor to your left, captain." said T'Pol over the comm.
Captain Archer and three security officers were waiting with drawn phase pistols at an intersection near the senior officers' quarters. In the center of the intersection set a tray with about half a kilogram of raw ground beef on it.
"How far?" asked Archer quietly.
"Ten meters and closing."
They waited silently, listening intently for any sound that the creature might make. Archer thought he heard a hiss, soft and menacing, a few minutes later. Then he saw a slight motion that he would normally have called an optical illusion. But the so-called illusion raised up and seemed to make a quiet sniffing sound or a soft intake of breath. The scent of raw meat was heavy in the air, masking the scent of the captain and security team. It moved toward the plate of food and began its colored began to yellow.
"Now!" barked Captain Archer, firing his phase pistol at the snake.
At least two of the detail missed, but Archer and another officer found their mark. The snake gave a final hiss as it died and lay quivering on the deck for several seconds. The acrid and unpleasant odor of burned snake filled the corridor. Archer sighed with relief as he holstered his pistol and walked over to look at the dead creature. It was such a small thing, but the black needle-like appendage at the end of its tail reminded him of how dangerous it was.
"I know I'll sleep better tonight." said a member of the security team. He still had his weapon trained on the thing.
"You, me, and Porthos." said Archer, even though he didn't feel like laughing. Some of the duties of the captaincy, if this could be included therein, were more unpleasant than others.

"So they just shot it?" asked Hoshi, looking up from her breakfast. "I imagined they would have to chase into an airlock or something." she added.
"From what I heard, the captain shot it himself. I almost wish I could have been there to see that." said Malcolm, smiling.
"Me too." agreed to Trip, rubbing his arm where the snake had bitten him.
"I don't understand." said T'Pol bluntly. "What effect does witnessing the event have on the outcome? It wouldn't be any more dead if all of us had been there to see it." she added.
"Revenge." explained Hoshi.
"You're damn right, revenge!" concurred Lieutenant Reed, pointing to his wounded lower leg. Commander Tucker held up his arm and nodded his agreement.
"Revenge is a primitive motivation."
"Of course it is, Sub-commander, but a lot can be said for primitive motivations." said Malcolm with an almost mischievous smile.
T'Pol raised an eyebrow and said, "That has not been my experience, lieutenant."
"Let's just say that it's the human experience." said Ensign Sato.