Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Archer’s Walk: Unexplained Phenomena

Archer’s Walk: Unexplained Phenomena

by Mara

Summary: When Jon takes a stroll through his ship, everyone he meets is acting strangely.

NOTES: This story is a response to Taryn’s second Writer’s Block Party
Challenge: “Archer is taking a walk with Porthos late at night. Take him from
his quarters to the mess hall. What does he see and overhear? Does he talk to
anyone? What’s going on in the mess hall?” Layout of the ship is extrapolated
from the unclear blueprints at startrek.com. I’ve chosen to ignore the
conflicting statements on the show itself. If you don’t like it, take it up with
TIIC, not me.

* * * * *

He couldn’t stand the silence anymore–even Porthos seemed bored, looking up at
him from the middle of the bed with wide, liquid eyes that said, “This place is
boring, let’s go somewhere else. Maybe someplace with trees?”

Not that Jon would admit he was bored, it would seem ridiculous for the Captain
of the first Warp 5 starship off on a mission of deep space exploration. But it
was true.

There certainly was work he could be doing, even this late at night–there was
*always* paperwork. Well, it hadn’t been on actual paper in over a century, but
for some reason it was still called paperwork.

Sitting propped up in bed, staring blankly at his bust of Zephram Cochrane, Jon
pondered the etymology for a few moments, until the silence started to get to
him again.

“That’s it, boy,” he said to Porthos, climbing out of bed, “let’s go for a walk,
and maybe then I’ll be able to get some sleep.”

The problem was, he had work to do, but none of it was interesting. Hell, he was
almost ready for the Suliban to show up; at least then, he’d have something to
do other than sign off on yearly reviews and quartermaster’s reports. Who
*cared* how many pairs of boots had been requisitioned? Starfleet, apparently.

Standing at his door, he reached for the button, then paused and turned.
Porthos’ head was up, but he looked confused. “Well, c’mon if you’re coming
along.” He waved at his dog. “Let’s go get something to eat.”

Porthos jumped eagerly off the bed–probably thrilled to be doing something
other than sitting–and trotted over to walk beside him through the empty
corridor.

After a few moments, Jon realized he was walking the long way around to the mess
hall, but decided not to turn.

Around a corner, past a turbolift, which opened to spit out Malcolm in civilian
clothes. Malcolm stopped dead in his tracks, and choked out, “Captain.”

“Lieutenant. Good evening. Or morning.” Jon wondered why Malcolm looked so
stunned to see him, but after their disastrous breakfast, he’d given up on
trying to get personal details out of the other man.

“Well, I’ll just be continuing along now,” Jon said, trying not to back away
from Malcolm.

“Sir.” He nodded stiffly and continued down the corridor.

Jon shrugged and kept walking. He shrugged again and decided it was either too
early or too late to start worrying about these kinds of things. Maybe he’d just
flustered the man. Or maybe he was taking a walk as well.

Whose idea was it, he wondered, to put the captain’s quarters on E deck near the
mess hall? Was it some sort of psychological trick to give him the illusion he
was near the rest of the crew? Then why so near Sickbay? In case he went insane,
perhaps this put him nearest to the medications.

The rounded support struts that studded the corridor at regular intervals
provided the odd sensation of walking through a narrowing tunnel if you stared
them too long, he decided. He blinked a bit in the even light and wondered if he
was going a bit space crazy.

Porthos gamboled around his feet, yipping quietly every once in a while to show
his pleasure at this unexpected treat. Jon bent down to pet him, rubbing behind
the silky ears just to watch him wriggle. Porthos squirmed around and licked his
hand, the tongue scraping at him and leaving him a bit smeary, but feeling a
little better.

They continued to walk.

Around another corner, and he was walking past the launch bay. Porthos yipped as
the doors opened, and Jon stopped in surprise. Who could possibly be using that
area of the ship at this time of the ship’s night?

Bounding out the doors, casually dressed in form-fitting black, was Travis,
carrying a lumpy package under his arms. He skidded to a halt when he saw the
Captain standing near the doorway.

“Good morning, sir.”

“Morning, Travis.” Jon looked curiously at the package, but Travis just smiled
politely at him. Since Travis was in civilian clothes, Jon suspected it would be
rude to order him to open the package.

“Can I help you, Captain?” Travis asked, trying to edge his way out the door.
Porthos trotted up and looked adoringly up at him, so the pilot obligingly bent
to scratch his head.

“No, just taking a…morning constitutional,” Jon said, finally admitting
defeat. He called Porthos to heel, and continued on his way, pausing for a
moment to watch Travis disappear rapidly in the other direction.

Jon shrugged and continued with his walk. Now on the opposite side of the ship
from his quarters, he rounded the corner and began the homestretch toward the
messhall.

But before he reached the endpoint, there were still a few other things to pass.
Up ahead, he saw Phlox emerge from the side corridor that contained Sickbay,
turn and walk toward the messhall, carrying a number of long and strangely-
shaped objects in his hands.

Jon walked a few more meters, then stopped to lean against a bulkhead and
ponder. Something odd seemed to be going on here. Granted, Phlox didn’t sleep,
but he was heading toward the messhall, Travis was wandering around the launch
bay, and Malcolm looked guilty enough to have just robbed a bank.

Well, since Phlox was heading that way, maybe he’d get some answers in the
messhall. Once again alone in the corridor, he continued on his way, calling
Porthos away from sniffing the juncture between two panels.

Around yet another identical corner, and approaching the senior officer’s
quarters, Jon was surprised to see Trip reaching toward the controls of his
quarters.

“Oh,” Trip said, freezing with his hand halfway up. “Um, hi, Cap’n. Wasn’t
expecting to see you this bright and early. You do know it’s 0300, right?”

“Yes, Trip, I can read a clock,” Jon said with exaggerated patience as he walked
toward him. “I just couldn’t sleep, so I thought Porthos and I might walk around
a bit.” He looked at his friend, in a tight magenta t-shirt Jon vaguely
recognized, and at the way Porthos had bounded forward and was curiously
sniffing at his feet. “What are you doing up, anyway? You’re not on duty. In
fact, I know you’re on alpha shift.”

“Nothing. I just…I couldn’t sleep either.” Trip–a bad liar at the best of
times–did everything but shuffle his feet.

Jon stifled a frown. Whatever was going on, Trip was obviously up to his neck in
it. “Well, carry on with…whatever. We’re heading for the mess hall.”

It took three tries to drag Porthos away from a guilty-looking Trip’s feet, but
finally they continued on.

At long last, the messhall doors were in front of him. He tapped the buttons,
and the door slid smoothly open. The first thing that caught his eyes, as
always, was the wonderful view of the stars just outside. A few seconds later,
the rest of his brain caught up with him and pointed out Hoshi, sitting at a
table a few meters away, eyes wide and nervous and face reddening.

Jon actually turned and looked behind him, trying to figure out what had put
that expression on her face, and when he turned back, she was gathering up a
stack of padds in front of her.

While he was still staring in surprise, she clutched all the padds to her chest
and ran past him, nodding semi-politely as she punched the buttons to leave the
messhall.

Porthos whined, and when Jon looked down, the dog was staring at the door,
apparently astonished that his buddy had left without even saying hello or
patting his head. “Yeah, Porthos, I know how you feel.”

The messhall was empty. Jon frowned as he looked around him; somehow, he’d been
subconsciously expecting everyone acting strangely to be here, but that was
silly. Hoshi had just left (precipitously), Trip was going to his quarters when
last seen, Malcolm was probably doing the same, Travis could easily have gotten
on a turbolift, and Phlox…hey, where *had* Phlox gone?

No sooner had the thought occurred to him, but a sound behind him made him turn,
and Porthos yip happily.

Jon turned to see Phlox leaving the kitchen. The doctor smiled at him. “Captain,
good morning, good morning.”

“Good morning, Doctor.” Jon hesitated. “Look, can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly you may. How can I help you?”

“What are you people *doing*?” The words burst out of Jon.

“I don’t understand,” Phlox said. “Perhaps we should sit down and discuss this.”
And he sat at the nearest table, arms crossed over his stomach.

Jon started to pace back and forth. “Everyone’s acting…weird.”

“Weird? In what way?” Phlox tilted his head.

Jon groaned. “Don’t look at me like I’ve flipped my lid. First, Malcolm was
skulking around, then Travis was lurking in the launch bay, you’re in the
kitchen in the middle of the night, Trip looks guilty of *something*, and Hoshi
ran like a scared rabbit when I came in. Now what is everyone up to?”

“Ah, I believe I can be of some assistance,” Phlox said, grinning widely. “But
if you think there is some shipwide plot, you are mistaken. What you have
encountered is a series of coincidences.”

“But you know what everyone was doing? How?”

“Well, I can’t be certain, but you’d be surprised what the doctor on a starship
can learn, that a captain might not.”

“I wouldn’t want you to break confidence with-”

“Oh no, nothing that I’ve learned while someone was a patient, simply through
careful observation of my fellow crewmembers. For instance, there is the strange
behavior of Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Reed. I believe several members of
the crew could explain that to you if you asked.”

Jon blinked. “Who?”

“Well, Ensign Sato, for one. She mentioned to me just the other day at lunch
that they had been spending a great deal of time together.”

“A great deal of-”

“Yes, I’m fairly certain that the reason they seemed so guilty was they had just
come from some assignation, perhaps-”

“Okay, that’s enough. I get the picture.” Jon sat down heavily in a chair.
“D’you mean Trip and Malcolm have been…carrying on and I didn’t know anything
about it?”

“Well, it is hardly a topic for casual conversation with one’s captain, even if
he *is* a friend,” Phlox said gently.

“I suppose.”

“Well, what about Hoshi? The way she ran out of here, you’d think I was chasing
her.”

“When I entered the messhall, she was planning her latest trick in the ongoing
‘war’ she has with Ensign Mayweather. I believe she was embarrassed because this
particular trick involves impersonating your voice. Just bad timing on your
part.”

“Oh.” Jon tried to decide how he felt about someone impersonating him, then
dismissed the thought. “Then what was Travis doing? Don’t tell me he was
planting some sort of trick in the launch bay, because if that’s true, I’ll have
to put a stop to the whole thing.”

Phlox grinned wider. “No, he’s teaching himself to roller-skate.”

Jon opened his mouth, then realized he had no idea whatsoever what he wanted to
say in response to that statement. He closed his mouth, opened it again, and
very carefully said, “No thank you, I already have a penguin.”

Phlox’s smile dimmed. “I’m sorry, Captain?”

“Never mind. It’s just something I used to say when I encountered something that
made no sense. Roller-skate, you say?” Jon shook his head. “Well, I suppose it’s
marginally safer than rock climbing.” He looked at the doctor. “What were *you*
doing?”

“Oh, Chef was teaching me to cook some of your wonderful Earth foods.” Phlox
beamed.

Jon leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face. “Unbelievable. I had no idea
all of this was going on around me. I can see I’ve been more out of touch than I
thought.”

“Oh, I doubt it’s unusual for a captain, I wouldn’t worry too much.” Phlox’s
smile was probably supposed to be reassuring.

Jon chuckled. “Well, at least Sub-commander T’Pol seems to be safely tucked in
her bed, like a nice rational Vulcan. It’s good to know there are some constants
in the universe.”

Phlox shook his head. “No, I’m fairly certain Lt. Hess is teaching her to juggle
in the gym.”

Jon’s jaw dropped. “Juggle?” he said weakly. “No, never mind. I don’t want to
know.”

–end–

* * * * *

Additional Author’s Note: I have a vague idea that I stole the idea of Travis
learning to roller-skate from someone, but I can’t think who it was. If it was
your story, or you know where it came from, please let me know, as my theft was
purely unintentional!

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