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Relentless

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"I have to say, Travis, I didn't think I'd like that movie."

"It had great explosions."

"The blowing up of that office building was a work of art. Taking out an entire floor so that the building collapses on itself, pure genius."

"I knew you'd like that."

"I've never really been interested in science fiction, but this was truly extraordinary. The way that woman handled a gun, the thousands of rounds of ammunition expended, it was... it was breath-taking."

Travis laughed and Malcolm continued to babble with great animation. He couldn't remember ever seeing Malcolm so ebullient. Travis had to work hard to keep from laughing out loud. He didn't want to discourage the man's enthusiastic conversation.

"I've never really been taken with the idea of artificial intelligence, but the sheer relentlessness of the creatures was astounding. I also liked that the slighter one was the more deadly of the two." Malcolm chuckled. "Now if only I could morph my hands into weapons like that. That would be a real treat."

"But would knives and swords be enough? I'm not sure you'd be happy without the ability to morph into a phase pistol or pulse rifle."

Malcolm stopped and looked thoughtful for a moment. "But it shouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to accomplish that, given the premise of being able to morph limbs in the first place. Granted it's more complicated, but I believe within the context of the universe created in the movie it would be possible."

Travis had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep a straight face. Malcolm was definitely a little demented when it came to mayhem and weapons. In someone with less control it would have been a frightening trait for an armory officer to have. But this was Malcolm, and as much as he loved explosions and weapons, at heart he was a protector not a destroyer.

Malcolm had dropped his head and was lost in thought. Travis used the silence to regain his composure. Even though it was Malcolm's nature to protect, he had no intention of testing the man's ego by laughing at him. An embarrassed Malcolm might become a dangerous Malcolm. Maybe not deadly, but creative in his ability to generate pain. Or worse, he'd withdraw again and become dangerous to himself. Malcolm seemed to have an infinite capacity for self-recrimination.

Travis closed his eyes and took a deep breath and when he opened them again he saw Trip coming up behind Malcolm. Before he could warn either man, Trip touched Malcolm's shoulder and Malcolm whirled around and struck Trip in the face.

The howl from Trip reverberated in the corridor, echoing off the metal walls, seeming loud enough to Travis to carry all the way to the bridge.

Malcolm's surprised cry was almost as loud as Trip's pain-filled howl.

"Oh, God! Trip! I'm so sorry! You startled me!"

Malcolm moved to help Trip, but the engineer stepped back and fended him off. "SHIT! Don't touch me, get away, goddamnit!"

Blood seemed to gush down Trip's face and the front of his uniform. Travis wasn't sure who was more upset by it as both men reacted violently to the sight of the blood.

"Oh, God! Travis, call Phlox!" Malcolm shouted.

"Fuck! I'm bleeding like a goddamn stuck pig. What the hell did you do to me, Malcolm?"

Travis would have called Trip's tone a whine but he knew the man was in pain and more than a little freaked out that he was bleeding so much.

The commotion and hysteria continued until well after he'd managed to get both men to sickbay. Malcolm and Trip had fended off Phlox's efforts to offer either of them sedation, continuing to shout at each other even as the poor doctor tried to assess the damage to Trip's face.

Then the Captain and Porthos showed up and total pandemonium ensued as Porthos began to howl along with Trip's cries of pain and Captain Archer demanded that Malcolm give him an explanation as to how he'd managed to accidentally break the Chief Engineer's nose.

Phlox finally threatened to sedate anyone in sight and Travis fled sickbay to prevent being included in the mass hypospraying of everyone including the dog. He retreated to the mess hall where he found Hoshi drinking hot chocolate and reading over the dictionary of Klingon she'd been working on.

"What's going on? You looked a little... freaked out."

Travis collapsed into a chair and reached for her cup. He took a sip and then handed it back. It wasn't as effective as Andorian ale in calming him, but it would have to do. "I took Malcolm to see the movie tonight."

"So?"

"We were on our way to his quarters when Trip surprised him."

"So?"

Travis snickered. He couldn't help it. The whole thing was just too funny. "Trip startled Malcolm while he was lost in thought about the possibility of being able to morph his hands into phase pistols."

Hoshi looked understandably confused. "Travis, what the hell are you talking about?"

The sound of voices outside the mess hall could be heard and then the door opened. Malcolm and Trip came in side by side, still nearly shouting at one another. Trip's face was bruised and his nose was taped.

"I said I was sorry. You startled me. What do you expect? You startle a man, you have to expect him to react."

"By punching me in the face? Who the hell did you think I was? A goddamn Klingon?"

"I was completely lost in thought and you touched me and I reacted. I've said I'm sorry. I don't know what else you want me to do."

"How 'bout you stand there and let me take a free whack at you?"

Hoshi looked at Travis and smiled. "I see."

"If it would make you feel any better, go ahead."

"What?"

"Hit me."

"You're kidding."

"No, I'm not. If it will make you feel better, hit me. I promise I won't retaliate."

"RETALIATE? I'm the one standing here with a fucking broken nose!"

A hush settled over the mess hall.

For the first time Trip and Malcolm seemed to realize where they were. They blushed and were silent for a moment. Then Trip waved a hand at the room. "Okay, show's over. Go back to what you were doing."

People at least made the pretense of going back to their meals and their drinks. Travis and Hoshi grinned at each other.

"So, do you still want to hit me?" Malcolm's voice was quiet.

Trip looked away, standing with his hands on his hips, and having the air of deep resignation. "No, I don't 'spose so."

"Maybe a drink would help?"

"Phlox said I can't have alcohol with the pain medication."

Travis and Hoshi watched, but tried to do it casually. They didn't want to be caught eavesdropping on the two.

"A cuppa then?"

"A what?"

"A cup of tea. That's what we always called it at home, a cuppa."

"Lord, and you think I talk funny."

Hoshi giggled. Travis clamped a hand over his own mouth to prevent echoing her. Malcolm and Trip turned toward their table and stared. Hoshi held up her cup and smiled.

"Hot chocolate?"

"No, thank you," Trip said.

Malcolm shrugged. "I don't think anything's going to quite do it at the moment."

"And what the hell does that mean?" Trip's voice raised again to near shouting.

The mess hall doors opened and Captain Archer entered. He stopped and stared at his two officers. "You two still at it?"

They both looked embarrassed. Malcolm's dropped his head, staring at the floor. Trip shuffled his feet and stared at the ceiling.

Hoshi cleared her throat and then spoke. "I swung 'round the corner and dashed through the gate, I ran up the steps and I felt simply great! For I had a story that no one could beat! And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street."

The Captain frowned and Malcolm looked confused. Travis saw Trip smile.

"When I leave home to walk to school, Dad always says to me, "Marco keep your eyelids up and see what you can see."

Hoshi laughed out loud. "But when I tell him where I've been and what I think I've seen, he looks at me and sternly says, "Your eyesight's much too keen. Stop telling such outlandish tales. Stop turning minnows into whales."

"Captain, I believe she's gone mad," said Malcolm softly.

Trip shook his head. "No, it's just Dr. Seuss."

"Dr. Who?" asked Travis.

"Dr. Who's British. I know Dr. Who, it's Dr. Seuss I've never heard of," Malcolm said.

Travis laughed, "Well, I've never heard of either one."

Malcolm's face lit up, "You've never heard of Dr. Who? Oh my, the Daleks, the Tardis? How can you not know about Dr. Who?"

"I thought only North American's liked that ridiculous science fiction?"

Malcolm turned to Trip and pushed him away, "I'm talking about a cultural icon, not some ridiculous rockets and ray guns, monsters from Mars thing you North Americans would watch."

"Rockets and ray guns?" Trip's face darkened and his voice lowered dangerously. "You'll notice who it was that actually got us into space. Not some damn Brit, that's for sure!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Captain Archer's voice cut through the beginnings of yet another argument. "I think it's time that both of you head for your quarters."

Both men turned and gaped at him.

"That's an order."

They closed their mouths and started for the door. Captain Archer reached out and stopped Trip. "You go on, Malcolm. I don't want you in the same turbolift."

Malcolm left. As the door hissed shut behind him Captain Archer went to the replicator and ordered a glass of milk. He took the glass and handed it to Trip. "Drink it. That's an order, too."

Trip drank the milk quickly and handed the glass back.

"Maybe that will help you sleep. Quarters. Now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200."

Trip looked a little embarrassed and grinned. "Sorry, Captain."

As the door closed behind Trip, Captain Archer came to the table and sat down with Travis and Hoshi. "I didn't know Trip was a Dr. Seuss type."

Hoshi smiled. "We found out one day when we were both complaining about resequenced scrambled eggs."

"I do not like green eggs and ham?"

"I do not like them, Sam-I-am."

Travis watched the two crack up. He still had no idea who the hell Dr. Seuss was. But he was going to have to check into it. And that Dr. Who person as well.

"Travis, next time you take Malcolm to a movie, try something without so much death and destruction. He has enough of a propensity for that all on his own."

The Captain smiled and got up. "'Night, people."

As soon as the door closed behind him, Hoshi reached across the table and grabbed Travis's hand. "Okay, start at the beginning and don't leave out anything. Just how the hell did Malcolm end up breaking Trip's nose?"

Travis laughed. This was a story that was going to have a long life on board the Enterprise. And he was going to be the sole witness to all of it. Damn he liked being part of history.