[USS Charon, Deck Eight, Science Lab Three]
"Alright Ria, one more time, from the top."
"Or that, Ma'am. Or that."
Stroking her whiskers in helpless confusion, M'Riarr stared at the screen as if that alone could force it to make sense. Alright, so, a big star was about to go boom. But as far as the Caitian knew you could outrun that with warp and not even break a sweat. So why was Nils making such a fuss?
"Are you listening?"
"Si. But is no explain why you need engineer."
"I'll get to that soon as Ria stops looking at me like a kitty who lost her wool."
Maybe he should have just called it a night after his Caitian friend had set fire to Eris deck. Or at least left that last glass of moonshine be. The last ten glasses. But there was no helping it, even if his skull felt like it was lined with fuzz and his tongue seemed to have grown fur over night. Well, considering where he had woken up that fur might not even be his.
"We want to be as close as possible to get the best reading we can but that only means we'll have to be able to make a run for it before the Captain even finished saying it. So, I'll need you ladies to figure out how we can pull this off, what with all this fancy radiation already messing with our systems."
"Ah, si. Ma is no problema, ragazzo. You look."
Circumnavigating a gigantic mass of fur and muscles, the Italian woman tapped at a console and brought up engine schematics. "Is flying bellissima. You say when, ship will pull off."
"But if the comm syssstem is thrrrrrowing a hiccup and you can't hearrrr me sssay when?"
"Then we do have a problem." Nils nodded and then wished he hadn't.
"Not forrrr long, though."
"Thanks for that piece of good cheer, Ria."
"Just looking at the brrright side, Nils."
"You bambini no need engineer but brain not swimming in grappa."
The hand connecting with the back of his head nearly made the young human topple over but he just so managed to grab hold of a chair and keep his red-rimmed eyes on the panel.
"Is like Defiant when fly broken. One person on bridge, talking to engineer. Direttamente. He say go, we go. Avanti."
"Defiant?" If M'Riarr had looked puzzled before, she was now the perfect image of a lioness stranded in Antarctica.
"Long time ago, Ria. Before either of us was born. But you know, this might actually work. We just need "
"You read my mind."
Lucia's face made it abundantly clear that right now or ever that wasn't such a horribly difficult task but she was too polite to mention that. Instead, she tapped her comm badge after another disapproving look at the star that had the nerve to go nova and throw the entire ship into such disarray "Marcello. Is Espresso done?"
"Ahhhh is done, amore." A disembodied voice that sounded worried enough to make M'Riarr's ears twitch answered over the open channel "Is only a little problem with signore Grax."
"Don't tell me. He's hung over, too?" Giving a weak smile, Nils waved at M'Riarr to please stop purring.
"Is hanging over in bathroom, si."
"Remind me to ask next time what that booze is made of before I drink it."
"Like that is going to make a differrrrence."
This time, it took only a long look from Lucia to make a huge Caitian try to look small and insignificant.
"Is not only signore Grax." The Italian woman looked thoughtful, taping absentmindedly against the back of a chair "Signora Kathris not drinking but sickbay dottore e molto worried."
Of course it had to have been Lucia and her beloved who found the unconscious Betazoid Commander and carry her to sickbay for the second time in only four months. And what they had found there had been a smattering of pointy ears and black eyes fussed over by harried looking nurses and doctors.
"You don't suppose we have a weird virus or something on board?"
"And wherrrre would that have come from, Nils?"
Marcello's voice interrupted, or in fact the entire Italian strolling into the lab balancing a tray that to Nils smelled like heaven itself "Is here, amore. Espresso e cookies. Va bene, eh?"
"How is Merl?"
"Hanging over biobed in sickbay now."
"You know Marrcello, they should really give you a rrraise."
"Grazie, signorina. But am tall enough."
"That was a joke, right?" Nursing the hot, aromatic beverage the young scientist managed to look back at the screen without squinting for the first time this morning.
"So, that only leaves the question how do I explain to Mr Skon that I solved the problem he told me to fix but I have no idea what the engineers said?"
"I can explain forrr you." M'Riarr's luminescent eyes twinkled with amusement and she couldn't help but ruffle her friend's hair with a friendly paw.
"You saying you understood that?"
"Mrow no. Not rrreally. But half the time people don't follow what I'm talking about even when I know exactly what I'm saying. Mew." Snickering in that half purr half sneeze way of hers, the Caitian cheerfully twisted her ears "So the nice Vulcan will expect me to make no sense."
"You're a sweetheart, Ria. But I think the man has enough problems already."
"Suit yourrrself. Mr Marrrrcello, what arre you doing?"
The dark haired human had stopped rubbing the stubble on his chin and moved closer to the screen where a blazing star shone next to readings scrolling in an endless stream over a dark surface.
"Eh? Not sure, signorina. Is looking very what is word? Alive, radiation. Ecco."
Grabbing his third Espresso, Nils joined the deeply thoughtful engineer at the console and started tapping at the indicated readings.
No, not alive but funny. Weird.
"You know I could be wrong but this stuff might be what is throwing our telepaths for a loop."
"It looks close enough to Betazoid telepathic brainwave patterns so they can 'hear' it. Sort of. And it's not the radiation, it's alright, I'll have to bring in an exobiologist on this one. And maybe a doc or two. Hey, anyone seen Robert?"
"Is eating pancakes in Eris Deck signore Tisdale."
"Will tell him to help pronto." Marcello gave a cheerful wave and picked up his toolkit that among engineers was known as the ultimate survival kit for the Starfleet enlisted man, for in its sheer bottomless depths one could find tools for any imaginable emergency from a broken power conduit to a sudden famine or a first date.
Watching her husband stroll back out into the bustling corridor, Lucia snorted once more at the console and then nodded towards the scientist who seemed to have all but forgotten about his hangover or maybe it had been the fourth Espresso that had him look like he would bounce of the bulkheads any minute now "Will speak to Chief, si? You send data to engineering."
"Si. I mean yes."
"Sssso ." Looking a bit lost alone with a busy Nils in the science lab and still with hours until her shift, M'Riarr decided to curl up on a convenient table "You mind if I take a nap?"
"Nah. But if Robert takes that chance to paint your ears green again, don't blame me."
PO3 Nils Olafsson
Lucia é Marcello