"Excuse me, is this man dead?"
The question took him by surprise. It was obvious to the most casual observer that the Klingon was not dead. Still, he'd learned during his time on this planet that often what appeared to be a rhetorical question was not. So he answered. Honestly and completely. "His autonomic system was disrupted by the blast but his redundant neural functions are..."
"Is he going to die?" the human male dressed in casual clothes interrupted, his voice colored with what Phlox interpreted as annoyed impatience.
"Not necessarily." The man in front of him took the words as all he needed to know. He appeared to steel himself and then turned around and left the intensive care unit.
"Let me get this straight..." The man stated before the door snapped shut.
Phlox returned his focus to his patient. Mostly. He was still interested in what he observed to be a very animated discussion on the other side of the observation glass. He'd heard one of his human colleagues state once that they wished to be a "fly on the wall during that conversation." It had struck him as a strange wish but now he finally realized exactly what his colleague had meant.
Four humans and three Vulcans were engaged in discourse and as was true many times, it appeared they were on opposite sides of an argument. Normally he'd take odds on the Vulcans...if he was a betting man. Somehow, he didn't think so this time. That man appeared intense and Phlox could see by the body language that the other humans were leaning toward his argument whatever it may be.
"I'll need another 4 cc's of zentramine, Dr. Nicoson." He'd turned his attention away for only a moment. When he looked out again, he was surprised to see the Vulcans gone and the humans walking off. Except the previously annoyed human. That man knocked on the glass and gestured to him to come out. The man appeared to be annoyed no more. Rather...he looked...determined.
Phlox sat in his favorite booth at his favorite restaurant. His friends - for that's what he now considered the people that ran Madame Wang's - had set him up with his usual dinner. Egg Drop soup, brown steamed rice, and a delightful dish called Happy Family. It was a mixture of seafood, beef, pork and a variety of colorful vegetables all together in a special sauce. The first time he'd had it he'd considered how Denobulan the dish was with all that diversity within one happy family.
He took a moment to savor his choices with anticipation and relish, before considering the events of the day. Within moments he was lost in thought. In fact, it took his waiter, John Chung, to pull him from his revelry by asking, "Are you alright, Dr. Phlox? You don't appear to be enjoying your meal as much as you usually do."
He turned his bright blue eyes to the man. "Oh. Yes. Yes. I'm fine. I've just been considering an offer." He looked down at his plate and realized he must have been eating almost by rote. Most of the meal was gone. "Although I appear to have allowed my musing to deprive my palate it's bliss."
"You did appear quite contemplative."
"I've had a lot to think about. I have to say, the offer is a unique one. One that would allow me to observe humans on a singularly fascinating moment in your history."
"You sound like you wish to accept this offer."
"I do. I believe my skills would be most useful." He paused. "Still, rushing off on the spur of a moment for a week away from my research...I'm just not sure it would be prudent."
"Well, I'm sure you'll make the right decision, Doctor." The waiter smiled before offering, "Of course, you could let your fortune cookie decide your fate."
"Thank you John. Tonight it may be just the thing to push me in the right direction."
At the end of his meal, he took the tan formed cookie out of its wrapper and cracked it open.
The journey of a thousand steps starts with one
Phlox used the coded frequency he'd been given the day before by the man he now knew as Captain Jonathan Archer. When they met outside of the intensive care unit, the man had introduced himself properly. Then Archer had asked him if he would serve as his medical officer while they took the Klingon, back to his home world. He'd later been updated as to the timetable. Four days there and four days back.
The Denobulan had wanted to carry though with Klaang's treatment. After all, it was the first time he'd been able to medically examine a living, breathing Klingon so closely. Usually it was best to keep ones distance from representatives of that species that were animated. Notwithstanding he'd asked for some time to consider the offer. Archer had given him two days. He'd decided in one.
"Archer," the comm link squealed.
"Captain Archer, this is Phlox. The Denobulan physician that you spoke with yesterday?"
"I remember, Dr. Phlox. How's the patient?" The words were spoken professionally but Phlox detected concern.
"Still improving. As I indicated to you, his wounds were not specifically life threatening."
"Good. I need him ready to go when we launch in two days." Archer paused and Phlox wasn't sure the man hadn't changed his mind. The next question answered that query. "Have you decided if you'd like go with us?"
Phlox paused, not sure how Archer was going to take his next request. "I do have to obtain your permission first."
"I asked you." The tone of the words conveyed confusion at the request.
"Yes. You did. But I'm not talking about my decision to go. It's about my biological collection of medically important species."
The confusion still appeared to be affecting the man. "You want to bring animals on board?" It was Archer's turn to pause. "It's only going to be eight days, Dr. Phlox."
"True but there's no one I can leave them with and I don't have time to find someone I trust. They will, of course, all be contained," Phlox explained.
There was another pause as if the man was considering the request. "Yeah. I'll have Porthos with me; I guess it wouldn't hurt to have a few more non-sentient species along." There was one more pause. "They are non-sentient, right?"
Phlox wasn't sure what a porthos was but couldn't keep from smiling. "Yes, Captain. They are indeed non-sentient." He was beginning to like this man who wasn't afraid to speak his mind. "If you have no objections then, I'll let Starfleet Medical know I'll be joining Enterprise for its maiden voyage."
"I'll be glad to have you with us, Doctor. See you on the ship. I'll let logistics know you'll be coming on board. Archer out."
Phlox stood where he was for a moment thinking of the ramifications of his decision. "Well, like they say, the first step is the hardest." He considered that Feezal, his second wife, would be pleased with him for taking the bold step into his future. He turned to get everything together, eight days or not. Somehow, though, he had a feeling it could be much longer.