Starfleet required all personnel to have annual physical examinations, so why some members of the Enterprise crew persisted, year after year, in the same outrageous behavior was beyond Doctor Phlox's comprehension. He shook his head as he perused the list of those still to be examined. There were only five he had yet to see this year, and all of them were members of the senior staff. What kind of example did those officers think they were setting? At the very least, he would have thought they would have learned by now that he didn't give up easily.
Commander T'Pol was the only senior officer who had acquiesced gracefully, and at the scheduled time. A Vulcan, she logically understood the necessity of being in good health. T'Pol had her own reasons to have her health checked regularly which, Phlox had to admit, might have something to do with her ready compliance. An addiction to trellium D, an episode of premature pon farr, and a case of Pa'nar Syndrome, which fortunately had been cured, would make any Vulcan, well, not nervous, but reasonably concerned.
But the other senior officers...
Phlox wasn't put off by their stubbornness. He had come to think of this annual event as a challenge, a game of sorts in which he and the officers engaged. That's not to say he wouldn't pull rank as Chief Medical Officer if necessary, but he considered these people his friends. He didn't want to hurt their feelings. So he often resorted to tricking them into taking their examinations. He decided to start with the two most junior officers. They were easier to intimidate.
Phlox strolled out of the turbolift and onto the bridge to find all his opponents...er, patients...there. Captain Archer was seated in his command chair. Ensign Mayweather was at the helm directly in front of the captain. Off to Phlox's left, past T'Pol at the science station, Ensign Sato was at communications. To Phlox's right, Commander Tucker was standing by the engineering auxiliary control panel, and beyond him was Lieutenant Reed at tactical.
All of them except T'Pol looked apprehensively at him as he stood outside the turbolift and surveyed the bridge. They must suspect why he was there, for he rarely visited the bridge without a reason. He was determined that at least one of them wasn't going to get away from him this time, but they had to be wondering which one. Phlox smiled widely. He savored the feeling of being in control of their immediate destinies. Sometimes the power that came with being the CMO made him almost giddy.
"Captain," Phlox said genially, "I was wondering if I could borrow Ensigns Sato and Mayweather for a few hours."
Archer's expression of relief, quickly masked, didn't go unnoticed by Phlox, who also detected similar reactions from Tucker and Reed.
Mayweather swiveled around in his chair to look at Archer in dismay. "But, sir! It's the middle of my shift!"
"Me too, Captain," Sato put in anxiously.
"I'm still working the bugs out of the navigation upgrade--" Mayweather started, only to be overridden by Sato who said loudly, "I was going to start a major diagnostic on the communications booster system. It will take--"
Archer lifted a hand to silence them. "I'm sure we can get along just fine without both of you for a short time. Go."
Phlox's smile grew larger. He'd bagged two officers with one ploy. While he hadn't specifically asked the captain to order the ensigns to go with him, the hierarchy of a semi-military organization had worked in his favor. "Come along," he told them. "I have everything ready for you in sickbay."
"That's what I'm afraid of," Mayweather muttered as he got to his feet.
Sato didn't say anything. She trudged to the turbolift with a look of martyred suffering on her face.
Phlox followed them into the turbolift, where he stood between them and the controls as the door closed. They weren't going to get away this time.
The physicals for Mayweather and Sato went well, although they took longer than they should have. Mayweather protested every test, constantly worrying out loud about getting back to the bridge. Sato, on the other hand, moved as slowly as possible. Phlox couldn't recall ever seeing someone take a full minute to roll up a sleeve so he could take a blood sample.
He would have thought they'd have enjoyed a break from their routines. Humans often experienced boredom when they did the same thing over and over, and these physicals were definitely a break in their day-to-day schedules. But, just when he least expected it, humans would act unpredictably. That was one of the reasons he enjoyed working with them so much.
Also as he expected, both ensigns were in good health. "Now, that wasn't so bad, was it? Hmmm?" he asked as he began inputting the results into the medical computer.
"There are worse things, I suppose," Mayweather said with a small smile.
"None of which come to mind right now," Sato added with a straight face, but Phlox saw a twinkle in her eye. She apparently enjoyed this annual game almost as much as he did, although he knew she wouldn't admit it.
As the pair hurried out of sickbay, Phlox's thoughts turned to his next victim...er, patient. He'd already decided to leave the captain for last. Not that he hadn't tried to get Archer into sickbay already. He'd appealed to the captain's common sense, pointing out that he should set an example for the crew. Archer had countered by saying that, in certain circumstances, it was the captain's duty to be last, such as when a ship has to be abandoned. Archer had quickly walked away before Phlox, flummoxed by his reasoning, had been able to come up with a suitable response. No matter. Phlox had already set a plan in motion to gain the captain's cooperation. Another day or two, and it should come to fruition.
Commander Tucker would be next, Phlox decided. He would be easier to coerce into taking his exam than Mister Reed. The tactical officer had an aversion to sickbay that Phlox couldn't understand. Surely it wasn't his company.
Whatever, Phlox thought with a shrug. He'd already determined his plan of attack to obtain Tucker's cooperation.
"Keep an eye on that plasma regulator," Tucker ordered one of his engineering staff. "It's been giving some funny readings."
Tucker looked around main engineering as he walked to his work table. Except for the glitch in the regulator, everything was running like clockwork. At the work station, he called up the latest set of performance specs. He had an idea about how to increase the warp engine's efficiency by a full two percent.
He became so engrossed in what he was doing that he jumped when a hand touched his arm. He spun around in surprise. "Doc! You about gave me a heart attack!"
"Just one more reason why you should come to sickbay for your physical," Phlox said agreeably. "I'll give that organ a thorough check."
Tucker frowned. "Aw, Doc! Can't you see that I'm busy?"
"No busier than anyone else on board," Phlox countered, "the majority of whom have had their physicals."
"But I'm right in the middle of something!"
Phlox settled himself with his arms crossed over his chest. "I can wait."
"Don't you have anything else to do?" Tucker asked.
"No," Phlox replied.
"Well, I do." Tucker walked over to the warp control platform. He climbed the ladder and, when he reached the top, turned his back on the doctor and began pushing buttons on the controls.
"I'll stay out of your way until you are finished," Phlox called up to him.
Tucker's shoulders slumped. He turned to look down at Phlox. "My most important duty is to make sure this engine is operating properly. I don't have time to take a physical right now."
Phlox nodded sagely. "Surely then, Commander, you can appreciate that my most important duty is to make sure everyone on board this ship is operating properly. That includes you. I am prepared to wait here all day, and the next, if necessary, until you finish your work, because the health of the chief engineer is essential to the operation of this ship." He chuckled as he took a data padd from a pocket. "I'm not due for my hibernation cycle for several months. I've come prepared. I have some reports to review while I wait."
Tucker stared at him for a long moment, then shook his head and climbed down the ladder. "I never thought of it that way -- making sure the people on board are as fine-tuned as the engine. I guess I can't argue with you when you put it that way." As they headed for the exit, Tucker asked, "Just how much time have you been spending with T'Pol, anyway? She seems to be rubbin' off on you."
In contrast to the foot-dragging ensigns, Tucker's examination went quickly. The engineer seemed inclined to do all he could to make sure he spent as little time as possible in sickbay. Who would have thought that their sometimes highly emotional chief engineer could be persuaded by logic? Phlox didn't deceive himself, however; he knew the commander didn't want him hanging around engineering all day, and the logic of Phlox's reasoning had provided the engineer with a way to give in gracefully.
Phlox's mind turned to the next person on his list. Sneaking up behind Lieutenant Reed, like he had with Commander Tucker, wasn't a good idea since the man had incredibly fast reflexes, and Phlox might wind up treating himself for injuries incurred in the process. An appeal to the man's logic probably wouldn't work, either. Short of asking the captain to order Reed to take his exam, there was only one way Phlox could think of to get him to cooperate.
He'd have to threaten him.
After a quick consultation with Chef, Phlox timed his arrival in the mess hall to coincide with Reed's. He waited until Reed had picked out his food and then invited himself to sit with the tactical officer. Reed was wary at first, perhaps suspecting Phlox's motive, but since the doctor didn't bring up the subject of physicals while they ate, he gradually relaxed.
Reed had finished his meal and had just taken the first bite of dessert when Phlox said, "It's a pity you won't be able to eat that after today."
Reed looked at him quizzically, the next forkful of pineapple upside-down cake inches from his mouth. "What do you mean?"
"You're due for your allergy shot. Without it, you have a terrible reaction to the bromelin in pineapple."
"I know that," Reed said. He put the piece of cake in his mouth. After swallowing, he said, "I intend to stop by sickbay tomorrow and get it."
"But I'm not going to give it to you," Phlox said.
The other man frowned. "Are you out of my allergy medication?"
Reed leaned back in his chair. "Then what's the problem?"
"I'm not going to give you your allergy shot until you do something for me."
A crafty look came into Reed's eyes. "Who do you want me to kill?"
Phlox laughed. He'd been right -- the lieutenant was going to go down fighting. Reed knew what he really wanted, and his question about killing someone had only been a playful insinuation that he wasn't going to cooperate willingly. Then again, Phlox thought as Reed continued to gaze unblinkingly at him, it could be a veiled threat that he'd kill Phlox if he didn't get the shot. Phlox's smile faded under the onslaught of Reed's unrelenting stare. No, he told himself, Reed wouldn't go that far. Besides, there was no way he could get away with it. Where would Reed hide his body on a starship?
He couldn't afford to let Reed know he'd been rattled. He stared back and said in his sternest, no-nonsense tone, "You have to have your physical before I give you the allergy shot."
Reed raised an eyebrow. "Isn't it unethical to withhold treatment?"
"Perhaps on your world," Phlox shot back, "but Denobulan physicians have developed strategies to deal with recalcitrant patients."
Reed finally blinked. "I do seem to recall you saying, while treating my leg after I'd been impaled by that Romulan mine, that it's unethical to harm a patient, but that you personally can inflict as much pain as you like."
"Exactly. And if it takes depriving you of something you like in order to ensure your cooperation, that's a small price you'll have to pay." Phlox allowed himself to smile hugely" "Pineapple is not essential to your health, so I have no problem depriving you of it."
Reed hesitated, possibly considering how often pineapple was available on board and how difficult it would be to not eat it if he wasn't up to date with his allergy medication.
Phlox delivered the coup de grace. "I hear that Chef is planning to have ham with pineapple slices on the menu tomorrow."
"All right, Doctor," Reed conceded grudgingly. "First thing tomorrow, I'll be in sickbay."
True to his word, Reed reported to sickbay the next morning. The exam proceeded smoothly, except for the usual complaints from the lieutenant. At the conclusion of the exam, Reed received his allergy shot. When he left sickbay, both he and Phlox were satisfied to have achieved what they wanted.
Phlox had barely finished recording Reed's test results -- all excellent but for that nagging allergy condition, but that could be controlled with medication -- when he heard the sickbay doors slide open. He looked up to see Captain Archer, Porthos at his heels. By Phlox's calculations, the captain shouldn't have put in an appearance until that evening.
"Is there something I can do for you, Captain?" Phlox asked.
"I hate to bother you," Archer began, "but Porthos seems to be having a little...problem."
Phlox asked innocently, "Oh?" He looked down at the beagle, who seemed his usual good-natured self. The dog's eyes were bright and his tail was wagging. As far as behavior went, Porthos was one of his better patients. Phlox felt a twinge of guilt for using the dog this way, but it was for his master's own good, and no harm would come to Porthos because of Phlox's little deception.
"He seems to be having some trouble with..." Archer trailed off.
"With...?" Phlox prompted.
His plan had worked, Phlox thought delightedly. But to see it through, he couldn't show any sign that he'd maneuvered the captain into this position. He managed a frown and asked, "You haven't been feeding him cheese again, have you?"
"No!" Archer protested, holding up his hands. "Just the opposite. I've kept him on a strict diet since last week, when I started him on the new dog food you formulated for him." At Phlox's dubious expression, he admitted, "Well, just a couple of pieces of cheese. Small pieces. Last night, when I had a snack."
That explained the captain's early arrival in sickbay. Phlox had reformulated Porthos's food to produce intestinal gas -- nothing harmful, and more distressing to those in the vicinity than it was to the dog -- knowing that the captain would bring his canine companion to sickbay to be checked. The fact that Archer had given Porthos some of the forbidden treat, with its well-known side effect, had only speeded the process.
Archer paced a few steps. "T'Pol was supposed to have breakfast with me this morning," he said, "but she only took two steps into my dining room when she noticed the smell and had to leave. She said it eradicated her appetite."
"I take it Porthos was with you in your private mess," Phlox said.
Archer glared at the doctor. "What do you think?"
"Vulcan females do have a highly developed sense of smell," Phlox reminded him, "and since T'Pol claims that she's become somewhat accustomed to the smell of humans, it must have been a particularly virulent episode on Porthos's part."
"Even some of the crew noticed," Archer said. "When I was bringing Porthos here, several of them gave us funny looks, and stayed on the far side of the corridor from us. But really, it wasn't that bad!"
"It's been proven that the humans can become used to offensive odors over time. That's probably what is happening in your case." Phlox bustled over to a cabinet. "I have something that will calm Porthos's symptoms, but I warn you again, Captain: No more cheese."
"You're right, Doctor," Archer agreed. "No more cheese."
"And I want to check you as well, Captain," Phlox said as he bent over and administered a hypospray to Porthos. The dog didn't seem to mind. Phlox patted the friendly creature on the head. He straightened up and, seeing a look of confusion on Archer's face, explained, "There may be something wrong with your olfactory organs if Porthos's little problem didn't seem that bad to you."
"But you just said I might be used to it!"
"Yes, I did, but I would be remiss if I didn't check to make certain that is the case." He pointed to a biobed. "Have a seat. This won't take but a moment."
Archer walked over to the bed and sat down. Phlox pulled the medical scanner he always carried from a pocket on his tunic and activated it. Holding it near Archer's face, he looked at the readout. As he expected, the captain's odor-sensing organs were fine, but Phlox wasn't going to let him know that just yet.
"As long as you're here," he said, "we can do your physical. Why don't you lie back so I can get some readings from the bed's monitors?"
"Aw, Doctor," said Archer.
"Be honest, Captain. Do you really have any pressing duties right now?" Phlox asked. He turned off the scanner and waited.
After a few moments, Archer said, "Well, no, but--"
Just as he'd formulated Porthos's dog food for a desired result, Phlox had also formulated several arguments, all aimed at gaining the captain's cooperation. "You told me that in some cases, it is the captain's duty to be last, once the welfare of his crew is taken care of. Well, every single member of this crew, from Commander T'Pol down to Crewman Yamato in the ship's laundry, has had their physical. They all passed, by the way."
Archer didn't say anything. He just looked at Phlox, who could tell that the captain was trying to come up with a way to wiggle out of his physical. Phlox moved on to his second argument: quoting regulations.
"I am required to have a complete set of results to send to Starfleet," Phlox told him. "It's very definitely outlined in Starfleet's guidelines for CMOs. How would it look if I was missing one, and the captain's at that? Hmmm?"
"Well..." Archer seemed to be giving in, but there was still a stubborn set to his jaw.
"Do it for Porthos," Phlox urged him, going for broke and using the emotional argument that he thought had the most chance of success. "What if you've developed some terrible condition or have contracted some strange disease? A physical could bring it to light in time to treat it before it was too late." Phlox realized he was laying it on a little thick, but he was determined to pull out all the stops to get the captain's cooperation. "What would Porthos think if you were suddenly no longer here? Hmmm?"
Archer sat up straighter. "Do you really think I could have some strange, possibly fatal condition?" he asked in alarm.
Phlox hadn't lied so far, and he wasn't about to start now. "No, I don't." When Archer made to slide off the bed, Phlox moved to stand directly in front of him, keeping him in place. "But we're in space. There are countless unknown things out here. Isn't it an old Earth tradition to be better safe than sorry?"
Archer drew a deep breath that, judging by the look in the man's eyes, was an indication that he was about to launch into a rebuttal. Before the captain could speak, Phlox said seriously, "If you won't do it for Porthos, Captain, do it for me. I'd never forgive myself if something happened to you because I was lax in my duties and didn't insist that you take your physical."
Archer considered him for a moment, then smiled wryly and raised his hands in surrender. "Well, when you put it that way, Doctor..." He lay back on the biobed. "Although it does sound a little bit like emotional blackmail."
Whatever works, Phlox thought happily. Once again, he'd come out the winner in this annual battle of wits. In a matter of an hour or so, he'd be done with these physicals for another year.
"Just let me get the equipment," Phlox said.
He hurried over to the counter to gather the testing paraphernalia before the captain could change his mind. On his way back, he tossed a treat -- the non-indigestion producing kind -- to Porthos. The dog deserved it.
As an afterthought, Phlox tossed one in his mouth as well. He deserved it too.