After escaping Burns and depositing Counselor Mulcahy a couple of decks later, the turbolift finally arrived in engineering. As with most medical ships, the engineering section was fairly small and manned by only a handful of personnel. At the center of it all rose a narrow matter/antimatter intermix chamber flanked by a main situation console. Judging by the animated discussion coming from the man and woman standing at that console, Porter concluded these were the people he was looking for.
"I've tried that, Commander," the man was saying. He had a fairly dark complexion, most likely of some Arabic origin, but his most striking feature was his nose. Porter was surprised that an appendage that large didn't require its own anti-grav unit to stay attached to the man's face.
The woman was blonde and barking orders, just as Potter said she would be. "Then try realigning the warp coils, Klinger. And this time do it yourself instead of sending Rizzo!"
"It won't help. I'm telling you, nothing is wrong with the coils."
"Probably not," Porter said, interjecting himself into the conversation.
"See," Klinger said.
"And who the hell are you?" the woman demanded.
"Lieutenant Porter. One of your patients. I came to see if I could lend a hand."
"Lieutenant Max Klinger. I can't tell you how relieved I am to see you," Klinger said, shaking Porter's hand warmly. "Madam Charming here is Commander Margaret Houlihan."
"I'm the M*A*S*H's first officer," Houlihan said with barely a glance in Porter's direction. Instead, her glare was locked on Klinger. "And you would do well to remember that, Mister."
"Can I see the data on the problem?" Porter asked.
"Gladly," Klinger said, bending down and picking up one of the padds scattered on the floor of engineering. As he stood up, he winced. "God, I should not have worn hose today."
"What?" Porter asked.
"Don't ask," Houlihan said, snatching the padd from Klinger, who was deep in extricating the pantyhose from his rear end. She handed the padd to Porter. "That's the whole story, but I don't know what you expect to find."
"Probably nothing, like I said," Porter replied. He had a hunch. Even with only a few engineers on board, if there was a problem with the engines themselves, someone should have found it...unless they were completely incompetent. And, with the bickering and pranks he'd seen so far, Porter had to admit that, in some ways, these people did border on Second prize status.
He scanned through the reports on the padd quickly, checking for things that could be considered out of the ordinary. Satisfied that the engines were fine, Porter decided to try another avenue.
"May I?" he asked, gesturing to the main status panel.
"Be my guest," Houlihan said, stepping aside so Porter could get to work. He pulled up the ship's sensor feed and started checking on that hunch.
"So, is there a Mister Beck whose existence I should be blissfully ignoring?" Hawkeye asked as he sat across from Beck at one of the tables in the small mess hall.
"Not anymore," Beck replied after swallowing a bite of her oatmeal. She'd decided to take it easy on her stomach for the first meal after surgery. Besides, the replicator didn't have anything Andorian.
"What was he like...when he was around?"
"My father," Beck said.
"Well, they say we all marry our parents."
"No, he actually was my father. I've never been married. You just asked about Mister Becks."
Hawkeye smiled. "I see that I need to be much more direct in my romantic inquiries."
"Oh, you were making one?" Beck asked innocently.
"You wound me to the quick."
"Why is this all about me? What about you? What sort of place produces the great Hawkeye Pierce?"
"I'm just a simple small-town boy from Maine," Hawkeye replied.
"Would I be here with you if I was?"
"I think so," Beck said.
"You could be right, but no. I'm am unfettered by any serious relationship entanglements."
"That makes two of us," Beck said.
"PIERCE!" a voice shouted from across the mess hall, completely spoiling the moment. Beck's head turned to see a man storming towards their table. He appeared to be currently encased in some sort of green substance.
"Good morning, Frank. Did you do something different with your hair?"
"What is this?" Frank Burns demanded, pulling futilely at the gook covering his head. "Ow!" he cried after dislodging a bit of his hair in the process.
"I'm not sure, but if you need an appointment, I could see you later this afternoon." Hawkeye looked back at Beck. "Or maybe we should make that tomorrow afternoon."
"Very funny," Burns snapped. "You did something to my shower. I just know it."
"You're sure you just didn't accidentally use Margaret's shampoo?"
Burns thought for a moment. "It was my sonic shower. You rigged it to beam something on me, you...disgrace to the uniform!"
"That's why I never wear it," Hawkeye replied. "Besides, you wouldn't believe the chafing."
"Potter's going to hear about this!" Burns shouted, turning on his heel to go.
"You might want to get a shower first," Hawkeye said. "Looks like you've got a little something on you." He turned his attention back to Beck as Burns stormed out of the room.
"Should I even ask?" Beck said.
"Just showing my appreciation for a colleague."
"I hope you never appreciate me that much."
"Believe me, my appreciation for you would take an entirely different form."
"You certainly don't waste time."
"It's a fast-paced galaxy. I'm just trying to keep up."
"Guess I need to run a little faster then," Beck said. She had to admit that Hawkeye was charming. And she hadn't been pursued like this for a long time. So, nothing would come of it. That was no reason not to play the game.
Without warning, she rose from the table and strode out of the room, tossing a glance over her shoulder at Hawkeye as she went.
Let the chase begin.