Enterprise is officially launched from Spacedock and heads to Vulcan. We meet this universe's Malcolm Reed and T'Pol, and T'Pol has to deal with some unpleasant, unfinished business before Enterprise's arrival.
January 17, 2151
The Enterprise bridge was a hive of activity. Voices floated from multiple comm circuits as people checked, double-checked and triple-checked procedures. Commander Travis Mayweather sat in the center seat and listened to it all:
“Weapons systems check: hull polarization.” “Normal.” “Armory Status?” “Code Yellow.”
“...I’m still waiting on those last batches of gelpacks. We need everything accounted for...I don’t want to hand over an unprepared Sickbay to Doctor Reed. Yes, this is Lieutenant Cutler again. Cargo Bay Two? Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’m on my way down.”
“Sorry, but those UT modules are going to have to be installed in-transit. I think Lieutenant Commander Archer has a few modifications he wants to do on his own...”
“Energy flow to the impulse engines are on stand-by. It appears to be working as the schematics showed. As soon as we clear the Sol system, there are a few upgrades I want to implement...”
Travis chuckled at Chief Engineer Phlox’s last remark. He could imagine the groans of his Engineering crew. They’d spent the better part of a week going over every connection and circuit to the impulse engines. Phlox enjoyed “implementing” his new ideas; sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. It seemed the Denobulan channeled his enthusiasm into improvements even before the original system tested green.
He glanced over his shoulder at Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker. The new Armory Officer went down his list with efficiency, checking with his team in the Armory. Tucker caught Travis’s scrutiny and gave the First Officer a quirky grin. Although he’d only been on board for a day and a half, he’d thrown himself into his new duties with almost reckless abandon.
“All set, Lieutenant Commander?” Travis asked him.
“All set, Commander Mayweather,” Trip answered and gave Travis a thumbs-up. Travis returned it just as the lift doors behind him hissed open. The entire Bridge crew paused and snapped to attention as Captain Sato walked out of the lift, followed by Lieutenant Commander Archer. Travis swiveled around in his chair and stood up.
“Cap’n on the bridge,” announced Trip.
“At ease, people,” Hoshi said. “Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”
“Yes, ma’am!” came the excited response from all sides. Jonathan and Trip exchanged huge grins; Travis had heard the two knew each other before this assignment and there was already a warm rapport between the two. Jonathan Archer was taller than Travis was and at least ten years older. He wondered how Hoshi had convinced him to join the crew at such short notice.
“Everyone, I’d like to introduce our new Communications Officer, Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Archer.” Hoshi glanced sideways at Jon, who nodded in response. “Commander Archer, man your station, please.”
“Yes, Captain,” Jon said and strode across the bridge to the comm station. The crewman there slid out of the seat. He was about to leave when Jon motioned for him to stay. “I might need your assistance, Crewman. Please stay.”
The crewman had a surprised expression, but he replied, “Yes, sir.”
Hoshi eased into the command chair as Travis assumed the science station on the upper deck. She glanced at the chronometer; it showed 0:10. Ten minutes until launch.
“All departments, final check,” she said. “Sciences?”
“On station,” Travis answered.
“All ready here.” That came from Trip.
“Ready, Captain,” replied Chief Engineer Phlox through the comm.
Ensign Dougherty, the Beta shift helmsman, nodded in response. “Ready, ma’am.”
“All ready,” Jon replied.
The voice of Lieutenant Elizabeth Cutler echoed on the speaker. “We’re ready as we’ll be, Captain.”
Hoshi went down the rest of the list and every station reported their status. At the end, she nodded at Jon to open the channel to Spacedock. “Spacedock, this is Enterprise. Ship’s status ready.”
The tinny voice answered, “Enterprise, Spacedock acknowledges. Status green for launch, repeat status green. All’s a go.”
Hoshi took a deep breath and exchanged looks with all of her bridge crew. She looked at Travis, who smiled in reassurance. There was a look of excitement in her eyes that belied the confidence in her face, mixed with eagerness and fear. He knew he had the same expression on his own face.
“May the wind be at our backs, ladies and gentlemen,” Hoshi said. She nodded once, then said, “Controller, permission to leave Spacedock.”
“Permission granted, Enterprise. Good luck, Captain Sato.”
“Thank you, Spacedock Control. Enterprise, out.” Hoshi nodded at the helmsman. “Take us out, Ensign Dougherty.”
Dougherty grinned and answered, “Yes, ma’am.”
Cheers and applause thundered over Spacedock as Enterprise sailed clear of Spacedock. Construction workers in EVA suits waved as the starship went by them. In the observation room, Admiral Max Forrest clapped his hands in grateful relief. Hoshi Sato had achieved the impossible and had convinced Jonathan Archer to sign on as her communications officer. He glanced at Ambassador Soval. The Vulcan’s face was as impassive as ever. Forrest wondered how Soval was feeling after losing such a talented diplomat to Starfleet. Soval had insisted on attending the launch ceremony; in fact, he had brought Vulcan’s respects and congratulations. Forrest suspected that he was proud of Archer’s appointment, but of course, Soval would never admit it aloud.
The admiral drew his attention to the man who stood alone at the viewport with his hand on the cold duraglass. Captain Matthew Hayes gazed out as the Enterprise pulled away from Spacedock and Earth. Forrest sighed inwardly. Hayes was a good man and a good commanding officer, but he had one weakness and that was Hoshi Sato. Forrest was glad the two were on different ships, for Hayes had to learn to let her go.
If anything ever happens to her, it would tear him apart, Forrest thought, not unkindly. And if Hoshi ever found anyone else to love, he would be devastated. Good that she’s apart from him for a while. They need that separation. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. If not, better he finds out now than later.
Forrest thought he heard Hayes whisper, “Fair journey, Hoshi.”
Enterprise headed towards Vulcan at a steady Warp 2. Hoshi called a meeting of all available senior staff in her Ready Room. She greeted each person as they entered the Ready Room: Travis, Trip, Jon and Phlox. Lieutenant Liz Cutler filled in for Doctor Malcolm Reed and Ensign D’Agostino for Lieutenant T’Pol, since both Reed and T’Pol were still on Vulcan.
“Our original mission was to join both Columbia and the Vulcan High Command’s ships for joint training maneuvers in the Epsilon Eridani system. With the mix-up in crew rosters, it means that Columbia will be significantly delayed because Captain Hayes needs to divert to Altair to pick up his remaining crew. Our new orders are to escort a Vulcan archaeological team to the Beta Polaris system. Doctor T’Marui will be heading that mission, but she has requested Commander Mayweather’s assistance.”
Travis glanced at her in surprise. “Doctor T’Marui is one of their leading archaeologists, Captain. I’m a little surprised she would ask for our help.”
“I don’t know all the details, but apparently Beta Polaris might be the site of one of their earliest colonies. The Vulcan Science Academy recently received permission to excavate several sites there.” Hoshi grinned at Jon. “If their estimates are correct, we might be dealing with a language that’s even older than Old High Vulcan.”
Phlox’s smile was wide, even for a Denobulan. “Just say the word, Captain, and Enterprise will take you wherever you need to go.”
“Thank you, Commander Phlox.” She nodded at Trip. “Security’s a priority, since Beta Polaris is close to our current border. We don’t know what lies beyond that system..yet. The Security Ministry wants to coordinate with you, Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
“Sure. Just one thing, Cap’n. Why are the Vulcans so eager to cooperate with us?” Trip’s voice held only curiosity, no anger. “I don’t ever recall ‘em wantin’ Starfleet so close to one of their projects.”
“Let’s just say they want to show a spirit of cooperation,” Hoshi replied. “I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, Trip.” A sharp whine interrupted her and she pressed the communications button. “Sato.”
“Incoming message for you, Captain,” replied Ensign Murdo, Jon’s second-in-command. “It’s from Shi’Kahr, Vulcan. Priority One from Doctor T’Les.”
Travis exchanged frowns with Trip. Doctor T’Les was the head of the Science Academy, so the message was probably about their upcoming mission. Are they gonna change our mission parameters again? Travis wondered. This is getting old.
“I’ll take it in here, Ensign Murdo.” Hoshi glanced around the table one last time. “We’re due to arrive at Vulcan in two days and I want us to be prepared for anything. Coordinate shifts within your departments and if there’s any change in our mission, I’ll let you all know. Dismissed. Commander Mayweather, please stay.”
The Ready Room was quickly empty as the others hurried to their stations. Travis glanced at Hoshi as she accepted the call. The face of Doctor T’Les appeared on the screen. She gazed at Hoshi, then at Travis.
“Captain Sato and Commander Mayweather, I presume?” T’Les asked without any introduction.
Hoshi bowed her head. “Yes, Doctor T’Les. How may we help you?”
T’Les’s face showed no emotion, but her eyes scrutinized Hoshi carefully. “There have been some...developments in our situation,” she said. “Will it be possible for you to come any sooner than two days?”
Travis frowned. “If we increase speed to warp four point five, we can reach Vulcan in about a day, but we haven’t been that fast before, even in the simulations.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything, Commander,” Hoshi replied. She turned back to the screen and said, “We’ll do our best to get there as soon as possible. May I ask what the problem is?”
T’Les shook her head and the cold look in her eyes deepened. Hoshi had the impression that T'Les's anger wasn't directed at her, but at someone else. Then Hoshi remembered: T'Les was the mother of her new helmswoman, Lieutenant T'Pol. Had something happened to her daughter?
“It is rather complicated to explain, Captain. I would rather meet you in person and discuss it then.”
“Understood. We’ll talk when we arrive.”
“Live long and prosper, Captain. Commander.” And with that, T’Les’s image vanished.
Hoshi and Travis gazed at each other. “The plot thickens,” Travis mused.
“I only hope we find out what’s going on,” Hoshi murmured, “that has T’Les so worried.”
Doctor Malcolm Reed sighed as he checked on his last patient. Svoren was over two-hundred and thirty years old, but the stubborn Vulcan was determined to last another two-hundred and thirty. Unfortunately, the man’s internal systems were shutting down. He would be lucky to see another night, much less another year. Malcolm had become rather fond of the gruff, no-nonsense Vulcan in the month he’d been in Malcolm’s care.
“Tell me, Doctor, do you have a mate?”
“What?” he glanced up from writing Svoren’s vital signs on his PADD. “Excuse me?”
Svoren’s amber-gold eyes twinkled under the medical bay’s lights. The wrinkles on his face deepened in silent humor, but the gruff tone belied his attempts to hide his mirth. “Do not be impertinent with me, young man. You heard what I asked you. I expect an answer.”
Malcolm shrugged as he entered the data into the Medical Academy’s main computer. He wasn't going to be baited by the old man. “No, sir, I don’t have a mate. Humans don’t bond in childhood like Vulcans do.”
“I can imagine the perfect mate for you: stubborn, exacting, dedicated and efficient.”
He chuckled and checked the fluid levels in the IV bag. So, the old man was wheedling him again. “I assume your mate was the same kind, eh?”
Svoren’s smile lit up his face. Advanced age had eroded his control over his emotions. He chattered with the ease of a man long comfortable around strangers. “Take my advice, Doctor: females, whether they are Vulcan or Human, believe they have the upper hand. Males allow it for the sake of their sanity.”
A corner of Malcolm's mouth turned up in a smirk. “I doubt T’Para would have agreed with your saying that.”
“T’Para would have been the first to agree with me.”
“No wonder she left you. Twice.”
“But she came back to me.” Svoren’s voice was suddenly soft. “She did come back to me. If it is meant to be, Doctor, they will come back.”
Malcolm glanced sharply at the readings on the panel above the bed. The indicators were definitely lower than they had been that morning.Not long now, he thought sadly. Svoren’s slipping further and further away. At the very least, I can make him comfortable. Svoren had fallen into one of his dozes; Malcolm drew the covers more securely around the Vulcan and left him alone.
He headed for the ward on the first floor. It had been a busy day. Not only was he in charge of Svoren’s case, but there were five more patients under his watch. T’Rien was recovering from a several broken ribs when an anti-grav car’s generator failed and had caught her underneath it. Selnek, a lad of barely ten, had passed his kahs-wan, the Rite of Passage...just barely. Srelak had suffered burns when an automatic sprayer in one of the greenhouses went off and caught him in the face. And the twins, T’Pru and T’Praya...
He slipped quietly into the children’s room and was glad to see both girls were asleep. As usual, they were holding hands across their beds. Malcolm had insisted that they not be separated; it was logical for the girls to aid each other in their healing trances. Their extraordinary abilities in that area would cut down their time spent at the Medical Academy. It only worked, though, when they girls were in close proximity to each other. Even the most stubborn Vulcan doctors could see the logic in his argument.
“You will miss them when you leave.”
The quiet voice at the doorway startled him. He saw Doctor T’Vau standing there; the head of the Medical Academy watched him with a look of sympathy. He nodded, for it was impossible to lie to a Healer with her level of ESP. “Yes, I will, but I know they are in good hands. They will heal and live long lives.”
T’Vau raised her eyebrows. “Is this a professional opinion or is this a...feeling?”
It was Malcolm’s turn to raise his eyebrows. She was the only one who asked him that question; others discounted “feelings” as illogical, gut feeling or otherwise. “A little of both, I suppose.”
“Ah.” T’Vau nodded in satisfaction. “I bring you a message from Ambassador Soval. The Enterprise will be in orbit in eight point two hours. I understand you are already prepared for the transfer.”
“I have briefed Doctor Stronek about my current patients and their care.” A worried frown creased his forehead. “They’re early. Is there a problem?”
“A change of orders from Starfleet. It is all explained here,” she replied, handing him a PADD. “It is imperative that you familiarize yourself with the details as quickly as possible.”
“I’ll do that. Thank you, T’Vau.”
She nodded, then she took a step back and gave him the Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, Malcolm Reed. May your journey be eventful.”
He returned the salute. “Likewise, T’Vau. Thank you for everything.”
A slight smile crossed her lips, then she left him. Malcolm read the message from Soval, his face growing more impassive as he scrolled down the page. He felt a definite sense of unease about Enterprise’s first mission, but if T’Vau had asked him why, he couldn’t give her an answer.
He’d learned to trust his intuition. It had saved his life and the lives of his patients.
He stuffed the PADD in the pocket of his lab coat, then looked over at the sleeping girls. His eyes softened as he went over to them and brushed a lock of hair off T’Pru’s face, and then off T’Praya’s. Yes, they would survive and thrive, but it was a pity he wouldn’t see them again.
“Live long and prosper, little ones,” he whispered. “Take care of each other.” Then he turned and walked away from the children’s ward.
Unknown to him, Lieutenant T'Pol stood at the end of the hall and watched him go. Malcolm Reed felt his emotions deeply, so deeply that his automatic control was a matter of survival for him on Vulcan. Nevertheless, the depth of those emotions astounded her, especially when he thought no one could see.
“He cares much for his patients does he not?”
T’Pol shook her head at her mother's quiet approach. T'Les was one of the few people who understood Reed's inner struggle. “Malcolm is a good doctor, but he cannot heal everyone and cure everything. It is within his nature to protect those he cares for most.”
T'Les nodded solemnly. “Yes, he does. It is a good trait to have for a doctor, but it can also destroy him if he allows it.”
She saw reluctance in T’Les’s eyes and wondered about it. It wasn’t like her mother to talk around a subject. “Mother, what troubles you?”
T’Les sighed and replied, “T’Pol, Koss called this morning. He wanted to speak with you, but I told him you were in a meeting. I cannot delay him much longer, my daughter. You must speak with him.”
T’Pol flinched as if T’Les had hit her. “I thought we had agreed to delay any further negotiation on this, Mother. I cannot afford to stay on Vulcan for a year after we marry---“
“So I told him and his father,” she interrupted. “They both know that circumstances have changed, that you will be far from home for an extended period of time. They wish to...renegotiate.”
“I have nothing to say to them.”
T’Les raised her hand. “I understand your wishes on the matter, but—“
“Mother!” she said through gritted teeth.
“They insisted. Please, T’Pol, tell them again, for they refuse to acknowledge anything I say.”
I cannot believe this. Why now? Her anger rose in her throat, but she forced it down. “Very well, Mother, but only because you have requested it of me.”
The family compound was of modest size for one of T’Les’s social standing. The main house stood in the middle of the square, positioned north-south to take advantage of the sun. Polarized windows gave the building a sense of light and airiness. Special solar panels collected the heat of the day and used it to warm the occupants against the chill of the desert night. The other buildings followed a similar plan: T’Les’s offices, the labs, the hydroponic gardens, and the guest houses.
Of course, she could have expanded it at any time she wished, but T’Les logically pointed out that since neither she nor her daughter were there for extended periods of time, what was the purpose of doing so? As a result, the walled villa on the outskirts of Shi’Kahr was artfully hidden from view; not many knew of its location.
T’Pol sat in the garden, by her favorite fountain, and listened to the gurgle of the water. She wore her favorite gown of royal purple, with her long blonde hair wound in a crown about her head, with the rest of it free on her shoulders. A betrothed—or married—woman usually wore her hair up, or cut it short. T’Pol had found a suitable compromise that both satisfied Vulcan tradition and Starfleet regulations.
She heard the soft footfalls of Koss before she saw him, but didn’t raise her eyes immediately to meet his. Instead, she felt his mental probe, a tickle deep within her brain, as he tried to gauge her mental state at this moment. Not only did it annoy her, it was completely against the mind-meld protocols. She felt his shock as he met her mental shields; living for three months among the priestesses of Mount Seleya had strengthened them considerably.
“T’Pol,” he finally said, as he withdrew his probe without a word or thought of apology. “It is agreeable to see you.”
“And you,” she answered. She did not stand, as was proper, but added, “Forgive me, but this day has been trying in body and spirit. I have not meditated or rested properly since my arrival back in ShiKahr.”
“Your mother told me that you were in meetings all day. I can understand why you are so fatigued.” Koss quickly moved to her side and sat next to her. He offered two fingers in the traditional greeting; she met them. From what she had heard, the gesture was supposed to be one of comfort and warmth, an assertion of the mating bond.
She felt nothing but a cool sense of being appraised, much like a valuable artifact under the buyer’s eye. It took her an effort not to recoil from the second intrusion, for Koss would sense it and question.
“You wish to renegotiate the marriage contract?” she asked, taking the initiative.
His mouth quirked in a non-smile. “The news of your new assignment on the Earth ship has had some unexpected effects on the High Command, T’Pol. Father realizes how important it is that you remain at your post. You will be the only Vulcan on Enterprise; the High Command sees that.”
“And what do they require of me this time?”
He chuckled, low in his throat. “We will delay the wedding as long as we need to, as long as you remain on board Enterprise. You and your mother are correct; you cannot afford to be on Vulcan for the required year after marriage, not now.”
She raised her eyebrows. “But it will come at a price.”
He pressed his lips together. “Do you think so low of me and my father?”
“Soultek is a military man, unlike yourself,” T’Pol pointed out, “and for every victory, there is a price to be paid.”
Koss’s eyes flashed. “My father has chosen wisely, it seems.”
She inclined her head. “What does Soultek want in return for my compliance?”
“We have agreed to double the bride payments for the duration of your duty,” he said flatly, “but in turn, you will have to provide the High Command with intelligence of every mission, every ally and enemy you encounter. You will provide information on the Humans, so we can anticipate their reactions to certain...events.”
She was silent as she thought, I should have known. They believe they have me under their thumb, that I have no choice but to comply with their demands. was an powerful and influential man in the High Command, second to Minister T’Pau. Were Soultek and Koss influencing T’Pau in a negative way?
“I must find a way around certain safety protocols,” she said slowly. “Perhaps if I can convince Lieutenant Commander Tucker to reveal some of them...without his knowing, of course.”
Koss frowned and she felt a flash of...something within the bond, weak but detectable. “Lieutenant Commander Tucker? Ah...he is the Tactical Officer of your new ship. I remember Del'haiu Soval mentioning him several times while Tucker was assigned to the Vulcan Consulate in San Francisco.”
“Yes, he is the same man.”
“Have you met this Commander Tucker?”
“No.” Again, she felt a brief surge of surprise and...was that relief? It was difficult to tell; the bond between them had never been strong, and nothing like T'Les and Sendak. T'Pol stifled a rising wave of resentment before Koss could detect it. To her own relief, Koss made no sign he felt her reaction.
If she had treasured their betrothal bond, she might have been worried. As it was now, she was only grateful.
“No? That is rather surprising, considering Soval considers Tucker to be like an...errant nephew of sorts.” Koss's mouth thinned in obvious disapproval.
“No.” Her mouth quirked upward as she added, “I suspect Del'haiu Soval may have been instrumental in my never meeting him, Koss.”
He smiled faintly. “Ah, then Soval was wise to keep you from him, th'y’la. Will you meld with Tucker to gain the knowledge we seek?”
T’Pol’s humor faded at the endearment, th'y’la. Beloved. From Koss’s lips, it sounded like an epithet. “You forget...Tucker has had some experience with melding from Soval. He does have the ability to shield some of his thoughts. No, I would prefer to explore his defenses first...then bypass them.”
“Logical.” He nodded. “He is an irrational Human. In addition, he is a friend of the Tellarites, and therefore, a threat to Vulcan.”
“I am aware of that, Koss. I may be able to assess that threat as well.”
He grasped both of her hands. “I enjoy your thought processes, th'y'la. As I said, my father has chosen my mate well. When your duties and...obligations are ended, I look forward to our wedding and our children.”
She said nothing to that, but only, “I will return to Vulcan, Koss, but I cannot predict when.”
“I will wait patiently, and in the meantime, my father and I will make sure Vulcan is safe from interlopers once more, so your return will be joyful.” He nodded and stood up. “Be safe, th'y’la, and return to me. Peace and long life.”
She returned the ta’al, then watched as he turned and strode out of the garden. For a man who scorned emotion and claimed to embrace logic, she could see the happiness in his stride. When he finally disappeared from view, she allowed a faint expression of disgust to show on her face.
He and his father are monsters, she thought. They do not care about Vulcan; they care about their own power. , she wondered how Soultek had convinced T’Les to bond their children; her cool, levelheaded mother would never acquiesce to such an abomination.
But I have a mission to complete: to defeat Soultek and Koss, and for that, I will need some...unorthodox assistance. Surak forgive me, I cannot do this alone. T’Pol shivered and turned towards the fountain. She dipped her hands into the cool water and splashed it on her face and neck. The cloying stench of deception seemed to cling to her, despite her best efforts.
She stared at the water, and against her will, she thought she saw an image within: an image of a sandy-haired Human with piercing blue eyes, and the uniform of a Starfleet armory officer.
Enterprise arrives at Vulcan, and Hoshi meets her new helm officer and CMO. Is there already something happening between her and Malcolm? And what is the deal between Doctors T'Les and T'Marui?T'Pol also meets Trip for the very first time in this universe. It surprises her...for more than one reason.Captain Hoshi Sato materialized in the transporter alcove of the Vulcan Science Academy. She took a deep breath and resisted the urge to make sure she’d arrived in one piece. The transporter was recently rated for “bio-transport”, but she was still leery of using it on a regular basis. Most people still depended on shuttles and she was one of them. Unfortunately, they were pressed for time, so she had to use the transporter.
“That was interesting,” Travis commented from the next pad. He looked at his hands as if reassuring himself they were still attached to his body. “Wasn’t too bad.”
“Speak for yourself,” Hoshi muttered. Yes, she was definitely going to use the shuttlepod next time. Travis gave her a look of complete sympathy, then shrugged. She brought herself up to her full height as the woman standing next to the transporter operator walked forward to greet them.
“I am Doctor T’Marui. Welcome to Shi’Kahr, Captain Sato.” The Vulcan woman was shorter than Hoshi was, with her short hair barely reaching her shoulders. T’Marui’s face was impassive, but Hoshi saw a distinct twinkle in her eye. She raised her hand in the Vulcan salute, which she and Travis returned.
“Thank you. This is my first officer and my science officer, Commander Mayweather.” Hoshi gestured towards Travis, who nodded in response.
“Commander. I am honored to meet you. I understand exo-archaeology is not one of your specialties, but I heard about your expedition to Sunniv Four. It would be helpful to hear your insights on that project.”
Travis blushed as Hoshi glanced at him. “A little...side project a few years ago when I was with Captain Hayes on the Montana. I’ll explain later.”
A slight smile played on T’Marui’s lips. “Captain, my team and our equipment are ready for our journey. It is agreeable to us if we expedite the transfer process as quickly as possible.”
“Of course. Commander Mayweather will assist you.” Vulcans usually controlled their emotions, but the scientist broadcasted her feelings like a subspace transmitter on maximum. She obviously admired Travis and was eager to get started on her expedition. Hoshi resisted a grin as T’Marui led Travis to one side of the alcove, already informing him on the various equipment they’d need.
The doors swooshed open to reveal Doctor T’Les. The Head of the Science Academy spared T’Marui a glance and Hoshi felt the temperature in the room sink ten degrees. That brief glare told Hoshi that T’Les was glad to see her colleague go. Professional rivalry? Or is there something else between those two? Hoshi remembered Jon Archer’s words: “Just because Vulcans base their actions on logic doesn’t mean they’ve cut off all emotions, Hoshi. They’re just better at hiding them.”
“Captain Sato, may I speak with you for a moment?” T’Les’s tone was soft, but there was an unmistakable air of command within it.
Anger is illogical. Jealousy is illogical. Yeah, right. Hoshi nodded and answered, “Of course.”
The two women left the transporter alcove. T’Les stepped onto a skybridge that spanned the length of the Science Academy. Large windows opened up onto a vista that took Hoshi’s breath away. Shi’Kahr’s buildings lay in a grid pattern, much like the academic campus, but each one was a unique style. The desert surrounded the city in all directions, stretching as far as the eye could see.
“Beautiful,” Hoshi breathed. “Reminds me of the Mojave Desert.”
“Have you been to Vulcan before?” T’Les asked politely.
Hoshi nodded. “Yes, for three months. I was with a group of linguistic students from the University of Brazil, but we were in Sura’Kahr. I’ve never been here in Shi’Kahr.”
“With Doctor Elizando?”
She glanced at T’Les, who was scrutinizing her carefully. Hoshi felt like a bug under an electron microscope. “You’ve been reading my record, obviously.”
“It is logical for me to find out as much as I can about my daughter’s new commanding officer,” T’Les countered. “T’Pol has never set foot off Vulcan before this. I am merely concerned for her welfare.”
“I understand, Doctor. I will be responsible for her well-being, as well as for the rest of the crew.”
T’Les’s mouth twitched as if she found humor in Hoshi’s promise. “I am gratified to hear that, Captain. Both Admiral Forrest and Ambassador Soval vouch for your abilities. They do not give their recommendations lightly.”
Hoshi glanced at her. Unlike T'Marui, T'Les was more difficult to read. It was as if the Vulcan had lowered a blast shield in front of her. “I am honored by their endorsement, but I give you my personal word that I will help T’Pol adjust to life on the Enterprise.”
T’Les nodded, but she still didn’t look convinced. Hoshi understood T’Les’s reluctance; after all, Soval had warned her that T’Pol had volunteered for this assignment against her mother’s advice. But this sense of expectation unnerved Hoshi...it was as if T’Les was expecting her to fail in her mission.
Or is it just because T’Pol will be the only Vulcan serving on board Enterprise right now? I think it’ll just take time for her to get used to the idea of T’Pol being off-planet. Hoshi fought a smile. All mothers fear for their children. She’s actually doing better than my mother did when I left for Starfleet.
"Doctor T'Marui is not your typical...scientist. I have advised T'Pol to avoid prolonged contact with her. My daughter's curiosity extends to more than just traveling the stars; she tends to gravitate towards...trouble." T'Les sighed, as if this confession amounted to a state secret. "It is not that I do not trust your stewardship, Captain. I worry about T'Pol's safety in such company."
Hoshi glanced at T'Les. If T'Marui had less fine control over her emotions than more typical Vulcans, then Hoshi could see why T'Les would be concerned. "You're worried that T'Pol might be...contaminated?"
T'Les visibly flinched at Hoshi's choice of words. "'Contaminated' might be too strong a word, Captain. 'Influenced' may be a more suitable substititute."
"Mmmm..." Hoshi murmured as she thought about the situation. "I'll ask Commander Mayweather and Lieutenant Commander Tucker to keep an eye on Doctor T'Marui for the duration of the trip, and I will personally watch T'Pol as much as my duties allow. Will that suffice, Doctor T'Les?"
"It must suffice for now." T'Les still didn't look happy, but then again, Hoshi wondered if anything about this would make her happy, short of T'Pol staying on Vulcan.
Two figures waited for them at the end of the skybridge. Both wore Starfleet uniforms, a dark-haired man in the blue of sciences, and a shorter Vulcan woman in the gold of operations. The woman’s long, blonde-brown hair was tightly coiled about her head, with the remainder of her hair spilling out from the center of the crown and down her back like a waterfall. Even from this distance, Hoshi could see the family resemblance to T’Les. This must be Lieutenant T’Pol, her new helmswoman. And the man...
He paused in his conversation and looked up at Hoshi. High cheekbones, a neatly trimmed goatee, thin lips upturned in a half-smile. His eyes were a shade between blue and gray, bright with intelligence. Those eyes seemed to sparkle in the Vulcan sunlight, but formality crept into them and dimmed that sparkle. Hoshi felt a pang of disappointment at that formality, but she didn’t know why she felt that.
“My daughter, Lieutenant T’Pol,” T’Les introduced. T’Pol bowed her head in respectful acknowledgment. "Captain Hoshi Sato, your new commanding officer."
"Lieutenant, I am honored to meet you," Hoshi said softly.
"The honor is mine." T'Pol looked at her. She was slightly taller than T'Les, with amber-gold eyes and a pale complexion. Hoshi's ear detected a slight accent that her mother's voice lacked. Not originally from Shi'Kahr, more southern, Shi'Khurin or thereabouts.
T'Les nodded at the man. “Doctor Malcolm Reed, previously of the Vulcan Medical Academy.”
“Captain,” Reed said. “A pleasure to meet you, finally.”
A slight smile tugged at her lips. British, she thought. She inclined her head as she tried to pinpoint Reed’s origin. Midlands, somewhere. Nottinghamshire? No, not quite...Leceistershire, maybe? At the doctor’s questioning look, she asked aloud. “Are you from Leceister, Doctor Reed?”
He raised his eyebrows. “My family is originally from Leceister, Captain. You could tell that from my accent, I’m sure.”
“Linguistics is a hobby of mine,” she said with a grin. She could have easily known that from his service record, but she noticed that Reed hadn’t said that. “I apologize for pulling you both from your previous duties on such short notice—“
The whine of her communicator interrupted her. “Excuse me.” She flipped it open, without missing a beat, she said, “Sato here.”
Lieutenant Commander Jon Archer’s voice came over the line, causing both T’Les and T’Pol to exchange glances. “Captain, sorry to interrupt, but we have a priority call for you. It’s from Captain Hayes on the Columbia.”
She stifled a wave of irritation and thought, Matt has the greatest sense of timing. What the hell does he want? Hoshi was surprised at her own reaction, but shoved the feeling aside. “Hold on for a moment, Commander Archer.”
“We’ll be waiting for you here, Captain,” Reed told her.
She nodded at the reassurance of his voice, then quickly walked a good distance away on the catwalk. You’ve only met the man, Hoshi, she thought. Get a grip on yourself. “All right, put him through, Jon.”
“Hoshi?” came Matt Hayes’s voice. “Seems like the Powers that Be have scrubbed any chance of Enterprise and Columbia doing any joint missions anytime soon.”
“Damn,” Hoshi replied, putting just enough emphasis on the word. “Wonder what’s going on.”
“I dunno. Not exactly what I was expecting for a first mission. Instead of exploring the universe, we’re doing courier service for an Andorian delegation.”
She decided to change the subject. “Did you pick up your remaining crew?”
Hayes sounded irritated. “Yeah, and my first officer’s somethin’ else. He’s a nice guy, just...rather bland. Like my chef’s oatmeal. Commander Daniels might as well be a Vulcan, for all the emotion he shows.”
She stifled her laughter. “Not so loud, Matt. I’m on Vulcan and they’ve got pretty good hearing.”
“Oh, sorry.” He didn’t sound sorry, though. “Anyway, keep an eye out for weird things going on. I’ve got the feeling there’s something somebody’s not telling us.”
“I’ll do that, Matt. Right now I’ve got to brief T’Pol and Malcolm on their new duties.”
Hoshi sighed inwardly at the sharpness of Matt’s voice. I’m already referring to my Chief Medical Officer by name. Not good. “Doctor Malcolm Reed, my new CMO. He’s just coming in from the Vulcan Medical Academy. I've got my new helmswoman too, T'Pol. Anyway, you take care, Matt. I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Don’t get into too much trouble. Hayes, out.”
She snapped her communicator shut. Matt’s got a point. What is going on? Columbia’s ferrying Andorians and Enterprise is bussing a group of Vulcans to a dig site. I’m sure this isn’t exactly what Max Forrest had in mind when he pushed for the Warp Five program.
Hoshi shook her head. She had her orders and she was going to follow them to the letter, but it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye out, just in case. Hoshi glanced over to see T’Pol. The Vulcan raised her eyebrows as if saying, I would like to speak with you, Captain, in private. Hoshi nodded in wordless affirmation, then T’Pol turned her attention back to her mother.
“Not that weird things are already going on,” Hoshi muttered to herself as she made her way back to Reed and the Vulcans. The doctor gave her a look of sympathy and inexplicably, she felt a little would be a good idea to keep him and Matt apart for as long as possible; she had the bad feeling that when they would finally meet, an exploding supernova would seem tame.
Lieutenant T’Pol wrinkled her nose at the odd smell that permeated the halls. Granted, the starship was on its maiden voyage, but that could not explain it. Lieutenant Commander Tucker, the new Armory Officer, had joked about the “new starship smell” and had completely confused her with the reference.
“Is that smell still botherin’ ya?”
She glanced at him. Her first impression of him was competent, affable...but loud. Extremely loud. Tucker was the exact opposite of Doctor Reed and a good friend of Lieutenant Commander Jonathan Archer, who had been Soval’s assistant. Archer was as calm and cordial as she remembered, but Tucker...he was “trouble”. Yes, that was Soval’s exact word. Although she was close to Soval, it seemed he had always gone out of his way to make sure she and Tucker had never met before this, and as she had told Koss, she didn't believe it was an accident.
She shivered as she thought of her husband-to-be and the agreements between their clans. T'Les and Soultek knew that the wedding would wait for her return, or the pon farr and the koon-ut-kal-if-fee,whichever occurred first. At least she still had more time before biology forced her hand...
T'Pol started as she realized Tucker was still waiting for her reply. “Unfortunately, yes. I have never encountered such a stench before.”
Tucker frowned and sniffed the air. “Smells okay to me, but you Vulcans have a more acute sense of smell. Maybe you oughta talk to Doctor Reed about a nasal inhibitor, if it continues to be a problem.”
“Perhaps I shall.” T’Pol said politely. She adjusted the strap of the personal case over her shoulder and glanced at the numbers on the cabin doors. They stopped at the correct one. “This is mine.”
“Home sweet home,” he said as he tapped in his security code. “You’ll have to reprogram it with your own locking code before you leave again, or I’ll have to come back and reset it.” Tucker glanced at her impassive expression. “I know you already know that, but I still gotta say it. It’s written in my contract.”
“I understand, Lieutenant Commander. Thank you.”
“Call me if you need anything, all right?”
“I shall do so, Lieutenant Commander.”
He grinned and T’Pol thought, It transforms his entire face. It must be a trick of the overhead lighting. “I’m off-duty and so are you, so call me Trip. ‘Lieutenant Commander’ isn’t my first name.”
“And neither is ‘Trip’. I had thought your first name was ‘Charles’.” Her brows knitted in confusion again. He is more exasperating than Jonathan ever was. How can he and Soval be good friends with this man?
He rolled his eyes and sighed. “It is. I’m ‘Charles Tucker the Third’, meaning my father and grandfather were both named Charles. ‘Trip’ is short for ‘Triple’, since I’m the third.”
“Ah.” She nodded in understanding. “You carry the family name. So if you have a son—“
“He’ll probably be Charles Tucker the Fourth.”
“Yeah, but I’d hate to stick my son with the nickname ‘Quad’.”
She raised an eyebrow; he was more sensitive than he seemed. That nickname, for a young boy, would be quite...awkward. Though how he had survived as a security officer with the nickname “Trip” was beyond her. “Yes, that would be...unusual, though it is admirable that you would carry on the family name.”
He shrugged. “Some Human families are just as bound by tradition as Vulcan families. Soval told me that you two are related in some way, that you two are cousins or something like that.”
“Yes, ‘something like that’. Vulcan families can be rather complicated to track; we consider adopted clan members as blood kin and marriages are arranged when we are children.” An unpleasant memory of her betrothal ceremony flashed through her mind; she pushed it away.
“One of Jon’s colleagues at the Embassy went back home to marry a girl he’d only seen once,” Trip mused. “They seemed to get along well, though. ‘She was the logical choice’, he’d said. I guess sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, just like anythin’ else.”
Again, his understanding surprised her. His friendship with Jonathan must have taught him many things, she thought. Obviously, there is more beneath the surface than what is visible. T’Pol’s curiosity had brought her valuable insights more than once. This seemed to be another opportunity to learn more about Humans. After all, Tucker was the ship’s Armory Officer, and a fellow Bridge officer, so it would be beneficial to understand ways to defend the ship and crew.
And Vulcan, against all those who would threaten our superiority, Koss reminded her in her mind. Again, she pushed his words from her thoughts.
“Yes,” she agreed again. Suddenly, she realized they had been talking in the hallway for quite some time and the door to her cabin was still open. “I would enjoy conversing with you more in the future...Trip.”
“Me too. You’d better get some rest before your shift, and I’ve got a lunch appointment with Security Officer Sysek about security protocols for the mission. I’ll talk to ya later.”
“Until later.” She stepped into her cabin and the doors slid shut behind her. “Lights.”
Her cabin was standard Starfleet; she put away her personal belongings with swift efficiency. Then she noticed several messages on her computer. One was from Captain Sato, saying that Sato would be free to meet with her after Alpha shift ended. The second was from Doctor Reed, requesting a physical for baseline readings and a DNA sample. It reminded her of Lieutenant Commander Tucker’s...Trip’s...suggestion about the nasal inhibitor.
The third message was from Soval, the fourth from T’Les, and the fifth from T’Marui. T’Pol frowned at the last one, but she accessed it anyway. The scientist’s face glowed with excitement.
“T’Pol,” she said in Vulcan. “I would like your opinion of this latest planetary scan of Beta Polaris. The pattern of settlement resembles those of other Vulcanoid colonies, but there is an anomaly that I cannot seem to define. Commander Mayweather is also, in his words, ‘stumped’. Perhaps a fresh perspective is what is needed in this case. Please peruse the information and return my call at your earliest convenience. Thank you.”
T’Marui’s image vanished, to be replaced by a topographical and a surface scan of Beta Polaris. The data appeared in columns under the graphic. T’Pol glanced through the information and examined the scan with a critical eye. Her mouth quirked upwards in amusement.
“Fascinating,” she murmured.