Communications Officer Jonathan Archer
Jon Archer read the protocols a second time, then a third. With a sigh, he called Captain Sato and Lieutenant Commander Tucker to the Bridge. Nope, I wasn’t seeing things. Trip’s going to have a fit when he sees this.
“Is there a problem, Commander?”
He glanced at Lieutenant T’Pol at the helm station. The Vulcan raised one elegant eyebrow at him in curiosity and concern. He managed a slight smile at her; although Vulcan tradition insisted otherwise, he knew that T’Pol had emotions like the rest of them. She only hid it better.
“Just read something disturbing in the first contact protocols for the Lurans,” he told her. “I wanted to make sure the captain knew about it before she stepped into trouble.”
T’Pol nodded. “That is a wise thing, Commander. What seems trivial to one species is a grave concern to another.”
He smiled at her understanding; then again, anyone who spent any significant time with Ambassador Soval knew the risks of interstellar diplomacy. “You’re definitely correct there, and this might be one of those cases.”
Her eyebrow climbed higher."Indeed? Then it would be wise to inform Lieutenant Commander Tucker before an...incident occurs." The comment sounded completely deadpan, but chuckles broke out over the Bridge. Trip Tucker's adventures were already legendary among the Enterprise crew. The latest one about the female would-be muggers on Risa was still making the rounds.
"It's usually not his fault. Trouble usually finds him, not the other way around."
Jon glanced over his shoulder as the doors to the lift hissed open and Captain Sato and Lieutenant Commander Tucker came onto the Bridge. Trip gave him a friendly grin and he returned it. The man’s enthusiasm for life was infectious and Archer appreciated it because he saw it in himself.
He’s probably the most unlikely Armory Officer in the Fleet, he reflected. If anything, he’d rather talk his way out of situations with his Southern charm, but if that fails, he won’t hesitate to defend the ship and its crew by any means necessary.
“What do we have, Commander?” Captain Sato asked.
Jon gave her a PADD with the information on it. Tucker leaned on the console and looked over Hoshi’s shoulder. “According to this, the Lurians are so steeped in tradition that they only allow Luran weapons on the planet. No phase pistols, no phase rifles...just whips and chains.”
“Whips and chains?” Hoshi repeated.
“Not what you think, Captain,” Jon said. He tried to hold back a grin, but failed miserably. “Apparently, Luran males wear heavy chains like bandoliers on their chest. It’s a test of manhood, along with the seven swords and daggers they carry around with them...and women carry studded electric whips in leather holders.”
Trip muttered something under his breath that Jon didn’t catch, but Hoshi only chuckled in response. “Ahem. Interesting,” she said.
“And it gets better, Captain. They allow medical equipment...as long as they’re needles. No hyposprays.”
Trip scowled. “What’s with the sharp points?”
Jon’s grin grew wider as he replied, “They consider a ‘point’ the ultimate sign of enlightenment. Mountain peaks come up to a point, for example. One of their holy men was supposed to have sat on a pointed stake for three cycles—that’s thirty-six Earth days—with hardly a scratch.”
“Ouch,” Trip muttered. “The guy’s poor butt must’ve been sore.”
Hoshi coughed in an attempt to cover her laughter. “Well, you’re going to be armed to the teeth, Trip. That should make you happy.”
“Yeah, but I can’t move around under all that weight, Cap’n. That’s like putting a whole suit of armor over your iron underwear. Chafes you like all get out.”
Jon sighed and scrolled down his screen. “They refer to their security men as “fawh-dehr”. It’s supposed to be a title of respect because it conveys the danger and uncertainty of their position.”
“Fawh-dehr? I’m not crazy about being anyone’s fodder, cannon or otherwise.”
Hoshi finally lost it and she began to laugh. It spread all over the Bridge, except for T’Pol, who only looked at them with a bemused (and confused) expression. Trip took pity on her and said, “I’ll explain later, T’Pol. I promise.”
Jon glanced at Hoshi. “Don’t think you can get away unscathed, Captain,” he said in mock sternness. “The main representative gets to make a speech—“
“Doesn’t sound too difficult.”
“—an eight-thousand word affair in three different dialects, and you have to get every stress and intonation completely correct.”
Hoshi stared at him. “And I’ve got three days to do this?”
“All in three days. Don’t worry, I can help you with it. The Lurans sent over the copies of the welcome speech in all the dialects. Oh, and you’ve got to crack your whip at the appropriate pauses to fight off your admirers—“
“Oh boy. Malcolm’s gonna have a field day,” Trip muttered again.
“I heard that.” Hoshi growled. She sighed and shook her head. “I suppose I’m gonna need whip lessons, then.”
“Don’t look at me. That isn't in my arsenal, and I sure know it isn't standard equipment in the Armory.”
T’Pol cleared her throat. “If I may make a suggestion, Captain?”
“Go ahead, Lieutenant.”
“There are Vulcan weapons similar to a whip, such as the ahn-woon. With your and Lieutenant Commander Tucker’s permission, I may be able to help you gain the necessary skills.”
Hoshi met T’Pol’s gaze. Jon cleared his throat and added, “That would help a lot, T'Pol. I didn’t think about the ahn-woon. It's more of a bolo-type sling, but you’re right. It’s a similar enough weapon.”
The captain nodded. “All right, then. Time for some ahn-woon lessons. All right with you, Trip?”
“Sure, s’long as I get some lessons too. Y’never know when a new skill might come in handy.”
Jon tried to hide his smile as T’Pol raised her eyebrow again, but he noticed that she didn’t object to the request. He’d had plenty of opportunity to observe the navigator and the armory officer, and thought there might be a glimmer of more than just friendship there.
Opposites attract, I guess. That seems to be going on all over the ship. Trip Tucker and T’Pol. Captain Sato and Doctor Reed. Jon cut off that thought right there. Hoshi had privately told him that she intended to keep her relationship with Malcolm Reed on a cordially professional footing. Jon honored that, but he wondered if she was only deluding herself. It was his nature to see his friends happy; he usually took it upon himself to help it happen.
But Jon also knew when to keep his nose out of other people's business. It served him well in his diplomatic career. In any case, things were already complicated. So he kept his mouth shut.
He refocused on T'Pol's answer to the captain. “Agreed. My shift is ended in forty minutes. Perhaps we can have a short practice session then?”
“That sounds agreeable. Meet me in Cargo Bay Two, Lieutenant.”
After Sato and Tucker left the bridge, he exchanged a nod with Lieutenant T’Pol. Then he turned back to the first contact protocols. There seemed to be no more hidden surprises, but he decided to go over it one more time, just in case.
Helm/Navigation Officer T’Pol
Lieutenant T’Pol concentrated on the weight and the heft of the ahn-woon. It had been a few years since she had handled one of these, but she remembered the basics of the weapon. She remembered a conversation in the Armory, not long after the incident with the Hive Mind Queen:
“What do you call these things again? Lirpas?"
“That is correct, Lieutenant Commander.”
“Nasty lookin’ things.” Trip Tucker gave the weapon an experimental swing, being careful about its weight on one end and the wicked blade on the other. “I can see why the Vulcans used this for thousands of years. One blow on your skull and that’s it for you.”
She had been surprised at the respectful tone of his voice. “Indeed. It takes a good amount of manual dexterity to handle the lirpa, for it could be just as harmful to the wielder himself. So, shall we begin?”
To her surprise, Trip not only became somewhat proficient in the lirpa, but he showed an interest in all things Vulcan. He asked insightful questions, and while he would always have an accent, his spoken Vulcan was adequate. She admitted to herself that while he reminded her of an enthusiastic guard sehlat, he showed an uncanny sensitivity to cultural issues.
Just like another man she knew. Jonathan Archer had worked with Ambassador Soval at the Vulcan Consulate in San Francisco, a respected diplomat and cultural liaison. T’Pol didn’t know what Captain Sato had said to convince Jonathan to leave such an esteemed position and join Starfleet so late in life.
“Captain Sato has given me a logical argument for this,” Soval had told her, “and while I have a certain reluctance to allow Jonathan to join the Enterprise crew, I believe he will gain more experience on the ship than at the Consulate."
She now she acknowledged Hoshi Sato’s valuable insight. Jonathan Archer was a worthy addition to the crew and a worthy friend.
“Lieutenant? Are you all right? What’s on your mind?”
T’Pol turned to see Captain Sato standing there in workout clothes. She decided to answer the captain’s question. “I am all right, Captain. I was pondering a few enigmas among the crew.”
Sato smiled at the word “enigma”, although T’Pol couldn’t think of a reason why. “Which ones?”
“Lieutenant Commander Tucker and Lieutenant Commander Archer. Both men are Human, but are curious about Vulcan culture. It is not a common trait among Humans to be so accepting of customs not their own.”
Sato’s smile was mysterious as she replied, “Trip and Jon are both explorers, T’Pol. Look at it from Trip’s point of view as an Armory Officer. Vulcans are our allies, and the more we can learn about your ways of war and defense, the better we can defend ourselves. And Jon—“ she shrugged, “--I think working with Soval has broadened his horizons.”
T’Pol inclined her head. “I did not know that. If I may ask, how did you convince him to join Enterprise? I assumed he was content to stay at the Consulate.”
“The lure of the unknown, the possibility of meeting new peoples and new cultures. He’s meant for the stars. As Trip said, ‘better late than never’.” She chuckled and lifted the ahn-woon in her hands. "How do I handle this thing without slicing myself open?"
T’Pol did not smile, but she raised an eyebrow. “Let me adjust your stance and grip, Captain. Now, watch carefully...”
She guided Sato through the simplest of exercises. To her surprise, the captain was soon snapping the ahn-woon with sharp, efficient wrist movements. Sato did have some natural ability, coming from her martial arts background, but mastering the ahn-woon still took years of practice.
T’Pol felt another set of eyes on her as she demonstrated another technique to Sato. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Trip Tucker watching her closely. Not her ahn-woon. Her. The Armory Officer sat on a cargo container near the practice area. She didn’t acknowledge his scrutiny, but watched him in turn under lowered lids.
She had described Trip as an enigma, which was a contradiction in itself. T’Pol wondered just how many people knew what lay behind the Armory Officer’s good-natured, joking exterior. There was so much that was hidden, despite his seeming openness. If she closed her eyes, she could feel his presence: intense, protective, curious. It reminded her of a fiery sun in the coolness of space.
And like any celestial body, its gravity attracted anything in its orbit. A new question formed in her mind: Why do I choose to stay within his orbit? He is Human, not Vulcan. Yet I find myself as curious about him as he is about me. Perhaps I need to gather more empirical evidence before I make my conclusions.
All too soon, she had to bring the training session to an end. “That will be sufficient for now, Captain. I believe you have the foundations for further training, if you wish.”
Sato nodded and flexed her aching hand. “Perhaps I’ll take you up on that offer, Lieutenant. Oh, do you have anything scheduled for tomorrow night?”
T’Pol raised an eyebrow again. “No, Captain.”
“I’d like to invite you and Lieutenant Commander Tucker to dinner at the captain’s table. Chef’s put together a vegetarian menu. I’m curious to hear your view of Human/Vulcan relations. Maybe you can teach us a thing or two.”
She carefully hid her surprise, though she glanced briefly at Trip. Is this his idea? Captain Sato has never invited me to her table before this. Aloud she replied, “I would be honored, Captain.”
“Good. Nineteen hundred hours?”
“I will be there, Captain.” She busied herself with coiling her ahn-woon as she overheard Trip talking with Captain Sato.
“You oughta let Malcolm take a look at that cut before it gets infected, Hoshi. T’Pol wasn’t kiddin’ when she said the ahn-woon qualifies as a dangerous weapon."
“I’ll stop by Sickbay before turning in for the night."
"If you don’t, I'll lecture you about that time on Optimus Prime, when those nasty nanobots got into your hand.”
T'Pol's eyebrow climbed higher. Then she remembered that Trip and the captain had served on another ship previous to Enterprise. What was the name...? The Madagascar, when Admiral Forrest was still Captain Forrest. Vulcan had declared that particular planet off-limits...but had neglected to tell Starfleet that.
Hoshi winced at Trip's reminder. "Yeah, I remember. You've got a good reason to be paranoid after that.” She smiled and nodded. “Good night, Trip. Good night, T’Pol. Thank you for the lesson.”
“You’re welcome, Captain,” T’Pol said, remembering the human courtesy. She finished securing her weapon, expecting Trip to leave after the captain. He remained there, looking at her. “Lieutenant Commander?”
“I was watchin’ you with the ahn-woon and I thought you handled it pretty gracefully. I guess it takes lots of practice to get good with it."
“It takes years,” she replied. She didn’t want to look into his eyes, but something compelled her to do so. His eyes were the blue of a very hot flame.
“I’m willin’ to learn. How about if we arrange a time where I can get a crack at it, so to speak?” His smile was genuine and warm and held no trace of sarcasm. T’Pol found it...intriguing.
Being a Vulcan, she did not smile back, but she only replied, “Of course, Lieutenant Commander. Most of my evenings are free. We can begin tomorrow night, if you wish.”
His smile widened a fraction. "Yeah, I'd like that."
Chief Medical Officer Malcolm Reed
Sickbay was quiet at this hour. Malcolm Reed sat at the computer with a cup of tea and a half-eaten pineapple scone. He scheduled a whole slate of crew physicals in the coming days; though he didn’t anticipate any objections from most of the crew, there were a few who might need more...convincing.
Trip Tucker, for one. By hook or by crook, he will come in for that physical, even if I have to pull rank on him to do it. His mouth twitched into a slight smirk at the challenge. The Armory Officer was adept at avoiding him, but Malcolm knew a few tricks that Trip didn’t.
A soft knock on his door broke into his thoughts. He glanced at the clock and prepared himself for another long night. “Enter,” he called.
“I hope I’m not interrupting, Malcolm,” Hoshi said as she came into the office.
“Of course not.” His sharp eyes immediately spotted the cut on her hand. “You’re injured. What happened?”
“Lieutenant T’Pol was giving me some ahn-woon lessons,” she answered, gingerly holding her hand with the other.
His mouth twitched with humor. "Have you decided to take up the weapon as part of your martial arts repertoire?"
"It'll be useful for our new First Contact mission."
Malcolm raised his eyebrow. The last First Contact didn't go well; he hoped this one would have a much better outcome. A vision of Hoshi with a whip in her hand threatened to turn his smirk into a full-blown grin. Somehow, he managed to keep a straight face.
“Let me see your hand,” he commanded in a gentle voice and took her hand within his own. Carefully, he examined every finger, the palm, the back of her hand. The clinical part of him assessed the shallow cut high on her palm, the calluses and blisters on the fingers where she’d gripped the whip handle too tightly. The rest of him noticed how smooth the rest of her skin was...
Don't even think about it. You know where you stand, as far as she's concerned. She made that quite clear, you sodding idiot. The thought was like a dousing of cold water. He managed to sound professional.
“Mmmm. I don’t believe you’ll lose any fingers,” he murmured, “but we need to clean those scratches before they become infected. Come on, let’s take care of it.”
As she sat on one of the biobed, he picked up the dermal regenerator and got to work. They slipped into their usual routine: she told him about the day’s events while he listened. She told him about the Luran customs that she had learned from Jon Archer. Occasionally, she would mimic the voices of the crew, making him chuckle. He shook his head at Trip's reaction to Jonathan Archer's discovery of the 'whips and chains'.
When she came to her upcoming 'speech', he nearly choked with mirth. Hoshi sat up straighter and glared directly at him. Malcolm only raised up a helpless hand as he tried to keep his composure.
"I have every confidence that you can keep your--ahem--listeners at bay while following the Luran customs, Hoshi."
"Gee, thanks, Malcolm," she retorted. "I appreciate it."
"I mean it." He kept his eyes fixed upon the dermal regenerator. Before she could comment further, he quickly added, "So, the introduction to the ahn-woon...I'm sure T'Pol was a good teacher."
"She is. Trip asked her if she could give him lessons too."
"Did he, now? I know she started him with the lirpa not too long ago." He smirked again. “I would suspect our dear Armory Officer has more than just a casual interest in our navigator. As much as they argue at times, they tolerate each other’s quirks.”
“Like a married couple,” Hoshi agreed wryly. “I’ve invited both of them to dinner tomorrow night. A cultural exchange, if you will.”
“Trip’s idea?” he asked, surprised.
“I’d already been thinking about it, but it was something Travis said that decided it for me. He described T’Pol as an ‘enigma’ and that it might be in our best interests if we got to know her better.”
Malcolm nodded sagely. Travis Mayweather was a frequent visitor to Sickbay, but unlike Trip, it wasn’t always because of injury. The first officer often asked about the health and welfare of the Enterprise crew.“Travis picks up on things that most people don’t. It’s a useful skill for a first officer.”
“Yes.” She wiggled her fingers and smiled at the results. “Thanks, Malcolm.”
“You’re quite welcome.” He noticed that she didn’t let go of his hand and then she leaned her head against his shoulder. He noticed how exhausted she was; it was a miracle she wasn't asleep where she sat on the biobed. After a quick glance around to make sure Lieutenant Liz Cutler was safely in the lab, he wrapped an arm around her and held her, gently resting his cheek against her hair.
She works too hard, he thought. As ship’s captain, Hoshi Sato was brilliant and resourceful, but it was a lonely position. Hoshi was warm and congenial, though she had to hold herself apart even as her soul wanted the contact. He vowed to himself to help her shoulder that burden.
In the interest of the ship and her crew, of course.
Who the bloody hell are you kidding?
Hoshi squeezed his hand, then straightened. “I ought to get some sleep. Morning comes early.”
He nodded, and reluctantly let go. “Good night, Hoshi. Pleasant dreams.”
“You too. See you tomorrow.” She left Sickbay, casting a fond look over her shoulder.
He sighed and stared after her long after she had disappeared. “Sleep well, love,” he murmured.