It was another busy day in Sickbay. Doctor Malcolm Reed wondered how Security ever got
anything done, since at least two of its members seemed to be in Sickbay at any given time.
Unfortunately, it wasn't for security against germs or allergens or the like. Malcolm nodded at
the latest victim of a training session gone awry.
"Saying 'I forgot to duck' is like Lieutenant Commander Tucker saying 'I ran into a door,” he said dryly.”
"The thing is, Doctor, Lieutenant Commander Tucker has run into a door before,” grumbled Ensign Riley. The Irishman came from the same county that Malcolm's Irish kin had come from, centuries past.
“With logic like that, God help the lot of you,” Malcolm teased. “So...let's remember to duck the next time Crewman El-Sadr throws a feint that turned into a punch, all right.”
“He pulled a fast one on me,” Riley muttered. He winced as he touched the goose egg on his head. “Do I really have to stay here for observation? I've got work to do.”
Malcolm only gazed at him with The Look. Riley matched the stare, but after only a few minutes, he had to lower his eyes. “Damn it all, sir, I hate it when you do that.”
“Then don't make the Doc resort to the Evil Eye,” Trip Tucker said from the doorway. “It's a registered weapon, Seamus, and no one's immune to it. I've actually seen huge men brought to their knees by a single glare.”
“As well as loud, recalcitrant Armory Officers,” Malcolm added with a touch of sarcasm, “who try to get out of their annual physicals.”
“What? I got your message. I'll be here at zero-six-hundred-hours-sharp tomorrow morning.” Trip didn't sound fazed by the accusation, no matter how true it actually was. “Seamus, I got Rochelle coverin' for you. Head injuries aren't somethin' to take lightly. El-Sadr shoulda pulled his punches, and I gave him a strict talkin' to. He's not gonna clobber you again like that.”
Thank God.” Riley put a hand on the side of his head. “Think I could get another dose of that stuff, Doctor Reed Or at least a dram of whiskey?”
"Sorry, lad. The analgesic will make itself felt in a minute or two and alcohol's not a good thing to mix with it. Come on, I'll let Lieutenant Cutler get you comfortable on one of our accommodating biobeds.”
“Hotel Reed, indeed,” Riley slurred as Liz Cutler helped him off the examination table and towards one of the biobeds at the back of Sickbay. Malcolm blew out a frustrated breath.
"Lieutenant Commander Tucker and I will be in my office.”
"Okay, Doc. I'll call you if anything earth-shattering happens.”
Once they were in Malcolm's office, Trip sat heavily in his chair as Malcolm sat at his desk. “Travis knows about Crewman El-Sadr's penchant for blowin' up,” Trip said quietly. “The man shouldn't be in the Armory anytime soon. He's on report and confined to quarters, pending Travis's decision on what to do with him.”
Malcolm shook his head.”I don't understand. El-Sadr hasn't always been this volatile.”
"No, he hasn't, but it started about two days ago. I can't have him putting my people in danger, and can't afford to have him on a critical away team.” Trip sighed in frustration and ran a hand through his short blond hair.
Malcolm hummed under his breath as he brought up Saheed El-Sadr's medical record. “No major allergies, no extreme reactions to standard medicines. Broke his arm in hand-to-hand combat on Shubry's Planet, alcohol poisoning from a spiked drink on Varitam--”
"Yeah, someone thought he was an informant and tried to off him. I remember that mission.”
"--heat exhaustion from Hades Five, frostbite from the Andorian Ice wastes, surgery to take out his appendix and his gall bladder, cracked ribs from an altercation on Wrenlet, plasma burns from an engine leak while the Freeman was docked at Jupiter Station. My God, the man's a walking medical disaster.”
Despite himself, Trip's mouth quirked in a grin.”Even I've got a better record, Malcolm.”
Malcolm gave him an abbreviated version of The Look. “It's just the first page, Trip. Most of this happened before he was posted to Enterprise. His psychological profile indicates he's tough, resourceful, a quick thinker, and a team player. That sounds more like the El-Sadr I'm familiar with. You said this all started about two days ago?”
"Out of the blue. No warnin' whatsoever. He comes on-shift in the Armory and proceeds to pick a fight with Crewman Tanner. It didn' t come to blows and he did apologize afterwards. Then nothin' for several hours; seemed to be over whatever was botherin him. Then he kicks the crap out of Crewman Michaels during self-defense training."
Malcolm pressed his lips together and kept his voice under rigid control. “Michaels never told me it had been El-Sadr that put him in Sickbay, just that he'd been clumsy and took a fall.”
Trip stared at him. “Wait. Michaels lied to you?”
“Apparently he lied to both of us.”Trip shook his head and continued, “That' s when I first talked to Travis because what I was tellin' him obviously wasn't sinkin' in. Don't know all the details of their talk, but whatever Travis told him was effective. All was peachy till this mornin' until he decked Riley.”
"Does Hoshi know about this?”
"The Cap'n? If she didn't before, she does now. I talked to her before coming down here to see about Riley. She went straight to El-Sadr's quarters for a chat.”At Malcolm's expression, Trip raised his hands and said, “I sent Branway and Tsoramu with her, and she's not a slouch in the self-defense department either.”
"I know that,” Malcolm snapped. Trip raised his eyebrows at his tone, and Malcolm sighed. “Sorry. It's just this whole thing doesn't make any sense. El=Sadr's annual physical is coming up; this would be the perfect opportunity to examine him."
”Make sure he hasn't been tampered with? I thought bein' paranoid was my department.”
"One can never be too sure,” Malcolm replied primly.
"Should've been in Security.”
"Perhaps I should,” he answered, “but while the prospect of blowing things up might be appealing,someone has to clean up the mess.”
"And no one does it better than you do, Malcolm.” Trip chuckled and patted Malcolm on the shoulder. "All right, I'll talk to Hoshi and tell her El-Sadr's been bumped to the head of the physicals list."
Malcolm gave him a thin smile. “If you think that your physical will be delayed because of this,Mister Tucker-”
Trip grinned and snapped his fingers. “Aw, damn, I was hopin'--Well, see ya later. Got a dinner with T'Pol and the Cap'n."
Malcolm hid a smirk. "Until later.”
Malcolm sighed and gazed at El-Sadr's impassive face on the screen; the young man's black eyes glared back at him. He shook his head again and brought his attention to a more pressing matter.
He went back to studying the database of Luran physiology. Although their outward appearance was humanoid, their internal organs resembled more like the Vulcans. A Luran's heart was also on the right side of the abdomen and their muscles thicker and more defined, as befitted a planet with higher gravity than Earth. Their brain synapses fired at a higher rate than a Humans, which meant higher reaction times and amazing physical flexibility. Their immune systems were stronger, their healing rates phenomenal--
My God, these people hardly even need doctors. As a result, their medical technology was not as advanced as Earth's. They prided themselves on their physical prowess, like the Andorians, even more so, tthat they only accepted needles to inject medicines, not hyposprays. He shook his head in mixed awe and apprehension.
And Hoshi had to impress them with her linguistic and her whip-wielding abilities?
He was not looking forward to this particular Away mission.
Crewman Saeed El-Sadr stood at rigid attention in front of Captain Hoshi Sato, his eyes riveted to a point above her head. Ensigns Branway and Tsoramu flanked the captain on either side, armed as per Lieutenant Commander Tucker’s instructions, but Hoshi doubted either man would need their weapons. The anguish and dread in El-Sadr’s eyes was directed not at her, but at himself.
“At ease, Crewman,” she said in a quiet tone.
“Ma’am,” he snapped and went to a modified parade rest.
“What happened in the Armory today? You didn’t stop the training exercise after Lieutenant Commander Tucker ordered you to stop. Crewman Riley is all right, but Doctor Reed insisted on keeping him under observation for a couple of days.” She noticed El-Sadr flinched at her words. “Tell me what’s going on. This isn’t the first time, is it?”
“No, ma’am,” he replied. His tone was crisp, but she heard the slightest hesitation. “It isn’t the first time. I just don’t have an explanation for either case, Captain.”
Hoshi raised her eyebrows. “No explanation whatsoever.”
“No, ma’am. I’m not usually violent towards my fellow crewmen and officers. I’m trained to use restraint in my actions. I follow orders.” El-Sadr’s mouth tightened in anger. “It’s just sometimes I feel this wave of rage come over me...and I can’t stop it. I don’t know where it comes from, ma’am. It’s out of nowhere.”
If it was anyone else, Hoshi would have been skeptical of the excuse, but she knew El-Sadr’s reputation as an honorable, decent man. Trip wouldn’t have handpicked him for his Armory staff otherwise. He was only telling the truth as well as he could. If El-Sadr couldn’t understand what was going on, he admitted it.
“So it comes and goes at random times?”
“At first, it was just when we’re doing phase pistol or hand-to-hand practice in the Armory ma’am, but lately...” Now his voice betrayed the fear he dared not show, “it’s been more frequent. I volunteer to put myself under guard, ma’am, just in case I—“
She nodded. “You’re a good man to do this, Saeed. I wish we could do otherwise, but—“she sighed and glanced at the two Security ensigns. “Take positions outside Mister El-Sadr’s door, gentlemen. I’ll notify Lieutenant Commander Tucker on the situation. And Saeed—“
“Ma’am?” he croaked.
“I’m going to ask Doctor Reed to schedule a full physical and mental evaluation on you. If there is a physical or emotional imbalance, he’ll find it and correct it. I’m sure Lieutenant Commander Tucker will be glad to have you back as soon as possible.”
He blew out a sigh of relief. “Thank you, ma’am.”
“If you feel one of these...rages coming on, inform the guards and they’ll let Sickbay know. I mean it, Saeed...I don’t want you doing something stupid.”
“I won’t do anything dumb, Captain. You have my word.”
“I accept your word.” She nodded at him. “I’ll have Commander Mayweather check up on you in a couple of hours.”
“Thank you again, ma’am. I’m very grateful.”
Hoshi left the guards outside El-Sadr’s quarters, then let both Trip and Malcolm know of her orders. She hoped that Malcolm might get to the bottom of El-Sadr’s problem; he was a valuable member of Security.
She sighed as she entered the lift. They were scheduled to arrive at the Luran Homeworld in less than twenty-four hours. Jon and she had planned to go over the speech again during her lunch break. Hoshi was fairly confident she had the accents, the intonations, and the cadences down pat, but she wanted to make sure. Many first contacts had become ugly after a linguistic or a cultural misunderstanding, and this was one contact she didn’t want to screw up.
Like Altarra. Granted, that one had not been Enterprise's fault; they had walked into a situation that had exploded beyond their control. Admiral Forrest understood and placed no blame on Hoshi or her crew.Yet it only increased the pressure to make more successful First Contact missions. Hoshi had no doubt that every Away mission would be analyzed and questioned by Starfleet Command. Not to mention the Vulcan High Command would be watching Enterprise as well.
All the more reason to make sure this one is successful.
T'Pol arrived at the Captain's Mess Room at nineteen-hundred hours. Other crew members greeted her and she politely nodded back. She was the only member of the senior staff who hadn't shared a meal with Captain Sato since their launch from Spacedock. Even Kov had already done so, and he had joined the crew later than she. When she asked Kov what to expect, the other Vulcan pondered her question.
“The captain will engage in small talk, ask about your previous endeavors, and about what you plan to accomplish during this voyage,” Kov had replied. “She is an excellent listener, as you well know.”
“Yes, that is part of her function as ship's captain. She was a communications officer before her promotion.”
“So you also know that Captain Sato is discreet and will keep any matter confidential, if you ask it.”
She bristled. "Within reason, yes. Again, that is part of her personality.”
Kov didn't quite smile, but his voice became humorous. “I caution you about predicting the captain's actions in a completely logical manner, O-krei. She will still surprise you. I still find most of the senior staff quite puzzling...even someone as logical as Doctor Reed.”
T'Pol shrugged at the title O-krei. Cousin, not necessarily by blood. She still found it difficult to relate to Kov, one of the V'tosh Ka'tur, but she made an effort to try.
And Kov's advice was correct, as usual. T'Pol had expected a private audience with just herself and Captain Sato. To her surprise, Trip Tucker had also joined them for dinner.
“I'm not as familiar with Vulcan cuisine as Jon, Trip and Malcolm are, so I asked their advice on what to have for dinner. Since both Jon and Malcolm are on duty, I invited Trip along to keep me from making any cultural faux pas.” Hoshi laughed softly and gestured to the seat on her right. “I hope that is acceptable.”
“Of course, Captain. I appreciate the preparation involved in this meal.” She hid her sudden apprehension and gracefully sat in the offered chair. “Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
“I'm off-duty. It's Trip.” He smiled and inclined his head at Crewman Cunningham, who stood ready to take their orders. “My mother says, 'a meal shared is a heart shared'.”
“Your mother is a wise person,” T'Pol murmured.
She chose a bowl of plomeek soup and pok tar, a vegetable stew usually served during the evening meal. Hoshi had also chosen plomeek, but she added a small salad, a plate of fish, and chocolate cheesecake for dessert. T'Pol noticed that Trip also selected a stew of some sort, with a side helping of mashed potatoes and greens.
“I remember the first time I had plomeek. Major T'Lydya seemed rather surprised that a Human found it acceptable,” Trip said with a chuckle. “Unlike some members of my family, I believe vegetarian dishes can be tasty as well as nutritious.”
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. “Some of your family do not approve of a vegetarian diet?”
“It's not that they don't approve; it's just that they've gotten used to certain dishes. Like smoked barbeque and hamburger.” He chuckled as she wrinkled her nose in automatic disgust. “It's all about what your palate is used to. Some people's are more discerning than others.”
Hoshi sighed and added, “That's the truth. I still can't handle some Centaurian dishes that are so heavily spiced...”
Soon, the three of them were discussing the food from various cultures. Hoshi asked T’Pol about certain items of Vulcan cuisine, such as gespar, a Vulcan vegetable; and pok tar. From there, T’Pol went into other Vulcan customs, such as the kahs-wan, the Rite of Passage.
For their part, Trip and Hoshi described some Human customs that T’Pol was curious about. She was grateful for the explanations, for she was truly confused by some Human behavior. Chief Engineer Phlox and Doctor Kov had also been studying Human culture, but her fellow non-Humans were even more confused than she was.
Hoshi's curosity seemed genuine, but T'Pol felt the deft touch of a master conversationalist. Hoshi smoothly kept the cadence of the discussion. She changed the subject before it dragged out too long. She even quoted some wise words from Surak in the original Vulcan dialect. T'Pol responded in Vulcan, much to the captain's delight. Although Trip's command of the language was nowhere as good as the captain's, he still managed to follow the topic.
“Stariben du muhl,” T'Pol commented. You speak well.
He shook his head and demurred, “Hiyet muhl.” Well enough.
“Saven-tor nash-veh, kuv istau du.” I can teach (you), if you wish.
Trip seemed surprised at the offer. To her credit, T'Pol was surprised she had even made it, especially in front of the captain.
“Tishau nash-veh,” he said with a grin. I'd like (that).
Her mouth threatened to quirk upwards in reply, but she sternly kept it under control. What kind of effect did this man have on her? The most effective lies have a kernel of truth at their core. Soultek was correct in his concern about him.
“Surak said that man should use all his experience to shape his actions,” Trip said. “All his experience.”
“He specifically stated that logic should dictate the decision-making process.”
“Logic's not the only part of experience, T'Pol. The universe likes to throw in a bit of chaos now and then. What if you're in a situation where you have to trust your gut instincts to find the right answer?”
She raised her eyebrow. “I assume by 'gut instincts' you are referring to a thought process that analyzes information subconsciously, but still in a rational manner--”
“The word 'instinct' implies that you act on what you feel is right. There are situations where you don't have time to make a complicated analysis. Sometimes you don't have all the information at your fingertips and you have to react to what's going on.”
“Surak encouraged his followers to use all possible methods, but he also warned against emotional bias to influence the results.”
“I can understand excess emotional bias. Believe me, in my line of work, no one can afford to go flyin' off the handle. People can die if emotions run too high.” Trip paused to sip at his wine, then continued, “I gotta take the facts under consideration...but there's the moral side to think about too.”
“Morality is defined as what a certain society deems acceptable. What a Vulcan considers 'moral' is different from what an Orion considers--”
“Ah, but who defines what's 'acceptable'? And don't tell me that decision is completely grounded in cold, hard logic. Not when it varies from person to person.”
“Surak also said, 'I rejoice in our differences'. He acknowledges that an individual had his or her--”
She sighed and went on, “--own viewpoint of the universe. I believe there is an Earth quotation, 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'. There are commonalities that can be observed and notated in a logical fashion--”
“--even between the Vulcans and the Orions, or Vulcans and Humans. Okay. So everyone's got their similarities and differences. Some people use logic more than others; others trust their gut more, but when it comes to decision-making, it comes down to using whatever you've got at the time. That influences how you see things. It can't be completely unbiased.”
“'Logical' and 'unbiased' are synonyms. 'Logical' implies an orderly flow of thoughts. 'Unbiased' implies no emotional influence whatsoever.”
“They're not the same thing.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Are they? There are Humans who are able to look at a set of facts without becoming emotionally swayed by those facts. Doctor Reed comes to mind--”
“Malcolm can definitely do that. Yet he's also got a sense of responsibility to his patients. He looks after their physical, mental and emotional welfare. There are some doctors who can analyze a protein, but have a lousy bedside manner.”
T'Pol noticed that Captain Sato said nothing during this conversation. She seemed content just to sit and listen to both sides of the issue. There was a flicker of a shadow at the mention of Malcolm Reed, but her mouth quirked upwards in humor. Trip had seemed to forget the captain's presence as well.
Crewman Cunningham and the other stewards cleared the dinner plates, but the conversation went on. Eventually, it steered back towards more personal issues. The discussion turned to Vulcan exploration of the stars. Trip leaned back in his chair as she outlined the early history of her people’s ship design. This was her passion, the ship navigational and helm systems that got her people into the stars. She saw a similar gleam in his eyes, the light of a fellow craftsperson. Again, she had to rein in her enthusiasm before she made another mistake.
“I’m curious, why didn’t you formally go into engineering, then? You sound like you enjoy building ship systems,” Hoshi commented.
She inclined her head at Trip, who shrugged. I'm sure the captain has asked him the very same question over the years, she thought. Aloud, she answered, “I enjoy new permutations of existing equipment, integrating new technologies to improve their performance, Captain. The Vulcan Engineering Academy teaches its students the basic concepts and what has performed well for millennia.”
Trip rolled his eyes. “In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” At her questioning look, he clarified, “They stick with efficiency and what works right now. Why mess with success?”
“Indeed. Their thinking has been...orthodox. Any new developments must be thoroughly tested and proved before its use is accepted by the general population.” Yes, that was true, but she couldn’t totally repress a stab of bitterness.
He raised his eyebrows. “I guess your ideas haven’t met with much approval from your people, then.”
She just looked at him. “Several of my proposals have been taken under consideration by the Vulcan Ship Operations Ministry, Lieutenant Commander, but haven’t been implemented yet. I have confidence they will be approved in due time.”
“Has this had any effect on your career, Lieutenant?” Hoshi asked, her voice full of curiosity. “With your experience, you should be at a higher rank than you are.”
T’Pol turned to address her, her face serene, even as her heart twisted in her gut. “I was not originally geared towards serving on an Earth ship, Captain, and thus hadn’t joined the Vulcan military per se. This is considered a...secondary career for me, and as such, your Starfleet has taken that under consideration. I believe Jonathan Archer is in a similar situation, despite his years as a diplomat under Ambassador Soval’s tutelage.”
“So you were also a civilian who joined military service, like Jon.”
“Lieutenant Commander Archer and I have many things in common, Captain.” T’Pol noticed that Trip shifted uncomfortably in his seat at that particular remark. Fascinating, she thought.
“I see.” Hoshi nodded to herself, as if confirming something . “I appreciate your willingness to talk about your people and your culture with us, Lieutenant. I hope you won’t object if we do this more often.”
“Of course not, Captain. I find it as intellectually stimulating to discuss the similarities and differences between us.” She heard the implicit dismissal in Sato’s tone and she got up from her seat. “With the Captain’s permission, I will finish the rest of my shift on the Bridge.”
“Go ahead, Lieutenant. Oh, one last thing--”
She remained standing with her hands calmly folded behind her. “Captain?”
“Is everything all right with your family on Vulcan? Have you heard from your mother or First Minister V'Lar?”
T'Pol took a deep breath and glanced sideways at Trip. “I last talked to them on subspace last week. The political situation remains unchanged. First Minister V'Lar watches over a tenuous agreement between her government and the opposition.”
Trip crossed his arms in front of him and asked, “Unofficially?”
“Minister Soultek contacted me last night. He was...impressed at the detail of my 'situation reports'.”
Another look passed between the captain and the Armory Officer. “But?” he prompted.
“He wishes me to observe the First Contact mission on Luran and act accordingly.”
Trip snorted and shook his head. “I bet he's hopin' this First Contact'll end up the same as Altarra.”
Hoshi pressed her lips together as she considered T'Pol's words. “All the more reason to make this a successful one. We need all the allies we can get out here.”
“There is more, Captain.” T'Pol related the rest of her talk with Soultek. Trip's face clouded with a dark expression at Soultek's concern of 'threats' from the Enterprise crew, specifically from himself.
Hoshi nodded when T'Pol was finished. “You're the Armory and Tactical Officer, Trip. I can see why Soultek would be focused on you in particular.”
He rolled his eyes. “Wonderful,” he groused.
“I see no reason not to deviate from our previous plan,” T'Pol said. “We will decide what to tell Soultek and the Security Ministry before I send the 'report'.”
“Yes, and it might help if there is a bit more friction between the two of you,” Hoshi added. “It gives T'Pol more cover.”
He smirked. “All we gotta do is have more 'discussions' in public. And make 'em loud and pretty obvious.”
T'Pol raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. That will also take very little effort, as we have seen earlier.”
He gave her a mock glare, but his eyes twinkled in mirth. “Yeah, no kiddin'.”
Hoshi stood up, indicating the end of the dinner. “Thanks for telling us, T'Pol.”
“It is my duty as a Starfleet officer.” She nodded slightly at the two Humans. “And thank you for an enlightening evening. I look forward to many more.”
“My pleasure, Lieutenant. Dismissed.”
T'Pol turned and walked out of the Captain's Mess. She tried to focus on the upcoming First Contact mission, and not on how she looked forward to the verbal sparring with Trip Tucker. I enjoy it far too much for comfort. I must be careful.