Author: Brendan Chris
“OK, once we’re finished at Romulus Republic, we can grab a bite to eat at Denith’s Pizza,” Trish Yanick was saying, throwing her hair back over her shoulder. Today she was wearing it in a long braid, and it had been some time since her last haircut. At this rate, her hair would reach her butt in a few short months, “At least, those of us who eat will eat at Denith’s. Then we can head over to the multiplex, there’s a new James Bond movie I want to see!”
“Why must we go to Romulus Republic?” Fifebee asked, “We can find low, low prices if we go to Club Melkot,”
“Because I still get a staff discount at Romulus Republic,” Yanick said.
“Discount?” Wowryk raised an eyebrow, “You only worked there for a few days!”
“With the Romulans, once you’re in, you’re in for life,” Yanick said, slightly gloomily, “They tried to schedule me for a work shift tomorrow, too,”
The three women were walking down the shopping concourse of Starbase 45, fingers already grasping bags of purchased goods. Silverado had docked at the Starbase less than half a day ago and the crew had been granted shore leave. Silverado herself was being fuelled and supplied for a long ter ission, which meant that every cargo hold, every antimatter pod, every deuterium storage tank and every spare parts bin was going to be packed to capacity. Although they were scheduled for a brief stopover at Waystation on their way to Matrian space, the crew had been told to get as much R&R in as they could at Starbase 45.
“I wish this place had a decent Klingon clothing store,” Yanick said, rummaging through a rack of shirts, “Pari really gets turned on when I wear metal,”
“There is a Klingon clothing store on Level B, Section 14,” Fifebee advised her, having memorized the shop directory, “Kraggoth’s Klingon Fashions,”
“No, no,” Yanick said, “I said decent! Everybody knows that if you want good Klingon clothing, you’ve got to hit Krilik’s Klingon Formal Wear,”
“Well, then you’ll just have to wait until we get to Waystation!” Wowryk said.
“Oh, is that a Gornzibar’s over there?” Yanick said, peering out the store window, “They might have something,”
Wowryk and Fifebee exchanged glances as Yanick bolted from Romulus Republic, staff discount forgotten.
“You know Trish, you seem to be taking the news of this new mission fairly well,” Wowryk said, catching up with the wayward blond, “I for one am most upset that I won’t be able to visit my family next month for the annual Revival Festival,”
“Revival Festival?” Fifebee asked.
“Yes,” Wowryk nodded, “To celebrate the second coming of Jesus,”
“But that hasn’t happened yet,” Fifebee pointed out.
“Well,” Wowryk shrugged, “People said the same thing during the past two hundred and thirty-five festivals, but sooner or later, we’ll get him!”
“The doctor does raise a valid point,” Fifebee said to Yanick as she entered the Gornzibar store and started flipping through a rack of stainless steel pantyhose, “The captain locked himself in his quarters for six hours, Mr. Jeffery is hiding behind potted plants and Mr. Jall was seen replicating a piece of sports equipment designed to prevent male genital injury. You, however are undertaking the exact same type of shopping spree you have undertaken every other time we have come to Starbase 45.”
“Well,” Yanick said, moving on from the pantyhose and looking at leather arm bands, “What’s the big deal? We’ve got all our friends on Silverado, we’ve got holodecks now, we’ve got food, drinks and entertainment. I mean, sure, we won’t see our families, but we don’t see them a lot now anyway!”
“We are taking a high-powered subspace transceiver array with us,” Fifebee mused, “Contact with the Federation will be much easier than it was previously,”
“OK, so we’ll have all the comforts of home,” Wowryk said, crossing her arms, “But isn’t anybody else bothered by the fact that we’re going to be visiting the people that brainwashed us all and turned me into a raving ego-maniac?”
“Oh, right,” Yanick shrugged, “Well, it wasn’t all of the Matrians that did that, right? It was just a few of their leaders,”
“Trish, they enslaved and terrorized an entire region of space!” Wowryk snapped, “They sent out probes to find some poor male sap that was smart enough to lead their men, but too terrified of women to do anything but obey them, they attacked us several times and nearly destroyed the ship and we all wound up in the wrong bodies because of their stupid brainwashing technology!”
“The Klingons slaughtered countless thousands over the centuries, but we’re allies with them now,” Fifebee pointed out.
“And they have really bad body odour, but that didn’t stop the Federation from establishing relations!” Yanick said proudly.
“Nor does it stop Jall,” Wowryk mused darkly.
“That was just a rumour;” Fifebee waved away, “No self-respecting Klingon would spend time with Jall,”
“You still need work on those gossip subroutines,” Yanick said, picking out a chain mail skirt and a bottle of Gorn massage oil, “You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t let the stories spread!”
“Admiral Tunney will see you now,” wheezed Tunney’s secretary, a blue-skinned, horned and very cranky being. Stafford always heard Tunney refer to the being as ‘she’, but what could possibly be feminine about that walking brick was beyond Stafford’s comprehension.
“Thanks, sweetie,” Jall said, giving her/it a big smile, “And may I say, you look lovely today! Are you using that new skin cream from Velvane?”
The alien growled menacingly.
“Let’s just go in,” Stafford said, grabbing Jall by the arm and pulling him into Tunney’s office. Nothing had changed since his last visit; the walls were still the standard Starfleet Grey Office décor, a large viewscreen still dominated one wall and Tunney was still looking at him with a look that was somewhere between amusement and annoyance.
“I was just being friendly,” Jall said, “You always gotta get in good with the help! Who knows what kind of juicy gossip we could find out about Tun-“
“Can it,” Stafford snapped out of the corner of his mouth.
“Captain Stafford,” Tunney greeted him, not bothering to get up, “And this must be Commander Jall,”
“Hi,” Jall waved, “Nice beard. It really accentuates your facial features,”
“I’m married,” Tunney said flatly.
“Why do people always think I’m hitting on them?” Jall rolled his eyes.
“See what I have to live with?” Stafford muttered to Tunney.
“I have no sympathy for you, Captain,” Tunney said, “I have to live with my wife, after all,”
Stafford turned red.
“Not that I was implying anything,” Tunney gestured for them to sit, “Still, Mr. Jall, your behaviour during the, er ‘Silverado Idol’ broadcast was less embarrassing than that of the other contestants. At least I can say something positive about you, which is more than I can say about the others.”
“Uh, thanks,” Jall sat. Stafford remained standing, his skin tone slowly returning to normal.
“Look, Admiral, about this mission,” Stafford said.
“Do you have a problem with it?” Tunney clasped his hands on his desk, looking calmly up at Stafford.
“Well, the last time we were sent to Matrian space, our ship was captured by the Senousans, our chief engineer was kidnapped, our doctor became some kind of White Witch of the North and our ship was nearly destroyed,” Stafford put his hands on Tunney’s desk, “And don’t even start me on the body switching!”
“You weren’t sent to Matrian space the first time,” Tunney pointed out, “You were sent on an exploratory mission which happened to take you to Matrian space,”
“Same thing,” Stafford muttered.
Tunney’s attitude darkened.
“Are you suggesting then that I should send another ship, one crewed by officers who have never been to Matrian space and have no idea what to expect, no idea of the history of the region and no idea what the Matrians are capable of, just because you’re frightened of a former empire of aggressive, large-breasted women?”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Stafford grumbled.
“Your crew, as much as it frightens me to say it, are the most experienced when it comes to the Matrians. Only one other ship has visited Matrian space, the USS Wasagaming, and they were only delivering Ambassador Owens so he could start negotiating with the Matrians for Federation membership,” Tunney said, “We recalled the Wasagaming to assist in the Dominion War, however Ambassador Owens remained behind to continue his negotiations,”
“Great,” Stafford said, finally taking a seat, “So we’re just going to go pick Owens up then, right? Zip out, grab him, zip back, all finished?”
“No,” Tunney said, “There’s been something of a development with the negotiations. Ambassador Owens has requested the presence of a starship, preferably one with experience in dealing with the Matrians,”
“Ahh,” Stafford and Jall exchanged knowing looks, “A ‘development’, huh? What is it, a bomb at the consulate? Death threats? Somebody poisoned the Matrian representative and we need to investigate?”
“No,” Tunney said, “The negotiations are being concluded,”
“Ohhhh f**kberries,” Stafford sighed, sinking down into the nearest seat.
“I don’t get it,” Jall looked back and forth between Tunney and Stafford, “That’s a good think, right?”
“It means,” Stafford said glumly, “that the Matrian government is about to take a final vote on whether or not to become members of the Federation. And if Owens is calling for a full starship instead of a scout or courier vessel, it means that he expects them to vote ‘yes’,”
“Yippee,” Jall shrugged, “Another member world. I’ll make sure to pack the commemorative china,”
“It means more than that,” Tunney said, “It means the Federation is making a major expansion into that sector. The Senousans already voted to accept Federation membership last month, and Owens expects to open negotiations with another race, the K’K’Turi in the next few months. We’ll be needing to setup more permanent lines of communication, exchange of technology and cultural information, travel, tourism and,” he looked pointedly at Stafford, “defense. In another year or two, we may even look at building a Starbase in the region,”
Stafford just sighed.
“Most of the traffic out to Matrian space will be using Waystation as a departure point,” Tunney went on, “That’s why they’re there, after all, although the way traffic has already been increasing in that sector, I’m not sure how much more they can take. Still, it will be some time before we start sending regular transports as far as Matria Prime,”
“It sounds like this is a pretty big deal,” Jall said, looking uneasy as the scope of the situation started to sink in.
“It is,” Tunney said bluntly, “The Matrians have been a major power in that region for at least a century, even though their civilization was apparently in decline.”
“A major bunch of slave drivers, you mean,” Stafford said.
“Until you and you crew went in with weapons blazing,” Tunney reminded him, “In what was, I believe, a borderline Prime Directive violation,”
“They started it!”
“Regardless,” Tunney handed Stafford a padd, “Your mission, and you have no choice but to accept it, is to travel to Matria Prime and establish relations with their government and their military. As Starfleet representatives, you’ll be expected to start preparing the Matrian space service to be incorporated into Starfleet. You’ll also be exploring the region, establishing diplomatic ties with any new races discovered and generally helping the Matrians to establish themselves as a stabilizing force in the region,”
“Sounds like we’re going to be busy,” Jall said.
“Very,” Tunney agreed.
“Um, one question,” Stafford raised his hand like he was in school, “Isn’t this a job for a ship that’s a bit more…um, good at this kind of thing? Like the Enterprise, or maybe Voyager?”
“First, there is no way in hell we’re letting Voyager get anywhere near any new civilizations, not after the reputation they gave us in the Delta Quadrant,” Tunney said, “Second, the Enterprise is too busy, and third, this mission has the nice side effect of getting the ship assigned out of the press and out of our hair for the foreseeable future,”
“Oh,” Stafford said quietly.
“Look on the bright side,” Tunney said, leaning back in his chair, “If you pull this off with less than your usual number of screw ups, it will look very good on your records. It might even b stop towards getting yourself into the Admiralty, although there’s no way in hell I ever want to write THAT recommendation,”
“Really?” Stafford perked up.
“Hell, if they let Janeway in, anybody’s got a chance,” Tunney said darkly.
“What if we screw it up?” Stafford asked.
“Well,” Tunney said cheerfully, “Most of the time, ships that screw up get blasted to pieces. In which case, better a used ship like yours instead of a nice, shiny new ship, right?”
“So,” Yanick said, taking a sip of her ‘Sex on the Beach’, “Anybody know what we’re doing here?”
“Hopefully, not eating,” Jeffery said, nervously eying a plate of squirming insects on the table next to them. Stafford had been vague, but had instructed them to meet at ‘A Taste of Lekona’, a restaurant on the upper level of the mall concourse. Jeffery was pretty sure Stafford would have picked a different restaurant if he’d known that the reptilian Lekonans survived on a diet composed primarily of bugs.
“I suspect that we are here to meet our new crewmember,” Fifebee said. The station didn’t have holographic projectors in the restaurant so she’d brought her holo-relay along. The cylindrical device was blinking away in a corner, receiving odd stares from some of the other patrons, “Or have you forgotten? We are short one,”
“Oh yeah,” Jeffery snapped his fingers, “We need a new operations guy. What happened to that Johnson fellow, anyway?”
“He didn’t like us, so he left,” Yanick said.
“I can’t imagine why,” Wowryk said. She was seated next to Yanick, on the same side of the table as Jeffery so the two wouldn’t have to look at each other.
“Me neither,” Yanick said, “I mean, we’re lovable, right?”
“Very,” T’Parief rumbled. He was seated next to Fifebee, who had to keep ducking every time T’Parief’s elbow came her way.
“Ah didn’t really know this Johnson fellow all that well,” Jeffery said, “But he did seem like kind of a git, right? Ah mean, the lyin’, and the sleepin’ around and all that,”
“Yes, and your behavior recently has just been a shining example to us all,” Wowryk said coldly. Jeffery swallowed.
“He slept around?” Yanick raised an eyebrow, looking eager to hear the dirt.
“I am not sure. I was just practicing my gossip,” Fifebee told her.
“Speaking of which,” Wowryk said, not looking at Jeffery, “Rumour has it that you have scarcely been seen outside of engineering for quite some time,”
“Ah’ve been busy,” Jeffery muttered.
“Actually, aside from the Christmas festivities, he’s been avoiding the crew and sulking, mostly due to embarrassment over his behavior during the First Officer contest,” Fifebee said. This time, as T’Parief shifted position, she simply went non-solid llowing his elbow to pass harmlessly through her head.
“Look, enough with the gossiping, Fifebee!” Jeffery groaned.
“That’s not gossip,” Yanick said, turning to Jeffery, “That’s fact. You screwed up. Welcome to the club. Now can we move on?”
“Indeed,” Wowryk said, “We’re about to meet the being that we may be serving with for some time. We should make the best impression we can,”
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Stafford said, plopping down at the head of the table. Jall followed, sitting in the empty seat next to Fifebee, “T’Parief, why is your elbow stuck in Fifebee’s head?”
T’Parief started, pulling his elbow back.
“I am sorry, Lieutenant,” he said, “I will try to be less careless.”
“By the way,” Stafford said, a slightly smug look on his face, “Has anybody checked the promotions list lately?”
“IT’S BEEN POSTED??” Yanick, Fifebee and Jeffery screeched.
“Right before my meeting with Tunney,” Stafford said eaning back, “Jall has a copy, if you’d like to-“
Jall immediately vanished under a flurry of limbs as Yanick and Fifebee dove at him. After several minutes of scuffling, Yanick emerged, a padd clutched triumphantly in one hand.
“You could have just asked,” Jall said, massaging his arm and looking down at his body, “I’m not sure, but I might have just been raped,”
“YES!” Yanick screamed, dropping the padd, “I’M A LIEUTENANT!”
“Ah’m a,” Jeffery’s eyes widened, “Lieutenant Commander? Still? But Ah passed the test and everything!”
“Pari, you too!” Yanick said, taking the padd back from Jeffery, “Commander T’Parief! Ohhh! And Fifebee! Lieutenant Commander!”
“Really?” Fifebee looked pleased, “What a pleasant surprise!”
“Surprise is right,” Jeffery muttered.
“Excuse me, what was that?” Fifebee said sharply.
“I’m also a Lieutenant Commander, I see,” Wowryk commented, glancing at the padd, “Not a big deal. I don’t think anybody’s even mentioned my rank in the past three years, seeing as how I’m far more concerned with saving your miserable lives,”
“Well, congratulations to everybody,” Stafford said, putting on his best smile, “It was a tough list to make,”
“You’re not kidding,” Jall muttered.
“But I think we need to celebrate,” Stafford finished smoothly, “Waitress! A round of your finest champagne. Or the nearest equivalent,”
“Ohh, Ensign Day is now Lieutenant Day,” Yanick kept reading, “And Lieutenant Rengs! Oh, and Quintaine is now Lieutenant Commander! And Lieutenant Bithe, she’ll be so pleased! And Naketh! Oh, it doesn’t say which one…”
“I’ll have to fix that,” Stafford muttered.
“Oh, goody,” Jeffery pouted.
“I cannot believe you promoted me!” Fifebee said, a wide grin on her face, “I am only three years old, and already Lieutenant Commander!”
“You’ve done some good work over the past few years,” Stafford said. Jeffery immediately threw him a dirty look.
“Not that everybody hasn’t,” Stafford said quickly, “But, I mean, I only have room on my list for so many,”
“Oh, aye,” Jeffery said, “It’s all about the numbers, eh?”
“Well, I helped,” Jall said, “And that whole ‘storm off the bridge while Jall isn’t looking’ thing you pulled a few weeks ago really didn’t score you any points,”
“Ye took his advice not to promote me?” Jeffery’s head snapped back in Stafford’s direction.
“Of course I did!” Stafford said, “He’s my First Officer!”
“And yer new best bud, the way the two of ye have been pallin’ around!” Jeffery shot back.
“Your drinks?” the waitress had returned with a tray of champagne flutes filled with a murky, orange fluid.
“I work with the guy,” Stafford said, “I don’t have much choice but to spend my working hours with him! And if you actually came to Deck 12 once in a while instead of moping around in your quarters, I would have happily joined you for a drink!”
Sensing she wasn’t going to be answered just yet, the waitress started passing around the drinks.
“Oh, just go hang around Deck 12, Jeffery!” Jeffery grunted, “Don’t mind the stares from the other crewmen, Jeffery! Just pretend everything is peachy and that everybody’s not mad at ye for trying to win, Jeffery!”
“Simon, I’m sure everybody’s forgotten about that,” Yanick said gently.
“No, they haven’t!” Jeffery snapped, “There was a re-run last week! And with Fifebee’s little rumour mill runnin’, they’ll never forget!”
“I only started the rumour about you pleasuring yourself in the Jefferies tube,” Fifebee said, “I said nothing about your previous behaviour,”
“WHAT???” Jeffery snapped.
“Excuse me, is this the Silverado table?” Admiral Tunney and a man in a gold-collared Starfleet uniform had been guided to the table by the host, who was trying to politely interrupt. Tunney noticed the looks of hostility and the argument that was underway, “Like I even need to ask,”
“Just a second,” Stafford said, not bothering to look, “OK, people, stow the trash talk. Even if you didn’t get a promotion, several of your friends and colleagues did! So shut up and be happy for them before I kick your asses!”
“Um, Chris,” Yanick, like most of the others at the table, had noticed Tunney standing behind Stafford.
“Shush!” Stafford said. He picked up his drink.
“To our colleagues!” he said, raising it and clearly expecting everybody to join him.
“Oh, this is going to be good,” Tunney murmured to his companion.
“Our colleagues,” the rest of the officers echoed, shooting Tunney uneasy glances as they lifted their glasses.
As one, they drank.
Stafford sat quietly for a second.
“Oh my god,” he said, jumping to his feet so quickly his chair fell over. He ran at top speed for the washroom.
“I’m going to be sick!” Yanick cried, following him.
Jeffery, Jall and Wowryk didn’t get that far, proceeding to puke all over the table.
T’Parief simply smacked his lip.
“Ahh, Lekonan maggot wine,” he said fondly, “And an excellent vintage, too!”
After reporting to the stations infirmary to have their stomachs beamed, (not that there was much left in them), Stafford and the others found a table in the ‘Praetor and Firkin’. Fifebee had served a brief (and mostly successful) stint as a bartender there during a previous visit to the starbase.
“No, no food for us,” Stafford said, waving away the menu being offered by the waitress, “We, uh,”
“We tried eating at the insect place upstairs,” Yanick explained.
“Ahh,” the waitress nodded knowingly, “Then I suggest a cup of tea. It’ll help calm your stomachs,” she turned and walke way.
“Why they didn’t have a sign on the door is my question,” Jall said, massaging his stomach, “I mean, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?”
“That was like, so deep,” Yanick said dreamily.
They sat quietly for a moment. The waitress returned with their tea.
“Ahh, yes,” Jeffery sighed, sipping his tea, “That does feel better,”
“Hmmm,” Stafford mused, taking a sip.
“Speaking of tea,” Wowryk cut in, “Maybe now you should think about what is was that you did to scare off Johnson,”
“You mean ‘we’, right, doc?” Jall said.
“No, I mean you,” Wowryk said, shrugging,” “After all, it could not have possibly been anything I had done,”
“Oh, never,” Jeffery muttered, too quietly for her to hear.
“She makes a good point though,” Stafford said, “Tunney’s bringing the new guy around again in a couple minutes. Can anybody remember doing anything, saying anything that might have offended Johnson enough to make him leave?”
Yanick timidly raised her hand.
“I kinda sorta…” Yanick trailed off, turning deep red.
“Yes?” Stafford pressed.
“I asked him if the rumours about black guys were true,” she said sheepishly.
“What rumours?” Wowryk asked innocently.
“Nothing you would know about,” Jall assured her.
“Did you ask Ensign, I mean, Lieutenant Day the same question?” Fifebee inquired.
“Well, he’s Deltan,” Yanick shrugged, “When your race is considered to be the most mind-blowing lovers in the galaxy, I don’t think size matters,”
“I don’t think that would drive him off the ship,” Stafford said quickly, “OK, look, let’s try this. Stafford to Sylvia,” he tapped his comm-badge.
There was a shimmer and Sylvia materialized in an empty seat, courtesy of Fifebee’s holo-relay.
“Yes, Chris?” she asked. She turned to Fifebee, “Oh, you don’t mind, do you, dear?” she gestured at the holo-relay.
“Be my guest,” Fifebee replied politely.
“Sylvia, can you look over the security camera footage for the past few weeks and see if there’s anything we said or did to Johnson that might make him want to leave the ship?” Staffor sked.
Sylvia’s face took on a dreamy expression.
“Uh, Sylvia, did you hear me?” Stafford asked.
“I’m looking,” she said, eyes still vacant.
“Oh, sorry,” Stafford said, “You just sorta looked like…well…”
“The way you look when I give a science briefing?” Fifebee suggested.
“Something like that,” Stafford muttered.
“Well,” Sylvia said after another moment, “I can’t really find a specific thing that might have caused him to leave the ship,”
“Good then,” Jeffery said, forcing a grin, “It’s not our fault and no harm done,”
“Well, no,” Sylvia corrected him, “If I engage pattern-recognition subroutines, there clearly was harm done.” She frowned, evidently still reviewing footage, “In fact, I’m ashamed of all of you!”
“But you said-“
“I said no single, specific event,” Sylvia said, her voice now much like that of an annoyed parent, “But you people have been complete assholes!”
A display screen materialized in mid-air above the table. Sylvia started providing commentary while a number of scenes played out. The first showed Jeffery and Johnson in Platterheads.
“Here, Jeffery, you push in front of Johnson in the replicator line without apologizing,”
“Me?” Jeffery swallowed. The screen changed to show Fifebee sitting next to Johnson during a staff meeting.
“Fifebee, here we see you making snide remarks about the British,”
“I merely commented that they had a tendency to overcook their meat,” Fifebee said indignantly. The screen blinked again, showing Stafford walking quickly down the corridor while Johnson tried to keep up.
“Chris, here we have you completely ignoring the man when he tried to bring up some kind of personal problem,”
“I was…busy!” Stafford said. The screen switched again, showing Johnson talking to an attractive young woman in Unbalanced Equations. Until Jall swooped in.
“Jall, you just totally distracted that young woman with your story about Klingon aphrodisiacs. As a result, Johnson failed to engage in mating activities that night,”
“Oh, please,” Jall said, “Like I was trying to steal his ladies!” The screen changed again. This time it showed T’Parief walking out of a side corridor at full speed, flattening Johnson completely. T’Parief walked on, unaware.
“I thought I had felt something,” T’Parief said.
“You also left him completely out of your holiday celebrations,” Sylvia went on.
“He could have come!’ Stafford said indignantly, “Although, considering what happened, he was probably better off hiding in his quarters,”
“And there’s more. Much more.” Sylvia let the screen fade, “The point is that while none of you did any one thing to drive Johnson away, you all treated him like a complete outsider. You behaved as though he was not worthy to be part of your special little clique, so he left. One of the worst examples of disgusting, immature behaviour I have seen from any of you, and that includes the time Jall got the ship’s hockey team drunk enough to take part in that game of Twister!
“What?” Jall looked back and forth between Stafford and Jeffery, both of whom were looking at him with expressions of disgust, “It’s a co-ed team! Everybody had fun!
“We have a hockey team?” Wowryk asked Yanick.
“Yes, they practice on Tuesdays,” Yanick replied, “Ahhhh…athletes,” she rubbed her hands together, then stopped when she saw T’Parief staring at her, “Uh, not that there’s anything wrong with security officers,”
“Half the hockey team is from the security department, anyway,” Jall shrugged.
“OK, so we messed up,” Stafford said, “Big deal. It’s what we do. Now how do we avoid doing it again?”
“You might try treating this new guy as part of the team,” Sylvia suggested, “Especially if Tunney’s told him about what happened to the last guy. He probably already thinks you’re a bunch of assholes. Be nice. Be polite. Treat him like a member of the crew!” Sylvia frowned, “Correction: Treat him better than a member of the crew,”
“Be polite,” Stafford shrugged, “Sure, we can do that,”
They waited for a few moments. Before long, Tunney returned with the same gold-collared man he had tried to introduce them to previously.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Tunney said, “I would like to introduce Lt Cmdr Riven Valtaic. Mr. Valtaic,” Tunney paused, opened his mouth a couple of times as if to speak, paused again, then crossed his arms.
“Good luck,” he finally said, turning on his heel and walking away.
Everybody stared at Valtaic. Now that they weren’t vomiting, they had the chance to take a closer look at him. He looked almost human, about one-eighty centimeters or so with very dark reddish skin, bordering on maroon. The skin colour was unusual enough, but even more so was the network of fine black lines that covered his face, hands and presumably the rest of his body. They ran over his skin in a pattern than resembled blood vessels, however where veins and arteries had visible start and end points, the lines on Valtaic’s body simply criss-crossed and rejoined, never seeming to start or end. They also had a slight gleam, almost metallic. His hair was short and very rigid, looking almost like a steel brush. His eyes were a bright yellow, with vertical cats-eye pupils. Yanick and Fifebee noticed that he appeared to have a fit, trim build, thought that was the standard in Starfleet. (Not that everybody met it, it seemed.) His fingernails were the same metallic black as the lines covering his skin. When he spoke his voice was low; not as soft as Noonan’s calm, cool tones, but it managed to communicate that whatever else he might be feeling, Valtaic did not feel in any way threatened by the Silverado officers.
“How are you this evening?” Valtaic asked politely.
“We’re fine,” Stafford said, very carefully, “You’re looking…well,”
Valtaic’s nostrils flared at this, but Stafford pressed on.
“Um, I’m Captain Chris Stafford,” Stafford said, extendin hand. After a moment’s hesitation, Valtaic shook it, “This is Commander Jall, First Officer. Trish Yanick, Helmsman. Helmswoman? Helmsperson? Whatever.”
“I’m a Lieutenant now!” Yanick said happily.
“Er, Dr. Wowryk, Lt Cmdr Jane 5-B, Science Officer, Lt Cmdr Simon Jeffery, Chief Engineer,”
“And still a Lt Cmdr” Jeffery grumbled. Wowryk kicked him under the table.
“And Commander T’Parief, Chief of Security,”
“It is pleasant to meet you,” T’Parief rumbled.
There was awkward silence as Valtaic sat between T’Parief and Stafford.
“I understand there were some problems with my predecessor,” Valtaic said bluntly.
Surprised, Stafford choked on his tea.
“Nothing major,” he forced out, “Why?”
“I make it a point in reviewing the success of any officer who’s job I am about to undertake,” Valtaic replied. He turned to Jall, “You performed very well in the Operations department, according to the logs,”
“Did you try cross-referencing those with the disciplinary reports?” Jeffery asked.
“Hey, I got the job done,” Jall said, crossing his arms.
“That you did, that you did,” Stafford said, plastering a big, fake smile on his face as he patted Jall’s back in what was supposed to look like a friendly sort of way. In reality, it looked more like Stafford was being forced to pet a Klingon prickle-mouse.
“Well, I hope you’ll enjoy living on Silverado,” Yanick said, beaming, “We have all kinds of neat stuff! Holodecks, of course, and a gym, and arboretum, and then there’s Unbalanced Equations and Platterheads, although we’re supposed to call that ‘Le Plateau Argenté’, but that just sounds too stuffy to me. And there are lots of people for you to meet! The guys on the night shift, the Hazardous Team, oh, and there’s this really cute girl who works in Planetary Analysis that would probably like you,”
“I see,” Valtaic said shortly, “Well, if you’ll excuse me, I will report to the ship. I presume quarters have been set aside for me?”
“Oh,” Stafford bit his lip, “Jeffery, has the cleaning crew been in there yet?”
“Not yet,” Jeffery said, “I’ll get them on it right away,”
“No need,” Valtaic said stiffly, “I will manage it,” He stood and left, giving Stafford a nod. The Silverado officers exchanged uneasy glances.
“That could have gone better,” Fifebee commented.
“You’re telling me,” Stafford said, slumping down in his seat.
“I wonder what went wrong?” Yanick wondered.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Tunney said, “I would like to introduce Lt Cmdr. Riven Valtaic. Mr. Valtaic,” Tunney paused, opened his mouth a couple of times as if to speak, paused again, then crossed his arms.
“Good luck,” he finally said, turning on his heel and walking away.
I stood in front of the table, surveying the people with whom I would be working for the foreseeable future. Admiral Tunney had warned me that they were an eccentric group, however I had no doubt that whatever challenges they presented I would be able to overcome without difficulty. Tunney had warned me as well that as Silverado’s mission was a long-term one, I would not be able to request re-assignment the way Johnson did. Johnson. Johnson was weak. I would persevere.
Now however, I was beginning to have my doubts.
I let my gaze linger on each of the officers in turn. First was a human or human-looking male with reddish hair wearing Lt Cmdr ranks pips. He was the shortest male at the table and kept shooting nervous glances at one of the females, a severe-looking woman with auburn hair and an aura of distaste around her. Nobody around him even seemed to notice this behaviour. Clearly he desired her, but was unwilling to say or do anything about it. Pathetic. Another severe-looking female sat nearby, however her hair was pitch-black and pulled back in a severe bun. She als ppeared to have several piercings in her face. She stared at me with an unblinking gaze, her entire body unmoving. She must be the hologram, then. A large, reptilian being was next. He had the look of a warrior: strong, fast and stupid. I doubted that the lining of ridges on his forehead (Klingon? Could he be a hybrid?) had adequately protected his brain from the numerous fights he had no doubt participated in.
Next to him was a blond, human woman. She was short and petite, possessing of a figure that no doubt gave her uncommon control over the males of any species. Wouldn’t she be shocked when I failed to succumb to her charms! Unconsciously, she was chewing on a strand of her hair. Disgusting. The last two beings were at least succeeding in looking somewhat professional. The taller of the two had black hair and skin that seemed to place him in one of the Middle Eastern or possibly Latino races of human. A strange cast to his features indicated he was most likely of mixed heritage. The absence of external structures told me his non-human parent had probably been Trill or a similar, human-like species. I recognized him as San Jall, the officer who had held the post of Operations Officer on Silverado previously. The final human was slightly shorter, yet still quite tall by human standards. He appeared to be fit, although there was a thickening around his midsection that indicated that he was either too busy or too lazy to continue the strict fitness regimen started at the Academy. He had short brown hair and Captain’s pips. Ahh, so this would be my superior. The brave, clever and daring Captain. Hmm. He looked neither brave, clever nor daring.
“How are you, this evening?” I asked politely.
“We’re fine,” the Captain said, “You’re looking…well,”
Ugh. Human flattery, and human lies. I knew perfectly well they were anything but ‘fine’, having just returned from the station’s infirmary. But, typically, they were too suspicious or ashamed to admit that they were anything but fit. And next, of course, was the attempt at flattery. I know perfectly well my appearance is not one that most humans find attractive, and yet he attempts to compliment me!
As the Captain introduced the other officers, I was appalled to hear the blond woman interrupt him to brag about a promotion, and to make matters worse, when I inquired as to Johnson’s departure, they skirted the issue! As though it didn’t exist! The red-haired male had the audacity to complain, in front of the Captain, that he had not been promoted, and the female he desired kicked him! She actually made aggressive, physical contact! Why the Captain didn’t immediately discipline her, I really have no idea!
I was shocked. Admiral Tunney had warned me that these people were different, but such rudeness was something I had not encountered in several years! There had been minor issues when my race first opened relations with the Federation, but Starfleet was nothing if not thorough in training its officers to work with the cultures and customs of others.
Perhaps I was expecting too much of them, I mused, as ieutenant Yanick prattled on about irrelevant items such as recreation and available females. (The insult, implying I could not locate a willing mate myself!) After all, not every crew could be a ccommodating as those at my last posting. Plus, they were recovering from illness. Perhaps it would be best to retire and try again in the morning.
“Well, if you’ll excuse me, I will report to the ship,” I said, “I presume quarters have been set aside for me?”
“Oh,” Stafford bit his lip, “Jeffery, has the cleaning crew been in there yet?”
“Not yet,” Jeffery said, “I’ll get them on it right away,”
WHAT? That was the last straw. These people are morons.
“No need,” I said stiffly, marshalling my self-control, “I will manage it,”
Captain’s Log, Stardate 58684.6:
“We have departed Starbase 45 and are now en route to Waystation, where we will do whatever it is starships do at final departure points before heading off for Matrian space. Ensign, sorry, Lieutenant Yanick is hard at work updating the ship’s entertainment library, in anticipation of the long, long, long trip we’re going to have to make. Lt Cmdr Jeffery is watching over the engines like a hawk, worried about the strain sustained cruising is going to cause and Lieutenant Fifebee, sorry, Lieutenant Commander Fifebee is reviewing what new information Starfleet has on the Matrians. I told her I want a report by the time we get there, in another month or so, so why she’s doing it now is beyond me.
“Mr. Valtaic has been on board for only a couple of days now and has established himself as a decent operations officer. I think. He hasn’t actually spoken to any of us outside of ‘Yes sir’, ‘No sir,’ and ‘This ship does not meet standard Ambassador-class specs, sir’. Well, we’ve got a long time to get him figured out too.”
“In other news, Mr. Jall and the lesbian couple from Deck 5 attempted to boost moral by holding a ‘Pride’ parade the first morning after our departure from Starbase 45. Disappointment abounded all around when it turned out that the audience consisted of horny, straight men hoping to fulfill various fantasies involving themselves and a pair of naked lesbians. Also in attendance was one protestor, who was of course Dr. Wowryk. Officially, I’m delighted that Mr. Jall is making the effort to encourage diversity and equality among our crew.”
“Unofficially, the next person to prance around my ship to the sound of ‘Abba’ while wearing a speedo is going to be launched out a torpedo tube!”
“I hope you were paying attention,” Stafford said to Jall as he turned off the log recorder.
“Hmm?” Jall looked up, “I’m sorry, I was looking at the picket sign Dr. Wowryk gave me,”
He held up a large piece of cardboard that said ‘Men are Pigs And Deserve Each Other…But God Says That’s Wrong. Get Married And Impregnate A Woman!’.
“She gave it to you?” Stafford asked.
“Well, no,” Jall admitted, “When I told her what I had planned for next year’s parade she dropped it and ran away screaming,”
“Uh, well, I’m sure whatever it is, you’ll conduct yourself with dignity,” Stafford said, mentally crossing his fingers, “So, how about that weather?”
A couple feet ahead of them, seating at the Ops panel, Valtaic sneered to himself. Clearly the Captain was uncomfortable with some aspect of his First Officer’s personal life but was unwilling to say so. He was the ranking officer, why not just come out and say so?
“Well,” Jall said, standing, “I’m due in Auxiliary Control.”
“Let Lieutenant Commander Ovens know that he keeps playing his television recordings on the bridge viewscreen by accident,” Stafford said, not looking up.
“Okie day,” Jall acknowledge.
“It’s not by accident,” Yanick confided quietly to Valtaic, “I asked him to do it,”
“I see,” Valtaic replied. His tone was polite, but he said nothing else. Yanick had tried hard to engage him in conversation, but had been completely unsuccessful. As a result, she found herself growing bored very quickly. She pulled out a magazine padd and started reading.
Later that evening, Stafford and Yanick had snuck off to go fishing in the holodeck. Naturally, T’Parief and Jall had tracked them down. Shortly after, Fifebee and Wowryk had turned up, looking for Yanick.
“Sylvia, can we get a bigger boat?” Stafford asked. He was sitting at the controls (the boat was too small to have a proper helm) and was being squished against the side by T’Parief’s tail.
“Hmm? You called?” Sylvia said, materializing in the already crowded boat.
“Yeah, I called,” Stafford said, shifting position in an attempt to get away from the tail, “Did you hear what I said?”
“I was busy contemplating the mysteries of existence,” Sylvia said, somewhat haughtily.
“This craft is badly overloaded,” Fifebee said.
Giving up his efforts to be subtle, Stafford grabbed T’Parief’s tail and shoved it away. The reptilian officer gave a grunt of surprise and tried to turn, knocking into Yanick, who fell onto Wowryk, who’s elbow collided with the back of Stafford’s head. With all the commotion, the already overloaded boat flipped to the side, spilling everybody into the lake as it capsized.
“You know,” Stafford sputtered as he and the rest of the senior staff treaded water, “This was supposed to be a quiet evening, just Yanick and I! And don’t start any rumour mills, Fifebee, we’re just friends!”
“Perhaps a larger boat is in order?” Sylvia commented, unlike the others, she and Fifebee’s holographic avatars were standing on the surface of the lake.
“You think?” Stafford asked.
“Don’t get snippy with me, Chris,” Sylvia said. The holodeck shimmered, the officers finding themselves on a small yacht.
“You really should call Jeffery and Valtaic down here,” Sylvia said, “It would be a good bonding opportunity,”
“This wasn’t supposed to be a staff meeting, Sylvia!” Stafford said.
“Well then, I’ll just go my merry way,” Sylvia said, her hologram vanishing.
“I think we need to talk about Valtaic while we’re all here, though,” Yanick said, “We like, totally must have done something to piss him off. He definitely doesn’t like me!”
“Why do you say that?” Wowryk asked. As one of Yanick’s closest friends, she was quickly becoming defensive on Yanick’s behalf.
“Well, we work right next to each other on the bridge, but he won’t talk to me about anything,” Yanick said, “I tried to get a conversation going, but he just gives these tiny little answers. It’s like trying to get Chris to talk about his love life!”
“You have a love life?” Jall asked Stafford.
“Shut up,” Stafford said bluntly.
“I haven’t had any problem with the new guy,” Jall said, ignoring the order to shut up, “I haven’t really spoken to him either, though,”
“Well, maybe you should then,” Yanick said, “Just don’t, y’know, hit on him or anything,”
“Why do people keep thinking that I’m going to-“
“Good plan,” Stafford inturrupted, nodding, “Jall, you’re going to try to buddy up to Valtaic. Now, anybody who’s not here to go fishing, go away!”
The following morning, Stafford sat in the Officers Dining Hall (AKA ‘La Plateau Argenté’, AKA ‘Platterheads’). After his fishing trip with Yanick had been turned into an impromptu synchronized swimming event, he’d slept very well. So well, in fact, that he’d actually jumped out of bed that morning, nearly hitting his head on a shelf in the process. As he sat nursing a cup of coffee and reading through a report padd, Dr. Wowryk took the seat across from him, waving away the big-hatted Guinanco waiter who attempted to offer her life advice as she sat.
“Good morning, Captain,” Wowryk said.
“Hey, doc,” Stafford said, looking up, “How’s it going?”
“Well,” Wowryk inclined her head, “I successfully exorcised a demon from Lieutenant Marsden’s kitten yesterday afternoon,”
“Really?” Stafford perked up, “We had a demon on board?”
“Well, no,” Wowryk admitted, “The cat was spooked when Ensign, sorry, Lieutenant Rengs’ baby pulled it’s tail. A simple sedative did the trick; however I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the power of God to Mr. Marsden,”
“Things are getting that boring in Sickbay?”
“You have no idea,” Wowryk sighed, “Nurse Kerry and Nurse Veeneman setup a croquet court in Sickbay. And the scary part is, they’re getting very good at it,”
“Croquet?” Stafford frowned, “That’s the sport where you hit balls through little hoops on the ground, right? What’s so hard about that?”
“One of the wickets is on top of a bio-bed,” Wowryk said dryly.
“Uh, mind if Ah join ye?”
Stafford and Wowryk turned to see Jeffery standing near their table, a tray of breakfast in his hands.
“Simon?” Stafford said, “Uh, sure! Yes! Please, sit! Man it’s been ages since I’ve seen you in here!”
“Simon,” Wowryk said politely, nodding. Anybody who didn’t know her would have found her greeting cold, but Stafford and Jeffery knew that coming from Wowryk those calm words were no different than when Yanick jumped up expecting a hug.
“So, how are…things?” Stafford asked.
“By which he means,” Wowryk said, “What finally prompted you to come out of hiding?”
“Subtle, doc,” Stafford muttered.
“Nay, she’s right,” Jeffery assured him. He turned back to Wowryk.
“Ye see,” he said, “Ah was thinkin’ about the last time we were in Matrian space. When I was kidnapped by Mistress Laurette then stuck in Noel’s body,”
“Yes, that was a blast,” Wowryk sighed.
“And then, Ah started thinking about our trip to the other universe a year or so ago. Ye know, where Noel and I were married,”
“And Jall was First Officer,” Stafford shook his head, “Man, I had NO idea that little piece of weirdness would be following us to this universe,”
“And it kinda got me thinkin’,” Jeffery went on, “We’ve been through a lot together, haven’t we? Ah mean, Chris, the two of us knew each other on the Exeter, we’ve been hangin’ years before ye became Captain here. But still, even if we fight, and argue, and bicker, we still respect each other, right?”
Wowryk and Stafford exchanged looks.
“Sure,” Stafford said quickly.
“Of course,” Wowryk agreed, equally quickly.
“So if Ah made a mistake during the First Officer trials, which Ah know Ah did,” Jeffery went on, “That’s my business and it’s not gonna affect the way me shipmates treat me, is it?”
“Hell,” Stafford chuckled, “Jall will probably treat you better than ever, since your screw-up helped get him the position,”
“Well, Ah gotta apologize to him for…other stuff,” Jeffery admitted.
“Well, you can’t do it now,” Stafford said, rising to his feet, “He’s supposed to be figuring out what makes Valtaic tick. In fact, I’m just about to head up to the bridge and watch. You two want to come with?”
“Sure,” Jeffery replied.
Up on the bridge, Yanick and Fifebee had already tied the main viewscreen into the internal sensors. Jall and Valtaic were clearly visible and audible as they walked down one of the ship’s many corridors, discussing ship’s business. T’Parief was watching closely from his post, although whether he was watching for weakness from Valtaic or failure from Jall wasn’t all that clear to Jeffery. Determined to be of some use, Jeffery sent the officer relieving Valtaic from the Operations console back to his regular duties and took over. Wowryk settled into Jall’s chair, next to Stafford.
“This is quite comfortable,” she observed.
“Jall had it reupholstered,” Stafford grunted, “Somethin bout not wanting to need a butt-lift in another ten years,”
“You should try it,” Wowryk advised, standing. Looking somewhat uneasy, Stafford settled into Jall’s chair.
“You’re right,” he said, surprised, “It is more comfortable,”
“I want it back, now,” Wowryk said flatly.
“If you two are finished,” Fifebee said, joining them in the command deck, “I believe Jall is about to start his ‘investigation’,”
“So,” Jall was saying, the back of his head visible on the screen, “Tell me about yourself, Valtaic,”
“The blond woman at the helm made the same request,” Valtaic said, “I found her attempt at comradeship shallow. Why do you wish to know?”
“Hey!” Yanick gave the back of Valtaic’s head a dirty look.
“Lieutenant Yanick is friendly with everybody,” Jall said, his tone a bit cold, “It’s the kind of person she is. And I want to know because you’re going to be my responsibility for the foreseeable future!”
“I see,” Valtaic said.
“I wonder if he would’ve sounded so responsible if he didn’t know we were watching,” Wowryk said.
“Somehow,” Stafford said, surprising himself, “I think he might have,”
“I was born on Lithinaria IV,” Valtaic said, suddenly co-operative, “My planet only recently joined the Federation. I and six others of my people were the first of my race to graduate Starfleet Academy,”
“Interesting,” Jall said politely, “And where do you see your career going from here?”
As the two of them talked, Stafford turned to Fifebee.
“Fifebee, what did you find out when you looked up Lithinarians?”
“I was supposed to look up Lithinarians?” Fifebee replied, puzzled.
“Didn’t Jall ask you to do that when he found out we were getting one on board?” Stafford asked.
“No. I don’t think we even knew what race Valtaic was until now,” Fifebee said.
“I haven’t received his file yet in Sickbay,” Wowryk said, “I was going to ask about that,”
“Probably just backlogged paperwork,” Stafford shrugged, “Can you look them up now?”
“Of course,” Fifebee said. Her eyes fluttered. “Hmm, I cannot find any record of them in my database, or the ship’s memory,”
“He’s a hostile intruder!” T’Parief declared at once.
“I am attempting a data link to Memory Alpha now,” Fifebee stated, “Link established. Information located.”
“Oh,” T’Parief said, disappointed.
“So,” Jall was saying on the screen, “What do you do in your spare time. Hobbies? Interests?”
“Lithinarians,” Fifebee recited, as though reading from a book, “Native to Lithinaria IV, a species rated at Richter H2.743.123g on the Richter Scale of Culture,”
“I fail to see how my personal life is of relevance,” Valtaic said coolly.
“Excuse me,” Jall said, a bit snidely.
Wowryk and Stafford, trying to watch the conversation and listen to Fifebee at the same time, were puzzled. Valtaic had seemed very co-operative up to that point, why would he clam up?
“The Lithinarians are a peaceful race,” Fifebee continued, “Their last major conflict occurred two hundred and thirteen years ago, when they engaged in a civil war over the role of marketing corporations and regulation of the use of private data. The regulators won, the corporations admitted defeat and the planet has been at peace ever since. Lithinarians are characterized by their dark red skin, which contains a grid of conductive minerals. This grid is connected to an organ in the chest cavity and allows them to sense energy fields to a great degree of accuracy. Hmm, a note: Never make unexpected physical contact with a Lithinarian,”
“Why not,” Wowyk asked, looking fascinated.
“Oops, watch out,” Jall said on screen. He and Valtaic came around a corner, nearly falling into an open panel in the deck where Ensign Naketh was working. Jall’s hand shot out to stop Valtaic from stepping into the gaping hole. There was a flash an loud BZZZTTT! Jall yelped and pulled his hand back, as if burned.
“Because the same system allows them to create energy fields and discharges as well,” Fifebee said, “As a reflexive defense mechanism. They are also resistant to phasers and can generate small personal shields for a very brief time, although the effort is exhausting,”
“What the hell did you do that for?” Jall was demanding, “That hurt!”
Stafford expected another harsh reply from Valtaic. He was surprised.
“I am very sorry, Commander. It was unintentional,” Valtaic’s voice was apologetic, genuinely so.
“Anything about their culture, Fifebee?” Stafford asked, a suspicion forming.
“Plenty,” Fifebee said, “In fact, it says, in big bold letters, ‘Lithinarians find anything but complete and total honesty to be highly offensive. DO NOT tell falsehoods, DO NOT ask questions unless you genuinely wish to hear the answer, DO NOT fake pleasant emotions or attitudes’.”
“Soo…” Jeffery said from the helm, “The reason why he’s been so pissed at us is because we were TOO polite??”
“This is a first,” Wowryk observed.
“Tell me about it,” Stafford said, suddenly understanding Valtaic’s reactions. On screen, Jall had just asked Valtaic about his siblings and received another curt, cold answer in reply. Of course, he’d probably interpreted Jall’s question as pointless small talk, completely irrelevant information that Jall had no reason to ask about. No wonder he and Yanick hadn’t gotten along!
“Indeed,” Fifebee continued, “It seems Lithinarians find anything but complete honesty to be offensive. This encompasses all facets of their lives. Social small-talk must remain relevant, ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Marketing’ departments no longer exist on their planet, and it is preferable for a female to inform a male that he is too inadequate a lover to bring her to orgasm than for her to fake one. Lithinarians also have a set of strict courtship rituals, and as such find the courtship customs of most Federation races to be quite irrelevant,”
“Wow,” Stafford said.
“Um, question,” Yanick said, raising her hand, “You said they find anything but honesty insulting?”
“Yes,” Fifebee nodded.
“But what if our honesty IS insulting!?” Yanick said.
“If that is the case, it is better for us to be insulting,” Fifebee said.
“At least our questions have been answered,” Stafford said, “Stafford to Jall,”
The entire bridge crew winced as a loud feedback whine burst out of the bridge speakers. T’Parief quickly cut audio from the internal sensors.
“Report to the conference lounge. Bring Valtaic with you,”
The senior staff was seated at the table when Jall and Valtaic arrived.
“I was not aware we had a meeting at this time,” Valtaic said.
“We didn’t,” Stafford said.
“We planned it last minute,” Yanick said.
Valtaic inclined his head and took a seat.
“OK,” Stafford said, “I’ll be honest, Lt Commander. Your record was held up in the Starfleet bureaucracy and none of us thought to check if your race had any special customs we should take into account when dealing with you,”
“I see,” Valtaic said, “I would have expected a group of Starfleet officers to be familiar with the customs of my people,”
“Huh?” Jall asked, looking confused.
Stafford started to turn red.
“He’s not trying to insult you, Captain,” Fifebee reminded Stafford, “It’s his way,”
“Right,” Stafford said, calming, “Look, we just found out you were Lithinarian when you told Jall. By the way, we were monitoring your conversation from the bridge,”
“Why?” Valtaic asked, “That is a breach in privacy.
“Because you were fitting in like a square peg in a round hole,” Stafford said bluntly, “We were being as polite as we could, trying to avoid the mistake we made with Johnson. We had no idea you found our good manners offensive, and had to figure out what the deal was!”
“Ah, I see,” Valtaic actually smiled, “Then you weren’t being deliberately insulting for the past few days?”
“NO!” Everybody chorused.
“I had thought,” Valtaic said, “from the stories I heard from Mr. Johnson, that you all were such a tightly knit group that you resented having any new officers assigned to your ship,”
“Tightly knit?” Jeffery looked shocked, “The rest of Starfleet thinks WE’RE tightly knit???”
“No, no,” Stafford waved a hand, ignoring Jeffery, “We’re glad to have you aboard, and that is NOT false pleasantness, although,” he frowned, “don’t expect a warm welcome from Lieutenant Day. You took the job he wanted,”
“So here’s the deal,” Wowryk spoke up, “Now that we know more about your culture, we’re happy to make the effort to accommodate you,”
“Especially since it means we all get to be our normal, rude, argumentative selves,” Jeffery said.
“But it works both ways,” Stafford said, “Now, I know Starfleet is all about accommodating different cultures, but I don’t want to see you giving anybody the cold shoulder because you thought they were too polite!”
“I understand,” Valtaic said, nodding. This was a normal expectation, after all. Give and take.
“Is it true that you can generate electric fields?” Yanick asked suddenly.
“Yes,” Valtaic said. He looked slightly annoyed, “Why do you wish to know?”
“Because on Earth, guys and girls sometimes use electric thingies during sex,” Yanick went on, not noticing the shocked looks on her comrades faces, “And Nurse Kerry has this funny electric glove that she says Shwaluk really likes,”
“Even I had not heard of that one,” Wowryk said, eyebrow plifted.
“I can electrify any part of my body,” Valtaic said with a slight grin, willing to answer now that he knew Yanick had an actual reason for asking. (Silly as it was.)
T’Parief rumbled with displeasure.
“On that note, let’s all go back to work,” Stafford groaned.
“Wait!” Jall cried as everybody else walked out the door, “Isn’t anybody going to explain all this to ME???”
Captain’s Log, Supplimental:
“Once again, not our finest hour. Any Academy applicant knows perfectly well that you have to research a new being’s culture before you go offending them. But we forgot. In our defence his file should have arrived before he did. It’s going to be a bit of an adjustment all around, but I’m confident that Mr Valtaic will find his niche on board,”
I stepped into Silverado’s officer’s lounge, a small plaque near the door labelling it as ‘Unbalanced Equations’. I had not intended to make use of the ship’s recreational facilities beyond what was needed for my own physical fitness; however the Captain had suggested that I observe the customs of other officers. My previous commanding officers had been very respectful of my lack of interest in such activities, although as I stepped through the doors and noticed that many beings of various races, ages and genders were relaxing and apparently enjoying themselves, perhaps it would have been better if they had encouraged me to explore their culture rather than simply leaving me to my own.
“Hey, over here,” Commander Jall waved from the far wall series of comfortable chairs faced several large windows looking behind the ship and out into space. Most of the senior staff had gathered there, though there was an empty seat.
“I don’t like that outfit,” Lieutenant Yanick said, pointing at the casual civilian outfit I had donned for the evening, “It clashes with your eyes. You should wear something lighter,”
“I will keep that in mind,” I said.
“Wow,” Yanick said, “I could get used to this total honesty stuff! Hey, Jall, grow your spots back. They look sexy,”
“Uh,” Jall looked around nervously at the other officers, “Spots? What spots?”
“Have you ever gone fishing, Mr. Valtaic?” Stafford asked, “We were thinking of making our next trip a staff outing. You know, build the morale a bit.”
“My people avoid water,” I replied.
“No wonder,” Jeffery said, “If Ah were a walkin’ power shunt, Ah wouldn’t want to go swimmin’!”
At this I had to laugh.
“It’s holographic water!” Stafford said, “And I think it would be a good chance for us to get to know each other better, not that that’s necessarily a good thing,”
“A little too much honesty there, Captain,” Wowryk said dryly.
“Should we tell him about the time you gave him a breast augmentation?” Jall asked Wowryk, “Or maybe about the time he glued himself to his desk?”
“See what your hyper-honesty thing has started?” Stafford said to me.
His statement could have been interpreted as rude, but judging from the laughter of those around me, he intended it to be a joke. I laughed along with them, which appeared to be the reaction they were expecting.
Adapting to this crew would be a challenge. However, it would not be as difficult as I had initially thought.
“So,” I said, attempting to mimic their cultural small talk, “Which of you are currently engaged in sexual relationships?”
Everybody looked at me in shock, mouths dropping and complete silence taking hold of the group.
Perhaps this would be more difficult after all!