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New World Man: On the Road Again
Author - Kevin | Genre - Drama | Main Story | N | O | Rating - PG-13
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New World Man: On the Road Again
Author’s Note: Because most of the dialog in this story is Vulcan, the following formatting conventions apply. Text in “” is Vulcan. Text in ** “” ** is Federation Standard. Text in () is TnT bondspeak. Text in italics is inner dialog or the name of a ship (depending on context).
Pre-Main Sequence Type 2 (PMT-2) is a Vulcan term for what we call Herbig Ae/Be stars, and are stars in the two to eight solar mass range that have not yet started fusing Hydrogen atoms in their cores. Wikipedia has more information and Google of course can point you to lots of pages.
Hoshi sat reading the latest translation she’d been given and comparing it to the original Vulcan manuscript. The translation was skillfully done and she was pleased with the result so far. Lieutenant Grover kept the tone very similar to the original and had not added a “Human touch” as had two of his peers. Some of the original Vulcan words still remained though. His explanation was that, since the Vulcans were at the forefront of stellar astrophysics, it made sense to maintain the Vulcan names for technical concepts as much as possible.
She agreed. She only hoped that someday the Vulcans would accept the invitation to combine resources with Starfleet and have a Federation-wide scientific research organization instead of their insistence on remaining independent.
She heard footsteps approach her desk in the basement archives. She looked up to see her Executive Officer, Commander McCloud approach. She frowned and sighed as she realized that meant it was time for Secretary Broadhurst’s weekly staff meeting.
** “Admiral, you told me to come get you ten minutes before the meeting.” **
Hoshi stood up. ** “Thanks, Sam…” ** She glanced back down at the manuscript. She picked it up. ** “While I’m stuck upstairs, could you finish checking over the manuscript?” ** She handed them to him. ** “So far, it looks good but I want to make sure everything’s had two sets of eyes looking at it.” **
** “Yes, ma’am.” ** Commander McCloud took them from her.
Hoshi stepped into her boss’, Starfleet Secretary Broadhurst’s office. Of course, the chicken hawks, Admirals Clifford and Coughlin, were already there.
She saw the Secretary smile at her as he stood up. ** “Admiral Sato, come in, come in, please have a seat… We’re just waiting for the Fleet Admiral.” **
Hoshi took a seat and sat down as far away from Clifford and Coughlin as possible. They were talking about what’s going on with patrols in the shipping lanes and along the Neutral Zone. She sighed and fought the urge to smack them. It had been decades since anyone had an encounter with the Romulans and other than the occasional run in with pirates, nothing much happened along the shipping lanes either. For all their bluster, neither Admiral had ever faced any kind of serious threat. She’d given both the ‘chicken hawk’ nickname within a couple weeks of meeting them.
She’d been learning Xindi and facing Earth’s annihilation in the long forgotten Expanse when their teenage parents were probably groping each other in a darkened movie theater.
Apparently they caught her glare and seemed to wither under its heat. Inwardly, she smiled to herself without changing her facial expression. She knew her stare could intimidate even the cockiest Starfleet officer. Only one officer, Fleet Admiral Dettmer, was even born when Captain Archer plucked her out of that Amazon University and set her onto the bridge of Enterprise. A freak medical procedure four years later gave her the longevity to be as healthy as any 40 year old even after 55 years had passed.
Fortunately for Hoshi, she could review all the tasks she needed to do yet before the conference started while Admiral Coughlin prattled away her status report. It was completely baffling why she even gave a weekly status report. She was responsible for the ships patrolling the Federation’s borders with the Romulan and Klingon empires. Either the Romulans or Klingons came across the border or not. It didn’t require a complete monologue. And if either the Romulans or the Klingons did cross the border, she sure wasn’t waiting until the next staff meeting to report it.
Hoshi had come to the conclusion some time ago that Admiral Coughlin’s primary function was to convert oxygen into carbon dioxide. She didn’t appear to add any value to Starfleet.
She only paid slightly more attention to Admiral Clifford. That was only because he was reporting progress on the Constellation class starships. The second one in the class, HMS Warspite, was complete and progressing through her trial runs. She would be ready for operation within two months, assuming no major problems appeared during the trials. The Admiral had promised the new ships would have significant exobiology facilities to supplement their medical bays and the USS Constellation would eventually receive upgrades to achieve the same effect.
Fortunately Admiral Clifford’s report was more concise than his peer and Hoshi began ticking off bullet points prior to talking about the conference.
** “Finally, we’re in good shape for the first Federation-wide stellar astrophysics conference… I’ve received confirmations from all the invitees and approved the participation of three visiting Denobulan geologists who wished to attend… My team has received all of the manuscripts but the one from Vulcan Astrophysics Director T’Pol’s team… I expect to have that one by the end of next week.” **
** “How are the translations coming along?” ** Secretary Broadhurst asked.
** “They’re coming along… Some of the translations into Federation Standard are… interesting,” ** Hoshi chuckled to herself.
She could tell Admiral Clifford was not amused.
** “I still don’t understand why we have to translate everything into both Vulcan and Federation Standard… I can’t understand why everything can’t be in Federation Standard.” **
Hoshi turned her attention to him. She’d explained this so many times. The reason he couldn’t understand was he didn’t want to understand. ** “As I have said before Admiral, when Federation Standard was created over 35 years ago, it was meant to be a language of commerce and diplomacy… We started with English but simplified the language in order to make learning and using it simpler for non-Humans… That meant we had to take some shortcuts. Vulcan is the de facto language of astrophysics. Even the Federation Standard translations are littered with Vulcan words inserted in the standard grammar.” **
** “The Vulcan scientists should still use Federation Standard… It’s worked for the rest of us.” **
Just as Hoshi was about to respond, Secretary Broadhurst interrupted. ** “The point’s moot. The conference is less than a month away and many of the scientists don’t even know Federation Standard… We’re doing it Admiral Sato’s way and we’ll work on the other issues later.” **
After a few moments of silence where she was forced to look at the scowls on Admirals Clifford’s and Coughlin’s faces, Secretary Broadhurst dismissed his staff.
As she stood to leave, she heard, ** “Admiral Sato, could you stick around for a bit?” **
Hoshi narrowed her eyes and wondered what he wanted with her. He normally didn’t pay much, if any, attention to Starfleet’s scientific arm and pretty much let her do whatever she wished with the limited resources allocated to her area.
She simply nodded and returned to her chair. He walked over and took a seat next to her.
** “Hoshi, I’m not sure if you heard, but the Vulcans refused us again.” **
Hoshi nodded. ** “I read the Science Directorate’s position paper.” ** She kind of slumped in her chair.
** “What’s his problem?” ** Broadhurst asked her.
Hoshi didn’t need him to tell her who he referred to. ** “I don’t know.” **
** “You served with him, didn’t you? What’s Halan’s beef with Starfleet?” **
Hoshi shrugged. ** “I’m not sure… But it’s not just him, sir. This isn’t just personal. The Vulcans make good points in their protests.” ** She saw him scowl at her. ** “It’s the same reason why they’re so far ahead in astrophysics… There’s only so much you can do from stationary telescopes. The fact they’re willing to dedicate ships to pure scientific research and Starfleet isn’t, pretty much shows where our priorities lie.” **
** “Admiral, we’ve had this discussion before. Since Starfleet is tasked with guarding the border and the shipping lanes, we don’t have ships to spare.” **
Hoshi nodded. ** “I understand that… But the fact remains that Starfleet does not invest in science the way the Vulcans do… Look at my budget. Just hosting the conference took a good portion of my discretionary funding.” **
The Secretary nodded. ** “I know… I wish I could do more for you. That’s why I was hoping to pool resources with the Vulcans… Anyway, is there some way you could talk to him when he arrives? You know, see if you can get him to exert some pressure?” **
** “I’m not sure it would do much good,” ** Hoshi replied. ** “Even if I could somehow convince him, I can’t believe it would matter much.” **
** “Our diplomatic staff believes he wields more influence than you’d think… The conservatives are slowly restoring some of the power they lost and officers in the High Command are held in higher regard than they have been in decades. Even though he reports to a civilian administrator, he has achieved the highest rank available in the High Command… That’s no small feat and seems to account for something.” **
The Secretary paused for a moment and he must have guessed Hoshi was trying to absorb the mind-boggling notion of Trip being that influential in Vulcan politics. She wondered if he’d been out in the Sun too long yesterday. Her guess was that Trip said what the Vulcans wanted to hear.
** “In addition, his family is closely linked to the former head of their government. We aren’t sure if Halan and T’Pol are in fact, Syrrannites but they appear to be closely associated with the sect… Given both of those circumstances, we believe he exerts considerable influence, especially on matters involving Vulcan’s relationship with Starfleet.” **
Unfortunately Hoshi wasn’t even certain Trip was coming for the conference. She couldn’t believe he wouldn’t at least be in orbit though since T’Pol’s team was the authority on Pre-Main Sequence Type 2 (PMT-2) stars in the Federation. The real question would he leave the ship? T’Pol had already accepted the invitation, even though the manuscript her team would present had not yet arrived. There were rumors the Vulcans were finishing up a prototype research vessel able to safely enter and remain inside a PMT-2 star’s accretion disk. She wondered if that would be the topic of the manuscript. She hoped not, as the conference would be filled with scientists, not engineers looking for ways to generate special purpose shields.
** “I’ll see what I can do… But I wouldn’t expect much, sir.” ** Hoshi herself had wondered what happened over the past few decades to cause his reaction. Since resigning from Starfleet just prior to the Federation signing ceremony, he and T’Pol eliminated virtually all contact with Starfleet and Earth, as far as she could tell. The two were practically unheard of until three years ago, when Starfleet made the first overture to the Science Directorate. She found a handful of Vulcan manuscripts that acknowledged their contributions, but unless you were specifically looking, finding any reference at all to them was nearly impossible. A contributing factor was that even after the Federation treaty took hold, the Vulcans still maintained strict privacy about their own citizens and information on non-diplomatic staff was difficult to acquire.
In the past three years, he had become one of the most outspoken critics of Starfleet and the Vulcan Science Directorate merging. The most stinging critique came last year. He rhetorically asked why Starfleet didn’t stop denying they were nothing but a military organization whose primary purpose was to guard the borders and protect the shipping lanes from pirates. She had heard similar complaints, in private, from some of her own staff. They felt if scientific exploration were pulled out of Starfleet and into a civilian Federation organization, the Vulcans would join it for the benefit of all Federation races. There was even some who believed the Denobulans would cooperate even though they were not members of the Federation.
She didn’t expect an attempt to sway Trip would have much chance of success. She felt the best she could do was understand his concerns, see if they were commonly held beliefs and try her best to work around the issues. Trying to use personal influence after all these years seemed unlikely to work. Even though Trip was a member of the High Command, he was assigned to support the Science Directorate and learning details about him was nearly impossible for someone in her position. Starfleet intelligence may have something but they surely weren’t going to share that with the head of Starfleet’s Scientific Research division, even if she was an Admiral.
She hoped to see the two of them again to catch up and see how Trip was doing. She wondered if he’d had the same reaction to Phlox’s treatment that she had and barely aged over the years.
Trip sat reviewing the diagnostics reports with his chief engineer Kor and Lieutenant Sutah. Everything was coming together and the engines on the Terau were nearly ready to start Warp trials.
The engines on his ship, the Terau, he reminded himself.
His work on this ship first started when T’Pol was pregnant with their second child. When they returned home to have their first child, Elrond, T’Pol took a position as undergraduate instructor for astrophysics at the Shi’Kahr Academy. Midway through her pregnancy until T’Pol stopped nursing just after he was three years old, T’Pol was a research assistant correlating data and verifying calculations. It gave her a chance to continue scientific pursuits without neglecting her conservative Vulcan familial duties. Once Elrond was weaned, she agreed to allow both himself and T’Lyr a role in raising Elrond and one evening a week she was a lab instructor teaching students the proper set up and use of an infrared telescope.
When T’Pol became pregnant with their second child, Elwing, she took an extended leave of absence so she could care for their two children. Their official names were Sethal and T’Rahel, but neither he nor T’Pol used them. They were Elrond and Elwing, his half-Elvin prince and princess. Thinking about his children brought a smile to his face. Shortly after T’Pol became pregnant with Elwing, she dedicated herself full time to raising their children and continued to do so until Elwing first entered the university when she was 22 years old.
At the time of their marriage, Trip knew T’Pol did not adhere to many of the traditions her mother tried to instill in her prior to leaving for the academy. However, one Vulcan tradition T’Pol was unwilling to abandon was her responsibility for raising their children. When T’Pol grew up, it was the mother who was almost totally responsible for raising the children and teaching them what it meant to be a proper Vulcan citizen. Her primary focus for the 23 years after she became pregnant with Elwing was raising both their children and maintaining their home.
However she did not completely relinquish her scientific career and began reading the current research on stellar evolution prior to stars entering the main sequence. Trip learned more about them with her, although he did not go into the same depth or detail she did. He did it not just so that he would better understand what she was working on but also so she would have someone to discuss her reading with other than T’Lyr. Outside of the occasional lecture, T’Pol had no other scientific exposure. He wanted to make sure he did everything he could to encourage her to maintain her intellectual pursuits.
In most ways T’Pol’s insistence on raising their children in a traditional manner was fortunate because they recognized their children would grow up in Vulcan society and it was important to instill in them what it meant to be Vulcan, even if they were half Human. T’Pol’s instruction helped him to better understand the unique pressures his children would face as they grew up.
One thing he was certain was that once Elwing moved out of their house and began her graduate studies, T’Pol would want to head back out into space. A decade ago Elwing turned twenty years old and no longer relied on her mother being home during the day so T’Pol returned to the academy as a graduate studies instructor. She was also able to start pursuing, in earnest, her own research into pre-main sequence stars.
She fulfilled her duty as any proper Vulcan mother would, but he knew she wanted to be in space as much as he did. He promised himself they would return to space as soon as their familial duties would allow.
Elwing began her graduate studies almost two years ago. He had hoped to already be in space by now, but the delay was mostly his doing. A little over 20 years ago, it became clear to him and the rest of the team of researchers and engineers at the propulsion lab, they had reached the speed limits of ringed nacelles. The Warp field calculations at speeds above Warp 7.6 for a ring of coils became so complex that it was infeasible to perform in real time using current control systems. They had outstripped computer capacity and would have to wait for computer scientists to make a significant leap in computational speed before they could even consider Warp 8 using ringed nacelles.
That meant there would be little of interest in Warp engine technology for some time. Starfleet was approaching Warp 8 but was using simple brute force to achieve higher speeds. They used larger engines and larger Warp coils and accepted the inefficiencies inherent to twin nacelles. Because they were not as efficient as ring nacelles, Starfleet permitted travel above Warp 6 only in times of emergency. On the other hand, the Vulcan High Command approved cruising at Warp 7. The calculations necessary to maintain a Warp field created by twin nacelles were much simpler and simulations demonstrated current control systems would allow speeds up to Warp 8.2. All that was required was a big enough engine and a big enough pair of Warp coils to achieve that.
Trip chose to switch his field of study to deflector shield generation so he could pursue new challenges. One thing he learned from his conversations with T’Pol was that study of pre-main sequence stars could move forward greatly if it were possible to maintain a sensor array in a newborn star’s accretion disk. Up to this point, all anyone could use were short-lived probes, which couldn’t last more than a few days before being destroyed by X-rays and volatile magnetic fields. What they really needed was a ship capable of safely remaining in an accretion disk, yet still able to gather the necessary data. The power required to maintain a probe was unrealistic.
The ideal solution would be a ship equipped with deflector shields that could protect a ship while it held position inside an accretion disk. Unfortunately existing deflector shields were designed to handle very concentrated, high-energy particle beam weapons and not broad spectrum, widely dispersed X-ray and radio waves. They were also not designed to handle the intense magnetic fields generated by the rapidly rotating star. Existing deflector shields would fail to protect the ship’s inhabitants after more than a few minutes. A new technology would need to be invented.
He set to work on inventing deflector shield technology that would not only protect a ship in this enormously hostile environment but would also allow sensors to work. If the ship were unable to map the magnetic field fluctuations along with the X-ray and radio emissions, there would be little point in remaining in the accretion disk. His goal to was to provide T’Pol and her research team a ship that could safely enter an accretion disk and gather useful scientific data.
He spent the next 16 years dedicated to inventing the deflector shields T’Pol would need for her research. With a small team of researchers who held similar interests, he had been able to achieve that and four years ago received permission to build the Terau. Construction was complicated by the fact this would be the first new ship type created by the Vulcans in nearly a century and their desire was to make it the standard platform for scientific research. That meant the design needed to dedicate as much of its capacity to gathering and storing data as possible. His choice of a twin nacelle design was not popular at first and was only accepted after he proved the control systems would take up far less space than even the older semi-ringed nacelle design. This would allow more computer resources to be allocated for the primary mission and reduce each ship’s construction cost.
The High Command insisted though, the new ships be designed and built from scratch. The newest design, the D’Kyr type, was created over a century ago. The High Command wanted to use the latest technology to build a platform that would last another century. Building a brand new ship without reusing any existing systems proved more difficult than expected and the ship was 18 months late. But it was now nearly complete and he would soon be able to fulfill the promise to himself that T’Pol’s team would be able to gather data while safely sitting in an accretion disk. All that remained were the final set of tests before the Terau began her shakedown cruise.
So far the sensor and shielding tests were successful and after a bit of tuning, the shields proved effective at protecting the ship from the broad spectrum of harmful radiation and powerful magnetic fields while still allowing the sensors to function. The only stumbling block was communications and they found the proper combination of shield modulation and communication frequency that allowed clear text communication. Unfortunately the problem of garbled encrypted communication remained. If they were able to correct the problem with secure text communication, they should be able to handle the harder problem of adding a video stream to the transmission. However, Trip’s view at the moment was to reserve video transmission for those times when they were not in the accretion disk. He saw no reason why a simple text communication could not be used to get them away from the hostile environment and then use normal communication methods.
Trip started reviewing the remaining tasks that needed to be accomplished before they left on the ship’s shakedown cruise. It would involve a trip to Earth for Starfleet Scientific Research’s astrophysics conference before heading to the P’Jor monastery to visit Elrond and then heading home. Telemetry data would be gathered all along the way and the ship would be inspected stem to stern upon its return. Once any identified issues were corrected, the ship would head back out for its first mission. He was annoyed that he had to go to some four-day conference on Earth and delay seeing his son. It had been years since Elrond went to P’Jor and even though he sent letters each month to Trip and T’Pol that really wasn’t enough for Trip.
But T’Pol was department chair for stellar astrophysics and was obligated to attend. He didn’t like it, but there wasn’t much he could do about it.
He was distracted from his thinking by Lieutenant Sutah’s question directed at Sub-Commander Kor. Speaking of things he didn’t want to do but couldn’t do anything about was testing the phase canons and defensive shields. Fortunately as captain of the ship, he could delegate those tasks and the Lieutenant seemed perfect for the task. Trip lost the argument with his superiors in the High Command and the ship was more heavily armed than he would have liked. It had two sets of shield generators but only one could be operational at a time. If the ship was in normal space, away from a star, its full power could be applied to the three omni-directional phase canons and defensive shields. The ship could pack quite a wallop and hang in a fight far longer than a scientific research vessel should.
He didn’t have soldiers or tactical officers assigned to his crew so he wasn’t completely sure why it was so important to have the ship this capable of defending itself. The ship’s missions would always be well within Federation borders and should be safe. The only thing he could guess is that the High Command was worried about fending off Orion marauders in those areas Starfleet had the most difficulty protecting.
Just then he heard another person enter main engineering and looked up to see his daughter had arrived. His mood suddenly improved and he was so happy to see her. This had been the first time in a couple months she’d had a chance to put aside her graduate studies long enough to come home and visit them. He knew his daughter was almost as interested in this ship as he was and would come to see him first before heading home to see her mother. Elwing did seem to take after him more closely than Elrond did and she was currently studying engine and nacelle design with his former colleagues. Fortunately for her, growing up with both Skon and T’Pol gave her a stronger mathematical base than he possessed. He frequently had to ask Skon or one of his research assistants for help on difficult problems.
Trip and his daughter locked eyes for the short distance from the entrance to where he stood at a diagnostic station. He was pretty sure he never stopped smiling as she approached.
Elwing stood in a corner in main engineering with her father. She knew he wanted to give her a kiss and a hug after not seeing her for a while. But he also knew how uncomfortable she was with public displays of affection. She reached out to run her hand along his arm. His warm smile made her feel a bit better. She would allow him to hug her as much as he wanted in the privacy of their home. She was still her father’s daughter.
“Would it be acceptable for Kor to spend time describing the nacelles? My instructors focus almost all of their attention on ring nacelle dynamics.”
She saw her father consider it for a bit. “As well they should. Once you are expert in the details of ring nacelles, understanding twin nacelles is a relatively simple task… If computer design can ever catch up to engine output, we will return to ring nacelles. They are more efficient.”
She noticed her father’s attention was distracted for a moment and he turned his attention briefly to Kor. She watched as he grinned and pushed his tongue along the side of his face.
“Kor and I are busy reviewing the data from this morning’s tests… I would prefer he concentrated on that right now.”
She just nodded in response. “I can return home then.”
She noticed her father change his expression and he seemed… disappointed. “Sotuk is in the research center… I could spare him for a while. I would prefer that you had a chance to see the work he has done there before we have to leave. It should make the work your mother’s team does more efficient.”
“That is agreeable,” she replied. It did not take much effort to guess her father’s intent.
“Kor, have Sotuk report to main engineering… I want him to show Elwing his work,” her father said to his chief engineer.
“Of course Commander.” She heard Kor move to a communication panel and summon Sotuk.
Once Sotuk arrived, he bowed to them and bid her to follow him. She risked a brief smile to her father as she again rubbed his arm. “I will see you this evening, father.”
He simply returned her smile.
Elwing walked away from her father next to Sotuk. She was somewhat interested in seeing the result of his work in the primary science department aboard the ship. Her father always spoke highly of Sotuk. She had not seen him since she left to begin her graduate studies nearly two years ago. Whenever she returned to visit her parents something always prevented their reunion. Prior to that time they saw each other frequently and often studied together in her parents’ home.
Her mother was not disturbed in the least by their presence and the three would often study in silence in the small office just off the second floor observatory. During the day there was little use for the telescope’s control station and that was where she and Sotuk would study while her mother worked at her computer terminal reading newly published manuscripts and taking care of her departmental responsibilities.
“I have observed your father continues to call you Elwing,” Sotuk said flatly.
She nodded. “Yes. As does my mother. My family does not use T’Rahel.”
“Do you wish for me to address you as such?”
Elwing tilted her head to consider his question. She had never actually thought of it before. “I have no preference,” she finally replied.
She saw him shift slightly and his back seemed to straighten. “I will continue with T’Rahel.” He paused before adding, “at least until our bonding.”
“As you wish,” she replied as they continued down the corridor.
“Here we are,” Sotuk said to her as they stepped through the hatch. The room contained various display panels along the wall and a large central table that Elwing assumed was the main display console. “All of the sensors and data archives are controlled from this room. The main bridge controls communications, engines and shields… All of the science is conducted from this room.”
Elwing was impressed by the facilities. She knew this would be the room in which her mother spent most of her time. While her father commanded the ship, her mother would lead the mission. There appeared to be room for six scientists working at the same time. She was unsure of the crew make up but since there were crew quarters for only 31 (as built was 30 crew, but her mother and father would share quarters), it was unlikely six stations would prove restrictive.
“This is what we were working on prior to your arrival,” Sotuk directed her to the main display. “We were tuning the shield modulation so we could send encrypted traffic with the shields at full strength.”
“Were you successful?” She asked him.
“We were not,” he replied flatly. “The transmission stream becomes corrupted as it passes through the shields.”
“How do you plan on correcting it?”
Elwing watched as he reviewed the data and processed it in his mind.
“It is possible we can find a different communication frequency and shield modulation that are compatible… However at this point, the current shield modulation meets all of the other design parameters. We are able to build highly detailed tensor maps with the shields at full strength… This is the map we created yesterday of our primary sun. It contains no errors at the resolution of our sensors.”
Elwing was impressed by the display station’s capabilities. Her father’s trust in Sotuk appeared not to have been misplaced. Her father frequently impressed up on her that Sotuk was a talented technician. When he completely his studies, any research team would be fortunate to have someone of his skills to maintain their apparatus.
Although she would have preferred to remain in main engineering and learn more details about the nacelles from Kor, she did have to admit her father’s attempt to get her to spend time with Sotuk was not unwelcome. Sotuk’s explanation of his work reminded her that, while not a scientist or an engineer, he was intelligent in his own right and had skills that would be required for any successful mission.
She wondered if they would have the opportunity to be assigned the same mission when they both completed their training. Her mother told her that she had been a member of six of the seven (soon to be seven of eight) missions her father participated in. She refused to speak of the seventh. Her father only told her it was when he was still in Starfleet and the mission lasted only for a short time. He also shared with her that her mother had shown him the first inhabited planet, other than Earth of course, he set foot on. The first time he told her the story, he laughed and said it was the first time he finally understood there were people in the galaxy other than Humans and Vulcans.
He told her he had led a sheltered life on Earth.
“I should return to assist the Commander,” Sotuk said to Elwing. Always the consummate professional, he adhered to formality even when they were alone. It was good that he showed the respect due her father at all times. “He has said that in the next two days, if we cannot find a way to send encrypted messages with the shields at maximum strength, he will recommend operational procedures require leaving the accretion disk for secure communications… It is also possible that we may be able to send encryption transmissions with the shields at partial strength… Full strength is only necessary to approach the star’s atmosphere. It is unnecessary at the greater distances where detailed magnetic field mapping would be performed.”
She nodded in response and raised her hand and extended her fingers toward him. Without hesitating for a moment, he raised his hand and gently caressed her fingers with the very tips of his. Although they were both too young to experience the full effect of this act, the stimulation caused by just the physical contact was fascinating. It would be at least another two decades before they matured enough for it to be anything more.
She looked him straight in the eye and said, “Good day, my betrothed.”
“Good day, my betrothed,” he said in reply.
She turned and headed toward the transport pad in order to return home. As she walked through the corridor she thought about Sotuk. It was very important to her father that she “approve” of Sotuk as a mate. She found his concern odd as their marriage had been arranged more than 25 years ago. There was no logic in her choosing any another. He was intelligent and respectful to her parents. Her father obviously thought highly of him and allowed him to aid in the ship’s construction even before he had completed his final coursework.
T’Pol reviewed all of the details contained in the appendix of the manuscript she was preparing to send off to Starfleet for their astrophysics conference. It had recently been updated with the latest data gathered and she preferred to verify all of the calculations manually.
She was still somewhat perplexed as to why her manuscript proposal was accepted for the conference. It was really nothing more than the reference material she used to teach her graduate studies seminar on stellar evolution prior to the start of hydrogen fusion. In fact, she was not even going to present the material herself. She assigned that task to T’Zahl.
Five months ago, she received an invitation from Admiral Sato, Admiral Hoshi Sato no less, to submit papers for the Federation’s first stellar astrophysics conference to be hosted by Starfleet Scientific Research at the University of California/Berkeley campus across the bay from Starfleet Scientific Research. The audience would consist not just of invited research teams from the various Federation member worlds but also students and faculty from the University of California system. As department chair, it was T’Pol’s responsibility to forward this request along to the other researchers and return the proposals to Starfleet.
Although she did not wish to attend the conference as it would delay her and Trip seeing their son for the first time in years, as department chair it was not only her responsibility to attend, but also to submit a proposed manuscript for presentation. She had assumed there would be little interest in a graduate studies overview paper and so expected her proposal to be declined. This would mean she would only be expected to attend and not be required to participate. However, her proposal had been accepted, just as all of her department’s proposals had been. She found a full acceptance rate odd and wondered if Admiral Sato had an ulterior motive for her invitation. Starfleet had been pushing to merge resources with the Vulcan Science Directorate for some time. It was possible Admiral Sato was extending the invitation as a way to justify a closer relationship between the two areas.
The acceptance of her proposed manuscript ultimately did prove to be of some use. T’Zahl would begin her career as an instructor next term. By having T’Zahl present the material and field questions herself, T’Pol could provide feedback and guidance that would help the first time instructor. Up to this point, T’Zahl had focused on her research and presenting draft manuscripts to other graduate students in the program. This would be the first time she was to present material to non-experts in the field. It would be good experience for her.
As T’Pol reviewed the field strength tensor data for PMT-2 1394a, she heard footsteps approach the stairs leading to the observatory. She could tell Trip was still on the ship, which meant that Elwing had returned home after visiting her father’s ship.
She looked at the chronometer and decided she would prepare a light lunch for the two of them shortly. It would only take a few more minutes to complete her review.
Although she was anxious to get back into space and pursue her research, she was also apprehensive about leaving her children behind. When Elrond left, both she and Trip missed him dearly but were able to comfort themselves with Elwing’s frequent visits from the academy. In less than four weeks, she would be leaving Elwing behind and most likely not see her again for at least two years. She finally understood how difficult it must have been for her mother to push T’Pol away so that T’Pol would pursue a career with the Vulcan Ministry of Security.
T’Pol heard her daughter’s footsteps as she climbed the stairs. She looked toward the door to her office and watched as she approached.
“Am I disturbing you, mother?” Elwing asked.
“Not at all,” T’Pol replied.
T’Pol turned her chair as Elwing sat in the chair at Trip’s desk.
“Did you see Sotuk earlier?” T’Pol asked.
“Yes, I did,” Elwing replied.
“How was he?”
Elwing tilted her head to the side. For a moment, T’Pol thought she saw her daughter’s tongue push out against her cheek. There were times when Elwing reminded her so much of Trip.
“He showed me his work on the analysis display station aboard father’s ship.”
T’Pol just nodded.
“I would have preferred to spend more time in main engineering with father and Kor… But I could tell he wanted me to spend more time with Sotuk instead.”
T’Pol struggled back her smile. Trip always wanted Sotuk and Elwing to spend more time together. He wanted his daughter to be happy with her betrothed.
“Your father wishes to make sure… you are compatible.”
T’Pol watched her daughter narrow her eyes, which formed a crease in her forehead. She also twisted her mouth to the side. “I am unsure as to why he would think otherwise… Sotuk is intelligent and shows great respect for the both of you… It is clear father thinks highly of him. I fail to understand why father believes I would decide otherwise.”
“Your father is… Human… he never has been comfortable with the idea of arranged marriages, even though he will not admit it… He wants for you to be happy… He wants for you, for both of his children, to have what we have. As do I.”
“I see no reason to believe Sotuk would be… unsuitable.”
“Nor do I.”
Elwing sat before T’Pol and appeared to be lost in thought. T’Pol turned her chair and decided to complete her review. She would allow her daughter to contemplate her father’s behavior in private.
When she completed her task, T’Pol returned to the main living quarters and prepared a light lunch for her daughter consisting of a simple fruit salad. Shortly she would no longer prepare meals for her daughter as she would take care of herself. Eventually she would even be forced to let her daughter prepare the morning meals for her and Trip when Elwing visited their home.
Later that evening T’Pol leaned her head back against the pillow. She had great difficulty reflecting on the day’s events. Trip was just finishing the pressure points along her calves. He was proceeding too slowly for her tastes but she knew he did that to let her arousal build. When they were unrushed, as they were this evening, he frequently stimulated her pressure points very slowly and her control would weaken as her arousal climbed. She knew later when they both reveled in the orgasm they shared, the experience would be considerably more intense and satisfying.
She looked down as Trip shifted once he completed his task. He leaned over and she watched as he deeply inhaled the scent of her arousal. Even after all these years, she still found this behavior amusing. Human males were not stimulated by scent in the same manner as a Vulcan female, so there was little purpose to his inhaling her scent. Of course she could still sense it gave him pleasure and a small grin appeared on his face.
He leaned over farther she felt the very tip of his tongue come into contact with her lower abdomen. She knew what was coming and arched her body in response. He trailed his tongue up along her abdomen, between her breasts and up to her throat.
In response, she grasped the sides of his head and leaned him backwards on his heels. When he was sitting comfortably, she moved into his lap and brought her fingers up to the side of his face. Forehead to forehead, it took no effort for their katras to join after decades of practice. She felt that same warm surge pass through her that she felt nearly every night. The feeling of her and Trip intertwining their minds always brought her a great deal of satisfaction.
She knew the level of intimacy they shared was what Trip wanted for Elwing and Sotuk. She wanted it for them too. In fact, they both wanted their children to experience what they had shared for the past 55 years. It would still be another twenty years until T’Pol began teaching her daughter neuropressure and possibly another ten years after that until she would be able to identify Sotuk based upon his scent. She knew once that happened, the pair could begin to draw closer to each other if they chose to. At that point T’Pol would also have to decide how much to share with her daughter. Her mother’s advice of ‘when his Pon’farr arrives, you will know what to do’ seemed inadequate.
On the other hand, Elrond showed no interest in Trip’s offer to explain any more to his son.
Her son had already made his choice and selected a more traditional path and voluntary isolation at the P’Jor monastery. He would remain there for the better part of the next thirty years prior to his bonding ceremony. The brief time they would spend with him in less than a month would be the first time either saw him in more than three years. She knew Trip missed his son even more than she did, but they had to respect his wishes. His desire right now was solitary contemplation and to study classic literary works from ancient Vulcan history. Both she and Trip respected that decision and supported his choice.
Hoshi took the seat offered to her on the bridge of the HMS Warspite. She felt odd returning to Earth aboard the newly launched Constellation-class heavy cruiser. However, this second ship of the class had received upgrades and could fulfill both diplomatic and scientific roles in addition to its primary role of fast patrol along the shipping lanes. The ship’s medical staff was also trained in xenobiology and equipped with instruments to collect and analyze samples gathered during their mission. She wasn’t sure what upgrades were required for a diplomatic role. She couldn’t imagine needing anything more than spare quarters and a conference room or two.
As the ship approached a near Earth orbit, Hoshi saw an array of ships docked with one of the orbital platforms. Three had the distinctive ring nacelles of Vulcan ships and one had the obvious markings of an Andorian transport. However there was one ship she did not recognize. It had twin nacelles but was short and stubby, unlike typical Starfleet and Andorian ship designs. It had that same coppery color typical of Vulcan ship construction. She wondered if this was the new class of ship that had been rumored to be near launch. If so, it was odd to see a Vulcan ship without at least some curvature in its nacelles. That had been a hallmark of Vulcan design for almost two centuries.
** “Admiral Sato,” ** Captain Mundi said to her, ** “that is the Terau. Commander Halan arrived with Director T’Pol’s team late last night… She made excellent time.” **
Hoshi narrowed her focus as she looked at the Captain. ** “How would you know that?” **
She saw a slight grin come across his face. ** “We’ve been paying attention… She must have averaged more than Warp 6.4 on the way.” **
The fact that Starfleet was spying on the Vulcans wasn’t something Hoshi really wanted to know. ** “Thank you, Captain.” **
Early that afternoon Hoshi sat in the back of the small auditorium not listening to the presentation. She really wasn’t interested in Professor Tahmil’s research on the magnetic field fluctuations for a trinary star system in which two of the stars were neutron stars. Professor Tahmil was the only Andorian to accept her invitation and she was drawn to the professor’s antennae. They twitched and rotated as if she were scanning the room for predators while the holographic display showed the ever-changing magnetic field lines.
Hoshi thought about the uncomfortable lunch she had with Admiral Clifford. Peter had confessed to her that Starfleet had in fact been “monitoring” the construction of the Terau. His team was annoyed the Vulcan Science Directorate refused to share details of the ship with them. The original Federation charter said that each world would share technical developments that were of significant defensive capability. Other than the Vulcans, every world shared their new ship designs regardless of whether any significant improvements were made. The Vulcans, though, took the provision literally and refused to share any information about the Terau, claiming it contained no new defensive abilities.
At first she found that claim astonishing. The ship was supposed to be able to enter a pre-main sequence star’s accretion disk and remain there gathering data for months at a time. No Starfleet ship, not even the Constellation class, could have considered trying that. The Vulcans insisted the shielding required to achieve this feat was of no value against particle weapons and Admiral Clifford tended to agree with them. Prior to being named Admiral responsible for shipping lane defense, he was a weapons research specialist. He explained to her how the shielding properties would be fundamentally different for the two tasks. He said the shields could be more effective against particle weapons than those in a D’Kyr class, but only due to the ship’s smaller size. Its field would have a smaller surface area and therefore be stronger if an equivalent energy output was used. He doubted that was the case, since the vessel was not intended as a warship. It would have been a waste to equip a research vessel with shields that strong unless they were also needed for its primary mission.
Hoshi breathed a sigh of relief as Professor Tahmil stopped for a question from a Vulcan research assistant and responded with the utmost respect. She was worried how well the two would interact. So far, it appeared as if the scientists would behave themselves admirably. She couldn’t have asked for a better first few hours if she tried.
Seeing things progress this well allowed Hoshi to turn her attention to Trip and T’Pol. She fought against the slight grin that formed thinking about his official title of Commander Halan. Like her, he certainly hadn’t aged significantly in the past five decades. He had just a bit of gray in his hair. She thought he looked good in his formal Vulcan Commander’s robes. Most of the material was a sandy tan fabric that ran to the top of his boots. His hooded cloak had a roughly 15cm band of a multi-colored fabric that ran along the edge of the hood, over both shoulders and proceeded straight down to the floor.
Interestingly, T’Pol’s robes were similar in style but more colorful. Whereas his was a sandy tan, hers was a pale sky blue color. While his fabric band consisted mostly of dark blues, purples and maroon hues, hers consisted of shades of whites, yellows and a color similar to peach. As they sat rigid next to each other in the third row off to the left, their robes seem to have been chosen to complement each other. They looked… handsome sitting side by side.
On the other hand, something that appeared very odd was their hairstyle. Most Vulcans she met wore a similar, short, utilitarian haircut that was little different between men and women. But not Trip and T’Pol, nor three other Vulcan scientists. Their hair was a bit longer and pulled into a pony tail that originated high on the back of their skull. Even stranger, all five had a dark purple band pulling their hair together to form the ponytail. She had never seen this style on any Vulcan prior to this morning and now she was in a room with five who did. Of course, the rest of the nearly 30 Vulcans carried the typical style, so whatever the reason, it didn’t appear related to any scientific convention.
She remembered Secretary Broadhurst talking about Syrrannites and wondered if that might have something to do with it. It was possible the band forming the ponytail may have some significance. Either way, it was an interesting curiosity.
She wondered if it would be rude to ask about it at supper. The pair had already accepted her request to dine privately with her in the Admiralty dining hall. T’Pol’s team would present just prior to the meal and hopefully that would provide a nice segue into a conversation with the pair she had not seen in five decades.
Trip walked beside T’Pol, following behind the steward.
( It’s kind of weird seeing Hoshi as an Admiral. ) He remarked to T’Pol.
He felt a brief twinge of disbelief coming from her. ( You have achieved the highest rank in the Vulcan High Command available to you, the Starfleet equivalent of Captain, and you believe it is ‘weird’ to see Admiral Sato? )
Trip smiled. ( Well not when you put it like that, I don’t. )
“Commander, Madam, this is the Admiral’s private dining area.”
Trip just nodded. “Thank you.”
The couple walked into the private dining area and found Hoshi sitting down waiting for them. She stood up as they entered the room.
After Hoshi offered both of them the traditional Vulcan salute, she bade them to sit down. Trip seated his wife to Hoshi’s left before taking his own seat across the table at Hoshi’s right.
“Do you mind if we continue the conversation in Vulcan? I rarely get a chance to use it any more.” Hoshi asked the two of them.
“We will have to,” Trip replied. “Neither T’Pol nor I have spoken English in nearly 40 years and we have not learned Federation Standard.”
“You have not? I was involved in creating the language. I am insulted,” Hoshi said. Trip could tell she was joking because she started laughing lightly to herself after she said it.
Trip nearly laughed along with her.
“Federation Standard is used for diplomacy and trade,” T’Pol replied coolly even though Trip could tell she understood the joke. “We are not diplomats nor are we involved in trade.”
Trip watched as Hoshi tilted her head back and forth. “I know, but the language is very close to English. It would take little effort for you to learn since you already know English.”
Trip shook his head. “I am not as skilled in languages as you are. I am not certain I could even speak English any more… I know for sure it would take some effort.”
Hoshi nodded. “I have noticed that you speak Vulcan very well… In fact, if I recall correctly, better than English.” She gave him a little smile.
Trip returned the smile. “T’Pol never allowed me to fall into the same bad habits by making sure I only learned formal Vulcan… I am not even sure if there is any other kind.” He started laughing.
“Not that I am aware,” T’Pol replied to the both of them.
Trip noticed Hoshi turn her attention to T’Pol. “I was somewhat surprised, T’Pol, to see you eating a frozen yogurt after lunch… I was not aware that Vulcans ate any animal products at all–especially sweetened ones.”
Trip chuckled to himself. Fat-free frozen yogurts had become T’Pol’s favorite treat since he first took her to the little shop in the Human quarter when she was pregnant with Elwing. She enjoyed them as much as he enjoyed pie.
“That is correct. Normally Vulcans do not consume any animal products,” T’Pol replied. “Trip introduced me to the desert and showed me how it was made… It does not appear the animals are mistreated, so the compromise was acceptable.”
( Especially when you liked the flavor. ) Trip reminded her.
( That was irrelevant to the decision. )
( Right… ) Trip noticed her slight scowl.
“The only problem,” Trip chimed in, “is that they have to be fat-free.”
Hoshi tilted her head, but continued to focus on T’Pol. “Why?”
“Vulcans are… unable to properly digest the fats found in dairy.”
“Oh,” Hoshi replied and appeared surprised.
Trip grimaced as he remembered when they first found out that little fact. The first couple of times she tried it involved only the fat-free varieties. One time they were out and substituted full fat instead. He learned first hand that Vulcans could, in fact, get gas–very bad gas, actually. It smelled so bad it was difficult being in the same room as T’Pol until the next day. It was a pretty awful experience. From then on, she was very, very careful to only have fat-free frozen yogurt.
“So were the two of you ever able to have children?” Hoshi asked and shook him out of his deliberation regarding T’Pol’s digestive problems.
Trip felt T’Pol’s exasperated reaction to the question. She knew exactly his response to the question. Trip smiled and knew if T’Pol were Human, she would have rolled her eyes.
Trip nodded. “We had two,” Trip said as he pulled the small folder of pictures out his breast pocket.
( I am certain Admiral Sato is not interested in your pictures. )
Trip didn’t really care. He loved showing people pictures of his children. He moved his chair closer to Hoshi’s and handed her the flip case.
“Here, this is a picture of all of us,” he said as he pointed to the first one. “That’s Elwing to the left of T’Pol and Elrond is at the far left.”
Trip watched as Hoshi flipped to the next page, which was a simple picture of T’Pol. She was facing the camera in what Trip called her “Vulcan smile” and the warmth in her eyes was clear. “That is my favorite.” He looked up and smiled to T’Pol. She didn’t appear amused and he knew she always felt self-conscious about the pictures he took of her. He had more than could fit in the thin flipbook and rotated them in and out on a regular basis–except for that one. It was always the second picture in the set.
He brushed her reaction aside by reminding her she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen and loved her very much.
“If you go to the next two, you will see pictures of Elrond and Elwing.” He wondered if Hoshi picked up on his pride.
“They are quite… striking… Their hair is light and they have their father’s deep blue eyes… What are the chances of something like that?”
“Those traits were selected,” T’Pol decided to join the conversation.
Trip saw Hoshi look at T’Pol in confusion. ( You may as well explain it. ) Trip told her.
“Other than cloning, the only way to combine Vulcan and Human genetic material is via in vitro fertilization in concert with genetic engineering… The safest way to ensure I could carry both to term was to select for Vulcan traits in all of the important characteristics. A Vulcan fetus receives nutrients and oxygen via a simpler mechanism than a Human fetus. The fetus is directly connected to the mother’s cardiovascular system and there is nothing like a placenta involved. This meant both of our children’s physiology had to closely mirror my own… As a compromise, we decided that both children would have blonde hair and blue eyes… Trip did insist our children maintained Vulcan ear structure.”
Trip smiled as he remembered that time. He watched as Trip flipped to the next picture. It was another picture of T’Pol.
“If you go to the next one, there’s a picture of Elrond and his fiancée,” Trip said.
Hoshi looked at the picture and turned to Trip. “That’s T’Zahl isn’t it? She presented this afternoon.”
“Yes, it is. They will be married in,” Trip paused to think a bit, “less than thirty years.”
“Thirty years?” Hoshi looked at Trip in astonishment. “That’s some engagement.”
“We arranged marriages for each child,” T’Pol stated flatly.
Trip noticed Hoshi briefly made a face at T’Pol and he assumed she was surprised they still arranged the marriages after T’Pol’s experience.
“The next one is Elwing with Sotuk,” Trip said.
“I am surprised you gave them Human names… How has that worked out for you? Were there any problems?”
Trip shook his head. “Those are just the names T’Pol and I use. Their official names are Sethal and T’Rahel.”
The doors opened and a steward brought their meals in on a cart. Three identical plates were set in front of each person.
“I hope you like it. I had my chef make pok’tar using Earth vegetables.”
Trip looked down at this plate. It had been sometime since he’d tasted squash and mushrooms. “I am sure it will be fine,” Trip replied.
Trip was nearly done with his food before he’d realized they had eaten in silence. He had been so used to eating in the Vulcan fashion, he’d never thought about continuing the conversation over the meal. He’d hoped Hoshi wasn’t insulted and assumed he was just following custom. Of course, she hadn’t attempted any conversation either, so that meant they were probably fine.
After they had all completed their meals, Trip saw a bit of smirk come across Hoshi’s face. “I saw the last picture with T’Pol in a diving suit and wet hair…”
Trip felt T’Pol’s immediate annoyance with him. She couldn’t believe he kept that picture and allowed Hoshi to see it.
“Yes… That was on…” Trip wracked his brain trying to remember the planet’s name. All he remembered was the beautiful seas and coal black beaches.
“Erikteen IV”, T’Pol chimed in.
Trip nodded and smiled. “I taught T’Pol to swim there… The water has a high salt content so it was dense enough for her to learn.”
“The beaches looked beautiful and sunny T’Pol… Did you… ever… consider wearing a bathing suit?” Hoshi asked.
Trip stifled a chuckle. To her credit, Trip saw that T’Pol’s face revealed no reaction to Hoshi’s rather… personal question.
“Bathing suits on Erikteen IV are… quite brief,” Trip answered for her.
“Yes, they expose an unacceptable amount of skin,” T’Pol answered.
Trip smiled and twisted his mouth to the side. “I do not believe the suits contained 150 square centimeters of material.”
Hoshi’s eyes opened wide in surprise. “I see,” Hoshi replied and nodded in agreement. And then he saw her narrow her focus. “What about wearing a one-piece?”
“On Erikteen IV, a one-piece bathing suit is a two-piece without the top,” T’Pol replied.
Trip heard Hoshi gasp. “I understand your predicament then… I would have worn the diving suit also.”
Trip noticed the conversation stopped for some period of time. He exchanged glances with T’Pol. Both felt as if Hoshi had one more thing on her mind but was trying to avoid it.
Hoshi looked down at her plate. She’d pretty much run out of diner conversation and it was time to broach an unpleasant topic. She’d delayed it about as long as she could.
She took a deep breath and released it.
“Trip, I read what you wrote about the Vulcan Science Directorate merging with Starfleet Scientific Research…” She tried to see if she could gauge any reaction from Trip.
She caught a brief flash and then it was gone.
“I was hoping to convince you that merging would be the best for all.”
“I do not agree with that conclusion. Even if I did, I am not the only one who believes that way… In fact, I am not even in a position to change the decision,” Trip replied.
“But you must have some influence? You have seen what Starfleet is capable of with the right resources. Why not merge?”
Hoshi saw a pink flush come across his ears.
“Because Starfleet finally needs to be honest with the Federation member worlds and admit it is nothing more than a military organization whose sole purpose is to defend the borders and protect trade… Any scientific research it does is purely secondary and only intended to increase trade among the partners.”
Now it was time for Hoshi’s anger to rise a bit. He’d dismissed the whole part of Starfleet that she led. “How can you say that?” She said trying to control her temper.
She watched as the muscles in Trip’s jaw clenched and unclenched and his neck became pink. His eyes were as cold as ice.
“Because the only ships Starfleet has built since the Romulan War have been warships and freighters… The few diplomatic transports are all refits of retired classes. It does not even have ships dedicated to scientific research. Starfleet cares more about protecting trade… even illegal trade… more than it cares about science!”
“What does that mean?” Hoshi hissed.
“Just what I said it means! Starfleet looks the other way at slave trade going on within Federation borders… There are member worlds that are active in the Orion slave trade and put pressure on Starfleet to not patrol certain shipping lanes where slaves are transported… Everyone knows it! The Vulcans know it… The Orions know it… The Federation has to know it because the Tellarites and Coridanites are heavy users of slave labor for their mines!”
Hoshi noticed Trip pause for a second as if he were trying to calm himself down.
“The Starfleet I joined is not the Starfleet that exists today… It would never have relied on military strength and exploitation to maintain its position… By insisting that only it can patrol the shipping lanes, Starfleet has made sure it is a complicit partner not just in the slave trade, but in all of the other Orion smuggling activities. The Federation hypocrites make speeches about the Orion Syndicate and all of its evils while at the same time making sure Starfleet does nothing to even hinder it. I would not be surprised if there were time Starfleet actually drove off pirates competing against the Orions!”
Hoshi sat astonished at Trip’s tirade about the Federation not just ignoring the Orion slave trade but also some of its members continuing to profit from it. She’d never really paid much attention to the rumors about that beyond periodic Vulcan complaints that Starfleet was doing nothing to even hinder the trade. She knew there were certain shipping lanes where Starfleet did not operate and therefore it was entirely possible his charges had at least some merit.
She could tell he seethed in anger across the table from her. She could also see a bronze flush come across T’Pol as she stared down into her lap. The meal that started out friendly had turned into a disaster.
Just as Hoshi was trying to figure out a way to salvage the situation, Trip stood up, glared at her and said something into his communicator. In a moment he was gone. Hoshi slumped and looked at her half eaten pok’tar. She sighed before turning her attention to her remaining guest. She couldn’t read T’Pol’s reaction.
“Trip has strong opinions on this subject,” Hoshi heard T’Pol say quietly.
Hoshi chuckled a bit. She knew T’Pol was attempting to ease the tension by stating the obvious. “I can see.” Hoshi watched as T’Pol calmly dabbed a napkin at the corners of her mouth before setting it down on the table.
“The Orions kidnapping me for sale deeply affected him… This has been a point of bitterness with him for a long time.”
Hoshi narrowed her eyes and considered T’Pol’s statement. She hadn’t thought about that in some time. It had been so long ago and it was just one more event in a long sequence she wanted to totally forget about. “So this is about that?”
Hoshi could have sworn that T’Pol glared at her with a scowl on her face.
“Not entirely… That event only magnifies his reaction to the Orion slave trade’s existence… Putting aside my abduction for the moment, Trip still has… a deep personal resentment… for slave traders. His ancestors were heavily involved in the slave trade on Earth nearly four centuries ago. They made their living transporting African slaves to North American ports.” Hoshi watched as T’Pol paused for a moment. “It is something he is deeply ashamed of.”
Hoshi twisted her mouth to the side so she could absorb that nugget of information. “That does not make sense… He had nothing to do with that.”
“Trip’s views on the matter are illogical, of course… But that generally means he holds on to those views all the more deeply.”
If Hoshi didn’t know better, she thought she almost caught T’Pol… smiling. But T’Pol was difficult to read and for all Hoshi knew, she could have been expressing frustration at his behavior.
“Regardless,” T’Pol continued, “many in my government have come to the same conclusion. The Federation looks the other way at the slave trade because both the Tellarites and Coridanites use it to ensure cheap mining labor. Several Coridanite mining colonies are almost completely staffed by slave labor.”
“But Coridan is not part of the Federation,” Hoshi interrupted.
T’Pol nodded. “That is true, but the Federation council does not wish to damage tenuous relations with Coridan… Many of my people believe Starfleet is complicit by not patrolling key lanes used by the slave trade.”
Hoshi couldn’t believe the accusation. She refused to believe Starfleet was helping the Orion slave trade by avoiding contact with it. She’d heard many reports over the years that Starfleet couldn’t penetrate the syndicate in order to learn more about its operations. Less than three years ago, she’d heard the head of Starfleet operations insist to the Vulcan ambassador the only thing Starfleet could do was protect ships in the designated shipping lanes.
If Trip’s views were any indication, the Vulcans didn’t accept the claim.
“That the Federation and Starfleet continue to pretend they can do nothing to stop the slave trade is simply unconscionable,” T’Pol said as she stood up. “As long as Starfleet is complicit in something explicitly illegal according to the Federation charter, it will be impossible for Vulcan to ever participate in Starfleet. The other differences of opinion are resolvable through negotiations… On the matter of allowing, if not outright supporting, the Orion slave trade to proceed, however, there can be no debate or compromise. Unless Starfleet moves more aggressively to stop it, Vulcan cannot merge with it.”
“I understand,” Hoshi replied.
T’Pol nodded. “Admiral, I must return to the ship now.”
Hoshi stood up. “I understand… Will you be returning for the remaining two days of the conference? I wish to speak with Trip again.”
“I am not certain. Even were I to return for the lectures, I am uncertain if Trip would join me… The only reason he attended today’s was at my insistence.” Hoshi heard T’Pol sigh. “I am not certain he will be willing to leave his ship again and I see no reason to force the matter.”
Hoshi slumped. If anything, it sounded like she might have made things worse. “Tell him I am sorry, if you would.”
“I will pass along your sentiment,” T’Pol replied. She nodded, spoke into her communicator and was gone.
Hoshi thought back to that time many decades ago. She’d tried to completely forget about that time, but had little success in her attempt. It was such a traumatic period in her life that it was etched into her memory. Try as she might, she couldn’t escape from her past.
One minute T’Pol was giving her status on the Orion interceptors and the next moment there was only silence behind her. When she turned, T’Pol was gone and the ship was crippled. She had never seen Trip so out of control as when he found out T’Pol had been taken from him. At one point she was certain Captain Archer was either going to put him in the brig or have Phlox sedate him–possibly both. Malcolm told her Soong’s face was blue and he nearly passed out before Malcolm and one of the MACOs were able to pry Trip off him. He told her that was the first time he recognized just how strong Trip really was.
Hoshi learned something else during that time. Trip was a man of no small means due to the passing of a well-off uncle. She was in Captain Archer’s office giving him status updates, in T’Pol’s place while Malcolm and Trip were supposed to be busy, when Trip barged in. He interrupted her and proceeded to plead with the Captain to let Trip negotiate for her release. Both her and Captain Archer’s response was astonishment. Trip insisted he had more than enough money to purchase an Orion female slave. He was sure he could get T’Pol back as he assumed a Vulcan female would sell for less than an Orion one. Hoshi finally recognized just how irrational Trip had become. It was only later she began to wonder how Trip could have known how much Orion female slaves sold for.
Eventually she just assumed Soong used the information to taunt him. The whole time Soong was on board, he seemed intent on provoking Trip with various comments about T’Pol.
Although her heart bled for Trip, Captain Archer stood his ground and would not let him. When Trip refused to listen, the Captain did something she never expected him to do. He embraced Trip and told him he would do whatever it took to get everyone back. Against Malcolm’s protests, Captain Archer personally led the away mission. The Captain put Malcolm in charge of the bridge so that Trip could operate the transporters. Captain Archer said he needed Trip’s expertise to isolate each person and transport him or her back on board. Hoshi rather suspected Captain Archer wasn’t sure Trip could be trusted not to do something foolish. When she later found out about the pair’s mating bond, she wondered if the Captain already suspected Trip’s vulnerability.
Now that she knew Trip’s ancestors were involved with the North American slave trade centuries ago, she couldn’t imagine how much worse that time had been for him. She’d always assumed his problems during that mission stemmed from his involvement with T’Pol. But it sounded like guilt over his family’s history might have been another, significant contributing factor to his reaction.
T’Pol stared up at the ceiling in their new quarters. Tonight had been unpleasant, to say the least.
Trip was so upset after their… experience… with Admiral Sato that he spent the evening holed up the shield generator access tubes. She knew from experience the best course of action was to ensure no one bothered him. Trip’s chief engineer, Kor, immediately understood her ‘order’ that no one was to enter the shield generator access tubes without her permission. Fortunately Kor had been with them long enough to know that her ‘orders’ to him were rare and always centered around Trip. He never reminded her that she was a civilian and therefore could not give him orders but instead always carried them out.
When she finished her meditation, she bade Trip to come to bed. He reluctantly agreed even though he was still upset.
It had taken a good deal of time, but he had finally fallen asleep. His head was resting against her lower abdomen with his arms clutching her thighs. In the past, he had only done this when he was especially troubled or early in her pregnancies with their children. She understood listening to her rapid heartbeat calmed him. It was not Admiral Sato’s fault she stirred up memories that were better left undisturbed. She could not have known how much they affected him.
Even though it was completely illogical, she still felt resentment toward Admiral Sato for causing him pain. She finally had been forced to leave the Admiral’s presence before her baser emotions consumed her. It took no small measure of control at the time to remind herself that Admiral Sato was not hurting Trip intentionally. Her meditation had taken longer than it should have this evening to control these primal instincts and to deal with his emotions flooding through their bond.
She stroked her fingers through his hair and he shifted his head slightly.
She needed to sleep also and it would be difficult to do in this position. So she pulled Trip up toward her. He mumbled something and looked at her with sleepy eyes. Then she gently rolled him on his back as he pulled her toward him. She stretched out on top of him and rested her head against his chest. She listened to the even rhythm of his heartbeat as she slowly fell asleep with him underneath her.
The next day she made sure that she and Trip spent the day with Kor running diagnostics and tuning the Warp engines. She knew that would improve his mood and make him forget about his guilt and anger. By the end of the day, Trip had largely forgotten the unpleasant experience with Admiral Sato and was back to his old self again. Neither of them left the ship again for the remainder of the conference. When the last members of her team returned to the ship after the closing ceremonies, they immediately left the system and headed to P’Jor at high Warp. She knew seeing Elrond again would wipe away the last remnants of Trip’s bitterness.
Author’s Note: Today, July 11 is my birthday. I asked Bucky to post this on my birthday as a present to all those who have given me so many kinds words of feedback. I hope you have enjoyed reading my stories as much as I have enjoyed writing them. Thank you!
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