DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Kelthammer and is copyright (c) 2002 by Kelthammer. This story is Rated G.
Letter to Amanda
UFP Starship USS ENTERPRISE; NC-1701
First Officer Spock
VULCAN POSTAL CODE ERIDANI8945TH23GGGG
HOUSE OF SHARIEN (SHI'KAHR)
ATTENTION, AMANDA GRAYSON
I apologize for the lateness of my reply. Circumstances beyond the control of myself and the Enterprise prevented my correspondence for this quarter. Fortunately, events were quickly de-classified and I may answer your wish to "hear more of life as First Officer."
After sending off my last communique to you, I was immediately assigned to Colony WWeb along with Dr. McCoy to evaluate the current standard of Life Sciences. The colony is hoping to become a hosting location for the UFP and can only qualify if better-than-minimum standards of defense, medical, and educational are met.
As you no doubt recall in your function as a diplomat, WWeb is a Sigman Colony, and males are traditionally in a minority/sheltered status. The officials did assure Captain Kirk that this would not be a hindrance to efficiency, and (at the time) we had no reason to doubt their statement.
Politically, the colonists are in an enviable position of receiving high wages and voting autonomy volunteering to live in an environment that is considered quite uninhabitable to the majority of Federation citizens. One hundred percent humidity is the standard norm in the summer, with the unsheltered deserts occasionally reaching 100C. It is considerably cooler under the canopy of the rainforests, which can gain heights of over four hundred feet. Dr. McCoy claimed to find the climate "pleasant" but confessed the environment made his instincts look for large, predatory tree-dwelling felines, and even larger carnivorous reptiles in the water. He did not take politely to my observations that it was merely the programming of his simian ancestors, but I am accustomed to his ways.
After we beamed to the Transporter Pad (which also served for cargo and livestock), we were rushed quickly off the large platform to make room for a large shipment of housing materials. Sigmans tolerate the heat by living under the rainforest canopy, and hardly ever venture into the deserts. I was not disconcerted by our arrival until it became apparent that every Sigman male was staring at us with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. Dr. McCoy felt this vindicated his "bad feelings" about being on this assignment, but typically could not explain himself.
We were given perfunctory directions to the office of the Prefect, and almost instantly given audience. The Prefect is anthropologically a typical example of her species, averaging 1.66 meters in height and resembling Lt. Uhura quite closely. She greeted us efficiently and produced a schedule for our perusal.
"I must confess, I requested the presence of a qualified ... woman for your visit, gentlemen," the Prefect confessed.
"As did we." Dr. McCoy overrode my response quickly. "But we were unable to comply with your wishes. I hope this won't make things difficult for you."
The Prefect finally nodded. "Very well. Most of my women are ... open minded. They respect a hard worker more than anything else, and so long as you keep that in mind there won't be any trouble."
"I foresee none," I agreed.
Dr. McCoy kicked me under the table without a change of expression.
"Well." The Prefect sighed. "At any rate, the Life Sciences Center is almost complete. You may visit on foot or wait for a supply caravan. It isn't far, less than a mile up the river if you would prefer to go on foot."
"That sounds good, Prefect." Again, Dr. McCoy chose to speak for me. "Spock, would you care to join me?"
I asked the doctor when we were alone if there was a reason why he had been abnormally abrupt.
"These are Sigmans, Spock." He spoke through his teeth, and his eyes continually darted from side to said, watching the passing natives. "You accept any kind of favor from these women and you might find yourself married!"
"I was not aware of that cultural difficulty."
"How could you? You never beamed down when we were on the Home planet! Just stayed aboard ship while the technicians 'fixed' the computer and Jim and I wound up in one of the most godawful shore leaves I've ever -- let me tell you, Mr. Spock, I'd prefer to vacation on Capella IV rather than a Sigman population. Capella IV, in the heart of the drought season, stuck in the middle of a swarm of powercats at a group mating!"
"Surely you exaggerate?"
"Exaggerate? Spock, Sigmans are dangerous."
We found the path along the river that the Sigmans were carving out of the bank and walked against the current. The water was deep and extremely cold because it very rarely saw sunlight; fog hovered over the surface and a large variety of reptiles swam in protective clusters underneath.
There were no other passersby, and we made good time in traveling until we were within sight of the Science Center. It was at this point I began to notice a peculiar sound, high-pitched and over our heads. Glancing up into the canopy, I could see the suns had reached their zenith and the trees were slowly beginning to move under a high wind. The canopy was so high up that I could barely discern their movement at all.
We were taken unaware by a harsh wind, oddly dry, and filled with dust and dreck from the upper canopy. Its force was quick and powerful; even had we been prepared I doubt we could have prevented ourselves from being swept into the river.
I narrowly escaped a concussion in the shallow banks of stone; Dr. McCoy landed largely on top of me and moved just as quickly to relieve me of his weight. The wind was already passing us but exceedingly uncomfortable. I found it difficult to see even with my nictating membranes, and the doctor was keeping his eyes shut, crouched in the water with his face buried inside his wet shirt as a primitive filter mask. Sand began to drift down, and small pieces of flora that I realized was native to the outland deserts.
I find it significant that not one of the silica trees showed any sign of breaking under the wind. It suggested the planet was accustomed to unexpected storms and adapted accordingly.
"You look like a drowned cat," Dr. McCoy told me, and promptly sneezed into his shirt. He had developed that protective reflex of late, trying not to expose me to any more germs than necessary.
"At least I do not feel like one." I managed to pull off my uniform tunic and squeezed an exorbitant amount of water out of it. "We must check our equipment."
Unfortunately, there was very little left to examine. Everything was filled with the dirty water from the canopy. Extensive repair work was needed.
With our equipment completely useless, our options were limited. Dr. McCoy's medikit was the only implement still useful, and that was because he had been taking explicit care of it. I find him a very irrational human, but his concern for his medical kit is to be commended.
"Now what?" Dr. McCoy paused to sneeze again.
"Are you ill?" I asked.
"I'll be fine. The wind kicked up a ton of bark dust and I got a face full. It was like ... like snuff." He rubbed his nose fiercely. "Okay. Everything's just about useless. What do we do?"
"It should be a simple enough matter to go to the Colony Laboratory and have everything cleaned and repaired," I told him. "Sigman Standards are comparable or better to Federation Standard."
"Yeah, but they're also capitalist warthogs! Do you have any credits on you? I sure don't!"
"Surely they will take work on Federation Credit vouchers," I replied. "As commanding officer, I am authorized to sign for any needed repair work."
"All well and good, Mr. Spock, but the colony hasn't been fully accepted as a member of the UFP yet. Politically they're still autonomous. That's one of the reasons why we're down here, remember?"
"Of course I remember. But we are here to evaluate because the Sigmans desire membership. Logically they would then accept a voucher in show of their support."
"Huh," he said. I have never been certain as to what that sound means. "In the meantime we do what, wait here for the relief crew?"
"Unless you have a better suggestion."
McCoy's only response was to open up a packet of sauerkraut from the rations and eat the entire contents. My observation of the effects of too much salt in the human body were ignored.
I regret to say, Dr. McCoy's suspicion of inefficiency was proven when we approached the Laboratory. The Prefect was in space and not due back for several days. Unfortunately, she was the only Sigman authorized to repair Federation equipment.
"You are saying you are not skilled?" I persisted.
"No, of course not," Techician Krifa assured us. "It's just that we don't have that official looking piece of paper, dear. You don't want us to get in trouble, do you?"
"Why would we wish that?"
Dr. McCoy was poking my arm sharply. "Uh, Spock, think back a few years to our last lil' ol visit to the Sigman homeworld...?"
I considered. "Are you referring to the faulty programming that gave the ship's computer a personality and made it fall in love with the captain?"
It is possible I spoke rashly. Dr. McCoy was cringing visibly and Krifa was no longer smiling.
"There is nothing wrong," Krifa informed us, "with Sigman computer programming. Even a male should see that."
"Forgive him, Ma'am." Dr. McCoy smiled. "He hasn't been here too long."
"I find that not surprising." She snorted. "Very well. Let's condense this to precise terms. While we prefer to be in good standing with the Federation, the captain of the Enterprise is now a common household word for our concept of an ungrateful client of limited imagination. It's not that we distrust the Federation. But that report he sent back to the UFP Council about our most brilliant technicians ... well, we'd hardly want to put ourselves under such a ... scrutiny again, would we?"
Dr. McCoy swallowed audibly. I confess this was not a good indication of what was to come. "I'm sorry about that, ma'am. If you would allow us to be precise as well: Is there anything we can do, ourselves, that can repair our equipment? Anything that's not too far outside the bounds of the law, that is."
Krifa smiled. "Actually, you do have some small chance that a snowball has in our southern swamp. Are either of you skilled at cards?"
Mother, may I mention that Sigmans are inveterate lovers of skill/chance games.
The details unfolded slowly. Sigmans are strictly honorable inside their own cultural viewpoint. Tonight the ranking technicians were gathering a high-stakes game. Should one of us win a round, we could state our price as cleaning and repair work for our damaged equipment.
That only left the matter of what we should put up as collateral for the game. I found a logical solution almost instantly, but it took 2.3581 hours to convince Dr. McCoy that my decision did not prove me mentally incompetent, vindictive, or possessed by demons. Finally I was forced to invoke my rank upon him.
You may have noticed while on board, that Dr. McCoy was no stranger to irrational behavior. This became one of those times. He questioned my decision on holding Starfleet Property up as collateral on the numbers game, to the point where I had to threaten him with a citation on his record. After commenting that a citation would do "damn little good" if I lost the game anyway, he subsided into the grumbling dialect of his home culture. May I add, Mother, that after four years of service with the man, I find his linguistic nature just as unfathomable as I did when I first met him.
Sigman De'kopan is a simple-seeming game built upon a supposedly unlimited number of players among a deck of 107 cards marked with varied numerical values -- although when I pressed for information, my source irritably told me fifty players was considered "excessive." Each player at the table holds three cards in hand and holds that number. When a card is exchanged or lost in a stake of comparative values, it is replaced from the "stack" which is a pile of "free" cards, face down, in the center of the table. To win at De'kopan, a player must have patience as well as a comprehension of mathematics and odds. In order to "win" a hand, one must produce the card of the highest value against the other players' card. Jeopardizing the odds are the "black" cards, which are of a higher suit and the player who produces a black card when all other players produce a card of a lower suit, must forfeit all three cards.
I calculated that since this was a game built largely on strategy and odds, a simple mental system of numerical favors would slowly but surely gain our losses back. Dr. McCoy, however, saw things quite differently and bade a good imitation of having what is called, "a stroke" when I refused to show my three-card hand at the first round.
You often complain that letters can be too technical, but let me summarize by saying after 12.34 hours, I won back my stake, and the right to have our equipment dealt with. In the six hours it took to have this done, we had enjoyed a full tour of the WWeb facilities, written a favorable report, and made ourselves presentable for the ship's arrival. The Enterprise came on schedule, we enacted beamup, and returned to onship duty.
The captain's reaction to our informal reports was at first incredulous. As humans so often do, he felt the need to repeat my statements with his own wording.
"You put my chief medical officer up on the table to front the credits you needed for the game?"
"He was the only worthwhile object in the Sigman values system," I explained. "And truthfully, sir, he was not 'on the table.' He stood at the side and watched."
McCoy, oddly, was not saying anything as I spoke to the captain. He seemed content to sit in the corner furthest from me and stare without blinking, arms folded across his chest. I was tempted to remind him that he was not permitted to cultivate that mannerism ever since our last peace treaty with the Klingons, but I was no longer the superior ranking officer. This had been his overall demeanor during and after the card game, and I was almost accustomed to it.
The captain rubbed his jaw. "What about yourself, Mr. Spock? Bones is a good card player -- a great one, actually. I may play chess with you, but I do not play poker with him."
"And I wouldn'ta taken twelve hours to win me back, either." The doctor retorted. His emotions had colored his words markedly.
"I felt my grasp of the numerical structure--"
"Grasp, hell! You just invoked your Vulcan reserves and played 'em to exhaustion!" He looked to the captain. "One of the players fell asleep right at the table, and two got so jittery on stimulants they had to fold!"
"--would be more reliable than some deity called 'Lady Luck' that the doctor frequently invokes. Besides, we were advised to keep our religions to ourselves while we were on the Colony."
The captain blinked several times, and looked at McCoy. McCoy blinked back at him.
"I've been called many things," the doctor said in a strange tone of voice, "But 'religious' has never, ever been one of them. I think it's because that implies a capability for reverence that I'm totally lacking in."
"Spock, we'll discuss the gods of luck at a later date. I just thought that ... well, Bones is the best card player of the three of us. And wouldn't he be the ... best ... choice?"
"The truth, captain, was Dr. McCoy was worth more than I was."
"I was?" McCoy repeated.
"He was?" the captain repeated. "Bones was worth more than you?"
(Mother, I know that Sarek feels that Vulcan hearing is only nominally better than human, but I happen to spend a great deal of my time repeating myself on the ship).
"Of course," I told him. "You have a daughter. The Sigmans considered you 'Proven' as it were--"
I was impressed at the captain's reflexes. He managed to circumvent the doctor from leaping at me across the table without changing his expression at all. The doctor was exclaiming at an unnecessarily high volume, and using language I was utterly unfamiliar with.
"I'll show him! You chlorophyll-dependant lump of algae! You kelp-eating colony of hive-minded tree snails! Jim, lemme go! Lemme go!"
At this point, the doctor's volume overrode my ability to comprehend him. Much more was said, but all in this vein. Gradually, the captain was able to have a private audience with me.
"Spock." His face must have been causing discomfort; he constantly rubbed his cheeks as he spoke. "I don't want to hear that any of my officers ... used ... any of my other officers to put up needed funds. Is that understood?"
He watched me in silence. Slowly, he began to shake his head. "Just what would you have done if you'd lost, Mr. Spock?"
"But I did not, sir."
"I know, but ... were you prepared for that eventuality?"
"Certainly not, Captain. Failure was not an option."
The captain stared at me. "All right, theoretical possibility, Mr. Spock. Suppose, by hook or crook, you'd lost. What would your ... logical course of action be?"
"Since it would have to be by dishonest means to win over me, I would have no compunction with using those same means to get Dr. McCoy back."
The captain was rubbing his temples now, and grimacing in pain. "I ... see. I'm ... sorry I asked, Mr. Spock."
"I fail to see the need to apologize, Captain."
"Oh." He straightened his shoulders. "Mr. Spock, you may return to duty, but I recommend you avoid the doctor for a few days. I'm going to go talk to him ... preferably with a bottle of his little yellow headache pills and a large cup of Mr. Chekov's kummel. I will see you tomorrow. Late tomorrow. There's a possibility that I will still have this agonizing headache."
"My condolences, Captain. If there is anything I can do..."
"No, no..." He waved that off, gently. "There's ... nothing you can do ... Mr. Spock. Thanks for offering, but ... just ... don't do me any favors right now, all right?"
"As you wish, sir."
He left, still holding his head and muttering to himself. I finished submitting my report and went to my cabin for meditation.