DISCLAIMER: No profit is intended in the writing of this story. Star Trek - Enterprise and its characters are the property of Paramount and Viacom.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: After I had seen the episode "The Expanse" I wondered how T'Pol could give orders to crewmembers of the Enterprise. Without a rank she had to be a civilian, I thought. And so she couldn't be any longer the Executive Officer of the Enterprise!
I know that in Star Trek history Spock was the first Vulcan who joined Starfleet but quibbling as I am I asked myself if Spock was the first Vulcan male who was the first Vulcan woman who joined in? Maybe T'Pol? So I had written my own version of the episode "The Expanse". I hope you will enjoy it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
BETA: Bev and GroovyGoddess.
T'Pol was on her way to Captain Archer's quarters. A few minutes ago the ship had been attacked by a Klingon Bird of Prey, and was now on its way to Vulcan space. The captain hoped that this would keep the Klingons away. As the Vulcan walked down the corridors of the Enterprise she thought about the events of the last few weeks.
Enterprise had been called back to Earth after an unknown probe had attacked the planet. It had torn a wide trench from Florida to Venezuela, and the number of victims had increased from hour to hour until it reached seven million! The horror of it all aboard the ship had been indescribable.
And to top it all off, there suddenly had been that Klingon Bird of Prey which had attacked Enterprise in the Sol-System. The Klingons were going after Captain Archer for allegedly supporting rebels but the captain could have managed to escape them twice. However it seemed the Klingons had not heard about the attack on earth or ignored the incident. Starfleet had been on high alert and three ships had supported Enterprise and beaten off the attack.
T'Pol had noticed the change in the crew's behaviour after they had arrived Earth. Crewmembers had stared out of the portholes and if they had seen the scar on their home world, grief and shock had changed into cold anger. The Vulcan was extremely surprised by this reaction.
After some weeks of converting and upgrading, Enterprise was now on its way towards the enemy like the humans said. But who was the enemy, T'Pol asked herself. Just before Enterprise had arrived near earth the ship was boarded by the Suliban. These mysterious creatures - which had declared that they were acting by orders from the future had kidnapped Captain Archer right from the bridge. Some hours later they had brought him back and what the captain had to tell them was still unbelievable, T'Pol thought. Captain Archer had spoken through time with the Suliban's mysterious leader who had explained that the attack was carried out by an unknown species called the "Xindi". The Xindi would wipe out the humans because 400 years into the future the humans were going to destroy their home world. Archer had gotten some coordinates to find the Xindi. The mysterious stranger had declared the Xindi were constructing a weapon mightier then the first to destroy earth completely. This had to be prevented, the mysterious one had said, to protect the timeline.
After Archer's return and his report T'Pol was sceptical. The Vulcan Science Council had stated years ago that time travel was impossible. But T'Pol had seen so many things since she had been on Enterprise doubts on that statement had crept in. In the last two years Enterprise had had some encounters with the Suliban and there had been some odd events
Perhaps time travel is possible, the Vulcan told herself. Captain Archer seemed convinced about that and T'Pol had learned to trust him.
On earth, Ambassador Soval was absolutely convinced about the impossibility of time travel, and Starfleet Command had shown its doubts too. But then Archer had presented evidence which couldn't be ignored. In the remnants of the probe Archer had found a component which had been built in the future. The mysterious stranger had told him for what he had to look for. Confronted with that, Starfleet Command had decided to send Enterprise to the coordinates Archer had gotten from future.
The next problem was that the coordinates lay in the Delphic Expanse. The humans didn't know anything about that region and Ambassador Soval had to explain that the Expanse was a region about 2000 light years in diameter and that some Vulcan ships were still missing in this area. Only a few ships had ever returned back and the data they had delivered had shown some wild and warlike people, regions with strange anomalies and even regions where the laws of physics weren't valid. The recommendation from the Vulcan High Command was that the humans should refrain from the operation. But even these deterrent examples couldn't stop the humans. After some weeks in the space dock a special unit of military came aboard, some crewmembers which wouldn't go on a suicide mission had been replaced and now Enterprise was on its way towards the Delphic Expanse.
But first they had to go to Vulcan. The High Command had decided that the only Vulcan aboard shouldn't be a part of this mission. And that was the reason why this Vulcan was on her way to the captain's quarters.
T'Pol was standing at the door and thought about her situation. Was it the right decision, she wondered. It seemed not fair to her to be left behind if Enterprise flew to the Expanse. She thought of herself as a part of this crew. Even though the crew might still see an outsider in her. For two years this ship was her home or something that very closely resembled to her a home. She had seen things she had never expected, she had done things she had never thought she was capable of. She had experienced freedom in a way she could never have on a Vulcan ship. She had become a member of the Vulcan Science Academy to explore and to see the things out there and not to sit on a desk and do nothing more than read about the things out there. Now she could see the Expanse with her own eyes, now she could see for herself if the rumours were true. She hadn't the smallest idea what would happened there but she would see it. And there was another reason someone
She took a deep breath, straightened her shoulders and decided: yes! Determined, she activated the chime.
After a talk of ten minutes with Captain Archer she saw herself on her way back to Vulcan. She had reasoned logically, she had offered to throw away her career and finally she had pleaded but nothing seemed to work. Captain Archer seemed not willing to let her stay aboard and now he had finished this discussion and left his quarters to make his way to the bridge. T'Pol was disappointed. After a moment's hesitation, she followed Archer to the bridge. For the moment there was nothing she could do, maybe later maybe later she find a way to change his mind
The Vulcan remained at the back of the bridge when Archer stepped beside the helm.
"To stay away from these Klingons won't be as easy as we thought," he said.
T'Pol looked up.
Mayweather was puzzled. "Sir?"
"We aren't going to Vulcan!" Archer turned around and looked at T'Pol. He walked to his seat and ordered, "Mr. Mayweather! Set a course to the Delphic Expanse!"
"Aye Sir," Mayweather confirmed while Archer sat down. Everyone on the bridge knew what that meant. Ensign Sato at her station smiled shyly.
T'Pol could scarcely control her composure while she walked over to her science station. Only barely, could she hide her relief.
The Vulcans called the next day and wanted to know, why Enterprise had changed its course. When Captain Archer explained to the representative of the Vulcan High Command that Enterprise would continue on directly to the Delphic Expanse, the Vulcan representative was at first stunned. Then he demanded to speak to T'Pol, and when she told him that she had decided to stay on the ship by her own free will the representative closed the com channel.
It began on the next day.
First Admiral Forrest called the Enterprise, then Ambassador Soval and then again a representative of the High Command - this time someone very much higher in the chain of command. But it didn't matter if they spoke to the captain, T'Pol or both of them. Every time the answer was the same: Enterprise would not change its course and T'Pol would remain aboard! The Vulcans seemed annoyed with Admiral Forrest, as well, because he never gave the direct order to turn back. After one week the Vulcans realized that T'Pol disobeyed her orders and they cancelled all contact with Enterprise.
In the meantime the whole crew did not know what happened aboard the ship and what T'Pol had done. Rumours ran wild and so-called 'true' reports of a mighty Vulcan fleet, which was on its way to intercept Enterprise, circulated. Or rumours about secret meetings of the senior officers at night, and that they would collectively disobey the orders to return. Other rumours told about heavy diplomatic disagreements between Earth and Vulcan and mutual threats of war! But not one rumour came close to the truth.
After one week of silence the Vulcans called Enterprise again.
"Captain, we have received a message for Sub-Commander T'Pol from the Vulcan High Command. It is marked as urgent and personal," Ensign Sato reported.
The attention of the bridge crew focused on T'Pol. What would happen to her now? Though no one said a word, everyone asked themselves this question mentally.
"Sir, I will take the message in my quarters, if you do not mind?" the Vulcan said.
"Sure, Sub-Commander, go on," Archer replied.
As soon as T'Pol had left the bridge everyone tried to get back to duty. Archer stood up and paced restlessly up and down the bridge.
Twenty minutes later T'Pol came back to the bridge. When the doors of the turbo lift hissed open all eyes were directed to the Vulcan. She appeared calm and composed as always when she went to the captain who was standing next to his chair. Her back was straight and her hands were clasped behind it. Archer noticed a change at the sight of the Vulcan but he couldn't say what it was.
"Sir, I have to inform you that the Vulcan High Command had made a decision regarding my situation."
Now Archer realized what had changed in the appearance of the Vulcan. The rank insignia on her uniform was gone! But before Archer could say anything she continued.
"Because of disobeying my orders, the High Command had deprived me of my rank. I am dismissed from the Vulcan fleet. I am no longer able to be Enterprise's Executive Officer. My academic grades remain, and I am capable to support this mission as a civilian scientist. I was told that Admiral Forrest will inform you soon."
The silence that fell down on the bridge was deafening. Secretly, everybody had expected a reaction like that, but to hear the words now spoken loud and clear by T'Pol was still a shock.
Finally Archer broke the silence. "T'Pol, I don't know what to say."
"Permission to return to my duties?" she replied.
"Granted," was the only thing he could say.
The Vulcan turned and went back to her station; she sat down and continued her work. Outward she seemed calm but internally she felt disappointment! The way the representative of the High Command had knocked her down with his words had shocked her. More than thirty years she had served the Vulcan people in many different ways and now this was worth not more than a cubic foot of vacuum! She wasn't even permitted to justify herself! Just after three minutes and twenty-eight seconds the representative had ended the call. The remaining time she had fought with her composure, before she had dared to leave her quarters.
Slowly Archer sat down in his chair.
One hour later 1800 ship time alpha shift ended and T'Pol left her station immediately; she wanted to meditate in quarters.
The moment she was gone, Lieutenant Reed was the first who spoke. "Well, that comes about not to unexpected."
"What should we do about her?" Commander Tucker asked. "Without rank she's a civilian and regulations are clear about competences and limits of authority. How should the crew behave towards her?"
"Now every crewmember can give orders to her. T'Pol is not much more than a passenger. Theoretically she even has to leave her quarters, because they're the quarters of the XO," Ensign Sato stated from her com-station.
Mayweather turned around. "But can we put her into quarters for crewmembers? Since Major Hayes and his MACO's are aboard all quarters are crowded to the last bunk."
"Someone has to replace her as XO," Reed turned to Tucker. "That has to be you."
"I know," he answered. "I can switch Quarters with her but I think it will be still humiliating for her."
"And if you don't switch with her?" Hoshi asked. "T'Pol can stay at her quarters and " she faded out.
Mayweather shrugged his shoulders. "But this will be just as humiliating for her like switching quarters. She will see it as a gesture of pity, won't she?"
No one said a word.
"The crew knows T'Pol," Reed said. "They respect her." But he couldn't spread his optimism.
I think, we underestimate the crew," Ensign Sato said. "T'Pol has proved more than once how she stands for the crew and the ship. The crew will appreciate this."
Tucker spoke to the captain who hadn't said a word till now. "Well, captain?"
Archer had followed the discussion quietly. Normally he should have this conversation in his room with Trip and maybe Reed but now he wanted to hear all opinions. After Hoshi's last comment an idea rose in his head and if any of his officers has doubts about T'Pol then he need to know about that. Finally all officers remained quite and he stood up. "I will think about it. Trip, you have the bridge." He left the command centre and went to his quarters. He had to think about that idea thoroughly. Why not, he asked himself on his way. What will stand against it? To go through with his plan would cost a lot of words and convincing, not only towards Starfleet but to a certain stubborn Vulcan woman, too. However Archer was convinced that it was a good idea. It would be like a warp core breach, he thought, no one can ignore it! He smiled, slightly amused, as Ensign Sato connected him with Starfleet Headquarters.
In the meantime the beta shift had taken over. The crewmembers from the alpha shift spread the news immediately, and when an hour later Archer walked down the halls on his way to Trip's quarters he saw little groups of crewmembers standing together and murmuring quietly. If the captain approached them they grow silent. But Archer could hear scraps of their conversations, " unfair loyalty nothing other expected "
Finally he arrived at Tuckers quarters and pressed the chime.
The door hissed open and Archer entered. "Trip, Lieutenant Reed, Doc, Ensign Mayweather, where is Hoshi?" he greeted his staff.
"I don't know, Sir. She wasn't in her quarters or in the mess hall. I left a message on her computer," Mayweather said.
Suddenly the doorbell chimed. Tucker opened the door and Ensign Sato entered.
"Excuse me, Sir," she said.
"OK, now we're complete
"John, what's up?" Tucker interrupted, wondering why the captain had chosen his quarters for a meeting.
"I have to talk to all of you "
Archer was relieved. The meeting had been better then he had dared to hope. Now he was on his way to T'Pol's quarters. At first he'd had to convince Admiral Forrest about his idea. This had taken 45 minutes. Convincing his officers was a lot easier. Now everything depended on the Vulcan. He pressed the chime to her quarters and heard a gentle, "Come in."
"Sir!" T'Pol slowly rose from her untidy bed. Obviously she had been preparing for the night. She was wearing a sleeveless top, pyjama pants and her feet were bare. Her top was a little bit short and a small part of her belly and her navel could be seen.
"T'Pol, I have to talk to you."
"Of course Sir, have a seat." Gracefully, the woman sat down on her chair behind her desk. Archer took the chair opposite the desk.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
"T'Pol, you know what I mean."
"I had not expected such a quick decision from the High Command. I expected at least an occasion to justify myself on a hearing." T'Pol hesitated; it seemed as if she was searching for the right words. "I I am frustrated."
"Well, I think you feel lousy," Archer replied.
"Sir, I "
"No offence, T'Pol." Archer put his hand up in a defensive gesture. He grinned.
T'Pol wasn't offended. Again she noticed something a human would call disappointment. She knew that it was the right decision to stay aboard but the captain went easily over the fact that she had lost nearly everything she had worked for in the last three decades.
Archer eyed the Vulcan till she spoke again. "Sir?"
"I talked to Admiral Forrest. He had confirmed the decision of the High Command, and he had sent the appropriate documents about your discharge."
"I understand, Sir."
"I also had a meeting with some colleagues whose opinion is very important to me. "
"I understand, Sir."
"Sorry, but I don't think you do."
T'Pol's brow raised up a bit. It was the best approach to indignation she could manage. What was it she didn't understand, she asked herself. Would the captain make an open mess about her discharge? Was it not embarrassing enough the way it was? But She thought for a moment. The captain didn't hate her, she thought. He wouldn't humiliate her by calling her to the mess hall to tear her rank insignia from her uniform in front of the crew.
Again Archer lifted his hands up defensively. "I made the Admiral an offer and also talked to the officers from alpha shift about it. It would be a logical settlement for our problem, but the final decision is yours to make."
"Sir?" T'Pol was puzzled. What could be the solution for her problem in the name of logic?
Archer reached in a pocket on his overall and took out something the Vulcan couldn't see. But when he put it down on her desk and pulled back his hand, she realized what it was. It was a patch like the humans had it on their uniforms! It showed the Starfleet insignia!
T'Pol stared at the little piece of textile, and then she slowly lifted her head and stared at Archer. Her expression was unreadable. Not a single muscle moved.
Archer fixated the woman with his eyes. "Think about it, Sub-Commander. It will be an enormous step. I can imagine that there will be harsh reactions on Vulcan and on Earth; you will be the first non-human officer in Starfleet. But I think it could be worth the trouble. You're not only a good officer but a good commanding officer too, an excellent scientist and explorer. I think you would fit into Starfleet very well."
With that Archer stood up and left the quarters. T'Pol sat on her chair and stared at the patch. He couldn't be serious, she thought. But the patch on her desk said otherwise! He had made her an incredible offer! He had talked about it with the Admiral and his senior officers! This would be the solution for her 'problem' wouldn't it? What should she do? For a long time she sat on her desk and thought about this mess until logic commanded her go to bed.
Punctual at 0530 hours the alarm chimed. T'Pol opened her eyes and swung her legs out of her bed. The first thing she saw was the patch on her desk. It still lay on the same place the captain had left it. It hadn't been a dream! What should she do, she thought. For the first time in her life, she hadn't the slightest idea.
After T'Pol had finished her morning hygienic rituals, she stood in front of her closet wearing only her underwear. Automatically she reached out for her uniform, and then she hesitated. She had made her decision and she had to pay the bill, like the humans say. She was no longer an officer. She turned to another place in her closet.
She left her quarters a few minutes later, and headed towards the mess hall for breakfast. Then she would go to the bridge, no one had informed her till now that she was removed from the duty list. As T'Pol turned around a corner, two crewmen came from the opposite side of the hall. They greeted her like every day and T'Pol responded automatically. As the two men were behind her, her advanced Vulcan hearing allowed her to hear what they said.
"Did you see her?"
T'Pol entered the turbo lift and turned around. At the end of the hall she could see the two crewmen standing and glancing at her. As she reciprocated their look, they disappeared around the corner and the lift doors closed. On the remaining way to the mess hall, she registered similar reactions from any crewmember she met.
As she entered the mess hall immediately all the people present got really quiet. The attention of every one was directed to the Vulcan. She was wearing a tight red one-piece with a v-like neck showing a very small view on her cleavage. Belt, shoulders and collar were in a slightly different colour.
Not only all the males in the room stared at her but the females too. T'Pol ignored them and took her breakfast. It was the same as ever, a bowl of fruit salad without sugar but a dash of lemon juice and a cup of green tea as well without sugar. As she sat down at a free table T'Pol could feel the glances at her back. At last she turned half around in her chair and looked at the crewman on the next table.
"Can I help you, crewman Mitchell?" she asked.
"Er Ma'am, uhm No, Ma'am.
"Then you should finish your meal and go to your station."
Mitchell's face turned red. "Yes, Ma'am," he said and stared down at his plate with scrambled eggs, bacon and toast and it was a lot more fascinating as some minutes ago. The other crewmembers turned back to their breakfasts too and T'Pol could eat in peace. As soon as she had finished, she stood up, put her dishes back to the galley and left the mess hall.
The door hadn't completely closed behind her as the hectic mumbling started.
As usual she was five minutes earlier on the bridge than necessary. Lieutenant Reed was in charge of the gamma shift. Again ignoring the glances, she addressed Reed. "I'm asking your permission to take over the science station."
"Ma'am, you haven't to ask for it. It's yours."
T'Pol's face was a mask of stone. Lieutenant, from now I have to ask for permission. "
"All right," he blinked, "Take it over."
The Ensign from gamma shift left the station, nodded and greeted her with the usual "Ma'am." As he stood in the turbo lift he couldn't resist and let his gaze roam over T'Pol's back.
The Vulcan concentrated on the instruments and checked the data which had been recorded in the night. There was nothing unusual. Everything went as smoothly as always.
The captain stepped on the bridge and took over the command from Malcolm. One by one, the other officers of the alpha shift arrived and sat down at their stations. The last to arrive was Ensign Sato. She turned left to go to her station. Then her gaze fell on the new outfit the Vulcan was wearing and she quirked an eyebrow.
"Good morning, Sub-Commander," she said. "You look good."
"Ensign Sato," the Vulcan replied. Once again she was the focus of attention. She used her station as a shield and faced the captain. "Sir, I have decided to no longer wear my uniform. I hope you do not object?"
"No, of course not. You can wear whatever you want. Now that we talk about it, have you thought about my offer? "
"I have thought about it. But I haven't decided yet," the Vulcan replied.
"We will arrive at the Delphic Expanse in about five weeks. You should've made a decision by then because communication with Earth will be very difficult then. You know about human bureaucracy," he said smiling.
"I will remember this, Sir." Indeed T'Pol knew earth's bureaucracy and personally she thought that Humans and Vulcans had more in common than they would admit.
"OK! Ladies and Gentlemen, let's go." Archer clapped his hands and turned to the front screen. With one last glance at T'Pol, everyone went back to duty.
Nothing happened on this day. No attacks of insidious Sulibans, furious Klingons, pirates, bounty hunters or similar trash. No S.O.S signals, fields of dangerous radiation, meteors or comets. To be honest, it was a completely boring day.
At the end of their shift, T'Pol and Ensign Sato went to the mess hall together. With the exception of a few crewmembers which hadn't seen T'Pol in her new outfit no one paid special attention to her. But what hadn't changed was the fact, that everyone greeted T'Pol with a "Ma'am." Ensign Sato as a junior officer was still greeted after the Vulcan.
This behaviour confused the Vulcan. She had expected that the crew would adapt quickly to the new situation. Maybe some crewmembers were glad about the fact that there was not longer a Vulcan 'watch-dog' aboard. "Ensign, why does the crew behave like I am still the Executive Officer? Everyone should know by now that I have lost my rank."
T'Pol waited for a further explanation, but Hoshi remained quiet.
"I am respected? That is the answer?"
"Yes, you are respected. It's that simple."
T'Pol grew quiet. That was something she had to think about. Until yesterday she had been the XO, respected or at least tolerated because of her position, right? She had to admit that in the last few months the behaviour of the crew towards her had changed. The crewmembers had been more open-minded towards her; they had been more considerate about Vulcan traditions. She had assumed that no crewmember had wanted to make the XO mad at him. But on the other hand she had to admit, that her own behaviour had changed, too. It seems that she made decisions which were not only based purely on logic.
When they finally arrived at the mess hall, T'Pol and Hoshi chose their lunch and sat at a free table. They ate in silence. T'Pol still thought about her situation when she suddenly noticed the curious glances from a table in the corner of the room, occupied by some of Major Hayes MACO's.
When the two women had finished their lunch a crewman stepped next to their table.
His attention was still directed at T'Pol and she spoke to him. "Crewman Harris, what can I do for you?"
"Ma'am, the chef asks you, if you could come to the galley. He had tried a new Vulcan recipe and would like your opinion about it before he puts it on the menu."
"I will be there in a few minutes."
"Yes Ma'am." Harris remained next to the table.
"Anything else" T'Pol asked.
Harris seemed embarrassed. T'Pol noticed that the attention of all the people in the mess hall was directed to her. It was absolutely silent.
Harris cleared his throat, tightened his shoulders and snapped to attention. "Ma'am, I'm speaking in the name of the whole crew. We'd like to let you know that the decision of the High Command was wrong. We're glad that you decided to remain aboard."
The brow of the Vulcan climbed upwards. She eyed Harris for a moment and then she looked across the room. All crewmembers nodded slightly as their eyes met.
Ensign Sato bent over the table and whispered, "Respect."
T'Pol turned her attention back to Harris. As she spoke it was loud enough that everyone could hear her. "First it is no longer necessary to stand at attention in front of me. And second it seemed not right for me to abandon the ship and our mission."
"I was prepared to lay down my rank but I had expected a hearing about my situation. I didn't expect such a harsh reaction from the High Command."
Again T'Pol looked through the room.
"I thank you for your kind words. Now I know that I made the right decision."
Once more Harris snapped to attention but his wide grin was absolutely against regulations. "Yes Ma'am." He turned on his heels and went back to his place. The level of noise in the mess hall turned back to normal.
"I think you should go to the galley now and try chef's newest creation. I can't imagine anything worse than an insulted cook. It can be disastrous for morale. There might be a mutiny possible, and the crew can force you to apologize to the chef." Ensign Sato couldn't hold back any longer and grinned.
T'Pol watched her firmly. "Indeed Ensign."
Sato lifted an eyebrow. Not nearly as skillful as the Vulcan did it but plain enough to make clear what she meant.
"A touch of humour, Sub-Commander? Maybe you have spent too much time amongst humans?"
This time it was the Vulcan's part to bend over the table and she declared, "Ensign Sato, there is no need to be insulting me."
Hoshi blushed, and just as she wanted to apologize for her words, she recognized the sparkling in the Vulcans eyes, just for a heartbeat. A relieved smile spread over her face. It had taken her a long time but now she knew about the hidden and dry humour of the Vulcan.
They put back their dishes and Hoshi left the mess hall. T'Pol went through the room back to the passage to the galley.
When T'Pol entered the galley, probably the most important room aboard, chef and two of his cooks were standing in front of the stove arguing fiercely about the pros and cons of basil in Vulcan plomeek soup. Everyone tried to make clear his point of view by waving his arms vigorously. The Vulcan stepped quietly behind them and waited to be noticed. The two cooks were obviously allies against chef; they denied the idea, still thinking about such a sacrilege. Chef tried to overpower his disobedient subordinates by shouting and waving his arms furiously. As he almost slapped T'Pol in the face she took the initiative and cleared her throat.
It was an immediate success. The three men leaped and looked around frightened.
"God! Ma'am, if you do this again I'll have a heart attack," chef yelled.
"If your cardiac-vascular-system is that weak, I am certain you would never serve on Enterprise." The Vulcan replied stoic. "You have tried a new recipe?"
"Oh, yes, Ma'am." Chef went to another oven in his little empire and lifted the top of a pot.
Immediately, a familiar scent caressed T'Pols nose reminding her why this egocentric man was the best cook in Starfleet. "That is "
"Exactly." Chef smiled.
T'Pol took a spoon and dipped it into the steaming thick and yellowish-brown pulp. She blew on it and tasted it careful. The Vulcan could hardly hide her surprise. Her brow flashed upwards. "It tastes as if it was cooked on Vulcan. I know we haven't all necessary ingredients aboard. How did you create this?"
Chef was grinning widely. "Well Ma'am, this is a company secret but you can be certain it was not easy. I can put it on the menu?"
"Indeed, you can."
"Very well, Ma'am."
T'Pol walked out of the galley. On her way the two cooks nodded at her. "Ma'am," they said. The Vulcan reacted automatically, nodded back and answered, "Crewmen."
On the door she turned around. "I would like to taste your plomeek soup with basil too," she said.
"Yes Ma'am. I will inform you if I have figured it out," chef replied. Now he was certain, he liked this woman!
With a last nod T'Pol left. But in the short passage to the mess hall she heard the arguing start anew.
"Well, I told you so," chef said triumphantly.
"Aw, plomeek soup with basil, that's that's "
"Chef, I mean as well "
"Shut up you two! I'm the chef aboard! Now we will make plomeek soup with basil! That's an order!" Well, thought chef, the chain of command is a useful thing.
If T'Pol had been a human she would have smiled. Indeed, she thought, chef is probably the most important person aboard.
But her superior hearing allowed her to overhear a talk in the mess hall too. One of Major Hayes MACO's snarled, "Why are you guys making such an affair about that Vulcan?"
T'Pol stopped dead. She was still in the passage; no one knew she was there. Within seconds it was absolutely quiet in the room. Finally someone spoke, it was crewman Harris.
We make such an affair about Sub-Commander T'Pol because she means a lot to us."
The Vulcan stood there and couldn't move. What did happen in there, she thought.
Harris went on. It seemed he didn't want a confrontation, he answered calm. "As I was transferred aboard two years ago I thought the same as everyone else. I thought with a Vulcan XO we will make it at best to Pluto and then this guy will cancel the mission for some reason or another. I was a mistaken."
T'Pol noticed an agreeing murmur.
"Over the last two years we've gone through a lot. The Sub-Commander earned our respect and our loyalty. On the other hand we earned her respect and loyalty. She's a competent officer, she knows what to do. If the captain isn't aboard she's the commanding officer, and the well-being of the crew, the ship and the success of our mission stands in the first place for her and not any political interests which some guy, sitting the whole day on a desk on Earth or Vulcan, decided will be the best for his career."
"Yeah man! That's right " Now a confused babbling started in the mess hall. " do you know that day she's we will every time " Despite her superior hearing she couldn't understand all of it. The people talked too fast and it was all mixed together.
"OK, OK!" Harris took over the word again. "That she was fired by her own people was absolutely unfair. But that she had risked it shows her loyalty to us. She's a member of this crew. T'Pol is one of us."
Again the humans in the mess hall showed their approval. From the MACO's she wasn't able to hear anything.
>SHE IS ON OF US< it hammered in T'Pol's head, >SHE IS ONE OF US<. The Vulcan turned around and slowly walked back to the galley. As she entered the room again chef and his two cooks didn't noticed her. They were arguing if plomeek soup with basil could bear oregano. Quietly she crossed the room and stepped into the corridor.
As in a trance she slowly walked down the hall.
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
Her feet found the way to her quarters on their own.
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
What she had heard
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
It had shocked her but her expression was carved in stone. A Human had taken her side! No! Not one! All crewmembers in the mess hall had defended her against the MACO's!
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
They had defended her against their own people! Crewman Harris wasn't an officer, he was a simple crewman and they had exchanged just a few sentences!
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
Why had they done this?
T'Pol looked up; she stood in front of her quarter and didn't know how she came here. She entered and sat down at her desk. The patch was lying there, in the same place the captain had left it.
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
Again and again these words flashed through her head. It had been there the whole time directly before her eyes!
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
The crew hadn't treated her in any different way. They had treated her like yesterday when she had still been the XO.
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
They had shown her respect even without her rank!
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
T'Pol concentrated and attempted to remember any rude or impolite behaviour against her. But she couldn't! There hadn't been anything like that!
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
She didn't know how long she had sat there. Suddenly her hand moved by it self. Her fingers reached out for the patch. As she touched it, T'Pol felt a shiver running over and through her body.
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
The words Captain Archer had spoken yesterday came back in her mind ` It would be an enormous step.´
>SHE IS ONE OF US<
Yes, it would be an enormous step! How would her family react, her people?
>SHE IS ONE OF US - SHE IS ONE OF US -SHE IS ONE OF US< She took the Starfleet patch.
>SHE IS ONE OF US< She closed her fist around it.
>SHE IS ONE OF US - SHE IS ONE OF US<
"I am one of them." As she said it loud in the stillness of her quarters it was finally clear.
And T'Pol made her decision.
The First Step
Captain Archer sat at his desk and looked once more through the small amount of information about the Delphic Expanse and the Xindi. But for some reason he couldn't concentrate on the information on his screen. His thoughts wandered back to T'Pol, again and again. Archer valued her highly as an officer, as a person and as a friend. He hoped that she would think about his offer seriously and that she would accept it in the end. He knew that Enterprise was different from Earth. A Vulcan Starfleet officer would be accepted here, he was quite sure of that. But on Earth and Vulcan? What if they would survive this suicide mission? What if they returned to earth and humans which had worked for years to become officers had to accept a Vulcan as superior Starfleet officer?
But how certain was this? Shortly before Enterprise had left the space dock Admiral Forrest had talked secretly to Archer. The primary mission was to stop the Xindi, he had said! The safe return of the ship and its crew was just secondary. The admiral had made it very clear that Archer should do anything that was necessary. Whatever happened in the Expanse would remain there. No one would ask if the Enterprise should make it back to Earth. And that came from very high up.
The captain turned this information in his mind over and over again till he stared at his monitor, not noticing the other information.
Archer was startled when the door chimed. Was it the second time or the third? "Come in." He ran his hand over his eyes.
T'Pol entered and faced Archer, remaining right behind the door. "Captain."
Sub-Commander, what can I do for you? Take a seat."
Gracefully, the Vulcan sat down in an arm chair. Knees together, back ramrod straight and head held high.
She seemed determined, Archer thought.
"Captain, I will accept your offer."
Archer was a little bit baffled. He had thought the Vulcan at least would discuss his offer in detail. But then he smiled. "I'm glad about this. It was the right decision. Have you any questions or should we talk to Admiral Forrest right now? "
"I would like to know which function and rank I will be attending to in Starfleet?"
"I talked with Admiral Forrest about that. An admittance as lieutenant-commander and science officer is absolutely realistic. For the position of XO Trip is available but he would rather stay with his reactor. He hates paper work, and statistics about the weekly bedclothes swap are not his thing. He says if you will keep this burden from him he will be eternally thankful to you."
"Sir, working on the statistics of the weekly bedclothes swap isn't a burden for me. Clean bedclothes are just as important for the morale as a satisfied chef."
"It doesn't matter, Sir," she mumbled.
"Err, well. If there are no other questions?"
Archer activated the com. "Ensign Sato?"
"Yes Sir?" She responded immediately.
"Put me through to Admiral Forrest to my quarters as soon as possible."
"Have you talked to your family about your decision ?" he asked then.
"I hadn't the time until now, Sir."
"Maybe you should do it, before they get it from anyone else."
"Captain," they were interrupted by Ensign Sato. "Admiral Forrest, Sir."
The Admiral appeared on the screen on Archer's desk. "John, what can I do for you?"
"Sir, I like to inform you that T'Pol has decided to join Starfleet."
The woman went from sitting behind Archer and looked over his shoulder.
Forrest faced her. "Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yes Sir. I thought about it thoroughly. I have made my decision."
"All right. I have a meeting with the C-in-C tomorrow at 1000 h. I will state this then. T'Pol, I can imagine that from tomorrow on you and Captain Archer will be spending a lot of time with sub space communication."
"Yes Sir." The Human and the Vulcan answered simultaneously.
Forrest grinned. "I see you two work well together. See you tomorrow. Forrest out." The screen went black.
"So, that's it!" Archer said and turned around to T'Pol.
With Forrest's support it won't be a problem convincing Starfleet command. Let's wait and see what happens"
"Sir, if you do not mind I will inform my family now."
"That's a good idea. Good evening, T'Pol."
The Vulcan left the captain's room and proceeded to her own quarters. She sat down on her desk and activated her com. "Ensign Sato?"
"Connect me with the Vulcan communication system, please."
T'Pol was just about to cut the channel to the bridge when Hoshi spoke again. "You have made your decision?"
"Why would you believe I did?"
"Well, at first Captain Archer had spoken to Admiral Forrest and now you want a channel to Vulcan. I'm right, or not?"
T'Pol hesitated for a moment. Yes, I've made my decision. Now it's in the hands of Starfleet."
"Great!" The Vulcan could imagine how Hoshi smiled about her words. "I, too, hope they make the right decision."
"Ensign, you should remain quiet about this. We should wait for the decision of Starfleet command before we announce anything."
"Understood, Ma'am. Your link to Vulcan is ready now."
T'Pol typed in some codes, and a few minutes later the face of her mother appeared on the screen.
When the Vulcan reported for duty on the next day, anything was like always. Again she noticed that nothing had changed.
At 1100 h the first sub space communiqué for Captain Archer arrived and for the next ten days Admiral Forrest's prophecy became true. Archer and T'Pol spent a lot of time talking to admirals, commodores and civilian officials, time they would have loved to use for their duties aboard. Finally Ambassador Soval hailed the ship and demanded to speak to T'Pol privately, in some way he had heard about T'Pol's request. He tried everything to talk T'Pol out of this, but she turned down even the offer to resume her duties with the Vulcan High Command with a promotion from sub-commander to commander. She told no one about this.
Gradually Archer, T'Pol and the other officers, who had been interviewed too, could clear up all doubts.
When Enterprise was only three and a half weeks from the Expanse, T'Pol got a message from Captain Archer. Meditating she sat on the floor when the com chimed. She rose and responded. "T'Pol."
"I hope I haven't disturbed you?"
"Excellent. Please report to the mess hall."
"Yes Sir. May I ask what "
The Vulcan was puzzled. If it was some emergency why was there no alarm? She slipped into her civilian clothes and left her quarters. She saw just a few crewmembers on her way and wondered about it. She opened the door, entered the mess hall and surprised she stopped dead in her tracks. The room was crowded with crewmen! All stared at her and suddenly she felt uncomfortable. The door closed, two men approached from behind her and she tried to calm down.
On the other side of the room captain Archer stood in front of a window and faced her. "Commander Tucker, Lieutenant Reed, bring the delinquent over here."
Delinquent, thought T'Pol. This means criminal! The two men stepped closer to her and T'Pol had no other choice than to move forward. For the friction of a second she felt fear it was an illogical emotion but it was still there. Then she noticed a movement in the corner of her eye, and involuntarily she turned her head. She looked at Ensign Sato who smiled lightly and nodded almost imperceptible. T'Pol calmed down, whatever was going on here it couldn't be that bad she thought.
Finally, she stood in front of Captain Archer who looked coldly at her. "T'Pol, unfortunately, I have to reprimand you."
"Sir, what ?"
"Be quiet, T'Pol."
Archer held up an official looking document. "From Starfleet Command to Jonathan Archer, Captain of the USS Enterprise. The request of the Vulcan citizen T'Pol for admission to join Starfleet will be approved immediately. Signed Nakamura, Admiral, Commander-in-Chief."
Archer grinned at T'Pol, and the crew cheered.
She noticed that the lump in her stomach was gone.
Archer let the cheering go on for a few moments. "NEVERTHELESS! NEVERTHELESS!" Slowly the room became quiet. "Nevertheless, that's the reason why I have to reprimand you. This order came into force thirty minutes ago, and you still don't wear the right uniform. If you want to avoid a permanent reprimand into your personnel records then you should correct this mistake." Archer turned around to a table behind him and as he turned back to T'Pol he held up a folded blue Starfleet coverall in his hands. When the Vulcan lifted her hands up to took her new uniform Archer could swear the corners of T'Pol's mouth fluttered for a moment.
T'Pol knew now that this had been only a play to surprise her and entertain the crew. She was off duty and couldn't be punished for not wearing the correct uniform but as she held that blue piece of fabric in her hands she knew with absolute certainty that she was no longer just accepted or respected by the crew, from now on she was truly a part of this crew. "Sir, I do not know what to say "
"Well, I think this day will be remembered not only for the first admission of a Vulcan to Starfleet but for a speechless Vulcan too." Archer was still grinning.
The crew cheered again.
"But unfortunately I have bad news too, T'Pol," he went on.
"Starfleet couldn't decide on approving you to lieutenant-commander."
In one second it was deadly quiet in the mess hall. T'Pol noticed that and realized that this was not a play anymore because the crew was obviously not informed about that.
Archer went on. "I was informed that after a thoroughly examination of your files, your qualifications and in consideration of your length of service, only an admission as Commander would be appropriate." Then he laid a small piece of cotton on the uniform T'Pol was still holding in her hands. Attached to that piece of cotton were three golden bars. The Vulcan knew that normally the rank insignia were attached to a piece of leather.
T'Pol straightened her shoulders, turned around and faced the crew. "Thank you, Sir. Thank you to all of you for your support over the last weeks. I assure you that I will stand up for this ship and its crew. As well as I assure you, to do all I can that our mission will be successful. Besides that I assure you I will not disobey my orders further at least not in the near future."
There was a stunned silence in the mess hall as the Vulcan walked back to the door. The crowd parted before her like the Red Sea before Moses. T'Pol showed no expression on her face but later there were crewmen who swore that there was a glistening in her eyes that no one had ever seen before. Then she left the mess hall, still holding her new uniform in both hands.
"Was that a joke?" someone from the crowd asked.
"I think so."
The next morning T'Pol Commander and Executive Officer of USS Enterprise left her quarters. For the first time in her life she wore the blue Starfleet coverall. On her right chest three polished golden bars shone in the light and on her left sleeve the patch, which Captain Archer had brought into her quarters two weeks ago, was sewed on but no one knew that.
Many decades would go by before she would finally take off the uniform.
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