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Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination

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*

Christopher looked back and forth between his new yeoman and Starbase 9's head of personnel. He couldn't quite keep his brows from pulling together, equal parts puzzled and irritated; a moment before he spoke, he flicked his universal translator off. "What the hell does the record of my personal romantic relationships have to do with anything?"

He flicked the translator back on and made the effort toward making his mouth stay closed and his face stop looking like someone had punched his mother.

"It is best to avoid any circumstance in which improprieties, imagined or otherwise, might arise, Captain," the bureaucrat said serenely.

Of course they did, but that did absolutely nothing toward changing the fact that the assignment of a biologically incompatible non-human as his yeoman implied, heavily, that those improprieties were expected. That, moreso than Yeoman Fhhthhhffft hi- he- it?self, was the insult. There were captains who would abuse their power, and others who couldn't keep it in their pants, as it were, and Christopher was not one of them.

"Imaginary improprieties, well," he replied, "that just changes everything."

"Starfleet Regulation 6-472b -- "

"I'm aware of the Kinsey Three Clause, Commander."

*

 

Rolling out the door behind him, the yeoman's leaves rustled quietly as -- If we're stuck with one another, Christopher thought, turning as the door slid closed.

"Many Terran and xeno-botanical species utilize a gender binary," he said, then, "Since you don't appear to be flowering at this time - if you flower? - I'd like to know which pronoun you prefer, Yeoman Fhhthhhffft."

The universal translator took a long moment to parse that into swishes and snaps, and equally long to handle the reply, "In reference, I prefer zie/zir, though I do answer to my rank, sir."

Clacking together of stems rendered as an extended um, and he nodded, saying, "Yes?"

Zie rose, rearranging stems and leaves into a more fully upright position, so that a fuzzy center stem capped with a number of equally fuzzy tentacle-analogue appendages rested at Christopher's eye-level. The stalk bent to ninety degrees, and the rest of zir quivered violently, jostling the translator which, Christopher saw, hung around the base of that center stalk. Zie said, "If you do not mind, your species is not well-equipped for my species' language. I would be much obliged if you were to call me Leif."

"Lief."

"Lief San-Marie."

"San-Marie."

Leif's stalk bobbed up and down in the affirmative, and then rustled again. The translator chimed in a shortly after, "For the species A. hierochuntica, native to Terran Palestine, which my species resembles. A friend from my unit gave me this use-name."

Christopher blinked at the plant, who had been the most professional individual in the entirety of this afternoon's ordeal; it was no more Leif's fault than his own that Starbase 9's personnel department had a stick up its collective ass with a stick up its ass. I should probably phase that colloquialism out of my vocabulary sometime yesterday, he thought.

The least he could do was get zir name right. It wasn't uncommon for non-humans to adopt a Terran use-name, especially if their given one was difficult for Terran humans to pronounce. Christopher privately thought that the practice was ridiculous; if Terrans never had to expand upon their language-base, even if it required some level of struggle, then they never would.

He asked, "Do you prefer the name Leif?"

A pause, then, "I prefer it to having my name mispronounced as - " the translator stopped, as if resetting, before it continued, "verb, obscene: the stripping of young leaves from the stem by herbivorous fauna."

Extending his hand, Christopher replied, "Welcome to my crew, Yeoman San-Marie. I expect nothing shy of your best work while you're under my command."

One of Leif's stems unfurled, and zie pressed zir stem against Christopher's palm, gently. Zir leaves tickled, soft as velvet. At length, zie said, "I would think of giving no other kind of service, sir."