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Star Trek Mercury: Two-Way Mirror Mountain

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“You know what really intrigues me?” Ensign Tildi was saying. “I’ve always wondered why Klingons developed phase disrupters instead of phasers. Does it have to do with their values of honor? Or was it that their science just led them to that discovery first?”

“There are many civilizations that have chosen a primary weapon for their military that we classify as a disruptor, Ensign,” Lieutenant Commander K’shan, Chief Engineer of the Mercury, replied, retrieving a tray of food from the replicator. He raised an eyebrow at Tildi, “Why do you ask specifically about Klingons?”

As I stirred my coffee in the far corner of the Galley, I did note that Ensign Tilde had been talking to Ensign Sejwid, not K’shan. K’shan had interjected, perhaps assuming rank gave him the right. Unusually social for a Vulcan, I thought. I smiled.

The table I was sitting at was the only one with open seats this morning. Perhaps other captains would have taken their breakfast in the ready room or their own quarters, but I’ve always been known to go out of my way to mingle with the crew, and I wasn’t about to change my habits now that I had my first commission. Especially with so many new faces under my command. Our command. We’ll get to that.

The conversation was coming to me, and I’d get to be a part of it if I wanted.

Tildi turned to Lt. Cmdr. K’shan and quirked her head. Then after a second said, “Commander, sir.”

“Ensign,” K’shan said, waiting.

“Well, they kind of scare me, sir,” Tildi ended up saying, with a shrug. “And I’m fascinated by things that scare me. I want to understand how they work.”

“A logical feeling,” K’shan said. Despite being shorter and slighter than Tildi, he still managed to cast a formidable shadow.

I could feel Danielle’s notes of satisfaction at seeing how our Chief Engineer interacted with the crew.

Tildi nodded, biting her lip, and then turned and looked around for a place for her and Sejwid to sit. When her and Sejwid’s eyes fell upon my table with me sitting at it, hunched over and smiling, they both halted in a humorous way.

I looked at the chairs, and gestured, doing my best imitation of Danielle. Honestly, I’m pretty gregarious and friendly as it is, but she’s got a more… mom-like mannerism that I can’t quite match.

“Perhaps,” Lt. Cmdr. K’shan said from behind them, “The Captains Vanderkemp would be happy to provide some insight into your query, Ensign Tildi. I understand that xenoanthropology is Dr. Auden Vanderkemp’s specialty. And if you do not mind, I would sit with you as well.”

“Please! All my officers are welcome at my table,” I said, betraying my identity with my deep baritone voice. Coming from what Tildi must have assumed was a diminutive middle aged woman, I apparently surprised her with my voice. That told us a little about how unfamiliar she was with her captains despite joining the crew herself two years ago. We’d somehow missed seeing each other much during that time. She’d never come to Danielle for counseling. “It’s Garamond today, Lieutenant Commander K’shan, with Danielle on the side. Auden is still asleep, but I think I can guess how they’d answer.”

Tildi sat first, very tentatively. Sejwid seemed more confident, but I’m not sure if I can read their species’ expressions properly yet. They’re a Valshusan, which I haven’t seen before, personally. K’shan sat last, nodding to me.

“So, Ensign Tildi,” I said. “You were asking about Klingon disruptors, right?”

“Yes, ma’a - er, sir? Mx?” Tildi said.

I smiled as warmly as I could. I personally liked that confusion, but to spare the others, I corrected her, “Between the three of us, we prefer that everyone just say ‘Captain’. Leave out the sirs, ma’ams, and mxs. Keeps it simple.”

“Yes, Captain,” Tilde responded. “And, yes. I was just wondering about why they chose them.”

I leaned back and took a good big swig of my coffee and let it sink slowly into our belly, before saying, “Well, I don’t think I can give a definitive answer to that. We don’t really know the Klingons as well as we’d like, yet. But if I’m remembering Auden’s classes correctly, it’s usually kind of hard to separate a civilization’s cultural norms from its technological discoveries. I mean, as influences, for the purposes of answering your question. Over the course of their history, the two social forces interact with each other.”

“Oh,” said Tildi.

Sejwid began eating quietly as they listened.

“So, as to the question of whether it was their code of honor or some quirk in their path of technological discoveries that led the Klingons to choose phase disruptors, the answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ I think.” I concluded. “Anyway, it’s a pleasure to have you aboard. All three of you. Ensigns. Lieutenant Commander. Tell me… Tell us, how are you finding life aboard the Mercury so far?”

“It is not New Vulcan, Captain,” Lt. Cmdr. K’shan replied. And then, noting that I recognized he wasn’t going to say more, he began to eat his food.

Sejwid looked out the aft portal that was next to our table, watching the warped and redshifted stars behind us, chewing their food. Then, after swallowing, they said, “I’m intimidated.”

I tilted my head, and observed, “You didn’t fly the ship out of stardock like you were intimidated, Ensign.” They were an excellent pilot.

“Sorry,” replied Ensign Sejwid. “It’s the mission, Captain. I saw the Cherenkov trail with my own eyes, you know. And with how serious Starfleet was in assigning me to this crew. Specifically for the mission, Captain. It’s like they thought I would be as important to its success as Lieutenant Commander K’shan or you, Captain. That’s intimidating. To me.”

“Well, you’re honestly in good company, Ensign,” I said lightly. “This mission is intimidating! But I think Starfleet has actually thrown the best people they can at it. You included. With your record, I’m glad to have you at the helm.”

“Thank you, Captain,” they acknowledged.

I looked at Tildi. Like me and my siblings, she’s human. The Mercury has always had an eclectic crew. And there was a high turnover during both its shakedown and five year missions, and that had made the crew even more diverse. But with Starfleet’s new assignments for this mission, we might have the most representation of member worlds of any Nova class in the Federation. Humanity no longer had a majority presence on the ship. There were still more humans aboard than any one other species, but more other species as a whole than humans.

And I agree with my siblings, Danielle and Auden. We like that.

Ensign Tildi gulped, and glanced at Lt. Cmdr. K’shan. He was her commanding officer in Engineering. Was she afraid of offending him?

I raised both my eyebrows and tilted my head up.

“I’m.. I’m doing OK, Captain. I like my shift mates well enough, but, uh…” Tildi looked around, a few locks of her tightly curled hair brushing the back of her neck. “No offense, Captain, but despite all the repairs and refitting, I can still tell the Mercury has been, um, worn in? The ship’s been through a lot.”

I laughed, looked at the center of the table and took a deep breath, nodding, “Yes. Yes, it has, Ensign.” I looked back up just in time to see her glance at Lt. Cmdr. K’shan again. So I narrowed my eyes and looked at him, wondering what that was about.

“Captain?” K’shan asked.

Captain’s Log: Stardate 2272.9. Captain Garamond Vanderkemp speaking.

This is a special assignment for the U.S.S. Mercury after returning from its first five year mission.

We’ve been stationed at Star Base Alpha for repairs and minor refits, and some much needed down time for the remaining crew.

Two months ago, an enormous and apparently self powered object passed through the Sol System at relativistic sub warp velocities. At near light speed, with no warp bubble, the energies emitted from the object were spectacular to say the least. If you were looking out at the stars in the right direction at the right moment, there was suddenly a broad streak of slowly fading eerie blue light stretching from infinity to infinity, with a golden white thin streak down the center of it.

It apparently passed close enough to Earth that the width of the streak appeared to be about one tenth the diameter of the moon with the naked eye. That’s large. Many people thought it had passed within the moon’s orbit. It had not.

Scans of the object’s trail indicated that it was powered by a simple fusion torch. Technology. A spaceship or a probe. But the trail also suggested that the object’s aura of energy, the emissions from its drive or something like it, was at least two thousand kilometers wide. A bit more than half the width of the moon.

And telemetry showed that if it stayed on course, it would pass through the Romulus system. Eventually. We had time. About a hundred thirty-five years if it kept its current mode of acceleration. But, still, a troubling heading.

Early speculation was that it was a generational starship. Something that big, traveling at nearly light speed with conventional thrusters providing continual acceleration, had to have been in space for years. This was confirmed by closer investigation.

Warp capable probes were sent in both directions, up and down its path, to ascertain its behavior and composition.

It had been traveling for what appeared to be centuries in as close to a straight line as an interstellar object might travel at 0.99% the speed of light through the galaxy.

And we now have a model of it. At the center of the structure is a rotating cylinder that is approximately four hundred kilometers long by two hundred and ten kilometers in diameter, and potentially capable of supporting billions of humanoid lifeforms, depending on their life support systems.

But, to get an accurate detailed scan, Starfleet decided they needed the best scanners in the sector. Which means the Mercury.

And since it might turn into a first contact situation, a xenoanthropologist could very well be in order. And, low and behold, the Mercury is captained by a xenoanthropologist. A third of the time, at least.

And since we had the time to prepare properly, they decided to flesh out our crew with all the experts we might need, filling in the holes left by our last mission.

Two years ago, I took command of the Mercury when Captain Vela Asura became… indisposed. And as we know, she had not been assigned to Captain the ship when the Mercury had first left stardock three years before that. We’ve had too many losses.

I love my crew. I always have. But frankly, I’m apprehensive about some of them. Danielle, with her training as counselor, assures me that my feelings are OK to have and that she feels confident about all of our new members. She’s had time to interview them all.

In any case, far be it from me to question my commanders or Starfleet administration.

I am just surprised that we rated a Vulcan.

It has been less than twenty years since the destruction of their planet, and they are still so rare, preferring to focus on rebuilding their civilization.

How can such a leisurely reconnaissance mission so far from New Vulcan interest Lieutenant Commander K’shan, specifically.

I’ve asked, and he has only said, “I find the possibilities intriguing.”

Well, the Mercury has been running more smoothly than ever since he’s taken command of Engineering, so who am I to complain. It’s only been a couple days, of course, but still noticeable.

We reach our target in just over a day. Auden has been napping so that they’ll be well rested for the encounter.

So, we held our last meeting to go over Starfleet’s specific instructions regarding General Order One as they pertain to this mission. And to review the scans of the generational vessel.

This is how that went…

At the first convenient time slot, I’d called the entire command staff, plus the officers expected to be at helm and navigation during the encounter, to the ready room.

“Here is a model of the alien vessel,” Lt. Cmdr. Emile Dyson, our science officer, explained, invoking a rotating display in the center of the table.

It looked kind of like an old Earth navel anchor. Besides the habitat cylinder, the main drive was a spike that was more than half the length of the vessel, emitting fusion plasma from it for the entire span of the spike. At the prow was a sphere just slightly larger in diameter than the habitat cylinder. And from between it and the cylinder extended four enormous, slightly curved spikes, each about two thirds the length of the drive spike. From scans, those appeared to be Bussard collectors. Though, the aliens would call them something different.

Lt. Cmdr. Dyson’s favorite subject was megastructures, just like one of his distant ancestors, and you could see it in his face. He was calmly excited, in his element.

“The engineering for something like this is astounding,” Dyson said. Then he asked, “How many of you have been to Yorktown?”

A few hands were raised. Mine included. Prior to our first assignment to the Mercury, we Vanderkemps had been working as a counselor in Yorktown the day that Captain Kirk intercepted Krall in his attempt to destroy the space station. Yorktown is spectacularly large. Hard enough to fathom that Starfleet had managed to create such a thing. The Mercury was originally built in the Yorktown space docks.

“That’s 56 kilometers in diameter,” Dyson mentioned. “This vessel can fit 150 Yorktowns in what we think is its habitat cylinder alone. It dwarfs the Cetacean Probe that visited Earth, and the core vessel of V'Ger. The closest object in size that we’ve encountered to date was the Yolada, a generational vessel that the Mercury intercepted in 2268. It was a hollowed out asteroid about 320 kilometers wide. That had had a population of millions. And it had been built 10,000 years ago, traveling through space ever since.

“There’s no reason to think this vessel hasn’t been traveling that long, or longer. Nor to assume it has any fewer people aboard. But our mission, as I understand it, is to scan it to determine just how it works, how it was built, its capabilities, and how many people are aboard, if we can. And to find out just how much we can interact with them without violating our Prime Directive, as it were. And that part is not my expertise. I’ll be taking care of the scanning and calculating.

“Captain?” Dyson then looked at me.

“Thank you,” I said. “Captain Auden Vanderkemp will directly help you with analyzing their culture from what we find, Lieutenant Commander, and maybe help with first contact if it comes to that. But, General Order One is my bailiwick. So, part of this meeting is to make sure that all of you are more familiar with it than you ever have been before. And then after I go over that, I want to field input from all of you. We want your feelings, apprehensions, and insights. Any questions yet?”

First Officer Naalna, a Roylan who had worked her way up to Lieutenant Commander from simple Lieutenant during our last mission, shook her head. She was a veteran of the Mercury like me. And I certainly trusted her to speak up if she saw any problems, but she wouldn’t volunteer more than a calmly smug look if all was going well in her estimation.

I remember realizing then that we had a lot of Lieutenant Commanders. We kind of always had, but there were more now than before. The lowest rank that could take over command of the ship if necessary. The Mercury might have a reputation, it occurred to me.

Well, this mission shouldn’t provoke much turnover. Theoretically. But if our next five year mission went like last time, I guess I could see what Starfleet was thinking.

Chief Petty Officer V’rass raised his feline hand. He’d also been part of the Mercury’s crew as long as I had.

“Yes, Chief?” I prompted him.

His tail lashed back and forth, “What if they don’t like being scanned?”

I smirked, and replied, “Then we’ll apologize and back off, and let them go on their way. Or, if that doesn’t work, we’ll use plan B.”

On the Mercury, “plan B” meant improvise. No matter how many approaches to a problem we might devise and intend to use, they would all be part of plan A. Plan B was for when all hell broke loose.

V’rass grimaced and unconsciously growled. He knew what I was saying by that, though.

“If I may, Captain,” Lt. Cmdr. K’shan said. He waited for my quick acknowledgement, “I think more constructive questions might be devised by those present after you have divulged all the parameters.”

“Of course,” I said. “So, as you all know, General Order One dictates that we may not interfere with the natural development of any civilization. And this even applies to people we encounter living aboard a generational starship. But, much to my chagrin, it’s a rule that is more of an art than a law. I like laws. You can follow them to the letter,” again, I smirked, and our veteran members caught that inside joke. I decided to let them fill the others in. “But Starfleet has given us some explicit directions regarding this case.”

I watched a menagerie of frowns appear on everyone’s faces. K’shan, of course, remained passive.

I continued, “Starfleet command has made it very clear that they hope we can make first contact, despite General Order One. Of course, General Order One doesn’t preclude that in the cases of many civilizations, only those completely unaware of other interstellar peoples. But, after reading our report on Yolada, they’ve also made it clear that we shouldn’t assume the denizens of an interstellar generational starship are aware of their galactic neighbors. So we have to proceed with caution here.

“The fact that they don’t appear to have warp drive doesn’t factor much into this, apparently,” I said. “But that they haven’t responded to our attempts at subspace communications, and that they’ve been traveling in a straight line despite how close that brought them to a planet like Earth, does seem to say something about them. We should all be extra observant.

“I want all of you to be extra alert for how anything we are doing might influence them, keeping General Order One in mind, and to remind those under your command why we’re doing this. And, I want you to feel free to question us if it looks like we’re going to overstep these bounds in your eyes. As your Captains, we’ll appreciate it. Understood?”

There were nods, and a couple “Aye, Captain”s.

Ensign Sejwid looked at Ensign Akoll, and then asked me, “How do you think this will affect conn duties, Captain?”

“We’ll be dropping out of warp shortly, and flying in under full impulse,” I explained. “Hopefully from far enough away that they won’t pick up our warp signature in any way. Which is why it’s going to take as long as it will to reach them. But, other than that, if they contact us? Look professional while you’re on our viewscreen? Still, you and Ensign Akoll are sharp officers who’ll have some time to observe and just think about things when we’re not busy flying fancy. We value your insights as well as anyone else’s. Just don’t interrupt anyone who’s speaking to an alien diplomat. And don’t interrupt the alien diplomats, either, if we meet any.”

They both nodded and said, “Aye, Captain.”

Doctor Z’ozaqass, our new-ish Chief Medical Officer and an Andorian, leaned forward and put her elbow on the table to ask, “What if they’re more advanced than us? How does the General Order apply in cases like that?”

“That’s where the artistry comes in,” I said. Then I looked around the room, eyes lingering on Dyson and K’shan, then asked, “With what we currently know about them, does this seem likely to anyone?”

Lt. Cmdr. K’shan’s dry tenor voice cut through the room clearly, “Superficial observation cannot predict the capabilities of any being, Captain. It would be illogical to make any assumptions until the subject demonstrates their knowledge and skill. I believe that your encounter with Charlie Evans during your first mission aboard the Mercury would illustrate that maxim adequately to anyone.”

A chill ran down my back. K’shan was absolutely correct to reference that incident, but it was by far the more terrifying series of moments in my life. Once we’d seen what Charlie was capable of doing, every single instant that I fronted while he was aboard the Mercury was an entire moment full of adrenaline and intense stress. Any wrong move and a person could simply cease to be, or worse.

Danielle had done a lot of the work to keep Charlie from doing his worst, but it had been the insights and presence of then Lt. Cmdr. Vayla Asura that had saved the day. And we will always miss her. I hope she’s doing well.

But, even now, six years later, Charlie’s name makes me hunch my shoulders, expecting the wrath of a child god.

I gestured at K’shan and nearly stammered, “Even so. Yes. Exactly. Thank you.” I composed myself, “However, that was such an extreme scenario, I don’t expect to run into anything like that again in my lifetime. I seriously hope we don’t. But even if we do, there are a number of us here who survived that, and we are better equipped than anyone else in Starfleet to deal with it.”

“I should think so, Captain,” K’shan inclined his head.

I frowned and nodded at him. And I thought I saw a knowing smile try to form on his lips, but he stopped it by turning to look around the rest of the room.

The rest of the meeting was not very notable, and I closed it by noting that we should be reaching our target shortly after the beginning of our next shift together, and that Auden would be fronting then. I assured them I planned on being near the surface along with Danielle, as support, so that our whole psyche could be brought to bear during the encounter. If anyone wanted to direct questions or statements to either me or Danielle specifically, that would be expected and OK.

For some of the new crewmembers, this was their first time working under the command of a plurality such as we are. And even though there are Starfleet protocols and regulations for working with pluralities, and we’re not all that rare, I usually find it’s good to do some hand holding until everyone gets used to how we Vanderkemps work.

We all returned to finish our shifts and disseminate my commands to the rest of the ship.

And while we were settling into our seats on the bridge, with K’shan and Zh’ozaqas returning to Engineering and Sick Bay via turbolift, First Officer Naalna spoke.

Well after the turbolift doors had closed, she said, simply, “K’shan.” As if that one name was an entire soliloquy.

Lieutenant Jasse, our Orion comms officer, barked a single snerk of a snicker, and nearly everyone looked at him.

“Now, people,” I said, sternly. “We are privileged to have Lieutenant Commander K’shan serve as our Chief Engineer. I should not have to remind everyone why that is. And I personally value his wisdom.” I paused to let that sink in, then turned to my Number One, “But I definitely agree with you, Lieutenant Commander Naalna. K’shan, indeed.”

She nodded solemnly, eyes on the viewscreen, as if we’d had an entire conversation just between the two of us.

Mentally, I asked Danielle what she thought.

I got the impression from her reactions that she approved of my plan to speak to Lt. Cmdr. K’shan after our shift was over, a private meeting, to see if I could get more out of him. And she seemed to feel that I would be perfectly suited to that role. No need for us to switch.

I took a long deep breath. I wasn’t sure I agreed with her on that last bit, but OK.

And between the commands of routine ship operations, we spent the rest of the evening chatting casually with the bridge crew about everyone’s past assignments. The lighter stories. Things that were funny or amazing.

Later, I called Lt. Cmdr. K’shan to meet me in my quarters after dinner to “speak further about the mission.”

Of course, K’shan acquiesced and arrived at the appointed time.

“Captain,” he said. “I am curious to know why you have chosen to speak to me alone about this.”

“Please, Lieutenant Commander, sit,” I gestured toward the other chair in the room from where I was sitting.

K’shan regarded it curiously before moving to take his seat, still retaining a perfectly formal posture.

“I like to think of Engineering as the… spiritual as well as physical counterpart to the bridge,” I explained. “You and I are positioned at nearly opposite ends of the ship, and at times when the bridge has been compromised it can be commanded entirely from Engineering. From your station, you directly command crew members that I usually only get to see during our personal time. And when the bridge and Engineering are working in harmony, the ship dances with efficiency. So, I think it’s important for you and I to develop a better understanding of each other.”

K’shan pulled his head back as if to look at me from a different angle, and then said, “Although your language is more colorful than I would choose to utilize, I find your logic agreeable, Captain.”

“Thank you,” I smiled at him. “Well, let’s get the worst out of the way, then. Do you, K’shan, have any problems with or reservations about me or either of my siblings, Danielle or Auden?”

K’shan blinked, “May I have permission to speak frankly, Captain?”

“I believe I’ve just asked you to do so. But, yes, of course,” I replied.

“I am curious about your plurality, Captain,” Lt. Cmdr. K’shan said. “Many sapient species exhibit similar neurotypes, including Vulcans. However, Vulcans have a strict discipline for how to handle such a divided psyche, and how to work in perfect harmony and when not to. I have also, upon taking my assignment to the Mercury, made myself familiar with Starfleet regulations concerning pluralities such as yourself. But I found them to be lacking in important details and directives. Your record of service shows that you are able to fill those gaps with your own judgment in moments of stress and need. However, I find myself eager to observe you in action and to learn more, Captain.”

I pouted thoughtfully, tilting my head sideways and forward, and watched my left hand flip over, palm up, fingers loosely pointing toward the center of the room. Then I looked at K’shan and said, “All three of us are happy to answer any direct questions you may have about that, honestly. Go ahead and observe away, too, of course. But, OK. Just to settle my own mind, Lieutenant Commander, your allusion, earlier, to my encounter with Charlie Evans. That wasn’t an intentional jab at me to test me, or unsettle me, was it?”

K’shan flattened his mouth and looked me up and down with his eyes before saying, “I confess that it was, Captain.”

“How did I do?” I asked.

“As expected,” he replied.

I laughed once through my nose, then said, “They say that Vulcans can’t lie.” Then I shook my head.

“There are Vulcans who have said that, yes, Captain.”

I laughed twice at that.

“We’ve now worked closely together for two days, K’shan. Yesterday you worked under Danielle. Today, it was me. Tomorrow you will get to work directly with Auden,” I observed, then asked, “Is there anything you’ve seen so far that we might be better aware of, in order to communicate with you more clearly?”

“At a cursory glance, Captain, it is obvious to me that you are definitively different people,” K’shan said.

I waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t, which then made that statement feel like a statement of reassurance about our identities. Which then didn’t seem like an answer to my question, so I frowned, and said, “Are you aware that sometimes you don’t answer questions directly?”

K’shan raised an eyebrow and retorted, “I believe that you are sometimes in the habit of doing the same, Captain.”

“You’ve got me there.”

“Then, you will probably understand that there is an occasional logic to choosing the indirect answer, Captain.”

“Indeed. I’ll certainly concede that.”

“However, I think you will find that my answer to your question was direct.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. That which confuses me about you, and that may cause potential conflict, your plurality, is also obvious to me. And therefore it is both of note, and it presents its own solution. Our acquaintance is still too brief to mention anything else. I do not have enough data, Captain.”

“OK, OK,” I chuckled. “Thank you for that. You are not like the last Vulcan I served with, you know.”

“Despite our focus on logic, we are not all alike, Captain,” K’shan said.

“I suppose I should hope not.” I replied. “I’m sorry if I implied that you were.”

K’shan met that with silence.

“Do you -” I started to ask, then decided to reword it. “How is Ensign Tildi performing in Engineering, Lieutenant Commander?”

“She is quiet and quick to follow orders, Captain. Almost unobtrusive, but always at hand. She is very focused,” K’shan reported. “I find her demeanor when on duty commendable.”

“And off duty?” I pried.

“She is emotional and skittish, Captain. But not a danger to the ship in any way. It is her time, and she may express herself as she wishes.”

“Almost like a different person?”

“I would not say that, Captain, no,” K’shan replied. “I believe Danielle would refer to it as code switching. She expresses her worries, fears, and other emotions when she is off duty so that she may focus more clearly when she is on duty. In my experience, this seems to work well for most humans, and is fairly common.”

Danielle sent me a single clear “yup” in our head.

Well, so far, I could see no hints as to why Ensign Tildi had been acting uncertain around K’shan that morning, other than she was perhaps in awe of working with a Vulcan. And K’shan had adequately explained his behavior during the meeting. So, why did I still have this hunch that his presence on the ship was significant beyond the fact that he was the second Vulcan I’d ever served with? Like, he was maybe hiding something?

In the early years of Danielle’s tour as counselor aboard the Mercury, we’d developed a relationship with Commander Mena. Danielle had worked hard to facilitate Vulcan style counseling for her in the wake of her planet’s destruction, and other more personal stressors. And I had regularly attempted to involve her in my usual off hours shenanigans. Auden had had a couple interesting discussions with her regarding Romulan culture, as well.

If anything, K’shan was more stereotypically Vulcan than Mena had been. Mena had betrayed a wider range of the deep emotions we all know that Vulcans keep below their surface thoughts and expressions. I felt like K’shan was leaking a little, but not nearly as much as she had. Though, of course, I’d yet had so few interactions with K’shan.

K’shan. Something about his name irked me, but I couldn’t say why. I decided then to pass a note to Auden to look into it for me. It was probably just my weird hunch growing unreasonable suspicions, but while K’shan sounded like a typical Vulcan name, it struck me as both familiar and rare. I personally didn’t have the grounds to make that judgment.

Maybe it was Auden’s linguistic knowledge presenting itself as a hunch to me, though. I wouldn’t know until Auden confirmed it, however.

“Captain?” K’shan prompted me.

“Sorry. Thank you Lieutenant Commander. I appreciate your willingness to entertain me with this discussion.” I said, standing up. “I’d like to confer with you like this again, after this mission is over.”

“I will agree to do so, Captain,” K’shan said, also standing up.

After K’shan had left, and the door had closed behind him, I had another thought as I prepared for bed.

Was K’shan’s presence on the ship just an effect of New Vulcan’s interest in the generational starship? Maybe that’s all that it was.

If so, what did that say about that enormous vessel?

In their centuries of space exploration, Vulcans must have encountered other generational starships on occasion. I had seen two in my own lifetime, so far. Did they have an interest in them in general? Or was there something specific about this one that had caught their attention?