For a quarter-century of life, I was happily ignorant of a line of trashy romance novels titled “Spacefleet Adventures.” But during my six months in Starfleet’s civilian-scientist/doctor/other-to-officer training program, my roommate delighted in sharing the highlights with me.
Within a couple weeks of our very basic training, even she was quick to admit that their accuracy with regard to technical details and even basic shipboard life was deplorable. But, she was reluctant to admit that their romances were equally implausible. From what she told me, it seemed that one of the favorite themes was being taken captive by aliens and ending up in a mate-or-die scenario with a hero passionately eager to save her. I insisted it was a terribly unrealistic dilemma.
And I stand by that, I really do. Even though it was only a few years later that I would find myself in a similar scenario, except that I had three potential heroes. But I assure you there was nothing particularly passionate about the situation.
I was on a landing party with Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy. The planet was supposed to be uninhabited by higher lifeforms, but appeared it might contain some interesting animals. I was along for my xenobiology expertise and was looking forward to being out of the lab and in the field. But once we had hiked a few miles from the beam down point, we discovered that it was occupied by a semi-primitive people with an appearance very similar to humans. Mr. Spock said that nearby boulders contained some sort of mineral that made our scanning inaccurate. I know relatively little about geology, so that's as much as I understood. Of course, without accurate scanning capability, the transporters wouldn't work in this region, and we discovered that it disrupted our communicators as well. It was soon clear that we were not going to be allowed to leave by the natives who had managed to threaten us before we could get to our phasers.
It wasn’t long before the translator had enough to work with, and we discovered that if I were an unmated female, then I would be considered available and in danger of being claimed by one of the natives. Being thrown into a tent together gave us an opportunity to discuss the situation.
Captain Kirk spoke first. “I know this is an uncomfortable situation for you, Lieutenant. But, it seems that it would be best if you weren’t considered unprotected by the natives.” He glanced to Dr. McCoy and Mr. Spock on either side.
“The captain is about to volunteer to claim the right to protect you. I am also willing to take on that responsibility if you decide that I am a more suitable choice.” Mr. Spock spoke so dispassionately that he could have been offering to review a draft for a journal article.
With a vehement glare at him, Dr. McCoy volunteered, “And of course, I’m willing also if you prefer someone with a bit of compassion and common decency!”
The captain turned back to me with a reassuring smile. “Hopefully, all that is necessary is for one of us to state a claim, and that’s an end to the matter. Quite possibly there’d need to be some occasional physical contact such as holding hands to validate the relationship.” Kirk paused and looked at me for a moment.
I took a deep breath before speaking, “But, it’s also possible that it could require going further.”
“Yes, unfortunately. So, it’s completely your choice, Lieutenant, who you feel most comfortable with. Whoever you choose, he will behave with complete professionalism back aboard ship, and we will keep it from getting out to the crew.”
As they waited, I considered each in turn. Captain Kirk had quite the reputation in the fleet as a charmer, but had always been quite professional with me. I didn’t interact with him as much as the senior officers did, and I’d only set foot on the bridge twice in my three years aboard the Enterprise. I had interacted with him frequently enough while participating in scientific briefings and on landing parties. I wouldn’t say that I knew him well, but I knew him enough to trust his word and his sense of honor.
Mr. Spock was my immediate superior. I’d served under him for three years, supervising the science department’s laboratory work for two of those years. Obviously I was most familiar with him, as I interacted with him almost every day, and we also usually had at least one joint experiment running.
As for Dr. McCoy, I was occasionally brought in as an extra set of hands in the lab during medical crises or as a consult on a challenging xenomedical case. As with the Captain, I didn’t know him well, but I trusted his sense of honor, though his more emotional nature was somewhat concerning. Not to mention….
“Have you also considered the possibility that whoever claims me could face a challenge, a fight?” I asked.
The Captain turned toward Dr. McCoy, “Perhaps, it would be best if you stood aside, Doctor.“
Before the Doctor could reply, I gave my answer. “Mr. Spock. I think that you would be the most logical choice, that we would find it the easiest to return to our previous working relationship. However, with the potential physical contact involved, which may be frequent but minor or may be more extreme, I wish to be sure that you are comfortable with—“
“Lieutenant,” Mr. Spock interrupted my nervous rambling, “I am honored by your trust.”
According to my old roommate, as a result of Mr. Spock’s increasing fame, Vulcan heroes had become a popular feature in Spacefleet Adventure novels. She was thrilled to hear that I was posted to the Enterprise with Mr. Spock as my commanding officer. I would never breathe a single word to her about this adventure. Ever.
“I will claim you as my mate of long-standing. I will inform them that our people’s procedures require us to refrain from public displays of a relationship. That may allay any doubts.”
Dr. McCoy looked concerned. “Look, that’s not really giving them much to sell the relationship. And if they don’t believe you, then they’re more likely to want some proof.”
“Standing next to each other would provide some support,” Captain Kirk offered, ”and conveniently the two of you were standing next to each other when we came across the natives.”
“I think Dr. McCoy is right,” I said. “I would rather give small physical demonstrations that ward off any doubts rather than avoiding contact completely until we’re forced into a grand display. Mr. Spock, physical contact through clothing is much less uncomfortable that skin-to-skin, correct?”
“Yes, it avoids the issue of touch telepathy.”
“Then what about a hand on the shoulder, an arm offered to me, sitting and standing close enough to have arms or legs brush, etc? Would that be acceptable to you?” I queried.
“That is both acceptable and logical.”
“I think it would be best if we all had ties binding us together,“ Captain Kirk said. “I’ll be your brother, Lieutenant, and Dr. McCoy can be our valued healer.”
“Perhaps, Captain, it would be best if you referred to me by my first name then,” I said.
“And the reverse, Lieutenant,” the Captain joked.
“No, I’ll just call you ‘brother.’ I don’t think addressing my captain by his first name is going to add to my comfort level in this situation.”
“You will refer to me as Spock, I assume.”
“Yes, Mr. Spock. Mainly because I can’t come up with any role-based title for you that wouldn’t be completely awkward.”
I think Dr. McCoy was concerned that I would be better off with someone who could be more compassionate and understanding. But, that’s not what I wanted. Sympathy wouldn’t make it any easier. To have someone feeling sorry for me and sorry for his actions as he pulled me to his side or held my hand or kissed me would be horrible. I wanted someone who could handle whatever was necessary dispassionately as the only logical option available to us. That would make it easier for me to accept the situation and easier for us to move on when we returned to the ship.
There was no immediate challenge to Mr. Spock’s claims, but as we sat by the large fire as the evening meal was passed out, there were many watching eyes that seemed to be waiting for an opportunity. But, I soon needed to step away for some measure of privacy. “Spock,”—it seemed odd to address him without the mister—“I need to relieve myself.”
“Of course,” he leaned over to speak to the captain for a moment and then stood up to accompany me. Yes, I definitely preferred someone as logical as Spock to be the one standing nearby while I squatted behind a bush. But it was still uncomfortable.
As we returned to the clearing, Spock moved his hand to the small of my back. We had just passed a group of young men when I felt someone grab my lower arm and yank me backwards. As Mr. Spock’s free hand reached out to grab my closer arm, his other hand slid across my back, automatically tightening to grab the side of my dress before I slipped away. My first coherent thought was that the darn short dress that was the female uniform was pulled up to expose my matching panties briefly before Mr. Spock released my dress.
“I challenge you for this female!” the native man declared as more gathered round. The moment was entirely surreal as I was stretched between two men about to fight over possession of me.
I could just barely see Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy attempting to push through the crowd toward us. “Please, let me go to my brother,” I pleaded.
“I will answer your challenge,” Mr. Spock replied. After a moment, they both released me, and the crowd parted to let me go back to the Captain’s side.
There is absolutely nothing romantic about having someone fight for your safety. The native people were somewhat slighter on average than humans, the largest, such as his challenger, being about Mr. Spock’s size. From everything I had observed, their strength more closely matched that of a human than a Vulcan. So I thought that Mr. Spock would be fine in a one-on-one confrontation. But, we didn’t know enough to know whether it was possible that the crowd might turn against him when he won.
I felt concern for Mr. Spock, guilt because he was protecting me, and nervous about the possible outcome. It was a distinctly unpleasant emotional state to be in. Captain Kirk murmured in my ear, “Steady. He’ll be okay.”
And he was. It ended up being rather easy for Mr. Spock to defeat his challenger with a nerve pinch to the shoulder after dodging several ineffectual blows. He’d only been hit once, a blow that had landed on his cheekbone which was turning a livid green. The crowd parted to let him pass, with several making expressions of approval. It seemed there would be no immediate follow-up challenges.
Soon a native woman came up with a cold wet cloth which she handed to me, obviously expecting me to tend to the man she thought to be my mate. I smiled slightly at her to express my gratitude. I folded the cloth, and then stepped over to where Mr. Spock was sitting, with Dr. McCoy buzzing around him. I very carefully held the cloth up to his cheek, making sure that I wasn’t touching his skin directly. He nodded his thanks, before taking it from me.
Soon, it was time to settle down for the night. We were shown back to our tent. The captain allowed Mr. Spock to keep watch the first half of the night, and then he would take the second half. It took me a while to get to sleep, but once I did, I slept deeply.
I woke the next morning to Dr. McCoy shaking my arm. The captain and Mr. Spock were no longer in the tent, and I could hear a great commotion outside. “Well, Lieutenant, it appears the cavalry has arrived!”
That had me springing quickly to my feet, and I stepped outside to see we had indeed been rescued by a security detachment led by Mr. Sulu. In only ten minutes, we had hiked back out of range of the rocks and were back on board the Enterprise. As Mr. Spock immediately told me that I had the day off, it was less than ten minutes more before I was back in my cabin.
Twenty minutes before I'd been in a tent among a native tribe where I was considered a concubine to be fought over, and now an officer on the best ship in the fleet. It was enough to make my head spin. But after a sonic shower and a change of clothes, I wasn’t sure what to do. Normally, I would have then filed my landing party report, but the captain had suggested that our reports wouldn’t be entirely complete. Omitting the parts having to do with Mr. Spock’s claiming of me would leave me very little to say. I wondered if I was even expected to file a report.
I was healthy. I’d had most of a night’s rest. I wasn’t particularly traumatized. And I had experiments of my own that I had planned to work on today, as well as supervisory tasks on my agenda. I decided to go ahead and report for duty.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Spock was in the lab when I got there. He’d obviously taken the time to change into a fresh uniform, and then decided to quickly check in with the labs in my expected absence. He looked up when I stepped in, but didn’t question me, presumably trusting my judgment. “Do I need to file a landing party report, Mr. Spock?”
“No, Lieutenant, you do not.” A brief pause before he continued, “Other than our not being allowed to leave and one of the natives briefly attempting to assault me, it was a rather uneventful landing party.”
I couldn’t help myself, perhaps my nerves were still a trifle unsettled, but a very quiet brief snort escaped me. Mr. Spock raised his eyebrow in response, and I could tell that he was amused or the Vulcan equivalent.
“If you’d care to assess our experiment’s progress, Lieutenant,” Mr. Spock gestured in front of him. I stepped up beside him, and we began to discuss the next stage we wished to implement.
It felt like nothing had changed. And whatever tiny part of me that might have agreed with my ex-roommate’s sighs about what a perfect romantic hero Mr. Spock would be, a much larger and more realistic part of me was just happy to maintain our good working relationship. He had indeed been the right choice.