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"Shit motherfuck shitting shittery," Winona chanted to herself as she rushed through the corridors, grabbing a door and taking the corner too hard. She had about .0049 seconds to get to the bridge.

It wasn't her fault. That probably wasn't going to cut it with Captain Robau, but still, it was an undeniable fact that she was completely innocent of any wrongdoing this time. Since the Kelvin was, at the moment, acting as a glorified ferryboat for a few dozen diplomats from all over the galaxy, everyone on board had been lectured on the importance of cultural sensitivity. And since any reference to time or any consultation of the ship's clock during sexual liaisons were considered deeply offensive by the Galtibreyans, her conduct was, strictly speaking, in accordance with the captain's orders.

But Captain Robau had a very definite viewpoint when it came to being in accord with his orders. Hence the need to haul ass and pretend like Hheth hadn't made her pull a groin muscle (which, hey, she didn't even know she had that ability, so at least there'd been some knowledge gained, and also, pretty fun at the time, so there was that) or given her a hickey the size of Hyde Park. The kind that covering up with anything less than a skin graft is an exercise in futility.

"Are you all right?" someone asked her just as she was rounding the corner toward the bridge turbolift.

Winona spun around, clenching her teeth around the pain in her leg. "Excuse me?" she said in her most I Am A Completely And Totally Professional Starfleet Officer Addressing A Fellow Starfleet Officer tone. She dropped it once she saw who she was talking to.

The woman — girl, really, although the Terran Diplomatic Corps didn't exactly have the most flattering dress code and it could be just the stupid primary color scheme that made her look underage — wasn't a Fellow Starfleet Officer. Winona wasn't sure if that made it better or worse. The girl gestured vaguely at Winona's leg. "You're limping," she observed.

"With that kind of laser-like insight, I'm sure you'll go far in today's Corps," Winona said, jerking her thumb over her shoulder as she spun on her heel and then really regretted that. "I'm late, so..."

"But—"

"Gotta go!"

*

The Kelvin was hardly the Revolution. Not that Amanda had a lot of experience with pleasure cruisers, but the lead ambassador for the Wellan Treaty Team had sniffed as they'd all beamed aboard and muttered, "Hardly the Revolution," and Amanda's fellow flunkies had sniffed, too.

But Amanda loved it; she'd never been on an actual, fully commissioned Starfleet vessel before in her life, and while everyone else seemed appalled at the narrow corridors and unflattering lighting, she kept getting distracted by unexpected glimpses of the endless expanse of stars. Space was beautiful, and she couldn't begrudge anything that allowed her to see it.

As for the summit itself — well. Amanda had never participated in a summit where the central organization was outside the Federation. The Andorians and several other planets had founded the Wellan Consortium trade bloc long before the Federation was founded; these rare dealings with the Consortium put representatives of Federation-founding planets ill at ease since they were the new kids on the bloc(k). Amanda would be meeting and attempting not to ruin relations with representatives of species she had only read about — and trying to stop Admiral Komack (the 'real' diplomat who mispronounced 'nuclear') from making a complete jerk of himself.

Luckily, Amanda reflected, the Consortium itself was only represented by the Andorians she knew from previous meetings and summits, and they knew of Admiral Komack's (lack of) diplomatic prowess. No one else seemed to think it was strange that the Galtibreyans, Vulcans, Tellarites, Gn'ochisii, Elevarins and Dmksl were all sending independent representatives, but the Wellan Consortium (containing no less than seventeen member planets of wildly variant cultures, longevity in the Federation and even status) had all agreed that the Andorians could represent them. This seemed very straightforward to everyone but Amanda, who wasn't sure why the Consortium would allow their myriad of perspectives and needs to be represented by one group that was extremely influential in both the Consortium and the Federation.

So she was in the stars, making use of her degree... and surrounded by idiots.

*

"God, what happened?" George demanded the minute Winona walked onto the bridge. "You look like you got chewed on."

"It's called a hickey, Iowa," Winona said, sliding into her seat at the helm. "You should try it sometime."

George shook his head, but his blush stained the back of his neck and his ears. "No thanks."

"Your mouth says 'No,' but your eyes say—" Winona broke off as George glared at her. "Oh, hey, they're saying 'No,' too."

There was a faint titter from the rest of the bridge, and Winona grinned as George scowled down at his console. Captain Robau, who'd witnessed the whole thing with the faint air of bemusement he always had, said, "If that concludes this morning's entertainment, Lieutenant, plot a course for Vulcan. Warp Four."

"Aye sir," she said. "Course plotted, Captain."

"Engage," he said, and leaned forward in his seat. "All right, kids, listen up. Starfleet has just sent a comm informing me that the USS Kelvin will be the official hosts of the treaty signing, not Ursa Major as previously indicated."

It was a high honor. It was also not met with the kind of excitement that this might usually elicit. "What?" Winona blurted.

Captain Robau looked rueful. "Turns out the Vulcans and the Andorians aren't playing quite as nicely as we'd hoped. So! Change of venue."

"Lucky us," Winona muttered. "Sir," she added when Captain Robau cocked an eyebrow at her.

"I'm sure we'll have no trouble being accommodating hosts," he said.

"Depends on how you define 'accommodating,'" George muttered.

*

"I have a rock, you have a rock, let's rock it all night..."

Amanda frowned and peered into the gloom. The mess hall was supposed to be deserted at this time of night; one reason why she'd hidden herself away here. But someone was out there singing. Off-key, too.

"Hello?" she tried.

There was a crash, and a curse, and a head popped up from around the corner. "The hell?" it said. "Are you like my guardian angel or something? Because let me tell you, you're doing a completely shit job."

Amanda said, cleverly, "What?"

The head resolved itself into a head with a body, and Amanda recognized the injured officer she'd seen this morning. "Well, either that or you're stalking me," the officer said. She smiled as she straddled a nearby chair, draping her arms across its back.

Amanda blinked. Maybe this was Starfleet-issue flirting? "I'm not," she replied.

"You could, you know. That's an invitation."

"That sometimes works, doesn't it?" Amanda realized, horrified.

The officer laughed. "You'd be amazed. Lieutenant Winona Macawi, at your service." She reached out across the table and Amanda found herself shaking hands.

"Grayson — Amanda Grayson."

"Nice to meet you, Grayson Amanda Grayson." Winona examined the fruit bowl at the center of the table, sorting through them absently. "What're you up to this time of night? I thought the Terran ambassadors were all tucked in with their teeth brushed and their prayers said at twenty-hundred hours."

"I'm just collecting some information for the treaty signing," Amanda said, and grabbed an orange for herself. Winona cocked an eyebrow but didn't comment. Amanda continued, "Reading up on some past Consortium treaties. I figured it would be nice if someone from Earth knew what they were talking about."

She didn't add that getting the information in the first place had been semi-legal and definitely ill-advised; Ambassador Komack had dismissed Amanda's concerns over some inconsistencies between the Wellan Consortium's treaties among their member planets and their treaties with non-member planets. She was fairly sure that once she gathered all the relevant data and presented her case officially to Komack (whatever that case might be) she'd be summarily dismissed from negotiations. Still, she needed to figure this out, at least for her own sanity. And, the little idealist in her said hopefully, maybe she'd actually make a difference along the line, like the well-meaning bureaucrat she aspired to be.

Winona looked decidedly uninterested, but as she got up she smiled again. "Good luck with that," she said. "And think about my offer. It's a small ship. Stalking's easy and very rewarding, I promise." She grabbed an apple off the table's centerpiece and waltzed out into the corridor.

*

By the time they reached Vulcan, Amanda still hadn't managed to figure out what was bothering her about the treaty. She'd tried talking to Bobby and Yolande, but both of them just stared at her blankly and tried to change the subject back to either, "Do you think we'll get promoted after this?" or "So which ambassador do you think is the hottest?"

"The youngest people on the diplomatic corps other than us," Bobby would inevitably reply, "Is, like, fifty. And that's just not happening. Now, the crew, on the other hand—"

"Ew, Fleeties? You don't even know how many diseases they've got, come on!" Yolande would giggle, and Amanda would wonder for the fiftieth time why she'd ever thought diplomacy was a good use of her xenolinguistic degree. There had to be something more challenging out there. Or at least something that didn't remind her quite so much of high school.

Amabassador Komack ordered the entire Terran retinue to attend the transport of the Vulcan dignitaries, in light of the tensions between the Andorians and Vulcans and the fact that the Tellerites weren't anyone's idea of gifted diplomats. Amanda stood in the back and tried not to wince as Komack stumbled his way through the High Vulcan greeting that she'd been trying to hammer into his head for a week.

The head Ambassador didn't look offended, which was good, but then again it would be hard to tell if he were. "And to you I wish nothing but peace and long life," he replied in Standard, Komack's native language. "I am Ambassador Sarek."

"Ambassador Hotstuff," Yolande murmured into Amanda's ear. Amanda was too startled to take much notice. So this was Sarek — she'd been reading his papers for most of her academic career, all about the theoretical "Universal Translator" that was his life's ambition. She'd written her thesis on his translation matrix for the Tellarian language.

She'd expected somebody... older. She knew, of course, that he was old, something like sixty Earth years, and he carried himself like someone who was in his fifties, but he looked younger. (Of course, most Vulcans looked about thirty-five until their second century, then gradually slid into middle age until their third.) He had the standard Vulcan haircut, which Amanda had always privately thought was adorable, and was dressed in clothes that would've cost a fortune on Earth. All in all, the word that sprang to mind was "dapper."

"We are grateful to have your expertise in this matter," Ambassador Komack said.

"Gratitude is irrelevant," Sarek replied. "We should begin work immediately."

"Of course." Komack looked embarrassed, or nervous, or both. "Grayson, is the conference room set up?"

Just as Amanda opened her mouth to answer, Sarek swung around. "Grayson?" he asked

Amanda cleared her throat. "Yes?" she ventured. Komack glared at her, and she added, "Ambassador?"

Sarek frowned at her. "You are Amanda Grayson?"

Sensing she was in trouble, Amanda felt the urge to deny it. "I am," she said.

"I read your thesis. Intriguing hypothesis regarding the vocal range of the upper Tellarian caste system as it pertains to Standard translation."

By now the entire delegation was gaping at her. "Thank you," she replied.

"Thanks are likewise irrelevant. Your hypothesis is wrong. However, it was useful."

Yolanda nudged her as the Vulcan delegation swept out the door, led by Komack. "So did he just game you, or what?" she asked.

*

To be honest, Winona completely forgot about the girl from the mess hall until a few days later, when she walked in on her and some Vulcan ambassador having a knock-down drag-out. Or at least, that's what it looked like from the girl's half; the ambassador was talking in low, almost bored tones, but Winona noticed his brow furrowing minutely and realized he was either majorly pissed or had a broken leg.

"Your government agreed that all communication with the Consortium would go through the Federation's standard translator system," the girl protested. "And now you're all of a sudden claiming that they aren't good enough for you?"

"Your argument is needlessly emotional and furthermore based on inaccurate data. The Vulcan Council did not, in fact, agree to use the Federation Translator indefinitely; while it has its uses among the member planets, we have found that it is incapable of correctly interpreting the finer nuances of Vulcan—"

"You all speak perfect Standard!" the girl pointed out, gesturing wildly. Winona squinted: yep, she was about five minutes away from stamping her foot. Which could be hilarious. "And you know that the Andorians will cry foul if we use a Vulcan-derived and tested translating program, and we've already had to switch venues—"

"This is not my concern," the Vulcan pointed out. "If you will excuse me."

"I w—"

He stood up and looked down at her. She stood up and Winona had to admire the defiant little twist of her mouth.

"I will not," she finished. "Even if you didn't agree indefinitely, you agreed for these talks, and you are reneging on your word."

"If the Federation made a better translator, this would not be at issue."

"The issue is you going back on your word; Vulcan going back on its word, and the most recent matrices of the Vulcan translator are untested in these kinds of discussions."

"It is the right of any member planet to do so should circumstances prove intolerable."

"Bad translation is suddenly intolerable?" she asked. "My hypothesis may have been, according to you, incorrect, but that —"

"Has significant effects on the whole of the Terran-designed, Terran-researched, Terran-built Universal," and Winona had to laugh to herself at that, this tight-lipped vein-popping Vulcan catching up on this new little thing called irony, "Translator, which you had a role in creating."

"One — not even wrong, mind you, but misguided — hypothesis — modeled on your argument, by the way — is enough to set back the issue of diplomacy how long?" The girl threw her arms up and added, "If you think me so unqualified, then take it to Admiral Komack, who —"

"Has —"

"Stop interrupting me," the girl growled with a finger pointing right at the ambassador. "That's rude."

They paused and the Vulcan ambassador nodded. "Continue, Ms. Grayson."

"As I was saying: you can take your complaints to Admiral Komack, and he can choose to dismiss me."

"You would have me do that," the Vulcan asked in a tone Winona couldn't place, but it definitely wasn't the dickishness of the past 10 minutes or so. "Your arrogance —"

"My confidence in my own abilities —"

"You interrupted me."

Things were still for a moment and then the Vulcan ambassador nodded once. "I will meditate on the matter, but for the time being you may consider Vulcan unwilling to meet without our own translator used in the proceedings. The Vulcan translator is one that has been tried and tested for centuries."

"The vocabulary of the Vulcan translator isn't nearly diverse enough for the cultures of the planets meeting at the Consortium," the girl protested.

"It is acceptable for our purposes and will allow the members present to stay focused on the matters at hand."

"And you see no problem with your culture forcing its narrow definitions of words and therefore meaning onto others?"

"Good evening, Ms. Grayson," the ambassador said with another nod at her before he left the lab. The girl waited a moment or two before stomping her foot like she'd probably wanted to forever and sitting down in the chair again.

"So who was that pointy-eared bastard?" Winona asked, pushing herself upright and walking into the lab.

The girl jumped, then let out a breath when she realized who it was. "Ambassador Sarek," she said, sounding like she'd said "Ambassador Shitface" instead. "He's the most stubborn and patronizing excuse for a—" She cleared her throat. "Anyway."

"Wow," Winona commented. "I really didn't think you had any settings other than 'nice.' I'm impressed. What's your name again? Gray-something?"

"Grayson," the girl said heavily. "Amanda Grayson."

"Right. Well, Grayson Amanda Grayson, want to relax?"

"I...honestly can't tell if you're hitting on me or offering to listen to my problems," Amanda admitted tiredly.

"I am totally good with either or both of those," Winona assured her. "Orgasms are very relaxing."

Amanda's lips twisted like she was trying hard not to laugh and finally smiled, shaking her head and rubbing the back of her neck. "It's just—something is wrong, you know? And now the Vulcans want to use their own translator—"

"Why's that a problem?"

"Besides the fact that the Andorians will claim it unfairly benefits the Vulcans?" Amanda asked wryly. "Well, okay. The Vulcan translator system is more accurate, but it's much more delicate; anything can make it malfunction, which Ambassador Sarek refuses to see or acknowledge, which is a problem because Komack is completely cowed by him and so this whole thing might be a complete disaster. It also might—" she breaks off and makes a frustrated gesture. "You know when you look up a word's direct translation and use it and it's completely wrong in the other language? Vulcan interpretation of the less formal languages has the potential to do that, which could sour negotiations entirely and—"

"Wow. So, you know, we're talking about world-ending stuff."

"Look, I know this isn't a big deal for you because we're all just another job but this has ramifications for the entire Federation and—"

"It's really delicate?" Winona interrupted, because she looked like she could go on for hours and blah blah, world's smallest violin playing.

"Yeah, wh—I mean, yeah, and really vulnerable to interference—"

"Cool," Winona decided. Yeah, she could help this girl out. She kind of liked Grayson Amanda Grayson. The girl had style.

"Cool?" Amanda repeated, looking baffled.

"Yeah, where is it?"

"Probably in your conference room—all the translators are in a case should one malfunction."

"Well now, isn't that handy," Winona beamed. "C'mon, Grayson. You are in luck, because I am a fucking genius at interference."

Amanda gave her a long, long look, biting her lip. "You couldn't like, break it," she said.

"Oh, no," Winona agreed. "That would be obvious."

"And you're so subtle, silly me for thinking I had to point that out," Amanda scoffed, and Winona beamed at her.

"Fair point. Okay, fine, subtle sabotage. I can totally do that. Some light sabotage to prove a point, which is that the pointy-eared bastard is full of shit. I like this point," she mused.

She put her hands on Amanda's shoulders and steered her towards the mess.

"But—" Amanda said, and then grabbed Winona's arm. She had a good grip for a tiny thing. "Look, I can't—we have to—I have to figure out what's wrong before—"

"So let's do that then. I have to go to shift in like, five, but then," Winona shrugged. She could go with the flow — she was bored and Amanda was the most interesting thing coming out of this summit bullshit.

"…I'm not sleeping with you," Amanda said, like she thought that had to be made clear.

"Aw, baby," Winona beamed. "You know you want a piece of this."

"Is there any left?" Amanda asked. "I notice you're missing a significant chunk out of your neck right around —"

"Seriously, people! A hickey! Heard of it?!"

"I'd call that 'cannibalism' before I'd call it a hickey."

Winona looked thoughtful for a moment and asked, "Is it cannibalism if they were humanoid but not human?"

"Good question," Amanda mused, and they debated the idea until their paths split, Winona heading to the bridge and Amanda back to her room.

*

"So the Consortium is dicking everyone around?" Winona asked, letting herself into Amanda's room. Amanda was pretty sure she'd locked that, actually, but she was more distracted by the fruit bowl Winona had apparently stolen from the mess which she then put on Amanda's bed.

"Essentially the Consortium has been afflicting tariffs on its nonmember trading partners," Amanda said, looking down at her PADD. "And they're hiding it by basically getting everyone in the Consortium to forge paperwork so that it seems like a general tax, but it's not."

"Inbred dicksucks," Winona murmured, grabbing the PADD. "I mean, impressive inbred dicksucks, but still." She whistled, low, and Amanda reached out and snatched it back, trying to see what Winona had seen. It'd been a long day--she'd spent it furtively researching and not killing Ambassador Sarek.

Harder than it sounded, actually.

"What?" she asked, giving up when Winona just licked her lower lip and scrolled down whatever she was looking at.

"Two guesses who they're targeting."

"I'd guess Vulcan, but--"

"What's the major Wellan export to Vulcan?"

"Cobicite," Amanda replied, and then sat up a little straighter, grabbing the PADD and staring at it. "Cobicite, which none of the Wellan Consortium members trade between each other--"

"Because it all goes under the table. They're leading Vulcan around by the dick, and everyone else, but mostly Vulcan." Winona grinned with all her teeth. "Want help writing your report on the political ramifications? I'm not just a pretty face and a fucking spectacular lay, baby. I got skills for when my pretty fades."

Amanda laughed and handed her the PADD. Winona sent herself the data and handed it back, grabbing an orange and biting into it, sucking at the juice. Amanda stared as she chomped through the rind and then shuddered.

"You are so gross," Amanda said, awed, and Winona beamed, orange in her teeth and juice dribbling down her chin. She swallowed, and then said,

"Right. Let's blow this shit wide open and embarrass the fuck out of some people."

They managed to definitively prove that the entire Wellan Consortium had been imposing tariffs on nonmember planets, had been inserting language that, after a period of five years, made the other party in the treaty lower their own tariffs on their exports, so that the Wellan Consortium turned an even higher profit and weakened its trading partners' economies at the same time.

The worst abuses were to newer Federation planets, but there were instances where Tellar Prime, Earth, and Vulcan were all signatories to such a treaty.

"The beauty," Winona groaned as she cracked her back, standing up, "is that no one would notice it if you didn't know that they were backdealing with each other. Otherwise it seems completely on the level. Cocky motherfuckers."

"You don't have to sound so appreciative," Amanda pointed out.

"Grayson Amanda Grayson you are so cute," Winona informed her. She stretched and looked at her watch and said, "So I've still got time to fuck around with the thingy, right?"

It took her a second to catch up. "Oh, I—"

"I totally have this, don't even worry!" she called, and then, as Amanda's door swooshed open, "Doc Ryan, sunbeam of my heart, apple of my eye!"

"Fuck off, Macawi," the older woman sighed, and Amanda sat on the bed and thought that maybe… maybe this was a mistake.

*

"You work with Winona, right?" Amanda asked the guy who she knew had a name that wasn't "Iowa", but the one time she had seen him before Winona had been calling him Iowa. Maybe it was his last name.

Her palms were sweaty, and she wasn't even engaging in the sabotage. Oh god, maybe this was— no, no, it was a good idea. This whole situation just stunk and the Vulcans wanting to use their own translator was bullshit, and if she was going to make this point, she was going to make it big. Plus, she'd already sent her findings to Komack.

"I sit on the bridge while she's there too," the guy hedged, eyeing her as he picked up an apple at random. "Why? Did she tell you she was going to respect you in the morning? Because it's a lie and you should know that upfront. Or did she give you space herpes? I could go talk to Doc Ryan about getting you some vaccination or treatment..." he offered in a dull, beaten-down tone of voice. Like he was reciting it.

"Oh my god, what?" Amanda demanded, freezing, because oh my god, what?

"I mean, she couldn't have gotten you knocked up." Iowa squinted at her. "Did she coerce you into a threesome? Was there bad touching? If I get you a doll, can you show me?"

It occurred to Amanda right about then that he might have been fucking with her. She glared.

"Oh, very funny."

"To be fair," he said, biting his apple, "I'm mostly serious." He wiped his hand on his napkin and then held it out to her. "George Kirk."

"Amanda Grayson," she replied, sitting across from him after shaking his hand. "I just—I like, mentioned I had a problem and she kind of like, decided to fix it but—"

"You're letting... Winona fix a problem? Unsupervised?"

That niggling, this might be a bad idea feeling got stronger, and Amanda made the conscious effort not to grip the table. She just wanted to prove that Sarek was wrong, but this had the capacity to get way out of hand really fast. Forget career-destroying — this could be catastrophic for the talks.

"Nothing, I'm sure it's fine," he said. That he sounded so sure was clearly an effort to lull her into a false sense of security, because then he said, "Anything you want said at your funeral?"

"What?"

"Okay, so let me explain something about Macawi," he sighed. "She's fucksane."

It turned out that George Kirk, by dint of being Midwesterner and a genuinely nice guy, somehow ended up being the guy who people ended up crying to when things went south with Winona Macawi. And because George Kirk was the only person other than the Captain, the XO, and the chief engineering officer (whom, apparently, Winona hated with the passion of a thousand suns for reasons George refused to discuss because it was hearsay and apparently, George didn't gossip, he just informed) who hadn't slept with Winona Macawi or had his heart broken by her, people thought he was the safe guy to turn to in order to hate on her.

"So what you're saying," she hedged, "is that maybe I shouldn't have let her go off alone."

He gave her a long, almost pitying look. "No, I'm sure it's fine," he said finally. "I mean, what could possibly go wrong?"

"Well, now that you've said that: everything." Amanda paused and asked, "What are you talking about, by the way?"

"Uh. Winona. What are you talking about?"

"That's a 'she', not a 'what' — what are you talking about?"

George looked confused and put his head down again.

"Winona fucks with everyone's head, but mostly mine," George said. "It's her hobby. Specialty. Whatever. I thought I'd meet some nice girl out of the Academy, and then this — crazy person eats my life and —"

"I don't think I should be listening to this," Amanda said carefully. "I just wanted to know whether she's trustworthy. Whether —"

"Sure she is," George replied — except then he stopped to consider it. "Mostly."

"That's fine," Amanda said. "It's only my career at stake. Nothing —"

"God, you diplomats are so adorable," George began, "Out here on our rusted piece of shit ship in the middle of the vacuum of space and you think the worst thing that can happen is that your career is ruined." George stood up, suddenly disgusted, and called over his shoulder, "Winona's rock solid — she's a constant."

Amanda would have felt guilty for doubting the word of a total stranger on the character of another total stranger, but she was far too confused and concerned about her own shit to give it a whole lot of thought.

*

"Iowa!"

George froze and then looked at her like a hunted man backed against a cliff and thinking that jumping might be the better option. She grinned and stretched out her arms. "Aw, why so suspicious, darlin'?"

"What do you want, Macawi?" he asked, all squinty-faced like a headache was coming on.

"I need a favor."

"Find someone else to eat you out," he said flatly, which would have been awesome if he then hadn't gone bright red and looked like he wanted to apologize for being rude and not respecting her.

"How are you even real?" she marveled. "I mean, really. I just—but no, no, I'm good in that department, what I need from you is your mouth."

He went even brighter red.

"Okay," she admitted, "that sounded wrong. I need your talking."

"My talking. Macawi, I say this with like — how did you even graduate? You can't even speak properly!"

"Don't bother me with details. Come on, you do for me, I do for you."

If George Kirk had a blanket, he'd be pulling it up around his chest looking scandalized. That is literally the only word for his expression: scandalized.

"Oh, fine. I won't blow you or give you the best ride of your life...one shift where I don't talk about anything dirty."

"Three," he said flatly.

"Two."

"Three. You need me, not the other way around," he pointed out, folding his arms over his chest.

"Fine," she sighed. "Three shifts without puns, innuendos, or that's what ze said jokes."

"Or graphic descriptions of sexual acts which frankly I think you make up—oh god, don't take that as an invitation to explain what was it you wanted me to do."

"I just need to make sure that the translator is fucked. C'mon, Iowa."

He let her grab his wrist and drag him into one of the rooms set aside for their auspicious guests, which was kind of interesting, and his ears were a little red. She couldn't decide if that was a I want to jump your bones flush or a I am so embarassed I will never stop blushing flush. Possibly it was the Winona Macawi, I hate you so much flush. Possibly all three.

The Vulcan translator was sleek and gorgeous and felt really delicate in her hands. The code was fucking unbelievable, and if Winona didn't hate to be dirtside she would totally be at the Vulcan Science Academy because their shit is amazeballs.

"Okay," she said, pointing it at him. "Just, lie back and think of Iowa."

"I hate you so much," he said earnestly.

She waved a dismissive hand at him and played around with the controls a little—oh, wow did they leave this shit open. Okay. "Elucidate," she said, which, well, probably meant it was working. She could circumvent that, though.

"I wish you to be dead forthwith," he said, firmly and with great conviction.

"Hah!" she crowed. "Totally worked! Who da man? Well, not literally, though they say there is that pill you can take to experience what that would be like…"

"Gamma shift, please report to the bridge."

George stared at her. Winona stared back, and then looked down at the translator in her hands.

"Winona Macawi may thy fields be barren forevermore!" George shouted, waving his hands.

"Wow, was that seriously a womb reference you just handed down?" Winona demanded. "Like, seriously, you went for barrenness?" George looked really close to murder, and also possibly like he might cry. "Okay, okay, so the translator is running everything you say through Vulcan interpretation. Wow, the patriarchy. Anyway, we can totally handle this, Kirk. You just...nod, give out the readings, and, you know, stay quiet. This is you, how hard can it be?"

George gave her a long look.

"I've totally got your back," Winona assured him.

"One regrets forever the decision to join this vessel as it led one to encountering thee," George mourned. Winona wrapped her arm around his waist and squeezed a little.

"It's okay, baby. I've got you. We'll be totally fine."

"One is pleasing to find thou have both deigns joined them," Robau said, and then frowns.

"Oh, motherfuck," Winona said.

"Participant in intercourse with one's mother," George agreed.

Okay, on the one hand they were fucked. On the other, this shit was going to be hilarious.

*

Amanda realized halfway through her conversation with Yolanda over breakfast that she was being way more formal than usual.

In fact...everyone was. And there was something wrong with the tenses.

"Oh dear," she said, which was interesting because what she'd meant to say was 'oh fuck'. In her head she said 'oh fuck'- she thought she might even have said 'oh fuck', but what she heard was 'oh dear'.

"One was perturbed by the sudden advent of formality among that crew," Yolanda said, and then frowned a little.

"One hypothesizes that a translator is malfunctioning," Amanda replied, and did a little internal shimmy of victory. Winona Macawi was awesome.

Amanda heard Sarek's robes swishing before she saw him loom over their table. Yolanda muttered something that sounded like, "Hail, valiant scholar!" Her contributions were roundly ignored.

"The translators on the ship are malfunctioning," he informed her in High Vulcan.

"Curiouser and curiouser," she replied.

"A young diplomatic assistant with her vanity deeply wounded would not engage in sabotage in order to prove herself right, would she?" Sarek asked.

"That's as likely as a Vulcan ambassador discovering his flawed research generated even further flawed research and choosing to take action by... what would you call withholding the right to freedom of interpretation and translation?"

"Unfermented product of the vine?" Yolanda offered as she held up a bunch of grapes.

Amanda's whole day went like that.

"Your mother sucked donkey pussy," George informed her as he sat down.

"…What?" Amanda asked, staring at him. If the translator malfunction was making everyone swear she was in such deep shit. Where was Winona? If George was here, she should have been.

"That being only the one taught by she," George explained. Amanda took a second to parse it: Winona taught him to say it.

"Oh. Of course it was. Where is she?"

"Fornicating," George sighed. "Goes well?"

"I submitted the research, so — we'll see?" Amanda said, not very convincing to her own ears. She really—besides the fact that she was surrounded by morons, she did like the fact that this job let her be out here, where everything is a little rougher and diplomacy is needed but not always necessary. Where sometimes people solved problems by being charming as hell. Those kinds of people didn't really exist in academia.

"Shit is bananas," Winona said, sitting down and throwing her legs into George's lap. She did look kind of fucked out. "Fucking amaze."

Amanda frowned at her. "One inquiring as to how them speech patterns be not affected."

She thought it was getting worse, the degradation of the interpretation. She wondered if that was intentional.

"I'm speaking High Vulcan," Winona said, frowning at the fruit bowl. "No strain on the system. All good. Well, High Vulcan, and partially High Romulan. I'm better at Romulan, plus, profanity. The points of intersection are really close."

Amanda groaned. "Right, yeah, that makes sense," she said. "Which I should have thought of."

"It's okay, baby, not everyone can be a stellar genius like me," Winona consoled her, beaming and going down on a banana.

George Kirk shoved her feet out of his lap and glared, and Winona winked at him with a wide grin.

That was when Captain Robau and Ambassador Komack walked in.

*

"If I get NJPd I you will vanquish," George hissed at Winona.

"Chillax, Iowa. No one but God can judge us," she muttered back, grinning and nodding reassuringly at Amanda, who looked like she was either going to brain the pointy-eared bastard or cry. Or maybe throw-up. Or a really entertaining combination of the three.

"You subscribe not to theological believing systems," George pointed out.

"Wow, so I guess that means we're fucking un-judgeable," she mused.

"You are a blight upon my life," he promised. "So much."

"Macawi, it appears as though we are experiencing the effects of a malfunctioning translator," Robau said in faltering High Vulcan. "If you would attend the situation?" He turned to Komack and the dignitaries. "Lieutenant Macawi is our best programmer."

Winona beamed at him.

"Happy to, sir," she replied, taking the proffered interpreter, and then sat down and began unravelling the code. She parsed her way through fixing the problem, licking her bottom lip almost compulsively. "To be: I am, you are, he is, we are, they are," she said, looking at the ceiling skeptically. "Lt. Kirk, say something for me."

"'The mercy that was quick in us but late,
By your own counsel is suppressed and killed.
You must not dare for shame to talk of mercy—'"

"Really, I say 'say something', and the thing that pops into your head is Henry V?" Winona demanded, and he glared at her.

"Lieutenants," Captain Robau interrupted, and Winona smiled and was professional because she was, actually, a goddamn professional.

"We're up and running again, sir."

"Excellent work, Lieutenant," Captain Robau said gravely.

Ambassador Komack stepped up. Winona was pretty sure she'd slept with his daughter. Whoops.

"I request that all participants in the talks gather their negotiating parties together. Some distressing realities have come to light which need immediate attention before talks can proceed further," Komack announced. "Grayson, with me."

The Andorians were pretty pissed, and if Winona was tracking it right (which she was pretty sure she was), they were trying to push the blame off. The Tellarites were gleefully on the verge of declaring war, and the Vulcans—well, they seemed more pissed about the cobicite than they were about the translator issue, which was good.

And, well, for given values of "pissed"—the cobicite was what they were focusing on.

"Lieutenant," Captain Robau said lowly once the diplomats were all distracted, fighting in and amongst each other. Winona cased the place for exits, just in the (likely) event she was going to have to run for her life. "I am concerned about our surveillance feeds. There seems to be a discrepancy in a recording near the conference room, occurring at 2100 hours."

Winona frowned at him. "Sir, I wasn't near those controls—"

"I am aware," he said, and then drifted away. She frowned some more, and then beamed.

"Stop smiling at me," Kirk commanded when he noticed. She slung an arm around his neck, gesturing wildly.

"Iowa, deep down you love me, and someday you will admit that and I will carry you off into the sunset and we will be awesome, and you will have my back forever and ever amen."

"You're fucking deranged," he told her, flushing a little and removing her arm from his shoulders, walking determinedly over to Amanda's cohorts. The girl smiled prettily at him. Winona gave him the thumbs up when Kirk glanced over: he could totally be in there.

*

The soiree at the end of everything—and it wasn't a soiree, but everyone wanted to call it that so that's what it was—was a little awkward. The Andorians were seething in a corner and the rest of the party goers left them to seethe so as not to murder them for being swindled.

"Ms. Grayson."

Amanda turned and looked at Sarek apprehensively. Yolande made a squeal of joy that would embarrass a fourteen-year-old, and then found some pathetic excuse to scurry away.

"Your discoveries are to be commended," he said.

"Thank you?" she said, and then swallowed, and said more firmly, "Thank you."

"Thanks are irrelevant."

"But they are customary among my people to offer when one's accomplishments are praised," she pointed out. "That they are irrelevant to you is, itself, irrelevant."

He flicked up an eyebrow, and she looked at him solidly.

"Your logic humbles me," he decided. "It has been educational." He raised his right hand in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Ms. Grayson."

"Live long and prosper, Ambassador Sarek," she replied, lifting her own hand.

"You are totally in there, you know?"

Amanda sighed, and looked at Winona Macawi, who was in her unflattering dress uniform and making a sort of terrible leering face after Sarek.

Amanda reached out, and after a second of bafflement Winona took the offered hand, grinning. "It's been an experience," Amanda said, because it was the most true thing she could say.

Winona threw back her head and laughed, easy. "Yeah, Grayson Amanda Grayson. It's been something like that. I'll look you up if I need a diplomat, or someone to speak on my behalf somewhere."

"Please don't," Amanda said, and George Kirk snorted from somewhere behind her. "Anyway, thanks for—you know. All your help."

"This eloquence right here makes me want a recorder," Winona told her earnestly, and Amanda rolled her eyes.

"You're not nearly as awesome as you think you are, Macawi," she said, and Winona grinned.

"I dunno, we were sort of awesome."

They unearthed an illegal trade maneuver and proved that the Vulcan translator was too delicate and restrictive for anything more complex than a city-wide canasta tournament. Sort of awesome didn't even cut it.

"Yeah," she agreed, and squeezed Winona's hand a little. "Yeah, we were."

"Sure you don't want to have a celebratory fuck?" Winona offered.

"Please stop talking."

Winona beamed and politely refused, and was in the middle of denying that her hickey was about to turn her into a zombie when their little group was approached by the sound of swishing robes again.

"Ambassador," Amanda said as she tried to swallow her mouthful of champagne before it ended up on everyone's shoes. "You've returned."

"I have returned," Sarek said slowly. Amanda didn't notice Winona slowly dragging George away to the dessert bar where they could eavesdrop and gorge themselves. "I — Your work based on my Tellarian matrix, incorrect as it was, showed promise and, similarly, your hard work and intelligence in uncovering what you did — what you did discover — shows dedication, and I would like to, first informally here and then formally in writing, invite you to participate in a research project at the Vulcan Science Academy during the Federation's summer recess."

It took Amanda a while and a lot of mental rewinding to figure out exactly what he said — when she did, she laughed, mostly at — mostly at the way Sarek's eyes were too focused on a point in the middle of her forehead, the way one of his hands fidgeted slightly at his side with a piece of his robe, and of course, that syntax.

"It would be funded by the Academy," Sarek added. "If that is of concern to you."

"And what would I be doing?" she asked, trying to stop her finger from slowly moving up the stem of her champagne flute but it was that or laugh hysterically the whole way back to her room.

Somewhere near the profiteroles, she swore she heard a whispered conversation along the lines of:

"Him!"

"Shut up and eat this."

"That's what ze said — Iowa, we agreed that only applies to active duty shifts —"

"I had hoped that you would assist me in adapting the Vulcan translator for more versatile uses," Sarek replied. "Earth is the planet Vulcan has the most dealings with; my staff at the Academy aspires to have as close to perfect synchronicity as interchange between two languages can achieve and I believe you would be an asset to our project."

"I'm — I'm really honored," Amanda said finally. "Admiral Komack hasn't made any sign of keeping me on once my contract is up."

"His loss is my gain. I shall discuss the matter with him and inform him of your...?"

Amanda tilted her head and laughed again. "Tentative acceptance. I'm honored."

"Your response does me honor, Lady Amanda," Sarek said.

"First thing we work on?" Amanda began. "Updating these honorifics. They're medieval to Terrans."

"I will await your proposal on the subject. Good evening."

"Good evening."

As Sarek walked over to Admiral Komack, Winona and George wandered over again. Winona sucked the cream of a profiterole off her fingers and George stared at Amanda before letting out a deep sigh.

"So that Vulcan," Winona said as she sucked one finger particularly clean, "If he wasn't a Vulcan, you'd be up against the wall getting knocked up five minutes ago. Like, the minute he came back for you."

"He came back for me," Amanda laughed, her eyes traveling to focus on the bottom of her glass. "Honestly. What?"

"You're not going to do any translating, babe," Winona informed her. "Vulcans go for hours, especially if you start with —" She waved her clean fingers and grinned at Amanda. "Their fingers! So sensitive, drives them nuts."

They both looked at George, who was examining his own fingers until he noticed them staring and slipped his hand into his pocket. "Shut up," he said flatly.

Winona licked her bottom lip thoughtfully, a slow deliberate gesture, and seemed on the verge of saying something else before she got distracted by a very impressive mountain of an engineer.

"Hheth," George supplied after Winona had sauntered across the room and began sucking face. "Eater of flesh."

Amanda nodded and watched Winona for a second (there was only so much she could watch before she got second-hand embarassment) before turning back to George. "So the up against a wall knocked up five minutes ago thing applies to you too," she said. "Well, metaphorically speaking."

He sighed, and sipped mournfully at his champagne. "I know."

*

"Actually, I have a theory about using High Romulan diction to translate the coarser aspects of Standard Terran," Amanda was saying as they were waiting for the transporter.

Winona looked at her, then back down at the console, which was flickering red. Hastings, who was sitting behind the screen, fumbled to fix the issue. Hastings was an idiot, liable to send only half a person. Also, sex made him stupid. Stupider. And he'd just fucked Amanda's female co-flunky. Winona shoved him aside and fixed the coordinates. Honest to fuck.

"I'm fascinated, really, do go on."

"You figured it out!" Amanda said, smiling a little and rolling her eyes. "Right, you don't care, actually."

"Not really. I learned languages because my ethical theories professor was a dick," Winona shrugged. He'd also had a slight problem with the fact that Winona kept calling him out on his bullshit in the middle of the class. "You're up, Grayson."

She stepped up with the other two flunkies her age — the guy's dick was microscopic and the girl wasn't really Winona's style — and then turned around smiled.

"Don't be a stranger," she said.

"Yeah, let me know how long it takes to get knocked up," Winona replied, grinning and miming fucking with her hand. Amanda gave her an annoyed look, then laughed.

"Yeah. Fingers you said?"

Winona laughed and flipped the switch. "Yeah, Grayson. Fingers."


--"Star Trek: Winona and Amanda" by ~sqbr (view larger)