"Fight or Flight"
Chef's attempt to approximate Vulcan tea was quite possibly the most egregious failure T'Pol had seen yet on Enterprise, although it was also surely the least significant. Still, after the last couple of days she would have deeply welcomed a genuine taste of home, especially one hot enough to help her resist the persistent chill of the ship's common areas.
She knew that this was a petty concern. Still, she couldn't help wondering if the real reason no Vulcan had stayed on an Earth ship for more than ten days was the simple lack of creature comforts. It couldn't have been the perception of being disliked and disrespected at virtually every turn, after all. Such an emotional reaction to persistent human attitudes would hardly have been logical.
She looked up when the door opened. Commander Tucker walked in, grimy and sweaty, his shoulders slumped in fatigue. He headed directly for the food before requesting "Coffee, strong."
He started to sit down at the nearest table before he noticed that she was sitting at the furthest one. "You're up late," he said. "Want company?"
It was on the tip of her tongue to say no. She could already smell the man from here, and the last thing she wanted at the moment was another emotion-driven argument, something Tucker seemed to relish. However, she was also aware that he'd attempted to support her position with the captain when Archer was making his nearly-disastrous decision to return to the alien ship. She was also beginning to realize that any hint of personal rejection was best avoided with these humans if possible. "You may join me," she said.
He sat down with a little groan and slumped over his coffee, drinking it with serious intent. Then he sighed and said, "That's better."
"You are also up late," T'Pol observed.
"We've got an awful lot of repair work, courtesy of those aliens - whoever the hell they were." He took a bite of pie and only half-chewed it before asking her, "Did you get to go aboard the Axanar ship?"
"What was it like?"
"Similar to the disabled ship, only larger."
He grimaced, apparently frustrated with her answer. "Did you get a look at their engines?"
He stretched his neck. "I sure as hell hope I don't have to spend this entire voyage down in Engineering repairing stuff and never getting to see what else is out there."
"That is hardly likely. You boarded the Axanar scout."
"Yeah, but only long enough to get their comm working. I never got to see their engine room."
"Judging from the Axanar's warp signature, you would not have discovered anything too exotic."
"I just like to see how other folks do it, that's all. You never know what ideas you might pick up." He leaned forward. "I'd kill to get a good look at one of your Vulcan cruisers' engine rooms."
She lifted an eyebrow.
He smiled stiffly. "That was a figure of speech. I wouldn't really kill for it."
"I am relieved to hear that."
He gave her a small smile and ate for awhile. She took another sip of the tepid tea. It really was most unsatisfactory.
She must have betrayed her distaste with a facial expression. Apparently she was more tired than she realized. "Chef claims it is Vulcan tea, but it does not taste like any Vulcan tea I have ever drunk before."
"Well, you'd be the expert. Have you tried coffee?"
"No. I find the smell disagreeable."
"Really? I love it. How about regular old human tea?"
"It is quite bitter."
"Have you tried milk and sugar in it?"
"I do not consume milk or sugar."
"I suppose that would be too much like having a good time, huh? How about mint tea? It's one of my mom's favorites."
She raised her eyebrows. "Mint?"
He said, "Wait right there," and went to get a cup for her. "Try it," he said, looking expectantly at her.
She took a careful sip. It was surprisingly pleasant and complex ... delivering heat with an oddly cooling sensation. "It is ... interesting. Thank you."
"You're welcome." He smiled. "You might want to try chamomile sometime too. That's another favorite of hers."
"I will keep it in mind."
They sat in silence for awhile. "Commander," T'Pol said. "May I ask your opinion about a personnel matter?"
His face darkened. Perhaps it had not been wise to remind him that Archer had named her his executive officer. "What is it?" he said.
"Do you believe Ensign Sato is truly suited to her position?"
He frowned. "She sure knows her stuff. She's got to be some kind of genius or something."
"I agree that she is an extraordinarily talented linguist. However, she also appears to be quite anxious and fearful. This has already proven to be something of a liability."
He nodded. "I know. She knows it, too. Maybe it's just taking her awhile to find her space legs. It might be a good idea to give her extra drill time, maybe some extra weapons training. But you know, it could also be she's just more open about her fears than most of the crew. I think we're all a little rattled that we've had two hostile encounters right out of the gate. I'm sure she's not the only one who's wondering if she really belongs out here."
"Do you wonder if you really belong out here?" Given that T'Pol had argued that exact case to him only recently, she was pleased at the idea that he might have come around to her point of view.
He grinned. "Oh hell, no. I've been waiting my whole life for this."
She blinked at him. Given the man's extreme youth, his "whole life" hardly bore mentioning. Still, it was strangely invigorating to work with beings that suffered from such a high degree of enthusiasm, even if it often verged into the irrational.
If nothing else, it was clear that her steadying presence was sorely needed.
"Well, I'd better get back to work," he said with a smile, and nodded to her before he took his dishes away and ambled out the door.
She watched him go and sipped her tea. It was odd how the simple pleasure of an agreeable hot drink could make one feel so much more comfortable in a strange place.
Next installment: Strange New World.
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