"Strange New World"
"You'd have better luck making friends with a housefly."
His voice was quite low, obviously pitched for Crewman Cutler's ears alone, but Vulcan hearing was more acute than most humans realized. T'Pol paused in her survey of her checklist.
Housefly. Musca domestica. A small flying insect known for carrying disease and laying its eggs in decaying flesh. Not a creature a Human would likely want to befriend. Indeed, she knew the term used for its larval stage - maggot - was sometimes employed as an insult.
T'Pol frowned unconsciously as she checked off the items needed for this needlessly precipitous survey expedition. It appeared that her response to Crewman Cutler had been interpreted as yet another personal rejection by both the engineer and the entomologist.
She failed to understand why Crewman Cutler would desire to make friends with her. Such a relationship would hardly conducive to the efficient running of the ship. Furthermore, Starfleet had rules about fraternization between the ranks, although T'Pol was beginning to wonder if anyone on the ship actually intended to heed them.
Certainly Mr. Tucker did not appear to be so inclined.
He had turned red in the face just the day before when she had suggested to him that his casual familiarity with his own engineering staff was ill-advised. She felt it only right to warn him that while his overall performance appeared strong, this was an area of weakness that could potentially reduce his rating on his six-month evaluation.
"Excuse me?" he'd sputtered. "Are you trying to tell me how to manage my staff?"
"Captain Archer has named me his executive officer."
He'd laughed in an oddly choked kind of way. "I know. He values your knowledge and experience. He probably also figures you're the only person on board who will actually enjoy keeping all those records. That doesn't mean he wants you interfering in the way I run my department."
"Yet I believe the way you run your department does fall under my purview."
"I've been successfully managing engineering crews for the last eight years, Sub-Commander. The last thing I need right now is some Vulcan with a stick up her ass trying to tell me I'm doing it all wrong!"
She blinked. A stick up her ass? Mr. Tucker's vast collection of colloquialisms sometimes made her wish she had Ensign Sato with her to translate their conversations. "I did not say you were doing it all wrong, Commander. On the contrary, your performance is above average. I was merely pointing out an area of weakness. Surely this is to be expected in any supervisory relationship?"
He scowled. "Maybe if it were an area of weakness, but it's not. Check my previous evaluations. It's simply my personal management style. My personal Human management style. If you see my department's performance start to suffer - if you see any decline in efficiency or response - then you can start to tell me something about how I'm getting the job done. If not, I suggest you keep your nose out of it."
First her ass, now her nose. Metaphorically, the man was all over her. And surely this utter lack of receptivity qualified as insubordination? "I will have to discuss the matter with Captain Archer."
"You do that." He stood up, possibly in a primitive attempt to intimidate her with his greater height. Since they were separated by the ready room desk, the effect was not particularly notable, not that she would have been intimidated anyway. By now she had become accustomed to Mr. Tucker's intrusions into her personal space. "Are we done here?" he said brusquely.
"I was going to ask if you had any questions or concerns for me, but we appear to have covered that already."
He snorted. "Yeah, I guess we did."
"Very well. Dismissed."
Of course, once she'd actually given the order, he didn't leave. She had noticed that he never responded to her with either sir or ma'am either - not that she particularly valued this human tradition, but from him its lack was perhaps telling.
"You know," he said, his arms folded, his lips jutting aggressively, "If anything, you should probably be asking my advice about how best to manage this Human crew."
She stared blandly up at him. "I believe I have already taken your advice on several occasions already. I regret that you don't have a similar openness to my suggestions. As I said, I will discuss the matter with Captain Archer."
He grimaced, and she thought she finally saw a trace of anxiety cross his face. "Look, I'm not trying to make problems here. I'd like to think that the two of us can get along and work together well when we need to." He raised his eyebrows. "Who knows, maybe we could even be friends."
"That is neither likely nor desirable, Commander."
His mouth tightened, and he left without another word.
Why did these humans continually demand friendship where it was neither appropriate nor necessary? Did they attempt to become 'friends' with everyone they met? And if so, how meaningful could such prolific 'friendships' possibly be?
She made her way into the shuttle and sat down at the craft's sensor panel. Ensign Mayweather was already working through the launch checklist at the helm. The rest of the survey team arrived and took their places. Mr. Tucker followed them in. He didn't glance her way or make any acknowledgment as he took a seat in the back.
When she had consulted Captain Archer, he had supported his friend. He'd said, "Maybe you should lay off Trip for awhile. He was supposed to be my first officer, you know. I think he's handled losing that position pretty gracefully, but he may need some time to really get adjusted to the new command structure."
"Are you sure you have adjusted to the new command structure, Captain?" she'd asked.
"What do you mean?"
"You are supporting Commander Tucker's right to reject my supervision. I don't see how you can expect me to perform my duties adequately if the entire Engineering staff is exempt from my oversight."
"They're not exempt, T'Pol. I'm just saying hold back from interfering at this point. Trip knows what he's doing. He's been in charge of some of these people for years now. Unless you actually think his department is under-performing. If that's the case, let's talk about it."
"It is not underperforming at this time, but...."
"Then let it go. Let the man do his job. If problems arise, we'll deal with them."
"That is an inefficient approach."
"Perhaps, but I'd still rather have you hold off. Did you know that Trip's the youngest chief engineer in the history of our space program? He didn't get where he is today without showing us he could get the job done - not just with engines, but with people. You could probably learn something yourself from observing him."
That was all too close to what the Commander himself had said.
Perhaps she was the one having trouble adjusting to the new command structure. Perhaps it had been a mistake to accept this role on this Human ship. She had thought she could do some good, but if she was going to be routinely ignored and overruled by both Archer and Tucker, that did not seem likely.
"Everybody accounted for?" Archer said, arriving on the shuttle with a huge grin. He had brought his dog, which he released onto the deck. As always, the little creature ran to each person present for a sniff.
She strove to keep her face blank and her nostrils from flaring at the additional odors the canine introduced into a small space already crammed with humans. Fortunately, she had already taken an extra dose of her nasal numbing agent. "We are as ready to depart as we can be on such short notice, Captain," she said, reflexively checking her survey team one more time. Tucker, she noticed, was animatedly telling Crewman Cutler about various unpleasant encounters with something called "palmetto bugs." Cutler, in turn, looked slightly bemused.
Why had Archer even assigned Tucker to this outing? Was it an attempt to placate him for having to deal with her?
"Well, let's get this show on the road!" Archer said to Mayweather and sat down.
T'Pol turned her attention back to her sensors. In the scheme of her greater duties, it was of little import whether Mr. Tucker resented her or not. It was not an ideal situation, of course, but there was no immediate cause for concern.
It was, for example, unlikely to affect this particular mission in the slightest.
Next installment: Unexpected.
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