Author's Note: I really wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with something on this one. Re my theory about how long Vulcans have had spaceflight - I figure that if those who became Romulans left the planet centuries ago (The Awakening was in Earth's 4th century AD, according to Memory Alpha) that means they had to have some way to leave ...
Finding a geologically stable subterranean environment that could sustain a fairly significant group of hunter-gatherers on uncharted continents wasn't the easiest task Archer had ever given his two senior officers. Fortunately, T'Pol's department had begun scans of the planet as soon as they arrived, so they were able to use the computer to narrow down the possibilities. That still left a good number for them to examine in more detail. T'Pol created a checklist and a rating scale and they set to work grading the potential sites, which they divided between them. Once Trip fully understood her scale, it was pretty routine, even dull, and he couldn't help thinking this was more appropriately a task for the science department than an engineer.
On the other hand, as an engineer he had the edge when it came to detecting potential structural weaknesses in subterranean chambers. And more to the point, Archer wanted him on it. Still, he was soon bored enough to want some conversation. "So I decided maybe I should bone up a little on the history of the Vulcan space program," he said. He'd been embarrassed that he couldn't come up with the name of even one Vulcan expedition at dinner.
Besides, he had a feeling this could be fun.
T'Pol quirked her eyebrow at him, but said nothing.
"I guess it hadn't really hit me before how much longer you guys have been doing this than we have. I mean, over a thousand years longer."
"Frankly, I'm kind of surprised that you're not ..." He hesitated. Did he really want to go there?
"What?" T'Pol asked.
He bit his lip to contain a grin. Hell yeah, he did. "Well ... that you're not more advanced than you are, compared to us. I mean, I know you are more advanced, but with that much of a head start, you ought to be way ahead of us."
T'Pol appeared unruffled. "Perhaps a great deal of our progress is in areas you aren't capable of perceiving or appreciating."
He wasn't going to let her distract him from his main argument. "Well, in the areas my puny human brain IS capable of perceiving, like technology, you look maybe a hundred and fifty or so years ahead of us - at most. In short ... you folks are striking me as kind of, well ... slow."
He stuck his tongue in the side of his mouth to help him contain his grin and waited.
It was immensely satisfying to watch her face darken. "Slow? Our warp engines are faster than yours by a significant factor. We have superior weapons, scanners, computers, and other devices. We employ a number of technologies you do not have at all, such as shielding, tractor beams ..."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but it sure looks to me like we'll catch up. Soon. Possibly even in my lifetime."
Her mouth tightened. "Vulcans place a higher priority on confirming research results and testing new prototypes than humans do. As a consequence, we seldom suffer a loss of life in the development of new technology. You cannot say the same for Earth's space program. Besides, there is little logic in constantly committing vast resources to improve one's space fleet beyond what is needed. Vulcan can protect itself, maintain trade, and resolve scientific questions. What more is needed? The proportion of resources set aside for the space program has proven sufficient to meet our needs for hundreds of years."
"Are you sure about that? What if some nasty new alien race swoops in and surprises you?"
She gave him a bland look. "That kind of surprise is unlikely. Intelligence is another area in which Vulcan outpaces Earth. In any case, paranoia does not lead to rational decision-making."
"Yeah, well," Trip said, "You just keep telling yourself that." Not that he actually knew anything about it, but it was fun trying to rattle her. "Tell me something else. Why, after all this time, don't you have any colonies?"
She blinked. "If you had read your history carefully, you'd know there was a group of Vulcans who rejected Surak's way and left Vulcan at the time of The Awakening. However, all contact with them was lost. The Vulcans who stayed embraced logic, and there is little logic in risking your lives to establish new colonies when you can enjoy security and a comfortable existence on the same planet where your ancestors evolved. Of course, Vulcan does maintain outposts throughout this sector of the galaxy, but for the most part the Vulcans manning them are eager to return home when they have completed their duties."
"See, we couldn't be more different that way. Earth already has a whole bunch of colonies: Lunar One, the Martian colonies, Vega, Deneva, Proxima...."
"Perhaps if Earth did not suffer from continuing population growth, over-use of limited resources and unstable political factions, there would be no drive for such expansion. Indeed, Terra Nova is a perfect example of human illogic. After establishing one settlement with a population of only 200 residents, the colonists refused any further additions to their ranks. Without an influx of new genetic material or an extremely significant change in the birth rate, those Terra Novans faced likely extinction even before the asteroid hit. At this point its remaining population is even less viable."
Trip scowled in confusion. "Wait a minute. Didn't you recommend we relocate them to one of the other continents?"
"Even though they're not viable? Where's the logic in that?"
"The Novans have developed their own unique culture, Commander. That must be respected."
His mouth hung open in disbelief. "Even if it's certain to die out?"
"It is always unwise to interfere in other cultures. That is one of the lessons Vulcans have learned over those thousands of years in space. You would be wise to attend to our example."
He shook his head, flabbergasted. "Does the captain realize these people are doomed?"
"What would the Novans themselves choose?" she asked him. "Do they want to return to Earth? Loss of identity is extremely traumatic for all sentient beings. Indeed, it is a kind of death."
"Yeah, okay, maybe it's a kind of death, but it's not death."
"Everyone dies. Most sentient beings prefer to die in their own homes, among their own people."
He stared at her. If she felt that way, why was she still here? But perhaps she considered this her form of temporary duty on some very distant, very lonely Vulcan outpost. And of course she was young to be thinking about her own deathbed.
"You know what," he said. "I don't care where I die nearly as much as I hope my descendents will have a decent shot at carrying on. But you're saying that's not something these Novans will have."
"I never said this solution was ideal," T'Pol said. "It is merely the least objectionable. Perhaps future relations with the Novans could bridge the differences between the two cultures and allow a change in their destiny."
"Well, I sure hope so," Trip said. "I'd hate to think we're going to all this effort just to give these people a slightly different place in which to die."
"We are giving them the gift of time," T'Pol said. "Who can say what the future will hold? For any of us?"
Trip sighed. The captain had seen it T'Pol's way for once, and he didn't really want to open the debate up again, any more than he really wanted them to have to turn Enterprise around just to drag a bunch of terrified, unwilling Novans back to a planet none of them remembered.
Maybe, just maybe, in this one case at least, she had a point.
Next installment: The Andorian Incident.
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