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Herpetology, Confections and Freudian Defense Mechanisms
Posted on May 23rd, 2002 by T'Kirr

T’Kirr and Tempest Rainbird

“Federation ships built in Utopia Planetia undergo strict safety inspections before launch,” the computer stated, then beeped, indicating her turn to speak.

T’Kirr copied the statement. She wasn’t quite perfect, but she would get it. Perfection of the English accent would take time. She gazed at her Shurata within its terrarium, who gazed back at her, then down at her lesson PADD. She was about to repeat the statement again when her door buzzed.

“Come,” T’Kirr said with a slight accent.

Tempest entered the room casually, flashing a pretty but unoriginal smile in T’Kirr’s direction. She paused a few steps into the room. “Bonjour, T’Kirr. Comment allez-vous aujourd-hui?” She leaned on a smooth metallic surface that vibrated slightly beneath her touch. “Je suis desole – mais, tu n’as pas arrive a ma salle pour un appointment – et pour quoi attend? Oui? Si tu n’es pas occupe, nous poulons parler maintenant.”

T’Kirr knitted her brows into a confused expression and raised her head, looking at the ceiling. “Computarr, rekal ta t’ranslakan.”

The computer beeped. “Universal translation reactivated.”

“Forgive me, Counselor. Could you repeat?”

Tempest glanced at T’Kirr with surprise. “I’ve never known crewmen to lounge in their quarters with their translator off.” She shrugged lightly, her flannel shirt coursing with wrinkles. “I came because you haven’t made it to my office yet. I noticed we both have time off, so I thought if you weren’t busy we could chat now.”

T’Kirr set her PADD down on the small table and stood, knowing she couldn’t put off the session any longer. “I am ready. I was practicing my English as I usually rely on the translators.”

“I speak the language well enough, but French is prettier and more natural.” Tempest twitched the side of her mouth, a casually dismissive gesture. “You’d think we’d have gotten over ourselves by now and have a common language, but no.” She moved away from the vibrating metal thing, and took a few paces toward T’Kirr. Leaning into one hip, she settled into a casual slouch. “This is just a standard adjustment call, Lieutenant. Are there any concerns you’d like to bring up?”

T’Kirr pretended to think for a moment. “No,” she said rather flatly. Clasping her hands behind her, she attempted appear relaxed, but found it increasingly difficult. Why was she so reluctant to share with the counselor? It was Tempest’s duty, and she performed it well. Maybe that’s what caused her stomach to tense.

Tempest wondered if her growing annoyance with the crew’s reluctance to share with the counselor was showing on her face. She schooled her expression into her normal bland, slightly hawkish mien. Maybe it was time, she mused, to allow Zuriyev to teach her how to use her latent telepathy. So what if glancing into someone’s private mind was illegal? It should be easy enough to bait them into thinking what she needed to know in their public minds – if she could turn her telepathy on and off voluntarily, which, of course, so far she couldn’t. She eyed T’Kirr. “How are you adjusting socially? The crew doesn’t have many Vulcans.”

Maintaining eye contact was difficult, and all T’Kirr wanted to do was to turn and stare at the wall. She had to keep focus, and forced herself to keep her eyes on Tempest. She would rather spend hours computing DNA sequence similarities than talk with someone who only had her best interests in mind. Once again, she strove to relax. “I’m sure those of the crew are not uncomfortable with my species. Vulcans have been in Starfleet for a very long time.” T’Kirr knew she hadn’t fully answered the question, but it was good enough for her.

“Indeed. Are you enjoying your new berth?” Tempest gestured expansively to the quarters, small though they were, which were nevertheless a large improvement over having to share an Ensign’s bunk. “Do you miss your bunkmate?”

T’Kirr raised a brow. “Hardly.” Realizing she may have sounded offensive, she lowered her head, her eyes darting across the floor. “I… value my solitude.” She dragged her eyes back to Tempest’s. “I am quite satisfied with my new quarters.” She looked around more casually this time. “I don’t require much space.”

“And professionally?” Tempest inquired. Her stomach nagged at her, reminding that while feeding Northan Lait she had neglected her own needs. A quick glance at her waistline reminded her why she was being harsh with her diet, but she couldn’t bear the thought of another dish of lentils… She scratched an imaginary itch on her left shoulder, and tried not to let herself be intoxicated by the obnoxious taffy-like feel of dredging up information like corpses from a lake. If she had wanted to be an interrogator, she would have joined the police force. She wanted to be a psychologist. So why join Starfleet? her inner doubting voice nagged. With an inaudible whoosh of exhaled breath, she decided she’d be better off thinking about food again.

“Professionally?” T’Kirr remained completely still, except for the occasional turning of her head, searching for anything other than the woman standing before her. “My studies in the academy were complete. I am performing my duties satisfactorily.”

And if I ask you to give me a hand are you going to tell me you don’t want to cut it off? Tempest’s inner dialogue was growing decidedly obnoxious. This was one of those moments when she wanted to tune it to another station. “And now TEMP 107.5 – all Optimism all the time.” She used her irritation to fuel a big smile. “I’m sure you are, Lieutenant! I didn’t mean to apply to the contrary! I was just hoping you were settling in well with The Chief Science Officer and your other coworkers.” She put out her hand reassuringly. “I’m not here to rebuke you. This is just to make things easier for you in adjusting to the ship. You haven’t done anything wrong; we do this for everyone.”

“I wasn’t offended.” Tempest’s mention of her superior officer brought Axelalexa to mind. His species surely was curious, and she found herself wondering if his odd mannerisms were characteristic to his kind, or if he was unique in every way. For a brief, uncomfortable moment, the soundness of her mind betrayed her by suggesting an image of a tiny Draknor crawling about in an examination tray of the science lab, bio tools in her hands and all. T’Kirr visably shook her head, the surprise of such an absurd thought making her even more nervous. She needed to meditate. Badly.

“That’s good,” Tempest affirmed. Subvocally she added, so was the way you ducked the issue. She dusted her hands on her jeans to get rid of some excess energy. “So, how are you adjusting to the science staff…?”

The thought popped into her brain again. T’Kirr closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Lieutenant Axelalexa and I work well together. The recent addition of Ensign DuMont has alleviated me of some of my duties. I have not had much time to acquaint myself with him as of yet.” She began to feel slightly lightheaded and shifted her stance a little, realizing she had been locking her knees.

Tempest suppressed the giggle that was rising like a bubble through champagne, threatening to break through. The Vulcan was nervous! Hee, hee. It just proved what she’d always suspected about Vulcan lack of emotions: classic Freudian defense mechanism. Denial. If you can’t deal with it, suppress it. “Have you ever been in Counseling before, Lieutenant?” T’Kirr bobbed slightly as she worked her knees into a comfortable position, and put Tempest in mind of one of those birds that constantly bent at the waist to drink water. The giggle teased at her throat again.

“I attended the mandatory counseling sessions of Starfleet Academy. I haven’t needed any voluntary sessions, if that’s what you mean.” T’Kirr regulated her breathing, slowing it down, centering herself. She hoped the Atlantis’s counseling sessions weren’t as long as those required in the Academy. Perhaps if she had prepared for the counselor’s arrival, she would not be struggling now. Her pet made a small click from behind Tempest, and T’Kirr found it an excellent distraction to stare at.

Tempest followed the direction of T’Kirr’s gaze, and dropped her mouth open slightly. “What is that?” Her stomach, doing the best to ruin her composure, gave an untimely gurgle.

“A lizard of the Shurata Genus, native to Vulcan.” T’Kirr actually calmed somewhat at Tempest’s reaction, taking comfort at not being the only one uncomfortable with the situation.

Finally! A topic the woman was comfortable with! Tempest was torn between trying to draw her out and getting her stomach to shut up. Work or food? She could eat the lizard, but she doubted that would help. “I’ve always had a fascination with different types of lizards,” Tempest lied. “I… er… like the scales. Pretty. I’d enjoy discussing the subject with an expert sometime.”

T’Kirr’s brows rose. “Indeed.” She walked to the front of the terrarium near the door and moved one hand fluidly to pick up a vegetable chip from a container. The creature moved its head in quick, bird-like motions, clearly anticipating something from her master’s nearness. “I’m sure you will then appreciate this species’ unique way of feeding,” T’Kirr assured sincerely. The chip dropped, and before it could hit the sandy floor, the lizard yanked its tail up in a flurry of motion, creating a snapping sound. The tail swung underneath its body, the chip disappearing into its mouth. T’Kirr turned her eyes to Tempest, watching for her reaction.

“Impressive!” Tempest exclaimed with genuine enthusiasm for the first time in this woebegone conversation. “Does he have some sort of cartilaginous skeleton to be able to bend like that?”

The lizard jerked slightly at Tempest’s raised voice. “Their skeletons are comparable to species of Earth, yet the Shurata tanda’katifan species has 35 percent more muscle tissue within its tail than others of its Genus, increasing the accuracy of its aim.” T’Kirr turned completely to face Tempest. “If you are interested in other species, I can obtain their files >from the Vulcan Science libraries.”

“Thank you,” said Tempest, wondering if she’d just volunteered for a crash course in herpetology. “I’m starving, and we’re due for more investigations in less than half an hour, so I’d like to grab a bite. We’ll talk soon, okay?”

T’Kirr nodded, an involuntary sigh of relief expanding her ribs. She resumed her traditional stance of attention. “Did you obtain all the information you needed?”

Tempest gave her a curt nod, and a smile that had to contain a lot of suppressed amusement. “I think so, Lieutenant. For now.” She schooled herself not to wink, and walked to the door. “Have a pleasant afternoon feeding your lizard,” she said as she stepped out into the corridor.

T’Kirr gave a slight bow, no words in particular coming to mind, as the door shut behind Tempest.

Tempest’s stomach gave a final growl to end all growls just as she slipped out of the door. It had the same booming sound as Beethoven’s fifth symphony. Tempest was caught between relief that the stubborn organ had waited to explode until she was safely out of T’Kirr’s quarter, and annoyance at its continuing insistence that it required something more decadent than the dietarily proper lentils.

She paused for a moment in the hallway, wanting to say “Shut up!” to her stomach, but decided this might give the crew some funny ideas about their Counselor. She turned heel and headed to the turbolift, visions of chocolates dancing in her head. She decided that the lack of cravings would be a definite plus on the Vulcan side. Nevertheless, she found it hard to imagine herself being happy staying at home feeding her lizard all night. What kind of life could you have feeding your lizard all night instead of – the nagging voice interjected – going to the Admiral’s quarters for a nap, reading your daughter’s latest incomprehensible letter, and writing crew reports into the night with an occasional meditation break? Oh, and lentils. Don’t forget the lentils.

At least the lizard feeding Vulcans didn’t have the emotions to feel pathetic. “My life is losing to lizard-feeding,” she muttered to herself. “Maybe I’ll take T’Kirr up on that herpetology business.” In Ten Forward, she ordered a large, decadent piece of German chocolate cake. It made her feel better.

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