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Like Red, But Not Quite
Posted on March 28th, 2010 by Kuari

“Like Red, But Not Quite”
T’Kirr with Ian Blackthorne as Kathryn Harper

Something was obviously on Kate Harper’s mind as she entered the bridge, still clad in her flightsuit from the previous mission and carrying her helmet. Breathing a sigh of relief to not find the Admiral on the bridge, her eyes fixed on T’Kirr, who was occupying the center seat in Blackthorne’s absence. “Commander, ma’am, may I have a word with you?” she asked apprehensively.

T’Kirr raised her eyes from the small console on the chair’s armrest and immediately took in the emotional nature of the other commander. “Of course.” She paused, allowing Harper a moment to continue, but it was clear she wasn’t going to. T’Kirr gestured towards the ready room and stood, and as Harper eagerly made for the door, she followed.

Once inside, the door closed behind them and T’Kirr folded her hands behind her back. “How can I help you, Commander?”

Kate paused for a moment, unsure of how to begin, but inwardly relieved that she wasn’t telling this story to the Admiral. “I have a situation to deal with as CAG that I’m not sure how to.”

T’Kirr nodded. “Go on.”

Fiddling with the visor on her helmet, she continued, “The deckhands played a couple of pranks on me, and well… I deserved them.”

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. “What kind of ‘prank?'”

“When I returned from the mission and opened my locker, there was a snake inside,” she admitted, embarrassed to have to tell this to the ship’s XO.

T’Kirr watched Harper, waiting. She frowned slightly. “Surely you can handle confronting the deckhands responsible yourself.”

“They painted the Boudica pink, ma’am.”

T’Kirr stared, unmoving for a time as the words sank in. Her first thought was to keep the information from Blackthorne, as he would be very displeased to find the fighter that was once his had been… infringed upon. Her next thought, however, prompted her to finally speak, although her tone was careful. “And you mentioned you deserved these pranks?”

“Yes ma’am.” Kate looked down at the helmet in her hands, which she was still nervously fidgeting with. “There’s always competitive banter back and forth in the wing, but I think I may have taken it too far. You’ve been there, right?” When T’Kirr only stared back blankly, she added, “Um, okay, maybe you haven’t.” People didn’t tend to joke with Vulcans. She sighed in exasperation. “But you know how pilots can be, yes?” Getting an affirmative nod from that, she continued, “Now I know I’m not the best pilot in the Sharks, and I often wonder why the Admiral gave me this job, but sometimes I need to act like the best. I… may have overdone it, on occasion. To put it frankly, I believe they think I’ve gotten too big for my bitches.”

T’Kirr flinched slightly, the only outward sign of her confusion, and wet her lips. “I believe the archaic Earth saying is ‘too big for one’s britches.'” Kate let out a long frustrated breath, and T’Kirr continued. “What is it you would like me to do, Commander?”

Composing herself after the idiomatic faux pas, Harper continued, her curiously accented voice gaining a bit of confidence. “If I discipline them in response, it will just look like I can’t take a joke, but a pink fighter is crossing the line. I was hoping you could scare them, but not actually punish them.”

Nodding her understanding, T’Kirr thought this over. The ability to intimidate came quite easily to her. While part of it was due to her rank, experience prior to her current standing revealed it had other sources, and she concluded that her natural lack of an emotional countenance could be more imposing than even anger.

She also knew that punishment wasn’t always necessary in effectively correcting behavior, and unnecessary action was best avoided. “I agree. I’ll see what I can do. Which deckhands would you like me to speak to?”

“I would prefer that all of them hear what you have to say.”

“You believe them all responsible?”

“No, but want all of them to get the message. Besides, I know who did it, but I can not prove it.”

T’Kirr nodded. “Very well.”

The Boudica was indeed pink. Sitting closest to the entrance, it contrasted sharply against the greys and tans of the Assault Bay and other fighters behind it, as if proclaiming itself superior to its fellow Mustangs.

Despite the echoing effect common in one of the larger chambers of a starship, it was currently dead quiet. Six deckhands stood at attention before T’Kirr and Harper. Two of them were breathing harder than the others, as they had been pulled from off-duty locations for the impromptu meeting and, having probably suspected what it was about, had made their way here with all possible haste.

“The reason I’ve assembled you here is, I believe, quite obvious,” T’Kirr began, looking pointedly at the Boudica slightly behind her and in clear view of the deckhands. She read their expressions in response to her statement. Even though the sight of it had no doubt made them more than smile, they weren’t so much as twitching now. T’Kirr approved–they were paying attention and taking this seriously.

“It is also obvious to me that the person or persons responsible for this foolish action are now standing in this room. Because Commander Harper was not notified by any of you this had happened and came upon it herself, I find every one of you, in part, at fault.” T’Kirr paused, letting the statement weigh on them in the silence.

“The craft is considered unfit to fly in any combat situation.” Her tone grew censorious, louder than she normally spoke. “It wasn’t put out of service by combat damage, normal wear and tear, or even negligence. Altering a Starfleet fighter in such a way shows inexcusable lack of respect for the CAG. As professionals aboard a flagship vessel, I would expect more intelligent decisions from its deckhands.”

T’Kirr’s words were finally affecting the overall demeanor of the crewmen. A couple swallowed nervously, and others let their eyes momentarily drift downward. She softened her volume somewhat.

“You are fortunate.” T’Kirr began to pace very slowly in front of the deckhands. “Commander Harper has informed me that actions like this on a much less serious level are commonly done in jest. Because of this, she has requested you not be punished. She has come to me, asking that Admiral Blackthorne not be notified. I suggest you repay her for her kindness. Buff out every scratch. Make her shine.” She stopped, hardening her words. “Repaint the Boudica her proper color, before the Admiral indulges a whim to appreciate his extravagant complement of fighters and decides to walk his Assault Bay.”

T’Kirr’s words echoed off the walls alone. She pinned the deckhands with her most severe stare. “Are we clear, crewmen?”

“Yes, ma’am!” the deckhands acknowledged as one, echoing much more loudly.

Without hesitation, T’Kirr turned on her heel and left the bay. Since they had not been dismissed, the crewmen remained at attention awaiting their orders. Harper confidently spoke up, giving them just what they were waiting for. “You heard her! If Admiral Blackthorne sees this he’ll airlock the lot of you! Get to work!”

And get to work they did–enthusiastically so, one could even say, grateful that their CAG had spared them the Admiral’s wrath.

Ian leaned back in his chair as he shared dinner with T’Kirr. Gesturing at her with a fork full of steak, he said, “I’m getting the feeling there’s something you’re not telling me. What is it?”

T’Kirr stabbed a carrot, only momentarily meeting his eyes. “I don’t know what you mean.”

As he chewed the steak, Ian watched her and listened to the flowing ostinatos of thought and feeling coming over their nascent bond. “Yes you do, I can sense it,” he announced after washing the meat down with a drink of iced tea.

Her mental barriers almost immediately solidified. She pursed her lips in annoyance and mirrored Ian, reaching for her own glass. “It’s nothing to worry about. It doesn’t need to be said.”

The river of thoughts stemmed to a trickle, and Ian leaned forward and placed his hand on hers as she wrapped it around the glass. “Now you have me worried.”

T’Kirr met his gaze full on, attempting to assure him she wasn’t avoiding him. “It’s nothing,” she pressed. “If there was something wrong, don’t you think I would tell you?”

“Normally, yes. But this just isn’t like you, to hold back.”

She turned her eyes downward. “No, it isn’t. I prefer to keep this to myself.”

“Anything that’s affecting you like this will worry me until you tell me.”

“And I’m telling you, you don’t need to worry about it,” T’Kirr insisted, her irritation subtle but clear to him.

Ian leaned back again with an aggravated sigh. “I’d like to decide that for myself.”

T’Kirr narrowed her eyes at him. “Just because we’re familiar with each other doesn’t mean I’ve given up the right to keep something from you.”

“We’re a bit more than familiar.” Ian watched her as her only response was to arch an eyebrow. “Of course you haven’t given up that right, and I’m sure there are things you keep to yourself all the time. But the problem here is that I sensed an intent to deceive me, which is so uncharacteristic that it might as well not even be you I’m talking to.”

Picking up her fork, T’Kirr attempted to busy herself with what was on her plate. “I’ve taken care of it. As executive officer, you trust me to handle things every day without telling you about them.” She paused. “It’s just been something on my mind, nothing more. Your senses must be off.”

His senses, sharp as ever despite her ludicrous conjecture, caught her slip. “I don’t relish having to bring this up,” he began, his voice assuming a bit of its command presence, “but since you admit it is something you handled in the capacity of executive officer, as your commanding officer, I could order you to tell me.”

T’Kirr stopped shoving things around on her plate and stared at him, assessing how serious he was. “You could.” She swallowed in what could be considered nervousness. “But I suggest for your own good, you don’t.”

“For my own good?” What was she on about? “You know that I can’t just let something like that go. Don’t make me order you.”

Setting her fork down silently, T’Kirr swiveled her chair from the table and looked at the floor. When she again looked back up at Ian, her eyes were pained. If he didn’t know her better, he would say she was about to cry.

Ian rose from his chair, dropping all notions of pulling rank, and walked around the table to T’Kirr. Wondering what could be so terrible, he kneeled by her chair and took both of her hands in his. “It’s alright, you can tell me.”

“I want you to know,” T’Kirr began, stopping to pull in a calming breath. She blinked repeatedly. “No harm was intended.”

“Go on.”

As soon she started, the words continued rapidly one after another. “It started as a joke, apparently. Commander Harper insists no one needs to be convicted. It started as something completely benign. ‘All in good fun,’ I believe the saying is. Over time, things… escalated. Commander Harper came to me for assistance.” T’Kirr implored Ian with her eyes. “They’re doing everything they can to fix it, I assure you.”

“Fix what? You can tell me,” he said, wishing she’d get to the point.

“The Boudica,” T’Kirr blurted out. “It’s… well, it’s…” she hesitated.

Destroyed? Dismantled? What could have happened to a fighter that had been sitting on the assault bay deck? “It’s what?”

“It’s…” T’Kirr breathed another sigh, this of resignation and said in a very small voice, “It’s… pink.”

“I’m sorry, did you say ‘pink?'”

T’Kirr nodded, watching him apprehensively.

“As in the color?”

She nodded again, and all the worry and tension he’d built up over this issue evaporated as he sat down on the floor and started laughing heartily. “That – that’s it?” he managed to get out between guffaws.

T’Kirr stared at him in complete confusion. “Yes,” she assured him irritably. “What’s so funny?”

Ian was about to answer her, but the thought of Harper finding the pink Mustang caused him to dissolve once again into laughter.

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