UES Enterprise. Earth Orbit.
15th April 2151.
In his early twenties, on a trip to East Africa, Archer had seen a gazelle giving birth. Within a matter of minutes the baby could stand on its own. A few more minutes and it was able to walk.
For those first few minutes, though, it had been uncoordinated, unstable, and (in the words of an ancient cartoon character he'd seen as a child) 'kinda wobbly'.
Archer was reminded of that gazelle as Professor Partridge disembarked from the shuttle craft. Looking white as a sheet, she stumbled down the boarding steps, keeping one hand on the hatch frame for balance.
"She never did like to fly." said Trip, at Archer's side.
"Let's hope she finds a starship more comfortable than a shuttle." Archer replied.
Together they approached the professor, who, Archer noticed, was taking deep gulps of air. A thin sheen of sweat made her forehead glisten.
Trip had known Partridge for years. They'd been at Cambridge together. Knowing of her travel sickness, he'd brought along a folding chair and a bottle of water.
"Now you jus' sit down and get your breath back, Polly."
She didn't reply, but gave him a grateful nod and accepted the water.
Leaving Trip to see to the professor, Archer approached the rest of the group from the shuttle.
"Hoshi, enjoy your shore leave?"
"Yes sir! I found this marvellous place in the Caribbean, where I...er, I'll tell you later."
Archer nodded. Hoshi's stories of her gambling exploits were often entertaining, but best shared amongst close friends. Besides, if she was true to form she'd probably spent at least half an hour deliberately losing at poker to the new personnel. If they knew how good she really was, they'd not play her again.
He did not really approve of this behaviour, but considered it a small price to pay for the services of humanities best xenolinguist. Even the Vulcans had expressed their respect for her skills.
He moved on to the rest of the UESPAs, all new personnel. Although Enterprise would be ready for departure the next day, her first scheduled mission wouldn't have been for another two weeks. A lot of crew members who should have been on board were unavailable on other assignments. With the accelerated launch countdown under way, a number of hastily selected replacements had been brought on to the ship.
Archer preferred a degree of familiarity on-board. Whilst he knew that there had to be a clear chain of command, and that meant a certain professional distance, his experience of deep space missions suggested that people worked better if you were friendly and approachable. He knew others disagreed but it had always worked for him.
Not knowing much about these new crewmen (he'd read their service files, but that told him about the work, not the people), he made a point of asking names and memorizing faces, gently enquiring into their views on the mission. They were unanimously excited to be here. Each one had volunteered for a posting on the Enterprise previously, almost getting it. Now they had a second chance and were absolutely delighted.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you wait over there for a moment, you'll be shown to your quarters. Now then..."
He turned to the two black clad military officers
"Commander, Ensign, sorry to keep you waiting. Welcome to Enterprise."
They both snapped to attention and saluted. The female officer, Hernandez, gave a crisp, precise salute, and held it. Mayweather's salute seemed half hearted. He went to drop it after a second, noticed his superior was still holding hers, so maintained his.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable, Archer returned the salute. There then followed an awkward moment where he couldn't remember if he was supposed to drop it first, or wait for them to. Hesitantly he lowered his hand, and was relieved to see the others follow.
"Captain Archer, Commander Maria Hernandez. Thank you sir. My orders, sir."
She held out a pad. Archer took and inspected it. Her service record, which he'd already seen a copy of, plus orders to take the post of first officer and chief gunnery officer.
"This all seems in order, Commander. There will be a brief ceremony at 1800hrs in the observation dome. You will officially assigned to your posting then."
"Thank you sir."
Archer turned to Mayweather. "Ensign, you must be the guy General Kaplasky picked."
"That's right. Sir"
"Any idea why she chose you?"
A slight hesitation. "Couldn't say. Sir"
Archer paused. There was something about Mayweather that didn't sit right. A slight tone to his voice, the vaguest hint of insolence.
Perhaps it was nothing. It could simply be Mayweather's accent. The Martian colonists came from all over the Earth, and their speech pattens often sounded odd to those from less diverse cultures.
Or perhaps I'm getting paranoid
, thought Archer wryly. I know General Kaplasky doesn't like UESPA, but that doesn't mean she'd try to cause trouble! Although there is that business in his file about a fight....
Deciding to give Mayweather the benefit of the doubt, Archer pointed out "Well, your file says you are one of the best helmsman we've got, so we are lucky to have you aboard."
That did seem to cheer Mayweather. "Sir," he said, sounding for the first time like he meant it, "I am the
best helmsman in the fleet."
Dismissing the two UEMAs, and turning hurriedly before another bout of saluting occurred, he headed back to Trip. The chief engineer was patting Partridge's shoulder in a comforting manner. She was slumped forward in the chair, still taking deep breaths, though not as desperately as before.
"Trip? Is she going to be OK?"
"Yeah, I reckon so."
Archer leaned closer and spoke quietly. "Are you sure? She wasn't this bad when she came aboard to inspect the labs, or for the press conference."
Trip suddenly looked worried. "Hey, you're right, cap'n. She wasn't nearly as bad as this."
"Perhaps we should get her to sickbay." Archer suggested.
"Not necessary captain." said Partridge. She straightened up, and took a deep swig of water. "Hypothesis. My previous visits to Enterprise were conducted by large, comfortable civilian shuttlecraft, with wide windows allowing uninterrupted views of our surroundings."
She paused, and took a breath. "On this trip, I was on-board a small, cramped, uncomfortable shuttlepod. The only windows were positioned for the flight crew. From where I sat, I couldn't see out.
"Though I have no hard data at this time, I'd speculate that these factors made my usual travel sickness much, much worse."
Trip cocked his head. "Well, your brain seems to be workin' just fine."
She looked at the bottle for a moment, then tipped her head back and poured the remaining water over her face. There were a series of excited and approving noises from the assembled crewmen nearby, although these stopped instantly at the captain's disapproving look.
"I'm sorry captain, that was thoughtless of me. I've gone and got your floor wet. If you can find me a mop, I'll clean it up lickety-split!"
"No problem, professor. The deck is cleaned regularly. Crewman Winters!" he beckoned to one of the shuttle bay maintenance crew, and pointed to the spillage. "Better get a wet floor sign over here, soon as possible."
Partridge was looking more like her old self. "Oh, Diva says hi, Trip."
"That's nice of her. How's she been?"
Archer, wanting to talk to Hoshi, made his excuses and left them to talk.
Lt. Moshiri had arrived, and was taking the new crew members to their quarters, but Hoshi had been on Enterprise for most of the test flights and knew the ships layout. There was no hurry for her to leave. Archer signalled her to stay.
"Lieutenant, a quick word." His use of her rank let Hoshi know that this was to be a formal discussion. "What's your impression of our first officer?"
Hoshi chose her words carefully "Difficult to say sir, I've only had limited dealings with her. She seems....very professional. By the book all the way with this one."
"Hmm, that's what I thought."
"Also, this is might not be relevant, but listening to her speech pattens, I'd say she came from a relatively poor background. Joining the military gave her a way out. She's embraced the lifestyle thoroughly. I'd bet good money that she was taught English by a very formal British person, probably a man. Spanish is her first language but she almost certainly thinks in English."
"Captain Archer?" Partridge was approaching them. She looked a lot better. "Trip tells me that the main observational array is up and running. Would it be possible to start using it? There's a newly discovered Cepheid variable that we..."
"Way ahead of you, professor. We started observations this morning. Every thing's automated of course, all crew are needed to get the ship ready, but we're already pulling in a great deal of data. Would you like to see it?
Partridge clapped her hands together. "Oh yes, yes please!" She was hopping up and down like an excited child.
Somewhat startled by this reaction, Archer shot his chief engineer an enquiring glance.
"Yeah, she's like that." was Trip's laconic response.
Somewhat bemused, Archer led Partridge away. Trip exhaled slowly, then turned to Hoshi.
"So. Good vacation?"
"Not bad, not bad at all." That, Trip knew, was Hoshi's way of saying she'd done well in the casino's.
He nodded after the others. "So what do you think of Polly?"
"Like you said, Trip, she's a bit...unconventional. But not in a bad way. I think I like her."
"Yeah, you're just plannin' to use her to get to her fashion designer friend, right."
Hoshi put on an expression of mock dismay. "My secret scheme, revealed!
"Really though, I don't think the Matrix Studio produces anything that would suit me. Certainly nothing I could afford."
"Hey, don't put yourself down. You are one very attractive young lady, if you don't mind my sayin'."
"Why thank you, kind sir!" she said, in a spot on 'southern belle' accent, before reverting to her normal voice. "The thing is, I'm shaped like a normal human woman, and Diva Matrix doesn't design for normal women. Your friend, on the other hand, looks like something from one of my brother's comic books."
Trip was only familiar with western comics "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"Depends on whether or not any aliens we meet have tentacles."
That was a somewhat perplexing response, but Trip sensed he would feel mighty uncomfortable if he pressed the matter. He changed the subject.
"What about our new first officer?"
Hoshi paused, then repeated what she had told the captain. She then added "There's only one way to make Hernandez more efficient. Tie a mop to the stick she's got rammed up her backside. That way she can wipe the floor when she walks around!"
"Lieutenant! That is a superior officer you are talking about! I don't want to hear you using such terms ever again. Do I make myself clear?"
Hoshi had automatically snapped to attention at Tucker's tone. "Yes sir! Sorry sir."
"All right. Didn't mean to snap there. But we gotta maintain the protocols, you understand? Those UEMA guys, they're just waitin' for us to make do something wrong."
"Also....it's not real lady like, is it, that sort of talk?"
"All right then. Now, without using any disparaging language if you can, can you sum up our helmsman?"
She thought for a moment, then said a single word.