DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and is copyright (c) 2000 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.

This is the Ship

by Djinn


Damn it all! This was the third time she'd been by storage area 4. I am not lost, she tried to convince herself. I am *not* lost.

"Doctor, are you lost?"

She leaned casually against the corridor bulkhead, looked Spock in the eye, and said, "No, Captain. I was just checking this storage area. I think I want to put our most volatile or rare medicines and vaccinations in here rather than on the outside ring. Less chance of major damage."

"An excellent plan. But did you not come down here over forty-five minutes ago."

"I did." She thought fast. Realized she wasn't sure why he was down on deck 5. "Are *you* lost, Spock?"

His eyebrow rose as if in disdain. "A Vulcan does not get lost."

"Especially on his own ship."


They stared at each other for several long moments. Finally she cracked and started laughing. "Ok, we'll probably rot down here if one of us doesn't confess to being completely turned around. So I'll do it because I know you'd rather die than admit it."

His expression remained the same, but she could have sworn she saw a glimmer of relief.

"Thank god for these new hallway panels." She backed away from the wall and touched the dark screen. It sprang to life with a schematic. She felt Spock come up behind her. She looked back and confirmed that he was reading the map as avidly as she. "Well?"

"I believe a right, right, left pattern should get us to a turbolift.

"Let's ask the computer." Out of habit she turned back to the panel, even though she knew the machine could detect her voice from any direction. "Computer?"

A pleasant male voice answered. "Yes, Doctor Chapel?"

"How do we get to the nearest turbolift?"

"Please follow the lighted display panels." As they watched a line of panels ahead of them lit up and then disappeared around the corner.

"Thank you."

"My pleasure, Doctor."

"A useful improvement." She started down the hallway, ignoring Spock's look of disapproval.

"Doctor, what have you done to the computer?"


"The voice? The name recognition? The courteous embellishments?"

"Oh that. The old computer was determined to be too machine-like. So Starfleet decided to offer some options, and I chose the one you heard. The voice recognition is a new feature that is supposed to improve overall crew interactions with the computer, once I scan in all the voices on this ship the computer will always recognize them. And then each crewmember can also program in what he or she wishes to be called in private. And the embellishments...well I just taught it a few key phrases. To make interacting with it more pleasant."

"More pleasant for a human."

"For most cultures, Spock. We are a diplomatic ship. I thought the computer should be a bit more that way too."

He nodded in defeat. "Why did you choose a male voice? It is customary for it to be female."

"The female voice wouldn't have worked on this ship."

He looked at her askance. "Why not?"

"Because it's my voice, Spock." At his look of confusion she sighed. "Based on my audio profile, Starfleet asked me, and a bunch of other women, to try out for the new computer voice. It meant some extra credits and it was fun. I had no idea they'd ultimately go with my voice. And I have no problem with other ship's using it. But it was giving me the creeps hearing it."

"I see." They turned the last corner and the turbolift appeared in front of them. They entered and Spock asked for the bridge. When the lift doors opened, they walked out to their new command center, where technicians were still working busily. Stepping over several crewmen Spock went to his chair.

She took her place in the one next to him. This was a new idea having the captain and first officer sit together. She liked it--it gave her a place of her own to sit. She remembered all the times McCoy had more or less loitered on the bridge and was grateful she would not have to do the same.

Spock touched the pad on his chair. "Computer?"

The male voice answered promptly. "Yes, Captain Spock."

"I would like to hear the female version of your voice."

Suddenly Christine's voice filled the room. "Yes, Captain Spock."

Christine closed her eyes and shook her head.

"Computer, please calculate pi to 100 decimal places."

Christine's voice came back with an extremely long answer that she cut off before it finished. "Stop calculations, Computer."

"Yes, Doctor Chapel."

Spock looked at her, a devilish look on his face. "So this bothers you?"

"You wouldn't dare."

"Perhaps it will be a useful tool for keeping you in line?"

"What? If I don't behave you switch the voices? Not even close to being an incentive."

He did not seem to believe her. "Computer, switch to male voice."

"Yes, Captain." Christine felt her hackles go down. She would really have to alter the programming so it could not be changed so easily.

As if reading her mind, Spock commanded the computer, "Computer, make voice change option available only to Captain of this vessel."

"Yes, sir."

He looked over at her in triumph.

Damn telepathic green-blooded, pointy-eared irritation of a captain. Christine looked over to see him studying her intently. She rose and smiled innocently. "I'm going to check out how sickbay is coming along."

"Don't get lost," his voice echoed behind her.


Christine looked around sickbay, still amazed that this was hers. But not just this. The Carter was designed to fulfill two main missions: diplomatic and medical relief. So all of the medical operations fell under her as CMO. Sickbay, which would service the crewmembers, was just one small part of it. There was also an extensive laboratory and testing facility sharing Deck 6 with the exam rooms and offices of main sickbay. One floor below them was the relief hospital facility. It had an area specifically set up to treat the myriad of infectious diseases they would run into, as well as another space for trauma and other types of relief operations. Quarantine could be settled over part or all of the hospital.

There were dedicated turbolifts running between the two decks. And everything was conveniently located near the shuttle bay and next to a special transporter room that had been built with a large medical staging and triage area. The corridors were extra wide to allow movement of multiple guerneys. The Starfleet designers working closely with some of the Federations finest medical minds had covered everything.

Except for staffing, Christine thought ruefully. Up in her office next to the bridge she had a pad full of personnel files. Some were volunteers for this mission. Others were recommended by Starfleet command. Still others were ones that she had requested personally. She and Spock would be meeting tomorrow to go over staffing options. She had a great deal of reading yet to do.

She stepped into the very large CMO's office located between sickbay and the labs. Since she had the other office available to her as first officer she had turned this into a training room. And party room, she chuckled to herself, although she had left that off the requisition justification when she had ordered the furniture. She knew from her time in Emergency Ops that after a crisis the workers would need a place to blow off steam and wind down from the round-the-clock shifts and stress. The celebration would probably spill out into the corridors but at least this room would give them a place to keep, or hide, the booze and food. It would also serve as an excellent break room during whatever medical emergency they were facing, offering harried doctors, nurses, and medical assistants a place to sit down for a few minutes to grab a quick bite to eat or to simply catch their breath.

Satisfied that everything was ready she found the regular lift and asked for the rear bridge. This afforded her a private entrance to her office. The Captain could also access his ready room from here. And they could go between the two offices without having to traipse through the bridge each time. It was a nice design element. She hadn't expected her office to be near the bridge. In her past experience the first officer's room had always been on one of the functional decks. But Starfleet had determined from a number of exit interviews that many of the crew members never saw the bridge of the ship they served on for years. Having the first officer's quarters there might allow them to get a taste of that world. And it was determined to be more efficient for Captain-First Officer interactions.

I'm sure Spock is thrilled that I am so close, she laughed to herself. Then thought of their discussion several weeks ago at the little Irish pub and remembered his declarations to her. Rolling her eyes she amended her previous statement. He might in fact be more thrilled than she was.

Her office was fully decorated. Both she and Spock had spent time--an illogical amount of time she concluded--making their quarters and offices "homey." They were the same in that respect, neither liking to work in sterile surroundings. His ready room was full of Vulcan touches accented with artifacts and works of art he had collected or been given during his many missions. Spock's rooms tended toward a red and black theme, with his art being very colorful. Her spaces had more muted tones in the furnishings, with the esoteric objet's d'art and mystical paintings adding color. She collected goddess figures and artwork, and had a number of them scattered throughout the rooms. She remembered Spock's raised eyebrow as he had taken in the number of diverse deities she had managed to collect over the years.

"Are you a pagan, Doctor? I was given to understand you were raised Lutheran."

"I was. But I've fallen away from any regular observance of religion. I'm a scientist first of all, Spock. But I remember the day I first saw one of these figurines in a museum." She had walked over to a small Asian sculpture carved out of some sort of creamy material and delicately painted. "The original was much larger and carved from ivory, the paint was faded after all those centuries. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. And she touched me in a way that I had never felt before." She had handed the sculpture to Spock. "This is a reproduction I found years later. Still cost me more credits than I had at the time."

He had examined it then handed it back. "It is truly exquisite. Who is she?"

"Kuan Yin. The Buddhist goddess of compassion. According to legend she achieved perfection and was entitled to enter Nirvana but did not want to leave her suffering children here on Earth without her comfort. For centuries she has been worshipped all over Asia--known by many names." She had set the statue back in its place.

Spock had walked over to another figure. "And this?"

Christine had looked at the goddess he had selected, a fierce looking primitive mother goddess from Peru with flat features, high cheekbones, and large drooping breasts. She was heavily pregnant and standing upon the head of a fierce dog. "The ancient mother. Fertility itself. Controlling the chaos that threatens the world. But connected to it too. Never completely understood. This is but one representation. There are many variations to her. To all these goddesses really. Certain themes tend to reappear again and again. Fertility, compassion, wisdom, beauty, fidelity, danger." She had realized she was getting far too involved in her subject. "I'm sorry, Spock. I tend to go on and on about these. One of my passions I guess."

He had nodded pleasantly. "No reason to apologize. If you were to ask me about my art I assure you that I would probably rival you in enthusiasm for describing that which has captured my interest."

She had laughed and they had returned to work.

Now she looked at her statues. "I don't suppose any of you would like to help me out with crew selections?" The sculptures stared back at her. "Didn't think so."


Two hours later she was finally done with her recommendations for the key medical posts and senior staff. She got up and stretched, walking around her office to get rid of some of the kinks. I'm a long way from done, she thought as she reached for another pad to bone up on the rest of the assignments.

She had been reading for three hours when the buzzing of her intercom startled her back to reality. "Chapel here."

"Christine. It is dinnertime. I was wondering if you would like to eat in the lounge? Unless you've made other plans, of course." The humor was rich in his voice.

"Funny, Spock. I'll meet you in a minute?" She marked her place in the personnel info and joined him in the shared hallway.

"I guess everyone's gone?" The workers stayed at the shipyards not on the ship. Christine tried not to dwell on how much she really didn't like an empty ship.

"It unnerves you, doesn't it?" He looked at her pointedly as they entered the turbolift.

"I like having people around."

"If I remember our lesson on Extrovert versus Introvert, you *need* to have people around."

She smiled. "Ok, I *need* to have them around. But you'll do in a pinch."

He gave her a half-smile as they exited the lift and walked to the lounge. Set at the very front of deck 3 it was an extensive room, curving around the front of the ship with a bar and replicators at the back. Viewports all around the rounded walls showed the shipyards and beyond them black space littered with stars. Christine smiled as she realized she had expected them to twinkle in the dust free vacuum. I always do, even after all these years, she thought. She looked around the now finished lounge. "Every time I come in here I marvel at what an amazing room this is, Spock. What a great idea to put crew space at the very front of the ship."

He looked at her in surprise. "Aesthetically pleasing but somewhat vulnerable during an attack."

"People aren't going to be here during yellow or red alerts," she argued. "They'll go to the mess halls. They're safer and more conveniently located. But during off hours, I think you'll be surprised at how popular this place becomes. At some point in time most of the species that will be stationed on this ship will want, no *need* to see out, to see the stars." She grinned at him.

"You no doubt are correct," he agreed blandly as he ordered his meal. Seconds later a typical Vulcan dinner appeared. He moved aside to let her place her order.

She stood for a moment trying to decide what she was hungry for. She saw him glance at her speculatively.

"Is there a problem?"

"No. I just don't happen to order the same thing every single night."

His look was surprised. "I do not eat the *same* thing every night."

"Damn close to it," she shot back as she narrowed down her choices. Japanese that's what she wanted. "Yaki soba, unagi maki, and some edamame. With plenty of soy sauce and wasabi. Oh and green tea, hot." She took her food and followed Spock to a table far enough back from the viewports that they could both see out. They ate in silence for a while, often staring out into space.

"What are the green vegetables?" Spock's voice was a surprise. He did not normally talk during a meal.

"Edamame. Soybeans. Try one."

He took the pod and followed her lead in using his mouth to squeeze out the beans. "An unusual sensation. The outside is covered with fuzz and has a salty flavor, the beans inside are quite delicious."

She smiled. "And good for you. Lots of protein. Important for vegetarians. Have some more."

He nodded as he dished a helping onto his plate. "I shall add this to my replicator list." He pointed to the rice roll. "And that, is that good for vegetarians?"

She shook her head as she bit into the sushi. "Nope. This has eel in it. But there are vegetarian versions. Ask for cucumber roll, which is quite good. I can't believe you went to school in San Francisco and don't know about sushi?"

"I did not like the sound of it. Raw fish." His look was grim. "Eel?"

She gave him an evil grin. "Smoked eel, not raw. And don't look so horrified. I told you before I'm a carnivore. Get over it."

He nodded in resignation and returned to his meal. When they finished, Christine took her tray to the recycler and got some coffee to supplement the tea. As she sat back down at their table she was surprised to see a small package sitting at her place. She picked it up, admiring the lovely paper wrapping that appeared to have no fasteners other than intricate folds.

"It is from Vulcan."

"So I gathered." She looked at him searchingly. "What's the occasion. It's not my birthday."

"Consider it a house-warming gift." Spock looked amused. "Or quarters-warming anyway."

She carefully removed the wrapping and found an even lovelier box. Opening it she saw a graceful figurine, carved in sandy-colored stone. A goddess? "Spock?"

"She is T'Janra. In the ancient days of Vulcan she was the primary female deity. Although she is no longer worshipped it is considered *fortuitous* to have her in one's house. Especially for women."

"Good luck, you mean," Christine asked with amusement.

"If you insist." Spock looked at her fondly. "It was my grandmother's, and her mother's before that. They have passed on to the ancestors and my mother has a T'Janra of her own so when I asked her to find me a statue of the goddess for you she sent this one. There are no other females in the line that would want it so it is mine to do with as I wish. And I wish for you to have her. I believe you will give her the appreciation she deserves."

"I don't know what to say."

"Say *thank you* and find her a place among her fellow deities, Christine." His gaze was warm.

"She's beautiful. I'm a bit overwhelmed." She stroked the lovely statue. Then her eyes met his. She gave him a happy smile. "Thank you, Spock."

"You are welcome. Now I believe we both have personnel files to continue going through?"

They rose together and left the lounge. Christine groaned. "I know I should be grateful that Starfleet is giving us so much latitude in choosing our own senior staff but I'll be glad when we're finally finished. The information is all starting to run together."

"But not for your medical contingent? I imagine you took care of that first."

She laughed as they found the turbolift and rode it back to their hallway. "You know me too well."

As he turned to enter his own office his voice was serene. "I am beginning to, Christine."


Christine didn't finish reading the personnel reports and making notes on her preferences for several hours. When she finally rose from her chair her back protested the long hours of sitting. She debated going down to the gym but decided to take a walk around the nearly completed diplomatic areas instead. "Deck 3," she told the lift.

Nearest to the lift was the special diplomatic transporter room. It was larger than the normal rooms, but smaller than her medical one. There was an overflow area that would take arrivals away from the pads to meet and greet the Federation representatives. The walls were covered with expensive dark silk wallpaper, gold braid, Federation banners, flags, and anything else the designers could think that would make this room seem utterly impressive.

Christine climbed up on the transporter pad. As she turned to face the room she closed her eyes then opened them slowly and took it all in from the vantage point of a guest. Yes, this would make quite the impression. Ignoring the stairs she hopped off the platform and hurried out of the room, heading off down the hall. Even the hallways on this section of the deck were fancy, covered with the same dark wallpaper and bearing the flags or insignia of all the member planets of the Federation. The effect was both beautiful and regal.

She passed the catering rooms and entered a door several meters down from the transporter. It was a small reception room. It could be fitted with a table for formal dinners or used as an open space for small gatherings. The decorating theme from the hallway carried in here and was even more beautiful for in place of the flags and banners hung works of art from all corners of the Federation. Subtly lit, they looked rich against the dark backdrop of the walls.

"Computer, open partition one."

"Yes, Christine."

She started at hearing her first name. "Computer, state parameters for informal address."

"You are designated Doctor Chapel, except when you are alone and then you are to be called Christine."

So literal, she sighed. "Rewrite parameters, Computer. Use of informal address, for all crewmembers, is to be limited to when they are alone *and* in their own quarters. Understood?"

"Understood. Rewriting parameters for informal address. Does this overwrite the commands of those crewmembers that do not wish any form of informal address while alone and in their quarters."

She sighed. Perhaps she had created a monster. "No. Default is formal address at all times. Only if a crewmember gives you permission for informal address will you use it."

"Understood, Doctor Chapel. Opening partition one."

The wall dissolved and the room suddenly doubled in size. Any medium size reception could be held in here. "Open partition two."

"Opening." Again the far wall dissolved and the room became larger still.

"Open partition three," she ordered.

"Opening." The room went from where she stood all the way to the aft viewports that made up the far wall of the now immense space. We could hold an interstellar cotillion in here and still have room for twister, she laughed.

"Impressive, is it not?" Spock's voice was close to her ear. She had not even heard him come up.

"It really is. Did you pick the décor?"

"No. I was busy building an airplane out of refuse with you when that was done. But I approve completely of the scheme they have chosen." He moved to stand next to her.

"When I first got here I wondered why we had so many storage rooms, now I understand."

"Yes, tables for dinners, seating for private conversations, other types of seating for musical events or for signing ceremonies."

"Amazing. And the greenhouse and hydroponics area. Flowers of all types and rows of potted palms and other trees for natural dividers. I must admit, I love that area of the ship."

"As do I. I find it restful to sit there."

She smiled at him. "Me too."

He ordered the computer to close the partitions and led her out of the space and past various meeting rooms on the other side of the hallway. These rooms could also expand if necessary.

They entered the turbolift. "Deck 2, forward" he requested. They got off and turned to the large doors facing the forward end of the ship. "I believe this is not quite finished," he explained, "But I would like to see how far they have progressed."

The doors whooshed open and they found themselves in an area similar to the crew lounge one floor below them. It was the VIP observation deck. A place where visitors could go for solitude or for private meetings or simply to watch the stars stream by. It was clear that the room was unfinished but it was already well on its way to being a beautiful space.

"It's lovely. Too bad it is reserved for guests."

"That was one of the first things I thought when I initially saw it. It is a perfect spot for meditation."

"Or for a party." She waited for his annoyed glance, was not disappointed. She chuckled out loud as she led him out the door and back down the hall.

They passed several doors then Spock stopped at the next bank of rooms. "Have you seen the VIP quarters, Doctor?"

"They weren't finished last time I looked in." She palmed open the door and gasped at the luxury in the room. "Wow are they all like this?" Ornate but comfortable furniture, beautiful objects and art, and viewports all down one wall. She walked into the bathroom and stopped at the sunken tub. "Ok that does it, I'm changing rooms."

Spock's eyes danced. "This furniture will soon be back in storage. They were just testing the transporters today. There are a variety of levels of grandeur this and the other VIP rooms can take on depending on the importance of the visitor. Several of the rooms can be configured to support species that need special environments to survive."

She allowed him to gesture her out. The door closed behind her. "Most impressive, but I still want that bathtub."

"Sorry, Doctor. The luxury is for guests." He stopped at her doorway.

"Figures. This is my stop. I'll see you tomorrow, Spock."

"Indeed Christine. Sleep well." He turned and continued down the hall to his own quarters.

She stepped into her quarters and took a good look around. And laughed. She might not have a sunken tub but these rooms--and she was thrilled to have more than one--were enormous, and comfortable. She had never had it so good, she thought as she went into the bathroom to get ready for bed.


They met up after breakfast in his ready room. The wall screen was blank but would soon be filled with holostills of their choices for the senior staff positions. Christine took a seat at the table across from Spock. "Where do you want to start?"

"Medical. What are your recommendations?"

"I've decided that the Medical Department would best be divided up into four sections. General Sickbay, the Biomed Lab, Infectious Diseases, and Disaster Relief. For Head of Sickbay and general medical operations I'd like to propose Dr. Delynn Carpenter. She's a first rate doctor and an excellent administrator. And she has a great interest in serving on this ship." She saw him nodding and continued, "I think that we should give that a high priority if our candidates actually want to work in this mission area. Not everyone will."

"Agreed. What is Doctor Carpenter's rank?"

"Lt. Commander." She watched as Spock accessed the appropriate file. Carpenter's image with the title stamped underneath, was the first on the large screen.

"For the Biomed Lab, I didn't agree with any of Starfleet's choices. I believe Dr. Leon Redmoon to be one of the best candidates and he seemed extremely interested in the position when I talked to him yesterday. He is currently dean of the biomed department at Starfleet Medical, which is probably why they didn't offer him up. But he is ready to get back into real practice. He's a civilian on contract, but if necessary will accept a commission for the duration."

"I am willing to make the argument for civilians on this ship. I have one in the diplomatic ranks that I would like to take advantage of as well. If we must we will have them commissioned, but I do not believe it is necessary." Spock accessed the pad again and Redmoon's image joined Carpenter's.

"For Infectious Diseases I agree with Starfleet on their primary recommendation. Dr. Candace Moorehouse is one of the finest specialists in the Federation. And she is intensely interested in the position here. She is a commander." Christine waited for her image to pop up on the screen. "For Disaster Relief, I want to go with one of Starfleet's choices, and a woman I worked with closely while I was in charge of Emergency Operations, Lt. Commander Renata Farrell."

"She is not a doctor?"

"No. But that won't matter. She's been working in the field for a long time and she knows as much, if not more, about disaster relief operations than any doctor I know, including myself. I want her here, Spock."

"Very well, Doctor." He added her image to the group. "How do you plan to staff the rest of the medical department."

"I am willing to let each of my section chiefs staff their own areas from Starfleet's recommendation. I noted for them the people that I felt would be an asset. I am interested to see if they go with my recommendations or not. It will give me an idea what to expect from them during our mission."

"You would be within you rights as CMO to insist that they honor your suggestions."

She nodded slowly. "Yes, as CMO I would. And if CMO were all I had to be on this ship, I'd take a more active role. But I also have to be first officer, so I will need a strong command team in medical. I'll be there to help, to get them supplies, to do whatever they need. But I won't be running the day to day ops of that department, not if I am also responsible for answering to you on the day to day running of the ship."

"Logical." He sat back. "I am faced with a similar situation for Diplomatic. I have decided to go the same route with key sections within my department. For the Protocol section, I have selected Commander Stephen Penhallon. I have worked with him before and he is impeccable in his understanding of the ins and outs of diplomatic functions and negotiations." Christine nodded agreement and Penhallon's image appeared with the others. "For Research and Legal I should like to suggest a young Vulcan civilian I recently worked with. His name is Sovar and he has worked for my father for some time." Again Christine nodded and the Vulcan's image joined the group.

Spock sat back and steepled his fingers. "I have debated whether Catering and Entertainment should be a subsection under Protocol or a section itself. I have decided to go the latter route and believe that one of the Federation's current specialists in this area, Lt. Umachi Ritsuko, would make an excellent addition to the staff." Ritsuko's face and name popped up on the screen. "For Linguistics and Culture I see the best fit being Lt. Commander Andrew Troi. He has enormous experience at both first contact and membership negotiations." Troi's holo joined the others.

Christine thought about the way Spock had his department organized. "What are you going to do about Diplomatic Security?"

"Yes, a quandary. I believe it would best be served by having the cadre drawn from the Special Ops forces and not from a separate unit in and of itself."

She nodded agreement. "Makes sense. But choosing the Special Ops head looks like the most difficult choice of them all."

"Yes. On the one hand, a mission such as this will bore a leader that lives for action. And if we get involved in peacekeeping that can be frustrating for a commander. But on the other we do not want someone who plans to use this post as a last tour before retirement."

"I've eliminated many of the names for all of those reasons. I have about six viable candidates, but I keep coming back to one man. Lt. Colonel Randall...

"...Kerr," Spock finished for her. "Yes he is my choice as well." The face appeared on the screen. "Do you agree that we leave it up to him to staff his contingent of marine special forces and guards?"

"Yes. I think we might want to give him ship's security too. Give his department more to do and keep it all in one place?"

Spock nodded agreement.

She scrolled through her pad for the next group of appointments. "The remaining positions are likely to be the most difficult, Spock."

He nodded. "Would you like to take a break before we continue?"

She shook her head. "No. Let's just get this done."

"As you wish. Do you have any strong preference for Tactical?"

"Honestly, no. I'm willing to accept Starfleet's recs for that."

"As am I. I believe their first choice, Lt. Myrax Thra, is the best choice." At Christine's nod he put Myrax's image with the rest. "For Engineering I would like to propose a Lt. Commander Ron Kettering. I worked with him several times during the initial overtures to the Klingon government. He is currently deputy chief Engineer on the Lomax."

Christine supported this choice wholeheartedly. "I met Kettering at a conference. He seems like an excellent choice." Once the man's image appeared, she spoke before Spock could continue. "I do have a preference for Science Officer." His eyebrow rose but he said nothing. "Lt. Nevara Kavall. She is an outstanding physicist. She was working on one of our main relief ships when I was in EO. I found her to be an officer of enormous potential."

"I have met Lt. Kavall. I concur that she is an outstanding officer. But perhaps a bit junior for this assignment?"

"She's only junior because she didn't enroll in the Academy till after she had worked for several science foundations. She was a consultant for us long before she became regular Starfleet."

"As you say, she is exemplary, but I must admit I prefer Lt. Commander Torville Sallett."

Christine thought back to her few meetings with Sallett. "He's good. I'll give you that. But I think Kavall has more experience with this sort of mission. And her specialty is physics whereas Sallett's is biochem. I believe with a ship full of Medical personnel we've got the biochem covered."

Spock was silent for a moment. Then he met her eyes. "Logical. And impassioned, as I have come to expect of you. Is Kavall a friend?"

Christine smiled, "I'm her mentor."

Spock's expression seemed bitter to her. "A complicated relationship, that between mentor and protégé. One I understand but have had limited success with. Despite that, I will honor your desire to help this young woman."

"Thank you." As Kavall's image appeared on the screen, Chapel remembered back to Spock's two protégés. Saavik had done well in the Academy and continued to excel as an officer in the fleet. Valeris on the other hand. Certainly every Starfleet officer knew her name, although this level of infamy was probably not the effect she had been going for when she first set out on the road to treason. Christine knew there was more to Spock's relationship with Valeris than just one of mentoring. But she would let it go. It was in the past and she could afford to ignore it. For now.

Gods she was tired of this, Christine realized. "I have no strong preferences for the remaining positions. If you are satisfied with Starfleet's recommendations then I propose we accept them for Helm, Navigation, and Communications."

Spock looked at his notes. "Yes I concur for those positions. Lt. Saldusta for Communications. Lt. Mark Kimble for Helm, and Lt. Kenara Sabuti for Navigation." The three faces popped up, completing the screen. "Engineering positions I will leave to the discretion of Commander Kettering. Other ship's positions we will defer to Starfleet Command." He looked at her for concurrence. At her nod he sent their selections on to Starfleet.

Christine tried to stifle a yawn but failed. She leaned back against the chair's headrest. "Well Captain. We have a ship, and now we are on our way to having a crew. When do you think Starfleet will concur?"

"Hopefully within a few days. Then we can get the Department heads busy on their own crew selections. I believe we could have the senior staff assembled as early as two weeks from now. The rest of the crew should be on board in another two weeks. The launching ceremony is set for 6 weeks from today."

Christine listened to the silence of the nearly empty ship around them. "Hard to believe that 350 people will soon be roaming these halls."

"I'd prefer it if they were working as well." His eyes lightened the comment. "But yes, I admit to some nostalgia already for the quiet time we are enjoying now." He rose and walked to the view port. "We are about to make history."

"Funny, I thought you'd already done that." She smiled at him as he glanced back at her. "First Vulcan in Starfleet. Melded with V'Ger. Died a hero. Reborn a legend. One of the saviors of Earth. An architect of the Klingon-Federation peace. And now this." Her smile turned into a grin. "Quite a legacy, Captain Spock."

"I suppose if I were given to vanity..."

"Which you're not."

"Which I'm not. I would say that you are extremely lucky to be serving with me."

She laughed out loud. "And I'd say it was humans like me that saved your sorry ass and got you where you are today." At his faux outraged look she continued, "If you were given to vanity that is."

"Well it is fortunate for us both that I am not."

"Yes," she said as she rose and walked to the door, "it is. Damned fortunate. See you at dinner?"

"Of course. The crew lounge or the mess hall?"

Christine knew her expression was devilish. "Let's be bad, Spock. Let's eat in the VIP Observation Lounge."

He shook his head hopelessly at her but she noticed he did not say no.


The new crew stood before her, assembled in straight, correct lines like a cadet review. She mentally reviewed what she needed to go over with them. Policies, procedures, assignments, then she would introduce Spock as their new captain. She looked out over the ranks and smiled. Some smiled back. Others seemed slightly embarrassed. One near the front started laughing.

"Ensign," she barked in her best Starfleet drill instructor voice. "Is there something funny?"

"Sir, yes sir." The young man replied, still trying to contain his amusement.

"And that would be?"

"Well, sir, ummm," he was fighting to keep his eyes up. "Is that the uniform we will all be expected to wear?"

Puzzled Christine looked down to check her dress uniform. Was there a stain on it? She was lax sometimes about making sure it was spotless. When her eyes met bare skin she felt an instant flush. She looked out over the crowd and saw they were all laughing now.

BZZZZZZ. Christine sat up with a start. "Alarm off."

"Yes, Christine."

"Shit." She hadn't had the naked dream since her MD orals at Starfleet Medical. "Lights." She pulled herself out of bed and stumbled into the shower. As the warm water hit her skin she began to feel human again. Four of the new senior staff were arriving today on the incoming shuttle. She knew she was a little nervous about meeting the first of the crew. More nervous, apparently, than she had realized. Her subconscious reserved the naked dream for only really big stressors.

Toweling off she pulled on an everyday uniform and dried her hair, tucking it up into a neat bun. Before she had made it to the door most of it had fallen out of the clips. Should just cut you all off, she threatened the wayward strands as she went back into the bathroom to spray it into place. Someday it would grow out from her last disastrous attempt at short hair and she would not have to go through this every morning. Someday could not come too soon.

She checked the chrono. The shuttle would be here in fifteen minutes. She had time for a quick breakfast so she dialed up some food from the replicator in her cabin. Senior officers all had that luxury on this ship. The rest of the crew still had to face the mess halls if they wanted to eat. Christine had heard rumors that Starfleet was toying with the idea of having replicators in every sleeping area. Would certainly save time, she thought, as she hurried through her toast and cereal.

She found Spock waiting for her at the shuttle docking port. "Doctor."

"Captain." She heard the familiar clink of the moorings being settled and the shuttle door opened.

The first person off was the head of infectious diseases. She stopped to stand in front of them, made a smart salute, and asked Spock, "Permission to come aboard, Sir?"

Spock returned the salute. "Permission granted, Commander Moorehouse."

As they all exchanged the requisite pleasantries, Christine studied the doctor. The fit black female in front of her was in her early 50's, a mother of two, married to the head of Starfleet Legal. Christine knew her by reputation mainly; they had never worked together enough to become friends. Moorehouse had logged an astounding amount of hours with plagues and epidemics. She had worked on four vaccines, and had sole credit for two. She had also discovered the first successful treatment of Barlian Plague. From what Christine had heard, the commander was tender with patients and matter of fact with co-workers. But she had been popular with those who served under her. She never asked more of her staff than she was willing to give.

Moorehouse moved to stand beyond them and the next person took her place. The young Vulcan who would be head of research and legal looked entirely at ease as he nodded to her then spoke to Spock. "Sovar. Reporting for duty, Sir." He was a typical Vulcan, dark hair, black eyes, tawny complexion. Next to Spock's grizzled face he looked like a baby.

"Welcome aboard, Sovar." Spock's voice was of course no warmer for his fellow Vulcan than it had been for the doctor.

Christine felt a huge smile cross her face as the next person came to stand in front of them. Lt. Commander Renata Farrell, new head of disaster relief, saluted both of them before intoning the ritual request for access. She looked much the same as Christine remembered her. Blonde hair pinned up in a precise bun, uniform as pristine as the moment she had put it on, posture perfectly Starfleet. Only her answering grin, which she was trying unsuccessfully to quash, gave away her true personality. Farrell's tiny form had led her to be nicknamed Pixie in the Academy. People at first glance saw only the exceptionally attractive female and often treated her protectively. Farrell hated it and made sure that nobody underestimated her twice. The slight frame hid a strength and tenacity that consistently left Christine in awe. . She was also envious of Farrell's ability to swear. She almost laughed out loud at the memory of the last ensign that had thought Farrell was too little to be a problem for him. There would no doubt be more of them on this ship. And more romantic conquests. Christine decided that every male at one time or another had been in love with her. And not an insignificant number of the females, which Farrell preferred.

Her friend joined Moorehouse and Sovar. The last officer stepped onto the Carter. Lt. Umachi Ritsuko was no taller than Farrell and had to look up as she returned her new commanding officers' salutes. "Permission to come aboard, Sir?" Her voice still held a trace of her Japanese origin. Christine had little information about her other than what was in her file and she was looking forward to getting to know the young woman.

"Permission granted." Spock nodded pleasantly as he engaged his new head of catering and entertainment in conversation.

Christine glanced over at Farrell. Just as she had suspected her friend was looking at the newcomer with interest. It was a joke between them that Renata could have her next girlfriend picked out before her shuttle had even docked. Nice to know nothing had changed.

As Ritsuko took her place with the others, Spock turned to them. "Welcome aboard your ship. As head of diplomatic I shall show Lt. Ritsuko and Mr. Sovar to their offices and quarters. Dr. Moorehouse and Commander Farrell, you will go with Commander Chapel. I look forward to working with all of you."

He's getting better, Christine thought, as she led the two women down to deck 6 for a quick tour. Then they took the lift down a level to infectious diseases section. "Dr. Moorehouse, this is your area. There are offices all around the sides. The largest one is in the back."

They both followed Moorehouse around as she expected her new domain. Christine almost expected her to bring out the white glove. She felt relieved when the other woman turned back to them, a large smile transforming her normally serious face. "This is amazing. Have you seen all the things they've included."

Christine felt an answering grin on her face as she led them on a quick tour of the rest of the deck finally stopping at Farrell s space.

Farrell turned to Christine with the same awed smile that Moorehouse had worn. "They didn't forget anything. I never expected something this ummm..."

"Perfect." Moorhouse finished for her. For a moment the three women enjoyed the feeling of getting to know their new ship and each other. Then Christine led them up to deck 2.

"Senior officer's quarters are all on this deck."

"So much for privacy," Farrell muttered.

Christine laughed. "That was what I thought but look," she led them up and down the deck, to which Starfleet had added numerous halls running off the main one and joining some secondary halls. The intricate layout meant that no more than two quarters opened on to any one hallway. "Privacy after all."

"Wow." Moorehouse said as the doors to her quarters opened. Her quarters were exceptionally roomy and pleasant. She saw that her bags and cartons had been brought on board while they were touring the medical decks and smiled. "I like efficiency."

Christine laughed. "Well I'll leave you to unpack then? I know you've finished your crew selections so let's meet in three hours to go over that and get it back to Starfleet for approval." As she led Farrell back out she saw that Moorehouse had already broken into her first carton. She really does like efficiency, Christine laughed to herself.

Farrell's quarters were around two corners. Similarly appointed she too had cartons and satchels waiting to be unpacked. As the doors closed both women lost their rigidity and fell into a hug.

"God I've missed you, Chris." Farrell's voice was muffled in Chapel's chest. "But why are you still so damned tall?"

Christine laughed out loud. "Just one of the many reasons we would never work out."

"Well that and the fact that you aren't willing to try me." Farrell waggled her eyebrows suggestively. This was an old joke between them. "So serving with the old heartthrob, huh? How is that working out?" Farrell unpacked as she listened.

"Amazingly well. We complement each other." No way in hell was she going to confide that there might be something more going on with Spock. Not yet anyway. But she knew if anything did happen, Renata would be the first one she told. "So what about that Lt. Ritsuko?"

Farrell scowled at her. "Oh Christine. Most unprofessional. I am a career officer. I would never look at a fellow crewmember in that way."

"Yeah, well, the first part was true anyway. So how do you know she'll be interested?"

Farrell laughed. "How do you know she won't."

Christine got up and held her hands out in surrender. "I bow to your greater experience in these matters. And I know if you do get her she won't know what hit her, Commander Smooth."

"Well that's better than Pixie, I guess. Do you want me at the meeting with Moorehouse?"

"No. Why don't we meet a couple hours before dinner?"

Farrell nodded. "Sounds good. Go get to work, Commander. Oh and by the way congratulations on the promotion. And the posting. It's about damn time."

Christine laughed again. "Thanks. On all counts. First Officer...it's a little overwhelming but I'm enjoying it."

"You'll do great." Farrell's supportive smile was totally sincere.

"I have missed you, Ren." The two women grinned at each other for a moment before Christine turned and returned to the bridge.


Christine sat up groggily as the alarm sounded. "Alarm off," she mumbled. The sound continued. She tried again, louder. "Alarm off, damn it all!"

This time the computer heard her. "Yes, Christine."

It cannot be time to get up already, she thought. She looked at the chrono. It was time to get up. She thought back and remembered that Renata and she had stayed up half the night talking and laughing and getting reacquainted. She had a flash of many bottles scattered around her main room. Well maybe there was another reason she felt so bad. She got up and held her head. She hadn't had a hangover for so long. She must have been really looped last night to have forgotten to take the antitox. She gingerly made her way to the replicator and requested the counteractive agent. Deciding she couldn't face food until the shot took effect, she headed for the shower. The water felt good and she spent longer than usual underneath the strong warm stream. The warning buzzer that her allotment was nearly over went off long before she was ready to get out.

It took her three tries to get her hair up in a manner remotely resembling regulation. By the time she pulled on a uniform there was no time to do anything but hurry to the shuttle port to welcome the next load of senior crew. Well, she thought optimistically, at least I'm still in too much pain to be nervous.

She rounded the corner and saw Spock waiting for her, with something approaching a frown on his face. She barely got into place when the door started to open.

"Late night, Christine?" he hissed as the first person stepped through the door.

Bastard, she thought. Don't leave me any time to get a snappy retort out. Not that she was actually in any shape for one of those. The best she could probably come up with at this point was "go to hell" and that would hardly be a smart thing to say to her Captain just as the new head of Engineering was coming aboard.

Lt. Commander Ron Kettering saluted them both. "Permission to come aboard, Sir?"

"Permission granted," Spock replied.

Kettering was a slightly built human in his late forties. Christine recalled what Spock had said about him. They had first met on the Lomax during the negotiations with the Klingon government. Kettering had sought Spock out to tell him he was a friend and protégé of Scotty's. His mentor had always spoken so highly of the Vulcan that Kettering had been eager to meet him. They had become friends during the long missions. Kettering had admitted to Spock that Scotty had always intimidated him and how he had feared that he would never be more than a "miracle worker in training." Spock had called Kettering one of the most even-tempered humans he had ever met. He had also mentioned that he was looking forward to resuming the perpetual cribbage match he and the engineer had used to pass some of the hours. Looking at the engineer Christine could see a confident but not a cocky man. She had a good feeling about him. And that was important since their lives would often be in his hands.

The next person to stand in front of them exuded power. Marine Lt. Colonel Randall Kerr, looked every inch the special forces career officer he was. He was not especially tall but the bulk of him made her feel small, which was no small feat. With muscles everywhere, he looked capable of fighting his way single-handedly out of a group of Klingons. According to the reports that she and Spock had read on him his mind and personality were as formidable as his physique. His salute was perfect and his request to come aboard did not sound like an empty ritual. He appeared to be the perfect choice for commander of the small group of special operations forces the Carter would carry.

The next being to come aboard was totally exotic. Communications Officer Lt. Saldusta was half human and half Qamaljr'n. Her mother hailed from Qamaljr, a mostly ocean world and recent member of the Federation. Her father had been one of the first Starfleet officers to visit the planet. The lieutenant was quite striking with her mix of Latino coloring and iridescent green-blue scales. She looked like the women Christine had seen once during a Carnival celebration in Rio all tan skin and beautiful colors sewn, glued, or painted on. But she knew that the lieutenant was more than just decorative, from all reports Saldusta's heritage gave her an exceptional ability at multitasking, especially with incoming comms. From a young age she had been used to receiving a variety of signals underwater and sorting them out.

As Christine studied her she saw a small amount of vapor escape upwards from a large silver torque around Saldusta's neck. Having read the woman's medical files to make sure that no special accommodation would be needed, Christine had discovered that a great deal of genetic tinkering had insured that this first child of a Human-Qamaljr'n mating would be able to exist on both her home worlds. She could breathe air for an unlimited period, but it tended to be too dry and she would become hoarse without additional humidity. The choker was actually an advanced humidifier that pulled moisture out of the air and delivered it to her in the form of cool vapor.

Christine saw Saldusta smile at Spock but was surprised to find the young woman's eyes grow cold when they landed on her. So you don't like me already, she thought. It wasn't surprising really. Saldusta's mother had abandoned her at age five. Qamaljr'n parents did not stay joined or with their young much past weaning. Staying for five years with her young daughter and the human she had mated with had been a major concession on the female's part. But Christine was sure that Saldusta did not see it that way. Even though she had spent many of her formative years on her home planet, and had followed the Qamaljr'n custom of combining her parent's names into one for her maturity, she had never forgiven her mother for abandoning her. The psych report that Christine had been sent *after* they had decided to bring Saldusta on board had been quite forthcoming about her issues. Starfleet had wanted this woman on this ship and by all accounts she was a talented officer, but Christine did not look forward to the fight that was undoubtedly going to happen between them. As Saldusta continued to look at her distantly, Christine kept her own expression carefully bland and friendly. Not yet little one, she thought with irritation. And certainly not here. But soon.

Helmsman Lt. Mark Kimble took Saldusta's place. He was so much the alien's opposite that Christine felt as if a fresh breeze had just blown through the area. Handsome, young, and endearingly earnest, she almost expected to hear him say 'Aw shucks, ma'am.' His humble and friendly air was belied by his efficiency reports. He was reportedly one of the finest young pilots in Starfleet. She gave him a warm smile as he moved to stand next to Saldusta. She saw the young woman also smile at him. No problem with men, she confirmed. Just with women. And with me especially. This should be interesting.

Head Navigator Lt. Kenara Sabuti was instantly recognizable as one of the daughters of the original Martian colonists. Like all the old families she was an elegant mix of African, Anglo, Asian, and Amerindian blood. When the colonies had been first established the original settlers had kept diligent track of the bloodlines to ensure that the genetic mix did not become weak by too much inbreeding. The result had been a people who were extremely attractive with their balanced blend of features and dark olive complexions. They also tended to be arrogant and held themselves apart from those who had more recently settled on Mars. Sabuti carried herself proudly, but she had reasons other than just being descended from the founding fathers for she had graduated with top honors in navigation at the academy.

The last face was a relief. Lt. Commander Delynn Carpenter stepped up to salute and take her place as director of sickbay. She looked only slightly older than the last time Christine had seen her. It had been just before Carpenter had shipped out for a two-year tour as CMO at Starbase 2. Her dark red hair, pale skin, and enormous gray eyes were a familiar comfort. Carpenter had never been as close personally to Christine as Farrell, but they had worked together for so long that they were incredibly comfortable with each other's methods. Christine knew that of all her officers she would have the least difficulty with Carpenter.

Spock gave the same short welcome as the day before. Christine expected him to take the bridge crew with Kettering and Kerr but he told them to go with her. Saldusta looked extremely put out and made a strange click of disapproval.

Spock turned back to her. His expression was stern. "Do you have a problem, Lieutenant?"

"We serve you, Sir. We are your bridge crew. I would prefer to learn from you."

Self expression isn't one of her problems, Christine thought as she watched Spock's face go colder than she had ever seen it.

"Lieutenant, I am only going to say this once. Commander Chapel is the first officer of this vessel and as such is responsible for the operations on it. All of the operations. Furthermore she is the one that will write your efficiency reports, not I. So if you are trying to ingratiate yourself, I suggest you turn your attention to her. Is there anything that I said that you do not understand?"

Her face had frozen. "No sir."

He turned and walked off, followed closely by his chief engineer and head of special forces.

Vapor hissed around Saldusta's face as she turned to Christine. "I do not like you."

"I never would have guessed," Christine replied, keeping her voice carefully neutral. "We've wasted enough time, let's start the familiarization tour."

She moved off followed by the others, who eagerly asked questions and expressed their admiration for the new ship. Saldusta remained in the back, saying nothing but Christine could feel the woman's eyes fastened on her back. And those eyes were full of hatred. I hope to hell Starfleet knew what they were doing with this one, Christine thought gloomily.


The next day Christine had an early meeting with Spock to go over the remaining arrivals. She was relieved to hear that they had done their last arrival ceremony. The rest of the senior staff would be coming in on separate shuttles.

When the meeting was over they sat for a moment in companionable silence. As Christine rose to leave, Spock surprised her by saying, "I miss it." She turned back, waiting for him to elaborate.

"The quiet of the ship before. I miss that." One of his eyebrows rose in an 'imagine that' way. "I also miss our dinners. We have not had one since the crew started to arrive."

"Well how about tonight?"

He frowned slightly. "I have dinner and cribbage plans with Commander Kettering. I am free tomorrow."

She shook her head. "Get-to-know-you dinner with Dr. Moorehouse. I'm free the next day though."

"As am I. Then it is set. I shall look forward to it."

She smiled at him. "Me too, Spock." She turned again to leave.

"I was displeased by Lt. Saldusta's display."

She looked back at him. "Yes. She was out of line."

"I am not sure that my reprimand will be sufficient to change her attitude. If you wish I will attempt to..."

"No." Christine interrupted without hesitation. "Leave her to me."


Sickbay was awash with lights as Christine met with Dr. Carpenter to go over the rest of the assignments for the section. She had no quarrel with any of Carpenter's picks, and all of her recommendations had been included in the appointments. She sent the list on to Starfleet. "We should get approval later today or tomorrow. Then your staff will start to arrive probably as early as four days from now."

"Can't be too soon for me," Carpenter grinned. "I am dying to get this place up and running. Have you checked out the new diagnostic beds?"

"Yeah. They're something aren't they?"

"Everything on this ship is. Top of the line everywhere you look. I'm in love." They both laughed. "So when is Dr. Redmoon getting in?"

Christine shrugged in frustration. "I'm still *working that out* with Starfleet Medical. They really don't want to lose him. He is pulling some strings on his end too. I'm hoping we see him in a few days, but it could be a week before they let him go."



"Speaking of jerks, what's with that Saldusta person?"

Christine took a deep breath. She wanted to talk to Carpenter about this, but it really wasn't right. Not yet anyway. She has spent her lunch hour reading everything in the files on Saldusta in preparation for an afternoon meeting she had called with the woman. "Oh, she's just settling in."

"Yeah right." Carpenter held her hands up at the look Christine gave her. "Ok, you can't talk about. But if you need another signature on her medical discharge I'll be happy to oblige."

"Thanks but I don't think it will come to that."

"Well you've got more faith than I do," Carpenter said with a knowing look. "That one has psycho written all over her."

"I'll be the judge of that," Christine replied with more assurance than she actually felt.


The door chime rang and Christine took a deep breath. I've just got to channel my inner bitch, she thought encouragingly. "Come."

Saldusta entered, her face sullen. "You wanted to see me."

"I did. Sit down." As she expected, Saldusta remained standing. "I can make it an order if you prefer, Lieutenant." The woman sat down. "I didn't like your attitude yesterday, Lieutenant, and I don't like it now."

Saldusta looked bored as she leaned back in the chair. Her tone was bitter. "So run to your Captain and tell him you don't like me and boot me off the ship."

Christine gave a derisive laugh. "Sweetie, if I want you off this ship I don't need Spock's permission. As CMO I can *boot* you off the Carter any time I damn well please." Christine noted Saldusta's surprise at her supervisor's tone. She felt a momentary pang of guilt for lying--technically, because she served in multiple roles and not just CMO, she needed another medical signature to declare anyone medically incompetent. But Saldusta didn't need to know that.

"Good to know," Saldusta countered, but her voice was just a little less assured.

"From what I've read in your files you seem to have some serious issues. Pain, betrayal, anger."

Saldusta leaned forward, her aqua eyes flashing, her tone mocking. "So here it comes. The part where you turn into nurture woman and tell me how you understand my pain and can help me. Just say it. Come on. You're a woman and so am I, and you can make it all go away." Her anger was tangible.

"Lieutenant, I don't give a rat's ass about your pain. And I don't want to make it all go away. Your pain is your own and if you want to carry it around forever that's your business. But I do care how you do your job. Forget that whole woman to woman crap. We are both officers in this fleet and as such there are certain standards of conduct that are expected." Christine stared unflinchingly at the younger woman, who finally dropped her eyes. Christine waited till Saldusta looked at her again before she continued. "I don't care if you like me. Frankly you may hate me some of the time and that is fine. And I don't ask that you respect me as a person because you don't even know me yet. But I do expect you to work hard, to do your best, and to respect the uniform we both wear. You want to brood and be angry, go ahead. But leave it in your quarters because when you step onto the bridge, or the mess hall, or by god even into the corridor outside your rooms you are representing this fleet and this ship and I expect you to act like the professional I know you are. Is that understood."

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Sir. I prefer Sir. Which should work well for you, Lieutenant. Help you to think of me less as a female authority figure and more as your first officer."

"Yes, Sir."

"Very well, dismissed."

Saldusta sat in the chair, surprise evident on her face. "What?"

Christine looked up at her. She kept her face carefully neutral. "Dismissed, Lieutenant."

Confusion replaced surprise. "But we haven't resolved anything? Don't you want to talk?"

"Not particularly. If there are things to be resolved, I'll leave that up to you, Lieutenant. I have nothing to work out."

"But you hate me."

Christine frowned. "I don't even know you, Saldusta. How could I hate or like you? And frankly it doesn't matter how I feel about you as long as you do your job to the best of your abilities and comport yourself to the credit of this ship. I know that you are reportedly one of the best communications officer in the fleet. Now go demonstrate that. Dismissed."

Christine dropped her head and picked up a pad, pretending to work. She heard Saldusta's mumbled "Yes, Sir," and out of the corner of her eye saw the lieutenant get up and walk to the door. She waited for the sound of the door opening but Saldusta had stopped to look back. Christine could hear the soft hiss of her vapor being released but other than that there was no sound. She resisted the urge to look up but could imagine the bemusement that the lieutenant must be feeling. Finally the door opened and closed behind the communications officer.

Christine leaned back in her chair. It had been hard not to reach out to Saldusta but her gut instinct told her that the best course was the one she had taken. Saldusta was in no shape to receive help. In fact it just might be like sticking one's hand into the tiger's cage. Not smart for the one who wants to help, and it would just irritate the tiger.


That night Christine spent a pleasant evening with Carpenter and Farrell in the crew lounge. It was good to be among friends again. She had known that having Farrell aboard would mean that a confidant and support would be there for her, but she was beginning to believe that Carpenter would also prove to be more than just an excellent work ally. And Carpenter and Farrell were hitting it off well too. Just so long as we don't make too tight a clique, she realized. As first officer she couldn't afford to appear to favor any of her officers to the detriment of the others.

They talked and laughed for several hours then finally rose to take their trays to the recycler. As she turned to the door she nearly ran into Kimble and Saldusta coming in for their own meal. The younger officers pulled up sharply to avoid running into their first officer.

"Ma'am, excuse us, Ma'am." Kimble was clearly mortified at the near collision.

"She prefers Sir," Saldusta offered in a voice that Christine had not heard her use before. It sounded almost helpful.

"Good memory, Lieutenant." She offered in a neutral voice, then couldn't resist giving her a conspiratorial smile. Saldusta did not smile back, but her eyes were amused.

"My mistake ma...Sir." Kimble tried to recover from his faux pas.

"At ease, Kimble. You didn't know. We have our one-on-one tomorrow and I plan to fill you in on all the little things like that."

"Thank you, Sir."

"As you were, Lieutenants." Before she could cause Kimble any more discomfort she stepped around them and joined her patiently waiting friends. As the door closed behind them she felt a big smile threatening.

Carpenter saw it too. "Something happen in there I didn't see?"

"A victory. A very small one. But I think a significant one."

"If you say so," Carpenter said skeptically as they all took the lift up to deck 2 and split up to go to their quarters.

I do say so, Christine thought to herself. Maybe there's hope for that girl yet.


The door chime gently intruded on Christine's work. "Come," she said in a distracted voice.

"Is this a bad time to report for duty?"

Laughing out loud, she rose from her chair and rushed to hug her visitor. "Nevara, I didn't think you were coming for another two days?"

"I got an early release." She pulled away and snapping to formal posture saluted Christine briskly. "Science Officer Nevara Kavall reporting for duty. Permission to come aboard, Sir?"

Christine returned the salute, "Permission granted, Lieutenant." Christine studied her protégé for a moment. Nevara would never have a face that most people would deem traditionally beautiful but she was so full of life that nearly everyone she met was immediately drawn to her. Even in uniform and at attention she seemed on the verge of grinning madly. Christine could feel her mood lightening just from her presence. "At ease, Lieutenant. Sit down and tell me how things have been going?"

As Kavall filled her in she couldn't help but compare this boisterous woman with the grief-stricken one she had first met. Married only a few months, Kavall had lost her husband to an accident caused by an ion-storm a few weeks before Christine took the job at Emergency Operations. Kavall had been assigned to her section and Christine had felt instant compassion for the woman. Her experience with Roger Korby had allowed her to empathize with the ensign, and she had taken her under her wing. It didn't happen overnight but eventually her friend had found her footing again. They had remained close and Christine had taken an active interest in Kavall's career.

After they finished catching up, Christine took her out to meet the rest of the bridge crew who were just finishing up their shift. Saldusta was testing the comms system with a tech back at Starfleet Command so Christine walked to where Kimble and Sabuti were familiarizing themselves with their panels. "Lieutenants, this is Lieutenant Nevara Kavall, our new Science Officer."

They exchanged pleasantries, Kimble contributing most of them. Sabuti still seemed aloof. Christine heard Saldusta cutting her connections and led Kavall over to her.

"Saldusta?" Kavall shocked Christine by launching herself at the communications officer, who shocked her even more by shrieking in delight and holding on tight to Kavall.

"I see you two know each other?" Christine could not remember her friend ever mentioning the other woman.

Kavall chuckled. "Know each other? We were only roommates for our entire time at the Academy." She looked at Saldusta, puzzlement clear on her face. "You disappeared. I left messages. I thought something had happened? But then I saw you made lieutenant too?"

Saldusta looked over at Christine as if weighing how much she would say in front of her. "I had some problems. I'll tell you some of it later."

Kavall nodded. "Absolutely you will. God, this is so great. I've missed you so much."

Saldusta's eyes gleamed. "I've missed you too."

Christine didn't feel like breaking up their happy reunion. "I was just going to take Lieutenant Kavall on a tour of the ship and show her where her quarters are. But perhaps you'd like to take care of that for me, Lieutenant?"

"But I'm still on duty?"

"Do I need to make that an order, Lieutenant?"

Saldusta stood up quickly. "No, Sir." She led Kavall formally to the lift, but Christine could hear them break into excited chatter as soon as the doors closed.

Interesting, she mused. Very interesting.


Christine was discussing crew shifts with Spock when his office door chimed. "Come," he instructed.

The new arrival filled the door, literally. Spock rose and Christine followed suit.

Ducking slightly to accommodate her height, the female Manean saluted as she reported in for duty as Tactical Officer. "Lt. Myrax Thra requesting permission to come aboard, Sir."

"Permission granted, Lt. Myrax." Spock had to look up to meet the woman's eyes. "Welcome aboard."

"Thank you sir," Myrax replied in a voice that sounded like music. Her face was tranquil and her gestures controlled as she spoke to her new commanding officers. Christine found herself struck by the great dichotomy of the Manean system. Seemingly totally at peace with themselves and their surroundings the Maneans were physically graceful with tall, lean bodies that were only accentuated by the long, white robes favored on Manea. Their skin was alabaster, their eyes a soft golden topaz, and their hair was transparent with an opalescent sheen. They looked otherworldly, perhaps like angels, although Myrax looked less so to Christine in her Starfleet uniform. But she still had that air of serenity. The irony was that there were few cultures more adept at tactical than these seemingly harmless people. Although the Maneans had not had an armed conflict on their planet in historical memory, they were fascinated with war and battle tactics. They studied it and played at it on their virtual playgrounds and they had honed their skills to such an extent that they were welcomed with open arms by Starfleet. Maneans did not normally leave their home world but since their recent Federation membership a few had ventured into the academy. Myrax was one of the first graduates. She was, by all accounts, a first class tactical officer.

Christine gave her a quick tour of the ship. She was impressed by the woman's insightful questions and interest in all of the areas of the ship. She dropped her off at her quarters with instructions to report to the bridge the next day for familiarization and for the first staff meeting.

Christine hurried to her own quarters to change into off duty clothes for her meal with Dr. Moorehouse. She met up with her dinner partner on the way to the turbolift and, after deciding to eat in the mess hall, they traveled to deck 4 together. When they entered the mess it was full of on duty crewmembers, many of whom neither woman knew.

"Didn't expect to see this many people." Moorehouse looked around curiously. "Appear to be NCOs and enlisted."

Christine nodded at several crewmen before replying. "Starfleet is picking most of those. This duty is considered quite a coup I've heard. Rumor is that the fighting to get posted here is quite intense."

"I can see why. This ship is just amazing. I keep waiting to find something I don't like. So far I haven't."

Christine laughed. "I've had a few meals from the replicators that really weren't up to par. Not that I didn't eat them anyway."

"Nothing's that bad," Moorehouse agreed as they ordered their food and found a table. Their conversation quickly shifted to medical talk, Christine found herself fascinated with Moorehouse's missions on the front lines of so many epidemics. The longer the other woman talked the more Christine's respect for her grew. The level of experience the woman had gained and the sheer dedication to her calling left Christine somewhat in awe. She was surprised to learn that they had both been promoted at the same time. The other woman laughed and admitted she was not very political, a fact that had probably kept her from being promoted sooner.

"But I don't care. My rank doesn't matter. It's the job I'm doing and how many people I can help. That's why I'm so pleased to be here."

"And why we're so pleased to have you here," Christine replied as they rose to take their trays to the recycler. As she deposited her tray she noticed Farrell and Ritsuko seated near the wall talking quietly. She considered going over to say hello but they looked very intent on each other's conversation. Deciding to leave it alone, Christine turned and walked with Moorehouse to the lift.

The older woman yawned. "I'm beat. Thank you for dinner, Commander."

"Call me Christine in private, please."

"Very well. And you can call me Commander Moorehouse." She was obviously waiting for Christine's shocked look. "Kidding. Call me Candace. I think it's going to be a true pleasure working with you, Christine."

"I think so too. Sleep well." Christine was not ready to retire yet. She was keyed up and needed to relax. But she didn't really want to do it with people. Then she thought of the perfect place. She waited for another lift to come. "Deck 8." Seconds later she was walking toward the greenhouse. She spoke to the computer to gain access and the doors opened. Less a traditional greenhouse and more a biosphere, the space allotted for raising flowers and ornamental trees and plants was immense. The scent of life and growth wafted toward her as she moved into the space. Technically this room was off limits to most of the crew. But there were benefits to being First Officer. As the doors closed behind her she made her way through the dim light of the biosphere's artificial night to the tropical flower room.

The scent in this area was nearly overpowering. She loved it. Lilies, orchids, frangipani, tuberose, gardenias, anthuriums, birds of paradise, and many other varieties of fragrant and unscented plants filled the space. She allowed herself to just breathe in the warm heady scents for a few minutes.

As she stood she became aware of a faint sound. Music. She followed it, winding around palms and fig trees, past ferns and ivies and other plants. She recognized the instrument as a harp but could not determine the exact location. She went through the evergreens, the resinous sharp scents of cypress, fir, juniper, and sandalwood further relaxing her.

Finally, in the rose garden, she found him. He sat on one of the benches, eyes closed as he plucked at the strings of his Vulcan harp. Not wanting to disturb him she turned to leave.

"Stay." His eyes did not open. Nor did his fingers falter.

She sank soundlessly down to the mossy grass that covered the areas between the rows of roses. At this level the smell was nearly intoxicating. She relaxed and cradled her chin in her hands, listening to him play. She watched his fingers move, delicately drawing out the lovely melody. The burnished wood of the harp caught glimmers of the low light and reflected it back to her. She felt the extra energy begin to drain away. She folded her arms under her chin and just relaxed in the sound and the smells.

The next thing she knew Spock's hand was gently shaking her awake. "Christine. As pleasant as this location is, I believe your room will be a better place for prolonged slumber."

"I fell asleep?" She did not feel any embarrassment as he helped her up and they headed to the door.

"Indeed. You made quite a fetching picture lying there among the roses. At least until you began to snore."

She made a sound of disbelief. "I do not snore."

"I suppose you do not drool, either?"

She wiped her chin hastily. "Of course not."

The door locked behind them. As they entered the lift she glanced over at him to find that he was already looking at her. Their eyes held for a long moment until the turbolift released them.

Spock stopped in the hallway their quarters shared. "I look forward to dinner, tomorrow. Sleep well, Christine."

"You too, Spock." She turned and entered her quarters. As the door was closing she could have sworn she heard him say, "Try not to snore."


Christine looked at her chrono. It had been about an hour since she had introduced Myrax to the rest of the bridge crew and left her to settle in at tactical. She grabbed the five pads she had prepared earlier and headed out. Five heads looked up and turned to watch her door opened. She took a moment to enjoy the sight of the bridge fully staffed. From her vantage point in the right rear of the area she could see the entire space. Just in front of her was Kavall at the science station. To the left of that was the tactical station with Myrax, and to the left of that Saldusta at comms. In front of them on the lower level were the now empty Captain and First Officer's chairs. And just ahead of those were Kimble at helm and Sabuti at navigation. The auxiliary stations rimming the room were silent and dark. She glanced to her left past the turbo lift to the door to Spock's ready room. Should she invite him to this first meeting? He had not said he wanted to be present. And it was probably better if he was absent. It would reinforce her authority.

She smiled at her crew. "I'll give you a choice for our first meeting. We can hold it here or in my office. In the future we'll have to hold them in my office, but this time we might want to enjoy having this bridge, this ship, completely in our hands? It won't last much longer."

She saw Kimble and Kavall nod. Myrax smiled beatifically, which Christine wasn't sure how to take. I almost prefer Saldusta's expressions she thought ruefully. At least they're unequivocal. The woman in question was watching her blandly, apparently content to hold the meeting wherever the majority ruled. Sabuti seemed to care even less. Her patrician features conveyed no emotion whatever except the faint disdain they always seemed to hold. I hope you are one hell of a navigator, Christine thought, because you certainly aren't going to win any personality awards.

"Ok, then we do it here." She moved around to stand on the stairs, leaning a hip against the large railing. "First, let me say again welcome aboard." She let her gaze travel to each of the young faces looking back at her. "This is a new ship with a brand new mission. She's going to make history and we're going to be the ones to help her do it. I'm proud to be here, and I'm proud to have you here. Captain Spock and I chose you because you all came with the highest recommendations from Starfleet Command. We chose you because we wouldn't settle for less than excellence in our senior staff."

She moved down the stairs and started handing out pads. "And we expect you to settle from no less from the junior members of your departments. In these pads are the final appointments to the backup bridge positions. They'll be arriving over the next few weeks. I expect you to work with them, train them, show them around, make them feel welcome, and be a mentor to them. These are your departments and I expect you to run them. If there is a problem in your section you'll be the person I seek out for the explanation." She looked around sternly for a moment, then relaxed her expression. "That doesn't mean you are alone in this. I'm here to help you. With any problems you run into that you are unsure of, or that you just need another head working on, I'm here for you." She smiled at them. "I don't believe in that old "no bad news" paradigm. You can come to me with real issues, real problems. I won't solve them for you, but I'll do my best to help you fix them." She looked around the room. Five pairs of eyes were watching her intently. "Any questions?"

Kimble raised his hand. "There's a rumor going around that the launching will be moved up a week? Is that true?"

Christine nodded, "Yes. Starfleet is moving it up because another ship has been scheduled to launch at the same time and they want the brass to only make one trip. We go first because this other ship is more important."

Kavall sounded incredulous, "More important than the Carter?"

Christine nodded, "Hard as it may be to believe, yes." They all looked outraged, she laughed. "You'll understand when you see which ship it is. As it is, we have even less time to get ready. Three weeks from today and we'll be having our pre-launch reception. The next day we are out of here. Finally. I don't know about you but I'm pretty damn eager to get this puppy into space and see what she's capable of."

More hands went up and she answered questions about the crew compliment, authorities of senior staff, and finally questions about the Captain. She did her best to give them some tips they would need to perform well for Spock, but in the end cut off their questions.

"Captain Spock would be disappointed in me if I scripted your interactions with him. He is a believer in infinite diversity in infinite combinations. He doesn't want a cookie cutter bridge crew. He wants *you,* all of you, doing the best job you possibly can. So just let things unfold naturally."

"And get to know each other. Take some time to learn things about the person who sits next to you. You're going to be depending on one another for a lot of things, including possibly making the right decision in a life and death situation. And if that doesn't convince you, then let me tell you the knowledge will also come in very handy if you are paired together in a team building class, which you just might be if you really piss me or the Captain off."

Saldusta broke first as she tried to choke back a giggle. You've probably been to the same class we were at, Christine thought. The rest of her staff broke into soft laughter.

Spock chose that moment to walk out of his ready room. The laughter died immediately. He raised an eyebrow at Christine. "Sorry to disturb your meeting, Commander."

"Perhaps you can reinforce something I was saying, Captain. On the order of punishments where do you think team building training falls."

His answer was instantaneous, "Not so bad as court-martial, but definitely worse than being flogged."

Several eyes widened.

His expression became very stern. "See that you do not earn such dire correction." He shot a quick glance at Christine, who was trying not to laugh. "Carry on, Commander."

As the attention turned back to Christine, she smiled innocently. "See. A perfectly reasonable man."

Four faces stared back at her as if they were not sure whether to laugh or run for the lift. Saldusta however just shook her head in disgust...feigned disgust, for she could not quite hide an amused smirk.

"Ok," Christine turned serious again. "Back to business. We need to schedule the drills and readiness reviews, and we need to make sure we're not running into conflicts with other sections." For the next hour, they planned the time left to them in spacedock. She was pleased to see all the staff taking part. Even Sabuti warmed up when her area of expertise was involved. Christine felt a rush of pride in the group they had assembled. Their final task was to schedule private meetings with Christine to discuss performance expectations and other issues specific to their sections. Once she had each one scheduled in her pad she left them to their work.


Christine was almost off shift when Spock stopped by her office.

"I'm going down to meet with Colonel Kerr. Would you care to accompany me?"

"Sure. Have his people started to report?"

"Yes, and I think it is a good idea that we go down before they become too isolated."

"So are we gonna wave the flag or pee in the corners?"

He looked at her in dismay. "You do say the most appalling things sometimes." He seemed lost in thought for a moment. "Why in the corners?"

"Just a figure of speech."

"A human one no doubt."

She nodded in mock defeat as the lift deposited them on deck 9. The forward half of the deck was dedicated to security and special forces. They saw a number of marines in the corridor. All of them nodded politely as they went about their business.

Christine stopped for a moment to peek into the physical training area. Several crewmen were training in hand to hand combat. They were extremely skilled as they tried to force the other off balance and into a mistake. Two other marines walked by with kendo swords. Christine felt safer already. She also couldn't help but appreciate the work that had gone into sculpting the bodies in this room.


She turned back to Spock who was waiting for her at the door to Kerr's office. "Coming. Sorry."

Kerr rose smartly as soon as they entered. "Captain, Commander. I'm happy to see you down here."

Spock replied smoothly, "Your department is critical to the success and safety of this ship. We would be most remiss to not see your section as it comes together."

Kerr nodded. "And it is coming together nicely. I appreciate the opportunity you gave me, letting me put together my own team. Never had that luxury before. Always had to mold what I wanted out of something that wasn't quite ready to become that. But this time, you'll have the best security and special forces team in the fleet. I guarantee it."

Christine smiled. "I believe that. I was just watching in the gym. Your men look ready for anything that's thrown at them."

"I think they are, or they will be in a few weeks. This type of mission can be very hard on morale for soldiers of this temperament. Standing guard, working security shifts, and especially peacekeeping wear on men and women used to action. So it is good that this ship provides as many outlets as possible for them to work off some of that energy. In addition to the gym there is a holo-reality room that allows the user to put on a special uniform and become part of the action in a holoshow. It is a technology still in its infancy but is already incredibly useful for simulations and other training."

Kerr stopped in front of double doors and spoke to the computer for access. The doors opened onto an extensive armory.

"Impressive." Christine looked around in awe.

"Everything we could ever need seems to be here."

He led them back out and down to the forward end of the hall. A lounge similar to the one on the deck 3 was filled with marines. The music was loud, poker games were in full swing, several billiards tables and dart boards were in use, and some sort of game involving beer, yelling, and metal discs was underway in the far corner. The closest marine looked up, saw Christine and Spock and jumped to his feet yelling loud enough for all to hear, "Captain on the deck."

Everything stopped as the entire lounge came to order.

Wow, Christine thought. That's amazing. And they didn't spill a single beer.

"As you were." The men relaxed at Spock's voice. "My first officer and I wished to welcome you all aboard. I trust you are finding the amenities sufficient." Good-humored laughter erupted. Spock turned to Christine, silently indicating she should say something.

She smiled as she looked at the various games. "I can tell you that I'm a little jealous. All they've got on the second floor is a very small dance floor."

Her words were met with immediate calls of "You're always welcome here, Commander," and "Join us anytime, Sir."

She laughed. "I just might." Word traveled fast if they already knew to call her 'Sir.' She met Spock's gaze, saw his approval of her breezy rapport.

Kerr was also smiling at her as they turned toward the door. "You've just made some very important conquests, Commander. If you actually show up to play they'll follow you into a mutara-class nebula."

"I'll remember that, Colonel."

"We'll leave you to your evening, Colonel. It was a pleasure touring your area." Spock motioned Christine ahead of him and followed her out.

"Impressive group of soldiers." She offered once they were in the lift.

"Yes. Their presence will be invaluable to us." He led her to her quarters. "Christine would you mind if we ate dinner in?"


"In my quarters. Or yours. It has been a long day. I do not particularly wish to spend more of it a crowded mess or lounge."

"Ok. Give me a few minutes to change?"

He walked to his door, called back, "Come down whenever you are ready."


She rang the chime and heard Spock's invitation as the door opened. He had changed into a robe and stood at an antique Vulcan beverage cabinet. He was pouring a dark liquid into two glasses.

"If that's what I think it is you are going to make me one happy woman, Spock."

He handed her a glass. "It is a Guinness. Since you introduced me to it I have enjoyed it several times. I made sure that plenty was ordered for ship's stores."

"And they say Vulcans don't know how to show a girl a good time." She took a long swallow. "I hope you put the recipe in the replicator too." At his nod, she smiled and moved around to sink into his couch. "This is a great couch. I want a couch like this. My couch is awful compared to this." She stretched out and felt the cushions envelope her. "Oh this is wonderful. Napping would be obscenely comfortable on this." She sat back up and looked more closely at the couch. "I didn't realize that Vulcans made furniture like this. It doesn't have the ascetic lines I associate with Vulcan craftsmanship."

He sat across from her in a chair that sank around him. "That's because it is not Vulcan. It's Deltan."

"You have Deltan furniture?" She looked at him as he relaxed into the chair. "How do you meditate on something this comfortable?"

"I don't. I use a meditation mat, or the ritual bench. I relax on this furniture. And...sometimes nap."

"No. Spock? You nap? Why you're just full of surprises."

He chose only to nod and drink his stout.

"Speaking of surprises, the crew already has heard that launch has been moved up."

"Yes, Sovar asked me about it this morning."

"I told the bridge crew. It's the new target date so we might as well start planning for it."

"I'll send a shipwide comm out tomorrow."

She sipped her drink. "Are you sorry you won't be there, at the other event?"

"In a way. It is an historic occasion. Perhaps more so than the launching of the Carter. I cannot decide."

"Hard to choose."

"It will be hard for him too. He is so recently retired. It was I think easier for him when his ship was retired also. But now to commission a new one. And then to invite him to the ceremony. I think it will be difficult."

Christine smiled at Spock. "But he'll never let on."

"No. He will persevere in the way only he can."

"You miss him."

Spock nodded. "I do. So much of my life has been intertwined with his. He was my closest friend."


He looked up at her in confusion.

"You said *was.*"

"I did?"


He shook his head as his brow furrowed. "Curious. I do not know why."

Christine laughed as she rose. "Well I do. You're tired and you're hungry, Captain Spock. Let me cook you up something wonderful." She walked to the replicator. "What do you want?"

"Order Vulcan meal number 4 variation 12."

"You really are scary, Spock," she said as she placed his order. When it arrived she carried the tray over to him. Then she returned and ordered a simple meal of soup and salad and carried it back to the couch.

"Are you sick?"

She refused to rise to the bait. "No."

"Perhaps I should call Dr. Carpenter? I've never seen you eat so little."

She glared at him. "Knock it off, Spock, or you're going to be wearing this soup."

"A frightening prospect," he replied.

They finished their meal in silence. Spock rose and took the trays to the recycler.

He opened another stout and poured some into her glass before refilling his own. "Do you ever miss them?"

"Of course I do. I miss Len the most I think. He was a surrogate doting father and terrible big brother all rolled into one. But somehow, on this ship, it is hard to miss him or the others too much." She searched for the right words. "We have a whole new crew of eager young officers and experienced senior officers. All of whom want to be here. We have a mission that has the potential to make a difference in the ways we care about most. It's hard not to be excited about that."

"Eloquently stated. And the crew does appear to be coming together. I noticed when I interrupted your staff meeting that Lieutenant Saldusta seemed much less tense than before. What did you do?"

Christine laughed. "Oh we just have an understanding. I don't know how far I'll get with her on a personal level but I think we can work together now without killing each other."

"A fortunate thing," he noted with a twinkle in his otherwise tired eyes.

"Is Commander Troi still arriving tomorrow?"

"He is. But Commander Penhallon will not be here till the day of the reception. When will your team be complete?"

"I think Redmoon can get away at the end of the week. I've been holding off having a medical staff meeting till he arrived. Oh and if you don't mind I'd like to have Nevara attend my staff meetings."

"That is acceptable. I plan to have Colonel Kerr attend the diplomatic meetings. Cross pollination among the sections should prove beneficial." He seemed about to go on when he noticed Christine in the middle of a large yawn. "You are tired. We should retire."

She looked at him startled.

His gaze was amused. "Separately."

"I knew that." She smiled and rose from the couch. "Thank you for dinner, Spock. I enjoyed it."

"As did I." He rose and walked her to the door. "Sleep well, Christine."

"You too."


Christine spent the next day holding her one-on-ones with the bridge staff. When she was done she felt like she knew Kimble and Myrax much better. Her time with Kavall was more catch up than anything else. But her meetings with Sabuti and Saldusta had been forced. Getting information from either of those two is like pulling teeth, she thought as she leaned back in her chair.

The communicator on her desk sounded. It was Spock, wondering if she wanted to meet Lt. Commander Troi. She hurried down to the transporter pad. "Nice that they are finally using these. So much more convenient than the shuttles."

"But much more dangerous if something goes wrong."

She rolled her eyes. "I know. I'm glad they were cautious with them. But I still am relieved to finally have fully operational transporters."

The young lieutenant on duty looked up. "Commander Troi is ready to beam over, Sirs."


The familiar hum filled the room as the transporter revealed a tall, smiling man. "Lt. Commander Andrew Troi reporting for duty, Sir."

"Welcome aboard, Commander. I do not believe you have met Commander Chapel? She is First Officer."

"A pleasure to serve with you, Commander."

"And with you too, Commander." She nodded her head politely. "Well I'll let you go. I believe Captain Spock wants to begin your familiarization tour."

"That sounds wonderful. But Commander, I was supposed to tell you that another gentleman was right behind me just before I cleared the shuttle arrival area. He asked me to give you a message if I saw you. 'Redmoon is on his way.' I trust you know the chap?"

The lieutenant interjected. "Commander? I have him here now. Requesting permission to beam aboard."

Chapel smiled. "By all means, Lieutenant. Beam him over."

"Yes, Ma'am. I mean sir, Sir."

The transporter hummed again and Redmoon appeared. The scowl on his face was intense. "Damn bureaucrats. Deliberately delayed my authorizations getting transferred. Just because I wanted to leave a little earlier than they thought was proper. Petty, small-minded men." He stopped ranting for a moment to stop in front of Spock and Christine.

Spock did not react to the man's tirade. "Doctor Redmoon, it is a pleasure to have you aboard. I am Captain Spock and this is Commander Chapel."

"Very good to finally meet you both in person. You would not believe what I have been through trying to get here."

Christine laughed. "That's over now, Doctor. I think you can relax."

He chuckled with her. "That's a relief."

Spock gestured to Troi. "This is Lt. Commander Andrew Troi, head of linguistics and culture. Commander Troi, may I present Dr. Leon Redmoon, head of the biomed laboratory."

The two men exchanged greetings and then Spock left with Troi. Christine turned back to Redmoon. "Your things will be beamed over separately. Would you like a tour of the ship?" When he nodded she led him off down the hall on the now familiar route she had come up with. A half hour and many steps later they stopped at the lab.

"Now that you're here we can really get started. I've been holding off doing anything other than crew selections because I wanted us to all start on the same page. I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to catch up quickly though. I'll need your lab assignments by shift's start tomorrow."

He smiled and handed her a pad. "I had plenty of time cooling my heels in various stages of this journey. I think you'll find all my selections complete."

She grinned as she took the pad. "Time management skills, excellent."

"It was that or kill someone."

"Well I'm glad you chose the former." They looked around the lab for a few minutes then she indicated they should move on. "You can come back here later. For now I want to show you to your quarters. It's possible your bags may have arrived already."

He shook his head in denial. "No, I think they were probably routed to the Neutral Zone after the fuss I made getting here."

"We'll see."

When they opened the door to his quarters his personal effects were piled neatly in the front room. "Wow, efficiency. I like that."

"I think you'll have a much better experience now that you are on board the Carter, Doctor."

"I think you may be right." He sat down on the bed, the stress of his journey making him suddenly look exhausted.

"Well I'll leave you to unpack and rest. Don't worry about the doing anything official today. Tomorrow at shift's start we'll be having a staff meeting. It will be in the conference room across from sickbay. Welcome aboard, Doctor."

"Thank you, Commander."


"So Dr. Redmoon finally made it?" Farrell leaned forward in a 'give me the dirt' stance.

"He did. He had a long journey. He was tired. You'll see him at staff meeting tomorrow."

Farrell sat back with a sigh. "You are no fun."

"I don't have anything to tell you about him, Ren. Besides, why are you so interested? Things not going well with Umachi?"

"I'll have you know Lt. Ritsuko and I are hitting it off quite well. So no, I haven't suddenly gone hetero. I'm interested for you. He's considered a *very* eligible bachelor you know?"

"For me?"

"Just a thought. You won't be his CO forever."

Christine laughed at her friend's exuberance. She couldn't blame the other woman. She didn't know about the way things were going with Spock. "I'll bear that in mind."


She wandered the halls. Despite her dinner with Farrell she was still keyed up, full of nervous energy. She decided to go down to deck 5 to see if the lap pool the techs had promised would be ready for use actually was. The lift deposited her near the gym and she walked through it to get to the pool. There was no one exercising right now. She was willing to wager that down on deck 9 there would be plenty of marines to work out with.

The pool was indeed operational. It was a long, rather narrow space, intended to accommodate swimmers in three lanes. Christine was about to go the changing room to order a suit when she realized that someone was in the pool already, swimming quickly underwater, not even breaking the surface to breathe. Of course, she realized, Saldusta. The woman was moving so fast that it was difficult to track her. She was incredibly graceful. Christine tried to imagine what it would be like to move like that in water.

A splash brought her back from her reverie. Saldusta was climbing out of the pool, her face transformed with the sheer joy of swimming. Christine drew back a bit so she would not disturb the other woman who headed straight for the changing room. Not wanting to be caught loitering when Saldusta came back out, Christine turned and headed out the door to the gym. She hurried across the still empty space and walked to the turbolift. "Deck 9," she said without even thinking about it.

The special forces lounge was jammed when she walked in. Several of the nearest marines looked startled to see her there. She just smiled and walked over to one of the pool tables. A major she remembered from her visit with Spock was playing with a captain. They both came to attention. She waved them down.

"I just came to watch, maybe to play. You guys said any time."

The captain handed Christine her cue and smiled. "He's killing me anyway, good luck, Commander."

Christine felt a pang of regret, "I didn't mean to chase her away."

"You didn't, Sir. She has an...umm...friend that just came in a few minutes ago. She's been dying for an excuse to abandon me."

"Well in that case, it's alright, Major...?"

"Collins. Jeff Collins." He started to collect the balls. "I'll just rack them up again so we can start fresh. Any preference for game?"

"There's one where you set the balls up at the start into a diamond shape."

"You mean nine-ball."

"That must be it. Can we play that?"

"I don't know. It's pretty fast. Sometimes eight-ball is better for a beginner."

She smiled innocently. "Oh I think I want to play nine-ball."

"Ok, Sir. But don't say I didn't warn you." He gestured. "Why don't you go ahead and break. Now you have to hit the balls in order. You can hit others in as long as you hit the correct ball first. Game ends when the nine ball goes in either at the end of the game, or off the target ball. So to start you aim for the one ball, at the top of the rack."

"Hit the one first. Ok."

Three shots later, as she sunk the nine off the four and smiled evilly, Collins could only shake his head. "Why am I suddenly very glad we aren't playing for latinum, Sir."

Christine just laughed as she racked the balls up for him. "The night's young, Major."

"Not that young, Sir. No way I'm betting you at this. You'll take me to the cleaners. You want to play someone worthy, you take on Captain Munro. He's really good."

She grinned, "I'll remember that, Collins. Now how about we have us a friendly little latinum-free tournament. Say, best of nine?"



By the time the game was done a group of spectators had gathered. The one named Munro was watching her and grinning. "Commander, I hope I get the chance to play you. I think you'll find it challenging."

She nodded as she helped Collins put the cues away. "Not tonight, Captain. But someday." She turned back to the group that had been watching. "Ladies, gentleman, I want to thank you for making me feel so welcome." She headed for the doors, calls of 'come back anytime' and 'don't be a stranger' following after her.


The next day started with meetings. Christine officially gathered her medical staff together for the first time. Then she popped in on each of their department meetings, taking the time to welcome the new members of the medical crew. She also stopped into Spock's diplomatic meeting at his request.

The rest of the week was filled with drills and practices. They ran the ship through numerous simulations, working out any bugs that they could while still in spacedock. Spock sent the bridge crew down to engineering to work with Kettering on some emergency drills. Christine had Kimble take one of the shuttles out to test some modifications Starfleet had made to this newest generation of small craft.

Each discrepancy found, every bug fixed, and each problem reported was sent back to Starfleet Command for review. So far nothing had been a showstopper. The launch would go forward as planned in five days.

Christine and Spock sat in her office planning the details of the launch reception. Both Ritsuko and Sovar, sitting in for the still absent Penhallon, attended. The new head of catering would be stuck with most of the actions but seemed to take all their requests in stride. Christine already knew from Renata that the Lieutenant was quite easy going personally and she was glad to see that this mellowness extended into her business life as well.

When they all had the details ironed out, the junior officers rose. Christine waited for the door to close before she turned back to Spock and said, "I'd like to propose another function. One that could take place before the formal reception."

"Go on."

"This crew is very compartmentalized. I'm not sure I like it, but I don't see a way around it due to the nature of this mission."

Spock nodded. "I have been noticing that too. I take it you have a solution."

"Not a solution exactly. But maybe a step in the right direction. We should have an open house. Combine getting to know each other personally and professionally."

"How would it work?"

"Each department has unique food and drink. People move around to try new things and meet their colleagues in other sections of the ship."

Spock considered the idea for a few moments. "It sounds like an excellent plan. My one worry is that it will be too close to the launch and get in the way of preparations for that."

She handed him a pad. "That's why I'm proposing this for tomorrow. I have all the details laid out here and the ship-wide message ready to go."

He looked amused. "And if I had said no?"

She shrugged, "Then, I wouldn't have handed you the pad. I take it you're not saying no?"

"It is a good idea. See to it. And perhaps we should tour this open house together as a show of unity?"

"You're just chicken and don't want to go alone," she teased.

"That is not true. But if you prefer that interpretation, there is nothing I can do to stop you from believing it."

"Whatever, Spock. I'll be happy to go with you. Unity is a good thing." She rose and headed for the door unable to resist making a few chicken sounds as the door opened. His glare was the perfect reward.


The crew had embraced the open house idea. Since she had sent the memo out she had seen officers and enlisted crew scurrying all over the ship, rooting out party supplies. Some were even making displays for the visitors to see what work would be done in the section.

Christine helped the bridge crew with their preparations. They had discussed doing an exotic food spread based on the various cultures of the officers that served the area but in the end had decided that the bridge area needed to be free of messy food and drink. Nobody wanted to see brand new instrumentation damaged by spilled Qamaljr'n ale or Manean pizza. So after much debate they had decided on tea cookies.

Kavall laid out the cookies. "We are going to have the lamest food of anyone."

Sabuti, who was helping her, replied, "Yes but we have the Bridge. Who cares about the food."

"True." Christine laughed from a ladder as she secured a streamer. "How does that look?"

Saldusta looked up from her post where she was still working with the two junior communications officers. "You are a bit low on your end." When Christine pulled it up an inch or so she nodded. "Fine."

Kimble walked in with a stack of napkins. "You were right, Commander, the marines had plenty."

Christine looked down, "Where's Lieutenant Myrax?"

Kimble looked sheepish. "I left her engaged in a professional conversation."

Christine groaned. "She found the holo-reality room, didn't she? We'll never see her again."

"I'm afraid so, Sir. But she has to come back. The marines said they were going to close down the h-r system for the duration of the open house. Said the equipment was too delicate to be subjected to all those visitors. I expect she'll show up soon, along with the other shifts of our crew." His look was amused as he watched her finish tying off a streamer. "Can I help you?"

She climbed off the ladder. "Nope. I'm all done. And just in time," she laughed as Spock came out of his office.

"Are you ready, Commander?"

She brushed off her uniform. "I am, Sir." After stowing the ladder in its place in one of the bridge storage units she joined him at the lift.


The open house was a huge success. The halls were crowded with crewmembers getting to know one another. The party rooms were filled with food and drink, and crew talking, laughing, and otherwise celebrating the impending launch of their mission. Periodically Spock and Christine would return to the bridge to be available to visiting crewmembers. Then they would leave again for another section.

Finally as the night was winding down, they found themselves in the marine lounge. Christine had been back several times since that first visit alone and she was hailed by Captain Munro and Major Collins as she walked in with Spock. She led the Vulcan over to the billiards table and greeted the two marines. Then she turned devilishly to Spock, "Why don't you have a game with Captain Munro?"

Munro looked at her with horror. "You want me to play *him?*"

Taken aback by his words she replied hotly. "Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Munro?"

"Yes sir. That's Spock. *The* Spock." At her lack of comprehension he went on in reverent tones. "He has an entire table named for him at Olive's. He's a legend. No way I'm even worthy to rack up the balls for him."

Christine turned to Spock. "Something you forgot to tell me?"

Spock sighed. "It is a long story."

She leaned on the table. "And a fascinating one I'm sure."

"As you know my father opposed my decision to attend Starfleet Academy. He did not try to stop me from physically leaving Vulcan, but he did cut me off financially. I was on Earth with no access to a fortune I had become accustomed to having at my disposal. Although the Academy provided many items, I still could not afford all the things I needed. I became quite desperate and heard about a game based primarily on geometry and physics. I went to Olive's and started playing, finding that I had an affinity for the game..." He trailed off.

Munro snorted. "An affinity? He was unbeaten for four years."

Spock shook his head modestly, "I had skill but it was caused by need rather than any great love of the game."

Christine thought the way he was eyeing the table somewhat contradicted his last statement but decided to let it go. She saw Farrell and Ritsuko come into the lounge and waved at them as they went off to the dance floor. She also saw Kavall and Dr. Redmoon enter together. She had thought that they had struck up a very quick rapport at her staff meeting. She smiled at them, hoping that Farrell would abandon any thoughts of pairing the doctor with her.

She turned back to Spock. "So if Munro won't play you, how about me?"

"I do not believe so."

Once again, very much under her breath, she made the chicken sound. Spock heard it as she knew he would. "Very well, Commander. What game do you prefer?"

Munro and Collins answered at once. "Nine ball."

Christine laughed. "But we can play whatever you are most comfortable with."

He shook his head. "I played straight pool. It is not to most people's taste. Eight ball will be acceptable."

Christine thanked the goddesses that she wouldn't have to play straight pool. Was there a more boring game in all creation? "I'll rack." She moved the balls into position then moved off, watching Spock prepare for the break.

Whack. An extremely solid hit turned the tight triangle she had made into a mass of projectiles. The eight ball in the middle of the pack moved directly toward a pocket. Thump.

She stood stunned. "Well that was fast."

"Fortune only," he replied as he moved to rack them for her. "Best of three?"

She grinned at Collins and Munro, "Now who's being hustled?"

They nodded. Munro grinned at her, "Sorry, Commander, but my latinum is on him."

"Traitor," she hissed as she broke the balls. The six and four dropped in. "Solids." She dropped two more balls before she had to quit.

Spock studied the table for a moment. He lined up a shot that made no sense.

What the hell is he doing, she wondered, as he shot the cue ball past the twelve. The white orb hit the side wall hard and veered right to collide with the thirteen that then split the fifteen and nine. All three balls fell into pockets. The cue ball came to rest directly behind the eleven.

Holy shit, she thought. She looked over at Munro, who shrugged in an 'I told you so,' gesture. "Nice shot, Spock."

"Thank you." He was already lining up the shot. A gentle hit directed the ball into the side pocket. Perfect back english spun the cue ball six inches behind where it had originally started. The next balls fell in just as easily. Christine never stood a chance. As the eight ball went in Spock handed his cue to Collins. "I think that is enough pool, don't you, Commander?"

"I'd say so." She gave Munro her stick and followed Spock out of the lounge. As they entered the turbolift for the bridge she grumbled. "Remind me never to play you for latinum."

"Or anything else that you do not wish to lose."

She glanced at him surprised. He was looking back at her in perfect innocence. "You are a bad man, Spock."

He gave her a half smile. "And why do I believe that you like that?"

She shrugged in her best devil-may-care way. "I guess you've got my number."

"Your number for what?"

As the lift doors opened, her laughter echoed through the now empty bridge. Kimble and Sabuti were cleaning up the cookies. Christine grabbed one and handed another to Spock, who bit into the sweet morsel without compunction.

"Go on, Lieutenants. We'll finish this up."

Sabuti looked scandalized. "Don't be absurd. We will clean up. You must go."

Kimble laughed as he carried some used napkins to the small recycler near the lift. "And it's not like there is a whole lot to clean up. Go on. Get out of here, Sirs."

Christine looked at Spock, who merely raised an eyebrow. They got back on the lift and rode it down a level to their rooms. "Do you want to come in for a while?" Christine asked him.

Spock gave her a long look. "Yes. I do. But I think I will have to turn down the pleasure of your company in favor of some work and sleep."

She nodded. "Ok." As he walked away she called after him. "It's a good ship, Spock. And a good crew."

As he reached his door he looked down the short hall at her. "The best. Good night, Christine."

She smiled. "Sleep well."


The days remaining before the reception passed in a whirl of activity. Spock spent more time on the bridge with the crew, getting to know them and letting them get to know him. Christine treated him with a blend of respect and good-natured teasing. His easy acceptance of this seemed to relax the staff.

By the time the Starfleet brass started to arrive the Carter was as ready for launch as she was going to be. Christine and Spock took turns welcoming Admirals and Captains aboard and showing them to their temporary quarters. The catering crew was working overtime in the reception hall, which they had opened to its full extent. Everything was in order.

Christine waited for Spock in the hall. She gently tugged at her dress uniform. It fit her perfectly but she still felt uncomfortable in it. Better get used to it, she chided. A diplomatic mission would require frequent wearing of the formal outfit. She gave one last pull as Spock joined her and they headed down to the reception.


Three hours later Christine didn't think she could distinguish one Starfleet VIP from another. Her brain was overflowing with the names and roles of all the people she had met tonight. She watched Spock standing near the corner easily conversing with several admirals. And they say I'm the extrovert, she thought in amusement. She walked over to the punchbowl to refill her glass she saw a new officer approaching her. A handsome new officer.

"Commander Chapel?" When she turned he smiled warmly at her and extended his hand, holding hers longer than necessary. "Commander Stephen Penhallon."

"Of course, Commander." She extricated her hand. Maybe not so handsome. She considered the practiced smile on his slightly lined face, the forced twinkle in his green eyes. "A pleasure to have you aboard."

"A pleasure to be aboard. I have served with Captain Spock before. Always a rewarding experience. But I must admit you are something of an unknown quantity. I know your credentials of course, most impressive. But the woman behind them...I am looking forward to getting to know her."

Was he hitting on her? Technically he could. As a member of diplomatic he reported directly to Spock. "I'm sure you'll have plenty of time for that, Commander."

He leaned in closer, "Oh I do hope so, Doctor."

A hand on her arm and a warm voice near her ear was the only warning she had that Spock was standing nearby. Very nearby. "Ah Christine, I see you have met Commander Penhallon." His hand still rested on her arm possessively, a fact that was not lost on the new head of Protocol.

"Indeed, Captain. A pleasure to finally meet our CMO and first officer."

"Yes of course," Spock's voice was pleasant and distant at the same time. He turned to her, "Christine, there is someone I would like you to meet." He looked at Penhallon. "Commander."

"Captain. Doctor." Penhallon had barely finished his good-byes when Spock had pulled her away.

"Spock," she said in a normal tone, "I'm going to keep my voice level so that we don't attract attention. But don't let that fool you into thinking that I am not completely pissed at you. What the hell were you doing?"

His tone was unconcerned. "I told you, there is someone you should meet. And I was rescuing you from a notorious ladies' man."

"Rescuing me?" She pulled him to a stop near a viewport.


"How did you know I wanted to be rescued. Maybe I liked him?"

His expression was confused. "Did you?"

"Well no. But that's not the point. You can't just manhandle me away like that. Don't ever do it again or I *will* raise a bloody scene."

"I am sorry, I just thought..."

She glared at him. "Oh you weren't *thinking* at all, Spock. That was pure impulse and you know it."

"On the contrary, I..."

"Save it, Spock. Just don't do it again, understood?"

He was about to say something more but her stern look stopped him. "Understood," he said.

"Good. Now was there really someone you wanted me to meet?"

"Of course, I would not lie about that."

She shook her head. "No, not about that."


The reception was over. The visiting Starfleet dignitaries had moved their conversations to the observation lounge or were resting comfortably in their quarters. The new senior staff officers had adjourned to 3-Forward as they had started calling the crew lounge or had retired to their quarters. Christine walked Spock to his quarters. At his door, he surprised her by asking her to come in for a while. Once they were inside, Spock settled into his chair. His whole body seemed ready to collapse.

"I'll get us some drinks. You look like shit." She watched as he tried for an admonishing glare and failed utterly. She found a bottle of stout in his cabinet and poured it into two glasses. She handed him one. "God, you really are drained. I had no idea. You looked so comfortable out there. Why did you ever choose this field if these sort of functions leave you so tired?"

He took a long drink of the Guinness. "Because I find the results so rewarding. But being with so many beings is a drain on my resources. And this was especially important to get right. I had to talk to many more people than I normally would have. All the new officers needed to feel at home, to feel welcome. Special attention was called for. And the visiting officials from Starfleet Command needed to be convinced that we were the right team for the job. There was much riding on this."

She stood at the bar, drinking her beer, looking at his back in the chair in front of her. "You should have told me you were worried. That's what I'm here for, to help share the load. You don't have to carry it alone, Spock." She grasped his shoulder, felt him stiffen at her touch then relax. "God you're tense."

"I am not tense, I am simply me."

She peeked around the chair at him. "Is that a joke?"


She handed him her beer. "Hold this. Or better yet put them both down."

He complied then leaned back. "A medical treatment, Doctor?"

"You could say that. When I went back to get my MD they insisted that I was three electives behind. Really pissed me off because they could have counted my experience on the Enterprise, the practical nursing and head nurse responsibilities, if they'd wanted to. So I took the first thing that looked interesting and frivolous just to irritate them." She began to knead his shoulders forcefully.

"Massage therapy?"

"You got it. Touch for credit. But I found I loved it. So I ended up taking the entire series. Figured it would come in handy. I know my boyfriend at the time certainly appreciated it." She pressed hard into a particularly resistant knot. "Does that bother you?"

"Hearing about your boyfriend?"

"The pressure."

"Oh. No. It is intense and somewhat painful but I imagine the result will be worth the discomfort. You have strong hands."

"Mmmm." She worked for a few more minutes. She could feel the tension rolling off him. And her own keyed up feelings after the party were dissipating as she fell into the familiar rhythms of the deep tissue massage. "Did the other bother you, the boyfriend thing I mean?" Did she really just ask that?

"Slightly. But it is illogical to think all this time would have gone by with no man being interested in getting close to you. You are a very beautiful woman." They were both silent for a moment. "I am sorry about tonight...with Commander Penhallon. I will speak to him, to make things right, if you wish it."

She could feel his muscles tense again as made the offer. "Don't be silly, he's a complete Lothario just as you said." She dug in and felt his shoulders again relax. "Just don't do that again. I'm not your property. Not now and not ever. No matter what happens with us in the future."

"Like T'Janra."

She must have misunderstood him. "What?"

"Like T'Janra. At a time when Vulcan was ruled by force, when mates were captured and held tightly as property, T'Janra could only be held by respect, by gentleness, by love. She left all those who tried to force her. Her legend was the basis for the current matriarchy...although it gets a bit confused with the mating rituals and property issues. But it is many times better than it was before."

She didn't say anything just continued her massage. She could tell the point where he completely gave himself over to her hands. A gentle smile curved her lips. Such a contradiction this man was.

"I would not have picked this pairing for myself...but I cannot now imagine a better first officer, Christine. You mean a great deal to me."

She patted his shoulders, urged him out of the chair and turned his shoulders in the direction of his bedroom. "Go to bed, Spock. You're so tired you're raving."

He turned to her, his look earnest.

She shook her head, her smile becoming more tender than even she realized. "Go to bed, Spock. It'll all still be here in the morning. And we have a ship to launch."

"Indeed." He moved to his bedroom, then turned again. "You are much more than I ever imagined, or gave you credit for. I apologize for underestimating you all these years."

"Apology accepted, Spock. Now go lie down before you fall down."

He nodded and disappeared into the bedroom. His voice carried back out to her. "Good night, Christine."

"Sleep well, Spock." Dream of me, she thought mischievously as she left his quarters and made her way to her own rooms. A complicated man indeed. It should prove to be a very interesting mission.