Please Don't Eat the Roses
The new Captain of the Enterprise had read in his orders to his officers, and was touring his ship for the first time in the company of Number One, Christopher Pike's exec. They had started at the bridge and many hours later, were now in the bowels of engineering. Down here, the air was heavier, not recycled as much as on the crew decks. It had a certain unprepossessing odor – smell was more like it - that was associated with ship life. Kirk was used to it.
"Hydroponics," Number One told the turbolift, and turned to her new Captain as the doors opened on that level. "Last stop on this long tour."
"I appreciate your taking the time, Commander," Kirk said. "I realize you delayed your own leave to do so."
"A First Officer's duty, Captain," she said as she let him pass before her through the door. "At least until Mr. Mitchell arrives, I'm at your disposal. And I always show Hydro last, not just because it is buried down here in Engineering, but also because it's particularly welcome after a long review of machinery."
The first thing that reached then, before even the long rows of greenery, was the verdant smells, so at odds with the rest of the ship. Particularly after engineering, it was a welcome scent. Kirk drew in an appreciative breath. "I have to agree. This may become my favorite part of the ship." He smiled. "After the bridge and the observation deck."
"The smell of growing things is a lure. We have a lot of crew visit. Though it is mostly Starfleet standard here, Captain. Enough green things to give the crew the break of a little fresh food occasionally, and to help out the air scrubbers with the carbon dioxide exchange. Our atmospheric and humidity figures are all well within norm."
Kirk's sharp eyes noticed a row of colorful plants. "That's not Starfleet standard."
Number One glanced around. "We do allow certain officers and crew to requisition growing space. Mr. Sulu, your navigator, has a plot. He's quite an amateur gardener, among his many, many other hobbies." Her voice held a long suffering note.
"That many?" Kirk smiled.
"Too many to count," Number One said, amused. "You'll find out about his various exuberances in the course of a five year mission. Mr. Sulu is an enthusiast and always seeks converts to his latest craze. But a good officer." Number One paused as they turned into another section. "And there are others who have requested plots."
"Roses," Kirk said in surprise. "I've never seen so many, on or off a starship."
"It is quite a collection," Number One said, regarding it with a proprietary air. "A long standing one."
"Obviously. But these aren't Starfleet standard issue either. Why are they in the general area? This is a lot of hydro space, for a private crewman's hobby."
"They're considered a crop, not a hobby. It's a long story, Captain, but they're for general crew use. It's all justified under the regs. I'll send you the relevant report if you're concerned."
"They're certainly beautiful roses," Kirk said. "What a fragrance this room has! It might be worth it to see if Scotty can prevent the air scrubbers from eliminating it with the usual ship odors. I wouldn't mind this scent circulating through the ship."
"Starships can be somewhat odiferous, I agree. I'll speak to Mr. Scott."
Kirk breathed deeply and strolled down a row. "Just beautiful. I can see how the crew must enjoy them."
"Some do, at any rate," Number One said with an ironic smile. "And now if you'll follow me, Captain, I'll show you the air scrubbers."
Kirk spared a last look at an exquisite cabbage rose, with blossoms as large as his hand, in shades of pink and gold, freshly bloomed and exquisitely scented. "This garden is a treasure. It ought to be required on every Starship. I will want a look at those regs, Number One, when we get done with this. It deserves a commendation." He smiled privately. "And when my new CMO sees this, he may forgive me at least a little for annexing him for ship duty."
The new CMO in question was not in a forgiving mood, when he beamed in the next day.
"Lt. Commander McCoy, reporting for duty. Captain, sir."
"And in an Enterprise uniform," Kirk grinned. "I seem to recall a certain statement about hell freezing over--"
"I was drafted."
Kirk laughed and gestured him to a seat. "I did everything short of that to get Fleet to assign you to me. I appreciate your taking this post, Bones. I know you're not too comfortable on ships, much less in Star Fleet."
"Living in a tin can, eating reconstituted food, drinking water that's been filtered and refiltered from everything from bathing to you know what, breathing recycled air - what's not to like?"
"Boyce showed you the sickbay before he shoved off? Surely you liked that?"
"He did. He and that tin-plated Vulcan Science officer – who apparently is my boss now. Oh, the sickbay has all the latest bells and whistles, I'll grant you that. Lot's of fancy new gadgets that I'll hopefully never have to use. I'm an old-fashioned country doctor, myself. And on a ship full of healthy adults, most in the prime of life, I'll probably only be using them to patch people up after some hell-brained scheme you've gotten us into."
"Exploring the galaxy is why we're here. I'll do my best to keep us all safe, but there is some risk. And Medicine does fall under the science department, in terms of hierarchy. But as the captain, I'm your boss, Bones."
"Well, when that Vulcan gets after me about triple checked military forms to fill out, I'll call you to deal with him."
"Bones, you're CMO. Find yourself a good chief nurse out of all your staff, and let her deal with the paperwork. Have you seen your quarters?"
"A little sterile box on Deck 5? Yeah. I hope someday I'll find my way back to it."
"It's just down the hall from my cabin. But speaking of sterile, there's something on this ship that I think you'll like to see. Something that'll remind you of home."
"That'll be interesting. Lead on, Captain."
When they reached the bowels of the ship where hydroponics was located, McCoy was visibly amazed. "Damn this is a big ship, Jim. I may need the whole five year mission to find my way from one end to the other."
"You'll catch on quick. Just tell the turbolift where you want to go. Then ask a crewman to be your Sherpa guide once you get to the right general area. But I guarantee you'll want to learn your way to this area."
"If you say so," McCoy said dubiously. "What – oh. Hydroponics. I've seen the usual ships facilities before, Jim."
"There's something here you haven't seem before," Kirk said, leading him into the section where the roses bloomed.
"Wow," McCoy said, stopping in his tracks. "That's a nice collection, for a starship. Nice collection even for a garden. I'm not sure where I've last seen so many roses in one place."
"It's great, isn't it?" Kirk said. "I knew you'd appreciate it. Something to look at, when you get homesick for Earth."
"Wait, let me show you this one rose," Kirk led him down a row. "It was just starting to bloom when I went through here with Number One – Pike's Exec. She left when Mitchell arrived. It should still-- " he stopped, amazed and disappointed. "Why it's cut," Kirk said incredulously. "Someone cut the head off one of the best roses."
"Jim, there are hundreds of roses here," McCoy breathed in deeply. "Sure smells nice. I wish we could bottle this air – it beats the dirty locker smell that seems to hang over most ships."
"I'm having Scotty look into that," Kirk said absently, still cupping the rose stem in his hands. "Damn it, Bones, I'm not going to stand for this. Nobody should be cutting these roses – they ought to be for the enjoyment of the whole ship's company. I'm going to order that, starting right now." He walked to the nearest wall intercom. "Kirk to bridge."
On the bridge, Gary Mitchell leaned on the connect button. "Mitchell, here."
"I'm down in main hydro. I've found some vandalism here in the rose section – plants cut that shouldn't have been. Henceforth, there'll be no future private harvesting of any kind in main hydro. Post the order, Mr. Mitchell."
At the science station, Spock straightened up from his viewer, and looked toward the center chair.
Mitchell raised his brows. "Yes, sir." He glanced over "Mr. Scott, hydro falls under your bailiwick, does it not? See to it, please."
"Aye, sir." Scott met Spock's eyes wordlessly. The science officer stared back, equally expressionlessly for a moment. Around the bridge, the Enterprise officers who had served under Pike were not looking at the Science Officer, but they were trading glances among each other. Then Spock, without a comment, lowered his gaze to his viewer and went back to his work.
And after a few more traded glances, the rest of the bridge crew did as well. But less complacently.
Kirk wouldn't have sworn to it, but it seemed to him that there was a bit of a chill in the air when he was around Pike's old officers – apart from the Vulcan of course, who was always reserved and correct. He was surprised at that, because they'd seemed willing to accept him when he'd first arrived. No doubt they'd taken exception to one of the many orders or changes he'd made in his first few weeks. Chris Pike had been a great captain, but Kirk had his own way of doing things, and Pike would have been the first one to tell him that as captain, he had to con the ship his own way. But he regretted, a bit, the latent loss of his crew's regard. Plenty of time to regain it, though, on a five year mission. But he was glad to see a friendlier face in that of his ship's surgeon, one of his own hand picked staff.
"Got a minute, Jim?" McCoy asked without ceremony. "I mean, Captain."
"For you, Bones, always. At least, so long as we're not in the middle of a battle."
"Bite your tongue," McCoy said. "I looked up the exemption regs on the rose garden like you asked me to, for recommendation to Fleet. And I found something interesting. Something that may make you think twice about your 'no cutting' order."
"What could that be? Those roses should stay on their stems for the crew's enjoyment."
McCoy chuckled a little. "You don't understand, Captain. Those flowers were for the enjoyment of the crew. But they were for cutting."
"Nonsense," Kirk said briskly. "It's plain selfish for someone to keep them in a vase in their quarters. If everyone did that, there'd be no roses for anyone to enjoy. The order stands, Bones."
"Except the roses weren't cut to look at. Jim, those flowers are the personal property of Lt. Commander Spock. Or they were at one point."
"My Vulcan science officer." Kirk was incredulous. "What would he want with roses? And if they are his personal property, what are they doing in main hydroponics and not in a private plot?"
"He made a gift to them to the officers and crew, when they grew to more than any one Vulcan could use. Now they're listed as part of the ship's medical stores – that's how I found out how they got here. That's also why they're in main hydro, and why the regs allow them."
"What medical uses could flowers have?"
"Jim, you wound me to the quick. Medicine was originally herbology. Since before the first century, roses were grown in gardens more for medicine than for flowers, and in almost every culture, from the Chinese to the Romans to the original native Americans. The hips alone – the seeds – are chock full of vitamin C, but they've been used from an astringent to an anti-inflammatory, and everything in between. Roses are good stuff."
"Really? I guess that's interesting, Bones. But what medical uses do they have for Vulcans? And I wasn't aware he had any ongoing medical conditions."
"Oh, your science officer is as healthy as a horse. He doesn't use them medically. That's only the little human side benefit that allows us to keep such a nice crop in main hydro. Spock eats them. For him they're just a snack."
"He eats them?"
"That's right," McCoy laughed at the stunned expression on his Captain's face.
"I didn't even know roses could be eaten. Particularly by Vulcans."
"Humans can too. They're used in herbal teas mostly. And in cookies and things. But based on what I've read, they've also become the favored exotic confection of Vulcanoids. They're the veritable potato chip of the Vulcan palate. They can't eat just one."
"Well, who knew?" Kirk said with a little smile.
"Apparently the Vulcan ambassador brought some back to Vulcan from Terra, and started off a considerable fad."
"I'll pick Saurian Brandy any day, but I guess we all have our little vices. And so long as they don't interfere with duty--" Kirk said magnanimously.
"Except that your order denied your Science Officer his favorite little indulgence."
"Damn, I forgot. He never said a thing to me about it either."
"No, he wouldn't. Seems a trifle standoffish, though I suppose that's par for the course for a Vulcanoid."
Kirk shook his head, vexed. "I particularly wanted to start off well with Pike's old officers. And here I put my foot into it, straight off."
"By Vulcan standards, Spock's not old. A teenager, more like. Did you know that Vulcans can live well into their third century?"
Kirk glanced at McCoy. "You're become awfully interested in Vulcans, Bones."
"Now that I've got one under my care, I have to be." McCoy said dryly. "Do you want me to wait until he's bleeding from battle wounds before I try and figure out how to patch him back together? I've never had actual surgical experience on a Vulcan. I've just begun a crash course, starting with our resident Vulcan as guinea pig. They have many times our strength, and three times our lifespan. Spock's a young one, as Vulcans go, just two years older than you. By Vulcan terms, that's a mere babe in arms. And apparently, one with a sweet tooth."
"Not any more, thanks to me. What do I do to remedy the situation?" Kirk pondered. "It's quite a faux paux on my part."
"Just give him back his candy, you big bully. He was nice enough to share it, and then you grabbed it all for yourself," McCoy teased. "Alpha male captain that you are."
"Not for myself," Kirk objected. "I just thought the flowers should be enjoyed by the whole crew, that's all. Not cut for someone to squirrel away in a vase in their quarters."
"Well, they weren't cut to be viewed. They were cut to eat."
"Incredible," Kirk said. "To eat. You know, Bones, I wanted a Vulcan Science officer. I was so glad to get Spock. I'd heard incredible things of Vulcan science in the Academy, and Pike – you know he's a hero of mine – Pike, in particular gave raves to Spock. He annexed him right out of the Academy and he has hung onto him all this while."
"Not good, by Starfleet standards," McCoy pointed out. "Officers should move around and get a breadth of experience."
"In general, yes, but I don't blame Pike for wanting to hold onto the good ones. I would myself, if I could. I was lucky Spock stayed with the Enterprise, though Starfleet didn't give him much choice. He would have transferred with Pike if Fleet had given him half a chance.
"Yes," McCoy said. "I saw that in his file. Fleet hung onto his promotion until he did some deep space duty with another Captain.
"And Pike refused to let him turn down that opportunity. So I particularly didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with him. He's already got one strike against me. Spock aside, Vulcans are so rare in Fleet that we need to hold onto the ones we have. And here I misinterpreted something and with one cut flower returned a generous gesture with selfishness."
"Don't blow it out of proportion, Jim," McCoy said. "You didn't know the flowers were his, or that he cut the flower or why. Your prohibition was for the whole crew."
"Yes, but it was Spock who cut the flower and whom the order primarily affected."
"So rescind it. He's been an alien in Starfleet long enough that he's probably used to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. You've got five long years to come to understand each other. Don't expect to do it in the first few weeks. Just rescind the order publicly. And you might say something to him in private."
Kirk wasted no time rescinding the order, and he got the distinct impression that the long term members of his bridge crew were a little friendlier to him after that. Except for Spock. The Vulcan appeared as entirely indifferent to the rescinding of the order as he had to the issuing of it. His manner to Kirk had never changed one way or the other. He was polite and courteous, a good officer, but with that off-putting reserve. The significant and approving looks that were traded among the other members of Pike's original bridge crew when the order was rescinded told another story. Clearly Spock was well liked among them, in spite of his Vulcan manner. But Kirk hadn't quite decided how to approach the private apology, particularly since Spock not only didn't appear to be offended, but seemed to behave as it the matter had no relevance for him at all.
Instead, Kirk took to visiting the rose garden when he could manage it, usually at the end of a long day. He was finding these first few weeks of his new Captaincy filled with sometimes overwhelming details, and a few minutes in the rose garden relaxed him enough to catch at least four hours sleep. At least once, he found a rose stem raw from a recent cutting, so he knew someone had taken advantage of his changed orders. But it took another two weeks before chance brought him to the garden at the same time as his Science Officer. He caught the rose cutter, so to speak, in the act.
Spock straightened when he saw him. Kirk had noted that his usual practice was to put his hands behind his back when addressing his Captain, but he was holding a rose and to do that would have made it seem as if he were hiding it. He stood very straight instead, the hand holding the rose at his side, raising his chin a little as if half expecting a negative comment.
Kirk drew a breath. "It's come to my attention that I owe you an apology, Mr. Spock. And a word of gratitude."
"I don't understand."
"My original order regarding the rose garden was in error. I apologize that I gave it too hastily."
"It's your right to give such orders, Captain. I was not at all offended."
"Good." Kirk looked around. "I should thank you for having such…unusual…tastes. It's afforded the Enterprise a garden that has already brought me a great deal of pleasure to view."
"If your appreciation of the roses is affected by an occasional loss of bloom, I can refrain."
"No, not at all. I was thinking people were cutting them for other reasons. It would never occur to me that, well, that they were being not wantonly cut for a moment's enjoyment of their bloom, but for harvesting. I can hardly complain when it is that utilitarian use that allows the Enterprise to keep such a splendid garden. I was just not familiar with the idea of roses for consumption. Please, carry on."
"Then I shall," Spock said, satisfied. His military bearing relaxed a trifle as they walked among the roses. "Perhaps you would care to try one?" Spock offered.
Kirk glanced at him, astonished. "I didn't think humans did. Eat them raw, I mean."
"Oh, they are quite non-toxic, Captain. Innocuous to humans. Even favored, in some dishes. And they are also used raw, as you put it, as a garnish to some desserts." Spock held the rose out to Kirk.
"I didn't know that." Kirk hesitated only a moment, then reflecting that in the course of exploring the galaxy, this was a rather mild thing to try, gamely plucked a petal and chewed it.
"Well?" Spock asked, curious.
Kirk swallowed and cleared his throat. "Well, I'll confess to you, Mr. Spock, that I've never been much for green leaves. Uh, salads, that is. Give me a nice, juicy " he glanced at his vegetarian Science Officer and reconsidered. "Well, let's just say that now that I've tasted them, I find I don't care much for pink leaves, either. You'll certainly have no rivalry from me in the rose-eating department."
'Indeed. I have been told the taste is very light, to humans. And yet the sweetness is very strong to a Vulcan palate."
"I rather feast my eyes on them, rather than my molars. They register there, where they don't seem to on my taste buds."
Spock looked down at the rose in his hands that he'd been absently plucking and eating. "Roses are …flavorful confections to a Vulcan palate, but they are by no means essential to the diet. If you choose to rescind your order in future, rest assured I would not be offended."
"Not at all, Mr. Spock. You've done enough, just giving the rose collection to the crew. Even minus a bloom or two, it's a remarkable garden." They both surveyed it for a moment. "Just beautiful. I don't deny it's going to be one of my favorite spots on the ship. They're incredible – so large and vigorous, and varied. Where ever did you find them all?"
Spock hesitated, then gave almost a human shrug. "You must remember, Captain, that the Enterprise has been my home for more than eleven years. As for where I obtained them: my mother sends them to me. Some of them have been on the Enterprise as long as I have. She considers them a sort of …C.A.R.E package."
For a moment, Kirk was too flabbergasted to say anything. McCoy was right, he thought. He is a lot younger than he appears on first impression. That Vulcan reserve hides it well. "She has excellent taste in roses," was all he said.
"Actually, she doesn't eat them," Spock said, innocently misconstruing him. "Though she has excellent taste in many other areas. Her tastes in roses mirror yours, in that point of fact. She prefers only to look at them. A waste, I might add, of good roses. One can look at them first. And then eat them afterwards. The appreciation is thus doubled."
Kirk grinned, amused. "She sounds interesting. And we obviously share a love of roses in common. Some day I'd like to meet your mother."
Spock glanced at him sideways. "We have a five year mission before us, Captain. While most of it is meant to be deep space exploration, in my experience we often are detailed back to Federation ports. Perhaps someday you shall."
"A five year deep space mission. I like the sound of that, Spock. I wonder what marvels we'll discover?"
"Many things, Captain. As yet unknown."
Kirk met his science officer's eyes, and then held out his hand, indicating the rose. After a moment, Spock pro-offered the flower. Kirk plucked a petal, and gestured for Spock to do the same. He held his up in an impromptu toast. "In the absence of Saurian Brandy, these will have to do. To the unknown marvels, Mr. Spock. And to roses to tide us over in between them."
"To marvels and roses, Captain," Spock said. And they both chewed.
"I may get to like these yet," Kirk said, swiping another petal.
As well as the last word.
Please Don't Eat the Roses