Everything one invents is true, you may be perfectly sure of that. Poetry is as precise as geometry.
"You say they're doing what, Spock?" Captain James T. Kirk's expression held more than a hint of incredulity as he looked across the chess board at his first officer.
"It is as I just told you, Captain."
"No. None of this 'Captain' shit, Spock. We're off duty - for the hundredth time, it's Jim."
"Very well, then... Jim. Lieutenant Uhura and Lieutenant Commander Sulu have decided to establish a literary magazine for the crew of the Enterprise."
Without looking up, Spock leaned slightly forward to move his remaining knight before continuing.
"Though I, like you, was taken by surprise by the idea at first, it seems to be inherently harmless – especially since we are spending so much time in deep space, and the crew has more free time at their disposal than they might otherwise. In fact, I understand that there are many crew members who are already enthusiastically preparing entries to contribute to the first issue."
"Huh." Pausing briefly, Kirk moved a bishop. "You're right – it does sound harmless enough." He shook his head in disgust as one of his knights fell prey to Spock's next move. "But I was just with Sulu last night, and he didn't mention it at all – wonder why not?"
"As to that, Captain – Jim - Mr. Sulu expressed a concern to Lt. Uhura that your awareness of his participation in this new endeavor might cause you to mistake him for a feline... though truly, I am not sure why that would be the case."
Now Kirk was utterly baffled. "Mistake him for... Spock, what exactly did Uhura tell you that Sulu said?"
Spock steepled his fingertips briefly, recalling the exchange. "She said, 'Hikaru doesn't want to tell Jim that he's in on this, because he's afraid Jim will think he's a pussy.' However, in my opinion, sir, that does not seem like an error you would make."
But Kirk had dropped his forehead into his hand, crowing with laughter. "Spock," he said, raising smiling eyes back to his first officer, "it's a figure of..."
Kirk's expression became suddenly appraising as he saw what might actually have been a twinkle of – was that amusement? – in Spock's dark brown eyes.
"...And you knew it was a figure of speech – I'm sure of it." Kirk graced Spock with a blindingly bright, absolutely delighted smile. "You... you were joking with me, weren't you?"
Spock simply stared back at him, expressionless except for one slightly raised eyebrow.
"Jim, you of all people should know by now that Vulcans do not joke." Without further comment, he returned his attention to their game, proceeding to soundly trounce an astonished Captain Kirk in just another six moves.
He did not realize that his captain's concentration had been completely destroyed by the realization that his normally staid first officer had actually initiated an attempt at humor with him. The thought of that warmed Kirk inside, for reasons that he didn't fully comprehend.
The first officer, on the other hand, left the captain's quarters with a vivid memory of that brilliant smile; his meditation that evening focused a great deal on trying to determine exactly why that memory lingered so persistently, and why he found himself wishing so fervently to see Jim smile like that at him again.
"So!" Kirk's voice boomed into the mess hall as he entered for breakfast. "We have authors among us! And poets, and... I don't know, what other kinds of literary stuff is there?" He paused, looking around as though he thought someone in the crowd might provide him with an answer. "Well – whatever there is, I bet we've got it all!"
He pulled up a chair to the table where Sulu and Uhura were already sitting. Leaning close to Sulu's ear, he whispered, "Pussy."
Jim laughed, but was cut off with a quick elbow to the solar plexus by his helmsman.
"Jackass." Sulu shook his head and smiled.
"That's 'Captain Jackass' to you, Mr. Sulu."
"Yes, sir." He delivered a mock salute, returning his attention to the dish of fruit salad in front of him.
"So, Uhura," Kirk directed his attention to his communications officer, who was looking mildly entertained at the interchange between the captain and his helmsman. "Do I gather that this whole literary magazine idea is your brainchild?"
"Not entirely, Captain." She paused to sip her coffee. "Actually, I was talking to Chryssie Papagiannopoulos a little while ago – don't know if you've met her yet, but she's an ensign who's one of the new nurses in Sickbay." At the captain's nod of recognition, she went on. "She's really enthusiastic about literature, poetry – the whole bit. You'd never believe this, but before she went into nursing school and Starfleet Academy, she got a degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia in New York."
"Well, Lieutenant. That really is saying something, isn't it?" In fact, Jim really was duly impressed. Until then, his only impression of Ensign Chrysoula Papagiannopoulos had been that she was a very tiny woman with an enormous name – and that he frequently, though unintentionally, seemed to intimidate her into replying with squeaking sounds whenever he spoke to her.
Comparative Lit at Columbia, eh? Hidden depths – go figure.
Uhura was still speaking. "...her enthusiasm was kind of contagious, and I thought, why not try something like this? The worst that can happen is that it doesn't work out – and that's no big tragedy."
Stealthily, Jim reached over to swipe a chunk of melon from Sulu, who retaliated by trying unsuccessfully to stab Kirk's retreating hand with his fork.
"Go get your own food – Captain Jackass," he grumbled good-naturedly.
"Yeah, yeah – in a minute. But first, I want to hear more about how we're going to get all cultural here. Now, have you come up with a name for this thing yet?"
Sulu and Uhura looked significantly at one another. "No, we haven't, Captain," Uhura admitted. "And it's getting to be a little bit of a problem, because you can hardly have a publication without a name."
Kirk nodded. "Oh, you'll come up with something – you always do." He patted Uhura's arm absentmindedly. "So... do I hear you're accepting submissions already?"
"Yeah, Captain – and some of them are really good." Sulu leaned forward eagerly. "We've got a hilarious piece from Scotty about the virtues of Delta Vega as a vacation destination – you'd love that one – and a lot of other stuff from quite a few other crew members, as well. Some of it's funny, some of it's really pretty touching – and frankly, some of it's in other languages, and I have to take Nyota's word for it that it'll make sense to somebody. Honestly, though, I was surprised at what some of these people were coming up with; I had no idea we had such a bunch of frustrated writers on board."
"So, Uhura, Sulu – are you publishing whatever people turn in?" Kirk had a sudden, speculative gleam in his eye.
"Well, Captain..." Uhura looked uneasy. "I have a feeling I'm going to regret saying this in about sixty seconds – but, yes. We're publishing everything."
The captain stood up, gleefully rubbing his hands together. "This is going to be awesome. I haven't done any decent limericks in ages. Damn – how did that one go again? 'There once was a man from Nantucket?' I loved that one!" He pushed in his chair, and started out of the mess hall. "I'll send you a few later!" he called over his shoulder.
Sulu sighed. "Did you notice he didn't even bother to eat any breakfast?"
Uhura nodded resignedly. "Yeah. And he's fixed it so that I don't want the rest of mine, either. God knows what he's going to send us, Hikaru – and we're going to have to put it in, whatever it is."
The helmsman halfheartedly pushed a grape around his plate – then sat up suddenly with a wicked smile of his own.
"Nyota, I think I have an idea. Not for this time – I think we're pretty well stuck with whatever Jim decides to give us – but maybe to keep him from getting any clever ideas for any of our other issues." He stood, gathering his plate and utensils. "Let me talk to McCoy; I think that between the two of us, we can take some of the wind out of Kirk's sails – and have some fun while we're at it."
"Hikaru – do I even want to know what you're up to?" Uhura looked skeptical.
"Definitely not. Far better that you don't have any idea." Sulu patted her reassuringly on the shoulder before turning to leave. "Don't worry – I won't get us court-martialed."
She wasn't a bit reassured when she heard him mutter under his breath,