TITLE: Dear Annie
AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Yes, just let me know.
SUMMARY: Hoshi writes home after the events of "Shuttlepod One."
DISCLAIMER: Enterprise and all its crew belong to Paramount and many other entities with expensive lawyers. I am making no profit from this story.
NOTES: This is completely unrelated to my other Hoshi story, "The Fear." Oh, the coprolite story is true and belongs to anthropologist Aubrey Williams of the University of Maryland, College Park. If you don't know what coprolites are...you've never done archaeology . Thanks to Captain Average for the fast beta, so I could post this on my lunch hour!
DEDICATION: For Jessica, who is very far away and a damn good linguist. Stay safe, my friend.


Dear Annie:

I wish we could talk live, but between Enterprise's precarious connection to Earth and your usual inaccessibility--which country *are* you in these days?--I thought I should just go ahead and send an ordinary message. It'll catch up with you eventually.

I know you haven't heard much from me since the Enterprise lifted off, and that's because I've been busy and a little lazy. Adventure just isn't all it's cracked up to be, let me tell you. I know you thought being the linguist and comm officer on the Enterprise would be a wonderful experience for me, and in some ways you're right...but I've been bumped and bruised and bedazzled and bewildered so many times that I'm never sure if I'm coming or going.

All those stories you told me about your fieldwork in New Guinea? Hah! I'll give you those and raise you dead alien bodies hanging off meat hooks like a bizarre slaughterhouse. The time you were stranded in the Sahara with a broken comm link and three days of water? Please. I've got a story about a smelly Klingon ship with a deteriorating orbit and a lot of torpedoes going boom. I was so scared, I had to be saved by our resident Vulcan.

And I know you love to wow the undergrads with the story about collecting coprolites in a Mexican village while in fear for your life lest they mistake you for a witch...but we nearly lost our top three officers to the Andorians and then the Andorians saved them from the Coridians. You need a score card to keep track of who's who out here, and even that won't necessarily help.

The Vulcans are our allies, except for when they're not. The Andorians, well, we're not quite sure about them at the best of times. We liked the Xyrillians, except for the minor energy parasitism and the bit where they got our chief engineer pregnant. Yeah, you *do* remember correctly, our chief engineer *is* a man. Don't ask.

But the languages. Man oh man, that's what keeps me going. It feels like everyday there's a new language to translate, changes to incorporate into the Universal Translator (which isn't, by the way), and new aliens to communicate with. Or misunderstand, as the case may be.

But heck, we don't even fully understand the *Vulcans* yet, so how can I expect to completely understand these aliens we've known for a few hours? At least the Captain seems to know that, but those are the times I wish you were here. What a team we'd make! The aliens would never know what hit them.

So, that's my life out here in a nutshell. I'll bet you're wondering why I finally got around to writing you *now*, as opposed to in the last six months or so. I guess it's because of a recent experience, not something that happened to me, but that happened to two of my crewmates.

We nearly lost them.

And not because they were saving the universe from destruction, or otherwise doing something heroic. They nearly died on a routine mission because of something idiotic. The long and short of it is, they thought Enterprise had been destroyed. They got stuck in a shuttlepod off the beaten path of interstellar commerce, thinking they were going to die. They were hit by a...well, the Captain and Commander T'Pol haven't agreed on what hit them yet, but they were very low on oxygen.

And while they were preparing to die, we were blithely traveling along to the rendezvous, without the faintest idea what was going on. Malcolm and Trip came within a few hours of dying, and we nearly didn't find them in time.

It shook me up, I guess, how close I came to losing two friends, and I started thinking about you and the rest of the gang. I could die out here without ever seeing you again, some misogynistic farmer could kill you during your fieldwork, or Mark could fall into one of his pits.

Nearly losing Trip and Malcolm made me think about how much I value my friends, but how much I take you for granted.

I haven't figured out, exactly, what I'm going to do with this new awareness of mine, but I thought dropping you a line was a good start.

Here on the ship, I guess I'm going to take a little more time to get to know people. Of course, that shouldn't be too hard when it comes to Commander Tucker. You remember, he's the engineer you saw on the news and told me was "damn sexy." Trip's a sucker for a lady, and all I need to do is bat my eyelashes.

That makes him sound like a womanizer, but that's not what I mean. He's a sweetie, with quite the sense of humor, and a gentleman to boot.

I've known Jonathan, I mean Captain Archer, since well before this assignment, but even before he became my Captain (oh, that came out wrong, you know what I mean) he wasn't easy to get to know. And around here it's worse than academia! At least I could spend time with my students without it becoming a capital case. They take rank so seriously, which I find amusing. Well, we must allow the boys their games, right?

I'm not sure how easy T'Pol will be to get to know. She and the Captain seem to understand each other, but she's not exactly into girl-to-girl talks in the mess hall. I'll try, though. If nothing else, I can practice my Vulcan.

I think it's essential that we get to know T'Pol. Do you realize she's lasted longer on this ship than any other Vulcan on a human ship? We need to figure out what we're doing right. Or what *she's* doing right. Another reason I wish you were here.

Then there's Malcolm Reed, our armory officer. He's even harder to get to know. That man is more private than anyone I've ever met. Remind me to tell you the saga of the birthday cake, someday when we have a few hours. He makes T'Pol look like a chatterbox, I swear, but he can be charming when he wants to.

Don't make that face at the screen, Annie, I mean it. I know you, you read that last paragraph and immediately thought of Eric. Well, Malcolm is *nothing* like Eric, and I haven't forgotten the lessons learned from that debacle. I promise. Besides, I didn't even say I was interested in him. I mean, I'm not. Probably. I'll let you know.

There are so many others, Travis, Dr. Phlox...I want to get to know all of them. If something happens, I want to be sure someone will remember them. I want everyone to know that I would mourn their loss.

I didn't mean to descend into doom and gloom, so I'll stop now before I start updating my will. I should get back to work, in any case. We'll be in orbit around this new planet (new to us, I mean) in a few days, and the Captain wants his greeting prepared in advance. In their native language, of course. It's got some interesting fricatives and...oh, never mind, you'll want to know about their food preparation methods not their language. I'll try and get you some of the preliminary reports on them as well as the other species we've met.

Just in case my message to Mark doesn't reach him, be sure to ask "Found any gold yet?" for me in a really obnoxious voice. And tell Tracy her help with Vulcan has come in handy.

I miss you, Annie. Be well and keep yourself safe. I plan to have all my friends around until we're old and gray.