Disclaimer: To my disappointment, I do not own Solok, but I do own everyone else. Although this is dealing with a character who was introduced in the DS9 series, I found it easier to make this a TNG era story, perhaps taking place in the 5th or 6th season. So that is why this story is listed under "TNG" and not "DS9". For the TNG fans out there who don't know who Solok is, I recommend you watch DS9: Take Me Out to the Holosuite. It's a fun episode even if you're not a fan of the series. But anyway, enjoy the fic.
I had been dreading this day for months: I was to be transferred today at 1200 to the USS T'Kumbra as an officer in Starfleet's exchange program. The idea of spending six months with an all-Vulcan crew did not appeal to me, and apparently, it did not sit well with Captain Solok either. The commanding officer of the T'Kumbra was firmly against this exchange, which made this day all the worse. I was expecting the cold shoulder from everyone on board; Vulcans weren't exactly known for their welcoming attitudes. I was sure to get cold treatment from the captain.
I ate my last breakfast in the Delaware's mess hall, mentally preparing myself for my doom aboard the T'Kumbra. My friend and fellow science officer Madison had invited a friend of hers: a Vulcan engineer by the name of Ventak. At first I had privately protested his presence, but then I told myself that I might as well get used to eating, talking and working with Vulcans. Despite my initial reluctance to accept him, Ventak was a pleasant enough person, and helped alleviate some of my fears about this new mission I was to embark on. They may not have any emotions, but they were polite when they wanted to be. I reminded myself that I wasn't going to encounter clones of Solok in every department, that some of the Vulcans would probably accept me, if not tolerate my presence. Ventak gave me a little piece of advice before I left, and I thanked them both and took my leave.
The woman who stood before me was not quite what I expected. Instead of the standard Vulcan bob, she sported longer hair that was impeccably pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. Her cool brown eyes twinkled slightly as she looked me up and down, and I was relieved to see no superior attitude in her glance. There was simply blasé curiosity in her expression, nothing more. This woman, Commander T'Prel, was nothing like Solok. Or at least, nothing like the Solok I had heard about.
The man was notorious at the Academy, as friends or relatives of cadets relayed horror stories of his strict and nearly brutal attitude toward those under him. My friend Hopkins had received a disciplinary hearing his first day in the science labs (for being two minutes late) while Solok was commander of the Mataka, and Hopkins never really forgave him. I wouldn't make the same mistake as he did; I was determined to arrive ten minutes before my shift every day, just to be on the safe side.
"Lieutenant Tia Valentin, reporting for duty, sir," I said, trying to inject some confidence into my voice.
"Welcome aboard the T'Kumbra, Lieutenant. I will show you to your quarters." Her voice was crisp and cool, nonchalant and collected. She didn't seem disappointed in me or irked by my presence, and I considered that a good start. I picked up my things and walked off the pad, following her out the door and down the corridors.
"I understand this must be strange for you to be working among an all-Vulcan crew. But you do understand that we will not cut you any slack just because of that fact. We expect your best effort, Lieutenant. Captain B'tona spoke very highly of you, calling you one of the most efficient science officers he has ever had the pleasure of commanding. I hope you live up to your reputation."
"So do I, sir. I'll do my duty to the best of my ability."
A small, nearly undetectable smile twitched her lips upward. "We can ask no more and no less of you, Ms. Valentin. Am I saying it correctly?"
"I do not know many humans, having served on this ship for nearly ten years. Your planet is more...diversified than Vulcan. You come from a country that was called Mexico, on Earth, am I correct?"
"I come from the Oaxaca region of Mexico, yes."
"You say it different than I have heard."
I smiled. "That is the way my great-great-grandparents pronounced it. Either way is fine, sir."
T'Prel nodded as we came to my quarters. "Your station is on deck 6, section 7, biology lab. You will be working the Beta shift, from 1200 to 1800. Good day, Lieutenant."
She set off at a brisk pace away from me, leaving me bemused. I stepped inside my quarters, eager to set my stuff down and unpack. I carefully set my bags on the floor next to the bed and took a few minutes to explore: the bathroom was in the back, and there was a small mirror on the wall near the drawers. The bed was neatly and simply made, with a dull red thin sheet covering it. I put my first bag on my desk and started to unpack.
By nature, I was a tidy person, and I knew that would probably come in handy during my stay here. My uniform pieces were already sorted by shirt and pants in my luggage, so it wasn't that hard to transfer them to a drawer. I refolded a few articles that had gotten jostled out of place during travel, and soon my bags were empty and under my bed, and all three drawers I had been allotted were nice and full.
As I traced the elegant yet modern edge of the dresser, I realized that this room was to be my sanctuary, my safe harbor. Out there, among those perfect strangers, I would have to stifle as many as my emotions as I could. I didn't want to become the typical human stereotype: the woman who cries or loses her temper, the woman who lets emotions get in the way of solving a problem. No...I would prove to them, to Solok that I could be just as efficient and impartial toward science without losing my passion for it. I enjoyed what I did; the fundamental building blocks of life, the tiny microbes and the majestic planets that made up our universe fascinated me. It was why I was in Starfleet, to explore, to learn, to let my knowledge of the wide unknown grow.
And I wasn't about to let someone like Solok destroy what I had.
My first week aboard the T'Kumbra passed by surprisingly fast. I had settled into a simple routine: in the mornings I ate breakfast in the mess hall, happily answering questions if the Vulcans ever approached me. They asked where I was from, what I liked to do. Some even dared to ask what I found so appealing about emotion. I found myself stumped at the question, as I hadn't thought about it. I promised the first inquisitor, a young ensign from engineering, that I would get back to him with an answer as soon as I had one. I told him of my plight, that I had never contemplated emotions that much before. He promised me that this would not turn into a debate between us, but simply that he wanted to try and understand my point of view. I was touched by the sentiment, and told him so.
"I have no choice in being emotional, Torik," I explained the next day. "Humans who suppress emotions often end up as psychopaths. But there's a difference between suppressing and controlling. I can control my emotions. Suppose I'm back on a ship with humans. I just get off my shift and head to the turbolift and someone who just had a really bad day shoves in front of me to get on the lift first. Now...I could give in to my instinct, which would to be to follow him, then yell and scream and insult him for being such a jerk...or I can let it go, telling myself that he probably had a bad day and him being a jerk is not going to affect my day or my emotions. His bad day is his problem-I don't need to make it mine."
"Ah," he replied, a light sparking in his eyes. "You choose more positive emotions such as compassion to override the more negative emotions such as anger."
"Exactly. Humans shouldn't feel negative emotions all the time. It's just not healthy. But to suppress emotion, to have no outlet for your feelings is also unhealthy. Trust me, Torik, there are times in every human's life when we say to ourselves, 'what I wouldn't give to be a Vulcan right now'. Emotions are painful sometimes, but we've learned to live with them, to control them like civilized people."
From that day on, Torik and I met every day in the mess hall, discussing logic or hobbies or the work we did. He was quite a welcome relief from the stoic, apathetic biologists I worked with every day. My commanding officer was nice enough, always being polite with me, but no one made me feel more welcome than Torik. He was inquisitive, curious, and I could see a hint of deep-seeded wonder in his eyes as we discussed everything under the sun.
It was the morning of my sixth day when the meeting I had been dreading finally took place. Torik and I were discussing human colloquialisms and expression when suddenly he stopped his train of thought and nodded behind me. I twisted around to see Captain Solok standing two feet away. His sleek black hair was impeccably brushed into the standard Vulcan bob, and cool gray eyes twinkled at me beneath dark, slanting brows. Sallow cheeks, a strong, masculine nose and perfectly sculpted, pale lips completed his features. I could already see that he was sizing me up, and I stood quickly, standing straight with my hands behind my back. The top of my head came about to his mouth, making him nearly a head taller than me.
"At ease, Ensign," he said coolly, addressing Torik. My companion sat down.
"Lieutenant Valentin," he continued, looking me up and down. "Welcome aboard the T'Kumbra."
"Thank you, sir," I replied, making sure my voice was strong and confident. "I look forward to serving with you."
He strode forward and stretched out his hand toward me. I took it, surprised at how warm it was. I had never touched a Vulcan, so I wasn't aware then that their body temperature was higher than that of humans. His hand felt like a sidewalk that had been exposed to sunlight for hours, but it was smooth, his handshake firm. His nails were neat and tidy, much like the rest of his appearance.
"I hear you graduated second in your class at the Academy. And you served two years as an ensign aboard the Enterprise before you were transferred to the Navajo. You were promoted, then transferred again to the Delaware. Captain Picard, Captain Chambers, and Captain B'tona all spoke highly of your performance. I expect no less than your best on this ship, lieutenant. I'll be monitoring your progress."
He turned swiftly on his heel and strode quickly from the mess hall, leaving me a little stunned. I sat back down in my chair and faced Torik again.
"Is he always like that?"
He frowned. "Yes, why do you ask?"
I shook my head. "Nevermind...the only reason I'm here is because Starfleet pushed Solok to accept this transfer. I know for a fact he was against this all along, but the people upstairs made him live with it. And now I'm here...I don't know if they want to teach me a lesson or teach him a lesson. I really don't know..."
"And what lesson would that be?"
I looked up at him. "An exercise in thinking logically? I don't know, I didn't ask for this transfer."
"Starfleet pushed you too?"
"They pushed Captain B'tona...and if this is to teach Solok a lesson..."
"Solok has never been...fond of humans. He finds your emotionalism and illogic distasteful. It is possible that Starfleet is trying to teach him humility and acceptance."
"Maybe...but why me?"
"Solok said you graduated second in your class. All the captains you have served under have given you high praise, one of them being Captain Picard. From the little I know of you, you are able to keep a cool disposition in times of crisis. You are not easily goaded into hysterics, and you do not let criticism get in the way of achieving your goals. Starfleet would not have put you here if they didn't think you could handle it."
I smiled and nodded. "I guess so..."
He nodded back. "We were discussing the phrase 'head over heels in love'."
I grinned and we continued our conversation.