Chapter 1 - No more Vulcans!
Lt. Irina Paranov was on her way to holo cartography. It was her third week at Jupiter station. She still wasn't used to life on a starbase after serving for over 10 years on several star ships, but meeting her old Academy room mate Lamira again had been a wonderful surprise.
She could have stayed on the Asteria cartographing the beta quadrant, but she had felt so stuck in her old job lately. After she had made a couple of mistakes with the cartography program in her first week her CO Lt. Cmdr. Katok, a Vulcan scientist, hadn't trusted her with any serious task again. She also didn't make many friends on the Asteria, she could blame it on half the crew being Vulcan, but maybe she just didn't fit in and the beta quadrant was too far away from her family and friends at home. That assignment was what had broken her relationship to Jason, but she suspected that it might not have lasted anyway. Hadn't she in fact taken on a deep space assignment just to get away? - Anyway, it doesn't matter now. She can have a fresh start here and stop being miserable and she already had her old friend Lamira here, so things can only improve.
Her new job hasn't been very interesting yet, she was sorting files and information from research vessels like the Asteria into the various databases of the cartography library for two weeks, but at least she didn't have to see all those Vulcans (most of all her former CO) every day and there were much more possibilities to take on additional tasks or change assignments and learn something new at a huge starbase than that little science vessel stuck in the beta quadrant - and while she wasn't necessarily hoping for a promotion to Lt. Cmdr. she didn't want to do tedious filing work for her whole life, that wasn't what she signed up for.
She was looking forward to getting to know holo cartography which was two decks up from her usual work place. Holo programming had never been her piece of cake, she was an astronomer, not a programmer, but she wondered which challenges the cooperation with the holo cartography team might bring and she might be able to broaden her horizon a little if people give her a chance.
She missed traveling to other planets though, she had always jumped on every chance to be part of an away team. Being stuck in one place seeing the same planet every day did need some getting used to. The station provided a beautiful view to Jupiter, it's various moons and the rings though, she had already taken over 100 shots with her holo camera.
When she entered holo cartography she was greeted by a Vulcan Lt., he seemed roughly her age, but for a Vulcan that must mean he was probably 50 or 60.
'Good morning, Lt. Paranov,' he greeted her, 'I am Lt. Soltek. Cmdr. Glenn informed me that we will be working together for the next two weeks to design holographic programs displaying various data of certain regions of the beta quadrant in a three dimensional environment with interactive features.'
At least that green-blooded logician is the same rank as me she thought and said, 'hi, I'm pleased to meet you, Lt.'
At the way he paused to think up an answer Irina wondered if he had had much experiences with humans yet. Her former CO, Katok, had never shown any such reaction to whatever fashion she had addressed him or even raised as much as an eyebrow if she had tried at small talk, he was like a computer and always came straight to the point, this guy however looked like he still had to learn how to deal with humans, it was almost cute if she didn't know he was just another green-blooded computer simply trying to process new data.
'And I look equally forward to get to know you, Lt.' he replied politely.
'Thanks for your welcome,' she replied equally politely, 'how long have you worked here?'
'3 days and 2.5 hours' he answered.
'So, you're new too?' she asked.
He thought shortly, 'yes, in human terms I am new to this post at Jupiter station, I have served at the T'Kumbra before.'
At that Irina gasped, 'you served under Captain Solok?'
'Yes,' he answered.
'I've encountered him at a cartography conference a while ago, my former CO, Lt. Cmdr. Katok, took our whole cartography team there and there was a big discussion about how to increase the efficiency of cartographing the beta quadrant, both captains were of quite different opinions' she laughed.
'What is the purpose of your report on this, Lt.?' he asked.
'Erm, what?' she asked flabbergasted.
'Why do you tell this to me?' he asked.
'Oh, I was just doing small talk,' she answered.
'Ah, of course,' he said, 'I remember that human custom from my time at the Academy, but I don't have much experience with small talk.'
'I would have never guessed,' she answered suppressing a grin.
'Thank you,' he said politely after a short pause which he obviously needed to identify her comment as a compliment, 'I look forward to learn more about human and other alien cultures. As you probably know the T'Kumbra is a purely Vulcan ship and hasn't helped me achieve my goal in learning about other cultures.'
'Oh, I'm sure you'll find lots of different species here,' she answered, 'I haven't yet managed to really see the whole station, but every time I walk around another section I see another interesting restaurant or shop with interesting alien stuff, the station is at least as diverse as San Francisco.'
'Is there anything you can recommend, Lt.?' he asked interested.
'Oh, erm, what kind of thing are you interested in? Interstellar cuisine? Music? Art?' she asked.
'I think all these aspects of culture can help me to learn more about other cultures' he replied.
'Hmm..., I've seen there's a wandering exhibition called Old age – New age, it compares paintings from earth, how they looked before they made first contact with aliens and afterwards, but the paintings aren't all originals and I haven't seen it yet, so I have no idea how good it is,' she said.
'A historical comparison sounds intriguing,' he answered, 'have you already made plans to visit the exhibition?'
'Erm, no, I really want to go, but don't know when I will' she said.
'I would like to schedule my visit tomorrow at 1900. Do you know the opening hours?' he asked.
'It's open from 1500 till 2200, if I remember correctly,' she answered.
'I would like to offer you to accompany me, I think I would greatly profit from your expertise in human culture,' he asked a bit hesitantly, but looking at her with hopeful eyes.
'Erm, okay, I don't have any other plans and wanted to see it anyway,' she said, not believing that she just volunteered to spend her free time with one of the pointy-eared faction.
After he had explained the finer methods of holo cartography and how it is done in this lab to her for three hours and they had pushed and prodded at the schematics of a program to display the beta quadrant data with interactive features inside a three dimensional holo grid she just fell into bed exhausted and thought that the guy was as Vulcan as they come, but at least he didn't breath down her neck counting her mistakes and inefficiencies like Katok.
Maybe this was because Soltek was younger, he seemed really inexperienced on how to get along with humans, while Katok frankly didn't care to get along. Soltek was so innocent, he was almost cute, if he wasn't so annoying with all his Vulcan blabla - and his curiosity was getting a bit tiring after a while, but she couldn't blame him for wanting to explore other cultures after being stuck on a ship full of Vulcans with Captain Solok on top of it...
Funny though, that the guy didn't at least make some experiences with other cultures at the Academy? Or maybe he was the type always glued to a padd, never looking up... She groaned when she thought of going to the exhibition with him tomorrow and replying to his questions about human art. She wondered why she hadn't simply pretended to be unavailable. Maybe she had grown so used to do things for Vulcans that she has gone numb on some of their quirks or something.