Ted Stone was a nice guy. He was polite, kind to animals and kept in regular contact with his family back on earth. He was dependable and pleasant. And he adored Hoshi.
Hoshi, for her part, thought he was okay, but nothing too exciting. Ever since her supposed future husband, the one the second Enterprise crew had told her about, had left Starfleet, she'd been alone and Ted had been there. But she had not been thrilled with the other guy, old what's his face, and had strongly suspected that her alternate self had merely settled for him because he was around. There were twenty-eight women on the Enterprise, and twice as many men, and she had settled for someone who was just okay?
She was determined not to do that, but she was kind of lonely. She was also insightful enough to realize that she was more in love with the idea of being in love than anything else. She also knew that she was bored silly, but what she didn't know was that that was all about to change.
Hoshi was at her station on the Bridge, as per usual, listening for various signals when she picked up one, "Captain, I have a signal. Were you expecting anything out here?"
"No, not really. Put it through," encouraged Captain Archer.
"This is the High Council of Aris," said an alien with a beautifully detailed pattern on his forehead, "Are you here on peaceful business?"
"Yes," replied the captain, "I am Captain Jonathan Archer of the Starship Enterprise. We are on a peaceful mission of exploration."
"I see," said the alien. Sound was cut off as the alien conferred with others in what appeared to be the council chamber.
"We lost the sound," said the captain.
"I'm trying, but I think that was deliberate," Hoshi said, after running a quick diagnostic on her equipment.
"So sorry," said the alien, "We have forgotten our manners. I am Councilor Milit. My colleagues and I were just conferring and we would like to invite you and your Bridge crew for the evening. Our planet is about two hours away from you at the speed of warp one. I trust that is not too far a distance for you to travel?"
"And their, um, mates. I mean spouses," said an alien behind Milit.
"Yes, oh yes, of course, with your spouses if you wish to include them they would be most welcome."
"Well, that's very generous of you," said Captain Archer, "But I need to keep some of my Bridge crew here so they can fly the ship. Hoshi, would you like to sit in the captain's chair this evening?"
"That would be interesting." Anything was better than doing yet another full diagnostic on her equipment.
"The female," said an alien behind Milit, "She, oh, she should come, too," he said. Apparently they had forgotten to turn the sound off that time.
"What is the fem-, is it Hoshi? What is Hoshi's function, I mean, what are her duties?" asked Milit.
"May I, Captain?" Captain Archer nodded so Hoshi continued, "I'm the ship's Communications Officer."
"Oh, how interesting." Milit seemed to be thinking on his feet. "We have ancient hieroglyphics here which no one can read any longer. Would you be interested – I mean, if it were appropriate – for you to join us? So that you could help our scientists read the inscriptions?"
Now it was Hoshi's turn to turn off the sound. "Captain, I would enjoy that quite a bit, if it's all right with you. Maybe I can, um, take command some other time."
"Huh." He thought for a moment and figured – why not? The Xindi war was over and they seemed likely friendly people, a welcome change from recent events. It felt like a relief to just go to a dinner, and leave it all behind them, even if it was for only a few hours. He gestured to her to turn the sound back on. "Hoshi would be delighted." There was a visible sense of relief coming from the Council Chamber. "My first officer can stay here, I suppose. We'll work out the details and see you in two hours. Please forward your coordinates to our navigator, Travis Mayweather."
The link was broken. "Captain, may I have a word with you?" asked T'Pol.
"Of course." He led her into his Ready Room. "What's on your mind?"
"Are you certain that this is a wise course of action?"
"Oh, they seem friendly enough. These people clearly didn't take sides during the Xindi war. We'll take a pair of MACOs with us and we should be fine. I'd like you to stay here, in case things go amiss, but I suspect it will be a pleasant evening and nothing more. Is there something specific of concern to you?"
"Not really," admitted T'Pol, "only that the invitation is rather sudden."
"Well, we're here to explore, aren't we? We don't often get dinner invitations. I won't quibble if they aren't engraved," They returned to the Bridge, "All right, it's going to be myself, Ensign Sato and two MACOs this evening. I'd say we have room for two more. Mister Reed, Mister Mayweather, are you busy this evening?"
"Not at all," said Reed, looking a little uncomfortable. Travis, on the other hand, looked excited.
"Good, why don't we, uh, let's do the shift change now so everyone can wash up a bit. This shift will start two hours early tomorrow, all right?" suggested Archer.
Hoshi was relieved to be off-duty already. She made her way back to her cabin when she saw Frank and Dave, two MACOs she knew. They fell in and walked beside her, "How's the prettiest girl on the NX-01?" asked Dave.
"Oh, come on," Hoshi blushed.
"Just because Frank and I aren't interested in more than admiring you from afar does not mean that our assessment isn't accurate."
"We have good taste, or at least Dave does, for choosing to be with me," Frank smiled.
"Well, thank you," said Dave. It was his turn to blush. "Anyway, Miss Hoshi, what brings you to the hallway at this hour? Aren't you still on duty?"
"I'm going to dinner tonight on a new planet. The inhabitants have invited some of us," said Hoshi. She immediately regretted that. It seemed impolite to not include everyone.
The intercom interrupted her thoughts. "Corporal Todd, report to Major Dawson."
"That's me," said Frank, "I wonder what Dawson wants. See you later," he smiled at Hoshi, "And you, I'll, see you soon," he said to Dave quietly.
"So you two are getting along okay?" asked Hoshi when they arrived at her quarters.
"Very well," said Dave, "I never thought I'd fall in love with someone from work. Know what I mean?"
"Yes," said Hoshi after a pause, "Though it's not for a lack of some people's trying," She indicated a card affixed to the front door of her quarters. Her name was written on the front, in the unmistakable handwriting of Ted Stone.
"I'll leave you to your thoughts and your, uh, love note," Dave joked.
Hoshi washed up and changed into a modest dress with an Asian design. Then she opened the note. It said –
Roses are pretty
but not as much as Sato
say you'll go out with me
and I'll say "doma arigato".
She just had to laugh at that. The words were Japanese, and they meant "thank you", but the effect was probably not what Ted had wanted, for doma should have been spelled domo. Chalk it up for another almost, but not quite romantic thing that Ted had tried to do. If he only wasn't so darned clumsy about such things, she might be more interested.
There was a chime at the door. It was Frank. "Hubba hubba, you look marvelous, darling."
"Can I help you?" Hoshi had noticed that it was almost time to go.
"I'm here to escort you to the Senior Prom. I mean, the Shuttle Pod Bay. The captain asked for a MACO presence and Major Dawson and I were elected. I'm sorry, but I've neglected to bring you a corsage." He offered his arm gallantly and she took it.
When they got to the Shuttle Pod Bay, Hoshi noticed that everyone else was in uniform. Clean uniforms, to be sure, but they all still looked rather official indeed. Oh well.
"Ensign, you look very nice," said the captain, who was the only one with an opinion of value when it came to her attire for the evening.
The planet Aris was lush and green. Every one of the Arisians stared at the landing party. It was a little uncomfortable but no one approached them. Every now and then, a whisper would become loud enough to be heard, "Is that a woman?" was the sound of one of the whispers and another was, "I never thought I would see one, they look so strange," Hoshi shrugged it off; other cultures had different notions of politeness and this seemed no different.
Milit and a young man were waiting. "This is one of my accordants, Lio," said Milit.
"Accordants?" asked Lieutenant Reed.
"Yes, we, won't you sit down?" said Lio, "We come from the same clone stock."
"So Lio and I are neither brothers nor are we father and son, although the age difference is enough. We are genetically identical, except we are forty six years apart in age."
"How interesting," said Ensign Mayweather, "Do you, is there a lot of cloning on Aris?"
"Yes, that is the way we reproduce. Wine?" said Milit.
Everyone consented to having a little wine, except for Travis, who had to pilot the shuttle. Hoshi felt she needed a drink. The idea of a lot of clones running around was weird, and the utter lack of women was even stranger. "Can I ask a question?" she ventured.
"Yes, of course," said Milit, "But I suspect I can anticipate it. You are wondering about the women of our world."
"Yes, I am," said Hoshi, "But if the question is too personal, you don't need to answer it."
Milit smiled, "You are very much like, I don't want to embarrass you, but you are like the ancient women of our world, it was a long time ago, so very long ago." He paused and downed some wine. "Oh, I see I am not answering your question at all. Over eight hundred years ago, there were still women on Aris. We did not treat them well, I must confess. It was a cultural imperative that men were superior to women in every way."
"So they could not participate in your government?" asked Malcolm.
"That was out of the question. The women of our world could not even venture out of doors unless under guard and escorted by several men. Since that is a difficult thing to get together, even at the best of times, it effectively meant that women were prisoners in their own homes. And our scientists, there was a prize offered, you see, for the first one to invent a means for reproducing without the need for any females at all. First cloning was discovered, and then slowly we began to decrease the amount of time that a fetus had to be inside its mother's womb. Eventually, when that time came to zero, our forefathers did something terrible." Milit paused. "More wine, please."
"What was it?" asked Captain Archer.
"Well, it is a shameful thing. We did not kill the women outright, but we did not care well for them and allowed them to die. The last one died seven hundred and ninety-three years ago. Ever since then, all we have done is clone new men when we need them. There are no female chromosomes or hormones anywhere on this planet. Except in you, Ensign Sato," Milit said.
Hoshi blushed. "I, I saw there are a few different-looking people. I take it there is a lot of this, what did you call it? Clone stock."
"Yes, there are one thousand separate clone stocks," said Lio, "Our laws require that no more and no less than six clones may exist from any one cloning stock. So in addition to Milit and myself, there are also Pado, Dea, Storin and little Meris from our clone stock. Pado is the eldest, then Milit, then Dea and Storin, then me, and then Meris, who is six years old. That is the extent of our, well, it's like a family unit but we call it an accordancy and its members are known as accordants."
"The law sounds very precise," said Travis, "What happens if there are seven clones instead of six?"
"We had a series of wars which eventually resulted in that law. You see, after the women were all gone, our society had no one else, I suppose, to blame when things were not as good as we hoped they could be. So we made war amongst ourselves. Several clone stocks were completely destroyed, to our eternal regret. Our planet could easily sustain far more than the six thousand inhabitants we allow by law, but we have found that this kind of open space tends to prevent conflict. But I can see this talk is upsetting. Ensign Sato, I know where the hieroglyphics are in this building. Would you care to join me? I would be most honored if I could show them to you," said Lio.
"Captain, I'll go with her," said Frank, stepping forward for the first time.
"Yes, of course," said Lio.
They walked down a long corridor with an extremely high ceiling, "Do you know if the hieroglyphs are from the same time period as when the women were still alive?" asked Hoshi. It was the last thing she said for a long time. She and Frank did not even feel the tiny pinpricks on their necks.
"All right," said Lio, "Work quickly, work quickly, we have little time before the sedative wears off." Two Arisians tended to each human.
"Lio, we are very nearly finished. We have removed a suitable quantity of hormone from the female and injected her and the male with Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six. They will come around shortly," The four other Arisians left quickly. Lio got onto the floor with them.
"What was that?" asked Hoshi. Frank had instinctively drawn his phase pistol.
"These hallways are old," said Lio, shaking his head and pretending to be coming out of a daze, "And there is some mold. We should take you back to your party. The mold is usually not this bad, but we have had a great deal of rain."
"Mold, eh? Well, we'll see about that," said Frank, reholstering the phase pistol, "Hoshi, we'd better see Dr. Phlox about this, uh, allergy."
They returned to the party and Lio said, "Captain, we were walking down the main hall when the three of us were overcome by an allergic reaction to a mold which grows under the subflooring. If you wish to take Ensign Sato and this, uh, military gentleman back to the ship, we will understand."
"Captain, I must express my regrets," said Milit, springing to his feet, "This building is very, very old, it was chosen for this evening's gathering because of the hieroglyphics. I'm afraid my people must look awfully clumsy to you. I hope you will accept our most sincere apologies."
"Look, I think we should return to the ship," said Captain Archer, "I don't like to break up a party but I don't want anyone else out with an allergic reaction. I'm sorry."
"By your leave, Captain," said Milit and the landing party left.
When they were safely out of earshot, Milit asked, "Did you get it?"
"Oh, yes," said Lio, "Enough female hormone for our cloning engineers and genetic physicians to use. And we added a little something in exchange."
"Lio, what have you done?" Milit looked apoplectic.
"Nothing harmful. It's an experimental substance designed to enhance attractiveness."
"Experimental? Then how will you know if the experiment worked?"
Lio replied, "Our new friends are intelligent people. They will figure out very quickly that something is different and they will put two and two together. So we will see them again," he smiled. "She smelled like flowers."
Meanwhile, back at the Enterprise, the landing party had been let out of Sick Bay's quarantine, even Hoshi and Frank, "Now, let me have a look at you," Dr. Phlox isolated Hoshi on a bed in Sick Bay and drew a curtain around the little area. It rattled on its bearings.
"Doctor, I feel fine. I do get hay fever sometimes. But I don't normally pass out."
"Well, it makes sense that your immune system would overreact to an alien irritant. Now, off with your dress."
"Oh, my, that is a bit inappropriate. I mean to say, let's have a closer look. Perhaps that floral perfume you are wearing did something to the mold. I know it is doing something to me."
"Hoshi, I – "
"Hoshi, is he bothering you?" It was Frank.
Hoshi ducked out of Sick Bay, ignoring Phlox's protests. She slowed down to a normal pace down the corridor. There was no sense in alarming other people, but Phlox was not acting normally. Two MACOs she did not know leered at her, "Hey, baby," said one.
The other added, "Wanna see my phase pistol?"
Hoshi began to move more quickly again. The MACOs were following her, or at least she thought they were. The botany lab was to her right. Its door opened. An assistant botanist stepped out and looked her up and down, "Sugar and spice!" he exclaimed, licking his chops. He, too, began to follow her.
Four junior armory officers came out of the gym and were chattering animatedly about Earth politics when one of them noticed her. "I can use another workout," he said, and began to follow. His three companions fell in with him.
"Hoshi, are you going somewhere?"
"Hoshi, can I walk you to your quarters?"
"Hoshi, do you believe in fate?"
"What's your sign, Hoshi?"
"Do you want to get a bite to eat, Hoshi?"
"Do you want to look at the stars, Hoshi?"
"Are you seeing anyone right now, Hoshi?"
Hoshi finally stopped and so did her entourage. She turned on her heel and looked back at them. She had been so intent on just moving forward that she had not checked behind her. There were about fifty men behind her, nearly all of the men on board the Enterprise, "I am going to see the captain, if it's anyone's business. And I don't need an escort." She was livid and turned back to her walking.
"Hoshi, can I see you to the captain's Ready Room?"
"Hoshi, are you free this evening?"
"Is there anything I can get for you, Hoshi?"
The door to the Bridge was a welcome sight. She pressed a button and the door opened. She quickly hit a panel to close it behind her. The door opened again and she heard Tripp's voice, "'Scuse me, 'scuse me, comin' through!" The door shut behind him, "Phew, I never thought they'd leave us alone. Now, about dinner."
Hoshi moved away quickly. Travis was looking her up and down, and his eyes were not lingering on her face. Malcolm was coming over. Stay calm stay calm, "Ensign, perhaps you'd like to see some etchings I've been working on," he ventured.
"Uh, no, that's okay."
T'Pol gave Hoshi a meaningful look. Captain Archer smiled broadly from the captain's chair and motioned to his lap. "Got a good seat for you, Hoshi."
"Uh, Captain, can I see you in your Ready Room?"
"Well, sure, but I don't get off until later. Unless you want to, um, get off now." He laughed at his little joke. "T'Pol, take over the ship."
"I want her to be in the room with us," insisted Hoshi.
"Well, um, I never thought of, uh, the two of you. Well, I have, to be honest, but, I mean, it's all so sudden. Besides, you're Number One," said the captain.
"Captain, please," pleaded Hoshi. She gave a meaningful look to T'Pol and then opened the door to the Ready Room herself. Conventions apparently were out the window so there was no sense in waiting for an invitation. "Are you both coming?"
The captain laughed at that and walked in with T'Pol. "It's good to be the captain," he said, once the door closed.
"Captain, there is something going on," said T'Pol, "Ensign Sato is not normally this appealing to you or the other male members of the crew. And before she entered the Bridge, we received word from several female crew members that their male counterparts had abandoned their posts and gone to follow Ensign Sato around."
"Whoa," said Captain Archer, shaking his head as if he was shaking away cobwebs. "What's going on? Run that by me again." He sat down hard onto his desk chair.
"Captain, I think it's that mold or maybe my reaction to it or something, but all of a sudden all of the guys on board – or at least most of them – seem to want to go out with me. They're all; it's kind of creepy to be that wanted. Even Phlox was bothering me. It took Corporal Todd to intervene and get Phlox off my back."
"Oh, God, oh, Hoshi, I'm so sorry." The captain was coming to his senses again. "And I've misbehaved, too, I can see. Hmm, this is obviously related to the Arisians."
"Then perhaps we should pay them another visit," suggested T'Pol, "Ensign, did Corporal Todd suffer from the same, uh, complaints as you?"
"Come to think of it, I don't think so," said Hoshi.
The captain punched a console. "Travis, we're going back to Aris. Maximum warp," he released the button on the console. "I want to know what the hell is happening. And if people continue bothering you, we'll have to think of a place for you. I don't know if I'm all right now, permanently, or if this is just temporary and I'm going to turn into a leering fool again. So this'll have to be a snap decision."
"The Brig, Captain, I should go into the Brig," said Hoshi, "I don't want to, but it would keep people away and I can't go into quarantine because Phlox would be there."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that. In the meantime, uh, stay in here, we should be back at Aris in less than half an hour, I figure. T'Pol, come with me."
T'Pol and the captain left Hoshi in the Ready Room. Porthos was sleeping in a corner. Hoshi turned to the dog and said, "I really hope this doesn't affect you, too. But right now, with the day I've had, nothing surprises me anymore."
Back on the Bridge, everyone had returned to their stations. Crewman Sandra Sloane was brought in to handle Hoshi's station. "Lieutenant Reed, Ensign Mayweather – are we feeling any better?" asked the captain.
"Yes, I think so," said Travis, "That was weird, like I was possessed."
"Yes, it was a kind of temporary madness," agreed Reed, "Please, whenever this is all over, we'd like to apologize to Ensign Sato."
"Of course," said Archer. He turned on the intercom, as he could feel the madness returning. "Ensign Reese, Crewman Jones, and Crewman Tanner, report to the Bridge immediately. Oh, and also Corporal Todd. And all other crew members are confined to, uh, whatever rooms they're currently in until you get the go-ahead from me. No walking down the hall to talk to anyone or borrow equipment or whatever. You all stay put. Anyone in the halls, other than those crew members, will be formally reprimanded. I trust I make myself clear," He turned off the intercom and motioned to T'Pol to come closer. He whispered, "All right, T'Pol, you're in charge. Once the Corporal and the ladies get here, we'll have them steer the ship while Ensign Mayweather, Lieutenant Reed and myself duck into my quarters. Once you've gotten Hoshi out, let us know, here, take a communicator, and we'll go back to our regular stations. Stay in contact; let me know when you're at the Brig and then everyone else can go back to doing whatever they need to do. Put Corporal Todd in charge of guarding her."
T'Pol nodded. The four crew members soon arrived. Ensign Reese took over navigation, Crewman Jones went to the Science station and Crewman Tanner went to Tactical. Corporal Todd stood at ease, waiting for orders. The captain and the other men left the Bridge. T'Pol opened the door to the Ready Room, "Ensign, I believe your expression is that the coast is clear. Corporal, I take it you will behave while we escort the Ensign."
"Yes, of course, ma'am."
"You!" accused Crewman Tanner, leaving her station and pointing an accusing finger at Hoshi as she left the Ready Room.
"Me? What did I do?"
"My boyfriend went running after you. He went calling your name, it totally interrupted a – well – let's just say we weren't on duty at the time."
"I, I couldn't help it," said Hoshi honestly, "I don't know what's going on except I know I'm not doing it."
"We'll see about that," sneered Tanner.
"Crewman, that's quite enough," admonished T'Pol, "Here, Ensign," she turned to Hoshi, "Take this communicator. You and I and the Corporal are going to, to where you requested. The captain wants to keep in touch with you once we return to Aris."
Hoshi took the communicator and they started off. It was a short walk, but it was eerie seeing the hallways deserted, "Where are we going?" asked Corporal Todd.
"To the Brig," said Hoshi. Upon seeing Frank's worried expression, she added, "It was my idea. Keep me out of sight and apparently out of mind. Hey, why aren't you in love with me?"
"I beg your pardon?" he asked.
"You seem to be unaffected by this, whatever it is."
"Hoshi, you forget my preference is not for women. So I suppose we can safely assume this, whatever it is, doesn't cross lines of preference. Dave doesn't seem to be affected in that way, although he is a lot more, ahem, lovesick than usual."
"Fascinating," interjected T'Pol, "It is as if this condition merely amplifies what is already present, without creating any new feelings. That would explain why the woman on the ship are completely unaffected – they are not interested in Ensign Sato as a potential mate and are not interested in you because ...," T'Pol seemed to be groping for a suitably polite expression.
"Because they've written me off?" said Frank, "It's all right, I'm not offended. Ah, here we are, I guess, whew, I never thought I'd be saying this, but I guess I'm gonna have to lock you in, Hoshi. Do you want anything from the galley before I do that?"
"No, I'm fine. The captain said it wouldn't be too long."
T'Pol took the communicator and activated it. "Captain, we have arrived at our destination."
"Understood. Does she miss me?" asked the captain.
Hoshi rolled her eyes. "I guess the cure was only temporary."
"Captain, that would be an inappropriate inquiry for me to make," said T'Pol, looking peeved but maintaining her usual Vulcan composure. "What is our estimated time of arrival at Aris?"
"Only about seventeen – sixteen?" his voice trailed off, as he was apparently asking Travis for a more precise estimate, "Ah, Ensign Mayweather says it'll be fourteen minutes. We'll be in touch." The communicator switched off.
"Here," she handed the communicator to Hoshi. "I suggest you keep contact to a minimum."
Frank locked Hoshi in and stood outside the Brig, where a crowd of men was already gathering. "Is she there?"
"Can it be?"
"Not our Hoshi!"
"Step aside, Corporal!" It was Major Dawson, Frank's superior officer.
"Sir, with all due respect, I am under orders from the captain."
That seemed to appease them all, slightly. It was like before, when the captain had recovered slightly. Some of the men walked away and the others settled down. "We'll just wait here," said Dawson.
Back on the Bridge, Aris came into view. Crewman Sloane flipped some switches at Hoshi's communications station. "Captain, I have a hail from Aris."
"Let's hear their explanation," sighed Archer, "On screen."
"Captain Archer, it is good to see you again, although I suspect it has something to do with some trouble one of my accordants has gotten himself into," It was Milit.
"You could say that. My Communications Officer is, let's just say everyone loves her. And I mean everybody. We have crew members leaving their stations and harassing her."
"Oh dear. You, bring Lio in here," Milit commanded a pair of Arisians. "Is the Ensign all right?"
"Yes, she's fine, no one's hurt her, but we are concerned. Now, tell us what the devil is going on."
Lio was brought in. His hands were bound. Milit looked deeply disappointed. "Lio, tell Captain Archer what you told me."
"I only did it for our future. Really, it was nothing harmful."
"Harmful? I've got an Ensign who I suspect is afraid of being raped."
"Oh, no, no, no, that's not an effect that's expected at all. Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six is intended to enhance attractiveness in a positive manner. Nothing more."
"You injected my Communications Officer with something without her permission?"
Lio looked hurt, "Oh, that's strange, is the military man unaffected? I wonder how that's possible."
"Lio, it's time to come clean. All of us will come clean," said Milit pointedly.
"All right," said Lio, "When the Ensign and her escort were walking with me to see the hieroglyphics, my medical team injected them with mild anesthetics to make them sleep. Then we removed some of the Ensign's female hormones."
"That part, Captain, I regret to say, was what I approved of. We have no females here and there was no other way to gather what we needed. I know our methods were crude but we had heard that your people do not like to interfere with local affairs. And we had just met you personally. We knew it would be a lot to ask, and a strange request at best. The visit to look at hieroglyphics was, of course, a pretense. You see, Captain, we are trying to recreate women," Milit offered.
"Let's cut to the chase," said Archer, getting exasperated, "There's something else here. We'll talk about the other thing in a moment."
"Of course," said Lio, "The rest was my idea. You see, our planet has, for a very long time, not known what women want. We do not know how to be attracted, we do not know how to read subtle signals, and we are confused by these relationships because we have not experienced them for so long. Hence my team and I are working on solutions that will enhance not only attractiveness but also fidelity. We –I – cannot read the signals. It was our assumption that the military escort and the Ensign were a couple. So they were both injected with Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six. The idea was to enhance their relationship. We figured you would return to Aris, and we regret that it was under such circumstances, but an explorer's ship such as you have will not come back to Aris unless you have an exceptionally fine reason. That was how we would know if the whole thing worked. I know, I know, my methods are not good ones, but the motivation is the same as my accordant's is: to make women. And, once they come back to our planet, to make them attractive to the current inhabitants. Until, I suppose, biology takes control."
"Why, why didn't you just ask us?"
"Because you could have said no," said Milit.
"Sounds like an excess of testosterone to me," said Crewman Sloane, adjusting her earpiece. "Never asking for directions or for permission, just taking what they want."
"Crewman, please, I will handle this," Captain Archer shot her a look, remembering yet again why Sloane never seemed to get promoted.
"Captain, that is all too accurate," sighed Milit. "We accept whatever punishment you will dole out, any price and any concessions. We know this is wrong. Lio here will go to prison for what he has done."
"He'll have to reverse whatever he did to Hoshi first," said Captain Archer. He motioned to Sloane to cut off the sound. "T'Pol, could you go to, to where Ensign Sato is and get her to the shuttle? It'll just be the four of us this time. You, me, Ensign Sato and Corporal Todd."
T'Pol nodded and left the Bridge. By the time she got to the Brig, the crowd of men was getting vocal again. "Hey, when can we see Hoshi?"
"Sato! Sato! We want Sato!"
Corporal Todd looked relieved to see T'Pol. She yelled in her loudest, most commanding voice, "Gentlemen! If you do not return to your stations immediately, you will be broken by one rank! And first-rank Crewmen will be subject to court martial for insubordination!"
The crowd collectively shook its head and got its senses back, and dispersed. T'Pol reached into a nearby storage locker and pulled out a surplus blanket. Frank unlocked the Brig and T'Pol gave the blanket to Hoshi. "We'll have to put this over your head. It's time to go to the shuttle bay," she said.
So covered, the three of them went to the shuttle bay as quickly as possible. There were some stragglers from the crowd, and they followed, pressing lit PADDs into Hoshi's hands and touching the blanket over her head as if it were a talisman. Captain Archer was already waiting. "I'm going to do my best to keep my head together but if I get, uh, weird, Corporal, I'm counting on you to engage me in some sort of a conversation to keep me on track. Is that understood?"
"Of course, sir. Do you like baseball?"
"I don't follow it much. Perhaps you can entertain me with the designated hitter rule."
So armed, the shuttle took off. Hoshi began looking at the PADDs, "Man, that's a pretty nice drawing of me. I just wish it wasn't a nude," She showed the PADD to Frank. "And here's, oh wow, someone wants to leave me his mother's antique brooch in his will. Gosh, people have the oddest ways of expressing their feelings."
"I have found that humans are most unpredictable," said T'Pol, just as the shuttle touched down.
When the door opened, there was a lot of whispering, "Two of them!" "That one looks different!" "I never thought I'd see the day!"
Milit and Lio were waiting for them. Lio's hands were unbound and he was wielding a needle, "I can give this to you now or your ship's physician can inject it. It's the antidote to Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six."
Captain Archer leered at Hoshi, "It better be now, or else I'll have to make an honest woman out of you, Ensign."
Once the injection was finished, the captain shook his head a few times. "I, I think it's gone. Just to be sure, you might want to give us some of that."
"Of course, and you can have some of the Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six if you wish. Your doctors might be interested in studying it." T'Pol took the samples and put them in her pack.
"Okay, now that that's over with, may I ask, are you having any success with my, uh, hormones?"
"Quite a bit, actually," said Milit, "Will you, will the four of you, wait a moment? You, bring in the incubator."
What looked like a bassinet with a glass cover and a myriad of tubes and wires sticking out of it was brought in. Hoshi leaned over it. "It's, she's, I guess, very small."
"Yes," beamed Milit. "That is a she. She is only at a few hours of gestation. But we have checked and that fetus is, indeed female. She will be the first female accordant from our clone stock, a sister, I suppose you would call her, to Lio and me and our other accordants."
"With your permission, we would like to name her Trea Hoshi," said Lio.
"What does Trea mean in your language?" asked Hoshi, her voice breaking just a little.
"The mother of the world."
Once back on the ship, Hoshi returned to her quarters unmolested. She punched up her communications – 17,028 messages! She could not even think about going through it all. It seemed to all be from the men of the Enterprise. Perhaps it would be good for some humor, but she figured it would all just be sad and strange and make her more than a little uncomfortable. She deleted all of it. There was a chime at the door. "Come in."
It was Ted. "I, I didn't want to bother you before, I saw you were, well, you were really busy and everything."
"Oh, I'm sorry but I may have just deleted a note or notes from you."
"Notes? Oh yeah, I bet you got a few. But no, I didn't send you any."
"You weren't affected by, uh, recent events? You weren't in love with me?"
"Oh, I was affected all right, but I think that just made me shyer. And, er, I was, I guess I was already in love with you. Look, um, I bet this is the last thing you want to hear right now, but do you want to do something?"
"Okay," said Hoshi tentatively, "But promise me you'll go slow. I'm not in the same place where you are."
"Of course," said Ted, "Anything you want."
Hoshi smiled. If this was settling, it was good settling.
In Sick Bay, Dr. Phlox analyzed Experimental Ingredient Number Thirty-Six and its antidote. He pressed the communications button on the wall console. "Captain, I think I may have isolated the active ingredient in the substance given to Ensign Sato to make her irresistible. I imagine it will have an enormous commercial potential."
"Excellent. I know just what you can name it."
"What would that be, Captain?"
"Love Potion Number Nine."