The intercom in the lab Spock was working in beeped, and Lt. Uhura's calm voice filled the room, “Lt. Spock, please acknowledge.”
Spock restrained the urge to sigh and reached to stop the information scrolling down the screen of his data terminal. He had already been interrupted three times this morning, all trivial incidents relating in some way to the arrival of the new Captain. That it was Lt. Uhura calling this time rather than one of the other Comm officers made it significantly more likely that the reason behind the call was not trivial, but Spock still found himself suppressing an unreasonable amount of irritation. Spock stood and crossed the room to the intercom and opened a channel. “Lt. Spock here.”
“Lt., Captain Kirk has requested a meeting of the senior officers today at 1100 hours in briefing room A.”
It was 1047 hours now, Spock would have to leave immediately to arrive at the briefing room on time. The irritation surged at this further interruption of his experiment, but Spock dutifully suppressed the emotion again and keyed an acknowledgment before leaving to room. Spock was not looking forward to working under a new officer. He had worked under Captain Pike for 13 years, and only in recent years had Pike seemed to internalize that Spock truly was not human and would not be pushed into acting so to spare is crewmates discomfort.
Spock entered the lift and contemplated the prospect of another five years being treated as though he was an uncooperative, socially inept human. The irritation surged again, and Spock realized that the persistent and recurring feeling he had been fighting for the last four days was not solely due to finding another of his staff bruised and in tears. He used the rest of his time in the lift to isolate and set aside the irritation for contemplation during his evening meditation.
Spock arrived at the briefing room five minutes early but still found the room nearly full, Lt. Sulu occupying the end seat facing the door that Spock usually choose. The only seats left were the one at the head of the table and the one directly in front of the door. Spock felt certain the new Captain would be as possessive of the head seat as Pike had been, so Spock seated himself in the only other seat.
Spock felt the irritation try to surface again and ruthlessly pressed it back. Sitting with his back to a door had made Spock uncomfortable and irritable since he discovered the intolerance and pettiness of his peers as a young child. His experience on the Enterprise had been less unpleasant than his childhood on Vulcan or his time at Starfleet Academy but there were still individuals that seemed to find harassing Spock irresistible.
Lt. Gary Mitchell, seated in the spot usually reserved for the First Officer, was one such individual. Since Captain Pike's retirement and departure Mitchell had started an escalation of his harassment, though as of yet all the incidents had been petty and he showed no sign of escalating to physical assaults. Spock sincerely hoped that an overheard rumor of Mitchell and Kirk's friendship at Starfleet Academy was not true. In his experience, humans would go to great lengths to shelter friends from punishment, regardless of the innocence or guilt of the accused. If Kirk was unwilling to discipline Mitchell, he would either be forced to live with the harassment or go to a higher authority, an act that would severely undermine his position on Enterprise. Spock's thoughts were again drawn to the situation with his staff. He was not unaware of the irony. He was a victim of harassment trying to protect his staff from the same. The human saying 'the blind leading the blind' came to mind.
The sound of the door opening behind Spock was followed by quick light footsteps as Kirk approached the head seat. Spock found himself slightly surprised at the lightness and ease with which the man moved. He also appreciated that the human had not chosen to linger in the doorway behind Spock.
Kirk reached the head of the table but remained standing as he introduced himself.
“As I'm sure you are all aware, I'm Jim Kirk, Enterprise's new Captain.” Kirk grinned as looked around the table at them. “I've heard some amazing things about all of you, and I'm looking forward to working with such an outstanding group of people.” Kirk sat and leaned forward to brace his elbows on the table. “I wanted to talk to you as a group and explain some of my expectations before we start working together. There are several changes I'd like to make around the ship, but I'm not going to implement anything until I've had a chance to discuss my plans with department heads. You've all been here long enough to understand your departments better than I can, so I expect my plans will be quite different after I've received your input. That said, there are some things I'm not willing to compromise on.” Kirk sat back an watched the reactions around the table. Spock noticed that all but Scott were maintaining neutral expressions. Scott wore an openly stubborn and unhappy look as he sat with his arms crossed over chest.
Kirk grinned as his eyes found Scott. “Ah, Lt. Scott, you look about as thrilled as I imaging the others feel.” Scott scowled at the Captain.
“Ah don't see why we need to be makin' changes. My grandad always said, 'if it an't broke, don't fix it.'”
“Think of this as a tune up; best done before something breaks. People form habits, they get comfortable, then they get sloppy. I don't want people making mistakes because they've become too comfortable.” Scott continued to look unhappy, though the hard stubborn set to his mouth had softened.
“As I said, I expect input from each of you, both on these changes, and on the bridge. I don't expect or want any of you to swallow your opinions because you feel like you can't disagree with the Captain. I expect you to follow orders, but I truly want to hear it if you disagree.” Spock had had instructors at the Academy that had espoused similar sentiments. Spock had quickly learned that disagreeing with them usually ended with him assigning some menial and pointless task without ever influencing the instructor's decision or opinion.
“Lt. Spock, you look a bit skeptical,” Kirk said.
“Indeed, Captain.” Spock was startled that the human had read him so well. Even crewmembers that had worked with him for years found it difficult to identify Spock's discreet Vulcan expressions. “I believe it wise to allow another to test the veracity of your claim. I do not care to spend another three months working both alpha shift bridge duty and third shift waste management.” Beside him he felt Uhura wince. Spock knew that several of the crew had felt the punishment was excessive, particularly as Spock's correct assessment of the danger of an experiment had stopped an imminent explosion that would have injured several crewmembers. Unfortunately for Spock, the head of the Science department at the time had been in favor of completing the experiment. The man had reluctantly accepted Spock's insistent recommendations to terminate, but felt that Spock had been insubordinate and had assigned Spock the split double shifts.
Kirk seemed taken aback at Spock's blunt doubt, but nodded his head, “Fair enough Lt. I hope you finish your assessment quickly.” Kirk turned his attention from Spock and looked around the table. “That goes for all of you. I expect you to doubt me for a while, I just hope it's a short while.”
“Now, over the last few months I've read so many official reports that I'm starting to actually believe life is as neat and tidy as it seems in writing. I'd appreciate it if each of you could fill me in on some of your unofficial concerns or abilities. Anything you think is important, even if it's just gossip.”
Sulu sat up and placed his hands on the table in front of him. “So, you'd like to know that the ship lags to port at warp 3?”
“She most certainly does not!” Scott bust out indignantly.
“Scotty, you can tell me that all you want, but it's not going to keep us on a straight heading at warp 3.”
Scott had his mouth open to continue the old argument when Kirk cut in, “Don't worry Mr. Scott, you'll have a chance in a minute. And yes, Lt. Sulu, that's exactly the type of thing I want to know. Anything else?”
“Runabout 11 needs a pilot with a delicate touch. Um, and she tends to get in trouble more often than any of the other runabouts.” Kirk offered a wry grin as Sulu hesitated to share the last bit. With Kirk's apparent understanding Sulu added, “Most of the pilots will offer their first born children to get out of flying 11.”
“Right then. I'll try to make sure only pilots with no children get duty on 11.” Sulu blinked, grinned, then laughed. “That never worked as a payoff, anyway. That's all I've got, sir.”
“Okay, Mr. Scott, I believe you had something to contribute.”
“Aye, Captain. Enterprise does not lag to port.” Scott glared at Sulu. “I've checked the hardware myself, and it's all clean. Pilot error is where I'd be lookin' for a lag.”
Spock watched Sulu swallow his response as Kirk shook his head. “Do you have anything else I should know?”
Scott sighed and nodded. “Aye. I'm worried about the port duodenic shunts installed during the overhaul. The tech that installed them seemed nervous and unsure but the bloody shipyard director threw a hissyfit when I assigned one of my lads to accompany the boy. I'd really like to check them as soon as we're undocked, but it takes more time than I can officially justify.” Scotty sighed again. “I just have a very bad feeling about it, Captain.”
“Do what you need to. If you think the time is worth it, I'm not going to argue.” Scott relaxed and sat back.
“Aye, Captain. I'll get it started as soon as we're undocked. That's all I've got to add, sir.”
“Who wants to go next? Lt. Uhura?”
“Captain,” Uhura acknowledged. “Officially, between all the Comm officers we speak 26 languages fluently. Unofficially, there are twelve more that we speak with competence, and about 40 total that we can understand. The number of languages we can identify with 30 seconds of exposure is well over 200.” Uhura smiled and continued, “One of the officers designed a game that exposes the player to 30 seconds of a random clip from the language database. Correct identification is assigned a positive point value based on the difficulty of the language and an incorrect ID get negative points.” She offered a sly grin. “We've got credits on the scores.”
Kirk laughed. “The game sounds like an excellent idea, Lt., and the results seem to speak for themselves, so I'm going to pretend I didn't hear anything about credits and just assume you're keeping the number reasonable.” Kirk grinned as Uhura winked and said, “Good. I didn't want to cut you in.”
All of the others at the table were relaxing as the Captain joked with Uhura about something that could have earned her an official reprimand. Spock saw several smiles.
“Mr. Giotto, what have you got for me?” Kirk said with a smile still on his face.
“There's good and not so good, sir. The not so good is that I've got a couple of long time scrappers in Security. They don't usually cause too much trouble so there isn't anything in official records, and they've proved themselves repeatedly on duty so I'm reluctant to transfer them, even if I do occasionally threatened to.” Kirk seemed a bit unhappy with this so Giotto continued, “Captain, they've never caused any serious injuries. Believe me, the day they do I'll transfer them so fast they won't blink before they're off the ship.” Kirk seemed mollified at Giotto's claim that the men had caused no serious injuries.
“I'm not happy with fighters, but if you think you can keep them under control I don't have much to say about it. What was the 'good' you mentioned?”
“We picked up the new style body armor a few weeks ago. I've been running training exercises with it and it's much more comfortable than the old style. The men are actually leaving it on during the breaks between scenarios. I have a feeling that the number of injuries my men take is going to go down by quite a bit now that they don't start taking pieces of armor off every chance they get. Damn fool kids.”
“That's really good to hear. I've seen men take off pieces of armor in the middle of combat. I've even been temped myself.”
“We all have, sir. The old style was just so damned restrictive.” Giotto shook his head, then watched Kirk closely for a second. “Have you used the new armor yet, sir?”
“We're doing a simulation in a few days. You're welcome to come and participate.”
“I'll do that.” Kirk smiled. Spock knew that Captains rarely trained with Security. Spock had heard Giotto invite Pike only twice, both right before the Pike was planing to go into unstable situations. Spock realized that Giotto liked Kirk.
“Dr. Abrams, what's interesting in Medical?”
Abrams had a huge grin as the Captain addressed him. “Well, Captain, the crew is overdue for a speech that's traditionally preformed by the Captain every year or so. Captain Pike, that sneaky old cad, managed to dodge the duty by retiring, leaving it to you.” The Dorcor's grin turned wicked. “It's time for another birds, bees, and alien vee-dees speech.” Kirk looked appalled, and Abrams started chortling. “It's not as bad as all that.”
“Then why don't you give the speech, Doctor?” Kirk asked wryly.
“I give it every time a member of the crew crawls into Sickbay to show me their drippy bits. It never seems to take. However, there was a noticeable drop in infection rates for about four months after Captain Pike gave the speech. I've already scheduled a time for next week. You should really start thinking about what to say.” Several of the crew were smiling, some with sympathy and others with amusement. Being steamrolled by the Doctor was an experience they had all suffered at some point.
“Well then. I guess we're moving on. Lt. Mitchell?”
“Yes, sir.” Mitchell was smirking a Kirk, still apparently amused by his future embarrassment. “The updates to the weapons systems are wicked smooth. There aren't even the little glitches and bugs we expected. Also, we picked up a couple of new gunners to go with the upgrades. One of them has an eye like I've never seen. She'd never done live fire before being assigned to Enterprise, but she litterally blew away her simulation stats when she was test firing the starboard photon torpedoes. I'm a bit worried that she's going to hesitate in combat, though.” Mitchell sighed. “I've never dealt with a female gunner before, but I know most Gunners on other starships won't take women. I just couldn't resist her stats.”
At the start of Mitchell's brief, Kirk had been smiling, but as Mitchell started to express his doubts about the crewwoman, Kirk's smile had faded then turned to a frown. Mitchell noticed this, and made a placating gesture. “Now, don't go getting upset. I plan to place her with another gunner the first few times she sees combat.” Kirk seemed even less pleased.
“Lt., do you do that for all your new gunners?”
Mitchell frowned at Kirk and answered, “Of course not. That would be ridiculous.”
“Then don't do it with her. I don't like discrimination, Lt., it undercuts confidence and efficiency and I'm not letting it happen on my ship.” Kirk had stopped frowning and his voice was still soft, but it lacked much of the warmth it had had while he addressed the others. Spock felt a great deal of relief that Kirk seemed unwilling to ignore his friend's prejudices. It indicated that Kirk would not allow Mitchell's harassment of Spock to continue if he filed a complaint.
“Aye, Captain.” Mitchell seemed a bit confused at Kirk's reaction, but he settled back and indicated that he had nothing further to add.
“Lt. Spock, is there anything unofficial I should know about the Science department?”
Spock hesitated for a moment while meeting Kirk's eyes. “Yes, Captain.” Spock paused for another second then committed himself. “I believe that there is a crewmember seriously and violently harassing some of my female staff.”
Spock's statement obviously surprised and angered the Captain. The other's at the table had similar reactions. “Do you have any evidence, Spock?”
“No. I would have reported this immediately if I had any evidence, Captain. However, 23 days ago I encountered one of my gamma shift staff in obvious emotional distress in a lab that she was scheduled to work in independently. The woman had bruises on her wrists clearly made by a hand, though she refused to admit that an assault had occurred, claiming that the bruises were a sports injury and would say only that 'she were upset about the results of an experiment' when asked why she was crying. These were clearly ridiculous claims.”
“The second incident occurred eight days later with the same woman in similar circumstances, with similar ridiculous justifications for the bruises and emotional distress. I promptly moved her to alpha shift and made sure that she was never scheduled to work in otherwise empty labs. While this appeared to stop additional incidents, it required a significant redistribution of my staff and resulted in a 5% efficiency drop.”
“Unfortunately, I found a second victim in a lab during beta shift four days ago. She had clearly been struck in the face, though she had no bruises on her wrists. She had remained after her shift to complete an experiment that would have been completed during alpha shift if not for the drop in efficiency.” Spock finally paused to observe the others. The Captain and the Doctor were grim, Uhura was obviously angry, and Sulu, Scott, and Mitchell appeared shocked.
“I was unable to convince either of the women to tell me who had assaulted them, or even to admit that they had been assaulted, though the first woman seemed grateful when I placed her on alpha shift. I believe they are being threatened in some way to keep them from talking. I strongly suspect that the situation is domestic.” Spock paused and looked away from Kirk a moment. “I am unsure how many other incidents have occurred without catching my attention.”
“You should have brought this to light earlier, Lt. Harassment isn't something a person should have to live with,” Kirk said with soft flat inflection he had used to reprimand Mitchell. Spock felt a surge of anger at being treated in the same manner as Mitchell, and raised his eyebrow at Kirk.
“I have found that what should be and what is are rarely the same, sir. I had no evidence and the women were unwilling to report anything,” Spock responded. Kirk was startled at Spock's cynical response, but after a hesitation he shook his head and looked away.
“No,” Kirk sighed, “It's their choice. Do you think they might talk to someone else?”
“They may be willing, but I cannot give you their names. I have already committed an atrocious breach of their privacy by opening this discussion.”
“Dr. Abrams, do you think you can find someone appropriate to systematically approach the female Science staff?”
“My head nurse, Christine Chapel, will probably be willing. I'll arrange it with her as soon as we're done here.”
“Thank you, Doctor. Do you have anything else to add, Lt. Spock?” Spock stared at Mitchell until the man looked away, then shook his head no. Kirk observed the interaction curiously.
“Anyone else?” Everyone indicated negatives. “Alright then. This was a bit more than I had in mind when I called this meeting, but it seems to have done some good already. Thank you for sharing with me. Dismissed. Lt. Spock?”
“Would you mind remaining? I'd like to talk for a bit.”
The room emptied quickly, leaving Spock and his new Captain sitting at nearly opposite ends of the briefing table in the quiet. Kirk got up and approached Spock. “Do you mind if it sit next to you?”
Spock gestured his acceptance and looked a question at Kirk as he sat. Kirk leaned back in his chair and studied Spock's face.
“Someone's been harassing you, haven't they?” Spock was shocked again at the human's ability to read him. He should not have allowed his resentment at being treated like Mitchell to provoke him so.
“What makes you think I'm being harassed, Captain?” Spock asked, only to have Kirk gently laugh and lean into the table, allowing him to face Spock more directly.
“Well, I've never managed to received such a cynical response from a Vulcan before. Also, the way you moved your personnel around so quickly and at cost to your department's notorious efficiency reads like personal experience to me.”
“So, are you going to tell me who it is?” Kirk asked as he readjusted his posture to a more relaxed frame.
Spock found himself wanting to be able to tell this man, to trust that he would live up to what should be. During the briefing Kirk had repeatedly acted in a manner consistent with an open mind and an honest disposition. He had shown himself unwilling to tolerate even mild prejudice from a man that was rumored to be his friend.
Kirk sighed and sat back, making Spock abruptly aware of how close the man had gotten though a series of seemingly insignificant shifts. “Yeah, that's what I thought you'd say. I've known Gary a long time and he tries to cover it up, but he can be damned xenophobic. How bad has it gotten?”
“Insults, slights, an occasional delay in procurement of requisitioned supplies. He has not escalated beyond petty grievances.” Kirk rubbed his hands over his face.
“That's how Gary got here. He's never done anything nasty enough to get someone to report it.” Kirk met Spock's eyes and asked, “Do you want to? I'll support you if you do. As much as I call the man a friend, xenophobia isn't an attitude I can tolerate in a starship officer making first contacts.” Spock was surprised at the Captain's ability to reason past his friendship with Mitchell. The man was doing an exemplary job behaving as Spock believed a Starfleet officer should.
“Do you believe that Lt. Mitchell's behavior can be successfully corrected without official notice?” Spock asked, again obviously surprising Kirk.
“I'm honestly not sure. As far as I know, he's never escalated beyond petty annoyances, a good sign that he can work though this and get past his problem.”
“I see no reason to punish the Lt. without first trying to correct his behavior. If he continues his harassments I will report it and he will be removed from Enterprise, if he moves past his behavior the Enterprise will retain a valuable officer.”
Kirk smiled at him, “Logical, Mr. Spock. I'll take care of Lt. Mitchell's behavioral correction. The harassment should stop immediately.” Spock bowed his head slightly.
“Captain, in regard to my staff. With the addition of the last attack I am much more certain that the situation is domestic. The second woman is a close friend of the first.”
“Damn. Domestic abuse is a hard situation even without active duty on a starship. And if it is domestic, we're no longer part of the process. Nurse Chapel will just have to find out what's going on and help file charges or recommend transfers.”
“That is not ideal, but I see no other options. If that is all, Captain, I have several experiments I need to resume.”
“Alright. Thank you for telling me about Mitchell. You're dismissed, Lt. Spock.”
Spock got up and turned to exit the room, noting that the Captain remained seated, staring at the table top. This man was nothing like the officer Spock had anticipated. He seemed to have some experience working with Vulcans, illustrated by his ability to read Spock's expressions and his statement about getting cynical responses from Vulcans.
As Spock returned to his lab he examined the irritation he had been suppressing for the last four days and found it significantly reduced. In one hour long briefing with the new Captain Spock had initiated measures to eliminate both the continued harassment of his staff and himself. Suddenly the prospect of five years on Enterprise with this new Captain did not seem like a burden.