Most of the senior officers of the Enterprise sat around the table in the briefing room. Kirk was addressing his staff.
“Gentlemen, the Tellar delegation will be arriving shortly. Full diplomatic protocols apply. The Tellarites are extremely difficult, sensitive and emotional. They make Andorians seem positively Vulcan.”
Spock raised an eyebrow.
“Sorry, Spock. We need to muster as much grace and humility as we possibly can. A perceived insult could undo three years of Federation negotiations. We will be hosting a formal reception at 2100 hours. Their delegation is so large that we will need to convert a cargo bay into a ballroom. Please read the brief about Tellarite social constructs from Starfleet. I know it’s complicated. And please, please swallow your pride. Just remember, if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.”
“It’ll be a quiet party.”
“Thank you for your analysis, doctor.” Kirk grinned in spite of himself. “Dismissed”.
They began filing out of the room.
“Captain, may I have a word?”
“What can I do for you, Spock? Questions about the Tellarites?”
“No, sir.” He paused, his brows drawn together.
“Are you alright? “
“I have encountered a problem that I cannot resolve.”
Kirk raised his eyebrows curiously and waited.
“What is it, Spock?” Kirk was starting to become concerned.
“Lieutenant Uhura will not speak to me.”
“She’s not following orders or making reports?”
“She has been thorough and efficient, the perfect Starfleet officer.”
“I don’t understand.”
“She will not speak to me beyond what is necessary to perform her duties.”
Kirk sat back in his chair, trying to hide is amusement. “And this is a problem because?”
Spock stood and paced from one end of the long table and back. Kirk was surprised. Spock genuinely seemed to be at a loss.
“I had,” Spock cleared his throat. “I had grown accustomed to her banter. She would occasionally hum a tune or even sing at her post. On particularly uneventful shifts, it was often a welcome distraction.”
“Maybe she doesn't feel like singing, Spock." Kirk tried to lighten his mood. "It's not as if she were singing only to you." He sobered. "Have you tried to talk to her?”
“My attempts have been met with cool civility.”
“Well, as long as it not interfering with her performance, there’s not much you can do.” He stood and barked out a laugh. “I guess I was right. It’s going to take more than a week for her to forgive you.”
“I do not understand.”
“Don’t try. I don’t know what to tell you, Spock.” He waved a hand. “She’s a woman.”
“I have noted that. Excuse me, Captain.” Spock left the briefing room.
The captain looked after his friend with narrowed eyes.
The Tellar Ambassador's aide cautiously sniffed the glass of scarlet liquid Scotty served him.
"Go ahead, laddie. It'll put hair on…more hair on yer… more hair on ya." It had only been a few hours and the chief engineer was mightily sick of the Tellarites, who he was beginning to think of as fat, fussy little Tribble people. With their wrinkled, piggy noses, he kept imagining them with apples in their mouths. He gave an internal sigh. They were a pain in the backside but they sure knew how to throw a party. They brought kegs of real alcohol and even brought their own band that played surprisingly danceable music.
The Tellar delegation had arrived, and after hours of shifting quarters assignments and temper tantrums about the slightest perceived insult from the Enterprise crew or from each other, the Tellarites were finally settled in and were now enjoying the reception. There was a minor squabble when one Tellarite believed that a server gave him a glass that had an infinitesimal amount less of rum punch than had been poured for another delegate, but so far, all seemed to be having a good time. The Saurian brandy and Risan rum punch flowed freely.
Dr. McCoy leaned close to the captain. “So, Jim, what do you think of our gifts?”
Kirk ran his finger around the high collar of the coat he wore. “Actually, Bones, I rather like them. The Tellarite tailor fitted me perfectly." He stepped back and looked the doctor over. "And I must say that you look quite dashing.”
“Why, thank you Captain. You look pretty good yourself." McCoy looked across the room to where Spock stood towering over a tittering group of delegates. "If you tell Spock I told you this, I’ll deny it, but this getup really suits him. Maybe I’m a little drunk but he looks like…royalty.”
“That’s because on Vulcan, he is.”
“He wears it well.”
“You are drunk." Kirk grinned. "I think I might be a little, too.”
The Tellarites had presented the male senior staff with the Tellarite version of a formal jacket to wear to that evening’s event. The jacket was constructed of a luxurious and heavy black material that was reminiscent of Terran cashmere. The cut was like that of a priest’s cassock, fitted through the torso, flaring a bit at the hip and ending just above the knee. It was sleeveless but warm, with a high, notched collar and beautiful large buttons of faceted amber-colored stones down the front. The jacket paired excellently with the slim pants of the Starfleet dress uniform.
Spock stood across the room speaking with the Ambassador and the Ambassador’s Three Hundred Forty-fourth Wife. He looked magnificent in all black; the cut of the coat accented his lean torso and the light reflected from the amber buttons glittered in his eyes. His arms were long and slender, but well-muscled. He stood looking relaxed and elegant with his arms behind him in that habit of posture adopted by every Starfleet Academy graduate for the last 100 years. Just then, he looked over at Kirk and McCoy with one slightly raised eyebrow.
“He heard me.”
Kirk chuckled. “I’m sure he did, Bones. Even over this loud music.”
Spock excused himself from the Ambassador and strode over to the captain and doctor.
“Tellar culture is fascinating. The Ambassador has over five hundred wives but theirs is not a culture of subjugation. Each wife has equal status, retains her own property and can hold any office that a male can. Some wives even take another husband. Their relationships seem arranged according to geopolitical associations and---“
McCoy’s eyes glazed over. “Thank you, Spock but we read the cultural brief. I know all I need to know about it.”
“Dr. McCoy, your ignorance of—“,
Kirk raised his hand. “Gentlemen, I’m exhausted from dealing with the delegation’s every little itch. I have no wish to referee the two of you all evening. Can we just enjoy ourselves?”
“Yes, sir. I’ll get us some more of that awful rum punch. How many regulations are we breaking by drinking this stuff, Jim?"
"The regulations are flexible when it comes to matters of diplomacy." He raised his glass. "Drink up, Bones. Consider it your contribution to the peace process!"
"I shoulda majored in political science. Oh, shut up Spock. Man, that band is hot!” McCoy walked a little unsteadily to the drinks table, snapping his fingers to the beat.
Uhura took one last look at herself in the mirror. She wore a dress of simple design and of a lightly shimmering silky fabric that was almost the exact shade of brown as her skin. It had a high neck, long sleeves and fell to the floor but the thin material clung to every curve. She'd worried that the dress was too revealing but it was positively chaste compared to what Janice and Christine were wearing. She wore her hair loose and brushed out on her shoulders, lined her eyes with kohl and glossed her lips with just a hint of color. She smoothed her hands down her sides and turned to view herself from behind. Not bad.
She exited her quarters.
“What I was attempting to say before the doctor so rudely interrupted me, Captain, is that the Ambassador is currently looking for another wife.”
“So? Better him than me,” Kirk chuckled.
Looking over the captain’s shoulder he replied, “It could be a cause for concern.”
"Whoa," breathed McCoy, his blue eyes bright.
The captain looked from Spock to McCoy then turned to see what had captured their attention. He coughed on the sip of brandy he'd been in the process of swallowing.
"My God, Bones. What is she wearing?"
"Not much," McCoy replied.
"For a moment there, I thought she was naked."
"Jim, that dress is better than naked. Don't you agree, Spock?"
"Doctor, I am sure I would not know."
"Well, I do and I'm telling you that it is."
"I see nothing wrong with admiring a beautiful woman, Jim. Besides, I'm a doctor. It's a purely clinical observation."
"I will be certain to look up the term "whoa" in the medical dictionary," commented Spock.
"And you'll find a holostill of Miss Uhura wearing that dress right next to it."
"Damn…" whispered Kirk.
Spock said nothing else but watched intently as Lt. Uhura entered the room and made her way towards Sulu and Rand, who had their arms draped around each other’s necks and were doubled over with laughter. Several crewmembers stopped her and she exchanged a few words with them before moving on. Chekov tried to coax her onto the dance floor.
End Chapter 2