Darenth had his forehead on his desk, trying to steel his nerve. "Why," he asked himself, "didn't I check the XO before I went to Captain Moreno?" Not that it would have changed his mind about service on the Nimitz, but at least he would have been better prepared. It was only his second day officially assigned to the ship, and already he would be faced with...
Half-Vulcan, but still Vulcan. He was pretty sure you could be an eighth Vulcan and still be Vulcan. And Vulcan was Vulcan was Vulcan, which was bad news for Dr. Rayoon because all Vulcans - half-Vulcans, one-eighth Vulcans, six-nineteenth Vulcans - hated him.
Oh, sure, they'd say they suppressed their emotions. Vulcans were "bred to peace," they'd claim. But he was pretty sure they'd reserved some small amount of dislike for him alone, going out of their way on several occasions to crush what one Vulcan schoolmate at the Louis-le-Grand had actually called "an excess of joie de vivre." How could one possibly enjoy life in excess?
But it was more than just his previous encounters with Vulcans that made Darenth dread working with them. For someone so alive with emotion, someone who even relied to some extent on an empathic ability, someone like Darenth...Vulcans were an enigma. Cold, logical, distant, detached, disinterested, aloof. How could all the joys and simple pleasures of the entire universe be lost on a whole species based solely on a philosophy of logic? It was so contradictory to his own personal life philosophy that every attempt thus far to wrap his mind around logic had left him feeling not only baffled but all the more alienated from Vulcans. It wasn't simply the "how" of what they did, but rather the "why" that left him clueless.
Unsurprisingly when he raised his head off his desk the situation had not changed. His revisions to the ship's trauma and triage protocols were still sitting on the PADD on his desk. They still needed to be submitted, preferably in person, to the executive officer. And Darenth still needed to actually stand up, leave his office, and make his way from Sickbay to the XO's office.
"Blessed Five Divines, I'd rather be skydiving into a volcano. Or," he said, pausing to allow his mind to wander to more pleasant thoughts that might accompany him on his way to the XO's office, "sitting on a beach on Risa. With a drink in my hand. A lady to the left...a lady to the right... Yes. I think I'd rather be doing just that...."
With one arm resting upon her sizeable desk, Commander T'Vel's blue eyes were unwavering in their dedication to the padd grasped in her free hand, pupils flitting quickly as she digested all she could of the USS Nimitz's crew roster, a duty she had quickly assigned herself to following her recruitment by Captain Moreno.
As always, she remained impressed by the selection of characters Starfleet bred in its top officers for departmental positions on their vessels; each was unique but dedicated, all able to offer something great to their field and to the vessel - and ergo the Federation - as a whole, and whilst it was encouraging to set her eyes upon such individuals, she could still not get past a few lingering concerns about those she would be serving with. Or, more appropriately, those she would be serving over.
It was during these moments of concern (which had only increased tenfold since her promotion) that she longed for the sheer dedication to Surak's teachings her mother had always encouraged and had dominated her prepubescent life on Vulcan. However, that was not the life she had chosen, having instead begun to indulge her paternal Bajoran heritage and learn to temper her logical mind with rational emotions, balancing herself and improving the person - and Starfleet officer - she was.
Nevertheless, it was often said by humans that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and the monumental prospect of being responsible, at least in part, for these many hundreds of individuals daunted her. It was not because of a lapse in her command capability, despite this being new to her, but rather the concept of having to cooperate with her fellow crewmembers.
T'Vel was incredibly willing to question Moreno in her decisions; to do her duty and uphold hers and the Federation's principles out amongst the stars and to serve with distinction. It had never been her desire to ascend the ranks and certainly to never reach command level, but she knew that as XO, it would now be her duty to entertain at least some form of relationship with others, particularly the senior officers, and it was the failure - or at least the sheer monumental difficulty - of that duty that now caused the ridges on her Bajoran nose to wrinkle further.
Whilst she had come to smile (rarely) with her former comrades on the Thelian, as well as indulging in a few more personal relationships and becoming well-known for making the occasional dry joke, T'Vel felt those relationships had only developed due to time and familiarity, predominantly in thanks to starting her career on board as a more lowly officer, gradually ascending the ranks and earning the respect of those who had grown to know and serve alongside her. With those on the Nimitz, such a factor was not on her side, and she would arguably be expected to approach them initially and build up some form of dynamic, rather than simply trusting it to come about.
It was not a promising prospect.
Even as engaged with both her review of the roster and her inner demons as she was, the commander was not surprised by the sudden chiming of her office door, but merely looked up and declared they should enter. Given how many things were still in a relative state of disarray with all of the changes on board, she entirely expected another yeoman or technician to come with more padds or requests.
Such bothers had kept her preoccupied enough to not have the chance to decorate her currently-spartan office with what few personal belongings she had brought on board, but she had handled everything with a practised ease and careful confidence. Such things were easy with technicians and yeomen.
Darenth stopped just inside the doorway, brought up short by the absolutely spartan room (even for a Vulcan). How long had the XO been on the ship? Not long enough to decorate, evidently. "Commander T'Vel? I'm Dr. Rayoon. I hope this isn't a bad time. I've just come with some protocol changes I'd like to implement." He held up the PADD in his hands by way of explanation.
T'Vel's eyes narrowed upon inspection of the chief medical officer, her mind flitting through what she had read of Kriosian's personnel file and reports from former senior officers. Whilst there was no denying his excellence as a male physical specimen, he did not yet seem to be displaying the confident characteristics she had expected based on her readings.
"Now is not a bad time, Doctor," she said as she rose from her chair, stepping about both receive the padd and extend her hand to his free one. With the thoughts that had been dominating her mind just moments before still fresh, she attempted to soften her features. "Please," T'Vel began, gesturing to the seat opposite her desk, "take a seat."
Darenth dropped into the chair with all the enthusiasm of a disgruntled teenager hauled in front of his parents and remained on the edge of the chair, never fully settling into the seat. "Thank you."
At Darenth's expression, she began to draw possible conclusions for his discomfort, her seniority being the first to come to mind, before her rational side declared her Vulcan heritage as the more likely culprit. It would not be the first time, nor would it be the last. As a tinge of upset annoyance tugged at her, she cursed the emotional barriers she had been working away at for allowing such a sensation, but she did what she could to push past it. She was the executive officer, after all, and had a responsibility.
More than, she was his comrade, and had to make an effort.
"Would you care for some refreshment?" The commander asked, nodding to the replicator, inwardly hoping he would not.
His mouth was as parched as the desert planet Eristas, but he shook his head politely. Refreshments likely meant small talk, and he was hoping for a quick in-and-out meeting. "Thank you for the offer, but I'm fine." He felt a little bad about declining, but many people seemed to offer refreshments as a sort of reflexive hospitality. If it was a sincere offer then she'd insist; the awkward silence he allowed waiting for her to do so only seemed to make the room grow even more uncomfortable.
Not taking up the cue or pushing ahead with her offer, the commander sat patiently behind her desk, waiting for the doctor to continue with his explanation of his medical proposals. Instead, he sat there looking entirely unrestful under her blue-eyed gaze. Clearly, the man had difficulties with command, or Vulcans, or both. If he had come with a clear purpose in mind - evidently unable or unwilling to engage in pleasantries (which she was silently thankful for, despite intending to hopefully build some rapport with the senior staff) - he should be ready to make his case.
Looking to prompt him, she raised her eyebrow in that very Vulcan way she could.
"Uh, so," he began, his voice seeming entirely too loud in the tomb-like silence of the office, "as I was saying I'd like to make some changes to the medical protocols regarding trauma and triage. These are the standards I'm familiar with; they differ somewhat from ordinary Starfleet protocols, but they've been compiled from my experiences aboard hospital ships. I'd like to get them in place as soon as possible so that I can begin training my... our... staff."
T'Vel nodded slowly, eyes narrowing a tad. "Very well, Doctor. You are better qualified and experienced in that particular department than I, and will undoubtedly have a far better grasp of what must be done. Whilst I appreciate those who serve with me being ready for action and alert, I would still advise you... 'relax' somewhat; they are your staff, Doctor, and you are responsible for them."
In her previous assignments, T'Vel had never had any true difficulties in dealing with medical staff, largely because they did have their own particular way of handling affairs. She had quickly discovered it was best to leave them to their own devices. It also meant they were more likely to leave her to her own devices, too - although they were prone to request more resources, more so than even some engineers, she had found.
"However, as I have already had to explain to Captain Moreno on a few occasions since I accepted this position, Starfleet protocols exist in the manner they do for a reason," the commander explained calmly, leaning forward so that her elbows rested upon her desk, hands coming together. "If there was truly a superior method, then it has usually been implemented at some point before. Nevertheless, I do appreciate originality and ingenuity. Discuss these ideas with your staff and send me a report on your plans. As I cannot profess to any great understanding of your field, it is likely that I will approve your plans. Even so, it would be appreciated if you were thorough in your preparations before making the changes."
Ordinarily he would have found some fault with the typically Vulcan statement, but he was still trying to wrap his head around the earlier statement. Relax? What Vulcan in the history of Vulcans had ever advised anyone to relax? He eyed the commander for a long moment and then produced the PADD in his hand, sliding it across the desk toward her. Although differing in attitude, disposition, taste, and everything else under the sun, Darenth did share a work ethic and love of detail with his Vulcan colleagues. "Done and done. I think medical professionals in particular find that Starfleet protocols are often drawn up by a bureaucrat in the basement of Starfleet Medical that may or may not have seen the light of an operating room in the past 20 years, so they can be slightly disconnected from the realities of practicing medicine in the field. These are my own recommendations based on my observations of how things actually work in the field, paired with annotations and suggestions from the Nimitz medical staff drawn from their own extensive experiences."
He leaned forward, reached across the desk and tapped a few buttons on the PADD's screen, now sitting in front of the commander. "For ease of access and review, I've compiled a comparison of the suggested changes against the previously established protocols in Appendix A. It's mostly stream-lining procedures, eliminating redundancies and reducing paperwork, as it were."
Once again, that Vulcan eyebrow rose, only this time it was in slight surprise - which was actually slightly evident on her features. Looking over the information he had prepared, she gave a couple of short nods before looking back up to her guest. "Very impressive, Doctor," she said, actually sounding genuine in her praise.
"Whilst I am rarely disappointed with the thoroughness of most senior officers," she went on, "your work here - considering your short duration on board - is impressive. Seeking efficiency should always be a priority. Sadly, whilst no one seems to want to disagree with that ethic, they do seem resistant to make the changes... especially if they come from one such as myself." Her blue eyes now carefully examining the man before her, she said, "I must confess, I fear my ancestry often has an adverse effect on some individuals' perceptions, both for good or ill." She now pushed the padd to one side. "I trust that will not be the case with you, Doctor?"
Darenth paused long enough to think because if he was being honest with himself then he wasn't sure if that was the case with him or not. He wanted to believe he assessed everyone based on their own merits without any pre-conceived notions, but his experiences with Vulcans had been almost uniformly negative. It had left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. "Permission to speak freely?"
Genuinely appearing to weigh up the request for a few minutes, T'Vel finally gave a slight nod. "For now, Doctor."
"Commander... If I'm being completely honest, I don't tend to get along well with Vulcans, which isn't to say I'm not as professional and cooperative as any Starfleet officer should be in the line of duty. However, my personality isn't one that would necessarily be praised in Vulcan culture, and the way I do my job has come under some criticism from Vulcan superiors and colleagues. It's possible I have a chip on my shoulder when it comes to Vulcans."
"Indeed?" T'Vel said quickly, cocking her head slightly yet looking seemingly unimpressed, although still maintaining her professional composure. "Whilst it is certainly every individual's right to have their own opinion on any subject, your actions are nevertheless your own. Should they reflect poor opinions that you realise are as such, you are merely lowering yourself to your base instincts - entirely something unbecoming of a Starfleet officer. Nevertheless, whilst you claim you maintain a professional demeanour whilst serving with Vulcans, it has still been apparent to me that there are lingering concerns between yourself and part of my heritage."
The commander then paused, and as she had earlier, she appeared to relent slightly. "That said, I understand scathing criticism is certainly not a way to encourage many species in their line of work. Whilst I respect that, the criticism - if from a Vulcan who is likely operating from a code of logic, albeit not suitable to all scenarios - may well be valid. Of course, I know you not and must merely make assumptions based on our brief communication and your personnel file. Perhaps," she went, "it would be best if you were to tell me what the fundamental disagreement it is you have with Vulcans?"
Darenth glanced unhappily at the PADD sitting on T'Vel's desk. Damn protocol changes, he grumbled silently. "I can't say I have any fundamental disagreements with every Vulcan because I haven't met all of you just yet. I'm not that far gone, raving and ranting like a lunatic. But it's probably safe to say I have some preconceived notions." There were a thousand things he wanted to say - Vulcans were rude, Vulcans never compromised, Vulcans were arrogant, Vulcans weren't team players. But it mostly boiled down to one thing. "You have no emotions! For a species that embraces emotion and empathy, it's incredibly hard to get along with a different species that turns to cold, hard logic. And by turning to logic, I don't just mean embracing it as a personal philosophy but as the One True Way to which all others should be conforming. If I had a transporter credit for every time I was criticized for being illogical or emotional I could probably move the whole population of Earth to Risa. But my work, my attitude and my actions aren't always going to conform to a logical Vulcan standard, and I think I resent the ever-present implication that they should."
Throughout the doctor's tirade, T'Vel's lips had remained pursed and her expression unchanging, entirely listening and processing what the Kriosian said. Of his manner, she was somewhat surprised and inwardly perplexed, but of his words, she could not help but find herself recalling how she had once said much of the same to her own mother some years back, following her decision to no longer entirely devote herself to the Vulcan way of life. Of course, the doctor knew nought of this and at this present juncture, she was content to leave it that way - not that she was going to conceal everything.
"I have no wish to force my particular lifestyle upon you, Doctor," she finally said, carefully and slowly. "So long as you fulfil your duties to the expected Starfleet standard, with competence and efficiency, I doubt we shall have any concerns with one another. You will, however, do what you can to dispel your concerns over my heritage. As you well know, one of my parents was not a Vulcan. I made a decision some years back to no longer follow the teachings of Surak - at least not in their entirety - but that is not to say there is not some worth in his words."
Rising, she now put her hand upon the doctor's padd and pushed it back towards him. "I approve your proposed changes and you may implement them at your convenience. Until our next encounter, bear in mind that we must all seek balance in some way to temper our passions and logical overbearance." T'Vel set her eyes on the man for a few steady seconds longer before gesturing to the door. "You are dismissed now."
Given Darenth had clearly spent time amongst Vulcans who had commented on his demeanour, she saw no purpose in trying to give him a lecture on what she knew they must have spoken of - although it largely came down to her own avoidance of hypocrisy. Even so, she knew she could not count this particular meeting as 'successful' by any stretch of the imagination, but at least she had been able to gauge something from one of her fellow senior officers on board.
Although he felt like he should linger a moment to reflect on what she'd said, Darenth instead just got up and left with PADD in hand. After all, he'd been dismissed, right? And that was a feeling with which he was well-acquainted when it came to his fellow Vulcan officers, so there seemed to be little sense in hanging around to ruminate on it.