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The Ears Have It

Posted on Fri Aug 24th, 2018 @ 7:31am by Ensign T'Niam & Stephen Spires

Mission: Preflight
Location: Deck 9, Science Labs
Timeline: MD 59

The science labs were quiet on gamma shift and the break in the customary bustle of the ship gave T'Niam a brief respite. A significant number of the minds aboard the Palatine were sleeping and the ambient telepathic noise that accompanied the 'day' had softened to a gentle hum. The ship had taken on new personnel at Deep Space 10 and they, like the crewmen who had boarded at McKinley Station, would need to have their baseline psychology assessed. So the Vulcan woman, still crisp as ever in her uniform, sat in the science lab at her workstation, compiling a schedule of interviews. The lab was silent but for the near inaudible tap of her fingers across her PADD.

And, of course, the soft sound of the door opening and the footsteps of a humanoid entering. T'Niam looked up as the door closed behind the new arrival, dark eyes curious. "Good evening."

Stephen prowled the night in search of low-hanging fruit left on an unsecured console or planning chart. Most activity happened during alpha shift, which meant that while there were few opportunities to be had, there was also a substantially lower risk of being confronted.

Of course, by the sight of the lovely brunette at a lonely workstation, Stephen chided himself that not all confrontations ended poorly.

"Good evening yourself." He stowed his data PADD behind his waistband and sidled up to the woman in hopes of future canoodling. "Name's Stephen Spires, and I was out lookin' to make friends. Mission accomplished, I hope," he said with a wink. "What's got you up all alone on a cold, dark night?"

T'Niam lifted an eyebrow slightly, lips twitching subtly at the blatant flirtation. The behaviour was not entirely unexpected as she had been the focus of such attentions before, but the Human predilection for coming on strong still amused her. "Well met, Stephen Spires," T'Niam answered smoothly, echoing his use of his full name without missing a beat. "You shall have to inform me of the parameters of your mission to acquire friends so that we may measure the outcome accurately." Her eyes glinted with humour as she put her PADD down so as not to be impolite. "I am hardly alone in my wakefulness, it would seem," she pointed out, tilting her head to regard him inquisitively, and gestured at a nearby chair. "You are welcome to join me if you wish."

Ever an assertive individual, Stephen jumped into the seat without a second thought. "Well, I never been one to pass on by a lovely lady carrying on all by her lonesome. Figured you could use the company, and by the looks of things, seems I figured right."

His grin kept up, though his eyes darted up and down her form. This one was tall and lithe. "You gonna' tell me your name, or are you gonna' make a fella' beg?"

At such close proximity, it was inevitable that the man's presence would be extremely noticeable, on both a physical and psionic level. Still, T'Niam's expression reflected only mild intrigue as Stephen Spires made himself comfortable. "I am curious as to how you drew the conclusion that I am in need of company," she said, a clear invitation for him to explain further. "Is it not possible that the advent of such was simply convenient?" Brown eyes were steady as they regarded him, observing his gaze as it wandered downwards and back again, clearly forming an opinion of her aesthetic value. "I assure you that begging is unnecessary, and conduct unbecoming of an officer, whether one is making such a demand or complying with it." Her lips twitched slightly. "If my understanding of your identity is correct, surely you do not require an introduction. Are you powers of deduction not up to the task?"

"After all that, and you still never told me your name." Stephen chuckled, leaned back, and pointed his hand at her like a gun. "Then I take it you're the kind of woman who likes the sight of a man on his knees. Begging. Submissive?" He gave her a teasing sidelong glance wrought with mock suspicion. "Be that as it may, I'm no officer, so you'll have to forgive my breach of protocol." A sly grin crept over his mouth. "I'm sure you can still find me cooperative, though, given the proper stimuli."

"You are most observant," T'Niam replied neutrally, eyeing the finger-gun with mild intrigue. "A gesture of subservience is unnecessary, however, if you feel the urge to do such a thing for your own peace of mind I will make no attempt to stop you." Stephen Spires' assumptions were most interesting, particularly the way he instantly drew the conclusion that her reticence was the result of some form of power play between individuals rather than a genuine lack of concern regarding the matter at all. "As you are not an officer, whether you have breached protocol is entirely a matter of opinion. Thus, you are neither co-operative nor unco-operative, but instead exist in a form of social flux not unlike Schrodinger's cat."

The wordiness of T'Niam's explanation made Stephen lean back and laugh. "Oh, dear. You sure have a mouth on you. That's good, though." He grinned again. "I like a chatty girl. But from where I'm sitting, I don't think Schrodinger's cat is the best analogy... unless my cooperation is a matter of life and death." He arched his eyebrow again, continuing to tease. "Surely not, my dear..." He snapped his fingers at not knowing her name, chuckling all the while in mock frustration. "Ah, yes. You continue to have me at a disadvantage there. Perhaps I'm not the one in a 'social flux'."

"It could be argued that as Doctor Schrodinger posited the theory but never attempted to test his hypothesis, the proper application has never been proven," T'Niam countered, watching him calmly, and eyed the fingers he snapped in her direction. She tilted her head at him slightly. "Do you often use endearments with people you are minimally acquainted with, Stephen Spires?"

Stephen grinned at the sound of his own name. "Sure do. That way everyone's a friend. Just gotta' be friendly." He slid from his chair to the corner of her desk. "A' course, every now and then a fella' just has to take the initiative." He snatched up the little memento from the middle of it, and a sudden realization set in. The cagey banter, the verbose turns of phrase, the cold and frigid disposition. "You're a Vulcan," he said.

T'Niam watched him pick up the item from her workstation, and blinked sedately at his statement. "Indeed. You appear surprised," she observed, dark eyes searching his face. The feeling radiating from him was distinctly different now; tense, wary. "I was under the impression my eyebrows made my species easily identifiable." Just as the turns of phrase made detecting a Human a relatively simple matter. The ears she could excuse, hidden as they were by her hair.

"You've never met the aunts on my father's side," Stephen said. He kept grinning, but it now held a touch of anxiety. Sliding off the desk, he shifted his weight away from T'Niam. Never let a Vulcan touch you... "Not that your eyebrows aren't lovely. They surely are. I just, eh, didn't think about it."

The Vulcan woman's voice was serene as she let the faint wash of broadcasting emotions ebb. T'Niam wasn't trying to actively read him, but some emotions broadcast in spite of themselves and negativity was one such feeling. Though he had not physically recoiled, he had certainly done so mentally. Even if she had not been a telepath, his body language had changed dramatically. "My condolences to your aunts. I am given to understand Vulcan eyebrows are not to be envied," T'Niam remarked, keeping her tone neutral. "You are uncomfortable with me now. May I enquire as to why this is so?"

"I'm not uncomfortable," Stephen said, nearly choking. "I just... remembered I'm late for an appointment."

T'Niam's gaze didn't waver as she took in the man's change in demeanour, both physical and psychic. She was not attempting to read him at all, but her restraint was wasted. "Stephen Spires, if I might venture an observation, your behaviour is not commensurate with belatedly recalling an appointment. You appear alarmed to a degree that is disparate with the situation. Should you indeed be tardy, a simple apology and acknowledgement is sufficient to remedy any offense that might be taken. Provided the person one is engaging with is not Klingon." T'Niam's lips twitched with humour. "May I be of some assistance? I am a counselor aboard this vessel."

"Darlin', you're a beautiful woman, but, uh, I just have this thing about getting too close to telepaths." He backed away slowly. "I truly mean no offense."

T'Niam did not bat an eye at Stephen Spires' declaration. "An understandable reaction shared by many among psi-null species," she mused. "You are not alone in your opinion, I assure you. When it is not physically or emotionally natural to share one's thoughts, the notion that they may be invaded without one's permission is discomfiting." Still, she arched a brow. "Have you considered that I am likewise reluctant to listen to your thoughts? I do not wish to take anything that is not freely given. My people cherish privacy."

"Back where I come from, a body doesn't get to choose which scents his nose picks up," Stephen said. "I'm so glad you understand." He was half way to the door by now, hands not quite raised, but nonetheless cocked in a semi-defensive position.

"Did this not necessitate the invention of nose plugs and other scent-blocking or masking agents?" T'Niam pointed out. "Though I cannot speak for all telepathic species, Vulcans have developed the ability to shield ourselves from excessive noise. I hope you will not be offended to be counted as such." She observed his increasing distance with the quiet amusement of a parent watching a child trying to pretend they hadn't spilled milk or another equivalent substance. "I am not the only telepath aboard. How can you be certain that by increasing your distance from me, you are not increasing your proximity to another psionic?"

Stephen's eyes shot wide at the realization. Who else had he been near? He was also careful, but in his line of work one could not be too careful...

"I don't know what you want from me," he said nervously. "I-I should just go."

"I do not want anything from you, except perhaps to alleviate a source of stress," T'Niam replied. "You appear to find the idea of being overheard quite alarming. Perhaps you would consider learning to 'turn your volume down'," she suggested mildly. "Are you amenable to indulging a theory for a short time?"

Stephen regarded T'Niam with ever-growing suspicion. His eyes narrowed as he said, "Hell to the no." Tipping an invisible hat with his fingers, he then effected an insincere grin that never touched his narrowed eyes. "Have a good evening, Ms T'Niam. The pleasure was all yours."

With that final gesture, he finally made his egress from a potentially compromising situation.

T'Niam made no attempt to stop the man from making his escape, mulling over the irony of his refusal to consider learning to guard his thoughts. "Should you ever change your mind, I am able to be contacted in the counselling offices. Farewell, Stephen Spires." She watched him retreat, finding it intriguing that he had not needed the introduction he was so insistent upon after all. She had much to reflect upon, and a file to update.


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