Author's note: This piece is intended as a follow on from LC #48.
"Are you sh**ting me?!" S'rR's Kane looked up from the PADD with a look of disbelief, shock and barely restrained outrage.
Captain Amanda Palmer shrugged her slender shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Siri, there's nothing I can do," she said helplessly. "Admiral Xon signed the directive."
With a snort of disgust, S'rR's contemptuously tossed the PADD down onto the low coffee table as if it were something filthy.
"I resigned my commission, Manda, I'm no longer a serving officer," she pointed out. "Why should I submit to a fitness evaluation? Does Command think I'm suddenly going to gain a hundred pounds and breach the Collins rule? And even if I did, I'm an ambassador, not a tactical officer."
"Well, Xon has specifically cited the Holden clause..." she murmured.
S'rR's tilted her head and leant forwards, resting her forearms on her knees.
"I noticed that -- what is that, anyway?" she asked.
"'All civilian personnel stationed aboard a starship are expected to conform to prescribed levels of physical and mental fitness in line with those required of serving line officers,'" Palmer said, citing the regulation from memory.
"Oh, so he thinks I'm going to stick my head in a warp coil or start shooting up the mess hall? This wasn't an issue when I returned to the Valkyrie, as the Empress' cultural ambassador," she pointed out.
"I was able to issue a waiver then based on your most recent Starfleet physical being less than three months old, but after -- well, what Ben had to do, that evaluation doesn't really apply anymore. At your last Starfleet physical, you had kidneys and were effectively immortal. Now you bleed acid and your eyes glow in the dark."
S'rR's sighed and slumped back on the sofa.
"Fine, I'll have the evaluations done... Make the appointments and get Claire to tell me when they are."
After ninety minutes of physical activity, S'rR's sat on the floor of the gym, breathing heavily, sweat soaking the front of her sports vest, and glistening on her bare arms and legs.
"How're you feeling?" enquired Doctor Ben Kincaid, making notes on his PADD.
S'rR's glared at him while gulping frigid water from a bottle, then unwrapped the bandages she had woven round her knuckles.
"I've spent an hour and a half running, lifting, hitting pressure pads and training targets, then got put through a decompression drill. How do you think I feel?" she snapped. "What's the outcome?"
"Well, your reflexes and reactions are fine, and you haven't lost any of your strength, you're still able to bench twenty eight hundred pounds, and your punches delivered an average of thirty five hundred PSI -- perfectly normal for a healthy Pentaxian female of your age. Your stamina, however, is reduced from its previous level by almost eighty percent.
"You can't continually exert yourself as you could before," the Irish CMO continued. "You certainly won't be able to run a three minute mile like you did at the academy, at least not without going into cardiac arrest."
Squirting the remainder of the water over her neck and scalp, S'rR's rose to her feet.
"So I pass." It was not a question.
"Flying colors," he replied. "You're going to have to learn to pace yourself differently, but I know you'll adapt. How're you finding the differences in sensory input?"
S'rR's nodded as she draped a towel round her shoulders.
"I've gotten used to the brightness without my new inner lids automatically closing," she replied. "And as Manda pointed out, I can now see in the dark. I can't complain, Ben, I just -- well, you know how much I hate being assessed."
T'Reya glanced down her schedule, and sighed. This was going to be a challenging session.
"Computer, fifty millilitres of Mountain Dew in a tumbler. Temperature: three degrees celcius."
"Species dietary guidelines prohibit that beverage while on a duty cycle," Claire's disembodied voice pointed out.
"Override for medicinal purposes, authorisation: T'Reya nine nine sierra."
With a discreet chirp, the replicator glowed and produced the beverage, which T'Reya sipped while transferring the necessary files to her PADD, becoming more disheartened the more she read. This was going to be a challenging session indeed. She had barely settled herself in a comfortable chair, when the door chimed.
"Please enter," she said.
The doors slid aside to admit S'rR's Kane, who was dressed in form-fitting black leather pants and boots, with a sleeveless high-necked tunic of some kind of xenylon. She appeared uncomfortable. Could she already know? T'Reya wondered as the slender ambassador lowered herself onto the couch.
"This will not be an extensive session," the Vulcan counsellor began. "I merely need to ascertain your mental state, as per guidelines."
S'rR's shifted uncomfortably on the couch, her hands beside her thighs, her fingers flexing and digging into the cushion.
"Can't you just perform a mind-meld, so we can just get this done quickly?" she asked.
"A mind-meld is not admissible for evaluation purposes," T'Reya replied. "As there are facilities without Vulcan therapists, the procedure must be consistently applied for and by, all personnel, regardless of their ethnicity. I see from your files that you dislike being evaluated."
"My earliest memories are of being cut open, having my bones broken, and being set on fire to see how quickly I could regenerate," S'rR's replied. "Assessments remind me of those events."
"Indeed," T'Reya said, making a notation on her PADD. "How are you feeling, in yourself, following your recent physical transition?"
"Good, actually," S'rR's replied immediately. "For the first time in my life, I look like any other Pentaxian. I don't look like an outsider."
"But there are only a handful of Pentaxians within Federation space," T'Reya pointed out. "By most definitions, you are an outsider."
"Well yes, but I've spent over twenty years in Federation space," S'rR's replied. "I've integrated -- I'm accepted for who I am, and if I was to return to Pentaxia, I wouldn't draw attention in public. Also, I'm lucky enough to have friends onboard who I have known all that time, so I don't really think of myself as an outsider, but someone with dual-citizenship."
"And do you feel you are coping well with your bereavement following the loss of your n'Sh'bn?"
S'rR's raised an eyebrow at T'Reya's use of the Pentaxian term literally meaning 'husband who was also a father'. Most would simply use the more generic term j'laa, which translated as 'beloved', but T'Reya was clearly familiar with Pentaxian bonding customs, viewing them with an other-than-Human perspective.
"Fifteen years is a long time time to be in a relationship with someone," she replied. "I have good days, and I have some days where I cry myself to sleep. As I said, I have friends aboard who I've known since I was at the Academy, and they have been very supportive. Marcus was a good man."
"Yes, he was," T'Reya replied.
Picking up a wistful tone in the Vulcan woman's voice, which many would have missed, S'rR's' head snapped round to glare at her.
"You knew my Marcus?" her tone was demanding and accusatory.
"Sixty three years ago, I was a priestess initiate on Vulcan. I served the Folu monastery, where Marcus studied under kohlinahr master Sovak," she explained. "He was an attentive pupil, and would frequently assist me with my duties. I considered both Marcus and Alix as my friends."
"Ahh," S'rR's nodded slowly. "That makes sense. From your tone, it sounded like you were more than acquaintances."
"What?!" S'rR's' claws involuntarily shredded the edge of the couch as she leapt to her feet.
"Please sit down, and I will explain," T'Reya said calmly. When S'rR's made no move to do so, she calmly added: "My strength is equal to yours, and I am perfectly capable of making you sit down. Sit down, or I shall make you do so."
S'rR's stared mutely at the Vulcan woman who had spoken to her as if she was an errant child. Certainly she was old enough to be her mother, or even her grandmother, although physically, thanks to the longevity of the Vulcan lifespan, she appeared slightly younger than S'rR's. She saw no malice in T'Reya's deep brown eyes, but an unyielding will of iron. She was totally unintimidated, and in complete control of the situation. S'rR's felt her own fury waning, and she slowly lowered herself back down onto the couch.
"Forty nine years ago, following the loss of his sister, Marcus returned to Vulcan so he could revisit the Folu monastery, even though Master Sovak had passed," T'Reya began. "As an orphan, I had been entered into a life of service at the temples, which meant I was not betrothed. As a result, when I experienced the pon farr, like all priestesses and masters, I used meditative practices to overcome the urge. I was in the midst of those practices in the meditation chamber when Marcus encountered me. Perhaps his judgement was clouded by grief, perhaps I took advantage of his need for physical comfort. All I will say on that matter, is that I required assistance, and as a friend, he willingly provided it."
S'rR's stared open-mouthed at T'Reya. She knew that Marcus had had lovers before their relationship, but she had never asked for names, nor expected to actually meet one, let alone be subject to their psychiatric evaluation.
"There was no subsequent courtship or relationship," T'Reya added. "It was no more than an act of assistance from one friend to another."
"I'd never heard Marcus mention you before," S'rR's said suspiciously. "His friend Selek made the trip from Vulcan to Caladan for his funeral, but I don't remember seeing you there."
"Indeed," T'Reya replied, a flicker of regret passing across her eyes. "Forty five years ago, I left the monastery and wed Scolak. He was not a tolerant individual, and his demands could be -- unreasonable. In an attempt to appease him, I severed my friendship with Marcus, and several others. It was not until it was too late, that I realised that Scolak was isolating me from those who would have protected me from his abuse and unnatural demands. Eventually, I left Scolak, but having no reason to remain on Vulcan, I enlisted in Starfleet, determined to use my experiences to help others. I felt unable to re-establish connections with those who's lives had inevitably moved on, as is often the case with Vulcan interactions with shorter-lived species."
"I -- I'm sorry for my overreaction," S'rR's said. She remembered comforting Ael at the academy after she had been violated and abused by another cadet, and wanted now to reach out and embrace T'Reya. She knew, however, that unlike her Romulan roommate, Vulcans eschewed physical gestures, and she did not want to embarrass her further.
"On the contrary," T'Reya replied. "It is my understanding that Pentaxian females are renowned for their tempers. You controlled yours remarkably, given the unanticipated turn of events. I will not need to assess you further, and will be reporting to Admiral Xon that your mental health is indeed robust enough for presence aboard a starship. Of course, if you ever feel the need, or desire to discuss any subject with me, I will gladly accommodate you."
"Thank you, Counsellor," S'rR's said, raising her hand in the ta'al. "Live long and prosper."
T'Reya raised her own hand and returned the gesture.