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Author's Chapter Notes:

[Kirk, Spock, and their whole world do not belong to me. I'm only here to play.]

Captain Kirk strode purposefully down the edge of the vast field, half-noticing the workers bent to their tasks among the sprouting rows. He had been told that the individual best suited to answering his questions was working at the opposite end, of course, so he had immediately set off to find her, with long, authoritative steps, determined to appear every inch of the captain he still did not feel as though he was.

Not that anyone noticed, of course. Ever-wary of the feel of strangers gazing upon him, he noticed out of the corner of his eyes that not a single worker looked up from his or her duties to watch him pass. And he couldn’t decide if he was mildly disappointed, or greatly relieved.

However, by the time he arrived at the far corner of the field, he decided it was relief – that none had observed his sweating brow, his huffing and puffing, the T-shirt sticking unattractively to his back. Damned New Vulcan, he thought, half irritable, half bemused at his own lack of stamina against the heat, glad he had at least thought to wear cargo shorts instead of jeans. Shading his eyes he spotted the girl, whose name he had already forgotten, kneeling among rows of what looked like beanstalks, digging with a trowel. A bucket of compostable materials waited behind her to be filled. As he approached her from behind he couldn’t help but notice the long braid falling from beneath the blue kerchief in her hair, and her pleasing, overall-clad posterior raised slightly in his direction – though as a Vulcan woman, she could probably kick his ass without even breaking a sweat, even in this infernal heat.

 As he looked on, she unearthed a particularly-hardy looking vine, dark purple in color, and tossed it away, beyond the boundaries of the field. “I thought all vegetation was going to be saved for compost?”

She jumped, which should have been his first clue, that the sudden sound of his voice had startled her. And then she looked up, and met his gaze, and grinned almost guiltily. “Oh! No, not these – they’re prickers, see?” She reached down, ripped up another purple root, and held it up in a gloved hand. He leaned closer and noticed the orange, hair-fine thorns that covered the exposed stalk. Once embedded in skin, they would be damned difficult to remove. “If we compost them, they’ll set down more roots both in the compost and then back out in the field, and then we’ll only have to spend more time and energy to eradicate them. The trick is to not be distracted by the leaves, and go thinking that’s the whole plant, but to instead pay attention to the most important part: the root systems.” She offered a simple shrug. “Composting excess vegetation is only logical, so as to not waste useful plant matter, but these are simply more trouble than they’re worth.”

“I see.” He nodded. Growing up in an Iowa farm town came with its own knowledge of weeds and compost. She shaded her eyes to look up at him and he realized she was waiting for him to speak. “I’m sorry – T’Perla sent me over here to talk to you. She said that you were the most logical choice of a tour guide around the co-op for me. But,” he hesitated, then flashed her his most guileless grin, “I’m afraid I’ve already forgotten your name.”

The girl climbed to her feet, pulling off dusty gloves as she did so. “Hannah. Nice to meet you,” and she reached out to offer him a human handshake, which he hesitated before accepting. There was no low-grade buzz of telepathic shields being enforced, and that along with her name was finally enough to give him pause. It must have shown on his face because Hannah gave him a delighted smile. “No, I’m not Vulcan. I’m one of the Terran scientists here to help build and develop the colony.”

Kirk shook her hand and shaded his eyes with the other. “How are you adjusting to the weather? Hot enough out here for you?”

She quirked her lips. “I was raised in Utah, on the Western side of Terran America, so I’ve only been brought in for heatstroke once.” Gesturing over her shoulder at more of the workers, “my friend Aimee is from the East Coast of the United States, and she’s a cultural scientist, not a biologist, so we keep telling her not to come out here in her free time, but she does anyway.” A look of concern pinched her eyebrows. “What about you? Where’s your water jug?”

“I-” Kirk shrugged, feeling dumb. “It’s in the canteen. I didn’t think it would be that long of a walk out here.”

Without hesitation Hannah reached down and scooped up her own. “It’s always a long walk on New Vulcan,” she said, with an air of repetition, and handed it to him. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”

As they walked she pointed out the other fields and workers in the distance. “Each plot is two acres, with the control rows nearest to the canteen, and the experimental quadrants marked in different colors.” The compost bucket she carried bumped against the blue plastic boundary tape as they passed. “There’s a lot of genetic testing going on here, with plant DNA and soil samples and fertilizer types, but I’ll spare you the bio jargon, cuz I’m guessing you’re not really the science type?”

Kirk had to admit defeat. “I’m really not, to tell the truth. Fortunately the Enterprise has an outstanding Science Officer, or I’d really be in trouble.”

She halted mid-step, and he almost walked into her. Kirk took an abrupt step back as she turned to look into his face again, more searchingly this time. “The Enterprise. Commander Spock. You must be Captain Kirk.” She reached out a hand again, as if to re-do their meeting. “It’s an honor to meet you, then. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

He shook her hand again, giving it a show of formality – he liked this girl, there was something very approachable, almost playful, yet very knowledgeable and trustworthy about her. “Nothing good, I hope! And you’ve heard of Spock as well?”

If she noticed the informality with which he referred to his Science Officer, she didn’t mention it. “Of course. Everyone’s heard of you and Cmdr. Spock.” She hesitated, as if to say something else, then seemed to think better of it. “We were notified that the Enterprise would be making orbit sometime in the next month. How long will you be here?”

“Almost two weeks. We’re mostly just dropping off supplies.”

“Well, I’m sure we can keep you plenty busy in the meantime! Come on, I’ll show you the maps and diagrams in the canteen. It may not look like much now, but we’ve come a long way.” She started off again, with Kirk behind her. Over her shoulder: “And then maybe you’d want to see the science labs? Cmdr. Spock is probably already there.”

Asking why she assumed he would want to meet up with Spock again so soon would use up the air that he needed to keep up, so he took a deep breath and lengthened his strides again, contenting himself with staying on her heels and saving the question for later.

¤¤

Despite his honest admission of not being especially schooled in the sciences, Kirk couldn’t help but be fascinated by the labs. Within the muted, cool interiors of the Agricultural Research Facility, there were Vulcans and humans alike bending over microscopes, monitoring tests on complicated machines, poring over holos of texts projected onto the white walls in a variety of languages.

“The main languages here are Standard and Vulcan, of course,” Hannah informed him quietly, “but many of the research pods came together from their home planets and conduct their research in their native tongues before translating it to share with the community.” She gestured toward a group of dark-skinned humanoid scientists murmuring amongst themselves as they covered a whiteboard with a strange, elegant script. Kirk noticed the women wore brightly colored sarees under their lab coats. “Terran India?” he guessed. Hannah nodded. “Upstairs in Eco-Tech, the Terran Japanese are doing amazing things with hydroponics and space beds. Super cool, even if it’s not my style.”

“Eco-Tech?”

“Ecosystem Technologies. The Colony is seeking to yield a sustainable output for an increasing population, while still maintaining the native planet and respecting its indigenous life forms.”

Kirk had to shake his head. “This is complicated stuff.”

“Tell me, is captaining a starship easy?”

He laughed at the rhetorical question, the sound loud in the hushed space. Noticing the surreptitious glances of Humans, Humanoids, and Vulcans alike, he leaned in closer. “Maybe we should keep moving.”

“Okay.” But first she gestured towards a vacant bench and several color-coded binders of research nestled in overhead shelving. “This is my station; if you ever need to find me, I’ll be here. I’m a bio-chemist by training, and my group is looking to introduce Terran vegetation to New Vulcan without creating unnecessary strain. Also to yield increased output without compromising quality.” She shrugged. “Vulcans are apparently very wary of genetically engineering their food. Unlike Terrans,” she added with a smile.

“Like those beans you were weeding today?” Kirk asked as they made their way out into the hall. Hannah nodded. “Yes; those actually were Terran beans, we’re trying to introduce them to the Colony. The only problem is those prickers you saw me pulling out. Just when I think I’ve got them all, they spring up in new places.”

“Great, just what you need, tenacious weeds.”

“Oh, I know, right? But I’m catching on to them. Like I said earlier, it’s not the leafy parts that are the problem, even though they’re the parts with the prickers. It’s the root systems. If you only pull up the leaves, the roots just sprout up somewhere new. It’s tough to stop something that just really wants to grow.” She stopped walking.

Kirk nodded, realizing that she was simplifying the lecture for him, noticing absently a Vulcan coming towards them. After a moment he realized it was a familiar Vulcan. His Vulcan, and the possessiveness took him completely by surprise. “Spock! This is Hannah, she’s been giving me a tour of the bio plots.”

“Indeed.” Spock came to stand at parade rest before them, his hands behind his back. Hannah respectfully extended the ta’al. “It’s an honor to meet you, Commander.”

He returned the gesture. “Praise is unnecessary, but New Vulcan is grateful for your contribution, Miss...?”

“Hannah, please, just Hannah.” She smiled slightly, but her tone was serious. Kirk recognized the kind of professional efficiency that the Vulcans must have prized. Spock tuned to Kirk.

“Captain, we have been requested to breakfast with the cultural scientists tomorrow at 0800. I am told that a guide will then escort us around the reconstructed Vulcan Institute and subsequent cultural organizations.”

“That sounds great, Spock! Hey,” he turned to Hannah, “what about your friend? The one who keeps going out in the sun? Maybe she could take us?”

Hannah brightened. “Aimee? I’ll ask. You’ll like her, she’s really smart and easy to get along with, very down-to-earth – ah, down-to-New Vulcan?” She grinned and Kirk grinned back.

“Well Hannah, it was great meeting you today, thanks for taking the time to show me around the labs. I’ll be sure to stop in often, now that I know where to find you.”

He meant it as a friendly offer, a pleasantry, not even really intending to do it. Just as the hand reaching out to touch her elbow was another gesture of friendship. But Spock missed nothing, and his eyes narrowed, his already-tense posture stiffening. “Thank you, Hannah.” The dismissal was clear. Kirk shot him a confused look as Hannah looked back and forth between the two of them. “Okay. It was great meeting you two as well. Captain, Commander.” With another flash of the ta’al, she set off down the hallway back to the fields.

Kirk cocked his head at his second in command. “What was that all about, Spock?”

Spock didn’t meet his eyes. “I am certain I cannot ascertain to what you are referring, Captain.”

Captain. Despite being immersed in what for Spock must seem like science-research-wonderland, and he still wouldn’t call Kirk by his first name. Kirk sighed. There was no point in pushing either issue. “Okay, Spock, fine. Well. I don’t know about you, but I could use something cold to drink. How about we head back to the canteen,” he gestured forward, then glanced at his hand. “Oh-”

Looking down, he realized he still held Hannah’s water bottle. “Guess I’ll have to bring this back to her tomorrow.” He set off down the hallway, not catching Spock’s slight intake of breath and clenching of fingers and he turned to follow his captain.

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