My crew was a mixture of experienced hands from the last mission, and new crewmembers either on their first assignment or on transfer. Ironically, although I would be in command, I felt more like I'd be one of the newcomers, getting to know the ship just like they were; trying to make inroads with the established crew and create a place for myself in this new environment. I did know some of the crew from previous assignments, and I had at least one good friend on board, Gary Mitchell--but all these relationships would be different now that I was commanding officer. And among those who were unknown to me was my First Officer, Mr. Spock.
I'd met my fair share of Vulcans at the Academy--dour, emotionless people who were even more serious than the most studious cadet (which, at the time, happened to be me). Their devotion to logic I found quite appealing, in an academic way, but it was something I'd have rather encountered in the pages of a philosophy book than in a living, breathing, sentient being. I'd studied and worked with them, but still felt that standing near a Vulcan was like standing next to a brick wall, and I never quite knew how to act in their presence.
Even in this enlightened age, we sometimes allow preconceived notions to hinder our relationships, and I was initially hesitant about having a Vulcan as my second in command. I knew Mr. Spock was half Human, but I also knew he had been raised on Vulcan and espoused the philosophy of that race. He would no doubt have the same disposition as the other Vulcans I'd met, I thought. Of course, his record was flawless, and he'd served for years with great distinction under my predecessor and friend, Captain Christopher Pike, upon whose glowing recommendation I had decided to keep Mr. Spock in his current position on the Enterprise. So, as I beamed onto the ship to take command, I willed the transporter to filter out any prejudgment I might have against my Vulcan First Officer.
As I stepped off the transporter pad, Mr. Spock was the first to greet me; he looked very proper and ceremonial in full dress uniform. His demeanor seemed impassive and emotionless as he turned command over to me, but there was something different about Spock, different from the other Vulcans I'd met. We did not shake hands, of course, but somehow I felt as though we had--there was a warmth behind his deep-set eyes that belied the stark formality of his words. He introduced me to the senior staff and gave me a tour of the Enterprise, during which I expressed great interest in the ship and its operations. Though I already knew that class of starship inside and out, this particular one was my ship, and I was determined to get to know every inch of her. Afterward, Mr. Spock showed me to the door of my quarters and left, and I busied myself unpacking, trying to make the sterile room look more like home.
It was then that I noticed on the shelf above my bed a bowl full of shiny red apples and a thick, leather-bound book. I walked over and picked up the tome--Moby Dick. At first I thought Chris might have left it there by mistake, but as I opened up to the flyleaf I saw --written in a neat, somewhat angular and sloping hand--that day's Stardate and the following words:
To Captain James T. Kirk:
Welcome aboard and happy sailing.
The Crew of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701
I sat down on the bed, picked an apple out of the bowl and bit into it as I began to leaf through the book. I could not be absolutely sure, but I had strong feeling that the gift had been my First Officer's idea. But why Moby Dick? Surely he was not implying that he expected to play Starbuck to my Ahab? I chuckled to myself at the thought. Then I remembered that back at the Academy I had checked out a bound volume of Moby Dick from the Library's Antique Collections section--several times, actually, because unfortunately I had never finished it. Not that I hadn't wanted to, but the old, fragile books from that special collection were always due back within a week. I'd never had time to read it all the way through, what with my heavy class load. I'd even tried again more recently, when I was back on Earth between assignments, but had only gotten half-way through it. I could have pulled it up at any time on the computer, of course. But some books are meant to be held, pages turned by hand, the actual presence of the book--its heft, the slight mustiness of cover and binding, the feel of the paper between the fingers--lending physical substance to the weighty significance of the words within.
Someone had taken the time to find out that I'd checked that book out multiple times, had logically surmised that I liked the book but probably did not own a copy, and had made the effort to find a very impressive leather-bound edition. Although I barely knew Mr. Spock, I instinctively felt that the combination of computer research abilities, logical reasoning, and painstaking attention to detail involved made him the most likely person to have left this welcoming gift. I was extremely touched by his thoughtfulness.
During my first bridge shift he was at his station, looking completely at home as he performed his duties with the cool efficiency I would come to know so well. I spent a few moments sitting in the captain's chair--my chair--and tried to absorb the atmosphere of the ship on this, my first day of command. Voices buzzed quietly around me, consoles lit up and made noises that were stridently insistent, somewhat pleading, or desultory according to the degree of attention they required. The viewscreen showed a dazzling field of stars, giving the impression that we were in deep space as opposed to docked at a Starbase. I could almost pretend that we were already roaming the galaxy, although the ship was still being prepped for our 5-year mission.
Presently, I stood up and walked slowly around the bridge, observing the activities of the crewmembers, asking a few questions and issuing some orders. I finally made my way over to Mr. Spock's station.
"Status, Mr. Spock?" I inquired. He stood and proceeded to give me the latest details of the engine refit and crew efficiency levels. His report was concise yet complete, just as I had expected it would be.
"Very well, Mr. Spock. Carry on," I said, and began to turn away.
"Aye, Captain," was his even reply.
Turning back abruptly, I said, "Oh, and Mr. Spock, thank you very much for the book. I am looking forward to reading it--and finishing it."
"Book, sir?" He looked at me quizzically, one eyebrow raised. Then comprehension appeared to dawn and he continued, "Ah, perhaps you are referring to the customary welcoming gift that the crew gives to the new captain. I shall pass along your appreciation."
Here was the traditional Vulcan modesty, and I was not going to let him get away with it. I decided on a direct approach. "Mr. Spock," I said, folding my arms across my chest, "you and I both know there is no such custom. I'm betting that you, personally, researched an appropriate gift, acquired it, signed it, and placed it in my cabin. I know you can't deny it--Vulcans don't lie."
By now I had allowed faint amusement to show in my eyes, belying my outward expression of authority, though I was not certain if Mr. Spock had detected it. With his arms by his sides and his gaze fixed in the distance, he almost appeared to be standing at attention. "You are quite correct, sir, they do not. However, I can neither deny nor confirm your assumption, since you have not directly asked me to do so."
I was by now certain that Mr. Spock's evasiveness was concrete evidence of his involvement. I was beginning to enjoy the verbal repartee--and even though Spock may have simply been answering me in the most logical way possible, I sensed that a part of him was getting into the spirit of things.
"Well, then," I said, "am I to understand that you had nothing to do with...let me rephrase this--Mr. Spock, did you also place that fruit bowl in my room?"
"Captain, I assure you I cannot take credit for the apples. Your new yeoman..." He suddenly caught himself, realizing he'd given the game away. Yes, it was entirely possible that he'd been in my quarters recently to prepare for my arrival, and therefore he may have known about the bowl containing apples. However, when I inserted the word "also" his reply implied that he had given me at least one thing--in his words, something he could "take credit" for. I had purposely misled him and caught him off guard by starting the conversation in one direction, then suddenly switching to a new tack.
A few seconds of silence followed his unfinished sentence. If I hadn't been taught that emotions are foreign to Vulcans, I would have suspected that he was surprised at his inability to see the trap he'd walked into, and even annoyed at having been outmaneuvered. Suddenly, however, something in his attitude relaxed. Clasping his hands behind his back, he turned and looked directly at me; I chose to interpret the look in his eyes as one of grudging admiration. "Captain, you are welcome for the book," he said. "And congratulations...on your new command," he finished, nodding his head.
I finally allowed the smile to play across my lips; I knew that my command of the ship wasn't the only thing he was congratulating me for. "Much appreciated," I replied; then a thought struck me. "By the way, Mr. Spock--do you, by any chance, happen to play chess?"