A Vignette
by Mylochka

(Standard Year 2249)

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For Noel DelMonde, the most remarkable thing about Pavel Chekov was that he was so extraordinarily unremarkable. The reason why Fleet had roomed them together at the Academy – and here too probably – was because Chekov was a psychic null. Humans weren't a particularly telepathic race, but it wasn't unusual for the average person to have a psi rating of at least 1 or 2. Chekov scored a perfect 0 on all the tests. He could not project his own thoughts or read others. He had no telepathic shielding. He had nothing. Nada. Zip.

DelMonde was fascinated by him at first. He'd never met a null before. Everyone in Southern Louisiana seemed to be at least a 5. Chekov's mind was disconcertingly quiet. For the first few months, Del would actively read his roommate every so often just to make sure the little bastard wasn't dead. Del wavered between feeling sorry for the Russian and envying him. Chekov had to rely entirely on intellect to know what others were feeling. He didn't have many of the advantages afforded by what non-psychics called intuition. On the other hand, Chekov had very few distractions. He had a tidy, well-ordered mind for a Human. He was very confident about the things he believed.

His confidence irritated Del. No, to be honest, it was Chekov's confidence in his evaluation of Del's character that really, really bothered the engineer. "Why does he do such things?" Chekov continually asked himself while in DelMonde's presence. The answer always took the form of "Because Noel is.."

"Because Noel is American" and "Because Noel is rude" hadn't bothered him. "Because Noel's parents did not instruct him how to behave properly" had stung a little. However when he compared Chekov's very planned, structured, and supervised childhood to his own, Del had to admit that it would seem he'd been raised by alligators.

The one that really got to him, though, was "Because Noel is mentally ill."

One of the idiot psych techs had put him on to that one. As a null, the Russian was in high demand as a control subject for telepathy and psychic phenomenon experiments. The researchers had to compete for the privilege of hiring him to participate in their tests. (Ruth at one point had called him a semi-professional white rat). One researcher, while courting the Russian's favor, had been more than willing to lend a sympathetic ear to the Russian's complaints about his roommate. He had explained DelMonde's abilities in terms of pathology. Chekov, who – despite the fact he passed all his Psych classes with flying colors – only had a rudimentary understanding of psychic phenomenon, distilled this information into "Noel is mentally ill."

DelMonde had tried to correct this misunderstanding. However in the end, he had found that shouting, "I not fuckin’ mentally ill, ya stupid fuck!" at his roommate at what would seem random intervals to bystanders was not helping anyone's perception of his sanity.

He took a deep breath before pressing the call button on the Russian's door. "Here one more who not be happy to see ol' Del," he muttered to himself.

It was almost comical to see the Russian's expression freeze then resolve into a look of near horror.

"Hey, T-boy." Del gave him a familiar pat on the shoulder as he walked past him to put his duffle on the nearest bunk.

"What are you doing here?" the navigator demanded.

DelMonde handed him a copy of his orders. "I live here."

"No… no. No." Chekov shook his head emphatically. "This is a mistake."

"Happy as hell to see you too," DelMonde replied as he checked for an empty compartment to stow his guitar. He was actually not at all displeased by the prospect of having the Russian as a roommate again. Except for occasional bouts of hating each other, the two got along fairly well. Although they were not tolerant of each other's faults, they had grown accustomed to them. They had fallen into one of those odd, unnaturally resilient friendships that sometimes develop between men who dislike each other. One calling the other a stupid fuck at breakfast didn't mean that they wouldn't enjoy a drink together at lunch. or that they wouldn't be calling each other stupid fucks again at bedtime.

"This…This isn't… I.." the Russian sputtered, shaking the tape of the orders as if scolding it could change the situation.

There was a touch of panic in the navigator's indignation. Del knew Chekov had a thing about telepaths. That had been Ruth's fault. The Russian had been in the room once while Ruth was on one of her daily tirades against the torturous testing she had to undergo because of her empathic abilities.

Stupidly, the Russian had come to the defense of one professor whose current research project was keeping Chekov in vodka money.

Ruth had let him go on for several minutes. "Being a null is really great while you're here, isn't it?" She'd said with a sweet un-smile on her lips. "Too bad that's not going to last."

"Why?" Chekov asked, walking right into whatever buzzsaw she had waiting for him.

"The first time whatever ship you're assigned to encounters an evil telepath looking for someone to use as a pawn, guess who's going to be gobbled up like a box of Russian chocolate?"

Chekov had huffed and made disbelieving noises before beating a hasty retreat to the library. Weeks later, DelMonde was surprised to find that Ruth's prediction had replaced a particularly gruesome Baba Yaga tale on Russian's list of "Things I Hope Are Not True."

DelMonde was somewhat amused to find his combination of empathic ability and evil temper still red-flagged him as a forced minionage risk in the unsophisticated depths of the navigator's mind.

"Shee-it." DelMonde rolled his eyes as he opened his bag. "Boy, if I as dumb as you, I shoot myself."

"Oh?" Chekov crossed his arms. "Then I assume you must be alive only because you are too ignorant to realize how stupid you truly are."

An' so it begins, DelMonde thought, almost welcoming this opportunity to release some pent up frustration. "I surprised an uptight, arrogant prick like you trick a girl like Daffy into lettin’ you fuck her. Though, she ain't always picky."

Chekov covered the distance between them in two angry strides. "Never," he said, putting a warning finger near the engineer's face. "You are never to speak about Daphne that way again."

Now that push had come to shove, DelMonde found he was too tired and depressed to go through with the fight he'd been eager for a second ago. All he really wanted was to be left alone. Knowing his ex and future roommate as well as he did, he chose a tactic unlikely to fail. He leaned into the navigator's finger.

"Gonna kiss me, cher?" he asked with a calculated leer. "I know you wanna."

Chekov backed away with a string of Russian curses so vile as to be incomprehensible. The navigator was not homophobic but had been the object of enough schoolyard heckling and honest mistakes to be very sensitive about others' perception of his sexual orientation. Furthermore, he knew that DelMonde knew this.

"Whacha gonna do?" the engineer taunted.

"I'm going to see what I can do to correct this," Chekov said, holding up the tape with DelMonde's assignment on it as he exited. The engineer sighed, knowing he had brought himself another notch closer to achieving full "evil telepath" status in his roommate's mind.

"Maybe I am," he said, unhappily reviewing his unpleasant welcome to his new ship. "Maybe I am."

The End

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