Scourge of the World

A Vignette
by Cheryl Petterson

(Standard Year 2253)

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"Military men are the scourges of the world"-
Guy De Maupassant
August 5, 1850 – July 6, 1893

The thing of it was, it really didn't bother him.

This was evidenced by the fact that he hadn't even noticed it until it had been pointed out to him. Since becoming captain of the Drake, Sulu had run a very informal command. He'd figured it was necessary to create a good working relationship with people whose former captain had had a stick so far up his ass it grated on his tonsils. He'd actually had to work at it to get them to talk in his presence without direct commands. Which meant relaxing a lot of the usual military demands. He wanted the kind of ship that was just a little less disciplined than Jim Kirk's Enterprise; informal but not insubordinate, casual but not sloppy, friendly without being disruptive or disorderly. He wanted to be able to, as Ruth had always put it, lounge in the con without anyone thinking he was soft. Or, at least, without his crew thinking he was soft. If adversaries thought that.... well, so much the worse for them when they discovered the katana beneath the kimono.

He got the first indication that something was wrong when his First Officer, Jerel Courtland, made a sharp 'nickering' sound just after he'd come onto the Bridge. He'd said his usual 'good morning' to his crew, received the usual responses (variations on 'good morning, sir', 'morning Captain') and the equally usual variation on 'what so fuckin' good 'bout it' from Del.

He'd turned to Courtland, raising a puzzled eyebrow. The Equian came next to him, leaning down to murmur, "Shouldn't that be 'what's so fucking good about it, sir'?"

Sulu laughed, sure, at the time, Jerel was joking with him.

Half an hour later, there had been a call from Rivka Mazar, the Chief of Engineering, asking for DelMonde's presence to aid in repairing some worn coolant hoses. Sulu had nodded a 'go' to the Cajun, and Del had acknowledged the command with a "yeah, yeah, I goin'."

"Whatever happened to 'aye, sir'?" Tristan Vale snapped after him.

"Whatever happen t' mind your own damn business?" Del returned as he strode into the turbolift.

The Indiian flashed silver and glared at Sulu. "Well?!!" he demanded.

Sulu blinked. "Well what?"

"You're actually going to let him get away with that?"

"Mr. DelMonde's had a very difficult time the past three months," Sulu began. "I've asked you all to cut him some ...."

"There's slack and then there's slack, Captain," Vale replied, with a noticeable emphasis on the last word.

Not sure what, exactly, the Communications Chief was objecting to, Sulu pursed his lips. "We can have this discussion in a civil tone, Lieutenant, or..."

"See? You don't let me or anyone else get away with..."

"Stop right there, mister," Sulu interrupted the interruption. "I make allowances for Indiian nature..."

"Does Mr. DelMonde have some 'nature' for which you make allowances, sir?" Courtland broke in gently.

Sulu turned to him, frowning. "What?"

"You object to Mr. Vale's tone on 'captain', yet you let slide the fact that Mr. DelMonde hasn't used the word since he's been aboard," Jerel explained. "Not to mention his never referring to you as 'sir.'" He paused, then added with a smile, "Sir."

"I'm certain he has..." the captain began.

"No, sir," his First Officer refuted. "Not once."

Sulu's brain started to turn that over. "Maybe not in your presence...." he began.

"Nor in mine, Captain," Tristan added.

"Or mine, sir," Lieutenant Zel added from the Helm. His partner at Navigation nodded agreement.

Sulu glanced at the one person he was sure would stick up for the Cajun. But at the Defense and Weapons station, Dylan Paine just shrugged ruefully.


"Don't see why I had t' come down here fo' this," Noel DelMonde was grumbling as he lay on his back in a Jeffries tube, replacing coolant hoses. "Any first year plebe coulda done this wit' they hands tied behind..."

"You had to come down here, Lieutenant Commander because I gave an order." The voice of his new chief was as filled with disapproval as was her mind.

He slid down and out of the tube. "Yeah, I gather that much," he drawled. "The question I puttin' to myself is why, 'cause I a galaxy-class engineer whose talents could be put to much better..."

Rivka Mazar stared at him, her normally soft brown eyes glinting like steel. "You," she returned with a voice to match, "are a member of this crew, of my department, and you'll do the work I see fit to assign you until and unless the captain declares otherwise." She showed her teeth in a way that seemed bizarrely familiar: it was a combination of Ruth Valley at her most brittle and Daffy Gollub at her most sarcastic. Del found himself wondering if all Jewish women could not-smile like that.

"Further, Mr. DelMonde," she went on, "in the future you will acknowledge my orders with 'yes, ma'am' or 'aye, Chief' or 'right away, Lieutenant Commander'. 'Yeah, yeah, I goin'' is NOT an acceptable form of address, regardless of what leeway Captain Sulu allows."

Del's lips twitched in annoyance. "I not know you were so thin-skinned, Rivi," he said, using the nickname that he'd heard Sulu use.

"And I didn't know you were stupid as well as difficult, arrogant and insubordinate," she returned.

His eyes narrowed. "Who you callin' stupid?"

"I'd thought it had been impressed upon you that this berth was your last chance to avoid being booted out of Fleet. To not take advantage of this generosity is sure indication of below average intelligence, as is your seeming inability to give rank its due - " She gave what Del now called 'the Jewish smile' again. " - unless you're actually trying to get thrown out on your ass, in which case I say, get to it, mister."

"Give rank what due?" Del nearly snarled.

"The nominal kind," Mazar explained tersely. "So it's ma'am or Chief or Lieutenant Commander." She turned, then called over her shoulder, "And only my friends get to call me 'Rivi.'"

"What th' fuck get into her?" DelMonde mused. He climbed back into the Jeffries tube, and stubbornly refused to think about what his chief had said.


"And he called me Rivi!", the Chief Engineer finished.

Sulu grinned uncomfortably. "I call you Rivi," he pointed out.

"You're the captain," Mazar returned.

"That's the only reason? Lieutenant Commander, I'm hurt."

"Sir, if you would stop making light of this..."

The captain of the Drake sighed. "I'm sorry." he stated. "Is this really a problem? Del has had...."

"... a rough few months, yes, I heard it the last hundred times you mentioned it," Rivka interrupted.

Sulu's jaw tightened. "And you'll hear it a hundred more times if I...."

"Yes, sir, because you're the captain. It would be disrespectful and insubordinate not to. Mr. DelMonde doesn't merit that consideration."

"If I say..." Sulu began.

"Yes sir," the chief broke in yet again.

"And I'm getting tired of your not letting me finish a sentence, Miss Mazar." The captain's voice had hardened with disapproval.

"Because it seems insubordinate and disrespectful, sir?" Rivka questioned. "And if the answer is yes, I respectfully suggest you ask yourself when was the last time Mr. DelMonde let you finish a sentence." She paused. "Or asked you a question that ended with 'sir.'" She smiled a fierce, brittle smile. "Sir."

Sulu fumed as the engineer left the Bridge, then heard a soft whicker beside him.

"I did mention this, Captain," Jerel Courtland murmured.

"You mentioned he wasn't calling me 'sir,'" Sulu replied. "I wasn't aware he was ignoring proper protocol with other people." He pursed his lips. "And technically, Rivka doesn't outrank him..."

"You're making excuses, sir," Courtland said.

Sulu's eyes flashed at the Equian, then he sighed again. "Yeah, I am," he admitted. "But Del's..."

"Had a rough few months," came from every person on the Bridge.

"Ha ha, very funny," Sulu acknowledged.

"People are starting to resent the slack you suggest we give him, Captain," the First Officer explained unnecessarily.

"All right," Sulu grumbled. "I'll talk to him."

"That would be my job, sir," Courtland countered.

"That'll go over well."

"Chain of command, Captain," Jerel said with a whinny, then turned to head back to the Science Station.

"Don't come crying to me when he bites your horn off," Sulu called after him.


If Del had been one to notice subtlety, he would've been aware of the slowly changing mood of the crew of the Drake. If he had been in a better place than one dimmed by bourbon and sapphire, he would have felt the growing animosity. And if he wasn't used to - and, in fact, encouraged - such animosity, he surely would have realized that it was past time to straighten up and fly right, as his sometime protection and shrink and full time friend would have said.

But since none of those things were, at the moment, true, the encroachment into his personal space by the First Officer at the end of First Watch was something of a surprise. "Lieutenant Commander DelMonde, if you would follow me to my office," the Equian said as he loomed over the mess table at which DelMonde sat.

"Look, man, I tired," the engineer replied. "You jus' say your piece here, non?"

"That wasn't a request, mister," Courtland returned sternly. "And I seriously doubt you'd want me to say my piece in public."

"Sheee-it, Mazar gone an' filed some kinda complaint?" Del grumbled.

"On your feet, Lieutenant Commander," Jerel snapped.

The Cajun was out of his chair before he was aware that his body was responding to the command in the First Officer's tone.

"I hate when y'all do that," he muttered as he walked behind the Equian.

"We all who?" Courtland asked over his shoulder.

"Officers," Del responded.

Courtland stopped, turning.

"No, Mr. DelMonde," he said, "I meant we all who?"

"We all what?"

The Equian tilted his head down, his six-inch long spiraled golden horn aimed directly between the Cajun's eyes. "We. All. WHO." he enunciated.

Del didn't need telepathy to understand the menace behind the gesture. And he wished he'd had a little less sapphire in his system so he could have perceived the First Officer's mood a fraction of a second sooner. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough sapphire in his system to stop his automatic reaction to a threat.

"You wanna bring it on, garçon de cheval?" he snarled, then added, to mock what Courtland had obviously been driving at, "Sir?"

Jerel smiled, immediately raising his head. "You see," he said calmly, "I knew you were more intelligent than Miss Mazar was giving you credit for." Before DelMonde could respond, he added, "And more resilient than the captain gives you credit for."

Del's eyes narrowed. "What he sayin' 'bout me?"

"That in your delicate condition, you shouldn't have to endure the hardship of calling him Captain or those who outrank you - whether by position or designation - sir or ma'am." Jerel smiled again. "But you and I both know you're stronger than that..." He paused, then added, in the same tone Del had used on his 'sir,' "Non?"

"You a smartass sombitch, ain'tcha?" the Cajun growled.

"And you're just being lazy and taking advantage of our Captain's caring nature," Courtland retorted. "And, I might add, your years of friendship." He shook his head, his pale mane cascading over his shoulder. "And an engineer of your caliber, too," he tsked.

"What my bein' a good engineer got to do wit'..." Del began.

"With your attitude, you'll never make chief anywhere, Mr. DelMonde," the First Officer interrupted. "And that would be a real shame. Now, you can take my advice to heart or not, but on this ship, you'll act as if you have. It's Captain Sulu, and sir, and for those above you in the hierarchy of Starfleet, it's their given rank and sir or ma'am as the case may be. Is that clear, or should I put it in French so you'll understand? Du It capitaine Sulu et Monsieur, et pour ceux de niveau supérieur dans la hiérarchie de Starfleet, it de leur grade donné et le Monsieur ou la ma' suis le cas échéant." He briefly lowered his head again, then lifted it with another, far more wintry smile. "Garçon humain," he finished.

Del grit his teeth. "I not take t' bein' threatened, Mr. Courtland," he said.

"Instinct, Mr. DelMonde," Courtland answered. "Part of the nature of my species that needs to be taken into account." He cocked his head, clearly implying 'what's your excuse?'

"We still goin' to your office - sir?" the engineer asked through his clenched jaw.

"No, I don't think that's necessary," the Equian said. "Carry on, Lieutenant Commander."

Del fumed for a solid minute, then went straight to Sulu's cabin.


The captain of the Drake was preparing to record a message to his wife. He had just watched one from her, her image still displayed on the computer's screen. The longing that was the centerpiece of his days was eased by seeing her; only a little, a very, very little, but it - and a lot of mindless exercise and coffee and cold showers - was enough to get him through.

His hand was poised over the screen, his fingers not quite touching it as he traced the curve of Jilla's cheek and her small, pointed ear in an imagined caress when the door to his quarters opened. Before he could do more than glance up, Noel DelMonde stormed into the cabin.

"So you t'ink I some kinda fuckin' invalid." The engineer's voice dripped disdain. "You t'ink I need t' be petted an' fawned over like some fragile li'l baby bird picked up off th' ground after fallin' out its nest. You t'ink I not got th' spine t' stand up on my own two..."

"I think," Sulu broke into Del's tirade, "that you've got enough pressure on you that you don't need the bullshit minutiae of following..."

"They told me you pass the damned TEST!" Del countered.

Sulu's jaw tightened, remembering what his fellow crewmembers and Clavists had put him through back on the Enterprise a year earlier. THE TEST, as it was called, was designed to determine whether Clavists could be good officers and not let former relationships interfere with command decisions. It was allegedly the way Clavists approved of a fellow degenerate for Command postings. He'd been furious, and not only because of THE TEST itself - which was annoying in that Sakura Tamura had almost gotten herself court-martialed - but because the idea that his friends would doubt him like that hurt. He of course recognized that they were actually trying to compliment him, and it was a Clavist tradition, but still, he'd never forgotten how uncomfortable it had made him. "I did, but that doesn't make me a Herbert."

"Then what th' fuck..."

"It's a matter of respect..."

"You t'ink I not respect you?"

"I know you don't."

Del blinked, clearly taken aback. "What th' fuck you sayin'?"

"That I know you don't respect me," Sulu answered. Then, as if to soften the blow, added, "You don't respect anybody."

"What make you say I not...?" Del began.

Sulu pursed his lips, staring up at the engineer. After long minutes, Del blew out a breath.

"Hell, that when I a snot-nosed kid - an' so were you," he said, clearly referring to the memories that were passing silently between them.

"So you're telling me that's changed?" Sulu challenged.

They glared at one another for a few more moments. Finally, and at the same time, Del said;

"You know I hate damn protocol."

And Sulu said;

"I know you hate damn protocol."

They stopped. A smile twitched over Del's lips, coming out more fully on Sulu's.

"Look, I really don't care," the captain stated. "but other people do, and we both have to win their respect."

More time passed as the two continued to stare at one another.

"So you gonna continue playin' favorites wit' me?" Del asked.

Sulu's smile became just the tiniest bit sensual. "You want me to?"

"You forget you married?"


"You mean never again, non?"

Sulu's expression didn't change. "Yes," he answered simply.

Del wagged a finger at him. "You not go messin' like that," he admonished.

"I won't if you don't."

"It gettin' a li'l teeny bit windy in here, mon ami?"

Sulu shivered, then stood.

"I'm gonna keep treating you like I always have," he said.

Del nodded. "Then you tell Courtland an' Mazar..." Del stopped at the soft clearing of his captain's throat. He rolled his eyes. "Commander Courtland an' Chief Mazar," the engineer corrected himself.

"You keep that in mind and I won't have to tell them anything."

Del turned, heading to the cabin door, but stopped just before he reached it.

"I still call you shit fo' brains in private though."

Sulu grinned. "And I'll still call you foul tempered son of a bitch."


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