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Assumptions Can Be Dangerous
JPL: Professor Trumbull and Cadet Rel
(This happens right after the great deluge in survival class)
Arliss lingered near the podium waiting for the remaining students to trickle out. Cadet Dresden had no qualms about turning as she reached the exit and making a rude hand gesture in his direction. He chuckled. He had been flashed that sign and dozens of similar ones hundreds, maybe even thousands of times in his life. Being given “the finger” had ceased to offend him long ago.
Satisfied that the classroom was empty, Arliss tucked his glasses into his shirt pocket, gathered his pile of PADDs and threaded his way past the desks toward the exit.
Barak was waiting outside. “A word with you, professor.” he requested falling into step with the teacher.
“Ah, Mr. Rel, of course. I’m heading to lunch, would you care to accompany me?”
“Sure..” he replied “I was having trouble today in class. The Trill knows how to swim yet the Vulcan part of me never learned. I wasn’t able to turn the Vulcan half off today and let the Trill take full control of my body.” he offered as an explanation for the tag along.
“You possess a most unenviable complete dichotomy of being...your symbiont was spawned and lived exclusively in the mysterious pools of the Trill homeworld until it’s joining. Yet this being, now centuries old has been thrust together in a much much younger humanoid body, one who happens to be from a people who inhabit a hot, harsh, inhospitable desert world.” Trumbull paused speaking briefly, but kept walking, leading them toward an Administrative Building that Rel hadn’t been inside of. “I saw that you were floating. Floating isn’t as useful as swimming.,...but I highly suspect had the Trill seized control at such a critical moment, you would have sank like a stone!”
The door slide open and Trumbull kept walking and talking. It almost seemed he wasn’t looking where he was going, yet knew the path instinctively. He came to an abrupt stop outside the doors to a room designated “Faculty Mess”. “I’m so hungry, teaching makes me ravenous. At my age, scaring the beejesus out of a bunch of Cadets is the most invigorating part of my day.” He said with a sly wink and entered. “And probably my week.”
Barak was tempted to follow but this was a faculty area. He decided it was best to be invited than to assume it was alright to enter behind the professor.
Swimming on a full stomach was a bad idea anyway. He assumed the professor would help him with that problem. Once the basics were explained to the Vulcanoid he assumed that the fear would subside and with Teven’s help he would be a natural.
“Come on.” Trumbull beckoned. “You’re my guest here.” He leaned closer and whispered, “Besides most of my colleagues are so wrapped up in their ideas and in themselves, that an entire cadet revue could march through and no one would notice.” He started toward an empty table near a window.
Barak entered and proceeded to the designated table. He sat down across from the professor and keeping his voice just above a whisper he responded, “I see what you mean.” as about a quarter of the teachers in the room appeared to be working while they ate.
A young woman approached. “Professor! So nice to see you!” She said beaming a wide smile. “I see you have a guest today.” She smiled at Rel as she handed each a menu.
“What’s good today Delia my dear?” Trumbull asked, putting the menu down without looking at it.
“The Hasperat is fresh, -- nice and spicy! My favorite is the ravioli in marinara sauce and we have something really special today!”
“Well, don’t tease me, what is it?” He asked
“Seafood gumbo -- the real deal, brought in from Sisko’s in New Orleans!” She announced.
“You know that’s what I’m having. Extra french bread please….”
“And sweet tea!” She added with a smile.
Trumbull touched his nose.
“Do you need some time to look at the menu?” She asked Rel.
The Vulcanoid replied, “How spicy is the gumbo. Vulcans have a sensitive palate.” he explained to the waitress.
She looked pensive. “It’s not burn the roof of your mouth hot like the hasperat, but it is well seasoned. Do you want to try a sample? I can bring one when I bring your drinks.”
“I would. And a small salad. Do you have Vulcan spice tea?” he replied.
“Of course….I’ll be right back.” The girl left.
“Now, we were discussing swimming I believe.” The professor started. “I didn’t catch your reaction to my suggestion that if your symbiont had taken over in the classroom, you would have sank to the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker.”
“That is why I tried not to panic. The only reason I called out for help was that for some unknown reason I was losing buoyancy. I didn’t want to be a burden on any of my classmates.” he imparted.
Their waitress Delia, returned with the professor’s sweet tea and the younger man’s Vulcan spice tea, as well as a very generous “sample” of the seafood gumbo. “I’ll stop by again to finalize your order right after I take care of Professor o’OOantay’s party.”
“She’ll be a while.” laughed Trumbull. “Ms. o’OOantay’s party, is literally a PARTY. She and her family of seventeen get together once a week during lunch for what they consider a wild shindig on Skurtia Prime. She always invites me. I went once, to be polite, and because I was curious, I found it one of the most unusual and somewhat frightening things I’ve seen. I believe the purpose of their festivities consisted of a method of prophylaxis, blended with dom-jot and spitting. A lot of spitting.” He shivered recalling the event.
“Ah yes, losing buoyancy...that might have been due to a subconscious tendency on your part to expel your breath or it could have been because I programmed the holodeck to vary the gravity during the scenario.” He sipped his tea. “Ms Dresden was raised on a world where the gravitational force is perceptibly less than on Earth. She’s been on Earth and Earth like planets long enough to compensate in her daily life. But she found it challenging to avoid the inevitable pull of gravity in the water, when it was fluctuating. Even so, you did the right thing within the parameters of the program. You knew you could float, so you floated. And, without panicking, you requested assistance when your strategy hit a snag. It wasn’t a swimming test, it was a survival test.”
“I think it is best if I learn to swim. The next time there may be no one to come to my aid.” he said sampling the gumbo. The dish did have some heat to it. The Vulcans sinuses opened up as a response. He was mortified as he grabbed a tissue and excused himself from the table to deal with the runny nose.
While waiting for Rel to return, Professor Trumbull sipped his tea and looked around the room. He didn’t know most of the other non-Starfleet faculty members yet. Like many of the first year cadets in his survival class, he was new to campus and found the pace at the Academy challenging.. Many days he returned to his quarters too tired to socialize or even be neighborly.”
Delia’s return coincided with Rel’s. She refilled Trumbull’s tea glass.
“Sorry about that Professor.” Rel said as he sat.
“Have you made your choice?” She asked him.
“You were right about the Gumbo, a very fine dish yet a bit to scented for my palate.” he acknowledged. “I will be fine with the ravioli thank you.” he said with a nod.
He picked up his spice tea and allowed the aroma to take him back to Vulcan for a brief moment. “If you are able to take a break maybe I can talk to you about some Earth dishes that would appeal to the Vulcan palate, at your leisure of course.”
“Me?” The waitress said disbelievingly. “Umm...sure.” She gave the professor a surprised look. “I only get fifteen minutes break but my shift ends in a little less than three hours. I’ll wait outside the main entrance to the building. Let me get your ravioli and the professor’s gumbo.” She quickly disappeared into the kitchen.
Trumbull didn’t comment on Rel’s abrupt departure nor did he say anything about the cadet’s exchange with Delia.
“I agree. Everyone should learn to swim. I’m guessing you would like to take lessons?”
“Yes, sir.” the youth said. “I was hoping, if you have the time, you would instruct me.”
Delia brought back their meals and slid the plates down in front of them. She had remembered that Rel had asked for a salad and she placed a basket laden with slices of french bread between the two “Anything else?” She asked smiling at the Vulcan-Trill hybrid.
“I’m fine as long as the Professor is. Everything smells great.” he paused. “I will catch up with you around 1500.” He said with a smile. He turned to the Professor to see if he needed anything.
The professor seemed not to need anything but the several slices of the bread which he was slathering with butter.
The salad was a masterpiece. Iceberg lettuce, whole leaf spinach, mushrooms, carrots, a little bell pepper, muenster cheese, feta and cheddar, and a couple of meats. “If this tastes as good as it looks you can give my compliments to the chef.”
Delia beamed. “Thank you. See ya later.”
Trumbull ate a few bites and looked up thoughtfully.
“You know, I’ve never actually taught anyone to swim. Not that I’m adverse to trying. Let me guess, you’d rather not take formal lessons with the much younger cadets?”
“It is kind of a weird situation I am in. It may make it awkward for them and I really don’t need more rumors flying around about me because of my age.” the Vulcanoid reacted. He avoided the dressing and speared a forkful of salad. He continued, “I trust that if you were inclined to nearly drown the cadets that did not know how to swim you had something or someone in mind to do it.”
Barak munched on the salad as he gave the professor time to respond. He was right about the food perfect even without the dressing.
Trumbull snorted, narrowly avoiding sending gumbo shooting out his nose. He dabbed his mouth, still chuckling. “Danger can be a simple matter of perception. And yes, we have several expert swim instructors here at the academy but I do understand where you’re coming from.” He leaned over the table and whispered “After all, I am the crazy old professor who tries to drown his students.” He winked and finished his bowl of gumbo in silence. “I’ll have to locate a suitable pool off site. I suspect that there a couple of dozen cadets who would be nervous if I were in the building or even on campus while they were taking their lessons.”
“If you intended to drown us I would not have asked you.” the Vulcanoid replied with a bit of levity in his tone.
“Several of the Trill hosts have known how to swim others never learned. I believe that given I get over my own fear of drowning that I should be a quick learner.” the cadet offered.
“It sounds like you’re halfway there already.” Trumbull picked up the last french bread from the communal basket. “I’ll find us a place off campus to get you up to speed. I need to ask you two favors. First, don’t try swimming alone, even just in the holodeck. Best not to anger the Tech Gods any more than I already do.” He laughed and gave Rel a chance to reply.
Rel smiled. He did not wish to interrupt the professors train of thought.
“And second, treat my favorite waitress like a lady on your date.” He waved the last slice of bread at his dining companion. “She’s a very nice girl and I don’t want to have to find you and hurt you tomorrow.”
“It’s not a date, sir, but I will treat her with respect and dignity as I try to with all people. I do not know if she is seeing someone and if so I do not wish to butt in. It could cause an intergalactic incident if I stepped on the wrong beings toes.” Barak sighed.
“Though Delia is easy on the eyes, I would prefer to get to know her and some of her interests before barging in on a blind date situation.” he hesitated a moment before adding. “I would like the person to get to know me too.”
Trumbull popped the last bite of bread into his mouth, then stood and folded his napkin neatly on the table. “I’ll leave a message when I’ve found a pool for us.”
Rel reached into his pocket for his credit PADD. Before the professor could argue he paid both of their tabs and put in a 20% gratuity for their service. He included a note to the manager… Best service on campus.