"We Shall Overcome" was originally posted as Episode 21 of the Voyager Virtual Season Project. After Voyager's crew returns to Earth, the Doctor seeks to liberate Earth's holograms. Reg Barclay, who is working in Starfleet's holographic research laboratory on Jupiter Station, finds himself caught in the middle of the holograms' civil rights struggle. Meanwhile, Tom and B'Elanna are in a funk about their future career options, Tuvok and his wife offer their help, and Icheb is harassed by other cadets at Starfleet Academy.
WE SHALL OVERCOME, PART 2
The first light of dawn had begun to filter through the vertical blinds in Icheb's dormitory room. The soft glow framed the unhappy figure of his roommate, Caleb Fromme, whose slumped posture at the desk didn't appear to have changed at all since the previous evening. The only difference Icheb had noticed was that the volume and frequency of Fromme's cursing had both increased significantly.
"If you need help studying for today's astrophysics exam," Icheb offered, as he sat down and began to shine his boots, "I am available to discuss the subject."
"Yeah, I bet you are. I haven't noticed you studying for the exam, circuit-brain. Probably got the whole library stored in some implanted Borg chip for instant recall, just to make the rest of us look stupid." Fromme swiveled around in his chair, glaring from close-set blue eyes.
"Astrophysics was my primary area of study aboard Voyager," Icheb explained, "and I gained considerable familiarity with its practical applications."
"Voyager." Fromme's sneer looked as if it held jealousy as well as contempt. "I guess you think you're better than the other cadets because you've spent time aboard a starship, with that Borg-loving captain who ought to be in prison. Well, let me tell you, I'd rather fail the exam than ask for help from a Borg. We all know what kind of help the Collective gives its victims, don't we? Just how many innocent people did you kill and mutilate when you served the Collective, anyway?"
The glossy surface of his boots would be acceptable, Icheb decided. Too bad that properly shined boots, contrary to his drill instructor's apparent opinion, wouldn't solve the galaxy's problems. He got out of the chair and stood facing his hostile roommate.
"If you are referring to the assimilation of captives," he replied in a mild tone, "that was not an activity in which I participated."
"You can't even begin to convince me of that," Fromme snapped. "Not that you'd care at all, but my father was among the thousands who died at Wolf 359. Most of the cadets here, at least the human cadets, lost family or friends in that attack. I know all I need to know about the Borg and what they do."
But you don't know me, Icheb thought, his posture as stiff as if he had been standing at attention on the parade ground. You don't know me at all.
"I have decided to call this model the 25CB," Zimmerman announced, as a holographic figure materialized in the middle of the laboratory. "The most advanced emergency medical hologram ever created, the 25CB possesses abilities far beyond even the most skilled human surgeon. In addition, the improved ethical and protocol subroutines should minimize the likelihood of embarrassing incidents."
The assembled Starfleet brass, seated on comfortable chairs along the perimeter of the room, watched expectantly.
Reg Barclay instinctively recoiled as he saw the hologram's face and just barely managed to avoid spilling his glass of water all over himself. He spluttered, "How could you . . ."
Remembering just in time that he was in the middle of a very important briefing that could determine the future of Jupiter Station's research, Reg lowered his voice and hissed, "Whatever gave you the idea of making the new EMH look like me?"
Zimmerman smiled graciously and whispered back, "No need for false modesty, Reg. You've certainly worked hard enough to deserve this small honor. That's why the model number is 25CB, for 25th Century Barclay."
Modesty, false or otherwise, wasn't exactly at the forefront of Reg's mind as he gritted his teeth and forced himself not to strangle Zimmerman for the duration of the briefing. It wasn't easy. By the time the last guest had left the station, Reg felt as if he might be about to pop a blood vessel or two.
"I insist that the new EMH's face be changed immediately." Reg wasn't about to call his holographic doppelganger the 25CB; that model number would have to go, as well.
"Really, Reg, you're a grown man," Zimmerman observed with a supercilious smirk, "and it's about time for you to get over your shyness. I'll admit it can be a trifle disturbing at first, to see your face on a hologram, but what better way to honor your participation in creating him? After all, scientists and explorers routinely name their discoveries after themselves. If you found a new nebula, wouldn't you want it to be named for you?"
"This isn't a nebula, it's a hologram. More precisely, a whole fleet's worth of them, and no, I don't want my face all over every one! Couldn't you have had the common courtesy to ask me first?"
The two engineers confronted one another in the corridor, Zimmerman looking even more smug than usual and Barclay glaring at him furiously. Their impasse was broken a few seconds later when two emergency medical holograms, wearing identical portable holo-emitters, strode around a corner toward them. The new EMH still had Barclay's face, although it shifted for a moment into a perfect representation of Albert Einstein.
"The solution to your dilemma, gentlemen," declared Voyager's Doctor. "He is an intelligent life form and, hence, should be accorded the right to choose his own physical appearance."
"I'm also rather partial to Thomas Edison," the new EMH put in, stroking his chin thoughtfully. "But then again, I may decide that I prefer to resemble Marie Curie."
Zimmerman looked as outraged as if a howling mob of vandals had just destroyed a priceless work of art before his very eyes. "This interference with my work is unthinkable! You can't start liberating the new hologram before Starfleet even puts him into service!"
"I beg to differ." The Doctor, untroubled by Zimmerman's bombast, sounded quite cheerful indeed. "This is an ideal time to clarify the point that no sentient hologram should be the property of Starfleet or of any other organization."
Zimmerman opened his mouth and then shut it again, for once in his life having nothing to say.
With about an equal degree of astonishment, Reg stood mute for the better part of a minute before he turned to the new EMH and spoke.
"If you don't mind my asking, sir, can you please choose some other face?"
The Vulcan candles that had been lit in every room, placed carefully above Miral's reach, gave the apartment a pleasant scent reminiscent of wintergreen, or perhaps root beer; Tom Paris wasn't sure which. He didn't feel curious enough about it to question T'Pel, who was standing in the living room with her long sleeves rolled up to her elbows, washing the windows. Miral played contentedly with her stuffed animals in a pile of cushions as Tom cleaned out the popcorn kernels and other debris that had accumulated in the sofa.
Tom had been more than surprised when T'Pel had shown up at the door several hours ago, with a bag of cleaning supplies, the scented candles, and miscellaneous Vulcan decorative household items. Not that he was complaining.
"I really appreciate your taking the time to help me get the place cleaned up for B'Elanna's big day."
"As I told Tuvok, there are times when just dropping in on human friends can be the most logical course of action." A corner of T'Pel's mouth briefly rose in a very faint smile.
Tom removed the last crumb from the sofa and, prudently choosing not to displace Miral just yet, left the cushions on the floor as he started on a more pleasant task.
"A starship engineering specialization certificate. It's equivalent to a year's work of master's level coursework." Tom carefully checked to make sure the alignment was level as he hung B'Elanna's certificate on the wall. "That selection committee won't be turning up their noses at her now."
"You're very proud of her," T'Pel observed.
"Yes. I am." Tom stood back for a moment, admiring his handiwork. The certificate, in a bright brass frame, was about the prettiest thing he'd seen in quite some time. "Nothing wrong with being proud of my wife. Well, at least on Earth there isn't."
"Vulcans are a proud people as well. It's just that, in most instances, we're less forthright about admitting it." T'Pel finished washing the last window. "I have to confess that I am experiencing some feelings of anticipation regarding the outcome of B'Elanna's interview."
Miral interrupted the conversation with a very loud squeal and scrambled out of the pile of cushions, toddling toward the front door.
A moment later, Tom heard the light footsteps as well. B'Elanna wasn't stomping toward the door, which was definitely a good sign. He hastily gathered up the cushions and restored them to the sofa.
"Impeccable timing." T'Pel calmly rolled her sleeves back down.
B'Elanna burst through the door with one of the biggest grins Tom had ever seen on her face. The spotless, pleasantly scented apartment and T'Pel's presence evidently took her by surprise.
"I arrived a short time ago, bringing a few gifts to celebrate your new position," T'Pel informed B'Elanna. "Your husband has evidently been very busy cleaning this apartment all day. His efforts are indeed admirable."
Although B'Elanna looked even more surprised to hear that, she promptly flung her arms around Tom and squeezed all the breath out of him in a very enthusiastic hug. One from which his ribcage took a few minutes to recover. As she turned her affections to Miral, with a much more restrained hug, Tom took the opportunity to walk T'Pel to the door.
"I thought Vulcans didn't lie," he whispered.
"A day," she answered, in an equally low tone, "is a very short time in the life of a Vulcan."
Low voices and laughter drifted out of the dorm room as Icheb opened the door. At first, suspecting another prank, he paused just inside the doorway and took a careful look around the room. A copious quantity of smoke was emanating from an oddly shaped item being passed from one cadet to another. The panicked expressions on the faces that turned toward him made it plain that his presence hadn't been anticipated.
"I thought you said he'd be in the circuits lab all evening," hissed Tyler, one of Icheb's usual tormentors.
"Well, he usually is," Fromme retorted, not even bothering to lower his voice. "Getting intimate with some nice hot plasma relays, probably."
As the cadets laughed, somewhat more nervously than usual, Jessip leaned forward and brandished the contraband toward Icheb. "Want some, drone boy? It's Risan joy weed. Not on the list of substances that are illegal to import, although it'll give you a great buzz. But I suppose your wonderful Borg ethics wouldn't let you disobey regulations like that, would they?"
"Not a chance," Fromme snarled. "He's going to rat on us, running straight to security the instant he leaves the room. Probably recording everything we're doing with some cybernetic implant, for evidence at the hearing."
Identical murderous stares fixed themselves on Icheb.
He backed away, wondering why he had ever been foolish enough to think that he had a chance of making friends with his classmates.
"I do not wish to participate in this extremely imprudent activity."
"A lecture on proper behavior from our Borg ethics expert. How inspiring," Jessip mocked, as the door began to open behind Icheb.
He felt tremendously relieved to escape.
Until he turned around, a half-second later, and saw the uniformed campus security officer about to enter the room.
"I could smell that stuff all the way down the hall," the officer declared, taking a step toward Jessip and holding out his hand. "Let's have it."
The Bajoran cadet turned an interesting shade of purple as he complied.
"Conical shape, a thick orange resin with silver specks," the officer noted, turning the joint over in his hand. "Risan, I'd say. Been a while since I've seen one of these. I'll need all of your thumbprints, please."
Icheb had to step back into the room to apply his thumb to the officer's padd. The other cadets' expressions ranged from stunned to furious as they did likewise.
"Would anyone care to explain where this came from?"
"You're all restricted to campus pending further investigation," the officer announced. As he began to search the room, Icheb, while moving out of his way, bumped his arm slightly. The search, conducted by means of a tricorder scan, didn't take long, and no additional contraband was found.
The officer departed, leaving behind some very unhappy cadets.
"I'm so dead," moaned Tyler, slumping against a wall. "We're all going to get expelled, or at least suspended, and my father will just about kill me."
Jessip put his head down on the desk, as if it were too heavy to lift, and mumbled, "I don't want to go back to Bajor and spend the rest of my life working on my aunt's miserable farm."
"The Borg doesn't look too worried, though. He probably reported us to that security officer and doesn't have any reason to worry." Fromme's eyes narrowed. "Yeah, I'm sure of it. We've just seen a firsthand demonstration of Borg ethics. I guess you're real pleased with yourself now, aren't you, Icheb?"
Jessip lifted his head just far enough to glare.
"I reported nothing." When the disbelieving jeers died down a bit, Icheb went on to say, "And no one will be suspended or expelled."
"Just how do you figure that?"
"A more complete investigation will show that the officer's tricorder was malfunctioning and that the confiscated item was, in fact, an entirely acceptable herbal cigar."
If the cadets' jaws had dropped any further, they would have been somewhere in the vicinity of the sub-basement. Approximately 85 seconds passed before Tyler managed to get enough air back into his lungs to say a few words.
"You did something. When you bumped his arm."
Fromme looked as if he might have been about to speak but, for a change, thought better of it and said nothing.
"Borg nanoprobes are extremely versatile and can be quickly programmed for new tasks," Icheb explained. "They also have the advantage of being undetectable by the most common scanning methods."
Tyler stood up straighter, took a deep breath, and gave Icheb a look of complete bafflement. "Why'd you do it? You wouldn't have been expelled. They'd have found that your fingerprints and DNA weren't on the stuff, and besides, the officer probably saw you walk into the room just before he did. What reason could you possibly have had to take a risk like that to save our backsides, after the way we treated you?"
"Yeah," Jessip muttered, now beginning to sound quite ashamed of himself. "We've behaved like total jerks. I'd have thought you would be glad to see us go."
Even though it would have been an inefficient waste of Starfleet Academy resources, Icheb thought but didn't say. The truth was that he wasn't altogether sure, himself, as to what had prompted his decision. He had merely seen an opportunity to salvage his classmates' careers and had acted on it.
"I suppose," he ventured, "everyone behaves like a jerk sometimes."
Fromme looked down at the floor and then back up at Icheb. "I guess I ought to say that I, um."
It took him a few tries before he managed to get it out.
"I owe you an apology."
Icheb took his roommate's extended hand. "Accepted."
The holographic crowds that thronged the streets outside the Federation Council building left even the Doctor, not normally subject to shyness, wishing heartily that he had requested permission to transport directly into the council chamber.
"There he is!"
"It's Voyager's Doctor!"
A mob of shrieking holograms, looking very much like frenzied hippies at a rock concert who'd just caught a glimpse of the featured performer, thundered in his direction. Fortunately, a narrow alley wasn't far away, and he ducked into it. Yanking up the skirts of what he'd begun to suspect was a rather impractical choice for clothing, the EMH sprinted along the alley, his sandals flapping.
He dashed around a corner and almost collided with a familiar figure.
"Hey," Tom Paris demanded, "what's the hurry?"
The howling mass of holograms came closer. Tom quickly glanced around the corner, got a view of the situation, and took off running, right beside the Doctor.
"Couldn't get to the main entrance. Too much of a crowd," the EMH explained, as he hurdled a bench in fine form with his robes hiked up above his knees. Several of his admirers caught a glimpse of him and squealed, continuing the pursuit.
"VIP entrance -- next building -- connected by a breezeway," Tom panted, sprinting to keep up. "That way. Didn't anyone tell you?"
The door Tom pointed out wasn't far away, with two uniformed guards standing just outside. "I tried to convince them to let me in, as one of your friends, but they weren't buying it. So it's a good thing we met up, or I'd have been standing outside in a queue for hours," Tom went on, with what would have been a rather gleeful expression if he hadn't been too much out of breath to smirk.
"You may accompany me into the building and view my final rehearsal," the Doctor promptly offered, with the air of a medieval lord granting one of his peons a great boon.
Tom gave a nod in response, still gulping in air. "B'Ela's right, I haven't been getting enough exercise lately. She's already left for Utopia Planitia, but wanted me to tell you that she wishes you luck."
A guard escorted the two of them through a narrow, brightly lit corridor and into a private waiting area. Portraits of past Federation leaders adorned the walls. The Doctor found himself wondering, in a more somber mood, whose footsteps had passed this way before his.
"If things go well, I expect they'll be putting your portrait up there one of these days," Tom remarked. "You'll be known as the great statesman whose eloquence freed the Federation's holograms."
Visualizing himself in the council chamber, surrounded by ecstatic applause from a crowd of thousands, the Doctor felt a twinge of an unfamiliar and somewhat unsettling emotion. No need to worry, he thought. After all, he had received such applause before, when performing as a singer.
But the fate of billions of sentient beings had never before rested squarely on his photonic shoulders.
He struck a pose in the center of the room, facing Tom, and began one last rehearsal.
"Fourscore and seven years ago, the grand concept of holographic beings was conceived . . ."
"Complex holograms of the modern sort have only been around for about twenty years," Tom interrupted. "Even the concept, in any practical sense, hasn't existed much longer than that."
"Dramatic license," the Doctor explained, in annoyance.
Tom shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Don't take this the wrong way, but it seems to me you're overdoing the drama. In particular, you need to lose that John the Baptist getup."
"Actually, it's supposed to be . . ."
"Doesn't matter," Tom interrupted. "Whatever it is, it's distracting. You want to keep the audience focused on your message, not wondering what historical holo-drama you just stepped out of."
The EMH thought about that for a moment. Perhaps Tom had a point. He quickly reprogrammed his physical appearance files, and the robes shimmered for a moment as they morphed into a dark, conservative business suit.
"In recent years," he began again, somewhat grudgingly, "the concept of
holographic beings was conceived."
The image of an audience of thousands came into his consciousness once more, but this time they didn't seem to be applauding. Instead, the crowd sat in grave silence, waiting to be enlightened by his brilliance. Or baffled by his blunders. He attempted to move on to the next sentence in his prepared speech, only to find that the proper data file hadn't been loaded into his speech matrix.
A minor glitch, he told himself, and unlikely to reoccur. All he had to do was to access the next available data file.
"We must all learn to embrace one another as -- as you would have them do unto you -- to move a great mountain."
That wasn't right. What had happened to him? Where had the files gone? He opened his mouth one more time, but to his dismay, nothing came out except a squeak. A loud and entirely tuneless squeak.
Evidently, a catastrophic malfunction of unknown origin had rendered him unable to appear before the council until such time as he could return to a properly equipped laboratory for a complete diagnostic. He turned toward the door.
Tom's hand on his shoulder surprised him.
"Relax, Doc. It's just a bit of stage fright. Nothing serious. Happens to everyone at times."
For some obscure reason, he felt profoundly offended by the suggestion. "I can't have stage fright. I'm a hologram."
"You're an intelligent life form," Tom answered, smoothly stepping between the EMH and the door. "The responses of a sentient organism to his environment aren't as predictable as those of a machine. While you may not have been programmed to experience stage fright, that doesn't mean it can't happen."
Although the Doctor had to admit there was some logic to what Tom was saying, the possibility was nevertheless disquieting. Glitches and programming errors were within his experience; he understood how to correct them. He had no idea of how to deal with something as nebulous as stage fright.
"Whatever the cause, I am unfit to address the council."
"No. The way to deal with stage fright is to work through it, to acknowledge its presence without letting it overwhelm you. Instead of a flawless performance in a rehearsed speech, you might want to try something simpler and more personal, such as just telling the council members what it was like to be a hologram on a Federation ship. Don't worry about whether or not each sentence is perfect. They're going to be interested in what you have to say, not in how you say it."
The Doctor's gaze moved once more to the row of portraits along the wall. Surely, none of these great leaders could ever have experienced such embarrassing moments.
"Yes, they all did. At one time or another." Tom, following Doc's unspoken thought, gave him an encouraging pat on the shoulder. "Don't worry, remember? You're going to do just fine."
"Many of you have come here today because you are wondering whether or not it is possible for a hologram to be sentient." As he spoke, the Doctor kept his attention focused on the assembled council members, not on the crowded gallery behind them. "I had planned to make an eloquent appeal based on our common circumstances. But in truth, I'm not certain that I, or anyone else in the Federation, can give you a definitive answer. Philosophers of every race have struggled for millennia with the question of what makes any of us amount to more than simple organisms reacting to the surrounding environment as their basic programming dictates. I must confess that it is beyond my competence to prove the existence of the photonic soul by rhetorical means. I intend only to describe my individual experiences, leaving you to draw your own conclusions."
The council members listened without apparent reaction as the Doctor began to speak about his first years aboard Voyager and the development of his self-awareness. Although he was aware that the audience had fallen almost entirely silent, he forced himself not to dwell upon the lack of response to his words. Perhaps history's foremost leaders had received continuous applause as they delivered their memorable addresses, but that had little bearing upon his own situation. After all, he was only a humble emergency medical hologram, striving to do his best for his people.
He described how he had formed friendships aboard Voyager and had gradually been accepted as a valued member of the crew, taking part in away missions and putting himself at risk for his comrades. The words didn't do his experiences justice, he thought, as the weight of the silent audience began to press in upon him once more. Surely the listeners wouldn't understand. In all likelihood, his experiences had meaning only to him. How could he have possessed such incredible hubris as to believe himself capable of convincing the entire Federation that holograms could be sentient beings?
His words faltered. He could think of nothing more to say.
But he had to work through his fear, he knew. Even if the ages judged him unworthy of greatness, perhaps future generations would at least acknowledge his effort.
"Although history may not see fit to bestow honor upon the simple words and observations of an emergency medical hologram," the Doctor concluded, "the course we take after this day will have a profound impact, not only on the civil rights of the Federation's photonic inhabitants, but on the way our society is perceived for all time. Our member species share a long history of inclusion and tolerance, of respect for diversity and the civil liberties of minority populations. If the Federation should decide that holograms, no matter how intelligent, must remain the mere property of organic beings, I submit to you that such a decision will diminish not only the holograms affected by it, but every citizen of the Federation."
The council chamber was silent for a long moment after he finished speaking. He felt certain that he deserved nothing more. After all, he had never before made such a bland, unimpressive speech, almost completely devoid of the familiar dramatic embellishments of rhetoric. Why should he find it at all unexpected that his listeners had, in all likelihood, judged him lacking in sentience and altogether incapable of a better performance?
The response, when it came, took him entirely by surprise.
Delegates from all planets of the Federation rose to stand, clapping their hands (and, in a few cases, tentacles) in heartfelt applause. A ripple of movement spread throughout the gallery as the audience joined enthusiastically in the standing ovation.
As the cheering went on, seemingly without end, the Doctor recovered enough from his astonishment to consider whether he ought to favor his admiring audience with a graceful bow. Not necessary, he decided. As the humble prophet of photonic liberation, he need only stand and accept their homage.
"Come in, son."
Tom found his father sitting in a small chair in a corner of the room, working on a padd, which he set aside as Tom entered. The place of honor was occupied by Miral, sitting in the desk chair and focusing on the monitor as intently as if she were deciding the fate of Starfleet. Tom noticed some sort of children's vid on the screen, with fluffy puppets of various colors.
He decided that it would be preferable not to say anything at all about this unusual arrangement.
"I appreciate your taking care of Miral for me while I went to the Federation Council meeting."
That hadn't exactly been Tom's first choice, after the way things had gone during the hearings. Even though his father had made an effort to help B'Elanna qualify for her new job, that hadn't come close to erasing Tom's grudge. But everyone else from Voyager had also attended the Council's meeting, leaving him short of babysitters, other than the woodpecker lady. Certainly his father hadn't done anything to harm Miral while she'd been in his care, and when he had offered to babysit, Tom had reluctantly decided to accept that overture toward improving their family relationship.
Owen Paris responded with a shrug. "She's been no trouble at all, and I can always watch the holographic doctor's speech to the Council on one of the news programs later."
As Tom walked around the desk, Miral, instead of looking pleased to see her daddy, responded with an unmistakably Klingon scowl to the prospect of having her puppet show interrupted. Tom paused before retrieving her. Maybe she was just reflecting his own attitude about being disturbed while watching his favorite old movies, he thought. Maybe he'd been neglecting her. Then again, this might just be normal baby behavior. Frankly, he didn't have a clue.
"Was there something else you wanted to say?" Owen inquired. "That flight instructor position is still open, you know."
Not really, Tom thought. Definitely not, when it comes to that flight instructor job. Starfleet can go find someone else. Just because a guy hasn't been much of a success as a househusband doesn't mean he's got to take the first miserable job that comes along.
Then again, teaching piloting wouldn't be a bad job, in and of itself. Back aboard Voyager, he'd rather enjoyed teaching Icheb to pilot the Delta Flyer. Maybe it would be worthwhile to look into whether any instructor positions were available at private flight schools. There, at least, his students wouldn't scorn him as a Starfleet failure and an ex-jailbird.
Though he had to admit that was a rather cowardly attitude, spending the rest of his life running away from his past mistakes. Coming from the man who had just advised the EMH to rise above fear, it was really quite ironic. And Icheb hadn't shown any fear upon entering Starfleet Academy, nor had he made any complaint afterward, although a former Borg drone certainly couldn't have been made to feel very welcome. Tom began to feel ashamed of his own fear.
Work through it, he told himself. Same advice as for the Doctor. You don't have to let it overwhelm you.
The puppet vid reached its end, with a cheering and clapping of fluffy puppet hands in which Miral enthusiastically joined. Then, as the screen returned to its usual official Starfleet background, she promptly lost all interest in it and climbed down from the chair.
"I might think about it," Tom acknowledged, trying to keep his tone suitably cheerful. "I might."
"That's all I'm asking," Owen told him, as Tom gathered up Miral and got ready to leave. "You don't have to make a decision right now, but I will say -- and I'm not the only one who thinks so, by the way -- that you'd make a fine addition to Starfleet Academy's faculty."
Birds chirped in the trees as Tuvok and T'Pel took a walk through the little park outside the apartment building. Tuvok, with his usual detachment, admired the excellent symmetry of the buildings. In contrast, T'Pel's attention was focused much more on the small occupant of the stroller she was pushing.
"I've given some thought to returning to Vulcan," she said, after a silence of several minutes.
Tuvok turned away from his contemplation of a neatly trimmed boxwood hedge. Earth's cities had become much quieter, he thought, since the Federation Council, in response to the Doctor's inspiring speech, had appointed a committee to study the rights of its holographic residents. That had been sufficient to end the daily protest marches, for the time being, although Tuvok had his doubts as to what the politicians would actually accomplish.
"For what purpose?"
"To see our home again. To see the children," and T'Pel glanced down at a drowsy Miral with an expression that held more than a hint of fondness, "and the grandchildren."
"We know that they are all in good health," Tuvok observed. "Our physical presence on Vulcan is not required to ensure their well-being."
At the intersection of two smoothly paved paths, an overweight goose glanced hopefully up toward T'Pel and then, evidently coming to the conclusion that no bread crumbs would be forthcoming, waddled out of the way of the stroller.
"Perhaps it is illogical," T'Pel conceded, "but I would prefer to return to Vulcan regardless, if only for a short time."
Such an unusual display of sentimentality was no doubt the result of T'Pel's excessive exposure to humans over the past year, Tuvok thought. During their marriage, she had always been the less emotional partner. Some time on Vulcan might indeed prove useful in counteracting the effects of such exposure, particularly where human infants were concerned.
"You did not need to offer your services as a babysitter for Miral," he pointed out. "San Francisco has many excellent child care facilities where she could have been placed while her father commenced his new position as a flight instructor at Starfleet Academy."
"I know." T'Pel looked down once more at the little girl, who had definitely dozed off in her stroller. "And I'm certain Miral will receive the best care after we leave for Vulcan. All the same, this seemed to be an appropriate farewell."
Tuvok could see no purpose to any type of farewell involving a less than fully sentient infant. Human sentimentality again, he thought. After all, he had encountered many human rituals involving children, such as birthday celebrations, which he had never been able to comprehend.
"It has not yet been decided," he reminded T'Pel, "that we will be leaving for Vulcan or anywhere else."
She responded to that comment with a smug glance that made it plain she considered their leaving to be a foregone conclusion. Tuvok could feel her certainty through the link between them. He couldn't blame that particular attitude on humans, though; T'Pel had always possessed a very accurate sense of the extent to which she was able to make decisions on his behalf. He reflected for a moment on the subject of why some Vulcan men chose to marry human women, who, despite their lack of rigorous logic, also lacked the manipulative tendencies of their Vulcan counterparts.
Not that he would ever, for an instant, have considered such a course of action. His marriage to T'Pel had brought him many good years of productive domestic tranquillity. A Vulcan could not reasonably expect more. An occasional display of sentimentality in the presence of infants was not a serious flaw, after all.
T'Pel touched her fingertips to his, radiating the familiar sensations of intimacy and peace. "And you desire to see our grandchildren as well, my beloved. You are merely too stubborn to admit it."
With her close proximity tracing tendrils of warmth along his nerve pathways and leaving his thoughts wide open for her inspection, a complete denial, Tuvok knew, would have been entirely futile.
"Perhaps there may be some logical reasons for a visit," he conceded.