I mentioned previously that this story came about because of an assignment by my Advanced Placement English teacher back in the spring of 1991. I also mentioned that he was rather smarmy when handing out the assignment, and that the length of this was a response to his smarminess. I believe I also mentioned that Mr. Bob Devoss, the English teacher in question, became the basis for Bob S. Soved.
He knew when he read the piece that this was him, and as the class read aloud the works for each other, everybody realized that this was him. The best/worst part of that was that when we were reading this, he was eating a big piece of some sort of crumbcake. Needless to say, before the paragraph was finished he had gotten up and left the room, leaving the entire class in stunned silence.
You’ll understand all of that as you read the descriptive paragraph in question. Looking back at my original notes, it appears that I wrote the scene, then decided I needed to move that particular paragraph and put a note to insert it a little earlier in the scene than it was written.
I don’t recall that Commander Sterling was based on anybody, and as a result the character is somewhat bland.
On to the story. (and it is a big chunk today)
In the officers’ mess, the two new senior officers were discussing their first day over a shared dinner. As the artificial day turned to artificial evening, commanders Soved and Sterling were discovering that they had much in common.
“Do you mind if I call you Sophia? You can call me Bob. I hate all the formality of Starfleet.”
“I’ll call you Bob, but I hate the name Sophia. My full name is Sophia Phileo Sterling. You can call me Cat; that’s the nickname I picked up when I was on the Academy track team. My teammates said that my combination of grace and speed reminded them of a great cat like a tiger, but that ‘tiger’ sounded too masculine.” It was true, and it wasn’t just her fellow cadets that realized it. When anyone saw her move, they always said that the best description was the cliché “poetry in motion.” Aside from her grace, she was a knockout. Her light hair fell almost to her shoulders and her dazzling blue eyes enchanted every human male she encountered. She was relatively shy for the most part, but her genuine, ever-present smile attracted potential friends by the dozens. Like moths seeking a lamp in the darkness, people came to her with their problems in the hope that through her wisdom and understanding, she would find an answer. She never failed. Her intelligence was a given. By virtue of her position alone, one could see that she must be truly brilliant. This conclusion was confirmed by the fact that she had graduated at the top of her class at the Starfleet Academy of Engineering. That class was comprised of the top one hundredth of one percent of engineers who applied.
Bob, on the other hand, was nothing like Sophia. He was fifty-five years old and had been serving Starfleet in various capacities for thirty-five years. At the end of this year, he planned to retire and accept a hefty pension, but he did not know what he would do to pass the time. What little hair he did have around the sides and back of his head was as grey as his full beard and mustache. Watching him eat was a disgusting process. Food escaped from his mouth and became trapped in his beard and mustache with each bite he took. Everyone who knew him thought that he must have been trying to show his “great knowledge” by letting it shine through his skull by a process of waxing and buffing his scalp daily in order to achieve its lustrous appearance. Others who saw him said that he resembled busts of the ancient philosopher Aristotle. The real reason everyone disliked him was his generally condescending attitude towards his inferiors, equals, and superiors. Unlike most 23rd century humans, he was prejudiced in that he believed women to be inferior. As a result, he attempted to cover this up by outwardly agreeing with any statements made by a relatively intelligent woman, whether or not the statement itself was intelligent.
Now, Bob had a problem, and like several other crewmembers of the Enterprise, he asked Cat for help. “Cat, why is it that no one appears to like me?” he asked.
Probably, she thought, because you’re an obnoxious, pompous, overbearing fool who is accustomed to having his own way. “It’s most likely that Chekov was right,” is what she said. “While most people on a starship find it necessary to formulate fact-based conclusions which would facilitate their jobs, you pride yourself on your ability to draw different conclusions based on your knowledge of human nature.”
“Thank you for your honesty,” was all Bob could say. After this exchange, they finished their meal and returned to their respective quarters.