bubcus.gif (1756 bytes)

Rob Morris


August 23rd 2295

The conversation on the shuttle back from the uneventful first contact quickly drifted into the realm of a whole lot of nothing. Captain Pavel Chekov himself led the way in this. "That vworld’s prime leader. He had that—that thing like a hat. What vwas vwith that hat?"

Lieutenant Kirk shrugged. "I’m really not sure. I thought maybe it was a cultural marker. But no one else had any sort of headdress at all. Maybe he’s just into horrible haberdashery. My great-grandpa had a whole collection of hats he owned, but would never wear."

"Irrelevant," said Lieutenant Commander Saavik. "If he never wore them, then the comment has no bearing on this situation. Also you could not know that."

"But, obviously, I do know it," responded a slightly annoyed Kirk. "Even if it’s wrong or I heard it wrong, it’s something I know."

Saavik shook her head. "If it is wrong and you know it to be wrong, then it is not a fact. The only fact is that you never met your father’s grandfather, and so you could not know for a fact that he had such a collection."

Peter shook a finger in the air. "I don’t know it to be wrong. I know it. If it were wrong and I knew it to be wrong, then I would be telling a lie. I am not telling a lie. I am telling what I know."

Saavik seemed upset. "I did not call you a liar. I merely pointed out that you could not know about the ancient hat collection with any degree of certainty."

Chekov got back into it, fighting off mild chuckles and quips about the pair already sounding like an old married couple. "He never said it vwas ancient. Still, no odd hat collection could ever look quite like that—that hat. There vwas something wrong about that hat. It didn’t seem hat-like, somehow."

Peter Kirk looked at his captain. "How could it not be hat-like? Did it cover his head?"


"Then, sir, it was at least hat-like."

The captain added in again. "But not overtly hat-like."

Ch’terr finally joined in. "As opposed to it being covertlllly hat-lllike?"

Chekov stayed with his first train of thought. "It looked sort of like a crown or ceremonial piece, but he kept letting it fall onto the ground. And there just vwasn’t much sun or vwind to justify wearing that—hat-like not-hat thing."

Peter Kirk again winced at remembering the headgear’s innate ugliness. "Why did he keep putting it back on? It fell in the mud, it fell in food—I’d’ve thrown it away. It was determined to get dirty. Some clothes are like that. Always trying to get dirty."

Ch’terr seemed to frown. "Don’t just throw it away. Fact is, I’ve been searching for a hat like that for a lllllong time. For Skorr, alllll headwear is to be saved for just that particular wind gust or cliff with your name on it."

Saavik felt compelled to respond to what she saw as two misstatements. "Clothes are inanimate objects, and are not ever determined to do anything, including becoming soiled. And neither wind gusts nor cliffs nor bullets may have one’s name on them. Some turns of phrase stretch so far, they snap apart of their own weight."

Peter Kirk puzzled at this declaration. "Hold up. You just tore our turns of phrase to shreds referring to phrases snapping and stretching and having weight. Why is that acceptable and our turns of phrase aren’t?"

Saavik tried and failed to recover from his logical assault. "It—just is. kaiidth. What simply is, is."

Ch’terr asked a question. "How is it that phrases turn, anyway? Can they do a one-eighty in battllle at Warp Eight? How come so many words are made solllellly to describe other words doing something they can’t physicallllly do? You know, Human llllanguage was actualllly easier for me to master than some Skorrian dialllects? The peoples of the Northern Aeries allll over-describe air. Why? It’s air. What more do you need to know?"

Chekov shrugged. "Cold air versus hot air?"

Kirk waved his hand. "Then it’s just hot air or cold air. Adjectives. It’s simple. But, Saavik, yes, clothes can conspire to get dirty. My Academy graduation uniform plotted with a jar of yellow mustard for weeks on end. I barely averted the whole mess in time."

Saavik raised an eyebrow at this. "You are making that up!"

Chekov shook a finger in the air. "Nyet, he’s correct. Vwith me, it vwas a gift bottle of sparkling grape juice I vwas given for Purim. Had I not bound it up in a thick fluffy white bath sheet, when that cork popped, it vwould have ruined the most important inspection of my third year. It vwas from my Uncle Vanya. Nana’s goodies never made messes. But Vanya’s almost always did. There's something in that, but I've never quite reasoned it out."

Ch’terr stared straight ahead. "There was this small clear barrel of honey- roasted cashews. Oh, how it wanted to catch my beak in its opening. I was too smart for it. I let my roommate have most of it. From then on, it wanted revenge. Lllegumes are easily cursed items in the lllore of my world."

"Then vwhy eat them?"

Ch’terr snorted. "You ever try to get a planet of avians not to eat honey roasted cashews? Talk about a holy war breaking out. For some of my people, the Pl-l-l-lanters Peanut-Man is a kind of saint. I don't even want to tal-l-l-lk about when the first cans of del-l-l-luxe mixed nuts were del-l-l-livered from Terra."

Willis O’Brien, who had remarkably kept silent to this point, finally chimed it."Clothes are not the culprit in the process of making things dirty—foodstuffs are. For me, it was an almond sticky bun. From the start, I didn’t trust it. It had way too much extra glaze, cream and brown sugar. It wanted my sleeve, even though it knew I had an interview with Brad Bashaw in five minutes."

Saavik was silently fuming. Peter held her hand lightly. "Sticky buns. Jelly-filled donuts. In a way, they wait for us all. We’re just mortals, and they’re not ours to avoid forever."

Chekov nodded in agreement. "Your uncle never feared food. He used mustard in squirt bottles. Grabbed and ate the first three pastries he saw, not giving a damn. And liquid stains? He popped corks off right and left on New Year’s Eve, as though daring it all to stain him. Vwhat a man."

Ch’terr pointed something out. "Didn’t he wear a mustard-colored tunic back then?"

"Da, as did I. So?"

"Well, I mean, he was still courageous for the jelly and wine, but he could hide the mustard stains. Hey. Do any of you have any leftover tunics from that era?"

Peter thought back. "Hmm..ya know, now that I think about it, he did tend to avoid mayonnaise, except when the white uniforms were in style, after V’ger."

Ch’terr tried to answer. "Well, it was his casual duty—while on duty—more or less formal tunic. I—"

The Skorr froze. He looked over at the back of the shuttle.

"Everyone—behind us."

Somehow, in the shuttle with them, was the great and ugly hat. Chekov turned back to piloting very quickly. He shook with chills. "Vwhat is up with that hat?"

Saavik took out her tricorder and immediately scanned the chapeau. "It appears to be a lifeform, Captain."

"Dangerous?" asked Ch’terr.

"No, sir. It appears to be some sort of symbiotic lifeform. Medium-level intelligence...about as much as a Terran canine."

"What’s it live on?" asked Kirk.

"Unknown. Possibly air-borne microorganisms. It’s virtually sessile and does not appear to have much of a metabolism."

"Then I shal-l-l-l keep it, with your permission, of course, Captain," the Skorr security chief said, scooping it up and draping it over his crest.

"As long as it doesn’t present a danger to yourself or the crew, I have no objection."

"Captain, you can’t be serious!" Saavik was as aghast as a Vulcan could be. "This is an unknown lifeform. You have no idea what it might do under any given circumstance."

"That’s right, Ch’terr," Chekov agreed. "We’ll keep it in isolation for a few weeks, and if all the science department heads agree, you can keep it as a pet."

"I was thinking of keeping it as a hat," the security chief said in indignant response.

Peter Kirk shook his head. "Chief, I don’t think it likes being used as a hat all that much."

O’Brien sighed. "Now wonderboy has haberdasher telepathy. What’s next, furniture empathy?"

Ch’terr questioned the Sciences officer. "Pete, what makes you say that?"

"Simple. Notice how it didn’t stay on that man’s head, planetside? How it seemed to be trying to go anywhere else, including here?"
Chekov nodded in apparent agreement. "I believe he is right, Ch’terr. That is an abused hat."

Ch’terr’s beak bent a bit. "Wel-l-l-l, I can’t real-l-l-l-l-ly keep it as a pet. It’s against the spirit, if not the l-l-l-letter, of regul-l-l-lations. I should know."

O’Brien rubbed his chin, then added something more to the conversation. "Why does anybody bring up the words ‘letter and spirit’ when it comes to rules? It’s not like anybody ever obeys both. Usually, when I hear that phrase used, it means that the person in question is, in fact, following neither."

Chekov shrugged. "They obey the spirit in order to get around the rigid letter."

Kirk seemed to disagree. "No, sir. They obey the letter in order to keep the spirit from being too freely interpreted."

Saavik appeared on the verge of responding, but then stopped cold. Her upper lip actually twitched before she finally spoke. "I almost wish to posit that letters have no spirit, and that something as ephemeral as spirit cannot be bound up in letters. But I will not."

Ch’terr was now stroking the grateful hat-like creature. "Why not, Commander? It certainl-l-ly keeps in l-l-l-line with this conversation."

Saavik looked around at all of them. "How can any of you call this a conversation? We are not truly discussing anything."

Kirk nodded. "Exactly."

O’Brien chuckled. "What is there to discuss right now but nothing? The chief can’t do a security drill; the captain has given all the big orders that aren’t implicit; I’m certainly not seeing any breaking news, and I defy Pete to perform so much as a single kata in this cramped space."

Chekov smiled, actually happy that one of his crew still needed so basic a lesson.

"Saavik, vwe vwill get no vwork done here, and we are still an hour or more from Enterprise. My nana vwarned me of such times as this. Her advice for getting through it all vwas to save up a whole lot of bubcus."

"Bubcus, sir?"

"Da, Commander. Bubcus. Nothing. Odd things that vwe all end up vwondering about, logical or no. Sometimes, even small talk is too big to be useful. Bubcus, though? There is always room for lots of bubcus, and bubcus is hard-pressed to ever be offensive."

Saavik appeared to relax, and returned Kirk’s hand squeeze. "So odd subjects may be freely pursued at those times? Should we not then always discuss this bubcus?"

Ch’terr sighed as his new pet seemed to present him with dilemmas. "You can’t discuss nothing al-l-l-l the time. Your l-l-l-life can’t be about nothing. Anyone who tried would end up as a vil-l-l-le, l-l-l-loathsome, l-l-l-lowl-l-l-life, sel-l-l-lfish on l-l-level-l-ls we just can’t imagine."

O’Brien nodded. "I’ve known people who tried. It was not a comprehensible existence. If all the world’s a stage, you can’t put on a show about—well, nothing."

Kirk smiled at her. "It’s a kind of filter, Saavik. It doesn’t even have to involve getting into Human emotions. I think C’Thia allows for some form of logical bubcus."

In his eyes, she seemed to find the answer she sought. "Very well. I have something. I have recently puzzled over an odd reference in an old Enterprise log. It describes incident involving the last two survivors from the planet Cheron’s civil war. The two individuals beamed down to the planet at different times. What if Bele and Lokai ended up beaming down to separate sides of the planet? How would they meet up for their final battle? They might well have starved or died of old age before finding each other."

Saavik now seemed very relaxed. Nothing could lead to something, it seemed, "This is a fascinating type of release. You are wrong I think, Mister O’Brien. A holovid or a stage play could easily form the basis of a well-received entertainment. Peter often watches these fascinating costume morality plays made in Japan nearly three hundred years ago. They usually involve giant reptiles who are either hero, villain or clown depending on the situation. And very often, they too appear to be about nothing."

Kirk was chuckling. "My superior officer. I think I’ll keep her."

Chekov shook his head. "Mister Saavik, that sort of dada-esque holovid series vwas tried once, wvery long ago, in the age of televwision. But it just did not play vwell in the rural areas outside of Moscow. Oddly, the production ended its run vwith an episode where an odd series of ewvents lead to the imprisonment of the lead characters––who vwere turned on by those more vapid and selfish than themselves."

Upon returning to Enterprise, Saavik amused herself by filing a request for political asylum on behalf of what appeared to be a very ugly hat. Nothing else happened that day. Okay, not nothing....

main.gif (14802 bytes)

Free counters provided by Andale.
banner.gif (754 bytes)

Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES -- 2294-2323 Chekov's Enterprise.
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction.
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website