Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara



by Mara

Summary: Hoshi reads. Malcolm teases. Trip and T’Pol argue. Hoshi proposes a theory.

NOTES: A smidgen of R/S shippiness (as a gift to the R/S shippers on the
Linguistics Database Forum) and a little Tu/T shippiness (as a gift to Captain
Average, the superhero with a thing for the Vulcan babe). Voluminous thanks, as
always, to Captain Average for the beta.


* * * * *

Hoshi hummed quietly as she settled into a comfortable fabric chair in the
lounge, one she’d staked out early in the Enterprise’s mission, that afforded
her a great view of the stars. She’d finally found a quiet hour to catch up on
some professional reading, without the impetus of having to solve a linguistic
mystery in 48 hours…or else.

The well-lit, nearly deserted room was perfect for her purposes. She dropped her
water bottle on the table beside her and curled her legs under her body. She
found where she’d left off the last time and started reading.

When Malcolm walked by the lounge several hours later, she was still engrossed
in a text.


“Mm-hmm?” she asked without looking up.

“Were you planning to eat dinner?”


“Sometime this century?”


“Is that Commander Tucker I see stripping down in the hallway?”

“Mm-” she gulped and looked up, feeling her face redden slightly. “Um, what did
you say?”

His face was as innocent as a child’s. “I just asked if you were planning to eat

She blinked as she realized he was teasing her, and just how long she’d been
sitting there. “Oh, yes, let me just gather my things and I’ll come with you.”

As they walked down the hallway, Hoshi mused on the changes she’d seen in the
handsome and retiring armory officer. //Not drastic changes, mind you. Somehow I
don’t think we’ll ever see him the center of attention like Trip. But he just
made a *joke*. To a *woman*. And if *that’s* not progress, then I’ll eat nothing
but plomeek soup for the next month.//

Malcolm broke into her thoughts. “So, what were you working on so intently? I
thought all was quiet in your area lately.”

“Oh, it wasn’t work, exactly. I’ve just been boning up on cultural anthropology.
Much of my linguistics work was purely structural in nature, but out here it’s
all a bit more applied.”

“It certainly is,” he said. “And what particular aspect of the field had your

“Schismogenesis,” she said.

There was a pause, as he looked at her sideways, probably trying to see if she
was teasing him. “I will grant,” he said, “that my grasp of languages may not be
all that yours is, but I am surprised to admit I’ve never heard that word

“What?” she asked, in her best ingenuous tone. “You’ve never heard of
complementary and symmetrical schismogenesis? I’m ashamed of you.”

His lips quirked slightly as they rounded the corner and entered the half-full
mess hall. “Really.”

She relented as she perused the dinner selection and chose eggplant parmigana
and french onion soup. “Well, the meaning depends on the context in which it’s
used. When it’s used to describe contact between two different cultures,
schismogenesis is how normal individual behavior in each culture changes as a
result of cumulative contact between many individuals.”

He looked slightly baffled. They gravitated toward an empty table as Hoshi
struggled to describe the term clearly. She stirred her soup, and Malcolm waited
patiently, taking a bite of lasagna. //Out of the classroom for less than a
year, and I’ve apparently lost my touch,// she thought.

She opened her mouth just as the door to the mess hall opened and T’Pol and Trip
entered, arguing. Or at least, Trip was arguing and T’Pol was looking at him as
if he were an insect. //Situation utterly normal,// she thought, as the rest of
the crewmembers in the room ignored the argument like the everyday activity it

Then she had a burst of inspiration, rather like a smack on the head. She felt
her jaw drop.

“Hoshi?” Malcolm said, but she couldn’t respond, too busy staring at the human
and the Vulcan as they made their way through the food line, still arguing.
“Hoshi? Is there something wrong?”

“No,” she said, “but I’ve figured out how to explain schismogenesis.”

“Hmm?” He followed her gaze as Trip and T’Pol walked toward their table. “Them?”

“Oh yes,” she said gleefully, “they’re a perfect example. I didn’t see it
before. I’ll explain after dinner.”

T’Pol sat down in a seat next to Hoshi, nodding in the minimum polite fashion,
and looked as if she was trying to ignore Trip, who sat down across from her.

“Look, T’Pol-” he tried.

“Commander, I do not see any purpose in continuing this conversation.” She
delicately sliced her steamed squash into perfect squares.

“Well, if you’re gonna go around and second-guess every damn suggestion I make,
we’re gonna have this conversation,” he said, stabbing his fork into a piece of
chicken as if it was trying to escape.

“In addition,” she said, her voice even, “this is an inappropriate location to
discuss your emotional reactions to a simple request from a planetary

“You won’t discuss it anywhere else!” Trip looked as if he was going to explode,
and Malcolm and Hoshi–experienced in the ways of the engineer and the Vulcan–
quickly diverted the conversation in a safer direction. Dinner passed, if not
calmly, then at least less explosively.

* * * * *

“So, explain,” Malcolm said to Hoshi later, as the two of them settled down in
the same lounge where he’d found her before dinner. She smiled to herself as he
waited for her to take a seat on the couch, before seating himself next to her.

“We’ll leave symmetrical schismogenesis aside for the moment,” she said, “since
it doesn’t apply in this situation. Complementary schismogenesis, however,
begins when two groups or two people have different cultures or behaviors.

“For instance, one culture values openness about personal matters, and the other
values privacy. Group A tries to encourage Group B to be more open, but the more
outgoing Group A acts, the more Group B retreats. The more Group B retreats, the
more outgoing Group A becomes. So, their actions cause exactly the opposite of
the intended effect, and behavior on both sides becomes more extreme and draws
the groups farther apart.

“Someone once compared it to two people in bed with a cross-wired electric
blanket. Person A gets cold, so they turn up the heat on their side of the
blanket, but it actually changes the temperature on Person B’s side. Person B
then gets hotter, and tries to turn *down* the temperature, but actually just
makes Person A colder.” She grinned as Malcolm raised his eyebrows at her

“Leaving aside electric blankets,” he said, looking remarkably sorry to be doing
so, “why does this happen?”

“Different reasons in different situations, I think,” Hoshi said with a shrug.
“If you’re culturally trained to see a certain reaction as correct in a specific
situation, and the other person reacts ‘incorrectly’ you might become more
correct. To show them the proper way to behave.”

She watched him work that one through in his mind, tapping his fingers on the
arm of the couch as he thought. He looked back at her. “So,” he said slowly,
“the more Trip and T’Pol speak to each other, the more Vulcan she becomes, and
the more emotional and human he becomes?”

She grinned, proud he’d understood what she was saying. “Exactly. Think about
it: Trip isn’t shy, and he’s not known for hiding his feelings, but does he get
that emotional when he speaks to anyone else?”

“No, not under normal circumstances.”

“And T’Pol is certainly very Vulcan, but she has been known to lighten up
slightly when speaking to the Captain, for instance. We’ve even heard her use

“That’s true.” Malcolm looked thoughtful.

“They’ve gotten themselves locked in this relationship, where every time she is
logical, he acts more emotional and vice versa.”

“I’m impressed,” he said, regarding her with an expression she couldn’t read. “I
never saw their relationship in quite this way before.”

She flushed slightly at the intensity of his regard, then shrugged. “It’s what
I’m trained to do. You’ll always be a better shot than me. In any case, they’ve
gotten so caught up in trying to show the other person up, I suspect by this
point they each blame the other person for the distortion in their own behavior.
And they’ve become increasingly unwilling, or *unable* to understand the
overreactions of the other person.” She frowned unhappily. “It’s rather sad,

“Sad?” Malcolm asked. “Because it makes working together more difficult?”

“Sad that they are unable to communicate, especially considering how they feel
about each other. Or felt. It’s hard to tell.”

Malcolm’s brows narrowed as he looked at her. “How they feel about each other?”

She nodded and looked down at her padd. “It’s right here. An anthropologist
named Gregory Bateson pegged it in 1936, when he developed the idea of

She handed him the padd, pointing to the sentence she meant, and he read aloud:
“This process occurs not only between groups, but also between pairs of
individuals; and on theoretical grounds, we must expect that if the course of
true love ever ran smooth, it would follow an exponential curve.”

He looked up and she shrugged, saying, “The only question is: what happens when
they reach the apex of that curve? And will the ship survive the experience?”

* * * * *

Additional author’s notes: This was going to be a long story about how Malcolm
and Hoshi helped Trip and T’Pol work out their differences, instead of the
vignette you’ve just read, but I determined–after fiddling around with it for
awhile–that it wasn’t my story to tell. If anyone would like to continue, I’d
be happy to provide you my notes on why schismogenesis occurs and the forces
that restrain or end it.

I borrowed this concept of schismogenesis from Bateson’s rather tedious book
_Naven_, but the electric blanket analogy belongs, I believe, to
anthropologist/linguist Deborah Tannen.

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