Having fought my way into my newly acquired uniform, I made my way to the transporter room where I found T'Roc waiting for me. She was standing near the platform with her back to me. Jarrod and Gideon were also there at the operations panel. I greeted my captain, still tugging at my collar, and she turned, her fingers similarly jammed down her neckband. She chuckled, "Welcome to the joys of the Starfleet dress uniform."
Jarrod ushered us onto the platform and we prepared to transport. Jarrod gave the command to energise, but Gideon faltered.
"Problem Ensign?" Jarrod asked.
His fingers hovered over the controls, playing with the air.
"I'm just wondering," he said. "Will they be expecting a gift?"
A gift! My mind raced. In many cultures, even Terran ones, when invited to a prestigious event, it was customary to take something by way of thanks. The same thought was passing through T'Roc's mind and I could feel her eyes boring into me. I bit down on my lip thoughtfully.
"Well?" prompted T'Roc.
"I don't know," I had to admit. "But I'd suggest it's better to play safe and take something."
"Okay ... Any suggestions?"
I hadn't got a clue.
"Come on, Terran. You know the Dirrians best."
"I appreciate that but as they say ... In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
At least it got me a laugh, but it didn't stop me feeling helpless.
"I always take my mother flowers," suggested Jarrod. "I don't think you can go wrong with flowers."
"Okay. Quick trip to the nearest replicator!" declared T'Roc. "Follow me!"
Jarrod and I fell in behind as we marched off to the nearest replicator. At T'Roc's command, a beautiful bunch of flowers materialised from a range of different worlds, but something wasn't right. Something itched at the back of my mind.
"Aye up!" declared Jarrod. "What's up, Terran?"
I stared at the flowers desperately trying to bring it to mind. There was something about them ... something ... alarming, but I couldn't recall. T'Roc smiled.
"I don't know. I just ..." My words trailed off. "And we're going to be late."
"Fashionably late," said T'Roc. "And this could be important. I suspect it is, otherwise you wouldn't be hanging back."
The moments passed as I stared at the flowers, but nothing materialised.
"Okay," Jarrod finally said. "Let's think about this sensibly." She reached over and plucked a little white flower from the display. "Do you know what this one is?" she asked.
I shook my head. It was a very pretty flower with a purple centre that bled along its petals, but I'd never seen the like of it before.
"So which flowers do you know?" she asked.
I could name the gypsophila, various lilies, Orion bellflowers and a good number of others, but as I named each one, there was no flash of enlightenment.
"And what about this one? Have you seen this one before?" asked Jarrod.
It was a large, white, bell-shaped flower that I was familiar with but didn't know its name.
"And where do you know it from?" she asked.
"The park. There was a park near the home that Traeth and I were staying at and—" Suddenly the memory hit me; it was like a dream being broken. "That's it!" I cried. "We were in the park and I picked a flower—one of these and Traeth was horrified!"
"He said it was a shameful waste and extremely selfish. He said that if you had a one thousand-year-old tree growing in the garden, would you chop it down and put it in a vase in your front room?"
Jarrod and T'Roc exchanged glances.
"It'd have to be a very big vase," mocked Jarrod.
"Yes," I agreed. "It's not the best comparison in that respect, but what he was saying was that once you've cut the tree down, it's begun to die. The vase of water only prolongs the inevitable death. But cutting it down and removing it from its habitat not only kills it, it denies everybody else the enjoyment of it. The Dirrians love plants. They would never pick a bloom."
"Cut flowers are out then," sighed T'Roc.
"Ah-ha!" shouted Jarrod. It was obviously a eureka moment, and she held a finger up to herald her idea. "But this will be perfect," and she replicated a plain, white pot filled with soil. In the middle of it, a single bulb sat with a thumb of green poking out of the top. It didn't look very impressive.
"What is it?" asked T'Roc.
Jarrod was taken aback. "It's an amaryllis!" she declared.
"It's not exactly ... impressive," said T'Roc doubtfully.
"Not now, no, but it's a wonderful gift because with just a little love and care, they grow quickly to about thirty to sixty centimetres and then burst into bloom with a cluster of up to twelve gorgeous lily-like flowers. Trust me, he'll love it."
With our newly chosen gift, beautified with a luxurious bow, we made our way back to the transporter room. Minutes later, we materialised on Dirria.