Continuing Tales

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 12 of 16

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Conversational Vulcan

You know you're twisting my mind

So I won't be responsible 'cause I'm really not logical

Sunny and humid, with blue skies and the nearby rush of water. A perfect day for a protest. Uhura had seen to it that the trestle table was put up promptly at oh-nine-hundred hours. She had then covered it with a scarlet table cloth and bundles of leaflets. At the centre lay a data PADD and stylus, the black screen blank and waiting. Around the table, display boards had been put up, bearing old photographs of Alcatraz Island and its resident ancient prison. The pictures covered the building through the ages, from its construction to its use and eventual fall into dereliction. Some of them were well known from tourism brochures; others were snaps that had been donated by local families, the paper browning at the corners.

Organised as ever, Uhura had devised a rota for manning the booth. She and Gaila took the first and last shift of the day, so that they could set up and put away the display. Their shift was slow. Saturday mornings on the street before the main Academy Residential building were not busy. Some mothers on their way to the grocery store, joggers on their standard route, but hardly any Cadets.

By the time they returned to relieve Cadets Trent and Chekov, however, the PADD was looking satisfyingly full. "How did we do, Pavel?" Uhura asked, sliding her thumb along the scroll bar to the right of the petition.

"Three hundred and thirty-sewen signatures," Chekov said, in the heavy accent Uhura had been trying to teach him to moderate. "Eempressive, I theenk, for one day."

Uhura hummed softly, a small frown forming between her brows. "We need at least three-fifty before the Council will even accept it as a valid petition, let alone take it seriously."

"Then we're almost there," Trent grinned. "And it's been getting better all afternoon. Shame you can't carry on into the evening, you'd catch all the bar flies."

"Council would only give me a public display license until seventeen-hundred hours." Uhura smiled wryly. "Besides, I don't think it's ethical to take signatures from people under the influence."

"Nor is it ethical to destroy a national landmark," Chekov noted with a self-righteous tilt to his head.

Gaila rolled her eyes. "Preaching to the choir, we know the spiel."

"Thanks, guys," Uhura said, carefully interrupting her roommate. Gaila might still be sour that Chekov was a member of the ten per cent of men unaffected by her charms, but that was no excuse to be rude. "We really appreciate your help."

"See you tonight?" Trent asked, looking hopefully at Gaila. Trent was not one of the ten per cent.

"You bet your boots!" As soon as the two men had started to make their way back up the path towards the Academy building, Gaila tugged her red Cadet's sweater over her head. Beneath was a distinctly non-regulation T-shirt, cut short and tight. In large black capitals across her breasts were written the words, "SAVE ALCATRAZ".

Uhura rolled her eyes. "Have I mentioned yet that I don't approve of your methods?"

She grinned widely, arms behind her back to thrust her chest forwards. "I'm just an attention getter. I knock them out, and you bore them into signing with the facts. We're a team."

A slow half hour went by. Gaila had attracted some frat boys into signing, and Uhura had used her more female-friendly charms to persuade some engineering girls into joining the petition. But they were still barely over the three-fifty requirement, and well below a number that would make the Council take them seriously.

"It's a shame we couldn't get any of the faculty to sign. Well, no one high up and no one in the Science Department, anyway."

Gaila nodded, leaning her hip against the table as she looked about for another group of boys to assault with her T-shirt. "I know. I'm like a pariah. Everyone in Xeno-biology thinks I'm nuts."

"I never did ask why you took such an interest," Uhura said, smiling at her friend.

Gaila shrugged vivid green shoulders. "Have you ever been there? It's an awesome place. I wouldn't want to replace that with somewhere I have to listen to Spock drone on about photosynthesising sentient organisms."

Uhura's dark eyes widened, a broad smile stretching her lips. "Spock!"

Her Orion friend groaned. "Shit, I flicked your happy switch, didn't I?"

Rolling her eyes, Uhura nodded her head towards the end of the street. Distantly she made out a tall, slender figure with painfully upright posture and distinctly pointed ears, silhouetted against the blue sky. "He'll sign – and he's on the Sciences faculty, it'll look really good."

Deep red eyebrows drew together in a frown. "Uhura, honey, are you sure that's a good idea?"

But Gaila's reservations were too little and too late. Uhura had already snatched up the data PADD and a leaflet, before marching up the street to meet the Vulcan Commander.

She fell into step easily beside him, as he inclined his head and murmured, "Good afternoon, Nyota."

"Good afternoon," she replied. Holding out one hand, she offered him the brightly coloured flier she had written and designed herself. It was rare to see or use paper these days, but Uhura had decided it gave the whole affair a retro flavour that fitted perfectly with the theme of their protest. "Can I offer you some literature on the demolition of Alcatraz Prison?" she asked sweetly.

"Thank you, but no," he replied in an even tone. "I am aware of the plans for the island."

"Good," Uhura smiled, easily switching the flier and PADD between her hands in a gesture that spoke of years of multi-tasking. "Then would you sign our petition? We already have enough signatures to bring before the San Francisco Planning Board, and hopefully some faculty names will help them to take our case seriously."

They had reached the booth. Gaila tried to pretend that she wasn't there. Uhura wasn't the only one who could read expressions, and she'd seen that challenge in Spock's eyes way too many times in class to get involved. With a raised eyebrow, Spock halted and turned to face Uhura. "Thank you, but I must decline. There would be no logic in signing a petition to counteract the vote of favour I very recently made." He paused, glancing over the photographs they had displayed with a critical eye. "Xeno- and Earth-biology archives are already exceeding the space offered within the current Sciences Block, and recent new discoveries in the Laurentian System have made it necessary to provide students with laboratories equipped to the highest standards. This is simply not possible in the current space. As a Cadet, I would expect you to understand the need to make the Academy's facilities as attractive to bright young minds as possible." Uhura watched a muscle twitch in his jaw as he looked away from her to the building behind her. "But then, the Communications and Sub-Space Transmissions Department never seems to be short of funds nor support. Perhaps you cannot conceive of the needs of other schools within the Academy?"

She breathed once, twice, trying very hard to formulate a response that wouldn't involve yelling. With a raised eyebrow and a hand rising up to her hip the only external indicators of her internal frustration, she responded as levelly as she could. "I understand that the Sciences are sometimes over-looked. But there are derelicts you could take over on the mainland, and the archives could easily be transferred to the Washington Base."

"Where none of our students can access the original manuscripts or specimens? That hardly seems logical, Cadet. Furthermore, the island provides a singular opportunity to observe and experiment on marine life in its natural habitat, as well as providing a research base sufficiently far enough from the city that potentially hazardous activities may be carried out."

She shook her head, long ponytail swaying gently behind her. "I would have thought you of all people would care about knocking down a historical landmark. Vulcan culture is all about tradition and preservation."

Spock glanced across at the island in question, with a critical raised eyebrow. "Your prison is not yet as old as my parents' nearest temple on Vulcan. Which, in turn, is dwarfed in age by the city temples. Which, again, are only approximately half as old as our holiest places of worship."

Uhura was very aware of the space in between them. For the last month, they had grown comfortable in each other's presence. Not just in presence, but within each other's personal space. She had steadily moved physically and, she liked to think, emotionally closer to Spock – and he had let her. Yet here they stood, two feet apart, body language direct and confrontational. She wanted to do something to stop it, but her temper was too frayed, her pride too bruised to do anything but argue back. "How can you expect us to grow, as a species, to have a tradition like Vulcan if we demolish the old in favour of the new?"

His expression seemed to soften somewhat and, for a brief moment, Uhura thought that she had won. "A crumbling prison is hardly a facet of Earth's culture that it should wish to preserve, Nyota."

Swallowing, she shook her head, and put down the data PADD in defeat. Gaila had mysteriously, if somewhat conveniently, disappeared to tempt some giddy-looking new recruits. When she wasn't looking, Spock's fingers ran over the back of her hand as it rested on the data PADD. "You cannot expect me to agree with you every time," he said softly.

Uhura was proud of herself for not snatching away her hand, as she might have done had this been anyone but Spock. "But I know I'm right," she said.

Looking up into his face, she saw a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "I am sure you think so."

"You're really infuriating, you know that?"

The eyebrow again, just a quick flick this time, and Spock removed his hand from hers. He glanced about, but there was no one watching them. "I wish you luck in your endeavour. But, I fear it is an illogical exercise."

She didn't say goodbye, and neither did he. Uhura was grateful that Gaila gave her five minutes to patch up her pride before returning to the booth with three boys, willing and eager to sign.

As if by magic, McCoy had appeared at just the right time to help them carry the display units back to the board room. Uhura was still quiet and sullen, despite the banter of her friends. "You know you're being petty, right?" Gaila said, with a sidelong glance to McCoy. He didn't share her smile, but kept studiously out of the way.

"It's not petty."

"Is so," Gaila retorted.

"Now that's petty," McCoy interjected. Gaila stuck out her bright pink tongue at him.

"It's not petty to expect someone I respect to understand my point of view."

Gaila chuckled. "He understands, honey, he just doesn't agree."

She sighed in frustration, hitching the display board up on her hip. "But I'm right."

Giggling, Gaila lowered her voice to a lower, flatter register. "I'm sure you think you are."

"Um, who are we talking about?" McCoy interrupted, frowning as he glanced between the two women.

"No one," they responded in unison. They remained silent for a moment, before Gaila muttered, "This is why I don't do monogamy."

McCoy snorted indelicately. "You don't do monogamy because it's not part of your genetic make up. Also, I hate to break this to you, but coming back to my room and boning my room mate and nobody else for a month? That's monogamy."

"Dear, sweet Leonard," Gaila said, fluttering her eyelashes at him and shifting closer so their arms bumped as they walked. "Jim is getting a little stale. Perhaps I should spread my net a little wider?"

"Uhura, can you make her stop that?"

She glanced over her shoulder and saw that, while McCoy's hands were entirely full, Gaila had one free and was walking quite determinedly with her hand in the doctor's back pocket. "Love to, but unfortunately I'm being irrational today."

The pair behind her rolled their eyes, and the rest of the journey was made in silence - apart from the odd admonition from McCoy as Gaila's hands strayed. Once the display boards were away, the girls said goodbye to McCoy and returned to their room. Uhura knew better than to try and bring up her conversation with Spock again. It was entirely possible that everyone else was right and she was wrong, and she was being petty. But she had always thought of Spock as an ally. Not because he was her ... whatever he was, but because they thought along similar lines. Logical lines. It was far too easy to forget that they were, for the most part, a different species with very different backgrounds.

As Uhura punched the code to open their bedroom door, Gaila slipped her arms around her best friend's waist, and rested her chin upon her shoulder. "Stop brooding. When you frown you're creating wrinkles of the future, and then not even stuffy Vulcans will want to screw you."

The door opened and they walked into the room, Gaila's arm still loosely holding Uhura's waist. "He doesn't screw me anyway." She tried not to sound bitter, but wasn't sure that she succeeded.

"Then I don't know why you bother."

This, at least, raised a smile. Not only because of Gaila's habit of placing sex above and beyond all else, but because it forced Uhura to ask herself why she did bother. And there were a lot of reasons. And they were all very good ones.

"Lights," Uhura commanded, and the overhead fluorescents flickered into life. The computer, similarly, registered their presence and coolly announced, "Five messages for Cadet N Uhura."

Uhura frowned, glancing at her friend. "Clearly Commander Spock thought he had to call that many times to grovel."

"He's not the grovelling type," Uhura said, thereby producing the understatement of the year. "Computer, play messages."

The first two where just brief dead air before the line was disconnected. The third message was her youngest sister, Winda. "Nyo? You need to call home as soon as you get this, OK? I'm at home, just ... call me." The fourth message was more dead air. The fifth was her sister again, "Nyo, it's me again. I don't know where you are, but I really really need to get hold of you. You have to call home right now. If I don't hear from you by six I'm calling the Academy."

She glanced sidelong at the clock, and caught Gaila's concerned expression. Seventeen-fifty. Moving to the computer console, she quickly tapped out a speed dial to her parents' home. The line was accepted almost as soon as the request was received, and her sister's familiar face appeared on the screen. Her eyes looked puffy, the whites slightly red from tears. "What's wrong?" Uhura asked immediately.

"It's Momma. Look, don't freak out, but she's been in an accident."

"She what?" Uhura interrupted, sinking to the bed.

"A motor accident. She's in ICU. Nyo, can you come home?"

She swallowed heavily, eyes completely dry, too shocked to cry. Helplessly, Uhura looked up at her best friend, who was there immediately, a warm hand tight on her shoulder. Gaila leaned forward towards the screen, saying, "She'll be on the next shuttle. Tell your Mom get better from me, OK?"

Winda nodded mutely, and Gaila discontinued the transmission. The room was eerily silent. Uhura stared at the blank screen where her sister had been.

Eventually she whispered, "I can't go home. I have classes on Monday."

"No you don't, because you're going home and classes can hang." Gaila took her hand firmly. "Come on. We're going to see Admiral Barrett."

Spock waited until nineteen hundred hours. He had a great desire to speak to Nyota, despite the fact they had conversed only that afternoon. Were he to be entirely honest with himself, he would have to admit that it was an emotional compulsion, one that was difficult to label. He did not need contact with her because he was anxious or guilty – he had no logical reason to be either – but something unpleasant and unfamiliar had filled his mind's glass cube with a dark, muddy green. Instinct, the human phenomena that he considered himself fortunate to possess, told him that speaking to Nyota would relieve this unpleasant feeling.

He flicked through the student list on his console, and came almost to the end before he found, "Uhura, N". Pressing his thumb to the small, yellow type opened an automatic channel to her room. After twelve seconds, the transmission was accepted. But, when the black square containing the audio-visual feed finally flickered into life, only an abnormally solemn Cadet Gaila sat on the bed facing the camera.

"Good evening, Cadet," Spock said, his voice as impassive as ever. "I had hoped to speak to Cadet Uhura."

"You just missed her," she replied, voice slightly distorted by the poor internal comms system.

"At what time is she expected to return?"

"No, sir, you don't understand. She's left the Base. She had to go home."

Concern and fear twisted alongside the mud-green, all pushing for recognition. His eyebrows drew together in an expression even his Orion student could see was bordering on emotional. "Is she unwell?"

Gaila shook her head slightly. "Not her. Her mother. She got run off the road by an impulse plasma truck. Admiral Barrett gave Uhura permission to go home early-"

"May I have a contact frequency for Nyota at her home?" Spock interrupted.

She crooked a vivid red eyebrow. "You can find that on her records, Commander."

Working hard to keep his breathing steady and regulated, to show no external signs of the whirling mass that had taken up residence inside his repressed emotional centre, he replied, "Under the circumstances, I would prefer to obtain them from her friend than from her personal record."

He saw Gaila shrug, and reach forward to tap something into the console immediately beneath the camera that fed her image to Spock's screen. He barely heard her mutter, "No harm in passing her digits on to her boyfriend, I guess." Spock was about to argue the term, but before he could do so Gaila looked directly into the camera and caught his eye. She slumped slightly, her face falling from its mask of cool efficiency into a more worried expression. "Permission to speak freely, Sir?"

With an arched eyebrow, Spock replied, "I was under the impression you were speaking freely."

A brief smile in reaction, before her mouth returned to its worried golden line. "Look, don't call straight away, OK?" She sighed. "I know you're my Commander, and I shouldn't order you about. But as her friend, just trust me. The prognosis wasn't good and I think she'll just want to be with her family and not think about the Academy. She was really upset when I left her."

Spock nodded slowly. It was odd, he thought fleetingly, how pity and sympathy were looked down upon by the Vulcan race, but empathy was so integral to their make up. Distantly, Spock felt the remnants of Nyota's mind, mostly memories of her feelings pressed against his, but also a faint connection to the muted colours that must have been pulsing through her system. "What was the prognosis?"

She shrugged again, running a hand over her face and pushing her hair back from her face. "Not good. I think her sister wanted to get Uhura home before it's too late."

"Thank you for the contact details, Cadet. I shall bid you good night."

Gaila was already leaning forward to cut the connection. "Good night, Commander."

Spock sat at his console for some minutes, staring at the blank transmission feed and the communications code for Nyota's home. It was tempting to dial now, to make sure that Nyota was in a reasonable emotional state and to offer whatever empathy he could. But the practical, rational, Vulcan side – which was, generally speaking, dominant – told him very plainly that his forced presence would be a burden. In emotional matters, it was wise to adhere to the advice of her friend, who seemed to understand human emotional needs far better than he. Furthermore, if Nyota felt that she needed him for any kind of support, she would contact him.

Standing, Spock moved to the centre of the room, pulling off his regulation tunic and folding it neatly on the back of the couch. He sat on the floor and crossed his legs, back straight without arching, head slightly bowed. His hands lay palm-upwards on his knees. He breathed deeply through his nose, and worked through the mental disciplines that placed him into a meditative trance. With little difficulty, he drew together the threads of Nyota's subconscious that lay dormant in his own mind. He gathered them and arranged them and made them the focus of his attention. There was little sense in meditating on Nyota's mother – all life forms lived and died, it was a cycle that could not be broken. But Spock concentrated his efforts on supporting Nyota's mind, giving her strength and fortitude. Vulcans are not used to being useless, and it was the only practical help that Spock could conceive.

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 12 of 16

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