Continuing Tales

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 2 of 16

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Conversational Vulcan

"Let the sun shine

Let the sunshine in."

It was surprising, Spock mused one morning, that he had not noticed Cadet Nyota Uhura once during her first year's matriculation at the Academy. Yet in the two months that had passed since they began their evening meetings, he seemed to see her everywhere. Most peculiar.

At the moment he thought this, Spock was enjoying a rare unscheduled fifteen minutes in the sun. It was the height of summer in San Francisco and, despite the lush green grass and audible flowing water, the climate at least reminded him of home. For a month or two in every Earth year, Spock was utterly content with his surroundings. With these particular fifteen minutes, he chose to sit on the grass before the Academy building, out of its shadow and far enough from the path for relative privacy. Legs crossed and spine straight as an arrow, he closed his eyes and tilted his head back slightly, allowing the sun to beat down upon his face.

This was no place for meditation, but it was an interesting exercise to be still in such a frenetic environment. Birds – sea gulls, were they called? – cried from the water's edge, their voices shrill and mournful. Far over head, he heard the rush and hum of passing shuttles. But above all this, the varied and ceaseless noise of human life: calling, laughing, whispering, complaining.

Was it Cadet Uhura, Spock wondered briefly, who had taught him the importance of individual cadence? Of paying close attention to the minute details of the spoken word?

"Fine, whatever, just quit pestering me!"

The voice was female, deep and assured. She elongated her vowels very slightly, and rounded her 'r's so her tongue slipped easily to the next sound to be formed without pause or hesitation. Her plosives, however, were sharp, and the vowels that followed were slightly higher in both pitch and volume. This intonation, if not her actual wording, suggested irritation.

The over-all vocal scale was familiar and, blinking his eyes to adjust to the harsh sunlight, he saw Nyota striding briskly up the path towards the Academy. Her hair, tied in its usual efficient pony tail, swayed in time to her quick, determined movements. The sunshine complimented her dark skin tone, bare legs almost gleaming in the warm light. Despite their very different ancestral planets, they were, he thought with a facial tick approaching a smile, both born to thrive in the sun. Behind her, another cadet half-jogged to keep up with her. Again, a smile threatened to tug at Spock's lips. Nyota set her own pace, and left the rest of the universe to keep stride with her.

"Be coy all you like; I knew you couldn't refuse."

The young man's arrogant nasal twang was also vaguely familiar. Cadet Kirk. A high-performing student, though disruptive in seminars or any other academic institution where there was the slightest possibility he would be allowed to contribute an opinion. Spock rarely regarded his attendance with pleasure.

Before Nyota could respond, Kirk tugged her hair and jogged into the Academy building. She turned to slap at him, but he was too fast for her. She let out a strangled noise of frustration but, even from a distance of seven-point-three metres, Spock could see that she was smiling.

Humans – full humans, he mentally corrected himself – were an odd race. He tried to imagine his mother having such a favourable reaction to mild physical abuse, but Spock could not conceive of such a situation. Perhaps that was because of her advanced age in comparison to Cadet Uhura.

Ten minutes had passed since Spock deviated from his daily routine, and he stood smoothly to return to his duties. Reaching an upright position, he tugged at the bottom of his tunic and brushed down his pants, before marching smartly across the grass towards the path. He travelled approximately four metres when Nyota noticed him.

"Good afternoon, Commander," she said brightly, the cadence of her voice higher and sharper than it had been with Kirk.

"Good afternoon, Cadet Uhura," he replied in his own even tone. He did not pause as he joined her on the asphalt path but as Uhura had with Kirk, continued at his own pace and knew she would fall into step beside him. "May I expect you at eighteen-hundred this evening?"

"Yes, sir," she said, the formalities they kept in public sounding discordant coming from her lips. "I have been looking closely at the Northern-Hemisphere Romulan dialect. Would that be OK for tonight?"

Spock inclined his head, slowing slightly as they entered the Academy and had to weave between the cadets and graduates who congregated in the hallways. "That is acceptable. Coffee will be prepared."

She smiled. Spock always felt a distant tingle of the emotion he termed 'pride' when he made her smile. "See you later, Commander."

Spock did not reply, but paused outside his office door to watch her depart. Hair swaying, limbs loose and comfortable, she turned without pausing to greet friends and colleagues as she passed by. In many respects she was no different than her fellows: young, clever, ambitious, perhaps slightly more aesthetically pleasing – though a critical eye could find minute symmetrical faults in her facial features. Yet there was something that made her stand out from the crowd of young people around her.

"Fascinating," Spock muttered to himself, before opening his office door and returning to his scheduled daily routine.

When Spock was a young boy, his father had used a metaphor to explain how Vulcans experience emotion. He had likened the undoubtedly existing but always suppressed feelings to an underground water source. The water flowed deep beneath the ground, nourishing the surface but without breaking or eroding it. It was untouchable, inaccessible, and strictly controlled to its own path. It never broke free, it never changed course. It existed and had purpose, but was not allowed to deviate or effect the ground above in any way.

Spock had designed his own metaphor for the peculiar existence of his own fleeting, human emotions. He thought of his emotional centre as a large, solid glass box. It was sealed tightly at every corner and edge. It sat squarely in the middle of his mental landscape, surrounded by the logic that roamed freely and governed his every thought and action. Ever-present but generally benign. The nature of the box, however, meant that he could look in on his emotions, from time to time. For every switch and change of his environment, the ever-morphing contents of his box would display what Spock might feel, were he entirely human. The box held gases of varying colours, which Spock had learned to interpret, with the help of his mother. The vapours presented themselves, even sometimes seemed to press against the glass, but never broke through. Spock found this useful as it meant he could refer to his emotions, in a detached fashion, without being governed by them. Ultimately, logic was a better system of cognitive decision-making. Emotions, while pretty, were inefficient.

As he stirred the coffee for Cadet Uhura, Spock wondered whether he would ever know her well enough to explain the glass box. It was illogical to do so – they were, however informally, teacher and student – but they had covered many personal topics in their conversations. Spock knew a varying number of details, most of them insignificant, regarding Nyota's childhood and her life before Starfleet. It had been logical to pick a topic for their discussions, and Nyota seemed to be comfortable and open talking about her home life, sometimes explaining facets of human existence that had previously been incomprehensible to Spock.

Incomprehensible facets of human existence. The internal phraseology reminded Spock of the topic he most wished to raise with his student.

Informal greetings exchanged and coffee served, Spock sat opposite Nyota. He steepled his fingers before his face, as was his custom, and watched his companion sip her coffee for a moment before beginning.

"May I ask you something which might be considered personal?" Spock asked in flawless Northern-Romulan.

"Of course," she said brightly, slipping easily into the less formal dialect. She set the cup lightly on the low table before her.

"I was observing your dialogue with Cadet Kirk this morning," he began, a small frown drawing his eyebrows together, "and your responses were not what I expected. You seemed to ... enjoy his actions. Is this a normal human response?"

Nyota's eyes flicked to the right as she accessed her memory banks, a facial tick Spock found strangely reassuring. Then her face broke into a wide smile. "Oh, on the lawn? That was just Kirk being a..." She paused, searching for the right insult. Sometimes it was frustrating, learning a language academically without the vernacular expletives. "Being his normal arrogant self," she finished blandly.

"That much was apparent," Spock said, in what was barely recognisable as a sour tone. "But, unless my understanding of human facial expressions is flawed, you followed the exchange by smiling. Both your lips and eyes were animated in the expression. I have come to understand this as an expression of humour or joy." He leaned forward, his body language but not his face reflecting the deep orange that suffused the glass box, suggesting enjoyment at intellectual stimulation. "Forgive me, but is it part of some mating ritual?"

As they had that morning, Nyota's mouth widened and curved, her eyes creased, and she looked up to the ceiling, expelling air from her lungs in a short burst of laughter. "No. Though, I can see why you might think that. It was Kirk's mating ritual. But not mine. I looked happy because I was laughing at him, not with him. That's an important distinction in human culture."

"Intriguing," Spock mused, leaning back once more. He frowned in concentration, processing this new information. "Is it possible for the other party to distinguish between the two forms of laughter? For example, are you currently laughing 'with' or 'at' me?"

From anyone else, from any human, the question might have been a test of loyalty. From Spock, it was merely a genuine academic query.

Nyota's smile changed, the curve of her lips softening, though her eyes were still creased and still seemed to shine with the mirth that so often brightened human features. "Perhaps it is possible, but I couldn't hazard a theory on how. At least, not based on any kind of body language or phonology of speech. We use instinct to tell the difference. And I don't know how to teach that."

Spock nodded once more, and remained silent as Nyota picked up her cup to sip once more at her coffee.

"Oh, and I was laughing with you," she said softly over the rim. Her eyes creased more, pupils dilating slightly. "I don't think I could laugh at you if I tried."

In Spock's mental landscape, an unfamiliar royal purple mist shot through the other coloured gases that made up his contained emotions. It was something new and different that Spock wasn't sure how to explain or label. It was, however, a pleasing sensation.

Or would have been, if he had allowed himself to feel it.

Conversational Vulcan

A Star Trek Story
by Blue Moon3

Part 2 of 16

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