3/14/15

Into the Valley ~ The Ambassador's Son #Uhura

Previously ~ New Girl

Vira helped Nyota immensely over the next few hours. As night slowly descended, Vira showed her some classrooms and the Buskirk lounge. Everywhere they went cold white walls followed them, even in rooms filled with equipment. White walls, gray carpet, no nonsense.

The uniforms at Stellar Valley were mandatory and very old-fashioned. Girls wore plaid skirts and white blouses, and special hosiery during the colder months. Green plaid for Holderby, red plaid for Hodges, purple plaid for Buskirk, and blue plaid for Laidley. Boys wore black slacks and shirts, and ties which also matched their house colors.

“Uniforms are mandatory, except on weekends,” Vira explained as they entered the mess hall for dinner. “Have you replicated yours?”

“Not yet,” Nyota replied, nervously smoothing her green dress. Eyes kept drifting to her; tables of students murmured as she and Vira stood in line at a replicator.

The mess hall was vast, with a wide, glass dome ceiling. The stars sparkled teasingly in the distance, and there was no moon tonight. The replicators were all in one wall and several lines stretched from them. The rest of the mess hall was filled with a sea of white circular tables, and matching chairs.
The room was rather chilly and Nyota suddenly wished she’d brought a sweater with her. Everyone else was dressed for both fall and the weekend; they had on snug fleece sweaters and comfy pajama pants. Most of the students had already gotten their food, and were enjoying hot soups.

“No matter,” Vira assured her, absently. “You have another day before school starts. Too bad we don’t have any classes together.”

“Yeah,” Nyota mumbled, acutely aware of all the eyes on her. There was a sandy-haired, blue-eyed stoner in particular who watched her every move, barely blinking. His friend was practically snoring into his spice pudding.

“What’s your first class on Monday?” Vira asked.

Nyota floundered, racking her brain to remember. “Introduction to Vulcan Literature at 0900. It’s a prereq for the Vulcan cultural course next year.”

“Mmmmm,” Vira nodded, smiling dreamily. “Professor Vladimir’s class. He’s a cutie.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah,” Vira cocked her head to the side wistfully, “but the school really frowns on teachers and students hooking up. This Orion chick named Gaila got thrown out of here the first week when the headmistress caught her in Conference Room 3 with Professor Klauss.”

Normally, Nyota would have laughed. But now she was freezing, clutching herself and practically hopping from foot to foot. When they finally reached the replicator, she didn’t care what was on the menu, so long as there was something hot.

“Oh,” Vira said suddenly, her eyes full of sympathy, “I should’ve warned you about this room. There’s been trouble with the ventilation system this semester; the staff think someone’s been tampering with it. Let’s eat in our dorm, okay?”

Nyota nodded avidly, her teeth chattering. While Vira quickly pored over the evening’s selection,

Nyota overheard a low, rumbling male voice at the next replicator over.

 “Computer, plomeek soup. Hot.”

Nyota fleetingly glanced in the direction of the voice, then did a double-take.

“Vulcan,” she rasped, and thankfully it was only a whisper Vira could hear. The Trill turned to look where Nyota was staring. Both girls’ eyes followed a tall, dark-haired youth with delicately pointed ears, dressed in black shirt and slacks, and an ocean blue tie. He turned away from the replicator with his steaming bowl of soup, and went towards a table where a good-looking Japanese student sat expectantly.

Nyota felt her heart stop. The chatter and cold of the mess hall faded into the background as silence filled her ears. She couldn’t blink. She couldn’t even draw breath.

She’d never seen a Vulcan before. Not in person. Not in living flesh.

Like a mechanical doll, Nyota turned slowly, eyes glued to his shoulders as he deftly threaded through the tables and throngs of students. He left a faint aroma in his wake; it was musky and smoky, like incense.

Nyota tried to speak, but words failed her. “Who…what…?”

Vira smirked. “That,” she chuckled, “is Spock. He’s an exchange student from the Shi’Kahr Science Academy on Vulcan.”

“He’s a Vulcan,” Nyota gasped, awestruck.

Vira rolled her eyes. “What gave it away? The nose?”

“He’s in uniform,” Nyota said stupidly. “It’s Saturday.”

“He’s always in uniform,” Vira snorted. “Computer, Andorian oxtail soup.” She turned back to her roommate. “To Spock, wearing the same thing every day is ‘logical.’”

That last word seemed to have magical properties, for it caused Nyota’s heart to suddenly resume its beating with a fierce, pounding rhythm.

“Nyota? What are you having?”

Nyota had to wrench her gaze from the lithe alien, and it practically hurt to do so. She stared at Vira for several blank moments, as if trying to regain her wits. When she finally got back two or three of them, she merely echoed, “Computer, plomeek soup…hot.”

To say Vira was amused was a gross understatement; she deliberately led Nyota back through the sea of tables and past Spock’s table. There was that smell again; it fleetingly made her think of an empty wooden room lit with candles. Nyota was too dumbfounded to even mentally curse her roommate. She merely clutched her hot bowl (which was burning her fingers, by the way), and shivered her way back to her dorm.

For a while, the two roommates sat on their beds and ate in silence. Nyota numbly spooned the alien broth into her mouth, while Vira resisted every urge to laugh. When Nyota had had six or seven bites, each one taking longer than the last, Vira couldn’t help but snicker,

“Bland as hell, isn’t it?”

Nyota set the bowl aside in defeat. Good thing she wasn’t very hungry.

“You know,” Vira drawled, “Spock’s not actually Vulcan Vulcan. He’s half-human, too.”

Nyota’s head snapped up, her eyes wide with unspoken surprise.

“Mm-hm,” Vira nodded. “On his mother’s side. His dad’s some sort of bigwig Ambassador.”

Nyota was still having trouble thinking and speaking coherently.

“He’s so…well, he’s just…he is so…I mean, I’ve never….”

Vira suddenly understood. “You haven’t met a lot of aliens, have you?” she asked softly.

Nyota merely shook her head.

“I’m the first Trill you’ve ever seen in person, aren’t I?”

Nyota nodded.

Vira mulled over this before inquiring, “Is this why you want to study xenolinguistics and join
Starfleet? To meet more aliens?”

“Seek out new life,” Nyota murmured in a daze, staring at Vira’s purple coverlet. “New civilizations.”

“A noble sentiment,” Vira tilted her head to the side, “but if you’re going to study us and our languages, you have to stop falling to pieces whenever you see a new alien. It’s unbecoming of a Starfleet officer.”

Nyota kept her gaze to the floor like a chastised child. How could she explain that meeting Vira and seeing Spock had been very, very different? Vira was funny and lively and quirky in all the right ways; meeting her had been scintillating and refreshing.

Seeing the Vulcan, on the other hand, had made the whole world stop.

Musky wood burning…smoke rising, gray tendrils leisurely drifting through a candlelit room…her heart throbbed fiercely. What the hell was this? She’d had crushes before and they never felt like this. This wasn’t harmless, girly daydreaming during study hours or chores. She didn’t feel fuzzy or warm or even pleasantly numb. She felt as though she’d been hit by a tornado and left awash upon a cold beach, with the waves of tumultuous sea lashing at her over and over again, scraping her body with sand. It was as though someone had stolen the very air from her lungs, or the strength from her limbs.

She wasn’t even standing right now, and yet she could feel her knees weakening.

“He smelled so good,” Nyota suddenly heard herself say. “I could practically…see his scent.”

Vira nodded, understanding at once. “His roommate is Hikaru Sulu. Hikaru, Lenny McCoy, and Jim Kirk are all friends. They smoke Andorian dream leaf together all the time—yes, it’s expressly forbidden; no, I don’t know how they get away with it. Anyway, the smell of the dream leaf is said to create faint images in the mind’s eye, like an after effect or something.” Vira shrugged. “I guess they finally convinced to Spock to smoke it too.”

Nyota remained in a daze. “Finally?”

Vira chuckled fondly. “Spock is in Laidley House; it’s where the level-headed nerds go—the more ‘analytical’ minds, if you will.”

Nyota raised an eyebrow. “And we are…?”

Vira beamed. “Buskirk House is home to students who don’t want to simply analyze the universe, but truly comprehend and…feel its nature. You, for example,” she nodded, “want to speak to the universe and facilitate understanding between its people.” Vira shrugged shyly. “I want to hold the universe’s sick and wounded in my arms, and…I dunno…make it all better?”

Nyota smiled faintly at her. This was all very touching, but there was a slightly more important issue at hand.

It was as though her roommate could read her thoughts, because Vira continued, “So anyway, the kids from Hodges House are always in trouble and they’re always trying to get Laidley kids to do dumb stuff,” Vira went on. “It’s like a challenge or something, like who can get the Laidley kids to do the dumbest stuff. They say Lenny spent all last year trying to get Spock to try Klingon tobacco. That stuff kills human brain cells, you know.”

“Wait a minute…last year?” That snapped Nyota awake. “He’s a junior?”

Vira nodded. “He was only supposed to stick around for a year, but I guess he must really like it here.  Then again, there was this rumor about a falling out with his dad. Hikaru was telling people that he stayed on Earth to piss off his dad.”

Nyota frowned. “Leave his home planet just to tick off his dad? That doesn’t sound very Vulcan.”

Vira raised a stern eyebrow. “Remember, he’s also half-human. And that’s exactly what a 17-year-old human boy would do.”

The rest of the weekend passed in a blur. Nyota decorated her room, continuing the purple motif, but she managed to replicate a purple and black coverlet, striped like a zebra. As she was to quickly find out, students at Stellar Valley took their house designations very seriously. Like Vira, many kids dyed their hair to match their house colors. Some students even got tattoos to commemorate their house assignments. The Buskirk mascot was the deer, a pure-hearted creature in tune with the earth. The Hodges mascot was the mountain lion, and students joked about its students having nine lives, considering all the dangerous stunts they pulled. The Holderby mascot was a dignified wolf, and while the wizened owl graced the doors to Laidley House.

Nyota also replicated her uniform that Sunday. She was tempted to replicate the skirt a little shorter, but Vira assured it would be pointless. Winter was coming soon, the Trill reasoned, and besides, Vulcans weren’t drawn to the girls with the shortest skirts. Nyota pretended as though that comment didn’t sting, but it did. She hadn’t realized how clueless she was about aliens.

Monday morning finally dawned, and Nyota rushed to get ready. Students were each allowed no more than fifteen minutes in the sonic shower rooms, and Nyota had been warned about being late to Vladimir’s class. She made sure to arrive ten minutes earlier…just to find he had beaten her at least by five.

Her mind began to race as she felt herself freeze in the doorway. What’s he doing in this class? He’s a junior! And a Vulcan—he should already know this stuff!

Nyota’s heart suddenly went from its rapid “new girl” beating to a slower, hypnotic throbbing. She finally sat down in the front row, but she took a seat nearest to the door, ten seats away from him. To her mild frustration, he didn’t look up from the padd he was skimming, while she had to work very hard not to stare at him.

He was probably reviewing the weekend assignment to read and analyze a portion of Mikonna’s Lament, a poem so old it was from before the time of Surak. Nyota had made sure to read it several times, but decided skimming it one more time before class started wouldn’t hurt.

The silence stretched between them painfully. Not once did he look at her, but she knew he was aware of her presence. She thought about saying hello, but then remembered how she’d gushed over meeting Vira and decided against it. Thankfully, other students began to arrive, and luckily for all Professor Vladimir arrived latest.

He was tall, solidly built man dressed in the teacher’s uniform, gray shirt and pants. Vladimir was dark-haired and green-eyed, and he spoke with a thick Russian accent.

“Very vell, class,” he greeted them brusquely, assuming his place behind the gray podium. It stood near Spock, and to the side of the giant class view screen. “You know vhat your assignment voz this veekend.” He tapped on his podium a few times and the poem appeared on the view screen in the original Vulcan. “Mr. Spock, read the assigned section from Mikonna’s Lament.”

Spock began to read immediately, and with each word, Nyota found it even more difficult to turn and look at him. His voice was as low and as rich as she remembered; the timbre was of the most refined and cultured quality, like a trained vocalist.

He made her think of a scribe from older times when he read.

“Bonded to bonded
Bound to bound
My handmaiden gives me flora
Twisting and twining in my blackest of hair
Her fingers soft and nimble
Her voice rich and sweet as honeyed blood
We burn altars to the kal-if-fee
So none will emerge victorious

“Bonded to bonded
Bound to bounded
I am no man’s aduna*
I belong only to my One
She Who is Goddess of War and Fire
Who will blend tendrils of hair with flora
And walk with me across the Forge

“Tested and tested
Challenged and wasted
Give me ahn’woon, give me lirpa
Senepa** even, though I may not survive
Nor the kahs-wan a thousand times over
Any but this pleasuring pain, this electric fever I feel
As my handmaiden gives me flora
Twisting and twining in my blackest of hair.”

“Very good, Mr. Spock,” Professor Vladimir commended him. “Vhat doz zis Lament tell uz of ze Lady Mikonna?”

Spock raised his hand and the Professor nodded. “Succinctly, sir, this was written seven nights before Lady Mikonna was to wed Prince Saral. She was apprehensive, as they had not been betrothed in the traditional manner—according to history.”

His opening statement encouraged other students to start talking. One girl, a green-haired resident from Holderby, commented, “Since they lacked the bond traditionally established at age seven, Mikonna might feel she’s truly marrying a stranger.”

“Not to mention pressure,” another boy said, this time a purple-haired resident of Buskirk. “I mean, she’s marrying a prince on the eve of a great battle. According to history, rival clans were about to go to war on the southern borders of the Forge. Mikonna’s marriage therefore was of great political significance.”

“Her father was a general,” yet even another student added. “Supposedly he commanded a decently-sized army.”

And so on and so forth the comments poured.

“Her parents wanted the alliance to work. She was under a lot of stress to live up to everyone’s expectations.”

“Her husband probably wanted sons. She would have had to bear heirs to a royal line.”

“But then her kids would’ve been set above her. Historically speaking on Vulcan, a noble-born female who marries into a royal family doesn’t always have the most respect.”

Soon everyone had said something except Nyota, and that didn’t pass by Professor Vladimir.

“Miss Uhura? You have a comment az vell, I hope?”

Nyota truly felt like a Buskirk deer…trapped in the headlights, as humans used to say.

All eyes, even the dark, level eyes of the Vulcan, were on her now. It was like being back in the mess hall. She could practically hear the thoughts of her classmates.

Come on, new girl. Show us why you’re so special you got to transfer mid-semester.

“Well…,” Nyota started tentatively, her voice slightly quavering, “I don’t think this poem has anything to do with history.”

The Vulcan wasn’t the only one who raised an eyebrow. And Vladimir wasn’t in the mood to let that one go.

“Explain, Miss Uhura,” he commanded.

Nyota’s voice shook as she quote Lady Mikonna’s words. “My handmaiden gives me flora/Twisting and twining in my blackest of hair/Her fingers soft and nimble/Her voice rich and sweet as honeyed blood/We burn altars to the kal-if-fee/So none will emerge victorious.” She looked away from the view-screen, back at her class. They were all staring at her expectantly.

“Well,” Nyota cleared her throat, “I think…Mikonna was a lesbian.”

The silence split the room like a bolt of lightning. Then the beeps of padds came as students began skimming lines again. Even the Vulcan was rereading the verses.

Vladimir remained calm, saying simply, “Continue.”

“She talks more about her handmaiden than she does her intended,” Nyota tried to explain. “We know what the handmaiden sounds like, feels like. She talks about belonging not to man, but only to a female. She’s praying her marriage ceremony won’t work, praying so hard she volunteers to be tortured instead.” From out of nowhere, her confidence kicked in. “She keeps bringing up how her handmaiden is giving her flowers and braiding them into her hair. She then talks about experiencing a ‘pleasuring pain’ and an ‘electric fever’ when her handmaiden touches her hair.”

The silence continued. Vladimir scanned the room as if to say, Going once! Going twice! All eyes were on the Russian now, whose lips suddenly curved into a slow smile.

Beaming, he announced, “Miss Uhura is actually correct.”

Next ~ Boys and Girls

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*aduna = life partner

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