A/N ~ Clearly, I'm becoming an old woman. It's taken me days to figure out how to work my Microsoft OneDrive to move the necessary files over to the laptop.
It was great to see files I haven't looked at since 2009. I wrote Into the Valley, fresh off the Spock/Uhura high the new movie had given us that summer. While my interest in that ship has waned somewhat (I was originally a Sulu/Uhura shipper, for obvious reasons), Into the Valley is highly significant to me for several reasons.
For one, it's my first ever actual fanfiction, published online and everything (back when I was on LiveJournal). It introduced me to the fanfic world, and the sociology and psychology of fandoms overall. Secondly, the Spock/Uhura fandom introduced me to my beloved nerd soulmate Amaya, who was later to become my BFF and business partner. Thirdly, it introduced me to blogging, and you've all seen how that turned out. Fourthly, writing Into the Valley made me realize that I am by nature a creative humorist; I had originally thought I was a dramatist, but really, I'm a comedian.
And lastly, although it was my very first fic, and I had no idea what I was doing, and no clue what I was getting myself into, Into the Valley was nominated for "Best Humour" in the 2009 Spock/Uhura Awards. I didn't win, but I didn't need to. The amusement I brought to many readers (along with the idea of Andorian dream leaf) was reward enough, and it encouraged me to keep doing what I do, and to go on being just me.
Into the Valley features a shout-out to Appalachia, where I was raised, and the four dorms of Marshall University, my alma mater. And though I incorporated plot elements from 2009 film, my characters were inspired by the original cast from the 1960s, whom in my humble opinion, bear no rivals. My Spock/Uhura will forever and always be portrayed by the immortal Leonard Nimoy, may he rest in peace, and the incomparably beautiful Nichelle Nichols, the Original Babe of Star Trek, who will look as amazing in her hundreds as she currently does in her 80s, for she is the paradigm of beauty only becoming greater with age.
So with a tearful eye, I present to you Into the Valley in memoriam of an icon.
“You must be so excited!”
No. Not really.
To be honest, 16-year-old Nyota Penda Uhura had no desire to move to Appalachia and attend Stellar Valley High School. Granted, it was the first high school which focused on prepping future Starfleet cadets, and it would go a long way towards helping her achieve her dreams, but…was moving to the other side of the world in the middle of the semester really necessary?
“…and there will be survival courses, did I mention that?” her mother added cheerfully. She had mentioned it, a million times in fact, but Nyota didn’t bother. Her mother was excited, and after what happened last month, Nyota didn’t want to screw it up. “Granted, the wildernesses are strictly simulated, but you still have to learn to fend for yourself. Speaking of which,” Bahati Uhura said suddenly, removing her hands from the console, “you take over. Just remember, remain at one-quarter impulse and—”
“—for the love of God, don’t go into warp,” they finished together. How many times had her parents let her fly a shuttle? She had been all over the United States of Africa in this cramped, airless little thing and she had yet to crash it. Not that it didn’t need crashing; the dingy creation was at least ten years old, didn’t have a replicator, and had no living quarters. The environmental systems also left much to be desired; Nyota could actually feel the sweat forming on her brow.
“Your school will have newer shuttles, of course,” Bahati assured her daughter, as though she’d read her thoughts. She was looking over her reflection in her compact and touching up her makeup. Not that she needed to. Bahati’s long black, braided hair had yet to turn gray, and women in the Uhura family were blessed with healthy, flawless brown skin. Even now, in the throes of adolescence, Nyota had yet to have a full acne breakout. Knock on wood. “You can also study basic combat training, introductory quantum physics or engineering—”
“Xenolinguistics, Ma,” Nyota cut in dully. How many times did she have to repeat this? “Just xenolinguistics.”
“Oh, yes, yes,” Bahati nodded absently, “but you should have another discipline to fall back on. Stellar Valley has an excellent preparatory curriculum for pre-med students. Have you at least considered xenobiology, Nyota?”
“No, Ma,” came the flat reply. “Just xenolinguistics.”
The older woman sighed wearily. “Well, you’re going to be painfully disappointed. They haven’t got the best selection, at least not yet. Just Vulcan, Andorian, Rigelian, a course or two in Denobulan, and a very basic introduction to Cardassian. Are you sure you wouldn’t like try to astrophysics?”
Nyota successfully resisted a shudder. “No, Ma. Just xenolinguistics.”
“Stellar cartography’s not a bad idea,” came the last suggestion, and Nyota knew the battle was almost won. Anyone who ever suggested mapping stars as a full-time career was definitely grasping for straws.
“No thanks, Ma.” Nyota resisted the urge to yawn. “Just xenolinguistics.”
“Well, then promise me you’ll enroll in the diplomatic curriculum,” her mother sighed. “You’ll get to study culture and protocol, which is essential for a proper communications officer.”
A compromise, eh? How interesting! Nyota smiled a little to herself; how many years had this taken? How many “hints” had her mother dropped over the past several months…padds containing brochures for biochemistry workshops and other Complete Nerd retreats
She paused for a moment, letting the silence draw out before she finally replied, “Thanks, Ma. I’ll do that.”
Nyota felt her mother’s whole body relax. “Good, good. What’s our ETA?”
“Twenty minutes,” Nyota answered brightly, feeling a weight lift from not just her, but the whole rickety shuttle. A nearby console beeped and she checked the incoming message. “We just received clearance for Landing Pad 24, but we’ve only got it for ten minutes. After that, you’ll have to take off.”
The message actually said thirty minutes, but Nyota didn’t dare tell her mother that. The last thing she wanted was to be the new girl who showed up with the overly zealous mom in a glaringly ancient contraption.
Stellar Valley was a vast, beautiful complex nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. The surrounding area was beautiful, with long, blue winding rivers, thick autumn-colored forests, and deep, dark lakes. Truly, there was no shortage of untamed nature here, and it was beautiful, but Nyota couldn’t help but wonder what kids did for fun around.
“You’ll like it here,” her mother assured her, as though reading her thoughts again. Bahati did that often. “There’s peace and quiet, and nothing to distract you from your studies.”
What about when I’m not studying?!?? Nyota wanted to exclaim, but didn’t. Instead, she hastily unloaded her luggage onto a hover dolly. “Thanks, Ma. I think I'll like it here too.” She leaned to kiss her mother on her cheek. “Safe journey, home.”
“Safe journey to you too,” her mother replied, before hopping back into the old shuttle. Nyota left Landing Pad 4 at once, before someone spotted her anywhere near that thing.
James Tiberius-no-he-hadn’t-forgiven-his-mother-for-his-middle-name Kirk took another long, luxurious drag off his cigarette. Students weren’t supposed to smoke in the dorms, but Jim had reprogrammed the ventilation sensors to ignore smoke in his room. There was no way he was giving these up. “Lenny, did you hear me? New girl!”
Lenny McCoy yawned, putting down his tall, smoky glass bong, slowly sitting up and looking at his sandy-haired friend sat at their dorm window. Jim was perched on his unmade bed, staring down at the school promenade. The small, boring gray dorm rooms, each housed in a building twelve stories high, all looked over the rushing fountains of the promenade located at the entrance to the complex. After a number of girls had turned him down, Jim had started spending a lot of time watching the promenade.
“What was that, Jim?” The dark-haired youth scratched his increasingly hairy chest and reluctantly rose to his feet. The room spun a bit, but he was used to it. Ever since Hikaru Sulu had introduced the two of them to Andorian dream leaf, they’d been smoking it day and night. It killed a lot less brain cells than Klingon tobacco which, incidentall,y was the reason Lenny was held back last year.
He walked towards Jim and peered over his head through the standard gray curtains.
“Hm,” he nodded. “Not bad.”
“Wonder why she’s transferring mid-semester, though,” Jim sighed, before taking another drag.
“Maybe she had to fly in from another world,” Lenny suggested, moving away, back to his bong.
Jim didn’t hear him; his sparkling blue gaze was glued to the dark-skinned girl with the black and copper cornrows and svelte green strapless dress. The golden leaf design at the bottom dress hinted at her origin.
“She’s quite a cutie,” he nodded slowly, memorizing her looks. “Holy shit, Lenny—look who the staff paired her up with!”
Lenny groaned loudly, pulling himself back up to his feet and coming over to the window again. What he saw made him immediately throw back his and laugh.
If she hadn’t seen the spots, Nyota would’ve thought her new roommate was a girl from one of the West African states. She was a beautiful girl, with light brown skin and long dark purple hair twisted in locks which tumbled down her back. She also had a silver nose stud and a matching labret piercing.
“Nyota Uhura?” she greeted cheerfully. “I’m Vira Zwan, your roommate.”
“You’re a Trill,” Nyota whispered in awe as they shook hands. The questions came flooding. “How old are you? Are you joined? How long have you had your symbiont?”
“No, silly,” Vira laughed musically. “I’m too young to be joined! The schooling for Trills who want to be joined is rigorous, so I came here to get a head start.”
“What’s your discipline?” Nyota asked, finally feeling the excitement her mother had predicted.
“Xenobiology,” Vira grinned. “I want to be a doctor.”
Nyota felt herself suddenly shrinking. They’d paired her up with a brain. While Nyota was smart enough, her gift lay in pretty much languages only. At her old school, she had struggled through the hard sciences right before her mother shipped her here.
Much to her dread, Vira asked, “What about you?”
“Xenolinguistics,” Nyota mumbled uncomfortably, shifting to her other foot.
“Wow,” Vira gasped, her own eyes growing wide. “You’re a brave girl! Learning how to speak a bunch of different languages is exhausting. At my last school, I failed all my introductory Klingon courses. The last week of school, my teacher called me a dim-witted p’tak and kicked me out of class!”
Nyota brightened at once, but tried not to show it. “Really? I suck at science,” she admitted, right before adding something she hadn’t intended to divulge to anyone. “At my old school, I accidentally blew a big hole through the side of the chem lab. It’s…partly why I had to switch schools.” Pause. “But in my defense, Professor Asante had it in for me from the get-go.”
The girls laughed heartily as they entered the complex. All the walls were white, and all the curtains gray. The décor clashed with the gold and red of nature outside, but its message was clear: this was a no-nonsense school. Students were here to study.
“Do you remember taking a psychological exam before your admission?” Vira suddenly asked, as she led her through a labyrinth of halls before arriving at a turbolift.
“Yes,” Nyota nodded. “It took me almost an hour to finish it.”
“The tests determine which house you’re put in,” Vira explained. “Of course, no one tells you that until you actually get here. There are four houses at Stellar Valley: Laidley, Buskirk, Hodges and Holderby. We’re in Buskirk House, and the girls’ dorms are on the eastern side of our building. Every house has its own lounge and its own library. The replicators in the lounges only make snacks, and needless to say, won’t produce any contraband. And don’t try reprogramming them either; the last student who tried to replicate cigarettes failed pathetically and almost got expelled.
“The mess hall serves six meals during the day and is located at the center of the complex. There are several simulation chambers, but they’re mostly used for education. However,” Vira added with sly smile, “if you attend all your classes for a week, then the following weekend, you get to use the chambers for two hours however you want, and you can bring one guest.” She grinned mischievously. “I have a program for the Hoobishan Baths.”
Nyota merely blinked. “Hoo-bi-sha—”
Vira stared at her, amazed. “Seriously? The Hoobishan Baths? They’re legend!” She smirked, her dark eyes twinkling. “They’re wild.”
“Is that what students do for fun around here?” Nyota asked. It didn’t sound so bad. Instead of going a few places, she could go any place. “Use the holodecks?”
Vira nodded. “And there’s a lot of interest in hiking. Appalachia is beautiful all year round, and hiking’s a fun way to keep you in shape. Being in shape is essential for entering the Academy.”
“Makes sense,” Nyota shrugged, as they rode the turbolift to the fourth floor of Buskirk House.
“You’re lucky,” Vira said to her as they headed the down the long, slim gray-carpeted hall towards Room 407. “It’s unheard of for someone to start school here in mid-semester. You must have scored really high on the entrance exam.”
Nyota sighed wearily. “I’m sure my mother just talked the headmistress’s ear off until the woman accepted me.”
Vira laughed as she placed her hand on a pale handprint reader glowing beside the door.
“Only staff and the occupants of a room can enter,” Vira explained as the door slid open. Nyota was not even remotely impressed by wide the door revealed. Two small beds, each pressed against the wall, with a single window and two tiny nightstands between them. Each girl had a set of drawers and a closet buried in their respective walls, but Nyota knew at once there was no way all her things were going fit.
Vira’s bed was covered with a sparkly purple coverlet, with a matching rug on the floor by the bed. On her side of the walls were many posters, and on her nightstand she had pictures of her family in purple metal frames.
Both girls turned to the bare side of the room which now belonged to Nyota. Vira seemed to read her roommate’s thoughts.
“Need help unpacking?”
Nyota nodded, and when she responded, she tried not to sound weary. “Yeah. That’d be nice.”
Next ~ The Ambassador's Son