Into the Valley ~ The Softer Side of Science #Uhura

Previously ~ It's Called a "Crush" for a Reason

“It won’t work.”

“It’ll work!”

“It won’t work.”

“Nyota, I’m telling you…it’ll work!”

“Vira, once again, you’re not getting it.” Nyota sat back in her chair, her frustration with the entire world growing by the minute. She’d only been here four days and already she was starting to seriously hate the Valley. “I don’t want to be the hunter here. Call me an old-fashioned female by I prefer to be pursued. I don’t want to be yet another drooling human chasing after the school’s only Vulcan.”

Vira paused, mulling this over for a moment. Nyota resisted the urge to smirk; she knew her roommate was going to have another one of her resolutions very shortly. Her thoughts echoed back to her conversation with Hikaru earlier.

Vira knows. Vira always knows.

Nyota smiled. As if on cue, Vira exclaimed, “Got it!”

Dear, God.

“In the hard sciences, it’s been consistently observed that some species hunt by pretending to be prey.”

“And in the softer sciences?” Nyota asked pointedly. If she had to hear any more biophysical terminology, she was going to injure her roommate.

“Think about it,” Vira grinned, “what drew Spock’s attention to you in the first place?”

Nyota frowned slightly. “I correctly interpreted an ancient poem.”

“An Ancient Vulcan poem,” the Trill corrected her. “Written by one of your favorites, if I’m not mistaken. Spock was drawn to you—a human—because you demonstrated a deep connection to something Vulcan.”

Nyota sighed in defeat. Her roommate was going in circles, reciting information she already knew. “I give up,” she confessed, and yawned.

“Don’t you get it?” Vira said excitedly.

“Obviously not.”

“Nyota!” Vira grabbed her arm. “In order to get Spock to explore the more human side of things, you have to be more Vulcan!”

***

It sounded just crazy enough to work…emphasis on the “crazy” part.

They couldn’t scheme for much longer; classes were starting again. Vira had some long-winded lecture to attend and Nyota had to head for Intro to Interplanetary Diplomacy. There were no familiar faces in this class, so she sat in the back, using her padd to access the school database. She waded through introductory paragraphs on Vulcan history and tradition for an hour and a half while her professor droned on about the history of First Contact protocols (she’d read about that years ago).

Class ended and she went to her Basic Communications Engineering course. The regular professor was out sick with lungworm, so the course was taught by some Scottish senior TA who told everyone to just call him “Scotty.” He was a quirky young man with a thick accent, shocking green hair, and a tendency to deviate from the assigned lesson plan. Instead of reviewing repairing techniques, Scotty taught them how to jam other people’s signals, how to hack into encrypted transmissions, and the importance of knowing the difference between single and double malt whiskeys.

Nyota wasn’t even sure how to react to that.

Her last class of the day was Intro to Modern Federation Thought, in which the students were exposed to an unabridged version of the Prime Directive. It was a discussion-intensive course, which required her to not only pay attention, but participate in the conversation as well.

It wasn’t until 1800 when she met with Vira in the mess hall that she got to properly scheme some more.

“Hikaru messaged me back,” the Trill greeted her breathily, eyes twinkling with excitement. “He sent me a list of all the books Spock’s been reading for fun this semester.” She handed Nyota a padd, which she greedily grabbed and began to skim, forgetting all about her Crisaylian Nine-Shrimp casserole.

“Dr. T’Avenna’s treatise on the writings of Surak,” Nyota read aloud. “Dr. Navor’s exploratory commentaries on the ritual of Kolinahr, the memoirs of Ambassador Setus of Romulus, an analysis of the mating habits of Klingon targs, a dissertation on the physiology of Vulcan le’matyas—he reads this for fun?”

Vira rolled her eyes. “He’s a Vulcan, Nyota.”

“A collaborative analysis of copper-based versus iron-based blood in humaoids?”

“He’s a Vulcan, Nyota.”

“A comparative study of Vulcan logic and the philosophies of the human Northeast Asian population?”

He’s a Vulcan, Nyota—remember, you signed up for this.”

Nyota placed down the padd, her brow furrowed in worry. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”

“You say that now,” Vira snickered, “but wait ‘til you go to Vulcan Lit tomorrow. The minute he says, ‘Greetings, Nyota’ in that refined manner of his, and you’ll go all slushy again.”

“That’s ‘mushy,’ Vira.”

“Oh. Right. Whatever.” Vira waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, you’ll see. One look from your boy and you’ll forget all about this.”

“How come Hikaru is so generous with all this information?” Nyota asked, suddenly suspicious.  “This is the second time he’s handed over inside info without question.”

Vira grinned deviously. “He has a bet going on with Jim. See, Jim and Lenny don’t think Spock will ever date a human girl—ever. If Hikaru wins, Jim has to let him go for a drive in his uncle’s antique car. If Jim wins, Hikaru has to hook Jim up with his cousin Akemi. And since there’s no way in hell Hikaru’s ever going to let James I-like-anything-in-a-skirt Kirk go near any of his relatives….”

Nyota’s eyes lit up. “He’ll do any and everything to win this bet,” she murmured. Her eyes snapped
to Vira’s. “What else you got?”

Nyota didn’t make it to her Vulcan Lit class early; five of the sonic showers on her floor went offline and there was line to the shower room. However, she was right on time, arriving just after Spock and right before Professor Vladimir.

“Greetings, Nyota,” the tall Vulcan bowed his head slightly. He joined her in stride, walking with her to the seats and taking one right beside her. “I trust you prepared insights for today’s discussion?”

Oh…like, damn.

Vira was right. Vira was so right! The moment he got close, the moment the smell of incense and burnt leaves filled her nose, the moment his eyes and voice hit, she was gone.

“Yes,” she nodded, forcing herself to keep her voice steady. “I found the assigned readings most agreeable.”

At the word ‘agreeable’ he raised that eyebrow of his again, and Nyota had to resist giggling.

Vira’s not the only one who knows! Hikaru knows too!

“And you?” Nyota asked, remembering not to smile. “Did you find The Twilight Scholar satisfactory?”

There was a dark flicker in his eyes and Nyota could swear she saw him tense.

The Twilight Scholar is a deliberately neglected work in the world of Vulcan literature,” he said stiffly. “Kurik wrote it the year he turned twenty-one and went to serve under his father, Commander Syal. He was much too young to attempt a great literary work.”

“Does youth negate quality?” Nyota asked softly. “If a person is young, does that automatically mean they are incompetent?”

There was a long pause before Spock finally looked at her, and said, “No. It does not. And from a human perspective, Kurik’s work is deep and moving.”

“But from a Vulcan perspective?”

He definitely tensed that time, and even averted his eyes.

“From a Vulcan perspective, complete with the intimate knowledge of our culture and customs, Kurik’s work is…inappropriate.”

“Because it’s so emotional?” Nyota asked. “When it was written, Surak was barely a teenager. Vulcans had not embraced logic yet.”

“True,” Spock replied uneasily, only glancing in her direction, “however, Kurik’s work is still more intimate than most. No one on Vulcan quotes The Twilight Scholar. It’s considered…deeply offensive.”

“Attention, class,” Professor Vladimir called. He tapped his podium a few times and The Twilight Scholar appeared on the view screen, again in Vulcan. “I need a volunteer to read ze homework.”

A green-haired Holderby girl with way too many piercings raised her hand. Vladimir nodded and she began,

“I am to rendezvous with the fleet at Kahral
Beyond the sand-swept Forge
And into the valley
From a distance, I hear burning
Burning
Soldiers falling, villagers fleeing
Flesh hitting floors, seeping blood
Severed limbs dyeing wood
Dyeing walls
Dying….

“There will be beer in Kahral
And beasts upon a turning spit
Cackling and sizzling with oil and spice
And concubines bound to none
My father promises me unending glory
He says my name will be sung
Until the burning stars
Fall from the sky

“I should take a mate
Before I leave to Kahral
I can feel the my Time upon me
Insatiable burning upon me
Each day my mind is frayed and fragile
I am eager for the taking, eager for blood
I feel heat, I have fever
Coursing through my veins
Resonating in the pounding of my heart
—It threatens to kill me

“I will not rest until I have marked my mate
Until we are bound like root to soil
Until I bury myself in the valley
Flowing blood to throbbing beast
I may not know rest
Will not know rest
Until my enemy lies dead at my feet.”

“Very good, Miss Beaverhausen,” Vladimir commended her, before turning back to the class. “Vhat does this poem tell us of Kurik’s mind before he goes to var?”

“He sounds bloodthirsty,” one student remarked. “He actually sounds like he’ll die unless he gets to kill someone.”

“He sounds like the typical pre-Surak archetype,” another piped up. “A savage, mindless, violent warrior.”

“The Battle of Kahral is said to be one of the bloodiest in all of Vulcan history,” yet another student.

“Two hundred and fifty thousand dead, bodies littering the desert for miles…history records that Kurik went mad after the battle and never again served in an army.”

Vladimir nodded. “His fazer died at Kahral, but his army did not fall. Why then did Kurik lose his mind? He was his fazer’s heir. He was ze conquering hero.”

Nyota noticed that Spock wasn’t talking. Instead, he sat very straight and very stiffly at desk, eyes glued to the view-screen, refusing to make eye contact with anyone, even Vladimir. She watched him for a time, as he pursed his lips and narrowed his dark eyes, as though he were reading some sort of blasphemy.

Finally, she turned to the view-screen, and began rereading the words. To be honest, she hadn’t been entirely sure about what Kurik was trying to say. His words so raw and primitive, so illogical and unrestrained it was understandable why Vulcans would want to keep his work under lock and key.

Lock and key.

Whoa…where had that come from? Nyota felt her brain racing, speeding, spinning and digging back into her thoughts, tugging at a specific memory.

Lock and key, someone had said. Vulcans…keep it under lock and key….

Nyota gasped.

…whatever it is Vulcans go through,” Vira had said, “their whole world keeps it under lock and key….”

Nyota racked her brain for the rest of the conversation. What had Vira said? Something about how
information on Vulcan mating limited, almost nonexistent. Only general clinical information was available, but not the intricacies. Not the intimacies.

I should take a mate, Kurik wrote, Before I leave to Kahral/I can feel the my Time upon me/Insatiable burning upon me…/I feel heat, I have fever….

Something about those words was so familiar. Nyota concentrated hard, reading and rereading them until her memories finally clicked in place.

Just the basics,” Vira had said, “and several obscure references to something called ‘the Time’ and a ‘fever of the blood.’”

“Sex,” Nyota suddenly blurted.

All eyes, including Spock’s, turned to her. For a split second, she seriously considered smacking herself. At this rate, she was going to develop a bit of a reputation in this class.

“Miss Uhura?” Vladimir asked, eyebrow raised. “You have zomezing to add?”

“Yes, Professor—sorry,” she apologized. “But I think Kurik is writing more about sex than he is war. He talks about the need for a mate, ‘insatiable’ and ‘burning’ and how he’s going through a ‘Time.’ It’s like…it like he’s gone into heat or something. And that last stanza! Look at his word choice: I will not rest until I have marked my mate/Until we are bound like root to soil/Until I bury myself in the valley/Flowing blood to throbbing beast—it’s…well it’s…i-it’s…it just…just sounds so…s-so…,” she stuttered and floundered, suddenly realizing just how dirty-minded Kurik had been.

A Vulcan pornographer! Vira was going to just love this!

Unable to finish, Vladimir kindly helped her out.

“What Miss Uhura is hesitant—but correct—to say, class,” he smirked, “iz zat ze poem iz rife vith sexual innuendo. Yes, Miss Uhura?”

Nyota lowered her eyes, abashed as she nodded, mumbling, “Yes, sir.” An uncomfortable pause later, she added painfully, “And because Vulcans traditionally do not discuss their mating practices, Kurik’s work is…” she trailed haplessly for a moment, before deciding to quote Spock, “…‘deliberately neglected.’”

Oddly enough, her words seemed to ease the tension in the Vulcan at her side. For the first time since class started, he spoke.

“Once again,” he began neutrally, “Nyota’s…unusual mind has gleaned what readers typically do not.”

‘Unusual,’ he’d said, but the growing whispers in the class were no doubt already translating it to ‘pervert.’ When it came to rumors, pervert trumped unusual any day.

But Nyota didn’t care. It was amazing how one small clue could solve an entire puzzle. Kurik had outed his people; she knew their secret now. The reason Vulcans didn’t openly discuss sex was that they didn’t have a choice when ‘the Time’ came around. They went into heat, like untamed beasts. They lost control, lost their sophistication, their serenity.

They lost their logic.

Next ~ Guy Talk, Girl Talk

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