~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
… I had never spoken to her, except for a few casual words, and yet her name was like a summons to all my foolish blood.
--James Joyce “Araby”
The Enterprise was in space dock for repairs for six weeks and I took the opportunity to take a seminar on warp physics at the Academy. My parents happened to be on-planet and I would also be able to visit with them.
I had not spoken to the Ambassador beyond what was vital for clan business for nine years, but it would be pleasant to see my mother. My maternal grandmother also lived in the City and she insisted that I remain with her for the duration of my leave. I readily agreed, as she was spry and intelligent, respected my privacy and was an excellent cook. She had a large and eclectic collection of antique books and I very much looked forward to spending my free time perusing them. And I admit, with some satisfaction, that her ability to put Sarek firmly in his place was second only to T’Pau’s. She would make the few obligatory family dinners much easier to bear.
There was one unfortunate consequence of quartering off-post, however: a phalanx of security personnel. As the Ambassador’s son and grandson to T’Pau of Vulcan, I was a potential target for kidnap or assassination. Whenever I left Academy grounds, I was shadowed by the Embassy security retinue and they were shadowed by Golan, the captain of my father’s palace guard. I had no choice. It was either accept the security detail, reside in the frigid Officer’s Quarters at the Presidio or remain on the ship and endure site-to-site beam downs.
Surprisingly, Grandmother thought the whole situation great fun and grinned lasciviously at the silent, giant Golan.
The day was bright and uncharacteristically warm as I made my way across the Academy quadrangle toward Cochrane Hall. I say ‘uncharacteristically’ rather than ‘unseasonably’ because all seasons in the San Francisco Bay were cold and damp, and of all the many natural micro-climates that dotted the hilly peninsula on which the City was built, a warm day was a true rarity at the Presidio.
But only humans judged 21.66c degrees to be warm. I shivered in my thick jumper. I looked with longing at sunny Marin, tortured with the knowledge that it would reach an almost comfortable 30c degrees there today, a mere one point seven three miles at the other end of the Golden Gate Bridge. I realized with irritation that longing was illogical, as was irritation, and was annoyed that I was having difficulty controlling either.
Adding to my irritation was my own uncharacteristic lateness for my midday seminar. Six computers in the battle simulation lab had cascaded and I had the misfortune to be the officer with the highest computer rating in the building at the time. I had 3.2 minutes to arrive at my seminar on time and would be one minute late unless I succumbed to the indignity of running.
Captain Pike often teased me, declaring that my insistence on punctuality rivaled the Tholians’. It was not much of an exaggeration.
In my peripheral vision, I saw Golan looking especially hulking in a black pea coat and ski cap. I suppressed yet another ripple of irritation. I allowed myself a very small, very unVulcan sigh and pushed the emotions out of my mind. I lengthened my stride.
Damn. I hate to be late.
I was in a bad mood ! My mother would be delighted. After a brief but fierce internal battle, I decided to take the advice that she would give me at these times: go with it. I relaxed my posture and slowed down. The Earth would not shift on its axis if one Vulcan was one minute late for a warp physics seminar.
I had been so preoccupied with my internal struggle and quest for punctuality that I failed to notice that it was reasonably warm if I avoided the shady walkways and cut across the grass. In addition, I could shave 1.1 minutes off my time and still enjoy the sunshine.
I surveyed my surroundings. It had been a decade since I was a cadet here and I’d rarely taken the time to enjoy myself. The ‘quad’ was well populated with cadets taking advantage of the weather. Some lay in the grass and here and there, pairs tossed Frisbees to one another. A curious pastime, Frisbee tossing. My initial observations were that it was a simplistic and dull activity, until a fellow plebian enticed me into a game. It proved to be a fascinating exercise in physics and logic. Unfortunately, my Frisbee partner was uninterested in analyzing force and inertia, lift, scalar multiplication and vector addition. However, a passing upperclassman by the name of Montgomery Scott overheard my analysis and we engaged in a fascinating series of experiments in Frisbee flight. Mr. Scott was an interesting man. I daresay that he used his thick Scottish brogue to mask what I’m certain was a genius-level intelligence quotient. He was quite refreshing.
I welcomed the feel of the feeble warmth on my head as I cut across the quad. The sound of a woman’s voice interrupted my reverie.
I looked up in time to see an oblong brown object hurtling toward my face. I lifted my hand and plucked it out of the air. It was a football. A young woman in a wash-faded Massachusetts Institute of Technology sweatshirt was running in front of a crowd of other cadets.
“Run!” she yelled.
“I beg your pardon?”
She slid to a halt in front of me. Tendrils of hair escaped her ponytail and she swiped them out of her eyes impatiently. Perspiration shined on the smooth skin of her neck and her chest heaved with exertion. Her dark eyes were very large. To say that she was breathtakingly beautiful is not hyperbole.
I looked down into her face and my voice caught in my throat; I could not draw breath to speak.
“Either run or give me the ball!” she panted.
I stood there, frozen in place and unable to make a sound. I was finally able to inhale and the scent of limes and vanilla and her heated body dizzied me. She glanced behind her, shrieked and yanked the ball from my hands. She dodged around me and sprinted away, laughing. A pink plasticine strip affixed to the belt loop of her cut off pants streamed behind her. I had walked into the middle of a ‘flag football’ game. The other players flowed around me. I heard “excuse me, sir”, “heads up, sir” and “nice catch, sir” as they ran by.
I turned and watched the young woman run. She was as fleet and graceful as a gazelle. At her present speed—and she showed no signs of slowing—and the speed of the fastest in the crowd chasing her, I calculated that she would easily reach the ‘end zone’ before anyone could capture her flag. Indeed, she made a touchdown and was standing in the end zone shaking her hips and poking out her tongue at the rival team members. A few of them gestured at me and complained that the touchdown did not count because of my interference, but it was good-natured and no one really took issue.
A large, dark-haired man picked up the young woman and tossed her high into the air as though she were weightless. He caught her, held her to his chest and spun them in a circle. Her laughter rang out.
“Uhura, you beauty!” he said.
“Put me down, DeSalle you big oaf!”
DeSalle kissed her solidly on the lips and set her gently on the ground. She turned away and pantomimed swooning to her girlfriends. She looked at me and smiled brilliantly, giving me the thumbs up sign. There was something familiar in the way her smile lit her eyes. Did I know her? It was not possible. If I had seen her before, I would remember.
I watched for a moment longer as they set up for the extra point kick. I was perhaps premature in comparing her to a gazelle. She moved more like a le’matya .
I proceeded on my course to Cochrane Hall. Not only was I three point one minutes late for my seminar, to my dismay, I found my attention wandering to the memory of that beautiful face. I chastised myself for my shameful behavior and resolved to spend extra hours on studying the Disciplines. I attempted to focus my attention on the instructor. I was not successful.
Uhura. A name like the sound of a lover’s gasp.
“Spock, darling, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said.”
“I beg forgiveness, Grandmother.”
“You never have to beg me for anything,” she said firmly. “Now, tell me what troubles you, child.”
I opened my mouth to protest but she held up a hand. I sighed in defeat.
“I had a ‘bad’ day today.” There was no reason to mince words. Grandmother would see through any attempt at Vulcan equivocation.
“Go on.” Her expression betrayed nothing of her thoughts.
“I am finding the marshaling of my control most difficult.”
“No doubt the thought of having to meet with your insufferable father in person after nine years is causing you stress.” She pressed her lips together.
“Perhaps you are correct, Ganny.” ‘Ganny’ was what I called her back when my child’s mouth could not yet form the ‘r’ sound. I used it rarely and only in private now.
“There’s no ‘ perhaps ’ about it.” Her keen grey eyes regarded me. “But there is something else?”
I looked away in embarrassment. I took a deep breath. “I met—saw—a young woman this morning.”
I kept my head down.
“Look at me, sweeting.”
I looked up. She was smiling softly. “Tell me.”
“I cannot seem to keep my attention on anything other than the memory of her. I know that I have not met her before but there was a familiarity about her that has me quite confused.”
“Did you talk to her?”
“I…could not.” My face was hot. “She was very pretty,” I said quietly.
“If you are this flushed just telling me about her, ‘very pretty’ is one of your famous understatements,” she chuckled. “I’m happy to see that your head can be turned by a pretty girl. You’re more like Sarek than either of you will ever admit.”
I ducked my head to hide my expression. “No matter. I am bonded to T’Pring. It is academic.”
“You’re not married yet, grandson,” she said balefully.
I raised a brow.
“Don’t look at me that way. The only thing T’Pau and I agree on is you, and we both thought that T’Pring was a dreadful child.”
“T’Pau would not say such a thing.” I was astonished.
“Well, not out loud, silly. Vulcans have links and bonds and melds and what have you, but grandmothers of all species share a secret language when it comes to their grandchildren. She disapproved of Sarek’s selection; trust me.”
I thought her reasoning dubious but did not challenge her. “At any rate, this girl seemed rather friendly with one of her teammates. Had I the courage to speak with her, she is unavailable.”
“Just because she was friendly with another man, doesn’t mean she’s unavailable, darling. Did you see a ring on her finger?”
“I did not, but a lack of a ring does not indicate her availability.”
“Spock, I met your grandfather at my own engagement party.” She brushed imaginary lint from her lap. “If she’s not married then she’s fair game. I say you find her and ask her out, if for nothing more than to make a new friend. One can’t have too many friends.”
“Ask her out? Grandmother, I cannot even talk to her. And even if I could, she would likely refuse. I am unknown to her.”
“You are a Starfleet officer. That makes you safe. A cup of tea in the late morning on a Sunday is a nice, non-threatening first date. No girl will refuse that. If worst goes to worse, it is one cup of tea and then out the door.”
“That is logical. But--.” I ducked my head again.
Ganny put her fingers under my chin and lifted my face. “But what, dove?”
“I am Vulcan. She may not wish to…” I could not finish.
“Nonsense. You’re a beautiful boy. Any girl worth her skin would throw herself shamelessly at you, even if you were as dull as a box of rocks—and they probably do, but you don’t notice it. Heddy Clark has been driving me batty trying to force me to introduce you to her granddaughter. You remember? The one with the unfortunate eye.”
“I do not remember.”
“See what I mean?”
I worked hard to suppress a smile. “You are incorrigible.”
“Find her, darling.”
“Grandmother, I shall consider it.”
“I do hope you don’t turn out to be a prude,” she sighed.
“I am not a prude. I am Vulcan.”
“So you keep telling me. It’s been said that T’Pau is all of Vulcan in one package. T’Pau is no prude. Trust me on that one.”
She sniffed eloquently.
For the next several days, made it my habit to stroll around the quad during the time that I last saw the young woman—Uhura. I suppose that it was illogical to presume that she would again be playing flag football at the exact same time and in the exact same place. It would have been easier just to enter her name into the Starfleet personnel database. I had sufficient security clearance to do so, but the thought of using my clearance for personal gain made me uneasy. Not only did I perceive it to be unethical and possibly illegal, it was also… unromantic. I would have thought little of someone who used their authority to glean information about me and I believe that Uhura would feel the same.
The fine weather broke four days after my first encounter with Uhura, and after a week of fog, I resigned myself to the possibility that I would not see her again. It was nearing the end of the summer term and the campus was nearly deserted. There was no one of her flag football teammates that I recognized to even inquire as to her whereabouts.
Kaiidth . It is what it is.
One late afternoon, I took my leave from the warp simulator lab in the Sloane Building and saw with dismay deep fog swirling against the bank of glass doors. I was heartily weary of holding my body clenched against the cold to keep from visibly shivering. Golan was a huge, black-clad apparition on the other side of the glass. He turned and watched me as I approached. I hesitated before exiting the marginally warmer building and took a deep breath, girding my loins—literally.
In that moment, I heard, “Look, Finnegan, I said no!”
The corridor branched off into a ‘T’ just before reaching the glass doors and two people were standing in the corridor to my left. It was Uhura. And Finnegan.
Finnegan was a cadet in my graduating class who exercised with particular relish, the upperclassmen’s prerogative of tormenting plebes. I found him to be a puerile, obnoxious, arrogant ass. I could not say that I found him to be entirely disagreeable, however. He was a prankster, but he was no bully. He was a clever tactician and his hand-to-hand combat technique called the ‘sucker punch’, I have had cause to utilize on occasion with satisfactory results, albeit substituting the nerve pinch for the punch. Unfortunately, he employed some of these same techniques in his pursuit of women.
Finnegan had Uhura trapped, blocking her way with one of his arms braced against the wall. I knew that I had looked down at her that day on the quad, and Finnegan was not a tall man but I was struck by how small Uhura was in comparison to him. I could see the delicate bones in her wrist were she clutched her padd to her chest.
“C’mon lass, just one? I’m not in your command frat. Ya won’t regret it.”
“Even if it wasn’t fraternization, I said no. Now, back away Mr. Finnegan.”
“Give me a break, luv.”
“Don’t make me hurt you.”
“You can only hurt my heart, little one,” murmured Finnegan, reaching for her.
I stepped forward, but it was over before I completed my offer of assistance.
“Do you require assistance---.”
Finnegan was on his back on the floor.
Uhura stepped around him and brushed by me. She pushed through the glass doors and disappeared into the fog. I was torn between pursuing her and rendering first aid to Finnegan. It was a difficult decision. Golan gazed at me through the glass, his head tilted slightly in the Vulcan equivalent of, “Well?”. I sighed and turned back to Finnegan.
“Can’t. Breathe,” he gasped. His face was turning purple.
“If you can speak then you can breathe, Lieutenant,” I said.
He winced and placed a hand at the small of his back. “I think I’m in love.”
“It is obvious that she does not return your sentiment.”
He groaned and rolled over onto his side.
“Do you require my assistance to stand?” I asked.
“I’m just going to lie here for a little while.”
“Very well.” I turned to leave.
“Have you ever been in love, Mr. Spock?”
“Love is a human emotion.”
“Lucky bastard.” He looked up at me with a rueful grimace. “Sir,” he added. Though we graduated in the same class, I outranked him by only a few points; but, Finnegan was nothing if not dedicated to the recognition of the military hierarchy. I studied him for a moment, debating.
“Mr. Finnegan, may I ask what you requested of the young lady that caused her to refuse you so emphatically?”
“Tea.” He held up his index finger. “One lousy cup of tea. On a Sunday. What woman would refuse that?”
I could not reply.
Finnegan let his head fall back on the floor and sighed dramatically.
Golan fell into step beside me as I exited the building. Visibility was but a few feet and he needed to be near if he were to adequately guard me. I nodded a greeting and he inclined his head. We walked in silence for several hundred yards.
“She is…spirited,” said Golan.
My stride faltered as I struggled to cover my surprise. Golan had been in the palace guard since I was a child, and I could not recall ever having heard him speak. His voice was a melodious tenor, startlingly light coming from such a large man. I glanced at him, a signal for him to go on.
“A pleasing trait in one so beautiful, yes?”
“Perhaps,” I answered carefully.
“Judging from her curriculum vitae , an impressive intellect to match,” he said casually.
I stopped. “You know this?”
He raised a brow. Of course. Anyone who came within the remotest contact with me would be thoroughly dossiered. I realized with a pang that Golan would have also observed me on my strolls around the quad as I ‘hoped’ for a chance encounter with Uhura.
“I see.” I resumed walking.
“She who is my wife is such,” he went on, comfortably. “Difficult to charge, but a challenge that is most agreeable. I would not desire another.”
I gave him a sideways glance.
He bowed his head. “I beg forgiveness, S’haile . I speak out of turn.”
I nodded. “S e fam ."
He was quiet.
“Please continue,” I urged.
“I say only that one could do worse than Nyota Uhura.”
“I am betrothed.”
“You honor the House of Sarek with your commitment,” he said, bowing his head again.
We had arrived at the flitter park. One of the agents from the Embassy retinue was waiting with my flitter. He got out and held the door for me.
I turned to Golan and waited while he quickly scanned my vehicle.
“Speak freely, Golan.”
He snapped shut his hand scanner. He folded his hands behind his back and the Embassy agent stepped quickly away from the flitter.
“A betrothal does not a marriage make, Spock- sou ,” he said quietly. He regarded me for a long moment from under his heavy brows, then cocked a shoulder in apology. “My mate chides me for my romanticism. I have no doubt that you will honor your father. You have proven that time and again.” He came to attention. “ Rom-halan, S’haile .”
I sat in the flitter and prepared to lift off. I looked up at the big man before I closed the door.
“Nyota Uhura,” he said. “It means ‘star’. And ‘freedom’.”