When Nyota was half of a year old her parents died in a shuttle crash, and she was sent to live with her grandmother, Sauda, in Kenya. Nyota was a mildly well behaved baby, she cried and fussed, like every baby, but she drank her milk and slept when she was supposed to. She learned to speak earlier than most children, and Sauda always found it funny to hear what small children thought before they could speak. As she grew it was obvious she was a very smart child.
Nyota first showed interest in language when she was four. She had gone to her friend’s house, and had returned with a tearstained face. Sauda had instantly run to comfort her. “What’s wrong?” she asked, wiping Nyota’s tears and hugging her close.
“They made fun of me for not knowing Standard.” Sauda scowled, not at Nyota but at her bullies. She had avoided teaching her Standard first, wanting Nyota to grow up with the culture of Kenya, without every Western thing that had snuck in over the centuries.
“Why? If they don’t know Swahili, they have Universal Translators.”
“They said it was the main language.”
“It’s not,” Sauda said, “Don’t believe that.” Nyota nodded. “Do you want to learn Standard?” Nyota nodded again.
Nyota was very good at learning Standard. She still preferred to speak Swahili with Sauda and whenever she could, but she liked to show off her skills.
When Nyota was seven, and had mastered Standard, she asked Sauda what other languages she could learn. She asked specifically for alien languages, and Sauda returned from the store with a book on the Klingon language.
By the time Nyota was fifteen she knew six languages, and several dialects in most of them. The only language of the six she was at all shaky in her knowledge of was Vulcan.
That was when she met T’Pring.
There was a frequent stop for alien tourists in the town she lived in, a large building that seemed to be a mix between a mall, hotel, and shuttleport. Nyota worked there on her weekends, earning a few credits fixing universal translators for the shops.
When she got some time off work she liked to watch the people, trying to pick out pieces of languages she knew. Once she had witnessed a very public breakup that took place in Romulan, although the heartbroken parties appeared to be human. She supposed that they didn’t want people to understand their argument.
One day she was sitting on a bench, scribbling down some of the conversations she heard in her red leather bound notebook when she heard Vulcan. Vulcan was a rare language to hear, Vulcans only tended to come to Earth for study, and then they normally went to Starfleet.
The party speaking Vulcan weren’t all human. There was a woman wearing a grey dress, and another woman wearing a Starfleet cadet’s uniform. The rest of the party did appear to be Vulcan, however, from a Vulcan man, to a boy and girl about Nyota’s age. The boy and girl were having an interesting conversation, and Nyota, to her own shame, started to listen in.
“Spock, I do not wish to be introduced as your betrothed.” the girl said.
“And I do not wish to introduce you as so.” the boy, Spock, replied. “However, as you are travelling with my family, without yours, and my father cares so much about tradition, you will most likely be introduced as so.”
“Is there nothing you can do to prevent him?”
“Not logically. He will not accept any explanation besides the fact that you plan to choose kal-if-fee, and even then he will not accept that until you do indeed choose kal-if-fee.”
“But we’ve discussed this. It is not logical for us to be betrothed. I am a lesbian, and you are gay.”
“Yes, I discussed this with him when we were younger and realized this. He still insists that the kal-if-fee is the only logical way for us to end our betrothal.”
“Thank you, Spock. It is respectful of you to try, and I honor that.” she turned to the human woman. “Lady Amanda, I must use the bathroom. May I leave and search for one?”
Amanda smiled at her. “Of course, dear.” T’Pring inclined her head and walked away to the bathroom.
Nyota knew it was rude to follow people, but no other person who had entered the building intrigued her as much as the Vulcans. She got up and walked into the bathroom.
She did realize that it was creepy to wait for the Vulcan to leave the stall only to ask her about a certain bit of Vulcan phonetics that had been bothering her, but Nyota often abandoned typical social norms in her pursuit of knowledge. But she still knew basic ‘trying not to be creepy’, so she started to wash her hands in the sink, humming to keep the time. When that was finished she started to fix her makeup, touching up her red lipstick and making sure her hair was in place. She watched the stall door open in the mirror.
She turned around and spread her fingers in the ta’al. “Sochya eh dif.”
The Vulcan girl raised her eyebrows but lifted her hand and responded “Dif-tor heh smusma. You are not my host, you should not use that phrase, and instead and use the better known dif-tor heh smusma.” She continued in Standard.
“Thank you.” Nyota said leaning back against the sink as the girl started to wash her hands. “I’m still trying to figure out how to pronounce smusma.”
“You pronounced it right then.”
“Oh! I thought I was getting it wrong.”
“You are not.” she shut the water off and dried her hands.
“I’m Nyota by the way.” Nyota said.
“I am T’Pring. Are you learning Vulcan? Your pronunciation is quite good for someone who simply knows the standard greeting.”
“I’m almost fluent. It’s a difficult language.”
“I could say the same thing about Standard.”
“Yeht.” Nyota said, trying to show off her Vulcan.
“We can continue in Vulcan if you believe it will help you.” T’Pring said in Vulcan.
“Yes, that would help me.” Nyota replied, also in Vulcan.
“What shade of lipstick are you wearing?”
Nyota dug in her bag and pulled out the tube to show T’Pring the label.
“This is a Betazoid brand.” T’Pring commented appreciatively.
“It’s the best shade for my skin tone.” Nyota responded.
“It does fit you very well. Red is your color.”
“It is simple observation. I also like your eyeshadow. Is it also a Betazoid brand?”
“No, Vulcan,” Nyota smiled, “Ironically.”
“I do not think ‘ironic’ is the correct word for this scenario, instead ‘coincidentally’ may work.”
“I think you’re right. It’s Zadik, by the way, the name of the brand.”
T’Pring appeared to be about to speak when her PADD chimed. She opened it and her mouth turned downward slightly. “I must leave. Live long and prosper, Nyota.”
“Live long and prosper, T’Pring.” T’Pring disappeared. Between the sinks she left a small container wrapped in a small paper. The paper had a PADD number. The container was a purple eyeshadow like T’Pring’s. Zadik brand.