The amount of people reading this story is amazing! Thank you so much! Also, systemman asked this question: why do they have textbooks in the future when they can just use PADD's?
The way I made it is that first-years have a textbook and second-, third- and fourth-years have a PADD. Reason being is that about 10-15% (in my mind anyway) cadets drop their courses in their first year because the workload is too hard, it's not what they want to do etc. So first-years are given textbooks that they can hand back in if they drop their courses and move to a different one. When they go into their second year, cadets have a better idea of what they want to do, so they are assigned PADD's instead of textbooks for notetaking, contacting professors etc.
So if anyone else was wondering that, you now know why! My thanks to wikipedia and memory-beta for providing me with the information necessary to complete this chapter. Feel free to skip over the italics about the Ferengi and continue with the storyline.
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Before you read, let's play a game. It's called 'Spot the Kirk'. Try and find him in this chapter!
Chapter 5 – Protector and Caretaker
As she slept, Zia knew it was a dream. Why else would she be reliving her beatings again? The pain barraged against her body, each blow fresh. She heard them calling her names, and she yelled at them to stop.
"LEAVE ME ALONE!"
They grabbed her and she fought. Ignoring the pain, she kicked and punched, trying to push them away. They were aiming for her face, and pinned her legs down. She screamed and their hand landed on her face. The pain she expected didn't come.
Instead, warmth filled her body. Her dream changed and she saw her parents. They held her, whispering that it would be okay. She gripped at them tightly, her arms nearly choking her dad, while her mum stroked her hair. They were telling her that it would be okay – that they would be her caretaker and protector. Then she heard Professor Spock whispering in her ear, assuring her that he would do his best to help her.
She woke suddenly and the room was dark. Tara was fast asleep on her bed, her body turned towards Zia, a slight smile covering her face. Zia rolled onto her back, thinking back to the dream. She couldn't tell her parents that the nightmares had returned, because then she'd be subjected to rigorous therapy and psychologist meetings again. While the therapy had worked when she was a teenager, she didn't want to have to go through that again.
A strange smell reached her nostrils and she sniffed. Was it coming from her… clothes? It smelt masculine. Was she wearing one of Tara's shirts? No, it was hers. Wondering whose scent it was, Zia lulled herself back to sleep.
Spock didn't sleep that night. He paced in his room, committing every face he'd seen in Zia's mind to memory, so that if he ever came across one he could give them what they were asking for. That kind of abuse was wrong, and he knew it from personal experience.
When he was a child, he'd been subjected to taunts and insults from his fellow Vulcan peers, just because his mother was human. He was deemed unclean and disadvantaged, and his peers sought to illicit an emotional response from him by insulting his mother. He'd snapped, proceeding to beat up one of the bullies when he was eleven. Then, at age twenty, the Vulcan elders insulted his human mother, saying that she was a weakness to him, leading to his refusal to purge all emotion and his arrival at Starfleet Academy. It had been a long time since he'd felt such anger, let alone protectiveness. On the outside, Spock kept his emotions a mask, but inside he was always in turmoil. He sometimes buried them so deep that they didn't bother him, but this wasn't something he could bury.
The sky outside began to lighten and Spock left his room, only just managing to walk calmly to Admiral Barnett's office, when every muscle in his body told him to run. Movement inside told him that the Admiral was awake and getting started on that days paperwork. Spock rapped on the door.
"Who would be knocking at this hour?" Barnett muttered. "Come in!"
Spock entered, closing the door behind him, "Admiral."
"Spock. What can I do for you?"
"I wish to convey a troubling matter. Last night I discovered that one of the cadets I teach, a Vulcan by the name of Zia Abbott, has suffered severe bullying for her entire life. Her roommate came to be to beg help because she was having dangerous nightmares and I was only just able to calm the cadet before she disturbed the entire wing."
"She's a Vulcan? Wouldn't that convey favouritism?"
"I do not know. All I wish to ask is that I be granted permission to teach her how to bury her emotions so that she becomes more active amongst the other cadets. No one should suffer what she has suffered."
"I assume it was racism."
"Yes, Admiral, it was. Do I have your permission?"
"Of course, as we need all our cadets in top condition to give them the best results for their futures."
Spock hid how his stomach swooped. "Thank you, Admiral."
"Just make sure she comes out okay." Barnett grimaced, which was his sympathy. Spock inclined his head and left the office, heading for the Cafeteria, his face unreadable. A few cadets nodded to him and he nodded back. Hopefully the two women he sought would be having breakfast already, as it was just past seven. He wasn't disappointed, and met Tara's gaze across the room. She tilted her head and he nodded.
"Are you okay?" Tara asked.
Zia looked up from her porridge. "I just had bad dreams." She shifted uncomfortably, not wanting to reveal the details. But the way Tara was looking at her was strange. "Are you okay?"
"I'm good," she said evasively. Blair joined them, his tray laden with breakfast.
"Today there's ice-skating at the lake behind Block-C," he said eagerly. "We really should go and check it out."
He and Tara chattered away and Zia was lost in her thoughts. So it had only taken a week for the nightmares to take hold. Should she tell her parents? They'd worry and pull her out of the Academy, which they just couldn't do! Zia loved the Academy already, and despite her worries, she liked the people too. She wanted to do well and to serve aboard a Starship, away from Earth and among a small group of people that she could befriend.
"Hello: Earth to Zia!"
She blinked as Tara snapped her fingers in front of her face. "I'm sorry, what?"
"You've got that side-project you're doing on the Ferengi for anthropology, right?"
"I've got some algorithmic stuff that needs doing, and I was planning to do it today. What say we go to the library and get that done before classes tomorrow?"
"Sure," Zia replied, smiling slightly.
They finished their breakfast and made a quick stop at their room to get their satchels before heading down to the library. It was snowing again and their boots sunk deep into the snow with every step. At one point Tara stumbled and face-planted into the snow, earning careless laughter from her Vulcan roommate.
"That's mean," Tara chuckled, spitting snow from her mouth. Zia helped her up and brushed snow from her clothes.
"I'm sorry, but it was so funny!" A large smile split her face and she picked up Tara's satchel from the ground.
"I never thought I'd see a Vulcan smile," she sighed. "C'mon. We don't want the library to be full by the time we get there."
"It's Sunday," Zia pointed out. "Most people did their homework yesterday and will be having fun or ice-skating like Blair is doing."
It was warm in the library and it wasn't too full or too empty. Of the eight-hundred or so cadets every year, that was a good number. They sat near some fourth-years and took their books out, getting started.
"I've got so much to write," Zia sighed.
"Better get started."
The Ferengi originate from the planet Ferenginar, in the centre of the Ferengi Alliance located in the Alpha Quadrant. Precisely what the Ferengi Alliance consisted of was never revealed; it may simply encompass Ferenginar and any uninhabited planets that the Ferengi have colonized, since there was little indication that the Ferengi government exercised authority over any species other than its own.
The Two Hundred Eighty-Five Rules of Acquisition compose the sacred code on which all of Ferengi society is based. They were first written down by Gint, the first Grand Nagus (the title of the leader of the Ferengi Alliance). The title 'Rules of Acquisition' was chosen as a clever marketing ploy (since the rules are merely guidelines) and Gint numbered his first rule one hundred sixty-two in order to create a demand for the other one hundred sixty-one Rules that had not yet been created.
Ferengi culture is so devoted to unregulated capitalism that concepts such as labour unions, sick leave, vacations, or paid overtime for workers are considered abhorrent, because they would interfere with the exploitation of workers. Ferengi workers don't particularly mind this system, because they all want to eventually gather enough wealth to become employers themselves, exploiting their own workers. In addition to the Rules, the Ferengi also recognize the five Stages of Acquisition: infatuation, justification, appropriation, obsession, and resale. The five Stages of Acquisition may be based on the five stages of grief.
The laws and society of the Ferengi were extremely harsh towards its women. Selling one's mother for gold-pressed latinum, the principal form of legal tender, is an act that would be looked on with admiration in Ferengi society. Moreover, female Ferengi were forbidden to learn to read, acquire profit, talk to strangers, or even wear clothes. They could only leave the house with the permission of the eldest male of the family. Ferengi women traditionally softened food for members of their family by chewing it (though not all females did this). The rules regarding females were not always followed; some females regularly wore clothes and talked to strangers. Given that Ferengi had no objection to doing business with women of other species, it can be reasonably assumed that their attitudes toward females had evolved over time. Female Ferengi gained the legal right to wear clothing and leave the house in 2215. Ferengi capitalism was coming under greater regulation, with historic changes towards left-wing politics and policies being made with respect to things such as universal health care, workers' rights, etc.
When welcoming guests into his home, a Ferengi male will recite a traditional greeting: "Welcome to our home. Please place your thumbprint on the legal waivers and deposit your admission fee in the slot by the door. Remember, my house is my house." The guest replies, "As are its contents". The notion that everything is for sale on Ferenginar is everywhere.
She continued to write, completing the section on culture. After that, it was religion, economics and trade, language, geography and architecture, the Ferengi Alliance, technology, and finally-
In ancient times the Ferengi and the Gree vied for control of their planet. Both bartered with their gods for the upper hand, until the Gree gave too much away, and became a food source for the Ferengi. Before uniting under a Nagus, Ferenginar was divided into warring Commerce Zones. This was known as the 'Barter Age'. In about the 9th Millennium B.C., Gint started writing the Rules of Acquisition, laying the basis for Ferengi society.
At some point between 1947 and 2151, the Ferengi purchased warp drive technology from the Breen. The technology was traded by a single Breen in exchange for ownership of several ice comets in the Ferengi solar system, as well as a small ice moon and all the Arctic regions on Ferenginar itself. The Breen then departed Ferengi space, never to return. It is a common Ferengi myth that he took the Arctic regions with him, but since Ferengi do not like to be in cold places, none have ever gone to check.
"I think I'm done!" Zia exclaimed.
"You're lucky," Tara groaned. Zia threw down her pen and leant back in her chair, rubbing her face tiredly. They'd skipped lunch in order to get their work done and Tara was still writing algorithmic equations and reflecting on each one.
"I'll go grab you some coffee," Zia said, standing up.
"Please do," Tara muttered. "I've still got two whole exercises to do."
Glad that she didn't do any of the advanced numeracy classes that Tara did, Zia zipped up her jacket and headed outside. The snow had stopped, which was a relief, and there was no wind, leaving everything eerily still. When she got there the Cafeteria was half-full of cadets stopping in for a snack. She poured two long blacks into mugs and covered them with her hands, heading back outside. There were a few other people crossing the Quad but no one stopped to chat. At least it would be getting warmer soon. As she reached the library, Professor Spock opened the door on his way out.
"Cadet," he said to get her attention.
"Yes Professor, what is it?"
"I was hoping I could speak with you."
"Uh, sure… just let me take some coffee to my roommate and I'll be right out."
She went into the library, thoroughly confused. What did he want to speak to her about? Was it her first piece of General Physics homework? After handing it in she'd realised that she'd written it in second-person and had mentally berated herself for not noticing. Maybe he was informing her of that. But his manner was too calm, too casual. She handed Tara a coffee and turned to head back out.
"Where're you going this time?" Tara asked, blowing on her coffee.
"Professor Spock wants to talk to me," Zia shrugged. "I think it's about the essay I wrote in second-person earlier in the week."
"Well don't keep him waiting," Tara said distractedly, glaring at her algorithmic textbook.
He was still there when Zia came outside, cradling her own coffee in her hands. She sipped it as they walked around the Quad, Professor Spock seeming to search for words.
"The Academy does not see many Vulcans," he said conversationally. "It was something of a surprise to have one in my class, and I do admit I am slightly curious. I grew up on Vulcan and knew all the others, but I have never seen you before."
"Oh, I didn't grow up on Vulcan, Professor," Zia stammered. Where was this going?
"Please, call me Spock. Where did you grow up?"
"Um, on Earth, but I don't really like to talk about it."
"Miss Abbott, I am telepathic." Amusement was seeping into his tone. "Most Vulcans are, and I do not have to be telepathic to know that something is wrong. In class you are distraught and that is not the Vulcan way. As a fellow Vulcan, I am concerned."
"I'm sorry, Professor, but I really don't want to talk about it."
Spock was looking at her calculatingly. "Allow me to share something about myself. Undoubtedly you have heard that I am half-Vulcan half-human. That is true. My mother is human and my father married her because she was an ambassador from Earth. Throughout my entire childhood, until I was twenty, my peers taunted me with insults about her. Growing up, my human side was most dominant and I lashed out a few times. At age twenty, I was accepted into the Vulcan Academy of Science and was due to begin Kolinahr, a ritual which would purge all emotion from me. However the counsellors claimed that I did well, despite my disadvantage of having a human mother. It was then that I realised that I would not be accepted on Vulcan, so I came here to the Academy. For the first year I endured curious looks and provocation, but that ceased quickly and as soon as I graduated I applied for a teaching position, and I have been teaching for over four years. Now I am more content than I have been in a long time."
As he said this, Zia was looking down at her shoes in embarrassment: partly because she was having a conversation this intimate with her Professor, and partly because she related but was too afraid to say so.
"Uh, I don't understand," she stuttered.
"Yes, you do," he said earnestly. "I believe that you know what it is like to be bullied. If you admit to it, I can help you."
She gave him a funny look. Spock had never paid her extra attention, and now he was offering to solve her problems. A night free of bad dreams was an attractive offer, but she still didn't know his reasons. "Why?"
"We are kindred spirits," he said simply. That wasn't the explanation she was looking for.
"No, that's not what I mean. I want to know why you're suddenly so interested."
"You and I are the same race, but you have not been taught the Vulcan way and that leaves you vulnerable. I wish to teach you how to bury your emotions."
"Look, I'm fine how I am."
She paled. "I was screaming in my sleep, wasn't I?"
"Oh God," she rubbed her face in annoyance. "Did I hurt anyone?"
"Only the side of my face, but I am alright."
Panic fluttered within her. The smell! It was him! "Are you okay?"
"I will be. Your roommate sought my help and I was able to mind-meld in time and calm you down. Now I wish to train you as a Vulcan, which will eliminate your nightmares."
They were passing a snow-covered bench and she brushed it off, sitting down. Spock sat beside her, his hands on his knees. "I was bullied," she said quietly, "every day. The whole school was against me. They called me names and beat me up after school. I had no one to talk to, save my parents, and I had my first episode when I was ten. I'd sleepwalked and attacked the neighbour's dog, waking everyone up, but I don't remember it. After that my parents sent me to a physiologist every day for extensive therapy and I calmed considerably, but occasionally I would wake up screaming. The bullying stopped mere months ago, just after I sent in my application to Starfleet. I spent all my time holed up at home, praying to be accepted. When I got the letter, I was overjoyed. I still carry the scars." She bowed her head. "I don't want to hurt anyone again. If you teach me the Vulcan way, it would save me from the psychologist again and my parents wouldn't worry as much. Although I do admit, a peaceful night is a welcome thought."
Spock met her eyes and while his face didn't change, she saw sympathy swirling in their depths. He had soft brown eyes, framed by his arched eyebrows and straight-cut black hair. Zia's eyes strayed to the tips of his ears, almost hidden in his hood, and she stared.
"Am I the first Vulcan you have seen?" he asked.
"Yeah," she nodded. "It's kinda weird."
"I have not seen any Vulcan, excluding my father, since I was twenty."
"So you're… twenty-eight? That's young for a professor."
"The Admiral took my race into account, despite my history with violence. Compared to humans, Vulcans score extremely high with academics."
The panic was gone, and Zia found that she was relaxed. It felt good to tell someone, even if it was her physics professor. He'd said that they were kindred spirits, and she believed him. Besides, he was only twenty-eight, and she was turning twenty that year during spring break. They were a similar age, and once Vulcans matured they aged slowly from then on. She didn't know when she would reach her maturity and didn't think about it.
"What will I need to do?" she asked.
"There is a Vulcan ritual called Kolinahr that purges all emotion. Certain aspects of the ritual, such as mediation and fasting, will be important for your recovery. You will need to learn the importance of logic and embrace your true nature. However you will never truly be one of them, as Vulcan children begin learning before they are four, and attend harsh schooling all through their childhood. You did none of this, so you will never be one with logic, but you can learn enough about it to bury your emotions."
"How long will it take?"
"That depends on how hard you work for it. Let us say you come to my office every two nights, to begin with?"
"I suppose to."
"Come tomorrow at six, after class. That should give you plenty of time to complete your homework."
Zia was beginning to feel cold. She'd never liked cold, preferring the stifling heat of summer. Now she wanted to curl up in a warm spot by herself and try to get everything sorted out.
"You are cold," Spock said. He reached out, but his hand dropped. At her questioning glance he elaborated. "The mind-meld is commonly activated by touch and Vulcans avoid touching whenever possible, for a mind-meld without permission is a breach of privacy."
"Understandable," she nodded. "I-I should go… Tara is probably wondering where I am."
"Yes." He stood and inclined his head, the Professor Façade falling into place. "Have a good day, cadet."
Once he was out of sight, Zia stood and tossed her empty coffee cup in a bin before running to the library. Tara was sleeping with her face on her textbook, her homework finished. Zia grabbed a pen and nudged Tara's nose, causing it to twitch. Smiling, she nudged harder and a hand came to swat it away.
"Wake up," Zia whispered. Tara snorted and flew up, her hair mussed and eyes squinted.
"Leave me alone!" she whined, hitting Zia's shoulder.
"It's four, and we've been in here since nine. We should see if we can catch an early dinner."
"Good idea." Yawning, Tara stood and slowly gathered her things, Zia doing the same beside her. The library had slowly filled throughout the day and several cadets laughed in a corner while others read books or wrote paragraphs.
"You look really tired," Zia said as they left.
"I am. So you've got the anthropology file done?"
"Yes. I'm doing oceanography as soon as I can. You should do the same thing!"
"I'd love to, but I can't. My subjects are very different and I can't just write down information. For a couple of them I work on just computers and for the rest I have to write equations and learn extremely difficult algorithms. Thank whoever is listening that we have weekends! I wouldn't survive without them." Tara swept her hair behind her ears and smiled at a pair of men that they passed. One looked Zia up and down, while the other had eyes for Tara. Zia shifted and turned her head, showing her ears. Surprisingly, he didn't look away. He smiled and something fluttered in her chest. No, she couldn't afford distractions. Any man spelt trouble – she knew that. Besides, she had serious trust issues and wouldn't open up to anyone easily.
As soon as the men were out of sight Tara spun to face her roommate. "They were totally handsome! And the brunette liked what he saw with you."
"Tara, I am not here to date. You know I have trust issues."
"Good point. Since you aren't going to date, I'm going to enjoy seeing you put down all the guys who ask you out."
"That's not likely. I've never been asked out in my life."
Yet she couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling that things had changed, and that Tara was right.