Disclaimer: Falsehood is illogical...(S'not mine)
"Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important."-Janet Lane
August 22: Too damn early to be awake.
Sometimes I wished I wasn't so lazy; I really did.
If only I had studied for that stupid midterm, I would be snuggled deep into the welcoming warmth of my blankets, my only concern hoping that the line wasn't too bad at my favorite coffee shop. But, nooo, I had to blow off then entire class. How was I to know that my father and Professor Green were such good friends that he would bargain to push me through to a field study/ grade redemption trip?
If I didn't need this class….stupid Gen Ed!
Eh-hem-hem! The Following is a Dramatic Reenactment of 30 minutes ago:
"Goooood Morning fellow Terrans! Today is Monday, August the 22, and it is 06:00 here on the Anapolis-"
I dispense quick and violent punishment to the portable comm unit on my bedside table. Take that!
I rolled over and tucked my head back under the covers.
"Attention all personnel!"
For the love of-!
"We are now entering Vulcan space. Estimated time of arrival is 19 minutes. Please collect your belongings and prepare to disembark."
I threw back the covers and scrambled out of bed. I quickly scrubbed myself clean in the bathroom and managed to quickly rake a brush through my hair. I quickly pulled on some clothes while brushing my teeth, only managing to gag myself once as I tugged a dark blue long sleeve tee shirt over my head. My khakis were slightly wrinkled from being crumpled at the bottom of my duffle, but they would have to do. Who am I trying to impress anyway?
All of my belongings were stuffed, wadded, and crammed into the black nylon bag. My shoes were basic (see: cheap) and worn, but still usable. I skidded into the disembarkment bay with seconds to spare. Luckily, none of my bleary eyes classmates seemed to notice my tardiness.
"Grayson, Amanda," the professor called.
"Here!" I answered without thinking, throwing my hand up into the air like a kindergartener. Eleven other pairs of bleary, sleep clouded eyes watched with all of the curiosity of a cow looking at an oncoming train.
Can anybody say 'Awkward?'
Professor Green stared me down for a moment longer, then returned to calling the role. "Harding, Valerie?"
"Ready for action!" Ah yes, His Majesty, our Royal Pain in the Ass. Now where are his loyal idiots.
"You always are."
"That's what she said!"
Never mind. Found 'em.
Professor rolled his eyes and finished calling out the remaining names on the roster. Finally satisfied none of us had been lost during the voyage; not for lack of trying on my part, all of the airlocks were sealed. Damn you Safety Code!
Now I am squished on a shuttle between Valerie 'I-want-to-make-a-difference-in-the-world' Harding and Frederick 'I-love-every-bone-in-your-body-especially-mine' Thompson.
How much farther?
"Alright class," Professor Green stood up at the front of the classroom and tried to look seriously at us. Or maybe he needed to sneeze. "We'll be docking in Shi'Kar in about 3 minutes, so I want to go over proper behavior. Remember, first impressions are important and you are representing me-uh-the Academy. Understand?"
Yes, we all understand that this is something that you are banking your entire reputation on, which I'm sure is why you chose to bring us of all people...
"Good, now let's go over some ground rules shall we?"
Great, now he's going to tell us to 'use our inside voices' and 'look with our eyes not with our hands'.
Everyone grunted which he took as our complete and enthusiastic agreement.
"Excellent. Now, we have already been over a few examples of Vulcan etiquette, can anyone give us an example of proper procedure for greeting a Vulcan?"
Valerie's hand shot into the air. Both of mine remained folded in my lap where they belonged. Never let it be said that I was an overachiever.
"Yes, Miss Harding?"
"Upon meeting a Vulcan, it is important to remember to clear your face of all emotion."
She recited, then attempted to force her features into indifference. She just looked confused and vaguely hungry.
"Secondly, you must avoid all mention of emotion in conversation as it is perceived as "illogical" and "rude"."
Awww, you mean I can't talk about my feelings?
"Finally, and most importantly, under no circumstances should you make any form of physical contact with a Vulcan as it will be considered tantamount to harassment."
I feel a hugging spree in my future.
"Exceptional Miss Harding, as always!" Valerie preened.
"Now, as for the rest of you, take Miss Harding's words to heart-" I'll write them down in my diary "-And remember to behave yourselves!"
Again, more grunts. I think Liam might actually be asleep though. No, he's just zoned out. As usual.
The shuttle ride slowed to a stop, the door hissing open.
"Destination Shi'Kar reached. The temperature is 47.2222 degrees Celsius-" Are you kidding me? "-and there is a light breeze of 2.3745 knots blowing from the East. Disembark slowly as to avoid injury and experience a satisfactory visit for the duration of your stay on Vulcan."
And I didn't think that computer voices could be any flatter. Also, what happened to 'Enjoy your stay?'
I was one of the last to step off of the shuttle, the heat smacking me in the face like sandpaper. It was so hot, the ground seemed to shimmer, but dry as the hot white sand that burned your feet before you managed to dash to the water at the beach. It almost burned.
I lifted a hand to shield my eyes from the sun and looked over at the professor who seemed to be engrossed in a holographic map. Valerie was still trying to school her features in what I guessed she thought was indifference.
Note to self: If short on cash, ask Valerie to play poker.
Fred and his cronies, Liam and Spencer seemed to be playing a game that consisted of kicking a small rock like a soccer ball. They didn't seem to care that it was coating their clothes in the dark red dirt of the ground. Idiots.
Later...at some kind of hotel thingy...I guess it was a hotel...
Between the six of us making up the group, we took up three rooms. One for Professor Green by himself, lucky bastard, one for the boys, all three of them, and one for Harding and me. Joy.
I opened the door to the room and stepped in first, Valerie stumbled behind me, dragging her two full size suitcases. She knows we're only going to be here for a couple of weeks, right?
I set my own duffle on the bed farthest from the door. I stretched for a minute, rubbing the sudden soreness that had developed in my back. Ugh, I'm not old enough to have these problems...
"Well!" Harding set her suitcases down with a huff and stood back proudly surveying the room. "I'm going to have a shower, do you mind if I go first? Thanks."
Unzipping one of her suitcases she withdrew a pink, waterproof-looking bag and disappeared into the adjoining chamber. Wait...
I looked at the wall again. There were two doors. One obviously led into the bathroom as I heard my roomate's reaction to what was not doubt a sonic shower ("Eek! Oh, how clever!") Ah, yes, the joys of waterless bathing. Eww...
There was another door that was much closer to me. Now, I would be the first person to tell you that I don't know the first thing about Vulcans, I caught up on more sleep in that class than in my math class, which was saying something, especially when we started learning about algorithms and- Anyway: The point IS That even I knew that Vulcans were weird about their personal space, but wouldn't having two separate bathrooms, teeter on the edge of the absurd? Oh, excuse me, I mean illogical?
Curiosity piqued, I walked over to the door, and, after playing with it for a few moments, it slid open sideways to reveal a small, dimly lit chamber, larger than a closet, but not by much. The walls were painted a soft terra cotta color, the same hue as the dirt outside and there was a woven mat on the center of the floor. I could see a large, earthenware pot in one corner of the room. Long sticks protruded from the mouth like the pitiful remains of an abandoned plant. I inhaled and immediately recognized the spicy scent. Incense?
Suddenly, all of the pieces clicked. This was a meditation room. I vaguely remembered Professor droning on at some length about the importance of meditation in Vulcan society...At least, I think it was meditation, I couldn't really think of a reason that Vulcans would be so dependant on medication that they could devote up to three hours on it...Hah, Vulcan pill poppers...
I am so easily amused.
Still chuckling to myself, I slid the door shut and walked back to the left over bed. I unzipped my duffle bag to reveal a mix of crammed and rolled up clothing. I pulled out several long sleeve tee shirts in basic neutrals, assorted pants in khaki, gray, and denim, my student uniform, a navy monstrosity, and two different formal outfits that my mother insisted I bring (read as: she stuffed them in at the last minute while I was distracted).
I was shaking wrinkles loose from my uniform skirt, when the bathroom door hissed open to reveal a freshly "showered" Valerie.
"Much better," she purred, strutting across the room to peer at her suitcases, I repressed a snort at her choice of sleepwear. A short pink nightdress, decorated with tubes of lipstick. What is she, six?
I grabbed my favorite sleep shirt, orange with black lettering "It's not my planet, Monkey Boy!" (What can I say, I couldn't resist!) and walked into the bathroom. It was just a shower, how bad could it be?
One Horrifyingly Scarring Twenty Minutes Later...
I stumbled back out of the bathroom, showered and ears still ringing; it took a second for me to notice that Valerie was speaking, and another thirty for me to start listening.
"-on the comm. Said to just order room service tonight, we would travel to one of the Vulcan academies in the morning."
Valerie whipped out a menu triumphantly. "I hope you don't mind, but I am dying to sample some traditional Vulcan dishes. It's so important to really get the full experience, don't you think?"
If it has tentacles, she is eating it...that's all I'm saying.
I shrugged eloquently, and fell back onto the bed. Ow, shit! That is one hard mattress! I'm gonna have bruises! Oh, god my spine...
Harding continued to gleefully order on the room comm unit, oblivious to my pain. Bitch.
After the Feeling Returned to My Extremities and One Delivery Later...
It was looking at me. My fork was heavy in my hand, still frozen in position, poised to dig in to "scrumptious" meal ordered by recently dubbed "Vulcan Loving Witch" picking at her own delicacy from where she sat on the other bed.
"The Vulcans," she was saying "don't believe in the consumption of meat. They find it 'barbaric' and 'illogical' when it is possible to sustain life without the consumption of sentient, living creatures."
I'm calling bullshit on that one, considering that the squirmy blue thing on my plate has yet to sit still!
Taking a deep breath, I glowered at the still twitching blue lump on my plate. Suck it up, Grayson! Are you a man or a mouse? Well, technically, I wasn't either, but-well, nevermind!
I valiantly stuck a piece of the blue squirmy thing onto my fork and lifted it slowly towards my mouth. I looked around the room, trying to focus on anything other than what I was about to put in my mouth. My lips closed around the tines of the fork...
Five minutes Later...
"I don't have any idea what made you sick, Vulcan food is non toxic to humans," Valerie mumbled as she covered the dishes to be sent back to the kitchen. If I could have summoned the strength, I would have made a rude gesture. As it was, I retained my death grip on the toilet, head bent over the bowl.
Finally, after I had emptied the entire contents of my stomach as well as possibly several of my internal organs, I slumped back onto the cool tile. Ahh...much better...
I lay still for several minutes until Harding popped her head in. "I'm feeling a little shuttle-lagged, so I'm going to call it a night? Are you ready to go to bed?"
Again, if I could have summoned the strength...
I shook my head, just the barest movement, that had me once again dry heaving.
Valerie padded back to her own bed and the room went dark as she powered down the lights.
The next Morning...
I had nothing apart from coffee for breakfast, I wasn't taking anymore chances. Valerie once again sampled local fare, chattering animatedly to anyone who would listen about the virtues of the pointy-eared hobgoblins.
I glowered at her over the rim of my coffee cup, wishing her the joys of food poisoning. I felt marginally better now, but still achy. The way I usually felt after being sick.
"Don't you think you've had enough coffee?" Joey tentatively said as I stood up to go to the replicator. I looked at him, refusing to dignify him with a response. There was no such thing as too much coffee.
At the Academy...
Professor Green apparently had friends in high places as he managed to finagle his way into having our group not only taken on a tour of one of the Vulcan academies, but he also said that we would be meeting some of the students from the Vulcan Science Corps. Huh, I think I've heard of that one...
As we marched on behind our Vulcan escort, I felt a presence next to me. I looked and then muffled a groan. Apparently, Valerie had taken it upon herself to instruct me on Vulcan culture.
"I can't believe this, really! We are actually going to meet a group from the Vulcan Science Corps! They are an elite group, the best of the best, even by Vulcan standards! Did you know that they are responsible for-" And then, thankfully, I was able to tune her out.
The most interesting thing I noticed about the entire tour was the architecture. If Vulcans were supposed to be completely logical beings, would that mean they valued efficiency? I mean, they had developed sonic showers to conserve water! So, if they were a bare minimum kind of race...why were all of the rooms so large? I craned my neck to look at the ceiling. It reminded me of a Cathedral my parents had taken me to visit as a child, I felt that similar thrill of amazement at the high arches.
Valerie continued to drone in my ear like an obnoxious bee. I continued to ignore both her, and the tour.
Life was good.
...And, the moment we (Valerie and Professor Green) have all been waiting for...
We finally reached one of the lecture halls, where the tour guide informed us that the VSC representatives would be waiting inside.
Everyone filed in and tooks seats. Valerie, of course, chose to sit next to me. There is no God...
My fingers itched to run through my hair, but I had pulled in back into a bun to keep it off of my face and neck. I was starting to wish that I hadn't when the doors slid open again and three figures filed in; they all had matching ramrod straight postures and a gliding gait.
I noted as they took their places, that two of them seemed to defer to their companion. He took the position at the forefront. I observed him, since he was closest.
He was tall, at least six feet, more likely closer to six and a half. He wore heavy robes in a rather drab gray color, but they did serve to emphasize the breadth of his shoulders. He kinda looks like a coat hanger...
His black hair was ridiculously shiny and straight, but in a severe and funny looking bowl shape. His ears were pointed. They knifed up through his thick hair, obliterating any chance the guy had of being taken for Terran, not that he had much of one anyway.
I couldn't really make out his features from where I was sitting, and to be honest, I didn't really care. I just sat up a little straighter in my seat when I noticed the professor looking at me, and tried to pay attention. Hopefully, if I looked like I was interested in something else Vulcan, Valerie wouldn't continue to tell me how great they were.
"Greetings," the Vulcan intoned, raising one hand in what I supposed was a traditional salute. "I am called Sarek and I am an astrophysicist in the Vulcan Science Corps."
Good for you buddy. Could you be any less excited?
The other scientists introduced themselves, but I quickly tuned out, now that the Professor was no longer focused on me and Valerie was practically drooling over the automatons. I mean, really? What does she see in them?
As the presentation continued, I began to fold my hands into the material of my shirt, trying to conceal my fingers with my sleeves without pulling my shirt out of shape. It was a game that I had perfected as a child. Folding my arms in my lap beneath the desk, I began to play,tangling my fingers in the gray fabric and curling my hands into fists. I had almost made one hand completely invisible when I felt a prickle on the back of my neck. Someone was staring at me.
First, I darted glance to both sides. Nope, Valerie and the professor were still absorbed in the presentation. The idiots seemed to be staring at the Vulcans too, but I think that they had spent the night practicing Liam's talent of sleeping with his eyes open. Lucky...No, wait I think Joey is actually taking notes. Is there a test later? Nah, just doodling. Nevermind...
So that left only...I looked up and, sure enough, the Vulcan that had spoken first was now watching me with intensity. Well, kind of a blank intensity since his expression had not changed. Impossible as it may sound, the alien was totally pulling it off. Apparently, no one bothered to inform the physicist here, that staring was rude.
I brought my hands slowly out from under the desk and set them in front of me, the material sliding over my knuckles with the movement. Was is possible for black eyes to darken?
I looked at the Vulcan until he dragged his gaze from my hands to look me in the eyes. I raised an eyebrow. What?
Then, the unthinkable happened.
A faint green tinge spread over the unshakeable Vulcan's high cheekbones. Uh-oh. Was he going to be sick?
I leaned back in my chair and uncurled my hands to lace my fingertips together in both a nervous gesture and a plea for help. I dropped my eyes as the green seemed to be getting darker. Dear whatever-it-is-that-makes-this-universe-work, Please don't let the alien vomit on me!
I darted a quick look back up and noticed that the Vulcan had faded from green back to a more normal pale color, and that he was now studiously looking away from me.
I repressed a snort. Like his sudden nausea was my fault...Wait, why that arrogant son of a-!
The jerk must hate humans! The sight of them made him sick! Why that lousy- (The following comments were censored due to their graphic content) -IDIC my ass!
I was fuming by the time we left. Sure, I wasn't one of the best examples of the human aesthetic, but to actually look like he was going to throw-up? That was unbelieveable!
Later...at lunch time...
I jumped as Valerie set a bowl full of some kind of soup in front of me. It was reddish in color, similar to tomato soup, but looked thicker, more like a bisque than a broth.
"What's this?" My tone was a mix of surprise and suspicion. Knowing Harding, this had to be-
"Plomeek soup! A Vulcan staple!"
-I knew it!
I glowered at the bowl in front of me, holding it responsible for the crime of carrying a Vulcan dish. The ceramic just sat there innocently. Bastard.
Looking at all of the other students who were poking, prodding, nibbling, and gagging their way through the lunch, I swallowed hard and picked up my spoon. At least it's not squirming this time.
I blew on it lightly, then slipped a spoonful into my mouth. Hmmm...tastes like...nothing really, wait, maybe a hint of red pepper.
Well, it wasn't bad, so that put it miles above any other Vulcan food I had tasted to date. I finished the bowl and pushed it away, avoiding Valerie's smugly indifferent look. Yeah, I'm not sure how she pulled it off, either. I sipped my water and glanced around the room. It would appear that we were in a cafeteria of sorts. I could see many Vulcan students sitting in groups at various tables, some were talking, others appeared to be studying. I guess some things never change. A college cafeteria is a college cafeteria.
"Eat it! Eat it! Eat it!"
I turned to the chorus behind me, just as Joey Graham lifted a forkful of squirmy blue evil to his mouth. I wouldn't do that if I were you...
I didn't say it out loud, of course. It wouldn't make any difference, at this point, Joey was deaf to everything other than the cheers of his audience and the screeching of his own pride. I felt my stomach twinge in sympathy as he swallowed and had to look away, taking another long drink of my water.
Later, some time in the afternoon, hard to tell, actually...I can't read the clocks here...
Finally! Some free time!
We were set loose to run off some energy after lunch before we would regroup and continue on to our next activity, whatever that was, I wasn't listening. The minute Professor Green turned us loose, we scattered like pool balls to various corners of the courtyard. I lifted my bag from my shoulder and set it beneath one of the shrubs, looking at my personal PADD for a moment before lifting it and taking it with me. I sat cross-legged on one of the benches and turned it on, but instead of searching for reading material, I opened a game of Sudoku.
Now, I didn't like math, barely managing to pass the classes, but for some reason, I was ridiculously adept at Sudoku, mad skills I tell you!
I started a new game and quickly raced up through the levels, the quiet beeping of the game as comforting as the right answers that accompanied them. I was so completely engrossed that I didn't notice that I was being watched until a shadow fell over my gaze. Ahh! I've gone blind!
I looked up into a pair of gray robes. Following the lines of the subtle design, I looked up (and up and up) until finally meeting the dark alien gaze of the astrophysicist from earlier.
"Hello," I mumbled. Was I bothering someone or something? Does he want to tell me that I disgust him in person?
"Greetings." His hands were folded behind his back which was as stick straight as ever. I wonder if it hurts...
"Err...are you going to sit down?" Or stop looming over me anytime soon?
He sat down on the opposite side of the bench, nearly as far away from me as possible. Ooookaaayyyy...
"I inquire as to the current object of your attentions."
Apparently, he couldn't just ask 'what are you doing?'
"Umm...my PADD?" He frowned. I guess that wasn't the answer he wanted...
"Indeed, I was inquiring as to the current program that has obtained your interest."
Ah...he wants to know what game I am playing...
"It's called 'Sudoku', it's a g-" Whoops, don't day the g-word! "-program, where you are solving the puzzle square by inserting the correct numbers into the blanks...Um...here!"
I scooched closer to him, uncrossing my legs and sitting properly on the bench. I purposefully ignored the way the Vulcan tensed at my closer proximity. "Let me show you."
I quickly saved the puzzle I was working on and pulled up a new one on the same level. "This is a puzzle square. Do you seem how within the larger square, there are smaller squares of three by three?"
"Good. Okay, the object of the game is that each row and each column must contain the numbers 1-9 as well as each of the smaller squares without repeats."
"Fascinating." One winged eyebrow rose, though his expression did not change. It was quite odd looking actually.
"Yep! The listed numbers are hints and the more accomplished you become, the less numbers there are and more you have to figure out."
"Would you like to try it?"
He nodded and reached out the take the PADD from my hand. I wasn't sure, but I think I felt a brush of inhumanly warm skin against my own, but that was ridiculous. Right?
Dark alien eyes, quickly scanned over the puzzles, and he began to enter numbers, long fingers delicately sliding over device. It was solved in seconds.
As the Vulcan handed the solved Sudoku puzzle back to me, he remarked. "That is a stimulating, if rudimentary logic puzzle." His voice held no hint of question, but I could still sense the disbelief.
"I use it as a brain teaser to keep myself sharp." Well, that and they were addicting...really addicting...
"You...are a follower of logic?"
I shrugged. Not really, but it would be kind of rude to say that, huh? "That's one way of putting it."
"That is unexpected. I had only anticipated a 24.315 percent probability of such a satisfactory possibility," he murmured. I didn't think he realized that I could hear him.
"Cool." I can't really say anything else...I mean, he said 'satisfactory' so I guess that means something good...right?
"I request clarification."
"Err...for Sudoku?" I thought I explained it already.
"Negative. You are experiencing a drop in temperature that is...uncomfortable to your inferior body?"
"No, not at all!" It was hotter than Hell! Was this guy crazy? And what did he mean by 'inferior'?
"Then I requested clarification as to the reason behind your use of the Standard word 'cool' 8.794 seconds ago."
Dinner Time...Sort of...I Guess...Whatever...
Instead of waiting for Valerie to spring on me whatever Vulcan 'delicacy' had caught her fancy, I decided to replicate my own meal. Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account that I could not read Vulcan. Of course...
I scrubbed a hand over my mouth and glowered at the replicator, trying to intimidate it into making sense. Although, I really couldn't lose my temper over the fact that Vulcan replicators were in Vulcan, it didn't stop me from becoming frustrated.
After a few more pointless minutes consisting of my staring down a machine, I felt a presence behind me. Courteously, I stepped to the side. "Go ahead, I'm going to be here for a while."
"I deduce from your tone that you are experiencing difficulty."
Is he following me or something?
I turned around and looked at the physicist; I still hadn't bothered to learn his name, I probably couldn't pronounce it anyway. "No, I'm just..." Dark eyes bored into me. "Yeah, I'm having some trouble," I finished in a mumbled, dropping my eyes.
"I see," he rumbled. He stepped toward the machine. "I detect no evidence of mechanical or technological malfunction, so I calculate a 89.553 percent possibility that you have a deficient knowledge of Vulcan language." It wasn't a question.
"Yeah, it's not really a strong point for me, no offense," I said quickly, not wanting to insult him in case he tattled to Professor Green.
"To be offended is illogical. As it is not possible for you to contract sufficient linguistics skills without intensive study, or the assistance of a mind meld, it is only logical that I replicate your meal for you. What do you wish to consume?"
"Err, I'm not sure, I don't really have a lot of experience with Vulcan food..." wait, there was that one thing that didn't make me nauseous. "Um...I like plomeek soup?" I lilted up at the end, hoping that I'd pronounced it correctly.
The Vulcan nodded and I could detect a hint of approval. He pressed a few buttons and within seconds there was a bowl of the familiar rust colored soup. He handed it to me and I accepted it. "Great thanks! I'm starved!"
The Vulcan went rigid. "Thanks are illogical. I request clarification."
"Er...for why I said 'thank you'?" What's wrong with this guy now?
"Negative. Explain how and why you are being deprived of essential nutrients." Is that just me, or does he sound angry. Not in a human way, but in a clipped, calm-before-the-storm way.
"No, it's my fault. I think I've confused you. I'm not being starved...it's a human turn of phrase. A, um, hyperbole!" That's the word!
He didn't slump in relief or anything so obvious, but the air around him was suddenly less tense. His eyes softened slightly. "That is acceptable."
"Yeah, acceptable...I'm going to go eat now..." I trailed off uncertainly, feeling unfinished and vaguely rude without saying 'thank you'.
He nodded. "Live long and prosper."
"You too." Clutching my soup bowl like it was a precious life line, I scuttled back to the table where the rest of my classmates were boldly sampling numerous Vulcan dishes, expressions etched in varying stages of trepidation.
I sat down very quietly and slipped a spoonful of soup into my mouth, trying not to look smug. Ha-ha!
Couple of Days Later...
I think I'm being followed.
Or stalked at least...
Maybe my luck is just that bad...
At any rate, it seems that everywhere I go, the astrophysicist suddenly appears, whether it's to play another game of Sudoku or to request clarification on a Terran term which involves me stumbling over my words more than anything else. I was starting to get paranoid.
No one else seemed to notice. I briefly considered mentioning it to Valerie 'Soooo, have Vulcans been known to stalk people or play games with them, or ask the verbally inept to explain human idioms? Hmm?'
Yeah, I could imagine how well that would go.
I shook my head to myself as the shuttle landed. We were halfway, through the trip and Professor had decided "to give us a chance to explore on our own, so that we really grasped the nuances of interaction with the Vulcan culture."
This statement could also be read as: "I'm sick of all of you and don't want to see your for the next four hours. Now begone!"
Worked for me.
I had only moderate trouble making my way to one of the, as Valerie assured me, "many" gardens in Shi'Kar, and was now seated on a bench, enjoying the pleasantly spicy perfume of the exotic plants around me and tapping away at an email to my mother.
"...miss you too. See you soon. Mandy." I finished and hit the send button, watching as the email vanished into a graphic of being sent away. I set my PADD to one side and looked around at the garden. Surprisingly lush plants spilled across the arid ground. Several sparsely placed trees provided just barely enough shade to lie under and elegantly carved stone benches were set strategically to provide the best views. It was a very peaceful place, something I would not expect from a race that prided itself on having no emotions. A sudden shadow appeared over me and I already knew without looking, exactly who it was.
"Hello again," I sighed.
I scooted over to one side of the bench and the physicist sat down, but instead of immediately firing off obscenely long and complex questions, he paused and seemed to focus at a spot on the ground for a moment. I looked too, but I didn't think ferns were that interesting.
"So," I finally said, feeling unbelievably awkward. "What brings you here today?"
"I am inquiring as to your amenability to the partaking of nutrients together this evening." Well, that was the weirdest way to ask a question, ever.
I'm not sure why, but I found myself nodding. It probably had something to do with the way he was staring at me. There was no expression on his face, but I somehow had the impression that he was using 'puppy dog' eyes; I was certain of it. Or else, it was some kind of Vulcan mind trick. Nah...
"That sounds...acceptable." Stick with what works, that's my motto.
"That is pleasing," Was is possible for a blank expression to perk up? "I shall collect you from your lodgings at 1800 hours."
He stood. "Live long and Prosper." Then he was gone, in a swish of gray robes. I wonder how he keeps them clean in all this dirt?
I guess some mysteries are never meant to be solved.
Back at the hotel-thingy...
"Where are you going?"
"Huh?" I mumbled eloquently, searching my bag for anything not crumpled. I was looking everywhere, but at the long maxi dress on the bed. It was out of the question. This wasn't a date. I had managed to convince myself that the physicist was just making sure that I wasn't, in fact, being starved. Man, I really need to learn to watch my mouth.
"I said. 'Where are you going?'"
I grabbed a pale green button down and a pair of mostly unwrinkled slacks. I was always tan, but this color turned that into an asset. Also, it was of the only things that was clean. I tucked the pants down into my uniform boots, my sneakers were dust covered and starting to look ratty. My hair was as uncooperative as ever, so I French braid the top half away from my face and combine it with the rest that I managed to corral into a bun. It didn't look too bad, and what's better, it would keep it out of my face. The dirt would make it clump together and washing your hair in a sonic shower was no treat. Ugh...
"Out where?" Valerie whined as I exited the bathroom. Honestly, did she EVER stop?
"Just out. I'm going for something to eat." I snapped. It wasn't entirely untrue. I was going for something to eat.
"Sound great!" She chirped. "I'll come too!" She moved to slide off the bed, but I held up a hand.
"Just to let you know. I'm going out for human food," I warned, inwardly grinning.
"Oh," she looked put out. "But why? It's our last day here." Her tone suggested that it ruin the experience for me. Like I cared.
"That's why I'm celebrating!" I said with false sincerity. "I'll be going now. See you later."
I made it to the lobby right at 1800 hours and was not surprised to see the physicist walk into the lobby at the same time. He looked like the kind of person that would be prompt.
"Greetings," he said as I reached him. As usual.
"Hello," I murmured, noticing that, for once, he wasn't wearing his usual robes. Instead, he was wearing a dark, uniform looking outfit. Turns out, he didn't look like a coat hanger at all. His broad shoulders tapered to a leanly muscled torso. His legs looked long and powerful. You know, in the right light, he could almost be...
"Let us depart."
I followed him as we exited the lobby to see where a sleek black hover car was waiting. I slid in as he opened the door. The inside was luxurious, but not plush. Comfortable.
He slid in after me and the door closed behind him. There was a hum as the car started and we pulled away.
I stayed on my side of the car, crossing my right leg over my left, and facing towards the window. It was a long ride as the physicist wasn't one for idle conversation, and I couldn't think of anything to say off hand. Wait.
"Where are we going?"
"It seems logical to discuss this matter at my place of residence."
"Oh." Well, he didn't look like a serial-killer...
"This is not satisfactory?"
"It's fine. As long as you aren't, you know, planning to murder me or something."
On black winged brown, rose sharply. "That would be highly illogical."
20 Minutes Later...
The physicist lived in a castle.
I'm serious. It had at least one hundred rooms. And a turret. A turret!
Our boots clicked on the stone as he led me through one enormous chamber after the other until we walked through another set of double doors onto an enormous terrace. A large table was set sparsely yet elegantly set with plates, cutlery, and several covered dishes.
He walked to the end of the table and pulled out a chair. I stared at him, he waited. Oh!
I walked over and took a seat. Vulcans must run at a higher temperature than humans because I could feel the heat from his body behind me.
He took his own seat, the table wasn't overly large, it would seat maybe six, so there wasn't that much space between us. I noticed that my glass was full of some kind blue fluid that seemed to be the consistency of wine. I picked up the glass, testing the weight in my hand and peering into the contents. The physicist made some hand gesture and two or three Vulcans glided onto the terrace to remove the lids of the covered dishes.
While all of it was alien, pun intended, I did recognize a couple of things. There was a tureen of plomeek soup, several kinds of salad, and, to my horror, a bowl of that disgusting wriggly blue whatever.
I am not eating that again! I don't care what they do!
I picked up my bowl and ladled soup into it, I also snatched tiny scoops of different kinds of salad while ignoring the Blue Fruit of Death. I looked over to see that he had done the same, except, he had a small clump of blue wriggling on one corner of his plate. Yuzz. Though, considering that this was his planet, I couldn't really hold it against him.
We ate in uncomfortable silence; not because of the the atmosphere, it was a nice night (for Vulcan anyway) It was just awkward; too quiet. Still, if this was some kind of weird, Vulcan technique to make me feel uncomfortable (Yes, I know that is an illogical explanation, no one asked you!) it wasn't going to work. I wouldn't talk until he did. So there.
Ten minutes later...
"...so..." I trailed off, looking up from my empty soup bowl. The Vulcan was staring at me again, his face blank, but his eyes still radiating intensity. "What did you want to talk about?"
The physicist's eyes dropped down for just a moment, before he stood up, walking around the table to approach me. I stood up, our height difference was ridiculous as it was, I wasn't going to make it worse by remaining seated.
I walked with him, out across the balcony to look over the desert. The darkness was almost oppressive, wrapping around us, blocking out the world around us as he stared down at me. There was at least six inches of space between us, and I could feel the cool stone beneath my fingertips. I saw his chest rise, just a little more, as he breathed a little bit deeper, before he turned to face me directly.
"After intensive research, I have concluded that, based upon the results of our previous encounters, we are compatible."
"Compatible?" I was shocked, but managed to keep my voice level.
I think that's what he always said when he was confused.
If possible, he stood even straighter. "I was imprecise. I wish to declare koon ut so l'ik."
Ah, now it all made sense.
I still had no clue what he was talking about...no clue. "Um...okay...what would that entail, exactly?"
He shifted slightly and that same pale green color tipped his pointed ears. I watched him with growing trepidation, suddenly hyper-aware of the fact that I had no idea where I was and what was worse, no one else did, either. Great...dammit!
"It would involve a companionable alliance..." he spoke slowly, almost carefully, lie he was either collecting his thoughts or trying not to offend me. I repressed a snort; as if Vulcans cared whether they offended anyone or not since it was 'illogical' to feel offense according to Valerie. Still, I supposed, he was making the effort...
"You mean, like a...friendship?" I winced as my voice trailed off into a question.
The physicist blinked slowly. "Affirmative. A friendship would be intrinsic to the function of the association."
Okay...Was it just me, or did he look slightly nervous?
His face remained impassive, apart from the green tinge, but his shoulders were tense and his posture so rigid it was a wonder his spine didn't snap. I stared at him, not meaning to be rude, just confused. As the silence stretched on, the alien grew impossibly more tense. I followed the taut tendons in his throat up past the line of his jaw.
His features were sharp, but not unpleasant, he seemed to exude some kind of quiet authority. His dark hair looked glossy even in the dim light, and over the course of the last several days, I'd started to become used to the ears. I still thought they were a little weird, of course, but they no longer bothered me. His eyes were dark and intense, watching me closely. He seemed to be waiting for something...
Oh! He'd asked me if I wanted to be friends, I think. Blinking rapidly, I thought about it for another split second. What could it hurt?
"Sure, okay." I shrugged, the rushed to explain as I saw one black brow shoot up. "I mean! I...uh...find your...offer acceptable?"
The vulcan blinked, his expression betraying no emotion, but his posture was no longer so rigid, his spine was still straight as a ramrod, but it no longer seemed in danger of snapping. His eyes no longer reminded me of shiny, black marbles; instead they were almost soft. It was so intense, I had to look away.
"Um...this has been an...interesting...experience, but I really should be going back..." I wiped my suddenly sweaty palms on my jeans before lacing my fingers together in a nervous gesture. His gaze dropped to my hands and that same familiar green tinge spread over his high cheekbones.
"Indeed, I shall return you to your lodgings."
But he made no move to leave the balcony; instead he slowly extended his hand to me, a human gesture like he-
-wants to shake hands? Wow! I am really making strides in interspecies tolerance here.
I smiled my first genuine smile since meeting him and extended my own hand.
His skin was much hotter than mine, almost burning as his large hand wrapped around mine, squeezing gently, his fingers contracting so delicately, it was like he was afraid my inferior hand would snap off at the wrist. I just waited politely for him to let go, when I felt something start to press against my brain.
Like a tension headache during finals week, it started just above my eyes before digging deeper into the recesses of my mind. It felt like a nail was being driven directly into the core of my brain.
I winced as the pressure became crushing before, suddenly, it was gone, vanishing like it was never there. I blinked, still waiting for the headache to return, but it didn't and I refocused on the physicist who was still watching me.
"Are we ready to go?"
He nodded and I followed him out to the car, being more careful than normal not to touch him. Man, my head hurts!
Back at the hotel...
I stepped out of the hovercar without waiting for him to open the door, ignoring a sudden twinge of disapproval.
I stopped at the entrance to the lobby and turned around.
"Um...I had a, er, satisfactory evening?"
He nodded. "I calculate a 98.763 chance that you will a excellent REM cycle, Aduna."
Sweet dreams to you too...I think.
I just nodded and scuttled inside.
Valerie was already asleep when I came in- hooray for small mercies- so I swallowed a couple of aspirin, just in case the phantom migraine decided to come back.
I twitched around for a few moments, making myself as comfortable as possible on the rock cleverly disguised as a mattress, before closing my eyes.
What a night...
The Next Morning...
I can't help, but feel like I'm missing something...
I am not a morning person; I'm really not. So it was absolutely bizarre when I woke up, feeling more 'zen' than ever before, with the clock reading 6 a.m.
Try as I might over the next few minutes, I was unable to return to my, admittedly, restful sleep.
Hey, at least I get to use the shower first.
I gingerly pressed my palm against the panel to start the 'shower'. It burst into life, the hum filling my ears, nearly rattling my teeth and vibrating against my skin. I nearly gagged when I saw the dead skin cells flake to the ground.
I managed to repress the urge to retch long enough to finish the torture they call a "shower" and stumble out of the bathroom. By this time, Valerie was up, trying to cram all of her souvenirs into her already full suitcase. I ignored her frustrated huffs and crammed my nightshirt into my duffel. I was wearing the only remaining clean outfit, a white polo, and stone colored slacks.
Let's hope there isn't too much red dust between here and the ship…
Departure in 5...4...3…
I looked like I was wearing a pink suit.
Well, whatever. At least it's over now. It's all over…
The same migraine from last night began to drill above my left eye.