Logically, Spock knows (and agrees with) the reasoning behind Starfleet's new policy in regards to the psionically gifted. After all, they have just survived an encounter with a very unique ship; it is reasonable to assume that future contact with any such advanced "aliens" would benefit greatly with the assistance of an empath. The fact that said encounter involved time-traveling and universe-traversing Romulans rather a more traditional form of first contact is something that Starfleet cannot — and will not — take into account. At least not when it comes to the matter of the public record. There would be panic, at minimum. Copycats, at worst. And while the multiverse is theoretically as infinitely fragmented as it is ever going to become, temptation has never been something that Starfleet wants to encourage.

And so, when it comes to the situation of the Enterprise's first official empath, Spock is not unfamiliar with the logic behind her placement. It is the girl herself that baffles all human reason, and a fair amount of the Vulcan's. She wore the official Starfleet miniskirt for approximately 0.7 Earth days before sequestering himself in Nurse Chapel's office and refusing to come out until she had sewn a patchwork of uniform fabric extending most of the way to her ankles. "They asked me to wear the uniform," she'd said, in response to Spock's inquiry. "They didn't forbid layers."

Her logic, as strange and meandering as it is, cannot be argued with. Not then, nor in the present moment, as she drifts from station to station on the bridge, her bare feet completely silent. She leans over Chekov's station (an act that makes the ensign flush significantly) before finding her way back to Captain Kirk's chair. He's taken the personnel assignment about as well as can be expected. Amusement, lots of it, when she dredges up things like Uhura's Vulcan harp-playing skills or the names of Sulu's girlfriends. And annoyance, when she decides to outline exactly how (and with whom) the Captain spends his free time. When it comes to the human notion of "shame," the Captain has very little... but somehow the ship gets much, much quieter after one of River's lists.

"Any horrible secrets today?" asks Kirk, leaning back to look at the girl hovering behind his chair. "Besides mine."

River cocks her head to one side. And then, against all logical expectations, she turns to Spock. "Ripples," she says. "They spread outwards, rocked the boat and threw the baby out." She frowns. As a Vulcan, the sensation of being probed is not unfamiliar to him; it is entirely different to have it occur from a distance, without touch, and without his express permission. One gets the sensation of having compartments in one's head being delicately opened, peered at, and then shut again, without the least bit of disturbance. "Not only this timeline."

The bridge quiets. Spock, of course, picks up on her meaning immediately; from the look that Kirk shoots him, it's obvious that he knows what she's talking about as well. "A very astute observation, Lieutenant Tam," says Kirk, his Midwestern drawl especially prominent. It is the tone he uses when he wants to stay casual about something very, very important. Which means that the entire crew knows that something is up.

"Yeah, great," says McCoy, from his position just to the left of Spock. "Could somebody explan to me what the hell she's going on about?"

The Captain turns in his chair, his face the very picture of innocence. "I thought you were a doctor, Doctor."

"You know damn well what I mean, Jim," says McCoy, tersely. "Unless you're askin' me to give her a checkup?"

Kirk shoots Spock another look, to which he responds with a mere eyebrow quirk. The Captain could really be a little subtler about these things. "Negative, Doctor," he says, turning back towards the viewscreen. "Mr. Spock, would you take Lieutenant Tam down to medical? I think she deserves some time off with her 'brother.'"

The Captain is, of course, referring to one Dr. Xī-Mēng Tán, Nurse Chapel's newest medical assistant. According to his dossier, which Spock has read in full, he is a genius doctor in much the same way that Chekov is their genius helmsman; a prodigy pushed into the service by the China National Space Administration and his encouraging, if exacting, parents. The two are unrelated, despite the similarity of their last names, although the doctor occasionally mentions the death of his little sister being the motivation for his entry into the medical profession. An interesting 'brother' indeed, for an equally interesting empath.

While Spock thinks, River turns and begins walking off the bridge. "You're not sending me to him," she says, her long hair floating in the wake of the open turbolift. "You're sending me with him."


"On my way, Captain," says Spock, before McCoy can say anything else. He steps into the turbolift and clears his mind, preparing himself for the conversation to come.

What happens next is completely unexpected.


She remains silent through most of the trip. Instead of talking, she leans against the side of the turbolift, her ear pressed against humming steel. Eventually, however, Spock clears his throat. "I assume you know why the Captain wishes for me to speak with you."

The girl nods. "Starfleet cannot let the time-space anomalies become public knowledge," she says. Her tone is flat, almost Vulcan. "Logically, this would cause further disruption to the timestream, with unpredictable results."

"Affirmative." Spock cocks his head contemplatively. "Curious. I would have phrased that statement similarly."

River puffs at a stray strand of hair, but otherwise does not move. "You did. Inside."

"... am I correct, then," he begins, turning to face her, "in assuming that you are not merely an empath?"

"Assumptions are correct. Conclusions aren't."

Once again, she has plucked a thought from his head before he can finish thinking it. "Then please, enlighten me." He is entirely without malice; if anything, the Vulcan feels curiosity. He suppresses the urge to request a mind meld with her, to see exactly how this sort of strange telepathy has affected the human mind.

The girl shifts. The next moment, she presses the pause button on the turbolift, in much the same way that another, equally fascinating woman did so previously. "Nero," she whispers. She reaches down for her long skirt, lifting it so that she can bunch the fabric between her fingers. "He touched more than one universe. All patched together, along the stiches." The fabric ripples; he can see that her sewing is not perfect, almost intentionally so, with tiny, but regular gaps in between otherwise solid stitches. "She tripped. Didn't mean to fall down the rabbit hole."

Spock has to take a moment to absorb that information. Even having met cross-universe interlopers like Nero and his future self, it is a difficult idea for him to grasp. "You are referring to yourself," he says, leaning a little closer to her. "Possibly others, if this anomaly has rippled as much as you say it has."

"Did the math," says River. She is fully facing him now, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. "It's logical."

Before he can reply, she lifts her hands to his face. For a moment, he thinks she is going to touch him there, perhaps initiate a mind-meld of her own (a very curious image, considering that she is the human in this relationship), but instead her fingers drift up to his ears. Her touch is exceedingly delicate. He can barely feel it at all, despite the fact that it is one of the most touch-sensitive places on a Vulcan's body. Even so, he has to suppress a shiver as she traces the outlines. Her fingers are cold.

"We're alone." Her gaze is clear but unsteady; her voice trembles. "Man looked out into the Black and found only stars." Her fingers crest over the tips of his ears.

Slowly, gently, Spock puts his hands on her upper arms. She has modified this part of the uniform too, by way of a gold sleeve attached to the blue of her minidress. "Then," he says, not unkindly, "perhaps you will find that humans are not so lonely, here."

The girl nods. "Not lonely," she says, and her hands drop. One hand reaches out to reactivate the turbolift. "Just alone."

He maintains an optimum amount of physical contact until the turbolift doors open, and she drifts down to Medical to visit Dr. Tán.