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The fields by the colony of Omicron Ceti III are fragrant and tranquil. The open sky and pleasant breeze of this place, as well as the abundance of plant life, would make me content in other circumstances. However, the presence of one Leila Kalomi makes my situation more unpleasant than I would like to admit. Our conversation is tedious, and her tendency to skirt the topic at hand is beginning to irritate me.
I sense my spine stiffening as she lays her hand on my chest. The material of my uniform protects me somewhat, since it blocks any telepathic connection from her touch, but the light pressure of her palm and fingers is unsettling. I want to recoil from her, but I quell the impulse, remaining still.
"There was always a place in here where no one could come," she says, and her statement puzzles me until I realize that she must be referring to my heart, the metaphorical seat of emotion in humans. She has no reason to know that my heart is located in my abdomen, far from where she has audaciously placed her hand. Ms. Kalomi is a botanist; obviously her education would have no reason to include any knowledge of Vulcan anatomy. I wonder whether she knows the color and composition of my blood, or if she mistakenly believes it to be red and iron-based, like her own.
Reflecting on her ignorance allows me to assuage the flicker of anger I feel toward her for her violation. She does not understand. She cannot touch my heart, nor my mind, nor my katra. I inhale steadily, in complete control of myself, as she removes her hand.
Though I tell her that emotions are alien to me, it is uncomfortable for me to make this statement, because it is almost a falsehood. Shallow emotions are what are alien to me. Human emotions flit across synapses, disappearing and metamorphosing with alarming speed. I am half-Vulcan, but I nonetheless feel the depth and fire of Vulcan emotions that must be constantly balanced by cthia—logic, reality-truth. A concept that has no direct translation in Standard. Few humans have ever understood the teachings of Surak, or why they are so necessary to our race. I doubt that Leila Kalomi could ever understand, even if she wished to.
Ms. Kalomi challenges my assertion, but does not press the issue further. "Come," she beckons, and I placidly follow her through the dry stalks of grain. She turns to me and holds her hand out, the counterpart to the hand that encroached on my personal space mere moments before. I assume that she is looking at me with the expectation that I will take her proffered hand.
I straighten slightly, gripping my tricorder, and place my own hands behind my back. Humans unaware of Vulcans' touch-telepathic abilities have sometimes interpreted this gesture to be standoffish, impolite, or disdainful. However, it is the logical manner in which to indicate that I do not wish for her to touch me. If her feelings are hurt by my silent rebuff, perhaps it will dissuade her from further advances.
Unfortunately, I recall, hurt feelings on her part did not dissuade her the last time.
I am growing tired of Leila's enthusiasm for this mysterious drug to which her entire colony is apparently addicted. In my exasperation, I attempt to appeal to her scientific mind, but I suppose the drug has dulled whatever logic she may have originally had.
She finally reveals something useful to my investigation. "I was one of the first to find them. The spores."
"Spores?" I recalled that the tricorder scans had revealed a large number of seedless vascular plants that resembled certain Earth phyla—
Suddenly I hear a powerful expulsion of air from directly in front of me, making my eyes close reflexively. After a fraction of a second I register that something before me has ejected a cloud of particles, and on instinct I raise my arm to shield myself.
The particles cover my face, my shoulders, my chest, my hands. They have entered my nose and invaded my eyes, despite my quick reaction. I fight the urge to sneeze. My eyelids clench shut more tightly, and I hear my blood rushing, a roaring noise that is growing loud enough to be unbearable. I realize that I am experiencing a mounting sense of vertigo, and let my tricorder drop from my hands.
Something unpleasant is spreading through my body, a prickling sensation not unlike the feeling of blood returning to an area of decreased circulation. I do not know how long it will last until I can regain control—
The sensation abruptly blossoms into blinding pain.
It is overwhelming, and I do not recognize immediately from which part of my body it originates. Then I become aware that the pain is in my consciousness. My mind. It is not a physical affliction, but rather an agony of the spirit, something assaulting me from inside. I feel it as a terrible force, even more invasive than a mind meld, because it is attacking more than my mind. My psyche, my spirit, cthia itself—all are being engulfed by this thing, this repulsive intruder.
The word emerges as a groan. I am clutching my head, trying to force the thing out. I feel a cold dullness that threatens to submerge—blot out—engulf—bury—stop...
"It shouldn't hurt, not like this. It didn't hurt us—" I am only dimly aware of Leila's words. Were they said in scientific puzzlement, or concern? Does she understand what is happening to me?
"I am not like you..." I cannot tell whether I have said the words aloud or not.
I am not human. The Vulcan way is to strive for cthia, for curiosity, for knowledge, for excellence, for purpose. All these drives are deadening within me, being stripped from me, until I cannot hold onto them—I cannot...
The pain stops. I feel light, loose, and empty. A cool glow suffuses my body. When I open my eyes, the world is beautiful, shining with sunlight. My mind buzzes with the vague feeling that there is something important I should remember, like a bright spark in my consciousness that is about to be extinguished.
When I feel a delicate hand touching my cheek, the spark quickly dies. All that remains is the cool miasma, a wash of new emotion. The feeling is weak and indistinct, but it is overwhelming. For some reason, love does not seem to be the correct word to describe it. I cannot recall why.