"like deeply embedded things do"
Genre: Romance, Angst
Time Frame: Four years post ST XI
Characters: Uhura/Spock, Kirk, McCoy, OCs
Summary: "Beware the monsters in the mist . . . and the weight that links your minds." On the planet of Serillious, when negotiations go wrong, the crew of the Enterprise must work against the clock in order to retrieve one of their own.
Notes: So, here we have it - that Serillious fic that I have been talking about for seemingly ever. This started off as a oneshot in my Burn-verse (which is pretty much every Spock/Uhura piece I have ever written), but it quickly grew long enough to stand as a short story (which will be done in seven parts, updated daily), as many plot bunnies from that series seem to do. As always, this story deals with heavy sci-fi themes, and explores in depth the mental bond between Spock and Uhura - and I would sure love feedback as to how that went over. ;)
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
Part I: "where our journeys have brought us"
The first time Nyota knows what she wants to do with her life she is seven years old; and on the vacation planet of Carii II with her family.
Prior to that day, she had known of her father's career in name only, rather than in any form of more acute understanding or awareness. Moumbwa Uhura was an interpreter used by inter and outer planetary Ambassadors; used for his skills to not only decipher words; but motives and emotion both. While a computer could easily translate the words, it was not yet capable at reading behind the spoken thought – a reason interpreters would never fully be out of use. Her father was an empathetic soul, with a background in psychology and the science of body language as well – all of which made him an asset to those he assisted.
At the time, Nyota had only understood that he translated languages for others. It was something that excited her curiosity, in that way that children adored what made and defined their parents.
Carii II was a vacation world on the crossing point of almost a dozen space lanes. Thus so, its capitol was a bustling collection of street vendors that proudly showed their goods to tourists and fellow traders and suppliers alike. The market was open to the violet sky above, and was perfectly nestled at the foot of the Makashu mountains beyond. Above the gray and sepia peaks, breaking above the clouds Makashu's twin floating range was swirls of pine green and ice, drawing her eye in awe. The scents surrounding her reminded her of her grandmother's home on Coruri; jungle spice and sea salt and tangy air . . .
Akilah Uhura, her mother, had been haggling with a Bajorian trader. When her limited experience with the language clashed with the vendor's refusal to speak Standard (a popular bargaining trick), Moumbwa cut in and brought the price down to something reasonable for his wife.
"Akit l'vou mei no kirousin," Moumbwa thanked the man as he wrapped up their purchase, pleased.
From her position perched upon her father's shoulders, she parroted, "Akit l'vou mei no kirousin," perfectly.
The Bajarian man looked at her for a moment before laughing a loud and deep laugh. "The young one knows our tongue too?" he asked in Standard.
"Not a word of it," Moumbwa said, darting a glance up at her with obvious pride. "She's a fast learner, though."
"A natural," the large man mused. He looked down at his selection of jewelry and picked up a small pair of polished white stones. They reminded her of sea sand. "Here - for the child. Maybe in a few years she can hold her own when we chat."
She was all but beaming when her mother reached up to put the earrings in for her. "You have a gift, child," was her mother's deep voice, rumbling and comforting at her ear. "Cherish that."
She touched the earrings proudly with a finger as her father thanked the vendor. As they turned to leave, the swirl of different tongues around them sounded like applause as she asked her father to translate as many as he knew.
It was a beginning, in more ways than one.
Nyota Uhura finds herself in a middle of sorts, years later.
After almost three years aboard the Enterprise as her Chief Communication's officer, she has heard a great deal of the tongues known to the galaxy at large and quite a few more that weren't so well known. And so, when the Enterprise was ordered by Starfleet command to break course to stop by the planet of Serillious, she treated the mission like every other.
She downloaded the literary journals and courses known to the Xenolinguistic community on the Serillion language, and practiced the vowels and syllables and slurs of their tongue. The language was one near and dear to her after she started learning it. As a hive kind, the language was half unspoken, relying on mental conversation and ornate body language to tell the whole of its stories. She has worked with hive languages from Beein to Logamari; and even spent two months with Professor Robanov in Starfleet's Moscow division to lecture on her findings on the world of Joopus and how that hive tongue worked in accord with languages like High Vulcan and the deceased Ancient Betazoid tongue.
Kirk's smiles at her uttering the frankly guttural language under her breath when the going was slow, and his mimicking the languages with teasing eyes was brought to a halt when Spock took it upon himself to try to translate and 'correct' the Captain's gibberish. While Kirk later mumbled, however fondly, about a joke going straight over his First Officer's head, she smiled secretly when she felt Spock's amusement at the bond that connected their minds. Sometimes, he was not as oblivious as Kirk thought him, so much as he held straight to his own brand of humor.
By the time they reached Serillious she felt herself competent enough to assist her crew in dealings on the world below. And a part of her was even excited to compare this world to the ones like it before – she was becoming quite proficient in this portion of linguistics; and a part of her tossed around the idea of diving into it fully after her service with Starfleet as an officer was done.
The planet of Serillious was medium sized, a gleaming midnight green orb that spoke of its unending jungles and mountains - mountains that held stores upon stores of Dillithium ore. All of the Federation's – and other mining guild's attempts – to ease their way into mining rights on Serillious had came up empty handed. Lately, reports in the area showed everything from Orion to Andorian in the form of smugglers and less savory merchants who wouldn't stop at stooping low to achieve their aim.
Under the light of the recent unsavory conduct, the Federation was going to renew their offer to aide Serillious – giving protection in the hopes of evenly distributing the wealth to be found there; or preserving it completely untouched within Serillious' depths, depending on which coarse of action was deemed the best to take.
To do so, the crew of the Enterprise was to make contact with the ruling clan, and arrange the allowance of official representatives and delegates on the planet to make a more permanent transition. By that time, the name of James T. Kirk was fast becoming a respected one in the galaxy – on the battlefield, and in the diplomat's arena, as well.
For Nyota, the situation proved an interesting possibility to study the hive dialect that both clans on Serillious used – the Serillios, and the Rillions, respectively. The Serillios were a haughty race, keeping to giant floating cities that hovered over the mountains beneath. Of the whole, they were the ones welcoming the contact; and the expansion. The Rillions were a forest dwelling, harsh race; of whom admittedly little was known. Local lore had it said that the race was nearly mad from their time so close to the planet's surface – and within. The high levels of dillui gasses in the air made for an almost drugging soup in the lower atmosphere that would muddle with the mental make-up of most sentient beings.
It was with all of this in consideration when their party (Her, Spock, Jim and McCoy) beamed down to the capitol city – a marvelous floating platform that hovered in shades of gold and green glass in the sky - called Sarill. They were greeted by the Counselor of the Serillios – while the Serillios and the Rillions both were a hive minded race, the higher beings on the planet sought to step away from that part of their heritage, and had a loose, almost suggestive form of government.
"Greetings," the alien man said in a thick and heavily accented Standard. He was a tall man – a good three feet taller than even Spock, with long elegant limbs held together by backwards joints. The weight that wasn't held by his backwards frame was braced by two large, fluttering wings. The wings were insect like, glittering iridescent in the evening sun, and threaded through by numerous violet veins. The rest of the man was a rich shade of olive green, set off by large oval shaped eyes, devoid of pupils, and a head full of braided black hair. When he moved the earthen tones of his body seemed almost hollow and transparent, letting the light shine through him for an elegant and graceful sight.
He was definitely one of the most interesting species she had seen in her travels, Nyota reflected as Kirk carried on with the pleasantries.
While her eyes were struck with the sight that he – Llious, he called himself – gave, her ears were full of the sounds of his speech - Both his, and his heavy Standard; and his consorts, who spoke Serillion with a tepid, hissing sort of tongue. While she could hear them speak, she could also feel the remnants of their words press in against her mind – the advantages with her having a telepath's presence in her psyche so often, she knew. She could feel the fringes of the hive communication, and it fascinated her.
At her side, she could feel Spock's hidden amusement at her giddiness over the highs and the lows of language surge was learning, and she flashed him a burst of fond annoyance over their bond.
They had been led by their guide into a large circular chamber held up by towering glass columns, with a ceiling that glittered like stars against a forest green shade of glass. Sheer drapes billowing gracefully as they tantalizingly let in the view of the mountains and forests below. Before them were a dozen delicacies on golden platters, and a rich brew of fermented juice – like wine, but not – set out in ornate goblets. She nibbled on a fruity pastry – not unlike a tart – and avoided the wine for the time being.
After the pleasantries were out of the way, Kirk and the Chancellor settled down to business.
"So, what you are saying," Kirk said, his brow furrowed as his mind tried to puzzle through the challenge before him. "Is that you haven't allowed outside contact in the mountains because it is inaccessible?"
"In a way," Llious answered, tilting his head.
"In what way?" Kirk pushed.
"The mountains themselves give off a sort of . . . mist, if that is the right word. Within these mists there is a high concentration of dilliu gasses as a combination of ores from the ground and the gases found present in our atmosphere."
"So breathing masks won't work?" Kirk asked.
Llious hesitated. "They would – for a time."
Kirk frowned. "What about your people? You are sitting on a fortune down there? Why haven't you put yourselves on the map with this?"
"It is not only our planet," Llious said softly.
Understanding lit Kirk's eyes. "So . . . the Rillions?" he asked. "Why are they not here today? I thought that these meetings would be attended with a representative from both parties."
"The Rillions are . . . disinclined to come out of their mountains."
Kirk's lips tightened in what she had come to recognize as annoyance. "This is deciding the future of their world," he pointed out. "As well as yours."
"And no definite opinions are being made," Llious said, pointedly.
Behind Llious, a younger member of his group growled out, "Like those savages would leave their holes for anything."
Llious shot the young one a pointed look. "Silence," he hissed. "Your opinions do not matter here."
"And neither should our counterparts," the other returned. "They are all one step away from madness. You know as well as I that any attempts to speak rationally with a subject such as this will only result in the spilling of blood."
Llious' eyes narrowed, but that statement he did not counter.
After the younger Serillio spoke, she could feel a curious buzzing against her mind. The telepathic cloud was thick and fragrant against her senses – beyond them, there was a whole other conversation going on between the Serillios. She fought the urge to smile widely at it, and for a moment she hesitantly tried to reach out and tap into the mental communication.
The mist billowed tantalizingly around her weak mental touch, but it wouldn't give to her. Still, she basked in feeling the fringes of it around her senses.
When Llious broke from the hive mind, he looked curiously over at her, but he did not say a word to her clumsy attempts.
"Madness?" Kirk questioned after a moment's debating with himself.
Llious took a deep breath. "Our brethren have always been a strong breed – and proud. This pride and ruthlessness, when combined with the fumes they reside in . . . They are half-mad. A warring tribe already, with the mists playing on and amplifying those outrages . . . No. It is not wise for anyone to venture near the surface."
Kirk frowned. "From your reports there have been numerous sightings of offworld ships on the forest level. How does that add up?"
Llious smiled; a sharp flash of white teeth that was more predatory than amused. "Captain, in those reports, how many of those ships left with their crew whole and alive?"
Kirk was not to be deterred. "Is there any way that we can arrange a meeting with a Rillion leader? If we are to speak on friendly terms with your world – I would prefer it to be all of your world."
Llious regarded him for a long moment. "I do not know, Captain. Relations between our two clans have been strained. I can issue an invitation, but I can guarantee no results."
"An effort is all I ask," Kirk said.
"Then one shall be made," Llious bowed his head.
"Well, if that wasn't a load of horse manure, then I don't know what is," McCoy was saying not long afterward.
The four officers had been given a suite of rooms within the ruling housing. Where the four sleeping chambers intersected, there was a common room with plush couches and rich furs over the glass like material that composed the floor. The rooms granted them a sweeping view of the city below, and she sat by the window to peer out as a child would, her fingers leaving prints against the glass as she looked around. In her left ear she held an earpiece, replaying the recording she had taken from earlier, and analyzing it in her mind; matching up the native speech with the one she had been practicing.
McCoy was pacing near the center cluster of seating, where Kirk had sprawled out on his back, his arms crossed over his chest and his fingers thoughtfully tapping his chin. Spock sat stiffly on one of the more severely structured chairs, a PADD held out before him as he already started analyzing the samples he had taken from the atmosphere.
Kirk shrugged at the Doctor's words. "I truly have no idea if it's a line they're feeding us or not. They obviously don't want to have anything to do with the surface world – and my guess is that they are tolerating our presence as a whole to cease the unwelcome attention they've been getting lately."
"Until the last few standard year cycles, Serillious as a whole has managed to stay out of galactic attention," Spock said thoughtfully. "Even raiders and the Mining Guild have avoided this world."
Kirk looked over at his First Officer. "Did they finally stumble over something they weren't aware of before?" he questioned.
Spock blinked, his eyebrows knotting in the human equivalent of a shrug. "It is hard to say, Captain. It would require more time and research to ascertain just how and why the whole of Serillious' potential in Dillithium was found out."
"It looks like we may just have a bit of that on our hands," McCoy muttered.
Kirk smiled over at his friend, bemused. "You could have stayed on the ship, Bones."
McCoy snorted. "And let you catch a bout of Serillii Fever without me nearby? Unlikely."
Kirk rubbed at the side of his neck. "If all of those hypos you managed to set on me don't protect me against that, then something tells me you weren't doing your job right in the first place."
"If not Serilli Fever, then whatever scars that are bound to occur from you not managing to hold off danger better than a magnet."
"It's part of my charm," Kirk said ruefully. "What can I say?"
"If that is how you want to put it," McCoy drawled.
Kirk shook his head before sitting up slightly, enough to look over at her. "Uhura, did you pick up anything from the rest of Llious' entourage?"
She frowned, pressing the earpiece more securely against her ear. "For the most part, it is just as you heard – most are uneasy with the Rillion clans, and some were outright disagreeing with Llious for seeking aid of any kind."
"So, nothing more than we didn't know?" Kirk asked.
She shook her head. "But . . . on top of their bias against the Rillions, there was a real unease that colored their words as a whole. It was all over their body language." A flush of visible veins, and a twitch of wings. A tightening of the corner of lips and a narrowing of eyes. All of these things spoke as loudly as words.
Kirk nodded. "That's not too surprising either."
Spock spoke at that. "Their case of dillui poisoning would not be too far off the mark," he admitted. "Even this far up in the atmosphere, and the generated atmosphere that regulates the gases over Sarill, there are traces of dillui gases in the air. It would stand to reason that the closer one would get to the dillithium, the more intense that portion would be."
"Dillui poisoning," Kirk tried the name out on his tongue. "What exactly is that?"
"In a human being, it would cause partial to whole paralysis, hallucinations, and an induction of an almost dream like state. Permanent exposure would mutilate the nervous system over a time. And yet, for a while dillui gases were found in a less intense, powder form as 'moondust' – a rather popular narcotic amongst Earth's population for a time."
"I remember that stuff from college," McCoy admitted. "Nasty stuff."
Kirk made a face. "Never tried it."
"Trust me – the high is not worth it. And it leaves you with a headache larger than the state of Mississippi in the end."
Kirk looked over at Spock. "How would this effect a more alien system – say the Serillion body?"
"Physiological information of the Serillion race as a whole is rather limited," Spock admitted. "And from what data is gathered, I would hazard to wager an intensification of physio makeup."
"Meaning?" Kirk prompted.
"Prolonged exposure to the dillui gases, combined with gases already native to the atmosphere here would result in greater strength, greater flexibility and agility, and faster mental capability in a Rillion form as opposed to a Serillio. This heightened mental aptitude would be lost, in a way, under the rages and emotional imbalance that would be suffered through as well."
Kirk made a face. "Sounds like fun."
"Except not so much so, Captain," Spock said.
"That's what I meant, Spock." Kirk looked amused. "And yet, we won't know for sure until we meet them. And something tells me an answer won't reach us tonight."
He turned to McCoy, who suddenly looked wary over the look Kirk was giving him. "So, Bones, why don't we see what sort of nightlife this city has to offer?"
McCoy scowled. "Dammit Jim, I'm a Doctor – not a wingman."
Kirk sprang up, and clapped the Doctor on the back on the way to his room. "And someday I may just start believing that."
Spock watched the two humans continue to bicker, before raising a brow and turning over to her. "Completely illogical," he muttered, shaking his head in the barest of motions.
She grinned, widely. "Someday McCoy will learn to just not fight it. Kirk can be like quicksand – the more you fight, the quicker you sink."
"An apt comparison," Spock finally gave.
She got to her feet, and walked over to him, smiling widely. "And yet Kirk may not have such a bad idea. I'd love to hear the local's speak this tongue – so, what do you say to a night out?"
His face was completely impassive, but she could 'feel' his long-suffering sigh against her mind. "I believe that I am starting to share . . . empathy with the Doctor."
"A truly frightening thought," she teased.
"Indeed," Spock agreed, completely straight faced, but she could feel the threat of amusement against her mind, only for her to glimpse.