Refractions Of Light


re·frac·tion n.

1. The turning or bending of any wave, such as a light or sound wave, when it passes from one medium into another of different optical density.
2. Astronomy The apparent change in position of celestial objects caused by the bending of light rays entering Earth's atmosphere.
3. Medicine
…a. The ability of the eye to bend light so that an image is focused on the retina.
…b. Determination of the refractive characteristics of the eye.

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


M'Umbha "Faizah" Uhura took a deep breath and sighed before stepping outside. She scanned the yard behind the house, her eyes stopping on her husband, Mbaruku, who watched her from his favorite lounge chair under his favorite shade tree. He leaned back, his eyelids half-shut as he took a short break from reading student term papers on his PADD. Odd that she approached him somewhat reluctantly, handing him the tall glass of juice, a temporary relief from the heat.

Mbaruku accepted the glass with a nod of thanks, but he noticed the uncharacteristic stiffness in Faizah's posture and a sharpness in her movements that indicated an undercurrent of some kind of turmoil. Something had shaken her. His eyebrows rose in question.

"Nyota just called," she said in a carefully controlled voice.

"And?" Mbaruku wondered what their daughter Nyota had said to concern her mother this time.

Comm calls from Nyota that concerned Faizah were not unusual. Faizah always worried about their oldest daughter's safety and well-being, especially in the four years since Nyota left home to attend Starfleet Academy. Though Faizah assured Mbaruku she knew that letting go of their daughter was the correct thing to do, parental instincts never made it the easy thing to do. Mbaruku watched as Faizah worried throughout Nyota's basic training, then later during cadet training missions aboard starships to distant sectors. Though Faizah put up a brave front, as her sleeping partner, Mbaruku knew that she hardly slept during such missions until Nyota called them inform them of her safe return. Truth be told, neither did he.

After the Enterprise's harrowing encounter with the renegade Romulan Nero, Mbaruku and Faizah's worry and protective instincts rose to an entirely new level. They tried to keep level heads, comforting themselves that Nyota and her crewmates were the best of the best, well-trained to handle almost anything.

Clearly there had been something more, something beyond the usual concerns in this comm call. Faizah looked off toward her garden as if she were summoning courage. Compared to the Nero threat and the near-destruction of their planet, what could possibly have Faizah this upset? Mbaruku decided it was time to draw it out, whatever it was. He sat up straighter.

"All is well, I hope?" he prompted.

Faizah looked heavenward. "That depends on how you define 'well.'"

Why was his wife being so evasive? Despite the calm demeanor he wore, Mbaruku was no longer relaxed. "What do you mean?"

"She has a boyfriend."

A boyfriend? Was that all? Mbaruku almost laughed. Nyota never had time for boyfriends, and he was sure that whoever this new "boyfriend" was, he would not last. Nyota's relationship roster included two short-lived attachments during adolescence, and one during her first year at Starfleet Academy. Although they had been nice boys, her academic and career aspirations put an end to the relationships as soon as the boys in question wanted to become more serious.

Sometimes, to Faizah's dismay, he joked that only a genius who had five doctoral-level degrees, spoke fifty languages, and won Nobel Prizes in his spare time could turn Nyota's head. Yes, she had high standards, impossibly high standards that no human could ever hope to meet. Any suitor who tried to capture Nyota Uhura's heart might as well try looking for the Holy Grail, too—he might have more luck.

They had been through this before. So what had changed?

"Mbaru, please do not go into shock when I tell you who he is."

Don't go into shock? Was it that bad?

Mbaruku transitioned into professorial mode. He mentally made and reviewed a list of any male Nyota ever mentioned. Foremost among the possibilities were Nyota's fellow cadets from the Academy or, perhaps, her new Enterprise shipmates. For the last six weeks, he had seen many of them interviewed repeatedly on news programs about the heroics that had saved Earth from certain annihilation. They were all good people. If one of these men were now dating his daughter—he thought that the composed and controlled helmsman, Hikaru Sulu, might make a nice match—he could not imagine why Faizah was so agitated, at least to this degree.

Recognizing the futility of this exercise, Mbaruku finally broke the question. "Faizah, no more secrets…. Who is he? It's not the captain of her ship, is it?"

"No," Faizah sighed again, still not believing this herself. "It is the first officer."

Mbaruku almost dropped his drink. Never would he have considered…

The first officer?

"Commander Spock? Her instructor and advisor?… Her Vulcan instructor and advisor?"

Despite his best intentions, Mbaruku's paternal hackles were now up as his brain kicked into a higher gear, spitting out thoughts in rapid succession. What did he know about the commander? What did he know about Vulcans? What was Commander Spock doing to his daughter? Where was he at this moment? How fast could Mbaruku get to San Francisco? When—? How—? W—?

STOP!

Mbaruku's rational mind tried to take command. He took another deep breath and forced calmness to suppress the father-warrior inside that needed desperately to track down the threat to his daughter. He prided himself as being an intellectual who put reason ahead of impulse. Wasn't he the one who remained calm in a crisis? He never lost control of his emotions or common sense. He was the anchor to his passionate family's pursuits. He was…

Damn!

His jaw tightened. Faizah was right. This was unsettling news. They knew little about the commander, someone from a world that shielded many secrets, especially the nature of personal relationships. What was involved in Vulcan relationships? His stomach clenched with another fear: Had the commander and Nyota…?

STOP!

Though she was an adult, Nyota was still his child. As a father, he could not let his mind go there.

He tried to distract himself from those thoughts by turning to memories in search for some details. He and Faizah had met the cool Vulcan officer at Starfleet Academy's graduation ceremony and the memorial service for Starfleet and Vulcan's losses just weeks ago, soon after the Enterprise returned to Earth. Nyota had not mentioned anything about a personal relationship, nor had Nyota or the commander related to one another as anything other than superior officer and new Academy graduate. In addressing Faizah and Mbaruku, Commander Spock had been quiet and respectful, but somewhat aloof as typical of his species. As a historian and citizen of Earth, Mbaruku had been honored to meet the officer who was now a major historical figure.

Even before the Battles of Vulcan and Earth, Mbaruku would have been honored to meet the Vulcan in any case. Being an instructor himself, Mbaruku naturally had been curious about the instructor who was Nyota's advisor, one of the few she mentioned occasionally in letters and calls home. He had looked up the commander's official biography: multiple academic degrees and commendations, a record of starship service that (though short) was distinguished, the first Vulcan to attend and graduate from Starfleet Academy… Commander Spock was a genius with an exemplary resume that belied his youth. Mbaruku had been impressed.

Now, though, his normally calm academician's demeanor came close to breaking as his own lips thinned and his jaw again flexed with tension. Trying to reconcile the student-instructor relationship doubled his pulse rate. This did not make sense. Even if he were single, Dr. Mbaruku Uhura would never have considered crossing the boundaries of his university's fraternization code. His daughter was not a rule-breaker, and he did not think that a Vulcan officer would be, either.

But his daughter and the commander were no longer at the Academy. Was this a recent development during their service aboard the Enterprise? Yes, even as unlikely as the situation was, that would explain it. Perhaps Nyota felt sorry for the commander because of his personal and societal losses. Was she, in her compassion or from a sense of guilt, trying to comfort him somehow? Would a Vulcan respond to that? It would seem to be an unstable basis for a relationship.

And there were the biological issues to consider…. Did Vulcans…? Would Nyota…?

No, he was definitely not going there.

Mbaruku took another deep breath. He needed more data before the thoughts borne of paternal panic ran away with him again. What else did Faizah know?

He inhaled and exhaled again to clear his head. "How long has this been going on?"

"Two years, and she says that the relationship is a serious one," Faizah said.

Two years? Mbaruku's eyebrows flew upward again as, this time, sheer disbelief replaced his former calmness, and shock stole his ability to form any response. So, there had been an academic breach! Now his facial expression began to match his internal turbulence. Historical figure or not, Mbaruku wondered how he was going to keep himself from strangling Commander Spock.

"One more thing: She is bringing him here," Faizah broke in quickly.

Anger replaced shock. Now he had a few things to say as the father-warrior reared. He opened his mouth, but Faizah held up her hand.

"Stop! Stop-stop-stop! Before you say anything, I need to tell you that this scares me, too." Faizah's eyes firmly held his own for a few seconds until some of his rage settled, then softened. "Yes, I am afraid, and I am upset, just as you are. Even so, I promised her that we would be good hosts and would welcome him into our home. And, for her sake, we will be."

She paused to let her words sink in through the red haze that was beginning to fade from Mbaruku's vision. She touched his forearm in support.

"If you had seen her," she continued, trying to control the shake in her voice, "you would have promised the same. I have never seen her like this. I get the feeling that there is much more that we will not understand until we meet him. She wants to protect him, and though she tries to hide it, I think that she loves him."

Love? This was too much. Mbaruku gave up trying to make sense of the whole thing. He looked down at his hands as he tried to center himself as fear, anger, disbelief, protectiveness, and love for Nyota collided within. And he had to ask himself: Why was he upset? What did he really know? The rational analyst inside himself acknowledged that his unease stemmed from a fear of the unknown. Until this moment, he had not known anything about this relationship, how it started, how involved the pair was, what that involvement meant.

Though he knew little of Commander Spock, he did know his daughter and wanted to trust her. She had become everything that he and Faizah had hoped she would be. Intelligence, wisdom, and a strong self-esteem only enhanced Nyota's physical beauty. Hers was a charismatic presence that instantly captivated—maybe charismatic enough to affect even a Vulcan.

Somehow, though, he felt hurt, betrayed, and disappointed. "Did she say anything about how this happened?"

"A little. They got to know each other while she was his teaching assistant. She found him intriguing, fascinating, brilliant…. They found that they had much in common, and then it just happened. She fell for him, and he…he developed an 'affection' for her. She said that they tried to deny and bury it. They knew it was wrong. But neither could leave the other alone."

"That is somewhat melodramatic, don't you think, from a couple of adults?" he asked tightly. "This could have cost them their careers. He's Vulcan and her instructor. Where was his self-control? And never would I have expected this from Nyota. She's a professor's daughter; she knows better."

Faizah took in a deep breath. "It was nothing I expected either," she breathed out. Faizah paused a moment to watch a breeze rustle through her rose bushes before starting again. "I think she is making a mistake, and I don't look forward to the fallout from this, but it is her life now. If she needs us, we will help her. We will always be her parents."

Mbaruku nodded.

The two stood wordlessly for a few more seconds. In these moments, Faizah appeared to center her thoughts some more before quietly stating their course of action. "The Vulcan Nyota loves saved our world. His is gone. He's going to be a guest in our home. We will treat him with kindness and respect, as we do with all our guests. I promised her. And though we have misgivings, we owe him nothing less. We will welcome him."

Her affirmation complete, Mbaruku nodded his agreement, looking over the greenery with Faizah as she continued to stare out over her garden. His face nullified into blankness as he continued to work on distancing his emotions from the situation at hand. Yes, Faizah was correct. Hard as it would be, it was the right way to proceed for now.

"Nyota has always had a sound mind and good judgment," he said quietly. "But, does she know what she's doing? If she loves him, can he love her back? If this goes further, will she be happy? I still do not know what to think."

Faizah stood up. Her eyes narrowed, and she turned toward the house. "Neither do I. Before they get here, I have some research to do."

"Faizah, wait…." He tried to keep his voice quieter and even as he tried to settle his wife.

When Faizah researched anything, she obsessed. Honestly, he had to admit to trying to keep himself from obsessing as well.

"Please, we will talk to them when they get here. Until then, there is nothing to do. I am sure that we already know all there is to know. It's all on the newsvids. And anything we learn will change nothing between now and then. If this has been going on for two years, will waiting two more weeks make any difference?"

"I cannot wait, Mbaru." The shakiness in Faizah's voice had returned. "Our daughter may be a woman now, but she is still young. Tell me, has she had a serious relationship before? Has she ever hidden anything like this from us before? For two years? And he is Vulcan. What does that mean? What is he like? Will she be happy? I don't know. And what about Vulcans? What is important to them? What are they going to do now? Do you know? I don't. Could I be more comfortable with this, or at least understand how this happened, if I knew something, anything? I don't know, but I have to learn. I need to prepare. I need to find some answers so that I understand why."

One could not restrain the Mama Lioness in M'Umbha Faizah Ng'ang'a-Uhura when she was fighting to protect her cub.

"Very well," he conceded, excusing his anxious wife. "Tell me what you learn."

Faizah quickly made her way back to the house to begin her task, leaving Mbaruku to sip his juice and consider the repercussions and implications of this turn in their lives.

-o0o-

Over the next two weeks, Mbaruku thought about the unlikely pair. Like Faizah, he tried to discover the key to why: why did she choose him, and why did he choose her?

Though Mbaruku tried to adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude, Faizah's research interested him more than he would have wanted to admit. As one of Starfleet Academy's most distinguished graduates, Commander Spock obviously was a genius with a brilliant mind and record that surely appealed to his over-achieving daughter. The commander and his daughter were only three years apart in age, so they were social contemporaries. There was more. The countless biographies of Commander Spock's life that had run non-stop on the news since the Nero incident revealed his aristocratic roots in one of his planet's most prominent, powerful, and wealthy clans.

And (he had to admit) the commander's exotically handsome appearance might have factored into the equation, too. A phrase from Mbaruku's earlier musings returned to haunt him: "…impossibly high standards that no human could meet."

Indeed. Apparently, for his daughter, one Vulcan could and did.

Perhaps the relationship between the commander's parents could provide clues about the relationship between Nyota and the commander, who was himself the product of a Vulcan-Terran relationship. Unbeknownst to Faizah, as part of his own "historical research," he assigned a couple university teaching assistants to look into the details of Ambassador Sarek and Lady Amanda Grayson's courtship and marriage. History had a way of repeating itself, after all. Unfortunately, such details were scarce.

Even more scarce were personal details about the commander himself, and the young Vulcan did not make it easy on anyone trying to delve into his private life. In his holovid news interviews since the Battles of Vulcan and Earth, the commander said very little, no more than necessary, revealing little of his personality, maintaining a formidably icy Vulcan wall. But, to be fair, Mbaruku could find little fault in that after the trauma of losing home, family—an entire cultural foundation, really. If Nyota were bringing him here to find some peace, he could understand that.

In the end, he decided to take his own advice before he drove himself even crazier. He would have to simply wait until he could speak with Nyota and Spock themselves.


A/N February 2, 2011: Hi, everyone! After The Rose Garden, I had requests from readers for a story about how Nyota's father, Mbaruku, got to know his daughter's enigmatic boyfriend. This is the beginning of that tale. Unlike The Rose Garden, it is not a short story. Mbaruku is, in the words of one reader, a "tougher nut to crack" than Nyota's mother, M'Umbha Faizah, was. I don't think it will go nearly as long as the novel-length Insights did, but you never know – that story was only going to be 10 chapters and ended up being 31! This will have the same combination of reflective moments and humor (I hope) that Insights readers enjoyed.

Special thanks to T'Soy who subjected herself to an earlier draft of this chapter. Your honest feedback is valuable. Any author would be so lucky to have you as a reader!

As always, your comments and "insights" are welcomed and appreciated.


DISCLAIMER: This story is for entertainment purposes only. I do not profit (nor would I attempt to profit) from any of my unlicensed Star Trek-based works, as I do not own the rights.