A/N: Yeah, another Star Trek piece. I swear I'm still working on other things, it's just… Star Trek is so shiny! 8D
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, (damnit), nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story. The quote is from The Last Enemy by Barry B. Longyear, copyright to him.
Shattered crystal, floating forever in a sea of deepest black. Glittering, hard edges and reflective faces, all caught in the soft emptiness they lay in. Outside the great viewing ports of the observation deck, the universe and eternity coasted by.
The single figure to be seen on the deck found he had to consciously hold back from curling of his lip, a small physical manifestation of the distaste for the poetic nonsense that ran through his mind as he gazed out the observation port. In addition to being an overly romanticized image with ridiculous metaphors, he felt that the paltry words did small justice to the truth of what lay just the other side of the deceptively thin barrier. Those tiny twinkles in space, source of superstitious myth to practically every race known while in their most primitive states, each one was a star, a spinning orb of light and gravity. Around many, and there were billions to choose from, entire worlds whirled. A relatively small percentage of those worlds, a meager handful of the ocean that was the galaxy, held the potential for life. And where there was life, there was diversity. The various dramas being unfolded as species after species grew, developed, fought, struggled, survived and matured would be intense, each fraught with their own unique passions, their own drives. Yet, each would also share an uncanny resemblance to the tales of races on other planets, separated from each other by the gulf of space.
So different, yet so similar, and all working to pull themselves out of the mud, to stand and declare themselves to the skies…
All to be lessened by some poet's dream of loveliness. Could any poem, however artfully spun, be so beautiful as the changing, spinning dance that was life, the reality?
The figure, a slight young male Terran-Vulcan hybrid by the name of Spock, breathed out heavily, the closest he ever came to a frustrated sigh. All the beauty in the universe, he mused, and no race's attempts at adornment could begin to do for it what it had not already done for itself. The only way to properly describe it all was as itself. The only accurate comparison was to compare it to itself. But that didn't stop any of the myriad races from making the attempt.
Feeling himself being drawn into a philosophical turn of mind he was not prepared to indulge in, Spock turned away from the deep abyss to find a comfortable seat, where he could still observe the stars and hold the object he had brought with him with ease.
After settling into the cushions of a single chair that molded to his form and supported his spine, he positioned the bulky object he held – an instrument – and began the redundant task of tuning it. What lay against one shoulder as he checked the note of each of the strings was known as a ka'athyra, called a Vulcan harp or lyre by most other races. As the young science officer strummed the strings, producing a perfect scale – truly, no need for tuning, so well looked after it was – he reflected on the good fortune of the privacy he had found. On board a ship that sailed between stars there was no morning or night, but as all those aboard were used to such rhythms, fabricated versions were provided for familiarity. Now, according to that system, it was late at night, when most of the crew were off shift and long since abed. In addition, Spock had deliberately chosen this location, not only for the peerless view, but because it was unlikely that those crew that worked the delta shift would trouble themselves the time to come wandering this far.
Spock fiddled superfluously with a string's tautness. It seemed the height of irony that while aboard a starship, literally light years away from the next planet, never mind one that harbored life, it was still difficult to find privacy.
When he was finally satisfied as to the tuning of his ka'athyra, Spock laid his long fingers over the strings and took a deep breath, centering himself as he stilled any last vibrations of the strings. When his fingers moved again, it was to play a simple piece of music, so familiar to him he could feel his breathing immediately slow to it, his heart following to beat out a rhythm to match the tune. It was a simple piece, one meant to act as a preparatory tune, one to warm up the player's fingers and attune the ear, a short practice of notes, chords, quick changes and rhythms all for the benefit of the 'real' music meant to follow it.
But despite its purpose of a simple warm-up, Spock held a kind of fondness for it. He had played this exact piece of music countless times before, and the repetition of playing his fingers over familiar combinations couldn't fail to bring to mind all of the times before when he had done exactly the same. With relatively few exceptions, it brought memories of home, of Vulcan.
The ka'athyra had been a gift from his father, who had compromised with his mother on the matter that his education. His mother held that it should not be entirely left-brained and that he be encouraged to partake of some form of art. The compromise had been adding music to his syllabus, but providing him with a purely Vulcan instrument. He had taken to it with the same determination he had pursued every subject, and became quite skilled, and before every practice session, he would begin with this warm up tune. Occasionally this would take place in the schools he attended, but more commonly it was at home. His home, with its wide windows overlooking the ochre expanses of Vulcan on one side and the carefully tended garden on the other. The fluttering curtains that were so impractical, but were indulged in for his mother's sake. The many PADDs and data sticks of his father's from his trips off world as Ambassador. The shelves of books, real paper and print books bound in covers, that his mother loved so much, a fondness she'd passed on to her son. The big old sehlat Ee-chiya, always dozing in a patch of sunlight. The smells of dry winds and faint incense, the soft sounds of his parents quietly talking as he played…
Without paying attention to his own movements, he arrived at the end of the piece and once again his fingers stilled. Far from a complex composition, it had nevertheless filled the observation deck with sound. Now it seemed even more vacant than before he had begun, the emptiness of the deck reaching out to join with its vaster counterpart just beyond the port…
He drank it in, the eternity of everlasting night falling into deep sable eyes that only seemed to ask for more.
Staring out into the abyss, his mind gladly accepting the void of thought it provided, his next selection come naturally, without consideration.
Like the one that came before, it begins simply, but it is a deceptive simplicity. As Spock begins, the notes are few, widely spaced, and hardly seeming worthy enough to play for their own sake. But Spock played them, the lonely, forlorn notes, for a full minute, his eyes never leaving the field of stars. Then his left hand shifted in its grip on the ka'athyra, and though his right hand stilled, the music continued to flow eerily from the instrument. It was little known, but despite its purely acoustic appearance, many ka'athyra were equipped with something akin to what Terrans referred to as 'loopers', allowing a single player to build upon himself until he became many. It was a feature Spock didn't often use, but would have to for this classical Vulcan composition, which normally required six musicians to play.
At the proper moment, Spock's hand begins to move again, and suddenly it's as though there are two playing on the deck. The lonely notes are joined by more, gaps being filled, structure built upon. By the time the third layer is added, Spock is fully immersed, his sensitive ears picking up the strange, subtle interplay of sounds whenever two different notes 'met'. It gave a sense of nostalgia, and sent shivers down his spine that had nothing to do with the void that faced him. It was not often he played classical Vulcan pieces. The crew had long since learned of his proficiency with the 'Vulcan lyre' and had convinced him to play on occasion for their entertainment, but all early attempts to introduce Vulcan music, at least this sort, was quickly stemmed. It seemed that while the odd collision of notes was quite pleasing to the Vulcan ear, to humans it had an unsettling effect. 'Creepy', one yeoman had helpfully supplied. So Spock stuck to Terran pieces that could be tailored to his ka'athyra, neglecting the Vulcan staples with their multi-layered measures and unorthodox beats.
So it was when playing in the company of humans, and catering to their sometimes delicate, limited sensibilities. But here, in the deep darkness with none but the stars to watch over him, he played freely, the alien music reverberating around the deck until it sounded like a host of Vulcan musicians were playing.
Long, practiced fingers danced across the strings, coaxing forth sweet, tremulous sounds and aching melodies. The music was meant to call to mind the enigmatic mystery of the stars, and the aching need of the Vulcan race to know, to explore, to reach out.
The third layer was finished, the fourth begun, each successive addition interlocking perfectly with the one that came before, adding depth and complexity, without falling into chaos as it built. When the fourth layer was added, Spock immediately began the fifth, the sounds of four other players filling his ears, teasing him to believe he was not alone. Sought to make him believe that there were more here who shared his blood, who remembered the hot sands and rock spires of home, sitting by his side and joining in his music.
Lost as he was, Spock still recognized the familiar gulf his thoughts were skirting around, and sought a new vein. His hands never stilling, he began thinking of anything not immediately connected to his destroyed planet. Perhaps predictably, he thought of Starfleet Academy, the place he had gone after choosing to forsake his own home. Still playing, nearing the end of the fifth layer, Spock turned his mind to his old instructors, his first human instructors beyond his own mother or the occasional visiting lecturer.
His seeking thoughts came up with perhaps the most human of all the instructors, one Douglas Russell, who taught the first of many xenobiology classes, with an emphasis on xenoculture. He'd been odd, even, Spock came to learn, by human standards, using unconventional means to 'get them thinking the right way'. One such example had been to assign the reading of ancient Terran literature in his course. That in itself was not exceptionally strange, as many classes would assign supplementary material, but the subject matter he would choose. Almost invariably it was fiction, and it would be the meeting of two cultures, more often than not science fiction 'first contact' novels, but fantasy was not unknown for appearing.
"These are not meant to give you an idea of what to expect when meeting an alien culture," he'd said early on, in response to a question. He'd waved his own copy of the material as he spoke, a carefully preserved paperback. Spock could remember liking him a little more for his affiliation with those endangered things called books. "They are meant," he went on, "to give you an idea of what the author expected, or dreamed, or feared. This reveals some of what we might expect from the writer, and to a certain extent, the culture he comes from by extension. The same is true for literature of the same or comparable type on any other world."
He remembered Professor Russell with respect, still kept a few select 'assignment novels' even now.
The final, sixth layer was complete. Music bounced around the observation deck like a living entity, filling the space with its deep thrums and swooping chords. In the false night of dimmed illumination panels, the music echoed around the shadowy corners, calling forth ever more memories of home, though warped by place and circumstance.
Sitting in the dark, watching as infinity slipped by, the sounds of Vulcan playing about his ears and thinking of the Academy, a strange memory surfaced. A line from one of those first contact novels, wherein a young alien was caught gazing out into space, much as he was now. How had it run again?
"Staring out at the stars from a dark compartment can be quite disturbing. It has a tendency to call out the shadows you least want to see."
Pondering those two sentences now, Spock could see some merit to them. Though he chose his place and time carefully to avoid interaction and escape whirling thoughts, the darkness and glowing stars only served to call the memories further forward. Memories he had no desire to relive just now, or perhaps ever.
The music built to its final measure, where Spock had become the central hub of an entire group of invisible musicians. The notes he played, while the last of a complex tapestry, were not buried beneath what came before. They spiraled up, away, the impression of breaking free and into new spaces the crowning moment of the piece. Slowly Spock siphoned away the layers again, leaving that central tune, then faded them all away, until there was only the deep, black silence of space and a mind too plagued by memory to rest.
One year, Spock thought to himself, his fingers caressing the strings idly without eliciting a sound. One full t-standard year has passed since the Enterprise took on its five year mission of deep space exploration. In that time many discoveries have been made, personal and impersonal, what many had considered impossible proven, again and again. Expectations of what is possible reset to ever further reaches, only to be pushed again…
Yes, in a single year the flagship of the Fleet, sporting the youngest Captain and crew on record, had become something of a legend of Federation space. More so than it had already been, with the Narada incident still fresh in everyone's mind. A year of exploration, discoveries, adventures, even, heretofore undreamed of by the half-Vulcan. It was a lifestyle he had come to find more than agreeable. It challenged him, body and mind, in ways no other life could. Another vocation might have made demands upon his intelligence, none would have made him exercise his ingenuity quite like problem solving in deep space, where backup was limited to one's crew, and more often than not new, completely alien components were involved. It pressed him, time and again, to think beyond his self-imposed limitations, and while he could not say the experience was comfortable, he did think he was better for it. He was glad to have followed the advice of his elder self and chosen Starfleet over New Vulcan. It fulfilled him in ways that nothing else could.
He plucked at a string, the single note floating out only to be crushed by the oppressive stillness and darkness that surrounded it.
A full year had passed since they had set out. More than a year since the day the Narada appeared and changed the universe with only a few actions. More than a year since the insane Romulan called Nero took his pre-emptive revenge on an older version of himself and the entire Vulcan people – all over a mistake. More than a year since Vulcan perished. Vulcan, that beautiful, warm world of deceiving harshness, of wide dry deserts and secret, lush oases, gone forever.
His home, with its familiar hallways, the quiet gardens, the fluttering curtains…
His mother, too.
More than a year had passed. He had mourned, as all of his surviving though greatly reduced race had mourned, honoring the dead by not allowing their entire culture to die, and he had made peace with himself over the more personal losses. He'd made the Enterprise his new home. He could say that Earth was his only remaining home but the starship had become a place he belonged in ways the green-blue planet never had. He felt more comfortable here, and more accepted by his comrades than he ever had at the Academy, as student or teacher.
Why, then, was his mind in such turmoil now? His dreams haunted by memories full of sight, sound and smell that was all home. His waking thoughts illogically plagued by the wondering of what ifs. His heart twisted in his side with longing for things that could never be, ever again.
When next his fingers moved over the ka'athyra, it was again to play a piece that was not of his conscious choosing. His subconscious seemed to be doing all the selecting for him, and took command of the motor skills required to make it so. Or perhaps the music chose itself, but that was an irrational thought.
It was a composition he was well familiar with, for it was one he had written himself, years ago for his final examination. Though 'exam' wasn't quite accurate, as the assignment was never meant to be graded. Truer to say that it was an assessment. It had been a very open assignment, one which the instructors had left to each student's discretion, what they chose to compose and its intent. Spock remembered that at the time he had seriously suspected the true purpose of the assignment was to judge the students by how they chose to express themselves, to test a young Vulcan's detachment and control. Looking back on such suspicions now, he felt no particular embarrassment over them. His entire young life was littered with examples of being tested on his control, from young and old alike, all because of his mixed blood, right up to the day he'd decided to leave Vulcan for Starfleet on Earth. It had become second nature to see such tests on every side.
One exception, it turned out, was the final musical assessment. Art was one of the few places where a Vulcan could express his or herself without fear of recrimination from the rest of society. The results of such expression would still be considered greatly repressed by the majority of other races, most notably humans, but when compared to the rest of their repressed natures, Vulcan art was a comparative cacophony of expressionism. This was most notable in their music.
Even so, Spock had almost managed to earn a reprimand for his composition, based on its 'troubling levels of emotionalism'. The tiny twist of rebellious pride Spock felt over that was quite shocking to him.
It began simply, but not in the same kind of simplicity as the two before it. The rhythm it set was steady, strong, and primitive. The notes that followed were primitive as well, with no chords, only two layers looped in, and a back and forth melody that was meant to stir the emotions and set the blood pumping wildly through one's veins. To a human listening, it would have been strangely reminiscent of ancient Terran pieces; primitive music played by their nomadic, sometimes warrior ancestors. It might have shocked a human listener unfamiliar with Vulcan history to learn that what Spock played was meant to hearken back to the time when his people had been much the same.
In truth, his composition would have benefitted by the addition of a drum of some kind to keep a more appreciable beat, but he played his ka'athyra well, and managed without.
The depth and range possible in a ka'athyra was astounding, greater than any comparable Terran instrument, and certainly more than its appearance would suggest. But while the instrument possessed the capability for expression, how well it did so depended entirely on the player, who often failed to utilize all the ka'athyra had to offer. So much potential in the strings, left untouched. For a moment Spock considered the similarity between his people and the instrument resting against his shoulder, and found the comparison apt.
Slowly the tune metamorphosed, becoming something less primitive, but still far from refined. When Spock had written this piece, it had been with the goal of embodying each of the most recognizable phases of Vulcan's evolution through the musical style and themes of said phases. A kind of historical tour of music all contained in a single composition. It had taken much time, research, training of his fingers to unfamiliar rhythms and adapting ancient styles to his modern instrument, but it had been worth it for the assessment he'd received, save the one notation.
As he continued, each time frame easily phased in and out so the evolution of the piece seemed natural, until he came to the last of the pre-Surak days. Surak, that Vulcan who had stepped forth out of the chaos that was Vulcan society and had taught logic, the control of those wild emotional responses that threatened to engulf the planet entirely, and the principles of IDIC; infinite diversity in infinite combinations. The final days before Surak's teachings took hold were perhaps the darkest and bloodiest in Vulcan's history. Pointless war, bigotry, hate, resentment, desire and more all ruling how they had lived.
And that was reflected in their music. Thrumming baselines and swooping, heart racing overlays, it was music designed to ready the listener for battle. This segment, more than any other, was what earned him that detrimental notation. Not for what he chose to play, but in how he chose to play it.
In pre-Surak days emotions ran wild, unfettered, and could be heard in their music. Emotion and music were closely tied, to remove one from the other would mean the lessening of them both. Spock's rendition, with all the feeling in place, was not so different from most of his fellow musicians. In theory. In practice, it was different, because he chose not to express that time in merely animalistic overtones. He added elements of fierce joy, unfettered glee, wild love, even, in the freedom of his piece.
It was only logical, Spock reasoned. As in those times, all emotions were experienced freely by the Vulcans, positive and negative together. With one came the other, to express one to the complete exclusion of the other would have left it incomplete.
Unfortunately, it was not viewed the same way by his instructors. Outside the obvious issue of expressing 'excessive emotion', his instructors took exception to his associating the barbaric, pre-Surak days with anything positive. The elders didn't feel comfortable with Spock's interpretation of those times as anything other than something destructive.
Be that as it may, Spock's interpretation remained.
Next came the strangest point in the music, and the place that had been the most difficult for Spock to compose, as it was the greatest leap in styles. To change from the wild, unfettered music of a warrior race to the well measured, highly organized and mathematical form of composition, with little to no gradient between, was a difficult transition. Instead of gradually evolving, the two styles collided, fell over each other, tried to merge before, finally, what became music after the advent of logic, emerged triumphant. Mathematical, controlled, symmetrical, yet retaining the same basic melodies and spirituality as before. It was a reflection of what the Vulcan people had always been, their essence and culture, but calmer, with unanimity of purpose.
Spock identified with this section, with its struggle between the barbaric and the temperate, and the eventual compromise of something between, something greater than either alone, and found it to be the most beautiful.
After that it was the natural, regular progression of more complex forms, the tone and rhythms varying slightly, depending upon the tastes of the time. It was all very pretty, but very controlled, very logical.
Finally he came to the final segment, one that sounded much as the second selection he had played, earlier. Open and haunting, it seemed to reach for and echo those great, unfathomable spaces between the stars, floating and seeking, gliding through and grasping for the knowledge of all that existed. An ache, perhaps, to take in everything and be filled. Eventually, the strings began to still as Spock's fingers came to rest, the final notes he had written so many years ago humming away, fading into the dark, wide open space of the observation deck. Spock allowed himself a small flutter of satisfaction at the conclusion of the piece. It was a fine representation of Vulcan, he believed, and a fitting way to remember it.
Suddenly, a flicker of something passed over the half-Vulcan's features, his eyes darkened to a near black. To remember it…
His hand moved in a blur, and notes, loud and clashing and chaotic, broke the silence into a thousand pieces.
There was more to be remembered of Vulcan, now. The music was incomplete.
It was brutal, ugly, with no sense of reason or harmony or pattern. It sounded as though Spock were twisting the strings, clawing at them with no intention of music. It hurt, physically and mentally to listen to, but that was the point. Conflict, discordance, chaos and confusion, it was the sound of a world being torn apart. Distantly, Spock felt when the strings cut him and his fingers began to bleed as he attacked the ka'athyra. He ignored it.
Amid the cacophony, somehow, a single thread of coherency was found. Spock plucked it out, still surrounded as it was by chaos, as though it were a delicate object that might break. He strengthened it, made its voice louder, added complimentary layers, until at last the chaos was gone.
What was left was almost worse.
A low, lamenting keen that played along the strings. It was the sound of a proud race in its final moments, echoing with terror and despair, seeming to cry out, "We are dying, we are dying…"
Spock stilled. Some feeling he couldn't quite place made it impossible to continue, something so large it filled him to every corner, yet remained unidentifiable. But the music was still not done, not complete. He felt that as surely as the beating of his own heart, as fancifully illogical as it seemed.
His fingers echoing an ache he refused to acknowledge, he caressed the strings of the ka'athyra slowly, softly. The sounds they made were barely there to be heard, weak and unsure, but determined. As are all new beginnings.
When silence descended on the deck a final time, it practically thrummed with the emptiness it left behind. Something significant transpired here, it seemed to whisper, but you must discover why it is so.
Spock was tired, so very tired and vulnerable to the memories he had kept at arm's length the past year. He realized that in all that time, he had never completely processed all that had happened. There had been understanding, but not acceptance, not even fully grasping it. It was too big, too incomprehensible, and he had spent no time in taking the steps necessary for full comprehension.
He moved the ka'athyra away from his shoulder, and stared down at his fingers in the dark. There were darker smudges than mere shadows would account for at two of the tips, places where nail or skin had caught and torn, letting loose little streams of green blood. That would have to be remedied by morning, and any blood on the instrument cleaned away before it dried.
Standing, Spock gave one last look out into the deep velvet of space, feeling that familiar, deep-seated need to explore, to know, to always go further out and away well up in him. He turned away, holding instrument and injured hand close as he strode away, back straight, eyes forward. He would come to terms with this new order of things. He would regain the control he needed over his emotions, his errant thoughts. He just needed more time, and more… more.
The observation deck was silent, still with the absence of the troubled young half-Vulcan. The stars shone on, insensible to the turbulence of mere mortal beings, the shadows between and within offering no more comfort than what void could provide.
In the farthest of corners on the deck, a pair of twin stars, bright blue and anxious, continued to watch the doorway Spock had taken in his exit, the mind behind them left to wonder.
A/N2: So. I don't know if I'll make this more than one chapter or not. It's certainly set up to be more than one… but I could also just leave it as is. Any votes on this?
Thanks for reading, my gorgeous readers! (HEARTS!)