Chapter One: Square One
Disclaimer: I do not profit from writing about these characters.
From the corner of her eye, Uhura sees Sulu half-rise from his seat at the helm, his hand fluttering like a frightened bird.
Nomad, hovering a few feet in front of her.
She stops singing.
"What is the meaning?"
The probe's computerized voice is flat, inflectionless. Remorseless. Uhura feels the hair on the back of her neck rise.
"What form of communication?"
"I don't know what it—"
Glancing at Sulu, she has a leap of insight. Something had drawn the probe to the bridge.
"Oh, my singing," she says. And then to Nomad, she says, "I was singing."
"For what purpose is singing?"
The question catches her off-guard, partly because a dangerous mechanical device is asking it, but partly because she's never really articulated to herself why she finds so much pleasure in music. The joy of creation, for one. The camaraderie of singing in a chorus, the rush of performing for an appreciative audience—the reasons she had joined the Academy Chorale Ensemble.
Too complex—or abstract—for a computer? She imagines Spock mildly chastising her later for being unable to communicate more effectively with what is essentially an intelligent tool.
Communications expert, indeed.
"I don't know. I—I like to sing. I felt like music."
"What is music? Think about music."
A blinding flash. In the distance, someone shouts. Scotty, clearly alarmed. The whoosh of the lift doors opening, and a glimpse of the captain and Spock rushing forward—and then nothing.
"I don't know, Jim," Dr. McCoy says, his voice characteristically sour, the way it is when he is distraught. Or angry. Spock is rarely certain which emotion to attribute to the doctor. Both, in fact, may be right.
The captain, on the other hand, is easier to read. Right now he is worried. And angry.
And rightly so. Since Nomad's attack on Lieutenant Uhura, she has been unresponsive—mute, her gaze cast in the distance, though Dr. McCoy has found no reason for it.
'What do you mean, you don't know?" the captain says, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
Both he and Spock are standing in the doctor's small office in sickbay, McCoy sitting at his desk.
"Well, the tests indicate no brain damage," he says, tapping through several screens on his computer. "As near as I can tell, she's suffered some kind of electrical shock, though why she is still unable to respond, I don't know. It doesn't make sense."
"What was it Nomad said?" Kirk says, looking first at McCoy and then to Spock.
"That her knowledge banks have been erased," Spock says promptly. "A phrase that suggests that as far as Nomad is concerned, biological and mechanical life forms are similar."
"Life forms!" McCoy scoffs. "Are you telling me that that tin-plated flying box is alive?"
Spock sees the captain shift slightly, as if preparing to head off the doctor's usual tirade.
"Whether or not it is alive is immaterial," Spock says with more equanimity than he feels. "It acts as if it is. It is curious, defends itself, has a sense of purpose—"
"Spock! It may be responsible for the deaths of whole worlds! We know it tried to kill Scotty. It may have damaged Uhura beyond anyone's ability to repair. Don't tell me I have to treat it as if it is a living creature!"
"Bones," the captain says, waving his hand toward him.
"Doctor," Spock adds, "I am not making a moral judgment about Nomad. But if Nomad believes that it is alive, it would be dangerous not to treat it as if it is."
At his side, he senses the captain react.
"Spock," Kirk says, "you said you think Nomad has confused me with its creator."
"What's going to happen when it discovers its error?"
Spock takes a breath before answering. What, indeed? As he often does, Captain Kirk has made an intuitive jump right to where Spock has been leaning.
"Unknown," he says. "But other sentient creatures often react badly when their creators are not who they imagine them to be."
"If we can set aside the theology for a moment," McCoy says, "I have a bigger issue at hand. You said you thought Uhura could be re-educated, Spock. But so far nothing's been able to break through that daze she's in. It's almost like she's in a waking coma. The lights are on but nobody's home. I'm not sure there's anything anyone can do."
The doctor's tone still reflects his anger and distress. His words are not what humans would call flip or callous. He is not making a joke. But Spock is surprised at how irritated he feels at the doctor's assessment.
At how McCoy seems to be writing Uhura off.
For the past two years Spock has worked side by side with the lieutenant, their work stations on the bridge of necessity overlapping. More than any other bridge crew member, Uhura knows how to anticipate his requests, can follow without prompting where his logic will take him, is able to work for extended periods of time with little loss of efficiency. Replacing her will be difficult, if not impossible.
He recalls how she had impressed him with her work ethic and gifted ear in his advanced phonology seminar at the Academy, the only time she had taken one of his courses. Even as a cadet she showed unusual persistence in figuring things out, in challenging herself to learn more than anyone else in the class. If he hadn't hired Leila Kalomi the semester before to be his student aide, he would have offered the position to Cadet Uhura.
As he always does when he thinks about Leila, Spock feels a wave of uneasiness. A lucky thing she had joined the colonists heading for Omicron Ceti III after graduation.
And perhaps a lucky thing Cadet Uhura wasn't available after all.
He'd been in an interesting state that year. When Christopher Pike left the Enterprise to become fleet captain, Spock left as well, turning down the certain promotion and choosing instead a teaching position at the Academy. Even now he isn't entirely sure why.
One of his reasons was the uncertainty he felt with T'Pring. Recent baffling messages had made him question their future—and with good reason, as it turned out. Each night before he retires he still needs extra meditation time to deal with his lingering anger about her betrayal with Stonn.
But another reason had to do with his sense of himself on the Enterprise. As Captain Pike's science officer, he was content to pursue his natural interests in the course of a career. Long ago he had reconciled any qualms he might have felt about being part of the military, despite Vulcan's official pacifist status.
When Pike left, Spock had trouble imagining working that closely with another captain again, and indeed, if Captain Pike hadn't asked him personally to consider rejoining the crew under the command of James Kirk, Spock would have stayed at the Academy.
Not happily, perhaps, but reasonably content.
"He needs someone to watch his back," Pike had said, "the way I always knew you had mine. At least think about it. I've known this guy for quite awhile. He's got talent, Spock. And I think you'd make a hell of a team."
Like so many things that Captain Pike had said to him over the years, this proved prophetic. And true.
He looks at the captain now.
"Human memory," Spock says, "is not like a computer's. It resides in the synaptic connections between individual brain cells. As far as we know, it is highly redundant and nonlinear. What Nomad did may have made accessing those memories difficult, but I believe they are still there."
"And we're still no closer to helping her," McCoy says, throwing his hands up in the air.
"A mind meld," the captain says, and Spock nods.
"I may be able to help the lieutenant retrieve her memories," Spock says.
McCoy makes a noise halfway between a snort and a harrumph.
"And if you can't?"
"I may at least be able to help her retrieve some language skills. Then she could be re-educated."
"Either way, Jim," McCoy said, standing up and moving toward the door, "this is going to take lots of time. We might want to think about transferring her to the medical facilities on Starbase 11."
This, too, makes Spock feel an unexpected spike of irritation with the doctor. If the mind meld is successful, the lieutenant could be back on duty almost immediately.
Before he can respond, the captain says, "Not yet, Bones. Let's give this a chance first."
McCoy leads the way out of his office to the wardroom where Uhura lies on a biobed, her eyes open and staring. Christine Chapel hovers nearby, her concern etched on her face in a way that even Spock recognizes.
"When can we start?" the captain says, and McCoy shrugs.
"If you're going to do it, you might as well go ahead. I can't do anything else for her."
The conditions are not ideal. The room is far too chilly for his comfort—as most areas of the ship are—and the room is too bright. Privacy would be preferable.
Repressing a sigh, Spock steps to the biobed and looks closely at the lieutenant. Her vacant look is so unlike her that he is disconcerted. Lifting his hand in front of her face experimentally, he waits to see if she reacts.
He lets his fingers drift to the side of her face. Her skin is dry and cool, almost unnaturally so.
My mind to your mind, he intones silently, lowering his shields and casting out into the void. Where are you? he calls.
Of their own accord, his eyes close. His breathing slows, slows, and he feels himself sinking, like someone trying to walk across a bog.
Uhura, he says. Where are you?
Silence and darkness, and for a moment Spock considers whether or not Dr. McCoy was right, that this is a useless effort. Perhaps, despite what the initial tests show, Lt. Uhura has suffered some sort of damage beyond repair. Or a loss of memory so pervasive that she is no longer reachable.
The idea catches him up short, makes him unaccountably sad.
Uhura! he calls, this time with more urgency.
And then he hears it, like a distant wind—a soft susurration that starts out low and grows in intensity. Humming, or singing, wordless and yearning.
He moves forward in this landscape of her mind and the darkness begins to lift and the noise surrounds him.
With a start, he realizes that the lieutenant is standing beside his elbow, her face tipped up toward him.
"I knew you'd come," she says. "Please hurry!"
He reaches out his hand to take her by the wrist but his fingers close around empty air. With a lurch, he's back in sickbay, the floor rushing up to meet his head as the world goes black.
A/N: I'm new here in this fandom, though not a new fan of TOS. I watched the original episodes when they aired in the 1960's and have loved these characters ever since.
When the reboot movie was announced, I was skeptical. After all, I loved the trinity of Kirk, McCoy, and Spock. And I loved the original actors. How could anyone replace them?
So I was relieved that the writers of the new movie didn't try to. Count me among those viewers who found the movie a terrific adventure and a refreshing take on the characters.
I've written 18 stories over in the reboot movieverse, so if you are enjoying this one, you might want to take a look over there.
At any rate, I hope you enjoy this venture. Reviews help me know if there's an audience for this story to continue, so whether you liked it or not so far, let me know.