Disclaimer: I do not profit from writing about these characters.
Nyota Uhura is the least superstitious person she knows, but when the morning newscast flashes images of a crashed hover bus across the vidscreen in the crowded Academy cafeteria, she feels such a shudder—such a frisson—that she sets her spoon back into her bowl of yogurt and pulls her comm out of her pocket.
Nothing. No messages since Spock's curt message last night that he had gotten safely back into San Francisco from his quick trip to Vulcan to visit his parents. He would see her in the morning when they tutored several regular phonology students.
The hover bus crash is rare and all the more spectacular for that. Already news commentators are suggesting that last week's earthquake is to blame—authorities suspect that cracks in the transfer station antenna may have compromised the software on the automated bus, causing it to hurtle 30 feet out of the sky and land upside down, crushing two ground cars and injuring several pedestrians. No one is sure how many bus passengers have been hurt, though the news reports vary from "few" to "many" critically injured.
Unable to finish her breakfast, Nyota piles her dishes on her tray and hands it to a kitchen worker standing beside the trash bins. Normally Nyota is breezy and appreciative of the students who are assigned kitchen duty, but today she hardly notices them. Instead, she keeps turning to watch the images of the burning bus, the changing tally of injuries scrolling across the screen.
Nyota pulls her comm from her pocket as she leaves the cafeteria and begins the uphill slog to the language lab building. She hesitates for only a moment before dialing Spock's number. If he answers, she can tell him that travel to campus is being delayed. Until the cause of the crash is determined, all hover craft have been grounded—leaving many commuters scrambling for trams or trains.
But he doesn't answer.
That's when Nyota feels the frisson again—an electric shiver that visibly shakes her. It's probably nothing, she tells herself—a dead comm tower, a power outage not yet repaired after the earthquake.
She walks faster and imagines laughing when she enters the lab and sees Spock there already working with a student.
"You'll never believe what I was worried about!" she will say, and he will look up and answer dryly, "Indeed," and then she will laugh again, and the student will look from her to him and back to her, trying to parse out what is so funny.
Except that when she gets to the lab, the dean is already there waiting for her, and in a moment Nyota Uhura goes from being the least superstitious person she knows to someone who will later wonder just how much warning the universe gives before it shatters around her.
X X X X X X X X
When Sarek calls him that morning, Dr. Christopher Thomasson is already en route to his office, but he turns his car around immediately and heads home to pack a bag.
"The shuttle from Seattle to San Francisco is just a 15 minute hop," he tells Sarek, "but getting through Starfleet security may take awhile."
Sarek's voice, even through the subspace connection, sounds calm and tempered. Chris isn't surprised. They have never spent that much time together, but Sarek has always been centered in a way that makes Chris feel comfortable. When he was a child, as much as Chris enjoyed his aunt Amanda's energy, he gravitated towards Sarek and sought out his company when the couple visited Amanda's sister's family on Earth.
If Sarek minded the attentions from Amanda's oldest nephew, he did not show it. In fact, he seemed to take great care to talk to Chris as if he were an adult, asking in detail what the young boy was studying in school and showing an interest in the science projects Chris conducted in a shed behind the house.
When Chris had graduated from the university and enrolled in medical school, Sarek had sent him a long note expressing something close to pride. When Chris had finished his residency and opened his own psychiatry practice, Sarek and Amanda had surprised him with a visit, touring his office and impressing his starstruck secretary who talked for days about meeting the ambassador.
So when Sarek calls and asks that he go to San Francisco, Chris doesn't hesitate.
"I expect the authorities will contact us soon," Sarek says, and Chris marvels again at the connection that Amanda and Sarek have with their son. Both had known immediately when the bus crashed—both had sensed Spock's surprise and pain—though both believe that he is not seriously injured.
"We are concerned," Sarek says, "with his silence. Most likely he has put himself into a healing trance by now. His mother, however, worries—"
And then Sarek himself is silent, and Chris understands that Sarek's unflappable calm is not as steady as it sounds.
"I'll have my secretary cancel my patients for the next few days," Chris says. "I'll call you as soon as I get there. He's probably fine. If you need to make the trip, I'll let you know."
"I'll have Starfleet send someone to meet you at the shuttle port," Sarek says before ending the transmission.
X X X X X X X X
Getting to the shuttle port is a bigger headache than Nyota had imagined it would be. The bus crash had happened right at the beginning of the morning commute, and now without any air travel, traffic on the ground is snarled.
Nyota catches a ride part of the way with an Academy cruiser, but she has to exit when it goes on out to the Bay and she has to trek east to the transportation hub. For a few minutes she tries to hail a ground cab—but all are full. Finally she begins walking the last three miles, hoping that she will find transport once she is out of the city center.
She's not the only one with the same idea. Men and women in all sorts of dress—from business professionals to restaurant staff to retailers—are walking to work on the crowded walkways. Eventually Nyota gives up eyeing the passing cabs and focuses on moving as quickly as possible to the shuttle port.
She will be late—she keeps looking at her chronometer—but the people she is supposed to pick up will have no other option than to wait for her. As she brushes through the crowd she tamps down her panic and tries to remember the names of the people she is sent to get—she remembers the dean meeting her at the lab and telling her that Spock had been in the bus crash, but after that she cannot remember what he said, except that Spock's next of kin had been notified and his cousin was flying in.
"Why next of kin?" she had asked breathlessly, but the dean had not responded. Or, he had responded, telling her that she was to pick up a doctor, too, someone named Thomasson. Was he a specialist? She thought she had asked that question, but if anyone answered, she doesn't recall.
Her own response startles her beyond belief. If this is how she reacts in a crisis—the shame of her distress and disorganization makes her pull herself together. An image of the burning bus flashes through her mind and she forces it out. She can't be any help to Spock if she falls apart now.
The crowd near the shuttle port is actually heavier than the crowd in the city, and Nyota tucks her right shoulder forward and shoves her way into the group gathered near the front door of the shuttle terminal. Like a cork popping out of a bottle, she is suddenly inside and she makes her way to the message board.
No one has posted a message for her so she looks around. The milling crowd is so thick that for a moment Nyota despairs. Her eye catches a bench along the wall near the message board.
"Excuse me," she says to the woman sitting on the end. "I need to stand here for a moment."
The woman in a thick brown coat pulls her bags closer to her and turns away, as if someone standing on a bench beside her was an ordinary event. Nyota hoists herself up and swivels slowly, looking for the telltale features of a Vulcan.
Most of the crowd are human--though she sees two blue Andorians and one alien of unknown origin. Suddenly she notices a tall black-haired man making his way through the crowd and she squints to make out his details. A Vulcan! Her hand is already in the air waving him over when she realizes that he is not a Vulcan after all—just a surprised man who looks at her quizzically before making his way to the other side of the terminal.
"Excuse me," a nearby voice says, "but are you from Starfleet?"
Nyota looks down and sees a pleasant-looking man wearing a neatly pressed jacket and trousers and carrying a small travel bag. His gray eyes are smiling—and Nyota realizes that his question is entirely rhetorical. She is wearing a red cadet uniform with a Starfleet logo emblazoned on the collar.
Nyota spares him another quick glance before craning her neck around the busy room again.
"I'm supposed to meet someone from Starfleet," the man says.
Nyota reluctantly steps down from the bench and says, "That's probably me. You must be the doctor?"
Even as she speaks she is abashed that she is being abrupt. She casts about in her memory and adds, "Dr. Thomasson?"
The sandy-haired man gives her an odd look.
"Please call me Chris. I was told you would take me to the hospital?"
Nyota nods quickly. The mention of the hospital tightens her throat and she has trouble speaking.
"Yes, though transportation is currently difficult. I'm also waiting on another passenger. Then we can leave."
"Certainly," Chris says, and Nyota turns around to step back up on the bench. Chris holds out his hand and she uses it to leverage herself up.
"Thank you," she says. "I apologize if I seem rude—it's just that I'm anxious. A friend of mine was hurt this morning in the bus crash, and I'm waiting on his cousin now."
She glances down at the man at her side and briefly notices a wrinkle crease his brow.
Chris reaches up and taps Nyota on the forearm.
"Are you waiting for Spock's cousin?"
"Yes," she says without looking down. Something about Chris' words strike her as odd, but then across the room she thinks she sees another possible candidate. She stands on her tiptoes and shades her eyes with her right hand.
"That's me," Chris says. "I'm Spock's cousin."
Nyota looks down so quickly that she makes herself dizzy.
"Me. Chris Thomasson. Spock's my cousin. His parents asked me to come."
Nyota realizes that she sounds like a broken record, but she cannot stop.
"You are Spock's cousin?"
"Shouldn't we go?" Chris says, taking Nyota's hand and tugging her down from her perch on the bench.
Two shocks in one morning prove too much, and Nyota sits heavily on the edge of the bench. The woman in the brown coat leans back and scowls.
"I'm sorry," Nyota says. She leans forward and puts her palms on her cheeks. Her face is hot, fevered. She thinks she may throw up if she moves.
Chris kneels down and looks her intently in the face.
"Are you okay?" he asks, and Nyota says, "I will be...in a moment. I'm just—"
She doesn't finish her sentence. What can she say? Until now she thought she knew Spock as well as anyone at the Academy—or at least as well as any other students did. Since becoming his lab assistant she has spent meals with him—has teased him—has scolded him for not understanding human traditions and habits.
And there she pauses. She can't think about that now.
"Yes," she says, standing up suddenly, giving Chris a weak smile, "we do need to get going. The hospital is on the other side of town."
And with that she surveys the crowded room and nods toward the door.
A/N: This story happens immediately after the action in "Slips of the Tongue"—though each story stands alone. If you leave a comment, you are a gem! Your notes keep me going!