Biting back a groan, Spock wipes her mouth and strides back home. Another day at school that could not pass without bullying – it is nothing new. Spock has conjectured that the crebrity would someday numb her, but today is not that day.
She can see her family’s house from up here, the brown trees and the orange cliffs in stark contrast to the white walls and the grand glass windows. I-Chaya is sleeping on the pathed veranda. Everything is peaceful, but Spock cannot find peace here, because this is the place where her two halves clash the most. Her mother and her father. This is no place to go now; each time it tears the wound a bit wider instead of closing it.
I-Chaya accompanies Spock to the top of the mountain, where the stars seem closest. On the sehlat’s furry back, Spock lays down to gaze upwards into the indigo darkness. Many times she has attempted to count the stars you could see from down here, but she has giving up long ago.
I-Chaya roars gently.
“I know,” Spock says with a trace of remorse. “I can’t touch them, but that’s not why I’m reaching upwards anyways.” No, she just wants to go. Flee to where there are neither humans nor Vulcans. She did not care whereto, just far, far away.
A cold breeze ghosts over them. “Will you allow me to cry a last time before we go come?” Spock asks, shivering. I-Chaya does not judge her. Someday, she will get better. The day will undoubtably come. “Come fast,” Spock begs, curling up. “Come fast. Please.”
“I hope that your assignment to the Science Academy will be met with affirmation.”
Spock bowed slightly, blinking against the sunset’s light. “Thank you.”
There was no movement on T’Pring’s behalf when she answered. “I will be looking forward to the many successes you will have,” she said tonelessly ere her hologram disappeared with a quiet hiss. Spock felt her shoulders relax and left for her room to continue the math problems she had been working on when her betrothed’s call had come in. Their conversations were always cold and unpersonal, but pleasingly seasoned and without inconvenient incidents, so Spock had gotten used to them.
But she liked mathematics more.
Just when she had taken her x-pen, there was a knock at her door, and Spock knew it could only be one person. “Come,” she said, rising up.
“Hello, dear,” her mother said as she snuck in with a warm smile. Spock stood up straight. “How is T’Pring? I bet she was very happy for you,” Amanda said, hands behind her back.
Spock softened. “As far as ‘happy’ goes with people like her,” she said and stepped towards her mother, who she had already surpassed in height when she had been only fourteen years of age. Now, at eighteen, Spock was still just as tall and found her mother’s gray hairs to be more prominent.
“I wanted to congratulate you as well,” Amanda said with playful conspiracy in her voice.
“You have already done so yesterday,” Spock reminded her.
“I have, but I did not have your present then,” Amanda said and showed Spock what she had been hiding behind her back. “Alice in Wonderland,” Spock read. “And ‘Through the Looking Glass’ as well,” Amanda added affectionately. “It’s a double-volume. Illustrated, of course, just like the one I used to read to you.”
Alice. The children’s book. Spock knew she could not rejoice in a way that would match her mother’s excitement about this present, so she just stared at the book’s board and the small on top of it. Mother had an affinity for antique books with pages made of paper. They smelled of fresh wood. Or her cabinet, depending on how long they were already in use. Spock figured there was something poetic about stories that are this fragile and easily destroyed as opposed to digital archives (although Amanda would argue that one could see it the other way around as well).
“I thank you, mother,” Spock said with a slight bow. “I will cherish it and take it with me to the Academy.”
Amanda smiled softly and cupped Spock’s face with both hands. “The Academy, yes. If that’s what makes you happy, then go there, Spock. I’ll support you no matter what.”
“It will make you and father happy, and thus me,” Spock replied. It was a logical conclusion. Not only that, but having a half-Vulcan study successfully at this institution would bring great honor to Sarek and his lifestyle decisions.
“It is what I want,” Spock said firmly. And that’s when it appeared again – the voice.
Spock blinked and slightly shook her head. Still, the voice sang the melody a second time. Ao-ou…
“Is something wrong?” Amanda asked. Spock hold back her answer to wait if the voice would continue singing, but it was gone. “No,” she thus said. Her mother seemed to deem this answer sufficient despite the concern written on her face. “All right,” she said, lowering her hands.
Spock nodded with an attempt at a smile.
“You can come downstairs in about an hour,” Amanda said. “I’m making plomeek soup for dinner.”
Spock’s lips curled upwards. “I will be looking forward to that.”
Amanda gave her a last smile before softly closing the door behind her. Spock stood in the middle of her room for a little longer, staring at the book in her hands, struck.
Why did the voice sing again? It was the first time today. It was most distracting – a female voice, singing something that sounded like a call. A call that always came from above, from a voice that only Spock could hear, which was the concerning part of the matter, because normally, things that could only be heard by one person were channeled via their katra, the thing Mother called ‘the Vulcan soul’. It was touched in lots of these situations, like long-distant mind melds, for instance. Spock knew what that touch felt like.
However, she could not feel that touch from this calling. It reached out for her, but it did not touch her. It felt like holding out a hand, leaving an unbridgeable distance, for Spock and Spock alone. If it was for her alone, but not resonating with her katra, then maybe it was her human soul that was listening, rather than her Vulcan one. Maybe this imaginary melody was a side-effect of being a human hybrid. Whatever its true nature – it was mysterious, and mystery meant complications, and complications meant trouble. Spock did not want any trouble.
Silently, she straightened up to continue functioning. Time to go back to ignoring these thoughts. Without any movement on her face, Spock put the book onto her shelf and turned to her desk again. She could solve this problem before dinner, she was sure, if the voice would not call again, and maybe she could even feet I-Chaya as well before joining Sarek and Amanda.
“Spock,” her father said after dinner, just after Amanda had excused herself.
“Yes, father,” Spock answered obediently, hands behind her back.
“Tomorrow is a big day for you, so you should go to bed early. It will make you look more presentable.”
Sarek shifted on his feet. “Please see to sleeping at 2200 at the least. I know it can be hard when something new awaits and you’re excited for the next day,” he said.
“I am not excited,” Spock replied mechanically. “However, I can’t deny a certain joy that the outlook of having the possibility to bring honor to you gives me. If you would forgive me.”
Sarek answered after a brief pause. “Spock. You are an exceptionally talented applicant, but it is not certain that you will be given-”
“I know,” Spock interrupted. She apologized right afterwards for the impulsive answer. “I know,” she continued quieter, “that I will possibly be regarded as an offense or shame. Not by all, but the reality of that possibility exists.
“Maybe others will see you in that light,” Sarek specified. “But not everyone. You have made your mother and me very proud, Spock.”
Spock blinked and looked down in acknowledgement. It was emotional care speaking out of her father, not honorable logic, but she made sure to shut her mouth. She had to block everything out. She had learned to do so long ago. Almost anything she could ignore if she just disciplined herself hard enough.
Almost anything. But the voice did call again.
It sang. It haunted Spock when she laid down in bed, making sleep next to impossible. Why tonight? It was important to look presentable tomorrow; Spock could not afford any dark circles or temperaments. Why is it singing to her? Should she finally answer to the calls?
Whom would she answer if she did?
Embracing herself, Spock sat onto the edge of her bed, room lit with starlight. Their glow was bright and cold tonight, as though the missing clouds allowed the voice to call even louder. But there had to be a rational explanation.
Standing up, Spock decided to finally put an end to this. She should answer. With composure. Shoulders totally straightened, hands behind her back, she stood next to her bed, shivering in her silk robes. And when the voice sang again, she answered.
I can hear you, but I won’t
Some look for trouble while others don’t
There’s a thousand reasons I should go about my day
And ignore your whispers which I wish would go away, oh
When the voice sang again, Spock started walking along the floor-to-ceiling glass windows, ghosting alongside her own reflection as she sung back, giving her voice more emphasis to sound firm and sure, while still refusing to look at the stars. She could be as strict and as reasonable as a teacher if she wanted to. Pure logic guiding her to the eventual truth.
You’re not a voice, you’re just a ringing in my ear
And if I heard you – which I don’t – I’m spoken for I fear
Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within these walls
I’m sorry, secret siren, but I’m blocking out your calls
She stopped in front of her room’s glass doors to the outside, not being able to resist the stargazing any longer. They were bright and violet and cold, faraway worlds, radiating from places where there were no races to hate. Or possibly more races to hate – it was childish nonsense! Look down!
I’ve had my adventure, I don’t need something new
I am afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you
Into the unknown, into the unknown, into the unknown
Spock eyes were glued to the sky, to the indigo darkness as it cast its spell onto her with another melody – but Spock snapped out of it once she realized she had laid her hand onto the glass, as if to reach out. She gasped. Space was not allowed to tempt her anymore. Her future was here, on Vulcan. Her home was here. It would be foolish to jeopardize all of this over some emotional whims.
What do you want? ‘cause you’ve been keeping me awake
Are you here to distract me so I make a big mistake?
Although it was illogical to argue with a tinnitus, there was something freeing in this conversation. Spock held her pulsating hand, gazing upwards through the glass. The voice was constant and steady, and each time it sung, it was laced with unchanged… compassion. And understanding. Spock frowned in desperation, fear, temptation, those human emotions.
Or are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me?
Who knows deep down I’m not where I’m meant to be?
Spock wanted to indulge in these feelings. Sentiment took over. She stepped back from the doors in a last attempt to resist, but her yearning was stronger than her logic.
Every day’s a little harder as I feel my power grow
Don’t you know there’s part of me that longs to go
Into the unknown?
Spock ran out the door, because once outside, nothing separated her from the strange voice anymore. They sang into the night.
Into the unknown, into the unknown…
It was pulling Spock forward, and her feet started moving as her hopeful eyes were tightly locked onto the silver lights. She did not feel the sand or the rocks beneath her, only one question stung in her head: What if this voice was no mere sound, what if it belonged to someone?
Are you out there?
Do you know me?
Can you feel me?
Can you show me?
Past the blessing lanterns and the trees and the cliffs, Spock ran into the night on bare feet, always following the voice that sang down to her from the universe above. Flying towards it. Spock only stopped to dance in circles, head always up to watch the dance tumble with her. So many emotions rushing through her – she had no control over her face any longer. But she could not care less. The only regret she felt was that she had not answered the voice sooner…! They sang in perfect harmony. Up, up, in the mountains, she would be closest to it. The closest to the stars. Her feet were strong, but the voice seemed to leave.
Where are you going?
Don’t leave me alone
How do I follow you
Into the unknown?
Desperate for answers, she reached out her hand, far, far, so far that she fell backwards. Stars rushed sideways, and Spock landed in a wiry sea of fur. A soft growl shook the body behind her back. Spock laughed quietly and turned to caress I-Chaya. She should’ve known that he’d follow her if she ran into the wilderness in the middle of the night, like she had done so often in her childhood.
I-Chaya growled gently as Spock’s fingers stroked over his big head. “You thought I was done gazing at the stars?” she asked, still soft from all the emotions. “I thought so too… A foregone conclusion, as it seems.”
The answer was a dismissive growl, and Spock chuckled as she snuggled herself against the sehlat – something she had not done in a long time. She cooled down. “I cannot stay here,” she said with bitter realization. “I cannot stay on Vulcan. I-Chaya. You will accompany me home a last time.”
Sad gold eyes met hers, and Spock caressed her friend, saying, “I am grateful to you for looking out for me. Always.” She closed her eyes, and when she reopened them, she looked to the stars a last time before walking down the mountain with I-Chaya following her in silent and everlasting loyalty.
Her father’s small embassy spaceship was on their house’s roof where Spock could easily access it. The voice had fallen completely silent – logically, Spock found, because why keep calling if the one you called for is finally following?
The tank was full, the helm was easy to control. Within a few hours, Spock could warp to an outpost of the Federation and see from there. New clothes, food and travel supplies would be available there.
Spock turned to say goodbye to I-Chaya in front of the doors, but when she entered the dock, the lights switched on without her command. Next to the shuttle, there stood Amanda. Her eyes were concerned and tired.
“Mother.” Spock paused every movement, looking down in shame. Calm steps indicated her mother coming closer. “I knew something was wrong after all,” she said, laying a hand onto her cheek, but refraining from pulling her close into a hug.
“Forgive me,” Spock managed to say, realizing what harm she had caused with this kneejerk reaction. Maybe her decision had been rash and impetuous, but it still felt right somehow.
“Mother, I must go,” she finally said, voice trembling. It was hard to keep quiet now. Her eyes were locked onto her mother’s, but there was a strong physical pressure building up behind them that indicated the need for tears.
Spock swallowed. “I must follow what has been calling me, although I do not know where it will lead me, or if it is all in vain after all,” she said.
Amanda smiled at her, but it was bitter in nature, indicated by the wrinkle between her furrowed brows. “Nothing you feel is right is in vain,” she said. Spock closed her eyes and leaned against her hand, laying her own on top of it.
“It must go,” she repeated.
“But not with your father’s ship,” Amanda scolded her. “With these thin robes and no shoes – we will find something better.”
Spock’s eyes widened. “Are you not angry with me?” she asked. “What about the Science Academy? And T’Pring?”
Amanda sighed. “These are things you never truly wanted, aren’t they, my child?”
It hurt Spock to find these words so very true. She shook her head in agony, shoulders shaking. Her whole life fell apart in front of her.
“It’s all right,” she heard her mother say, now embracing her for real, “it is all right, my dear.” A reassuring hand stroked Spock’s back.
“I am so confused,” she sobbed.
“I have known this,” Amanda said. “But I had hoped you would be spared this kind of torture.”
By learning how to balance reason and sentiment, yes, Spock knew that, but she had failed. “Refusing to attend the Academy’s party and giving in to this illogic yearning will bring dishonor onto father and you,” she replied.
“This isn’t about honor,” Amanda said with emphasis and pulled away to look at her. “It’s not about honor, or logic – this is about you, Spock, and your future.” Her look was determined. “We will find a way to negotiate with the Academy and let you travel space.”
“But how?” Spock asked, still overwhelmed by gratitude and shame and confusion.
“Well,” Amanda said with a smile, “there are different possibilities. There’re many other academies, even ones that particularly research space.” She looked so conspiratorial again. Ere Spock could reply anything other, Amanda took her by the hand and said, “Now, come on, let’s go back inside. Drink a tea to calm down and then get some sleep.”
Spock nodded, pulling herself together.
“You will find,” Amanda said, “that daylight makes much look way different than starlight does.” Amanda was right so often that Spock did not dare dispute her, no, it was logical to trust her. It felt good to trust her. She would be fine.
“Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, could you please – thank you.”
“This seat is taken, y’know.”
“It is most certainly now, because I am sitting on it. Surely you have noticed that no other seats were available.”
“Hm-m.” The other cadet and his friends glared at Spock for a little longer as she unpacked her study material. The basic class’ exam on deep space physics was tomorrow, so the library was as crowded as ever. Every table and every computer were occupied by Academy students trying to cram some more information into their heads and their tablets. Spock felt confident with the test’s requirements, but still wanted to read up on some further historical information.
Others came to the library to socialize. Spock had tried that in her first weeks at Starfleet Academy, but she had quickly given up. Humans felt estranged around her. Also, Spock found it hard to follow their illogical mind patterns (she had never been around this many humans before), and there were no androids here to talk to instead. Or other Vulcans. Was she really the only one? That was hard to believe.
These past few weeks, Spock had often thought about whether enlisting in Starfleet had been a right decision after all. Her roommate had moved out after a few days because she had been, quote, ‘freaked out’ by her. Neither Sarek nor T’Pring had called her in seventy-four days, and Spock would not blame T’Pring if she divorced her. The Vulcan Science Academy had forbidden her to ever apply again. She had also found she missed I-Chaya and the routine a pet required.
The singing voice was gone as well.
At first Spock had found this to be a good sign, because, as she had figured before, it was logical to not call for her when she was moving forward. But somewhen, her confidence had left her. She needed guidance. Or even affirmation for what she had done. Reassurance. Was Earth too faraway for it to reach her? Should she really wait another three years to be allowed to leave for space?
Spock had tried to reach out, to call out for the voice, once, in her dark room. There had been no answer, only her own helpless echo. Somewhere here on Earth, 16.13 light years away from her real home.
“Aw, man, you said you wanted to keep a seat for me!”
“I did, but Miss Vulcan here took it.”
The cadet turned to Spock. “Really? That’s pretty rude, you know that? Not very logical of you.”
“Hey,” one of the girls interrupted, but Spock stayed where she was, saying, “I fail to see any lack of logic in taking an unused seat in an otherwise completely occupied library.” Her eyebrows had risen on their own. She wanted to keep this seat, easy as that, she had been looking for 10.4 minutes for it. Without bellicosity, she added, “Besides, what I deem to be logical and or reasonable is none of your concern.”
“Uhh, a rebel,” the boy said and howled, his friends joining.
“As this is a library, I would advise you to keep your voices low,” Spock said.
“Oh, really, Miss Vulcan? Do I need to write to the embassy first?” the boy yelled, making heads turn and voices whispers. Spock involuntarily ducked her head, instantly breaking the eye contact she had tried to keep up so hard. Even though she felt was in her rights, she was vastly outnumbered. And having Sarek dragged into this conversation was even more unpleasant. Embarrassment flushed up her cheeks.
“You’re blushing green, aw, how cute. Do you like it freaky? Let’s see if we can wreck that mysterious seven-year mating cycle, hm, honey? If you meet me later, I could make you turn into-”
“You can have your seat,” Spock blurted out and darted out of the chair. Trying to keep her hands from shaking, she grappled her tablet and pens from the busy table and stuffed them into her bag – the Academy’s present to each cadet, complete with the golden Starfleet insignia – and left with quick steps as she heard the other students mumble. “Pointy ears,” she heard, and “strange”. So, the fact that she had grown her hair did not help in hiding her ears. Scratch that.
Tunnel vision irritating her, the first door Spock saw was the one that led to the old wing of the library, where the paper books and artifacts were stored. Spock recognized it as her fastest escape route and rushed right through it. As the doors swished closed behind her, she darted to the left, where she sunk onto the floor in front of the wooden bookshelf, closing her eyes and embracing the silence.
Beside her, no one was here, as it seemed. The air was not particularly fresh though, but it smelled of paper, the old paper that Amanda’s books smelled of as well. The only sounds were shuttles’ engines flying above the campus.
Spock sighed shakily.
Sing to me, she begged. Guide me. “Help me,” she said quietly. A sob escaped her mouth, and she buried her face in her hands, body crawling up like a dying leaf.
It was night – why didn’t the voice sing? In had always sung in nights of doubt. “Why did you lead me here?” Spock mumbled. Nothing had changed. In fact, her situation may have only gotten worse. Why were these stupid human’s opinions getting to her this extremely? What was happening to her?
She should’ve stayed on Vulcan.
Spock rubbed her eyes.
“Um, sorry. But you don’t look all right. Can I help you?”
Sucking in a breath to steady herself, Spock looked up. A cadet was standing in the array in front of her. Her eyes were glowing with concern. “Sorry,” she said softly, “I thought I heard you crying.”
“I am quite all right,” Spock said with a raised chin. “But – thank you,” she remembered. Shaking, she heaved herself up. Enough with the self-indulging. Time to function again.
“Okay then,” the cadet said, offering a hand that Spock did not take. “Should I accompany you anywhere?” she asked. “Let me now if you need anything.”
“I came here to learn,” Spock said tonelessly, straightening up with her hands behind her back. Now she was much taller than the cadet.
“I’m learning, too,” she replied with a smile. One blond lock of hair was bouncing in front of her forehead; she looked friendly. “You’re not, by any chance, studying for deep space physics, the basic class? I thought I knew you, you look familiar!”
“You saw me before?” Spock asked, unable to hide a tint of surprise in her voice. And maybe annoyance as well.
“Well,” the cadet said with a grand gesture, “it’s hard to ignore you. You’re very intelligent, you know all the stuff required. Like back when we were covering G2-type star temperatures, you got all the numbers for the Rigel system correct, right away, while I wasn’t even done typing them into my calculator.”
“I compute everything in my head,” Spock stated.
“That must be quite the time-saver,” the cadet said, and something told Spock she was not mocking her – was it her kind gaze? From beneath the eye lashes, the girl looked genuine and sincere. Fascinating.
“If you like,” the cadet said softly, “you can come sit with me over there.” She looked challenged for a moment. “I know it may sound like I’m exploiting you for good grades or something…”
“One could certainly think so,” Spock said, “but if even you would plan to do so, I can already say I enjoy your company too much to decline your offer.”
The cadet’s face had lit up all throughout Spock’s answer. It was a soft glow that Spock found most fascinating. She quirked an eyebrow to accompany her slight smirk while she waited for her to answer.
“Well,” she said after a while, bashful, “then – let’s go.” They walked deeper into the library and its dimmed light. Everything here, from the air to the ground to the light, was more peaceful than the atmosphere in the e-library. Spock side-eyed the cadet as they walked. She did wear the red uniform’s trousers, but in combination with a comfortable-looking brown jacket that laid loosely around her sturdy body. She guided Spock to a lonely table, great enough for at least ten people to sit at it; it was only logical, because physical books required more space than a tablet or datapad.
There was a stack of old books next to a vintage lamp. One was opened. ‘Gravity – The Basics’. “I learn with these just as much with the digital ones. They feel much nicer. And with my own notes, here,” the cadet explained, and Spock could hear no shame whatsoever in her voice as she spoke.
Cautiously, Spock placed her bag on the table and sat down. Even the chairs felt old. She eyed the book stack with curiosity, head tilted to read the titles printed on the thick spines. Newton, three volumes of the Encyclopédie, Wu Shang and –
“I fail to understand,” Spock said with a frown, “how ‘Summer Poems of the Renaissance’ contribute to studying the laws of physics in deep space.” Some strands of black hair had fallen into her face when she had tilted her head, and she did not feel like brushing them away.
The cadet smiled fondly. “Don’t mind that one. I wanted to borrow it later on, before I leave,” she said enthusiastically. As she spoke, she enfolded a pair of small reading glasses with a golden frame.
“I see,” Spock said absently.
“I just like poetry.”
“Interesting.” Spock could not look away as she put the glasses onto her face. This girl was so different from anyone she’d met here before; she looked so dreamy and competent and kind, surrounded by a golden glow, so unexpectedly wholesome – Spock felt her bodily functions calm down. Her breath had steadied, as had her heartrate, and her blush was gone. Was it?
“Are you not nervous because of the exam?” Spock asked, bag still closed.
“No,” the cadet replied. “I mean, a little, sure. But actually I like digging my head in stuff I don’t understand and try to get through to it somehow. Nothing leaves me more satisfied than the feeling I get when I manage to solve a problem on my own, do you know what I mean? My grades are doing fine, so I guess I’m on the right path.”
“Are you not afraid of… the unknown?” Spock inquired.
“You ask the best questions,” the cadet beamed with a look sideways. “No, I guess I’m not. If I’m honest, I don’t really think there is something as ‘the unknown’. I used to think that, but now…” She shook her head, staring at the table. “There are only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood. Eventually, every riddle gets solved. And then we meet new ones and start working on solving those,” she said.
Spock looked down with a quirked eyebrow. “I am impressed,” she said truthfully, needing to process everything for a minute. No such thing as ‘the unknown’? What an interesting point of view. Was this cadet seen as ‘ordinary’ by other humans? What see said was very intelligent, yet her company seemed utmost mundane. Maybe –
Spock’s voice made the girl’s head dart up from the book with a motion that made her blond lock flip gleefully in front of her forehead: “Say, would you describe the current state of your life with words such as ‘belong’ and ‘content’ rather than ‘torn’ and ‘alone’?”
The cadet’s mouth opened and closed, and then she laid the book back onto the table. She took her time to answer, which was refreshing on one hand, but utterly frustrating on the other. Spock waited.
“I don’t know,” the cadet finally said. “Right now I’d say I’m pretty ‘content’. For all the examination stress.”
“So am I,” Spock said slowly. The cadet had said she liked these queries, so despite having asked such an odd question, Spock felt understood. ‘Connected’, somehow. Was this what making a friend felt like?
“Feeling better now?”
Spock blinked. “As a matter of fact, I do. Yes. Thank you.”
The cadet chuckled. “That’s a relief,” she said. And then: “How do you feel?”
Spock felt her brows furrow. “Please give me time to think about that query first,” she replied with a Vulcan truism, which somehow made the cadet smile even wider, snicker even, voice laced with affection. She looked at Spock much longer, even when she leaned back into the chair, legs crossed. Taking off the glasses. She bit her lip. It was pleasant, sending tender shivers right down to Spock’s toes. It lasted. Fascinating.
“I… reckon we shall start revising the basics of gravitational laws now, commilita.”
“Hm. You sure about that?”
“I am. Let’s start with acceleration rates.”
She had realized it only much later, but ever since she knew Kirk, Spock had not thought about the alien voice again. It was gone for good, and Spock indulged in the comforting certainty that there was a totally, perfectly logical reason for it.
I am found.