Actions

Work Header

A Guiding Star

Chapter Text

I am six years old when I am transported to the year 2261.

Of course, it is later explained to me that I have not been travelling through any shortcuts in time; rather I have aged in the customary manner, whereupon, at the age of twenty-nine, I have been involved in an accident that has reduced my physical age and erased my memories accordingly. I believe myself to be six. I feel six. A thorough examination of my body corroborates all other evidence.

My name is S’chn T’gai Spock, and I am six years old.

My Mother, a near-constant presence since my birth, has died two point eight three years ago, at a time coinciding with the destruction of my home planet. So I am told, and so I confirm from the computer logs.

Eighteen days after I have achieved a semblance of a routine – attending the provisionary school of compulsory education on the Colony, so facetiously called New Vulcan that even I, a foundling for all intents and purposes, cannot abide the cultural insensitivity – my Father greets me upon my return to our shared domicile: “It is gratifying to see you in good health, Spock.”

He implies mental health, I understand, and he is correct, inasmuch as I can be compared to my peers. Their mental bonds are most precarious, their belief in their paradigms shattered, and they attempt to overcompensate with a veneer of personal confidence, which, in my eyes, makes them into little but bullies. I am a prime target for them, for I have no social ties that would shelter me, and my half-human heritage affords a nimiety of points of contention with my person, should one be seeking any.

I remain unbothered by them. The damage they do is easily countered with a simple dermal regenerator, and I have kept the one I have acquired on the Enterprise.

I believe it is the momentum my Father’s perception of myself as an adult that forbids him from closely examining my personal effects. I intend to take all advantage of this unexpected reprieve.

I miss Jim.

“I have spoken with your instructors,” my Father continues, placing a bowl of replicated plomeek soup at my customary place at the table, “and they have reported your exceptional performance in your age group. They have proposed to advance you to the next level, based on the results of the examinations administered to you.”

I sit and lift my spoon. I resent my customary place at the table, but I will not inform my Father, because resentment is illogical, and I know that he wishes to see me behave logically. I in turn wish to give him the illusion for as long as I am capable of projecting it, for fear that he would attempt to take my emotionality from me if he discovers it. That, or cast me out of his clan for the shame of it.

Yet, how can I be ashamed of laughter? I recall Jim’s face, stretched in a grin, I remember the sound, rough and artless as it burst forth from his throat, the shaking of his shoulders, the sudden expansion of his ribcage. Everything about Jim has been endlessly fascinating, but the outward expression of joy, mirth, humor – a word that has no direct translation in the Golic language – has filled me with happiness such as I have not encountered since my arrival at the Colony.

I cannot be ashamed of laughter. Likewise, I cannot be ashamed of fear, or of yearning – it drives me to better myself, to succeed, to be faster, stronger and more knowledgeable, because at the end of this long, arduous trek, I see my reunion with Jim.

“I will proceed with my education at an accelerated pace,” I say, thinking of bright eyes and unabashed smiles. Of firm, warm touch of psi-null palms. If there ever was a reality-bound substitution of paradise, there is one waiting for me. “I see no need to linger.”

Father nods and stands. “I am pleased to observe your success,” he speaks, with only the slightest suggestion of artifice. Mother’s death has changed him much, and my regression has compounded that change in damaging ways. I can see it clearly. It is yet another reason to strive to leave this place – and its ghosts, if I am to allow for human sentimentality – and re-join the Enterprise.

x

I hold T’Rok’s hand as I am instructed to do.

Immediately, without any conscious decision on my part, my shields are engaged fully. I check myself before I indulge in a smile – this is a formal occasion, it would not do to flaunt tradition – and yet I already know that regardless of the hand that would be offered to me, my shields will always remain fully engaged.

T’Rok is a logical choice for a betrothed. So would be two hundred and eighty-seven of the surviving Vulcans, with seven hundred and thirteen others being acceptable choices. I already know I am unable to form a mating bond with any of them.

Unable – and unwilling.

My Father will not understand; such is the truth. It is a matter of logic, for him – the recourse of the entire Vulcan race after its genocide, and in abstract I agree with them. Perhaps, were I fully Vulcan, without the greater capacity for emotionalism that is my curse and my blessing, I would be able and willing to participate in repopulation efforts according to logic and tradition.

Still, I am a half-breed, a ‘bastard’ as my peers have resorted to calling me, heedless of the fact that my parents have been bonded and married, satisfying the cultural requirements of both their species. I am mostly immune to those insults – I recall James, telling me, tongue-in-cheek, how much he envied me the chance of having the best of both the Vulcan and the human without having to be either, and thus subject to the standards of either. I feel now that James’ assessment was much too optimistic, but his sentiment still remains one of my guidelines.

“Are you certain he is Vulcan?” T’Rok inquires, lips curling in an expression of disdain.

She does not feel my mind and automatically assumes that there is no mind to feel. How bigoted of her. At seven years of age, she should know better.

“Spock of the clan of Surak is telepathically adept,” the Healer confirms, but I feel the frigidity of her demeanor. I should not; any other Vulcan child would not. Even my inborn empathy sets me apart from my peers.

“I do not perceive the evidence of your statement,” T’Rok claims haughtily, and releases my hand, retrieving her own and wiping it on the edge of her garment as if fearful that she might catch a disease.

I bite the inside of my cheek to prevent a laugh from escaping me.

I have been contaminated with humanity – from my birth it has been so, and I know that I have twice gone through unsolicited harassment for it. It still feels like it is worth it, for there is a reward waiting at the end of my struggle, one that my fully Vulcan peers would not be even capable of dreaming of. It is tragic for them. Their minds are imprisoned within their individual perceptions of the reality, and they are forever the slaves of their own axioms.

I have no such limitations. I have a guiding star instead.

“S’chn T’gai Spock is not a fit candidate for a betrothal bond,” the Healer states with a hint of savage satisfaction that I discern and regard with a raised eyebrow. “He will not be accepted by any potential partner.”

“I see,” responds my Father. His eyes are a reflection of the desert – dry and reddened by the sunset. He gestures me to follow him, and together we depart from the ritual site.

Evening falls on the town; the lights at the strategic points switch on, offering enough illumination for us to safely navigate our way toward our home.

Sarek makes a motion as if to offer his hand but hesitates, and eventually refrains. “Before…” he ventures, the word filled with meaning which makes me uncomfortable, as I always am when compared to my past self, “…you have not evidenced any problems with forming a bond.”

I hide my hands inside the wide sleeves of my outer garment and raise both eyebrows.

“I know you, Spock. It is not a matter of your prospects refusing you – you are the one who refuses them.”

I must concede in this instance. Father has caught on, and he sees the contempt I feel for some of my peers or the disregard I afford others. My eyes are set on a more distant goal, and I have will and ability to attain it. I do not wish to be burdened with an obligation to anything else.

Sarek takes a deep breath then, as we stand on the threshold of our modestly utilitarian home. He types in the code and beckons me to precede him inside, out of the biting cold of the falling night. “Perhaps,” he mutters quietly to the back of my head, “you are not that different from yourself after all.”

x

I seek out news articles covering the Enterprise.

My Father frowns upon the practice, but he has yet to say anything on the topic to me, so I infer that his objections would be hypocritical at best and illogical at worst. I suspect that he has been far more reticent with me over the previous course of my childhood and has found a cause to bitterly regret it further down the metaphorical road. He attempts to correct his mistakes now. He speaks of my Mother, although it pains him, revealing at the same time the propensity of Vulcans to lie about their lack of emotions and their tendency to lie in general. Sarek is an uncontested Vulcan, and yet his major life decision were influenced or downright determined by emotion and instinct.

I feel gratified.

James has yet to solidify in my mind – what I have of him are mere weeks of memories and unreliable media coverage. There are his essays available on the Starfleet intranet and his dissertation, which I know by heart. There is a smattering of other information, arrest records, achievements, the victories in various competitions, his ranking as a Grandmaster in chess, and a couple of medical studies done on him when he evidenced a previously unknown allergy.

I collect them like gems. I build them into a mosaic in my mind, precious and fragile, surrounding the dark place hollowed out inside my katra. I know, although I wouldn’t be able to explain how, that James will slot into that place precisely, once I have him back. He will fit like he was made to be locked inside me.

I skip another level and begin my intermediary education. My teachers expect further four years, extrapolating from my heretofore displayed aptitude – I have secretly set myself the goal of reducing it to three years, once again taking James as my example.

With every passing day, I am closer to him.

x

“I am taking T’Irzehl as my wife,” Father says, after confirming that I have laid my teacup onto the table and am presently ready to receive such information.

I am glad that my hands are hidden out of his sight, for they seem to have clenched without any conscious input, as much of a deference to my Mother’s memory as is acceptable. I am, in fact, unsurprised. I have been aware of the reality of my Father’s situation for two years and twenty-nine days, and I understand the necessity of his actions. I do not wish for him to die, and there is no other viable option. In the past there might have been, but with the Vulcan society such as it is now, and my Father’s Time inexorably approaching, a marriage is the only respectable choice.

“I am not acquainted with T’Irzhel,” I reply in a firm, logical manner, and am briefly stunned to read the relief in my Father’s demeanor. Has he been concerned that I would disapprove? Behave emotionally?

It has not occurred to me that my deliberate and unashamed disregard of several of the traditional mores of the Vulcan culture has been a source of anxiety for Father on such a personal level. Politically, yes, my mere existence is a major inconvenience, and yet it has always been so. And I would not have existed without my Father’s approval, so he must have considered this outcome.

Have I behaved ungraciously? Shamefully? No, I do not recall throwing any tantrums. We disagree occasionally, as is inevitable between two headstrong people living in the same household, and yet apart from my unwillingness to bond there has been no strife between us.

“I will invite her to partake in our evening meal tomorrow, if that is agreeable to you,” Father suggests.

I nod. Once again, he seems to have forgotten that I am not in fact an adult. I do not mind, but such absentmindedness is worrying. It may be that a bond will be beneficial for him and help him heal those wounds before they become apparent even to those who do not know him as well as I do… if not, well, I am swiftly completing the educational stage necessary for the option of emancipation. Should the worst happen, I will not allow my more conservative relatives to hinder me on my quest.

“In the event that you change your mind,” Father says, inputting into the synthesizer the code for Terran dates which, I am aware, my Mother preferred, “it is still not too late to procure a bondmate for you as well.”

I look up. I hold his eyes for a while, and then lower my head. My tea has gone cold. My hand brushes over the pocket of my outer garment – I do not wear the traditional Vulcan style anymore, but a semblance of a Starfleet uniform jacket. I feel the weight and edges of my PADD, and take comfort in the existence of the Terran Doyle books I am presently in the process of reading. Their naivety and chronological misplacement is jarring and refreshing at the same time, and I find inexplicable reassurance in the knowledge that human friendship and loyalty have not changed in the past four hundred years.

James will accept me back; I only have to reach him.

“I anticipated that would be your decision,” Sarek admits, and we part for our individual evenings in silence.

x

I am ten when I discover the truth of the Ambassador Spock who briefly led the Colony and was instrumental in its inception. It is hidden very well – so well, in fact, that I suspect James has been complicit. James is, I know, accomplished at programming prestidigitation.

The knowledge troubles me.

After several failed attempts at meditation, I approach my Father. It is an afternoon and he is standing on the roof of our domicile, watching the horizon with his customary unreadable expression, as if he might walk away into the desert one day and not come back. Perhaps once I leave that is what will happen.

If what he feels for my deceased Mother is a fraction as consuming as what I am capable of feeling for James, I would not fault him.

“What became of Ambassador Spock?” I inquire, placing my hand on top of the plastic railing. It feels like an imitation of life – the whole Colony is a mere imitation of life, and some days I feel like either shouting or writing inflammatory poetry about why the entire Vulcan race should strive to die out in dignity. I would not do so in the end. I have too much respect for those who refuse to give up.

I wish to become one of them.

My Father gives little evidence of surprise, and yet I have the distinct feeling that I have managed to unsettle him. “What do you wish to know?”

I retract my hand and clasp it with the other one behind my back, pulling myself straighter, taller – even if I still barely come up to my Father’s elbow. “According to the logs, he has left the Colony shortly after I have arrived. There is no record of any medical treatments in his file, and there is no death certificate.”

I still cannot properly formulate my question, but Father gives me an answer nevertheless: “He has gone to join the crew of the Enterprise.”

“In my stead?” I demand.

“In your stead,” Father admits. “He claimed that too much hinged on the success of their first five-year mission, and the success of that mission hinged on the presence of a Spock on board. He wished it was you, but even he knew of no way of restoring you to your proper age.”

I lower my head. The motion is jerky, my teeth clenched, my fists too, and blood rushes in my temples as I am filled with bitterness. That should have been me. James and I, the two of us together as… as… I still cannot think the word, but it is there, on the edge of my perception. Soon, soon I will be old enough, wise enough, to claim it.

But James has gone on without me, with this other Spock, who is old, and who has already had his chance – his Jim – and now has laid claim to mine. Mine.

I just barely stop myself for breaking the railing. From shouting obscenity. I am aware of my flush, and of the close scrutiny my Father gives me, but I cannot say anything to him now, for if I opened my mouth, I would betray what I truly feel.

I give a graceless nod in acknowledgment, turn and descend the stairs in haste, practically running for my room.

I lock myself in and settle for meditation. Whether it takes hours or days, I must find a way to control this, lest it control me. I cannot allow it. I must believe, still, always, that he is waiting.

x

When my Father’s Time comes, I elect to leave the planet for a three-week-long journey rather than arrange for alternative accommodation. T’Irzehl and I have come to know each other as much as is necessary, and I feel comfortable relying on her when it comes to my Father’s continued health. Should complications arise, Healers will be at hand. There is nothing I could do, and so I am free to cater to my comfort.

I choose to spend the intervening time on Earth.

I do not expect anyone at all is surprised by my decision. I have entered into the segment of my education that recommends off-planet excursions to supplement the theoretical knowledge with practical experience, and I wish to experience what I can of Terra – less so because of my Mother’s heritage, more so for Kirk.

I step into the planet-side terminal hall, and am immediately overwhelmed with the noise and the smell. It takes me a minute or two to reinforce my shields and regain my equilibrium, and by that time I am being approached by a young woman in a Starfleet Cadet’s uniform. “Nam-tor oSpohk?” she inquires in accented Golic.

I nod.

She smiles, a nervous and bland expression compared to my recollection of Kirk’s smile. She is blond and blue eyed, and although my mind forces the comparison, she resembles Kirk in no truly significant way.

Greetings from Earth!” she enthuses and moves to take my luggage. “I am Deanna Archer, and I shall be your guide.” Either that is the extent of her knowledge of Golic, or she simply lacks the confidence to speak more, for he switches to Standard. “It nets me extra credit in Interspecies Ethics, so feel free to inconvenience me as much as you like!”

I allow her to take the light bag with the clothing, but keep the heavy one with all my other effects on myself. I am still, even at half her age, twice as strong as she is. “I was made to understand that my accommodations would be procured through the Vulcan Embassy.”

“That’s right,” Cadet Archer agrees, nodding vigorously. Perhaps I was too hasty in my assessment – Kirk’s enthusiasm has always been expressed just as freely. “But then the brass heard that you’re coming, and the whole Academy’s been abuzz with it ever since – I mean, no disrespect, sir, but you’re a Federation Hero!”

Not I, I muse, boarding the shuttle in my guide’s wake. The other Spock. He was a Federation Hero. I am not the same person.

I am not comfortable accepting his accolades. Why does she call me ‘sir’?

“Basically,” she continues as we are seated, “the PR department’s duked it out with the Embassy, and in the end it was just easier to give in and let us take care of you. Don’t worry, we won’t put you into the dormitory. You’d be mobbed before dinner!” She laughs.

I acquiesce, trying to be polite, and look out of the window. It is my first visit to Terra. I am far more interested in the sights than in adulation – and the grey and violet sunset I see above the skyline already exceeds all my expectations.

Cadet Archer continues her monologue on the various titles and accomplishments of the other Spock, then on the complex political situation within the Academy, hints on her concern that she has been chosen for this task because of her familial relations, and segues easily into anecdotes about life at the Starfleet Academy.

I surmise that I am being recruited.

It is a wasted effort – within two or three years I will attend the Academy either way.

x

When I am twelve, I nearly run away from home.

I sit in my room, listen to the habitual movements of my Father and T’Irzehl in the communal parts of the house, and consider my options. I know how to get to Terra. I have sufficient monetary assets to finance the journey, and I am familiar enough with San Francisco to navigate my way to suitable accommodations.

I pull my feet up on top of my mattress and tangle my toes in the sheets. I hug my knees closer and set my chin on top of my wrist, staring at the screen of my terminal.

Terran and interplanetary media are in frenzy. The first five-year deep-space mission has been concluded, and the Enterprise is returning to the docks in Riverside, Iowa, Earth, for maintenance and upgrade. Captain Kirk is slated to be promoted to the rank of Admiral, but there is also speculation that he will refuse and request to lead another five-year mission. From what I recall of Kirk, Admiralship would not appeal to him. He will leave, and it will be five years again before I have the chance to see him.

There is a knock on my door.

“Enter,” I bid the intruder.

The footsteps are softer than my Father’s, so I expect T’Irzehl.

It is, in fact, T’Pau – bent with age and tribulation, yet with clear, penetrating eyes that feel as if she was staring straight into my soul. Perhaps she is. I have not been made aware of her visit, but when her eyes move around the room and halt at the terminal, I know why she has come. Perhaps Father knows me better than I have estimated – or else T’Pau herself does.

“Have you packed yet?” she asks in lieu of a greeting, and takes a seat without invitation. One of the privileges of old age, I am given to understand.

“No,” I reply and add, truthfully: “I am unsure if I will.”

T’Pau nods approvingly. “You are wiser than I expected of one so young and so – tried by circumstance. Whether you do or do not have a memory of it, living with loss is no easy task.”

I must look away. My eyes become glued to the screen, to the smirking visage of James Kirk, now five years older but still the youngest Captain in the Starfleet, still golden and radiant. Somewhere behind him, hidden from the flashlights and the cameras, stands the shadow of the yet another Spock.

“You will not go to meet him,” T’Pau speaks, and it is at the same time an acknowledgment of my unspoken decision and an order.

I nod.

I listen to her leave, and it is only when I hear my Father speak of prosperity and long life that I allow the shameful tears to well and run down my cheeks. I feel their salty taste in the back of my throat and hurt and hurt and hurt.

x

I am the youngest Vulcan ever to finish compulsory education.

Of course, I am not a full Vulcan, so I do not set any records. I feel grimly amused by this, and accept the offer of transitioning directly into the next grade without going through the odious process of external examining, as would be proper in my position – the dispensation is but a makeshift placation offered to me in the effort to keep me quiet on the matter of racial discrimination.

I meditate.

As opposed to the other Spock, the Elders and their prejudice mean nothing to me. Also, compared to the other Spock my intellectual aptitude is scored as significantly higher. Considering that the other Spock was already occasionally breaking grading curves – to borrow a Terran colloquialism – I am given to understand that my performance – to borrow another colloquialism – freaks my teachers out.

I continue being amused.

The Enterprise, captained by James Kirk, has been sent out on another five-year exploratory mission, and I subsist on scraps of information that is infrequently relayed to the media by outposts.

I meditate.

I have started a correspondence with T’Pau, who is, I believe, considering me for the position of her successor – pending my final acceptance of bonding. I am, however, nowhere near close to that. In fact, I suspect that it would take a repeated explicit rejection by James Kirk for me to relent.

Time is a beast and eats away at the staunchest determination, at the greatest passions and the most heart-felt oaths… and yet there is the ever-present empty space in my katra to remind me of my promises, to urge me not to surrender my ambition.

I meditate.

I spend hours upon hours of trying to find the tiniest speck of the other Spock inside my mind. The slightest slip of an incongruous memory, a smidgen of knowledge obtained elsewhere, a recollection of events I have not been a part of… but there is nothing. Whoever or whatever has wiped him from my mind has done a thorough job. He must have existed, for there are others who remember him, but if my body was ever his, he has been forced to cease his hold on it completely, only leaving behind his katra.

By Surak, his katra. My katra. Incomplete, frayed around the ages, permanently hurting.

I hear the whispers about me. My peers – even though they are not my peers anymore, for most of those on my level are at least four years older – do not say ‘bastard’ anymore; they say katra-fam ‘soulless’ or sutor-sasu ‘robot’. My presence makes them uncomfortable, and it is not solely due to my relative youth or my exceptional academic performance.

I have become aware, through T’Pau’s patient guidance, that I wear my loss as a cloak. I am garbed in it, and none may touch me without reaching through it. They dare not.

I am effectively isolated, cocooned in my hope and waiting for the day when I may – to borrow yet another Terran phrase – spread my wings and fly.

x

“Are you asexual?” T’Kai inquires during recess.

I contemplate how to answer. Her infringement upon my privacy is aggravating and her manner rude, and yet pointing out either would mean inviting ridicule for not wanting to answer.

The easiest response, as usual, is one partially truthful, and yet I have to struggle to evidence no hurt as I say: “My katra is spoken for – and so is all intimacy tied to it.”

I may be lying in this instance, but it is how I feel. I have never obtained even the most miniscule hint that Captain Kirk may be interested in my companionship. In opposition to that, a few of my now-companions, of eighteen and nineteen years of age, have propositioned me.

I have declined. It is mildly uncomfortable to be studied as bizarre – it would be unendurable to be used as a sexual novelty for the bored and the morbidly curious.

“He lies,” Senik speaks, leaning into T’Kai’s personal space in an explicit overture that makes many raise an eyebrow. “He is not bonded.”

“I have not been betrothed in a formal procedure,” I allow before they attack me with misconstrued and speculative accusations. My left hand curls around my PADD inside the pocket of my jacket. “My bond is spontaneous in origin.”

All, as far as I am aware, true. The fact that I do not recall it is a minor detail that does not concern them.

There is a disbelieving, mocking laughter, for which I am prepared. But there is also a hand grabbing for my face in an effort to disprove my claim through telepathic invasion.

Then there is screaming when I drive the spikes of my utensil through Senik’s palm.

x

Father and T’Irzehl accompany me to the port and tacitly watch as the attendant takes my luggage and proceeds with it into the belly of the shuttle.

Wind is picking up. There will be a storm tonight. The horizon is colored grey and beige with sand, and there is a hint of ozone in the air. The town is quieting down already, hours earlier than it usually would. Children, animals and plants have been secured inside, and the last of the adult presence in the street is dwindling.

After the shuttle has departed, they will raise the shield.

It is a familiar procedure in a familiar place, and I feel perhaps somewhat melancholy about leaving it behind, although not enough to give any outward evidence.

“Be well, Spock,” T’Irzehl speaks quietly, veering from the protocol.

I understand. She is last of her family; none other survived. Father and I are all she has, and she has been nothing but kind to me, if made exceedingly timid by her losses. Those losses are how we understand each other so well that we need not adhere to protocol between us – we tolerate each other’s peculiarities with greater aplomb than my Father can.

“Be well, T’Irzehl,” I wish her, offering a ta’al and a slight bow, which is as much ostensible affection and respect as the Vulcan culture allows in public. Sometimes I wonder what we are playing at – trying to hide inside our shells all the harder now, when we should be doing our best to reach out to each other. However, in the end it does not concern me.

I am, emphatically, not a Vulcan by most Vulcans’ standards.

“Call,” T’Irzehl adds quietly.

“Do,” my Father reaffirms. He tries to look at me but – as is usual lately – seems to misjudge the distance. His eyes remain mis-focused, as if he was looking two yards beyond the space I occupy.

I do not believe that I favor Mother quite that much, but I can think of only single other reason for his behavior: that he has been, in fact, mourning his son all these years. I am not the other Spock – I am not his Spock, Mother’s Spock; I have been a stranger in his house.

I do not promise that I will call.

I lift my hand, fingers spread. “Live long and prosper.”

The customary reply follows me up the ramp of the shuttle, and I seat myself, feeling untethered and mentally scrambling for the anchor of my guiding star. I am one step closer to him now.

x

The knowledge of Spock’s death spreads through the Academy similarly to a highly contagious disease on one afternoon in the beginning of the examination week.

I find out by overhearing other Cadets’ conversation during the lunch meal. It shocks me. I have actively despised this yet another Spock for years, and despite that the knowledge of his demise robs me of breath – and, apparently, of fine motor skills as well, since my fork falls from my suddenly akin-to nerveless fingers. I feel faint. The sustenance has lost all appeal, and I attempt to attain my feet, only to find that my gross motor skills have been affected, too.

I press my palms to the less-than-perfectly clean top of the plastic table in the student mess hall, and count seconds between my inhales and exhales.

Spock is dead. I feel detached and yet frightened – he was I, in a very fundamental way, and as such his death strikes me as a very real, stark, stinging reminder of my own mortality. Far worse, though, and the true reason for my incapacitation, is the realization that Captain Kirk is alone.

“Spock?” a voice attempts to reach me. “Spock, are you alright?”

“I am well,” I reply blandly, lying as easily as if I have spent years practicing. Perhaps I have. Perhaps that lesson has stayed with me since that happy time I have spent with Jim – James – Kirk – Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Horrified, I wonder how much of him I have lost to time and the imperfection of memory. Where is he? Why has he never contacted me?

Has he been so satisfied with that yet another Spock?

And now that the yet another Spock is dead, will he come calling?

No. I shake my head and blink – my Mother’s genes make themselves evident by forcing moisture from my tear ducts – taking in my surroundings. A group of my peers has gathered around me. I recognize the faces from lecture halls and gyms, a few of them from laboratories and brief encounters in the library. Their expressions range from discomfort to sympathy. I admit that several of them could be called my friends.

“I am well, Shenka,” I say to the young woman who has inquired in the first place, and this time I sound more believable. “It was merely… unexpected.”

She sighs.

The man next to her – an Orion called Sirius, evidencing a less-than-fortunate sense of humor in his mother – speaks: “Jordi and I tried to comm you, so you wouldn’t find out from the news, but we’ve just learned and-”

There are shrugs and hand motions void of meaning.

“I appreciate your concern,” I say. “I require meditation, but I have in fact never met Commander Spock, so my loss is not a significant one.”

I do not think they believe me. It does not matter in this instance. What matters is that they do not demand that I talk, or that I do anything in particular. They allow me to pass from the hall unimpeded, and Sirius with his companion discreetly follow in my wake to my dormitory and discourage anyone from approaching me. I am grateful for their consideration.

I wonder if Captain Kirk will call.

Somehow… I do not think so.