the act of suppressing; conscious exclusion
of unacceptable desires, thoughts, or memories from the mind
San Francisco Spaceport · Earth
Earth’s gravitational pull is merely ninety-two point six percent of that of Vulcan, causing his steps to fall too lightly.
It will take time to get used to.
San Francisco Spaceport is a busy place. A multitude of sentients are on the move; thus far all he has seen are humanoid and an overwhelming majority of those human. Shuttles land and take off at predetermined intervals. There is constant noise: the movement of bodies, far-off music from one of the many cafés and shops in the vicinity, voices. Announcements in a multitude of Terran and non-Terran languages made by smooth undeterminable voices. It is nothing like the stillness of the Vulcan he left behind.
There aren’t many Vulcans on Earth - some ambassadors and other officials at the Embassy or elsewhere, part of the Federation. And Vulcans are welcome here, they say. They are one of the founding races of the Federation, after all. But there aren’t any Vulcans in Starfleet. He will be the first at the Academy.
He is carrying very little luggage. Vulcans do not focus on material possessions, and would not form any kind of emotional attachments to such things. Nevertheless he is wearing many layers of clothing, as was recommended by the Vulcan Embassy, including the sweater his mother knitted for him. Her farewell at the station had been graciously reigned in though he could tell she was worried. Human emotion. His father had not been there. He has not spoken with him since his final words with the board of the Vulcan Science Academy - walking away from them is unheard of, until now.
He steps off the shuttle, and for a moment, inexplicable and extremely non-Vulcan, something like desire burns in his lungs to turn back, to step into the shuttlecraft and demand the pilot return them to Vulcan. But he quenches this emotion and moves forward.
He opted to wear gloves, and is now relieved for that choice. People are anxious to get off the platform and onto the street - they push and trample ahead, some with less care than others, and he suppresses the violent need to recoil at the sudden brush of an arm, a hand, an elbow sternly suddenly against his own. He quickens his pace. He reaches the security checkpoint and the queue formed there is somewhat more orderly, and the human behind the desk smiles (in what is the appropriate Terran way though utterly alien to him) at every passenger. The shuttle had travelled past two other planets on its way to Earth, picking up a variety of passengers. Yet many of them are human. There is something about humans, their fearlessness to explore and spread and seize opportunities; something fascinating.
The security guard checks their IDs, nodding and smiling. When he reaches the desk, the guard is somewhat surprised, he thinks, judging by their expression, though he has not yet met that many humans as to be certain to all nuances. They tend to show a lot of emotion through facial expressions and gestures and the posing of the body. Vulcans, being telepathic by nature, do not have this need. There is no trouble at the checkpoint for him, though there is an Orion who appears to be apprehended just behind him for trying to smuggle some kind of living creature in their luggage. The young Vulcan moves on, outward.
The Port opens up to a large, wide area. There are connections with flights and trains reaching to other parts of the planet, but Spock isn’t going very far.
The journey had been fairly tiresome - but he didn’t want to wait for a Vulcan craft to take him here. Vulcans aren’t ones to talk idly about rumours, but he is aware that his rejection of the Vulcan Science Academy caused a stir. His father’s silence since that moment is somewhat disconcerting. He is not used to it.
His communicator hasn’t chimed and neither has his PADD. After some time, he manages to move through the throng of people and to the outside of the massive building - without touching anyone; even without direct contact he can vaguely feel the press of so many unguarded minds. Humans are usually psi null and are not trained. The swirl, churning, rising, falling, of emotion and thought, is neverending. He grips his bag a little harder. He is aware of receiving a few curious glances.
The damp is much more prevalent than he’d realized it would be. So, too, is the cold, this time of year. It wraps itself around the coastline city unwelcomingly. Another thing it will take time to get used to. The skies are grey with a heavy overhang threatening rain. He consults his PADD, having the foresight to download a map of the city, and quickly calculates a route to the Academy by public transportation.
This, however, turns out to be unnecessary. By the street near the doors a hovercar is waiting, and a middle-aged human male approaches; he is wearing a Starfleet uniform, and his rank is Captain judging by the gleaming stars on his shoulders. He walks with certainly and something which Spock supposes could be pride. Realizing the human is walking with intent toward him, Spock slows his pace to meet him. He hadn’t been aware that anyone would meet him.
Technically the term hasn’t started yet. His arrival doesn’t quite match the schedule due planetary and cultural differences. He has received a brief correspondence from one of the Academy’s educational guidance counselors with practical information, including instructions on housing. Most first-year students have a roommate. Due to his Vulcan heritage he has requested solitary housing. A roommate might inflict negative impact on his studies, especially if they would happen to be psi null and untrained. He has yet to receive an answer to his request.
The human makes a movement as if he were to raise his hand in the customary shaking greeting of Terrans, before abruptly realizing this would be an error with a Vulcan and stopping the motion. Spock’s neutral regard of the man is heightened some. No human he has met thus far has made any such considerations. If they have ever taken into account his race and culture this has mostly taken shape in relentless, quite rude, questions.
“Mr Spock?” The man doesn’t attempt to mangle his full name.
“Affirmative. Hello,” he says, forming the ta’al. “Live long and prosper.”
“Welcome to Earth,” the human says with an easy smile, mirroring the ta’al with only some error, clearly unused to the gesture. Nevertheless, Spock appreciates the effort, even though appreciation is a human emotion. “I’m Captain Christopher Pike. It’s not much of a welcome committee, I know, but it’s not every day we get a Vulcan at the Academy. I’ve got a hovercar here to take you to campus, and if you’d like I could show you around a bit. Have you ever been to Earth before?”
“Yes,” he says, and when he doesn’t elaborate, Captain Pike frowns fleetingly.
They begin to walk toward the parked car, and the Starfleet officer is shown a lot more respect than a lonely Vulcan. No one bumps into them. The driver steps out, offering to pack the bags in the back of the vehicle. Spock allows this and thanks them. His mother would not be pleased if he were rude.
Captain Pike attempts some small talk, but realizes quickly that this is futile. Instead he describes Starfleet - most of which Spock already knows from his own research and education, of course, but it is quite refreshing to hear it from an officer rather than a computer. He also gives an outline of the Academy, its most notable professors, and the way it works. Spock wonders if Captain Pike has greeted any other newcoming non-Terrans to the Academy this way, or if this is a duty chosen at random. This cannot have to do with his father, the Ambassador, since the relation was not specified in this application, and his father doesn’t want him to be here.
Spock quickly dismisses that thought.
They pass through San Francisco, and Spock has not been to Earth since he was very young. He only saw a glimpse of the city at that time, and things constantly change. The landscape is fascinating. Not the industry or the buildings, but the hue of sky, the water. Water will never cease to be so alien. They cross over the Golden Gate Bridge, beneath its red arch, across the water. The main buildings of Starfleet Headquarters rise from the cityscape, wholly alien and somewhat like the educational centers of Shi’kahr, monuments of history and knowledge and peace - that is, at least, the claim. That Starfleet has a military history cannot be denied. One of the reasons why his father so dislikes this choice: it is entirely non-Vulcan, and Starfleet is, for all its commendations and proclaims of peace, still a structure left from times of war and fear. But today its focus lies on exploration and discovery.
Eventually they reach their destination. Captain Pike explains he has an office here at HQ but only uses it sparingly. He prefers to spend his time aboard a ship. The fleet currently consists of forty-four. The forty-fifth is under construction, in a place on the planet called Iowa. Its design is new and somewhat revolutionary, and Pike is planning its crew - he will be her Captain - and is looking to find bright, young cadets. Spock thinks he begins to understand now why Pike, and not any other Starfleet officer or professor, came to meet him. The first Vulcan to attend Starfleet - Pike must want to see whether he is worthy
“I heard you’re taking the Science Track,” says Pike as they’ve exited the hovercar, waving goodbye to the driver. “What’s going to be your focus?”
Gripping his bag tightly, Spock follows the human across a plaza encircled by tall looming buildings. The plaza is covered in fine stone rather than concrete and long lazy stretches of grass, and it is somewhat of a shock, even though he saw how colourfully green and blue the planet was from orbit. This frankly excess use of water - flagrant waste - is alien and slightly disturbing. The grass serves no purpose other than to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
“Computer programming, astrophysics, languages, and chemistry.”
“Ah,” says Pike, his tone of voice difficult to determine: Spock cannot say whether the human is confused or impressed or possibly bemused. He will need to spend more time studying human characteristics, he decides. There is plenty of time to spare if the curriculum is correct. Another shockingly alien thing: according to what he’s read, humans are mostly taught in large groups by a single teacher, and their school schedules are generally comprised of only a few hours of intense lectures and quite a lot of free time. Though their race spends a lot of time asleep - an average of eight point three hours for optimal function. They do not meditate.
There is a lot to get used to.
“Well, since you’ll graduate in 2260 -”
“2258,” Spock interrupts to clarify, and the human blinks as if he’s misheard.
“Ah. Just two years? No one’s graduated in two years.”
“I spoke with a Mrs Coleridge regarding the curriculum,” Spock says, not quite understanding why the Captain seems so shocked. He is not human, and cannot be compared to human cadets. “This will be the optimum pace for me.”
“I see. Well, then you’ll share graduation ceremony with another record-breaker,” Pike says and chuckles, shaking his head, as though unable to contain his private thoughts without using his whole body. Humans.
They enter a building marked as B-30 on the glass doors. The campus is quite large, and this section is devoted to student housing. “Not a lot of freshmen live here,” Pike says as he opens the door, unlocking it with a PIN-code. Because of the so-called summer break there are no students around. Strange, to waste away several weeks instead of studying. “So I’m afraid you’re going to have to put up with the seniors, though, well, maybe it’s better that way. They’re less …” Pike trails off, as if the word he seeks is out of his reach, or does not exist. Spock has been learning Federation Standard English from his mother all of his life, yet sometimes the language is severely limited, and heavily influenced by emotion.
An elevator takes them to the third floor and the room 307. The room is sparsely decorated, which suits Spock just fine, with a bed, a desk, and enough space for his meditation mat. There are also some shelving units - in case he would prefer printed rather than digital books - and the basic utilities of a kitchen. There is also, to his relief, a private bathroom - the shower isn’t sonic but uses water. Another thing to get used to.
“There’s a communal kitchen and lounge to the left. You’re going to share it with a dozen other students once they come here, but right now you’re the only one. There’s a replicator there and some other stuff, though there are plenty of restaurants on-campus,” Pike explains while Spock places his bag on the neatly made bed. “Oh, here.” He hands him a PADD. “There’s a welcoming package, a letter from the principal and some others, and your details to use the campus’ computers. You can change the lock on the door, by the way, to use the fingerprint lock instead of a PIN. Whichever suits best. There are some comm numbers too, if there’s anything you’re wondering, or anything missing. I added mine. Not everyday we get a Vulcan in Starfleet, and if you’re really going to graduate in ‘58, that’ll be the same year we launch our newest ship - if it keeps to schedule, that is.”
Spock nods, as he has observed his mother doing when interacting with non-Vulcans (and sometimes Vulcans), which seems to be the correct thing to do, judging by the lightening of the Captain’s expression. He places the second PADD on his bag after taking a look at the PIN provided for him, memorizing it.
“Now, you’ve had a pretty long trip,” Pike starts saying.
“The journey from Vulcan lasted a hundred and two point three Standard hours,” Spock says without inflection. Now that his hands are free he clasps them behind his back. The freighter he had travelled with had been slow, only capable of Warp Three. Spock could have made the craft move faster, but the pilot would not let anyone into the engine room.
Pike smiles, though not unkindly. “Would you like to eat?”
“I would not be averse to it.”
Two red cadet uniforms arrive in a neatly folded package the next day; two meaning he can wear one and wash the other. They fit well. He also receives a communication from his mother: a short, somewhat fuzzy video file, in which she asks how he finds Earth and if he’s doing well - a very human question. He cannot answer the last, though he can answer the first.
Earth is dazzlingly alien. “It is … damp,” he says instead. He does not say that it is cold, though he’s quite certain that the admission will spur her into knitting another sweater. She does not like hiding her emotions, and he grew up with her fussing and holding his hand before he went through kahs’wan. He sends the message before he can begin to regret it, and then leaves the dorm for the campus’ library.
The library is fascinating. Despite the ease and practicality of PADDs and computers, humans seem to like gathering physical printed copies of bound paper. His mother had brought a few books with her to Vulcan and that was the manner he first began to learn to read Standard - one of the things he became proficient at earlier than most of his peers. To enter the grand building filled with rooms and rooms with books is somewhat like entering a memory: his mother hand a fondness for reading stories to him before kahs’wan. The library’s rules of quiet and stillness are welcome after the shuffle and noise of the streets. It is a sunny day, but Spock spends it indoors, reading. He catches up on Terran history and customs and languages.
Though there are no other students around, there is movement in the form of teachers, cleaning staff, and officers walking from building to building. Students will not begin to arrive for another twelve Terran days. Spock watches, and he reads, and he visits the labs as soon as he is given permission - which is quickly. Apparently the humans do not want him to be bored. This gives him time to begin his studies and perform some experiments at his own leisure.
The days pass.
It is quiet. He does not call the comm numbers; the PADD contains adequate information. He eats alone. The replicator cannot quite make any Vulcan dishes, so he finds a supermarket in the city which sells various non-Terran foodstuffs, including enough to make ploumeek shur. He prefers it to the nearest on-campus restaurant, which turns out to serve few vegan meals with flavour. The cooks know nothing about Vulcan food. He meditates. It is difficult to sleep.
He does not contact his mother on Vulcan outside of the once-a-week allotted timeslot of twenty-five minutes.
Whenever it rains, he looks out in fascination at all this water. He considers learning how to swim. If he had chosen the Command Track the physical demands would no doubt include the skill. The thought of immersing himself in water causes him inexplicable discomfort. The showers are still alien, though he has come to enjoy them somewhat: there is a soothing quality to running water, pooling around his bare feet.
The days pass.
Starfleet Academy Campus · San Francisco
It is a Monday when the students begin arriving - trickling at first like fine droplets, then swirling like a torrid river. Some are in uniform, pressed and polished, while some appear much less professional, haphazard even. The majority are human, though there are a few others: a black-eyed Betazoid here, a Trill there. The once so silent corridors are suddenly full of noise. Spock resumes wearing his gloves. He has spoken with Mrs Coleridge and, due to his heritage, he is allowed to keep wearing them despite them not being regulation, though it took some persuasion to keep it so. His mother will be glad to hear it, he knows. She was worried about the pressure of being around so many unprotected minds for so long.
He doesn’t meet any cadets face-to-face until Tuesday morning. He follows his routine, now established, though he will have to change it as the schedule now is to begin - he will not have the same time to be in the library. No matter. He has read fifty-seven books and made some comments on the material for both the Xenolinguistics I course and Introduction to Astrophysics; if the professors in those subjects are on par with their chosen reading material, then Spock does not look forward to meeting them, as it would be quite a disappointment. Perhaps the VSA would have been preferable, after all.
But no. He will not turn away. It would be undignified.
That Tuesday morning he showers, dresses, and unlocks his door. Outside there is, at last, quiet. It is 04:48 and most humans are not awake yet. He finds the shared kitchen is empty though a great deal messier than usual. After tidying up, Spock has breakfast. Someone has taken the kreyla he had made a batch of two days ago. He resolves to begin to label his boxes of food more clearly, perhaps in several languages in case there is a cadet who does not properly understand Standard.
He doesn’t expect anyone else to be awake, especially considering the rowdiness of last night. He had spent the time in his room then, telling himself that he was meditation because he needed to and not because he did not want to face anyone else.
Spock looks up from his PADD to see a human standing there. He - Spock assumes - is dark-haired and wearing no shoes; in fact not in uniform at all, but obviously in pyjamas. He appears quite tired, with shadows under his eyes.
“Evidently,” Spock says.
“Are you new?”
The human blinks owlishly before extending a hand over the table. “I’m Gary,” he says. “You?”
“You would not be able to pronounce my name in its entirety.”
He does not take the hand. Clearly the human knows little or nothing about Vulcans. Gary’s face hardens into the hint of a scowl.
“Jeez. Is there any coffee?”
“The replicator does produce that, yes.”
The human walks past him, muttering on his breath - Spock can hear him nonetheless. Pointy-eared freak.
Spock gathers his PADD and leaves. The library will be open in five point six hours. He’ll meditate until then.
Classes begin on Thursday but on Wednesday there is a welcoming speech by the Principal, followed by some general information, and freshmen are meant to go. Some second-year students are also present. Spock arrives well on time. Others do not, evidently quite lost even though they have been supplied with campus maps on their PADDs. Some appear to be making an effort, at least. For humans, Spock supposes, that could be commendable.
Humans are such illogical creatures. He had thought he would have had an easier time adjusting thanks to growing up with his mother, but evidently she is a far superior specimen.
He finds a seat low down in the auditorium, to the left at the end of the first row. The room begins to fill. The humans chatter. Spock folds his gloved hands atop of the PADD in his lap. Proper lectures don’t start until tomorrow. Frankly this is a waste of time, but this is a tradition, Captain Pike had called it, something the Academy always does to welcome new students. Information is shared which any respectable cadet already would have known.
There are mostly humans, though there are eighteen non-Terrans there as well. Still: Humans are in overwhelming majority. Spock notices that no one claims the seat immediately to his right. It does not bother him. In fact, it is a relief.
Not until there is only fifty-six seconds left. Someone clambers past him and into the seat quite loudly, followed by a second person. They are vividly discussing something. Spock does not look at them, keeping his hands still and not fiddling with his PADD.
“– totally did it.”
“You’re a bad liar, Jim.”
“But I did! Don’t be like that, Bones. Hey, mind if I sit here?”
This man isn’t dark-haired but blond, and his eyes are an icy blue, and his smile is even more carefree than Captain Pike’s. It is quite disconcerting. At least he does not offer his hand. Instead he raises it into a surprisingly clumsy and inept ta’al.
Spock returns the gesture.
“Hi.” Jim grins brilliantly. “Didn’t think we had Vulcans here! Nice to meet you. I’m Jim, and that’s my buddy Bones.”
“God knows why I let you follow me around,” grumbles the other human; his hair is darker, not as ruffled as the blonde’s, and he could be somewhere nearer his thirties than twenties. “Name’s Leonard McCoy – ‘Bones’ is his idea of a joke.”
“Hello,” Spock acknowledges.
“So, watcha in for?” asks the one identified as Jim cheerfully.
Spock considers the cadet. His hair is a bit rumpled, and his uniform somewhat askew, and he is very animate as he speaks. He does not give a first good impression. “I am not ‘in’ for anything.”
“Oh - I mean, which Track are you studying?”
“Awesome. Hey, why aren’t you at the VSA? I thought that Vulcans only went there …”
Before he can answer, Mrs Coleridge enters the room. Everyone hushes down until, after a moment, the guidance counselor clears her throat and begins to speak.
As predicted, Spock hears no new or relevant information, though he sits straight-backed and at attention as is appropriate. Toward the end of the hour, it seems he is the only cadet doing so. The only time the human next to him perks up and does not appear half-asleep is when Admiral Marcus takes center stage to welcome the cadets by showing some holograms of famous Fleet ships, including mentioning the one still under construction.
“That’s being built right in my home town, y’know,” Jim whispers excitedly on his breath, leaning too close for comfort. Spock has to subtly lean away from him. The human’s breath is warm.
Afterward, the cadets are released for the day. Yes, clearly a waste of time. Spock gathers his PADD and leaves the auditory while Jim is busy talking with Leonard, and heads toward his dormitory. Perhaps the kitchen is in a better state than this morning.
It is not. Nor is it unoccupied. He glances inside to see a number of cadets sitting around the table and in the couches, talking. They all talk. It is a wonder that they ever cease talking to think in order to get things accomplished.
For once the thought of poorly-flavoured campus cafeteria food is a bit more appetizing than standing in front of that stove himself.
Professor Riker’s knowledge of xenolinguistics is clearly inadequate and yet he refuses to acknowledge this. He does not acknowledge the problematic views being proposed as ‘facts’ by the textbooks. He does not acknowledge that half of the class aren’t paying attention at all, chattering or busying themselves with their PADDs or simply asleep. Nor does he acknowledge Spock’s raised hand, since Professor Riker keeps droning on and on without looking up from the board, which is cluttered without any sense of direction.
It is the first lecture. This cannot be Starfleet standard.
Spock keeps his hand raised for approximately six point nine minutes before the Professor notices. The human clearly did not anticipate this.
“Yes, cadet, do you have a question?”
“Not as such, sir. This reading material is flawed, especially concerning the learning of Terran languages if one is of non-Terran origin.”
The room, previously full of whispers, falls utterly silent. Someone is shaken out of their sleep. The board marker clatters nervously from the Professor’s old hand.
“And what exactly is wrong about it, cadet?”
Spock, who has had over nearly seven minutes now to formulate a good argument, stands up, hands clasped behind his back, and speaks. The other cadets have ceased gossiping with each other and fiddling with their PADDs - they are staring at him. Professor Riker’s face blanches steadily.
He doesn’t attend the second lecture of Xenolinguistics 1.
“Cadet Spock, do you know why you’re here?”
Yes. And no. He does not understand it. As far as he is aware, being called to an officer’s office is a sign of bad behaviour or poor studies. If this was the VSA, such an occurrence would no doubt mean expulsion. Spock stands ramrod still, hands behind his back. Captain Pike’s expression is hard to read. He does not allow to let his hands tremble.
“You can’t make your professors cry during your first day. That’s what the Principal wanted me to say so there you have it. Actually, we’ve gotten some complaints about Riker before, but - well, Starfleet isn’t picture perfect, as you might have realized. There’s a lack of funding in certain areas, a loss of focus on things that are actually important, but not everyone thinks so.”
Spock says nothing.
“You’re not in trouble, son. Don’t worry about it,” Pike says then. It is an odd manner of address, very familiar, yet Spock finds himself not reacting negatively to it. “Mrs Coleridge obviously severely underestimated you. There’s an entrance exam you’ll be required to take for the subject, but if you pass that, you can go right onto Xenolinguistics 2. In fact, if you’d like, I could arrange that you have similar tests in other subjects to see what suits you best.”
That is surprising, and also a relief. He will not have to tell his mother that he has failed.
“Thank you, Captain.”
“Now that that’s out of the way - how’s everything going?”
“I do not understand the query,” Spock admits.
Pike smiles gently. “How do you find your experience with Starfleet so far?”
“It is adequate.”
“Have you got any hobbies? There are plenty of clubs. Everything’s not just about studying.”
He does remember the list mentioned in the welcoming package. Most has not seemed appealing. Besides, to waste time in such a matter is decidedly non-Vulcan.
“Perhaps I will venture to explore such venues later,” Spock says.
“Of course. That’s all I wanted to hear. Command is kind of anxious not to disappoint our only Vulcan.”
“I have no complaints.”
“Don’t hesitate to call me if you do.”
Human education is highly illogical. How can they expect every student to excel to their best capacity by having as many as a hundred of them in the same room, listening to one teacher? Two students do not function optimally at the same pace - a hundred certainly do not.
His mother had warned him about this system. It is still … disconcerting. Despite having endured several Terran days in this manner, there are times when he thinks about the effectiveness of the Vulcan educational system. An institution of learning should focus on just that.
At least this Professor is much more competent at both teaching and at their subject than Professor Riker, and seems to like asking their student questions and debate with them. This also makes the students more attentive. Fewer cadets are sitting half-asleep. Even if they are human, the teacher possesses a high IQ.
Spock sits in the first row, as per usual. He does not take notes, thanks to his eidetic memory. Dr Jacques’ description of quantum computing is both evocative and mostly correct.
At first Spock attempts to ignore this noise. Then something softly pokes his shoulder. He tilts his head minutely to the side.
It’s the cadet from before. Jim.
“I thought you were a first-year student?”
Interrupting a lecture to ask such a vague question is both illogical and unwise. If the teacher discovers it, Jim could get in trouble, and Spock is in no mood to be caused the same because of that. But Jim pokes his shoulder again, refusing to cease.
“Too smart for the introductory courses, huh?” Jim whispers, leaning over the back of Spock’s seat. “What’s your name?”
“Cadet Kirk, do you have anything to say to the class?”
Jim glances up at Dr Jacques, smiling charmingly, though they do not seem amused or impressed. “Uh, not right now, doc. If I got a moment I’m sure I could think of something.”
“Anything to do with computer sciences?”
“Now that you mention it …”
The teacher shakes their head. “As I was saying - to make warp calculations, a new way of computer thinking had to be developed …”
Starfleet Academy Campus · San Francisco · Earth
The replicator still cannot produce proper ploumeek shur, and for once the kitchen is unoccupied - mostly, he suspects, because it’s 02:32 in the morning. Though not all cadets are asleep at this time, campus is relatively silent. He begins making preparations only to notice that some ingredients are missing since last time shopped groceries, as he did a few times before the term started. No matter. There are other things he can make. He has become quite good at improvising when it comes to food in the last few weeks.
His mother’s last message was brief. She was going to attend an important conference and didn’t have the time to their usual allotted time for a real-time video call. Not wanting to impose, he had not asked that they adjusted their schedule. Instead he received an email. It sufficed. She is well, she wrote, and father too though Spock had not asked. He suspects it will take a long time before his father will acknowledge him again. As he cooks he considers the best reply to the message. She expects him to elaborate about his studies and how he is doing. How he feels.
He prefers not to think about emotion. The onslaught of unprotected minds through all hours of day can sometimes be -
He wears his gloves.
Someone is walking through the corridor. His ears are sensitive enough to pick up their footsteps. After a moment, doors slide open, and a human female walks in. Her dark hair is tied back in a hasty, yet elegantly elaborate, knot. She pauses on the threshold to look at him.
“Oh, hi. Didn’t know anyone was here. Have you seen a communicator lying around?”
Spock shakes his head negative once.
“I think I’ve lost mine somewhere here last night, and Gaila won’t let me keep borrowing hers.” The cadet is frustrated. “I’m Nyota Uhura, by the way.” She raises her hand in a smooth, flawless ta’al. “Dif-tor heh smusma.”
To speak his native tongue is refreshing, and the human speaks the Modern Golic dialect rather well for a cadet – that is the only Vulcan language variant being offered as a course here at the Academy. “Na’shaya. I am Spock. Are you a student of languages?”
“Yeah, Xenolinguistics is my main area; I hope to work as a Communications Officer aboard a starship one day,” Nyota says. She does not smile in the way many other humans do; a bit more restricted, as if she is aware that emotional human expressions mean little to a Vulcan and therefore are redundant. “I’ve never met a Vulcan before, so I hope that wasn’t too bad.”
“It was adequate. The human tongue cannot pronounce all of the sounds of the Vulcan language.”
“Tell me about it,” she laughs, and Spock wonders whether this is to be interpreted literarily or if this is one of their many idioms. “Wait, don’t tell me, you’re the cadet who made Professor Riker cry?”
“It was not my intention.”
“Well, he’s kind of -” She makes a gesture with her hand, one which Spock cannot interpret. “So don’t worry about it.”
Captain Pike had said the same. Spock wonders why Starfleet would employ such a man if both officers and cadets are of the same opinion of the Professor’s teaching abilities.
“Anyway. You haven’t seen that communicator? Damn. Got to get a new one. Well, it was nice meeting you.”
Perhaps not all humans are wholly illogical, Spock thinks, stirring the pasta. It is a foodstuff which many cadets seem to favour, mainly because it requires little culinary skills to make. Tomorrow, he decides, he will purchase the correct ingredients to make ploumeek shur.
The library is quiet when every other place is noisy. The librarians recognize him well by now; indeed, they seem pleased when he visits. He always returns the books on time and in good condition.
He finds a table on the second floor, near a window overlooking the campus main plaza. He spends a few hours there, reading and taking note of some important arguments and facts which will be useful in the upcoming course in advanced chemistry. After speaking with Mrs Coleridge, he has decided to take on a second Track, in Command, mainly because they offered some quite interesting classes there. Mrs Coleridge had practically sweated with anxious nervousness as Spock entered her office to explain that the pace of the curriculum is too slow for a Vulcan; the guidance counselor clearly does not come in contact with many students of this caliber. Now his days are more on par with what they used to be.
The idea of a two-day weekend with a break from studies is alien. Even though cadets are supposed to keep working, few do so, and the teachers are aware. Strange.
Once more Captain Pike has ‘checked up on him’, as the human had put it. In a few weeks he will be leaving San Francisco on a six-month mission aboard the USS Farragut; many cadets will no doubt be flocking to see the take-off. Spock had met Pike’s First Officer, Number One, that time. After this mission Number One is expected to become a Captain herself, taking over the Farragut.
To be honest, Spock has not put much thought yet on the matter of starships. He assumes he will become a Chief Science Officer rather quickly, and Captain Pike has made it clear that he considers him one of the top cadets to one day serve under him. Still: he needs to make it through the first year of the Academy first. This is time for learning.
Spock has moved on from the book on chemistry and is mid-way through Interpreting Orion Poetry (3rd abridged edition), almost so deeply immersed that, suddenly, he realizes that someone is staring at him.
He has become used to staring. He is the only Vulcan at Starfleet Academy. Other non-Terrans do not stare, but there is something about humans - their relentless curiousity about the unknown.
He had been warned by his mother about the dangers of xenophobia, and understood that it is, sadly, still burning and alive. There are news headlines sometimes about the Keep Earth Human League - savage attacks - crimes taking place in the street - about the humans’ own hesitance to call it hate crimes – all of that even though laws have become steadily better and more inclusive over the decades. Interspecies relationships are more and more accepted. Medical assistance is available in Federation space for couples who wish for children when genetic incompatibility complicates matters. Aliens can live on Earth, theoretically without fear of being excluded. And yet - and yet.
Spock glances up from the book.
It’s the cadet. Jim. He’s sitting by the opposite table twelve feet away, under the rays of sun streaming through the window making his hair look golden. He’s got a number of PADDs and notebooks spread out in front of him, though he doesn’t pay them any attention. Instead the cadet is scribbling something at a piece of paper and then he holds it up so that Spock can see:
WHAT R U READING?
Spock does not frown, though his eyes narrow slightly. Why is the cadet not using proper Standard English when it would clearly not be much of an effort?
When he doesn’t immediately produce an answer, the cadet holds up another note.
LET ME C?
Despite the strange vernacular, context reveals what the other cadet wants. Holding back a sigh, Spock raises the book so that the human can see the cover. He was not aware that the cadet was taking the Advanced Xenolinguistics course or would be interested in its material.
Jim’s face breaks into a wide smile, and then the cadet abandons his own table, gathering his things and walking over to Spock’s. The Vulcan is fairly alarmed. He had not meant for this conversation to be an invitation to socialize.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt or anything,” Jim says.
“Clearly you did so regardless,” Spock says coolly, watching the cadet drop his PADDs and notebooks on the table with little care for the clatter, clamorous in the library.
“You speak Orion?”
“Affirmative. May I assist you, cadet?”
“Wow, third degree, and I didn’t even do anything inappropriate,” mutters Jim. “I never caught your name, by the way.”
“A human would not be able to pronounce it.”
Instead of displaying the distinct sourness that cadet Gary Mitchell earlier had, Jim’s smile darkens but doesn’t disappear. There is something almost predatory about it. “Try me.”
Spock relents to render the beginning of his full name in an approximation to Standard.
“S’chn T’gai Spock. See, not that hard.” The cadet is smirking.
“Your pronunciation is adequate.”
Apparently the human considers this to be high praise, and beams. “It’s a good name, by the way. Is that all of it?”
The cadet is very curious and somewhat trying. And yet, there is something …
Jim isn’t speaking with him as if he is an alien and something inherently different and therefore something that cannot ever be understood.
“My full name is not something I would disclose to outsiders,” Spock says eventually. “May I ask why you are wondering these things?”
“Uh. Right.” Abruptly Jim moves away, browsing hastily through the mess on the desk, and pulling out a PADD. The screen gleams brightly. “I’ve got this assignment, I’m writing about non-Earth cultures and I thought it’d be pretty interesting to talk about Vulcan culture.”
“Cultures,” Spock corrects him.
“Plural. Right. Make this harder for me, will you.”
“I did not intend to make anything harder,” the Vulcan says blankly.
“Ah, uh, don’t worry about it. D’you think you could be my case study? And, in turn, if you ever need help with an assignment or whatever, I’m here. I thought I’d include something about culture clashes. It’s a pretty big thing to move from another region so I imagine it’s kind of a shock to come to a totally different planet. Unless you’re born here on Earth?” Jim adds, curiously.
“Negative. I was born on Vulcan.”
“Great! So, would you be okay with it? It’ll mention no names. Just some questions and stuff about - stuff.”
“I … would not be averse to it, cadet.”
“Jim. Call me Jim.”
“All right - Jim.”
“Awesome,” Jim says. “So, I haven’t really got it all worked out yet - how about we meet over a coffee or something once I’ve figured out which questions I want to ask? Here, let me give you my comm number.” Without further ado, the cadet rips out a paper from his notebook and scribbles down a string of numbers. “How’s later this week?”
Spock clicks on his PADD, summoning his schedule to see whether any time would be appropriate for this - interview. The human cadet manages to get a glimpse of the screen and lets out a low whistle. “Advanced xenolinguistics, chemistry, and computer science all at once? I thought freshmen didn’t do those courses.”
“I have been advised by the guidance counselor to take on additional courses, though you are correct that I am, in your vernacular, a ‘freshman’.”
“We’re in the same astrophysics class,” Jim exclaims. “Nice.” He eyes the schedule for a moment. “I’m on the Command Track. Y’know, it was a bit of a bet, really. I’m going to do it in three years - only two more to go. No one else has done it before.” The last words are spoken not without smugness.
Interesting. Could this be the cadet which Pike mentioned when he first took him from the spaceport to campus, the ‘other record-breaker’? For a human, this would indeed be a challenge.
“Then we shall graduate at the same time,” Spock says.
The human releases a low whistle. “I thought I was in for a rough ride.”
Spock simply looks at him, uncomprehending. “This is a satisfying pace for a curriculum.”
“Right. Keep forgetting you’re Vulcan and, like, twelve times smarter than anyone else around. Man, I guess Command must’ve wet their pants in excitement when you signed up.”
“There was an expression of excitement, yes.”
“So - how about that coffee?”
“Friday between twenty and twenty-two hours is fine,” Spock says, indicating the blank spot. He could shift his meditation schedule, as he doubts the human would function well at his next blank spot, which is four hours later. Humans need their sleep.
“Then Friday it is,” Jim smiles. “See you then, Spock.”
And then the cadet is gone.
Spock finds he is only able to concentrate at eighty-one point four percent of his full capacity after that. He leaves the library in search for tea. That will clear his mind.