Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright © 1975 by Johanna Cantor. Rated PG. Originally published in Furaha #2, edited by Virginia Walker.
Finally alone in her quarters, Uhura sank into a restchair. On the way down, her injured elbow made emphatic contact with the table edge. That did it. She had smiled brightly at Dr. McCoy after talking him into releasing her, smiled brightly at Mr. Spock, who had silently appeared to escort her, and smiled brightly at the crewpeople in the corridors who called to her as they bustled about the tasks of keeping the ship at full alert status. Now she swore. Beginning softly, she said the worst word she could think of in every language she knew, crescendoing to a crashing fortissimo finale. Silence fell.
Uhura just sat; she felt chagrined beyond words. The ship was on full precautionary alert following that suicide ship's attempt at battle. The captain and Scotty had been injured by the saboteur, and Mr. Spock had not yet recovered from donating the blood needed for his father. All classified as walking wounded, they were spelling each other on the bridge. And one Lieutenant Uhura, having sprung a booby trap set for the first officer, was in her quarters, invalided off duty, feeling as useful as an armless octopus.
That acid had gotten her in just the wrong place. The communications board required two sound arms -- and there'd been times when she had thought she'd have to use her nose. With a stiff arm, she simply couldn't manage it. Tears came to her eyes and she swore again.
"Lieutenant Uhura," she said severely to herself, "your reactions are illogical." And that was an understatement. Hadn't she nearly decided to accept that attractive offer from Ohm Communications? To opt out of a life in which her ability to form significant relationships was severely handicapped by the precious but unsatisfactory relationship she could neither break off nor improve? To leave a job in which she too often felt like just part of her board? Here she was, separated from the board for a mere week, and she was feeling as though there had, in fact, been an amputation.
Moodily she rose and turned on her cabin
receiver. Lt. Palmer was broadcasting a ship-wide message inviting the
ambassadors to a reception. Protocol. She felt a sharp
twinge a jealousy, and suddenly was thoroughly ashamed of herself. Wheeling, she
opened the louvers that concealed her work desk and ran her fingers along the pigeon
holes until she found the right slot. She pulled out a thick packet and began
to sort it. Last week she and Spock had agreed to coauthor an article
presenting their theory of the Mitchell phenomenon they had jointly discovered.
If she could get her half into shape, maybe Spock could finish his after they
When her buzzer sounded, she almost resented the interruption. Then she pounced for the receiver. It was the captain.
"Uhura, how are you feeling?"
"Then would you report to me in Sickbay?"
"On my way."
In Sickbay, Kirk, Spock, Sarek and Amanda, and Sarek' s aide were deep in discussion. When Kirk saw Uhura, he waved her into McCoy's office. As they sat, she noticed anxiously how tired he looked. But sensing that he would not welcome distraction, she waited in silence.
"Lieutenant, I don't need to outline the
complexities of this situation to you. Sarek is
expected to recover, but he'll be invalided for the rest of the voyage. The Vulcan
Council is sending its representative to Rigel V, Ambassador
St't, to replace him on
It took Uhura three seconds. "Yes, sir."
"Good. You know our orders. The safety of the passengers is our prime consideration. Second only to that is keeing peace on board. And that's where Sarek's incapacity is really going to hurt. He is the highest ranking ambassador on board, and he was here more as a service to the Federation than because Vulcan has any great interest in Coridan. Your responsibility will be to help Amanda in any way that will keep things quiet." He hesitated, then added, "please consider her well-being part of your assignment."
"Yes, sir." So Amanda had made a conquest, had she? It would be interesting to get to know this woman.
"One more thing, Lieutenant. Remember that these are diplomats and, for the most part, underlings. They take protocol very seriously. Their mission is closely tied in with their maintaining or improving their status in relation to other delegates, and that gets mixed up with the damndest things. You're good at this sort of job, but you'll have to be on your toes."
"Good. By the way, have you decided--"
"Not yet, Captain."
"Okay. I don't need to know until the mission is over. Have you met Amanda?"
"Okay. Let's go."
As Uhura approached, Amanda held out her hand in the old-fashioned Earth gesture. "I see you've agreed. Thank you."
"Serving honors me." The Vulcan phrasing pleased the Ambassador, who nodded approval and presented his aide, Sa'a. Uhura smiled at him. "I understand this is your first mission?"
"Yes. I resigned from the T'Rayan Academy last month to devote a tetrad to public service, as is the custom of our people."
"You are a teacher? What is your field?"
Making a mental note to find the time to discuss her hypotheses on the Strong effect with him, Uhura turned to Amanda. "Where do we start, Madam?"
"Well, I'm not officially available until tomorrow morning. For now--" She hesitated, then smiled. "I haven't really had a chance to see the ship. Would you show me around?"
As the women toured the ship, keeping away from the passenger sections, Amanda kept up a charming flow of questions and small talk. Uhura responded, but she soon began to realize that Amanda's questions were anything but casual. Amanda was skillfully probing the extent of her new aide's experience with alien cultures, and her control over lingering xenophobic instincts. Uhura slowed down and began to answer more cautiously. Amanda smiled inwardly. This pretty communications officer was intelligent as well as sensitive. She began to understand why Spock had endorsed Jim's idea so wholeheartedly.
As they were strolled through the gym, they noticed a crewman sparring with a young member of the Tellarite delegation. But as soon as they stopped to watch, it became obvious that this was more a fight than an exercise. Uhura started to hurry past, but Amanda was taking a critical interest. "Your crewman is boring in too low. Most of his blows are just hitting the thoracic plate."
"Yes, ma'am," Sam said. "That Miller is a real hothead. Soon's he gets mad, he loses his technique."
"What happened, Sam?"
"That hogface started making remarks about Mr. Spock, Lieutenant. 'Insufferable mongrel' -- you know the sort of thing. Miller told him to make his remarks about somebody not on the sicklist, so he did."
"Why does the crewman feel so strongly about it?" Amanda asked. Uhura began a reply designed to warn Sam she was Spock' s mother, but the far door opened and a thin figure stepped through. Fortunately, Uhura's whispered "attention" reached Miller. Spock raised an eyebrow as the Tellarite pounded away, but Miller was unquestionably just sparring.
He didn't need the quiet nods both women gave to see that Uhura's temporary assignment was settled. Gratified, he suggested they go to the conservatory, where he could join them at change of shift.
In the elevator, Uhura sighed with relief. Then seeing Amanda's questioning look, she said, "That was a serious breach of discipline under the circumstances. It's a good thing Mr. Spock didn't see Miller earlier."
"But the boy was defending him."
"It's still a breach of discipline, and Mr. Spock's on duty. Not to report it would be against regulations."
"And of course, Spock will always follow regulations."
Amanda's voice was so bitter that Uhura jumped. She led the way to the conservatory in silence, feeling cold and unhappy. Remembering that Spock had taken command while the captain was unconscious, leaving McCoy unable to operate on Sarek, she found it easy to sketch in the background of Amanda's comment. Somehow, it was extremely painful to think of Spock' s mother being angry with him.
When Spock joined them Amanda snapped, "Well, did you follow regulations and put that boy on report?"
"I saw no infraction, Mother." Spock' s tone did not invite elaboration. Then, seeing that his mother was quite upset, he bowed to her formally and retreated to the other side of the room -- a Vulcan courtesy which Uhura guessed would simply make Amanda angrier. She avoided looking at her, and watched Spock as he gently touched the tips of a ptot'l leaf. Vulcans valued that plant both for its scent and for its traditional association with many legends and rituals. She hoped it could comfort him. For herself, the sensation of being caught between two rights was almost like being physically torn.
Amanda's voice sounded gentler. "He's always loved that plant."
Uhura still could not think what to say. Groping, she began, "I saw him just carry a branch of that around, at Deneva, as though--"
A gasp stopped her; turning, she saw that Amanda had gone white. "Amanda, I'm sorry. That was thoughtless."
"It's all right. You know, he never told me about that. But I heard--"
At that moment Spock plucked a sprig from the ptot'l and sat down rather heavily. Both women rushed over to him. Startled, he looked up, then seeing Amanda's face he rose immediately. "Mother, there is no cause for alarm. I am a little tired, nothing worse."
"You still haven't recovered from donating--" Amanda's voice broke, and she reached out to him. Uhura streaked past them into the hall, but she saw Spock take his mother's hands.
A few minutes later Amanda, again smiling, found her and asked her to show her her quarters. Spock accompanied them to Deck Two. But as the elevator doors opened, his sharp eyes spied a problem in the corridor. Turning to Uhura, he said curtly, "Lieutenant, I went directly to Sickbay instead of escorting you here. Please proceed accordingly." Uhura stepped out quickly, followed by a bewildered Amanda, and the elevator doors snapped shut.
"Now what--" Uhura began, but then she saw what Spock had seen. Dear God. Couldn't that girl keep out of trouble for two days at a time? She jerked the crumpled yeoman to her feet -- a mistake, as it turned out. The girl moaned and began to retch. Uhura grabbed her arm, started towards her cabin, and nearly collided with the wife of the Vulcan ambassador. She tried to smile. "I'll take care of her, Amanda. She's just tired."
"Indeed she is," Amanda surveyed the girl critically. "In fact, I haven't seen anyone this tired since the Oloraminian Spring Equinox banquet. We'd better get her out of the hall. Where's your cabin?"
They got there just in time. "Well, that saved us the trouble, at any rate," Amanda observed a few minutes later. "You turn the shower on cold. I'll get her clothes off." Amanda jammed the stained uniform in the recycler and Uhura shoved the girl in the shower. But when the cold water hit her she began to fight, so Amanda immobilized her and held her under the jets.
"What is that grip?"
"It's a Vulcan hold. I'll show you some time."
Soon the rigid girl crumpled and began to cry. Amanda let her go, then put her arms around her. Uhura silently produced two wraparounds and took the woman to her bed while Amanda got out of her soaked outfit. When she appeared, Uhura was comforting the sobbing girl.
"Do you have a tranquillizer here?"
"No. Anyway, that's probably what she took in the first place. What happened, Grace?"
"I was just so lonesome. And everybody was so busy I didn't like to bother them. So I took a pill and--"
"Grace, you know you can't handle those things."
The girl began to cry again. Eventually she fell asleep. Uhura and Amanda looked at each other, then Uhura rose and poured out two brandies. Wordlessly, they toasted each other and drank.
After a while, Amanda said, "What was all that?"
"She was engaged to one of our botanists. He died two weeks ago on a planetary exploration. Got trapped by a--" She swallowed. "Well, anyway, we located him just too late. The body was still warm when we beamed it up. Grace couldn't take it."
"Poor girl." Amanda thought for a minute. "Why did Spock take off so fast?"
"He would have had to report this."
"Is she on duty?"
"Not exactly. She's under treatment. But we are on alert status. This would go on her record."
"Now it won't?"
"Now it won't."
"And you think that's why Spock took off?"
"He'd say it is wasteful to smirch a record unnecessarily."
"Well," Amanda said. "Well, I'll be damned."
* * *
The next morning Uhura reported officially for her new assignment. Amanda explained that she disliked making official schedules when it was avoidable, but etiquette required the delegations to present formal condolences for Sarek's illness and good wishes for his recovery. She must be available for that. So they moved around the ship, greeting the representatives as they saw them.
Amanda's task was greatly complicated by the fact that Sarek had announced the Vulcan position on Coridan before he had collapsed. Now Amanda's peacekeeping jobs included making the delegates who agreed that Coridan should be admitted sure that the Vulcan position would not change, while leaving the others with the impression that Vulcan's position was now negotiable. This was fairly simple while they moved about, but when they came to the large observation deck, Uhura began to worry. Obviously her job was to see to it that Amanda did not have to talk with both sides at once, and she wasn't sure who all the delegates were and what their position was. She needed a scorecard. Fortunately, one appeared at her side. While Amanda chatted with the wife of the Denevan observer, Sa'a ran through names and positions. By the time they had to separate to rescue Amanda, Uhura had a pretty fair grounding.
That afternoon Amanda called a caucus in Sickbay. She was concerned because the Andorian ambassador, still humiliated by the discovery of a saboteur on his staff, was remaining in seclusion. His absence was felt in this volatile situation.
"There is no way of compelling him to
emerge," Sarek pointed out. "Until we reach
"Well, all I can think of is that he's an expert sissist. Spock, is there anyone on board--"
"Indeed, Mother. Lt. Uhura..."
"Uhura, can you sing things like the A'a?"
"She sings them beautifully, Mother."
"How do you hear the notes? I'm so trained in diatonic--"
"Well, I can hear them. African scales have so many quarter tones they're no problem. But I'd have to work on it."
"Consider it an assignment, will you? Spock, can you play the inner lines on the harp, and we'll ask Shras to do the descants. He can't refuse."
When Uhura got to her quarters that night, she carried a list from Sa'a and a copy of Shrya's "Melody for Ten Voices." This assignment was going to be strenuous.
But by the time she sang the "Melody" at a lunch given by the Vulcan delegation, it had become almost second nature to her to assist Amanda. Furthermore, she and Sa'a made an excellent team. Sa'a was devoted to Amanda., and he possessed almost a sixth sense for her hints. Uhura learned to tune in to him, and between them, they managed to cut the job down to size.
All during those two difficult weeks, Uhura never saw Amanda lose her smiling composure in the presence of the delegates. Even the day that the Tellarite delegation scheduled a concert conflicting with the First Federation's reception, Amanda remained unruffled. She sent charming notes excusing herself from both functions because of a headache, but sent her personal representative (Uhura) to the concert, and her personal representative (Sa'a) to the reception. She had a very pleasant afternoon, she told them later. Only once did she lose her calm, and it was Spock who, all unwitting, accomplished that.
Amanda and Uhura were on their way to the Tellarite ambassador's wife's tolo party when Uhura was stopped by a young man in civilian fatigues.
"Uhura! It's good to see you!"
"Why, Fred Pierce. Where did you spring from?"
"I'm on a probe ship for Earth Bionics; we've been studying the lichens of Capella IV. I have to go right back -- just beamed aboard for a routine physical -- but I wanted to say hello."
Uhura presented him to Amanda, introducing her as Mr. Spock's mother. He greeted her warmly, then said, "Say, Mr. Spock's still aboard, isn't he? I must see him. You know, he never submitted an official report? Just sent a private message tape to the doctor."
They had Spock paged, and he joined them in a few minutes. "It is good to see you, Mr. Pierce. I trust you are completely recovered?"
"Oh, yes. I was in Minaris for three months, but I've been fine ever since. Mr. Spock, I do want to thank you--"
"Quite unnecessary, Mr. Pierce. I received your tape."
"Yes, but I want to say it in person. If you'd reported what I did to you, I'd probably never have landed the job I have now."
They chatted a few more minutes, then Pierce excused himself and left. Amanda said, "Spock, what did he do to you?"
"He poisoned me, and wounded me with a phaser," Spock replied matter of factly. Then, seeing Amanda's expression, he added, "He was quite deranged at the time, Mother. Fortunately, he responded to rehabilitation, and now is quite recovered." Then, apparently satisfied that he had imparted all the information a mother could want, he excused himself and left. Amanda sank into a chair and covered her face, her shoulders shaking. Uhura bounded over and snatched her hands down.
"What is it?" she cried. Then she saw that what Amanda was stifling was a fit of the giggles.
"I've gotten used to having married one," she whispered. "Why can't I get used to having borne one?"
* * *
Four nights out of
Next day she girlishly confided to the wives of
several delegates that Ambassador St't and his wife
"I talked to T'Lal
today. She told me she spent the whole morning trying to find space for floral
welcomes ordered from here.
"And I thought they loved us for our beautiful eyes!"
Amanda laughed. "We may have beautiful eyes. But it's St't who's going to cast that beautiful vote."
That evening at the reception Sa'a beckoned to Uhura. "The Lady Amanda asked me to tell you that she is 'playing hooky' – do I have that right? Thank you. She suggested that you develop a headache and join her."
Uhura found Amanda in her cabin looking supremely comfortable, as though there weren't a diplomat in the galaxy. "We'll have to work hard at the last night dinner," she said, "but for now I don't think much can develop. Sit down and relax, Uhura. We've both earned it."
Uhura sat back. She really did feel tired.
"Do you go right to your next assignment?"
"Yes, but we've received permission to travel at sublight. So we'll have some time off."
"That's good. You're all tired. And I've never seen Spock look so drawn."
"He's been taking double shifts ever since he was discharged from Sickbay. After we let you all off, he'll rest, though. He almost hibernates."
They fell silent, and Uhura began mull over her problem. She'd barely thought about the decision she'd soon have to give the captain. This job had so many compensations. But if she stayed, she'd probably be giving up, perhaps for always, a part of experience she'd once automatically assumed would be hers. How did one make such a decision? Then it occurred to her she was sitting near an expert. "Amanda--"
"When you married Sarek, what made you decide -- I mean, I know you must have cared for him very much, and you still do. But how did you reach the point--"
"Of deciding it would be worth the price? Well." Amanda put on her best school-marm expression. "It has been reliably reported that throughout the known world where marriage exists, 97.7 percent of all couples fight. My parents used to bicker about which one proposed. On Oloraminea, mates fight about which crest color denotes descent from the true egg. And on Vulcan, couples debate whose grandmother held the purest philosophy. But in each case, it's a fight. I finally decided that if I married Sarek, our fights would at least be about significant things. And they have been," she added a bit ruefully.
Uhura was silent, thinking beyond the flippancy to what Amanda had really said. "Whoever dances must pay the drummer," she quoted softly.
"That' s always true. "But if you enjoy the dance--" Amanda shrugged.
* * *
The farewells, both personal and formal, had been said. In her quarters, Uhura held the small pendant Amanda had given her without really seeing it. She still seemed to be watching Amanda slip her arm around her husband as they walked into the shuttle bay, though he no longer needed the support. Carefully, she locked the IDIC in her drawer, then went to find the captain. He'd be wanting to know.
She found him in the rec room, accompanied, to her surprise, by Mr. Spock. Most of the crew had already headed for their quarters to catch up on sleep, and she wanted very much to suggest that Spock do the same. He was composed and alert, but his skin seemed almost translucent. He might take it as impertinence, but—
"Why don't you go to bed, Mr. Spock?"
"I will shortly, Lieutenant. At the moment I am raveling."
"'Raveling'? Oh. Unwinding?"
Spock nodded. Uhura looked at the captain to share the joke, and immediately understood why Spock was still up. Kirk was weary, but in a restless mood that would make it impossible for him to sleep. Spock would not leave him until it had passed.
"Is the relief crew on?"
"Yes. But I still have a dozen tasks running around in my head."
"If you'll give me the list, I'll log it."
"All right." He dictated some fifteen items, ending with "and a request for a new communications officer?" It was a question.
"That's good news." For a moment a deeply personal smile lit his face. She returned it, but saw that he was already translating the news into ship's terms. "Then you will report back for duty in 72 hours."
"Yes, sir." Uhura sighed faintly. '...but as long as you enjoy the dance...' she reminded herself. She logged the list, then turned. "I'm going for a swim. Will you gentlemen join me?"
They swam several laps lazily. Then Spock, chilled by the water, climbed out of the pool. The captain was in good hands, he knew. Now the first officer could go off duty.
Uhura and Kirk swam a few more laps, then rested in the shallows. She began to rub his back, thinking how much she loved the rare moments when the complexities that drove this man seemed to coalesce into one need, for which her own could provide. But when he pulled her to him, she said, "Take your time, sailor. Relax. We don't have to be on duty for 72 hours."
A few minutes later, he suddenly said, "Where did Spock go?"
"He's probably in a calder. Let's see."
Sure enough, Spock was stretched full length in one of the padded tubs, blissfully letting hot water course down his spine.
"Well, are you raveled yet?" Uhura asked.
The answer was as composed and dignified as always, but it was in Vulcan.
"I guess he is," Kirk said. "We'd better get him to bed."
"Right. I don't want to come on duty and find him sleeping in the elevator."
Towel-wrapped, the three friends strolled clown the darkened corridors. Kirk studied Spock for a moment then, realizing that his first officer was having to concentrate on which foot to move, took his arm. Uhura, on the other side, slipped her arm around the Vulcan.
"We can drop him off on the way."
"All right," Uhura said." And then, she thought, one of the nicest parts of the dance.