New, And Stumbling Forward
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Characters: Spock; Pike, Scotty, Chekov, Uhura, Kirk
Summary: After Vulcan, Spock recovers his footing. Genfic.
2508 words and lots of Spock?
'I would like to express my concern about a matter of the ship's crew,' Spock says to the Admiral. His hands are tucked behind his back, as is respectful, but even then he feels that it is somehow inadequate. Inadequate because he stands taller than the Admiral right now; he feels like sitting, so that some balance might be restored. It is strange to hover above a man he respects so unequivocally.
For a moment, Admiral Pike looks at him, his eyes older than how Spock remembers them being. Spock has the impression that he is being studied, but it is not unwelcome. It feels paternal, patriarchal, stable. The Admiral cocks his head and says, 'Why don't you walk with me for a little while, Mr. Spock?' before nudging his fingers against the console of his wheelchair, so that Spock has to keep up a slow gait to match the chair's forward glide. 'You were saying?'
'It has been brought to my attention that most of the crew of the Enterprise is not being reassigned to other commands,' Spock states. 'This in spite of the fact that the ratio of fresh Academy graduates is unusually high. Since the Starfleet flagship will soon be commissioned for duty once more, I thought that it might be prudent to lend voice to my observations.'
'Not unjustified,' Admiral Pike nods, leading them down the hallways of the Academy, headed for the lawns outside. 'And very logical, Mr. Spock. Starfleet Command did take notice of that, but we've decided to leave things as they are.'
'We have a dearth of senior officers, sir,' Spock objects, quietly.
'Yes,' the Admiral nods, bringing his wheelchair to a silent stop at the front steps of the Academy. He gestures. 'We have a dearth of everything.' The lawn beyond is emptier than Spock can remember it ever having been. It's startling even now, the absence, the negative space. So much has happened since the Romulan attack that sometimes it's easy to default to other, more palatable explanations: public holidays, perhaps, or term break. Something that explains the silence of the student quads, the dorms, the lecture halls.
Spock says, 'Admiral.'
'We need senior officers here,' Pike says, not looking at Spock. 'They're necessary; they're our only resource. I think you understand.'
'Yes,' Spock says, his fingers tightening around each other.
'Besides,' the Admiral adds, a different note in his voice. 'The Enterprise has something that helps to compensate for its lack of experience.'
'And what is that, sir?' Spock asks.
'Morale and unity,' Pike says, resting his hands on his useless legs. 'Tempered by the most violently administered dose of humility that any Starfleet flagship has ever had to suffer. They'll make do, Mr. Spock. You'll make do.'
Spock says nothing. The Admiral turns his chair so that they face each other, and now the difference between them is absolute, and perfectly hinged. 'Remember what Starfleet is, Commander, and what she does. To boldly go, after all. Once upon a time, long ago, we all stumbled out into the darkness, naive and unguided but brave.' A bell rings, signalling the end of the day's classes. Pike leads them both out of the way of the main doors, asking Spock, 'We all learn, one way or another. Do you think Starfleet Command did the wrong thing?'
'No,' Spock shakes his head, as a small trickle of students and graduates shift their way across campus. 'Starfleet Command did what was admirable.'
Spock is glad for the rush of work that accompanies the Enterprise's second voyage out. As First Officer, there are any number of things that he must do to establish order within the ranks of the crew; now that they are not chasing after temporally-displaced madmen or saving worlds from imminent destruction, protocol must be soothed into place. The fight is not in maintaining discipline, as Spock imagines it might be for any other command: this crew is fiercely proud of what they accomplished by defeating Nero, fiercely proud but also grimly dissatisfied. Their fight against Nero was not a victory. Everyone on every deck lost friends in the attack; friends and loved ones – the approximation of basic affection and closeness that, in some ways, accounts for family. Discipline is a way of grieving. Everything on the Enterprise is aggressively well-kept, from the fiercely efficient systems to the devastatingly regular scans and reports. Everyone is reaching out. Everyone is looking for something, in the void that they are sailing off into.
The greater difficulty is in finding a fit for all the present personalities: almost a thousand men and women are abroad. Spock spends the first few weeks assigning shifts and talking to the senior crew members, learning more about the microcosm of space that comprises their ship. He does not have much spare time to think, in this period. He uses techniques that he learned years ago, in school, to memorise names, faces, facts. This, Spock thinks, is the Enterprise's culture, its history, its people. They are present. They are here. They are alive.
The Bridge crew is far easier to understand and assimilate to. Spock comes to appreciate the way they speak less and less with each other as the days go past and the missions start to queue. At first things are a mess of sound, babbling reports coming in from all sides, an overload of information. The Captain's favourite phrase for a while is "shut up", the sting of which he cures with pithy remarks and sarcasm: "did we really need to know that, Mr. Chekov?" and "fourteen languages and you can't deliver something in simple Standard, Lt. Uhura?", until they stop talking and start communicating. They need less from each other as time goes on, perhaps because they know each other more.
It is in that silence that Spock starts to feel the rest of the world rush in, filling in the spaces where work and newness once dominated. Travelling at warp, there is little that can keep Spock from thinking about the when instead of the where - of New Vulcan, of his father, and his mother, and his race. Spock does not know how one deals with loss on this scale. The challenges in life that he is used to facing are and were different: others teasing his ability he could always go on to disprove, and those who insulted his heritage he could learn to ignore. This he can neither ignore nor disprove. His home is gone.
The older members of the crew are the ones Spock goes to first, not in any overt way of seeking out advice, but simply because they have lived more, and there is some comfort in being around those used to the grievances of mortality. When he is not on duty, Spock goes down to Engineering to visit Mr. Scott, who very rarely spends time away from his post. They talk for very long periods of time about conversion rates and warp technology; Spock offers whatever insight on mathematics he has, and Mr. Scott very quickly comes to use him as a sort of convenient, talking reference for the more obscure formulae that he cannot remember and that Spock, by virtue of being Vulcan, cannot forget.
'You're a wonder with equations, you know,' Mr. Scott tells him one day.
'I suppose that it is a product of my training and natural capability present in Vulcans,' Spock replies.
'Your Science Academy produce–' Mr. Scott says, before he cuts himself off awkwardly, as though he does not know which tense to use. 'I mean,' he recovers with a shrug, 'it's no wonder you guys always end up kicking the arses of everyone who tries their hand at anything science.'
'We find it imperative to be methodical,' Spock admits. 'And to not rely on external sources as much as possible, for the sake of speed and convenience.'
'I could never figure how Vulcans got around their maths,' the Engineer says thoughtfully, in one of those moments of his that Spock finds interesting and honestly profound. 'No offence, but I've seen people much better at thinking out of the box – yet Vulcans produced some of the most groundbreaking theories of the last fifteen years or so.'
Spock considers that for a moment, before saying, 'I suppose that logic, when extended to its thorough and uncompromising conclusion, can yield propositions so elegant that it approximates what anyone else might describe as creativity.' It feels like a description of his race, a prescription of what they were and what they should be. Spock feels a momentary flash of discomfort.
Mr. Scott blinks at him, and then laughs. 'Okay. I'll be damned if you can't do poetry in numbers, Commander.'
At that, Spock smiles marginally, but it seems to him as inappropriate a kudos to the recent, damning past as any generalisation about Vulcan consequence as there might ever be.
He shares his emotional difficulties to some greater extent with Nyota, who understands him well enough by that point that she does not press the point. She does not ask him whether he wishes to speak about the matter any more – instead she does her work efficiently, and waits for him to choose whether and when they should spend time together. For that, he is grateful. Nyota is stable and as regular as clockwork; something familiar in a sea of unknowns. One day Spock speaks to her in Vulcan, just to hear the sound of it coming off of his tongue again, and she replies in the language and they talk for a while. Their speech is formal, an old, old dance around grammar and syntax and order and logic. Spock must stop. She takes his lead, but does not drag him forward.
Spock thinks that Admiral Pike was absolutely correct: he is naive like this, he is unguided, he is stumbling through space. There is no one he thinks of as characteristically older and wiser whom he might go to – and Spock thinks that it might be useless even if there were. This is his own history.
Then one day he finds himself on the bridge during one of the later shifts. It is a few hours before ship's morning, and the Captain and most of the senior crew are off duty and sleeping. They are in warp – there is nothing much to be done or seen – and there is no one else but Ensign Chekov there with him.
The Ensign is no longer as jittery and nervous around him as he used to be be, for which Spock is grateful. Chekov keeps to himself and does not chatter; instead he works with a small personal datapad, sketching out graphs and charts. He does that often, Spock has noticed, and so he mentions it: 'Ensign, what is it that you're working on?'
'This, sir?' Chekov asks, holding the pad up. 'Oh, it is not anything really, ah ha,' he says, going a bit red. 'Just a few mathematical paradoxes and theories, you know? The ones that they give at the end of lectures at the Academy, well, I copied them and I work on them when there is nothing else to do.'
Spock leans forward in his chair. 'May I see your work?' he asks.
'It is wery messy,' the Ensign warns, reddening further, but he hands the datapad over.
Spock lets his mind take over from there, leaping the mathematical operators and traversing the numbers: it is a race, a run. He discusses a few points with Chekov, whose blush eventually fades, and they spend a few minutes getting involved with the methods and the ensign gets excited and scribbles new working everywhere. It is Chekov's first command, so it is not surprising that he takes a while to loosen up around officers – Spock is glad that he manages it now.
They share a few more shifts like this, Chekov apparently liking the hours as much as Spock does himself. Against his own expectations, Spock finds their sessions more pleasant than he expected. They discuss old-world conundrums ("I do not know who the Cretans were but they are very frustrating, Mr Spock!") and new-world developments, debate different theories and pick apart the reasoning of old ones.
One day, Chekov asks him, 'Do you miss the Academy, Mr. Spock?', which startles Spock for a moment.
'Not particularly,' Spock answers, truthfully.
'Oh,' Chekov says, quietly. 'I do. I had many friends there.'
Had, Spock notes. 'I am sorry,' he provides.
'I guess you must miss Wulcan?' Chekov inquires, with so few barriers of etiquette and so much honest concern that Spock is again surprised when he admits, 'Yes.'
'I thought I would show you this, sir, if you do not mind,' Chekov murmurs very quickly, and he takes out the datapad and opens a file, linking it up with the main computer system to project a series of images up on the larger viewing screens. 'Look,' he says, pointing at a series of time-delayed planetary simulations. Spock recognises it immediately, and loses the ability to speak. 'It is the universe remembering, Mr. Spock.'
The images there are of the moons and bodies around the space that Vulcan once occupied. Freed from the planet's gravitational pull, they have begun to drift apart. The time-delayed images show their creeping motion: the centre of the suddenly disappeared nub of gravity is made obvious this way when it would not be otherwise. It is a portrait of the galaxy reacting, the children of his home planet's system flung free.
At last, Spock can only find the words 'Thank you.'
Ensign Chekov quirks his lips into a smile that animates his entire face.
He, Spock thinks, he is truly brave.
As they move onwards into space, going to places unknown, Spock finds in the Enterprise a new centre of gravity. One day the Captain calls him into his room, and says, 'You know, I have access to all the captain's logs on this ship, Spock, which means that I know what you put down back then.'
'And what,' Spock replies, an eyebrow raised, 'part of my records are you referring to, Jim?'
In their shared privacy behind closed doors, the Captain says, 'The part just after we lost Vulcan. "I am a member of an endangered species,"' he quotes, without mockery this time, without his fingers crooked in the air the way he might have about anything else Spock might have said.
'Yes,' Spock says. 'I did say that.'
Jim says, 'You're on this ship. You're on my ship. You're on our ship, in the middle of the exceeding loneliness of space, where we barely know what the hell we're doing some days.' He stops there, his eyes fixed on Spock: bright and not nervous, but expectant.
'Yes,' Spock says, 'I am.' And then he, too, stops, and joins his gaze to Jim's with a new serenity achieved in the face of infinity extending out in every direction. 'And I am glad to be here.'