For 64damn_prompts, prompt #1: 2 a.m.
Title: Oh Two Hundred
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Rating: Cool for kids, I guess.
Excerpt: "I'm working on it," she said, already thinking of how to explain transporter technology to someone who might not know what it was in a language she had thought dead not two hours ago.
- At 1832 hours, stardate 2259.31, the U.S.S. Enterprise intercepted a signal of unknown origin on the outskirts of a small binary star system, devoid of inhabitable and uninhabitable satellites alike. The larger of the two stars shone in the upper right corner of the viewscreen, a steady and distant flame burning against the black, and to its left, smaller but closer, the softer glow of its companion flickered. The explorative options offered by the system were few, but three days prior to receipt of the signal Spock had successfully sued for a week's observation of the energy fluctuations of the smaller star, which, he argued, contained several distinct and potentially illuminating anomalies.
"You got it, Mr Spock," Kirk had said, abandoning plans to pursue another course. "I await your findings with probably bated breath."
For the bridge of the Enterprise, it was what passed for a lazy afternoon. Sulu and Chekov conferred over the navigational console, Chekov nodding as Sulu demonstrated with an empty fist and quick twists of his arm a fencing move Chekov had expressed difficulty learning. Lounging in his captain's chair Kirk struck up a conversation with one of the science officers, a tall and stocky Torissan by the name of La-ulis; the conversation appeared to consist of a mixed-bag of shop talk and painfully unsubtle flirting. And at their adjacent stations along the back curve of the bridge, as Spock reviewed the gathered data, Nyota busied herself with the task of confirming their plans for the evening.
They sat with their chairs at such an angle her knees brushed his each time she shifted her folded legs; though he faced his console, his body was turned to hers, his chest and back a long, sloping line curving in presentation to her. She appreciated the view: the precisely cut fabric of his uniform clung to his shoulders and chest with admirable tenacity, bunching into small folds over his flat stomach; the frame of his hips was open to her.
"We could eat at the mess hall," she said, idly swinging her foot, her knee bumping his arrhythmically, "but I think we'd both prefer to stay in."
"I concur," he said. "A night in would provide a number of opportunities not available in a public location such as the mess hall."
Nyota grinned and deliberately swept her leg along his, the tip of her boot nudging his thigh. She let her foot fall. "You're a tease, Mr Spock."
"I merely state the facts, lieutenant," he said, drawing another data sample onto his screen. "Any suggestions you may have inferred are, by their origin, dependent upon you." His hands stilled. He tipped his head slightly, his gaze as he at last met her eyes steady and indecipherable. Very mildly he said, "I had considered the possibility of a rematch over Klingon scrabble."
"Ohhh," she said appreciatively. Leaning close so that her knee pressed into his thigh, she gazed at him through her eyelashes and whispered in her sultriest murmur, "Maybe we could... do a crossword puzzle."
"A mental exercise of such a nature could prove beneficial," he said.
"I know how much you like mental exercise," she told him, then knocking their knees together one last time, she straightened her shoulders and said, "Twenty-one hundred sharp and I expect you to be on time, Mr Spock."
The corner of his mouth flipped up; nearly imperceptibly his eyes softened. "I will apply myself to the task, Miss Uhura," he said.
"See that you do," she said, swinging back round to her console with her chin held high, keeping her smile where he could not see it. Oh, she was looking forward to tonight: to a long dinner and conversations on subjects unrelated to work, and wallowing shamelessly in bed. She felt with enormous certainty that it had been far too long since they had last wallowed.
A light on her console suddenly glared at her. "Incoming transmission, captain," she called, pressing her thumb to the touch screen to establish the line.
A burst of static exploded in her ear, receding quickly before a hurried message, clearly recorded live; the individual speaking did so in a near shout, panic an underlying note throughout. She did not recognize the language: harsh, guttural, punctuated with the occasional hiss.
"Any ideas on what they want?" said Kirk.
"I'm not sure," she said, "I don't recognize--"
She scrambled for her padd and finding the stylus missing, she snatched one off Spock's console with an apologetic grimace. The message ended; the static returned; the message began again. As quickly as she could manage it Nyota scratched out the sounds as she understood them on the padd, noting as she went certain patterns and stressed elements. The loop started anew.
Spock leaned close to her, his body a solid and distracting source of heat at her back, shoulder brushing hers. "Have you discerned the language they are using?" he said softly.
Without looking, Nyota set her palm flat against his chest and pushed. Spock retreated slightly. "I think," she said, scribbling the beginnings of a working translation on the screen, and she didn't think, she knew, she knew. She looked to Spock and said, "It's an offshoot of Mughrb."
"You are certain," said Spock.
Students participating in the Xenolinguistics program at Starfleet were encouraged to take one of the five dead languages offered by the academy. Of them, Mughrb - but one of a few relics of an empire that had died in war at about the time Rome began expanding its borders back on Earth - was universally held to be the most challenging; it was thus the most enticing to Nyota, who became one of perhaps forty students in the academy's history to complete the comprehensive four year course and one of the handful to complete it with near perfect marks. She still had nightmares of that last final, horrible, heartstopping nightmares conducted entirely in Mughrb.
"I'm certain," she said and Spock nodded acquiescence. Nyota finished sketching out the translation, a rushed and sloppy job, but the best she could do under the circumstances. Rising from her chair, she disconnected the line and turned to find Kirk awaiting her report, his back to the viewscreen where the twin stars burned.
"The message is from a passenger ship," she said. "They're stranded at--" She checked her padd and recited the coordinates. Nyota lowered her padd. "Their hull's been severely compromised," she said, "and they've sustained several casualties."
That was enough. Kirk nodded and swung his chair round to face the viewscreen, calling as he did, "Lieutenant Uhura, please contact Dr McCoy; have him scramble a team for the loading dock. Mr Sulu, prepare to warp to the coordinates."
"Coordinates entered," Sulu reported, fingers darting across the console, "and we're ready for warp, captain."
"Lieutenant Uhura, I'm going to need you on hand to translate," Kirk said, twisting around again to face her. "Can you do that?"
She hesitated a moment, considering the padd, her hurried notations a thin, cramped scrawl filling the screen, line after line stacked upon each other. The differences between the root language and this active, evolved offshoot were not insubstantial; she recognized or could ascertain meaning for perhaps two-thirds of the words spoken in the distress signal.
"Yes," she said. "I can."
"Then take us to warp, Mr Sulu."
"Aye, captain," said Sulu.
The coordinates, as she had translated them, were correct. The Enterprise emerged from warp in the shadow of a small gas giant, with the crippled ship drifting slowly into view. The damage was immediately apparent: several lengthy gashes scarred the port side, exposing the interior of the ship. Sulu whistled softly.
"We're being hailed," said Lieutenant Palmer, her hands hovering over the comm console.
"Put 'em up," said Kirk. To Nyota he said, "You ready?"
"Yes, I'm ready," she said, more sharply than she ought to have done, it wasn't as though she didn't know how snappy anxiety made her, and she remembered belatedly to add, "captain," in a more reasonable tone.
She stood flanking his left before the viewscreen, her back straight and hands clasped at her back. It was a pose Spock often assumed and one she had found bolstered her confidence in situations when a bolstering of her confidence was precisely what she needed. In the seconds before the view of the dying ship, its side parted and bleeding metal into space, vanished from the screen she flew backwards through her years of study, dredging up every obscure grammatical rule she could remember from those long hours in and out of class.
Kirk eyed her; she did not return the favor. The channel opened.
The woman facing them, the captain, presumably, was tall and broad of shoulder and chest, her face lined with deep crags and coarse with a thick beard. A set of tusks jutted up from her prominent lower jaw at violent angles.
Kirk straightened, dropping with practiced ease his characteristic slouch, the devil-may-care insouciance he wore like a familiar coat. "I am Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise," he said, and Nyota began translating. "We received your message and wish to offer the aid of our ship and our crew."
Nyota finished. A long moment of silence dragged on and on, and then the skin around the other captain's eyes loosened visibly; her shoulders drooped, then rose again. She spoke quickly, in a low and heavy growl, her tongue flashing between her tusks on the sibilant syllables.
"She...thanks us," Nyota said slowly, "and apologizes for the brevity of her thanks, but she is anxious to have the passengers transferred off the ship."
"How many passengers?" he said.
The captain flashed her meaty hands in a complicated pattern, six thick fingers on each hand folding and unfolding. She hissed.
Nyota said, "Fifty-eight surviving."
"Thirteen," she reported, "two in critical condition. Their primary sickbay was one of the areas impacted."
"Tell her we're sending a shuttle over now to pick up the wounded," Kirk said. "She needs to have them ready. And find out where in the hell we're supposed to dock onto that thing."
Nyota translated as quickly as she could manage, hesitating only once or twice in search of a means to rephrase a word or sentence the captain did not understand. Looking into the deep, heavy face of the other woman, Nyota said, "We will help you. You will be all right."
"A thousand gratitudes," said the captain. "We fear death here in the dark. So far from home, we fear: no answer." She was silent and still, the lines of her face deepening. Her jaw tightened. She shook herself. "There is an undamaged lock at the head," she rumbled. "It is safe to dock there. We are prepared for you."
Nyota turned to Kirk and said, "There's a safe airlock at the head of the ship; that's where we need to dock."
Lieutenant Palmer looked out across the bridge from the comm console, hand at her ear. "The transporter room says they're ready to begin beaming," she reported.
Spock, as yet situated at his station, spoke at last. "It would be wise to establish whether they are familiar with transporter technology," he said with a meaningful twist of his brow. "If they are not..."
"Right, panic," said Kirk. He looked at Nyota.
"I'm working on it," she said, already thinking of how to explain transporter technology to someone who might not know what it was in a language she had thought dead not two hours ago.
"And when you're done, we're going to need you down in the transporter room," he added. "We're going to have a lot of scared people to take care of, and you're the only translator we've got."
"Yes, captain," she said. For a single, selfish moment she allowed herself to think wistfully of her plans for the evening, now rapidly crumbling to bits: of her quarters lit only with candles, and another lesson in Vulcan, and Spock spread out naked beneath her hands.
Nyota squared her shoulders and lifted her face to the viewscreen.
In the transporter room, the sickbay, throughout the ship: chaos. Nyota felt as though she had run the length of the Enterprise at least twice. When she spoke, her throat scratched; when she blinked, she wavered on her feet. At 2250 hours she convinced McCoy to inject her with a mild stimulant.
"You don't need any more stimulants," he grouched as he lined it up with her throat and depressed the hypospray. "You need to get some rest."
She scrubbed at her face and sighed once, her breath and her exhaustion rising from the depths of her chest. "As soon as everyone's settled," she said.
McCoy muttered several profanities under his breath and slammed drawers around the terminal. "That stimulant wears off after about two hours," he said. "When it does, you're coming down. I'm not giving you another one. I want you off-duty at oh two hundred or I'll damn well have you grounded for a week."
"For what!" she said.
"I'm your doctor," he growled. "I'll come up with something."
Within five minutes Nyota was more awake than she had been all day. Her body sang; her heart thrummed; the words came quickly and easily to her tongue.
In the sickbay she explained procedures to the wounded and calmed them with reassurances as to their continued health. In Kirk's office she served as the translator between the two captains. She directed survivors to the rooms the Enterprise had to offer them and put one of the more gifted communications officers through a crash course of the most rudimentary Mughrb imaginable; his pained expression was the highlight of her evening.
No: that was a lie.
In the transporter room, as she had welcomed each group of survivors in their language, haltingly at first, but with growing grace as she learned to voice their words as they did, they gathered around her to thank her and Kirk and Scotty, who waved them off with a casual, "It wasna nothing," but could not stop grinning. In Kirk's office the captain Grnugs said in her quaking, rumbling voice, again and again, "A thousand gratitudes. A thousand gratitudes." And in the sickbay a man whose tusks and jaw had shattered said nothing, but held her hands with surprising grace in his massive palm and smiled around his ruined mouth.
The stimulant wore off.
On her way to the lift the corridor flipped around her and as it flipped, so, too, did her stomach. Nyota held her hand to the wall, but that did not help. She closed her eyes, and that did.
She woke once in her quarters, the room dark, lit only by the light of the gas giant so vast outside the viewport. "I need to," she said, but she couldn't remember. She closed her eyes.
A hand stroked her brow very gently. "You are off-duty," Spock said. "You completed your duties admirably: the survivors are settled. You need only to rest."
She remembered: twin stars orbiting each other, one large, one small. In the dark, blind, she reached for his face: touched his cheek, his jaw with her fingertips. "I'm sorry," she said. "About your research."
"Nyota," he said. He framed her face between his hands and kissed her forehead once, softly, kindly. "You are tired and require sleep to perform your duties tomorrow," he told her, leaning close to kiss the tired corner of her eye, then her cheek and the sleep-softened corner of her mouth.
In the moments between the third and fourth kisses she was sleeping; she was dreaming; she was taking her final and it was simple, so simple, she couldn't imagine why she had been so afraid.