Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
The blackness of space is not absolute. Gazing out Spock’s porthole after completing his nightly reports and stopping by his first’s cabin hoping for a chess game. Musing. Kirk knew space wasn’t black, of course. Knew many of the phenomena that stretched, distorted, and lighted that blackness. But the thought had come from somewhere. From a thought exercise he’d heard of as a child, perhaps? He shivered involuntarily.
“Spock, do you recall an old paradox, about why space is black and not a blaze of light?”
The Vulcan did not look up from his terminals. Four screens working just now, Kirk noted. Plus two palm padds glowing on the extended work surface beside him.
“It was never regarded as a paradox on Vulcan, Jim. I believe you are referring to Olbers’ Paradox. Humans wondered why, if space was infinite with an infinite number of stars in all directions, the sky was not brilliantly lighted. Of course, upon discovery of the finite value of the speed of light and the nature of the distances involved, the pervasiveness of dark matter and other obstacles to transmission, coupled with the fact that average light from a given direction diminishes in inverse proportion to the distance of the source from the observer, humans realized their error.” Spock appeared to believe he had answered the question. His long fingers danced over two of the screens, there was a flash, and one screen went dark.
“Olbers. Yeah.” Kirk turned back to the thick porthole and contemplated the blackness. Thinking like that made his brain twist. He nodded acknowledgement to the universe. “Too damned vast. Any chance you’ll finish that before we make orbit tomorrow?”
“To which ‘it’ are you referring, Jim?” Spock did look up then, a quirk on his lips that denoted amusement. “I will finish all of the ship’s business in approximately forty-seven minutes, depending on intranet download time. My own projects will, however, occupy a further hour after that, including uploads to the portables.”
Jim didn’t sigh. It was always so, Spock tying up loose ends before what he complained of as “enforced inactivity” during planet-side away missions, diplomatic missions or shore leaves. As they were estimating two to five days planet-side, Spock was pre-approving a new rotation’s duty roster for all four hundred and thirty personnel tonight, something he would normally not have tackled for another two days. “No chess, then. I’m going to take a turn around the ship before I call it a night.”
“Very well. I will forward all ship’s business to your yeoman for your signature in the morning.” Spock was already gone again, some arcane figures scrolling up a previously dark screen. Kirk straightened up and strode toward the door, pausing briefly to squeeze Spock’s shoulder as he passed him.
“Good. See you tomorrow.”
Kirk slowed his stride once outside, padding softly past the various senior officers’ doors. McCoy, Uhura. Corridor. Sulu, Scott. Corridor. Turbo lift. He got in and spent a moment in thought. “Engineering.”
Why do I have a yeoman at all, when Spock does all the reports? Not that Spock did, of course. Ensign Peters, current acting yeoman, did the basics: crew scheduling, fuel consumption, general stores requisitions… all things that came to him in basic form from the various department heads. Most yeomen would feed that raw data into the ship’s mainframe and have viable reports to hand to his or her or its captain in seconds. It was good training for young officers, teaching them about all the tedious detail work that a well-run starship generated. Kirk remembered the couple of months he’d spent doing it without fondness.
On the Enterprise, however, Spock handled the summation of these things: Fuel anomalies, trouble spots in rotations, unusual consumption, repeated malfunctions, anything out of the ordinary. Kirk had once asked Spock why he bothered, when the computer could do it all so easily.
“I am aware of that, Captain,” had come the rumbling voice. “It is true that if I do it, the initial synthesis takes longer by a factor of point five three. However, over the long term, that time factor is reduced to a negative factor of minus point zero nine five, as my own genetic software automatically correlates repeat or related anomalies over the entire time that I have summarized the reports, while the computer automatically disregards any reports that are more than four Standard months old. Reprogramming the computer every day to trace similar occurrences of irregularities in a multi-dimensional model that changes parameters on an almost daily basis would require significantly more time and use more computer resources than we have.”
“I believe you are talking about ‘intuition,' Spock!”
“You are mistaken. I merely state that I am capable of acknowledging parameters which are not part of the computer’s programming.”
“Other ships manage to run on computer output, Mr. Spock.”
“The Enterprise is not ‘other ships,’ Captain.”
A point of pride. Kirk knew better than to comment on it. Spock got it all done, and he got it all done better than any other exec in Fleet. The results begged the question.
Kirk knew he, too, was guilty of circular logic where the Enterprise was concerned. He also knew better than to point it out to his first officer. He knew that Spock ran the computer solutions as well, for the purely pragmatic reason that he was unable to perform his duties an average of three days out of every forty-three due to injury or absence. Usually absence, knock on wood.
Which absences Spock always follows up by reading every report generated while he was unable to complete his nightly ritual, to allow his "genetic software" to catch up to the current models. Sheesh. Kirk had once accused him of micro-managing, and had learned from the weeklong sulk that followed that (a) Vulcans did not micro-manage and (b) Vulcans did not sulk.
The turbolift opened silently at main engineering, and Kirk padded through the big double safety doors and stood staring down the main matter/anti-matter well. The throb of the big ship’s heart was all around him, coming up through the soles of his shoes and pressing gently in the air against his uniform. He looked around carefully; something felt amiss, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
It was nearly 2350 hours, and the Beta watch was beginning to yawn. Gamma should be trickling in. Kirk glanced across at the crewperson monitoring the power grid, a middle-aged Terran Master Specialist wearing the double crossed spanners of the Corps of Engineers on his breast. Bresson. Besson. Damn, Kirk couldn’t recall the man’s name. He had a steaming cup of coffee to hand, and appeared alert enough, but Kirk saw that he was shifting his feet nervously. Probably wishing he could telegraph the captain’s presence to the rest of his watch, Kirk surmised. He shot the man a half-smile, then stepped over the railing and slid to the lower deck to have a walk around the warp core.
A really young pair of crewmen, second class, supervised by a severe looking cadet, nearly fell over themselves as they cleared a path for Kirk among the mess of a disembowelled control unit of some kind. Looked like a make-work project, Kirk thought. He nodded in a curt but friendly enough manner, stepped around the worst of the mess, and kicked a stray module that looked like part of a power routing unit back toward one of the youngsters.
“Let’s keep a tidy workplace, gentlefolk.”
“Sir, yes sir!”
Kirk walked on, generally pleased with the overall look of the department, though something was still nagging at him. Behind him he heard the disgruntled hissing of the cadet as she reprimanded the crewmen for the supposed slight to her honour. Cadets. He barely remembered being one. Blocking a bad memory, no doubt.
At the duty station on the core deck he spent a couple of minutes with CPO Abrams, looking over the scheduled maintenance for the following ten days, then strolled back into the corridor and took the lift up to Recreation.
While a ship’s logged hour ended at fifty-nine minutes and thirty-one seconds, a crew hour ended at plus or minus six minutes. So it wasn’t surprising to see a few Beta watch crew getting their supper while some of Gamma watch was finishing breakfast. These things evened out over time. Kirk acknowledged many greetings as he looked around the huge main mess, and then paced across to the replicators.
“Cap’n can’t sleep,” he heard behind him. “Planetfall tomorrow.”
“He always up before we make orbit?”
“Always. Mark my words.”
Kirk grinned to himself as he requested his hot chocolate. Maybe that’s all it was, this off feeling he had. He contemplated going to the bridge, but he had supervised the Beta/Gamma hand-off only two nights earlier and didn’t want the junior officers to think he was keeping an eye on them. Damn, he really could have used Spock’s calm company over the chessboard. He noticed Sulu and Chapel sitting together with a deck of cards, and crossed the room to greet them.
“Morning,” he said, just as the chrono ticked over to 0000 and the mess began to empty of Gamma personnel very quickly. Hikaru and Christine looked up and smiled.
“Hi, Captain,” Sulu offered. “Have a seat and watch Christine lose a week’s pay.”
“Tut, tut, Mister Sulu, gambling in front of the youngsters. Nurse Chapel, I’m surprised at you.” He swung into a seat and scanned the table; they were playing blackjack. He grinned.
“So am I, Captain. I should know better than to risk anything I can’t afford to lose on this Asian mind-reader,” Chapel responded in her soft, deep voice, sounding rueful.
Sulu gathered the cards together and began to shuffle. “It’s not mind-reading, Chris. It’s just a case of following the cards and estimating the probabilities. Spock could teach it to you in an hour, if he could teach it to me. You’ve got a good head for numbers.”
Chapel snorted and shook her head. “Mister Spock, sit down alone with a woman for an hour, outside the line of duty? Have you lost your mind, Hikaru?”
Kirk frowned. “I’m not sure that speculation is appropriate, Ms. Chapel. I realize that you and Spock have had some disagreements in the past, but that’s no reason to suggest he is a misogynist.”
“Oh, hell, Captain, he’s not a misogynist. I don’t mean that at all.” Christine shook her head and smiled at him. “It’s just that, on Spock’s list of things to do with his time, spending any in recreation or relaxation with a woman is so far down as to be beneath consideration. Surely, as well as you know him, you must realize he just doesn’t ‘get’ women. Doesn’t mean he can’t work with us, he manages that beautifully. He just has no interest whatsoever in socializing with us.”
Sulu was trying hard not to smile. He glanced up at Kirk and held up the cards. “Deal you in, Captain?”
Shaking his head, Kirk turned back to Chapel, determined to set her straight. “Ms. Chapel… Christine. Spock doesn’t socialize, in the general way we do, it’s not a trait of Vulcans to require recreation or relaxation in the same way.”
She laughed out loud then, and her eyes were wide and incredulous. “Oh, come on, Captain. He listens to music with Pavel at least once a week, and they review poetry together. He fences with Hikaru, and has even offered to teach him to use a lirpa. He plays chess with you almost nightly, and almost always takes his meals with you and Leonard. Tell me you are always discussing ship’s business then. But you’ll never catch him practicing his lyre with Nyota, or teaching me to cheat at cards. He just isn’t interested in women.”
Sulu, who had coloured strangely during this little speech, began to deal the cards. “It’s not cheating. Besides, he helped Nyota reprogram the holoprojectors last month so she could cycle those old Vulcan stereos.”
“Vulcan stereos, showing Vulcan history. And the reprogramming had ramifications for the ship’s communications systems. That was work, Hikaru, not fun.” She peeked at her cards and then sighed. “I think I’ve had enough of this game for tonight. Maybe you could teach me how to figure the probabilities some day?”
“I’ll be happy to try, Chris. Captain, don’t pay too much attention to her; it’s just sour grapes. Half the females on this ship are in love with Spock, and about a quarter of the men.”
Kirk laughed as Chapel blushed, but sobered at her next remark. “Not me, not anymore. But I wish good luck to the men that are. How about you, Hikaru? A little nip and tuck with our handsome first officer?”
Sulu chuckled, but didn’t seem the least bit surprised by the comment. “I’m hopelessly het, Chris. My one attempt at boys was so long ago I’ve almost managed to forget how embarrassing it was.”
Kirk managed to maintain a neutral smile as he stood up. “Well, this is straying into the kind of revelation that you really don’t want your captain hearing. Goodnight, you two.” He barely heard their goodnights, his mind spinning as he walked toward the door.
Once safely in the turbolift he leaned against the wall and tried to think. No matter which way he parsed that conversation, it seemed that both Sulu and Chapel took it for granted that Spock was homosexual.
Spock. How could that be, and Kirk not have known? It didn’t seem possible.
Kirk realized he was still gripping the now empty mug that had held his chocolate, and that the lift was waiting for directions. He called for officers’ quarters and straightened up as the lift began to move. On impulse he checked the status lights at Bones’ door; the doctor was still awake. Kirk punched the announcer before he could change his mind, and stepped inside as soon as the door opened.
McCoy was lying on his couch, a padd on his lap and a glass of bourbon on the table beside him. The bottle beside it was nearly full.
“Hey, Jim. What’s up? Or just the usual trouble sleeping?”
Blowing out his breath in frustration, Kirk swung himself onto a chair and set the empty mug on McCoy’s table. He reached for the bourbon bottle and poured himself a generous portion. “Am I that transparent? Do I always have trouble sleeping the night before planetfall? Some youngsters were talking about it in the mess.”
“That’s what’s bugging you? Of course they notice, and talk about it. Everyone on this ship is a dedicated Kirkologist, Captain. Their lives revolve around you. That’s simply the nature of society on a starship.”
“Some people seem to be paying more attention to Spock, these days,” he ventured.
McCoy sat up abruptly and set down his padd. “Uh-oh. I knew you’d hear about that sooner or later, I should have brought it up. Believe me, Jim; no one thinks it wrong or dangerous or anything like that. In fact, I’d say that the vast majority of the crew actually feels there is a kind of poetic harmony in it. I know that stress levels dropped significantly when the rumour started going around.”
“Huh? Why, just because half the women on board could stop obsessing about him?”
McCoy laughed aloud. “About both of you, of course. Don’t worry, if you two continue to ignore it, it’ll peter out and become ‘just one of those things’ pretty quickly.” He stopped when he saw the intense gaze that Kirk had focused on him. “Jim?”
“What exactly are you telling me? What rumour?”
McCoy sipped his corn whiskey and cocked his head. “You’re kidding, right? Weren’t you talking about the current scuttlebutt about you and Spock taking up housekeeping?”
Kirk felt his mouth dropping open as a wave of shocked heat ran over him. “Me? And Spock?”
“Who else? Did you hear something different?”
After a long moment of silence in which Kirk struggled to make sense of what McCoy had just told him, he summoned a coherent sentence. He noticed his voice was tight. “I take it you don’t believe this particular rumour, Bones?”
“Hell, Jim, I figured that if it were true, you wouldn’t be trying to hide it from me. That would be against the rules, and it would be bad form for the two senior officers to break regs. Besides, you’re my best friend. If you and Spock had finally started a serious relationship, I knew you would have told…. Jim, you’re awfully pale. This really bothers you?”
Kirk gulped his whiskey and poured himself another shot, his hands shaking. “I don’t know what I feel about that, Bones. I didn’t even know Spock was… I thought he was heterosexual. I remember thinking about it once, ages ago when I first took over the ship… something in his manner… I dismissed it as a racial difference rather than a sexual indicator. Then that business with T’Pring. If I thought about it at all I assumed that homosexuality was illogical, having nothing to do with procreation.” He downed the second shot of corn whiskey and was about to pour a third when McCoy took the bottle away from him.
“Jim, Spock is as queer as an Aldebaran newt. I thought you knew! That pon farr thing, it’s a biological imperative certainly, but it has nothing to do with sexual preference in terms of a Vulcan’s sensual nature. It’s only about making babies. Whereas I know you’re aware that most of us sentients have sex for a lot of other reasons besides the continuation of our various species! Spock doesn’t have any interest in women.”
“But he has interest in men?”
“I could name half a dozen he’s gotten horizontal with over the last year, and I bet there are more I haven’t noticed. He only just attained sexual maturity after all, so I think he’s playing the field a bit. Or as much as Vulcans do. Remember when you figured out how your plumbing worked?”
“Bones! That was ages ago, and besides, what my mother didn’t know couldn’t hurt her,” Kirk joked, trying to keep himself from blushing.
“Well, same goes for Spock. It’s really not any of your business, unless he tells you himself. I’m surprised you didn’t know; your sexual antennas are usually pretty well tuned; I’m more shocked that he hasn’t told you. I wonder why. You never made any silly remarks about gays, did you?”
“Oh come on, Bones! Me? I’ve tried every flavour of sex there is, I’m hardly one to throw stones. I’m just…” he trailed off. “It doesn’t seem logical.”
McCoy snorted and shook his head. “Sex rarely does.”
“But he was bonded to T’Pring.”
“They bond them all when they’re kids, Jim. To make sure that someone is aware of that first pon farr approaching. Like us humans, Vulcans are predominantly het. But like us humans, you can’t tell either way until they start to care about sex, so they bond them based on the majority preference.”
“Where do you learn these things!”
McCoy grinned and chuckled. “I talked about it with Lady Amanda last year. Sexual preference doesn’t usually become manifest in Vulcans until they hit puberty, which for them is just before their first pon farr. Spock was just approaching sexual maturity when you came aboard the ship, and probably didn’t even realize that he was gay until that T’Pring nonsense. Haven’t you noticed how much he has…well, settled into his skin in the months since then?”
“But where the hell is the logic in that?”
“It’s logical for Vulcans to seek a partner to provide emotional support, Jim. Just because they control their emotions and don’t use them as a reason for their actions, that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. I’ll have to lend you some Vulcan romantic poetry. It’ll knock your socks off. They are very passionate people…in the privacy of their own homes. Outside their homes they are cold, logical, and efficient. Did you suppose that Lady Amanda settled for violent sex once every seven years?”
“I didn’t think it was any of my business.”
“Well, strictly speaking, I suppose it isn’t.” McCoy relinquished the bottle and watched as Jim poured the equivalent of four drinks into his mug. “You’re gonna regret that in the morning.”
“I already regret it,” Kirk replied, sipping the strong liquor. “You’ll give me a detox, won’t you? I’ve had a shock.”
“And why? I don’t understand why you’re so upset. There are always rumours about you, and about Spock. In the imaginations of your crew you’ve been paired up with every enlisted person from petty officer up, and every officer on this ship over the rank of second lieutenant. Hell, for a while you and I were a very hot item, Chris and I had a big laugh over that one.”
“Does he have a lover on board right now?”
“Uh-uh, Jim-boy. None of your business, or mine, unless it interferes with the chain of command. Then we invoke the regs. But until or unless he notifies me of a conflict, I don’t ask and he doesn’t tell.” McCoy sighed deeply. “But I certainly hope so. If not now, then someday soon. He’s a pretty lonely old soul, Jim.”
That simple statement moved something in Kirk’s chest, and he nodded. It was the bourbon, he decided, that was making his eyes water. “I’d better get to my quarters before I start to stagger. Thanks for the chat, Bones.”
“You’re welcome. Come and talk about it some more once you wrap yourself around it a little better. I’ll program a detox into your morning coffee right now, Jimmy. Get some sleep.”
“Yeah.” He glanced at the wall chrono. 0127. “Goodnight, Bones.”