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Fic: Observations, Ch 51
Star Trek
anon_j_anon

“Professor.”

A Terran student.

Rank: Cadet
Name: Uhura, Nyota
Age: estimate 23 Terran years
Concentration: Undecided/Pilot Program
Origin: African continent, Eastern coast.
Native Language: estimate Swahili, with Somali and Arabic secondary. Speaks impeccable Federation Standard.
Class: Introduction to Xenolanguages, section 012
Proficiency: Top 3%.
Current mark: 96.44/100
Projected final mark: 98.70/100
Other notes: Rapid uptake on extremely structured languages. Fared poorly on Orinic dialects. Consistently writes respectable and interesting papers on evolutionary linguistics.
Recommendations: Tentative—Starfleet Communications Officer or Academy of Xenolanguages & Linguistics for doctoral degree.

“Cadet Uhura.”

Her eyes widened.

“You know my name?”

“I know the names of all 725 students in my classes, Cadet Uhura.”

“Um..”

“Do you have a query, cadet?”

She straightened. “Yes, sir. I wondered how many of these passages we should translate per day. You said that we could do it at our own pace, but if I don’t set a timetable, I’ll never get them done,” she said, holding up a series of datapads.

“Two per day should suffice.”

Two per day?!”

“Once you arrive Passage 29, I would suggest increasing that number to three.”

Cadet Uhura stared at me.

“I believe I have answered your query completely. If you have no further questions, cadet—“

“Wait! It’s just that I tried translating the first passage, spent five hours on it, and ended up with a bunch of nonsense. I pored over all the dictionaries the databases had to offer, and still it’s just a few lines of jibberish.”

“Do you have your translation with you?”

She thrust out her datapad. The page was covered in highly organized red scribble. Under each word was a possible translation, which in turn was tagged with a bibliographic entry of the dictionary she used. On another page were various permutations of meanings. She had apparently thought to look at translations of similar works and tried to deduce from there the best translation. All her work was quite impressive.

Despite this, she was correct in her assessment. Most of the lines were ‘jibberish.’

“If you would narrow the parameters of your inquiry, I may assist you better. I will not provide the translations for you, as it would defeat the purpose of this exercise.”

Cadet Uhura frowned at the datapad. She seemed to debate between asking specific questions about the passage, or presenting a general question about the assignment.

“I feel like I should be faster at this. I’m good at Vulcan—among my peers anyway. Obviously, we can’t speak it, but I can recognize and read it fairly well. But this, this is Ancient Vulcan. There’re some similarities, but many differences too. I spent so much time on one passage, got absolutely nowhere, and I’m supposed to do two of these a night? Professor, as much as I love your class, I still have to go to track practice and think of my other classes.”

“Students rarely complete this assignment. I do not expect you to finish all the passages. Indeed, you have done more than 64% of the cadets in the history of this course already. I answered your question considering the entirety of the assignment, not the historic mean.”

“What?!” she gaped.

“You do not find my answer satisfactory.”

“No, not really. I want to finish this assignment. The translations we had to do for Vulcan were fascinating, and I think it would be interesting to contrast it with this new assignment you gave us. Actually, I’d like to write about it for my final paper. It’s just that,” she paused, considering her words. “Do you know pre-Warp English, professor?”

I nodded. A highly convoluted and perplexing language.

“Imagine that you’ve just learned pre-Warp E. This assignment you’ve given us is like trying to translate all ten books of Paradise Lost with all the spaces deleted. It would be hard enough translating Paradise Lost as it is, but now you don’t even know where one word begins and another ends.”

“The assignment has never been described in such terms before.”

“Do you see why I’m frustrated?”

“I understand the source of your difficulties. The fault is mine. I had not taken certain factors into account.”

“But I still want to translate the Vulcan version of Paradise Lost.”

I considered the situation. It would be unwise to discourage such a talented and motivated student.

“May I propose a solution?”

She nodded.

“I will assist you in the translations of the first ten passages. This should enhance your comprehension and provide you with a method by which you may accurately translate. After those ten passages, you may ask me specific questions or ask confirmation of a translation, but I will cease to actively direct your efforts.”

“Only ten passages? I don’t know if that’s enough.”

“I took your learning curve into account in my calculations. If you were an average student, Cadet Uhura, I would have offered assistance with seventeen passages.”

Cadet Uhura narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Is there a point where you wouldn’t help a student at all?”

“There are students for whom any assistance would be useless. They would fare better to quit my class entirely and enroll in another.”

She laughed, a rich and lyrical sound.

An intriguing experience. I have never made a Terran laugh before. Several have come to my office on the verge of tears because of some mark they received.

I have never understood why Terrans became emotionally disturbed by their own mistakes. One learns from mistakes and does not repeat them. Expelling liquid from every orifice on one’s face does nothing to alter the mistake, the mark, the intelligence of the student, or my own inclination to change the mark. A student in the past referred to it as ‘showing mercy.’ That statement is illogical, as I do not consider providing an inaccurate appraisal of a student’s academic performance a mercy. If anything, it encourages them to remain mediocre students. Most students, however, seem to prescribe to the Terran proverb that “ignorance is bliss.”

“If I may make another suggestion, Cadet Uhura?”

“Yes, professor?”

“The structure of Ancient Vulcan shares 66 linguistic and grammatical similarities with the ancient Terran written language of Sanskrit. You may find the texts dealing with Sanskrit translation to be useful, especially those written by Dr. Gopalakrishnan. She studied several Terran languages extensively, as well as a few computer languages. Her unique background allows her to give an interesting perspective that may be helpful to you.”

Cadet Uhura smiled widely, genuine gratitude behind her eyes.

“Thank you so much, professor. I’ll see you—?”

“I will be in my office at 1430.”

--

“I had to work up a lot of courage to talk to you, that first time.”

“You did not appear to be nervous or in any way discomfited.”

“I practiced in front of the mirror.”

I raised my eyebrow.

“Well, not quite. But I did rehearse what I was going to say in my head. Of course, you threw that all off completely when you addressed me by name.”

“I recall your surprise.”

“More like shell shock. I think my brain stopped working for a few seconds.”

“Am I truly that unapproachable?”

Nyota looked as though she were debating whether to respond honestly. That in itself provided an answer.

My face must have conveyed some dismay.

“It’s just that you’re incredibly smart. You told me that even among Vulcans, you’re something of a genius,” she said, defensiveness in her voice.

“I was not aware that there was an inverse relationship between intelligence and social contacts among Terrans. Among Vulcans, there is an direct correspondence between accusations of emotionalism and social contacts.”

“That’s not true!” she immediately responded. “Being intelligent does not mean you have fewer friends.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Then your hypothesis is incorrect.”

“I suppose it’s also the fact that you’re Vulcan. Half Vulcan, half human,” she frowned. “Two very different types of people. You’ve always had work between those extremes and find the point of intersection.”

“At the time of our meeting, I was not sure that such a point existed.”

Nyota was silent. I elaborated.

“Both species imposed such inflexible standards that compromise seemed impossible. It was as though in order to be accepted in one culture, I was required to totally reject the other. Which, of course, was another impossibility. There are innumerable physiological differences.”

“And now?”

I looked at my hands.

“You were not the only student in our sessions together. I received my first lessons on the Terran concept of friendship from you. Although, they are not universally applicable.”

“Why not?”

“Dr. McCoy informed me that he and Jim are my friends, but—“

Jim? When did you start calling the captain ‘Jim’?”

“I do not address him by that name in public. In any case, Dr. McCoy’s definition of friendship must be very different, for I would not classify 73% of his behaviors towards myself or even towards the captain to be ‘friendly.’ In fact, they are often hostile.”

“You just referred to him as ‘the captain’ again,” she accused.

“You also classified the growing relationship between yourself and Mr. Scott as a ‘friendship,’ but there are some romantic overtones.”

Nyota blushed. “You’re just trying to distract me from the real subject which is—“

“While we were courting, I was never able to distinguish the difference between our activities while we were ‘friends’ and the activities while we were a ‘couple,’ with the exception of those that were obviously related to sexual—”

“Fine, if you don’t want to talk about it, we won’t talk about it. I’ll still figure it out,” she pointed her finger at me. “You can be so stubborn and obtuse, sometimes!”

“Jim has leveled similar charges when we play chess.”

“Why? What do you do?”

“I choose not to answer his highly probing questions.”

Nyota gave a small laugh. “Yeah, that drove me up the wall too.”

“Nyota, your colloquialisms—“

“Oh, you know what I mean. Your reticence is borders on paranoia, sometimes.”

I stiffened.

“You know I love you, Spock, but getting you to talk about yourself is like pulling teeth from a camel. Not only is it a thorny enterprise, but they spit.”

A most unflattering analogy.

“Even more frustrating is the fact that you can extract ten thousand things about a person by simply observing them and analyzing. Things that people aren’t even aware of themselves, sometimes. I had no idea that I learned better kinetically until you told me. I didn’t even know that kinetic learning existed!

“It’s true, what you said. Everyone has their own idea of what friendship is, and every friendship between two people is different. But they’re all based on communication—the exchange of ideas between people, and shared memories. You can have those two things and the relationship might not be a friendship. It might be simply an acquaintance, a colleague, a superior, even a stranger. But it’s definitely not a friendship if you don’t have them at all.”

“A calculated argument on your part, Nyota. However, unsuccessful. I will not divulge the point at which I began to think of the captain as ‘Jim.’”

Nyota looked supremely annoyed, a look that she rarely gives to me. “It was worth a try,” she gave me a swift kiss on my cheek. “But I’m onto you.”

With a smirk, she left.

--

“Captain?”

“Yeah?” he looked up from the report I had given him.

“May I call you Jim?”

He fell out of his chair.

What?!”

“While we are on duty, I will of course give you proper deference and address you by rank. It seems incongruous, however, to continue referring to you as ‘captain’ when we are, for example, playing chess.”

The captain continued to stare at me from the floor. Perhaps this was not an appropriate request.

“If you have objections, I will maintain my present—“

“No no no no, you can call me Jim. You can call me Jim when we’re on the bridge if you want, too. I have no problem with it,” he said, standing up. “I didn’t expect it, is all. You came out of the blue.”

“The blue, Jim?” I raised my eyebrow. It had its intended effect.

He began laughing.

An intriguing experience.



Annotations

  • 1
YES! I loved everything about this chapter. Poor Nyota, practicing and forgetting everything in a second. Story of my life. :D

I adore the relationship between Spock and Uhura. There's such a lightness to it, a lack of tension that isn't true of his other encounters to this point. Also, Spock's definition of crying in this chapter nearly made me spray coffee on my keyboard, I laughed so hard. :)


I love conversations between Spock and Uhura. I think you've developed their friendship, the intimacy that they would have after having had something deeper, perfectly.

how brave Spock ask kirk to calls him JIM!!!

and i really like the actual relationship with Uhura

I just realized that it's a nice little comparison here, between how he feels when he makes Nyota laugh and at the end when he makes Jim laugh :) Lovely.

“May I call you Jim?”

He fell out of his chair.

“What?!”


Man, I snorted so loud. Didn't help that the mental image in my head was that of Chris Pine!Kirk sprawled on the floor with one leg still draped over the seat of the chair with a deer-in-headlights look on his face.

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