The Soul of the Stars: Chapter 5 – A Most Unusual Human
Spock settled into something of a routine over the course of a week, using every hour of the waning sun to explore the planet’s surface, with Liva loyally in tow, her specimen collecting bag slung over her shoulder. Sometimes she would be very quiet, observing him like a mouse in the corner of a room as he ran his censor over various plant, soil, water, and rock samples he discovered. But more often, she would start to talk, about anything and everything, and ask Spock a fair amount of questions he had no enthusiasm to answer.
One afternoon, as he was examining a rather intriguing specimen of animal bone, she inquired, “Are you married, Mr. Spock?”
“Negative,” he responded shortly.
“Well, do you have any lady friends then?”
“How very intrusive of you,” he shot back.
“It’s not that intrusive…”
“Alright, then I shall ask you the same,” he decided, wanting to take the handle away from her. “Have you been bombarded with attentions from the opposite sex?”
She turned a little red, and Spock wondered if perhaps he should not have struck back quite so pointedly. “I asked you first,” she mumbled, “it’s only polite to answer it before asking the same thing.”
Spock raised one eyebrow. “For your information, young lady, Vulcanians do not have the same system of mating as humans, so all questions to that end are null and void.”
“What’s your system like then?”
“It’s very…logical,” he stated.
“No mystery there,” she mumbled.
“But also enshrouded in the ancient ceremonies of our people.”
He gave her a scolding look. “They are not for public transmission to non-Vulcanians except under special circumstances.”
“Well, I think being trapped together on a doomed planet is a special circumstance,” she countered. “It’s like…a final transferral of cultural knowledge.”
Spock considered that point, then finally relented. “It recognizes the need for reproduction for the continuance of our species and philosophy, and as such, bonding is arranged at a very young age between two persons who, when the time comes to reproduce, will be drawn back together to fulfill their duty.”
“What happens if one of them grows up and doesn’t want to mate with the other person, and chooses another?” she queried.
“Then there may be…a trial by combat.”
Liva’s eyes grew twice their normal size. “Trial by combat?! You mean…to the death?”
“If it comes to that, yes.”
“How is that logical exactly?”
“Pon farr is that which releases baser Vulcan instincts,” Spock explained. “Briefly, intellect is set aside for the sake of reproduction. Otherwise, it should never be accomplished.”
“I don’t believe that.”
He squinted. “You ask me to transfer cultural information to you, and then refuse to believe it when I tell you? Really, you are a prime example of the inconsistencies of your race.”
“You speak of contradictions!” Liva exhaled. “You don’t believe that two people can fall in love and be happy together in order to have a baby, but you do believe in fighting to the death in order to settle…mating disputes!”
“Vulcans adopted the logical philosophy after a savage age when the passions ruled us, body and mind,” Spock stated. “We were not arrogant enough to assume that we could conquer all our previous instincts in their entirety, especially when some seemed to serve logical ends.”
“So killing serves a more logical end than loving?”
“Killing for a purpose, on rare occasions, according to custom, eliminates one of the challengers and settles the dispute,” he outlined steadily. “Love, however, is an emotion which is based on attachment, with long-term results that could hinder the…”
“Oh, enough!” Liva crossed her arms in frustration.
“Alright then,” Spock conceded. “If you will not hear out my answer, perhaps you will answer my own inquiry about your experience in such matters. You seem to see yourself as quite the expert on them.”
Liva looked down. “I never said I was an expert,” she disclaimed. “I’m not the prettiest girl in the world, and I’m too shy for most boys. I didn’t like to talk to strangers.”
“You seem to have changed quite a bit in that respect,” Spock remarked.
“Well…you’re different. I like talking to you.”
Spock gave a nod in recognition of her statement.
“But I don’t like talking about silly things with other girls or trying to make addle-headed boys like me. Actually, I hate it. I hated the school in the valley for that. Everything was so fake, like everyone thought it was a world of its own. I see things big.” She flung out her arms demonstratively. “Out to the sky big!”
“And yet you seem most taken by small things, small one,” he reminded her, “like the scent of pine, or flowers, or baking bread, or the poems that tell you stars are ensouled.” He raised an eyebrow at a cocksure angle.
“And what space can contain such things?” She tilted her head to challenge him. “Tell me, if you can, how big or small such scents are. And can anyone measure the size of a poem, or the life span of a song?”
“I can accurately give you the chemical cause that causes such scents, and the lengths to which they can travel,” he offered, “also, poetry is based upon rhythm and meter found in words of a given language, comparable to songs in their use of the music scale…”
“Yes, but what do all these things lead to? Picking them apart bit by bit does not tell you. The reason is that they are too big for that. They are bigger than all the causes and effects, bigger and bolder and more alive and even more frightening than anything that can be measured.”
“I believe I have deducted why you could not easily coexist with your fellow students,” he surmised. “You frightened them.”
She laughed at this. “Do I frighten you, Mr. Spock?”
She grinned. “May I take that as a compliment?”
“If you wish.”
“How very kind of you, Mr. Spock!”
He shrugged. “I see little how kindness fits into this scenario…”
Just then they both heard a high-pitched screech which made them jump back. It was coming from a gully nearby, caused by the earth rupturing during earthquakes. Liva, seeming to know what it was, rushed over to the edge and beheld a small dragon-like beast with razor-edged red wings. The rest of its body was white, except for the red streak running down its nose.
“It’s a tryvern,” she informed Spock as he came up behind her. “You know, the ones I told you about that used to nest on the cliffs. I thought the only ones left had gone into the caves in the mountain now. The quakes must have frightened this one out.”
Before Spock had the chance to respond, Liva started to climb down into the gully, only several paces away from the tryvern.
“Miss Christenson, you must back away from the reptilian creature this instant,” he commanded, his phaser in one hand and sensor in the other.
She gazed at it softly as it flapped its wings awkwardly in a vain effort to fly. “But…it’s only a baby.”
“From what my sensor informs me, your tryverns are not unlike similar species to be found in this star system,” he stated, “and as such even those not fully grown are capable of exhaling molten flame if they feel threatened.”
“Well, I won’t threaten it then.”
The creature gave another strange screech, and prodded what Liva now saw was the body of an adult tryvern nearby.
“Spock, I think…that was its mother.” She slowly reached out a hand and stroked the dead beast along the neck. She turned back to Spock. “Toss me down the thermos, will you?”
“I do not understand your intent.”
“Just do it, please!”
Reluctantly, he complied. “You do realize you are putting yourself in a position of unnecessary peril.”
She smirked teasingly. “Worried, Mr. Spock?”
He raised one eyebrow. “Worry is an emotional reaction not within my capacity to feel, as you should be well aware of by now.”
“Fine,” she twitted. “Then all you need to do is stay calm.”
“I am calm,” he retorted. “I don’t see why there would even be cause to question…”
“Good for you.” She proceeded to unscrew the lid of the thermos and poured a few drops of tea on her hand, testing it like a mother would test formula for her baby. Then she held it towards the tryvern.
It stared at her hand with its beady red eyes for a long moment, and then slowly it started to lick away the drops of tea with its long tongue. Liva brought forward the thermos and waved in just in front of it. Urged on from hunger, the creature dunked its nose inside and began to drink.
Spock watched in fascination as she began to stroke the scales on its head and murmur, “I know what it’s like. My mother died too.”
“Regardless of your other foibles, you are a most unusual human in your empathy towards sentient beings not of your own species,” Spock remarked. “Far more…Vulcan, in a way.”
Liva smiled brightly. “And you are a most unusual Vulcan,” she returned. “Far more…human, in a way.”
He grew disconcerted at this assertion. “How can you possibly make that judgment if I am the only Vulcan to make your acquaintance?”
“Oh, I just…know things. There’s no one quite like you, Mr. Spock.”
Suddenly, a tremendous roar was heard. Spock snapped his attention on what looked like a mammoth, long-fanged bear charging towards the gully. Liva screamed, and Spock on impulse leapt down and blocked her with his body. The creature let out another roar, baring its fangs menacingly as Spock trained the phaser on it.
But before he could use it, the weapon was clawed out of his hand by the creature’s massive paw. A shooting pain ran up his arm, and he fell to his knees. He felt Liva grab him by the shoulder. “Spock, get up!”
Just then, the baby tryvern stood up tall, flapped its wings, and breathed fire into the face of the oncoming fanged bear. The hairy beast staggered back in shock, swinging its paw wildly. Liva, meanwhile, grabbed the phaser lying several paces away. She struggled to her feet, extended the weapon shakily, and pulled the trigger. Amazingly, she hit her mark. Stunned, the great beast let out a roar and then rolled onto the ground, unconscious.
Spock staggered to his feet and stared at the fallen creature in astonishment.
“That,” Liva exhaled, handing him back the phaser, “was a watk’a wituk.”
“That,” Spock responded, “was an impressive show of marksmanship, young lady.”
“Grandfather taught me with his old Star Fleet phaser,” she explained. “But Spock, dear Spock! Your hand…” Her face contorted with concern as she touched the wound, and a sticky green fluid stained her fingers. “Oh, do you…is this…?”
“Vulcanian blood is indeed green, if that is your inquiry.” He looked at her testily. “Does it unnerve you?”
“The only thing unnerving me is that my science officer is bleeding!”
He raised an eyebrow again. “Your science officer?”
“Am I not your own appointed assistant?”
“Yes, you are at that. And when I did the appointing, I was not even aware you were trained in codified weaponry.”
The small tryvern started screeching again, possibly looking for attention after its bravery in battle. Liva looked down at it with pity and said, “I’m taking him home with us.”
“Miss Christensen, I believe it has proven its ability to breathe fire…”
“But it saved our lives! Besides, it can give you something to study while you recover…the peculiar habits of a baby tryvern.”
Spock exhaled. “If you believe you can keep the creature under control.”
“Of course I can! He won’t make any trouble at all…will you?” She knelt down and gestured for it to climb up onto her shoulder, which it did promptly. Then she helped Spock as he climbed out of the gulley with one bad hand. Once he was out, he reached down and pulled her up. Then he just stared at her for a moment, thinking hard.
“What?” she jabbed. “Have you never seen a girl with a tryvern on her shoulder?”
“I believe I should like to learn more about Scandinavians. They are the most unique types of humans I have met to date. It must be something about their native climate…”
“It’s the mountains,” she specified. “You have to think big when you’re reared in the mountains. It’s so close to the sky, you have to fall in love with the stars.”
He looked into her sky-blue eyes, and caught a glimmer of those stars dancing across them. Yes, she was most unusual indeed.
By Rosaria Marie