First Year Away From Home

By Linda

Rating: PG

Genres: drama

Keywords:

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Disclaimer: No filthy lucre changed hands.

Genre: culture clash, family relations

Rating: PG

Summary: A teenage Human girl is spending her last two high school years on a space station after having grown up on Earth. She meets Vulcans for the first time and this almost lands her in jail. There is also a cameo performance by one of our favorite interspecies couples: Soval and Amanda Cole. If part of this story sounds like Nog and Jake people watching on the promenade of DS9, that is because it was my original inspiration for this story.


She popped another piece of chocolate into her mouth, letting it melt slowly on her tongue. It was a slow day, but it was early by Human standards. It was 7:30 AM, Earth geosync time that the station kept, being perpetually in orbit above San Francisco. Not many starships arriving or leaving at the moment, but you never could tell because all these aliens did not keep Terren time of any zone. In fact, the merchant area lighting was always day-bright, unlike the Human residential area where the hallway lights were dimmed at ‘night time’. Scanning the open merchant space, then looking up at the levels of walkway, Kathy never ceased to marvel over the sheer size of McKinley Station.

In recent years, more exotic aliens had appeared among the crowds moving past this candy concession booth. She knew this from the letters her auntie had sent her when she lived back home planet side. Now in her second week here, the initial excitement of living on a space station had begun to wear off. She even missed her parents, something a lonely teen was loath to admit. The booth she sat in had become a cage from which she watched tantalizing bits of the universe walk by. Actually, it was more than a booth, being attached to the room in the wall behind it which was used as storage space. Having the booth out front meant people had to walk around it to continue down the line of store fronts. So it got noticed, even if only as an obstruction to people strolling by window shopping.

Bored now, Kathy eyed the mystery novel sitting on the shelf in front of her, hidden from the passersby. She could open it and pretend to be doing accounts or something, stylus in hand. But Uncle Henry might pop out from the store room and catch her. He was always saying that a pretty smiling young face looking out at the potential customers was what would attract them.

Kathy sighed and rested her head in one cupped palm. Even this was forbidden by Uncle Henry. Looking bored, looking glum, that would make people shy away. She glanced at her wrist chronometer. A half hour more and Aunt Zoe would be here to take over. Of course that meant Kathy had to run off to the station’s school. Two more years. Then she could attend college planetside. It was a bummer that she had to pay for half her college tuition by working at the family business here on McKinley Station instead of attending the basketball games and proms with her friends back home. Her friends! It had been a wrenching experience leaving them even if they thought it was so exciting that she now got to live on a space station. She knew she would have to make new friends, start over, her first year of college, but to part with kids she had gone to school with since kindergarten, at the start of her junior year in high school? That had been tough. Here on the station she was taking trig and biology and chemistry and literature with strangers—some of them aliens even.

The door opened behind her. She turned and smiled at her aunt.

“Well, Dear, you can run along now. I was up early, did not sleep too well last night, so I thought I would start early. Aunt Zoe set a cup of coffee down on the shelf.

Aunt Zoe sat down heavily. “That homework? Guess not. Well, reading is okay if your homework is done but don’t let Uncle catch you at either while you are working.”

“No, Auntie. See ya!” Kathy swept the novel into her backpack and hefted it all in one motion. “I’ll be back at 3:30 to take late afternoon shift.”

….

Kathy slid into her seat just as the bell rang. Mr. Anderson had the answers to their homework up on the screen. As Kathy was checking her answers against the screen, Mr. Anderson cleared his throat and announced “Students, we have four new people joining us for the school term. Sovar, Kimark, T’Fini, Vitik, will you please stand.”

Chairs scrapped at the back of the classroom. Kathy twisted in her seat to see four kids in bowl haircuts and pointed ears, hands clasped in front of them, eyes staring straight at the screen, faces unreadable.

Vulcans. Just great. My B+ curved average just dropped to a C, thought Kathy. She took a closer look. Oh, no. Three of them look about junior high school age. They probably could teach the class instead of take it. At least the one boy looks our age – that Vitik.

Mr. Anderson confirmed her fears. “Sovar, Kimark, and T’Fini have been skipped up to our level in math because of their placement scores from Vulcan. We welcome them to our class, and let us all be good neighbors by helping them with their English.”

I’ll bet they speak perfect English too, thought Kathy.

They did. Kathy found this out at lunch time. She was purposely sitting alone to read her mystery novel in peace when the whole gang of four set their trays down at her table. They asked her to pass the condiments tray—in British English. Kathy was surprised seeing that the main Vulcan embassy was in San Francisco.

“Say, you all speak a particular dialect of English.” She remarked as she slid the tray to them.

“Of course. Our parents chose it for us to study as it is the original and proper version of the language.” The girl had answered, seeming to be the spokesperson for the group.

Oh, I guess you see my accent as being country bumpkin, then, thought Kathy.

“What does it mean, country bumpkin?” asked one of the boys.

Kathy startled. “Hey, I didn’t say that out loud!”

The Vulcans looked at each other and one elbowed another.

Then the girl said “Yes, you did.”

Kathy was beginning to doubt her sanity. “Okay, maybe I did.”

The girl then addressed her condescendingly, “Do not be concerned. You are not insane, just Human. You should learn to repress…”

She stopped her recital when one of the boys gave her a look. They bowed in unison to Kathy and started to talk Vulcan among themselves. Then they quickly finished their lunch and left without another word directed to her. For her last two classes, Kathy stewed about these Vulcans. At 3:00, with the last bell, Kathy picked up her backpack and glancing at her watch, took off at a power walk toward the family candy concession.

….

“I would like to make a purchase.”

“Ouch!” Kathy bumped her head on the hidden shelf when she heard the voice. She had been sweeping up candy wrappers with a dust pan and whisk broom from where they had fallen, discarded by careless customers over the last hour.

“Does ‘ouch’ signify compliance?” asked the male voice.

Kathy stood up, rubbing the back of her head. Facing her across the counter was Vitik, one of her new classmates.

“Oh, hello…Vitik? No, ouch is an expression of mild hurt. I have bumped my head.”

“How clumsy of you. I mean, a, I grieve with your pain?”

Kathy smiled. “Something like that, I guess. What would you like to buy…purchase.”

Vitik pointed to a bag of malt balls. Kathy picked it up, noted the price and started to enter it on her touch screen.

“You wrap it? First?” Vitik had both his hands flat on the counter and was leaning over it toward her.

“Sure, okay.” Kathy quirked the corner of her mouth. Aliens made the strangest requests sometimes, but Uncle said “The customer is always right. At least we treat them like they are.” So Kathy dropped the malt balls into a white paper bag while noticing that Vitik was glancing back over his shoulder in an almost furtive fashion. Vulcans. So hard to understand aliens. But at least Vulcans were…sort of…good looking. But they spoiled that by acting so stand offish, so superior.

Vitik was fanning out some bills in his hand, glancing at the price on the register and looking through the bills again. “Help me. Please? Which?”

He looked so ALMOST Human when he was begging. Well, requesting help, with one eyebrow slightly elevated over those big black eyes. He had long luscious lashes. And he was so close that she could distinguish the individual black hairs on his forehead which lined up perfectly even. Kathy repressed an urge to touch those hairs, just to see if they felt course or smooth, and to feel if Vulcan skin was really hotter than Human skin.

She pointed to a five dollar bill and he withdrew it from his fan of bills, pressing it into her hand. Again, almost furtively. His hand did feel very warm through the bill. She entered the sale and the change ran down into the cup.

Vitik had half turned away already, when Kathy said, “Vitik, your change?”

She pointed to the coins.

“Keep them. A tip.”

Vitik, you tip restaurant wait staff, not store clerks. You could avoid that by using your station debit card. All the kids have them.”

He looked around again, then grabbed his change and said “Uh, cards record. There is a record of purchases. I require you to say nothing of this purchase. Okay?”

“Yeah, sure, Vitik. Your parents don’t want you to rot your teeth?”

“Something that like. Quiet about this, yes?”

“Sure, fine. Our secret.” Kathy smiled and nodded.

“Good girl. I will show you how to distinguish between different Vulcan people sometime, okay? From an upper walkway level we can watch them? By the robes, you can learn what part of Vulcan they are from.”

“I’d like that, Vitik. It’s a date. Anytime. I like to people watch. I am off work Tuesdays and Thursdays in the afternoons. After school.”

“Okay. Bye.” And he seemed in a hurry to be away and not stay to chat her up like Human boys who were interested in a girl.

Well, he wasn’t interested was he? He had just offered her a service to buy her silence, hadn’t he? Vulcan parents must be as strict as she had heard. Not letting their kids have a bag of candy now and then? Geesh.

….

Kathy sipped the last of her drink through the straw, trying not to make too much of a slurping noise. Vulcan malanak juice was tasty – when you added two packets of sugar to it. Looking down, she tried to pick individuals out of the shifting crowd.

“Ankarak Provence?” she asked, pointing to a Vulcan woman of confident stride, her beige robe with faint yellow vertical stripes swaying as she moved.

“Very good.” Said Vitik, selecting another malt ball. The bag was one quarter gone. He closed it with a twist tie and replaced it in his pack. He had been containing it almost out of sight between his long legs as he sat tailor fashion up against the railing. Kathy had dangled her legs over the edge until too many people were noticing that. They were supposed to be observing, not observed.

Vitik stood up, balancing unsteadily. He gripped the rail and kept hold of it while starting down the path that spiraled to the merchant floor.

“Are you alright?” Kathy grabbed for his arm.

“S’all right.” said Vitik, blinking and gazing at her with eyes that looked a bit out of focus.

“You don’t look alright. Let me take your arm, at least until we get on flat ground.”

Vitik weaved a little standing there, but pulled his arm away from her. “S’okay. I . . . am . . .okay. Okay?”

“Sure,” Kathy said, still uncertain.

Vitik seemed to get a hold of himself and slowly started to descend.

“Hey, you know, for Humans, it is no shame to admit to having acrophobia or being diabetic or something. Want me to call your folks?”

“NO!” Vitik stopped. “Do not do that. You are my friend, right? Friends don’t rat on friends. I have read that about Humans. Vulcans keep their friends’ secrets too.”

“Vitik, Okay. I won’t.”

“At’s a good girl.”

They reached the main floor and Kathy offered to walk Vitik back to his family’s quarters.

“I appreciate that. But only to the entrance of the Vulcan section.”

Vitik was walking a little steadier now, and his words no longer slurring. They skirted the outer edge of the merchant section, choosing isles with fewer shoppers. The hallway with a sign in Vulcan characters opened off the area behind the Vulcan shops.

“Okay. Bye now.”

Vitik lightly patted her shoulder then moved off down the hallway with its peach colored lighting, simulating Vulcan in early evening. Kathy watched him until he turned a corner. He seemed okay. She wondered what was up with him. Maybe he would tell her sometime.

….

Soval gripped the railing and gazed down at the active merchant area of McKinley Station. This was a big station by Human standards, but he knew the Humans would be building even larger ones soon and expanding this one. Their system had just been voted as the site of Federation headquarters by the Federation Council. Vulcan would have been the logical choice, thought Soval, accept Vulcan did not want it. Neither did Andoria want the headquarters in the Vulcan system. Telar didn’t either. The Humans were the only ones who proposed it be in the Vulcan system. So, according to some unfathomable quirk of fate, the Telarites and Andorians both proposed the Terran system. Harumph.

Amanda joined him and looked down four, no five decks, to the kiosks and store fronts. She enjoyed these occasional stays on the station, a kind of vacation from their San Francisco condo. “I could almost get dizzy, watching people from up here.”

Soval put a protective arm around her waist, just in case. “Thy’la, then it is logical we watch from some other vantage point. Vulcans do not get dizzy at heights. It seems to be a Human eye focusing problem.”

Amanda liked having her mate’s arm around her waist under any circumstances. But he rarely would do this in public unless he thought there was a good reason. He had done this at the Guggenheim Museum in New York – also a spiral ramp arrangement. Amanda had pretty much overcome the dizziness problem during her MACO days, due to certain techniques and constant practice. She probably could now, accept she did not have sufficient incentive to have Soval detach himself from her.

As they started down the spiral, Amanda noticed a young Vulcan with a young Human descending a level down from them. “Well look at that, Sweetheart. A Vulcan who seems to have a dizziness problem.”

“From your dictionary of apt Human phrases, Amanda, ‘No way’.

“Yes way, My Dear.” She pointed to the youngster gripping the railing.

Soval sighed. “Touche.” He noted the boy, had seen him in the Vulcan residence wing of the station. He would make it a point to find out why a Vulcan would have a dizziness problem.

….

The day after their second people watching expedition, while walking to trig class, T’Fini matched her stride to Kathy’s and glanced at her a couple of times.

“Yes?” said Kathy.

“I must speak with you.”

“Go ahead.”

“No. Stop now. Listen.”

Kathy sighed and moved out of the traffic of kids heading for class. She leaned against the wall and waited while T’Fini stood bland faced, regarding her.

“Okay, what is it?” Kathy rolled the words out, eager not to be late, again, for trig.

“You are acquainted with Vitik, now. Is this true?”

“He purch…he invited me to sit with him and we talked.”

“Yes. You have made an acquaintance with him.”

“Well we are not best buddies, but, yes, we have met a couple of times to talk.”

“Do you plan to continue this acquaintance?”

“Hey, we are not dating or anything. I know that all Vulcans are engaged by age seven.”

“AT the age of seven, otherwise you are correct. It is good that you respect that. It is required that you desist these meetings with Vitik.”

“You mean he can’t even have friends? I don’t have romantic designs on him. Not at all!”

“That is good. Yes, Vulcans are allowed acquaintances. Friends even. Even alien friends, sometimes. But he is not…how do you say…a good boy. He is under suspicion of being a bad boy. If you continue being acquainted with him, no other Vulcans will want to be acquainted with you. This is just a…friendly warning. That is all.”

T’Fini turned on her heel and walked off.

“Well!” said Kathy. All the more reason to be friends with poor Vitik, she thought. He is an outcast among his own kind. Picked on, probably. No wonder he always is looking over his shoulder. Poor boy. Kathy resolved not only to continue her acquaintance but to cultivate his friendship.

….

Soval found the boy’s family’s apartment number after remembering his name. His father was a building contractor specializing in orbital stations. His mother was a Vulcan embassy temporary employee. Soval remembered signing her transfer papers. Why was the boy out alone in the public areas of the station? He distinctly remembered his father mentioning close supervision necessary for the boy at one of the embassy socials. Soval touched the father’s name on the screen and the intra station com system connected him to the father’s personal vid phone.

….

They met anther time on the spiral ramp before Vitik was satisfied that Kathy could distinguish Vulcans from 23 different major provinces. Then they attended a concert together. Then a movie. And Kathy now brought Vitik’s malt balls to him in a discreet paper bag, having entered the sale without his presence at the concession stand. Kathy’s aunt and uncle where curious about her new friend, so they asked her to ask him to dinner in a week’s time.

On the Friday before the scheduled dinner, Kathy arrived for her work shift after school to find a tall Vulcan with salt and pepper hair standing with a merchant’s security guard who was questioning her aunt and uncle. Aunt Zoe looked worried and used the counter as a barrier between herself and the stern faced Vulcan. She was shaking her head. Uncle Henry was on the customer side of the stand with the sales screen turned so the security person and the Vulcan could read it.

“No. We do not have a record of any sale to a Vitik son of Vatik son of Kitik,” said Uncle Henry.

“I know he got his drugs from your concession!” the Vulcan stated, stabbing a finger at an empty malt ball bag he had brought with him. “This is your label, is it not?”

“Yes, yes it is,” said Uncle Henry in a placating tone.

Kathy hurried over, pushing her way through the gathering spectators. “Uncle, this is my fault. I sold Vitik several bags of malt balls. I didn’t think it was such a bad thing, not if he brushed his teeth every day. He said he did.”

Vitik’s father looked down in distain at Kathy. “So you admit selling him bags of chocolate? You admit selling drugs to a minor?”

“SELLING DRUGS TO A MINOR?!” Kathy shouted, feeling as if she had just followed the white rabbit down the hole and into an alternate reality. “No way! We only sell CANDY at our concession stand! We don’t even sell candy with alcohol fillings!”

“You see, she admits her criminal act,” said the tall Vulcan, stiff with anger to an extent that even a Human could perceive. “My son has had addiction issues on Vulcan. We acknowledge that. That is why we have him with us on off world assignments now, so we can tend to him closely. And this adult Human has been corrupting him.”

“I am barely seventeen. I am not an adult.” squeaked Kathy, trying to make sense of this conversation.

The Vulcan looked down his nose at Kathy and raised one elegant eyebrow. “Seventeen. An adult,” he said in his Vulcan accented British English.

“Oh. Yes.” Kathy said. “Yes, in Britain you are an adult at seventeen. In North America you are not an adult until you are eighteen.”

“This is so?” asked Vitik’s father.

“Yes it is,” the security guard admitted. “But in drug dealing cases, seventeen-year-olds can be waved into adult court.”

“I require that you do this,” demanded Vatik.

“Wait just a minute here!” Kathy was near hysteria. “I want a lawyer right now. No way is a bag of malt balls, drugs!”

“Oh, but it is,” responded the security guard. “Anyone who is acquainted with Vulcans knows they react to chocolate like Humans do to alcohol.”

“I didn’t know!” whined Kathy. “How should I have known? I have only been on this station for a month. I never met Vulcans before, there weren’t any in my home town.”

I want my Mommy. The embarrassing irrational thought ran through Kathy’s mind before she told herself silently Shut up, you can handle this. You are not a drug dealer.

The tall Vulcan turned and stared at her as if he was looking right into her soul.

Back off you bully, she thought. I will not cry like a baby.

The Vulcan crossed his arms over his chest and addressed her in a condescending manner. “I am not trying to make you cry. I am not a bully. I perceive that in contrast to your years and Human physical maturation level, wanting your Mommy makes you a child in your emotional and rational development level.”

Kathy’s jaw dropped. Then the room went out of focus and she fainted.

….

Kathy woke staring up at the skylight above the McKinley station merchant area which showed a smattering of weak distant stars. It was the showplace centerpiece of the station. Why was she seeing it from flat on her back with her aunt kneeling next to her and thirty concerned faces staring down at her? Oh. Yeah. Vitik’s father.

“Honey, it is alright now. It has been straightened out. Vatik has withdrawn his charges.”

“What?” Kathy sat up. The security guard was trying to get people to move away.

Aunt Zoe helped her up and they walked back through the concession stand and into the store room. Kathy sat down on an empty packing crate while her aunt got her a glass of water.

“Uncle Henry is angry, isn’t he?” said Kathy.

“I can handle him.”

“But this is bad for business, isn’t it? Did you know about Vulcans and chocolate?”

“Yes, but they never came to buy from us before, accept for that ambassador…for his Human wife…he said. And certainly never any Vulcan children. I didn’t think to tell you that about Vulcans. Nor did your uncle, which I pointed out to him is HIS fault, an oversight in your vendor training. This will all blow over. Don’t worry, Honey.”

….

But Kathy did worry. She was going to give Vitik a piece of her mind. Was she ever! Drunk on candy. Every time they sat together on the upper levels and watched people. Wasted. Polluted. Soused. How could she have been so stupid! All for a pair of lovely long eye lashes and deliciously pointed ears. She didn’t want to make out with him, just look at him! And now, how glad she was that she was not engaged to him like some poor girl back on Vulcan.

Well, he wasn’t in school when she looked for him. Not the day after the incident with his father, not all week. Then her aunt told her the family was going back to Vulcan in three days time. So, she would not see him again. That might be best.

She had told her aunt and uncle she wanted to work just in the store room for a week. She couldn’t face people right now. She had done the inventory and was thinking about starting her homework when the store room door opened and there he was.

“Kathy, your aunt said it was okay if I came back here to talk to you before we left. It is alright. I am not back here to look for chocolate. I have not had any for several days now.”

Kathy just stared at him.

“I understand if you do not want to talk to me.”

He turned to go.

“No, wait,” she said. “Please stay. Come over here and sit, if you want.”

Vitik came over and sat tentatively on a nearby crate.

“I apologize for using you to obtain drugs. I explained to my father how you were innocent and I used you. He…tested me for the truth. We are more than touch telepaths, those of my family, my clan. That is valuable. But a weakness for drugs also runs in our family. We fight it. But it is difficult. I will continue to fight it, even though I have been held back several years in school because of problems connected with it. And I am skilled at sneaking out of my parent’s observation, like I did with you. I am bonded to a girl whose family does not have this problem. My father has to tell her family of this latest…incident. And hopefully, they will not break the engagement. I just wanted you to know…none of this is your fault. My father wants to make a peace offering if you will accept. He wants to give money enough for your college education so that you don’t have to work to obtain it.”

Kathy was astonished. “That is very generous. But unnecessary. Would it be impolite by Vulcan standards to refuse your gift?”

“Not if there is a logical reason.”

“Is it a logical reason to say that I want to work, to learn my family’s business and to meet people from other worlds at the space station school? People I would otherwise be unable to meet?”

“That is a logical reason, yes. My father would respect that.”

“Good. You tell him that. And that I respect his trying to protect his son, even though it scared me greatly when he was so mad at me and accused me of being a drug dealer. But I understand why. I am not scared anymore, tell him.”

Vitik rose and bowed to Kathy, much deeper than she had seen a Vulcan do before.

“Live long and prosper, Kathy of planet Earth.”

“Peace and long life, Vitik son of Vatik.”

He turned and left. Kathy never saw him again. And T’Fini avoided her over the rest of the school term that she spent at McKinley Station School. But Kathy met other Vulcans over the course of her lifetime, and most became acquaintances, one or two even became friends.

….

Oh, yes, on the very evening of the day that Kathy spoke for the last time with Vitik, the Honorable High Vulcan Ambassador to Earth returned to his temporary quarters on McKinley Station after a long debate with the Telarite ambassador to Earth, peppered with the appropriate insults a well brought up Telarite expects. Soval had a signed contract tucked in a pocket of his robe, a contract for the exchange of fifteen Vulcan solar power engineers to work on a project in Telar’s sole equatorial desert in exchange for the services of fifteen Telarite agricultural experts to help with Vulcan’s imported grain cross breeding experiments in that planet’s vast farms near the southern polar region.

The good ambassador paused by his door, still trying to decide whether to inform his wife about the true nature of that young Vulcan’s dizziness spell. Better to leave well enough alone, he thought, because it just might set off a discussion of another thing he had told her Vulcans never do, concerning indulgence and addictions. He sighed, and opened the door.

There was Amanda seated comfortable on a meditation cushion in the middle of the sitting room rug. In one hand she held a glass of wine. With the other, she daintily extracted a small brown square from a box of its fellows and held it out to Soval.

“Greetings, Thy’la. How was your day? Care for a chocolate?”

The silence from the ambassador was most eloquent.


Comments:

Linda
Thanks, Bnb. Thanks, Asso. Hey, thanks Evcake and Dis. But special thanks to Bnb for giving this one the once over and encouraging me to submit it. Wasn't sure another Vulcan addiction story would work. :p
Blacknblue
I couldn't help it. Asso's post made me do it. Blame him. :s
Blacknblue
I already told you, but I say it again. It's GREEEAAAAAT!
Linda
Thanks, Distracted for giving me a 'big scientific word' to use for what I was thinking was going on with these particular Vulcans! Gives me a seed for further stories. Hey, could you explore this too in one of your stories? I'd enjoy seeing where you would take it too!
Distracted
A unique story. I like your hypothesis that some Vulcans may be stronger telepaths than others. It would follow that they would be more prone to substance abuse if the substance helped them cope. Can you imagine if you could sense the thoughts of everyone around you? I wonder if the theobromines in chocolate not only intoxicate but dull the transmission of thoughts from other minds for a brief period. Interesting.
Asso
[b]Great! Nothing else! Great![/b] :D
evcake
Lovely. I really like your "everyday Vulcans." And it's great seeing Soval and Amanda again.

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