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Title: The Middle Way
Author: icemink
Pairing: Spock/Uhura
Rating: NC-17. . . eventually
Warnings: Just for plot
Summary: When Professor M'Umbha Uhura discovers the ruins of an ancient colony, she finds herself in trouble with the Romulans and only her daughter Nyota can translate what it all means.
Disclaimer: Does anyone really think this is how I make my living or that I own these? Cause no I don't.
A/N: This is a sequel to Someday, and the Rest of Your Life however so that no one is confused about the time line let me just admit I'm violating my own cannon. In the first chapter of Someday I have both Nyota's very boring parents seeing her off at the Academy. Let's just say that was really just her dad, because I've actually created backgrounds and personalities for them, and they are much more interesting now. I'm also assuming that Starfleet graduation would have been a couple months after the events of the movie.

The dead world of Hyrax IV: One month after the destruction of Vulcan

Professor M’Umbha Uhura blew on the tips of her fingers, trying to warm them. The sun had gone down hours ago, and it was always a little too cold inside the mountain.

She was a woman of average height, with strong arms from years of physical work. Her long salt and pepper hair lay in dozens of braids against her scalp and were pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of her neck. Normally she found it practical, the hairstyle kept her hair out of her face and out of her way. But when she thought about all the fine dust and sand that was getting into it she wasn’t so sure. On the other hand she had more important things to do then spend her time worrying about sandy hair.

Her laser-trowel removed layer after layer of sediment. Despite its name, she considered it a crude tool. Normally she wouldn’t use one, but it had taken forever to dig this deep onto the side of the volcano. And, she reminded herself, the structure she was looking for was not some adobe hut, but the metal walls of a structure built by an early space faring civilization. Even , she always held that fear that whatever she was digging for would crumble to dust the moment it was exposed to air.

They lost colony they were searching for had been built on the side of a volcano, one that had most likely lay dormant for thousands of years. When it erupted the top had simply been blown off, instantly covering the nearby area in volcanic ash and debris. The colony would have been instantly smothered. Subsequent lava flows had further buried the structures, making it a difficult process to dig through the rock to reach the ruins their sensors indicated might be below. For that reason her team had nicknamed the mountain Vesuvius. Professor Uhura only hoped they would be lucky enough to find another buried Pompeii.

The volcano hadn’t just killed the colony, but the planets fragile ecosystem. According to Chen, their paleo-botonist, two thousand years ago this would have been a tropical area. But the eruption had sent so much ash into the atmosphere that it had created what they used to call a nuclear winter. It had killed most of the life on Hyrax IV. After two thousand years the atmosphere had cleared, but without plant life to hold down the top soil it had turned into a barren desert. A dead world that had been ignored by everyone else.

She heard footsteps in the tunnel behind her, and a light danced on the wall she was excavating. She didn’t have to turn to know who it was. The other members of her team had called it a night hours ago, only the Vulcan would be coming to check on her.

She knew that she probably shouldn’t think of him as ‘The Vulcan’, but the fact that he was so un-vulcanlike made the title stick in her head. Professor Uhura had never really liked vulcans. The problem was that if you were in any sort of scientific field it was almost impossible to swing a cat without hitting one. She supposed they made great mathematicians, physicist, and the like but she didn’t think they belonged in a field like archeology. The feeling was mutual.

M’Umbha was rigorous in her field work, and no one could fault anything in her academic papers. But when she talked about the cultures she had studied, the ruins she had uncovered, she couldn’t help but speculate on the lives of people who had once lived there. She was at heart a storyteller, and often on a dig she would come up with names for the bodies they found and later she would write her own stories about what their lives might have been like. Vulcans tended to look down on it as useless speculation. But that was the whole reason M’Umbha had become an archeologist, to speak for those who had passed on.

Her partner on this expedition was different. To begin with, The Vulcan smiled and laughed, something she had never known a vulcan to do. He also didn’t seem to know what a comb was, which showed far more personality than all those other vulcans with their identical haircuts. The truth was she rather liked him.

“It’s late, you should at least take a break,” he said behind her.

“Not just yet, we’re close, I can feel it,” she told him.

“Feel it?” she could hear the smile in his voice. “And that wouldn’t have anything to do with your sensor readings?”

“Well, that too,” she admitted.

The laser-trowel cut away another thin layer of compacted dirt. Another bit of dirt crumbled away on its own, and suddenly she could see something glittering in the light.

“Bingo,” she said, dropping the laser trowel. This close to her prize she preferred to use her fingers, to break away the thin crumbling layer of sediment. As the metal surface was revealed, she noticed to her excitement that there was a break in the surface. Not a crack, not a sign that the structure was weak, but the edge of a door.

The Vulcan put down his light and began to help her reveal ancient door until it stood exposed.

“And you thought I should rest,” she joked.

“Will it open?” he asked.

She looked at her partner, and his eyes were intent on the door, his eagerness to see what was inside, to confirm all their suspicions about this doomed colony apparent on his face.

She shook her head. “It won’t have power anymore.” She could see his disappointment. “Don’t worry, I’ll get it open, just. . . let me handle this part.”

He nodded and took a few steps back. This was the part she hated. As frustrating at times as the slow work of archeology could be, these were the moments that terrified her. She would rather spend weeks gently brushing away the dirt that held a ceramic fragment in place than have to do something like open a door.

The problem was there were no guarantees. If their guesses about the date of this settlement were correct it had been buried for almost two thousand years. Which meant nothing as far as structural integrity went. It could stand for another two thousand years, or collapse the moment she opened it, there was no way to tell, except to force the doors open.

M’Umbha went to her tool bag and retrieved a very thin, but very strong pry-bar and an air jack. Carefully she inserted the thin edge of the pry-bar into the crack in the door. She used as little pressure as she could, wanting to force it open only the tiniest amount, just enough to slip the plate of the jack between the two sections of the door. She heard a hiss as she did so, and the smell of stale air, and possibly some form of gas escaped from the other side of the door.

She pulled back. “We may want to put on breathers,” she told her companion.

He nodded and the both stopped to affix the half-masks to their faces. The masks would keep them from breathing in any of the more noxious elements on the other side.

She carefully fitted the panel of the air jack into the wider gap she had created. She probably could have used the pry-bar to open the doors all the way, but it would create torque that might damage them. The jack could be used to exert a steady and parallel force on the doors, lessening the chance of hurting the ancient structure.

Slowly she let the jack inflate, pushing the doors further and further apart until they were open wide enough for one person to slip through.

She put down the jack and picked up her light. “Ready,” she asked her companion.

He nodded.

“Remember,” she told him. “Don’t touch anything yet, we need to document everything before it’s moved.”

Again he nodded, and she wondered if she really needed to tell a vulcan that, even one as laid back as her friend.

Her heart pounding with excitement, Professor M’Umbha Uhura stepped into the chamber.

Her light scanned the room creating dancing shadows. It seemed to be a simple habitation unit. She could make out the outlines of a table and chairs, a bed along one wall, and several other bulky shapes that she would guess formed the food preparation area. In the center of the room, was an amorphous shape. She knew immediately that it was a body.

Eagerly she moved closer, hoping that there would be some kind of marker to identify the species. Her light moved across the body until she found the head.

“Well that was easy,” she said to herself.

When the structure had been buried, it had been basically sealed airtight. That had killed its occupant, but it had also preserved and mummified the body.

Another light joined hers to further illuminate the corpse creating strange impish shadows.

“Well, the ears have it,” she joked. “It’s an ancient vulcan colony all right.”

“Professor,” The Vulcan’s tone was severe. “This is not a place for jokes.”

So maybe he was a little vulcan after all. “It’s a normal human response. We tend to joke when faced with death, even the death of some who would have been long dead by now.”

“Ah,” he nodded. “I see. Forgive me.”

She shook her head. “It’s okay. Differences are what make the galaxy a fun place, right?” She took one last look around the chamber. “We should go. We can start documenting and cataloging in the morning.”

“We’ve spent months trying to get here, and now you just want to go to bed?” he asked.

“Well, now that I know it’s really here, I can get some sleep. The real fun will begin in the morning. Like I said cataloging, taking samples, etc. It’s going to be a long day.”

Reluctantly the Vulcan followed her back into the tunnel they had dug to get to the structure. She began to seal the entrance with a plastic tarp. Sandstorms were a frequent occurrence on Hyrax IV.

As she worked he asked, “Do you think their computer systems will work?”

“Well, they haven’t been exposed to moisture, so that’s good. We can give them power, but trying to get our computers to talk to ones created over two thousand years ago is a little like putting a square peg in a round hole.”

“I thought that was Salideh’s speciality?”

“Oh it is, and she’ll do it. I just want you to appreciate how brilliant she is when she does.” M’Umbha paused. “Anything specific you’re looking for?” she tried to bait him.

He shrugged. “The computer records seem like the easiest way to find out more about these people.”

She wanted to yell at him ‘I’m not an idiot!’ On the other hand she hadn’t really expected him to admit to anything. She knew her vulcan history. And she knew just what treasure he hoped to find in a vulcan colony from two thousand years ago, even he pretended to have nothing but normal scientific interest in the excavation.

With the tarp in place they headed back to the main camp.

“Speaking of breaks,” she told him. “I’m going to have to take one next month.”

He looked at her questioningly. “My daughter, Nyota, is graduating from Starfleet Academy. I really should be there. It’s been a few years since we’ve really seen each other.”

“Starfleet?” he asked. “I have hard time imagining you having a military daughter.”

“Actually,” she told him. “It’s probably my fault. I dragged her from one planet to another when she was a child, she probably likes the stability and structure.”

“You’re really going to leave all this?” he asked gesturing at the barren landscape.

She laughed. “For a week or so, yeah. She’s too smart for me to convince her a place that’s stood for two thousand years isn’t going to be here when I get back.”

As they got to the camp they headed for the main tent. M’Umbha suddenly realized just how hungry she was. Besides, the rest of the team would be inside relaxing, and she couldn’t wait to tell them that she’d finally found something.

As soon as they entered the tent, Salideh, their techie stood up. “Sybok,” she called out. “We got a handshake a bit ago and it looks like there’s some message with some weird encryption for you.”

Hyrax IV was on the edge of the Romulan Neutral Zone, which pretty much put it on the edge of nowhere from a Federation perspective. Probably from a Romulan one, too. Although subspace communications were effective, you had to know where to send them unless you had some of the incredibly expensive communications equipment, such as what planetary governments and military starships had. Most traders and science expeditions moved around to much to make it easy to get messages to them. So isolated teams like Uhura’s communicated by handshaking. Whenever a ship passed by they would send back and forth any undelivered messages they had. The theory was sooner or latter the message would end up where it was supposed to go.

Because they were so isolated, the only com station the camp had was in their main tent. They really didn’t have much need to talk to the rest of the Federation, at least not until they’d confirmed their findings.

While M’Umbha got some bread and soup, Sybok sat at the com station. “It’s from my brother,” he exclaimed in surprise.

She glanced over not meaning to be nosey, but doing it anyway. “How can you tell? You haven’t even decrypted it yet.”

“The encryption is the signature,” he told her. Then he smiled, “My little brother was good with computers. He came up with this encryption when he was maybe seven or eight. He was so disappointed when it took me less than an hour to break it. He wouldn’t talk to me for weeks.” Sybok chuckled at the memory. “It wasn’t until I unconvinced his parents to let him have the selhat he wanted that he even acknowledged my existence.”

His parents, M’Umbha noted. She filed that away in her file on Sybok, and all his irregularities.

“Sounds like he forgave you eventually,” she said.

He shook his head, still smiling. “You can’t forgive someone, if you don’t admit to the validity of the emotion of anger.”

She smiled too. Sybok didn’t seem to like the logical manner of his people any more than she did. She was about to hand him the ear piece, so that he might have some privacy, but before she could he pressed a few buttons and the message began to play.

“Sybok, much has happened.” The voice was distorted, electronic, a side effect of the encryption, M’Umbha supposed. “You will be glad to know that our father did survive and is as well as one can be. I must keep this message short. But I am concerned. I fear that our people have become stiff and rigid in our logic, and that we will break rather than bend under the weight of our grief. I cannot predict what your reception might be, but under the circumstances I think it may be time that you came home.”

The message ended and M’Umbha could see that Sybok was visibly shaken, although she had found it rather enigmatic.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

He ignored her. “Did we get any news in the handshake? Anything about Vulcan?”

“No,” Salideh said. “We didn’t bother to download anything. You know Federation news. If it’s not celebrity gossip, it’s some sex scandal involving a senator or the change in the price of latinum. There’s never anything important.”

“The next time a ship passes by find out if there is any news about Vulcan,” Sybok said almost angrily.

“Sybok?” M’Umbha asked. She had never seen him upset before.

“It is hard enough to imagine a reason my brother might contact me in the first place. But for him to speak of grief, to ask me to come home. . . something has happened.”

“Take the long range shuttle,” she told him. “Go, see your brother. Find out what’s going on, we’ll still be here.”

“No,” he said sternly, standing up. “Whatever has happened, has happened.” He said flatly, like any vulcan might. “My presence here or on Vulcan will not change that. It is important we continue with out work.”

With that he left.

His reasoning was completely logical. Very vulcan. And it made M’Umbha very uncomfortable. Something had changed, and she didn’t like it.


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July 2009


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