"But, Ny, Im hungry!"
"Cmon, Chris. Just one more shop. Then, I promise, well go get some lunch." Penda Nyota Uhura grinned, trying to coax the Enterprise nurse out of her grumpy mood.
"You and your bargains!" her blonde companion said in disgust, then returned the friendly grin. "Its not fair. No one can stay mad at you for long."
"Its your own fault," Uhura countered, chuckling softly at the look of outrage the accusation brought to Christine Chapels face. "You could have refused to come with me," she explained. "You know what my shopping trips are like. I simply cant go back to the ship empty-handed. After all, I have a reputation to uphold."
Chapel sighed. "No, that would never do," she agreed, a touch of sarcasm in her voice. "Not the infamous bargain champion of Starfleet. You always manage to find something special, exotic or uniqueand at a price well below what anyone else would have paid."
Uhura let her friend rattle on as she carefully peered through the windows of the shops they passed, determined both to make good on her promise to visit just one more shop and to uphold her master-shopper reputation by finding a one-of-a-kind bargain to show off back on the ship.
Shopping was more than a hobby for Uhura; it was a passion that dated back to her first deep-space assignment when she combed the shops on every world they visited, looking for just the right item to send back home to her grandmother. The African woman had loved all things bright and beautiful and delighted in each gift that young Nyota had managed to find for her. At first, Nyota had devoted almost as much time talking a crewman on another Starfleet ship or a trader headed for Earth to deliver the gift as she had in picking it out. But then, there had been a year when she hadnt been able to locate a courier for any of her special presents. So she had simply saved them, deciding that she would deliver them herself next time she went home on leave.
She spent the day she learned of her grandmothers death sitting cross-legged on her bunk, tears streaming down her cheeks as she tore the paper off each of the gaily wrapped parcels, angrily intent on throwing the lot away.
Something had stopped her, though, just before she could carry out her intention to hurl an irridescent perfume bottle at the bulkhead. Over the years, she tried to tell herself it had been her imagination, but at the time, she knew she heard her grandmothers voice whisper, "Oh, Nyota, how beautiful! Thank you for thinking of me."
And she knew she couldnt throw a single one of the trinkets away. The old saying was true: It really wasnt the gift; it was the thought that counted. Her pleasure in shopping had come from the warm thoughts the activity brought her of her beloved grandmother, and even death couldnt deny her that pleasure.
So she continued to shop, searching every world for the single gift that would most have delighted Mama Penda (for whom shed been named), carefuly storing them all in her quarters to be taken out and handled lovingly whenever she missed the old woman.
The years had only increased her pleasure in the shopping, and she had begun to appreciate her various finds for their individual beauty or uniqueness as well as the knowledge of how much Mama Penda would have liked them. Various shopping trips had yielded pieces of jewelry no one seemed to know how to wear, perfume so exotic she hadnt dared use more than a single drop, and a lacquered wooden box with myriad secret compartments and a daring picture painted on top of a couple entwined in an impossible embrace. Her grandmother would have really loved that one.
She also had tiny figurines so intricately carved you needed a magnifying glass to discern the design, exquisite miniature paintings, and antique cloth so perfectly woven it still held up after centuries on the shelf and had made up into the most beautiful caftan she had ever seen. It was a garment she always wore when she was feeling a little down, the silken folds seeming to wrap themselves around her as lovingly as Mama Pendas arms once had.
Uhura peered into yet another shop window and stopped, calling to Chapel, who was already two stores ahead of her. "Chris, come back. This is the one."
The Enterprises head nurse sighed and followed Uhura into the dusty shop.
A funny-looking little manat least Uhura thought it was a manhurried forward to greet them in a curiously accented version of Federation English.
"Ah, lovely ladies," he intoned in a rumbling voice strangely at odds with his angular body that seemed all arms and legs, his head with its tuft of blue hair bobbing precariously on the end of an incredibly long, slender neck. Uhura wondered idly why the bobbing head didnt go completely out of control and start flopping back and forth atop the neck like a childs toy. She coughed in an attempt to cover up the laughter she couldnt quite suppress. The proprietor tossed her a concerned look, then resumed his head bobbing when she managed to avoid any further sounds of either distress or merriment.
"For you what may I find?" the funny-looking little man asked. "A piece of jewelry so pretty perhaps? Or is it you want a potion for loving?"
"Do you have those?" Uhura asked delightedly, then called him back laughingly when he started to go off in search of the potion. "No, I didnt mean I wanted onenot really." She smiled encouragingly at his crestfallen expression. "Im really more interesting in looking at some of those." She pointed at a table of dainty metal containers in all shapes and sizes.
The proprietor bared his teeth in what apparently was an attempt to mimic a Human smile on his face and hurried over to the table to show her the various items, extolling the virtues of each as he pointed a triple jointed finger at it. Chapel followed them, apparently curious as to what her friend would choose to buy this time.
Uhuras dark hand reached out and picked up a tiny silvery container that resembled a perfume bottle. She exchanged smiling glances with Chapel, knowing the nurse would share her delight in the delicate vial. Its intricate design was somehow mesmerizing. The proprietor smiled again.
"Ah, it is taste good has the lady. A Vial of Dreams." She moved to open it. "No!" His warning stopped her before Uhura could remove the stopper. "First, buy you, then open it you can. But alone be first."
Uhuras eyebrow rose Spock-like, then she smiled. "How much?" The bargaining began.
In just a few minutes, the Enterprise women were back outside the shop, the tiny, well-wrapped package hidden in Uhuras shopping bag.
"Okay, Chris. Now for lunch. See any promising places?"
It was late that night before Uhura had the opportunity to examine her find properly. She and Chris had been forced to work Beta shift in order to take their leave during the all-importantat least to hershopping hours. Although "evening" was an artificial term on the starship, it had definite meaning to those whose bodies and minds were accustomed to a certain routine.
Standing in front of her dresser, Uhura lifted one elegant hand to cover a huge yawn as she used the other hand to pull the stopper out of the "Vial of Dreams," thinking what a curious name it had and wondering what it held inside. Security had scanned it and pronounced it harmless before allowing it aboard.
She wasnt disappointed. As she removed her hand from in front of her mouth, Uhura was startled to find a tiny face peering at her over the edge of the bottles opening. Grabbing the edge with equally tiny hands, the creature pulled himself up and then jumped from the bottle onto the dresser.
He was a perfect, miniature replica of the shops proprietorexcept the tiny tuft on top of his head was green instead of blue.
Uhura stared at him, mouth agape, for once in her life unable to think of a single thing to say.I give you thanks.
She jumped in surprise and peered closer at the creature. He hadnt spoken. The words had merely popped into her mind. Telepathic! No, I must be dreaming. Goodness, I hope that whatever inside that bottle wasnt a hallucinogen! Doctor McCoy and Security will have a fit!You have freed me from my prison. Now I will grant you your hearts desire. One wish in exchange for my freedom. An equitable trade, I believe.
At first, she was surprised at his perfect command of her language in contrast to the curiously convoluted version of standard the shopkeeper had used. Then she realized this little man communicated in ideas, not words. Her own mind put the concepts into the language she used most frequently. Why she gave such a formal structure to the phrases, she didnt understand. It must have something to do with his alienness and curious sense of dignity. She smiled to herself. Something about this tiny, green-haired creature reminded her of Mister Spock. He even sounded like...thought like...whatever. She knew what she meant.
"Youre offering to make a wish come true for me?" she asked, finding it easier to speak than project her thoughts.That is correct. Whatever you want, you may have. Tell me what it is. Only... He raised a hand in warning. It must be just one wish.
Uhura looked at him thoughtfully a moment. "I must have some time to think about this, then," she said finally. "I dont want to waste my wish."Of course, you do not. You are very wise. Take as much time as you wish. I do not object, as long as I may remain free of the vial while you are thinking. He sat cross-legged on top of the dresser, prepared to wait as long as necessary for her to make up her mind.
Leaving him there, Uhura walked over to her bed and lay back against the pillows, thinking.
Her hearts desire? Perhaps it was love she should wish for. Everyone wanted love, including her. But whose love? The vision of a lean, sallow face, highlighted by slanted eyebrows and framed by pointed earns, entered her mind. Like every other female on board the Enterprise, Uhura was fascinated by the Vulcan first officer. What would it be like to make love with himif he could ever be enticed to exhibit sufficient emotion to make love?
The creatures offer gave her the opportunity to find out. Uhura sighed. No. She couldnt waste her one wish on a silly whim. As much as she admired Mister Spock, she certainly wasnt in love with him and would merely be satisfying her curiosityand perhaps a little old-fashioned lust. Besides, if she succeeded, Chris would kill her! Maybe she should be unselfish and offer Mister Spock to Chris. She grinned. No way! Chris might be her best friend and in love with the Vulcan, but Uhura wasnt going to give away her single wish.
Sighing again, she allowed her thoughts to roam. Love still wasnt a bad idea. It just wouldnt be the forbidden Spock who provided it. It would be much more realistic to settle for a more naturally affectionate Human loverprobably more fun, too, if she were honest with herself.
Slowly, Uhura let the picture of an imaginary lover take form in her mind. He would have to be strong, in mind and body, and capable of stimulating her intellectually as well as physically. And he definitely needed a sense of humor. Uhura loved to laugh. "Okay, so much for personality traits," she told herself. "Lets get down to the basics. What will he look like?"
Unbidden, a handsome face entered her mind. A muscular body, strong, square hands, a crooked smile, and light brown hair and eyes, both touched with gold. A smile spread across her face. The captain? Why not? His open, friendly, charming personality was more to her taste than the dark, exotic Spockalthough she was not unresponsive to the Vulcans brand of suppressed sexuality. To unleash those banked fires...
She shook herself mentally. "Forget him, girl. Go back to the other one. Remember, hes more your typeand Christine isnt already in love with him."
Again, she allowed the fantasy to take shape in her mind. That handsome face bent over her, his sensual lips hovering just above hers, his hands already caressing her tingling body...
She stopped herself again and sighed. This wasnt going to work. Jim Kirk was as forbidden in his own way as his Vulcan friend. Despite the captains reputation as a ladys man, everyone knew he rarely had affairs with women on the Enterprise. He thought it was bad for moraleand discipline.
But she could change his mindwith a little help from her tiny friend over there. To have Jim Kirk all to herself, making love to her every night, holding her close afterward, whispering intimate secrets in the dark...
No. She shook her head in denial. It wasnt right. She could no more use this wish to make a man love her than she could the potion she had rejected earliereven if the man was as sexy as Jim Kirk. Love should come naturally, not be forced by some magic potion or spell. She sighed, giving up the dream reluctantly. If she really wanted him, she would have to find some other way to win hima more normal seduction. If she wanted him. She wasnt really sure she didat least not permanently, although she admitted to herself it would be at least fun, and stimulating, to find out.
Uhura abandoned the idea of having the captain as a lover and searched her own mind for an alternative wish. Maybe being the captain? Not of the Enterprise, of course; his Enterprise belonged to Kirk. But her own ship, maybe a smaller one...
She allowed herself to fantasize about the possibilities. She would have Chris as her chief medical officer, of course, if she could drag the other woman away from Spock. She wondered briefly if she could steal Sulu from Kirk, then dismissed the idea. Hed never leave the Enterprise, not unless it was for his own ship. It was too prestigious an assignment, and Hikaru had his own ambitions. Maybe Kevin Riley? Mentally, she assigned herself a crew of Starfleet officers she liked and admired. Not the top Enterprise crew, but one almost as good.
Then she turned her thoughts to the kind of missions she would go on. Like the Enterprise, her ship would explore the galaxy, finding new civilizations, making new friends, solving galactic-scale problems, preventing wars, ending famines...
That fantasy dissolved, too, as she remembered Gary Mitchell, Kodos, the war on Neural. Missions didnt always end in glory. Often they ended in tragedy. Was she ready for that? Remembering the grief-stricken look on Kirks face every time he lost a crewman or a mission went wrong and ended in tragedy, she knew she wasnt. Someday, with the proper training and experience, she would be. Shed get her chance then. But not now. It wasnt time yet.
Okay, so it wouldnt be love or a captaincy. What did that leave? Money, power, fame, maybe just a visit home. Or maybe she really should be unselfish. No, not give Spock to Christine. But she could use her wish to end the war on Neural or rid the galaxy of Klingons or wipe out a plague or famine on some stricken planet.
Uhura rose from her bed and walked back to the dresser. The creature grinned up at her. Your wish? he thought at her.
"First, I need the answers to some questions."
"What do I have to do to get the wish?"Just tell me what it is and then accept it.
"Its that easy?"Yes.
"And what do you get?"As I told you, my freedom.
"What will you do? You cant stay on the ship, and I cant very well have you beamed back to Troyius. How would I ever explain you?"It wont be necessary. Once your wish has been granted, I will regain my normal size and return to my planet under my own power.
"What will you do there?"
She repeated the question. Still, he refused to answer.
Then a fragment of a vision entered her mind and was swept away as quickly as it appeared when the creature quickly brought his thoughts back under control, hiding them from her.
But not before she had received that vision.
Uhura stared at him in horror. Had the vision been real? Was that what he had in mind? "No," she told him. She couldnt take the chance. "I dont accept your offer. I refuse."NO! You must! You have to! The thoughts were frantic now, frightened, the curious formality abandoned in his agitation. Its the rules. You must accept the wish, or I go back. Please!
The little man seemed to fade into a column of smoke which rose and entered the bottle. Uhura took the stopper and put it back firmly in place.
She shook herself and stared at the little bottle in her hands. Had that all really happened? It couldnt have. She was so tired. Surely she had just been dreaming. Laughing a little shakily, she set the bottle carefully back on the dresser and turned toward her bed, but the room seemed to fade from view as she again saw that brief but clear vision of the Laegeen proprietor of the shop on Troyius, lying on the floor of his store in a pool of his own blood. A green-haired replica of the Laegeen 'genie' stood over him, holding a long-bladed knife dripping with blood.
"No!" She turned back to the dresser and grabbed the bottle, hurrying from her quarters for the emergency chute in the corridor. Opening it, she shoved the bottle inside and heard it clank against the sides as it fell through the ducts and toward the vacuum of space outside.
Taking a deep breath in relief, she turned back to her quarters and found a curious Christine Chapel staring at her.
"What in space are you doing, Ny?" her friend asked. The emergency chute wasnt used for garbage, just dangerous items that threatened the ship or its crew. Her curiosity as to what Uhura could be disposing of showed clearly on her face.
"I" For once, Uhura was at a loss for words. Then she grinned. After all, Chris was her best friend. She wouldnt give her away, even if she thought Nyota had done something a little bit against regulations. And shed never believe the truthnot the whole truth anyway.
"I had to get rid of the Vial of Dreams, Chris," she answered truthfully, then added the lie. "I guess it was supposed to be perfume, but I couldnt bear to keep in on the ship. It smelled horrible..." Her grin faded, and she shivered in memory of the vials real contents. "...evil. I had to get rid of it."
Uhura turned away from her friend and hurried back to her quarters before Chapel could ask any more questions.
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