August 6th 2295
She said the words she had been dreading for so long. "During the course of my career, Ive often felt like I was the butt of some cosmic joke. Almost from the beginning, events conspired to humiliate me."
Doctor Sydney Beals looked at Uhura, and then responded when she did not continue any further. "By that, do you mean the common lack of respect that some in Starfleet show to Communications Officers?"
"No. Ive learned to deal with that. Ignorance keeps its own counsel, my mother used to say. Besides, Ive actually been a commanding officer of an escort vessel."
Beals took a sip of water, her face all patience. "Then I need help in figuring out what you mean by humiliation."
Uhura had been avoiding this. She had wanted to talk to an old friend first. But two of her oldest and dearest friends were presumed dead. Two were now starship captains, with concerns far greater than her own on a daily basis. One was a fellow first officer, enough said there. One was in the deepest mourning a man could be in and yet live. One was just as likely to tell her to go talk to Beals, being the common-sense choice. One had shared in and been scarred by one of the most deeply humiliating episodes. Two were kids, relatively speaking, and had known long, grim bouts of emotional fragility. So to Beals she went, when she felt she could bear no more.
"Where to start?"May 19th 2266
Hurriedly, Penda joined the others in the turbolift, leaving the odd man behind. She would not see him, ever again, outside of certain dreams.
"Uhura, did you know that man?"
She felt cold and flush inside. She thanked God she wasnt alone. Decorum prevented her from turning the lift back. Back to him.
"Yeah, Lieutenant, you moved like you really wanted to avoid him."
Yet silent for now, Uhura knew the awful truth. She hadnt run from the odd, perfect man because she was scared of him. She had run because she wanted to be near him, be with him, for the rest of her life. It was that guttural response which scared her.
"The creature wanted my salt, so it turned on my hormones, my feelings of loneliness, and generally preyed on my innate weaknesses."
Beals shook her head. "Commander, the M-113 Salt Vampire did that to a number of people, including several that it killed. I did an entire school paper on Doctor Craters outré relationship with the creature that killed his wife, and eventually, himself. Obviously, the pheromones it used were highly potent."
Uhura nodded. "Had that been the only real incident, I would accept all your words, which have been my own words, when Ive thought about it all. But the problem is, Doctor, that was merely the beginning."
January 4th 2267
Captain Kirk looked over at the communications station. "Something wrong, Lieutenant? Besides the repair work, I mean."
It sickened Uhura to look at her console in this condition. It sickened her even more to know that she herself was the one who put it in this shape. "Captain...when I..."
There was still anger in his voice. Even though he knew it hadnt been their fault. It couldnt be helped. It was how captains were built. This one twice over.
"Yes, sir. When I did all that, did I indicate what type of sabotage I undertook?"
He looked her over, again. Would this sorry incident ever fade from his memory? Likely not. "No. You merely stood there with that sugary voice you and Bones and Spock all got and told me I would understand. Get that console back up, Miss Uhura. Some may see your job as a joke" He made for the turbolift doors. "but Ive always seen it as being absolutely vital."
"Yes, the damned flower had been responsible. Yes, it was the entire crew that fell under its spell, at one point including the captain himself. But I couldnt help but feel that my betrayal had been the most cutting. In our relationship, he almost never spoke to me like I was a switchboard operator or some other unenlightened euphemism. I paid that back by rendering him helpless to act. So again, I told myself my will had been overridden."
"Which it had," added Beals quickly.
"Yes, it had. But nownow that was becoming a trend. I was feeling irrelevant. I dared imagine that this couldnt become any worse."
February 9th 2267
She stared out at the blackness that now seemed an endless row of razored teeth. The stars were no longer inviting.
"Scotty, what kind of event could have erased Enterprise? How could anything Doctor McCoy could do change all that weve ever known?"
"Lass, time is as any other engine. It runs a certain way, when moving in a certain direction. Any wee combination of factors can set it all askew. But we must have faith. Faith in God, and his plan. Faith in Captain Kirk and Mister Spock. Faith, period."
Eventually, the three officers did return, and all was as it had been. But right before they came back, a desperate Uhura gave in and said the words she would chastise herself for, later: "I dont exist anymore."
"How was that humiliation? I dont quite understand."
Maybe Pavels first impression of this doctor was dead-on. "Weve all contemplated what our non-existence would be like. I got to see mine as a stated fact. It wasnt the last time I saw it, either."
June 17th 2267
The spark lit unseen from the floating machine to the young woman. It first wiped away her reactions to seeing the device. Useless. It then rubbed out her knowledge of her function aboard the ship. Pointless. The spark proceeded to detach her from her associations to her friends and loved ones. Distractions. It took everything she had, like a master chopper delimbing her before finally taking her head. Someonewas it her nephew?it was someones nephew, anyway, had spoken of not being there anymore astentacles, spikes?took control of him. But that didnt last long, for memories of such things were, in the sparks view, irrelevant.
As the bridge crew watched Lieutenant Uhura fall, very few realized that she was already long gone.
Beals nodded. "Wholly terrifying. Mind-numbing. Yet here you are, here and now, hale and hearty. What is it about the present time that raises these feelings to the fore?"
Not prepared to answer just yet, Uhura shook her head. "Please. I know this sounds disjointed. But you have to hear me out."
Beals did not look unsympathetic. But she did look uncomprehending. "Keep going."
"The odd thing was, I resolved my feelings over the other universe we beamed into relatively quickly. It was an evil place, and in it I was an evil persona bit of a wanton, from what I could gather. It was disturbing, but it wasnt a vague experience. In other words, Ive let it go. The same thing with Platonius. It was so blatant and outright a humiliation, I knew what I was dealing with from the start. But I cant reason out why I have, when other, lesser things stay with me."
Beals pointed to her own head. "Your mind does what it will. Accept that, and tell me more of what has stayed with you."
Her blood ran absolutely cold. "Another time, another place, another beam-out gone wrong. He was a drill thrall, and he was sent into my cell to train me for battle. He had different ideas about battle than his Gamesters maybe wanted."
October 6th 2267
He lay there, on the floor of the cell, clutching his own crotch. He was in pain. He was hacking. He was laughing.
"Stop that, or I swear to God, I will kick you again!"
The bastard just wouldnt stop laughing. Uhuras knee had done its job well. But he wasnt showing any verbal signs of that.
"Haheeh. Eventuallyahh!you must sleep. Eventually, even this PAAAIN! will become bearable. Then, we will resume your trainiOOOWWWW!!!"
So she kicked Lars again, and yet again. Yet still he wouldnt stop his laughing and boasting.
"He was lying in his own vomit, and he still wouldnt admit that he no longer had the upper hand. He didnt take me. I took him down. Hard. But he wouldnt acknowledge my victory."
Beals was trying, but still not making the connections, to look at her face. "So what? You prevented your own rape. He was defeated, whether he would admit it or not. He sounds more than a bit like Khmyr Ive heard of."
Uhura closed her eyes. "Im not fragile, you know. Ive faced Khmyr, and worse than Khmyr. Lots worse. Yet these things have lingered."
Beals smiled. "Of course you have, and of course youre not fragile. My frustration comes from not seeing where all this in leading."
Understanding the psychologist just a little better, Uhura continued, "In space, you find out that non-existence takes many forms. Some, I handled better than others."
October 29th 2267
The restored crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise was assembled in the larger of the two assembly areas. They were not happy.
"But, vwill the Kelvans at least be prosecuted?" asked Chekov.
Captain Kirk was trying his best to calm frayed nerves. "As much as I would like to, no, they wont. They agreed to turn over this vessel to us."
Sulu shook his head. "What about the murder of Leslie Thompson? What about what they did to all of us? Id like to maybe see that belt-buckle monstrosity turned on them!"
Kirk bit his lip. "Starfleet informs me that my decision to strand Rojan and his fellows on that planet where we found them to be an acceptable punishment. They will, for all intent and purposes, be marooned there, living in exile, as it were, much as we did Khan and his people."
Angry questions continued to be brought up, and inadequate answers continued to be offered up. Unable to bear the image of herself as a cube on a chair, a ready hostage to be crushed at the whim of callous aliens, Uhura left. She knew exactly where she was going.
A few minutes later, she stood before the brig cell that held the Kelvan called Kelinda. She fixed her hardest, coldest stare at the hard, cold being now trapped in Human form. "You should feel very, very lucky. Because you are not worth losing my career and my freedom over. You and yours are simply not worth the trouble."
Beals was again confused. "Commander? That sounds a lot like a triumph, not a humiliation."
"The humiliation rises from the fact that Rojan and his people got off scot-free. And Captain Kirk was the one who decided to offer them this amnesty."
Beals raised a finger. "Less than three years later, they were ironically killed by their own people, devoured whole for the information and memories locked in their brains. Karmas a cruel bitch, Penda. Can you bring up something a little more current? Youre dwelling on the events of thirty years ago."
Uhura nodded. "Sybok. Nimbus Three. Ten years ago."
"What happened there?"
Penda gulped, openly. "There was...a lot of dancing."
March 14th 2285
Kirks voice came through over her wrist communicator as she overlooked the encampment from the ridge opposite his position. "Uhura, if you can work one up, we need a distraction by your position. I dont care what kind...just so long as its a distraction."
Shed known Jim Kirk in several ways, over the years, and it was as Commanding Officer that he remained at his most demanding, no matter what the innuendo said.
"Coming up, sir."
Ordering the small force she had been given to advance up the nearby hill yet remain back out of sight. Any attack would send a rider to this Sybok, warning him. Yet these were still untrained soldiers, well away from their families, and their homes.
"Not to mention their wives," she completed her thought aloud.
Suddenly, thoughts of the Greek play, Lysistrata, ran through the learned officers head. Thoughts that had her a little bitter, as events and the needs of a mission would once again force her into a very vulnerable and embarrassing position.
"Uhura to Captain Kirk. Be ready for your distraction, sir."
The communications officer began to undo the buttons of her tunic as she tried to force a smile. "What Jim Kirk wants, Jim Kirk gets!" She sighed.
Her every covering all laid aside and easily recoverable, a loyal officer breathed in. The march to the top of the hill felt very long, and she tried to take the eyes upon her as a given in a difficult, unorthodox mission.
"Where the hell are the Klingons when you need a distraction?"
But the Klingons would arrive in their own time, and so she began to sing and dance for all she was worth.
"The rest, as they say, is infamy."
Beals winced, feeling for her patient. "Nothing at all? No panties?"
Uhura shook her head. "Naked as a jaybird. Old enough to be a grandmother, strutting free and breezy on top of a hill. Id found some Nimban totho feathers which I fashioned into a couple of fans."
Beals tried to turn it into a positive. "Well, Captain Kirk certainly got his distraction."
Uhura nodded, albeit very grimly. "He and Pavel swore everyone there to secrecy...with some real swear words. Sometimes, though, I still hear about it. Happily, though, I didnt embarrass myself too badly, under Syboks direct influence."
Beals sighed, and made a stab at trying to close it all up. "Anything else that made you feel the way youve been describing?"
The executive officer of the Enterprise-B breathed in. This last one involved no lost clothes, no detention, and no shredding of loyalties or dignity. Merely pain.
August 15th 2293
"You vwere instructed to gain our confidence?" asked Commander Chekov.
The Vulcan woman who now seemed as cold as all of space merely nodded. They had come for answers from the woman they had thought of as a new friend. Officially, it was simply another round of interrogation for the prisoner. Unofficially, they wanted to understand why Valeris had betrayed them all.
"Mister Valeris, did it never occur to you that billions would most certainly die in the war you were trying to trigger?" asked Uhura.
"Better the death of a few billion in war than for the Federation to disarm itself. The Klingons would eventually decide to attack, if not for the glory of conquest, for the resources their homeworld would so vitally need. Logic suggests that the death of a few billion is preferable to the living death of trillions as slaves following the defeat a defenseless Federation would have suffered against a Klingon Empire emboldened by the economic ruin they faced. I draw my analogy to Englands Chamberlains appeasement of Hitlers Nazi Germany."
Uhuras blood began to boil. "And yet you aided our efforts to recover Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy from Rura Penthe?"
"Once I determined that Captain Spock had a means to secure Captain Kirks escape from Rura Penthe, I knew that he would succeed. I also knew that once Captain Kirk was aboard the Enterprise, he could then be dealt with since his Klingon prison wards had utterly and completely failed in their attempts to permanently silence him. It wouldve been childishly simple to kill him, and I had devised several means to do so."
Uhura was ready to scream.
Uhura closed her eyes for a moment, then spoke again. "As we interrogated her, Peter Kirk lay in Sickbay, very close to death. He had stopped a group of Khmyr from killing Doctor McCoys family. It hit me even harder, then. Peter had betrayed us in the past, and almost instantly regretted it. But Valeris never would."
Beals shrugged. "She was a patriot in her own mind, Commander. Everyone who has done something as she has uses a similar mindset, and its frightening. But Id be more scared of whoever the conspirators got to lather her up. They were never found."
Now, the psychiatrist moved in for the kill. "Besides, almost all these incidents are a decade or better in the past. Why are they eating you alive now?"
Uhura gently shook her head. "Doctor, I just dont know."
Beals's expression became perplexed, and she was about to say something when Uhura continued.
"No, thats not true. I do know some of it. I know that Ive been wondering whats next? What other joke does the universe have waiting for me?"
Beals took this in for a moment, then spoke. "Well, whatever it is, the potential humiliation wont be in a form youve known. After all, youre the grown-up, now."
Uhura looked confused. "I dont get it. Ive been a grown-up for decades, now."
Beals raised a finger. "Not a grown-up. The grown-up. The executive officer essentially plays grown-up to the entire ship. Consider where you are, in your life."
"All right. The captain who turns to you for answers and advice is an officer you helped train. Two of your most noteworthy officers are the proteges of the men you looked up to all those years."
Uhura smiled. "You know, Ive known both Peter and Saavik so long that I tend to forget their connections to Captain Kirk and Mister Spock. And Pavel? Well, to me hell always be Pavel. Are you saying somethings different now?"
Beals nodded, more sure-looking this time. "Yes. We all imagine that when we grow up, we will be free from fear. When we actually do grow up, we find out that fear merely changes forms, and can even get worse, because its all unknown again. We discover that when we reach the top rung of one ladder means we have to start at at the bottom of a new ladder. Your problem, in my opinion, isnt the past. Its the future. In a previous session, you told me that watching Demora Sulu die was not the most painful part of her loss."
Uhura bit her lip, just for a second. "Hikaru would handle it, in his own manner. Pavel and I...well, we have our ways. At that point I still wasnt sure if Willis OBrien had really loved her. But Peter Kirk? He always takes death personally. Yet, at that moment, Demora was lost, and two of our Sciences team had to be checked out ASAP. So I swallowed my heart and firmly reminded him that we needed him at his station. Is that what Im going to be facing, from here on in?"
Beals tried to cut the tension. "Oh, I wouldnt worry, Penda. You may still have some nude scenes upcoming."
Uhura smiled, despite herself. "Only if the duty roster calls for it. But Im a lot more likely to be ordering young people around the sights and sounds of death, arent I?"
Beals closed her padd. The session was over. "Hold that thought. But the short answer is: Yes. Your responsibilities have evolved. So will the fears youve faced." She glanced at her wrist chronometer. "Next time I want to hear why some of your friends call you Penda and some call you Nyota and some call you both." She raised an eyebrow at the executive officer.
Uhura laughed. "Agreed," she said, standing. "Now thats quite a story."
The first officer walked out, and then chose to gather herself around the corner, before taking stock of her duties for that day.
She saw two people walk into Doctor Beals office. Lieutenant Commander Saavik and Lieutenant Peter Kirk. When they did not immediately emerge, Penda reminded herself that sometimes, even people who were merely friends needed counseling. But as the other possibility emerged in her mind, thoughts of having to mediate the two at some point had Uhura rolling her eyes.
"Where the hell are the Klingons when you really need a distraction?"
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