Chapter 1: A Piece of Art
Spock stepped into the walk-in closet, almost overcome with the scent of cedar and pulled out the black wool Kiton suit. The suit was one of a dozen, tailored by Enzo D’Oris’s direct descendant; each meticulously tailored to his body and hung precisely ½ inches apart on wood “Setwell” hangers. He reached for a white French cuff shirt, medium starch, similarly hung, his thin gray striped tie and a pair of black leather Stamford loafers.
His prizes in hand, he carried them to his dressing room and hung them on hand turned pegs, along the long white wall across from a full-length mirror. Standing in front of his dresser, he pulled out black over-the-calf socks, a dark belt and red silk boxers.
Stepping into the boxers, he dressed himself to the right and sat briefly on the white chintz chaise and pulled on his socks. Coming to his feet, he shrugged into his shirt, tugging down the French cuffs and carefully buttoning the front part way. He stepped into the black trousers, carefully tucking in the shirt.
Spock faced the mirror, turning up the crisp collar and tied the striped tie in a four-in-hand knot. The tie had been a gift from his Human grandfather and he handled it with affection. He slid his arms into his coat, finally buttoning the last collar button. He stretched his arms out, tugging on the cuffs and secured the dark pearl links at his wrist.
Turning to the side, he brushed his sleeves with the whiskbroom in the direction of the warp and weave of his tailored suit. He leaned toward the mirror as he buttoned his coat, running long fingers over his face, checking for errant whiskers. Satisfied, he straightened and sighed, he was ready.
A distinctly feminine voice made a noise of approval and Spock spun, facing a smiling Nyota. She was dressed in a low cut ivory gown, designed to show off her curves and slit almost to the hip, setting off spectacular legs.
She crossed the room and tugged at his tie, bringing delicate hands up to the sides of his face. She smelled of mint and expensive perfume and sweet sherry. He reached up to readjust his tie, and took her hands in his and kissed each palm.
Her dark eyes sparkled with humor and something else. He knew she wanted to kiss him but wouldn’t risk ruining her makeup so early in the evening. He smiled slightly and let affection show in his eyes. He stepped back, dropping her hands.
“Am I attired to your expectations?”
She tilted her head to the side, dark curls pooling on her bare shoulder. “Why, yes, Mr. Spock, you should make an excellent impression on my clients.” She feigned seriousness for a moment but couldn’t maintain it, laughter pealing from her.
He took her arm and led her down the staircase into the foyer. The richly appointed room was primarily white. The only color was polished oak banisters on the staircase and a large round cherry wood table in the center of the room, festooned with an impressive display of dark red roses in a large crystal vase.
Mr. Sulu was their appointed driver, opening massive oak doors that led to the porticle. The car chosen for the evening was a vintage model, a 1986 Lincoln Continental town car, lovingly refurbished by Spock himself. As Mr. Sulu held the door open for Nyota, Spock checked the interior, noting the white leather seats were immaculate and nothing was out of place. He stood and quirked an eyebrow at Sulu who nodded silently. Not only did the car pass muster under Nyota’s exacting standards, it also was as safe and secure as Spock could make it.
Finally underway, Spock took Nyota’s hand and rubbed her fingers gently. He sent her an inquiring look. She sighed and carefully leaned back against the padded seats, starring blankly ahead of her.
“Any last minute advice for the nervous human, Spock?”
“You need no advice, Nyota. Just continue to be yourself and recognize that the firm would not have you represent them at the Federation for the Arts banquet if they did not believe you had the interpersonal skills to impress.”
Nyota laughed, a musical sound, one he had heard too little lately. “Archer, Pike and Nogura.” She sighed. “Someday I will be a named partner, not just their go to senior, doing all the leg work.”
“Ah, but such lovely legs they are and attached to such a clever mind.” Nyota slapped his hand away as it stroked her mid thigh. Undeterred, he continued, “It would be illogical to send anyone other than their best, Nyota. You are knowledgeable, have unparallel interpersonal skills, and of course, your secret weapon.”
Nyota closed her eyes and frowned. “Yes, of course, my consort, who just happens to be a Vulcan, a member of one of the races we need to impress.” She opened her eyes and studied his face. “You aren’t nervous, of course, even though you haven’t had to deal with your people for some time. Do you think your father and mother will be there?”
“I am confident Sarek will be present, whether or not he will be accompanied by my mother is unknown.”
“You’d like to see her, though?”
Spock turned his head and looked out the window, watching San Francisco pass by, city lights flashing across his face.
“Of course. It has been 18.23 years since I have seen her in person. Sarek has gone to great lengths to insure we do not see each other. Doubtless he is aware I might be in attendance, but I am confident it will not cause any undue awkwardness.”
“I’m not concerned about that. Once we make the rounds . . .”
“I will discreetly disappear if Sarek makes his displeasure known. I am here to engage the Tellarites and Andorians, that is all.”
Nyota studied the side of his face. Spock was frowning, no doubt considering their social strategy for the evening. The Arts banquet was seemingly trivial but bringing artists from Earth, Tellar, Andor, and Vulcan, together under one roof was the goal and an important one. ‘Hearts and minds’ her father had always told her. Art was a universal language. The relationships built this evening and at the subsequent conference had potential to seal several political riffs. That was her firm’s agenda, at least.
Sulu drove the car down Mason St. and stopped in front of the valet at the Fairmont Hotel. Spock immediately stepped out as a liveried attendant opened the door, holding his hand out to Nyota. She slipped carefully out of the car and took his arm as they entered the hotel.
The lobby was ornate, baroque banisters followed the graceful staircase; gilt mirrors reflected the enormous flower arrangements. Spock barely acknowledged the grandeur, leading Nyota through the doors leading to the Gold Ballroom.
The room was enormous, filled with tables, covered in white damask, gold vases filled with white flowers from the four worlds. Silver table settings and fine porcelain lent an air of wealth and prosperity. Gold and silver candelabras held ivory candles that lit the room with a soft glow and filled it with the scent of beeswax. Even Spock, exposed as he had been to grand diplomatic gestures, was impressed.
An Andorian string quartet played quietly in the corner of the crowded room, barely heard over the hum of at least five hundred voices. A uniformed hotel captain greeted them formally and escorted them to one of the head tables at the front of the room. Finding their seats, Spock took Nyota’s chiffon wrap and clutch and laid them down on the upholstered silk chair. They both pivoted when they were greeted loudly and enthusiastically by Montgomery Scott, as always, eccentrically attired in full kilt and sporran.
“Donna ye look grand, me dear!” Scott carefully brushed his lips against Nyota’s cheek. She gave him a genuine smile, Spock suspected the last one of the evening.
“Scotty, you are a pleasant surprise!” Nyota stepped back to include Spock.
“Aye! I widnae missed this fete for the world! And Mr. Spock, gud teh see ye, too!” Scotty grabbed Spock’s hand in a meaty handshake and Spock mentally congratulated himself for not wincing.
“You are one of the evenings patrons, no doubt.” Spock extricated his hand and kept his face bland. He had no objection to the man and had enthusiastically followed his engineering patents. The patents had led to not only tremendous improvements in star ship engines but had made Montgomery Scott rich beyond the dreams of avarice. He was a man Spock was pleased to know and had every interest in impressing.
They chatted about inconsequentials as they moved around the room, greeting friends and associates. Spock was never far from Nyota’s side, mostly silent, interacting only as necessary. Scott, a keen observer, didn’t fail to notice that Spock watched the crowd continuously and carefully, as though guarding Nyota Uhura from any perceived threat.
Scott admitted to himself, that was exactly what he was doing. Everyone knew he served many roles as Nyota’s consort, not the least of which was keeping her safe and had been paid good money all those years ago by Nyota’s father, to make sure her life was free of worry and danger. When you were the daughter of the former Federation President, enemies could be anywhere but she was never as safe and secure as when she was with her personal Vulcan bodyguard.
That was how it had started at least, a master/servant relationship, taking a destitute and disgraced Vulcan scholar out of a University tenement and into a life of wealth and influence. What it was now, Scott couldn’t say. Spock rarely revealed any emotion but his affection and concern for Nyota certainly seemed genuine. He might even love her. Scott sighed, glancing over at the couple, now hand in hand. He had been unsuccessfully repressing his own adoration for her for many, many years. He hoped they had at least found contentment with each other if not a grand passion.
He was interrupted from his ruminations when he noticed Spock had tensed. Scott quickly looked around, trying to determine what had set him on edge. Two Vulcans had made their way through the crowd and stopped in front of Spock and Nyota.
Scott could see a muscle jump in Nyota’s jaw before her face noticeably smoothed. She stood tall; almost brittle, as she offered the ta’al and greeted them in Vulcan. Spock appeared frozen, only his eyes darkened slightly.
The Vulcan couple returned Nyota’s greeting, the male casting a quick appraising glance at Spock. Spock was implacable though as he nodded to them.
The female, a petite doll, raked him with her eyes before turning toward Nyota, her distain barely concealed.
“Miss Uhura, it is satisfying but not surprising to see you on this occasion. No doubt you intend to use your Terran influence on our gracious guests from Tellar and Andor.”
“T’Pring, our intent, as always, is to promote understanding between Federation worlds through the mutual language of the arts. Imagine my surprise to see you and Stonn present. I was not aware that your limited knowledge of diplomacy would cause you to attend such an illogical conference.”
Scott took a deep breath; the gauntlet was thrown. Just as he was about to diffuse the situation, T’Pring turned to him.
“Mr. Scott, surely your wealth and influence allows you to avoid consorting with the pretentious and ignorant?”
Before Scott could respond, Spock took a step into T’Pring’s space. Scott heard a growl and realized it had come from the male. Spock merely flicked an eyebrow at him and turned his attention to T’Pring, the hand on Nyota’s arm gripping hard enough to bruise.
“Your comments are both unwelcome and illogical as you are clearly ignorant of the goal and intent of this evening. I believe I speak for both Mr. Scott and my consort when I suggest you remove yourself from our immediate vicinity.” Spock didn’t even glance at Stonn whose face was flushed with rage.
“Aye, lassie, take yourself off. My friends and I plan on enjoying this evening and making a productive time of it as well.”
T’Pring placed a restraining hand on Stonn’s arm, giving them a condescending nod, turned and walked off into the crowd.
Nyota looked disbelievingly at Spock and quietly remarked, “What the hell?” She glanced at Scott who raised both eyebrows incredulously.
“I am somewhat concerned if that is the Vulcan response to something as simple and straightforward as an arts conference.” Spock frowned as he spoke, pulling Nyota closer.
She laughed without real humor. “Well then, we will have our work cut out for us tonight.”
A soft bell chimed through the ballroom indicating dinner was about to be served. Scott promised to find them later and left for his table, leaving Spock and Nyota alone.
She tucked a small hand in his and gave him a smile, leading him back to their table. They made their introductions to their table companions, which included a Tellerite couple, an Andorian, and a Deltan group consisting of two males and a very beautiful female, all three politely repressing their pheromones. The only human, other than Nyota, was a physician, clearly slightly inebriated and charmingly from the Southern part of North America, according to his accent and demeanor.
Spock did not find him nearly as pleasant company as the women did. He found his innuendos trite, his remarks crude and his accent impenetrable. Dr. Leonard McCoy tended to dominate the conversation and was a self-described expert on the keynote speaker, an up and coming painter, described as his best friend.
As the meal wore on, Spock managed to make conversation and contacts with the Andorian and Tellerites; the Deltans, however, made him slightly nervous. He kept one eye on Nyota, the other on the speakers who had taken over from the Andorian quartet.
Coffee and tea were finally served along with after dinner drinks, enthusiastically indulged in by Dr. McCoy, to Nyota’s amusement. By the time the final speaker had taken the stage, Spock’s interest in the evening had long waned. He contented himself with studying Nyota’s profile when he heard applause. Spock intended to half listen to the speaker, admittedly a talented young man, when he saw him, caught in a spotlight.
Spock never actually heard the speech. He was transfixed by the young man, light pouring off him, his katra crackling in the air around him. Spock looked around the room, especially at the other Vulcans, wondering if they were seeing the same thing.
Every sentient being produced an energy that most telepathic species could see to a degree. Humans, being psi null, produced a very flat, if occasionally colorful, aura. This man fairly radiated color, strands of energy and light streaming off his body, moving like waves around him. It was not a human signature, at least none he had seen before.
Spock knew he was speaking but couldn’t hear the words. He heard the timber of the light baritone, noted the flat vowels of the mid-west, and watched his hand gestures, expressive and evocative.
He turned to Nyota, who was listening closely. She pushed over the evening’s program and Spock read it, noting the speaker’s name. James T. Kirk.