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That Which Hides Under the Bed, by Linda
That Which Hides Under the Bed
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Synopsis of the whole story:
V’Lar returns to Vulcan to retire and write her memoirs. She plans to take an elder statesman role in the upcoming Andorian-Human-Vulcan talks. V’Lar’s sister is not comfortable with all the aliens who have become common on Vulcan in recent years. She also does not like a human as a mate for her childhood friend Soval.
The Andorian ambassador asks Amanda how she can get along with Vulcans, as getting physically close to a Vulcan is repugnant to him. It turns out Andorians have a deep-seated fear of telepathy. They have a myth about an evil telepath. Also something in the Andorian skin does make the touch of a Vulcan give an unpleasant shock. It is just one of those things like how Humans smell to Vulcans.
Amanda tries to discuss with Soval what is used to scare children in different cultures into behaving. This is pertinent because Soval is disconcerted about his effect on an Andorian child.
The pre-conference negotiations on Vulcan proceed and V’Lar’s sister is bored by them, which V’Lar thinks is the best reaction. It means things are going well.
Disclaimer: Paramount owns most of these characters but they come and talk to me anyway.
AN: This story occurs after the Kir’Shara episode and before the Babel episode of the Enterprise series. It is about pre-Babel negotiations on Vulcan between Andorians and Vulcans involving Soval, V’Lar, and Amanda Cole.
“Greetings my sister, it has been far too long.” V’Lar exchanged the Vulcan hand greeting with T’Sena then glanced at her aide to be sure he had her portfolio. The other baggage would arrive, or it would not. She was used to mishaps of that sort. What seasoned ambassador wasn’t? She must focus attention on her sister and let go of her profession for a while. “T’Sena, I assume your mate and children and grandchildren are all well?”
“As always,” replied T’Sena. “Unlike you we live placid and uneventful lives here at home. It has a certain contentment, but I do relish the exciting things you pass on to us in your letters. I will miss those, my dear, but I look forward to our increased interaction now that your retirement is due. Please stay with us until you find a residence which suits you. I know how much you value your privacy, but our home is quiet most of the time.”
“Of course. I have no other plans as yet. I am at a bit of a loss with an unplanned future. Perhaps I will write memoirs of my years away from home. I know there are some lessons to pass on from all those years, but it will take many days of meditation and thought to even start on that. How is Soval?” V’Lar inquired.
“I spoke to him briefly during the change over in government. The last time I saw him, months ago, he looked haggard and the injuries to his face still were not healed. There is a rumor that his closest friend was this Terran admiral who died and that he has a Human mistress. How revolting. I cannot bear to call her his wife because I do not believe such a sacred and intimate relationship is possible with a human, can you?”
“Actually I can,” V’Lar responded. “I suspected something like this would happen. Remember we grew up with Soval and I understand him somewhat. Don’t you? Does this really bother you, my sister? It is not as if our culture is threatened. What if there are a few interspecies bondings? Or a hundred, or even a few thousand? There are four billion of us on Vulcan and four billion people on Earth. There is always mixing at the edge of population groups. It is healthy, and it is inevitable wherever we establish trade relations and alliances.”
“Well you know best, having made a lifelong study of it. I will leave it to the experts and try to tolerate with grace the aliens who now seem to be common in our larger cities. I just don’t like seeing a childhood friend this close to them. You never entered into such a relationship. It may be that women have better discipline and emotional control.”
“I don’t think it is a gender thing. Soval is just Soval and he has been a great asset to Vulcan. There are over a million Vulcans on Earth now. Some of them have even applied for Terran citizenship, just as a few Terrans have become Vulcan citizens. As I said, it is inevitable, and truly we gain much more than we loose. Isolation was lost as an option centuries ago, when we first broke through the protective gravity of our world to explore space.”
“But these Andorians. Humans maybe, but Andorians, well, they make me shudder. And don’t get me started on Klingons!” exclaimed T’Sena.
“Some day we may even have Klingons attending our universities,” V’Lar pointed out. “But as yet, I believe no Klingon as ever stepped onto our planet. There will be Andorians soon, as negotiations with them are beginning. I would like to be part of that, but I will take an elder statesman role. I will try to observe only. I must step back and let the new generation gain experience. Yet a quiet word, here and there, may be needed to see it all goes well.”
Amanda’s visit to Vulcan was a great adventure. At first, she was timid of walking the city streets by herself. She studied the Vulcan language with Hoshi because speaking the language with Soval stunted conversation. Their relationship was way beyond “Hello my name is”, and “where is the bathroom”, and “how much does it cost?” Besides, he seemed amused with some of her pronunciation, which inhibited her efforts, making her speak even more poorly. But he did say he had felt the same way she did, when he first went out alone in San Francisco. She had the translator Hoshi gave her. Hoshi told her to use it only when she got stuck, or she never would learn the language. “Vulcans are patient, and of course no one will laugh at you for trying like some Humans would do. But they will go over and over a phrase with you until you get it perfectly.”
The shopkeepers near the shuttle-to-orbit landing port were used to Humans and other aliens. They seemed to know what goods a Human was interested in. Most Humans except Amanda, that is. Amanda made known her wish to a wizened Vulcan female, (with the help of the translator), to purchase the type of material Vulcans used in their meditation robes. When she told the woman she wanted to make a robe for a Vulcan friend and one for herself, she broke through the culture barrier. She was taken to a back room of the shop and given some tea. Then the woman carefully laid out several bolts of marvelously soft and subtly colored material. Delighted, Amanda chose several yards of a silky rose-beige. Then she was given a pattern, and the woman seemed concerned because it was written in Vulcan. Amanda told her that was no problem. She had a Human friend who knew the language well, so she need not ruin the surprise for her Vulcan friend by making him translate it. The woman was so accommodating that Amanda wondered if this was the first time a Human had shown such interest in her culture. Maybe she would not be that bad as an ambassador’s wife after all.
Amanda left the shop as evening was falling on Vulcan. The glare of the sun had softened almost to Earth levels. She enjoyed the red light playing on sand colored buildings, giving them a rose tint like the color of the material she had just purchased.
Soval helped Amanda into the transport vehicle that would take them back to their apartment. She was a bit woozy from the medication that covered the pain. The blow to her head had knocked her out, so she never saw her assailant. She had crawled out of the alley and collapsed at the feet of a passerby. This man called the Vulcan emergency service which took her to the medical center. The man also retrieved her package of material, but her ID and money were missing. Soval was assured by a healer that Amanda would be fine in a day or two.
Soval now knew how Admiral Forrest must have felt when a young woman of the Vulcan embassy staff had been pushed into San Francisco Bay by a group of thugs. Most Vulcans never learn to swim, so this woman would have drowned if it were not for an off-duty lifeguard looking out his apartment window. The lifeguard had run down three flights of stairs, jumped off the sea wall, and pulled the women to safety. Such selfless acts on the part of Humans were what made Soval decide there was hope for the species. Soval had been irritated by the admiral’s persistent apologies for this attack upon a guest to his home world. But now, Soval had to stifle the urge to keep apologizing to Amanda who just wanted to forget the incident.
The only clue that made Soval think this was not an opportunistic mugging, was the theft of Amanda’s ID. Most Vulcans would not be interested in a Human interplanetary passport. V’Lar concurred when she came to visit. Amanda, as a security professional, was more embarrassed by the incident than angry, but the Vulcans were determined to capture the culprit.
Soval was adamant that people accept his relationship with Amanda. So she was beside him at all the official social functions for the Andorians. With the translator, she was able to carry on in-depth conversations, and often left Soval’s side to talk with just one or two people at a time.
One evening the Andorian ambassador reached out to shake her hand. He indicated a semi-private niche, so they sat down together. The Andorian sipped his drink while looking closely at her. “From your handshake, I perceive that your touch is no different than touching another Andorian. I am much pleased. I think our two species could get along, despite, and pardon my candor, your unaesthetic skin color.”
Amanda was learning to ask delicate questions while maintaining politeness. Whatever bits of information she could pick up, might be useful to Soval. “Is physical contact with other species difficult for you?”
Though this question verged on the point of invasion of privacy, Amanda sensed no disrespect, only curiosity. So she attempted to answer it. “That is the telepathic sensation. I like it. It feels good to Humans. And between two Vulcans, it is very mild unless strong feelings are being projected. Accidental touch within the family is not upsetting to them, though it is unseemly in public. But Humans, because they are telepathically insensate when touching each other, don’t know how to block the projection of emotions. Vulcans can sense these Human emotions, and tire easily when socializing among us. I don’t know why telepathic touch works between a Vulcan and a Human, but not between two humans.”
“You like the touch of a Vulcan? Of course you must if you are living with one. I find it sickening. It makes me ill even to think of it. We have this legend, it is quite ancient.” And he told her a story of a snow cave where a telepath lived. This telepath was responsible for creating winter, so he could sneak up on Andorians slumbering through a long winter night, and steal their thoughts. Once their thoughts had been stolen, Andorians become zombies, never to regain their ability to think. The story was used to keep children from wandering off and going to sleep in the snow. Although Andorians have a great tolerance for cold, and can survive sleeping in snow, it can do permanent damage to their cerebral functions.
Trying to relate this horror of telepathy to her own cultural experience, Amanda told the Andorian ambassador about Human vampire tales. She said the concept had surfaced many times in Earth history, although she did not know its true origin. Even now, these tales were chilling, and recounted when Humans wanted to scare each other. The ambassador was intrigued. After Amanda related one short vampire story, he leaned forward with a gleam in his eye. “What marvelous beings. Is there any truth behind these legends? Have you yourself ever met a vampire? Andorians believe drinking each other’s blood is an intimate act of friendship. Tell me more.”
Amanda considered that she may had not have gotten her point across. She was prevented from further conversation with the Ambassador, when Soval sought her out so they could make their exit. A round of negotiations was to start early the next day, and Humans needed their sleep, he explained. What a convenient excuse I am for him, thought Amanda. At least I am of some use to him in this game of interplanetary intrigue.
At their apartment, Soval exchanged his ambassadorial robes for his meditation robe. Just before retiring, he came up behind Amanda and circled her waist with his arms. “You seem to be getting on well with the Andorians. That is good. They seek you out, but avoid me. So tell me, what are they saying?”
“It was interesting, but I am glad to be home with you. I wish to snuggle and forget the scary things we were discussing.”
“Yes. We were swapping stories that frighten Human and Andorian children. It brings back memories of leaping into bed as a child, trying to evade the monster under the bed who reaches out to grab your foot.”
“Fascinating. I never can anticipate what Humans will get themselves into. That keeps our relationship from becoming boring. I guess I am one of the few Vulcans for whom boring is not a synonym for contentment. Do tell me what scares Andorian children.”
“Vulcans. I mean telepaths. They use stories about telepaths to scare naughty children into behaving. Do you know about vampire stories among Humans? You never told me what scares Vulcan children. What does scare them? Do you know any Andorian mythology?”
“Why is it Humans cannot ask one question at a time? Yet your questions are related. And all this may hold a key to Vulcan-Andorian relations. Thank you Amanda.”
“That is all you are going to say?” Amanda fumed while climbing into bed and fluffing a pillow. “Tell me, what scares Vulcan children? You were a naughty child sometimes. Remember what you told me about those trees? Did your parents do anything about that?”
“They told me it was illogical to climb them, and I was deprived of my favorite treat food for half a year,” explained Soval, lying flat on his back with his hands behind his head.
“I guess that didn’t scare you”
“So what does scare Vulcan children?”
“Fear is an emotion. Children are taught to repress it, and their parents do not use it as a tool to influence their children’s behavior.”
“I was afraid you would say something like that.”
“Don’t be afraid. Will snuggling cure that for you?” Soval did not wait for an answer, he just moved closer to Amanda and brushed his lips along her neck. “Hmm, where shall I bite?”
“Your parents should have deprived you of your favorite treat for a full year, you mean old Vulcan vampire!”
Family members rarely accompanied the negotiators to the Vulcan Institute for Interplanetary Affairs Conference Center, but there were accommodations for visitors in one wing. Ambassador Soval walked through this area deep in thought. He had come to rest his eyes on the magnificent view of Vulcan’s primary city, that the visitor’s wing afforded. It served as a brief meditation. Starting back down the corridor to the negotiation rooms, Soval almost tripped over a small Andorian child running toward the large window, which bathed the room with strong Vulcan sunlight. It was a perfect play area. The Andorian child skidded to a stop, looked up, and started to back away from Soval.
“Don’t come near me you monster with pointed ears! I won’t let you touch me with those long green fingers that suck thoughts out! I don’t want my brain to be emptied so that I never can see my mommy again and not remember my name!” The child was sobbing, truly terrified.
Soval wondered why an Andorian child with such fears was unattended. Was he the first Vulcan the child had ever seen? It hardly seemed possible, if this was the son of one of the negotiators. Nothing Soval could do or say would calm the boy. Soval had to resist reaching forward to apply a soothing touch, as that was just the gesture which might send the child, through fear, into a catatonic state. Then who was to say that Soval had not done just what the child expected, by touching him?
Soval had rarely felt such embarrassment. “I never would hurt you, child,” he said softly. Soval turned and walked away. An Andorian woman stepped wide of him in the corridor as he passed. He turned to speak to her, but she ignored him and hurried by. He heard her address the child who pointed in his direction and whispered, “That monster tried to…, tried to…” and broke into sobs again. The woman picked him up and carried him off saying: “There, there dear. I won’t let the monster get you. Let’s go find your parents.” She turned and gave Soval a scathing look, before disappearing around a corner.
Later in a small private conference room, Soval was finishing the take out lunch Amanda had brought. This was a rare opportunity for the two of them to talk alone during the preliminary negotiations. Though negotiations would continue in the conference on Andoria in another month, Soval would not be attending. He had to be on Earth to plan an important joint Terren-Vulcan exploration initiative. Considering this morning’s incident in the visitor’s center, Soval was thinking it was just as well. Perhaps V’Lar would be better at encounters with stray Andorian children.
Amanda sighed. “If you are always going to wear your hair like this, I will have to learn how to cut it for you. I think it’s getting a little long.”
“Leave it alone.”
“I won’t spike it, honestly! It is starting to cover your ears.”
“Covering my ears is good for now.”
“Soval, what is wrong?”
“I scared an Andorian child today. He called me a monster with pointed ears.”
“Oh Soval, I am sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for. It wasn’t your fault.”
“No. But your ears are your best feature.”
“I always assumed so.”
“Continue to assume so. Let me show you how much I like your ears.”
“Please, not now Amanda, I must return to the conference table. But later I will be anticipating due respect to be lavished upon my ears.”
A hand of people have made comments
This is great, looking foward to the next chapter.
Great start to what looks like being an intriguing story. I love the odd details you throw into your writing, like the tree climbing incident. And of course I love the fact that someone else realises that Soval/Amanda is an incredibly logical pairing that deserves to be written about! I'd like to know how they got together in your universe. Finally apologies for not reviewing your earlier stories - I've been a little distracted lately.
Thanks ShouldKnowBetter! I really admire your writing and took a lot of Soval's character from yours. I really don't have a back story for how Soval and Amanda got together here, they just seem a logical pairing. After all, it would take a strong character to deal with him. Perhaps you could write something? I kind of think they must have met aboard Enterprise somehow. Anyway, I wrote this first chapter in a rush and now I have to take some time tying up all the stuff I open up in it. This culture clash stuff is always so interesting to work with. I draw on stuff from my own life - my family being kind of from two worlds.
I don't know where you are heading with the story but it's very good so far.