T’Ria and the Rain Man, Part 2

T’Ria and the Rain Man, Part 2

Spock studied her curiously for a moment, his own emotions stirring
uncomfortably. “You never felt… sexual attraction… you never felt
love for your family… and you never felt friendship either?”
“How could I, when no one ever felt any of those for me?” Maria Susanne
began loading her pills back into their container. “Do you know what
childhood is like, for someone with autism? Do you know what it’s like
for someone with Tourette’s? For someone with OCD? With ADD? It was all
of that for me, and then some. Do you know what it’s like to be fifteen
years old and have a social worker–one, mind you, who spells `its’ with
an apostrophe in the possessive, `a lot’ as one word and `there’ in
whichever way it *isn’t* supposed to be spelled at the moment– come up
to you and criticize you for shutting your locker too loudly?” Maria’s
tone had never sounded more as though there ought to be emotion in it.
“Now before you answer, add this to the scenario: She doesn’t say,
`Maria, you shut your locker too loudly.’ She says…” and the human
affected a high-pitched, baby-talk voice. “`*Now how do we shut our
lockers, Maria*?'”
Spock raised the eyebrow again, hoping this version of his one facial
expression got across a sufficient amount of sympathy.
“It was like that all through school. Tourette’s and everything else
aside, when autism alone gets on the record, the student instantly loses
her identity. Do you know the 20th century? Movies they made back then?
You heard of Rain Man? That’s what happens when they know you have
autism. You become Rain Man. Or worse, the `mentally disabled child’
stereotype. You can be sixteen and they assume you have the mind of a
three-year-old. They ignore all evidence to the contrary. You can have
an IQ of 143, you can create languages and write books and sonnets and
draw pictures people mistake for photographs, it’s all the same. I
corrected my teachers’ grammar in kindergarten. Do you know what they
did? They *yelled* at me. They sent a referral to my parents. I never
missed a class, or a test, or a homework assignment my whole senior year
of high school. Do you know what they did? Every time they saw me come
in with my homework done? They said, `*Good choice, Maria*!'”
” `Good *choice*’?”
“That’s Special Ed’s idea of praise. They thought they had to hammer it
into our heads that we made `choices’ and they had
`consequences’–that’s what punishments were called, too, by the way,
‘consequences’–so everything we did was described as a `choice.’
Correcting the teacher is a `bad choice.’ Do you know what I told them,
in junior high? I said, `Every event in the space-time continuum is
affected by every previous event and affects every subsequent event, and
is the product of a chain of events leading back to the beginning of the
universe, and if the universe began all over again with all the same
matter in the same places, history would be identical; our actions are
a result of physical processes in our brains determined by the physical
effects of outside forces and the physical construction of our brains
themselves, both of which result from similar chains of events,
therefore, the choices we make are inevitable.'”
“You said that?”
“I said that. And do you know what they said that was?”
“A… bad choice?”
Maria Susanne nodded. “A bad choice.”
Spock picked up his tray, realizing that it was late and everyone else
in the mess had finished dinner long ago. “And this was childhood for
you?”
“A small slice of it, but representative of the whole.”
“And then it was New Symmetria.”
“And then it was New Symmetria. But in between, there was one thing
that made my life worth living.” She began gathering up the remains of
her meal, shoving the pill bottle back in her pocket. It made an
asymmetrical lump on one hip of her ugly pink pants.
“One thing?”
“My time as a cadet on the Enterprise.”
He finally caught her gaze, and once more, the rare moment of eye
contact was electric.
“I am glad that you enjoyed it,” he murmured.
“You will never know how much, Spock. For nine days I had a taste of
the life I wanted. It didn’t matter then, that my life up till then had
been horrible, and I didn’t know then, where I was going to spend the
rest of it. I was *happy*. I was learning how to use the communications
systems, I was showing off my talents and people were admiring me… and
Nyota was so nice, so kind to me. She introduced me to her friend
Christine. Christine was pretty nice too… except once she was really
worked up about something… snapped at me and made me go synthesize a
whole package of plomeek soup ingredients…”
If Maria Susanne was watching him, training all her limited skills on
gauging his reaction to what she said, Spock did not notice.
Because now he realized what Jim had meant when he said Spock could not
have been expected, at the time, to notice a new cadet…
And he realized for the first time how long it had been since then…
And for the first time he realized that time was dangerous.

* * *

Not as dangerous as it was now, with T’Ria looking at him over the
chessboard expecting him to make a move that his hands did not know how
to make… when there was only one thing his body could do, for which
the desire was raging so violently that the shreds of his mind that
remained could hardly hold it back… and he knew he must not allow
himself the release toward which his instincts drove him, even if it
meant that he would die when the chess game ended, die slowly,
painfully, and alone…
Even three months ago, with the threat of destruction and with Maria
Susanne’s insanity claiming her as his even now was claiming him, time
could never have been this dangerous…
And once more, memory of the past enveloped him in its deceptive
illusion of security, and three months dropped away as if they had never
been there.

* * *

To the past again, to the day he had discovered the feeling. Discovered
the woman who was now at his chessboard. Discovered understanding.

It had been half a year since the distress call. For half a year
Maria’s relocation to a new home had been postponed and postponed again,
Spock somehow always being the one to find an excuse for it. He studied
her and he was fascinated by her, too fascinated to relinquish his
new-found experiment. For she was an engrossing experiment, turning up
in every conversation a new set of clues to his studies of the human
psyche–and just as many new questions.
Half a year spent in silent dinners with Maria, eating and watching
her eat… in hours of conversation afterwards, reading her poetry and
her invented languages and mentoring her on human behavior… and in
solitary anguish in his quarters, trying to discover some means of
protection against the danger of time. His forty-second birthday had
come and gone, and he had told no one. It was as he was leaving for
another of the silent dinners he had come to enjoy that Uhura alerted
the bridge crew to the incoming communication.
They had just had a skirmish with a Klingon ship, some renegades afraid
of some distant prospect of alliance and going around stirring up
trouble between the Federation and the Empire. It had taken out their
shields and damaged the hull considerably, but they had retaliated with
a disabling shot at its weapons before it could take further advantage
of their vulnerability. Understandably, however, there was tension when
the communications officer announced, “Being hailed by an unknown
vessel, sir.”
Spock turned around and reentered the bridge as Kirk announced, “On
screen.”
The creature that flickered into view was humanoid, and an elderly
male, so the baldness did not seem out of place and it took Spock a few
seconds to identify it in his mind as a Deltan.
“I am Captain Aili of the Federation starship Natl’ed,” said the image.
“I recognize you, Captain James T. Kirk. My starbase has given me a
missile which I am under orders to fire through the hull of your
beautiful ship.”
There was a stunned silence.
Finally the captain broke it, saying in a faltering voice, “What is the
reason for this?”
“Dear sir, I have no idea. I was simply the only vessel between here
and the base that was going your way–and that, I believe, is why I was
chosen. I am not at all sure what the missile is for. I was only asked
to fire it at you.”
“We have done nothing to incite that kind of reaction in anyone,” said
Kirk in bewilderment, “let alone the Federation.”
“I believe it was decided as a result of your recent conflict with the
Klingon ship.”
“They attacked us first. We were fighting back. And we didn’t even hurt
them. We just took out their phasers.”
“But they damaged your vessel, I understand, which I believe is why it
was decided that you should receive the missile at this time. You are
very vulnerable to weapons at the moment. Please, sir, I must fire it
into your vessel. I have things of my own to do, you know.”
“Can we negotiate, at least?”
“We can negotiate the time,” acceded the Deltan, his good-natured look
not shifting a millimeter, “but according to my orders, the missile
must be fired today.”
Kirk turned and paced for a while, and finally said: “Then give me
eight hours to inform my crew.”
“Certainly, Captain Kirk,” said the smiling Aili, and the viewscreen
was shut off as Kirk moved to confer hastily with his officers.
“The Federation would never order anyone to shoot us!” objected
Chekov.
“Precisely. This is ridiculous. What do you think, Sulu?”
“Captain, I think the only choice is to fire and disable his weapons
before he gets the chance. With our shields out, plus the damage we just
sustained, I don’t think we can handle another fight.”
“But what if we miss? I don’t even think I know where the phaser banks
*are* on a ship like that one.”
A communication from the area of the mess hall interrupted before Spock
could voice his own opinion.
“Nurse Chapel to bridge. Passenger Maria Susanne Schmidt is
experiencing severe behavior problems. Thought we should inform you.”
And Spock did something very illogical.
For no sufficient reason, following no rational thought process, he
abandoned the bridge crew in a dangerous confrontation with an alien
ship…
…to make sure Maria was all right.

* * *

He found her standing on top of the table at which she usually ate,
surrounded by a crowd of crewmembers and passengers.
“I’m going to jump,” she called, through fits of laughter. “I’m
serious, I’m going to jump. Don’t think I won’t do it, `cause I will.”
Spock appraised the distance between her and the floor. It was little
more than a meter. He turned to Chapel, who was looking with concern at
Maria Susanne. “Nurse, what is the matter?”
“Well, you can see for yourself, Mr. Spock…”
“I meant, what is the probable cause of this lapse?” Spock could not
believe how harshly he was speaking, how fast his heart was beating…
“I think she forgot her medication, Mr. Spock. She refuses to come
down and take it. She says about once a minute that she wants to be
calm, that she will be calm, and then starts laughing hysterically
again.”
“I didn’t take my meds,” said Maria Susanne in a high sing-song voice.
“I’m going crazy. Dammit, Spock, help me, I’m going crazy.” She didn’t
seem to notice that Spock was there… seemed only to be calling to him
hypothetically in her own insanity.
And Spock ran to her side to catch her as she fell laughing
convulsively from the table.
His first impulse was merely to take her away, to remove her from the
sight of all the crewmembers who didn’t understand. Irrational anger
flared up… they could not see her like this, she would not want them
to. Seeing her dead would be better! Or unconscious… a nerve pinch?
Somehow he recoiled from the idea; it would be too much like restraint,
like something a social worker would do. He was painfully aware of how
ridiculous they both looked as they stood there, almost in each other’s
arms, Spock breathing heavily in near-panic, Maria laughing like a
maniac.
Gently he moved his hands to the meld points of her face. The chaos of
her unmedicated mind struck him unpleasantly as they met. *Maria. Calm.
Please.*
His mind touch sobered her considerably. *Oh, Spock, what did I do?
Oh, no… everyone’s looking at me, Spock, get me away from here.*
And all he could do was soothe her confusion, smooth down the remaining
madness as best he could. When it began to dissipate, he was startled by
the order and clarity of this mind he had never touched before. He ached
to explore it further…
A small thought of his ventured into the corridors of her psyche, a
disorganized thought, something about her, something about him,
something about time… something also about the situation on the
bridge, which must be getting desperate by now, and which he’d better go
check on before anything more went wrong.
Her mind explored his confused communication, caught out the part about
the bridge, which she examined with interest.
*You left that to check on me, Spock?*
*I was worried.*
*You were illogical. It happens a lot. It won’t kill me.*
*I am sorry I could not help you earlier. Before people saw you like
this.*
*Spock, go back there. Now. And take this. You’ll need it.*
Her mind shoved into his mind a tiny string of knowledge, wrapped up
neatly. *Language, it’s a mess. If only everyone could talk like this.
Go, Spock. Go on! Now!*
That was when Spock seemed for the first time to come to his senses.
*Forgive me. You have been logical, and I have not. Your mind is
fascinating, Maria. Fascinating. Remember that.*
And his thoughts were disconnected from hers, his hands from her face,
and she was standing there as calm as ever, watching him rush away to
where he was needed.

* * *

“Has the matter been decided, Captain?”
“We’ve decided Sulu’s right. Either way, the maniac is going to shoot
us, and if we get in the first shot, we’ve at least got a chance at
hitting his weapons.”
The memory of the Deltan on the viewscreen surfaced in Spock’s mind.
Maniac was the word for him… and yet he didn’t seem like a maniac at
all, in his look and mannerisms… a kind old man, excessively polite
perhaps…
The bundle of thoughts from Maria began to unfold itself. It opened
with rapid speed… the knowledge blared out at him, presented itself in
a blaze in front of his eyes…
“On screen!” called Spock suddenly.
The Deltan appeared, the same polite smile on his face. “Yes, officer?
Are you ready for our missile?”
“Quite ready, Captain Aili. Fire it immediately.”

* * *

Minutes later the confusion had cleared, the engineers were installing
the new replacement part that would restore the function of the shields,
and Spock was in the hall with Maria Susanne, walking her from the mess
to her quarters. When they passed the bridge, Maria paused to catch
what the captain was saying to Uhura as he walked out.
“…And send a communication as soon as possible to the translator
designers, Lieutenant, and tell them it’s all right if a language has
the same word for *some* things, but that a distinction between the
Deltan for `missile’ and `object which is delivered,’ not to mention
`to beam’ and `to fire,’ would be a useful upgrade.”
Maria laughed softly in satisfaction and walked on.
“I trust, Miss Schmidt, that this was not one of the translators that
you designed.”
“Spock, I was *eight years old.* How was I supposed to know–”
Kirk came up behind them at that moment, a grateful smile on his face.
“Spock, I can’t believe what you just stopped me from doing. We can
always rely on the infinite stores of information between those pointy
ears to save us in a crisis, can’t we?”
“Well, actually, it was…” began Spock, but Maria seized his hand in
an iron grip, sending a clear message: *this is your moment, Spock. You
deserve it.*
*I do not,* his mind replied through the touch. *You are responsible.*

But then he realized her implied meaning: *Do not discuss it. Do not
discuss the time when I gave you that information. Do not discuss what
was happening to me. It is a state of mind I do not like to think
about.*
And Spock understood, all too well.

* * *

At her door, he took his leave of her. “You have been most helpful
today, Miss Schmidt. I am grateful to you on behalf of the entire crew.”

“And I’m grateful to you, Spock. About what you did for me in the mess
hall. You’ll never know how embarrassed I get, after something like that
happens. Okay, I admit it, I do wish you’d gotten there earlier.”
“Did you receive sufficient nourishment during dinner?”
“I’m still a little hungry. But I think I can hold out till breakfast.
How many hours is it till then?”
“Till your customary morning mealtime? Eight point three six five
hours.”
“Rain Man,” she teased.
And then he realized just how well he understood her.

Because the words “Rain Man” had completed the connection.

* * *

The shield of not knowing how to express…

The shield put up to control the expression…

No one liked me… I was ruled by unspoken social decree not to be
human…

Running home crying from children in ShiKhar… You are not a true
Vulcan…

It’s not that I don’t want to be friends with people, it’s just that
they speak a language I don’t understand…

Human behavior is illogical…

I didn’t take my meds… Oh, no… everyone’s looking at me, Spock, get
me away from here…

Captain, lock me away. I do not wish to be seen…

Seems she was a prodigy…

Eight point three six five hours… Rain Man…

Could any understanding, between any two beings, ever have been so
great?

And he knew that it was 2274 and he knew how many years it was since
2267 and he knew that there was only one person by whom he was willing
to be helped.
And that she could from that moment no longer be Miss Schmidt, or
Maria, or Maria Susanne, but that his mind was even then giving her a
secret name that she could never hear, but that would be whispered to
her so often in his dreams…

T’Ria.

* * *

And he also knew, three months later as he sat across from her at the
chessboard in his quarters with time becoming more dangerous by the
minute, that he had no right to what he wanted from her. That she would
never understand what it was to be a social creature, of any race; that
she had no idea of the commitment she would be making. That he must let
her leave after the game was over, and die with her secret name on his
lips.

“YOUR TURN, SPOCK!”

Blindly he reached out a hand, pushing the first piece his fingers came
in contact with, hoping the direction in which he pushed it would turn
out, by pure chance, to be a valid move. Only to get the game over with,
to be alone, to be freed from this torment, this agonizing temptation!

A moment, a small motion, incomprehensible to his eyes, on the
chessboard.
“I can’t believe this, Spock,” said T’Ria. “Check.”
Spock stared straight ahead, his coordination capable of accomplishing
only one goal, and a forbidden one… the idea of moving another chess
piece at all, let alone getting his king out of danger, was ludicrous…

“Check,” repeated T’Ria, smiling deviously. “In fact,” she added,
lifting some unknown piece and setting it back down some unknown number
of spaces away, “check… and… *mate.*”
And that undid him.
There was no more control and Spock was pulling her across the
chessboard into his arms, their minds and bodies clasping each other in
passion, scattering the remains of their game all over the table, her
knight and his king falling across each other on the space they now
shared… and through the sudden contact his mind cried out to her,
using the secret name without thinking.

*Run away and leave me, T’Ria, before it is too late…*
*I want this.*
*I shall hurt you…*
*I want this.*
*Our minds will have to bond…*
*I want this.*
*T’Ria, you do not know the…*
*If you say the `consequences’ of my `choice,’ it is quite possible
that I shall scream.*

There was a glance between their souls, a mind’s eye contact.

*I know what I am doing and I have wanted it for a very long time,
Spock.*
*I thought you were asexual, Maria.*
*Call me T’Ria. I like it.*
*T’Ria. I thought you did not feel love.*
*I never felt sexual attraction. I never felt love for a family member.
I never felt friendship. But I have felt something that was all three.
There was one person I knew for a short time, long ago… one person I
felt could be a friend, a brother and a lover all at once.*

A smoke-wisp of confusion in the midst of the fire.

*One person in the whole galaxy I finally had something in common
with.*

Clouds of bewilderment, flickering wordless questions at her.

*Spock, do you know how many centuries I have waited for this?*
*Centuries?*
*Centuries.*
*How many?*
*Point zero seven.*

The eye contact of her mind was as thrilling as that of the eyes of her
face.

*That’s seven years.*

Then the confusion caught fire from an understanding spark.

*Do you have any idea how long that is? Seven years, Spock. Two of them
on Earth, studying day and night trying to qualify for being a real
officer on the Enterprise. Then another two on Symmetria, wishing my
parents were dead, until the war started and they were. Then two more,
hiding in bomb shelters every week and wondering how the human species
had made it this far when they were such lunatics. Then finally a year
with that damnable hailing device, trying to keep myself from smashing
it against a rock every time it told me a ship was coming over but it
wasn’t a Federation one. All the time hoping you’d at least have the
sense to get bonded before you’d need it, even if it wasn’t to me.
Frankly, I didn’t think I had much chance. But I waited. Seven damn long
years.*
*Seven years…*
*To the day. This is the septennial anniversary of you pasting
Christine with the soup she made out of the ingredients I synthesized,
and when I heard about that I would have laughed my butt off if I hadn’t
known you had a bondmate waiting for you down at Koon-ut-kahl-i-fee that
I was even more jealous of. Can you blame me for quitting my internship
early? How could I live with you, knowing you were hers? If I had to
identify the happiest day of my life, there wouldn’t be much
competition, but I’d have to place it about a week ago, when I was
finally sure that if she hadn’t divorced you seven years ago you’d
already be on Vulcan.*

His mind flinched, and she realized she’d said something wrong.

*Oh, Spock, I’m sorry. I’m an autistic bitch with no social skills. You
had to kill someone, didn’t you?*

* It is a long story. I will tell you someday. But she is no longer my
bondmate.*

Dimly at first, them with growing clarity, he became aware that his
mind was beginning to fuse together with hers… her thoughts, feelings,
memories, desires all becoming his own…

*You are my bondmate. We are joining. I cannot control it.*

*If you tried, I’d hit you.*

*Are you sure you are ready for this?*

*You can read my mind, can’t you?*

He explored her mind, the incredible mind that was now his mind too,
and found the thought, the burning desire, that was as urgent, in its
own way, as his.

*I want it as much as you do. And I know you do, Spock. You want to be
bonded to me. You want to know what I’m thinking all the time. Because
my mind is fascinating. You said so.*

*Stay with me. Please. Will you stay with me forever?*

*Of course. How can I not? We’ll be bonded. I may leave the Enterprise,
of course. I may go to the other end of the galaxy. I may become the
captain of another ship. I may defect to the Romulans for all I know. Or
I may go to Earth and stay there for the rest of my life. Which in fact
I consider a serious option at the moment.*

*Go to Earth?*

*I’ve been a translator since I was eight–helping communicate ideas
between the cultures of different planets. Now I think I’ll try helping
one species communicate with itself. There are people like me all over
Earth, people who were born on the wrong planet. Half-human-half-Vulcans
trapped in full-human bodies. With their Vulcan and human halves
constantly struggling inside them, a desire and its goal stuck in every
one of those heads with a wall between them, the side that needs to
interact with the rest of the world fighting to push past the side that
doesn’t know how. And they need someone to teach them the… patterns of
human illogic.*

*Do you consider yourself prepared for the task?*

*I learned from an expert. No–don’t raise your eyebrow at me, Spock.
You’re an expert on illogic. And no, that doesn’t mean you’re illogical.
Illogical people are never experts on illogic. You’ve got to be an
outsider to study something right. And you’ve got to be an insider to
relate to someone enough to really teach them what you’ve studied. I’m
an outsider to more than ninety per cent of the human race. I’m an
insider to a tiny minority –autistic, nerd, whatever. They need me. And
I’ll help them. But I’ll stay with you anyway, no matter how far away
from you I go. If I remember correctly, the phrase to describe our
present condition translates most accurately as “never and always
touching.”*

*Never and always…*

*I’ve waited seven years for this. To bond. To be never and always
touching you, parted and never parted, less than married, more than
betrothed, yours for ever and ever. And if that isn’t an emotional
enough declaration, I don’t know what is.*

*Seven years… how did you know? How did you know it, seven years ago?
Everyone promised not to tell…*

*And no one broke his promise. I recognized the symptoms.*

He could no longer tell where they were, or what they were doing, in
the universe outside their joined minds. The thoughts in that inner
universe held him captivated.

*Recognized…?*
*T’Pau’s archives on bonding rituals tell everything, Spock.*

The blue flame was clearing to a golden blaze of comprehension.

*A language interpreting device has to have at least some words about
marriage in it…*

Now he understood in blinding sunlight.

*But if you read up on them, if you go paging through Vulcan literature
figuring out from context the best translations for things like “never
and always touching,” you run across stuff in between them that your
parents might not want you to see…*

The fire of understanding was brightening like the rays of 40 Eridani
for the two spirits between whom it could most brightly blaze in all the
galaxy. And time was no longer dangerous.

*I know about this, Spock. I know every `choice’ I am making. There
were words they didn’t let me put in the first Vulcan/Standard
translator, you know.*
*Which you designed, T’Ria?*
*When I was eight point five years old, Rain Man.*

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.