Through A Glass Clearly
Any fool can be stuck in a lift. It happens all the time. But, of course, I had to go one better. I had to be stuck in a Plexiglas lift - and with Spock of all people. I don't know why I refer to Spock like that. It makes him sound - well - like the last person anyone would want to be trapped with in a lift. Actually, I know most women on the Enterprise would give their high teeth to be in my shoes. He is, after all, tall and slim, with those dreamy dark brown eyes, and the glossiest black hair. And no one can say he's not intelligent! He's also very Vulcan, one look at the ears and the eyebrows tell you that.
Perhaps that's my particular stumbling block. How anyone can relate to a man without any discernable emotions is beyond me. I say 'discernable' because scuttlebutt has it that he's not really as sombre as he makes out - not that I've had time to notice, you understand, this being my first posting. However, to be assigned as Spock's personal yeoman was a little discouraging, especially as he didn't seem to want one. And a Vulcan is a Vulcan is a Vulcan after all. Just insert perfectionist, or taskmaster, or workaholic there and you'll get what I mean!
The Plexiglas lift we were stuck in was the showpiece of the New Paris shopping mall. From the rooftop skimmer park, you approach what appears to be an ordinary lift but, having stepped inside, you find yourself in a kind of mobile shop window. The curved front and sides are glas right down to the floor and when the lift starts moving, you find yourself floating down to ground level, one hundred and two floors below. Even a bird would have been envious of the view we had. The exotic New Parisian flora located at the base of the lift, the slightly less exotic-looking New Parisian's themselves, and quite a few of the displays in the arcades were on show…Or might have been if you actually dared stare out at them!
I've always found it a little nerve-wracking, wafting down like that. The glas is so clean and sparkling that you get the feeling of being suspended in mid-air with hardly any visible means of support - as my Grandpapa was wont to remark when Grandmama removed her eighteen hour girdle! The floor is opaque, of course, but that's no help. To see the floor you have to look down. Personally, I prefer to keep my eyes focused on the hologram of an old-style flying machine which whizzes realistically around near the ceiling, and which, now and again, pretends to dive bomb the occupants.
New Parisian's are quite old-fashioned in outlook where machinery is concerned. They have yet to get around to new fangled voice-controlled lifts, so when it stopped a short way down from the sixtieth floor, and failed to respond to Spock's finger on the button, I tapped the floor impatiently with the toe of my new boots, trying to disguise my nervousness. The silence demanded to be broken, and Spock seemed in no particular hurry to speak, so I remarked casually, "Trust me!"
Spock's eyebrow lifted as he regarded me. "In what way should I trust you, Yeoman Lawton?"
I told him what I've just told you…but, of course, didn't add the bit about 'and with you of all people'.
"All the better that it is transparent," he remarked with imperturbable Vulcan calm. "In a conventional apparatus it would, no doubt, be unnerving to be in our situation. But, as you can plainly see for yourself, we have already been noticed."
I took a quick peek at the sea of faces peering up at us from below then, as nonchalantly as I could, returned my gaze to the flying hologram which was about to strafe Spock's left ear. "So we have, sir!"
"I am in no doubt," he went on confidently, "that the engineers have already been alerted."
"You think so?" I murmured, with slightly less assurance. Could he be unaware that today was the start of Summer Festival, and there wouldn't exactly be that many engineers on duty? But then, why should he know, he hadn't been born here, had he? Not like me. Why shouldn't he be confident of rescue! So, I stood there in the almost invisible lift and tried to match his cool tranquillity, his unruffled calm, as my position as the First Officer's yeoman demanded. But it didn't come so easily to me.
I didn't want to look up, I didn't want to look down, and I definitely didn't want to meet Spock's level gaze in case he saw how scared I really was. So, I transferred our joint purchases from one arm to the other, tapped my foot, and peered quickly for that little trapdoor that is usually placed in the lift ceiling only to find that in this case it wasn't! Scratch one vague idea of appealing to Spock's better nature and asking him to climb through and fetch some help, oh well, comme ci, comme ca, you win some, you lose some!
"I wish we'd stopped for coffee." I remarked briskly, breaking the silence once again, and hoping that my voice wouldn't tremble.
He looked at me with a spark of interest, "You mean that if we had been delayed by only a moment…?"
"Uh-huh," I recalled. "There was a queue at the coffee shop. We would've had to wait…."
"And by the time we had been served, then arrived here, some other batch of unfortunate shoppers would be marooned in this elevator."
Not a very charitable thought I know, but there it is. He was silent for an instant, meditating no doubt on the complex labyrinth of cause and effect. Then I said, "On the other hand, if we'd done as I suggested and parked the runabout on the Rue de la Rochelle, it wouldn't have mattered anyway, sir."
His voice was patience itself, "I believe I explained at the time, Yeoman Lawton, that if the parking space on the Rue de la Rochelle had been full, it would have meant a loss of 15.32 minutes negotiating a less direct route, whereas by heading for this point in the first instance we…."
"But it wouldn't have been full, sir."
He frowned down at me with an expression of resignation. "How can you be sure of that?"
"Because it never is." Who's the native around here anyway?
For the first time he looked slightly irritable. "That is illogical, Yeoman."
"I beg to differ, sir." Now I looked him in the eyes, the way I'd been instructed to do by his former yeoman, now a Lieutenant who had transferred to the diplomatic section on board ship. "I've never yet failed to squeeze in on the La Rochelle. Besides, it's free!"
"It must reach capacity at some stage," he disagreed. "The space is limited, and considering the volume of traffic requiring admission - even if only two percent tried to gain entry, they would occupy an area of…"
What had I started? Somewhat sharply, I interrupted, "Could we, uh, postpone the parking analysis for a while, please, Mr Spock…."
I had allowed myself to look down at the crowds. Some of the shoppers were standing about in groups, staring up at us like extras in a virtual reality disaster, waiting for the lift to plummet out of control. Others were resolutely ignoring the drama altogether as they began heading for the exits preparatory to the mall closing for the afternoon. A few shop assistants were squinting up through their own Plexiglas windows. "If we'd have parked on the Rue de la Rochelle at least we wouldn't be stuck in this wretched contraption."
The last came out as a wail and Spock gave me an exasperated glance, his lips tautening as he plainly thought to himself…oh no, not ANOTHER emotional Human female! But I couldn't help being Human and/or female, could I? But perhaps the emotional aspect was what Spock objected to so strongly. Discipline that's all it took. Discipline.
"Please control yourself, Yeoman. There is little need for panic." He said coolly. "If you will kindly hand me my communicator, I will call the ship."
I stared at him wide-eyed. "Your communicator, sir?"
He held out a hand, "That is what I asked you for, Yeoman Lawton. The communicator, if you please."
"But … I gave it to you, Mr Spock. Don't you remember?" I gulped, "when my seatbelt got stuck on the runabout. You…you put it down on the dashboard while you freed me."
His hand was still held out before him and he hurriedly withdrew it and folded his arms. As if lost for further words, he sighed deeply and turned his back to look fixedly at the lift doors. Since the conversation had run dry again, I took another swift peek at the thinning crowd below us - and gasped.
"Yeoman?" He questioned sternly, turning to look at me with some concern. Perhaps he thought I was about to cry!
Excitedly, I pointed out the little man who - literally - stood out from the mob. He was standing on an ornamental bench, trying to attract our attention by waving his arms energetically in the air above his head.
"It has to be the manager!" I exclaimed, jumping up and down and clasping Spock's arm in my enthusiasm.
Disdainfully he extricated himself from my eager grasp. "As I believe I advised you earlier, Yeoman. He will, no doubt, have engineers standing by."
Watching intently I waved to show that we were receiving him, although the only gyrations I really understood was the confident thumbs up sign that he gave. Spock acknowledged the gesture with a gracious inclination of the head, and the little man jumped off the bench and hurried briskly away. More confident now that rescue seemed imminent, I adopted what I hoped was a coolly sophisticated pose, turning my back once more on the nauseating aerial view. Spock, quite understandably avoided my gaze and stared up at the flying hologram, although it was obvious his mind was elsewhere.
In all probability, he was, no doubt, computing the odds of fate intervening once again. It would be ironic now that help was on the way if the cable -made of twisted Plexiglas fibre and as invisible as the rest of the lift - suddenly snapped and we went careering sixty floors down to land in the horseshoe of exotic plants that ringed the lift exit. His absence, if not mine, was bound to cause some inconvenience to the smooth running of the Enterprise.
But I didn't want to consider the 'what ifs…', especially of that nature. Yet, just at that moment, as though the thought had indeed been father to the deed, the lift shuddered like a beast shaking itself after sleep, jerked twice and began to fall. I screamed in reflex and before I fully realised what was happening, found a pair of extremely lithe Vulcan arms wrapped around me! Together, Spock and I were thrown against the glas of the lift where we both slid inelegantly to the floor. It wrenched to a halt within a few feet and I resorted to a little sick humour, trying to camouflage my wildly beating heart and trembling limbs.
"Please, Mr Spock. Not in front of all these people!"
Reacting something like a cat suddenly dumped on hot bricks, he rolled swiftly away, and pushed himself to his knees. But random factors were definitely not on our side. The lift shuddered again, even more violently, dropped several more feet and dumped him unceremoniously back on top of me! This time I had the presence of mind to wrap my arms around him, clinging on for good measure. If I had anything to do with it, neither of us were going anywhere … at least not until we were safely back down on solid ground.
But as we lay there together on the floor of the lift, a host of new impressions began to penetrate my absolute terror and I became aware of certain other credentials, apart from that sensation of great strength held in aloof reserve, Spock possessed. Self-assured Vulcans may be, but even they can't suppress their innate body heat - which is hot, hot, hot - or the spicy fragrance of that slightly verdant skin, a smell like cinnamon toast, a perfectly natural odour, I suppose, since none of them would sink to such decadent frivolity as aftershave!
Ever since the lift had stopped, I'd been desperately anxious to escape from it. Now, enveloped as I was in the First Officer's arms, surrounded by heat and that strangely sensual aroma, I found myself wishing that the moment would continue for eternity. I drank him in, forgetting, where we were and the danger we were in, or that, unlike the glas lift, we were hardly transparent to the people below. Sanity returned however, as the memory of even more scuttlebutt popped into my mesmerised brain. Vulcan's were touch telepaths. It was my turn to be mortified. He would have been privy to every thought and feeling I'd just experienced, down to the last tiny detail. Mon dieu, how could I look him in the face again? What must he think of me? Blushing furiously, I untangled myself as best I could, glad to find that the lift seemed to have gained a momentary stability - which was just as well, since I'd lost most of mine.
"Mr Spock … I … don't … that is … " A furtive peek at his face revealed the fathomless dark eyes weren't actually staring haughtily at me but at something over my left shoulder. I turned to look down at the remaining spectators to find that our unscheduled embrace had certainly not gone unobserved. People were gazing up, pointing, and grinning. One figure in particular caught my attention. Standing at the back of our audience, staring keenly at the lift with sharp blue eyes that missed nothing was - Doctor McCoy! Uncertainly, I waved and he waved back while, beside me, I heard Spock stifle something that sounded suspiciously like a groan. And even though I'd only been on the Enterprise for a matter of days, I'd have had to be deaf, dumb, and blind to escape the manner of the relationship that existed between the ship's first officer and it's chief surgeon. Cataclysmic warfare was only the half of it!
"Are you…all right, Mr Spock?" I asked with nervous concern. He inclined his head tiredly - and then we almost jumped out of our skins as the lift's com unit, which Spock knew nothing about and I had forgotten in all the excitement, squawked into action. McCoy looked out at us sleepily, his mellifluous Southern drawl unmistakably lubricated by more than one mint julep.
"Well, howdy, Spock. You sly Vulcan dog! You too, Yeoman Lawton. It is you, aint it? Y'all having a good time?"
Spock's features, while remaining immobile, still managed to convey his utter lack of amusement. "I do not follow you, Doctor."
"Come on, Spock. You can't fool me, alone up there with your personal yeoman. You two must really have hit it off - though that glas lift is a mite too public for my taste!"
If I used my imagination a little bit, I could almost hear Spock gritting his teeth as he stared back at McCoy. "Please get to the point, Doctor. I presume you do have a point."
But the doctor only grinned, obviously enjoying himself at Spock's expense. I looked from one to the other of them in trepidation. Doctor McCoy had been kind to me from the moment I boarded the Enterprise but as Mr Spock's yeoman, I owed the First Officer a certain loyalty. Torn between the two, I was unsure how to act. But apparently, my role was to be strictly that of observer.
"You know," the doctor continued happily, "this reminds me of that little Earth ditty, the one about the two old ladies who got locked in the…"
I knew the rhyme myself, though it was from New Paris and not Earth! Before I could stop myself, a hysterical giggle escaped my control, earning me a definitely hurt look from the First Officer as if I'd suddenly defected to the other side.
"Yeoman, please refrain from encouraging the doctor while he is in a manifestly inebriated state."
"Whoa there. And who gave you the right to start callin' names, you pointy-eared hobgoblin?" McCoy growled in outrage.
He hiccoughed and swayed drunkenly towards the com until all we could see was one huge, bloodshot blue eye. However, though muffled, his next words were clear enough. "If y'all goin' to get insultin' I'll be takin' my leave…."
"No," I cried urgently, as he reached up to disconnect the call. "Please Doctor McCoy. You can't leave us like this. I'm sure Mr Spock didn't mean to insult you."
"Not if he wants to get outta there in the next few days, he didn't." McCoy murmured archly, and I began to wonder how drunk he really was.
I gazed up at Spock, pleading silently for him to use that famous common sense of his, and after a pause of several seconds, he finally saw the logic of the situation.
"Indeed, Doctor McCoy. Yeoman Lawton is correct. If I have given you reason for offence, I apologise. Are you in a position to rectify our current state?"
McCoy, who had now moved back from his former position, grinned fatuously into the screen. "The pleasure is all mine, Mr Science Officer Spock, sir! It might have slipped your mind, being otherwise occupied as you were, but this is Summer Festival time in New Paris. Everybody…and I do mean everybody…. gets to go on vacation - even the city maintenance crews have the rest of the afternoon off."
Spock's left eyebrow shot upwards as he looked at me, the only sign of surprise he allowed to show. I nodded affirmation and he sighed deeply. "And the… manager?"
Considering Doctor McCoy's state, he caught on extremely rapidly. "Oh, you must mean Jean-Paul? He's an ol' buddy from way back. Saw what had happened and figured I should know."
"And now you are alert to our… position," Spock asked with quiet deliberation, "what action do you propose taking, Doctor?"
For a fraction of a second, Doctor McCoy's blue eyes became diabolically wicked. "Well now, I'm open to any logical suggestion, Spock."
"You could always call the ship." The First Officer suggested, his tone indisputably sardonic. "Mr Scott…."
"Was last seen on his way to the Folie Berger, and 'canna be located'." McCoy grinned with sudden ill-disguised glee. "Likewise, the Captain. He left a message saying he wasn't to be contacted under any circumstances. He had a rendezvous with practically the whole of the Blue Belle chorus line. Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, Kyle - you name them, they aren't on hand. It has been six months since the last shore leave."
"Then who, may I enquire, is on board the Enterprise? By Starfleet regulations there should be at least one chief of department on duty at any given time."
McCoy's grin widened even further, if that was possible! His accent thickened, "We'ell, y'all may not have noticed, but just about … now, Spock ol' buddy, ol' pal, the duty computer should be recording you as AWOL."
"Absent without leave?" Spock's eyebrow shot ceiling ward as he consulted his inner chronometer and found the Doctor was absolutely right. Both of us should have been back on board the ship and at our duty stations. We were late by at least thirty minutes! Mr Spock obviously thought it deplorable. He probably had never been late in his entire existence. Just within audible range, I heard him mutter something suspiciously vernacular.
"What was that again, Spock?" McCoy asked.
The First Officer was saved by another faint vibration of the lift cage. Once more, I latched onto his arm. "What's happening?"
"No need to worry, Tina," McCoy soothed. "Jean-Paul's a bit of a mechanic and he says the circuits have fused solid. This elevator is goin' nowhere, either up or down!"
"Which means we are effectively marooned, Doctor?" Spock untangled himself gently from my stranglehold.
"No need to get pessimistic. A general call has gone out and I guess Scotty's your best bet. He should be back by morning. You know he won't leave his bairns for too long. I'll get him to beam you up as soon as he returns. Meanwhile, you'll have to look on the bright side. After all, you could have been someone with something better to do with his time! And you have Yeoman Lawton there, to keep you company. Though who's going to keep her company is anybody's guess." He winked at me and I found myself winking back. "Y' all be good now. It'll be over before you know it. McCoy out."
The screen went blank and sixty floors below, I could just make him out as he waved one last time. The sky above the mall's glas dome was shading into layers of rosé light, gradually darkening into violet and indigo. Soon it would be completely dark. I swallowed in a suddenly dry throat. What was I going to do all night suspended in mid-air in a tiny glas bubble, my only companion the Vulcan First Officer?
"I suggest you try to rest, Yeoman." The cool, calm voice came from behind me. Startled, I turned to face him, but he was just another moon shadow in the gloom. Could he still read my mind, even at that distance?
"Sir?" I queried and I could have kicked myself when my voice did a strange little wobble midway. The last of the spectators had long since gone to their Festival merry making, all the lights were extinguished except for a blur of illumination from a security station somewhere below; even the flying hologram had called it a night and vanished into some phantom hanger. We were very alone!
"There is a technique known on my home-world for inducing serenity. It is not difficult to learn and can be quite beneficial in … stressful circumstances."
"All right," I murmured, wondering if by any chance I happened to be the cause of Spock's particular stressful circumstance. I nibbled my lip hard, until the hysterical giggle passed. At least the exercise would keep me occupied and perhaps take my mind off all that space that lay between the ground and us. But I was forgetting my stomach. It was used to regular meals - and now it had missed three, for I had been too nervous at accompanying Spock on his shopping trip to eat much breakfast and we had been too busy to eat lunch. It growled plaintively; feed me, it demanded! My teeth abruptly joined in, chattering a melody in counterpoint as the usual after dark chill penetrated my standard issue uniform.
"I…am sorry, sir."
"It is regrettable that we have missed our evening meal, Yeoman." There was the sound of rustling from where he now sat silhouetted by the faint light of moons-glow, his back against the glas wall as he located one of the parcels he had purchased earlier in the day. "However, these may sustain you until our rescue. They were a request of Captain Kirk's but I am sure he will not harbour any grievance if you have them instead."
I knelt down beside him in the gloom and felt his long fingers locate mine as he passed me a paper bag that contained something soft and yielding.
"Cream doughnuts," I breathed ecstatically as I raised one of the sugary confections to my lips. "Scrumptious! Mr Spock, I could kiss you … that is, sir."
"I would rather that you refrained, Yeoman. Gratitude is not necessary."
I laughed, then shivered. Whoever had designed the female Starfleet uniform had never, apparently, envisaged being trapped in a freezing glas bubble halfway up a skyscraper. What might I have done for Spock's internal central heating system, or even his pants and high-necked shirt?
"Perhaps it would be more sensible, bearing in mind the New Paris chill, and your lack of insulating apparel to…huddle closer."
"How do you DO that?" I asked, shaken once again by his uncanny ability to pick the thoughts right out of my brain. "We aren't even touching."
"I do not…Oh, you believe I am somehow reading your thoughts? No, Yeoman, that is beyond my capabilities. It is merely coincidence, I assure you."
"But before, when we…that is… I …"
"Indeed that was - unfortunate." He admitted with a touch of reluctance. "I must apologise for my lack of control in eavesdropping on your private … observations."
Even in the darkness, I felt myself go hot with shame. So, he was aware of what I'd thought - and here he was apologising to me! He certainly had finesse. "I hope you weren't offended, sir."
"Offended, no," he murmured softly. "However, I find it most illogical to be compared with cinnamon toast, Yeoman. I very much hope that this particular opinion will not be divulged to Doctor McCoy. I believe he has collected quite enough ammunition to use against me for one day."
Swallowing the last of the doughnut, I nodded in agreement. Somehow I found that I 'd moved nearer to him, my back resting against the glas as his was, the warmth of his body glowing against my side, though there was at least an inch of space still between us. Yet, to snuggle up even further was … daunting. He was, after all, my superior officer, and a Vulcan - not to mention that once touching, he would be able to read my thoughts! Did I mention the word 'daunting'?
"Yeoman, I assure you there is no need for embarrassment, or concern…"
There he went again! Coincidence, the workings of happenstance, or maybe Vulcan's were better at telepathy than they were letting on! But if that were so, and he could read my thoughts even at a distance, what did it matter if I succumbed to the logic of the situation and just rested my head against his shoulder? Only until, of course, I got a little warmer. Hmmm. He certainly gave out a lot of heat! And he did smell amazingly like…
"Yeoman? Yeoman Lawton!"
A firm, but gentle hand shook my shoulder and I opened my eyes reluctantly, still caught up in a delicious reverie of hot coffee and - cinnamon toast - to find Spock bending solicitously over me.
"Good morning, Yeoman. Your dreams were not too unpleasant, I hope."
"Non, merci beaucoup, sir." Surprisingly, it was the truth despite the hard floor and cramped conditions. Hurriedly I scrambled to my feet, brushing at my rumpled uniform skirt and tousled hair. Of course, the First Officer had no such problems. He was as immaculately turned out as always. Dawn had sneaked up on me unawares and pale sunlight now illuminated the glas lift. "Is there any news?"
"Indeed. Doctor McCoy informs me rescue is imminent. If you will please ready yourself for beam-up…"
"Aye, aye, Mr Spock!" Quickly I gathered up our parcels and stood with him in the centre of the lift. There was not the least shadow of discernable emotion that I could detect upon his set features. Yet, I now knew that the ship's scuttlebutt wasn't entirely idle gossip. There was so much more to this particular Vulcan than might at first be guessed at. Certainly, he would not tolerate timewasters, or intrusions into what he considered his private affairs, but neither was he cold or calculating, a machine on legs, as someone had described him to me. No, the tense hours spent in the glas lift had helped me to see him more clearly. As the pink sparkle of the transporter beam enveloped us and whisked us back to the safety of the Enterprise, I realised that whatever part he was destined to play in my future, Spock would most certainly always be a friend