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USS Amandora

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Alia Year 4 - Lute

Posted on Fri Nov 20th, 2020 @ 1:34am by Lieutenant JG Alia Fitzgerald

  Alia Year 4 – Lute
[[NOTE: I’m just making up all the stuff about Ancient Vulcan/Romulan out of my own head. If there’s something official that contradicts me, well, so be it, ha ha! As a logical point, though, if after 2000 years of separation, the Vulcan and Romulan languages were nearly indistinguishable by any but an expert, that’s a good indication that neither language has changed much in all that time.]]

As adults, cadets were expected to manage their own schedules even while being open to the input of their advisers. This semester Alia had pushed for, and gotten, permission to take several graduate level courses. The downside, however, was that several she had really wanted were only given in the evenings which led to her being in classes from dawn until well into the night three days out of the week and nearly free the rest of the time.

This was one of her long days, after a long week, and she was more than ready to drop into bed but stopped with dismay when she saw her dorm door. When her roommate wanted some time for what they jokingly referred to as ‘private counseling sessions’, their signal was one of Alia’s brightly-colored guitar straps affixed to a hook outside of their room.

Today there were three straps hanging out there …and her guitar.

She cautiously approached the door from the side (lest it suddenly spring open for her unannounced) and retrieved her guitar, leaving the other straps as a warning to anyone else who might stop by.

Trying to not groan with weariness, Alia trudged to the student common lounge for the dorm. This is fair, right? We both can take advantage of this arrangement… not that *I* ever do, mind you, but theoretically I could.

A few students were in there, night owls that didn’t have any other plans for a Friday night. One of them, Brendan, nodded as she came in. “Oh, it’s like that is it? Two strap night?”

“Three.”

He winced, “Ouch! Well, feel free to entertain us if you absolutely have the need.” He was one of her ‘followers’, a fellow music lover that had seen her performance last year and was seemingly always available if she needed an audience or just a sympathetic ear.

She grinned, “It’s a good thing I don’t need to twist your arm as my hands are busy.” Alia started in on a piece she had been practicing:

Besame, besame mucho
Como si fuera esta la noche
La ultima vez

Besame, besame mucho
Que tengo miedo a tenerte
Y perderte despues

Quiero tenerte muy cerca
Mirarme en tus ojos, verte junto a mi
Piensa que tal vez mañana
Yo ya estare lejos, muy lejos de ti

Alia sang with confidence and coaxed a skilled rendition of the song out of her Fender. It wasn’t really written for an electric guitar but she wasn’t trying to win any awards here, either. She let the last chord fade away to the scattered applause of those in the room, Brendan most enthusiastic of all.

“That’s beautiful, really. What does it mean?”

“My Spanish is somewhere between awful and abysmal but I’ll try. I’m just glad I don’t have to know the language to sing it!” She ran through the lyrics in her head, “Kiss me, kiss me many times, as if tonight was the last time. Kiss me, kiss me many times, I’m so afraid of losing you afterwards. I want to have you very close, to see myself in your eyes…” Just then, she caught his gaze and faltered, blushing. “And it, ummm, goes on like that for a bit longer, I’m not sure about the next part.”

Sensing the change in mood, Brendan sat back and asked, “Will you be performing in the Academy show? If you aren’t, you should definitely think about it.”

Her face nearly as red as her hair, she said, “Probably, but not with the guitar, just singing. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can play and sing and perform all at the same time.”

He laughed, “Pick any two, eh?”

“Something like that.” She started playing a song with the volume down, to distract herself from her embarrassment while she talked.

“I’m glad you’ve found time to keep up with your music, even this close to graduation. Has it been hard?”

“It’s more like I had no choice. Dr. Saavarong would only okay my schedule if I also had some extra-curriculars in there. I mean, I am an adult, am I not?”

“No doubt,” he said dryly, “but I’m rather glad for it… even if you were forced. Is there anything in particular you have to do?”

“It’s mostly honor code… just keep playing and be willing to demonstrate.”

“Not hard.”

“No, but I still am working at it. A few new songs and stretching a bit. That’s why I’m learning some Spanish numbers… to show increased proficiency in a new area.”

“So a song in a non-human language would be good then?”

“That would be awesome! It’d have to be in my range and playable on this thing, of course.” She motioned with her Fender and gave the tremolo a tweak to emphasize her point.

“I’m sure in all of known space, there’s something that fits those criteria.” He appeared lost in thought. “How about this: I’ll find you something suitable and you play it.”

She shook her head, “I can’t let you do that, Bren! That would be a massive undertaking.”

“Hey, I’m not taking all those Xenolinguistics courses for nothing. In fact, I need a topic for my next project and this would dovetail neatly into that. If you don’t mind…” he left the invitation hanging.

Alia conceded, “Okay, okay. Just nothing crazy like Gorn mating rituals or Klingon anything. Even if I could manage it, I’d have to gargle gravel before trying. Not my idea of a good time!”

He solemnly held up a hand, “I swear any mating rituals I find for you will not involve gravel of any kind.”

She laughed and they spent a few hours discussing music until Alia couldn’t keep her eyes open a minute longer. Fortunately, the straps were gone from the door and she was able to collapse into bed.

* * *

A few days later he hurried over to her as she was finishing her only class of the day: Emergency Surgical Techniques. She was impressively gory and waved a bloody hand toward him. Seeing his expression, she said belated, “Cancel program!” The corpse-strewn battleground, and the illusory blood, vanished leaving her clean but for the sweat from the tension of the scenario.

“Oooookay, that’s a bit better. But I have good news!”

“You found something to use? Not like that Betazed stuff where half of it is staring at each other meaningfully… with your brain.”

“Better, much better! How much do you know about Vulcan/Romulan history?”

She thought back to her classes. “Ummm, Romulans and some other splinter groups split off about twenty centuries ago. Etc, etc, and here we are today. I think there might have been a war in there, too.”

“Close enough. One interesting fact is that even after that length of time with almost zero exchange between the two ‘races’, their languages have deviated so little that it takes an expert in both to tell them apart.”

“And that is interesting… how?”

He grew animated, warming to the subject. “What that basically means is that so-called Ancient Vulcan is really the same language they use to the present day. Human and Vulcan vocal ranges are almost the same so I thought maybe to find some Vulcan or Romulan songs. At first, anyway.”

“But?” she left the question hanging, mentally urging him to get to the point.

“Modern Vulcans don’t really sing, per se. Oh, they are musical enough but it’s mostly just instrumental pieces: relaxation, auto-hypnosis and very stylized mathematical things. No emotion, no passion in it all.”

“Well, naturally.”

He continued, “Romulans have lots of stuff but unless you are fond of martial pieces or epic sagas about how great some leader is, you won’t find much popular music. But Ancient Vulcan has lots of good songs to work with. Some of them are pretty violent or bloody as well, but at least they aren’t propaganda pieces or flavorless harmonic works.” His forehead creased, “It’s been a few thousand years since anyone has played them seriously, so piecing it together is a bit tricky. And then there’s the problem of the instrument.”

“I have to use the guitar, you know.”

“I’m working on that. Apparently Vulcans, modern or ancient, don’t have electric guitars. I will prevail, however!”

She touched his arm, “Thank you, Brendan. I really appreciate all your hard work.” She removed her hand quickly, as if suddenly realizing how close she was to him.

This time, it was his turn to blush, “You can thank me when we’re finished. Oh, I forgot to ask: you don’t mind recording your impressions of the process for my report?”

“No, not at all but there wouldn’t be much to say as of yet.”

“There will be, don’t worry!”

* * *

Alia stared at the music and notations in disbelief, “But I can’t play a Vulcan Lute!”

“You won’t have to, well, sort of.”

“There’s no way you can do this without twelve strings, no way at all.”

“That’s why you’ll be using THIS.” He brought up an image on his viewer. “I found a few of these in the records from the 20th and 21st centuries. Two necked electric guitars were a very uncommon subset of the regular sort. With modifications to make the hand placement work properly, I think we can get it to work.” Brendan looked a little pensive. “We’d still have to get someone to make the thing, though.”

Alia smiled, “Don’t worry about that. I know just the guy…”

Within a week a largish package arrived and she summoned Brendan peremptorily so they could open it together. It came with a note, “This was hella-fun, Sweetcheeks. Make sure you invite me when you play. All my love, Gustav.”

“Sweetcheeks?”

“Never mind, let’s get a look at this!” She opened the custom made (of course) case and they looked at the contents. The frets were at odd angles, and the necks were closer together she would have expected. The soundboard looked like a traffic accident either waiting to happen or, having happened, was only incompletely cleaned up. It was a total mess.

But it was a GLORIOUS mess.

“That friend of yours is certifiable, isn’t he?”

She touched the instrument almost reverently, “He’s a genius… well, a MAD genius… but definitely a genius.” She held it guitar style, stopped, readjusted so that it was between her normal position and how a Vulcan Lyre would be played. Unlike her Fender, this had the amplifier and speaker built in but it still had the usual adjustment options she was familiar with.

A quick strum confirmed it was tuned like the lyre it was supposed to emulate but it certainly had its own character. “I’ve been practicing on the holodeck with a simulated Vulcan teacher. I think he would be highly disappointed with what we’re about to do here.”

“If a Vulcan somewhere isn’t disappointed with us, that means we’re doing it wrong. Fire her up!”

It took weeks of nearly daily work to get the project together. Neither the Vulcans nor the (few) Romulan records they had access to had clear references to such ancient songs so they were forced to improvise from partial information. In some cases, the music would flat-out not work for the new instrument so they had to work around the particular limitations of the electric Lyre and focus on its strengths.

As there wasn’t time to learn Vulcan, Alia simply had to make do with a phonetic rendition. Between her holo-teacher, Brendan, and her own intuition she got as close as she could without intensive further study. Brendan sat back in his chair, “Your spoken Vulcan is borderline insulting to that noble race, but I think you have the songs down.”

The simulated Vulcan nodded, “Stripped of the emotional context of that statement, I concur with your conclusion.”

“Well I’m glad that a human and hologram agree I’m close enough. End program.” The Vulcan home faded leaving a black room with a regular grid of white lines. Alia flexed her fingers, working out some of the fatigue. “This electric lyre is crazy to play but I think I have the hang of it.” She ran through a practice arpeggio and then through some chorded exercises. Each note was played very precisely as she had found that the instrument responded very poorly to improvisation unless one had a secure grasp of the basics.

In the end, they were left with five works: two very close the ancient compositions, two modified for the new instrument and one an original piece. Brendan tweaked the last nearly until the last minute until she put her foot down. “I canNOT learn the phonetics and fingering if you keep changing it! We do it as is, or we don’t do it at all.”

“But…” he saw the look on her face. “Okay, okay. I’ll send the final list for the playbill… as written.”

“Good, now… wait. Playbill? As in a performance?”

Now it was his turn to look surprised. “Of course. There’s been a lot of interest both in the Xenolinguistics and Music departments. They’re really looking forward to this.”

“Do you think you might have told me about this sometime before now?” She slumped in her chair trying to avoid seeming cross but not quite succeeding.

“All special projects require a presentation, you know that.”

“Yeah, but the ones in ion channel dysfunctions don’t involve performing before an audience.”

“Don’t tell me you get stage fright? C’mon, not after the performances you’ve done.”

“It’s not that it’s…” she struggled to explain. “It’s a different mindset, different preparation, okay?”

“In a practical sense, what does that mean?”

“More rehearsals… a lot more. When you’re in front of an audience, you don’t get a second, or fortieth, chance to get it right.” She sighed and closed her eyes, envisioning the seemingly endless hours of practice stretching out before her. Alia barely registered when he stood up and came behind her but couldn’t help but notice when he started rubbing her shoulders.

“I *am* sorry, Alia. If I had known…”

“Keep that up and I may forgive you.” He worked methodically with obvious skill, focusing on those muscles that were knotted from tension or simply from practicing. He had large, strong hands and she remembered that he liked rock-climbing.

“Wow, you are tight; this could take hours.” He chuckled but kept at it. His ministrations felt brutal at times but left a pleasant soreness behind.

“Mmmmm, take as long as you need, all night if you have to.”

“Well, I don’t know if I can go all night, but I’ll do my best!”

He had a particular tone to his voice that puzzled Alia through her massage-induced haze and she tried to recall some of the guidelines about passes that Tavay had taught her: She was friendly with him, check. She was comfortable physically around him, check. And he said something that could be construed as an invitation to… In a moment of clarity, she realized that she had started the innuendos first, even if accidentally. Then she had a vivid image of exactly what he could be doing with hands right now if they moved down from her shoulders just a little...

Alia stood up suddenly. “OhgoodnessIforgottodosomething! Thanks for the rubs, they were great, see you later!” She propelled herself from the room with a speed that only she could muster, leaving the confused cadet standing alone, hands still poised to continue the massage.

The next ten days were rather intense for the both of them. Brendan was pulling together the final report while Alia threw herself into rehearsals. Unfortunately for Alia, when she wasn’t practicing, she found herself remembering his hands on her body, imagining what they would feel like directly on her skin. She had taken to avoiding him as much as possible, a little bit frightened at how strong her reactions were.

Her classmate leaned over during a lecture, “Are you coming down with something, Alia? You’re flushed and really out of it.”

“Oh!” She lowered her voice to avoid getting the attention of the instructor. “I mean, I’m okay.” She was tempted to say ‘yes’ but medical students had this habit of wanting to know the details of illness they come across so white lies turned into red flags for the nosy. “Lots of late nights. Practicing.”

“Well you should get some rest or something. I’ve never seen you so distracted.”

“In just a few days, I promise!”

The day of the concert arrived, at last, and Alia spent it wearing the costume she had just gotten the previous day and practicing the songs but not aggressively… just enough to loosen up. Her outfit was a bit of a clash between ancient Vulcan and ancient Earth entertainer, but the Department of History had given completed it at last (with a vocal minority protesting that she should have gone all Vulcan and another vocal minority declaring all Human would have been best) and had somehow made everything work together.

She peeked at a monitor that looked into the auditorium and was a bit surprised at how full it was. A lot of academic people from the departments involved: History, Xenolinguistics, Music, but also a fair share from Medicine and Science. She spotted a scattering of her friends but front and center was the Dean, her adviser and a Vulcan that looked very important that she didn’t recognize. In fact, there were a lot of Vulcans in the audience and that made her even more nervous.

“I’m glad I found you,” said a familiar voice behind her. It was Brendan, of course. “Have you been hiding from me? Every time we were supposed to get together, you had some excuse. Have I upset you some way?”

“Yes. No! I mean, no you haven’t upset me but yes I’ve been… avoiding you.”

“Then what’s the problem?” He looked genuinely upset but even more concerned than that.

Alia was blushing furiously, “That night when you m-massaged me. I, ummm, really…” her voice dropped to a strangled whisper.

He dropped into a chair and suddenly laughed, “You mean that’s it? God, girl, you had me worried that you hated me and we’re about to pull out of our project.” He sobered, “Do you not want me to touch you anymore?”

“No, I do and I’m not used to… that. I liked it. Really liked it.” She couldn’t meet his eyes and her fingers kept plucking at a decorative jewel on her costume.

He stilled her hands with his and although she jumped a bit, she didn’t try to pull away. “And, do you like me? Not just my hands?” He said the last with some humor.

“Y-yes. I think so.”

“That’s good enough then.” He lifted up her chin, though she still couldn’t meet his eyes and he gave her one soft kiss.

She went stiff and then surrendered to the kiss, a half-sigh escaping from her lips. Alia gave a nervous laugh, “This is supposed to help?”

“Didn’t it?”

Upon examining her own emotional state, she discovered to her surprise that it had. Almost all of the jitteriness had gone away and a growing warmth was replacing it.

“Now, go play those wonderful songs we made, okay? You’re going to do great! And Alia?”

“Yes?”

“We’ll… talk… later.”

Before each of Alia’s songs, Brendan would give a history of the original it was based on and the modifications they had made. He was a witty speaker, frequently drawing laughs from the audience (the Vulcans notably abstaining from any such displays). Oddly, Alia thought she saw one of them laughing near the back but the placement of the lights made it difficult for her to tell for certain.

The applause at the end was restrained but seemed heartfelt and the two took their bows before accepting questions from the audience. Either one or both answered, depending on the question, and then the event broke up into a general social affair as the actual performance and presentation had been relatively short.

One of the audience members came over with a smile on her face, which Brendan found very odd as she was a Vulcan. He was forced to revise his assumptions when the ‘Vulcan’ greeted Alia warmly. “Jolan Tru, Alia Fitzgerald. It is good to see you again.”

“Jolan Tru, Kalenna. Have you met my lab partner, Brendan?”

She looked at the man through half-lidded eyes. “No I haven’t. Your lab partner, do you say?” The Romulan leaned close to Alia and whispered something to her. The human blushed and said, “Maybe.”

Kalenna nodded, smiling again. “I greatly enjoyed the performance. Probably more than my Vulcan cousins though I think one or two might have been restraining their toes from tapping. Especially that original song for the finale. Your linguistic skills have come a long way, I see.”

Alia shook her head, “Not so much, I’m afraid. I learned them all phonetically and since Brendan kept rewriting the last one, I don’t think I ever got a proper translation.”

“I'm sure after the show, he'd willing to give you an impr...”

Brendan interrupted, “I'm so glad you like it, Kalenna. Copies of the performance are of course available. Thanks again!” Before Alia could object, a trio of students associated with the History department came over to socialize.

In the end, the comments were about what she expected. The Vulcans were very analytical but not without some praise, despite their critiques. There were requests from the music department for further demonstrations and for her instrument to be buffered for replication. To her surprise, quite a few of the Xenolinguistic students wanted to talk to her but Brendan intercepted their questions and ushered her away at first opportunity.

“But, I think I could have answered some of their questions. They weren't all that hard.”

“That's what I'm afraid of.” He refused to elaborate on this statement however much she asked.

Soon enough the event was over and they walked back to the dormitories, still pumped from the successful evening. It was the same giddy feeling she had after performing with the Rowdy Crowd. She glanced at him and new he felt the same way. He caught her eye at the same time and she turned away quickly, hoping he hadn't noticed.

“No, don't turn away.” He smiled, confident. “Didn't I say we would talk later?” He kissed her again encountering no resistance at all this time.

She sank into the kiss, growing warmer by the second as it lingered on her lips, playful and roughly tender. “Oh... oh my!”

“I guess it'd be better if we went inside, hmmm?”

She just nodded rapidly and then went back to her rooms, hand in hand. Once there, he took a strap from her instrument case and hung on the door which slid shut with slight hiss behind him. A few minutes passed and then, blushing furiously, Alia hung three more on the hook and then ducked back into the room.

 

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