"No, I think I'd rather look at the ceramics, over here," replied Kirk. He turned sharply left, leaving McCoy to trail in his wake. Kirk studied the glowing screen that described the suite's contents: "Asian pottery, 5000 BCE--Present. Predominantly Chinese."
He walked up to a cabinet and regarded the delicate pots with a connoisseur's eye. "Second or third century," he said. He read one specimen's label aloud: "Tomb tile with scenes of hunting. Han Dynasty, 25-220, Sichuan Province."
"Dead on the date, Captain," said the doctor behind him, padd in hand. "I didn't realize you knew anything about Chinese ceramics."
"Well, I've had the time to do a little reading," replied the other. Another case caught his eye and he took a few steps farther along. He read a second label aloud: " 'Bowl with stylized floral design. Neolithic period, 4th millennium BCE, Shanxi province.' Bit early for me, but I like the abstract style. How about you?"
"That red clay reminds me of some of the early European vases, I suppose. But Jim, all this stuff seems kind of removed from the people who made them and used them, doesn't it? I mean, this is pretty high-class stuff-- it's not exactly table-ware. Well, maybe the Neolithic stuff is," he conceded. "I gotta say I get more from the casual, every-day objects. Tells me more about the people who used them. Don't you think so?"
"To each his own, Doctor. These delicate pieces all seem nicely free from personal associations."
James Kirk spun on his heel to examine the lighted box behind them, and they both stopped in their tracks. This case obviously held a more unusual specimen: the object sat all by itself, bathed in spotlights.
This time it was McCoy who moved forward and read the label. " 'Ridged water bottle, Tang dynasty, 618-907 CE. Green-glazed stoneware, so-called celadon finish. 18 cm high. On loan from the Beijing Museum.' "
//sweet Jesus,// thought McCoy. Jim's whole being was focused on the flask. It had a broad, strong base, with paired curves on either side. The arcs cried out for fingers to trace them again, as those of the potter had lovingly done. The curves ran sharply but smoothly in and up, as though the potter had shaped it in the hollows of his palms. A thick column rose up from the center of the vase, and two parallel ridges surrounded it as it sprang upward. It had a third stiff ridge at the upper end of the neck, just before the edge flared into a series of ripples.
The smooth green finish was unblemished, perfect. It had a glowing cast to it, almost as if it were alive. It looked as if it would sense a touch, mold to the hand that gripped it. It was terrifying.
//best abstract rendition I've *ever* seen. looks like the artist knew a Vulcan personally, very personally . . . what's he gonna do now?// McCoy darted a glance at his dumbstruck friend.
In fact the captain of the Enterprise did nothing, said nothing. He stared. And stared. Finally he raised one hand and placed against the case, palm firmly against the cool glass, fingers spread. McCoy could see his chest rising and falling with rapid breaths.
Gently Leonard McCoy took the elbow of his friend and said, "Come on, Jim, let's go. There's lots more to see."
They retraced their steps to the main hallway. McCoy again gestured toward the exhibit on the other side of the hall, and said, "Let's look at what they've got grouped in here. It's supposed to be a fine survey of parts of Old California at the turn of the millennium."
"Innernets, do you mean?" Kirk spoke from a world away, but he seemed to be pulling himself together and showing a little animation.
"Yeah, I think so. The inhabitants of Silicon Valley, its successor Napa Valley, that sort of thing."
"Ah, Bones, I think you mean 'Silicone' Valley, if you're talking about the innernets."
"What do you mean?"
"When wearable technology came along, people began to call it 'Silicone' Valley, after the disastrous body implantations that had used silicone. Innernets were widely accepted at first, but then there was a big negative reaction."
"Since when did you become an expert on this stuff? D'you have yet *more* time to read?
"Oh, I've looked into it here and there. You know, Bones, I really don't feel like looking at all this stuff after all. These wires and chips are boring."
"You sure, Jim? This was your idea."
"Yeah, well, let's go get a drink or a sandwich, and then I'll show you something really interesting."