Chief Surgeon Leonard McCoy looked up from his desk as his office door swished open to frame the neatly poised young lady. She marched in with a springy grace that told McCoy of leg muscles still accustomed to a stronger gravity.
"Lieutenant Tanya Minos reporting for physical, Doctor."
McCoy beamed genially, "Welcome aboard, Tanya. It's been a long time."
"One year, two months and thirteen days, sir."
"You don't have to `sir' me. We're old friends."
"I wouldn't put it that way, Doctor."
"You're as bad as Spock!"
McCoy studied the attractive pixie of a girl. Her skin had a smooth, healthy glow, unharmed by the fierce Vulcan weather. The glossy, black hair was short, framing her classical Greek features with unflattering severity. The scarlet uniform suited her air of burning vitality under tight control. If she'd been raised by humans, she'd have been a vivacious extrovert. He'd have to watch her psych profile very closely.
He filed the observation for future reference and rose, "Step right this way, I've got everything ready for you."
"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, but the Yorktown had to answer a distress call on the way and I had no recourse but . . ."
"Never mind. I had nothing else to do but wait. You won't believe this, but since we moved into the new Enterprise, well, nothing ever happens anymore."
McCoy took a clipboard and activated his wall computer input, "Just lie down right here, Lieutenant, and we'll have this over inside half an hour." He went on taking readings and making notations on his checklist. "We've had her for six months now, and all we've done is beat back and forth on patrol. Except for drills, we haven't even fired the main phasers. Not that I'm complaining, mind you . . ."
He became lost in his work and a few minutes later, he tilted the bed down so she could step off. It squeaked. He said, "You see what I mean? Pinches like a new shoe. The beds squeak, there're no acid burns on the work benches. And if I didn't know better, I'd say there was still the smell of shipyard in the air, as if you could still find little piles of cuttings in the corners."
As he talked, he led her through the routine, recording responses and measurements until, finally, he took an instrument like an airhypo, and began to insert the subcutaneous contraceptive pellet, "Left arm please . . ."
"No, Doctor. General Regulations, section D, paragraph 14, subsection q." McCoy didn't hear the door open behind him.
Blankly, the doctor asked, "Which one is that?"
"The section pertaining to non-human females."
"But you're human!"
"Physically, yes. But I hold Vulcan citizenship."
"I don't see that that matters. It doesn't make you a Vulcan female. And as an unmarried crewmember, you're required . . ."
"No, I am not required, Doctor. This is an area of extreme sensitivity in all cultures and Starfleet recognizes that range of variation. The culture to which I belong finds such measures unacceptable."
Spock stepped forward allowing the door to close behind him, "She is within her rights, Doctor."
McCoy turned openmouthed. Then he looked from one to the other. Two spacelawyers were two too many for him so he conceded with bad grace and laid the applicator aside, "It will go into my log and the Captain will undoubtedly see it and have my head."
"I don't think so, Doctor." Spock handed Tanya a tape cartridge, "The regulation is quite explicit in citing citizens of Vulcan among the exemptions."
Tanya turned the cartridge over. "What's this?"
"Mail," answered Spock, "The Stovam Report."
"Oh. Finally. I thought I'd never get a copy."
"I monitored it as it came in. It appears to be a powerful indictment."
"I'll have to read it very carefully."
"Yes," said Spock, "We're already more than seven weeks behind."
She turned to McCoy, "If you're through with me, Doctor?"
"Oh, yes. You can go."
The two left together and as McCoy glumly requested a readout of subsection q from the computer, he vowed he'd choke before he'd ask what-the- hell the Stovam Report was.
As they paced along the bright corridor, tall Vulcan and short human, Spock said in Low Vulcan. "Perhaps by now you have reconsidered your position?"
"With respect to?" she answered in the same idiom.
"I have reconsidered and come to the same conclusion."
"And I still disagree. We must find time to argue the matter in greater depth."
She half turned to search the set of his face and gauge his carriage and general demeanor. Even his voice-pitch and accent underwent critical analysis before she said positively, "There's certainly no hurry and I should think the Stovam Report would have the highest priority."
"It does, I cannot allow T'Uriamne to remain unopposed now that Stovam has returned this indictment."
T'Aniyeh stifled a gasp.
As they reached the turbolift, Spock said in his deepest, gravest tone, "There will be a battle such as Vulcan hasn't seen for two thousand years. Your presence is a potential distraction. Therefore, precise definition of our relationship attains an equal priority with the Stovam Report. Think about it, T'Aniyeh. We will discuss it again."
The doors opened and she took the lift as Spock continued along the corridor. In the privacy of the elevator, she buried her face in her hands for a few seconds then shook herself, took a deep breath and said, "Bridge."
By the time the main computer had shunted the car this way and that and it opened the doors on the bridge, she had regained her surface composure. She marched to the command chair smartly and presented herself to the Captain.
Kirk turned a warm smile to her. "Welcome aboard. Lieutenant. I- A's loss is our gain."
"Oh, they didn't let me go, sir. They just thought a few years starship experience would make me a better officer. And after Thilien requested leave, there was nothing special I could do."
Kirk nodded, "Well, Tanya, I think you'll find we have an unusually well-staffed Linguistic Section." The lift doors screeched open and Kirk winced, "Linguistics is part of the Science Officer's Department, so you'll be working under Mr. Spock." Turning to see who had entered, Kirk called, "Spock," waited for the Vulcan to approach and continued, "Would you show Miss Minos around Linguistics, introduce her to Lieutenant Deeman, and see that she gets settled."
Chekov had just been relieved and was poised near the group eyeing the girl who bore the Russian name. She was shorter than he and, to the Russian's eyes, held something of the dark mystery of the Gypsy. He said, "If you're busy sir, I'd like to show the Lieutenant around."
Spock turned, "That won't be necessary, Mr. Chekov. I'll see to the details."
"Yes, sir." Chekov said as the three of them went to the lift, Chekov contriving to observe Tanya's trim figure from various angles. Sulu gave the Russian a knowing glance as they passed behind Uhura who was laboring over her board as a flood of back mail was finally catching up to the Enterprise.
Spock took his place by the wall control and set them on course for Linguistics via Chekov's quarters while Chekov managed to turn Tanya away from Spock. As the doors closed, the Vulcan heard Kirk's voice, "Maintenance."
Chekov said, "Have you ever served on a Starship before?"
T'Aniyeh answered distractedly, "No."
"I'm sure you're going to like the Enterprise. I'll introduce you around. There's going to be a little get-together in Rec. Room Four tonight. I could . . ."
"No, thank you, Mr. Chekov. I have other things to do."
"Sure. I understand. First day and everything. Perhaps another time. There's always something going on."
"No, Mr. Chekov. I'm always busy."
As Chekov considered this, the doors whined open and he exited, still considering.
When they were alone, Spock said, "The diversions available aboard the Enterprise are limited, but you might benefit by exploring them. Mr. Chekov knows them all quite well. I suggest you accept his offer the next time he asks." asks."
"He'll ask again?"
Spock assented with one eyebrow.
"Strange people, aren't they?"
The days passed swiftly for T'Aniyeh as she learned the computerized maze of the Enterprise's Linguistic Laboratory, did her daily stint in a gym cubby adjusted to Vulcan conditions, and buried herself in the Stovam Report.
She adopted the habit of taking the Report and her lunch to the gym where she worked through a vigorous exercise routine. Afterwards, she would sit cross-legged on the floor and eat while staring at the viewer, and allowing her muscles to cool before subjecting herself to the thermal shock of ship's normal temperatures. She avoided the showers, preferring to cleanse herself with Vulcan oils and powders.
Then, one day as she finished reading the last part of the Report over her lunch, the gym's intercom whistled and paged her to the Captain's quarters. Puzzled, she acknowledged, left her things in a corner and went directly there.
As she arrived, the door opened revealing McCoy, "Oh, finally, Tanya, come in."
"Yes, Tanya," said Kirk, "Come in." He snapped off his viewer and rose from the desk, "Now tell me, what's this about regulations you were quoting at Dr. McCoy?"
She blinked, bewildered. Then she remembered, "Section D, paragraph 14, subsection q. It is applicable, sir."
"I'm sure it is, to the letter, but I'm wondering if you really want to invoke it?"
"I am quite certain, sir."
"You realize that if . . . anything happens . . . it will effectively end your career on Starships? And for the active branch of the I-A?"
"I am a responsible adult citizen of Vulcan." She answered with the starchy crackle of a plebe answering an upperclassman.
"I realize that. However, you've been seen around the ship with Mr. Chekov," Kirk searched for delicate words, "and I'm wondering if you've had a sufficiently broad grounding in, well, human behavior patterns."
Impersonal coolness chilled her voice, "I find the habits of the human male . . . alien."
McCoy doubted that was a healthy attitude and was about to say so when the door chimed and Kirk said, "Come."
Spock entered, looked about, "I'm sorry, Captain, I didn't realize you had . . ."
"Quite all right, Mr. Spock. Perhaps you can help."
McCoy opened his mouth but T'Aniyeh interposed, "The issue is closed, sir, unless you'd care to take it up with the admiralty."
"I don't think that will be necessary," said Kirk, "It's your career. I'll let Spock try to talk some sense into you."
"About what?" asked Spock.
McCoy said, "This subsection q business. Jim, Spock's on her side.
"Oh. Well, as I said, Lieutenant, it's your career and your decision. But I strongly
recommend that you reconsider. After all, it's an absolutely harmless and temporary measure." To Spock he said, "What can I do for you?"
Spock approached the desk holding out a clipboard for Kirk's signature, "I need your authorization to tie up this much of our communication potential for private purposes."
Kirk read the form then looked up at the First Officer, "What do you want to do, send facsimile?"
"I've listed the purpose as outgoing mail." He indicated the clipboard.
"Mail is usually sent by coded computer-squirt; why would you want to send fax?"
"Our computers are not programmed to encode High Vulcan graphics in such a manner that the Vulcan Space Central Complex could decode reliably enough for my purposes. It would take me three weeks to set up the necessary programs and that would require scrapping several existing programs. In addition, there is a certain urgency attached to the material I wish to send. Such a delay would be unacceptable."
Kirk examined the lighted clipboard carefully then looked up again, "This is a very unusual request, Mr. Spock. I'll have to log a more precise reason than `personal mail.' What is it that's so urgent?"
"I'm engaged in an important argument, Captain, and since we are weeks from Vulcan and headed away, I'm already far behind."
"What kind of an argument?" Kirk was intrigued. Spock rarely sent or received personal mail.
T'Aniyeh was watching Spock carefully. McCoy observed T'Aniyeh from an inconspicuous post near the door.
Spock said, "I find that I must take exception to some sections of the Stovam Report."
"Certainly you've heard of it, sir?" said T'Aniyeh.
"No. I don't recall."
T'Aniyeh said, "The Vulcan Commission that investigated the theft of the Kraith, Captain."
Kirk said, "They've published a report?"
"Yes, sir," said Spock. "Nine weeks ago. We received our copies seven weeks later. I've not yet received any publication discussing Stovam's findings, but I'm certain there are many extant. I wish to put my views on record before the question is called."
McCoy said, "And what did Stovam find?"
Spock turned to eye the Doctor and then back to Kirk who was radiating curiosity. He summoned patience and yielded to the inevitable, "Stovam concludes that the Federation was guilty of criminal negligence in failing to protect the Kraith in accord with its value. He asserts that the cause of this negligence is inherent in the structure of the Federation and cites humanity as the specific source of the difficulty. He claims that subsequent to the event, no changes were made that would in any way guard against a future occurrence of a similar nature."
Stunned, Kirk said, "Why that's not true! Security has been tightened all over. Our own mission put a stop to leaks within our Starbases. Personnel are now screened even more thoroughly and a General Order was issued regarding . . ."
"Yes, sir." Spock interrupted, "But all that is irrelevant. That particular type of negligence has been corrected, security increased and warning issued regarding non-human artifacts. But the psychology of humans hasn't been changed. The attitude which generated the negligence is untouched and most humans aren't even aware that it exists. It's all around us, all the time, Captain. For example," he again turned to eye McCoy, "the doctor's attitude toward T'Aniyeh's choice to invoke Subsection q."
He turned back to Kirk, "And your own attitude toward her decision. Both reflect an inability to respect the values of others and a tendency to judge others by your own personal standards. It was this trait which led the Security team in charge of the Kraith to treat it merely as a priceless antique."
"Then," said Kirk, "You agree with Stovam?"
"I agree with his observations, but I disagree with his conclusions. I am well enough informed to guess who will agree with him and to construct their argument lines. Therefore, I've prepared a refutation of the arguments which are, no doubt, currently circulating in favor of Stovam's conclusion."
"Which is?" prompted Kirk.
McCoy saw those huge Vulcan lungs fill with air and put in, "Briefly?"
Spock deflated, considered and then spoke gravely, "His position cannot be stated in a few English words, but it leads inescapably to the conclusion that Vulcan must withdraw from the Federation."
Kirk and McCoy paused, washed in shock, tingling in disbelief. Finally, Kirk shook his head in bewilderment, "But that's illogical!"
"On the contrary, Captain. Stovam's logic is irreproachable."
"What!?" exclaimed McCoy, "I thought you just said you disagreed!"
"I do. But I do not impugn his logic. An argument is a complex composition, Doctor. Logic is only one among many elements." He appealed to Kirk, "How could I explain in simple English a counterargument, which even our main computers are unable to digest from a High Vulcan presentation? Captain, will you authorize this traffic or must I seek other means of communicating with the Vulcan electorate?"
"There will be a vote on this?"
"Of course. As soon as all arguments have been heard and there has been time to call a General Question. If I am forced to seek other means of communicating, I may be too late."
Kirk scribbled his initials and handed the clipboard back to the First Officer, "I'll authorize as much time as you need, but perhaps you should take leave."
"Not yet, Captain. This could go on for many months."
"Let me know if there's anything I can do."
"I will, sir."
When Spock and T'Aniyeh had left, McCoy said to Kirk, "Do you think they'd really do it?"
"Withdraw from the Federation? You know Vulcans. If it's logical, they'll do it. But, they have a great sense of responsibility. They know full well how destructive such an act would be."
Spock took his authorization and his tape to the bridge where Uhura had just added a sixth tape to the pile racked beside her. As the door swished quietly open, Uhura turned, "Oh, Mr. Spock. These are all for you. Looks like another stack of journals or some such."
Spock accepted the rack and placed the clipboard with the tape on her console. "This is to go out immediately. By facsimile."
She checked the authorization and dropped the cartridge into a slot, took one look and turned with one hand removing her ear speaker, "Mr. Spock, this will take about six hours to transmit by such a high-resolution fax. I could move it by squirt in four seconds."
"I am well aware of the operating parameters of your department, Lieutenant. You have your orders."
"Yes, sir." She turned back to her board and went to work. It would be a tedious job to monitor, but the Captain's authorization was explicit enough.
Spock set the rack of tapes aside and went about his regular duties. It was six hours later before he returned to his quarters to fold himself into his desk chair and examine the day's mail. When he did, he took one look at his viewer, then threw a sharp glance in the direction of the bridge wondering if humanity was really all that valuable an influence after all. The "journals" were the long-awaited commentaries on the Stovam Report.
Putting all else aside, he buried himself in the complex graphics.
High Vulcan is a more ultra-precise mode of expression than the most elaborate mathematics of the theoreticist for it never has to resort to ordinary language for exposition or definition. While the spoken form of High Vulcan must rely on ordinary grammatical forms, the written language is under no such linear constraint and can be tailored to the argument in hand.
Hence, a page of High Vulcan graphics might resemble a hybrid of a chemical phase diagram, a cubist's nightmare, a Hebrew paradigm, and an oriental filigree expert's idea of a decorative hiding place for a code. It has been likened to a seven-dimensional creature's effort to portray the world he sees on a two-dimensional page.
The more involved an argument becomes, the larger and more complex the diagrams have to be. When they become too large, a master diagram of the total argument is ruled into numbered segments. Detailed enlargements of each segment are then appended to the master. The resulting composition is very like a road atlas, and the reading process resembles plotting all possible routes from all points to all points.
Without the Vulcan eidetic memory and powers of visualization, such a tool would be impractical. But even with these advantages, the method can become unwieldy. When that happens, two-dimensional expression is abandoned for a three-dimensional model. High Vulcan Modular looks like abstract sculpture and can be quite beautiful in itself.
But, beyond the sculpture technique, is the most powerful tool employed by the High Vulcan language, tokiel. Tokiel uses four dimensions (three spacial, one time) and twenty-two color parameters as well as fifteen pure tones. What would take ten hours to read out of a two- or three-dimensional argument can be assimilated from a skillful tokiel artist in about an hour. Tokiel can handle complexities beyond the range of the most intricate sculpture and yet it is held in highest esteem for its simplistic elegance. It is the tool of the pre-schooler as well as the post- doctoral student, though it is necessary only for problems involving the entire social structure of Tsaichrani.
It was a little after ship's midnight when Spock snapped off his viewer to stare into space over his clasped hands, straining his powers of visualization. There had to be a way out.
T'Uriamne had drawn the conclusion he'd know she would. In his grandfather's name he couldn't fail to oppose her. Yet he could see no way to succeed. The idic had been a cornerstone of Tsaichrani since the Guardian Council of Kataytikh had adopted Surak's Construct three thousand years ago. But there was no logical reason why it couldn't be amended or even scrapped entirely if the electorate was willing to accept the consequences. The day of the illiterate peasant had long passed, and even the Guardian Council would yield to the will of the electorate if it were expressed clearly enough.
But could he be absolutely sure of his own motives? Could he indeed be guilty of the same crime as Doctor McCoy? Was he truly qualified to mold Tsaichrani?
He brushed his self-doubt aside. Even though Sarek still lived, he was Kataytikh in his father's place and by his grandfather's hand. More, he was Kataytikh of the First Realm and thus entitled to speak in Guardian Council which implied the right to judge Tsaichrani and to mold it. But he must go armed with a perfect presentation.
He racked the tape cartridges and took them in search of T'Aniyeh.
It was late and the corridors were dim and deserted. Spock had always liked this shift best because, with most of the ship asleep, the ship took on an air of quiet that extended deep into the telepathic band giving a kind of privacy he cherished.
He made his way to T'Aniyeh's quarters and rang. The door opened and he stepped in to find her drawing a wrap around herself.
"Get dressed. We've got work to do."
She discarded the wrap and quite un-selfconsconsciously reached for her uniform. "At this hour? Remember I'm only human. I do need to sleep once in a while."
Spock paused, "Are you tired?"
She frowned, "Frankly, no. I was thinking seriously about some prookle I made last night."
She'd stripped to her skin and was applying underwear methodically. Spock, ignoring the scenery, went to her desk viewer and inserted one of the tapes, spun it to an overall view of T'Uriamne's proposal and turned to find T'Aniyeh peering around his elbow clad only in panty and bra.
He said, "What do you think of that?"
She didn't answer. He waited a moment watching her face, then reached for her dress, gathered it expertly and passed it over her head with minimum obstruction of her vision. She let him help her squirm into the garment and fasten it.
He asked, "Two portions of prookle?"
"Hmmmm." She looked up, "What I don't understand is why my copies of these haven't arrived."
"Inexplicable mail delays are one of the inconveniences of a Service career."
She squirmed into hose and shoes while he retrieved his tape. Stopping at the mirror over her dresser, she ran a brush through her hair, "Humans practice an invasion of privacy they call `gossip.' It's generally based on exaggerated misinterpretations of minor observations, such as tousled hair and midnight companionship."
Standing behind her, he took her shoulders and observed her in the mirror, allowing the strength of his touch to say, "It soon will be common knowledge."
She met his eyes analytically in the mirror. Still no sign of urgency. She said, "Not tonight, Spock. Three or four days, all right? We'll argue to a conclusion then."
Blinking assent, he said, "Date."
They walked the darkened corridors breathing deeply of the thought- free air and feeling
light and companionable. She led the way through a door into a rectangular room just large enough for a table and six chairs. Spock started feeding his tapes to the large wall viewscreen as T'Aniyeh continued to another door that led to a tiny galley. She took her lock-box from the walk-in refrigerator and shoved the neatly wrapped prookle squares into the warmer. Then she dialed a steaming red fruit juice and brought utensils and plates out to the table.
Sipping the juice, she arranged their repast. The aroma of the juice roused Spock from the viewscreen, and he reached over.
"Yes. Skip dinner?"
"Like something more?"
"No. May I keep this?"
"I'll get another."
She went to dial herself another of the red potions that resembled thick applesauce more than juice, and brought the sizzling squares of confection. Prookle looks like a compressed bread pudding and comes in all colors. It's eaten for its high protein content, but wild variations using imported spices are the `in' thing with Vulcan youths who frequent the all night gathering houses.
By Vulcan standards, Spock was still a youth. He fell to with more enthusiasm than pleased him as T'Aniyeh studied the tapes he'd fed into the viewer. When he'd finished, he sat watching her face as she struggled with the ideas.
Finally she looked at him. He said, "Excellent prookle."
"You should have invited me sooner."
"Didn't think of it."
"Remember me next time."
"I will." She nodded at the viewer, "I've only the vaguest idea of what she's driving at, but it's obvious you'll need a total model. If you like, I'll help you build it. Do you have a large acasomy?"
"Yes, but it's not large enough."
"I have a thousand-piece. Together we might be able to cobble something together, at least to get an idea."
"Good. Three thousand pieces should be sufficient." He stacked his dishes and rose, heading for the disposal. "Meet me in Rec Room Eight in ten minutes," he paused on the way to the corridor, "Unless you're too tired?"
"I'm good for a few hours. I don't go on duty until the afternoon so I can sleep later. This is really the best time to work. It's so quiet."
He left and she went to find her acasomy, the three-dimensional model kit more inseparable from a Vulcan than a pocket computer from an engineer.
They worked on their model well into the early morning hours, leaving the Rec Room looking like a primitive printer's workshop. When T'Aniyeh went to sleep, Spock went in search of the captain with a request for exclusive use of Rec Room Eight.
The next few days passed as Tanya and Spock concentrated on their problem using every tool at their command. With Spock sorting pieces and T'Aniyeh constructing, the three-dimensional model of Tsaichrani as-it-is-now was easily completed by T'Aniyeh from memory (a point which pleased Spock more than he would admit) and she then devoted her time to studying her copies of the commentaries which finally arrived.
It was slow reading for her, but she persevered until, three days later, she was ready to tackle what Spock had done to the model. He'd incorporated the changes advocated by T'Uriamne and was searching out all possible repercussions.
Essentially what she suggested was amending the idic concept to exclude combinations which ran more than a 65% chance of destroying one of the combined elements rather than merely altering it.
In view of the Stovam Report, this would require that all ties with humans be severed. The significance of such an action was not merely economic. It would also affect the large and growing community of resident aliens on Vulcan as well as people like T'Aniyeh and Spock who belonged to both sides.
But the most severe effect would be on the value system underlying the whole structure of Tsaichrani. The interrelationships of Vulcan ethics, morals, and values with the existing social order were so intricate and contained so much inertia that the shock waves would last for generations. It was in this area that Spock groped for a weapon to use against T'Uriamne.
Strive as he might, he couldn't isolate any single effect that was absolutely undesirable. He spent hours tinkering with their model and more hours staring into space over his steepled fingers examining his visualization of the model. Then, he'd close his eyes and visualize every movement of T'Rruel's Motek, and try to recapture that flash of insight he'd had as she concluded her performance, that last time she'd ever danced it.
But to no avail. She had been a true genius of the type that turned up once in three generations. It was in such moments that he found himself nursing an emotional regret that T'Rruel had had to die. He was certain that if she'd lived to complete her rendition of the Motek, he'd have his answer. He was not in T'Rruel's class and could not supply the missing threads of her reasoning, yet he knew that had she lived, there would be no General Question called on the Stovam Report.
Each time he reached this point, he'd shake himself out of it and try to stare at the model while striving again to grasp the problem as a whole. His ancestors had constructed Tsaichrani and he'd been trained to understand its operation. He'd worked more complex problems than this hundreds of times.
Then one night, as he lay resting, he switched his attention from the problem to himself. There was no reason he should be unable to hold the entire structure in his mind and visualize every possible effect of any change, especially with the physical model as a fifth level abstract and all the computer time he could use.
Unless . . .
Shocked, he sat bolt upright on his bed, considering. Then he lay back and ran a thorough metabolic check. No. He was sound, healthy, and stable. He composed himself and internalized his attention in what Dr. McCoy would call a self-induce trance for lack of the proper term. He tested every one of his mental "circuits" as carefully as he would a troublesome computer's programs.
The only abberrations he found were the built-in ones due to his dual heritage, save one. Quantitatively, it could hardly be considered disabling. But the effect was out of all proportion to the cause. Nature is an implacable mistress, especially if you're a Vulcan male.
Rechecking to make sure there were no other disturbances originating within himself he externalized his attention only to find his desk intercom whistling stridently. He rose and answered.
"Mr. Spock!" The captain's voice crackled, "I was about to send a security team looking for you. Where have you been? Didn't you hear the Red Alert?"
"I was asleep, Captain. Trouble?"
"We were only engaged in a battle with a well-armed pirate vessel that's all. Nothing important." Kirk's thinly veiled sarcasm was lost on the Vulcan. "Now we're about to pick up ten very young children, Mr. Spock, Vulcan children. Adrift in a damaged ship with no adults for god-only-knows how long. Our readings show they're in fair health but malnourished. Meet me in the transporter room in three minutes. Kirk out."
Spock dove through the door almost before it could fly out of his path, but he turned left, away from the transporter room. When he reached the intersection, he turned left again but had gone only a few steps when he spotted T'Aniyeh coming toward him.
"Come with me," he said as he about-faced, and made it back to the corner in four long strides. He turned right, sidestepped an astounded Yeoman Rand and cut back into his own room without looking to see if T'Aniyeh was following. As the door closed behind her, he locked it, then disconnected his intercom.
"Do you know about the children?" he asked.
"Children? Are the survivors children?"
"Vulcan children. No adults with them."
She gasped and closed her eyes to master the shock. Then, her features relaxed into Vulcan mask that said without words, "So that's the way it is to be."
She looked up into his eyes calmly. "Whenever you're ready."
He raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. She joined hers to his. The lines of his face melted into a tenderness she'd never seen there and suddenly, she found it easy to open her mind to him. It felt as if her hand melted into his and then he was there, within her mind waiting gently at the ramparts of her soul.
She'd never allowed anyone into that inner keep, not even the Vulcan therapists who'd rescued her sanity and taught her control. They'd taught her to guard her innermost self; they had not taught her to share it.
And then his voice came, deep as a still lake hidden in some mountain cave; cool as black velvet caressing her nerves. The words were ancient ritual, so old they'd all but lost their meaning, but they held the power to unlock the gates of her fortress and cause her to welcome the speaker. Though she'd never been mated, she had Affirmed the Continuity.
She heard herself answering with the same age-old formula. And then she was welcomed to the innermost hearth that is shared only in the ultimate intimacy. And they became one.
It was not a melding of minds, but a mingling of that indefinable substance which burns, creating the flame of life. It was a touching that did not touch, and yet would always touch.
He withdrew his hand and, instead of the usual, clean separation she'd always associated with the breaking of such a contact, there was a drawing out, as if some rope of connective thought-tissue were elongating. She still felt his living presence within her. The surging dynamics of his life processes, his emotions, were hers to know, always. And she knew he had the same contact with her emotions and that her lack of control could cause him terrible anguish.
They stood poised, within and without one another, for a breathless moment before Spock said, "We must hurry."
As she trailed after the First Officer, she knew his urgency, the tensing for action on which lives might depend. And she surrendered to it because it was the coherent power of a laser beam compared to the chaotic white light of her own near-panic, and emotion was what she must not feel now. Curiously, his steadiness actually flowed through her, damping the rising tide of apprehension, readying her for action. And somehow, she knew this new steadiness would be hers as long as the relationship endured.
Arriving at the transporter room door, Spock paused to let her catch up, then breasted the door as if it were a gigantic wave. Within, they found an ocean in torment. It was exactly what they'd expected, but even Vulcans can hope things won't be as bad as anticipated.
The Captain was struggling to hold two silently bloodthirsty toddlers apart in spite of their expert and dispassionate shin-kicking, finger-biting tactics. Nurse Chapel was striving not to drop one screaming and kicking infant while dealing with two others that still lay on the transporter pads. Three boys and a girl were holding a cowering McCoy at bay. The oldest, a preadolescent boy, stood on the rear transporter pad, hands to his ears, too pained by the noise to do anything helpful.
Less than ten seconds after Spock and T'Aniyeh entered to stand side by side surveying the scene with disapproval, silence descended.
The toddlers froze, turning their heads toward the couple. The infants ceased struggling. The children around Doctor McCoy came to blank- faced attention and the pre-adolescent boy removed his hands from his ears to eye Spock with relief. The humans gaped at the sudden quiet disbelievingly, then followed the children's gazes to the still open door.
When the silence had penetrated everyone's nerves, Spock said to Kirk, but including all three humans, "It would be best if you leave this to us."
Kirk straightened, "Spock, where have you been for the last fifteen minutes?"
"With your permission, sir, I'll explain later."
"That should be interesting!" He moved toward the door avoiding the toddlers who still looked like statues. "What did you do to them?"
"Nothing, Captain." Spock turned to McCoy who was extricating himself from the tableau, "Doctor, if you will precede us to Sickbay and adjust the environmental controls, T'Aniyeh and I will bring the children. Nurse Chapel," he moved to the transporter platform and plucked an infant from her arms, "I suggest you accompany the Doctor." He handed the infant to the oldest boy, one-handed, as if it were a dirty doll. The boy tucked the limp figure clad in a pale-green jumper under one arm and waited, eyeing T'Aniyeh warily.
T'Aniyeh lifted another of the infants and tucked it, football fashion, but face down under one arm and went to take one of the toddlers in hand. Spock hefted the remaining infant holding it away from him as one might an untrustworthy spitcat, then he tucked it away and took possession of the other toddler who went docilely beside the tall Vulcan.
A few comments in Low Vulcan sufficed to form the procession that marched the halls of the Enterprise in good order. Meanwhile, McCoy had turned one of his rooms into a desiccating oven and was demanding three cribs from Stores while his left hand worked his reference computer for a Vulcan infant's diet. Nurse Chapel was on another com alerting the commissary when the procession arrived.
After he'd turned the group over to T'Aniyeh, Spock approached McCoy's desk.
The Doctor pointed to his viewer, "Any recommendations?"
Spock glanced through the medical reference for about ninety seconds, "This seems complete."
"Pediatrics isn't my line, but I'll do what I can, though I don't relish the idea of working in there." He jerked a thumb toward the room that already shimmered with heat.
"The warmth is necessary, Doctor, as the children can't tolerate the ship's frigid ambient temperature. You'll have to manage."
The intercom bleeped. "McCoy here."
Kirk's voice snapped, "Tell Spock I want to see him in my quarters right away, Kirk out." He sounded angry.
Spock nodded and ducked into the other room long enough to say, "T'Aniyeh, I'll be back as soon as possible." Then he left.
And Kirk was angry. While Spock entered, snapped to a crisp attention and waited to be noticed, the Captain paced back and forth, ignoring the First Officer. Never before in Spock's memory had Kirk treated a subordinate so. But he waited patiently, well aware of the battle of reason and emotion that raced before him.
Finally, Kirk wheeled on the Vulcan, met his eyes and said softly, "All right, let's have it. And it better be good. Why didn't you report to the transporter room immediately?"
"Sir, I understood that you wished my aid in handling the children. Had I reported to the transporter room immediately, as ordered, I would have failed to carry out the implied command of calming the children, and indeed, my presence would only have aggravated the situation. I therefore deemed it necessary to invest thirteen minutes in preparation. In doing so, I exercised an officer's judgement and if you find the results unsatisfactory, it is your prerogative to take disciplinary action."
Kirk took that in silently and turned away as he mulled over the aspects of the problem. He'd never been one to emphasize the letter of command in preference to results. And there was no denying Spock had achieved results. He said, "Spock, what did you do to that mob of . . . children?"
"I don't understand. You certainly did something. What kind of preparations?"
"I did nothing to the children, sir, only to myself. To create peace, it is necessary to be at peace. I took what steps seemed . . . appropriate. I regret that it took time during which you were exposed to danger. It was a calculated risk."
"Danger? They're just children!"
"Vulcan children, sir, come equipped with a plethora of survival instincts. Some fade with time and some must be trained-away but all can be deadly. Fortunately, this group hadn't been beyond the influence of an adult for too long."
Astonished, Kirk was striving not to gape, "I was never aware of that aspect, I mean, they're just . . ." He sputtered to a halt, one hand circling in the air, searching for an expression.
Meeting Kirk's eyes levelly. Spock said. "There are reasons for our customs. Captain."
Kirk sifted through his paltry inventory of facts on Vulcan children. All he really knew was that they were brought up under a strict regimen, requiring obedience, study, and a serious approach to exercise and other aspects of physical hygiene. Outworlders practically never even see Vulcan children. But he'd always thought the severe treatment was merely the Vulcan method of instilling the disciplines of logic.
He left that for a moment, "I filed the report with Star Base XVII. Commodore Kiri has released us from patrol to take the children back to Vulcan. We're heading there at warp five.
"Did we take their vessel aboard, sir?"
"No. There wasn't much left. We salvaged some pieces of wreckage for the lab. The survivors were nipped off just in time. Which reminds me, I never knew you were such a sound sleeper?"
"Even Vulcans require rest, and I was off duty."
"Yes, I suppose so."
Kirk turned toward his desk conceding that with a shrug of his shoulders. After all, it'd never happened before. "Very well, Mr. Spock. Your orders are to turn over your administrative duties to your department heads and devote your time to caring for those children with special emphasis on finding out as much as they know about what happened to their vessel. But don't sacrifice their mental health to the Federation's curiosity. I'm sure even Vulcan children must be deeply affected by such a loss."
So, with his job cut out for him, Spock took himself back to Sickbay.
The trip to Vulcan seemed little different than the months spent on border patrol. But Spock and T'Aniyeh took heel-toe shifts in the nursery until Christine volunteered for the night shift, leaving the children's waking hours to the tranquilizing effects of the Vulcans.
McCoy now had plenty to occupy him. When he wasn't boning up on Vulcan pediatrics, he was arguing Vulcan child-psychology with an adamant Spock and a faintly amused Tanya. McCoy maintained that the children should be encouraged to release their grief in some fashion, if only in undisciplined motor activity. The Vulcans maintained that the only hope of salvaging the children's mental health was in organizing an absolutely invariant daily schedule as close to "normal" as possible and that did not include undisciplined motor activity.
It took a midnight incident to convince the Chief Surgeon he'd better leave the care of Vulcans to Vulcans.
During Christine's shift, all three infants awoke vomiting. She called McCoy, then strove to deal with the sudden chaos before it roused the others. But by the time the surgeon arrived, bedlam reigned in the "hotroom" and McCoy called Spock, shouting to be heard over the din, before attempting any medical readings.
McCoy was just finishing his examination when the sudden silence told him Spock had arrived. He turned to the First Officer, "I can't find anything wrong. We'll give them a drink and put them back to sleep."
"Just a moment, Doctor." Spock inserted his lank frame between the human and his patient and ran a huge hand over the infant's head and down over its abdomen and then examined the sodden diaper. "Give these babies any more to drink and you'll have it all over the floor within ten minutes. They vomited because they'd had too much to drink and, I suspect," he turned to Nurse Chapel, "too much of what you call tender-loving-care. Nurse, did you pick these children up for any reason?"
"Yes, I did. They were fretting just after I came on duty. I rocked them a bit to settle them down and gave them each an ounce of water. A baby needs affection to feel secure."
The Vulcan turned to McCoy nodding, "You'd better instruct your staff more thoroughly,
Doctor, before assigning them. For the present," he turned the infant over and stripped off the wet diaper, dropping it into the wall disposal chute, "we'll put them back to sleep. T'Aniyeh will feed them in the morning." He applied the fresh diaper with the impersonal thoroughness he turned on all mechanical routines, flipped the infant onto its stomach, pushed its head firmly down and left it to fall asleep. After performing the same service for the other two infants with the same abruptness as if regretting each unavoidable contact, he shooed the sweating humans out of the dormitory, forestalling the inevitable comments on humans with a stern eyebrow that had the whole room asleep in three minutes flat. Christine was too shocked by the sight of Spock up to his elbows in domesticity to react and McCoy only noted it for future reference. But somehow it seemed no more unusual than Spock up to the elbows in computer circuitry.
Out in McCoy's office, the Vulcan said to Christine, "You'll remain on duty at these monitors until T'Aniyeh comes. If anything at all happens, however insignificant, you will call me and not undertake any sort of initiative." Then he left.
McCoy stared at the closed door, silently capitulating in all issues regarding Vulcan infants, and possibly even children.
From then on, Spock made a habit of dropping in on Christine several times a night. Though his mind was clearer now, he was busier and had even less time to construct his argument. But he worked harder, determined to find some firm grounds on which to challenge T'Uriamne's proposal.
Then, one morning six weeks out of Vulcan, he sat over his model well into the ship's morning hours, desperately groping for something he was certain would have been obvious to T'Rruel. Even though he could now hold the entire fluid structure in his mind and trace effects for three generations, he still hadn't found one item which spelled sure destruction. The number of permutations was astronomical and it could take two Vulcan lifetimes just to think of them all. But he was convinced he was onto something and just couldn't interrupt himself.
Meanwhile, T'Aniyeh dismissed Christine and put the children through their morning routine. She'd seen Spock seated cross-legged on the floor by the enormous, gleaming model and had noted the clasped hands with the raised figures steepled to a position that spelled trance depth concentration. A Vulcan in such a state simply could not be disturbed.
When it came time for Spock to conduct lessons and he still hadn't shown, she determined to improvise for another hour before ordering the children to drill from the computer. While she got the infants settled down, she reviewed the lessons Spock had been emphasizing and cast about for some supplementary material in which she was reasonably competent.
All she could think of was an elementary tokiel exercise she'd learned from one of T'Rruel's recordings. She'd always admired the way T'Rruel specified her quantifiers with graceful head movements that never detracted from the flow of her argument. T'Aniyeh had worked long and hard to capture the finer nuances and felt confident that she could teach them to the five older children, and the two toddlers would be interested enough and might even pick up a point or two.
So, when Spock walked in, fifty-five minutes later, he found T'Aniyeh demonstrating the Twelfth Movement of the exercise with the seven children seated in a circle around her, captivated. He paused a moment to watch and was instantly impressed with the human girl's mastery of T'Rruel's style.
He knew the exercise well, of course, but hadn't really thought about its components in years. His own execution had always been termed competent, but he knew he lacked the style that communicated lucidly. The Twelfth Movement was an extremely versatile sequence which turned up in various guises in some of the most sophisticated arguments.
He watched as T'Aniyeh danced through the last half of the Movement and then, strangely, it seemed to be T'Rruel, herself, weaving the figures before him, joining the linear argument into a perfectly beautiful circle with singular brilliance.
Spock blinked here, well aware that the dancer was T'Aniyeh, but unable to dissolve the illusion. When she reached the sequence he'd come in on, she sighted him and stopped, not abruptly as any amateur would, but with an ad-libbed step that rounded out her motion with a fluid authority that said, "to-be-continued."
T'Rruel's influence was so strong that Spock experienced again that flash of extraordinary insight. This time he chased the teaser deep into his mind, refusing to be distracted until he'd exploited every last bit of momentum the vision had given him.
To the onlookers, he seemed paralyzed by some odd phaser effect. Frozen in mid-step, without blinking, breathing, or trembling, he nevertheless exerted himself in the most furious activity he'd undertaken in years. But the Vulcan audience understood instantly, and remained still, scarcely daring to breathe. After a few minutes, the younger children began to fret in the cold draft from the still-open door.
Before T'Aniyeh could move to close the door manually, Dr. McCoy came up behind Spock reading a clipboard, noted the open door from the corner of his eye and swerved to enter the room.
"Why is this door open? It's heating up my office unbeara . . .!" He collided with Spock who toppled like a statue. McCoy's clipboard flew as the Doctor clutched at Spock's arm, trying to let the Vulcan down easily. For one long minute McCoy stood over the rigid body uncomprehending. Then the rigor left Spock's limbs and he melted onto the floor
Not having been aware of the fall, Spock took a moment to get his bearings and note the expression on McCoy's face. Then, realizing what must have happened, he looked at T'Aniyeh, "It's all right. I've got it."
He retrieved McCoy's clipboard and climbed to his feet, "I believe this is yours, Doctor. You should be more careful with Federation property." He pointed the bewildered Chief Surgeon out the door, "It's getting chilly in here."
As the door closed, he turned and took charge of the class just as if he'd arrived without incident.
Two days later, Spock and T'Aniyeh confronted Kirk in his quarters. It was late, and the Captain was tired. He was seated at his desk, toying with the viewscreen controls as the two Vulcans stood at ease before him. Sometimes Spock's logic gave him a headache.
He leaned back and cocked his head at Spock, "Is this really feasible?"
"I believe it is, Captain," said Spock. Turning to the girl he snapped a command.
She paced forward, paused a moment, then spun around reaching high and lunged forward in a dancer's imitation of a fencer's stance.
For a fleeting instant, Kirk actually thought he saw the jet black crown of T'Rruel's long hair coiled in place of Tanya's short bob.
He nodded, "Yes, I see. But a whole composition is more than just a signature. Even I can see that."
"True, Captain. But what is required for the entire Motek is no more than you've just seen, an ability to copy."
"But," said Kirk, "you said T'Rruel never recorded the Motek."
"Correct. But she made many recordings of other compositions. T'Aniyeh has studied them carefully and as you have seen she's captured T'Rruel's style. All tokiel compositions are based on an inventory of standard movements. It's the combinations that convey meaning, as words are taken from a dictionary and placed into meaningful sentences."
Kirk sat forward, "And you believe that you have completed T'Rruel's Motek as she would have completed it?"
"Yes, sir." Spock was being patient.
"I still don't understand how this is going to keep Vulcan from seceding from the Federation."
Spock decided to try a less technical explanation. Apparently Kirk wouldn't authorize something he didn't believe he understood, at least in principle. "The subject of the Motek is the connection between the philosophy of Nome and the principle of the Domination of Logic. As you know, Surak considered these two ideas to be separate elements in his Construct. A number of tokiel artists have proposed views of the connection but none has ever delineated the relationship with T'Rruel's incisive elegance.
"The Domination of Logic is an important concept. Any change which could be shown to endanger that Domination would, I believe, be rejected by the electorate. T'Rruel's Motek, in complete form, demonstrates that T'Uriamne's proposal would result in the eventual weakening of the Domination of Logic. However, T'Rruel's Motek has never been viewed in complete form. I propose to teach T'Aniyeh to perform T'Rruel's Motek and then provide an opportunity for the electorate to view her performance. I believe T'Rruel's statement is clear enough to delay action on T'Uriamne's proposal at least while we search for other means of dealing with the problems cited by Stovam."
Kirk, head cocked to one side, considered that. It appealed to his sense of humor; a human girl arguing a whole planet full of Vulcans to a standstill. He said, "But what am I going to do for a First Officer for the next six weeks? And what about those children? According to Bones, the only thing between him and destruction is you two."
"My department heads are already handling 90% of my routine work, Captain. I'll still be available for any non-routine problems. And we will remain responsible for the children."
Kirk considered this for a moment. It would be spreading his First Officer pretty thin. And then it struck him that Spock was moving with uncharacteristic haste. "Spock," Kirk rose and paced around his desk, "What's the hurry? Can't it wait until we deliver the children? You and Tanya could take leave."
Spock examined his boots for a moment, composed his thoughts, and raised his eyes to his Captain, "I received notification this morning that T'Uriamne has called the General Question. The vote will take place the day after we arrive."
"What! I never thought Vulcan law could move so quickly! Who is this T'Uriamne?"
Pausing a moment to choose his words, Spock said, "She is the hereditary head of the Guardian Council. She has declared a State of Imminent Peril because she believes Federation membership represents a threat to Tsaichrani."
Kirk strained his memory. All Academy applicants had to pass a test on comparative governmental structures of Federation member worlds, but that had been so many years ago and law wasn't his strongest interest, still, "State of Imminent Peril? Doesn't that close public debate for several weeks before the vote?"
"It amounts to almost thirteen standard days, Captain."
"Then how can you present your argument?"
Spock took a deep breath and turned to pace away from Kirk, circling Tanya who stood impassively listening. Finally, he turned again to the human, resigned. It seemed that every time he had to do something important he had to start by instructing the Captain in the details of Vulcan life. Perhaps it would be better to be a Captain.
Spock sighed, "By calling the Guardian Council into session and challenging T'Uriamne's right to the position she holds."
"But you just said it was a hereditary position! What is the Guardian Council, I've never heard of it."
"That's not surprising. It hasn't met in almost two thousand years."
"Two thousand years! Why?"
"Because it wasn't necessary. There's been no serious indictment of any of the elements of Surak's Construct in all that time."
"And the leadership is hereditary?"
"Then how can anyone challenge T'Uriamne's right to it?"
"Her father also has a son. If he can demonstrate superior competence, he will succeed to her position. Such an argument will be the only permitted public debate at that time."
"How can you be so sure he doesn't share her attitude?"
A shadow of peculiarly Spockian amusement colored his expression as he answered, "Captain, I do believe I am familiar enough with my own opinions to make such an evaluation with absolute certainty."
It took one very long moment for the implication of that to sink in. Then Kirk said, "I didn't know you had a sister."
"A half-sister, Captain. My father's daughter by his first wife. She left the family when my father remarried. We've never met, but when my father was declared legally dead, she automatically succeeded him, and of course she retains the position."
Kirk was stunned. A thirty-odd, nearly forty year family estrangement, and from what the Captain knew of Sarek, he'd wager a year's pay he'd never exchanged a word with his daughter in all that time. Undoubtedly she'd objected to Amanda. And she was in a position to destroy the pan-species solidarity of the Federation. Could a Vulcan do something like that simply because she disapproved of her stepmother? It hardly seemed likely.
Kirk sat down heavily in his chair and looked up at the impassive Vulcan. "And you propose to impeach her on competency charges?"
Spock blinked assent, "Because I believe she made an error in overlooking the long-range effect on the Logic Element of Surak's Construct. To prove the charge I must demonstrate the error. The only way I can see to do that is to present T'Rruel's Motek in its entirety. Such a Council Session will be viewed in every home on Vulcan. But it can take place only the day before the scheduled vote, the day we arrive."
Kirk shifted his attention to the girl who'd remained poised but at ease, feet slightly apart, hands behind her back. "Tanya, do you think you can do it?"
She blinked calmly, "I estimate a ninety-two point . . ."
"Never mind," Kirk held up one hand and turned back to his First Officer, "Mr. Spock, you can tell Scotty to fabricate whatever hardware you'll need. Commandeer whatever space you need."
The two turned to go and Kirk added, rising, "Oh, and Spock . . ."
"Good luck, to both of you."
"Thank you, sir," said Spock evenly.
As the door closed behind them, Kirk saw Tanya's expression. Long association with a Vulcan had taught Kirk to know that look and he pitied Spock the long explanations she would exact. Fleetingly, he regretted that impulsive "Good luck." But then he thought better of it. They were two of a kind. In fact, Kirk was willing to bet a month's pay that Spock's report on the children's story would be on his desk by morning in spite of any long explanations.
And it was. The Trantu had been carrying a group of Vulcan spice merchants and their families to establish an agricultural station on an otherwise useless desert planet. Vulcan Space Central would undoubtedly have all the other details on the Trantu he'd need to complete his log. The log of the new Enterprise didn't have a single incomplete or unsatisfactory entry. In fact, any Captain would be proud of it. But Kirk was getting restless. He'd become accustomed to the wild adventures and hair-raising mysteries of the last few years.
However, Scotty had become accustomed to the quiet, smooth efficiency of the last few months. The new Enterprise had rooms full of new gadgetry for him to work with and nothing had happened yet to blow his circuits or ruin his crystals or modify his machinery to some alien's specifications. Everything was in mint condition and sounded like it. It left him with precious little to do, but he hadn't yet begun to chafe.
Nevertheless, when Spock came into Engineering looking like work, Scotty perked right up, "Now, what can I do for you, Mr. Spock?"
"I need some items fabricated from a special alloy."
"Right this way," Scotty almost strutted across the room to the corridor, "Mr. Perkins can build any solid solution, alloy or cryocrystal soup, if you just give him the recipe. He really knows metals, that laddy!"
Almost strutting, Scotty led the way down the hall to the gleaming, spacious crystallurgy lab that had the orderly look symptomatic of either lack of work or an impending Admiral's
Inspection. The lanky young man who rose from the desk was new to Spock and after introductions Spock presented his problem with painstaking attention to detail.
Perkins ran a bony hand through his ash blond hair and rubbed one bushy eyebrow with a calloused forefinger. Then he took his courage in his hands, gulped down his prominent Adam's apple and interrupted the First Officer, "Uh, Mr. Spock, if I follow you accurately, you're describing the alloy used to activate tokiel sensors?"
Spock blinked and raised both eyebrows. Perkins shot Scotty a glance that said, "Did I put my foot in it?" Scotty just stood by the door, arms crossed over his chest wearing his most inscrutable expression.
Spock said, "Correct, Mr. Perkins. You are familiar with the preparation?"
Perkins swallowed again, "Yes, sir."
"Very good, then," Spock pulled a blank clipboard across the desk, "this is the list of items I'll want fabricated."
He began to write on the crystallurgy lab's work-order form with Perkins watching. As the columns of dimensions grew, Scotty could see that Perkins was ahead of the Vulcan again and the corners of his eyes crinkled in anticipation.
Finally Perkins interrupted, "Sir, you'll want a full set of leads from finger bands to anklets?"
Again Spock eyed the young human evenly, "Correct, Lieutenant."
"Who's it for? Couldn't I get the sizes from Personnel?"
Spock blinked once and turned back to the order form to write across the top, Lieutenant Tanya Minos, "You may complete the form at your leisure, Lieutenant. Send it through channels the Captain will initial it." He straightened, "Let me know if you have any difficulties, and call me when you've finished."
With that Spock left the lab with Scotty close on his heels, "You see, Mr. Spock. I told you the lad was good!"
Scotty was as proud as if Perkins were his very own invention. But Spock marched down the hall toward the turbo-lift scarcely glancing at the Chief Engineer, "Merely adequately informed, Mr. Scott."
At the engine room, Scotty peeled off to check on his crew, making a mental note to soothe Perkins' feelings and explain the Vulcan's abruptness. A lad like that deserved a pat on the back.
During the next week, Spock worked out a schedule that left T'Aniyeh with a bare five hours sleep a day. It was a grueling routine, but they'd done the like before when T'Aniyeh had tutored Spock for his sortie into Romulan territory.
Daily, T'Aniyeh would wake the children up, and get them breakfasted, dressed and drilled. Then Spock would take over for lessons while T'Aniyeh went to the gym to practice the previous day's material, look over the new sequence Spock had recorded and return to the children. During the children's study period, Spock and T'Aniyeh would go over the new material. While she fed the infants, he conducted the afternoon exercises. After the evening meal, Spock would put them to bed while she would go back to the gym. Later he'd join her and they'd work through the day's material and then spend the last hour in a total review of the composition.
After four weeks of this, Tanya had lost seven pounds she couldn't afford to lose and dark circles rimmed her bloodshot eyes. McCoy was exerting enormous self-control in refraining from offering comments only because Kirk had pled the urgency of the situation. And they'd both seen Tanya's nearly limitless vitality. But on that occasion the routine had involved the tedium of sustained intellectual effort, not a daily physical exertion to the point of collapse.
One night, just before midnight, two weeks out of Vulcan, T'Aniyeh and Spock were completing their intensive study of the last section of the composition. T'Aniyeh had executed the entire sequence several times, and each time a different error crept in.
Spock was standing in front of the improvised platform, arms folded, head cocked critically. "Try it again, T'Aniyeh, this time from the quantifiers."
She nodded, took her position and began the intricate movements again. Then she circled the edge of the platform, gathering the threads of the argument into the conclusion. Slowly spiralling in toward the center, she suddenly lost her balance and fell sprawling across the stage with a resounding thump.
Spock reached her in two enormous bounds but was too late to break her fall. He knelt beside her, grasping her shoulders, "Damage?" he snapped in Low Vulcan.
"Negative." She sat up but made no move to rise.
Still squatting beside her, hands on his knees, Spock reprimanded, "You must be more careful. A fall in this gravity can be dangerous for human bones."
She met his eyes, nodding, "Yes." Then she crumpled and turned away burying her face in her hands. "Oh, Spock, I can't do it! I'm not good enough! It's no use." She choked back sobs of despair, overwhelmed.
Spock sat for a moment observing the heaving shoulders, marshalling his inner defenses against the torrential flood of emotion. But he soon discovered he had no defense short of severing the tie between them. Bewildered, he said, "But, T'Aniyeh, we've finished. You know it all now."
"But I'll never be able to get through it all without a mistake! What if I fall with all Vulcan watching?"
Shaking his head, he shrugged, "Then you'll pick yourself up and go on from where you left off."
Her sobs became uncontrollable hysterics. Spock rose and went to the pile of things in the corner of the gym cubby to find a towel. He brought it to her and waited while she wiped her face. In all the weeks they'd struggled together, she'd never once complained, never shown any emotion. He'd almost forgotten she was human.
When she seemed to have regained control, he bent to raise her to her feet, and capture her gaze. "Dress," he commanded gently, "We'll stop for tonight and go finish off that prookle you saved. You're tired. You'll sleep and rest tomorrow. There's no hurry now, you've done splendidly and we still have two weeks to perfect and polish."
The mixture of gentle encouragement, optimism and praise raised her spirits. She said, "You're becoming a fair human psychologist, Spock."
Spock allowed a smile to quirk one corner of his mouth, "Quiet!" he commanded in mock severity, "If the Admiralty finds out, they'll promote me."
For a moment, Tanya just stared up at Spock's face. Then she broke up laughing, held on her feet by the strong arms of the impassive Vulcan. It was just the medicine she needed and, later, as she composed herself for the disciplined Vulcan sleep, she allowed the amusement to burble about within her. She knew that, unlike his colleagues, Spock considered promotion a disaster. She suspected that the only reason he didn't have his own ship already was that he never let on just how well he understood humans.
The next day, Spock handled the children alone. He'd ordered T'Aniyeh to sleep and that is just what she did, rousing only for meals and necessities. The Vulcan disciplines included not only how to work but also how to rest. Somehow, Spock found time during the day to draft a message and, after he'd gotten the children to sleep, he went up to the bridge for the first time in weeks.
Surprisingly, Uhura was on duty. She winced as the doors swished open with a high-pitched screech and turned to see who'd entered. Spock glanced behind him to watch the doors close, then said, "I thought the Captain had that fixed."
"He did. Three times. It started again this afternoon."
Spock nodded thoughtfully and then handed her his tape, "This one you can send by squirt, Lieutenant. But I'll expect an official, signed confirmation in return."
She inserted the tape and glanced at the address. "Executive Assembly, Planetary Capitol, Vulcan. A confirmation would have to come from, uh, the Planetary President's Office correct?"
"Correct, Lieutenant." Assured she knew what to do, Spock turned to survey the bridge. Lieutenant Rorvix was in the command chair and Kevin Riley was at the helm. All else was quiet.
As he caught sight of the First Officer, Rorvix rose, but Spock motioned him back, "Carry on, Mr. Rorvix, I was just leaving."
But he took the long way out, via the library computer, pausing for a half-hour to give the sensors a thorough calibration check. Satisfied finally, he toured the rest of the bridge and then headed for Engineering. He had a memo from Perkins that the hardware he'd ordered had been completed.
For the remaining two weeks, Spock cancelled T'Aniyeh's daytime practice sessions and they worked together only three hours a night. He'd installed the field generators under the practice platform and she rehearsed with the metallic sensors all over her body to get the feel of the field's drag though they didn't even attempt to adjust color or tone register on their homemade platform. She'd have almost two hours' dress rehearsal on the Council Chamber's tokiel just before the Debate.
The circles disappeared from under her eyes and she put on weight. As some of the blisters healed on her feet, the spring came back into her step and she looked even healthier than when she'd come aboard. Every time Kirk passed McCoy in the halls he'd give a big "I told you so!" wink which McCoy pretended not to notice.
Three days before their scheduled arrival, Spock took to haunting the bridge every spare moment waiting for the confirmation of his Council call. Somehow, he always found some excuse to
be there. One night, he took a tool kit and dismantled the turbo-lift door and put it back together. It took him three hours and when he tested it, there was no squeak.
Uhura turned around and said, "Wonderful! Thank you, Mr. Spock." Then she spun back to her board alertly.
When she removed the phone from her ear she faced around awed, "It's your confirmation, Mr. Spock. From the Planetary President, personally."
Spock leaned over and plucked the cartridge from her board, "Thank you, Lieutenant." He hefted the toolbox and entered the lift.
Rorvix and Riley turned to watch as the doors whooshed open even more quietly than they had on the old Enterprise. Somehow, nobody on the bridge could believe that screech would ever return.
Two days later the Enterprise assumed standard orbit about Vulcan. The Planetary Space Central gave them the parameters for a clear orbit and assigned them a communications spectrum slot.
Kirk was in the command chair and Spock and T'Aniyeh were on his right. It was late afternoon, ship's time, and Uhura had just come on duty. Chekov and Sulu were at their stations and McCoy came through the lift doors, a routine report on his clipboard for Kirk's signature.
As the doors closed behind him, McCoy swooped around in a circle to watch. No screech. He cocked his head with a little smile and went to Kirk to present his clipboard.
Uhura said, "Message for you, Captain. From the surface."
"Put it on the main screen, Lieutenant."
The semicircle of the planet's bulk vanished to be replaced by the head and shoulders of Amanda. "Captain Kirk, May You Live Long and Prosper."
Kirk answered, "May You Live Long and Prosper, Amanda. What can I do for you?"
"Sarek has asked me to invite you to our home to watch the Council Session. If Dr. McCoy is available, his presence is also desired."
Kirk glanced at McCoy who nodded and then he said to Amanda, "We'd be delighted."
"Good. Transmitting coordinates to beam-down point," she worked a control beyond the scanners' range, "It will be local noon here. We'll expect you."
"Spock is here. Would you like to say hello?"
Amanda nodded and Uhura widened the scan for her on cue.
When Amanda's eyes met Spock's, she said something the translator couldn't handle.
Without change of expression, Spock said, "Yes, mother."
Returning her attention to Kirk, Amanda said, "Thank you, Captain. End transmission."
As the image faded, Uhura announced, "I've got an official of the, uh, Bureau of Child Welfare? on the other frequency, sir."
"Put it on the screen." When the man appeared, Kirk said, "I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise and this is my First Officer, Mr. Spock."
The man raised his hand in salute, "May You Live Long and Prosper, Captain, Spock. I understand you have some children aboard who may fall under my jurisdiction?"
"That is correct," answered Kirk.
"Very well, then, if you and Spock will beam down with the children, we'll get the legal problems straightened out."
"Ah," Kirk objected with one hand as the Vulcan was about to cut transmission, "As I'm sure you're aware, Spock has other commitments of an immediate nature."
"I am very well aware of that, Captain, however, this takes priority. Transmitting beam-down coordinates. I'll be expecting you momentarily. End transmission."
Kirk sat dazed by the man's abruptness.
Spock stepped forward, "He's quite correct. Captain."
"Correct!? But it's, uh," he checked the chair-arm readout, "only three hours until the Council Meeting. What happens if you're late?"
"The whole planet is going to wait by their viewscreens while some bureaucrat grinds through his red tape?"
At Kirk's incredulous expression, Spock continued, "Sir, the Council is going to meet to attempt to build a world suitable for these children to live in. Does that effort have any meaning if we fail to attend to the more immediate needs of the children? The whole world will wait, for a week, if necessary, until every one of these children has been rendered into the custody of proper guardians. However, I doubt if it will take more than a couple of hours. Arrangements have already been made. I suggest we get on with it."
Kirk rose, "Mr. Sulu, you have the con. Maintain orbit. Issue routine shore leave passes only to the Federation Preserve." He headed for the door.
Six hours later, Kirk and McCoy materialized in the spacious main hall of Sarek's home. Even before his vision cleared, Kirk's first impression was of that deep silence lapping at his nerves, soaking up all his tensions, combing the emotional kinks out of his thoughts and leaving a reverberating peace within. It was as strong, and as inexplicable, an effect as it had been the first time he's encountered it.
When his vision cleared, Kirk saw that the hall was exactly as he remembered it, save that at one end of the long room the hangings had been pulled aside to reveal a wall-sized viewscreen and in the center of the richly patterned area rug that held the room's lone grouping of seats stood Sarek and Amanda. They were dressed formally and Kirk felt out of place in working uniform. "May You Live Long and Prosper, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy."
The humans returned the greeting and Sarek motioned them to chairs, "The proceedings are about to begin."
Grateful for the air conditioning. McCoy allowed Amanda to install him in a chair with a Saurian brandy and said, "Some four hours late, though."
"Four days would not be too long to wait, considering," said Sarek.
Kirk interrupted, "Yes, Spock explained; it would be," he suppressed a wry smile, "illogical." He declined Amanda's silent offer of a drink with a wave of his hand. "Tell me, Mr. Ambassador . . ."
"I hold no post at the moment, Captain. Just call me Sarek."
"All right, sir. What I wanted to ask, will the issue be decided by the members of the Council today?"
"Who are the members of the Council?" asked McCoy, swirling his drink and settling into the straight-backed but well-upholstered chair.
"Membership is hereditary, Doctor, and restricted to Kataytikh who trace their lineage back at least as far as the Reformation, in unbroken tradition."
"Sir," said Kirk, "may I ask a personal question?"
"You may ask."
"Ah, well, what are Spock's chances, in your opinion?"
Sarek glanced at the screen which still showed only a sign in unadorned Vulcan script. As he watched, moving letters crawled across the top of the screen and disappeared. "Yes. Another delay. It won't be long though." He continued thoughtfully, "There are many factors to be considered, Captain. T'Uriamne has the advantages of age and gender. Also, on her mother's side, she has an inheritance which Spock doesn't share. That may be decisive." He glanced at Amanda who remained pleasantly impassive.
"However, Spock is an unknown quantity. He is a law unto himself. He has surprised me often in his short life. But I doubt if he would have registered this Challenge if he hadn't judged a fair chance of success."
"But he doesn't know T'Uriamne."
Sarek threw Kirk a sharp glance, "True. But he knows her arguments. They've been a part of this family all of his life."
"So I understand."
"What I do not understand, Captain, is exactly how Spock intends to make his point. I have found no flaw in T'Uriamne's proposal."
"If he fails," Kirk didn't know quite how to put it, "Will you remain here?"
Sarek looked at Amanda as he answered, "Yes. I must."
"And I," provided Amanda, "will have to leave."
McCoy said, "And Spock?"
"That, Doctor, is a very good question." Sarek glanced again at the screen as the crawling string of characters reappeared. He rose and detached a control box from the panel under the screen, then resumed his seat.
The sign vanished, revealing a long, richly decorated, rectangular room. The floor was flat, but around the sides were banks of seats. The chairs were carved of a translucent blue-green stone polished to a finely textured finish. Kirk thought the mineral must have a high copper content and considerable bound water to achieve just that hue.
At the far end of the room, three chairs were raised five steps above the surrounding chairs. They were more ornate than the others, but made of a paler, blue-green stone and the tops of the high backs were set in multicolored gemstones.
In the center of each side of the room, the three-chair motif was repeated in miniature. In the center of the floor, a low fire burned in a shallow pit. Around it, chairs were arranged in lines. At first Kirk thought these chairs were placed randomly. Then the view shifted and he saw that they outlined the idic symbol.
The ancient flavor of the Ceremonial Hall was achieved with so much rich and strange detail that, at first, the Captain didn't notice the other end of the room. Here, also, three chairs were raised, but they were a startling white that seemed to catch the highlights of the fire in a wrinkling dance like a Denebian sundiamond. The tops of these chairs were decorated only in fiery red stones. On the floor in front of the white chairs, an oval platform was raised a single step above the floor.
As the view shifted again, Kirk noted that the straight-backed, armless chairs that formed the idic were all facing outward from the fire, so that the people thus seated faced in every direction. There was a distant sound of bells, many bells, faintly familiar to the Captain. Yes! The ceremonial bells he'd heard at Spock's wedding. But at least an octave deeper.
Sarek turned to the humans, "Loud enough?"
Amanda said, "A little louder, please."
Two bellbanner bearers entered from two doors on either side of the blue-green chairs at the far end of the room. Pacing slowly, they circled the room twice and exited the way they'd come. But the sound didn't die out. It increased. And presently six bellbanner bearers marching in pairs entered through one of the doors. Behind them came four strong men in ceremonial dress bearing an ornate litter.
They marched directly to the white chairs, the curtains parted and a very old and frail woman appeared. She was dressed in a plain black robe with a hood that covered her head. As she ascended the dais, Kirk recognized T'Pau. She looked years older than when he'd seen her last. Age overtook the Vulcans very swiftly near the end of their long lives. But when she spoke, her voice was strong and clear.
Sarek said, "Are you getting any of that?"
"No," said Amanda.
He adjusted his controls nodding, "The translator is keyed in, but even so, much of this will be fairly unintelligible to you. That's the best I can do."
They watched the scene unfold. T'Pau finished her speech and snapped a command to the banner bearers. They trooped out the other door and came back in slow march with a tall, thin, dark haired beauty of a woman. She marched so smoothly she appeared to float a half-inch above the floor. Every few yards, the procession stopped, and turned toward the fire pit for a few seconds while the banners were shaken to a vigorous rhythm.
At one point, the group faced the pickup Sarek had chosen and Kirk had a chance to examine her costume. She was dressed in sparkling white robes under a cloak that fell from shoulder to ankle. The high, white collar stood almost to the top of her piled hair in neat contrast to its blackness. Under her cloak, her body was hung with loops of heavy golden chain. Kirk could see that each link was carved with an intricate design and supported a tiny medallion. When she moved, there was a euphonious chiming that blended beautifully with the different chords of the bellbanners. It looked like a heavy burden for such a frail body.
After two slow circuits of the room, she stopped at the fire pit and approached the rim of the circular depression. Sarek switched channels to get a closeup of her face as she bent to pick something from the rim of the pit. Now Kirk could see the family resemblance. The high cheekbones and distinctive jawline, and the thin, wiry physique were similar to Spock's. But the complexion was far more "Vulcan."
When she straightened, she'd taken a long rod from an array beside the pit. To the accompaniment of vigorous shaking of the bellbanners, she dipped the tip of the rod into the fire, held it for a second, and raised it, planting the bottom firmly in a hole in the stone floor. A tiny red flame blossomed from the rod, a good six inches above her head.
Suddenly, the banners were silenced as T'Uriamne aboutfaced and stood gazing up at T'Pau. T'Pau uttered one crackling syllable and T'Uriamne quick-marched straight toward the center white chair, up and over the low dais as if it weren't there, and up the five steps as T'Pau descended.
T'Uriamne seated herself as T'Pau reentered the litter and was borne out of the hall. Then she nodded to the banner bearers who'd waited beside the pit and they split into two groups of three, formed two triangles, and marched out the doors.
Presently, they returned leading two lines of men dressed in white tunics and sandals but cloaked in blue-green, the exact hue of the chairs of the idic. They formed a large circle around the firepit, outside the chairs. The banner bearers resumed their position in front of the pit.
Sarek switched to an overhead view of the pit with its single taper burning. Then, one of the men detached himself from the circle, slow-marched to the rim of the pit, chose a taper, lit it and placed it upright. Then he faced T'Uriamne who issued a command. He took a position before one of the chairs of the idic, but remained standing.
Slowly, this was repeated and apparently would continue until each had taken a post. Sarek turned to Kirk and McCoy, "We use fire as a multivalued symbol. Here fire gives of itself without being diminished, as one mind may give ideas without diminishing its own knowledge. These men are pledged Guardians of the Philosophy of Nome."
Amanda said, still watching the screen, "Sarek, I think she's lost weight."
He shifted his gaze to his wife, "T'Pau is nearing the end of her life."
"Not T'Pau, T'Uriamne."
"I hadn't noticed."
"Well, you should. She is your daughter."
"That, my wife, is debatable."
A furious shaking of bellbanners drew their attention back to the screen. All the seats of the idic were claimed now, and as silence descended, the Guardians seated themselves. The banner bearers formed triangles again and retired to return in a moment with six more men, three trailing behind each triangle in a line.
Halfway up the sidelines, they stopped and the banner bearers formed a line between them and the firepit, one banner in front of each of the men.
Then, one at a time, each banner bearer escorted one of the men to the pit for the taper-lighting ceremony. These men, Kirk noticed, were dressed in blue-green tunics and white cloaks. Instead of placing the lighted brand in a holder at the rim of the pit, each one slow-marched back to a chair on the dais at the side of the room where he planted the taper on his left.
But, instead of seating themselves, they remained standing beside their lighted tapers. The banner bearers, without further command, formed a double line and went to the left-hand door, the opposite one from which they'd escorted T'Uriamne.
While they were gone, Sarek said, "These are the Guardians of the Domination of Logic, Reverence for Life, and Privacy."
The two lines of banner bearers reappeared with another lone figure dressed all in blue-green, the lighter hue of the chairs at the far end of the room, but without any other insignia. They slow-marched all around the room twice. Kirk didn't need to see the face in the scanner as they passed by. He knew those sloping shoulders and that balanced walk. Spock's expression was sombre, withdrawn, grave, wrapped in severe dignity. Here he was not the First Officer of the Enterprise, but a Guardian of an ancient tradition. There was absolutely no trace of the humanity that had been there a few hours ago.
The banner bearers escorted him to the pit the same way they'd brought T'Uriamne, but he took two of the unlit brands and lit one. Then, still carrying both tapers, he aboutfaced and marched through the seats of the idic, across the low platform, up the five steps, presented the unlit brand and backed down the five steps, holding the fire-tipped shaft to her level. Kirk wasn't sure, but he thought he detected the slightest hesitation before she lit her taper from his and placed it in the holder to her right.
The banner bearers moved forward and slow-marched Spock
around the room and to the light blue chairs at the far end. He mounted the dais, planted his brand, nodded to the banner bearers and seated himself. Simultaneously, the six Guardians on the sides of the room seated themselves.
Then the banner bearers retired swiftly and returned leading two lines of men and women dressed all in a dark blue-green with twined yokes of multicolored rope that gleamed with a satiny sheen. These marchers kept coming until all the seats along the sides had been filled.
This time the banner bearers split into two lines and formed living barriers before the two doors to the chamber.
T'Uriamne rose, placed her right hand on the shaft of the taper and began to speak. The translator garbled most of it, but Kirk got enough to understand that this was a formal call to order. The translator slipped and skidded so badly that he presumed she was speaking High Vulcan.
She went on in the rapid-fire mode for about half an hour. Finally, Sarek said, "She's sketching her argument and proposal for the record. There's been so much public discussion of her position the last few weeks that she doesn't need to give a completely detailed presentation. There isn't a citizen watching who isn't intimately familiar with every aspect of it."
Kirk estimated that it was fully an hour later that she finished her "sketch" and sat down. Silence descended and grew into tension. Then Spock rose. There was another pause as heads turned toward him. When he had everyone's attention, he said, "I claim the right to speak in Guardian Council."
Kirk could feel the held breath, the electric tension building to crackle pitch. So far everything had been ceremony, predictable routine. This was what everyone had been waiting for.
T'Uriamne spoke without rising, "If there be no objection, that right is acknowledged."
The pause seemed eternal. But eventually she added, "And it is so."
Spock placed his right hand on the taper that held its flame above his head and spoke. His voice was low-pitched, level-toned, almost a formula recitation. The translator slipped and slid through this more than it had when T'Uriamne held the floor. But every eye in that hall was on him and not a muscle stirred. Kirk knew the scene was virtually the same in every Vulcan home.
The tension, the absorption, the total concentration of the Vulcans underlined the vital importance of what Spock was saying, but there was no clue as to whether he was convincing them. It wasn't long before boredom made Kirk and McCoy drowsy. Fighting drooping eyelids and cramped muscles through more than two hours of unintelligible speech was the occupation of diplomats, not starship officers, and Kirk was acutely miserable by the time Spock was interrupted by an undisciplined babble among the council members.
Jerked to alertness, Kirk had no idea what was going on. Sarek said, "T'Uriamne will certainly contest T'Aniyeh's credentials. This could take all night. Amanda, I believe it is time to offer our guests refreshment."
She rose and left the room and then the sudden shaking of bellbanners silenced the council members and Kirk watched intently. T'Uriamne rose and called a series of names, both male and female, and around the room, people rose. There were representatives of each group that had entered separately. They stepped out onto the floor and formed a line. Kirk counted twenty in all.
Then Spock called names, also representatives of each group, and they formed a line across from T'Uriamne's designates. The bellbanner bearers assumed flanking positions and marched the groups out of the hall. As the bells died away, people got up to mill around and talk to their neighbors. Soon the hall was swallowed by a milling throng. Here and there, small groups gathered about various individuals, talking and listening.
Sarek rose, "The committee may take hours to return a recommendation. If they admit her, and she can do what he says she can, it will be an historical occasion."
They went into the dining room where Amanda had set a buffet with many small dishes filled with colorful Vulcan delicacies. Kirk felt as if he'd come home after being away too long. Gripped in the routine of a Vulcan meal, he seemed to relax to the silence, more aware of his reactions to pleasant tastes, aromas, and the all-pervading peace that rang silently through every nerve. During the weeks he'd lived here, Kirk had learned his table manners well, and knew better than to engage in attempts at communication. He'd learned what to combine with what and was really enjoying the familiar symphony of tastes. This was a true home to him such as he had nowhere else in all the galaxy.
And his home was threatened. If T'Aniyeh and Spock couldn't convince the Council, he'd never be able to come here again. He felt the terrible desolation that such a rejection would hold and the frustrated helplessness that there was nothing he could do to affect the outcome. It was the same fierce sense of loss he'd experienced when he'd relinquished the Flame.
He shook himself out of the mood. He was a guest here. This home was foreign to him. The threat was to the stability of the Federation, not to him personally. The Enterprise was his home. And his soul would just have to find peace without crutches!
Kirk looked up to find Sarek staring at him from across the table. They'd finished eating. Sarek blinked, nodded approvingly and rose to walk around the table to where Amanda sat. He held out two fingers to her. She rose to meet him, matching his gesture.
Sarek said softly, "My wife, your son is a brilliant man, a credit to this household."
She regarded him levelly, "You noticed that?"
They stood looking into one another's eyes for several seconds. Then the distant sound of bannerbells drew their attention. Sarek said, "Come. They are about to reconvene."
He dropped his hand and the humans followed back to the viewscreen.
When they reached their chairs, the screen was filled with a swift scurrying amid flying capes. Within seconds, everyone was back in his place and silence reigned briefly before the bellbanner bearers escorted the forty committee members back into the hall. They drew into two lines, one on either side of the hall and then broke ranks and went to their seats, each leaving one representative on the floor.
T'Uriamne rose, "Credentials Committee report."
The man on her right, dressed in blue-green tunic and cloak, took one step forward and said, "We have examined the candidate, T'Aniyeh, and have found that she has Affirmed the Continuity, that she is an accomplished tokiel performer, and that she is adequately prepared to present a version of the Motek. We recommend that she be admitted."
The man on T'Uriamne's left took one step forward and said, "We have examined the candidate, T'Aniyeh, and have found that she has Affirmed the Continuity, that she is not an accomplished tokiel performer, but that she is prepared to attempt to present a version of the Motek." He paused and Kirk could feel everyone, himself included, holding his breath. "We recommend that she be admitted, conditionally."
Amid a flurry of bannerbells, the two returned to their seats on the sidelines. T'Uriamne said, "You have heard the report of the Credentials Committee. If there be no objection, T'Aniyeh will be admitted, conditionally to present a version of the Motek."
She waited. There was total silence. McCoy dared to ask, "What does she mean, conditionally?"
Sarek said, "If she makes an error, even the slightest hesitation, she will be given no second chance. The issue will go directly to a vote." He looked at his guests, "Is she adequately prepared?"
Kirk said, "I only wish I knew. They've certainly been working hard enough."
T'Uriamne said, "Since there be no objection, it is so." She nodded to the bellbanner bearers and sat down.
The banner bearers came together in two lines and when they parted, three of them held two banners and three held nothing. Two of the bannerless escort busied themselves at a panel on the wall while the third retired to the right-hand door. The three other bellbanner bearers retired to the left- hand door and took up positions there.
As the lights faded, the bannerless escort returned with T'Aniyeh. He led her to the platform and then went to join the other two at a console that had mysteriously sprung out of the floor beside the platform. The lights went out.
Then the tokiel platform lit up from its own field, a kind of glow that pervaded the whole stage area but didn't illuminate the rest of the room. T'Aniyeh, her skin-tight coverall a golden shimmer in the dimness, mounted into the tokiel field accompanied by a rippling sound and an explosion of rainbow colors, sharp, clear vibrant colors almost too bright to look at.
The colored streamers died around her, leaving her enwrapped in a golden flame that shaded slowly to purple and went black. Kirk noticed immediately the differences between this stage's effects and those he'd seen on the small, portable tokiel platform T'Rruel had used aboard ship and the outdoor installation he'd visited with Amanda. Evidently, this platform was geared to the ultimate in precision. There was another difference. Where T'Rruel had been invisible most of the time, T'Aniyeh was always visible. And T'Aniyeh would dance solo as this was a completed composition and no questions remained unanswered.
The rhythmic tolling of a large bell announced the start of the pyrotechnic display of rhythm, form and sound that was becoming familiar to Kirk. But here the effect was different. T'Aniyeh, always visible within the structure of colored shapes she built, seemed always to be a split second ahead of the music her movement created. Some of the figures of living light were strange to Kirk and he was certain he'd never seen them before. He'd surely have remembered that purple spiral wrapped in pink smoke.
But still, something in the forms reminded him ever more sharply of T'Rruel and by the end, he'd almost forgotten the dancer was Tanya Minos. When she made the long gossamer streamers dance and swoop like mating eel- birds and then spun around reaching high to end in the forward lunge of T'Rruel's signature, he knew he was watching a brilliant imitation of T'Rruel's style. Then, she stood back, poised in the center of the stage until the music had died. She raised her hands over
her head, trailing rainbows, then dropped to one knee, sweeping her arms around and back in wings of glowing fire to the echoing sounds of plucked strings, her own signature.
The fire died to black and she was invisible. The hall's lights had come on before Kirk realized she must have gotten through the whole performance perfectly. He was seized with an impulse to applaud and whistle and jump up and down. But he held still as she was escorted silently from the room and the bellbanner bearers resumed their positions.
Sarek was changing the viewpoint constantly, examining the reactions of the council members. It took a Vulcan to read a Vulcan so Kirk turned his attention to Amanda. Perhaps she could tell what effect Spock's ideas had had on the council.
But she was watching Sarek. Soon Sarek sat back and glanced briefly at Amanda with the barest shadow of a nod that made her relax, a very human smile playing gently about her eyes. He turned his attention back to the screen.
The scene there was frozen so that, at first, Kirk thought he was viewing a still photograph. Then he noticed the attitude of the council members. Most of them sat, hands clasped, staring at their own steepled fingers. As he watched, several lowered their hands and turned their gazes to the man who occupied the center seat on the dais at the side of the room to T'Uriamne's left.
Minutes trickled by, punctuated by the occasional lowering of hands and turning of heads until, about half an hour later, the last member of the council turned to T'Uriamne's left. The man rose, glanced at Spock, who nodded, and then said, "By Sitar's Lemma, I call a poll of the Electorate."
He remained standing as T'Uriamne rose. She said, "If there be no objection, the Electorate will be polled."
The pause lengthened until Kirk was sure she was hoping for an objection. Finally she added, "And it is so," and sat down.
In front of the man on the side, a pentagonal pedestal rose out of the floor and grew to waist height. He worked some controls on top of the pedestal and a cylindrical column descended from the ceiling directly over the firepit. The column was a deep, midnight blue.
When the column stopped descending, leaving a bare few inches between it and the tops of the still-burning tapers that surrounded the pit, the man turned to the banner bearers. As they responded amid random jangling, Kirk noticed that the tapers that had been burning for hours had strangely not become any shorter.
As Kirk puzzled over this, the banner bearers assembled before the pedestal and the man said, "You will invite the Electorate."
With a great shaking of banners the escort pivoted until they faced various ways and then scattered in all directions as the whole room climbed to its collective feet. Kirk was at a loss to keep up with all the things that happened then. The first thing he saw was that one banner bearer was escorting Spock to the pedestal while another led T'Uriamne. They timed it so that T'Uriamne arrived first.
When she placed her hand on the pedestal, a curtain of blackness surrounded the scene and then blinked away; obviously a light-interference effect, for privacy in the casting of ballots. A few seconds later Spock arrived to do the same. Then there were lines forming around the pedestal in every direction as the council members gathered to vote. Kirk wondered how they knew whether a `yes' vote was for T'Uriamne or for Spock. Or if, indeed, that was what they were voting on.
Sarek moved to the screen controls on the wall in front of them and made some adjustment within. Kirk assumed he'd cast his ballot. Presently, he returned to his seat saying, "Now we shall see what the future holds. Watch the cylinder. If it turns white, T'Uriamne's viewpoint prevails. If it turns blue, Spock has made his point."
Kirk looked, but the cylinder was still a deep midnight blue. The votes weren't registering yet. He said, "What's Sitar's Lemma?"
Sarek seemed to welcome the opportunity to talk, "When the Guardian Council was established there was no technology for polling the entire adult population of the planet so no provision was made for anyone but Council members to participate in decisions. Sitar introduced the theoretical basis for allowing total participation and his Lemma provides the criteria by which each individual's opinion is weighted by his personal Achievement Factors."
McCoy said, "Achievement Factors?"
"Yes, academic, social, economic, but especially in this instance, competence in understanding the intricacies of Tsaichrani."
McCoy was incredulous, "You mean your vote is worth more than someone else's?"
"On this issue, yes. On another issue, it might be relatively worthless." Something on the screen attracted his attention, "Look, votes are registering already."
The cylinder had flashed white momentarily, then blinked to the light blue-green color of Spock's chair. Now rainbows chased themselves up and down. Finally, the bands of color smeared into one another producing a muddy mixture that gradually cleared to grey.
After a few minutes, the cylinder began to pulsate, fading gradually from blue-grey to white-gray and back again. As the minutes dragged by the period of pulsation lengthened until the change was so gradual Kirk couldn't really tell which way the vote was going.
Finally, Kirk became aware that all the Council members had resumed their seats and the pulsating had ceased, leaving the cylinder a pearl-gray, possibly just a bit on the blue side.
Sarek sat forward abruptly, seized the screen's control box and punched out a new setting that focused their viewpoint on T'Uriamne. The excessive strength the Vulcan used gave Kirk the first hint he'd had that Sarek actually felt some of the tensions, emotions, of a father watching his only two children fighting such a battle.
Now, Kirk became aware that all eyes were focused on T'Uriamne. McCoy said, "It's a draw?"
Sarek answered tightly, "There is no clear majority. The decision is hers alone."
T'Uriamne sat utterly still, her gaze apparently fixed on the grey cylinder.
Kirk said, "But that's impossible! If Spock is right, then everyone should see it his way! Isn't that only . . . logical?"
"Logic does not distinguish between `right' and `wrong,' nor between `true' and `false,' it merely designates the clearest path from premise to conclusion. One must add values to formulate judgements, and in this case, nearly half of the Electorate judges that the long-range weakening of the social fabric is a lesser immediate danger than contact with humanity. I disagree, but I cannot impugn the logic of those who hold that view."
"T'Uriamne's hand moved on the arm of her chair and Sarek switched views to obtain a close-up of the cylinder. A white band had appeared at the top, and a blue at the bottom. As they watched, the whole length of the cylinder was converted to bands, the top white and bottom blue. Then the whole cylinder blinked off and came on again. Part of the bottom white band had turned blue. Kirk counted forty bands, twenty white and twenty blue.
Sarek said, "Yes, a slight weighting in Spock's favor," and flicked back to a close view of T'Uriamne.
She rose and gazed about the room soberly. Then her hand moved to the point at her waist where the golden chains joined. When she brought it away, the chains parted and slid to the floor. She stepped out of the circlet of gold and placed the chains on the seat behind her.
A ragged sigh escaped Amanda's lips.
T'Uriamne descended to the floor of the hall, carrying the burning taper that stood beside her. She went directly to the fire pit and threw the whole brand into the fire. Then she picked up two unlit rods and stood back. Sarek changed views, this time to a close-up of Spock.
Sarek said incredulously, "He's reluctant to accept her terms! He should know better than to expect more than a stipulation of error."
Finally, Spock rose, picked up his taper, descended to the floor and marched directly to the fire pit. He threw his taper into the fire and took two steps back to stand empty handed, facing his sister through the forest of upright brands that encircled the pit.
T'Uriamne began to circle the pit to her right while Spock walked left until they'd exchanged places. Then he aboutfaced and went to the white chair she had vacated. He picked up the chains and stood, waiting. Kirk thought he could read pain and a little regret in his friend's face, but he wasn't sure.
T'Uriamne lit one of her tapers and ascended the dais to present the other to Spock. As he dipped the point of his taper into the fire she held to him, his eyes met hers and Kirk was now certain of what Spock felt. Pain. The anguish of unfathomable loneliness.
Undoubtedly, Spock had hoped that she would change her mind and come home to her father, and her half-brother. The disappointment was an emotional pain that the half-Vulcan was barely trying to mask. At least, it was plain to Kirk and McCoy. And they both silently resolved to ease that pain, or at least teach their friend what little humans know about living with it. Loneliness without laughter would have broken any full-blooded human long since.
When T'Uriamne had seated herself in the chair Spock had vacated, Spock nodded to the nearest banner bearer and, amid the symphonic jangling of the banners, the election paraphernalia was retired and the two lines of banner bearers formed before Spock. Still holding the golden chains, he descended into the midst of the escort and was marshalled out of the room. By the time he'd reached the doors, orderly lines had formed and the rest of the Council was leaving the hall.
Amanda rose, "He'll be hungry when he gets here. It's almost dawn. I'll fix breakfast." She started away and then turned back to Sarek, "So Vulcan will remain in the Federation. That means you'll be busy for the next fifty years hunting for another solution to the problem. I'll fix you some breakfast too. You'll need your strength."
She walked a few more paces toward the dining room, then turned back to Sarek with an afterthought, "He won't resign from Starfleet, you know."
Bushy Vulcan eyebrows climbed, "We'll see."
Kirk couldn't interpret the tone of that. Threat? Promise? Or merely uncertainty?
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