Kraith Collected

Volume 6 

Part 2 

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Operating Manual Continues here.  

Frank drew back momentarily at the touch of the hot skin, then snuggled against her shoulder.

TíEeba, following her usual routine, switched the nurseryís communications on automatic. She would be able to hear a cry anywhere she was working in the complex of buildings. With the viewer she could check to see if the disturbance warranted her presence. Smedle used it twice to ask the location of needed supplies.

TíEeba kept Frank with her all day. She carried him from job to job, or took his hand and let him walk. When he fell asleep he was placed close by on a soft pad, and moved, pad and all, to the next location.

Frank accepted the attention passively, neither rejecting nor responding to it. The second day he followed TíEeba with his eyes any time she moved from his side. The third morning he stood up when she started toward his crib and reached for her. That night he patted her cheek and said very softly, "Mommy."

TíEeba drew heavily on Smedleís strength the next few days as she extended the treatment to the other children. For four days she coped with the problem, then a shared surge of rage caused her to throw a tool at a recalcitrant machine she was trying to fix.

She admitted to herself it could have been a living thing at which she threw the tool. For that instant she had been completely at the mercy of the emotion she was picking up.

The children were safe where they were for the moment. She retreated to the communications panel and called Smoov from the field.

He returned to find TíEeba pacing the courtyard with her surface serenity regained. He listened to her explanations as they moved indoors and took seats in his office. When she finished he commented, "You should have come to me sooner, nathu. I assumed you had discovered for yourself . . . ." He tried another beginning, "If you were older, the trouble would never have arisen." TíEeba gazed at him in complete bewilderment. "You have been fighting the emotions, striving to shut them out. This you cannot do. At the . . . the time of pon farr Smedleís emotions will rage. Will you seek to shut him out?"

TíEeba stiffened in embarrassment, then relaxed as Smoov continued more formally. "Thee has been taught what thee will need to know at the time of pon farr. Search thy mind, nathu. Thee has been asked to fill the role of Mother. It is fitting to draw these sleeping memories upward now.

She steepled her fingers and concentrated. After a few minutes her rigid form relaxed and she looked across at him, still slightly confused. "It sounds so simple. I simply accept and channel."

"Some problems do have simple answers, TíEeba. The emotions may still be unpleasant," he warned, "but they will no longer confuse your thoughts."

Smoov sat quietly for a minute and then commented, "If you have no other problems, I am behind in my field work and should return to it."

"There is one other thing," TíEeba decided as he rose from his chair. "I have completed the repairs on the cultivator. If you take it back it would be in place for TíVolath to begin work on the upper field at first light."

 

McCoy stood beside the captainís chair and suppressed the urge to demand they hurry up and get it over with. He had waited this long; he could stand a few more hours. He checked the movement of his hand toward Kirkís shoulder.

Without acknowledging that he was aware of the gesture Kirk inquired, "Whatís our ETA. Sulu?"

Sulu glanced at the chronometer. "Two hours, ten minutes to orbit, sir."

"Thanks, Jim." McCoy left the bridge and went back to sickbay, determined to find something to work on. Once there the reason he had fled before returned full force. All he could remember was the efficient, sterile care Spock and Tanya had given the Vulcan children.

With a shudder he turned to leave and almost tripped over Christine. He realized she had been trailing around behind him ever since he had entered the door. Beneath her usual calm exterior she seemed nervous as she handed him an official form.

"This was delivered just after you went to the bridge," she explained.

McCoy read it, glared at everyone in sight, and stomped out.

Lt. Johnson was sitting peacefully at the Security duty desk reading a report when the door flew open. He bounced to his feet to find he was facing an angry Dr. McCoy.

"The First Officer has notified me that if I do not put in an hour and a half of unarmed combat drill he will not authorize me to leave the vessel on any landing parties," McCoy said icily. "Come on."

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"Yes, sir," Johnson responded automatically. He called Kraus to take the desk and followed McCoy to the gym, swearing silently. Instructing McCoy in unarmed drill was like trying to shape plastic putty. As soon as you turned loose it assumed its old form. If you did succeed in teaching him something he applied it with all the verve of a three-toed sloth.

When they were ready to commence Johnson began in a martyred tone, "You attack and Iíll defend . . . ," when he realized he was lying on the mat. He rolled in time to avoid McCoyís next attack.

Halfway through the drill McCoy realized he was working off hostility. He spent the rest of the time--to the detriment of his fighting--diagnosing it as a grudge against the universe in general for being so unforgiving of mistakes. Still, Lt. Johnson was happy as he limped back to the Security ready room. He had the bruises to support his claim that their work with Dr. McCoy hadnít been useless.

McCoy, relaxed and calm, re-entered the bridge ten minutes before the __Enterprise__ was due to make orbit. "Doctor," Uhura reported, "Iíve already talked to Engineer TíEeba. She reports that all the children are healthy."

McCoy nodded his thanks, but the somber cast of his face did not change. He doubted that a Vulcan engineer would recognize a healthy child when she saw one.

He stood behind Kirkís chair and forced himself to concentrate on details. He watched Sulu, in one smooth operation, place the ship in a perfect orbit directly above their objective, all without any last second call for powered maneuvers.

"Landing party to the transporter room," Uhura announced, then watched the bridge personnel readjust as Kirk, Spock, and McCoy entered the elevator.

McCoy surveyed the dry barren-looking landscape reluctantly. As he turned to face the buildings he saw a sight that dispelled his fears.

A slender woman of Vulcan was walking toward them. A baby--eight or nine months old--was casually balanced on her right hip. The baby was doing most of the work maintaining her position with a one-handed grip on TíEebaís clothing and squeezing with her legs. The other hand was also busy. It was gently pulling one strand after another of the high-piled black hair free of its restraints.

A brown-skinned little boy trailed from TíEebaís other hand. He was stretching his legs to keep up with her shortened strides. She spoke to him. He looked up and waved at the visitors.

Because TíEeba expected it, McCoy ran tests and examined the charts she had kept. The data confirmed his first impression: the children were in perfect physical and mental health. He looked up from the last chart and asked, "How did you do it?"

"I am an engineer, Doctor. I followed the manuals," TíEeba explained.

"The manuals are incomplete. How did you meet the human needs of these children?"

TíEeba considered briefly. "I adapted," she said.

McCoy stopped questioning her. Her answers were of the uninformative type Spock gave when he did not wish to discuss a subject. "Your recognition of the childrenís needs is to be commended. I hope the experience was of use to you."

The doctorís comment surprised TíEeba. It could have been made by a Vulcan. "I learned from it, Doctor, and knowledge is always useful. I had not known before that human emotions were necessary to their survival."

Behind a blank face McCoy considered several ways that statement could be taken. He reminded himself that he was talking to a Vulcan and limited his reply to a noncommittal, "Yes."

Kirk stuck his head in the door. "Weíre ready to go, if you are, Doctor."

When they reached the beam down point TíEeba handed Mary Jane, who had fallen asleep in her arms, to the nearest person. The nearest person was Spock. He held the sleeping child the same way he would have held a sack of fragile supplies.

With a gesture of disapproval, TíEeba intervened. "Not that way. Her mind cannot touch yours. She must obtain her sense of security through the way you hold her."

Spock silently complied with her directions until he turned the baby over to a nurse in sickbay.

"Why wouldnít you do that with Leonard James Akaar?" McCoy demanded.

Spock raised one eyebrow. "You neglected to explain the purpose of the maneuver, Doctor. I didnít understand what it was I was attempting to accomplish."

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[KC06IL16.TIF]

(RBW Note. Vulcan woman holding one girl human child and leading a boy human child.)

Kirk went to sickbay as often as possible during the next few days. At first he thought it was his imagination, but soon it was too pronounced to miss. The medical personnel were tired, glum, and footsore, with one very evident exception. McCoy was as happy as a lark and perky as new puppy.

Bouncing a laughing Mary Jane in his arms, Kirk cornered McCoy in his office and asked, "Bones, what is going on?"

McCoy faced him for a few seconds with his best I-donít-have-the-faintest-idea-of-what-youíre-talking-about-Captain expression on his face. Then he relented. With a grin he said, "I can explain to you, Jim. You know how worried I was. You understand the relief, the joy, I felt when we found the Vulcans had managed beautifully. Having worked with Spock as your First Officer for so long, you will also, I trust, understand my glee when I realized they hadnít done a perfect job."

Kirk looked shocked and McCoy explained quickly, "The children are all right. There is nothing wrong a little retraining wonít correct. But right now, these kids are the most spoiled brats in the galaxy!"

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Three Steps Behind Him

Eileen Roy

Kraith.a1

"I donít know how you can do it," Uhura said frankly.

"Youíve got it quite backward, you know." Amanda smiled gently. She could remember her first reaction to the custom, when her marriage was only a few weeks old.

"Sarek!" she had exclaimed, coming in the door. "I just now saw a Vulcan woman walking three steps behind her companion like a Chinese coolie!"

"That would be Saln and Turu," he said--surely she imagined the trace of wistfulness in his voice? "They have been Bonded many years."

"How can she stand to be so subservient, to act like his property instead of his wife?"

"His pro-- Amanda," he turned to face her, looking taken aback, "on Vulcan females are not property. They bring forth and nurture life, they assuage burning madness with their presence. They are the most efficient at locating water, the surest in determining safe paths through desert sands, the sanest council in times of peace, the deadliest warriors when peace has fled. Males," he said dispassionately, "possess the strong bodies and feeble minds. Or so it was held in the time of the Ancients, when male consorts were traded like prize tupin."

Amandaís eyes were focused, squinting a little with fierce concentration--trying to see into such a different past and culture. "And now?"

"Men have been granted equality, of course, for many centuries in law and custom. Memory lingers, and some few of the traditions. For a woman to trust her life, the fore-testing of her path, the protection of her person and the sifting of superfluities from her consideration to a Ďmere male,í he must be favored highly. Few have ever been so honored."

Amanda could see it, intellectually; she could trace the reasoning and even extrapolate what Turuís choice might have meant to Saln. But she could not feel it. Her own cultural teachings and assumptions stepped in firmly to bar the way to any sure understanding. She could never do it. It was just too alien. She changed the subject.

"Will you come out to the garden, my Husband? The moonlight is so beautiful."

He stepped to her side, a little reluctantly, and touched her fingers with his own. "TíKuht is a planet in its own right, Amanda, and not a moon. And I fail to see why you should regard light that has merely been reflected, polarized, and reduced in intensity as Ďbeautifulí."

She sighed and chuckled at the same time. "Donít worry about it. I love you anyway."

He didnít back away, but he didnít move closer, and his eyes were simply bewildered. "Amanda. I do not comprehend."

This time she merely sighed. "Never mind . . . ."

Uhura was waiting, one eyebrow cocked, for some further explanation, but Sarek had just now appeared through the doorway. She excused herself and crossed to meet him, their fingers touching. Sarek had learned, grown, so very much in the years they had been together. She smiled up at him. "How did the examination go?"

His eyes smiled back at her, as he replied in Vulcan. "Dr. McCoy has pronounced me fit to resume all normal activities. So-- the observation deck is deserted at this time, I have found, and the stars shine in their glory like heralds of light, beacons of beauty. Will you come, beloved?"

"I rejoice in our differences" was so easy to say, so hard to mean. Sarek was the only Vulcan Amanda had ever met who had been able to live up to all that that tenet of Vulcan philosophy implied. He had surly been able to adopt the best that Earth had to offer. And therefore he was not only a better person, with more resources, knowledge, cultural riches open to him, but a better Vulcan. He had transcended the gap. All of this was in her eyes as she looked at him. "Of course."

She told Uhura, "Iíll try and explain later," and left the room with her husband, walking, head-high and with the very essence of pride-- three steps behind him.

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A House

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Divided

(RBW Note. The following words are in landscape mode going from bottom to top and in the left part of the page to the left of the image.)

Linda Deneroff &

Frances Zawacky

(RBW Note. Return to portrait mode.)

[KC06IL17.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of a large female face with a small male face in the upper right hand corner, almost as if she is thinking of him.)

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Kraith IIIG

CAPTAINíS LOG: Stardate 7717.1. The __Enterprise__ is enroute to Darian, a planet in the Aldebaran system where synthetic dilithium crystals have been developed and are now being tested. Starfleet is extremely interested in this breakthrough and, pending the outcome, is prepared to fund further research. We have been ordered to be on hand for the preliminary series of tests, to render any assistance necessary, and, of course, to keep Starfleet informed. If these experiments prove successful, the Federation will have an additional power supply. There will be less reliance upon the present sources. In time, the substitute might even replace dilithium altogether.

 

All bridge personnel were at their posts. The __Enterprise__ had contacted the local space authorities and been assigned an orbit around Darian, a cool blue world faintly reminiscent of Earth. The planet had first been opened to colonization a hundred years ago. Its temperate climate and pleasant environment had resulted in the slow but steady growth of the population. In fact, the Starfleet demographics had noted that a high percentage of the immigrants in recent years were professionals, scientists, and engineers.

The ship was humming with activity and an air of expectation subtly penetrated its atmosphere. Jim Kirk, lightly tanned from a recent shoreleave, sat in his command chair and surveyed the bridge. He turned to his Communications Officer. "Open a channel to a Mr. Edward Grayson, Lieutenant. Grayson Chemicals, Ltd. has offices in Ralos."

Scottyís interest in the dilithium substitute brought him down into the well of the bridge. "Iíd like to meet the developer of DS-249," he said quietly.

"You may get the chance." Kirk smiled. His engineerís enthusiasm for anything even promising to improve "his" engines was well-known.

"Mr. Grayson, sir," Uhura interrupted.

The main viewing screen lit up with the face of a man who appeared to be in his late fifties or early sixties, though Kirk would have hesitated to make a more exact guess. He was seated behind a desk in a room deliberately utilitarian and well organized.

"Mr. Grayson," the Captain greeted the image of the screen. "This is Captain James Kirk of the __U.S.S__. __Enterprise__."

"Good afternoon, Captain. Weíve been expecting you." His piercing brown eyes studied the younger manís face.

"Starfleet is very much interested in your discovery, Mr. Grayson."

"Thatís very kind of Starfleet, Captain." Grayson smiled, but his eyes did not soften. "I was sure they would send observers." Somewhat more cordially he asked, "When will you be beaming down?"

"I understood that the test is scheduled for tomorrow morning."

"Thatís correct." Grayson paused, lost in thought for a moment. "Why donít you and your senior officers beam down to my home for dinner tonight? We can combine that with an informal briefing on the droneís flight tomorrow."

"Thank you, Mr. Grayson." Kirk accepted the invitation immediately. "Weíd be delighted. In fact I have an Engineering Officer who couldnít be kept away."

"Fine. Iíll be expecting you."

The viewscreen went blank and Jim Kirk turned to his left. "For once, Mr. Scott, I believe we have a rather pleasant assignment. And, if everything goes smoothly, youíll have a new Ďtoyí for the engine room."

"Aye, Captain." Scottyís eyes gleamed with anticipation, though he wasnít sure he shared the Captainís optimism.

 

"Mr. Sulu," the Captain rose from his seat, "you have the con." Kirk stepped into the turbo-lift, absently murmured "Deck five," and smiled slightly, thinking of the pleasant evening ahead. At the appointed time he joined his three senior officers in the Transporter Room to beam down to the Grayson residence.

They materialized on a lawn in front of Graysonís house. The house was located in a suburb of Ralos and was a recreation of a "small" Victorian cottage surrounded by extensive, well-kept grounds.

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Their host was at the door to greet them. The Captain introduced his senior officers--Grayson seemed a bit non-plussed upon seeing Mr. Spock. He recovered quickly, but not fast enough to hide it from Kirk or the Vulcan. "Good evening, gentlemen. Come in, please." He led them into a spacious room where a man and a woman were engaged in a spirited conversation. Both were in their early thirties though, again, Kirk would not hazard an exact guess. The man was tall, clean-shaven, and slender. He had light brown hair and his hazel eyes were set deeply into a ruggedly handsome face. His clothes were casual, but obviously well cut.

The woman was of medium height. Her sandy brown hair was a mass of curls lightly touching her shoulders. She didnít need what little make-up she was wearing and her russet pants-suit framed her figure to perfection. Kirk caught an impish grin and even from a distance she seemed to radiate a feeling of exuberance which left an overall impression of warmth.

Upon seeing Graysonís guests, they rose.

"May I present my daughter, Sharon, and my son-in-law, Marc Stadler."

"How do you do," the Captain replied courteously, and introduced his fellow officers. They sat down. The __Enterprise__ men had a chance to look around. They were in a spacious room filled with many heirlooms that obviously had been brought from Earth--a curious yet pleasant blending of the old and new, for the house was equipped with all the modern conveniences the import quotas would allow. In the corner was a long table laden with different foods.

"Dad did the cooking," Sharon announced. "Mother died almost ten years ago and for the past six heís fancied himself something of a chef. If it werenít for modern kitchens, heíd be helpless." She smiled, indicating it was an old family joke. "Actually, heís not bad," she admitted.

"Thank you, my dear," Grayson replied. "In fact, Iím a better cook than she is," he said to the others, "but sheíll never admit it." He led the way to the table. "Help yourselves, gentlemen."

Light conversation continued all through dinner, and when it was over and the dishes disposed of, Scotty found himself talking shop with Grayson while Sharon and Marc mingled with the others.

Kirk was mixing himself a drink when Sharon came over to him. The idea of travel had always intrigued her. "Captain, what is it like? Living and working on a starship?"

The Captain filled both their glasses before he replied, "Do you have all week?" He smiled.

"No, not really."

"Well, it would take that long to describe."

"It must be exciting."

"Itís always different. Being on hand for an experiment, such as the one your father is preparing for tomorrow, is only a small part."

"And how many worlds have you been to, Captain?"

He thought for a moment. For a short second his brow creased, but he said simply, "Iíve lost count."

"We must seem so provincial to you. Do you know, Iíve never been off-planet, and I havenít seen much of this one either. But one day Iíll travel," she said with such determination that he believed her.

"And where would you like to go?" he asked quietly.

"I donít know exactly. I think Iíd start somewhere where I know people.

"Thatís a good idea. You have relatives elsewhere?"

"On Earth. But I donít think I want to go there, after what Iíve heard."

"Itís not as bad as people make it out to be, you know. --But you havenít answered my question."

Sharon thought for a moment. She glanced over at Spock who was talking to Marc. "I know." Her voice took on a conspiratorial tone. "Dad once said he had a sister somewhere on Vulcan, but then he never mentioned her again. Maybe I can convince Marc to go there and we can look her up." She laughed. "But enough of my pipe dreams."

McCoy, drink in hand, was talking to Marc and Spock. "Now Spock here says our medicine is barbaric. Poppycock!" He finished his drink. "He should see some of the old medical journals Iíve collected." Spock, refusing to be baited, remained silent.

"There has been a lot of progress, especially in recent years," Marc agreed. "As a matter of fact, weíve a new hospital that opened recently. Perhaps I can arrange a tour for you?"

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"Iíd be delighted--if we have the time. Do you work there?"

Marc laughed as he refilled the drinks. "No, Doctor. Iím a coordinator for industrial expansion in Darianís northern sector. Itís a relatively new position actually, but enough of this planet is now colonized to make it important. However, Iím sure itís not quite as glamorous as working on a starship."

"I assure you, Mr. Stadler," Spock replied, "life on a starship is not Ďglamorous.í It can be quite boring at times." He paused, "We have our jobs to do, like anyone else."

Marc was somewhat taken aback. "Surely you donít dislike it, Mr. Spock?"

"It has its advantages."

Scotty and Edward Grayson were lost in the realms of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, and Scotty was impressed at the latterís expertise.

"Dilithium is far too rare an element," Grayson was saying, "for starships to be dependent upon. Because of its scarcity, the Federation is constantly searching out new deposits, in direct competition with the Romulan and Klingon empires. The perfection of DS-249 will not only permit us to avoid any confrontations, but at the same time, will give us a very important military edge--a constant source of power. Weíll lock them out entirely." he added, pleased with himself.

He picked up a scratch board and resumed. "The best part of all is that we can cut out some of these circuits, expand these here, and with less power you can get higher warp speeds."

Scotty looked over the notations. "Aye," he assented. "I take it youíve built fail-safes into these circuits. Youíd better have if you expect them to handle that much power."

"Oh, yes." Grayson scribbled hastily. "There are safety factors here . . . and here." He had followed the development of DS-249 closely and was familiar with its every aspect. "The laboratory tests have worked perfectly and tomorrow weíll be testing the crystals under actual space conditions. Weíll be sending a drone to Deronda, our neighbouring planet. Itís class K-1 and unsettled, but we do have some small laboratories there. One of the teams has been assigned to recover the drone, take preliminary readings, and send it back here."

Scotty continued to study Graysonís notes. "May I see some of the crystals?"

"Certainly. If you like, I can arrange a tour of the laboratory tomorrow--before the drone leaves orbit. My assistant, Zafrans, can show you around."

"Iíll be there." Scotty grinned.

 

The evening passed quickly. Grayson and Scott wandered over to where Sharon and the Captain were still deep in conversation. "I have the feeling that Dad wants to talk shop," Sharon commented. "If youíll excuse me . . . ." She joined her husband and Doctor McCoy, wondering how Spock had known the exact moment to detach himself from the two men for the beginning of the briefing.

Grayson spent the next two hours detailing the discovery and the plans for the droneís flight. Scotty seemed particularly impressed. "Captain, if this works, thereíll be no more worrying about dilithium supplies."

"My technicians assure me that tomorrowís test will prove entirely successful," Grayson added. "My synthetic dilithium will be a great boon for the security of the Federation."

"Good," replied the Captain, standing. He turned, addressing his other officers as will. "If no one has anything further to add . . . ." He paused. "Gentlemen, I think itís time we depart. Mr. Grayson, Mr. and Mrs. Stadler, thank you very much for a lovely evening."

"Our pleasure, Captain," replied Grayson. Kirk signalled the __Enterprise__ and the shimmer of the transporter appeared and vanished over the "goodnights," bringing the evening to a close.

 

On board the __Enterprise__, shift changes were nearly completed. Scotty and McCoy both left for their quarters and the two brothers walked down the corridor to the turbo-lift alone. Thoughts had been set in motion in Jim Kirkís mind and their persistence could not be ignored. He had never asked Spock or Amanda about any human relatives they might have, but could it be possible? He knew what Spock would say, but he felt obliged to ask him anyway. Upon entering the lift, Jim broke his silence. "Spock, did Amanda ever mention any of her human relatives? Parents, siblings, cousins?"

Spock raised an eyebrow. "No, Jim. Mother rarely discussed her family on Earth, and on Vulcan, while ancestry is important, privacy is to be respected."

"I see."

"Did you ask for any particular reason?"

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"Spock, I was talking to Mrs. Stadler tonight. She mentioned in passing something about a sister of Edward Graysonís who lives on Vulcan. I was just wondering if perhaps . . . ."

". . . they were Motherís relatives." Spock finished the statement.

"Yes."

"Jim, I must point out that Grayson is not an uncommon name. The fact that our mother shares that name with these people is quite inconclusive."

"But what if they are, Spock?"

"If they are," Spock replied almost resignedly, "they are."

The bridge doors opened and each man was alone with his thoughts.

 

Sharon was still caught up in the excitement of the evening after she and Marc returned home. She had been half-serious about finding her "forgotten" aunt, even if she had only joked about going to Vulcan. If only she could just ask her father, but "the old boy," as she affectionately referred to him, was stubborn. Well, she was his daughter and could be as stubborn as he; it ran in the family.

As she and Marc prepared for bed, Sharon decided to enlist his help in this puzzle. "Marc, I was talking to Captain Kirk tonight."

"Yes, I noticed."

"Oh you, be serious: this is important. I want you to do me a favor, check on some family background for me."

"Sure honey. Why?"

"Iím going to ferret out a family secret," she said determinedly.

"Huh? You with a family secret?!"

"Listen." She gave him a playful shove. "The Captain jogged a memory tonight and itís been nagging me. Dad, in a rare moment, once mentioned a sister who moved to Vulcan -- oh, it must have been over forty standard years ago. He mentioned her name too, but I donít remember it; Mandy, Brandy, something like that. Anyway, he never mentioned her again and I never thought about it till the Captain and I were talking while you were with the others." She gave him a sly look and got back to her subject. "I want to find out more about her, thatís all. Do you think you could make some inquiries? Maybe the computers might have some information."

"Sharon, be reasonable. If it was forty years ago, what makes you think sheís still alive? Or even still on Vulcan?" he said, climbing into bed.

"I donít know. Thatís part of what I want you to find out. Please, Marc. Find out what you can and Iíll go to work on Dad."

"Oh boy!"

"Now whatís that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, Sharon. Nothing. Come to bed."

"Then youíll do it!"

"All right. All right. Iíll see what I can do."

"Youíre a dear," she replied as she joined him and turned out the light. "I knew I could count on you."

 

Scotty had already had his tour of Grayson Chemicalsí labs and beamed back aboard the __Enterprise__ before the space-port authorities cleared the drone for departure from orbit. The drone had been built in space with engine modifications for the DS-249 and special sensors to relay information straight to the computer banks and the labs.

Grayson and his technicians would monitor the drone from the lab on its three-day voyage and were attending to last minute details. All orbiting ships, including the __Enterprise__ were well out of range of the drone as it cleared the planet at sublight speeds heading for Deronda. The __Enterprise__ left its orbit and followed close behind the drone in order to track it and, in an emergency, salvage it. If all went well, there would be a two-day stop-over on the sister planet while a team of scientists examined the drone before sending it back to Darian.

 

Everything was proceeding smoothly and quietly. To relieve the boredom, however, Uhura

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had announced an "amateur hour," scheduled it for the second "evening," and asked to borrow Mr. Spockís lytherette. So, before he went on duty, Spock found time to strum the harp-like instrument. He had given Uhura his permission and was now checking to make sure it was in tune. Finished, he replaced the lytherette on the wall until she would pick it up, and then he turned his mind to other matters.

Mentally he reviewed the conversation he had had with Jim the night of the Graysonís dinner. Jimís "hunches" were often the result of unconscious telepathic intrusions. Logically, for the sake of this assignment, he had to know the truth of this one. He had long ago learned that with humans, matters such as these were of utmost importance, favorably or unfavorably affecting desired ends.

He moved to the library-computer terminal and depressed the activation key. "Family background information search: blood relatives, not more than once removed, of Amanda Grayson Xtmprsqzntwlfb. Human relatives only," he added as an afterthought. The terminal hummed a second or two and then a cassette popped out of the job stack. Spock ran the tape and the contents appeared on the scanner above it. He quickly scanned the short biographies of his human grandparents and then Kirkís hunch was fact.

Edward Grayson, brother. Born Greater New York, sd. 7650.7. Married Martha Zales, sd. 7677.5, now deceased. Immigrated to Darian sd. 7678.4. President Grayson Chemicals, Ltd. Main office: Lorry Square, Ralos City, Darian.

Sharon Grayson Stadler, niece. Born Ralos City, Darian, sd. 7686.1. Married Marc Stadler sd. 7711.6. Presently residing on Darian. Economist in planetary government. Office: Plaza DíOro, Ralos City, Darian.

Spock turned off the tape. "If they are, they are . . . ." The words rose in his mind as if to haunt him. Well, it was now confirmed. The next step, logically, was to tell Jim.

Before he could make any moves to do so, however, the intercom buzzed. "Mr. Spock," the voice of the Chief Engineer sounded troubled, "weíre picking up strange energy fluctuations from the crystals. They seem minor, but I canít figure out the cause, or how to stop them."

"Meet me on the bridge, Mr. Scott."

"Iím there now," the engineer replied, but Spock had already closed the circuit.

 

The Captain was not on the bridge. Mr. Scott started to rise from the command chair when Spock stepped out of the lift, but the Science Officer waved him back and went directly to the library-computer to review the data already collected by the sensors.

"You were correct, Mr. Scott," he said, without removing his eyes from the computer screen. "The fluctuations have been growing steadily for the past hour. The engine will implode if the deviation goes beyond 10.3 per cent of the norm."

Spock nodded to Hansen to relieve him as he and Mr. Scott discussed alternatives. "The drone should be able to withstand a tractor beam," Scott was saying when Hansen shouted, "Sir, the drone is starting to shake apart!" Spock quickly double-checked the sensor readings.

"Tractor beams," he ordered. Over the acknowledgement of the helmsman, he turned to the engineer. "That last fluctuation was twice what the curve predicted. Notify the authorities weíre heading back to Darian, Lieutenant," he added, turning to Uhura.

The ship turned back toward Darian, with the drone in tow. Scotty spent most of his time down in Engineering as if to make amends for the crystalsí malfunction. Even the offer of a drink from the shipís chief surgeon did little to restore the engineerís natural buoyancy. And Uhuraís "amateur hour" did little to dispel the general mood of regret that the drone had not finished itís journey.

 

Spock had immediately ordered a precautionary sensor scan to monitor the drone and then informed the Captain of the fluctuations and his decision. He compiled the sensor data for his official report. When he was done he brought it to Jim, who was resting in his quarters. Kirk rose from the bed when the buzzer announced a visitor and went to his desk as Spock entered.

"Captain, weíve taken the drone in tow."

"Very good, Mr. Spock. Is there any explanation for the malfunction?"

"Preliminary findings indicate a breakdown in the components of the artificial dilithium as a result of stress."

Kirk studied the report. Grayson wouldnít like it, he decided immediately. Spock had made the right decision, however. If that shipís engine had blown . . . .

"It looks like Grayson will have to start all over again," he said aloud.

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Spock and Kirk standing on the bridge.)

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Jim Kirk had the sudden, fleeting impression that heíd managed to make Spock uncomfortable. "You did what you had to do. Iíll back that decision in my log."

"Thank you, Captain."

So itís not the drone . . . Kirk thought. "Spock, thereís something else on your mind isnít there?" he asked.

Spock paused a long moment before answering.

"Jim, Edward Grayson __is__ Motherís brother." His face was as impassive as always, but, over the years, Jim had learned to "read" it as well as any human ever could. And for a second, Spockís face had shown confusion. He had always known he was half-human, but heíd never had to face human relatives before.

Jim rose from his desk and walked over to Spock, the report forgotten for the moment.

"Spock . . ." he paused. What could he say?

The tableau remained unbroken for a long moment until Spock spoke. "I do not know if Edward Grayson is aware of the relationship, Jim, and under the circumstances, I am in ignorance as to how to handle the situation."

Jim frowned, remembering his own confusion about Vulcan etiquette and relationships, and now they had this added problem. "Letís wait until we get back to Darian," he suggested. "Perhaps the appropriate time and place will present itself."

 

Marc rose early in the morning a few days after the party, skipped breakfast, and headed for his office in the downtown section of what was Darianís largest city, though it wasnít quite large enough to justify that title. He had promised to make some enquiries for Sharon, but so far his busy schedule had prevented it. It was one of those dull, rainy days that seemed to make things move more slowly. Though it was early, Marc found himself hurrying to the office, almost in protest.

After two conferences and one argument, Marc decided that he needed a change and proceeded to make those enquiries. He had very little to go on: a half-remembered name and an approximate year of departure for Vulcan. The governmentís computers were massive, but they did not contain the birth and death records of an entire universe. Then, one possibility arose: Edward Grayson and his wife had immigrated to Darian at a time when colonization was being actively recruited. Government bureaucracy would surely require some family records. Perhaps he could locate those. It was doubtful he would find anything, but it was worth a try, for Sharonís sake.

He put through some calls, pulled some strings, and obtained access to the immigration data banks. It did not matter if Grayson had disowned his sister; Marc knew that Edward, methodical as always, would surely have listed her name on any of the immigration forms requiring it.

Without too much trouble, he finally obtained the information he was looking for. He quickly put through a call to his wife at her office.

Sharon was in conference at the time and found herself torn between her curiosity to hear what Marc had discovered and her duty to her job. She compromised and brought the meeting to an early close, with nothing decided, and quickly called him back.

"Marc, have you found anything?"

"Slow down. Slow down. Iíve found something; itís not very much, but itís a start. Your father had to list his closest relatives when he immigrated. Your auntís name is Amanda Grayson something unpronounceable, and at the time she was residing on Vulcan. Your father couldnít list an address for her, however. I then called a friend of mine whoís done research on family trees and that sort of thing. Heís got connections with the Federation, and they keep extensive records, of course."

"Marc!" Sharon was becoming exasperated. "Get to the point!"

"All right, but I hope youíre sitting down. She married Sarek whatís-his-name of Vulcan."

"The Ambassador?"

"You guessed it . . . They had a son---got me so far?---"

"Yes!" She wanted to shout at him.

"---named Spock." There was silence on the line for a minute, or so it seemed.

"Sharon," Marc said, almost warningly, "donít start thinking . . ."

"All right. All right. Iíll wait for you to get proof. You will get proof, my darling, wonít you?" she said sweetly. "Mr. Spock of the __Enterprise__," she muttered, almost

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to herself.

"Sharon, Iím warning you. Donít say anything. After all, it could be a coincidence of names."

"I wonít, dear, until you find out," she soothed him.

"Iíve contacted Star Fleet Command and asked them to supply me with biographical information about the crew of the __Enterprise__. They were very nice about it and said they would get it to me. I may even receive it before I leave here today."

"Well, call me as soon as you hear anything more.

"All right. Iíll see you later."

"Right," she replied in a tone that Marc thought was just a little preoccupied.

Sharon was delighted at the news. So she hadnít been making mountains out of molehills, as her mother used to say. She wondered how her father would react and decided to find out. She would drop in on him on her lunch hour. The fun, she mused, was just beginning.

 

Sharon smiled at her fatherís personal secretary. "Is Ďthe maní busy?" she asked.

"No, heís alone. You can go right in, Mrs. Stadler."

"Thanks." Sharon knocked on the heavy wooden door marked "Private." She didnít wait for a reply.

"Hi, Dad." She walked across the rather large room and kissed his cheek.

"Sharon!" Edward had risen as she entered. He returned her kiss. "This is a surprise.

"I know. I had some time off and thought maybe I could convince you to take me to lunch."

"Oh." Edward looked regretful. "Nothing Iíd like better but unfortunately, Iím expecting the __Enterprise__ momentarily and I canít leave. Can we make it tomorrow?"

"All right. Iíll settle for some conversation now, though."

"I had a feeling there was a reason for this visit---whatís on your mind?" He smiled at her indulgently.

"Dad, your dinner party the other night set me thinking . . ." her voice trailed off.

"Oh?" Edwardís tone asked the question.

"Tell me about my Aunt Amanda," Sharon abruptly requested.

Graysonís entire face darkened. "Who told you about her?" His voice had gone deathly quiet.

"No one." Sharon was rather taken aback by her fatherís reaction. "I had Marc do some checking," she added. The silence between them grew awkward. "Did you know sheíd married a Vulcan Ambassador?"

"I knew." Edwardís tone remained cold and hard. "Sharon, listen to me. Forget your aunt . . ."

"But, why?"

"Because I want it that way. I buried her long ago. All you have to know is that she went to Vulcan---and stayed."

Sharon stared at her father, dumbfounded. "But she had a son. Arenít you the least bit curious about your nephew?"

"No!" Edwardís voice was sharp. "And I donít want to hear another word on the subject."

Sharon was grateful that the intercom chose that moment to buzz.

"Yes," Grayson snapped.

"Zafrans, sir," the voice answered. "Weíve just received word that the __Enterprise__ has achieved orbit. Captain Kirk is waiting to speak with you on line one."

"Have him hold." Edward switched off the unit. "Sharon, Iím sorry, but . . ."

"I understand, Dad. Iíll see you tomorrow." She left the office, secretly glad

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to have made her escape.

Grayson paused a moment to collect himself and then took the call from the __Enterprise__. "Grayson here."

"Captain Kirk, Mr. Grayson. The drone is in tow and one of your technicians is preparing to dismantle the engine components. If youíll supply your laboratory coordinates . . ."

"Of course, Captain. 729-648-754."

"729-648-754," Kirk repeated. "My First Officer and Chief Engineer will be beaming down with the final sensor reports directly."

"Iíll be expecting them, Captain." Grayson cut off both the Captain and the connection.

 

They beamed directly to Edward Graysonís office. Like his home, it bespoke a man both accustomed to comfort and well able to indulge his tastes in such matters. Scotty glanced around appreciatively.

"Gentlemen." Grayson did not rise to greet them. Spock nodded formally. He advanced toward the desk and extended a tape cartridge.

"Your technicians will no doubt be interested in the __Enterprise__ís report on the crystalsí Performance." Grayson accepted the tape without comment.

"Sir, the droneís engine components were beamed directly to your laboratories." Scotty glanced at each of the two men. "With your permission, Iíd like to be present at the stripdown."

"Yes, of course, Mr. Scott." Grayson added as a reminder, "The labs are three levels down."

"Thank you, sir. Iíll find them." The engineer left immediately. His interest was in machinery, the reasons behind the crystalsí malfunction; the __post__ __mortem__ would explain a great deal. Heíd let Spock and Grayson worry about the consequences of the flightís failure.

"The Federation Council for Technical Advancement will expect a full report immediately," Spock said calmly. "They will also wish to examine any further research plans."

"Iím well aware of the correct procedures, Mr. Spock. I assure you I do not need to be reminded of them." The anger in Graysonís voice was unmistakable.

The First Officer raised an eyebrow. "I meant no offense, Mr. Grayson." He paused; Graysonís aloofness where he was concerned---Jim would have classified it as quiet hostility--had seemed apparent ever since their arrival. And Spock suspected he knew why. But, perhaps he was wrong; perhaps it was simply tension from the preparation and then the failure of the crystals. He had ordered the mission aborted. He broke the growing silence. "Can I be of any further assistance, Mr. Grayson?"

For the first time since the two __Enterprise__ officers had beamed down, Grayson looked directly at Spock. For a moment there was anger and annoyance on the older manís face. Heíd let Spock see too much. But the businessman took over quickly. The answer came quietly and calmly. "No, youíve done quite enough."

"It was necessary."

Graysonís anger flared. "That necessary action has cost me a lot of time and energy, as well as money. I hold you responsible."

Spock said nothing. Yet Graysonís anger grew instead of dissipating.

"It is obvious that something else is disturbing you, sir."

Grayson cut him off. "Thatís right, Mr. Spock. Something has been bothering me since __you__ arrived here. Itís very simple; youíre a Vulcan. I had a sister who married a Vulcan. She chose to accept an alien way of life and to forget her heritage. I can never forgive her for that." Grayson had risen to his feet; his eyes were cold and unfriendly. "I thought Iíd banished those unpleasant memories. Your presence here has brought them back---for myself and my daughter. I do not intend to encourage her enquiry into this matter."

Spock spoke levelly. "Is that not her decision, Mr. Grayson?"

"The decision has already been made, Mr. Spock. I wrote my sister out of my life long before Sharon was born. I wish it to remain that way. If your presence here interferes with that, Iíll request that your Captain assign someone else for the duration of the project."

Spock was thoughtful for a moment. It was apparent that Grayson was unaware of the truth. He would have to be told. "That will not change your family history, Mr. Grayson. Nor

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do I think it will alter your daughterís interest."

"I do not believe sheíll pursue the matter," Grayson replied coldly.

"If she does, Mr. Grayson, sheíll discover that I am your sisterís son."

Grayson looked as if heíd been struck. Amandaís son . . . The thought was staggering. His first reaction was disbelief. Yet, why make such a claim if it werenít true? His second was rage. Spock had known, had been playing with him. No one played Edward Grayson for a fool, or cost him a small fortune.

"Get out of my office!" he demanded.

"As you wish," Spock replied quietly.

The quietness only served to increase Graysonís rage. Still, his uppermost thought was to keep this matter from Sharon. "Stay away from my daughter!" The door closed soundlessly behind Spock.

Edward Grayson sank back into his chair and stared at the door. Resolutely he picked up the papers heíd been working on when the __Enterprise__ officers had appeared in his office. But, he found that the words kept blurring together and his thoughts kept coming back to Mandy . . .

 

Sheíd been the perfect sister. How many scraps had she gotten him out of? How often had she helped him out without his even having to ask? Sheíd spent many a night studying with him. And when heíd been short of funds (he admitted to a weakness for poker in his younger days), sheíd even lent him money.

"Why Vulcan, Mandy? Itís so far away."

"Thereís a need for teachers in the Enclave there, Ted. Besides, theyíve a lot to offer. Iím going there to learn as much as to teach." He had tried to talk her out of it---unsuccessfully.

Heíd missed her. Her leaving had left a real void in his life. Sheíd written regularly---long, voluminous letters. But the mail service between Vulcan and Earth had been far from frequent. He found himself looking forward to those letters until . . .

Theyíd been at lunch when the doorbell rang. His father had gotten up and returned with a star-gram. "Itís from Mandy!" heíd announced and opened it immediately. He read it silently to himself and them aloud. It was short and very terse. "Have married Legate Sarek of Vulcan. Wish us well." He didnít believe it. What could she have seen in a Vulcan? How could she do this to her family? He was less pleased when he realized that his parentsí reactions were far from unfavorable. In fact, his father had sent off a congratulatory star-gram from the family almost immediately; he hadnít even been consulted. Try as he might, he could not understand his parentsí ready acceptance. Heíd never even read the long letter of explanation that followed that star-gram.

His parents had never met Sarek, or their grandson, before their deaths, two and a half years after Amandaís marriage; nevertheless theyíd managed to stay in touch with as much regularity as the mails allowed.

Then thereíd been another star-gram: "Sorry you must bear this alone. Know your grief is shared. Amanda." Her marriage had prevented her from attending her own parentsí funeral. That for him had been the last straw. It had been easy to sever all his ties to her---especially since he himself had married and moved to Darian shortly thereafter---and he thought heíd banished her from his memory and his life that day.

And now Spockís arrival and disclosure had reopened all the doors he thought heíd closed forever---not only for him but for Sharon as well.

The buzz of the intercom brought Grayson sharply back to reality. "Yes," he snapped as he pushed down the button, "what is it?" He didnít really hear his assistantís report. One thing was certain: Captain Kirk would have to assign someone else.

 

Sharon took an aircab back to her office, even though the rain had stopped. Her visit with her father had accomplished little and had left her disquieted. "I never realized his feelings ran that deeply against his sister," she thought to herself. She could not push their conversation out of her mind. Even the message that Marc had called did little to alter her mood. She returned his call immediately. His face appeared on the visiphone with a wide grin. In his hand was a cassette.

"Guess what I found, Sharon!"

"I donít know. What?" she snapped at him. "Iím sorry, Marc," she apologized quickly. "I just had an argument with Dad. I didnít mean to take it out on you."

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"Apology accepted," he answered and then fell quiet.

"Arenít you going to let me in on your discovery?" she asked quietly.

Marc nodded. "Youíve got your confirmation. Spock is your cousin." A devilish smile spread across his face.

"Then I was right! And you didnít want to pursue the matter!"

"Wait, Sharon," Marc interrupted his wife, "thereís more. It seems your friend, the Captain, has recently been adopted by your aunt and uncle!"

Sharon was stunned for a second. After absorbing the news, she asked, "Anything else?"

"No. Iíll bring the tape home so you can read it yourself."

"Thanks." She paused while a number of thoughts raced across her mind. "Wait till Dad hears the news!"

"Why?"

"I went to see him at lunch. I didnít say anything," she added hastily to reassure Marc, "I couldnít. I asked one question and he flew into a rage."

"Then maybe weíd better wait till the __Enterprise__ leaves before we tell your father anything."

"Heíll have to be told, Marc."

"Look, honey, we donít want to cause trouble for anyone. Theyíre here on an assignment and we know how your father feels. It would just be awkward for everyone."

"Marc, there are times when you are too reasonable."

"Love you too," he said sweetly.

"What time will you be home?"

"Iíll try to get there a little early. Why?"

"Donít forget the wine for the party tomorrow night. Red, and make it something exotic."

"What party?" Marc asked, surprised.

"The one weíre giving for the senior officers of the __Enterprise__. You donít mind, do you?"

"No, but . . . ."

"Good. Iíll see you later."

The visiphone went blank. Marc shook his head in despair. He had the bleak feeling that his headstrong wife was going to stir up a nest of __ovyulaz__, and shuddered.

 

Spock had left Graysonís office and gone immediately to the labs in search of Mr. Scott. Both officers stayed and witnessed the preliminary tests on the droneís components. Satisfied with the progress, they beamed up to the __Enterprise__. The Captain met them in the briefing room. Starfleet Command would have to be advised of the situation and he was anxious to hear their reports.

"Captain," Scotty began dourly, "DS-249 may be as practical as pets on a starship. Graysonís engineers still donít know exactly what caused the fluctuations." He looked exasperated and, in his brief pause, Kirk looked to his First Officer for a more specific explanation. But Spock remained uncharacteristically silent as Scotty continued more calmly, "Theyíve got one pet theory theyíre working on, Captain. Under stress the crystals themselves werenít stable enough to maintain cohesion and the broken bonds formed new alignments. Their uneven breakdown caused the power loss. Graysonís men are looking to confirm that now." He sighed. "One thing is for sure, Captain. Synthetic dilithium is still a thing of the future."

"Thank you, Mr. Scott," the Captain acknowledged formally. "Keep me informed of the findings."

"Aye, sir." Scotty rose, preparing to leave. "Iíll get a look at further test results tomorrow. Maybe theyíll tell us something more."

"And Scotty," Kirk smiled, "donít take it so personally."

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"Aye," Scotty answered solemnly before the doors closed behind him.

Jim turned, suddenly realizing his First Officer had not left. "Is there something further, Spock?"

Spock hesitated before answering. "Jim, I gave the order to terminate the droneís flight and Edward Grayson is determined to hold me responsible. And Iím afraid I didnít help matters when I told him of our relationship. He was far from pleased. In fact," Spock looked directly into Jimís eyes, "this may have adverse effects on our assignment."

"In what way?"

"Mr. Grayson indicated that he wishes someone else to work with him on the final Federation report."

"What? Youíre by far the most qualified, Grayson knows that and thereís a research grant at stake here."

"Nevertheless, Jim, those are his wishes. However, I have no doubt heíll contact you personally on the matter."

"Why, Spock? Did he give you any reasons?"

"Because I am the product of a marriage he could never accept." Spock paused. There was nothing more to be said. "If youíll excuse me."

The doors closed behind him, leaving Jim Kirk alone with his thoughts. Amandaís words, spoken long ago, ran through his mind: "It hasnít been easy on Spock---neither Vulcan nor human---at home nowhere---except Star Fleet."

 

The evening meal was over and the dinner table cleared. Marc was dozing on the chaise lounge in the living room. Sharon quietly picked up the cassette he had given her earlier and went into the den. She slipped the tape into the viewer and curled up in the big armchair to read it. It wasnít very long, but the content had her full attention; someone had been nice enough to put together as complete biographies of Captain Kirk and Commander Spock as regulations allowed, and just the row upon row of awards and commendations that each man had accumulated set her head spinning. She would have to get to know these relatives of hers better.

 

Edward Grayson spent a rather sleepless night; his stream-of-conscious thoughts flowed through his head like a gushing stream twisting through some unknown terrain. In the morning he remembered nothing of it, but he retained a vague uneasiness that he tried to ignore as he prepared for the day ahead.

Arriving at his office, Grayson went straight to his visiphone and made contact with the __Enterprise__. Lieutenant Uhura patched the call through to the gym where the Captain was busy practicing a Schillian form of combat, modified for humans. Pausing to wipe his neck, he acknowledged the call. In tones that few would dare disobey, Edward Grayson "politely" requested that the Captain beam down to his office for a conference, with the understanding that he be unaccompanied. The Captain, considering the meeting unavoidable, quickly agreed, broke contact, and resumed his activities.

Two hours later, Jim Kirk beamed down. He was met by Graysonís secretary and ushered into the office. He was determined to be pleasant, but firm.

Grayson remained seated as the Captain entered. Without amenities he began, "Captain Kirk, Iíll be brief. I insist that another officer be assigned in place of Mr. Spock. Perhaps Mr. Scott could continue alone."

"Mr. Grayson," Kirk replied just as forcefully, "Mr. Spock is my Science Officer as well as the First Officer of the __Enterprise__. I assure you there is no one in my crew more qualified to assist you in this matter."

"It is his other Ďqualificationsí that prevent his assistance, Captain," Grayson answered evasively. "My demand still stands."

"Are you referring to the fact that he aborted the mission or the fact that he is your nephew?"

"So heís told you. I must say, __you__ might have told me.

"We found out you were related to us only three days ago, when we were track . . ."

"ĎUsí?" Grayson asked, cutting Kirk off. "Did you say Ďusí?"

"I thought you said you knew," the Captain replied, privately enjoying Graysonís discomfiture.

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Kirkís face.)

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"Spock said he. . . but . . . nothing about you," Grayson sputtered.

"Sarek and Amanda have adopted me," Kirk explained.

Grayson hastily recovered his composure. Surely the Captain was only jesting and poorly.

"Spock canít help being who he is, I realize that," Grayson began. "But why should you wish to be adopted . . ." He let the sentence trail, not quite sure what to say.

". . . by Spockís family?" the Captain finished the sentence for him. How could he explain? His feelings for his new family and about his adoption were too strong to be put into mere words. Yet, he had to say something to this man, something he would perhaps understand unfettered by his estrangement from his sister.

He chose his words carefully. "Before the Federation there were hundreds of planets that had space travel, but they had no means of cooperating with each other. Interstellar trade was chaotic, to say the least. The Federation changed that: it tied the worlds together for trade, protection, and peace. If the Federation is to continue to survive, and the member-planets as well, they must compromise and share. If a culture gives something up, it gets something back in return; sometimes doubly, triply . . ."

"I donít understand what all this has to do with your being adopted or replacing Mr. Spock," Grayson interrupted impatiently, "and I donít need a history lesson!"

"The point is unity. Not the unity of one world, but of the entire Federation. Sarek and Amanda, a Vulcan and a Terran, married and had a child. They welcomed me into their home and later adopted me."

Kirkís thoughts raced furiously. Spock and Grayson __had__ to work together, the Federation wanted this dilithium substitute. He tried another approach.

"Thereís a tradition on Vulcan: IDIC, infinite diversity in infinite combinations. They do not believe that because something is different it is automatically bad. Vulcan honors Spock as one of its top citizens. If they can accept his humanity, can you not accept him as your Vulcan nephew?"

"No, Captain. I cannot."

"And I cannot assign someone else. It would be a disservice to my Science Officer and to the Federation. He made a command decision and Iím backing it completely. We are all working for the same goal, the perfection of synthetic dilithium. Personal feelings must be put aside."

"Very well, Captain," Grayson replied, icicles dripping from each word. "You shall have your report, and as soon as possible."

Kirk nodded in acknowledgement and exited. He had thwarted Grayson, but he was troubled.

 

Sharon left her office to meet her father for lunch. She entered the building just as Captain Kirk emerged from the lift and started walking across the lobby floor. As he crossed her path, she stopped him with a bright "Hello, Captain. How nice to see you again!"

"Oh, hello, Mrs. Stadler," Kirk replied cordially. "Your father is in his office, if youíre looking for him."

"Yes. Thank you. Weíre going to lunch. Would you care to join us?"

"I donít think that is possible," he answered evenly.

"Oh." She paused. "Well, perhaps you would care to come to a party tonight. Marc and I are having some friends over and if you and some of your officers would care to join us, weíd be delighted," Sharon offered with a smile. She congratulated herself on having called some friends after speaking with her husband yesterday.

"Iím afraid thatís not possible either, Mrs. Stadler. You see, Iíve just had an argument with your father." He explained the situation to her, holding nothing back.

Sharon frowned slightly. "Dad does tend to take his projects rather seriously--and he can be unreasonable at times. And," she continued, "Iíve known about my relationship to you and Spock since yesterday morning. Thatís one reason I wish youíd join us tonight."

"I wouldnít want to create any friction between you and your father. Thereís enough already."

"Thatís very considerate of you, Cap---Jim, but my father does not live my life for me. And I extend my own invitations. Will you accept? And bring along Spock and the others."

Kirk smiled and nodded, but he still felt slightly uncomfortable.

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"And donít worry," Sharon added. "I can handle Dad." She parted company with her cousin and went to see her father.

She greeted his secretary and breezed into the office. "Hi Dad! I just saw the Captain on my way in. Ready for lunch?"

Edward was in no mood for flippancy. "Sharon, I forbid you to mention his name again, and the same for Mr. Spock. Stay away from them."

Sharon was flabbergasted. "Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"Why?" she asked, incredulously.

"Never mind. Just stay away from them."

"Dad, I know all about the crystalsí failure and the fact that theyíre my cousins. Never mind how I know." She cut him off before he could ask the question. "But Iíll be damned if Iíll let you tell me what to do. In case youíve forgotten, Iím a grown woman and I make my own decisions."

They argued for a while longer, but neither could see the otherís side.

"Sharon. You donít understand."

"Oh, yes I do. And Iím not going to let your xenophobia run my life." She stormed out of the office, lunch forgotten.

 

The Captain did not go directly back to the __Enterprise__ after his confrontation with Edward Grayson. He was in a foul mood and did not want to see anyone he knew. So he wandered around Ralos, marveling to himself how such a tranquil place could cause such big headaches. After a short while, however, his anger disappeared and he beamed up to the ship.

Spock was on the bridge and had just finished running an analysis on the labsí findings which had been sent up in the last half hour. The computers on the ship were a "failsafe" for the labs, and Scotty and Spock were perusing the results of both sets of readouts when the Captain appeared on the bridge.

Scotty shrugged his shoulders. "Well, thatís it then. Definitely stress. Do you think Graysoníll get his research grant?"

"I do not know," Spock answered tersely.

"A lot of good itíll do if they canít stabilise the crystals. Like throwing good money after bad."

"That decision is up to the Council."

"Aye. Itíll kick Grayson in the gut, though, if he doesnít get it. Thatís for sure."

The Captain, overhearing Scottyís last remark, joined the two men.

"And it wonít help us if weíre all unemployed," he hinted.

As Scotty went back to his post, the Captain turned to Spock. "I saw Grayson earlier." Spockís face was void of expression, but Kirk had trouble getting the words out. "He asked me to assign someone else. I turned him down." He looked directly into the Vulcanís eyes. "Thereís no choice for any of us."

"I understand perfectly, Captain," Spock replied, preparing to return his attention to his console.

"Good." He tried to sound casual as he continued. "Mrs. Stadler has invited the senior officers to a party tonight." Spock did not look up. "I tried to decline; I told her that her father objected to us and why. But she insisted that we attend."

He prepared himself for one of Spockís lectures on Vulcan privacy or the illogic of partying, but he merely replied, "I see."

"Spock, I know itís hard on both of us . . . ." He broke off, afraid he had already said too much.

"Jim, TíUriamne never fully conceded in the Argument. If I cannot win acceptance from her, how can I win it from Edward Grayson?"

The Captain was left without an answer as he returned to the lower level of the bridge.

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McCoy sat at the bar of the restaurant silently savoring his drink and trying to decide whether or not to order a late lunch. "There are advantages to this layover," he thought lazily. "Marc Stadler was right about the hospital facilities here. They are excellent, and so is the __Jerimiada__." The studied the pale blue liquor. "Truly excellent."

His thoughts were interrupted by an order to the bartender. The voice sounded very familiar. McCoy turned in the direction it had come from and immediately recognized Edward Grayson who was seated at one of the tables. He debated a moment and then picked up his drink and walked over.

"Mr. Grayson, a pleasure to see you again." Grayson looked up, startled.

"Dr. McCoy . . . ."

"Have your technicians found anything more on the crystalsí malfunction?" McCoy inquired politely.

"No, Iím afraid they havenít . . . ." The bartender brought over Graysonís drink. "Thanks, Mike. Thatís fine. I think Iíll skip lunch today. Just put it on my bill."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Grayson."

Grayson turned his attention back to the Medical Officer. "Sit down, Doctor." To McCoy, it didnít seem like much of an invitation, but he could think of no graceful way to decline. Grayson seemed preoccupied and they sat in silence for a few minutes.

"Is it that research grant?" McCoy asked quietly.

Grayson glanced at McCoy, startled out of his reverie. "Is it that apparent that something is on my mind?"

McCoy nodded.

"Itís a family matter, Doctor." Grayson paused and then added, "May I ask you a question? Iíd like an honest answer."

"Sure." McCoy grinned. "However, I must reserve the right to be my subtle, diplomatic self."

Grayson looked at him quite seriously. "What does the __Enterprise__ crew think of Captain Kirk?" It took McCoy a long moment to adjust to the change in subject. He was somewhat taken aback by the question.

"Iím sure most would agree that Jim Kirk is a fine officer, a gentleman, and . . . ." McCoy began cautiously.

"Thatís not exactly what I had in mind, Doctor," Grayson interrupted. "What do they think of his adoption by a Vulcan family?"

The doctorís face indicated his puzzlement and his surprise. "Well, I canít speak for the rest of the crew, but for myself, I couldnít be more pleased for him. Heís often remarked on the peace he found on Vulcan. A family was exactly what he needed . . . ." His voice trailed off as he noticed the look on Graysonís face.

"Then--you--approve?" Grayson practically choked the words out.

"Shouldnít I?" The words came out without thought.

Grayson said nothing. He finished his drink and with a muttered, "If youíll excuse me . . . ." walked out of the bar without another word. McCoy stared after him, greatly puzzled.

 

The rest of the day passed uneventfully; the crew shift came and went. And Kirkís headache had returned. He tried to ignore it, but finally decided to go down to Sickbay. McCoy had returned from his visit to the new medical facility and was pleased at the chance for some conversation. Kirk took the red pill the doctor gave him, swallowed it, and listened patiently. It took his mind off other matters.

The doctor, however, also told the Captain of his strange encounter with Edward Grayson, and their subsequent conversation. Kirk, looking tired, proceeded to make the necessary explanations for Graysonís behaviour, but tried to minimize it.

"No wonder he looked so upset when I said Vulcan agreed with you," McCoy commented lightly. The Captain responded with a smile and told him of the party invitation from the Stadlers. At that the doctorís face lit up with anticipation.

"I donít know what youíre so cheerful about."

"Think of it this way, Jim. ĎEvery cloud has a silver liningí."

"And Ďitís the calm before the stormí," he countered.

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"Well, if youíre going to be so cheerful," McCoy answered with mock anger, "you may leave." But he sobered quickly when he realized his friend had not responded.

"Whatís really bothering you, Jim?" he asked with concern. "Your meeting with Grayson today or the party tonight?"

"Iím worried more about Spock. These are the first human relatives of his heís met. One dislikes him intensely and the other invites us to a party. How would you feel? And, more to the point, what does Spock? I donít like this whole mess."

"Spock usually manages to take care of himself," the doctor said soothingly. "Besides, this party might be the best thing for him, to know his other human relatives arenít all like Edward Grayson." He grinned. "He is a bit of a stuffed shirt." Abruptly he became serious again. "You canít carry the worldís weight on your shoulders. Weíll get that report and leave. Now, relax, Jim-boy."

"I canít."

"I know," McCoy replied sarcastically, but at the same time sympathetically, "thatís why youíre a starship captain."

Upon hearing his Chief Medical Officerís reply, Kirkís brooding mood seemed to dispel a little. "Youíre right, of course, Bones. I should relax more. This party should be just the thing; after all, weíre not marching battle tonight." He added to himself, "I hope." He turned, heading for the door. "Oh. Thanks for the pill."

"Donít mention it."

"Do me a favor, will you? Tell Scotty about the party. And . . ." He looked at his Medical Officer and friend with mock severity. "I think we both better get back to work, Doctor."

"Yes, Captain," McCoy answered formally.

 

The Stadlerís party was just beginning when the four men from the __Enterprise__ arrived. They were quickly introduced to everyone and just as quickly found themselves engaged in conversations. Spock treated the party as if it were a diplomatic reception and remained somewhat aloof from the festivities, but he found himself engaged in several conversations nevertheless. Scotty and McCoy, almost as if by mutual agreement, were determined to enjoy themselves and quickly fit right in with the general atmosphere. Jim Kirk, however, felt ill at ease, almost as if a tidal wave were about to hit. He tried to enjoy himself but he was constantly on alert, anticipating trouble.

The Stadlers mingled among their guests. Marc and the captain were talking with several others as Sharon carried in some hors díoeuvres. She noticed Mr. Spock in the alcove examining a portrait on the wall. Smiling, she walked over and joined him.

"Dad had it commissioned when I was sixteen," she said quietly. "I hated every moment I spent sitting for it." Spockís gaze went from the portrait to the woman in front of him, acknowledging her presence. Quietly he studied her. She did not resemble his mother, but there was __something__. He found himself wanting to identify the link. His glance fell to Sharonís hands which still held the tray of hors díoeuvres. Her hands, graceful in their shape and delicate in their grasp, stirred a memory of his mother. He brought himself back to Sharon and the painting.

"I did not know DeVinier ever did portraits," Spock commented. "It is an exceptional and unique piece of work."

"Iím glad you like it." She returned his scrutiny as she set the tray down and digested the new piece of information regarding her cousin: he was interested in art as well as science. She continued slowly, "Iím glad we finally have a chance to talk."

"I, too, am pleased. I have never before met any of Motherís relatives."

"Weíre your relatives, too," she admonished him.

"Yes," he replied.

She decided to switch the conversation to a safer area.

"Is Vulcan __very__ different?" she asked, trying to find out more about the birthplace of her cousin.

"All worlds are different," he answered, "in different ways and in different degrees."

"I should like to go to Vulcan and see my relatives."

Spock remained quiet for a long second, lost in thought. In some way, he could sense personality similar to his motherís less restrained by Vulcan logic, of course.

"You would be welcome in our home." he replied.

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"Would you have a holo of your parents?" she asked, somewhat shyly.

"No," he said simply. "But I shall see that you get one."

Her face lighted. "Thank you," she said softly. "I would like that."

Spock gazed once again from the painting on the wall to the woman in front of him. "An excellent likeness," he commented. Sharon smiled.

"Shall we join the others?" she asked as she picked up the tray and prepared to return to the main section of the room. Spock nodded and led the way from the alcove.

Time passed as the four Star Fleet officers exchanged anecdotes and experiences with the Stadlers and their other guests.

The doorbell rang and Sharon went to answer it.

"Dad!" she said with surprise. "What are you doing here?"

"I didnít know you had company, Sharon. I, I want to apologize for losing my temper this afternoon, and also to return these tapes to Marc."

"Well, as long as youíre here, come in."

"Just for a moment," Edward said hesitantly. "I canít stay; Iíve got to get back to the office. Thereís that damn report to finish." He had barely entered the doorway when he caught sight of a blue uniform. His eyes darkened and anger flooded over him.

"You invited them? You know my feelings on this matter."

"Whether you like it or not, Dad, they are family. And friends."

Jim Kirk caught sight of the tableau at the door. "Trouble," his head throbbed. At that moment, Grayson directly confronted Spock.

"I thought I told you to stay away from my family," he shouted angrily.

"Dad! Theyíre my guests!" Sharon interrupted.

"I see no reason for your anger, sir," Spock replied calmly, his countenance unchanged. "Your daughter is a grown woman. She has her own home and is quite capable of extending her own invitations." Kirk, who had moved to Spockís side, groaned silently. Spockís logic was rarely placating. Grayson seethed.

"Iíve told you, this is none of your affair. It is strictly between my daughter and myself."

Abruptly, Spock found himself re-living TíAniyehís rendition of TíRruelís __Motek__. It had convinced Vulcan that secession was wrong; it had failed to convince TíUriamne of anything. He had spoken to her briefly just before his formal challenge and had asked her to reconsider her position. He did not wish a public confrontation with her. She had been cold, formal, and had asked him if his arguments were so weak that he feared to present them to Vulcan at large.

And when he had won . . . . She had refused even then to do more than stipulate error. He had hoped that she might return home. Hopeless. She could no more accept her fatherís marriage than Edward Grayson could accept his sisterís. She feared the Federation would destroy all that was Vulcan; Grayson, in a more indirect way, feared an encroachment of alien views. They were more alike than would ever be known to either of them.

 

"Dad! I didnít invite you in to make a scene. If you donít like my friends, you __can__ leave." The party had come to a standstill; all eyes were on the scene at the door.

"Perhaps Iíd better." Grayson prepared to leave.

Sharon turned to Spock. "Iím sorry this had to happen." He nodded, understanding.

Grayson, however, overheard his daughterís words. "You have nothing to apologize for, Sharon, and I will not have you apologizing for me!" He slammed the door behind him.

"Ooh, he makes me furious sometimes," she said aloud, but obviously trying to control her temper. The little group returned to the main room only to find it apparent that the mood of the party had been totally destroyed. The guests quickly took their leaves. The four men from the __Enterprise__ were among the last to depart.

"Iím sorry our presence ruined your party, Sharon." The apology sounded weak, even to Jim Kirkís ears.

"It was my fatherís fault. Iím the one who should be apologizing to you," she replied.

The captain flipped open his communicator. "Mr. Kyle, four to beam up."

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Sharon said warmly, "Goodbye, Cousin Jim." Kirk kissed her on the cheek and then shook Marcís hand.

"Live long and prosper," Spock said formally.

Sharon turned to him and as solemnly repeated the words. "Live long and prosper, Cousin Spock."

"Live long and prosper, gentlemen," Marc added quietly.

Smiling, Sharon added, "I hope we meet again."

The transported beams appeared around them. They shimmered and disappeared.

 

Jim Kirk had been notified that Grayson Chemicals, Ltd. had put out its final report on the failure of DS-249. He had requested and received an appointment to pick up the official Star Fleet Command copy. He already knew the verdict: the substitute was less stable than dilithium. Under stress it lost its cohesive properties and the bonds re-aligned, making it an impractical source of power as yet.

Kirk thought bitterly, "Those crystals behaved damn humanly." This meeting, he knew, was a formality, but one that had to be observed. He and Spock beamed down.

"Captain Kirk of the __Enterprise__ to see Mr. Grayson," he said formally to the secretary. He was prepared to forget the incident at the party, but he wasnít sure Grayson would feel the same way.

"Yes, sir. Mr. Grayson is expecting you." She gestured to a door. "Go right in."

Grayson was seated at his desk. He did not rise as the two officers entered.

"Your report, Captain," he said without formalities and handed him the cassette.

"Thank you, Mr. Grayson," Kirk replied. He accepted the tape and handed it to Spock who quietly took it to a viewer for perusal.

"Further research will be necessary, Captain. Without funds that research will be impossible. Be sure your Star Fleet understands that, as well as their responsibility."

"They will have my log report, Mr. Grayson."

"Now, if you will excuse me, gentlemen, I do have work to do." Graysonís tone was cold.

Kirk nodded absently. He glanced at Spock, who removed the tape from the viewer.

"The findings are as anticipated, Captain," he confirmed.

The captain opened his communicator. "Beam us up, Mr. Kyle." The shimmer of the transporter appeared and for the last time they beamed up from Darian.

 

The tenseness in Jim Kirkís neck did not ease as the __Enterprise__ sped away from the planet with the problem of the DS-249 failure now in the hands of Star Fleet. Spock had not spoken of the incident since they had beamed back to the ship, but the captain felt a personal responsibility for the rift between father and daughter. But then, he argued with himself, there had been no way to avoid it. And instinctively he felt that Sharon and Marc would someday take that trip to Vulcan.

With a wry smile, he finished his coffee, rubbed his neck, and headed for the bridge.

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(RBW Note. The following title is down the left and right side of the drawing, but even though the letters are portrait, they are one above one another from top to bottom instead of being read normally.)

CHRISTINEíS

[KC06IL20.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Christine in the middle of the page.)

DECISION

SHARON EMILY

 

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KRAITH VA

Signal lights blinked in standard Federation patterns as the mighty __U.S.S__. __Enterprise__ sailed through the darkness of deep space, following a heading for Vulcan.

Within the ship, since this was the sleep period for the greater part of the crew, most of the rooms and the corridors were dimly lit, and silent. However, that wasnít the reason for the stillness which had wrapped certain rooms in a heavy shroud. There, the stillness was a sign of the period of mourning which a few members of the crew were observing as a private token of respect to Science Officer Spock--who, once again, had lost his wife.

Not that Spock had wanted anyone to mourn. Far from it! As a matter of fact, when his wife had died, Spock had told McCoy that he wanted the dignity of grieving for his wife in private.

However, both Doctor McCoy and Mr. Scott had prevailed upon him to accept the fact that this ritual of mourning was necessary for those human members of the crew who wished to observe it in the privacy of their own quarters--both as an outward expression of the respect which they had come to feel for Spock (as well as for his wife,) and as a release valve to drain off some of the tensions and pressure created by the ordeal of their recent struggle to escape from the dark star.

Perhaps the stillness and the dimness also reflected the anxious concern of the entire crew, for all were worrying about their captain. There were even some who were overheard saying that the captain behaved like one suffering from severe esper-shock--though that was unlikely, since only telepaths experienced such shock to so severe a degree. Yet . . . the captain was pale and weak, definitely not his usual dynamic self; somewhat hesitant and slow in his speech and just a bit clumsy in his movements.

Spock, also, Vulcan though he was, revealed indications of strain--only natural since he had just lost his wife--but he seemed preoccupied about something . . . almost as though only half his mind were devoted to accomplishing his routine tasks aboard the ship, while the other half was dwelling upon something that awaited him on Vulcan.

Or, to quote Doctor McCoy: "The __Enterprise__, and everyone aboard her, is suffering from one big psychic headache."

However, with the exception of the captain, and to a certain degree, Mr. Spock, the rest of the ship was returning to normal. That lay-over on Schillia had helped. Like Vulcans, Schillians didnít invade minds willingly, even though they were a telepathic race. They were also capable of radiating influences soothing to non-telepathic nerves made raw by a brush with the forces of esper-shock, and with more than four hundred humanoid minds broadcasting such disturbances, the Schillians had had to help in self-defense.

So, in the middle of the shipís "night," all was quiet and reasonably serene. Even Doctor McCoy, on call around the clock, slept, exhausted from the vigil heíd kept over TíAniyeh and over Kirk before theyíd escaped from the dark star. Though, as he was heard to grumble from time to time, there wasnít any real reason for him to feel so worn out. Heíd managed to snatch a few hours of sleep in Sick Bay. The trouble was his sleep had been tormented by nightmares. Fortunately, he could remember only disjointed fragments. For some reason, however, he felt as though he were carrying a burden of great responsibility for something . . . what, he didnít know. Most likely, though, since he was psi-null, he was experiencing a touch of depression as result of the dark starís influence.

 

Everyone not on active duty was seeking recuperation in slumber--all, save one.

Nurse Christine Chapel sat alone in her quarters, gazing into the mirror of her soul, shocked and dismayed at what she saw reflected there.

When Spock had married TíRruel, Christine had been a "good sport" about it. Sheíd been just as shocked as everyone else when Spock returned from the Vulcan Affirmation Ceremony--a widower. Yet, after a reasonable length of time, she had begun to hope that perhaps now she, Christine, might be . . . .

Then Tanya Minos had been assigned to the __Enterprise__, and whatever chances Christine had had--though she was already beginning to suspect that she had very few, if any--became as nothing. After all Tanya had been raised as a Vulcan--as a Daughter of the Tradition, no less! What chance could Christine have in the face of such competition?

Christine had steeled herself to accept the inevitable after Spock had publicly claimed Tanya as "his girl." Even so, she hadnít been able to quell her love for the First Officer.

That love had survived, even during their ordeal on the __dze-utí__ planet, though it had wavered when she had seen Spock in the throes of his approaching __pon__ __farr__.

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__That__ __ordeal__ . . . Christine sighed. __WHY__ __had__ __Spock__ __taken__ __her__ __down__ __to__ __the__ __planet__ __along__ __with__ __the__ __others__? __He__ __could__ __just__ __as__ __well__ __have__ __left__ __her__ __on__ __the__ __ship__, __locked__ __in__ __the__ __mental__ __cage__ __that__ __had__ __imprisoned__ __the__ __others__.

She could almost wish that he hadnít done it, for his action tempted her to wonder if perhaps he wasnít quite as indifferent to her as heíd made everyone--including herself--believe, even though heíd gone on to marry Tanya.

__No__. Her logical self frowned upon that theory. __It__ __would__ __be__ __more__ __reasonable__ __to__ __assume__ __that__ __heíd__ __sensed__ __he__ __was__ __approaching__ __that__ __biological__ __crisis__ __and__ __had__ __wanted__ __her__ __to__ __have__ __the__ __romantic__ __haze__ __banished__ __from__ __her__ __eyes__ __once__ __and__ __for__ __all__.

Christine simply didnít know. Besides, she was just too tired and too disheartened to try to reason out the situation. However, she did know that she would watch her step very carefully this time and not inflict her emotionalism upon Spock by expressing excessive sympathy.

She went to bed--not to sleep, because her mind wouldnít stop racing, but to rest before going back on duty.

 

Spock stood beside the chair at his station, carefully studying Kirkís face. Lines of strain were visible, but the therapy which Ssarsun and Zzlviash had helped to administer had gained promising results. At least, Spock could now shield Jimís mind without seriously draining his own strength.

Yet, he would welcome Vulcanís appearance on the central viewing screen, for he was tired with a fatigue that only returning to his native soil would dispel. The observances of the ancient traditions and ceremonies held at this time of the Vulcan year would bring badly-needed sustenance.

Also, during the time that the __Enterprise__ was being repaired, he had to make a final decision. But, not now. He relegated these thought to the back of his mind for consideration at a better time.

The turbo-lift doors opened, and Doctor McCoy came onto the bridge. Spockís keen gaze traveled over the doctorís face. Slight indications of strain, but no signs that McCoy remembered anything definite about that vigil heíd kept over TíAniyeh and Kirk. Good, that was as it should be. If McCoy had remembered ALL that had happened, his sanity would never have remained intact.

"Bones," Jim inquired, "what are you doing up on the bridge at this hour?"

"Sometimes this doctor still makes house calls, Jim. You neglected to come down to Sickbay for your latest injection. Going too long without medication can set back your recovery, so Iím asserting my rights as your doctor."

"In other words, though Iíve just managed to talk you into letting me come back on duty, Iím to accompany you to Sickbay--and no arguments?"

"No," McCoy drawled. Nurse Chapel stepped out of the turbo-lift, carrying a prepared hypo spray. "I think I can give you your injection right here without upsetting discipline."

Spock raised an eyebrow. Was McCoy presuming too much, perhaps even undermining the captainís authority? No, not if the half-amused/half-relieved glances the bridge crew were exchanging were any indication. Apparently, McCoy was employing his so-called therapeutic humorous by-play in an effort to reduce potentially dangerous tension.

Eventually, Spockís gaze moved to rest on Nurse Chapelís face--another problem to be solved. Again, his eyebrow lifted. Fascinating. Other than when she was carrying out McCoyís orders, Spock hadnít seen much of Christine since TíAniyehís death. As a matter of fact, even when sheíd been administering medication or supervising any of the countless duties required by the presence of patients in Sickbay, sheíd been totally impersonal, calm, and efficient. She hadnít even made more than a polite expression of sympathy--though there had been many chances for her to say anything more that she had wished.

Now, for example, she was standing beside McCoy, holding the hypo spray ready for his hand, her attention directed upon their patient--as it should be. Not once had her gaze lifted to search for Spock, which was a departure from her usual mode of behavior whenever she was near him.

Had she finally come to realize the logic of the situation? Was it possible that she had extinguished the "love" which she had admitted that she felt for him?

Christine handed the hypo spray to McCoy; then, in spite of herself, her gaze traveled upwards in an automatic effort to locate Spock.

__There__ __you__ __stand__, __tall__ __and__ __silent__, she thought, __seemingly__ __as__ __emotionless__ __as__ __that__ __panel__ __beside__ __you__. __Yet__, __we__ __both__ __know__ __that__ __inwardly__ __you__ __ache__ __with__ __loneliness__ __and__ __sorrow__. __If__ __only__ __you__ __would__ __allow__ __me__ __to__ __share__ __your__ __burden__-- __if__ __only__ __youíd__ __accept__ __what__ __little__ __support__ __my__ __strength__ __could__ __give__. __But__, __you__ __wonít__. __No__. __Youíll__ __follow__ __your__ __usual__ __routine__, __proud__ __and__ __aloof__ __as__ __ever__, __ignoring__ __any__ __attempts__ __at__ __sympathy__ __from__ __everyone__--__especially__ __me__! __The__ __only__ __thing__ __I__ __can__ __give__ __you__ __now__ __is__ __what__ __you__ __say__ __you__ __want__--__NOTHING__!

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__No__, Spock mused when Christine looked up at him suddenly then deliberately turned her head, __the__ __problem__ __of__ __you__ __has__ __yet__ __to__ __be__ __solved__--__and__ __I__ __am__ __sorry__. __I__ __have__ __no__ __desire__ __to__ __hurt__ __you__, __to__ __bring__ __you__ __distress__, __yet__ __I__ __am__ __convinced__ __that__ __it__ __will__ __be__ __necessary__ __to__ __do__ __so__.

Christine felt hot color rising in her cheeks when Spockís dark eyes suddenly met her gaze. Sheíd resolved to stop watching him like a moonstruck maiden, but here she was, doing it again! Deliberately, she turned her head and reached out for the hypo spray which McCoy had just finished using.

"Okay, Jim. That should hold you for a spell. When you go off for a rest-break--oh, yes you are! Doctorís orders, remember? I want you to relax in one of the rec rooms. Have a pleasant chat with someone over a cup of coffee. Hold the lift, Christine. We might as well go back to Sick Bay together."

Spock watched the captain carefully for a while, then, satisfied that the injection was building Jimís strength, turned to more routine matters. Eventually, the hour for Kirkís rest-break arrived, and he turned the con over to Spock.

 

Christine didnít want to be alone with her thoughts again this evening, not for a while, anyway. There werenít too many people in the rec room now, just enough to keep her from being too lonely, without intruding more than she needed.

Picking up a cup of coffee, she went to a table in a shadowy corner and sat down. After a moment, she propped her elbows on the table, leaned her head upon her hands, and stared unseeingly into the depths of the dark liquid in her cup.

"Mind if I join you, Nurse?" said a familiar voice.

She looked up to see Captain Kirk, holding two cups of steaming coffee, standing beside the table. "C-certainly, sir," she responded, half-rising, then sinking back when he shook his head.

He moved her untouched cup of cold coffee to one side and set the fresh cup before her, then he took a seat opposite her, sipping carefully as he studied her over the rim of his cup.

"Drink your coffee before it gets cold," he ordered, smiling to off-set the unconscious sternness of his command.

She obeyed, studying him in turn over the rim of her own cup, the nurse in her concerned over the lines of tension and strain in his face; the woman in her responding naturally to his masculine charm.

"You are very quiet tonight--Christine."

"Itís been a long day, Captain."

"Weíve had a lot of Ďlong daysí recently. Itíll be better once we reach Vulcan. We all need a rest. I suppose youíve made plans for your leave?"

"I havenít felt like it, Captain, and no one has invited me. Iím alone, and no one cares what Iíll do during my leave, absolutely no one."

Her bitter words had revealed more than sheíd intended. Embarrassed and quite ill-at-ease, she reached for her cup, intending either to go to another table or to leave the room entirely.

Jim reached out and clasped her free hand gently before she could rise.

"__I__ care, Christine; believe that or not, as you wish." After a short pause, "Itís been hell for you, and Iím sorry. You really deserve better than what life has been handing out to you."

Christine looked up, her mouth forming a small "o" of surprise. Sheíd known that the Captain was capable of great insight and compassion, but how did he know? Save for his silent support while she was watching Spock and TíAniyeh confronting each other on the __dze-ut__í planet, heíd seldom had much occasion to be in close contact with her. After that horrible experience heíd shared with her when heíd beamed down with her to meet her fiancť, Roger Corby, the friendship that had sprung into being between them had somehow fallen by the wayside.

__Odd__, thought Kirk, __Iíd__ __nearly__ __forgotten__ __how__ __courageous__ __she__ __was__ __while__ __we__ __were__ __on__ __Exo__ __III__. __She__ __endured__ __that__ __tragedy__ __like__ __a__ __soldier__. __A__ __rare__ __kind__ __of__ __woman__, __one__ __well__-__suited__ __to__ __starship__ __life__. __Thereís__ __healing__ __in__ __those__ __hands__, __soft__, __cool__. __Sheís__ __all__ __woman__, __with__ __every__ __bit__ __of__ __the__ __heart__, __the__ __beauty__, __and__ ____the__ __nonsense__ __a__ __woman__ __has__ __to__ __give__. __What__ __a__ __pity__ __that__ __sheís__ __wasting__ __it__ __all__ __on__ __Spock__. __Heíll__ __NEVER__ __let__ __her__ __into__ __his__ __life__!

__Odd__, Christine thought, __the__ __Captain__ __is__ __as__ __attractive__ __in__ __his__ __way__ __as__ __Spock__ __is__ __in__ __his__. __Why__ __is__ __it__ __that__ __the__ __Captain__ __has__ __never__ __touched__ __my__ __heart__ __the__ __way__ __that__ __Spock__ __has__? __Of__ __course__, __most__ __of__ __the__ __crew__, __especially__ __the__ __female__ __yeomen__, __think__ __heís__ __as__ __unattainable__ __as__ __Spock__, __that__ __heís__ __married__ __to__ __the__ __Enterprise__. __Maybe__ __he__ __is__. __But__ __I__ __have__ __a__ __notion__ __that__ __the__ __right__ __woman__ __could__ __come__ __to__ __mean__ __as__ __much__ __to__ __him__ __as__ __his__ __ship__ __does__. __A__ __woman__ __who__ __understands__ __his__ __problems__ __of__ __command__, __who__ __is__ __as__ __devoted__ __to__ __the__ __welfare__ __of__ __the__ __crew__ __as__ __he__, __himself__, __is__, __might__ __prove__ __to__ __be__ __that__ __woman__. __Perhaps__ __it__ __would__ __be__ __easier__ __if__ __I__ __had__ __loved__ __Kirk__.

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(Karen note. Next paragraph. Every word must be underscored. I did not insert the notation for underscores, however. I will rely on you to underscore the entire paragraphís content.)

No, it hasnít been easy. Standing there in Sick Bay, working at McCoyís side, rewarding but lonely, so lonely. Spock comes in, silent and watchful, wondering if Iíll say or do something thatíll break that code of his. Yes, sometimes itís unbearable, trying to measure up to his standards. WOULD it be easier loving the captain? It could never be. Spock occupies that niche in the depths of my heart; if heís rooted out, the inner bleeding it would cause could well be fatal.

(Karen note. New paragraph below. Nothing special within it.)

God! How lonely to love someone who canít--or wonít-- love in return. Better, far better to have a heart totally dedicated to duty.

__In__ __another__ __place__ __and__ __time__, __the__ __captain__ __and__ __I__ __might__ __have__ __been__ __good__ __for__ __one__ __another__. Indeed, we might have . . . . __As__ __it__ __is__. __I__ __need__ __a__ __friend__.

"Youíve GOT that friend, Christine," Kirk said softly, reassuringly. "Anything I can do to help you ease the pain. You have only to ask, and . . . ."

The expression of shock on Christineís face warned him that heíd done it again; heíd been answering her THOUGHTS; she hadnít said anything aloud for several minutes!

"MyóGod!" she whispered, drawing back slightly. "That rumor is TRUE. You ARE a telepath."

"No, Christine. NO. I wasnít really trying. I __wasnít__ reading your mind. Itís just that Iíve gotten to know the members of my crew quite well. I could imagine the general direction your thoughts were probably taking right now."

"Captain," Christine spoke sternly, leaning toward him now that her initial shock was over, "I was down on that planet with you. I KNOW what happened. I SAW. Oh, sir, how are you able to stand it? I remember how Doctor Jones said . . . ! Thatís why youíre going to Vulcan, isnít it? Youíre going to have to let them teach you how NOT to read thoughts."

"Thatís what Spock says, though I still donít believe that Iím a telepath. Why wouldnít it have shown up before now? All right, now that you know, Iím going to have to ask you not . . . ."

"Captain, Iím a nurse; I know how to keep confidences. But, I wish there were something I could do to help."

"Youíve helped by not turning away in horror now that you know what may be happening to me. Expressing exactly what you feel helps a lot, too. Maybe we can help each other. Youíve got your problems, and I have mine. Perhaps we can lend a shoulder to help one another bear up under the load."

"Bridge to Captain Kirk."

Kirk strode to the intercom and flipped the switch. "Kirk here."

"Captain, weíve just assumed standard orbit over Vulcan. Iíve been informed that Ambassador Sarek wishes to speak with you shortly. Would you want me to patch into your quarters, or . . . ?"

"Unless he specified privacy, Iíll take it on the bridge, Lieutenant."

"Privacy wasnít requested, sir."

"Then Iím on my way. Coming, Christine?"

"The message doesnít concern me, Captain. Iíll go back to Sick Bay and finish an inventory I started this afternoon." Christine smiled, grateful for Jimís thoughtful gesture in offering to take her to the bridge with him to keep her mind off her own problems. However, she was beginning to realize that she had to learn to rely upon her own strength to solve those problems. Might as well begin now. Otherwise, she might wind up as a self-pitying creature of no use to herself, or to anyone else.

 

Sarekís message had been a somewhat unusual one, yet, since Kirk was now his adopted son not so unusual after all. Sarek had wanted to know at what time his sons could leave the ship in order to schedule the ceremony of returning TíAniyehís name to the Archives, and to record her death.

Kirk and Spock beamed down alone. The rest of the crew began to make their final preparations to go on shore leave while the ship was undergoing repairs. Christine, as per her word, continued with the inventory she had started.

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(RBW Note. This is a drawing in landscape mode with the left of the drawing at the bottom. It appears to be a picture of the Vulcan starbase with several shuttles around it.)

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"Bridge to Nurse Chapel."

"What?" Christine stared at the intercom, not sure sheíd heard correctly.

"Bridge to Nurse Chapel," Uhuraís voice repeated.

"Chapel here."

"Christine, I have a call for you from the Lady Amanda. Hold on, and Iíll patch it in for you."

"Christine," came a lovely, familiar voice, "is that you?"

"Yes, Lady Amanda. Peace and Long Life."

"Peace and Long Life. I have not seen you for a long time."

"Duty has a way of keeping friends apart, Lady Amanda."

"Just Amanda, Christine. Weíve been through too much to revert to that formality. Captain Kirk has told me that you have made no real plans for your shore leave. Is that still true?"

"Yes. Iíll probably go to the . . . ."

"Christine, both Sarek and I invite you to be a guest under our roof for a few days. Please say Ďyes.í Iíd really love to have you."

"Why, I . . . . Did you say that your husband has invited me, too?"

"Yes, he says that he thinks it would be good for me to spend time in the company of a human female, comparing my memories of Earth with the reality of what it is now. Actually, I think he suspects Iíve been among Vulcans too long and need a chance to be with my own kind."

"If youíre sure I wonít be in the way, Amanda, Iíd love to come. But, what does Mr. Spock say?"

"Spock wonít be here. He and Jim wonít be returning home for quite some time. You wonít have to worry about Spock while youíre with us." Amandaís tone revealed that she knew exactly WHY Christine had hesitated to stay in Spockís home if he were there, too. After all, Amanda had seen Christine in Sick Bay, ministering to her son. Sheíd been perfectly capable of reading eyes and expressions.

"Then, if that is the case, I shall be glad to accept your invitation," Christine said slowly. It wouldnít hurt to get some idea of what Spockís home environment was like; it might help her to understand him better. "Iíll have to check with Doctor McCoy to see when he will let me leave, though."

"Good. Just let us know when youíre ready to come down. Everything is ready for you."

Christine immediately went in search of Doctor McCoy.

"Doctor McCoy," she said when she found him. "Iíve just been invited . . . ."

"To spend a few days at Spockís home. I know all about it; Amanda called me and asked if youíd be free before she called you. Have you finished that inventory?"

"Of course."

"Then I see no reason why you canít beam down as soon as you get packed. Wait a minute, Iíd better tell you a bit about some of the Vulcan customs that youíll be encountering."

"Iíd be very grateful if you would, Doctor."

He did so, quickly, then grinned. "Goodbye, Christine. Have a good time."

 

Before long, Christine found herself in a group of milling crewmen who had beamed down to Vulcan. It took several moments to sort herself and her few bits of luggage from the other items that had come down. A private aircar was waiting for her, and she lost no time getting in; it was either that, or turn tail and run back to the ship, for she wasnít sure even yet that she was doing the wise thing. To go to Spockís home, where he had spent his childhood, to sleep beneath the same roof that had sheltered him? Maybe it wasnít such a good idea after all.

The aircar swept over the house in its first pass to approach the landing field. Christine looked down and admired the sprawling construction that looked as if it had been a part of the mountain range beyond it from the beginning of time. True. this was a desert area, but

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sheíd seen so many worlds and had been exposed to so many cultures that she could see the beauty and the order of the planning that had created this structure. It reminded her of a great temple built to honor the memory of a race that had gone before. "Ancestral home" was the perfect description for it.

The pilot landed the aircar skillfully then descended and extended an impersonal hand to help her out. Her gaze traveled upwards towards the entrance of the house. Oh dear. She hadnít anticipated that Ambassador Sarek would be home. Christine sighed and squared her shoulders unconsciously. She wasnít afraid of Sarek--exactly. After all, heíd been a patient in Sick Bay after that horribly complicated operation which had restored him to health. Sheíd not hesitated to use her authority when heíd tried to argue the merits of Vulcan healing against plain old-fashioned Federation medicine. McCoy had given in to Sarek when he was convinced it was necessary. Heíd also given her orders to follow when Vulcan healing couldnít work with the necessary speed and sheíd carried out those orders to the best of her ability. However, that had been in Sick Bay. Meeting Ambassador Sarek on his home grounds was something else.

Christine didnít hesitate to admit that she felt more than a little awed by this tall Vulcan who could sway men and governments with the power of his voice, and with the strength of his logic. A man who could sire such a unique son would be equally unique in his own right. The fact that heíd married a human woman made him that much more of an unknown quantity, one that made her feel definitely uneasy. He was unfailingly courteous whenever his pathway crossed hers, yet, his dark eyes studied her so intently, with a gaze so penetrating that she could almost believe that he knew far more about herself than she did. That he knew she loved his son she didnít doubt. Would he call this fact to her attention during the course of her visit?

Well, sheíd find out soon enough. Informing her that her luggage would be taken care of, the pilot motioned toward the house, and she walked toward the waiting couple.

Amanda and Sarek descended the steps, the Vulcan slightly ahead of his wife. "Live Long and Prosper, Christine Chapel," he said quietly, lifting his hand in the Vulcan salute.

"Peace and Long Life. Ambassador Sarek." Christine responded as she lifted her own hand. "To you also, Lady Amanda."

"Enter beneath our roof and be our guest so long as it pleases thee." Sarek repeated the courteous phrase and then turned to one side to allow Amanda to pass him. She clasped her guestís hand in the human form of greeting.

"Come along with me, Christine. Iíll show you the building." She turned toward the house, but Sarek did not accompany them. Instead, he entered a path leading toward the side of the house.

"I think youíll enjoy our main living area." Amanda said as they entered the hallway.

And Christine found herself swept into a tour of this castle-like home, seeing where Spock had studied his lessons, the rooms in which the family had spent most of their time, exclaiming with awe and unconscious envy when she saw the real books that Amanda had brought to Vulcan with her, books which Amanda offered to let her read freely.

Yet, all the time that Amanda was taking Christine over the house, she seemed to be waiting for some reaction, revealing only the tiniest bit of disappointment that it wasnít forthcoming. Sometimes, she seemed to hope that Christine would hear something. She did stop and listen, but she could hear nothing except the muted whisper of the air-cooling unit that had been installed to give some rooms the climate so necessary to humans. Christine had the uneasy feeling that sheíd failed some sort of test, had missed detecting something that Amanda had wanted her to notice, but she also felt certain that sheíd be making a mistake if she asked what it was. Time enough to find out later, if at all.

They descended a flight of steps into what could only be the basement of the house. It was dim in this space beneath the house. It could only be a natural cave. Christine blinked with surprise. Sarek was waiting for them, standing beside a huge stone table in the center, a table which was higher than his chest.

"There is a little ceremony that guests here observe with their hosts," Amanda said quietly.

The two women approached the table and then paused at the edge. Sarek descended a flight of steps that went down beneath the table. Christine ignored a temptation to rub her eyes. No, she wasnít seeing things; that really WAS a pool of crystal-clear water. An artesian well on Vulcan.

Sarek bent to draw a cup of water, rose to come back up the steps, then touched the cup to his lips in a ceremonious gesture. "Please accept our hospitality," he said solemnly, once in his tongue and, in courtesy to the human guest, once in her own, then he handed her the beautifully simple ceramic cup.

Sensing that this was somehow a test of her mettle, as well as some kind of contract entered into by her host, Christine accepted the cup and drank of the water. It was bracingly cold, with a tang in it that hinted of minerals dissolved in the liquid. Quite refreshing and good.

She lifted her head and paused, uncertain as to what to do next. Seeing her confusion, Sarek stepped forward to take the cup from her and carefully poured the remaining water into a

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Amanda.)

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small trough that led back to the well after passing through an algae bed filter.

"My wife, please complete the tour of our home for our guest," he reminded Amanda gently when he saw that she was still studying Christineís face instead of remembering her duties as a hostess.

 

Eventually, Amanda led her to the double guest suite that was always ready for off-world visitors. Christine was chagrined to find that she was quite tired and short of breath, while the older woman showed no traces of discomfort.

"Iím sorry. I keep forgetting that youíre used to a lighter gravity and breathe denser oxygen," Amanda apologized. "Perhaps you would like to rest for a while before the evening meal perhaps even take a short nap? There will be plenty of time."

Christine didnít argue. Sheíd fallen into a light, refreshing sleep almost before the door had closed behind Amanda.

 

Amanda was waiting for her at the foot of the long stairway when she came down. They went out on a low terrace where an oval, greenstone table waited, already set with the utensils and dishes for a buffet-style meal.

"I thought you would prefer a simple meal for your first evening with us, so only the three of us will be eating tonight. Tomorrow, however, many of our neighbors will come to see you. They have heard so much of how human women work in Federation Star Fleet, and they wish to find out for themselves, first hand, what you do."

"Iíll be happy to tell them whatever I can."

"I knew you would. Sarek, is everything here?"

"Almost, my wife. I have sent for one final confection that I have been informed our guest enjoys. A minor oversight, but I prefer that it be here as a token of welcome."

At that very moment, a young Vulcan woman brought in a two-sided dish containing several porous cubes on colorful skewers and a bowl of scintillating froth.

"I am correct; you do enjoy __yhotekhq__?" Sarek asked calmly, his dark eyes intent as he awaited her reaction. "At least, that is what Doctor McCoy told me when I inquired if you had expressed a preference for any of our native foods."

"Why, yes, I do! Than . . . ." Christine stopped. To thank Sarek for an expression of hospitality that was a matter of course was a breach of Vulcan custom, or so McCoy had told her during that quick run-through of Vulcan etiquette that heíd given her before sheíd beamed down. "Itís a dish that I relish, though I havenít had any since we entertained that group of Vulcans during our journey to Feda XII."

She bit her lip with vexation. Darn it! That was when Spock had met TíRruel and while Sarek was still prisoner of the Romulans. Couldnít she do or say anything without reviving unfortunate memories?

But Sarek accepted her statement in the spirit in which it had been offered, and he motioned toward the table.

Christine hesitated. Amanda saw her uncertainty and smiled at her without letting Sarek see, then she stepped forward and began to guide Christine through the intricacies of selecting Vulcan foods that would be acceptable to her human palate.

The silence that was a part of the Vulcan meal hour fell over the trio. It didnít take Christine long to discard her feelings of nervousness, and she found that she was able to enjoy everything, especially the __yhotekhq__.

 

When the meal was over, Amanda and Sarek moved to clear the table. When Amanda saw Christineís wistful glance, she cast a look at Sarek and, at his silent nod, invited Christine to join them in the task, gratifying her with this widening of their family circle to let her in at the very edge.

Christine had found this indication of a subliminal tie between the couple very revealing. Sheíd wondered how Sarek had known exactly when theyíd reach that natural cavern beneath the house. Apparently, heíd sensed Amandaís decision to turn their steps in that direction and had gone down to wait for her to join him for the ceremony of welcoming their guest.

"My wife, unless our guest is tired, this would be a good time to show her the rest of our property," Sarek suggested after everything had been cleared away.

"Oh, no, Iím not tired," Christine said when Amanda looked at her.

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"Then come." Sarek extended his fingers to his wife, and the couple escorted Christine around the grounds immediately surrounding the house.

At last, they turned their steps towards the house, only to lead her up past the guest quarters and on up to the roof, where they stopped on a parapeted roof terrace, a terrace which was characterized by complicated patterns created from lines of stone about knee-high throughout their length. Many pagoda-like structures, with carefully arranged plants growing about them were also visible, and Christine wondered if this might be a Vulcan garden.

"May I ask what this is?"

"We call this the Garden of Thought. It is a place where one may come to meditate in private. Indeed, if one is inside the Garden, no one may communicate with him or her, for any reason." Sarek informed her.

"Itís beautiful! Is it--is it forbidden to off-worlders?"

"Our guests may use the Garden at any time that they choose. Do you wish to visit it now?"

"No, I donít think so. Not right now. If the Lady Amanda doesnít mind, I would like to take another look at those books. Itís been a long time since Iíve seen any."

"As you wish. I have work waiting for me. Until later." And Sarek took his leave.

Christine couldnít keep from uttering a soft sigh of relief after the Vulcan was gone. She didnít think she had to be so careful around Amanda, for theyíd gotten to know one another quite well in Sick Bay while Sarek had been recovering from that operation.

The remainder of Christineís first evening in Spockís home passed pleasantly as she examined some of the lovely books and visited with Amanda. Sheíd been afraid that Amanda might ask questions about her son, wanting to know how he was bearing up under the strain of TíAniyehís death, but the conversation didnít turn in that direction at all. Apparently, Amandaís years on Vulcan had taught her much restraint and control. Sheíd seen Spock; she knew that he was taking his loss with his usual Vulcan stoicism.

"I must make preparations for tomorrow. Would you like to accompany me?" Amanda asked finally.

"If you donít mind, Iím beginning to feel a bit tired. Perhaps another time?"

"Of course. Do you know the way to your room?"

"Yes, Amanda. May I take one of these books with me to read until I fall asleep?"

"As many as you wish. Good night, Christine."

And she left, leaving Christine examining the shelves. But Christine realized that she wasnít really that sleepy after all. She wondered what it would be like in the Garden of Thought after the daylight was gone. The air would be cool now, and the stars overhead were said to be a blaze of glory. Well, Sarek had said she could visit the Garden at any time she wished.

Yes, a very pleasant place, quite conducive to deep thought she concluded as she strolled along one of the pathways. Even though there was no moon, the starlight was bright enough that she could see the marked pathway clearly. So long as she didnít stray, she shouldnít be in any difficulty.

She glanced out and downwards when her ramblings brought her near the wall. She saw a structure below, much like a balcony, jutting from one window. Someone was standing there with his back to her, looking up at the sky, Sarek. Impulsively, she thought of calling some greeting to let him know that she was here, but immediately thought better of it. Hadnít Sarek said that it was forbidden to communicate with someone inside the Garden? That probably worked both ways. Besides, it wasnít necessary for her to let him know where she was; if he wanted to find her, he could do so very easily.

She sat down on a low bench near the wall and leaned her head back to look into the sky. What had he been studying? She couldnít see anything too out of the ordinary.

"My husband," she heard Amandaís voice speaking softly, "will I disturb your meditations if I join you?"

Christine started to rise then realized that she would probably make a lot of noise if she moved. Rather than give the impression that she was spying, she remained motionless, hoping that the couple would go back inside.

"I have completed my meditations, my wife. Come, join me. The stars are exceptionally bright this evening."

"Perhaps they are welcoming our guest."

"One of your human fancies, Amanda? You know that the stars pay no heed to the activities of the beings living upon the surfaces of their planets."

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"True, but itís a nice thought, nonetheless. Sarek, thank you for allowing me to invite Christine to stay with us. I wasnít sure that you would let her come."

"Even if she were not an acceptable guest for herself, I would not separate you from the human friends that you have found."

"Yes, sheís been such a good friend to me. And I think you do not look upon her with disfavor."

"She is an excellent nurse and, within limits, an interesting personality. I have learned much of human nature observing her."

"Iím so glad you like her."

"Liking does not have a bearing upon the case, Amanda. But, I am confident that you have reason for this conversation. What is it that you want?"

"Dear Sarek. Iíve never been able to fool you. It isnít for myself; I-Iím wondering if you would be able to do something for Christine."

"What is it that you wish, my wife?"

"You know how she feels, how she regards Spock. Sarek, I know it can never be. I understand and accept that, and I know she will, too, eventually. But itís so hard for her right now. Couldnít you . . . ? Well, she did help you so much when you were ill. Would it be out of place for me to ask you if you could prepare a Flame for her?"

There was a silence. Christine, totally embarrassed by this conversation about herself, hoped fervently that they would to back inside so she could slip away. Not for all the treasure in the universe would she reveal her presence now!

Sarek stepped forward slightly and turned to one side. When he spoke, his voice was as clear as though he were standing on the roof. "I am sorry, my wife. You have asked of me the one thing I cannot do."

"But Sarek, why?" Amanda almost wailed. "You gave one to ME."

"Yes, Amanda, because you were capable of using it. However, the Flame can be incredibly dangerous, especially to humans. A special mind is needed for one to be able to attain a state of Peace which the Flame can preserve. Only a special mind can attain that state without lapsing into insanity. A certain type of psychology is necessary to enable one to benefit from the Flame without risking the self-destruction of addiction. If Christine Chapel had that sort of mind, Spock might have married her years ago. Do you understand, my wife?"

"I-Iím not sure. Are you saying that Christine is--is stupid? I canít believe that!"

"That is not what I am saying at all. She has academic credits and the training and experience to testify that she is intelligent. She is the Chief Nurse aboard the __Enterprise__. However, though she has much strength of character, what I believe humans call Ďsterling qualities,í she cannot become attuned to the Flame. If she could, she would be the Chief Medical Officer of the ship, if not of Star Fleet itself by now. But she is not, and she never will be. Now, do you understand?"

"I think so. You canít give her a Flame because the risk is too great."

"It would leave her maimed, and I am confident you would not want that. Surely there will be other ways that she can resolve her problem: it is her duty to find them."

"I hope she finds a solution soon. Sheís so unhappy. She loves Spock so much, and yet she knows that nothing can ever come of it."

"I wonder."

"ĎYou wonderí? You have said yourself that itís clearly evident that he will never even consider Christine as a wife."

"True. I meant that I wonder if Nurse Chapelís love for our son is the deep quality of that emotion, as you have taught me to know it to be. Do you remember what some of your peers said to you when they first learned that I had selected you as my consort?"

"That, that I Ďhad a feather in my capí now because Iíd won a Vulcan? I wish youíd never heard that, Sarek. It was so untrue, and so totally unworthy of our true relationship."

"Nevertheless, it is how some individuals must have viewed the situation. As I have come to understand some human females, but you are not one of these, Amanda, that which is beyond reach is most attractive, unless or until it can be obtained. Spock is a most desirable commodity, both because of his ancestry on Vulcan and because of his record in Star Fleet. I cannot deny this. There are doubtless many females who would consider it an asset to win him. Perhaps your friend may nourish a similar feeling in her mind, a knowledge that if she could win Spock, she would gain much recognition."

"No, Sarek, I believe she really loves him."

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"An inevitable result of her long years of service aboard the __Enterprise__. However, I am confident that Christine Chapel is of that breed of women who are destined never to marry, never to have a family in the usual sense of the word."

"You mean like a Daughter?"

Christine thought she detected an indulgent smile in Sarekís voice: "Perhaps a Schillian would put it that way."

It sounded like a private joke, and it made her cheeks grow warm as she became even more convinced that she shouldnít be listening.

Amanda laughed. Instead of a reprimand, there ensued a long silence, during which Christine was literally afraid to open her eyes, for she sensed that looking over the parapet at this moment would be a definite invasion of privacy.

And then Sarek resumed his measure of words. "Christine Chapel does not hesitate to help those in need, but I believe it is not within her to accept and to endure the demands of marriage. She is Ďmarriedí to her work in the same way that SíChames is bonded to his __Enterprise__, though with SíChames, it may be only temporary. Christine would be unable to restrict herself to caring for only a few when there are many who need the help which her training and skills can give them."

"Do you also think that she would be unable to meet the demands of marriage to a Vulcan?"

"She would not be able to meet the demands of marriage to Spock. There is a great difference, my wife. Spock is Spock. He can be no less, and it is more than Nurse Chapel could endure and remain at peace with herself."

"Yes, for Spock would demand more than a full Vulcan. Christine could never endure. Youíre right, Sarek. She could never be happy if she married Spock. But, she will have to learn to understand that before she can ever find Peace. Knowing something and learning to stop loving someone because of that knowledge are two different things. I wish that there were something that we could do to help her."

"Perhaps she will learn much of value while she is with us. If an opportunity comes for me to help her. I shall do whatever I can. Can you ask more, Amanda?"

"No, of course not."

"Then come; the hour is late."

He led his wife back into the house, leaving a very hurt and confused Christine sitting in the Garden of Thought.

Humiliation burned in her throat, almost gagging her as she recalled Sarekís words. She forced herself to become calm and to analyze his words in the same light of reason that Spock would have demanded that she employ, had he been a witness to this scene. All right, galling as it was, she had to admit that Sarek was right about her. She was good at her work, yes, but she had no real ambition to become more than what she was now, the best nurse in Star Fleet. The prestige and the power of the higher positions were enviable, but she had no wish to assume the heartaches and the heavy burdens of responsibility that would come with them. She was content with what she was now; the person who eased pain and brought comfort and healing to those who needed it. And was that really such a bad life? Not at all. And, as for the rest: WAS it true what Sarek had said? Was her love for Spock merely because he represented the unattainable?

Unbidden, her thoughts turned back to Roger Corby, her former fiancť. He, too, had been considered Ďunattainable,í yet she, Christine, had won him, and how proud sheíd been when the news had been made public. But, if she had loved him as much as sheíd said, why had she been willing to let him go off on that mission with so little protest? Why had she waited for five years before finally deciding to go out and see what had happened to him? She had to face it: sheíd enjoyed the prestige of being Corbyís promised wife, but she hadnít loved him enough to hasten the time when she would have had to accept the responsibility of becoming his wife and of living under his shadow.

Christine did a lot of growing up during the next few minutes while she analyzed her reasons for loving Spock: The first time sheíd ever seen him, sheíd noticed how ALONE he had seemed; yet, there had been other crewmen first coming on board who were equally alone. Hadnít he captured her attention because she knew he was Vulcan, representing the Unknown? Yes. She had come to realize the many unique qualities about him and had finally called this knowledge "love;" but she knew now that she could never be to him what he needed and had to have in a wife. Thus, TíRruel and TíAniyeh had been perfect for him, where she could have been nothing but a disaster perhaps even death.

The better side of her nature had influenced the seed, had caused it to germinate in the depths of her being and blossom forth as love, but it was not the right sort of love. As Sarek had said, she had selected Spock at first because it would have enhanced her value in the eyes of her peer group if she could have won the First Officer, the seemingly unattainable Vulcan.

"Well, Christine. Thatís that. It isnít pretty, but you know just where you stand in relation to yourself," she whispered after a while. "Now, are you going to be a coward and run off to bury your head in the sand, or are you going to be a woman, face up to the truth, and make the best of it?"

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Whatever the decision, she knew she was in no frame of mind to make it now. Instead, she rose and went back into the silent house, grateful that Amanda had retired, for she knew that her expression would have given her away.

She paused after entering the hall and hovered at the foot of the stairway. Should she go straight up the stairs, or should she pick out a book and see if it would help her silence the wild racing of her mind enough to get to sleep? Hardly seemed likely, but it wouldnít hurt to try.

There was the sound of a soft footstep behind her; she turned swiftly, to find that Sarek was standing near her. "Oh, I-Iím sorry. I didnít know you were still up. I-I didnít mean to disturb you." __Stop__ __it__, __Christine__. __Youíre__ __babbling__, she warned herself sternly.

"It was not my intention to retire until you left the Garden," he replied calmly.

"You knew I was out there?"

He nodded, but remained silent, content to let her pick up the conversational ball and keep it rolling.

"Vulcans have much keener hearing than humans. Iíll bet you heard me while you were standing out on the balcony, while you were talking with your wife. You KNEW I was listening."

Again that proud head bent slightly in assent.

Christine was too hurt to cry. It wouldnít help, anyhow.

"Well, itís always nice to know where one stands. Iíll say goodnight now, sir, and donít worry. Iíll be out of here as soon as possible tomorrow."

Suddenly bewildered, he raised a Spockian eyebrow. "I have not asked you to leave," he commented. "Indeed, I have given you the hospitality of my home."

"Why? So Iíd have a chance to hear your opinion of me? Iím sorry that I donít meet your standards, sir, but I canít help it." Her throat became so tight that she couldnít go on.

"You are hurt. That is understandable, for it is evident that you did not grasp the full meaning of all that you heard. It was not my intention that you should be hurt. You have given evidence that you respect the truth. Will you let me enable you to fully understand this matter?"

A Vulcan, seeking to explain his motives to a human? Truly, Sarek must be concerned for her welfare to depart so far from the norm. If he could unbend to make this request, then she could do no less than grant it. "Very well. Iíll listen to you."

"Come with me, please." So saying, he made a sweeping gesture towards the entrance of his library/study, that inner sanctum where so few out-worlders were allowed to go, and where sheíd never dared imagine she would ever set foot.

Realizing that Sarek was giving her a rare honor, Christine entered the well-appointed room and sat quickly in the seat that he pointed out. He stood close by and gazed at her for a moment, then he sighed. "Please tell me, what did you think I meant when I told Amanda why I could not give you a Flame?"

"I-I guess that you meant that Iím just Ďsecond-rate;í that I donít have what it takes to make it in the Vulcan civilization."

"As I anticipated. You are right, and you are wrong. If by Ďsecond-rateí you mean that you do not have that burning ambition to go ever onward and upward in your field of medicine, far beyond the profession of nursing, that is so. However, I did not wish to imply that you are lacking in mental capabilities. Even so, your mind is not like that of my sonís or of Captain Kirkís. They require the healing influence of the Flame because they both are on what you would call the Ďunstable geniusí level. Their subconsciousnesses are constantly filled with the burning desire to CREATE until it is impossible to create anything more; to risk and to accept peril and responsibility far beyond ordinary limits. They also have the strength and fortitude necessary to meet these demands, and exceed them. But such minds are in a state of constant turmoil and torment, and such minds always hover on the brink of disaster. You might compare such a mind to a meteor that is passing through a planetary atmosphere. It creates a brilliant glow while it lasts, and it inspires admiration from those who see it, yet it is in danger of being totally destroyed by its own forces. However, you, Christine, can be compared to the fire upon a homeís hearth, burning with a constant steady glow that lights the way, bringing warmth and courage to face the dangers that await on the morrow. Indeed, the universe needs more flames such as you, just to survive. Now, do you understand?"

"Yes, oh yes!" Christineís eyes glowed with a joy at the tribute which this austere Vulcan had given her. "And, even if Iím being impolite, I thank you! Ambassador, you were right. I really wouldnít be happy with Spock. But, that doesnít change the fact that Iím still in love with him. What am I going to do about that?"

"The way is difficult, but I am confident that you could learn much from us, if you have changed your mind and will remain here."

"Iíd like to, if youíll have me. For some reason, though, I feel like a child when I think of all that Iíll have to learn."

72

Christine's Decision Continues

 

 


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