(A Star Trek Romance)
S h a r o n E m i l y
AS CHRISTINE HAD WARNED ME, SPECULATION ABOUT WHAT HEALING TECHNIQUES THE VULCANS HAD USED TO HELP ME WAS RIFE IN THE SHIP....
Not even Doctor McCoy had been able to resist the temptation to ask me if I have managed to find out if Spock has finally succeeded in becoming as free of emotion as he claims, or if the Vulcan's mind still was a hotbed of conflicting emotions.
"I am sorry, Doctor. Anything that I have learned about Mr. Spock is confidential." I had countered. "You, as a physician, should understand why I cannot answer that question."
He had the grace to apologize; others did not.
Perhaps incidents such as these were part of the "consequences" which Mr. Spock had mentioned.
With Sarek gone, I became very lonely again. The news of my empathic talents affected the attitudes of many of the crewmembers. It was common knowledge that I couldn't read the thoughts and emotions of others except under special conditions. Even so, the majority of the crew viewed me with suspicion and were somewhat restrained whenever I was near.
This, I had to accept, but I hoped that the others would come to realize that they didn't have to be on their guard around me. Christine spent as much time with me as she could, but her own duties and responsibilities kept us going in different directions much of the time.
Of course, there was Mr. Spock. Our mutual loneliness might have brought us together in friendship - but for something that happened during one of my first days as an honorary Yeoman.
I came into one of the Recreation Rooms and discovered that Mr. Spock was playing his lytherette. The selection was a modernistic version of one of my favorite tunes, and the sound of something so familiar in such exotic surroundings had brought a lump to my throat. Spock had noticed at once that I was affected by the song, and he'd put the instrument aside quickly to avoid reviving more memories which would hamper my adjustment to this new life.
Soon, I was fencing several questions from those who wanted to find out if I knew what it was like inside a Vulcan's mind. I'd retreated as quickly and as tactfully as possible, but the damage had been done. It wasn't my desire to cause Mr. Spock even one moment of embarrassment in his father's behalf, even though he never revealed that he felt any. Therefore, except for training sessions, I have made it a point to be needed elsewhere whenever Spock appears, thus avoiding repetitions of such an incident.
I've adapted swiftly to the new learning methods. Strange as it sounds, I can learn more in a few hours of serious study now than I was ever able to learn after weeks of hard work back in the 20th Century. I wonder if the spores have given me an added advantage?
When I completed my third week of study, Mr. Spock informed me that I'd achieved the equivalent of this era's level of pre-college training. Immediately, he began to give me more advanced and specialized instruction. I also began to study the requirements for various posts on the Bridge. Yesterday, I began to take over at a couple of the consoles during stated intervals because such duty would help determine where my talents and my abilities can be of best use. I wonder if I will ever be allowed to spend a few minutes at Mr. Spock's station? Of course, none of these tasks have interfered with anything that Doctor McCoy might have for me to do. But there isn't any danger that I might suffer from enlarged ego. Mr. Spock explained that the pre-college level of this century is equivalent to the full graduate level of my former era.
Lieutenant Uhura has become a very good friend, and I've gotten into the habit of spending some time with her each day. She always confirms that the Ambassador's mission is progressing well. I was always hoping for a chance to hear a report first-hand, and my guardian angel must have been listening. I was sitting at Uhura's station this morning, trying my hand at communications. Things had been dull, so I was mulling over the unintentional irony of the situation. Back in the 20th Century, thanks to working every available hour, I'd managed to earn my college degree and had obtained a teaching certificate. However, there'd been few posts available in my chosen fields within driving distance...anyway, economic circumstances had kept me from earning my Master's within the time limits, and I'd lost my teaching license -- which meant I'd had to begin work for my Master's all over again, as well as taking extra education courses. Working in a telephone office all day, I'd been going to school at night to earn additional certification. Now, in the future, I was still going to school and was still working with communications!
It was then that Ambassador Sarek made an unscheduled call to the Captain. I had been startled when I'd recognized Sarek's voice, but I had activated the Central Viewing Screen easily at his request. "Ambassador, what's wrong?" Kirk asked.
"Nothing, as you can see, Captain. I require your permission to transfer additional information from the library computers."
"You're welcome to anything you need, sir. Spock, this is your department."
"Spock here, sir. How may I help you?"
"Relay everything you have concerning the parchments found upon Orion V."
It was almost that soon when Spock brought the records to me.
"Better use the Code 5 scrambler while you transmit this, Yeoman."
Again, I experienced no difficulty, and the information was soon stored within Sarek's tricorder.
"I have it, Captain. This information will be of great value."
"We're glad we could help, Ambassador."
"Captain, is that Miss Mitchell I see working at the Communications console?"
"Yes, Ambassador. Yeoman, come down here, if you please." The Captain indicated a place near the command chair.
I hesitated, for Uhura had not yet taught me how to lock Communications on automatic. However, Spock reached over my shoulder to press the necessary relays, then he indicated that I could leave my post.
To my surprise, I felt a strange chilling sensation creeping between my shoulder blades when I looked up at the image on the screen.
"Peace and long life, Miss Mitchell."
"Live long and prosper, Ambassador." I instinctively responded to the extreme formality of his greeting.
"Your health has improved greatly since I last saw you. Since you are working with Communications, your re-education must be progressing at a satisfactory rate. What level have you achieved?"
"Mr. Spock has informed me that I have achieved the level of pre-college work, sir."
"In what area are you specializing?"
"I - I'm not sure."
"Miss Mitchell, you cannot have progressed so far without...."
"If the Ambassador will forgive my intrusion," Spock said quietly from his station, "I will attempt to resolve this seeming confusion."
"You know that Yeoman Mitchell possesses a high degree of empathic telepathy. We are attempting to develop this ability to its fullest potential. We have also been assigning her tasks in various fields to try to determine where her aptitudes lie. Her empathy has enabled her to function adequately in every department."
"'Adequately', Spock? Is there no area in which she is able to perform tasks with a high degree of skill?"
"Tests and profile studies indicate that she will be best suited for tasks in the diplomatic field."
"Of course. Miss Mitchell, have you made any decision regarding your future?"
"Sir, a decision made now would be based upon emotion. I think I should wait until I have completed my training before I try to make any choices."
"Reasonable. Yet, you must already know if any area interests you more than others."
"I think that it would be rewarding to be able to help totally unlike cultures or species to understand one another. Perhaps Star Fleet Command, or whichever official must determine my future, will let me work in the diplomatic field."
"If you continue to accept each day as it comes, you will do well in whatever you choose, Miss Mitchell. It is unwise to worry about the future when you are already preparing yourself for whatever it may bring." Though it was gentle, Sarek's voice seemed like a magnet pulling my gaze to the screen. For a moment, I thought I saw a hint of compassion in his dark eyes, but I must have only imagined it.
"Good day, Captain, Spock," Sarek said calmly, then his image faded.
I returned to my console. When I reached out to disengage the automatic controls, my hand was shaking visibly. I stared at it for a moment, wondering why my brief conversation with the Ambassador should have affected me so much.
Suddenly, I sensed that someone was watching me, and I looked up at the mirror which enables anyone seated at Communications to see the Bridge. Mr. Spock was studying me intently. There was nothing except dispassionate interest visible in his face, but I had the uneasy notion that he was fully aware of my inner agitation. However, though there were one or two times that he could have asked me what had been wrong with me, he did not do so.
THIS HAS BEEN A VERY -- INTERESTING MORNING....
In this short time, I have achieved many credits toward the equivalent of an undergraduate college degree. The advanced educational methods of this era present material at a phenomenal rate, which also impresses the information upon the memory permanently; it really carries the idea of a "photographic memory" to its ultimate limits, because I have not only been learning facts, I have also been learning how to use those facts. If this continues, I may achieve the equivalent of more than one degree in at least one field before we arrive at Vulcan. I wonder if the task would be as simple if I didn't possess this weird empathic telepathy?
Of course, the benign influence of the spores that inhabit my body has helped. The perfect peace of mind which they give me, makes it much easier for me to do my studies. Thanks to these studies, I've finally been able to answer questions that have been bothering me.
The Transporter's range is limited, so I've often wondered how Mr. Scott would've been able to transport me back to 1969 through the "Guardian" if the original coordinates had been right, for it would've been highly unlikely that the ship would've been within range of the planet.... That wily Scotsman had devised a hookup with the "Guardian," requiring special verbal communication to activate it, of course, that would have enabled him to use the Transporter to send me back in time through the "Guardian," no matter how far away we might have been. Someday, I hope to be allowed to look at this new installation.
Also, though I'd been in no frame of mind to think of it at the time, I've always wondered why Captain Kirk hadn't ordered one of the shuttlecraft down to the planet when the Ambassador revealed the first symptoms of infection. If he had, perhaps the Ambassador wouldn't have been injured, and perhaps.... That isn't an area of speculation I wish to encourage. Besides, I've just learned that it wouldn't have done any good....
Doctor McCoy confirmed Spock's statement that the spores on Aries XI had infected me. Contrary to Sarek's theory, they had infected every member of the landing party, but only the Vulcans had exhibited any symptoms on the planet. However, the mental capacities of the humans had been temporarily impaired. If we'd stayed there several more hours, we'd have been ill, too. As it was, none of us had been in any condition to remember the shuttlecraft.
But, one couldn't have come anyhow. The magnetic disturbances which had disrupted the Barrier had also briefly shorted out the Transporter just before Sarek had fallen victim to the spores; also, the disturbances had frozen the relays leading to the doors of the Hangar deck. Therefore, the Captain would have ordered a shuttlecraft in vain. Strange, it's almost as if all those evens were destined.... Needless to say, Mr. Scott has devised a system which prevents a similar mishap.
When I woke up today, I found that I had a mild headache. Doctor McCoy has told me repeatedly that I must come to him immediately if I ever felt less than perfectly well. Since I had to check to see if he had any special assignments for me anyway, I decided that I'd head for Sickbay the very first thing.
Doctor McCoy was standing before one of the medical cabinets jotting something on a clipboard and didn't hear me come in. There was something so strangely lonely about him that I felt a sudden pang of deep sympathy for him.
When he continued to ignore my presence, I tiptoed to stand behind him.
"Good morning, Doctor."
He jumped slightly, then he turned and grinned, the crisp, efficient ship's physician again.
"Good mornin', Lorna. How are you?"
"Believe it or not, I woke up with a slight headache." I replied, then, pointing to the clipboard. "What are you doing? Inventories are my responsibility."
"Nobody has come in lately with more than a few bruises, and I have to do something to earn my pay.... What's this about a headache?"
He studied me intently, his blue eyes narrowing slightly.
"It isn't much, just a nagging discomfort. However, you told me that I should let you know if...."
"Come over here and let me check you." he ordered as he caught my wrist and led me over to the vertical examining board.
"Well?" I demanded after a few moments. "Is anything wrong?"
"Nothing that a little research and study can't handle." he mumbled.
When he looked up a moment later and saw apprehension in my eyes, he grinned. "Don't look so scared, Lorna. Can't you tell when I'm teasing you? You've been doing a lot of hard studying lately, and, of course, you've been under a lot of tension.... I'll toss together a few ingredients and make a medication for you. Of course, it won't be ready until this evening, but this is nothing for you to worry your pretty head about."
To my annoyance, I felt the color rising in my cheeks in response to his compliment, and his grin widened when he saw that I was blushing.
I started to step down from the platform, ignoring the hand which he had extended to help me. My heel caught on the flange of the platform edge, and I started to fall.
McCoy caught me and set me on my feet, but he did not let me go. Instead, he caught hold of my upper arms and then looked down into my eyes.
"Lorna, why are you blushing? Aren't you used to compliments? You are attractive, you know."
"N-No!" I stammered. "I - I didn't....."
"Then it is time you found out," he replied. Before I could even guess his intention, he had pulled me into his arms and was kissing me. I stiffened with surprise and tried to resist for a moment, then I relaxed, for I knew that Doctor McCoy would not do anything to deliberately hurt me.
I enjoyed that kiss. However, it did not affect my senses as much as I had been led to believe that a kiss should. Maybe that was because I was not cooperating. Instead, I was intrigued by the fact that our closeness was enabling me to touch his thoughts, without my having asked his consent first. I discovered the reasons for his loneliness before he created an instinctive mental barrier. I also touched upon something which reflected a deep concern for me, but not soon enough to find out what it was.
At last, he held me away from him slightly and looked down at me so intently that it seemed he was expecting some sort of abnormal reaction to the effects of his kiss. After a moment, he sighed.
"I guess you want me to say that I'm sorry," he said huskily.
"Why? Didn't you enjoy it?" I retorted, somewhat nettled. "Anyway, what's a kiss between friends?"
"'Friends'?" A devilish gleam shone in his eyes and his arms tightened slightly. "Right at this moment, my dear, I'm tempted to see if it could become something more."
I started to make a light-hearted reply, then my eyes widened as I realized that he was serious. And, he wasn't the only one who was tempted.... Thinking of all that I had seen in his mind, I considered the possibilities, then I shook my head.
"The prospect is a very attractive one...Len." I said at last. "But it wouldn't work, for I think we respect one another too much to want just a brief, casual affair." He started to speak, but I reached up to lay my fingers across his lips. "No, don't say it. Wait until the real thing comes along. I'm not right for you, Len. Only a very special woman will capture your heart for good. After all, not even Nateria...."
"Who the Hell gave you the right to go poking around in my mind?" Len roared.
"I'm sorry, Len. I didn't do it on purpose...it happened before I could stop it...." I apologized. "But - but now that I know why you seem so lonely.... Well, if you'll let me, I can help you to ease that loneliness. Let me absorb some of that feeling empathically, and...."
"Sorry, honey. I didn't have to shout." He shook his head, unmindful of the fact that his arms were still around me. "I've been doing all right, and I'd rather solve this problem for myself...."
"But why should you do it the hard way when I can help you, Len? Or.... Are you afraid of me?"
"Of you?" he snorted. "No more than of any comely woman when my natural resistance to matrimony is wavering. I know you only want to help me, but I prefer to keep my thoughts to myself, thank you. No, seriously, Lorna, save that talent of yours for someone who will need it worse than I do. But you needn't feel bad, though. You've given me a priceless gift that will boost my ego for a long time."
"What - what 'gift?' I...?"
"Lorna, are you going to deny that I was the first man to kiss you?" he demanded gently.
I couldn't. As I had said, the man who had taken me out a few times had cared nothing for me -- certainly not enough to even try to kiss me goodnight.
"Giving a lovely young woman her first kiss is a privilege and a responsibility. I'll always treasure the memory."
"So will I. I couldn't have chosen a nicer person to give me my first kiss, Len."
He grinned again, then he leaned down and kissed me on the forehead before he let me go.
We heard a sound in the doorway and turned. Mr. Spock was standing there, his arms folded across his chest. Doctor McCoy seemed a bit uneasy as he met the Vulcan's steady gaze. Perhaps he anticipated some of Mr. Spock's barbed comments about "romantic interludes" during office hours. The spores kept me from feeling any embarrassment. After all, we had been doing nothing wrong.
"Doctor McCoy." Spock must have decided to ignore what he had just seen. "How long have the spores of the pod plant been inhabiting Yeoman Mitchell's system?"
"This is the third week, Spock; you know that as well as I do."
"Yes. You are, of course, preparing medication for her? Then, will you tell me if you have any special assignments for her today?"
"Not if you want her to help you with something."
"Yeoman Mitchell has had no opportunity to leave the Enterprise since she came back from Aries XI. Captain Kirk and I have just been invited to beam down to a game preserve to study the flora and the fauna there. We both agree that perhaps, the Yeoman would find it of great benefit to accompany us."
Len turned to me. "How about it, Lorna?"
"I'd love it." I replied eagerly.
"Standard gear and uniform." Spock said as he turned to go. "Be in the Transporter Room within fifteen minutes."
But only Spock and I beamed down. Captain Kirk had been delayed by one of the many minor problems that develop when a ship is in prolonged standard orbit, but he would join us as soon as possible.
Soon I was standing in a lovely wooded area taking tricorder readings to see if there were any dangerously large life forms in the preserve. When the instrument showed nothing, I paused to admire the scenery for a few moments. Aries XI had made me visualize my homeland as it must have been in pioneer days. The cloudless sky arching overhead today was tinted a soft pink instead of blue. In every other respect, though, this game preserve made me think of the Garden of Eden.
Mr. Spock remained strangely silent. At last, I remembered that I was on a scientific expedition instead of a picnic, and I turned to apologize -- to find that he was watching me with something closely akin to concern visible in his features.
"I-I'm sorry, sir." I stammered. "I'll get back to my readings at once."
"I knew that you would wish to admire the beauty of this world before you began your work," he said calmly. "Do not activate your tricorder just yet, for there is a question that I wish to ask."
"When I entered Sickbay, Doctor McCoy was scolding you because you had just read his mind."
"If - if you heard that, then you must have heard me tell him that I didn't invade his thoughts on purpose, Mr. Spock," I replied. "I did not ask permission to touch his thoughts, that's true, for I had had no intention of doing so.... Please believe me, sir, I don't know how that mind-touch happened, and I'm very sorry."
"Were you, by any chance, intrigued by the experience? Were you so curious about initiating mental contacts that you -- continued?"
"I - I...yes, sir, I am ashamed to admit that I did."
"A child learning to walk falls many times. An unskilled telepath also makes errors, and your empathic qualities complicates matters. Therefore, you can be forgiven your error, but do not make a habit of it. You must go slowly, and you must learn control."
"I - I will do my best, sir. And - I am sorry."
"It is enough that you have acknowledged your error. Tell me why you agreed to come on this expedition."
I hesitated, not sure I had heard him correctly.
"You avoid me on the Enterprise," he went on when I continued to remain silent. "Today, you were eager to come on this expedition, even though this means that you will be spending several hours in my company. I wish you to explain the discrepancy."
"Mr. Spock," I stated flatly. "Here, no one will ask discourteous, prying questions and make reckless statements at your expense. I am sorry if I have appeared to be discourteous; I did not intend...."
He lifted one hand swiftly in a gesture which silenced me.
"It is as I estimated. You were respecting my right to confirm or to deny the bond that has been created between us. Very commendable." He paused for a moment. "You did not wish to take advantage of the bond; neither did I. We have been working at cross-purposes. It is illogical to allow a communication difficulty to prevent us from performing our relative tasks at the maximum peak of efficiency."
Again, he paused, embarrassed and uncertain perhaps? Surely not. He was a Vulcan. After a moment, he continued:
"Lorna Mitchell. You became the instrument whereby Sarek achieved complete understanding with me. It is impossible for me to be other than what I have always been in the eyes of everyone else aboard the Enterprise, but you have seen beneath the surface. You have proved yourself worthy of the trust which Sarek and I have given you. If you are willing, it would please me to clasp your hand and to call you 'friend'."
"I - I am deeply honored, Mr. Spock," I replied as I laid my hand in his. "And I freely accept the restrictions which Vulcan custom will...."
Suddenly, the nagging discomfort in my head exploded into agony. I pressed my free hand against my forehead and clenched my teeth. I felt Mr. Spock's hand tighten about mine for a moment. As he moved forward, I heard the whine of the Transporter beaming someone down behind us....
The next thing I knew, I was lying on a carpet of soft grass beneath a tree. Mr. Spock was kneeling beside me, passing his long fingers over my forehead. Perhaps he was employing some Vulcan technique, for the pain soon ebbed.
"Do you feel better?" he finally asked.
"Y-yes. What happened? Why...?" I started to rise.
Captain Kirk, who was kneeling at my other side, put one hand upon my shoulder and shook his head.
"Don't try to stand. Sit up slowly. You don't want that pain to return. Spock, what's wrong with her?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock, what caused that pain?" I propped my back against the trunk of the tree sheltering us from the ever-increasing warmth of the Mauretanian sun. "I thought those spores kept the host body completely healthy."
"There are exceptions. Do not be unduly concerned; the condition will not continue long enough to injure you."
A rustling sound in the branches above us prevented me from pursuing the subject further. We all looked up, too late to see anything, but I made another exciting discovery.
The tree above us was as large as the maple trees that had been growing in the park near my former home, but this tree was bearing flowers of a remarkable color.
"Those flowers," I started to stand up. "They look like.... Surely, they cannot be...?"
Kirk ordered me to remain seated, then he took a pair of telescoping clippers from his specimen case. Carefully stripping away the large, sharp thorns, he handed a flower to me. As I had thought -- it was a perfect, half-opened flower, which looked like a tea rose, except that it was the color of a fine, dark blue sapphire.
"The Blue Rose," I murmured. "This flower appeared in many charming fantasies on -- on Old Earth. How strange that we should find it here."
"Legends upon one world are often realities upon another, Yeoman," Kirk replied. "We have encountered many of Earth's myths: a being much like a centaur, an animal closely resembling the dragon of folklore, even a being able to change form as did the fabled 'Old Man Of The Sea.'"
"I wonder why Earth developed such myths, Captain? Is it possible that we were visited by beings from other planets during the dawn of our history?"
"That's as good an explanation as any, I guess."
"Have you ever found the Minotaur, the Sphinx, or Pegasus?"
"Not yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if we did -- someday."
While the Captain and I were discussing myths, Mr. Spock began to take a reading of the area around the tree.
I looked down at the rose I was holding, enchanted by its color and by its perfect form.
"How beautiful. It's too bad the tree grows too big for us to try to transplant a start on the ship. Mr. Sulu would love this," I said wistfully. "Did you ever hear of the legend of the Blue Rose, sir?"
"I've read that the Blue Rose is a symbol of everything that is rare and difficult to obtain. Is that what you mean?"
"No. I'm remembering a very charming motion picture that I used to watch on television. According to the story of that film, the Blue Rose was able to grant total forgetfulness to anyone who breathed of its perfume."
I lifted the rose and filled my lungs with its scent. It was heady and sweet, better than the most expensive Terran rose. When I looked up, the Captain was watching me intently.
"Here, you try it," I said recklessly as I held the rose up toward him. "I assure you, it won't make you forget anything."
Cupping my hands in his, Captain Kirk bent down and inhaled the scent.
"Very pleasant, Yeoman," he said quietly as he released my hands and stepped back. "Perhaps it is unfortunate -- for you -- that this rose cannot impair memory."
I was dismayed. "Oh, sir, have I given you the impression that I am unhappy? If so, I must apologize."
"No need, Yeoman. I merely meant that perhaps you would find it easier to adapt to the present if you could forget the past for a few weeks."
"The Yeoman does not need to forget her past life, Captain," Mr. Spock commented as he joined us. "It is quite evident that the images of her former life -- even of her family -- have been relegated to a subordinate corner of her mind."
Both the Captain and I stared at Spock, wondering what he meant.
"Interesting," he continued imperturbably. "Your empathy makes it possible for you to understand the emotions of others, but you are totally unaware of your own. Is that why you could not understand why you became so - agitated when Sarek spoke with you yesterday?"
"Spock, what does that matter?" Kirk demanded.
"Captain, I have a definite purpose behind this particular line of questioning."
The Captain studied the Vulcan for a moment, then he nodded. "You always do. Are you willing to answer his question, Yeoman?"
"I - I...well, Mr. Spock, I always become nervous when I am in the presence of very important individuals." No longer caring that sudden activity might bring back that terrible pain, I stood up. "Surely you will agree that the Ambassador is outstanding -- both in his chosen field and as a person?"
"Granted. And will you agree that human females tremble when they hear the voice of the man who matters most to them?"
I didn't know how to answer that question, but my silence did not deter the Vulcan.
"Yeoman, don't you realize that you are -- in love with Ambassador Sarek?"
I started to protest, then I gasped sharply and stared at the First Officer, my mouth half-open in stunned surprise.
Had the rapid course of events and the pressure of circumstances kept me from recognizing the state of my emotions, or had I deliberately refused to face the truth -- until now?
My very heart and soul became so filled with joy at the sheer wonder -- the sheer glory -- of this revelation that I wouldn't have been too surprised if I had suddenly started to float several inches off the ground.
It didn't take long for stern Reality to rub my nose into the bitter facts. I loved Sarek -- but he was a Vulcan. Also, there was the inescapable fact that he had been wed to a very exceptional woman. After having spent so many years with Amanda, he could never allow himself to accept another Earthwoman.
Suddenly I sensed that the spores inhabiting my body were feeling severe distress, but it ebbed swiftly. After a moment, I shook my head and sighed.
Just like me to fall in love with the one individual who definitely could not possibly return my love!
"G-great galaxies, Mr. Spock," I gasped. "You - you certainly don't pull your punches."
"You do not deny it?"
"Would it do me any good to try? Oh well, I'm not the first woman to love a man hopelessly, and I certainly won't be the last. What does it matter, as long as the Ambassador does not know...?"
A sudden, subtle change in Spock's expression awakened a terrible suspicion in my mind.
"Mr. Spock, how did you know that I am in love with Sarek?"
"Sometimes much information is revealed during a mind-meld -- even thoughts of which the subject is totally unaware...."
"Spock, you've said enough," Kirk snapped.
"I certainly hope so, Captain," replied the Vulcan calmly.
"No. Dear God, NO." I gasped. "Do you mean that Sarek read my mind and - and knows...?"
I could imagine how the Ambassador would courteously, but firmly, avoid me when he returned to the ship. That thought hurt. Tears filled my eyes, and I could not hold them back. Once they started, I began to make up for lost time -- crying the tears that should have fallen when I first knew that I wouldn't be returning to 1969, tears that the spores had held at bay. I felt a violent pain in nearly every fiber of my being -- an agony so intense that I cried out and bent nearly double from the force of it. A moment later, a pair of strong hands caught my arms. I tried to resist, to try to pull away, then I heard Mr. Spock's voice ringing sharply through the haze of pain which surrounded me:
"Captain, do not attempt to stop the Yeoman's tears. Crying is a necessity for humans, and it is even more of a necessity for her."
Humiliated and heartbroken, I tried to pull away from the Captain. His hands tightened, then he spoke, his voice filled with compassion and understanding: "Spock's right, Yeoman. You must cry, but you must not try to endure this alone. That's it -- cry it out."
And cry I did. Somehow, my head found a resting-place against his shoulder during that emotional storm, and he held me comfortingly until my tears were exhausted.
At last I lifted my head from his shoulder, realizing that my tears had purged my system of more than emotional tension.
"The spores," I cried. "They - they're gone."
"Yes," Captain Kirk replied as he released me. "They cannot survive when their host experiences violent emotions. It took much longer than we had anticipated to drive them out of your system...."
"But, why? They were doing no harm."
"'No harm,' Yeoman? They were killing you."
"What? But Doctor McCoy said that they were harmless...."
"They are -- if the host body is constantly bombarded by Barthold Rays. Tests conducted with experimental animals revealed that the spores begin to deteriorate if they are deprived of the rays and that they eventually attack the host body. It was necessary to use the spores to help you, but they were not supposed to survive more than 48 hours. We did not know that your empathic powers would shield them from destruction. Since your system could not tolerate any more injections of artificial stimulant for a while.... Well, Spock chose a pretty drastic form of shock-treatment, but it certainly worked."
"I regret that I forced you to experience such severe distress, Yeoman," Spock said, "but it was the safest method of shock therapy available."
"I suppose you think I am a fool." I said bitterly, too immersed in my misery to realize that he had been apologizing to me.
"Because you love Sarek? No...."
"You're just too polite to say so, but... Dear Heaven, it wouldn't hurt so much if he hadn't found out that I love him."
"He does not know."
"But - but you told me that he did."
"No," Spock replied quietly. "I said only that much information is revealed during a mind-meld. You inferred the rest, and I did not correct you. However, I assure you that Sarek does not know of your love for him. I discovered the state of your emotions first and thought it would be wise to shield that part of your mind from his, to avoid negating the healing which was taking place."
"I don't know how to thank you." I felt a sensation of great relief.
"Gratitude is not necessary." Spock reminded me calmly.
"Yeoman, your reaction to the loss of the spores surprises me," Kirk said in an effort to smooth over the sudden awkward pause, which had been created by Spock's answer. "I was sure you would mourn their passing."
"Maybe I should -- but I don't. I was becoming tired of that placid state of mind. Does that sound inconsistent?"
Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock exchanged glances.
"The Captain has often said that Man needs challenges; I have found it practical to agree with him."
"But it seems that I have not been very practical," I commented. "Isn't it time for us to get started with our surveys?"
I bent to pick up my tricorder. When I rose, I found that Mr. Spock had not picked up his own equipment, and he had prevented the Captain from going back for his.
"Captain." Spock said quietly. "I submit that it is necessary for us to delay our work for an interval, for I require additional information from the Yeoman."
Kirk frowned, then turned a questioning look toward me. "Yes, Mr. Spock?" I sighed.
"You may consider my question too personal to answer but -- will you explain why you are convinced that your love for Sarek is hopeless?"
"It - it should be self-evident. He - he is Vulcan; I am human."
"I am living proof that the two races are not always incompatible."
"A fact that only complicates matters for me. Sarek's marriage to an Earthwoman was successful only because Amanda was such a - a special person. History seldom repeats itself in such matters, Mr. Spock. I am too aware of my own shortcomings to dare think.... Besides, I am sure that Sarek will never take another wife."
"Indeed?" replied Spock, his voice filled with a strange tension. "Can you provide facts to confirm your theory?"
"No.... Call it intuition."
"As I anticipated. Yeoman, you have acknowledged that you love a Vulcan. You should learn exactly what that means -- and what it requires. I am not prepared to impart this information now, but...."
"Spock." Kirk interrupted quietly. "Even after hours of preparation, will you be able to discuss the subject with her? I seem to remember that it was all you could do to tell me, and you had known me for years. I know the essential details...perhaps it would be better for me to tell her. If you wish, I can make it an order."
"Very well, Captain. I shall examine the rocks at the edge of this clearing in the meantime." Spock turned and walked so swiftly to the edge of the woods that his departure had to be the Vulcan version of beating a hasty retreat.
"Captain." My voice trembled. "If - if what you're supposed to tell me is that bad, I don't think I want to hear it."
"It isn't that -- exactly." Kirk began to pace back and forth, trying to get his thoughts in order before translating them into speech. "Spock has told me that this is a matter which no Vulcan wishes to discuss; the fact that he was considering telling you convinces me that it's important to him for you to know. Which indicates that Sarek must have kept it from you during the healing.... It is something deeply personal and private to Vulcans. Therefore, I'll have to have your promise that you'll not reveal what you are about to learn."
"I think Mr. Spock would be the first to tell you that I have proved my ability to keep a confidence, Captain." I replied.
"Because you have never told anyone what happened after Sarek chased us out of Sickbay? You've proved your point. Very well, Yeoman...."
And Kirk went on to tell me of the unusual Vulcan biological cycle which decrees that a Vulcan male could ignore or sublimate his basic physical drives just so long and no longer. A cycle which eventually forced a Vulcan to take a wife -- or die.
"...Doctor McCoy hasn't been able to learn too much about this cycle, for Spock's human nature has created some differences. However, he has relayed what he has learned to me: Vulcans who leave their planet usually follow a cycle which requires them to mate at least once every seven years. Those who remain among Vulcans experience the cycle more frequently. There have been a few -- Bones says that he has reason to believe Sarek may be one of these -- who seem to escape the Vulcan cycle and to follow an almost-human one instead. However, if they are deprived of their mates, even these individuals find that they are not immune to their heritage and eventually experience the full effects of the cycle. It creates a state of mind totally opposite to that which they exhibit at other times. Those who do not understand may think that they have gone mad."
"Is that why Vulcans have no word in their language that can be translated into 'love'?"
"You would have a hard time finding any words that would translate into purely emotional terms. I have reason to believe, however, that in very special circumstances it is possible for a Vulcan to give and to receive love. Spock has often said that his mother was the happiest of women; when I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with her, I found that he had spoken the truth."
Spock joined us at this moment. "In my opinion, you have told the Yeoman enough, Captain. Yeoman, I wish to remind you that this is something which we seek to keep private, even though it is a most devastating force, as I can testify."
"'You?' Why, no one has ever mentioned that you were married, Mr. Spock," I gasped, feeling such immediate sympathy for Christine that I forgot that I was prying into deeply personal matters.
"I am not," he said sternly. "It is common knowledge that my parents arranged a betrothal for me, but my bride challenged our marriage and I gave her to the man that she wanted. Perhaps my human nature has conquered the Vulcan cycle, for I have experienced no further difficulties, and I am content that this should be so. It may be that I will be able to choose, or not choose, as do human men. Sarek, being fully Vulcan, will eventually be driven to seek a wife."
"Forgive me for sounding disrespectful, sir, but I cannot understand why a race of people famed throughout the galaxy for its logic would settle for such a haphazard method of survival."
"'Haphazard'?" he echoed.
"What else can you call it? If a Vulcan takes a wife only because he is driven to do so, that must mean that he will marry the first woman who will consent."
"It does not." He paused to collect himself. "Your pardon. I take no offense at ignorance." He stopped again, then put his hands behind his back and began to inspect the blue roses above us. "As a rule, Vulcan parents arrange a betrothal for male children while they are young. An adult Vulcan male who has lost his mate or has had none selected for him must search for a female who best meets his requirements. He then joins in a mind-link with her so they may be drawn to the appointed place at the proper time."
"I know I seem to be condemning your customs because they aren't like ours, but I think that is horribly cold-blooded." I shuddered. "You make it sound like something a horse breeder might do to improve a line. 'Requirements'? I'll bet they are stiff ones."
"Not really, Yeoman. The eligible female must, of course, be single, and she must be in good health. Her mind should be capable of becoming perfectly attuned to the male's, and she should also experience some affinity for him.... You obviously meet all of these requirements for Sarek."
"M-me? I - I don't...."
"Have you so little faith in yourself?" he asked when my voice broke.
"It - it isn't that -- not really. But, Mr. Spock, your father's memories of Amanda are so vivid. How could he bear to allow another Earthwoman to enter his home...? Ah, no, Mr. Spock. There are too many factors against me."
"But, I just did.... Oh, all right! Look at the difference in our ages. Sarek is over one hundred years old."
"You were born decades before him." Spock replied smoothly. "Technically speaking, one who looked at your birth dates would say that you are much older. Literally speaking, however, Sarek is merely approaching middle-age, for the average lifespan of a Vulcan is more than two hundred and fifty Terran years. There is not that much difference in your relative ages."
"Mr. Spock, I did not say that I thought Sarek is old. However, I am like a mere infant...."
"Your telepathic ability will enable you to increase your knowledge and your skills until you become a close match for Sarek, perhaps even his equal in some fields, once your training is completed."
"Sir, I am afraid I am not able to interpret what you are saying. I get the impression that you would not object if Sarek.... But, no; surely you would not agree if Sarek chose me to be his next wife."
"You are the only woman I would choose for him, if the choice were mine to make," he said gently.
"But - but, your mother?"
"She is gone."
I shook my head, more hopelessly confused than ever.
"Sarek is not as I -- and it is not logical that he should remain alone until he is driven to select one who will not meet his needs so well as you."
"Mr. Spock, you seem to have forgotten that, in addition to being human, I am not even a true member of this culture. How could I possibly be considered suitable?"
"The years which Sarek and Amanda shared have changed him. He has become accustomed to the variety which an emotional being brings to each day; therefore, he would never be completely content with a Vulcan consort. It is not reasonable, but I know that Sarek should marry another Earthwoman -- one who has already proved that she is capable of facing the unknown. I know that you could meet the challenges of adapting to the exacting requirements of a Vulcan marriage. Also, your empathic abilities are an added advantage."
"You are very persuasive, sir. I could almost believe.... No! It just isn't possible!"
He shook his head. "Do not underestimate yourself, Yeoman. In your own way, you are just as...." He paused, searching for a non-emotional word. "...as unique as was my mother. When you ignored the cost and devoted your energies to the task of saving Sarek's life...."
"I don't want him to consider that he is obligated to me." I interrupted.
"Nor is he. You saved his life; he restored your desire to live while you lay dying. The debt between you has been cancelled."
"Thank God," I whispered. "Then I have only one worry."
"To make sure that Sarek never learns that you have fallen in love with him? I do not approve. No matter. It is entirely possible that the empathic bond which has already been forged between Sarek and you will decide the matter. If it were possible, I would take steps to insure that you would be Sarek's next consort."
"I - I am deeply honored -- and surprised, sir. Do you really....?"
He lifted his hands and crossed them, palms out, in a gesture that -- as Captain Kirk told me later -- was a ritual type of embrace shared only by members of a family circle. This gesture was so completely natural that I crossed my hands and laid them upon his without stopping to think what I was doing.
"Perhaps that will illustrate the depth of my approval," he said gently as he allowed his hands to drop to his sides.
"I - I don't know what to say."
"Then it is best to remain silent. Perhaps it is time that we discontinue this conversation." He started to turn away.
"No, wait. Please, Mr. Spock, I - I.... Sir, perhaps I'm overstepping the bounds but I'm asking the right to protect my own privacy. Will you promise me, on your honor as a Vulcan, that you won't tell Sarek -- anything until I give you my permission to do so?"
He looked at me for a long moment, then he nodded slowly.
"Very well, you have my word - that I shall respect your confidence as well as you respect mine, only so long as it does not involve a matter of life and death."
For one brief moment the corners of his mouth trembled as though he might smile, but then he reverted to his usual formal self.
"Yeoman," said Captain Kirk, who had remained a silent spectator during this exchange.
I turned toward him.
"Spock knows that he doesn't have to ask me to remain silent about what I've heard here, but I think you are afraid to request silence from me. However, I make you the same promise that Spock has made."
"Thank you, sir."
"Captain," Spock commented. "We came here to make biological surveys. Time grows short, but we have taken only a few readings. It would be most unwise to return to the Enterprise with so little data for the computers."
EVEN THOUGH THE CLOCK WAS RUNNING OUT ON US, WE LOST TRACK OF TIME....
Mauretania is a planet rich in exotic life forms. As a matter of fact, the variations were so endless that it became a challenge to find proper names for them all. Acting upon a desire to ease the emotional strain of the revelations which had been made during the past few hours, Captain Kirk and I both yielded to an impulse to try to designate imaginative, descriptive names before Mr. Spock could assign a very accurate, but very dull and non-emotional term. Spock seemed to understand our need for frivolity and allowed our task to become a competition as we aimed our tricorders, took specimens, and went through the endless task of cataloging: I came up with Rubybirdflies; Spock lifted one eyebrow and announced that Kiluek was the proper title for a charming miniature fox that sported a coat of emerald plush. Captain Kirk countered with Woodplucker for an animal that seemed to spend its time doing just that.
On and on it went, until Spock finally turned to me. "There are two life forms uncatalogued, Yeoman. You have a gift for finding interesting names. What name would you give a plant whose leaves spin in such an erratic fashion, and what would you call a vine that possesses seed pods shaped and colored like pearls?"
"Why...Spinleaf Tree and - and Pearlvine, sir."
He turned away so swiftly that I found myself wondering if he was hiding a smile. After a moment, however, he turned back and expressionlessly made the necessary entries.
"Yeoman, you are impossible." His voice was so calm that I could not tell if he was secretly amused or deeply disgusted. "Yet, I have encountered your talent for words often enough that I should have expected such an answer. The sun is near the horizon; we must finish quickly. I suggest that you take your tricorder and check to make sure we have recorded all life forms that inhabit the Leeithutt."
Both the Captain and I winced, for that certainly wasn't what either of us would have named my lovely blue rose tree, but that was one time Spock had beaten us in choosing a name.
When I took those final readings, I was startled to find that a new element had been added while we were occupied elsewhere. Something rustled in the leaves just within my reach. Moving carefully, I pushed aside the foliage, and the animal whirled to face me bravely.
"Captain. Mr. Spock." I called softly to avoid frightening the creature. "You must see this."
They came quietly to stand beside me.
"Where is it, Yeoman?" Kirk asked.
"Fascinating," said Spock. "You seem to have found your Pegasus."
I blinked in surprise, for I had not been aware that Spock had been listening when we had been discussing fanciful beasts. Yet, I was pleased that not even Spock could deny that Pegasus was the proper term for the enchanting creature poised so fearlessly upon the fragile branch above us.
It was a perfectly formed black stallion -- about the size of a Persian cat -- with a pair of functional wings growing from his back. He arched his neck proudly as he snorted and struck at the branch with one hoof. A moment later, a second horse -- a white mare -- joined him.
"You beauties." I spoke softly, instinctively trying to mentally project my admiration. "No wonder the winged horse became the symbol of Man's dreams."
"How perfectly their wings blend with the lines of their bodies," Spock said, his eyes gleaming with calculation. "I shall attempt to...."
"...trap one of them? Don't!" I protested. "They are so proud --so free."
"You have an unfortunate tendency to attribute human reactions to Vulcans, Yeoman," he said sternly. "I assure you I wish to do nothing except take tricorder readings to determine if these creatures are a representative grouping of their species or if they are mutations."
Before he could step forward to take a reading, however, two foals --about as large as eight-week-old kittens -- appeared. One was the image of the stallion; the other was marked with both black and white. This increase in numbers provided excellent readings.
"They definitely cannot live in captivity," he informed me calmly. "We shall be forced to rely upon the data I obtain with the tricorder."
"I wish I had some sugar or something to offer them," I sighed as I held out one hand, longing with all my heart that I could make the horses understand that I meant them no harm.
Evidently, I must have made some sort of contact. Without warning, the stallion launched himself into the air and darted toward me. I started to draw back, then I steeled myself for possible attack and held out my hand. The stallion bunched his hooves together as he landed carefully upon my palm, then he fanned his wings to maintain his balance. Slowly, to avoid startling the horse, I reached out and lightly stroked his velvety nose. He shivered for a moment, then he snorted and pushed his head against my hand, enjoying this new sensation. The mare flew over to see what was happening. Soon, all four of the horses were competing for my attention.
Captain Kirk knelt close to me to watch the horses, but he made no move toward them. Mr. Spock merely stood watching, making tricorder readings.
Kirk's communicator sounded -- not scaring the horses, fortunately. "Kirk here."
"McCoy here, Captain. Sarek requested that I bring down some medical data and interpret it for the Procurator -- who has just told us about a very unusual animal that lives in that game preserve. I know it will sound strange, but I thought you might like to know about it...."
"Bones, by any chance, would this 'animal' be a winged horse?"
"It certainly is."
"Yeoman Mitchell is communicating with four winged horses at this very moment."
"What do they look like?" Len's voice was filled with excitement and curiosity. "Anything like the paintings I've seen in books?"
"They are beautiful -- and unusual. Would you like to come over and see them for yourself?"
"Need you ask?" There was a brief pause. "Jim, the Ambassador has just said that a study of these horses might provide much useful information. Can't he come with me? We're just a few minutes away by ground car...."
"Bring him along, Bones," said Kirk, "but hurry. The horses may not remain here much longer."
"We're on our way. McCoy out."
During the moments that we were waiting for Len and the Ambassador to join us, I began to experience a deep sensation of panic. Perhaps it was too soon for me to meet Sarek. Now that the spores were gone, I might not be able to maintain inner calm. Surely my eyes and my expression would reveal my emotional turmoil.
"Under - under the circumstances, hadn't I better go back to the ship?" I suggested.
"Illogical, Yeoman. You cannot avoid the Ambassador forever. Are you afraid that he might unintentionally read your thoughts? Your fears are unfounded. Vulcans maintain automatic shields when they are with humans."
"Other humans do not possess my empathic telepathy, Mr. Spock."
"Then shield your innermost thoughts."
"I cannot turn my mind off and on like a communicator." I snapped. "Every time I try to keep from thinking about a certain subject, I find that I can think of nothing else."
"She's right, Spock," agreed Kirk. "That's a failing all humans have."
"Unfortunate. Then you must learn to scramble the impulses of your mind. If your thoughts seek to betray you, concentrate upon something different, which requires great mental effort. Right now, for example, you can concentrate upon these horses. Then, if Sarek should happen to pick up your thoughts, he will interpret anything of an emotional nature as directed toward the horses, not toward himself. I also recommend that you continue to study 3-D chess. Concentrating upon a complicated move will...."
"Oh, look!" I interrupted, for the horses were growing restless. "How can I hold them here until the others arrive?"
"I do not know, Yeoman. They do not respond to my thoughts."
Concentrating all my mental forces, I sat down upon the soft grass and succeeded in reaching the animals' minds once more. I was so engrossed in my communication with the beautiful creatures that I barely noticed the sound of the ground car as it brought Len and the Ambassador to the glade.
By now, the horses trusted me so completely that they did not become alarmed when the car stopped at the edge of the clearing. The mare and the stallion were contentedly cropping the succulent grass near me, and the foals were flying through circles that I was making with my arms.
The young mare was somewhat timid, but her brother was not troubled by shyness. Soon, he was hovering boldly in front of me -- staring intently into my eyes. No real thoughts could be exchanged; however, when I found myself wishing that it were possible to take one of these enchanting little creatures back to the ship with me, I sensed that the colt would not have objected.
"Well, Yeoman," the Captain said behind me. "If the expression on your face is any indication, I would say that you have fallen in love."
I froze, my heart leaping painfully. Was Captain Kirk breaking his promise already?
"'In - in love,' sir?" I stammered without looking up, afraid to let Sarek catch sight of my face.
"What else can you call it? Those foals are treating you as if you were one of them, and you're enjoying every minute of it. I suppose next you'll try to coax me to give you permission to take one of them back with you?"
"I'd like to," I admitted. "But -- I won't. This is their world. For all I know at the moment, these may be the only flying horses on this planet --why else would they be in this preserve? Besides, we did establish that they would fade and would die in captivity."
Brushing the dust from my hands, I started to rise. A firm hand came courteously under my elbow to help me. Immediately, I put my mind to work upon a complex 3-D chess problem that Mr. Sulu had shown me the previous day.
"Many humans would disregard such factors, Miss Mitchell." Sarek commented. "Your consideration is most unusual -- as is your logic."
"Thank you -- I think," I replied. "However, I'll probably have to practice mental discipline a long time before I achieve the standards of logic...."
"Apparently you practice such discipline when there is no need for it."
Ah! I have an advantage. Evidently I will not have to shield my thoughts from Sarek except when he is actually touching me. At least, I had felt nothing like a mind-touch until just now.... Thank Heaven that Spock had just told me how to guard my mental impulses.
"Sorry." I apologized. "However, don't you agree that it's wise for me to practice this technique until it becomes second nature to me -- before I have need of it?"
"Indeed, you have learned much," he answered quietly. "You have adapted very well to this era instead of becoming the 'archaic misfit' you once termed yourself."
"I have to thank Mr. Spock for that, sir. He has been expending a great amount of time and effort to teach me all that I need to know."
Sarek did not reply, and he was totally unconcerned that his hand was still resting on my arm. Could I move away casually enough to keep him from becoming aware that his touch meant too much to me?
Help came from an unexpected quarter when the black colt flew down and struck at Sarek's hand with its sharp hooves. Astonished in spite of himself, by this unanticipated display of courage, Sarek released my arm and stepped back. Immediately, the little horse calmed down and returned to his parents.
"Did - did he hurt you?" I demanded.
"No. But I will remove myself from further possibility of attack." So saying, he turned to Spock, who had been talking with the Captain. "Spock, have you determined why Mauretania is so important?"
"Yes, sir. I was just telling the Captain that I had picked up some very interesting mineral readings."
"Perhaps he would prefer to see for himself. Will you join us, Miss Mitchell, or -- if the Captain approves -- would you rather remain here with your friends?"
"I'd rather stay...." I realized how shrill my voice sounded, and I felt a swift pang of embarrassment. I sought to regain control, then I spoke as calmly and as softly as possible. "Really, I would, sir. Thank you for the suggestion."
"Have fun, Yeoman." Captain Kirk said with a grin when Spook's tricorder confirmed that there were still no dangerous life forms close by. "We'll be back soon."
I sighed with relief after they were gone and relaxed the rigid controls that had been shielding my mind, pleased that the task hadn't been as difficult as I'd feared. It might not have been necessary once Sarek had taken his hand from my arm, but why take any chances? At least, I had confirmed that Sarek did not suspect the state of my emotions -- and I want to keep things that way.
The horses were daintily cropping the grass at the edge of the glade, and their coats reflected the warm pink of the afterglow. I looked up at the sky and watched the stars appear, then I became entranced when twin moons sailed over the edge of the world to cast a pearl-like glow over everything. It was such a magically beautiful sight that I forgot my personal problems and just reveled in the sheer joy of life.
The peace and the beauty of the glade reminded me of the tranquility of the Ship's Chapel. I knelt beside a flat rock at the edge of the glade, rested my folded hands upon that rock, and then sought the comfort of deep meditation.
There is a saying that evil comes upon one most frequently when he is at his prayers. It was certainly the case with me.
When I rose, there was still no sign of Captain Kirk and the others, but I knew they would return soon. The horses were showing signs of restlessness, and I knew they would soon leave to seek shelter for the night. When I held out my hands, however, they gathered about me.
"Goodbye, beautiful things," I said huskily. "You'll probably not remember me after a few hours, but I'll never forget you."
Suddenly the horses lifted their heads and sniffed the air. Their eyes became ringed with white and they whinnied loudly, then they vanished into the darkness. What had frightened them?
A twig snapped behind me; I turned swiftly, drew my phaser, and aimed it at the tall figure standing in the shadows at the edge of the glade.
"Did I startle you?" asked a familiar voice.
"A-Ambassador? Why have you come back without the Captain and...?"
"They will come soon."
"But - why have you returned alone?" I insisted. "Is something wrong?"
"I have come because I wished to - be with you."
"You - you what?" I gasped.
"Do you consider that strange?" he asked as he came toward me. The moonlight was behind him, shadowing his face, and I felt a shiver of apprehension -- a shiver not just caused by his unexpected appearance alone.
"Y-yes, I - I do." I retorted.
"Has my coming displeased you?" He paused, almost within arm's length.
"I - I didn't say that," I evaded as I drew back and half-lifted my phaser again -- almost as though I were facing an enemy instead of the tall Vulcan who had been such a bulwark of strength to me.
"Why do you retreat? Surely you are not afraid of ME?"
"But - but I am. You - you are not yourself." I exclaimed, feeling an icy chill of fear slithering along my veins.
What was the matter with me? Why was I suddenly so afraid of Sarek? Hadn't I been wishing that he would show some interest in me...? But that was the problem; he was showing that interest too quickly, and without any real reason to do so.
"In what way am I 'unlike myself'?" he asked, coming a step closer.
"Maybe it's just my imagination, but - but there definitely is something different about you. Your - your voice.... It - it is almost as though I were hearing it with my mind instead of with my ears."
"Many characteristics change when the twin moons become full." he replied, with a definite note of amusement in his voice -- which reacted upon my system like the shrill sound of an alarm.
"Humans are susceptible to the influence of the light of a full moon, and probably more so to the influence of two." I said. "But I assumed that Vulcans were immune since they have no moon...."
"Immune to the effects of moonlight, perhaps, but not always immune to feminine beauty. You are frowning. Do you disapprove of compliments?"
"No...." I allowed the hand holding the phaser to hang loosely at my side. "But I never believed that you would ever...."
"Indeed?" He came another step nearer. "But there are things which extend beyond the boundaries of belief."
I stepped back again, only to be brought up short by the sturdy trunk of the Leeithutt.
"Come." He held out one hand. "Let us walk in this moonlight."
The tones of his voice seemed filled with a magnetic quality -- one so beguiling that I wanted to lay my hand in his and drift with the moment. But, no, I couldn't -- not until I found out why he had changed so suddenly.
Was it possible that Sarek had already fallen prey to the strange madness which overcomes a Vulcan male at certain times? But Captain Kirk had described symptoms which appeared only over a span of days. When Sarek had left with Mr. Spock and the others, he had been as calm, logical, and controlled as when I had first met him. Had something happened in the meantime...? Or, was it possible that this was not Sarek? How could I determine the truth?
"Of course." I exclaimed, then I bit my lip to avoid betraying my intentions further and laid my hand in his as if I were responding to his invitation. Instead, my thoughts winged to touch his, only to recoil before the force of the seething, elemental sensation of wanting which I found there, reinforcing my determination to continue with my attempt to learn who -- or what -- he really was.
"You are trembling." He spoke with seeming concern. "Young woman, why are you so nervous?"
As I spoke, I reactivated my mental shield so this imposter -- if such he was -- would have no chance to read my intent. "Why do you never call me by my first name, Ambassador?" I forced a note of sulky petulance into my voice.
He had been tugging on my hand, trying to pull me nearer; now he paused.
"Your 'first' name?" Obviously, he was confused.
"Good grief. You know perfectly well that I am called ... Amanda."
"Of course. However, Amanda, it hardly seemed fitting...."
"You are not Sarek." I cried and struggled to free my hand. "Where is he? What have you done with him?"
"Little fool. You should have left well enough alone," the image of Sarek snarled. The illusion vanished and the being resumed its natural form -- that of a dark, roughly-humanoid form with large eyes that gleamed redly in the moonlight!
"Sarek. Captain. Someone. Help me!" I screamed in utter panic as I jerked backwards in a frantic attempt to get free. The creature lunged forward to maintain its hold on me.
"Call them! Bring them to me." Its mocking voice rang in my mind. "They will be no match for me -- once I have finished with you. I have waited long enough for a means to leave this world where I have been hounded beyond all endurance."
After hearing this threat, I made no further outcry, of course, but I redoubled my efforts to get away.
"Lorna!" I heard Captain Kirk cry as he crashed through bushes near the glade. "Lorna, where are you?" I pulled back again so hard that I nearly got free, but the creature flung me against the trunk of the Leeithutt so hard that I was stunned. During that moment, the creature succeeded in pinioning me securely.
"Stay away, Captain." I managed to scream. "Save yourself...." The creature's fingers entwined themselves in my hair and pulled my head back so sharply that my words trailed off into an inarticulate gurgle.
Before I could catch my breath to try to scream again, the creature bent to press its mouth against the left side of my throat, then I felt shattering agony as needle-sharp teeth pierced my flesh. A cold numbness crept outwards from that wound, paralyzing my will so that I did not even try to resist while the creature began to draw the blood from my veins.
"Lorna! Where...? What the...? Let go of her!" The Captain's voice seemed to be coming from a great distance, then I felt something pulling at the arms which were holding me.
The creature lifted its head, and I caught one terrifying glimpse of its red-stained fangs before it flung me to one side and turned upon the Captain. I staggered weakly and would have fallen if I had not collided with a tall form, which caught me and held me upright. When I looked up through pain-dimmed eyes and saw Sarek's features, my sense of reason deserted me.
"Let go of me." I cried. When he did not, I beat wildly upon the firm chest against which I had been drawn, struggling to loosen the clasp of those strong -- but infinitely gentle -- arms. "You fooled me once, but you won't do it again."
He tried to calm me, to reason with me, but at last he accepted the necessity of using force and moved swiftly to grasp my left shoulder in the Vulcan nerve-press....
STARDATE: 5872 -- WHAT?
WHEN I OPENED MY EYES AFTER AN ETERNITY OF BLACKNESS, I WAS LYING UPON THE SOFT GRASS BENEATH THE LEEITHUTT. . . .
Only half-conscious and completely confused, I moaned and altered my position in a vain effort to ease a nagging discomfort in my left shoulder and a sensation of pain in my throat. That didn't help, so I lifted my right hand. When my fingers touched a small bandage upon the left side of my throat, memory came rushing back. I gasped with terror and tried to sit up, but strong hands held me down. I looked up swiftly. The one who was bending over me looked like Ambassador Sarek, and I shrank beneath his touch.
He looked at me intently and lifted an eyebrow in a familiar manner. "Do not be afraid. You are quite safe." That beautiful voice sounded quite authentic. "Come, share my thoughts and confirm that I am truly Sarek of Vulcan."
He bent lower so I could place my hand against his temple, but my heart had already told me that this was the real Sarek. I could not let him depart from his deeply-engraved patterns of life merely to reassure me in this moment of extreme need. Instead, I shook my head in refusal and breathed a sigh of relief.
Again I tried to sit up, and again he prevented me.
"Doctor McCoy instructed me to keep you inactive, Miss Mitchell," he said softly. "I prefer not to use force."
I sank back and murmured that I would remain wherever he wished. He nodded, then he slipped one arm beneath me and raised me up so my head and my shoulders were supported against the trunk of the tree behind me. The motion made me aware of a minor ache in the bend of my left arm. I looked down and found a small pressure dressing above the vein.
"Did - did doctor McCoy have to give me a blood transfusion?"
"Yes." Sarek offered no further details, but his tone was so gentle that I knew I must have had another close encounter with Death.
"What about you? Were you -- any of you -- hurt?"
"No." He released me and moved back slightly. "The Captain stunned the creature with a phaser before it could harm anyone else."
"Thank God. But -- where are the others?"
"They were advised not to beam the creature aboard the Enterprise and have taken it into the city."
"A wise move.... Heaven knows what would have happened if that thing had gotten loose aboard the ship." I shuddered with revulsion. "What was it, anyway?"
"A tarlud -- 'shape-changer' in your language. "Once, it presented a definite threat to the population of Mauretania, but the tarlud was assumed to have been exterminated after an extensive pogrom. This one must have concealed itself in this preserve long ago. The Procurator has asked me to convey his apologies for this misfortune."
"'Misfortune' is hardly the appropriate word." Again I shivered.
"If something like, that ever took over a starship.... The very idea terrifies me. One would be unable to trust even close friends."
"The tarlud's strength lies in its ability to delude its chosen prey into thinking that it is someone well-known to them."
"Only until it is close enough.... It - it went for my throat like the legendary vampire of Earth."
"In many ways, it is exactly like a Terran vampire, Miss Mitchell."
Though there was little, inflection in his voice, something in his choice of words caused me to feel a sudden dread.
"What are you trying to tell me, Ambassador?"
"'Trying?' Your sudden pallor indicates that you already suspect the truth. I regret to inform you that the bite of the tarlud is as infectious as the bite of the vampire was believed to be."
"Dear Lord - NO." I cried, so overwhelmed by terror that I cast myself down upon the grass and buried my face in my hands in an agony of self-loathing. "Doctor McCoy should have let me die."
"You know he could not do that." Sarek rebuked me sharply.
"Can the rules of his profession justify condemning me to becoming like that - that...?"
"Calm yourself, woman." Sarek demanded. "Do not allow your fear to overcome your ability to reason."
He was right. I knew that he was right, and I was ashamed of my complete loss of control. With an effort, I became calm, but I could not summon enough courage to lift my head from my hands.
"That is better." Sarek shared the usual Vulcan reluctance to indulge in casual physical touch, but his sensitivity and understanding enabled him to realize that I needed the courage which only actual bodily contact with a fellow creature could give. He laid a gentle hand upon my shoulder. "Listen to me. The Mauretanians developed a serum which counteracts the tarlud's venom. Doctor McCoy is compounding this serum for you at this very moment."
I felt a brief thrill of hope, but it was followed immediately by total despair.
"Doctor McCoy has said that the Mauretanian metabolism is vastly different from that of Terrans." I forced myself to sit up. "How can something which heals a Mauretanian help me?"
"There is an ancient Terran saying which has a great bearing upon this case, Miss Mitchell: 'Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.' Do not borrow trouble."
"Is it 'borrowing trouble' to face what may well become bitter truth?"
"You display no symptoms of infection...therefore, you may continue to believe that you will recover. The antidote is compounded from elements that all humanoid forms can assimilate. Doctor McCoy is confident that it will help you. If it does not, then Captain Kirk is prepared to turn all the resources of the ship's laboratories upon the problem."
"And if the labs cannot find an antidote either?"
Sarek rose and lifted one hand as though he were making a vow before an assembly of witnesses.
"Should no antidote be found, Miss Mitchell, then I swear by my honor as a Vulcan that I shall release you from the infection which the tarlud has inflicted upon you."
I was touched by this verbal proof of his friendship, for I knew what it had cost him to make such a promise. At last, I managed to smile wanly.
"Thank you, Ambassador, but I shall not hold you to that promise. I know how deeply you revere life. If it becomes evident that Death is the only release, I shall request that it shall be delivered by someone else's hands...."
"Death is not the reasonable solution for you. You have too much to live for."
"What? One problem after another?" I said bitterly, then I realized what I had said. "I'm sorry, sir. However, I do seem to attract trouble the same way that a magnet attracts iron."
"So. I have been anticipating that you would react in this manner. Surely you realize that danger is a natural element of life for anyone who is associated with a starship. Doctor McCoy did not say that you 'attract trouble.' Instead, he informed me that you have prevented recent situations from ending unpleasantly."
Sarek's facile logic soon convinced me that I was merely indulging in self-pity. Before he was finished, I was forced to admit that I still felt a nagging sensation of worry that I had created problems for everyone by being caught by the Transporter beam back in 1969. Sarek made me realize that it could not have been a mere chance that I had been present when Captain Kirk and the others had materialized in the 20th Century. Since I possess this empathic telepathy, I had been a misfit in my former time, so the laws of Reason had decreed that I should be brought forward to this era -- where my ability could be discovered, understood, and developed for the benefit of others.
How could it have been mere chance that the one person able to keep him from dying had been present when he had needed that help? Had it been mere chance that the tarlud had attacked me instead of one of the others? Had it done so, then it would probably have assumed full control of the Enterprise before long -- preparing to spread its infection over countless light-years.
"Please, Ambassador," I finally protested as I clasped my hands in my lap and leaned my head back against the tree so I could look up at him without breaking my neck. "I yield to your logic. Perhaps I am here as the result of some Master Plan. Just for the sake of discussion, however, what if I was brought into this era because I was destined to be attacked by the tarlud to become...?"
"NO." Then, more calmly, "There has always been a definite pattern of order in this universe, Miss Mitchell. It would be illogical to assume that your talents and your abilities would be developed, only to be cast aside. I am confident that you will not fall victim to the tarlud's venom but will live to fulfill a more rewarding destiny. If the antidote which Doctor McCoy is preparing does not help you, it is only reasonable to anticipate that the more sophisticated facilities of the ship's laboratories will succeed."
"While they're at it, then, I hope they can develop something that will deaden the memories of the tarlud's attack."
"It troubles you so much?"
Sarek lifted his hands and clasped them before him as though he were gathering his mental forces for a mind-meld.
"I could give you the peace of mind that you desire," he said softly.
I drew back and shook my head. My terror when I had awakened had kept Sarek from reading anything else. Now, things could be quite different.
"This time my life doesn't depend upon a mind-link, so I won't let you do it," I protested. "I have been studying techniques which should help me to put aside distressing memories.... At - at least, let me try? I - I don't think I'd be able to stand it if you read what is in my mind at this moment."
He looked down at me intently. "As you wish," he agreed finally. "I would be the last to deny you the opportunity to enforce your training. Please remain where you are, and do not dwell too much upon what has happened. I must speak with Captain Kirk."
The Captain informed Sarek that the antidote would be completed within the next hour. He also confirmed that I should be kept as inactive as possible to retard the spread of the infection.
"Ambassador." I asked when Sarek was free to turn his attention to me again. "Why was I left here?"
"We must obey the laws of a world unless we have a logical reason for breaking them. Here, one who has fallen victim to the tarlud is isolated until the antidote has been administered. We were advised to keep you away from the Enterprise as well. The tarlud might have been able to influence you telepathically enough to have assumed control of the ship through Auxiliary Control."
"Very clever.... Yet, I do not understand why you are here -- alone. Aren't you afraid that I might suddenly become sharp-toothed and savage...?"
I didn't need his sharp look to tell me that I had said the wrong thing. However, his response was milder than I deserved: "Have you not observed the Security guard standing at the edge of this clearing? The Captain indicated that someone should share this time of waiting with you. I am the only individual with whom you have become acquainted who is not needed at this hour. Nor am I facing any danger. The first symptoms of the infection do not appear for several hours."
Immediately I heard the sound of evil laughter echoing within my mind. The tarlud had been listening to our conversation telepathically. Now, I heard its soft, insidious voice whispering commands to me -- ordering me to dispose of Sarek and the guard, then come to the city.
//NO.// I shouted mentally, resisting the commands with all my strength. Apparently, I gave no outward indication that anything was wrong, for Sarek turned and went over to speak with the guard. The voice began to whisper again, with a force that could not be denied. I rose and walked silently toward the unsuspecting men. Sarek heard me coming and whirled, too late to prevent me from striking the guard down with a rock that I had picked up.
The Ambassador confronted me, wary, poised to repel my attack. I dropped the rock and lifted my hands to my head in an effort to silence that alien voice whispering within my mind.
"The tarlud?" Sarek demanded, then he advanced.
"Stay back," I warned. "Get out of here while I can still disobey."
Instead, he circled behind me so swiftly I had no chance to turn. His long fingers closed upon my shoulder then shifted to press a spot near the base of my skull. I lost all sensation below my neck and would have fallen if Sarek had not caught me and lowered me gently to the ground. I could breathe and even turn my head. When I had started to fall, I had gasped, so I would probably be able to speak. Otherwise, however, I was paralyzed.
"The tarlud could have made you obey it, even if you were unconscious." Sarek knelt and closed his fingers gently about my wrist to check my pulse. "Though the paralysis is harmless, the tarlud will not be able to force you to do its bidding."
"The guard. Is he...?"
"You did not kill him, but his head will surely ache for several hours. I could ease the pain, but the technique would bring sleep. Since he is on duty, I am confident that he would refuse."
"I - I'm sorry I hurt him...."
Suddenly, a blinding pain swept over me, and I could hear the tarlud screaming in agony. A moment later, my mind was completely my own.
"Miss Mitchell." Sarek demanded. "You should not be experiencing pain."
"I - I wasn't. It - it was the tarlud; I think it's dead."
Sarek called the Captain, who confirmed that the tarlud had just been executed.
"I'm sorry, Ambassador. I know that must have been hard on Yeoman Mitchell, but we had no choice. We'll be there shortly with the antidote. Kirk out."
"Soon your waiting will be at an end." Sarek spoke quietly as he took a post near me, perfectly at ease, but watching carefully for any signs of danger.
I did not answer; I was too worried about what might happen in the immediate future to indulge in conversation -- even with him.
Eventually, the others materialized at the edge of the glade and came to join us. Spock went to assist the guard while Sarek gave a brief account of what had happened. Doctor McCoy approved the paralysis and said that it should make it easier for him to administer the antidote.
"Lorna," Len said sternly as he turned to me. "The treatment isn't going to be pleasant."
"I trust you, Doctor. What do you want me to do?"
"There isn't much you can do -- except grit your teeth. I can't use any anesthetic -- not even a local -- for it might upset the chemical balance of the antidote just enough to keep it from working."
He put on a heavy glove and then took a chunk of crystalline material from a metal box that he had been carrying. Even in the moonlight, the material reflected every color of the visible spectrum.
Swiftly, he stripped the dressing from my throat then, wasting little motion, he pressed the material against the wounds in my flesh.
Acid would have hurt less. Finally, the searing agony abated to a dull throb in what surely must have been extensive burns.
"So far; so good," Len said as he laid aside the chunk and picked up his hypo spray. "Now, if only our luck will hold...."
He touched the hypo spray to my arm and activated it. I felt nothing, but after several minutes, he nodded.
"The angry red color around those burns has faded slightly. So far, the serum is working."
"Thank God," I heard Captain Kirk say, and my heart echoed his words as I felt a sensation of lightness spread through my system.
"It is working much better than I had hoped," Len exclaimed. I heard the sound of an analyzer, then I heard the almost-indistinct hum of the tricorder. "Yes, the foreign cells are vanishing from her bloodstream; the other organisms are dying, and they are being absorbed by her white blood cells. Jim, if this keeps up, she'll be cured."
"How long before you can tell if it will do the whole job?"
"Just a few more minutes. Ambassador, we have learned that anyone who comes near the tarlud or near someone who has been bitten is in danger of infection. I've brought enough serum for all of us, but if you would prefer to wait until a physician in the city can administer the serum to you, I'll understand."
"There is no reason for me to wait, Doctor."
"Hold still, then; there, that does it. None of us were actually bitten, so the serum shouldn't hit us as hard as it did Lorna."
Except for a slight clenching of their teeth when the antidote first entered their systems, the Vulcans revealed no reaction to the serum. The others did not experience even that minor reaction. Once Len was sure that the others had responded to the antidote, he turned back to me.
"Has that paralysis started to wear off yet, Lorna?"
"No. It - it's just as if my nervous system had been shorted out!"
"There is no need for concern, Doctor." Sarek explained when he saw Len's frown. "The paralysis will fade while she is asleep. She has objected strongly to a mind-touch, which would ease the memories of this experience. Therefore, I suggest that you administer a sedative."
"Could that wait until we return to the ship?" I protested. "Somehow, I have no desire to fall asleep down here."
"I can't blame you for that....." Captain Kirk started to say. "Bones. Look at her throat. Are those marks really healing, or am I seeing things?"
"Amazing isn't it, Jim? She'll just have a faint scar by morning. I intend to examine this crystal thoroughly when we get back. Who knows? The Mauretanians have something here that we may be able to work on and develop into a cure for the common cold. Hmmmm. Lorna has responded very well to the antidote. It's safe to beam her up now."
"Ambassador." Kirk, practical as always, said. "Since we commandeered the ground car earlier, tell me where you wish to go in the city, and I'll have Scotty beam you there."
"Unless it would inconvenience you, Captain, I would prefer to beam up to the ship. There is some information available there which I wish to obtain before I return to the city."
"Certainly. Scotty. Six to beam up."
"Standin' by, Captain."
Once we were aboard the Enterprise, Len indicated that Spock should help the Security guard. Captain Kirk had already left for the Bridge, for there was nothing more that he could do here. Len looked around the Transporter Room and mumbled something under his breath, then he shifted the strap of his tricorder and started to hand the rest of his equipment to Scotty. Apparently, he was intending to pick me up, but Sarek intervened.
"My hands are already free, Doctor. Allow me to take Miss Mitchell to Sickbay."
"That shouldn't be necessary. I gave orders for a couple of stretchers to be here."
"No matter. We need not wait for them -- I am confident that it would be best for Miss Mitchell to obtain rest as quickly as possible."
Len nodded his head. "No need to take her to Sickbay, though. I think she'd rest better in her own quarters."
The Ambassador knelt to pick me up, then he rose effortlessly. Paralyzed and helpless, I fumed inwardly because my left arm was dangling at an awkward angle and my head was lolling back over his arm. A position like this did absolutely nothing for one's sense of dignity.
Sarek shifted his hold on me and lifted me so my head could settle comfortably into the hollow of his shoulder.
"Doctor," Sarek commented, "perhaps it would be best if you lifted her arm and placed it across her waist. She might injure herself if her arm should chance to strike a wall."
Len moved to comply and there I was -- cradled securely in Sarek's arms, my head pillowed upon his shoulder. The situation was a dangerous one --for my peace of mind -- since my thoughts would certainly be very vulnerable to him now, if I weren't careful.
I began to concentrate upon a chess problem I had read about after Mr. Sulu had shown me the rudiments of the game. Before long, I was so engrossed that I did not even notice when Sarek carried me out of the Transporter Room and through the corridors. I only returned to awareness when he put me down upon my bed and stepped back. Instead of turning away, however, he folded his arms and looked down at me.
"The chess problem you have been attempting to solve is 'Queen to Queen's Level Three.' 'Queen to King's Level One' is the proper response, I ask your pardon, but your thoughts were intent in an undue interest in chess."
"It is not easy for a woman to master the rules, sir. Besides, I - I thought studying a chess problem would help me to forget about the tarlud."
"Yes. Perhaps, if you continue your studies, we may engage in a match while returning to Vulcan. Doctor, your patient needs rest."
"All right, young lady." Ignoring the Ambassador's assumption of his own duties, Len touched a hypo spray to my arm. "This won't take long to put you to sleep. See you in the morning."
5873.7 COMMANDER SPOCK - PERSONAL LOG
AFTER HE HAD LEFT YEOMAN MITCHELL IN DOCTOR McCOY'S CARE, SAREK HAD INSTRUCTED ME TO INFORM HIM WHEN SHE WAS PRONOUNCED TOTALLY CURED, THEN HE HAD GONE TO HIS QUARTERS TO WAIT....
His extreme interest in her welfare prompted me to embark upon a rather unusual, course of action. I had promised the Yeoman that I would not tell Sarek that she loves him. I had not promised to refrain from informing him that she was quite suitable for him. Then, when the time comes, he may at least consider the possibility of choosing her.
Once I had confirmed that the Yeoman had recovered completely from the tarlud's attack, I had captured Sarek's attention by saying that if Yeoman Mitchell had not recovered, it would have been comparable to losing my mother a second time. He had replied that there was no physical resemblance. However, when I had stated that the Yeoman displayed the same qualities of gentleness, patience, and courage, which my mother had possessed, Sarek had agreed with me.
I had then asked him if that resemblance had influenced him to volunteer to remain on Mauretania with the Yeoman. Since Doctor McCoy could have prepared the antidote without my aid, I might have remained with her.
Sarek had explained that her extreme fear of him after the tarlud's attack had indicated that the creature must have assumed his form in order to get close to her. He had considered it necessary to remain with her so she could conquer her fear immediately.
I had been preparing to ask him why her fear should be of any concern to him, but he had forestalled me by asking me if he had assumed responsibility, which had really been mine.
I must confess that I had experienced a moment of surprise, but then I had realized that his question provided the perfect opportunity to speak as an unofficial advocate for the Yeoman. I had been swift to inform Sarek that I had never considered Yeoman Mitchell as a possible consort for myself. Now that he had touched upon the subject, however, I was convinced that she could be a most satisfactory wife --- for him.
He had made no reply, except to ask me if I was capable of accepting a woman who was nearly my own age as his wife and as a stepmother. I had replied in the affirmative.
Indeed, my regard for the Yeoman has never been that which I express toward a contemporary. Her characteristics, which remind me of my mother, have always prompted such a reaction upon my part. Perhaps physical appearance has been a contributing factor as well, for she looked much older in 1969 than she does now.... Interesting. Sarek has also seen her both before and after the spores from the pod plants gave her perfect health...I am confident that he was aware of the resemblance before I mentioned it to him. His question might have been a diversionary tactic. No matter, it had been valid, and, after careful consideration, I had answered in the affirmative.
Truly, I would have no difficulty accepting the Yeoman as a stepmother. In fact, while I had been a guest in her home in 1969, she had never revealed any inclination toward a man/woman kind of relationship with me, nor had I. Rather, as I recall, there had been times when she had treated me much as a mother would treat a child. I remember that she had been quite distressed when she had learned that I had gone without sleeping for four of her days, even though I had informed her that Vulcans could go for weeks without sleep, and without suffering harm from the experience. I also remember how careful she had been to prepare foods that would be acceptable to me instead of demanding that I eat what was prepared for Doctor McCoy and for the Captain or else do without. Her pleasure when I found a dish called 'macaroni-and-cheese' to be quite satisfactory reminded me of the way my mother had always smiled when I had asked for a second helping of a special dish that she had prepared for me.... But I have departed from my narrative of my conversation with Sarek.
Eventually, Sarek had requested that I explain why I was confident that Yeoman Emerson could be a more suitable wife for him than for me. I had enumerated reasons similar to those that I had given the Yeoman, but I had deleted anything that might reveal her emotional status. Sarek had listened without comment then had responded that this was not the time to be considering a possible marriage.
I had responded that it might be wise for him to take thought for the future now since it was inevitable that he must eventually yield to his heritage. His immediate response had been that it was his responsibility to accept or to ignore his heritage -- not mine.
This was true, but I had replied that both Vulcan and the Federation needed him, so it was unreasonable for him to endanger his life needlessly by delaying to choose a consort when a suitable candidate was already at hand.
His answer had remained the same -- that marriage could not be considered at this time.
Now I understand what Doctor McCoy and the Captain, mean when they tell me that my stubbornness can be both frustrating and infuriating. I had used every logical argument in vain upon Sarek. Eventually, I had found myself losing control to the extent that I uttered a near-emotional outburst telling Sarek that if he did not choose Yeoman Mitchell to be his consort, he would deserve to be called a fool.
He had made no response to my words -- except to tell me that I should retreat to my quarters and review the techniques for self-control. He had then returned to Mauretania.
I do not know if I have helped the Yeoman's chances or if I have greatly increased the odds against her. However, I am confident that I have given Sarek much to consider....
YESTERDAY WAS FILLED WITH MORE SURPRISES THAN A YEOMAN GENERALLY ENCOUNTERS -- EVEN ME. HOWEVER, TODAY, THINGS HAVEN'T BEEN EXACTLY DULL EITHER.
In obedience to Doctor McCoy's suggestion, I had spent most of the day in the Reading Room. Mr. Spock had been as formal as ever when he had given me my new study-tapes, but he had taken time to ask me how I was. For him, that had been a complete about-face, almost a friendly expression of concern.
After I finished the tapes, Spock "suggested" that I go to the nearest Rec. Room and "relax." Before long, Ensign Chekov and I were engaged in one of the many challenging games available in the Rec. rooms. Captain Kirk, taking one of his rare rest breaks, strolled in a few minutes before the game ended and wound up standing behind me watching the conclusion. The game ended in a draw; I was not yet skilled enough to win, but I was not inept enough for Chekov to defeat me.
"Well done, Yeoman." Kirk expressed his approval. "You are progressing at an excellent rate."
"Thank you, Captain."
He smiled then, with a polite word of apology, he moved off to speak with one of Mr. Scott's men.
Soon afterwards, I left the Rec. room, intending to go to my quarters.
"Are you in a hurry, Yeoman?" Captain Kirk said behind me. I turned to find that he was only a short distance away. This startled me, for I had seen him engaged in conversation when I had left. How had he gotten away so quickly -- and so silently?
"Do you have something for me to do, sir?" I asked, standing at attention. I felt uneasy as I remembered our conversation in the glade on Mauretania. Would he rebuke me because he had been forced into the role of unwitting, perhaps unwilling, confidante and instructor?
"At ease, Yeoman. We're both off-duty. Have you had a chance to visit every section of the Herbarium yet?"
"Then, why don't you let me give you a guided tour right now?" he said kindly, putting my uneasy fears to rest with those simple words.
Captain Kirk was an excellent guide. I found the wind-flowers of Sirius most charming, and the silver trees of Altair were intriguing. The Vulcan section resembled the deserts of Earth, but every plant possessed more vibrant colors -- even beneath the artificial light.
Eventually, we entered a section that resembled a small woodland glade on Earth. Captain Kirk guided me to a seat on an artificial mossy stone and then propped one foot against the same rock.
"What do you think of this illusion?" he asked casually.
"Is it an illusion? I thought I heard the cries of night birds, and I could swear that I smell honeysuckle. If I didn't know better, I could easily believe that a full moon was shining above us."
"It's an illusion, all right. The birds are on tape, and most of the scenery is a projection. There is some real honeysuckle in this part of the glade, though."
"Even though it's an illusion, it's lovely." I closed my eyes. "I could almost believe that I was - was ...." My voice caught in my throat.
"You could almost believe that you were back in the 20th Century?"
"Well, not quite." I turned so I could look up at him without straining my neck. "I don't smell any factory smoke or...."
"Nor would you on present-day Earth, Yeoman. Our homeworld is no longer the crowded, polluted planet that you knew."
"Has the Earth changed completely since I last saw it?"
He reached down and took my hand in a comforting clasp. "Getting homesick, Lorna?"
I remained silent for a moment, considering the pros and cons of his question.
"Yes -- and no, Captain. I think I've pretty well accepted the fact that this is my time now, but I know how an uprooted plant waiting to be repotted must feel. There is so much to learn, and so much has happened."
"Things certainly haven't been easy for you," he agreed, tightening his fingers about mine. "I'm glad we reached you in time yesterday and that the antidote worked. It would have been such a waste...." His voice trailed into silence, and he stared down at me as though somehow he were seeing me for the first time. "Yes, losing you would have been a real misfortune."
With those words, he cupped my chin in one hand, bent down, and kissed me.
"I think Doctor McCoy was employing practically the same tactics yesterday, Captain." I said at last. "He met with equal success...."
"Meaning?" He demanded.
"W-well, you kissed me because you thought the surprise would drive out any residual spores that might have remained in my system...."
"Great galaxies, Lorna." Kirk snapped. "If that encounter with the tarlud didn't destroy any remaining traces of those spores, nothing will. Damn! I'm sorry that I reminded you of it.... I wish it hadn't happened; you're too nice a person to...."
"Please, Captain. You are being very kind, but - but I know that you are only being gallant in an effort to make me feel better about...."
"Who is being 'gallant'? I kissed you because I wanted to, Lorna. And I enjoyed it -- so much, in fact...."
He reached down again; this time he pulled me right up into his arms as he kissed me.
But I did not -- could not respond, even though Captain Kirk was far more skilled in the art of kissing than Doctor McCoy had been. Actually, however, Len's the kind of person who would make a woman's first kiss a memorable occasion -- as it should be. Frankly, I think he would make a far better lover, too, simply because he cares for people. If we had entered into an affair, he would have made it something I could have remembered with fondness, simply because he would have had as much consideration for my feelings and needs as he would have had for his own. Captain Kirk, on the other hand, would probably find it difficult to see beyond himself in that type of situation. Otherwise, why should he expect me to respond to his kiss when he knows that my heart is committed irrevocably to another?
"That isn't how the game's supposed to be played, Lorna." Kirk said gently, keeping his hand under my chin so I couldn't turn away.
Unsure about revealing my anger, I drew back as far as he would let me. "Perhaps your 'game' is too complicated for me, sir."
"Ahah! Young lady, I think you've just misjudged me. Weren't you wanting to say that you were playing the game with the wrong man?"
I remained silent.
"Don't ever be afraid of telling me the truth, Lorna." His hands clasped my arms gently as he moved back slightly so he could see my face.
"Sir, you are the Captain. Therefore, I honor you and -- and -- respect you above all men." I chose my words carefully. "You have complimented me this evening. I-I am sorry that it is not possible for me to - to...."
"...love me the way that you love Sarek?" He completed my words for me. "That's what I was wanting to find out -- whether you really love him, or if it's just a case of misplaced hero worship."
"It - it isn't 'hero worship,' sir. That term could be used more accurately to describe my emotions toward you."
"Well, at least you're honest."
"Sir, you know full well that I could never take Mirimanee's place in your heart."
His hands tightened painfully around my arms as he glowered at me.
"I don't like for anyone -- not even a pretty girl -- to go snooping around in my mind without asking my permission first. Why did you do it, Lorna?"
"I - I, know you won't believe me, sir, but I wasn't snooping. It's just that you were thinking so intently of her while you were kissing me that your memories -- became mine for a moment. But...the harm has already been done; I know how deeply you were hurt when you lost your Indian bride and your unborn child. If you will let me share that sorrow with you, your burdens will be much lighter. It'll be easier for you to wait until the time comes that you'll leave this plane of existence -- to find her waiting, for you, as lovely and as loving as when you first clasped her in your arms."
"You really believe that. I hope.... I owe you an apology, Lorna. Besides, I must admit that, in some ways, you remind me of Mirimanee; maybe I was trying...."
"Don't say any more, Captain. I'm not the one who can end your loneliness." I laid my hand over his heart. "All I can do is -- take some of the burden of your sorrow from you."
"I-I'd like to believe that you could.... Spock told me that there are Vulcan techniques which would erase the memory of Mirimanee, but I love -- loved her too much to ever let him try. Yet.... How much sorrow can one bear?"
"If you ever find out, please let me know." I replied with momentary self-pity. "Please trust me, sir. I know I can help you."
"If you will close your eyes and will remember Mirimanee, I'll show you."
When he obeyed, I clasped my hands and took several deep breaths, then I laid one hand upon his forehead and put my other hand back over his heart.
His thoughts yielded to the tentative probing of mine, and I entered into full empathic communication with him. Suddenly, his breath caught in his throat as I touched the scars that had been inflicted within his soul when Mirimanee had died in his arms.
I was not in love with Captain Kirk, but I did love him, and my heart was deeply touched. Without hesitation, I stood on tiptoe and laid my lips upon his in a kiss which conveyed my sympathy and enabled me to -- take away the worst of his emotional anguish immediately.
His arms closed about me convulsively, painfully, so great was his strength in this moment of emotional turmoil -- then his thoughts became calm under the influence of the empathic healing. Captain Kirk is a very dynamic individual, however, and our empathic communication swiftly drained me of my strength.
I swayed weakly, but his arms remained about me to keep me from falling. A moment later, his mouth tightened over mine - then his mind reached out to break through the mental wall I had attempted to throw up against him, and he touched upon the hopeless love for Ambassador Sarek which was mirrored in the depths of my soul.
"Well," he whispered when the kiss ended, "that settles any notions that I might have had that Sarek is just a father-image.... Poor Lorna. Fate seems to have dealt you a very complicated hand."
I tried to turn away, too deeply hurt and upset to look at him. He kept one arm about my shoulders, however, then he laid his free hand upon my forehead and -- absorbed some of my burden of longing and unhappiness.
"Now we're even," he said as he released me.
"Captain...you...? I - I didn't know you're a telepath, and I thought my talent of empathic healing was unique...."
"It is, and I'm not a telepath, Lorna. Oh, it's true that ever since the first time that I experienced the forces of the Barrier, there have been flashes of something, but.... I think that what just happened was a residual effect of the kerenide that Spock and I took recently when we were fighting the Platonians."
His explanation was plausible, but I did not fully agree with him -- even though I didn't say so. I've been hearing reports of earlier missions, and some of them indicate that Jim Kirk does possess a latent telepathic ability. However, this is something that only time will reveal.
"If you were wanting to teach me a lesson, you've succeeded, Captain." I said at last. "I'll certainly think twice before I ever rush into anyone else's thoughts -- even accidentally -- if I can help it."
"'Captain'?" He smiled warmly. "Considering all that's happened, Lorna, don't you think that you can call me 'Jim' when we're alone, or when circumstances allow informality?"
"Good. Now then, must I reassure you that no one will ever hear anything from me, Lorna? Yet, I wonder.... Are you sure that nothing can possibly come of your love for Sarek?"
"Quite sure, Captain."
"But your very heart and soul are so totally committed to him. How will you endure it when Sarek returns to Vulcan?"
"I'll have no choice."
"But it will be hard -- harder than you realize. Don't you really know how greatly Sarek has influenced you?"
"What - what do you mean...Jim?"
"Well, for one thing, you have, begun to exhibit various Vulcan mannerisms, even in your speech. While we were touring these gardens, you stayed at least one step behind me and slightly to one side, just the way that Vulcan women do. Right now, you've clasped your hands and have tented your fingers to shield your mouth. I've seen Spock do that thousands of times when he's bothered about something but refuses to admit it."
Of course, I put my hands down immediately, then I smiled reluctantly.
"You've won that round, Jim. Yet, it would be impossible for a Terran to engage in a mind-meld with two Vulcans simultaneously and not change."
"So that's what happened after Sarek chased McCoy and me out. All right, maybe the multiple melding did change you; won't that complicate matters?"
"Probably. Yet, what can I do about it?"
"Damn! Lorna, it isn't fair. You've already lost so much...."
"That's not true, sir. I've gained much more than I have lost. Don't feel sorry for me; I can endure anything but that."
"Believe me, I don't feel sorry for you, Lorna," he assured me. "Nevertheless, if there's anything I can ever do to help you, feel free to ask."
"I can do that right now." I replied. "Is there any way that word can circulate to let everyone know that I'm no longer a host for the spores from the pod plants? Otherwise, well -- for all I know, even Scotty might try to 'surprise' me, and I don't think Mira would like that."
"Yes, it wouldn't do for Scotty and Lieutenant Romaine to have words this close to their wedding day." Captain Kirk grinned at me. "All right, I'll see to it that Bones spreads the news. Once he's done, you won't have to wonder if passes are being thrown at you for anything beyond the usual ulterior motives -- and there's sure to be plenty of crewmen ready to throw those passes."
"Not flattery -- truth." He touched my cheek gently. "If things had been different.... No, you're right. It's too late, but that won't keep me from wondering what might have happened if I had never wed Mirimanee and if Sarek hadn't captured your heart."
"A trophy that he does not want." I commented, unable to hide my bitterness any longer.
"Don't." Jim's hands gripped my shoulders swiftly. "Lorna, don't stop believing that everything will work out. I think you have a much better chance to win Sarek than you may realize."
He refused to be put off. "Haven't you wondered why Sarek came aboard the Enterprise with us yesterday?"
"He said that he needed some information that was available only aboard the ship."
"I checked, and he didn't visit any of the record rooms, nor did he consult any of the library computers. Lorna, I think he really wanted to make sure that you had been completely cured. He left right after Doctor McCoy had confirmed that the antidote was a total success."
"If Sarek were Terran, I would be tempted to believe your theory, Jim." I said dully. "But he is not. It may not be apparent to us, but I am sure that he had a logical reason for coming with us to the ship. Perhaps he obtained his information directly through Spock. I am sure that it had nothing to do with me."
"Even so.... Lorna, I know I promised you I wouldn't say anything, but maybe I was wrong. I'm strongly tempted to tell Sarek how you feel...."
"Please, don't. I'm sure it would only make matters worse."
He looked at me for a long moment, then he nodded. "I suppose you're right. It's getting late, and I'm sure you're tired. Come on, I'll walk you back to your quarters."
We parted good friends. However, I, too, could not help wondering what it would have been like if we could have felt more than friendship for each other. I almost felt a pang of regret that my destiny had not been linked with the Captain's, or with Doctor McCoy's.... But, no. I was not right for Len, and how could a mere woman compete against a starship? One thing I do know, however -- I am going to have to ask Spock to teach me how to keep from unintentionally reading the unguarded thoughts of others when they are experiencing deep emotion.
WE ARE STILL ORBITING MAURETANIA. MY TRAINING HAS CONTINUED TO PROGRESS SMOOTHLY. MR. SPOCK HAS JUST INFORMED ME THAT I NOW HAVE THE EQUIVALENT OF A COLLEGE DEGREE IN SCIENCE AND AM CLOSE TO ACHIEVING A SIMILAR DEGREE IN SOCIAL SCIENCE.
Captain Kirk has kept his word, for everyone knows that I am no longer a host to the spores of the pod plant. There have been no more "surprises;" indeed, the past few days have been very uneventful.
Today, Mr. Spock sent me to Engineering. He wanted to determine if my empathic talents would continue to enable me to draw upon the knowledge of personnel who were working near me. Sure enough, I got along just as well in Engineering as I had in other sections of the ship. Scotty also seemed to welcome the chance to discuss engines and warp drives intelligently with someone other than the Captain or the First Officer.
Before long, we became so involved in a discussion of transporting techniques that Scotty decided that only by doing could I be learning, and away we went.
"I'm not telling you your business, Mr. Scott," I protested, looking over my shoulder at him as I rounded the curve of the corridor near the Transporter Room, "but surely you're allowing too much power for that load. It.... Umph!"
I had crashed into someone with such force that I might have fallen if a pair of arms had not come about me to hold me steady.
"Sorry!" I exclaimed breathlessly as those arms released me. "It's my fault. I wasn't looking where I was going."
"Obviously," a familiar voice said calmly.
I'll swear that my heart leaped up into my throat as I looked up at Ambassador Sarek.
"Am-Ambassador?" I stammered, then I was embarrassed by my squeaky stutter.
He indicated that I could touch his temple and confirm his identity.
"That isn't necessary. Please, forgive me." I apologized and bent my head like a child awaiting a scolding.
"It will take you a long time to forget your unpleasant encounter with the tarlud, Miss Mitchell."
"I-I'm afraid so, sir. I-I'm sorry."
"Your caution is only natural."
I nodded, then felt myself coloring faintly as my truant memory reminded me of that brief moment I had been in his arms. Kismet seems to take delight in placing me there rather frequently.
"Good day, Ambassador." Scotty joined us at that moment and indicated that I should remain where I was when I started to turn to continue toward the Transporter Room.
"Chief Engineer Scott. Peace and long life."
"Live long and prosper, sir. Will I be oversteppin' the bounds if I say that I hope your mission progresses well?"
"My mission has come to a successful conclusion." Sarek replied.
I sucked my lower lip in against my teeth to keep it from trembling. So, in about seven days, Sarek would be going out of my life.
"We will entertain representatives from Mauretania at a formal reception aboard the Enterprise before we leave this day," Sarek continued. "Will you be there, Mr. Scott?"
"Aye, I've never been able to get out of attendin' such things." Scotty replied with a wry grin.
"They are a necessary evil. And you, Miss Mitchell?" Sarek turned to me.
"I think not, sir. My assignment states that I am to stay on the Bridge during my working hours today."
"Very well. Until our pathways cross again, I bid you farewell."
After giving us the formal Vulcan salute, he turned and strode toward the turbo lift.
The doors slid shut behind him, then I turned and found that Scotty was looking at me compassionately.
"Lassie," he said as he laid a comforting hand on my shoulder. "Let an older man give you a word o' advice. Guard your eyes when you're lookin' at that Vulcan. If he'd glanced back at ye then, the game certainly would have been up for sure."
Somehow, all the fun had gone out of solving the transporting problem. However, since I knew that hard work would keep my mind off my emotional problems, I kept so busy that I was quite tired by the time I went to my quarters for a second rest break. In less than two minutes, however, I received a call from the Bridge. Mr. Sulu, temporarily in command, said that Captain Kirk had been trying to find me; that I was to attend the reception as soon as I could change clothes; and that someone else would take over my duties on the Bridge.
Though it was rather short notice, I put on my full-dress uniform and arranged my hair in a suitable style as quickly as I could.
When I entered the spacious room where the reception was being given, I hovered on the outskirts of the crowd, hoping to spot either Christine or Uhura.
"Hello, Lorna." Len said behind me. "What do you think of your first diplomatic reception?"
Captain Kirk was with him, and they both looked very handsome in their full-dress uniforms.
"It's -- fascinating, Doctor. The Mauretanians are a very attractive race, and their costumes are dazzling."
"Aren't you going to sample any of the refreshments?" Len scolded me affectionately.
"There are so many, I hardly know which to choose." I looked down at the table laden with gleaming trays filled with exotic foods. One tray near me held what looked to be celery stuffed with blue peanut butter -- I guess it was celery, but the leaves were dark orange instead of bright green. A moment later, I blinked to be sure I was not seeing an illusion again -- no, those really were green, three-legged fowl. Well, that would solve the problem at a Thanksgiving table if more than two people wanted the drumsticks. I started to reach out, then I drew my hand back, not touching the goblet full of silver liquid that I had started to choose.
"Afraid you might pick up something alcoholic?" Jim challenged. "Here, try this; it comes from Vulcan, and it's as harmless as orange juice."
He handed me, a shimmering goblet filled with a colorless fluid. I took it and stared at him suspiciously, for the drink looked exactly like Chekov's "wodka." After a moment, I sipped cautiously, to be rewarded with a burst of tantalizing flavors upon my tongue.
I had finished my drink and was putting the empty goblet down on a passing tray when I saw Sarek for the first time. His uniform of black with a green/gold brocade-like panel on the front of the tunic gave him a very distinguished appearance. His badge of rank was fastened upon his right sleeve, and he was also wearing an Idic. Now that I had found him, I couldn't stop. looking at him -- not even if my life would have depended upon turning away. As one might expect, eventually he caught me staring at him. Instead of a raised eyebrow, however, I got a genuine bow, one delivered with the grace and the precision possible only to a Vulcan, then he startled me by inclining his head slightly in a more personal type of greeting.
I nodded in return, then I did manage to turn away, intending to drift to some other part of the room. Immediately, Captain Kirk reached out to grasp my arm to keep me where I was. Mr. Spock, who had been standing several paces away, moved to a position behind me, then Len moved to stand at my other side. Why had they surrounded me?
Ambassador Sarek made his way toward us, and I saw that he was holding a small box in one hand. Perhaps the Mauretanians had presented a gift to him at some time before I had arrived.
"Peace and long life, Miss Mitchell," he said as he paused near me. "Our pathways cross again -- perhaps sooner than you had anticipated?"
Too confused to remember the proper response to his greeting, I said, "Oh, it's always a pleasure to meet you any time, Ambassador."
This time, I got the raised eyebrow, and I promptly ceased speaking. I flushed and looked down at the floor. How could both of my feet be resting on that smooth surface when I had just wedged one of them firmly in my mouth?
Sarek turned to Captain Kirk. After a moment, Jim nodded then stepped up onto a small platform near us.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?" Silence filtered through the room as everyone turned toward him.
"Honored guests, I bid you welcome in the name of the Federation of Planets," he continued. "And now, I ask you to bear witness as we sign the agreement admitting your world into that Federation and into a bondship agreement with Vulcan. Ambassador."
Sarek gave Spock the box he had been holding, then he stepped up onto the platform near a pair of scrolls that had been affixed to a tilted frame.
"I, Sarek of Vulcan, hereby set my signature to these documents which testify to the agreements made between Mauretania, Vulcan, and the Federation." Suiting his actions to his words, he also made an imprint of his thumb in the space provided. "Procurator, if you please." He offered the stylus to the tall, white-haired ruler of Mauretania.
The Procurator signed, then he moved to one side while Sarek rolled up the scrolls and sealed them. He gave one scroll to Captain Kirk to be stored in the ship's vaults until such time as it could be relayed to Star Fleet Command. The other scroll was presented to the Procurator.
Sarek then stepped to the edge of the platform and waited until those who had started talking became silent again.
"I must ask your indulgence for a few moments longer," he said at last. "Lorna Mitchell, please come forward."
I stared up at him, too surprised to move.
"Miss Mitchell, please join me."
Even then, I hesitated, but the Senior Officers of the Enterprise moved swiftly to escort me to the platform. Sarek indicated where I should stand, and I began to clasp and to unclasp my hands nervously.
"Procurator, honored guests, allow me to present one who has done much to make this alliance an established fact...." Sarek explained who I was, briefly described the events of those agonizing hours on Aries XI, then told of the surprising findings regarding the decision that I had made while I had been on that planet. "Yeoman Mitchell," he concluded, using my honorary title for the first time, "both the Procurator and the High Ruler of Vulcan wish to honor you before this company. Please accept this gift from the Procurator as an indication of the gratitude which his people feel toward you."
The Procurator stepped forward -- a strong man, a good man, a man born to rule. His eyes gleamed with kindness and with wisdom, but they also held a light of sorrow, for this was a ruler with a serious handicap. Years before, he had suffered an unfortunate mishap which had left him unable to speak. Since his people had never developed techniques of artificial speech, he communicated only through gestures given to an interpreter or through writing.
Now, he indicated that I should hold out my left arm; when I obeyed, he placed a golden band, set with a single, crystal-clear gem, upon my wrist. I felt a sudden warmth where the ends of the band met; when I looked down at the band, I found that it had somehow become an unbroken circle about my wrist -- done without harming me.
"Yeoman, this is the emblem of honorary Mauretanian citizenship -- signifying that you are entitled to all rights and privileges." Sarek informed me.
"I am truly honored." I inclined my head in acceptance.
"T'Pau, High Ruler of Vulcan, has commissioned me to present this to you in her name."
Sarek retrieved the small box Spock had been holding. The Ambassador opened that box to take out a gleaming gold-colored chain then turned to me. My eyes widened, and it was all I could do to keep from uttering a cry of amazement. There, dangling from that chain, was a replica of the Idic that he was wearing. One of Vulcan's most revered symbols, and one which had never been awarded to a female Outworlder.
Sarek moved behind me and fastened the chain about my neck, his fingers brushing against my skin for a moment. I felt a sudden chill at the touch of those warm fingers, but I stood quite still and kept my face as free of expression as possible.
"Your - your High Ruler's generosity overwhelms me, sir." I stammered as I reached up and carefully touched the gleaming symbol at my throat. "I - I shall always treasure this."
"It is well that you understand the significance of the Idic, Yeoman." Sarek's voice was stern. "It is not an ornament to be worn carelessly."
"Ambassador." Captain Kirk said as he moved to stand at the edge of the platform. "May the Federation take advantage of this opportunity to present a gift to Yeoman Mitchell?"
Sarek nodded and stepped back.
"Lorna Mitchell." Jim said calmly, but I could see a twinkle in his eyes. "We have taken great thought to the problem of your financial security. Mr. Spock, since you made the initial suggestion which the Federation has approved, I think you should tell Yeoman Mitchell about it."
The First Officer stepped forward.
"Yeoman, while we were your guests in 1969, you allowed me to listen to your collection of recordings. I calculated that no risk would be involved if I made a copy of one musical work which was not lost until after the Scientific Wars of the 1990's. Now, as the only living owner of a verified original copy of this musical work, you will be eligible to receive a percentage of any royalties from sales of this selection."
"May I ask what recording you chose to copy, Mr. Spock?"
"It was Maurice Navel's 'Bolero.' During the latter decades of the 20th Century, the work was considered too -- inflammatory, and it was suppressed. After the turn of the century, every copy was destroyed or hidden too well to be found in later years."
"What a pity! Oh, I can hardly wait for a chance to hear that music again."
"Spock," inquired Kirk, "would it be possible for you to play that piece now? We'll never have a better chance to see how people will react to it."
"Certainly, Captain. Allow me a few moments."
There was no longer any need for me to remain on the platform, so I stepped down and went to join Len and Uhura.
The guests were now circulating and talking, just as I had seen people do in movies of social affairs that I had seen on Old Earth. However, their chatter died swiftly when the first muted notes of "Bolero" drifted into the air. One by one, they took seats throughout the room and listened as the music wove its subtle spell. Soon, I saw eyes glittering or narrowing slightly in response to the seductive rhythm; a foot began to tap here, a head started to nod there; elsewhere, an arm swayed to keep time.
Suddenly, Uhura touched my arm and directed my attention to both of the Vulcans, who were standing a few feet away from us. They were each keeping time to the music, tapping their fingers against the backs of the vacant chairs before them -- too entranced to realize what they were doing.
If the storm of applause when the music was finished was any indication, I have no financial worries.
Soon after the impromptu concert, the Procurator, accompanied by his interpreter, approached me. He asked me if I would remain on Mauretania as a Federation tutor until such time as regular scientific teams could arrive to help the people make the necessary cultural transitions.
"Procurator, you do Yeoman Mitchell great honor." Sarek, who had just joined us, said quietly.
"Yes," I decided to accept, for this seemed to be a reasonable solution for all my problems. "Yes, it is a great honor. One that I...."
While I was speaking, Sarek stepped forward with superb finesse just enough to conceal the fact that his fingers were gripping my wrist tightly. I had to sink my teeth into my lower lip to repress a gasp of surprised pain. He eased the pressure of his fingers at once, but he did not let me go.
"...one which the Yeoman cannot possibly accept," he picked up and altered my discontinued statement smoothly. "She has not yet learned enough about this era to even try to relay her knowledge to others."
I felt a brief twinge of resentment, but I knew that he was right.
"Please forgive me, sir," I said to the Procurator. "I am sorry. The Ambassador speaks the truth. I appreciate your kind invitation, but I cannot accept it."
The Procurator gestured again, the interpreter relaying his message: "We regret your decision. Nonetheless, we sincerely hope that you will visit your new homeworld whenever it is convenient for you. Child, you will always be welcome. Peace be yours until we meet again." With that, they were gone.
Sarek released my wrist, and he raised one eyebrow when I remained silent. "No protests, Yeoman?" he inquired finally.
"Well, Lorna." Jim joined us before I could reply. "Congratulations! How does it feel to be the only Outworlder woman entitled to wear the Idic?"
"I pray I'll be worthy of the responsibility, Captain.
"Oh, well, yes, it is -- and you should...." Jim was discomfited and took refuge in something that he knew more about -- Star Fleet's orders. "I beg your pardon for interrupting, Ambassador, but we are scheduled to leave in three hours. I need you to help me convince our guests that it is time for them to start preparing to go home."
"Certainly, Captain." Sarek's quick glance had caught my vain effort to stifle a yawn. "Yeoman Mitchell gives the impression that she is tired. Is it necessary for her to remain?"
"It's been a long day -- and one that's been hard on your nerves, right, Lorna?" Jim's eyes were filled with understanding as he looked down at me.
"And how." I agreed, enthusiastically, if not grammatically.
He grinned. "Unless you would like to stay and face a barrage of questions and congratulations, why don't you slip out right now? I'll tell anyone who asks for you that I've ordered you to go off-duty for the rest of the day -- in fact, I just did."
"Thank you, Captain. You'll certainly hear no protests from me, for I am tired. Goodnight, sir. Goodnight, Ambassador."
Sarek's gaze held mine captive for a long moment, then he inclined his head slightly.
"Goodnight, Yeoman. You will sleep well." It sounded almost like a command.
I went directly to my quarters -- but not to go to bed. When one begins to experience the inevitable letdown after much emotional excitement, it is very easy to entertain impractical ideas. Also, I was beginning to feel sorry for myself again.
At this moment, the idea of leaving the Enterprise seemed very appealing. Why should I prolong the agony of parting from Sarek? Why spend seven more days yearning for that which never can be mine, when I have already been assured that there is a place for me here? The bracelet would grant me entry anywhere on the planet. Surely my empathic telepathy would enable me to find some sort of gainful employment.
I packed a small suitcase, then I sat down and began to formulate my course of action. If I beamed down only seconds before the ship left orbit, my absence might not be discovered until the next power consumption report. By then, the ship would be so far out that it would be highly unlikely that the Captain would turn around and come back for me. Even if he did, I would have plenty of time to lose myself among the natives.
The timer revealed that it would be at least two full hours, perhaps longer, before I would be able to leave my quarters without arousing suspicions.
Since I was so tired, perhaps I should rest for a little while. I set the alarm to sound in ninety minutes then lay down. Images of the events of the past few hours rose behind my closed eyelids, and there were quite a few which I considered most puzzling:
It was interesting that I had been ordered to attend the reception after I had told Sarek that I would not be there. Perhaps the gift from the Procurator and orders from T'Pau that Ship's Stores should prepare an Idic to be presented to me had been waiting when he joined the Captain. Perhaps Jim had suggested that these gifts be awarded to me at the reception -- I am certain that Sarek would never have suggested it.
Try as I might, however, I could not understand why Sarek had taken such drastic measures to keep me from accepting the Procurator's invitation. It was quite uncharacteristic for a Vulcan to use physical force to influence another's decision. It should have been impossible for a Vulcan Ambassador famed throughout the galaxy for his diplomatic skill to employ such means. If Sarek had been human, I would allow myself to wonder if he had grasped my wrist and had stopped my words because he had not wanted me to leave the Enterprise -- and him. But he is a Vulcan, and that makes all the difference. Even though I can't seem to find it, there has to be a logical explanation for his unusual action.
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