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WHILE WE'RE APART

By: Sharon Emily

PROLOGUE

Vulcan's suns were setting, coloring the red sky with vividly brilliant flashes of purple, green and gold. But Lorna, human wife of Sarek of Vulcan, wasn't watching the sky. Instead, she was looking at a beautifully symmetrical tree, which was sheltered by the fortress-like house behind her - a tree somewhat like an Earth maple, but bearing flowers of a distinctive shape and hue.

Lorna frowned and clenched her teeth, forcing back the tears, which burned behind her eyes. Yielding to her emotions wouldn't do any good.

The Leeithutt, the blue rose tree, which had been transplanted to Vulcan from Mauretania, was dying; that's all there was to it. Nothing that she'd tried, nothing that the best botanists on Vulcan had tried had helped. Although the tree had thrived for several bloomings, now its leaves were spotted with dark brown patches and were curling up around the edges. Only a few flowers grew where once there had been a riot of perfect, sapphire-hued roses. Indeed, it seemed that the more disturbed and worried she became about the tree, the faster the blight spread.

It was foolish to become so upset over a tree - but this was no ordinary tree. Lorna considered the blue rose tree a symbol of her marriage - in fact, it had been a wedding gift from her husband....

She looked up into the rapidly darkening sky, her eyes gleaming with defiance. "The Leeithutt is dying, and nothing seems to be able to save it. That, I can accept. But my marriage also seems to be withering away, and that I can't accept. There must be something that I can do. I won't give up without a fight. I absolutely won't!"

However, the stars that were appearing in the sky brought no message; no voice spoke from the nothingness. Instead, she felt a sensation of deep foreboding. There were no clouds in the sky, naturally, yet she felt as though a cold shadow had just passed over her - a presentiment hinting of even greater unhappiness ahead.

Though that uncanny mental talent of hers wasn't suited for precognition, there were times that Lorna experienced definite "hunches." This was one of those times. Trouble was brewing somewhere, and it was heading her way. She knew that as surely as she knew that she was standing upon the soil of a world that was definitely not her native Earth....

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

A trader carrying items always needed by planetary colonists was passing by a previously undeveloped star system when it spotted a manned interstellar vessel definitely from that system returning to it - and followed by a very well-screened Klingon ship. Immediately the trader assumed a flight path, which paralleled the Klingon vessel and sent a curt message:

"Federation Trader HFM-403 - to Klingon ship. I evoke Clause B1716, Paragraph 13 of the Organian Treaty and demand that you make a complete report to me immediately."

No response.

"Let me remind you that I'm in constant contact with the Federation Star Base in this sector - and they can have a fleet of ships on your tail in less than ten minutes!"

"This is Korel, Tarlokarne of the Karam. We acknowledge the Treaty. Set your automatic receiver. We will send all our available data to your library computer at once."

Seconds later, the computer began to hum, accepting the data. The simultaneous printout confirmed that Federation Trader HFM-403 had encountered something, which could easily become a galactic powder keg:

When this system had first been charted, it had been too primitive for either the Federation or the Klingons to develop. Therefore, the two powers had divided the system equally between themselves and then had left it to develop normally, never bothering to explore beyond what their instruments had told them.

Two of the inhabited planets were at the same level of development and were able to invent a version of the wireless at the same time. It hadn't taken them long to discover each other. Since they hadn't reached the level where they could fire weapons off their planetary surfaces, they had achieved a friendly relationship and had forged treaties of interdependence instead. Each world had engaged in an exchange of information, supplementing and pooling knowledge which had enabled each world to achieve the equivalent of 20th Century technology in only a few of their decades.

When they finally achieved interplanetary travel and had begun a steady exchange of goods and personnel, their progress became phenomenal. While they were still at the late 20th Century level, they reached the age of manned interstellar travel - ready to take their place with the Federation and the other civilizations inhabiting this galaxy.

Explorations by instrument had indicated that there was an abundant supply of nearly pure dilithium upon the moons of both worlds. The interstellar craft developed by these worlds used an entirely different type of fuel, however, one that was abundant on their worlds but rare everywhere else. They didn't need the dilithium. Now that they'd entered their interstellar age, they'd probably be glad to let other civilizations have access to their supplies of this vitally important fuel.

However, there was one problem. When this system had been divided by the Federation and the Klingon Empire, an imaginary line had been drawn right down the middle. As a result, one third of each planetary body's revolution about the binary placed it in the outermost edges of Federation territory. A second one third placed it in Neutral territory. The final one third placed it on the outskirts of Klingon territory.

These facts indicated that the division of the dilithium could create a potentially nasty situation. The pilot of the trading ship lost no time in reporting this information to the nearest Star Base. The official there lost no time in referring the matter to the closest Vulcan Consulate. They, in turn, lost no time in agreeing that this problem could be solved only by the talents of a highly skilled diplomat....

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

Ambassador Sarek laid aside the report he'd been studying, rubbed his eyes to relieve the natural strain of much prolonged reading then glanced over to see what his wife was doing.

Working, of course, working hard. What else? Working competently, and with the same degree of skill, which her unique talent brought to most tasks that she attempted.

Sensing that he was watching her, she looked up, the corners of her mouth lifting in a slight smile - permissible because they were alone.

"Is your work progressing well, my wife?" he asked courteously.

"Yes, my husband. I shall have the population/land ratios finished by the time you need them," she replied. She returned to her task, shutting out all external distractions with a concentration difficult for most humans - doubly difficult for her because she had originally come from 20th Century Earth.

But now my era has become Lorna's as well, he thought. She has filled the void Amanda's death had left in my life. Lorna has brought a contentment and a quiet joy that I never anticipated experiencing again.

Involuntarily, his memory turned back to those days when he and Lorna were first wed. (Star Trek Showcase, "The Misfit" printed 1974.)

How the Enterprise had hummed and buzzed when the crew had learned that the place Lorna Mitchell had found for herself after becoming trapped in this era was as wife to Sarek of Vulcan! There had been several who had wondered if he had married her because she had saved his life, because he had felt a sense of obligation toward her. Most, however, had realized that he had married her because, Vulcan though he was, he loved her.

Actually, only the Senior Officers had known how deeply he loved her, but it was now common knowledge throughout the Federation that he had again chosen a Terran woman as his consort - a marriage, which was apparently as successful as his first had been.

However, there had been problems. It was difficult for a human to live in the non-emotional environment of Vulcan. But Lorna had possessed one advantage that the average human didn't. Sarek and Spock had voluntarily engaged in a three-way mind-meld to save her life. During the process, personality patterns and traits characteristic of Vulcans had been superimposed upon her mind, permanently, making her - to her occasional dismay - a blending of Vulcan and human.

Yet, she wasn't even half-Vulcan, like Spock. She was adapting very well, but Sarek found himself ever called upon to overlook her improprieties. The latest had been when she had asked the Vulcans' Minister of Foreign Affairs if he were married and had any children. Sarek still shuddered at the memory, both for the Minister's shock and for Lorna's horrified dismay at her blunder - though she had made an excellent recovery: "I beg forgiveness, sir. According to the customs of my world, such a question indicates courtesy. Here on Vulcan, such a question is considered an invasion of privacy. I trust that you will make allowances for our individual differences?"

Yes, Lorna made many mistakes; in spite of them, though, he loved her deeply.

His dark eyes glowed with mingled pride and amusement as he remembered the first time that T'Pau had condescended to honor the fact of their marriage by coming under their roof as a guest. She'd been quite insistent about seeing him first - alone. He had gone to his study to greet her instead of standing in the great hall with Lorna, as he'd wished. However, he'd instructed Lorna to join him within a very few minutes, for he wanted T'Pau to understand that Lorna was his choice - no matter what. He had answered T'Pau's objections with unshakable logic then, to his secret delight and satisfaction, Lorna herself had settled the matter. When T'Pau had asked him how his human wife was adapting to the customs of Vulcan, he had replied that she could ask Lorna in person - for she had been in the room for several minutes. This had startled T'Pau, for the ruler had long been renown for her ability to keep track of humans in her vicinity without employing a mind-touch - without even seeing them. However, Lorna had entered the room without a ripple, and this ability had certainly aroused T'Pau's interest. Lorna had then greeted T'Pau in the best approved tradition and had answered her many questions with all the calm and decorum of a true Vulcan wife. Indeed, it hadn't taken Lorna long to...what was the Terran phrase? ...ah yes, to 'win T'Pau completely to her camp.' Now, T'Pau was as strongly in favor of their union as she had been opposed when Sarek had first informed her that he had again chosen a human woman to be his consort.

It certainly hadn't been easy for Lorna. She'd experienced the usual difficulties of any being from a world with a moon now living on a world without one. The increased gravity had also been a problem, though the rooms in the house, which had been installed for Amanda, had been equally acceptable to Lorna. Time had solved one of these problems; Lorna was adapting to the gravity and the atmosphere of Vulcan. The outward physical changes weren't that apparent, for she needed no extremely large lungs to glean the oxygen she needed. It was no worse than living in the high Andes on Terra, well within human limits, given time and modern medication. Also, her skeletal structure had increased fractionally to help withstand the pull of the heavier gravity. She still looked much like she had when she had first stepped upon the planet. Therefore, the looks of surprise from Outworlders who insisted upon shaking hands with her were interesting experiences. Even very strong men had been known to wince when Lorna responded to their ceremonial handshakes while forgetting, that her own strength had increased.

Her worst problems, however, had been created by the differences in the length of the days, and in the absence of a moon. She had been brave and uncomplaining about the many discomforts these difficulties caused. He would have known nothing about them if her physical cycle hadn't been disturbed and if she hadn't been troubled by nightmares. How many times had he soothed her when she'd cried out in her sleep? How often had he held her nestled in his arms and clinging to him to confirm the security that he represented...? Of late, not very often. In fact, during recent months, not at all, and he could not deny that he missed this intimacy.

Lorna has adjusted very well to her adopted world and culture, he mused, but - not quite in the manner that I had anticipated. She no longer seems to possess that refreshing outlook upon life, which was one of her most - attractive qualities. She is still warm, loving, and giving, always meeting my needs. Even so, something is missing. I cannot express it in Vulcan terms, but she has lost that quality which Terrans define as - as 'sparkle'.

But he was being unfair. Lorna worked hard trying to be all that he expected - both as the wife of a Vulcan and as the wife of an Ambassador. The only time she had refused to accept his guidance had been when he had continued to add the Vulcan prefix "T'", to her name:

"You called me T'Lorna as an indication that you'd welcomed me into your home and into your heart, Sarek. I appreciate that, and I love you for it. However, I prefer the name that was given to me on my own world. Indeed, I insist upon it, as my right. Someday, I may earn a Vulcan name. Until then, please allow me to retain and treasure this proof of my human identity."

Naturally, he had respected her wishes in this matter.

In her human way, Lorna was all that he could wish - and more, for her unique telepathy had enabled her to stand at his side as his companion and helpmeet, even in his chosen profession. How gradually that had happened.... She had made no demands, had merely asked questions here or had silently supplied a needed bit of information or assistance there...assuming more and more responsibility and authority. Then, at the height of a crucial negotiation being held on Babel, Sirluk, Sarek's Chief Assistant, had suffered the equivalent of a coronary and had died before help could be summoned.

Sarek could still remember the sensation of deep inner joy that he'd experienced when Lorna had stepped into the breach so swiftly that no one had had time to question the suitability of her action. She had then meshed so smoothly into the team that their task had been accomplished much faster and far more successfully than they had anticipated. Everyone had been surprised to discover that Lorna was much more formidable than she'd appeared to be. Of course, Sarek had known that she possessed these capabilities, but she'd actually startled him by revealing this potential so soon.

We have achieved a balance desired by most married couples but granted to only a few. Since we have no children, Lorna is not hampered by the responsibilities and duties involved in their care.... True, she has expressed willingness to accept a child provided by the Science Academy. How clouded with hurt her eyes became when I told her that it is not yet time. However, as long as I continue to sense that all is not as it should be between us, I cannot agree to the responsibility of a child. He sighed, feeling an unfamiliar sense of defeat. The underlying currents of emotion would seriously interfere with a child's development. Yet, I cannot identify the source of these difficulties. I treat Lorna as she has given indication that she wishes to be treated, but I know that something more is needed. What could it be? I am at a loss.... Illogical! My life with Amanda surely taught me to understand what a human woman needs. Lorna is no longer completely human mentally, however, and her needs are not the same as Amanda's.... This is irrelevant. I must put these thoughts aside until a more appropriate time.

He reached for another report.

***

Lorna had finished computing the figures that Sarek needed. She looked up intending to tell him so then realized that he was engrossed in another report. Silently, she rose and laid the list of figures close to his hand then she resumed her seat behind her own desk, propped her elbows up on its dark surface, and rested her head against her palms as she gazed at her husband.

Oh, Sarek, what's wrong with us? She thought, feeling quiet desperation. I can see that our marriage is dying - just like my beautiful blue rose - and I'm totally helpless to prevent either disaster!

Was it possible her emotions were getting the best of her? Perhaps she was just imagining that something was undermining the very foundations of their marriage. She worked at her husband's side, sharing every aspect of his chosen profession, and she accompanied him on every mission - almost as his second self. How many wives could say the same?

She had considered all the facts very carefully and was confident that she'd accepted the painful truth that motherhood would be a highly unlikely event in her life. Yet, she knew that she would agree to retire from her work for the necessary interval if Sarek should ever express a desire to request that the Academy provide a child for them. Most likely, he would be content with the son that he already had, but Lorna knew that she'd be thrilled if he wanted a child with her genes as well. However, Sarek constantly evaded or ignored her suggestions about the Academy; eventually, she had stopped pressing the issue. After all, she had her work to keep her occupied - though sometimes her work seemed to crowd her life too much.

It wasn't unusual for them to work eighteen or more hours at a stretch before returning to their home for a brief rest - more for her benefit than for his - and a change of garments. Sarek had suggested that they maintain a wardrobe and spartan sleeping quarters at the office; she had made a counter-suggestion, reminding him that humans needed a brief respite from work periodically - that such a respite would enable her to function at a more efficient level. Sarek had found that this applied equally well to him, though she could never get him to admit it. However, it had soon become their custom to return to the house after dark to rest and then to go back to work as soon as possible after the suns had risen.

Lorna hadn't found it easy to adjust to such a demanding schedule. However, she understood why it was possible for him to forget everything else except his work until/unless it was done. In that respect, male creatures seemed to be very much alike throughout the galaxy. Therefore, once the "glow" of the newlywed days had ebbed and they had turned their attention to more mundane matters, Lorna had made every effort to behave as a Vulcan wife would and should. When Sarek had become immersed in his work, Lorna had not pouted, accused him of not loving her any more, nor tried to lure him away from his desk to spend time with her. Instead, she had learned to occupy herself with work also. Eventually, she had become as adept in this practice as he was.

Good Lord! She gasped soundlessly. I've just realized.... There are times when we, work side-by-side for several days at a time without exchanging a word or even a glance.

Maybe that was part of the problem - though she was with her husband more than the average wife would be, didn't she feel lonely sometimes?

Lonely for Sarek? She asked herself. God, yes! How long has it been since we've had time just to be with each other, to look at one another to - touch one another?

Sarek's touch - those long fingers reaching out in the Vulcan kiss.... When they were in public and he wished to call her to his side or to escort her to meet still another official, he extended his fingers.... When had they had the opportunity or the time for him to do it just because he enjoyed it?

It hadn't been like that before Sirluk had died.... She recalled those difficult days before her system had become accustomed to Vulcan's moonless, tideless gravity, before her nerves and body had accepted the difference in the length of the days. She'd experienced such horrible nightmares - nightmares in which she had felt herself falling through bottomless chasms or lying with tons of weight pressing against her chest until she had had to scream or suffocate.

Each time, that beautiful voice had spoken her name, calling her out of the darkness. Then, strong arms had come about her to shield her from the forces that had seemed to be trying to tear away her very life. She'd opened her eyes to see that well-loved face bending above her and those dark eyes shining in the glow of the dim light - installed because a human wife couldn't see in the dark as well as could her Vulcan husband. Never once had he scolded her for crying out in her nightmares; instead, he'd understood, and he'd cradled her in those great arms until sleep had come again, soothing her, loving her, healing her pain. It would be worth the unpleasantness to endure another one of those horrible dreams if it meant that she would be held in those strong, yet tender arms....cradled against that broad chest...wrapped in the security of his love. How childish! She knew he loved her; why did she keep wanting tangible proof of it?

When Vulcans marry they are bound by some sort of subliminal, constant mental contact, she reminded herself. Perhaps that's why they don't practice the casual physical contact that human husbands and wives share. I felt something when Sarek and I were betrothed and then while T'Pau was joining us in our marriage ceremony.... If that's anything like the Vulcan bonding then - then it's much better than casual physical contact. I experience a mild form of that bonding whenever Sarek and I join, but - I can't keep it. I wonder if Sarek could possibly teach me...? No! He doesn't know.... Sometimes I think he may sense that there is a - a separation, but I suppose he assumes it's my natural mental barrier against an invasion of my thoughts. He'd never intrude, not even to attempt to create a true bonding. In fact, he probably can't establish one with me.

She sighed and put her hands over her eyes, twisting and turning her shoulders in an effort to ease the dull ache that throbbed between her shoulder blades.

***

Though Lorna's sigh had been soft, Sarek heard it, and he looked up quickly. Lorna had put her hands over her eyes and was evidently trying to ease a feeling of tension in her shoulders. He felt an illogical impulse to get up and go over to rub her back for her. In fact, he started to rise, but she dropped her hands, picked up another folder, and resumed her work. No, he wouldn't disturb her; apparently, she didn't need him.

He continued to watch her, the slightest suggestion of a frown appearing between his slanted eyebrows. Was that it? Was it possible that she didn't need him any longer? Impossible. They had been joined irrevocably when she'd melded her mental forces to his to keep him alive during that long vigil on Aries XI Therefore, she "needed" him as much as he "needed" her. Besides that, they loved each other.

Perhaps things weren't quite the same between them now as it had been during the early days of their marriage - but then, doesn't everything change? Sometimes he wished that they could have more time just to be together so they could enjoy one another's company as they'd done before Sirluk had died. Yet, he knew that was an unreasonable and selfish, wish. After all, they were working together in the same room, and each knew that the other was there.

Interesting! Sarek commented to himself. Five times during the past three standard months we have worked side-by-side for ten days without exchanging a word or even a glance. Amanda never hesitated to inform me that she considered such a situation undesirable, but Lorna has never complained. She understands that work must be completed before one can seek rest and recreation.

The sternness of his features softened briefly as he thought of some of the types of "rest and recreation" he'd enjoyed with Lorna. But then he frowned and swiftly rebuked himself for his lack of dedication to his work.

Why am I so concerned? Each of us knows that the other is near. Lorna becomes one with me when we join. Even when we have no time for each other, it is enough for me to remember that we have experienced that oneness. It must be enough for her as well, else she would surely have told me....

He leaned back in his seat and looked up at the ceiling. Unfortunately, the answers to his questions weren't written there. Indeed, there probably were no problems. Their marriage conformed to all the rules which custom and tradition had dictated, didn't it? However, instead of the glorious symphony of mind and spirit that it should be, their union was more like a performance of Fahndoz' Ode to the Eternal performed with one zithram .1,000,000 of a tone off-pitch. A fault detectable, but impossible to locate, remedy, and revise to obtain the original perfection of the composition.

A well, Sarek sympathized with himself, I knew from previous experience that I would encounter difficulties while living with an emotional being in an intimate relationship. There were many things that I had hoped to achieve with Lorna because of her unique mental powers, but they have not come - as yet. We do not know the deep joy that was ours when we were first wed, but we at least have the peace of knowing that each is important to the other. I shall have to be content with that.

The report that Lorna had placed on his desk caught his attention. He reached out, to pick it up and studied it. Perfect, there was no reason to stop her in her work and discuss it with her.

Illogical, yet I wish that I could pause and hold conversation with her - even if it is about our work.... At times, I regret that we have very little time for the conversations that we once shared, the hours that we spent learning all there was to know of each other. Does Lorna miss them as well? I wonder if she is only pretending that she wants me to treat her like a Vulcan wife...? No, I am confident that she would tell me if she were not content.

So having convinced himself that the uneasiness he felt was just a foolish notion, Sarek bent to his work again.

***

It was hot, even for a Vulcan afternoon, and Lorna couldn't ignore her discomfort any longer.

"Sarek, I'm thirsty. Do you want me to bring you something to drink also?"

No answer. He was totally buried in his work.

Nothing unusual about that. However, she'd learned that whenever she felt thirst and brought something for him to drink as well, he rarely refused it. Come to think of it, she hadn't seen him drink any water all day - and there was no ritual reason for abstinence. Probably he'd just been too busy to think of it, but his system needed fluids as much, as hers did.

Now that the idea had entered her mind, she knew she wouldn't be able to put it aside. She rose and went to get a covered vessel that rested on a side table. Cool beads had formed on its surface, feeling delightful against the skin of her hands as she picked it up and removed the cover. Good! Filled to the brim, not, with the actual cubes of ice in it that she craved, but kept to almost tooth-aching coolness by the unusual construction of the vessel. She filled two crystal clear tumblers then carried one back to Sarek's desk and touched the back of his hand with it. Without looking, he reached up to take the tumbler, drank then handed it back to her, and resumed his work without speaking a word.

Couldn't you have at least said 'Thank you?' Lorna glared at him for a moment then a wry smile tugged at her lips. No, why should you? To a Vulcan, drinking the water is thanks enough.

She stood looking down at Sarek, longing to reach out and run her hand over his gleaming hair. Better not. It'd be her luck for one of his many aides to step in, and she hated to think of the expression that would be in said aide's eyes if he caught her doing such a thing. Yet.... What would it hurt? If Sarek looked up at her right now, she'd do it, and never mind the consequences!

He didn't look up. She frowned, and felt a brief pang of envy. If only she could influence him to do something that they both wanted.... No, that power went only one way, his - and he hadn't used it for quite some time now. Which indicated what? Had she advanced far enough in their marriage and in learning the Vulcan way that he didn't have to use that power any more - or had he given up on her?

The intercom sounded, and she reached out swiftly to answer it.

"Lady Lorna, I have an urgent message for both of you from Star Fleet Command," came their secretary's voice.

"I am here," Sarek said quietly. "Play the tape."

The secretary, a perfectly trained young Vulcan male, responded tonelessly, "The message is not taped. It is being delivered via live transmission from Captain James T. Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise."

"The Enterprise!" Lorna exclaimed, her eyes widening. Her husband's eyebrows also rose for, insofar as they both knew, the Enterprise was supposed to be on a routine charting mission several parsecs away.

"Put it on visual, Sannel," Sarek ordered, opening the cabinet in which their huge screen was concealed.

The screen brightened and swirled with many colors then it cleared to reveal the image of the dynamic young Captain of the Enterprise.

"Captain Kirk," Sarek raised his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, to you, and to the members of your crew."

Then, after the few seconds required for sub-space transmission through the vast distances that still lay between the ship and Vulcan:

"Ambassador Sarek. Lady Lorna. Live long and prosper. I bring you greetings from Star Fleet; the Federation and, naturally, everyone on the Enterprise."

"You were on a charting mission near Cygnus X, Captain. What is bringing you here?"

"Do you have your screen set on Code 8 Scrambler?"

"Naturally."

"Then listen...." Kirk described the problem that Trader Ship HFM 403 had discovered.

"So, the Organians prefer to remain silent," Sarek murmured at last. "I had hoped that this matter would be urgent enough for them to take action."

"Evidently you've heard about this matter already, Ambassador?" Kirk asked.

"There has been some discussion of the subject," agreed Sarek. "Why are you coming to Vulcan, and why have you called us so far in advance of your arrival?"

"We're going to need the best diplomat in the Federation to handle this problem, Ambassador. The Council took a vote and agreed that this mission must be offered to you, first. Of course, if you have been commissioned for something more important...?"

Captain Kirk was just being polite. He knew full well that Sarek wasn't involved in anything that couldn't be put aside for something like this!

"I see. You did say, however, that the Council was offering this mission to me - first. There are other possibilities?"

"Yes. Shras of Andoria is one candidate. Zandor of Parnassua is the other."

"Both are skilled, yet neither have the advantage that we possess.... The rumor was correct, was it not, Captain? Except for their development of interstellar travel, the two worlds are similar to 20th Century Earth?"

"Almost like the late 1960's and the early 1970's, sir."

Like my own former time? Lorna clasped her hands over her wildly beating heart. No! I can't stand.... Stop it, Lorna! You've visited dozens of worlds with cultures at all levels of development. You knew something like this would happen eventually, so why go into a panic now? Face up to it. You're afraid to encounter anything like your former world. Why, I'll bet that's why things aren't going well between you and Sarek. It's quite possible that these fears are helping to undermine the foundations of your marriage!

"Captain, I understand the Council's reasoning in offering this mission to us, first," Sarek continued. "However, it might be best for us to remain on Vulcan at this time...."

"My husband," Lorna interrupted boldly. "May I speak with you, in private, for a moment?"

Sarek blanked the transmission and turned to her, eyebrow lifted inquiringly.

"Please don't refuse this mission on my account," she demanded. "I'm willing to go - even though those worlds can awaken old memories.... You've taught me to face whatever awaits me - surely this won't be too much more difficult than some of our other missions?"

"There are...other reasons why I would prefer to stay on Vulcan at this time, my wife."

"What?"

"They are none of your concern right now," he replied firmly.

"Are they of importance equal to that of this mission?"

"No," he admitted reluctantly after a brief pause.

"Then we, really haven't any choice," Lorna insisted. When he didn't reply, she reached out to touch the switch. "Captain. We accept the mission. You apparently have been ordered to transport us to the twin worlds. When must we be ready to leave?"

"You are accepting the mission, Ambassador?" Kirk's eyes had lighted up with relief, but he had an annoying habit of needing confirmation from the chief male of any delegation that he was transporting.

"My wife has told you our answer, Captain." There was a swift flicker of something akin to disappointment and -- yes --reluctant admiration in his eyes as he looked at his wife.

"Very well. We'll reach Vulcan shortly after your dawn tomorrow." Kirk looked at something beyond the range of the camera. "It will take two Vulcan days to complete all formalities... Will that be enough time for you to get ready to leave?"

"More than enough time, Captain. I presume that you and the usual party will beam down to our home tomorrow and share our evening meal?"

"Thank you for the invitation, Ambassador. We accept, with pleasure. Kirk out."

And the screen went blank.

"Sarek, why are you angry with me?" Lorna asked when his silence showed no signs of ending.

"Vulcans do not 'get angry,' Lorna."

Her eyes gleamed with delightful memories. "So you told me after you'd scared me half out of my mind one time on the Enterprise. However, I sense that you weren't exactly enthusiastic about accepting this assign-.... I did it again, didn't I? I mean - you would have preferred it if someone else went on this mission?"

Sarek gave the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. She continued, probing for a definite answer: "Why should you wish to remain, Sarek? I can think of nothing that would be so vital here at this particular time."

My wife, how could you? Sarek thought, turning his head to glance at the date record lying open on his desk. That is something I kept from you, even during our bonding. It is a matter that we do not willingly discuss with anyone, even those closest to us, until we must. What good would it have done to tell you that I wanted to remain here, because it is nearly time for the Blooming - that I had hoped that the influence of those flowers might reverse my infertility?" He sighed softly. No, even in this, duty and responsibility must come first, for there is always the Academy. There is no logical reason for me to remain on Vulcan.

"You are right, my wife," he said aloud. "I was concerned that you might experience distress in this encounter with cultures so much like your former one."

"If I do, I'm sure that you'll help me conquer it," she replied. "Oh, Sarek, there's no getting out of it; you're the best person for the job!"

"True," he said bluntly. It wasn't egotism, merely a statement of fact. To emphasize the fact that there was no use discussing the matter any further, he picked up a stack of folders and left the room.

Lorna stood where he'd left her, wondering if she hadn't made things worse in her efforts not to stand in the way of his work. Perhaps he wasn't angry with her, but she had the uneasy feeling that he was disappointed about something - what? Surely he hadn't been offended because she had told Captain Kirk that they would accept the mission? No. After all, she worked at his side as his helpmeet and companion, and he had given her such an equal voice in every decision that she was more truly liberated than any woman of her former era could ever dream of being. Besides, if he'd not been willing to accept the mission, he would have told the Captain so instead of confirming what she'd told him.

Probably I'm imagining things again. She assured herself. Or else I'm trying to find justification for feeling that something is definitely wrong with our marriage. I wish I knew why our marriage isn't quite all that I'd hoped it would be.... Oh well, I've never seen a marriage that didn't have problems! Why should ours be any different? I'd be foolish to trade what I have for an even worse problem.

She went to her desk and began to clear it then she looked at her own date record, making notes of instructions for the secretary to cancel all her appointments. When that was finished, she laid the stylus down and sighed. Though she'd told herself only a short while before that she felt as though she were in a rut and that she'd scream if something didn't happen to break the routine, this hadn't been what she'd had in mind.

Was a constant routine of work, work, and more work going to make up her life from now on? If so then there was absolutely nothing to look forward to.... If only she could return to those wonderful days when she and Sarek had first been married. Perhaps she should stay at home and just be Sarek's wife...? That would be no solution - merely a retreat. If she stayed home, she'd see far less of him than she did now! For, as she'd feared, he apparently had reverted to the Vulcan way completely. He seemed to be losing the sensitivity and the understanding that had won her - but such changes had to be expected after marriage. A mature woman should accept those changes and make the best of them, no matter how she felt inwardly.

Sometimes I'd like to kick over the traces and just tell Sarek how I feel! She thought angrily. But, what good would that do? I'm confident that it's my fault - that's why I keep all these feelings and thoughts shielded during our deepest communications.... Yet, sometimes, I've caught him looking at me with something closely akin to puzzlement. Perhaps he might be more than willing to try to make things better between us, if he only knew what was wrong and how.... No, that's just wishful thinking. I'm going to have to try harder to become the wife that he needs, and I'm going to have to do it on my own. I refuse to hurt him!

She had forgotten what she'd heard Captain Kirk say once: That she should avoid making herself miserable by trying to forget that she was originally fully human.

"My wife," Sarek had come back into the room, moving with his usual silence. "Finish gathering your work. The aircar is waiting to take you home."

"Oh, Sarek! You are angry with me."

"Lorna, you are being unreasonable. I have already told you that I am not angry. I always send you home to wait when the Enterprise is due to arrive. You have never been able to learn to keep your mind upon your work when you know that your former shipmates are coming to visit us."

But his eyes were warm with unspoken amusement as he spoke, so she grinned ruefully.

"Am I really so bad, Sarek?"

"No. It is one of the Joys of my life with you to be able to welcome your friends into our home. It does not happen too often."

For one brief moment, it almost seemed as though he were going to give her a goodbye kiss, but an aide chose that moment to step into the room.

Now, that was more like the Sarek I fell in love with! Lorna told herself happily as she left the building. Maybe things aren't as hopeless as I first thought!

Though Sarek wouldn't have expressed it in exactly the same words, if someone had asked him his frame of mind after Lorna went out the door, he would have said that he viewed the future with more optimism.

He'd come to look forward to these visits from the crew of the Enterprise - if nothing else, they gave him time to reinforce the new relationship with his son and to gain new insights into differential human psychological-emotional patterns. Lorna had become almost as Vulcan as she was human, but her stamina and endurance were apparently renewed after she'd spent time with her own kind.

In fact, she had told Sarek once that the freely expressed emotions of her former shipmates were like "food for her soul." He wasn't sure what she meant by that - exactly - but he did admit that the change was good for her. There was no doubt that after such visits she seemed more like her old self for a brief period of time.

For that reason alone, if not for any other, he always encouraged such visits - hoping in vain that one day the change in Lorna would be permanent.

 

 

 

CHAPTER THREE

Captain James T. Kirk stared at his door and frowned. Who in the Blazes could want to see him this early? It was barely "dawn" aboard ship, and only the night crew knew that they'd already assumed Standard Orbit over Vulcan.

"Come in."

The door slid open to admit Doctor Leonard McCoy, Chief Surgeon.

"Mornin', Jim. Sorry to bother you so early. I wanted to catch you before you got snarled up in all the red tape planet-side."

"Problems, Bones?"

"Nope. Special favor to ask."

"Such as?" Kirk's eyes gleamed, with mischief, for he suspected what Bones wanted.

"Everythin's runnin' smoothly in Sick Bay, and the youngsters on call can take care of the hangnails and blisters. I've managed to catch up on all my reports, for once. If you don't need me for anything, I'd like to beam down early."

"Why, Bones! Don't tell me you found a nice Vulcan girl the last time you were on Shore Leave here?"

"You might say that.... I believe it might be a good idea to beam down ahead of the rest and see if Lorna might need somebody to talk to."

"Ahuh, I, thought that's who you had in mind. Bones, the last time we were here, I thought she didn't seem quite her old self. It wasn't just in my mind, was it?"

"Afraid not. Somethin's really botherin' her, Jim. Since I'm about the closest thing to a father she's got now, she might be more inclined to talk to me than she would anybody else."

"When do you want to leave?"

"Scotty says he can squeeze me in with a load of cargo he's beamin' down to the main spaceport in about fifteen minutes. I can catch an aircar from there and be at the house ten minutes later."

"Then, you'd better get going. Oh, give Lorna my love, will you? And tell her the rest of us will be beaming down at the usual time for dinner."

"Right, Jim."

***

Early morning on Vulcan was hardly a quiet affair. Thousands of silver birds were wheeling and dipping in the cloudless sky, trilling their greeting to the triple suns.

Lorna was just returning from seeing Sarek off to the city, feeling a bit downcast. Except for the usual finger-touch, Sarek's goodbye had been as impersonal as it had been for the past several months - almost as though that brief tenderness in the office the night before hadn't happened.

She paused beside the Leeithutt and examined the leaves hopefully. Nothing had changed - except that the leaves were a bit browner and much dryer.

An aircar pulled to a stop at the entrance to the grounds and a tall figure wearing a blue tunic and black trousers got out, paid the driver then stood watching as the car sailed away.

"Len!" Lorna cried. Totally delighted by his unexpected appearance, she rushed pell-mell toward him.

He turned swiftly when he heard her voice then he spread his arms wide and planted his feet to catch her close when, she reached him, hugging her as enthusiastically as he might, his daughter, Joanna - perhaps even more so, for he always, felt a bit put off by Joanna's poise and coolness whenever they chanced to meet.

"Well, now!" His Southern accent had become quite apparent. "If I'd known I was gonna' get a greetin' like that, I'd have come sooner!"

"Oh! I was so glad to see you, I forgot...." Lorna pulled back and away from him, casting a swift glance around to see if any of the workers had seen her display of emotion. Since no one was visible, she cast all caution to the winds by standing on tiptoe to kiss McCoy on the cheek.

"Darn it, Len! I don't care how Vulcans are supposed to greet their friends. I am human, and I'll greet you the way I'd greet my real father. Lord! I'm so happy to see you that I could almost cry."

"Happy tears never hurt anybody, honey." Len tucked her hand in the curve of his arm and turned to walk with her to the house. "You know that I'd never be bothered if you cried in front of me. Don't you remember that I told you my shoulder was yours to cry on if you ever needed it?"

"Thanks, Len. I don't let tears get the best of me anymore. I've often wondered why the Enterprise didn't founder while I was still a member of the crew. I cried so much before Sarek and I finally found each other."

"Honey," McCoy said sternly, becoming all doctor instead of just good friend. "Don't you ever choke your tears back until you make yourself sick doin' so! Tears are Nature's way of lettin' off steam, just like laughin'. If you're denyin' yourself that release, you're doin' yourself an injustice."

"Maybe, Len, but the wife of Sarek of Vulcan has little time to indulge in either tears or laughter...." She stopped, vexed that she'd said so much.

Len glanced at her sharply but let the matter drop until after she'd ceremoniously offered him a chalice of water and had spoken the words of welcome in the ritual that Sarek had taught her.

"Let's go someplace where we can talk," he demanded as he laid aside the chalice after quenching the thirst that Vulcan's dry air always roused in his throat.

Lorna led McCoy into the cool, airy room that she'd had designed for her friends from off-world and she sat down beside him on the low, comfortable, free-form lounge.

"Lorna, I'm not goin' to beat around the bush." he said sternly. "Is there somethin' wrong between you and Sarek? No, don't go all Vulcan on me and tell me it's none of my business. I'm askin' you as your doctor and as your friend. You don't have anybody you can really talk to here on Vulcan. Like you said, the wife of Sarek of Vulcan lives a pretty crowded life, so she doesn't have much chance to gossip and let her hair down."

"Vulcan women don't do those things anyway, Len." Lorna retorted then she nodded. "You're right. I do need to talk with someone, and I know of no better confidante than you.... Yes, there may be something wrong with our marriage, I just don't know. There's nothing that I can point to and say that that's it - it's more of a feeling that something is wrong than anything else. I suppose it's all in my mind, but...."

Len listened, nodding from time to time, studying her while she told him what little she was willing to share with him. Except for a word or two to stimulate further admissions from her, he remained silent. Just sharing her inner burdens with someone that she knew would never break her confidence would help her about as much as anything.

"You may be right, honey," he said when she'd finished talking. "Your fears about your memories of your former life may be causin' you trouble. You may have developed a few chemical imbalances after livin' in this heavy gravity, too. It takes a long time to get completely adapted. Those imbalances could be causin' your feelin's of apprehension."

"The last examination I had down here didn't reveal anything...."

"Vulcan doctors don't know everything, though they'd like to think so!" Len blustered. "You let me give you a good physical while we're on the way to Turon-Lura. You may find that your problems are caused by nothin' more than a plain old vitamin shortage."

"I doubt if it'll be that simple, but you've got a date, Len. Now, tell me what all has happened since the last time we communicated...."

***

Len's old-fashioned Southern charm had cheered Lorna up quite a bit by the time the rest of the guests beamed down.

Kirk, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Christine all came down together and, at Lorna's insistence, they hadn't worn their full dress uniforms - planning to enjoy an informal evening. Lorna was disappointed that Zia Andros, the girl who had shared her quarters while she'd still been a member of the crew of the Enterprise wasn't with them, but promotions had a way of separating friends.

Spock had gone to the city on personal business and would come along later with Sarek, so they all managed to enjoy a restrained version of old-home-week. To McCoy's great delight, Lorna had finally programmed the server to mix a perfect Mint Julep. Scotty was heard to admit that the Scotch which appeared at his command was much like that in the bottle he'd been keeping for something special.

However, it soon became apparent that Scotty was becoming too fond of this Scotch... When Scotty headed for the server a fifth time, Kirk stepped in front of him.

"You've had enough, Mr. Scott." Then when Scotty attempted to go around him: "That's an order, Mister!"

"Aye, Captain," the Chief Engineer said dully. "You're right."

He turned away and went to sit down beside Len.

Lorna had watched this encounter silently, wondering what was wrong with Scotty. He hadn't wanted to drink so much after his marriage.... Mira! Why wasn't she here tonight?

She might have asked, but Sarek and Spock arrived at that moment.

The gathering assumed a more serious manner when the Vulcans joined it, as much out of respect for the men themselves as for the fact that they were Vulcans. Almost immediately, the conversation turned to the mission that was ahead. The Enterprise wouldn't remain in orbit over either of the twin worlds while Sarek was conducting the negotiations. Instead, she would be exploring the system, charting and setting up supply posts for colonists who would be coming in later - if all went well between the Federation and the Klingons, that is.

Silence fell while they were eating, for it is the Vulcan way to eat without conversation. Afterwards, while they were still gathered about the table, Kirk stood up. "I have been entrusted with something send by the Procurator of Mauretania - it's a wedding gift for you and Lorna, Ambassador. The postal service has never succeeded in catching up with you. In fact, if the Enterprise, hadn't intercepted the crate on a Star Base recently, it would still be wandering somewhere in the galaxy."

Scotty and Sulu carried the crate in from where it had been resting in the courtyard and opened it carefully. Lorna found a life size, lifelike replica of the Pegasus family that had so enchanted her on Mauretania, packed amid yards and yards of air-filled material to protect it during transit.

There was just one place for that, the company agreed - beside the Leeithutt.

Lorna started to protest, began to tell her friends that the tree was dying then stopped, unwilling to spoil their pleasure.

"Mr. Sulu," Sarek's voice came clearly over the murmurs of the guests.

"Yes, Ambassador?"

"You possess the ability to arrange plants and ornaments artistically. Would you be willing to place this gift in the garden for us?"

"It'd be a pleasure, sir."

"And, since you are also skilled in the art of nurturing plants, would you also examine the Leeithutt? My wife holds that plant in special esteem, but it has not been growing well lately. I am certain she would welcome any suggestions that you might have regarding its care."

"Certainly, Ambassador. Perhaps I'd better go look at it now."

"Would you mind if I went with him?" Lorna said eagerly. "I'd like to tell him exactly what's been happening to my tree." Also, she needed a few minutes away from the others to regain her composure. Sarek's revelations of his knowledge of her distress over the blue rose tree had startled her; she'd thought he hadn't even noticed that it was dying.

Sulu looked at the statue and frowned, wondering how he could get it out to the garden. Spock intercepted his frown and went over to help him then found that he could lift the statue unaided. But he didn't stay after carrying it outside. Instead, he returned to continue a debate with Sarek.

It didn't take Sulu long to install the statue in a cluster of Vulcan foliage near the tree, and a bit of careful pruning gave the statue an illusion of life.

"Perfect!" Lorna approved. "Now, will you please see if you can find out what has happened to my blue rose?"

Sulu studied the leaves and blossoms carefully, touched the soil about the roots then he looked up at her and chuckled softly.

"Sulu! I don't see what's so funny. This tree means a lot to me." Lorna exclaimed, nettled by his amusement.

"I'm, sorry, Lorna. I wasn't laughing at you; really I wasn't. It just struck me as funny that you couldn't have seen it for yourself. You're getting too Vulcan."

"What do you mean?"

"The only thing wrong with your tree is that it hasn't been getting a simple little nutrient - calcium."

"'Calcium'?"

"Bone meal is the best source... It's my fault, Lorna. I should have realized that Vulcan's soil wouldn't have enough calcium for this tree. Look, I've got plenty of bone meal for the Herbarium; I'll have a batch beamed down right away. This tree should snap out of it in no time."

"Sulu, I could hug you!" Lorna exclaimed with delight then she smiled when he drew back swiftly. "Don't worry; I won't. Aren't you ever going to forgive me for nearly breaking your hand the last time you tried to shake hands with me?"

"Well let's just say that I hadn't realized how Vulcan gravity and a mineral supplement regimen could increase a human's strength - and let it go at that."

"Granted. Now, come over here. We've gotten some new plants that I know you'll want to see."

Sulu was intrigued with the new items that she'd brought in from the mountains on the far side of Vulcan. He went from specimen to specimen, examining each carefully, every now and then trying to talk her into letting him take a start from this plant or the next.

"Sulu, my friend, with that golden voice of yours, you could talk me out of almost everything I own," Lorna assured him, her eyes twinkling at his look of embarrassment. "Now, don't feel so self-conscious. You know perfectly well that you have the most beautiful voice in the Federation - next to Sarek's, of course."

Sulu murmured some sort of thanks and started to turn away.

"No, seriously, I'd like to ask you a favor, Sulu."

"Anything I can do, just name it."

Sarek has been working on a comparison between Haiku and some of the Pre-Reform literature. I was wondering if you'd mind doing a recital for him some evening while we're aboard ship? I'll even pay you in advance - our groundsman has made up a collection of starts from the new plants...."

"You don't have to pay me, Lorna," Sulu said as he escorted her back to the house. "I'll be glad to do it - anytime you wish. But, I'm not going to turn down those plants, either!"

When they returned to the others, Lorna was pleased to see that Jim had finally talked Spock into showing the company the lytherette that had been in the family for generations - an instrument far superior in tone to the one that he kept aboard ship. Once the instrument was in Spock's hands he soon agreed to give a brief concert.

Lorna glanced over at Sarek, who was standing near a window looking out at the sky while his son was playing. Though she wished that he would also play something for their friends, he seemed to be concentrating very deeply, so she didn't disturb him.

Spock finally laid the lytherette aside and started to rise. Immediately, Sarek turned from the window.

"It has been...." He would have stated the exact number of days since they had last shared an evening together in his home, but he saw Lorna's quick look, which suggested otherwise. For once, he got the message. "...a long time since we shared the joy of your companionship in our home, and it will be an even longer interval until we are able to do so again...."

So saying, he picked up the lytherette that his son had discarded, sat down, and remained motionless with his head bent as if considering what to play.

Lorna knew, however, that he was running through a complex exercise that would have broken one of McCoy's EKG indicators. After a moment, Sarek's fingers moved across the strings - soon revealing just who the true musician of this family really was.

Lorna remained just as hushed as the rest of the company for a while. She then began to study her friend's faces. To her great delight, she surprised a look of pride and Vulcan joy on her stepson's face - indicating that perhaps he'd learned to overcome some of his reluctance to reveal that he was able to experience emotion.

Christine also saw Spock's expression, and the sudden widening of her eyes told Lorna that the Chief Nurse would want to discuss this unexpected discovery with her at the earliest possible moment.

Lorna made it easy for Christine by asking her if she'd come and help her make a last inspection of the guest rooms - clearly an obvious means of retreating to indulge in a bit of feminine chatter. She would have invited Uhura, too, but the lovely Communications Officer had become embroiled in a debate comparing Afro-American rhythms to certain Vulcan tonal poems.

"I think you want to ask me a question, Christine?" Lorna said as soon as they were in the upper corridor.

"Lorna, was I seeing things while Sarek was playing for us? Was Spock really showing emotion?"

"You weren't seeing things, Christine."

"But, Mr. Spook insists that he has no emotions. He always has...."

"...and he always will, until he learns that he really doesn't have to be more Vulcan than his full-blooded peers. Christine, you've never asked, but I'm sure you've wondered what it's like for me - if it's possible for a human to be happy wedded to a Vulcan."

Christine colored faintly and couldn't meet Lorna's eyes. "Yes, but Amanda told me a bit.... Oh! I didn't mean...."

"You needn't apologize. Amanda's time is over. I realize I'm not really threatened by anyone's memories, of her. I should have realized that she would have taught you something of the Vulcan way.... And that prompts me to ask a question. You may think I am prying into affairs that are none of my concern, but.... You still love my son, don't you?"

"I.... You know, it, still startles me whenever I hear you call Mr. Spock your 'son,' even though that's what he is, in a way." Christine said. "I suppose my feelings haven't changed. Neither have his, apparently. No matter what you say, I could easily believe that Spock is telling the truth when he says that Vulcans have no emotions."

"He may be playing a Vulcan joke on you," Lorna assured her friend. They sat down in an alcove near the end of the hall. "You've seen him express emotion - even though he gave a logical explanation afterwards."

"True.... Anyway, Sarek must be able to express emotion once in a great while, at least. Otherwise, neither Amanda nor you would.... I'm sorry, Lorna."

"You were getting a bit personal, but I'll forgive you since you meant well." Lorna said after a brief pause. "I think, it is time that I told you something. But, don't let it mislead you, Christine. Spock feels he must overcompensate for his human heritage. He may never come to realize that the universe won't come to an end if he allows that shell he's built around himself to crack a bit. Even so.... Christine, no matter what Spock says, Vulcans can be 'logical of mind and passionate in spirit'."*

------------------------------

*From Barbara Letson.

------------------------------

"That's what I've often suspected." Christine said brightly. "You won Sarek. Who knows? If I try hard enough, maybe I can win his son."

"Christine, I'm not...." Lorna forced herself to become silent. She'd started to tell Christine that life with a Vulcan might not be all that wonderful, even with Spock, if her own experience was any indication. But that wouldn't be wise. After all, what seemed to be happening to her marriage might not necessarily happen to Christine's - should she ever win Spock. Surely Spock's human half would enable him to realize things that Sarek evidently couldn't even see, let alone understand.

"I'm not going to give you any encouragement, either way," she continued lamely, "for it isn't my place to do so. Spock will decide whom he will marry, when the time comes. However.... Christine, Sarek's family is among one of the most elite of Vulcan; his ancestry dates back to the very Beginning. Family lines mean a lot to Vulcans, and it's possible that Spock would hesitate to increase the human element that has entered his own."

"You mean - he'd be more inclined to choose a Vulcan wife?" Christine interrupted.

"Would it, be so bad if he didn't, marry you, Christine?" Lorna asked. "You already have a very full and rewarding, life. Indeed, when I first came aboard the Enterprise, I was amazed by the things that women in this era are allowed to do."

"That's right. You've told me how much women were discriminated against in your former time, in certain areas. Don't fool yourself, Lorna, there's still a lot of discrimination against women."

"Really? I find that hard to believe. Sarek has treated me like an equal from the first day of our marriage."

"He does? Then, why do you walk behind him, and why do you let him tell you what to do?"

"It is the Vulcan way, Christine - a holdover from the time when the Vulcan male preceded his female to protect her from enemies. I find it rather pleasant to be protected and, though it may appear that I'm being stifled, I'm not - really I'm not." She leaned forward and laid her hand on her friend's arm. "Christine, I assure you that I have full voice in our decisions, and I work at Sarek's side as an equal."

"In some ways, Vulcan women do seem to have more freedom than other women in the Federation." Christine admitted. "Do you realize that you can count the women Starship Captains on one hand? And it's no secret that everyone is watching them, just hoping they'll do something wrong. If they do, that'll prove what the men keep saying - that women aren't able to maintain command."

"I've never desired such a position, so I really can't contribute much to that discussion. However, I believe it is the responsibility of the women who are serving as Captains to pave the way for others...."

"You still don't understand, Lorna. Don't you realize that women are still caught by the most insidious trap of all? I guess I'm really lucky that Spock doesn't show any interest in me. If we married, I'd probably soon lose the freedom that I have now."

"With Spock? Christine, you are wrong."

"Okay, I'd be free, especially married to him - unless I got pregnant. You know that I'd be shunted off that ship onto a Star Base or a planet so fast that my head would swim. And once I'd had the child, that would finish me in Star Fleet, because I'd have to stay with the child until it was in school. Why, I'd be so far behind the new techniques and developments I'd never be able to catch up! It happens to every woman that opts for motherhood."

Lorna could think of no suitable rebuttal to Christine's statement, for she'd spoken the truth. With the exception of Vulcans, women still became victims of the ancient "child, kitchen, church" syndrome when they became pregnant. Most unfair! With the modern methods of childcare and birth control, why wasn't it possible for families to live on starships? Why did a husband and a wife have to be parted the moment that they gave evidence of starting a family? This was something that she would talk over with Sarek at the first opportunity. She was sure that he would agree with her that the influence of family life on a starship would be of great benefit, and he would surely know of some way to present this idea to the Council.

Their conversation drifted on to more mundane matters then they returned to the others.

"Lorna!" Jim exclaimed when they entered. "I've been looking for you.... We won't be leaving Vulcan until the day after tomorrow, and I was wondering if you'd like to beam up to the ship tomorrow and spend the day with us? You know, sort of a reunion before we leave?"

"Jim, I'd like to, but there is a lot to do here." Lorna refused reluctantly.

There was the sound of a footstep behind her.

"My wife, I am confident that such an excursion would be good for you." Sarek said calmly, "Preparing for diplomatic missions has become a routine matter for you by now, and everything is proceeding smoothly. You have already taken care of the most pressing matters. It will do no harm if you are absent for a few hours tomorrow."

"You really don't mind, Sarek?" Lorna queried, surprised by his agreement to what the average Vulcan would have considered as forsaking her responsibilities.

"If I did, I would tell you so, Lorna."

"Then - I'll accept with pleasure, Jim." Lorna said quietly, but her eyes were gleaming with anticipation. "What time do you want me to beam up?"

"I have to go back to the ship tonight, but the others won't be coming back until after breakfast. Why not come along with them?"

"Aren't you going to be able to come down and eat with us?"

"After that invitation, I'll be sure to come." He turned to Sarek, hand raised in the Vulcan salute. "Ambassador, I must return to the Enterprise."

"One moment, if you please." Sarek replied. "I have that translation you asked for the last time you were here...."

He moved off with the Captain and then escorted him to the beaming up point. Spock, as the son of the house, escorted their overnight guests to their quarters. Lorna went to program the morning meal, more than a little puzzled by Sarek's obvious desire to get her away from the planet the next day. If the chance came, she wouldn't hesitate to ask him why.

As was her custom, after she'd finished the programming, she went out to sit near the blue rose, for she'd adapted Sarek's custom of retreating to meditate at the close of the day. After a while, she became aware that Spock was standing in the entrance of the garden, watching her.

"Come, join me, Spock," she called, knowing that he was waiting for some sign that she was no longer engaged in meditation.

He approached and joined his hands to hers in the family embrace then he sat on the ground at her feet.

"Is all well with you, my son?" she asked formally.

"All is well, my mother. Yet, it will be pleasant to have you aboard the Enterprise again. We do not often have an opportunity to engage in unlimited conversations during our visits."

"You have something you wish to tell me."

"Is it so obvious? I beg forgiveness."

"Don't - not with me. I suspected earlier that you were wanting to tell me about something. What have you been up to now, and why didn't you tell me about it the last time we communicated?"

"I wished to tell you in person. I have taken part in a most interesting time-journey...." Spock went on to tell Lorna of his trip back to First Century Palestine. (PROOF POSITIVE, LNNB "Worksheet #6", and also reprinted in this volume.)

"So, you erased the records of His face and of His voice," Lorna mused. "A wise decision, in light of the fact that humans are so prone to give more importance to the image than to the reality. Spock, do, you feel proud that you've been able to answer an age-old question?"

"No, for I merely confirmed the information that was suggested when we located Captain Merrick."

"Surely you know what I mean. You've confirmed that there was such a Person on Earth. Please, tell me, what was He like?"

"I - do not think I could find the proper words. Nurse Chapel agreed to let me 'show' her.... Perhaps, the circumstances are still such...."

"No. I am impressed that you'd be willing to engage in a mind-touch for such a reason, Spock, but I won't let you do it. Besides, I don't think I really want to know after all.... I've carried an Image in my heart, ever since my childhood, and I think I'd rather cling to that."

"As you wish, my mother."

Lorna wanted to ask more questions about his time journey, but she knew that she would be invading his privacy if she did. Therefore, she sat silently beside him, watching him. He sat with his hands clasped about one knee, noting the changes that had been made in the garden, seemingly unaware of her intent regard.

At last, she leaned forward.

"I assume a mother's right, and I ask you if you have come to any conclusions about Christine, Spock. You must feel some regard for her, else you would not have sought to reassure her after returning to this era."

"Her distress was genuine; it was reasonable to assuage her anxieties," he said quietly then he turned and met her gaze fully. "You will agree that I must make my own decision regarding Nurse Chapel."

"Yes. Will you agree that you're not being entirely fair to her by prolonging matters?"

He lifted an eyebrow.

"Accuse me of prying, if you wish, but I'm going to speak my mind anyway," Lorna continued firmly. "Christine would be a wife that any man would be proud of - even you. However, she isn't getting any younger.... Spock, if you aren't interested in her at all then do her a kindness, and tell her so. Set her free so she will at least think about looking elsewhere."

She paused, hoping that the sudden lift of his other eyebrow meant that the possibility wasn't completely attractive to him.

"You are right," he agreed after a moment. "When the time comes, I shall have to choose a wife and, as you have said, Nurse Chapel does have much to recommend her. I assure you that I shall give the matter every consideration and will achieve a resolution, one way or another, as soon as is reasonably possible."

"Spock, I'm beginning to wonder if you would be the best man for Christine. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. However, I have my reasons. If she could learn to restrain her emotionalism, Christine would be very good for you. However, I doubt if she could ever learn to adapt completely to the Vulcan way. She's so impulsive and so warm-hearted that she would make constant errors."

"Yes, but she is intelligent. She could learn.... However, there are other facts to consider, and I must review them without undue haste."

"Well spoken, my son," Sarek's calm voice said from the darkness beside them. "Yet, do not tarry too long. It is unfortunate that you have not seen fit to select a replacement for T'Pring to end your unbonded state long before now."

"Sarek, I...." Spock said as he rose, but Sarek turned from him abruptly and extended his fingers to Lorna.

"My wife, attend me."

Obediently, Lorna went to him and joined her fingers to his.

"You will meet me at the fourth hour tomorrow, Spock?" Sarek demanded, not taking his eyes from Lorna.

"Yes."

"Until tomorrow." And Sarek spoke the ancient words bidding his son to rest well through the hours of the night.

Later, in their private quarters, Lorna found the silence unbearable. She finally turned to her husband.

"Sarek, why are you annoyed with me? Please don't say that you aren't, for I know better. What have I done wrong? Surely it's my right to express concern for our son's future?"

"True." Sarek replied without turning from the window, where he had again taken refuge.

"Then, why...?" Her mouth dropped open as a sudden thought came to her. Spock was young, near her own age chronologically, and he was probably fertile. Was it possible...?

"Sarek, are you worrying that I may discover that I love Spock more than I do you?"

He whirled swiftly, his eyes meeting hers so intently that she knew she'd been right. Then, his features became set in that chilling mask of non-emotion that he could assume at will.

"No, if you should ever decide that you want another - even my son - there would be nothing I could do, except step aside and set you free."

"Without even trying to make me change my mind?"

"What good would it do to try to keep a hostile and unwilling wife?"

She shook her head, feeling somewhat hurt then she realized that she was being humanly childish. "I don't understand, not really, but it doesn't matter. Such a thing will never happen. I love you, Sarek."

He didn't answer, merely looked at her, and that mask was still firmly in place.

"Sarek, if that isn't it, what is wrong? Please, tell me," she pleaded.

"It is something that is difficult to say without causing you distress. Lorna, you must take care not to spend too much time alone with Spock."

"For Heaven's sake, why? I've told you that there isn't the slightest danger that I'll fall in love with him!"

"Love has no bearing in this matter," he said impatiently. "Lorna, you must try to understand.... Do you have any inkling of the danger you might face if you were with Spock and the pon farr should come upon him while he is still unbonded?"

"How could there be any danger - for me? Spock has always regarded me as a mother, not as an eligible female. Besides, surely my telepathy would protect me."

"No." Sarek came to her and laid his hands gently upon her shoulders, forcing her to meet his eyes, seeking to impart his concern to her. "It is possible that it would not. Spock accepts you as a mother, intellectually. In the blood-heat of the pon farr, however, he would see you only as a female that he might seek to acquire to ease his need in his unbonded state." His hands tightened slightly, but not enough to hurt her. "There is no blood relationship to protect you. Thus, if you were alone with him when he felt even the first hint of the affliction.... Lorna, even though you are wed to me, his own father, he would seek to retain his life by laying claim to you. If he did that, and since you have expressed your preference for me, I would have to fight him - to the death."

Lorna shuddered. "Oh, Sarek, I'm sorry. I didn't understand.... All right, I promise I'll avoid being alone with Spock unless or until he becomes bonded."

She swayed forward and laid her head against his chest, hoping that he'd hold her close and comfort her. He did hold her, for a moment then he put her aside gently.

"You are tired, my wife, and the hour grows late. You will wish to be at your best when you visit the Enterprise tomorrow."

"Yes, Sarek," Lorna murmured, hiding her disappointment, for she'd hoped this would be one of those evenings when she could interest Sarek in fulfilling her human needs. In fact, she still wasn't ready to give up.

Hurrying through her bedtime routine, she put on one of her most becoming night robes before going to him - to find that he had fallen soundly asleep.

Fortunately, the humor of the situation struck her so that she fell into bed stifling her laughter. Where else but on Vulcan would it be considered normal behavior for the husband to fall asleep and leave his wife feeling frustrated when she wanted to make love?

 

CHAPTER FOUR

Lorna wasn't so amused when she woke up the next morning. She knew Sarek was still asleep... Unwilling to awaken him, she lay thinking about the many events of the previous day. Actually, the fiasco last night proved that the bond that existed in a Vulcan marriage was missing in theirs - which increased the danger Spock might represent to her. Now what, if anything, could she do about it?

A soft chime reminded her that she had to start getting ready to visit the Enterprise. Also, it reminded her that she hadn't been able to ask Sarek why he was so willing to let her go. Rising carefully, grateful that her sounds didn't disturb her husband, she glanced idly at the date recorder on the nearby table, and her eyes widened. This was the anniversary of Amanda's death!

So that's it! Sarek doesn't want me around while he... No, I'm being unfair. Sarek probably thought that I'd be better off visiting my friends today while he's paying respect to Amanda's memory. I'm afraid he's right; my basic insecurities would have bothered me if I'd stayed home. Hmm.... The Vulcan observance is for blood-kin only, but there's no law saying that I can't visit Amanda's grave on my own before beaming up to the ship....

She left the house too quietly for even her husband's keen hearing to detect, so he slept on undisturbed. Selecting the least damaged branch from the blue rose tree, Lorna made her own pilgrimage to Amanda's grave.

How pleasantly surprised she'd been when she'd visited Amanda's grave the first time. She'd assumed that Vulcans would allow their bodies to return to the soil after death whenever they could, but their method of burial was unexpectedly lovely. Instead of the rows and rows of tombstones or urns that humans used, Vulcans buried their dead in gardens. Special plants bearing blossoms of almost magical beauty and delicacy marked each resting place. These plants grew nowhere else, and they were regarded with a great devotion as living memorials of the dead that nourished them and to whose bones they gave adornment and shelter.

After spending several minutes in silent meditation, Lorna returned to the house where everyone enjoyed breakfast served out on the terrace to take advantage of the early morning coolness.

Sarek gave no indication that he remembered their discussion of the previous evening. Instead, he bade her to make the most of her day with her friends then returned to their private quarters without a backward look.

After they beamed up to the ship, Jim invited Lorna to come with him to the bridge. He wanted her to see the new viewing screen and some of the other new equipment that had been installed during their last overhaul.

There was more than one surprise waiting for Lorna - two new members of the crew. Lieutenant Arex, a triped, and Lieutenant M'Reas, a felinoid. To her regret, Lorna was informed that Mr. Chekov wouldn't be aboard this trip because he was taking a specialized course at the Academy.

Her expeditions to other worlds with Sarek had taught her to ignore the outer form of intelligent beings, so she paid no attention to Arex' appearance, which some humans found to be somewhat bizarre. Instead, she exchanged pleasantries with him easily, even managing to successfully speak a few words of his native tongue, which brought her an unassuming word of appreciation from him. As always, she marveled at the gentleness of his beautiful eyes and felt anew a pang of envy, wondering what it'd be like to be native to a world that had never experienced armed conflict.

Lieutenant M'Ress, however, presented a definite problem. Though she did know better, Lorna always thought of beautiful, lordly, pedigreed cats whenever she met members of the felinoid races - and she always had to stifle a desire to stroke their ears and scratch them beneath their chins. Of course, that would never do!

Jim must have guessed the thoughts that were going through Lorna's mind as she conversed with M'Ress, who was standing watch at Uhura's console, for he came to her side and touched her arm to capture her attention. "Lorna, I accept the fact that you're married to a Vulcan ambassador and follow his traditions. However, for old time's sake, would you agree to wear a Starship Sciences uniform while you're aboard ship today?"

"I think that is a fine idea, Captain," she said quietly, but her lips curved in a warm smile. "I'll go down and change right now."

"Good! You'll want to visit Bones and explore Sick Bay this morning, right? Okay, I'll meet you in Rec Room 10 at 1200 hours for lunch. We'll play it by ear after that."

***

Doctor McCoy looked up as the door opened, and he grinned when he saw that Lorna was wearing the blue of Starship Sciences.

"Reviving old memories? How does it feel?"

"Itchy. I guess the freedom and lightness of Vulcan garments spoiled me. Len, you've really changed things around in here since I left. What are these interesting little creatures?"

"Gossamer mice...." Len embarked upon a tour of Sick Bay, showing her all the innovations and bringing her up to date on some of the newer discoveries.

Eventually, they wound up at his desk. He gave Lorna his chair and he perched himself on the corner of his desk while she read a report that he'd made regarding one of the many new systems that they'd recently charted.

"Look, you're here in Sick Bay, and I've got some free time," he said after she had finished reading the report. "Why don't you hop up on the diagnostic table and let me give you that physical right now?"

True to what he'd said the day before, he found that she was suffering from a minor vitamin deficiency, common to humans, resulting from her consumption of nothing but Vulcan foods. He gave her a supply of tablets and also provided her with the formula so she could obtain refills.

Then, while he was reading the body functions panel and was making notations on his clipboard, he completely upset her equilibrium:

"How's your love life, Lorna?"

She glared at him. "I don't have to wait at least seven years, if that's what you mean," she snapped.

"I'm not asking to be nosy, I'm asking because I'm your doctor." Len informed her coolly. "The board shows that your nerves are tense and that you're restless - beyond the effects of that deficiency. If you're not getting any relief from your normal sexual tension then that would explain it. Otherwise, I'll have to look deeper for the pathology."

"You're right...." Lorna admitted reluctantly, for she had learned to observe the Vulcan reluctance to discuss higher biology. "Sarek isn't bound by the total Vulcan cycle. He's more nearly human in that respect than I ever dared hope - I don't know if his sterility broke the pattern or if his Esper powers respond to my human needs and nature. "Whatever it is.... Well, Len, I don't get to the point where I'm ready to climb the walls or - or to take a lover, and Sarek has never been driven to the point that he's in danger of entering pon farr."

"Ahuh. But sex isn't enough. Do you get plenty of physical contact?"

"What?" She sat bolt upright on the table, angry and amused.

"I mean, does Sarek hold you? Does he give you the comfort and the support that you need?"

"Are you talking about 'cuddling?' The hugging, kissing, and so forth that couples usually indulge in during courtship?"

"And after marriage, too, if they're smart. A woman - a human woman - needs that closeness and contact, Lorna. From what I saw and heard yesterday, I don't think you're getting it."

"Len," she turned to sit with her feet dangling over the side of the table, "you don't understand. When Vulcans become bonded - when that bonding is finalized by the marriage ceremony, they touch mentally. After that, they don't need that physical contact...."

"You're not a true Vulcan. Do you share that mind-touch with Sarek?"

"I - guess we don't, not in the way that it's meant to be. We - we share thoughts when we're intimate; even then, though, there are things that I keep shielded to keep from worrying him. After all, this is probably my fault, and there's no use bothering him about it."

"Rubbish! Though I'm thinkin' a stronger word. You're right, part of it may be your fault - because you're enough of a telepath that you should've tried to establish some sort of permanent contact. If you can't then why in tarnation don't you tell Sarek that you need non-sexual physical touching? He'd better bend those stiff Vulcan rules of his and learn to give you what you need before it's too late...."

"Stop it, Len! You have no right to insult my husband that way." Lorna snapped. "It really isn't any of your business, but I assure you that Sarek is perfectly capable of comforting and - and 'cuddling' me. He did it all the time when I was suffering with those horrible nightmares. Naturally, I don't expect it now, for we've been married long enough to do without it...."

This time, Len didn't bother to, soft-pedal his opinion.

To say that Lorna was startled was an understatement. She'd had no idea that Len even suspected that the Vulcan language contained words that served the purpose of profanity let alone know how to speak them so fluently.

"I'll say it again if you spout any more of that nonsense!" He thundered. "Now you get down off that high horse of yours and start answering some questions for me, young lady! Have all the cuddling and physical expressions of affection stopped because Sarek has indicated that he wants them stopped? Or have they stopped because you were either afraid that he was violating his Vulcan standards or that such things weren't needed after marriage?"

"I.... I guess I'm to blame, Len. I've been trying so hard to adapt to all the Vulcan ways. After all, I'm married now. Courtship is...."

"Damn it, Lorna! If Sarek didn't want to treat you like a human wife, he'd have made that clear from the start. How could an intelligent, normally healthy young woman get herself into such a muddle? Didn't you just admit that you've wanted Sarek to 'cuddle' you?"

Lorna smiled at the irony of the situation. When she and Sarek had become betrothed, she'd felt gratitude that Sarek would have the ability to hold her and to caress her without immediately wanting sex. It had been one of the blessings of her life with him, too, until she had decided that she was childish and that she should do without such expressions of affection.

Len snorted when she told him this. "'Childish,' my foot! It's perfectly normal. Why didn't you ever ask Sarek what he wanted before you cut out a very vital part of your marriage?"

"Len! I couldn't. It wouldn't be...."

"It 'wouldn't be feminine'? Says who? Sounds, like some of the stuff you had drummed into your head when you were a child. You have rights, the same as Sarek. If you don't have that mental communion, how is he going to know what you need if you don't tell him?" His eyes snapped with blue fire when she started to protest. "Don't you come up with the bit that you can't tell him. That's false pride talking. You needn't fear that you'll 'hurt' him either. Believe me, you've probably been hurting him a lot more by keeping your mouth shut! If you have half a brain in that lovely head of yours, I think you'll agree. Lorna, go to Sarek as soon as you get back home. Tell him everything you've told me. The worst he can do is to say he doesn't understand what you mean. If he does, you'll have the fun of showing him - but, I'm bettin' that he'll surprise you...."

 

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

Spock had just beamed back to the Enterprise after sharing in the ancient ceremony of meditation at Amanda's grave.

Instead of returning to the house to change from his traditional soil-colored garments of mourning, Sarek returned to Amanda's grave. He folded his arms beneath the folds of his flowing, ankle-length, russet-hued cloak and stared sightlessly at the flowers guarding 'Amanda's final resting place.

He recalled the events of his life with the woman who'd given him his son. He thought of her warmth, her gentleness, her courage and determination in an environment that had been so hostile to her and - because of her - to him. However, as much as possible, he'd kept her from knowing that.

As often happened at these times, it seemed as though Amanda was with him, her slender fingers touching his, her gentle eyes glowing with love. He knew that she wasn't really there. However, even after her death, she had seemed to be with him. All he ever had to do was to turn aside and "listen," and he could soon sense the warmth of her love.

Then, as usual, Amanda's presence seemed to fade away, and the image of his second wife rose in his mind - but it was the Lorna of their earlier married days, not the cold, formal precise image that she presented to outsiders - and more and more often of late, to him.

He didn't question the patterns of a life, which had brought two Terran women to share his life and his marriage bed. Both had been different, yet they had been much alike. Both were recipients of his deepest, sincerest love. Even though their essential differences had caused much dissension, it had been worth it - it was still worth it, and he wouldn't have wanted to miss even one of the experiences he'd shared with first Amanda and now with Lorna.... And yet....

"Amanda, if only it were possible for you to tell me what I must, know," he murmured. "You, of all beings, would be able to tell me what is wrong. You would understand. I did not love you less than I love her; it is different. This is her time; I know you would want us to be as happy as you and I were.... But, we are not. What can I do? What should I do?"

His thoughts eventually were disturbed by a feeling of compulsion to go over to the fountain that irrigated this section of the garden. Knowing that his subconscious mind had seen something remiss, Sarek went to examine the fountain carefully.

There was nothing wrong - except one small drooping plant that was trying to grow out of a cracked stone on the lip of the fountain near enough to the overflow that it should have been able to get plenty of moisture. The crack was so choked with rock hard dust and sediment, though, that no water could get to the plant, except for a few drops of condensation. Nor could the plant be uprooted and transported elsewhere; its roots were wound too tightly in the rock.

The plant wasn't quite dead, but it definitely was suffering from the lack of adequate moisture. Its leaves were drooping and the bud swelling at its tip was also leaning toward the ground, the protective covering loose, but not enough to allow the petals to unfurl.

Though it was just a plant, Sarek acknowledged its right to life by reaching down to dig the blocking material out of the crack so the plant would have full access to the water. His sense of order satisfied, he returned to Amanda's grave and resumed his meditations, without ever really seeing the flower....

His thoughts turned to the mission, which had been forced upon him, and he felt an ever-growing sensation of concern welling up within him. Lorna had never really come fully to terms with the losses she'd experienced when she'd been trapped in this era. That three-way mind-meld had shielded her against the worst effects of the initial shock. Later, her efforts to adapt to her new life aboard the Enterprise had kept her from thinking too much about the past. Then, he'd protected her by being with her to guide, instruct, and support her while she was adjusting to Vulcan. Even their missions to other worlds hadn't really enabled her to experience the inevitable culture shock awaiting her, for the civilizations that she'd seen were so exotic and exciting that she'd been too intrigued to even think about her former life. If this crisis had come during the early part of their marriage, Sarek knew that he would have been able to bring Lorna through it. But now? For the first time, he was almost unsure of his ability to help her, to sustain and guide her through the distress that she would experience when they arrived on the 20th Century level planets. The sense of wrongness that was bothering him would be a definite hazard.

***

"You've got quite a bit of time left before you're due to meet Jim, Lorna. Let's go down and visit Scotty. He's been having some problems lately, and I think you might be able to help him."

Lorna welcomed a chance to get away from Sick Bay. Len had been rough on her - no more than she'd deserved, but she needed time to smooth her ruffled nerves.

Len touched the signal, wondering if Scotty would be in Engineering for a change instead of in his office.

"Come in."

When they stepped in, Scotty looked up, saw Lorna then he looked down at his desk, where a heap of new technical journals lay beside a half empty bottle and a brimming glass of Scotch.

"You don't have to rescue your journals," Lorna assured him when he reached out to pick up the publications. "I read those long ago. You'll particularly enjoy the article dealing with the multiple-universe equations. I would have thought that Mira would have wooed you away from those by now." Then, suspecting that Mira was in some way the source of Scotty's "problems": "By the way, where is Mira?"

"She was on Memory Alpha. She had to set up residence there." Scotty's eyes were dull and his voice strangely lifeless.

"Memory Alpha?' What...? Why would she leave the ship...? Oh! Did she go on pregnancy leave, Scotty?"

"Aye." Again, there was no change in his voice.

"How wonderful! I'm happy for you, Scotty. And I'd love to see you trying to figure the mechanics of fastening a diaper...." She could see that he wasn't listening, that he was immersed in some personal misery. Seeking to reach him, to turn his attention outwards so she could then startle him into making some sort of admission of whatever it was that was hurting him, she introduced another topic: "However, that isn't going to keep me from giving you a good scolding."

He sat motionless, looking at her but not really seeing her. Determined to produce some reaction from him, Lorna persisted: "Recently, I was reviewing my records of the special hearing called to decide how to help me to adjust to this era. Scotty, do you remember what you said when you made that recommendation...? I wish you hadn't said that I'd done the greatest possible service for the Federation. You and I both know that Captain Kirk has done greater things. What I did, I did unknowingly. Jim has risked his life for the Federation countless times, and I feel that he deserves every medal that's ever been struck!"

"Ah, well, darlin'," Scotty said dully as he stirred restlessly, obviously wishing that they would go, "you really couldn't of expected a man to be in any state o' thinkin' clearly aboot such things that close to his weddin' day."

By now, Lorna realized that Scotty's depression had something to do with Mira's pregnancy. She thought she knew what it was, and so she worded her reply in a manner that would increase the hurt he was feeling and prompt him to confirm her theory.

"If you have that much trouble keeping your mind on your work when you're happy, I'd better warn Captain Kirk to keep you far away from the engines when the child arrives...."

Scotty became deathly pale, and a swift blur of tears filmed his pain-filled eyes.

"Scotty! What is it?" Lorna demanded as she stepped forward and reached out to lay one hand on his shoulder. "What did I say that was so wrong?"

"Doctor, you tell her!" Scotty demanded harshly. Twisting away from her, he reached blindly across his desk to grasp the glass of Scotch and jerked it to his lips, spilling a healthy amount across his tunic in the process.

Len had been standing leaning against the wall, a silent spectator of the scene before him. Now he straightened and moved up to stand beside Lorna, keeping his eyes on the Chief Engineer as he spoke to Lorna.

"We got word while we were coming to Vulcan.... Mira has just lost the baby. Wait, that's not all." He lifted his hand to silence Lorna's instinctive expression of sympathy. "Evidently those beings did a lot of damage before* they were driven from Mira - radiation damage that didn't register on any of our instruments. Mira wasn't harmed, herself, but her reproductive system was affected. The ova received a bombardment that wasn't lethal but caused permanent gene alterations. The fetus seemed human through the first trimester then it began to develop into something so entirely different that Mira's system was unable to shelter and to nourish it any longer. She was in the fifth month when she miscarried, but the fetus was unable to survive in even the most sophisticated external-womb installation."

------------------------------

*Lights of Zetar. Jeremy Tarcher & Shari Lewis, live Star Trek episode.

------------------------------

"Surely something can be done to reverse the damage?" Lorna demanded.

"The doctors on Memory Alpha have said that it can't. In fact, they recommended sterilization for Mira. She refused it there and is on her way back to the Enterprise. I was informed that she had agreed for me to do the operation, but she won't let anyone else touch her. She's due to arrive tonight at...."

"Me poor bairn!" Scotty moaned, slamming the empty glass onto the desk. He then began to rock back and forth, clasping his arms across his abdomen as he bent over them and abandoned himself to his sorrow, words pouring from his lips in a veritable torrent.

Lorna felt repelled for a moment, thinking that Scotty was being "selfish," that he was mourning for the proof of his masculinity. She changed her mind when the broken phrases continued to fall from his pale lips. He wanted a child, perhaps a son to carry on his name, but mainly because it would have been the fruit of the love, which he and Mira shared. Now, he was feeling Mira's pain as if it were his own and was worrying what this shock had done to her - afraid that he wouldn't be able to give her the support she would need. Afraid that he didn't have the strength to face what lay ahead of them.

"Lorna," Len whispered suddenly. "Help him, honey! Now."

She moved forward and offered her hand. Scotty took it, held it to his lips for a moment then laid his cheek against her knuckles. She opened her mind to accept his sorrow then laid her free hand upon his forehead as she began her unique healing....

***

When they returned to Sick Bay, Lorna was very thoughtful. When they were inside Len's office again, she turned to him:

"Len, are you still studying those pod plants to see if you can counteract the hive-mind effect and take advantage of their curative properties?"

"Yes, the case keeps them from breaking out and prevents the Barthold radiation from harming anyone.... I'm 'way ahead of you, honey! I ordered tests right away. If there's any chance that the spores'll help Mira, I'll tell the good news to Scotty so he can tell her the minute she boards ship."

"For their sakes, I hope the tests are positive." She paused, wondering if she should introduce so personal a topic at this time. However, she might not have another chance. "Len, I need your advice...." Again she paused, still not sure that she should continue.

"What is it, honey?" He said gently as he sat down and motioned her to a seat.

"You've examined Sarek... Is his sterility permanent?"

"I've never had reason to test him for that. What has the Academy told you?"

"Not much. Mainly that Sarek tested sterile after that fever he had and that they'll discuss a child from the gene banks when we agree that the time is right. However, Sarek doesn't seem willing to discuss the subject, and I haven't insisted.... Now, after having experienced Scotty's sorrow, I'm starting to wonder if I've been so 'unselfish' after all. Reproduction is a complicated process for Vulcans and ancestry means much more to them than it does to humans. If we had a history and traditions kept alive from a time dating clear back to our legendary Adam and Eve, perhaps we could understand better...." She paused and twisted her hands restlessly in her lap. "Len...there've been times I've discovered that Sarek has been lying awake at night. He's always said that he was 'thinking about various matters.' Now, I'm afraid that he was really lying there gripped by acute panic because his son is in such a dangerous profession, yet there are no other children to carry on the family line. I thought he had delayed asking me to accept a child from the Academy because he wants me to become fully adapted to Vulcan. That's understandable. If he waits too long, though, I'll reach the age where I can no longer provide completely healthy, fertile ova."

"Considering the difficulties you've been having lately, do you suppose he's decided you aren't mature enough to provide the care such a child would need?" Len demanded bluntly.

"Perhaps - but he's wrong, Len. I want Sarek's child - no matter how it is conceived or born - not because it is 'expected' of me or because social pressure forces married couples to produce children. I want Sarek's child because it will be the completion of our love. We do still love each other, in spite of everything, Len! I've been so afraid.... Do you suppose that Sarek has decided that he doesn't want any more human/Vulcan children?"

"No, honey, no! He's proud of Spock - remember, he admitted as much on your wedding day. I'm sure he has good reasons for waiting."

"I wish I knew what they were. Len, is it possible that Sarek's sterility will eventually reverse itself? I've read that this has often happened in human men who had mumps after they passed puberty."

"The possibility exists," Len agreed, "but it evidently hasn't happened to Sarek yet. Your tests show that you haven't been pregnant and that you aren't now."

"Unfortunately, and there's been more than one chance for it to happen.... Even so.... Len, what about the pod plants? Could they help Sarek?"

"Honey, don't you know? I did think of them before you and Sarek were married. I told him of the spores the evening you were betrothed and offered to treat him with them. I could have used adrenalin adapted to Vulcan biochemistry to drive them out of his system after they'd healed him."

"Why did you decide against it?"

"I didn't. He refused. He said that he couldn't allow me to use such a technique because it would result in the destruction of intelligent life. Since Sarek probably wouldn't drive the spores out deliberately either, he definitely had me stalemated. So far, I haven't figured any way to overcome his reverence for life in order to use the spores to reverse his sterility."

"Maybe I can talk him into getting another test to see if he is still sterile. If it registers 'negative fertility,' perhaps I can talk him into choosing the spores as the lesser of two evils."

"I doubt if you can do either, but I certainly won't stand in your way if you are willing to try." McCoy said with a broad grin.

***

Late afternoon, and Sarek had come no closer to a solution to the problem of his marriage. In fact, he felt that he'd lost the serenity that meditation by the grave of a loved one was designed to create. Therefore, he decided that he had better leave before matters became worse. It was then that he felt a compulsion to return to the fountain.

The plant had been in what had amounted to suspended animation. The sudden abundance of life-giving water had stimulated it into immediate response. Not only had it revived, its petals had unfurled slightly.

Sarek looked down at the plant then he lifted his head and widened his eyes in response to a sudden thought:

The flower had been part of the fountain, yet it had been dying for want of water because there had been no communication. Wasn't his marriage in similar straits? How could a marriage survive if it didn't have the refreshment of caring and communication - what Lorna would call the warmth of love - to nourish it? He'd fallen in love with Lorna and had won her as wife because he had needed her - as companion and lover as well as helpmeet. Yet, he'd become too confident of her love for him, to the point that he'd fallen into the all too familiar trap of assuming that their love could survive without being recharged. Worse, he'd allowed himself to become selfish, inconsiderate, and thoughtless. He had even violated the Philosophy of Nome in a minor degree, for he'd ignored Lorna's individual differences. Instead, he'd accepted her efforts to lay these differences aside and to assume characteristics and traits that were exactly like his own!

His error had been an honest one, though. He'd assumed that Lorna's mind was incapable, even with her unique mental talents, of maintaining the deepest linkage that he'd experienced with her when T'Pau had locked their minds at their wedding - the "never-touching-and-always-touching" that is such a vital part of a Vulcan marriage. But now, remembering snatches of various nuances and thoughts that he'd encountered during their intimate moments, he wondered if he were wrong. Perhaps it was possible that Lorna could learn to achieve this deep linking. He'd known that her commitment wasn't as complete as he'd anticipated when they had become bonded during their betrothal, but he hadn't sought to achieve the deeper level of contact. This reticence had been due in part to his natural reluctance to invade another's mind, and in part because he'd considered this a sign of her psychological immaturity which only time could banish as she acquired learning and experience in the Vulcan way. That was also why he'd continued to put aside her suggestions that they should consult the Science Academy about a child.

Now, he understood why he had picked up occasional sensations of frustration from her. It had not been directed toward him but toward herself because of her failure to succeed in accepting and assimilating some of the most important characteristics of his world and culture. Yet, there was no doubt that the fault was his. A swift review of all the facts made it very clear; the capability of gaining that deepest contact was within her range of talents. He had never taught her how to maintain it.

"Indeed, it is as Doctor McCoy once told me - there is such a thing as being 'too Vulcan,' if one's mate has come from another world," he murmured softly. "I became too immersed in routine to keep sight of that which should have been foremost in my thoughts. Yet, I am not the only one who must accept responsibility for this situation.... Lorna could have told me.... No, perhaps she does not know.... Or, if she does, know, she would assume it to be her fault and would not wish to cause me hurt by telling me so. We have drifted far from our original ideals.... No matter. The error has been discovered; it shall be corrected."

Though he was calm outwardly, Sarek felt an inner embarrassment. He'd become so sure of Lorna that he'd allowed a sense of boredom to creep into their relationship; such carelessness ought to be punished. It was fortunate that he'd discovered his error in time.

Still musing over his disconcerting discoveries, he turned away. In all this time, he'd never really seen the plant, had never noticed that he'd been inhaling its scent during a long period of time. He'd been too preoccupied to observe that the flower, though small, had been yellow, its petals marked with a delicate pattern of white, the ruffled edges of those petals outlined with phosphorescent purple*

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*"Spock's Nemesis", T-NEGATIVE 16 & 17, KRAITH COLLECTED #3, J. Lichtenberg.

------------------------------

He never realized that the plant he had saved had been a Bloom - one of those plants whose scent in some way affected the chemical/physical state, which developed into pon farr. It had been such a tiny plant, though, that the amount of scent that he'd inhaled hadn't been enough to rouse the blood-fever. Instead, it merely increased his already considerable traits of sensitivity and insight, enabling him to determine and desire the perfect way of regaining the most priceless treasure he possessed - his wife.

In spite of the sorrowful moments she'd shared with Scotty and the resulting conversation in Sick Bay, Lorna had thoroughly enjoyed her visit aboard the Enterprise. Len had gone all-out to make her forget that there were any such things as problems by taking her down to join Captain Kirk for lunch. All three of them had had an enjoyable time. Jim had even managed to talk Lorna into forgetting her Vulcan diet long enough to sample some new foodstuffs that they'd incorporated into the synthesizer during their most recent overhaul.

Also, Jim had been so attentive and so engaging as he gave his version of some of their more recent experiences - especially with Cyrano Jones and his "safe" tribbles - that she'd remembered how to laugh, which helped her to regain her sense of perspective.

Time always has a way of slipping by too fast, however, so she found that she wouldn't have time to change clothes before beaming down to Vulcan. Not unless she was willing to wait until the ship had made another circuit of the planet, that is.

But she'd been gone long enough already. After all, they would be leaving the next day, and she had to make a last minute check to be sure that everything really was ready for their departure. Also, though she didn't say it aloud, she hoped she'd have a chance to talk with Sarek before they got aboard ship.

She beamed down without further delay. Once on Vulcan, though, she paused for a moment to look up into the sky, her eyes glowing, with fond memories of the past few hours. She turned toward the house and then gasped, startled.

Sarek, still wearing his mourning garments, had been standing behind her. Before she could say anything, he extended his fingers to her. When she joined her fingers to his, she noticed that there seemed to be a subtle difference in his manner, almost an eagerness to convey some discovery to her. Probably he'd found out something of vast importance concerning their mission. If so, he'd tell her in his own good time....

"You went to Amanda's grave before beaming up to the Enterprise," he said almost casually.

"How did you know?" Lorna had to ask for, even though they were touching, she felt no mental contact.

"I saw the roses that you left."

"Do you mind that I go there to commune with her?"

"No. I told you once that you and she would have gotten along very well. I see that you are wearing a starship uniform."

"Yes, they asked me to.... Time got away from me.... I'll go change...."

"I would prefer that you do not. There is something in the garden that requires your immediate attention. Will you come with me?"

"But...but, I must prepare...."

"T'Rueth will do it," he said firmly. "You have trained her so well that she will have every task completed, everything prepared for our departure - even without your supervision."

After receiving such a compliment, Lorna couldn't refuse his request.

The suns had set while they'd been talking. As was common with a planet that has no moon, darkness had descended immediately. Lorna could hardly see the ground beneath her feet while her eyes adjusted to the frosty light of the stars arching overhead. Sarek, naturally, could see almost as well as a cat, so he took her hand to guide her. His fingers clasped hers with a warmth that she could have almost believed was a caress - she wished that it really were.

"Here we are. I discovered this when I returned ten point eight minutes ago. You have returned just in time."

"Here" was the area of the garden housing the Talamane that had been growing in these grounds for years.

"Why, it's almost ready to bloom!" Lorna exclaimed. "How wonderful. I was afraid that it wouldn't happen until after we'd left."

"Sit here and be comfortable while we wait." He led her toward a rock that was still pleasantly warm from the heat of the day.

Lorna sat down, her memories drifting back to the first time when she'd waited to hear the chimes with Sarek.

Apparently they were on the same wavelength, for Sarek suddenly reached down and unerringly removed the clips that fastened her hair, spreading it out until it fell over her shoulders.

"Now you look more like the young woman who sat in the Herbarium with me, waiting to hear the Talamane."

"Not quite," Lorna replied, made somewhat daring by her day among humans. "Her hair was quite damp, mine is perfectly dry. After all, I've learned never to turn my back upon the desiw."

"True. Even so, this is much like that other evening. I find the memory most pleasant. Often, I recall the wonder in your eyes when you heard the chimes for the first time. That expression does not appear so often now."

"I've started to grow up, Sarek."

"Do not ever 'grow up' to the extent that you lose your unique point of view. Or have you already done so? Sometimes I have wondered where the Lorna Mitchell who shared the beauty of the Talamane with me has gone."

"She is still here - if you want her, Sarek," Lorna said softly.

"That information is most welcome to me," he replied with equal softness.

Thanks to the fact that the air had become quite chilly, Lorna completely missed her cue, for she'd started to shiver.

"I'd better go in and get a wrap."

"No," Sarek bent swiftly and lifted her to her feet. "I shall provide warmth for you." He enfolded her in a wing of his cloak and held her close.

Lorna was too startled to speak, but it didn't take her long to regain her composure: "Sarek, I...."

A melodic chime broke out before she could finish what she was saying. She stopped speaking at once - lost in the wonder of the beauty that is the blooming of the Talamane. Also, she felt a sense of apprehension. She'd learned that when Amanda and Sarek had listened to the chimes shortly before their marriage he had detected a slight flaw in the sound - which, according to tradition, had indicated that the marriage would end in tragedy... Perhaps that tradition was based on fact, for their marriage had been ended abruptly when Amanda had succumbed to fever. Now, this new marriage had experienced difficulties; would he hear another flaw?

The chimes became louder, filling the air around them with their penetrating sweetness. This time, however, Lorna didn't cry, nor did she hide her eyes. Instead, she stood entranced by the display while her memories took her back to the first time. She felt a bittersweet yearning for the same closeness that she'd known with Sarek relatively soon afterwards and wished that she could regain it....

Sarek's arms tightened about her, turning her to face him. He bent nearer.

The music rose to an ecstatic pitch, and as it did - unlike the first time - Sarek kissed her. She cooperated fully, making the moment last as long as possible, hoping that he would kiss her again, for it had been so long....

"I beg forgiveness," he whispered.

Stung, she drew back. "Surely it is reasonable for a husband to kiss his wife at a time like this."

"Lorna, I do not apologize for kissing you - never for that. I do beg forgiveness for neglecting you, however for allowing my work to completely crowd you out of my life."

"You haven't.... I mean, I work with you...."

"No, my wife. You work near me, but I have not allowed you to be 'with' me - ever, in the true sense of the word. Why did you never ask me why our bonding was so incomplete?"

Lorna didn't know how to answer him - afraid to hope....

"Our minds were locked briefly when we were wed, but you have never experienced the true 'touch that does not touch yet will always touch.' You should have told me this, Lorna." He scolded her gently.

"I thought it was, a natural result of my human nature."

"No, a natural result of my failure to understand - to realize.... I desire this complete union with you. If you desire it as well, will you allow me to bring it to pass - now?"

"Need you ask?" she said softly. "Since we were wed, I have never denied my mind to you, Sarek."

His hands cupped her face in the mind-touching/mind-reading pattern that he'd learned worked best with her, and he began to speak ancient words....

Lorna soon realized that there was still a tiny core in her inmost being that she'd kept closed against Sarek without being aware of it. She couldn't understand why. Even now, however, she felt herself resisting his gentle mental persuasion - much as she had the mind-melding which had briefly linked the two them on the Observation Deck when he'd finally convinced her that he loved her.

For a frustrating interval, she feared that it was hopeless, that nothing would succeed in breaking this final barrier between them. Then, just when the tension became almost more than she could stand, she felt the very essence of her spirit rush forth to meet and to mingle with his in a oneness so complete that she knew she'd never understood the meaning of the word until now.

When Sarek's hands finally moved away from her head, that link did not part for, at long last, they were truly bonded, attuned to one another's emotions and responses on a subliminal level.

Lorna was deeply moved by this experience, one that was beyond tears, beyond words, but there was no need to say anything. Sarek knew her feelings as well as she knew his.

During their bonding, however, he had touched upon her thoughts of the pod plants, and it was evident that he was not amenable to that solution. He still couldn't understand why it was so important to her to give him a child - a natural child - when he was willing to accept a child with the aid of the Academy as soon as they returned from this mission.

His arms tightened, and he kissed her again, changing the touch of his lips to bring that sensation of pleasure that he knew so well how to create for her.

She soon felt desire rising within her and started to control it from force of habit. He sensed her desire, however, and gave her no chance to dampen those flames. At last, gasping for breath, she succeeded in pulling back and away from him slightly.

He was also breathing quickly, and his eyes gleamed brightly in the starlight. She could feel the heat of his body through the cloak enfolding her, and her breath caught in her throat at a sudden, daring thought as his arms tightened.

"No, not pon farr," he whispered against her lips. "But we have been wasting a lot of time. Tonight is our true wedding night, my wife."

So saying, he lifted her in his arms, carried her into the house, and up the stairs.

***

It was a very happy and thoroughly bemused Lorna who beamed up to the Enterprise with her gratifyingly attentive husband the next day.

The entire trip to Turon-Lura was the honeymoon that they'd never really had, and the crew wondered why they never saw much of the couple. Neither Len nor Jim tried to find out what had brought about this sudden reconciliation between Sarek and Lorna. However, both were delighted that it had happened, and they did everything possible to ensure privacy for the couple. Inwardly, each thanked Whoever it was that they conceded ran things on the universal scale that the reconciliation had taken place before this exhausting, vital mission for the Federation began...

 

 

CHAPTER SIX

The journey to Turon-Lura had been completely uneventful, so there was no reason for Lorna's feeling of apprehension when they prepared to depart. She also felt a pang of guilt when she stepped up onto the transporter platform, for it was only then that she remembered that she'd never made good her promise to ask Mr. Sulu to recite Haiku for Sarek.

Sensing Lorna's apprehension, Sarek stayed very 'close' to her, ready to support her and to aid her in anyway that he could when she began to experience the inevitable culture shock.

***

The landing party materialized in a courtyard outside an ornate building - apparently the center of government, though it looked nothing like the White House or the other governmental buildings Lorna remembered from her own former era.

She studied the towering buildings and the congested streets, so like and yet so unlike the city in which she'd lived and worked during her earlier life.

Her eyes watered and stung in response to the chemicals suspended in the air - as did Sarek's and those of all the landing party - and her nostrils quivered beneath the onslaught of the various scents being carried to them.

Her eyes grew wide, became wider, and she began to tremble visibly. Immediately, Sarek's fingers reached out to her; she joined hers to them, drawing upon the strength that he offered unreservedly.

"My - God!" she said finally. "I'd forgotten how noisy this era was. And - why didn't I ever notice the odors? Oh, Sarek! How was I able to endure it as long as I did?"

"You had no choice until you entered a new era, my wife," he whispered softly, pleased that she was enduring this challenge much better than he'd hoped. The Final Bonding had given her the strength necessary to face and to conquer her inner devils.

A party of natives, the men wearing clothing somewhat similar to the famous "grey flannel suit" of 20th Century businessmen and the women wearing tailored suits or dresses, advanced to greet the landing party.

"You are the Ambassador from Vulcan, sent by the Federation?" asked one of the men, addressing Sarek because he was so clearly the most distinguished member of the party.

"I am," Sarek replied, lifting his hand in the Vulcan salute even as the other reached to shake hands.

The native frowned. Immediately, Lorna realized that these people considered clasping hands a sign of peace. Apparently Sarek had not realized this in time.

"May I intrude?" she said quietly as she stepped forward before Sarek could drop his hand and then steel himself to take part in a handshake. "Sir, perhaps you weren't informed that Vulcans are a semi-telepathic race. They experience discomfort whenever they clasp hands with other beings and prefer rather to show their good will with the salute which you have just received."

"Oh, yes, certainly, certainly! I was told something of the sort when we were informed that a Vulcan was coming to help settle this difficult problem. Allow me to introduce myself, Ambassador. I am Darnoc, Voranna of Turon. This is Neslo, Manera of Lura. We greet you in peace and welcome you to our coalition of sister planets."

"I, Sarek of Vulcan, greet you in peace in the name of the Federation." He held out his fingers, and Lorna turned to join hers to them. "Allow me to present she-who-is-my-wife."

"You are twice welcome," Darnoc replied as he nodded his head then he turned toward the others. "And, these...?"

"James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise. This is my First Officer, Mr. Spock; my Chief Surgeon, Leonard McCoy; and this is Chief Nurse, Christine Chapel."

"We greet you all in peace. Please, come with us."

Darnoc led them into a great hall where a huge throng of people awaited them - a group of Klingons among them.

Kirk halted, wary, suspicious. Had they walked into a trap?

After a moment of uneasy silence, a tall Klingon detached himself from the group and approached the Federation party.

"Ho, Kirk. Now who is acting like a 'tin soldier?' Were you not the one who was always speaking of peace and trust for your fellow being?"

"What...? Kang? What are you doing here?" Kirk was surprised, yet grateful. Of all Klingons, Kang was the one that he might possibly endure since that unfortunate encounter with Koloth and Korax, who had abandoned him in 1953 - "hopelessly insane" according to the dictates of that era. (See MIND-SIFTER)

"Aye. It has been a long time since you and I joined in battle against the Being that tried to trap us in eternal war, eh, Kirk? Now, here we are - preparing to engage in another battle."*

------------------------------

*"Day of the Dove," by Jerome Bixby. Live STAR TREK episode.

------------------------------

"Meaning...?" Kirk demanded, his eyes narrowing as he unconsciously assumed a fighting stance.

"Gently, Kirk, gently. We will not be waging this battle with weapons, but with words." Kang stepped back and bowed mockingly. "Allow me to present myself as the Ambassador for the Klingon Empire."

"You...?" Kirk's voice had come out in an almost falsetto squeak, and he had to try again. "You are the Klingon Ambassador? How...? In the name of...."

"And why not? Did I not spend time as a guest on your ship, learning to understand humans a little better? Your Vulcan First Officer there would say that I am the 'logical choice'."

"Undoubtedly, but.... It's going to take me a little time to get used to the idea of a Klingon Ambassador."

Kang stepped closer and lowered his voice to a confidential whisper, either not knowing or not caring that the Vulcans in the party could hear every word:

"Aye, no more than I, Kirk. However, these worlds are so ready to come out into the stellar empires and are so well armed...a war would be more expensive than victory would be worth. Besides, they are stubborn enough to win, unless their system was destroyed - and there is too much dilithium here to risk that. We are willing to try the peaceful way of getting what we want - this time."

"I'm confident that Ambassador Sarek will enable us to draft an agreement satisfactory to all parties concerned," Kirk whispered in return then, speaking aloud: "I must confirm the delivery schedule for my passengers' luggage. Coming, Mr. Spock?"

***

Sarek and Lorna had gone through the formal reception line of planetary dignitaries then had been escorted to their quarters so they could change clothing for the inevitable banquet that would begin shortly.

Though they really didn't have much time to spare, Lorna went out onto the balcony after she'd changed clothes. Soon, she heard the sound of a footstep and then Sarek's arm came around her waist as he laid his cheek against hers. She smiled and lifted her hand to meet his fingers as she leaned back against his shoulder.

"Dreaming, Lorna?" he asked gently. "Remembering."

"Is this, she felt him incline his head slightly toward the panorama below them, "like the world you once knew?"

"Yes - and no. These worlds are living and working together in peace. Not even the people of my own nation could get along, let alone the different nations. The cities of my former time were plagued with pollution, much as this one is, but we weren't working as hard as these people to try to solve the problem."

"We will have to arrange for a tour of their factories. I wish to see how they have developed the filtering systems common to interstellar civilizations. These should be particularly interesting."

"I agree. I'd also enjoy taking a tour of this whole building, too. We had nothing like it on Old Earth."

"No? What of your 'United Nations'?"

"It was merely a hint of what has been provided here. I like the way that the Federation representatives are quartered at one end of the building and the Klingons are at the other - with the Conference Chamber in between."

"Why do you approve the segregation, Lorna?"

"I - have my reasons, Sarek," she said reluctantly, hoping that he wouldn't ask her what they were.

His arm tightened around her then he brought his other hand up to cup her chin as he gently but firmly turned her face toward him.

"Your apprehension has increased appreciably since we entered this building, Lorna," he said quietly. "I anticipated that you would experience tension when you first set foot on this world so much like the one you once knew. However, I am confident that the disturbance, which I detect now, was created by the presence of the Klingon Ambassador and his party. Is that not so?"

"Y-yes...." Lorna faltered, wishing that he would question her no further.

He did let go of her chin, but then he reached out to catch hold of both her shoulders, turning her completely around. "Lorna, I can sense fully all the turmoil of your thoughts. If you allow this turmoil to continue unresolved, you will be unable to help me in my work."

"I know. I'll try to get it under control," she promised him - meeting his intent gaze steadily. "But it may take a little time."

"Then you do know what has caused your tension?"

"Yes." Her gaze wavered slightly.

"So do I," he informed her calmly, but the corners of his mouth were twitching slightly as though he were tempted to smile as one might smile at a child. "You cannot believe that Klingons would agree to seek a peaceful solution to this problem. You do not trust this one who has named himself as Ambassador?"

She nodded slowly.

"It is a most unique innovation for them. However, you heard Kang explain why their Empire was willing to try peaceful means?"

"But...." She bit her lip and became silent.

"...but, you do not trust him." Sarek insisted.

"Klingons are known for their treachery, Sarek. Why, should this Kang be any different?"

"Unreasonable. Kang must be given the chance to prove himself. Surely you realize that."

"I'm not so sure, Sarek," she replied.

"Yes, you are, Lorna," he reproved her gently. "But, you are handicapped by an instinctive hostility toward all Klingons because three of them attacked me on Aries XI."

She felt an overwhelming misery because she couldn't react logically in spite of all that her Vulcan husband had taught her. "I'm sorry, Sarek. I know I'm being unreasonable."

His hand came under her chin once more, but she felt a vast relief the moment she saw the slight smile upon his lips, which indicated that he understood and was not hurt by her emotional reaction.

"Because my pain is your pain, Lorna?" He said gently. "That is one of the qualities I cherish most in you. However, the events of Aries XI are in the past - they must not unduly influence the present. The Klingons here were not involved in that affair. They must be judged on their own merits."

"I know, and I promise you that I'll try to control my emotions, my husband."

"You must," he said as he drew her forward until she could rest her head against his chest. "However, the grounds surrounding this building are open to all. I am confident that you will have many opportunities to get to know these Klingons better, other than across the Conference table."

"I suppose so," she replied as she snuggled closer to him, "but I hope you won't mind if I say that I'm glad we won't be with them every waking minute. I'll be able to endure it as long as I can recharge my inner resources by getting away to be with you for a while each day."

"Yes, my wife. It will do me much good, also." Since they were alone, he bent down to kiss her quickly then pushed her gently toward the door of the balcony. "Come, we must join, the others soon, and you have not finished arranging your hair."

"It won't take long.... Sarek, I've been wondering if I shouldn't have chosen some other garment. Perhaps something more Earth-style?"

She lifted one arm to study the effect of the delicate golden embroidery on the edges of the flowing sleeves of the dark blue Vulcan garment that she was wearing.

"You prefer Vulcan garments. Though you are from Earth, you have a right, as my wife, to be clad as a Vulcan whenever and wherever you choose." He took her hand and turned her around, studying the effect of her clothing. "You have chosen the garment which pleases me most among those which you have brought with you. How could I find fault with your selection?"

***

Lorna shifted restlessly in her very comfortable chair and sternly quelled a desire to yawn. Why did humans always decide that lengthy speeches must be the only possible form of entertainment at these affairs? What purpose did it serve to repeat yet again everything that Sarek knew before he left Vulcan? These speakers had presented no new facts or additional information. The one redeeming factor was that the "entertainment" was presented before the banquet. Otherwise, she would never have been able to combat the extreme desire for sleep that she would have felt while listening to a speaker droning on, and on, and on, and on after the meal....

Sarek turned to look directly at her, one eyebrow raised, and the corners of his mouth moving upwards just a trifle - a sign he now used in public to inform her that he not only knew the direction of her thoughts but also agreed with them.

She inclined her head a fraction of an inch, her eyes gleaming with amusement then she turned her attention back to the speaker, comforting herself with the thought that this ordeal would end - eventually.

Finally, the audience left the hall to enter a tastefully decorated hall where several tables laden with a buffet style meal awaited them. Native, Vulcan, Klingonese, and Terran foods were provided in abundance, indicating the careful planning which had gone into this endeavor.

Lorna and Sarek became occupied in conversation with the two rulers and their wives - all eight members of the party too interested in what they were saying to think of food.

Christine Chapel had been a silent observer of most of these events. McCoy had ordered her to beam down, saying that the Captain had thought Lorna would prefer having one of her feminine Terran friends close at hand during her first hours on this 20th Century level world.

However, Lorna hadn't spent a moment with Christine, alone. Sarek seemed to be giving his wife all the support and encouragement that she needed...which was fine, but it left Christine feeling like the proverbial fifth wheel.

Spock, as usual, was ignoring her - no, not ignoring her, exactly. Whenever they happened to be near one another, he acknowledged her presence as he would that of any member of the crew, but he didn't single her out as he'd done the day that Lorna and his father had been married. Spock had told her that asking her to spend the day with him had been an observance for that day only. She had tried to accept this and thought she'd been doing pretty well, until now. It was rather exasperating to be so clearly the extra party, though.

She walked over to one of the tables and looked at the sparkling dishes with token interest. Though she really wasn't hungry; perhaps she'd better taste something, just to be polite. At the far edge of the table, she spied a dish heaped high with her favorite food - Terran Red Delicious apples. How had the natives gotten these? They looked so inviting that she couldn't resist and reached out for one. She tried to take one from the top of the pile, but several others became dislodged and fell, some even rolling to the floor. Uttering an exclamation of annoyance, she kneeled and picked them up, fearing that someone might step on one without seeing it and trip before a servant had time to see it.

A black, highly polished boot entered her field of vision, and she glanced up...to find that Lucifer Himself was confronting her.

No, not Lucifer after all; it was just a Klingon. He stood quietly, watching as she rose. She gritted her teeth, annoyed because it was awkward trying to stand up with both hands full of apples while the hem of her full dress uniform kept catching under her feet. But he didn't extend a hand to help her. To be charitable, however, she reminded herself of the fact that Klingons had only recently learned to treat their women more like equals. They certainly didn't pamper them by opening doors or employing other such courtesies.

When she'd finally succeeded in rising and had disposed of the apples, he lifted one hand in a formal salute: "Salutations, Nurse Chapel."

"Good evening..." she looked at the badge of rank on his shoulder, "Lokarne."

"You do not remember me?"

"Should I?"

"Perhaps not. I was in your Sick Bay only long enough for you to bind my wound after a sword battle with one of your Security Guards. I am Karm - what you would call Kang's Chief Engineer."

"Oh, yes, now I remember. You were wounded in the shoulder, but not seriously."

Yes, Christine certainly remembered this Klingon now - blustering and muttering threats as had all of them until they'd realized that the humans hadn't destroyed their ship. Come to think of it, though, Karm had been somewhat different - more willing to give the humans the benefit of the doubt after the Entity had gone. She studied him intently, wondering why she'd thought of Lucifer when she'd first seen him. Even for a Klingon, he was quite handsome. Was it the diabolical angle of his eyebrows, which had brought such an image to her mind? Or, was it the assurance and the actual physical magnetism which seemed to radiate from him - an assurance peculiar to Karm's people for - as she'd learned when these Klingons had been aboard the Enterprise before, this Karm was a K'hunsha, native of a planet of Klingons who followed the custom of burning the hair off the lower part of male infants faces as had the ancient Huns on Terra.... Oh, of course! Karm was...as "handsome as the devil"....

"You are alone?" he demanded abruptly. When she remained silent, wondering why he had the effrontery to ask, he frowned. "If you wish me to go, say so!" he continued harshly. "But Kang has issued orders that we much try to 'get along' with you humans much as we did while we were living aboard your Enterprise.* I have learned that eating together is one way of learning to 'get along,' and I know of a comfortable seat in this room where you may enjoy your food without fear of spilling everything into your lap."

------------------------------

*"More Than One Way," this publication.

------------------------------

Christine felt the normal human antagonism toward Klingons, so she started to turn away without answering.

A moment later, she turned back and looked at him for a long moment. All right, he was Klingon, but they were here to try to draft an agreement; rejecting his attempt to be polite in his own way would be neither courteous nor wise.

It was then that she noticed that Spock was looking their way, and a perverse imp took possession of her. All right, if Spock wouldn't pay any attention to her then she'd let him see that someone else could. It would do Spock good to wonder what qualities she possessed that apparently appealed to whatever "better nature" this Klingon had.

"Thank you, Lokarne," she said finally. "I would appreciate the chance to sit down."

They filled their plates then Karm led her to a low divan at a far corner of the room, just far enough in the shadows that it hadn't been noticed by any of the others, yet enough out in the open that they weren't secluded. There was a low table in front of the divan, the perfect height for eating in comfort.

Contrary to her apprehensions, Karm turned out to be something of a conversationalist. He didn't try to pry any military or medical secrets from her, nor did he boast of conquests that they had made since they'd left the Enterprise. Instead, he'd asked her what she thought of this dual-world culture and then went on to ask her how it resembled her own world of the same period of development.

Wishing to be courteous, she responded as much as she could without actually giving him any information that he might turn to his own use later, and she was astounded to discover that she was actually enjoying herself.

This was the first time that she'd ever conversed with a Klingon on a friendly basis. She hadn't believed it could be possible, in spite of previous events aboard the Enterprise ("More Than One Way"). Now, here she was, talking to Karm like he was an old friend, and enjoying every minute of it.

He must have been enjoying himself, too, for he didn't try to leave her and join his fellow Klingons. Instead, after surveying the room and observing how everyone else conducted themselves, perhaps, he'd probably decided it'd be wise to mimic human courtesy. When she discovered that she'd drunk the last of her coffee, he volunteered to get her some more.

McCoy drifted past while he was gone.

"Enjoying yourself, Christine?"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Never thought I'd see the day when we would be friendly with Klingons again after what Koloth did to Captain Kirk, but I guess Kang and his crew are exceptions. How are you getting along with Karm?"

"Very well - I think. He isn't as overbearing and as annoying as most of the Klingons I've met before."

"Maybe, but don't get to trusting him too much, until we know more about him. After all, Kang wants that dilithium as much as we do...."

Spotting Karm making his way back, McCoy drifted off, leaving Christine to wonder if perhaps she might have made a mistake in encouraging this Klingon by sitting with him. Oh well, the Enterprise would be leaving tomorrow, so there wasn't any use to worry. She'd probably never see Karm again.

Mr. Spock was watching them from across the room, and she was sure that one eyebrow was lifted in a gesture that was the nearest thing he ever allowed himself to use to express annoyance. If it bothered him to see her enjoying herself with a Klingon, so much the better! She turned back to Karm, smiling brilliantly and resolving to make herself as interesting a companion as possible for the remainder of the evening.

***

Remembering that Christine had been trailing along at the edge of her group, Lorna turned to see what had become of her, and was startled to see the Chief Nurse sharing a seat with a Klingon and chatting as though they were the best of friends. She blinked with surprise, for Christine had often spoken bitterly against Klingons.

But, isn't that what the philosophy behind the Idic is all about - that individuals of diverse races and creeds should learn to cooperate in spite of their many differences? If Christine can get along with Klingons then I'll have to learn to do so, as well....

"My wife, attend me," Sarek's voice interrupted her reverie, and she turned, to find that he was standing beside the Klingon who had introduced himself as Sarek's adversary.

"This is Kang, appointed as Ambassador for the Klingon Empire," her husband said when she approached them. "Kang, this is she-who-is-my-wife."

Kang saluted her almost carelessly, studying her intently, noting her Vulcan style of dress, definitely visually tracing the outline of her very human ears.

"Your wife, eh?" he said bluntly then, turning to Lorna. "Are you Vulcan, or are you human?"

For a moment, Lorna felt a swift impulse to anger, but she quelled it as swiftly

"I am both - and neither," she said, quietly.

"I know of no hybrid races joining with Vulcan or with the Federation who look like you."

Lorna turned to Sarek, unsure as to how to word her reply. According to the Vulcan point of view, Kang was prying into personal matters. According to his own, he was merely trying to determine where she fit into the scheme of things. If she told him who she really was, however, would she be revealing information that Sarek wished to withhold from the Klingons? Was this situation one which would justify sending her thoughts winging directly to his?

Sensing her uncertainty, Sarek stepped forward.

"My wife speaks the truth, Kang. Allow me to explain: She came from Earth's past, and only a melding with two Vulcan minds enabled her to survive the shock of knowing that she was trapped in this era."

"Your wife is the woman from the past of whom I have heard so much?" Kang turned to Lorna and gave her a very formal salute. "Lady, if even a fraction of what I have heard is true, you are a woman of much courage. I shall look forward to our debates."

Lorna nodded in acceptance of his homage, too surprised to say anything before he turned and walked away. She was surprised to discover that the Klingon network carried such domestic information. She was also intrigued to find that this Kang was not exactly what she'd imagined the average Klingon to be. He was blustering and boastful - they all were. Yet, Kang also gave indication of possessing a high degree of intelligence - perhaps even sensitivity. At least, she'd sensed those things while she'd been standing near him. Not that she'd been trying to read his mind - she'd learned how not to do that long ago. However, she had picked up radiations of something from him....

He'd been uneasy in the presence of his traditional enemies, naturally, but he was also unusually inclined to desire a less expensive way of settling their differences, one that could enable his Empire to enrich itself without the loss of more of his men and equipment.

Perhaps it would be easier to get along with these particular Klingons than she'd first expected. She felt somewhat more reassured as she accompanied her husband to one of the tables - amused to see that Kirk had beat them to it.

***

James T. Kirk had endured his hunger long enough... When Lorna and Sarek had become engrossed in that conversation with the rulers, he'd started to cast longing glances at the nearest table. When Sarek introduced Kang to Lorna, Jim gave up and headed for the food.

Quickly filling his plate, and hoping that Bones wouldn't catch him and remind him of his diet, he picked up his cup of coffee and turned to hunt for a place to sit down.

Immediately he was jostled from behind, but a firm hand closed over the side of his cup to keep it from tilting while he recovered his balance. Fortunately, the cup hadn't been full enough to slop over the edge.

"Careful, Kirk. I have felt how this 'coffee' of yours can burn one's skin, and I have no desire to repeat the experience," Kang warned as he released the cup.

"Sorry, but it wasn't entirely my fault," Kirk replied, grateful for the gaps in his memory which enabled him to greet this Klingon with some semblance of courtesy, and mean it. Then he looked beyond Kang and frowned.

"You are looking for someone?" Kang demanded with suspicion.

"As a matter of fact, yes - your wife. I didn't see her earlier...."

"The assistance of her quick mind and keen eyes would be welcome here, but she decided to remain on Shabas." Kang's tone was almost too casual. "It is traditional in my family for the first child to be born on its father's native world."

"Well - I'll be...!" Kirk laughed. "Kang, somehow, I never thought of you in the role of a proud papa. When's it due?"

"Not for about four of your months. Perhaps we will finish here in time that I can return home before the birth."

"For your sake, as well as for ours, I hope so," Kirk replied.

McCoy, who had spied Jim's well-filled plate had just catfooted over to call his attention to the prescribed diet, so he'd also heard the news.

"Kang, I'm as surprised as Jim, but let me offer my congratulations in advance, too."

The Klingon accepted the good wishes in the spirit with which they were offered. After all, fatherhood was a universal experience and created a somewhat similar pattern of euphoria in every race. On such an occasion as this, even a Klingon could forgive his enemies - for a while.

Lorna had heard Kang's announcement - as had everyone else in the immediate area, and she couldn't stifle a swift longing. Everyone seemed to be having children except her. More and more she sensed that her marriage would be complete only if she gave Sarek a natural child. It wasn't fair! The spores could help him; why couldn't he forget his confounded rules and traditions long enough to seek their help? Thus, caught in the grip of a naturally human envy, Lorna allowed the seed of a drastic idea to be sewn in her mind....

Even though Sarek wouldn't deliberately introduce the spores from the pod plants into his system, there wasn't any rule saying she couldn't do it - if she ever found any opportunity to do so. Reverence for living things or no reverence, surely the continuation of his family through a natural son or daughter would cancel the death of the spores.

Though the trip here had been a delayed honeymoon, Lorna had found time to study everything she could find about the problems involved in the gestation of a Vulcan/human fetus. She'd learned that, though the mother were human, if she were in top physical condition and received careful monitoring, it would be possible for her to carry the fetus for most of the gestation period. The chief requirement was that the father, or a psychometrist, be present at the delivery to shield the infant's mind from the inevitable shock.

Sarek had told her that he estimated that they would be here at least six Terran months. The Enterprise wouldn't leave for a few more hours to begin its explorations of the uncharted parts of this system - she should have plenty of time to obtain one of the pod plants that McCoy kept suspended in storage. Though she probably wouldn't use it while they were so far from Vulcan, it wouldn't hurt to have one on hand. McCoy would be so preoccupied with the task of reopening usual research center to study and classify new specimens that he would hardly be likely to notice that one of the plants was not in the case. The first chance she had, she'd slip out and up to the ship to get that plant then hide it somewhere in their quarters and in the depths of her mind - where Sarek still would never intrude without an express invitation....

***

"It is no use," Sarek shook his head, looking down at the fragments of the latest draft of the agreement lying scattered over the floor at his feet. Kang had ripped it apart and had charged out of the room after accusing the Vulcans of trying to grant the Federation more than a fair share of the vitally important dilithium.

"I agree," replied Sartonn, Sarek's Second Aide. "Klingons live to fight, and this Kang has again given proof that he is a faithful disciple of that philosophy."

"But, he keeps trying to use diplomacy instead of force," Lorna protested. "At least grant him that."

Sartonn turned to Lorna and stared at her expressionlessly - one brow lifted in polite inquiry. "True," he agreed coldly. "Yet, we are no closer to completing the agreement than when we first began these...discussions."

"I don't agree," Lorna spoke with equal coldness. "Kang tore up this draft as he has done all the others - but at least he read it all the way through first. Nor is he employing threats and sarcasm every other sentence as he was doing several weeks ago. I believe that he sincerely wishes to resolve this matter without resorting to armed conflict. However, he has had very little training in the ways of Peace."

"A Klingon is a Klingon." Sartonn would have turned away, but Lorna's eyes flashed, surprising him.

"Isn't that a rather prejudiced statement coming from a Vulcan?" she said with false mildness.

"Explain."

"Sarek has said that we must judge these Klingons upon their own merits, that we must trust them until they prove that they are not worthy of our trust. You, however, seem to have already made your own unfavorable conclusions about them. Do you have access to information that you have not yet shared with the rest of us?"

"I beg forgiveness," Sartonn spoke reluctantly. "Apparently, I am not quite as free of mistrust as I had thought. However, I now ask you the same question, Lady. Upon what do you base your theory concerning these Klingons? Speculation - or fact?"

Lorna regarded him dispassionately, but inwardly she was seething with the desire to tell him that he was unfair - that he'd always been so where she was concerned.

"I have actually expressed no 'theory'," she retorted. "However, I believe that Kang's efforts to be peaceful are sincere. Indeed, this belief is supported by what I have involuntarily 'read' from Kang while debating with him these past weeks. Do you consider such evidence unacceptable?"

"No," Sartonn, replied, for he was well aware of the reliability of her unique telepathy. "But the humans will not accept it. In addition, their patience is wearing thin." Sartonn turned and would have moved away, but again he was stopped - this time by Sarek.

"In that, you are correct, Sartonn," Sarek commented almost casually, his eyes intent as he awaited Lorna's reaction. "They do grow weary of waiting. If we do not succeed in achieving a token agreement on minor points, at least.... I fear that conflict will develop - which could grow to become destructive to the Federation and to the Klingon Empire alike."

"Yet, we were so close to achieving more than even those minor points this time," Sural, Sartonn's Chief Assistant commented. "Would it not be unreasonable to abandon this mission without making another effort to resolve all points of conflict?"

"How many times would you suggest that we try?" Sarek replied.

"One who was reknown for His wisdom when He once lived upon my world advised that we should forgive our enemies 'seventy times seven'," Lorna said softly. "We have a long way to go before achieving that goal."

"Three hundred and one, as a matter of fact," Sarek informed her irrepressibly. "I am confident that these Klingons are handicapped by an inborn hostility toward logic and reason."

"Forgive me, my husband, but I think you are also being unfair," Lorna challenged, her voice quivering slightly when she became the target of all eyes and faced a barrage of uplifted eyebrows - including her husband's.

"In what way?" Sarek demanded as he moved from his place at the head of the table and came to stand beside her chair, one hand resting on the back as he waited for her answer.

"When Kang loses his temper and resorts to using his own culture's way of handling things, you - all of you - seem to think that he's looking for a fight. I thought so too, at first. Now that I've had a chance to become better acquainted.... Well, I'm firmly convinced that these Klingons behave as they do because of their racial history. Their worlds were so sadly lacking in natural resources, they had to fight merely to survive, and they had to come out into the stars if they wished to continue as a race. Fighting is as natural to them as breathing. Indeed, your own history was somewhat like theirs. Vulcan is still hostile to humanoid life if one does not take care. Long ago, you had to wrest life from your native world by using violence, though you eventually learned to resolve your conflicts by peaceful, non-emotional means. The Klingons still resolve their conflicts by violent means, but are you going to condemn them because they follow a different philosophy?

"Interesting," Sarek nodded when she paused for breath. "Continue."

"I am not defending the Klingon way, for there are things which Klingons have done in the past which I can never approve." Lorna looked directly into Sarek's eyes as she spoke, knowing that he would understand exactly what she meant. "However, I do understand their way. It does not meet accepted Federation standards. I, myself, find some of the Klingon methods unfair, quite dishonest - even...un-sportsmanlike. Many of them consider cheating and lying 'honorable' qualities. To us, that is undesirable behavior; to them, it is the proper thing to do. Even so, I am sure that we can find some common grounds for agreement - we'll just have to work harder to find it. After all, we cannot ignore the information which the Organians provided when they prevented all-out war."

"Ah yes, their prediction that Klingons and humans would eventually become allies and friends," Sarek agreed. "In the light of this day's events, however, that is most difficult to believe."

"Yes, but the Organians speak only the truth. I find it as hard to believe as do you, but I am willing to try. In fact, I have reason to believe that Klingons - or at least the members of Kang's crew - are somewhat like the Puff-Fish of Earth."

"In what way?" Sarek's voice was toneless and his face quite free of any expression, as it always was when they were in the Council Chamber. At the deepest, most personal level of mental communication, however, Lorna could feel that he was supporting her, attempting to guide her toward victory, even if it meant that he would have to admit in public that his initial conclusions were wrong.

"The Puff-Fish blows itself up until it is ten times its normal size and reveals sharp spines on its skin which makes its chief enemy hesitate to swallow it. I think these Klingons are much the same way - they puff themselves up and make threatening motions in an effort to frighten away their enemies - though they won't hesitate to fight if it becomes necessary."

"That maybe true," Sartonn agreed. "Even so, these Klingons are quite difficult and becoming more so with each passing day."

"How can they help it?" Lorna spread her hands in an unconscious gesture of appeal. "Don't you understand? Can't you see...? The Klingon pride in ferocity is one key to their characters. Being introduced to Peace in such a total and drastic manner must be an almost unendurable anguish to many of them. In fact, I have sensed that several of Kang's crew could do well to receive psychiatric care because they are on the borderline of massive nervous breakdowns. I fear that one or two might even be near suicide."

"Yet, if psychiatric help were offered, they would react with suspicion and refuse it. I am confident they would not even allow our psychometrist to seek to help them." Sarek said calmly.

"Unfortunately, I must agree...perhaps Kang's given us another clue this afternoon.... The Klingon Empire has consented to give up a part of the dilithium found in this system - if we can achieve a peaceful compromise. However, it is quite evident that their emotional attitude is that we Federates have stolen what is rightfully theirs. They feel belligerent, even though their intellectual centers are telling them that they've been given the chance at a real 'bargain.' I'm sure their endrocrine systems are continually pouring 'war juice' into their bloodstreams. They must be in a highly ambivalent emotional state. Take Kang, for example: when his cortex is in control, he proceeds rationally. When he becomes tired or has worked under stress for a long period of time, his emotional reaction is one of 'teeth-bared-for-a-fight,' which is only natural for him."

Sarek nodded. "That is true. However, since they will not accept help if it is offered...I am at a loss, I can see no reasonable way to deal with the problems which their very natures represent."

"The fact that we are conducting these debates upon a 20th Century Level world gives us an advantage, Sarek." Lorna rose from her chair, pressing her hands together in front of her as she gathered her courage to make her final plea before the team.

"Please explain, my wife."

"I have 'communicated' with McCoy - who has suggested what may be a possible solution to the problem. The Klingon ship is also exploring this system, so the members of the crew working down here have been deprived of its recreational resources. Worse yet, none have been provided for them."

The team nodded. Strictly speaking, that was true. All recreational facilities were geared for humans. The Vulcan party hadn't needed such things because they could escape from stresses and strain through meditation. How difficult it must be for these Klingons - who had no outlets at all while they continued in their attempts to follow the pathway of Peace.

"And why does the fact that this is a 20th Century level world give us an advantage, my wife?"

"Because of the 'health clubs' and the gymnasiums in this city."

"Perhaps it would not be necessary to request planetary facilities if we communicated directly with the starships and request one to come back." Sartonn objected, seeking flaws in her suggestion before she could finish it. "The Enterprise is nearer; perhaps she would agree to arrange...."

"The Klingons would argue as much about beaming aboard the Enterprise to use her gyms as they have done about this agreement!" Lorna retorted, so irritated by Sartonn's hostility - secretive though it was - that she no longer hesitated to interrupt him. "I think they would be far more willing to use the planetary gyms. They have to rid themselves of their natural hostilities, and what better way than to work off these hostilities with physical exercise in buildings designed for such activities?"

"Lorna is right," Sarek informed the team. "We have been quite remiss. Why is it that none of us realized the Klingons' need until now?"

For a moment Lorna was tempted to volunteer that perhaps it had been their inborn prejudice toward Klingons that had led them to ignore anything that would contribute to their enemies' comfort - the humans equally at fault as well. Even if that were so, however, it would serve no purpose to verbalize the fact now that they had all seen the truth for themselves.

"My wife," Sarek's voice broke into her thoughts. "You have done well. I compliment you upon the courage of your convictions. It is well that you did not hesitate to speak, for you have shown us that we have been wrong. We must make every effort to make sure that this error which we have committed here will not be repeated in similar situations."

Lorna nodded, accepting his mild praise calmly, but her heart was thudding with pleasure. How many times had she been right and Sarek somewhat in the wrong when it came to dealing with highly-emotional races? Perhaps this incident indicated that he might be wrong about the spores, as well?

"Come," Sarek made a gesture, which indicated the entire team, especially Lorna. "We must report our findings and initiate methods of providing the Klingons the release for their repressed hostilities that they need.... Sartonn, you are joining us?"

The Vulcan stood motionless for a second then he bent his head in a slight nod. "I come. But first.... Lady Lorna, I believe I understand now why your husband has made you his Chief Assistant." He moved his hands in a variation of the Vulcan salute, which indicated that he would no longer seek to create obstacles.

Again Lorna nodded, but it was more difficult this time to remain calm. "I thank you, Sartonn," was all that she said, however.

She didn't know why he had decided to stop causing trouble for her, but she was very pleased that he had.

***

There had been no problem about obtaining gym facilities for Kang's party, and after the Klingons began to work off their hostile feelings, the conferences began to progress with relative smoothness. At last, they were entering the final sections of the conference. Only a few minor details, those which they had feared they would never even approach earlier, remained to be settled. Unfortunately, though these details were minor, they were just as exasperatingly difficult to settle as some of the major problems had been.

The Enterprise was now orbiting Turon-Lura, for Sarek needed more complete information from the library computers than the portable units could provide. Soon after the Federation vessel had assumed standard orbit, Kang's ship, the Klothar, had also returned to set up housekeeping near its "sister" ship.

On this particular day, both Captain Kirk and Karnath, Kang's Second-In-Command, were sitting with the delegates, waiting to report their findings made during their charting missions.

Suddenly a Klingon aide entered the room and strode directly to Kang's side. He bent down and handed his superior a message tape.

Kirk watched Kang's face while he studied the identification code. The fatuous expression of mingled pride and apprehension crossing the Klingon's features gave Kirk a hint of what news the tape might contain.

"The baby...?" Kirk prompted.

"Aye, it must be, but it is earlier than had been anticipated." Kang replied without lowering his voice.

"Play the tape," Sarek said patiently. "We will wait."

Instead of leaving the room, however, Kang inserted the tape into the viewer on the table:

"Tarlokarne Kang," the stern Klingon on the screen announced. "The birth is completed, and Mara is well. You have sired a male and a female." There was a brief glimpse of two small, dusky forms lying in uncovered rough box-like beds then the screen, went dark.

It was no secret that Vulcans valued the continuation of the family line, so Sarek understood Kang's desire to celebrate. He also understood the humans' desire to have an unscheduled celebration for the Klingon instead of returning to the business at hand. He didn't have to stay after expressing the customary courtesies. However, he did agree that it would do no harm if Lorna remained to share in the fun.

Soon, everyone remaining was involved in an impromptu "poppa" shower for Kang - the chief entertainment being dire predictions from men who had already become fathers, relating with relish the experiences awaiting Kang.

Before long, drinks began to be served in abundance. In keeping with her Vulcan training, Lorna didn't try to match the others drink-for-drink. Since she was still human physically, however, the amount of alcohol that her system had absorbed was enough to make her feel quite reckless.

No child for her, even when it might be possible for her to conceive naturally, yet Mara could give her husband two children at once! Although Lorna had been taught to try to quell extremes of emotion, the sincere longings that she was experiencing this evening were too much to endure. The Conference would end soon...why wait until they returned to Vulcan to carry out the plan, which she had considered and had discarded when they had first come here? Once he was back on Vulcan, Sarek might become as - stubborn about the Academy as he was being now about the spores. After all, even yet, he could still be quite unreasonable about a few things.

Sarek was sleeping soundly. If he hadn't been, he might have sensed the dangerous path Lorna's thoughts were taking and might have stopped her. Most likely; however, even if he hadn't sought refuge in deep sleep, he might not have become aware of what was happening in time. The liquor that Lorna had consumed had so muddled her thought patterns that they would have been quite meaningless.

As it was, therefore, nothing cautioned Lorna to pause and think twice about what she was planning to do when she began some swift mental calculations. This very night was the most fertile time of her current cycle. Perhaps...? After all, it was not likely that she would conceive immediately. Even if she did, they'd still reach Vulcan in plenty of time.

In her current frame of mind, to think it was to do it. Lorna slipped away from the party and silently entered their quarters. Carefully, hardly breathing, she took the pod plant from its specially prepared hiding place. The room where Sarek slept was warm enough for the spores to mature and be ready to act in about sixty of this planet's minutes....

She approached the bed and looked down at her husband. He was in such a deep sleep that it seemed to take forever for his chest to rise and fall beneath the light blanket he needed - even in this room.

"Forgive me, my love," she whispered. "I am doing this for both of us."

She placed the plant on the floor beside the head of the bed, turning it so the spores would hit Sarek directly about the head and face then she left the room - fearing that she might weaken in her resolve if she remained.

Much sooner than she'd anticipated, she heard Sarek moan. The spores had invaded his body. Now, even though he was still asleep, he was fighting their influence.

Lorna again hardly dared to breathe as she listened. Would he be able to drive the spores out, or would they remain and give him their gift of perfect health?

Silence.

She sighed with relief then moved to sit before the window, looking out over the sleeping city while she waited for the spores to finish their healing work. Sarek was already in such superb health; it shouldn't take long.

Her head nodded; she was still feeling the influence of that last drink.

Though she felt excited and tense, her eyes were heavy. She would close them and rest them for a minute....

A gentle hand stroking her hair awakened her.

"Lorna."

The voice was so warm, so musical, so vibrant with emotion that she had to turn to look to be sure that it was Sarek standing beside her.

He smiled then he reached down to clasp her hands, bringing her to her feet, and he drew her into his arms.

A kiss, a tighter embrace - an exchange of thoughts. An unspoken question and an unspoken answer. He wanted her.

Lorna certainly wouldn't refuse him - not on this night, if ever. Even so, she felt a brief pang of sorrow. She would know pleasure, Sarek would see to that. However, it wouldn't be the glorious experience that she'd known during their last night on Vulcan, for that night had been one of Sarek's own choosing....

***

Sarek awakened a short while before dawn. However, he didn't get up immediately, which was a definite departure from his usual custom. He lay motionless, enjoying the sensations of well-being and contentment that filled his body. That twinge in his shoulders which usually greeted him when he first woke up was missing. Perhaps he was experiencing a remission in the bone deterioration common to all Vulcans when they began to age. No... he had anticipated freedom from pain too soon. His left arm was numb.... Well, of course it was numb, for he had been holding Lorna close all night.

He looked down at the sleeping form beside him and felt his lips curving in a definite smile. For a moment, he started to control that smile then he allowed it free expression. In the privacy of their quarters, why not? Besides, he was so filled with contentment, such a surging conviction that all was well with him and with his world...indeed, he wondered if this was what Terrans meant when they spoke of "euphoria." If so, it was a most fascinating experience, one that he would explore to the depths while it lasted....

Lorna stirred slightly in her sleep and moved to cuddle closer to him. He inhaled the fragrance of her tumbled hair, savoring the feel of her warmth against him, remembering the delirious hours of the night just past, and he felt desire rising within him again. He reached out to touch her then paused. After all, he had satisfied his need, there was no logical purpose.... Hang logic! There were times, and this was one of them, when logic proved a very inadequate substitute for emotion.

He reached out again and gently traced the outlines of her mouth with the tip of one finger.

"Wha...?" she blinked sleepily. "It can't be time to get up already.... It's still dark...."

Instead of replying verbally, he tightened his arms around her then turned to bend over her as he sought her lips in a gently demanding kiss.

She sighed against his lips and lifted one hand to caress the back of his head languorously. "Oh, Sarek," she murmured softly. "I'm not sure I can...."

Uttering a soft laugh, Sarek immediately proceeded to convince her that she could....

Later, pleasurably spent, they lay wrapped in one another's arms, murmuring soft endearments, unwilling to leave the warm shelter of remembered intimacies while they waited for the dawn.

Sarek shifted his position slightly so Lorna would not continue to cut off the circulation in his arm then he laid his other hand on her hair, smoothing it back from her bemused face, gently stroking her soft skin instead of turning from her in self-centered satisfaction.

He knew that she was troubled about something, even now. What could it be? He could sense the barrier, which kept it at bay from him like a dark shadow in the furthest corner of her mind. No matter. There would be time enough later to seek out the cause of her worry. Right now, he didn't wish to disturb the tenderness of this moment.

He felt so relaxed, so free of the minor discomforts that had become a part of his waking hours - almost as though he had been healed of his infirmities during the night. Why was he behaving in so - erratic a manner? If it were not for the fact that Vulcans were immune to the effects of alcohol, he would almost believe that Lorna might have mixed an extra potent drink for him when he'd joined in that courtesy toast for Kang....

Turning his head, he glanced toward the timepiece on the night table to confirm the hour. Even in the darkness his keen gaze spotted something on the floor, and he lifted himself on one elbow in order to see more clearly. An exotic plant was sitting close to the head of the bed, its blooms turned directly toward him. Though he'd never seen anything like it before, he immediately knew what it was - one of the pod plants that carried the spores, which Doctor McCoy had said could cure his sterility!

Immediately, the spores within his system began to seek to retain their contact with his mind, trying to create anew the euphoria which he had been feeling until he had first seen that plant. Sarek's entire being recoiled with instinctive horror at this uninvited invasion of his innermost thoughts.

"What have you done?" He cried as he pushed Lorna away from him and then sprang from the bed. She sat up quickly, still half asleep then she gasped with guilt when he reached down to pick up the plant and held it before her. Drawing the coverings to her throat in an instinctive attempt to shield herself from the anger that she saw blazing in his eyes, she squared her shoulders and forced herself to meet his gaze without flinching.

"I think you already know," she said bravely as she nodded toward the plant.

His lip curled as he cast the plant aside then he continued to glare at her as he spoke with sharp, cutting tones. "How could you have dared do this to me? By what right did you inflict this violation of privacy upon me? You have said that you love me, yet...." He lifted his hand, almost as if he would strike her then he lowered it and delivered a more lasting blow by uttering a short, vitriolic phrase that classified her as a traitor of the lowest order - one who resorted to telepathic invasion to achieve goals; by Vulcan standards, the most abhorrent of crimes.

She uttered a wordless cry of protest.

"Be silent!"

Lorna bit her lip and forced herself to obey, trembling before the fury, which she could feel raging within her husband, praying that he could regain control of himself quickly so she could explain why she had taken such a drastic step.

Sarek did start to try to control his anger then he realized that the force of his emotions was affecting the spores, creating distress and even pain among them. He concentrated the force of his anger, turning his mental force inward, seeking to find and repel the invaders. That feeling of distress mounted to almost unbearable levels then ebbed as the spores began to die. He remained motionless, concentrating until he knew that every spore had perished. At last, he composed his features into their usual expression of serenity, but his eyes were filled with icy disdain when he turned to Lorna.

"Sarek, please!" She protested. "You must understand.... I only did this because...."

"Woman, I told you to be silent. Obey, else you will regret your continued disobedience!" he commanded, and she stopped, afraid that he might carry out his threat. She'd never seen Sarek lose complete control before, not even when he'd frightened her so on the Observation Deck of the Enterprise when she'd spoken carelessly wounding words. That anger had been expressed to serve a purpose, this anger was not, and she wasn't sure what he might do.

"Heed me, woman. By forcing me to destroy intelligent life, you have violated one of the most sacred laws of Vulcan. Thus, you have condemned yourself by your own hand. Under Vulcan law, I have the right to execute you immediately. However, there is a worse punishment.... Because of what you have done, I now have the right to claim you as my property. From this moment on, I can refuse you the privilege of naming yourself as 'wife.' And, to prove to you how serious your offense has been...."

Once more he closed his eyes and concentrated. The next moment, Lorna cried out again, in anguish this time as she felt him close his mind to her, completely severing the bond that they had shared ever since their last night on Vulcan.

"Now...."

The communications panel on the night table began its continuous signal. "Yes?" Sarek activated it merely to end its annoyance.

"Pardon me, Ambassador," replied an impersonal female voice. "I am calling to remind you that you are scheduled to leave in fifteen minutes for the tour and your subsequent videsion appearance...?"

"I shall be ready," he said when the voice paused inquiringly then he deactivated the panel.

Calmly, methodically, he got ready to leave, ignoring Lorna, who sat motionless, watching him apprehensively. At last, he went to the door then, with one hand on the frame, he turned toward her.

"You will remain in our quarters for the rest of this day," he said sternly. "Do not go to the Council Chambers. If you do, you will find that I have left orders for you to be escorted back here under guard and confined. Think well upon what you have done while I am gone."

With that, the door closed behind him.

Lora sat dazed, devastated, and terrified. Though she'd expected Sarek to be displeased when he found out what she'd done, she hadn't expected anything like this. She closed her eyes and sought to send her thoughts forth to meet his, but met only silence. The Link had been severed, and it would never be joined until he touched palms with her and repeated the ancient words to lock their minds together once more.

"Sarek, you misjudged me," she murmured sadly as, she got up then kneeled to pickup the damaged plant. "I wasn't trying to betray you - I was only trying to increase our happiness.... I realize now that I shouldn't have done it without consulting you - without trying to make you see my side of the question more fully.... If only you'd listened to me when I tried to tell you how much having your child means to me...."

Instead, he had left without giving her a chance to defend herself, which in itself proved the depths of his anger. However, he would have all day to calm down. By the time he returned, he would have concluded that she'd had no ulterior motives behind her actions. He would give her a chance to explain then. Once he realized that he would now be able to father a natural child, indeed, might have done so during the night just past, he would have to forgive her!

With this thought to sustain her in the terrible loneliness that he had inflicted upon her, Lorna began to prepare for his return - laying out the blue Vulcan robe that he'd identified as his favorite, cleansing her skin and rubbing creams into it to increase its softness - preparing to meet her husband looking her very best.

Shortly before the hour scheduled for Sarek's return, someone activated the signal on the door.

Perhaps it was someone with a message from Sarek. Maybe he'd relented and wanted her to join him! Lorna called out to the servants that she would get the door and she hurried to answer the second summons.

The door swung open to reveal the Manera and the Voranna standing in the wide hallway, both looking pale and deeply concerned.

"Gentlemen," Lorna said softly as she stepped back a pace or so to enable them to enter. "This is an honor. My husband did not tell me that you were coming back with him, but you are welcome.... But.... Has he been delayed?"

"No," stammered the Voranna, "he.... I.... Lady, I think you had better sit down."

Lorna dropped onto a low chair near the doorway, clasping her hands to conceal their trembling as she looked up at the two rulers imploringly, her heart heavy with dread.

"I regret that I must bring you bad news, Lady. There was a demonstration today - perhaps one of the minor groups who wish to keep our planets isolated...."

"Please, get on with it!" Lorna demanded when he paused and looked at her with pity in his eyes.

"Someone in the crowd was armed - threw a thermal bomb at the official motorcade. The bomb rolled beneath the car in which your, husband was traveling...."

A strangled moan broke from Lorna's lips then she fought for control.

"You have come to take me to the hospital?"

"No, Lady. I am sorry.... The car was almost completely destroyed.... We found very little.... Only this."

He held out one hand, open palm uppermost. There, smoke-stained and warped by heat, lay a golden circlet with traces of an inscription inside it - Sarek's wedding ring!

Lorna stared at the ring, her breath coming in gasping pants as she silenced the screams, which were rising in her throat then she stood up.

"I...." Her voice broke, and she felt herself swaying as the form of the Voranna seemed to dissolve before her and then coalesce in wavering outlines of ever-fading colors....

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

Christine Chapel sat before her mirror, arranging her hair. Finally, she tossed the brush to the shelf before her, crossed her arms, and leaned upon them as she gazed into the mirror.

"Okay, Christine, you've been given Shore Leave today and have orders from Doctor McCoy not to stick your nose through the doors of Sick Bay unless there's an extreme emergency. Now, what are you going to do?"

She knew what she'd love to do - spend the day with someone she cared for. That wasn't likely to happen, though, for even if Mr. Spock happened to have the same off-duty hours as she did, he certainly wouldn't spend them with her. She'd learned to accept that. In spite of the occasional flickers of regard, which he'd revealed for her from time to time, she knew better than to encourage her vain hopes.

Indeed, she knew that she'd be asking for more heartache if she stayed aboard the ship drifting around the corridors in hopes of catching a glimpse of the tall Vulcan that she loved. Not that she had wanted to love him, but - even when she had been waiting to meet Roger again - she had realized that the First Officer had taken Roger's place in her heart. And then, when they had fallen victim to that strange infection while exploring Psi 2000, she'd revealed her love. How much easier it might have been if she had been able to remain silent.

No matter, and it did no good to think of what might have happened. She would do what women from time immemorial did to forget their troubles of the heart. She would go shopping. She had saved quite a bit of her back pay, and there was a center in the Council Building where she could exchange credits for local currency. Perhaps she might find something of interest in the native embroideries - a new pattern that she might be able to purchase and then copy. Later, after Lorna finished her days' work in the Council Chamber, they might be able to spend some time together. If not, surely she would be able to find some way to occupy her time.

Christine made a final check; to be sure that she had everything, especially her communicator then she stepped into the corridor.

She was in luck; a group of other crewmembers going on Shore Leave had just entered the transporter room on her level, and there was space for one more.

In a matter of moments, she was sorting herself out from the group then she stood at the head of the stairs leading to the main corridor of the Council Building, looking for the exchange booth. Ah, there it was.

She obtained a plentiful supply of local currency and a directory/map of the main shopping area nearest to the building. When she attempted to send a message to Lorna, however, she learned that her friend wasn't in the Council Chambers. Perhaps she'd gone somewhere with Sarek. Christine felt somewhat disappointed, for she'd decided to abandon her usual I-believe-that-one-day-I'll-win-Spock attitude and reveal her true feelings to Lorna - her ever-growing suspicion that she would do well to accept the fact that any happiness in her future would have to be found with someone else.

At last she left the building and stepped out onto the street, blinking against the sudden smarting the onrush of airborne chemicals caused then she retreated against the wall in involuntary response to the rushing sounds of traffic and people around her. It was overwhelming for a moment then she got her bearings and started down the street.

The sight of the crowds about her was both frightening and exciting; she'd certainly never experienced anything like this aboard ship. Even during Red Alerts, the traffic in every corridor was well controlled. Yet, everyone here seemed to be able to get where they wanted to go with a minimum of trouble; stopping and fussing when the traffic signals turned blue then rushing on when the signal turned magenta.

Christine watched the pedestrians for several minutes, pausing on the corner out of the main flow of their traffic, fixing the signals firmly in her mind. She looked up at the towering buildings then she shook her head. No, she was glad that she belonged to a starship. This was an interesting place to visit, but she would never want to live here. Yet, judging from what Lorna had said, this city wasn't as big or half as crowded as the New York City that she'd known in her former era.

Finally Christine sighed and crossed the street, heading for a jewelry shop that had received a high rating in the booklet. Maybe she could find some designs there, or something to take back as a souvenir.

There on the highest display shelf in the window lay an object that she wanted passionately the moment she saw it. A chain, so fine that it was almost transparent, crystal clear in color. Fastened to that chain, an oval gem, also transparent, yet glowing with a silvery sheen similar to moonlight; most beguiling of all, however, was the delicate flower visible in the heart of the gem - dark red in color and shaped much like a Terran tea rose, except that the tiny leaves were much different in form and were deep black in color.

Christine had a fondness for red roses anyway, and this gem was so lovely she couldn't resist it. It wouldn't take up much space, and it would certainly last longer than the real roses which Mr. Sulu would let her take from his Herbarium plot now and then.

Checking to be sure that the Universal Translator in her tricorder was working properly, she went into the shop - unaware of the tall figure that had paused suddenly behind her on the sidewalk then had followed her inside.

"May I help you...?" inquired a clerk.

"Yes," Christine said. "You have a gem in the window - they one on the transparent chain.... It appears to have a flower trapped inside it. Could I see it, please?"

"One moment."

The clerk went forward to the window, searched for a moment then came back with the gem.

"This is a lovely piece. When we ordered these gems, we received only three, for they are rare. This is a prehistoric flower that was covered by a gum secreted by a long-extinct tree. The gum solidified before the flower could wither.... This one is a particularly fine specimen; it required only a token polishing before it was set in its mounting."

"How much?"

"Aren't you from one of the starships?"

Yes... Please, what price are you asking for this gem?"

The clerk named a sum that Christine knew had been increased for her benefit. Much as she wanted the gem, if she bought it, she wouldn't be able to buy anything else or even remain in the city for the rest of the day.

"I-I'm sorry," she smiled ruefully. "I didn't bring enough with me."

"Would you like me to lay it away for you?"

Christine was tempted then she shook her head. They were close to completing their assignment here, or so Lorna had indicated the previous day when she'd beamed up to check some figures that they hadn't wanted to risk over communications channels. It would be just Christine's luck for them to leave before she could get the gem, which would mean that she'd lose the cash deposit that she'd surely have to make.

"No, I don't think so. Perhaps I'll be able to come back some other day."

So saying, she left, unaware of the tall figure who had stepped into the shadow of a display case before she had come within range of vision.

"Yes, sir, may I help you?" the clerk said as the stranger approached him.

"The jewel the woman was admiring, let me see it."

"Of course, sir. It's a very fine piece...."

"I heard you tell her about it. Here is the price you quoted. Wrap, the jewel securely."

"Certainly, sir. Or, if you prefer, I can have it delivered to the Council Building for you."

"That will not be necessary. The package will fit securely within my belt."

Ignorant of this transaction taking place in the store she'd just left, Christine drifted down the street, finally responding to the invitation of a pleasant little park that was waiting for her on the other side of the concourse.

Fountains cooled the air delightfully, and flowers of all colors and shapes filled the breezes with their individual fragrances. There was one particular grouping of violet and white flowers that caught Christine's eyes, and she sat down on a convenient bench to admire them. After much visual measuring, and more mental plotting, she felt sure that this flower grouping could be worked into a design for embroidery, so she took a small pad from her kit and began to make a swift sketch.

She was so engrossed in her work that she didn't hear the sound of a footstep nor see the same tall figure that had followed her into the jewelry shop approach then stand watching her.

At last, she finished and sat back to examine the results of her work.

"An accurate likeness," a masculine voice said from a point somewhere above and behind her shoulder.

She jumped and turned, so startled that her heart leaped then her eyes became wide in surprised recognition.

"I did not mean to startle you. You did not hear me coming?"

"No, I-I -didn't know anyone was near...." Christine bent to retrieve the pad, which had fallen from her lap when she'd turned around.

"Allow me," a masculine hand scooped up the pad and dropped it into her lap then she felt the bench give slightly as he sat down beside her.

"I give you greetings, Nurse Chapel, he said quietly.

"And I give you greetings also, Lokarne Karm," she responded courteously.

"It has been long since we talked together," he continued, "and much has happened. This is an interesting world, do you not agree?"

"I wouldn't know. This is the first chance I've had to beam down and do any exploring on my own."

"Indeed? Ah, yes, the Enterprise has been charting this system, too. You said that you are exploring today; you are on free time?"

"I.... Why, yes, I am," Christine replied. She ruffled the pages of the sketchpad, realized she was betraying her lack of ease by doing so, and tucked the pad away in her kit. "Why do you ask?"

"I also am on free time. Therefore, I will show you what I have learned of this city."

Christine stared at him, surprised and wary. "You, a Klingon, would escort me, a human? Why?"

"We have been trying to settle our differences over the dilithium by using peaceful means. Kang has convinced me that it might be wise to learn to - cooperate with humans in other areas as well. I found out fascinating things about humans while I was aboard your Enterprise." He paused and looked at her for a long moment. "The Organians informed both your race and mine that we would eventually resolve our hostilities, and one must begin somewhere.... After all, we were able to spend an evening together once before without declaring war upon one another," he smiled and Christine found herself smiling too, surprised that he had revealed this flash of humor, "and I enjoyed the experience. You are alone. I am alone. Why should we not find amusement together?"

"Wouldn't you get in trouble with your Captain?" she challenged.

"Would you with yours?" he countered swiftly.

"Not as long as I caused no unfavorable incidents. But, what would your woman say?" Christine bit her lip, annoyed. What business was that of hers?

"I am not joined. There is no woman for me aboard the Klothar. Have you anyone who would object if you spent the day in another male's company?"

"No," she said with sudden bitterness. "Not a soul, Lokarne."

"Then, spend the day with me."

She studied him, wondering what he was up to. Why should he waste time with her? She could give him no military secrets, and he would hardly kidnap her for her medical knowledge. Instead, he'd be more inclined to go after Doctor McCoy. So far, though, he'd given no indication that he hoped to meet the doctor through acquaintance with her.

Could it be the ancient male pursuing female routine? Humanoid males were much alike throughout the galaxy - with the exception of Vulcans, of course - and her blondeness might be enough of a difference to whet Karm's interest. Well, if that was it, she wouldn't have any trouble; she knew several ways to discourage any unwelcome advances. Certainly Klingons - even those of Kang's crew - weren't to be regarded as innocent lambs, but until this one gave her reason to believe that her trust had been earned under false pretences, she'd try to get along with him. Besides, the truth of the matter was that the evening they'd spent talking together had been pleasant. Surely it wouldn't hurt if she experienced a similar pleasure for a few more hours today.

"Yes, Lokarne," she said finally. "I would like to explore any interesting areas of this city, and I am sure you will be an excellent guide."

"Good!" He rose. "However, I will no longer respond to Lokarne, and I will call you - Christine."

Since it had been more of a command than a request, Christine didn't dignify this with either refusal or assent.

Ignoring the hand, which he had extended, she stood up then turned when she heard the sound of music drifting toward them. "What's that?"

"I was told that a - a...what would you humans call it? Ah, yes, a 'street fair' is in progress a short distance from here."

"Really? I've read about them. They always sounded like they'd be fun."

"Then, let us go and see if they are." So saying, he moved to walk on the curbside as he led her to the fair.

Christine cast sidelong glances at him, wondering what had caused the change in this Klingon's behavior. Perhaps he'd been studying human habits and customs and had decided to adapt some of them in his efforts to "get along better." When the idea that he might have studied these mannerisms and gestures in an effort to please her rose in her mind, however, she quelled the thought. Even if Karm were interested in her, which she doubted, she loved Spock. No other man would seriously interest her - certainly not a Klingon!

The fair was all that she'd hoped it might be - and more. When the natives recognized them as members of the crews of the two starships orbiting overhead, they were given every hospitality, and both of them entered whole-heartedly into the spirit of the fair.

They sampled a confection made from carbohydrates that both their systems could assimilate and found it delicious, though Christine couldn't help grinning when Karm's mouth became so sticky from the syrup that he was forced to retreat to a comfort area to wash his face.

But Karm had his chance to laugh at her when she accidentally brushed against a cup-like flower, for it released a shower of harmless nectar over her. She had been assured that it was nothing but glucose in suspension, and she'd confirmed this swiftly with her tricorder, but she then had to retreat to a comfort area of her own in order to remove the sticky spots from her uniform and from her skin.

They visited the various exhibits, took part in the games of skill, and even tried a few of the rides. The hours flew by. At some point in the afternoon, Christine realized that she had ceased to think of Karm as a Klingon. Instead, she had come to consider him a very attractive male who was proving to be a most agreeable companion.

She found a booth that carried needlework patterns, printed on metal plates, but adaptable to her own uses, and she purchased several of the loveliest designs. In keeping with his newly learned courtesy, Karm relieved her of the responsibility of carrying the flat package and tucked it firmly into his belt beside items that he'd purchased previously.

Like all fairs, this one had a game requiring skill in tossing objects, and Karm boasted that he'd have no trouble hitting the mark without missing once. Christine insisted that he couldn't, so he accepted the challenge immediately. He proved that he was as good as his word, to the barker's annoyance, and she found herself laughing unrestrainedly when Karm was presented with a large, woolly bundle of fur that looked exactly like a tribble.

Karm held the prize out at arm's length and regarded it with suspicion. "So long as the cursed thing does not move or purr, I will put up with it," he said finally, "but you will take it with you. I would never be allowed to set foot aboard the Klothar with this tucked under my arm."

Soon they had to turn their steps toward the Council Building, where they would beam back up to their respective ships. A last look around the various booths, a smile and a word of farewell to all their hosts, and they left the fair.

"The city looks as if it were made of light," Christine observed as they walked up the relatively quiet street.

"Perhaps this world has yet to experience the power shortages that most civilizations encounter at this level of development," Karm replied.

"I suppose so, but I'm impressed with the beauty of this city anyway. Look, the lights on that bridge over there remind me of a necklace."

"A...throat ornament? Yes, I see the resemblance. Interesting."

The Council Building loomed before them and they paused. They were standing in near darkness, for the great lamps that illuminated the entrances wouldn't be turned on for several more minutes. Both of them felt strangely reluctant to end the day. Moving with one accord, they turned and watched the lingering afterglow fade from the sky then they sighed and entered the building.

"I have greatly enjoyed spending this day with you, Christine," Karm said as they made their way toward the transporter area.

"I've enjoyed it, too, Karm. Thank you for asking me," she smiled warmly.

"I have studied many films about your culture. Therefore, if the acting Tarltokarne requires me to confirm how I have spent my free time, will I be correct if I tell him that I have spent this day on a 'date' with a human?"

"I - suppose you could call it that...but I hope you won't be penalized for fraternizing with the enemy if you do." Must be very old films, she thought.

"You are not my enemy, Christine. There will be no penalty demanded of me, and I trust that there will be none demanded of you. Hold this."

He shoved the prize he'd won into her hands then turned and headed for a niche where one of the natives was selling flowers. A moment of conversation then he pointed to a golden wrapped bundle on a shelf. He examined it for a couple of seconds and seemed to be readjusting the wrappings. After a swift exchange of money, he returned to Christine.

"Here," he said, casually as he took back the prize and handed her the bundle. "According to your films, flowers are a traditional gift for a male, to present to a female."

"Why, I...." Christine was on the brink of refusing then she realized that she'd be making too much out of his gesture if she did so. "Why, thank you, Karm. They're lovely."

And they were. The delicate, fragrant flowers that peeked over the top of the wrapping looked like carnations, except for the fact that they were a deep emerald hue.

She sniffed them and smiled up at Karm - unaware of the tall figure that had just entered the building behind them. A figure that was now watching them, one eyebrow lifted in surprised interest.

"Come," Karm said gruffly. "We will be late getting back to our ships."

They were nearly to the transporter area when a child, pursued by a harassed mother, ran up to them.

"Madro, I want that! Buy it from them for me!" he cried petulantly.

"Zanco, they must have won it at the fair. You can't ask them to sell it."

"Do you mind?" Karm inquired. Christine shook her head. "Here," he thrust the ball of fur into the child's hands. "We have no use for this. Please me by taking it out of my sight."

The mother expressed hasty thanks before rushing after her child. Christine said nothing and neither did Karm. However, she knew this wasn't a generous gesture on Karm's part. He looked so secretly relieved that she wondered if he'd have "lost" the prize if the child hadn't appeared so opportunely.

It took only a couple of minutes to go through the formality of identifying themselves and of receiving assignments to transporter pads. Christine turned toward hers, but Karm accompanied her instead of going to his own pad.

"If your next free day should also be mine, will you join me again?" he asked almost casually.

"I.... That's too far in the future for me to say, Karm. You know that the negotiation could be finished soon."

"Very well. I will wait and see what the future may bring." He frowned and clapped one hand against his belt. "I nearly forgot.... Here are the metal plates you purchased."

He moved a step closer to hand her the package then a swift smile brightened his satanically handsome features. "Your films indicate that there is a traditional way to bid farewell at the close of a 'date'."

He put one hand beneath her chin and turned her face upwards then bent swiftly and lightly touched her lips with his own for a brief moment before turning away to stride toward his transporter pad without a backward glance.

Christine stood motionless, her mouth half open with surprise, wondering why she wasn't angry at his audaciousness. There was a shimmer of sparks, and Karm was gone. She shifted the flowers in her arm and turned toward her own transporter.

"One moment," she heard a familiar voice say calmly. "There is no need to waste energy; we are both going to the same coordinates."

She didn't dare turn her head. Spock! What was he doing down here? Had he seen...? And, if he had, so what...? This unexpected flare of defiance helped her turn calmly to step up onto the pad. An impersonal hand came under her elbow to help her then released her swiftly, and she sensed rather than saw Mr. Spock take his own place on the adjoining pad.

"Energize," he said, and the scene before her dissolved into the familiar whirl of sparkling motes.

When they materialized in the transporter room aboard the Enterprise, she stepped off the platform without turning to look at Spock, still somewhat bemused by the memories of the past hours and strangely reluctant to face any disapproval that might be in the Vulcan's eyes - though she didn't know why there should be any.

"Nurse Chapel," he demanded.

"Yes, Mr. Spock?" She didn't turn; surely he wouldn't reprimand her for spending the day with a Klingon - not in front of the transporter crew.

"This fell from the wrapping surrounding those flowers."

He handed her a small oblong package then turned and left the transporter chamber, ignoring the speculative glances of the crew.

Christine stared down at the package. It wasn't hers. Karm must have put it in those wrappings...what was it? A bomb, perhaps?

Not wishing to expose others to danger, she headed directly for Security. After screening the package carefully to determine that it contained no explosives, the officer in charge opened the wrappings slowly, prepared for some unpleasant surprise. There was a moment of silence after he lifted the lid then: "Miss Chapel, I think this was something that you must have bought and then forgotten about."

"What do you mean?" Christine moved to stand beside him and looked into the box - to find the lovely pendant that she'd admired in the jewelry shop.

"Good Heavens! How...? Why...? Oh, I can't keep this!" she protested, but her fingers seemed to reach down of their own accord to clasp the shining gem. "I've got to get this back to Karm - but how? If I try to beam it over to the Klothar, I'll surely create some kind of problem...."

"Nurse Chapel," the communications unit demanded at that moment. "Wherever you are, please report."

"Nurse Chapel here," she responded to the signal.

"You are wanted in Briefing Room Five immediately. Please take your medical kit with you."

Christine paused long enough to ask the Security officer to put the pendant in safe storage for her then she hastened to obey the summons.

Captain Kirk and Doctor McCoy were standing at the head of the table in Briefing Room Five, looking at Spock. Their faces were pale and their eyes were dark, as though they'd just received a great shock. The First Officer, however, seemed as calm as always.

"Captain, I was ordered to come here," Christine announced her presence quietly.

"Yes, Nurse Chapel," Kirk tore his gaze from Spock with difficulty and almost had to refocus his eyes to see her. "I thought it best for us to meet here and make our plans before the news gets out.... I - I.... We just got word.... Ambassador Sarek's been killed, and Lorna needs us...."

Christine gasped then quite involuntarily looked over at Mr. Spock, knowing now that the stony, set expression of his face concealed the anguish that he must surely be feeling.

"Do you have everything, Christine?" McCoy prompted her gently.

"Yes, Doctor. On, poor Lorna! How is she?"

"She wasn't with Sarek when he was killed. Come on, we'd better get down there so we can help her," McCoy replied, turning to follow the Captain and Spock out the door.

Somehow, not through her own doing, Christine again stood on the transporter pad adjoining Spock's. She knew he wouldn't want any expressions of sympathy - certainly not from her. However, she felt that she just had to say something.

"Your father's loss will be keenly felt by the Federation, Mr. Spock," she said finally, choosing words that would be emotionless yet convey some of the sorrow that she felt.

"Yes," he replied harshly then he stood motionless with his hands behind his back, waiting for the transporter effect.

***

They headed immediately for the quarters that Sarek and Lorna had occupied, only to be halted by one of the high-ranking native doctors:

"Who are you? What business do you have here?" he demanded sharply.

"Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. This is my Chief Surgeon, Leonard McCoy, Doctor...?"

"Enal. You are Doctor McCoy? Good. The Lady Lorna made an express request for you...."

"How has she responded to the news of her husband's death?" McCoy demanded.

"She hasn't wept or shown any signs of feeling any emotions, Doctor. In fact, she's been so quiet that I was afraid that she was going into shock. Nothing that I've tried seemed to help...I finally gave her a strong sedative a short time ago, hoping it might relax her enough that she would start to cry. The last time I checked on her, she was sleeping...."

"No, I wasn't," came a quiet voice from behind them. "I just wanted to be alone."

They turned to see Lorna standing in the doorway, pale and quiet, her eyes large and dark with sorrow, but there were no signs of tears.

"Peace and - and long life, my friends," she lifted her hand in the Vulcan salute as she came into the room. Her Vulcan training had taught her to present a calm face toward the world, but her human nature had triumphed to the extent that her voice broke over that reference to long life when Sarek's life had just ended.

"Lady, you should be resting." Enal admonished her.

"I thank you for your help, Doctor," Lorna replied. "However, I cannot rest. Not yet. There is too much to be done...."

"Your friends are here to take care of those things," the doctor insisted. "Come now, go back and...."

"One moment, if you please, Doctor," McCoy said coldly. "The Lady Lorna has spoken the truth. As the wife of a Vulcan, there are certain tasks that she is required to fulfill as soon as possible; no one else may assume them for her."

"Lady," Doctor Enal turned to her. "I am receiving a distinct impression that you would prefer this Doctor McCoy to take over responsibility for your welfare now that he is here."

"He has had much experience treating Vulcans and people who have learned to follow the Vulcan way, Doctor. However, I appreciate your concern."

Doctor Enal picked up his medical equipment and left without another word, only giving Lorna and her friends a sketchy bow before he opened the door.

"Lorna." Kirk demanded as he went to her side. "Are you all right?"

"I'm - existing. Thank you for coming so quickly, Jim."

"Lorna, is there anything that I can do for you?" McCoy asked as he came to her other side.

"Not right now, Len. But just your being here helps." She paused and swallowed hard then she turned to Spock.

"Spock, thy father has joined his ancestors," she spoke the words twice - once in Vulcan and again so these cherished friends could understand. "Art thou prepared to assume his responsibilities and to conduct the ceremony of returning his name to the Archives when the time comes?"

"I am prepared," Spock responded in like manner, but he said it as if the words were a deep felt offering that would somehow heal her wounds - and his own. As a Terran might say, "I'll take care of it."

"It is well."

She turned, signifying that this unpleasantly necessary and thankfully brief ceremony was finished - only to discover that McCoy was reaching into his kit for his analyzer.

"Put that away, Len. I'm all right."

"Are you? Then what's wrong with that sedative you were given? I'm sure it's been in your system long enough now that it should have started having some sort of an effect on you."

"I have too much to do to let it work," she started to reply, but the door sounded, cutting off her words.

"I'll get it," Christine volunteered.

Kang and one of his aides - not Karm - stood on the threshold. Christine started to shut the door, for she felt that a visit from Klingons was the last thing that Lorna needed right now, but Kang reached out swiftly to hold the door open.

"We just received word of Ambassador Sarek's death," he said brusquely. "Are we not allowed to come and express our regrets as befits intelligent beings - even Klingons?"

"He's right, Christine," Lorna said quietly as she approached the door. "Let them come in. Kang, I greet you."

"Lady, I greet thee, but under circumstances that I would prefer had not happened," Kang said as he bent his head in a very slight bow. "I had come to admire your husband greatly during the course of our negotiations, and I regret his death."

"Your expression of sympathy is accepted in the spirit with which it was given."

"Is there anything that I can do to help in this time of sorrow?" he asked with uncharacteristic courtesy.

"Not at this moment...." She swayed for a moment and blinked her eyes rapidly as though her vision had become blurred.

"Lorna...come and sit down," Kirk ordered gently, taking her arm to guide her to a seat, but she shook her head.

"Kang," he said after a moment, "there is something that you can do for the Lady Lorna. I trust that you will accept the responsibility for passing word to the remainder of your party that the negotiations cannot continue...."

"To the contrary, Captain," Lorna informed him sternly, "they will."

"But Sarek is...!"

"Sarek is dead," she said quietly, speaking with the calmness of desperation. "But his work will continue. That is.... Kang, I have been trained to work as Sarek's Chief Assistant. I know all that was being done, everything that was discussed. If I am appointed to complete this task, will you object?"

"No, Lady. Not if you feel that you can continue at this trying time."

"The rest of the team will have to make the decision, but I am inclined to believe that it is logical for me to assume responsibility for my husband's mission. Since you have no objections, we will meet at the usual time tomorrow. Our decisions will have been made by that hour."

"Agreed. I shall leave now."

Kang turned on his heel, motioned to his aide, and was gone.

"Lorna!" Kirk protested. "You can t go back to the Council Chamber tomorrow."

"I must, Captain. Work is the only thing that will help me now."

"But," he reached out and gently caught hold of her shoulders, "surely you'll want to have some sort of memorial service for Sarek?"

"To what purpose, Jim? Sarek's body was - destroyed. A memorial ceremony would be an empty gesture. These negotiations were of vital importance to Sarek; their successful completion will be his memorial. Can't you understand that?"

"Not really," he replied, "but I'll accept your word on it." She swayed again, thankful that she wouldn't have to spend time arguing with him, and then she gratefully rested her head against his chest when his arms came around her in an involuntary sympathetic embrace.

Jim tightened his arms around her, wishing that he could share her sorrow with her mentally and thus ease her pain as he had done once while she was still a member of the crew of the Enterprise. But, no, the Mind-Sifter had robbed him of whatever might have remained of that unique ability which he had used only that one time. (The Misfit, SHOWCASE I) In fact, he had even lost the ability to communicate with Lorna mentally over long distances. Like Spock, she had sensed Jim's agony under the Mind-Sifter, but to a lesser degree. However, she'd been too far away at the time to do anything except worry. Later, after he'd returned to his own time and to the Enterprise, they'd learned that the mental bond had been severed, and so far, except for mutual mental contact when they could touch physically, that bond had never been restored.

However, he could give her the comfort of his strength and support, and he gave it unreservedly. At last, he felt her relax slightly in his arms. "Bones," he said softly. "I think the sedative has finally started to work."

The door sounded again, and he frowned. "I suppose that's a delegation.... You and Christine take care of Lorna - I'll handle the callers."

McCoy saw that Lorna was too sleepy to even try to walk, but it required little effort for him to lift her in his arms to carry her into the bedroom.

"Help me get her ready for sleep, Christine," he said, impersonally doing what needed to be done. Once Lorna was tucked beneath the covers, he passed the analyzer over the hypo that had contained the sedative, confirming that it would have no unpleasant side effects. "I ought to have him up before the Board - giving her something without making tests to be sure it wouldn't harm her first," he growled. "But we're in luck. This is composed of elements the human system can assimilate without difficulty. Christine, I don't want her to be alone. I'll help Jim handle the callers. You stay in here with her tonight."

"Certainly, Doctor."

After that night was over, Christine kept all the events locked in the depths of her being - not even telling McCoy how Lorna had wept in her sleep, mourning for her Vulcan husband.

But those were the only tears that Lorna shed. She knew that she'd driven Sarek to his death. If she'd been with him, perhaps they wouldn't have left the studios so soon, and he might have avoided that demonstration. Now, she would do the only thing that she could to make amends - complete his mission.

As she had hoped, the Vulcan team had agreed that she should assume Sarek's role in the negotiations, and they all cooperated to offer and to provide the support and assistance she needed.

However, since she did not possess Sarek's finesse, the minor details that he would have solved in a matter of hours took her days. Yet, the finalization of the treaty loomed ever closer as an accomplished fact.

Even Kang, who naturally wanted to win as many concessions as he could, had been forced to admit that she was being scrupulously fair in every aspect of the matter. To date, he had been able to find no flaw in the agreement, and he had every confidence that the few minor details awaiting completion would be settled with equal satisfaction. He hoped so, for he was anxious to finish the mission and return to Shabas, for he wanted to see his wife and his babies. As it was, he was missing their infancy completely and, like any father, he wanted to see his first-born son and then boast about him to his peers.

It was then that the negotiations hit what appeared to be an insurmountable barrier:

Another message had come for Kang. Assuming that it was a routine report about the twins' development, Kang had put the tape in the viewer in the Council Chamber instead of waiting until he could return to his quarters.

"Tarlokarne Kang," the same Klingon who had reported the birth of the twins looked out of the viewer. "We have determined that the female was born with a defect. The lenses of her eyes were becoming clouded, and she would soon be totally blind. We have determined that the male is in perfect health; therefore, he has been listed as acceptable. However, the female has not. Thus, in keeping with our laws, she will have been destroyed by the time you receive this message...."

There was more to the message, but Kang didn't want to hear it with others listening. He snapped off the viewer and sat with his hand resting on it for a second, experiencing a moment of regret that he would never see his daughter in the flesh. However, the Empire had decreed that defective children had no right to live when even perfectly healthy individuals often had to struggle to survive. What choice did he have but to accept what was now undeniable fact? His daughter was dead by now, and there was nothing he could do to bring her back.

"Shall we continue?" He spoke coldly as he took the tape from the viewer and tucked it into his belt.

"Not now." Lorna's voice was equally cold, and he was startled by the expression of disgust and horror he saw in her face when he looked up at her. He was equally startled when he saw that the rest of the Vulcan party was looking at him with actual disdain.

Then, without a further explanation, they turned and left the Chamber. "What has angered them?" he said as he turned to his aide.

"They are Vulcans," the aide retorted. "You have seen how they make every effort to preserve life. I suppose that the news of the female child's death offended them."

"Yes," Kang's voice sounded just the least bit different, almost as though there had been a slight quiver in it, and the aide looked at him sharply. "That is a likely explanation. I am going to my quarters. See that no one disturbs me."

The moment he entered his quarters, Kang played the tape again then he sat rigidly, his eyes glazed with shock and anger after hearing the rest of the message. Soon his shock wore off, and he began to pace the room, muttering and glaring about the room as though he were looking for something upon which to vent his wrath. At last, unable to endure the confines of his quarters, he burst through the door into the corridor and stamped down its length toward the relative freedom of the grounds surrounding the Council Building...

He found a deserted clearing and worked off his anger by throwing rocks at a tree until he had denuded it of all its foliage. That helped, but it wasn't enough. He then went to the nearest gymnasium for a thorough workout - still wishing that someone could come along so he could pick a fight with them.

But no one came, and he finally calmed down enough to return to his quarters. However, he did not sleep very well that night, and his mood was far from good when he went to the Council Chamber the next day and learned that the Vulcan party had sent word that they would be unable to meet with him until further notice.

Stalemate!

Fortunately, that stalemate was broken by a chance encounter in the same glade that Kang had found the day that second message had come.

He'd learned that everyone avoided that particular area after he'd been seen destroying that tree. Perhaps they were afraid that he wouldn't hesitate to attack a living being the same way - and maybe they were right. Therefore, whenever he wanted to make sure he wouldn't be disturbed, he went to that glade.

It was the fourth day since the Vulcans had walked out, and he was beginning to lose patience - which had never been one of his strongest traits anyway. He paced the length of the glade, wondering if it would be worth the risk to attempt to seize the dilithium by force of arms. True, these worlds were strong, but if he attacked without warning, he could knock out many of their defense systems before they could retaliate. However, he could do little more than inflict minor wounds before retreating to seek reinforcements from the Empire - which would give these worlds more than enough time to launch an attack of their own. And if they did... There would be no glory in a war, which would result in the Empire's collapse....

A footstep. Who had dared enter this glade? He turned swiftly, crouched in a position, which would enable him to leap in immediate attack.

"I beg your forgiveness, I did not mean to intrude," a feminine voice said softly. The intruder turned to go, but he snapped erect and strode swiftly to intercept her.

"You will remain until I give you permission to go!" he snapped as he glared down at her.

"I am not your servant, Kang." Lorna said quietly as she met his fierce scowl with a steady gaze. "Yet I am not willing to do anything to provoke needless anger. Therefore, tell me why you wish me to remain."

"I - I want to know why you have not returned to the Council Chamber," he demanded, angry with himself because he had stammered for a moment like a callow youth before his first drill instructor. "We are supposed to be drafting an agreement, but we have made no progress in four days. Is this how you Vulcans seek to achieve a peaceful solution to this problem?"

"Kang, I doubt that you would understand why we have stopped the negotiations," Lorna replied sharply. Then she paused and shook her head. "That wasn't a very diplomatic thing for me to say. I'm sorry. And you're right; Sarek would never have allowed the negotiations to stop after you played that tape. We should be ashamed of ourselves."

"Then, I was given the correct explanation. You were offended by the news I received. But, why should the loss of one life matter so much to you, and to the rest of your party?"

"You are in no frame of mind to listen to any explanations. Therefore, I bid you farewell, Tarlokarne."

"No!" He fastened his hand about her wrist. Her eyes flashed but she didn't give him the satisfaction of a struggle. The swift leap of her pulse and the slight tremor of her lower lip as she caught it between her teeth betrayed inner agitation, however, and he laughed harshly. "You do not like Klingons. Why then should the female infant's death trouble you?"

"It just does!" Lorna protested as she made one swift effort to get free.

"Why?" he insisted, tightening his grip.

"My - my husband believed that every individual makes a unique contribution to the pattern of this universe. He taught me that all life - even the lives of enemies - must be respected."

"And that enables you to care that my daughter was destroyed?" He shook his head. "I do not believe you."

"That's your privilege, but I assure you that I do care - even if you don't." She gasped with pain as his fingers tightened convulsively about her wrist. Stung by her accusation, he felt his pain and sorrow increase. Thanks to the physical contact of his fingers about her wrist, her mental barrier couldn't withstand the impact.

"Why...you do care," she stammered, bewildered by the sudden rush of emotion which was flowing into her mind.

"Yes, I care," he replied harshly. "Do you humans think you are the only beings capable of mourning when a family member dies?" Her sudden pallor told him that his words had struck home, and he felt a grim satisfaction. Perhaps causing her to feel sorrow would ease his own.

Totally unable to halt the increasing flood of emotions that she was receiving from Kang, Lorna tried vainly to pull her wrist free and thus end the exchange. Finally, she moaned in sheer pain.

Kang was startled, for he wasn't exerting enough pressure to prompt such a reaction. When she lifted her free hand to her head, though, he remembered something he'd been told - a warning about a special ability that this woman possessed. His eyes blazed with suspicion. "Stop reading my thoughts!"

"I'm not! It's your pain and sorrow that I'm receiving, and those emotions are too strong for me to block." She protested. "Let me go. That'll break this empathic contact."

He complied, but he gave her no time to regain her composure. "Does it amuse you to know that a Klingon can feel pain and sorrow?"

Lorna shook her head. "No, but you have taught me a badly needed lesson. I'm afraid that we've judged you too harshly. You seemed to be so unconcerned about your child's death that we feared you would be equally disinterested in completing the agreement. We were planning to ask your Empire to send another representative. It's quite a blow to my self-esteem to discover that though I was wed to a Vulcan, I was unable to remember that deep hurts are often hidden by a mask of indifference."

Kang glared at her. "It would seem that your husband was not a very good teacher. At least, he obtained all the facts before he attempted to judge us."

A brief mist of tears blinded Lorna, for Kang had spoken words much like those she'd spoken to Sarek on the Observation Deck so long ago. "I - I deserved that. Kang, I must step aside. Will you consent to resume the negotiations after we choose another leader?"

"Why change? It will only create further delays, and we all want to leave this place," he retorted. "I think we understand one another better now."

"I hope so," Lorna replied, surprised by his unexpected acceptance of facts. "I apologize.... For what it's worth, Kang, I offer you my sympathy, and I hope that someday you'll have another daughter...." The expression on his face was so much like the one that she'd seen on Scotty's when he'd been mourning Mira's misfortune that Lorna knew she'd accidentally hit a sore spot. She wanted to turn and leave - why become even more involved with Klingons and their problems? No, if this mission was to end successfully then she would have to finish what she'd unintentionally started: "Something is wrong, Kang," she said gently. "What is it? Can I help?"

"A human help a Klingon?" he rasped. "Do you think me a fool?"

"No, but it's evident that you've been seriously hurt. You've been acting like a caged animal these past four days, and no wonder, with all that sorrow held inside you! Why haven't you talked with someone in your party - shared your sorrow to ease your pain? We'll never get anywhere until you do."

"There is no one I can trust - they would seek to use the information against me," Kang blurted then he cursed himself for his carelessness.

Lorna felt immediate compassion. "What a pity that you've never learned to share one another's emotional burdens." His blank look told her that he didn't understand. "I can see that I have no choice. Kang, if you share your burden of sorrow with me, I will let it go no further."

When he still said nothing, she sighed and turned away. "I don't blame you for not trusting me...."

"Wait!" He started to grab her wrist again, didn't, and wondered why.

"Yes?" She turned swiftly.

Though he wanted and needed something to ease his sorrow, Kang accepted her help characteristically: "Most likely the Enterprise intercepted the message when it arrived, so I might as well tell you...." Once he'd started speaking, the words poured from his lips: "My daughter inherited that defect - from me. I never knew, but the doctors have informed me that it is a dominant trait. All my children will either have the defect or will pass it to their children. But for the fact that I, and my family have been excellent warriors, my son would also be destroyed, and I would no longer be able to sire offspring. Indeed, any future children will be watched carefully - both mine, and my son's. If those children show no signs of the defect, they will be allowed to live. If the defect is present, they will be destroyed immediately, lest the defect further weaken our race."

"Poor Klingon!" Moved by pity, Lorna reached out to put one hand over his in a gesture of sympathy. Kang started and stared down at the cool fingers enclosing his own but the unfamiliar sensation of a human's sympathetic touch was so strangely pleasant that he allowed her hand to remain. "I'm so sorry for you. But, why didn't the doctors correct that defect instead of killing the child?"

"What could they do?"

"But - but...! You mean, your doctors do not know how to operate to remove clouded lenses? Your blind are never made able to see?"

"Are you saying that it is possible to do this?" Kang demanded angrily.

"Our doctors do it all the time.... In fact, they have ways of curing genetic defects...."

"Your doctors, yes. What good does that do us? They would never share their knowledge." He struck her hand away.

"There are some who would. I'm confident that Doctor McCoy would, if he was made to understand...."

"No! A Klingon asking a Federation doctor for help? It cannot be done." He lifted one clenched fist toward the sky. "I wish you had never told me this! I had accepted the necessity of the child's death, but knowing that it might have been prevented if Mara had been here with me, is asking too much of me."

His inner suffering had risen to such levels, that Lorna could sense it even without touching him. She didn't know what he might do, but she knew that she had to help him if he was to continue to function as the Klingon ambassador. If she stopped to consider what she intended she would panic for sure. Instead, she stepped forward and laid her hand on his forehead before he realized what she was doing. Working swiftly, carefully avoiding any mind-touch, she began to employ her healing technique of absorbing part of his burden of sorrow and then casting it out and away.

The wildness faded swiftly from Kang's eyes, and the lines of tension began to smooth away, for he was too startled by what was happening to try to get free.

"What did you do?" he demanded when she stepped back.

"I told you that I would share your burden of sorrow, and I just did - literally," she said, forcing herself to show no signs of the fatigue that the strain of helping this Klingon had created within her.

"You - helped me?" Kang shook his head in sheer disbelief.

"Yes. Maybe, that will give you something to think about. It's getting late, and I wish to retire. I trust that you will appear in the Council Chamber at the usual hour to resume work on the negotiations tomorrow, Kang."

***

The negotiations went better after that brief recess, and all parties concerned worked hard, trying to draft the final wording of a difficult paragraph that would set the pattern for the finished agreement.

Kang and Lorna had become friendly adversaries after that encounter in the glade. The Klingon had even gone so far as to assume a halfway protective attitude toward Lorna, for he was now firmly convinced that she was doing her best for his people as well as for hers.

Therefore, Kang was sincerely concerned one day when he suddenly noticed that Lorna had become pale and that her hands were shaking. "Are you well, Lady?" he inquired in an undertone, stepping swiftly to her side.

"Y-yes - I'm just tired...." But then she broke out in a cold sweat and collapsed in a deep faint.

Kang's swift reflexes enabled him to catch her before she hit the floor. "Summon McCoy, quickly!" he demanded then he carried her from the Council Chamber and took her to her quarters. Since no injuries had been inflicted, he considered it would be better for her to be placed somewhere more comfortable than the hard floor of the Council Chamber.

McCoy rushed to Lorna's quarters as soon as the transporter effect released him, to find a deeply concerned Kang waiting impatiently in the outer room. A few terse words provided Len with all the information the Klingon could furnish then the doctor went in to see Lorna.

She was awake and was looking quite well, though she seemed to be both sad and happy about something.

"I can tell you what's wrong with me," she volunteered when he began to pass his analyzer over her.

"Really? What?" he asked, only half listening to her.

"I'm pregnant."

"Yes," he said with a poor attempt at casualness as he checked his findings. "About four months along, as a matter of fact."

"What?" Lorna sat bolt upright in the bed. "I can't be! I didn't...." She stopped speaking and shook her head. "Len, I've skipped only one period, and I didn't start feeling nausea until a couple of mornings ago."

"Doesn't make any difference. You're well advanced in the first trimester, and you can't argue with these findings. Were your last few periods scanty and shorter than normal?"

She nodded.

"There you are! Living in this different gravity could account for that. There's no doubt about it, Lorna. Your nausea was probably caused by your emotional.... I'll give you something to help the morning sickness." He paused then continued, "I guess Sarek knew what he was doing when he refused the help of those spores."

Lorna sat motionless, wrapped in misery. She'd assumed, that the abnormal pattern of her monthly cycle was due to the pressures of her work and to the different environment of this planet. Now, as she counted back and recalled other symptoms, she knew that she must have become pregnant during their journey to this world, or soon after they'd arrived. Her heart nearly broke beneath the weight of her sorrow, a sorrow so great that she couldn't cry. As she sat there, enduring the pressure of her anguish, she realized that the terrible scene that had taken place between her husband and herself, before he had left her for the last time need never have happened.

Only her Vulcan training kept her from breaking beneath the weight of her remorse. As it was, she found herself driven by a desire to accomplish this mission to honor Sarek's memory. Also, she was driven by the need to return to Vulcan in time for Sarek's child to be born on its native world.

Both McCoy and Spock soon became puzzled by Lorna's constant references to the fetus as "it." Her mental talents should have enabled her to know its sex, even if it wasn't formed enough to communicate with her telepathically.

McCoy opened the way for a serious discussion by asking Spock to come down to Sick Bay because he needed some advice concerning Lorna's treatment then he told the Vulcan what was worrying him.

"You have verbalized the same matter which has been troubling me, Doctor," Spock replied. "Amanda informed me that she knew I was male during the first trimester. However, Lorna's mental abilities are so unique, perhaps her automatic mental barrier prevents her from receiving any communications as yet. You have checked both of them carefully, I presume?"

"Certainly. Everything seems to be all right, but I'm going to keep my eye on a few things. Maybe the differences between humans and Vulcans are at fault. I hope so, anyway. Spock, I'm worried. It's too early to tell anything conclusive, but Lorna described symptoms which indicated that she was close to miscarrying a couple of times."

"Do you recommend surgical termination of the pregnancy?"

"Without confirming any defects? Of course not!" Len frowned. "Besides, since Sarek is dead, I'm sure Lorna would never agree to a termination of this pregnancy."

"But the Academy could enable her to have another...."

"It wouldn't be the same, Spock. I know you can't understand, but...."

"On the contrary, Doctor, I do understand," Spock interrupted quietly.

"There may be hope for you yet, Spock, McCoy said with a wan smile.

"Perhaps, Doctor. Since you opened the way for this discussion, I shall now seek advice from you.... Can you tell me if Lorna has said anything to you about feeling that Sarek is still 'with her'?"

McCoy shook his head.

"Interesting. When I made reference to the matter, she told me that nothing like that has happened. Yet, on Vulcan, the mental bond between a joined couple definitely continues after the death of one member. I know Sarek experienced that bonding with Amanda after her death."

"Are you pulling my leg, Spock?" McCoy demanded angrily.

"Certainly not, Doctor."

"Brrr, that gives, me the cold shivers!" McCoy responded. "No, Lorna has never indicated to me that she feels any contact with Sarek's' - spirit. Er, Spock.... I understand that there's a sort of mental bond between a Vulcan father and child.... May I ask - and please believe that I'm askin' this as a doctor and not out of idle curiosity - do you have any contact with Sarek?"

"Yes, of course. Indeed, the contact is so strong that it is almost as if he were not dead at all. Therefore, I cannot understand why Lorna cannot sense anything. They apparently shared the total bonding...."

"Maybe her pregnancy is to blame, Spock. That reminds me - just what can I do to help her? I don't want to give her any drugs or unnecessary medication at this stage."

"Right now, there is nothing you can do - except give her the support of your friendship, Doctor. However, we must get her back to Vulcan before the child is born. I have the ability to form a shield to protect its mind from the initial impact of the impulses from human minds, but I cannot continue it for any length of time. Only a greatly skilled psychometrist could do that, and the one that accompanied Sarek here is not that well trained."

"Spock! You called the fetus 'it.' Don't you know...?" McCoy didn't need Spock's look to tell him that he'd said the wrong thing.

"Even if I could contact the fetal mind, I would not, Doctor. It has its right to mental privacy."

"Sorry, Spock, I meant no offense."

"None taken; I share your concern for Lorna, Doctor."

The intercom buzzed. "Bones, is Spock down there?"

"Spock here, Captain."

"Get up here, on the double. We just picked up a strange vessel on the scanners. It doesn't look like a Klingon supply ship, and we've had reports of a Romulan vessel near this sector...."

It was a Romulan vessel, but it responded to Kirk's challenge with the information that a malfunction had caused it to go off course, and it immediately turned to leave the system. Sulu continued to track the vessel until it vanished behind the outermost planets then he confirmed that its path would take it out of the system.

Before the Romulan ship left the system, however, it paused behind those outermost planets long enough to drop a shuttlecraft. Hidden by asteroids and space debris, the shuttlecraft made its way to Turon-Lura - carrying a taskforce of renegade Romulans who had been ordered to find out what was happening and, if the negotiations hadn't stopped, to stop them - fast. They needed that dilithium more than the Federation and certainly more than the Klingon Empire. After all, since their home worlds had denied them access to their own lithium cracking stations, they had to obtain fuel by whatever means they could. If those means resulted in a war between the other two powers, so much the better!

The task force reached the main planet and soon infiltrated the very Council Building itself. They resembled Vulcans so closely that the natives of the planet took their presence for granted, and they stayed away from the Council Chamber entirely, so Lorna's group couldn't see them. They prowled and observed, listening to several conversations for a day or so, and they didn't like what they heard: The final agreement was to be signed within the week. They had to stop it...why not kidnap both the Klingon representative and the woman who was working for the Federation? If they left clues, which implicated both governments, they might create mutual suspicion which would delay both starships, perhaps even involve them in a battle, and thus enable their own starship to come back and take over the planets - as well as the dilithium.

The kidnapping of the Klingon was almost too easy. All they had to do was send one of their men to the door claiming that he was bringing a message from the Lady Lorna. Kidnapping the Lady herself, however, required more planning....

Lorna was standing out on the balcony, looking up at the sky and meditating before retiring. There was a knock on the door, a mumbled conversation then the native maid appeared in the doorway of the balcony.

"There is a Vulcan here who says he bears a message from Sartonn."

"Admit him then leave us." Lorna ordered, assuming that Sartonn wouldn't disturb her at this hour unless it was important. The door closed behind the maid, Lorna heard a footstep then she felt a thick pad being clamped over her nose and mouth. She struggled against her assailant, but eventually she was forced to inhale the fumes of the pungent drug that saturated the pad....

***

When she regained consciousness, she was lying on a hard cot in a prison cell of some sort; that much was evident. Where - and why?

Approaching footsteps. She rose and turned toward the door, which was protected by a forcefield. There stood a Vulcan - no a Romulan, and Kang, who was flanked by two guards.

"Awake, I see," the Romulan, formerly a Sub-Commander, if his scarf was any indication, observed redundantly.

"Why have you kidnapped me - us?" Lorna demanded.

"To prevent the agreement between the Federation and the Klingon Empire," the Sub-Commander informed her calmly. "We need that dilithium, and we intend to get it."

"I'm sure the Enterprise will...."

"Your Enterprise will never be able to find you. In addition, she will be too busy defending herself against accusations if not actual attack from the Klingons to do anything to help you."

"So," and Lorna raised one eyebrow in a poor imitation of the Vulcan manner, "Captain Kirk isn't easily fooled."

"Perhaps not, but we have received help from an unexpected quarter. Kang has become an ally - though we have yet to determine how far we may trust him. Will you also join us, Lady?"

"Not while I'm in my right mind," she snapped.

"Then immediate execution is...."

Wait!" Kang interrupted. "She is too valuable to destroy."

"Why? She is but a female...."

"True. But she was wife to Sarek of Vulcan, and she bears his child."

"Why is that of value?"

"Spock has been an annoyance to you Romulans ever since he joined Star Fleet. Now, you have a chance to gain a Vulcan/human hybrid for your own ranks. Let her live then take the child and train it in your own ways."

"An excellent plan, Kang. Already you are giving indication that you are worthy of my trust," The Sub-Commander's eyes gleamed at the thought of the possible menace he could unleash upon the Federation in the future.

Lorna ignored him and glared at Kang, not caring that her shock and hurt was being revealed to him. "I thought better of you, Kang," she said finally then she turned and went back to sit down upon the narrow cot.

"I want a guard posted in this corridor immediately," the Sub-Commander said. "Humans are treacherous. Kang, you will come with me. I wish to hear more about your installations...."

Lorna pressed her hands against her abdomen. Sarek's child, raised as a Romula renegade - an enemy of everything that its father had believed in? Never.

Apparently the Romulan didn't know that Lorna had a way of getting in touch with the Enterprise after all. Ignoring the guard who was standing just outside the door, she lay down and disciplined herself to relax then she closed her eyes and began to focus her mental energy. Before long, she lost all awareness of her surroundings as she sent her thoughts forth to seek contact with her closest friends on the Enterprise....

//Who?//

//It is I, Lorna. Don't close your mind to me.... Len?//

//Yes, honey. Are you all right?//

//For the moment. The distance is increasing between us.... Call the Captain and Mr. Spock - bring them in with you to reinforce your mental patterns, I must warn you of terrible danger....//

In less time than she'd anticipated, Spock's thoughts were touching hers, telling her that he, Len, and even Jim were joined to maintain the thought web, for - acting under Spock's guidance - Jim could take part in the communication as long as either the Vulcan or Len was able to touch him.

//So, Kang's turned traitor,// Jim's thoughts came haltingly after Lorna had finished relaying all that they needed to know. //I wonder why that surprises me? We'll warn the planets immediately, Lorna.... Can you maintain contact while we track you?//

//I'll try. Hurry! Warn the planets.//

Following the techniques and disciplines she'd learned on Vulcan, Lorna entered a trance state that enabled her to keep her thoughts joined in constant communication with the Senior officers. She knew when the Enterprise set out in pursuit and she knew when the scanners finally locked onto the Romulan ship. Then, by looking through McCoy's eyes, she was able to watch their quarry on the screen as the ship attempted to flee. Faster, ever faster they crossed the vast reaches. Suddenly a planet swam into view, and Lorna was surprised when she recognized the land markings. Earth. She hadn't realized that so much time had passed since she'd entered this trance state.

Gradually the Romulan vessel began to draw away from the Enterprise as it reached a velocity it never had before. Lorna was still looking through McCoy's eyes when the image on the screen rippled then faded away.

At the same moment, she felt a sensation of inner disturbance, worse than vertigo then it stopped. Perhaps the ship was settling into orbit above the planet. She tried to contact the Enterprise again and failed. The Romulan vessel probably didn't have a governor - was it possible that it had achieved the exact velocity, which reversed time?

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Captain Kirk sank against the back of his command chair and sighed.

"Shall I make another circle, sir?" Sulu inquired, guiding the ship into a sweeping curve even as the Romulan ship faded from view.

"No, we all know what's happened."

"Captain," Spock rose from his seat at his station. "We will have to initiate an immediate search of our historical records...."

"Right. Scan every photograph, every news item as far back as necessary. We'll find them."

"If they have remained near Earth," Spock contributed. "If they have changed course for their home worlds, we may never find them."

"Captain," announced Uhura. "I'm receiving a message from Kang's ship."

"Put it on audio, Lieutenant."

"...Enterprise. Acting Tarlokarne Karnath speaking. I want Captain Kirk."

"Kirk here."

"Captain, we have just discovered evidence which proves conclusively that Kang and your own representative were kidnapped by Romulans. We have come to help you search for their ship."

"You're too late. They've engaged the time-warp and are somewhere in the past. I may have no choice about telling you how to go back after them."

"Captain, we also possess the technique of using a starship to travel through time. However, now that we have entered into that agreement to share the 'Guardian of Forever' with the other powers, we are no more capable of sending the Klothar back through time than you can the Enterprise."

Kirk nodded. As he'd suspected, Koloth's disastrous time journey had frightened the Klingons into abandoning their starship time experiments. They probably had no more desire to change their past than did the Federation.

"I see. It's unfortunate that the Romulans haven't seen fit to...."

"The Romulan Empire recently adopted similar preventive techniques on their regulation starships, Captain. However, we have evidence which confirms that the ship which took Kang belongs to space pirates who have been annoying us of late."

"Thank you for telling me, Karnath. I think you will agree that we must hold a joint conference immediately...."

Since the Klingons and humans were joined in a common cause, which would not be won unless they cooperated fully, the Klingons abandoned all thoughts of treachery. For one thing, they wanted to get Kang back. For another, there was little doubt that the unfinished treaty would be a source of great danger to both powers - especially if the Romulan Empire itself could figure some way to step in and take over - and neither faction wanted to lose the dilithium.

Both Captains agreed that the renegades would eventually return to their own era - driven by sheer homesickness, if nothing else. When, though, would be the problem. Even though they would have to follow the same course that had led them back in time, they would seek to return to a moment just far enough in the future that they could safely assume that the Enterprise would have been ordered to resume her mission and leave the area of Earth.

Spock's calculations had confirmed that the renegades would keep Lorna and Kang as hostages to be used to their advantage after their return to this era, though, and perhaps that would justify requesting permission to remain in orbit for an indefinite length of time.

Apparently the Empire and the Federation agreed, for the starships soon received orders to draft an agreement whereby they would each patrol a designated sector of the space around Earth. Actually, the Empire just wasn't about to order the Klothar to leave the sector where one of their high-ranking officers had vanished, but the Federation wasn't about to let that Klingon ship orbit Earth without constant supervision - and the Enterprise was the closest starship with equal fighting power....

Naturally, every patrol ship that could be released from duty joined in the vigil, and if their orbits managed to keep one of them in range of the Klothar at all times...who could blame them?

Spock was the one who suggested that medical personnel from the Enterprise be sent to the Klothar. If the Klingon ship reached the renegade vessel first, that would be the only way they could have someone aboard who could help Lorna. Once the suggestion was made, it was taken out of his hands as the two Captains agreed that there should be an exchange of not only medical personnel from both ships but also of technicians who could help each ship implement the other's records of the past. It would be best for each Chief Medical Officer to remain with his own ship; the next highest-ranking medical officer and an assistant would go to the other....

***

Nurse Christine Chapel stood on a transporter pad, outwardly calm but secretly wishing that Doctor McCoy had chosen someone else. Too late.... Now they were aboard the Klothar.

Christine glanced at the console as she stepped off the platform, and she wasn't surprised to see Karm standing at the controls. He wasn't looking her way, of course, for he was too busy shutting down the transporter.

"I am Karnath," the tall Klingon standing beside the console said as he saluted. "You will be safe aboard the Klothar. I pledge my weapons to assure this."

"Thank you, Karnath," Doctor M'Benga (who'd moved mountains to be reassigned to the Enterprise) replied. "We pledge that we will follow your instructions and your rules as we do those of our own Captain...as long as they do not violate Federation policy."

"I ask nothing more," Karnath said as he turned away. "The guards will show you to your quarters."

Christine picked up her kit and started to follow the others then, almost as if they had a will of their own, her eyes turned back to Karm.** He was standing motionless behind the console, his arms folded across his chest. When her gaze met his, he bent his head by way of greeting, and she was quite sure that she saw his lips move in a slight smile - whether of welcome or of satisfaction, she wasn't sure.

------------------------------

**Karm's features are modeled after those of a very real person - the actor Tony Young, who played the role of "Kryton" in the live episode Elaan of Troyius.

------------------------------

Oh dear! she asked herself as she made her way down the uncomfortably straight corridor. Just what have I gotten into?

 

Lorna opened her eyes, appalled by her weakness. However, since the child had required nourishment during her trance, it had depleted much of her reserves. She sat up slowly and looked around the bleak room, wondering why she'd been allowed to lie undisturbed for so long.

She couldn't see the guard, so she got up and moved slowly toward the door. "Hey!" she called. "Is anyone there?"

No answer, and she didn't want to get too close to the radiation of the screen to look to see if the guard was standing at the far side of the door.

"Hey! I'm hungry. Don't you Romulans know that you're supposed to feed your prisoners?"

Still no answer. After waiting a few moments, she began to pace back and forth in the narrow confines of the room, easing muscles that had become cramped.

Footsteps. She turned as Kang, accompanied by a guard carrying a covered tray, paused before the door. The guard touched the side of the door with something in his free hand, and the screen faded. He and Kang stepped through, and the screen began to glow again.

"You have slept long," Kang commented blandly.

"Perhaps I was extremely tired," she said as she turned away.

"I informed the Sub-Commander that you had retreated into a trance hoping to frighten him into releasing you. He decided to leave you alone until you either died or awakened of your own accord."

She turned back, intending to make a sharp reply, but he moved his eyes to indicate the listening guard and frowned. Was he warning her to watch her words?

"Why have you brought a guard with you, Kang?" she asked bitterly, too hurt and angry to heed any warning from him. "Are you afraid I might try to overpower you and escape?"

"The guard is here to watch me as much as he does you, Lady. I still have not convinced the Sub-Commander that I can be trusted - completely. You!" he demanded of the guard. "Is it necessary for you to remain in this room? You can hear equally well in the corridor, and I doubt this female will be inclined to speak freely so long as she can see you."

"True. Very well. I shall go out. There is little that you can do while the screen is operating."

After the guard left, Kang indicated the tray on the small table. "There is food for you."

"I doubt the wisdom of eating it."

"You fear it may be drugged, eh? No, the Sub-Commander wishes no harm to come to the child you carry. If you like, I will taste each dish to prove that it is safe."

"Don't bother. I refuse to eat it."

"You are being foolish. Must you starve your child to prove your hostility?"

A valid argument. Reluctantly, she sat down at the table and uncovered the tray. A bowl of plomik soup and a cup of steaming coffee met her gaze, and she looked up, surprised.

"A minor adjustment of the food synthesizers. I understand that this food replenishes spent energy quickly. Eat - then we will talk."

Lorna's first spoonful of the soup reminded her how hungry she was and she didn't pause until both cup and bowl were empty.

"Where are we?" she asked the tall Klingon. "Or is that classified information?"

"We are orbiting Earth...."

"And Star Fleet hasn't located us yet? I wasn't aware the Romulans had developed a new cloaking device."

"There is no need for a cloaking device. We are orbiting Earth - in what you call the 20th Century."

Lorna felt her heart sinking. The 20th Century! If they were in the latter part of the century, there would be no way for the 'Guardian' to reach her.

"Well, now what?" She said aloud. "Are we going to orbit here until the Sub-Commander gets tired and decides to go back home?"

"What concern is that of yours?" Kang approached the table and leaned across it. Instead of the blustering threats that she expected, however, she heard a very soft whisper: "We are being monitored."

She drew back and turned away, as though in distaste, but actually to make a swift visual examination of the cell. Yes, there the unit was, in the far corner.

"You might as well know the rest," Kang said loudly. "Landing parties have gone down to see how much trouble they can cause. The cloaking-belts will shield them during brief forays."

Lorna rose to confront him, her eyes wide with horror. "Don't they realize that they might do something which could change their own history as well? Or - don't they care?"

"Possibly the latter. The Sub-Commander expects you to tell him everything that you can about this era."

"I'll tell him nothing."

"So I surmised. However, you know that we have ways...." He reached out to grab her wrist, twisting it cruelly as he pulled her over and against him. But as he spoke, he thrust something into the hand, which was concealed by his shoulder and closed her fingers about it. She clasped her fingers instinctively and kept the object hidden while she lifted her arm and rubbed her wrist after he let her go.

"They'll have to do better than that before I'll tell them - or you anything."

"Indeed? I shall leave you so you may consider the situation. Perhaps you will accept my point of view before long." He picked up the tray. "Ho, guard! I am doing no good here. Let me out."

Lorna waited until the two were gone then she turned her back to the monitor and pretended to be muttering angrily. Instead, she lifted her hands carefully to see what Kang had given her - a pair of nose-filters! When a careful examination revealed that the nose filters were just that and nothing more, she began to wonder if Kang were really the Judas he seemed. She inserted the filters into her nostrils so slowly that the monitor didn't catch what she vas doing then she waited. Suddenly a stream of pale blue gas shot from vents in the ceiling and drifted down to permeate the air in the room.

The screen was still operating, so she could do nothing. There were more footsteps. Someone was running down the hall. A moment later Kang, holding a weapon in one hand and the key to the screen in the other, came into view. "Hurry!" he ordered as he killed the screen. "There is little time. If we can gain the bridge before they regain consciousness, we may be able to use the Sub-Commander as a hostage to force them to return...."

"Dare I trust you, Kang? Or is this just a trick, to make me reveal infor...?"

"Would the Sub-Commander use gas on all his crew just to deceive you? However, you have every reason to suspect me." He frowned then moved closer. "Read my emotions - they will prove that I am speaking truth."

She drew back instinctively. "You considered it an invasion before...."

"You are not invading - I am telling you to make the contact." He grasped her hand and lifted it to his forehead.

Lorna realized that he wouldn't budge unless she obeyed him. The swift mental touch confirmed that he had merely pretended to throw in with the Romulans until he could escape.

"I believe you. But, Kang, we cannot take control of this ship - the odds are too great. But, maybe.... Do you know the exact date?"

"It is after the year you call 1970 but your Genetic Wars have not begun yet."

"There's someone on Earth who can help us, Kang! Come on."

They headed down the corridor toward the lift, Kang still bent on going to the bridge, and Lorna trying to convince him they should either "borrow" a shuttlecraft or transport to Earth.

"General Alert!" boomed the intercom over their heads. "The Klingon and the human are trying to escape. Stop them!"

"We haven't any choice!" Lorna gasped. "Are we near the shuttlecraft hanger or a transporter room?"

"There is a transporter," Kang pointed to a door a few feet away, "But I have no coordinates to program it."

Thanks to those difficult Vulcan disciplines, Lorna was able to recall a set of coordinates that she'd read during her days as an honorary member of the crew of the Enterprise. Fortunately, no one had entered this corridor as yet, and they were able to reach the transporter without incident.

"Do you understand Romulan and Federation numerals well enough to program this with the coordinates I can give you?" Lora said anxiously.

"Aye," Kang replied after a swift glance at the controls.

Their luck held, and the door didn't open to admit a band of heavily armed guards until they were vanishing in a cloud of sparkling motes....

***

"Any news, Jim?" asked McCoy when Kirk joined him for coffee.

"No. Spock has scanned tapes clear back to the Genetic Wars without finding anything. I'm beginning to think they went to their own worlds after all."

"What does Karnath report?"

"Essentially the same thing. I'm getting to the point where I'm ready to tell Spock to study all the 'silly-season' reports that were logged in Earth's newspapers during the 20th Century."

"That might not be a bad idea, Jim. Romulans would certainly look strange to humans who believed they were the only form of life in the universe."

"You're right, I'll put Spock on it right away."

"Er, Jim, is he as absent-minded as he was a couple of days ago?"

"Spock? 'Absent-minded'?"

"Preoccupied then. Haven't you noticed how he manages to be on the bridge when it's time for Christine to make her daily report?"

"Yes, I.... Bones! Do you suppose...?"

"Hardly. Spock is probably just wondering what sort of an effect our people, especially Christine, are having on the Klingons."

***

That was the same thing Christine was wondering as she stood in a dark corridor, facing a very angry Karm.

"I repeat," he demanded, "why did you send this to my quarters?"

He dangled the rose pendant in one hand, his brows meeting in a scowl.

"I - couldn't keep it. You shouldn't have given it to me...."

"Why? You wanted it but could not purchase it. I could."

"Yes, but...."

"'But' what?" he roared, and she drew back slightly, hoping he wouldn't resort to physical violence.

"I.... I can't accept a gift like that from you...."

"Among humans, it is permitted for females to accept gifts from male friends. Is it because I am Klingon that you refuse this?"

"No." Anxious to erase any wrong impression she might have made, Christine laid her hand on his arm. "Please, you must understand.... Human women don't accept gifts from male friends so soon after they've met. They'd rather let the friendship develop naturally. Nor would they accept so expensive a gift in any case. Not unless...."

"'Unless'?" he prompted when she became silent.

"Unless - certain conditions have been met," she finished lamely.

"Hmmm," Karm mused. "I do not understand. You talked with me during that banquet though it must have created difficulties later for you among your own kind. I wished to let you know how your action pleased me. When I saw that you wanted this," he held out the pendant, "but could not afford it, I purchased it for you. Is that motive unacceptable to you?"

"No," she said as she took her hand from his arm and moved back a step or two.

"Then, you have no reason to refuse this throat ornament."

"Very - well...." She reached out for the pendant, but he shook his head.

"I want to see you wearing it. Turn around; I shall fasten it for you."

Christine obeyed hesitantly, feeling a strange sensation creeping along her spine when his warm fingers touched her neck while he fastened the chain. "You Klingons never cease to amaze me, Karm," she said in an effort to conceal her nervousness.

"Why?"

"I never would have believed that you could be capable of such sensitivity.... I'm sorry; that was rude."

"You think because we are warriors that we can have no poets or artists, eh? There are differences among us, just as there are among your own kind. We both have been told what to believe about the other - I think that the truth is vastly different."

"Kor and Koloth would never agree with you."

"They have not had the opportunity to get to know humans as well as we have."

"I think rather that the crew of the Klothar are unique among Klingons, Karm."

"Perhaps. Yet, have you not learned that many Klingons can be taught the ways of peace? Did you not discover this when you and the Klothos were swept into the Time Trap?"

Christine wasn't surprised that he had access to information about that event. "Apparently Kor didn't learn much from the experience."

"Kor is Kor. Are you so hostile that you refuse to give me a chance?"

"I'm not sure I know what you mean...." Christine glanced along the corridor, wishing that someone would come along, but they remained alone.

He came nearer, seeming to loom threateningly in the dim light. "You have not yet told me your chief reason for first refusing to accept my gift. I would like to know what it is, so I will not make the same mistake again."

"I.... Karm, when a human woman accepts such an expensive gift from a man, it means that she is willing to begin a - a courtship with him. I'm sure that that's the last thing you had in mind...." She cried out in real fear when he darted forward and caught her in a merciless grip.

"So, you, think we are all alike, seeking only to take and to destroy? You consider the friendship I offered you false - a ruse to lure you from your own kind so I could force you to submit to me?"

After a moment's struggle, she willed herself to stand rigid in his arms.

"If that is what you intend, I seem to be powerless to prevent it," she forced calmness into her voice. "I assure you that I refused the pendant only because I thought our friendship was so genuine and so spontaneous that I didn't want you to feel that you had to buy my good will, Karm."

He looked down at her, his eyes gleaming with a fierce light then his expression became dark and brooding. "Was that what you thought when you received my gift? We have both misunderstood. Christine, I can ease your mind on one point. I have never had to force myself upon a female, nor will I begin now. It means nothing unless the female is willing to become Karmitha with me." He released her and turned away.

"Karm." She touched his arm again. "I'm sorry. Please, I didn't mean to hurt you."

"There is no hurt - only disillusionment," he replied without turning.

"I regret that even more." She moved to stand in front of him, looking up into his face. "My words were thoughtless, and I had no right to say them, for you have always been courteous to me. Yet.... Oh, Karm! Haven't you ever been afraid of the Unknown?"

"Klingons conquer the Unknown!"

"The need to conquer often arises from fear...." Thinking she'd overstepped the bounds, she added, "...for humans, that is."

"Perhaps," he said in a faint whisper, "it may be so for Klingons as well."

"Then, can't you understand that being on this ship, living among Klingons is a voyage into the Unknown for me?"

He nodded, and the brooding expression of his face softened to one of understanding.

"Believe me, Karm, I didn't mean to hurt you. May I apologize - thus?" She rose up on tiptoe and kissed his cheek then she hurried down the corridor, thoroughly annoyed with herself.

Karm stood where she'd left him, his eyebrows lifted in pleased surprise then he reached up to touch his cheek. "Ah," he mused as he headed for his station. "These human females are difficult to understand - but one is never afflicted with boredom while they are around!"

***

Roberta Lincoln rose swiftly from her desk, her eyes wide while she watched two columns of shining motes appearing in the center of the office. Before she could speak, those columns became two humanoid figures. "It's happening again!" she gasped as Lorna and Kang took stock of their surroundings. "The Enterprise has come back!"

Kang stepped forward, his weapon raised.

"No, Kang!" the woman exclaimed.

Roberta shrank back, her eyes becoming wider. "Who are you? What are you? Mister Seven! Gary...!" Ignoring the vicious looking weapon, she turned and headed for the door of the inner office.

It opened before she reached it, and a tall, rugged, virile looking man, clad in an impeccable business suit, came out. "What is it, Roberta?" He saw the intruders and moved swiftly to stand in front of the girl. "Calm down; it's all right," he said soothingly. "I don't think they'll hurt us."

His eyes narrowed as he studied Kang. "Klingon," he said tersely. "What are you doing here?"

"Coming here was not my wish!" Kang snapped.

"Peace and long life, Gary Seven," Lorna stepped forward with her hand lifted in the Vulcan salute. "I bring you greetings from the Federation. When he remembers his manners, Tarlokarne Kang will deliver his greetings from the Klingon Empire. We mean you no harm."

"It certainly looks like it." Gary looked pointedly at the weapon in Kang's hand.

"Kang," Lorna said softly. "Please make sure that thing is not set to kill, and then turn it over to Mister Seven."

"Is it necessary, Lady Lorna?"

"I believe you will regret it if you do not."

Gary motioned to Roberta, who had edged up beside him. She stepped forward to take the weapon then retreated swiftly to stand beside Gary, who absent-mindedly put one arm around her as his keen gaze shifted to Lorna's face and studied her intently. "You seem to know what I am. Who told you?"

"I once served aboard the Enterprise, and I studied a narrative of events that took place when Captain Kirk came to Old Earth at the same time you did."

Gary nodded. Lorna couldn't help smiling when she noticed that he still had his arm around Roberta, and she glanced at the girl's left hand. No ring. Well, that gave her a better idea of the present date.

"You are human, aren't you?" Seven demanded, frowning at her Vulcan garments. Realizing that he was still holding Roberta, he released her and approached the intruders.

"Yes, I'm a native of Earth but I - was married to a Vulcan." Lorna's voice trembled as she forced herself to declare her changed status.

"You're Spock's widow?" Seven asked, not realizing the irony of his question.

Lorna shook her head.

"My mistake. You said you'd served aboard the Enterprise. When you said that you'd been married to a Vulcan, I assumed that you meant Spock."

"A natural error, Mister Seven. No, I was wife to Sarek of Vulcan, Spock's father." She lifted her hand swiftly, to ward off further questions. "Please, I'll answer your questions about personal matters, but let me give you a warning first.... I'm sure you've surmised that we've come here for the specific purpose of seeking help...."

"The inner office is more comfortable," he indicated the door at the side of the room....

"...Romulans here on 20th Century Earth," he mused after Lorna and Kang had told him about the dual kidnapping and their subsequent escape... "You're right; if they remain here and are discovered, they'll cause the future to be changed completely. However, there are a few details that still aren't clear..." He turned to Kang. "Why did you pretend to join the Romulans and then escape the first chance you got? And, why did you delay your escape in order to free this human woman?"

"It took many years and much effort for me to gain my position of command. The Romulans indicated that it would take me even longer to achieve a similar position with them - if ever. I had no desire to remain where I would gain little or nothing. The Lady had helped me earlier; assisting her to escape cancelled any obligations between us."

"I see. Well, Kang, I can't promise you that I can do much of anything to advance your career. Even so, if you'd tell us where the landing parties are planning to do, it would help...." He paused and eyed the Klingon questioningly.

"Since I have no desire to have the future change, which you say will happen if these Romulans are not stopped, I have no choice. I will cooperate.... However," he frowned darkly, "I cannot tell you where the landing parties plan to go. They did not trust me that much."

"That will make it harder for the Enterprise to find them. I suppose you have come here because you expect Captain Kirk to contact me?"

"We came because you are our only hope, Mister Seven. The Enterprise can't come back to this era...." She went on to explain the Federation policy of installing governors in all regulation operational starships to prevent starships from achieving the exact velocity needed to travel through time. "The Romulans and the Klingon Empire may have adopted a similar policy, for they have recently entered an agreement with the Federation whereby all three powers explore time with the help of an alien artifact named the 'Guardian of Forever'."

Gary nodded. "Well, I would assume the renegades plan to visit Earth's centers of government, experimental stations, and perhaps even missile sites. It will take a while to locate them all. In fact... You realize that if I have to destroy the Romulans and their ship, you'll be stranded here?"

"Is such destruction necessary?" Lorna protested. "The Romulans have as much right to life as we do."

"You've been married to a Vulcan, all right," Gary smiled. "Believe me, Lady, I have no desire to kill these Romulans. However, it may be necessary."

"I got the impression that your superiors are more than a match for anyone - even Romulans," Lorna said quietly.

"Besides, neither of you relish the idea of becoming a part of this culture, eh?" Gary challenged. "It wouldn't be easy to fit Kang in, but I could do it."

"No!" Kang shouted; he started to rise then thought better of it. From what little he'd seen in this room, he had an idea that this Gary Seven had access to various instruments - any one of which might be set to deal automatic destruction to anyone who threatened him.

"You are still so hostile to humans then?"

"It is not that," Kang realized that he would have to betray his inner motives to this unusual man if he wished to convince him of his sincerity... "Times are changing, and I can get along with humans if I must. The Lady will testify to that. However, I have a son whom I have never seen...who is yet to be born as time stands now. Must I remain here in the past to assure that he will have life in the future?"

"You may have a point. And what of you, Lady? You've indicated that you came from this century originally. Surely you wouldn't object...?"

"I cannot remain," she interrupted desperately.

"Why?"

"I am carrying Sarek's child."

Gary ran his hand through his hair and whistled soundlessly. "You're right. That child can't be born on Earth, and it's equally unwise to try transporting you to Vulcan in this era... All right, I'll see what I can do. In the meantime, would you both be willing to help us capture these Romulans?"

"Why do you need us?" Kang indicated the computer console - revealed to them when Gary had been checking their stories. "It would seem that you have enough here to deal with the entire Romulan fleet."

"I have a lot of equipment, but very little personnel to run it." Gary replied. "At the moment, Isis and I are the only agents assigned here. After what you've told me, I'm anticipating more trouble than I can handle alone - especially if those Romulans plan to disguise themselves as humans."

"There is no need for them to do so." Kang dropped his hand to the belt at his waist. "They possess a number of these personal shields which we developed some time ago. Though these shields are limited in power, they grant the wearer total invisibility for a certain length of time. Even sensors cannot penetrate their field."

"That complicates matters nicely." Gary said with not a little sarcasm. "But your knowledge of the belts would give me an advantage. Lady, do you think you could - sense the Romulans through those shields?"

"I don't know, but I'm willing to try."

"Just so long as I get you back so your child can receive the proper care, eh?" He rose, already making plans for his course of action. "Very well. I'll adjust the computer to monitor you while you're staying here. As for living arrangements.... There's a couch in my apartment, so you'll stay with me, Kang. Roberta, do you mind if the Lady Lorna stays with you?"

"Certainly now, Mister Seven. Come along, Mrs.... Mrs. What?"

"Call me Lorna, please."

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

It was quiet aboard the Enterprise. Most of the off-duty crew were asleep - all except Mr. Spock. He was meditating in his quarters, vainly seeking an answer to the puzzle that he had described to Doctor McCoy - namely, why he still felt such a strong sense of Sarek's actual physical presence instead of the usual psychical touch which existed after death....

Eventually, his thoughts turned to the other problem in his life: Nurse Christine Chapel. He hadn't asked for her love; he'd done nothing to inspire it in her, but he couldn't ignore the fact that it existed.

He knew that Lorna had spoken the truth when she'd talked with him that night on Vulcan. Nurse Chapel did possess much to recommend her. She'd proved more than once that she possessed great courage, and she was a skilled nurse. The best in Star Fleet, according to McCoy, and Spock didn't argue the appellation. Yet, she was so emotional.... When the pon farr had nearly overcome him, she'd been a source of annoyance. Yet, hadn't she laid her own hopes and wishes aside to inform him that they were going to Vulcan, though she'd suspected that he would wed another when they arrived? When Henoch had tried to kill him, she'd saved him by sheltering his life-force.* That service alone demanded every consideration from him - even though it had also created a whole new set of problems.

------------------------------

*Return to Tomorrow, by John Kingsbridge. Live "Star Trek" episode.

------------------------------

He'd never revealed this to anyone - even Lorna. Therefore, Christine Chapel had never understood why he'd been able to contact her mentally with such ease when he and the others had been trapped after responding to that Lorelei Signal.... He'd made very sure that she had never even suspected that a mental bonding had been established between them while she'd been sheltering his life force.

Most of the time, severe mental discipline enabled him to ignore the bonding. However, he could sense when she experienced severe emotional disturbances, so he'd known of her tension and apprehension while she was adjusting to life aboard the Klingon ship. Perhaps he should sever that bonding - it would make life less complicated. However, he had a practical reason for not doing so. Now that he was unbonded, when the next pon farr came upon him, he could face the danger of dying a horrible, lingering death. But, since Christine had told him that she was in love with him, since the bonding was there, it might simplify matters....

He reprimanded himself sharply. Instead of delaying and relying upon possibilities, he should resolve the problem either by accepting her before the time of his next pon farr, or else he should free her so she could find another.

He sighed. Even though it was illogical, here in the privacy of his quarters he could admit to himself that he missed Christine. The Enterprise was not quite the same without her - even though he knew she was needed on the Klothar.

Almost immediately his thoughts turned to that day when he'd seen her with Karm. He felt a sudden, unwelcomed sensation of unease. Perhaps the problem was no longer his to solve. This Karm was a fascinating individual - definitely not like the average Klingon. He seemed to attract Christine, though she apparently was not yet aware of it. Once before, a member of Kang's crew had wed a woman from the Enterprise. Their marriage was progressing well, and they were proving their worth aboard the Otsud, the ship maintained by the Vulcan Science Academy, which was surveying the planets newly admitted to the Federation. Christine's talents and abilities would be equally valuable on that ship, and Karm's skill as an Engineer couldn't be discounted....

Enough! He had other matters to consider....

***

Christine sighed and laid aside still another tape deck as she leaned back in her chair.

"Nothing?" Inquired Sartonn, the Vulcan technician who'd been working with her.

"Not a thing. However, I didn't expect to find anything in the Empire's past."

"Every area must be explored."

"I know, but I'm beginning to believe that the renegades went to their home worlds after all."

"Spock has determined a 99.98% probability that they did not."

Christine didn't reply, for she had no desire to become involved in another logical debate with this cold, precise Vulcan who was certainly nothing like Mr. Spock. She blinked with surprise. This was the first time that she'd thought of the First Officer for days. Of course, she'd been busy.... That is an evasion, and you know it, Christine! she scolded herself. You've let Karm keep you too - too preoccupied to think about Spock!

Karm. The Unknown quantity. A Klingon, yes, but more - definitely much more. After that one episode in the corridor, he'd treated her with the utmost courtesy. He didn't intrude upon her work, yet he seemed to know when she was feeling most upset or worried during her off-duty hours. He had completely disproved all her preconceived ideas about Klingons - sometimes about the male creature in general. She'd been able to learn a few facts about him. Though he was K'hunsha, among the fiercest warriors in the Empire, Karm had become a member of an obscure Klingonese religious sect that practiced a form of transcendental meditation, which enabled him to focus his belligerence and pride of ferocity then channel them into energies which he used in the demands of his profession. Thus, though he wouldn't avoid a fight if one started, he was well able to exist without violence. Also, from what little she'd been able to learn from the few tapes she'd been allowed to take from their library banks, both Kang and Karm were apparently centuries ahead of their time - actual misfits in their own culture. Even so, they'd won excellent posts in the Fleet. Kang was apparently hindered by the dictates of his command, for he wasn't quite so ready to accept changes as Karm. And yet, Kang had been doing very well as an ambassador before he'd been kidnapped. As a matter of fact, judging from all she'd seen and heard, Christine was beginning to wonder if most of the crew were of the same type. All of the men who'd been with Kang when the Entity had destroyed their ship were with him now on the Klothar. Perhaps their unique characteristics had prompted the High Command to keep them in deep space, where the Entity had found them. Was it possible that their unanticipated stay aboard the Enterprise had influenced them favorably as well?

She thought of how Karm had kept her from feeling homesick her first day here by taking her on a restricted tour of Engineering. In fact, he had managed to find so much time to take her on tours that he must have a very well trained crew. They had spent many hours in each other's company of late, discussing various aspects of their cultures, continuing to "learn to get along."

Christine had never thought a Klingon could be charming, but Karm had soon changed her mind. Perhaps he was trying to impress her and others in an effort to make it easy to demand more concessions when the negotiations resumed. Yet, his behavior was a sign of progress. In earlier years, even Karm would probably never have even considered trying diplomacy to solve problems.

To be quite honest with myself, she admitted during this self-examination, I consider Karm a very attractive individual in his own right!

What was she thinking of, telling herself that Karm was attractive? Well, he was. And, when one came right down to it, there was probably more of a chance of something coming of her friendship with Karm than from her love for Spock....

What in the name of Heaven is the matter with me today? she asked herself, agitated by this wayward pattern of her thoughts. Now that she had started to think about Mr. Spock again, she felt that she was being disloyal by even considering liking someone else. After a moment, she bent to the viewer.

"Nurse Chapel," Sartonn informed her calmly. "Your rest break began five point seven minutes ago."

"No matter. I'd like to finish this tape."

"I shall complete the task."

No use arguing. She rose and headed for the corridor door.

Karm stepped out of the lift just as she was about to enter it. Apparently, judging from the extremely casual style of his clothing, he was also off duty. "Ah, I thought I might have missed you," he said, his eyes gleaming with pleasure. "I promised to show you our hydroponic section today. Would you like to go there now, or would you rather have your meal first?"

Actually, after the way her thoughts had run off with her a short while ago, Christine felt that she'd be better off spending her off duty hours alone in her quarters. However, he'd gone to the trouble of arranging for this tour, and she had no practical reason for refusing.

"I'm not very hungry, yet," she said with a formality that had not appeared in their conversations for several days. "Perhaps the tour will help my appetite."

"Or vanquish it," he said as he looked at her sharply. "Our foods often are not as pleasing to the eye as are yours. Come along." He touched her arm to indicate the proper direction then walked silently at her side.

Their hydroponics bore much similarity to the Herbarium aboard the Enterprise in that the main part of the area was given over to the raising of plants for food and for oxygen. However, the Klingons had introduced a new element - spaces providing room for various types of recreation.

"I thought Klingons didn't have Rec Rooms on their ships."

"Kang suggested this idea after our stay aboard the Enterprise. The High Command resisted at first, but we have proved that these areas help to relieve the problem of boredom during long flights."

"This looks very efficient...." Christine wandered from one growing tank to another. "What's this?"

"Tarnil, one of our staple foods. It is acceptable to the human system. Would you like to taste it?"

"Why not?"

He selected one of the steel blue, oblong pods hanging from the plant and broke it in half. "I think you will enjoy it."

Biting into his half and crunching it with relish, Karm challenged her silently to follow his example.

Christine sniffed at the fruit but could detect no odor. Finally, she bit off a tiny piece and chewed it carefully. Immediately, her mouth was filled with the delightful taste of fine chocolate laced with the crisp coolness of mint without the cloying aftertaste of either.

"Well?" Karm demanded.

"It's delicious." Christine took another bite. "Would you be interested in making a trade? I'm sure Mr. Sulu would love to add this to his collection. He could offer cuttings from...." She saw something at the end of the tank that startled her so much that she nearly choked.

"What is wrong?" Karm turned but saw nothing.

"Could this fruit cause hallucinations...?"

"No. What did you see?" He drew near, unconsciously assuming an attitude of protection.

"I suppose you'll laugh at me, but I thought I saw a child run past the end of this tank."

"You did," he leaned back against the side of the tank, grinning at her surprise.

"There are children aboard the Klothar?"

"I thought you knew. Our children no longer learn to operate starships by reading books; they now learn by experience."

"What do you do when you're under attack? Surely you don't force them to face the fire?"

"No, we protect our young during battle, much as you do your own. However, I consider the presence of children one advantage that we have over the Federation. Karmitharn and their young are not parted by the demands of starship service."

"Surely your women leave the service when they become pregnant?"

"Why should they? They can give birth aboard ship as easily as they can upon the surface of a planet. Mara remained on Shabas only to honor Kang's family traditions."

"Karm, I hate to admit it, but your women seem to be more liberated than we are in that respect."

"'Liberated'?"

"Forget it. I don't want to even try to explain that concept to you. I wish you Klingons could show the Federation how you've solved the problem of children aboard a starship.... Or, have you?"

"'Have we' what?"

"Solved the problem of population control. The Klothar doesn't seem to be overcrowded - but I haven't seen everything...."

"We maintain a careful balance between supplies, space, and population."

Christine nodded. The Klingon women were luckier than they knew. Fancy trying to talk the Captain into letting her remain aboard the Enterprise if she should ever become pregnant!

"You told me that you would like to look at the stars," Karm suggested after a moment's silence. "The Star Dome is on this same level, but there would not be many of the crew there at this hour. Would you rather wait...?"

Christine was startled by his sensitivity. Apparently he sensed that she didn't want to be alone with him and was giving her a chance to tell him so. How could a Klingon do that? Intrigued by this seeming contradiction - one of many which she'd discovered in her association with this Chief Engineer, Christine forgot that earlier she'd been concerned about their relationship.

"It would be better to go now, Karm. There are still some among you who are not comfortable when humans are present."

There were only two other Klingons in the Dome when she and Karm entered, and Christine wasn't surprised when those two soon left. Nor did it surprise her when no one else came in. The members of Kang's crew might be trying to "get along with humans" but they wouldn't be won over entirely for a long time - if at all. She wasn't surprised when no one else came in after the first two had left. In fact, she'd have been more surprised if someone had come in.

Karm led her to a seat on the curved sill that circled the outer edge of the Dome then he took a seat beside her. They remained silent while they watched the shining stars sail past the ship as it moved in orbit, and they studied the planet turning beneath them.

"I wonder what is happening to Lorna - and to Kang?" Christine said aloud after a while. "Sometimes, I wonder if they are still alive."

"I am firmly convinced that the Romulans know the human woman and our Tarlokarne are too valuable to kill. They will need hostages when they return to this time."

"But Kang has joined...."

"No," he said firmly. "I do not believe that he joined the renegades willingly. Our relationships with Romulans have not been satisfactory of late, and Kang would be even less anxious to join renegades."

There was another silence. Then Christine started with surprise when Karm suddenly reached out to take possession of her hand. She didn't pull away, though, and she really didn't want to ask herself why.

"I shall regret the moment when we are ordered to abandon this mission," he said after another period of silence.

She didn't answer. His tone had indicated that he wasn't thinking about the loss of his commanding officer, and she wasn't quite ready to discuss anything else.

But Karm wasn't to be put off: "We are tarndaro, are we not, Christine?"

"Yes, Karm. I like to think that we've become very good friends."

"And you no longer think that we Klingons are...devils?"

"No... at least, not the members of this particular crew. However, I don't think you're angels - total allies - either. We've managed to resolve a few of our individual differences, and much good may come from that. Even so, we may engage in battle again someday...."

"Perhaps our ships may battle one another, but you and I shall never be enemies, Christine." His clasp tightened then he reached out to capture her other hand as well. "There is something I would say to you."

He paused, waiting for some objection. However, she either couldn't, or wouldn't say anything to stop him - even though a tiny voice deep in her mind was whispering that she should remember that she loved Spock and had no business giving this Klingon even token encouragement. When she remained silent, Karm took a deep breath and continued: "I do not want you to return to the Enterprise." Releasing her hands, he sat motionless, waiting for her response.

"W-why?" she asked, assuming false ignorance.

"Can you not guess?" He reached out to grasp her shoulders and turned her to face him. "Are you that involved with your medical duties? Or, are you only pretending to misunderstand? Very well.... I am confident that you know the meanings of the words Karmitha and Karmitharn?"

"The first term would be 'lover' in my language. The second would signify the marriage relationship, isn't that right?" she recited, secretly wondering if his name had been derived from one of those terms and wishing she could know the story behind the choosing of his name. When he nodded; she continued, "But...what does that have to do with...?"

"I think you know," he said very quietly.

"Karm," she drew back. "I'm not interested in having an affair with - with anyone...."

"Nor am I."

"Then, I must have misunderstood you, and I'm glad. Ones who have become friends...."

"I have never thought of you as tarndaro, Christine," he interrupted her relentlessly. "When you bandaged my shoulder in your Sick Bay after the Entity was driven away, I wondered why I could not forget you. When we shared food at the reception, I began to understand. When we enjoyed a day of free time together, I knew. I never believed I would choose a human - until you gave me your friendship. Now, I shall never want another. When I kissed you that day, Christine, I committed myself to you. Ever afterwards, I have referred to you in my thoughts as...Karmitharn."

Christine was touched by his eloquence, totally unexpected from Klingon lips. "Oh, Karm! I never realized...." She stopped, fully aware that she wasn't telling the truth. Hadn't she just been wondering if there was any possibility that their friendship might be in danger of moving onto another level? However, she hadn't anticipated that her speculation would be confirmed so rapidly.

"I think you did, Christine," he insisted. "And I also think that you are not indifferent to me."

"You've mistaken physical attraction for something more, Karm. I love someone else - have loved him for several years."

"That Vulcan who serves aboard the Enterprise? I have heard of this - more than once. Yet, we both know that he is indifferent to you. Must you waste your youth desiring something that can never be yours?"

"You've just said that you never believed you'd choose a human. I never planned to fall in love with a Vulcan either, but it happened."

"After so long, is it really love - or were you victim of an attraction which you called love but is now a - a habit which keeps you from looking elsewhere?"

"Don't, Karm!" Christine protested. "Loving someone as a 'habit' sounds so - so insipid!"

"And is that, not what your life has become?" he challenged. "If your love for this Spock was still the deep commitment it should be, would you have been so willing to accept my friendship?"

This was becoming more complicated by the minute! Christine considered walking out on this situation, but she'd never been one to run away whenever things became difficult. Therefore, she met his veiled accusation head-on: "Are you saying that, since you're a Klingon, I wouldn't have become your friend if I hadn't been attracted to you?"

"Exactly. Do you not realize that we both had to overcome many prejudices? Even now, I think you do not believe me entirely. You think I maybe speaking these words to lull you into feeling a false security?"

"I don't want to think that, Karm. However, past experiences have taught us to look behind every Klingon's actions and words. Your people have never been known for total reliability in your dealings with the Federation not even after the Organian Treaty. Koloth has been a formidable enemy, and Kor hasn't been exactly a friend either."

"I answered a similar argument earlier, Christine; I shall not repeat it," he said proudly as he rose. "If you must judge all Klingons by what you have learned of a few...if I cannot convince you that I speak the truth then there is no use to continue this conversation."

"I've hurt you, again, haven't I?" Christine said softly, feeling a sincere pang of regret. "I'm sure that's because we come from different cultures and speak different languages. Oh, Karm, how can I make you understand...? Look, our races have been enemies, for so long, it was innovation enough just for you and me to become friends.... Now - well, you've turned my world upside down!"

"Eh?" He turned and looked out at the planet. "It is still upright...."

Christine couldn't hold back her laughter. "You see what I mean? That was a figure of speech, but you took it literally. How could we ever come to understand one another well enough to - to marry?"

"I am certain there is, one area of communication in which we would have no difficulty," he said with deceptive softness. Moving swiftly, he pulled her up and into his arms then he bent his dark head and found her mouth unerringly.

She tried to remain rigid and unresponsive in his arms, but she felt a sudden tremor assail her, and her own lips moved beneath his as though her very heart and soul sought to betray her.

"What are you doing? He's a Klingon!" shouted that tiny voice in her mind, a voice which she now recognized as nothing but plain old prejudice. "You can't do this! How can you be sure he loves you, anyway?"

Oh, shut up! Christine told the voice silently. Let me enjoy myself - for once!

Almost as if he could sense her warring thoughts, Karm broke the kiss and looked down at her intently. "You tremble. Do you fear me, Christine?".

"I'm - not sure. Karm, you know this is madness!"

"Is it? Or are you thinking of your duty to the Federation? There comes a time when duty does not have to always be the first consideration."

"How can you, a Klingon, say that? I thought you were warriors, dedicated totally to conquest!"

His arms tightened slowly, even though she wasn't trying to pull away. "Aye, we are warriors, but we can fight for the one we want as earnestly as we can fight for gain. There is one thing you must understand, Christine. Though a Klingon seeks pleasure where he may while he is free, he commits himself entirely when he enters the Karmitharn relationship. Only total refusal will turn him from his goal...."

"I've already told you that I love Spock!" She protested. "How can you expect me to give serious consideration to your proposal?"

"Because you have let me speak; because you have accepted and returned my kisses...."

"Non-nonsense! I was just being polite. Besides, I'm not made of ice. I can enjoy a kiss without making a total commitment to the person I'm kissing."

"Perhaps...but not this time," he said evenly. "In fact, you have never engaged in a casual affair. Yes, I have studied your past - did you think I would not? Just as you have studied mine - or as much as I could allow our recorder to release to you without earning a reprimand for both of us."

He tightened his arms like relentlessly gentle steel coils when she made a moue of annoyance. "Ah, that disturbs you? You did not want me to know that you felt this interest in me, eh?" He smiled down at her, but there was no trace of mockery visible in his features. "Christine, you need not feel that you are disloyal because you have come to love another more than your Mr. Spock. You owe him nothing."

"You - you are assuming too much! I - I haven't said that I love you."

"Your kisses have told me."

"Karm, you can't base a life's decision on - on chemistry...!"

"If this is 'chemistry,' it is a very pleasant reaction - one that I wish to experience frequently," he murmured before he kissed her again.

She wanted to remain unresponsive, but again her own longings to love and to be loved defeated her.

An eternity later, Karm put his hand against the back of her head and guided it to rest in the hollow of his shoulder, keeping his hand on her head to hold her both his prisoner and his cherished treasure. "Now, let there be an end to this talk of feeling nothing for me," he demanded.

Instead of answering, Christine nestled her head deeper in the hollow of his shoulder, listening to the rapid beating of his heart.

"I will wager your Spock never kissed you like that!" he persisted.

No. Christine agreed silently. Only once has he kissed me - and that was just because Parmen forced him. But, I'm not going to tell you that until I am more sure of exactly what my feelings are for you, Karm.

"Who taught you how to kiss?" she said aloud. "I wasn't aware that Klingons knew the practice. After all, not even all the humanoid races in the Federation engage in this custom."

"I told you that we possess films about the Federation, Christine. Suffice it to say that we adopt and adapt customs from other cultures, which increase our pleasure. But - why do you ask? My kisses do not please you?"

"You know better than that," she said recklessly, willing to accept the consequences.

Instead, he did the unexpected by catching her upper arms and holding her away from him slightly. "These questions indicate that you still feel doubt." He shook his head. "How can I convince you that I am sincere?"

"Karm, I want to believe you, but I don't see how it could ever work out. You love the Klothar. I've seen you working with a few of your engines. I've seen how your eyes glow when you talk about this ship. If you marry a Klingon woman, you will remain here. If you married me - if you married any human woman, you'd have to leave this ship, for the Empire would surely take your citizenship from you! You couldn't be happy on the Enterprise, or any other Star Fleet ship - I just know you wouldn't."

"So!" He was pleased. "You are more concerned for me than for yourself? We are making progress. The problems you have described are valid ones. However, they are not insurmountable. If marrying you means that I must leave the Klothar, could we not join Kaleth and his mate aboard the Vulcan ship?"

"You'd give up the Klothar - for me?"

"To choose between the cold metal of the Klothar and the warmth of a Karmtharn's arms is no difficult task."

Christine sighed. "I think I'm wasting my time trying to argue with you. It seems that you have an answer to every question."

"And do you have an answer for my one question?" Still holding her in one arm, he put his free hand under her chin and gently lifted her head. "I ask you formally: Will you become Karmitharn to me, Christine?"

"Your life's companion - your wife?" she repeated needlessly.

"I think I have already made that clear," he replied sternly.

"You have, but..." her voice trailed away.

"'But'?" He prompted.

"I still love Spock!"

"More than you love me?" His voice was so calm that she wondered if he might be suppressing a terrible anger. "The truth, Christine."

"The truth is, I simply don't know yet!"

"Then, I shall wait. Eventually, you will make a decision. Until then...."

"Attention, Lokarne Karm. Nurse Chapel. Report to the Planning Chamber - Area Ten, immediately!" The intercom crackled.

Personal matters were forgotten as they rushed to answer the summons.

Karnath, Acting Tarlokarne, was waiting for them. "Sit," he waved toward the conference table. "We have just received a message of importance from the Enterprise."

He handed Christine a printout and waited while she studied it. She read it through twice then she looked up, visibly startled. "This changes the whole picture."

"Aye. You must return to the Enterprise to discuss this new decision that your Star Fleet has made. Your Captain is expecting you to beam over immediately."

"I'm on my way," Christine said as she rose.

"One moment," Karnath lifted one hand. "I have something to say to you both. Karm?"

"????" He rose and stood at attention.

"You are wondering why I called for you when this is Federate business?"

Karm nodded but remained silent.

"You will go with the Nurse."

"Is it permitted to ask why?"

"Humph!" Karnath snorted instead of taking offense at the question. "I wish you young pups would learn to choose less public places in which to pursue your females! You were so preoccupied you never even heard the door opening in the Dome a short time ago, eh?"

Karm's face darkened with embarrassment or anger, even he wasn't sure which, but he remained at attention.

"I have no way of knowing how Kang will accept this news, but I have lived long enough to know that if a Lasier and a Varnt want one another, they will discover some way to share a nest." Karnath continued quietly. "You have chosen this female; now you must go to the Enterprise and deliver your formal request to Captain Kirk."

"Tarlokarne, the woman has not yet accepted me," Karm informed him swiftly.

"Then this is no time to let her evade you. Go!"

"Karm," Christine said when they were in the corridor. "You don't really have to go with me, you know."

"Yes, I do," his expression forbade argument. "I assure you that I shall say and do nothing which will bring you distress."

"I'm sure you won't - tell me," seeking to change the subject, "What is a - a Lasier, and what is a Varnt?"

"The Lasier is a feathered creature born on land. The Varnt bears scales and lives in the water."

 

 

CHAPTER TEN

Lorna forced herself to sit quietly, hands folded in her lap, while she waited for the computer to make its report.

"Pregnancy progressing without complications. Fetus quiet. Cannot pick up mental impulses, but it lives."

"Enough. Outline diet and routine for next interval." Gary Seven ordered, and the computer immediately began to respond.

"You're worried," he said, his sharp gaze noticing Lorna's white knuckles.

"Yes."

"You're still afraid that I won't get you back to your own era in time for the child to get the help it'll need?"

"I know you'll make every effort to keep your promise, Gary," for they'd worked together long enough to be on a first name basis, "but premature delivery of a Vulcan/human infant is an ever present danger. And there's something else that worries me even more. Doctor Enal administered a sedative to me before Doctor McCoy arrived after - after Sarek was killed. If that sedative damaged the child, wouldn't that explain why the computer hasn't been able to pick up any mental impulses?"

"The combination of Vulcan/human characteristics could also do the same thing, Lorna," Gary assured her swiftly.

"Perhaps, but that thought won't keep me from worrying. However, I'll keep believing that whatever happens, it will work out for the best."

"That's all you can do," he approved. "Now then, let's get back to work. We still have to confirm those new coordinates for the Romulan ship. It's going to be orbiting too close to the space station, and I'm afraid there might be an accidental radar contact. The Romulans say there won't; I want to be sure."

Lorna did her best to put aside her personal concerns and concentrated on the tasks that Gary Seven assigned her, working with him as though they'd been lifelong friends. She smiled, remembering the awe that she'd felt when she'd seen how simple it had been for him to subdue the skeleton crew aboard the Romulan ship. The weapon that he'd used had either drugged them or had stimulated an area within their brains - she still didn't know which - but the crew had become docile and agreeable to Mr. Seven's every command. They'd been ordered to remain aboard the ship to keep it cloaked against all detection from Earth; also, they'd complied with a command to oblige him with the beam-down points of every landing party.

That was when their problems began: Those landing parties had vanished - in more ways than one - and it had been quite difficult to find any traces of them. Two parties had been found, subdued, and returned to the starship. Four yet remained to be located, though there had been recent indications of disturbances in a newly developed, oil rich nation on the African coast.

Lorna moved restlessly in her chair.

"You're getting tired; better go rest," Gary suggested.

"Yes, I'm tired," Lorna agreed. "I'm tired of staying indoors. Gary, I don't want to sound like an ungrateful guest, but this current inactivity is very boring."

"I agree," said a masculine voice behind them. "Is there no way that we might leave this building without creating changes in the future?"

Kang, accompanied by Roberta, had just come in from the other room, carrying yet another load of maps and charts.

"You agreed that it was foolish to continue setting yourselves up as targets for the..." Gary began.

"Those latest figures prove that there are no Romulans within one thousand Earth miles of this city." Kang interrupted. "I am tired of staying within these four walls. Even the strenuous exercise which I obtain at night in the 'gym' in this building does not ease my restlessness."

"Let me think about it," Gary evaded.

Kang subsided, but only until the noon break, when Roberta turned on the television for the news but got the wrong station and received a game show instead.

"I think I shall go mad if I have to continue staying indoors watching this television!" He roared as he began to pace the length of the room, kicking aside any inanimate object that was in his path - and wasn't large enough to hurt his foot. "Pfagh! Impossible stories of things which could never happen. People demeaning themselves seeking to gain ownership of goods which are of no real value. I will endure no more of it."

Gary and Roberta exchanged amused glances, but Lorna nodded her head. "He's right, you know. You've both been wonderful - putting us up and feeding us, even though we've not been able to do any outside work to help pay for our keep. I know, you've told us that we're earning our room and board by helping you capture the Romulans. Even so, Gary, we've got to get out of this building. Surely we can tour this city in safety?"

"You wouldn't attract any attention, Lorna, but what about Kang?"

They all looked at the Klingon. He'd been cooperating to the utmost in their work, but he'd refused to wear 20th Century clothing. Since they would be the only ones to see Kang, Gary had ordered the computer to furnish Klingon style clothing for him.

"Surely you wouldn't mind wearing a local costume if it meant that we could go outdoors?" Lorna coaxed.

"If that is the only way I can leave, this place, I shall do it," he grumbled.

"That isn't good enough." Gary objected.

"I don't know..." observed Roberta. "His skin tones aren't too much different from those of some human races. If he shaved off those eyebrows...."

Once the air had cleared, Roberta made haste to promise that she'd think twice before ever making a similar suggestion.

"Why must I change my appearance?" Kang demanded. "I still have the shield."

"That would be fine - until the power gave out while you were in the middle of a crowd," Gary retorted. "I think you will agree that you would gain more than a little attention if that happened."

Lorna had risen and was watching snowflakes falling against the windowpane. "I think we're overlooking a simple solution to this problem," she said at last. "Wouldn't a ski mask offer concealment enough?"

"All right, Lorna," Gary sighed. "I can see that you two will keep after me until I let you out - even if I have to transport you to a desert island to keep you safe. Very well, you win.... Just a minute, you two. Kang, even though you lived in the Turon-Lura civilization for quite a while, you can't manage on your own here. There are just enough differences that you simply don't know enough to try to mingle with these people. If you go out, it will only be with Lorna acting as your guide.... You don't mind, do you?"

"No, not if Kang doesn't."

Kang didn't mind at all - anything to get out of that building. Before long, they were stepping out onto the street. They both looked so much like many informal 20th Century citizens that no one noticed Kang's dark ski mask, even though he was muttering and rubbing at his jaw where the mask pulled at his beard.

It was late afternoon between the after lunch and the end of the day traffic rush, the best time for a stroll.

Lorna took a deep breath and immediately began to cough. "I keep forgetting...." she said then stopped, afraid that someone would hear too much.

"Even so, this is better than staying inside...." Kang paused and sniffed quite audibly. "Something smells good here."

They were standing in front of a nut shop, where delicious aromas were wafted out onto the street every time someone opened the door.

"They sell nuts in there," Lorna said as she smiled up at him. "They have too many calories for me, but.... Look, Gary gave you enough money to cover such things. Go tell the clerk in there that you want a pound of...I think you'd enjoy cashews more than anything else.... Give her a bill that has the numeral five in the corners; she'll do the rest."

Kang thought it over for a moment then disappeared into the shop. Soon, he was back out on the sidewalk, jingling his change in one hand and balancing a sack in the other. "Not much left from the money - and just for this small amount?"

"This is the era of high prices, remember? Stop complaining, put away your change, and eat those before they get cold," Lorna scolded.

They continued down the street, studying the window displays, Kang dipping into the sack and finding the mask no hindrance to his enjoyment, Lorna refusing when he offered to share - but finally weakening.

"I'd forgotten how good they tasted! No, no more, I'll gain four pounds from just that handful. Look, do you have anything like that on Shabas?" She pointed to a display window filled with mechanized toys.

"Similar, but why do you use so many green branches and colored lights?"

"We always use these decorations for Christmas." For a moment Lorna felt absolutely besieged by memories, for it had been at Christmastime, when she'd been taken to the future.

"'Christmas'?" Kang repeated. "Who is that?"

"Oh dear, I guess that's something we haven't told you." She saw a small café. "Come on, my feet are getting tired. Let's get some coffee, and I'll try to tell you about Christmas."

Since Kang couldn't remove his mask, he didn't order anything, saying that he preferred to retain the memory of the flavor of the "cashews" he'd eaten. However, he motioned for her to go ahead and get coffee for herself then he sat waiting while she stirred imitation cream into her cup and tried to think of the best way to describe this traditional holiday. After all, he had his own philosophies, and she didn't feel qualified enough to try to evangelize him - indeed, felt it best not to confuse him further at this time.

"Is it so secret?" he asked.

"No, I was just trying to decide what to say...." And so Lorna told him of the traditional celebration of the natal day of a Man whom she believed had made such a great sacrifice that it changed the development of many nations of her world. That they celebrated mainly by giving and receiving gifts.

"It is an interesting idea," he said looking out at the growing crowd of exhausted shoppers who were making their way homeward. "However, I think the merchants are the only ones who gain anything from this 'Christmas' of yours."

"I have to agree with you, unfortunately. But, people aren't supposed to 'gain' from Christmas - they're supposed to try to learn to live together in peace. Many seek to observe this holiday in the same spirit of Love which they believe first inspired it."

"'Peace'; 'love'!" he snorted. "Weak words!"

"But powerful concepts. Kang, don't you realize that it takes more courage to follow the ways of Peace than it does to conquer and destroy?"

"You are thinking of Sarek? He was truly courageous, yet he did not employ violence to achieve his goals?"

"He...was..." even now it hurt to think of her husband, "He will always be...the man so strong he can afford to be gentle."

"Then ...I think I am beginning to understand," Kang said after a moment, and Lorna felt richly rewarded by this small sign of progress.

She was very quiet while they walked back to the building. Kang cast several glances at her, wondering why she was so thoughtful. However, his varied experiences with humans - both during the negotiations and now here on Old Earth - had taught him that it was best to remain silent at these times.

Lorna had been silent because she had been remembering the Christmases she'd shared with her natural family. She came to a decision that night and discussed a very personal matter with Gary Seven first thing the next morning....

"Wouldn't it be better to let things stand as they are?" Gary frowned. "What if you let something slip?"

"Even if I did say something about the future, do you think my family would believe I knew what I was saying? They'd probably think I was mentally ill."

"And they might try to put you in a hospital as a result," he warned.

"Not as long as I keep this with me," she indicated the instrument, which - disguised as a piece of jewelry - enabled her to maintain constant communication with the monitoring computer. "However, Gary, if you feel that I should not go, I won't."

"I think you have a lot of memories, a lot of 'ghosts' that need to be buried." He nodded. "All right, you can go home, but I'll give you just three hours. Where are they living now?"

"Where are who?" Kang, who had just come in, demanded. "Have you found more of the Romulans?"

"No," Lorna answered truthfully. "I'm going to visit my parents.

"Are you letting her go alone?" Kang snapped. "Why?"

"Because I think she'll be happier in her life in the future if she can see her family once more," Gary retorted. "Surely you know I wouldn't let her go if I thought there was the slightest possibility of danger!"

"Hmmm," Kang grunted skeptically. "If you must go, you must; but do not forget the tasks that await you here."

Lorna shook her head and smiled after his retreating form, wondering what Captain Kirk would say when he discovered how much Kang had changed.

***

Gary had plotted the coordinates with such precision that she nearly walked into a thicket when she left the transporter. She paused for a moment to get her bearings. For one moment she was almost afraid to see her family then she squared her shoulders and began to walk toward the small house. If Sarek had been alive and standing beside her, he would have told her that she must make peace with her family, now that she had this opportunity to do so. Even though he wasn't with her, she knew that she had to try to justify the confidence that he would have had in her.

She paused, wondering if she should go to the back door like any member of the family, or go to the front. There was the sound of a footstep on the gravel behind her.

"May I help you?" a well remembered voice asked courteously. "I’m the pastor here, and...."

"I know," Lorna said softly. "You always wanted to have a church in the country."

"That voice...!" John Mitchell reached up to wipe away the snowflakes that were melting on his glasses. "Who are you?"

"Have I changed so much?" She turned to look at him.

"My - God! Lorna...? It is you!" Dropping the packages he'd been holding, he extended his arms. She hesitated for a moment, prompted not by resentment or shyness but by her Vulcan training then she rushed forward to throw her arms about his neck.

Incoherent murmurs - mingled endearments and inquiries, neither heard nor understood then John stepped back. "It's getting colder.... Get into the house before the neighbors come to see what's happening. I want to have you to ourselves as long as possible."

Then, opening the door... "Sara. Sara! Where are you?"

"Goodness, John, don't shout! I'm right, here." Sara turned from the sink where she was peeling potatoes, glancing at her husband with long-suffering exasperation then she saw Lorna.

There was an immediate repetition of the reunion that had taken place outside.

"Oh, Lorna, Lorna!" Sara wiped the tears from her eyes with the corner of her apron. "My child who was lost and now is found! Where've you been all these years?"

"What's this?" drawled a feminine voice from the doorway to the kitchen. "The return of the prodigal daughter?"

Lorna turned swiftly. Yes, it was Kathy, much older and less attractive than she remembered her.

"Greetings, sister," she said calmly. "I'm glad that you're here. Mom. Dad. You both look wonderful."

John took her coat and his eyes widened when he saw that she was pregnant, but he said nothing, merely went to hang the coat up while Sara ushered her daughter into the front room and offered her the most comfortable chair.

"Lorna?" said a barely remembered voice, and she looked up to see Kathy's husband, Carl, extending his hand in greeting... He was nearly bald and quite overweight - nothing like the young boy who had once wanted to take her to the movies.

"Hello, Carl," she clasped his hand for a moment. "It's been a long time."

"Is that all you can say after disappearing like that?" Sara demanded almost petulantly. "Lorna, why did you go off without a word? Where've you been?"

"Yes," John said sternly as he joined his wife on the sofa. "You have a lot of explaining to do, Lorna."

"I know," she said quietly, clasping her hands and closing her eyes for a brief moment to gather her courage then she gave them the explanation that she'd prepared: "I can't tell you much. Only that I was working late one evening and saw something that I shouldn't have seen while I was on the way home. Never mind what, but what I saw eventually resulted in - an entirely new life."

Naturally, they pressed her to tell them more, but she refused. Carl eventually expressed the theory that, since there had been some gangland killings in the city at about the time she'd vanished, she must have seen one and had also been seen by the killer. Since it would be easier for them if they believed that she'd been held in protective custody ever since, Lorna neither confirmed nor denied his theory.

"There is a husband in this 'new life' of yours, I trust?" John demanded, looking directly at her swollen abdomen.

Lorna smiled wryly. "Yes, Dad. Or rather, there was... He was a wonderful man, an Ambassador... No, you wouldn't know his name; you've never heard or read about him. None of his missions are recorded in Washington but they will be remembered everywhere that intelligent beings are seeking to learn to live together in..." she stopped, knowing that she would reveal too much if she went on.

"Can't you at least tell us his name?" Kathy said mockingly.

"No. But I will tell you that he wasn't an American...."

"W-where was he from?" Sara gasped. "What are his people like?"

"Don't worry, Mother," Lorna nearly chuckled. "This child is descended from one of the finest ancestral lines among its father's people."

"I'll just bet you got married!" Kathy mocked.

Lorna was angry for just a moment then understood. Kathy was jealous!

"I'm sorry, Lorna," Kathy apologized a moment later, "I know you wouldn't live with a man without marrying him first."

"Thank you, Kathy." Then, turning to her parents, Lorna sought to change the subject by asking about their health and asking them what had happened to them while she'd been "away." However, her attempt to redirect their attention worked for only a few minutes.

"Daughter," John said sternly. "You realize that your answers aren't adequate?"

"Yes, and I'm sorry. However, isn't the little bit of information I've given you better than the doubts and the fears you must have felt when you returned and found me gone?"

"Lorna, who were the three men who stayed at the Parsonage while we were away?"

"Three very good friends, Dad."

"Who?"

She shook her head and remained silent.

"Lorna," John said mournfully. "I don't understand you. You're certainly not like the daughter that we once knew."

"Thank God for that!" she immediately regretted her thoughtless remark. "I have grown up, Dad, and it's high time I did. I couldn't cling to you and Mom forever...."

"But we loved you!" Sara wailed. "We gave you everything...."

"Did you?" Lorna said, her face stern. "Do you know, that's the first time since I was a very young child that I can remember you telling me that you loved me. I wish you'd said it often when I was young it would've helped a lot."

"What do you mean, Lorna?" John demanded as he rose. "We fed you and clothed you; we gave you a roof over your head. Didn't that tell you we loved you?"

"Knowing that one is loved and being assured of it are two different things, Dad," Lorna answered quietly. "I learned that difficult lesson only recently; fortunately, before my husband died. All right, I suppose you and Mom did love me. For the longest time, though, I felt that neither of you had ever wanted me."

"How can you say that?" Sarah protested as she rose too. "Don't you remember, how I worried over you and sat up night after, night when you had that terrible ear infection? How can you say that we never wanted you?"

Lorna rose and held out her hands "Dad. Mom. If you loved me so much, why did you rely upon material things instead of telling me so?"

John blinked hard for a moment. "I guess we were so busy in the Parish or trying to take care of you children that we forgot..."

"Lorna, I was never the type of mother and minister's wife that I should be; I'll bear that cross all my life," Sara said harshly. "Yet, you'll be a mother soon; then, you'll understand. A parent becomes so involved in the work of protecting their children that they don't have time to enjoy them."

"Yes, Mom, I understand that - but why does it have to be that way? Don't you see? We were all too busy - no, too afraid to tell one another how we really felt - how much we loved one another. And when we were angry or hurt, we were too afraid to speak about that, too."

"Are you saying that communication is the key? It can't be that simple," John protested.

"But it is. Dad, how long has it been since you told Mom that you love her?"

"Why, I.... Good Lord! I don't remember. But..."

"The usual phrase was 'I married her, didn't I?' Mom, why didn't you ever put down that dishtowel and ask Dad to spend a little time with you?"

"I was - afraid to; afraid he'd tell me that he didn't want me."

John's eyes widened with surprise and guilt. "I never knew you felt that way."

Lorna turned away to give her parents a moment of privacy, to find Kathy confronting her.

"Do you know, I always resented you because Mom and Dad depended upon you for so much and asked nothing of me."

"And I resented you because you were so pretty and so popular. You seemed to have everything I once wanted. How illogical hu...we can be!"

"God, Lorna!" Kathy cried, blinking tears from her eyes, "Don't you realize how guilty I've felt! You must really be enjoying your revenge."

"What do you mean?" Lorna demanded, totally confused.

"Can't you see...? Then come over here and stand in front of this mirror with me."

Lorna did so and understood what Kathy meant. Even though she was in the advanced stages of her pregnancy, Lorna was by far the most attractive of the two.

"See? All I ever had going for me was my looks, now they're gone, and I don't have anything," Kathy said bitterly.

"Don't, Kathy!" Lorna protested as she turned and put her arms about her sister. "You're wrong when you say, that you have nothing. You have a home; you have your husband...."

"Now that I'm losing my looks, he probably won't want me either," Kathy said in muffled tones, her face buried against Lorna's shoulder.

"Dammit, Kathy!" Carl snapped as he strode to the two women. "I sure ought be the last one to carp about someone losing their looks! I've been terrified that you had stopped loving me since I've become fat and nearly bald.... But you look the same to me as you've always looked - beautiful!"

"And, I thought you didn't want me any more because I was getting these wrinkles...!" Kathy lifted her head and turned to look at her husband. "Oh, Carl, do you still love me?"

"Idiot," Carl said by way of endearment then grinned over his wife's head at Lorna.

Lorna blinked her eyes rapidly, surprised to find that they were filled with tears. "Go to your husband, and be happy, Kathy," she said softly, pushing her sister toward Carl.

Turning swiftly, Lorna went to the farthest wall and leaned her head against it, closing her eyes as she attempted to concentrate on one of the mental disciplines that Sarek had taught her. So much emotion...no wonder Vulcans sought to control it instead of allowing it to rule them. If she'd had any idea that she would have been the cause of such a scene, perhaps she'd never have come. However, the bonds of love between the members of her family were now strengthened, and the results would surely be worth a bit of discomfort....

"Lorna? Daughter? Are you all right?"

She turned and looked up into her father's worried face. "Yes, Dad. I'm just a little tired."

"Come and sit down. Sara, bring a cushion for Lorna's back... Oh, you've already gotten one."

"Here, dear," Sara tucked the cushion behind Lorna at exactly the right spot. "I'll change the sheets on the bed in the...well, we call it 'guest room,' but now it'll be your room again...."

"Mom," Lorna said quickly, sighing inwardly because she had hoped to avoid this discussion. Yet, it would not have been right to just vanish without warning again. "I can't stay...."

"What are you saying?" Sara demanded as she reached out to grasp Lorna's arm. "I can't give you up again...I won't."

"Please, Mom, I don't want to hurt you, but.... This child has to be born among my husband's people," Lorna protested.

"Aren't our hospitals good enough for you, Lorna?" John demanded, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

"They...don't have the necessary equipment," she evaded, hoping he wouldn't press the matter. "Dad, please understand, it's necessary."

"Complications?"

"Not yet, but there could be."

"And you have your own doctor.... I guess we have no choice in the matter. Yet, now that you've visited us this once, surely you'll come again?"

"No. I was allowed to break the silence this once, but no more. When I return to my new life, it - it will be like I've vanished off the face of the Earth," she faltered.

"How can you be so cruel - so indifferent?" Sara cried, wringing her hands.

"If I seem cruel, I'm sorry, Mom. Perhaps it would have been best if I hadn't come back at all, but it's too late for regrets now. Just believe me when I tell you that it is necessary for me to go back to my new life - that I will never be able to see you or communicate with you again...."

"Mom Mitchell," Carl volunteered, "I guess Lorna's right. She's probably blown her cover by coming here, and so she'll have to get a new name and a new place to live. If she saw something... Well, wouldn't you rather know she's safe and alive someplace rather than knowing she's been killed...?"

"Carl," John ordered firmly. "Take the women into the kitchen and help them. I'll talk to Lorna. Even if I can't convince her...well, it is Christmastide, and the children will want their snack when they come in from school...."

There was a murmur of voices, but John soon arranged to clear the room so he could talk to Lorna alone. "Who taught you so much about the importance of communicating love, Lorna Doone?" he said by way of opening the conversation, using her childhood name to disarm her as much as possible. "It would seem that you never learned that in this family."

"My husband taught me."

"Then, he must have been a very wise man." Then, inevitably: "Er.... Was he a Christian, Lorna?"

"I wish you hadn't asked me that, Dad," Lorna sighed. "My husband followed the pathways of Peace. Logic and control were the very cornerstones of his life, and he..."

"He wasn't." John stated flatly.

"He lived the Golden Rule... Please, Dad, I don't want you to pursue this line of questioning." Lorna stood up and walked over to the window.

"It's my calling, Lorna."

She stopped pleating the curtain and turned. "Dad, I didn't want to discuss theology with you, but... Have you ever wondered if perhaps you might be limiting your God too much?"

"What do you mean?" John rose and went over to pick up a Bible, ready to quote references whenever necessary.

"Well... Let me give you an example. So far, Earth has found no other intelligent life. However, I'm sure you'll agree that such a small world as this can't be the only source of intelligent life in the universe. And, if there are other such worlds, will their people be condemned because they don't believe in the same way you do?"

"We'll send missionaries - if and when we ever discover other worlds..."

"That would be the instinctive reaction... But, what if these other worlds have their own Plans? Dad, suppose there's a world out there whose inhabitants have never known war? Do they need a Crucifixion?"

"I...don't know. However, I can't even imagine a world without war...." He paused and frowned. "'In My Father's House are many mansions,' eh? I suppose there may something in what you say - or are you trying to tell me that you don't believe, in God any more?"

"I believe in an Almighty Father, Dad, perhaps more than ever. And - and therefore - I also believe that the consciousness that was my husband still exists on another plane - but I can't believe that he is in eternal punishment...."

"You are content to let the problem rest in God's hands, so why don't I go and do likewise?" John grinned. "Very well, I agree with that, after a fashion. This is hardly the time to cause even more worries for you. The child will be enough of a concern, though it will ease your sorrow. What do you want? A boy, or a girl?"

"I'll be content with whatever the Almighty Father gives me."

"What a lovely name for God."

"I've always liked it..."

"John, telephone!" Sara called from the kitchen.

A few words then he returned saying that he'd be back soon and left.

Lorna glanced at the clock on the wall and started with surprise. Where'd the time gone? The mixer was running in the kitchen; a welcome sound, for it would mask her footsteps when she went to get her coat.

Pausing before the fireplace, she picked up the family picture sitting there, slipped it out of its frame, and tucked it into a newspaper that had been lying on the hearth. This time, she would take more than memories of her family with her.

She opened the front door and closed it behind her silently then, crouching down as much as her pregnancy would allow, she walked slowly along the edge of the yard and along the side of the road. Nothing was coming, so she crossed the highway and went behind the thicket.

For a moment, she felt a pang of regret, knowing how her family would feel when they found her gone without a trace again. Yet, perhaps they had left her alone because they'd known it would make leaving easier for her. Either way, they were strong. So often, they'd endured partings in their lives. Eventually, this would become only one more among so many....

The blue cloud floated directly in front of her. She took a backward look then, taking only pleasant memories and the photograph with her, she walked forward.

***

Roberta Lincoln sat at her desk, filing her nails when Lorna entered the reception room after shutting down the transporter. "Everything all right?" she asked calmly, but her eyes were intent.

"Yes. Where are the men?" Lorna asked as she sat down near the desk.

"Out chasing another clue. I wish those - confounded Romulans would be considerate enough to post a sign saying 'Here we are!'"

Lorna gasped. "What did you say, Roberta? Never mind.... You've just given me an idea. It's so simple! Why didn't I think of it before? Especially since a similar thing rescued Jim when he was trapped in time."

"Would you mind telling me what you're talking about?" Roberta demanded.

"You've given me an idea for a way to send a message to Captain Kirk."

"In the future?"

"That's right. You've been a great help, Roberta. Thank you."

"Well, I'm glad I'm good for something besides window dressing around here."

Lorna looked up swiftly, recognizing the tone of Roberta's voice as one of latent self pity.

"Care to tell me what's bothering you, Roberta?" she asked finally.

"Nothing much to tell. I've just set my sights too high, that's all."

"Gary Seven," Lorna motioned for Roberta to join her as she went find a more comfortable chair in the inner office.

"Is it that obvious?" Roberta said anxiously as she complied.

"You hide it very well, but I saw that look in my own eyes too often not to recognize it when I see it in someone else's."

"Gee, I never thought you had much trouble winning your husband...."

"Roberta, if you only knew...." Lorna sighed deeply. "My dear, I think I moped all over the Enterprise, positive that I hadn't a chance in the galaxy of ever winning Sarek's love. Lord! I made so many mistakes - it's a wonder he ever saw anything of value in me."

"I've never asked too many questions, I didn't want to pry into something so deeply personal, but was your husband anything like Spock?"

"Maybe you'd better ask the computer," Lorna replied, realizing that Roberta wanted, and needed, to change the subject for a few minutes.

"Computer on," Roberta ordered. "Come on, sweetie. You know Gary keyed you to respond to my voice pattern. Stop stalling."

The door swung open and the computer disk flashed a sullen green.

"Same to you, dear. Okay, Lorna, what do I ask it?"

"See if it can do a print of a picture of Sarek, using my memories of him."

"You heard her; can do?"

"Affirmative."

The disk clouded then cleared to reveal an excellent likeness of Sarek. Lorna's eyes blurred and she drew her lower lip against her teeth.

"He's - he was a lot better looking than his son. I think you must - love him very much, Lorna. I'm sorry...."

When Lorna refused the offer of a printout, Roberta ordered the computer to erase the picture and shut itself down.

"Now, Roberta," Lorna said sternly before the girl could retreat. "Stay there, for I want to talk to you. Don't you realize that you have just as good a chance of winning Gary as I did of winning Sarek? Better, for you don't have to battle the Vulcan culture...."

"Oh yeah? I've got a bigger problem than a planet could ever be!"

"I don't understand," Lorna frowned, puzzled.

"Right there it is!" Roberta pointed to the black cat, Isis, who generally accompanied Gary wherever he went. "She got uppity and refused to go along with Gary and Kang. In fact, she hasn't moved from that chair since you left."

"Isis? Your rival? Roberta, you're wrong...."

"That's what you think! Isis, it's just us girls, and Lorna doesn't go around telling everything she knows. Why don't you let her see you as you really look?"

Isis did not take her human form, merely sat upright upon the cushion with her ears laid back slightly.

Lorna stared at the cat for a moment then turned to Roberta, smiling with amusement. "Roberta, you are allowing needless jealousy to create a barrier. Isis isn't a cat, true. She isn't a human either. From what little I've been able to learn studying ancient records I'd wager that her real form is that of a being of pure energy.... Gary might respect her, but I assure you that he couldn't love her. When it comes time for him to seek a mate, he will turn to a human woman." Again she smiled with amusement, for she knew many things in Roberta's future that - like Kirk and Spock before her - she couldn't reveal without fear of disrupting the pattern of that future.

"Hey!" Roberta turned to Isis - who had assumed her human form as though it made no difference now. "Is that right? Have I been making obstacles out of nothing?"

Isis nodded and almost smiled. A moment later, there was nothing but a very contented black cat curled up on the cushion of the chair again.

"See?" Lorna insisted as she reached out to lay one hand on Roberta's arm. "As you said, you've been making obstacles out of nothing. Even though he's far ahead of this time, Gary Seven is human! He needs companionship, someone to talk to that understands.... You're learning more every day, and he takes you further into his confidence every time you advance further.... Roberta, I am confident that you can be the one to share Gary's life, to become both companion and helpmate to him - if you will strive to become all that he needs."

"In other words, I'll have to do all the giving, eh?"

"No, he'll have to learn, too. However, wouldn't it be fun to learn together?" An unfortunate phrase, bringing back Len's similar advice of earlier days.

"I suppose so.... I'll try...." She might have said more, but she heard a hand turning the knob of the outer door. "They're back."

Unfortunately, it had been another wild goose chase. Gary and Kang were both quite annoyed, yet they had added another piece to the puzzle that would eventually locate the Romulans.

"Was your visit to your natural family all that you hoped it would be?" Gary asked, visibly curious.

"Yes - and no. I 'buried my ghosts' in one sense of the word, for I am sure there are no longer any hard feelings.... Yet, all the time that I was with my parents and with my sister.... Gary, it didn't seem real. I mean, I knew they were there, that they weren't illusions, but - but part of me seemed to be standing to one side, watching, almost as if I were attending a - a play!"

"I was afraid of that," Seven replied. "But it was to be expected. Your life is in the future; you had accepted the fact that they had died a long time before the era that has become your own. Actually, Lorna, in one sense of the word, you really were talking with ghosts. Don't worry about it," he grinned. "You have resolved a lot of your conflicts and - most likely - a lot of your family's as well."

With that, he and Kang went to the inner office to check still more figures, leaving Lorna and Roberta to go and prepare the evening meal. And, as was usual, both women began to wonder how the two men always managed to find logical reasons for getting out of this particular task.

Later that night, Lorna found she couldn't sleep, for she kept thinking of the idea that Roberta had given her. Finally she got up, put on the comfortable, wine-red velour robe that Roberta had bought her, and went to the main office. There, she selected a piece of large poster board from the supply closet then sat down at the desk and began to cover the surface with complicated tracings. She was so preoccupied that she didn't hear the footstep behind her.

"What are you doing?" said a familiar voice.

"Oh!" she jumped. "Kang, you startled me. I'm making a sign."

"I can see that. Why are you writing it in Vulcan?"

"Because it would be too risky to write it in English. You see, it's going to be New Year's Eve in a few days. Everyone will be out in the streets at midnight waving signs and flags, so who would notice one more? However; the Enterprise has a very complete record of pictures of such celebrations in Earth's history..."

"Even if someone aboard the Enterprise should see a picture of your sign, what good will it do? They cannot come back to get us."

"We don't know that for sure.... Star Fleet Command made an exception by ordering Spock to come back for Captain Kirk when he was trapped in 1953 - they might do it again. Even if they don't," and she carefully traced another complicated outline, "this will give them the real story behind our disappearance."

"Thereby saving the negotiations, perhaps? Clever, but the chances of anyone aboard the Enterprise seeing this sign are very small."

"Not with Spock aboard." She sat back with a sigh of relief. "There! That does it. Maybe now I can get to sleep without this thing shouting in the back of my mind."

"Aye, come. You need rest. You are worse than Mara ever was with the twins," Kang grumbled.

Lorna started to answer then didn't, fearing that she would say something, which might revive an earlier argument.

"You might as well say it as to think it," he said, revealing startlingly sudden insight. "At this moment, your face is too expressive. You still think it barbaric of us to destroy defective infants?"

"I won't resume that argument," she said sharply. "Except to say that I'm confident your Empire will come to regret its actions."

"Will you think I am lying if I tell you that I agree?" He stepped back so she could move from the desk as he spoke, but his voice had been so uncharacteristically gentle that she paused in surprise. "You have shown me what humans can be...Gary Seven has been helping me to understand the interrelations of the three powers.... I have come to realize that the Klingon way of conquering and destroying everything that we consider 'soft' is unwise...perhaps even wrong. If we had sought to cure, rather than kill imperfect infants, a daughter would greet me when I return, as well as a son."

"Are you expressing regrets verbally, Kang?"

"Only that I think I knew this...all my life and only now...only now, will I act upon it. No more of my children will die for such a reason." He looked down at her, puzzled. "You bear me no ill will because I have waited so long to admit this, Lady?"

"Friends use given names; Kang. Ignorance can be forgiven; I pray that you will be able to carry out your resolution - not only for your own children, but for others as well. Besides, I should be the last person to condemn you for making errors; I've made far too many myself."

"Have you? No matter. It is late, and you do need rest. Get back to your bed. I shall lock this office."

Lorna turned back to ask him something just as he snapped off the lights. As always, the panorama that sprang into view beyond the curved windows entranced her.

"Look, it's stopped snowing," she said as she made her way carefully across the dim room. "Don't the Christmas decorations make lovely patterns in the streets?"

"Aye," Kang joined her, and the tone of disinterest in his voice caught her attention. She glanced at him to find that he was looking up at the sky. "You can't see any stars, not with all that light shining below us," she said gently. "Besides, you couldn't see the system you're thinking about - not from this sector, anyway."

"True; even so, like any exile, my thoughts turn toward home," he murmured.

"I guess we are exiles," Lorna agreed, and she also looked up into the sky - which was foolish, because Vulcan and its life-giving suns weren't visible in this hemisphere during this season. "It's hard to believe that everything we know doesn't exist - and won't for centuries."

Kang motioned to the streets below them. ""If those down there knew what we know, they would consider their present problems of little importance."

"Perhaps they're just as well off," she yawned unexpectedly. "Sorry."

"Come," Kang ordered firmly, putting one arm about her to guide her as they turned from the brilliant window, to the contrasting darkness of the room behind them.

Lorna accepted his assistance as a matter of course, thinking nothing of the near embrace. If she'd given any consideration to the matter at all, she would have assumed that Kang - being Klingon - wouldn't be interested in her as a female. After all, he had become quite protective of her after their conversation in the glade - especially after he'd learned of her pregnancy.

Just then Kang looked down to see if Lorna's eyes had adjusted to the dimness of the room. To his surprise, he suddenly realized that, even in her state of advancing pregnancy, she was an attractive female. It had been so long.... They were stranded in this time. Actually, neither one of their mates had even been born yet, and there was no real assurance that Gary Seven would be able to get them back to their own era....

Lorna looked up, wondering why he'd stopped so suddenly then she felt a sudden sensation of surprise. The lights behind them were shining into his face, and his expression was that of a man looking at a woman that he wanted.

Certain that she'd misinterpreted his expression, she looked again. No, she hadn't been mistaken. She felt a sudden rush of sympathy for him. He'd been without his wife for so long, and Nature was a powerful force.... Now, here she was, clad in apparel that was more suited for the bedroom than for this office. She started to move away, slowly so as not to make him aware that she had sensed the pattern of his thoughts and feelings, but his arm tightened about her. Still not sure that she wasn't making too much of the moment, she hesitated. But then he took her fully into his arms and began to bend his head, and it was too late for her to try to say anything to try to break this sudden attraction that he was experiencing. Slowly, and yet reluctantly, almost as though he were fighting the forces that were impelling him, he bent closer. Lorna closed her eyes, not in repulsion, but in momentary response to his need.

The child moved slightly within her womb at that moment, and she gasped. Putting her hands against Kang's chest, she held him away from her slightly and looked up at him.

"Kang, what are we doing?" she protested as the hot color rushed into her face.

"True," he said as he released her and stepped back quickly. "You will surely condemn me now."

"Don't!" Lorna raised one hand in a swift gesture of denial. "I am equally at fault - if fault there be. Neither of us are saints, Kang. We're normal beings with normal needs who happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. But nothing happened, and that's what counts."

"I assure you, I meant no offense," he apologized, thus revealing how greatly he had changed inwardly.

"I know," she replied gently, laying one hand on his shoulder to convey her understanding and sympathy. "In fact, I think you honored me by finding me momentarily attractive. However, and please don't be offended by my words, after knowing love as Sarek has - had taught me, I cannot find meaning and beauty with any other man."

"Aye, I understand," he said gruffly. "In the Karmitharn relationship I share with Mara, it is the same. Joining with another would not be as pleasurable. Therefore, it is well that we did not start something that we should not finish. Shall we call this a moment of temporary madness?"

"If you wish, it never happened. Goodnight, my friend."

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Mr. Spock kept working with the library computers, tirelessly scanning tape after tape, searching through Earth's past. Suddenly he sat forward, one eyebrow lifted then he retrieved the tape and turned toward Kirk. "Captain," he said calmly. "I think you should see this."

"This" was a photo of a crowd gathered to celebrate New Year's Eve in a large city square. Spock turned dials until two faces sprang into focus on the small screen. One of them was a tall man whose face was concealed by a ski mask; the other...

"Lorna!" Kirk exclaimed. "Spock, it's Lorna! And she's holding up a sign, written in Vulcan... Can you make it out?"

"She is telling us where and when they are, Captain," Spock's keen eyes traced the message easily.

"'They'?"

"That is Kang with her. It seems that he only pretended to join the Romulans and helped her to escape from them after they began to orbit Old Earth. They sought help from Gary Seven, and they are now engaged in the task of hunting down and capturing several Romulan landing parties... Yes... It seems that the Romulans were - are attempting to disrupt our time pattern. However, Gary Seven, acting upon orders relayed by his superiors, has been able to prevent any unfortunate incidents."

"You're sure of the date, Spock?"

"Of course, Captain."

"Damn! That means we can't use the 'Guardian' to go back and get them."

"Yes, and Star Fleet will not authorize allowing the Enterprise to go there since Mr. Seven is capable of sending the Romulan vessel back to its own time."

"So, what are we supposed to do? Just sit here and wait?"

"Exactly. Gary Seven will return that craft as soon as possible. You know that, Captain."

"Sure, but that confirms the necessity of maintaining the cordon above Earth. I've been expecting to hear that Star Fleet Command's pulling us away from here every time Uhura says she's getting a sub-space message."

"True. However, we must alert all the other ships, especially the Klothar."

"And we'd better start praying that Gary gets the last of those Romulans rounded up in time said Kirk. "Judging from that picture, they've been on Old Earth for several weeks. If Gary doesn't get Lorna back here before long, she may deliver before we can get her to Vulcan!"

"Yes, fortunately, we have a solution to that problem, if you will authorize a message...."

"I'm way ahead of you, Spock! Lieutenant Uhura...."

***

"Christine, I'm glad you're still here," McCoy said as he entered the laboratory. "Spock just found... What's he doing in here?" McCoy glared at Karm, who was packing new tapes that Christine was taking back to the Klothar.

"I was ordered to accompany Nurse Chapel, Doctor," Karm replied calmly.

"Any special reason...?"

"Please, it's all right," Christine said quickly. "I'm not a hostage, and you can speak freely in front of him... What's wrong?"

"They've just located Lorna and Kang. They're on Old Earth, all right, but we may be facing some complications when they get back...."

"Lorna's child...." Christine stated flatly.

"Yes. Spock has said that Gary Seven has the equipment necessary to monitor and support Lorna during her pregnancy, but if that child is born on Old Earth, it will immediately become hopelessly insane."

"I'm sure this Gary Seven wouldn't let that happen.... What is your reason for seeking me out, Doctor? Is there some special task I can do?"

"Yes, even if Lorna doesn't have the child on Old Earth, the shock of returning to this era might stimulate labor.... If she's taken aboard the Klothar... Christine, I want to give you a crash course on Vulcan obstetrics. Spock has expressed doubts that these measures will do much good, but I feel certain that they might mean the difference between life and death for Lorna and the child."

"It is well that you will be occupied with this task, for it is time for me to keep my appointment with your Captain," Karm said as he strode toward the door.

"Karm!" Christine protested.

"I have my orders, just as you have yours, Christine," he replied as he paused briefly at the door then went out.

"What was all that about?" McCoy said sharply.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," Christine replied. "Shall we get to the business at hand, Doctor?"

McCoy nodded, but he wished that he could see through walls to watch and listen to whatever it was that Karm was going to tell Captain Kirk.

***

When Karm entered the briefing room where Kirk had agreed to come to hear his request, he was pleased to see that Spock had come also. "Greetings, Captain," he said crisply.

"Come in, Karm. You said you wanted to discuss a confidential matter with me?"

"Captain, I shall return to my station," Spock said.

"You will want to stay, Spock, for I believe that what I have to say may concern you."

Spock's eyebrow raised, but he said nothing, merely settled back in his chair.

"You're wasting time, Mister!" Kirk snapped when Karm remained silent, trying to think of a diplomatic way to word his request.

"Very well, Captain," Karm replied, discarding diplomacy for bare facts. "Under ordinary circumstances, I would go to Kang, and he would contact you. As it is, I have been ordered to come directly to you. I wish to make a formal request for your permission to marry a member of your crew."

"What?" Kirk rose swiftly. "As far as I know you've become acquainted with only one member of my crew...."

"Captain, I request permission to marry Chief Nurse Christine Chapel," Karm continued, ignoring Kirk's outburst.

Though he was nearly stunned by this announcement, Kirk couldn't help glancing at Spock. The First Officer's expression hadn't changed, naturally, but one eyebrow was so high it had nearly vanished into his hair, and his eyes were hooded - indicating that he was hiding some sort of an emotional reaction.

"Why hasn't Christine come with you to make her own formal request?" Kirk demanded.

"She has not yet decided to accept me."

"And you have the nerve to request permission to marry her without asking her consent?"

"She knows I was coming here, and she knows why. She could have relayed her objections before I arrived. Apparently, she has not." Karm looked directly at Spock. "I am aware that there are many legal formalities to be completed before such a marriage can take place, and recent developments indicate that the Romulan ship may reappear relatively soon. If Christine accepts me, I wish our marriage to take place with as little delay as possible."

"Karm, I sincerely doubt that Christine would want to marry you. She has - reason to stay aboard the Enterprise." Kirk chose his words carefully, aware of Spock's intent regard.

"I am aware of the 'reason.' However, am confident that what I offer is of equal value to her."

"Sit down." Kirk resumed his own seat and then leaned forward, speaking harshly in his intense concern for Christine. "Why do you want to marry Nurse Chapel instead of one of your own women?"

"For the same reason that Kaleth chose one of your crew."

"In other words, you love her."

Karm nodded.

"Whew," Kirk straightened and glanced at Spock again. "You're rushing things. This is still the military, Mister, and I absolutely refuse to give you my permission until or unless Christine comes to me with a similar request."

"Understood. Yet, if my request is in the records, half the battle is won. Surely you will not refuse me that?"

"You've given me little choice."

"Good. That is all I had to say." Karm eyed the Vulcan with a wry smile, confident that this cold, logical being was no serious rival.

"You will be returning to the Klothar soon?" Kirk said hopefully.

"As soon as possible, and... Christine will be returning with me. I shall await your answer there," Karm replied then he turned and left without receiving a formal dismissal.

Kirk sank back into his chair and blew out a deep breath. "What do you make of that?" he said, not really expecting a reply.

"He has not exactly set a precedent, Captain," Spock said calmly.

"Yes, but, why Christine? I never suspected anything like this."

"I have had reason to believe that this might happen. The members of Kang's crew seem to experience an affinity for the women of the Enterprise."

"And that's all it means to you, eh?" Jim frowned at his First Officer.

"Captain, Nurse Chapel is an adult, capable of making her own decisions - especially in the matter of choosing a husband."

"That isn't...! Never mind, you probably wouldn't be able to understand!"

"If there is nothing more that you wish to discuss, Captain, I should like to leave now," Spock said as calmly as though Kirk hadn't spoken.

"Get out of here, Spock! Maybe I'll be able to figure you out someday, but I doubt it," Kirk retorted, turning his back in disgust.

Spock left the room, but he didn't head for the bridge. Instead, he stood with his hands clasped behind his back, thinking deeply. Finally, he sighed and went toward the turbo-lift.

***

After completing a swift, but very thorough course in Vulcan/human obstetrics, Christine took leave of McCoy, and her face became set in an expression of determined annoyance as she headed down the corridor.

As if by incantation, the object of her thoughts stepped out of the turbo-lift just as she reached it.

"You have a talent for turning up at the right moment, Mister," she snapped. "I want to talk to you."

"You are angry," Karm said innocently.

"That's the understatement of the year!" She noticed an unoccupied Rec Room close at hand. "In here." Then, almost before the door had closed behind them: "What did you say to Captain Kirk?"

"Need you ask?" he replied calmly, standing at ease, but his eyes were intent. "I made formal request for permission to marry you."

Christine could feel the color draining from her face. "You had no right to do that!"

"Under the circumstances, I had every right...."

"No! I haven't agreed.... You said you'd give me time...."

"I have given you time, but you have made no effort to make a decision. Now, I cannot allow you to delay any longer."

"But - I told you earlier that I love Spock!" she all but shouted.

"You would love a man who cares so little for you that he uttered no protest when he heard me make my request?" Karm anticipated her disbelief. "I am certain your Captain will confirm my words."

"No," she choked, her eyes brilliant with angry tears. "That sounds so much like something Spock would do that I believe you. I suppose you're very pleased with yourself, but I still, say you had no right...."

"Yes, I did and you know it as well as I. However, I do not wish this Spock to become a barrier between us. Go to him now. Ask him if he will ever want you...."

"You're so sure he isn't any competition? Then, I'll go - just to show you that you're wrong!"

"Do not expect too much, Christine. I fear you will be hurt if you do. And - to remind you what you can have if only you are courageous enough to reach for it...." He took her into his arms and held her very close for a few moments then he kissed her quickly and was gone.

After a while, a very bemused Christine sighed and left the Rec Room, not watching where she was going. "Umph!" Naturally, she'd run right into someone. "Sorry," she murmured, grateful for the support of the hand under her elbow.

"No harm done," replied a familiar voice. "Are you all right?"

"Of...course," she looked up swiftly to meet Spock's impersonal gaze. What was he doing here? Usually he was on the bridge at this hour.

"Nurse, unless you are needed elsewhere, I would like to speak with you," he said quietly.

"W-what?" she stammered, wondering if she'd misunderstood him.

"I said that I wish to talk with you." He escorted her back to the Rec Room that she'd just left. "Sit down," he punched the controls to provide a comfortable chair for her, but he chose to remain standing.

Christine looked up at him, wondering if she should say anything about Karm. No, she would keep her conversation restricted to medical matters. If Spock wanted to find out how she felt about Karm then he would have to introduce the subject.

"Nurse." "Mr. Spock." They spoke at once then he motioned for her to go first.

"Mr. Spock, Doctor McCoy has given me very thorough instruction so I may help Lorna if it becomes necessary. However, I fear that the Vulcans who are on the Klothar would not be of much help to me. Can you give me any advice?"

Spock lifted his brow in involuntary approval of her devotion to duty. "A possible solution to the worst part of the problem is within reach, Nurse. However, your assumption that danger to the child will be greater aboard the Klothar is correct. I am confident that McCoy instructed you in the importance of providing the child with a warm, dry environment?" She nodded. "Then, there is only one more thing which is needful - but it may be beyond your capability at this time."

Christine glared at him. "I think you'd better explain that statement more fully, Mr. Spock."

"I cast no reflections upon your skill as a nurse. However, the child would need care from one who can remain emotionally calm and controlled. Under the present circumstances, could you be that person?"

"I could try."

"But it would not be good enough - not if your inner thoughts continue to be a turmoil of uncertainty and doubt."

"Would you prefer that Doctor McCoy assign someone else?"

"No, you are the only individual capable of handling the responsibility. Therefore, for the sake of the child - and for your own sake, you must delay no longer in making the decision that confronts you."

"I was with Captain Kirk when Karm spoke with him," he continued when he saw that his reference to such a personal matter had startled her into silence.

"Yes, he told me."

"You have not refused him." It wasn't really a question, but she shook her head. "Nor have you accepted him. Why?"

"You know why." She rose and met his dark gaze bravely.

"I have never asked for your love," his face assumed the cold immobility of a mask and now he folded his arms across his chest as if to avoid any possibility of touching her.

"Yes, I know. It just - happened," she said softly, standing quietly with her hands at her sides, determined to be as calm and controlled as humanly possible.

"A Vulcan has no love to give," he informed her coldly.

"Your own father has proved that statement to be untrue," she replied. "And I know that you are capable of feeling emotion, for I have seen you express it too many times. Why do you insist that you are incapable of feeling any emotion, Spock? Are you ashamed of your human heritage?"

"Shame is an emotion. It has no place in a Vulcan's life."

"Then, why do my questions make you so uncomfortable?" Christine was getting angry, and she didn't care if he knew it. "In fact, knowing that I've loved you all these years has made you 'uncomfortable,' too, hasn't it?"

"'Loved'?" He pounced upon her use of the past tense, but she elected not to try to amend the verb. Instead, she returned to something that he'd hinted at earlier: "I think I should feel insulted, Spock. I'm getting the distinct impression that you think I'd be too involved in my personal concerns to try to do my best for Lorna and for her child."

"No. However, the mind of a Vulcan infant - even one who is half human - is prey to forces that you cannot possibly comprehend. Even in normal circumstances, you cannot control your thoughts completely. The present situation creates a confusion, which could only cause harm to the child. Therefore, Nurse, you must make your decision, and you must make it soon."

"My name is Christine; why won't you ever remember that?" she demanded sadly. "Or, do you call me 'Nurse' to remind me that my love is distasteful to you?"

"You have spoken of love to me, but you turned against me with a vehemence beyond the force of Harry Mudd's potion when it affected us both. Is it not possible that this 'love' of yours is nothing but a habit?"

"Good heavens! That's almost the same thing Karm said," she gasped, startled that these two men from such vastly different cultures could think so much alike.

"Ah, he is most discerning. A very fascinating individual, this Karm. Why would he request permission to marry you unless he was confident that you look upon him with favor?"

"I don't think that is really any of your business, Mr. Spock," she protested, feeling a sudden flare of resentment at his distinctly prying questions.

"When you told me of your love for me, I was forced to assume a small degree of responsibility for you. Therefore, I have every right to ask that question." Then, forcefully. "Answer me."

"Yes! Yes, I do find Karm attractive. Now, are you satisfied?"

"My satisfaction has no bearing upon the matter. It is your state of mind that is under discussion. Karm has asked you to marry him - because he loves you?"

"That is what he's told me."

"Do you love him?"

"Don't you think I haven't asked myself the same question?" She lifted one hand in unconscious appeal. "Karm is a Klingon - our enemy!"

"We will eventually be allies - perhaps sooner than we anticipated. Is it possible that you cannot make your decision because you feel an obligation toward me?"

"I wouldn't call it 'obligation,' Mr. Spock."

"No, nor is it the deeply abiding emotion that love has been defined to be. Otherwise, you would never have subjected yourself and me to Harry Mudd's 'love potion'."

"Oh, stop it, Spock!" Christine cried, thoroughly exasperated. "Why are you pretending concern for me?"

"I am not 'pretending,' for you sheltered my life force...."

"My God! I never wanted gratitude from you," Christine interrupted, stung by his words.

"No, you wanted my love, but I have none to give you," he repeated.

"Now, that wording is more like the truth," she said gently. "You may be able to express love to a woman - but never me, else it would surely have happened before now."

"I am what I am. I can be no more - and no less. You are an emotional being. That is not a thing to be ashamed of, but those qualities are painful for a Vulcan to endure...."

"But Sarek endures Lorna's...."

For the first time - Spock interrupted her deliberately: "You have read the reports - you know that Lorna's mind, her very personality, changed when Sarek and I engaged in a three-way mind-meld with her."

Christine's eyes began to snap with anger.

"Do not misunderstand, I am not condemning you, for you are an exceptional woman - Christine. However, I cannot give you what you need to achieve the happiness that you should have. In fact, I can prove this to you."

"Really? How?" she challenged.

Instead of a verbal reply, he came a step closer and stood looking down at her. "A kiss is a sin of love, is it not?"

"You know that it is," she replied, her voice harsh as she drew back slightly with actual hostility.

"Yes," he reached out to put his hands on her waist and started to draw her close then he stopped. "I cannot," he whispered as he took his arms from around her and then stepped back.

"Good Lord, Spock! Giving someone a kiss isn't a difficult thing to do." Christine said mockingly. "Look, I'll show you...." She put her arms around his neck then, standing on tiptoe, she kissed him.

He stood motionless, his hands at his sides, his lips immobile beneath hers.

"You are supposed to cooperate," she informed him coldly as she moved back and away from him.

"I cannot," he insisted.

"I think you really mean that you will not," she retorted. "I'm beginning to wonder what I ever saw in you, Spock."

"Christine, I...."

"Oh, be quiet and let me think!" she snapped.

He raised his eyebrow, surprised and intrigued by her crossness, but he did remain silent.

Christine thought of the many years that she'd spent yearning in vain for some word or sign from Spook. Only once had that happened of his own free will - and that had only been to please Lorna. Though Christine had tried to pretend otherwise, even to herself, the love that she felt for the tall Vulcan after that day had never been quite the same.

Now, she allowed her mind to dwell freely upon the prospects of what her life could be like with Karm. There would be difficulties, certainly, but she knew that he would never be reluctant to face these difficulties for her. She thought of his warmth and freedom in expressing his emotions, contrasting these traits with her experiences with the First Officer. Suddenly, the prospect of what life might be like as Spock's wife, no longer was so inviting. She had a rough idea of what Lorna had endured to become a suitable wife to Sarek in the eyes of his peers, and she wasn't so sure that she wanted to try to measure up to what Spock would demand. Why should she if it meant that she would lose all the loving warmth that was an essential part of her nature?

She turned, intending to ask Spock a question, but then the question was forgotten when he flinched back and away from her with the instinctive Vulcan aversion to physical touch. Immediately, Christine felt infuriated, and her anger blazed, for his action had reminded her how it always had been - how her life would always be with him. Now, since there was Karm, she realized that she no longer wanted any part of it.

"You have made your decision," he said quietly.

"Yes. I can share a life with Karm that we can learn to fill with warmth and beauty, and I know now that I love him more than I loved you.... No, not - not 'loved'; you're still in my heart, yet I no longer want you to be there!"

"But, you cannot help it," Spock sighed. "It does not matter now if you know that a superficial bonding was created between us when you sheltered my life force...."

"A - a bonding?" She gasped. "All this time, you've been reading my mind?"

"No, only your emotions in times of great stress."

"I'm sorry; that must have been very unpleasant for you."

"You cannot be blamed. The fault is mine for never putting an end to these ties. However, now.... Christine, will you permit me to enter your mind to sever the bonding, which prevented you from loving another - until Karm appeared. When she nodded, he reached out and laid his hands against her temple and against her jaw then he closed his eyes and began to concentrate.

She didn't feel his thoughts, exactly, just a knowledge of another consciousness looking through her eyes and listening with her ears. There was a sudden sensation of heaviness then she felt something snap within the depths of her being. A moment later, that awareness of sharing sight and hearing with another faded away completely.

"You are well?" he asked with concern when she swayed slightly.

"Yes," she murmured. When she glanced up at him, her look was that of one who felt warm friendship for him, instead of the look of a woman in love. "Oh, yes, Mr. Spock, I understand things so much better now! Please excuse me; I think I'd better go find the Captain."

"Goodbye, Christine."

"Why 'goodbye'?" she asked. "Are you saying that you won't want to be my friend any longer? If so, I am sorry that you feel that way, but...."

"I will always be your friend. Live long, prosper, and - be happy, Christine."

She smiled and then almost ran out of the room - her steps light and eager as she hurried to plan her new future.

Spock stood where she'd left him, staring sightlessly into space. "It was the only logical solution," he whispered finally. "She would never be truly happy with me...."

Slowly, reluctantly, he reached up and touched his mouth, where her lips had pressed only a short time before. "Never again?" he whispered. Turning toward the door, he extended his hand. "Christine!"

He moved a step forward then he shook his head and forced himself to halt. "No," he said again. "She has made her decision. I must accept it," but he stared at the door as though it were barring him from the fulfillment of all his hopes and dreams.

"Christine," the cry was so harsh that it seemed to have been ripped from his throat. He shuddered convulsively for a moment then he closed his eyes and clasped his hands before him, forcing himself to concentrate upon self-control. After a long silence, he lifted his head, his calm mask of inscrutability in place once more.

"Mr. Spock," Lieutenant Uhura's call provided a welcome interruption to his solitude. "The library computer is ready with that latest survey you requested. Wherever you are, please report, to the bridge."

"On my way, Lieutenant," he said, blessing the usually intrusive intercom.

***

"I don't think you'll have any trouble with any of the Romulans, Kang," Gary said as he finished setting the transporter controls. "They've all been conditioned to obey your commands as though you'd always been their Captain."

"It has been a long battle, one I am glad to see end, for I wish to see my wife and my home again." Kang said calmly. "Yet, this experience has been one of value."

"Yes," Gary studied the Klingon for a moment. "Your uniform sets well upon your frame, but I think that you've grown too large for it inwardly. Once you've returned to the future, what are you going to do?"

"I have told you...return to my wife and to my family."

"Certainly. But - after that? Will you return to your former command and live as you did before you made this journey?"

"I.... No, not with total commitment," he admitted reluctantly.

"Surely you won't join the Federation?"

"There are still many characteristics of other humans and their allies which I cannot endure."

"Then, I have a suggestion. You have impressed me favorably.... Kang, I'm preparing records. If the descendants of my Superiors should choose to contact you after you return to the future, would you be willing to listen to them?"

Kang studied the human for a long moment, frowning then he nodded. "I think, from what little I have learned during these past weeks, that I would be a fool to ignore them."

Before Gary could reply, Lorna and Roberta joined them.

"What of this one?" Kang motioned to Lorna, who had donned her flowing Vulcan robes once more.

"She has her own duties," Gary replied firmly. "Lady, the computer confirms that all is well with you...." His voice trailed away, and Lorna heard the note of indecision in his tone.

"But perhaps all is not well with the child?"

"I didn't say that.... But, the stresses of the return journey to your own era might stimulate labor."

"The odds for the child are worse if I stay here. I understand these risks and accept responsibility for the results," she said calmly.

"Very well. I've already programmed the coordinates. You'll be able to leave this era as soon as you reach the Command chair."

"Excellent!" Kang approved. "Then my calculations were correct?"

"Almost on the nose. You wouldn't make a bad navigator if you should ever lose all hope of command...but I have every confidence that you won't have to worry about that."

Kang nodded and allowed a brief smile of pure humor to play about his lips.

"My husband always expressed token disapproval of emotional farewells, but I think he would make an exception in this case," Lorna said as she went to Roberta and hugged her for a moment. "Be happy, my friend."

"I'll try, Lorna," Roberta said huskily.

"Gary," Lorna turned and offered her hand to the forceful man who would help to guard and guide Earth through the ordeal awaiting it. "It's been an honor and a privilege to know you and to work with you."

"Thank you, Lorna," he said quietly then he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. "Under the circumstances," he said with a warm smile, "I don't think even a Vulcan would mind."

Kang saluted farewell in the Klingon style then he strode toward the transporter. Just before entering, however, he turned. "I have heard Lorna say this often. For once, I feel it best expresses what I wish to say to you both." He lifted his hand in a very fair imitation of the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln. Are you coming, Lorna?"

A final look then Lorna moved forward to stand at Kang's side as the blue cloud welled up around them.

"Have all preparations been completed?" Kang snapped as he stepped down from the transporter pad aboard the Romulan vessel.

"Everything is in readiness," answered the placid Romulan at the console.

"Report to your stations." Kang turned to Lorna. "You will remain here, with the two females. If there are complications when we come through the time field, I want you where I can beam you to help immediately." He turned and strode through the door.

Lorna sank gratefully into a sturdy shock seat, which had been provided for her. Soon she sensed that the ship was moving, gathering speed then she felt that jolt again, and she knew that they were moving ahead in time. Another jolt and she knew that they'd made it safely.... No, she cried silently as a flaming lance of pain tore through her abdomen. Not all!

She heard one of the women shouting into the intercom. Within a matter of moments, Kang burst into the room.

"The Enterprise has contacted us.... She is within transporter range." Then, to one of the Romulans who'd come with him, "Contact the Enterprise again, and get the proper coordinates. Now!"

"Enterprise, here," came Kirk's sharp voice in only a matter of seconds. "Have you agreed to surrender...?"

"This is Kang. The Romulan ship is under my command and obedient to my orders. Send Security guards to take over command; the crew will not resist. Prepare to receive a party of two immediately. Have someone from your Sick Bay there as soon as possible. The Lady Lorna may have begun labor."

"Lorna," Kang bent over her. "I am going to take you to the Enterprise...."

"I heard..." she tried to rise then fell back beneath the impact of another pain. "Kang, I - I can't walk."

"There is no time to order a stretcher.... Are the coordinates set in?"

"Yes, sir.

"Tell the Enterprise we are coming aboard," Kang ordered as he bent to pick Lorna up then he strode onto the transporter platform. "Energize!"

Once aboard the Enterprise, Kang gave a violent start. Lorna heard him utter a grunt, almost as of surprise, but another pain swept over her, keeping her from looking to see what was wrong.

"I will now resume my responsibility," a calm voice said as strong arms took her from Kang.

She looked up and her senses began to whirl. It's happened! She thought wildly as pain swept over her in blinding waves of scarlet. I've gone mad! That can't be Sarek holding me, for he's dead....

***

Lorna was floating on a pleasant sea of warmth, secure, safe, free of all pain and responsibility. Pleasant, so pleasant, just to lie there and rest, not to worry about anything or anyone.... A sudden disquiet replaced her pleasure. The child! Without opening her eyes, she reached down to press her hand against her abdomen. Reassured by the bulk that met her questing fingers, she sighed with relief.

"She's starting to wake up, Doctor," she heard a feminine voice whisper.

A footstep; someone was standing beside her, looking down at her. After a moment, she opened her eyes and looked up slowly, afraid to hope....

Len smiled at her reassuringly. "It's me, all right, Lorna. You made it back."

"The child?" She lay motionless, waiting for him to finish consulting the analyzer he'd just passed above her abdomen. "I was in labor when I came aboard."

"False labor, honey. Once I got you in Sick Bay, you settled down. No you don't!" He pressed his hand against her shoulder when she started to sit up. "You're staying right there in that bed until we reach Vulcan. No arguments; above all else, I'm your doctor, remember, and what I say goes - in here."

"I won't do anything to endanger the child, Len, but it's very hard trying to talk to you while I'm lying flat on my back."

He touched the controls, which raised the head of her bed to a comfortable level. "How's that?"

"Much better, thank you." Then, determined to endure no evasions, "Len did the time that I spent on Old Earth cause any harm to the child?"

"No, it did not," he said firmly, almost too firmly.

"How long were we gone, Len? Just a few seconds in your frame of reference?"

"No, neither Mr. Seven nor Kang were skilled enough to make that accurate a plotting. You returned to this time about three weeks later than you left."

"Three weeks! The negotiations! What about them...?"

"Believe me, honey, those negotiations were left in the very best of hands," he said as he grinned again, his blue eyes literally glowing with amusement at some private joke.

"I don't understand, Len."

"The agreement has been signed, sealed, and delivered, Lorna. We'll be heading for Vulcan at top speed soon, and we won't spare the horses."

"A starship doesn't use horses for power," she corrected automatically then relented when she saw his expression of disgust. "I'm sorry, but Vulcan habits are hard to break." She paused, for his statement had just made its desired impression upon her. "Len! Who completed the agreement?"

"Brace yourself for a shock, honey." Len reached down and clasped her hand warmly in both of his as her eyes became wide with apprehension. "Don't you remember anything that happened in the transporter room?"

"Why? Oh, I must have been hallucinating, for I thought I saw...."

"You weren't hallucinating, Lorna," he winced slightly when her fingers tightened swiftly about his then he smiled again. "Sarek isn't dead, Lorna."

She sank back against the pillow, closing her eyes to hide her very human tears of disbelieving joy, seeking within the depths of her being for the control that was necessary at this moment to keep her from leaping up from the bed and dancing with joy - which would surely endanger the child.

"Lorna, didn't you hear me?" Len said anxiously. "Sarek is not dead!"

"I heard you," she said without opening her eyes. "But I can't quite bring myself to believe it."

"Believe what?" Captain Kirk said from the doorway. "You've told her already, Bones?"

"Such news is the best medicine in the world, Jim."

Lorna opened her eyes. Jim was standing beside Bones, smiling down at her with visible relief and joy. A flash of blue moving behind him caught her eye then she smiled in turn when Spock moved up to take his place beside the other two.

"Hello, Lorna," Jim said softly. "Welcome back."

"Jim," she extended her hand and he took it swiftly. "Is it true? Sarek...? Is he really alive?"

"You'd better believe it."

"But.... The automobile...? The ring...?" She shook her head, bewildered.

"He was never in that car, Lorna. It was a clever deception set up by the Romulans to hamper the negotiations. That Romulan ship was in this system a long time, hiding in the asteroid belt banding the outer edges of Turon-Lura's solar system. They sent a small landing party down to kidnap Sarek. The party set the automobile to respond to remote control, placed Sarek's wedding ring in the back seat, and staged that phony attack in the hope that it would create a planetary rebellion against us."

"I'm sure Sarek wasn't on the Romulan vessel," Lorna protested.

"He wasn't. They went to another city and kept him drugged, waiting to see what would happen to the negotiations. I gather that they were planning to use him as a hostage if it became necessary, for they couldn't leave the planet without risking detection by the Klothar or the Enterprise."

"They couldn't even contact their ship because we'd come back, Lorna," McCoy volunteered when the Captain paused for breath.

"Yes, when they remained silent, the ship came in to see what had happened. When we spotted them and challenged them, they pretended to leave, but they sent down another shuttlecraft to confirm the halting of the negotiations and find their other men then the ship hightailed it away."

"And, when the new landing party learned that the negotiations had not stopped, they decided to kidnap Kang and me," Lorna supplied eagerly. "Then, why didn't they go ahead to pick up Sarek and bring him to the ship with us?"

"While the second party kidnapped you and Kang, Sarek managed to escape from the first party and turned them over to the authorities," Kirk said with a grin. "He's never told me much about that escape, just said that the Romulans are very poor pharmacists and exceedingly careless jailors."

"Naturally, the Sub-Commander wouldn't consider it necessary to tell me that my husband was alive. Where is Sarek? I..." she remembered how they'd parted and fell silent.

Spock studied Lorna intently for a moment, wondering why she had not known this until now. Since she and Sarek shared the Bonding, she should have.... Or, was it possible that the Bonding had been severed for some reason? Whatever the reason, it was one deeply personal and private to them - he would have to wait to find out what had happened, if either decided that it was his business to know, that is.

"Sarek is supervising the arraignment of the renegades," Jim said, not noticing either Spock's nor Lorna's sudden tension. "Kang has provided so much recorded evidence that there was no reason to wait for your testimony. I'm sorry," he continued as he tightened his clasp on her hand. "I know you want to see Sarek, but he said that you'd understand why he can't come."

"Of - course, Jim. I know that he is alive and that I'll see him eventually. However, it is more important that the problem of those renegades be resolved." Lorna was grateful that they could no longer share the mental communion that they'd once known, and she kept her thoughts shielded against the contact that their handclasp might initiate, knowing that the events that had taken place before Sarek had been taken away were not to be shared with even the Captain.

"Remind me that I owe you a drink, Bones." Jim shook his head. "You warned me."

"What else would you expect from the wife of a Vulcan, Jim?" Len replied with a triumphant grin.

"Spock," Lorna freed her hand from Jim's and reached out to her stepson. "Have you no greeting for me?"

"My heart echoes your joy," he said calmly as he lifted his hand in the Vulcan salute. "I am - pleased that you have returned safely."

"Did your heart merely echo with joy when you learned that Sarek was alive?"

"No," his eyebrow lifted. "The joy that filled my heart when I beheld Sarek's face was no echo."

"You're making progress." She continued to hold out her hand. "Haven't you learned how to clasp hands yet?"

Silently, he reached out to enfold her hand in his. If she hadn't been living on Vulcan long enough to have developed stronger bones, she might have wound up with a broken finger or two.

"Thank you, Spock," she murmured, dropping her hand and closing her eyes. "Oh, it's so good to be back...." Then, opening her eyes again, "Kang! What's going to happen to him? Oh, Jim, they wouldn't...?"

"I see no reason for anything to happen to him. The renegades testified that he only pretended to join them. He's probably back on the Klothar by now...."

"No," came a voice from the doorway and all heads turned in that direction. Kang, wearing the full dress uniform of a Klingon Tarlokarne, was now standing there, hands on his hips, frowning darkly.

"This place is beginning to look like old home week," McCoy said under his breath. Then, in an aside to Christine, "Nurse, get me four cc's of antromal then try to keep everyone else out of here."

Christine hastened to obey, and Lorna was surprised when the nurse passed Spock without seeming to be aware that he was there.

"Kang," Jim said courteously. "I assume that all charges against you have been dropped?"

"Aye, your Star Fleet Command was unusually reasonable." Then, with a consideration totally unexpected to the others but not to Lorna, he turned to Len. "Doctor, I wished to speak with the Lady Lorna before I leave. However, if my presence would tire her...?"

McCoy stared at him, thoroughly startled then he turned to study the panel above Lorna's head. "Everything's all right so far.... Very well, but if she starts gettin' tired, it's everybody out!" Then, crossly, "Christine! Where's that hypo-spray?"

Christine hurried to slap the hypo-spray into McCoy's waiting hand. Kang stared at the nurse for a moment, his frown becoming darker.

McCoy was so busy monitoring Lorna's response to the injection that he wasn't aware of what was going on behind him until Kang erupted:

"You are the one.... I thought so. Kirk!" He wheeled to confront the wary Captain. "I am tired of losing my best officers to members of your crew."

Kirk glared at him, prepared to give as good as he got. "I'm not exactly in love with the idea myself. However, it seems we have equally little choice in this matter, Kang. Since this is hardly the place for this type of discussion, I invite you to join me in Briefing Room Three before you leave."

"You may be sure that I will!" Kang retorted then he turned on his heel and approached Lorna.

"Lady," he said with a tone so gentle that everyone -- even Spock - stared at him with surprise. "I am pleased that all is well with you, and I rejoice with you that your husband is not dead. However, I thought I had gone mad when I saw him standing in the transporter room."

"My joy knows no bounds, Kang. Sarek and I owe you a debt of gratitude;" Lorna said as she smiled at him warmly. She started to hold out her hand then she paused, not wanting to cause him to lose face before the Senior Officers of the Enterprise.

Again, Kang displayed rare insight, silently breaking his own image as he reached out to clasp her hand. "You have taught me much of value, Lorna, and that cancels any debt that may have existed." He seemed to be totally unaware - or uncaring - that there were others listening. "I will not forget what I have learned."

"Really, Kang?" Lorna replied, seeking to give him a chance to return to his old manner. "Does that mean that you've finally decided that it, isn't necessary to hate humans?"

"Lorna," he said sternly, his fingers tightening about her hand. "Here, I think it does not matter that I admit the truth. I cannot deny that the Kang you first met no longer exists."

"Kang, if your new personality will create difficulties for you then I'm truly sorry," Lorna said huskily, curling her fingers about his.

"You need not be. One phase of my life has ended - another may be just starting." He grinned, a devilish gleam in his eyes. "There may be the prospect of more than one good fight waiting in my future."

"Perhaps you haven't changed as much as you think," Lorna retorted. "Kang, listen.... If there are difficulties when you return to your Empire.... If you need testimony on your behalf, I will do anything I can to help you. Will you please believe that?"

"Aye, Lady," he released her hand and then stood looking down at her with something much like apprehension in his eyes. "And I assure you that, if it should become necessary, I shall not hesitate to ask for help...." He couldn't endure letting the Senior Officers see anymore of his new character, and he turned swiftly. "Do you distrust me so much that you will not allow me to say farewell to the Lady Lorna in private? I assure you that I shall do her no harm."

"Please, Captain. Len," Lorna pleaded. "I know you can trust Kang."

The Klingon looked as startled as if he'd been hit by a ton of bricks then he nodded slowly.

"Bones?" Kirk queried anxiously.

"I don't think it'll hurt to leave them here, Jim," Bones replied slowly, and added out of the corner of his mouth, "Not with us waiting in the next room." He started for the door, taking everyone with him then he turned back and wagged a cautionary finger. "If you tire her, I'll boot you out of here personally!"

"Yes, Doctor," Kang replied almost meekly and stood at rigid attention while the others left reluctantly. When the door closed, he relaxed and uttered a harsh bark of laughter. "You are a disturbing influence, Lorna. In the old days, I would never have allowed a human to speak to me like that."

"Surely you realize that he was just expressing concern for me, his patient, as any good doctor would," she retorted. "Kang, please don't be evasive with me.... What are you going to do?" She was afraid for him for she knew, as Gary Seven had known, that Kang was no longer all Klingon in spirit.

"That is my problem," answered Kang harshly then he scowled; "I shall make no decisions until I have seen my wife and my son."

"As it should be.... Please relay my regards to the Lady Mara." Lorna recalled all the tales of valor that Kang had told of her at the drop of a hat. "I would be proud to meet her, one day."

Kang nodded, his eyes glowing as he thought of his wife then he grinned at Lorna again. "And she, you, no doubt. But... We may never meet again."

"Kang, if I've learned nothing else these past few weeks, I've learned always to expect the unexpected. You were a good ambassador before the Romulans kidnapped you. Perhaps, if the Empire acknowledges that diplomacy can sometimes serve as well as force, you may be called upon to serve in the same capacity again."

"And your husband and I might find ourselves facing one another over many a council table, eh? An interesting thought, but I doubt it will happen."

"We shall see," Lorna replied softly, fearing that he might be right.

Then, there was a moment of silence between them as they looked into one another's eyes. At last, Kang reached out to take her hand again. "I do not want to tire you...." But he didn't - couldn't move away. Lorna knew why. She was the first really trustworthy friend he'd ever had. Even Mara probably had never been that.

"Kang," Lorna smiled with wry amusement. "I never thought the day would come that I would want to swear undying friendship with a Klingon. I feared and distrusted all Klingons because of what three did to my husband so long ago. How illogical of me. Forgive me?"

"Perhaps you should continue to fear and distrust all of us, Lorna," Kang warned, and she could feel his sincere regret that this was so. "We are hunters and predators. Though I have changed, others have not - will not. Indeed, I, myself, do not know if this change will endure when I return to my own kind."

"I cannot believe that last, Kang. You are not the type of personality who will change loyalties in the face of adversity when you are convinced that you follow the path that is right for you. I don't expect you to influence the Empire to become like the Federation, but I'm confident that you're among the first of a new breed of Klingons. A new breed that will continue to be hunters and predators because such is their heritage, but hunters and predators who will not hesitate to employ peaceful means, if it serves their purposes...even better than violence."

"You surprise me, Lorna. Are you not going to try to convince me to accept the Vulcan philosophy?"

"No. The Vulcan philosophy works for Vulcans and for many others - but that doesn't mean that Klingons are ready for it yet. Even so, one step ahead can definitely be defined as progress."

His hand tightened over hers, and again they became silent. Lorna could sense his feelings - his regret at losing his only real friend, his desire to see his family, his apprehensions regarding the future.

"Kang," Lorna said finally. "Do you suppose there are others like you, and those who serve with you?"

"I believe so, and I am confident that we will continue to find one another. Lorna...Lorna, I should go now," but he still made no move. She shifted her grip until they were shaking hands.

Kang's fingers closed hard on hers. "We have experienced too much to be content with this mere touching of hands at parting." He paused and looked at her, almost expectantly.

"Then...what is the Klingon way of saying farewell?" she inquired.

"Similar, so I am equally dissatisfied with it."

"Do you have any suggestions?" For a moment, she wondered if he wanted to kiss her goodbye as very good human friends do but was too embarrassed by the memory of that interlude in Gary Seven's office to suggest it. Then, she had to press her teeth hard against her lower lip. A smile at this moment would not be in good taste. But...Kang, shy and embarrassed? Hardly!

"Yes, I have a suggestion, but one that your Vulcan training might prompt you to reject."

"What is it?"

"You once read me to confirm that I was not your enemy. Will you now confirm that I will always be your friend?"

"I... Kang, I'm not sure what I should say. It isn't necessary..." She paused and studied him for a long moment. "Somehow, I don't think that a superficial mind-touch is quite what you want," she said softly.

"No, it is not. I wish you to confirm our friendship with what you call a --a 'mind-lock.' I wish to become one of those with whom you can communicate mentally over long distances."

"Indeed, you have changed, Kang!" She sighed. "But I am sure that Sarek would advise me not to do it."

"On the contrary, Lorna. In fact, I would not have known of this mind-lock if he had not told me of it when I was talking with him earlier. He said that since I had given you protection and aid in your time of need, it was my right to make this request."

"He - gave - permission?" A feeling of elation swept over her. Sarek had forgiven her! Surely he must have, else he would never have given his permission for this mind-lock with Kang. The next moment, she felt misery and confusion as she realized that by giving this permission, Sarek might also be indicating that he had absolutely no interest in her.

"Very well, Kang, if Sarek has given his permission, I cannot withhold mine." she said finally. "But, let me warn you.... I've never tried this with a Klingon, naturally, and it might not work. If I see that I might cause you harm, I'll break contact immediately. Do you understand this?"

"What must I do?"' he asked simply.

"You're so tall...." Lorna moved over to the far side of the bed. "Sit here beside me.... Now, see how I lay my hand on your face? Touch my face in the same way while you clear your mind as much as you can. Concentrate only upon letting my mind join yours...."

She closed her eyes the better to concentrate as she felt his warm fingers resting gently against her temple. After a moment, she knew the lock would progress successfully, and she opened her eyes - not because she needed to see Kang but because she sensed that this experience would be easier for him if he could see her eyes.

Silence then Kang gasped as theirs minds touched and merged in the modified meld, which Lorna had learned to create with minds that could accept it.

//Klingons...knowing nothing but fighting...never wanting to know anything else!//

//Is that what you think of us? Can you fathom what it is like to be native-born to a system of worlds so poor in natural resources that we had to leave them or die? You humans have so much, no wonder Klingons need no prompting to hate you!//

They stared at each other with mingled dismay and amusement.

//Such we have been taught, such we believed. Are they mistaken, or are we?// They asked each other.

//Klingons, sly, cruel, crafty, treacherous - but Kang has risen above these traits to find an honor uniquely his own....//

//Humans, soft, weak, cowards - but Lorna put aside her own sorrow and hatred to help me endure the pain and the sorrow of my own loss... And, what of Captain Kirk? A true leader that one - a man who has met me both in battle and in peace and has proved himself a worthy adversary in both. Also, there is Spock, a cold, emotionless being - who has taught me the meaning of honor. Our lives have touched and mingled without war; can this continue? Should it continue? No matter.... I cannot deny that there are at least a few humans who are worthy of a Klingon's trust.//

Images rose in Lorna's mind -- Conan, Kull, fictional heroes, freebooters, soldiers of fortune whose personalities closely matched that of this Klingon who had formerly been her enemy but now was her friend. Davey Crockett, Daniel Boone, the "Gray Ghost," all real life heroes who had shared traits similar to Kang's. With sudden humor, Lorna showed Kang the image, which had risen in her mind when he'd come to rescue her aboard the Romulan vessel - that of a stylized knight in shining armor.

His laughter rang through her thoughts, and she knew that he wasn't displeased by the image. However, he felt that he wasn't ready to accept it as a true description of his new personality. Rather, he preferred the image of the fictional Conan - the freebooter out for gain, willing to walk in the ways of Peace so long as it profited him.

Deeper and still deeper the webs joined in their eternal pattern, though each avoided those things, which neither wished the other to know, while they re-enforced those things which each could share.

At last, they reached the final level, which included even the emotions and sensations, which had touched them that once in Gary Seven's office. For a moment memories flickered in their eyes then those memories also became a part of the web of friendship, which would never be broken, except by death?

Though they could not make full contact except during periods of deep concentration, a mental thread did join them now - a bond that might serve them well in the future, even if it was only to remind each that someone, somewhere cared.

Suddenly very tired, Lorna sank back against the pillow, and her hands dropped limply to her sides.

Kang sat motionless for a moment then he rubbed his hand over his face as if to dispel a mist from his eyes. "I will never doubt the word 'friend' again, Lorna," he murmured. "Are you all right? Shall I call McCoy?"

"This technique always tires me," she replied softly, without moving. "But, I'm all right. I'm sorry, Kang, I didn't mean to let the friendship meld go so deep."

"Do not concern yourself. Perhaps it will serve some purpose that will be useful to both our races at sometime in the future."

He rose and stood proud and tall beside her. "I can say farewell now and go without regret. From henceforth, may your life be all that you wish it to be."

He turned and strode toward the door then, as he had done in Gary Seven's office, he turned. "Once again, I find it possible to say and to mean words that I never really understood before." He lifted one hand, but not in the Vulcan salute. "Peace and long life, Lady Lorna."

"P-Peace and long life, Kang," Lorna replied, saluting him in turn. And, in spite of his protests, she knew that she would always think of Kang as her "Klingon knight in shining armor".

The doors sighed; he was gone. Tears blurred Lorna's vision, for she'd come to feel as deeply abiding a friendship for Kang as she felt for the Senior Officers of the Enterprise.

Common sense told her that she was being foolish. Once he was among his own kind, as he had said, Kang would probably be influenced to revert.... No, she couldn't believe that; she hadn't given him her trust so unwisely.

A soft, cool hand touched her forehead, and she looked up to find Christine beside her.

"Hello, Christine. Where are the others?"

"Waiting to come back in - if you aren't too tired?"

"No, not really. Not that kind of tiredness. I'll sleep, but not until after I've seen Spock and the rest again."

"Better drink this first," Christine handed her a cup of nourishing vegetable broth.

She watched Lorna drinking the broth, and she started to say something then she seemed to think better of it.

"Thank you, Christine," Lorna said as she handed back the cup.

"You're welcome.... Lorna, thanks for being such a good friend. Rest well."

She was gone before Lorna could answer, so she lay wondering what the nurse had meant.

"Lorna," Len snapped, interrupting her thoughts. "You're pale. Did Kang tire you? If he did, I'll...."

"No, Len. I suppose you won't believe it, but Kang and I became very good friends while we were on Old Earth. I doubt that he'd willingly do or say anything to hurt me."

"I believe you. At least, I'll give Kang and his crew the benefit of the doubt. I don't know what it is about them, but they're sure not like some of the other Klingons we've met!"

"Have you stopped to think that Kang and his men are somewhat like what our ancestors were in the days of the Old West?" Kirk commented as he joined them.

"Perish the thought," Len muttered.

"Some would say that you humans still have not evolved very far beyond that level, Doctor," Spock retorted from his own position near the foot of Lorna's bed.

"Oh, no!" she protested. "I'm not ready to listen to another one of your famous arguments, gentlemen. If you want to fight, please go somewhere else."

"Agreed," Jim smiled. "But I think it'll be interesting to see what happens to Kang. Lorna, is there anything in particular that you want? Can I get anything for you?"

Yes, I want Sarek, she thought. But I know better than to ask for him. "No, Jim, but thank you," she said aloud. "There's nothing that you can get for me. However, you can satisfy my curiosity. What was Kang talking about when he said that he was tired of losing his best men to your crew?"

"Didn't he nor Christine tell you...?" Kirk looked quickly at Spock, who appeared to be as composed and calm as though they were discussing the weather. "Karm, Kang's Chief Engineer has received permission to marry a member of my crew. We'll perform the joint ceremony sometime before we're both cleared to leave, and one of us will take the couple to the Otsud....

"You mean - there's going to be another Klingon/human marriage? That will certainly create a stir in the Federation! Who is Karm marrying?"

Kirk looked at Spock again. "Haven't you guessed? It's Nurse Chapel."

"Christine? Marrying a Klingon! I don't believe it!"

"Why?" Kirk demanded sternly. "Since you've become friends with Kang, why is it so impossible for you to believe that a human woman might come to love a Klingon?"

"That isn't it.... Christine disliked Klingons so much, I would never have guessed that she'd ever agree to marry one."

"She didn't either," Len drawled. "When I talked to her, I got the impression that Karm sort of sneaked up on her blind side and conquered her before she was even aware that a battle had started."

"She really loves him?"

"If she doesn't then she's the finest actress this universe has ever seen."

Lorna turned and looked intently at Spock.

She knew that she would seem to be cruel, but she couldn't ignore this chance to reinforce the bitter lesson. "To quote a saying from my former time, my son," she said softly. "You really 'blew it'."

"I will not ask you to explain," he said stiffly. "For I prefer not to discuss the matter. Captain, may I return to my station?"

"Certainly, Spock." Kirk turned to Lorna the moment the door had closed. "Weren't you rather hard on him?"

"No, not really. He had his chance; perhaps the next time he won't be so - so impossible. Don't look so surprised, Jim. I hoped that Spock would choose Christine. However, I'm equally pleased that she's found someone. She deserves happiness, and why should we object if that someone is a member of Kang's crew?"

"Why indeed? I'm going to say goodbye for a while now, Lorna. I think it's time you got some rest." Kirk grinned at her then he left.

"I'm not going to give you anything to make you sleep until I'm sure you need it, Lorna," Len murmured as he checked her readings again. "You look tired enough to drop right off."

"I am."

"Then, goodnight." He dimmed the lights. "I'll check on you later."

She did sleep, and dreamlessly. Only once did she rouse toward wakefulness, when she thought she heard Len telling someone that she was sleeping but that it wouldn't hurt to awaken her. Also, she thought she heard Sarek's voice answering that the rest would be of more value to her than a visit from him. She wanted to protest, but she fell asleep again before she could even to see if he really was there.

The next time she awakened, there wasn't any doubt about the reality of the pains that were lashing through her again. Realizing what was happening, she pressed the signal button, which would summon McCoy.

He was there in a matter of seconds, one of the nurses following soon after. "She's in advanced labor. Get the equipment ready...and summon Sarek!"

Lorna struggled against the pain, fought against the urge to scream, and forced herself to bear down with every contraction as McCoy instructed. The pain increased, but she was making little progress. After what seemed an eternity, she finally uttered a moan, and she knew that she would scream when, the next pain came. Then, a firm hand touched her forehead, and she heard a heart-achingly familiar voice speaking Vulcan words of encouragement. The pain seemed to grow less, or rather, her awareness of it wasn't as great, enabling her to gather the last reserves of her strength for the final effort.

"The child has turned, in spite of everything I could do," she heard McCoy say. "I can't change its position without running the risk of strangling it. I ask your permission to operate immediately. If I don't, we could lose them both...."

 

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

When Lorna finally opened her eyes, the first thing that she was aware of was that she had a very itchy stomach. Her questing fingers encountered the smoothness of a plasti-bandage under the surface of the Sick Bay tunic that she was wearing - and an unfamiliar flatness.

She gasped and started to sit up, only to feel hands on her shoulders as McCoy's voice scolded her: "Take it easy. You don't want to undo all my repairs, do you?"

"Len...?" She reached up and grasped his upper arms, not noticing that he was wearing his full dress uniform and ignoring his involuntary wince of pain beneath the force of her grip. "The child? Was Sarek there to take the child?"

"Yes," there was a flicker of something in McCoy"s eyes, a blurring similar to tears. But Lorna missed seeing it as she relaxed her grip and sank back against the pillow.

"Thanks be," she breathed. "What was it?"

"A little girl."

No doubt about it, those were tears in Len's eyes!

"Len, what's wrong?" She forced herself to speak calmly. "Didn't she live?"

"Yes - and no. Lorna, that drug Doctor Enol gave you.... I hoped that it wouldn't matter, but the drug increased hereditary defects...."

"So? Hereditary defects can be corrected... can't they?"

Len shook his head. "Her heart is malformed. It's always been much too small, so her brain never received enough oxygen and nutrients to develop fully. The readings indicate that her system is barely functioning and that she's losing ground. Though we've learned a lot about surgery, there're so many things wrong with her that I couldn't even begin to try to help her. Besides, some vital glands are missing, and some secretions of the Vulcan ones can't be synthesized...."

"How long does she have?" Lorna sat upright, her face pale and stern against the impact of the blow, but Len didn't try to restrain her.

"She's dyin' now, Lorna," he said, his drawl deepening as it always did when he was affected emotionally.

"Len, why haven't you used the spores from the pod plants?"

"Honey, I'd give ten years of my life if I could use those spores to help your baby, but I can't. The artificial radiation couldn't provide some important trace elements, and I never could find an acceptable substitute.... The spores died while we were waiting for you to come back from Old Earth...."

"Then, I'll call Jim and ask him to request permission...."

"It wouldn't do any good, Lorna! There's no way that we can reach Omicron Ceti III in time to save the child! Spores can't solve your problems this time; there's nothing I can do. There's nothing anyone can do!"

Anguished beyond all hope of control, Lorna buried her face in her hands and rocked back and forth as sobs tore through her constricted throat. Strong arms enfolded her after a moment as McCoy cradled her against his chest. "That's it, darlin'," he murmured softly. "Cry it all out. There's no one here but me."

Lorna's tears were finally exhausted then she sat back and looked up at Len. "Where is she?"

"Right in the next room. We're doin' everything we can to make her comfortable during the time she has left, so there's not enough space for her in here."

Lorna threw back the cover and turned to sit up on the side of the bed. "I've got to go to her, Len. Don't try to stop me."

"I won't, if you'll let me check you first. All right, you've responded well to the healing rays. Come along."

She entered the room swiftly, clenching her fists in silent protest at the sight off the crystal clear case sheltering a tiny form. After a moment, she moved closer and looked down at her daughter. An angel child, this, with the human features of her mother. Only the dark hair, the ears, and the tiny upswept eyebrows indicated her Vulcan heritage.

"What color are her eyes, Len?" she whispered.

"Blue, like yours. She's never opened them without help, though. She's still alive but, in one sense of the word, she's never really lived."

"Poor little one," Lorna murmured. "She's so beautiful! I can hardly believe that she's not all right.... Wait...now, I see.... The green tint in her skin is too dark, and it's getting darker all the time, isn't it?"

Len nodded. "I won't let her suffer, honey."

Lorna hovered over the case, keeping out of McCoy's way while he and his new Chief Nurse did what they could for the child; and she prayed. Not that the child would be spared, but only that it be sheltered from any suffering.

At last, in the hours just before the ship's "dawn," Lorna saw a change in the child's features. "I haven't given her a name. She hasn't even known the touch of her mother's hand. Oh, Len, don't let her go out into that darkness without help!"

"You're right," McCoy agreed, reaching to unfasten the case. "She mustn't die without feeling her mother's love."

Obeying his silent gesture, the nurse brought a seat for Lorna then Len put the swaddled form of the infant in her waiting arms. She held the child close and rocked it for several minutes then she cradled it in the curve of her arm and laid her free hand against its tiny head. Closing her eyes, she began to concentrate. Finally, she made contact with the flickering consciousness that, for lack of a better term, humans had named "soul." She couldn't communicate in words, of course, but she mentally enfolded the child with her love, supporting it as it gradually lost its hold upon its brief life.

Lorna knew that she couldn't let the child go without giving it a name. Memories of her father stirred in a corner of her mind. No, baptism wasn't necessary, not for this child who was clearly in a State of Grace - whatever that meant. However, Lorna recalled a christening ceremony that, though it would mean nothing to the child, would be of comfort to her....

A beaker of distilled water that had been used to mix a medication was standing on a table near Lorna. Holding the child securely, she reached over and uncapped the beaker with little difficulty.

"What shall I name you? Poor little angel, I don't remember the entire naming ceremony that your father's ancestors have handed down.... 'Angel,' that's it! You resemble one, why not call you that?"

Tilting the beaker so water would pour into her hand, Lorna then laid her moist palm against the infant's head and said softly, "I christen thee - Angela...."

A familiar hand reached out from the shadows to clasp the child's tiny wrist, brushing Lorna's arm as it did so then a well loved voice began to speak the ancient words of the Vulcan naming ritual, formally giving the child the name T'Angelya.

Though he'd not made his presence known, Sarek had been there all the time, keeping vigil over his child. Could he do any less? Now, however, he entered into the mental communication that Lorna had established with the child's spirit and assumed command, guiding her into death gently so her unformed intelligence would know no fear. Between one breath and the next, the spark of life flickered and went out.

Lorna sat quietly for several minutes, holding the limp form closely against her, weeping inwardly, but there were no tears visible in her eyes.

At last, Sarek bent to take the child from her then he held the tiny form in his arms for many minutes, studying the delicate features. However, he'd turned away so Lorna couldn't see if there was any sign of emotion in his face. Nor, since the Bonding had been severed, could she know what he was feeling. He laid the tiny form back in the case, stood erect, and uttered one very soft sigh. "Doctor, allow me the right to mourn T'Angelya in my own way," he said when McCoy stepped forward and started to speak. "You have another who needs your care more than I." Then, staring straight ahead, he left.

***

Since there were no longer any diplomatic duties to perform, Lorna was free to follow Vulcan custom and tradition while she mourned for the child. She remained secluded in her specially prepared room during the remainder of the journey to Vulcan, meditating and seeking comfort from all that her father had instilled in her, as well as observing the Vulcan rituals that her husband had taught her.

None of her friends tried to visit her, for Spock had informed them that both she and Sarek were following the Vulcan way of remaining in seclusion to mourn their child.

Strangely enough, Lorna didn't feel lonely - for her human friends, that is. However, her heart ached with sympathy for Sarek's sorrow, and she deeply regretted the fact that it was no longer possible for her to share this sorrow with her husband - to help him shoulder this burden as she had all others. Yet, that she could not do so was no one's fault but her own.

In spite of her sorrow, as the time for planet-fall came ever nearer, she began to wonder if Sarek would order her to remain on the Enterprise and inform Captain Kirk that he no longer claimed her as his wife.

"Who is it?" she responded to the door shortly after the Enterprise had assumed Standard Orbit over Vulcan.

"Uhura. May I come in?"

"Please do."

Surprised by Lorna's calm face and controlled manner, the lovely Communications Officer paused in the doorway for a moment then hurried forward. "I don't care if you are committed to the Vulcan way, I had to come..." she murmured as she hugged her friend. "Lorna, I'm so sorry...."

"I know. Thank you, Uhura," Lorna returned Uhura's embrace then stepped away. "The time for mourning has ended. I must return to the land of the living."

"I've hated the thought of you being alone - but Spock told us that was the way you both wanted it." She stepped forward and studied Lorna's face carefully. "You know, I really believe there must be something beneficial about the Vulcan way of mourning. You have a look of peace about you that most people can't achieve for months after losing a loved one."

"Let us speak of other matters. Have we received coordinates for beaming down?"

"Soon. That's why I came...I thought you might want some help in your packing. Ambassador Sarek has suggested that your luggage be beamed down with his to save energy."

Lorna felt the weight of sorrow upon her shoulders easing slightly. He wasn't going to send her away! But - to exist on the planet through sufferance, to never know the joy of his love? That would be worse - far worse.

When she went to the transporter room, she discovered to her great relief that not only Uhura, but also the Senior Officers and several other members of the crew had been invited down as well. According to Vulcan custom, Angela's death had to be recorded and her name placed in the Archives. Since she had been part human, Sarek had granted her the courtesy of asking representatives of her race to be present during these ceremonies.

They were mercifully brief and, in keeping with the Vulcan custom of interring a body as swiftly as possible after death, Lorna wasn't required to keep vigil over Angela. Instead, the child was swiftly buried in a grave near Amanda's.

Lorna hadn't known that Sarek was intending to do this, but she was pleased. Perhaps it was merely another one of her childishly human fantasies, but she gained comfort from the thought that Amanda would watch over Angela for her.

The company returned to the house, and stood in the huge entrance hall, conversing quietly.

"Lorna," Jim said gently as he came to her and took her hand. "We're not going to stay. We've intruded upon your grief - and upon Sarek's - long enough. There's nothing to say...except that I'm sorry. You'll be in my thoughts, Lorna, even though I still can't relay them to you the way we used to do. And remember - someday, when the pain eases, we'll come back."

The others also spoke their quiet farewells. When Spock came to bid her a formal goodbye, however, she extended her hand in a silent demand for the Terran handshake. When their hands touched, she sent forth the thought-phrase that requested mental contact. After a moment's hesitation, Spock complied. There was a swift exchange of sympathy, expressions of sorrow, and apologies, reinforcing the bond between mother and stepson. After only a few seconds, Spock dropped her hand and turned away, but Lorna was content with the peace that they had made between them.

A final word of farewell, and the crewmembers of the Enterprise beamed up, unknowingly abandoning Lorna to her fate at Sarek's hands.

She knew he was standing behind her, probably waiting for her to turn and face him, but she couldn't - not yet. Instead, she continued to gaze toward the place where her friends had been standing before they'd beamed up - sending thoughts of farewell and goodwill after them, though she wasn't concentrating hard enough to make total contact.

Finally she sighed and started to turn then she stopped, startled. The Eternal Flame - the torch, which she and Sarek had kindled to symbolize their marriage on their wedding day - was still burning. Sarek had had ample time to extinguish it; why hadn't he done so?

"Lorna." Though it was gentle, the tone of his voice told her that she could postpone her moment of reckoning no longer. She closed her eyes for a moment, gathering her courage then she turned to him and lifted one hand in a half-pleading gesture.

"Sarek, I know I should keep silent.... For the sake of the memory of our child, however, will you give me permission to say what is in my heart?"

"Speak freely."

"I want to thank you for never refusing to claim Angela as yours."

"I could not deny what is true. The day I transferred aboard the Enterprise, McCoy took great care to inform me that you were carrying my child...but I did not need his assurance of your faithfulness."

"Even so.... I was on Old Earth with Kang for so long.... Surely there will be some who will question, who will cast shadows against Angela's paternity."

"No, for T'Angelya possessed no Klingon characteristics - only human and Vulcan. Besides, there are records from Earth's past, which your Gary Seven arranged to be made available to us here in the future. Thus, proof of T'Angelya's paternity is available to those who require it. However, I am confident there will be no inquiries from curious individuals wishing to cast shadows or doubts."

"I thank you again - not for me, but for her sake. Now, I accept the role and the status which I deserve. I am thy property, Sarek. Do with me as thou dost wish."

She folded her hands and bowed her head, waiting for him to either pronounce the words that would send her away into exile, or else to do that which Vulcan Law said that he had a perfect right to do - take her life. In fact, she could almost pray that he would choose execution.

He approached her and then placed his hands about her throat in the grip, which would enable him to deliver the killing stroke of Tal'Shayah.

She trembled with instinctive fear for a moment then she closed her eyes obediently and lifted her head, waiting for his fingers to close - mentally preparing for death.

"Lorna," his fingers left her throat then she felt them close gently about her arms. "You have not really seen me since you returned from the past." How terribly soft and gentle his voice was! "Open your eyes and look at me now."

Slowly, reluctantly, she obeyed.

The face bending over her was Sarek's, naturally, but not as she had remembered it. His eyes were brilliant with vitality, and there were only traces of gray at his temples. Except for a few lines at the corners of his eyes and here and there in his face, all signs of encroaching age had been erased. The spores had given him back many of the years that he'd lost, making the relative differences in their ages even less apparent. Ironically, he was in better physical condition now than she was for she bore scars upon her body, but the spores had given him the fresh, unmarked skin of youth.

"McCoy has informed me that physically I have returned to the Vulcan prime of life," he informed her calmly. "Therefore, though what you did was wrong, the results were beneficial. I told you that Vulcan Law states that you might become my property for what you have done - that it gives me the right to execute you, if I choose."

She didn't answer, didn't plead for mercy, just stood meeting his gaze unflinchingly - too hurt and too tired to hope.

"I do not choose to execute you, Lorna, nor do I intend to claim you as just my property. You are my wife, and I love you." When she swayed with shock, he enfolded her in his arms and held her close as he continued: "Do you think me incapable of understanding why you brought the spores to me? I intended to tell you so after you had had time to understand the seriousness of your own actions. What you did was wrong, because you made a serious decision, which would affect our lives without consulting me. However, I understand why you did it, and I forgive you. I, also, was wrong, for I condemned you too harshly, and gave you no chance to give me an explanation when you requested it as your right. Will you forgive me, Lorna?"

"Oh, Sarek, there's nothing to forgive!" she cried brokenly. "I am the only one at fault. If I'd waited, we would have Angela."

"No," he assured her as he tightened his arms about her. "McCoy has told me that we would not. Even though I was no longer sterile, I would never have been able to father a normal child. My sperm was defective until you brought the spores to me. Thus, if there is any fault for T'Angelya's condition, it is mine. If we have children in the future, however, you have insured that they will be healthy."

Lorna nestled her head on his shoulder, comforted by this knowledge, but still she felt the sharp pang of sorrow within her heart for the little one they had just lost. Even though they hadn't reinstated the Bonding, Sarek knew of her sorrow.

"Lorna, you have mourned long enough. Will you let me heal the worst of your pain?"

"What good will healing do me as things stand now? Sarek, if you don't intend to resume the Bonding, it would be kinder to, kill me!" she protested.

He laid his fingers against her lips to silence her then he moved his hands upward to touch her face in the old, familiar pattern.

Slowly, peace and acceptance flowed into her mind, as she knew again the Oneness with her husband that she had missed so desperately after he'd closed his mind to her.

It was true that they had lost a child, but perhaps there would be another, at the proper time. If not, they still had much to live for. Sarek had regained many years of productive life, and Lorna had passed through an ordeal, which had purified and refined her. She was now as truly bondmate and wife to Sarek as she would have been had she been native Vulcan born and bred.

They had come through their trials strengthened and mellowed, more ready to communicate and to understand one another than ever before - bonded not only by their love but by their shared sorrow.

"Life awaits us, Lorna. Will you come with me to greet the dawn?" Sarek asked as he extended his fingers to her.

*********

YOE: WELL?????

FH: Look, you can't expect the readers to accept THAT as the resolution of the Spook/Christine question!

YOE: Well, it wasn't my idea! I TOLD you that Christine took over when I sat down at the typewriter one day! I'm just as surprised as you are.

FH: If you say so.... I'm glad everything finally worked out for Lorna and Sarek, and I think their marriage will be much stronger now. By the way, did you notice that the intercom was an intrusive element in most of these reports?

YOE: What was that you said you called the telephone the other day when you were trying to take a bath while I was working away from the house?

FH: Er...yeah. Hey! Haven't you forgotten something?

YOE: ????

FH: What happened to Kang?

YOE: Anna Mary Hall found that out. Turn the page....

END OF STAR TREK SHOWCASE VOLUME 2

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