". . . Simple Song"
Silence filled the austerely furnished, yet well appointed office - not the silence of emptiness, but the silence of concentration. Finally Ambassador Sarek laid aside the report he'd been studying and leaned back in his seat. He rubbed his eyes to relieve the strain of prolonged reading, then glanced over to see what his wife was doing.
At that moment Lorna finished compiling the figures that Sarek needed and looked up to tell him so. Their eyes met. Without speaking, she rose, came over to put the lists on the desk close to his hand; then she sat down in a low chair at the opposite side of his desk, propped her elbows on the dark surface, and rested her chin in her hands as she continued to gaze into her husband's eyes.
Sarek's dark eyes filled with mingled pride and amusement as he looked back at her, the habitual sternness of his features softening in the almost imperceptible smile that he allowed when they might be interrupted at any moment. It didn't matter. Lorna knew what the smile meant, for they were linked - attuned to each other's emotions and responses on a subliminal level, though they could still withhold thoughts and information from each other if they deemed it necessary to do so.
"You are tired, my wife?" he asked.
"A little, my husband," she answered calmly, but her eyes filled with mingled love and exasperation. "We've been working for eight point four hours - with no break."
"Again?" There was the slightest suggestion of a frown between his slanted brows. "You should have told me, Lorna."
"I'm telling you now, Sarek." She put her hands over her eyes and twisted her head in an effort to ease the dull ache that was throbbing between her shoulder blades.
With a swift motion, Sarek was behind Lorna. His long fingers moved with sureness as he unhesitatingly located the knotted muscles at the back of her neck and soothed away the weary tension that had gathered there.
"Better?" he asked, his hands gently stroking her neck beneath the smooth coils of her dark hair.
"Much," she replied, turning slightly in her chair so she could lean against him. "You always know exactly where the tension is worst."
"Of course," he said coolly, but his arm tightened slightly to bring her closer to his side.
Lorna glanced up and smiled mischievously. He looked down at her, the smile increasing slightly; then he anticipated her thought: "It would be pleasing, but Sartonn will arrive in five point two minutes. He would wonder why I was accepting treatment for a minor muscular contraction which should be ignored." However, they were alone and his back was to the door; as no one entering could see, he reached down and cupped Lorna's chin in his free hand, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "Perhaps," he continued, his voice perfectly calm and even in tone but his eyes glinting, "you will give me a 'rain check' and will...administer to my needs tonight, my wife?"
"Need you ask, my husband?" Lorna's tone was equally calm, but her pulse was racing. For one brief moment, she was tempted to put her arm around his waist, but she thought better of it.
"True," he answered her unspoken thought as he returned to his desk. "Though I understand and respect your need for such physical closeness, others might not."
Lorna smiled again; she rose and turned toward her own desk, then paused. "I'm thirsty. Would you like me to bring you something to drink, too?"
Lorna went to a table where a pair of covered vessels sat waiting. Cool beads had formed on their surfaces, feeling delightful as she picked up one vessel and removed the cover. She filled a crystal clear tumbler with water kept cool by the vessel, but she filled the second tumbler only three-quarters of the way. Lifting the lid of the second vessel, she scooped up several pieces of ice and dropped them into the tumbler.
Returning to Sarek's desk, she touched the back of his hand with the water filled tumbler. He reached up to take it without looking, but he waited until he could hear the ice tinkling against the side of Lorna's tumbler before he lifted his.
He put his empty tumbler aside on the blotting surface of his work area and turned to watch Lorna while she crunched a small piece of ice with definite relish. "I cannot understand your craving for frozen water," he commented, but the twinkle remained in the depths of his eyes.
"No more than your friends could understand your fondness for the Terran peanuts I have ordered imported for you," Lorna replied pertly, glancing toward the small, nearly empty bowl at his elbow.
"I am not 'fond' of peanuts, my wife," Sarek's voice rang with mock sternness. "It is a logical acceptance of the energy that peanuts supply while I am working...."
"Yes, Sarek," Lorna grinned at him shamelessly. "Just another one of the many differences between us...but I accept your fondness for peanuts the way that you accept my fondness for ice - and I love you for it."
His eyebrow lifted swiftly.
"So what if it isn't 'logical' to love you for such a reason?" She reached out and stroked his dark, gleaming hair, not caring if one of his aides should choose that moment to step in. By now they'd learned that a human wife could, and would, do things that might never occur to a Vulcan wife. "I'm sure you don't mind."
"No," his melodious voice held, the slightest hint of warmth - the Vulcan equivalent of a chuckle. "I do not mind. But...please return to your desk, for the sake of Sartonn's peace of mind?"
Sarek's long fingers reached out to Lorna's in the Vulcan kiss, then they both returned to their respective tasks. After a minute or so, however, Sarek laid aside the folder he'd been reading and leaned back slightly in his seat while he looked across the room at his preoccupied wife.
His memory turned back to another time when he'd sat in this same room, studying his wife, wondering why their marriage had not yet become the glorious symphony of mind and spirit that it should have been. (("While We're Apart", SHOWCASE II, February 1975.))
Indeed, Lorna has brought a contentment - a sense of joy that I never anticipated experiencing again when Amanda died, he thought. Lorna has become all that I could wish - and more, thanks to her unique talents...although I have noticed that she hesitates to use those talents as freely as she did before our mission to Turon-Lura....
His eyes darkened briefly with sorrow as he remembered the events of that fateful mission - beginning with the True Bonding he'd finally accomplished with Lorna and ending with the death of their first-born child. He closed his eyes for a moment, recalling the delicate features of the tiny daughter who'd lived only a few hours.
Because of the emotional ordeals Lorna had endured - thinking that her husband had been killed, then being stranded on Old Earth with a traditional enemy who'd become a friend - and because McCoy had had to deliver T'Angelya surgically, creating further shocks to Lorna's system, he'd been given permission to implant a contraceptive capsule in Lorna's forearm which prevented her from conceiving for a full Terran year, to give her body time to recuperate completely. However, there was no longer any reason why they couldn't have another child, and the Academy had assured them that, thanks to the effect of the spores - any future children would be normal and healthy.
Sarek opened his eyes and looked over at Lorna again, the stern set of his lips softening with tenderness as he visually traced the strands of white hair that gleamed above her right temple - strands that had increased in number after the death of their daughter. A stranger would believe she had been relatively untouched by those events, for only her hair bears any traces of all she endured. Once again she possesses that refreshing outlook upon life which I have always considered one of her most...attractive qualities. Indeed, she is more warm, loving, and giving than before - always meeting my needs as I seek to meet hers...and yet, something is missing. She has regained that quality of personality, which Terrans call 'sparkle,' but there are still shadows of pain in the depths of her mind that I cannot reach to heal. It would be well if I could find someone who could help her - but there does not seem to be anyone with the necessary degree of skill.
He knew that Time would dispel most of Lorna's pain, would lessen the darkness of that shadow. Perhaps, when the force of that pain had loosened its grip, he would be able to break down the instinctive barriers she still created to protect him from that shadow - would be able to help her to discard the remaining traces of pain. Until that time, he would wait, supporting her with his strength and with his love....
The doors at the far end of the room parted to admit Sarek's Chief Aide.
"Ambassador Sarek. Lady Lorna. Peace and long life," the tall, lean Vulcan said quietly as he lifted his hand in the formal salute.
Both Sarek and Lorna responded in kind; then the Ambassador indicated a seat near his desk and listened to Sartonn's dispassionate account of the day's activities.
"...the final signature has been affixed. There is nothing to prevent you from leaving tomorrow."
"I am confident that you will conduct the duties of this office with an efficiency that will equal or exceed that which you have displayed in this task," Sarek said calmly. "Your abilities will enable me to conduct my study of the computer on the so-called 'Shore Leave Planet' without concern for matters here."
Although his eyes glowed at this praise from Sarek, Sartonn merely inclined his head in silent acknowledgement of the tribute, and immediately changed the subject: "I trust you will allow me to assist with the preparation of your final report when you return. The computer complex possesses many fascinating aspects."
"Yes..." Sarek paused, noting the faint lines of weariness visible in his aide's face. "If you wish, I could request leave for you after we return - you might prefer to investigate the computer's new installations first-hand...?" He allowed his words to trail away inquiringly.
"The experience would be one of value," Sartonn agreed, "but I have no need of leave at this time."
"You have been working very hard, Sartonn," Lorna protested, but she chose her words carefully. "More work will be required of you while we are gone. Is it unreasonable to ask you to take care of your health so you may continue to work at maximum efficiency? We need you. Besides," her eyes began to twinkle again, in spite of the almost Vulcan calmness of her expression. "Who else is better qualified to study that computer's techniques of self-repair...of determining if any of our most advanced computers can be developed to do likewise?"
"True," Sartonn agreed without false modesty. As he lifted his head, his dark gaze locked with Lorna's for a long moment.
Her eyes did not waver as she met his scrutiny without hostility or wariness. They'd settled their individual differences long ago, and she'd come to realize that she'd misjudged him. Sartonn had felt no jealousy or resentment that she'd won the place of Chief Assistant - rather, his coldness and habit of placing obstacles in her path had been evidence of his concern for the welfare of the many worlds and races that she would come into contact with - a desire to be sure that her natural emotionalism would not undo everything that Sarek had done to further the cause of Peace. Once Sartonn had seen for himself how well she and Sarek worked together, he'd withdrawn all opposition.
Though Sartonn still remained calm and reserved in her presence, Lorna knew that he was her friend - he'd proved it many times over by his willingness to utter a quiet suggestion here or to drop a simple phrase there that enabled her to avoid many a pitfall.
Even after her sincere compliment, Sartonn's expression didn't change. However, there was definitely a gentler expression in his eyes when he finally answered her: "When you phrase your arguments in such terms, Lady, how can I refuse?"
"T'Rueth, the table is lovely," Lorna approved as she paused on the terrace later. "You have a fine talent for blending colors and textures."
T'Rueth bent her dark head slightly and continued her task of unfurling the transparent covering which would protect the table and its contents until time for the evening meal.
"My wife, attend," Sarek's voice came softly from the doorway.
Lorna turned to see that he was extending his fingers to her, and she hurried to him.
"Our son and his guest, have arrived, Lorna," he continued as she joined her fingers to his. "Let us welcome them."
They moved unhurriedly to the top of the wide, sweeping staircase that led up to the entrance of their fortress-like home, waiting while Spock and his companion unloaded their luggage and dispatched their air-car.
From this distance, Lorna couldn't identify the second man, but she was sure it wasn't Scotty, and she knew it wouldn't be Len - not when he'd finally gotten leave and had taken Maggie back to Earth to meet all the members of his family! The figure was too short, and too slender to be Jim - besides, Kirk would leave the Enterprise only after he'd confirmed that all arrangements for repairs and new installations were progressing well...meaning it would be at least three more days before he would beam down.
The two men picked up their luggage, then turned to approach the house. As was customary, Sarek left Lorna's side and descended the steps to greet their guests.
"Peace and long life, my son," he intoned formally, his hand lifted in the Vulcan salute.
"Live long and prosper, my father," Spock replied with equal formality. Then, without unbecoming haste or loss of dignity, the two men moved a step closer and touched their hands together palm to palm in the Vulcan family embrace. An instant later, Sarek turned, hand again lifted in the formal salute.
"Peace and long life, Mr. Sulu."
"Live long and prosper, Ambassador Sarek," the dapper Oriental replied, his hand moving gracefully in an answering salute.
"It has been long since you graced our home with your presence," Sarek continued as he turned and indicated that his guest and his son should precede him up the stairway. "You are most welcome."
In keeping with Vulcan custom, neither Spock nor Sulu broke the silence as they ascended the staircase to pause facing Lorna as they saluted her.
"Peace and long life, honored guest...my son," she recited the traditional words calmly but could not hide the warmth in her tone. "Thy way has been long, and thou surely must be weary after thy journey. Come, and I shall lead thee to where thou mayest slake thy thirst."
So saying, she turned and led them, not into the entrance hall, but onto a smaller staircase opening just beside the entrance, leading down into a vast cavern beneath the house. There, passing a stone table as high as Sarek's chest, a flight of carved stone steps led to the brink of a pool of bubbling, almost transparent water.
Lorna waited with their guests while Sarek descended the steps, took a beautifully wrought, white chalice from a niche in the wall, and dipped that chalice into the water. Holding the filled chalice carefully in his cupped hands, Sarek ascended the steps, then he lifted the chalice to his lips and took a single swallow before offering it to Sulu, who drank about a quarter of the water. He handed the chalice back to Sarek, then he stood quietly beside Lorna, hands clasped behind his back, waiting for the completion of the welcoming ceremony.
"Spock," Sarek offered the chalice to his son. "It is good that thou art returned to visit the house of thy fathers. Drink - and be refreshed."
Spock accepted the chalice and drank his portion of the water before replying: "I am content to accept the hospitality my father offers."
"My wife," Sarek turned to offer the chalice to Lorna. "Join me in pledging our house and our welcome to these who honor us with their presence."
"I hear and obey, my husband." Lorna responded as a Vulcan wife; then she paused and sent a smiling welcome to both Spock and to Sulu before cupping her hands about her husband's as he lifted the chalice to her lips. She took only a sip, then stepped back, her hands releasing Sarek's slowly.
As Sarek lifted the chalice, he turned it so he would be drinking from where Lorna's lips had rested, finishing the little water that remained. "It is done. Be one with us until thy journey is resumed."
"So it shall be," Sulu and Spock replied in unison; then they became silent again, waiting while Sarek ceremoniously cleansed the chalice with a handful of air-fern that grew on the wall, then replaced the chalice in its niche.
Extending his fingers to Lorna, Sarek led her and their guests to the green Room, one which Lorna had renovated to accommodate off-worlder guests during social moments. It was air conditioned - not to the point of extreme coolness, but to achieve the comfort level common to humans; an artificial fireplace burning cheerfully at one end of the room provided the illusion of warmth that added the perfect final touch psychologically for the Vulcans present.
"Sulu," Lorna settled on a low sofa several yards from the fireplace and invited the Helmsman to sit beside her. "It was such a pleasant surprise to see you. As Sarek said, it has been a long time."
"Yeah," Sulu replied with a broad grin. "I was getting tired of waiting for a chance to read those Haiku for your husband...."
"Poor Sulu," Lorna interrupted, laying her hand on his. "I did treat you quite shabbily on that score. I owe you an apology - both for that oversight, and for not stopping to realize that you might be odd man out during this layover."
"The old gang sure has been broken up by wedding bells," Sulu quipped in mock woe. "I couldn't even talk Uhura into letting me escort her - she's been invited to study the latest Vulcan communication installations. Spock found me moping on the Observation Deck like a lost soul, and.... Well, if he weren't a Vulcan, I'd think he invited me to come here because he felt sorry for me."
Lorna bent her head, as if she were thinking of an appropriate reply. In truth, she was concealing an expression of disappointment and resigned acceptance, sorrowing inwardly that those closest to her son still found it difficult to understand him. "You're always welcome here, Sulu - anytime. Surely you know that," she said finally.
"Good try, Lorna, but you're still human enough to let some emotion show through." Sulu's strong fingers moved to clasp hers warmly.
"W-what do you mean, Sulu?" she stammered. "I'm sure you'll enjoy going back to the Shore Leave Planet...."
"Sure I would!" His eyes gleamed. "Last time, I was so busy I forgot about picking up a mate for the revolver the computer game me...but I'm not going to intrude on your family outing, Lorna. I'm staying here tonight because I'll never turn down a chance to visit good friends, but that's all. Spock has arranged for me to enroll in a beginner's course in the Vulcan style of fencing - you know I've always been interested in learning more about that."
"Really?" Lorna replied. "I'm surprised Jim didn't ask you to stay with him."
"I suppose he would have - if Spock had given him the chance." Sulu laced his fingers through Lorna's and tightened his clasp. "He must've sensed I was feeling out of it almost before I did...first thing I knew, he was inviting me here and was mentioning the class. I don't mean any offense, but you know Spock just doesn't do things like that. Sure, he may recognize loneliness in another being, but I've never heard him admit it - except for that one time, when Kolos was sharing his body.... Lorna, there's no way I can explain it or prove it, but I think Spock's...changed."
"Indeed?" Lorna's brow rose in an exceedingly Spockian manner as she looked across the room at her stepson. "Hummm, yes, I think I see what you mean. The slight lines of tension in his face and about his eyes have faded. His mouth isn't as stern as it was when I saw him last. I wonder what has happened to cause the change in him?"
"I thought you'd know!" Sulu was visibly surprised. "Aren't you in constant mental communication with him?"
"Will the day ever come when humans will cease gossiping and making idle speculations about the Vulcan way of life?" Lorna sighed with exasperation, but her tirade was halted by Sulu's bubbling laugh.
"Sorry, Lorna," he apologized, "but that did sound funny - coming from a human."
"I suppose it did," a responsive gleam of humor filled her eyes as she smiled at the Helmsman. "But I haven't become fully Vulcan yet, Sulu." She reached up and touched her right ear. "See, they're still rounded at the tips. However, I've found a peace following Sarek's way of life that I never knew while following my own."
"Yes, that's evident...." Sulu's voice trailed away as he wondered if he should apologize for the idle speculation that had triggered her brief display of anger.
"No, you needn't," she replied with one of her flashes of empathy. "Don't look at me like that, Sulu; I wasn't peeping into your mind - but it was quite plain what you were thinking.... Let me make something perfectly clear to you. Though I can communicate with Spock, Len, and - and others over great distances, it isn't a constant thing. Those involved have to be willing to allow the communication - must desire it simultaneously for it to take place, to 'let me come into their minds,' so to speak. If Spock, or anyone else, does not want me to communicate with them, does not want me to know what is happening at the moment, he can block me out."
"Lorna," Sarek's gentle voice broke the momentary silence. "Spock and I depart for the evening meditation. This would be a good time for our guest to take a tour of the gardens with you." He didn't really smile, but there was a hint of amused understanding as he saw Sulu's relaxed posture become one of eager anticipation.
By unspoken agreement, Lorna and Sulu went straight to the Leeithutt. Heady, lush, and almost sensual in its strength, the perfume of its blooms floated toward them on the chill of the twilight air. Lorna reached up and plucked a half-furled bloom from one of the lower branches. "My Blue Rose has thrived under the influence of your prescription, dear friend."
Sulu reached out to accept the rose, his fingers turning the stem gently as he examined it, carefully. Each petal was perfect, glowing with a uniform sapphire hue. Each leaf was free of pest or flaw. "Yes," he agreed. "Bone meal is a simple thing, but it works wonders."
They continued to walk along one of the paths in the grounds, studying the new specimens, much as they had on an earlier occasion. This time, however, Sulu didn't ask for cuttings and samples. He knew that they would be ready and waiting for him when it was time to return to the Enterprise.
When they reached the end of the path, they turned their steps toward the family burial ground, which lay within easy walking distance of the house. Their journey ended where a fragile Terran ivy grew entwined in the branches of a vigorous Idlomkel.
Spock sighed and opened his eyes. As always, the meditation had eased his tensions, but now - after the administration of the serum - more so than ever before. After a moment, he turned and looked toward the doorway of the balcony where his father had gone for his own period of mediation. Sarek was standing there, quietly watching his son. Now, when Spock rose from his seat, Sarek moved into the room.
Though he was accustomed to the change by now, Spock still found it difficult to reconcile the reality of this tall, lithe Vulcan male in the very prime of life with his memories of his father. In fact, at times, Sarek looked almost as young as his son - an effect of the spores that Lorna had introduced into her husband's system in a desperate, successful attempt to restore his fertility.
"Walk with me, my son," Sarek said quietly as he paused beside Spock.
They descended the stairs and walked out into the gardens, quietly enjoying their rapport. Eventually, impelled by his all-too-human need to state the obvious, Spock verbalized his inner feelings: "My father, need I tell you how satisfying it is to know that we have finally resolved the differences that existed between us?"
Sarek raised one eyebrow but didn't pause. "No." he replied sternly, almost tutorially. "However," he continued, his voice becoming somewhat warmer in tone, "if it pleases you to vocalize what we both already know to be fact, I will not stop you. As Lorna said once long ago, there is one who would be pleased to know that this has come to pass."
There was a momentary tightening of Spock's lips as he thought of the 18 long years during which Amanda had carried a secret sorrow because her husband and her son were no longer speaking to each other.
Sarek nodded in agreement, then turned his head slightly and examined Spock's face carefully. "I assume my right as your father, Spock, to ask you if anything has happened since last we communicated - something that you have not yet shared with me," he said quietly, but his tone indicated he would not accept evasions or half-truths.
"Yes. And you may not approve."
"Why would I not approve, Spook?"
"Because the event involved matters generally kept secret."
"Did the event also involve a matter of life and death?"
"And was that life or death your own, Spock?" Sarek demanded gently as he stopped walking and turned to face his son.
"Then why would you assume that I would not approve? Your life is as important to me as that of any living being's - more so because you are flesh of my flesh and spirit of my spirit."
Spock's eyebrow climbed at this speech from his father then he took a deep breath and explained the events resulting from McCoy's decision to develop a serum which would release Spock from the Vulcan biological cycle.
"I see," Sarek mused. "McCoy did this because he was prompted by concern for your well-being, and because he did not want Star Fleet to lose its investment in you. His reasoning was sound - for a human. How well did his efforts succeed?"
"Tests indicate that I have lost all sensitivity to the Vulcan cyclical rhythm. In all matters dealing with reproduction, I now react as would a human."
This time it was Sarek's eyebrow that went up; then he nodded slowly. "When next you see Doctor McCoy, verbally convey my sincere regards, and my appreciation of his efforts in your behalf. He has successfully resolved a complicated situation. You are part human; it is time that your human half be allowed to work for you instead of creating problems."
Spock didn't answer, but he asked himself inwardly how it was possible for the father who'd refused to speak to him for 18 years to do this about-face and accept something, which technically violated all that was Vulcan.
"I do not speak like the father you once knew, Spock?" Sarek voiced the thought that was in his son's mind, even though there was no actual telepathic communication between them, "That is true. I have come to understand much these past few years. Amanda taught me a great deal about humans, but there were many things that she was unable to explain to me.... Or perhaps I was not ready to accept them. Lorna has enabled me to admit that all things human are not illogical and unreasonable...she has taught me that love and acceptance are not wrong. You are content in your chosen work, Spock. To lose a life - even because of a natural event - when there is a means to insure that life will continue, free of what could become a source of death - would be illogical. You did not accept this serum without taking careful thought of the consequences. You decided it was the correct thing to do; I can do nothing less than accept your decision. Let us speak no more of it. Tell me of your most recent missions."
"Before we left Star Base XXI, we received word that-...." Spock broke off in mid-sentence and compressed his lips.
"You received word of what, Spock?" Sarek insisted, intrigued that Spock had ignored his suggested topic of discussion. "Is it something I should not know?"
"It is something you will have to know, sooner or later," Spock answered reluctantly. "I regret to inform you that, the planets Laundinium and Galicium have destroyed one another in an atomic war."
Again Sarek stopped abruptly in the middle of the pathway and turned to confront his son. "You are certain of this?"
"The report came from Star Fleet Command."
Sarek nodded, but he couldn't repress the look of pain that had entered his eyes.
"My father, may I express my sympathy...?"
"You may, and you have," Sarek cut him off, but there was no sternness in his tone - merely pain audible to those skilled enough to hear. "Now, I suggest that you join Lorna and our guest. I must meditate further."
So saying, he turned and headed for the most remote part of the garden, needing total solitude in order to calm his mind.
Spock found that Lorna and Sulu had returned to their former seats near the fireplace, not talking, just enjoying one another's company.
"Do I intrude?" he asked quietly.
"Of course not, my son," Lorna extended her hand in welcome. "Come and join us."
Sulu yawned broadly and rose. "Sorry, Lorna. Mr. Spock," he said in blurred tones. "No matter how much I work out in the gym beforehand, the gravity of this planet always gets to me. I think you'd prefer to talk with Lorna in private, and I'd like to browse in the library - if I'm not being rude?"
"I do not consider you so, Helmsman. You will find a collection of authentic printed volumes that will arouse your interest," Spock said formally, answering for both Lorna and himself.
Silence fell upon the couple as they watched Mr. Sulu make his way out of the room. The moment the library door closed, Lorna turned to Spock. "What did you tell Sarek that upset him so?" she demanded without preamble.
Spock studied her for a long moment, startled that she could so casually confirm the fact that she and Sarek shared the deep mental Oneness that is a part of Vulcan marriage. Then he accepted the knowledge as something that was his right - no matter how it had been presented to him. "I brought him most unwelcome news...." For the second time within the same half hour, Spock related the news of the final outcome of one of Sarek's rare failures in diplomacy. "...I could almost wish that I had not told him," he said at last.
"No, it was necessary that he know. If you had not told him, someone else would have...and I think he would prefer that the word be brought by you." Lorna reached out to clasp Spock's hand. "This has hit Sarek hard, for he had such great hopes that perhaps those two worlds could finally learn to live together. Yet, from all that I've studied, and from all that Sarek's told me, I think than neither world would have listened if God Himself had appeared and had asked them to sit down and discuss Peace."
"I am inclined to agree with you."
"Spock, I won't tell you not to worry about your father, because I know you will," Lorna comforted him and here, in the privacy of his home, Spock did not protest. "However, I assure you that I'll do my best to heal him of the worst of his sorrow - as soon as he will let me."
"That is all I can ask, Lorna," he said softly, allowing his fingers to become entwined with hers.
"And.... No, I cannot ask that. I learned long ago that there are certain things a Vulcan mother cannot ask of her son...."
"You would gladly take upon yourself part of the concern and sorrow I feel. I know that, and I thank you for it," Spock answered her uncompleted statement. "But I would not ask you - even if I did need such release at this time. You will need all your strength to help Sarek..." His voice trailed away as he looked through the window - not actually looking at anything, but becoming aware of something he had glimpsed out of the corner of his eye while he had been talking with his father earlier. "So...that as well? Can it be Time already?" He turned and studied a date record that lay on a table nearby. "Yes, this explains much...."
"'That' what, Spock? Did you see something out there just now?" Lorna demanded.
"You have been told of it," he evaded with one of his rare slight smiles, "but you have never yet been on Vulcan at the proper time to experience it. Also, I think you have been so enmeshed in your preparations for our journey that you have forgotten your lessons. No...." He lifted his free hand in admonition when she would have questioned him further. "It is not my place to remind you, but I am confident that you will remember soon. Let us turn our thoughts to other matters."
"If you wish," Lorna said politely, but there was a slight furrow visible between her brows as she shelved her questions until a more convenient moment. "Tell me, Spock... Are you - well?"
"Little Mother, you could have communicated with me to ask that...but it has been a long time since you have done so," he said quietly, not stating the exact length of time because he knew doing so sometimes annoyed her. "Why? Have I said or done something to offend?"
"Of course not, Spock!" Lorna replied almost inaudibly. "It's just.... Well, so often in the past, I blundered into people's minds without taking thought of the consequences...."
"That you are now over-reacting by not touching mentally at all?" Spock frowned. "You are not being fair to yourself if you deny yourself the use of your talent."
"I know, and I suppose I'm being silly. However, only recently, I was rebuked quite severely because I admitted to one of my teachers that I can conduct long distance mental communications. Naturally, I assumed that it was 'wrong' to continue."
"Did you, perhaps, tell your teacher that one of those with whom you 'talk' is a Klingon?" Spock asked quietly.
"H-how did you know?" Lorna gasped.
"It was not difficult to surmise that you locked minds with Kang after he had received permission to speak with you privately before leaving the Enterprise," Spock said gently. "However, it was not necessary for you to tell anyone, except Sarek, the identities of those with whom you 'talk,' Lorna. When you did reveal that you can communicate mentally with one of our traditional foes, you immediately discovered that you were the target of much suspicion. Am I not correct?"
"Yes. If it hadn't been for Sarek and Sartonn.... Well, those who had begun to express concern know now that I will not betray anyone - that no harm will come of the contact I once shared with Kang...."
"I have not received any communications from him for quite some time. Oh, I'm certain he's alive, for I can sense his consciousness - somewhere. It's just that he's erected a 'No Trespassing' sign, and I'm not about to try to push past it."
"I see. Perhaps he is conducting an exacting mission and can afford no distractions," Spock mused. "I am certain that he presents no threat to us."
"As am I...yet, I will continue to pray that all is well with him and with his family."
"Prayer.... I do not think you will ever allow meditation to replace it." He was teasing her, and she knew it.
"Why should I? It is great comfort to me when even meditation can't help."
"Then...why haven't you prayed about these problems with your mental talent?"
"Why, I...." Lorna flushed slightly. "I didn't feel I had any right to bother the Almighty Father about something I have to learn to handle for myself."
"I see," Spock repeated, but it was quite apparent that he didn't see.
There was a moment of silence; then Lorna tightened her fingers around his. "Spock, my son," she asked quietly. "How is it with you?" And, as she spoke, she allowed her concern for him, her sorrow for the hurt that he had felt, to come to the surface of her mind where, since they were touching, he could read it easily if he so wished.
He looked straight into her eyes, sternness concealing his feelings for a moment; then he relaxed and allowed the corners of his mouth to curl in a definite smile. "It is well with me, Little Mother. I have accepted the hurt which losing Christine brought me."
Lorna's eyes widened, for she'd never dared hope that he would admit that he had cared for Christine.
"And can you also forgive me for deepening the wound by taunting you as I did, while the injury was still fresh?" she said hesitantly.
"You mean, when you told me that I had 'blown it'?" he asked gently. "You were seeking to reinforce the lesson. I understand that now. I also understand the meaning of those words, and I agree with you. Where Christine was concerned, I 'blew it.' However, I assure you, if I find someone again, I shall not 'blow it' a second time."
Lorna's confusion was greater than ever now, and she could almost wonder if Spock had entered the first stages of the cyclical Vulcan sexual phenomenon called pon farr. No, she would have sensed it as soon as his hand had touched hers. And Sarek would have sensed it when he'd first greeted his son, and would never have allowed Spock to be alone with her if he were entering that dangerous state.
"You have opened the way for me to mention a matter that is of great concern to me, my son," she said stiffly. "I claim my right to remind you that you should not continue to delay making your choice...." She paused, uncertain as to how to continue without saying the wrong thing.
"No one currently available pleases me," he said calmly. "I shall wait."
"'Wait'!" she echoed. "Spock! You can't...unless...! Oh, Spock! Have you decided that you will allow yourself to - to die? I won't let...!"
"Compose yourself, Lorna!" he said sternly. "I have something to tell you which should banish your fears. I requested Doctor McCoy not to inform you, for it is my right to tell you...."
Once she'd learned the details, Lorna made no effort to conceal her happiness. "Oh, Spock! How wonderful! We've been so concerned for you...."
"That need never trouble you again. If I never find one who pleases me, I will be able to survive. However, I shall continue to hope that one day I shall find one who will be the companion and helpmate to me that you are to Sarek."
"Thank you," Lorna felt her heart swell with gratitude at Spock's compliment.
"Lorna!" Sulu burst into the room carrying a cloth-bound volume. "Where did you find this?"
"Sarek brought it to me last week; a trader had stopped at the Center with many rare books. That was in his discard pack, but Sarek thought I would want it and paid the trader a fair price for it."
"I should hope so! That trader must not be aware of the most current lists - this book is worth quite a bit right now on Earth." Sulu traced the lettering on the cover. "Seems like everybody is hunting Sonnets From the Portuguese now."
"Really? I've seen several copies that were priced reasonably...."
"Yeah, but not in the original English version complete with illustrations! Only a few copies made it through the Wars...." Sulu opened the book and began to leaf through it carefully. "It's in very good condition."
"It's been treated to counteract the brittleness.... Would you like to borrow it for a while?"
"You mean it?"
"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't. I'd let you keep it, except...." She didn't finish the statement, but Sulu could guess what she might have said and grinned.
"Oh, I couldn't take something that was a gift to you from your husband. I'll be glad to guard it with my life, if necessary. I'll see that it's sent back here before I return to the Enterprise."
He yawned again and shook his head. "How did you ever manage to become accustomed to this gravity? I'm so sleepy I can hardly keep my eyes open."
"Not so 'sleepy' that you cannot recite some of your Haiku for us, I trust," Sarek's voice drifted calmly from the doorway behind them.
Lorna looked at him anxiously. Except for a tightness about his mouth and a glitter in his eyes, he appeared as calm and controlled as always. Perhaps he had already come to terms with the shock of his failure to resolve the differences of two stubborn worlds - at least, enough that she would be able to help him. She would attempt to do so at the first possible moment.
Sulu's fingers rested quietly upon the surface of the instrument he'd been playing, allowing the last notes to tremble into silence. The silence continued, and he was happy that it should be so, for the Haiku he'd just spoken was one of such beauty that any noisy applause would have been an insult.
Finally Sarek rose and inclined his head in Sulu's direction. "I thank you, Mr. Sulu. You have given me much material to use in my comparison of works from your world and mine."
"You honor me, sir."
Sarek nodded then turned to Lorna. "My wife, conduct our guest to his chamber. I shall retire presently, but first, I must retreat for a brief time."
Lorna frowned as she watched him leave, for she knew that he had already engaged in his usual evening meditation. For a moment, she considered following him; then she thought better of it. She could talk to him later.
Even though there was still no telepathic communication between them, Spock could sense that his father was disturbed inwardly. Three hours later, Spock sought Sarek in the gardens.
"Father...am I intruding?"
"Your intrusion is welcome, Spock. I think I must try the human practice of 'taking my mind off the subject' for a while, for I am having great difficulty in assimilating the results of my failure with Laundinium and Galicium."
"Father, two other Federation Ambassadors tried to unite those warring planets after you left - without success."
"The failure of the first mission made it easy for them to reject the others. I should never have agreed to try it so soon after Amanda's death - but I thought I had fully controlled my grief, and that the work would be therapy. Therapy! The fate of two planets! And I did not know then how much of my ability came from your mother...until she was no longer there to help me. No, I cannot blame my failure on Amanda. Yet...the deaths of the people of two planets...."
"Father, please go to Lorna. I know she is waiting to ease the pain you feel."
Sarek frowned suddenly. "Yes, I am being illogical. My mistake happened long ago, and there is no way I can retrieve it now. Yet...because I feel responsible for all those deaths, I have been keeping myself from my wife, who can help me to face my responsibility. I shall go to her now."
After Sarek had left, Spock bent and studied one of the Blooms, growing in a shadow filled alcove near where Sarek had been standing. "It is fortunate that McCoy's serum was successful," he murmured. "Later, I shall have to remind Sarek to examine the area he has selected for his meditations - especially at this Time. Well...I know Lorna was hoping to have Sarek to herself for a part of this trip...."
Once Spock had returned to his room, he used his Star Fleet Communicator to contact Lieutenant Kyle, who would be accompanying them as Engineering Consultant in Mr. Scott's absence, for the Chief Engineer and his wife were back on Memory Alpha for a brief leave. "How much progress have you made with those multiple-universe equations you and Mr. Scott have been developing?" Spock asked.
"Plenty - all of it hypothetical. Mr. Spock, do you really think we should try to send a man to an alternate universe on the basis of these...?"
"Eventually, that is what Star Fleet wants us to do. Just now, however, I want your help in programming the equations in such a way that we can use the portable computer to discover which major events in our universe took place in others - and which did not."
"Say!" Kyle said. "That's a good idea! We'll get information without risking anybody's life!"
"Perhaps we should program for a specific event," said Spock, a little too casually for a Vulcan, but Kyle was already too involved in calculations to notice. "Let us try...to find as many alternate universes as we can in which the war between Laundinium and Galicium did not occur."
"Of course, sir," said Kyle. "That's a major event that should show in any time line, all right!"
Lorna was waiting patiently, knowing that eventually Sarek would come to her. When he arrived in their rooms, however, she was unprepared for the shock she felt when he touched his fingers to hers. All the time he was meditating she'd known of his guilt and grief, but never in the years they'd been married had she felt in him such personal devastation.
His Vulcan respect for life turned back upon him now, producing more guilt than any human could feel at even a deliberate destruction of lives. Sarek's sin, if any, had been one of omission, an accident - yet he felt as individually responsible as if he had himself set off every bomb.
As Lorna tried to take part of his burden from him, she found that he could not release it. Exploring through their deep bonding, she found thoughts he would have hidden, from her if he could:
//Lorna. I do not deserve you. I should have died of the same fever that took Amanda. Then someone else would have been sent to Laundinium - someone who would have succeeded. I have no right to be alive, let alone as happy as you have made me.//
//Do not mourn, my husband,// she replied. //Share your burden with me. Let me take your sorrow. My love, you feel a guilt you don't deserve. Even if you had not gone to Laundinium, the chances are the other missions would have failed. No one could settle that dispute! Sarek - look at all the good you have done. You brought Vulcan into the Federation. You've stopped many wars, negotiated many treaties. You were instrumental in making peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Think of the millions of lives you've saved!//
//People's lives are not credits on a balance sheet - lose 'X' here, but balance it out with 'Y' saved there.//
//Then don't think of it that way. You did your best. It's not the Vulcan way to feel shame when one's best isn't good enough.//
//On Vulcan, when one's best is not good enough, there is not shame, but death. That is the lesson of the Kahs-wan.//
//Boys are not asked to do more than they are capable of in the Kahs-wan. Would you have taken your son and thrown him into an ocean at that time? No, for Vulcan boys are not taught to swim; we have no large bodies of water. Survival in the desert is taught to all Vulcan children. Therefore, the Kahs-wan is a fair test.//
//Argument by analogy is invalid.//
//At least that is a Vulcan response, my husband.//
Now Lorna probed beneath his surface thoughts, finding a desire for punishment, a need to shut himself off from her love - and even a harsh indictment of himself for being strong and healthy because of the spores she'd caused to invade his body during the Turon-Lura negotiations.
Never had she felt so helpless. Her empathic powers allowed her to absorb a portion of his grief, yet he seemed to generate more in a never ending torrent of self-torment. She found the memories of the two events for which he specifically indicted himself: Agreeing to the Laundinium mission despite the fact that he'd not completed the ritual mourning period for Amanda, and later, giving the citizens of Laundinium and Galicium an ultimatum which they'd ignored - forcing him to make good his word by abandoning the mission.
The Federation officials had not intended to intrude upon Sarek's grief; although the requisite time had passed after Amanda's death, they hadn't known that during his own illness he'd been unable to perform the meditations necessary to achieve total acceptance.
When Lorna touched upon that memory, she caught devastating fragments of guilt: //Pride...supposed to be the human failing...cause of damnation...should have refused...thought I was the only one capable...tried to force my will upon...Laundinians and Galicians human...blamed Amanda's humanity.... I survived...! Lorna, Lorna, what have I done to you?//
Startled at finding guilt feelings directed at herself, Lorna tried to penetrate her husband's despair with her own happiness. //Sarek, I love you so.... You've given me everything...so happy with you.//
//You will die of loving me!//
"What?" Lorna was so startled that she spoke aloud.
Sarek backed away from her, breaking mental contact. As she attempted to regain it, she felt him block her. "No," he said. "I am not myself, I am hurting you - again. Yet...what have I ever done but hurt you? I kept you from returning to your own era, and you nearly died of the shock."
"You saved my life," she replied.
"Only to decide that I wanted you for my wife. And when I finally convinced you - you wept."
"Tears of joy."
"But an omen of sorrow to come. At that time I had no right to ask any woman to be my wife. I was sterile. Furthermore, as you tried to adapt to my ways, I neglected you. I made no attempt to achieve the full mental bonding that would make ours a true marriage. Moreover, although I lived in constant hope that my fertility would return, I did not consider the possible consequences. Without allowing tests by any physician, I made no efforts to protect you, and I fathered a defective child on you."
"Oh, Sarek, you didn't know...!"
"I should have thought. Talk about acting emotionally.... Yet, when you acted in a similar manner, motivated only by love for me, I cut you off - severed our Bonding."
"You meant it to be only for a few hours. You had no idea that the Romulans would kidnap you and separate us, then kidnap me later...."
"It was because you are my wife that you were of value to them. And because I had severed our Bonding that morning, without allowing you your right to explain, I could not contact you to let you know I was alive. Hence, you suffered as much grief as if I had been truly dead...."
"But intense joy when I found that you were alive...."
"Destroyed immediately by the death of our child." He came back to Lorna and took her hands gently, seeking to impress the importance of his words upon her. "My wife, can you not see the pattern of our life together? Time after time, I hurt you - even when I desire to please you." He released her and turned away, but she followed after and put her arms around him.
"Sarek, the truth is just the opposite of what you've said. At this very moment I find joy in the pain that I feel for you - for I understand. Don't you know who it is that you sound like?"
He turned to look at her, his eyes revealing his bewilderment.
"Lorna Mitchell," she said. "Yes, that confused, guilt-ridden creature that you somehow turned into a woman you could love. Because you feel so very guilty about the destruction of Laundinium and Galicium, you're trying to punish yourself by driving away what you love most. Thank the Almighty Father, that's me!"
"I won't be driven away, Sarek, any more than you would be when I tried so very hard not to let you know how much I love you. I believe that all the trials we have shared have matured and strengthened our marriage. I believe that all that happens is part of the Almighty Father's Plan. I don't know why Angela was born without a chance to live - but perhaps you and I needed to share that sorrow to strengthen our love."
"There are times when I wish I could share this illogical faith of yours," said Sarek.
"You do," she assured him. "Your faith in the future, in some guiding force that keeps the universe unfolding as it should...that's the same thing in different words. Humans personify; Vulcans objectify. Yet, we reach the same conclusions. Yield your sorrow to me, Sarek. Let me help you discard these unhappy memories, so you may turn your thoughts and your energies toward the future."
This time when she touched his mind he made no protest. Carefully, Lorna absorbed his guilt and sorrow, and cast them away as mental energy. As Sarek was cooperating now, she managed to take the edge off his grief and awaken a kind of acceptance that past mistakes are to be learned from, but not grieved over. The healing was incomplete, but it was a start, and she knew that over the days to come she would be able to help her husband come to terms with the destruction of Laundinium and Galicium once and for all. Finally, Sarek fell into a sleep of total mental exhaustion, and Lorna blessed the extra strength she'd acquired on Vulcan as she undressed him and put him to bed.
The next morning, Sulu took his leave of his host and hostess, then made his way to the city to begin his period of instruction in the Vulcan style of defensive fencing.
An hour or so later, Sarek, Lorna, Spock, Lieutenant Kyle, and other members of the mission to the Shore Leave Planet, went aboard the Starfire, the special luxury starcruiser that had been assigned to ferry groups to and from this sector on a regular basis.
Lorna hadn't said so, of course, but both Sarek and Spock could detect the aura of happiness bubbling from her - a deep joy that finally she'd managed to convince the members of her family to take a leave of absence and spend a "vacation" together. Of course, it wasn't quite her idea of what a "vacation" should be, but she wasn't about to quibble over the differences...and she had high hopes that a change of scene would lighten the depressed and irritable mood that Sarek was having difficulty suppressing.
Lieutenant Kyle was tossing the last item of clothing into the top drawer of his storage cubicle when the door sounded.
"Who is it?"
"Spock. May I enter?"
Kyle started to come to attention when Spock stepped through the doorway, but the Science Officer signalled him to be at ease and glanced at the table, which already held a number of figure-laden sheets.
"Progress report?" asked Spock.
"Well, as I told you before, sir, I can find only one universe in which the destruction of Laundinium and Galicium has not occurred. As you suggested, I've followed personal time lines in that universe, and I've found that, indeed, your father was on Laundinium at the same time as he was in this universe - but the later ambassadors didn't go there."
"Apparently, in that single probability focus, he was able to conclude a treaty," Spock suggested as he sat down and began to study the figures.
"Perhaps. I don't know, but...."
"'But' what, Mr. Kyle?"
"Well.... Sir, in that universe, your mother's time line does not end on Vulcan, but goes with your father's to Laundinium, and ends there."
There was a pause; then Spock asked: "Do I exist in that universe?"
"Yes, but...." Kyle leaned forward and glared at Spock, both hands resting firmly upon the sheets the Science Officer had been studying. "You're not thinking of trying to change places with the Spock in that universe, are you, sir? In my status as Temporary Chief Engineering Consultant, as well as Transporter Chief, I cannot allow such a risk!"
"It may not be necessary to exchange physical bodies, as happened accidentally during the Halkan negotiations. Look at these calculations, Mr. Kyle," Spock began to sketch a series of figures beside calculations that he'd written previously. "Theoretically, would it not be possible...?"
It was nearly ship's dawn when Lorna was awakened by Sarek's restlessness. He was dreaming, muttering wordlessly, and she hesitated, wondering if she should wake him from what was obviously a nightmare. Deciding instead to absorb some of his emotions without intruding into his thoughts, she reached out to touch his cheek. He was burning with fever!
Sarek's skin always felt hot and dry in contrast to hers, but never like this. He woke at her touch, and the dim night light revealed that his eyes held the glow of fever as well.
"Oh, God, no!" Lorna gasped.
"What is wrong?" he asked.
"You're ill!" she said. "The fever...it's recurring!"
"That cannot be," he replied calmly. "If I had carried the virus in my blood after I recovered, those spores you introduced into my body would have destroyed it."
"True," she laid her hand on his forehead. "But, Sarek, you're burning up!"
He thought a moment, then...laughed!
That frightened Lorna even more, for the only time she'd ever heard him laugh before as when he was under the influence of the spores.
"Why are you so frightened?" her husband asked gently. "Surely you can guess what is happening to me. Twice before you've misdiagnosed it."
That lapse into a more casual style of speech acted as a trigger upon her memory: "The pon farr? But...I thought you didn't...."
"I haven't, for many years. However, this is the first time I've been on Vulcan during the time of the Blooming since our marriage, Lorna...." He paused at a sudden thought then continued: "Evidently, I must have been near one or more freshly unfurled Blooms our last night on Vulcan.... It is fortunate for Spock that his system has been changed by McCoy's serum, else.... Well, Lorna, you and your spores returned me to the prime of life. Now, thanks to the Blooming, you must accept the consequences!"
The Blooms! Those plants whose flowers somehow triggered the pon farr!
Sarek reached for Lorna, and she was only too glad to comply. Relief soon turned to delight, and finally ecstasy. Later, as she lay contentedly in his arms, he explained: "One of the benefits that Vulcan males married to human females experience is a more active sex life; hence, less frequent episodes of pon farr. However, no man is immune at the prime of life - especially at the Time of the Blooming. It is a guarantee of racial survival. Though I'd passed that period of my life, I continued to be sexually active, first with Amanda and then with you. Thus, the burning need never became strong enough to precipitate the blood fever, especially since I've been away from Vulcan during the Bloomings...."
"But it would have, if you hadn't remarried? Spock said...."
"Spock did not know that the fever had made me sterile when he talked you into considering me as a husband. That does not answer your question, Lorna, I don't know.... I wasn't impotent; the hormone cycle might have eventually brought on pon farr if I hadn't married again, and I might.... Strange, how that I think of it...that is something the Healers should have told me. I will inquire when we return to Vulcan; it would be interesting to see why they didn't warn me of this possibility."
"It doesn't matter now," Lorna reminded him.
"I must satisfy my curiosity," he replied.
"I suppose so. Now satisfy mine.... Since it was triggered by those Blooms, I.... Well, was this the fastest pon farr on record, or shall I give instructions that we are not to be disturbed.... Would it be better to request that our mission be postponed and...?"
"The answer to all your questions is no. This was just the beginning, but there is no reason to hide ourselves the first few days. I can control myself - now that I know what is causing my abnormal behaviour. Lorna, I must beg forgiveness. My sorrow for the loss of two planets is quite real, as is the blame I must take - but I'm not going to become paranoid about it."
"Will you let me help you?" Lorna snuggled closer in his arms.
"Of course, Lorna - the miracle of my life. Do you know that? For a young man in the prime of life to find and win exactly the woman who can perfect his days is fortunate. For a man who has wed one such woman to find another, and to win her despite age and cultural differences, and despite disability - that is a true miracle."
"This is fascinating, Sarek! In private, you've always been willing to say that you love me - but you've never said things like this before."
"That was what-...." He broke off.
"...Amanda said," she finished for him. "Aren't you convinced yet that I have no jealousy of her?"
"Amanda does not belong with us - here and now."
"She is a part of your forever, Sarek. Beloved, I know many Vulcans. I would never, ever, have had the desire, let alone the ability, to break through Vulcan reserve, as Amanda must have done. Someday - not now, lest you regret it when this pon farr has passed - someday, perhaps you will tell me how she did it. The few glimpses I've had from your mind, and from Spock's, have shown me what a wonderful person she was. So...when you are perfectly calm once again, perhaps you will relate the story?"
"Perhaps," he replied. "But you're right. At this time, I'm only too capable of making a wrong decision.... Now, my wife, it's time to stop talking...."
He kissed her, gently, wondering how she would respond to the madness, the fury, which would come later. He knew better than to think there'd be any control then - but now he could make love to her tenderly, in all the ways he knew brought her most pleasure....
When Sarek and Lorna entered the Common Room the next morning, they found Spock and Kyle deep in alternate universe equations. Obviously they hadn't come here intending to work, for a half-completed three-dimensional chess game sat abandoned on the next table, and as they'd brought nothing to write on, they were writing all over the top of the table - no harm done, as it was designed to take all kinds of punishment and then wipe clean.
Sarek sat down to watch, while Lorna dialed breakfast for both of them. Although she'd never been through pon farr before, Lorna knew that when he was preoccupied Sarek forgot about food, but if it was placed in front of him he ate without argument. That hadn't changed. They'd nearly finished eating before Spock and Kyle noticed that they had an audience.
"There - that's it!" Kyle was saying. "If we stop trying to make her time line fit, everything works perfectly. In that universe, there simply is no Lorna." He tossed his pen down, looked up, and almost blushed when he discovered that Lorna herself was watching him.
"It's all right, Mr. Kyle," she reassured him. "The accident which brought me from the past could hardly have occurred in many probability-worlds."
"Ah, but there you're wrong," Kyle protested. "Your presence seems to be part of that 'Master Plan' you're always talking about, for you appear in all the other universes we've studied."
"Fascinating," said Sarek. "Does she appear as my wife?"
"We can't tell that. We can only follow movements through time and space. However, your two time lines come together in every universe, and then travel together up to the present - except for the separation at Turon-Lura in some probability worlds - so I would say that if you didn't marry in all of them, you were certainly...uh...closely allied."
"A miracle," Lorna breathed softly, and caught the wisp of a smile that Sarek controlled with an effort.
"What's that, Ma'am?" Kyle asked.
"Nothing, Mr. Kyle," replied Lorna.
"You are breakfasting late," Spock intervened, the dancing light in his eyes reminding Lorna that he'd warned her that something might happen.
"We got up late," Sarek said non-commitally.
"You are well?" The look Spock gave Lorna now was one of concern.
"Yes, Spock," Lorna hastened to assure him. "Now, tell me, what are you going to do with all this information on parallel universes? And what do you mean...you've studied 'all' and 'every' - aren't there an infinite number?"
"We have limited ourselves to those universes in which the Enterprise exists, with James T. Kirk as her present Captain. Interestingly enough, I exist in every one of those, which means, Sarek, that you married Amanda in all of them - or at least had a child with her."
"So...the improbable turns out to be the inevitable," said Sarek. "But you said that you've found one universe in which Lorna does not exist?"
"Yes," replied Kyle. "We tried to find a universe in which Laundinium and Galicium didn't destroy one another. There was just one, the universe in which we didn't find Lorna."
Sarek raised an eyebrow. "Only one universe in which the war didn't occur? Can you tell what the deciding factor was?"
"No, not with any certainty."
"We did find," said Spock, "that Mother lived a few weeks longer in that universe than in the others. She accompanied you to Laundinium, and died there. We have no way of telling the cause." Spock deliberately omitted telling his father that in fully a third of the universes he'd studied, Sarek's own time line had ended soon after the Turon-Lura conference. In addition, Sarek's time line had ended abruptly in two universes even as he and Kyle were studying them. Thus, Sarek's depression had given him more concern than he cared to admit. His father seemed well enough today, however, undoubtedly thanks to Lorna.
Lorna was still curious. "What good does this information do us? Are we going to learn to pass from one universe to another?"
"Sorry, Lorna," Spock said crisply. "We may not answer that question for reasons of security."
"Well, just so you won't throw me in the Brig, I won't tell you that you have answered," Lorna replied with a smile. "But - just hypothetically, mind you - wouldn't it cause terrible disruptions if people could shift from one universe to another?"
"Speaking hypothetically," replied Kyle, "it would. Mr. Spock, what's the classification of that Halkan affair?"
"My parents both have a high enough clearance to discuss it," replied Spock, and then speaking in whispers, told them of the time that Kirk, McCoy, Scott, and Uhura had changed places with four crew members of the Imperial Starship Enterprise.
"Ideally," said Lorna, "what you want in order to explore another universe is not that kind of physical exchange, whereby someone from here goes there and knows nothing of the differences that can get him into real trouble, while his bewildered Doppelganger is a prisoner here."
"What would you suggest?" Kyle asked half-mockingly.
"Just suppose," said Lorna, "that you wished to find out about one of the universes in which I appear. If I could somehow establish empathic contact with the Lorna of that universe, while my body remained here, I could find out and relay to you everything she knew."
Spock and Kyle stared at one another, for that was very close to one of their plans. "Sir...?"
"Say nothing until I confirm it with Star Fleet Command," ordered Spock. He went to the intercom and called the Communications officer, activating the silence shield. Then, signalling the trio to wait, he left the Common Room.
Hardly had the door closed behind him when a shadow fell across the table and a rich voice spoke: "Ambassador Sarek, it's good to see you again."
Sarek looked up then lifted his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Doctor M'Benga. Peace and long life."
"Live long and prosper, sir. May I present may wife, Corinne?"
"I am honored," Sarek replied as he rose and bowed slightly toward the lovely Bantu woman standing at M'Benga's side. "This is she-who-is-my-wife. Lorna, I believe you recall hearing Doctor M'Benga's name mentioned while you were serving aboard the Enterprise."
"Indeed, yes," Lorna replied as she greeted the tall doctor. "Doctor McCoy still insists that he's going to kidnap you if the red tape isn't unsnarled in the very near future to allow you to return to the Enterprise."
"Then, it's fortunate that I'm carrying orders," M'Benga tapped his breast pocket significantly, "which will keep him from embarking upon a life of crime. We're spending a brief vacation on the Shore Leave Planet; then we'll begin another tour of duty on the 'Big E'."
"Len will be pleased, I'm sure," Lorna smiled warmly.
"Yes, I understand that Mr. Spock still presents him with interesting medical problems from time to time," M'Benga agreed. "Ah, I see that our friends have arrived. If you'll excuse me? Perhaps we'll have time for a real talk later on."
All the while he'd been engaged in this polite conversation, however, M'Benga's dark gaze had been passing over Sarek's face, noting the brilliance of the Vulcan's eyes and the tension of his mouth. Yet, nothing in M'Benga's expression or in his tone gave indication that he saw anything out of the ordinary when he took his leave and turned to join his wife and their friends at a table on the other side of the room.
"M'Benga received his training on Vulcan, didn't he?" Lorna asked in a whisper. "Was that where you met him?"
"Do you suppose he...?" She stopped speaking when Sarek jerked his head slightly in a sideways gesture that warned her to be silent, and she didn't try to rephrase the question.
She couldn't have anyway, for Spock had just returned. "Star Fleet agrees that Lorna and Sarek should be let in on the project; they may be of invaluable aid to us."
So Spock and Kyle, speaking in whispers, explained their plans so far, and soon all four were busy drawing formulas on the tabletop.
They'd been at it for about an hour when Doctor M'Benga and his wife paused at the table again. "I wonder if you'd care to join us..." he stopped speaking when he saw the jumble of figures on the tabletop. "What's this? Four-handed tic-tac-toe?"
Four pairs of hands slammed down across the figures as it penetrated four minds that they'd been working on a top-secret project in the middle of a public room! Spock touched a switch that wiped the table clean. "I think we had best adjourn to a less populous area," he said quietly.
"Wouldn't you know it," M'Benga said as they began to rise. "Vulcans and Engineers never know when they're on vacation. Mr. Spock, the Captain has asked my wife to sing for her passengers, and Corrine has agreed. I was hoping you might play for her...?"
"I would be honored, Doctor, but could it possibly wait until tomorrow? We are in the midst of important calculations."
M'Benga gave him an ironic smile. "Of course, Mr. Spock. Thanks anyway." He turned to his wife, who was cradling an especially fine lytherette in her arms. "Sorry, Honey, looks like you're on your own today."
"Mrs. M'Benga," said Sarek as he rose unhurriedly. "I have heard you sing before. Would you accept a substitute accompanist?"
"Y-you, sir? Oh, I couldn't ask you to do that!"
"But you will accept my offer?"
Corinne knew that the offer Sarek had just made was most unusual. She'd heard that Ambassador Sarek was one of the most skilled musicians of all Vulcan, and she certainly didn't want to turn down this chance of being accompanied by him - but she didn't want to do anything that would bend any of the Vulcan rules or traditions. She turned and looked at her husband, silently requesting his advice.
"If it weren't okay, the Ambassador wouldn't have made the offer," he whispered before she could speak. "But, if you're still not sure, ask his wife and his son."
She looked at Spock, Kyle, and Lorna. Divining her hesitation, Sarek turned to them as well before she could say anything. "I believe you will not miss my help," he said. "Thus far I have contributed three errors in calculation and two requests for repetition, when everyone else had understood perfectly. You will undoubtedly proceed much more efficiently without me."
"But Sarek-..." began Lorna; then she stopped, not needing his swift glance to remind her not to speak of things forbidden.
"I know where you will be, my wife," Sarek informed her, speaking carefully to make sure his voice assumed the normal ultra formal Vulcan cadences. "If I have need of you, I shall seek you there." He turned back to Corinne. "Mrs. M'Benga, will you give me the pleasure of accompanying your lovely voice?"
"Oh...thank you, Mr. Ambassador," Corinne said, surrendering the lytherette.
M'Benga had been watching the scene with great interest. Now he looked at Spock and lifted an eyebrow in unconscious imitation of the Vulcan's habit. Spock favored him with a "How-should-I-know?" shrug.
When the three had gone, M'Benga watched Sarek carefully, noting the slight tremble in the Vulcan's hands while he tuned the instrument. There was no lack of skill in Sarek's playing, however. He followed Corinne's voice easily for several songs. Drawn by the music, other passengers entered the room, and soon Corinne stopped and asked Sarek if he would play some of the beautiful music native to Vulcan. As the others joined in the request, Sarek was soon engaged in proving once again that music bridges all gaps between cultures.
In Kyle's quarters, Spock, Kyle, and Lorna found that they did, indeed, make more progress without Sarek's company. In less than three-quarters of an hour they'd completed their computations. Spock went to make arrangements to send them to Star Fleet Command, Kyle left for a tour of the Starfire's engine rooms, and Lorna headed straight for the Common Room.
The music greeted her in the corridor. Following it, she felt the joy which Sarek's playing always brought her. His present condition might mar his mathematical concentration, but it apparently enhanced his musical ability; never had she been so moved in all the times she'd heard him perform.
The room was crowded; every chair was taken, and people were standing along the walls. Lorna stood by the door until the music ended, and in the breathless hush that followed, Doctor M'Benga looked up and saw her. He smiled. As the babble of voices demanding "just one more" selection began, he stood and offered Lorna his chair. She accepted. As he seated her, he bent and whispered: "I mean no offense, Lady Lorna, but do you know what's happening to Sarek?"
"Of course I do," she murmured, impulsively putting her hand over his and giving it a squeeze. "But thank you for your concern."
"Okay then - no advice." He moved back to a place by the wall.
Sarek had been concentrating, as he did each time before the magnificent Vulcan music trilled forth; now he looked at Lorna. "I will play only one more selection," he said. "But this music is not native to Vulcan. It comes from Earth, and was written for instruments far different from this one. Thus, the blending of the music of Earth with a Vulcan instrument played by a Vulcan musician results in a Ni-Var: an art form made up of contrasting elements which, when joined, produce a pleasing whole."
The music he played was Ravel's "Bolero." During the slow opening bars, Lorna's thoughts traveled back to the first time Sarek had heard that music at Mauretania. It had affected him then; what would it do to him now?
Though "Bolero" was a difficult piece for even human musicians to perform, Sarek had succeeded in composing an excellent version for the lytherette. As the intensity increased, Lorna watched her husband's face. He caught her looking at him and smiled - as if they were alone in the room. He was playing just for her, but for anyone who cared to look, his face revealed his love. The music crashed into its climax - and then there was silence. This time no one dared suggest an encore. The musician composed his face and squared his shoulders; then he handed the lytherette back to Corinne.
"That was beautiful, sir," she said, unshed tears glistening in her eyes. "I hope you'll play for us again soon."
"Perhaps...if there is time before we reach our destination," he replied, not quite managing to keep the rough edge from his voice. Those in the room who knew Vulcans well recognized the sign of emotion withheld; the rest saw only that the Ambassador, after reacting to the music with an artist's passion, had resumed his impassive mask when the performance was over.
As people began to drift away, Lorna moved to a chair next to her husband's. It was some minutes before everyone who'd felt compelled to say a word of thanks or offer a compliment on Sarek's playing had gone. He then turned to her and asked: "Did you finish your computations?"
"Yes. Thank you for allowing me to participate in such a fascinating and important project."
"Your own abilities provided you the opportunity," he replied. "Had I attempted to hinder you in any way, I would truly be the tyrant that popular opinion makes of the Vulcan husband."
"Sarek...it will surely take several weeks for Star Fleet to decide whether an experiment should be conducted on the basis of those calculations. I want to participate in that - if it won't interfere with our present assignment."
He started to reply, then looked up at Doctor M'Benga, who'd come up beside Lorna, and fell silent.
"Lady, again I mean no offense, but you're being unfair," said M'Benga. "I don't know what your 'experiment' is, but anything requiring Star Fleet Command's authorization is bound to be dangerous. I suggest you wait and discuss it with your husband when he's not in a state in which he can deny you nothing."
Sarek stared at him. "Is it that obvious?"
"My job, Ambassador," M'Benga spoke softly, but his tone was both an assurance and a challenge. "If you doubt me.... I have authority to invite you to come to this ship's Sick Bay, where I can confirm it scientifically - but any good doctor who has seen your condition once doesn't need a scanner to diagnose it. Don't worry; no one else will suspect - except Spock, of course, and the other Vulcans aboard, but they certainly won't say anything. I wouldn't have either, except - well, your wife is human, even though I've heard that she forgets it most of the time. I know you'll be sequestering yourselves soon; I don't know everything that happens then - I don't want to know. But, dammit, if anything goes wrong, I'm sure the ship's doctor won't know how to handle it. Don't let embarrassment keep you from calling me! Understand?"
Star Fleet Command was astonishingly rapid in making its decision. Orders were waiting for them when they disembarked on the Shore Leave Planet five days later. Spock and Kyle - who didn't believe for a minute Spock's explanation that Sarek and Lorna were involved in a secret project of their own requiring them to remain sequestered in their quarters, and thus could not be disturbed - sat down and outlined their plans.
After proper adjustment, the Shore Leave Planet's computer would give them the necessary equipment and calculations to use a ship's transporters to place the subject in a specially formulated type of stasis - keeping said subject there. The subject would then be able to try to form a telepathic bond with the alternate universe counterpart. Kyle's job would be to watch that this universe's subject-in-stasis maintained the same individual coordinates as the alternate universe subject; the modified transporter would be programmed for this maintenance, of course, but it would require careful monitoring. All this, of course, would have to wait until after the Vulcan party had finished their most urgent studies. They did have top priority with the computer, and this project was not yet one of life and death importance.
The Vulcan party worked in the underground computer complex for three days without any help from Sarek or Lorna. On the third day, however, the Ambassador and his wife reappeared shortly before sunrise, looking more as if they'd been on a rough-and-tumble shore leave somewhere on the planet's surface than secluded in their quarters the past few days. No human dared to mention the scratches and bruises that showed, much less speculate on what had caused them. The Vulcans gave no thought to doing so. Nevertheless, no one could miss the glow of contentment emanating from both of them.
They were just in time to witness the final set up of one of the most vital experiments.
"I trust you will allow me to assist you," Sarek said to Spock.
"Naturally," Spock agreed. "However, this will take at least two full hours to complete, and I have just realized that I have not eaten for three point seven days. I will need to be at full efficiency for this experiment to succeed."
"Lorna, shall we invite our son to break his fast at our table?" Sarek inquired, already knowing her answer.
"If you're sure the Server can cope with three such hungry people at once," she retorted. "Heavens! We've been so - busy, I've lost all track of what day this is!"
Suddenly she blushed and looked everywhere except at her husband and at her son. They traded glances and shook their heads, wondering when, if ever, she would learn not to drop such verbal bricks. "P-pardon me," she stammered. "I-I'll go get a news printout...."
Her departure was in the nature of a rout, but Spock made no reference to her discomfiture as he fell into step at Sarek's side. "You are well?" he asked courteously.
"Yes," Sarek replied, then - in, a rare gesture of fellowship and father-son comradeship - continued: "And do not tell me that the time was unusually short. I agree, but then, I experienced only one exposure to the Blooms - it would have been different had we remained on Vulcan."
"True," Spock agreed. "I was confident you would surmise what...."
Lorna rejoined them before he could finish his statement. She was frowning as she studied the flimsy sheet she'd obtained at the news center. She was so preoccupied, in fact, that she had absolutely no idea of where she was going, but Sarek caught her elbow and guided her skillfully past those coming toward them as they made their way down the hallway to one of the dining areas.
"Odd..." she murmured.
"Is something wrong?" Sarek inquired,
"No... except I didn't realize how fast time was passing. Only yesterday, it seems, it was time for Christmas - or would have been if I were still on Old Earth. Now, it's Easter - or will be when the sun rises."
They took seats at a secluded table in the nearly empty room.
"Easter is one of your important religious holidays, is it not?" Sarek inquired as he turned to Lorna.
"Yes," she replied, a bemused expression on her face. "I think it's the most important holy day, as a matter of fact, because it's the day that Christ arose from death."
"'The Christ'?" Spock murmured. "Jesus of Nazareth..." His eyes became dark with memories.
Sarek started to say something, but Lorna reached out to touch his hand in a gesture of warning.
Spock seemed to be staring across the table at them, but it was apparent to them that he wasn't with them any longer. Sarek wasn't sure what his son was thinking about, for he had no desire to intrude upon Spock's thoughts. Even if she'd wanted to do so, Lorna didn't need to try, for she knew that Spock was not only light-years, but also centuries away.
Finally Spock blinked, reached up to rub his face near his jaw line, and sighed. "Had you really forgotten?" Lorna asked quietly.
"No..." he replied with equal quietness.
"There are times when I almost envy you, Spock!" she stated flatly. "You know something that no one in my time and only one individual in this era knows."
"I offered to let you 'see'...."
"I remember, but I told you then that I preferred to hold on to what I have imagined all during the years of my life. Perhaps it's illogical, but I still feel that way!" Lorna retorted.
"You are talking of the trip you made via the Guardian of Forever to First Century Palestine?" Sarek commented after a momentary silence.
"I was not aware that Lorna had informed you of that journey, Father," Spock said, exhibiting the full degree of surprise and dismay allowable under the circumstances.
"It was not necessary for her to do so - and she did not. I knew of your journey when it was first planned. Indeed, I was prepared to register a formal protest when the possibility of such a project was first mentioned...until I was informed that the Enterprise had been selected to conduct the mission. I was confident that you would be the one who would go through the 'Guardian,' so I remained silent."
"Sarek, why did you wish to keep the trip from taking place?" Lorna was genuinely puzzled. "Though you don't express the faith generated by those of us who believe in the Christ, surely you respect our rights to that belief?"
"Many lives could have been shattered if the mission had confirmed that your 'Jesus of Nazareth' had never existed. If that had been so, however, Spock would have known how to present the information in such a manner that the shock would have been lessened considerably."
"It pleased me that I did not have to make such a report." There was absolutely no inflection in Spock's voice, but his eyes weren't as unrevealing.
"I know you had Security clearance, else you would never have told Lorna of that mission, Spock," commented Sarek. "I have often asked myself why you did not tell me of it."
"I did not think you would be interested, Father. If you still wish to know from me, first-hand, I shall not hesitate to tell you everything...after our current experiments are finished."
Sarek gazed intently at Spock's face. "There is one thing I want you to tell me now. Have you become a - a 'Christian,' Spock?"
"I am a Vulcan," Spock said firmly, then his gaze wavered beneath Sarek's steady regard. He sighed, aware that Lorna was regarding him with equal intentness.
"Father, I do not know how to answer your question. Yes, for one moment, I was willing to remain. That Man had saved my life - and I realized that He is a Captain I would not have been ashamed of serving. However, He reminded me that my place is in this era, and I have had no reason to disagree with Him since my return.... I beg forgiveness if that is not a sufficient answer - but it is the only one I can give."
Lorna smiled at Spock and said softly: "Who knows? Perhaps, like the Golden Lion in a series of C. S. Lewis' children’s stories I loved, He counts everything that is good as done for Him...."
"I do not know," Spock said sternly, "for all that is in the Past. The only thing that is important now is the Present - and how we make use of it."
"True," Sarek agreed and reached out to dial his selections.
Lorna looked at first one and then the other of her Vulcans then shook her head as she sighed with exasperation. "You two are impossible, but I love you anyway...and don't bother to ask me what that has to do with the discussion. If you do, I just might decide to throw something at you."
Spock and Sarek looked at each other, and their eyebrows lifted in unison - the Vulcan version of an exchange of grins.
"Yes, Little Mother," Spock said meekly.
"Yes, my wife," Sarek replied with equal meekness.
"Lorna," Sarek commented when they'd finished their meal and were walking back to resume working on their current experiment. "Your contribution to this task can be made by another, and you have already informed us that this day has a special meaning for you. Would you prefer to spend this day elsewhere...perhaps walking out under the sky where you may conduct your own private worship service?" His voice was calm and controlled as ever, but the look in his eyes told Lorna that, though he didn't fully understand, he respected her faith and was willing to give her every opportunity to observe it.
"I'd like that very much, Sarek...but, are you sure I won't be missed?"
"You will be 'missed,' Lorna," he said frankly, "but someone else can take over your tasks today. I think you would benefit from this time alone - you do not often have an opportunity to be alone in such pleasant surroundings." //And you have not had much solitude of late,// came his amused thought.
//I did not want to be alone!// she retorted mentally.
"I am convinced the experience would be of benefit to you," he repeated aloud. "Please me, if not yourself, and spend the day 'wandering under God's sky' as you have termed such activities, Lorna."
"Very well, I think I will! Thank you. Spock, must I guard against any particular danger?"
"No. The computer understands our needs and motivations now. It will not allow harm to come to anyone. Otherwise, whatever you wish to do, whatever is uppermost in your thoughts, will provide information for the computer. Go, Little Mother...and 'enjoy' yourself."
She engaged in the family embrace with each, then rose and left the room.
"If I am speaking of things you prefer left unspoken, Father, I beg forgiveness, but I saw a shadow in Lorna's eyes just now. Surely she was not repelled by what she has experienced?"
"You skirt the edge...but your concern is natural," Sarek said after a long moment. "Lorna is my wife, and she accepts me as I am - in all ways. The 'shadow' that you saw is equally visible to me, Spock, but I cannot tell you what causes it. It has existed for some time - I prefer not to enumerate the days, hours, minutes, and seconds for you. She will not allow me into that part of her mind, but I surmise that it is some deep hurt that she is reluctant to let me experience with and for her. I assume that it is generated by something in her human nature. Is it possible that you might know what has caused it?"
Spock frowned slightly. "I regret that I cannot give you a conclusive answer. However, I speculate that she still sorrows for T'Angelya. Though she tries to follow our ways, still she cannot help her normal human reactions - and human women experience a deep hurt that cannot be easily accepted when they lose a child. The continual fear that they might have done something through ignorance to cause the death remains with them."
"Yes, but this is something...beyond that. Indeed, it is most puzzling. I wish to help her but cannot. Since it is impossible for me to help her, I trust that someday she will find someone who can. Come, our work awaits us."
Lorna left the underground complex and began to walk aimlessly, going as the surface pathway led her.
The sun was just rising above the lovely hills, and the small clouds floating in the sky were tinted with various hues of pink and gold.
Before long, Lorna found herself in a quiet glade, one that looked strangely familiar. "Why this looks exactly like the glade on Mauretania - where we found those adorable flying horses!" she exclaimed after a moment. "I wonder if.... Yes! There it is."
"It", of course, was the beautiful tree bearing blue roses that had towered over the glade where she'd first realized that she'd fallen in love with Sarek. (("The Misfit," SHOWCASE I, February 1974.)) She went over to look at the tree, admiring the perfection of the blossoms and inhaling their fragrance. Something rustled in the branches above her. She stepped back slightly, wondering what surprise the computer had prepared for her.
The leaves parted and something darted out at her. She blinked and fell back another step, while the object flashed by so rapidly that she couldn't see what it was. Turning swiftly, she began to scan the sky. A moment later, she laughed and lifted her hand with the palm outstretched.
There, uttering a shrill whinny and rushing toward her out of the sunrise, came the white mare that she'd seen on Mauretania. A moment later, the mare was outdistanced by the black stallion, who landed upon Lorna's outstretched hand and then balanced himself delicately with his powerful wings.
"Hello, beautiful things," Lorna whispered softly. "Even though you're not real, it's wonderful to see you again...."
She frowned and shook her head. This would never do! If she went around reminding herself that all these things were merely illusions, she might as well go back to the complex and bury herself in work. Surely it would do her no harm to turn her back on logic for a while! Suiting her actions to her thoughts, she sat down upon the grass and began to frolic with the horses, who'd been joined by their foals, much as she'd done with the living creatures.
Eventually the horses settled to feed upon the luxuriant grass around her, and she clasped her hands in her lap as she sat watching them. Her reverie was broken by the distant sound of a bell.
"I remember that sound!" she whispered. "It's the bell that rang in the tower of Father's church where he was serving in 1969...."
She rose and shaded her eyes with her hand as she peered into the distance. Yes, there, just at the edge of the horizon, she glimpsed the buildings of the city as she remembered them, the towering steeple of the church that she'd attended with her family. A few minutes of walking would bring her to that scene. She could enter the Parsonage that would be standing close to the church, and she knew that her family - as they'd been when she'd last seen them in 1969 - would be waiting for her.
"No!" she said firmly. "It would be pleasant, but I refuse that illusion. I made my peace with my family in real life - there is no need for me to repeat that experience here."
She turned and began to walk in the opposite direction, not looking back as the distant sounds of voices lifting in a hymn drifted to her ears.
But the hymn that they were singing was an Easter hymn, and it turned her thoughts back to other Easter mornings that she'd spent with her family. In obedience to her wishes, the computer created no illusions from those memories, but the landscape around her remained that of a Terran countryside - specifically, of a countryside in the Spring in either the Eastern or the Middle Western United States sometime between 1945 and 1960.
Her thoughts moved from the Easter mornings she'd spent with her family to thoughts of what the first Easter morning must have been like: It had been sunrise then, of course, and the soldiers who'd been keeping watch at the Tomb must have been yawning sleepily and shivering in the pre-dawn mist. Then the ground had trembled, and the mighty stone had rolled back, revealing the hollow that had been carved into the living rock.
I wonder if they saw anything, or if they were so terrified that they fell unconscious before the Glory that must surely have been shining about them? Lorna thought as she continued to follow the pathway up a gently rising hill. How I wish I could have had that opportunity...! To have been able to look upon the Master's face, to hear His voice while He taught the multitudes...to be told that He'd risen from the dead...!
She'd reached the top of the hill. Now, her thoughts trailed away into silence as she gazed down at the beautiful blue lake lying below her, its clean waters catching and reflecting the glorious colors of the sky above her...a perfect replica of the lake that had been on her grandparents' farm. A rising mist obscured the opposite shore. There was no one else around, and the solitude was restful. Most enjoyable of all, however, was the blue sky arching overhead.
Hearing the sound of wings behind her, she looked back, half-expecting to see the horses following her. Instead, she saw a snow white dove settling on the branches of a thorn-tree, covered with red blossoms in brilliant contrast to the bird's glistening plumage.
"I get the message," Lorna murmured, as the bird gazed at her fearlessly, so intrigued that she neglected to observe that neither the climate nor the soil of this landscape was suitable for such a tree. "Earth's creatures are as lovely in their way as are my flying horses. Welcome, brother or sister; have you come to enjoy the beauty of this day with me?"
The dove took wing and vanished into the distance, not bothering to reply. Lorna smiled and began to descend the hill, angling toward a long flat stone that jutted out into the lake. Though she was used to walking in gravity much greater than that of this world; she was still a little tired. The idea of sitting on that sun-warmed stone, admiring the scenery about her, held great appeal for her.
Moving swiftly, she stepped up onto the flat rock and studied the landscape around her. No, except for the lake, the computer had recreated nothing else from her grandparents' farm, but had kept the scene completely Terran for her. After a moment, she walked toward the water. The rock was wide and about two or three yards long. The lake was fairly deep here, and in the hollow in the bed of the lake right in front of the rock, she was able to see plants waving several inches below the surface of the water, minnows darting to and fro among them.
The water looked so clear, so cool, so inviting.... She cast a furtive glance over her shoulder. There was still no one around... no one to see.... She was tempted to strip and dive in.... No, better test the temperature of the water first. Sitting down on the very edge of the rock, she pulled her flowing skirt up above her knees and removed her sandals.
"Ohhh!" she gasped as she put her feet into the water. "It's too cold...!" But the coldness felt good, and she began to kick her feet like a child. Before long, though, her feet became motionless in the water as she sat with her chin in her hand, thinking again of that first Easter morning so many centuries ago. Perhaps then, as now, birds had been singing praises to Spring.
I'd forgotten how beautiful even a sparrow's song can be, she thought. Yet, it's such a simple song....
That last phrase awakened a memory of the time she'd been working with Gary Seven on Old Earth. Roberta had owned an extensive collection of phonograph recordings, and Lorna had found one album that had made an indelible impression upon her mind - a "Mass," written by a symphonic conductor. Roberta had told her that the "Mass" had aroused much controversy, but Lorna had considered the lyrics honest portrayals of Mankind's search for God. She'd wanted to obtain a copy to bring back with her, but the search for the Romulans and her concerns for her unborn child had pushed the idea from her mind, until it was too late. However, one simple melody - the one that began the "Mass" - had remained intact in her memory.
How I wish I'd brought a lytherette with me! she told herself. This would be the perfect setting and the perfect time to sing that particular selection!
Suddenly a masculine voice - rich and soul stirring - began to sing the words of the very hymn that she'd been remembering. Lorna was momentarily startled; then she sat listening in rapt silence until the song was ended.
After the echoes of the last notes had died away, she bent to put on her sandals. She rose, turned, and walked back to the shore, where the singer was standing in the shadows of the trees.
"I'm sorry," said the stranger, his deep voice so beautiful that Mr. Sulu's and even Sarek's voices suffered by comparison. "It wasn't my intention to frighten you."
"You didn't," Lorna assured him, "but I'll admit you did startle me. I wasn't aware that anyone else in this era knew that song."
Since she was facing the sun and couldn't see the stranger clearly, Lorna lifted one hand to shade her eyes. The tall man, clad in a spotless white tunic and a seamless, red-brown robe seemed familiar to her.
"Do I know you, sir?" she demanded.
By way of answer, he moved forward into the sunlight, which created auburn shadows in his long, dark hair and even in his short beard. His brilliant, dark blue eyes met hers unwaveringly, and for a moment it seemed that he was looking into the depths of her soul. Yet, though his gaze was as penetrating as an arrow, his expression was one of deep peace, compassion, and even loving understanding.
He was a handsome man. Tall and well muscled, he moved with the grace and power of an athlete. His skin was bronzed by the sun, and there was an ease about his movements common to those who lived in the open.
"Peace be with you," he lifted one hand in greeting.
Lorna's eyes widened when she saw a jagged wound in the palm of that uplifted hand, and her breath rushed in gasping pants between her parted lips as she looked down to similar wounds in his bare feet. She looked up at his face again, and her eyes became even wider with horror when she saw that there were several scratches across his brow - where a crown of thorns might have rested.
"This is sacrilege!" she cried, shuddering in self-loathing.
"No," the figure said gently. "Not here - where even the soul's most sincere desire can be given flesh. You were wishing that you could look upon the Master's face, hear His voice.... Would you prefer that I depart...?"
"No, please stay," Lorna said slowly. "As I understand it, the computer constructs its illusions from the minds of those walking upon the surface of this world, so I have only myself to blame.... In my former time, men created paintings and statues to serve as focal points for their devotions and for their prayers.... I think I can accept you as the next logical development in this progression."
"Then, can you surrender yourself to the illusion and will yourself to believe that you are in Palestine during the First Century of the Christian Era?" the image inquired.
"No," Lorna replied. "However.... It isn't good to keep things locked within one's heart.... I've not shared certain sorrows with my husband, nor with my friends, because I don't want to hurt or disillusion them. Am I right in thinking that whatever I say here will go no further?" Without waiting for a reply, she turned and began to walk back toward the top of the hill.
"Yes, you are right," the figure replied and he - for Lorna found that the image was so realistic, she couldn't keep from accepting it as a living, breathing being - fell into step beside "But...you have one friend who is required by the dictates of his profession to hold anything that you might wish to tell him in strictest confidence."
"He has a wife now.... I don't wish to take advantage of his friendship by burdening him with my problems, anyway. I did once before, but there was something he could do to help me at that time. He can't now."
They'd reached the top of the hill. Lorna stood there, undecided as to what to do. She could see the permanent buildings from here, and she could reach them in a matter of minutes. Once there, she could rejoin Spock and Sarek - perhaps bury her problems in work. Yet, this planet was designed to enable intelligent beings to rid themselves of their tensions and their problems. Perhaps this illusion was more unusual than most, yet the computer had agreed never to construct anything that would cause permanent harm to the individuals using its facilities.
At first, she'd feared that she might find herself accepting this image as a substitute for the Reality. Now, she realized that though she was talking to the image and was looking at it, her thoughts and her attention were focused through or beyond it...to the Reality that it represented for her.
No, she wouldn't go back - just yet. Perhaps it would be better to avail herself of the therapy which this planet offered. She sat down where the grass had made a fragrant green carpet beneath a tall elm and leaned back against the trunk of the tree - rather gingerly at first, until she was sure there were no insects waiting beneath the bark to greet her.
"Will you sit beside me - Rabbi?" she said courteously.
He took a seat near her and studied her face intently. "You will let me help you?" he asked.
"It would be foolish of me not to do so," she replied, then remained silent for several minutes. He said nothing either; instead, they both sat admiring the scenery.
"Just how much of my thoughts and of my memories do you know?" she demanded finally, speaking in High Vulcan.
"All of them," he replied in the same language.
"Ah, so that explains it," she said softly. "Spock and I have always wondered how it was possible for Jesus of Nazareth, who walked upon Earth in the First Century of the Christian Era, to speak the Vulcan tongue. You do it because the computer has total contact with my thoughts. The Bible states that the Master could read men's thoughts.... Apparently, when the real Jesus was touching Spock, remaining in such prolonged contact while healing that knife wound...there must have been enough of a mind-touch that He could speak Spock's native tongue - just as I did when Spock and Sarek engaged in that three-way mind meld with me...."
The Rabbi didn't answer. Lorna was making her own way out of this particular mental jungle and needed no help.
Finally she turned slightly and began to study him, carefully noting every detail of feature. Are you an illusion built entirely from my own thoughts and wishes?"
"No. Much of my physical appearance is taken from how you believe Jesus of Nazareth might have looked...the rest has been accumulated from the minds of others...."
"You mean... I'm not the first to have wanted-...?"
"There have been many. All seeking a personification of their hearts' deepest longings."
"Did they find it?" Lorna challenged, wondering just how far the computer would go in its efforts to create an individual's dream world.
"Say rather that they found the strength and the courage to continue learning the way to find their souls desire," the Rabbi answered. "They knew that I was not the One they sought, but I gave them an idea of what He must have been like on Earth - a model that they could use as a support while they took the first step on their journey to the Ultimate Reality...a hand to grasp when their Faith faltered, if you prefer to call me that."
"And none have sought to set you in the place of - of...?"
"None," the figure assured her before she could finish. "If one comes who is in danger of such, the illusion is ended at once."
"Excellent!" Lorna nodded. "If the computer hadn't taken such precautions, I fear its clientele would have been severely restricted."
Again there was a silence, for Lorna didn't really know what she wanted to say. She didn't accept this figure as real, exactly, yet as she looked at the image, she found it wasn't difficult to realize that the Reality was also present, waiting to listen to anything that she might wish to say. But the thoughts tumbling through her mind would sound so petty and foolish if they were spoken aloud that she hesitated to say anything at all.
"Child," the Rabbi said gently. "What is troubling you?"
His voice was so kind, so calm, so filled with understanding. Though reason warned her that this was nothing but a highly specialized android, keyed to her own responses, Lorna's emotional turmoil urged her to speak, to relate how she was still mourning Angela and wondering why she hadn't been able to let go of that sorrow. She was surprised and appalled by the petty things that were tumbling out - the covert snubs and little humiliations of each day - all those seemingly insignificant complaints that total up to drive one mad....
"...have you any idea how infuriating it is to know that there are beings who are listening to every word you say, watching everything you do, hoping they can take offense at something to keep you from completing your appointed task? Do you know how it hurts to do the best that you are capable of doing at that particular point in time - only to have it picked to pieces by some insensitive, rude being who gleans meanings that were never put there intentionally...?"
She faltered and stared at the bearded face opposite her, then a blush rose in her cheeks and she closed her eyes in an effort to mask her confusion. "W-who knows better what that is like!" Her voice was choked with shame.
"Indeed," the Rabbi laughed gently. "You have read the Scriptures; you know that the Scribes and the Pharisees stood on the edges of each crowd - hoping to find something that they could pounce upon...even to the extent of making the accusation that Satan's power was being used to cast out demons."
"I - I feel so foolish...!"
"You need not. It is good to let all those feelings out of your heart. They have been boiling beneath the surface far too long."
"Yes.... Strange, I feel as good now as I used to feel when I'd spent time in prayer...."
"Your prayers are no longer the conversations with a Friend that you used to experience. Why have you allowed your faith to fade, Lorna?" the Rabbi asked sternly.
"W-what do you mean? I - I still believe!"
"In an Almighty Power Who has shaped the Universe, Who set it in motion.... One Who guides the great events and - and.... You're frowning! Why?"
"You no longer believe in the Almighty Father Who watches over and loves each living being - no matter how great or how small?"
"I've seen so much...." Lorna spread her hands in unconscious appeal. "The sheer size of this Universe overwhelms me! There are so many - how can one person make any difference?"
The figure seated beside her looked up at the sky for a moment, looked at the landscape surrounding them, then nodded. "Your confusion is understandable. Much has happened to you, and it takes time to assimilate it all. However, consider this: There are so many - yet the hairs on every head are different. There are so many - yet each being is an individual, unique in his, her, or its own right - never to be duplicated again. Methinks you have allowed your God to become too small, Lorna."
"You concede that He can run the business of a Universe - perhaps of several Universes - yet you imply that he does not have the power to take notice of one person? You are being illogical."
"Perhaps I am.... Or else...well.... Many brilliant scientists keep saying that there is no God, or that if there is One, He's set everything into motion and is now sitting back watching it spin.... I - I don't know what to think any more, or how to answer them."
"Your father had an effective answer for those who made such statements, and you still remember it. Repeat it for me, please."
"He...used to tell them to go out on a clear night and look up into the sky until they realized just how big a place this Universe is. If they could do that, they should then ask themselves if it could just 'happen' without a Guiding Hand to build it and to keep it running smoothly."
"Try that answer the next time someone tries to confuse you in your faith."
"I don't know...it sounds too simple."
"The simple things are oftentimes the most powerful."
"Yes...." Lorna reached down and began to smooth the blades of grass beside her, thinking, wondering. There were things that defied logic; why had she forgotten that this was foremost among them?
"Subconsciously, you knew this all along, Lorna," the Rabbi reminded her softly. "Why didn't you listen to your own heart?"
"Because my heart led me astray once - with disastrous consequences. I resolved never to heed it again," she snapped, her eyes shadowed with pain and sorrow.
"Your husband has forgiven you for using the spores against his will. He realizes that your actions were prompted by love for him."
"If I 'loved' him so much...why did I disregard everything that he believes? It hurt him to destroy the spores - I forced him to take lives - when he reveres life so deeply. How could he bring himself to forgive me?"
"He forgave you - because he loves you. Love can forgive anything, Lorna." The Rabbi held out one hand, and Lorna found herself looking at the scar on that hand...remembering what had been done to the real Jesus, and she understood: If He could forgive His enemies, then Sarek could forgive her, especially since she was the woman Sarek loved.
"Your husband worries because he knows there is a shadow in your heart that you will not share - a shadow created by sorrow because of what you did to him," the Rabbi continued relentlessly. "You find it impossible to forgive yourself, is this not so?"
Lorna nodded wordlessly.
"Are you more 'righteous' than your husband?"
She gasped sharply beginning to tremble with anger; but that anger faded and she bowed her head as she bit her lower lip for a moment.
His words suddenly reminded Lorna of the guilt she had discovered in Sarek. Although only the combination of shock and incipient pon farr had brought it to the surface, she had been utterly astounded to think that her husband could still harbor doubts about her forgiveness. She had not even needed to think about it - had not even considered she had anything to forgive him for. How could she expect less of Sarek?
"I - I hadn't thought of it quite like that before." She said at last. "You make me sound so - so childish....! Great Heaven! At my age, one would think that I'd finally have started to grow up!"
"'Growing up' is a never-ending process. When you cease learning, you will cease living, Child."
"Maybe so, but - but it hurts."
"Anything worthwhile always does. Do you understand?"
Somehow, that matchless voice speaking the phrase that her husband used so often touched the final chord and - though she didn't sob aloud - Lorna cried as she hadn't cried since Angela had been born and Doctor McCoy had had to tell her that the child couldn't survive.
A hand, firm, strong, and warm as any living being's, rested upon her head in a comforting gesture. "At last.... For a human, tears are healing, Lorna. Let them give you release."
She did cry, but not for long, because her Vulcan training had taught her when she'd achieved release - and when she was merely indulging in self-pity.
"Y-you're right," she said at last as she reached into her sleeve for a handkerchief. "Tears do heal...."
"Why do you keep forgetting that?"
"Because - because so many have told me that I used to cry too much...."
"Has Sarek ever told you this?"
"No, but it - distresses him when I weep. I vowed long ago never to use my tears as a weapon against him."
"Which is as it should be, but you should not hide your true sorrow from him. Your Bonding is one of emotions - not thoughts unless you each will such communication. Thus, though he knows you are feeling sorrow, he cannot help you. Do you not think this distresses him more than telling him of your feelings of unworthiness would?"
"I - I haven't trusted him enough? Is that what you mean? That - that I've been afraid he wouldn't understand?"
The Rabbi remained silent, for again, Lorna had already answered her own question.
"I am inclined to take Sarek too much for granted," she admitted after a moment's thought. "It isn't that I didn't think he'd be unable to understand... I felt that he would understand without having it explained to him - and how could he? Even Terran men can't understand their women...how could a Vulcan be expected to do it? Poor Sarek! I haven't been very fair to him."
"Then tell him how it is with you. He has always sought to understand before - he can do no less now."
"I shall." She smiled, her heart beginning to quicken its beat as she thought of the pleasure Sarek's eyes would reveal when he knew it might be possible to banish this final barrier that lay between them.
"And... you will forgive yourself as well?"
"How...? I'll try...but, to be quite honest, I don't think it'll be easy...."
"Give me your hand," the Rabbi ordered.
She looked at him questioningly, then reached out to clasp the hand that was waiting. The Rabbi's eyes closed to better facilitate contact with the computer, relaying Lorna's physical readings and deepest responses. When he opened his eyes again, he was smiling. "Even now, events are progressing which may well bring you irrefutable proof that you were acting as the Almighty Father's instrument when you brought those spores to your husband."
"I wish I could believe you."
"Do you still require signs and wonders before you believe? Must I tell you something that will be easy to confirm? Very well...even now, life is quickening in your womb."
"I'm - I'm pregnant?"
"Surely you are not surprised?" The Rabbi smiled again, a warm smile of understanding, not of mockery. Lorna blushed, recalling that the computer could touch upon "all" her memories.
"It's a normal result - but I'd begun to fear.... Well, despite the renewed youth the 'Paradise' spores brought me, living on planets with differing levels of gravity has affected my system to the extent that I'm now beginning menopause. Also, I'd begun to fear that my prayers would never be answered in the affirmative - that I didn't deserve-...."
"Cease that kind of talk!" The Rabbi rose to his feet then extended one hand to help her to rise. "It serves no purpose, except to create depression. Nor, in the light of all you have done to help your husband in his efforts to bring Peace to many worlds and to many beings, is it reasonable!"
"Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself.... I'll try to do better," Lorna agreed, and her eyes were glowing with joy. "I don't know if it's proper to thank an illusion...but I do thank you! You've helped me to see so many things clearly!"
"Then, I have served my purpose."
"I wish there was something I could do to repay you," Lorna said softly.
"An illusion needs nothing," the Rabbi told her gently. "However, your words are prompted by your kindness of heart, and I accept them as such. If you wish to 'repay' me for anything - then I ask you to remember your own needs when you next seek refuge in prayer, instead of devoting yourself exclusively to the needs of others. I also ask you not to be so hard upon yourself."
"Promises that aren't difficult to make," she responded.
"But promises that will be difficult to keep. Your husband and your son are coming for you; it is time for me to go. Peace be with you, Child...."
That hand touched her bent head once more. She heard the sound of a single footstep and looked up quickly, but the Rabbi was gone.
She looked down at the grass where they'd been sitting, but it had sprung back into shape and looked as though it'd never been touched. When she moved from under the tree onto the pathway, however, she found the evidence that she needed - the outline of a bare foot in the dust.
"Lorna." Sarek's fingers came into her range of vision, reaching out to her in the Vulcan kiss. She joined her fingers to his without looking up.
"Little Mother," Spock said softly, also looking down at the footprint. "Was that figure an illusion?"
"Yes, Spock!" Lorna said with a soft gasp of laughter. "If - if it had really been... My son, that would have meant that I'm a saint!"
"Fascinating! The figure was so like...."
"Are you saying that my illusion did resemble the Reality you've seen?" Lorna's eyes became bright with joy. "How wonderful! I've always believed that since He'd worked as a carpenter until He was thirty years old.... Well, the Master had to be a powerfully-built Man... how else could He have been able to preach all day and then go fishing with His disciples all night without experiencing total physical collapse?"
"So...that was the image of the One Who has made such a profound impression upon both your minds?" Sarek murmured. "Now I understand something of the appeal the living individual must have possessed. Truly, a leader of men."
"What is this, Lorna?" Spock bent to pick up a cardboard box that had been lying near the tree where Lorna and the Rabbi had been sitting.
"I don't know...I didn't notice it while.... Let me see it.... Oh!"
"What is wrong?" Sarek demanded, moving closer to her.
"N-nothing...! Where did the computer find...? How could it construct the entire Chronicles of Narnia? Or, are these just covers and a page of so of printing...?"
"On the contrary, the computer draws upon memories we do not even know we have," Spock explained. "Those constructs will be as perfect and as permanent as if they were originals."
"Do those books have great meaning for you, Lorna?" Sarek asked quietly.
"Yes, Sarek. I read them often when I was unhappy on Old Earth; they were always a great source of comfort to me." Lorna cradled the box in her arms as though it were covered with jewels.
"Then, with your permission, I would like to read them someday."
"Whenever you wish, my husband...and I hope that they will speak as eloquently to you as they did to me, so you will better understand this aspect of my personality and life."
They turned and began to walk back to the permanent buildings; Spock following a few paces behind as was customary when Sarek and Lorna were engaged in conversation while walking with him.
"Is your work finished for this day, Sarek?" Lorna asked when her husband had remained silent for several moments.
"Then...may I ask why you came?"
"I sensed that you were experiencing emotional turmoil and thought you might need me," he replied simply.
"Ever and always," she laid her hand upon his arm. "The 'turmoil' you sensed was created when the illusion that was constructed for me forced me to lance a long-festering wound."
"The shadow that has lain between us ever since Turon-Lura." Sarek stated it as a fact, but Lorna nodded anyway.
"Tonight, if you wish, I'll tell you exactly what that shadow was.... And, Sarek," she smiled tremulously. "I have something else very important to tell you...."
"Which universe have you chosen?" asked Sarek early the next morning.
"As we indicated, the one which followed the same line as ours until your mission to Laundinium and Galicium," said Spock. "At that time, some very minor changes took place - for one, my mother's death was delayed by a few weeks and, we think, a treaty was made between Laundinium and Galicium. I want to find out if there was a connection between those events."
"A 'connection'-...?" inquired Kyle. "Oh, of course. Sarek was the first Ambassador to Laundinium."
"That is correct. And, today, that is the only universe we have found in which Laundinium and Galicium have not destroyed one another."
"I see," said Kyle. "So you've a personal as well as a scientific curiosity about that particular universe. Very well. What must I do now?"
"Nothing, until we board the ship that Star Fleet has assigned to us during this experiment," replied Spock. "We will use the auxiliary transporter for this experiment, of course; the large one must be free for normal transportation, if it is necessary."
"When was all this decided, Spock?" Lorna asked as she turned from the table where she'd been checking figures. "I thought the experiment was to be conducted on this planet?"
"It was, but the alternate universe Spock is aboard his Enterprise, and they might leave their orbit at any time. We must be prepared."
"Spock," said Sarek before Lorna could say anything more. "Where am I in that universe?"
"Will that make any difference?"
"No," replied Spock. "If there were no differences, it would not be an alternate universe."
"Spock is the one we must follow," said Kyle. "In order to place him aboard their Enterprise, our ship must be on the same coordinates. The same must be true when we bring him back."
"I agree...but what if the alternate-Spock leaves his ship?" Sarek demanded.
"I shall try," said Spock, "to influence him to stay aboard. However, if he should leave temporarily, that means only that you would be unable to bring me back to this universe until he returned. We have decided upon a five-day period; at the end of that time, Mr. Kyle, you will return me to this universe. If the return must be delayed by a few hours, there will be no harm done."
"I still don't like it," grumbled Kyle. "Too many factors could keep us from getting you back. If the alternate-Spock were killed, or if he left the Enterprise permanently, we'd never be able to retrieve you."
"Someone must take that risk, Mr. Kyle," replied Spock sternly. "We presently have available only three persons with the telepathic capabilities to make the attempt: Sarek, Lorna, and myself."
"But, Spock!" Lorna exclaimed. "Have you forgotten that I volunteered to form an empathic bond with my alternate-self, and that you agreed?"
"Have you forgotten that you cannot project yourself into the mind of the Lorna of that universe...because there is none?" Spock answered gently. "It would seem that you never left the 20th Century there."
Lorna nodded her head slowly. "Reasonable. As you said, 'if there weren't any differences'...."
"There is another reason why you cannot take part in this experiment, Lorna," Sarek added, and there was just the slightest hint of emotion in his tone.
"You have an appointment with Doctor M'Benga the earliest possible moment after we complete these final calculations."
"I do?" she said blankly, then.... "I do! You mean, last night's test was - was...?"
"Shhhh!" Sarek warned, seeking to keep their joy private a while longer.
"Very well, Spock." Lorna was determined to have the last word. "I'll have to agree that I cannot take part in this experiment - and I've just remembered still another reason.... Since Sarek and I are not members of Star Fleet, we can't legally take the risk. However, you will forgive me if I worry about you?"
"Thank you, Lorna," replied Spock. "I appreciate that this state you call 'worry' means that you will exercise extra caution, and that will add a measure of safety to my mission."
Star Fleet had been wise in ordering the experiment performed aboard a ship. Less than an hour after Lorna had returned from her appointment with M'Benga - literally glowing with happiness - the alternate-Enterprise had left its standard orbit and had headed out on a course that would take it back to the same quadrant of the galaxy in which several main star bases - as well as Vulcan - lay. Now, however, the alternate-Enterprise, was again in orbit, and they were ready to begin the experiment.
"I will alternate with you in monitoring the controls," Sarek told Kyle.
"Well, sir, I appreciate the thought," replied Kyle, "but it does take fast and accurate computation...."
"I assure you that my mathematical concentration has returned to its normal efficiency."
Kyle shot a swift look of inquiry toward Spock.
"He speaks the truth," the First Officer confirmed.
"Uh...all right, whatever you say. Your help will be greatly appreciated, Mr. Ambassador." Later, Kyle commented to no one in particular - or perhaps it was to the bank of machinery before him - "I do wish these blasted Vulcans would tell a man what's happening, now and then!"
Finally the moment came. Spock stood on the small transporter platform of the ship, looking out at Kyle, Lorna, and Sarek.
"Good luck, sir," said Kyle. "Come back safely; this universe needs you."
Spock's eyebrow rose; his only indication of surprise at this admission of caring from the generally ultra-formal Kyle.
"May the Almighty Father protect you," said Lorna.
"May you find what you are seeking," said Sarek. "And may you be able to share it with us...my son."
The scene vanished into golden sparkles. Spock was drifting, in the familiar disembodied sensation of being transported. It didn't end, however. He had to reach out, searching for "himself" in the alternate universe. What would it be like to touch his own mind? Where was that Spock?
There...there, thinking familiar thoughts of course computations and chess problems - strange, those were the computations he'd worked on four weeks ago. He oriented himself, touched that mind, felt the familiar kinesthetic feel of the angular body...entered, and was drawn in!
I am Spock! Yes, I am Spock, but why am I thinking it? The Captain needs these computations....
As quickly as that, without protest, with less than a second's futile attempt to maintain consciousness of a separate identity, he was absorbed into the alternate-Spock. He was that Spock; no memory of another existence remained. Picking up the calculations, he went in search of the Captain.
Mr. Kyle watched the indicators following Spock, who'd been in the alternate universe for three days now. They'd followed the alternate-Enterprise to Star Base Six, where alternate-Spock had left the ship. Nothing unusual in that; he'd probably return soon enough. Then something happened: The alternate-Enterprise left orbit and began a journey away from Star Base Six, leaving alternate-Spock behind!
What a problem we'd have had if we'd stayed on the planet!" Kyle exclaimed. "We must follow Spock. If the Enterprise doesn't return for him or meet him elsewhere, we'll have to find some way to get him back."
Within hours, another starship orbited Star Base Six, and the alternate-Spock boarded it. As they followed its course, it soon became clear where they were headed: Back to Vulcan.
Spock sat in the garden of his ancestral home, looking at the last of the withered Blooms, their petals dropping, their potency gone. A strange blending of Vulcan and human emotions assailed him. Sarek was dead. Spock had now lost both parents...and the human side of him wished to grieve that he would never know them again in this life. That side of his nature also knew trepidation: This was all his now. The huge, empty house was his responsibility...his to put a family in again. Fortunately, by the time he'd been able to reach Vulcan after T'Pau's emergency call informing him that Sarek was dying, the Blooming had been over, or else....
He cut off that thought, let Vulcan logic take over. He had been in time to say goodbye to Sarek...to complete the reconciliation begun on the journey to Babel. And through the Vulcan empathic perception -- oddly stronger now than it had been in all the years after he had joined Star Fleet, while his parents were still alive - he knew that Sarek and Amanda were together, sharing Peace and contentment.
It was finished. Spock sent the news to the Enterprise and received a few hours later the message that he should remain on Vulcan, as his ship would be close enough to detour to pick him up in twelve days' time. Kirk, of course, didn't know that Spock had little need of a long mourning period - that a strange joy, rather than grief, filled him when he meditated upon his parents and felt their presence, their happiness in a union which had transcended all obstacles - including death.
Would he ever know such a union? Was there, somewhere in the universe, a woman whose spirit would complete his, as Amanda's had Sarek's. Or would he be compelled by biology to choose a wife one day, simply because she was available?
Twelve days later Spock said his farewells to the family, and walked to the beam-up point. Now he would return to the world in which he was more comfortable than on the planet where he was born. In Star Fleet he didn't have to be either Vulcan or human - all he had to be was First Officer of the Enterprise.
The familiar sensation of being transported began...continued...longer than it should...transporter malfunction? Mr. Scott was at the controls...he would cross-circuit and bring him out of stasis...a wrenching sensation...there!
But the transporter room was unfamiliar, and it was Mr. Kyle at the controls. Kirk and McCoy were there, of course, waiting to offer their condolences, as well as - a woman...and - and...Sarek.
Automatically, Spock stepped forward from the transporter platform, exclaiming: "Father! But you - you were dead!"
Unaccountably, his knees gave way, and he sank into unconsciousness.
McCoy bent over Spock with his scanner, muttering, "Nearly three weeks as a bunch of scattered molecules! No wonder he passed out! Turn my back for five minutes, and look what happens!"
The others had gathered around. "How is he?" asked Kirk.
"He's in shock," said McCoy. "I hope there won't be any permanent damage. Help me get him to the Enterprise - and this time, we're not going to use the transporter!"
Spock came to in Sick Bay, to find the woman he'd seen in the unfamiliar transporter room seated beside him. "Len!" she called when he opened his eyes, and McCoy came hurrying in. Suddenly, Spock recognized the woman.
"Lorna..." he said, "You are...my father's wife. Sarek...isn't dead!"
"That's right, Spock," she replied. "Rest now. It will all come back to you."
McCoy had finished his study of the readings over Spock's head. "Looks like you're going to pull through again," he said.
"For which you will undoubtedly take the credit," replied Spock, starting to get up.
"Oh no you don't!" McCoy said. "No moving around until your blood pressure comes up to the usual Vulcan sub-normal, and we get a couple of meals into you."
"I must talk to my father," said Spock.
"He's waiting to see you," said Lorna. "I'll bring him." She left.
"I suppose that was a pretty terrible experience for you, Spock," said McCoy. "Knowing that Sarek had died in the other universe, and wondering if he was still alive in this one."
"How did you get involved in this, Doctor? Why was the Enterprise so near?"
"To answer your last question first...the Enterprise was ready to go back to duty at the anticipated time, but Star Fleet Command gave us orders to wait here until your project was finished. I was called over to your ship after Sarek's time line in the alternate universe ended twelve days ago, and Maggie came with me...in case Lorna needed a woman's help.... We knew by then why you'd gone back to Vulcan, but we couldn't pull you back until your alternate returned to his Enterprise. What a damn-fool experiment! Nineteen days you were locked in stasis!"
"It was supposed to be only five, but I left the alternate-Enterprise, when I received the news that Sarek was dying."
"But in this universe I am alive and well, Spock," came Sarek's voice from the doorway.
"Yes, Father, thanks to Lorna. I found out that you have more to thank her for than either of you know."
Sarek and Lorna entered, and McCoy left, cautioning them not to tire Spock. "Shall I leave, too?" asked Lorna.
"No, Little Mother. I think you should hear this," said Spock. "Sarek, I chose that particular universe because I knew you were having difficulties coping with what you felt was your responsibility for the destruction of both Laundinium and Galicium."
"I resolved that conflict while you were away, with Lorna's help."
"Perhaps it was some benefit to you to know that in all universes but that one, the war occurred. In the universe I visited, you negotiated a treaty, Sarek - but only because the Laundinians and Galicians reacted emotionally to Amanda's assassination."
"'Assassination'!" exclaimed Lorna. Sarek remained silent, but his face became drawn for a moment. Lorna reached out to him, and he touched her fingers with his.
Spock recounted the story of Amanda's death in that alternate universe: "...so the people of the two planets felt guilt for Amanda's death and compassion for you, Father; in that mood, the treaty was completed."
"I see," said Sarek. "My diplomatic skills - or rather, those of the Sarek of that universe - really had little to do with it."
"Spock...five days after the Sarek of that other universe died, the time lines of that Laundinium and Galicium ended." Sarek's eyes were intent upon his son's face. "Can you tell us why, if the treaty was completed there, the worlds were still destroyed?"
"As best I can understand it, from information that was filtering in from refugees who managed to escape their worlds before they were destroyed, there had been factions on each world who had given lip service to the treaties but were secretly preparing for war. They each were stockpiling cobalt-based weapons. When word of Sarek's death reached them, each simultaneously decided it was time to test those weapons...."
"Thereby creating chain reactions that destroyed their worlds as surely as if they had been involved in nuclear wars," commented Sarek.
"It would seem as if it were destined for their time lines to extend this far - and no further," Lorna murmured. "It's tragic that all those lives had to be lost."
"Yes, senseless loss of life is always tragic," agreed Spock. "Fortunately, most of the peace-loving citizens of each world had already left, seeking to escape the aura of tension surrounding their worlds - so they were not destroyed. Those two worlds were fascinating in the fact that most of their inhabitants actually seemed to crave war, Lorna. Even though public sentiment had forced the acceptance of the treaty on both worlds after Amanda's assassination, there were constant violations of that treaty. Indeed, each world was in much the same state as was your Earth in the 1970's...."
"And they had no Henry Kissinger to run around putting out the fires, I suppose," Lorna retorted, revealing her knowledge of the century she'd left behind.
"No. According to reports, however, the citizens who had already left their worlds and had settled elsewhere have established new places for themselves, where they have or will become useful, productive citizens of the Federation," replied Spock.
"It... sounds more and more like it was all part of some Master Plan!" Lorna exclaimed.
"What we are finding out," said Spock, "is that the same major events occur in every time line of a certain basic pattern. In every universe in which the Enterprise exists more or less as we know it, Amanda's death seems to have been part of the universal pattern - but not your death, Father." He paused and looked at Lorna significantly. "I know now why your time line ended recently in a number of alternate universes: Those were the ones in which Lorna did not succeed in treating you with the spores."
"Spock, you said that I don't exist in the universe you visited. You also said that Amanda was assassinated there, but you didn't tell us.... What did Sarek die of there?" Lorna was too intent upon her question to realize what he'd just told her.
"He died in pon farr, not choosing a second wife because of a heart defect which limited his life expectancy."
"Had that Sarek not been treated by Doctor McCoy on the way to Babel?" asked Sarek.
"He had." replied Spock.
Sarek and Lorna exchanged looks of obvious bewilderment; then Sarek started to speak.
"Father...." Spock said before his father could compose his question. "It never occurs to one to question a Healer's decisions, does it? I never wondered before today - why were you advised to retire, instead of receiving on Vulcan the same operation with which Doctor McCoy saved your life?"
"Skrel did not suggest that an operation would be of help - but afterward, I should have questioned him. It was foolish to allow me to retire, when that operation, which would have been far simpler carried out in a Vulcan hospital than in a starship under fire, could have restored my health."
"You must ask Skrel," said Spock, "if the benefits of the operation were temporary. In the alternate universe, Sarek had been told that the risk of the operation was not worth the few years of health it could provide. He had a genetic defect that would cause his heart to malfunction again in the future."
"A genetic defect?" repeated Sarek.
At the same moment, Lorna grasped his hand convulsively, murmuring, "Angela!" McCoy had said that the major cause of the loss of their child had been a malformed heart - a defect that Lorna had always known had had to come from Sarek. McCoy's physical studies when she'd first come to this era had proved that heart trouble was one trait that Lorna's ancestors had not passed on to her. Is this the confirmation? The proof that I was promised? she asked herself.
"Spock," demanded Sarek. "Did you ask the Skrel of that universe why he originally did not tell that Sarek he was dying? Perhaps the reasoning would be the same for both."
"Ah, but that Skrel did tell that Sarek that McCoy's operation provided only a temporary gain. That Sarek decided there was no sense in not using the years he had left. Skrel had checked my - or rather - that Spock's genetic data and found no defect."
"But if it were true for me as well..." mused Sarek.
"If it were," said Spock, "our Skrel must have faced a logician's nightmare. After McCoy had apparently restored you, Skrel probably waited until he thought you were strong enough to take the news. Then Amanda died, and again he postponed the confrontation. He did not expect you to remarry - certainly not so soon and not to another human. I am sure he would have warned you if you had made your choice on Vulcan and had announced it in the traditional fashion."
"But I simply arrived home with a new wife," Sarek agreed. "I meant to consult with him about...another problem...but in the planning for the Turon-Lura mission, I canceled the appointment. T'Angelya was conceived and born away from Vulcan."
"I do not see how Skrel could have avoided telling you after that happened," said Spock.
"No..." said Sarek.
"Sarek, don't you remember that strange meeting we had with Skrel?" asked Lorna. "He called us in soon after we got home, with such ominous foreboding."
"No, Sarek, I took the call, and even if Skrel is Vulcan, I could tell he was upset. But then when we got there, he acted so strangely, remember? He said that even if you had the best human physicians for me, he felt your family Healer ought to examine your wife. In that case, why did he want you there? I knew that wasn't the real reason he called us in - but I never could figure out what he really wanted."
"To tell me about the genetic defect, undoubtedly," said Sarek, "But he did not. I wonder why?"
Spock moved restlessly, and a slight smile played about his lips. "Try looking into a mirror, Father. Skrel was waiting to tell you that you had a terminal illness, and you suddenly walked in possessing perfect health and looking thirty to forty years younger than the last time he had seen you. What use was there then to tell you of a genetic defect which no longer exists? Nor will you pass it on to your child...the spores took care of that as well."
"A miracle, truly a miracle!" whispered Lorna, her eyes filled with awe. "I was the Almighty Father's instrument...it had to happen!"
"What are you saying, my wife?"
"Please, Sarek, I can't explain now. It's - it's too complicated," replied Lorna. "Suffice it to say that I understand now what Spock meant when he said that you have more to thank me for than either of us knew. Sarek, if I hadn't disobeyed your request not to use those spores - you would be dead by now!"
"So it would seem," Sarek's clasp tightened over her hand. "And the loss of our daughter was also inevitable, because the drugs you received early in your first pregnancy intensified the genetic defect...."
As one, the thoughts of husband and wife turned from the daughter they had lost to the son before them.
It was Lorna who spoke: "What about you in this universe, Spook?"
"You forget," he said. "I, too, have known the influence of the spores of the pod-plant. If I ever had a defect - and thanks to Amanda's blood the alternate-Spock did not inherit one - it was cured at that time."
Issue Number Three: December 1976
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