by Jean Lorrah
Spock sat on the terrace of his ancestral home, meditating in the peaceful garden. Always before, meditation here had brought peace of mind; today, this whole home leave, he seemed unable to achieve that state of total acceptance which ought to be his as a Vulcan. When he realized that such thoughts were not aiding his meditation, he dropped the attempt, stood, and walked the path between the carefully tended rows of plants, hoping their beauty and the fragrance of the blossoms would put him into a more suitable mood.
That was not the Vulcan Way, but two people he highly respected, his Captain and his stepmother--and come to think of it, his real mother as well--had told him that they found peace in the contemplation of nature. Lorna had once even suggested to him that it was logical: "If it were not, why is every Vulcan home equipped with a garden for meditation?"
His "little mother," the human woman his father had married after Amanda's death, was not at home. Her particular talents were required on a diplomatic mission--and as she and Sarek had three-year-old twin children who would be quite out of place on such a mission, Sarek had stayed home to care for them. A few months earlier or later, Suvil and Talitha could have been left with someone else in the family; however, as they were just at the age when they must learn a crucial lesson in mind/body coordination, it was necessary that the difficult lessons be carried through by at least one of the two people teaching them.
By Vulcan custom, it should not have been their parents teaching the twins, but their grandparents. Unfortunately, both Sarek's parents had died when Spock was seventeen. Lorna's parents. . .had lived and died on Twentieth Century Earth.
For the last few minutes, laughter and shouting had been impinging on the edges of Spock's consciousness. Puzzled, he followed the sound to the edge of the terrace, and looked down at the scene below.
It was as if he were looking at an ancient stereopticon view, in which the two scenes which ought to blend into one three-dimensional whole had somehow gotten out of adjustment and refused to come together. His father was playing krenja with the twins; nothing strange in that. It was a simple ball game, intended to teach children coordination. Sarek had played it with Spock, many years ago--but with what a difference! He recalled almost a grimness in his father in those days, an insistence that Spock learn to play it right, a strong feeling of disappointment each time Spock dropped the ball or lost a point. Spock had not been well coordinated as a child, and those games, supposed to release a child's pent-up energy after lessons in reading or mathematics, had become a form of torture, leaving him more tense than when he had begun. His intellectual lessons, with his grandfather Suvil, had been a joy; when he had been turned over to his father for "recreation," he had cringed.
Below him, though, his little brother and sister were thoroughly enjoying the game--and so, obviously, was Sarek. Talitha had inherited from her mother the human female advantage of earlier maturity; she had the edge over her still clumsy brother, but Sarek was carefully compensating, without letting either child know he was doing so. Both children laughed when they scored a point, and equally when they stumbled or fumbled. Both their mistakes and their laughter were a normal part of childhood, and Sarek made no attempt to stop either.
Once again, Spock found it difficult to think of the vigorous young man below him as his father. He sometimes felt as if they had somehow exchanged places. I am the one who should be newly married and raising small children. Often I feel more like Suvil and Talitha's grandfather than like their brother.
The children, who were too young to remember the last time they had seen their older brother, held him in awe, as if he were of a far older generation. They had heard stories of him from their parents--and he feared very much that their mother had exaggerated his exploits.
Moreover, he felt old, as if life were passing him by. It had seemed logical to allow Dr. McCoy to treat him with the serum that had turned his sexuality fully to his human heritage, so that he need never again fear Pon Farr. (("The Doctor's Lady", SHOWCASE III, December 1976.)) But that treatment had removed a certain urgency from his life, had allowed him to stop considering the need for a wife as a priority. Years were passing. Oh, yes, he had a long Vulcan lifetime ahead . . .but did he want to spend it alone?
The game ended with Talitha's victory--the only fair outcome, but Sarek had seen to it that Suvil made a respectable score. Now their father told the twins, his soft voice barely carrying to where Spock stood watching, "Now go in and eat something, take a shower, and go to bed. Need I check up on you?"
"No, Father," chorused the twins, meekly. The second day of Spock's visit, Sarek had caught them talking and giggling together instead of taking their afternoon nap.
Sarek watched the children into the house, then looked around--and spotted Spock. "Stay there," he called to his son. "I shall join you."
"So you were watching our game," said Sarek as he joined Spook in the garden. "You should have come down and joined in."
"I never was very good at krenja."
"Precisely. It would do Suvil good to see someone as respected as you are doing something badly. Do you recall the time your grandfather joined us when you were a boy?"
"You beat him by fifty points."
"And did you not, learn anything from that?"
"I am afraid I was not a very good pupil. All I recall is being. . .rather ashamed of you. Forgive me, Father, but to an ignorant child it appeared as if you took advantage of his age and lack of practice."
"I did. And the fact that you learned nothing more from the encounter is my fault, not yours. I knew what my father was out to teach me, as well as you, and I was embarrassed by the lesson. Thus I failed to impart it to you, my son--although you were far too young at the age of three to derive the true lesson for yourself. Please forgive me."
"There is nothing to forgive. One's parents cannot teach one every possible lesson in life; you taught me to learn and to think for myself. . .even though that lesson resulted in my making a Life Decision that you strongly disapproved."
"As you know, I no longer disapprove, Spock. But I sometimes wonder. . .if perhaps it is not time for you to consider a new direction for your life."
"You read my thoughts, Father. Watching you with your children, I find myself coming near to an unseemly display of jealousy."
"I should think 'envy' were the more appropriate term."
"Yes, I suppose so. I would take nothing from you; I would simply find for myself something of what you have."
"Since you have brought up the subject, I concur, Spock. It is an intense joy to me to have the twins to care for, children of my age--but I should be teaching my grandchildren."
"Precisely what I was thinking, except for the part about your age. Physiologically, you are no older than I am."
"That was not Lorna's intent, but it is nonetheless the effect of her treating me with the spores of the pod plant. What is it, Spock? Do you wish to ask a question?"
"I--would be invading your privacy if I asked it," Spock replied.
"If you were anyone else, yes. As my son. . .as one who has experienced the effects of those spores yourself, you have my permission to ask that question, Spock."
"Father, there were several colonists who were no longer young when they---first-went to Omicron Ceti Three. The spores gave them perfect health, but they were not rejuvenated. Doctor McCoy was not made younger when he was infected-- ((See "This Side of Paradise", live STAR TREK episode.)) To my knowledge, you are the only individual who was rejuvenated when the spores entered your system, and it puzzles me why this should be so." (("While We're Apart", SHOWCASE II, February 1975.))
"It should not, Spock. Were any of the others married to a wife--?"
"Of course!" Spock interrupted eagerly, his eyes wide as he anticipated what Sarek would say. "The difference in your ages! I should have thought of--! I beg forgiveness for my unseemly interruption."
"There is no need. The circumstances justified your action," Sarek replied, a gleam of amusement in his dark eyes.
Spock started to say something more, thought better of it, and fell silent.
"I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter, Spock," Sarek said quietly. "I assure you that you will not offend me."
"Even when I tell you that I speculate that you were concerned because you were constantly aware of the number of years that lay between you and Lorna--even if she was not troubled by them?"
"Not even then, Spock. Continue."
"The age difference would be a source of concern for you. . .because Lorna is from another time. You are the foundation of her life here. . .but, undoubtedly, you would have died first--barring accident or assassination. You had a decision to make--would have to determine if you would be able to-- Yes, those thoughts would have been troubling you when you were infected by the spores. They were telepathic, touched those thoughts. The spores acknowledged that, for you, the aging process was a 'disease,' and they cured it by rejuvenating you."
"Correct. Apparently from what we learned in your experiments with parallel universes (("...Simple Song", SHOWCASE III, December 1976)), that treatment, as well as the correction of my heart defect, was part of some universal plan. But your treatment, Spock, . . . . I said nothing when you told me, for the event was accomplished and was certainly done with the best of intentions. However, I wonder now if the resulting delivery from pressure to marry has made you any more contented with your life."
"It has not," Spock said flatly. "For a time, when the relief was new, and then when the twins were born, giving me even less responsibility for continuing our family line, I felt a freedom I had never known before, that no Vulcan had ever known. But absolute freedom has an unexpected component."
"Loneliness," said Sarek.
Spock's eyebrows elevated as he looked at his father.
"Spock, I have known loneliness, both before I met your mother, and after her death. . .until Lorna. If one works, one forgets it; during leisure, it returns. I have sensed your dissatisfaction during this leave, and have felt a small echo of it. But my children are here, and for me, Lorna will be home in five days. In twelve days, you will return to your ship, your work. . .and the possibility of ignoring the feelings that are trying to guide you toward the right goal at this time of your life."
"You would have me. . .be guided by feelings?"
"When they guide rightly, why should you ignore them? I believe you should be Bonded, Spock, but I also believe you should choose your own wife. If you wish it, I can arrange a marriage for you. However, if you truly envy my state, you might remember that twice I have arranged my own."
"No, Father, I do not wish you to arrange a marriage for me. I wish the decision to be mine. . .once I can determine whether the loneliness I feel is truly mine."
"I. . .beg your pardon?"
"Father. . .this is something I have not been able to discuss with anyone. May I consult with you?"
"Certainly, my son. Let us sit down in the shade. I think by now you know I have come to accept you as you are, Spock. Do not fear to tell me what is on your mind."
They sat beneath a blossoming arbor, and Spock carefully composed himself before he spoke again. "When I went into the parallel universe, something happened that I did not expect. I lost myself."
"I do not understand."
"I expected to maintain consciousness of myself, in fact, to be able to influence the actions of the Spock of that universe. But the moment I touched his mind. . .I was gone. His was the only consciousness. It was not sharing consciousness; it was knowing only his consciousness, with my own obscured completely. My only memories of that time are his memories. You remember, when I returned, what a shock it was to me to find you alive? You had--that is, the Sarek of the alternate universe had just died, and that was all I knew!"
"But you came to yourself as soon as you returned, Spock."
"Yes. I thought all was well. . .but time and again, as the months have passed since then, I have found my memory returning to that empty house--this house--that 'I' must put a family in."
"Spock. . .I have hesitated to ask you more about that time than you told Lorna and me when you returned. Yet. . .I will admit to great curiosity about what happened there. In that universe there was no epidemic of fever, such as killed your mother?"
"No. Neither she nor you were ill, but in the midst of the negotiations between Laundinium and Galicium. . . ."
"Yes, you told us. No fever, no Lorna, no pod plants--and no serum for the Spock of that universe?"
"Apparently not, for I--he--was concerned about finding a wife before his next Pon Farr." Spock fell silent.
"And what else, Spock?" Sarek prompted. "I had thought you did not tell us the story in detail because you feared that Lorna might somehow be offended by things concerning Amanda. But now, Lorna is not here. Why do you hesitate to tell me the whole story, from beginning to end?"
"It is very painful. . .and it would be to reveal my father's secret."
Sarek cocked a quizzical eyebrow. "To your father?"
"Travel between universes produces such logical paradoxes. Yet. . .there can be no harm in your knowing. The same day that I entered the alternate universe, and became totally lost in the consciousness of that Spock, word came that my father was dying, and that T'Pau requested that I return to Vulcan. . . ."
When Spock arrived at home, T'Pau greeted him at the door. "I am pleased that you were able to come," she said.
"How is my father?"
"It will be several days yet."
"Then I am in time?"
The woman put a hand on his shoulder. "In time to say goodbye, yes. But not to help him. He will let no one speak to him of that."
"But why, T'Pau? Sarek is not old. His work is not finished. There could be only one possible reason, and she--"
"Wilt thou speak of forbidden things?" T'Pau turned on Spock like a lioness. "Thou shalt allow thy father his desire and his dignity!"
"I must know why!" he insisted.
As she looked into Spock's intense eyes, T'Pau softened. "Spock," she said, "Sarek is at peace with his decision. Do not stir his blood more than the unquenched fever."
"I understand," said Spock--knowing in his heart that his words were an evasion. He would decide his course when he had talked with Sarek. "May I see him?"
She nodded. "You are the last. All other family members have said farewell. But he told me to let you in if you should arrive. . .at any time."
"Thank you. Where is he?"
"In his study."
The big house, built for large Vulcan families of the past, was empty now. It would soon be his house, his responsibility to put a family in it again. And that was why he had to ask the forbidden question.
He walked across the sunlit court and entered the study. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the gloom; the curtains were drawn, and incense burned in the fire-pot.
Sarek was seated in a large oaken rocking-chair--a family heirloom that Amanda had brought from Earth. It had always before stood by the hearth in the main room, always been "Father's chair" to Spock.
Although his eyes were open, Sarek did not seem to see his son at first. Then, after a few moments, he suddenly focused on Spock and said, his voice as vibrant as ever, "Spock. I am pleased that you could come, my son." He reached out to turn on the light. Spock recognized that as a sign of weakness; the logical thing would have been to open the curtains. Sarek also made no effort to stand. Again his eyes grew distant, then snapped back, and he crossed his hands, palms out toward his son.
A lump in his throat, Spock hurried forward to touch hands with him, then drew up a chair so that he could look into his father's face. Sarek seemed calm enough, but the greenish flush of his skin indicated fever. He seemed to be in that stage of the Pon Farr in which long periods of detachment alternated with brief flares of irritability; it was fortunate, Spock thought, that his interruption of his father's reverie had not provoked such a flare-up. He would have to tread softly.
"Father," he said, "it grieves me to learn of your decision to die rather than choose another wife."
"Would you have me replace your mother with another woman?"
"It would seem. . .logical."
"Do not mock the Vulcan Way, Spock!"
"I do not mock it. I only question your not following it. At a time when logic deserts you, Father, you have made an emotional decision."
"The decision was made long ago."
"I will not answer that question."
"You must. I will not leave until you do."
"Then you will stay and watch me die."
"Father. . .Mother would not want you to die. She would understand that Vulcan needs you."
"Spock, I refuse to discuss this with you," said Sarek, remaining impassive.
"You must discuss it. I know how you feel--or ought to feel. By this time you should have lashed out at me, more than once. What is keeping you calm. . .or who?"
"Go from me," said Sarek in a warning tone.
"No," replied Spock. "I must know, Father. I must know if it is possible between a Vulcan and a human!"
"It is forbidden!"
"I must know before I choose a wife! And I must choose soon. Should I follow your example and marry a human, it is statistically probably that I shall outlive her. If I marry a Vulcan, my human blood means that she will probably outlive me. The question will inevitably come up, either way."
Sarek remained silent, so Spock tried a different approach. "Father, you do not have to remarry to survive the Pon Farr."
His father paled. "You would not suggest--?!"
"That if you do not wish to surrender your mind, there are women who would feel honored to. . .serve you, without commitment."
"Spock, what do you take me for?"
"A man torn between loyalty to his planet and to the woman he loves. She is with you, is she not?"
"You may not speak of that!"
"I have spoken, and you have answered. But Mother, as I knew her, would never allow what you are doing. Father, I greatly fear that. . .you are prey to an illusion."
Sarek started to speak, then a faraway look came into his eyes, as if he listened to a distant voice. "No," he said firmly. Then his eyes refocused on Spock's as he continued, "No, you are wrong, my son. I am under no illusion, and I have good reason for what I am doing."
"Then let me see for myself," said Spock, reaching toward his father's face, his fingers positioned to aid in the mind touch.
Sarek struck his hand away. "Do you think I will let you touch my mind now? Feel the naked craving that is destroying me?"
"No, I would not try, if you truly felt the naked craving you speak of so dispassionately. But, Father, your mind is as clear as mine. Your symptoms are purely physical. Your mind is satisfied, but your body betrays you. I think you feel that Mother is with you--but that cannot be! She would never let you die! Please, let me touch your mind, Father. It is not too late, if I am right."
"No--" Sarek began, but again there came that look of listening to someone else. Then he said, "If I do not permit it, what will you do?"
Realizing that his father needed a logical reason for allowing what was possibly the most forbidden of Vulcan secrets to be revealed, Spock replied, "I will call in Healers, describe my suspicions, and let them try to save you."
"And thus the knowledge would go out of the family, to our abiding shame," said Sarek. "Very well, then--touch me and understand."
As father and son touched one another's faces, the mind-meld drew them together--and Spock became aware of the unmistakable presence of his mother.
//Yes, Spock, I am here,// she said; he heard her voice as clearly as he had ever heard it in her life. But was it Amanda, or an image created from Sarek's memory of her?
//I know you fear for Sarek's sanity more than for his life,// she said, //but, oh, my son, do you not recognize me?//
//Yes, Mother--but Father could have created you out of his memories. Because you are real to him, you are real to me. But my mother would never have allowed my father to die rather than marry another woman.//
//It is not jealousy, Spock; and it is Sarek's decision, not mine. In fact, it should not really be called a decision; your father truly has no choice.//
//Why?// demanded Spock.
//Amanda,// Sarek interjected, //Spock must know the whole story if he is to accept the truth of it. Son, will you consent to a deeper joining of our minds, so that you may experience directly what brought your mother and me to this pass?//
//You think it necessary?//
//If we do not, I fear that you will always doubt. In a deep mind-meld you cannot doubt that you will experience what I did--and what your mother did. That way you will have peace of mind, knowing that your father did not die because of an illusion.//
//Such a deep joining at this time is very dangerous, Father.//
//A diplomatic way of saying that you fear entrapment by a deranged mind. Yet moments ago, you yourself said that my mind was clear, Spock.//
//Please, Spock,// put in Amanda, //give us the chance to show you that I am not a demon to be exorcised.//
That stung--as it was meant to. Spock wondered if Sarek were able to imagine even his human wife using such an image. Yet. . .was it possibly a cry for help from somewhere in the depths of his father's mind--helping in ridding him of the illusion that was killing him? Spock could not ignore that possibility, even if he chanced fragmentation of his own identity.
//Very well,// he replied, //let me know your experiences.//
The merging was swift and powerful, a mental whirlpool into which he was swept helplessly, unable to control--and then unable to maintain his own identity. He was seeing fragmentary scenes from two points of view which did not focus until. . . .
Amanda loved Laundinium, for it reminded her of Earth--but Earth idealized. Fluffy clouds rode in blue skies, green meadows spread beneath, and even in the cities trees grew along the streets. The climate was ideal for humans--just the right temperature by day to allow the formal clothing of the diplomatic party to be comfortable; just cool enough at night, when the showers fell, for delightful sleep. Sarek, she knew, found it a bit too cool, the air a bit too moist, but his bodily control could keep him comfortable in far more severe conditions.
They were there to attempt a reconciliation between Laundinium and another planet in the system, Galicium, who were involved in a kind of cold war. The two planets had reached the technological stage of atomic energy, fast and easy interplanetary travel, and a medical technology which meant population growth to a point where it was becoming difficult to feed the people of Galicium, which did not have such an ideal climate.
There was sporadic trade between the two planets, Galicium purchasing Laundinium's food surpluses, but scientists predicted that in another twenty of its years, Laundinium would require all of its resources to feed its own people. Galicium, however, had huge supplies of uranium. Tensions were inevitably building up to a war that might decimate both planets.
That was when the Federation decided to step in. These people were at a cultural and technological level that would have sent them out into the galaxy within a very few years if they had not been so busy trying to guarantee their own survival. It was decided to reveal to them the existence of the Federation, and send Ambassador Sarek in as a mediator.
Getting Laundinium and Galicium to negotiate had not been easy, for when the Federation Ambassador arrived he found all of his powers called upon to combat the instant suspicion his alien appearance caused.
As the people of Galicium and Laundinium tested out human, the Federation scientists had decided that the population of the two planets was probably the work of the Preservers, who had apparently transported many Earth colonies about the galaxy. That should have reminded someone of the fact that many human cultures envisioned devils, demons, or whatever they termed the forces of evil, as being personified in forms very like Vulcans--but nobody thought of it.
If Amanda had not been able to convince the delegates that she was freely and happily wed to Sarek--and not "in his power"--the conference would probably have ended the day she and her husband arrived. However, her obvious trust in Sarek, along with her obviously human nature, had led to grudging acceptance of Sarek. His own diplomatic powers had soon gained him respect.
Now the negotiations were in recess. The Galician delegates had returned to their planet with a tentative treaty, and Sarek hoped that this time they would be back to sign it with only minor changes.
Meanwhile, Sarek and Amanda had some time to themselves. For two days they stayed in a house near the ocean, lent them by one of the Laundinian delegates. Sarek, having grown up on a world without moons or oceans, was fascinated by both on worlds that he visited. Amanda was privately certain that the combination of Earth's full moon and the surf against California's rocky beach had affected Sarek so much one long-ago night that he had given in to her love for him and agreed to their marriage. (("The Sensuous Thing To Do", FULL MOON RISING, J. Lorrah, Yeoman Press, 1976.))
Knowing that the Galician delegation could return at any time, after their brief solitude they returned to the city. They were staying near a huge park which ran through the center of the city, and the next afternoon they walked into the park to wander once more through the botanical gardens. An interest in flowers was one of the many things the partners in this "impossible" marriage shared.
When they had strolled undisturbed through the peaceful gardens, Amanda said, "Let's not go back yet. It's so lovely here."
"Very well," replied her husband. "Shall we sit here and watch people pass, as the Laundinians do?"
They sat on a bench near the edge of the gardens. A few people passed, most of them not even noticing that the couple were the famed Ambassador Sarek and his wife rather than a pair of ordinary lovers. One man, though, glanced at them, then did a double take, stared, blushed, then put his head down and hurried away.
Amanda laughed. "I thought for a while no one was going to notice us at all."
"Perhaps we should have tried to move among the populace more," observed Sarek. "The delegates have become used to my appearance, but the people of the planet seem disturbed to find a Vulcan in their midst."
"I think the man's reaction would have been the same if he had recognized an actor, or a politician--any famous person. He was startled, and then embarrassed to be caught staring."
As if to prove her point, two small children who had been hovering nearby got up the nerve to approach. "Are you Sarek?" asked the girl.
"Yes, I am," replied the Ambassador.
"See--I told you!" she hissed to the little boy, apparently her brother.
But he was staring at Sarek, who steeled himself for a question about his appearance. Instead, the boy asked, "Can you really fly between the stars?"
"Yes, we can," replied Sarek, "in a starship. It's much larger than the rockets you use between here and Galicium, and goes faster. Otherwise, it is much the same." No sense in trying to explain warp or impulse engines to these children.
"Can we go on a starship?" asked the girl.
"If your planets come to a treaty agreement, there will undoubtedly be trade with the Federation. One day you will have the opportunity to travel to the stars, if you wish it."
Amanda sat back during the conversation, enjoying the faces of the children, so obviously fascinated by her husband. She knew he did not realize that to them he was some kind of magical figure, promising them the impossible.
All too soon a feminine voice was heard, calling, "Jahnni, Glynned--" and the children's mother came around the bend in the path. "Oh!" she gasped when she saw the group. Pulling at her tunic and lifting a hand to push back her hair, she said, "Mr. Ambassador. . .My Lady. . .I am so sorry that my children have been bothering you."
"Not at all," replied Sarek. "We have been discussing star travel."
"They are lovely children," added Amanda.
The woman flusteredly gathered her chicks and began pushing them in the direction of home, a stammering portrait of mixed embarrassment and pleasure at the encounter.
Moments after they bad gone, Sarek's communicator chirped. He pulled it from his belt and flipped it open. The message was that the Galicians had returned.
Even as he listened, Sarek rose, and Amanda with him. Out of the corner of her eye she caught a movement, turned her head, and saw the man who had seemed so embarrassed to see them earlier, rising from behind a bush a few feet away.
In that frozen moment, she saw him lift what was plainly a gun and aim it at her husband. She screamed, and at the same time launched herself at Sarek, intending to knock him safely to the ground. But his feet were firmly planted-- it was as if she had thrown herself at a wall. As she hit him, she heard the shot--then felt herself knocked against Sarek a second time by an irresistible force. They fell together.
The pain did not begin until she was on the ground, on top of her husband. Vaguely, she heard footsteps running away, heard Sarek saying, "Amanda! No!" then apparently into the communicator, "Get a doctor here--fast! My wife has been shot!"
Even more dimly, she heard the confirmation from the communicator as she gave herself up to pain. Sarek sat up, turning her gently until she rested against his left shoulder. An involuntary groan was torn from her throat at the movement.
"Amanda. My wife! Be calm. A medical team is coming. Share my strength until they arrive."
Vainly, he tried to press folds of her cloak against the flow of her blood, but she could feel her life ebbing away, feel her heart giving a few painful spasms rather than beating.
With a great effort she opened her eyes, saw her husband's pale face. Gasping for breath, she felt and heard the rattle of blood in her lungs, knew it was the end. "Sarek," she choked out. "My love. . .my husband. . . ."
Calling upon every ounce of strength, she tried to lift her right hand to his face, could not manage it alone. He took her hand and placed it as she desired, leaning his cheek against it to keep it in place as he held her with his left arm, placing his right hand against her face.
"Live, Amanda!" he demanded. "Help will be here soon. Live, if you love me as. . .as--I love you!"
The words were spoken aloud, a final desperation effort, but even the words she had waited forty years to hear him say could work no magic now--except to make her mind thrill to the touch of his. The pain was gone now. Darkness was edging in on her vision until all she could see were her husband's eyes staring into hers.
//Amanda, come to me. Come to me! Share consciousness, my wife. No, do not slip away. . .feel my presence. . .feel it! Feel my need for you.//
It would have been easy to drift away, to rest, but her husband. . . needed. . .her. . . . The effort was too great. Blackness descended.
Suddenly she was bathed in longing, in a desperate, painful despair. Sarek! No--he could not feel like that! He was Vulcan. . .and she could feel the tears burning in his eyes and throat! Such emotion would kill him! She must find her way to him, comfort him. . .somehow. . . .
//Here, my wife--my love. Come to me. Share consciousness until your body can be repaired. Do not die! Live Amanda! You must live!//
Suddenly the blackness was gone--and she was looking into her own face, seeing her own blue eyes, empty, dead. //Sarek. My husband, I am with, you. Do not grieve so, my love. I am safely with you until. . .until the ship's doctors can repair my body.//
His relief almost overwhelmed her, but in seconds he regained control. Then he looked down at the lifeless body in his arms and gently closed her eyes. Looking through Sarek's eyes, Amanda saw the mingled ruby and emerald stains across her clothing, and realized for the first time that her husband was wounded.
He paused, allowing himself to become aware of his own body. She felt his pain, his probing of his right shoulder to discover that the single projectile had gone completely through Amanda's body and lodged in her husband's. She must have jumped high in the light gravity when she tried to push him to safety, for the bullet to have pierced her heart and lung, yet ended in his shoulder. Deliberately, Sarek contracted the vessels around the wound to stop the bleeding, then put the pain from his mind.
All of this had taken no more than three or four minutes. Only now were people gathering, hesitantly. . and then a law officer rode up. "Get back, everyone," he told the crowd, then bent over the couple on the ground.
Taking in the situation at a glance, he said gently, "Mr. Ambassador let me help you. You're hurt, sir. Here, let's just lay your wife down on the grass--."
But Sarek would not let the young policeman touch Amanda's body. "I will do it," he said, and laid her gently down, remaining beside her, leaning against the bench.
"Perhaps you should lie down, sir," suggested the officer. "You're bleeding pretty badly, and I'm afraid I don't know what to do for you."
Just then the air sparkled, and two men and a woman in blue Starfleet uniforms appeared, part of the medical crew of the Starship Hood, orbiting overhead. The policeman backed away as they took over, turning to the gathered people to find out if anyone had seen the shooting.
The two doctors bent over Sarek and Amanda with their scanners, and the woman gave a muffled sob as she read the results on Amanda. She was Dr. Angelo, and she and Amanda had become friends on the journey.
She turned to join Dr. Lee, who was bent over Sarek. "Help my wife," said the Vulcan.
"I. . .I can't, sir," she replied. "I'm very sorry, but--she's dead."
"You will revive her," he said impassively. "You have the equipment on board ship."
The two doctors looked at one another. Lee shook his head. "We'll do everything we can, Mr. Ambassador," he said. "We're going to beam you up now. That bullet has to come out."
"I can wait. You must revive Amanda at once, before it is too late."
"Don't worry," said Dr. Lee, "we have enough doctors and equipment in Sick Bay to do everything we can for both of you at once."
Afraid to let Sarek know the fear she felt, Amanda said nothing as they were beamed up and taken to Sick Bay. Once there, the doctors began preparing Sarek for surgery, "You must take care of my wife first," he insisted. "Time is of the essence."
"Dr. Angelo is doing everything possible," replied Dr. Lee, and administered a sedative. As Sarek sank reluctantly into unconsciousness, Amanda was surprised to find that she was unaffected. Sarek's eyes were closed, so she could not see, but through his Vulcan ears she could hear everything going on here and in the next room.
Footsteps. Dr. Angelo's voice. "Dr. Lee, what do you want me to do about. . .the Lady Amanda?"
"Put her on heart-lung support and see, if you can get any brain response."
"Doctor, you know that's no use."
"Dr. Angelo, do you want to be the one to tell the Ambassador that we didn't even try?"
"No, sir. I'll do it."
She was back in a few minutes to aid in the surgery on Sarek.
"Any response?" asked Lee.
"Did you expect any? What do you suppose made the Ambassador expect it?"
"Even Vulcans love their wives, I guess. Or he forgot she was human, or never really knew how fragile she was. If she'd been Vulcan, even after as much as half an hour the heart-lung support would have brought her back and kept her going until a transplant could be done. But a human? After five minutes there's too much risk of permanent brain damage, and she was dead at least fifteen minutes before we got her into life support."
Amanda, listening to this, felt a strange lack of response in herself. The automatic physical responses of pain in the stomach, rapid heartbeat, tears--all were denied her. Yet she felt despair. What was she to do now? She couldn't return to her body, nor could she remain with Sarek. Yet she couldn't leave him now, to wake up and find her irretrievably gone.
"What the Hell?" Dr. Lee gasped suddenly. "He's going sour! His heart! Get that life-support machine in here--quick!"
While Sarek was unconscious, Amanda could not feel his pain; she was in a kind of limbo, able to do nothing but listen helplessly. His heart--again? But the defect had been repaired! He had been in perfect health! Was his subconscious mind giving up because he knew she was dead?
Perhaps even in his drugged sleep he could hear her. //Sarek!// she tried to project to him, //Oh, my love, my husband, do not die! Vulcan needs you! The Federation needs you!//
Even as the doctors worked to restore Sarek's heartbeat to its normal Vulcan pace, Amanda pleaded with him to remain alive. She felt no response, only the even consciousness of his presence. That did not fade, and she clung to it as one hope in the darkness until the doctors had regulated his heartbeat, and the operation proceeded.
When it was over, and Sarek lay in one of the beds in Sick Bay, Amanda could feel sensations begin as he drifted from drugged unconsciousness into normal sleep. She was able to feel him breathing, then, and the dull ache in his shoulder. Exploring, she could feel every part of his body as if it were her own. Experimentally, she tried to move his left hand; there was resistance, and then it jerked slightly.
Sarek awoke, looking to the left side of the bed, thinking someone had touched him. Then he recognized his surroundings and remembered.
//I am with you.//
//Not for long--not this way. The doctors will have revived your body by now. Your consciousness must return to it lest it be damaged from lack of control.//
//Oh, Sarek! I must tell you. The doctors did everything--everything--but there was no way they could restore my body to life. It had been too long, my husband.//
//I cannot accept that.//
//You must, and now you must accept the fact that I must leave you.//
//It is wrong, Sarek.//
//I cannot. My time is over. You have much time yet to come. One day we will be reunited, but not until you have given many more years of service to Vulcan and the Federation.//
//I have very few years left to give.//
//No, Sarek--you are young and strong. Eventually it will become necessary for you to choose another wife. Therefore it is best that I leave you now, not delay our parting.//
//Stay just long enough to learn the truth, Amanda. Then, if you still wish it, part from me.//
//What 'truth?' What have you kept hidden from me, Sarek?//
//It is true that by Vulcan standards I am still reasonably young, Amanda. But I am not strong. My wife, did it never occur to you to wonder why the Vulcan Healers gave me medication for my heart and advised me to retire, rather than restoring me to full health with the operation Dr. McCoy later performed?//
//No. I suppose I didn't want to ask that question.//
//It was because the risk of the operation was not worth the temporary benefits.//
//Temporary? Dr. McCoy said you were completely recovered.//
//I was, to the best of his knowledge. But I suffer from a genetic defect--.//
//A transplant! Won't that help?//
//The defect is not in the heart itself, but causes irregularities which damage the heart.//
//A pacemaker, then. Oh, Sarek, there are so many ways--!//
//Do you think the Healers gave up without considering them all? Their final conclusion was that no treatment could offer more than a temporary abatement of the problem. Dr. McCoy's operation has given me perhaps three or four more years of active life, for which I am grateful. But once the attacks begin to recur--.//
//Oh, my husband--you had an attack in the middle of the operation on your shoulder!//
//Ah--the excessive control necessary to keep composure under the circumstances. If I return to retirement, I shall live on for several years, perhaps--but, Amanda, I do not want those years without you.//
//I understand now,// she replied. //I shall stay with you, my husband, for as long as you want me. But--without my physical presence there will come a time. . . .//
//According to the Healers, Amanda, I would have had very little chance of living through another Pon Farr. The possibility of literally dying in your arms gave me great concern--and I had decided that if the symptoms began, I would tell you at once, before the onset of madness, and if you wished it, transfer then.//
//As you have done. It is an accepted practice among our people, as wives frequently outlive their husbands. Ordinarily, of course, Vulcans our age would not consider it, as the surviving spouse would have many years ahead, and would probably wish to remarry--and a male would have to.//
//I could not imagine being married to anyone else,// remarked Amanda.
//And I am selfish enough to have asked you to forgo the possibility,// he replied. //The "logical" reasons I would have offered would have been your shorter life span, and your sense of duty to the Federation.//
//'Duty to the Federation?'//
//Don't you think the Federation Council knows we are a team? They may ask for Ambassador Sarek for a particular assignment, but no one could imagine him going about it without Lady Amanda. You would have been accepted as Ambassador in my place--as I must now become Ambassador in yours, here on Laundinium. There has certainly been no question about which of us was more central to this mission, has there?//
//I will help you, Sarek. Oh, my love, I ought to feel so guilty!//
//Because, I'm so. . .happy! Happy that you're dying, because it means I don't have to leave you. It's so selfish!//
//That is why we have gotten along so well over all these years, my wife--when it comes to one another, we are equally selfish!//
//Can love exist without possessiveness?//
//I do not know, Amanda--but if we are both contented. . .all right, "happy". . .what does it matter?//
Spock swam slowly back to consciousness of his own identity, separate from that of his parents'.
He knew the outcome of the mission to Laundinium: The murderer had turned out to be a Galician--not a spy, but a man deranged enough by the pressures of living in a disaster-threatened society that fear had made him attempt to destroy his one hope of a peaceful future. He had meant to kill Sarek, of course; when he found that Amanda, a human with whom he could identify, had died instead, he confessed.
Shame, perhaps, made the Galician delegation more willing to grant concessions. Compassion, perhaps, made the Laundinians more cooperative with Sarek. The treaty was signed within a week of his return to the negotiations.
He had accepted only two more missions after that, and then six months ago Sarek had announced his retirement for a second time. His son had wondered why, but been unable to find out.
Now Spock looked into his father's eyes. "I understand," he said. "I am grateful that you have allowed me this knowledge, and I grant you the right to your decision. I will mourn you, Father, but I shall also be content to know that you are with Mother."
"Spock," said Sarek with an effort. "I am growing weak. I must tell you one more thing, for you will question it later."
"What is that?"
"All your genetic data are on file at the Academy. I had the Healers study them carefully. You have not inherited my defect."
"That is welcome news, Father, with the time coming when I must choose a wife."
"Yes. I wish I. . .we. . .could have known your choice. But go now. I must rest. Be thankful for your human blood, my son, for it has saved you from an early death. And for your human mother, who has given you far more than you can allow yourself to recognize."
"And for my Vulcan father," replied Spock, "who has given me the courage to break with tradition, knowing that we part now until we meet again in another life." He took a deep breath and dared. "Mother, I love you. And Father. . .I love you, too. May you find Peace together." Then he rose and left the room.
When Spock had finished his story, he sat silently for a long while, waiting for his father to speak. Sarek seemed lost in thought. Finally he said very softly, "So it would have been possible."
"Mother would not have allowed it."
"And she would have been right. . .in this universe."
"You didn't try--?" Spock was immediately sorry he had let his curiosity drive him to such a personal question, but Sarek did not appear offended.
"Amanda went into a coma while the Healers still thought they could save her life. . .and did not come out of it. There was no opportunity. But in the long, lonely days after her death, I often wondered. . . ."
Spock was hardly listening. Twice my father has found such devotion. Why can I not find it once?
He realized his father had spoken his name more than once. "Forgive me, Father. I was lost in thought."
"You are living too many other people's lives, my son."
"I. . .beg your pardon?"
"You are no more the Spock of that alternate universe than I am that Sarek. His duties are not your duties--nor should you see marriage as a duty in any case. Certainly not as a duty someone else has assigned you. Your Starfleet duties are your choice; so should be any other duties you take on."
"You did not feel this way when I. . .forsook my duty to Vulcan to join Starfleet."
"No, I did not, for at that time I was under the same delusion that you are now." After all, Sarek thought, his lips twitching with amusement at the irony of the situation, working for the Superiors does not make one instantly perfect! "You were my duty to Vulcan; when you left your home planet, it was my failure. Spock, do not make the same mistake I did. You have no life to live but your own. If you marry, marry for yourself; if you have children, have them because you want them, not because you owe me grandchildren."
A weight lifted from Spock's shoulders. "You have the twins now--."
"No. They are not a replacement for you, my son. Nor will I make the mistake this time of trying to determine their lives for them."
"Father. . .I understand, and I thank you. But. . .now you have aroused my curiosity, a very Vulcan failing, I believe."
"One which we share. What are you curious about?"
"If at the time you felt your marriage was a duty to Vulcan. . .why did you marry my mother?"
"Father, it could not have seemed logical!"
The faintest of smiles touched Sarek's features. "My son, one day you will know how logical such things can seem, at the right time. Lorna, too, has asked me to tell her how I came to marry Amanda. She will be home in a few days. Perhaps, at that time, it will seem logical to tell the story to both of you."
NOTE: This story first appeared in DESPATCH #29, the official zine for the Mark Lenard International Fan Club. Permission was given at that time for this reprint.
Get Kraith, Showcase, and Jean Lorrah's NTM fanzines on paper: