"Dont misunderstand me, Captain. Starfleet Command duly appreciates your having secured that Vulcan probe from out of nowhere. But, you know the Vulcans, dont you?" Admiral Fitzgerald stared meaningfully from Captains Pike viewscreen.
The captain nodded. "I certainly do, Admiral. They are, let us say, somewhat...particular in regards to their private interests, and they...abhor any dealings with Starfleet. I still cant see what they object about. All we did was to beam that derelict aboard, and the officer who identified it is a Vulcan!"
"I know all that, Pike," Fitzgerald retorted, "but the point is that your Vulcan is a Starfleet officer, and the probe was salvaged by a Starfleet vessel. The Vulcan High Council consider the thing much too valuable to be left in Starfleet hands and to be examined by any personnel other than their own experts. In other words, I want you to cease any test you are conducting on that probe, and to take it over to Vulcan with all possible speed. The last thing Starfleet Command wants is an incident with the Vulcan High Council."
"Understood, sir. But does that mean canceling our stopover at Starbase Nine? Were scheduled there for repairs and restocking of supplies."
"No, dont change your plans. Just send that probe in your fastest shuttlecraft with a couple of your best to look after it. They will meet with you later at Starbase Nine. Oh, and make sure that the handover is done with all due formalities. You know how particular the Vulcan authorities are with protocol and ceremony."
"We shall do our best, Admiral. Ill see to it right away."
"Good. Its up to you now, Captain. I need not remind you that your mission on the Enterprise is drawing to its close. An incident with Vulcan would not look too good on your record." And on those parting words, Fitzgeralds face faded from view.
Pike switched off the comlink and sat back, a frown on his face. "Damn!" he mused. "A mix-up with Vulcan...and only four months before my promotion. Just my rotten luck! But who could imagine that the thing we picked up tumbling all by itself in space would be an antique Vulcan probe! At least my Science department has had a field day over it. Never seen Spock so excited, if the term can apply to a Vulcan! Even Number One lost some of her cool, and that takes some doing."
He sighed. "Now, the question is: Which of my officers shall I dispatch to Vulcan? A couple of my best, Fitzgerald said. Well, I have the very people required, the only ones I know to be capable of confronting a roomful of Vulcans and coming out unscathed!"
With a chuckle, Pike pressed the intercom on his desk. "Number One, Mister Spock, report to my quarters immediately." Then he called Engineering and briskly asked, "Mister Scott, which of our long range shuttles can you fit for departure as soon as possible?"
"Any one would do, Captain, but where to exactly?"
"To Vulcan, then on to Starbase Nine."
"In that case, take the Copernicus, sir. I can have it ready for you in three hours."
"Make it two, Mister Scott. Pike out." The door buzzer sounded. "Yes, come in!"
At his call, the door slid open and in came a striking woman whose raven hair framed a pensive face.
"Ah, Number One. Take a seat. We have a problem," Pike declared.
"With Starfleet, sir?" she asked in surprise.
"No, with Vulcan. It seems that" He was interrupted by the door buzzer. "Come in!" His Vulcan science officer entered his quarters. "Sit down, Spock. As I was saying," Pike went on, "that treasure trove of yours, Lieutenant, is causing some unpleasantness between Starfleet and your people."
"Indeed, sir?" The Vulcan officer looked perplexed.
"Yes. The Vulcan authorities, apparently, do not appreciate our fiddling with their probe, and they have demanded it be returned. So we are ordered to transfer it to Vulcan without delay."
"Sir," Spock said, "I have finally deciphered the security code and opened the panel of entry. It would be illogical not to proceed when"
"No, Lieutenant," Pike cut in. "Sorry, but no more tinkering. Starfleet orders. You must give your toy back. Put everything back into place, and Scott will help you secure it in a shockproof container. Hes preparing the Copernicus for departure."
"Understood, sir," Spock replied, swallowing his disappointment.
Number One remarked, "Captain, I dont see any reason why the Vulcans should choose to object. Were it not for us, their probe would be probably be lost forever."
"Exactly what I told Admiral Fitzgerald, Commander, and you two can politely remind the Vulcan authorities as well. You are the most qualified officers for this assignment. How long do you estimate the time travel to Vulcan? Four, five days?"
The two officers shared a glance. "I should say four days at the shuttles maximum of Warp Factor Three, Captain," said Number One.
"Four point two-one days," added Spock.
"Right! Naturally, after delivering their probe back to them, you will proceed to Starbase Nine as scheduled. I want you to leave for Vulcan as soon as possible, so better get going," Pike concluded, standing up. "Oh, Spock, by the way, I think you have some leave time accumulated. Why dont you take advantage of this mission to spend it on your native planet?"
Spock stood by the door and kept silent.
"How about that?" Pike insisted. "How long has it been since you were on Vulcan?"
"Nine years, eight months and twenty-six days, Captain."
"What?" The captain and his exec shared a startled glance. "That long? Dont you think its high time to pay your folks a call, Spock?"
"Yes, sir." The Vulcan did not looked overjoyed at the prospect.
"Come on, Spock!" Pike exclaimed. "Dont tell me you wont be glad to visit with your friends!"
"I have no friends on Vulcan, Captain," Spock flatly replied and, turning on his heel, he departed, leaving his senior officers staring after him.
"Do you know," Pike declared at last, "I just realized that after all these years, I know Spock as little as I did when we first met?"
Number Ones lips curled up in a tiny smile as she softly said, "Perhaps thats what makes Vulcans so fascinating."
"Speak for yourself!" Pike snorted. "Well, I dont know if my successor will manage to make out our Vulcan, but I wish him the best of luck!"
Spock was striding along the corridor, a prey to conflicting emotions which he tried to control. Aware of the curious glances coming his way, he stepped swiftly into a turbolift and ordered, "Shuttlebay, Deck Nineteen."
As the lift sped on, Spock took a deep breath and calmly analyzed these un-Vulcan feelings which invaded his being. First: frustrationfor being deprived of the gratification of studying the inner mechanism of the probe. Second: irritationtowards Starfleet Command for yielding to the demands of the High Council without the least consideration for the hard work accomplished by the Enterprise Science department. They might at least have proposed a team work, but no, the device had to be delivered untouched to Vulcan, and he was assigned to the task. A logical choice, perhaps, but an unforseen situation.
Vulcan! Spock closed his eyes and let his longing for his homeworld take hold of his mind with images...sensations...the red sand dunes in the Sas-a-Shar shimmering under the giant sun, the hot smell of sand and rock crushed by his boots as he trekked alone in the desert, a source of water babbling softly in the oasis, sweet-smelling blossoms in his mothers garden. These visions were so vivid that he almost ached with homesickness. He usually dealt with bouts of nostalgia through meditation and intensive work.
But the idea of returning to Vulcan which he had left nine point seven three years ago under painful circumstances released a wave of emotions all the more intense that he kept ever present in his mind the memory of his parents as he had seen them last: Sarek, stiff with barely controlled anger at the rebellion of his son, and his mother, her eyes bright with tears, torn between her husband and her son.
Could he hope to meet them? And if so, what would be their reaction?
Amanda, he knew, would be overjoyed to welcome him home, but his father? Would he forget the past and accept him back in the family? But his son was coming to Vulcan as a Starfleet officer, to carry out the orders of Starfleet Command. That alone might create further misunderstanding.
Spock sighed. Kaiidth! Only time would tell. Vain speculations were pointless. He had duties to perform which required his immediate attention. As the turbolift came to a halt, Spock resolutely dismissed such disturbing thoughts, and, having composed himself, proceeded to the shuttlebay.
Four days later, the Copernicus assumed orbit around Vulcan as scheduled. Upon contacting Vulcan Space Central, the Starfleet officers were instructed to make planet fall and land on the area back of the Science Academy complex.
"This is your planet, Mister Spock. Would you take the helm?" offered Number One.
"Affirmative!" Spock assumed the helm console and, sending the craft on a diving course, banked and veered toward their objective with consummate skill to smoothly touch down on a landing strip. As he switched off the power, his senior officer tossed him a quizzical glance. "Good show, Lieutenant," she said.
A tilt of the eyebrow was Spocks reply, which sent Flight Engineer Ramsay and Security Officer Kampala chuckling at the back. They remembered Captain Pikes last recommendation when he had seen them off: "...and, of course, dont forget you are Starfleet. I count on you to make us proud!"
Already a group of Vulcans in full array were approaching. Some technicians, a large anti-grav sled in tow, followed.
"They dont waste a minute," quipped Ramsay.
"Why should they? Were expected. Open the hatch, please," Number One calmly replied.
As soon as they stepped outside, they were hit full in the face by the heat and the glare of the trinary star system of 40 Eridani. The Humans withstood the assault the best they could, as for Spock, it was with inward trepidation that he set foot on his home world for the first time in nine years.
The Vulcan officials halted in front of them, hands raised in the Vulcan salute. "Who is in charge?" one of the Vulcans asked.
"I am, sir," Number One inclined her head. "Im the first officer of the Enterprise. This is Flight Engineer Ramsay, Security Officer Kampala," she introduced her crewmates, "and Science Officer Spock."
Stepping from behind Number One, Spock raised his hand likewise. "Live long and prosper."
The Vulcans openly stared at Spock. One thin, white-haired man moved forward and peered up at his face. "Spock? Son of Sarek?" he asked.
"Yes, Professor Sradek. Vulcan honors us with this reception. We come to serve."
The face of his old mentor lit up perceptibly. "So," he said, "you have come back. Ah, you have changed, my boy, but not so much so that I cannot tell my student from this fine officer! Your parents will be...pleased, I am sure."
"They have not been informed, sir. There was no time," Spock told him.
"Indeed? Then they should be advised at once. Let me..."
"Sradek!" a stern-looking man broke in, "if you would defer this personal exchange to a more appropriate moment, we could deal with the business on hand."
"My apologies, Sharik," the professor dryly replied. "I should not delay your plans even for a moment."
Sharik ignored the veiled sarcasm and turned loftily to Number One, "If you would, Commander?"
On her signal, Ensign Ramsay touched a console. The rear end of the shuttle opened, revealing in the hold a voluminous container clamped to the deck. The sled was brought forward, and it only took a few minutes to load and secure the precious cargo onto it.
While the Vulcan team towed it away, Sharik enquired, "How much time can you spare us before going on your way, Commander?"
"Only a few hours, Im afraid. We have a tight schedule as we must rendezvous with our ship," she replied. "But our craft needs servicing, and I would appreciate it if we could have some assistance."
"We shall see to it at once." Sharik signaled to one of his party. "In the meantime, will you and your science officer be our guests? You must be in need of refreshment, and there are points to be discussed and questions to be answered."
After a quick glance at Spock, Number One accepted the invitation which sounded much like a request, and, moments later, the two officers were escorted with due ceremonyl into the inner sanctum of the Science Academy, attracting on the way a good deal of curiosity.
As Spock walked through the halls, memories of the years spent within these walls, striving for excellence, doing his utmost to come up to his fathers expectations, crowded in on his mind. Those had been years of hardship, of solitude, but also of fulfillment in the pursuit of knowledge. When, however, he had completed his training and obtained the highest Academic degrees, succeeding even beyond Sareks most exacting expectations, he had turned down a highly coveted position in the Astrophysics department and applied to Starfleet Academy. A decision which had severed all normal relations with his father.
Spocks withdrawn expression caught the eye of his intuitive superior. "Reminds you of your boyhood, doesnt it?" she whispered.
"Are these academicians your former teachers?"
"Most of them, yes," he replied.
"Indeed?" she said and thought that the welcome they had given him left much to be desired. But they were Vulcans, after all.
Before more could be exchanged, they were ushered into a high-ceilinged room which Spock at once recognized as the meeting room of the board of professors. Several Vulcans, males and females, were standing about and talking quietly. They all turned round and fell silent as the group entered.
Professor Sharik made brief introductions, then, according to Vulcan tradition, drinks and fruit were offered.
A few courtesies had hardly been exchanged when a hush fell over the room as an imposing Vulcan male, in full Vulcan regalia, entered. He walked with stately pace to the head of the table, then, having gathered everyones attention, solemnly declared, "Commander, Lieutenant, greetings. I am Stavros, the Dean of the Science Academy. Will you all please be seated?"
After a pause, he resumed. "As you are aware, ten days ago, the High Council was notified by Starfleet of the discovery, by one of their vessels, of an artifact of undetermined age and presumably Vulcan. The High Council, acting on our recommendation, requested that the probe be transferred here at once, which was done with suitable promptness," he added with a nod in the direction of the Starfleet officers. "I am told that there is another twenty minutes delay for the casing to be removed. In the meantime, Commander, I should like you to give us an account of the circumstances of the finding, if you please."
"Certainly, sir," said Number One, "but, with your approval, I shall leave it to Science Officer Spock, who is better qualified to supply you with the relevant information."
"Very well. We are, of course, aware of the good reputation that Spock has acquired in the Federation among scientific spheres. You may proceed, Spock."
Spock, disconcerted by this unexpected recognition, paused a few seconds to marshal his thoughts, then began, "The Enterprise was leaving Sector Twelve when I picked up a contact at the fringe of sensor range. Once at visual range, we located a derelict adrift in space, and, accordingly..."
As Spocks deep and precise voice filled the room, the commander watched with some amusement these solemn Vulcans listening attentively to their former student. And there he sat, hands clasped on the tabletop, looking as calm and collected as if he were discoursing to his fellow officers in the briefing room of the Enterprise instead of a board of eminent Vulcan scholars. She paid scant attention as she had attended the briefings and read his reports. She knew how Spock had finally reached that stunning conclusion that the rickety old thing was an antique probe from the origins of Vulcan space exploration.
Spock, however, had hardly concluded his brief report that questions and comments arose around the table. One of scholars present stood and pronounced, "I strongly object to Starfleets common practice of seizing whatever comes within its grasp for supposed scientific examination!"
"We only follow standard procedures," Spock calmly explained. "Our mission is essentially to explore the unknown."
"Possibly," countered a dour-faced woman, "but that does not grant you leave to appropriate what is not yours nor to tamper with it."
"With due respect, Professor, we do not tamper with our findings; we study them in our laboratories," Spock curtly said. "This is done on every scientific vessel in the Federation."
"Spock is right, TLang," Sradek put in. "The practice is similar on the Intrepid."
Not best pleased by this remark, TLang kept a disdainful silence, but Sharik took over. "Are we to understand, Spock, that Starfleet personnel have taken upon themselves to handle this probe without Vulcan authorization?"
"Sir," he replied, innocence personified, "I fail to see the logic of your question. How could we know it to be a Vulcan artifact if we did not examine it in the first place?"
"A good point, Lieutenant," murmured Stavros, who sat, hands steepled, and observed the debate like a referee at a contest.
But Sharik was not put off so easily for he declared scathingly. "This is unacceptable! A typical example of Starfleet high-handed interference. So, you have, on your own authority, tampered with an invaluable relic of our past, without even considering the damage you could cause. I find your actions irresponsible!"
"Sir," Spock said icily, "I am a scientist. I head the Science department on my ship, and as such, I follow standing orders. If I or any of my subordinates have in any way impaired the probe, which is highly unlikely, I take full responsibility."
A tense silence settled in. Number One watched and listened with growing amazement. She could not understand the hostility shown by some scholars to Starfleet in general and Spock in particular. Some gratitude might have been expected, but no, they only seemed intent on nitpicking whatever had been done. She had to hand it to Spock; he could give them tit for tat, with all due respect, of course, but she could tell that he held himself under control with some difficulty. The silly goats! Dont they realize that but for him they would have nothing to gloat over?
Vulcans, fortunately, are touch telepaths, so they could not have known what the lovely woman sitting demurely at her place thought of them.
But the voice of Sradek broke in her reflections. "Stavros," he said quietly, "we are wasting time in sterile discussions. Why not wait until we see the probe then decide wether damage was done or not? I, for one, would be interested to hear from Spock what exactly made him deduce that the probe is Vulcan."
As if on cue, a young man came in and nodded to Stavros. The Dean of the Science Academy rose to his feet, saying, "The probe is now ready for inspection. Let us go."
While the company filed out with assumed indifference, Number One said to Spock sotto voce, "Do I have to go, too?"
"Not necessarily," Spock answered likewise.
"Then I had better go and check with Ramsay. But what about you, Spock? Are you going to spend some of your accrued leave here?"
He hesitated. "I do not believe so," he said at last.
"Well, I dont blame you. Starfleet seems rather unappreciated around here. I am surprised at this hostility. What do they find so objectionable?"
Spock looked uncomfortable. "It is a difficult problem, Commander," he said. "Starfleet was created for interstellar exploration, but it is also a military organization. Our ships are armed with lethal weapons, and that is unacceptable to some Vulcans. It goes against our principles of non-violence."
"That is all very well," Number One retorted, "but what about the hazards in deep space? Dont they realize that without weapons we are helpless before the Kzinti, the Klingons, the Orions?"
"I know," Spock sighed. "Unfortunately, it seems to be the subject of an endless debate on Vulcan."
"I see." She gave him a considering look, sensing some deep, secret pain.
A voice suddenly broke in. "Commander! Spock! Shall we proceed?"
Stavros was waiting for them, impatience cloaked in Olympian calm. "Ah, Professor," said Number One, "If you will excuse me, I must see to our shuttle and check that all is ready for flight. I hope you do not mind if I do not join you. Besides I am not that much of an expert in that field, so..."
The prim features of the principal registered disdain. "We are aware of your limitations, Commander. You may go."
"Very well, sir! Ill see you later, Mister Spock." With a short nod, she about turned smartly and marched down the gallery, muttering between gritted teeth. "Oh, I love it when I am taken for a fool! Sheer Vulcan arrogance! Who do they think they are anyway?"
Unfortunately, Number One had not realized that she was still within Vulcan hearing range. Stavros walked on imperturbably, but Spock sighed silently. This was certainly not going to improve Vulcan-Starfleet relations.
The probe stood in its scarred and battered glory in the middle of a large workroom and a host of fascinated Vulcans. Everyone who could find an excuse to be in this section of the Academy had come there to stare.
They made way for Stavros who appraisingly studied the scorched shell, the cracked solar panels, then asked a man who was giving the artifact a close examination, "Your opinion, Sorann?"
Sorann straightened up. "At first sight, and pending confirmation from the Space Museum, I should say this exhibit dates back to the SinKatuk era. If the documents I have sent for tally with this, then we have here a unique museum piece, Stavros: the only probe left from the four launched by our very first Space Agency."
"Indeed? Interesting." Stavros nodded appreciatively then turned to Spock who stood quietly aside, hands clasped behind his back. "This seems to corroborate your conclusions, Spock," he said.
"So," Sorann said, "it was you who detected and identified this prize, Spock? I might have known. I am gratified that my teachings have not been wasted. But I assume that you could not have access to our private archives, am I right? Then on what evidence did you base your premise?"
"On a simple design, Professor, a symbol," Spock quietly replied.
"A symbol? I have not seen any mark or symbol," Sorann stated.
"Where, Spock, explain!" Sradek urged on.
"Here, partly worn away and almost undetectable," Spock pointed out at a faded stain under one of the solar panels. "If you take a close look, you will recognize the sign of TKhut, the mark of the XarKol Clan."
Perplexed glances were exchanged but Sradeks face shone with barely controlled emotion. "Of course! The Clan of the Four Warriors. The Clan is now extinct but their legend is a legacy of our past. Spock, this is truly fascinating!"
"Can you not be more specific, Sradek? Which legend do you exactly refer to?" inquired Stavros.
"The saga of the Braves of TKhut. Dont you remember your classics?" To Spocks secret amusement, his former history teacher intoned, "They rode through the days They rode through the nights Over sand, over fire..."
A sarcastic voice broke in. "Dont you have better to do than quote old, barbaric tales which should be best forgotten?"
The old Vulcan turned to Sharik who eyed him with disapproval. "I beg to differ. These old tales must not be despised," he retorted. "They often hide secret meanings of great significance."
"Sradek, please, come to the point," Stavros firmly said.
"As you wish...Spock?"
Thus prompted, Spock obliged and recited the last verses of the saga, "When came the time to die In the name of TKhut, The bravest of XarKol Xan, Char, Surkam and Sor. All looked up to the stars..."
"Logical," Sorann said, struck by sudden realization. "The Four Warriors, the four probes. The Space Agency originally named the probes and orbiting devices after mythical characters."
"Precisely," Spock nodded.
"And," added Sradek with obvious satisfaction, "only someone well versed in our legendary past could make the connection and deduce that this exhibit isand can only beVulcan."
"Sound reasoning, Spock," Sorann said approvingly, "but unfortunately we cannot know which name this probe was given."
"With respect, professor, we can. The name is Char," Spock told him.
"Indeed? how do you know?"
"I found inside a plate of iridium fixed to the frame. It is engraved with the name and serial number in the Old Vulcan tongue."
"You had no right to break this probe open, Lieutenant," TLang cut in. "This further demonstrates the contempt in which Starfleet holds private property!"
"One moment, TLang," Sorann said sharply, "this needs an explanation. Spock, how did you open the panel of entry? It is shut tight. You did not forced it open, did you?"
"Of course not, sir," Spock looked affronted. "The panel works only through automatic control, but..." He paused and felt some satisfaction at seeing his former teachers and classmates hanging on his every word. "But it functions only with the code."
This information was received in stunned silence. Then Stavros said, "Very well, Lieutenant. Since you obviously are in possession of that code, it only remains for you to operate the mechanism and open the panel. And that will be all that we require of you."
"I regret to inform you, Professor, that I am not at liberty to comply," Spock quietly said.
"Why not?" Stavros wanted to know.
"I am under strict orders not to touch this probe any more and in any way," was the cool reply.
"But, Spock," Sorann protested, "all we need is to open this panel. Is that asking too much?"
"With respect, sir, I have my orders. Besides," Spock looked pointedly at Sharik, TLang and the others gathered, "I have been accused in this very place of tampering with Vulcan property too often to risk incurring further censure."
"Satisfied, Sharik?" Sradek slyly said to the stern Vulcan, then added, "We appreciate your loyalty to Starfleet, Spock, but it should not prevent you from giving us the code, I suppose?"
"No, sir, the cipher key is logged with my report in the ship data banks. Starfleet property is not available to civilians."
A murmur of disbelief circled around the whole room. "Does that mean that we must go and beg Starfleet, for the favor of obtaining an information which is ours by rights? This is outrageous!" Sharik said with righteous indignation. "Is this the way you respect your people, Spock? By denying them their rights, and giving Starfleet precedence over the Vulcans? Is this the way of a true Vulcan or have you become Human altogether?"
"What can you expect from a half-breed?" TLang sneered.
Spock stood tense and livid, clenched fists behind his back, but, maintaining a semblance of calm, he said in a strained voice, "My duty takes precedence over all other consideration. I am not entitled to give more information than I already have. But," he raised a disdainful eyebrow, "you surprise me, Professor. It took me only one hour thirty-four minutes to decipher the code of this probe. I cannot believe that with all the Vulcans of this Academy, there is not one who cannot do as well as a... half-breed."
The room-temperature dropped to arctic levels. Comments buzzed around Spock: "So emotional!... Complete lack of control!...Bad manners!...Has obviously been around Humans far too long!"
But old Sradek shook his head at him, a twinkle in his eyes. "You have not changed, Spock. Still the rebel at heart."
Spock felt that there was at least one man in this room who could understand him. But then, his teacher had always been the exception: a non-conformist Vulcan.
Suddenly, he caught his breath. There, across the room, a cloaked figure was standing in the doorway and looking at him. Their gazes met and held. He swallowed hard, and, with an "Excuse me, please," turned to go, but he was stopped by Professor Sorann.
"This an unfortunate turn of events, Spock," he said. "Your devotion to duty is commendable, but it is regrettable that it conflicts with Vulcan interests."
"To my regret, sir," Spock hesitated then said under his breath, "but perhaps I shall not be accused of disobeying orders if I give you a hint..."
"Only this much: you will find the key to the code in the Saga of the Four Warriors, specifically in the last twenty verses. Perhaps Professor Sradek here will be willing to assist you?"
"Certainly!" his mentor readily agreed. "What a fascinating challenge to the intellect, Sorann. It would be a strange thing indeed if we could not do even better than our best student, dont you think?"
It was with some regret that Spock took his leave of his one-time teachers, the few who had given him their staunch support and encouragement during his Academy days. As Stavros was nowhere to be seen, Spock left without more ado.
But a voice made him pause again, the grating voice of Sharik over the hum of conversations. "Are you going, Lieutenant? You have not answered my question."
Spock turned around. "Sir?" Icily remote.
"The question was: Are you Vulcan or are you Human?"
A pause. The silence now was deafening. Then Spock drew himself up. "I am a Starfleet officer...sir!" he coldly replied and strode stiff-backed out of the room.
The Lady Amanda, wife of Ambassador Sarek, was slowly pacing a private room, just off the main hall, and waiting. She had pushed the hood of her cloak back on her shoulders, revealing her lovely face radiant with pure happiness.
She was waiting for her son. She could not get over her emotion at recognizing Spock in the smart officer conversing with eminent academics, nor her motherly pride at seeing the fine looking man that he had become, a far cry from the gangly youth who had left ShiKahr all those years ago...
Nine long years without seeing her son, except for a few brief encounters here and there, usually on Earth. She had never told Sarek, but she was sure that he knew, although he had never asked questions. Not that he needed to, she was incapable of hiding anything from her husband. He knew what she thought of their estrangement; he was aware of her distress, but he was so stubborn! And so was Spock, for that matter. Sheer Vulcan obstinacy! Today, their son had arrived unexpectedly, and she hoped...
And...there he was! Amanda stood stock still, waiting with bated breath.
He paused at the door, looked in. "Mother?" His voice had deepened; it was beautiful! She held out her hand. "Oh, Spock, you are back home, at last!" she softly said.
They met and touched hands in ritual greeting, looking lovingly into each others eyes, searching each others face. Then Spock, curbing his emotion, let her go. "I did not expect to see you here, Mother."
"A message from Sradek, "Amanda explained, "so I left home at once. This is wonderful, Spock. You are going to stay with us, of course. How much leave do you have?"
"I am sorry, Mother, but much as I am pleased to see you, I cannot stay. I am not here on leave, but on assignment from Starfleet." He paused, moved by the deep disappointment on Amandas expressive face.
"Oh, no!" she whispered. "It cant be. I was so happy to..." She took a deep breath. "Spock, surely Starfleet can make it an exception. Only for a few days?"
Spock looked away, unable to face her pleading eyes. What could he do? Of course, he longed to stay, but he could not return to their family estate if Sarek...
"I know, it has been a long time," he said in a muted voice, "but considering that my father has all but disowned me and, as long as he is in that frame of mind, you cannot expect me to go back to a home which is no longer mine. As it is, I begin to realize that my presence here is not opportune."
"How can you say that!"Amanda protested. "My home is your home, and this is your home world. You are Vulcan by choice as much as by birth!"
"That, I am afraid, is an affirmation which many seem to question right now," her son dryly remarked.
"What do you mean? Where? Here, at the Academy?"
"How dare they!" she exclaimed hotly. "You would think that some Vulcans have never heard of IDIC."
"It does not matter, Mother. It is not the first time, and it wont be the last. And many of my former teachers have greeted me amicably. But, tell me...Sarek?"
"Unfortunately, no," she sadly said. "His position is unchanged. I cannot even mention your name in his presence, my dear. I dont know what to do. But," she smiled, "I am sure he follows your career very closely, and I know that he reads your letters which I purposely leave lying around."
"Indeed?" Spock put up an eyebrow. "I shall have to word my letters more carefully in the future." Suddenly, a chirp sounded close by, and startled Amanda . "One moment, please," said her son, removing a bulky clear communicator from his belt. With a flick of the wrist, he snapped it open. "Spock here."
"Spock, were all set to go," said a pleasant female voice. "Are you coming with us?"
"I am, Commander."
"Very well. I expect you at the landing pad in fifteen minutes."
"I shall be there. Spock out." As he fixed the device back into place, he explained. "That was my commanding officer."
"Ah, I see. So, you really have to go?"
"Mother, you must understand! I cannot stay when I am not wanted."
"Oh Spock!" She gazed up at his face. "You dont know how much I miss you. How long is this nonsense going to last? How long shall I have to put up with it?"
"Mother, please..." Spock began, but a deep voice broke in suddenly.
"My wife, what are you doing here, if I may ask?"
As one, mother and son turned round. "Sarek?" Amanda gasped in surprise.
Two imposing figures were standing inside the door, the Dean of the Science Academy and Vulcans Ambassador to the Federation.
Stavros bowed formally. "Lady Amanda, we are honored by your presence."
"Greetings, Professor," she graciously replied. "As you see I have come to meet my son, and, I suppose, so have you, Sarek?"
Alas, her hopes were dashed to the ground as Sarek merely replied, "No, I only came here at Stavros call."
"Indeed?" Amanda looked inquiringly from one to the other, so Stavros felt obliged to explain.
"Yes. I have asked Sarek to use his great influence with the Federation Council, to help us settle a... disagreement that we have with Starfleet."
"Starfleet?" she echoed in bemusement, then looked at her son who stood as if turned into stone. "Spock, do you know about this?"
"He certainly does, Lady Amanda," Stavros dryly said. "He is actually the crux of the problem. Lieutenant," he addressed Spock, "do you persist in your refusal to assist us? Is your decision final?"
"I regret, Professor, my decision is not open to discussion."
Spocks tone defied argument, but Stavros persisted. "You realize, dont you, that in so doing, you act against the interests of Vulcan."
Sarek remained aloofly silent.
A green flush crept into Spocks cheeks as he tightly said, "Sir, I respectfully submit that by being loyal to my oath and duty to Starfleet, I abide by the sacred tenets of Surak, therefore I do not act against Vulcan."
"Some might question your logic, Spock," Stavros replied with eyebrows raised, "but since you persist," he stole a glance at Sarek whose face was unreadable, "we shall not press the issue. I see that at least you can stand by your principles. Sarek, since this last attempt has proved to be useless, I think that the only course of action left to us is to contact Starfleet through the Federation Council. For my part, I shall immediately inform the High Council of this unexpected development. Agreed?"
"Quite, and I had better go with you to explain the situation," Sarek quietly said.
"Very well. With your leave, Lady Amanda?" Stavros bowed slightly and left rapidly.
The Ambassador was also leaving when a peremptory "Sarek, please!" from his wife halted him in his tracks. "Sarek, Spock, what is all this? Will someone kindly tell me what this is all about?"
Both men kept silent, gazes carefully averted. Amanda sighed, "Please, my husband..."
At last, Sarek, for the first time, glanced over at his son and openly declared. "It seems that what I feared and anticipated has occurred today. Your son, bound by his duty to Starfleet, has forsaken Vulcan and the values that we stand for, thus bringing upon himself the displeasure of his elders."
"But Sarek! This is ridiculous!" cried Amanda, "You cannot blame Spock for doing his duty, and, if by so doing, he happened to shock some people around here, that is no reason to treat him like an outcast."
"My wife, your son has taken a path of his own choosing. Let him bear the consequences."
"My son? But Spock is also your son, Sarek, dont you forget it."
"No son of mine should behave as he has today," Sarek said repressively.
"Spock, why dont you explain to your father?"
"What is there to explain?" Spock replied in a toneless voice, "It has been nine point seven three years since I fell out of favor with my father."
"Sarek!" Amanda tried again desperately, "If you would only consider..."
Sarek looked away. "I have nothing more to say," in a tone of finality.
"Oh!" Amanda cried in exasperation, "How can you both be so stubborn!" Silence. She looked from one frozen face to the other. "Dont you see that the two of you break my heart? And dont you dare tell me it is illogical, I know better!" She turned her back to them, unable to hide the tears that came unbidden to her eyes.
For a few moments, a strained silent reigned. Amanda stood staring blindly out of the window, and pulling herself together. She was the wife of a Vulcan and the mother of a Vulcan. The last thing she wanted was to embarrass either of them with her emotionalism. Then, she heard the door open and close, and knew that Sarek had gone, without a word. She hastily brushed tears away and looked around at Spock. He had not moved and stood staring into space, his expression as inscrutable and controlled as that of Sarek.
"Spock?" she whispered.
He looked at her and she saw in his eyes a look of such bleak misery that her heart bled for him, and words failed her. "Mother..." He swallowed hard. "Mother, as you see, my place is not here. Logic dictates that from now I consider Vulcan off-limits...Please hear me out...I shall only return if and when Sarek asks me to do so. This is final. Now I must go, my shipmates are waiting. Peace and long life, Mother."
They touched hands, palm to palm, for the last time.
"Farewell, my son," Amanda managed a brave smile, "I shall wait for you, for you will come back, I know. Take care, my dear, and dont ever forget that we love you."
Such were Amandas parting words that Spock took with him back to the Copernicus. Before boarding the shuttle, instinctively, he looked back, and, sure enough, his mother was at one of windows, following him with her eyes. She waved, he raised his hand in answer then climbed into the craft. He never knew that, from another window, Ambassador Sarek watched him leave, and stayed there until the Copernicus took off and soared out of sight.Copernicus Spock sat at the controls of the shuttle. It was the night shift and his shipmates were sound asleep at the rear. His thoughts were not particularly pleasant. He realized that he could not call Vulcan his home as long as he was ostracized by his own father. As for the Enterprise, he lived and worked among Humans, but he was different, he was Vulcan. There, he was not quite an outcast among a predominantly Human crew, but at home nowhere, except perhaps out there, in space. As he watched the stars slip past at warp speed, he felt sick at heart.
There were times when the pain of loneliness was almost unbearable.
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