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September 25th 2295

Take the fastest shuttle we have, Captain Pavel Chekov had said.

He had done so.

He wondered if it would be fast enough.

Spock sat forward helplessly at the controls of the Tai/A’Tai-class warp sled/shuttle, watching as the stars appeared to whip past the sleek, elegant vessel at a furious rate. There was nothing more he could do now, and he experienced an illogical surge of exasperation—and desperation. Time, as it had been said, was of the essence.

His mother was dying.

Amanda Grayson had reached the end of her natural span of days, and she intended to die with dignity. She had just, as she put it, ‘worn out.’ Not for her were the bionics and organ transplants and exoskeletons and any number of artificial bioenhancements that would have allowed her to live at least another two generations or beyond. It would not be natural. At her last physical, her doctor had given her approximately twenty more years to live.

Unfortunately, he had miscalculated. At eighty-five, her body was succumbing to the accelerated entropy that living in the thin-atmosphere, hot as hell environment of Vulcan had brought about.

Spock had received the terse, urgent message from his father Sarek aboard the Enterprise-B and had departed with all due haste for Vulcan with Captain Chekov’s blessing. As was often the case, the fate of the galaxy—or at least the sector—depended upon his actions.

This was one time the galaxy would have to wait.

Family comes first.

Captain Chekov’s words rang in his ears. Indeed, family did come first. He had been otherwise occupied and had decided not to accompany Jim Kirk and Chekov and Montgomery Scott—who were as much family to him as Sarek and Amanda—when they had beamed aboard Enterprise-B for her ceremonial launch. It was a decision he would regret to his dying day. Had he been there, perhaps Jim Kirk would not have been—lost. Perhaps he could have done something to change that fateful outcome.

Spock hoped that he would not be faced with regrets again this day.

"Arrival at Vulcan Space Central dock in ten standard minutes," the computer announced.

Spock exhaled the breath he had not realized he’d been holding. He busied himself with his approach procedure, a maneuver that he was certain would not be appreciated by the traffic controllers at the spacedock. He released the shuttle from autopilot, made some swift calculations in his head and checked them against the onboard flight computer.

Then he selected a clear flight pattern into the dock.

"Warning!" the computer’s voice exclaimed. "Shuttle should have begun deceleration for safe approach twelve seconds ago!"

As if on cue, the subspace radio crackled into life.

"Shuttlecraft Diomedes, this is Vulcan Space Central. Please engage emergency deceleration procedure."

"Kiss my ass," Spock muttered under his breath. He held steady, ignoring the agitated, mechanical squawking of his computer.

"Warning! Warning! Collision with Vulcan Spacedock in four point two minutes at current speed! Warning!"

"Shuttle Diomedes!" the Vulcan space traffic controller exclaimed, an undisguised note of panic now in her voice. "You are on a collision course with orbital spacedock! Impact is imminent! Please engage emergency procedures now!" In the background, Spock could hear the clanging of alert klaxons.

Spock waited until the exact instant prescribed by his approach calculations before he threw the shuttle’s engines into full reverse thrust. The vessel’s superstructure screamed in protest, but it was a well-designed ship; everything held.

The Diomedes coasted majestically into her berth, coming to a full stop centimeters from the emergency barriers that had been deployed around the dock.

The klaxons stilled, and the radio was silent for several long seconds. Then the voice of the traffic controller returned, sounding decidedly rattled.

"You irresponsible actions will be reported to a review board of the Federation Bureau of Civil Astrogation," she intoned, her voice stern. "You will lose your pilot’s license."

Spock returned. "I regret any discomfort I may have caused you by my...unorthodox approach, but time is running out. I am Spock of ShiKahr, and my mother is dying."

The traffic controller’s attitude changed immediately. "Ambassador Sarek has provided coordinates to have you beamed directly to your family residence in ShiKahr," she said. "But even given the mitigating circumstances of this situation, charges will be filed against you."

"Do what you must," Spock said. "I am ready to transport."

The beam seized him, and he materialized in a shower of incandescence outside the gate of his boyhood home.

Spock was moving as soon as the transporter released him. As a young boy, the sight of the warm, comfortable villa and its verdant gardens—so out of place on this desert planet—filled him with an unaccustomed joy and a sense of peace.

Now his stomach churned with dread as he ran up the walkway to the front door.

His father Sarek met him in the foyer. His stony expression did not change, but relief—and gratitude —flickered in his dark eyes. He raised his hand in the ta’al, the traditional Vulcan split-fingered salute.

"Live long and prosper, Spock."

"Live long and prosper, Father," Spock intoned, returning the gesture. "Is Mother...?"

"She lives still," the older Vulcan replied. "She will not let herself go until she sees you. But you must hurry."

Spock was taken aback by the urgency in Sarek’s voice. He nodded and hastened inside.

Amanda Grayson lay propped up on a cascade of large down pillows on her bed, the same bed upon which she had sat with him and read to him when he was a toddler. Spock was shocked by her pallor. She seemed as gaunt and frail as a skeleton. Her skin was as thin as parchment, almost transparent, stretched tight over the bones beneath it. Her breathing was labored. The sketchy, raspy sound of it filled the room. Spock noted, as he settled into the chair at her bedside, that vases full of her beloved roses, plucked from her own gardens, sat on the bureau and the chest of drawers in the brightly sunlit chamber. It seemed incongruous that Death stalked this cheery abode.

"Mother, I am here," he said, surprised by the tremor in his voice.

She turned her head toward him. Her eyes flickered open, and her weary, pain-wracked visage was transformed by the smile of pure joy that suffused her face. She seemed at that moment to be more beautiful than he had ever seen her. Her voice was barely a whisper. "Oh, Spock, I...knew you would make it."

"I came as quickly as I could."

"I know you did." She drew a ragged breath. "Don’ sad, son. I want it this way. It’ It’s as it should be. I would...never be happy if I let them turn me into a machine. I’ve seen...those people who live way...past their time. They’re than Human. That’s not for me. I’m just glad...I got to...see you one last time. Know that I’ll...always be with you."

Spock would never be able to explain what happened next. He realized that it was not logical, but he didn’t care. He took her hand in his own and bent over her and kissed her.

"I love you, Mother," he whispered.

Tears of happiness coursed over her sunken cheeks.

"Oh, Spock!" she exclaimed. "I love you too, and I am proud of you."

A fit of coughing suddenly seized her; alarmed, Spock could feel her slipping away.

"Sarek!" he called out urgently.

His father rushed into the bedroom and knelt at the other side of the bed.

"Amanda!" he cried out, and Spock’s heart was pierced by the naked, uncharacteristic grief in his father’s voice.

She weakly extended her hand toward him, and he took it, clutching it in something akin to desperation, as if by his sheer will he could keep her alive.

" not logical, my husband," she rasped. " you, Sarek."

"I love you, my wife," Sarek returned, his voice catching.

She turned her face toward her son, and Spock noticed her eyes were glazed over with an opaque, milky film.

She could no longer see him.

"," she managed.

Then her frail, bony fingers slipped from their hands, and one last, shuddering breath issued from her failed lungs.

Amanda Grayson was dead.

Gently, Spock folded her hands over her midriff. The smile on her face was almost beatific, and he bent and kissed her forehead.

"I love you, Mother," he whispered again.

Sarek stood abruptly, and Spock was startled to see a lone tear track down the otherwise expressionless mask that was his face.

"I shall see to her arrangements in the city," Sarek said, his voice unsteady. "I shall return soon."

"I will stay with her," Spock said, hoping to reassure his father, realizing that Sarek could very easily have made arrangements right there from the villa. He respected his father’s privacy.

Sarek would deal with his own grief in his own way.

Spock rose. The sun still dappled the room with its cheery brilliance, the roses still blazed in a riot of color and fragrance.

But she was gone.

Her vibrant spirit had kept this place alive, had made it a peaceful haven for him in his youth. But at this moment, Spock did not think he had ever been in a place so empty, so barren, so devoid of life.

A sob caught in his throat, and he wept bitterly and unashamedly.


Sarek had chosen the place.

It was in the garden of course, among her cherished roses, a spot at the base of a fountain. Beautifully polished stones gleamed in a ring around the pedestal.

Sarek open the urn containing Amanda’s ashes and scattered them on the damp earth. He set down the empty container and picked up Amanda’s battered old watering can, the one she had brought from Earth and could never bear to part with, and moistened the ashes until they mingled and became one with the soil. Then he straightened, his expression blank and stony.

"It is done," he said tonelessly. "When my time comes, it is my wish that my own ashes be joined with hers."

Then Sarek of Vulcan turned on his heel and left the villa without another word, never to return.

Spock watched him leave, wishing he could offer some comfort to his lonely father, all the while realizing that such a gesture would not be appreciated. Not now, and not in this place. Perhaps later. He sat down on a carved marble bench.

There was a sense of peace in this garden. Amanda loved this place more than anywhere else in the universe. Perhaps here was where her spirit now resided, here in these gardens she loved. They did not feel empty and cold like the villa. All manner of flora, both Vulcan and Terran, peacefully coexisted here in a riotous explosion of color. His own burden of sorrow was eased by the serenity of this place. He sat and drank in the sights and sounds, the radiant hues of the blossoms, the songs of the birds, the droning of insects. He allowed himself a wan smile. Know that I’ll always be with you, she had said. Spock was convinced that she was here, as illogical as that seemed. Somehow, he could sense her presence.

He allowed himself the luxury of a few more moments of solitude, then reluctantly rose to his feet. The messages of condolences had arrived to be followed shortly thereafter by apologetic but urgent missives from Federation Council requesting that Spock return to his ambassadorial duties post haste. The Saratoga had been dispatched to Vulcan to retrieve him and transport him to Kzin. More trouble with Kzinti pirates. Spock almost sighed.

There was, of course, a galaxy to be saved—or at least a sector.

Spock’s communicator beeped. He flipped it open. "Spock here."

"Saratoga stands ready at your service, Mister Ambassador," Captain Sherry Shoop said. "Are you ready to beam up, sir?"

"Affirmative, Captain. Awaiting transport."

Spock closed the communicator and gazed at the patch of dark, damp soil by the fountain.

"I shall return, Mother—and soon."

He dissolved in a shower of transporter sparkle, and the garden was empty.

And yet, it was not.

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