The Taming of the Raptor

By Linda

Rating: PG

Genres: angst au humour

Keywords:

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Chapter 1

Disclaimer: This story is set in the Star Trek universe and uses known Star Trek characters that are owned by someone else. But all that is original in the story is owned by me for my own and others’ enjoyment. No filthy lucre changed hands.
Genre: It shouldn’t happen to a Vulcan challenge, adventure, angst, humor
Rating: PG
Date: March 11, 2007 (complete first draft finished on my dad’s birthday)
Length: 53 typed pages divided into two chapters
Summary: This story explains why T’Pau never took a seat on the Federation Council. The secondary theme is male friendship (no slash) featuring Trip and a male Vulcan.

It is set two years after the fall of the High Command and T’Pau must chart the course for Vulcan civilization. But a couple of things complicate the matter: V’Las escapes prison and Surak’s katra goes missing. Both Lizzies and T’Les have crossed over, but Trip is alive. Trip and T’Pol get involved in finding the lost Vulcans while T’Pau prepares for her upcoming wedding.

Characters:

T’Pau – First Minister of the Vulcan Planetary Council
T’Pol – Cultural advisor to the Vulcan Planetary Council and investigator
Varisk – Chief Priest of the Seleya Mountain Retreat
Surak – Greatest philosopher in Vulcan history
V’Las – deposed High Command administrator
V’Lar – elder Vulcan ambassador
Samik – criminal investigator and mediator
Silnik – cousin of Samik
Soval – he is mentioned, quoted, but has no walk on part
Kov – friend of Trip’s, he has a small walk on part
Spock – Vulcan ambassador who works underground on Romulus (in the afterword)
And various minor Vulcans

Trip Tucker – husband of T’Pol, works on Vulcan’s warp 8 project
Jon Archer – Starfleet Admiral and chief architect of the incipient federation
Irene – IT exchange student and tourist
Jackie – IT exchange student and tourist
Picard – Captain of the Enterprise D (in the afterword)
And minor humans

Moton – Andorian ambassador to Vulcan
And various minor Andorians

Unnamed Telarite ambassador

Animals – the raptor
A le-matya family

Talok – Romulan operative disguised as a Vulcan
And various minor Romulans

 

The Taming of the Raptor
by Linda

Prologue:

The shadow of soaring wings moved across the sands. A cry pierced the thin Vulcan atmosphere and sharp eyes spotted the food. The raptor folded its wings and dove. Within feet of the ground, it unfurled its entire wing span and extended two taloned feet which upon impact buried themselves a few inches into the sand on the scree-strewn slope. Then it waddled clumsily over to the dead thing and ripped off a piece. The ground predators were coming, so this piece was all it had time to take. Hopping down the slope it spread that majestic plumage again. Each hop tested the air until a puff of wind gave it the lift it needed. Heavy wing beats fanned the air as it rose to a safe height. Then a dip of one wing swung it onto a course straight to its nest. Back on the cliff shelf barely wide enough for it to turn in a circle, the raptor dropped its prize. Tilting its head it refocused from the distant desert floor to inspect this food: a pointed ear.

Chapter One

The government hoverlimo wove between the spires of ShirKar’s tallest buildings and a diminutive women in formal robes gently swayed within it, oblivious to the beauty of the late night cityscape. Her incisive intellect was focused on the latest problems in the governing of the planet. She set the tone for this world presumably filled with reasonable people. We do not laugh; we do not do things that make other people laugh – especially Andorians. Humans will laugh at anything, so they don’t count. A Vulcan would be mortified (but they would not show it) to be caught in an embarrassing situation such as this latest, should it be made public. Vulcans should be all about dignity, duty, and logic, she thought.

The hovercraft changed course and headed out over the desert. Its august passenger contemplated this strange disappearance from the meticulously refortified and well-guarded monastic retreat carved into the side of a mountain. Her own guard broke his vigilant scan of the airspace around them to turn his head to the back seat and address her.

“First Minister T’Pau, we will be setting down in 12.5 seconds. Please remain seated until I have inspected the grounds before you exit the vehicle.”

“As you wish, Commander Tarmik.”

T’Pau’s thoughts shifted to another problem, but this one was almost behind her. It was logical for T’Pau to assume that Vulcan had heard the last of V’Las. The traitor was in prison waiting execution. After a conviction, the punishment of a Vulcan citizen was a very private matter, so neither the offender nor his family suffered publicly. The media had told the Vulcan population that V’Las had already been disposed of. That was the end of it, an end to the days of aggression against the Andorians and the repression of Vulcan’s staunchest ally: Earth. Vulcans need no longer be disquieted by such vulgar goings-on, she had thought. But then, no one expected Surak’s katra to be lost so soon after it had been found.

T’Pau stepped through the restrained Doric-like monastery entrance and followed her escort to the stark quarters of the chief priest. Her robes of state brushed the cool stone floor of the dimly lit audience chamber as she swept in and settled herself in the chair facing the priest, fanning the underdress and then the overdress into an elegant semi-circle around her. Not a hair was out of place. She wore a precise cut shaped to her skull, no longer the unkempt and sun bleached shaggy nest that had been the Syrranite trademark in the desert dwelling days.

The Chief Priest sat like a statue, his nightdress rumpled, and his hands tightly clasped in his lap. He stared at her for a full minute before speaking, seemingly having trouble focusing a mind that had been sharp as a raptor’s claw for over two hundred years. His aged and cracked voice hinted at the effort to maintain control. “First Minister, it was not my fault. Someone must have extracted it from me in my sleep. I fell asleep arguing with Surak about the meaning of his statement against all killing. I did not think it should apply to criminals like V’Las. Surak insisted it applied to everyone. Then when I awoke to pass urine in the night, he was gone.”

T’Pau’s stiffly embroidered robe barely creased as she leaned forward. “Varisk, my old friend, whatever possessed you to debate with The Master?” She took a deep breath, for she should show no irritable disrespect for her mentor, who had been her father’s mentor, and her first foremother’s…perhaps that was the problem. Age had taken its toll, and it had been illogical to burden this venerable elder with such responsibility. T’Pau stood and inclined her head briefly in respect. “Dear respected mentor and kinsman, I must be sure that the katra is gone. Surak may be hiding deep in your mind as an object lesson to you. It will only be another two T’Khut cycles until the Ritual of Interment. Already the Cave of the Revered Ancients is being prepared above us at the peak of this mountain. This is a serious matter, that of being katra keeper. It has been a trying situation for you, a great honor but an awesome burden. I would have received the katra myself but it is best for a person of the same gender to hold it. I will now perform the meld to detect the presence of the katra.”

Varisk seemed to shrink in his chair even though he had expected this response from T’Pau. She was the planet’s highest authority now. Though not a Syrranite free-melder, Varisk approved of the practice for situations where the absolute truth must be uncovered. He would comply with the meld.

….

Others were awake late in the night. V’Las was awake because he was waiting for something. He tried a light meditation that would relax him yet keep him aware. But V’Las’s meditations had never helped him much. As a child in constant conflict with his parents over this issue, he had hated their insistence on extending the normal meditation time for a child of his age. To their unspoken embarrassment, he had been excited by the tales of ‘Those Who Marched Under the Raptor’s Wing’ that the elders awed youths with in the dark and cold of desert nights around campfires. These tales, meant to scare the children into correct behavior, had an unusual effect on V’Las. He was attracted rather than repelled. But now, in his cell waiting rescue by his heroes which seemed long in coming, disenchantment was creeping into his bones. They had offered him transport to Romulus, there to spend the rest of his life as an advisor to the Senate on all things Vulcan. But he had rarely been off his home world and the prospect of never seeing it again was more chilling than the desert night seeping into a lonely cell. Had they abandoned him? Had they discounted his years of dedicated work toward reunification?

A footfall. It seemed tentative, furtive. Had they come for him? The security codes must have been changed and he no longer had Stel to fix that. Stel was dead. V’Las had seen the body when he had to identify it after ordering the secret execution. That was a shame, for Stel had been loyal to him. Seeing those dead staring eyes, almost as if his last thought was utter surprise, had disturbed V’Las. He had envied Stel’s youthful vigor, so efficiently ended by an assassin’s razor drawn deep across the throat. And there had been just a small pool of coagulating blood on the floor; had they already cleaned most of it up for his official viewing-of-the-traitor’s-corpse? Another footfall, and V’Las’s cell door slowly opened. A robed figure stood with his back to the dimly lighted corridor, his face almost invisible in the shadow. He deliberately pulled his hood back with one hand. V’Las stood uncertainly and gave the Vulcan hand salute, not knowing how else to greet this fellow.

“Don’t bother with that crap,” spat the robed figure as he stepped closer and raised his other hand containing a knife dripping green blood and displayed a smile absent of warmth. “Shut up and follow me. You are leaving this place.”

….

The night wore on and one who dreamed badly when he had problems, moved restlessly on his bed.

“I hate you! You never take me!” Lizzie stamped a foot, her eyes on the ground, her thin arms crossed and hugging her flat chest.

Trip sighed and tried to put his arms around his baby sister. She backed away and turned her back to him. As he reached for her again, a far away voice was calling him “Trip, T’hy’la.” He opened his eyes and felt two fingers brush his cheek. They lifted and returned, brushing slowly along his cheek bone, ending with one delicate finger warming the tip of his nose.

“You were dreaming again.” T’Pol’s eyes were now inches from his own, large with concern as only a Vulcan’s eyes could be, in a face immobile and absolutely the loveliest thing he’d ever seen since he’d gazed at the angelic sleeping face of his new born baby sister when his mother placed her in his arms…or the face of his several-months-old-daughter resting in T’Pol’s arms… Both his precious Lizzies. But it was always his sister’s angry nine-year-old face that entered his nightmares. This time the cause must be Dr. Savink’s rejection of his latest proposal for the shape of the warp coil of Vulcan’s prospective warp 8 engine…

T’Pol sat up. “I may have set you to dreaming by partially waking you when I rolled over to answer a call. I just had a message from First Minister T’Pau. V’Las has escaped. She said three guards have been murdered and another survived to say one of the cowled attackers had a bony V-like forehead when his hood was ripped back during the struggle. This was most likely a Romulan operative.”

Trip sat up in one motion. “How are they gittin’ onto Vulcan? The planet seems to be crawlin’ with these guys despite the tightened security!”

T’Pol eased up straighter on the bed and grabbed her bathrobe. “Soval showed you how our systems can be bypassed. When V’Las was head of the High Command, it must have been a simple matter to accomplish and then to hide the intrusion, with his absolute control over the planet’s defenses. But we have apprehended most of these Romulan operatives. I do not think they are getting in. I think the few who may be left are trying to get out.”

“Right. V’Las. So what do we do about it now?”

“He won’t be found.” The bed bounced lightly as T’Pol slipped off the edge onto her feet, her robe closing enticingly around the trimmest figure on Vulcan. “T’Pau thinks he is already off world. He is not top priority anymore, except for public opinion. Let the Romulans have him. Most likely they will not get out of him much more than he has already given them. Then they will kill him. He is a failure and Romulans do not reward failure. Nor do they give asylum to those who have nothing more to give them. I am sure he does not realize that though. He was infatuated with them. We know this from his journals. But this is not all. I have been called to the Seleya retreat. Surak is missing.”

“V’Las?”

“Somewhat unlikely, but not completely discounted.” The movement of T’Pol’s elegant behind did not escape Trip’s notice as it moved off toward the bathroom. “You have been given clearance to accompany me.”

Trip sighed. “Right.” Then he pushed himself up and began fishing for his slippers.

….

T’Pau got only an hour of sleep after returning to her apartment from the Seleya retreat and calling T’Pol. Dawn on Vulcan spread peachy pink rather than the rosy pink as on the Terran world. But T’Pau who had marveled at the desert sunrises, never saw the awesome desert dawn these days. She rose in the pre-dawn chill and hot tea would magically appear. She appreciated this attentiveness now, having always been the one to rise early in the desert, shivering, shaking the sand out of her robe, and wrapping it tightly around her so she could restart the fire. With cold hands she would place the dented pot with the precious ounces of water on the fire and throw in a handful of tea leaves. That was usually all they had until they reached their next food cache when evening shadows found them digging into it on all fours in their threadbare robes. Dignity was the first thing stripped from refugees in the desert. Those days of vagabond scrounging and hiding were over, but they were never far from T’Pau’s thoughts as she partook of the best Vulcan had to offer.

T’Pau dressed in the plain muted silk underrobe, the most comfortable part of her formal wear, and slipped out of the apartment carrying her tea. She had eight sets of formal monogrammed overrobes in the meditation room attached to her office. Not one to strut around in finery, these were for various types of audiences, carefully selected with the aid of her staff.

The carpeted hallway was empty, but she knew they were watching. Two turnings of hallway and the centuries-old massive wood office door, a rare commodity on her world, loomed heavily before her. The door recognized her biosign and silently swung inward. Yes, there was her breakfast, steaming from having been set there a moment before, in that little privacy nook at one end of her office. She chose this office suite because of that nook. She ate, then set to work at the desk going over the reports that had come in during the night. The silence of this time aided concentration, a peaceful lull before the noise and the rush of the day began.

And it began with a vengeance later, as the approved hours for visitation arrived. How the Andorian ambassador to Vulcan found out that V’Las had escaped was something that T’Pau dearly wished to discover.

“Madam, every Andorian on Vulcan, and there are over three hundred now, is in grave danger with this criminal at large!” T’Pau shuddered inwardly as the alien dared place his ugly blue hands on her desk and lean toward her, able to come nearly as close as four feet from her face. This invasion of Vulcan personal space was less annoying than his misuse of venerated Vulcan phrases as he continued his beastly attack. “It was ILLOGICAL to let him live one day past the date of his conviction! He may have more escape routes than a glacier has crevasses! Vulcan dignity and privacy be damned, Madam! This is an intolerable situation!”

T’Pau listened while Moton raged on, antennae in constant motion. It was not wise to interrupt an Andorian once he warmed to his subject. Like Human emotions, it was best to let Andorian emotions run their course, much as it tried the Vulcan soul. At times, she longed for the days in the desert where her only responsibility had been to keep herself and Syrran’s followers one step ahead of V’Las’s henchmen. Abandoning the security her desk gave her, she forced one foot in front of the other until she was standing almost at attention in front of the raging Andorian, assuming a posture that indicated respect. T’Pau modulated her voice to the higher register, which was comfortable to the Andorian when coming from a female of high rank. All these non-Vulcan protocols were intensely irritating.

“Ambassador, we will soon have him back in custody, or have evidence that he has left the Vulcan system. The guards on all of your people have been doubled. And, (T’Pau disliked this necessary concession) two hundred more of your security personal have been allowed clearance to transport from your space-docked ships to the city of ShirKar.”

“Thank you, First Minister. That will do for now.” And Moton turned on his heal without the usual formal leave taking ritual Andorians normally practiced with a palms up gesture followed by an arms across chest salute in the nonverbal request to be dismissed. Had she offended him somehow? She thought she had meticulously followed the advice of her off world culture experts. At the end of her long work day, she would go over the recordings of two dozen interactions with aliens in a debriefing with her advisors to see how she could improve her communication techniques. For a former philosophy and ethics student, this series of emotion laden interviews with non-Vulcans, day after day, was the most trying thing she had ever been forced to endure.

….

At midday when 40 Eridani A’s power was piercing the Vulcan atmosphere with relentless heat and blinding light, the Vulcans were hard at work at their normal occupations. T’Pol was no exception and Trip tagged along, taking a day off from the Vulcan Science Academy engineering labs so he could be brought up to speed with this investigation. T’Pau had a job in mind for him concerning the possibly related investigation of V’Las’s escape. But he had quietly left the interview room when the Vulcan interviewee kept glancing at him. Trip surmised that an alien made him reticent.

Back in the room, an elderly man with only a few wisps of white hair left to him, pulled a blanket over his thick robe. It was only 95 degrees in the room as this retreat did not have modern heating installed and this chamber was too deep in the mountain for the sun’s warmth to penetrate.

“Did anyone enter the Chief Priest’s quarters during the night?” T’Pol asked this steward who had been on duty. She suspected he had relaxed his vigil to relieve himself at least once during those long hours, or had nodded off. Only the outer most doors were guarded by trained security people under the age of one hundred and fifty. This elder did seem to be past his best years, like everyone else in this venerable warren which functioned as a dormitory for the keepers of the mausoleum of katras further up the mountain.

“Lady, I recall no one entering the Chief Priest’s quarters,” the old man coughed and shifted in his chair like a bird sidestepping on a perch to distance himself from someone who had ruffled his feathers. Vulcan elders were a difficult group. Since they had attained a position in society that demanded respect, it was rare that they were questioned about anything. Especially not by someone as youthful in appearance as T’Pol.

Trip was inspecting the construction of this part of the monastery while waiting for T’Pol to finish her inquiry. Just when all seemed settled and they were ready to take a vacation hiking in the Vulcan polar region where it actually was pleasant by Terran standards during the day… Well, Surak’s katra was a matter of extreme planetary importance. Dignitaries no less than the likes of Admiral Shran and Ambassador Moton had been invited to the Ritual of Katra Interment.

Trip was skeptical of all this soul stuff. It made him think of Elizabeth and baby Lizzie, and T’Les. It was so unfair that these loved ones had been taken from him and T’Pol. He talked to both his Lizzies and that comforted him. But it did not mean that he absolutely accepted the existence of souls or katras. Best to concentrate on the living, and the telepathic connection with his wife. The existence of telepathy suggested to him that perhaps there WERE souls that could be detached from the body. But the living certainly caused enough trouble without thinking of the dead. He gently pushed his absent loved ones to the back of his mind and walked on to examine a statue carved into a recess off the hallway.

Next thing Trip knew, T’Pol was peering over his shoulder at the carving. So he asked, “What does this mean, do ya know?”

Her sweet warm breath tickled his neck. “It is a very old saying. Not Surak. It is from Tovin, a philosopher who lived before Surak’s time. I believe Surak studied his writings. Vulcan ethical thought was progressing steadily before Surak. But it took Surak’s genius to codify it and add the logic that set it high above everything which came before. And now, we seem to be at another historical leaping forward point. It is a disquieting time for my people, Trip. And like in Surak’s time, could set us on a course of cultural renaissance or to the destruction of our civilization. In Surak’s time the disruptive elements left our world by the thousands. At the moment, we have only a few stray operatives left of The Sundered who have tried to retake Vulcan…the disruptive elements that threaten us the most are those that reside within us. It is disquieting. I am glad for the comfort of your calm presence and often irreverent humor.”

“Well thank you, Darlin’…I think. Trip was touched but a bit embarrassed by T’Pol’s frank words. Time to deflect that, so he asked: “Any luck with the elders?”

T’Pol frowned. “I have no idea of the whereabouts of the katra. Perhaps as T’Pau suspects, it is hiding. Let us go to the retreat’s dining hall for the midday meal. They have a simple but quite adequate cuisine.”

….

The heat of mid afternoon clung to T’Pau’s office. She had only to pass her hand in front of the control to raise or lower the room temperature, which she did to suit the requirements of each guest. Due to the unusually heavy schedule of visitors, she had not allowed herself an after-meal meditation break. This last visitor of the day would not be particularly unpleasant so she took a moment to stand in the sun by the window, a sort of mini basking meditation, before she heard the soft chime announcing the visitor. She turned.

“Admiral, we meet again.” T’Pau moved out of the direct sunlight and walked around her desk to stand close to Jon Archer. As a former carrier of the katra of Surak, he deserved this respect.

Archer bowed the proper number of inches and length of time that the echo of Surak was telling him to. “Yes, First Minister. And I am sorry it is under present circumstances.” Archer had been told by newly elevated Admiral Shran that V’Las had escaped.

T’Pau gave him the barest inclination of her head. “It would only be under such dire circumstances that we would have cause to meet. I see that the news has spread like a sandstorm. How did you come by the information that V’Las had escaped?”

Archer trolled his mind for Surak’s advice. He was unsure whether to treat Shran’s news as a confidence, for this was not the same T’Pau he had known in the desert. No longer could he assume the manner of easy familiarity that fighting beside her and extreme fatigue would warrant. When he had known her last, she was something of a desert rat. Now she looked regal in her gowns of state. She was not, he realized, quite as easy on the eyes as his own former first officer. “My source wishes to remain unknown at this time. But know also that anything you wish to remain private will be treated with the same care, First Minister.”

T’Pau inclined her head a little more this time. “Well spoken, Admiral. But that pales in importance compared to the favor I have to ask of you.”

T’Pau knew that other than Varisk, Archer was the only living person to have had direct contact with the katra. A meld with the katra carrier was not the same as the intimate presence of the Great Surak in your mind. Would Archer have any idea what Surak would be doing, assuming Surak was in control of his current situation?

She gestured to a chair in a pleasant alcove lined with ancient Vulcan tomes. Her cozy corner, he thought. Bodes well. He sat. She sat. With some effort, she assumed an exaggerated expression of earnestness, so even a Human might detect her sincerity. “What I have to ask you must be in strict confidence. Did you ever debate with Surak during his tenure in your mind?”

Jon Archer furrowed his eyebrows. “First Minister, Surak did most of the talking. And the questions I did have were answered in a formal, very Vulcan manner. Each word was packed with meaning. I felt like I was back in school. No, I did not debate him. Everything that passed between us was of urgent and direct importance in the effort to defeat the High Command.”

“I see. Well then, have you any idea what Surak might do to avoid an unwanted discussion?”

“No.” Archer, for once, understood how embarrassing this was for a Vulcan to be dependent on a Human for advice. There were few times in his life he felt vindication for his father. What goes around, comes around, he thought. Then buried that thought Vulcan fashion as Surak had taught him so T’Pau’s powerful mind could not get at it.

“Thank you, Admiral, that will be all for now.”

“No problem, First Minister. Would you care to join me for the evening meal?”

“I must decline,” said T’Pau. She realized that the mind of a Human did not disclose all of its contents immediately like a logical Vulcan mind did, but rather in an inferior fashion revealed its knowledge in an intermittent series of recalls. She concluded that Archer’s answer might acquire addendums, so she sought eye contact again. “But please, while you are here I will assign you a guide to explore the city. And if you think of anything more, please tell your guide and you will have immediate access to me.”

Puzzled, but looking forward to this unexpected offer, Jon Archer took his leave of T’Pau.

Well, at least Humans have no lengthy leave taking rituals, she thought.

….

He was no longer used to the harshness of the desert like he had been as a young man. This was not the campfire of an elder surrounded by young faces eager for stories before bedtime. All the years he had enjoyed the comfortable luxury of the High Command had made him go soft. Even that prison cell had been more comfortable than this stool in the evening chill two hundred feet from the Romulan shuttlecraft.

He noted the subtle downgrade in respect directed at him by his ‘rescuers’. But they had not mistreated him, no rough handling, and they had fed him. They were conferring among themselves in the shelter of the camouflaged alien shuttlecraft, leaving him fully exposed to the evening wind and chill. He had told them all he knew, given them all he had left. Willingly. When were they going to leave for Romulus?

He was becoming more uneasy by the minute and his fitful attempts to meditate only made it worse. Ah, one of them was approaching. It was not the leader, no, it was the head guard. The man passed by him a few feet to his left as if he did not even exist. Maybe off to relieve himself, so V’Las ignored him too, and kept his eyes on the glow from the windows of the shuttlecraft he longed to be allowed inside of. He detected the crunch of a footfall behind him now. Fear shot through him causing an erection of hair and genitals as a cold metal object was shoved roughly against the back of his head. His last though was almost a relieved laugh. “I see I will be saved the unseemly emotion of nostalgia induced by residing far from my home world.” The hot energy bored through his brain burning away that thought and exiting the forehead with bits of gray matter punching out onto the sand. Those standing by the shuttle watched the corpse slump over. Grinning, they grabbed up the caliper padd to measure the diameter of the exit wound and settle the wager they had made over its size.

….

Sixteen light years from Vulcan, several thousand Vulcans were living and working on an alien world. The solar collectors on the Vulcan embassy in San Francisco did what they could with the weak sunlight. It was not enough to heat the private offices where Vulcan personnel turned up the heat whenever Humans were not present. The embassy had to plug into the city’s power grid to meet their need for warmth.

One Vulcan did not mind the chill. It seemed to energize him as he looked over the arrest report in the Sensitive Crimes Unit office. His hand stroked a comely chin attached to a strikingly handsome face. Tapping a finger on the edge of the desk, he blinked once and came to the decision to do the interview himself. Long lashes met as he blinked again. There was something about this case that was off and the most offensive thing to Vulcan justice was to accuse an innocent person and tarnish an otherwise clean reputation. The embassy was only supposed to hold a Human until the San Francisco police could arrive to take him into custody accompanied by a written complaint, so Samik had to conduct this interview immediately.

Closing his office door, the tall Vulcan stepped into the corridor where the heads of females of both species turned in his direction. He was aware of his effect on people so he waited until he turned into an empty corridor before attempting to change his demeanor. Samik brushed his rather longer-than-regulation hair down obscuring the upsweep of his eyebrows and pushed it back covering the tips of his ears. He glanced at his suit, deciding that it was species neutral enough. As he walked down the hall, his dignified Vulcan pace developed a slight Human swagger, and he shoved his hands into his pants pockets. His shoulders bent slightly into a slouch as he pushed open the door to the interrogation room. Making a quick visual evaluation of the Human occupant, he decided his approach would work. “Oops,” he said, trying to infuse his voice with a sense of confusion, “they told me the men’s room was down this hall…”

The forlorn Human looked up from his seat at the table, but said nothing.

Samik pulled out a chair and sat next to the Human, just slightly inside the border of Human personal space. “Hey buddy, what the Vulkys nab you for? Me, this ain’t the first time. While they were looking over the com unit I lifted off a table in the embassy café, I was flitching this from a drawer in a desk.” Samik pulled a gold IDIC out of his pants pocket. “Told them I had found that com unit on a public bench and was on my way to return it when the com unit set off an alarm in the embassy foyer. They let me off with a warning. Guess they don’t wanna piss off the natives too much.”

The Human relaxed a bit. He stared at the IDIC and frowned. “But I didn’t DO anything wrong. I don’t go around lifting their gadgets. It was so stupid, I can’t believe this. I was in their book store, the one where they have some Vulcan literature in English, just next to the tourist information desk. I only offered a Vulcan kid a candy bar ‘cause I wanted to see if she would like it. I was trying to be nice. Now they think I am some sick predator.

Leaning closer, Samik lightly touched the man’s arm. He felt the attraction the man had for the little girl, but it was more like curiosity and it did not have any sexual overtones. He was careful to work his throat muscles the way he learned to do when he was little and sneaking out of the compound in Sausalito to play with the Human kids. “Listen buddy…hey, call me Sam…I understand. Really. They are as cute as little Human kids, right? Say, I like to watch them too, know what I mean?” Samik’s fingers remained where they were, picking up puzzlement, anxiety, and anger in quick succession. Samik withdrew his hand and leaned back. He slumped against the low chair back, hoping he was not over playing his part, and waited for the Human to speak.

The Human moved his chair away a couple of feet, acting uncomfortable in Samik’s presence. “Okay, Sam. I don’t know what you are implying about watching kids. And I didn’t know chocolate was intoxicating to Vulcans. Honestly! I was not trying to get the kid drunk and do something…you know…perverted or anything. So what’s wrong with admiring them? I am an artist. I just watch and memorize what strikes me, and go home and draw. Its just a hobby. Anyway, you better leave. Don’t think I want them thinking I’m a friend of yours. No offense, man.”

Samik stood up. This case was not worth pursuing. They should just quietly release the man with a warning not to approach Vulcan children without first consulting their parents. “Well, I guess I’d better go find that men’s room before they come looking for me. I wouldn’t worry too much. These Vulkys are not all stuffed shirts. Just a bit overly cautious. Wouldn’t you be, so far away from home and all?” Then, remembering he was supposed to be a scoundrel, he added “Course, they are easy marks for a guy like me, some of them are so naive.” He winked at the man, then stepped to the door. He was half way out before the man turned to him.

“Hey Sam, put that medallion back, okay? It looks like a work of art to me. Someone must prize it highly.”

Samik nodded and closed the door behind him. “Someone does,” he whispered as he fingered the family heirloom his mother had given him.

….

Shoving the com unit back into a pocket of her robe, T’Pau headed for the commons area near the Department of Philosophy, Ethics, and Law. She had an unexpected hour free since T’Pol would be delayed. One of the more recalcitrant monks had finally come forward and agreed to be interviewed.

The students walking slowly in quiet discussion or sitting on benches intently concentrating on padds, struck T’Pau an almost physical blow. This had been her chosen life. Now she was an outsider viewing the student’s calm, almost cloistered existence. In another lifetime the younger T’Pau had been happy here at the Vulcan Science Academy until the unfairness, the exploitation, the repression that had existed outside this island of reason had become too much. She joined an action group led by Professor T’Les, the most inspirational ethics teacher T’Pau had ever met. T’Pau sighed quietly. She missed T’Les’s council. She glanced down, watching her feet negotiate the familiar flagstone garden walk. T’Pol, though not an unpleasant companion, was not T’Les.

Back in her student days, the student action group booked the charismatic Syrran to speak on one of his rare forays into the city. His rough manners and original interpretation of that towering giant of Vulcan philosophy, Surak himself, had converted T’Pau from a bookish reclusive introvert into a raging outspoken radical. After she received her doctorate in philosophy she followed him into the desert where her idealism was soon worn down to stubborn survival. Only her anger at the High Command’s duping of her world’s hardworking, duty-loving, ethical, and compassionate people kept her going. And one by one her friends were arrested, never to be seen again. She pushed the image of her parents back to the dark place in her mind. But those days were over.

T’Pau could not return to this quiet garden of reason until this political mess was set to rights. It WAS different, what the High Council was doing to V’Las from what had happened to her friends, right? His family would see his body, would be allowed a dignified parting. But she would never know what had happened to her friends or her parents. V’Las must be found and executed or his flight beyond the reach of Vulcan justice proven. Let him live among The Sundered. That would relieve her of the burden of his death. It was unlikely the Romulans would be merciful. That was one reason why reunification was not an option.

T’Pau walked through a pergola covered by vines. These were native to mountain ravines where the sun only peeked in for part of the day and where nearby streams bathed them in moisture. Timed hoses hidden in the pergola supports kept them moist and deeply grey-green in this garden. She loved these walkways where she had debated the principles of ethics and law. One day, she would give up her leadership of the High Council and move on to straighten out the planet’s justice system. That would take years of precedent-setting cases, but it would be less wearing on her than politics. Then, probably after her hair was grey, she could return to teaching in the same classrooms where her ethics had been honed. A fitting reward for a century or more of service, the enjoyable hours of long detailed debates; the feeding of young idealistic minds like hers had once been. But this time there would be no call for students to leave their haven and correct the politics of the outside world. She would make it better for those future students.

T’Pau roped in her nostalgia and wove her way through this garden of semi-private sitting areas half hidden in verdant plantings. She found that bench between two hedges. Sitting on its rough surface, she ran her finger over the carved stone edge. Empting her mind of wistful memories, T’Pau was able to slip down into a restful meditative state.

An hour later, someone approached T’Pau’s bench. “Madam T’Pau, greetings.”

T’Pau shook off her meditation and looked up into a young Vulcan face half shadowed by the setting of Eridani over the hedge. Well, not so young a face, but not yet lined, though T’Pau knew this well-traveled woman had experienced more than most Vulcans including some very personal losses. Still, T’Pol’s face held the sort of female beauty that T’Pau’s strong angular visage never had. But envy was illogical. T’Pol was one of T’Pau’s most loyal supporters.

T’Pau honored her friend’s daughter with the hand salute. “Greetings, Advisor T’Pol. How went the inquiries today?”

“I have eliminated much testimony that will not be useful, though I have yet to discover any leads on the whereabouts of the katra.”

“Perhaps tomorrow’s interviews will go better. Come join me for evening meal in the philosophy professors’ private dining room. I have some things to discuss with you.”

As they walked, T’Pau pondered the mystifying fact that T’Pol had thrown aside a perfectly adequate Vulcan mate for a Human one, even though this Human had proven to be very useful. Having people like Mr. Tucker around was an undeniable display of IDIC tolerance on the part of the new Vulcan government. Vulcan was not strong enough to counter this threat by The Sundered alone, especially if her world had to contend with other hostile worlds like Andor. But it would be unwise for Vulcan to admit that publicly. T’Pau’s keen hearing had picked up Andorian Ambassador Moton’s comment at a reception when he told the Telarite ambassador: “You do realize that the Human male handing T’Pau her tea is the very one who put his ship between the Vulcan and Andorian fleets? Gives one hope, my friend. Gives one hope.” It was logical to keep Charles Tucker at hand.

“T’Pol, I have left a message for your mate that I would like him to work with someone who is arriving on Vulcan from your world this evening. He is a criminal investigator who I have assigned to search for V’Las. I think they would work well together. Because one is an engineer and the other not known to the Vulcan public, no one would suspect their inquires about V’Las are any more than imprudent curiousity. The fewer Vulcans who are involved with this search, the better. The alien ambassadors who know he is at large will keep this knowledge to themselves. But ordinary Vulcans working for the present administration would fear for their safety and feel it to be their duty to inform their families who would in turn inform the wider family of the clan. Soon all of Vulcan would be agitated again by V’Las. We made a clean sweep of V’Las’s supporters but those who support us now would expect savage treatment should V’Las return to power.”

“First Minister, you do not have to ask me permission to assign Trip a working partner, you only have to ask him.”

“I realize that, T’Pol. I want you to know I am not keeping anything from you. When I asked you to join me here it was to share a relaxing evening with a valued colleague.”

“I accepted the invitation as such.”

….

Trip parked the hovercraft in the aeriel lot and took the walkway over to the ground station customs area. He had been looking forward to dinner with T’Pol until he got the message that T’Pau wanted him to pick up someone who would be arriving this evening from Earth. There was only one man in jeans, a plaid shirt, and baseball cap empting his pockets for the customs officer. Under the detection lamp sat an ID badge, a deck of playing cards, a Vulcan-style personal padd, and a wrapped vegetarian energy bar. The man curtly nodded to the officer and scrapped his possessions off the table, then sorted them back into his pockets. He turned. “Ah, you must be Mr. Tucker. Sorry for the informal attire, I enjoy traveling casually.” He offered his hand.

“Then you must be Sam Kiosik, my new partner in this investigation.” Trip gave him a boyish grin. “Thought they’d be sendin’ a Vulcan. It’s nice to be work’n with a Human once in a while.” Trip tilted his head in the direction of the parking area and picked up one of Sam’s bags. The taller man fell in beside Trip, shortening his natural lengthy pace. Once airborne and out on the air lane that would take them to Trip and T’Pol’s residence, Trip asked Sam if he had ever been to Vulcan before.

“Yes.”

Trip glanced at his companion and back to the traffic. “So do ya speak the language, at least a little, because that would be helpful.”

“Yes.”

“How are things back on Earth? People gett’n used to the idea of an interplanetary federation?”

“Yes.”

Trip grinned. “Do ya ever say no?”

“Yes.” Sam turned to Trip and his eyes were smiling in the way T’Pol’s sometimes did. His skin shone faintly greenish in the slanted rays of the setting sun. A few wisps of black hair sat in slight disarray under his cap which he removed as he leaned back into the seat so the last rays of the sun would fall across his face. “The sun feels good. I will enjoy basking in it at full strength during midday tomorrow.”

The hovercraft jerked and Trip straightened it again as he recovered from his surprise. “Heck, I thought you were Human! You could pass for one easily. Hope I didn’t say any thing disrespectful about Vulcans.”

Samik grinned. “Do you usually? No, you have not. That’s okay, when I grew up on the streets of Sausalito, my Human friends often forgot I was Vulcan and critical comments would slip out followed by ‘of course we don’t mean YOU, Sammy.’ I have a whole collection of Human jokes about Vulcans. Some are demeaning, but there are many that are spot on and point out cultural differences in a humorous way. For instance, how many Vulcans does it take to change a light bulb?”

“I don’t know.”

One, point-zero-zero-zero-zero-zero.”

Trip snickered.

“And how many Humans does it take to change this light bulb?”

“Careful there, yer talk’n to an engineer.”

“None. The Vulcans will be changing the light bulbs because it is a technological secret.”

Samik then glanced at Trip who was surpressing a smirk, not sure if it was safe to laugh. “Having a Vulcan wife, you must have heard a few of the Vulcan jokes about Humans.”

“Yeah, some. Guess they run the same range from racist to gentle chid’n. A few are funny, but some just seem weird. Maybe I don’t understand some of them because I’m still learn’n the culture. Probably never will understand everyth’n, though I feel more at home here now. Okay, here’s one T’Pol’s cousin told me: The carrying capacity of the Vulcan world would be compromised if more than 250,000 humans were allowed to visit at one time. That is because Vulcan’s only sea would become a dry bed of sand since all the water would be absorbed into the bodies of those Humans.” Trip shook his head. “Told ya it was weird. But grow’n up on Earth, ya probably know more about Terran cultures than I do about Vulcans.”

“That might be true. I value my multi-cultural upbringing. I think it is useful in mediating disputes and misunderstandings. But I have come home for my wedding, and to help with this investigation, of course. I would hate to see anything slow the momentum toward federation. We need it. As they say, and you more than many must understand, it’s a cold and often unforgiving universe out there. We need each other to survive.”

“How come ya have a Human-sound’n last name, Sam?”

“It is a contraction of part of my clan name. It seemed easier to use on Earth.”

“You remind me of someone. He’s out there in a ship held together with chewing gum and bail’n wire, if ya are familiar with that phrase? I wish he would come home to Vulcan sometime. Name’s Kov. You wouldn’t know him would ya?”

Samik grinned again and folded his arms over his chest. “You would not know his clan name, would you? His parents names? I probably do not know him since over my life time I have been personally acquainted to varying degrees with only 647 Vulcans out of the 4.38 billion currently in residence on this planet.”

Trip laughed. “Fell right into that one, didn’t I? His father’s name is Kuvak. The Kuvak on the High Command who pulled a phase pistol on V’Las and arrested him. He’s on the High Council now.”

“Oh, THAT Kov. Yes, I know him.”

Trip wondered what that meant, but thought more questions could wait until he and Sam had their evening meal. They could talk later since Sam was spending the night with him and T’Pol and tomorrow would be looking for his own place.

….

Others were arriving on Vulcan. With the change to more openness on the part of the government came a greater tolerance for alien tourism and educational exchanges. Irene threw her bag on the dorm bed. “Well, we are here! Did you take your first triox shot?”

Jackie sighed. “Yes. It reminded me of all those shots and exams by both Human AND Vulcan doctors we went through before even leaving earth. Had I known all that we would have to go through, I would have opted for three months volunteering to study insects in the Amazon with that scientific vacations group. You’re the one with a Vulcan friend, not me.”

“Ok, I know I talked you into it, but we get first crack at these Vulcan computers. I’m gonna buy some of these new padds for personal use.”

“Better check with customs first. There is still a lot of restricted technology.”

“Yeah, well, at least I didn’t buy a statue of Surak and later discover ‘made on Terra’ on the bottom of it! Think they’ll let you off Vulcan with that?”

Jackie sat on her bed and grinned sheepishly. “My first purchase. Right at the ground station while they riffled through our bags or whatever they did to them behind closed doors.”

“Your exact words were ‘An authentic piece of Vulcan’. Me, I think I will just grab a handful of sand and put it in a baggie. Won’t cost a penny.”

“You can get an ounce of Vulcan sand at any Interplanetary Trader chain store back on earth.”

“But how do you know that it isn’t just taken from the nearest Long Island beach?”

“Irene, the only Vulcan souvenir that YOU really want is the one who sent you a Dear Jane letter a month ago because he was returning to the old home world to get married. You even think you will run into him? Give it up.”

Irene’s shoulders sagged. “Let’s drop it Jackie. We are here to learn about operating systems. I only want to see him one more time, is all. Okay? I got us on that Blue Line city tour and it goes near to where he lives now. I checked. Quite logical, isn’t it? The online directory records the residences of everyone the day they move from one dwelling to another on the whole damn planet.”

….

Touring the sites of Shirkar with a friendly native guide was definitely more fun than transporting down to the open desert and hiding from patrol craft and wild sehlats. Jon Archer was enjoying himself and drinking all the water he wanted without having to carry a supply along. T’Sil was a delightful companion and had even invited him home for the evening meal with her mate and two-year-old daughter.

The old High Command building was now the Ministry of Justice, perhaps a subtle joke on the part of T’Pau? Its gothic spires were actually an architectural innovation that was quite new, meaning about two hundred fifty years old. Really old was the fortress at the city’s center with the huge uncut stones that fit so perfectly they did not need mortar. It was ten thousand years old and continuously occupied since long before the time of Surak. Touching those walls gave Jon a feeling like looking down a deep well. Was that a Surak echo or his own reaction? Mind boggling how old Vulcan civilization actually was. The fortress had been the start of his tour because the High Council offices where there, and T’Pau actually lived somewhere inside those ancient walls.

Now T’Sil was showing him a shopping area. She had warned him about the dubious authenticity of models of famous buildings and statues of Surak. He had smiled. He had all the reminder of Surak that he needed and had asked her about children’s games. This she was very knowledgeable about, having studied the latest Vulcan consumer reports in preparation for the education of her daughter. Jon made a few purchases with T’Sil’s advice. His cousin’s kids were gonna love these holographic logic puzzles. On the way to T’Sil’s home he said “Ah” startling T’Sil and letting the puzzle he was working on slide off his lap. It had just hit him about something Surak might have done, as T’Pau had suspected it might. He told T’Sil and she spoke a code into her com unit and handed it to Jon.

….

Samik had enjoyed his dinner with Trip and the update from T’Pol once she returned from her dinner with T’Pau. Samik was eager to learn as much as possible about His Intended before he formally announced his presence. He explained to Trip how he must make an official visit to her, then to her family, to prove that he was gainfully employed and ready to take on the responsibility of maintaining a household. Then there was the gift to her clan head. And then, the preparation of his own clan’s marriage grounds. Unless it was an emergency and the ritual hastily arranged, the male was supposed to repair any damaged stones, gongs, chimes, and of course brush the spider webs off those ugly ancient weapons…just in case.

After a peaceful night’s rest and the preparation of the morning meal for Trip and T’Pol, Samik accepted the condo offered by the housing service and had the few possessions that he brought from Earth sent there. Well, today is the day, thought Samik. Formal visitation robe, hair cut to regulation Vulcan norm, a little token for His Intended: not strictly necessary, but nice. He walked up to the imposing walls of the old fortress and through into the modern office foyer. His biosign was already registered, so the guards gave him a quick once over and supplied him with an escort. His Intended was expecting him, but her secretary said her latest meeting had run overtime. So he waited.

And he waited. He knew she had important business but who could this be? It was a trade commission from a Vulcan colony world?!? For this long he expected it to be at least the Andorian ambassador saying they needed to take back another disputed planetoid or Ambassador Soval with the news that the Klingons were threatening the Terran system again. No? “Well tell her I am going to visit her parents first then. Yes, I know that is highly irregular. Yes, I know her parents are dead and that means a journey to their clan memorial site on the other side of the planet. Okay, thank you, I am glad she will see me now as this will only take a minute out of the time with the trade commission!”

Samik waved his hand at the bio ID unit and walked into T’Pau’s private office. The entire commission of five stood and nodded in unison. T’Pau rose from her seat at her desk and raised her hand in the formal greeting. Samik returned the greeting and addressed her.

“Hi Darlin’, (that’s a Terran greeting), since I am fresh from that world. I see you got your hair cut since the last time we met. For a long-time denizen of the desert, as the Humans say, you sure clean up nice. I formally announce my presence. How about a night out on the town and, if it is not too soon, spend the night at my place? I know it is not the norm, but it has been done often enough. I doubt your parents or mine will object, all of them being deceased.”

He had only meant to lighten this formal moment a bit, not show any disrespect. But Samik had been away from home a very long time, and his family’s sense of formality had always been much more relaxed than that of T’Pau’s family…as he realized belatedly.

There was a slight cough from one of the trade commissioners and another of them was valiantly trying to keep a straight face. Samik had not necessarily violated the dignity of anyone present, but he certainly had stretched it. T’Pau’s cheeks turned a livid green. She walked to the door of her meditation room and turned to address the trade commission.

“A moment of you indulgence, please.” She pushed open the door and swept her gowned arm up and pointed into the room. “Samik, if you please?”

Samik nodded to the commission and stepped into the room, but T’Pau did not follow. Instead, she remained in her office, closing the door between herself and Samik and locking it with a flick of her wrist over the bioscan unit. She then returned to her desk to finish her business. A half hour later she bid the commission good day, and reopened the meditation room door.

….

“How did it go with T’Pau?” asked Trip when Samik met him at the engineering offices of the warp engine development work area on the outskirts of ShirKar the next morning.

“Well, it could have started out better, but did not end altogether badly. She accepted my little blood-green earth emerald necklace after I promised never to embarrass her again. She dropped the necklace in a desk drawer and locked the drawer.”

“Should I just shut up now or are you gonna tell the whole story?”

“Trip, I think it would be more profitable for us to go over our search strategy. T’Pau has some very explicit orders on how we are to proceed. She has recalled the uniformed search teams as people are asking too many questions about what they are doing. We are to start two days after tomorrow, so you are to spend a night at my condo enabling us to get an early start. Tomorrow I have some matters to settle in relation to the wedding and I must also interview the people who had been in contact with V’Las the last few days before his escape. Then My Intended has scheduled tea and meditation in the garden near her quarters as a get-acquainted session for the two of us, day after tomorrow.”

Three days from now? Not much hurry about this. Not very high priority?”

“We have to back off the searching so the infinitely curious Vulcan public disregards the previous activity. And I suspect this assignment is just something to keep me out of her office. Not that I enjoy my designated accommodations there anyway.”

….

T’Pol had interviewed everyone at the Seleya retreat. There really was no way an outsider could have gotten into the Chief Priest’s sleeping room without being seen by one of his attendants even if his steward had slept the whole night at his post. Melds had been done with all the retreat personnel who could possibly have gotten by the steward. They were performed by a skilled telepath whose reputation was spotless. Surak had hidden himself well. All that could be done now was to wait for the katra to reveal itself.

The First Minister was not content with this report but T’Pol’s investigation had been accepted as adequate. T’Pol returned to her work at the Interplanetary Relations Administration where there was a pile of padds detailing numerous requests and complaints.

….

There were three types of weapons, two each, as was required in the rare event of a challenge, six in all. Two types of weapons were for the male challenge and one for the female challenge. Those in the possession of Samik’s clan dated back less than a thousand years, so their composition was of a steel which did not rust. Still, they did turn a duller gray between rituals and needed some buffing up. Although kept locked in a storeroom, children had a way of getting around locks to take a peek and dare each other to touch these forbidden items. Small fingerprints may have accounted for some of the graying, but no child ever admitted to such an act. And of course no child ever told on another.

Samik had contacted his cousin Silnak. They made plans for the formal parade from the clan mother’s house to his condo with the lirpas and the ahn-woons and ahn-fois. The ritual cleaning and wrapped would be done at the condo. They also would be stored there until the wedding to be held in two month’s time, put off till after the Interment of the Katra of Surak. Today would be the official start of the various preliminary rituals connected with a formal Vulcan wedding.

The procession wound through an older meandering residential section of Shirkar and out into a new residential section that was laid out in a precise grid. Five of the six males had their faces hidden by the hoods of their robes as they walked single file, each balancing a weapon on their forearms. The formal wrappings that were to be applied after the cleaning were folded neatly on top of the weapons. The only male with his hood off was the intended groom who was the last in line. The procession drew mild interest, as this was a common enough sight in the city. There were, in fact, thirty such processions occurring this very day and all had filed procession permits because vehicle traffic was impeded for a short time. Vulcans living in cities checked their routes online before going anywhere execpt on foot, to see if there would be any delay on the intended route and if so, whether a detour was advisable. This permit filing also was a boon to the tourist industry that was growing since the High Council had opened up the planet in the spirit of interplanetary federation.

As the curious procession moved along the street, a slim petite woman hopped up and down to see over the people in her tour group. She gasped when she recognized the face of the last man in the procession and pushed through to a low wall defining the border of an outdoor café. Boosting herself up on the wall, she waved her arms and shouted above the crowd in a Terran language: “Yuoo Huooo, Sammy! Hey, Sammy Kiosik! That IS you Sammy, isn’t it?”

Samik looked up at the young woman hailing him from atop the wall and almost tripped. He spoke to the male walking ahead of him, and that male spoke to the next until the procession halted to gather in a circle, weapons to the center, and then stacked them on the ground. The males then faced outward and Samik removed his robe which was placed on the pile of weapons.

Silnak, who had been leading the procession spoke the formal words, known but unused for many years. “A person of unknown clan has hailed the honored one. Her hail must be answered and her request fulfilled or denied. We will await your return.”

Samik gave the hand salute and took four steps backward, while facing the group. Then he turned and with a tilt of his head indicated a side street to Irene. She took his meaning and jumping down from the wall, threaded her way through the onlookers, and stepped into the empty side street. This was a narrow pedestrian-only walkway with benches and plantings and overhead, a kind of netting which softened the sun’s glare. She walked to the nearest bench and turned back to face the busy thoroughfare she had just come out of. Too nervous to sit, she leaned against the nearest wall.

It took Samik a minute to appear. In the meantime, Irene thought over the encounter. She had made a huge cultural blunder in hailing him. He had made his intentions clear, but she found it impossible to let go of such a desirable male. And he had said they would still be friends and that he would continue to correspond with her and Vulcans did not lie, right? This three month educational trip and tour was fortuitous. She had V-mailed him her itinerary on Vulcan, sent just before she left earth.

Suddenly here he was walking toward her with his determined familiar gate. He glanced down the street, then back behind him.

He doesn’t want anyone to see him talking with me, she thought, and a sinking feeling descended through her.

“Well, hello there!”

His greeting is cheerful enough, Irene mused, then stammered, “Sorry if I interrupted something. But I was so surprised to spot you!”

Samik leaned an arm against the wall over her head, bending forward so he was looking directly down into her eyes. He was blocking her sight of the busy street, giving them a bit of privacy. He smiled. She felt all shy and awed looking up at him. He was so wonderfully handsome, so desirable. Her body felt like a magnet that would instantly adhere to him if she was not grounded by the touch of her shoulder against the wall of a building.

He shifted his feet. “I was planning on contacting you before you left Vulcan. But I am involved in an investigation of some urgency. I must apologize for that.”

“Can we do lunch or something?”

“I am afraid not. But I will send you a nice long letter when I have time. I will send it to your address here on Vulcan. I did note your itinerary.”

“When are you returning to your job on Earth?”

Samik sighed. “I am not. My work is here now, at home. I did tell you that my life is now on my home world. That we would always be friends even though our paths would be parallel for only a short time. And…I am getting married soon. I did tell you that. It is my duty but also, my fulfillment. I am happy. I wish you happiness too.”

“Oh.”

“I did tell you I was engaged since childhood and soon to be married.”

“Yes, you did. But I thought, when we a…that it might have been off.” Irene’s insides froze. “Well, I guess it isn’t. And I guess this is it? We will not see each other again?”

Samik reached out and lifted a strand of her hair. She knew that was extremely intimate for a Vulcan, but it was not a telepathic touch. They had been a bit further along than that a few weeks ago. That kiss had shivered through her like no other kiss.

“I am sure we will see each other again. You are making your first exploration of my home world. I think you will come back to my world more than once. I will be visiting your world, probably many times and in many capacities, but this is my home because it is my wife’s home. I do wish we had been able to have more personal explorations between us and I treasure our experiences. I learned much from them. And I will always care about you. Anytime you are in real need, you can contact me. A Vulcan friend is a friend for life.”

Irene’s face was sad and she looked down at her feet. But she nodded.

Samik sighed. “If I were free to choose a Human mate, it would be someone like you. I never meant to mislead you. Thinking Human relationships were more open and tentative than the Vulcan, I may have inadvertently done so. But I regret none of it and sincerely hope that you do not either. Be content with what we had, a brief touching. More cannot be… More would be….”

“Illogical,” they both said together.

Samik flashed a brief smile, like a hiccup. “Was it not worth it to know that Vulcans and Humans can be in accord – can love? Irene, it has to be enough for us. Find a Human mate. Or find an unpromised Vulcan.”

Irene took a deep breath. “I’ll try. But it hurts, Sammy. It really hurts. Sometimes Human relationships are not as shallow as you might think.”

At least she had friendship. Deep down she had expected this reaction. She knew him as well as she thought she did any male. However, both Vulcan AND Human males mystified her. No sense in making any undignified reaction now. It would only spoil this moment. This last moment as almost lovers, which she knew would be replayed in private tears later. “Okay. I understand. Friends then.” And she did not realize she was biting her lip.

Samik pushed off the wall with his hand and hesitated for a second. Then he brushed her cheek with two fingers. “You know I cannot answer you again if you hail me on the street. Just know that all the time we spent together is sharply etched in my memory with the fondest of feelings.”

He turned and walked away. He disappeared around the corner. She stood unable to move for almost a minute, then sat on the bench and wrote down his words so she would remember them. It was all she would have of this aborted romance and it would be a long time before she could sort out her life and put thoughts of him as a potential lover behind her. When she walked back into the main street, the procession was gone and her tour group was patiently waiting for her with deeply inquiring expressions, especially on the face of the Vulcan tour guide. None of them got an explanation and the tour continued, a bit more subdued than when it had started.

….

T’Pau had been mulling over Admiral Archer’s comment, relayed over T’Sil’s com unit, for a couple of days now. So Surak thought his family had been safe when he was killed? He had asked Archer to discover whether some of his descendents still lived, but Archer had not had time to do that. T’Pau knew her clan held a tentative claim to such descent. So did several clans. Even in Vulcan’s excessive record keeping civilization, such knowledge was little more than family legend. With the upcoming wedding, family continuity had been on T’Pau’s mind. Archer’s comment was interesting, but not much help in locating Surak.

The place she had chosen for their first private meld was a small garden a few steps from T’Pau’s apartment through a door hidden by vines. And opposite was another vine obscured door which led to a narrow maintenance hallway with access to the backdoors of several office suites including T’Pau’s and also to a door into the grand reception hall. This ancient administrative complex was completely unlike the very modern High Command Complex that had recently been turned over to the Department of Planetary Justice. T’Pau thought the subtle intimidation of that building’s sand-colored spires would serve to keep Vulcan’s very small criminal element in line. Having been judged worthy of execution herself by the former powers that be who misruled the planet from those walls, she could not bring herself to work there. Yet. But when the government of the planet was again stable and she discarded the robes of state to don judicial robes, she would be able to again enter that building. Then she would oversee definitive cases which would set the tone of Vulcan ethics from this time forward. But there were other aspects to her life. She must start a family soon.

They sat cross-legged facing each other in this small vine guarded garden hidden deep within the grounds of the government office complex. Rough hewn stone block walls climbed several stories above them making a grotto out of the garden. The fortress complex had grown organically outward from this section, additions in the current styles of countless eras having been built as needed. The ancient weathered walls had witnessed and hidden much over the centuries of Vulcan culture, as they did now, sheltering a ritual older than the walls themselves.

“Let me have your thoughts. I want to know all about you.” T’Pau took his tea cup from his hands and set it on the damp stone edge of the fountain. “We should be in accord. We shall become as one.”

Samik kept his breathing even, his hands still. She was so lovely and so young to have experienced what she had in life so far. That she was a skilled telepath excited him. He prepared himself for the shock of learning the details of her persecution by the High Command. If he could vicariously endure these events, he would be able to rock her in his arms and tell her that was all behind her now, as he was here to protect her. He let her place her long elegant fingers along his cheekbone. He closed his eyes and brought down his barriers. They sat like stone garden statues for 4.36 minutes. Then…

She withdrew roughly from his mind. Choking back a cry, she rose to her feet with the aid of the fountain edge, her hand slipping on the wet stone and knocking the tea cup into the water. Its delicate bowl filled with water and slipped down to strike the bottom and crack from its rim to its base. She ran out of the garden and Samik, following her, knew which memory had upset her. He had to set this straight. He caught up to her in the grand reception hall where she paced like a caged raptor, her meditation robe spread like puffed-out feathers. Her eyes pinned him like prey in the reflected light of a hunter’s night vision within the shuttered hall kept closed from the sun when not in use. “You have betrayed me! I, who could have had any male I wanted! But I waited for you, the choice of my beloved parents! I think now that their logic was wanting!” Her voice rang out as the war cries of past centuries had done in this ancient hall.

“T’hy’la, it was not a betrayal, only a harmless experiment from which I learned much. The greatest thing I learned was that it would be so much better with a woman of my own species. I will appreciate our union all the more!”

“Liar! Cheat! You disgrace all of Vulcan!”

Samik was not sure how to proceed now. A stab of despair went through him. Then the doubt he had of his own worth, not having been raised on Vulcan, bubbled up and turned into a complaint of his own. “And how do you think I felt, worried about your safety over the years as you evaded V’Las! And I worried that such a self-absorbed and crude brute like Syrran… was melding with my future mate!”

Her eyes sent daggers through him, as only an angry Vulcan can do. “I may have been melding but I was not kissing and fondling an alien in the back seat of this…vehicle…on a public street! I was seeking to touch the katra of Surak, not the mammary glands and tongue of some alien female to raise my libido!” She paced away from him. The huge hall seemed almost too small. Swirling her robe she turned sharply and paced back. “I will have you fumigated! You will be gone over on the molecular level by the Science Academy healers before you touch me! I want not even the tiniest piece of a skin flake from this creature to touch me!” T’Pau was a thing possessed.

“But My Beloved, you have touched Humans too. How much more intimate can you get than a mind meld? First Syrran, then Archer, and who knows how many others! Do not tell me there was no trace of pleasure in any of that, despite the intent!”

“THAT was in the service of our people. But YOU…that was in the service of your own titillation! You gave HER what belongs to ME!”

“It was not a mating. I have never participated in the mating act.”

“No. You have not. You ONLY participated in behavior which leads DIRECTLY to it!”

“Beloved, I only wanted to understand Humans. We should understand what drives the core of their emotions. We must know this about our closest allies. Yes, I felt attracted to her. But I did not use her. She enjoyed it as much as I. And she knows it can go no further. We are now only friends.” He paused, then bared his own raptor claws. “But I will not give up this friendship.”

Her robes deflated, swinging slightly but molding to her body. Her voice lost its punch, rising an octave and becoming a tremor of hurt. “Why you of all people? The future consort of the head of the Vulcan High Council? Then her voice regained its venomous volume. “It is outrageous!”

Samik had been coming up to speed with T’Pau’s emotions. He could not abide what he perceived as pride and hypocrisy. “At the time I was only the future consort of a leader of a small despised group of political dissidents who wore rags, ragged hair, and smelled of stale body odor because she could not wash often enough!”

Her anger spiking again, T’Pau raised herself as high as her diminutive stature would allow and stabbed a shaking finger straight off the end of a rigid arm. Appearing not unlike an ancient nuclear field piece rolled up to the edge of The Forge, she spat “I will find a professional assassin to assist me with the Kun-ut kali-fi!”

Samik’s fury became quiet and contained. “No you won’t. That is not the action of T’Pau, who is to lead all Vulcan back to Surak. That would be the action of a minion of V’Las and ally of Those Who Marched Beneath the Raptor’s Wing. I am going to meditate now. I suggest you do the same!” Samik left her standing there in the formal council chamber. His footsteps echoed sharply, dying away down the long ornate hallways.

T’Pau kicked her slippers off and they went spinning into the shadows of the cavernous darkened hall. She slouched out of her robes, discarding them like dead snake skin as she continued to pace. The coldness of the floor tiles made her feet ache and her pacing became unsteady, then a heavy stagger as her anger drained off. The tough Vulcan body had evolved to withstand the attacks of emotion that were the norm before the advent of Surak. But like the aftermath of a grand mal seizure in Humans, an emotional release in a Vulcan left a person weak and disoriented. T’Pau collapsed into a carved chair that dwarfed her form as she curled into the fetal position. She shoved her face into the sehlat hide and wept copiously for the first time since she was a small child.



Comments:

Linda

The story is getting more exiting all the time.  I hope that when I get to the current chapter, you don't wait too long to do the next one.  I tend to loose track of plots when chapters are a long time in coming, LOL.  That is why I usually don't read a story until it is all finished, but couldn't resist this one! 

Thanks for more on Erika.  And can't wait for more on Trip and his cage mate.

 

justTrip'n

Wow. In this Archer/Erika conversation, you nailed them! That is, the characterization is perfect and there is more Erika here than in the whole series . . . This Erika grabs me more than the one in the last book, "The Last Full Measure." I love the politics.

Wow! Travis and Hoshi are MORE interesting than in the show or the books!!!! I LOVE THIS. Very 3D to recycle a term. ;)

For some reason, I love this part:

This time Erika smiled openly. Archer basked in the almost glowing sweetness that emanated from her. Then he chided himself mentally. They weren't together, and these kind of thoughts always gave him pain in the end.

"Are we done?" he asked. "I don't want to look insensitive, but I have work to do."

WarpGirl

WOW! You blow me away you know that? Glad a discussion on alcohol inspired a dream that turned into quite an interesting little snippet. I like to give Trip Irish single malt myself, but that's the Irish half of me roaring out. I love Erika, but I'm having many, many mixed emotions about this Archer, on one hand I hate him, on the other I feel a profound sense of sympathy for what must have been an extremely difficult life. Which I suspect is what you've been after. So job well done. I do not agree with his take on this war. But he was pretty bad with the Xindi, I suppose if there were a war with Vulcan he'd be even worse. I'm with panasan I really don't see Hoshi/Travis. But I totally LOVE this Travis. If this Travis had been real Travis I wouldn't dread writing him. So perfectly executed.

panyasan

I liked that you give Archer a complex backgroundstory and the interaction between Erika and him was great - they know each other strenghts, weak points and hurts - like a real (ex) married couple. One sentence I really liked was when you describe how Erika looked as a cadet, her eyes looking shy - breathtaking sentence. I think your desription of Erika not being a leader, but some one who bounds people together is spot on. Loved the conversation on politics and how nationalism easy can lead to conquest. I was not very interested in a Hoshi/Travis pairing, but I can see them together and captain Travis is much stronger and interesting then the Travis in the RU.

bluetiger

Very interesting insight into the relationship, or lack there of, between Jon and Erika. I will be waiting to see what Travis can do to rescue our missing crew. I am also eager to see how Trip and T'Pol are getting on together. Please update when you are able, we love this.

Alelou

You already know this, but just in case anyone else cares, I really love this story.  And I can't wait for Trip to charm T'Pol either ... or, um, whatever else he does. :p

Nemo

Lots of good background for this AU here. I love the 'And you know Trip, He could charm a vulcan' line. Hopefully he will get his chance soon.

Doomsayer

I completely agree with everything Honeybee said :D

Honeybee

Love the AU takes on Erika and Archer here. This is a great chapter that really fleshes out this world. I await the next chapter! And I hope to see Trip charm that Vulcan soon. 

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