Vulcans Do Not Have Maple Trees

By Linda

Rating: PG

Genres: general

Keywords:

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Note: I thought this was my best story that was submitted to the Strange New Worlds contest. It was the one I worked on the longest. It turned out to be rated lower than "Child's Play" which I thought was not as good, but Dean thought it was better. Although this story is on Soval's Annex, there are some changes – more parts added.


Vulcans Do Not Have Maple Trees
By Linda

 

The alien trees filtered dappled light down to the ground where the boy lay, hands under his head. It was like a deep meditation, mesmerizing: the shadows shifting over him during the hour or two he usually spent here. A late afternoon breeze washed through the trees as 40 Eridani A slipped down into the west where desert met sky – far outside of the forest. The breeze-disturbed branches parted briefly, and the boy's inner eyelids slipped into place, giving the forest a different perspective as the harsh Vulcan environment momentarily penetrated the protective canopy of green maple leaves.

A leaf detached itself and floated down, tacking this way and that. The boy's eyes followed it until it veered one last time and settled over his cheek and nose. He picked it off his face and sat up to inspect it. Its veins and jagged tips fascinated him. He gently put it in a pocket, stood up, and said aloud "I want to visit the world these trees come from." He looked around. No one had heard him state his wistful desire out loud. It was time to go home. He would never be so rude as to be late for the dinner his mother served to the family at a quarter Vulcan hour past sunset. And tonight she would be preparing his favorite dish.

He was an obedient Vulcan boy…mostly, except for a few transgressions such as scaling the fence that was supposed to separate the Vulcan population from this park filled with alien flora and fauna. He walked to the place in the fence near the shed that held pruning equipment and hand over hand climbed to the top, then dropped lightly to the roof of the shed. On the side of the shed away from the public paths, he grasped the rope attached to the roof and descended, walking his feet down the side of the shed. Giving his rope a yank to one side, it popped off the hook that months ago he had driven into the roof. The rope whipped off and down, smartly slapping something behind him. Uh oh! He turned to see a park employee standing close by, hands on hips, eyebrows raised.

"Young man, is it logical to assume you read the rules before entering the park?"

The boy stretched to his full height which brought his eyes level with the park employee's belt and putting his hands on his own hips demanded, "Is this fence supposed to protect Vulcans from the trees or the trees from us Vulcans?"

"It is impertinent for a child to answer an adult's question with another question. What is your clan and the names of your parents? Give me your home contact code."

The boy sighed and complied.

….

The last of the red glow from Eridani's setting outlined the man standing in the doorway to the garden holding the meditation robe he had just slipped off. He sighed quietly, knowing despite the quiescence his meditation had given him, he must project sternness. With determination, he walked back through his study and into the family dining area to face the boy waiting quietly, hands folded in his lap, resigned to his father's will. "Shavokh maat, kau-teh orfik-kel gazh, leh-keh skan kelek, sa-fu Sonak eh T'Rea, Soval-kan! (Hunting Bird Clan, Five Hundredth Ancestor Generation, Fourteenth Family House, Son of Sonak and T'Rea, Child Soval!). You have disgraced us with your behavior today. Explain yourself before punishment is administered."

Soval hated it when his full formal name was spoken, even in this abbreviated form. His parents had only used it twice before: at his bonding and the time he had ignored their dire warnings not to touch the wild sehlat caught by a neighbor in a heavy net. This huge desert-bred predator had killed three pet sehlats right in their own family gardens, eating their bowls of food, then proceeding to eat the pets themselves. But this sehlat had an intriguing pelt and Soval's hand was small enough to slip into the net. The dusty fur felt rough and hot on the surface, but pushing his hand deeper, the undercoat was soft and cool next to the animal's skin. He paid dearly for that touch when the sehlat opened his huge fetid mouth baring sharp blood-covered fangs and, biting down, punctured Soval's arm to the bone. But that was a long time ago in the slow passage of time as a child sees it. Today it was trees, not sehlats, which were his downfall; Soval would have to answer for that. He addressed his father with what he hoped was his most sincere expression. "I was studying the trees for a paper I am writing at school."

Sonak was not buying his son's excuse; he knew the boy too well. Smoothing and folding his meditation robe with slow deliberate care as if it were a flag of state, he let the boy squirm a little before he responded. "And how many times must you study the trees for this paper? The park curator told us the hook appeared on the shed roof five months ago and foot prints on the shed's wall had to be washed off at least nineteen times. The curator could not fix an exact time for each invasion of the park, because they were cleverly random."

"Thank you for acknowledging my cleverness, Father."

"Do not be impertinent, boy. I was not commending you."

Soval's face became blank, then contrite. "Yes, Father, I know that you were not; however, I was attempting to salvage something that at least sounded logical."

Sonak turned away from his son as if to look at the alternate dinner being prepared by the boy's mother. Soval was to be deprived of the more palatable meal the rest of the family would enjoy, that was now cooling on the table. Soval thought his father was attempting to control his anger, when in reality his father was trying to repress a bubble of humor that threatened to manifest into a smile. Why did this disciplinary scene occur in generation after generation of their family? There were stories. One day, as an adult, Soval would hear them and of the closely guarded parody on the name for their clan: Clan of the Flying Tricksters.

T'Rea placed Soval's dinner on the table and the family sat down in one gracefully coordinated movement, an ancient appeasement gesture whose meaning was ‘all in attendance here shall be equally fed'. Soval made an exaggerated face to attract his baby sister's attention as she was scanning the table from her mother's arms. The child was not yet able to sit gracefully and would have made the gesture awkward, ruining its effect. The toddler smiled and patted her mother's breast with a small possessive hand. Her hand then crept up exploring her mother's neck, curled over her mother's chin, and settled along her cheek bone, fingers spreading, reaching for something. Found it. Smiling again, she closed her eyes.

Soval's father was still in child-disciplining mode. "T'Rea, I thought you were weaning her. My daughter should be drinking from a cup now and she should not be initiating telepathic contact. She soon will be of an age where we will be expected to take her out in public."

T'Rea handed the toddler to her son so he could place her in her own chair. Turning to her husband she folded her hands with forearms resting on the table, and in a calm mother-knows-best alto, addressed him: "My husband, I am in the process of weaning her. It is not yet complete."

The family dynamics had shifted slightly, and Soval noting it, but feigning unawareness, proceeded to gently deposit his wiggly sister in her chair. He winked at her, then passed calming energy to her by lacing his fingers with hers. Taking the maple leaf from his pocket, he twirled it by its stem to distract Vara so her mother could eat. Vara pulled her hand free of his and grabbed the leaf, sparse eyebrows elevated and eyes wide in wonder.

Soval decided that he could risk more impertinence since his father had been subtly admonished, which made it unlikely for himself to be punished further this evening. Consequently Soval directed a question at his father. "Why must she be weaned at all? Touching mother's face only calms her so we can eat our meal in peace. Or otherwise, why not repress these gestures from the day of birth so a child of Vara's age would not even know she ever wanted to do that?"

Sonak held up a thumb to his mouth, moved it forward, then touched his mouth again in the wait-a-minute sign. He then took a helping of the baked sweet root and passed the serving dish to T'Rea. "My son, later in your training within our clan, you will learn why. For now, and this must stay within the family, I will inform you that there is a part of the mind that can only be developed by this kind of touching during the critical months of early life. You were conditioned in this manner also. Now put this knowledge away until your fourteenth year, five years from now, when you will receive further training. That is, if you show discipline at that age, and, do not persist in the testing of the bounds of your parents' teachings."

Soval knew these bounds included no more visits to the maple forest…among various other transgressions as yet undiscovered by his parents. The boy sighed and returned to scraping up the last of his Vulcan equivalent of lettuce and wheat germ salad.

….

Soval was expecting his punishment to be extended to confinement in his room for the next few evenings. But the following night, at the usual hour, Sonak stood quietly in Soval's bedroom doorway, traveling robe folded neatly over his arm. "Soval, my son, it is time."

Soval, groaning silently, nodded, and stacked his homework padds in an orderly pile. Anticipating his father, yet hoping against it, he had his placed his own traveling robe over the back of his chair, ready to accompany his father to their weekly Contemplation of Surak. Soval rose and followed his father out into the dark Vulcan night. The street was illuminated by strips of solar powered lights laid into the pavement. They resembled glowing railroad tracks that seemed to merge off in the distance.

Many boys attended these Contemplations with their fathers. Since they lived on the edge of the desert, a monastery was within walking distance, located in a rocky uplift sculpted by a cataclysmic ancient earthquake. To Soval, it appeared like a chunk of far off Mount Seleya had been impaled sideways into the ground by some mythic magician. It also seemed a mysterious place of silence and darkness, for the monastery was lit only by ancient stone candle lanterns as a reminder of the primitive conditions from which their species had ascended.

Sonak and Soval joined a silent procession of robes moving up an incline. Soval matched his stride to his father's, attempting the same serious face. He had passed his kahs-wan two years ago and was expected to comport himself as an adult. Like the other boys, Soval was encouraged to meditate beforehand so he would not fidget in the presence of his elders. All the boys began with good intentions, but boredom and boyish restlessness would take their toll. Furtive glances, hand gestures, and silent mouthed words were exchanged by the boys acknowledging each other between the robes of the fathers swaying in the natural stride of desert walking. They swiftly covered the uphill mile to their destination.

At the mouth of the cavern recessed in the cliff side, Sorik, an elderly monk, patiently waited to tend his flock of students. He stood motionless and dour in his heavy dark robe which did not ruffle in the strong evening breeze. The men filed in giving significant looks to their offspring: silent warnings to keep quiet and behave.

Sorik was leading the Contemplation tonight, for the monks rotated this duty as a public relations effort. He noted the number of adults, whispered the count for a young resident aide to record and left him to slide the wide door closed on its ancient track, assisted only by a complex of ropes and weights.

Sorik's sandals slapped lightly over the stone floor smoothed by the footwear of many generations. He stepped sure-footed through a narrow passage dimly lit by the glow from niches carved into the stone slightly above the average Vulcan's eye level. In these niches, small candles flickered behind carved images of scholars who had distinguished themselves in the service of Surak. The mummies of these eminent ones resided much deeper in the cavern, too sacred for the eyes of casual students who spend most of their lives in questionable mundane occupations.

Men moved aside respectfully as Sorik entered a chamber that could hold up to a hundred people. Spreading his robe in a regal manner, he sat down on his chair elevated 3.5 feet above the others and began peering predator-eyed at the boys as if expecting to detect misbehavior. Sorik's ears, huge even for a Vulcan, caught the flickering light and his beak of a nose, narrow and bowed, cast a shadow on one side of his concave face. To a Terran, he would appear the Vulcan version of Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Sorik would not make that comparison himself, as only an ethnographer scanning the Terran databases from space or monitoring the Terran media transmissions, would have a passing acquaintance with this classic Terran hearthside tale.

In a conscious effort to appear studious to outsiders, Sorik steepled his hands and closed his eyes, then folded his hands over his thin legs as a signal he was ready to begin his lecture on the difference between wild and domestic sehlats. Everyone knew this was an allegory for primitive and civilized Vulcans. This topic was timely as the bah-ker kastik yokultik in the Vulcan year had arrived when wild sehlats who had peaked in their seven-year cycle grew bold in the search for food for their young and encroached on the outer limits of civilized Vulcan. Soval had known what tonight's topic would be. Eyeing the serious posture of the monk as he followed his father to their place, he tried to discipline his mind with an image of a shaggy wild sehlat standing still on a hilltop looking down on his neighborhood as the street lights increased their luminosity in the evening. The faint scar on Soval's arm tickled, but he resisted scratching it.

After they were settled, the fathers sitting on folding chairs and the boys sitting cross-legged on the rough cave floor, one boy steepled his hands in the accepted request-to-speak gesture from a child to an adult. Sorik, as moderator, extended his hand palm up toward the boy. Tolark acknowledged with a brief head nod and his thin voice wavered: "How long did it take with selective breeding to evolve a pet sehlat from a wild sehlat?"

A secondary school biology teacher raised a hand at a right angle to his wrist indicating he would accept an invitation to answer. Sorik nodded and the teacher addressed the boy: "Since domestication occurred so long ago, we cannot be know precisely. We estimate 134.5 generations."

"Was that significantly longer than it took to evolve a wild Vulcan into a domesticated one?" asked Soval, forgetting to steeple his hands. He immediately lowered his eyes to the floor when he realized he had spoken out of turn. There was a slight murmur of disapproval among the men, which ceased when Sorik scanned the chamber to silence it. The men realized what a difficult process it was to mold a well-behaved adult Vulcan out of a precocious and eager child in such a deeply emotional species as theirs. They were not so very far from their primitive forebears after all, as every Vulcan parent was forced to admit.

Sorik's aged voice rasped out, echoing unevenly off the natural walls of the cave. "With sentient Vulcans capable of learning in a logical fashion, it took one-tenth of the generations to domesticate the entire population. But we are all wild sehlats at heart. Constant vigilance over our emotions is necessary to maintain our civilization. As Surak has taught us, logic is the key. And that means curbing our sexual appetites to the mandatory seven year cycle and repressing the telepathic instinct from birth on."

Sonak felt the tap of Vimik's foot against his. Both men, being friends since boyhood, held few secrets from each other. Sonak knew the tap was a comment on this monk who was unmated and only visited a priestess once every seven years; therefore, could not know the joys of physical release practiced regularly by bonded couples between the seven year peaks.

Vimik and Sonak's friendship involved other secrets. Being from the same clan, they shared in the yearly hunting season rites that included something forbidden to most of Vulcan society. In hunting clans, telepathy had once been an important tool in coordinating the hunts and the hunting strategy thought-words still pulsed from mind to mind as secret clan recognition-greeting signs. The eating of a small bit of sehlat meat was still part of the manhood rite in Sonak's clan. The clan had to maintain tight cohesion to hide what greater Vulcan society would consider shameful and even criminal. Soval and all the other clan offspring would be brought up with tight discipline and secret male bonding rites unknown even to the official arbiters of logic and ethics: the monks who made a lifetime study of Surak.

Under the guidance of Sorik, the study group's conversation was steered from sehlats to philosophical minutia. The adults began to debate what Surak meant when he put a comma after the word ‘definitive' and before ‘logical sequence' as opposed to moving it after ‘sequence' in his notes. These particular notes were on behavior in public buildings when minor children were allowed to accompany their parents to public events.

"According to current scholarship, Surak takes a very general view in his philosophical treatises," one of the men pointed out. Another brought up that a contemporary of Surak's said these notes were really only part of an unfinished letter from Surak to his mate after the birth of their second child, during the years before he even conceived of logic as the saving of the planet. The notes had been discovered on a crinkled paper marking a page in a child rearing manual which had lain for a century under a bed in a back room of the ruin of a guest house where Surak had supposedly slept.

Vulcans relish conversations like this - at least, adults do. But it is only logical under these circumstances for young boys' minds to wander. The boys started to roll their eyes, nudge stones with their toes, and trace their fingers over the channels and rocky humps in the cave floor. Here and there, one boy would even poke at another boy.

With his father distracted, and all the men's eyes focused above the boys' eye level, Soval decided it would be a good time to retaliate for an unkind comment delivered to him earlier in the day by a bully of a school mate who was sitting across from him in the circle of students scattered around the monk. Soval pretended to scratch his crotch, pointed at the bully's father, then pointed at the statue of a venerable and bent old prune of a priestess. He then raised his right eyebrow five times in rapid succession.

Simsek, the bully, glared at Soval, pointed at the didactic monk in the center of the room and silently mouthed "and your mother". Soval's friend, Tolark, then pointed at the monk and mouthed "and your sister with her disproportional nose". Angst fully charged, Soval and Simsek were measuring the steps it would take to cross the room and deliver a physical message before an adult administered a neck pinch. Fortunately at this point, Sorik cleared his throat and asked them all to rise for a final chant to the memory of Surak.

Soval broke out of the body-warmed cave into the night's coolness. There was a hint of damp from a promised rain that sent a series of shivers through the boy as he waited until Simsek darted ahead and disappeared into the night. The coolness of the evening was like lying under the maple trees. He ran ahead of his father to keep warm. Sonak was in animated conversation with Vimik, so Soval disappeared down the gravel path, running and stopping abruptly to slide a foot or two. He repeated his running and sliding until the ground leveled off and a walkway started to wind to the left into the suburbs. Soval skipped a short distance along the walk before turning back to look for his father. He walked ahead a little, stopped, and turned again, when a hand grabbed the back of his traveling robe, jerking him off balance. Reaching both arms back to grasp whatever had a hold on his robe, he fell into a garage and twisted to break his fall. Hitting the floor knocked the wind out of him so he was unable to grab the ankle of the figure which ran out of the garage. The wide door rolled down, closing out the light from the street just as Soval shimmied up to it on his elbows.

"Sehlat droppings!" Soval swore as he tugged a bit of his robe sleeve free from under the door. The garage in absolute darkness had an eerie airless feel as if he was trapped deep underground with the walls closing in. He thought he knew whose garage this was; he recognized the boot on that ankle as the same one that had tapped an angry rhythm at him across the circle in the cave.

A soft, almost real, sehlat call came from outside the garage and was answered by an ascending call that ended sharply in an annoyed grunt. A real wild sehlat call. From inside the garage. The scar from the bite of two years ago sent a neuron flash to Soval's brain and he started to panic. Feeling along the edge of the door, he found the control that opened it, but held his finger poised over it. If a wild sehlat was loose in here, when the door opened it would escape into the neighborhood where many people were still out walking. There might even be two-year-olds like his sister innocently playing near their homes that would be easy targets for a hungry wild sehlat.

Soval dropped his hand from the control and centered his body, straining his hearing for the slightest sound, for he did not know how a hunting sehlat might approach him. The calls on the other side of the door continued, stirring a low growling response that was sounding more irritated by the second. But the growling was not getting any closer. Soft padding noises seemed to be crossing back and forth, back and forth, at the back of the garage. Then Soval detected vague movement, a darker shadow in the dark garage behind what appeared to be a metal mesh screen. No, a cage! His dark-adapting eyesight searched for and found that the cage door was clamped shut.

So that was the game: his tormentor wanted him to shout out in fear and be humiliated when people came to rescue him from a caged sehlat.

Soval decided to reverse the game.

He spoke out loud as if to calm himself. "Now it will be okay. I will just go over to check that the cage is in truth locked. There, there, distant brother, my fellow predator, I am not going to harm you." And Soval snapped the cage clasp so it made a loud noise. It remained secure.

"Oh no, No NO!" Soval shouted in what he hoped sounded like abject fear. "The door will not close again!" The sehlat howled, so Soval screamed but cut the scream short.

Outside a boy's feet ran over the flagstones and into the house attached to the garage, his voice ringing out: "Father! Mother! Help! Help! That sehlat you caught has killed a boy!"

Soval ran to the door, hit the control, let the door rise a couple of feet, rolled under it and hit the outside control to reverse its direction, closing it. He sprinted around the curving road and an eighth of a mile beyond, to a public transport shelter where he could wait until his father caught up to him. He smiled. That was a close one. He had been ready to panic for a moment there.

It was a good half hour before his father walked by. Sonak explained that he had been delayed while helping a family look for a boy who their distraught son thought had been eaten by a wild sehlat that had apparently been locked inside a very sturdy cage. It seemed that this boy, Simsek, would not explain why he thought this boy that he refused to name, had been eaten by the sehlat. Soval would not happen to know anything about this, would he?

Of course not.

….

It was a mild late afternoon, only 115 degrees under the porch extension in front of a Vulcan primary school where Soval was lingering to catch Tolark so they could ride the public transport car home together. Looking out into Eridani's slanting rays glaring off the street, Soval spotted his father waiting in the family hovercraft. He shifted his padd bag so he could give his father the hand greeting and Sonak reached across the passenger seat and swung open the door. "Let us go get that paper finished, Son."

Soval dropped his padd bag between the seats and slid in next to his father. "I have researched all the databases on may'pel trees and I have observation notes from my visits to the forest. That is sufficient for the paper, Father. You do not have to waste your valuable time on it. We could instead, attend a lecture on the teachings of Surak."

Until this moment, Sonak had not realized just how much Soval was avoiding this assignment. He rested his hands on the steering column and looked pointedly at his son. "And did you consult the park employees who tend the trees?"

"Father, that is not a logical question. You know that my visits were clandestine."

"If your visits had been aboveboard, the park employees would have been the best source of information on these alien trees."

Soval could not argue with that logic. He remained silent for the duration of the trip to the park.

Father and son stood together in a park office, the father doing the talking. "Dr. Romak, now that my son has been properly introduced to you, I will leave him in your custody. I will explore your park…on the proper side of the fence, of course."

Dr. Romak inclined his head slightly and Soval's father strolled off toward the Betazed flower garden. Dr. Romak turned to Soval. "Let us begin with your own…observations. What have you observed about our may'pel trees over the past five months?"

Soval clasped his hands in front of him and took a stance with his feet slightly spread. "Dr. Romak, I now realize that it is more logical to interview you for my paper than to base it on observations alone. My observations, however, did show that the trees produce winged seeds which mostly fall to the ground, but some are lifted by the wind and carried out of the park. I speculate that the winged seeds are an efficient means to populate their original home world with may'pel trees. I did wonder why you do not maintain a barrier to keep the seeds from spreading on our world."

Dr. Romak clasped his hands behind his back and gazed out his office window at the sturdy stand of maple trees with one branch growing so long it occasionally tapped against the window as if requesting entrance to his office. He turned, giving the boy the full force of his dark and deep-set, but not unkind eyes. "You are correct in your speculation. But to answer your question, the seeds die in the desert, so there is no need to contain them to keep them from having an invasive impact on our native flora." Dr. Romak paused, looking straight at Soval to see that he understood this. "Along with all the other flora and fauna of their native world, we have little to fear from the trees taking hold where we do not want them. Our environment is superior to that of other worlds; it creates tough species: only hearty native species can survive here."

Soval mulled this over. "Are we sure about that? And do you imply that the sentient life forms on that world are also inferior to us?

"I am not an anthropologist. If you wish to write a paper on the sentient life forms of that world, you must speak to an expert in that field who has studied the planet from an orbiting spacecraft. However, it is my conviction that the life on any alien world is all of one piece when you compare it to life on our world." Dr. Romak tapped his chin with a forefinger and studied the padd with Soval's school logo that rested on a corner of his desk next to a set of small animal skulls lined up in graduated size and placed precisely three inches apart. "I see from the research on this padd that your father has given me, there is one extremely interesting fact of which you are not aware. And you would have been aware of it had you read the signs along the walkways approaching the may'pel forest instead of climbing over the fence."

Soval inclined his head briefly. "Will you enlighten me now, Dr. Romak?"

"Of course. How old do you think this forest is?"

Soval repressed the urge to tap his foot and tried to give a logical answer. From his research, he knew it would take a mature tree at least thirty years to reach the height of the trees in this forest. On the other hand, his comparative alien cultures instructor had said that first contact with the sentient life forms of that planet would probably not be initiated for another one or two hundred years. Some expedition must have retrieved tree samples, but he had not heard of any landing on that world. "I do not have enough data to give you a correct answer."

Dr. Romak crossed his arms and looked down at the boy. "This forest was begun eighty-six years ago from seeds found in the pocket of a Vulcan woman who was part of an observation team whose ship crashed on the planet and was stranded there for several months. She turned the seeds over to the Vulcan Science Academy biology department when she discovered that they must have found their way into her clothing as it was drying outdoors on ropes in the local primitive native manner of laundering. She had been turning this native clothing over to the anthropology department when she found the bonus stowaways. Such is the unplanned way of scientific discovery at times. We sprouted the seeds in a greenhouse, and mixed chemicals to simulate the soil of that world. But it was not until another observation ship made a clandestine landing on the planet to get some native soil, that we planted the young trees outdoors. With extreme care, they grew to their natural height."

The boy was impressed, but this was a bit disconcerting. "It is dangerous not knowing what you are bringing into our environment from another world, is it not?"

Dr. Romak's face took on what passed for a smile on Vulcan. "Yes it is. But this was not the first time we have grown alien flora on Vulcan. Like all things alien, it is contained, controlled. We have strict rules and procedures. I believe you can now understand the reasons for rules and procedures. You were fortunate there were no adverse consequences to yourself or the trees when you climbed over that fence. What if it had been the Andorian ice cat exhibit that you had climbed into? Where would you be now? Rules and procedures are for the protection of ourselves and aliens and they are framed by well thought out processes based on logic. Our people have a superior culture because it is based on logic and developed with our superior intellect. Do not forget this young Soval, if you ever have a work assignment offworld.

Soval swallowed. "Yes, sir." The boy was glad that he saw his father returning. This was indeed a day in which he had learned much, but he was eager to get away from Dr. Romak and go home to write that paper and leave the climbing of fences in the past along with the other transgressions of his childhood.

Soval and his father, bowing in unison, bid Dr. Romak good day and returned to their car where Sonak regarded his son pensively. "Soval, my son, you must learn the rules. Learn all there is to know about something, before you make a decision to change the rules, or ignore them. Most of the time you will discover there is sound logic behind the way things are done."

"Understood, Father," and this time, the boy really meant it.

Sonak, satisfied his plan had worked, ducked into the hovercraft and got it airborne. Soval strained against his seat harness to see the forest as the hovercraft flew over it and turned in the direction of their family home. The trees became a receding patch of alien green, darker than blood. The tentative foothold the forest had on his planet, for the first time, seemed out of place against the background of civilized Vulcan. It receded from his view and from his mind.

Soval glanced at his father. Affectionate feelings for him welled up, threatening to burst through the calm laid down by Soval's last meditation. How wise his father was, how gentle his discipline. How intelligent were the teachers on his world - much superior to those who lived chaotic lives on other worlds and held primitive stores of incomplete knowledge. From now on he would appreciate the superiority of his world and vowed to never forget that Vulcan was what all worlds should emulate. But one day, yes, one day he would visit the homeworld of these trees and see how he could help its native sentients become more like Vulcans.

As the hovercraft moved away, the late afternoon breeze blew underneath the light force field that sheltered the maple forest from 40 Eridani A, but let enough of the star's energy through to nourish the trees. Maple seeds responded to the breeze that lifted them on their tiny wings and blew them out into the desert. Most of the escaped seeds withered under Eridani's harsh radiation, but a few, during brief rainstorms, tried to take root. These lived for a few days, sending down rootlets into the sand and tiny green shoots reaching toward Vulcan's star; but soon, they too withered and died.

Yet, at the edge of the maple forest, something was happening to the trees that received more of the local environment than those at the center. Imperceptively at first, their leaves and bark were thickening, the sharp leaf points were rounding off, and whole leaves were becoming smaller, protecting their precious moisture. The chemical balance inside the maple leaves was altering to pick up more of what Eridani's radiation was offering. Maple roots were creeping deeper into the Terran soil mixed with Vulcan sand, anchoring themselves against the brutal desert winds. The roots were growing more hairs to contend with the abrasion of the sand. But most curious of all, each crop of new seeds was receiving the increasing store of knowledge the trees were learning through their adaptive changes. This knowledge was being tucked away into the genetic code. And season after season, like tiny colonizing ships, the winged seeds were blowing out into the desert.


Comments:

Brandyjane

I don't know what to say.  I just loved this story!  I like how you explained why Soval was a melder.  I suspect there were many, many clans like his secretly carrying on the practice, perhaps unaware that others were, too. 

Linda
I think there were more comments for this fic and that they got blown away when the web site crashed. So I will repeat what I thought I said in a comment left here: Very interesting take on the character Syrran. He is a bit arrogant but I did not see him as cocky as HR sees him. Still, this is a great character sketch of him and quite humorous. Well done, HR!
evcake
I can\'t beleive I didn\'t leave a comment! This one of my favorite of your stories. I love the theme of adaptation. And the look at Soval as a child. \"Clan of the Flying Tricksters\"! Priceless.
Smiles
"At least then he would be quiet." That just had me LOL!!!! Loved it. :p

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