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Jacqueline Y. Comben

Author's Note This story is set during the five year mission of U.S.S. Enterprise at the end of the T.V. series. It uses information from 'Amok Time', 'Journey to Babel', 'Balance of Terror', 'The Enterprise Incident', 'The Paradise Syndrome' and other series episodes, together with some data about Vulcan furnished by the animated episode 'Yesteryear' and the first three motion pictures.


Firstly, I ask thee...
Which is most brave, most courageous,
To ambush thine enemy from behind,
To stand forth and challenge thine enemy,
Or to let thine enemy go his way, to live?

And secondly, I enquire of thee...
Is it better to burn the parani in the pan,
To burn the parani in the field,
Or not to burn the parani?

My third question is thus:
Once there were greenflowers where now all is dust.
Who is to blame for their loss?
Who is to blame, if not us?

It is possible to die fired by care for a brother,
To die fired by hate for another,
Or to live, searching for logic and truth.
Which dost thou choose?

Fifth, if thou choosest life, consider this...
There are three children taking the Kahs-wan.
The first, who is trying to be fastest,
Falls and is given water by the next.
The third, mindful of the rules of the Test,
Passes them by, as if he is deaf.
Which of the three, I ask thee,
Shows maturity?

from "The Questions of Surak to a Child Learning"
translated by Amanda Grayson.

* * * * * * * *

"The asteroid is not yet close enough to cause instability in the planet's crust," Spock reported, "but the atmosphere, being more tenuous in nature, is disturbed."

"I guess," muttered Bones McCoy, "you mean it's windy down there."

James T. Kirk's mind went back to another time, another planet. He remembered the wind. It had grown stronger and stronger until its gusts ripped and tossed all in its path. One moment it was a barrier against which he had battled; then, an instant later, it had hit him in the back, a blow as sharp as any ever received on a judo mat in the gym.

Jim's memories of that time were disconnected, dreamlike, because he had been an amnesiac, living in one corner of his mind, the rest shut off. The things which meant most to him now, his ship, his crew, had been hidden from him then. With the return of all this, the corner of his mind he had inhabited then had lost immediacy, had become more and more like a dream. Only Miramanee, his dead wife, now seemed real; the rest was almost forgotten.

Yet Kirk remembered the wind. He even knew why. He remembered that wind because he had been powerless in its grip and that he had hated. You could fight an enemy! A Klingon, a Romulan, an Orion pirate, a sweet-smelling bloodsucking entity, all of those you could fight and against all of those you could win, but you could never defeat the wind. Against that wind the strongest man was as defenceless as an infant. He had screamed his anger at the sky to no avail. He had been beaten by that wind and he had known, truly known, defeat for the first and only time in his life. He had hated it.

Yes, he remembered that wind.

Kirk shook off the recollection. He was not powerless now! He was at the con of his ship and he could rip from the wind's grasp those whom it now threatened. Even as he thought that, he had a mental vision of them and grinned ruefully, really snapping back to normal at the thought. He was completely sure that the members of the Survey Party were not yelling at the sky. They were waiting with stoic calm, battened down. It was the logical thing to do! The thought caused him to glance over at the back of his friend and First Officer, who was bending over his console, concentrating on the sensor read-outs. Jim grinned again in self-mockery. Spock couldn't know that he'd been having visions of defiant protest against the forces of nature, so there was no need to feel guilty! Recalled to the reality of their mission, he turned to his other friend.

"Bones..." he began.

"On my way," said the doctor, and went.

In the Transporter Room of U.S.S. Enterprise, Scott waited beside Kyle to help with a beam-up which would be anything but standard. The ship was entering an elliptical orbit, forced to avoid the giant asteroid that was about to impact with the planet below.

The door opened to admit the ship's Medical Officer, who was panting. McCoy had no way to tell if any of the Survey Party would need his aid, but he had to be here in case, and M'Benga and Christine had Sickbay ready for the worst eventuality. As the doctor entered the room, he heard Jim Kirk's voice over the intercom.

"Uhura's picked up their communicators through the static," the Captain was saying, "and Spock's pin-pointing their coordinates now. Beam them up as soon as you can, Scotty. I want my ship away from here!"

"Aye sir," said Scott, as he helped Kyle to lay in the coordinates Spock was relaying from the Bridge. McCoy sighed. Jim would push his people when there was no need. Nobody wanted this ship away from a potential bomb of a planet more than Scotty. Aside from the fact that the loss of Enterprise would end their lives pretty rapidly, the ship was the home of Scotty's beloved engines! He wouldn't risk them if he could avoid it! Certainly he didn't need to be told to hurry so that they could leave here fast!

The Transporter stations glittered and Scott, adjusting controls, said, "Aye, that's it!"

As the figures on the platform firmed, McCoy jerked forward to help them, but, before he had moved appreciably, all six rose from cowering immobility and literally jumped off the platform.

"Two more," Spock's voice announced over the intercom, "and some equipment."

"Equipment!" exclaimed McCoy, "Don't they realise...?"

"The pods are tagged with transmitters," Scott told him. "It's no trouble."

As he spoke, the transporter operated again and two more figures and four cargo pods solidified.

"Captain, we have them," Scott reported with relief.

Although, down in the Transporter Room, there was no way to tell that the ship at once began to move away from the threatened planet, on the Bridge the viewscreen made this clear as Sulu and Chekov joyfully took her on a pre-plotted course to safety.

"Captain..." softly, from Spock, a reminder.

"Oh, you can stay in sensor range and check what goes on," Kirk told him, with a grin. Curiosity Spock did admit to! "But if it's clear the worst is happening, get us out of the system fast! If that planet blows..." He didn't finish the sentence. He didn't need to. If the planet blew, warp speed would be their only option, and Spock knew it.

"Acknowledged," said the First Officer, still bending over his sensor display.

"I'll go and welcome our guests," the Captain said, leaving the Command Seat and heading for the turbo-lift. "Spock, you have the Con."

* * * * * * * *

In the Transporter Room, the three humans were grinning at each other with relief. They'd done it! The Survey Team was safe and so was the ship! Then they noticed that their new passengers were engaged in shifting the cargo pods. Their reactions varied.

McCoy realised that every one of the rescued Vulcans bore signs of cuts and bruises, as well as being uniformly filthy and more dishevelled than he had imagined possible.

"Hey," he gasped, "you all should be in Sickbay!"

In unison, Scott and Kyle also spoke. "We have crewmen for that job," the engineer said, turning to the intercom to call some.

"Let me..." the Transporter Chief began, seeing that at least one of the cargo-shifters was a small, fragile looking female.

Behind them, the door opened.

"Welcome aboard," announced a cheerful voice. "I'm James T. Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. We're very glad we were in time."

Scott's attention was focussed on the intercom and McCoy had turned to look at his Captain, but Kyle was still moving towards the platform and he saw two of the bedraggled figures quite obviously stiffen. One actually gasped and then stared at Kirk in such a way that Kyle could not believe his eyes! It was more than a glare, that look. It was a silent snarl, vicious and full of hate!

Kyle's amazement robbed him of the power of speech; yet he wanted to yell! Vulcans did not look like that! But Romulans did! So what went on here?

"Jim, they should be in Sickbay," McCoy pointed out, almost before his Captain could finish the 'welcome' speech.

"What does an Outworlder know of us?" asked a harsh voice.

Kyle relaxed slightly. Surely the Captain could now see for himself just what they'd beamed aboard? He was in for another surprise, for, as Kirk looked at the tall one who had spoken and did a double take, beside him, Dr. McCoy frankly stared and, with what seemed like recognition, breathed aloud, "Good Lord!"

The female who had tensed earlier, now moved slightly closer to the male and Kirk whispered, "T'Pring!"

"Evidently," she said, as flatly as Spock had ever said anything.

It was McCoy's turn to do a double take. He'd recognised the guy, mainly because blue eyes were very rare among Vulcans. The windswept, dirty female in a torn, muddy jump-suit was a lot harder to reconcile with the exquisite creature he remembered, but he could see Jim was right, and of course it figured. If one of them was here, both would be.

James T. Kirk's thoughts were whirling. He had to see Spock; talk to him alone; warn him. Yet he couldn't just walk away. He had to be polite to these people.

One of them, noticeably older, his disarranged hair streaked with white, stepped forward, his hand raised in Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Captain," he said. "I am Salon. Your arrival was appreciated. None of us suffers more than minor physical damage, so there is no need for your Healer to examine us."

"Regulations, sir, state that any Survey Party must be checked out regularly," Kirk said, "and your people just had quite a buffeting." The Captain had seen a way to get his private talk with Spock. "Please go with my Medical Officer," he continued. "I'll arrange for your belongings to be shifted to your assigned quarters."

"We need no Outworlders' potions," snapped the one Kyle had taken for a Romulan. "Salon has said that we are undamaged."

"Stonn," Salon said, helping Kirk by supplying the guy's name, "we are on a Star Fleet vessel and are bound by their rules. If one of these states that we must be medically examined, so be it, however needless the examination may be." He turned back to Kirk and gestured at the cargo pods. "Captain, these casks contain our records and most valuable samples. Great care is necessary in their disposition."

Four crewmen with anti-grav sleds arrived pretty well on cue.

"You see, Salon, my men'll make sure they're shifted smoothly," Kirk pointed out. "Scotty, organise that, would you? Salon, this is Dr. McCoy, my ship's Surgeon. Please go with him to Sickbay." A thought occurred. "He'll make sure you all get a change of clothes as well as checking you out."

"Desirable," uttered one of the females, eyeing her torn, filthy garb.

"O.K., this way." Bones McCoy wasn't delighted with his assignment, but that was life. It was bad enough having one sarcastic Vulcan to check out regularly! Now he had nine on the ship and eight to examine at once!

They followed him, however, with no further argument. Kirk noticed that T'Pring walked beside and behind her husband, who had held out two fingers imperiously to her. The Captain also noticed that the smallest of the party was limping. He knew he shouldn't be pleased by that, but he couldn't help a certain satisfaction creeping into his thoughts. That one certainly needed some kind of treatment, so the rest of the Team would realise that regulations were not all human illogic!

"O.K., Scotty, Kyle, I'll go back to the Bridge," he said, and escaped.

* * * * * * * *

Nurse Christine Chapel was expecting the arrival of the Survey Team. She and Dr. M'Benga had three diagnostic beds set up for Vulcan readings. Christine, however, was not looking forward to her task with unmixed delight. So far she had met only two Vulcans and she suspected that both were rather different from the norm. At first she had found even Spock's father unnerving, but he had exhibited a definite sense of humour and she'd come to see something of Amanda's reasons for choosing him. Spock, however much he tried to seem the typical Vulcan, was half human. She knew he did care. These new arrivals were an unknown quantity.

As they entered, Christine's natural concern took over from her nervousness. These were patients! One look at their bedraggled hair, their torn and filthy clothes, the cuts and the bruises, and she was all nurse again.

"You're limping!" she exclaimed to the smallest. "Come and lie down here."

T'Ressa blushed. Nurse Chapel did not realise it, but she had caused her patient to suffer an irrational wish that the deck would open and swallow her! T'Ressa was only too aware that not only had she failed to control the pain from her foot, but she had also shown her reaction to this person noticing her failure to control.


The youthful male just in front of her swung around and amazed the humans present by dropping to his knees to look at the girl's legs.

"Salon, T'Ressa is hurt!" he exclaimed.

"It is... not serious," T'Ressa managed, fighting not to blush again.

"You let us be the judge of that," Bones McCoy grinned, seeing a very young and nervous girl under all that grime. If it wasn't for the ears, she'd be pretty! "You lie down, now," he told her. "M'Benga here trained on Vulcan. He's well qualified to treat you." He was quite well aware that two of the party had reason to doubt his own competence.

"You trained on Vulcan, Healer?" the young male asked the African doctor.

"At the Academy Hospital. I am M'Benga. Peace and prosperity to you."

"Staret," with salute. "Live long and prosper. This is my wife, T'Ressa."

"Come, T'Ressa, your foot was crushed?"

"It is not serious," she whispered. "The ground... began to move." Her accent and hesitations showed her unfamiliarity with the language as she continued, "Then... we were on this ship. There was... not time for the movement to... cause... much... damage to me."

"Salon." McCoy, seeing the girl now on a couch and catered for, turned to the older Vulcan. "I'm not as well trained as M'Benga in Vulcan medicine, but I do have some experience. If you'd lie on this bed..."

"You are no true Healer!" exclaimed Stonn.

McCoy, recalling their last meeting very well, wasn't sure what to say. He was rarely stuck for words, and now knew what he wanted to say, but that would involve everyone knowing exactly what had happened that time on Vulcan, and he didn't want that.

"Dr. McCoy," snapped Christine Chapel indignantly, "operated on Sarek of Vulcan and saved his life!"

Bones had not exactly forgotten this, but as he'd been terrified of failure throughout, it hadn't occurred to him as a testimonial!

"Clearly Mc'Coy is a competent Healer," stated Salon, and went to lie on the indicated diagnostic bed.

"I am T'Far, wife of Salon," an older female told Christine. "Shall I go to the remaining couch?"

"Thank you," the nurse smiled.

She was confused, but it did seem that female Vulcans were quite easy to get along with. What really bemused her was that the one with blue eyes (could he be half human?) seemed to have met Dr. McCoy before, and she couldn't imagine when!

* * * * * * * *

"Mr. Scott," Kyle called, as the Chief Engineer turned to follow the crewmen who had departed with the cargo pods.


"Sir, did you notice...? One of those Vulcans looked Romulan to me."

"Oh, he did, did he? And how can ye tell?" Scott wanted to be in Engineering, not discussing the physiology of Vulcans.

"The look he gave the Captain, sir! It was a glare... a sort of snarl!" That caught Scott's attention and he frowned. Then he said, "Och, but they must be all right, man. The Vulcans themselves asked us to rescue them and it seemed to me that the Captain had met one of the lassies before."

"I got the idea Dr. McCoy had met the Romulan one before."

"Kyle, will ye talk sense! If McCoy had seen a Romulan on yon ship that time and that one beamed aboard with a party of Vulcans, would he no' mention it?"

"Well, I suppose... well, yes sir. Unless...?"

"If there are some dark dealings here, sealed orders, it's not for us to know." stiffly.

"No sir." crestfallen.

"Och," Scott thawed, "you have told me. Leave it at that, and ye were right to mention it. I'll find a wee moment to have a quiet word with the Captain."

"Thank you sir." Kyle was relieved. "I expect I got the wrong impression, but..."

"You were right to report it. It's better to be thought a fool than have Romulans roaming over the ship undetected!"

"That's what I thought, Mr. Scott."

"Aye, laddie, and ye were right!"

* * * * * * * *

"The planet, Captain, is not going to break up," reported Spock. "The strike has caused serious quakes and started major shifts of the tectonic plates. The vaporised dust is already rising. The atmosphere will reflect much of the heat from the system's star, thus lowering the surface temperature, but the planet will remain whole..." He paused, checking his sensors yet again. "...If pushed somewhat out of its original orbit," he added.

"O.K., we'll leave the sensor probes to monitor that," Kirk said. "Now we have to leave for Starbase 11. Chekov, set that course. Sulu, take it when you're ready and go to Warp 4 once we leave the system. Uhura, notify Star Fleet of the successful rescue and pass on Spock's data on the planet. Sulu, you have the Con. Spock, a word with you."

He hoped this barrage of orders would deflect attention from the last, which was definitely unscheduled. Spock, who knew that well enough, glanced over. However, once they left this system there was no way he could continue detailed sensor monitoring and the probe data would be fed to the computer automatically, so he handed over to Ensign Chao and moved to join his Captain. He found himself being led to the turbo-lift and raised an eyebrow.

"C-deck." Kirk told the computer.

Spock's eyebrow rose higher, but he said nothing until they arrived in Kirk's quarters. There, he merely asked, "Captain?"

It was just impinging upon Jim that this was going to be difficult. Spock's private life was not a subject to be discussed. He had nearly died rather than mention pon farr. Jim paced, trying to find a way to begin.

"Sir?" Spock queried.

"Er... we beamed the Survey Team aboard..."


"I... er... I've met two of them before," Jim said. "So have you."

Spock's other eyebrow rose. Then his face assumed its normal calm non-expression. "T'Pring and her husband, Stonn," he stated.

"Yes. How did you guess?"

A tiny hint of a smile touched one corner of the First Officer's mouth and again he raised one brow.

"You have met my father," he said. "Also T'Pau and a few others whom, considering the circumstances, you cannot be expected to remember. Given the alternatives, I did not guess. I deduced that T'Pring and Stonn were considerably more likely to be members of a Survey Team than either T'Pau or my father."

Jim couldn't help laughing at that. Then he sobered. "Er... won't it be awkward?" he asked.

"Awkward, Captain?" completely calm bemusement.

"Well, I mean, you were married to the woman!"

"To T'Pring? Bonded, yes. That is no longer the case. She is now bonded to Stonn."

"Meeting your ex-wife and her new husband surely won't be easy...?"

"Sir, if they are now on board will it not be inevitable? Certainly not difficult."

"I mean..." Kirk dried. He couldn't say 'emotionally difficult'.

"Captain," softly, "do I understand you to imply that if, for example, Dr. McCoy were to find himself with his ex-wife as a passenger aboard, he would be caused some problem of an emotional nature?"


"I assure you, I shall not." very flat.

Jim guessed he just had to leave it at that. "Of course not," he muttered. Then he thought of something else. He said, "The crew, Spock, aren't Vulcan. I'm not."

His First Officer considered this, then said, "My apologies. You imply that you will find the situation 'awkward'. I can see no reason for this. It is true that Dr. McCoy practised deception, but that was in order to preserve a life. You were unaware of the subterfuge, as was I. His action was justified. I see no reason for any 'awkwardness'."

"She did throw you over!"

This exclamation was received with a mere hint of a question.

"Spock, you're my friend, and not just mine. A lot of the crew aren't going to take too well to the woman if they find out who she is and what she did."

Far from clarifying anything, Jim's explanation seemed to cause only increased bemusement.

Spock said, "Her action was logical, Captain. She did not wish to be married to one famous purely by virtue of his existence, and almost certainly sterile. Her only alternative was to choose the kal'i'fee. I would not have chosen to be obliged to fight you, but as you were not in fact damaged seriously, the outcome was to the advantage of all parties."

"To the...? You mean you didn't want her?"

"At the time, sir, I was obliged to. I had no choice." This was said flatly enough, but with a very faint hint of green around the ear tips, and Spock looked rather fixedly at the deck.

"You can't help your biology..." Jim began, recognising embarrassment; then, realising what Spock seemed to be saying, "Look, you mean... do you mean, if you could have chosen, you'd have said 'no'?"

"You are aware of that, sir."

It hit Jim that he was! The guy had tried hard enough to fight his biology.

"You didn't want to marry her!" he exclaimed, "I mean, you were quite happy to pass her on to... to that other one." The name he'd picked up had slipped his mind again.

"Sir, my place is here. Tradition demands that once a Bond is ceremonised at Koon ut kal'i'fee, the pair reside together, so far as is practicable. Obviously sometimes parting is essential, but it is not customary, not for long periods. T'Pring seemed to think I would have ignored that, but, had she accepted me, I would have returned to the ship only until a replacement reached you. I chose to join Star Fleet. I do not wish to live upon Vulcan and work at the Academy as my father had hoped I would. There is no project of the sort in which T'Pring and Stonn were lately engaged to which I would wish to be attached. I hoped that my mixed ancestry would make the Bond weak enough to be, so to speak, non-forcing. It did not, but I assure you that I am perfectly satisfied with the situation as it transpired."

"Yes, I see." Jim had not realised that he would have lost his friend and the Fleet its finest First Officer if that affair had gone as expected. He was now very glad it had not. Whether Spock was really so sanguine, he wasn't sure. Being rejected couldn't be a compliment, but obviously his friend aimed to play this with his usual calm, which was hardly surprising.

"O.K.," he grinned, "I guess I understand. I'll go and see how things are in Sickbay. You...?"

"I will return to the Bridge, sir. I wish to check the readings from the sensor probes we left in orbit in that system."

"Carry on then," Kirk said, deciding everything should be O.K., once he'd had a talk with Bones McCoy.

* * * * * * * *

Wondering if Spock was really as unruffled by the situation as he seemed, James T. Kirk did not go at once to Sickbay, but stood in his quarters gazing at the view of space he had called up on his screen. That view always calmed his thoughts. It brought things into perspective. Space made you realise how small your problems were, how small everything was in comparison with the Universe. Yet you remembered that this ship you controlled could cross the distances between stars, could reach out where no one had ever ventured, could and would take you to new places with new problems, and that these were a challenge to be faced, and one you chose and would not give up without a fight!

Feeling a lot better, he turned off the screen and went to talk to Bones. As he reached Sickbay, he met Scott coming the other way.

"Scotty, are you sick?"

"No sir. I was looking for you."

"O.K., so you found me," grinning, while wondering what this was about. The intercom was in perfect order. Why hadn't Scotty used it?

"I wanted a wee word sir; quietly."

Really intrigued, Kirk said, "I was just going to talk to Bones, but it isn't urgent. Come into the Briefing Room..."

"Captain, I think maybe Dr. McCoy should hear this too."

"Well, in that case..." Jim activated the door and led the way into Bones' territory.

McCoy looked up from recording results as they entered, saying, "Hi, Jim, Scotty."

"He wants to talk, Bones," Kirk explained, sitting down. "O.K., Scotty, shoot."

"Sir, I know this sounds a wee bit foolish, but it seemed best not to just let it go. Kyle was very struck, so he tells me, by one of yon Vulcans. He thought the laddie was a Romulan!"

"What?" the Captain stared, then looked at McCoy.

"Don't ask me," he said. "The only Romulan I ever had a chance to check out was the Commander and she seemed pretty much the same as a Vulcan. If there are differences, I don't know what they are." Then, frowning, "Scotty, what gave Kyle the notion?"

"He said the man... I mean the..."

"O.K., we know what you mean," Kirk assured him. "This one Kyle thought was a Romulan."

"Aye, Captain. He said he glared at you, even snarled maybe?"

Kirk and McCoy looked at each other.

"Well, that sure doesn't sound Vulcan," the doctor remarked.

"Aye, but..." Scott looked at his Captain. "I said it seemed to me it must be all right, for ye seemed to have met one of them before, a lassie, and..." he paused, "Kyle said it seemed to him that you, Doctor, had met the Romulan."

"What?" Kirk cracked out in command tones.

"Dammit..." began McCoy.

"Doctor, I'm sure ye dinna know any Romulans, other than the ones from yon ship we had to do with, and none of them would beam aboard as bold as brass, so..."

"Of course not!" Kirk snapped. "And if one did, Bones would hardly just stand there and smile at him!"

"I don't know any Romulans..." Bones mused aloud, "At least, I doubt I'd recall any I saw on that ship. But let's think about this, Jim. We both know two of that party. I guess it wasn't clear to Kyle that you recognised the guy as well. You mentioned the girl's name. You couldn't name the guy, we never got introduced that time. Now we know which one I recognised. And Kyle... I guess, Jim, when you first walked in, I was looking at you. I guess Kyle was looking at the group and he saw that one..." He paused. "It must have been quite some look the guy gave you!"

"Bones!" sudden inspiration. "Is that one half human? He's got blue eyes!"

"I know, but no. At least, it doesn't mean he can't be pure Vulcan. It's a lot rarer for them. They need more recessives matched up than we do, but it's sure possible... tends to be sex linked. I checked it, after we first met that guy, because it struck me at the time to wonder."

Kirk was frowning. He mused, "Thinking about it, it wouldn't fit. If he was, I can't see why the girl..." He winced, glancing at Scott, and said no more. The last thing he wanted was to publicise the fact that the woman had picked that guy over Spock, presumably because that one was pure Vulcan!

"Sir," Scott took the hint, "I've said what I came to say," he said. "It's clear ye know fine that yon laddie is not Romulan."

"Do we?" McCoy asked.

"Bones?" Kirk stared.

"I can't prove it. I'm not saying he is. I'm not saying the girl knows if he is. In fact, I'd lay odds she doesn't. Vulcan's had no contact for a thousand years, not knowingly. But how about through the Klingon Empire? We know now that they have enough of an alliance to trade ships with the Romulans. Couldn't some slip across to Vulcan that way?"

"I see what you mean," Kirk muttered, not liking it. "Certainly Vulcans have traded across the Klingon border. It'd be a very clever move, once the Klingons got friendly with the Romulans, to infiltrate Vulcan. Very clever!"

"Sir?" Scott stared. "You think...?"

"I don't know," the Captain told him. "Scotty, leave it with me. I'll follow this up. Don't mention it. If that one starts creeping around Engineering, call me quietly. Otherwise, not a word. Tell Kyle..."

"I told him I'd mention it to ye, sir, and he'll say no more, for he'd more than half decided he was imagining things. But I'd no' say he was the type."

He isn't," agreed Kirk. "If he asks, tell him it's O.K.. I've met the one concerned. That's true."

"Aye sir, and now I'll away to my engines." He went with the air of one escaping.


"Bones, I don't know. Could a Romulan slide into Vulcan society unnoticed?"

The doctor frowned, then tensed. He moved to fetch a bottle and glasses, saying slowly, as he did so, "Jim, think about this. I know it isn't a time we dwell on, but... at the start of that business on Vulcan, when the girl yelled her line to stop the ceremony and then named you... I guess you were a mite struck by that, but do you recall the guy?"

"Well, he..." It was Kirk's turn to frown as he thought back.

"He sure didn't just stand calm did he?" Bones asked. "He made a fuss and that T'Pau had to tell him to button up."

"No, but... Spock wasn't calm!"

"Spock was in that state. The guy wasn't." He poured two glasses of brandy.

"Wasn't he? Are you sure?"

"As sure as I can be. Spock went into a kind of trance. The other guy, once T'Pau told him to quiet down, he gave no sign then. And before the girl named you, he was as calm as they come. Drink this." Holding out one of the glasses.

"I need it." Kirk took a gulp.

"Jim, you have to ask Spock, don't you?"

"Frankly... well, I'd prefer that than any of the Survey Team, but..."

"It sure won't be easy."

"Bones, I came to tell you... He doesn't see that woman the way you or I would see an ex-wife. He doesn't feel jilted so far as I can tell. He didn't want to leave the ship and it seems he'd have been pretty well obliged to if that marriage had gone the usual way. You know he tried to fight it..." He took another sip of his drink.

McCoy frowned, sipping his own brandy. "He's playing..." he mused, then, "of course he's playing it cool!"

"O.K., maybe it is 'playing', but..."

"Oh, we accept it, sure." He frowned some more. "Jim..."


"Thinking about it... Look, I wasn't surprised that a gang of Vulcans didn't take too well to being checked out by me. Spock never does, and to be fair to our blue-eyed suspect, he didn't know what trick I pulled that time. For all he knew, I found you dead when you weren't, due to my own incompetence!"

"Bones!" shocked.

"Be fair. You did let Vulcan Space Central know you were alive, but no details. For all he knows..."

"O.K., yes. Yes, I see."

"But... thinking about it Jim, after their initial protest, the others accepted the situation and the little one needed treatment..."

"I saw one of them limping."

"Yeah." He paused. "To be honest... oh, now isn't the time to go into that, but if we hadn't pushed the rules that kid would've gone through a load of pain and trouble self-healing. That attitude makes me see red!"


"Now isn't the time. She did get treated and, to be fair, her husband was all in favour. But the point I'm trying to get around to is that the others accepted what you said about the rules. That guy didn't. He was still arguing later on, in here, after all the rest were checked out. He finally let M'Benga look him over, and the girl... his wife, but only when virtually ordered to by their leader. Oh, he didn't yell or anything, but..."

"He wasn't just like the others," Jim said slowly, digesting this.

"Nope. But, to be fair, they do vary. As I said, the kid's husband was real keen to have her treated and he hopped up on a bed himself as willingly as you would." He grinned. "In fact more willingly than you would!"

"You always want to check me out when I've got a lot on my plate," Jim protested. "But, O.K., over that Vulcan, we've no proof."

"None," agreed Bones. "M'Benga sure didn't notice anything odd about him, physically."

Kirk put down his empty glass and rose to his feet, saying, "I do have to talk to Spock. I'll let you know, Bones, but keep this quiet for now."

"You didn't need to say that."

On his way to the door, Kirk turned, grinning ruefully, "No. I'm sorry. You're right."

He departed to find yet another tactful way to call Spock off the Bridge. He doubted that he'd manage it, and he did not want a lot of speculation to start. He sighed. This was supposed to be a bread-and-butter trip on the way to Shore Leave on Starbase 11! Why was it no mission he got ever turned cut to be simple?

* * * * * * * *

"What is happening?" Chekov mused.

"Pavel?" Sulu asked.

"The Captain goes to welcome the group of Wulcans. Then he comes and takes away Mr. Spock. Then Mr. Spock comes back. Then the Captain..." he gestured widely in the direction of the turbo-lift.

"O.K., it did seem odd," agreed Sulu, "But how should I know what goes on?"

"Could one of the Vulcans be hurt?" asked Uhura. "Need a blood transfusion or something?"

"Well, I guess so," Sulu said, "but why not say so?"

"Ours is not to reason why," she grinned.

"But curiosity is natural, no?" Chekov pointed cut.

"Oh, I'm aching with it, honey!" Uhura assured him. "And we can find out. Chris'll know. I'll be seeing her at mid-watch."

"So will I," decided Chekov.

"I see. I suppose you'll join us too." Uhura smiled at Sulu.

"Try to keep me away!"

"Perhaps the Captain just wanted an update on the sensor readings?" suggested Ensign Chao.

"He could have asked for that on the Bridge," Chekov said. "Perhaps the Wulcans want to know?"

"Oh, not so unlikely," Uhura sighed. "How dull."

"I can see we're better off without that entire Survey Team up here," Sulu mused, "but does that fit with both times the Captain took Mr. Spock away?"

"More probe readings came in after the first time," Chao said.

"I guess it could fit," Uhura decided, "but I shall ask Chris if she knows anything anyway."

"Oh, we'll all meet for mid-watch," Sulu grinned. "That's fixed."

"And it is time our reliefs arrived," put in Chekov.

"No it isn't," Uhura assured him, "it's just your ever-hungry gut that thinks so!"

"Me, I need plenty of food..."

"Still growing, Pavel?" Sulu laughed.

"Only outwards!" Uhura gestured to imply increasing fat.

"That is not true!" Pavel protested, and then realised they were putting him on.

"You sure do like your food, though!" Sulu said, getting in the last word on the subject.

* * * * * * * *

Curiosity is simply the wish to obtain full data, and thus logical. Spock, therefore, on being told to sit down, did so, with both eyebrows slightly raised and with his hands steepled. He could deduce no reason for this second request to visit his Captain's quarters. He waited.

James T. Kirk saw that half amused query and mentally groaned. He paced. Finally he began, "I don't know how to..." He stopped there, gathered his thoughts and started again, "Look, Spock, this may seem an odd question, but bear with me. What do you know about...? Damn! I've forgotten that name again!"

Anyone else might have thought that Spock received this intelligence with complete equanimity. Jim, however, knew his friend rather well and saw a twitch of a smile. "It isn't funny!" he exclaimed.

"Sir?" very stiff.

"Sorry." Kirk realised he was making this harder, "The Vulcan I met... Stonn! How much do you know about him... about his family?"

Spock was quite clearly very curious. He asked, "Is Stonn unwell?"

"Not so far as I know. Look, will you answer me?"

"Of course Captain." very flatly.

There was a brief pause while Spock resisted the temptation to leave it at that. He could see that Jim was seriously worried and a lesson in precision of speech would be inappropriate just now. He said, "I do not think I ever met his parents." He paused again, remembering something. Strict honesty has its penalties. He accepted that and added, "Oh, once."

"You know his parents?"


"Jim!" insistently. "This is off the record!"

Frowning slightly, Spock said, "I admit to confusion, but if it helps... Jim, I cannot claim to know Stonn's parents. I now recall that I did see them once, but at a distance. That is all."


"When I was six point eight years old, Earth reckoning." Which was true, but which certainly did not lay stress on the actual circumstances.

"You...? As a kid?" staring. "So there's no way the guy could be a Romulan infiltrator!"


If Kirk had been less concerned with the matter in hand, he would have seen that he'd raised the sort of expression that Bones ached to see on Spock's face. Instead, he was too confused to notice and, by the time he really looked, blank amazement had mitigated to mere query.

"Bones and I... wondered," Jim said.

"Captain, you and Dr. McCoy suspected that Stonn might be a Romulan? May I remind you that T'Pau was present on the occasion upon which you met him?"

"And T'Pau wouldn't let a good Vulcan girl get involved with a Romulan? O.K., if she knew, no. We didn't think the girl knew!"

Spock frowned slightly. "I begin to see the pattern of your thinking. I presume it owed a lot to Dr. McCoy. You are not usually so illogical. It is not impossible, Jim, I would estimate, for a Romulan to reach Vulcan via the Klingon Empire. He would purport to be a trader, I presume. But one such could hardly remain undetected for long and certainly could not form a marriage Bond with a Vulcan female."

"Oh." Jim said, "Are you...?" He winced and grinned ruefully at his own expense. "O.K., firstly, you are sure, and secondly, if you knew the guy as a kid... well, he isn't a Romulan!"

"We were at school together. The equivalent of 'kindergarten' on Earth, perhaps."

"That pretty well wraps that up!"



"I am curious. May I ask what caused the good doctor to speculate along these lines?"

"Kyle reported that the guy glared at me, or maybe snarled at me."

"Jim?" eyebrow rising.

Kirk sat down. "Spock..." he began, then paused, "I know that sounds... as it sounds. But Kyle isn't imaginative. Something about the way the guy looked when I got to the Transporter Room so hit Kyle that he told Scotty he thought one of the Vulcans was a Romulan! He also told him that it was clear Bones recognised the guy, which confused Kyle. Scotty was impressed enough by the way Kyle said this... by the very fact that he reported it after Bones showed they'd met... Well, Scotty came to tell us."

"Captain, I do not know the identities of all of that team. I find it difficult to believe that a Romulan could pass as Vulcan for long, but the team was not together so very long. Is it possible that Kyle mistook the object of Dr. McCoy's look of recognition?"

"You mean one of the others glared at me?"

"It would appear that one of the party certainly impressed Mr. Kyle by regarding you in a manner uncharacteristic of Vulcans. I know Stonn and T'Pring are Vulcan. I cannot vouch for the others."

"Let's go and see Bones. He must have a list. They were all checked out in Sickbay."

"Very well. Captain."

* * * * * * * *

"Hi, Christine!"

"Hello, Christine!"

Nurse Chapel eyed the eager clutch of Bridge personnel and laughed. "I see! I got to meet the Vulcans and you didn't!"

"Well, we are curious," Uhura admitted, putting her meal on the table and sitting down next to Christine.

"Oh, I don't mind. In fact I'm not surprised." her friend assured her, then, glancing at Chekov's plate, "Pavel, you'll get fat'"

"We tell him that too," Sulu assured her.

"I will not," Chekov insisted. "I have a werry fast metabolism."

"You just like food, dear," Uhura said.

"The Wulcans...?" The Russian looked hopefully at Christine, clearly trying to change the subject. As they also wanted to know, the others let him get away with it and added their requests for information to his.

Christine said, "I didn't really get to know any of them. The two I saw most of... the girl was quite small and seemed fragile, and young too. She had a broken bone in her foot. Dr. McCoy was rather forceful on the subject afterwards."

"Chris?" cut in the Communications Officer.

"She walked into Sickbay, Uhura. She insisted it wasn't serious. Dr. M'Benga checked it, found this small bone broken, made sure it was placed right and set it in a light cast dressing to keep it in place while it knits. He told us, when they'd gone, that she could have self-healed. Oh, not while walking about, no. But she could have gone into that trance and somehow encouraged the bone to grow together. She would have needed to deal with the pain as well, and there was a lot of bruising. Dr. McCoy couldn't see why any patient should be expected to go through all that when we could fix it for her easily. I don't see why either! But Dr. M'Benga said that on Vulcan only children ever came for treatment of that sort. Adults do it themselves. So the girl was embarrassed."

"Christine?" Sulu stared.

"You mean she was saying "Me, I am old enough to endure the pain, I am not a child'. She wants to suffer?" Pavel asked.

Christine sighed. "Not that exactly. She said it wasn't serious, but her husband... they all seemed to be married couples... anyway, this young man... Vulcan... was keen to have us treat her. He said it was logical."

"He would!" Sulu grinned.

"I'm not explaining properly," the nurse told him. "Dr. M'Benga... He trained on Vulcan, you know. He was telling Dr. McCoy that the couple were very young. I get the idea that the bit about logic was a sort of rationalisation, to make the girl feel better. I didn't really get to know them, I was busy with casting compound and read-outs, but that young man struck me as cheerful... nice... not..."

"Not stone-faced?" Sulu asked.

"Mr. Spock isn't...!" indignantly.

"No! No, dear," Uhura said hurriedly, "but this one seemed more friendly than you expected?"

"Well, a lot more than the others," Christine reported. "The girl we were treating was quiet, shy almost, and Dr. M'Benga said 'embarrassed', but she was nice in a way. Her husband... yes... nice. The others? Oh, very stiff and not keen on being checked. One older woman was all right about it, but even she seemed to see it as a waste of time. I wasn't really listening to the rest, but at least one of them flatly refused to have Dr. McCoy check him and told Dr. M'Benga it was an illogical waste of time. Frankly, Dr. M'Benga said he was right, in a way..."

"Vhat?" Chekov asked.

"Well, they can self-heal. They know if they are hurt inside. They have this attitude that you only go for treatment if it's beyond you to do it yourself. They all knew they weren't hurt that badly, so by their rules it was a waste of time. They only came because the Captain told them it was a Star Fleet rule, and they clearly thought it a very silly one."

"Mr. Spock doesn't like going for regular checks," mused Uhura.

"He comes," Christine said. "It's a sort of joke with Dr. McCoy."

"No. It is not," Chekov stated. "I thought so. But it is not. What you just said makes all clear. He knows he does not need the check. He knows it is a rule. He thinks it foolish that the rule applies to him. It treats him like a baby. If he is not at all busy with any work, then he will go to Sickbay, but if the check interferes with work, that is not logical."

"You're right!" Uhura exclaimed. "That makes sense! It explains his whole attitude to physicals!"

Christine realised that it did.

* * * * * * * *

McCoy, told that Spock had known Stonn as a child, but could not vouch for the others, got his list.

"Well, I guess the Leader's O.K.." he said. "Er... Salon?"

"He is well known in his field. Respected. Certainly Vulcan," Spock pronounced, "and his wife we can eliminate."

"It was a guy who glared," Kirk assured him.

"O.K.," Bones continued. "Er... Star-et. M'Benga checked him. Seemed a nice kid. Married to the little one who was hurt. Oh, it seems he's Salon's son."

"Which clearly eliminates him," Spock said, "If he were not, I would have considered him a likely suspect. Any Vulcan described in such terms by you, Doctor, would seem to be atypical."

McCoy glared, then muttered, "M'Benga said he and the little girl were very young."

Spock said nothing.

"The other one, Bones?" Kirk asked hurriedly.

"S-keta." the doctor clearly found the names difficult.

"A mathematics and computing specialist?" asked Spock.

"How should I know?"

"Spock, you know him?" the Captain enquired.

"If it is Sketa of a paper by T'Valon and Sketa, I know of him. Is he also with a wife, Doctor?"

"I can't say these names! T... N..." He gave up. "Yes."

"They'd both have to be Romulan plants wouldn't they?" Kirk asked.

"Affirmative, Captain."

"Could you...?" Kirk paused. "If you think this one is a computer expert, that gives you an excuse to talk to him."

"Indeed," agreed Spock. "In fact I am interested in so doing. There were aspects of that paper which I should like to discuss." He thought of something else and added, "Moreover, the data I obtained about the planet will be of interest to Salon and to the planetologist of the Team."

"So you should go and visit?"


"Good. Carry on." Kirk frowned. "Look, Spock, if any of them are Romulans, if they are on their best behaviour and have managed to fool a group of Vulcans for weeks, I don't expect you to notice anything odd about them, but... well. I guess the best we can hope for is that you can prove they aren't Romulans!"


"Jim...?" cut in McCoy.

"Yes, Bones?"

"If Spock gets to be sure they are all one hundred per cent Vulcan, how come that business of Kyle being so sure?"

"Don't ask me! A trick of the light?"

"Kyle isn't the kind of guy to make a big thing out of a trick of the light!"

"Doctor, my assessment of Mr. Kyle concurs with yours," Spock told him, "but I presume the Survey Team were all somewhat dishevelled and dirty. Perhaps this caused a false impression?"

"Spock!" Jim Kirk grinned, "I think that might well explain it. They were frankly filthy. The women's hair was dangling around their faces. All their clothes were ripped. I remember thinking that I'd never quite expected a party of Vulcans to look like that, which was a crazy reaction on my part, given the circumstances."

"Yeah, but we do think of Vulcans as 'never-a-hair-out-of-place' and as rather fancy dressers," Bones pointed out. "I sure see what you mean."

"I will talk to the members of the Team," Spock said, "and report back."

* * * * * * * *

Chapter 2

U.S.S. Enterprise was not equipped with passenger quarters. Told to expect eight Vulcans, four of each sex, the ship's Quartering Officer had hoped they would be willing to pair. It was possible, however, that some were married and that they regarded mixed-sex quartering of unmarried adults as immoral, so Lt. Lorenzo freed five cabins by doubling up their former owners with other members of the crew. When she found that all four couples were married, the Lieutenant let them retain the spare cabin as a meeting area where they could gather to discuss their work. She personally found Vulcans rather unnerving and she suspected she was not the only one! If they had a cabin as a sort of Rec Room, maybe they wouldn't mix with the crew?

The cargo pods containing their records and samples had been placed in the 'spare' cabin and Salon was eager to check that all had arrived safely. Staret had pointed out that T'Ressa should trance to knit her bone and that he was quite able to check her samples, with which Salon agreed. The contents of the pods were no affair of Stonn, their pilot/engineer, or of T'Pring, since it had been impracticable to bring whole animals and she was a zoologist.

When Spock arrived at the cabin, therefore, he found five clean, tidy Vulcans dressed in ship's issue jump-suits, engaged in unpacking their cargo and checking each item for damage. He came armed with data from his own sensors and from the probes left behind. He was welcome. The information he brought was of value to the Team.

"So the planet will remain integral," stated the female who had been named as T'Nai. "My observations implied that as the highest probability outcome. Sketa's program suggested that a shift in orbit was likely."

"That has occurred," Spock told her. "I lack definitive data as yet, so am unable to determine the new orbit accurately at this time."

"The loss of our own transportation is particularly unfortunate under these circumstances," stated Salon. "Our object, if the planet remained intact after impact, was to wait in orbit about the fifth planet in the system until conditions had stabilised, and then return to the fourth planet to determine biological survival patterns."

"This ship is scheduled elsewhere," Spock said. "Perhaps, however, Star Fleet may be able to provide you with transport back to the system at a later date."

"T'Nai, is that not contra-indicated?" T'Far, Salon's wife, asked the planetologist.

"It is not desirable for us to return without our own transport," T'Nai said. "Spock, seismic activity is likely to remain considerable. If provided with a shuttlecraft, we could relocate if necessary. Not so equipped, it would be hazardous to return to the planet for some years."

"Perhaps Star Fleet will lend us a suitable craft?" suggested Salon. "If we are carried to the system in a starship, we will not require a warp drive shuttle as we had before. We would merely need to be removed by another starship at the end of our survey."

"What if Stonn crashes another shuttle?" put in the youngest member of the group.

"Staret, you are not competent to assign blame for the crash," his father told him. "The terrain was uneven."

"It still is," pointed out Staret.

"Stonn is now aware of this," T'Nai said. "It became clear to me that I had not adequately explained to him the likely nature of the surface. I admit that I had not realised how much ground would be needed for a landing. I have been carried in ordinary shuttlecraft, but not in one equipped with warp drive. However, if we borrow transport from Star Fleet, it will not be so equipped. Will it?" to Spock.

"I would estimate it to be extremely improbable," he said. He paused, then added, "If the facilities of this ship can assist in the evaluation of the samples and data you have brought, they are at your disposal. In approximately four point three days we shall reach Starbase 11 where high quality equipment will be available. I am obliged now to return to my duties. Should you need my assistance, Salon, make use of the intercom. Sketa, at your convenience, I would be interested in a discussion of your paper with T'Valon."

"I will be honoured."

* * * * * * * *

James T. Kirk went to Sickbay to tell Bones that Spock now vouched for all eight Vulcans. It seemed there was no doubt that Sketa was the one of whom Spock had heard, and that his family was well known and respected. So Kyle must have been confused by the bedraggled looks of the party and some sort of trick of the light.

It was clear to McCoy that something still worried Jim, so he poured drinks and waited.

The Captain was actually nursing a feeling that there had been something else which his friend and First Officer had not said. He trusted Spock with his life, so he had been unwilling to probe. Whatever it was, it was no risk to the ship, or Spock would have told him. He knew he'd be heartily glad when he reached Starbase 11 and could beam these passengers off Enterprise. It seemed to him that contact with them was making Spock different, more withdrawn, more... yes, more Vulcan! He guessed he could see why. Over the years his friend had changed slowly, become less stiff. Perhaps Spock saw that as a weakness in himself? Prolonged exposure to eight full Vulcans was not something he wanted for his First Officer, but he wasn't keen to discuss that with Bones.

Instead, since it was clear the doctor had noticed that something was wrong, he muttered about the need to entertain their visitors. That caused McCoy to groan aloud. The idea of a formal dinner with a gang of Vulcans sure did not appeal to him! He could see why Jim had seemed less than joyful!

* * * * * * * *

Spock, indeed, had refrained from saying all that he might have, both to Salon and to his Captain. The latter omission was not one which concerned him, since it had no real bearing on their mission. He was suffering considerable mental confusion. He lacked data. He came to realise that this lack did not excuse his failure to point out certain facts to Salon. Facts were facts, whatever the background cause of a situation might be. It had been a fault in him to remain silent and allow Salon to base his plans upon false data. Why had he done so? He knew the answer to that well enough. He had disconnected pieces of information from various sources, the major one being Mr. Kyle, and he did not want to believe the explanation for these snippets which sprang most readily to mind.

He did have one good reason for continuing to regard his data as insufficient, for presuming that some other explanation was correct, or that the facts he had were not, in fact, connected at all. T'Pau surely would not have allowed what he suspected? Could she have not known the truth? He found that very unlikely indeed. She had come to Koon ut Kal'i'fee knowing that Stonn, an un-bonded male, was with T'Pring's party and that T'Pring's parents were not. That T'Pring contemplated the kal'i'fee was surely the only inference that could be drawn from that? So T'Pau would have made sure she was briefed accordingly. If, somehow, she had failed to obtain all necessary data, or had decided against all custom that it did not matter, he could hardly be blamed for his part in the affair. In fact, he had an unfortunate notion that his concern was un-Vulcan. Or was it merely curiosity? However, curiosity did not justify his failure to tell Salon that which he should have told him. Thought was necessary. It was perhaps illogical that looking at the stars helped him to relax and think more clearly. Nevertheless it was true, so Spock went to the Observation Deck.

Once there, the First Officer discovered a potential solution to at least one of his dilemmas. He raised his hand in salute and moved forward to join the one who was already looking at the stars.

"Live long and prosper, T'Pring," he said formally, "I see thou art unharmed."

* * * * * * * *

"T'Ressa!" Staret moved forward, hand held out with the first two fingers extended. "I returned and you were not here. I wondered where you could be. You should rest your foot."

"I..." She swallowed, reaching for the help of her training in the discipline of Surak, trying to be calm and tell him things in the right order. She touched her two fingers to his and felt at once far less confused. "My foot is much better," she said. "The bone is knitting and there is no pain. Healer M'Benga treated it most efficiently. I should have come to help you unpack, but..."

"There was no need," he assured her. "You know that. Come now and sit down."

She did, saying, "I was curious, Staret. I set out to come to you, but I went to look round the ship."

His eyes brightened. "I entirely understand that!" he said. "I would have done the same if Salon had not insisted on the need to check the samples, which really could have waited, since if they were damaged there is no way we can replace them at this time. As it is, they are not damaged." He looked a question, "So? You explored a little?"

"I was walking along the corridor when a Fleet person saw me. I think it was one of the ones who were operating the Transporter when we arrived. He asked if I was exploring and said that I would find the 'observation deck' interesting. He gave me directions. I found that I understand him quite easily. And... I went."

"I told you that your knowledge of the standard language of humans is good," he pointed out, "and of course you went. I would have, in your place. What was it like, this 'observation deck'?"

"Staret, I had taken only one pace into this large area and at once, all around me were views of space. I was so fascinated that I just stood there."

"Oh, show me!" he asked eagerly. Then he realised that she was distressed. "T'Ressa?"

"I had been there... a time, Staret. I am unsure how long. I was simply staring at each view in turn. But then I noticed voices. I realised that if I moved to go they might notice me and think that I had been listening. I had not. I had noticed nothing but the stars, but how could they know that? I hesitated. I did not know what to do."

"T'Ressa, humans cannot hear as we do. I doubt if they realise how well we can hear. They probably would not have thought you could detect their voices."

"They were not humans."

"T'Ressa? Stonn and T'Pring were there?"

"No," she whispered. "T'Pring and... It must have been Commander Spock, must it not? There is no other who is not Outworlder aboard. He wore blue with two bands of gold around the wrists."

"Since the loss of Intrepid, he is the only Vulcan I know to be in the Star Fleet, other than on secondment to their Science Laboratories," Staret said, "and the uniform is correct."

"I heard..." she began softly, then stopped.

"I think you had better tell me," he decided, "I realise that you think you should not have heard and that telling me will make the invasion of privacy worse, but it is clear that what you heard concerned you." He saw her reaction to this and said, "Do not be embarrassed. T'Ressa, we are not yet fully mature. We are still learning to master feeling so must be expected sometimes to fail to control completely. And what is the reason for this mastery? To eliminate impulses of a violent nature. T'Ressa, my wife, you have never had a violent impulse in your life and never will, so do not need to eliminate one!"

"I should have more control," she said sadly. "I know that. On the planet I felt fear... Yes, Husband, and you felt it through our Bond, so I caused you discomfort."

"No you did not," he insisted. "You caused me to try very hard to send feelings of reassurance through our Bond and to have other concerns than my own fear, for which I was very grateful, because left to myself I would have been frightened." He touched her face gently. "That is true."

She realised that it was. She supposed, given the circumstances upon the planet, some concern for their future had really been quite logical.

"We are right for each other, T'Ressa," Staret was saying. "I know I am very fortunate to have you for my wife. I also know that I am no more mature or controlled than are you, and we are neither of us unusual. Both of us passed Kahs-wan at first attempt. We are merely not yet fully adult. Now tell me what you heard."

"Commander Spock seemed to know T'Pring."

"They must be of an age," he pointed out, "and both are graduates of the Science Academy."

"Are they of an age?" she asked, surprised. "He is... more like Salon."

"T'Ressa?" not understanding what she meant.

"Well, he was completely calm and logical and according to the Way. She interrupted him and was wrong, but he never once showed any reaction of the kind I was having."

"What was said?" curiosity rampant.

"He said that the crash was Stonn's fault or due to Stonn having inadequate training..."

"We knew that."

"No, we did not. At least, I did not. I thought T'Nai at fault. She said a child could land there and was clearly incorrect, for those rocks were high and close together. But Commander Spock said Stonn should have... have assessed the situation at close quarters before attempting to land. He did reject that other site, Staret, so I suppose he should have realised T'Nai did not know the requirements for a landing area, and Commander Spock said such a check is standard procedure."

Staret, realising he also had news to impart, told her, "Commander Spock came to see us to give us data about the planet after impact, so you see I have met him and, on reflection, I think I see what you mean about his calm. Salon talked to him of the possibility of borrowing a shuttlecraft from the Star Fleet. I said... suppose Stonn also crashed that one..."


"Well, it seemed to me that it was his fault before!"

"You did not say that Stonn did not assess the site prior to landing?"

"I think not."

"Then I presume Commander Spock thought Stonn did in fact do so. I was not aware of the full conversation between him and T'Pring. At first I did not notice their voices, only the stars. But I heard him tell her that the Star Fleet will not lend a shuttlecraft to a Team whose pilot was proven inefficient. If he had realised, before his conversation with T'Pring, that Stonn was so proven, would he not have said this to Salon?"

"Yes, I see," Staret said. "You are correct, of course, since to ask the Star Fleet would be of no value if the certain reply is a refusal. So T'Pring must have said something which made the true facts clear to Commander Spock." He paused before asking, "And then?"

"T'Pring seemed to insist that it was all T'Nai's fault and that Stonn would never admit to having made an error."

"What really shocked you?" For he realised something had shocked her very much, shocked her and caused her to remain still, listening against all custom, because she had been so worried lest her presence be noticed.

"T'Pring raised her voice," T'Ressa whispered. "She... When I was six, Staret, I was like that, I think."

His eyes widened slightly.

"Commander Spock must have been shocked," T'Ressa said, "but he did not show it. He did go away quite quickly and did not notice me when I backed into a dark corner, but in front of T'Pring he was like an Elder!"

"No, he was not. An Elder would have asked for her thoughts and instructed her."

"He was calm like an Elder. Since he is not one, he could not ask for her thoughts, could he?"

That was unanswerable, because manifestly true.

"It seemed to me," T'Ressa continued, "that... oh, I do not know exactly. Almost that he half expected her to be like that."

"But she is not. Not usually."

"She is not calm as he is. And if they are of an age...."

"She should be? People vary."

"If they are of an age then she is older than T'Nai and Sketa."

"Yes. That had not occurred to me."

"And Stonn also, surely?"

"Perhaps T'Nai and Sketa are especially well advanced in the Way?"

"As also is Commander Spock?"

"I comprehend your reasoning." Staret told her, "but this of the shuttle... Commander Spock confirmed that it was entirely Stonn's fault that we crashed?"

"He did not quite say that. He said it was inadequate training and thus not really Stonn's fault. But..." She paused, clearly not eager to tell him more, then deciding she must, continued, "Staret, Commander Spock was asking T'Pring to advise Stonn to go to Salon and admit the error, say that his training was not suitable for such a Survey, so that Salon could report to Vulcan that our pilot had realised that he was not adequately qualified. He said that Stonn must accept the logic of the situation. It... Staret, it was as if Commander Spock knew that Stonn would... would not admit to any error... any error at all."

There was amazement in Staret's voice as he breathed, "T'Ressa, what you are saying is that Commander Spock seemed to presume that Stonn, like... like a child... views all in his own terms, seeing error everywhere but in him, and that Commander Spock was, like an Elder, instructing... not Stonn, but T'Pring... perhaps because, by chance he met T'Pring? I do not know. But... he was like an Elder... or like an adult dealing with a child before Kahs-wan!"

"Yes." T'Ressa's voice was hardly audible. "That is what it was like."

* * * * * * * *

Even when he and his Captain met on their way to the Rec Room, Bones McCoy had not ceased to wax lyrical on the subject of entertaining the Vulcans to a formal dinner.

"We have to eat vegetarian to avoid offending their non-existent sensibilities," he muttered, "wear dress uniform, collars and all, when they can only put on glad-rags because we give them whatever they choose to wear, and being Vulcan, I'll bet it's fancy! And to cap it all we have to try to make conversation with a set of people who might as well be computers for all the reaction they show! Spock may regard it as the height of entertainment, given he's got nothing on sensors to fascinate him, but don't expect me to enjoy it!"

"I don't," Kirk said, as flatly as his First Officer might have, "but Spock's come along to enough dinners to honour human guests, whether he enjoyed it or not, out of courtesy, so the least you can do is pretend to be interested in our Vulcan guests. Anyway, since most of them seem to be biologists of one kind or another, I'd have thought you had a lot in common."

"I'm a doctor not a research biologist!"

"O.K., but you're more likely to make sense of their work than I am! Now stop complaining and pulling at your collar and try to act civilised."

"What's that supposed to mean? Vulcans are civilised and I'm not?"

"Belay it, Bones," he said wearily. "We enjoyed talking to Sarek. Why not this bunch?"

"Sarek's a diplomat. He adjusts. He's got a human wife. He doesn't look disgusted every time he sees someone laugh."

"So, what makes you think these people will?"

"I'll bet on it," Bones said, as they entered a room already containing a few of the ship's off-duty officers.

Uhura arrived in a long dress of dark red silk, cut to just not reveal, yet with a hint that it might slip at any moment. In spite of himself, her Captain gave a low whistle.

She grinned. "Don't get ideas, sir!"

"You wear that and tell me not to get ideas?"

"Well, I expected you to like the view, Captain honey, but the view isn't going to change any!"

"Are you sure of that, Uhura?" Bones grinned. "I'll keep a real close check and this evening just improved one thousand per cent! You've taken away all chances that I might be bored!"

She smiled back wickedly and it was clear exactly why she'd chosen that dress; precisely to give her male fellow officers something to brighten the occasion.

It certainly worked. Each man perked up considerably when he caught a glimpse of her. When Spock arrived, his Captain and McCoy, as one, glanced to see his reaction. He raised one eyebrow, gave her a polite nod and went to help himself to fruit juice. Christine Chapel was one of the female officers who had chosen to wear uniform. She now wished she'd dared something like Uhura's outfit. She had a strong feeling that Mr. Spock appreciated it as much as any of the other men, however much he acted cool.

Their guests arrived.

Salon wore a tunic of silver fabric and his wife had obviously done rather well at explaining to the ship's stores the design of a formal Vulcan gown. Wearing blue and with her hair up in a complex pleat, she was unrecognisable as the bedraggled creature who had been beamed aboard.

"Live long and prosper," Salon said, hand raised in Vulcan salute.

"You honour us with your presence, sir," Jim answered, horribly aware that his effort at returning the gesture was less than impressive. His fingers just would not do that! "Ma'am," he bowed.

"T'Far," she told him.

"My son Staret. His wife T'Ressa." Salon introduced.

Sulu just managed to subdue a whistle. The little Vulcan girl was very lovely indeed!

Uhura exchanged a rueful glance with Christine. She was quite outshone! In a gown that revealed nothing but the outline of a perfect, if youthful, figure, this Vulcan was just so beautiful she would make any other female seem flawed. Then Uhura noticed the girl's husband and was herself tempted to whistle! He was a gorgeous hunk of a male! They made quite some couple!

"Sir." Staret, having saluted, was bowing. "We are honoured."

"Yes," whispered T'Ressa shyly, completely unaware of the effect she was having on the assembled men. "And also we are so much wishing to thank you for saving us," she added, amazing Kirk on two counts, for it was clear that her command of his language was far from expert.

"It was logical," said Salon flatly, not surprising Kirk one bit. "One does not thank logic."

T'Ressa blushed a delicate green.

"Live long and prosper T'Ressa, Staret." Spock stepped forward, speaking slowly and clearly in English. "We have over there fruit juice. You wish to partake?"

"Yes," said T'Ressa, very grateful to have an excuse to turn away from the rest of the room.

"Sketa and his wife T'Nai," Salon told Jim Kirk, continuing the introductions, "also Stonn and his wife T'Pring."

Uhura gasped. So did Christine Chapel. In a silver gown, both instantly recognised her. In Sickbay Chris had not, but now she realised she had hardly seen her. Both girls glanced over at Spock who was politely handing a glass of juice to the lovely little one.

He asked, "Your work, T'Ressa?"

"Cell biology," she said, and stuttered over what to call him, starting on 'Teacher' in her own language and switching to 'Commander'.

"I am Spock," he told her. "Staret, your work?"

"Microbiology..." pausing.

"Spock," insisted the First Officer. "You are both working for your doctorates?"

"Yes," agreed T'Ressa.

"We were," muttered Staret, "but now..."

"Perhaps already you have enough data, even if it proves impracticable to return to that planet?"

"We hope so," Staret told him, and had to bite back the title that came naturally to his tongue. He could now definitely see what T'Ressa had meant. Such serene calm was like that of an Elder. It was very hard to call this one simply by his name.

"Stop monopolising the prettiest guest," came Bones McCoy's voice as he moved to stand next to Spock. "How is that foot, young lady? I'm none too sure you should be standing on it."

"It is quite better, Healer."

Spock flicked an eyebrow at hearing this title applied to McCoy, since in its Vulcan sense it was not true. He did not, however, as he would have under other circumstances, point this out.

Scott, arriving late and seeing the Captain with their oldest guests and Spock, for reasons he could understand, with the youngest, approached the others saying something polite to the effect that he believed that they were all biologists.

"I am an engineer," said Stonn flatly.

"Ye are?" the evening had just improved no end from Scotty's viewpoint!

* * * * * * * *

The dinner was not an unmitigated failure, but it came close.

Almost by chance Karl Jaeger found out that T'Nai shared his specialization and thereafter the pair happily talked shop throughout the evening. T'Far was introduced to Rodriguez by Jim Kirk, which meant that they too became involved in a rather deep discussion, in this case on botany. Sulu, who had dismissed as crazy his notion that he had seen one of the Vulcan women before, would have been interested in T'Far's conversation, but he and Kevin Riley somehow found themselves with Sketa and Marie Clemenceau, the ship's chemistry expert. This group did not really share any interests, but managed a general sort of exchange.

Scotty, who had been told strongly not to offer alcohol to a Vulcan, who would regard it quite literally as poison (an attitude Spock had lost to the extent of sometimes partaking in his Captain's company), was feeling a sort of misplaced guilt. This engineer had blue eyes, so was clearly the one he might well, if not reassured by Captain Kirk, have viewed with intense suspicion had the laddie entered Engineering. The shock of realising he might have been less than welcoming to a fellow engineer made its mark, and being unable to offer Stonn a proper drink did not help. He set out to be as friendly as possible under the circumstances, leading his colleague to the end of the table and chatting happily about warp drive specifications, asking about the engines used in Vulcan shuttlecraft, and hardly noticing that Stonn brought along his wife by means of a compelling look that clearly indicated she was to stay at his side.

Stonn said something about being a practical engineer, not a theorist, and that cheered Scotty even more.

"Och, just the kind I like," he enthused. "I'm a practical man myself," and he shepherded Stonn to sit next to him.

Uhura and Christine, each wanting a view of T'Pring, virtually dragged Dr. M'Benga to the position opposite the engineers. Spock, who, by tradition, was to take the foot of the table, on arriving there with Staret and T'Ressa, found only the two seats either side of his free. Staret, naturally, must be placed next to Uhura, which put T'Ressa opposite her husband and next to Scott who was currently chattering happily in the other direction, completely unaware of her presence.

T'Nai, Jaeger and Elizabeth Watson, the ship's anthropologist, who had found herself beside the pair of rock-experts, simply sat on the chairs nearest to them. James T. Kirk led Salon and T'Far to the head of the table, taking Rodriguez along too. Sulu's group at once filled up one side and Bones McCoy found himself with no choice but to sit next to T'Pring, a location he would heartily have preferred to avoid. He would, he realised, have to make the best of it. Determined to 'do-the-pretty', Bones reached over for a basket of assorted miniature loaves of bread, each owing its origin to a different planet or culture, and, smiling, aimed to offer it to his Vulcan neighbour.

At that precise second Stonn, having favoured Scotty, if not with the expression which had so shocked Mr. Kyle, certainly with quite some glare, deliberately turned his shoulder, reached right across the table to another basket of loaves and presented it to his wife. Bones, finding T'Pring helping herself from that display, her attention clearly away from him, had the choice of pulling at her sleeve or offering his basket to Elizabeth Watson on his other side. Not unnaturally, he picked the latter option.

Scotty, completely pole axed by Stonn's behaviour, for a moment just sat there, stunned. Then, in a sort of reflex action, almost a call for help, he turned to his right, to discover that he was beside the prettiest little lassie in the room. His opening remark, owing a lot to his confusion, was, "Now then, Lassie, ye'll not be an engineer?"

T'Ressa understood precisely one word of that, since Scott's accent differed markedly from 'Standard English as taught on Vulcan'. She was, however, only too pleased to attempt conversation with the cheerful and very odd human, since her alternative was discourse with Spock, whom she respected immensely but found unnerving. She had met humans of all ages at the Vulcan Science Academy and was well aware that they did not even notice when one failed to control properly. Latching on to the one word she had comprehended, she said, "I am not an engineer, sir. I am a cell biologist."

"Och, a wee lassie like you!" To Scotty, cell biology seemed far harder than engineering. He was charmed and regarded her exactly as would an indulgent uncle; far more indulgently, in fact, than he regarded his own sister's children, "What is your name, Lassie?" he asked, "I was a wee bit late arriving so I didna get to hear it."

She understood 'name' and supplied hers.

"Theresa!" cried Scott, delighted; his misunderstanding of what she had said, due to her accent, causing him to think that it was good to know that not all Vulcans had outlandish names. "That's pretty, like yourself. I'm Scott, Scotty to my friends."

"Skoti," assayed T'Ressa, making a similar mistake to his. "That is a good Vulcan name."

Spock, overhearing, exchanged a look with Staret which Jim Kirk, at the other end of the table, happened to see. The Captain grinned. The pair had clearly been mutually amused by the little girl's captivation of Scott. What had been said, Jim could not know, but he had seen two Vulcans exchange an unspoken joke and he thought again that Bones was unfair to these people. He knew that both Sarek and Spock had a sense of humour, even if Spock wouldn't admit it, and now he had clear evidence of yet another Vulcan with the ability to see the funny side of things. He glanced around the table to locate Bones and mentally cursed. What he saw was Stonn and T'Pring side by side, completely ignored, while Scotty flirted with the pretty little one and Bones talked to Lt. Watson! There was nothing he could do about this, but he'd certainly have words with Bones later!

* * * * * * * *

Salon, when the meal was over, led his party in a formal departure and Spock, after polite 'good evenings' to his fellow officers, followed in their wake. Most of the rest of the assembled company were either due elsewhere or wanted to talk out of earshot of their Captain, so escaped as quickly as they reasonably could. Not so Uhura, who had a burning question to ask. Christine left her friend to it, since she knew Uhura was better placed to get an answer, not being seen as having any personal interest in the reply.

James T. Kirk advanced on his ship's surgeon and said, "Bones."

"Yeah, Jim?"

More softly, as they were not alone, the Captain asked, "Why did you sit next to that woman if you aimed to ignore her? You can talk to Watson any day. They were our guests."

"Jim, I'm sorry, but firstly it wasn't my idea to sit there, it was just the only damn empty chair, and secondly, when I tried to talk to her she ignored me. I had the choice of sitting here staring across the table at Christine or talking to Elizabeth, so I picked that."

Kirk turned to the engineer. "Scotty, it would have helped if you'd talked to Stonn," he pointed out.

"Sir, I was talking to the laddie." Scott's confusion was clear. "I dinna know... Captain, I was very keen to talk to him because it turns out he's an engineer, and we were getting along fine when suddenly..."


"Well, I found out that the laddie can certainly glare and he turned his shoulder."

"What did you say to him?" angry.

"Captain, I'll swear I didna say a thing to explain it."

"Scotty." Kirk calmed down, since his Chief Engineer's distress was apparent. "Vulcans have different attitudes. You may... I'm sure you didn't mean to insult him, but you must have said something he took as an insult." Then, noticing a hovering presence, "Yes, Uhura?"

"Sorry Captain, I didn't mean to interrupt, but..."

"Yes? What is it?"

"That girl sir, the one who was sitting next to Dr. McCoy, isn't she Mr. Spock's wife?"

"Oh Lord," Bones groaned. "Uhura, when did you...?"

"See her, sir? On the viewscreen when we went to Vulcan that time. I asked who she was and Mr. Spock said, 'That is T'Pring, my wife'!"

"Yeah, he did," Bones admitted.

Scotty was now looking interested and Jim Kirk said, "Uhura, what Spock meant by 'wife' isn't what we would. His parents and hers made a sort of arrangement when the pair were little kids..."

"An arranged marriage?" she gasped. "My people... years and years back... "

"Your people had them? Well, Vulcans still... I suppose... it's logical..."

"You mean they match genetics or something?" she asked.

"I don't know how they pick, Uhura, only that they fix these things up for kids, but when the kids grow up, they can decide 'yes' or 'no'." He paused, "I also know that Spock didn't want to marry that woman. He would have gone through with it if..." He dried and she gasped, eyes widening.

"I see..." she breathed. "Oh, I do see, sir! We all knew he was... well, not himself. He was trying to think of a polite way to say 'no thanks' and couldn't find a logical sort of reason, so he made up his mind that he was stuck with the situation, and then, when he got there, somehow she showed she wasn't keen either..."

"They didn't really know each other, Uhura," Bones put in. "That was sure clear."

"The... relief was mutual when it was called off," Jim added.

"Yes, I do see!" she smiled. "Good night sir, Doctor, Mr. Scott," and she whisked out to report to Christine.

"Now, Scotty," Jim Kirk said, "What did you say to that guy?"

"Sir, I'm trying to remember. I remember saying how good I knew Vulcan engineering degrees are. That was no insult! Aye, and then I said, I'd no' admit it to himself, but I kenned fine that our Mr. Spock is a very good engineer." He frowned. "As far as I recall, Captain, that's all I said before he glared and turned his shoulder."

Captain and doctor looked at each other. At last, Bones mused, "Scotty, do you recall the exact words? If you said something like 'Spock had a good feel for engineering', I guess the guy might have thought you were insulting Spock."

Scott frowned. "I canna be sure of my words but... I dinna think I said that, but I canna be sure." He sighed. "And I was all set to ask the laddie around the Engine Room."

Encouragingly, Kirk said, "Scotty, I'll see if I can find a way to tell their Leader that whatever you said, it wasn't meant as it sounded. Your accent could have caused a problem."

"Oh!" Scott gasped. "Aye, it could! The bonnie wee lassie had a problem with it, but she didna mind."

"Well, I'll tell Salon you'll be pleased to show Stonn our engines and maybe that'll sort things out."

"Thank you, Captain. I'm very sorry, sir, if I caused a problem. I didna mean..."

"I know that, Scotty."

"Och, I'll away to my bed then." They exchanged good nights.

"Jim..." asked Bones slowly, "do you think Scotty said anything Stonn misunderstood?"

"Bones, I can't see any other answer. I can't see any reason for Stonn to react like that at hearing Spock praised. I know he's married to Spock's ex-wife, but given the circumstances... Spock, well we weren't there at the end, but clearly Spock said something like 'You're welcome'. The guy knows they hardly knew each other. He got the woman, who wanted him, not Spock, so..."

"O.K., but if he did snarl at you in the Transporter Room, well, I'm left real confused; I sure don't know what makes that guy tick, or the girl. All she did was ignore me, and I did try, Jim!"

"O.K., Bones, let's get some sleep."

* * * * * * * *

"They weren't really married!" Uhura exclaimed as she entered Christine's quarters.

The nurse stared. "But he said..."

"Yes, dear." Uhura kicked off her shoes and sat on the bunk, curling her legs under her. "But I'd guess there are lots of different words in the Vulcan language for different grades of marriage; probably a root word meaning 'wife' with suffixes or prefixes which don't translate."

"Uhura?" Christine was utterly bemused.

"What he meant, dear, was 'she is the girl my parents fixed up with her parents to be arranged to marry me when we grew up'. And..."


"Yes, Chris. In the distant past, people in Africa did that, some of them. Children were actually married! I mean, they were stuck with it, no 'out' clause. Vulcans are more logical. They work out some sort of ideal logical match for children, but they do realise circumstances can change; that as adults the pair may just not... fit." She paused. "Well, consider Spock's father. What happened to his arranged marriage, we can't be sure, but he is an ambassador, his whole life is travel. Maybe the girl he was fixed with had a career rooted on Vulcan, so it was obvious they didn't fit? So, as adults, they could opt out, say, 'No, this isn't going to work' and Sarek eventually married Spock's mother, who, I guess, likes to travel. The Vulcans pick couples as children, but they don't actually marry them off then. 'Chosen Wife' or 'assigned wife' is what Mr. Spock meant. He hadn't actually married her, dear."


"Yes, and he didn't want to!"

"He didn't?"

"No. The Captain and Dr. McCoy were quite frank. They both said Spock didn't want to. In fact it was clear... you said at the time he was ill... and as far as I can make out, it was the time to marry and he was thinking and thinking of a polite way of saying 'no', a logical reason, and he couldn't find one."

Christine frowned, "Dr. McCoy said something about Spock dying if we didn't get to Vulcan."

"Chris, we decided at the time that couldn't be right. Oh, maybe he had so little sleep thinking about it that he was in quite some state and wasn't eating properly either, but... well, we can't tell. What is clear is that... the Captain said, Mr. Spock had decided that he'd just have to go through with it, only when they got there, it became clear the girl wasn't keen either, so Mr. Spock could breathe again and they called it off."

"If Spock did want her... well..."

"The Captain wouldn't want us to know Mr. Spock had been jilted? I must say I find it hard to see why she didn't want him, but I really don't think it was like that! He was in a state beforehand. He was perfectly all right when he came back. If he'd been quite happy about marrying and gotten jilted, surely he'd have been sanguine before he went down and shut off and unhappy afterwards?"

"That makes sense." Christine nodded. "The Captain was beamed back hurt, I remember, and Spock seemed to think it was his fault, I guess because the accident, whatever it was, happened on his planet. But once he saw the Captain was O.K., well, yes, he was fine!"

"They didn't really know each other, Spock and the girl. Dr. McCoy said that. I got the idea they were introduced as kids and never saw each other again. So there was poor Spock, who is half human and can feel, whatever he admits, faced with marriage to a girl he didn't even know!"

"Oh, Uhura! He... he said something about accepting our natures..."

"I'll bet the poor guy was trying to convince himself that he was a logical Vulcan, that caring didn't matter, that he'd be O.K. married to a stranger..."

"He wouldn't!" Christine declared. "He'd have hated it. Especially that one! I was watching her. She ignored poor Dr. McCoy and was really Vulcan, stiff as stiff, not at all like that nice little girl."

"Yes, that couple, we thought they were young! Well, they've been fixed up from childhood of course, but their folks made sure they got to know each other and it's clear they're suited."

"He was very worried about her in Sickbay, very sweet."

"Yes. They're only about seventeen... yes, dear, with degrees! I suppose Vulcan kids work! They qualify very young. But a girl like that... When Mr. Spock met his assigned wife... well, I mean, I think he was imagining a vulnerable sort of person who would be hurt if he said 'no'; after all he'd only seen her as a child, and when he saw what she'd grown up like..."

"He'd still have gone through with it unless he could find a logical reason not to," Christine opined. "He wouldn't let himself do something for emotional reasons. It all fits. And I can see one reason why she'd say 'no'. He's likely to be unable to father children, being a cross."


"Well, really, Uhura, he may be able to, and who would care? No girl who loved him would mind, but probably Vulcans see marriage as strictly for reproduction..."

"Then why would her folks pick him for her in the first place?"

"Because even as a child it must have been clear how clever he was, and if he fathered kids they were hoping for something spectacular! The girl prefers... oh... more certainty of normal kids rather than a small chance of an infant genius, and doesn't care for Spock at all. She seemed well suited to that other one. He was just as stiff."



"While I was waiting to ask the Captain, he started by bawling out Dr. McCoy for not talking to that girl, and the doctor said he did try. She just ignored him."


"Yes, but then the Captain said to Mr. Scott that it would have helped if he'd talked to the girl's husband and he said he had been, but something he'd said made the guy just turn away. They had the theory he'd inadvertently insulted him, I think, but..."

"Yes!" Christine cut in, glaring at a mental image of Stonn. "He's just a stiff Vulcan who objects to seeing so much as a smile!"

"Oh!" gasped Uhura. "Poor Mr. Scott! Just because he's human and shows his feelings, the guy backed off?"

"Why else?"

"Well, I'm glad I was next to Staret. I certainly smiled and he didn't go peculiar. He was a sweet, rather shy boy, in awe of Spock, I'd say, very polite, but with a definite sense of humour and..."

"Very handsome!"

"True!" laughing. "But also very married and far too young for me! Not that I can't dream!"

Christine joined in the laughter, which was infectious, then, musing, said, "I wonder if Spock was like that at seventeen."

"Not as dishy," Uhura pronounced with certainty. "Sorry, dear, but Staret is rather spectacularly stunning. Spock may have been sweet and shy and polite, though, and we know he has a sense of humour."

"Vulcans never joke," quoted Christine, grinning.

"He may believe that. He doesn't lie, so I guess he does believe it, and when he says it, well, he isn't Vulcan, so it's a half-truth; but they do. Staret's eyes shine and so do the little girl's. I suppose they may be told it's juvenile and kind of grow out of it, which is a terrible shame."

"They don't," Christine told her. "Sarek said things which were certainly funny and meant that way. They just don't admit it."

Uhura said, "I shall never understand Vulcans!" and departed for her beauty sleep.

Christine told herself that just because Mr. Spock was not, after all, married, it did not mean that she had a chance. It would be very silly to hope. He was a kind friend, but he'd made it clear that he did not love her. Perhaps, like the Captain, he simply wasn't the marrying kind; was married to his work as James T. Kirk was to the Enterprise? This fitted very well. It wasn't cheering, but then she hadn't lost anything. Until this evening she'd thought Spock married to that Vulcan. Finding he was married to his work instead didn't really change anything, except that it was rather nice to know he hadn't chosen that girl. In fact, somehow that thought made her feel a whole lot better!

* * * * * * * *

The following day, Spock met Sketa to discuss his work as represented by the paper which had interested the First Officer. As they were ending their talk, Sketa remarked that it was clear to him that producing that tutorial thesis under the guidance of T'Valon had marked the limit of his expertise, that his future lay in projects of the sort in which he was currently engaged, running a data evaluation service for teams such as Salon's.

"T'Nai tells me that a great deal more can be learned on that planet," he added, "in her field as well as in developmental biology. Star Fleet will surely realise that, and assign us transport?"

This comment strongly suggested that Stonn had yet to inform Salon that the Fleet was not in the habit of assigning shuttlecraft to pilots who made basic errors of judgement. Spock said, "There are many demands upon Star Fleet equipment."

"But a valuable project..."

"Speculation without data is not logical," Spock stated, "One cannot know which other calls upon the equipment will coincide with yours."

Sketa withdrew, chastened, unable to know that, so far from being the epitome of serene calm he seemed, Spock was in urgent need of meditation.

The First Officer's confusion was caused by the fact that more and more data pointed to a conclusion which he had at first dismissed as the product of such wild extrapolation from known facts as was only usually attained by humans. However, if he was correct, he had been tricked, and he did not take well to that, to say nothing of T'Pau's apparent willingness to accept the trick. Now he was becoming concerned that he might be trying to avoid a conclusion, not because he really lacked sufficient data, but because he did not want it to be true. Disciplined meditation before the flickering light of the eternal flame in his quarters was Spock's reaction to the possibility that he was allowing such irrationality to enter his thoughts.

* * * * * * * *

Chapter 3

"Captain Kirk to the Bridge, please," announced the intercom.

"Kirk here. What is it, Sulu?" Jim was in Hydroponics with Rodriguez, politely showing T'Far around.

"We need a command decision, sir. Uhura picked up a garbled distress call."

"On my way. Kirk out." He turned to his guest. "Sorry, Ma'am. Lt. Rodriguez will continue the tour." Then he walked away, running when out of her view.

His bridge was calm order.

"Take helm," he told Sulu, who rose from the Command Seat as he arrived. "Well, Uhura?" he asked, moving to stand beside her.

"I only got audio, sir. It came in through a lot of sub-space interference, I'd say induced."

Kirk frowned. "Location?"

"Plus 0.98 by 281, sir, range I can't confirm yet. The interference makes it difficult, but probably in a region where there have been reports of Orion activity."

"Put the signal on audio," he said.

"This is..." The voice was overlaid with interference and faded in and out. The accent sounded strange, clipped. "... Kimberley. Mayday. ...day. We are on fire. ... Repeat. A.O. ...berley... If anyone can hear me... help us... fire..." The signal deteriorated past any sensible interpretation, and Kirk knew it was as clean as Uhura could make it.

He moved to the intercom and ordered, "Mr. Spock to the Bridge," then said, "Uhura, try to get an accurate fix. Chekov, do we have any vessel called Kimberley on record?"

"Checking, Captain," responded the Ensign at the Library Computer.

"I make the range under a parsec, Captain," Uhura reported. "I'm still trying to get better accuracy. I'm checking the ship's recognition code too, but it was garbled."

The First Officer arrived and Kirk said, "Oh, good. Spock, help to get a range on a signal Uhura picked up and see if you can identify the interference. Chekov, have you found that ship?"

"No, Captain. I am sorry. No ship named Kimberley is registered that I can find."

"Well, check for any name like it. Tang, lay in a course for the coordinates of that signal. Sulu, take it and be ready to increase speed on my order. Uhura, report the situation to Star Fleet Command and Starbase 11. I presume there's no ship closer?"

"I know certainly there is not, Captain," volunteered Chekov.

"Confirmed," Spock said. "That is why we were assigned to collect Salon's team."

"That's what I thought." Kirk nodded. "O.K., Uhura, a Mayday is a Mayday. Try to let the distressed vessel know we're on our way."

"I'll try, sir, but I've been trying to get confirmation of the Mayday, with no luck so far."

"Captain," Spock reported, "I have an approximate range. At Warp 8 we will arrive in twenty seven plus or minus point zero one minutes. The region is reputedly Orion dominated. The interference would appear to be caused by jamming drones of the type used by the Orions to safeguard their privacy..."

"Their piracy is what he means!" Sulu hissed to Yeoman Tang.

"Considerable power was needed to punch the Mayday through," Spock was saying. "I am now assisting Uhura in the check of the ship's signal recognition code. I have ordered Ensign Chao to the Bridge."

"Sulu, raise speed to Warp 6," Kirk ordered, then, to the intercom, "Kirk to Engineering. Scotty can I have Warp 8?"

"Aye sir, ye can," Scott answered, "but the engines are in need of maintenance at a Starbase. It'll no do them good to go at top warp for long."

"Less than thirty minutes, Scotty?"

"Och, I suppose we'll manage that for ye, sir," the Engineer replied as Ensign Chao arrived to assist Spock.

"Chekov, relieve Tang at Navigation," Kirk ordered. "Warp 8, Sulu."

"Captain..." from his First Officer.

"Yes, Spock?"

"The recognition code is garbled but has a point nine six probability of being Almelan."

"Captain, that signal said 'A.O.'," Uhura put in, "and Almelan vessels are freighters. An ore carrier would be A.O.C. and because Almela isn't a Federation planet, we wouldn't have the ship registered, would we?"

"It is true that Almela is not a member," Spock said. "However, she trades with members. Officially she is supposed to log her vessels to enable ready identification by Star Fleet, so that they are known to be unarmed freight carriers and no threat to the Federation. She is also obliged to use only accepted designs."

"Does Almela trade with the Orions?" wondered Sulu.

"I shouldn't be surprised," Kirk told him, "The planet has a reputation for being willing to trade with anyone for a profit. I wouldn't put it past them to trade with the Romulans if they could find a way to get across the Neutral Zone without the Fleet noticing!"

"If they are not a member, Captain, can the Fleet stop them?" asked Chekov.

"The only reason they haven't joined the Federation is that they have a philosophy contrary to the ideals and Charter," Kirk explained, "The planet is one of those settled by people from Earth who wanted to live their way and didn't think that would fit on Earth much longer; a Diaspora Colony. Almela's in Federation Space. They have pretty odd ideas, but they have a treaty with us and trading with known enemies is prohibited, given that the ores they trade would help the enemies build ships and power them. It isn't the same as Vulcans collecting medicinal drugs in disputed territory on the Klingon border. Almela shouldn't really trade with Orion, but it's an open secret that they do. They can argue that Orion's neutral, which on paper is true."

"Sir, could the distress call be an Orion trap?" asked Chekov.

"Well, if it is, Ensign, they aren't going to like what they've caught. I've yet to meet a pirate who could take on a fully armed and shielded Fleet Cruiser!" The Captain flicked the intercom. "Kirk to Sickbay."

"McCoy here."

"Bones, we're on a rescue mission. There may be casualties. Burns are most likely, so be prepared. Spock, if it is an Almelan freighter, what crew do they carry?"

"A maximum of 150 is logged, Captain. Their vessels are somewhat similar to our cargo tugs, save that the transport container is integral to the ship." He provided a plan on screen. "You see, the bridge and quarters deck are mounted forward together with a pair of impulse engines and manoeuvring thrusters. The large section in centre is the cargo hold. Engineering and the warp drive nacelles are aft."

"I don't like that one bit." Kirk frowned. "Where does a freighter get a fire? In the cargo, I'll bet. And that cuts the engineers off from the bridge. They can't transport to safety. Escape has to be by shuttlecraft and I'll lay odds their hangar deck is aft."

"Correct, but Captain the cargo is not flammable. Almela exports ore," Spock pointed out, switching the diagram off main-screen.

Kirk told McCoy to plan for 150 casualties at most.

"Gee thanks." muttered the doctor, "I sure hope it's a lot less, Jim. Where do we put 150?"

"In the corridors if necessary. Bridge out." He glared at the viewscreen's calm star field, then said, "Spock, I hate fire. Opening to space isn't always practicable and it can spread too easily in ducting. That's why we have auto-extinguishing systems backed up. Don't those freighters?"

"The specifications so imply, sir, but the details are unclear."

"Any ideas as to how we can help to put a fire out?"

"Clearly that depends upon location. If the crew withdraw behind airtight bulkheads we could use fine phaser cuts to allow the vacuum of space access to the affected section."

"And if they can't withdraw? If the fire's deep inside their crew quarters?"

"It should surely be possible, sir, for most to move to a safe location. We could rescue any who are trapped by transporter. I would recommend that our own damage control parties stand by equipped with life-support in case we need to beam anyone aboard the damaged vessel, perhaps to free trapped personnel."

"Agreed. Order it. Then all we can do is wait."

* * * * * * * *

Starbase 11 called in answer to Kirk's signal. Almela had in fact registered an Ore Carrier Kimberley, but the information had only just reached Star Fleet and had yet to be disseminated to the ships. She was logged as a modification of the AT6 type carrier which had Star Fleet approval. Kimberley was larger than the type AT6, but carried a crew of only 140 due to greater automation. Essentially, however, the design was the same. She was equipped with two cargo shuttles capable of carrying 60 people each, two eight person passenger shuttles and the Master's gig, which could hold the remaining four. Also, at ten strategic positions there were banks of six personal life-support ejector pods to enable trapped personnel to escape. These were required for cargo transporters in case noxious materials were carried and fumes or dust entered occupied areas. Only sixty, of course, could avail themselves of these pods, but it was felt unlikely that more would ever need to. Almela had been known to object that, for her cargoes, these pods were not necessary, but to trade in Federation space, member or not, she was obliged to comply with Federation requirements.

"It sounds as if all their crew will be able to abandon ship quite easily, sir, if the worst comes to the worst," Uhura remarked.

"Still no contact with them?" Kirk asked.

"No, sir, but I'm picking up such strong interference, it's not surprising. The whole volume of this segment of space seems to have been seeded with those drones."

Time passed. Out of politeness, Kirk told Salon of the diversion and received immediate offer of any help the Vulcan Team was capable of providing. Not sure that any of them was qualified in any useful field, the Captain muttered something to the effect that he might have to bring aboard a large number of casualties.

Salon said, "T'Pring is competent to deal with certain injuries for which selfhealing requires assistance, but I am not sure if she would be of value when the patients are human. I will ask her."

He called back with the information that T'Pring did not claim expertise with non-Vulcan injured, but that all his party could, of course, help to clean wounds and dress them, if that would be of use. Jim thanked him and said he would call upon them if necessary. Privately, he thought that, if his vague recollections about the attitudes of Almela were right, Vulcan help might well not be a good idea.

As Enterprise neared the calculated point of origin of the Mayday, Uhura was able to report, "Captain, I have... Master de Vit on audio. The quality isn't good, but it's understandable."

"Put him on, Uhura," Jim said, then, to the pickup, "Kimberley, this is Captain James T. Kirk, U.S.S. Enterprise, we are coming to your assistance. Please tell me your situation."

"Thank you," gasped a voice in that odd clipped accent. "This is Master Herman de Vit, A.O.C. Kimberley. We have a fire in our cargo section. We are cut off from Engineering. We are cut off from our escape vehicles, but we are fighting the fire. Captain, we do not want to abandon ship. The engineers on duty are trapped behind the fire. I have lost intercom contact. I do not know how you can help us. Perhaps, if anyone is alive in Engineering, you might help them."

Kirk got a strong impression that the man was grateful just to have someone else around. He said, "We may be able to phaser cut carefully to expose the fire to space. We'll let you know when we get into sensor range of your vessel."

"Captain," Spock reported, "I have the freighter on sensors. The heat is... considerable." There was definite surprise in the calm voice. "I am confused," the First Officer explained. "their cargo surely cannot be ore?" Then, before his Captain could check with de Vit, he added, "Sir, we should decelerate, dropping to impulse drive at once, course 97 mark 0.42."

"Chekov, lay that in," Kirk ordered. "Sulu, impulse drive as soon as you can. Chekov, raise shields, we're in Orion territory and we'll be a sitting target." Then, staring at the viewscreen, "Is that the Kimberley?"

"Affirmative, Captain," from Spock.

"Sulu, magnification factor 4. Spock, she's glowing!"

"Sir!" Chekov was staring at the screen, with good reason. The entire aft section of the oddly designed ship glowed dull red.

"Captain, that vessel is not carrying ore," Spock announced flatly. "I would estimate her cargo to be oil of lubrication grade, perhaps with some lighter fractions."

"What?" Kirk jumped up from his seat with sheer shock. "But that ship isn't a tanker!"

"Evidently. She is quite wrongly constructed."

"Uhura, do we still have a channel open to that vessel?"

"We do now, sir."

"Master de Vit, this is Enterprise. My First Officer tells me your cargo is oil. Is that true?"

"Yes," answered the clipped voice. "Captain, this ship was specially built to carry such cargo."

"Well it wasn't designed correctly!" Kirk snapped. "We are evaluating your situation now. Please stand by." He gestured a cut-off to Uhura and said, "Sulu, bring us parallel and to relative stop. Spock?"

"Captain, if we do not phaser cut such that the entire Engineering Section is severed, the ship will blow up. Paired low intensity beams from phasers one and two, firing together to the correct coordinates, will enable a clean cut such that the forward section and impulse drive retains integrity." He paused. "However, such action will instantly depressurise their Engine Room. The heat there is considerable, making accurate sensor scans difficult, but I believe I can detect at least one living humanoid in the area."

"Send coordinates to the Transporter Room, Spock."

"My apologies, Captain. I cannot scan with sufficient accuracy so to do. It is necessary for someone to go there with a communicator to pinpoint any survivors." He straightened and began to move towards the turbolift, saying "Sir, even in life-support, the heat will be noticeable. I am able to withstand elevated temperatures much more easily than can a human. I have transmitted details of the required phaser cuts to Mr. Chekov. I will now, with your permission, go to the Transporter Room."

"All right. Be careful. Chekov, lower shields when the Transporter Room is ready to beam Spock over." Kirk flicked on the intercom. "Sickbay. Bones, get to the Transporter Room. We'll be beaming aboard at least one casualty. Bridge out." Then he called the Transporter Room.

"Kyle, sir," came the reply. "Preparing to beam Mr. Spock across as soon as he's in life-support. I'll call when we need to lower shields, sir."

"Acknowledged. Uhura, a hailing frequency, please."

"Aye Captain."

Kyle called to ask for shields to be lowered and Chekov obliged, raising them again as soon as Spock had been transported. Meanwhile, Kirk was saying, "Enterprise to Kimberley, come in please."

The reply came on visual, a smoke filled Bridge and a dirty, distraught, rather plump, white haired man in what had once been a very fancy uniform with some sort of logo on the shoulder tabs and a lot of gold on the cuffs.

"Master de Vit," announced this individual.

"We aim to cut off your aft section," Kirk told him, "Make sure all your people forward of the fire are protected by sealed bulkheads. Enterprise out."

After a minute or two, Chekov said, "Captain, I should begin to cut soon according to Mr. Spock's figures. If we wait too long the vessel will blow."

"Bridge to transporter room. Kyle, where is he?"

"Scott here, sir. I think a man's awkwardly placed. I'll let ye know as soon... Ah, he's calling now, Captain. Lower shields, please, sir."

Scott, assured that shields were down, activated the transporter while reporting to the bridge, "We're beaming... "

His voice ended in a gasp and McCoy exclaimed in horror as the platform seemed suddenly engulfed in flames.

Scott said urgently, "Kyle, get the extinguisher, man!" then, to the intercom, "Sir, they're aboard," as Kyle proceeded to put out the fire with a well directed burst of cold, inert gas.

"I was only able to locate one survivor in the time available, Doctor," the First Officer said, "and the young Engineer is very seriously burned."

"So are you!" growled McCoy, who was supervising the transfer of the rescued person to a gurney and wished he could do two things at once, as he wanted to take a look at Spock.

"I am perfectly functional, I assure you." was the First Officer's comment.

* * * * * * * *

Meanwhile, on the Bridge, having ordered Chekov to raise shields and fire phasers, Kirk, confused, asked the intercom, "Scotty, what's going on down there?"

"All is well, Captain," Spock's perennial calm informed him. "Has Mr. Chekov fired?"

Kirk checked the view-screen. "Yes, Spock. A very nice clean cut."

"On my way, sir. Spock out."

Kirk stared at the sections of freighter, which seemed to be folding back on each other. A frown creased his brow. He moved over to the sensors, asking, "Ensign Chao, how much angular drift is there on the two parts of that ship?"

"I will try to measure it, sir, but it is not easy," Spock's assistant sighed.

"Uhura, raise Kimberley again," the Captain said. "I want to know if she has any manoeuvring ability. Don't put it on visual, I want to carry on watching that!" Moving in front of Chekov's station, he gestured at the viewscreen picture of the dismembered vessel, still glowing red in places as the heat slowly dissipated.

The turbolift opened and the on-watch Engineering Ensign nearest to it exclaimed, "Mr. Spock!"

Kirk glanced back, saw his First Officer's calm face and said, "Oh, good, Spock, check sensors. I have a nasty feeling the two sections are folding towards each other."

"Affirmative, sir."

Uhura turned to report that de Vit was on audio and instead gave a horrified gasp. Her Captain swung to stare at her, confused. "Well?" he asked.

"Channel open, sir," she managed to utter.

The Science Ensign was now staring, shocked, at her superior officer as he calmly checked sensors.

"Master de Vit, do you have impulse drive?" Kirk asked.

"Access to forward Engineering is... It's the smoke..." The Almelan coughed. "I'll try to get someone there if I need to."

"We can use a tractor beam, Captain," Spock reported. "In fact, we must. By the time they are able to manoeuvre it will be too late. The aft end is, indeed, on collision course with the occupied section."

"Master de Vit, belay that. We'll tractor you clear of the rest of your ship. Enterprise out." He looked over at Science, saying, "Spock, let Engin..." His voice died away as he finally saw what had shocked the Engineering Ensign, Uhura and Chao. "Weren't you wearing life-support?" he asked, before he could bite the words back.

"At first. There was one whose need was greater. I am perfectly functional," stated the owner of a uniform tunic which had blackened edges around a large hole at the back, through which showed blisters and raw green where the skin had literally burned away. "I am now sending data for the tractor beam to Engineering, Captain."

Kirk forced himself to stop staring at his First Officer's wounds and inform his engineers that he needed the tractor beam now!

"Scott here, sir. Ye have the tractor. Is Mr. Spock all right?"

"So he says."

"Kyle put him out with the fire extinguisher," Scott reported. "He came back to us with his tunic in flames. Engineering out."

"Captain, we need impulse drive to tow Kimberley clear." Spock's voice was very flat.

Forced to consider the matter at hand, Kirk ordered Sulu on a course away from the still glowing aft section of the freighter.

* * * * * * * *

Bones McCoy was very fond of Chris Chapel. Letting her know that Spock had beamed back aboard literally on fire would not be kind. However, the damn fool Vulcan couldn't self-heal while working sensors on the Bridge, so Bones wanted to get some pain killer into him and some spray dressing on to him as rapidly as possible. M'Benga was actually better qualified in Vulcan medicine, but expertise wasn't really needed in this case, and telling M'Benga without Christine hearing would be impossible. Once they had the burned crewman from the freighter into stasis in intensive care, he knew M'Benga and the nurse could do without him, so he headed out, saying casually, "I won't be long. I want to check on the medical situation on that ship."

"We can manage," M'Benga assured him.

McCoy departed into the open section of Sickbay and gathered up what he needed to treat Spock before setting off for the Bridge.

In the intensive care cubicle, the patient's vital signs were stabilizing. He was intrinsically a very fit young man, which helped.

"He may regain consciousness briefly," M'Benga said, "but I want to check his tissue type, Nurse."

"I'll watch him, Doctor," she smiled. "I know what to do."

"I know you do." he nodded and departed to call the lab.

Christine watched the read-outs. She knew they had only just gotten this poor boy out in time. Even with modern equipment, stasis and tissue grafting, there was a limit to how much skin you could lose and survive. This boy was going to be all right, but it had been a very near thing. 'Boy' was a fair description. He looked no more than eighteen to Chris.

The patient's eyes flickered open. He was drugged and obviously confused. His irises were a light greyish blue, the colour somehow adding to his appearance of bemusement. He muttered something incomprehensible.

"Don't worry." Chris told him, "You are going to be all right. Just rest."

"An angel!" he breathed.

She found herself laughing, "An angel? Me? No, I'm just a nurse. Ah..." as the door opened, "here's Dr. M'Benga, he'll check you now."

As M'Benga approached, the young face, where it was not burned red, went stark white and its owner cried, "Get away from me!"

The doctor was so shocked, he stopped in his tracks. Then, realising the patient was delirious, he said gently, "It's all right. I am a doctor. I..."

"Get away! Don't touch me!" The boy tried to back, impossible in stasis. His eyes were wild with terror.

"Doctor..." began Christine and was interrupted by the patient calling to her,

"You! Don't let him near me!"

"I will call Dr. McCoy," M'Benga decided, thinking the boy in danger of dying from shock, and knowing he lacked experience with delirium. He left the cubicle at a run.

Utterly confused, Christine saw their patient relax. She did not know what to do. A stronger sedative seemed indicated, but that was for a doctor to decide.

"Please, try to sleep," she whispered, but the pale eyes stayed open. It was clear that their owner was determined to watch every move she or anyone else made.

* * * * * * * *

Bones McCoy was just about to step onto the bridge when M'Benga called him urgently to Sickbay. Cursing under his breath, he redirected the turbolift. When he saw his colleague's worried face, he thought the patient must be dying. "What went wrong?"

"Leonard, I do not understand it, but the patient seems terrified. He was in danger from shock. I could not get close enough to re-sedate. Will you try?"

"Here, go to the Bridge. Spock needs treatment." Bones thrust the equipment he was carrying into M'Benga's hands. "O.K., I'll see what's wrong here. Delirium?"

"I presume so."

Thinking there were disadvantages to training on Vulcan, McCoy headed for the cubicle. He guessed human patients in delirium were a whole different ball park from Vulcans in trance!

"Oh, Doctor!" Chris Chapel was obviously very glad to see him.

"Now then..." He approached the stasis couch. Its occupant stared at him and asked, "Are you pure?"

"What?" gasped Bones, stunned partly by the very awareness in the pale eyes, mainly by that question, which had caused Chapel to choke.

"Are you pure?" repeated the patient as sharply as he could with a larynx damaged by heat and smoke.

McCoy knew vaguely that Almelans had odd notions. Did they insist on celibate doctors? Well, if so, this kid'd get no treatment, which was crazy!

"I don't understand what you mean," he said. "I'm a qualified doctor. That's what matters."

"Where are you from?" asked the boy, who certainly didn't seem delirious, in spite of the strangeness of his questions.

"Earth!" snapped McCoy. "Georgia, North America." He started to ask what that had to do with anything, when his patient peered at him intently and pronounced, "You look pure."

This pole axed the doctor and caused Christine to choke all over again.

"Very well," said the boy, "You may treat me." He seemed to relax.

"Gee thanks," was Bones' reaction to this permission. He promptly gave the kid a shot which would keep him quiet for some time and ensure that he didn't know who was treating him!

* * * * * * * *

James T. Kirk, for one, was glad to see M'Benga arrive on the Bridge to treat Spock. Moreover, he noticed that this doctor was willing to follow his First Officer from section to section of the Science Console, doing his job without interfering with Spock's work any more than he could possibly help. Exactly what M'Benga had said softly to his patient on arrival, Jim could not tell, but it was clear that studying on Vulcan had its effect. If Bones had come up there would have been some sort of argument and now was not the time for one. This way, his friend's back became clean and shone with a synthetic skin dressing, and he could stop wincing at the thought of the pain Spock just had to have been feeling.

As M'Benga was leaving, Kirk signalled him to wait a moment and said, "That ship has to have taken casualties, Doctor. I aim to send either you or Dr. McCoy over with a couple of nurses."

"Yes, Captain," M'Benga nodded, but added, "I think Dr. McCoy wants to talk to you about that."

McCoy did. As soon as his colleague returned to take over the treatment of the now unconscious young man in stasis, Bones went to the Bridge.

"Jim," he asked, on arriving, "just what makes those Almelans tick?"

"Bones?" confused.

"The kid in Sickbay seemed scared of M'Benga and when I went to treat him, he asked if I was pure!"

It wasn't really funny, but the outrage on Bones' face made it so. James T. Kirk broke up with laughter, and was not the only one on the Bridge in like case. Uhura definitely giggled and Sulu bowed over his console.

Spock raised an eyebrow and briefly studied the doctor, as if gauging him for purity and finding him sadly flawed!

"All right, all right... " Bones sighed, "but seriously, are their doctors celibate like some priests?""

"Oh dear!" Uhura was calming down, for she could see the serious side of the situation.

The Captain's mirth was over too. He frowned thoughtfully and asked, "What was his reaction to Chapel?"

"She tells me he thought she was an angel!"

That raised smiles and Uhura had trouble not breaking up all over again. She didn't intend to let Chris live that one down too quickly!

Kirk, however, still frowning, asked, "Spock, check me on this, Almela's objection to the Federation is prejudice, isn't it?"

"Affirmative, Captain. The philosophy of the planet is that only those who can trace ancestry to Earth are acceptable as people. Presumably they do not deny that Vulcans, for example, are sapient, but they harbour doubts of a religious nature, as I understand it, as to our fitness for the afterlife."

"Only humans have souls!" exclaimed Kirk, "That's it! They class non-Earth people as... I don't know... children of the devil, maybe?"

"I guess I can see where they got the notion," Bones said, eyeing Spock.

"Belay that!" Jim ordered, seeing his other friend open his mouth to provide a riposte. He looked seriously at Bones and asked, "How would you feel about being treated by a devil?"

The doctor stared and whispered, "Pure? As in 'totally human'? It fits! But Jim, M'Benga's human! He trained on Vulcan, but that sure wasn't mentioned while I was there, and I can't see any reason it would have been when I wasn't there. So why should the kid...? M'Benga sure doesn't look Vulcan!"

"No, Bones, but it occurred to me, if the Almelans' ancestors came from one particular part of Earth, which is quite likely, maybe they all look roughly similar? The one I spoke to and the others behind him on his Bridge all seemed pretty fair skinned under the grime."

"You mean the kid was scared because M'Benga's black?" staring. "Well, if it was that, Jim, we've gotten a problem. That kid is sedated now, but when he comes to, in his condition, trying to explain to him would be real hard and he's too sick to take shocks. So if we send a doctor over to that ship it has to be M'Benga."

"So I have to explain to the Master of the Kimberley that people come in all sorts of sizes and colours." Kirk nodded.

"Captain..." from Spock.


"We also need to explain the need for him to jettison the rest of the cargo."

"He's still carrying oil?"

"Affirmative. In a number of tanks near the quarters and Bridge areas. There are power lines shorting, many sources of heat and sparks. If he does not jettison he has a very high probability of further explosions and fires in sections of his vessel which cannot be cut away without sacrificing the integrity of the remainder."

"Uhura, open a frequency," Kirk ordered, and, when she had done so, said, "U.S.S. Enterprise calling Kimberley. Master de Vit, do you require medical aid?"

The tired, smoke grimed face appeared on the view-screen. "Captain, we would be most grateful. We carry a surgeon, but everyone is burned, some quite seriously. The man cannot treat more than one at a time."

"Then listen to me," Kirk said sharply. "I know something of your people's theories. I've got two doctors and one is needed here to look after the man we beamed over from your Engine Room..."

"You rescued...?" a gasp. "Who?"


"The kid did have some kind of dog-tag, Jim. Uhura, check with Chris would you?"

"Sure, Doctor."

"De Vit," Jim continued, "we're checking that, but the point is that the man seemed to regard one of our doctors in a very odd way. I think you people need to know, Mister, that humans come in a lot of different varieties, and I mean humans from Earth! Dr. M'Benga happens to have dark brown skin. Nurse Fang has skin which is a bit on the yellow side. She is not part Vulcan or from Che-koi-y-cha, she's as human as you or I." He saw Uhura gesture and beckoned her to join him, saying, "De Vit, this is my Communications Officer, and she is sure human!"

The man actually blushed under the grime.

Uhura said, "The engineer in Sickbay was wearing a tag marked..." She paused and decided to spell it out, as Christine had. "J. D. d-e W-i-t."

"My son!" whispered the Master of the Kimberley, causing Kirk to wonder whether they had been calling the man by the wrong name due to being misled by an accent similar to Chekov's. Then he realised no other 'w' had been pronounced as 'v', so the name must show up an oddity of Almelan spelling.

Calming, the father of their casualty said, "Captain, my son is very young. I... Is he ...? Will he...?"

"He'll be O.K.!" Bones assured him, suddenly feeling sorry for the man.

"Thank you!" intensely, then, "You see it is Johann's first voyage." He pronounced the name as 'Yohan'. He continued, "The rest of us realise that all humans do not look as we do, but Johann has never before left Almela. Captain, we will be very grateful for any medical aid you can give us."

Kirk resisted the temptation to send them T'Pring, but ordered M'Benga, Fong and Nurse Khanna to the Transporter Room, thinking that they represented a pretty good range of human types, none much like the Almelans themselves. He then moved along to the next point, saying, "Also, Master, my First Officer tells me you still have oil in tanks aboard. He says it's unsafe, even more so than it was all through! You have damaged electrical cables, sparks, fumes... and are still overheated. You have to jettison or the rest of your ship's in danger of blowing."

"Jettison?" the man breathed, looking sick.

"Yes, Mister!" Kirk snapped.

"Captain..." Spock moved into range of the pick-up. "Mr. de Wit," he said, pronouncing the 'w' as 'v' in the Almelan way, "I am Vulcan, but I assure you that I am qualified to judge in this matter. You have the choice of saving what is left of your vessel by jettisoning your cargo or virtual certainty of losing everything, including your own life."

"Jettison... but... the Contract..."

"Jim, the guy's in shock," Bones hissed.

"Mr. de Wit, you cannot fulfil your contract," Spock stated flatly. "The order in which the cargo is jettisoned is somewhat critical. I am willing to come to your ship and carry this out for you if that is acceptable."

"Mr. Spock," Jim cut in, "saved your son, Mister! Now he's offering to save your ship. Comments?"

The Almelan stared at the Vulcan and shook his head slightly, obviously trying to clear his thoughts. Finally he whispered, "Thank you."

Spock went to beam over with the medical team while Bones McCoy returned to Sickbay.

* * * * * * * *

"Spock to Enterprise, come in please," Uhura heard and reported, "Captain, I have Mr. Spock calling."

"Put him on... Yes, Spock?"

"Captain, the on-watch engineers of this vessel, with the exception of the young man in Dr. McCoy's care, are all dead. Those who were off-watch were involved in fighting the fire and are receiving urgently needed medical attention. It is necessary to get the impulse engines working, since at present only back-up battery power is on-line and that is failing. Would you ask Mr. Scott to assign some of his people to come over here?"

"Yes, Spock I'll call you back. Kirk out." he flicked the intercom. "Kirk to Engineering."

"Scott here, Captain."

"Scotty, the other ship needs help to get more than emergency power. I want some of your people to go over and sort it out."

"Sir, we have a wee problem down here. The warp drive was strained by yon burst at Warp 8 and the tractor beam and shields are putting a heavy load on the impulse engines. I canna go to that freighter myself, sir, and I canna give ye..." He paused, clearly running through possibilities in his mind, then said, "Captain, how about the Vulcan laddie? He's a practical engineer, from what he told me, and ye know how good Vulcan training is. If he'll agree to go, I can give him Ensign Hernandez and a team of technicians. Hernandez just doesna really have the practical experience to manage alone, and I'd sooner not send ye anyone who does, not while we're nursing our own impulse engines this way."

This notion appealed to James T. Kirk. Maybe the whole of Almela would not change its crazy opinions as a result, but already the Master of the Kimberley was learning a lesson or two, and the more he owed to non-Earth people, the better the message would be rammed home!

"Salon offered his people's help," he said. "I'll call him. To be fair, Scotty, I have to tell him it isn't exactly safe over there and I certainly can't order a civilian to go, but I'll see if Stonn volunteers. Get your people to the Transporter Room ready to beam over. Bridge out."

Salon, when the matter was put to him, assured Kirk that Stonn would go. The Captain told the Vulcan team leader that there was some risk.

"Not only can I not order him, I wouldn't want to," he said. "If he's willing to volunteer, we'll be very grateful, but we'll understand if he says 'no'. After all, he's a married civilian passenger on this vessel."

"Stonn is with me and has volunteered. It is logical for his ability to be used in the manner most beneficial," stated Salon.

"Well, thank him very much," Kirk said sincerely. "Would he please go to the transporter room as soon as he's ready."

Remembering the apparent problem between Scotty and Stonn at that dinner, which seemed a year away, but had only been last night, and which he had yet to resolve, Kirk left Sulu the con and went to oversee the departure of the engineers. He actually met the Vulcan in the corridor outside the transporter room. He said, as they entered, "We're very grateful to you," and only then remembered that Vulcans did not take to being thanked.

"Aye!" Scotty, who was already there, exclaimed. "Stonn, I think... No. I'm sure I said something at yon dinner... maybe my accent confused you? I'm sorry. I did not mean to say anything you would no... not like. I want you to know that we are all very grateful indeed to you for volunteering to help. What is needed is a fine practical engineer, which I know ye are."

"We're lucky to have you aboard," Kirk remarked. "I'll make it clear to Vulcan how much we appreciate your assistance."

Stonn merely stood there, face showing nothing by way of reaction. However, he did not say that it was unnecessary to thank logic.

"You will need life support," Scott explained, holding out the equipment. "The atmosphere over there is still thick with smoke." Then, as Stonn donned it, added, "This is Ensign Hernandez." To his Ensign, he said, "This is Engineer Stonn, laddie. He has the experience you lack."

"Regard Mr. Stonn as a Lieutenant," put in Kirk, "temporarily."

"Aye sir." Juan Hernandez was thrilled by this mission, not least because it afforded the chance of working with the Vulcan visitor, of whose ability Mr. Scott clearly thought a great deal.

Stonn checked the tools and spares carried by the rest of the party and said, "These should suffice."

"If ye need anything else, just call," Scott told him, handing over a communicator, since he did not trust Kimberley to keep them in contact.

"Affirmative." Stonn moved to a transporter station.

As he ordered Kyle to energize, Kirk began to wonder if he was right to send the Vulcan. Was he too keen to teach the Almelans? Suppose one of them said something Stonn did not take to? It was clear the engineer was a lot more touchy than he'd thought a Vulcan could be.

"You're happy with his qualifications, Scotty?" he asked, although that was not really what concerned him.

"Aye, sir. Before we had that wee misunderstanding I had found out enough to know he's a very good practical engineer."

Which was at least some comfort to Kirk.

* * * * * * * *

On A.O.C. Kimberley chaos was in evidence nearly everywhere. M'Benga and his nurses, together with an Almelan doctor who was himself seriously burned and affected by smoke, were dealing with a row of casualties. All the worst cases were engineers. The small Sickbay was overloaded so they were using nearby Rec Rooms and even corridors. The lighting had a tendency to flicker and the air was still not smoke-free.

The patients looked twice at the trio from Enterprise, but were in too great need to raise any objections to being treated by them. In fact it soon became clear that these men were very impressed by the presence of two young female nurses. Kimberley's crew was entirely male. M'Benga gained the impression that, on Almela, females were regarded as too fragile to be exposed to risk. Nurse Fong certainly looked fragile and he suspected a number of the patients were rapidly falling under her spell, becoming hardly aware that her skin was a different colour from their own.

The ship's Master had seen Spock's back, dressed, but still quite clearly showing evidence of serious burns. To the shocked man this saviour of his son, simply by being his calm self, acted rather like a splash of cold water, clearing de Wit's confused thoughts. Whether the alien had a soul was a matter that had ceased to concern the Master. What he assuredly did have was a very fine brain and an excellent ability to assess a situation and deal with it. That he had suffered severe personal injury for the sake of young Johann caused Johann's father to suspect that Almela had been wrong about what made a person human. Spock was sympathetic about the Contract, understanding that the breaking of one's word was wrong, but what he said made sense. The cargo would have to go, and Herman de Wit trusted this alien to jettison it for him.

"You may tell the ship owners that I did this," Spock pointed out, "so they can hardly assign blame to you."

De Wit never had a chance to explain that he was one of the owners, so not worried about getting into trouble, exactly; for Spock, having called his own ship to ask for engineers, went off to see to the matter of the cargo. The Master, however, appreciated the kindness of the Vulcan's attempt to take from him any blame that might arise from the breaking of the Contract.

The arrival of another Vulcan rushing to his aid, and this one a civilian volunteer, made further impression on de Wit. Would Almelans have done likewise had the situation been reversed? He hoped so. That he was not sure, when he thought of it, added to his shock. Just what was the mark of a soul if not compassion? These people... yes, people knew very well how Almela regarded them, yet this did not prevent them from risking their lives to help Almelans!

* * * * * * * *

Master de Wit was not the only person on Kimberley who was learning lessons from a Vulcan. In the forward Engine Room Ensign Hernandez, Chief Engineering Crewman Hamami, three crewmen and two yeomen from Enterprise, and Nikolas de Beer, Third Engineer of the freighter, were learning to be impressed by Stonn.

De Beer had presented himself after having the worst of his burns dressed by Nurse Fong and after a brief word with Spock on the disposition of the cargo tanks. He now found that the other Vulcan also was one who saw at once what needed to be done and set about to get it done. In far less time than he would have thought possible they were ready to provide the ship with impulse power.

Hernandez saw the Almelan's reaction and said, "I'm only an Ensign. I am qualified, but I realise now just how theoretical my training was. Something like this..." he gestured around him, "would have been beyond me!"

"Me also," Nikolas told him. "Like you, I only recently qualified. This was my first voyage."

"What a first voyage!" Juan grinned. "Don't let it put you off!"

"Ready to switch," called Stonn, hand on a control.


They all heard the shout, but had hardly assimilated the fact when its originator literally dived across the deck and threw Stonn bodily away from the panel so that he skidded sideways and landed on his back against some pipes.

Stonn, more shocked than hurt, rose to his feet, panting slightly, and clearly prepared to defend himself. The other engineers and technicians just stood where they were, too confused to do anything else.

Spock, who had landed on his knees near the console at which Stonn had been working, had also regained the vertical, and now backed, while holding out his hands before him, crossed at the wrists in an odd way.

Stonn snapped out something in a language, presumably Vulcan, which none of the observers could understand. Spock seemed to agree with him. Then, in regular Standard, said, "But I did not intend attack, Stonn. It was necessary to stop you and there was no time to explain. One of the cargo tanks is leaking and I have traced the oil to the ducting carrying the lines from that panel. Had you activated the circuit the vapour, at least, would have ignited."

"You saved my life," Stonn stated.


"Why?" A query which raised some gasps.

"I refer you to the Questions of Surak," said Spock, knowing no other way to answer a Vulcan who asked that.

"You dare to cite them? You, who had been told their content before Kahs-wan?"

"I see. That is what you thought," said Spock softly. He had switched languages so that the others could understand his explanation about the duct, and could not very well revert to Vulcan again, so he continued, "I know that my mother translated the Questions, but I assure you I was not told of them before Kahs-wan. I could not have taken Kahs-wan if I had seen the Questions, certainly not the Fifth, and I would say not even the first four, of which the Fifth is but a summary." He paused, "Surak never asked who it is who loses if three take the Test and one cheats. Perhaps he did not think any Vulcan would ever cheat. But the answer to that question is that the loser is the cheat, since he can never know if be would have passed, had he taken the test fairly. It was particularly important to me, Stonn, to prove I could pass fairly, was it not? But now I must ensure that all oil is evacuated from the ducting, so that you can activate the drive safely."

* * * * * * * *

Johann de Wit blinked awake and saw his father. He stared.

"Kimberley is safe," the older man said, "and I am here to tell you that we have been wrong."


"Firstly, Johann, the black doctor is Earth human, not alien, and a fine man. He treated most of our crew. Second, you owe your life to a real alien, a Vulcan. Oh yes!" as the boy tensed. "He beamed over to our Engine Room to get you out, and I think you were trapped, because it took him time to get you to safety and during that time he put his own life-support equipment on you. So when his friends beamed him back, his tunic was on fire! Yes, I have seen the wounds. A non-person doesn't endure that kind of pain, Johann, to save another."


"But in Church the Pastor says Christ only came to save us! So only we have immortal souls. I ask you, my son, how can we know? How can the Pastors? Nik de Beer tells me that he heard some talk between the one who saved you and another Vulcan. He didn't understand it all, even when they used Federation-talk, but it was clear to him they were quoting from their Bible. Are we to limit God, Johann? It seems to me, now, that He must have sent His Son to many people. All I know for sure is that you owe your life to a Vulcan, devil's ears and all, and I owe my life, my son, and what is left of my ship to a mixture of folk most of whom would be judged non-human on Almela from the looks of them. Now most are Earth human, but some are not, and I do not know which are which! You will be on this ship for a time. Don't look at people who aren't like us as if they're animals!"

Johann swallowed, trying to imagine letting that black one touch him, or worse still, a real Devil-Vulcan, who Pastor Vincent said was spawn of Satan!

It was clear to Herman that the boy would have problems. He asked, "It's hard to change after believing all your life?" and saw his son nod. "I'm older than you, and I've changed my view," he said, continuing, "there is something else too, Johann. The Vulcan who saved you showed me how wrong we were about building our own tankers. Our design wasn't safe after all! To carry flammable cargo you need a tender arrangement like the Federation Fleet use, with every tank able to be opened to space in emergency, and you need to fill completely and then bubble through inert gas, so no fire can be supported by air. We know what happened to Kimberley, even if we aren't sure how the fire started. In fact, I can see now that what was surprising was that it didn't start sooner! We can't know what happened to Maritje de Beer, but I have no doubt she suffered exactly as we did, but didn't happen to be lucky enough to be within calling distance of a Federation Fleet vessel!"

"Lost?" breathed Johann, shocked. "Not... not Romulan pirates?"

"I believe she blew up," his father said flatly.

"The Contract?"

"Almela has never before failed to honour a Contract, but now there is no way we can deliver. We jettisoned the rest of our carg..."

"Jettisoned?" cut in Johann, horrified.

"It was painful, yes, but necessary. With it went Almela's honour as a trading planet, but perhaps that loss of pride was good for us."

"Father? How could it be?"

"Johann, we have failed to deliver because we were wrong. We thought we knew better than the Federation. We made our grand gesture, Old Man de Beer and I, after Maritje disappeared and the talk started, to show our faith in our shipyard. I stood up and said I would take Kimberley myself and I let you come, although you hadn't finished your training. Old Man de Beer ordered Nikolas to come, not that young Nik wasn't willing. Our grand gesture nearly blew up in our faces! We were wrong. We cheated the design registration procedure. Nik de Beer told me he heard the Vulcans talking about cheating. One of them said that the only one who loses is the cheat. We found that out the hard way, but the crew of the Maritje found out an even harder way. They're dead! If we want to export oil, we either buy Federation built Tankers or learn to build our own like them. We cannot do either in time to honour the Contract."

"And the Orions?"

"Will have to look elsewhere. But, Johann, I'm having doubts now about trading with Orion. We always saw all non-humans as the same. We were wrong, or so it seems to me..."

Behind him the door slid open and McCoy called softly, "I'm sorry, Mr. de Wit..."

"Yes Doctor, I know, he is tired." Herman got up from his chair. "I will leave him to rest." He leaned over the stasis couch and said, "Sleep, Johann, and do as the doctors tell you. All the doctors." Then he left the room.

"You need rest too," diagnosed Bones.

"I know. I will get it now." The man sighed. "I'm afraid my son has a lot to learn. He may make that... clear."

"Don't let it worry you," McCoy grinned. "We're used to all sorts. And if the kid shows he finds Vulcans hard to take, I'll sure sympathise!"

"But... I thought the First Officer was your friend." staring.

"That doesn't mean I find him easy to take!" laughing, "He's as pigheaded as they come!"

"Yes, I see." Herman did. Only about someone who was your friend could you joke like that. This doctor certainly had no doubts about the Vulcan's true humanity! He went back to Kimberley even wiser than he had left her.

* * * * * * * *

Enterprise was now heading for Starbase 11, towing the forward section of Kimberley in matched tractor beams. This limited the speed considerably and caused her to handle as her Captain suspected a cargo tug did handle! James T. Kirk had reported the situation and was hoping Mendez would send a Fleet Transporter to take over the tow. This present arrangement was a waste of a cruiser, to put it mildly. Also, his crew needed R & R, his Engineer had told him the engines needed maintenance work before being overloaded, and he still had passengers aboard!

On the brighter side, the Master of a ship-load of Almelans now seemed converted to a rational view of the Federation. Not only that, but de Wit had dropped hints that the planet might stop trading with the Orions, and that was certainly a result that would gain Kirk thanks from Command. Nearer home, the problem between Scotty and Stonn had vanished and the Vulcan engineer, having returned from getting Kimberley some power, was now helping in Enterprise's Engine Room. The only odd thing about this was a feeling Kirk had that Stonn had come around because everyone had been so fluent in praising him. His admittedly limited experience of Vulcans had not caused him to think of vanity as something from which they suffered. Yet Stonn seemed to bask in adulation! However, he had no intention of discussing this with his resident expert, even if he did suspect that Spock might know the answer to the enigma. Sometimes it was better to leave well alone!

* * * * * * * *

Chapter 4

Christine Chapel smiled gratefully at the polite volunteer. Dr. M'Benga and two nurses were on Kimberley. Dr. McCoy had obviously gotten delayed. If she was to get anything to eat, she should go now. The patient didn't really need any expert care. An eye kept on the instruments and knowledge of how to call for help if anything changed beyond specified limits would do fine. Chris knew well enough that the young man had some odd attitudes, but she also knew that his own father had come over to try to cure these and she had a suspicion that, if he did wake up, having this particular volunteer sitting beside him might help a lot with that cure! With a fairly clear conscience, therefore, she explained the acceptable limits of the diagnostic readings and how to use the intercom to call if any gauge approached its warning mark. Then she went for her mid-watch.

About five minutes later, the patient stirred. His eyes opened. He stared. "Another angel!" he breathed.

Nurse Chapel had told of how she had been mistaken for a spirit being. T'Ressa said, "No. I am only T'Ressa."

Johann de Wit now noticed that the vision of innocent-seeming raven-haired loveliness had pointed ears. He really stared.

"You... you are a nurse?" he asked nervously, trying to accept his father's advice and not show his instinctive horror at the very idea.

"No," said T'Ressa, "I am just sitting here with you while Nurse Chapel eats. I am only a passenger. This ship, which saved you, before that saved me and the others of our survey team, including my husband."

"You are married?" amazed.


"You do not look old enough," he told her, for here had been something in her voice when she gave that stiff little answer that implied 'obviously' and a touch of crossness that he should ask.

Now she said, "I am... of the years of humans, seventeen. So..." She paused, enlightenment seeming to dawn. "Oh, your ways are not as ours are, I remember. We are usually married at the first stage of maturity, at... at approximately seven of the years of humans."

"As children?" shocked.

"Not..." She frowned. It was a very pretty frown, he noticed. "It is hard to explain, no?" she asked, and he gave an encouraging nod. "A child is one who has not passed the Kahs-Wan," she told him, "the first Test of maturity. Once you have passed that, you are a young person. We marry as young people. A child may not marry."

He thought about this. "It seems to me, at seven you are still a child," he said at last.

"Sometimes," she sighed, "I think I shall always be a child, but I did pass my Kahs-wan, so I suppose I am not, and Staret says I am right for our age, but it is very hard to be as calm as I should be. I look at older ones, mature adults, and I think I shall never be like that."

He stared up at her serious little face and laughed, saying, "I think you are perfect!"

"Oh, I am not that," she assured him. Then, a little confused, "It is said that your people doubted that we are people."

This reminded him of her tell-tale ears and he blushed.

"Oh, my apologies." she whispered, "I should not have said that. You are ill. But I am so very curious about you. I mean, about your people. I have met some humans at Science Academy but mainly they kept together. However, they all saw us as people. But you are too ill to talk of that."

"No, I am not." he said and realising suddenly that it was true, added, "now, when I look at you, I do not understand why my ancestors thought you were not... well, we would say 'human'."

"I am not human." She frowned again, then asked, "Is it that? Is it not that they did not see us as people, but merely not as human, which is indeed true."

"The Pastors say..." He winced.

"You are in pain?" concerned.

"No. It's... I am sure you have a soul!"

"A soul? Oh, a spirit, yes? Yes, I believe that I do. We call it, katra. That is our word, I suppose, for 'soul'. Your... pastors did not think that we had katra'i? It occurs to me, would they say Commander Spock had one or not? His father is Vulcan, like me, and his mother is human, like you. Can you have half a katra?"

"No," he said, grinning. "I do not know how they would argue around that. In fact, they say... they would say it was a sin for his mother to go with his father, but then they would say that he was impossible. I mean they would say the couple could not make a baby. If he is half and half, the Pastors are wrong so... It seems to me they will have to agree that your people are... all right after all."

"You appear tired," she said.

"I am. A bit. It is silly. I am only lying here."

"You are ill. It requires energy to mend yourself. There is much new skin to grow. That needs great effort, does it not? Are you hungry?"

"Yes," he admitted, while thinking that he had never before thought of getting better after an accident in quite those terms. It made feeling tired perfectly all right!

"I believe Nurse Chapel will have food prepared for you," T'Ressa was saying. "I do not know where it is. I will call her."

"No," he smiled, "I can wait."

"But no. For you need the food for energy for the new skin." She rose gracefully to her feet and went to the intercom just as Bones McCoy entered. "Ah, Healer. Yohan'de'vit is hungry," she reported, giving the boy's name as it had been told to her, all one in her mind, since that was what she was used to.

"He sure was lucky to wake up and find you here," Bones grinned.

"Yes," volunteered Johann.

O.K., we'll find that broth of Christine's," McCoy told them, privately thinking that the little girl was the best Ambassador Vulcan could possibly have picked, but that Vulcan would never have picked her; which just showed how wrong logic could be!

* * * * * * * *

When Chris Chapel returned, Bones McCoy took the opportunity to check out T'Ressa's foot and, finding all well, removed the cast. Freedom from that restraint might have explained the slight skip to T'Ressa's step as she returned to her quarters, but it did not. In truth, she was eager to tell Staret all that she had learned of Almela, and especially that she seemed to have proved helpful in showing the Almelan that not only humans had katra'i.

As she approached their door, she met not Staret but T'Pring and, with the eager enthusiasm of youth, called, "I have been sitting with the injured Almelan."


Complete disinterest in all things Almelan might be exactly the reaction to be expected of T'Pring, but somehow T'Ressa gained the impression that the seeming rejection was due to a more consuming interest which left no room for anything else in the other's thoughts

"T'Pring," she asked, "something is wrong? Can I help?" This speech was prompted not least by the euphoria remaining after being assured by Healer and Nurse that she had helped their patient.

T'Pring looked confused, unsure. "No... I do not know," she muttered.

Misunderstanding that and brought back to remember her position as a young, inexperienced person, T'Ressa said, "No, I suppose it is unlikely that I could help with a problem. But..." her enthusiasm kindling again, "...I would like to try."

T'Pring was thinking hard. After Stonn returned from the Almelan ship, Spock had come to their room to, as he put it, 'clarify matters'. He had suggested a course of action to her husband, with which T'Pring entirely understood Stonn's reluctance to comply. She wanted very much to talk to someone, simply because she was deeply worried and was feeling the lack of available advice. She knew to whom she could not talk. It had not occurred to her that T'Ressa was a possible person to whom she could talk. Now she reassured herself that the young female was at least family, if only by Bond, as Staret was a cousin on her mother's side.

"If you will agree to tell no one else..." she mused aloud.

"I cannot do that," T'Ressa told her, shocked at the very idea. "Staret is my Bond-mate. I will talk to no one else, but, as you tell things to Stonn, so I do to Staret. If I have a problem, through our Bond he knows that and..." she stopped. T'Pring was aware of this. To state the obvious was illogical, since it wasted time.

T'Pring began to see a way in which she could talk to this one, and perhaps it would not matter if some of what she said reached Staret. He was family by blood and would surely not talk to his father or T'Far of something learned through his Bond.

"In your room?" she suggested, knowing she could not talk if Staret was there, but knowing of nowhere else where privacy was possible.

T'Ressa was delighted to have a chance to help another, even if only by listening, and it was clear to her that T'Pring simply needed to verbalize her concerns and did not expect so young an auditor to offer useful advice. She eagerly led T'Pring to her door and saw, on entering, that Staret was not there. He must still be engaged in studying samples from their Survey.

"You have not yet been to Koon ut kal'i'fee," said T'Pring as soon as the door had closed and before even sitting down. As this was stating the obvious, T'Ressa was bemused. Of course her Bond was not ceremonised. She and Staret had yet to complete their third cycle of years!

"Yet," T'Pring added, sitting down on the nearest chair, "you talk to your Bond-mate and, should you have a problem, he is aware of the fact."

"Yes," agreed T'Ressa.

"I was bonded to Spock," stated T'Pring, surprising T'Ressa so much that she was obliged to turn away briefly, to hide the widening of her eyes. "After Kahs-wan I was bonded," continued T'Pring, "then his father was posted off-planet and Spock went with him. On his return, already Spock was too advanced to study with his own age group. When I was still at school, he was at the Science Academy. When I reached that level, he was engaged in research. I did not know him. I was never conscious of the Bond. I thought this to be evidence that he was no true Vulcan."

T'Ressa digested this. She did not understand how T'Pring could have thought that. She had never met anyone more representative of the Vulcan ideal, the Way of Surak, than was Spock.

"But he is Vulcan!" she declared.

"His mother is human."

T'Ressa had been telling Yohan'de'vit that not too long ago, but it had not occurred to her when considering T'Pring's statement for exactly the reason she now voiced, "He seems entirely Vulcan."

"Perhaps my lack of awareness of the Bond was due to constant separation," T'Pring said. "I had no way to tell. Spock then joined the Star Fleet, against the wishes of his father, and again left Vulcan. I doubted that our Bond had any meaning, any validity. I doubted that when the Time came, he would return,"

"But..." T'Ressa began and then turned away, for she had to fight not to blush.

"You are thinking that if he did not, he would be..." T'Pring paused, trying to find a polite way of putting it. "That he would have no choice?" she finally said.

"Yes." Hardly voiced, for the notion of what a male at pon farr was like was vague in T'Ressa's mind, vague but acutely embarrassing. Certainly she was sure that no male in that state could do anything but seek out his mate.

"I thought," T'Pring explained, "if he was no true Vulcan, he might not suffer pon farr."

"Do humans not?" T'Ressa murmured, her face still turned from T'Pring, "But... how then do they... reproduce?"

"They have very mild fire at all times. Not true pon farr. A faint echo of it."

"Oh." Not quite able to imagine how that must be.

"I..." T'Pring paused. She began again, "I worried. Was I bonded? Or was I not? I met Stonn. We were certainly not bonded, yet I felt closer to him than ever I had to Spock. Many who met us did not know of my Bond and asked me if I would choose Stonn, thinking me one whose parents had followed the new way of leaving the choice to me. Stonn knew the truth and we talked. He knew Spock... He had known Spock. He thought... He said he thought, as I did, that Spock would not come, that there was no true Bond, that Spock was no true Vulcan. I... We planned to choose each other when it became clear that Spock would not come."

T'Ressa had recovered her control and was now looking at T'Pring, but she said nothing. She could not think of anything to say.

"But," T'Pring continued, now so well into her story that she needed no prompting to continue; was, indeed, hardly aware of T'Ressa. "Spock came."

"He came?" it was jerked from the younger one, "B... but..."

"And..." T'Pring's flow of words dried. She had been caused to remember that she was talking to another and how could she admit what she had done? She never should have started this conversation.

T'Ressa had sat through the full sex education course and had talked, afterwards, to Staret and to their friends. They had debated at length on the matter of the kal'i'fee, deciding that no mad person could pass the Kahs-wan, so surely there could not ever be a reason for a female to choose it. Staret had pointed out that it would not necessarily work if she did, since madness did not reduce physical strength. Certainly T'Ressa knew there was only one way the Bond could have been severed, if Spock had indeed come, and she breathed, "But you did not choose the kal i'fee!" for Spock was alive, and Stonn also!

"l did not know what to do," T'Pring said softly, now, somehow, unable to stop this revelation, which she had never voiced and needed to voice. "I knew that I did not wish to be the consort of a legend, a half-human genius whose Bond with me was so weak that it had been manifest only now. I knew that I much preferred Stonn, who is no genius and whom I knew well. I also knew that I could not choose the kal'i'fee. If Spock were the loser, I would be famous as the instrument of the destruction of this legend. If Stonn lost, I would have gained nothing. Yet I allowed Stonn to accompany me to the Place. My parents did not come because they saw that he was to come and they feared that I might choose, after all, to dishonour our family. Spock's parents did not come. Whether it was because they also heard rumour of Stonn or whether it was due to the estrangement between Sarek and his son, I am not sure. But T'Pau came! To Officiate."


"Yes," T'Pring replied, "Clearly she had heard talk and wished, I suppose, to ensure by her very presence that I did not choose to dishonour my family or to remove from hers its legendary genius. And then..." She paused, "We arrived and for the first time..." her voice was disjointed, pain audible in it, "...I felt the Bond. I knew that he Burned. But also I knew that he resented... is that the word? Did not want it, certainly. Did not want me, certainly. Had fought it. Was late, not because he Burned less than any Vulcan, but because he had fought it longer than one would have believed possible, so that he was physically weak, close to death." She saw that she had T'Ressa's full attention, and she saw sympathy in the large eyes of the younger female. "Yes," she said. "He had come to save his life and for no other reason. And, as his friends, he had brought the Captain and Medical Officer of this ship.... Outworlders!" the last word almost hissed.

"To Koon ut kal'i'fee?"

"Yes, and when T'Pau questioned, he said it was his right, which it was, but..."

"But Outworlders!" T'Ressa agreed.

"I knew then," T'Pring said, "that I..." she paused. "He did not want me as his consort. I did not want him. I saw a way, T'Ressa. If I named Stonn, Spock would die. He was weak, as I told you. But if I named one of the Outworlders..."

"T'Pring!" really shocked.

"Well? He brought them! He could surely defeat either, even in his condition, and the conflict would quench the fire. Once it was quenched, he would free me. He had come only because he would otherwise die of the fire. He did not want me. So I chose the kal'i'fee and named the Outworlder, Kirk."


"He lives? Oh yes. He seemed to die. The other, the so-called Healer, McCoy, stated that he was dead. Yet he lives. McCoy injected a potion, said to make our air easier for an Outworlder to breathe. I do not know whether that potion was a trick, to make him seem to die, or whether he merely entered deep trance and McCoy mistook that for death. I did not think humans did trance; but I do not know for certain. However Spock believed him dead and thought he had ended the conflict. He gave me to Stonn."

"I see," murmured T'Ressa.

"No, you do not. Neither did I. And I do not believe Spock knew..." She tensed.


"I have wondered, did T'Pau? Yet she did not forbid Spock."

"T'Pring?" T'Ressa was impatient with her own failure to make sense of what was now being said.

"That Stonn had never passed the Kahs-wan."

Poor T'Ressa nearly fainted.

T'Pring waited for the younger person to regain some colour, feeling an odd relief. She had said it, that which must never be said; and it seemed that, at least now, Spock knew of it, by some means... "If he knew then..." she was musing aloud, "perhaps, since he did not wish to be my consort, he was willing to cast aside custom?"

"T'Pring..." stuttered T'Ressa, "I do not understand. Everyone passes the Kahs-wan, if not the first time, then the second and..."

"Stonn fell on a rock slide on his first attempt," T'Pring said. "He was not really at fault, the ground slid from under him." She paused, realising that this was Stonn's view of the affair, that he had been hurrying to be back first and had probably taken a foolish risk. "On his second attempt..." she said, plunging on with the story, "...he was careful. He did not try to lead the others. He..." She paused again. "It was... It was judged according to the Fifth Question."

T'Ressa said, impulsively, "Oh, T'Pring, Staret and I, after Kahs-wan, when we learned the Questions, talked of that. Would we have broken the rule if we saw one of the others hurt? Staret said that I would have, but I do not know. And... It happens so rarely... I know a third attempt at Kahs-wan is unusual, but surely, in such a case...?"

"Stonn's father did not ask. That family follows the Teachers of Gol. Stonn's father was not pleased that his son failed the first time. When he was judged to have failed again, although he arrived first of all at the finish, then his father stated that Stonn was no son of his."

"I see."

"Of course, the one chosen as Stonn's Bond-mate was bonded to another," T'Pring added.

"Yes." Then, as a thought occurred, "T'Pring, did you not say that T'Pau Officiated at... I mean, was present at... the kal'i'fee?"

"Yes. "

"And... after it was over?"

"Spock gave me to Stonn. I told you, he did not want me."

T'Ressa resisted the temptation to say that, whether he had or not, he surely would not have once she had chosen to risk his life! Instead, chasing her original thought, she said, "T'Pau did not say that could not be, because Stonn...?"

"Was but a child? No, she did not."

"So she believed he should have been allowed a third attempt at the Kahs-wan and would have passed," deduced T'Ressa.

"So I presumed when I found out... when Stonn told me. But..."

"But? Surely it must be so?"

"T'Pau does not like the Outworld influence upon Vulcan. She did not approve that Spock had brought Outworlders to Koon ut kal'i'fee."

"I can understand that," T'Ressa said.

"She may not have wished Spock's genius to be lost, but who else was there for me? The choice, at the end, was Spock or Stonn. One only half Vulcan and probably infertile, certainly strange in his attitudes... " She remembered something and exclaimed, "He spoke, T'Ressa, from the plak-tow!"

"He spoke?"

"Yes, and why? To plead for his Outworlder friend, that T'Pau would forbid conflict!"

"B... but..."

"That is against the laws of the kal'i'fee? Yes! So which was worse? A strange cross-breed who had passed the Kahs-wan by the Decision of the Fifth Question, or a true Vulcan who had failed it by that Decision? The first did not want me, our Bond had never been strong enough to feel. The second did want me..."

"T'Pring, are you saying that it was Spock who gave water to the one who fell, when Stonn passed by, mindful of the rules of the Test?"

"Yes, and Spock's human mother had translated the Questions and some other of the most simple Words of Surak into the language of humans. Now Spock says he had not seen them before he took the Kahs-wan, but..."

"You and Stonn thought he had?"

"It seemed logical to presume so, to presume that T'Pau believed that he had."

T'Ressa did not see that it was logical at all. She said nothing.

"It would," continued T'Pring, "explain much. It is not hard to choose the value of a life over the passing of the Test if you know you will not, in fact, fail. If you know that only you will pass; that those who choose to pass will fail!"

"T'Pring?" T'Ressa had thought of a point that certainly could fairly be made. "I can see that it was much harder for Stonn than is presumed in the Question. If it had been his first Kahs-wan, he could have thought, 'Well, I can take the Test again'. As it was, he had but one chance to pass."

"Yes. It was Spock's first attempt, so even if he had not seen the Questions, it was easier for him."

"T'Pring," T'Ressa asked, "Why now, suddenly, does all this concern you?"

"Because Stonn was a perfectly normal adult person when I met him. At first he did not understand why I named the Outworlder for the kal'i'fee, but when he did understand, he appreciated my logic, as did Spock. But the fact that he never actually passed the Kahs-wan affects him. It is like a wound which somehow will not heal however much effort one puts into the process. It was Spock who caused Stonn to fail. If Spock had not stopped to climb down to share his water with the injured one, if Spock had also passed by, the Decision of the Fifth Question would not have applied. One must stop in order for all others to fail. Spock is only half Vulcan. It seems, when he was a child, this was very clear. He would behave in strange ways, make odd noises... and it was this half-breed who..."

"T'Pring," T'Ressa said quickly, "I have just come from one who was raised to think of us, of Vulcans, as not true people, to think we lacked katra'i. Humans are people, T'Pring, as we are. They call their katra'i 'souls'. Spock is a person'."

"I did not say otherwise," T'Pring stated, well aware that she had come close and that Stonn had never seen Spock as a real person. "But, when T'Nai said a child could land in that place... "

"Oh no!" breathed T'Ressa.

"Yes. It seemed to Stonn, at that moment, that she knew. He became determined to land. It is clear now that he was wrong. He should tell Salon something of this, for it seems the Star Fleet will state that he is an incompetent pilot, which he is not, not really, and refuse to lend us a shuttlecraft. But Stonn... to tell Salon that he never passed Kahs-wan... How can he do that?"

"If he can do that," said T'Ressa, with a flash of insight, "it will mean that he has, in fact, passed the Kahs-wan."

* * * * * * * *

"Jim, can I have a word with you?"

The Captain looked at the friend who had just appeared at the door of his quarters and grinned.

"Sure Bones, come in." He waved the doctor to a chair and himself got up to fetch glasses, adding, "When you come bearing that kind of gift... "

"Don't thank me. Thank Herman de Wit!"

Kirk whistled, "So they do trade with the Romulans!"

"Nope. They trade with Orions. He's none too keen to keep on doing that even; and this Ale crossed the Neutral Zone that way, not by direct trade by Almela. He swore that, and I believe the guy."

Jim decided he probably did too and sat down again, relaxing as he watched the doctor carefully pour the slightly fuming liquor. Romulan Ale did cross into Federation Space sometimes and he guessed they now knew how. He'd tried it before and found it most potent brew he had ever tasted. Its kick was phenomenal. He must drink this slowly.

"Here... your health."

"And yours, Bones." Each took a sip and they grinned at each other as the liquor provided its aftershock.

"Wow!" breathed Kirk.

"It sure is something!" Bones agreed, then, leaning back in his chair, "Jim... I'm a mite worried about Spock."

"Oh?" Alert, and instantly wishing he had not just swallowed a mouthful of the best anaesthetic in the known galaxy.

"Not his back..." Bones hurriedly explained, "that's healing fine."

"What then?"

"He looks like he's gotten the cares of the Universe on his shoulders."

Kirk considered this. He realised he hadn't seen very much of his First Officer lately.

"He's not eating," Bones continued.

"I feel like I've had this conversation before," Jim muttered, wishing more than ever that he had not drunk any Ale, "But it does sound like Spock in one of his contemplative phases." He was relieved to note that he had managed to articulate that word O.K..

"He isn't in... that state," Bones assured him. "Physically, he's fine, if a bit run down. He needs food because of that injury." He paused. "I... Look, if he were anyone else, I'd say he was worried sick about something, too worried to eat or even sleep properly. And I'd say he'd been too worried since before we went to rescue the Kimberley."

Kirk digested this. He ran his mind back over events and remembered his feeling that there was something Spock had not told him about the Vulcans. Then he remembered... No, his friend had been fine at that dinner party... joking with young Staret.

"I'll keep an eye on him," he said at last. "I can't say I've noticed..." which brought him back to the fact that he hadn't really seen enough of Spock since the dinner party to notice, and that was unusual. No chess in the Rec Room...

"O.K.." Bones nodded. He was one hundred per cent sure that Spock would never open up to him. If his hunch was right and the pig-headed Vulcan had a problem which he needed to talk through, then Jim was the only person Spock just might be willing to talk to. He'd planted the notion. Now all he could do was await developments.

* * * * * * * *

T'Pring stared out at the stars.

Both Spock and little T'Ressa had come up with the same analysis, not that she had told T'Ressa this. If Stonn could admit to Salon that he had not passed Kahs-wan, it would prove that he should, indeed, have been judged to have passed. She could see the truth in that. In fact it would be a far harder test than crossing desert and mountain.

In her depths T'Pring had no real doubt of Stonn's maturity, but she knew that he was seriously handicapped by lack of training. Judged a child unable to mature, he had been treated as a child. His education in the Way had been limited. Most of his control was self-taught, so naturally it was more fragile than that of those given proper training by an Elder. She knew that, through their Bond, Stonn's tendency to anger affected her, but she was fiercely loyal. Perhaps that was emotional, but she had chosen Stonn and was now his wife so she owed him loyalty. It was true that their Bond was not yet ceremonised, but she would not choose the kal'i'fee again!

She thought back. It had never occurred to her that Stonn had not passed Kahn-wan. There had been nothing strange about him. One not bonded at first cycle did not reach pon farr at the accelerated rate induced by a Bond, so she had known he had another full cycle of years in which to choose a partner. She had not known he faced agonising death at the end of that cycle. He had never given a sign. Surely that was evidence of his maturity?

Of course he resented Spock. Of course part of his reason for choosing her was because she was Spock's assigned consort. But if Spock had been a proper Vulcan, their Bond would surely have been like that of Staret and T'Ressa, like her own, now, with Stonn. This Bond was not so much stronger because it stemmed from the kal'i'fee and had been made when they were adults. Little T'Ressa's comments had made that clear. Her Bond with Stonn was simply a proper Bond, quite different from that with Spock. At the end, when he had Burned, she had felt him, but she was totally sure that he had never felt her! He had not wanted to feel her. He had not wanted anything to do with her or with pon farr. He had seen it, not as natural, but as a disability. It was not surprising that Stonn felt a certain regret that he had not taken from Spock anything that Spock really wanted!

T'Pau had allowed Spock to give her to Stonn, which surely meant that the Elder regarded Stonn as adult. It might be true that T'Pau did not approve of Outworlder influence, but that would not have caused her to approve bonding for an eternal child. What were Outworlders but eternal children, unable to learn the Way?

T'Pau had voiced her doubts about Spock. 'Art thee Vulcan, or art thee human?'

The true answer to that, of course, was 'Neither'. Physically he was Vulcan enough to be obliged to come to Koon ut kal'i'fee or die, but only once. There had been a deep certainty within him that, had he not been bonded, he could have controlled his biology, just as he controlled human aspects of it. What those were, she was not sure... the odd noises he had made as a child, perhaps?.

Now her problem was to try to find words to persuade Stonn to go to Salon. If he did not go, Star Fleet would tell Salon that Stonn was an incompetent pilot and that would be on his record for ever. What could they do then? She did not want to live on Vulcan any more than he did. Too many people knew about her original Bond, and thus of the kal'i'fee. They might not know details, but there was only one way to end a Bond. The kal'i'fee, by definition, usually caused a death. It was against the Way of Surak. It was a remainder from the ancient past of violence. Thus it was totally discountenanced. But was the Kahs-wan itself not also left over from the past? Surely Surak would not have failed Stonn, had he been alive to judge? The blight on Stonn's life could not be justified, and, worse still, that failure condemned Stonn to an early death and that was against all Surak's teaching. The Kahs-wan should have been stopped when other ancient, violent things were stopped. Because it had not been, she had now to find a way to get her poor husband to do something far harder than any Kahs-Wan!

* * * * * * * *

"T'Ressa, what is wrong?"

"Oh Staret, I should not tell you."

"T'Ressa?" shocked.

She touched her fingers to his and he received confirmation of her confusion and worry.

"I think," he said, "that you need to consult an Elder,"

"I know I do." She sighed, "But Salon is not an Elder and if he were, I could not..."

"Why not?"

"I cannot even explain that," she whispered.

"Could you consult Commander Spock?" asked her worried husband. "I know he, also, is not really an Elder, but he does seem very like one... like Savot, who makes me feel that nothing about me is so very bad, rather than like Salte, who makes me feel that I will never attain maturity. Could you consult him?"

"Oh, Staret, I could!" she realised, for Spock knew all of the truth. T'Pring had said that he had worked out, somehow, that which he had not been told.

Staret moved to the intercom. "Commander Spock," he called.

There was no answer. Staret wondered if he should do something else besides pressing the button and naming the person he required.

"This is Staret calling Commander Spock," he tried.

"Spock here."

The young husband now realised that he was not sure what to say next. He looked rather desperately to T'Ressa, who moved to join him.

"May I visit with you?" she asked.

"Affirmative," said Spock, and explained the location of his quarters. T'Ressa set out to find them.

* * * * * * * *

Spock, who had been meditating to very little avail, now frowned. As no obvious reason existed for T'Ressa to wish to see him, he clearly lacked data. He was curious. He also, he realised, rather looked forward to the visit as a relaxation from his other concerns. The young female was an uncomplicated and typical example of her age group. From his present perspective he could see that. When he had left Vulcan to join the Fleet he had thought his lack of control evidence that he was failing in the Way. Now he realised that he had merely been immature and that, in fact, he had possessed rather more control than did either Staret or T'Ressa.

At that stage in his thoughts, his visitor arrived. "Enter," he told her. "Live long and prosper, T'Ressa."

She replied to his greeting very shyly, and glanced around the room, noting its strangeness. One section was entirely familiar, a little piece of Vulcan transposed. The rest was Star Fleet, just like the alien quarters in which she and Staret now resided. She looked at the Vulcan section with some relief. It was very calming to see a meditation flame again.

"T'Ressa?" he prompted gently.

"Elder, this young one needs to give thee her thoughts. She needs guidance," she said, formally.

Kirk might have noticed a slight widening of Spock's eyes, and a flick of his brows as he said, "I am not an Elder."

"I..." T'Ressa swallowed.

"You need the guidance of an Elder?"


"And no Elder is available."


"Salon is older and wiser than I. He is surely further advanced in the Way of Surak."

"I... cannot consult Salon," she murmured. Her voice might be faint, but it was very clear she meant what she said and would not consult the leader of her team.

"You think I can guide you? I am not really so very much older than you." As Spock said it, looking at her, he felt a thousand years her senior.

She stared up at him trustingly, a hurt and nervous little creature. She reminded him of every small animal he had ever rescued from the desert as a child.

"Give me thy thoughts," he said, even while not quite believing this was happening.

She fell to her knees at his feet, head raised for his fingers to touch her face and Spock found out that yet another had become enmeshed in the ripples spreading from a Kahs-wan which, to him, had been something of an anticlimax.

"You had already passed!" she breathed, at last.

"Not officially," he said.

"But... you knew you could pass and, when you went to help that one, you never even thought of the Rule."

"Neither would you have."

"I think I would not," she agreed, considering it, "not knowing how it was. He would have died if you had not gone to him and stayed with him."

"Affirmative." Then, wryly, "I am not sure I should have shown you how it was. Elders do not usually impart their thoughts to the one seeking guidance. I am not an Elder."

"You are like an Elder," she assured him. "You make me feel so calm."

"This is not your concern," he said. "That is the point. T'Pring needed to talk. It was not correct of her to choose to talk to one younger than herself. You analysed the situation, in my opinion, very well. But this is the concern of T'Pring and Stonn."

"It was not right that Stonn never again took the Kahs-wan," she said.

"I agree. I had presumed he would take it, in fact I presumed any who failed because I passed would retake it." He looked down at her, eyes gentle and a little rueful. "I wanted, in a way, to retake it myself. It is true that I had tested myself before the official Kahs-wan and believed that I could pass, but I did not really feel that I had passed, for I did not finish the course. The Fifth Question was explained to me, but I would have liked to retake. I did not say so, of course." Very rueful. "I suspect I was not so mature, not in truth."

"You were only seven," she pointed out, "and I see why you wanted to show everyone you could have finished the course."

"Art thee guided and helped, seeker in the Way?" he asked, formally, to end the ritual of Guidance.

"I am," she assured him. "It is not for me to do anything and I can tell Staret a little, so there is no secret between us, and he will say nothing to anyone else. Thank you, Elder Spock."

"I assure you I am no Elder," he said, lifting her to her feet, "and you have helped me."

Her surprise was clear to him.

"Yes, you have," he told her. "I have been somewhat concerned on the subject of why T'Pau allowed me to give T'Pring to Stonn."

"Because she too believed he should have taken the Kahs-wan again, and would have passed."

"Yes. And also, I had done this very shocking thing of bringing Outworlders to Koon ut kal'i'fee."

In spite of the definite teasing note in his voice, T'Ressa had to fight a blush.

"Oh," he told her, "I can see now that it was shocking to any who did not know them, and of course I was the only one there who had ever met them before. You see, I did not think that out. I knew that they had travelled to many planets, had seen many customs."

He paused, then continued, "T'Ressa, I felt Vulcan owed them a glimpse of that which is not so fine in the Vulcan depths. Always they saw the control of Vulcan, the peace of Vulcan. They knew we had wars in the distant past, but we had... outgrown those. My Captain became rather ashamed of his people because they still have violent impulses. I was suddenly brought to be very aware indeed of the violence within us, and I am half human, yet the violence was entirely Vulcan. I wanted my human brothers to realise that Vulcans are not so very different, that we have a dark side, that our control is necessary because of the strength of that violent side."

"Oh!" she breathed, "And T'Pau... well all of us... did not like it that Outworlders saw. Yes, I see. It was illogical."

His right eyebrow flicked up.

"It was!" she declared stoutly. "T'Pau was illogical!"

"Yes, and next time you blush, remember that."

Had she been human, she would have hugged him. As she was not, the only sign of her reaction, as she went to find Staret, were eyes particularly bright with joy.

"Yes," Spock said aloud to the closed door. "It was illogical to wish to hide truth, for that stems from a wish to hide it even from ourselves, which is why I found it so hard to tell Jim in the first place. But now I realise that T'Pau was motivated by such irrationality, I no longer have any cause to worry that she regarded Stonn as a better Bond-mate for T'Pring than I was, even knowing he had been taught very little of the Way, which she must have known."

* * * * * * * *

"I have been... confused, Jim," Spock said.

"Oh?" carefully not pressing for more than his friend wanted to tell.

"You told me that Mr. Kyle was convinced that one of the Vulcans was a Romulan."

"But... they aren't?" confused himself, and horrified that Spock seemed to be saying that one or more were!

"They are not," relieving his Captain's mind on that score, "but what Kyle really meant was that one of the Vulcans was not as he expected, was, in fact, in the habit of displaying emotion."

Kirk nodded.

"And, at dinner, Stonn demonstrated to Mr. Scott exactly what Kyle had meant."

"Er... Yes."

"At first, Captain, I presumed, as did you, that Mr. Kyle had been misled, but it became clear to me that Stonn is not, in fact, as most Vulcans are." He paused. "There seemed to be only one possible reason for this, and it was not one I could contemplate with equanimity."


"It seemed that Stonn must be one of those very rare cases of a sort of throwback, one who is literally unable to learn certain methods of control, who cannot practice self-discipline."

Jim made a sort of gulping noise. He had never imagined any such could exist on Vulcan.

"The test of ability to discipline oneself is called the Kahs-wan and is taken at the time of first cycle, seven Vulcan years... six point..."

"Yes. I see," Kirk interrupted, not interested in the decimal places.

"I did know that he had failed that test."

"I see!" thinking he saw also the significance of the decimal places. This test, whatever it was, he guessed the kids' parents went along. That was when Spock had seen Stonn's!

"No, Jim, you do not," Spock said flatly. "I knew he had failed once in much the way it is often failed, by trying too hard and becoming too hurt to continue. It is simply retaken. When Stonn retook, he... was judged to have failed, although he finished the test."

"Why?" confused, not least by the hint of embarrassment he detected in his friend.

"Because another child fell and was seriously hurt, had lost his water bottle and might have died of thirst before help could reach him. It is against the rules of the test to stop and help such a one..."

"Well, frankly..." his Captain cut in, shocked.

"Yes, Jim?" not stiff, but encouraging.

"Well, to be honest, Spock, it seems to me... I suppose... but how can it be right to let a kid die? I don't see that rule can be right. But of course it's not my affair."

"Surak agreed with you."


"He posed a question, one of a series of questions. In translation it says, 'Three children are taking the Kahs-wan. The first, trying to be fastest, falls and is given water by the next. The third, mindful of the rules of the test, passes by as if he is deaf. Which of the three shows maturity?'. The answer, of course, is the one who stops to give water."

"I'm beginning to appreciate Surak more all the time," Jim said.

"If none had stopped, since such an occurrence is very rare, it would have been judged that the seriousness of the condition of the fallen one was unclear, and all who reached the end would have passed. Stonn passed by, but already another child, taking the test for the first time, had stopped, climbed down and shared his water with the one who was hurt. Because one stopped, the test was judged according to that Question of Surak and all who passed that spot were failed, including Stonn. I presumed that he took the test again a third time. That is unusual, but so is failure under the Decision of that Question."

"And... he didn't take it?"

"No, he did not." he paused, "Knowing only his lack of control, I could not be sure of that. Perhaps he had failed yet again? But... I became very confused, for one who never passes Kahs-wan is judged eternally a child, unteachable. Such a one is not allowed to marry."

Jim thought about this. Spock said, "Given Vulcan biology, that is a death sentence."

"My God!"

"Yes. Stonn is a year my senior, but an unbonded Vulcan does not enter pon farr until later in his life span... seven Vulcan years later."

"So if he hadn't gotten that woman, he'd be facing death?"


"So she was saving his life..."

"Was she? I told you, Jim, 'not allowed to marry'. By the rules T'Pau should have forbidden it when I told Stonn, 'She is yours'."

"I'm confused."

"At the time it did not occur to me that Stonn had not passed Kahs-wan eventually. I realised why he lacked a Bond-mate. To fail twice is not an asset. Had I known that he had never passed, I would not have said 'She is yours'. I would merely have told T'Pring that she was free to choose for herself."

"You were tricked!" Jim breathed.

"Was I? T'Pau witnessed it and said nothing."

"I am confused!"

"Partly, I now believe, she felt he should have been given a third chance to take Kahs-wan and would have passed. Partly she was influenced by the fact that I had passed..." He hesitated slightly. "I had been allowed to form a Bond, and yet had brought Outworlders as my friends, arrived late and generally demonstrated a great many human traits."


"I did, Captain. You are not so well equipped to notice them as she was. It is far easier for you to see the Vulcan in me."

Kirk laughed, "I see what you mean. If I ever point that out to Bones, he'll..."

"You will not do so," Spock said flatly, knowing this to be true.

"No, I guess I won't," Kirk grinned, then, frowning, "T'Pau saw that Stonn wasn't so bad, in comparison?"

"So I believe, and I... resented that, when I came to realise it. I did not like the fact that I had been judged as similar to one who had failed the Kahs-wan. Also, it was I who stopped to give water..."

"I might have known!"

"Captain?" Slight disapproval was implied in the questioning look.

"I'm not being chauvinistic!" Jim declared. "I'm not saying it was human compassion, I'm..."

"I hope it was not. The Question points to the illogic of waste, of placing higher value on the passing of a test than upon the saving of a life. It thus presumes, of course, that the test may be retaken, which is one reason why T'Pau was right to regard Stonn's failure to retake as an error."

His friend and Captain winced. He was privately sure that Surak had been trying to show his people that all emotion was not wrong, that compassion was good. He was also sure Spock had acted out of compassion, but he could see why the very idea worried this poor guy raised to put value only on strict logic. Spock suspected he might have passed the test for the wrong reason...

"Oh..." Jim breathed, catching on fast. "You didn't finish the test, and wish you'd had another go to prove you could have!"

"At the time I did. I suspect that was... the human in me."

"It was understandable, I know that!"

"Precisely," with a little rue, since Jim's reaction rather proved his point. Then he said, "In essence, recently I found myself in the position of having evidence which suggested that Stonn was not a person judged worthy of marriage. Yet I had been part of the process whereby he obtained a wife. I had evidence for the fact that the Bond was affecting T'Pring, reducing her control..."

"Ouch!" muttered Kirk. "A mess, I can see that. You couldn't let that other kid die, but if that hadn't happened..." He frowned. "Stonn did finish, didn't you say? So by the usual rules he'd have passed."

"Was he more careful after passing us, warned by the accident? He was also, he thought, now certain that I would fail."

"And he cared a heap about beating you!"

"It was natural, Captain, at that age, for my peers to wish to show themselves better than one who was not true Vulcan."

"And they all failed."

"Not all. All who took that path."

"It still wasn't your fault that T'Pring just maybe ended up married to... Oh, I see; in Vulcan terms, a guy who isn't quite sane!"

Spock did not answer that at first. Then he said, "It is not a situation one would wish to leave unchanged."

"I see that. And now?"

"I now know that he never took the test again, so did not fail again. He was not, however, taught as others were, and I suspect that completely explains his strangeness. He could take a step now which would prove his maturity, but it is not an easy step. Perhaps he will bring himself to take it. I know I can do no more."

Jim thought, but did not say, 'You've stopped feeling guilty!' He knew this friend too well to say it, even though he was certain Spock had been nursing guilt. What he did say was, "Anything I can do to help?"

"I need no assistance, Captain, and I doubt whether anyone can help Stonn. There are some things one has to do for oneself. I may have made things worse by trying to help him."

"By treating him like a child?"

"Perhaps. Yes."

"Well just maybe he'll resent that so much it'll give him the incentive to prove he isn't one!"

"There are always possibilities," said Spock, deciding that there was really nothing to be gained by pointing out to his very human Captain that for Stonn to act for emotional reasons was the last thing that could prove his capacity for reasoned logic.

* * * * * * * *

"T'Pau knows you are mature." said T'Pring earnestly. "She allowed our Bond. In fact she officiated at our Bond. T'Nai was speaking figuratively and showed her own lack of maturity. She was impatient and lacked competence in the matter. But if you do not explain to Salon, you will be labelled as an incompetent pilot. You are not."

Stonn paced. "So I am to go to Salon and say, 'I do not like to be called a child because I never officially proved I was not one!'?"

"No. I mean, is it not that now you realise you were wrong to believe T'Nai? She seemed so sure, so you accepted her word, but procedure demanded that you check and you know that the Star Fleet will say there was not good enough evidence to fail to apply procedure." She paused. "If Salon asks for a shuttlecraft, Star Fleet will request full details of our crash. It will go on record that a Vulcan pilot ignored procedure and is judged either incompetent or insufficiently trained. Thus it will be recorded that Vulcan employs personnel who lack competence or training..."

Stonn stiffened. "I cannot allow that," he said. "I must talk to Salon."

"Yes," agreed T'Pring. At last she had found the argument to persuade him, and, ironically, it was the very first argument Spock had used. She had failed to employ it before because she had not thought it likely to succeed. She realised that the half-human and the untrained Vulcan did have something in common. Yet Spock had brought Outworlders to Koon ut kal'i'fee. Where was this respect for and pride in Vulcan then? She supposed she would never understand him.

* * * * * * * *

Chapter 5

As a result of being asked his opinion by the Vulcan Team leader, James T. Kirk found himself waiting in a Briefing Room for a meeting to which he had agreed, but which he was not anticipating with enthusiasm. At least, thanks to his earlier talk with Spock, he was pretty well informed for the task! Stonn arrived, saw who waited and stopped. He definitely glared as he snapped out, "Yes?"

"Sit down, Mister," Kirk told him, using command tones in response to this belligerent attitude.

"You do not order me!" was the reaction.

"Oh, yes, I do," Kirk said, not without enjoyment. "I'm the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and anyone on my ship is under my command." He paused, remembering a better aspect of this guy. "I didn't order you across to Kimberley," he said. "That was a dangerous job and I don't order civilians to take risks. I was grateful you volunteered; so was de Wit."

Stonn looked suddenly less sure of himself and it hit Kirk that this guy had not had a proper Vulcan upbringing and certainly hadn't had a human one. He'd been treated like a... what? A child! So it wasn't too surprising if he behaved like one from time to time. Well, James T. Kirk had his own way of encouraging kids to grow up fast' Maybe it would work. He doubted if it could do any harm.

"I said," he repeated, "sit down! I don't like having to repeat myself."

Stonn sat down, choosing a chair at the far end of the table.

"You are a trained shuttlecraft pilot?" Kirk asked.


"So why didn't you overfly before trying to land?"

"Salon told you!" Definite anger.

"Off the record, Mister, although he didn't know enough Fleet procedure to put it like that. He asked my opinion. It won't get logged. Now will you answer my question?"

"T'Nai said..." Stonn stopped there, but it was clear that T'Nai had said something that annoyed him.

"Yes?" prompting.

"She said it was a perfect landing site."

It was blatantly obvious to Jim that this was not what he had begun to say at first. He commented, "I got the idea she'd said much the same about another site and that turned out to be about as flat as Mount Seleya!"

"Not..." Stonn stated. "Not like that. T'Nai is not incompetent."

Jim chalked one up to experience. This guy had no sense of humour! "It wasn't suitable, was it?" he asked.


"Why did you believe her the second time?"

"She insisted upon the matter."

Since Stonn was a Vulcan, the Captain gave him the benefit of the doubt and labelled this as an evasion rather than a lie. "Mister," he said, "you must have been trained to overfly first when approaching an unknown landing. You'd proved that once. No matter what a planetologist says, a pilot doesn't put down without a clue what's in front of him." He paused. "What was it like?" he asked. "It narrowed?"

"Yes, and there were cross winds from canyons."

"Which a planetologist wouldn't realise was a hazard, but a pilot would! Which is why you overfly and then explain to the woman!" Jim snapped.

"You are Outworlder. You cannot understand."

A child indeed!

"I can understand incompetence when it's staring me in the face!" was the Captain's reaction. "A pilot who does what you did is incompetent! If your leader asked to borrow one of my shuttles, I'd give him a flat 'no', as of now, unless you can give me a better explanation than you have so far!" He paused, and, trying to be fair, said, "I know Vulcans tend to have an exaggerated respect for scientific specialists. That's why I didn't tell Salon that any Captain would simply refuse the loan. I told him the Captain would want to talk to the pilot. So I'm talking to you. And you haven't convinced me you had any kind of real reason to put that craft down on that woman's word alone when she'd been proved wrong once!"

"I was in error," Stonn whispered.

"What was that?"

"I said 'I was in error'!" nearly a shout.

"That's better, Mister. At least you're admitting it," Kirk said. "It wasn't the planetologist's fault, she isn't a pilot. It wasn't the wind's fault..."

"Blaming a natural phenomenon is illogical," said Stonn stiffly.

"Yes it is, because you had enough training, at least I hope you did, to be able to tell from overflying that there would be cross-winds and to judge that they'd be too gusty to make it a safe landing area, given the circumstances. If you'd been down to your last dregs of power or on a rescue mission, fair enough, but you weren't."


"And it wasn't even vital to the project that you landed there, was it?"

"Not... no."

"O.K., so why didn't you check it out? Why did you risk your own life and everyone else's by trying to put down in completely unknown terrain?"

"You would not understand." Flat, but again reminding Kirk of a sulking child.

"Try me," he said.

"You are..."

"Outworlder?" losing patience. "Yes. My best friend's a Vulcan."

Anger appeared on Stonn's face mixed with something else... contempt, perhaps?

"He is...." he began.

"No Vulcan?" Jim asked sweetly, "He sure isn't human! O.K., he's a mixture. I know for certain he'd never do a fool thing like trying to land a shuttle in an unsurveyed bit of country when there was no pressing reason for it. I'd trust him with my life... have, often. You haven't given me any reason to think I'd ever trust you with anything! Spock did me the honour of trusting me to understand aspects of Vulcan life that very few humans know exist. You know that first hand." He saw Stonn bridle and said, "You thought he was wrong to bring me? He believes in the value of diversity. Part of that involves knowing about difference. We've just been educating an Amelan out of years of species prejudice. O.K., these people aren't the only ones who suffer from it. There are a lot of humans on Earth, I'm sorry to say, who campaign for a 'little Earth' policy, who think anyone not like us is worse! It seems there's the same attitude on Vulcan, in spite of Surak's teaching about IDIC." He paused. "What I know, Mister, is that you pulled a fool stunt with a warp drive shuttle that caused my ship to have to travel out of its way, and my crew to miss needed rest and recreation, to rescue your party; and we were only just in time. So far you haven't given me a reason. You admit you made a mistake. O.K., but you don't do anything without a reason. You don't think I'll understand it. I certainly can't if you don't tell me what it was!"

"It was not," Stonn said very softly, "a good reason..."

"I know that," Kirk told him. "The only good reasons don't apply. The only good reasons are instrument failure, power failure, fuel loss or a rescue mission with a time limit! Blind faith in the planetologist isn't a good reason either and, if it applied, I'd have pointed out to you that faith of that kind is a bad thing, but I don't believe it does apply. You'd have crashed at the first site if it did!"

"It was different at the second site," Stonn exclaimed. "She insisted it was perfect."

Kirk raised a mental prayer for strength and said, "Mister, we've covered that. You've admitted you were wrong. You've admitted it wasn't in her competence to judge and that you knew that. If all you're going to do is talk in circles, we're wasting our time. I'll tell Salon no Captain will lend him a shuttle with you as his pilot and we'll be done with it."

"I made one mistake..." began Stonn.

"And you think you've learned from it?" cutting him off. "Oh, maybe you wouldn't try to put down again without a survey, but it's your attitude that's wrong. You know perfectly well why you didn't overfly, that's obvious to me. You won't tell me the reason because you don't want to admit to something you're ashamed of. You aren't a member of my crew, for which I thank providence and Fleet selection procedures. I could, because you're on my ship, order you to level with me, but I won't because you're not my concern. If you want to go through life labelled as a fool, that's your own affair!" He paused. "We all make mistakes," he said, more gently. "The important thing is to learn from them. But if you don't face up to facts, you can't learn! A guy with responsibility for the lives of a shuttle load of people has to be the kind of person who does face facts. That's why I wouldn't lend you a shuttle and why no other Captain would either. You aren't a six year old. So stop behaving like one!" He'd said that without a thought about the man's background, and it did not hit him, until after he'd said it, that just possibly those Vulcans were right and the guy was incapable of adult behaviour. Then he tossed off the thought. He didn't believe that of someone who had all his faculties, as this guy clearly did!

Stonn's eyes, however, had widened at the words 'six year old'. "Spock told you!" he hissed, clearly furious. "You know!"

"What? That you failed some test or other when you were a kid? I don't judge a man by what he did at six. I judge him by what he is now!"

Stonn quite frankly stared, utterly bewildered.

"Will you tell me why you didn't overfly that site?" Kirk asked.

"Because T'Nai said a child could land there."

Which pole axed James T. Kirk. "What?" he asked, staring.

Stonn bridled and that gave the Captain cause to think it out. Musing aloud he murmured, "It got you where it hurt? It stopped you thinking straight? It was... a blow below the belt? She didn't realise it, but to you... She was telling you... what? No, I don't understand, not really. I wasn't raised your way, but I can see it stripped your sense and made you hopping mad. It wasn't the sort of thing that's likely to happen often, but it isn't something I could just let go, to the extent of lending you a shuttle. It's something you have to come to terms with and haven't yet. You can't go through life with a chip that big on your shoulder." He paused. "I've had members of my crew with that kind of problem. The only answer is to face up to it, think it through." He paused again. "Why did it get to you? That's the real question. What did she say? A child could... Implying what? Not that you are one, that's obviously crazy." He saw the guy tense. "Do you have doubts about that?"

"I was... judged to have failed Kahs-wan."

"Yes, but you didn't really feel you had failed, did you?" Kirk pointed out. "Your elders told you... O.K... and you didn't have another go to prove you could pass..."

"My father would not ask." bitter.

"Let's think this through," Kirk said. "Not why your father decided... I don't know what made him tick, I don't know enough about your ways, and it doesn't matter. It's you we're trying to sort out, not your old man! O.K., you thought you'd passed and were told you hadn't. You did finish the test. A retake wouldn't have proved anything that I can see. You'd shown you could do it."

"You know." recalcitrant.

"Not really, not details." He frowned. "It seems to me what mattered was your attitude. If someone told me I was... oh, let's say a bad Captain... I wouldn't believe it! It seems to me someone told you that you hadn't grown up yet and you did believe it! You still do."


"Oh, yes, you do. I told you to stop behaving like a six year old. That planetologist said a six year old could land a shuttle at that site, so you believed that! It was only a figure of speech. She didn't mean it literally. Unless Vulcan six year olds are a whole lot more advanced than I'd realised!"

Stonn stared blankly and Kirk remembered his lack of any sense of humour.

"I did not believe..." began the Vulcan.

"No, you took it as a reflection on you personally, which wasn't exactly mature of you. But you aren't a six year old! You have responsibilities. You're married. One day, I guess, you'll have kids. What you did with that shuttle wasn't responsible. You know that as well as I do. So, do you still believe you can't behave like an adult?" With insight he said, "You have to prove to yourself that you are one! It doesn't matter about a test when you were a kid. What matters is belief in yourself now, or lack of it. If you lack faith in yourself, you will never shake this off." He paused, then levelled with the guy to try to help him. "Stonn," he said. "When I first came to this ship as Captain, the youngest in the Fleet, I had a lot of doubts. Was I up to the job? My best friend was killed in our first real mission, which didn't help any. But when I thought it out, I realised I wouldn't change anything I'd done. I came to believe I was up to the job. If I hadn't, I wouldn't still be doing it, because lack of confidence in yourself is fatal and Star Fleet would have seen it and I'd have been posted... fast! So, are you a kid or aren't you? No one else can answer that for you. Whoever judged that test couldn't answer it, not really, and no one since, either. I guess your wife thinks you're adult, but all that proves is that you've got at least one person rooting for you. The person who matters is you. I could tell you 'You're adult', but it wouldn't make you believe it. You have to sort it out for yourself. If it helps, in my terms you're certainly no child. You just need to get your act together. Think about it. If, by the time we get to Starbase 11, which at this rate won't be until some days from now, you think you can convince me you're the sort of guy I'd trust with a shuttlecraft, come and see me again. Dismissed!"

It was only after Stonn had gone that he realised he'd addressed him exactly as if he'd been a crewman on Report, and that Stonn had responded in kind. Just what that said about the guy, he wasn't sure.

* * * * * * * *

The Rec Room music festival all started because Chris Chapel suggested to Uhura that her singing might brighten life for the boy in Sickbay. The Communications Officer duly went along to offer her services as an entertainer, to find young T'Ressa doing her voluntary work of giving the nurses some relief. The outcome of this, after Uhura did sing some of her songs for Johann, was a discussion, when the two females left Sickbay, of music. Uhura commented on her fondness for the Vulcan lyrette and asked if T'Ressa played. She thus learned that U.S.S. Enterprise's First Officer had won awards for his music while still a young person on Vulcan. T'Ressa explained that she did play, but not like that!

Uhura supposed the lyrette had been left on the planet, and was told Staret had packed it in the one of the records casks, as the Vulcans called the cargo pods. T'Ressa, urged to fetch it, compensated for her nervousness at the idea of playing for strangers (and perhaps even Commander Spock), by bringing along her husband to the Rec Room as well as her lyrette! Staret played the tago'na'cha, they explained.

This word, the Communications Officer correctly deduced to have implications of 'touch-speech'. She was, anyway, to coin a phrase, fascinated by what looked like a tiny computer keyboard attached to a small speaker. When it turned out that the tago'na'cha was a percussion instrument, a sort of chip recording of a range of sounds produced by pressing the right keys, but certainly played, not programmed, she remarked that in Africa they had once used drums for long distance communication. Spock arrived and confirmed that this was the instrument's distant ancestry. The original had been a bank of different types of drum set in a frame and played with the fingers or with wands made of rigid plant stems. The modern version was obviously more portable and a lot less fragile.

Spock was practically ordered to fetch his lyrette by an enthusiastic Uhura, much to T'Ressa and Staret's slightly amused surprise. He went meekly enough and the three Vulcans played a recital. At once, Uhura had the feeling the music was multi-levelled. Spock confirmed this. The tago'na'cha did actually speak, much as the words of Uhura's songs did, as a 'top level' to a whole which tried to describe by its totality some subject. 'Dawn over the desert' had a haunting quality which succeeded in its goal, even to a human audience who did not understand all its nuances. T'Ressa's lyrette, tuned at higher pitch than Spock's, at the end sang like birds, and Uhura realised she was hearing a Vulcan dawn chorus. Some of their music was less appreciated, but all of it was fascinating in a way, more alien than the humans had quite expected, yet, in parts, amazingly compelling.

Uhura realised that Mr. Spock was talented, and that he had shown this without anyone else among the crew realising it, by playing in such a way as to fit with human expectations. Hearing the lyrette played as was intended, she was impressed that he had managed to make it sound so much like a harp. Only back on the bridge, when she found herself humming part of 'Dawn over the desert' did she realise just how great an impression the Vulcan music had made. She had begged T'Ressa and Staret to come back again to play some more, and resolved to follow up this request as often as possible while they were still on board. She did and the gatherings became regular.

The first James T. Kirk heard of the music sessions, other than odd snatches of song from Uhura's station, was a comment from Bones McCoy to the effect that he was glad Jim had sorted Spock out. Bones had been told by Christine of the music in the Rec Room and realised this meant the First Officer was back in circulation. Jim merely remarked that Spock's contemplative phases never lasted long. McCoy suspected more to it than that, but realised he wasn't going to have his curiosity satisfied. Instead, he went along to find out what Vulcan music was like and was pleasantly surprised, although he suspected that a lot of the audience attended because they wanted to look at little T'Ressa, rather than due to an appreciation of her musical ability!

* * * * * * * *

Stonn became determined to prove to the Outworlder Captain that he was adult and knew it. Faced with the problem of method, he remembered Spock's comment when the half-breed had come to his room to give some unsolicited advice. This required him to do something that definitely would not be easy. He finally realised that an easy task might not prove anything; the harder the test, the better evidence it would be. He therefore clutched at his resolution and went to see Salon. On arriving, he stalked into the room and, head up, declared,

"I did not pass Kahs-wan!"

What reaction he was expecting from a Vulcan with many years training in the Way, he had not really considered. What he got was nothing at all. In fact it was clear that Salon was patiently waiting for him to come to the point.

"You knew!" Stonn realised.


Totally deflated, Stonn, on reflection, could see he should have realised that the team leader would have his data crystal and that all relevant facts about him were recorded there. His grand gesture had turned into an anticlimax. How now was he to prove he was adult?

"Stonn, elaborate," Salon said at last. "You did not come to tell me that which I know."

Of course, that was exactly why Stonn had come, but he was now racking his brains to find some other revelation to make. Finding one, he said, "It was for an emotional reason that I tried to land without first checking the terrain."


"T'Nai said a child could land there!" Storm declared defiantly.

Salon, bemused, came to understand that Stonn expected him to be able to form some sort of conclusion from this second statement of known fact. Since he could not, he requested further elaboration.

"I was... angry," Stonn admitted.

"You have not received proper instruction in the Way. This is unfortunate. I presume it was intended that you be given training when it was accepted on Elder T'Pau's recommendation that you should have been judged to have passed Kahs-wan, but..."

"It was?" amazed.

"Evidently. You are bonded."

Silently, Stonn thought, 'I am a fool!' for he now realised the judgement was obvious. Aloud, he asked, "T'Pau's argument?"

"The Fifth Question presumes ability to retake. Sacrificing one's own life by failing would be illogical, since two lives would be lost instead of one, or at best, a different life would be lost. There is no logic in preferring the life of the one who has fallen over that of the one who stops. Thus the Question presumes that any who stop expect to retake. You were on your second attempt and believed it your last chance. It would thus have been illogical for you to have stopped, especially as Spock was already there and probably had enough water, if used sparingly, to keep the two of them alive until help came."

"Of course!" breathed Stonn.

"Those who decided on the Question admitted their fault in not allowing for the fact that it was your second attempt. As you did complete the course, clearly you passed. Did you come to ask this?"

"I came to admit that my error, which caused the crash, was due to emotion," Stonn said, realising that, indirectly, this was what he had come to say. He wondered if Spock had thought of his data crystal and had, in effect, set him a test with twists to the rules like those of the Kahs-wan. If that was so, he felt a certain satisfaction in having passed!

"Understood," Salon was saying. "Lack of training makes it inevitable that you have failed to learn proper control. Your instruction as an adult in the Way was, I presume, delayed because you and T'Pring were an ideal couple for our survey team." He paused and then asked, "Does this mean that Star Fleet will refuse loan of a shuttlecraft?"

"I am unsure," Stonn decided. "I am to talk again to Captain Kirk. I will report back after that conversation."

"I do not understand humans." Salon admitted, "Will he report detail to the Star Fleet?"

"I think not, but am not certain."

"It would be undesirable for it to go on record that a Vulcan reacted with emotion. It would give a false impression and necessitate some kind of explanation of your lack of training."

"Understood!' Stonn assured him, "Kirk said that your query and our conversation were 'off the record'. It will be possible to ask what wording he would use in any recommendation and request that all remain unrecorded, or so I presume."

Salon hoped that Stonn was right.

* * * * * * * *

Uhura's meeting with Johann de Wit caused her to suggest that some of his friends might like to visit him. As a result of this kind thought, Nikolas de Beer found himself being led to Sickbay. Following his guide, he stared around him, wishing he could ask to be taken by the least direct route.. This was the kind of ship of which he had dreamed! He hoped he might get a chance to see her engines.

He was ushered into what struck him as a huge hospital section, where Johann lay, now free of the stasis field but still too weak to be allowed up. Beside the patient sat a vision of beauty.

She rose to her feet, saying, "You have come to... visit... with Yohan'de'Vit. I will go now."

Nik opened his mouth to beg her not to go on his account. At that instant he noticed her ears, with the result that his mouth remained open, but no sound emerged. Before he could jerk free of his amazement, T'Ressa had gone. Nik swore softly at himself then turned to question Johann.

"Yes, she is Vulcan," his friend said.

"I did realise that! I wish she had not gone, but I was so surprised. When you see her again, tell her Nikolas de Beer would very much like to get to know her!"

"She is married."

"Is her husband a big man?"

"I do not know, I have not seen him. He is Vulcan, I know that."

"They all seem very large. I will act with discretion rather than valour! How are you?" He added the last as an afterthought, while moving to sit down.

"Much better. I want to get up, but Dr. McCoy is an old man of the kind who makes you stay in bed until you are fit enough to go on duty."

"You still look rather scorched," Nikolas observed. "Is it true that Mr. Spock carried you out of an inferno?"

"I do not remember it, Nik. My father told me the man... Vulcan... arrived back here on fire."

"He was very struck by that, your father, I mean. He thinks Mr. Spock put his life-support equipment on you while he tried to find others still alive, but by then..." He saw Johann's eyes widen and nodded mutely, knowing the loss of the others had not been mentioned before. Johann had been too sick to hear such news. Now they were silent, thinking of those who had died. Finally, to change the subject, Nikolas said, "As a result of everything, your father intends to tell the Old Man that the Pastors are totally wrong, that Almela should join the Federation, and that we should never trade with Orion again!"

"I realised some of that. But..." Johann frowned, "Nik, T'Ressa, the girl who was here, she, I am sure, has a soul! But we cannot expect to convince the Pastors, surely?"

"Johann, most of our crew are as certain as they ever were that Vulcans are the Devil's brood, but that doesn't matter, does it? Who decides what Almela does? The Government depends on the Companies, you know that. Without their support no Government could last a week! And which Company...?"

"Oh, Where de Beer's go today, the rest will follow tomorrow!" smiled Johann, quoting an aphorism, "but... do you think your father will really change his mind? You think you can persuade him?"

"I shouldn't think my opinion will influence him, although your father seems to think it might, but the Old Man has great respect for your father," Nik said, "and what really matters is profit, as far as the Head of de Beer's is concerned. Because we are outside the Federation, we face tariff barriers. The Old Man has never been devout, Johann... Does that shock you? Personally, I should think he'll be very glad to have a concrete reason for pushing to get Almela into the Federation. We do not make that much out of the Orion trade!"

"I should think there would be riots if the Government announced we were joining! Folk will imagine hordes of Vulcans arriving the next week. I know there is no reason why a single one would want to come, but..."

Nik laughed. "Oh, your ordinary folk do not need reasons, true! But I am not sure they need to know we are in the Federation."


"It would not be the first time we did something without telling every detail to the folk!" He struck an attitude and announced in a pompous voice, "We have negotiated an agreement with the Federation which removes all tariff barriers! In future Almela will make the profit she deserves! Your Government will be able, when the effects of this begin to work through the system, to lower taxes. Every Almelan will benefit from this step!" He tooted an imaginary trumpet.

Johann laughed. "They might even do that!"

"They will!" Nik assured him. "Then they will begin a very gradual campaign of folk education. I am not sure what kind. Probably to persuade people that Vulcans are hardly really members of the Federation, which is a totally human affair. That would be easier than trying to counteract the Pastors."

"Nik, you see Vulcans as like us?"

"No!" flatly, but grinning broadly. "Probably I have an inflated opinion. So far the ones I have met are a lot better than us! One nearly fried to save you. One risked his life to get our impulse engines going and one is the loveliest creature I have ever seen! I will visit again, just to look, you understand, since she is married!"

"Do you think any of the others are likely to change?"

"On Kimberly? Two or three of our age group may. In fact, it would be a good idea to have them visit you, one at a time, when that glorious creature is here. Anyone who could look at her and see a Devil must be blind!"

* * * * * * * *

"I have come to tell you, Captain, that I am not a child and that I know I am not," Stonn said, standing stiffly before the table in the briefing room, where his requested interview was taking place. "In fact," he elaborated, "it has been agreed by the Elders that the judgement of my Kahs-wan was made without sufficient consideration of the fact that I was taking it for the second time. Thus I should never have been failed in the first place."

James T. Kirk managed, he hoped, not to show his reaction to this declaration. After all, how the man had gotten convinced didn't matter, so long as he really had lost the chip from his shoulder.

"How would you react, in future, to a remark like the one the planetologist made?" he asked.

Stonn carefully considered the point before replying, "I would state that I presumed the comment to be figurative and point out its exaggerated nature." His repressive tone conjured a picture in Kirk's mind of a very cowed planetologist apologising for her illogic!

"In future, when piloting a shuttle, do you think you'll remember who's responsible for the lives of everyone aboard?" Kirk asked.


The change in the guy was phenomenal. He was as flat-faced as Kirk's worst vision of a Vulcan, dating from the days before he'd met Spock. Well, converts always were the most extreme exponents of a cause and this one's complete lack of a sense of humour did not help one bit! He couldn't be sure that his judgement of what made Stonn tick was correct, but he was pretty certain and it didn't matter. He said, "I certainly don't get the idea you'll make the same kind of mistake again. You did get a pilot's licence on Vulcan?"

"I passed top out of my class."

"O.K., if I was the Captain asked for the loan, I'd say 'yes' subject to Star Fleet approval. If you like, I'll log the fact that I don't think you're likely to crash again, at least not without good reason."

"Would such a recorded log include your reasons for this conclusion?" Stonn asked, mindful of Salon's instructions.

"I'd say I'd talked to the pilot and was convinced the crash was due to a one-off mistake. I guess I'd have to say you took too much notice of the planetologist, but that you'd learned never to do that again, learned to go by the book except in situations of genuine emergency, and that you'd think hard about it even then."

"That would be acceptable."

Jim opened his mouth to say what he thought of this comment, but was deflected by Stonn adding, "Salon pointed out that a record to the effect that a Vulcan suffered an emotion would convey a false impression."

The Captain was hard put to it not to break up with laughter! 'Suffered an emotion' made it sound like an unfortunate sickness, probably a sexually transmitted one! He could just imagine T'Pau's likely reaction if Salon had to report back that Star Fleet had on record an instance of Vulcan emotion! He realized that Stonn wasn't trying to avoid the logging of the fact on his own account. It fitted with his judgement of the guy that he saw it as not his fault he hadn't been trained properly, or had been virtually forced to believe he couldn't control emotion as most Vulcans did! He managed to repress his mirth and say, "You realise I'm not promising you'll get a shuttle? It isn't up to me. It depends on the ship assigned to take you back, on what that Captain's next mission is. He might need his full complement of shuttlecraft. Alternatively, he may be heading off on a long trip with no chance of picking up a replacement and not enough knowledge of what he faces to risk going under-equipped. In that sort of situation, Star Fleet would say 'no' even if the Captain was willing to take the chance."

"Understood." Stonn stated, "I will explain to Salon." Then he turned and went.

James T. Kirk realised that expecting any of that team except the two youngsters to say 'thank you' was a non-starter. He logged his comments on Stonn's competence and determined to manage a private word with his First Officer. He wanted to test his hunch about what made Stonn tick.

* * * * * * * *

Enterprise had reached Starbase 11 before he had an opportunity for a quiet talk with his Vulcan friend. This was due initially to Spock's involvement with musical gatherings when off duty. These events had widened, since Johann was well enough to leave sickbay, to include Nikolas de Beer, who had a pleasant tenor voice and played guitar. The second reason for Kirk's failure to get his talk with Spock was the sudden arrival of a Cargo Transporter to take over the tow, which resulted in the transfer of Johann back to his own vessel and a considerable increase in Enterprise's speed.

Commodore Mendez pleased Scott by accepting the ship's need for some work on her engines, which delighted the rest of the crew who were assigned R & R. Kirk's logs caused a certain pleasure, since they implied that Almela might just reduce her trading with dubious customers, although the need to word a stiff rebuke on the matter of creating hazards to navigation in the form of improperly designed oil carriers was a task Mendez could have done without. In his experience, Almelans were touchy enough to decide at once to increase trade with the Orions on the strength of it, however valid the point he was making! The matter of a shuttle for the Vulcans slid by, dwarfed by other concerns. Knowing that the project had high priority, the Commodore merely noted a 'one-off accident' and logged the need to find the team transport in a vessel that could spare the loan.

It was not until the forward section of A.O.C. Kimberley was towed into orbit, just as Enterprise was about ready to depart, that the full effects of the encounter impinged upon Mendez and caused him to call Jim back for another talk.

"How did you do it?" he demanded "The Master of that Almelan ship is some kind of big-shot in the Company that owns her, which is about the most influential on their planet, and he was practically crawling at my feet with apologies for trying to get around the Registration rules. But the really amazing thing was that one of my staff saw some of the crew of the Almelan ship in a cafe with a group of your crew and... Vulcans!"

"I guess they were playing musical instruments," hazarded Kirk.

"I don't think so. 'Talking like long lost friends' was how she put it. Jim how did you...?"

"To be honest, I didn't do anything." Jim grinned. "Spock saved the life of the Master's son. That started it. When he went over to help them, I did pick a couple of nurses to lend 'em who looked as un-Amelan as possible, but it wasn't really that. One of the other Vulcans, Stonn the pilot/engineer, helped get them some power. The little girl volunteered to help out with simple jobs in Sickbay and it grew from there. Interest in music among some of the younger ones was what really got them mixing. I don't think the fact that the little Vulcan kid is a stunner did any harm."

Mendez laughed "I can't very well log that," he said, "but thanks for your part in it. I think Almela may well end up joining the Federation!"

"I'm not sure they will if they realise we have non-humanoid members," Kirk remarked. "Or they may join and then leave again fast."

"Perhaps, but the Master was muttering about having learned not to judge by appearances. I got the definite idea that it was Vulcans they objected to all along, based on their ears!"

Jim stared.

"Due to the fact that the Bible depicts the devil that way," explained the Commodore.

"Bones jokes about..."

"He isn't the only one. The problem was, the Almelans were quite serious about it! Now, this group realise they were wrong, and I get the feeling they expect to have enough influence back home to change the minds of those who matter, even if the ordinary people still cling to prejudice. If you're right and we owe the change to one particular Vulcan kid, I'd like to thank her. Without supplies from Almela, the Orions are going to be a lot less trouble."

"I guess the kid would say it was random circumstances that caused the Almelans to meet her and anything she did was logical. You don't thank logic. Spock's always telling me that."

"Point taken, but as a side effect of your double rescue, well, your ship earned her pay! Now, let me buy you a drink."

To which James T. Kirk had no objection whatsoever.

* * * * * * * *

Jim finally got his talk with Spock over chess in his quarters just after they had left orbit on their next mission, a routine patrol near the Romulan neutral zone. When the game was in its early stages, but had progressed long enough so that he didn't think Spock would take it as purely an excuse for the talk, the Captain remarked casually, "I've been meaning to ask you. Are Vulcans raised to have a lot of respect for authority?"

His reply was a flick of his friend's right eyebrow.

"I'll explain," Jim said. "When I had that first talk with Stonn, he struck me at once as behaving like a kid. His whole attitude was immature. O.K., so I had to admit those Vulcans could have been right and he was incapable of growing up, but it didn't seem to fit. I finally realised the guy didn't believe himself that he was adult! He hadn't passed the 'rite of passage', so he couldn't be! That seemed to be his thinking. I told him to get his act together, sort himself out. I said a test at six didn't matter, only what he was like now. I even said I didn't think he thought of himself as adult, although he maintained he did. I was pretty sure that was bravado."

He paused, then continued, "In fact, that was the whole point. He was all bluster. He didn't have any real confidence in himself! Then he came back to see me again, and he was a whole new person! And I'm virtually certain the change wasn't because he'd sorted himself out! Somehow, I guess from Salon, he'd discovered that some committee on Vulcan had decided there had been a mistake and that, back when, he had passed that test after all! He was told, 'O.K., we believe you are adult!' and then he believed it! Because he had passed the 'rite of passage'. I got the idea, if the authorities hadn't changed their minds, he'd never have sorted himself out!"

Spock said, "Of course, the acceptance of the Bond with T'Pring was evidence that the decision with respect to his Kahs-wan had been reversed. It did not occur to me that this had happened, although now I realised it was implicit in T'Pau's allowing me to say, 'Stonn, she is yours'. I suppose he did not realise it either. I told you, I was confused. I am not surprised that he was also. T'Pau clearly presumed the amendment of the decision to be self-evident, so never formally stated it to him. I can see that, since the Fifth Question is based upon the logic of saving a life, it presumes that both the one who stops and the one who has fallen expect to have a chance to retake, and that Stonn lacked that expectation. He, by stopping, would not have saved a life, he thought, but merely have exchanged his for that of the other, even presuming I had not already climbed down to help the one who was hurt. As it was, I had, so by stopping also he would merely have sacrificed his own life to no gain. His thinking was logical and the Elders were right to reverse the decision. It is hard to see how the mistake came to be made in the first place. It would seem the Fifth Question decision was simply applied to all without sufficient thought. A serious error."

"I think I understand all that," Jim mused, privately doubting the 'oh-so-Vulcan' analysis! He suspected that Stonn, as a kid, had blindly followed the rules while mentally crowing over the fact that Spock had failed the test. However, he wouldn't put it past Stonn to have convinced himself now that he'd thought as his elders had analysed, which brought him back to... "But what about Stonn?" he asked. "How come he had to be told by these Elders that he wasn't a kid? How come he couldn't believe in himself?"

"I am not Stonn, so cannot answer that."

"You don't have an exaggerated respect for authority! You went your own way against your father's wishes and you've broken direct orders since joining the Fleet... always for good reasons, of course, but the point is, given a good reason, you do break an order! So?" He paused, while Spock seemed to examine the chess board with great concentration. Finally, he added, "Look, Spock, if someone, back then, had told you that you'd failed that test, so were still a child and would be 'til you passed it, would you have believed them?"

"I expected to be told that. I did believe I was capable of passing, I had tested myself in order to have definitive data on the matter, but by stopping I had failed to prove my ability to others. I made the decision to fail when I stopped!"

"Knowing you could do it O.K. next time."

Spock frowned. He said, "I had not read the Questions, and the Fifth surely must presume that one who fails due to stopping has the expectation of being allowed to retake, since otherwise, as in Stonn's case, the illogic of waste does not point clearly to the advantage of giving aid to one in need. I did know that one who fell was allowed to try again. I remember thinking that this must apply also to one who broke the Rule by stopping to help one who had fallen, but I was not perfectly sanguine on the point. I did believe I was capable of completing the course, but did not expect my word on the matter to be accepted. I told myself that of course I would be allowed another chance."

"You weren't sure!" Struck and completely convinced that the Vulcans had missed the whole point of Surak's question, which had been an attempt to show them the value of compassion.

"No I was not," Spock was saying. "But I had stopped. That was fact. There was no logic in regret."

Jim was now sure his friend had acted out of compassion, his compassion, neither 'human' nor 'Vulcan', but 'Spock's'. He had a vivid vision of a set-faced little boy telling himself the value of logic, even while knowing how his peers would taunt him for failing! He was glad those kids had found it was they who had to take the test again! Something else struck him, He asked, "Did you think about the fact that you'd die young if you weren't allowed another go, in spite of knowing you could pass?"

"Jim, to a child of seven years, forty two seems not at all young, a lifetime away, in fact. It did not concern me, no. I did not even think of it. The fact that I would not be bonded occurred to me, but not the potential results of that. I did not much mind if I was not bonded to a female. At that age..."

"Oh, girls are such a pain!" Jim laughed. "Sure! I guess you thought you were well out of that! And I can see you weren't ever in Stonn's position..." Then, with sudden realisation, "Yes, you were! He did finish, didn't he? He still didn't believe he could grow up! Why not?"

"Was it that? Was it not lack of training which caused his difficulty with control?"

"He didn't believe he was adult! Now he does!"

"He knew he still tended to react like a child. Now he realises that is due to lack of training. Until now, it could have been due to lack of ability to mature."

"Would you have made that kind of mistake about yourself?"

"I had reason to believe I could pass. I would have been unable to judge how much problems were due to lack of training, how much to... human elements within me."

"You don't think Vulcans are raised with too high a respect for authority?"

Spock considered this. He said, "Much of Stonn's problem was probably due to a fault among Vulcans, the same fault which tends to cause us to wish to hide from Outworlders the worst in us."

Jim grinned. "Everyone likes to show their best side to visitors," he said. "I think you mean, he respects the... the Vulcan way, so he couldn't let himself see a rule could be wrong, that'd be criticising the rule! Now he's been told there was a misinterpretation of the rule... and that's O.K.! But isn't that still respecting authority, when you get right down to it?"

Spock remembered T'Ressa's reaction to discovering that T'Pau had motives which lacked logic. He remembered his own reaction to realising that his father completely failed to understand his reasons for wanting to join the Fleet. He said, "He is adult. Appreciating that one's elders are not infallible is part of growing up. Perhaps Stonn's confusion caused him to be wary of making that judgement?"

"You mean, now he can believe he's adult and that adults can make mistakes because the ones who said he wasn't adult have told him they made a mistake and he isn't a kid after all! Spock, that's crazy!"

"No, Captain," Spock said, sweetly. "It is really quite logical."

James T. Kirk gave up and gave in to laughter! His friend's stubbornness was on record. He might as well get used to it! But he was very tempted to quote Bones McCoy and say, 'In a pig's eye!'


Copyright Jacqueline Y. Comben