Authors: Judith Reeves-Stevens,Garfield Reeves-Stevens
Tags: #Fiction, #Science Fiction, #General, #Adventure, #Space Opera, #Performing Arts, #Interplanetary Voyages, #Kirk; James T. (Fictitious character), #Spock (Fictitious character), #Star trek (Television program), #Television
Riker was already waiting in the transporter room and Picard could see him give his captain a curious look. He realized that the excitement of his thoughts must be showing on his face. Real excitement. Because what had just come to mind was not the result of his own thought processes—it had arisen from that part of Sarek that was still within him. What Picard knew now, all Vulcans knew. The exchange was exhilarating. He made a mental note to add these thoughts to his next discussion with Will.
“Captain?” Riker said. He stood in the center of the room, even more imposing than usual in his long dress coat. The rest of his question about the captain’s well-being went unasked. No doubt because of the presence of Transporter Chief O’Brien and Lieutenant Patrick standing off to the side.
“I am having a most… unusual day,” Picard explained to his first officer. “Impressions from Sarek’s mind are still… making themselves known to me.” Picard saw in Riker’s expression the same concern Data had voiced in his ready room. “But it is not a distraction from my duties,” Picard reassured his first officer.
Riker marginally relaxed. He gave Picard a quick, sardonic smile. “Be careful what you wish for, sir.” It took Picard a moment, but then he understood Riker’s comment. Just after Sarek had beamed aboard, Picard had told Riker and Counselor Troi that he had looked forward to sharing Sarek’s thoughts and memories, his unique understanding of the history the legendary Vulcan had made.
At the time he had stated his expectations, he was feeling disappointed. Sarek’s aides had preceded him—Sakkath, a tall and characteristically dour Vulcan, and Ki Mendrossen, a human and senior member of the Vulcan diplomatic corps.
The aides had explained that Sarek’s age would prevent the ambassador from undertaking any social functions that would normally be part of the honors given a visitor of his rank. The negotiations Sarek would be concluding with the Legarans—after ninety-six years of patient effort on the ambassador’s part—were too vital to the Federation. Picard had understood, but had been disappointed that he would not have a chance to renew his acquaintance with the ambassador, whom he had met years earlier at the wedding of Sarek’s son.
But in the days that followed, Picard learned the truth behind the aides’ concern for their ambassador. Sarek was suffering from Bendii Syndrome, a rare affliction that occasionally struck Vulcans over two hundred years of age. He was losing his ability to control his emotions. Although Sarek was surreptitiously buttressed in his attempts by the telepathic powers of Sakkath, the end result was that the ambassador’s confused emotions bled out to the crew of the Enterprise, leading to a series of alterca-tions, fistfights, and even acts of insubordination.
With the meeting with the Legarans absolutely unable to be changed, the only chance Sarek had had to maintain his self-control had been put forward by his human wife, Perrin. She had come to Picard’s quarters to suggest the captain share a mind-meld with Sarek. Picard had agreed and the elder Vulcan then, for a few hours, had made use of Picard’s self-discipline and iron willJvital tools for this final stage of negotiations to be conducted on board the Enterprise herself.
But Picard, in turn, had been left with Sarek’s emotions unchecked—the pent-up rage and regrets of centuries, the unspoken love, unvoiced anguish, the soul-crushing despair of approaching, inevitable death. There had been good reason why the Vulcans of millennia past had chosen to suppress their emotions —they were too powerful. The strength of them, even filtered through a mind-meld, had crippled Picard for most of a day, leaving him racked with tears, shaken by fear and anger.
Yet without question the exchange had been worthwhile. Sarek had successfully concluded his negotiations with the Legarans, and the benefits of that achievement would be incalculable to the Federation.
In the end, as Riker’s smile had suggested, Picard had also received all he had hoped for from the voyage from Vulcan to Legara IV, but not in the manner he had anticipated.
Picard reflexively smoothed his coat and turned to watch the door expectantly. “They’re almost here,” he said. “Remarkable.
It’s as if I’m still in some kind of telepathic contact with him.” “Perhaps you should talk to Deanna about your experiences,” Rikcr suggested, facing the closed doors with his captain. “l intend to, Number One. As soon—” Picard stopped talking as the doors slid open. But it was the ambassador’s aides who entered, accompanied only by two duty off~ccrs. Neither Sarek nor Perrin was with them.
Riker stepped forward with a hint of unease that only Picard could detect. “Will the ambassador be joining you?” But Picard put him at ease as he suddenly understood the reason.~br Sarek’s absence. ‘
It’s all right, Will. The ambassador is lening us say our good-byes first, as he has noticed that his presence at such times can prevent people from speaking freely.” Riker considered that. “Quite gracious,” he conceded.
“I hope your journey aboard the Merimac will be uneventful,” Picard said to the ambassador’s aides.
Sakkath, in deference to what a human would expect to hear, stated the obvious in reply. “With all the pressures of the conference behind him, I believe I can help him maintain his control until we return to Vulcan.” “What will happen to him then?” Riker asked.
Mendrossen. though human. answered with Vulcan control.
“The effects of Benalii Syndrome are irreversible.” Then, in an afterthought that belied his emotions, he added hopefully, “Medical research is always continuing.” There was nothing more to be said. Riker told O’Brien to stand bx for transport. It was then that Perrin entered, tranquil and COmposed, her placid expression the legacy of a life on Vulcan.
But there was nothing Vulcan about the warm smile she gave to Picard as she thanked him for what he had done for her husband.
For a moment, as Picard took her hand in his, he was once again caught between two minds, seeing Perrin as he had known her—a charming guest aboard his ship—and as Sarek had known her—his lifemate, his lover. Picard fought with the confusion, trying to express to the woman who had lost her heart to a Vulcan what that Vulcan could never say, would never say.
“He loves you,” Picard told her. So simple, yet so profound.
“Very much.” The words came nowhere near expressing the richness of the emotions he was experiencing.
But Perrin regarded him as if she understood what he was feeling, what he was trying to say, and at that moment, like a sudden flash of sunlight through the trees of a forest, Picard had a glimpse of Perrin’s mind. She had melded with Sarek. An essence of her remained in Sarek’s mind and was now in Picard’s.
Without knowing how, without seeing details, Picard saw that Perrin truly understood, and was content.
“I know.” she answered Picard. “I have always known.” And Picard knew without question that she spoke the truth.
With that final farewell between humans, Sarek entered, serene, implacable, a force of nature not by the strength and purpose that enveloped him, but by the unquestionable sense that he could not be stopped in anything he chose to do.
Except for the matters of your heart, Picard thought. The image of a young Vulcan boy came to mind, a scrape of green blood on his cheek, sullen, a forbidden tear forming in his eye. Picard felt afresh the warring desires to instruct the boy in his Vulcan heritage and to hold him in his arms, to keep him safe from harm, to tell him his tears were permissible. The boy was Spock, Picard realized, and from just a quick flutter of Sarek’s eyes, Picard knew that the ambassador had shared that memory, which had passed between them as a spark. Though it would never be acknowledged.
Sarek spoke first. “I will take my leave of you now, Captain.” Each word perfect. Even so simple a statement vested with unshakable authority. “I do not think we shall meet again.” “I hope you are wrong, Ambassador.” Picard, at least, was able to say what Sarek could not. Earlier, Perrin had told him that the ambassador had taken an interest in his career, that he had found Picard’s record “satisfactory.” Picard had been gratified by that verdict, the highest of praise in Vulcan terms. And he saw now in what he shared with Sarek that Sarek, too, had hoped for more time with Picard, and hoped, too, that this would not be the last time they met.
Sarek’s eyes stared knowingly into Picard’s. “We shall always retain the best of the other, inside us.” Picard already knew that to be true. “I believe I have the better part of that bargain, Ambassador.” He held up his hand, parting his third and fourth fingers. “Peace and long life,” he said.
Sarek nodded, almost imperceptibly, and returned the traditional Vulcan gesture. “Live long and prosper.” Sarek joined his party on the transporter pad. A moment before he departed, he took Perrin’s hand in his, as couples often did before a shuttlecraft took off, or when any journey together began.
Then the giant of the Federation dissolved into the quantum mist of the transporter effect, and except for one small part of him still in Picard’s mind, was gone.
“Merrimac confirms transport,” O’Brien announced from his console.
“Very good,” Picard answered. He looked at Riker, Riker at him. They both glanced down at each other’s long coat.
“Time to get out of these monkey suits?” Riker asked.
Picard appreciated the sentiment. “But we’ll need them again on Betazed.” Counselor Troi’s planet of birth was their next port of call, in conjunction with the biennial Trade Agreements Conference. Picard was actually looking forward to the mission —it promised to be dull. Despite his need for rejuvenating experiences, just for now he could use a few days of restful routine. He suddenly felt weary.
Riker followed Picard into the corridor. “The conference is ten da~s away, sir. I thought until then we might trade the dress uniforms in for some natty, wide-lapeled suits, loud ties, and a couple of gats, if you know what I mean.” Picard was tempted. The Dixon Hill programs in the holodeck were getting better all the time, and he was intrigued by the notion of matching wits with a criminal genius like Cyrus Redblock while his mind still retained some of Sarek’s impressive logic. If he could force Data into three stalemates, who knew what he’d be able to accomplish against the En[erprise’s computer in 1930s San Francisco’?
But another wave of fatigue swept over him. A cup of Earl Grey in the quiet of his quarters seemed to be what he needed most.
“Not right now, Will. Maybe in a few days.” Riker upped the stakes with an almost conspiratorial come-on.
“Are you sure’?. Geordi’s been adding some refinements to a new scenario. A lady in red… a mysterious black bird… it should be a real challenge.” They came to the turbolift. “Tempting, but I think I’m going to call it a day. Have Data take us out on our course to Betazed.” The doors swept open. Riker hung back. “It’s going to be a long ten days without something to break it up,” he said in a final attempt to have the captain change his mind. “Even Dr. Crusher said—” Riker stopped as Picard’s eyebrows lifted in reigned suspicion.
“Oh, I see. You’ve been discussing this with Dr. Crusher.” Riker put his hand out to stop the turbolift door from shutting.
“A deep Vulcan mind-meld can be a terrible strain, sir. Dr.
Crusher suggested you could use some R-and-R to help recuperate.” But Picard shook his head. “I appreciate your concern. But as the ambassador said, it is the best parts of each other we shall retain. A few days of quiet rest is all I need, and a direct course to Betazed is the best way to get it.” Riker knew when he had been overruled, and he took it well.
“Understood, sir.” He stepped back from the doors. “Let me know when you get bored. We could even discuss philosophy, if you feel up to it.” Picard smiled. “I look forward to that.” The doors began to shut. And just in time for Picard and Riker to catch an instant of surprise in each other’s eyes before the doors closed completely, it was then that the corridor filled with the sirens of a Red Alert.
The Enterprise was being called to battle.
LONDON, OPTIMAL REPUBLIC OF GREAT BRITAIN, EARTH Earth Standard: June 21, 2078
London was in flames. Not even the drug-controlled soldiers of the Optimum could contain the riots any longer. Zefram Cochrane had no trouble admitting that his return to the planet of his birth had been a mistake.
His companion in the backseat of the stately Rolls limousine tapped the silver handle of his cane against the viewscreen that angled out from the seat back before them. The windows of the limousine were set to maximum opacity and the external scanners were the only way to see what was going on in the streets they traveled.
“Look at them,” Sir John Burke said in disgust. “Worse than bloody Cromwell and his lot.” The elder scientist was a shrunken man. frail, in his seventies, with transparent skin, a dusting of xvispy gray hair, and a thin mustache. Once he had been chief astronomer for the Royal Astronomical Society. But that had been before the Optimum Movement had triumphed in the general elections of 2075. Now the word “Royal” was banned from this island nation, Queen Mary was in Highgate Prison, and most of the rest of the Royal Family had gone into hiding in what had become the Republic of Great Britain, or cowering in exile in the United States. And who knew what was happening over there anymore, with the Constitution suspended and only the fifteen states with Optimal majorities permitted to send representatives to Washington.
Everything Micah Brack had said to Cochrane on Titan, seventeen years ago, had come to pass. It was no longer a question of if there would be a third world war, but when it would start. As for where, between the splintering of the Optimum Movement, Colonel Green’s atrocities, the collapse of the New United Nations, and a dozen other nightmarish escalations of global tension, there was no end of places where the first shot could be fired, or the first atomic charge detonated.
What his friend Micah Brack thought of these developments, Cochrane could not be certain. Eight years earlier, after three Optimum assassination attempts against him in as many months, the industrialist had intentionally disappeared. Rumors placed him on Mars, helping draft the Fundamental Declarations of the Martian Colonies; on Altair IV, excavating the ruins of an alien civilization; or still on Earth, leading any one of a number of resistance cells in regions ruled by the Optimum. Cochrane didn’t know which stories to believe. Perhaps each of them was true to some extent. All he knew was that the bulk of Brack’s fortune had been given to the Cochrane Foundation for the Study of Multiphysics, and that Brack himself had vanished so completely and so thoroughly that Cochrane couldn’t help but suspect his friend had had considerable experience in the process.