A word of prelude: Shayla Ross is one version of the real name of Number One (from The Menagerie, or if you are a purist from The Cage). In some versions of her backstory she is Christine Chapel's older sister. I have drawn heavy inspiration from DebbieB's Shayla stories!! [Don't know her work? You are in for a treat! Go to ] The name Rise is pronounced like the Peanut Butter Cups or Ms. Witherspoon.

Blood Ties By Djinn PG-13

I sit, lounging rebelliously in the doctor's chair. There is no longer any reason to pretend, to take on that rigid Starfleet demeanor. The doctor looks at me expectantly, hoping against hope that this time I will talk. I will not. He wants to know all about me. But I will not tell him. But if I did, it would go something like this.

My first memories are of my mother. She was my whole world, she and my aunt. Everything that I had, everything I knew, everything I wanted, was tied up in these two women.

My name is Rise. Rise Chapel. Given life by one Christine Chapel. Formerly of Starfleet. Now buried six feet under. But I digress.

I can remember when I was barely walking, seeing this wonderful, warm person who was my mother hold her arms out for me. With Momma there to catch me, I was never afraid of anything. She was the most loving and constant force I have ever known, or ever am likely to know. She worked long hours, but she was always there for me when she was home. I never felt neglected. I recognize now what a toll this must have taken on her physically. I think it made it easier for her that I was such a solemn child, preferring to cuddle up against her with a book of my own while she read her medical texts rather than engage in any rambunctious play. I never knew how tired she was all the time. Or how sad. She kept that hidden from me.

As she also kept me hidden all these years from my father. I grew up not knowing who my father was, and I really didn't care. My mother was all I needed. What more could a father give to me? Not any more love, certainly, than that which I got from Christine Chapel. Excitement, perhaps? I had my Aunt Shayla Ross for that. She was a force of nature, that one. Blowing in and out of our lives at a moment's notice. On any given day she might show up and say, "C'mon we're going to the beach," and off we'd go. Packed off in her eccentric aqua blue aircar that she'd driven forever. The small cooler packed with sharp cheddar cheese, and sardines, and sodas for me. The cabinets filled with crackers and cookies. I never knew where we would end up and I never cared. For me, heaven was hanging over the front seat of that car as she and my mother talked.

And then when we got to the beach, oh paradise, to splash into the surf, screaming as the bitter cold ate into my bare feet, running as the huge waves broke and threatened to sweep me away. My mother was never far away, always watching to make sure I wasn't caught in the undertow. "Be careful, Rise," she would warn.

"She'll be fine, Chris," my aunt would say as she sat on the sand and laughed at my antics. "Let her play, let her have some fun."

Later I would bring them all the treasures I had found and they would exclaim over them as if they were the most precious gems. And as the sun set, we would eat our picnic meal; one that no self-respecting child should touch but one that I found perfect when coupled with the day that had gone before. On the way home, I would fall asleep in the back seat, lulled by the murmuring voices of the two women in the front seat.

Yes, those first years of my childhood were nearly idyllic for me. I would have been happy to go on that way forever. But happy times rarely last. I was six and a half years old when everything changed for me. That was the time I learned to hate. That was when a call came in for my mother and I was suddenly bundled off to my aunt's house. That was the day that as my mother rushed around packing my things I climbed up to the message log and played the one from him, from Spock. A dark man came to life in front of me, a man with pointy ears like my own. "It is time, Christine," was all he said.

"Rise, damn it! What are you doing?"

I cringed at my mother's tone. She rarely ever had to yell at me. Normally my precociousness pleased her. Not today. As my tears started to fall I managed to mumble out the question I should never have asked, "Who is he, Momma?"

She stared hard at me. Finally she sighed and knelt down, taking me in her arms. Her voice was barely a whisper as she said the words that changed my life, "He's your father, Rise. Spock is your father."

***********************

Shayla was there a few minutes later to take me to her place. She grabbed my mother by the shoulders, shook her just a little, "Chris, are you going to be ok?"

My mother gave her a brief nod then motioned with her chin toward me. "She knows."

"Shit, Chris! What were you thinking?"

"She found out on her own. You know how smart she is. She figured out how to run the comm station."

Shayla, who had taught me that little trick, had the grace to look chagrined. "Well it doesn't matter now. We need to get out of here. Call me when he is gone."

For once my aunt had no time for the games we always played. She simply grabbed my suitcase in one hand, me by the other and we made a dash for the aircar. She had us airborne in record time, and as I turned to watch the apartment building I saw the man turn the corner and stride quickly up the block to our complex.

"Who is Spock, Aunt Shayla?"

"A cold-hearted son of a bitch, that's who." She never minded her language around me when we were alone. But I knew better than to repeat it back to her or to my mother. She sighed heavily. "You're too young to hear all of this, Rise. You're just too damn young."

I stared out the window. My thoughts were fixated on the tall, dark figure that had entered our apartment building. "When the other kids ask me about my father, I tell them he's dead. It's easier than saying I don't know who he is. I never thought I would see him. How come he doesn't want to see me?"

Shayla threw me a quick look, but seemed reassured by the calm look I gave her. "Aww honey, it's not like that, really. Your mommy never told your Daddy about you. He really doesn't know you exist."

"So he would want me?"

"Yes, probably. And he'd no doubt take you away from us if he could."

I felt alarm bells go off in my stomach, "Take me away from Momma, and from you?"

"Yes, honey."

I thought about this. "He is a bad man."

Shayla's face grew cold as she agreed, "Yes, Rise. He is a bad, bad man."

**************

Four days later, Shayla took me back to my mother. She was a different woman than the one that I had left. Despite her warm hug I could feel how withdrawn she was, how hurt.

"Momma? " I touched her face, unconsciously reaching for points that I had never been taught. She shied back with a cry. "Momma! I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong?"

Shayla pulled me away, "Your momma needs to rest now, honey. I think I better stay the night." She sat me on the couch and handed me a book. "Can you be a big girl and wait here for me?"

I nodded, pretended to read the book.

She pulled my mother up. That simple contact set the woman who had been my strength all these years to weeping piteously.

"It's ok, honey. It's over now." Shayla consoled her. They disappeared into my mother's bedroom.

I climbed off the couch and walked around the living room. There were things missing. A statue of a horse that I had especially loved, an antique bowl. I wandered into the kitchen, opened the trash receptacle. They were there. In shards. I pulled some out at random. Without entirely knowing what I meant to do I closed my eyes and reached into the pottery, into the bronze.

The pottery shard splintered into more pieces as I dropped it. The bronze piece fell on my toe but I didn't feel the pain. Not that pain anyway. No, I pushed the visions away. No, get away from her! You're hurting her! Can't you see how tired she is! I started to weep as I tried to escape the terrible pictures of the man called Spock and my mother. He would not leave her alone. He was on her, they were doing something I didn't understand. My mother didn't fight him. She seemed resigned to what was happening. But I could tell she did not want it, did not want him. "Leave her alone," I screamed aloud this time.

"Rise! Come back, Rise!" My mother was shaking me.

I threw myself into her arms, sobbing hysterically. "Momma, I'm so sorry, Momma. I tried to make him stop. I tried."

Momma sank to the floor, pulling me into a tighter hug. "Shhh, sugar. It's ok. You couldn't help Momma. You didn't do anything wrong."

"She's a Vulcan, alright," my aunt observed bitterly as she cleaned up the broken pieces. "God, she hasn't even had any training and the gifts are coming out. You have to do something, Christine."

"What? If I send her to a Vulcan they'll take her away. You know they'll tell Spock. She is his heir. He won't let her go once he finds out she exists."

Shayla joined us on the floor. "How you've kept this from him is a miracle to me. Even in the meld? Even during the pain of childbirth, you kept her locked away deep in your mind. I don't understand it."

"You're not a mother," my mother answered simply. "If you were, you'd understand. I'd do anything to protect her, to protect us."

"I know you would. But how do you protect her from this, Chris. She saw what happened. But she doesn't understand it."

I broke in, "He hurt Momma."

My mother smoothed my hair back, kissed my cheek softly. "Yes sweetheart, he did. But he didn't mean to. You remember when we watched that special vid on salmon, how when it is their time they swim upstream and no matter what they keep going."

I nodded solemnly.

"Well your Father's people are like that sometimes. They get in a mindless sort of state. They are driven to do what you saw. And the problem is that your Father is much stronger than I am. So I get tired a long time before he does. He didn't mean to hurt me, really."

I knew that I looked unconvinced. Especially when I looked at her arm, where the sleeve had pushed up, and saw the marks of his fingers on her pale skin. I touched them, spreading my fingers as far as they would go to try to fill the space. My mother flinched when I pushed too hard. Someday, I vowed, someday I would make my Father pay for hurting her.

************************

Slowly life returned to normal for us. My mother went back to work and I began to relax as weeks went by and my father did not return. But he haunted me. During the day I tried to figure out how it all happened, how I happened. At night I had dreams, sometimes bad where he dragged me away from my mother, and sometimes worse where he held out his hand to me and I went willingly. I spent hours looking up Vulcan and Spock on our home computer. What I found only confused me more. Finally I couldn't stand it anymore. "Momma? Please tell me about you and my father?"

She looked at me over her book. "Rise, I really don't think that now is a good time."

"I really need to know." I sat up straight.

She put down the book and smiled at me with such affection I felt my heart catch. "You're so much older than your age, in looks, in mental ability. It must be your Vulcan blood." She patted her lap. "Come here, if I'm going to tell you this, I want you close to me."

I settled into her welcoming lap and snuggled into her arms.

"Oh, Rise," she whispered, "You're the best thing that ever happened to me." She seemed to gather her thoughts, and I could sense her hesitation.

"Once upon a time." I prompted.

She laughed and began. "Once upon a time there was a nurse named Christine," she looked down at me and I pointed up at her with a smile, "that served on a Starship."

"The Enterprise," I added.

She looked at me in surprise. "How do you know that?"

"I looked it up. Both you and Aunt Shayla served on it."

"Yes," she agreed, "but not at the same time."

"But you both served with Spock."

She squeezed me, "Hey, who's telling this story, huh?"

"Sorry." I tried to look contrite, which only made her laugh.

"Anyway, I fell in love with the first officer, your father, Spock. Your father is half Vulcan and half Human. That makes you three quarters Human and a quarter Vulcan, even though you don't look it. You could so easily pass for a pure Vulcan, Rise."

I filed that fact away as she continued with her story.

"One day, in the second year of our voyage, your father began to suffer from Pon Farr. It is the Vulcan mating urge. It is like the salmon going upstream to spawn. Only in a Vulcan's case he will die if he doesn't succeed. Spock had to go back to Vulcan to be married to his fiancée so they could make a baby and so he and she wouldn't die. But she didn't want to be married to him and challenged in a very old ritual."

"Then what happened?"

"It gets kind of complicated after that. But your father had to fight, and at the end he won the woman back, but he didn't want to keep her against her will."

"Then he was going to die?"

"No. The fight seemed to make everything better. Or so we thought. About a year later, it happened again. It is only supposed to happen every seven years." She could see me counting back, "Yes, Rise, this was the end of seven years. But that first time was out of cycle, either because he is human or because of something that happened to him during one of the other missions, we were never sure. But he needed someone and I was there and I loved him so much. I would have done anything to keep him alive."

"Why did you run away?"

"I'm getting to that part, honey. Just be patient." She hugged me to take any sting out of her words. "Your father and I did those things you saw. And just like you have things you can do with your mind, he does too, and he made me his wife that way. And so when it was all over, I was the one that he would always come to when the Pon Farr came over him."

I frowned as I thought over the other families I knew. "But husbands and wives live together. They love each other."

She smiled sadly, "Yes, humans love each other. But Vulcans are a little different. Or maybe they aren't and it was just that your father truly could not love *me*. In any case, I tried to live with him, I really did. And I probably would have tried even longer if I hadn't realized I was pregnant. You see Rise, your father is a very honorable man, and a fine scientist, but he is very cold. I was so very lonely with him. I wanted so many things from him that he could never, or would never give me. And I couldn't subject you, my little one, to that same coldness, that same yearning. So I told him I was leaving him. But I can't ever really leave him. The bond he and I share makes sure of that. He let me go because he knew that I would be there for him when his time came again. I would have no choice. He would die without it and I would die without him. The bond is that strong."

She stopped for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. "You and I have lived on Earth for some time. I finished up my degree and became a doctor instead of a nurse. During that time Spock finished out his tour on the Enterprise and then returned to Vulcan to work on some special projects with his own father, who is the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation. I have had no contact with Spock in that time. And I've hidden you away from him."

"Because he would take me away." I said with scared assurance.

"Baby, I don't want you to be afraid of him. But I can see him trying to do that, or at least trying to make a life for us all together, a life that would ultimately be a lie. You were mine, all mine. And I wanted to keep it that way."

I leaned into her, pondering her words. "I don't like him anyway. He hurt you."

"Honey he didn't mean to. I should have done something, rested up, or exercised more, or taken some stimulants, I don't know. I mean I knew he was coming back but I just didn't want to believe it. But, I could feel it."

"Through the bond," I asked, understanding in some basic way I could not explain.

"Yes through the bond." She shifted underneath me. "But your father may not be coming back again."

"What do you mean?"

"As bad as this time was for me, and I know you felt just how bad it was, it was worse for your father. Can you imagine for a moment what it must be like for someone who has all that control until this hits, who then has to go to someone that does not want him, someone that has no choice in the matter, someone that he hurts as the time together progresses. He is a gentle man at heart, Rise. A cold and perhaps unfeeling man, but not a brute. I know that what happened between us this time affected him deeply."

She rested her head on my shoulder, "I know you've been reading all you can about Vulcan," when I looked up at her in shock, she laughed, "I get the bills for all that research, sweetie. You couldn't just look it up in the local library could you? You had to access Starfleet and Federation records. And I have a feeling you may have gone some other places that they didn't bill you for because they didn't know you were there? What did I tell you about hacking?"

"I'm not supposed to gain unauthorized access into computer systems, or try to get around security measures just because I can."

"That didn't sound very heartfelt, Rise. You are so like your aunt sometimes. Anyway, did you come across the term Kolinahr?"

I searched my memory. "It is a system of learning to pursue pure logic."

"Very good. Yes, it is the means that Spock hopes to use to purge himself of all emotion, Human and Vulcan. Those that achieve mastery of Kolinahr have the mental discipline necessary to withstand the Pon Farr."

"If he masters it," I said skeptically. "It sounded very difficult to do that."

"If anyone can do it, Rise, your father will be the one." She kissed my neck, then switched to a game where she blew on my neck making a loud noise, at which I squealed loudly and tried to squirm away. As we both laughed at the silliness I turned and gave her a fierce hug. "I love you Momma. I love you more than anything."

She hugged me back just as strongly. "I know, sugar. I love you more than anything, too."

*************************

For two years we lived undisturbed, once more a happy unit of two, or three when Shayla was around. I was never entirely sure what my aunt did or where she went when she was out of town. I asked my mother once and could not get a straight answer. One day when Shayla had snatched me away for a quick trip to the zoo I worked up the nerve to ask her. As we threw bread to the ducks, I said, "Where do you go when you disappear, Aunt Shayla?"

She turned to me, blue eyes sparkling with amusement. "Just like your father, painfully blunt."

"That is a distraction."

She ruffled my hair. "Nobody would believe you aren't even nine yet. You have grown up so much in the last few years." She pulled some more bread from the bag. "I have some side businesses, Rise. Just some things I do, you know.this and that."

"And you go.?"

"Oh here and there."

"This and that and here and there are rather imprecise. You don't want to tell me do you? Is it because you think I will tell on you?"

"Darling, that is the last thing I would worry about. You would never betray anyone or anything you cared about, not if it was in your power to resist. No, I just think it is better if you don't know all the details. Let's just say that some of the things I do are a little irregular."

I threw the last of the bread into the pond. "Illegal you mean?"

"Well that would be the harsh interpretation."

I couldn't help myself; she made me laugh, as she always had been able to. I bumped up against her realizing with a start that I had grown so much in my last few growth spurts that I no longer seemed like a child next to her. It had happened so gradually with my mother that I had not paid attention. But Shayla was a couple of inches taller and had always seemed like an amazon to me.

Inside I was half child and half young woman. No doubt the Vulcan blood that circulated in my veins caused this advanced maturation as well. I had continued my studies of Vulcans, only this time being careful that I left no traces in the databases that I searched. I wanted to know everything I could about my father's people, just in case. And there was the matter of my mental abilities. I had downloaded some children's telepathic exercises from the Vulcan Science Academy's restricted databases and had been practicing them for some time. I was making good progress even if I was a bit behind. But I wouldn't be lagging for long. I was very smart. Already in school I was well ahead of my classmates and had been moved up three grades for many of my subjects. I still enjoyed recess with my younger friends though, mother had insisted on that. She didn't want me to forget how to play. How to be Human, I corrected.

As I began to understand more of my mother's earlier life I marveled at her ability to keep me a secret from her friends and coworkers. She kept in touch with her former crewmates from the Enterprise but never invited them to our place, which was deliberately far away from Starfleet Medical. She had to take three transporter hops and public transportation to get home to us in our apartment outside Seattle. But the distance allowed us to wander freely in her off hours without worrying about running into Starfleet colleagues, who would have all sorts of uncomfortable questions about her young Vulcan daughter. The few times that people had come to visit, Aunt Shayla took me somewhere for an overnight trip. Somewhere invariably so fun or strange that I didn't mind at all being sent away.

It helped her that I was healthy as a child, and that as a doctor in Starfleet she had access to all the vaccinations and other medicines a growing child would need. I never had to see another physician. Even when I was born, Shayla had delivered me in a psi-shielded room that she had found for my mother. As far as Starfleet knew, Christine Chapel had a daughter, a human daughter. And no Vulcan had ever been the wiser, not even the one that mattered the most.

**************

It was my ninth birthday when everything changed again. We had a party with my friends from school at the zoo. As the birthday girl I had been allowed special access to some of the animals. I fed the penguins, and milked a cow, and even held a falcon on a glove. She was so beautiful that I had gasped out loud as she flapped her wings to get comfortable.

The raptor keeper smiled at me indulgently, "You're a strong one. Most girls your age can't hold one of these beauties. It's your birthday today? You must be quite the heartbreaker for all those boys in your high school? If you were a little bit older I'd introduce you to my son."

I just smiled at him; I was getting used to people mistaking me for a teenager. I whispered to the bird and tried to reach out to her with my mind. She made a little raspy cry and then tilted her head toward me. Slowly I reached over and scratched behind her neck. She stretched a bit more so that I could get some hard to reach places. I could feel her pleasure.

"Well, I'll be damned." The keeper was clearly stunned. "You've got the touch, Miss. You should work with animals."

I realized that he was right. I had never felt such peace as I did at this moment. I smiled back at him as he gently removed the bird from my arm. *Good bye,* I whispered in my mind to the bird.

*Feel good.person go.sad,* I clearly heard come back from the falcon.

I ran back to my mother and wrapped my arms around her. "Did you see, Mom? I held the bird." I didn't tell her about talking to the falcon. She seemed happier thinking that my mental abilities were going to stay latent.

"Yes, Rise. I saw. You took a chance petting it though." She saw my face fall as she said that. "Obviously it turned out ok, so we'll forget it."

We walked together through the rest of the zoo, my friends sometimes running ahead, sometimes hanging back with us. When we came upon a peacock in full spread, we all stopped to admire the beautiful tail feathers.

"He is sacred to Hera." I explained to one of my friends. I was fascinated by mythology, Greek in particular. I knew all the gods, demigods, and other creatures." Hera was the queen of the gods. She was married to Zeus, but he was always playing around on her so she got really mad a lot of the time." I realized that the story was going to get a little too adult for my human friends so I trailed off. Sometimes it was very lonely being me.

We dropped the other girls off at their homes and then Mom and I walked back to our apartment. She seemed unusually quiet and I felt myself becoming worried. "Are you ok, Mom?"

"There's just no keeping anything from you, Rise, is there?" She took my hand but didn't look at me. "I have to go away for a while."

I felt a moment of panic. She had never gone away. "For how long."

"I'm not sure. Oh, Rise, I don't know how to tell you this so I'm just going to be straight with you. A friend of mine has just been named captain of the Enterprise and he needs a CMO. And he wants me. But it means I'll be gone, in space, for a while."

I was quiet as I digested this information. I fought back the terror I felt at the idea of not being with her. "This would be good for you?"

"Yes. Very good for my career."

"Then you should do it." I felt some pride in my adult words even though I could feel the little girl that was still left inside me scream in protest. "Will I stay with Shayla?"

"Yes. You'd like that wouldn't you?"

"Well, if I can't stay with you." I smiled wryly at her so she could see that I was not protesting. "Yes, it will be fine. You know how she indulges me."

Mother laughed nervously, "Yes, I'm a little worried about that." She stopped in the middle of the street and pulled me into a hug. I hugged her back with as much love as I could give her.

"I'll miss you so much, Rise. I'll miss seeing your face."

"But I can send you messages, Mom." I felt confusion.

She corrected me gently, "Voice messages only. All shipboard transmissions are monitored. No one must know that you are a Vulcan, not while you are still so young. Some day we will tell them the truth."

I smiled back at her. "When it is too late for anyone to do anything about it, right?"

"Right, pardner."

Two weeks later she reported to the Enterprise and I went to live with my aunt.

********************

Life at Shayla's was a never-ending adventure. She lived in the woods a short way from our apartment. Her house had a long dirt driveway covered with trees. Aircars had to stay low to find our place. Anyone coming down that drive blew up a lot of dust long before they got to the house. Sensors along the road and in various places in the surrounding woods also notified us of anyone entering the property. "I like my privacy," my aunt was fond of saying. "And I like knowing who's coming to visit."

I assumed all these precautions had to do with her business but it was impossible to tell as strangers did not as a rule show up at the house. But my Aunt's old friends did. Dr. Phillip Boyce, formerly CMO aboard the Enterprise, often visited. He was very fond of me, and spent many hours telling me of his and Shayla's exploits. I loved to listen to him. Another frequent visitor was a young man that seemed to be some sort of partner of my aunt's. His name was Cameron Jameson, and I thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. He loved to tease me but he only had eyes for my aunt. They often talked obliquely about business, and from listening to them I began to build a picture in my mind of their enterprise. Whatever it was it clearly took them off world much of the time. I surmised that they had their own ship. I even heard Cameron refer to the Miranda, so that is what I named her in my mind. The way I pictured her she was a sleek little thing. Fully armed of course, but capable of outrunning just about anything. She would look harmless of course. It wouldn't do for smugglers--for that is what I decided my aunt and her partner were--to attract too much attention.

Shayla tried not to leave me very often during the time that my mother was gone. When she did go offworld she had Phillip come stay with me. We had so much fun together. I found his medical skills especially useful with the injured animals that invariably found their way to our door. Ever since the incident with the falcon, I had been entranced with the communication I could have with animals. I called out to them in my mind. At first it was just some curious squirrels and jays and crows that showed up at my window. Then soon I noticed that when I walked in the woods the deer and shyer birds didn't flee from me. I didn't try to touch them, but I talked to them and felt them send something back. One day I went out and found a baby rabbit sitting on the porch, sides heaving in fright. Something had badly torn his leg. I calmed him with my touch and took him inside. Holding him wrapped in a warm towel in my arms, I called Phillip and had him walk me through the proper procedure to fix the rabbit's leg. After some cleaning and even a stitch or two, the bunny fell asleep on my lap. Two days later he was well enough to hop around, and the next day I let him free outside. He left without a backward glance. I tried not to be sad. I knew he was a wild animal. Two weeks later a pregnant cat showed up just in time to have me help her with a difficult delivery. We found homes for all the kittens with my friends and the mother cat ended up staying with us for good. After that it seemed like there was always at least one or two other animals convalescing at the house. Cameron even built some heated hutches outside for them.

I was still doing well at school. I was ten in Human years but over that time I had moved ahead so many grades that I was now starting my sophomore year in high school. I loved studying and found the sciences and math came naturally to me.

"You have an advantage," my aunt used to tease me, "You've got two geniuses for parents. Both of them live for scientific research."

But I loved the classics too. I read my mythology still, but also some of the old literature. Shayla had tons of old works on her info system and I would often download one to my reader and go off into the woods to enjoy it.

It was a wonderful year, but I missed my mother terribly. We sent messages back and forth usually every day. And about once a week we would talk. Her voice sounded so good to me. I tried to tell her every little thing I had done since I last spoke to her and she generally told me that she was enjoying her tour on the Enterprise. I was surprised to learn from the Starfleet databases that I still routinely hacked into that all of her old crewmates had reunited for this tour. All of them. Spock too. Her voice sounded different when she talked about him. She still loves him, I realized finally. I found it difficult to understand how she could stand to be around him, much less enjoy it. My aunt reassured me that whatever my mother felt for my father wouldn't change our life.

"Until the next time he calls for her," I reminded her bitterly.

"Maybe that won't happen this time," my aunt tried to tell me. I decided not to argue with her, but I was not looking forward to that time, four years hence, when he would again summon my mother.

**************

Shayla and I were up in the attic. She had decided it was time to clean out the old boxes that had belonged to her parents. When her mother had passed away my aunt had put the cartons away without looking through them. We had already spent over an hour looking at old vid albums. I had laughed to see my mother and my aunt as children. Shayla had been wild of course. My mother had been more circumspect. They looked like twins then, just as they did still, even though there was five years between them.

"Hey look at this, Rise."

I left a box of old games to see what she had found. It was a jewelry box made of a reddish purple wood. I stroked it softly. It was so smooth. Shayla pulled it out and dusted it off. The rich patina of the wood shone. "It's beautiful," I whispered.

"It's purple heart." She opened the box. It was empty inside. She handed it to me, "Here, you should have it if you like it."

I stroked the lustrous wood, then noticed something stuck between the velvet padding and the wall. I dug it out and studied the ring of white metal. It was very simple. A thin band that spread slightly at the center then went back to the original width. The widest part was embellished with small cuts that made the ring shine. "I'm surprised it hasn't tarnished," I said as I handed it to my aunt.

She studied it, then looked at the underside. "It's not silver, it's white gold. I remember my grandmother wearing this." She handed it back to me. "You should have it, Rise. Something that is yours but part of the larger family."

I tried the ring on. It was too big for my fingers.

"Wrap some adhesive strips around it," my aunt advised, "that will make it fit."

I put the ring back in the box and when we were done in the attic I found some of my medical tape and wrapped it around the backside of the ring. I slid it onto my middle left finger. That was the finger that Vulcans wore their house rings on. It pleased me to blend my heritages. Even though I feared my father and the threat I believed he represented, I had only become more fascinated with Vulcans as I grew up. In some ways I wished I could meet one someday, but I never had the opportunity.

As we sat down to dinner I decided to broach the subject with my aunt. "Do you think that mother was right to hide me from my father?"

My aunt looked up at me in surprise. She started to answer quickly then stopped and thought for a moment. She studied me with narrowed eyes. "Do you wish she hadn't?"

I met her gaze calmly. "It's not that I miss him. I have everything I want with her and with you. But part of me is Vulcan. And that part of my character has been left to lie fallow."

"You've been studying on your own, Rise. Your mother may not have caught on that you have nurtured your mental powers, but I certainly am aware of it. How far have your progressed?"

"I am about where I should be now. But it is all book learning. I have no practical experience."

Shayla laughed, "Well don't go trying it on me, kiddo." We ate for a while in silence, then she surprised me by saying, "I don't think Spock would have tried to take you away from Christine."

"Then why.?"

"When your mother came back to me, when she had left Spock and was carrying you, she was heartbroken. She had tried so hard with your father. But he had shut her out as only a Vulcan who is not interested in you can. She loved him utterly. And he was indifferent or perhaps mildly fond of her. That wasn't enough, and I don't blame her for leaving but she was a fool in the first place to think that buried under the Vulcan she knew was a heart of fire. Sometimes a cold exterior only hides an even colder interior."

I had never thought of it that way. "So she took me away to protect me from that coldness?"

Shayla seemed to weigh her next comment heavily. "Rise, I'm going to speak my opinion to you. You may not like what I have to say."

"We can be honest," I assured her.

"Has it every occurred to you, Rise, that your mother is the selfish one here, not Spock? She took you away from him, when by all accounts he would have tried to welcome you and build a family with your both. Perhaps she really did want to protect you. Or maybe she just wanted you all to herself." She hesitated, then stared me in the eyes, "Or perhaps she couldn't bear the possibility that he would look at you with the love that he would never show her?"

I sat stunned. "You can't be serious."

She got up to clear the table. "I told you that you wouldn't like what I had to say. But before you decide what is truth at least examine all the potential answers."

I got up angrily, rushing to the door to escape my aunt. At the last minute I turned, shouted at her. "I know my mother. She would die for me. She wanted to protect me. She would never have taken me away if she didn't think it was the best thing for me."

My aunt seemed suddenly very tired as she sighed. "Of course dear. Of course you're right."

**********************

I was just starting my second year at Shayla's when we got a subspace call. I rushed to the comm unit and was overjoyed to hear my mother's voice.

"Rise?"

"Mom! What are you doing calling, we just talked two days ago."

"I had to, honey. I've got great news! I've been offered Director of Starfleet Emergency Operations. The job is in San Francisco."

"You mean.?"

"Yep, Rise. I'm coming home! I'll be back in two weeks."

I shrieked with happiness and Shayla rushed in to see what the matter was. "She's coming home, Shayla."

She smiled in understanding and shooed me outside so she could figure out logistics with my mother.

I was so excited I could barely stand still and found myself running through the woods, every now and then stopping to spin in pure bliss. She was coming home!

******************

The exotic paper crackled in my hands as I unwrapped the present, one of many my mother had brought back for me. We had spent the first few hours of her homecoming alternately hugging and catching up on all the things that couldn't be crammed into a short subspace call. Now after a light dinner she had opened her bags to dig out the things she had brought back for me.

"Oh it is so good to see you, Rise. You've grown so tall. And so beautiful." She stroked my face, kissed me tenderly. "Those soulful brown eyes. They belong to your father, sweetheart."

"I don't look like either of you though, do I?" I had studied his pictures for long enough to know that aside from the eyes and the ears I did not favor him. Same for my mother, except for our smile and the way we would try to hide it, which would only light up our eyes.

"You look like yourself, Rise. And right now you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen." She pushed at the package. "Open this. I'm dying to see what you think of it."

I gently peeled the paper off and gasped in surprise and pleasure. It was a beautiful medical bag made of some tough but iridescent material. The bag was full of delicate instruments. "Mother."

"For your animal hospital. It's from Primus Eight. Animals are revered there. Veterinarians are held in the highest esteem. Upon graduation they get a bag just like this. I told my contact there that my niece had a veritable menagerie. He was very impressed and insisted I take this back for you." She stopped suddenly, pulled me in close, "I hated calling you that, Rise. I don't want to live a lie like that anymore."

"When I finish high school next year, Mom. Maybe then we should stop hiding the truth."

"Yes. That would be a good graduation gift wouldn't it?" She grinned at me.

I smiled in relief. "The best!"

**************

Our life settled back into the wonderful routine I had relished as a child. My mother worked hard in her new job. She was often stuck in San Francisco when she was handling a crisis. I was old enough to stay by myself but she preferred that I had someone with me so I usually went to Shayla's. Sometimes I stayed overnight with a school chum. By this time most of my friends were not my own age but the high school kids I spent every day with. They accepted me as their equal even though I had not technically entered my teen years.

My father was back on Earth. He had left the Enterprise to take a teaching position at Starfleet academy. He frequently used the ship for cadet exercises, and Admiral Kirk often went with him. My mother often got a strange look on her face when her former captain's name was mentioned. I asked Shayla about it once.

"She's jealous." Shayla turned back to what she had been doing.

"Could you elaborate?"

She turned back to me. "Spock and Kirk enjoy a closeness that your mother wishes she shared with your father."

I was puzzled. "Do you mean that they are." I trailed off, embarrassed at what I was thinking.

Shayla shrugged. "Who knows? Certainly there have been rumors. But I actually doubt it. I believe that they are the closest of friends. Anything else is not my business."

"It would explain a lot." I mused.

"Sure it would. Which is why it probably isn't true. Life is rarely free with such easy answers, Rise. You know that."

"Yeah," I grinned, admitting defeat. "I just liked it as a nice tidy reason for why he doesn't love mom."

****************

"Spock! Noooooooooooooooooo!" My mother's scream pierced the darkness.

I woke with a start. Disoriented for a moment, I ran to her room. Flipping on the light I was shocked to see her thrashing on the bed, calling out his name in desperate entreaty.

"Mother?" I reached for her and narrowly missed being hit in the face by her fist. "Mother, stop it. Wake up, it's only a nightmare."

She screamed his name again, then again.

I held her down, realizing at that moment that I had grown stronger than she was even in this fevered state. "Mother, wake up!"

Her eyes opened then. Thank god, I thought. "Mother it's alright. It was just a nightmare."

Even as I watched the light in her eyes dimmed. "Spock?" she moaned. "You can't die."

I suddenly understood and sat helplessly as I watched my mother slowly follow my father into death.

******************************

To this day I don't know if it was the Vulcan in me or the Human that refused to just let my mother go. With an anguished cry of denial I fell onto her, hand firmly grasping her face, fingers finding the meld points. I had some idea from my studies what to expect but I was nearly defeated by the emptiness that waited for me at the core of my mother's mind.

*Mother!* I screamed over and over. *Mom, come back to me. Don't leave me.*

Somewhere, very deep and very far away, I felt a small flicker of reaction. And I dove without hesitation into the long chamber that led to her. "Mother?*

*Rise?* her mind-voice was weak. *Go back, Rise. You can't follow me.*

*Why not? You can follow him but I can't follow you?* I sensed her trying to slip away from me. *No, Mom. If you go, I go too.*

*Rise, please. You don't understand.*

I could sense the essence of her pain, but she was right I couldn't understand it. *Then show me. Show me why you need to follow him.*

*Oh, Rise. My child. No.*

I screamed in fury, *Show me or I'll follow you and ask him myself!*

Suddenly I was surrounded by memories, by emotions, by pain so much pain. I felt the enormity of my mother's love for my father. How even during their darkest moments she had never stopped loving him with everything she had. I also felt her guilt. Guilt for having taken me away from him. All the terrible things my aunt had said my mother had felt at one time or another. But overriding all of this was the incredible devotion that my mother felt for me. I grabbed onto that.

*Don't leave me, Mom. I need you so much. Please don't leave me.*

She tried to turn away but her love got in the way. *Rise, let me go.*

I used her emotion to pull her back up the long chamber. *I can't, Mom. I can't. Come home with me. Please come home.*

I felt her surrender before she even moved to follow me. *Yes, Mom, that's right. I need you. I love you.*

It took forever, but finally we were back at what I could only think of as the right place. I let go of her and she settled back into the fabric of her mindspace. I watched for a while to make sure that she didn't flee, but she appeared to have given up on dying. Exhausted I pulled out of her mind.

I moved only enough to cover us both up, then I curled up into her and fell asleep.

****************

I woke to a gentle touch on my cheek. "Mom?"

She moved gingerly, obviously still exhausted. "You saved me, Rise."

"I had to. I couldn't let you die. I need you."

She closed her eyes but kept talking. "I couldn't help myself. I felt him dying and part of me just started following, then more of me went till there was almost nothing left." Her eyes opened suddenly, "Rise, just exactly *how* did you know what to do?"

"Instinct?"

"I don't think so. How long have you been working on your mental skills?"

"For years, Mom. Please don't be mad. I'm a Vulcan, it was driving me nuts not to be able to control what was happening to me."

She sighed. "I'm not mad. How can I be? You *are* Vulcan and I should have done so many things differently."

"Don't say that! I wouldn't trade the life you've given me for any other!"

She was about to argue when the comm unit rang. Groaning, I reached over and hit the button. "Chapel."

"Rise?" It was Shayla, "Is she alright?"

"Yes. But it was close. How did you know?"

"It's been all over the news, I saw it as soon as I got back. But honey did you see the latest?"

I realized my mother and I had been fighting our private mental battle for much longer than I realized. I glanced over at the chrono. Four days from that awful moment when I'd thought I was losing her forever. Four days!

"Rise? Are you there?"

"I'm here. What's the latest?"

"I don't know how, but he's alive."

"What?"

"Spock is alive."

I looked at my mother and saw in her face confusion, anger, and tragically hope. Suddenly I hated my father more than ever.

*********************************

I recovered much more quickly than my mother. She took some sick leave and slept for days. When she was dreaming I would often sit by her bed and try to calm her. I didn't invade her mind again; I just tried to send comforting thoughts, much as I did for the animals.

Shayla too tried to help. But mom was not responding to the old ribbing as we had hoped. She walked around the house like a ghost. Even once she was fully recovered and again at work it was as if a part of her had never come back from that road to oblivion.

It was then, as I worried about her and tried to think of ways to make things better for her, that I began to form what I came to call my memory bomb. It was for my father, if fate ever decided to have us share minds, which in my heart I knew was highly unlikely. But making this little weapon helped me deal with what was going on. Inside of the bomb I piled every sad and painful memory I could think of. All the details of our life without him. All the pain he had caused her and me too. It was a potent little thing. I meant it to be. I might only have a second to show him all of the things I wanted him to know. I might only have a second to hurt him. I intended to make the best use of that second. When I wasn't refining the mental dagger I hid it deep inside me. I did not want it escaping inadvertently. No, if this were ever used, it would be on purpose.

*************

In the end it was a crisis of galactic proportions that pulled my mother out of her depression. The Whale Probe as it came to be called was too big to be ignored. With a whole planet and more depending on her, she rallied and the old Christine Chapel suddenly reemerged

And in the end it didn't matter that she was not the one that saved anything. She was back. Whole. But even sadder. She had run into my father during the hearing that was the aftermath. He had spoken to her politely. But nothing more. He did not try to take her aside and find out how she had dealt with his death. He appeared to not even remember that they had been bondmates.

That was what made my mother the saddest. Even though she had not found the happiness she had wished for with my father, she had been his wife in every other way that mattered. Now she was not. His death had dissolved the bond. It would be easy to reestablish it, easy that is if the two people involved wanted it. And at least one of them did not.

Mother threw herself into work. She started to keep longer and longer hours. I was working hard to finish up my courses in high school so I did not notice at first. I was fixated on doing well in the advanced placement classes that would help me get into veterinary school. But eventually I realized that when she shut her door at night I could often hear sobbing. I did not know what to do for her. So I went to Shayla. Her solution was simple.

"Time for a change of scene. And I know just the place. It's a planet that is a bit off the beaten path but it is utterly fabulous. I guarantee that it will take your Mom's mind off her problems, at least for a while." She gave me a speculative look. "You though, my dear, are a bit young for a place like Risa."

"You can't leave me here! My break is coming up so I don't even have to miss school."

She held up her hands in surrender. "Ok then, let me arrange some things."

"Are we going in the Miranda?"

She practically dropped the drink she was carrying. "How in the hell do you know about the Miranda?"

"I heard a lot when I lived here." I gave her my most adult look. She had the grace to blush. "Cameron was here quite a bit if I remember correctly. He mentioned it to you one morning in the kitchen. I was just coming down to breakfast. I was understandably curious."

"Damn, Rise. You never fail to surprise me. Listening at doorways is going to get you into trouble."

I laughed, "Only if I get caught. So what kind of ship is she?"

Shayla gave up in the face of my enthusiasm and began to tell me all about her little ship.

****************

As it turned out Shayla decided to keep me on board with her after she dropped Mom off at Risa. We headed out to rendezvous with several customers. I had been right when I guessed she was a smuggler.

"Smuggler is such a pejorative term, Rise. I prefer purveyor of rare goods." Shayla laughed as she headed us past the craft that had just traded us a large quantity of Aldebaran brandy for 25 strips of gold- pressed latinum. We were now on our way to trade the brandy to traders on a world whose government was currently prohibiting the stuff. "Just filling a need, Rise. That's the essence of the free market system. Learned that from the Ferengi."

We made back 400 strips of latinum for the brandy. A tidy profit. I could understand the allure of her profession. I piloted the Miranda as my aunt hid the currency in the ship's specially prepared false bottom.

"Ok then," she grinned at me, "Let's go get your mom. And I know I don't have to tell you not to tell her about our little adventure." She grinned as I nodded solemnly.

We arrived at Risa the next day and beamed mom up. She looked relaxed and about ten years younger.

"What were you doing down there?" I asked in all innocence.

She blushed as she stood putting her bags away in the overhead cargo hold "Oh this and that."

I threw a glance at my aunt. "It has been my experience that this and that usually means a person has been up to no good." To my amazement mom blushed an even deeper shade of crimson as she fussed with the bags. "I really don't want to know, Mom. Really."

I turned back to the viewscreen and piloted us away from Risa. Shayla seemed content to have me at the helm so I set a course back to Earth following the same path we had taken to get to the vacation planet. A few minutes into the voyage a blip appeared on the screen. "Shayla?"

She was there in an instant. "Damn." She began to furiously key in some commands to the computer. The comm channel suddenly crackled then a harsh voice came over the speaker.

"Vessel in quadrant 422, identify yourself."

Shayla punched in a command and a strange voice answered the hail. "This is Kuzu vessel Caprikl. We are on a routine trading mission. We mean no harm."

"You are in disputed space, Kuzu vessel. You have no business here. Show us a visual."

"Visual capability is not functioning. Please accept our most humble apologies."

As the programmed Kuzu tried to reason with the other ship's captain, I took a moment to scan the vessel. I felt my heart start to beat furiously when I saw that it was a Klingon Bird of Prey.

"Enough! You are clearly evading the truth. Show yourself or be fired upon."

I watched the monitors. "I think they are preparing to fire, there's a weird energy build up on the screen."

"Crap." Shayla reached over and hit some switches. "Everybody hold on," she yelled as she simultaneously turned the little ship and hit it into warp. The extreme stress on the ship as it stretched then flung itself into warp speed knocked both of us about in our seats.

"Any sign of them," Shayla asked a few seconds later.

"No." I scanned the sensors and saw nothing. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my aunt turn back to where mom had been standing. Standing! I turned around as I heard a strange whine come from my aunt.

"Noooo. Chris, nooooo."

I snapped my head around. Another moan echoed in the cabin. I realized as I ran to my mother that it was coming from me. "Mom?"

She was lying on the floor, looking like she was sleeping except for the deep gash on her temple. Blood on the cargo hatch showed where it had hit her when it had been knocked loose by our sudden acceleration.

My fingers reached for the meld. But this time there was truly nothing of her left. My aunt pulled me off her as I began to scream. "Momma! Momma! No, please no!" I didn't stop screaming till a hypo spray brought a welcome blackness down around me.

****************************

The voyage home was a blur to me. Shayla kept me sedated, told me later it was that or listen to me cry and moan, which in that little space was giving her already shattered nerves the creeps. While I was unconscious she took care of the details, called a few friends, pulled a few strings. As far as anyone was concerned, Mom died from a terrible accident during an ion storm while coming home from vacation on my aunt's private craft.

We arrived at Shayla's to find Phillip and Cameron waiting for us. Shayla pushed me, still groggy, toward the Doctor. "Help her Bones, I don't know what to do for her."

He took me inside to the room I always used and we talked for hours. At first I yelled and cried, but in time his gentle soothing brought me some kind of peace and I began to talk more calmly. In the other room I could hear my aunt and Cameron arranging for a funeral, then calling my mother's friends.

My aunt came into my room. She sat down next to me, touched me on the arm. "Rise, we're going to have to clean out the apartment. Do you want to help or do you want to stay here with Phillip?"

I appreciated her giving me a choice. She had treated me as an adult all my life and she wasn't going to stop now. "I want to help. I need to help."

"Ok, hon. We're going now."

It's amazing to me still how quickly you can dismantle the boundaries of a life. It only took that afternoon and the morning of the next day to erase any trace of our happy existence in that apartment. We packed up my stuff first and sent it back to Shayla's in the air car with Cameron. When my room was empty, Shayla turned to me.

"Pick everything you think you'll want someday. We'll put it in storage if it won't fit in the attic."

I felt like a ghoul walking around the house identifying those things that I wanted to keep. An antique plate, some statues, favorite articles of my mother's clothes, her jewelry. I left the furniture and almost everything else. We packaged up the loose items then Shayla called a charity to come pick up the boxes and large pieces. She arranged for a cleaning service then dropped the keys back at the management office.

We all went to bed early, even though I don't believe that any of us really slept. The morning came bright and sunny, and we made our trek to the funeral home. I had borrowed a Kanillian mourning veil from my aunt. Though easy to see out of from the inside, it was completely opaque from the outside.

"Don't you think that it is time to end this?" Shayla asked me gently.

"No." I looked at her as I arranged the headpiece. "Unless someone asks, Christine Chapel did not have a daughter."

"Rise."

"No. I don't exist." I walked out, knowing I had made her unhappy but unwilling to change things. During the service and funeral I stayed with Cameron. I watched the people file in to the service, friends from Seattle, people in uniform from Starfleet, and, sitting together in the back, some of her friends from Starfleet. I recognized Commander Uhura, and Commander Scott, Dr. McCoy, and, my heart leapt into my throat as I studied him, my father, Captain Spock. I was stunned to see him there, I had been so sure he would not attend. I found that I could not take my eyes off him so I studied him for the entire ceremony. It helped to take my mind off the pain I felt over my mother's death. He showed no outward emotion, paid his respects to the deceased with no special flourishes or gestures. He was here as a courtesy to she who had been his wife, I realized, not out of any great grief. I wanted to run at him, fists pounding on that lean frame as I made him hurt as much as I did. I also realized that I wanted to run to him and feel his arms catch me up and offer me the comfort I so badly needed. I was wise enough to know that neither of these actions was likely to happen.

Outside, after the burial, Cameron and I hung back and watched my aunt and Philip say goodbye to the Enterprise crew. Cameron leaned into me, whispered gently. "What does it feel like to see him?"

"Like lemon juice in an open wound. Like finding one of the major pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Like heaven. Like hell."

His hand tightened in mine. "He's your father, Rise. Maybe, now is the time to tell him that?"

"No. Now is not the time." Already a plan was forming.

***************

"Rise, you can't be serious."

"I am deadly serious, Shayla. And I need your help to pull it off."

"What happened to veterinary school?"

"Things have changed."

"Rise, I sympathize with your wish to know your father. But for god's sake this isn't the way. I'll take you to him myself. I'll explain everything."

"No," I said again. I did not lose my temper. I was controlled. I had played at being Vulcan for years. Now I was going to be one for real. "If you take me to him, especially after what has happened, he will have to accept me. And I will never know what he is really like. I will never know why she loved him. My way is best."

We stared at each other for a long time. Her angry blue eyes staring into my calm brown ones. Finally she looked away. I realized that I had won.

"What do you need me to do?"

*****************

I told my jangling nerves to settle down as I waited in the reception area of Spock's office. My back was ramrod straight and my features carefully expressionless as I waited for my father to receive me.

We had worked for weeks on creating my new identity. I would be full Vulcan, but for obvious reasons I couldn't be one that had been raised on that small and close knit planet. I needed an obscure origin, and my years of study had given me the answer. Roughly 12 years ago, about the time I was born, a massacre had taken place on a Vulcan colonized planet named Valkyrian. All of the adults had been killed by a group of outlaws from Orion. Reports of the tragedy had been sketchy but all of them agreed that the manner of death was particularly brutal. The children had been stolen for slavery. A Federation starship had been sent after them and the 72 youngsters had been rescued, but not before some unspeakable acts and experiments had been performed. Most of these children were so traumatized that they barely remembered their former lives and it was deemed safer to let them forget until they were ready to remember. In an effort to honor their loss, they had attached a prefix to their names that would remind all that met them that they had originated on that brave planet.

I nearly smiled thinking how easy it had been for my aunt's contacts to insert one more name into the relevant databases. There were now 73 children recovered. I was a bona fide orphan, in need of a sponsor to further my dream of getting into Starfleet Academy. A full Vulcan, outstandingly bright, 18 year old orphan. My medical records were now completely faked, but nobody would insist on double checking them. Children of Valkyrian were quite understandably afraid of doctors and medical tests. We were allowed to stay with any physician that we could stand to let touch us. And we were never ordered to see another for routine tests. Moreover, we were Vulcans, notoriously bad at actually showing up for scheduled physicals. As long as I did not get wounded or sick no one would ever be the wiser.

I carefully blocked a smile as I thought of my new name. I had chosen it carefully. Val for Valkyrian. And the second part was inspired, I thought, Eris, the Greek goddess of discord. The one who had thrown out the golden apple that started the Trojan War. It was so perfect, being my own name twisted to fit.

"Valeris?" Spock appeared at the door. "Please come in."

I rose calmly, following my father into his office, following Spock into my future.

*****************************

Spock indicated I should take a seat. He sat down behind his desk and picked up my file. "Impressive credentials, Valeris."

I nodded but said nothing. I knew the grades were impressive. And I was proud of them because they were all my own. When I had gone into the databases I had only changed the name from Rise Chapel to Valeris. And added years to increase my age and deleted all references to having skipped six grades. Shayla and Cameron had done most of the creation of my back story. In this new reality Valeris had grown up in Seattle, had lived with Phillip Boyce, who had been on the original medical team treating the Valkyrian children. She had been tutored by several Vulcan friends of Boyce--Shayla had called in some favors with the few Vulcans she knew that would be willing to attest to having contributed to my teaching. Phillip, with my help on the computer, had created an entire medical history for me. The four of us had sat down for many nights and brainstormed on what might be checked into, what might trip me up. After two months of planning and hacking and practicing, I felt sure that I was ready.

Spock leafed through the file. "You did not go to an Academy preparatory school?"

"There wasn't one in Seattle."

"You could have left Seattle. With test scores like these you would have been welcomed anywhere."

"I did not wish to leave Dr. Boyce."

He looked up at me. "Yes, I am surprised at that. Why would you choose to live with a human?"

I kept my face impassive. "He was kind to me when I was rescued. He made me feel safe when I was a terrified and hurt child. I grew attached to him. And he had no one to look after him. I felt that I owed him for bringing me back from the brink of madness that the Orions had left me in." I looked away, as if uncomfortable with the strong memories invoked by this line of questioning. "He was an excellent guardian. He made certain that I had constant exposure to the Vulcans he knew."

"Yes, I am well acquainted with Dr. Boyce's good qualities. I served with him on my first tour."

"Yes, Sir. He told me that. He recommended I come to you to seek sponsorship."

"He could have sponsored you."

I met his gaze fearlessly. "Yes but it would not have meant as much. And as you say I did not go to the right schools. I will need as much help as I can get." When he did not react, I played my trump card. "Sir, I realize you would be taking a chance on me. But you have done it before."

His eyebrow lifted in surprise. "You mean Lieutenant Saavik?" When I nodded his eyes narrowed. "You are right, she did very well at the Academy."

I lifted my chin. "I shall do better."

I saw his head tilt as he took in my arrogance. I did not want to overplay this so I kept my expression stern but let my eyes show amusement. For a moment I thought he would refuse me his help, but then his face relaxed.

"You do not know what you are saying, Valeris. Saavik had an advantage over you." When I looked at him in confusion, he explained. "The academy is an exceptionally difficult environment for a Vulcan. The entire curriculum is designed to build relationships, make you accustomed to working closely and interacting socially with your peer cadre. Everything is based on teamwork. The grades are based on both academic results as well as team evaluations by your peers. Vulcans as a rule are not used to this sort of arrangement. We prefer to contribute as individuals. We generally are not well liked by our teammates and this plays against us. Saavik placed 20th in her class, the highest of any Vulcan to have gone through the Academy. That was because she was half Romulan and could interact with her primarily human comrades with a much greater ease than other Vulcans have been able to."

"I see."

"Do you?"

"I do, Sir. But I too have a unique history. I have been raised with humans. I understand them perhaps far better than most Vulcans, barring yourself of course." He nodded and I continued, "Moreover, there is the issue of Valkyrian."

He looked at me in surprise.

"I was one of the older children, Sir. I was six years old when the massacre happened, so I was old enough to remember why our parents were on the planet in the first place." Valkyrian had been colonized by a small group of Vulcans belonging to an outcast cult. They had left their home planet to escape the harsh coldness of their own culture, seeking instead to establish a balance between logic and emotions. "My first years were perhaps more open, more loving, than a typical Vulcans. Even now I sometimes have trouble hiding certain emotions. For example, when I am amused I am told that my eyes twinkle." I tried to make that sound like a bad thing.

"An interesting point, Valeris. And one perhaps with merit." Again his eyebrow lifted at me in what I was beginning to realize was almost humor.

Without realizing I was doing it I mimicked his movement and cocked my own eyebrow at him.

"I will look forward to seeing your first fitness report." He closed the file.

"Then you will sponsor me?" I had done it. The first hurdle was down.

"I shall talk to Starfleet this afternoon. Be prepared to move into the dormitories next week." He stood and I followed suit, standing as straight as I could.

"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

"You made an excellent case for yourself, Valeris. I would not have chosen you if left to my own devices."

I felt unaccountably pleased at his words. I had impressed him. I reminded myself that this was the man who had treated my mother so coldly, that had hurt us all. Yet as I left his office I did not feel in the least cold or unappreciated. It's just one meeting, I reminded myself. Anyone can make a good first impression, wait till you get to know him, then you'll discover the real Spock.

I left his office and beamed back to Phillip's where all my things now resided as if I had lived there all my life. They were all waiting for me.

"Well?" Shayla said.

I gave her my most Vulcan look. "I was successful in my endeavor." Then I broke into peals of laughter as I flung myself into her arms.

************************

Spock was as good as his word. I received formal acceptance to the Academy the next day. By the following Sunday I was packing up my stuff and preparing to move into the dorms for the two week orientation and testing period. Shayla surprised me as I was closing my bags.

"Hey kiddo. I think you forgot something." She held out a small box.

I opened it and saw my grandmother's ring lying on the cotton. I looked at my aunt puzzled.

"I noticed you had quite wearing it."

"It is too small." I started to shut the box.

"Hey Einstein, you want to try it on before you do that?"

I slipped it easily on my finger. "You had it made bigger?"

"Yeah, sweetheart. And I had them use the gold from those earrings your mom always wore. The white gold studs. I thought that way you'd have a piece of her with you." She smiled at me, that cocky yet tender grin I had grown up loving.

"Oh thank you! I hated not wearing it. Now I'll never take it off. Oh Shayla, I'm going to miss you so." I hugged her and felt her arms tighten around me. Her tenderness undid me. The tears started to fall and I tried to fight them then gave up. "I miss her. I miss her so much."

"Oh Rise, I know you do. It's not too late to stop this. Just turn around and walk away and we'll roam the galaxy in the Miranda and your father will never be the wiser."

I realized she was crying too. I pulled away and wiped her face. "I can't. I wish I could, but I can't." She started to turn away but my hand on her arm stopped her. "I love you Shayla. More than you'll ever know."

She roughly rubbed the tears from her face. "And I love you. If I'd ever had a daughter, I'd have wanted her to be just like you." She picked up my bag and handed it to me. "Now get out of here before I kidnap you and force you to go gallivanting around the stars."

*************

I stood in front of the entrance of the dormitory. Suddenly I was very afraid. The Vulcan was outwardly composed but the twelve-year old Human was terrified and wanted to go home. I took a deep breath and entered through the sliding doors. Inside was pure chaos. Cadets were everywhere, pulling crates, lugging suitcases. Every single one of them looked just as lost as I did. I saw several Starfleet regulars with data pads standing in the middle of the crowd of new arrivals. I pushed in and waited my turn.

"Name?"

"Valeris."

"You're in 33, third floor to the right."

I ignored the lift and walked up the narrow staircase. I found the room much smaller than my own at home. Two beds were against opposite walls, bedding stacked on top. Two desks and two dressers faced each other. A tiny closet on either side would hold clothing and other belongings. I stared at the beds, trying to decide which to take.

"Hi."

I spun to check out the speaker. An extremely pretty human girl stood in the doorway. She held a bag and had another over her shoulder. Her smile was open and friendly. She stuck out her hand. "I'm Cassie. Cassie Drake."

I tried to put as much warmth as I could in my voice as I ignored her outstretched hand. "Hello. I'm Valeris. I guess this is our home now?"

"God it's tiny. Are they trying to kill us," she said walking to the left- hand bed. Decision made.

I put my bag down on the floor at the end of the other bed. "I think they are just trying to get us used to the quarters we will have onboard ship." She looked at me suspiciously. I did not want to alienate her so I let my eyes sparkle as I continued, "But it certainly lacks charm."

She laughed. "We can fix that! There are all kinds of great shops outside the academy. We can get posters and lamps and rugs."

I wanted to laugh but I contented myself with an upswept eyebrow. "Can we unpack first?"

She laughed again. "You're funny, Valeris. I like that! When I saw I was rooming with a Vulcan I was really nervous. I mean I'm not very reserved. In that I kind of like to talk. A lot. And I like to have fun. And so I thought you'd be a real drag. But somehow, judging from that twinkle in your eye that you are trying so hard to hide, I think we are going to get along just great!"

I allowed my mouth to twitch up just a tad. "I'll deny it strenuously, of course."

She grinned and started to make her bed. "Bet my corners end up more regulation than yours!"

I reached for the bottom sheet. "You're on."

In the end both of our beds passed inspection. Our floor CO gave us an appreciative nod as we stood at rigid attention. "Well done, Cadet Drake, Cadet Valeris. Keep it up and you'll have no trouble with me."

When he was gone I watched Cassie comb out her dark red hair and refasten it into a neat bun. She saw me studying her, "What?"

"You seem a contradiction. At one moment complaining about the size of the room and the next standing in perfect form, with a perfect bun, and a perfect bed behind you. I must admit to some confusion."

"I really want to be here, Valeris. *Really* want to be here. But that doesn't mean that there won't be time for fun. We can have both." She patted her hair to make sure no tendrils were escaping. " I'll let you in on a little secret, roomie. I'm going to graduate top of our class."

"That is unfortunate."

"What!"

I raised my eyebrow. "It is unfortunate because I too intend to graduate at the top of our class. I guess that will quickly end our friendship." I felt sadness; already I was losing my first friend.

She gave me a quick knock in the arm. "Are you kidding, Valeris? You think I'd want to be friends with a slacker. What a four years we will have!"

"I plan to do it in three and a half."

She smiled wolfishly at me. "Let's do it in three then. Deal?" She did not offer her hand again but instead made a "why not" gesture.

Another half smile accompanied my answer. "Deal."

*************************

We sat inside the Academy auditorium listening to the latest in a long line of orientation speakers. Most of the lectures had been interesting but this topic was unspeakably dull. A movement at the doorway caught my attention and I watched a familiar figure walk into the classroom and take a seat to the side of the podium. The agenda had said the next briefer was still to be determined or I would have been better prepared to see my father.

Cassie nudged me and pushed her notepad toward me. On it she had written "That's Spock. He's a living legend. What I wouldn't give to meet him."

I took my own notepad and wrote, "I'll introduce you someday. He's my sponsor."

Her look of awe almost made me laugh. I hurriedly wrote more, "I don't really know him yet. I've only met him once."

She looked mollified so we turned back to the speaker just in time to hear him finish and ask for questions. There were none so the class dean got up to introduce Spock.

I'm not sure what I expected from my father. Detached brilliance perhaps. Or Vulcan arrogance. But what stood in front of me was a man that in a quiet, dignified, at times even wryly funny way, challenged us to be our best, to do our best, to give our best. He warned us, he urged us, he made us feel special, and he made us feel charged with a mission to succeed. Watching him I began to understand what my mother had seen in him all those years ago. There were many questions when he finished and then thunderous applause. The dean called for a short break.

"Go see him, Valeris." Cassie urged.

Suddenly I was nervous. This must have been how my mother felt. So terrified of his rejection. "Come with me," I hissed to her. I could feel her following me as we made our way to where a small clump of cadets had besieged my father with more questions.

He looked up and saw us approaching. Excusing himself from the group he moved to meet us, nodding a greeting. "Cadet Valeris, a pleasure to see you again. Who is your friend?"

An interesting choice of words, I thought. And one that he had chosen deliberately. "Sir, may I present Cadet Cassie Drake."

"Cadet." He nodded to her.

She looked as if she would burst with excitement but her voice was composed. "Sir, it is a very great honor."

"Are you two roommates?" We both nodded. He leaned in and spoke conspiratorially. "A word of advice. Stay away from the banana pudding."

Cassie giggled and glanced at me. I had nearly gagged on the stuff last night. "Yes sir. We found that out the hard way. Or Valeris did anyway."

"I'm afraid there are many things that you will find out the hard way here. But that pudding should not have been one of them." He looked at me with a slight twinkle of his own in his eyes. "A tragedy, Cadet Valeris."

"One that could have been avoided if you had warned us sooner, Sir." I knew my own eyes were sparkling now.

"Indeed. I must make it up to you. I believe you have a free dinner period tomorrow? I shall collect both of you after your last class and take you to a place that every cadet should know about. The sooner the better."

Cassie looked as if she had died and gone to heaven. I merely nodded, "Most kind, Sir."

He nodded again and left the room.

Cassie in her excitement grabbed my arm. Somewhat stunned myself, I did not even think to pull away. I felt confused. Two interactions with Spock, three if you counted the lecture, and he was nothing at all like what I had expected. I felt as if I was betraying my mother but I could feel myself beginning to like him.

**********

The next day Cassie and I waited outside the auditorium for Spock to show up. We had been there for twenty minutes. I was surprised at how disappointed I was that he was not here.

"Do you think he forgot?" Cassie sounded as dejected as I felt.

"It would appear so." I picked up my books from the bench. "I guess it's the mess hall for us." As I turned I saw two tall figures approaching, one in uniform, the other in a Vulcan robe. "Or perhaps not."

As the men came into view my heart started to pound desperately. The man with Spock was the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation. Sarek. My grandfather.

"I apologize to both of you. I kept my son delayed on an important matter. I am gratified to see that you were patient."

"Father allow me to introduce Cadet Valeris and Cadet Drake."

Sarek nodded to Cassie politely but seemed to study me intently. "Cadet Valeris, my son's new protégé. I must confess that I am not familiar with your case."

This was one of those situations we had practiced for over and over again. "I have spent no time on Vulcan, Mr. Ambassador. And little around prominent Vulcans. I would be surprised if those on my home planet considered me anything more than an entry in a database."

"Bitterness, Valeris?" The Ambassador's gaze was even as he looked at me.

"No, Sir. Realism. Had I grown up on Valkyrian, as my parents intended, Vulcan would never have known of my existence. It is perhaps the way it was meant to be."

"Logical." Sarek nodded, satisfied. "I will not keep you longer. Enjoy your meal." And he was gone. My father's father. I was in awe.

"Wow," Cassie echoed my thoughts.

"My father *is* rather intimidating upon first meeting." Spock started walking away from campus and we fell in beside him. We walked in silence for several blocks then Spock turned down an alley and disappeared into a dank stairwell. I looked at Cassie and she knit her brows together in suspicion. We followed him down the steps and into a dimly lit but cavernous restaurant. Soft music played and the room was filled with cadets dining in quiet groups or eating alone. I looked at Spock in surprise.

"Sekhmet is always like this. A calm place in the storm that is the Academy. And the food is excellent."

I became aware of the savory smells filling the room. We followed Spock to an empty booth in the back. It was pleasantly warm in the room. A waiter brought us hot cloths, which somehow seemed very decadent. I looked over at Spock but he was taking his time refreshing his hands with the small towel.

"It also has the grace of our home planet, Valeris. You should really make time to visit Vulcan."

I nodded but did not say anything. I was not eager to go there. I was unsure whether my mostly human body would betray me in the planet's thin atmosphere. I could not afford to take the chance.

We let him order an assortment of dishes, and he spent some time finding out more about Cassie and me. When the appetizer came, a large bowl of savory spread with toasted bread, we were all comfortable enough to enjoy the food while we talked. All day I had worried about the evening, afraid that the dinner would be a stilted affair with Cassie's effervescence squashed by Spock's disapproval and me stuck in the middle. But we all seemed to be at ease.

After we had finished our entrees, Cassie brought up our favorite topic. "Sir, do you think it is possible to graduate the Academy in three years?"

He lifted an eyebrow. "I do not understand the question, Cadet."

I rushed to explain. "Cassie and I are both determined to graduate number one. We thought to graduate a year early would help ensure that."

He looked amused. "I am afraid you are both operating under a misunderstanding. There is no graduating early from this particular institution. The idea of much of the curriculum is to help you bond with your peer group, to learn to trust and work together, eventually to be assigned together as junior officers to a ship or shore duty. It would be counterproductive to suddenly thrust you into another class, where you would not have established ties."

I frowned, "Then how does Starfleet know who is excelling? Isn't this system encouraging mediocrity?"

"On the contrary, a student determined to excel can go on to more advanced classes in her discipline, or alternatively might wish to specialize in more than one subject matter. There are always ways to do more than is expected here." It was apparent he could see the gears already whirring in both Cassie's and my mind. "If I might make a suggestion? You would be well advised to allow yourself time to simply adjust to this new environment before you rush off to make academic history."

Cassie turned red and laughed. I let a small half smile loose. "Yes, Sir," we both whispered.

Spock looked satisfied that we had taken his advice to heart. For the next hour or so he entertained us with words of wisdom on the Academy, warnings of the idiosyncrasies of some of the faculty, and a few of the most common mistakes new cadets made in drill. When we finally left Sekhmet and walked back to the campus he was silent, but not in a cold way. As we neared the dorm, Cassie turned to him.

"Thank you so much, Sir, for including me. I'm going to go in now so that you and Valeris can have some time together."

"Most gracious. It was a pleasure having you along, Cadet Drake."

As we stood alone together I was suddenly nervous. His next words surprised me utterly

"What are your plans for the weekend?"

I had originally thought of going home because Cassie was going to stay with a cousin in Sauselito. But Shayla was offworld and I did not feel like being in Seattle without her. "I am unsure of my activities."

"I am staying with my parents while they are on Earth. Saavik will also be here. Why don't you join us for the weekend? They have plenty of room."

I could not believe my ears. Spend time with my father at my grandparents? It was terrifying. It was a dream come true. "I do not wish to intrude, Sir."

"If it were an intrusion, I would not have asked, Valeris. Classes let out at three on Fridays. I will pick you up here at four."

"I will be ready, Sir." I studied him for a long moment. His calm brown eyes did not look away as he too returned my gaze. His look was neither threatening nor particularly academic. It was as if he was getting to know the contours of my face, the variety of my expressions. I felt helpless in the force of that gaze. Finally, in confusion I mumbled a quick "Good night," and turned on my heel walking steadily to the door, when all I really wanted to do was flee.

*****************************

I was incredibly nervous as I rode with Spock in the airtaxi to his parents' house. He had picked me up precisely at four. We did not speak as we passed the familiar off campus area then headed for the suburbs. We drove past the Chancellery building and stopped at a very grand residence. Spock paid the driver as I got our bags out of the trunk.

"Someone will get those," he said, seemingly unconcerned as he opened the front door and walked through.

I put the bags down and left them in the driveway. As I followed my father, a Vulcan passed me. I turned to see him picking up the load I had dropped. Spock's voice calling my name made me hurry inside. And stop in awe. I had never seen a more beautiful place. It was huge; no doubt they had to entertain large groups here. The furniture was heavy yet graceful. All darks and lights, the colors of shadows and sand. A small fountain was in the entranceway and several others were in the large receiving room. I was surprised to see that the artwork was mostly of Human origin given the overwhelming Vulcanness of the rest of the décor.

"This must be Valeris."

I turned instinctively to the welcoming voice. A small woman was approaching. She was dressed in an outfit that managed to be somehow both Human and Vulcan but she was unmistakably human.

"I'm Spock's mother. Please call me Amanda. My son has told me a great deal about you."

I resisted raising my eyebrow. I did not see that Spock knew much about me to tell. "It is a great pleasure to meet you, Amanda. I thank you for allowing me to visit."

"Don't be silly, dear. We have lots of room." She turned to Spock, "Your father wishes to see you in his office. I'll show Valeris around." He obediently left to seek Sarek out and I followed Amanda around the house as she showed me my room and the various other places I would need to know. We ended up in the kitchen. As Amanda shooed a servant away and put some water on for tea I saw a huge black cat sunning herself in the large picture window. Her copper eyes stared back at me. "Oh how beautiful!" I moved slowly to her and began to touch her head and throat.

Amanda turned around in alarm. "Oh no dear Freya doesn't like Vulc." She trailed off as the cat flopped over on her back and allowed me free access to her belly.

Her purrs filled my ears as I lost myself in the pleasure of being with an animal again. I was barely aware of Amanda saying, "Well she has never liked a Vulcan until now."

Freya grabbed my hand in a clear "Ok, enough," signal. I pulled away gently and sat down at the table where my grandmother had laid out some cookies to go with our tea. I gave her a tiny smile. "I was raised with animals. Dr. Boyce taught me to care for them. She must sense that."

"What a different life you must have had, Valeris. Tell me about it."

I found myself telling Amanda much more than I would have thought possible, given that so much of the backbone of my new life story was a lie. But I wanted her to know me, the real Rise, or at least as much of me as I could give her without exposing myself as a fraud. An hour flew by as we talked.

A voice sounded from the direction of the front room, "Amanda?"

"Saavik! In the kitchen, dear."

I had seen pictures of Saavik, but no flat image could capture the raw energy of the woman. She filled the room like a hurrican, giving Amanda a quick hug, fake snarling at Freya, then grabbing a cookie and chewing it absentmindedly as she studied me. "So you're Valeris?"

I had to bite back a sarcastic retort. It would not do to alienate her. I simply nodded.

She leaned in and laughed. "How very Vulcan you are."

"Now, Saavik, she's a sweet girl, you go easy on her."

Saavik dropped into a chair. "Oh fine, Amanda." She winked at me and I felt my expression loosen. "So who wants to hear all the latest gossip from Vulcan?"

I learned much from listening to the two women talk. Saavik had elected to take a short leave of absence from Starfleet after Spock's return to life but she planned to resume duty in three months. In the meantime she was doing some independent study at the Vulcan Science Academy. She knew many people on the planet and I filed away the unfamiliar names to look up later. I had little to contribute to the conversation so eventually Amanda steered it back to the Academy. Saavik told me several stories so hilarious I thought I would burst some vital internal organ trying to maintain my Vulcan composure. Then she gave me lots of advice on all kinds of things, from studies to boys.

Two low voices in the hallway signaled that Sarek and Spock were done with their business. We joined them in the front room and talked for another hour before dinner, which was a delicious and formal affair. Sarek seemed interested in me but I found myself slightly tongue-tied around him. I hoped my short answers made me seem more Vulcan and not less so.

I realized that I was exhausted about midway through the dessert course. I fought to stay alert but my tired eyes betrayed me to Spock who had been studying me off and on throughout dinner.

"Perhaps you should retire, Valeris?"

I jerked up at his words. "No, I am fine."

Saavik gave a snort of disbelief. "It's no crime to be tired after your first week at the Academy. It takes a while to get accustomed to the schedule and the constant presence of other people. Just having a roommate for the first time can be rough. I don't think I slept well for the first month I was there. So take advantage of that big comfy bed in your large private room upstairs and say goodnight, Valeris."

I deadpanned, "Goodnight, Valeris."

Saavik grinned back. "You have been around Humans for a while, haven't you? Now skedaddle."

I rose, turned to my hostess. "My apologies."

Amanda smiled. "Don't be silly. Go."

Spock gave me a warm look. "Sleep well, Valeris."

*********

A cold fog hid the path in front of me. I felt my way through the woods.

"Rise?"

"Mom?" I started to run. Branches whipped my face, brambles caught in my hair. I fell and scraped my knee. "Mom?"

"Rise, what have you done? What have you done?" She stood in front of me. Just as she had the last time I had seen her alive. Beautiful and glowing from her time on Risa. But she was looking at me with disapproval. "Rise, you have to stop. Don't you see you're killing me."

"No, Mom. No, I'd never do that." I reached out to her face. Where my hand touched her forehead a great gash appeared. Blood poured out.

"See? See what you're doing to me."

No! I jerked awake, trying to get my bearings in the strange room. Seconds passed before I realized I was in my grandparents' house in San Francisco. I sat up in bed breathing heavily, unwilling to put my head back down for fear of returning to the dream. I suddenly wanted milk. I had seen some in the kitchen and perhaps Freya was still down there. I slipped my feet into my soft slippers and stole down the hall. The upper level of the house was silent. As I crept down the stairs I heard a low murmur of voices in the library. A fire glowed behind the cracked door.

"It is logical, Spock. Surely you must see that."

"It is too much to ask." Spock's voice was ragged.

Curious I slipped to the side of the door and listened as Saavik attempted to convince him of something. "Spock, if you have made other arrangements for this eventuality then you have only to say so. But if you have not then the logical thing is to allow me to help you. I did it before to keep you alive, I will do it again."

"I do not wish to discuss this." He moved to the door and I readied myself to rush away but he stopped when she spoke again.

"You have what, a month? Two? We knew it would come again soon, you aged many years on the Genesis Planet between that first plak tow and now. It was just a matter of time. Spock, I love you like a father, not like a lover, but I will do this if it means you will not die. You know that I loved David and that I do not wish to bond with you. But David is dead and you will be too if you do not arrange a resolution to this problem." Her tone was harsh.

I realized finally what they were discussing. He and Saavik? And she said they had done it before, but seven years earlier she would have been little more than a child, barely older than I was. It made no sense. Perhaps time moved differently on this Genesis Planet?

Her voice was an entreaty now, "Spock, tell me you will come to me. I will still be on extended leave. Or if you have no need of me tell me that you will make use of another. I cannot bear the thought of you being lost to the Federation. We need you. I need you."

"And in another seven years, will you do this for me then too?" My father's tone was defeated. I realized he was agreeing to her proposal.

There was a smile in her voice. "I hope not. I hope to have found someone to replace David in my heart. I didn't know him for long, but the days I spent with him taught me of love." Spock made a small sound. "Oh you can dismiss the emotion, Spock. But you cannot deny you have found someone that fascinates you. I have a feeling that in seven years you will be well taken care of." She laughed at something he muttered. "You stare at her quite intensely you know." Another sound from my father, too low for me to make out. "No, I don't believe anyone else has noticed. And who cares if they have. I think she will be eminently suitable for you."

I heard them approaching the door and I fled to the kitchen and found the milk. As I stood drinking it from a tall glass I heard the stairs creak as the two of them went up together to their rooms. I wondered who it was that my father found so entrancing. Then I thought of my mother. Had she discussed sleeping with him as dispassionately as Saavik had? I hoped not. She had loved him so much, but did he feel anything for her at all? I decided to keep an eye out for this young woman Spock was interested in. I was curious to see what kind of woman could possibly fascinate him?

************************

The next day we all enjoyed breakfast together before going our separate ways. As we sat at the formal dining table I asked Saavik and Spock about their shipmates on the Enterprise, the most famous ship of the fleet. They talked at length about James T. Kirk. I was surprised to hear from Saavik that the Captain had a lost a son to the Klingons. She did not elaborate and I thought it wise not to press. Then their conversation turned to other members of the crew. I heard about the miracle working abilities of Montgomery. Scott. Learned of the contradictory Hikaru Sulu, so imperturbable on one hand and so impulsive on the other. Wondered at the boyish naivete of Pavel Chekov. Heard admiration in both of their voices for Nyota Uhura and her abilities with a comm panel as well as her talents with her own voice and even the Vulcan harp. And I wanted to laugh at Spock's tales of the irascible Dr. Leonard McCoy.

As their stories trailed off I asked "Surely in all those years aboard the Enterprise there were more people than that to talk about?"

Saavik looked sad but Spock spoke up. "There are those that gave their lives. At the time you believe that you will never forget them, but their memories fade."

You bastard, I thought, what about those that gave their bodies so that you could live. "But those that lived? Surely there are others?"

Spock looked at me curiously. "There is no one else, Valeris, that I would put in the same category as those we mentioned. When I look back on the years on the Enterprise and even after, it is their faces I see."

I fought to keep my expression interested but ambivalent. But inside I felt a hot surge of anger toward him. He didn't even mention her as a side note. She truly did not even exist for him.

"You will find that you will bond with a small group of people. They will remain your friends for a long time. Others will come and go."

No, I thought, others will not go, they will die. I was happy when Amanda rose, signaling the end of the meal. I excused myself and went up to my room to gather my things together. I was surprised to find Freya stretched out on my bed. I opened my mind to her, asking permission to pick her up. She sat up and let me lift her. As I settled down on the bed, I felt her tuck her head under my chin and begin to purr so loudly I could feel it through my bones. I felt the tears begin to well and heard in my mind. *Girl.sad.I help.* The cat pushed her head more tightly against my chin and did not move even as my tears started to fall, dripping down onto her fur. For several minutes I just let go and cried. My heart screamed out for my mother. I no longer enjoyed the charade I was playing. It was no longer a game. There was too much here that I didn't understand.

I pulled my head away from Freya, dropping a quick kiss on her head, which was soaking wet. She squirmed out of my arms and claimed the pillows, where she curled up and went to sleep. I rubbed at my eyes angrily. I might miss my mother more than I ever thought possible. I might hate my father at this moment more than anything. But I had come here to get to know him, and this was part of that. I had known that the warm and caring Spock couldn't last. That somehow the mask would shatter. It just made it harder that he was still open and interested in me. It was the ultimate betrayal of my mother. By him. And by me.

*****************

The second week of orientation was mainly comprised of placement and fitness tests. Cassie and I were often together in the advanced science and math exams. We made it a game to see who could come out of the test feeling more secure. I generally won when it came to appearing confident but I was beginning to think that she would in fact outperform me.

On Thursday morning we were given our final class assignments and drill times. Cassie and I had both placed in the advanced calculus course as well as several upper level engineering and science courses. Our drills though would separate us as we had been assigned to different squads. The dean of first year cadets stood up and told us what to expect from our first day of classes. An upperclassman explained in detail the behavior that would be expected from us by our third-year squad and floor leaders. Then we were given a surprise: early release to download our class material and Friday off to go home or see San Francisco. I decided to head for Seattle. I debated whether to inform Spock and ultimately chose not to. After I logged in my whereabouts to the dorm computer I headed for the campus transporter.

In no time I was beaming into the main Seattle transporter hub. I quickly moved to the line that would take me back out to the peninsula stop. Then I hopped on the first airbus going near Phillip's house. He wasn't home but the house let me in, having been programmed to accept my retina scan. I fairly ran to the comm unit and dialed up Shayla. Please be home, I chanted, please be home.

When she appeared on the screen her face went from mildly annoyed to overjoyed. "Rise! What the hell are you doing here?"

"We got off early. I thought I would walk over if you don't mind?"

She laughed. "Don't mind? Are you crazy! And don't move a muscle. I'll be out to get you in a minute. And I do not want to see that damn uniform till you leave. Put on something comfy, we're going to the beach."

I ran to my room and fished around my dresser for some shorts and a t- shirt. I grabbed some hiking sandals from the closet and braided my long hair. I had no sooner finished than I heard a honking outside and I grabbed my beach bag, still sitting exactly where I had left it on a chair, and ran to meet my aunt.

Shayla was leaning against the air car and caught me up as I launched myself at her. Her arms tightened around me and I started to laugh. Too late I realized I was crying too.

"Rise? Rise, what's wrong?" She studied me in concern. "Honey, talk to me."

I swallowed hard. "I'm just so glad to see you. I missed you. I hated not being able to call you."

"I know. I was glad to be off world for your first week. I found the house unbearably empty without you in it."

We climbed into the car and she steered us to the beach. I told her all about Cassie and the tests and my classes. I found myself studiously avoiding the subject of Spock, and Shayla did not ask me for any details.

When we got to the ocean I pulled off my sandals and rushed out to the water, kicking my way through the icy surf. Just let me be a child again, I thought. Just for a little while. Shayla spread out a blanket and lay down to relax in the autumn sun. I took off running down the rim of wet sand, occasionally jumping over a wave but never stopping till I was nearly out of sight of her. I saw her sitting up and watching me. I had the oddest feeling as I stared back at her. Like if I could freeze this moment in time everything would be all right. She suddenly waved and I jogged back to her, throwing myself down on the blanket and breathing hard as I stared up at the sky.

"Feel better?"

"I always feel better with you, Shayla."

"You can't avoid telling me about him forever." She lay back down on her back and closed her eyes. "So tell me, kiddo. How's your father?"

"He is not what I expected. Most times he is better than I expected." I lay back next to her. "And he is also worse than I expected. But he has accepted me without reservation."

"Yes, he is like that. You are a Vulcan. Why would he even question?"

"Well his father did."

I could feel her turn to look at me. "You met your grandfather?"

"My grandmother too. He scares me. But she is wonderful."

"Well yeah. She's human."

"And the rest of them are not. Oh Shayla, I don't know if this is what I really want to do anymore. It seemed like such a good idea. But I have this awful feeling about everything I am doing. It isn't bringing Mom back. In a way it is dragging me farther away from her. And the Vulcans.I don't want to end up like them. I'm human. But there is another part of me that wants to keep going, to see this out. At least for a little bit longer." I turned over on my stomach and absently gathered a handful of sand, letting it run through my fingers.

"I'll make you a deal, Rise. Stay for another month. That should be plenty of time to find out whether you like the Academy, whether you want to get to know your father more or not. If you do then you do nothing, just stay. But if you don't want to stay you drop out and come back to me and we'll live one great adventure after another."

I laughed, "The smuggler queen and her ward?"

"Exactly."

I leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I've missed you so, Shayla. It is so strange to be in a place where no one loves me. I'm not sure I ever realized how lucky I was as a child, to have such affection, to be so assured of love. It is good to know that I can always come home to you."

My aunt stroked my cheek. "Always, Rise. Always."

*****************************

My first real week at the academy was incredibly tough. And wonderfully stimulating too. I sat next to Cassie in our advanced classes and realized that for the first time in my life I was going to be challenged, truly pushed, by my teachers. I found myself sucking up the information like a little sponge. I also enjoyed the team exercises. My instructors, and probably my team members, were surprised at my ease in fitting in. As Rise Chapel I had been accustomed to working and socializing with others and this carried over to my life as Valeris. Especially in humorous situations, when most Vulcans would have acted indifferent or superior, I had found that a slight turn up of the mouth or a short glimmer of humor from the eyes was sometimes all it took to win someone to my side. They appeared to expect so little back from Vulcans that this must have seemed like a great gift.

I did as well at drill, but did not enjoy it. My form was perfect, but my attitude was not quite so flawless. It was during those early morning hours that I discovered I had a rebellious side. I had never actually been forced to do anything I didn't want to during my childhood. Suddenly everything I did was under scrutiny. And the drill sergeant, a young midshipman, seemed to have it in for me.

"Cadet Valeris? What is this?" She pointed to my finger.

"Sir, it is a family ring, Sir." I tried to straighten my posture even more than it already was.

"It's not regulation, Cadet. Don't let me see it again."

I felt instant anger at her tone. "Sir, regulations permit jewelry as they apply to member planet's cultural norms."

She was suddenly way too close, "Then I suggest, Cadet, that you bring me a copy of the reg that allows this particular ring or you leave it in your room. Understood?"

I wanted to spit in her face, or punch her. I did neither. Staring at her nose I mumbled, "Sir, yes Sir."

Her voice was too loud in my ears, "I can't hear you, Cadet."

"Sir, yes Sir," I yelled back at her.

By the time I made it back to my room I was shaking with rage. I sat down at my computer and began searching through the regulations on personal jewelry while in uniform.

Cassie was just waking up for her first class and was on her way out the door to the bathroom when she saw what I was looking at. "What's up?"

I held up my left hand. "Danzig doesn't like my ring. Says it isn't regulation. I said it was permitted. But I'm not seeing it here." I closed down the machine with an angrier motion than I would normally have used. "It was my grandmother's and my mother's. I said I would never take it off. But now it looks as if I'll have to."

"Hang on." She walked over to her bureau, began rifling through the top drawer. Pulling something out she carried it over. It was a long slender chain. "Give me the ring." She put the chain through the ring, wrapped it once to hold it in place, and put it around my neck. "There. You have it on, but it will never show under the uniform. Problem solved." She gave me a nasty grin. "And screw Danzig."

I couldn't help myself. I gave her a wicked half smile back. "Indeed."

*************

We settled into a routine. Classes all day, studying all night. When things got too much we retreated to Sekhmet for peace and quiet, or one of the other cadet hang outs for a more lively time. Cassie and I were rarely apart but we were building a core group of people that we tended to run with. I was enjoying the feeling of belonging. And they seemed to sense that and accepted me as one of the crowd.

Spock became a constant fixture in my life, usually calling about once a week to take me to his parents' house for dinner, or to some musical event, or to see more of the modern art that he and his mother collected. Sometimes Cassie came with us. Other times Saavik or even Amanda. He disappeared for a few weeks several months after classes began. Saavik too was unaccounted for. I knew where they had gone but tried not to dwell on it. When he returned life went on as normal.

I was torn as to my feelings for my father. I found myself enjoying the time we spent alone together. Or most of it anyway. There were times that I felt uncomfortable around him. Occasions that I would catch him looking at me in a way that left me confused and just a little nervous. At other times though he was excellent company, teaching me things I had not learned with my mother or aunt: the differences between painters of a similar period, the intricacies in a piece of music, the beauty in one of his science equations. I struggled constantly with the feeling that every single moment I enjoyed with Spock was a betrayal of my mother.

Times with my aunt, on the other hand, were pure unadulterated bliss. When I could manage to see her. As the rigors of the Academy bit into more and more of my personal time and her offworld forays became more frequent it was getting harder to link up with her. But when we did get together, Shayla was always happy to see me, and it was a huge relief to be able to let down my guard and be human again. Each time as I was getting ready to walk through the door and go back to school, she would give me a big hug and whisper, "You sure you want to do this?" I would nod and she'd let me go with a quick kiss and a smile. After the first few months it became a game. I knew she was proud of me and of how well I was doing, even though I suspected she would have preferred to have me with her.

Before I knew it, the first semester was over. Then the second and it was time for a short break and then the compressed summer term would start. Spock invited me to accompany Saavik and him to Vulcan but I turned him down, saying that Dr. Boyce had already made plans for my break. For the next month, I stayed in Seattle, sleeping over at my aunt's whenever I could. I wanted more than anything to go out with her on a short delivery in the Miranda, but it seemed like too much of a risk.

"Don't pout, Rise. Pretty soon you'll be piloting something a whole lot bigger than the Miranda." Shayla laughed at my expression. "Hey, I'm not the one that said you couldn't come with me. If you want to come, then come."

But in the end I didn't. She went out with Cameron and I stayed back with Phillip. For three days we amused ourselves and then my aunt and her partner were back and we played for the rest of my vacation.

Returning to school was no longer terrifying because I had Cassie. Our friendship was nearly as strong as our academic rivalry. Fortunately, we had finished the first term tied for first in the class standings. Throughout the year we had vied back and forth for the top honors. I would do better on an exam, then she would ace a lab, then I would get the highest marks on a simulation, then she would give a briefing that was better than mine. Neither of us knew who was in the lead by the time classes ended. I think we were both relieved that so far it was a tie.

We had chosen to room together again for the next year, so we packed up our things and moved out of the plebe dorm. Our room in the new dorm was just slightly bigger but the floor CO's were much more mellow. The upperclassmen with the most sadistic traits, like Danzig who still didn't like me but had never figured out what I had done with my ring, tended to choose those drill positions that would allow them to make the new cadets' lives a living hell. After than it was the plebe dorm postings that allowed for the most hazing. Those upperclassmen assigned to the second year cadets' dorm tended to be more interested in putting down the experience on their resume than tormenting new students.

Summer term was over quickly. Most classes given during this time were pass/fail only, which allowed the students a little breathing space and time to enjoy the largely elective offerings. I had taken a class on the history of inventions as well as a xenoanthropology course on myths across the Federation. This would be the last time we were allowed to kick back in our studies. Our future courses would be hard sciences, math, engineering, computer, and of course military science, ethics, and protocol. Our summers would be spent on short training cruises in a variety of vessels. We were in for a very busy three years.

On the last day of summer term, Cassie and I were walking back to our room from class. We saw a huge commotion in front of the plebe dorm. Students were arriving singly, in pairs, or with their families. We could see the chaos inside the dorm.

"That was us just one year ago."

Cassied nodded and touched my hand gently. "I wouldn't have been so scared then if I had known you were waiting for me."

"Nor would I."

"You? Scared? Nothing scares you, Valeris!"

We made our way around the new arrivals. "Sure it does. I'm just not allowed to show it."

"Hmm." She did not sound convinced. "So what do you say we go out and celebrate? Why don't we hop down the coast and go to LA for a couple of days? I've always wanted to see it, and the Hollywood Museum is supposed to have some amazing exhibits and sims?" She danced around me excitedly, her tone wheedling. "Oh c'mon, Valeris, let's get out of here, let's go have some fun!"

"Ok," I allowed my eyes to twinkle at her. "Let's go."

I hoped the sims wouldn't prove too exciting. I knew from experience that amusement park rides tended to make me squeal in a most unVulcan-like way. I gave a mental shrug. This would be an excellent test of my newfound restraint. And besides, it would be a blast.

**************************

We were midway through our second year. Our last midterm was over and we had a short break coming up. Cassie and I were on our way back to the dorm discussing our plans for the upcoming free time. She was going home to Albuquerque tomorrow. I was heading back to Seattle; it had been far too long since I had seen my aunt.

"Rise?"

Stunned, I turned too quickly, nearly overbalancing. I felt Cassie steady me. The sight that met me could not have been more shocking. It was Cameron, but his normally handsome face was puffy and his golden eyes were red.

"Cameron?" I turned to Cassie. "It's ok. This is an old friend. I'll catch up with you later."

She studied Cameron curiously. "Why did he call you Rise?"

"It's his pet name for me. I've got to go." I followed Cameron down the trail away from campus. "Cameron, what the hell are you doing here? What's wrong?"

He started walking faster. "Not here, Rise. Just wait."

We walked for some time in silence and I grew more and more worried. Why couldn't he just tell me? Finally he turned off into a small off campus motel. He pulled out his key and let us into a room on the first level. "Sit down, Rise."

I did so as he locked the door and drew the curtains. He stood for a moment at the window as if gathering strength. When he turned back around I was shocked to see tears in his eyes.

"Cameron, what is it? What's happened?" He just looked at me, as if helpless to begin what he had come here to tell me. "Oh god. No. Please not Shayla." I rose and grabbed him by the arms. "Tell me it's not Shayla, damn it! It can't be her." I was crying now too as he just looked at me sadly.

He put his arms around me and pulled me close. "It wasn't even a smuggling run she was on. She had decided to surprise Phillip with a birthday trip to Risa. They were on their way back when it happened."

I pulled away, fought desperately for some measure of control. My whole world was crumbling. "Who did it?"

He shook his head, "Nobody's really sure. The Miranda was completely destroyed. It's disputed territory, Rise. It would just be speculation at this point."

"Who?" I screamed at him.

"Klingons."

I paced the room, he tried to catch me up in his arms but I wouldn't let him. "Everything! They've taken everything from me! Damn them! Damn them to hell!" I stopped mid stride. I felt dizzy, the room was spinning. "Help me," I whispered.

He was there, easing me down on the bed, holding me while I wept, crying his own tears. Finally, after what seemed like hours later, I lay still next to him. "I have nothing left," I said flatly.

"You have me, Rise. Don't stay here any longer. You belong with someone that loves you, someone that knows who you are and accepts you for it. Not that damn Vulcan. He may have fathered you, but I've been more of a dad to you than he could ever dream of being. Come with me, Rise. We're all the family we have left."

I felt his lips on my forehead. I felt safe with him. He was right; he was more of a father than Spock would ever be to me. Part of me wanted to go with him but I couldn't. "Will you be there for the funeral, Cameron?"

He accepted my question as the answer it was. "Yes. I'll help you with that and with the houses. Phillip left you everything he had, you know. He considered you a daughter, too."

I was mildly surprised. I had been so wrapped up in my mother and aunt I had never stopped to think that Phillip might have loved me just as much. "I need to go back to the dorm, to sign out."

He got up. "I have Shayla's car outside, let's go."

I looked around for his bags. "You came with no luggage?"

"This room wasn't for me, it was for you. So you could cry in peace and not blow your precious cover." He smiled at me sadly, "I guess I already knew what your answer would be. I had to ask though."

"I know. I'm glad you did, even if I couldn't say yes. Ask me again sometime, you might be surprised."

He pulled me into another quick hug. "I love you, kiddo."

"I love you, Cameron."

****************

I hurriedly signed out on the dorm computer than rushed up to the room. Cassie wasn't in the room but her bags were still on the bed. I grabbed my own bags, started to throw a fresh uniform into it; I would need it for the funeral.

"Rise, what are you doing?"

I spun in anger. "What did you call me."

Cassie looked bewildered. "You said it was a nickname. I thought it was cute. That you might like to hear it."

I knew my eyes were cold, "You were mistaken." I turned back to my packing.

"Valeris," she emphasized the word, "Why are you packing a uniform for break?" When I did not react she physically stopped me, her hands holding me in place. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

My words were barely audible, "My guardian has been killed in an accident."

"Oh god, I'm so sorry." She tried to turn me to face her.

"Please don't," I nearly whimpered. "I am quite emotional. My sponsor would not approve. It is most inappropriate." I shuddered with the strain of holding in the grief and the lies.

She turned me forcibly, "Spock be damned, Valeris. You were raised among humans. I've seen you react just as I would to funny things, to sad things. You don't have to hold this in with me. I'm your best friend. And I love you."

Her last words nearly undid me. I could feel the shudders grow stronger. "I'm all alone, Cassie. All alone."

She pulled me down and held me close. I did not cry but my whole body shook as she comforted me. For one moment it was not my roommate's voice but my mother's whispering, "There, there. There, there."

Mom, I cried out in my mind. Mom, I'm losing you. Now I've lost Shayla too. Mom, help me, please help me.

"Shhh," Cassie urged. "Shh. You'll never be alone, Valeris. Not while I'm alive."

I didn't tell her that her words were scant comfort. People I loved had a habit of dying.

***********************************

Cassie had offered to come with me to Seattle but I had sent her home to her family. There were many things I would have to take care of and it would just be easier without her there.

"But I don't want you to be alone," she had protested.

"I won't be. Cameron will be there to help me." I had shooed her out of the room. "I'll see you in a week, Cassie. And thank you. You'll never know what your friendship means to me."

Now I stood alone in front of two new graves. The joint funeral service was over. A mixed group of civilian and Starfleet had attended. I had worried about attending, worried that some of the mourners would see me as Rise, others as Valeris. Briefly, I had considered again wearing the black veil that had so effectively hidden me from the world at my mother's funeral but at the last moment had put on my uniform, suddenly not carrying what risks I ran. I was at the point of numb ambivalence. If I were found out then I would leave with Cameron. If not I would keep on the path to my father. The universe could decide for me, I no longer cared to.

And in the end I had not been exposed. The minister was new in town and only knew me as Phillip's ward. Only a few friends of both my mother and aunt attended and they were discreet in their condolences. As I looked at the fresh dirt, so close to my mother's plot, I felt a part of my life closing off. Rise Chapel was well and truly dead. And I didn't know yet who or what Valeris really was.

"Excuse me, Miss." A small man stood at my elbow. "I'm so sorry to intrude on your time of sorrow. But I think you will want to hear what I have to say. I handled Shayla Ross' business affairs."

I raised an eyebrow at him. "I know her lawyer. You are not he."

He nodded agreement, "You're right. I'm the one that handled her more. how shall I put this?. irregular business dealings." When I did not react, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a clear capsule containing bright pink liquid. "Do you know what this is?"

"I haven't any idea. Now if you'll excuse me."

"Rise Chapel," he hissed, "Your aunt wanted you to have a safety net and it is my job to make sure you know how to use it. Now get back here.

I turned slowly. "What is your name?"

"My name is Cassius Miranda. I've been looking out for your aunt's affair for a long time. Kept her out of legal hot water quite a few times," he chuckled. "She was a one, that Shayla. Now are you going to trust me or not?"

I walked over to him. "Alright. I shall trust you, Mr. Miranda."

He fussed with the vial holding the capsule. "Call me Cassius, my dear. Now hold out your hand, palm up."

I did as he said and he laid the capsule on my skin. In seconds it was melting into my palm, the pink liquid burning slightly as it disappeared. The pain was gone quickly. "What was it?"

"Ferengi bank id fluid. Ingenious really. The liquid can't be detected now that it is in your system. But it will subtly alter your blood reading just enough to identify you to a number of bank managers on some off shore worlds that have less than stringent observation of Federation finance laws."

"I don't understand."

"Oh I know that Dr. Boyce left you the bulk of his estate. But if you were to have to leave Earth rather suddenly you might not have access to this money. Plus the Federation knows about it. Your aunt wanted you to have some money you could get to at anytime, and as anyone you needed to be. These accounts are yours free and clear. And you'll find there is quite a lot of latinum in them, too. Shayla was a canny speculator. She always seemed to know where the need was going to open up. You could trust that she would be one of the first in with the product de jour." He smiled fondly as he handed me a list. "You just present yourself at one of these banks. There are funds waiting for you in all of them. Oh and better hurry up and memorize that list, the paper disintegrates 10 minutes after exposure to air."

He was silent as I consigned the names and addresses of the five banks to memory. Just as he said, the paper began to tear apart and soon there was nothing left. I studied him curiously, "You could have used this capsule as easily as I, yes?"

"Sure, they don't care what you look like, or who you say you are. You just have to have the right code running through your blood."

"They why didn't you use it?"

"Because your aunt wanted it for you."

I gave him a full smile. It felt strange to my mouth. "I can see why my aunt named her ship after you, Cassius. You are a man of honor."

"Well I don't know about that, Ms. Chapel." He grinned at me and dug some business holocards out of his vest. "Just in case you ever find yourself in a jam. That's my direct line. Make sure Cameron has one too. I've had to move recently, don't know if he has the new number."

"Thank you."

"My pleasure, dear. Good luck with your Starfleet career. If you are anything like your aunt, they're not going to know what hit them." He chuckled to himself as he moved off.

I stared at my palm. My internal numbness had been replaced with a warm appreciation of my aunt's ability to watch out for me, even after she was dead.

************

In a week I had taken what I wanted out of Phillip's house and sold the rest of the furnishings with the house to a young Starfleet couple just starting out. Cameron and I had taken Phillip's clothing and personal items to a center collecting supplies for offworld refugee. Once we were done I put the money from the sale in my Federation account and moved in with Cameron for my last day. Shayla had left him the house. I had always suspected they were lovers but I had never guessed at the depth of emotion he carried in his heart for her. He was truly devastated by her death.

"What are you going to do?"

He shook his head, "Go off world, make some money, cause some trouble. I don't know."

"You mean you don't *care,* don't you."

"Don't start, Rise. I'm not in the mood."

"Ok. Just be careful. I may need you someday."

He smiled at that. "Nyah. You're always going to be able to land on your feet. But I'll keep tabs on you from wherever I happen to be. Use the house if you want. It'll get lonely without anyone living in it."

"It's just a house, Cameron."

"No, it's filled with memories, of all the love and laughter and anger and fights and passion that ever happened in it. It'll never be just a house."

"I'll take good care of it," I assured him. But in my heart I doubted the truthfulness of that statement. Hodgekiss, the cat that I had taken in all those years ago, had run away the night Cameron and I showed up. I had called and called her but she had not come back. I believed that she knew she had been abandoned by Shayla and was off for greener pastures. I wished that I could be so resilient.

**************

"I grieve with thee, Valeris."

I looked up to see Spock standing in the door to my room. I had made it back from break before Cassie so I was alone. I examined his demeanor, his face. He didn't appear to be feeling anything at all.

"Most kind, Sir."

"If there is anything I can do?"

I shook my head. "Everything has been done. But again, most kind."

He moved into the room, sat at the desk. "Valeris, I hope you know that you can come to me during times such as these. I am in a position to understand feelings, strong emotions, such as the grief you must be feeling now but are hiding so well."

Sure, I thought bitterly. I know how broken up you were by your own wife's death. "I will consider your offer, Sir."

"Valeris, when we are alone, you can call me Spock. I will not be offended."

I was so angry with him at that moment I almost blurted out, "How about if I just call you Daddy, you arrogant bastard!" But I swallowed my rage and said demurely, "I fear that if I were to become accustomed to that I would slip and shame you in some public forum."

His voice was very gentle, "I doubt that you would. You are generally the model of Vulcan propriety. I have had no reason to regret my choice to sponsor you."

"I will consider it, Sir. It is an idea that will take some getting used to." I was relieved to see Cassie enter the room, lugging a new Navaho rug under her arm.

"Hi, Valeris," she noticed Spock sitting to the side, "Oh! Hello, sir!"

"Cadet Drake." He rose. "I will leave you, Valeris. Please consider what I said."

Cassie waited till he was gone then asked, "What did he say?"

I shook my head, "Just some advice on which classes to take." I nodded at the rug. "So tell me about this. And every other thing that happened while you were home."

******************************

My 14th birthday passed unmarked. I had expected something from Cameron but he appeared to have disappeared off the face of the Earth, in this case literally, and I had no idea where he might be. My twentieth birthday, on the other hand, was remembered by Cassie, who gave me a funny card and some hair ornaments. She also insisted on buying me dinner at Sekhmet. We walked down to the restaurant through a light rain that blew up under our umbrellas, leaving us as damp as if we had not even bothered with the rain gear. The dank warmth of the cave-like restaurant felt good against my rain-slicked skin. We made our way to a booth in the back.

"Valeris, Cassie, hi." It was Tom Cranston. He was an upperclassman that we had met in one of our advanced science courses. He was sitting with three other cadets and I recognized the female sitting next to him as my drill instructor from hell, Danzig. She did not look very happy when we stopped to talk.

Cassie ignored her. "Hey Tom. It's Valeris' birthday, did you know?"

He shook his head. "No, I didn't. I'll send you a drink, I mean if you drink, well I know you must drink something, but I'm not really sure what you would want if you did drink. Ow." He rubbed his arm where Danzig had elbowed him.

I took pity on him. "I like the mint tea here very much."

He gave me a big smile. "Ok then, it's on its way. Happy Birthday, Valeris."

"Thank you." I gave Cassie a push to get her moving to the booth. Once we sat down a waiter appeared with a pot of the tea and two cups.

Cassie laughed, "I guess what I want is totally irrelevant. He likes you so much. Did you see Danzig's face. God that was so perfect!" Cassie looked at me curiously when I did not react to her gushing. "Valeris, I know you are Vulcan and all, but have you had any experience with, you know, boys?"

I looked at her askance, "That is an extremely personal question."

"Oh come on. Give."

"No. I have not had any as you say experience. I was rather focused as a child and I hardly have time now."

"Well you could make time if you wanted to. Cranston is quite the catch you know. And he is just crazy about you. I love how he gets all tongue- tied when you're around." She took in my indifferent look. "You don't even care do you? I guess I can see your point. I mean as cute as he is, Cranston doesn't really stack up against a living legend." She gave me a little smirk.

"What do you mean?"

She laughed. "Oh don't be coy, Valeris. Anyone can see how he feels about you."

"How *who* feels about me."

Cassie poured some more tea for us and looked at me in disbelief. "Well Spock of course."

I felt sick. Nauseated to the very core of me. She could not be serious. "Take that back."

Concerned, Cassie held up her hands. "Hey I'm not saying you're having wild monkey sex or anything. Just that he really likes you."

I ran then for the bathroom. I got to the stall just in time, and threw up the tea and what little else was in my stomach. Finally, I understood the feelings of unease I had felt around Spock. The thought of him made my stomach heave once more. I felt Cassie's hand on my shoulder.

"Valeris? Are you ok?"

I pushed myself up from the toilet. "I believe I am ill. I have been feeling strange all day. Do you mind if we go back?"

"No, that's fine. I hope I didn't upset you with what I said?"

I replied evenly. "No. You are undoubtedly right about Captain Spock. But he is a Vulcan and will take a long time to express what he feels. As for Cranston, I like him very much as a lab partner, but nothing more. Now, can we go home?"

The walk back took forever and once in the dorm room I tossed and turned for hours in my small bed, intermittently fighting nausea. I had been such a sheltered fool. That conversation I had overheard between him and Saavik, they had been talking about me! And those looks that I had not understood, they too had been about me. What had I gotten myself into? Had I a home to run back to I would have left that night. But I did not, and until I figured out what to do with my life I had no better alternative than to stay right where I was. But I would have to grow up quickly if I were to fend off my father's advances without exposing my true nature.

Finally realizing that sleep was not coming soon if at all, I dug deep into my memories for the mental weapon I had made so long ago. I had not visited it for years. It was time now to update it. I poured every emotion I had into it, concentrating on the horrified and sick feeling of knowing that my father wanted me as a lover. I did not necessarily plan to ever use this against him, because I could never see him forcing himself on me, but it helped me deal with the awful feelings that were assailing me. After a bit I wrapped it back up and shoved it into its safe space. And then, finally, I slept.

************************************

When I woke up the next morning, I found that my mind and spirit were calm. Nothing had to change. Spock had been "interested" in me for over a year yet he had done little to press his suit. As long as I stayed a shy student he would probably not rush me. I just had to be sure not to act any differently around him.

This did not prove as difficult as I thought it might. Several days later Spock invited me to his parents' house for a family dinner. I found Amanda and Sarek unchanged, they at least seemed oblivious to their son's true interest in me. Saavik's comments often seemed double-edged but not mean spirited. And as usual when she saw that I did not understand she changed the subject. Spock watched me in his intense way. I ignored him as best I could, just as I had in the past.

But something was different. Something inside me. I could feel myself turning hard somewhere that used to be young and soft. I was overrun with hatred and resentment. I hated the Klingons for taking away the women I had loved. I resented Spock for putting me in this position. I tried to hate him too, but I could not. Other than on the issue of his personal interest, I could not fault his treatment of me. He had opened me up to things that I would never have known, and he had shown me my Vulcan family. I was nervous around him but I stayed in his orbit because I enjoyed his company. And he was my blood father. In my heart I still thought that meant something.

The year progressed and soon we were nearing the time when we would get our first training assignments. Cassie and I were both hoping for a starship, preferably the same one, but we knew that was unlikely our first cruise. We would tease each other that we had heard that the other one was being assigned to a garbage scow, or a cruise shuttle, or anything else we could think of that sounded menial or dull. Cassie had tried to upset me with news that I would be on weapons duty for a hospital ship. I thought longingly of my animals and the little makeshift veterinary I had run for them.

"That wouldn't be so bad," I said with just a tinge of sadness in my voice.

************

Class was only half over. Commander Biggs had surprised everyone with a pop quiz. Judging from the groans that had emanated at the start of the quiz, and the fact that the rest of the class had not completed what I thought was a fairly easy group of questions, I surmised that I was the only one that had done the reading. I had turned in my exam and now sat waiting for dismissal.

"Valeris, could you get your things and come here?"

I grabbed my bag and walked back to his desk. "I hate to penalize you for being the only one that did the assigned reading. So instead of just sitting there for the rest of the class how would you like to run an errand to Fleet Headquarters for me?"

"Sir, yes Sir." I had never been to the main building before. Headquarters started where campus ended. It was only a short walk, but it might have been the moon as far as we younger cadets were concerned.

He handed me a package. "Take this to Lt. Colonel West, you'll find him in the CINC/Marine Forces area." He handed me a pass with an official looking seal, "You'll need this to get into the executive areas. Oh and please wait for West to accept delivery personally. Do not give this to an aide. If it looks like you are going to end up being late for your next class, ask him for a pass."

"Yes, Sir." I stuffed the package in my book bag and set out. It was a pleasant day and I kept a brisk pace. In no time I was at the main building. My cadet uniform got me through the gates and after checking a few building maps I made my way up to the top level. The elevator opened onto a military guard in front of thick doors.

"Orders?"

I handed over the piece of paper that Biggs had given me. He scrutinized it carefully, even called up my name in his computer. Finally he handed back the credentials. "Proceed."

He pushed a switch on his desk and the doors whooshed open. A receptionist sat just beyond, a long hall behind her. "May I help you?"

'"I have a package for Lt. Col. West."

She held out her hands. "I'll be happy to take it."

"For him personally, ma'am."

She indicated a waiting area to the side. "Well then take a seat. It could be quite a while. He's in a meeting right now."

I sat down and waited patiently. For about ten minutes. Then I began to feel fidgety. How long should I wait before I asked her about West's meeting. I noticed people were coming out of the hall. It looked like a meeting had just broken up. The receptionist followed a couple of people out, I supposed to go to the restroom. I knew that I should wait but I was overcome with curiosity. Slipping past the door I moved swiftly down the hall. A conference room stood to my right and I crept in. Two people stood talking. One I couldn't help but recognize. Admiral Cartwright. The other person I didn't know, but he had on a Marine's uniform with Lt. Col. pips.

They did not notice me and I walked silently forward into the large room. In front of them they had a large map of the star system near Risa. It had X's with the names of ships drawn all over it.

"This is the area of the most activity right now, Sir. I think this is where we should strike. We know of at least five incidents with the Klingons in this sector."

"Seven." I said, causing the two men to turn in shock.

The marine had drawn his phaser automatically. "Listening at doors is a dangerous habit, Cadet.?"

"Valeris." I set the package on the table, "This is for you I think, from Commander Biggs. You are Col. West?" I ignored his weapon and walked to the map. Taking a pen I drew a circle around the areas my aunt had mentioned that Klingons were most likely to be waiting in. Then I put X's where we were attacked when my mother died, and where the Miranda was reported to be lost. "Seven."

The admiral studied the map. "How do you know this area?"

I gave him a small smile. "I have friends in unsavory places, Sir. They keep me informed. Some of them died in these locations." I looked at West, who had not lowered his weapon. "You can put that away. From the looks of it I wandered into something classified and perhaps even more delicate than that, but you don't need to worry about me." I gave both men a hard look. "I hate Klingons as much as you ever could."

West put his weapon away. "Maybe we could test that theory out. You must be due for a training cruise. How about trying one out on my ship."

"Fine sir. But only if you intend to kill Klingons on this voyage."

Another voice chimed in, "Are you sure she isn't Romulan?"

I turned to see a stranger walking up. A stranger to me, neither of the other two seemed worried that he was there. He gave me a small nod. "Ambassador Nanclus. From Romulus. At your service, my dear." He studied me. Then frowned deeply. "I have seen you. At the Vulcan ambassador's house. You are the special envoy's protégé, are you not?"

"Spock is my mentor, yes. I don't know this special envoy."

West had his phaser back out. "The special envoy to the Klingons *is* Captain Spock. His father is also heavily involved with the initial talks with the Klingon Chancellor's people. Are you a spy?"

Spock and Sarek were working with the Klingons? It could not be possible. But they had both been off world several times this term. But how could they? Klingons could not be trusted. And apparently neither could the men of my family. I raised an eyebrow at him. "No, I am not a spy. At least not yet. I have told you I hate Klingons, and it is true. I will prove it to you. I will bring you information that you want, that you need, from inside the Vulcan residence. I will find out their plans."

West sneered, "And what do you get out of this besides your life?" The gun was now against my temples.

"It would appear that Captain Spock and I disagree on the nature of Klingons and the need for their continued existence. I have other issues with the Captain; issues that make me less than eager to see him succeed. Couple the two, and I think you can see how I might be of use to you."

The Romulan motioned West to put away the phaser. He touched me on the forehead, not a mind link for there was no connection with his essence, but he seemed to be able to read my emotions. "She speaks the truth. I can sense her hatred of both the Klingons and the Vulcan. I think we have just added an excellent ally, gentlemen."

West did not seem convinced. "I want to see how you do on the "training cruise" before I say you're ok."

I drew myself up to my full height. "I will do fine. You shall see. Now if it would not be too much trouble, could I get a pass from one of you? I expect this third degree will cause me to be late for my next class."

Nanclus and Cartwright smiled. West just stared at me. I met his gaze unwaveringly. Finally he started to laugh. "You've got a pair on you, Valeris, I'll give you that. Come on, let's get you a pass."

GO to part two