To Stir Asunder

By

Pat Foley

chapter one

Author's note: This is not part of To Begin Anew, nor of Holography, rather a novel much older than either, though it might be said to bea prequel to Holo, though Holo was written long after...

"The affected planets are appealing to the Federation, Sarek," the aide reported. "The major new services are reporting the situation as grave."

"Human dominated." Sarek mused. "Even the most reputable are sensationalistic." He said the last word in English; modern Vulcan had no equivalent to the damning term. "The latest count?"

"Fourteen systems have declared autonomy over their airspace. The news services predict this could double within a matter of hours."

Sarek's console beeped. The aide glanced at Sarek for permission and then displayed a cryptic message from the master of Shikar's best primary educational institution, requesting Sarek's presence for an interview. Initially, Sarek stared at the message in disbelief, wondering what his son could possibly have done now.

Then he checked himself. He hadn't in fact received such a message in several years. Since the boy's Kahs wan, and his decision to adopt Vulcan ways, his son's predilection for practical jokes had ceased, his barbaric altercations with his peers had ceased and Spock had settled down to become almost a model Vulcan child. Sarek had been pleased with his son's progress, when he had troubled himself to think about it. But now... Sarek snapped his attention back to the present, concealing with a modicum of effort his own flare of temper at this sudden regression on his son's part. He turned to the aide who was waiting for his response and who had undoubtedly observed his momentary lapse of control.

"Inform Subor that I will attend him presently." He said curtly. Within moments he was striding from the room, his thoughts once again occupied with the transgressions of a son who had seemingly once again regressed into disgrace.

Sarek did not see his son on his approach to Subor's office, though there were several groups of children about. He had managed to reestablish his own surface calm by the time he reached the school. Now that the initial surprise was over, Sarek felt equal to maintaining it, no matter what disasters Subor intended to impart. He announced himself to the staff and was admitted immediately, with a deference appropriate to his position. Whatever Spock had done, it could not have been too damaging.

"Sarek," Subor arose from his console, and approached him, offering him the greeting of Surak. Sarek exchanged formalities and waited. Subor gestured him to a chair.

"I regret disrupting your activities, Sarek, but I wished to discuss your child's progress, and such a critical subject seemed best conducted in person."

"Proceed." Sarek said cautiously.

"I have been concerned about your son's scholastic progress for some time, but hesitated to broach the subject until I was reasonably certain that a problem did exist. Since Spock provided the final impetus today, I decided to delay no longer.

"Indeed." Sarek's brows drew together in a puzzled frown. He had expected to be informed of some behavioral flaw, consistent with Spock's past history. As he recalled, Spock's scholastic progress had been excellent. Apparently, this was no longer true. "I was not aware that Spock was having difficulty with his studies." Sarek cast his memory back to his child's manner that morning for clues. Spock had been quiet, obedient, and respectful. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing indicating a problem.

Subor raised an ironic eyebrow. "Spock is not having difficulty with his schoolwork. That is, in essence, the problem."

Sarek was totally confused now, and resolved to admit it. "Then I do not understand your statement."

"Sarek, Spock passed the exams for his current level this morning." Subor looked at him, obviously expecting some reaction.

Sarek frowned again, still unable to see any problem. Vulcan schools tailored their educational system to each child within a broad framework of educational levels, with computer-aided instruction supervised by an educational expert. When a child and his instructor believed mastery of a particular level to be complete, a series of examinations was conducted to verify that fact, and if successful, the child passed to the next level and a new instructor. Spock had never experienced any particular difficulties with this educational system, to Sarek's knowledge. If Spock had just passed a level, and not repeatedly failed one, or fallen noticeably behind his classmates, Sarek could not see where a problem existed.

His confusion must have been obvious to Subor, who was studying him, eyes skeptically narrowed. "Sarek, are you aware of your son's current educational level?"

Caught unaware, Sarek frowned again, realizing with a mounting sense of unease that he did not. In the absence of any problems from that quarter, Sarek had not concerned himself with it. Spock's intelligence had never been in doubt. Sarek was vaguely aware, in a general way, that Spock was slightly ahead of his age group, and that his examination results were always excellent. When Spock had begun attending school, he had, at first, followed his progress closely. Lack of reported problems seem to have led him to an erroneous sense of complacency. He remembered receiving notification that Spock had passed a level several months back, but he had been offworld at the time, in the middle of critical negotiations. He had scarcely glanced at the notice and the marks; he could not now recall the specifics. Perhaps six months before that, when he and Amanda were on Altair 7, he had received a notification that Spock had passed a level, and on Berengaria 4... Sarek realized that he had indeed, somewhere between Council duties, Ambassadorial assignments, and his own too frequently interrupted research and teaching schedule, ceased to note exactly where Spock was placed in school. He tried, in vain, to remember what he had last seen his son studying, but Spock did most of his studying alone, in his room, and it had been years, Sarek realized suddenly, since Spock had approached him for any assistance with his studies. Perhaps he approached Amanda instead. Somehow that thought did not console him. He hid his discomfiture and replied stolidly, "No, Subor, I am not, in fact, aware of it."

Subor nodded. "I thought as much. After this last set of examinations, Spock has placed 5 levels beyond his peers in age and intelligence."

Sarek frowned, nonplussed. He had thought, before he walked into this room, that Spock was ahead of his peers, since he had arrived, that Spock had somehow dropped behind, but a five level discrepancy was unusual at the least, perhaps even unprecedented. Suddenly, realization surfaced, and Sarek integrated the personal aspects of the situation with the intriguing educational ones. Spock had not fallen behind his peers. He was, in fact, performing better than Sarek had anticipated. "I do not understand the problem, Subor."

"Obviously you do not." The educator said wryly. "Since you seem to not follow your child's progress in school, and are perhaps unaware of what normal progress would be, let me acquaint you with it. A child at Spock's age would normally be at level three, perhaps, if unusually intelligent and highly motivated, at level four. Spock passed into the seventh level three months ago. He passed to the sixth level four months before that. Six months before that, the fifth level was passed." Subor glanced up from Spock's records, spread over his desk, to regard Sarek. "You are aware that such levels are meant to require a standard year to complete?"

"Spock's intelligence has never been in question." Sarek said cautiously.

"The child's intelligence is not the issue here." Subor said, sweeping the documents into a neat stack.

Sarek suddenly suspected a reason for this meeting. "If you are suggesting that Spock passed the examinations under false pretenses -- "

Subor raised a hand in protest and Sarek stopped, realizing his calm had indeed slipped. "I assure you, there is no question of Spock's veracity, or the legitimacy of these test results."

"Then perhaps you could elaborate on what you consider to be a problem, Subor. " Sarek said. "At present, I fail to see any indication that one exists, nor any reason for this meeting."

Subor frowned, and glanced down at the neat stack of records. "I see that you do not. I had believed that you were aware of the situation. Perhaps I should have broached the matter sooner, but I was uncertain as to the cause, if this behavior was not something you were aware of, perhaps even encouraging. Now I see this is not the case, that I should have spoken sooner."

"Spoken of what, Subor?" Sarek demanded. "Spock is passing levels, not failing them. His marks," Sarek glanced at his son's latest test results, reading them easily in spite of his position across the educator's desk, "are excellent. That, I believe, is the purpose of his attending this institution. If there is no question of the legitimacy of the results, then where is the problem?"

"Sarek, I oversee many children in this institution, and have held this position for 18.6 years. I am not unfamiliar with gifted children. We heavily screen all candidates, and take only the best of our youth. But never have I seen a progression rate such as Spock is demonstrating, and as such, I have been observing it closely, and can find no logical explanation for it. Spock is fortunate in that he is gifted with a higher than average intelligence, but he is not unique here among his fellow students in that respect. He is learning by conventional means, which indicates his completion of a plan of study should require a minimum of a given amount of time. Yet he has recently completed a level in one fourth the average time. the level prior to that he completed in one third the time. The level prior to that in one half the average time. You cannot fail to notice the progression rate. It is increasing, even though mastery of these higher levels require skills of concentration, logic, and reasoning normally still undeveloped in a child of Spock's maturity."

Sarek's eyebrows were raised in astonishment. "I still fail to see a problem, Subor."

Subor hesitated. "I do not question Spock's ability, nor his inclination to learn, but these accomplishments must be requiring a considerable and concerted effort. While the result is admirable, I must consider the means by which they are achieved, and their affect on the child as a whole. And I must consider the motivation involved. Sarek, I believe your son is progressing at an unnatural rate, one which will eventually prove detrimental to his health and future development. I believe that this...compulsion... to progress must stem from emotional causes."

Sarek said nothing for several seconds, and when he spoke, his voice was dangerously cold. "Do you have any evidence for this claim?"

"None, save my own interpretation of the child's actions. I am," Subor stated, "at least, knowledgeable of his progress and status."

Sarek let that remark pass. "And what action do you intend to take?"

Subor was silent for a moment. "I must eventually accept Spock into the next level, of course, since he has legitimately passed his current one. However, I would like to request the following." He glanced at Sarek, who nodded guarded permission to continue. "I would like to see the child rest, or at least absent himself from study for a period. In my opinion, he has been seriously overworking."

"That is your opinion, Subor."

"I am aware that I am not qualified to make judgments on matters outside the educational field. That is why I make this second request. Have the child examined by a healer, and by someone qualified in emotional matters. I would also like to have Spock report, perhaps the week following, for more extensive intelligence and placement tests. Perhaps our original assessments were understated."

"And if I choose not to accede to your requests?"

Subor raised an eyebrow delicately, and picked up Spock's records thoughtfully, as if they could provide him with an answer. "I am extremely reluctant to place Spock into another level without some reassessment. Neither this institution, nor I, have encountered such a situation, or have experience with such unprecedented educational needs. At this point, I consider a study and reassessment of the child a necessity. You can, of course, contact a higher authority," Subor acknowledged, "or you can withdraw your child and place him in another school. However, I advise that you accede to my requests, Sarek. I do not make them lightly, and I make them in the child's best interests." Subor hesitated at Sarek's silence. "You need not give me an immediate answer. Take your child home and consider the matter. I will be available should you wish to discuss it further.

Sarek became aware of sounds of movement from outside the office. School was letting out for the day. He stood, suddenly weary of conflict. "Very well, Subor. I will consider your concerns."

"I am pleased. I have asked to have your son report here after his last class. Although he was informed of his successful completion of his exams, I have not spoken with him of my concerns."

Sarek nodded, turning to go.

"Sarek."

He turned back to the educator, who stood, palms together, regarding him with analytical eyes.

"Your son has not disgraced you. His overt behavior is in accordance with all our traditions. "The ... emotional problem in question is very subtle."

"If, in fact, it exists at all." Sarek challenged.

"That is correct."

Instead of waiting, Sarek left to look for his son, although time, and not a desire to remove himself from an unpleasant situation, was the rationale he acknowledged to himself. Soon Spock's class streamed out, and Sarek had no difficulty in locating his son, years younger and easily half a head shorter than any other child in the group. Sarek studied the boy, looking for any indications of the condition so obvious to Subor, but he only saw a proper Vulcan child. The boy betrayed neither emotion nor surprise at the sight of his father, but then he had been told to expect him. His eyes widened slightly though, at Sarek's unblinking scrutiny, and Sarek wearied suddenly of the whole problem. When Spock reached his side, he merely said, "Come, child, we will go home, " and walked past Subor, standing in his office doorway, without a glance.

Spock hesitated entering the aircar. He wanted very much to ask his father if he had done something wrong, for somehow, inadvertently, he must have. Why else would Subor call his father to school and Sarek be so displeased? He knew that he had passed his exams, his instructor had told him that, but should not that knowledge please his father? Spock glanced at his father's face, set in his most controlled lines, and knew that Sarek was definitely not pleased. He entered the aircar reluctantly, steeling himself for whatever was to come, but Sarek said nothing, merely engaged the controls. Spock mentally reviewed his behavior since his arrival at school, but nothing, outside of his test results, had occurred out of the ordinary. Yet his father's manner was indicative of displeasure. Spock glanced at his father again and looked away quickly, shrinking inside, more confused than ever.

Amanda greeted them at home, surprised to see Sarek bringing their son home from school, and correctly surmising there was a reason. "Is something wrong?" she asked, after Spock had greeted his mother and retreated to his room.

Sarek shook his head, unwilling to discuss the situation until he had considered it further. "Subor merely wanted to inform me Spock had passed an exam series."

"Another?" Amanda frowned. "He only passed into seven a few months ago."

Sarek repressed an illogical resentment that his wife knew their son's placement in school. ".257 standard years, to be exact," He said curtly. "But if you will excuse me, I have duties to attend to." He turned abruptly, leaving her astonished.

"Sarek?"

Halfway to the doorway, Sarek stopped. It was pointless to subject Amanda to his temper, pointless, unVulcan and cruel. He returned to touch fingers to hers gently, unwilling to risk more of a display with Spock likely to appear at any moment. "Forgive me."

"Do you want to tell me what's troubling you?" Amanda asked, stretching her senses a little.

For a brief moment, Sarek basked in the light touch of her mind, her calm concern a soothing balm to his nerves. "Later." he said evenly. "It is nothing serious. A misconception on Subor's part." Seeing her unconvinced, Sarek projected a firm conviction that all was well. Amanda gave him a skeptical smile.

"I will attempt to be home at the usual time."

Amanda did not miss the 'attempt' in his statement. "Bad news?"

"Twelve more planets have just declared autonomy over their airspace, increasing those in dissent to 22 percent." He could see the realization in his wife's eyes.

"We're heading for a general session." Amanda had looked away from him, as if to conceal her disappointment, but he could hear it in her voice. If she had not turned away slightly, he would be able to see it in her face, without needing to feel the echoes of it in her mind. So openly human, his wife, in her desires, her actions, her emotions. Yet it did not displease him that rather than travel to a Federation Council session on some undoubtedly more Earthlike planet, her desires were to stay here, on his planet, with him. Sarek felt a fierce rush of possessive protectiveness toward his wife and suppressed it with difficulty, forcing himself to speak neutrally.

"It may not come to that. Proposals are being drafted for the Federation Council for presentation to the members. One may prove acceptable."

"You're drafting one, of course."

"Yes." Sarek said.

Amanda nodded, then smiled wanly. "It may give you inspiration to recall we have not spent six consecutive months at home in the last three years." She met his eyes evenly. "I wouldn't mind teaching out a full semester for a change, or finishing a research project uninterrupted."

Sarek raised an eyebrow, amused in spite of himself. "I will keep that in mind. I doubt, however, that the Council or Federation membership at large will regard that point as having any relevance to support a proposal on mobile Federation defense."

Amanda smiled at that, and Sarek went back to his duties, momentarily pleased that he had successfully teased his wife into lightening her concerns. But he was unpleasantly aware that they were valid ones. Though proposals were being drafted, it was extremely unlikely that any proposal would prove satisfactory to the varied Federation membership. Certainly not on an issue involving world, system, and Federation security. As much as he disliked the thought, and as disruptive as another offworld trip would be to both their lives, another conference was almost inevitable.

He shifted his attention away from that unpleasant thought, to concentrate on the proposal he was drafting. Before long he was at his office, intent upon a solution that would satisfy all Federation worlds, a solution that would also satisfy his own world's views. Personal concerns he had regulated from his mind. The meeting with Subor he had totally forgotten.

Amanda went over her academic calendar. Exam schedules, grades, lecture schedules, article proofs due, research projects. She had sworn after the last conference had taken them offworld she would never again take on a departmental chairmanship, but she'd been talked out of resigning. Part of her acquiescence had been out of consideration for Sarek, who felt badly enough about dragging them halfway across the Federation at a moment's notice, and would have felt worse if it caused her to resign. But it would have simplified things considerably. There were faculty to be evaluated and new faculty to be hired. She was serving on four campus committees, all of them deeply involved in drafting policies necessary to bring the academy from its status as a purely Vulcan educational institution into something more in line with Federation research institutions and graduate schools, a necessity as more non-Vulcans came to attend. There were new potential doctoral candidates to review, and exams for those finishing up. Several of those who'd come to Vulcan to study specifically with her were close to their orals. Perhaps some could be moved up, but she couldn't expect anyone to delay them simply because she was off planet. Yet she really had to be there for those she served as a primary thesis advisor. Well, she could handle the orals by subspace, if absolutely necessary. Her own research projects and writings she could simply put on hold, those she was collaborating on would have to be given priority. She steeled herself and with a real pang of regret drafted a refusal to the Federation Institutes of Science for a research project she had, only weeks before, received notification of funding approval. The funding had time deadlines, deadlines she now doubted she would be able to keep. Best to free the funds for someone with no conflicting commitments.

As she had done before and would undoubtedly do again, Amanda went through the next six months of her professional life, doing the mental reprioritizing that would enable her to drop everything' and play 'Ruth', or at best Sarek's unofficial, unpaid advisor and assistant. Somewhere, far at the back of her mind, a mental clock was ticking, warning her when to start preparations for dinner.

If they were really going away, Amanda thought, she would have to see about getting Spock enrolled in a boarding program, and that fact that he'd just passed another level certainly wasn't going to make that easier. She'd had a hard enough time finding a primary boarding program that offered his level the last time they went offworld, and that had been two levels ago. Perhaps that was what Subor had met with Sarek about. With that, the nagging worry about Spock that had been tugging at her mind since Sarek had brought him home eased somewhat, and she let go her intention to talk to her son about it. The multitude of tasks that needed to be accomplished, delegated, eliminated or postponed claimed her immediate attention.

Spock's eyes followed his father's aircar as it flew into the approaching sunset and disappeared. He would not consciously have accepted any behavior so illogical or unVulcan as wishing, but unconsciously, as his father's aircar disappeared, he wondered why his own sense of trepidation could not disappear so easily. Sarek was gone, for the moment, but he would return this evening, and upon that return would undoubtedly request his son's presence. Undoubtedly also, he would have thought long on whatever errant behavior had caused him to be summoned to school, and given that Spock suspected it was errant behavior, he would have developed a method for its correction. In only a few hours, after the sun had set, his father would be back.

Spock turned away from the sunset, which suddenly hurt his eyes. He had no wish to approach his mother in his disgraced state; indeed, he had no desire to call any attention to himself whatsoever. The balcony outside overlooked the gardens, outside the gardens was the desert, but to get to either one meant potentially encountering his mother, and outside the lowering sun would be a constant reminder of his upcoming session with his father. That left inside the house, and with his mother in the house that meant his room. His room was painfully neat, clean, sparse. He preferred it that way. His father disliked disorganization and clutter, and so he kept his room organized and uncluttered. Not that Sarek often entered it. His mother did, of course, and she had introduced some human things, but he kept them on high shelves where he could not really see them. Except, of course, for the Tenniel print from "Alice in Wonderland" that hung over his desk, but he rather liked that, as he had liked the story. Sarek did not, of course. When Spock had chosen Vulcan as a way of life, Sarek had made it clear that such indulgences should be eschewed. But Amanda had read him the story, and given him the print and Sarek, apparently deciding it was not worth the ensuing argument, had let it stand.

Of course, that had been many years ago, and Spock had no desire to read unproductive stories now. On the desk, under his Tenniel print, were the new text tapes he had just been issued for level 8. They drew him like a magnet. In five minutes he was settled and content at his desk, deep in a math text. He became totally oblivious of sundown; he became totally oblivious of everything, including the arrival of his father's aircar. His external awareness did not surface until he heard his mother calling his name and he realized it was time for the evening meal.

It wasn't until his errant child appeared for the evening meal that Sarek recalled his domestic problems. Spock hesitated at the doorway under his father's suddenly penetrating stare, murmured a sotto voice greeting, and slipped quickly into his seat, where he proceeded to further annoy his parents by not eating.

"Is something wrong with your meal, Spock?"

Spock looked up at his father and back down at his plate. "No, sir."

"Then I suggest that you eat it." Sarek said.

Amanda cast an amused, partially incredulous, inquiring glance at her husband, wondering at this sudden interest by her husband in their son's nutrition, but Sarek ignored it.

Sarek considered Subor's recommendations as he watched Spock toy with his meal, frowning as he noticed that the child was consuming even less than before he had been chided. Perhaps it would not be unwise for the Spock to be examined by a healer/physician. The boy did seem thin, but then did not all growing children seem so at one time or another?

Eventually, Spock said, in a small voice, directed obviously to his mother, "May I be excused?"

Sarek drew breath to protest, but Amanda had already given permission, taking her son's nearly full plate.

Spock rose, obviously relieved, retreat foremost in his mind, wished his parents good night, and left quickly, 'reprieved' echoing in his departing footsteps.

"Amanda," Sarek said, a hint of exasperation in his voice, "the child should not have been excused. He scarcely touched his meal."

"I-Chiya will eat it," Amanda said, with a trace of a smile.

"I-Chiya is not the child about whose nutrition I am concerned."

"I'll take something up to Spock later."

"It is hardly logical to prepare additional meals for a child when the standard meals are ignored."

"Do you want logic or do you want the child to eat?" Amanda teased.

"I would prefer both."

Amanda laughed and defeated, Sarek sighed.

"Why all this sudden concern," she finally asked. "This isn't exactly the first time that Spock has played the finicky eater you know. As I recall, he has been one all along. And when I was worried about him, all that I got were logical arguments about how when the child was hungry, he would eat. Has your logic changed all of a sudden?"

Sarek sighed. "Perhaps."

Amanda studied him, sensing his changed mood. "Sarek, what happened at school today?"

Sarek glanced uneasily at the doorway.

"He's upstairs. Tell me."

Slowly and reluctantly, Sarek explained part of Subor's theory, merely mentioning that Subor thought that Spock was overworking, without mentioning why. He did not look at his wife's face, afraid he would see confirmation in her eyes. Amanda knew the child better than him, and if she agreed...

Finally he glanced at his wife, but her face was expressionless, hiding her feelings well. Obviously she was not eager for the possibility to be true, but her silence was acknowledgement enough for Sarek that the possibility did exist.

"What will you do?" was all she asked.

With that question, some of Sarek's uncertainty faded. Since Spock's Kahs Wan and decision to be raised Vulcan, Amanda had been routinely deferring decisions regarding Spock's upbringing to him, although she was not adverse to frequently and hotly debating a point she disagreed with, as long as it was out of her son's hearing. If Amanda was deferring to him in this, without conditions, she obviously was not too concerned. That reassured him in itself, and though it was illogical, the simple fact of her deferring to him also reassured him.

"I will send him to a healer tomorrow. As Subor says, the child is thin and a healer's opinion can do no harm."

"Mark should see him too." Amanda insisted quietly.

Sarek acquiesced. He expected this. Amanda did not completely trust Vulcan healers, any more than he trusted human physicians. Sarek thought nothing of human medicine, but it would do no harm for Spock to be seen by a human physician, and it would placate Amanda. As Amanda's physician, Mark had seen Spock professionally several times, though that had been years ago. Still, he was a frequent guest in their home, and a close friend of his wife's, and as such he knew the boy fairly well. More importantly, his was an opinion Amanda would trust.

"When will you tell him?"

Sarek answered without hesitation. "Tomorrow. I see no reason to disturb the child tonight."

Later that evening, Amanda paused at her son's door.

"Amanda, your actions are unnecessary."

"I'll only be a moment." Amanda entered the room silently, covered her sleeping son, and tucked the quilts around him more securely. Sarek heard her sigh in soft exasperation, and looked up to see her extract a portable tape viewer from the quilts, deactivate it, and set it on the bedside table.

Sarek frowned, the simple action of his son's reading himself to sleep suddenly taking on a new, unwelcome meaning.

He watched his wife as she smoothed their son's dark bangs. Her eyes met his as she left the room and she frowned at him.

"Sarek, he's asleep. He doesn't even know I'm there. I can't believe --"

"Amanda." Sarek interrupted, "What was on the tape in the viewer?"

"What? I don't know, a text of some sort." She looked at him, puzzled, as he started to walk past her into the room.

At the doorway, Sarek paused. Spock was a notoriously light sleeper, and any unusual noise or presence generally woke him instantly. Amanda used to joke that her son never slept at all, since every time she checked on him he was awake, long before she reached his side. Eventually Spock learned to sleep through his mother's 'bed checks', but Sarek knew the boy would wake instantly at his father's unfamiliar presence in the room. He turned to Amanda.

"Go and get the viewer. Quietly. Do not waken him."

Amanda frowned at him, but slipped back into the room and came out with the viewer in her hand.

Sarek snapped it on and his suspicions were instantly confirmed. The viewer displayed a mathematics text. Recalling Subor's plans for a forced vacation for Spock, and recalling Spock had just completed a study course, Sarek wondered what text Spock could possibly be studying. He pressed the title/assignment display and his frown deepened. The book was a level 8 mathematics program, issued to Spock that day. There were no instructor given assignments at present. Sarek glanced rapidly through the marked text pages, starting at the beginning, noting the systematic highlighting on passages Spock had apparently found difficult, the progression of correct answer after correct answer until he reached the place where his son had apparently fallen asleep, a sixth of the way through the text. A text written for a child five years older than his son, and meant to last that child a year. Sarek didn't know whether to be pleased or concerned. Had he not spoken with Subor that afternoon he would have been pleased. After that conversation, the implications of Spock's actions were somewhat chilling. Sarek glanced at some of the more difficult passages, noting the careful work. Spock had done that this evening, after a grueling day of examinations, and virtually no evening meal.

Even assuming Spock had begun work on it immediately after school, and had only fallen asleep moments ago, it could not represent more than perhaps eight hours of work. Even supposing it was a full eight hours of disciplined, careful, concentrated effort, it was a formidable and impressive accomplishment, even more so since it had been done without outside assistance, in one relatively unrelieved effort. And by his own half-Vulcan, far too young son. He had no idea Spock was capable of such work, and now, scarcely before he could become aware of it, he might be forced to take exception to it. It seemed he was destined to never be allowed to be satisfied with Spock's accomplishments, however notable.

He handed the viewer back to Amanda. "Return it." He said softly.

Amanda returned, misinterpreting his grim look. "You read in bed, Sarek. So do I, for that matter. You're not going to start punishing him for that too, are you?"

Sarek looked at her measuringly. He had not told her everything Subor had said, and so she wouldn't make the same conclusions he had from what she too, had seen. It would be something of a relief to discuss it fully with her, but that would also make more valid a suspected problem Sarek still wished to deny. For now, at least, her interpretation would deflect any other suspicions on her part, and grant him another day to consider it.

"I am not a child, Amanda, and Spock requires rest. There is nothing meritorious in disregarding a required rest period."

"Where have you been for the past 5 years then? And whatever happened to your logic of 'he'll eat when he's hungry and sleep when he's tired."

"Perhaps my logic was in error." Sarek said ironically. Suddenly what Amanda just said took on a more ominous interpretation. "What did you mean -- the past five years? Do you mean that Spock's behavior of tonight has occurred over that period of time."

Amanda flipped on the lights in their suite, and moved toward the bath. "I meant what I said. You've watched me tuck him in hundreds, if not thousands of times. Do you mean to say you never noticed what I was doing every night? He always reads himself to sleep, at least ever since he could read. Don't you remember? I originally used to check on him to tell him to stop reading and go to sleep." Amanda disappeared into the bath.

Sarek stared after his wife. He had indeed forgotten, long regulating her actions as more unmemorable, illogical behavior. He had indeed criticized his wife for her efforts in that regard, believing she was indulging in overprotective emotional behavior.

Sarek followed her, watching as she unbraided her hair and began brushing it. "Amanda. I do recall that now. But I have a question."

"Yes?"

"Before you turn the viewer off, have you noticed... is the material displayed always a school text?"

"Not always, before."

Sarek felt a measure of relief that perhaps the problem was not as serious as it seemed. "Before?"

Amanda gave him a look of sheer impatience. "Before you laid down the law against him reading extra curricular material. Remember? Three years ago, when you took offense over a few fairy tales. Since then, of course, he reads only texts."

Sarek stared at her, the need to control his sudden relief immobilizing his features. So Spock's intense concentration on his study materials could well be the result of a lack of choice, instead of, as Subor believed, an emotional compulsion. But Spock had pets, music lessons on several instruments, several sessions a week with tutors devoted to esper skills and associated Vulcan physiological and mental controls, a school full of children to associate with, and surely as wide a range of activities open to him as any Vulcan child. Why this abnormal concentration on his schoolwork to the exclusion of all other activity? And if Spock had been working at this fierce pace for so long, why had he not seen evidence of deterioration, or complaints in other areas? There had been none; reports from other tutors indicated Spock was progressing at a superior, if not as noticeably astounding pace. Nothing, save Subor's own comments, and Spock's concentrated behavior, gave any indication of a problem.

"Sarek?"

Roused from his reverie, Sarek looked into his wife's concerned eyes. Sarek closed his own wearily. Perhaps there was no problem. Spock's intelligence might have been underestimated. In any event there was little point in becoming overly and unduly concerned at present. Or in causing Amanda concern. Standing before him, searching him with worried blue eyes, his small human wife reminded him of nothing so much as a lematya searching for a threat to her mate and cubs. So small, yet so fierce.

"Something is wrong that you're not telling me."

Sarek shook his head and drew her to him. It had been a difficult, tiring day, but there were remedies available other than rest or meditation, and he had learned to appreciate them fully. Amanda, however, squirmed away after the first kiss.

"You are trying to distract me," she said accusingly.

"I trust I am being successful." Sarek said, reaching for her again.

Amanda half smiled, but pulled away. "Be serious. I want to know --" she had to move quickly to avoid his hands, for Sarek was playing in earnest. Faster, stronger and with a longer reach, Sarek was only hampered by a desire not to hurt her. It was a game they rarely played, but its silliness was a general tonic, and by the time Amanda had well and truly lost, serious concerns were far from both their minds.

end of chapter 1

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