Of Two Worlds

By

Pat Foley

Chapter 1

Surrender, Amanda

"Congratulations, Dr. Grayson!"

Amanda scanned the group of colleagues and students crowding her office, complete with balloons, suspended light candles, holographic banners, and a cake. Even parsecs from Earth, humans didn't change much. "Who's responsible for this?" she said mock severely.

"As if it were a surprise!" said Zan, the department secretary, handing her the cake knife. "After she's heard us all plotting and whispering in corners for days."

"Now don't be overly modest, Amanda," Darsai Sdai, one of her favorite adjunct faculty, accepted a slice of cake. "A Zi Magni prize. Your department can at least give you a small party."

"Especially since we're all going to benefit from the students and grants that this will generate for the VSA," another wickedly observed. "And now for the final honor, prepared by all of your doctoral students."

Amanda looked up from cake cutting, to see Tony Meyers, Tavril, Sjun, and Gena Ayoto carrying in a lumpy figure on a computer stand, shrouded by a labcoat. The students whipped away the covering to display a horrendous sculpture of what appeared to be herself. "We made it out of the backup data cartridges you used on the project."

Amanda whipped horrified eyes to Zan, who raised a hand in protest.

"I made copies."

"Of course you'll display it in a place of honor always," Tony chuckled evilly.

Amanda looked back at the monstrosity, and groaned.

Later, winging her way home from the Academy, with the sculpture weighing down the back of the aircar like a bad conscience, (her students had carried it there, protesting that of course she would want to show such a work of art to Sarek) Amanda flipped on the news, listening with concern to the latest events in the worsening political situation in the Federation. Sarek received far more accurate morning updates with the latest, most accurate and confidential information from both Vulcan and Federation security services, but she couldn't help checking what the regular media was reporting, with the same expectant dread with which a child nudges a loose tooth.

The political weight and climate in the Federation was swinging, with all the slow, ponderous motion of the enormous forces if which it was built. Non-humanoids were once a relative minority in a Federation dominated by Terra, its numerous Terran colonies, and the inexplicably large number of worlds where humanoids had either been 'seeded' or had independently developed. But each year the Federation expanded its boundaries, more non-humanoids worlds were granted Federation membership, and those non-humanoid members were gradually reaching the point of equity.

The Federation had been created initially to provide a system of government for Terra and her colonies, and that had not been long enough ago, historically, for that influence not to be felt. Sarek had amassed much of his political prominence in the Federation from his ability to cast Vulcan's positions into Federation law, to play the Federation's game and beat them at it. Power attracted power, and more and more non-humans, particularly those with non-human philosophies or with esper or other non-humanoid senses, aligned themselves with Vulcan, or in other non-human camps. It made for an explosive situation politically, but the non-humans had been enough of a minority to either require a significant portion of the Terran colonies or independent humans to align with them, to carry any opposing point. Now they were close to an equality that was disturbing that balance of power. It was causing some hysteria among the more strongly conservative human worlds, and had caused some serious battles over admitting some recent non-humanoid applicants to the Federation. There were discussions about a general session to rewrite the Federation constitution. Even as more non-human worlds joined the Federation, there were threats on both sides to cede from the Federation, the non-human worlds for its human oriented prejudices, the most conservative human ones because they foresaw the inevitable loss of Terran dominated majority. Amanda saw an explosive general session coming, the only question was when this unwelcome prediction would come true.

She was concentrating so closely on the newscast, she didn't notice the strange sound coming from the aircar instrument panel until the comm systems died. In and outgoing. And then everything else. Nearly forty years of experience with Vulcan quality and multi-level backups gave her a moment's disbelief before she began to struggle with systems that were universally failing. And wonder if she was going to be next. Amanda felt a moment's gratitude that she was over an unpopulated desert. At least she didn't have to worry about where she went down, for down she was going, and all her navigational and propulsion controls were useless. There wasn't enough aerodynamics about the design of the craft to slow its descent much, even if she had some breaking power. She felt regret for the full fuel cells, that left her a choice between an explosive crash, or ditching the craft to take her chances freefall in heavy gravity. Neither seemed very viable. Suddenly she stared at the refueling gage again, and pressed the control. The interlocks opened and the craft lurched upward drunkenly as the air spoiled around the baffles. The gage dropped as fuel spilled into the desert sands below, and the open baffles, while unable to generate lift, did provide enough resistance to slow her rate of descent. Not much, Amanda thought grimly, but something, and she was still losing altitude far too rapidly for an easy landing. Amanda strapped herself in as the ground came up to meet her, and then everything went black.

When she came to, her head ached abominably. She remembered falling, and hitting the ground with a tremendous crash. Amanda opened her eyes groggily to see a sharp-faced women, black eyes, black hair, and a disapproving expression on her green-tinged face. She looked familiar somehow. Then Amanda remembered where she had seen her before. "The Witch of the West," she murmured in dismay, the feeling of having been flattened suddenly taking on meaning. And suddenly the crash had meaning too.

"I didn't mean to hit her with the house." Amanda explained before blackness claimed her again. Later, a familiar voice called her back insistently. She didn't want to open her eyes if she was still in Oz. She was far too tired to melt any witches.

"Am I back in Kansas yet?"

"Lady Amanda?" More green tinged faces.

"There's no place like home." Amanda repeated dutifully. "No place like home. No place--"

"Amanda."

"Tell her I don't want her ruby slippers," Amanda said urgently. "Once I get home, I'll send them back, I promise."

"Amanda." Sarek said strongly.

Amanda blinked, trying to see through a maze of cobwebs a room that was dazzlingly bright, as if Glinda, the good witch of the North, had just arrived. The person before her was familiar, but he didn't match any of the faces she was hoping to see. Instead, he looked like the brother of the Witch of the West.

"Your aircar crashed in the desert outside of Shikar, Amanda. You injured no bystanders. And you have never been to Kansas."

There are no deserts in Oz, Amanda thought fuzzily, and who the hell is Amanda? She was Dorothy, wasn't she? Sarek was looking down at her, tense and a little stern. She must have scared him badly, he was holding her hand tightly enough that it felt like a vise. The pain sobered her and she suddenly remembered.

"Boy, those painkillers pack quite a kick." Amanda shook her head slightly, trying to clear her head of drug induced dreams. "I dreamed… I dreamed…" She caught her breath at the pain that swept over her just from shaking her head. "Oh, I wish I was dreaming still. That hurts."

"Try to move as little as possible." Sarek suggested.

"Darling, I hope you don't take this amiss, but try to talk as little as possible," she murmured. "And tonight, I have a headache. Really."

"This is a time to be serious, my wife."

"Oh…" she moaned. "You do that well enough for both of us. Go away. I need to sleep."

"You will require time to fully recover. But the authorities have questions to ask of you, if you can answer." Sarek released the punishing grip he had on her hand. The sudden surcease of that minor pain against her major ones sobered her a little.

Amanda opened her eyes again. The room danced around her like shards of a broken crystal. She recognized the signs of a concussion. And then her memory came back. "Sarek, that aircar--"

"It is being investigated." Sarek's eyes flashed dangerously. "It was clever to dump the fuel, Amanda. You would not have survived otherwise. The conflagration afterwards would have eliminated any evidence. But now we have many clues."

"Saving the aircar was hardly on my mind." Amanda said dryly.

"Undoubtedly not. But the result is fortuitous." Sarek hesitated. "Can you answer questions, my wife? It is rather important."

"I suppose. I don't think I remember much. I don't remember there being much to remember. Just everything failed and then I went down."

"As long as you are quite sure," Sarek said, brushing her hair needlessly back from her face, and allowing the hand to linger on her cheek, "that you are not in Oz."

"At least there," Amanda said grimly, "Dorothy knew who was after her."

This might be part of the Holo series or a standalone. I have half a dozen chapters written and haven't decided where to place it. Any suggestions?