Decision at Council

By

Pat Foley

Amanda's council attendant brought a scheduling notice to her attention with the daily summaries.

"My lady, there is a decision requiring the vote of all Council members, not merely a quorum. You must therefore attend Council next Secanth. I have put the relevant documents in your computer files."

"Thank you, T'vian." She pushed aside the draft of the academic paper she was writing and went through the Council documents. And then she drew a breath in dismay. She read through them again and then hit the print key, spreading the High Vulcan documents out before her.

The case was a simple one. The situation was this. T'Lisel, a young woman of the distant Soton clan, and the consort of Sarumel, had applied and been accepted to Starfleet Academy. She planned to attend and petitioned for the necessary travel documents. Her bondmate then requested an injunction against her leaving the planet, on the grounds that her intended career was physically hazardous, and that by Vulcan law she had no right to endanger her person: his property. The court ruled in favor of Sarumel, and T'Lisel's legal advisors had taken the case up through successive councils.

Her own ear keyed to anything involving Starfleet, Amanda had heard of the case on the news as it wound its way through the Vulcan judicial system. Spock, of course, had sidestepped the Vulcan paperwork by having petitioned for dual citizenship, and obtaining a Terran Federation passport. And of course he was male, so he avoided T'Lisel's particular problem. T'Pring might have disapproved of her bondmate entering a Federation military service, but she had no legal recourse to stop him if she did. As Sarumel had. T'Lisel's appeal had failed at the lower council levels, and now it was to be heard at High Council. And as it was a case that affected Surak's philosophies, and thus Vulcan society as a whole, all High Council members were required to sit and render judgment. Including her.

This was a case she had found …disturbing, not merely because it involved Starfleet and made her think of Spock's leave-taking. It raised another issue she tried not to think about.

Vulcan was a highly civilized society -- in most respects. But it fell down alarmingly when it came to anything related to Vulcan biology. Particularly in its attitudes toward women.

Women had equal rights on Vulcan for all ostensible purposes. And the highest voice on the planet, the court of no appeal was T'Pau, the Matriarch of all, though she used her power rarely.

But there was a subtext outside of the obvious whereby not all women had equality. Women unbonded or widowed did have the same status as men. Chattel, those who challenged, had no rights at all. But wives, consorts, female bondmates had a curious, peculiarly Vulcan status. Such women were the legal equivalent of men in almost every respect. They could vote, own property, sign contracts, run a business, testify or bring a case in court, sit at council and render judgment. Virtually no profession was closed to them, though Amanda had never actually seen a female guardsman. In almost every legal and personal interaction, they had equivalent rights. But an ancient Vulcan law claimed that although equal in every other respect, such women's physical persons were the legal property of their bondmate.

It went back of course, to Pon Far, as most of these outmoded customs did. Societies tended to develop rituals, taboos, and customs to appease certain unworkable or frightening situations. How many independent human cultures had mid-winter ceremonies, a reassurance when the light was at it shortest? And Vulcans in ancient times had fought for possession of women, still did today in their divorce ceremonies. So it was no very great surprise to discover, in a race where the males had a potentially fatal mating fever, that their legal system provided for the succession of the race by this questionable device. She had been advised of it before she married, and she couldn't say it hadn't given her pause. One of many things that had given her pause before she'd taken that fateful step. But when she'd tried to talk to Sarek about it, she just got that slightly puzzled look from him. Vulcan males didn't really think about it, it was as natural a scenario as gravity to them. A cultural blindness. And Vulcan women took it with equanimity too. Or seemed to. Her few attempts over the years to discuss it, with such few Vulcan women as she had felt equal to broaching such a question, had given her the same, slightly puzzled brow. And so she had just dropped it.

That technically she was legally Sarek's property had seemed to have little bearing on most aspects of her normal life. She had her career, she sat on the highest council on Vulcan, and though Sarek could, technically give her orders in the emphatic mode, orders he had every right to expect obeyed, he seldom did. He did manifest an occasionally proprietary attitude. He did sometimes tend to be overbearing when it came to issues of her health or safety. But his life was, after all, somewhat tied to hers and thus a logical concern of his. But in her normal daily life, the most obvious aspects of the Vulcan laws were the fact that he apparently had a legal right not to let her cut her hair, and that, of course, he could take her to bed whenever he wished. As if any Vulcan bondmate would stop a Vulcan male in that pursuit. As for her hair, it was too long, but she'd adjusted to the nuisance. Like every other Vulcan wife.

So she'd grown used to the law, if not entirely comfortable with the idea of it. It had been challenged before a few times in distant history, but never overturned. But now was being challenged again.

She grabbed her documents and went in search of her husband, entering his office without preamble.

"Sarek. Do you know about this case?"

He glanced at the sheaf of papers she put on his pristine desk. "Naturally. It comes before Council next Secanth. You must attend to render judgment."

"You expect me to rule on this?"

He blinked and looked at her. "It is your responsibility as clan leader."

She sank into a chair opposite him. "But…Sarek. You can't expect me to rule against this?"

Sarek paused. "Do you plan to approve her request?"

"Do you plan to uphold the current law?" Amanda countered.

"Yes."

She eyed him, and then looked down at the papers before them. "I know you don't approve of Starfleet. You would have done anything to keep--" she hesitated over saying the name.

"My opinion on that organization has no bearing on this decision."

She was shaking her head, thinking of the upcoming vote. "Sarek…how can I do this?"

For a moment he stared at her, his expression blank. "Amanda, you must. All the High Council must render judgment in a case involving Surak's constructs. It is the law."

"But you're going to vote against it."

"Yes."

"How will it…it look, if I vote for it?"

He sat back, shaking his head. "How will it look?"

"To …to appear to oppose you. Publicly. Before all of Vulcan?"

Sarek's brow creased in puzzlement. "If you so vote, you will not be the only one holding that position. You will not stand alone, regardless that I vote in opposition."

Amanda shook her head in frustration. "Oh for -- then, how will you feel?"

"How will I feel?"

"Would you stop repeating what I say?"

"Amanda, you are required to render judgment as clan leader in your own right. Your opinion need not be in accordance with mine."

"Logically, perhaps, but I'm not talking about logic."

"Then I don't understand."

"You intend to vote, for the continued legal status of woman as the physical property of their bondmates. If I vote against it, do you think it wouldn't change anything between us?"

Sarek regarded her calmly. "Amanda, I think you misunderstand this situation. This resolution legally must be brought before Council. Lower courts simply cannot rule on a major change to Surak's constructs. That it appeared before High Council was inevitable from the first petition. But historically such proposals have been brought before and have been defeated by a wide margin. While such… radical views… have had their proponents, this simply does not have enough support in Council to pass."

"That's not what I meant. I was talking about us."

"About us." Sarek shook his head again. "Amanda, as I have tried to make clear, however you vote, it is extremely unlikely your personal legal status will change."

"Not my legal status. Us."

He tried harder to make her understand. "We will not change."

She was flabbergasted at his denseness. "Sarek, that is so … How could we not?"

Sarek paused, thinking about that, eyeing her warily. "Are you saying, you would be…angry…with me, for voting in opposition to you?"

She drew back a little at having the conflict laid out so bluntly. She had been rather thinking the opposite, that he would be embarrassed, or take it amiss or even that it would arouse his Vulcan ire, if his wife would oppose him before all of Vulcan, all of the Federation for that matter. It was something of a shock to have Sarek turn the tables on her so neatly. After all these years she still couldn't absolutely predict Vulcan behavior on these issues. But he had neatly hit the heart of the conflict. If he was unmoved by this issue, she was not, nor would be. But she was not ready to draw up battle lines yet. "I haven't said definitely that's how I'm going to vote."

He conceded that point with a flick of a brow. "I speak hypothetically as well. But you have not answered."

"No, not angry, but…." She looked at him, still placid and unmoved. "This has got to have some impact on us. And I want to know what we're getting into before we start."

He shook his head, his black eyes nothing more than slightly puzzled. "I don't understand."

Her own brow creased and she sighed. At times, getting Sarek to understand her emotions was like animating rock. It wasn't that he had no emotions – that she knew well. But his emotional triggers were not like hers, and sometimes, getting Sarek to see things though her eyes, or feel things she felt, or even understand her emotions intellectually, was difficult to impossible. And she wasn't sure she wanted to rouse that in him, even if she could. And right now her feelings on this were conflicted. "I'm not sure I do either, at the moment."

Sarek shrugged. "Then I strongly suggest you meditate on the issues and reach a conclusion. Swiftly," he added, handing her papers back. "Council convenes to vote on this in three days."

She stared at him, open mouthed. And then, not sure what to think, she took back her papers and left.

xxx

When she was confused about things Vulcan, and especially when she was potentially in opposition to Sarek, her best advisor was still T'Pau. She requested an audience with the matriarch. And when it was granted, she went with a particular purpose in mind. T'Pau owed her more than a few favors. She was determined to collect on at least one of them.

The ritual pleasantries over with, Amanda cut to the chase.

"T'Pau, regarding this upcoming council vote. I think you must somehow see me excused."

T'Pau raised a brow in mild surprise. She found her human daughter's directness sometimes amusing and sometimes refreshing. It was a minor indulgence in her later years. "Must I, indeed?"

Amanda flushed. No one told T'Pau what to do. She wasn't above the law, but she was above all the clans. "Forgive my impertinence. I spoke in need."

"But it is impossible, my daughter."

Amanda was dismayed. "You can't expect me to rule on this issue?"

"Thee consider thyself different from other women there who must rule?"

Amanda looked at her. "Very funny. You know that I am different."

"Thee are a clan leader who must render judgment. Thee are wife to a Vulcan. In those two most relevant points thee are the same."

"But there is a difference in how I feel about it."

"Do you think so?"

Amanda did a double take, looking at T'Pau. "May I ask how you are going to rule?"

"Against."

Amanda drew a breath. "Then you don't feel as I do." She shook her head. "Forgive me for presuming to ask. I didn't mean--"

"T'Amanda, one must make this decision based upon the merits of the case, and on the analysis of Surak's constructs."

"I'm hardly his biggest fan."

"That does not make thy interpretation any less valid."

"T'Pau you know Surak's constructs. The commentaries on them. You know them by heart, you can recite them backwards and forwards. So does Sarek. And all the other Council members. I've only read them. I am the rankest amateur. There is a difference in our qualifications."

"Are thee less qualified to rule on this issue than any other previous issues thee has ruled upon -- without seeking to evade that duty?"

"You put me in Council," Amanda accused.

"No. Thee did. When thee chose to marry my son."

"You know," Amanda pointed out, with some asperity, "when he asked me to marry him, he never exactly told me who he was. You could have said something to me then too, before all this started. I could claim false advertising. Or something."

"It is rather late for that, T'Amanda," T'Pau reminded her.

Amanda returned to serious business. "I am not qualified to rule in this case."

"Is it thy qualifications, or does thee now protest because this decision is painful to thee personally?"

She winced at that. "It is painful. But more importantly, it is dangerous. You know the risks to Sarek--"

"Personal considerations are outside of Council duties." T'Pau said blithely, and glanced at Amanda. "I think the risk is small, even if you vote in favor. Sarek is equal to it. This is not a personal matter, T'Amanda, such as what troubled your household before."

"How can I oppose him publicly in Council? If I so chose? I'm his wife."

"And his possession and will likely remain so. There are not the votes in Council for this to pass." She raised that brow again. "Even with your support."

"Then why bring it to Council?"

"It is the law of the land. The lower courts cannot render judgment on Surak's constructs. Council must reaffirm the law before this challenge."

Amanda winced at the word. "You say it matters not. But I am still concerned. He shouldn't have minded, so very much, that Spock went to Starfleet and yet--"

"He is free of the vrie. Surely you see that? It is obvious in his manner."

"I don't want to bring it back."

"It seems unlikely this could do so. T'Amanda, I wonder if thy concern is truly for Sarek? Or for thyself?"

"For him. For us both. For all of it, his health, our marriage, And if the law won't pass anyway…"

"Then what matter if you oppose him in Council?"

Amanda drew a shocked breath. "No. I can't."

"I think thee are conflicted, my daughter. Duty is not always easy."

"That you don't need to tell me."

"Perhaps not. But while you have undertaken difficult duties before, you had …emotional motivations for doing so. Motivations that served you to do so. Your motivations seem to be in opposition to your sworn duties here."

"I don't know what do to here. Or how I should vote. So, yes, I'd rather not vote at all."

"As to the latter, that I cannot help you with. It is your duty. You must attend Council. And you must vote. As to your decision, that you must come to, on your own. I can only suggest you meditate on the situation. And swiftly--"

Amanda winced at being given the same advice from T'Pau that Sarek had given her. "Yes, I know. Council votes in three days."

"I trust thee will do thy duty as always." And T'Pau held out her hands, a clear dismissal.

And no hope there. Amanda knelt to her in ritual obeisance and took her leave and her problem away unsolved.

xxx

As she went through the next few days, she kept wondering why the planet wasn't up in arms in one way or another. Whatever the Council decided, this would be a major decision, affecting the lives of most adults in one way or another.

Yet the event was only perfunctorily reported in the news, and if Vulcans were concerned about it, she saw no signs.

Sarek hadn't raised the issue again with her. Of course, she hadn't raised the issue with him either. And he wouldn't be likely to quiz her about her private "meditations" on the issue, unless she did raise it. Vulcans being sticklers in that regard. But she was still too confused to discuss it with him, and too reluctant until she was less confused. With Sarek, with her, with their joint history, she felt the stakes were too high to go blundering into that discussion. Even if Sarek were unmoved, she was not.

So she spent the next couple of days thinking about what she was going to do. See-saw-ing back and forth over how she was going to vote. Sometimes, teaching, or conferring with a colleague, the issue would creep up on her as if she was unaware and she would be amazed that she'd even considered voting against T'Lisel's petition. Hadn't she helped her own son leave Vulcan for Starfleet? Wasn't it hypocritical of her to put obstacles before this girl now? Did she believe just because T'Lisel was a girl, that she shouldn't have the same opportunities? What if she herself had borne a daughter? What would it say about herself if she didn't?

And didn't she think this was a law that should change? It was an archaic, out-moded law. Surely a culture as advanced as Vulcan didn't need to hold half their adult population as property.

Did she really think she could vote to keep herself in a state so antithetical to her own views of women?

The idea of voting against it was ludicrous.

But then she thought of Sarek. He was Vulcan. She was not. He surprised her continually with how alien he could be, outside of her human expectations. So ostensibly humanoid as Vulcans were, and calm and logical and rational in most things, she'd learned there was a Vulcan warrior buried inside a Vulcan male, and one that, once roused, was not so easily put to rest. And Vulcan biology, Pon Far and all the attitudes that went with it, was real and serious. She had surely learned her lesson in underestimating that syndrome. Their customs might sound barbaric to humans. But if Vulcans needed them…

How could she – who was she – to vote against such a traditional part of Vulcan culture, millennia old, even pre pre-Reform. She a mere human. Who could hardly be said to be facile on Vulcan law or Vulcan ethics.

Unable to resolve it for herself, she tried to resolve it for the Vulcans she was supposed to be representing. She watched couples, families, women, men compulsively that week. She watched mothers with children. She watched mothers with sons.

She began to wonder if society should be tailored for those that wanted to leave it, or those that planned to stay within it.

And then she thought of T'Lisel, prevented from leaving Vulcan, as Spock might have been if she had not been human. And she was torn again.

She still had no idea how she was going to vote.

xxx

She had to cancel a class to vote in Council. It was already in session when she arrived for the vote. She filed into the chamber with all the other Council members who were not normally present on a daily basis and were attending now only by the mandatory nature of this vote. She slid into her place next to Sarek, a little breathless from rushing. He spared her a glance but he was always at his most Vulcan in Council and there was nothing personal in his look. T'Pau favored her with a distant nod.

The legal advisors who had brought the case to Council ran through a précis of the case. Amanda saw with a trace of alarm that T'Lisel was also present at Council as was her bondmate, sitting each with their representatives. She looked at the girl searchingly, but there was no expression in her dark eyes, or on her features. She didn't look like Spock. She didn't appear to care one way or another about the outcome of the vote. Of course, she must know it was not going to pass.

But she thought of her own son, only a few years ago, desperate to be free, and her heart broke a little for her.

The voting had started and she listened to it absently. There were more in favor than she'd suspected, spatterings of yes votes here and there, but nothing near a margin for the proposal to pass. On a case such as this, a mandatory vote affecting the Constructs, votes were cast verbally, one by one. And her clan, as the most powerful and influential, always voted last. So there were hundreds of votes to be cast before hers. Lulled by the repetitive polls, she listened in almost a dreamy state as Vulcan after Vulcan voted, most giving the expected No.

The Vulcan reading the roster had a strong accent, mangling the human pronunciation of her name. She didn't recognize it when hers was called, half abstracted by her thoughts and the mesmerizing tenor of the vote.

"T'Amanda of the Xtmprszqzntwlfb clan?"

Sarek shifted infinitesimally next to her when she didn't respond.

She started out of her dreamy state and sat up.

"T'Amanda of the Xtmprszqzntwlfbclan." The speaker looked at her inquiringly.

Amanda swallowed and said nothing for a moment more. Looking down at her hands. Her palms made a damp imprint on the table, that dissipated immediately in the dry air. I don't want to do this. Oh, T'Pau, why couldn't you get me out of it?

"T'Amanda of Xtmprszqzntwlfbclan" the speaker said, a third and final time, eyes now a little wide in astonishment.

She found her voice at last. And drew a deep breath. "No," she said clearly. Her voice seemed to echo, ringing off the vaulted ceiling, coming back to haunt and mock her. But her vote was cast and could not be undone. Though Sarek could cancel it out, if he choose.

The speaker recorded the vote and moved to the next on his roster. "Sarek of the Xtmprszqzntwlfb clan?"

She met Sarek's eyes, half hoping, but he was still at his most Vulcan and nothing personal flickered in his expression as he gave his vote.

"No," Sarek said beside her.

It has been no more than she'd expected, really. But still, it was like a stab to her heart. She broke her gaze from those unrevealing eyes, lowering her own, hearing as if from afar the speaker going on to the last, the final vote.

"T'Pau, Matriarch of all Vulcan?"

"No," T'Pau said.

And then it was all over. The speaker announced the petition had failed, and was giving tallies and percentages. Amanda raised her eyes to T'Lisel, but the girl had not changed expression and was already being escorted out of the chamber.

This vote concluded the session. The rest of the council was also filing out, but Amanda didn't move. She heard Sarek deal with a few Council members, business issues, meetings, upcoming votes, all as casual and prosaic as if this were some agricultural bill on plomeek subsidies. She felt Sarek turn and look at her, but she didn't, she couldn't look up. Finally she felt him slide into his seat next to her.

"Did it make a difference?" he asked.

She did look up then. If he were being flip about this. If he was teasing her… But his eyes were serious. Calm. A little puzzled and curious. But not amused.

"To the Council vote? No. Just as you said."

"I meant between us."

She looked up again, searching his eyes. She couldn't read him. He was still being very controlled. "You voted against it, Sarek."

"So did you."

She drew up, at that betrayal by him. "Oh, for very different reasons!"

"Do you think so?"

She lowered her head. "I don't know what to think."

He was silent a moment. "Then do not judge, Amanda."

"I didn't have a choice in that."

"Don't you?"

"So I've been told. I was required to be here, and I came. And the vote is already past. It's a little late to tell me not to judge."

"I meant do not judge me."

She looked up at him again. But there was still no expression in his eyes or on his face. She felt a million miles away from him. "Can we talk about this?" she asked. "Is it even possible that we can discuss this?"

Sarek tilted his head. "Have we anything to say?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure if we can ever meet on this decision."

"You rendered a decision. One in accordance with mine, though I confess I am puzzled by that given your previous--"

"Can you even understand how I feel about this vote? About this issue?"

Sarek drew a breath. "I think…that I do."

"But you voted no, anyway. How could you?"

Sarek paused, considering her. "Did you think this would be an O. Henry scenario, Amanda? Your sacrifice for mine, mine for yours? That you would vote no , and I yes?"

"I told you I don't know what to think."

"It is not such a scenario."

"So I have discovered."

"You surely did not expect it."

"I didn't know what to expect, even of myself. I'm finding this all very hard."

"Some decisions, my wife, are not personal."

She looked up at him. "But the outcomes are."

Sarek caught her hand. "Amanda. Nothing has changed between us."

That was not the answer she wanted to hear. She slid her fingers out from his, rejecting the gesture. "I have to get back to the Academy. My task here is done."

xxx

She taught the rest of her morning classes and then before the noon break, received a message to attend T'Pau. The attendants had laid out a pretty mid-day meal, T'Pau's main meal, for the matriarch never ate a heavy meal in the evening now that she was in her later years. But Amanda could not join her at the table. Instead, she paced, railing at what she had just been through. T'Pau watched her.

"I hate it, she said. "It is so barbaric."

"Pon Far," the Matriarch said.

"Not the Time itself. But what it means to Vulcans. What it does to Vulcans. You don't even speak of it, you don't even name it, in public. But you build your lives and your culture around your fear of it. It is so ridiculous. Tell me your suppression of emotion isn't just your warrior past, but also related to your fear of Pon Far? I think it is."

T'Pau was unmoved. "Named or not, Pon Far is a force of our nature."

"Nature is cruel."

"Yes."

"Vulcans are not. Warrior past aside, this …continued obsession is unworthy of you. Surely with all your abilities, your technology, you can find some alternative. Some drug, some treatment."

"There were attempts. They caused many deaths."

"But you are so technologically advanced. And now you have the combined forces of the Federation -- You could be free."

"What you are saying, T'Amanda, is that you could be free."

Amanda stopped in mid-pace, staring at her. "That's not what I meant."

"Free to be human, as you are not free now."

Amanda shook her head, not in denial but in rejection of this personal argument. "I wasn't speaking only of myself. This affects all Vulcans."

"We accept our biology, T'Amanda. It is what we are."

"How can you say that," Amanda scorned. "You don't accept your emotions. They are also what you are."

"Emotions can be controlled. Biology, one's life force, cannot, not if the species is to continue." She looked pityingly at Amanda. "Do you think a pill, an injection, a treatment, could change Vulcan biology? I tell you it has been tried and the results were more monstrous than the syndrome they strove to eliminate. Or there was death. The life force of Vulcans can not be subdued or transformed."

"So you subdue your women instead? Hardly an equable compromise."

Life is a paradox. As a race, as a leader, one must choose options that are best for one's people."

"Best?

"That save the most lives. That advance civilization. Vulcan lived in continual clan wars before Surak's philosophies and his peace."

"Making woman property advances civilization? I fail to see how."

"Not women. Bondmates."

"A fine distinction."

"T'Amanda, males fought constantly, and killed over women, or died in the mating fever, in madness, before our marriage laws and customs. Bonding and our present laws and customs changed that. You are free in every way, save one, and that you have already sworn over to your mate. What matter the law holds you so, when your own oaths bind you? And I know you do not forswear your oaths."

"It matters." But she had nothing but her own personal feelings to counteract T'Pau's historical claims. And she knew it was not enough. Not in this case.

T'Pau shook her head. "Daughter, your emotions are not serving you well now. You are exhausting yourself. Sit."

Amanda sank down. "I voted against myself, T'Pau. I voted against myself."

"Did you?" T'Pau said, flicking a brow at this return to the personal.

Amanda twisted in her chair. "I am human. Freedom…it's practically my birthright. A human birthright. As inviolate as Vulcan biology. Oh, yes, in the Federation other beings practice slavery as an established system. But in the history of humanity, no state of slavery has ever long endured. It is inimical to our basic nature. To me. And yet I just upheld one."

"Thee considered thyself a slave?" T'Pau raised a brow ironically as an attendant began to serve luncheon. "If so, thee are a privileged one, to sit at Council and render judgment on a world. On many worlds, Vulcan and all her colonies."

"Slavery isn't always chains." Amanda argued. She waved away the offered meal. "If women are property, it's slavery of a form. And I agreed to it. I am so ashamed of myself."

"If thee voted in favor, thee must believe in it."

Amanda just raised her eyes to T'Pau. "Believe? Believe that I, that any woman, should be some man's property? No. Never." She raised her head and glared at T'Pau as if in accusation. "Sarek is not the only one to say never. This is that for me, and I won't change."

"Why so vote, then?"

Amanda lowered her head, cheeks flushing in shame. "I thought of Sarek. I thought of Spock."

"Yes." T'Pau nodded her head.

"And not just them, all the other Vulcan males."

"Yes."

"It's my freedom. Our freedom. And it is dear to me. But it's their lives."

"Yes." T'Pau nodded, agreeing again.

"How could I choose otherwise?"

"Yes."

"But what an awful -- what a terrible, monstrous, choice."

"Yes. Thee understands perfectly, daughter."

Amanda curled in on herself. "No. Because I know it isn't Vulcan, for me to feel this hatred. For I do hate it! All the circumstances that require this terrible choice. Vulcan biology and passion and custom and tradition. I hate it, I hate it, I hate all of it!"

"And still thee chose. In spite of your never."

"Yes," Amanda echoed. "I chose it. And I'd choose it again. The alternatives being what they are." She looked at T'Pau. "Don't you understand?In this, I had no choice."

T'Pau regarded her passionlessly. Then rising carefully for her aged bones and crossing to Amanda, she lifted her face. Looking at the tears swimming in her eyes, that Amanda tried to blink away. "I think, my daughter, when I am gone, that someday thee will make a very wise matriarch."

Amanda did cry then, while T'Pau stood above her, hand on her cheek, the tears rolling on the matriarch's aged skin.

To be continued

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