A Christmas Carol
Amanda found the notice from in her email, accompanied by a trill of song.
Yes, it's hard to remember for us poor humans living by Vulcan calendars on this sand dune of a planet, but on Earth the seasons roll on, and Christmas is six Terran weeks away! The annual Christmas pageant for us Human types is scheduled for the 20th hour in the Academy theatre on the third day of Sansheer. I've decided to go traditional this year, and we'll do a musical version of Dicken's Christmas Carol. Tryouts day after tomorrow at 18:30. Be there, or be Scrooged!
Added below, a private post script was a special note to her. Amanda, you're not going to let me down this year, are you? I wrote a part for you. Chris"
She grinned and hit reply. "In a Christmas Carol? That story's kind of set, isn't it? Of course, I'll be there, if no Federation emergencies take me away. As to the part, well, you send me the libretto and I'll let you know."
She hadn't even made it out the door to her first class when she heard a ping and her printer began churning out the score. She took a quick peek. "Hmmm, looks like another good one." She stuffed the play in her carrybag, planning to study it at home.
The sender, Christian Porter, was the head of Human studies at the Academy, which was a wide field, but basically he oversaw the traditional humanities. Now that the department itself had grown in size and teachers that he could concentrate on his specialty, he taught English Literature and Dramatic Arts. And true to his name, every year since he'd come to Vulcan he held a Christmas pageant of sorts, ostensibly for the human kids on planet, those brought here with their parents in the diplomatic, trade or Federation administration fields, but also for the parents.
It had begun as a small, painfully amateur thing, for the players and their families, something for the kids to participate in. In the beginning the audience had not been much larger than the cast. Humans being in short supply, Amanda had participated from the first. Truth to be told, she didn't have to be importuned very much. She had missed her holidays and her heritage, and she wanted that, as much as her circumstances could provide. Sarek was Vulcan; he might try to understand, he might regret her homesickness but he just didn't have the background to understand her feelings, the special combination of nostalgia, whimsy and wonder this season evoked in humans. While he never said anything, she rather thought he was amazed that not only human children, but even adults half believed the legend of Santa Claus. Even her.
And as for Spock, well, she had been right. There was no Santa Claus for a boy determined to be Vulcan in every way, who was already hobbled with a human mother. And no holidays for one who, no matter how Vulcan he could be, or how advanced he was in school, never believed himself quite advanced enough. Spock would have been as appalled at even the suggestion that he have anything to do with such a celebration, as a son of hers on Earth might have been had she asked him to wear pink hair ribbons to football practice. Nor would she embarrass him to suggest such. So Spock was no help either.
Oh, her Vulcans might humor her, indulge her, but she didn't want to be patronized by well meaning Vulcans, she wanted to celebrate, at least a little, with people who didn't think she grew slightly dotty at this season of the Terran calendar. Or at least those who were willing to give up a little disbelief and be slightly dotty themselves. She had come to realize that regardless how her Vulcans regretted seeing her denied anything, there were some things they just couldn't give.
So for this she needed humans. Such human community as there was on Vulcan. And there was one, growing a bit larger every year. The event had always been an Academy centered affair, not a Terran Embassy one, so she'd never felt it was inappropriate for her to participate. Though many of the Embassy people did. But she was even glad of that. It was one thing that brought the disparate human groups on Vulcan together, sometimes so much at odds professionally. Working around all the kids, seeing them excited over the Christmas season, even on Vulcan, was a delight. She always helped teach the kids their parts, a small substitute for having no human children of her own. And Chris wrote pretty good scores for an amateur. And he always wrote something he wanted her to do. When she wasn't off planet, she always participated. In fact, she'd be hard pressed to be kept away.
So she went out the door to her first class, happy at the thought of celebrating a human Christmas on Vulcan, and humming a little holiday carol in anticipation.
She could almost hear the sleighbells.
The hour was late, but Sarek's visitor show no signs of leaving. Sarek wondered how many ways he had to say this before he could be believed. He settled for the plain, unvarnished statement. "No." He sat back from his desk and fixed Mason Darby, the Terran Ambassaador with an unreadable Vulcan look. "I will not sanction it."
"But this is unclaimed space, has been unclaimed since the first Federation ships encountered it," the man argued. He tugged at his collar, pacing in Sarek's spacious office as if finding the room too small or too hot, when in fact it was neither. Though outside of Council Keep, a summer night was well advanced.
Sarek sighed and as a good host, even one who wished his guest would depart, set the air controls to an even lower temperature and higher humidity and suppressed his own shiver as the cooler air kicked in. He felt as if he'd been suppressing shivers for hours. In fact he had. The office was unseasonably cold. "Unclaimed by Human standards. It has always been part of the Elenair star system."
"They are not capable of colonizing it," Darby countered
"But might, within a generation or two. It is part of their historical legend that such will occur."
"The Elenians will be compensated. And the funds useful for them in developing their own world."
"By Federation law, all worlds, including both habitable worlds in their system belong to any resident sentient system that can use them. They are resident; they are sentient. There is no contest. The world is theirs."
"I'm not contesting that. But they are a young civilization. They are years, generations, from being able to colonize the second. And they haven't the population to need it for many generations."
"They are also eligible through several Federation funded programs for subsidies and loans to develop their technology," Sarek pointed out. "They have no immediate need for an such excess of funds as you suggest."
"What they don't need is charity. This would allow them to come to their place in Federation society relatively debt free."
"And in return, they give up their most sizable asset, as well as their own system's autonomy. And such programs as I suggest are not charity, they are supposedly part of the benefits of Federation membership."
"When they come to be ready to colonize, there will be other worlds. Every day new dis--"
"This world is part of their legend, part of their species heritage. Further it is theirs by right." Sarek gave him a glance. "Why should they request or pay Federation support to colonize another world when they are ready, when this is available to them now?"
"It is theirs. To do with as they choose. And they don't have need of it now."
"They have not the sophistication to understand what they would give away, for a comparative pittance."
The Terran ambassador sat back. "Hardly a pittance. Sarek, I must tell you that you are in the minority on this. This proposal will give a struggling world needed ready capital."
"It will rob them of their most significant asset, for fees that they have no need to spend, and yet they'll be urged to spend them on services and goods which will benefit Terran economies and make them overly dependent on goods for which they presently have no desire. And when they have run through that capital, they will have nothing but a taste for outworlder luxuries they cannot afford. The price is too high, the gain too small. And what they receive in payment will not remotely cover what they might require in future, to colonize a less suitable world."
"You are thinking in generations, in millennia."
"I am thinking of the present generation."
Sarek shrugged again. "This proposal benefits them not at all, and Terra a great deal. I repeat, I will not sanction it."
The Federation ambassador to Vulcan drew a breath and went through the argument again, while Sarek suppressed another shiver, wondering why humans seemed to believe if they said the same words often enough, the listener would hear something new in them.
The argument went round, and the Terran ambassador grew less politic, and more ireful. Finally, he grew short. "Sarek, you haven't the support to oppose this in Council."
"Nor has Terra or the Terran colonies the majority with which to go forward. And I will oppose it. We are at a stalemate."
"You can't force -- this is not worth calling a general council session."
"As you say," Sarek said, as if in agreement. "There are other worlds for Terra to colonize."
The Terran ambassador sputtered. "That's not what I meant. This world is ideally suited for Terran expansion. Uninhabited. An exceptional class M world on a ready hub of the known spacelane routes."
"Yes, it will be quite valuable to the Elenians when they come to develop it," Sarek said blandly.
"I was hopeful you'd be reasonable about this."
"I trust that I am always reasonable on such matters," Sarek said mildly. "And no. I will not sanction the proposal."
"Is this your final answer?"
"It has been," Sarek said, "for the last four point two hours."
"My government will not be pleased."
"Your government could hardly have expected me to hold any other position." Sarek rose. "If that is all--"
The Ambassador left the office, stiff-legged and shoulders taut. And while he didn't slam the door behind him, he looked as if he wished he could.
Sarek sighed, shivered in the chilly air, and reset the environmental controls. But even before the room was warm enough for him, he was walking out of his frigid office into the flaming heat of a Vulcan summer night in Shikahr, breathing in the dry scent of the desert, his shoulders relaxing from the tension he'd been holding for hours with the welcome warmth, grateful for the benefits of the season. And the cold damp air that flowed out of his office with his passing dissipated equally swiftly in the heated night.
He could almost hear it sizzle.
To be continued