by Jason Andrew

The entire design of the street grids of San Francisco was completely illogical Spock decided. It was unusual to hold meetings off campus so late in the evening, but Spock suspected that this was a test from his currently unknown mentor. Starfleet entrance exams were becoming famous across the Federation for their difficulty and thoroughness. It was a Starfleet tradition that the academy assigned a mentor to each cadet to assist in adjusting to the academy. As there were few Vulcans that joined Starfleet and many of them were assigned to deep space missions, Spock suspected that he might have been assigned a Terran.

Spock was truly surprised that many Vulcans did not consider attending an honor. The Terrans and the Vulcans had a complex relationship that Spock didn't pretend to fully understand despite his mixed heritage. Vulcans were the first extra terrestrial species to make first contact and were their first guides to space. Terrans helped the Vulcans rediscover the Kir'Shara and assisted their culture to returning to the roots of the teachings of Surak. It was a perfect example of cultural symbiosis.

The disagreement between himself and his father had caught Spock off guard. Sarek had hoped that Spock would attend the Vulcan Science Academy and research at home. The Vulcan Science Academy was no longer as interested in exploring the galaxy and Starfleet offered many fascinating opportunities to inspect galactic phenomenon at close range. Sarek was a Vulcan that kept his word and if he said he did not wish to speak to a son that disobeyed him, he meant it. Sarek's treatment of Sybok, Spock's elder brother, spoke volumes on that matter.

According to the directions, he was at the meeting site, but was indeed puzzled. It was a sushi restaurant called All That Jazz. He doubled checked the location and confirmed he was in Jack London's Square. It was an old building. Judging from the brick and wood, he would have guessed it was at least a couple hundred years old. Curious, he entered the restaurant and was stopped by the hostess. "May I help you?" She asked.

"I am Spock. I am here for a meeting," He stated.

The hostess examined her clipboard and said, "Oh yes, your party has already arrived. Shall I take you?"

"Yes, please."

The hostess escorted Spock through the restaurant and into a dark lounge. There was a band playing on stage, but the music was unfamiliar to Spock. He had been exposed to some of the classic music of Mozart and Chopin, which were popular Terran export. This music was less logical, more random. It seemed as though the musicians were improvising on the stage in front of an audience rather than reading sheet music.

The hostess stopped at a table in the far corner of the lounge. There sat an old woman inwearing Vulcan evening robes. Her hair was untraditionally long and slightly gray. Spock thought she might be a Terran with an enthusiasm for Vulcan culture until he saw her shapely, pointed ears.

"Your guest has arrived, Ambassador," the hostess informed the old woman.

"Thank you. Spock please sit," the old woman replied.

Puzzled, but determined to contain it, Spock did as requested. "Madam, I'm afraid you have the advantage. I was unaware that there was a new ambassador assigned to Earth."

If Spock didn't know better, he would have thought the old woman looked amused. "The hostess was being polite and referring to myself by my former title. I've been retired for several years now. I am T'Pol."

It took all of Spock's trained composure to avoid betraying his surprise. "Ambassador T'Pol, I'm honored you would meet with me."

Unphased by his compliment, T'Pol quickly steered the conversation to it's purpose. "I've been reviewing your application to Starfleet Academy and it is indeed impressive. But I am curious as to know why you wish to attend."

"While the Vulcan Science Academy is a fine institution, I wanted first hand experience exploring astrological phenomenon. According to my research, a great portion of the duties of Starfleet involve exploration," Spock explained.

"I see," T'Pal replied. She took a sip of her tea and continued. "What of the concern that Starfleet is also a military organization? There are some on Vulcan that believe being involved in such an organization can lead to a dissembling of logic and a return to more barbaric times," T'Pol replied.

This was an old argument between Spock and Sarek. It was not one he wished to repeat, but he defered to the Ambassador. "Since the Reformation, in which you personally participated, many Vulcans have felt an urge to return to more traditional values. I value peace and believe that it is certainly more logical to seek it rather than conflict. I also think that it is illogical to assume that conflicts will not come uninvited or uninitiated. My father and many of his generation believe that it is better to avoid temptation all together."

"I see. So you believe that you can succeed where others have failed?" T'Pol asked.

"I believe I can learn from the mistakes of those that went before me. Do you believe my attending the Academy is a mistake?" Spock asked, earnestly.

"I believe that not speaking with your father is a mistake," T'Pol informed the young Vulcan.

It took a moment for Spock to let the anger flow through him and to eliminate it. "I see. Did he attempt to sabotage my application?"

"Not at all. He spoke very highly of you in fact when I interviewed him about you. He did mention that the two of you were not speaking," T'Pol explained.

"Sarek disapproved of my joining Starfleet and informed me that he no longer wished to speak to me if I forwarded my application to the Academy. While I might disagree with him, it is his right as my father and head of our house," Spock replied evenly.

"My mother disapproved of my joining the Vulcan High Command. We did not speak for several years. We reconciled only a few weeks before her death. I have regretted not taking action previously to mend our relationship," T'Pol revealed.

Spock was surprised that the Ambassador honored him by sharing private details of her life. Spock conceeded that their situations were simular on a superficial level, but suspected that Ambassador T'Pol was unfamilar with Sarek. Once Sarek came to a decision, he did not yield lightly. "It would be illogical for me to attempt to change Sarek's mind at this point without withdrawing from Starfleet, which I do not intend to do," Spock said.

"Perhaps over time you will come to understand each other," T'Pol suggested.

"Perhaps," Spock said, mostly to be agreeable. "If I might ask, why did you wish to meet here?"

"I have learned to appreciate this music. It's called Jazz. It's based off improvisation of standard notes. It's a quality I've learned to appreciate in humans. There much our cultures have to offer each other. You are a living example of this, even though I understand that you have chosen to live solely as a Vulcan," T'Pol informed him.

Spock did not often discuss his mixed heritage. Although it was something he repressed and controlled, it made him uncomfortable. "My blood may be part human, but I believe my heart is Vulcan. I have chosen to follow the teachings of Surak since my kahs-wan. And while it might be more difficult to control the human part of my blood, it is a choice I have made," Spock stated.

"I'm well aware of your heritage, Spock. As you might recall, I was involved in creating the technology that permitted your birth, however involuntary," T'Pol reminded him.

"Of course, Ambassador. Please forgive any unintended insult. I was merely pointing out why I have devoted myself to the teaching of Surak," Spock answered.

"I am not aware that appreciating humanity is exclusive to following the teachings of Surak," T'Pol countered.

"I'm fully aware of the concept of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination, Ambassador," Spock replied.

"When I was young, many Vulcans said the same thing, but they did not fully embrace the concept. It's very difficult to embrace other cultures when you consider you own to be vastly superior. It is something that we have made great strides to grow out of. Without the Terrans, the Federation would not have been possible. Terrans build communities wherever they go. The Vulcans, Andorians, and the Tellarites were practically enemies when I was your age. It was the Terrans that brought us together as a community," T'Pol explained. "They did it the same way these musicians are playing. They took the best of what they knew and improvised."

"Is that why we're meeting here at this hour?" Spock asked.

"Perhaps," T'Pol admitted. "Or it may be that I appreciate jazz. Or it may be that I wished for you to acclimate to long term interaction with humans."

"I have some experience with humans."

"You have experience with a human," T'Pol observed. "A human that has lived on Vulcan for many years. I myself knew a human before I served with Star Fleet. It was very much a challenge for me to adjust to the situation, but it resulted in a long term career that I found to be worthy."

"Indeed, it is my understanding that you still hold the record for longest assignment serving on a human vessel," Spock added.

"There is more to the experience than just the records. At first, I separated myself from the crew. I served and was respected, but I marked myself as an outsider," T'Pol explained.

"What happened?"

"The humans on board the crew continually attempted to draw me out until I was a de facto member of the community. Once I moved past my own xenophobic perspective, I discovered that there was much to appreciate in human culture. This allowed me a vehicle to view our own culture from an outside perspective. I found the experience enlightening," T'Pol continued. "Some of these changes between then and now might surprise you."

"I have noted a general lack of discussion of that era from my instructors thus far," Spock replied.

"Pride is the most difficult emotion to detect and control," T'Pol commented.

If his father had heard this, he would have disapproved of the Ambassador. "Ambassador, you seem to be implying our culture still clings to pride."

"To be Vulcan is to restrict the worse aspects of ourselves. To maintain control. To deny what exists beneath that control is illogical. We had lost our way. Over the centuries, the teachings of Surak were splintered, altered, or lost. When the Kir'Shara was first discovered and studied, we had many of our own follies revealed to ourselves. For example, did you know that at the time it was taboo to eat with your hands?"

"Taboo to eat with our hands? Why?" Spock asked.

"One of the diversions had a mistranslation. An innocent comment from Surak was interpreted as a ban against eating with our hands. Although it was never discussed openly, Vulcan started eating with her hands. There were many revelations in those years just prior and after the founding of the Federation. It is not discussed because of pride," T'Pol explained. "Our culture rededicated ourselves to Surat's teaching. I suspect this is why your father has been so hard on you."

"Please explain."

"Your father lived through some of that time. He saw first hand the dangers of potentially straying from the teaching of Surak and thus is more sensitive to possible aberrations," T'Pol replied.

"Like my brother Sybock," Spock inserted.

"Imagine how your father might have viewed his eldest son abandoning the teachings of Surak and then encouraging others to follow his example," T'Pol proposed.

"Sybock chose his own path and must accept the consequences of his actions as much I. It is regrettable that I have not been able to communicate with him, but that is a result of his exile and choosing to wander the galaxy."

"It is commendable that you follow Sarek's edicts though you may not speak to him," T'Pol said.

"You seem to respect Sarek a great deal, Ambassador."

"Sarek is a fine ambassador. In addition, he managed that which I did not," T'Pol replied, with a subtle hint of regret.

"You have accomplished much, Ambassador."

"Unlike Sarek, I allowed my fear to control my actions. There was a Terran named Charles that I was very fond of. I'm certain that you've heard of him," T'Pol told Spock.

He nodded. Charles Tucker the Third was the Terran that involuntarily donated half of the genetic material for Elizabeth, the first Terran-Vulcan hybrid. Records of her creation allowed later doctors to assist Amanda Grayson baring a Vulcan son. There was some speculation that T'Pol and this Terran may have been in an illicit relation, but T'Pol had never commented publicly.

"I found many logical reasons to not continue my relationship with Charles. I knew he would age sooner and die. I knew that there would be many other difficulties in our relationship. I decided that it would be better if we separated. Your father faced with the same choices decided to accept the challenges. While you might not see it at the moment, he was progressive for his time. It was not easy for him or your mother. I appreciate that he made a choice, that I did not," T'Pol continued.

"I had not considered that point of view," Spock admitted.

"And while I speculate that it was difficult for you as a child, I can also speculate that he had his own trails to face. Vulcans are very private and dislike their personal affairs being public knowledge. Two entire planets were constantly watching his relationship with your mother and you. Such a spotlight can be difficult."

"Indeed," Spock agreed. "I must admit some concern that attending Star Fleet Academy might be more difficult than I had previously considered."

"I assure you that it will be," T'Pol informed the young Vulcan. "The academy has been designed to test the cadets and to assimilate them into Starfleet culture. It might have started as an Earth organization, but it has evolved into a true fusion of cultures of the Federation. My recommendation is to embrace that and to embrace Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations and examine the other cultures. Don't isolate yourself from other cultures as I did."

"But there are still entire ships that belong to a single species inside of Starfleet," Spock countered.

"In time that will change. Be part of that change. You might find it fulfilling."

Four years later, Spock had grown to appreciate much of Terran culture, although he never grew to enjoy jazz. Graduation from the Academy was imminent and cadets were reviewing possible assignments to Starfleet posts. The wide array of choices for someone with high honors was staggering. His first choice was the U.S.S. Intrepid, a Vulcan science vessel. Spock considered the benefits to serving aboard a vessel dedicated to exploration. Before he could submit his application to the Intrepid, he saw another posting. This posting was forwarded by Ambassador T'Pol. It was a science station posting on the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701.