Home is the Sailor

By

Pat Foley

Chapter 18

Early the next morning, even before the silver dawn birds Spock had once promised to show him were arrowing the sky, Jim Kirk was cradling his aching head in his hands. He'd felt reasonably well after he'd returned from the Forge and McCoy's subsequent dosing. But throughout the long sleepless Vulcan night, things had begun to go sour. He felt like he was getting Mars Throat and Space Sickness combined. He hadn't had either since he was a raw cadet. The very notion of his getting something similar now offended him. Normally he wasn't one to seek out the doctor's services if he could help it. But even he felt this called for intervention.

But when he'd looked in on McCoy seeking one of the good doctor's potions, McCoy's suite was dark and empty, unused and unslept in. That could only mean he was with Spock. Kirk had no intention of bothering McCoy when he was tending his First Officer. His own more minor problems could take a second seat to that.

Anyway, he was sure he would be fine. Or if he were anywhere else he would be sure. "This planet," he muttered. He was almost beginning to believe he'd rather face T'Pring and a lirpa than another day in Spock's home.

Through the night he'd come to one reluctant truth. McCoy was right. He'd seen no indication that Spock was not content to have returned home.

Kirk had nothing against Vulcan, per se. He was perfectly happy to acknowledge Spock's parents' right to him here - provided it was understood, even by Spock, that this was a temporary sick leave. A hiatus before their return to the Enterprise. The problem was that absolutely no one, save himself, seemed prepared to acknowledge that. Everyone seemed determined to accept that there was a chance Spock might not recover. Even Amanda, and McCoy, humans both, seemed to forget the power of positive thinking. The whole situation was affecting him too. Nothing had gone his or Spock's way since the start of that ill fated mission landed them here. He still saw it as his duty to get them both back on the bridge, whole and competent. If Spock chose to return to Vulcan after he was reinstated in Fleet, he wouldn't like it. But he'd manage to deal with it. Somehow. He'd have to. But he wasn't about to accept any defeat in seeing Spock able to return. Yet around him all he saw were cautious faces and measured words. To him, that sort of attitude wasn't realistic, it was defeatist.

"Bunch of professional crepe hangers," he muttered, drawing increasingly labored breaths.

The spaceman in him told him to turn to the environmental controls in an air loss situation, but he'd already checked them. They were already set to a little above Earth normal oxygen. That hadn't helped. The Iowa farm boy told him the exact opposite, against all his deep space training, a fatal inclination in his more usual habitat. Open a window. Go outside.

Starfleet spent a lot of time and money training out an approach that lead to explosive decompression on a ship, but in this case, the farm boy won. He went out. The air on the balcony was even thinner, but it was also crisp and chill, especially refreshing after yesterday's desert heat. It was surprising how cold the nights were on Vulcan. It felt good on his flushed skin, even if there wasn't much oxygen in it. But there were the stars, still visible in the dawning sky. He always felt better with a large star field before him. That was one advantage of Vulcan he was perfectly willing to concede. It was unpopulated enough, relative to the planet's size, that it boasted spectacular skies. Especially out here, far from Shikahr's city lights.

The sight of the stars invigorated him. Every star seemed to have a name, and a memory. That was where he belonged, and Spock along with him. Not planet bound. It didn't matter what Spock's parents wanted, or what they could offer. None of it could compare to the stars. He'd lay odds on that. And with his luck, and his conviction, he was sure to win.

He managed to make it to the edge of the balcony before he passed out.

xxx

McCoy softly closed the door to Spock's suite. He'd spent the night there monitoring Spock's fever. Passing a long windowed wall on the way to his own rooms, his tired eyes bugged out when he saw Kirk collapsed on the terrace of his own suite. He ran through one of the outer doors, pulling out his med kit as he went.

"Jim! Jim!" McCoy swore at the result on his scanner, and pumped Kirk full of triox. Kirk stirred, some of the color returning to his face. He coughed and sat up, bracing himself against the terrace wall.

"Damn fool!" McCoy swore. "What the hell are you doing out here?"

"Get some air," Kirk wheezed.

"That's a fallacy. This is Vulcan. You can increase the oxygen level in your suite better than you can catch a breath out here. You're lucky you weren't higher up and took a tumble off the roof. That would be it for you. This is a heavy gravity planet." McCoy sat back, studying him. "You look awful."

"Thanks, Bones."

McCoy scanned him again, more thoroughly. "Jim, how much triox did you miss yesterday?"

Kirk rubbed his face. "All of it." He flicked a glance up to McCoy's dismayed face. "You know I'm not good taking pills, Bones."

"Did I say damn fool? I think I meant something stronger." McCoy reset his hypospray again.

"Sure that isn't one of your mickeys?" Kirk asked with an attempt at a smile.

"Very funny. Jim, you've got to take the damn pills until you acclimate. Think of Vulcan like a super hot Everest. Thin air, low oxygen. You adjust gradually. Fail to do that and you are going to do more than collapse."

Kirk drew a deep breath and struggled to rise. McCoy helped him into a chaise lounge. "I'm all right."

"Hardly. You've got all the signs of altitude sickness. People die from that, you know."

"Bones, I didn't expect to get trapped by a lematya in the desert yesterday."

"Why not?" McCoy demanded. "When are you ever not in trouble? It's just the latest in the Kirk series of misadventures. Trapped by a lematya. Trapped between universes. Trapped in some blasted prison on some godforsaken planet."

"I'll agree with that," Kirk said. "Vulcan being the latest in a long series of godforsaken-."

"Oh, shut up," McCoy said. "You're flushed, feverish. There's no sense arguing with you now." McCoy dialed up his hypospray again. "I know I told you to make plans for today, but you ought to forgo them. Least till we get your blood oxygen stabilized," McCoy checked his scanner again. "And you're still dehydrated."

"I've been drinking water all night. Sloshing with it, really. It doesn't help."

"That's the fever. But if you drink too much you develop other conditions. Why didn't you call me?"

"You were with Spock. I'm not that bad."

"I ought to throw you in hospital, till you get sorted out."

"Bones…" Kirk shook his head.

"But I won't. Who knows what you'd get into there. When I told you to go out yesterday, Jim, I didn't mean high altitude flying in an unshielded craft with no human environmental controls, stranding yourself in mountains that would rival Everest, without water or triox, and fighting wild animals."

"First happy day I've had here on good old Vulcan," Kirk grinned.

McCoy had to smile in spite of himself. "You're hopeless."

Kirk took a deep breath. Color had returned to his face and he breathing easier as the drugs took effect. "You seem to be managing here well enough."

"Yeah, because I take my triox. I stay hydrated. Heck, Jim, most of the time when I'm not here, I'm surrounded by doctors and healers who know I'm new to Vulcan, They're familiar with the problems of humans acclimating. They keep an eye on me as regards water and triox and rest. But nobody can help you if you don't behave with some common sense. You're not Superman."

"Well, I sure don't feel like it today," Kirk admitted.

"Are you hungry?"

Kirk grimaced. "No."

"Then you are sick, "McCoy pronounced.

"I'll just catch a nap. Then I'll be right as rain. Not that it does that here. "

McCoy rolled his eyes. "Let's get you to bed,"

"How's Spock," Kirk said, leaning heavily on McCoy's arm.

"Looking better than you do right now. His fever's down. Get some rest, Jim. We've got Spock well in hand."

"That's what I'm half afraid of," Kirk mumbled.

"Later." McCoy settled Kirk, pointedly leaving triox pills and a glass of water by his bed, and went to his own room to clean up thinking hopefully of breakfast. He was hungry after his long night. Trooping down the stairs, he heard his hosts' voices raised in rather heated argument. He hesitated outside the door of the breakfast room, wondering if and when to break in. Maybe he should just go round to the kitchen and beg a meal there.

"I already invited them," Amanda insisted, sounding nothing like the diffident diplomat's wife they'd first been introduced to on the Babel mission.

"This is Spock they are coming for. Disinvite them. There would be no question, at all," Sarek replied, just sounding insufferably Vulcan.

Something about that tone, since McCoy had first heard it upon meeting Spock so long ago, made him think of pins and balloons, and long to do some popping. His ears pricked regardless, waiting to hear Amanda's response.

"They don't need to stay long. Spock is going to go stir crazy if he doesn't have something to do besides dwell on his injuries."

"When he is strong enough. Not until."

"All he does now is sleep. And how strong does he need to be to say hello?"

"Considerably. He is a telepath. His shields have taken a severe beating. He would find it painful. It might even hinder his recovery. It is one thing for him to interact with family and close associates. Quite another to deal with strangers."

"They aren't strangers."

"They are not family."

"Are you trying to protect him, or his reputation? Or yours and your plans for his family responsibilities?"

"I will not react to personal argument. Yesterday was a stressful day for him. It's too soon."

"I think it will help," Amanda insisted.

McCoy was just thinking how interesting it was that it was Sarek who seemed bent on overprotecting Spock, when both voices fell silent. Realizing he must have been heard, he poked his head in the room, "Sorry, I don't want to intrude."

"Oh, hello, Doctor," Amanda said. "Not at all, please come in. I can use an advocate."

McCoy glanced at Sarek's impassive face, but the Vulcan gave him no sign to take himself elsewhere. He entered gingerly.

They traded greetings. Amanda waited a decent interval while he served himself before she started up the discussion again. "Have you seen Spock this morning, Doctor?"

"I monitored him through the night." He glanced at both of them. Sarek seemed impassive. Amanda seemed determined. "His fever's down."

"Do you think he's up to greeting the visitors we arranged for him? You were all for it, yesterday."

McCoy glanced again at Sarek. "I was. I think he could be up for a little distraction later this afternoon. I do think it would be good for him. And your wife is correct in one sense, Sarek. If we don't get him interacting, if we keep him too sheltered, that could cripple him in another way."

Amanda punctuated her assertion with a fork pointed in her husband's direction. "There. You see?"

Sarek was unmoved. "Doctor McCoy speaks from a human, a psychological viewpoint. He is not a telepath. He does not understand the potential ramifications. It's too soon."

"They are just formal greetings. Council investitures and acknowledgements. They don't need to expand beyond that unless Spock chooses to extend them."

"There can be many political ramifications," Sarek pointed out.

"I know that. I sit on the damn Council, too."

"When you choose to attend," Sarek sat back and raised a telling brow. "Which is only when the law requires it. You are most delinquent."

"Oh," Amanda let out her breath. "That is not fair! I have a job of my own you know. I don't have time to spend every day in Council thinking deep thoughts and debating the whichness of what!"

McCoy strangled on his toast, and gulped down a swallow of tea to clear his throat. Neither of the two combatants spared him a glance, having gone right back at it, hammer and tongs.

Amanda's cheeks were pink with her fury. "I have my own ivory tower to perch in at the VSA. Anyway, you never told me about that little requirement before you married me."

"It is still inconceivable to me that you did no research into my background on your own."

Amanda set her mouth and accused him with a spoon. "And I suppose you hired a private detective to look into my background before you proposed."

"Several," Sarek said, meeting her eyes evenly.

Amanda sat back, her eyes wide and her mouth open. "Well! That's the first I've heard of this. How….obnoxious! How dare you?"

Sarek flicked a brow. "It is pointless to have an emotional reaction regarding events so long ago."

"So long ago! Thank you very much!"

"Do not use this to attempt to derail the point of my argument."

"You throw in a bombshell like that and expect me to not get distracted? Fine. We'll talk about it later. And will we talk about it!"

"I now rather regret mentioning it."

"Just wait and you'll find out how much you are going to regret it."

Sarek appeared entirely undaunted by this threat. "Indeed. We shall see. My point, however, being you do not sit in Council often enough to be au courant with the political realities. When Spock accepts Council tributes, he should be prepared with a précis of the background of those from whom he accepts pledges."

"You don't think I'd invite anyone who'd be a problem for Spock, do you? It's just Sofet. No one in Council, save your or me or T'Pau could be more kindly disposed to Spock than he. He helped him get into Starfleet, years ago." She caught her breath. "Oops!"

Sarek's face darkened. "That is something of a bombshell of your own."

"Don't hold it against him."

"We will discuss that later also."

"Remember what you said about emotional reactions to past events," Amanda pointed out.

"Never-the-less, I will have a few words for Sofet when next I see him. To return one again to the point in question, I concur in theory with your assessment of Sofet – even before I heard of this disturbing development. However, Spock is still hardly well enough to receive anyone outside of the family. And you did not invite only Sofet. Did you"

Amanda attempted to look innocent. "Just Sanjean."

Sarek just shook his head, the human gesture rather than the terse Vulcan negative, his Vulcan emotions seeking expression in a gesture of human exasperation. "With that I do not concur."

"I did my research this time. He's a peer. As much as anyone can be for Spock. He heads a coalition of independent, liberal young council members."

"I am well aware of that. I hardly approve of some of their proposals."

"You hardly approve of some of Spock's," Amanda countered, "but that's not the point. He's certainly not in one of the anti-Federation camps. He's also only a few years older than Spock. He knows him from when Spock attended Council before he went off to Fleet, though they never went to school together. And he is a distant clansman."

"Very distant."

"Clan is clan," Amanda punctuated her argument with a thrust of her fork. "And I had him in a class of mine. He was perfectly polite, curious, even friendly. I think he's going to be a comer in future Council politics. I like him. Sarek, it's time Spock met some of those who are going to be his future Council peers. He's been away too long."

"Sanjean is not a peer. Our clan stands for tradition. Sanjean is oppositional."

"Tradition, my foot. Who do you think you are sitting across from?" Amanda pulled her hair back from her round human ears. Neither I nor Spock is exactly traditional."

Sarek was indomitable. "Personal choices have nothing to do with political and sociological tenets."

"A pretty answer, but you know that's absolute rubbish."

"On the contrary. From a Vulcan perspective it is perfect logic. Our clan stands for all the traditions of Surak, unadulterated."

Amanda rolled her eyes. "Save me from perfect logic. Anyway, I invited him, he accepted, and he's coming. If Spock doesn't want to see him he can accept his Council greetings and dismiss him in the next sentence. If he does, then they can catch up."

"Sanjean is not one I would have Spock allied with."

"It's just a visit, not the forming of a political coalition between two factions. Sanjean is not going to solicit Spock to commit political heresy. At least not today. I'm not disinviting him."

Sarek tilted his head and stared at Amanda for a full thirty seconds. She stared back. McCoy looked from one to the other, wondering what would be the outcome of this unvoiced pitched battle.

Finally Sarek finished his calculations and tilted his head in the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "Very well."

Amanda's lips twitched. "Meaning you've thought of six different ways to deal with any fallout, political or clan."

"Precisely. However, the personal ramifications," he noted with a raised brow, "will be yours to deal with."

She looked wary and for the first time, a little unsure. "Not any more, Sarek. Not since Babel."

He flicked the brow. "True. I stand corrected. And the medical repercussions will be those of the healers. And Dr. McCoy. And I will get their approval as to whether Spock's shields can handle this invasion before your visitors arrive.

Amanda smiled in relief. "Will you be here this afternoon?" She asked hopefully.

"Unlike you, I do have Council to attend."

"Sarek, I do the best I can. There's only one of me, you know."

"How fortunate for the Federation that is," Sarek rose from the table. Eyeing McCoy, he settled for offering his wife the traditional two fingered touch of bondmates.

"Very funny," Amanda said, touching fingers in turn. "What would you do without me?"

"Do not tempt me to address that."

"You are being political. Sarek, do try to come home early."

"If possible. Doctor." Sarek nodded at him and left.

McCoy finally remembered to breathe and shook his head, flabbergasted. "You two never cease to astound me. I never expected to see you of all people go nine rounds with your husband."

"It was hardly that." Amanda glanced at her watch, frowned, and returned to her breakfast.

"You sure didn't act that way on the Babel mission."

Amanda grimaced in memory. "Please don't remind me. Poor Spock. I was horrid."

"Apart from that little flare of temper at the end…"

"Doctor, you have no idea," she shook her head. "There was a lot behind the scenes that you didn't see. I am not a nice person. Not always, anyway."

"I don't believe that."

Amanda looked sideways at him, as if wondering whether to convince him otherwise. Then she smiled rather wickedly. "You think I'm some sweet little old lady, don't you? I almost rather like that. How I hate to dissuade you. I think that I won't."

McCoy eyed her warily, "Now I'm beginning to wonder."

She nodded solemnly. "You have no idea."

"If you keep winning arguments with Vulcans, you just might change my mind."

"That wasn't an argument," she dismissed. "You don't want to be anywhere near an actual argument. Neither do I for that matter."

"Still, you won."

"Ha," she said, returning again to her neglected breakfast. "No one, save perhaps Spock, and T'Pau herself, ever really beats Sarek. He's always six steps ahead. It's all tactics. He just lets you think you're winning on some minor point. Then he swoops in behind you and carries everything away. Never trust a Vulcan when he's letting you think you've won. I'm going to be wondering all day what he has up his sleeve." She looked pensive a moment, her brow knitted, then shrugged. "Oh well, I'll find out soon enough."

"I really don't understand you. Sometimes you bow your head and don't even look at Sarek, and sometimes you battle it out. Is that just you picking your battles?"

"Ah, " Amanda nodded. "In part. But picking times, mostly. One thing I have learned through bitter experience, Doctor. Never argue with a Vulcan who isn't in perfect control. Angry Vulcans are lethal. Wait till they are in a responsive, or rather responsible, mood before sticking them full of pins. It's much healthier for the human involved."

"Amen to that," McCoy said, thinking of the times he or Jim had been on the receiving end when Spock had lost it. "Though I confess I have a bad habit of niggling your son, goading a reaction. Sometimes getting more than I expected."

Amanda stared at him, pausing with a piece of toast half way to her mouth in shock. "I'm amazed you're still alive."

"Hmmm. I thought I was helping him to find his humanity."

"Ouch." Amanda shook her head. "It's your neck, Doctor. There's nothing wrong with teasing – Sarek, even Spock, have a mischievous sense of humor – but to goad a Vulcan past his control, that's an entirely different matter. Better you than me. And better you don't. I can't recommend it." She took a sip of tea, musing. "I can't believe Sarek had me investigated. Are we going to have a discussion about that."

McCoy's lips twitched and he shook his head. Then he grew serious. "Amanda, what's a Council investiture?"

Amanda glanced at him. "Oh, that's a long story. How can I explain the short version? You know Sarek is head of Council."

"An ambassador who's also a legislator? That's unusual isn't it?"

"Not for Vulcan," Amanda continued. "And Spock is Sarek's son."

"Yeah."

"And heir."

"It doesn't matter that he's…your…" he waggled a brow.

"No. He was presented to Council when he was three, and sealed as Sarek's heir by T'Pau. So that's not an issue. Now Vulcans are logical-"

"To put it mildly."

"But they weren't always logical. They have a rich and rather…feudal history. A violent one of warring clans."

"The guards with the long pikes sort of gave that away."

Amanda wagged her head reprovingly. "Now, now. You have to admit those guards make a great tourist holo at Council Keep. Though that's not why they're there. Anyway, Vulcans never forget their feudal history. Eidetic memory, inherent memory, etc. All that's buried, down deep, under the veneer of modern Vulcan civilization. The clans of Vulcan fought a lot of very bad wars. The uniting of the clans by Surak and the forms by which they reached peace are something they…revere…with an almost religious fervor. From a human point of view, anyway. They have hardly changed the ceremonies in five thousand years, in spite of their archaic form.

"Hence the guys with the pikes."

"Right. And the clan of Surak, the heads of Council are especially important. When a new heir to Council reaches maturity, every member of Council makes a point to swear a sort of fealty to the person as a symbol of part of the institution, the living chain. Spock hasn't had those yet. He hasn't been on planet. That's what Sarek and I were discussing."

"But you said he was named as heir at three."

"True, but only a mature Vulcan is able to lead Council. He's not considered to have mastered…one of the essential flaws of Vulcan's violent past. Spock wasn't mature until last year."

"When he went through Pon Far."

Amanda shook her head. "I've been with Vulcans too long. I wince when I hear you say it out loud like that. Vulcans have a myriad of euphemisms for the term. Anyway, before that a regent would have had to lead Council if something had happened to Sarek before then. But now Spock is of an age to begin receiving, and accepting, the formal acknowledgements of Council members and shouldering adult duties. Basically they're acknowledging the person as holding the institutional role, and swearing fealty to continue the Council hierarchy as an institution back to the days of Surak. So it's not at all personal in that sense. Spock has to do no more than formally acknowledge their fealty. But it is important to the Council members and to Spock. It's time for Spock to start dealing with the reality of his future. And if he doesn't or can't go back to Starfleet, it will remind him, assure him, he has a place and a role here to fulfill that was decided long before he chose to attend Starfleet Academy. At the very least it will give him something else to think about."

"I agree he needs that," McCoy said. "And I approve."

Amanda let out a relieved sigh.

"I have a question, though," McCoy asked curiously. "Who would have been Spock's regent if something had happened to Sarek? Would that have been T'Pau?"

Amanda grinned and pushed her hair back behind her round human ears again.

"Wow," McCoy said.

"You don't know the half of it, Doctor. Let's just say that's one irony I'm glad to have been spared," she replied.

xxx

Kirk was up by noon. He had a hearty brunch, and went up to check on Spock. A posse of healers was just leaving. The Vulcan looked better than he had yesterday, but not by much. "You are becoming far from regulation, Commander," Kirk noted as they sat down to play chess. "I hope you're not going native on me." He drew a belated breath at how that came out sounding a little too close to the truth.

Spock appeared bemused. "How so?"

"Well. You could get a haircut."

Spock looked across the room to where a mirror showed them both, he with his hair down past his collar. "I hadn't thought about it. It is somewhat…excessive."

"I think it's rather cute," Amanda teased from the doorway, an elderly Vulcan behind her. "Captain, may I introduce Sofet, one of Vulcan's most distinguished citizens?"

"She means one of the oldest," Sofet said. "I am honored, Captain. Even an ancient Vulcan councilor such as I am, is aware of your exploits."

"Sir," Kirk said.

Sofet turned to Spock, holding out a belaying hand when the younger Vulcan began to rise. "The honor is mine," Sofet said instead, and adding something in Vulcan, he took a step forward and made as if to lower himself. Kirk half thought the old man was falling, but then he realized it was deliberate. But before Sofet could even bend his knees, Spock had risen. "That is not necessary, Sir," Spock said – in English, in deference to Kirk.

"Given my joints are not cooperating, I will not argue with you," Sofet conceded, "though my actions are scandalous. It is traditional to acknowledge an heir upon his maturity."

"I stand acknowledged," Spock said ironically.

"Oh, what a wicked pun," Amanda said. "Captain, I believe this is yours." she held out Kirk's communicator, as Kirk put his hand reflexively to his empty comm patch. "It startled T'Jar when she was doing her chores – it must have fallen down out on the Terrace - and she went running for the Guard. She was afraid it was some terrible Terran weapon that was going to blow up the Fortress. She couldn't conceive of any mere communications device making such a horrid noise.

"It's not that loud," Kirk said, accepting the communicator.

"Vulcans," Amanda said, tilting her head in the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug. "Sofet," she added, "if you dare to remain some moments longer in a house full of terrible Federation devices, perhaps you could see me before taking your leave?"

"Of course."

"Captain," Amanda nodded politely and left.

Kirk flipped open the communicator and saw the call had been from Scotty. "Probably something about the refit," he said to Spock. "Since you're busy here, I'll check it out and see you later. Sir," he nodded to Sofet, who was looking down with interest at the chess set.

"I remember when my great grandfather gave this set to your great great grandfather," Sofet said, picking up a piece. "Perhaps a game?"

xxx

Kirk beamed up to the engineering hull cargo transporter and into organized chaos. He dodged an antigrav mat being trundled along by a Vulcan technician. Scotty was as cheerful as any chief engineer could be with a fully equipped space dock around to answer his every dream, and license to take his ship to pieces to fulfill them all.

"You look like things are going well," Kirk said. "In spite of this madhouse. What's the issue you wanted to see me about in person? The yard here giving you trouble?"

"Ah, it's a bonny yard, Captain," Scotty said. "Ne'er one so brae. We could reframe the lass from the knees up."

"I didn't know she had knees," Kirk said. He dodged another piece of machinery that defied identification. "Where can we talk without being decapitated?"

"We'll hie for my office." They passed along a viewport that showed the engine nacelles being gently towed away from the main hull.

"You're being thorough," Kirk noted.

"Weell, you said we'd be here for a bit, Captain. And the Klingons served us a fair bit of trouble. And Starfleet docks are good, mind ye, but not like this. It only makes sense to do all we can. The laddies here have gone beyond even the best of the Fleet yards. It's what I wanted to talk about, private like. Not over a communicator, so you see."

"Go on," Kirk said.

"I was talking to an engineer here, on the quiet. With a verra little trouble, just a few wee modifications, we could increase our warp drive by thirty-five percent. Even more, engine wise, is possible for these laddies. But the rest of the ship's systems couldna handle the strain, so we'll stop on a prudent, compromised note." Scotty handed over a pad with the modifications sketched out.

Kirk's eyes bugged at the specs. "Warp 15? What the hell is prudent about Warp 15?"

"Ah Captain, I'll have yon engines singing like they'll choiring in a kirk. They'll be bonny, nae ye fear."

Kirk looked through the designs, eyeing the load balances. "How reliable would these modifications be? I don't want us to discover a major problem light years from civilization. "

"Safe enough for your grandmither," Scotty asserted. "These laddies know their stuff."

"What about the cost of all this extra work?"

"Fleet has a contract here to cover emergency repairs, and so forth."

"This is a little more than 'so forth'. And this is a refit, not emergency repairs."

"Aye. But the cost could be…managed."

"Meaning you'll hide these extra modifications in with other charges," Kirk shook his head. "Would Vulcans go for that?"

"Aye, they understand a wee bit of creative accounting. These are engineers, like. Anyone who can coax warp 22 out of a matter/antimatter mix will not get bogged down by a bit of daft paperwork. I've got a verra good relationship with the head of yon yard."

Kirk did a double take at the reference to Warp 22. His eyes suddenly fixed on the logo at the top of the pad. The company logo of the shipyard. Suddenly something clicked in his mind. "All right, Scotty," he said slowly. "Make your mods."

"Aye, sir!"

"I want to check in at the bridge. Is the saucer connected at all?" Kirk asked.

"Och, nae, sir. But the lads'll beam you there, quick as a trice."

Kirk shook his head and headed back to the hull's transporter room and beamed over. The transporter room in the saucer, unlike that in the hull, was orderly. The damage here had been minimal. Most personnel were on leave, and the bridge, when he made it there, was nearly deserted. Chekov was in the com. That he'd been rather relishing having it entirely to himself was reflected in the flicker of disappointment on his face when Kirk came through the turbo doors.

"Keptin."

"At ease, Ensign," Kirk said trying not to smile at Chekhov's obvious lack of enthusiasm to see him. "This is just a visit. Anything to report?"

"Mr. Scott hoped to have the nacelles reconnected to the hull in four days, but there's been some delay. I believe he has some issues to discuss with you."

"We had that discussion, yes. Ensign, I want to you look up something for me on Spock's console." Kirk showed him a top fax sheet from the pad.

"Yes, sir. Chekov looked down. "Uh, Mr. Scott would be better able to explain these schematics to you."

"Not the specs. Tell me about the company represented by that logo." Kirk settled in the con and reviewed ship's status while Chekov employed Spock's computers.

Chekov looked up in only a few moments. "It's a werry reputable firm, Captain. All the Starfleet authorizations are current."

"I wasn't worried about that. I want to know who owns it."

"Ah…." Chekov temporized, looking through his readouts. "A holding company. Registered in the Federation for interstellar commerce as Shikahr Enterprises. That's all I have."

"Who owns them?"

Chekov looked further. "It's a private company," he finally answered. "I can't pronounce the Vulcan name. Werry closely held. There's not much information that's public." He looked apologetic.

"Hmmm. Do this private company have a logo?" Kirk asked, with a flash of inspiration.

Chekov looked relieved at one thing he could answer. "On the main monitor," he said, transferring his output.

Kirk was faced with an image of a lematya outstretched in full attack mode. The same image he'd seen over and over again during the last few days in Spock's home. In statuary guarding the sweep gates. On the building's frieze. In sculpture in the formal gardens. On giant tapestries in the great hall.

"I've seen that before," Uhura said, coming up behind them to relieve the Ensign, nodding at the screen. "It's woven in metallic threads on a coverlet on Mr. Spock's bed. Gorgeous embroidery."

Chekov and Kirk both swiveled to stare at her, mutely accusing.

"I have permission to go in and borrow his lyre if he's on duty," she said, replying with mildly outraged dignity to their unasked question. "Really!"

"Sorry, Lieutenant," Kirk said with a scapegrace smile. "Now that you mention it, I've seen that blanket myself."

"And the other one," Uhura said, nodding to the sheet in Kirk's hand, at the circlet of lematya, the outstretched claws of a following lematya just touching the tufted tail of its predecessor, "is engraved on his lyre. Not to mention on the coveralls of every refit tech combing through the Enterprise. It must be a pretty diverse company if they make everything from starship engines to musical instruments."

"Not to mention small craft," Kirk said. For that had been what cued him. He had thought that Amanda's comment about Warp 22 being the top speed of Sarek's flyer had been a teasing throwout number, a bogus exaggeration from someone not knowledgeable about real technical limitations. He hadn't realized she'd simply been recounting the exact truth. It wasn't until Scotty also mentioned Warp 22 that he'd put it all together. That circlet of lematya image had been on Sarek's flyer, matching the logo on the spec paper he held in his hand. And it had been on Amanda's. And Spock's little airfoil flyer. He looked at the outstretched lematya, splayed across the center screen. Given Vulcans' logical mindset, he thought there could be no coincidence that this was the exact heraldic image for Sarek and Spock's clan. He wondered, grimly, how closely 'very closely held' meant. And what that meant in credits. Not to mention financial power.

"Thinking of investing, Captain?" Uhura asked, breaking into his thoughts.

"I think I'm already invested way too deep," Kirk said lightly and rose. "Carry on, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir."

Beaming back down to the planet, he walked up from the transporter platform with a young Vulcan who looked to be about Spock's age and who introduced himself as Sanjean. Like Sofet had been, he was dressed in a formal, heavily embroidered clan shield tunic, something similar to what Sarek had worn on the Enterprise, but with a different pattern in the shield. In spite of his archaically blazoned tunic, the young Vulcan greeted Kirk in perfect Federation standard.

"I am honored to meet you, Captain. I assure you that I am not one of those Council members who believe that Vulcan and her allies should withdraw from the Federation."

Kirk was startled at this. "I wasn't aware it was an open issue."

"Oh, it's not up for question now," the young Vulcan said easily. "But I can assure you that at times it is very stridently debated. Fascinating discussions. However, like Sarek, I do not see that Vulcan remaining in the Federation is in any way a challenge to our traditions and beliefs. Vulcan, after all, has had colonies and offworlder alliances for thousands of years, yet still remained Vulcan in nature."

"I guess that so far the Federation has been lucky for Vulcan's tolerance," Kirk said with tacit irony.

"Indeed it has," Sanjean said with perfect conviction.

That gave Kirk something to think about as they walked in.

T'Jar met them, gave the Vulcan equivalent of a bob to Sanjean, bowing her head and putting her hands together in a brief gesture, and suggesting their guest follow her. She nodded to Kirk, eying the communicator on his belt suspiciously. Kirk decided to tag along. Sanjean seemed to find this perfectly acceptable.

Kirk had thought Spock would have been tired from his first guest. If that were the case, he was prepared to boot Sanjean politely out, traditional or not. But in that he was surprised. Sofet's visit had apparently done Spock real good. In fact, between the time Sofet had left him and now, Spock had had his hair trimmed and had changed clothes from a soft Vulcan sandsuit to dark slacks and a tunic, not as elaborate as Sanjean's heavily encrusted tunic, but certainly formal.

Kirk drew a breath to greet Spock, but before he could say a word, Sanjean surprised him by dropping gracefully to his knees before Spock, holding out his hands in some ritual gesture and bowing his head, while at the same time echoing some unpronounceable Vulcan formality. Spock frowned fractionally, the barest trace of expression, apparently not entirely comfortable with the gesture. But he touched hands very lightly and replied. Sanjean then rose and following Spock's gesture, took a seat.

Kirk belatedly closed his mouth, not that either of the Vulcans had noticed him. It was clear to Kirk that this was the gesture that Sofet had earlier been about to make that Spock had dissuaded him from attempting. He cleared his throat. The casual greeting he'd been about to make now seemed somehow out of place before Sanjean's ritual formality.

Spock looked at him. His face might have had a trace more of green than usual, particularly since lately he'd been so pale. But his voice was Vulcan even as he said, "Sanjean was following an ancient Council protocol, one traditional from his clan to mine."

"I've seen you do…something similar…with T'Pau." Then however, Kirk remembered, T'Pau had touched Spock's temple. Here Spock and Sanjean had merely brushed palms barely touching.

"Ah, but that was between family," Sanjean said. "Though Spock and I are distant….what is the human relational equivalent…cousins?"

"Essentially," Spock said, still looking slightly uncomfortable.

"Well, I'm glad it's not the way we hand over the con on the bridge," Kirk said, striving for lightness.

"It is traditional for a Council member upon first formally acknowledging a Council head," Sanjean said. "As I explained, Captain, I am a traditionalist in spite of some of my political positions."

"So you said," Kirk replied, thinking this whole situation was rapidly becoming unreal. He needed some time to regroup.

"If you'll excuse me, I'll leave you two to talk. I just wanted to let you know the refit is going well, Spock. Scotty's having a grand time. Though we may not recognize the Enterprise when we get back to it."

"Thank you, Captain," Spock said, gravely remote.

"Is it possible to see the Enterprise, Captain?" Sanjean asked. "I would find even a short tour of a Federation warship fascinating."

"The Enterprise is primarily a vessel of exploration." Kirk said. "Not a warship."

"Indeed? Then I would find it even more interesting."

Kirk glanced at Spock, and seeing he had no objections, nodded. "Leave your contact information with Spock. When she's more in shape for a tour, if we have time before we leave port, I'll let you know."

"She?"

"Ships are referred to as feminine in Federation Standard," Spock said.

"Fascinating," Sanjean said again. "Certainly I would wish to wait until Spock is able to accompany us. And perhaps, Captain, I might invite a few other interested Council members?"

"If you wish," Kirk said, seeing Spock had no objection. Rather, he seemed to be slightly puzzled, evaluating Sanjean with new eyes.

"I'll see you later, Spock," Kirk said.

Walking out of the room, he came face to face again with another one of those blasted lematya tapestries. And with his problem. Only it had turned out to be much bigger than what he had surmised it to be this morning.

He wasn't just up against Sarek and Amanda and a house and a life of privilege and scientific endeavor. He was up against much more. It wasn't just a big house, but a chunk of the planet that made even one of the huge Iowa agri-farms look like a postage stamp. Thousands of miles, at least. Not to mention the city of Shikahr. Who the hell owned a city that big? He had been worried Spock might be tempted by job offers from the Vulcan Science Academy. He hadn't known there was also what appeared to be a huge corporate conglomerate, an empire that could, probably, build a fleet of ships like the Enterprise, with Spock conning his choice of them. He had thought Spock's family was important before.

"But I didn't know his family was this important," he muttered, re-echoing his first statement on dealing with Spock's Vulcan family. "I really didn't know."

And now there was this political scenario. He knew Spock had been somehow related to T'Pau. But he had no idea Spock had a political role of his own to play on Vulcan, some inherited position that caused perfect strangers to treat him as if he were pinch hitting for T'Pau with an inevitable succession in the wings. "I don't like it," he muttered. "I don't like it at all."

None of this had he expected.

He was used to battling odds. But between this morning and this afternoon, the odds against prying Spock away from Vulcan suddenly had become much greater. Perhaps more than even a phenomenally lucky Starship Captain might be able to chance. Or overcome.

To be continued…..