PHASE I

Shed no tears for me; there'll be rain enough today.
I'm wishing you Godspeed as I wave you on your way.
This won't be the first time I've stayed behind to face
the bitter consequences of an ancient fall from grace.
I'm a daughter of the race of Cain.
I am not a stranger to the rain.


Chapter 1

Amanda gazed out of the lounge's large windows to San Francisco's evening sky. The lights of the city sparkled much like the stars in the dark. The Golden Gate Bridge with its subdued, enhancing lighting brought a touch of color and splashed radiance on the bay below it. Little points of darting light from ships and cars zipped like fireflies in the darkness, and the grandness of Starfleet Command ruled over it all.

Amanda's eyes twinkled as she thought of a beloved someone who preferred the stars dominate over any city lights, especially as skylines dimmed the natural brilliance of the heavens. But for Amanda herself, it was good to be back on Earth again.

Earth. She wondered when she stopped thinking of it as home. She was certainly not fully a part of this world anymore. Like any time she traveled – and being who and what she was, she traveled quite a bit -- she felt chilled after living so long in the desert heat, and the change of gravity had made her a bit dizzy at first. Vulcan had definitely made itself her home long ago which she regretted not at all.

Not that she still didn't love Earth. She would always be of it, even if her place was on that desert world that she'd come to love and see for its beauty.

She sipped from her champagne flute, trying to remember how long it had been since she was this happy. A visit here, including the luncheon today with her aunt and sister, and most of all, the fact she could put a hand behind her and touch both husband and son -- at peace, talking harmoniously over the new Klingon treaty they had worked together to bring about. She smiled into her drink.

She turned back into the room. It's good to see all of them again. She still couldn't believe Jim Kirk had retired. She knew from Spock that without the Enterprise to command, Kirk couldn't see staying with Starfleet, but she wondered what he would do instead. She thought he looked a little lost behind the pleasant face that was beaming at everyone in the room.

Most of his command crew was here: Spock, McCoy, Chekov, Scotty, and Uhura. Sulu naturally was with Excelsior. And Valeris was under arrest... Amanda put the champagne down, no longer wanting its bite on her tongue.

Besides the command officers were other Enterprise crew members and a myriad of friends Kirk had made over the years, but he stayed closest to the first group. They were separating soon. With their one month leave up following the Khitomer Treaty, Chekov was leaving for a first officer's position, Uhura was temporarily assigned here at Starfleet Command, and Scotty was trying his hand at ship design, specifically with engineering modifications. Amanda hadn't heard what Spock or McCoy planned to do. She had a small, secret hope that her son would also leave the Fleet. She was enormously proud of him, but she was his mother. She hated seeing him risk his life.

She slipped next to Sarek, listening to him talk with their son. Not far away, an admiral spoke with Kirk about the shake-up at Starfleet because of Cartwright's conspiracy against the Klingons. Even the Academy was under examination, some wondering if Cartwright manipulated records to move Valeris to the head of her class and, therefore, to Enterprise. Amanda saw Spock's subtle reaction when he heard the words, and wished for the hundredth time she had shared her concerns about Valeris more openly with him.

Looking in Kirk's direction, she saw two officers enter the lounge: a blonde, bearded, middle-aged human male and a tall, brunette human woman. Amanda chuckled that she automatically classified them as humans when before her life with Sarek, she'd never have done it. The two hesitated at the door and then crossed the room in her direction. The chuckle strangled in her throat as she immediately recognized the look they wore, a unique somber expression and tight body language that clenched her heart.

They weaved amongst the crowd, and she prayed for each person they approached, wondering if he or she was the one about to hear dreadful news. But the officers kept coming. Her hand brushed Sarek's, the touch electrifying him with her anxiousness. He gazed sharply at her and then in the direction where she looked.

The officers were up to Kirk now. "Excuse me, sir," the man said, and then moved past him. That's when she knew they were headed for her. She was the only other one in line with their path and she saw their eyes lock onto hers. Kirk was watching them and now McCoy had noticed too; their faces grew grave in recognition.

She moaned softly, leaning closer to her husband, and knew he identified that look as well. It was the same expression the Starfleet officers wore when they came years ago to tell Sarek and Amanda their son was dead, killed in the line of duty.

She reached out and lightly laid her hand on Spock's wrist, reassuring herself. With him solid next to her, she didn't care that the gesture was illogical; even Sarek was darting a glance at Spock standing healthy and very much alive next to them.

The officers were only a few steps away from her now. The seconds it took for them to reach her stretched into an endless, building tension until each step seemed to be in slow motion. She almost imagined hearing the thud when their feet struck the floor, replacing the beats of her frozen heart. She heard a phantom voice giving her the memorized words they'd use: We're sorry to inform you...

Another moan escaped, forming the name she knew they were about say: "Saavik."

The man spoke first in that rehearsed tone she dreaded. "Amanda of Vulcan, we're sorry to inform you that Lieutenant Saavik has been seriously injured during a shipboard accident."

And Amanda's heart started beating again. "She's alive?" She wondered if her voice was as weak as it sounded in her ears. In that moment of resurging hope, she didn't even care they had Saavik's rank wrong.

"Yes, ma'am. However, she's en route to Vulcan--"

"The injuries are that severe?" She should let him just say what he came to say, but she couldn't stand here and listen to a speech.

"It's not that, ma'am. The Aerfen's chief medical officer, Dr. Aakheltok, noticed symptoms the Vulcan Science Academy told him to watch for. They requested Mr. Saavik be transferred to their facilities for treatment."

She was looking at Sarek, but she spoke to the officers. "What symptoms?"

"Dizziness, double vision, increased loss of hand and eye coordination -- in fact, that's what caused her accident. Apparently she was struck by a severe case of vertigo, lost her equilibrium, and fell from a catwalk, crashing onto the roof of a shuttle before she landed on the deck."

Amanda closed her eyes, feeling shards of sympathy pain as she imagined the accident. Sarek spoke then, and his deep tones calmed her as always.

"You said this Dr. Aakheltok contacted the Science Academy. Did they say Saavik had entered Phase I?"

Amanda braced for the inevitable answer.

The woman officer replied after exchanging a look with her partner, clearly communicating they had planned to tell it differently than this. "Yes, sir. That's exactly what they said. In fact, they gave us a message to give to you and your wife."

"And this message is?"

"The first part you've already said yourself. The Science Academy said you were already aware of a syndrome discovered in the last few years. Mr. Saavik is believed to be in Phase I of this new hybrid disease."

McCoy and Kirk abruptly looked at Spock. It was the first time Amanda noticed his expression was made of granite -- hard and inexpressive. She knew it had nothing to do with hearing about the disease and everything to do with hearing Saavik's name.

The female officer continued. "Vulcan also reports two more Phase III casualties. The death count is now five hybrids total."

Amanda dug her nails into the palm of her free hand. She never let go of her husband with the other. Five dead! And Saavik's in Phase I when everyone thought she wouldn't contact the disease at all! It's been years and she never showed symptoms.

Sarek looked over the heads of those standing near him and spied a door for another room. "Follow me," he ordered the officers, and they were whisked away in his and Amanda's wake. Unasked, but knowing they were wanted, were Kirk, McCoy, and the still quiet Spock.

The small meeting room was furnished only with a conference table and chairs. Smaller art pieces, mostly paintings of Federation worlds, decorated the walls, and the tinier windows barely let in a view. The air was stuffy as if the room was unused for a long time.

Once alone, Sarek turned back to the officers. "The hybrids involved are Vulcan. Any others in the Federation are not affected. I must request the information given you by the Science Academy be kept confidential. I will speak with Starfleet Command and the Federation Council for their approval of this, so you need not think you are in conflict with your orders."

They nodded in agreement. The woman tilted her head, curious. "Excuse me, Ambassador, but where you expecting this?"

"No," Sarek answered, "but it was not entirely impossible. Was there anymore to your message?"

"Yes, sir. Healer Sorel requests that you both return to Vulcan as soon as possible. He needs to speak with you about the cause of this disease, so we're to send your reply immediately. This is his full report." She handed it to Sarek.

Amanda interrupted firmly. "Tell Sorel we must clear our schedules, but we will come home on the first ship possible. I'd also like you to get a message to Lieutenant Commander Saavik."

The officers exchanged looks again. The man cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but with the current upset at Starfleet Command, all promotions were put on hold until they're reviewed again. That included Lieutenant Saavik's. You understand, they have to make sure someone is not being bumped up in rank because they were in liege with the conspiracy. And, ma'am, the lieutenant is unconscious. She can't hear your message. Perhaps you'd rather--"

Amanda interrupted firmly. "Send my message and make sure someone tells it to her. She'll hear it. Please?" she made herself add. The man swallowed and nodded. "Tell her she's my favorite stray."

They both blinked at her, almost in unison. After all the fuss she'd made, Amanda knew they expected something bigger than this.

"Excuse me?" the woman said.

"She'll understand. Thank you, officers."

The dismissal was obvious, and the officers looked relieved in following it. They nodded in respect and left.

"My wife," Sarek said as the door closed behind them, "being harsh with them for doing their duty was illogical."

She ignored that. "Sarek, five dead! Spock, I want--" She stopped when she saw how utterly still her son was.

He actually stepped back when she moved to him. "Mother", he said stiffly, "why are you on Saavik's emergency contact list?"

She wondered how long it had been since he had said that name. Her heart thudded against her ribs. She never planned to tell him this way. "Spock... I know you two stopped talking a couple years ago, but I thought I could keep my friendship with her despite that. I did explain it to you once before. I asked her to put me on that list. It wasn't easy to convince her, but it was important to me."

Spock nodded once with an abrupt jerk of his head. She didn't understand why Kirk and McCoy showed echoes of his coldness. "As you wish, Mother. It is your concern, and you did inform me at the time of your continued association. However, as you have not mentioned Saavik's name in quite some time --"

She wished he would look at her instead of over her head. "I didn't think that'd be a good idea."

"Of course," Spock said, and she understood it'd be the last he'd say on the subject for a long time. "Father, the important matter is the five deaths. I was not aware the hybrid disease was fatal."

"Is Spock in any danger?" Kirk asked.

Sarek was eyeing his son, not liking the tone he had used with Amanda. He wanted to say something about the lack of respect, but she caught his eye and shook her head slightly.

Sarek and Spock were good men. Stubborn and strangely easy to hurt in many ways, and once they got their teeth into an idea, hell or high water wouldn't change their minds. Only time itself had half a chance. But not in this case. She had to heal this with Spock herself; she couldn't let Sarek do it for her.

He reluctantly let it go. "No, Captain, we believe not. The disease has not shown itself in Vulcan/Human hybrids."

"There are more than Spock?"

"You will remember Dr. Daniel Corrigan married Sorel's daughter, T'Mir. They have two daughters."

"Is this why I was asked to give Spock a physical a few years back?" McCoy asked. "I was told to look for the symptoms you mentioned."

"Correct, Doctor," Sarek said. "When the disease first appeared, all hybrids were checked."

"What about Saavik?" McCoy asked further.

"And how many hybrids are we talking about?" Kirk added.

Sarek took a breath and motioned for them to take a seat. McCoy and Kirk did, but Spock remained standing, his hands folded tightly behind his back. Amanda stubbornly pulled up a seat close to him, and resisted the urge to shake him. Hard.

"I believe I should start from the beginning," Sarek said. "Approximately 7.19 years ago, three hybrids exhibited vertigo, poor circulation in the extremities, and the other symptoms you heard earlier. No cause was found and the problem ran its course in a few days, disappearing soon after. The only item the patients had in common was the fact they were hybrids."

A dawning look of comprehension rose over McCoy's face. "Romulan hybrids, right? I mean Vulcan/Romulan hybrids -- excuse the abbreviation, but the full thing is a mouthful."

Darting a look at Spock, Sarek said, "To differentiate between types of Vulcan hybrids, the shorthand is acceptable. Yes, these particular people were half-Romulan. As nothing more came of it, the incidents were simply noted on their medical records. However, within the following six years, all Romulan hybrids living on Vulcan experienced this condition followed by a second phase."

The doctor in McCoy came out. "What happens in this following phase?"

Amanda gave her husband credit. His voice and facial cast never changed while he listed the symptoms of Phase II. No one probably picked up what the phase was a mockery of, but if McCoy saw the medical reports, he'd figure it out fast enough. "Loss of emotional control, increasing aggression, in addition to other similar traits. Like Phase I, the second stage was non-lethal. However, the disease has developed into a third phase. It did not appear until over a year after the second. This third stage has proved fatal. By this time, the hybrids entered the phase more or less as a group with only a few days to a week difference."

"No one jumps to Phase II or III? They all go through the first phase?" McCoy emphasized. When Sarek replied that was true, the doctor scratched the back of his head and glanced sideways at Spock. "That's why they didn't say to look for any symptoms but the first ones. And only the half-Romulans living on Vulcan full time got it? That's why Saavik's not showing anything until now?"

Sarek nodded. "Until this point, Sorel and the other healers theorized some element on Vulcan was creating this condition. Saavik is away from Vulcan more than she is ever there, and the disease began before she lived on the planet."

"What about the hybrids -- the Romulan ones -- who've never lived on Vulcan at all?"

Amanda was startled. Until now, she assumed McCoy knew what he did about the half-Romulans from the prolonged stay on Vulcan after Spock's fal-tor-pan. But if that were true, he'd never know about the hybrids that not only refused the genetic scan to find their Vulcan families, but also refused to follow the Vulcan path at all. She was about to ask him how he knew all this when she put two and two together. She saw Sarek had caught her slip, one he hadn't made himself. He doesn't need to be so smug about it and her answering look told him so.

"Those hybrids," Sarek answered, unfazed by his wife's mockery, "were warned to contact Vulcan if they ever exhibited Phase I traits, as Saavik was and as you and Spock were. However, I see by Sorel's report that with Saavik in Phase I, he is contacting these people now asking them to come to Vulcan's orbital station. If they do not enter the disease, we might discover what is it about the planet that creates this condition by comparing their systems to Saavik's and the others."

Amanda wished Spock wouldn't flinch in that tiny way whenever Saavik's name was mentioned.

Kirk asked again. "How many hybrids are we talking about?"

Spock answered that. "Thirty three total including those living on Vulcan and those not. With the deaths, the original count drops to twenty eight."

Kirk shot a look at McCoy. "And you knew about all this?"

Which is what Amanda wondered earlier and her self-satisfied husband hadn't.

Clearly exasperated, McCoy flung an arm towards Spock. "I had him banging around inside my head, remember? After he died. I know what he knows."

For some reason, this agitated Kirk and Amanda didn't know why. "Why all the secrecy?" he asked.

"The Vulcan/Romulan hybrids are not themselves a secret, Captain," Spock said. "If they were, you would never have met... any of them."

Amanda shifted in her seat, her annoyance growing in a leap. Her son was pig headed. He wasn't going to even say Saavik's name if he could avoid it. He got that stubbornness from his father, because, of course, he could not have gotten it from her. One shake, she thought, if I give him one good shake, maybe he'll grow up.

"However, some facts about these hybrids are confidential," Spock finished.

"But the only hybrids to go through this disease are Romulan ones, right?" McCoy insisted.

"If not, Doctor, I would have urged more vigilant observation of my son's health."

McCoy looked abashed at Sarek's fatherly concern. "Yeah, of course you would've. Sorry."

"'Where no offense is meant, none can be taken,'" the Ambassador quoted Surak before addressing Spock. "At this point, we must discuss Sorel's statement about the cause of this disease. He would not ask me to come to Vulcan if it did not address the team which first dealt with the Romulan hybrids."

That was exactly the opening Amanda was waiting for. She stood up, commanding her son's attention. Let him try to look over her head again. "Spock, you must come to Vulcan. You were a part of that team; in fact, you formed it. I know you ended your friendship with Saavik--"

"Mother," Spock said evidently pained, "Saavik ended the association. I did not."

She was stunned into silence. Now his reaction this whole time, repeated in Kirk and McCoy's faces, made sense, but it was the only thing that made sense. Her carefully prepared words abandoned her. In fact, she almost stammered. "But I was there when she got your letter. Your father and I were onboard the Aerfen on our way to a diplomatic conference. I saw her read it and when I asked what was wrong, she told me you had decided to end it, but she wouldn't tell me your reasons."

"Mother," he said tightly, "are you saying I lie?"

"No, of course not. And you're my son. If for no other reason, I will always take your side. It's only--" She checked to see if Sarek was in agreement with her. He was. "Something's very wrong here. She never could have faked that reaction, never. And it was only an hour or so later that she was told her transfer to the Enterprise was canceled."

Kirk now looked as confused as she felt. "But that's not right. I got a notice saying the transfer was canceled because Saavik changed her mind. I had to scramble to find a replacement. And I saw Spock get that letter from her. What the hell is going on?"

Sarek's eyebrows were drawn together into a dark scowl. "I am unsure. I only know Spock and I are needed on Vulcan where we can possibly prevent more from dying."

Spock raised an eyebrow, and Amanda remembered her husband was one of those who had argued vehemently against the Romulan hybrids coming to Vulcan. His change in opinion obviously surprised his son.

"Perhaps," Sarek was saying, "the answer to this second mystery is also there. Regardless, Amanda and I must prepare to leave Earth immediately. Our first priority is honoring Sorel's request."

"Spock--" Amanda started, but got no further. She ached to breach the chasm forming between them, for him to see what she had said was true.

But Spock only addressed his official responsibilities. "Father, naturally I will go with you. My duty is the same as yours. If any of my research with the Romulan hybrids can help, I will be there to give it."

McCoy let his breath out suddenly like he had been holding it. "Ambassador, if Sorel could use an extra set of hands, I'd like to tag along." He watched Spock for a reaction. Amanda saw he had wanted to make this offer from the beginning, but waited, not wanting friction with his friend. "I already know about the hybrids' background and maybe a fresh set of eyes can help."

"I believe I can speak for Sorel in agreeing with you, Doctor. Your service will be of great help. Captain Kirk, I know the theories about the cause of this disease. I will spare the details now for the sake of time, but more than one theory places the cause with the Romulans. We could use someone with your background. However, I understand you may have other plans."

Kirk shook his head. "I want to go, Sarek. Whatever I can do to help."

And you know Spock prefers the support, Amanda thought. Now that he wrongly thinks I have chosen Saavik's side over his.

She reached for him, but he was already leaving the room. Laughter and carefree noises surged through the door, throwing a harsh contrast like a mirror image. People called for the guest of honor, but Kirk looked as loathed to rejoin the party as she felt.