How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!
My wife speaks sometimes of her freedom of choice, once made, now lost in a Vulcan bonding. The Human spirit, she reminds me, does not easily bear constraint. Freedom is inherent in its makeup. Humans don't do well in captivity, however well loved the captor, or comfortable the confinement.
And as best a Vulcan can, and as much as biology allows, I try to understand. And relieve what I can of that burden, anathema as it is to her species.
But there are things I do not tell her. Burdens of mine which I refuse to lay upon her. She could do little to alleviate them, anyway. That would require her becoming Vulcan, compromising her own humanity. And as Vulcan travails, they are mine to resolve.
For after millennia of restraint under logical disciplines, the Vulcan heart can be reluctant to stir. Slow to rouse. We have found logic to be the better way for our people. Long practice and harsh disciplines largely contain our warrior ways. But lift that constraint, open the door to passion, even in the marriage bond where such can be allowed, and the genie, to quote one of my wife's human tales, does not so compliantly return again to the bottle. It becomes larger than life, more powerful than he who freed it. Almost impossible to contain. For some. Particularly those of certain clans and in the direct line to our legendary warriors.
So I have found. Passion, once unleashed, even within certain constrained settings, can break free. Given sufficient provocation.
Losing a son, nearly losing a well-named wife allowed my passions, already kindled to mere embers in the marriage bond, to flame out of control, nearly destroying us all. A very Vulcan pronouncement on the dangers of emotion. And a warning.
I have conquered that Vulcan monster, forced it back under control. But the passion, and the genie, is still within me. I still take care not to stir it with reminders of the situation that caused it to rage beyond my control in the past. It has helped that the major source of that conflict has not visited in some time. But the need to be constantly on one's guard takes its toll, throughout the years, Vulcan disciplines aside.
And as it turns out that even a Vulcan heart, when stressed beyond all endurance, can, finally, break.
It's such a human term. Heartbreak. Romantic, in one of its meanings. In that alone it should please Amanda. Except for what it really meant, in this case, for this Vulcan.
We had nearly finished breakfast when the Federation diplomatic packet came.
"I'll get it," Amanda offered, for she had finished her breakfast, as I had not, and had long possessed the security clearance to sign for such things. She went to pick it up from the courier, and brought it in to the table, holding it at length from two fingers, dropping it as distastefully at my place as if it were some sort of vermin and wrinkling her nose as if it smelled that way too.
"It looks like marching orders to me," she said, assigning her long-used phrase for the diplomatic missions that occasionally disrupted our home life. "I suppose now I'll have to tell all my students they have to deal with a teacher who must finish the term by subspace link."
"A probable assumption, but if you wish, I will verify that fact before you leave for the Academy, so that you can make your arrangements."
Amanda rested her chin on her upraised hand and watched me as I opened the first of its many seals. "We couldn't just throw it away and hope they didn't come after us, could we?"
I regarded the small security disk that had been enclosed under all the layers of packing. "This requires a verifier scan. We had better relocate to my office."
"Or we could run away instead, very fast and very quietly, in the opposite direction," my wife suggested hopefully, as she followed me down the hall. "Perhaps they wouldn't find us."
"That would be a dereliction of duty." I sat down at my desk, inserted the disk into the computer, and submitted to a palm scan.
"I won't tell if you won't."
"They would find us," I assured her. "I have a certain notoriety. And I have been assured, my wife, that you are a 'press darling'".
She made a wry face. "You're confusing me with Amanda Grayson, 'romantic figure', star of scandal rag and press release. I only do that in the line of duty. Your duty. Dr. Grayson, prosaic teacher and unnotorious researcher, prefers to have no comment. In fact, she's seriously considering a lifetime case of laryngitis."
"She is going to have to find her voice again." I submitted to a retina scan. "She certainly seems to have found it now."
"I could expire, waiting for you to open this confounded thing," she said, drumming her fingers as the computer went through another Federation clearance. "These security boys need to have their budgets trimmed – or something more productive to spend their time on. They are confusing us with someone who believes they have any secrets to keep. Do they honestly think we have nothing better to do than to play these silly spy games --"
"Please repeat the following code for a voice print analysis" the computer said.
"Or we could both expire, of boredom and fatigue, jumping through all their security hoops, which may outlast even a Vulcan's lifetime--"
"Hush," I told her, and realized with some exasperation that the computer would take that as an answer.
"Non-responsive." The security program replied. "Second try of three."
Amanda smiled in mischievous amusement. "See, we still have a chance. There's always the last resort: hiding under the bed. I'm sure the resident monsters already taking refuge there would make room for us, given the situation--"
"Amanda," I warned.
"You told me to find my voice."
"Non-responsive. Third and final voice print test."
She drew a breath but I fixed her dumb with an emphatic glare and gave the computer the code word it requested. "Babel."
"They say the third is the charm," my wife said. "How I wish you weren't so charming, my husband. It seems more likely a curse in this case."
"I may not have been so charming, had you corrupted the last security test. Were I not Vulcan, you would have almost made me reconsider the efficacy of what in your culture is called a good spanking."
Amanda looked amused and reflective. "I was spanked once, as a child. I forget exactly what I did, something very fun and very naughty. And I considered the fun and the spanking together, very seriously, and I went out and did it again."
"That I can well believe. To return to more responsible subjects, however, your assumption was correct," I said, examining the summary. "These are marching orders."
"Darn! I was so hoping for just one more delay. Then I could teach out the rest of my current term."
"I had warned you this was likely."
"And great prognosticator that you may be in these things, hope still springs eternal in my spirit."
"I am sorry to crush such timeless optimism," I said. "But this is quite definite." I scanned down through the rest of the documents for the particulars. "A general conference to discuss the admission of Corridon to the Federation has been called. It should be an interesting, if somewhat volatile, session. They would have done better to wait until more diplomacy had exhausted some of the more raucous factions in this debate."
"I do believe that every once in awhile the Federation likes to bring all its representatives together just to have a good old-fashioned free-for-all. It gives them that welcome opportunity to reevaluate the competition. In fact, I wouldn't put it past them to create untenable situations just to have the excuse."
"An interesting philosophy," I remarked. "You may well be correct."
"In this, my dear husband, I'd far rather be wrong," she said. "I really don't want to go to Babel. It's going to be a nasty situation and I have far more interesting and mature things to do at home. Can't we be excused? Given credit for time served?"
"Parole is not extended to Federation representatives," I said, amused. "Only for lesser criminal offenses against the Federation. Theft, murder and so on."
"T'Pau has the final rule on all jurisprudence on Vulcan. How about a note from your mother? 'Please excuse us from attending—'"
"T'Pau is not likely to grant such a request. Nor will I be likely to request one from her. I am going. And as you succumbed to my charm enough to become my wife, you are equally required to attend me."
"Someday, my husband, I must teach you the delights of playing hooky."
"If you don't leave for the Academy now, you will be tardy and very nearly close to playing hooky yourself."
Amanda checked her chronometer. "Whoops, it is getting late. I had better give my students the sad tidings. Not to mention the administration. What's our departure date?"
"The 20th day of Tasmeen," I said.
She paused, dismayed. "That's less than three weeks!"
"It seems the situation has some urgency. And from a security position, speed is a benefit. They are leaving enough time only to gather the constituents. We are fortunate to have three weeks; we'll be one of the last to be picked up."
"Urgency!" she stormed. "They dither about it for months, then expect us to drop everything when they finally make up their minds. Oh, very well. I'll warn my classes to warm up their subspace transmitters. And beware the ides of March."
"It will only be a conference, not a political assassination," I replied absently, still reading.
"Social knife work is de rigueur at such events."
"I'm sure Federation security will take every step to ensure that this will be a peaceful gathering. Look what they have done already to ensure the location is secret."
"Nothing this widely attended is going to be secret, my husband, no matter what the spy boys intend."
"It should still be uneventful--" I paused. My breath caught, and stilled. Almost, for a moment it was if my heart skipped a beat. Perhaps it had.
"So we can only hope," Amanda said. "But I was only teasing, my husband. I will play Ruth yet again. And let the Academy know of my departure." She waited a moment, then taking my silence for absorption in work, walked out the door.
Leaving me riveted to the one item of information that would have vastly changed her willingness to leave for the Babel mission. And the one that made me almost desirous, if such could be said of a Vulcan, of deserting his duty. For the transportation that was engaged to ferry us to the Corridon conference was the Starship Enterprise.
To be continued…