DEPARTURE—Chapter 3

* * *

For the last four Standard weeks, Spock focused on nothing else but preparing for his trip to Earth and the commencement of studies at Starfleet Academy. First, he had contacted Starfleet Admissions and arranged for transport to Earth via a Starfleet research vessel that would be making a stop at Vulcan. It was scheduled to arrive the next day. In return for his passage, because of Spock's already comprehensive science background, Starfleet assigned him to assisting ship scientists and lab staff with their duties while the ship made its week-long return. Upon arrival, he would travel to Academy headquarters and take his place with the new class of cadets.

It had been a long four weeks for Amanda. She missed her son. When Spock was not outdoors working on an accelerated physical training regimen, he was in his room researching Starfleet Academy in greater detail. He reviewed coursework, physical training expectations, regulations, instructor rosters and backgrounds, and academic departmental structures. He adapted his own study to meet Academy requirements as he learned about them. Except for occasional meals and to attend to hygiene in the home's sanitary facilities, Amanda hardly saw him. On the rare instances when both Sarek—who had also been quieter and more distant lately— and Spock were out of the house, she cried secretly.

She had always quietly loved and supported her son, but tomorrow Spock would be gone. This impending reality overwhelmed her, and she made a decision. She refused to allow Spock to spend his last evening on Vulcan apart from her.

She marched up to Spock's bedroom door and knocked.

"Enter," he said.

She opened the door to find that he had already packed, his bags at the foot of his bed. That was enough the break the last tendril of emotional control that she had, and she burst into tears.

Few times had Spock seen as strong an emotional display from his mother, human though she was. "Mother, why are you crying?" The question was direct, but the tautness in his face softened.

"Spock, you know why." She would not let him hide behind a Vulcan shield. Not today.

But he persisted. "I have outlined my rationale for this decision—twice. You and Father…"

She interrupted. "I did not come here to argue, and I know why you're going. You do not need to defend your choices. You know that I will always support you." She caught her breath. "I came here to be with you for this last while. I do not know when I will see you again after tomorrow. I will worry about you."

Spock relaxed his tight shoulders a bit. "Mother, why will you worry? Worrying is…"

"Illogical, I know," she returned. "But logic seldom applies in a mother's love and concern for her son."

"Mother…"

"I knew that someday you would be off on your own. I just never thought it would be so soon, and that you would be going so far away." She sat on the edge of his bed. He continued to sit at his desk. "I will miss you."

Spock swallowed and nodded. Even this reaction spoke volumes to Amanda. He put on a brave face, but there was also a vulnerability that he would, no doubt, keep well-hidden or suppressed.

"I just remember when you were 8 years old, and we visited my family. Your cousins were nice to you, but you were always so confused by them. Every night before we went to sleep, you asked me a dozen questions about everything that happened during the day, their human behavior, your grandfather's reaction when you took apart the comm station…"

"I did return it to its original state," Spock said.

"Yes, yes, yes, you did … but that's not my point," she smiled, though wiping away a tear. "I was there to assist you in navigating the intricacies and nuances of human interactions."

How long had she lived on Vulcan? That last sentence sounded like one of Sarek's.

She continued. "In non-Vulcan English, I was there for you. But tomorrow you are going to Earth on your own. Letting go … this is a difficult thing for any mother. Especially a human mother."

Spock considered her concerns. "Mother, I am not 8 years old. I have improved my skills for interpreting human behaviors."

"Interpreting them and dealing with them are two different things. I have confidence that you will figure that out. And I have no doubt that you will do well at Starfleet, even if it is run by 'illogical humans.'" She smiled again at that last phrase. The luggage on the floor grabbed her attention again, and she stood up. "You're already packed? It does not look like much."

"I will not need much," he said, rising from his chair. "The Academy provides all uniforms."

"Yes, I am sure that it does." Suddenly, standing next to him, she realized how tall he had grown, how his features had matured. He no longer had the round face of youth. She reached up and gently touched his face along the neck and jaw line. He did not pull away as he would have normally. Instead he looked gently into her eyes, and her throat closed as sadness threatened to force a sob. "Spock, permit me," her voice cracked, as she wrapped her arms around him in a warm embrace.

Usually he stiffened at such encounters, but he let her hold him as tears streamed down her cheeks. Both knew that this kind of mother-son embrace would never happen again. And so they stood.

Neither of them knew that Sarek had witnessed the scene from the hallway. As silently as he had come upon them, he retreated, leaving them to their private moment. He made his way out to the patio, surveying the last glow of twilight as it fell on the red rock outcroppings in the distance.

As Spock had prepared for his studies during the preceding weeks and Amanda had tried to hide her despair (he knew she cried in secret), Sarek remained silent on the matter. Shortly after Spock's appearance at the Vulcan Science Academy, each member of the admissions board pointedly expressed to Sarek that they did not understand Spock's illogic at suddenly making another choice after the hours spent before them reviewing credentials and records. Sarek countered that Spock's choice was indeed logical, as the administrator had made clear Spock's ultimate "disadvantaged" status at the end. Spock's record proved otherwise, and it supported Spock's clear thought on his choice.

When Spock accepted admission to Starfleet Academy, it started another round as board members subtly expressed disapproval that a prodigy would consider attending a less prestigious institution.

The intensity of their Vulcan-centric views disquieted Sarek, who ascribed to the philosophy of infinite diversity in infinite combinations. As an ambassador, he saw the benefits that diversity of talents and resources created on other worlds. That members of his own world could look down on off-world concerns as inferior troubled him.

Disturbing, too, were the new insights Sarek had into the walls that Spock had encountered his entire life.

He could not discuss these matters with either Spock or Amanda. He wanted them to be left in peace. And, so, Sarek protected his family from the intrusions of illogic, leaving mention of them outside his door.

He had always told Spock that he would have to choose his own way—and he had. Although he assured Amanda that Spock would adapt, as he himself had when he was assigned to Earth, he remained unsettled. As a diplomat, he always had the weight of the Vulcan embassy behind him. Spock would have little support as the only Vulcan cadet at Starfleet Academy.

He made a mental note to seek out assignments that brought him and Amanda to Earth in the next three years. For Amanda's sake.

* * *

"Are those your bags, son?" the human shuttle pilot asked.

"Yes, Sir," Spock replied, handing them over for packing the craft's hold along with the scientific equipment already loaded there.

It was time to leave.

Spock faced his parents, raised his hand, and parted his fingers. "Live long and prosper." No sarcasm this time.

Sarek and Amanda faced their son, each with an encouraging nod. Sarek mirrored the salute. "Peace and long life, Spock."

That was it. Spock turned and ascended the ramp to the shuttle's entry hatch. A Vulcan would not have looked back, but halfway up the ramp, Spock turned and took one last look at his mother. She had not moved from where she stood—and Sarek had not suggested that they should leave. He knew better. Her eyes are wet.

Spock returned his attention toward the shuttle. He projected an outward calm, walked confidently and directly. But his vision blurred just a little as he stepped through the hatchway to take his seat.