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Epilogue: Vulcan

Amanda leaned back in her chair. Vulcan's early evening sun was still hot and bright, but out over the Shi'ri'nah desert were ominous clouds and the wind was picking up.

She gently splashed her feet in the kiddie pool - a rare luxury on Vulcan. Beside her, Josef's wife Esther did the same. Esther and Josef had beamed the pool and the water down with them. Highly unusual items to transport, but one could get away with such things when one owned an interstellar vessel. Josef owned two.

"Even with the thinner air and higher gravity, I think I like this more than San Francisco. So cold there." Esther shivered and then tilted her head back.

Amanda looked over at her friend. Esther was of Ethiopian and Ashekanazi descent, but you would hardly notice the Ashekenazi by looking at her. Her skin was a rich dark coffee color, her hair rose in a halo of dark curls. She didn't even need to wear sunscreen under Vulcan's sun.

"You and my boys." Amanda said. She looked down at little Spock. His four year old brow furrowed in concentration as Rachel, Josef and Esther's four year old, poured water into a bucket in his hands. He looked so peaceful. He always did as he explored a new toy, and today he had three: water, a pool, and Rachel who found dumping water back and forth between two pots just as fascinating as he did.

Lifting her eyes, Amanda looked under the porch overhang where Sarek and eleven year old Sybok were engaged in a conversation with Josef.

So much had happened in the past eight years. Holoshop was a success, and Josef, Tirissa, the Morgenstern boys, and all the employees and contractors they took on during Holosuite's first explosive year were very rich.

The holoscopes were a success, too. Sarek was made Vulcan's Earth Ambassador. He kept up his contacts with the Vulcan Science Academy, and brought several new innovations to the wider galaxy before they otherwise would have left Vulcan.

One of those innovations brought Sarek intergalactic attention. A plague broke out on one of Tellurite's outer colonies. The only antidote was a highly unstable virus. Sarek identified a compound the VSA was working on that could be used as a stabilizing agent. Working as a liaison between the Vulcan scientists and the Tellurites, Sarek discovered the plague was not a natural outbreak. It was a deliberate act of terrorism by a minority of colonists wishing to secede. Sarek wound up successfully mediating the dispute and seeing to the disbursement of the vaccine.

A year later Sarek, in recognition of his skills in diplomacy with a wide range of species, was promoted to the position of Federation Ambassador of Vulcan. Sarek joked with Amanda it was actually an effort to keep a better eye on him. As Federation Ambassador his primary residence was, logically, his home world. Whatever the motives for his advancement, Sarek was more than ready to leave the chill of San Francisco behind. Amanda, by that time finished with her Masters and working on the Universal Translator project with Vulcan colleagues, was more than ready for the adventure of living on a new world.

At that thought she felt a strong wind whip the hair around her face. Amanda looked up at the sky. The distant clouds were now almost directly overhead.

"Am I actually going to see it rain on Vulcan?" Esther said.

"I don't know," said Amanda. "But there will definitely be lightning."

Esther got out of her chair. "Okay kids, time to get out of the pool."

Standing up quickly, Spock turned his eyes to Amanda. His face was impassive, but he held his bucket as though he were about to pitch the water at Amanda. Amanda didn't doubt he was furious. He rarely got to play in water, let alone sit in it.

"Mommy, do we have to get out?" asked Rachel.

"There will be lightning, Baby. We have to go inside."

At the word lightning, the tempest in Spock's own eyes cooled. "It is dangerous," he said. The little hand that had been about to throw water at Amanda reached out for support as he stepped across the slippery pool bottom.

"We'll be able to play in the water after the storm passes," said Amanda.

A flicker of understanding passed from his fingers but he did not turn to look at her.

The wind picked up strength and began to push the wooden chairs Amanda and Esther had been sitting on across the patio. From around the long side of the house a gray haired Vulcan in rough attire came running stiffly. It was T'Lana's husband, Tilk. "Go inside," he said in Vulcan. "I will see to the furniture."

Amanda and Esther picked up their children and darted towards the house. Sybok was holding the door for them as Sarek and Josef hustled to help Tilk with the outdoor furniture.

Inside the house, T'Lana immediately met Amanda. "I will see to Spock," she said taking the heavy form out of Amanda's arms. She turned to Esther. "Do you need help?"

"No," said Esther. "I think I'm the only one who will be able to find Rachel's clothes."

A few minutes later Amanda walked into the main room. Sarek, Sybok and Josef were already there. Josef was sipping a glass of ice water. T'Lana came in with Spock, now in a dry Vulcan tunic and trousers.

Thunder rumbled. Spock rushed over to Amanda and took her fingers. "Do not worry," he said, earnestness spilling from his fingertips. "We are safe in the house."

"Thank you, Spock," she said charmed by his protectiveness, though she knew he said it to reassure himself more than her.

"But I want to show Spock my other swimsuit," said Rachel, still out of sight. Amanda heard the patter of small feet.

"No, Rachel, wait!" called Esther further down the long hallway off the main room.

"Look at my pretty new swimsuit, Spock," said Rachel. Amanda turned with Spock expecting to see Rachel modeling a swimsuit. She was not. In fact, she was not wearing any clothing at all. She stood completely naked, proudly holding up a pink polka dot suit.

From where her hands were joined with Spock's, Amanda felt confusion. Although not the flirt that Sybok was, Spock did notice girls, but only those old enough to have breasts. Amanda wasn't sure if she found that fact a relief or disturbing. Now she knew his disquiet was simply because he did not know if he should say anything and if so what.

"Where are her clothes?" said Josef, putting his glass down with a loud thunk on an end table.

Ignoring Josef's obvious ire, Esther addressed Rachel. "Okay, Miss Rachel Friedmann. Back to the bedroom to put some clothes on. Now."

Rachel looked up at her mother. "I want to wear something pretty for Spock."

Esther rolled her eyes and pulled Rachel by the hand down the hall.

Hearing Josef sigh, Amanda said, "Don't worry, Josef."

Sybok said quickly, "Father and I are bonded and Spock has seen it all before." Then he looked quickly to Amanda. She gave her eldest son a smile. He was experimenting with humor and trying to gauge his quip's effectiveness.

Josef seemed to register the young Vulcan's attempting to be funny. Pushing up his glasses, he smiled and said in a mock conspiratorial tone, "Well, obviously I wouldn't worry about you and Sarek, Sybok. But what do you mean Spock's seen it all before?"

Amanda laughed and pulled Spock closer to the other three. "After the last rainstorm, T'Della, a friend of mine from the local agricultural research facility, and I took Spock and her daughter T'Diza outside to play in the mud."

"Mud is fascinating," said Spock. Amanda had to pull her fingers away to restrain the snickers that the Vulcan feeling of fascination always gave her.

"It is an enriching sensory experience for children Spock's age," said Sarek. "And it is good for building their immune systems."

"Afterward they both had to be taken into Tilk's shed and hit with a sonic hose," said Sybok.

"Tilk's shed is fascinating," said Spock.

"No fewer than eleven sharp objects, and four dangerous blunt instruments," said Sarek raising an eyebrow in Josef's direction.

"And combustibles," said Sybok.

"Fire," said Spock.

"I see," said Josef looking down at the little Vulcan. He turned to Amanda. "Esther said you had friends here. I wasn't sure...it sounds as though you are actually fairly close to this T'Della."

Amanda felt Sarek's unease. Sybok looked down.

"It isn't like it is in the city, like it is in Shi'Kahr," said Amanda. "We do have friends and associates here. I think we've been invited to tea at least once by every family in the village nearby."

Sarek tilted his head. "Since the Romulan attack on the Kelvin, Vulcans who are frequently in the company of aliens have..." He looked down. "I believe to distinguish themselves from our Rumulan cousins, they over compensate. Many have become quite insular, and in their efforts to behave more logically they are -"

"Illogical," said Sybok.

"But here in the country that isn't the way it is," said Amanda. "They don't have that psychological stress. They are very curious. But not in a hostile way. I find it endearing, actually."

From behind Amanda came the sound of skipping feet. "Spock," said Rachel, "do you like my dress?" Amanda and Spock turned. This time Rachel was actually wearing clothes. Many clothes in fact: a frilly pink dress with many layers of skirts, striped leggings underneath, and white socks with pink piping at the ankles. In her hands she held a pair of sparkling red ballet slippers.

Spock grabbed Amanda's fingers. He had no idea what to say, she realized. "What color is the dress?" said Amanda, trying to help out.

"The dress is pink," said Spock.

"Yes," said Rachel lifting her chin. She looked towards the window. "It's not raining anymore."

Esther came into the main room. "Wow, that was fast."

"These storms are violent, but quick," said Sarek.

Near the door, I-Chaya, Spock's sehlat, let out a low whimper. "Looks like we're going for a walk," said Amanda.

x x x

The sun had just set, Amanda realized, as the clouds cleared away; but the red bloom lingering in the west would light the desert brightly enough for an hour more at least.

I-Chaya's timing couldn't have been better. It was Amanda's favorite time of day to stroll the desert property. The red colored rocks and ochre sands were at their most vibrant, and a cool wind from the east made the temperature pleasant, even for humans. There had only been enough rain in the storm to sprinkle the ground, but the native plants had unfurled their leaves and rain catching flowers. The world was filled with color.

"It's so beautiful," said Esther. Spock and Rachel were running ahead of them tossing a stick to I-Chaya - who'd evidently forgotten why he'd asked to be let out.

Amanda smiled, "Yes."

Esther appreciated the desert as much as Amanda. Amanda and Sarek always offered to let Josef and his family stay at their home when they came to Vulcan. Esther had met many of Amanda's Vulcan friends and associates, Josef seemed more content to confine his activities on Vulcan to business and chess games with Sarek and now Sybok. Amanda wondered if it was lingering memories of T'Zena that made Josef keep his distance.

Amanda's curiosity had gotten the better of her one evening. She tracked down the whereabouts of T'Zena. The official reason for her dismissal was "medical complications," which could have been pregnancy related, but details on T'Zena's personal life were not available. All Amanda could discover was that she worked at a small college on another continent and wrote articles on human culture.

Sarek did not entertain thoughts of T'Zena at all. And although it was not Vulcan to discourage curiousity, he did not like Amanda looking into T'Zena's affairs. He didn't want to think about her. Even though his experience with T'Yavi gave him special insight into what T'Zena must have gone through, he was still angry about what she had done to Josef. Amanda realized that it might be illogical, but Vulcans were apparently as adept at carrying a grudge as they were at staying in love.

"You'll miss this when you move to Shi'Kahr," said Esther.

Amanda sighed. "I know. But the local school says Sybok needs to be more challenged and they can't meet his needs. The VSA has a youth program. Sybok was accepted and he deserves to go." She sighed.

Sybok was the youngest child ever to be admitted into the Young Scientists VSA program - Amanda wondered if emotionally he was ready for it. And then she shook her head. From day one Spock demanded so much attention, physically and emotionally. Sybok was the good and consequently forgotten child. He'd earned this opportunity.

"They play so well together," said Esther looking out at Spock and Rachel. "You know, Amanda, from the horror stories you've told me lately I was worried!"

Amanda watched as Spock actually offered a stick to Rachel, and then tried to show her how to throw it properly. "Well, for your sake I'm glad he's making me a liar," Amanda said. She'd been amazed by Spock's good behavior all day.

She swallowed. Her brilliant little boy. He had the Vulcan memory, computational ability, and touch telepathy. Spock was somewhat taciturn, like a Vulcan. But unlike a Vulcan he'd said his first words at six months - astonishing both her and Sarek. At four he was as far advanced in his studies as Sybok had been at the same age.

There was only one way in which Spock's dual heritage created complications. He had Vulcan emotions but lacked Vulcan control. Amanda and even Sarek could see the advantage in it. Spock skipped from one idea to another faster than a Vulcan, and he seemed much more flexible in his thinking. No word for something? Unlike a Vulcan child, Spock was perfectly at ease creating words. Amanda still laughed at the memory of one-year-old Spock declaring nasal mucus 'nose poo-poo'. But the gap in the wall of Vulcan control that created such charming vocabulary also allowed Spock to become frustrated easily - and violent.

Amanda shook her head again, and looked at her son. Realizing that Rachel was not throwing the stick to Spock's satisfaction, she hurried forward and caught Spock's hand. Soon she knew Spock's temper would flare. "Hey, Spock, don't you think Rachel would like some kianult fruit sorbet?"

Hearing his favorite dessert and feeling Amanda's enthusiasm, Spock was distracted from the game. Amanda felt his happiness at the thought of the sweet. Turning his elfin face to Rachel, Spock took the little girl's hand and said somberly, "Come, Rachel." He then proceeded to half lead half drag Rachel towards the house.

"He's so cute," said Esther.

"So is Rachel," said Amanda. admiring the little girl's long wavy black hair swinging side to side in a high pony tail.

"Do you think you'll have another?" asked Esther.

"I don't think so. You?"

"I think we will," said Esther, walking towards the house.

Amanda looked at her sympathetically. Esther also had gone through the uncomfortable process of creating a 'test tube' baby. Josef and Esther both were carriers for Tay-Sachs. The two joked about their "special gift from our ancestors." Although treatment was available for babies with two copies of the mutation it was painful, and ongoing. Esther and Josef had decided they didn't want to put any child through it.

Esther and Amanda had become very close during their separate ordeals.

"I dread going through with it again," Esther said looking straight ahead.

Amanda reached over and squeezed her arm. Esther patted her hand and the two began to climb the stone steps to the porch.

Sarek was leading Spock and Rachel into the house. Josef and Sybok were sitting on the wide stone porch. A chess board was in front of them, but the game seemed to be forgotten.

So you don't think that your god is all powerful and omnipotent," said Sybok. Amanda tilted her head. Lately Sybok had taken an interest in human theology.

"I did not say that. I said that I believe God does not interfere," said Josef.

"Then why bother to worship this god at all if he is not an active participant in your fate?" Sybok said.

"God helps us get through the hardships that are our own making," said Josef.

Sybok tilted his head. "Are you saying that human suffering is punishment for misdeeds on the individual's part?"

"No," said Josef. "Not punishment. Consequences...Of our own actions sometimes. Sometimes our suffering is the result of the ignorance of the human race as a whole."

"I still don't see the purpose of worshiping a being that doesn't offer tangible assistance," Sybok said.

"I think our bond...our connection with God is tangible," said Josef moving a chess piece.

Amanda felt her chest constrict a bit on Josef's behalf. If he progressed down this road he might wind up talking about the other bond so long ago.

"Explain," said Sybok.

Josef pushed up his glasses. "And a God that wiped every misguided or evil thought from our heads before we had the opportunity to know the ultimate error of our ways would be one I wouldn't want," said Josef. "Ultimately, such a being could only see us as..." Josef tilted his head.

"Mindless amoebas," said Esther walking up behind her husband and laying her hands on his shoulders.

Josef took one of her hands in his.

"I am not convinced," said Sybok.

Josef pushed his glasses up his nose.

Sarek stepped out onto the porch with a tray laden with seven bowls filled with neat lavendar spheres. "I took the liberty of preparing sorbet for us all. Esther, Josef, are you familiar with the kianult fruit?"

It was a deliberate act of distraction, Amanda realized. She sent a wave of gratitude for Sarek's small act of diplomacy.

He raised an eyebrow. They did not make me Vulcan ambassador to the Federation for nothing, Amanda.

She raised an eyebrow in return. I thought they just wanted you back here on Vulcan so they could keep a better eye on you, you rebel.

Sarek tilted his head. That, too.


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