She turned over, beginning the slow climb to awakening. The bed was vast. The sheets, Egyptian cotton, jacquard loomed in Italy and scented with lavender and roses, were luxurious and comfortable. The air was a little warm and stuffy, rather than slightly chilly as it usually was after a Vulcan night, when all the radiant heat escaped through the thin atmosphere, but not too far out of the ordinary. All this was fairly normal.
But the bed was empty, save her. And that was not normal.
Still half asleep, she slid out a foot, questing for someone who was usually next to her this early in the morning. Her eyes, blinking at the clock on her bedside table, discovered it was just after dawn. They had hours yet before either of them were due at Council or the Academy. But her investigating toes found nothing but cooler sheets.
She sat up, blinking again, and flung the sheet around her. Across the room, Sarek was standing at the long windows, almost as if meditating. Though he couldn't be. Vulcans meditated in private.
He turned, nodded at her briefly before his attention was once again captured by the view out the long windows. "Good morning, my wife. Such as it is."
She leaned back against the headboard, pushing her long hair back and yawning a little in the half dawn. "Isn't it early," she remarked. "What are you doing?"
"Can't you feel it?"
"Feel what?" Amanda asked.
Sarek looked at her, his brows raised in astonishment, before turning once again back to the view from the windows.
She fumbled for her robe and slid from her warm nest. Her toes curled in protest over their encounter with the cold floor. It took her a moment to find her slippers from where she had kicked them partially under the bed. Fastening her robe and flinging her hair back over her shoulder, she came over to Sarek. He was still so riveted by what he was looking at that he didn't even acknowledge her.
"Feel what?" she asked again as she came up beside him. She stood on tiptoe looking for what he was seeing, slid under his arm and pushed her way in front of him, tried to see from his perspective what so held his attention. Even though through the long windows that ran the length of the room she had seen nothing. "What are you looking at?"
"Can't you see it?"
She looked back at him, leaned back against him, and slid one hand into his. "Obviously not. Sarek—"
He shivered, not from cold, and let go of her hand. She felt the tension in his body before he stepped fractionally away. Not his usual behavior in their bedroom.
"You don't feel it? The …electricity in the air? The drop in air pressure? The change in humidity? You cannot see the alterations in the distant sky?"
She stared at him puzzled, turn to look outside the long windows again. "It looks a little muddy. In the distance," she conceded dubiously. "Is that what you mean?"
"Muddy," Sarek muttered, slightly appalled. "You really do not understand?"
"You're not usually this slow on the uptake. No. I don't. How many times do you have to say it? Do I have to tell you? What are you upset about?"
"That is not mud, in the distant sky," Sarek elucidated. "It is sand. The drop in air pressure, the electrical charge, even now, is clearly discernable. To Vulcans."
"Last time I checked," Amanda said dryly, "I wasn't. Vulcan that is." She looked herself up and down. "Nope. Still not Vulcan. Hadn't you noticed?"
"Amanda." Sarek spared her a glance. "Be serious."
"About what?" She looked back out at the desert, at the Llangon mountain range in the distance, beginning to be slightly obscured by the muddy haze. "So we're going to have a storm?"
"A sandstorm," Sarek said. "A large one."
"Really?" Amanda said. She shivered again in the slightly clammy air and decided as Sarek was clearly not in a mood to warm her by other means, she had better get dressed. "It will be fascinating to watch. I hope I can see it from the Academy." She went past him into the bath, thinking of a warm shower, of layered clothes for the day, since though it would probably be hot as blazes in the afternoon after the storm passed, in the continued absence of the usual sunrise the air was definitely remaining chilly.
"You hope—"he stared after her. When she appeared again, ready except for needing to fasten up her hair, she looked at him, puzzled and asked. "Aren't you going to get ready for Council?"
"Amanda there will be no Academy today. No Council."
She turned to him, hairbrush in hand. "What?"
This early in their marriage, he still often took her needing things repeated as a referendum on the lack of acuity of human hearing, rather than an inability to take in basic facts. He repeated, slightly louder. "There will be no classes. No Council. No one will stir, today."
"You don't have to shout," she said, offended. "I heard you perfectly well. But what's this about no school? You're kidding me, right? The Academy hardly ever closes."
He raised a brow. "It will now."
"Because of that?" She pointed with her brush at the ugly sky. "That? It's just a storm, right?"
"It is a sandstorm. Correction, it will be a sandstorm. It has not yet reached us. But it is coming."
"It's coming," Amanda repeated, a twist to her lips, as she twisted her hair into a clasp. "Whoo-hooo." She said, ominously, in ghostly imitation.
"What?" he asked.
"You just make it sound so ominous," she said, crossing over to him. "'Something wicked this way comes.' I don't see what the big deal is," she put her hand on the balcony door. "I can hardly see-"
Sarek's closed on hers before she could turn the handle. "You mustn't go out!"
She looked up at him, astonished. He dropped his hand, self-conscious, and straightened up, belatedly recapturing his dignity.
"Why ever not?"
"It could be dangerous."
She blinked, staring at him. "But the Fortress has stone walls surrounding the grounds. And a force shield over that. And there's nothing going on out there now. Not on our balcony."
"The walls cannot fully protect against the storm. And while highly unlikely, the storm could disrupt power governors."
"But you told me the Fortress has multiple backup systems. The power never fails. I thought you said it couldn't."
"I said it was extremely unlikely. But this is a storm."
"Right. Not a Romulan attack. Just a storm."
"A sandstorm of the power that this one contains is never just a storm, Amanda."
"But it's not even here, yet." Amanda said. "Even I can see it is hundreds, perhaps even thousands of miles away. You're being silly, Sarek. Why shouldn't I step out on the balcony?" She put her hand on the door again, began to open it. There was a soft chime from the systems console in the corner of the room, and warning lights glowed and dimmed in recessed areas over the doors that she had never noticed before. There was a rush of air through vents, struggling to compensate for the air she could feel being pulled out of the house into the lower pressure outside.
He covered hers and pulled the door shut against the sucking pull. The door latched with a faint click, the warning lights dimmed, and after a moment, the air pressure equalized.
"Don't attempt to go outside, Amanda. The pressure differential is dangerous and increasing. Even though, as you say, the storm is not here yet. I thought for sure that you could feel it, even now. But things will get much worse."
"Worse," she repeated. "Tornadoes? Vortexes? Are we going to be pulled up into the sky and carried away to Oz like Dorothy? Lematya and lematyas and sehlats, oh my?"
He had watched the Wizard of Oz with her, one Thanksgiving holiday back on Earth.
"I trust not. But it is best not to disregard normal precautions." Seeing her still looking at him, taking this in, he added, "The Fortress has stood for thousands of Earth years, Amanda. I have every confidence it will stand thousands more."
"What about people in ordinary houses?" Amanda said. Somehow the way he had hastened to assure her of that made her more uneasy, not less. "Not everyone lives in a castle."
Sarek blinked at her naiveté. "The city has defenses, my wife. They are locked down, even as we are. No one will enter or leave Shikhar until the storm has passed. And until they have dug out," he added reflectively. "Of course."
"Dug out," Amanda repeated. "They are going to have to dig out? Dig out a whole city?"
"Naturally. It will not take long," he added. "Generally less than an additional day. They have adequate sand moving machinery. As do we. The sand may overtop our external walls, the garden walls. But the force shields should hold. If not, we should only lose some gardens. The Fortress itself should stand firm, even against a storm of this potential magnitude. I have implicit trust in it."
Amanda sat down abruptly, taking this all in. "You're saying the Fortress, even the entire city of Shikhar, that huge city, is going to be buried in sand? And you have trust in that?"
"Given the strength of this pressure system, it's probable. But only briefly, I believe. Until we dig out."
"Only briefly." She shook her head.
"You have storm systems on Earth," Sarek said, puzzled at her in turn. "Hurricanes, blizzards."
"Yes," Amanda said, shaking her head in denial of the comparison. "Of water. They don't bury cities."
"Hardly true. I have been on Terra during a few blizzards."
"A few feet, maybe. Not a dozen meters high, enough to overtop the Fortress walls." She gave him an uneasy glance. "Sometimes a hurricane could be destructive. But that's rare. We have storm surge defenses. What you are suggesting is unreal."
"But there you are limited by how much water the atmosphere can take up," Sarek said reasonably. "Air can only hold so much water vapor. These are storms of sand. The desert contains vast quantities for such a system to move."
Amanda blinked, trying to take it all in. "So we just…batten down? And wait?"
"The whole city of Shikhar," Amanda repeated incredulously. "All your vaunted technology. You'll just sit it out and wait, for a force of nature. Do you mean that Vulcan has never tried to conquer or control these things?"
"Obviously we contain and control as best we can. The city and the Fortress defenses are designed to be more than adequate to preserve life. But one cannot conquer a Vulcan force of nature."
Amanda drew a huge breath, even longer than normal. She was noticing the air seemed more devoid of oxygen than usual. "I'm beginning to realize that."
Sarek nodded, clipped. "Good." He rose again, to watch the storm, every line in his body tensing again. "Soon the shutters will come down," he muttered. "I can feel it. The pressure is nearly enough now to trigger the automatic defenses."
"Shutters?" Amanda said and then leaped back in her seat, letting out an involuntary cry of surprise as on the exterior of the windowed walls, metal louvers came out of hidden recesses and descended down over the windows with a rattling racket, sealing tight with a snap like a gunshot. Another soft chime echoed.
"Do not be concerned," Sarek said, suddenly beside her. The room was plunged briefly in darkness before emergency lights softly began to glow, illuminating his face. "This is normal. All storm systems are working perfectly."
"How long is this going to last?" Amanda asked. She managed to let go from where she had clutched at her husband and sit back up.
"This storm? It is predicted to last three days. Then, perhaps another day to recover."
"Three days! We're going to have to sit in the dark for three days?"
"It's not dark," Sarek said. "There are lights on." Flicking a brow at her lack of response, he rose and waved up the normal room lights. The emergency ones, sensing the increase in illumination, faded.
"I mean, battened behind these …shutters. Not even able to see out."
"There will not be much to see, Amanda. If you like, you can turn up the outside monitors on the security view screens." Seeing she looked unhappy about that, he added, "Or we can go to the ground floor. The higher floors, being above the garden walls, have their windows shuttered, but the lower, being behind the garden defenses, are not."
"Let's go down, then."
In the kitchen, she saw that Sarek had been right about there not being much to see. The windows looked out on the windswept gardens, stirring faintly with transmitted turbulence in spite of the shields. Above the garden walls, the air was solid mud colored sand, swirling in oranges and yellows and browns, a solid, undulating mass. She made tea, striving for some normalcy while Sarek again gravitated to the windows, once again drawn in tension. A solid boom outside made her jump, and drop a teacup, which shattered on the stone flagged floor.
"Careful," Sarek said, pulling her aside to clean up the broken china himself.
"I may be clumsy enough to break glass," Amanda said tartly, "but I can manage to clean up after myself."
"And in the past you have been careless enough to cut yourself on the sharp edges."
"Sarek, don't be insulting. I'm human, not an idiot. If I cut myself, I will put on some skin sealant."
He looked up at her before tossing the fragments in the recycler. "It is illogical to risk any injury now," he said solemnly. "Not when medical assistance will be necessarily curtailed. "
"What happens if someone gets seriously ill during a sandstorm?" She asked, startled at that.
Sarek looked over at her. "These are modern times, my wife. In distant areas, like ours, one can use communications to have a person beamed to medical facilities. In the city, emergency vehicles can transport people in shielded vehicles, so long as estimates predict the cities' defenses will hold long enough to get such people to proper facilities." He put a cup of the tea she had made before her, and took one for himself. "In the past," he tilted his head infinitesimally in the Vulcan equivalent of a shrug, "individuals could not move once the storms began." His gaze roved back to the windows. "There were deaths. It is wise to take all precautions."
Amanda took a sip of tea, looking at her husband's hand, tense on her fragile china. "What was that boom?" she asked.
"The winds can be strong enough to lift up more than sand. Boulders from the foothills surrounding the Fortress. Anything left outside the city's defenses. Vulcans would not do such a thing, but outworlders sometimes leave aircars and flyers unsecured.
"These storms must be devastating to Vulcan wildlife."
"They can feel the air pressure drop. Just as I could." He gave her a curious look, as if reminded that she had not. "All will seek shelter. Some have adapted enough, over thousands of years, to understand that the city will shelter them, an oasis of calm and will enter it before the storm arrives. Here in the foothills, there are caves, heavy rock outcroppings. They will seek shelter there." His eyes met hers. "For the duration, the lematya will lie down with the litka. Until the pressure rises again, no creature will think of hunting. They will not water. They will wait."
"If the caves get buried, how will they get out?"
"The larger creatures will dig themselves out. The lesser ones will follow them. We are adapted for this, Amanda, from millennia of evolution."
She looked at Sarek. He had tasted the tea, perfunctorily, but not drunk it. "Do you want breakfast?" she asked. It was unusual for him not to have already sought it. He was usually hungry in the morning.
"Not just Vulcan animals, then."
His eyes returned to hers. "It is…an instinctive response."
She reached out, putting her hand over his. "It will be all right, Sarek. The defenses will hold."
He looked at her hand. "You are seeking to comfort me?"
"Since it's not my instinct, I guess so," she replied. "I was startled, yes, even frightened for a moment at how sudden and…violent… these storms can be. I had no idea. But there's a difference between my momentary fear and your…instinct."
He looked away, avoiding her too discerning gaze. "Vulcans control."
"Which implies there's something to control."
He slid his hand from under hers and abandoning his tea, went again to the long floor to ceiling windows that looked out from the kitchen over the garden court. "The storm will pass," he said. "Two days, three, and a day to dig out. Then it will be over."
Amanda drew up on her chair, knees to chin, and studied him over her teacup. "How different humans are. On Terra, snow days are …almost a holiday. People eat, watch movies, bake cookies or make elaborate foods that they normally don't have time for in their daily schedules. They go out and play in the snow."
He looked back at her. "And in a hurricane?"
"That's different, since people can't go out in it. But they manage to amuse themselves in other ways." She smiled. "There's always a baby boom after a big blizzard, and often after a hurricane."
"An explosion of population," Amanda elucidated, "resulting from another recreational activity adult humans indulge in when deprived of their normal pursuits."
Sarek looked at her for a long moment, then flicked a brow. "Fascinating. Humans would actually engage in that behavior? During such a critical and dangerous time?"
"You just said the Fortress and city will hold. And you can work off tension in a lot of ways," Amanda added suggestively. "If we are going to be trapped here…"
"Tension?" he asked.
"Sarek, instinct aside, you can't hold up the Fortress defenses by squaring your shoulders and staring intensely out the window for three days."
"I am not attempting such."
"Could have fooled me," she said, and sipped meditatively at her tea. "Vulcans do not, I take it? Indulge in such behavior during storms?"
Sarek just spared her a distracted glance, before his gaze was once again riveted by the outside storm.
"I can see this is going to be a long three days," Amanda said. She gave Sarek another piercing glance, but he had brought up the house computer programs and was reviewing stresses and strains. "How bad is it?" she asked, rising to make herself breakfast in spite of Sarek's lack of all normal appetites.
"The sand is 4 meters higher along the garden walls, in this first hour," he reported tersely. "Computer models predict overtopping in ten hours. We are on full emergency power."
Amanda paused with her hand on the stasis unit, about to pull out some strawberries for her cereal. "But we aren't going to lose power, right?"
He gave her an astonished look. "Even with solar power unavailable, we have geothermal, deep hydraulic and magnetic. The chance of our losing all these systems, in addition to solar, is extremely improbable."
"I can see this is a big deal to you," Amanda said, grabbing her berries, and closing the stasis door with a thunk. "And obviously, Vulcans of all sorts have a huge instinctive adaptation to these storms. But I don't think you need to continually be so ominous as to scare me with doomsday bulletins when you obviously know that everything is well in hand." She added strawberries from her garden to the Vulcan equivalent of oatmeal. "Are you sure you don't want breakfast?"
"I don't see how you can eat in a storm," Sarek said. "I am not hungry."
"Good to know," Amanda said, sitting down to her breakfast. "Let me know when you are."
Engrossed in his computer, Sarek didn't bother to answer.
She finished her breakfast and cleaned up the dishes without Sarek stirring from his reports. "I guess I am going to work," she said.
That roused him from his reverie. "Amanda, as I have told you, you cannot-"
"I just meant work in my office here," she hastily clarified. "I mean, we have power enough for that, don't we?"
"We have no power issues," he said, hands pausing the report that was scrolling across his computer screen. "At the moment. If you can concentrate on such intangibles at such a time, then there is no reason why you should not do so."
"Sarek, what would a Vulcan woman do in a sandstorm?" she asked curiously. "Since I clearly don't feel this as you do."
Sarek flicked a brow, clearly astonished at the question. "I have absolutely no idea."
She drew a breath at that, let it out. "Okay. Fine. It's clearly all instinctive auto-pilot behavior. Since I don't have that, and you aren't inclined to treat this as the equivalent of a human snow day, I'm going to work."
"Very well," Sarek returned, once again buried in his screens.
Amanda looked from him to the orange blasted windows. "It's going to be a long storm," she muttered.
Outside the walls, the storm raged. But the Fortress walls held. Inside, Sarek stayed wrapped up in following its path and monitoring its destruction. Amanda worked, and read, and slept in solitary. The whole of this area of Vulcan waited, clearly disinclined for messages, for conversations, for doing anything other than monitoring the weather. After a few more attempts to interest Sarek in food or sleep or something other than storm watching, she gave up.
Days later, she was sleeping again when beside her in the darkness, she felt a rustle of the sheets and a slight dip in the bed next to her.
"Sarek?" she asked bemusedly, and then jumped as the shutters, locked down tight for three days, rose with a mechanical clatter. Outside there was a vague half glimmer of light, though it was still too dark to see by. "What's happening?"
"The storm is moving away," Sarek said. "It is lifting."
"Is it over?"
"It's not over," Sarek said. "But the air pressure, the barometer, is rising. Can you not feel the differential between ambient and external pressures?"
Amanda sat up. "No. I couldn't really feel it when it lowered. Not like you. Why would you expect me to feel it now that it is rising?"
"It is," Sarek said. "Soon we will be able to dig out and repair. " He came down next to her on the bed, restrained Vulcan control mixed with irrepressible Vulcan spirit. "How can you not feel it? We have survived."
"I never really doubted we would," Amanda said, pushing back her hair bemusedly. "And you assured me of that as well. Did you doubt yourself?"
"Logically no." He bent his head to hers and kissed her. "But Vulcans are not all logic. We are biological creatures, with instincts, as well."
"So I see," Amanda said, returning his kiss with a smile. "Are you hungry?" she asked, when he came up briefly for air. "You haven't eaten for three days."
"I am hungry." Sarek said. "I am very hungry." He leaned over her, his mouth trailing from hers to burn a fiery path down her throat. "Can you not feel it?"
"I can feel that," Amanda said, brows rising. "I can certainly feel that."
"So can I," Sarek murmured. And determined to celebrate life in a purely instinctive Vulcan way, drew her to him.
"You could have told me," Amanda said. "What Vulcans are like après storm."
"It is instinctive," he muttered, pausing to pull his tunic over his head.
"So Vulcans have a post- storm baby boom after all," Amanda thoughtfully surmised.
"Amanda," Sarek complained, settling down back beside her, "do Humans have no instincts at all?"
She laughed at that. "This instinct I do have."
And whether Vulcan had a baby boom after this particular storm or not, they did…