A lone student walked rapidly along the stone corridor of the Vulcan Academy's School of Mind Discipline, and paused outside an unmarked doorway. For a mere second the student hesitated, then raised one hand and passed the fingertips across the entry sensor. At once the door was opened by a figure clad, as was the student, in a long blue robe with a hood which entirely obscured the face.

The Receiver issued the formal query; "Who cometh?"

"Kerin cha'Sidak," replied the student.

"Show thyself, Kerin, child of Sidak, and state thy purpose."

The student's hood was lifted and pushed back revealing the pale oval face of a striking-looking young woman. Her golden-brown eyes were almond-shaped above elegant high cheekbones; full lips curved sensuously despite the disciplined line in which she held them. About her flowed an aura of energy and movement, though her face and body were controlled and still. A thin silver band held back heavy black hair so that the delicately pointed ears were revealed. One slanted eyebrow rose fractionally as she answered the Receiver. "I am here in response to the Jh'err Svann's summons."

"Enter, then, child of Sidak." The Receiver moved aside so that Kerin could step inside.

The door closed silently behind her. She was in an unremarkable chamber, impressive only in its Spartan quality; there were no decorations, only a few essential furnishings. Directly in front of her was a desk and behind it was seated an older Vulcan male with iron-gray hair and penetrating black eyes.

"Come forward, T'Kerin," he said in a voice as cool and smooth as the ancient stone of the chamber walls.

They were alone Kerin realized as she walked toward the desk; the Receiver had exited soundlessly. She stopped at a respectful distance, inclined her head slightly and waited.

Svann studied her coldly for a time. She bore the scrutiny without reaction, her features as expressionless as his.

"I am told," he said formally, "that you wish to leave us."

"At the end of the next Season I shall conclude my studies at the Academy," she said. "I shall return to Earth."


Kerin's voice was quiet as she did so. "Earth is my mother's homeworld, and I was raised there. At my father Sidak's wish I came to Vulcan to study. I have been here twenty-four Seasons – seven point five Standard years. I have learned a great deal and cannot measure the benefits I have gained here. But I have chosen to live on Earth and it is time that I return."

"What will you do there?"

"Continue to study medicine. I shall become a physician."

Again Svann stared at her for a long time. "You have great abilities, Kerin," he said at last. "But to realize your potential, to fully develop your mind-talents would require many more seasons of study. Only three or four are born in each generation with your gift. It was hoped that you would remain at the Pu'urn and fulfill your destiny."

"My 'destiny' lies on Earth."

"You are Vulcan," he countered.

For the first time, an expression flickered across Kerin's face – the briefest flash of amusement. "Half. I am also Human."

"Of this we are well aware."

She gave the tiniest of shrugs. "I am only who I am."

"We speak of who you could become."

She held his gaze steadily. "At the end of next Season I shall withdraw from the Academy. Until then, if the Pu'urn will grant me the privilege of continuing as Jh'err Solen's student I shall be most grateful."

There was a trace of sadness in his regard. "Of course you have our permission."

"Thank you." Kerin bowed her head, the gesture expressing gratitude, respect and a request to withdraw.

Svann nodded once. He watched her retreat toward the door. As she reached it he spoke again. "T'Kerin." She paused and turned, waiting. He raised his hand in the ta'al. "Success, peace and long life to thee, child of Sidak and Elizabeth."

She returned the salute. "Live long and prosper, Svann."

A moment later she was gone.