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The Cerelan Dilemma
[Author's note: Thanks to Jean Lisette Aroeste and A C Crispin for some of the slight character elements.]
   Lady Amanda Grayson sat on the balcony of her San Francisco bungalow where she had lived while she taught at the Vulcan Embassy. Even though the morning was chilly, she wanted to enjoy the brisk, cool weather for she knew that soon she would accompany Sarek to a world that knew no such climate. His world, the world of her husband - living there filled her with both apprehension and excitement.
    She smiled wistfully as she thought of the chain of events that brought her to where she stood now. Vulcans, of course, were not known for their romanticism, but there was something not only thrilling but also romantic in the single-minded way Sarek made his intentions known to her. At first it started out innocently enough, she was employed at the Embassy, helping Vulcans on Earth polish up their Standard for daily use. It was there that she met Sarek for the first time.
    He was so tall, with such a regal countenance that only added to his patrician good looks, even so by Human standards. Amanda couldn't help but feel a bit triumphant in earning his respect, his admiration, and even though he couldn't voice it, his love and devotion. Human women, particularly, tended to find Vulcan men irresistibly attractive- whether it was their actual physical appearance, or the challenge in cracking the emotional barriers- it didn't matter. Amanda knew now that it was the mysterious combination of everything that had made Sarek so appealing to her.
   Now they were bonded, and their relationship had an intimacy of not only the body, but also of the mind. At first, Amanda felt rather overwhelmed by the thought of being linked mentally with another being, but now she could never feel complete in her marriage without it. All that remained now was Sarek's upcoming pon farr. He had told her before they were bonded that his Time was coming very soon, but living offworld had the tendency to affect the regularity of these things. When the time comes, she will join Sarek at his family's ancestral place of Marriage and Challenge for the formal Vulcan bonding ceremony.
   Sarek of Vulcan sat outwardly composed at his office at the Vulcan Embassy. To one not familiar with the nature of Vulcans, one might mistake his expression as dour, and unfriendly. However, because as Vulcans tend to strive for utter emotional neutrality, especially on the public level; this would indeed be a mistake, especially today. For Sarek's thoughts were neither on logic, nor diplomacy, they were much more amiably engaged in thoughts of his new bride, Amanda.
   Amanda crept into Sarek's daily thoughts far more often than he would ever admit, even to her. In the beginning, he felt it behavior unbecoming a Vulcan to be, oh-as Humans would say, "daydreaming" about his wife. But the constant bond to Amanda- and the link to her emotions made it something he neither could, nor wished to deny. When he chose Amanda as his bondmate, he chose all of her, not merely the attributes he personally found to be "logical".
    He had, of course, been bonded before, to T'Rea - when he was a boy. T'Rea chose the Kolinahr; her desire was to be an adept. At the time, he had to suppress disappointment that he would have neither a companion, nor a bondmate. In hindsight, Sarek felt very fortunate that he was not in a merely biologically necessary arrangement with T'Rea. With Amanda, he had found contentment and the constant fire that burned for her within his being.
   Sarek felt a certain wistfulness emanating from his wife today, a strange combination of fear and excitement. If he closed his eyes, he could picture her, shining hair swept up with several tendrils framing her face; he could even see her innocent blue eyes and the smile that had captivated him from the first day they met. He was about to put in a call to his wife, when his secretary informed him that he had a call from T'Pau, on Vulcan.
   Sarek knew that any call from T'Pau must be of great importance, so he turned his thoughts from his wife, and switched on the comm unit. His aunt's aging face, weathered by nearly two centuries of Vulcan's searing sun and by a multitude of life experience, appeared in its perpetual state of inscrutable neutrality.
   Vulcans do not typically engage in sociable small talk, but to answer someone's call without greeting is considered a discourtesy, especially when you are addressing an elder.
   Sarek slightly bowed his head and offered the Vulcan ta'al to his aunt. "Peace and long life, aunt," Sarek greeted.
   "Live long and prosper, Sarek," T'Pau replied in kind.
"You must be curious as why I would call upon thee when you are to journey home soon," T'Pau began.
   Curiosity is one of the few emotions that Vulcans consider appropriate, especially when in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom, so Sarek felt no embarrassment when he answered, "Yes, aunt, I confess to wondering the reason of this occasion."
"Thee are aware of the planet Cerelan, and its request for admission into the Federation, Sarek," asked T'Pau.
   "I am aware of this development," Sarek replied.
   "Thee are also aware of the Romulan element on Cerelan as well?"
   "The Federation representatives that have been involved in the Cerelan affair have been given the utmost assurance that Cerelan is a peaceable planet, with many positive things to offer the Federation. Its milestones in medical research are as important as that of our own Science Academy," Sarek answered.
   T'Pau raised an eyebrow to this assertion on Sarek's part and replied, "Nonetheless, the Romulan element is an especially risky one for the Federation, and for Vulcan in general, for reasons that are not well-known. After thee return home with thy bondmate, we will discuss the Cerelan situation in detail, for Vulcan needs you to act not only as a Federation representative, but first as a representative to your homeworld. I await seeing you in person, my nephew. Peace and long life, Sarek."
   "Live long and prosper, aunt," Sarek said.
   Sarek switched the comm unit off and sat back in his chair, with his fingers clasped before him in contemplation. This would mean a journey to Cerelan, soon after he and Amanda came to Vulcan. Being separated from his new bondmate was not a prospect that appealed to Sarek at this point, but apparently it could not be avoided.
For now, however, he did have control over things, and decided that he should go home and discuss the new turning of events with Amanda.
   It was late afternoon when Sarek arrived at Amanda's apartment. Prior to their marriage, Amanda had affectionately referred to it as her "bachelorette pad." At the time, Sarek had wondered what pads had to do with young, unbonded females, but he was becoming more adept at spotting his wife's Terran colloquialisms.
   When he entered, the apartment was practically bare, save for furniture items and a few essentials. They were leaving for Vulcan in three days and many of Amanda's personal effects, including some antique furnishings had been sent to their new town home in Shi'Kahr. That was likely the source of Amanda's slight unrest earlier in the day. Their joining was unprecedented- an unlikely marriage between Vulcan male and Human female…and they were emotional opposites indeed.
   Amanda stood outside on the balcony, clad in a flowing, bright turquoise gown of sheer chiffon that made the garment both modest and sensual at the same time. Sarek caught his breath as the sun glinted on the natural golden highlights in his wife's hair.
   His wife turned to him and radiated her happiness at seeing him. She stepped towards him and offered the traditional greeting between bondmates, but Sarek took her hand and wound her arm around him and pressed her close to his body.
   "I missed you today, my wife," said Sarek, softly against her hair.
   "I should think that you did, with a greeting like that, Sarek," exclaimed Amanda. She had missed him, too.
   Amanda sighed. She realized that this was one of the last times they were going to be truly alone together, at least on her world. Amanda loved Sarek with her entire soul, but she couldn't help but feel a little bewildered at the prospect of living in a world whose nature and values couldn't be more different from hers. It would be different once they reached Vulcan.
   "As they would say here on Earth, 'the honeymoon is over', am I right, my wife?"
   "Yes!" Amanda laughed -- she hadn't realized she was projecting her thoughts so strongly.
   "Amanda," Sarek began, "you and I will never be 'over'. You will always know how important you are to me, and I know that living on Vulcan is a big change for you. But know that we will be back here, and as ambassador, I shall be spending a great deal of time here. I hope that helps when you are longing for Earth."
   Amanda's brilliant sapphire eyes met Sarek's dark ones and said, "Oh, Sarek, I love you! I have chosen this new life for myself. My home is always with you."
   Later that evening, as they had an intimate dinner of vegetable scampi with pasta, Sarek told her of his conversation with T'Pau.
   Amanda's face fell as she realized that she wouldn't be traveling to Cerelan with Sarek. But Sarek stressed that the Romulans have a very volatile history with the Federation, as well as some history tied to his own people, and that he wouldn't feel at ease with her there until he had seen for himself that the situation was completely safe.
Amanda said, "Well, I am disappointed. But as the wife of an ambassador, there will always be missions that I cannot accompany you on, and I might as well get used to it, eh?" Her bright smile reassured Sarek that she wasn't angry with him.
   "Besides," Amanda said, "I am going to be very busy with our new home, and adjusting to Vulcan society. I will have plenty to occupy me while you're gone!"
"Indeed," Sarek replied. "However, for now, you and I are here, together, and it would be a pity if we were to squander one of our last nights alone here together on worrying about things we cannot change."
   Amanda saw the unmistakable twinkle in Sarek's eyes, his meaning was absolutely clear. "Why no, my husband, it simply wouldn't be logical!"
Sarek stood up from his chair, and offered his hand to his wife. Amanda stood up and their lips met. Desire flowed through the bond as their tongues intertwined. Sarek held back a moment to gaze at his wife, wondering how some people on his world practiced celibacy outside of their Times. His hands cupped her cheeks gently as he kissed her again, and then he scooped Amanda in his arms and began to walk towards their bedroom.
   Cerelan was an arresting place, especially at night. The moon always seemed to be in full phase. However, this isn't exactly true. Cerelan had four moons, and the rotation always had one of them in full phase. Once, every millennium or so, all four would be in full phase at a brief point, lighting the sky like daytime. More commonly, every 75-100 Standard years, two of the moons would be in full phase at the same time, and this was a lovely sight that many looked forward to seeing in their lifetime.
   The land was very much like Earth's loveliest valleys, and it was likely because of this that so many people of different worlds resided there for one reason or another. Imagine living somewhere that was as beautiful as Southern California on a year round basis! Warm and temperate, green and lush, no wonder so many people had come to Cerelan, looking for privacy, looking for respite, and wound up calling the place home.
   Because of its vast inroads in medical research, common illnesses were nearly unheard of. The people were vital, and quite healthy. But Cerelan's true triumph was the treatment of Cranden Syndrome, the breakthrough drug Tricellan. Cranden Syndrome was rather like the 21st century Earth disease, Alzheimer's, but not only was Cranden Syndrome unresponsive to the cure for Alzheimer's, it tended to strike much earlier, and much more rapidly. The horror of Cranden Syndrome had split apart young newlyweds and ripped parents away from their young children, but no more.
Cerelan put its medical research and helping others above all other things, even its age-old resistance towards entrance into the Federation. But medical research was costly, and because of its importance, dialogue had begun between the Federation and Cerelan.
   Almost both instant celebrity and diplomat overnight was the head of the biological research team that developed Tricellan, Dr. Verena. Enjoying a small moment of privacy at her private cottage, Verena stood tall, gazing at the moons. Moonlight shone on her fair blonde hair, giving her a very ethereal appearance. The light further enhanced her exotically slanted blue eyes. The wind caught her hair and blew a lock of it against her face. Verena caught it and tucked it back to reveal a small, delicately pointed ear.
   Lady Amanda had been to Vulcan before, of course, for the brief formal bonding ceremony that had been her Vulcan "wedding" to Sarek. But the view of Vulcan at planetside never failed to amaze her in its austere beauty. Swirling of red and gold and orange had an exotic warmness that was rather like its people. At first glance, so bare in its elements that it seems sterile, but with its plain clarity comes a stark beauty, stripped of all things unnecessary.
   Sarek's diplomatic spacecraft was extremely comfortable, and luxurious, even beyond Terran standards, but Amanda, not accustomed to frequent space travel, was looking forward to being on land. She glanced excitedly at her husband as the spacecraft pulled into spacedock at Vulcan Space Central.
   "My wife, you would think you had never visited Vulcan before," Sarek gently chided his wife.
   "Sarek, so many things have changed since we left Vulcan following our bonding ceremony. Today I come to Vulcan as your wife, and to make this place my new home, rather than as merely a visitor," Amanda replied.
   It was time. First Sarek exited the spacecraft, and then Amanda, at the ritual paces behind. Skonn stood with features immobile as he watched his son step from the spacecraft and his Human wife following him.
   "Peace and long life, my son," Skonn greeted.
   "Live long and prosper, Father," Sarek answered in kind.
   Vulcans do not differentiate between family by marriage and family by blood, so when Amanda stepped in front of her father-in-law, she was taken by surprise when Skonn addressed her. "Peace and long life, my daughter."
   Amanda couldn't suppress the lovely smile at the prospect of being so welcomed, but she offered Sarek's father a flawless traditional greeting and replied, "Live long and prosper, father of my husband."
   Sarek and Amanda were escorted to Skonn's shuttlecraft and then Skonn informed Sarek that he would be escorting them to his home for the evening. Sarek and Amanda had decided to leave for Vulcan two days earlier than expected, mostly due to the urgency of Sarek's impending business with T'Pau. This in turn meant that their house was not quite ready yet- there were a few touches to be completed before the couple could stay there. Skonn had sent members of his own household staff to Sarek's new home to hasten these tasks. Skonn had learned a great deal about Terrans in his own time as the Vulcan Ambassador, one of which was the Human need for solitude with their spouse, especially in the early days of the marriage.
   On Vulcan, many newly bonded couples stayed with family members for the first year of their marriage. The unique nature of male biology usually produced a child right away in most Vulcan marriages, and women helped the young expectant mother to prepare for the birth of the child.
   Skonn reflected on his son's choice of a bondmate. Amanda had not learned yet to shield her feelings completely- so her intimacy and feelings for Sarek projected readily through their bond. Sarek must have chosen for compatibility reasons, as he logically deduced that Amanda wouldn't be so content and joyous if their marriage were a sterile one. Humans highly valued the concept of "love" in happy marriages.
And so it also was with his wife, Sarek's mother. They had, of course, been bonded at an early age. Skonn hardly remembered a time when his wife hadn't been connected to him telepathically. Despite his previous misgivings in regards to his son choosing a Human bondmate, he now knew that his son had indeed chosen this woman for wise reasons.
   On the third day after their arrival on Vulcan, Sarek and Amanda were ready to move into their new home. Amanda was having a difficult time adjusting to the climate, and while their new home had special equipment to deal with the Vulcan heat, Skonn's home did not, as no Human had ever taken up residence there.
   Early that morning, they arrived at their new home. Shi'Kahr was actually a very pleasant-looking place, not too unlike living in Phoenix, Arizona. Desert-style town home dwellings with thick insulation that closely resembled ancient adobe brick lined the streets. Amanda thought that some cactus plants imported from Earth would grow quite nicely on the perimeters of their property, and required little water to survive. Amanda wished to be very careful to not offend Vulcan conservationist tendencies by not having landscaping that required large amounts of water to nourish.
   Sarek had arranged for he and Amanda to be completely alone upon arrival to the new house; he wanted this to be very special for Amanda- their first time together in their new home. Additionally, he had some plans in mind that he believed would absolutely delight Amanda, but would undoubtedly prove shocking to Vulcan sensibilities.
   Amanda squirmed in the seat of the flitter -- she couldn't see a thing. Just before they arrived on their property, Sarek had insisted on blindfolding her. Far be it from her to squelch latent romantic tendencies in her husband.
   Sarek gently lifted his wife from the flitter, and led her to the doorway.
   "Sarek! When will you remove this silly blindfold?"
   "All in good time, my wife. In the meantime, I have studied some Terran literature regarding the rituals of newly married couples." Sarek opened the door of their home. "I believe this is considered a time-honored tradition."
   Amanda let out an unrestrained squeal of delight as Sarek picked up her up in his arms and carried her into their new home.
   Since Amanda was still blindfolded, and he was otherwise alone, Sarek allowed himself a relieved smile. Amanda was making a lot of sacrifices for him, and conforming to Vulcan culture. It would be illogical for him to not engage in some of the customs of her culture, especially if they brought additional happiness to their marriage.
   "Now, Sarek! Put me down and take this blindfold off, please," Amanda exclaimed.
Sarek gently put Amanda back on her feet, and slowly removed the blindfold. Amanda gasped -- everything had been unpacked and was arranged. One might assume that Vulcan homes are sterile and uncomfortable-looking to Humans, but that isn't really the case. Vulcans find logic in beauty, when furnishings are both comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, it is logical.
   As they went from room to room, it seemed to be a perfect fusion of cultures…..Human and Vulcan elements combined. Finally Sarek led Amanda to their bedroom suite. Human elements dominated as Amanda looked with pleasure at her family heirloom bedroom suite. Sarek had added a mist canopy to their bed, and a beautiful fireplace with hearth resided in the corner for the chilly desert nights.
Sarek led his wife into the master bathroom. He had especially ordered a large marble bathtub for his wife's enjoyment. Vulcans generally did not take water baths, but Sarek wished for his wife to have every comfort he could provide for her.      
   Specifically equipped to recycle water, this would not only satisfy Amanda's wish for water bathing, but it would also fulfill his obligation to conserve water on his arid home planet.
   Sarek turned on the water, and started to fill the bathtub. He raised an eyebrow at his wife as he reached for some lavender-scented oil, and then poured a small amount in the bathtub. Then Sarek put an arm around his wife and began to unzip Amanda's long, lavender dress.
   "Sarek, what on earth are you doing," asked Amanda.
    Sarek reached for the clasp on his robe, and replied, "If I am not mistaken, I believe we are about to take a bath."
   Amanda stopped Sarek's hand and began to undress her husband. Soon they both were standing naked before each other and Amanda caught her breath. Her husband was a beautiful man in every way. His body was lean, yet powerfully muscled. She never grew tired of looking at him.
   Sarek guided his wife up the small steps and then into the bathtub, and then joined her. He looked into her sapphire eyes, and then pulled Amanda into his lap.
Amanda gazed at her husband with amazed blue eyes and said, "Sarek, you never cease to amaze me. You claim to have no romantic tendencies, but it's clear that you planned all of this to surprise me!"
   "If pleasing one's bondmate can be construed as romance, then so be it, Amanda," replied Sarek with a quirked brow.
   "Oh you!," cried Amanda, and she began to playfully beat on her husband's chest.
Sarek tightened his hold on her and began to kiss her passionately and then whispered, "In my study of Terran newlywed rituals, I came across another fascinating term that perhaps should be explored."
   This time it was Amanda's eyebrows that rose, and she asked, "Just what term would that be?"
   With a solemn expression, Sarek replied, "Christening."

    The Science Academy was as it had been for millennia. A building built shortly after the Reformation, its architecture still held the slowly evolving Vulcan culture. The structure was a curious combination resembling ancient Mayan with more asymmetrical lines. The thick ancient brick was designed for comfort reasons, to insulate against the Vulcan heat. The combination of curves and triangular peaks had no particular purpose, except to be aesthetically pleasing. Beautiful, starkly ornate, even by Terran standards- and Sarek had greatly come to appreciate the many different types of Terran architecture. They, too- had an appreciation for structures that were hundreds, and even thousands of years old. One of our similarities, another thing that brings our cultures together, Sarek mused.
   After arriving, Sarek strode down the hall towards T'Pau's office. T'Pau's chief assistant, Salek, waited for him outside the door. Sarek greeted him. "Peace and long life, Salek."
   Salek raised his eyebrow and then returned his greeting.
   "Your aunt awaits you, S'haile. The situation at Cerelan is at a critical point and certain elements of their population stand to effect the entire Federation, but Vulcan, in particular."
   Sarek looked at Salek -- his face was unreadable, but his thoughts were different. Sarek had always felt that underneath Salek's outer mastery, was chaotic anger, and utter illogic. He did not wish to encourage further discussion with Salek on this matter with which he was not directly involved. So he looked directly at Salek and said, "Salek, I am a representative of the Federation, but first of my homeworld. My loyalty is to Vulcan and its future. But with the help of T'Pau, and seeking further knowledge, I must do as c'thia dictates in deciding Vulcan's direction regarding Cerelan. Live long and prosper, Salek." Sarek's confidence allowed for no further discussion.
    Sarek was Salek's superior in every way, by birth, by age, by rank and position on Vulcan. It would have been a discourtesy to do anything else besides step aside and allow him to enter his aunt's office.
   Salek stared after Sarek as he walked into T'Pau's office. His face immobile, but his thoughts were a menagerie of discontent. Sarek has the nerve to argue c'thia with him, after he chose a qomi bondmate. If anything, Sarek had given in to very un-Vulcan primal physical urges. He had heard all of the rumors about Terran women, their sexuality, and attraction towards Vulcan men. Fortunately, most Vulcan men would not allow themselves to consider a Human woman to takes as a bondmate. The idea of the Federation accepting a planet with Romulans in their population was absolutely insupportable in its illogic. The very doctor who was acting as diplomat in the Federation negotiations with Cerelan was of Romulan descent. Dangerous, Sarek had become in indulging his emotions.
   Salek struggled to maintain his emotional control but he felt himself assaulted by jealousy. He had had diplomatic aspirations himself, but the nepotism of Surak's line allowed for no deviation in this matter. Sarek was the heir apparent, and Salek had been accused of not having the diplomatic skills -- neither to deal with the Federation Humans, nor the mastery necessary to maintain neutrality until situations had been thoroughly researched. Therefore he was not even accepted by Skonn as an intern.
Not wishing Sarek to see him in such emotional disarray once he had finished his conference with T'Pau, Salek decided to head to his office for some meditation, to clear his thoughts.

   On the outskirts of Shi'Kahr, at an isolated clan estate, a meeting was taking place. Several Vulcan men were having a discussion, involving the future of Vulcan.
   At the head of this room stood a Vulcan male, slightly shorter than average. He was slight of build, and not quite as exotic as most of his contemporaries. He lacked the chiseled look that gave Sarek and others a very august appearance. He did, however, have unique and piercing dark green eyes.
   His voice commanded attention as he spoke. "Tomorrow Sarek departs for Cerelan. He will be investigating the culture there and will be deciding its fate in regards to admission into the Federation. He must not be allowed to accept this society that embraces Romulans. Sarek must be stopped at all costs; he must not be permitted to damage our society with his misguided tolerance any further!"
   "Perhaps, Salek," said a voice from the back of the room, "he will not be so kindly disposed towards Cerelan, and not nearly as distracted since he will not be accompanied by his vulgar qomi wife."
   "Seral," Salek began, "with all due respect, the very fact of Sarek's Terran woman- I hesitate to call her a bondmate, we well know that Terrans are almost completely psi-null with very few exceptions- the very fact that he took this woman as wife demonstrates his lack of interest in the preservation of our culture. We must act to protect Vulcan now!"
   The older man called Seral stepped forward- he was very tall, over 2 meters, and spoke with a cultured bass voice, "Salek, I am very interested in the outcome of this matter. I do not wish to see Vulcan belonging to a Federation that accepts a society that embraces uncivilized beings such as Romulans. But Sarek's clan is quite powerful; his aunt is considered everything that is Vulcan. We must give him the opportunity to investigate Cerelan on his own, and not act irrationally, based on illogic. If he returns and notifies his aunt of his desire to see Cerelan admitted into the Federation, then we shall decide what should be done in that event."
   The others in the room began to nod approvingly, and Salek hesitated, and then nodded to Seral. "All right, Seral. We will wait, but I must remain vigilant. I will not see our culture damaged further by illogical behavior on the part of Ambassador Sarek." His emphasis of ambassador conveyed a feeling of contempt, rather than respect.
After everyone else had left, Salek stood and looked around the empty room. They were shrinking from the mission in deference to Sarek's clan and T'Pau herself. The resentment he had felt all of his life resonated as he had thought of all the times he had been treated as "well enough, but not quite as good as the Clan of Surak." If they were not willing to act accordingly, then he would have to act alone.

   Vulcan's sun glowed bright early the next morning as Amanda stirred lazily in her bed. She and Sarek had spent the night together making the most of their last evening before Sarek departed for Cerelan. Sarek came into her room with a tray laden with a traditional Terran breakfast, including coffee. Amanda began to spread butter on a croissant and looked adoringly at her husband.
   "I declare, Sarek -- you are going to spoil me. What will I do without you here," exclaimed Amanda.
   "I must confess, my wife, it was my intention to make you miss my presence as much as possible while I'm on my journey," replied Sarek.
   Amanda took a swallow of her coffee and her eyes began to mist for the first time at the prospect of being separated from Sarek. They had only been married for a short time. But she was determined not to cry; there would be many trips just like this one, where the situation was uncertain, and the role of Vulcan bondmates was first and foremost, to look out for their best interests, and to protect them from danger.
Sarek's senior aide, Sonak, arrived to accompany Sarek and Amanda to Vulcan Space Central. Amanda came down the stairs wearing a lovely gown, one of many she had designed especially for her before they came to Vulcan. Amanda desired a wardrobe that was in keeping with Vulcan modesty, but also featuring soft, feminine lines in Terran fabrics. The sapphire blue set off her eyes and creamy skin to perfection. As Sarek stood at the bottom of the stairs, next to Sonak, he nearly gasped at his wife's loveliness.
   *My wife, you always look your most pleasing in that shade of blue.*
   Sarek heard the sweet bells of his wife's laughter in his mind as she told him *I wore it especially for you, to give you something to remember, and look forward to upon your return home.*
   Amanda touched her fingers to Sarek's, and they departed for Vulcan Space Central.

   Sarek and Amanda, in the company of Sonak, arrived at Vulcan Space Central. Amanda was surprised to find Skonn waiting for them.
   Amanda stepped forward and offered her father-in-law the traditional family embrace. "It is pleasing to find you here, Father."
   "I am here at the request of my son, Amanda. Once Sarek departs for Cerelan I will accompany you to your home."
    Amanda was relieved that she wouldn't have to make her way home alone following her separation from Sarek. The fact that it was family accompanying her made it much more agreeable. Skonn's years as a diplomat on Earth made Amanda feel much more at ease around him than other Vulcans.
   It was time for Sarek to leave. Skonn and Sonak stepped aside as to give the couple some privacy before departure.
    Amanda smiled at her husband. "The very best of luck on your mission, my husband. I hope you find Cerelan to be everything you wish it to be. Its medical research could be a great asset to the Federation."
   "Amanda, I do not wish to spend my last moments with you speaking of professional matters. I will return as soon as I can," Sarek replied.
   They linked fingers and Amanda gazed at her husband with eyes brimming with devotion. "It may be highly illogical, but I love you, Sarek."
    "As I cherish you, Amanda, beloved."
    As Sarek began to turn to depart, a young Vulcan man began striding towards the couple. "S'haile!"
    As the young man neared, Sarek recognized him as Salek.
    "S'haile," Salek began, somewhat out of breath, "I bring you these documents at the request of T'Pau. She wished you to have them before departing for Cerelan."
Salek handed Sarek the small disk, with a holographic security seal to ensure its confidentiality.
    Sarek bowed to Salek and said, "Your courtesy is appreciated, Salek. Live long and prosper."
    Sarek and Sonak boarded Sarek's diplomatic spacecraft and were on their way. Skonn bowed to his daughter-in-law and she followed him to his flitter where he would take her home. They didn't notice the stares of Salek.
    Salek barely saw the ambassador as he handed him the information T'Pau had sent him with. His mind was engaged on the enchanting sight of Sarek's wife. "So this was the woman that Sarek chose above all others, even Vulcan women," thought Salek. So different from Vulcan women! Her blue eyes held a sweet innocence and her smile seemed to light up the room, and yet, at the same time she possessed an ethereal and regal loveliness. Sarek had seen many things that the universe had to offer, and in honesty, he admitted to himself that Amanda was quite beautiful. The defined differences in her appearance and disposition from Vulcans just enhanced her alien appeal. As he watched Skonn and Amanda leave, he found that he could not take his eyes off of her.

    Sarek had boarded the spacecraft and sat in his seat and awaited his departure from Vulcan. Sarek lowered the opaque panel covering the window next to him. He leaned forward to get a last glimpse of his wife leaving with his father.
    Amanda was walking towards Skonn's flitter and he watched approvingly as his father helped his wife inside. Amanda had been so worried about being accepted by his family. Skonn's mannerisms were more than perfunctory; they were that of a family member to another. Family was held in high regard above all things on Vulcan.
    As he watched the flitter close up and his wife was out of sight, Sarek began to close the opaque panel. He stopped suddenly when he saw the figure of Salek staring in the direction of his bondmate in a most decidedly un-Vulcan manner. Sarek began to feel a bit of discomfort- so he narrowed his eyes to get a better view of Salek. Salek's mouth was held in a round "O" of amazement. "Had he never seen a human before," Sarek wondered. In his experience as ambassador, Sarek had been required to gain skills that were atypical of most Vulcans- cunning and instinct. Instinct harkened to Sarek as it dawned on him that Salek was not staring at Amanda out of curiosity, but almost as a Human male would stare at Amanda….in that emotion that Terrans called "lust".
    Possessive anger began to boil to the surface when Sarek heard a voice "Ambassador?"
    Sarek almost colored with shame as he realized how close he was to losing control in front of his aide. Regaining his composure, Sarek replied, "Yes, Sonak?"
    "We are ready to depart for Cerelan, S'haile."
    "Very well, Sonak," Sarek answered.
    Reluctantly, Sarek raised the opaque panel to cover the window, and though he was outwardly placid, the picture of Salek's gaze at his wife had shaken him to the core in an uncharacteristically emotional way. He decided that he would meditate before arriving on Cerelan, for he would need his intellect and reason to guide him on this mission.

    Amanda rose from a fitful sleep. Almost swallowed by one of her husband's robes, she padded to the bathroom and proceeded to turn on the water shower. Though she felt her husband's presence in their bond constantly, as a Human, she craved his presence and his touch.
    "I am acting like a silly teenage girl", thought Amanda. With stiffened resolve, Amanda decided that she would get dressed for the day, and start on some projects she wanted for the new house. First and foremost would be the garden she had planned for the backyard. She had plans to see if she could grow any Terran plants on Vulcan. It would be a learning experience, certainly!
    Feeling more refreshed, Amanda came down the stairs of her home and headed for the kitchen. She started to program the replicator for coffee. To her alarm, the replicator spat out a cup of thick, muddy mess! "Lovely, not only did I not sleep well; now I can't even get a cup of coffee."
    This would not do. The replicator programming wasn't working properly, and Amanda knew almost nothing about computer programming. Sarek or Skonn had taken care of all of that in this house.
    Amanda decided she would go to the Science Academy to visit her father-in-law to see if he could help with her replicator problem. She went to the alarm panel to punch in the arm code and it suddenly blew sparks at her. Well, now she couldn't even leave! She would risk being locked out of her own home in the scorching Vulcan heat.
Amanda was almost in tears. Sarek was gone, she was suffering newlywed separation in the worst way, and now nothing was working right in the house! Composing herself, Amanda went over to the comm. unit, to call Skonn at the Science Academy.
    Skonn answered the comm. unit to see the face of his daughter-in-law. Amanda's face was one of masked alarm. She was trying so hard to honor her husband by mastery of her emotions. "Peace and long life, Amanda."
    "Live long and prosper, Skonn."
    "Amanda," Skonn began, "you look concerned about something. Is there something I can assist you with?"
    "Yes, please do," exclaimed Amanda. "The replicator is dispensing mud instead of coffee and the alarm panel blew sparks at me before I could even leave this morning!"
Skonn raised an eyebrow and said, "Indeed? I was not aware that the replicator was programmed to serve Earth soil mixed with water."
    Amanda's face broke out into her first real smile since Sarek's departure and she began to laugh. Realizing she was laughing at her father-in-law, she regained her composure and said, "My apologies, sir. I meant no disrespect. I meant to say that the replicator is dispensing something that looks like mud."
    "It is illogical to take offense where none is intended, daughter." The slight quirk of Skonn's eyebrow told Amanda that he was really being facetious to begin with.
    "Amanda," Skonn began, "I have some duties to attend to that cannot wait. However, I will send someone from the Science Academy to look at your replicator and alarm system and adjust the programming on it."
    Amanda flashed a relieved smile of gratitude at her father-in-law and they exchanged goodbyes.
    Skonn was about to call in one of the Science Academy students when the voice intercom buzzed.
    "Salek is here to see you, S'haile."

    Temporarily distracted from Amanda's plight, Skonn received Salek into his office. Skonn rose to greet T'Pau's assistant. "Peace and long life, Salek."
    "Live long and prosper, Skonn."
    In Vulcan fashion, Salek was brief and to the point. "S'haile. I come with news from T'Pau. Ambassador Sarek has not arrived on Cerelan yet. A minor malfunction with the ship's engines has delayed their arrival by 2.67 Standard days. I have come to notify you of this, and to ask you to relay this message to T'sai Amanda. I also have brought you these documents from T'Pau. They require your immediate attention."
Skonn opened the envelope and looked at the documents. An eyebrow indicated that the documents were of a serious matter, so Salek stepped forward and asked, "S'haile, is there something that I can be of assistance with?"
    "Indeed, Salek. T'sai Amanda is having some difficulties with the replicator and alarm system at her home. Could you please have one of the students come to her home to correct the problem," Skonn answered.
    Salek had to catch himself before his face betrayed the hidden emotions in his mind. "S'haile, if I may, I have completed my duties for T'Pau this morning. I would be willing to repair the malfunction at the home of Ambassador Sarek."
    This time it was Skonn who had to mask surprise. Salek was a brilliant astrophysicist, the assistant of T'Pau, but unfortunately, he lacked the mastery for ambassadorial work. His attitude towards Humans was unacceptable for any offworlder who had to deal so intimately with them. Hopeful that Salek's work for T'Pau had helped him acquire greater levels of mastery, he decided that there would be no harm done in allowing him to repair Amanda's computer systems.
    "That would be acceptable, Salek. I will notify T'sai Amanda of your impending arrival," Skonn replied.
    After exchanging farewells, Salek left Skonn's office. Alone in the hall, his façade of immobility morphed into an expression of excitement and apprehension.
    Amanda practically leapt across the room when the comm. unit began to beep. The face on the screen didn't disappoint her.
    "Sarek! Are you not on Cerelan yet?" Amanda's face held a jubilant smile as she looked at her husband's image on the screen.
    "It seems that we have had a small malfunction in the engines, Amanda. My arrival has been delayed by approximately 2.67 Standard days. I have missed you, my wife," replied Sarek as the slightest smile came over his features.
    "Oh Sarek," exclaimed Amanda, "it seems nothing has gone right since you've been gone. I'm not sleeping very well, and now there are problems with the replicator and the alarm system."
    "The alarm system?" Sarek began to feel pensive. His beautiful wife, alone, without a proper mode of protection gave him inner pangs of apprehension. His thoughts briefly drifted to Salek and the last look he had of his eyes roving the form of his wife. "You are not properly protected, Amanda. Perhaps you should consider going to stay at my parents' home until the matter can be repaired."
    Amanda chuckled softly, "Say no more, darling! I have already contacted your father, and he is sending someone from the Science Academy today to repair the computers. You are so…charming when you worry about me, my husband!"
    "Worry is illogical, Amanda. It will do nothing to resolve the matter. Staying at a secure location was a perfectly logical suggestion, as it would place you in quarters where the malfunctioning alarm system would not be an issue," answered Sarek.
Amanda teased, "Ah, yes, it is very logical indeed for my husband to be anxious to remove me from the slight risk of potential peril!"
    "My wife, I am not anxious to end our conversation, but unfortunately we are about to enter territory where comm. reception will not be possible. I predict that we have approximately 85.94 seconds before we will be automatically disconnected," said Sarek.
    Amanda sighed, "Goodbye, my husband. I hope everything goes well on Cerelan."
"I cherish thee, Amanda," replied Sarek.
    And then he was gone. Seeing her husband's face and hearing his voice made Amanda ache for his presence. Amanda went into the living room and was about to sit down when the door chimes began to ring.
    Amanda strode from the living room to the entry hall to answer the door. She pushed the intercom button, and asked, "Who is it?"
    A male Vulcan voice answered her. "My name is Salek. Ambassador Skonn sent me to be of service to T'sai Amanda."
    "Well, thank goodness", thought Amanda. She opened the door and greeted Salek. His appearance was a bit surprising to Amanda. Rather ordinary looking, quite a bit shorter than Sarek, but his distinctive feature was piercing green eyes.
Amanda greeted him with the ta'al in flawless Vulcan. "Peace and long life, S'haile Salek. Welcome to my home."
    Salek was taken aback by Amanda's sweet voice speaking his language so adeptly. Her Human emotion offered a music and expression that could be compared with pre-Reform poetry. There was so much to discover about this woman. Salek greeted Amanda in response.
    Amanda led Salek into the living room and gestured to the sofa. "S'haile Salek, if you would pardon me. I will get us some refreshments from the kitchen," said Amanda.
In a moment, Amanda emerged from the kitchen, and carried a tray with a pitcher of kasa juice and two glasses on it. She sat it down on the coffee table, and looked to Salek.
    "Ah," thought Salek, "so the Human has been educated on our customs."
Salek's face remained impassive as he carefully poured two glasses of kasa juice. Amanda did not thank him, but carefully raised her glass and drank her juice.
Salek drained his glass, and Amanda put her glass down. She rose, and said, "S'haile, I will show you where the difficulties are with the replicator and the alarm system, if you will follow me."
    Salek rose and followed Amanda towards the kitchen.
Verena had been awake long before dawn. She had taken great care in selecting something very professional for her meeting with the Vulcan Ambassador. Truthfully, she felt far more comfortable in slacks and a lab coat. Her silky blonde hair had been swept up into an attractive twist. She had done her best to emulate female Vulcan hairstyles, as the appearance of a woman was a matter of protocol on Vulcan.
Finally, she stood in front of the mirror, satisfied with her appearance. Verena examined her appearance in the light green gown she had chosen. Long-sleeved, tasteful, but very attractive and feminine, it fluttered to the floor and enhanced her tall, lithe frame. Thank heavens she was meeting with a Vulcan- as Verena well knew she was far more attractive to men than she preferred. This way of easing into the damnable business of diplomacy would be a lot easier by meeting with someone she knew would be all business.
    The door chime interrupted her musing. She was sure it was her personal assistant, Dr. Klaver.
Verena answered the door, and Dr. Klaver entered with a young male companion. Dr. Morrison Klaver was a Human man of about 60, and had come to Cerelan as a young medical student to take advantage of one of the very best medical schools in existence. Being a genial man, and loving the peaceful quiet of Cerelan, he had long since chosen to make it his home. He was a kind, fatherly sort, who always fussed at Verena for her lack of social life, and introverted manners.
"Good morning, Verena," cheerfully greeted Dr. Klaver
"Good morning, Morris. And who is your young companion?"
"This, my dear, is Zareth. He has been working in diplomacy for many years. I have been told he is to serve as your advisor, and as an escort for the many social functions you will be no doubt attending in the weeks to come," replied Dr. Klaver.
A young man of about thirty or so stepped forward and slightly bowed. "He was very handsome, indeed", thought Verena. He was almost too handsome to be taken seriously. His glossy black hair, chiseled features, and contrasting blue eyes made for a very aesthetically pleasing package. Oh, she would have no trouble keeping it business with him. She had shrugged these types of drones off by the dozens, ever since she became of age.
Zareth said, "Dr. Verena, it is a great honor to be associated with you. I have watched your medical discoveries with great awe and anticipation."
"I am afraid that you have me at a loss, sir," replied Verena. "You seem to know so much about me, but I know almost nothing about you."
"My apologies, Doctor. My name is Zareth. I have been one of the liaisons between the Federation and Cerelan for approximately five years. My family is originally from the planet Sarpeidon. They came to Cerelan when it was determined that the planet would soon be destroyed when its sun would go nova within the next century."
Verena raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Thank you for enlightening me. I am sure we will have a lot to occupy us over the next several weeks."
Chapter 18
Salek found he could not rest at night. He had found his experience with Sarek's wife to be most exhilarating. Resigning himself to another night awake, he rose from his bed and went into the living room. It was a typical chilly desert night, and Salek shivered as he lit the fireplace.
Salek sat in a nearby armchair and stared vacantly at the flames. The heat emanating felt like the warmth of Amanda's sweet smile. Vulcan women were mechanical, no woman had ever looked at him the way Amanda did. Innocent blue eyes brimming with good humor and happiness- she had watched expectantly while he repaired the alarm panel.
"What are you doing now, Salek?" queried Amanda.
"T'sai Amanda, there was a simple short in the circuitry. All it requires is a replacement of a component, and all will be well," replied Salek.
"I appreciate your service greatly, Salek. I confess to almost knowing nothing about matters of this nature. Sarek will be gratified to know that the alarm system is fixed."
"T'sai Amanda," Salek began, as he fastened the cover back on the alarm panel, "Were there any other malfunctions that required my attention? I have serviced the replicator and the alarm panel."
Amanda answered, "No, Salek. Everything else seems to be in working order. I thank you."
Salek raised his eyebrow and thought for a moment. "I believe the proper Terran response is, 'You're welcome.'"
Amanda's surprised laughter rang throughout the room. She was so kind, and the pleasing nature of her personality just seemed to shine through her dignified beauty.
An idea occurred to Salek as he stood there, wishing to extend his presence a bit longer. "T'sai Amanda, might I request to try out the alarm panel to ensure that the electrical circuitry is performing properly?"
"Yes, Salek." Amanda chuckled. "I would hate for it to blow sparks at me again once you've left! Salek, you've been so courteous."
Salek bowed slightly in acknowledgement, and then raised his eyebrow, "What is the alarm code, T'sai?"
Salek's heart pounded as he recalled his encounter with Sarek's wife. He had etched the code into his memory. The occasion might arise in the near future for him to use it.
Alone, in the darkness, Salek whispered, "Amanda…"
Chapter 19
The heat scorched the sand, and it was intense, even for a Vulcan's physiology. Where was he? The familiarity haunted his senses. The heat, combined with the austere stillness of the place- and ah, he remembered now! T'Pau was here, and so was Skonn; they were at his Clan's Place of Marriage and Challenge, and he awaited Amanda. The ancient drums reverberated through his bleary mind as Amanda slowly came in. How lovely she looked in her silver gown; his desire almost too much to bear as her hair gleamed under his homeworld's rays. He discovered through their Bond, that she was affected, and desired him, too.
The timbre of the ancient prose came from T'Pau's lips; but Sarek could not hear his aunt. His mind was focused on only his wife as his Time grew near. In almost instinctive fashion, Sarek walked across to the ancient drum and picked up the mallet. He was about to strike when about three meters away from Amanda, he saw Salek standing there, staring intently at Amanda's face, as if he had a stake in this most private of affairs.
"Ambassador? Sarek?" Sonak was standing over him.
Sarek almost leapt to his feet, but then he realized he was in his diplomatic spacecraft, en route to Cerelan. Facial features once again impassive, Sarek answered, "Yes, Sonak?"
Sonak noticed Sarek's brief lapse of control. "Are you well, Ambassador?"
"Yes, Sonak. I had meditated and fell into a very deep sleep, is all," Sarek replied. Not exactly a lie. He had meditated, and he had fallen into a deep sleep.
"Sarek, we are in orbit over Cerelan. We will be in Spacedock in approximately 16.72 minutes. We will be greeted by Dr. Verena and Liaison Zareth," said Sonak.
Sarek bowed in acknowledgement and Sonak returned to his seat. Sarek was deeply alarmed by his dream, not only by the fact that Vulcans typically did not dream, but also by the nature of his dreams- his Time and the events to follow, and by the very disturbing image of Salek. This was highly illogical behavior and intolerable! At first opportunity, he would go into his deepest meditation trance to eradicate these illogical thoughts on his part.
Chapter 20
Verena stood in one of the waiting lobbies at the Spacedock. She and Zareth had spent their morning reviewing expected protocol and behavior among Vulcans. One of the problems with being a benign, but isolated world, was that unfortunately, she knew very little of culture outside of Cerelan. As a doctor, she saw grand vistas of research opportunities open upon joining the Federation. She knew of her own ancestry and its physiology of course. She knew it was similar to Vulcans, but the very few Vulcans that lived on Cerelan tended to be very private people. They had their own Healer to attend to their physical needs, and so Verena knew very little of Vulcans.
Morris had been more than open about Human physiology. The Federation, which seemed to be led by these average, yet intrepid beings, had long since supplied open book texts on Human physiology and Terran customs. It was said that the Vulcan Ambassador had spent a great deal of time on Earth and was well acquainted with Humans…
"Stop it," she chided herself, "Whether or not you like it, you ARE the acting diplomat. Stop looking for excuses to turn this into a medical research project, and be ready to make the best impression of your career. If the Federation does not accept us, there very well could be NO more research on Cerelan. The trick is, to convince them that the handful of people here like me share nothing in common with our warlike cousins that our more peaceable ancestors left behind on Romulus."
Suddenly, Zareth's smooth baritone interrupted her inner turmoil. "Verena, they are coming. Come back down to Cerelan and turn those lovely eyes onto Ambassador Sarek." Verena didn't notice the look he gave her was of one that could melt ice cubes.
Verena complied. The doors whooshed open, and two tall Vulcan men entered. As they grew near, one stepped forward a bit, and bowed slightly.
"Dr. Verena, I may presume?" he asked.
"Yes, I am Dr. Verena," she replied.
"My name is Sonak. I am senior aide to the Ambassador. Dr. Verena, may I present Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan?"
Sarek stepped forward, very tall and distinguished looking. Verena slightly bowed, and then looked up at the Ambassador. He had wavy black hair that didn't seem to be as severe as that of most Vulcans. She considered him for a moment; he was extremely handsome and imposing to look at. As she looked into his dark eyes, he spoke in cultured tones- his voice was almost sensual. "Peace and long life, Dr. Verena."
Verena knew this was important, and Zareth had drilled her on this beforehand, so she offered the same greeting with her right hand, and responded, "Live long, and prosper, Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan."
She then remembered herself and gestured towards Zareth. "Ambassador, this is Liaison Zareth. He will be accompanying me on all diplomatic affairs and functions over this critical period."
Sarek was surprising in his response. "Liaison Zareth, I believe we met at the Terran Embassy on Earth approximately 3.46 Standard months ago. It is agreeable to associate with you once again."
Zareth gave a slight perfunctory smile and said, "I hope your visit to Cerelan will be a very pleasant one, Ambassador Sarek. I look forward to our future meetings."
Verena said, "Ambassador Sarek, as the representative for Cerelan, I have unlimited transporter clearance, and the same courtesy will be extended to you and your aide, of course. I have arranged for us to be taken to a hotel where I have several diplomatic suites reserved. There is an adjacent meeting room that will be very convenient for our needs. I will also be giving you a tour of many different cities on the planet. We want you to become very acquainted with all aspects of our culture."
"Dr. Verena, your hospitality is appreciated," said Sarek.
Zareth stepped forward and said, "Gentleman, if you will please accompany us, we will depart for our hotel."
Verena opened her communicator and in a moment, the four of them disappeared in the glistening beam.
Chapter 21
Verena stood in her large suite looking out of her balcony. The full moon was rising, and would soon shine bright in its seemingly perpetual fullness. She and Zareth would be joining Sarek for a formal dinner this evening, to discuss itinerary for the Vulcan's visit to Cerelan. This was not a man who could be easily fooled, mused Verena.
A subtle knock interrupted her reverie and she turned to answer the door. On the other side stood Zareth, looking stunningly handsome in formal attire. He bowed slightly to her. "My lady, it is nearly time to join the Ambassador," he said.
What was it about Zareth? He had a constant gleam of mischief in his eye, a look that clearly presented a love for life and all its joys. There was something else… was almost like Zareth could see right through her, and knew what she was thinking. This feeling was doubled when Zareth said, "The ambassador is quite an impressive one, isn't he, Verena?"
Verena had to practice all of her diplomatic training to keep from squirming in discomfort. A verifiable Adonis from a 20th century Terran holovid, and a smooth mind reader, too! Verena slightly smiled and said, "Rather august, isn't he, Zareth? Those diplomatic robes rather remind me of ancient Terran history. Liaisons known as Senators wore togas in ancient Rome. Sarek's appearance is equally imposing."
Zareth's eyes narrowed in amusement. "My lady, you don't fool me at all. You have been isolated from your contemporaries for so long, that you rarely see a man outside of Dr. Klaver.
Verena eyes widened in indignation, and then she stopped short. Perhaps there was some truth in what Zareth was saying. She had been wearing her lab coat for far too long. Besides, losing control in front of Ambassador Sarek was not likely to bode well for the future of Cerelan, and would not kindly dispose him to her background.
"Zareth, your observations do you much credit. Hopefully, this opportunity to meet people will be both beneficial to Cerelan, and personally, as well," replied Verena.
Zareth smiled at Verena, and offered his arm, as they left the room to join the Ambassador for dinner.
Chapter 22
AN: Thanks again to AC Crispin for inspiration. Please don't sue me!
Verena and Zareth entered the formal private dining room that they had reserved. Verena took a swift, careful look around, to ensure that everything was appropriate. Her personal chrono said it was one minute until the appointed hour. Vulcans were known for their infallible punctuality.
Sarek did not disappoint. He entered with his aide no sooner than Verena had decided that all had met with her approval. They exchanged formal greetings, and as they did, Zareth stepped forward, and said, "Ambassador, if I may be so bold, each time that I see the traditional Vulcan greeting, I feel as I'm having what humans term as déjà vu, as if I've seen it before."
Sarek raised an eyebrow and replied, "Liaison, it is a traditional greeting, used for thousands of years, since the time of Surak, the patriarch of modern Vulcan philosophy and logic."
Zareth inwardly felt skeptical, and said, "Yes, I suppose that is it. I am very fond of it, Ambassador. It conveys many things with a very simple gesture."
Dinner was mostly silent, as Vulcans do not typically converse over dinner. Sarek ate in silence, and found that he missed his intimate dinners with Amanda. Because of her Terran background, they usually shared conversation over meals. After initial adjustments, Sarek felt that meals with Amanda were far more enjoyable, with her vibrant voice discussing her day's events. These thoughts of his wife brought Sarek to a less enjoyable point….the security system at their home. Immediately following their dinner, he would contact his wife, to ensure that the matter had been repaired.
At last dinner had ended, and it was time to start discussing things about Cerelan. Sarek found himself very curious (and inwardly hopeful) of a planet where so many of different backgrounds could live in peace. He looked at Verena, and said, "Doctor, curiosity is the only emotion openly acceptable in Vulcan society. I have many questions about Cerelan. I find it highly fascinating, this concept of a society of different races and backgrounds, living so amiably."
Verena slightly bowed her head politely, and said, "Ambassador, I hope that you will find many things acceptable about Cerelan. This planet has been a refuge for many people for generations. It is a place of great opportunity, as our medical advances and education are among the very finest there is to offer. It is my hope that someday, we will be mentioned in the same class as the Vulcan Academy of Sciences, Ambassador."
Sarek raised his eyebrow in surprise. "You honor Vulcan, Doctor. However, with your advances involving the treatment for Cranden Syndrome, I would venture to say that your technology is already in the same classification as the Science Academy's."
Verena simply gave Sarek a slight smile in response.
Sarek then turned to Zareth. "Liaison, I wish to know of your background. Which planet are you from, and how did you come to live on Cerelan?"
"Ambassador, that is quite a story," began Zareth with a faintly amused look, "I am originally from Sarpeidon. Sarpeidon is one of several planets that orbit the sun Beta Niobe. It was determined many years ago that Beta Niobe would go nova within the next century, which prompted my family to leave Sarpeidon, to begin a new life on Cerelan."
Sarek raised an eyebrow. "Fascinating, Liaison. What are your goals regarding Cerelan?"
"Ambassador, I have several goals. I am very supportive of Cerelan's medical goals. However, I also wish to see parts of the culture of my homeworld preserved. Several years ago, scientists on Sarpeidon developed a technology that would enable the people to travel backwards in Sarpeidon's past in order to escape the impending nova and its destruction. Using my diplomatic connections, I was granted permission to temporarily use the atavachron to travel backwards in time, to record elements of history, and Sarpeidon's culture. My homeworld's destruction is something that cannot be stopped, but its culture can live on, in small ways, on Cerelan, " finished Zareth.
Sarek simply replied, "A most noble and acceptable of goals, Liaison Zareth."
Zareth was suddenly struck by a memory. "Ambassador, the Vulcan ta'al. I now remember where I have seen it before. In a museum on Sarpeidon, in the Lakreo Valley, there is this ancient painting. It is faintly visible now, and much preservation work has been done on it. Some of it has been weathered away with time and decay. The visible elements that remain are the starry sky, and a hand extended in that very same gesture. The painting is nearly 5000 years old."
This time, Sarek could not stifle a reaction of surprise.
Chapter 23
Sarek had come to his suite with mixed feelings. In his own mind, where there could be nothing as illogical as lies, he despaired at being away from his wife. After meeting Verena and Zareth, he could sense no ill intentions, and his trained mind would have sensed any lies on their part. He inwardly berated himself for insisting on leaving Amanda behind on Vulcan. She would have been happy to accompany her husband, he would have been much less distracted with his wife present, and there wouldn't be the question of Salek.
Salek-the very thought of his name called to Sarek's Pre-Reformation bloodlines. Part of him very much wanted to jump out of his ship, and perform tal-shaya at the sight of Salek's gaze upon his wife. He felt at unease, sensing Salek's volatile, uncontrolled ways, and his apparent desire for Amanda. Sarek took a meditation robe from the closet and headed for the sonics. Massaging waves and meditation would help him gain control before he called his wife. The last thing he wanted to do was project fear or rage to her. The comm. unit in his room began to beep. For an illogical second, he thought it might be his wife and then he remembered that Amanda did not yet know his exact location and could not contact him. Sarek answered the comm. unit and saw his father's countenance on the viewer.
"Father," Sarek began, "this is most unexpected."
"My son, I simply call on behalf of your aunt for inquiries on your diplomatic mission and its progression," Skonn replied.
"Father, all is well. Cerelan, so far, has proven to be a most amiable and hospitable environment. Its very society appears to be the very image of the Federation and its goals, not to mention the Vulcan goals of IDIC. Indeed, there are many worlds within the Federation that could learn from the apparent lesson of Cerelan. I will know more as my mission progresses."

Skonn dipped his head in acknowledgment, and said, "This is gratifying to know, son. I will notify your aunt that your mission is progressing without consequence. She has a particular interest in Cerelan. My son, I will not keep you from your duties any longer."
"Father?" Sarek broke off, and looked at Skonn for a moment. "Father, the systems at my home, have they been repaired?"
"Yes, Sarek- Amanda was quite…pleased. She reported that Salek was most efficient and courteous in his assistance to her," replied Skonn.
Skonn watched his son's face change from pensive curiosity to thinly disguised rage.
Sarek's eyes became flame as he stared at his father in disbelief, "Father, how could you send Salek to my home, and to my wife? We are well acquainted with how he views offworlders, especially Humans. It was a most illogical and discourteous move to have Amanda offended in our home."
Skonn drew himself up, and said, "My son, I suggest you meditate immediately. Your control has lapsed in a very precarious manner. Such lapses can preclude wise judgment, thus making your mission useless, and fails to represent all that is Vulcan."
Sarek, unappeased by his father's harsh words, glared and nearly shouted, "Father, you did not see what I saw at the spacedock. I must protect my wife. I must contact Amanda immediately, and hope there is no damage. Goodbye, Father."
On the other end, Skonn was caught off guard as his son displayed uncharacteristic discourtesy in disconnecting the comm. call without waiting for his farewell. Skonn flushed green as he realized the significance of his son's irrational behavior.
Chapter 24
Amanda bolted upright from a sound sleep. Even over the distance, the bond didn't prevent her from sensing things with her husband. Trembling with fear, she realized something was wrong with Sarek. She had never sensed these things from her husband before. Sarek was always very much in control, only allowing his positive feelings to shine through with her alone. She realized that she was feeling Sarek's terror and something else. He was angry, enraged about something. What if he were in danger? If he were to die unexpectedly, she surely would, too- as the severed bond would be too traumatic for her untrained mind to endure!
Amanda's imagination began to run wild with unthinkable possibilities and she shivered with horror- and then- the comm. unit in their bedroom began to beep. Amanda leapt out of bed and raced to answer the comm. call. Her joy at seeing Sarek's face dissolved into fear as she recognized the terrible emotions in Sarek's eyes. He was green with anger, his eyes flaring and his aristocratic jaw line was taut in an effort not to shout.
"Sarek! What on earth is the matter with you?" Amanda cried.
"Amanda, there is no time for explanation- you must get out of the house immediately. Go to Skonn's home and allow my parents to look after you until I can return," demanded Sarek.
Amanda's eyes widened, perplexed at her husband's passionate insistence and asked, "What is going on here? Why must I leave? What are you not telling me?"
Sarek's voice rose with apprehension, "Amanda- Father…he told me about Salek repairing the computer system."
"Yes, Sarek, but I don't…"
"AMANDA," Sarek began, in a tone that brooked no opposition, "did you give Salek the security code to our home? You must get out. I have reasons to believe that Salek will use the code with ill intentions. You must…trust me, my wife."
"Of course, Sarek." Amanda knew that her husband wouldn't be in such a state without sufficient cause, and that she trusted his judgment above all other beings. "Sarek, I will leave immediately."

Slight relief crossed Sarek's features as he said, "I will call my father and have him send an aircar immediately. Please do not hesitate on this, beloved."
Amanda started to feel more at ease as the intensity of Sarek's fear lessened. "I love you, my husband- I will speak with you…"
Amanda gasped as the screen went black. They had lost their comm. connection…no, the comm. unit was not operational. "Computer, please reconnect to origin of last call received."
There was no response.
Sarek stared into the comm. screen- nonplussed. "Computer, please reconnect to origin of last call placed."
There was no response.
Amanda started to look around as she realized that she was not in the house alone. She grabbed a shawl off of the chair in front of the comm. unit and started out of the bedroom. She crept into the hallway and started looking around warily. A hoarse scream began to erupt from Amanda's throat as she felt a strange hand on her shoulder and then stopped abruptly.
Before Amanda could fall, Salek caught her and lifted her gently into his arms. Salek's robes swirled as he carried her down the stairs.
Alone in his suite, Sarek felt Amanda's emotions change from puzzlement to apprehension, and then finally to terror. He heard her distant scream and then nothing. His heart pounded in his chest, and suddenly, his eyes began to roll back into his head as he collapsed to the floor.
Chapter 25
Verena sat on the balcony of her suite the following morning, looking over her notes for the day's itinerary. The itinerary included traveling many of Cerelan's educational establishments, museums, and for enjoyment, a trip to the theatre. Verena silently wondered if the ambassador had ever seen "Much Ado About Nothing" in Klingon.

She and Zareth had stayed up late last night, discussing his idea for a Sarpeidon exhibit to be brought to the new museum in construction, the Cerelan Institute of Cultural Education. "Zareth really is a fascinating man", she thought. He had much of the ambassador's dignity, and yet he possessed none of Sarek's stoic aloofness. But Sarek possessed something that she had always felt if his Vulcan blood held a kinship for her. She knew that having a Romulan grandmother made her appearance similar to his. However, she also knew that Romulans had a volatile culture, and none of the cool logic of Vulcans. Nonetheless, she had always felt drawn to the Vulcan ways, attempting to adapt some of their philosophies into her own life and behavior.

Verena's reverie was interrupted by the sound of her suite's door chime and she opened the door to see Zareth and the ambassador's aide, Sonak on the other side. With a look of puzzlement and then amusement, she said, "Now, I know I'm not late, our meeting isn't for another half hour."

Sonak stepped forward and said, "I'm afraid this isn't a diplomatic call, Doctor. There is…something wrong with the ambassador. He collapsed in his room at an unknown time and is running a high fever. I would appreciate it if you could come and examine him."

Verena, though shocked, said, "Certainly, Sonak. If you would wait a moment, while I get my medkit, I will be more than happy to accompany you to the ambassador's suite."

The three of them entered the Ambassador's suite a few minutes later. Sarek was lying on top of his bed, still fully clothed. Verena was suddenly struck by the scent in Sarek's suite; it was wonderful-a combination of cinnamon, musk, and sandalwood. In fact, she started to feel slightly excited, almost aroused.

Sonak looked to Verena, "I originally found him in the floor in front of the desk, but I did manage to move him to the bed."

Verena came over to the bed. "Oh, my," she thought, "the closer I get to him the stronger and more entrancing that scent becomes. If I were a chemist, I would think of trying to bottle it for perfume."

Verena reached into her medkit and removed her medical tricorder. She began scanning and also placed her hand on Sarek's forehead.

Suddenly, Sarek began to stir, "Amanda, my wife…Amanda," he whispered. At Verena's touch, his eyes started to open, and he saw the doctor standing over him with the medical tricorder. In a fit of fury, Sarek wrenched the tricorder from Verena's hand, and flung it across the room- shattering both the tricorder and the table lamp, and shouted, "GET AWAY FROM ME NOW! It is UNDIGNIFIED for a woman to serve a man who isn't hers!" Verena recoiled in shock and horror at the ambassador's unexpected reaction.

Sonak's eyes widened in unVulcan-like shock and then the tips of his ears flushed green. Zareth noticed this and asked, "What is the matter, Sonak? Is there something wrong?"

Sonak bowed his head and said, "This was what I had feared. There is nothing we can do for him here, Liaison. I only hope that we can get him back to Vulcan in time."

Verena straightened, recovering from her shock, and asked, "In time? In time for what?"

Sonak looked away, and then looked at Sarek, who was rocking back and forth with his eyes closed in a feeble attempt to maintain control. Eyes slightly cast downward, "Doctor, Liaison Zareth, we must get him home, and quietly, without notice of the media or other officials. In order to do that, I must reveal something to you that is never spoken of, especially to outworlders. I must have your strictest confidence and an assured promise that you will reveal this to no one."

Mute and stunned, Verena and Zareth nodded in agreement.
Chapter 26
Amanda started to rise from her bed but the most awful headache gave her pause. What had happened to her neck? She could barely turn her head. As her head started to clear, she looked around and realized that she wasn't in her bedroom, and not in her home. Sarek! Remembering her last disturbing conversation with her husband, she recalled that he had told her to leave their home immediately. Tears began to well in Amanda's eyes as she realized that whatever Sarek had feared had come to pass. Where was she? Who had brought her here? Amanda decided to try and focus on a mental message to her husband. "Sarek! Sarek!" She projected fear and terror so he would realize that she might be in danger.

As she rose up from her bed and started for the door, the door opened, and she stood there face to face with her captor. "Salek," she gasped.

Salek bowed to her and replied, "Your servant, Lady Amanda."

"But why, Salek? What have I done? Why have you brought me here?" asked Amanda.

"It is not you that has done anything, T'sai. It is your husband with whom we have quarrel. He is currently on a diplomatic mission and we are determined that it will fail. You, Lady Amanda, are the bargaining chip," replied Salek.

Amanda's head cleared and she clenched her fists at her side in fury, blue eyes flaring at Salek. Salek caught her anger and lurched forward and grabbed her arm and stated, "Displays of rage will get you nowhere, Amanda."

Amanda glared at Salek and stepped hard on his foot, wrenching away from Salek. Salek jumped away in surprise. But his superior physical strength was not quelled and he said, "Neither will displays of violence." He grabbed her by both arms this time, and Amanda was sure his grip was firm enough to leave bruises.

Amanda said, "Sarek will find me, Salek. He will find me, and if you anger him, he has the power to make sure you are outcast and your family is disgraced for generations."

Salek looked almost amused, "I realize your husband has connections in high places, Amanda- but he is not the only one. I am not alone in not wishing to see Cerelan admitted to the Federation. Our greatest enemies would thus be living in Federation Territory."

Amanda suddenly broke out into a sweat and her eyes widened in terror. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she felt something from Sarek. She sensed rage, along with something else. She put her hands to her head as if she could stop feeling horrified at Sarek's projected emotions. Finally, she collapsed. Salek had watched this scene and realized that something had happened to Amanda.

He laid her back on the bed and left the room. He had to call someone he could trust to come out here and look at Amanda. After entering in some codes, the eyes of Seral met his own on the comm. unit.

Seral said, "Salek, this is most unexpected. How may I be of service?"

"Seral," began Salek, "I must ask, are you acquainted at all with Human physiology?"

Seral raised an eyebrow in surprise at this query and replied, "I know about as much as any Healer, I have treated Humans that have lived here over the decades, particularly the Science Academy students. Most of the Humans in ShiKahr visit one of their physicians, however."

Salek thought about this for a moment, and replied, "Your knowledge should be sufficient. I require your services on my Clan's estate."

Overcome by curiosity, Seral couldn't help but asking, "Salek, who will I be examining at your estate? It is not as if you have any Human…friends, as they call them."

Realizing that he could not hide the truth from Seral, particularly once he arrived, Salek stiffened and said, "T'sai Amanda is currently here and requires medical assistance."

Shocked and perplexed, Seral's eyebrows disappeared past his hairline, and echoed, "T'sai Amanda? Ambassador Sarek's wife? Seral, what have you done?"

Salek was affronted by this and replied, "I have done nothing that is not necessary for the future of Vulcan and the Federation."

Seral's face was passive; however, his eyes displayed marked disapproval as he asked, "So you have abducted the ambassador's wife in hopes of manipulating his decision regarding the matter of Cerelan? What will happen if Skonn or T'Pau discovers your actions, Salek? You have behaved most illogically."

Salek made no pretense of hiding his emotions and he snapped, "We were all planning to take action in order to prevent Cerelan from being admitted to the Federation. If my role in this is discovered, then yours will be as well, Seral. The adepts will see to that once they use their training to question me. They will see you and the others in my mind."

Seral faltered for a moment, and said, "This was never what I had in mind, Salek. I am a Vulcan, bred to peace, and the teachings of Surak. It is because of my desire for peace that I do not wish to see a world that houses some of our greatest, most dangerous adversaries admitted to the Federation. Abducting another man's bondmate is something I cannot condone, under any circumstances."

Salek's emerald eyes were cold as he replied, "You must come out here. I will expose you in this matter if you do not. Furthermore, T'sai Amanda is in grave need of medical attention." Salek abruptly ended the comm. call.

Seral looked at the darkened monitor. In a stunning lapse of control, he put his fingers to his temples and gently massaged them, as if in doing so, he could make this conflict disappear.
Chapter 27

Verena set her valise next to the door of her suite. Sonak had revealed many astonishing secrets to her about Vulcans. Vulcans were a zealously private people, and even with her medical training, she would have never fathomed something as uncivilized and wanton as pon farr. So Ambassador Sarek was a married man! Cerelan was indeed an isolated paradise, for she knew nothing of the historic marriage between the Vulcan and his Human bride. Verena silently pondered the possible motivation of a cool and logical Vulcan telepathically bonding and marrying a Human woman. A sly half-smile touched her lips as she thought, "So they do have feelings, after all."

Her reverie was interrupted by a knock on the door. Verena opened the door and Zareth entered, accompanied by Sonak. "Doctor, your medical intuition honors Vulcan. Many Healers have spent countless hours in research, looking for a medical solution to pon farr, and while you haven't stopped it, the compound you gave me to administer to the Ambassador has restored most of his control. He should be able to travel home without danger."

Verena smiled and replied, "If you will pardon my illogic, Vulcans might be a bit too close to the dilemma to see a clear solution. Perhaps one day there might be an answer."

Sonak simply bowed his head in acknowledgement.

Zareth said, "I have made all of the arrangements, my lady. We will be ready to depart within the hour, and the utmost discretion has been exercised to protect the Ambassador's privacy."

Sonak said, "I think we shall be able to join the Ambassador in his suite now and prepare him for departure."

As the trio entered the suite, Sarek sat on the floor on his meditation mat. He rose to greet them and as his eyes met Verena's, a slight green flush colored Sarek's cheeks. His voice was steady as he said, "Doctor, you must forgive me for my reprehensible lapse of control earlier. I am not myself, and I meant no ill intentions toward you."

"Ambassador," replied Verena, "there is no offense taken, where none is intended. Will you allow me to see to your health on your journey home?"

"Your service honors me, Doctor. I appreciate your assistance," answered Sarek.

Zareth pulled his pocket communicator from his jacket. "I have made arrangements for us to be beamed directly from the suite to the spaceport. This way, only very few people will see you, Ambassador."

Sarek raised an eyebrow and said, "That is acceptable, Liaison. I am grateful for your respect."

Holding their bags in hand, they disappeared in the shimmering light.
Chapter 28

Against his better judgment, Seral approached the gates of Salek's family estate. He simply had no choice but to comply with Salek's wishes. Salek had done an inconceivable thing of kidnapping T'sai Amanda against her will, and now it appeared that she was ill as a result of Salek's rash and illogical behavior.

After gaining entry, Seral walked to the great ancient doors of Salek's home. A somewhat ruffled Salek met him at the door, and the moment Seral saw his face, he knew that Salek had lost all reason. No pretense of logic remained as Seral looked into the wild green eyes of a madman.

"Salek," began Seral, "perhaps it is not too late to stop this disaster. You gained entry to the Ambassador's home to take T'sai Amanda. Perhaps you could take her home before anyone realizes she has disappeared."

Incredulous, Salek stared at Seral and mocked, "Return her? Have you SEEN the Ambassador's bride, Seral?"

"I confess that I have not, Salek, " replied Seral.

"I suppose you have heard all of the stories of Human women and their barbaric sensuality, Seral. They are also fragile, like Terran flowers. She is not well, and needs treatment." A wistful gaze came over Salek's face as he described Amanda.

Seral raised an eyebrow, comprehending at last. "May the Adepts of Gol save your katra, Salek. You have done the unspeakable of coveting and taking another man's bondmate. I will have no part of this debacle. Perhaps Sarek is right about seeking Cerelan's entry into the Federation. IDIC, Salek. Furthermore, it is illogical to be bigoted towards other races for their customs and behavior when your very actions are that of our uncivilized ancestors in the time before Surak. Perhaps we are what they call on Terra…fanatics. Fanatics usually overreact, and have very little ground to stand on in the midst of their allegations, Salek."

Seral turned and started to depart when Salek cried, "She is ill, and might be dying! Can you deny her your assistance? Your ethics as a Healer direct that you aid her. Your heritage as a Vulcan demands that you act in preservation of life."

Seral turned around and though his face was impassive, his eyes betrayed resignation. "You are correct in one thing, Salek. I must act to help T'sai Amanda. However, I wash my hands of you, and of your cause, Salek. I will do nothing to help you in your vendetta against Sarek. I will not aid you in your attempt to disgrace Sarek, his bondmate, and his Clan.
Chapter 29

Seral accompanied Salek to the upstairs bedroom where he was holding Sarek's bondmate captive. Salek stood beside Amanda's bedside as Seral removed his medical tricorder from his bag and began to examine her. Steeling himself against the assault of her Human emotions, he reached forward to touch Amanda's face. Seral paused as he noticed purple bruises encircling Amanda's upper arm. Scandalized and shocked, he stared at Salek and asked, "What have you done to her?"

Salek said, "Before she was unconscious, she struggled with me, attempting to escape."

Seral simply said, "I request privacy to examine T'sai Amanda, Salek." Reluctantly, Salek left and shut the door.

Seral studied Amanda's countenance as she lay unconscious, her rhythmic breathing. Her face belied a childlike innocence as she slept. Seral reached for Amanda's psi points. Although he was experiencing her Human emotions, they were not as chaotic as he had feared. Amanda's heightened state was not emanating from her. In her mind, he sensed Sarek's presence greatly. The strength of Sarek and Amanda's marital link could not be denied, either. "Fascinating," mused Seral, "that a psi-blind Human and a Vulcan could share such a telepathic bond with each other."

Seral removed his hand from Amanda's face and removed a hypospray from his bag. Almost immediately after administering the medication, Amanda started to open her eyes. "Sarek," she whispered.

Seral looked into the very bluest eyes he had ever seen and said, "T'sai Amanda, my name is Seral. I am a Healer sent to examine you."

Amanda became suddenly aware of her surroundings and remembered her circumstances. "Please help me!" she pleaded softly. "My husband is in trouble, and he needs me."

"T'sai Amanda," answered Seral, "I am aware of what is troubling you. I want you to try to remain calm. I am going to attempt to help you."

Amanda's eyes closed again in slumber and Seral straightened up and
left the room.

Salek strode to Seral's side and asked, "What is the matter with T'sai Amanda?"

Even his Healer's stoic face betrayed his slight embarrassment as he answered, "It is Sarek's Time. That is why she is not well. Her Human physiology was not prepared for the onslaught of Sarek's violent emotions at this time. She must be allowed to join with her husband."
Chapter 30

All went well at the Spaceport on Cerelan. Verena and Zareth's presence made things glide smoothly as glass as no one questioned their abrupt departure off planet. Sarek looked a bit haggard, and his control was quite tenuous- but otherwise he seemed to be doing well. He had retired immediately to his quarters to meditate upon boarding the diplomatic spacecraft.

Verena saw for the first time, her homeworld in its glory from the stars. Many emotions ran rampant in her as she observed her world grow continuingly smaller from deep space. First and foremost, that scent! It was difficult enough in the hotel suite for a few moments, but to be locked in this shuttlecraft as the scent grew stronger and more powerful. There was no other way around it- she was…aroused!

Uncharacteristically, she paced back and forth in her quarters. Ambassador Sarek was a married man, and Zareth had told her that Dr. Amanda Grayson was a very brilliant and beautiful linguist. To Verena's surprise, it wasn't Sarek that she desired. It was the blue eyes of Zareth she saw as her thoughts became more and more volatile. Her initial impression of him as a handsome drone was too simplistic. He was truly gorgeous, and so intuitive it nearly made her squirm. That's what she needed; her life had been so focused on her research and medicine for so long that she had neglected her very personal necessities. Zareth had proved himself as having insight into her character and was someone she could respect.

Shuddering from the entrancing scent, Verena removed a couple of things from her valise. She applied the slightest amount of perfume just below her collarbone, and then some slightly shiny gloss to her lips. Checking her appearance in her soft blue gown, she was satisfied.

Verena strode to the door of her quarters and turned the doorknob. Her eyes widened with shock when she opened the door to see Zareth on the other side, poised to ring for entry.
Chapter 31

If Seral had been anything else besides a Vulcan, his hands would have trembled as he approached Skonn's home in the city of Shi'Kahr. Perhaps if he told Skonn the entire truth about Salek and their plans, he could salvage his Clan's honor, if not his own.

After being escorted to Skonn's private study by one of the servants, Skonn rose to greet Seral and then shut the door behind them. Wasting no time, Skonn turned to Seral. "What brings you here, Healer?"

"I have come to seek forgiveness, Ambassador. What began as a simple concern of preserving the Vulcan culture and tenets of Surak has been magnified into a most dishonorable situation, and one that I wish to reveal to you, and to offer my assistance in its remedy."

"Please continue, Healer."

"I am aware that Sarek has been sent to Cerelan as they seek entry into the Federation. Regarding certain elements of Cerelan's population, a number of other Vulcans, myself included, had concerns. Salek was also among us in our clandestine meetings, hosting most of them at his estate outside of the city. What I could not foresee, Ambassador, was a contamination of those concerns, that it was brought on by Salek, due to a personal vendetta against your son."

"Salek's service to me has been acceptable. I have been aware of his attitudes towards Humans. This has prevented him from seeking a career in the Diplomatic Corps. However, that seems to have improved as of recently."

"Ah, but with respect, Ambassador," replied Seral, "you do not understand the origin of his recent attitude conversion. I understand that Salek has had the occasion to meet your new daughter, Lady Amanda. I have come to tell you that Salek has done a terrible thing. He has taken Amanda from Sarek's home, and is holding her captive at his estate. I tell you this because my assistance was summoned this very evening."

This time the elder Vulcan's eyebrows disappeared into his hairline. "So my son's fears were not unfounded," he thought.

"There's more, Ambassador. I have seen Salek. His study of the disciplines has failed him. He has the look of a…madman. He desires T'sai Amanda, his concern for her is the reason he summoned me. She is not well. She had fallen unconscious, and Salek was fearful for her health."

"Is my daughter all right?"

"That remains to be seen, Ambassador. I did a light meld with T'sai Amanda, and discovered that it is Sarek's Time. Her Human physiology was not prepared for the onslaught of his emotions, and that is the reason she has not been well. I have come to offer your assistance in her retrieval."

"Healer, your honesty does you credit. Your confession of the truth brings integrity back to you and your Clan. Sarek is a very high profile figure. If his Time is upon him, I can only assume that he is doing what he needs to do in order to discreetly come home immediately. What we do not want is publicity. A kidnapping of Sarek's wife would be fodder for the Federation presses, and Sarek's condition is such that the publicity would expose it, which we do not want to happen."

"What must we do then?"

"I want you to use your influence over Salek, and convince him that he must allow Amanda to come to our ancestral marriage grounds. Both of them will die if this is not allowed to occur. Use Salek's feelings for Amanda to convince him."

Seral was surprised at such cunning among a fellow Vulcan, but realized that Skonn's years of diplomatic work had made such traits a necessity. "I will do what I must to assist your family, Ambassador."
Chapter 32

Amanda sat on the edge of the bed in her windowless quarters. Feeling tired but otherwise all right, she reached out to Sarek through their link. She sensed anxiety, but no longer felt the rage and lust emanating from him that she felt earlier. Tears of despair welled up in her eyes as she considered her situation. Sarek had told her about the Time before they had bonded, and as she remembered Sarek's uncharacteristically volatile behavior, she realized that only one thing could be its cause. Amanda silently prayed that Sarek was on his way home to her, and could free her from this prison. She had a vague recollection of a Healer visiting her here and during the meld, she had seen his compassion for her, along with guilt? Yes, guilt, she decided. Perhaps he could help her.

The door opened and once again, Amanda found herself face to face with her captor. She saw the glassy madness in his green eyes. "You sent a Healer to examine me. Why?"

"My lady, I do not wish for harm to befall you. I merely wanted to ensure your health was in no immediate danger."

Eyes flaring with resentment, she spat, "I am all right now, no thanks to you, Salek. You follow the ways of your barbarian ancestors, I see!"

"Indeed, T'sai Amanda. I thought my actions were in the preservation of Vulcan's culture. I see that you are well for the moment, as your usual Human displays of emotion have come back to the fore."

"For the moment?"

"Have you no idea what is wrong with you, T'sai?"

Amanda's eyes narrowed as she considered her answer. "No, I cannot say that I do, Salek. I thought I was simply suffering from the aftereffects from your performing the nerve pinch when you abducted me."

Salek joined Amanda and sat down on the bed next to her. He extended two fingers and caressed her jawline softly. Are all Terran women as aesthetically pleasing as you are, Amanda?"

Trembling with fear, Amanda had no idea what Salek's intentions were at this point. Visions of him forcing himself on her turned her blood to ice as she realized that he could very easily kill her with his superior physical strength. Amanda closed her eyes. No matter what happens, you must not try to resist him, she thought.

To Amanda's surprise, Salek reached out his hand towards her psi points. Instinctively recoiling in terror, she felt his hand grab the back of her neck. As she felt him in her mind, she sensed his sanity had left him, as well as his obsession with her. Deciding that she had no defense against his telepathic skills when she had none, she offered some of her thoughts to him willingly, images from her life on Earth, as a young girl, as the woman she was before meeting Sarek. She saw his memories as well, and sensed many of his feelings.

Salek was ill prepared for Amanda's willingness to offer her own memories for his observation. He was beginning to lose himself in her more chaotic Human emotions. The ancient doorbell clanged majestically and Salek abruptly severed the meld. He didn't notice Amanda's triumphant and determined look as he exited the room.
Chapter 33

Noting Verena's sheen of slight perspiration on her forehead, Zareth couldn't help but to smile at the cool, collected doctor in a state of frustration.

"Why, hello! What brings you by? Is all well with the Ambassador?"

"My lady, I'm sure you would be one of the first to know if the Ambassador were in trouble. As to the matter that brings me by, I must confess that is solely you. The smell- it is quite intoxicating, isn't it, Doctor?"

"It isn't so unbearable, " Verena lied.

Giving her another one of those knowing smiles, Zareth said, "Oh come off it. You are climbing the walls; the scent is affecting you profoundly. I have more than a small amount of telepathic power, and you are very distracted by the scent." Zareth reached out to stroke her cheek tenderly.

"Ohhhh, please don't do that, Zareth." Verena began to back away.

Undaunted, Zareth moved towards her and took one of her hands. "Why not? Has anyone ever told you how very captivating you are? Although I don't find Sarek's pheromone emissions anything more but pleasant, I am very much affected by the emotions you're projecting, by the scent coming from you, and by the way your beautiful eyes are displaying a lovely combination of shyness and desire." Backing Verena up against the wall, he leaned into her neck, inhaling her scent, and then slowly his lips began to kiss her behind her ear.

Chapter 34
Salek paced the floor of his study like a man driven. "Let her go to Sarek?" His eyes displayed ugly disdain at the thought.

Seral's head slightly shook in amazement. "Salek, it is Sarek's Time. Both of them will die. Sarek is a high profile figure. His death will be an intergalactic scandal. More than that, if you have...feelings for T'sai Amanda, you cannot let her die. She will die of a severed marital bond. Even Vulcans have been known to die of an abruptly severed marital bond. Her lack of psi skills, and her untrained mind would be defenseless against death.

"But what will I do? She is fragile…and so lovely, so pleasing. The thought of handing her to Sarek fills me with rage. I will NOT let him have her, Seral!"

"Then you condemn her to die, as well as Sarek. And Salek, all this time you have spoken of the preservation of Vulcan's culture, should you allow Sarek to die in the Fires, you will bring unspeakable shame on us all."

Salek considered this for a moment. He had a family as well, his parents and brothers and sisters. He could not dishonor them. "Perhaps there is a way. If I convince Amanda that Sarek will be in danger should she not release him after his Time, perhaps she will agree to come with me."

Amazed at Salek's obsession, Seral simply replied. "Before we escort her, you must allow me to examine her."

Salek nodded in response as they headed up the staircase where he was holding Amanda.

Alone with T'sai Amanda, Seral examined her and found her to be in no danger. More concerning was the emotional state of Sarek's wife. Unaccustomed to dealing with Human emotions, Seral reached back into his early xenomedical training.

"T'sai Amanda, I told you earlier that I would attempt to help you. I have been in contact with Skon. I have offered your father my assistance." Slightly embarrassed, Seral paused, "You DO know what the matter is, T'sai Amanda?"

Amanda flushed crimson and said, "Yes, I know. But Healer, I have not told Salek this. I feel that the less Salek knows of me, the better off that I am. He frightens me. He forced a meld on me earlier. I presume it was your arrival that ended it abruptly."

Decades of discipline could not stop the look of unabashed horror on Seral's face at the thought of a forced meld. A forced meld was far worse than physical violence, mind rape, the worst possible of violations. Sarek's wife, as a human, needed comfort that his disciplined mind was not prepared to provide. "T'sai Amanda, I have convinced Salek to allow you to go to Sarek. There are, however, conditions. Salek expects you to release Sarek once the Fires have passed and his life is spared. Otherwise, he will murder your husband. My lady, there are a few on Vulcan who support Salek and will assist him."

Amanda's sweet face contorted in rage towards Salek. "Yes, I realize that there are people who harbor disdain for my husband because he married a Human woman. As for Salek, I have sensed his obsession with Sarek, and with me. I will do whatever I must to spare my husband's life, Healer. You must not tell him, however, that I knew of Sarek's Time, or of the details that entails."
Chapter 35
Still reeling from his encounter with Sarek's wife, Seral came downstairs to Salek's study. Salek practically leapt from his seat. "Amanda?"

"T'sai Amanda is resting. I have attempted to explain to her why she is ill, but I don't think she quite comprehends the urgency of the Time, Salek. No outworlder possibly could. That brings me to another issue."

Salek raised an eyebrow, "That would be, Healer?"

"You know that a forced meld is among the greatest of violations one can commit," replied Seral, with barely concealed disgust. "I cannot fathom why you would have done such a thing, Salek. An outworlder such as she who is psi-blind with very little mind discipline might have struggled against your mind probe and wound up with brain damage or even died in the process. It has also been clear that your study of the disciplines have failed you. You have been displaying outbursts of violent emotions that may wind up as your downfall. Your Clan should have attempted to find you another bondmate after the one that was chosen for you died in that unfortunate accident. In the meantime, you have dishonored your Clan by your relentless pursuit of another man's wife."

Seral turned to the door to leave. With feline ferocity, Salek bounded towards the door and replied, "You're not going anywhere, Healer. It seems you have become a problem, and an obstacle. Your twisted sense of ethics stand in the way of what I want."

"Sarek's family should be notified that we will be escorting Amanda to the Marriage grounds!"

"You will contact Sarek's family, from the comm. link here."

Resignation and weariness were slightly evident on Seral's face. "It seems I have brought this upon myself in my misguided association with you. I suppose I can be of better use here, to ensure that you do not harm that Human woman any further."
Chapter 36
Startled by the terrible noise coming from the ambassador's quarters, Verena and Zareth leapt from the bed and hastily began to dress. The doctor passed by a mirror and realized how she looked with her hair quite untidy from the frantic lovemaking she had shared with Zareth just shortly before the interruption. Quickly running a brush through her hair, Verena ran to get her medkit and she and Zareth exited the quarters. Both were surprised by Sonak's presence outside the door. His face was green with mortification as he faced the couple as he quite knew what they had been up to.

"Doctor," began Sonak, "Sarek's emotions are affected by everything around him. As a telepath, he can sense emotions. He sensed the... feelings coming from you and the Liaison." Sonak looked away in an uncharacteristic breach of control and then quickly met Verena's eyes again. Almost sheepishly, the young aide replied, "He KNEW what you were doing in your suite and it caused him to react thus."

By this time, both Verena and Zareth were positively emerald with shock and shame as they realized everyone on this ship knew what they had done privately.

Zareth's diplomatic training came back to the fore as he heard glass shattering in the Ambassador's suite. "Sonak, do you think both of us can subdue the ambassador so Verena can administer a hypospray?"

"We can try. He is probably exhausted physically from the constant meditation since we departed for Vulcan, the extreme effort he has made to maintain control. However, from his madness he may draw a ferocity and strength that could overwhelm us both."

"We arrive at Vulcan in approximately 2 Federation hours. We have to try to subdue him before we land at the spaceport. It's a risk we must take for all of our safety."

Sonak started towards Sarek's quarters. Zareth turned to Verena and softly brushed her hair out of her face. "We will go in and leave the door open. I want you to wait outside and watch and make sure we have Sarek subdued before you come in. If for some reason, we should not be able to subdue him, I want you to go to my quarters and get the small phaser from my suitcase and then lock the door."

Sonak and Zareth steeled themselves against physical assault and rushed into the ambassador's room. "YOU WILL NOT TAKE HER FROM ME," he roared as he ran towards the two men. Zareth met Sarek's assault and fought to subdue his arms and Sonak finally managed to grasp Sarek in a nerve pinch. The ambassador went limp and Sonak and Zareth carried him to the bed. Verena hurried inside and administer the hypospray.

The spacecraft comm. unit began to beep in the office and Sonak went to answer it. Skonn's patrician visage was unmistakably stricken with worry. "Sonak, since you have answered this comm. link, I have logically deduced that you are on your way to Vulcan with my son. How long will it be before you arrive?"

"Ambassador, we should arrive at the Spaceport in approximately 1.92 Standard hours."

"Sonak, is my son nearby?"
"He is not, Ambassador. The doctor we brought along for aide and discretion in leaving the planet has administered him some medication to provide a temporary and tenuous measure of control. He rests now."

"Control?" The elder Vulcan's eyebrows raised in amazement.

"Yes-temporary, but the compound has made him well enough to travel."

"There is a greater matter at hand, Sonak. I do not wish for Sarek to hear this, as it will further strain his control and might cause him to sink into madness before he reaches Vulcan. T'sai Amanda has been abducted."

"Who would do this, Ambassador?"

"A member of my staff who has turned extremist in his policies, with an eye towards my son's bondmate is the culprit. He has agreed to bring T'sai Amanda to spare her life but he is not stable mentally. I will await you at the Spaceport with transporter clearance immediately to our Ancestral Marriage Grounds, Sonak."

"Live long and prosper, Ambassador."

Sonak realized that Sarek must already know what had happened, that was what had brought him into his Time so quickly, and without warning.
Chapter 37
Tradition dictated on Vulcan that the woman being bonded wear her Clan's wedding gown passed down through generations. Amanda, however, had no Clan on Vulcan, save for her husband's. It was then determined that she wear the gown of her husband's Clan.

Amanda peered at herself in the ancient mirror as the handmaidens arranged her hair in perfect symmetry. She was torn by a torrent of conflicting emotions. She was overjoyed to be out of Salek's home, and away from where he could harm her again. But she was very frightened for Sarek's life. The threat to him was unmistakable. His life was to be spared, and no more than that from her was required. How many people on Vulcan…hated her so?

Amanda was amazed at how many dwellings were on the Marriage Grounds. There was of course, an ancient stone house for the wedding couple to retreat to immediately following the ceremony. There were also other houses on the premises. There were guest homes for Clan members who had to travel far to arrive. Expected to stay while Sarek's Time ran its course were a few members of Sarek's family, women trained in tending to the female in case of accidental injury.

Most pleasing to her was the honor of wearing the wedding gown from Sarek's Clan. T'Pau herself had worn the gown, and undoubtedly would be presiding over the events today. It was beyond beautiful. It shimmered with a life all its own, with its silver material, its beauty unmarred by nearly 100 years of use. Most Clan gowns lasted about a century or so- depending on alterations required. Amanda found herself slightly embarrassed by the way it fastened. No buttons or hooks or anything else that could be ripped by a husband in plak tow, it instead used snaps that would easily come undone by an eager mate.

Amanda appraised herself in the mirror. This gown was rather short, and for once she found herself thankful for her less-than-average height. The modesty gave her some confidence as she realized she was facing one of the most daunting challenges of her life. How to spare her husband's life?

The handmaidens departed, leaving Salek to stand in the door, staring at Sarek's wife, in her wedding gown. Amanda's heart leapt with terror as his manic green eyes scanned her appearance.
Chapter 38

Only Skonn and Sonak would be permitted to accompany Sarek to the Marriage site itself. Sarek's control, though not as complete as before-was somewhat restored by the compound Verena had administered to him following what had happened on the ship. She and Zareth were waiting in one of the stone cottages that Sarek's Clan owned on this millennia old ancestral ground. For over 5000 year, Sarek's family had wed their bondmates on this site, in accordance with Vulcan custom.

Verena was horrified over what had happened to Lady Amanda. Sarek already knew about it when they had met Skonn at the Spaceport and asked his father about Amanda. For such a logical society, this man who had taken Sarek's wife was criminally insane in a way that was almost unheard of on Cerelan.

What Verena was unaccustomed to was the heat. Thank the gods there was no walking involved, as she certainly would have fainted. It was so seasonable on Cerelan all the time and the heat on Vulcan was legendary. It had more than lived up to its expectations, in Verena's dehydrated opinion.

But the cottage was cool and she and Zareth were left alone, to contemplate the situation that had brought them there, and that had brought them together…and to wait of the fate of Sarek and Lady Amanda.

Amanda watched from the doorway of her cottage. She was almost to the point of fainting in the heat, but the freedom of looking outdoors seemed to somewhat quell the iron bars she felt around her spirit, as a result of Salek's abduction and violation.

Salek sat in the corner, only leaving her side to allow the handmaidens to dress her and coif her hair while he guarded zealously outside the door lest she attempt to escape. Salek needn't have worried about that. Her bond to Sarek was as strong as ever, calling her here beyond her control.

Hulking Vulcan males, dressed in silver, carried large heavy weaponry. Amanda recognized them from her brief study of Vulcan history…the lirpa, the ahn-woon and the senapa. Amanda gasped at the sight of them. "Such weaponry...what purpose does it have at a marriage ceremony?"

In the corner, like the legendary grinning cat, Salek looked amused at Amanda's lack of knowledge of the culture she had married into.
Chapter 39

The heat scorched the sand, and it was intense, even for a Vulcan's senses. T'Pau was being carried in on her litter, and Skonn was here, with Sonak. He was at his Clan's Site of Marriage and Challenge, and he awaited Amanda's arrival. Would she come? Would Salek allow them both to die, he in the Fires, and she of the trauma of a severed marriage bond? The ancient drums reverberated through his very mind as Amanda slowly came in. She was so unbearably lovely to him, her hair gleaming from the surreal rays of his homeworld. He felt through their bond, that she had desired him, too.

"From the time of the beginning, without change. This is the Vulcan heart, this is the Vulcan soul. This is our way."

The timbre of the ancient prose came from T'Pau's lips, but Sarek could not hear his aunt. His Time was nearing, his mind was focused on his bride, his beautiful Amanda. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Salek, staring at his wife, (his wife!) intently, as if he had a clear stake in this most private of affairs. If Sarek's life weren't dependent on this, if biology hadn't been the stronger call, he would have broken Salek's neck for what he had done to his wife.


In almost instinctive fashion, Sarek strode to the ancient drum and picked up the mallet. As soon as he sensed the horrifying thoughts coming to him from his beloved, his Amanda ran to him and held her hand in front of the drum and cried, "KAL'I'FEE!"
Chapter 40

Sarek froze at the ancient issue of challenge, horrified. He reached through the bond to his wife. *Amanda, what have you done? I cannot lose you, I must have you.*

*Trust me, trust in me, we must put an end to this here, Sarek.*

Salek was shocked at Amanda's choosing the Challenge. How did she know about that? Perhaps Seral had told her when he examined her. She had seemed to know little of the pon farr…and she seemed quite surprised at the male attendants bearing the weapons.

    T'Pau herself had been surprised. "Thee are Human, Amanda. Does thou know what thou has chosen for thyself?"

"I do, Matriarch," replied Amanda.

"Are thee prepared to become the property of the victor, Amanda?"

Amanda lifted her chin in confidence, "I am, Matriarch."

"Then thou must select your challenger."

Amanda strode to Salek and stared into his emerald eyes. She thrust her finger towards him and said, "I CHOOSE HIM!"

Sarek stood transfixed at what was about to transpire. Struggling to comprehend what is happening, he began shakily, "Amanda, one of us will die as a result, and this is not something to be taken lightly. Please recon--"


All heads turned to stare at T'Pau as the command had been spoken.

"Salek, given that Amanda is human, thee does not have to accept, and thee can escape with no harm to thyself. What is thy decision?"

Salek stood, torn between desire for Amanda, hatred and jealousy for Sarek, and the feelings that had been plaguing him his entire life. He stared from Amanda, to T'Pau, and then Sarek…and then did so again, and again.

Suddenly, Salek's eyes rolled back and he dropped to the floor.
Chapter 41


No one ignored a command from T'Pau. A Clan Healer always came to the Marriage Site, for both telepathic and physical purposes. Almost immediately the Healer knelt and lightly touched Salek's face.

"Matriarch, Salek has stopped his heart."

"You must revive him, Healer. He is required for questioning in T'sai Amanda's abduction."

In the meantime, Amanda locked triumphant eyes with her husband. She stood with him and touched her fingers to his. Through their bond, Sarek felt reassurance. But still he felt compelled to ask Amanda of her logic in making the ancient claim.

Meanwhile, the Healer was working on Salek, to restart his heart.

T'Pau turned to Amanda, "Through Salek's actions, he has refused the challenge. Does thou wish to choose another champion?"

Still touching her fingers to Sarek's, Amanda smiled. "I choose Sarek as my champion, never and always touching and touched."

"Come here, children of my house."

Sarek and Amanda stepped before the aged matriarch. "T'sai Amanda, why did thou choose the Challenge?"

Amanda looked to Sarek, and then to T'Pau. "Salek abducted me, as you all know. But what you don't know is that during my captivity, he forced a meld." Amanda's face blanched with pain at the memory.

Sarek's tenuous control was being sorely tested. "My wife, he forced a meld on you?" Amanda nodded tearfully. His eyes were flame as he took a step towards Salek, who was still lying on the ground. "I will finish it for him!"


Once again, T'Pau's order brooked no opposition. "Please continue, child."

"I knew I was powerless to defeat a meld. So I decided to confuse him. I offered up memories of my childhood, and other inconsequential things. During that time, I caught emotions from him as well. Salek is the leader of a group that wishes to sabotage Sarek's mission on Cerelan. This stems from his lifelong jealousy of Sarek and his feelings of inadequacy compared to him. I realized that he would never feel confident enough to accept the claim of Challenge, and that Sarek would win by default. He would have lost the respect of his colleagues, and my husband's life would ultimately be spared, as the condition of him bringing me to the Marriage Grounds was that of leaving Sarek after resolving his Time."

"Inadequacy? Jealousy? Indeed, child. Vulcans do not acknowledge such emotions, T'sai Amanda."

Amanda threw on a mantle of dignity, and replied, "With all due respect, Matriarch, you must first experience emotions before you can recognize them for what they are. Vulcans have emotions, they feel anger, they can feel love, and it was feeling them too strongly that led them to Surak and his philosophy of mastery."

Sarek's voice came, shakily. "Logical. I was feeling what my wife would term as jealousy after I had boarded the spacecraft and I saw Salek staring at Amanda. That was why I told you to go to my father's home on the comm. call. Unfortunately, I was too late."

Amanda's head bowed slightly to her husband.

The Healer stood up. "Matriarch, I have revived Salek, but he will have to be taken to the Science Academy for treatment to spare his life."

"In your meld with him, Healer, did he reveal anything?"

"He admitted to T'sai Amanda's abduction, and forcing a meld on her. He also admitted to plotting against Ambassador Sarek's life in the event that Amanda should not return to him following the ambassador's Time. I also have the names of his associates in his plotting."

Just then, two Vulcan males arrived. One was Seral, and the other was one Amanda had never seen before.

Then she noticed the green eyes of the male.
Chapter 42

Amanda stood transfixed as the Vulcan male with the green eyes arrived with Seral. He looked to be approximately Skonn's age.

Bowing deeply, he greeted T'Pau. "Honored Matriarch of the Clan of Surak, I have come on behalf of my Clan in the matter of Salek. Seral has informed me of everything that has occurred as a result of his actions, and we are prepared to act upon the verification of those facts."

"Solen, Honored of the Clan of Sikel, our Clan Healer has verified through a meld the actions of Salek, which includes an abduction of T'sai Amanda, aduna Sarek, a conspiracy against a diplomatic mission of Sarek's, as well as conspiring against Sarek's very life in the private matter of his bonding to T'sai Amanda."

Solen's face was impassive as he replied, "Salek has brought great shame upon our Clan. On behalf of them, I express my…regret for his actions."

"Solen, Salek attempted to stop his own heart but the Clan Healer has revived him. He will need to be taken to the Science Academy for treatment. I am grieved for your Clan, but I must inform you that these actions cannot be taken lightly. He has committed the very worst of crimes, that of mindrape upon T'sai Amanda. As you are aware, a forced mind meld is the very worst of crimes on Vulcan, and some choices must be made."

Solen quickly erased his look of horror and replied, "T'Pau, the decision is clear."

Solen bowed and walked towards Salek who was still prostrate on the ground, but aware.

"Father," he whispered.

"Salek, our Clan has been shamed by your actions. You are not fit to be considered a Vulcan. Controlling our emotions has always been more difficult in our lineage, but it is the reason why I was so vigilant in your upbringing in regards to the Disciplines. I have failed you, and in turn, you have acted in an unforgivable manner, thus failing our Clan. It is for this reason that you are now purged from our Clan's existence forever. You are declared vre'kasht, you no longer exist for us, you were never born, and your name is stricken from all Clan wills and documents for all time."

Solen turned his back on his son for eternity, and walked towards Sarek and Amanda. He bowed slightly in humiliation. "Ambassador, T'sai Amanda, I know that it is illogical, but I wish to express my deepest apologies for the ordeal that you have suffered."

"Solen, this is not of your making. Salek was responsible for his own actions," replied Sarek.

Solen turned and began to walk away when Amanda stepped forward.

"S'haile Solen?"

"Yes, T'sai Amanda?"

"You have acted honorably today, Solen, and I defer to my husband in saying that Salek is responsible. On the planet that I was born, we have an old axiom in regards to raising our children. `We can only do the very best we can in raising them, and even then, sometimes they are led astray.' We bear you and your Clan the best of wishes, for a long and prosperous life." Amanda then offered him the ta'al.

Solen raised his eyebrows in surprise and presented the ancient greeting in return. "T'sai, your graciousness honors me. Ambassador, you have an honorable Vulcan wife."

Both Amanda and Sarek exchanged surprised glances as Solen walked away from the marriage grounds, and turned his back on his son forever.
    Ten days later, Sarek and Amanda laid in each other's arms. It was over and while they were both exhausted, both were relieved, and in rapture over the intimacy that having been through a Time together had engendered.

Amanda was resting her head on Sarek's chest and sighed contentedly.

    "My wife, now that the Time isn't overwhelming my emotions, I wish to ask you about what happened."
    "Sarek, I won't lie to you, I was terrified. But even more terrifying of what would happen to me, I was worried for you. Once I sensed that your Time had come, I was frightened that you couldn't make it home to me. I was scared that even if you made it home, Salek wouldn't allow me to come to you. That was my biggest fear,"
    "Amanda, he violated your mind. On Vulcan, that is considered the very gravest of crimes."
    Amanda lifted her head to gaze into his eyes. "He forced himself inside my head, but he could never have my heart. Once I realized why he was such a tortured person, I knew it would be easier to defeat him. I even went so far as to pretend to be ignorant of the intricacies of the Time, even the Time itself, for I wanted there to be the element of shock for him once I issued the Challenge. My only thoughts were of you, to stop the danger to your life."
    Sarek held his wife closer and stroked her hair. "I felt it, when Salek violated your mind. I sensed your terror on the aircraft. I didn't know exactly what it was, but I knew that you were frightened." A slightly amused look passed over Sarek's face. "Sonak thought it was something else bothering me, but it was always you."
    "Something else?"
    "The two people that brought me here, Zareth and Verena, have been forging a bond of their own. What is that you would call it, my wife, a wild guess? If I were to take a 'wild guess', I would venture to say it is being forged in one of the nearby cottages."
    "You have to go back to Cerelan soon," Amanda said, struggling to hide her apprehension at being alone again.
    "No I do not have to return to Cerelan. But we do."
    Amanda joyously flung her arms around her husband's neck. "I am incredibly happy! I was not looking forward to being separated from you again so soon."
    "I found a great error in my logic, my wife. I left you here, feeling you would be safer on Vulcan. As it turned out, you were in far greater danger here than you would have been on Cerelan, with me. That is not a mistake I will ever make again."
    Amanda snuggled closer to her husband. "I always feel the very safest when I'm with you.
    With trepidation, Verena and Zareth walked the halls of the Science Academy. T'Pau herself had requested an audience with them. Verena never thought that this day would never arrive, considering her heritage.
    The entrance of Cerelan into the Federation had turned out to be an adventure for Verena that surpassed all of her wildest fantasies. She had met the Vulcan ambassador, and her encounters with him had turned out to be among the most bizarre medical circumstances she had ever witnessed. She was learning the lessons of diplomacy, though she still felt her most comfortable in the lab doing medical research. Most of all, she had met Zareth. The most dashing and virile man she had ever laid eyes on, they were planning for their future. Once the diplomatic ceremonies that were planned for the Luna Quadri celebration had passed, she was accompanying Zareth to Sarpeidon, to wed in the tradition of his people, in an ancient handfasting ceremony.
    Sarek and his wife were waiting outside of T'Pau's office. Sarek's wife was a lovely petite young woman with beyond beautiful cobalt eyes. She met them both with a broad smile, the absolute indicator of the Human heritage that she would always embrace and be proud of.
    Sarek stepped forward in greeting and holding up two fingers, "You have yet to be introduced to she who is my wife."
    Verena found herself drawn to that sweet smile immediately as Sarek's wife stepped forward and said, "It is a great honor to meet you both."
    Ever the charmer, Zareth bowed deeply. "My lady, the honor is mine."
"The name is Amanda. I'm afraid that I'm not quite used to the titles yet. It reminds me of the feudal period in my planet's history, several hundred years ago."
    A dour and unsmiling Vulcan woman stepped out of T'Pau's office. "T'Pau will see you and your guests now, Ambassador."
    The matriarch of all Vulcan rose from her desk and greeted all in tradition.
    "Doctor Verena," T'Pau began, in her oddly accented Federation Standard. "You have done an honorable thing, in your assistance in bringing my nephew home to Vulcan."
    "I am a doctor, I am sworn to uphold life, and my very soul is committed to that of helping others."
    "I admit to curiosity, Doctor, but it was told to me that you...treated…my nephew's...fever while accompanying him to Vulcan."
    Verena's diplomatic training kicked in as she remembered what effort it must take for a Vulcan to broach such a subject, especially with an outworlder. She chose her words carefully. "I simply evaluated his symptoms, and quickly developed a compound to provide a temporary respite from the symptoms. If I may be so bold, I am more than willing to provide this formula for the doctors at the Vulcan Science Academy so that others may be able to benefit from it."
    "That is quite logical. You have all of our medical resources at our disposal."
    Verena bowed slightly. "After my recent experiences, I would like to begin dedicating part of my research towards finding a permanent solution."
    They all said their farewells. As they stepped out into the hallway, Verena noticed that Amanda's eyes danced with mischievous pleasure.
    Sarek looked at his wife indulgently. "You will have to excuse my wife. She has a limitless Human penchant for finding the humor in things. A concept I have yet to master."
    Amanda covered her mouth to stifle a giggle. "Verena, I'm so sorry for my outburst, but it dawned on me that you have witnessed something that few Vulcans ever will, let alone a guest from another planet. T'Pau was actually embarrassed and was almost stumbling over her words
    It was the Celebration of Luna Quadri. Once, every millennia or so, all four of Cerelan's moons shone at full phase simultaneously. A week-long elaborate celebration had been planned. In addition to the Celebration of Luna Quadri, there was also the excitement surrounding the entrance of Cerelan into the Federation. Sarek and Amanda had toured all of the cities and territories of Cerelan, along with Verena and Zareth. Dining together each evening, sampling traditional Cerelan cuisine, the two couples had become on rather friendly terms.
On the last evening of the Celebration, Cerelan was to receive official entrance into the Federation. UFP press representatives were abound, taking pictures of the Vulcan Ambassador and his wife, as well as Dr. Verena and Liaison Zareth.
    The documents were signed and cheers resounded as Cerelan entered the Federation. Sarek stood away with Verena, discussing official press releases and statements.
    Zareth strolled towards Amanda, with a bottle of vintage Terran champagne in hand. Eyes gleaming, he said, "I do believe this calls for a celebration." He began to skillfully pour the champagne in four delicate flutes. Suddenly, he stopped at the fourth flute, and carefully looked at Amanda.
    "Lady Amanda, I think you had better have something else to drink."
    Amanda waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, I'm fine! I really do love champagne. I actually got Sarek to acquire a bit of a taste for it, although it doesn't effect him the way it does Humans! It's the only drink for such…" She stopped short and shot a sharp look at Zareth. She knew about his considerable psi-skills.
    "Are you certain?"
    "I have noticed a few changes since our arrival here, but I wasn't certain until tonight. It's something I've sensed for many days now, another presence with you."
    Amanda's eyes shone with joy and she cradled her abdomen. "I must go to Sarek!"
    Sarek had left Verena's company and had gone to a bench with a nearby fountain to observe the four moons. Much more bright than any Earthen twilight, it still retained the feel of evening. His reverie was interrupted by the unmistakable clicking of Amanda's shoes as she practically ran to him. Unfazed by her eagerness, but curious at the same time, he raised two fingers in greeting. Almost immediately, he was overwhelmed by the joy, and through their bond, he sensed what Amanda was telling him. Feeling his wife's happiness, a slight crinkling of the eyes betrayed the stillness of his expression. Stroking her face with his other hand, they communicated without words, and shared a gentle kiss under the radiant light of the four moons.

    Nothing was considered more joyous on Vulcan than the birth of a child. Vulcan had unwittingly, through war and biology, discipline, and mental detachment reduced their population to such levels, which would have made the negative growth proponents of Earth approximately 250 years ago glow with approval. Children were valued, the family mattered above all other things to Vulcan society.
    In the middle of the night, Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan discreetly brought his wife and newborn son to their home. It was a wise move, and logical, deduced Sarek, as the Federation press were in what Amanda termed as a tizzy over the birth of the first Vulcan-Human hybrid child. Many Vulcans who claimed that Sarek and Amanda's marriage would never produce children were admittedly curious about their child.
    Amanda held their baby son tenderly in her arms. He wore a tiny blue sleeper with tiny IDIC insignias embroidered on the lapel. With his cap of black hair and pointed ears, Amanda was entranced with how much her tiny elfin son resembled his father's bloodlines.
    As the door of their flitter opened, Amanda wrapped her baby tightly to protect him from the chilly night desert air. She stepped out, and Sarek picked her up, infant and all and carried his family into their home. He set them gently on the sofa, and as he looked at what he held the most dear, he decided he wanted to capture the moment forever.
    He went into his study and retrieved his holocam. On his son's naming day, he would be known to all of Vulcan as Spock, son of Sarek, son of Skonn, heir to the line of Surak. His wife's beautiful face was framed with her golden tendrils as her eyes gleamed with jubilant love and wonder at their child. Sarek's eyes softened, and as he captured the moment for posterity, his lips formed an unmistakable smile as his eyes met his wife's. After all, the cause was sufficient.
    Across the city of Shi'Kahr, another child had been born. In this household as well, joy and contentment radiated between the Vulcan and his wife. The Vulcan woman held her child to her breast and her green eyes betrayed satisfaction as she looked down at her daughter. She touched her fingers to her husband's and said, "She will bring much honor to our Clan. She will bring honor back to her uncle as well."
    The tiny Vulcan girl's black eyes opened and looked at her mother. Raven hair and striking olive skin denoted that she would be stunning beyond belief as a woman. The Vulcan man looked at his wife and child and said simply, "T'Pring". The woman's eyes smiled as she looked at her child and whispered, "T'Pring. You will be my brother's ashv'cezh."