DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright (c) 1980 by Johanna Cantor.


by Johanna Cantor

"Well, what do you know?" McCoy said to Amanda. "I finally got the last word." Spock exchanged a silent comment with Kirk, but for once he felt indisposed to pick up the gauntlet. Strange. He was not unwell, but his head felt detached. The straps on his arm were bothersome.

"Doctor, is this apparatus still necessary?"

"Yes, Mr. Spock. You need the fluid to help you replace the blood you donated. Sarek has all he needs now, but you have a lot to make."

Spock turned his head once more toward his father and found Sarek looking back at him. They exchanged almost identical glances of inquiry and reassurance, then Spock turned on his side and curled up. Amanda smiled. As a child, he had always slept in that position. She looked at her quiet husband and son, and suddenly a rush of gratitude threatened to overcome her. McCoy started toward her, and she smiled through her traitorous tears.

"Doctor, you must be the tiredest one in the room."

"I'll toss you for it. You get some rest, Amanda."

"I'm all right. I don't want to leave."

"No problem, we'll just bed you down right here."

"What about you?"

"Dr. M'Benga will be coming on duty in a few minutes. I sent him off to rest during the operation, so he'll be fresh now."

Amanda left for a few moments. When she came back carrying a small case, Nurse Chapel was just finishing setting up a bed near Sarek's. "Christine, thank you for all--"

"My pleasure, Amanda. Sleep well."

* * *

Something woke Spock, and he tried to analyze what it was. About two hours, he calculated. He looked over at Sarek. Everything was all right there; the panel monitoring him would signal any change in condition immediately. His mother was asleep on the other side. Spock lifted himself on one elbow, ignoring his suddenly swimming head. He looked across the room at the captain, and his insides contracted -- the captain was crying in his sleep.

"Jim, my friend--" Spock stopped helplessly. But his hoarse whisper had awakened Amanda. She sat up, bewildered, and looked anxiously at Sarek and Spock. Her gaze followed Spock's, and she sprang out of bed and hurried over, beating M'Benga by a short head.

"Jim, dear."

The captain muttered disjointedly. The only words Amanda caught were "sorry -- so sorry." She smoothed the hair back from his forehead, then resting her hand on his head, she leaned forward and whispered in his ear. Soon he sighed and sank deeper into sleep. Amanda tucked the bedsheet tight around him, smiled at M'Benga, who returned the smile with interest, and started back. She almost halted at the look on Spock's face.

"How did you know what to say to him?"

"I don't know, dear. But the temptation was too strong. It's a human instinct, I suppose."

His expression took her back twenty years. He didn't say, "Oh, Mother!" But he didn't have to. That look recalled the exact tone and inflection. She grinned and went over to drop a light kiss on his forehead, then went back to bed.

"Really, these humans," Spock thought. But as he looked over at his quiet captain, he could not find the heart to be too caustic.

* * *

Four hours later he woke again with a start. Ugh. Last night in the exultation of knowing Sarek and the captain were safe, he had felt quite well. Now, in the strict privacy of his own thoughts, he admitted he felt like something the cat had dragged in. Now where had that curious expression come from? Probably the chief engineer, after a shore leave. Scott was standing by the captain's bed, talking to him and McCoy. Spock studied the captain's diagnostic panel. Good, Kirk had always healed quickly.

He turned and looked at Sarek. His father was breathing shallowly but regularly and his color had improved. But Spock was suddenly certain that something was wrong. The panel had not given an alarm, so it must be malfunctioning. Spock pulled himself to his feet and immediately was hit with such dizziness that only the arms holding him kept him from falling. Scott eased him back onto the bed, and McCoy spoke: "What is it, Spock?"

"Sarek -- the panel--" he gasped. He gripped the bedframe, fighting for breath.

McCoy vent over immediately, checked it out, and exchanged a few words with Sarek. Then he returned to Spock. "It's okay, Spock. Everything's fine. Your father is doing very well." He touched a button to raise the lower end of the bed, then gently detached Spock's fists, turned him on his side, and began to rub his back rhythmically. The dizziness receded, and Spock found he could breathe. "Sarek is in good shape, Spock," McCoy repeated. "He's just fine."

Spock averted his face. McCoy studied him for a moment, then added, "You're running a low fever, and you're still short on blood. Makes you prone to alarms. I'm going to give you a mild vitalizer. That should help."

Spock felt the hypo, then McCoy left hin. He heard a noise from Sarek's bed and forced himself to roll over. McCoy was helping Sarek grip a bar Amanda held in the middle. Spock saw that Scott was reporting to Kirk and tried to attend. But he could not make his mind focus on anything but those hands. The left hand tightened on the bar, then the right. Four times, five times...

Someone was standing over him. Spock turned his head and made his eyes refocus. Chief Engineer Scott smiled at him, and said, "How do you feel?"

Spock considered the matter and chose what seemed to be the right word. "Spacesick."

Sarek looked at him sharply, but McCoy and Scott laughed. McCoy said, "He's actually doing well, Scotty. He'll feel better after some rest."

"Good. I'll come back later, m'lad, and beat the medals off y' with a chess game. And just so it can't be said I took advantage of a sick man, I'll play you with one hand tied behind m'back."

Even in his condition, Spock could not let that pass. "I realize, Engineer, that with one hand tied behind you, you could only count to five. But I fail to see how that could handicap you in chess."

Scott laughed again. "You're improving." He patted Spock -- really, these humans -- and left.

McCoy spoke to Amanda. "Spock needs to sleep now. My professional recommendation would be a good cuddle."

She smiled at him and moved over to Spock. She touched the tip of one ear rather gingerly, but there was no "Oh, Mother." Suddenly she leaned forward and gathered the head, pillow and all, in to her. He sighed and turned to rest his forehead on her shoulder. "You always smell like ptot'l," he murmured.

"How do you feel dear?"


"You look like death warmed over. Sleep."

"Yes." Really, these humans. Something the cat dragged in ... death warmed over ... professional recommendation a good cuddle -- just what profession might that be, Doctor? He started to turn over, but just in time sensed his mother's deep desire to hold him. So he snuggled in to her arm. Humans. There seemed to be nothing he could do about it, however, and on this consoling thought, he fell asleep.

This time Spock slept a full five periods. He woke to find Sarek looking at him. "May you find beauty this day, Grandson of my father. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, my father." He spoke the formal greeting he had not said for eighteen years and was conscious that a rip deep inside him knit.

"Well, how do you feel this morning?"

"Much better, Doctor, thank you."

McCoy came over to check the readings, and Spock turned over on his back to watch him. Then his body galvanized and McCoy jumped. But before Spock could frame a question, the doctor said: "Jim's on the bridge already. I'll give him four hours, then drag him back darn here."

"He is recovering?"

"He looks pretty good."

"And Sarek?"

"Coming right along."

The morning passed pleasantly. Sarek and Spock dozed, then woke to discuss the Vulcan position on Coridan. Spock outlined the monograph he was currently writing for the Vulcan Science Academy Journal. McCoy watched them unobtrusively. He noted, amused, how automatically they switched to Vulcan whenever Amanda left them, and how instantly they returned to English when she was there. He wondered if he ought to order them to silence. But a study of the panels showed that the two were keeping their bodies at quite a low level of activity. Besides, McCoy thought their conversation was therapeutic. Spock's presentation of his tightly reasoned argument on the origins of the McNulty phenomenon, and Sarek's quiet analysis as he listened were healing an eighteen-year-old wound. "Sentimentalist," McCoy chided himself, then retired to his office where he could grin in private.

The noise of an excited group in the hallway brought him out. Spock stopped in mid-sentence, his eyes narrowing. Several panel indicators moved up. Sarek watched him. Something was happening on the Enterprise, and her first officer was itching to be on deck.

Nurse Chapel hurried in and began to activate a small machine. "Nurse, what happened?"

"Uhura's hurt -- bad acid burn -- left elbow."

Spock swung his feet off the bed and Chapel exclaimed and hurried toward him. She put out a hand to keep him from rising, but he took it and used her support to pull himself erect. He swayed momentarily, then steadied himself and slowly but deliberately walked to the outer room.

Uhura was at the first examination table, trying not to look at the ugly burn on the arm McCoy was holding.

"You're in pain." It was not a question.

"No, Mr. Spock. We're under General Order Eleven, so there was a fully equipped security team right on deck. They gave me a local immediately, and it's already taken effect." She smiled. Spock frowned. The smile had been a good try, but it was obvious that the lieutenant was shaken. Perhaps it would help her to talk about it. He had often noticed that the recounting of recent experiences, though usually non-utilitarian in other respects, had a therapeutic effect on humans. Besides, he was curious. He went to a chair, lowered himself into it carefully, and said, "What happened?"

"I knew you were on the sicklist -- oh, how do you feel, sir?"

"I am recovering, thank you. Please continue."

"Well, on my break I went down to feed your fish--"

"And, undoubtedly, to water my ptot'l," Spock thought sourly, making a mental note to call Yeoman Tzet and ask her to take it to Botany for dehydration.

"...and I went into the head to get some water--" She broke off guiltily and quickly resumed. "...and I noticed that the door of your recycler was open. I tried to close it and couldn't, so I opened it all the way to see what was wrong, and the decomposer squirted out. There must have been some pressure behind a flaw in the shielding. Good thing I specialized in the standing broad jump." She smiled again, better this time.

"Lieutenant, I regret that in doing me a kindness--"

"We're ready, Uhura," Chapel said from the doorway. Spock reached for Uhura's good arm, helped her rise, and escorted her to the inner treatment room.

"Okay, Uhura, just sit down over here." McCoy said. "Spock, I'm glad you're feeling better, but don't push it. Get back in bed. And Christine, now I come to think of it, get on the intercom and make sure Jim's off the bridge. I told him four hours up, but I'll bet he's stretching it."

As soon as her arm was treated, Uhura said "Thank you," and rose.

"Hold it, Lieutenant. You're not going anywhere for at least twelve hours."


"No. Now subside. I'm going to give you something to make you sleep, and I want you on a diagnostic bed. We'll set one up for you. In the meantime, why don't you get acquainted with your wardmates?"

Uhura smiled at them. "Hello."

Vulcan etiquette required that Sarek respond for the family, but he was silent. Spock and Amanda looked at him sharply, but he shook his head almost imperceptibly and signaled Spock to reply. The amenities must be observed.

"I am remiss," Spock apologized formally. "May I make known to you my father, Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, and she who is my mother?"

"Your parents!" For a moment Uhura was dumb with astonishment, and Spock realized that, as usual, Kirk had refrained from discussing his affairs even with the bridge crew. He bowed in confirmation, and Uhura rallied. "I am so happy to meet you. I hope you're better, Ambassador.:

"I am recovering, thank you."

Really, these Vulcans, Spock thought. Why couldn't Sarek ask for an analgesic? Ah, good. Nurse Chapel had heard the constricted tone of his voice. She hurried over, checked the panel, and took a hypo from her belt. She gave the dolorimeter a look that almost wrecked it. Sarek had undoubtedly been controlling the pain, keeping the gauge from triggering the alarm light, but Chapel loathed the idea of anyone in her care having to suffer even mild discomfort.

Moments later, Sarek seemed to relax and his eyes closed. Spock touched his hand in the ritual pattern denoting respect for an elder, then settled back himself. He frowned at the realization that the bed felt very good. He must recover fast. The captain would be semi-invalided for at least half the mission, and now Uhura was out. Her backup was a competent communications officer, but she did not have Uhura's facility for smoothing the paths of the messages she conveyed. Scott, too, would be temperamentally handicapped in helping Kirk keep the peace among the different delegations.

The intercom at McCoy's station activated. "Engineering to Sickbay.

"McCoy here."

"Doctor, we're bringing Scotty in. He got a breath of phaser coolant while we were running a check. Must have been a flaw in his mask.

Spock rat up, spurred by sudden suspicion. He spoke loud enough to be picked up by the intercom. "Engineering, check the rest of the masks."

There was no mistaking that timbre. "Implementing, Mr. Spock."

"Please bring the mask Mr. Scott was wearing to me in Sickbay. Spock out.

* * *

McCoy soon had the chief engineer comfortable enough to grumble. Spock cut in on a Scottish diatribe against the demons that lie in wait to trip up good men: "Did you get this mask from the storeroom, Engineer?"

"No, sir. It's the one I keep in my quarters."

Spock examined the flaw again. It was impossible to be sure, but accident after accident... fragment from the lost works of the Earth sage came to him: "...when you find a trout in the milk..."

"Lt. Palmer, get me Captain Kirk."

"The captain is resting in his quarters, sir. His yellow--"


"Overriding, sir."

"Spock here, Captain. Have you been informed that both Scott and Uhura have been incapacitated?"

"Scotty too?"

"He will recover. But I believe his mask may have been tampered with. Uhura sprang what may have been a booby trap in my quarters. I recommend..."

"Understood. Kirk out." Almost immediately the intercom reactivated. "All hands. Attention all hands. This is the Captain. There will be a routine inspection this morning under General Order Eleven." That would alert the crew that this was anything but routine. "Report to Mr. Chekov at the library computer. Repeat, this inspection is ordered under General Order Eleven. Proceed. To our distinguished passengers, good morning. The order you have just heard is part of the ship's routine, implemented for your greater safety and comfort. Please oblige us by reporting to your quarters and remaining there for the next hour. We'll try not to detain you longer than that. Because of the ship inspection, this afternoon's tour will be postponed. However, the concert and reception this evening will be held as scheduled. Good morning."

As soon as the message ended, Spock spoke. "Lt. Palmer, tie me in to Mr. Chekov's station. McCoy started to object, but Spock spoke simultaneously. "Doctor, this is no time to fuss about--"

"Spock, listen to me. You don't need the video, do you?"

"Of course not, but--"

"Okay. Then lie down. You can listen to the audio and rest too."

Spock lay down. When the reports began, he listened with a fierce concentration. Twice he interrupted to pose a question. As soon as Sickbay had reported, he took a moment between messages to give Chapel a low-voiced order. She nodded, left, and returned. At the next pause she gave Spock two small hand phasers. He put one on his bedframe, and handed the other to Amanda. "I believe you are familiar with this model," he said curtly. She took it, pleased to note that her hand was steady, double-checked the safety, and slipped the sidearm into her bodice. Spock nodded approval, then returned to his monitoring.

Half an hour later the last station reported. He sank back with a sigh that rounded to Amanda as though all the breath in his body had escaped. She started toward him, but he took a deep breath and reached for the intercom. "A competent job, Mr. Chekov." Then he lay back, and was instantly asleep.

McCoy checked the panel, and pulled the bedsheet over him. As he straightened, he met two pairs of eyes fixed on his face with an intensity that was painful. Sarek's expression was a silent imperative, but Amanda looked so vulnerable that, ridiculously, he said the first thing that came into his head. "Amanda, where did you get such big eyes?"

She smiled, but could not quite keep her voice steady. "I know you wouldn't tease me if he -- if he had harmed himself."

"Amanda, come here." She went, and he put an arm around her. "See that panel?" She didn't, but she nodded, reassured by the tone of his voice. For a moment she leaned against him, then Sarek spoke.

"My wife. Come here." McCoy guided her back and sat her down. Sarek took her hand, and gripped it tight.

A few minutes later, when Jim cam in, she was able to smile at him. "Is the check over?"

"Security teams are inspecting the passenger quarters. That's the last of it."

"That will alarm the delegations."

"That's a risk we must take, Ambassador. Security has been thoroughly briefed. They're going in in fatigues. With luck, we can pass the whole operation off as maintenance. Bones, how's Spock?"

"Okay. Asleep.

"Good." Kirk lay down, but to Amanda he looked anything but relaxed. She checked silently with Sarek, then moved over to Kirk. He looked up in surprise, then smiled at her, thinking how restful her presence was. Amanda seemed to personify the Vulcan IDIC -- somehow she radiated the gracious calm that characterized Vulcan women, with overtones of empathy and great warmth. He settled back to relax systematically, as Spock had taught him.

A surprisingly short time later, he heard the quiet sounds of a maintenance crew just down the hall.

"That'll he the Tellarite delegation," he mumbled, more to himself than Amanda. "That's the last of him. Looks like we were wrong, thank God."

"Or perhaps the saboteur had no time to set any more--"

Suddenly a woman's screams echoed and re-echoed along the corridors. Chapel jumped for the intercom as Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, and Scott raced out. "Security to Deck 5!" Spock sat bolt upright for an astonished moment, then swung his feet off the bed.

"Spock, it might be a trap."

"I am armed, Father." He picked up his sidearm and was gone. Amanda took hold of hers. Now the screaming had stopped, and there was no sound at all. She strained to hear. Why didn't someone at least say something? But before long, there were footsteps. Spock came back, steering a young woman who was trying to muffle convulsive sobs. He handed her over to Chapel, said "Please care for Miss Nored," then sat down at the table, staring at nothing. Amanda saw his knuckles whiten as he grasped the seat of his chair. She went to him and touched his shoulder, feeling under his rigidity a desperate struggle for control.

"My son." Sarek spoke with quiet authority. Then he began to recite a Vulcan rune -- a mnemonic device for a calming exercise. Spock followed the steps obediently, and by the time Scott appeared in the doorway leaning on Uhura, he was able to help her put him to bed. Scott was shivering violently, and they covered him closely.

"I'm sorry. Just thinking of that poor--" He choked.

"There is no purpose to be served by your thinking of it any longer, Mr. Scott." Spock checked the medication record. Nothing to contraindicate. He went to McCoy's cabinet, poured a stiff brandy and took it to Uhura. She accepted it with a nod, raised Scott's head, and held the glass to his lips. He sipped it, reluctantly at first, then more easily. Gradually the shivering subsided.

Spock was at the door, listening intently. When he heard the captain's voice in the corridor, he went out. Soon he was back, walking almost at Kirk's elbow. Kirk held himself erect until he was well inside and Spock had activated the door. Then he seemed to crumple. Spock grabbed him and

steered him to the table. Kirk slumped into a chair and buried his face in his hands. Spock looked at Amanda, and she went to the captain. Spock wheeled and went back out.

By the time Spock returned with McCoy, Kirk was in control of himself, though he could not help averting his eyes from the small wrapped bundle McCoy handed to Chapel with a curt order. "But Doctor," she exclaimed. "What happened?" McCoy ushered her into a small room and explained. Silently, she opened a drawer and began to put the bundle in. Then the light weight in her arms brought the situation home to her. "They could have given it to me," she whispered. McCoy put his arm around her for a moment. Then he went back to his patients.

The other officers had joined Kirk at the table, but no one spoke. Impulsively, McCoy yelled "Chapel! Nored! Come in here. Right now." He went to his cabinet, steadily poured out brandies, and handed them around, quelling Spock with a stern "Prescription." He took one to Amanda, and stood at her shoulder.

Spock was looking thoughtfully at Nored's set face. "Ensign, you must understand that to the Tellarites, infanticide is nothing more than a method of population control, equivalent to your contraception. They believe that a baby does not live until it has drawn its first breath in the presence of the icon of the family's patron god. Only then, they believe, does the soul of an ancestor enter the body to animate the flesh. A baby that has never breathed has never lived. So in killing an unwanted child, they feel none of the sense of waste a human or Vulcan would feel. The personality that would have been the child's will simply await the next birth in the family. The wounds you saw are the ritual markings that ensure that the spirit will realize the child is not to live, and return to the icon."

"I see." How very logical' she thought bitterly. Vulcans. Mr. Spock had seen that poor tiny boy, lying there with his blood dripping into the shower drain. But he could still lecture like a professor of alien cultures. If that was composure, she'd take the other.

McCoy looked from her pale face to Spock's wooden countenance. "Ladies and Gentlemen," he said in his grandest manner, "your very good health." He took a deep drink and promptly choked. Bur his gesture succeeded better than he had hoped, because at the sight of McCoy sputtering over his favorite brandy, the humans exploded into laughter. Spock jumped and looked at them in astonishment. Humans! What was funny about a man choking?

Sarek's deep voice cut into his thoughts. "It was your early Earth historian, Miss Nored, who wrote that any man who studies the customs of other peoples will always end by deciding, quite without prejudice, that his own ways are best." Anne Nored caught the gentle irony and lifted her glass to him in a mock salute. Kirk, watching her courage return, felt the knot in his stomach loosen.

One's own ways will always seem best, he mused. Still true, after all these centuries. But perhaps their generation and those to follow could succeed in expanding that truth by making the dream of the Vulcan IDIC a reality throughout the galaxy. "Maybe," he thought, looking around, "just maybe, we've all taken at least a small step in that direction."


Finally alone in her quarters, Uhura sank into her restchair. On the way down, her injured elbow made emphatic contact with the table edge. That did it. She had smiled brightly at Dr. McCoy after talking him into releasing her, smiled brightly at Mr. Spock, who had silently appeared to escort her, and smiled brightly at the crew in the corridors, who called to her as they bustled about the tasks of keeping the ship at full alert status. Now she swore. Beginning softly, she said the worst word she could think of in every language she knew, crescendoing to a crashing fortissimo finale. Silence fell.

Uhura just sat; she felt chagrined beyond words. The ship was an full precautionary alert following that suicide ship's attempt at battle. The captain and Scotty had been injured by the saboteur, and Mr. Spock had not let recovered from donating the blood needed for his father. All classified as walking wounded, they were spelling each other on the bridge. And one Lt. Uhura, having sprung a booby trap set for the first officer, was in her quarters, invalided off duty, feeling as useful as an armless octopus.

That acid had gotten her in just the wrong place. The communications board required two sound arms -- and there'd been times when she had thought she'd have to use her nose. With a stiff arm, she simply couldn't manage it. Tears came to her eyes, and she swore again.

Lt. Uhura, she said severely to herself, your reactions are illogical. And that was an understatement. Hadn't she nearly decided to accept that offer from Ohm Communications? To opt out of a life in which her ability to form significant relationships was severely handicapped by the precious but unsatisfactory relationship she could neither break off nor improve? To leave a job in which she too often felt like just part of her board? Here she was, separated from the board for a mere week, and she was feeling as though there had, in fact, been an amputation.

Moodily she rose and turned on her cabin receiver. Lt. Palmer was broadcasting a ship-wide message inviting the ambassadors to a reception. Protocol. She felt a sharp twinge of jealousy, and suddenly was thoroughly ashamed of herself. Wheeling, she opened the louvers that concealed her work desk and ran her fingers along the pigeon holes until she found the right slot. She pulled out a thick packet and began to sort it. Last week she and Spock had agreed to coauthor an article presenting their theory of the Mitchell phenomenon they had jointly discovered. If she could get her half into shape, maybe Spock could finish his after they reached Babel.

When her buzzer sounded, she almost resented the interruption. Then she pounced for the receiver. It was the captain. "Uhura, how are you feeling?"

"Fine, sir."

"Then would you report to me in Sickbay?"

"On my way."

In Sickbay, Kirk, Spock, Sarek, Amanda, and Sarek's aide were deep in discussion. When Kirk saw Uhura, he waved her into McCoy's office. As they sat, she noticed anxiously how tired he looked. But sensing that he would not welcome distractions, she waited in silence. "Lieutenant, I don't need to outline the complexities of this situation to you. Sarek is expected to recover, but he'll be invalided for the rest of the voyage. The Vulcan Council is sending its representative to Rigel V, Ambassador St't, to replace him on Babel, but until we get there, Amanda will be representing Sarek. He tells me she is amply qualified to do so. But she'll need help; the aide is inexperienced. And I can't spare Spock, though he'll do what he can. Would you accept a roving assignment to the Vulcan delegation for the remainder of this mission?"

It took Uhura three seconds. "Yes, sir."

"Good. You know our orders. The safety of the passengers is our prime consideration. Second only to that is keeping peace on board. And that's where Sarek's incapacity is really going to hurt. He's the highest ranking ambassador on board, and he was here more as a service to the Federation than because Vulcan has any great interest in Coridan. Your responsibility will be to help Amanda in any way that will keep things quiet." He hesitated, then added, "Please consider her well being part of your assignment."

"Yes, sir." So Amanda had made a conquest, had she? It would be interesting to get to know this woman.

"One more thing, Lieutenant. Remember that these are diplomats and, for the most part, underlings. They take protocol very seriously. Their mission is closely tied in with their maintaining or improving their status in relation to the other delegates, and that gets mixed up with the damndest things. You're good at this sort of job, but you'll have to be on your toes."

"Understood, sir."

"Good. By the way, have you decided--"

"Not yet, Captain."

"Okay. I don't need to know until the mission is over. Have you met Amanda?"

"Briefly, sir."

"Okay. Let's go."

As Uhura approached, Amanda held out her hand in the earth gesture. "I see you've agreed. Thank you."

"Serving honors me." The Vulcan phrasing pleased the Ambassador, who nodded approval and presented his aide, Sa'a. Uhura smiled at him. "I understand this is your first mission?"

"Yes. I resigned from the T' Rayan Academy last month to devote a tetrad to public service, as is the custom of our people."

"You are a teacher? What's your field?"


Making a mental note to find the time to discuss her hypotheses with him, Uhura turned to Amanda. "Where do we start, Madam?"

"Well. I'm not officially available until tomorrow morning. For now-- " She hesitated, then smiled, "I haven't really had a chance to see the ship. Would you show me around?"

"Of course."

As the women toured the ship, keeping away from the passenger sections, Amanda kept up a charming flow of questions and small talk. Uhura responded, but she soon began to realize that Amanda's questions were anything but casual. Amanda was skillfully probing the extent of her new aide's experience with alien cultures, and her control of lingering xenophobic instincts. Uhura slowed down and began to answer more cautiously. Amanda smiled inwardly. This pretty communication's officer was intelligent as well as sensitive. She began to understand why Spock had endorsed Jim's idea so wholeheartedly.

As they were strolling through the gym, they noticed a crewman sparring with a young member of the Tellarite delegation. But as soon as they stopped to watch, it became obvious that this was more a fight than an exercise. Uhura started to hurry past, but Amanda was taking a critical interest. "Your crewman is boring in too low," she said to Sam. "Most of his blows are just hitting the thoracic plate."

"Er, yes Ma'am." Sam shook his head. "That Miller is a real hothead. Soon's he gets mad, he loses his technique."

"What happened, Sam?"

"That hogface started it, Lieutenant. Making remarks about Mr. Spock -- 'insufferable mongrel' -- you know the sort of thing. Miller told him to make his remarks to somebody who was there to defend himself, so he did."

"Why does the crewman feel so strongly about it?" Amanda asked. Uhura began a reply designed to warn Sam she was Spock's mother, but the far door opened and a thin figure stepped through. Fortunately, Uhura's whispered "Attention" reached Miller. Spock raised an eyebrow as the Tellarite pounded away, but Miller was unquestionably just sparring.

He didn't need the quiet nods both women gave to see that Uhura's temporary assignment was settled. Gratified, he suggested they go to the conservatory, where he could join them at change of shift.

In the elevator. Uhura sighed with relief. Then seeing Amanda's questioning look, she said, "That was a serious breach of discipline under the circumstances. It's a good thing Mr. Spock didn't see Miller earlier."

"But the boy was defending him."

"It's still a breach of discipline and Mr. Spock's on duty. Not to report it would be against regulations."

"And of course, Spock will always follow regulations."

Amanda's voice was so bitter that Uhura jumped. She led the way to the conservatory in silence, feeling cold and unhappy. Remembering that Spock had taken command while the captain was unconscious, leaving McCoy unable to operate on Sarek, she found it easy to sketch in the background of Amanda's comment. Somehow, it was extremely painful to think of Spock's mother being angry with him.

When Spock joined them Amanda snapped, "Well, did you follow regulations and put that boy on report?"

"I saw no infraction, Mother." Spock's tone did not invite elaboration. Then, seeing that his mother was quite upset, he bowed to her formally and retreated to the other side of the room -- a Vulcan courtesy which Uhura guessed would simply make Amanda angrier. She avoided looking at her and watched Spock as he gently touched the tips of a ptot'l leaf. Vulcans valued that plant both for its scent and for its traditional association with many legends and rituals. She hoped it could comfort him. For herself, the sensation of being caught between two rights was almost like being physically torn.

Amanda's voice sounded gentler. "He's always loved that plant."

Uhura still could not think what to say. Groping, she began, "I saw him just carry a branch of that around, at Deneva, as though--"

A gasp stopped her; turning, she saw that Amanda had gone white. "Amanda, I'm sorry. That was thoughtless."

"It's all right. You know, he never told me about that. But I heard--" At that moment Spock plucked a sprig from the plant and sat down rather heavily. Both women rushed over to him. Startled, he looked up, then seeing Amanda's face he rose immediately. "Mother, there is no cause for alarm. I am a little tired, nothing worse."

"You still haven't recovered from donating--" Amanda's voice broke and she reached out to him. Uhura streaked past them into the hall, but she saw Spock take his mother's hands.

A few minutes later Amanda, again smiling, found her and asked her to show her her quarters. Spock accompanied them to Deck Two. But as the elevator doors opened, his sharp eyes spied a problem in the corridor. Turning to Uhura, he said curtly, "Lieutenant, I went directly to Sickbay instead of escorting you here. Please proceed accordingly." Uhura stepped out quickly, followed by a bewildered Amanda, and the elevator doors snapped shut.

"Now what--" Uhura began, but then she saw what Spock had seen. Dear God. Couldn't that girl keep out of trouble for two days at a time? She jerked the crumpled yeoman to her feet -- a mistake, as it turned out. The girl moaned and began to retch. Uhura grabbed her arm, started towards her cabin, and nearly collided with the wife of the Vulcan ambassador. She tried to smile. "I'll take care of her, Amanda. She's just tired."

"Indeed she is." Amanda surveyed the girl critically. "In fact, I haven't seen anyone this tired since the Oloraminian Spring Equinox banquet. We'd better get her out of the hall. Where's your cabin?"

They got there just in time. "Well, that saved us the trouble, at any rate," Amanda observed, a few minutes later. "You turn the shower on cold. I'll get her clothes off." Amanda jammed the stained uniform in the recycler and Uhura shoved the girl in the shower. But when the cold water hit her she began to fight, so Amanda immobilized her and held her under the jets.

"What is that grip?"

"It's a Vulcan hold. I'll show you some time."

Soon the girl crumpled and began to cry. Amanda let her go, then put her arms around her. Uhura silently produced two wraparounds and took the yeoman to her bed while Amanda got out of her soaked outfit. When she appeared, Uhura was comforting the sobbing girl. "Do you have a tranquilizer here?"

"No. Anyway , that's probably what she took in the first place. What happened, Grace?"

"I was just so lonesome. And everybody was so busy I didn't like to bother then. So I took a pill and--"

"Grace, you know you can't handle those things."

The girl began to cry again. Eventually she fell asleep. Uhura and Amanda looked at each other, then Uhura rose and poured out two brandies. Wordlessly, they toasted each other and drank. After a while, Amanda said, "What was all that?"

"She was engaged to one of our botanists. He died two weeks ago on a planetary exploration. Got trapped by a--" she swallowed. "Well, anyway, we located him just too late. The body was still warm when we beamed it up. Grace couldn't take it."

"Poor girl." Amanda thought for a minute. "Why did Spock take off so fast?"

"He would have had to report this."

"Is she on duty?"

"Not exactly. She's under treatment. But we're on alert status. This would go on her record."

"Now it won't?"

"Now it won't."

"And you think that's why Spock took off?"

"He'd say it's wasteful to smirch a record unnecessarily."

"Well," Amanda said. "Well, I'll be damned."

* * *

The next morning Uhura reported officially for her new assignment. Amanda explained that she disliked making official schedules when it was avoidable, but etiquette required the delegations to present formal condolences for Sarek's illness and good wishes for his recovery, She must be available for that. So they moved around the ship, greeting the representatives as they saw them. Amanda's task was greatly complicated by the fact that Sarek had announced the Vulcan position on Coridan before his collapse. Now Amanda's peacekeeping jobs included making the delegates who agreed that Coridan should be admitted sure that the Vulcan position would not change, while leaving the others with the impression that Vulcan's position was now negotiable. This was fairly simple while they moved about, but when they cam to the large observation deck Uhura began to worry. Obviously her job was to see to it that Amanda did not have to talk with both sides at once, and she wasn't sure who all the delegates were and what their position was. She needed a scorecard. Fortunately, one appeared at her side. While Amanda chatted with the wife of the Denevan observer, Sa's ran through names and positions. By the time they had to separate to rescue Amanda, Uhura had a pretty fair grounding.

That afternoon Amanda called a caucus in Sickbay. She was concerned because the Andorian ambassador, still humiliated by the discovery of a saboteur on his staff, was remaining in seclusion. His absence was felt in this volatile situation. "There is no way of compelling him to emerge," Sarek pointed out. "Until we reach Babel, he is not required to appear. Amanda, can you not appeal to him on a personal level?"

"Well, all 1 can think of is that he's an expert sissist. Spock, is there anyone on board--"

"Indeed, Mother. Lt. Uhura."

"Uhura, can you sing things like the A'a?"

"She sings them beautifully, Mother."

"How do you hear the notes? I'm so trained in diatonic--"

"Well, I can hear them. African scales have so many quarter tones, they're no problem. But I'd have to work on it."

"Consider it an assignment, will you? Spock can play the inner lines on the harp, and we'll ask Shras to do the descents. He can't refuse." When Uhura got to her quarters that night, she carried a list from Sa's and a copy of Shrya's "Melody for Ten Voices." This assignment was going to be strenuous.

But by the time she sang the "Melody" at a lunch given by the Vulcan delegation, it had become almost second nature to her to assist Amanda. Furthermore, she and Sa's made an excellent team. He was devoted to Amanda, and he possessed almost a sixth sense for her hints. Uhura learned to tune in to him, and between them, they managed to cut the job down to size.

All during those two difficult weeks, Uhura never saw Amanda lose her smiling composure in the presence of the delegates. Even the day that the Tellarite delegation scheduled a concert conflicting with the First Federation's reception, Amanda remained unruffled. She sent charming notes excusing herself from both functions because of a headache, but she sent her personal representative (Uhura) to the concert and her personal representative (Sa'a) to the reception. She had a very pleasant afternoon, she told them later.

Only once did she lose her calm, and it was Spock who, all unwitting, accomplished that. Amanda and Uhura were on their way to the Tellarite ambassador's wife's tolo party when Uhura was stopped by a young man in civilian fatigues. "Uhura! It's good to see you."

"Why, Fred Pierce. Where did you spring from?"

"I'm on a probe ship for Earth Bionics; we've been studying the lichens of Capella IV. I have to go right back -- we just rendezvoused for routine physicals -- but I wanted to say hello." Uhura presented him to Amanda, introducing her as Mr. Spock's mother. He greeted her warmly, then said, "Say, Mr. Spock's still aboard, isn't he? I must see him. You know, he never submitted an official report? Just sent a private tape to my doctor."

They had Spock paged and he joined them in a few minutes. "It is good to see you, Mr. Pierce. I trust you are completely recovered?"

"Oh, yes. I was in Minaris far three months, but I've been fine ever since. Mr. Spock, I do want to thank you--"

"Quite unnecessary, Mr. Pierce. I received your tape."

"Yes, but I want to say it n person. If you'd reported what I did to you, I'd probably never have landed the job I have now."

They chatted a few more minutes, then Pierce excused himself and left. Amanda said, "Spock, what did he do to you?"

"He poisoned me and wounded me with a phaser," Spock replied matter-of-factly. Then, seeing from Amanda's expression that more information was desired, he added, "He was quite deranged d the time. Fortunately, he responded to rehabilitation, and now is quite recovered." Then, apparently satisfied that he had imparted all the information a mother could want, he excused himself, and left. Amanda sank into a chair and covered her face, her shoulders shaking.

Uhura bounded over and snatched her hands down. "What is it?" she cried. Then she saw that what Amanda was stifling was a fit of the giggles.

"I've gotten used to having married one," she whispered. "Why can't I get used to having borne one?"

* * *

Four nights out of Babel the Vulcan delegation gave its reception. By now it was Uhura who briefed Spock on the current state of the lobbying. Sarek made a brief ceremonial appearance and Amanda was escorted by the starship captain. Next day she girlishly confided to the wives of several delegates that Ambassador St't and his wife had reached Babel. The resulting diminution in the delegates' attentions was so palpable that Uhura could almost smell it. "They're certainly subtle," she said to Amanda in tones of mock injury.

"I talked to T'Lal today. She told me she spent the whole morning trying to find space for floral welcomes ordered from here. Babel's conservatory is going to look like a blight area."

"And I thought they loved us for our beautiful eyes!" Amanda laughed. "We may have beautiful eyes. But it's St't who's going to cast that beautiful vote."

That evening at the reception Sa's beckoned to Uhura. "The Lady Amanda asked me to tell you that she is 'playing hooky' -- do I have that right? Thank you. She suggested that you develop a headache and join her."

Uhura found Amanda in her cabin looking supremely comfortable, as though there weren't a diplomat in the galaxy. "We'll have to work hard at the last night dinner," she said, "but for now I don't think much can develop. Sit down and relax, Uhura. We've both earned it."

Uhura sat back. She really did feel tired.

"Do you go right to your next assignment?"

"Yes, but we've received permission to travel at sublight. So we'll have some time off."

"That's good. You're all tired. And I've never seen Spock look so drawn."

"He's been taking double shifts ever since he was discharged from Sickbay. After we let you all off, he'll rest, though. He almost hibernates."

They fell silent, and Uhura began to mull over her problem. She'd barely thought about the decision she'd soon have to give the captain. This job had so many compensations. But if she stayed, she'd probably be giving up, perhaps for always, a part of experience she'd once automatically assumed would be hers. How did a woman make such a decision? Then it occurred to her she was sitting near an expert. "Amanda--"


"When you married Sarek, what made you decide -- I mean, I know you must have cared for him very much, and you still do. But how did you reach the point--"

"Of deciding it would be worth the price?"

"Well, yes."

"Well," Amanda put on her best school-marm expression. "It has been reliably reported that throughout the known worlds where marriage exists, 97.7 per cent of all couples fight. My parents used to bicker about which one proposed. On Oloraminea, mates fight about which crest color denotes descent from the true egg. And on Vulcan, couples debate whose grandmother held the purer philosophy. But in each case, it's a fight. I finally decided that if I married Sarek, our fights would at least be about significant things. And they have been," she added a bit ruefully.

Uhura was silent, thinking beyond the flippancy to what Amanda had really said. "Whoever dances must pay the drummer," she quoted softly.

"That's always true. But if you enjoy the dance--" Amanda shrugged.

* * *

The farewells, both personal and formal, had been said. In her quarters, Uhura held the small pendant Amanda had given her without really seeing it. She still seemed to be watching Amanda slip her arm around her husband as they walked into the shuttle bay, though he no longer needed the support. Carefully, she locked the IDIC in her drawer, then went to find the captain. He'd want to know.

She found him in the rec room, accompanied, to her surprise, by Mr. Spock. Most of the crew had already headed for their quarters to catch up on sleep, and she wanted very much to suggest that Spock do the same. He was composed and alert, but his skin seemed almost translucent. He might take it as an impertinence, but-- "Why don't you go to bed, Mr. Spock?"

"I will, shortly, Lieutenant. At the moment I am raveling."

"Raveling? Oh. Unwinding?"

Spock nodded. Uhura looked at the captain to share the joke, and immediately understood why Spock was still up. Kirk was weary, but in a restless mood that would make it impossible for him to sleep. Spock would not leave him until it had passed. "Is the relief crew on?"

"Yes. But I still have a dozen tasks running around in my head."

"If you'll give me the list, I'll log it."

"All right." He dictated some fifteen items, ending with, "And a request for a new communications officer?" It was a question.

"No, sir."

"That's good news." For a moment a deeply personal smile lit his face. She returned it, but saw that he was already translating the news into ship's terms. "Then you will report back for duty in 72 hours."

"Yes, sir." Uhura sighed faintly. "...but as long as you enjoy the dance..." she reminded herself, and logged the list. "I'm going for a swim. Will you gentlemen join me?"

"Sounds good."

They swam several laps lazily. Then Spock, chilled by the water, climbed out of the pool. The captain was in good hands, he knew. Now the first officer could go off duty.

Uhura and Kirk swam a few more laps, then rested in the shallows. She began to rub his back, thinking how much she loved the rare moments when the complexities that drove this man seemed to coalesce into one need, for which her own could provide. But when he pulled her to him, she said, "Take your time, sailor. Relax. We don't have to be on duty for 72 hours."

"Heaven." A few minutes later, he suddenly said, "Where did Spock go?"

"He's probably in a calder." Let's see. Sure enough, Spock was stretched full length in one of the padded tubs, blissfully letting hot water course down his spine.

"Well, are you raveled yet?" Uhura asked.

The answer was as composed and dignified as always, but it was in Vulcan.

"I guess he is," Kirk said. "We'd better get him to bed."

"Right. I don't want to come on duty and find him sleeping in the elevator."

Towel-wrapped, the three friends strolled down the darkened corridors. Kirk studied Spock for a moment and then, realizing that his first officer was having to concentrate on which foot to move, took his arm. Uhura, on the other side, slipped her arm around the Vulcan.

"We can drop him off on the way."

"All right," Uhura said. And then, she thought, one of the nicest parts of the dance.


"Captain's log, Personal. Still eight standard days' journey to Babel. The situation remains touchy. For a time the solidarity fostered by the attack almost eliminated the squabbling among the delegates, but the longer we travel, without alarms and with no further evidence of the saboteur's activity, the more the delegates' natural hostility seems to surface. I still fatigue too easily. So, I suspect, does Spock. But the crew as a whole is functioning with near-perfect efficiency. Ambassador Sarek's recovery is now certain. His post is being filled most ably by his consort, the Lady Amanda. In a volatile situation, she is one of our greatest assets..."

Unaware of the captain's encomium, which might have cheered her, Amanda was listening politely to the wife of the Tellarite Ambassador Pro-tem. Outwardly attentive, inwardly she was promising herself that this was the last time this voyage Ghowife would get her alone, rank or no rank. Dear heaven, was there another woman in the Federation capable of delivering a 20-minute threnody -- on a lost crochet needle?

"But Ghowife," she interrupted. "Surely Supply could fabricate a needle for you. I tell you what. Get ahold of Lt. Uhura, and tell her the exact size--"

"Oh, the size, no doubt. But, dear Lady Amanda, surely you understand that size is the least of it. My needle was steel! Yes. Antique steel! And when one works with Rigellian gossamer..."

Casually, Amanda drifted toward the conservatory door and the large chronometer. Ghowife followed, still oinking away. Did the woman have a thought in her head, beyond her interminable needlework?

"Oh!" Amanda gave a pretty cry of distress. "Is that the time? Do forgive m, Ghowife, but it is time for my lord's exercises. He requires my attendance."

Ghowife stiffened, venting the extraordinary grunt that passed, among Tellarites, for a ladylike sniff. Amanda drew herself up, ready to do battle. Of course, it was common knowledge that while Sarek of Vulcan did not hesitate to demand his rights as a Vulcan consort, Amanda granted those rights precisely when she chose to do so. But if this overgrown shoat thought for one moment--

"Oh, Ghowife," a rich African voice hailed them, and both women turned toward the turbolift. "I am so glad you're here."

"Yes, my dear, what is it?" Ghowife was all graciousness.

"I've been working on the border pattern you showed me," Uhura explained in distress. "But I can't turn the corner. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, but--"

"Nothing, my dear. Nothing, I'm sure. It merely requires practice. Perhaps if I--"

"Oh, would you?" Amanda swallowed a giggle. For a senior lieutenant in Starfleet, Uhura could be almost appallingly girlish. "The frame is in my quarters. I'm afraid if I try to move it -- but I hate to trouble you."

"No trouble at all, my dear. I'll just get my workbag. I left it in the rose seat. Just one moment."

Uhura gave Ghowife a grateful smile as she left in search of the bag, then pounced on Amanda. "There's been a sensor malfunction," she reported tersely.

"More sabotage?" Amanda asked in alarm, then chided herself for showing her panic. But Uhura didn't seem to feel it was inappropriate.

"We thought of that right away, of course. But the only access to the Furtwangler is the Bridge, or Auxiliary Control. And only the top ranking ambassadors have been allowed there. Probably it's just a malfunction. But the thing is, Amanda, I'm afraid Mr. Spock and the captain have forgotten all about their rest period. They're staying on the Bridge."

"Oh, damn!" Amanda caught herself just in time as Ghowife came waddling back. "Here I am, my dear. I would not like to lose my whole workbag this time. Do you know--"

Oh, of course. The lost needle again. Amanda suppressed a sigh. But Uhura was listening, all sympathy. Bless the captain for the suggestion of a good aide, Amanda thought, and tuned the Tellarite out. Spock was looking so tired, she worried. Surely he had gone back on duty far too soon. Jim, too. And Leonard McCoy knew it. But these men, and their sense of duty! Really, it was a toss-up which of them was worst. Thank goodness Sarek was firmly grounded. With Amanda to fill in, there was no nonsense about his convalescence. And a good thing, too. When it came to stubbornness...

Still, it was Sarek who had discovered, quite by accident, Rec Room 7. Or more accurately, it was Sarek who had discovered its effect on Spock.

Spock's first day on limited duty, Sarek had insisted on his son's accompanying him for his rehabilitation exercises. Spock had been obviously exhausted, but he had insisted on returning to duty. Sarek had pressed the point, until the captain had stepped in to ease the situation. There was nothing on the Bridge, he declared, that the duty officers couldn't handle quite well. Spock was to go with Sarek. He had then, perforce, had to accept the instantly proffered invitation to join them. And before Amanda had had time to admire her husband's strategy, they had all been in Rec Room 7.

Rec Room 7, Amanda, then discovered, was permanently programmed to simulate the Terran seashore. Now, as she shook her head sympathetically at Ghowife's lament, she remembered how Christine Chapel had silently taken over Sarek's exercises, with a nod which directed his usual therapist to Jim and Spock. The man had taken in the situation at a glance, and called for Sam. And almost before Amanda had sorted out the byplay, the two officers were stretched full length on the simulated sand, being expertly rubbed down. Soon they were both asleep, all the tensions of command and convalescence soothed by the sounds of surf and seabirds, and the warmth of the sun-simulating lamps.

Sarek had taken good care to see that the same invitation was repeated the next day, making it quite clear that he would be offended if they declined. And by a curious coincidence, the masseurs had been there at the same hour. Even more curiously, crewmembers who drifted in settled down immediately, leaving the silence undisturbed while the two men dozed.

Sarek himself, Amanda suspected, found the simulated environment alien, and more interesting than soothing. Indeed, he had remarked to Dr. McCoy that Spock's responses must be atavistic -- inherited from a side of the family he was too polite to specify. Nevertheless, he had chosen Rec Room 7, day after day.

Amanda bowed Ghowife and Uhura off the turbolift, smiling graciously. But the smile turned to a worried frown as the doors closed. The men needed their rest. But could she get them off the Bridge? The doors reopened, and Amanda stepped into a busy scene. Pieces of one of the long-range scanners lay all over the deck next to the navigator's seat. And around them swarmed Starfleet personnel -- the captain, Spock, Ensign Chekov, Chief Engineer Scott, and others Amanda did not know.

"With respect, Captain, Mr. Spock, Scott was protesting, "We've checked out every circuit twice. It has to be some part malfunction. And that's something Engineering can check. Now if you gentlemen will just let me do my job--"

His voice held just the right note of injury. But it didn't work. "Yes, check them out, Scotty, Kirk replied. "Spock, if we--"

Amanda sighed inaudibly. Obviously they had no intention of leaving the job. And there seemed there was nothing she could do. Anything she might say would sound hopelessly maternal. and probably stiffen both men's determination, besides embarrassing them.

"Captain," Lt. Palmer cut in, "I have confirmation. Only ranking ambassadors and their wives have been allowed to tour the Bridge and Auxiliary Control."

"That's no help, then. All the ranking ambassadors have been under security surveillance for years." Kirk hurried around to help Spock move a part of the scanner.

Hopelessly, Amanda drifted over to Palmer, and picked up the printout. She couldn't help with the Furtwangler, but she did know the ambassadors. But surely as the captain had pointed out, it was highly unlikely that a ranking Ambassador would sabotage the ship's equipment. Idly, she ran her finger down the list. Bor, of the First Federation, and Alathia, his wife. Shras, the Andorian, and his wife... The names were all familiar. Most of these people had served the Federation for decades. Ghowife-- her finger halted. Ghov was a junior member of the Tellarite delegation, promoted to ambassador pro tem only at the death of his superior, and still very much an underling. Subordinates, and even more so subordinates' wives, could grow restless over long years. But surely--

"Lt. Palmer." Amanda kept her voice low. "What time did the Furtwangler begin to malfunction? And what's wrong?"

"It's a vagrant electric charge," Lt. Palmer whispered back. "Mr. Chekov noticed it toward the end of the third period."

"Was anyone with Ghowife?"

"The wife of Ambassador Ghov missed the scheduled tour."

Lt. Palmer's tone was polite, but Amanda could hardly miss the phrasing. Lt. Palmer didn't like the Tellarite custom. Well, Amanda didn't like it either. Tellarite women were never named. They were known as somebody's daughter until their betrothal, then as somebody's betrothed, and somebody's wife. Autres peuples, autres moeurs, she reminded herself, probably for the twelfth time that day. But great galaxy, what moeurs! "She requested a separate tour later," Lt. Palmer was continuing. She was alone."

"I see." Amanda was careful not to react. Be sensible, she chided herself. If Ghov performs this mission well, that will represent the best chance he's had at promotion in 15 years. And Ghowife, with her head stuffed full of needlework...

"Lt. Palmer," she whispered, "do you have a handlight?"

Lt. Palmer gazed up at her in surprise. Amanda sailed back, trying to look pleasant but authoritative, like an ambassador's wife (or, alternatively, a first officer's mother). Finally Lt. Palmer rose, moved quietly around the huddle of officers and technicians, opened a tool cabinet, and returned with a handlight. Thanking her, Amanda began to prowl. It would have to be somewhere near the Furtwangler, she supposed. But they'd taken the whole cabinet apart. The power source must be... Her ruminations had led her to the Navigation station. There she knelt and shone the torch back under the console. "Aha!"

"What is it, Mother?" Spock stood behind her. But Amanda wasn't sure enough to commit herself.

"There's a metal bar under here," she explained, poking the handle of the torch toward it. "I thrnk--"

"Mother!" Spock almost shouted, and Amanda jumped, bumping her head painfully on the console.

"Really, Spock!"

"Forgive me." He did not sound contrite. "Probably there is no danger. Nevertheless, please stand well back." Politely, he helped her to her feet, then propelled her gently toward the crowd of personnel. Jim took her arm and pushed her back into the crowd, shielding her with his body. Amanda suppressed a protest. Spock must know what he was doing.

She peered over the captain's shoulder, watching her son as he lay flat on the deck, taking careful readings. "All energy levels are normal," he announced. "There is no foreign material here, aside from the bar itself, which is a solid cylinder of steel. Still watching the tricorder, Spock pulled the cylinder out, then sat on the deck, holding it up to the light. The crew sighed in unison.

Or almost in unison. Scott was already crossing to examine the bar. "Antique steel!" he exclaimed. "No wonder we got variations."

"But where did it come from?" Ensign Chekov asked in bewilderment. "It looks like a long hook, but--"

"It's Ghowife's crochet needle," Amanda explained. "She's been complaining all afternoon about losing it."

Spock looked at her for a long moment, then held the needle out to Chekov. "Would you return this to the ambassador's wife, Ensign? With the compliments of the Bridge crew."

A crack of delighted laughter made him wince, but he masked hi s reaction, and moved to rise. Then he sat down again quickly, his eyes widening. Amanda pushed past the captain, reaching her son just as he dropped his head in his hands. "Spock!" she begged, but she clasped her hands together. She must not embarrass him.

"Easy, my friend." The captain knelt by his side. "Lie flat for a moment." Spock shook his head. And to Amanda's astonishment, the captain put an arm around Spock, steadying him.

"I am all right, Captain. Mother," Spock reassured them. "A momentary dizziness."

"Yes, of course you are," Amanda replied. Taking courage from the captain's example, she took his hand. "But it's almost the end of fourth period, Spock. Your father will he waiting."

Spock nodded and rose slowly, but without difficulty. Amanda held his arm until she was sure he was balanced, then slipped her arm under his. "Captain?" she invited. Jim hesitated.

"You go along, Captain," Scott said cheerfully. "We'll have this baby back together in no time."

Jim grinned at him, then bowed slightly to Amanda and stepped forward to take her arm. "Thank you for your help, Amanda," he said. "That could have taken hours."

"All in a day's work," she replied jauntily, and urged the two friends toward the turbolift.