Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the creation and property of Doris Beetem and is copyright © 1972 by Doris Beetem. Originally published in Grup #1.

 

DEATH OF A FLAME, or AMANDA'S MISSION

Doris Beetem

 

Amanda was podding plomiks, dribbling the bitter orange seeds into a bowl, and laying the pods aside to be baked, when, despite the terrible Vulcan heat, she shivered. For an instant she felt like she'd received word of the death of some dear old friend from Earth, or as if Sarek had sent her away forever.

Then she saw the tiny golden sphere lying on the table like just another plomik seed. When she touched it, the device crumbled into dust, its flame forever stilled. It was only a mind-aid, Sarek had said, which would establish the Peace of Vulcan within her until she could do it herself. But she had worn it forty years.

She was finally a mature individual in Vulcan terms. Amanda closed her eyes and attempted a state of Vulcan meditation. But instead, all the crutched years fled away and Amanda felt herself mentally returning to her nineteenth year when Sarek had first slipped the gold chain over her head.

She'd been terribly mature for her age. Brilliant, her family said. Some of her teachers had even said 'genius'. The kind of girl you gave sculpture to at Christmas -- preferably ethnic -- to be displayed later to the anthropology seminar she'd -- God knew how! -- ended up moderating.

Amanda, a very miserable young lady, rubbed the jade ring -- Martin's last gift -- on her finger and stared through the dome at the sky. Someone coughed politely behind her. Turning, Amanda discovered that it was the Vulcan ambassador, using one more of "your illogical human customs" to attract her attention.

Quickly she composed herself. No one wanted to be embarrassed by grief'; Sarek had never wanted to see her feelings. "Sir?" she asked. Glancing at his clothing, Amanda decided that the Ambassador was really "dressed to the nines" in some ceremonial garb. She'd often wondered where the Vulcans found time to invent and carry out their many rituals.

"I have a proposal to make," the Vulcan said ponderously. "It will sound odd, but I shall explain the logic of my reasoning."

Amanda listened idly to Sarek and the pattern of a nearby honey locust at the same time. It was better, she had found, to hear the Ambassador's ideas out. It was, in fact, impossible to avoid it.

"Control of the emotions is something even a human can learn. You are now no longer bound by a betrothal," he said bluntly. "This means that you are free to make a new disposition of your life."

How had he heard about that, Amanda wondered, as a lump formed involuntarily in her throat. Oh, well, Vulcans didn't mean to be brutal. The direct, heartless form of address was all they knew.

"I suggest that you marry me," Sarek continued. ''You will have the full status of an ambassador's wife, our children will carry on the tradition of a highly respected blood-line, and you will be given the Peace of Vulcan."

Amanda's mouth dropped open. She shut it hurriedly. Vulcans didn't joke! Somehow, the crazy Wonderland situation seemed, temporarily at least, more palatable than reality. "Why?" she asked.

"You are an admirable specimen of human female. You are young enough to be trainable, have an excellent mind, and learn quickly in every field. Some in my family will disapprove, as I am a Kataytihk of the first rank and have certain genetic obligations. However, the union could be fertile."

Obviously, the old, typical cliché questions were not going to be sufficient. "Why any human?" she rephrased.

Sarek frowned infinitesimally. "According to my formulization of the third corollary of Nome, our marriage would significantly improve my grasp of histosentient multiplicity. It is difficult to explain without tokiel symbolization or the High Vulcan tongue, however."

Amanda hesitated, trying to figure out a Vulcan-polite way to say "no!" or "you're crazy!" or "Damn!". Observing this, Sarek removed from his pocket a tiny gold charm on a chain and said, "This is not a betrothal gift. It is the Flame of Vulcan and it provides peace."

He touched her forehead and a tingling sensation told her that she was being telepathically probed. It was rather awful, not to know what he was looking at; she shut her eyes and shuddered. When she opened them again, a red spark danced within the core of the charm. Sarek damped it somehow before he slipped the chain over her head. Stepping back, pleased, he said, "You will consider my suggestion" and left.

Amanda slid her hand down the chain until she reached the Flame's carved receptacle, lifted it and pressed it to her lips. The charm emanated a strange, achingly alluring calm. If only she could grasp the sensation, instead of merely touching it.

She smiled, molasses-slow, an entirely new expression in her dreamy eyes. Perhaps she would accept Sarek's proposal after all. His logic was, no doubt, impeccable.

Any plan can be logical, if you are willing to sacrifice enough for it. So they were married, according to the precepts of Vulcan tradition. On her wedding night, Amanda discovered an unexpectedly strong passion for Vulcan husband and more pleasure than she had anticipated from his alien touch. And found at the same time that the Vulcan sexual union, the 'pon farr', was limited to seven year intervals.

"Why?'' Amanda subvocalized, frustrated. If Sarek heard her, he would be perfectly willing to explain in great, and logical, detail.

But she already knew the answer by heart.  "It is the Vulcan way." But it wasn't fair. For an instant she almost determined to argue it, and several other things, out with Sarek. Then she sighed, and reached for the gold Flame-charm.

It seemed to her that it always ended that way. Living on Vulcan, being human, had hurt. But she always found calmness and joy glowing warmly on the end of a chain.

She looked out at the heat-shimmering landscape, feeling so separate from the pudgy middle-aged woman who was trying to be Vulcan. The girl-Amanda examined her home, the Vulcan clothing she was wearing, the alien seeds rubbed absently in her hand, and found them strange.

Who could have guessed that at the death of the Flame, she would be thrown back emotionally to her girlhood? Her whole married life seemed vague, the opposite of deja vu, as if it had been viewed through a dancing FLame.

Some things, it was true, were impossible to get across to Sarek, but other things you couldn't hide. It wasn't long before he noticed her wondering glances at familiar things. Not long after that she confessed the whole incident.

"Fascinating," he murmured. "What response to the problem do you consider best, my wife?"

Amanda's heart leaped, in response to a craving that had been steadily growing since her moment of revelation. She thought suddenly that she would die if she could not find her youth again. Schooling her face into impassive lines, Amanda said carefully, "Perhaps... I should return to Earth for a time. It was there I accepted the Peace... perhaps on Earth I will learn to understand it."

''You would go alone," Sarek said thoughtfully. "My work keeps me here. And I do not follow your logic. Still, it may be the best, if you do not stay long. You have permission."

That was the true moment of leave-taking, Amanda thought later, although Sarek escorted her scrupulously to the space-transport and supervised the loading of her luggage. Then he went back to the home of his fathers, to his astrophysics, his logic, and his duties, and waited placidly for her return.

And waited. And waited. And waited...

THE END