Disclaimer: Star Trek is the property of Paramount/Viacom. This story is the property of Johanna Cantor and is copyright l975 by Johanna Cantor. Originally published in Furaha #3, Virginia Walker, editor.

 

The Summer Place

Johanna Cantor

 

Amanda moved forward and touched Sarek's elbow. "You go ahead," she whispered. "I want to go to the office to see if there are any messages. I'll be right back."

 

"Yes, go, my wife."

 

On her way up the suspended staircase, Amanda acknowledged the salutes of a group of couriers correctly, but so abstractedly that they began to consider how they might have offended the Vulcan delegation. But Amanda was simply lost in anxious consideration of Sarek's response. Spock had missed his weekly tape before and Sarek had never seemed concerned. But this time, after only four days, Sarek was worried. Had he sensed some-thing wrong?

 

In their suite, Amanda quickly scanned the messages. Yes, there it was. With a sigh of relief, she began the tape. Then she stiffened. The message was in Terran!

 

"My respected mother. Do not let the contents of this message alarm you. I was wounded, but am already recovering. Honored father ..."

 

Now it was Vulcan. Amanda hurriedly switched on the translator so as not to miss anything. But the message was unsatisfactory. Spock was merely informing Sarek, as etiquette required, that for the next few weeks he would be on Vulcan, undergoing treatments at the T'Nog Institute under the care of T'Pan, doctor of healing. The short tape ended immediately after the obligatory inquiries after respected parents' health, and professions of duty.

 

A message from the Aurelian delegation played unheeded. Amanda sat, fist in her mouth, in near panic. The T'Nog Institute -- the Vulcan clinic for mental healing! What could have happened to Spock? Then she remembered the first part of the message, and reversed the tape. Somehow she could almost hear his voice behind the flat computer tones. Calmer now, she found the beginning again and punched the transcriber. While the print-out was being made she composed herself, using one of the first Vulcan exercises she had ever learned. Then she picked up the printout and descended the stairs.

 

Sarek had not gone ahead to the luncheon; he stood in the corridor waiting for her. As she handed him the message, she again wondered if he had sensed something.

 

"This was all?"

 

"Yes. That's the entire message. Sarek, did you know something had happened?"

 

"I have suspected for some days that all was not well with Spock. But I do not know what troubles him."

 

"It must be serious."

 

"Yes." Sarek read the message again. "On the other hand, my wife, there is no reason to discount the message to you."

 

"Is there anything we can do?"

 

"Yes. Since he has communicated the name of his healer, we can seek information directly from her. I believe our best course is to ask T'Pau to make enquiries for us. Any communication from the T'Nog Institute will mean more to her than to me, and she can explain to us what has happened."

 

"All right." Sarek's calm was, as always, reassuring. And the thought of T'Pau brought comfort. A healer of magnificent strength, she had so often come to the aid of her human kinswoman. For the first time, Amanda began to think that everything might be all right.

 

"My wife?" Sarek seemed almost embarrassed. "Would you object to leaving this conference and returning to Vulcan?"

 

"Object? Oh, no."

 

"Our presence may, of course, be quite superfluous as far as Spock is concerned."

 

"For Spock, maybe. But not for me."

 

"Or me. Can you be ready to board this evening's shuttle?"

 

* * *

 

The waiting room of the clinic was cool. Amanda listened to the sounds of the water sculpture, decorated in many tones of blue and green, until she was sure she was calm enough. Then she spoke firmly. "Sarek, you see T'Pan alone. My presence might make it awkward for her. You can explain it all to me later."

 

Sarek nodded. "Quite logical." A chime sounded and he walked firmly through an inner door. Amanda remained alone, concentrating on keeping her composure, until an outer door opened and a human stepped through.

 

"Why, Jim Kirk!" Amanda held out both hands as the captain of the Enterprise crossed swiftly over to her. "How are you? You look terribly tired."

 

"I am tired. We had an explosion on board five days ago."

 

"Were you hurt?"

 

"No, not at all. But Scotty was badly injured, along with half of Engineering. All we could do was limp back to drydock."

 

"Oh, I'm sorry. Will he be all right?"

 

'"Yes, he's mending."

 

"No wonder you're tired. Have you slept at all since the explosion?"

 

"No chance. I have some time off now, though. Amanda, how's Spock?"

 

"I don't know. When we docked, we received a message setting this appointment, saying 'prognosis good.' But that's all we know. Jim, what happened?"

 

"Spock established a mind fusion with a Medusan, then saw it, unvisored. Here, sit down."

 

"I'm all right. Is he insane?"

 

"I don't think: so. Fortunately, we had a telepath aboard who was able to reach his mind and bring him around." Kirk rose, and began to pace. "I thought he was all right, Amanda. So did McCoy. Spock slept for about 24 hours, and then he got up to see Miranda -- Dr. Jones, the telepath -- off. He seemed fine then. But that evening he reported back to Sickbay. He asked McCoy to make arrangements for him to come here, sent one message tape, and fell into a sleep so deep McCoy said it was almost a coma. He hadn't emerged from it when we beamed him down here."

 

"Some kind of damage?"

 

"Apparently. There wasn't much we could do to--"

 

Kirk broke off as the door opened. Sarek spoke quickly. "Spock is recovering, Amanda. We can see him today." Then he recognized the Captain and came over to greet him formally. "T'Pan said Spock is well enough to see us. Captain Kirk, if you wish, I will ask if you may come too."

 

"If it is permitted."

 

"I will enquire." Sarek crossed to a communicator. The answer soon came, and almost simultaneously, an elevator door opened.

 

In the elevator Amanda found herself trembling slightly. Sarek put an arm around her. "He is all right, Amanda. He is very weak, and still in a state where ordinary sensory stimuli tend to impinge too strongly. But that will clear up in time, and his strength will return."

 

"Can he come home?"

 

"Soon."

 

Amanda had expected a hospital corridor. Instead, the elevator door opened on a large airy suite ,with a magnificent view of the ancient harbor.

 

The light momentarily disoriented her, but then she saw that the figure seated at the large table was Spock. He rose as she moved toward him and held out his hands, offering the ritual embrace. They studied each other, then Spock gently wiped away the one tear which rolled down her cheek, and turned to embrace his father.

 

Kirk, watching form the door, felt a large lump rise in his throat. He'd barely gotten it down when Spock turned to him and held out his hand.

 

"What has happened, sir?" he asked quietly.

 

Kirk jumped. He hadn't intended to tell Spock about the accident. Damn the Vulcan's perceptiveness! "We had an explosion," he answered as calmly as he could. "Thirty-two casualties, all recovering. The ship's in drydock."

 

Spock nodded. "Will you have some refreshment?" He waved them to the table and activated a servitor. As host, he began to serve them. Amanda noticed that his hands trembled slightly. Sarek noticed it too, and quietly took over the job. They drank in silence, contrary to custom, but no one wished to disturb the peace in the room. When they had finished, Spock pressed a button and rose. Almost immediately, a very old Vulcan woman entered. Sarek introduced Amanda and Kirk to T'Pan, the famous head of the T'Nog Institute. She greeted them with polite formality, then crossed to Spock. "Sit down," she said quietly. She checked him with a medical tricorder, then touched his face and established a brief meld.

 

"Excellent," she said. "Lie down, now, and rest."

 

Spock lay down obediently, but spoke. "May I go?"

 

"In three days, if you wish." Spock closed his eyes, and T'Pan waved his visitors to the elevator and joined them. As soon as the doors closed, she spoke again. "Spock is exhausted now, as is only to be expected. But he stood the stimulation of your visit very well. He will regain strength rapidly now."

 

Back in the waiting room, Kirk and Amanda moved back to allow Sarek to thank T'Pan and take formal leave of her. Amanda took Kirk's arm and gave it a hug. His return squeeze reminded her of Spock's gentle touch on her cheek. At last, she thought, Spock was learning not to be embarrassed by her human reactions. "Jim, I owe you so much," she said.

 

"Damn it, Amanda, I'm the one who got him hurt."

 

"No, I don't mean that. And I'm sure that wasn't your fault."

 

They echoed Sarek' s formal bow to T'Pan and followed him out.

 

"Sarek, I've been thinking. Why don't we open Fr'ot?"

 

"It would mean work for you, my wife."

 

"I don't mind. We could take Spon and T'Pin, and T'Pau could come to take care of Spock. I'm sure it would be good for him."

 

"Very well."

 

"Fr'ot's a seaside cottage that's been in the family for generations," Amanda explained to Kirk. "It hasn't been modernized for over five centuries -- it's still lit by gas, just like Earth 19th century. But it's a marvelously relaxing place. We always spent summers there when Spock was a child. He loves it."

 

"It sounds lovely."

 

"Why don't you join us there, Jim. Sarek?"

 

"Of course, my wife," Sarek said, and cordially issued the formal invitation.

 

"Why, thank you," Kirk said. "I'd be honored."

 

* * *

 

Five days later Amanda lay happily in a restchair on the balcony at Fr'ot. It was good to be here. Their small party had settled in comfortably. Spock was much stronger, and the resilient captain, already recovered from his exhaustion, was taking full advantage of the sporting facilities. Sarek and T'Pau seemed tired, but Sarek had assured her that this was simply the result of the frequent melds necessary for checking Spock's progress and guiding his healing meditations. They were careful to rest, he told her. There was no problem.

 

Amanda saw Jim inside and called to him. He lay down in the restchair next to hers and sighed in contentment. "I have it on the very best of authority that this is a very different ocean," he said. "But I feel supremely at home here."

 

"I always have, too. The water tastes different, of course, but an ocean's an ocean."

 

"This is a wonderful house. How old is it?"

 

"The oldest part goes back to the T'Bat Dynasty. Family tradition says that Sarg of T'Bola hid here while gathering his forces for the Battle of Fr'lal. There's still an escape hatch leading from the cellar to the inner tunnel. But you can't find it unless you know exactly where to look; it's been covered over since the days of the First Peace."

 

"What a place to live!"

 

"Yes. Vulcans like to stay close to their history, you know. We really ought to modernize the place, but somehow--"

 

"Oh, I wouldn't touch it."

 

"Sarek's grandfather put the lift in. That's the last major alteration."

 

"How did they get to the beach before then?"

 

"There are hand and foot holds chipped in the face of the cliff, and a wide rope netting. It's a pleasant climb -- down, at least."

 

"I think I'll try it. It sounds like good exercise."

 

"It is. There's a large cave about halfway down, and of course when you get all the way down you can swim. It makes a marvelous constitutional. Wait a minute. I'll come with you. You start just under this balcony."

 

On their way through the house, they found Spock toying with one of the antique books. Bored with inactivity, he decided to make the climb too. Delighted, Amanda started down first. As always, she lost herself in the activity, enjoying the sun and the breeze and the marvelous feel of the climb.

 

Suddenly Kirk called sharply, "Amanda, wait. Spock's in trouble."

 

He climbed up to Spock's side. Amanda heard him say "All right. Don't try to talk. Just hang on," as she climbed up to the other side. Spock was rigid, gripping the net tightly. Amanda saw the sweat on his face, and said, "The cave's only about thirty feet down."

 

"Good. Okay. You're all right. Amanda, can you get above him to guide his hands? I'll get his feet." Kirk climbed down, and spoke in his command voice. "Put your right foot in my hand. Good. Now give Amanda your hand. That's right..." Painfully, they moved down. Amanda saw Jim reach the ledge outside the cave. He found a footing and helped Spock descend the last few feet. Then he circled him firmly with one arm. "Just let go. I have you." Spock managed to obey once more, and Amanda lost sight of them. She climbed hastily down to the cave. Spock was on the floor, head buried in his knees, trembling violently. As she entered, she saw Jim reach for his hand. "Can you get Sarek?" he asked.

 

She nodded and climbed back up as quickly as she could. Finding Sarek and T'Pau asleep on the upstairs veranda, she shook Sarek awake and told him rapidly what had happened. Then she climbed back down to the cave. Jim was speaking, still in his command voice, firm and authoritative. She heard him say "Article Four," but the rest did not register. He was sitting on the floor, holding Spock tightly with one arm. Spock had stopped shuddering, but he was resting limply on Kirk's shoulder, and Amanda knew he was still in difficulty.

 

"Sarek is coming," she said and knelt beside them. The captain had one of Spock's hands; she took the other in both of hers.

 

Outside she heard the scraping of Sarek's descent, but to her surprise, it was T'Pau who entered first. "T'Pau, you shouldn't try that climb."

 

"Nonsense, Amanda," T'Pau said in the sharpest tone Amanda had ever heard her use. The two Vulcans knelt by Spock and touched his temples. Amanda saw them wince as contact was made, and then there was silence. She and Kirk watched anxiously. Slowly Spock's face changed, and at last T'Pau took him from the captain and laid him back to rest on her lap. Sarek broke contact and sat back, slumping forward. Amanda hurried to him, and he allowed her to embrace him. "It is all right, my wife," he assured her. Amanda let him rest and turned her attention to calming her agitation until he spoke again. "There is a sling in the cupboard in the cellar. Can you get it and rig it?"

 

"I can make the climb," Spock murmured, but his voice sounded so dull and exhausted that he was immediately silenced by four vetoes.

 

"I'll help you, Amanda," Kirk said.

 

Together they climbed up to the ancient cellars, found the sling, rigged it, and sent it down. Sarek strapped Spock in and signaled, then climbed up, keeping abreast of Spock to steady him. Amanda wanted to send the sling down for T'Pau, but Sarek overruled her gently. While the men helped Spock out of the sling, Amanda listened anxiously, but T'Pau made the climb smoothly and disdained the hand Amanda extended to help her over the edge.

 

"Get that child to bed," she ordered, and followed Sarek as he carried Spock into the house.

 

The humans watched them go. "They'll take care of him, Amanda."

 

"Yes. Jim, what happened?"

 

"I have no idea. I just saw that he'd stopped climbing. Maybe he got dizzy."

 

"But in the cave he was so--"

 

"I know. I've seen him like that a couple of times after a mind meld, but never for more than a few seconds. This time--"

 

"I'm glad you were there. Jim, what were you saying?"

 

"What?"

 

"In the cave. I heard you say 'Article Four,' but--"

 

"Oh, that." He grinned at her sheepishly. "I guess I was reciting the Articles of Command. It was the only thing I could think of fast enough. It didn't matter what I said. He just needed to hear my voice -- to be in touch."

 

Sarek started down the path toward them, and they hurried up. "He is all right," he assured them. "He is already asleep. T'Pau is with him."

 

"What happened, sir?"

 

"An overload, essentially. The play of light on the cliff, the smells of the sea and seashrubs, the noise of the birds and wind and water, and the effort of coordinating his hands and feet to climb -- it was too much stimulation all at once. He'll rest now, and be better." Sarek studied the two humans carefully. "Come," he said firmly. "It is time for lunch."

 

Amanda could not refrain from looking in on Spock several times during the afternoon. Each time he seemed soundly asleep. T'Pau slept beside him; she couldn't tell whether they were melded or not. Around sunset, as she left them again, she heard a gentle cough.

 

"'Will there be seven eating, Respected One?"

 

"Oh, forgive me, Spon, Respected Old One," she said contritely. "I should have told you at once. Spock was taken ill this morning, but Sarek says he is all right." The old man waited, too polite to ask a direct question, but she knew how anxious he and his wife must be for the child they had helped rear. As much as she could, she explained what had happened, and was relieved to see his unmistakable relief.

 

"I will prepare for seven," he said.

 

"Tell T' Pin, will you please?"

 

"Most certainly, Respected One."

 

Spon was right. Spock was at dinner. He apologized formally to his mother and the captain, and thanked them. Amanda saw Kirk give him the searching look she had refrained from, and saw Spock's slight nod. Reassured, she waved them toward the table. Once seated, she found it necessary to spend several minutes composing herself; she did not catch T'Pin's signal until Sarek had almost finished serving the captain's plate. Then she remembered.

 

"Oh! Jim, try some of this casserole."

 

"All right." He took his plate from Sarek. "What is it? Por Pie!"

 

"Yes. Spon made it for you especially. Do you like it?"

 

"Why, it tastes exactly like my mother's."

 

"Thank you, Captain Kirk," Sarek spoke gravely. "You have preserved the peace of my house."

 

Amanda laughed aloud. "T'Pin made Sarek reserve space in a diplomatic pouch for the nutmeg," she confided.

 

"And Spon exhorted your mother's address from Spock so he could get her ingredients and method," Sarek added, obviously for the benefit of the two Vulcans. "Tell me, Spock," he continued. :Spon and T'Pin have been in the family so long that they had, of course, no problem bullying me. But how did they blackmail you?"

 

"It was simple, my father. T'Pin caught me pouring out Spon's tonic medicine instead of drinking it."

 

"My stars!" Sarek was grave. "How long will it take you to expiate that crime?"

 

"I should live so long," Spock quoted. Amanda and Kirk exchanged grins, but all four Vulcans rose and moved toward Spock. Sarek put his hand behind Spock's neck, supporting him as T'Pau touched his face to establish a meld. "I am quite all right," Spock said somewhat agitatedly. "It is an old Earth expression that the captain uses -- a joke. Forgive me for alarming you."

 

"There is no cause for alarm," T'Pau agreed. "But I think perhaps you are still overtired, Spock. Let me take you to your room." She hushed his protests, and she and Sarek gently urged Spock to the door.

 

Kirk grinned at Amanda again. "Think he'll talk his way out?"

 

"Not a chance! He's grounded for the evening. Poor Spock." She went on more seriously, "Vulcans tease, but they don't joke that way."

 

"I know. Teasing's the first way I ever made real contact with Spock. For months, it was the only way. But it was a long time before he was comfortable with my brand of jokes."

 

"Yes. You go along thinking you're phasing, and suddenly you realize you're completely out of sync. I felt so sorry for a young alien who's studying here. He's the son of the Catullan ambassador, a brilliant--"

 

"Tonga Rad?"

 

"Why yes. Do you know him?"

 

"Yes, very well. I didn't know he was on Vulcan."

 

"He's studying here, and teaching at the middle school. Unfortunately, he's an inveterate practical joker. Vulcans just can't comprehend that. He snuck into the school one night and adjusted the computer to play an ancient war march instead of the T'A for the opening exercises. They knew right away that he'd done it, of course, because he was the only one laughing. He was almost sent for rehabilitation. Sarek had to go down to the school and explain that the Catullans resemble humans in that respect. That made it all right, of course."

 

Jim laughed, and she joined in, a little ruefully. "I'll have to look up young Rad while I'm here," he said.

 

"He's spending a few weeks with Sarek' s nephew back in ShiKahr. You can see him there.

 

* * *

 

But as things turned out, Kirk saw Rad much sooner than that. That evening, Amanda received a message from T'Pauve. In the midst of the summer, with a full house; she and St'in, Sarek's nephew, had been injured in an air-car malfunction. They must convalesce for a few weeks. Could Amanda possibly entertain the children and their honored guest? Amanda sighed, and went to find Sarek.

 

Thus is was that two days later she sat on the balcony drafting a message to T'Pauve to inform her of the party's safe arrival. "Sarek wishes me to assure you that the children's behavior during the journey' occasioned him no embarrassment," she finished formally. Then she added a quick, warm message to her young kinspeople. Sarek would raise an eyebrow when he saw it, but she would permit herself the luxury of those few words.

 

She laid down her stylus as Jim came out on the balcony. "Jim, I'm sorry to have put you in the middle of this school party."

 

"Not at all, Amanda. I'm enjoying it. Is it permitted to ask who the little girl is? The six-year-old?!!

 

"Her Vulcan name is T'Lan. She's one of the hostages the Romulans sent here during the treaty negotiations last year. We found out only after they'd arrived that most of them were children, and all of them were from families disgraced for one cause or another. When the treaty was signed, T'Lan begged to stay here; in fact, most of the hostages did. The ambassador gave permission, so they were returned to the families which had cared for them during the negotiations."

 

"I'm glad she has a good home. She is a beautiful little girl."

 

"Yes, and highly intelligent. I think St'in and T'Pauve may adopt her."

 

"Rad says that she is already at junior level."

 

"I wouldn't be surprised. He's spending a lot of time training her."

 

"He seems to be a good teacher."

 

"Yes. It's a pity he's so unstable."

 

"He seems much more stable now than he did when I first met him. Maybe Vulcan's calming him down."

 

"Well, I can't think of a more likely place!" Kirk laughed, and escorted her in for lunch. At the table, Amanda looked at T'Pau apprehensively. The Vulcans had been far from pleased at the necessity of inviting Rad to their retreat. Spock sensed the constraint and began to discuss the recently proposed Stegner Hypothesis. Rad joined in and the Vulcans thawed perceptively, impressed by his undeniable brilliance. Kirk followed the discussion eagerly, but physics was not Amanda's strong suit, so she let her mind wander to the feminine personnel of the Terran colony. Should she invite Mary Hakado to spend a few days? Or Grace Gish? Or maybe Jim would prefer a selection?

 

"And how is your father?" Kirk was asking.

 

Rad replied suitably, then turned to Spock. "I can communicate with my father now. I want to thank you for that."

 

"I was happy to be of service," Spock replied, and smoothly changed the subject.

 

As soon as lunch was over, Amanda captured Kirk and got the full story from him. He told her how Spock had won the respect of the wild young crew who had hijacked the Enterprise, and later been instrumental in bringing Rad and his father back to speaking terms. "Rad said Spock couldn't make him answer the message tape we'd gotten," Kirk told her, chuckling at the memory. "Spock agreed that he could not, of course, but said it would be a personal gratification for him if Rad would answer it. Rad couldn't refuse. Then Spock got ahold of the ambassador and talked with him for almost an hour. It must have been some conversation; I wish I'd heard it. The upshot was that young Rad answered the tape, and then went to see his father for the first time in five years."

 

Amanda was silent, remembering another son estranged from his father. Kirk eyed her uncertainly, then spoke heartily: "Well, I'm going to climb down for a swim. Want to come?"

 

"You start ahead. I have a message to correct and send. I'll be down shortly."

 

"Okay."

 

Amanda picked up the board to check her grammar before. showing it to Sarek. She was wondering if the first verb should be a middle instead of a passive when she heard Jim, underneath the balcony, start down the cliff. She changed the verb and suddenly the quiet was shattered .by a hoarse shout followed by a scream. For a moment she could not locate the sound. Then she realized it must have come from the cliff. Running to the edge of the balcony, she called the captain. There was no answer. Quickly she explained to the others, who had run out at the scream, and ran after Sarek as he strode down to the head of the cliff. Sarek knelt and pulled at the rope ladder; a short length of one side dangled from his hands. He laid it on the flat in silence.

 

Amanda insisted on riding down in the lift, but at the sight of Spock's set face, she could not help breaking into sobs. Sarek and Spock could not respond, but T'Pau wordlessly took her arm and drew it through her own. They searched the shore in silence. There was no sign of the captain and Amanda began to hope. Quickly they took the lift up and broke out the sling and several climbing kits. Spock climbed directly down to the cave and so it was he who found the captain, battered and unconscious, but alive. His shout brought the others. Spon forced Spock to let him move the human and Sarek and T'Pau climbed up with Spock. Amanda led the way up and raced to the house to get the medical kit. She watched Spock anxiously as the captain was carried in and put on the bed.

 

"Sarek, have a care for your son," T'Pau said sharply as she began her examination. Sarek went to him immediately, but Spock shook his head. "I remain here," he said firmly. Sarek yielded, only insisting on supporting his son with one arm. Spock watched as though his concentration could heal the unconscious man, but he retained his calm.

 

"It is not serious," T'Pau announced. Amanda sat down. "He has a broken right humerus and fibula, and numerous contusions and abrasions on that side. There may also be a mild concussion from that blow on his temple. I would guess that he had hold of the net with his left hand when it broke and managed to cling to it long enough to slide down to the cave. It is most fortunate that his injuries are no more serious than they are."

 

T'Pau began immediately to repair the broken bones with the portable bone-knitting laser. Spock allowed Sarek to seat him, but still insisted on remaining. When T'Pau finished, she enlisted Spock's aid in rubbing a healing, anesthetic cream into the lacerated flesh. Amanda watched Spock as he rubbed, then had to turn away.

 

Suddenly the captain came to with a shout. They all jumped, but Spock leaned forward. "It is all right, Jim. You are safe."

 

The captain focused, then managed a grin. "Recuperative shore leave," he muttered. Spock lifted an eyebrow in acknowledgement and tucked the bedsheet around him. "Sleep." Kirk tried to turn on his injured side, but Spock stopped him before he could put his weight on it. "You'll be more comfortable on your back."

 

"Right." Kirk leaned back. "What happened?"

 

"The net broke," Sarek replied and recited a formal apology. Kirk listened dutifully, but he was clearly drowsy.

 

"I will respond for you, sir," Spock said. The captain closed his eyes, then opened them and spoke firmly.

 

"You are not to sit up with me, Spock, and that's an order."

 

"Very well, sir. I will go to bed as soon as you are asleep." Kirk was satisfied, and his eyes closed.

 

Sarek walked over to Amanda; she rose and followed him out the door. "Sarek, why would that net break? Spon checked it the first day here. He must have replaced any weak links then."

 

Sarek was silent for several moments, then he spoke reluctantly. "I believe, my wife, that the rope was cut. I noticed when I pulled it up that the edges were not frayed. "Amanda followed him down the path in horrified silence. At the head of the cliff they stopped. The net that Sarek had laid down so carefully was gone.

 

* * *

 

The rest of. that day was a nightmare for Amanda. Sarek took Spon and searched every inch of the cliff face and shore. Amanda took T'Pin and searched the house, stopping at intervals to look in on the two sleeping invalids. T'Pau was watching them carefully; she assured Amanda that they were both doing well.

 

By late in the day, they had to admit that the net must have been taken deliberately; every possible accidental or casual resting place had been searched. For the first time, Amanda thought of Rad and the children, and went back to the large apartment set aside for their use. There she found Rad teaching T'Naw how to measure the force of a series of pulleys, with the dutiful assistance of S'oc and T'Lan. Amanda started to thank him for keeping the children occupied, then the sentence died in her throat. The largest pulley was attached with part of the brown net-rope.

 

That evening, the family held a brief council. Sarek could not be sure, he said, that the net had been cut. And the rope had been cut in so many pieces for the experiment that there was now no way of checking it. On the other hand, as Spock pointed out, it was extremely unlikely that the net would simply break by itself. He was supported strongly by Spon, shocked out of his Vulcan calm by an accident happening to a guest of the house on equipment he had checked. He had insisted on swearing formally to Sarek that he had repaired all the weak spots, and Sarek had reassured him only with difficulty .

 

Amanda could not tell whether they had thought of the possibility that was agitating her, and at last she felt obliged to discuss it. Was it possible that the rope could have been cut as a prank? A prankster might not realize how badly someone might be hurt. Spock was wooden with distress, but Sarek agreed, in measured tones, that it was well-known that so-called practical jokers seldom thought through the possible consequences of their deeds.

 

No one could think of any steps to take other than to be watchful. It took Amanda almost an hour to compose herself for sleep that night.

 

* * *

 

But the next two days passed without incident. The captain, under T'Pau's orders, remained in bed. He was troubled with blurred vision, and since Fr'ot had very few recorded books, they all took turns reading to him. Spon and T'Pin clucked over him, and though he teased them, he obviously enjoyed the attention. Spock, in the captain's room most of the time, got his full share of the coddling. Amanda left them in the old couple's capable hands most of the time, splitting the teaching duties with Rad.

 

At dawn the third day, she was jerked into wakefulness by Fr'ot's huge gong. "Tbilti!" Spon was shouting. "It's a low tide. There are tbilti. Everyone come!" Sarek and Amanda dressed quickly and Sarek went to the cellars for the buckets. Amanda went to Jim's room and found Spock already there.

 

"But what are 'tbilti'?" Kirk was asking.

 

"They're rather like a mussel," she explained. "They're a great delicacy, but they can only be reached at the lowest tides. Are you going down, Spock?"

 

"You go ahead, Mother. I will remain here with the captain."

 

"What causes the tides here?" Kirk asked.

 

Spock started to explain, and Amanda left them to it. Gathering tbilti was fun. Everyone joined in and soon the buckets were brim full. Then came the serious sorting job. All tbilti were edible except for one variety, identifiable by a tiny orange band on the inside of the rim. This year there were only six.

 

"Shall I leave these in the sun, sir?" Rad had given the children a careful look. Now he held the six shells out to Sarek.

 

"No. I would prefer that they not multiply here, but there is no need to destroy them. I'll take them over to Gra't tomorrow."

 

Rad nodded and put the shells carefully in a marked crevice where they could survive, yet easily be found.

 

Spock was still with Kirk, who was obviously bored with being invalided. He enthusiastically seconded Spock's suggestion that Sarek and Amanda join them for lunch and kept up a constant flow of talk during the meal. Amanda returned his sallies blithely; Spock's friend was going to be fine.

 

That afternoon Sarek and Amanda lay on the beach. Sarek rose and walked away from her and she turned to watch him fondly. Suddenly she noticed he was staggering; she ran after him in time to see him regurgitate violently. "Get T'Pau," he said and fell to his knees. Amanda saw him grit his teeth as he doubled over. Half carrying him, she got him to the lift. At the house, they found Spock unconscious, with T'Pau and the others in anxious attendance. T'Pau was trying to meld, thinking this was a new symptom of the nervous exhaustion, but when she saw Sarek she looked to more immediate causes. "The tbilti?" she snapped.

 

"Impossible," Sarek began, but was forced to clench his teeth again.

 

"T'Pau, we sorted them," Amanda protested. "And Jim and I also ate from the same dish."

 

"The poison in tbilti is a xant'l compound," T'Pau replied curtly. It might well not affect humans. I will analyze." The analysis of both men's vomitus showed a high level of xant'l.

 

Amanda spent the rest of a ghastly day with her husband and son, helping when she could, keeping out of the way when she couldn't. By evening they were out of pain, though still very weak. Finally they both fell asleep. Amanda touched T'Pau's arm in gratitude, and went to reassure the children.

 

She found them holding a subdued but brave picnic on the bluff and joined them in time to hear Kirk wind up a tall tale so outrageous that even the Vulcan-trained children could not help giggling.

 

"Respected lady?" It was Rad. She allowed him to take her a little aside. He was hesitant, interrupting himself with many protestations of his wish not to interfere. But he finally got it out. Spon had been involved in both incidents. Was it possible that he held some grudge against the captain?

 

"Oh!" Amanda cried and ran into the house, not because of the accusation, but because it reminded her of an unperformed duty. She found Spon in the kitchen, of course. He was seated at the work surface staring at nothing, but when Amanda entered, he rose at attention. T'Pin stood by his side loyally. "Respected One..." he began stiffly.

 

"Spon, it wasn't your fault. We all sorted those tbilti. There is no possibility you are at fault."

 

Spon sat down, relieved, but still miserable. "I do not understand it. I simply do not understand it."

 

Late that night, Amanda was still wakeful. For the tenth time, she looked in on the sleeping men, earning a reproving look from T'Pau, and crossed the hall to check on the restless captain. Then, chiding herself for a fool, she took the lift down to the beach. She found the crevice with Rad's marker still in place. But the orange-striped tbilti were gone.

 

A light step behind her made her whirl. "What is it, Amanda?"

 

"Jim, you shouldn't be up."

 

"I'm all right. What is it, Amanda?" He was determined to have the whole story, and he questioned her gently until he had it. He paused for consideration, then silently took her arm and escorted her back to the house.

 

By noon the next day Amanda could cheerfully have slapped her dear friend. The captain had talked earnestly with the convalescents that morning, then emerged, only to tell everyone it was fortunate that a regrettable accident had had no more serious consequences. Amanda was sure he had a plan, but he tacitly refused to discuss it with her. He insisted on taking Sarek and Spock to the beach that afternoon, and firmly sent Amanda and T'Pau back to the house. Amanda was amazed by T'Pau's quiet obedience; did she know what was going on? It did not improve her temper to discover that Sarek had told Rad to cancel the afternoon lessons; this was not at all what T'Pauve would expect.

 

Supper was a strained, difficult meal. Jim informed Amanda politely that he would be spending the evening reading to Sarek and Spock, relieving her of that duty so she could rest. It took all her Vulcan training to keep her from repeating a suggestion she had once heard her father give an erring subordinate.

 

Much later, she finally conquered her anger, summoned a smile, and walked around the veranda to the window of Spock's room. T'Pau and the three men all stiffened as she entered, then Kirk hastily put his hand behind him. But Amanda had seen the small phaser.

 

"I'm sorry, Amanda. I didn't want to worry you."

 

"Didn't want to worry me?" she gasped. But her training held good again. "Are you expecting trouble?"

 

"Perhaps. Whatever is going on here, it seems that either Sarek, Spock, or I am the target. We hope that if we seem unsuspicious and accessible, another attempt will be made. Don't worry. Spon is watching Rad."

 

"Oh." Amanda had to swallow her distress. "Because of the practical--"

 

"No, my wife. Neither incident could have been a practical joke. Both were potentially too serious. But is obvious that the captain is at least one of the targets, and Rad is the only person here with any previous contact with him."

 

At that precise moment the gas fixture went out. Amanda gasped, "He'll try something in the dark!"

 

"Perhaps." Kirk seemed superhumanly calm. "But there is another possibility. Simple gas poisoning." She gasped again. "We are in no danger from that for a while, at least. Amanda, does that old tunnel go anywhere near the gas source?"

 

"Yes. It goes exactly there." As she spoke, the gas came on again. She heard it hissing in the unlit fixture.

 

"I think that's it," Kirk said calmly. "Where's the passage?"

 

"You'd never find it. I'll go."

 

"Amanda." She hesitated, halfway out. "All right. I'll stay here in case this is a false scent. If you see him, don't interfere. Just make sure who it is." He gave her a hand torch. She nodded, and ran.

 

At the cellar entrance, she saw Spon, standing guard inside. Rad must. be in the cellars -- it was true, then. She signaled him to remain and switched off her torch. The ancient floors were smooth to her bare feet as she crept silently toward the center. Suddenly she was grabbed; in her astonishment, she said "Let me go!" in Terran.

 

"Respected lady!" Rad exclaimed in equal astonishment and let her go. Swiftly gathering her wits, she said, "Rad, there's someone down here fooling with the gas."

 

"I saw. It's one of the children. One of the girls."

 

"That's impossible!"

 

"I saw her. Come." Together they crept toward the end of the tunnel. Amanda heard someone breathing harshly. She switched on the torch and froze, speechless with astonishment. The girl also froze -- T'Lan, the Romulan hostage.

 

* * *

 

"Why?" Sarek asked again. The girl remained silent. Amanda wondered dully what time it was, and how long this interrogation had gone on. Suddenly Rad spoke.

 

"Forgive me, revered host, but this is no way to treat a child. Let me take her and put her to bed. We'll all feel better in the morning."

 

"Rad's right," Amanda said. "She's only a child." She stepped to the child's side and put an arm around her. "Come, dear," she said gently.

 

Suddenly the little girl crumpled, sobbing. Amanda hugged her, rocking and soothing her, but it was a long time before she was calm enough to be intelligible.

 

"Did you do all those things, T'Lan? Cut the rope, and put the poison tbilti back with the others?"

 

"Yes!"

 

"Why?"

 

The child began to sob again. I'm not just a child!" she cried out. "I did scare you, anyway!"

 

"Why?" Kirk spoke for the first time. As if goaded by his voice, she turned on him. "You killed my mother!"

 

Kirk was silent, in shock. Then he said gently, "in battle?"

 

"That would have been an honorable death! You couldn't give her that! You disgraced her, shamed her and my whole family!"

 

"Who was your mother?" She told him. The name was obviously familiar to Spock, and he closed his eyes.

 

"T'Lan." Kirk's voice was constricted. "T'Lan, your mother was taken prisoner by accident in an espionage mission. A strategy she evolved went awry, but that was the fortunes of war, not a disgrace."

 

"She killed herself."

 

"I feared that, and I regret it. But I do not see why an honorable defeat shamed your family."

 

T'Lan was quieter now, but she stiffened at those words. "Subcommander Tal reported that she had been seduced by Spock and fled to the enemy ship with him, after betraying a first order military secret." She sobbed again. :My grandfather was stripped of rank and wealth; he committed suicide. My brother and I can never vote, or hold office, or study, or--" She broke down again. Amanda saw the rigid Spock close his eyes again and started to move toward him.

 

Kirk's voice bit through the child's sobs. "And did Subcommander Tal also report that your mother ordered him to destroy the ship on which she was being held prisoner?"

 

T'Lan looked up in astonishment, tears running down her face.

 

"Yes, it is true."

 

The little girl began to tremble; Amanda went to her and held her tight. But she soon got herself in hand. "Captain," she asked quietly, "Would you tell me what happened? We never knew."

 

Gently, Kirk told her the story of the mission to confirm the existence of a cloaking device and capture it. T'Lan listened critically. "So my mother was trying to capture a starship intact!"

 

"Yes. If her plan had succeeded, it would have given your people an inestimable advantage over the Federation. She gambled, T'Lan, and she lost. I'm sorry. But her loss was not treason."

 

The child began to cry again, but fought it bravely. "Why was she standing so close to you that she was caught in the transporter beam?" she asked Spock.

 

Spock turned away, and Kirk moved quickly between him and the little girl.

 

"She was interrogating him," he replied firmly.

 

T'Lan took a deep breath. "Captain, would you be willing to swear to that before the Romulan. council? It doesn't matter for me, but my brother is still on Remus. He wants to be an astrogator, but--"

 

"I'd have to clear it with Starfleet. For myself, I'd be very willing."

 

"Then I'm sure it can be arranged," T'Pau spoke firmly.

 

* * *

 

"Well, that was quite a session," Amanda said some weeks later.

 

"It certainly was, " Kirk snorted. "I thought the ambassador was going to make me sign my name in blood."

 

"Jim, why didn't Spock go with you?"

 

"Well, I've always suspected that the Romulan commander got caught in her own trap, to some extent. Spock feels bad -- well, I don't think either of us will ever feel right about it. But I hope at least T'Lan's brother can go to school now."

 

"Yes. That is good to know."

 

"Has T'Lan definitely decided to stay here?"

 

"Yes. Stin and T'Pauve have decided to adopt her. That 's why I came to pick you up. The naming is today, and I thought you might like to come. It's very short."

 

"I certainly would. But I thought the naming was for newborns."

 

"It's exactly the same. Once it's been done, T'Lan will be legally and socially a member of our family, just as though she'd been born to the household."

 

An hour later Kirk stood in the central square of ShiKahr with Sarek, Amanda, and Spock, when T'Pau laid her hands on a Romulan girl's head and spoke:

 

"Citizens of ShiKahr. Know, all of you, that this girl is T'Lan, who becomes today a daughter of the family of T'A of ShiKahr. Any honor due us is also due her. It is so declared.

 

"Peace."

 

THE END