DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2002 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.


Cheree Cargill

Stardate: 3026.5, First Officer Spock recording.

Ours is a tired ship. We have been on patrol for three months now without a break. We have endured, in short order, the discovery of Kodos the Executioner and his death at his daughter's hand, the Murasaki debacle, Captain Kirk's court-martial, my own court-martial and the events on Talos IV, and the bizarre encounter on Pyrus VII. We have lost no fewer than six crewmembers either through death or reassignment and have made unscheduled returns to Starbase 11 twice to replace those crewmembers, all with the attendant paperwork and debriefing to Starfleet Command.

The Captain is exhausted. We have been in our assigned region for two years now, exploring and mapping this uncharted sector of the Alpha Quadrant, and our voyage has been more grueling than I believe he anticipated. The entire crew, in fact -- myself excluded, of course -- is in dire need of rest and relaxation, but the Captain moreso than anyone else aboard. He bears the full weight of responsibility for everyone and everything on board this ship.

Discovering this world was fortunate, indeed. Once we determined the nature of this amusement park planet, it has proven an ideal location for the humans to rejuvenate themselves. We have beamed down the starboard section for a 24 hour shore leave. Portside is eagerly awaiting their turn tomorrow. All have been duly and strongly warned about the wish-fulfillment properties here and that the Caretaker has been instructed to deny any harmful request or fantasy.

The Captain has remained on the planet's surface with the replica of his former paramour. He knows, of course, that she is only a fabrication, but he is willing to set aside reality for a little while.

They all are, as a matter of fact. The very idea amuses me and here on the bridge, as I sit gazing down at the wide green planet beneath us, I cannot help but wonder what fantasy is playing out for each of the crew.

Mr. Scott and several of his junior engineers are pub-crawling through a whimsy version of Aberdeen, complete with fog and the smells of the sea. Mr. Sulu, I believe, has taken several friends on a journey through 17th Century Earth, reliving his dreams of being a swashbuckler in the time of King Louis the Fourteenth.

Lt. Uhura is pretending to be Cleopatra, barging down the Nile with Marc Antony at her side. The image brings an extra pulse of amusement from deep inside me, for she is inherently regal and proud, wise and practical. She would make a splendid queen.

As for Dr. McCoy, he is relaxing on a tropical isle, complete with swaying palm trees and scantily clad native girls in grass skirts. Ever the hedonist, he is obliging every fantasy he can imagine in this decadent setting. I expect him to return sun-burned and with a prize-winning hangover.

And for Nurse Chapel... Here I falter, for I am apprehensive over what fantasy she might be accommodating. I overheard her tell Lt. Uhura that she planned to "do something I've been dreaming about for a very long time." They both glanced my way and Miss Chapel blushed as she did so. I do not wish to know what that "something" is. I fear it might have to do with her infatuation with me. I shudder at what forms that infatuation could take with the almost unlimited resources of the amusement planet at her command.

They are all at play down there. Dr. McCoy attempted to cajole me into going with them, citing an ancient Terran platitude, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." I do not know about this "Jack", but he was obviously not a Vulcan. I have no need of fantasy and such wasted time. I am perfectly content to go about my duties here on the ship.

And yet ... Would I do the same as they, were I given to such indulgences? Would I ... play?

No -- absolutely not. It is illogical to expend mental and physical energy on such activities. Even as children, Vulcans are taught to conserve energy when at rest and to channel their exertions into productive and useful forms. Vulcan children do not play as Earth children do. They may dance or do exercises designed to strengthen their muscles or work at solving mental puzzles, but they do not play.

No. I am lying. That is not entirely true. One Vulcan child played. Briefly. I had forgotten it until now.

I was four years old, at an age when I was beginning to learn strict control of all emotions. My father saw to that. He was determined that his younger son would be raised to observe proper Vulcan behavior. Not like his first son. Not like the one who was lost. Sybok was still a part of my life then, although I did not see him on a daily basis. Sarek would not permit it, even if Sybok had not yet become the unmentionable he is now. No one speaks of him today -- he is k'torr skann -- outcast -- but he is my brother and I will not forget him.

He fascinated me because he was so unlike any other Vulcan I ever knew. And we had in common the fact that we were both misfits, he because of his refusal to follow the Tenets of Surak, I because of my mixed blood. I think he had been delighted when Sarek, our stalwart, ultra-Vulcan father married a Human, breaking every tradition and horrifying the Family no end. And then when I was born, Sybok treated me as if I were his own, not merely his half-brother but his son. In Earth terms, he was old enough to be my grandfather, for he was 52 the year I was born. He was older than Amanda by thirty years, but still quite a young man by Vulcan standards.

Sybok and Amanda liked each other immediately, although their friendship formed a conflict with Sarek, who disapproved of his first son strongly. Sybok had disappointed him intensely and I was to be Sarek's second chance. Thus, he forbade Sybok to visit. Of course, he did anyway, when Sarek was gone. And it was he that taught me to play.

Sarek was away on one of his many journeys and Amanda had work to do that required her full attention. The demands of even a Vulcan four-year-old were distracting and Sybok offered to care for me so that she could concentrate on her studies. He took me outside Shi'Kahr's barrier wall, into the desert, and there he showed me the wonders of our world.

What a day we had! Together we explored the dry water channels that would run full once again during the winter rains. We dug into an abandoned c'hik burrow and discovered the little animal's store of food. We splashed barefoot through a small water pool and built mud castles at its edge. Finding a pollu bush in fruit, we gorged ourselves on the ripe, purple berries, then ran until our cheeks blazed green from the exertion. We climbed up the slopes of red sand dunes, then rolled wildly to the bottom, laughing uproariously all the way. And did it over and over again, finally lying beneath the ochre sky with tears of hilarity striping the grime on our faces.

When Sybok carried home a dirty, sleepy, exultant child at sundown, I knew that I loved my brother with every fiber of my being and would for the rest of my life. I wanted to be exactly like him when I grew to manhood.

It was not to be, of course. Sarek had returned unexpectedly and the barely-controlled fury that we encountered upon our arrival was too terrible to fathom. I was sent upstairs immediately to be bathed and clothed in clean garments, while Sarek and Sybok retired to the study to discuss the matter. I could hear their voices all the way into the bathing chamber, with water rushing hot into the soaking tub, and Amanda's trembling hands stripping me down for soaping. She was pale and her eyes were swimming with tears.

I never saw Sybok again after that. And I never played again after that either, not freely and joyfully and with boundless imagination. All my time was mapped out, morning until night, and I was molded into the proper son of a Vulcan dignitary.

Now, as I sit reminiscing, I cast a thought to the planet below and wonder suddenly if I might see my brother again should I wish it. And I wonder if he would be the same as a young boy remembered him, and if there might be sand dunes down which to roll.