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) 2000 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.



THE CAGE: FREEDOM

Cheree Cargill



The freedom is palpable. I have never known anything like it. My entire life has been so controlled, so scripted, so tightly laced. From my earliest memories, my pathway was set out for me. Walk here. Step this way. March in line. You may not run. You may not smile. It is not our way, not our tradition. It is not logical. C'thia k'torr.

Only my mother understood the exhilaration of rolling down a hill and lying in the grass, watching clouds stream across the sky. Only she knew the ache in the side one gets after laughing uproariously at a silly joke. Only she appreciated the catharsis of emotional release so hard that tears streamed down one's face in fury and frustration.

And yet she voluntarily gave it all up to follow my father and the Vulcan way. I had never questioned it before. It simply was. Kaiidth.

Now I see other ways. Human ways. They confuse and astound me, but there is a life here that I never suspected. It is open and barely controlled. These people are not afraid to embrace their essential beings. It is frightening ... and energizing.

Only the Captain and Number One seem to rein in their emotions. Number One most of all. I feel myself drawn to her. She affects me in many ways. As mentor, as superior, even ... dare I think such a thought? ... even sexually? Am I drawn to her because she is so like a Vulcan and yet is not? On the bridge, her cool efficiency and calm demeanor contrasts with the others. When I am exhausted from the emotional torrent raging around me, I look to her for soothing balm.

So like a Vulcan ... but not like T'Pring. Not my Betrothed wife. I have not seen her for eight years. Have not spoken with her, either mentally or by conventional means. I sense she is scandalized by what she feels transmitting through our tenuous mental link. At home, I maintained proper Vulcan decorum and I held her acceptance if not her affection.

Affection? Does that word even apply to Vulcans? I felt it now and then from my father when I pleased him. I even felt it from Great-Grandmother, whom I believe looked upon me as a lost sehlat cub with no proper parentage. T'Pau always frightened me, and yet I ... loved her. Is that the proper word? Respected, yes. Feared, definitely. But loved? Yes, I did love her. Do love her.

Does she love me? As Eldest Mother of the House, it is her duty to watch over every member of her household. Her other grandchildren and great-grandchildren are proper Vulcans and follow tradition without questioning it. Perhaps that is why she gave special attention to Sarek's lost cub. Because I always asked why a thing must be so.

I think that she did not fully approve my match with T'Pring. Does she sense something I do not? Great-Grandmother has presided over dozens of Betrothals and Bondings and has seen our House linked to every great House on Vulcan. Why should she feel uneasy about this one? I did not especially wish to be tied to T'Pring, but I did not understand at the time that such a thing was not the universal norm on Vulcan. The people in our social circle practiced Betrothal. It was logical that we do the same.

And T'Pring suited me well enough then. We were children. It was unreal to us, only a game of pretend. Only in adolescence did I realize that we were well and truly bonded to one another. At the twinge of my sexual awakening, I felt an echo in my mind that told me T'Pring had felt it as well. It was not pon farr. That is yet to come, thank the Ancestors.

But for the first time, I thought of her as a mate. As a woman. I wanted to go to her, but my father recognized what was happening and sent me instead to the reldai on Seleya. When I came back down from them, I was no longer a boy. They had helped me across the threshold from childhood to adult status. It is part of their function in our society. Unbonded males are dangerous and disruptive. The reldai serve a logical purpose and the offerings from their seekers support the temple very well.

My father made a generous gift in my name. It was proper considering the status of our House. I knew only that I was in turmoil when I went in to their ministrations and I had regained the mastery of my emotions when I left them. The time spent there was ... extraordinary.

I felt emotions that I did not know existed. I explored them and learned to overcome them. I emerged a man in control of myself. I believe it was about then that I realized that I was also in control of my own life and destiny ... and I began to think beyond the confines of Vulcan society. To the freedom that Starfleet Academy would give me.

And what incredible freedom I found there. I maintained decorum, but I allowed myself to explore as well, to taste and experience things I never could on Vulcan. I even found myself allied with a young human woman and we had a brief but quite intense sexual relationship. I did not wish it to end, but she expressed a desire for a long-term contract and I could do nothing but explain to her that I was already Betrothed and could not change that. I did not understand her tears and anger, but felt somehow that I had betrayed her. Perhaps I should have told her immediately. It was an experience in which I learned much.

But my graduation and posting to a ship were imminent as well and the relationship could not have continued in any case. I had been at the Academy for seven years, undergoing a curriculum of highly specialized classes. I was commissioned an ensign while still there and technically a midshipman, and spent three years as an instructor of underclassmen in the computer sciences while still working on my advanced degrees. During that time, I moved forward in my ranking and scholastic ratings to the point of being promoted to full lieutenant upon my official graduation in 2253.

I was eager for a space assignment by then and my levels of achievement and knowledge brought me to the place I most wanted to be - aboard a starship. It is one of the new Constitution class interstellar heavy cruisers, the U.S.S. Enterprise. We will be on deep space patrol in unexplored sections of the Galaxy, mapping and being a "presence" as the Federation moves into new regions.

I am assigned as Science Officer and, by the command structure, second officer of the ship. It is not a post I wish to fulfill. I am a scientist, not a line officer. Granted, I have been required to take a regimen of command courses as part of my training, but I never actually expect to use them. The ship's top officers are extremely efficient and experienced, yet so very different from one another.

I liked Captain Pike at once. While he is gruff and has definite ideas about how things should happen aboard his ship, he nevertheless possesses a degree of leniency toward his young officers and crew. He took me under his wing at once and I eagerly grasped the opportunity to learn from a man who had taken to space as soon as he could manage it. I believe he considers me a "kid brother" in some ways and I accompany him on many landing party details, both pleasant and harsh.

Number One, however, is as different from him as possible. I have never before seen a woman rise to her high position in Starfleet ranks. It is still mostly a man's world. Most women are delegated to the lower positions and definitely the non-command jobs. She fascinates me with her intelligence and discipline. It is more than that. She intrigues me and attracts me. At times I feel that, were I not already Betrothed, I would actively pursue her as a mate, despite the difference in our ages.

Dr. Boyce is the third member of the ranking officers' triumvirate. He is as totally human as anyone I could have hoped to meet in my travels. The only human I have ever known well is my mother, but she is so steeped in Vulcan life that I have never known her to display this degree of emotionalism. I do not know what else to call it.

The doctor is a much older man than anyone else on board and I respect the wisdom of his years. On Vulcan, he would be considered an Elder Father. I believe he views himself in a role quite like that here on board ship. His manner is distinctly paternal and he treats me with the same open good nature as the others. That I am Vulcan interests him and he often talks with me, questioning me about Vulcan life and customs. I tell him what it is not taboo to tell, but will not divulge those things most personal and private, something I sense he most wants to learn. But it has been bred into me that there are simply things one does not reveal to an outworlder. Ever.

The other officers are my age, some fresh out of the Academy, others with space experience under their belts. We are collectively quite a young crew and my shipmates are as eager as I to explore and open new worlds. I enjoy being with them, although much of their behavior puzzles me. I am especially intrigued watching their courtship and mating rituals, although I do not take part. Something holds me back. Is it T'Pring? Do I still feel loyalty to her even though we are distant both in location and mentality? I can feel her disapproval. It sings along our link like the plucked string of an untuned ka'athyra.

Still, the eagerness for adventure stirs in me. A Vulcan is not supposed to feel such things, yet I do. Is it my human blood that awakens? Or am I merely echoing the general sentiment of my crewmates?

Despite what we have recently undergone, they are eager for more. The battle on Rigel 7 left many of us wounded. I myself suffered a badly sprained ankle. It heals but still bothers me a bit. I ignore it, grateful to the Vulcan training I took as a child that allows me to minimize and ignore pain.

Still, the Captain is troubled. I feel it as I stand beside him on the bridge. We have encountered an old style distress beacon and have traced it to a nearby star system. It has never been explored and we are all anxious to see this new system called Talos as well as search for any survivors of a crashed ship.

The prospect of walking on the surface of a new world delights me. I can scarcely contain my eagerness to go.

"Do you feel up to it?" the Captain asks me.

"Yes, sir!" I reply with enthusiasm and head for the turbolift. Soon, once more, I will experience the freedom that would be unknown to me had I stayed on Vulcan. It exhilarates me and I cannot contain the smile that spreads across my face.

THE END