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



The Displaced

Lois Welling



Without realizing it, James Kirk tightened his grip on the door handle until his knuckles whitened. He had spent the last nine days speeding through space and the last thirty minutes arguing with hospital personnel for permission to enter this room. Now he could not bring himself to make the last move and open the door. Five years. Spock had been missing and he had been searching for almost five years. Now he was there, just beyond that door; sick and injured, but alive and whole.

Sucking in a deep breath Jim opened the door. Joy suffused with anxiety as his eyes swept over the sleeping Vulcan. The marks of his long exile were all too plainly written on Spock's gaunt frame. A hundred questions rushed into the Commodore's mind, but he could temper his curiosity with patience. He'd waited a long time for this, he could spare his friend these added moments of needed rest. He knew from the charge nurse that Spock was in a light self-imposed trance to free his mind of all other concerns and to allow his body to concentrate on healing itself.

Kirk dropped soundlessly into a nearby chair while taking in the changes time had wrought in his former first officer. The newly shaven face and neatly barbered hair revealed a paleness that was in sharp contrast with the weather-darkened skin around the eyes. It made him appear very vulnerable. But it was the vicious web of scars forking through the crisp, black chest hair that drew Kirk's eyes again and again.

No, Kirk thought. He's not the man I saw off five years ago, but he is our Spock.

It had been neither a pleasant nor an unpleasant leave taking, just rather inevitable. Nature had once more drawn the Vulcan to home and a mate. He had contacted his parents. Plans were being made; a suitable wife was being sought. He would go alone this time. Neither Kirk nor McCoy would stand at his side. There were things Jim wanted to say, but he had sensed that it was not the time.

Three days later, almost to the hour, the first indication of trouble reached the Enterprise. Spock was overdue. Another two days and a more detailed message was received from Ambassador Sarek. The freighter carrying Spock was missing; disappeared without a trace. The ship's last recorded messages had all been routine status reports. In the following months Kirk had come to know every word in those reports.

But before he had made a career out of searching for his friend, and in the process becoming a troubleshooter within the adjutant general's office of Starfleet, Jim Kirk had given free rein to the human characteristic of unsubstantiated hope. No one knew better than he what strange things could happen in deep space. An ion storm could force a vessel off course, or a malfunction could knock out communications. He didn't dwell on how the delay would affect Spock's intensifying pon farr; he just knew it would all work out somehow.

Days turned to weeks and still no sign of the missing freighter. Jim began calling in every favor he was owed, in order to gain added information. The crew, who shared his concern, did the same. Uhura contacted friends on widely scattered communications centers and also at Starfleet headquarters, and Scotty did the same with engineering officers in half the merchant ships carrying Federation colors. But nothing came of their efforts.

The uncertainty, the not knowing, drove Jim. He lost weight and was unable to sleep a full night through. Though he was reluctant to do so, he agreed with McCoy that he needed to take leave. He was surprised that the doctor had gone so far as to contact Spock's parents, suggesting that they might all be better off pooling their knowledge. McCoy had been pleased when Sarek and Amanda included him in the invitation to come to Vulcan.

Spock had invited Jim and McCoy to his home several times, but something had always interfered. That they should see it for the first time under these circumstances was very difficult for the two men. Seeing his room, the garden he read in, his childhood pet, gave Jim and McCoy a painful, new feeling of closeness to their missing friend. It seemed that Spock was everywhere in that home

Their conversations were dominated by talk of Spock and it pleased Jim greatly to hear both parents express their concern for their son. Jim remembered his first meeting with Ambassador Sarek and his wife Amanda, and he recalled the anger he felt at their treatment of his first officer and friend. But after Sarek's surgery when the three were recovering in Sickbay relations warmed by several degrees and conversation was less strained. And when the time for goodbyes came, Jim had noticed the smile on Amanda's face and the cordial farewell between father and son.

One evening the four were in the gathering room sharing a glass of wine before their evening meal. "Amanda," McCoy said, "you have an excellent collection of Makino sculpture here." McCoy walked around the room with Amanda next to him as he studied each piece. "I am curious about this one, though." He picked it up for closer inspection. "I don't recognize the artist and in comparison with the others, it's amateurish, almost crude."

She took the piece from him and stroked it. "It has sentimental value, Doctor. When Spock was about eight years old he learned of the Earth custom of giving birthday gifts. He asked his father when my birthday was and made this for me." She carefully replaced the ceramic and walked quietly from the room.

A few days later Jim was with Sarek in the Vulcan's study. They had been there for several hours cross-referencing what Jim had in his data files with what Sarek had documented and were eliminating duplicate information. During the silent periods Jim watched Sarek. So much like Spock, he thought. Nothing visible in his manner, yet Jim knew how worried he was. After some time Jim found that Sarek would occasionally glance at a deep nick in the desktop. Later Amanda came in with refreshments and as she set them down she glanced at the nick and then at Sarek as their eyes met.

Jim was watching them both. Something was going on here. He felt comfortable enough with them to ask, "Spock do that?"

Sarek leaned back in his chair. "Yes, when he was quite young and I might add, very uncoordinated. And as the fates would have it, I entered the room immediately after. I would not have believed it possible for eyes to open that wide."

Jim grinned. "Poor Spock. I remember that feeling. I bet he was in for it. He was luckier than I was though, since Vulcans don't believe in corporal punishment. What happened?"

Sarek and Amanda exchanged glances again. Then Sarek said, "Actually no discipline was involved." He cleared his throat. "I showed Spock this." He pointed to a dull scratch about three inches long running down the side of the desk. "I explained that it happened when I -- when the desk belonged to my father, and we forgot the incident."

The two men came away from that visit feeling relieved and with one shakable belief. Spock was not dead. His mother could sense that he was alive, but Sarek declared, "I would know if my son were dead."

In the next three years Jim would make two more visits to Vulcan. He always felt peaceful and well rested when he left Sarek and Amanda's home.

Nearly a year had passed without news of Spock, and Starfleet prepared to give the Enterprise a permanent new first officer. A plan had been forming in Kirk's mind for some time. Supplied with the data he had collected over the past ten months, and with his well-rehearsed argument, he went to see Admiral Mendez. If the Enterprise was going to have a new first officer, maybe the whole crew needed shaking up. It was time, past time, they all moved on and up. Mendez felt his plan good enough to recommend it higher up and it was accepted. So life changed not only for James T. Kirk, captain of the USS Enterprise, but for many others on board.

The soft, gliding sound of the door brought Kirk back to the present. Leonard McCoy, flight bag still in hand, hurried in. He set down the bag and his eyes widened as he took in the figure on the bed. "He's really alive," McCoy whispered. " I got your message, but somehow I was afraid to believe it."

The doctor moved closer to the bed to examine Spock and study the readings on the diagnostic panel. "Why the trance?"

Kirk told the doctor what little he knew. "Those nurses won't tell me anything except that his condition is satisfactory. You should have seen the senior investigating officer act I had to pull just to get that out of them, and to be allowed in here."

"Mmm, we'll see about that." Ten minutes later he was back. "I used all my southern charm to get a look at his charts. He had a fairly massive systemic infection from a deep laceration of the right thigh. Evidently he wasn't able to clean the wound properly because he was on the run. They've done the corrective surgery and have a good grip on the infection. A few days of decent food and rest and he should be in reasonably good condition."

Kirk crossed the room to stand beside McCoy. "What do you think of those scars on his chest?"

"Looks like some kind of burns, but I don't know what would cause that circular pattern." McCoy shook his head. The scarring doesn't seem to go very deep and that's good. But, look here." McCoy pointed out a fine line running the length of Spock's right arm, from elbow to shoulder. "He's had surgery on this arm, nerve damage I would guess. Whoever did it knew their work. Done wrong, he could have lost partial use of the arm." The physician began to study a track of small raised welts on the inside of the other arm.

"What are they?" Kirk asked.

McCoy's eyebrows came together in a frown as he shook his head. "Never mind, our boy is coming around."

Kirk watched McCoy take on his professional manner as the indicators over the bed changed; "pulse climbing, respiration deeper, temperature rising." But Jim was not fooled by his tone; he knew McCoy was just as excited as he was.

A shadow play of emotion was reflected in the Vulcan's unguarded face as he struggled to cross the gulf to consciousness. He began to murmur in Vulcan and as one hand came up, Jim grasped it in both of his. "Spock, it's me, Jim. You're safe now. It's all over." He silently wished he knew what it was.

Spock's eyes opened and slowly focused. "Jim?"

Kirk felt the reflexive pressure on his hand. "Yes." He tried to put as much reassurance as possible into his voice.

Spock's eyes flickered then refocused on the other waiting figure. "Dr. McCoy?"

McCoy spoke through the tightness in his throat. "Yes, Spock, it's me."

"Then I am really home. I have made it."

There were several awkward seconds as the three friends looked at each other. Jim couldn't contain himself any longer. Voice cracking, he said, "Spock, where in God's name have you been?"

"Towan," was all Spock said.

Jim pulled hand away in frustration. He turned away, punching one fist in his open hand. "Did I tell you, Bones? Did I tell you?"

Surprise was evident in the Vulcan's reaction and in the tone of his voice. "Jim, Doctor?"

The physician answered. "Spock, we've been searching all this time. We never gave up hope, never."

"Nor did I, Doctor."

McCoy swallowed before continuing. "Jim started an investigation shortly after you disappeared. With your father's help he began collecting data. Almost a year later he had quite a file. Starfleet put him on special assignment and then he really went to work. With all that poking around he began to turn up several interesting things, but none of them were you. Along with an ever-growing file of unsolved disappearances, he found some petty graft at Fleet headquarters, kickbacks in some contract letting, a smuggling ring in the Orion system and even a Klingon double agent. Needless to say, he made several enemies. The Towan system was on his list of 'Things just don't smell, right, Bones.' He couldn't get permission to go there. But you know Jim; he went anyway and got caught. Someone was laying for him. Only your parents' influence and Mendez's reminder of his important work the year before saved him from a forced retirement."

Jim turned to face them. "Spock, why? Why did they keep you there?"

"Slavery."

"God... What was it like, were there others? I mean, just how bad was it?" Jim kept running his hands through his hair. "God, that's stupid... What happened?"

Spock chose his words very carefully. "I was not isolated. There was a group who formed an alliance for the sake of survival and escape. Jim, even in this, there were some positive aspects. I..."

The charge nurse's sudden entrance into the room ended their reunion. Staunchly sure of her duties in the matter she shooed Kirk and McCoy out of the room, no doubt enjoying her authority over a captain of the medical corps and a commodore. As the door closed, she told them that the admiral was expecting them.

The two men wasted no time getting to Mendez's office. Immediately on arrival, Kirk demanded, "José, what's the idea? You know I wanted in on this. Why wasn't I given all the information on Spock's case?"

"Sit down, Jim, Leonard." The former Enterprise officers slipped into the offered chairs while Mendez got up and began to pace.

"Six days ago Spock arrived on research outpost 81 on a Vegan merchant ship. He had been injured in an escape approximately six months earlier and had a massive infection in his leg. He was almost delirious, but did manage to report that raiders captured the freighter he was traveling on. When the communiqué came through I slapped a security screen on anything connected with the matter. But you talked to him, so you know it goes beyond the slavery thing. You know that the slaves were used to mine Solad."

McCoy interrupted. "One of the angels of mercy shagged us out of there before we got that far; from what I saw, he shows none of the usual signs of silicosis."

"Spock wasn't actually used in the mines. They were smart enough to realize his value and used him in production control."

Jim had been noticeably quiet through Mendez's report. When the admiral finished he said, "I told you that religious taboo story wouldn't hold up, too many inconsistencies."

Mendez smiled. "Yes, Jim, you were right. The council sees that now. In fact, they are in emergency session and have been for two days. It's your data on the Towan system, along with Spock's report that they are studying." He gave them time to absorb this news. They knew the implications. The Federation wanted an alliance with this system. Its location near the neutral zone was of strategic importance. He continued. "We know now that the Towans have been playing a double game with us for the past ten years. While they talk at the conference tables, their pirates raid our ships and planets. According to Spock there are slaves of almost every humanoid species that can survive on that planet. If you have been following the reports you know that every time our negotiators get close to an agreement, the Towans come up with another condition and negotiations have to begin all over again." Though no one said it, all three men were thinking the same thing. If they hadn't interfered with Jim, he would have exposed this situation over a year ago. They were still talking when the intercom interrupted them.

"The Enterprise has just established orbit, sir."

"Thank you." He looked at Kirk and McCoy. "Gentlemen, does a little trip to Towan interest you?" The smile that came over their faces gave him his answer.

Morning found the group aboard the Enterprise, which was now captained by Sulu. Spock was recovering rapidly in Sickbay under McCoy's directions. Mr. Scott was made available from research and development and brought in. The Security Council was still in session and Jim and Mendez spent the day in communication with them via subspace radio. Two minutes before leaving orbit, Lt. Commander Uhura beamed aboard. Mendez had done a thorough job of acquiring key personnel. Before he left the Enterprise, Mendez handed Jim a packet. "New orders for you, Spock, and McCoy. Captain Sulu and the others already have theirs."

It was early evening before Kirk was free. He was almost overcome with emotion when he walked into Sickbay. Seeing Spock on the bed with his "I am trying to be patient with you, Doctor" look on his face; and hearing Bones, finger waving, delivering his "rest means recovery" lecture, was just too much. Jim was about to sit down to what he hoped would be at least a couple of hours of catching up with Spock, when Scotty, Uhura, and Sulu came in. After several minutes of reminiscing, Spock said, "I wish to thank all of you for interrupting your work to come to my aid."

Uhura, a big smile on her face, said, "Mr. Spock, we wouldn't have missed it for the world." The rest of the group noisily agreed with her.

When they quieted, he continued. "I did not affect my escape from the mines of Towan II alone. If it were not for the help of several other individuals I would not even have survived. In approximately 22.5 hours several members of the Federation Council with a fleet of starships will converge on Towan I and II and put a stop to their practice of raiding other planets and ships. At this time it will become apparent to certain individuals in power that I did not die in an accident, but escaped. If those who helped me are not removed from the planet in time, they will be killed. Timing will be a vital factor, since the Enterprise only had a two hour lead on the fleet and council." They all started asking questions at once.

When things settled down, Spock said, "That is only the first part of our mission." He turned to Kirk. "I believe the Commodore can brief us on this.

Jim nodded. "Yes, the council has informed me that our next stop will be the neutral zone where we will hopefully rendezvous with a Romulan starship." He paused and let that last statement penetrate a bit before he continued. "One of the individuals we will rescue from Towan II is a Romulan. Since there may still be others on the planet, the council sees this as a chance for showing our good faith. A series of communications buoys has already been placed in position at our border of the neutral zone informing them of our coming and why. As you know, this will be the first attempt at cooperation between the Romulans and the Federation. All must go well."

When Kirk had finished he turned to Sulu and repressing an urge to take over, said, "It's your ship, captain, where do we start?"

Captain Sulu, who knew how James Kirk always resented any attempt at usurping his authority, could appreciate that remark. "Since timing is so important, I suggest we dispense with the usual military protocol and get on with it."

The next two hours were spent in planning what would transpire when they reached Towan. Then Dr. McCoy would be put off no longer. Everyone was removed from Sickbay and Spock was ordered to sleep.

McCoy and Kirk sat in the office of the chief medical officer, which had once belonged to the doctor, discussing the situation. "Jim, he's just not strong enough for this. I…" Spock walked in. McCoy came up out of his chair and started to order Spock back to bed, but Spock just waved him off.

"I only require a few minutes, Doctor."

"You'll get five and not one more!" McCoy tried to give his chair to Spock, who insisted on standing. They were all silent for what seemed like a very long time. Both Kirk and McCoy could see that Spock was gathering his thoughts. When he did speak it was almost as if he was thinking aloud.

"Where to begin after all this time, and it is not finished yet. Are the individuals we hope to rescue even still alive?" He paused. "I know you both have many questions, and I want you to have the answers." After another pause he went on. "This situation is most complicated. I cannot be certain of what we will find on the planet. A detailed plan of action is impossible." He looked directly at both men, needing their understanding. "I must ask you to follow my directions and, please, do not question until later."

Kirk rose from his chair. "Spock, I agree with you, we have an important mission that will take all our concentration. You're alive and safe." He looked to the doctor for support and received it. "We can settle for that now."

Spock nodded, then turned and went back to Sickbay for some sleep.

When they were alone, McCoy said, "Jim, you read him better than anyone else. What is it? What's with him?"

"There's something alright, Bones. He wants to tell us, but can't not yet anyway. Give him time. He'll work it out."

"A woman."

"What?"

"I'll bet it's a woman. One of those who helped him on Towan was a female and you know how he is about that subject."

"I don't know, Bones, maybe."

The next morning Spock, Kirk, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, and Scotty took their old familiar places in the briefing room closest to the bridge. If they were to stay ahead of the fleet and make the scheduled rendezvous with the Romulan ship, they had less than two hours in which to affect the rescue of the eight people on Towan II. They studied the map Spock had drawn and agreed that the small moon would be large enough to conceal the Enterprise from surface sensors while Spock, Kirk and McCoy were on the planet and still keep them in communicator range. Scotty and Spock worked out the last details of the experimental interphasing device that would camouflage their beam down. In a way, they were all grateful that no one had ever escaped from this planet before. The Towans were over-confident and their security lax, and that would make the job easier. Still, there was no room for carelessness. Although he did not say so, Spock was very glad that Sulu was in command, Uhura on communications and Mr. Scott at the transporter controls. The feeling he had in knowing that Kirk and McCoy would be with him on the planet was almost too much to contain, but contain it he did.

They materialized in a grove of trees with the Towan sun just past zenith. Spock was silent as he listened. Hearing no alarm, he said, "We have arrived undetected." Mr. Scott had done his job well, as Spock knew he would. Spock signaled the way with a slight wave of his hand and they began to walk.

McCoy began to grumble as they struggled to make their way through the dense undergrowth. He whispered, "Why can't we walk out there?" He was pointing to a clear stretch not twenty meters from them.

Jim pointed, "Force field, Bones."

As McCoy looked closer he could see it shimmering in the twilight. They continued walking for perhaps twenty minutes.

When they stopped, Jim whispered, "How soon before we come to a sentry post?"

"There are none, Jim, also there is no need to whisper. They do not patrol the force field. Monitors do that from the main complex. If we stay in the trees we should not be detected."

Jim was surprised. "No guards out here?"

"No, there is a squad at the landing field, a whole company at the mines and several individuals in the complex. Jim, I have had five years to plan this. We should not even see a guard."

"Spock, this is almost too easy."

"Jim, let us hope I continues to be so."

They made their way past a row of huts. From their vantage point they could see figures moving about and McCoy could identify several species.

In the distance Kirk could make out a huge dome-shaped building and that seemed to be where Spock was heading. As they grew closer, Jim could also see smaller domes attached to the main one. After they had passed the first two Spock paused. He turned to face these two he had called friend, seemed about to speak, then, shaking his head, turned and motioned for them to follow. Hurriedly, they crossed an open space to a hedge growth close to the third small dome. As they stood in its shadow they could hear children playing. Kirk hoped their presence wouldn't complicate matters.

McCoy studied the five children; three boys about four years of age and two girls around two, he guessed. Spock just waited. Kirk was getting edgy. In a few minutes the opportunity came. One of the boys came near the hedge chasing a crude toy.

Spock called in a hushed voice. "Jamie."

The boy stopped and looked toward the hedge as his eyes opened wide. Spock repeated the name.

The boy took a step forward peering into the hedge. "Father, is that you?"

"Yes. Jamie, come here, slowly."

Kirk and McCoy shared a dumbfounded look.

As the child came closer, McCoy's first thoughts were that this was a full Vulcan child. But, after a second look he noticed the blend of Human and Vulcan characteristics.

The boy did as he was told and soon stood looking at Spock as if he couldn't believe his eyes. "Everyone said you were dead. Everyone except mother."

Spock knelt down on one knee to be on eye level with the child. Indicating the two men behind him, Spock said, "Jamie, this is Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy."

After a slight pause and with a knowing smile, the boy flashed the Vulcan salute and said, "Live long and prosper."

Not knowing what else to do, the two men acknowledged the greeting.

Speaking softly, Spock asked, "Are your mother and the others in the cell?"

The boy only nodded 'yes'.

"Son, this is important. Go quietly to your brothers and tell them to slowly make their way here. Then guide your sisters here." As the boy left them, Spock straightened and turned to Jim and the doctor. He became very stiff and formal. "Approximately eight solar years ago, the Towans began an efficiency program regarding the use of their slaves. One aspect of that decision was to initiate a breeding program." Kirk and McCoy waited anxiously for his next words. There were none.

When Spock turned away, Jim and McCoy traded open-mouthed glances. Both knew that this was what Spock hadn't been able to discuss with them.

By now another boy had made his way to Spock. McCoy was confused. This child was different. He was almost assuredly full Vulcan. He eyed the men suspiciously, then said to Spock, "Are you real?"

"Yes, Thone, I am real. I have come to take all of you away from here."

Only then would the boy come closer. "This is my son, Thone, his mother is the Romulan we must return to her homeland."

Before Jim and McCoy could even begin to digest the implications of this, a third boy came running to them. "Dad, I knew it was you! Jamie wouldn't say so, but I knew." He looked at the two men next to Spock. "I bet I know you. Dr. McCoy and Captain Kirk, father's friends. My name is Leonard and I was named after Dr. McCoy and Jamie, he's my twin, he's named after the captain and Mother is…"

With some effort Spock quieted the boy. "Len, there is no time for idle talk now. This is serious."

The boy's eyes fell. "Sorry."

Spock sighed and looked at Kirk and McCoy. "So much like his mother." But there was softness in his voice.

The group watched in silence as Jamie, slowly, trying hard to be what he thought was inconspicuous, made his way to them, leading two small girls. One was taller by two inches and looked much like Jamie and Len. "Daddy." She went straight to Spock without hesitation and he picked her up. As he held her he glanced over her shoulder at the other child who was reluctantly coming toward them. He turned and handed the child in his arms to a surprised Jim.

"This is Amanda."

"Manda Hura," the girl said proudly.

Spock immediately turned his attention to the other child who seemed quite frightened and about to cry. He and Jamie spoke softly to her. She was very petite, with delicate features and olive skin. The pointed ears, white hair and antenna made as exotic a combination as McCoy had ever seen. With their coaxing she went to Spock, but by now she was crying. In the short space available, with her in his arms, Spock walked back and forth. As he continued talking softly to her, she gradually quieted.

The child Jim was holding told him, "Thay-an's fraid of everything, but I'm not."

Kirk and McCoy smiled in bewilderment at each other.

By now Spock had the smallest child quieted. He gathered them together and told them that they were to be transported to the Enterprise. At this point Len looked as if he might blurt out something. The look on his father's face was enough to stop him. Spock continued. "Mr. Scott will be waiting for you when you beam aboard. Follow all his instructions, and we will join you as soon as possible." Spock opened his communicator.

Now Len would be contained no longer. "Will the baby mother is having be born there?"

The three men looked at each other as a siren began to sound. "Our communication has been detected." Kirk and McCoy remembered what Spock had told them. The Towan computers were too unsophisticated to pinpoint exact locations. They would have to make a physical search and would check the landing field and mine area before coming to the complex. "We have approximately 7.2 minutes." They reacted almost immediately, each knowing what the other would do. Kirk and McCoy started toward the dome, leaving Spock to finish with the children.

"Five to beam up, Mr. Scott."

"Aye, sir," Scotty said anxiously. "But, there's something wrong with their readings, Mr. Spock. The mass is too low."

"Not for children, Mr. Scott."

Startled, Mr. Scott said, "Aye, sir, not for children."

"Energize, Mr. Scott." Before the haze had completed faded Spock had almost caught up with Kirk and McCoy.

Kirk studied the small dome. It had an entrance from the outside and what looked like air vents. It was almost dark now. They made their way to the air vents to see what awaited them inside. Through the opening they could see two women, one human and very pregnant, lying on a thin mat, the other kneeling beside her who must be the Romulan. It was the Romulan who spoke first. "Sue, we can wait no longer. You are being most stubborn."

When the other woman answered, her words were strained and almost inaudible, but the conviction behind them was impossible to miss. "Tha, it is not labor. It's too early. Besides, I don't intend having this baby until Spock gets back."

"Susan, why do you persist in believing that fable? Spock has been gone almost seven months now; if indeed he even escaped at all. It was one thing to hope when it harmed no one, but now you endanger your life and that of the child." The Romulan woman watched with alarm as a bloodstain appeared on the mat and rapidly grew. "Susan, you are hemorrhaging. I am going…"

Resigned, Sue sighed. "All right. Tha, what was that?"

Thela was almost across the room when she heard the dome door opening. She turned and started back to Sue. "You children were instructed…" Her eyes grew large as she watched Spock, followed by Kirk and McCoy come striding into the room. Her expression changed from annoyance to disbelief.

Kirk immediately began checking the security of the room. He quickly realized that danger could come from either entrance and began a systematic check of each, pausing at the air vent to listen.

Sue struggled to raise her head from the pallet. "Spock! Oh thank God." He went straight to her with McCoy at his heels, medi-scanner out and humming. Spock took her hand and she clutched it to her as tears filled her eyes. They talked in hushed tones as the doctor passed the scanner back and forth over her body.

"The children are…" She managed to ask.

"Safe on board the Enterprise." He finished the sentence.

"Take it easy now, ma'am. I'm a doctor."

She looked from him to Spock and back. "Dr. McCoy?"

"You know me?"

"Oh, yes, Doctor," she smiled and wiped away the tears, "I know you very well." She then drew in her breath and clutched Spock's hand.

Without turning, Spock said, "Thela, how long since the last contraction?"

The Romulan woman moved closer. "Two minutes."

The doctor put down the scanner and began to palpate the woman's abdomen. "Last trimester? About thirty weeks?" The woman could only nod yes. "How long have you been in labor?"

"Since midday."

"And how long is that?"

Spock answered because she was panting with a contraction. "Eight point five hours."

McCoy looked at Spock. "Anything in her previous history I should know about?"

"Susan has told me that her first two deliveries were considered normal. I know from experience that the twins and Amanda were born without difficulty."

McCoy's head snapped around. "What do you mean, 'experience'?"

"Doctor, one does not require a medical degree to deliver a child."

Kirk stopped next to them just in time to hear this last exchange. The look of disbelief on his and the doctor's face prompted Sue to say, "If you knew the freaked-out…" before she could finish another contraction hit.

"That was only one minute since the last one," Spock noted.

"Just give me a few more seconds," McCoy said. "There is some hemorrhaging, but I think I can control it. Better get her to Sickbay right away though." The doctor opened his communicator and began making arrangements.

"Ready?" He looked at Spock who stood up and was making a careful visual search of the room.

"Where is Soy-an?"

It was Thela who answered, anger contorting her face. "Dead! She hung herself six weeks after you left us."

The woman on the mat raised her head. "Oh Thela, shut up! You know it was impossible." She turned to Spock, who seemed to be looking to her for an explanation. "Spock, we tried, we really did. But without your mind link we couldn't hold her. She kept retreating further and further into herself until we just couldn't reach her." Seeing the look in his eyes, she seemed to know what he was thinking. "No guilt! You know you couldn't win in this situation. It was just a matter of time for her, and the children needed that time."

Kirk tensed. "Someone's coming."

McCoy was still insisting his patient get to Sickbay, while Spock reached for his communicator and removed the back. Kirk, phaser drawn, was getting impatient. "Spock, let's go."

"One more thing." He now had in his hand a small metallic object about four centimeters in length and one wide, and divided into two prongs at one end. He made an adjustment on this "key" and a low hum was heard. He reached for the neckline of Sue's coveralls and pulled it back revealing a slim silver collar.

So that's their security, thought Kirk.

McCoy remembered the mark on Spock's neck.

The key worked perfectly, the collar fell from the woman's neck. He repeated the process with the other woman, then nodded to Kirk.

"Energize, Scottie!"

The cell door slammed open as they faded from view.

Coming right off the transporter pad, Kirk hit the communication button. "Ready to warp out of here, Mr. -- ah, excuse me, Captain Sulu." Kirk could hear Sulu laugh as he acknowledged and then ended the communication.

McCoy and the medical team with their patient in tow were out of the transporter room and on their way to Sickbay in seconds.

Mr. Scott was eyeing Thela curiously. She had not moved off the pad as the others had. She was obviously ill at ease, standing there with her head down and her hand attempting to conceal the scars on her right cheek. Spock noticed. "Come, Thela, I will take you to the children. They will need you." The woman appeared relieved as she moved off the pad. Before he left, Spock asked Scotty how the beam up with the children had gone.

"No problems, Mr. Spock, unless you count one bonnie, little lassie in tears. One of the boys was able to comfort her though. Uhura should have them settled in their stateroom by now."

"I appreciate your being here, Mr. Scott. We shall talk more later."

It took Scotty several seconds to shut his mouth after Mr. Spock and the Romulan woman left.

* * *

McCoy looked up as Spock came through the Sickbay door. "About time. If you want in on this, hurry."

Spock went directly to Sue. "Do you remember the routine to ease the pain?"

"Yes, and I have tried it, but without you it doesn't work."

They settled into the routine that Spock had taught Sue before the twins were born. Between contractions she tried to question Spock about his escape, if the children were all right, and several other matters. He put her off. "Susan, later there will be time for all this." She gave in and concentrated on the contractions.

All was going well. The hemorrhaging was under control, the contractions 30 seconds apart, and dilation was nine.

"It's crowning!" It had been a long time since McCoy had delivered a baby and he was enjoying it. He could see the head and in the next moment had it delivered. "Come on, Sue, just one more push and I'll have him."

With that one push there was a sudden gush of blood that washed the baby out with it. "Uterus ruptured! Get me some help here!" The panel over the bed went wild. Sue lapsed into unconsciousness.

As he suctioned the child, McCoy was shouting orders to prepare for surgery. "We've got two minutes to control this! Spock, get out of here!" McCoy shook his head as he handed the child to another doctor and returned to the mother.

Spock, stunned by this turn of events, backed out of the way, but did not leave. His eyes kept daring from the doctor working over the newly born child to McCoy and the nurses preparing the mother. The cry when it came was faint; then the doctor took the child out of the room and surgery began.

Two hellish hours later, McCoy, still splattered with blood, motioned for Spock and Kirk, who had come in long ago, to follow him. In the chief surgeon's office, McCoy went straight to the place where he had always kept a bottle. "Good man that Osborn, keeps it in the same place." He filled a glass and passed another and the bottle to Kirk. After a long swig, in which Kirk joined him, he began. "The crisis is past, she'll live. The main thing was to stop the bleeding in time. It was scary there for a few minutes. If that had happened on the surface..." His voice trailed off as he looked at Spock. "Sit down, man, you're shaking."

Spock did sit, clutching the chair first to regain his lost balance. Jim had hold of his arm to help as McCoy poured a small amount of whiskey into a glass. "Drink, slowly, and don't argue." Spock stared up at the doctor, his eyes not focusing, his hand still shaking, but he did drink.

After several small sips of the amber liquid he was able to steady himself. "If I had lost her now, when we are free and safe…"

"You won't lose her," McCoy stressed. "She's going to be fine, but about …"

"The child?" Spock finished. "You are concerned." It wasn't a question.

McCoy studied Spock. "I just don't know. He's premature, of course. The cry was weak and his color wasn't good. Maybe it's better now. I've got Osborn running all the tests."

Seeing that Spock was once again in control, McCoy stood and stripped off his bloody tunic as he moved to wash up. He rejoined them a few minutes later wearing a fresh tunic and trousers. "Spock, are you all right?"

"Yes, doctor, I am fine, but I would appreciate it if you would check the child yourself." When McCoy nodded Spock continued. "Jim, would you please ask Captain Sulu, Lt. Uhura and Mr. Scott to join us? I should like to express my gratitude and to offer some explanation of the past five years."

"Spock," Jim shook his head, "that can wait. You need to rest and you have other, more important things on your mind."

"Jim's right," McCoy chimed in, "you need rest and no one expects thanks…"

"Please." It was a plea they had not heard from the Vulcan before. "I want… need to do this."

Jim reached for the intercom and then the three sat in silence as they waited. In less then five minutes Uhura came through the door with Scotty on her heels. As they were accepting the drink McCoy offered, Sulu arrived. As they all found a seat, or at least a place to perch or lean, the room grew uncomfortably quiet.

Spock finally rose, looking to each of them in turn. "I want all of you to know grateful I am for what you did for me…and my family today. I also know how hard you all have worked on my behalf for these past years. During those first weeks of my captivity I thought much of what you were going through, your concern for my welfare. I would imagine you following every clue, contacting people who might have information. I knew your frustration matched mine when our efforts met with no success. Over the years as I planned my escape, I would think about how I would have to come back to Towan to free the others, and I knew I would not be able to do that alone. I pictured you all with me," he gave an uncharacteristic wave of his arm to include the group, "never believing it would actually happen that way. It did sustain me through difficult times. Then to have you all here today…" Spock found he could not go on. He sat down and let the silence speak for him.

Still seated, he began to speak again. "I should like to tell you a little about my life on Towan. I think you all know what the Towans were up to on their satellite planet, representing it as a religious sanctuary, but using slave labor to mine Solad. I was fortunate, they were just setting up the computer system and I was put to work in that capacity. I was not sent to the mines as so many were." He paused again, choosing his words, "The Towans had also begun a breeding program… with the idea of eventually being able to discontinue to need to capture slaves…"

"Growing their own," Sulu said disgustedly, not realizing he had spoken aloud. "Sorry," he apologized.

Spock took a deep breath before speaking again. "Again, I was very fortunate. There were three females working with the doctor in the medical complex." Spock stopped as the memories flashed unwanted into his mind. He tried several time to continue, but could not. "I want you all," he finally managed to say, "to understand that my experience was not unbearable. There were others who suffered terrible torture…"

"Mr. Spock," Uhura said, "Do you think any of us could look at those children and not know that you and their mothers turned very negative circumstances into a very positive one?"

"Aye, sir, you built a family out of that…situation, but then we would have expected nothing less." Scotty raised his glass and the others copied his move.

"That's enough," McCoy interrupted. "Spock, I want you resting until Sue regains consciousness. It's my guess she is going to have lots of questions for you and from what I saw of her, she won't be put off." The others were up and moving out of the room even as he spoke. "Doctor's lounge is right through there," McCoy pointed, "now go."

Slowly getting to his feet, Spock did as the doctor ordered. "Jim and I are going to sit right here and guard the door." McCoy smiled as Spock pulled the lounge door closed behind him.

* * *

It was well into the night when a nurse appeared at the door and informed them that the patient was regaining consciousness. Jim opened the lounge door and called softy. Immediately Spock was up and they were on their way. Jim continued on with Spock while McCoy excused himself to check the child. "Be with you in a few minutes," he said.

As Spock was standing next to Sue's bed, Kirk pushed him a stool, then said he was leaving and would see him later.

"I would prefer you stay. I should like you to meet Susan. She is the only other human I have met who is possibly more obstinate then you when she sets her mind to something, and if she were not so we would not be standing here now."

Taken aback Kirk looked at Spock. "I will take that as a compliment, Commander." Still somewhat ill at ease, he placed himself at the foot of the bed.

The woman began to moan and roll her head as the effects of the anesthesia wore off. Her voice was weak and her words slurred. Spock took one of her hands in his and she relaxed. "Spock?"

"Here."

She fumbled with her free hand and began rubbing her neck. "Oh, God, I didn't dream it. We are free."

"Yes, Susan, we are free."

She was quiet for several seconds and they thought she might be asleep. Then her eyelids fluttered. "Spock, it's like a fog. I've a thousand questions, but can't think."

"Susan, much has happened. You will require time to adjust. You are on board the Enterprise."

"Enterprise? You got the Enterprise to bring you back? And Dr. McCoy, that was him with you wasn't it. And the other man, Jim, was that Jim Kirk?"

"Yes, and…"

"Holy cow! The whole salami! You did it all, didn't you, but…oh, now I remember, the baby?"

"We have another son."

"But what happened...something..."

"Susan, your uterus ruptured."

"No, impossible. I'd be dead."

"Sue, things are different here, remember."

"Oh, yeah...is everything okay?"

"Yes, Dr. McCoy did the surgery and he says that all is in order."

"Not me, the baby." Her eyes were staying open now and she was able to focus them.

"He is premature and has been placed in life support."

"That's not so bad, is it?" When he didn't answer she said, "Spock, I feel, kind of giddy. I don't hurt. Why? I should..."

"Susan, surgery is not the trauma that you knew. You will be fully awake soon, and there will be little pain. Knowing your tendency to overdo…"

Sue smiled. "I'm sorry. But it's so good to have you hear, even if you will lecture." She was looking at Spock. "I have so many questions…and your beard," she stroked his face, "you shaved your beard." He removed her hand from his face as she continued. "Tha and the kids, are they all right?"

As Spock was assuring her that they were fine, Sue began looking at her surroundings. She noticed a man standing uncomfortably at the foot of the bed. "You have to be Jim Kirk." She extended her free hand to him. "I'm Sue and I want to thank you for bring him back to us."

"Very pleased to meet you, Sue, and you must know it was my pleasure to help steal you all from right under their pointed Towan's noses." Jim said as he moved around the bed. They shook hands gently.

"Yeah, I guess it was, but wouldn't you have loved to see the look on their faces when they found that cell empty?

"As a military man, I should just be happy with a successful mission." Kirk said, glancing at Spock. "But, you're right, it would have been very satisfactory to thumb our noses at them as we left them staring at empty space." Jim paused before continuing. "I've been hearing a lot about you in the last few hours. I'm very pleased to meet you, and congratulations on your new son."

"Thank you, and have you met the others?"

"Yes, and they are quite a group."

"Aren't they just?"

Kirk raised the glass containing what was left of Osborn's bottle. "A toast to you and you new son, in fact, at toast to all of them."

Sue stopped him and turned to Spock. "What name have you chosen, Spock?"

Kirk, who was just a little drunk by now, put in, "I thought it was a Vulcan tradition that the mother name the child."

"Susan very correctly pointed out, before the twins were born, that she is not Vulcan and, therefore, not bound by our customs."

"I just said I didn't like tradition for its own sake."

Spock, obviously used to this woman's manner, seemed unruffled. "The child will be named Charles Scott."

Kirk raised the glass again. "A toast to Charles Scott. Our faithful engineer will be very pleased." He downed the contents of the glass, and then he leaned over the bed. "Spock, I have to say this," he raised the now empty glass, "that's quite a family you have there. I have a lot of questions. Boy, do I have a lot of questions! But, the first one that comes to mind is, what are you going to do with them?" The broad smile on his face broke into a chuckle. "Somehow I can't see all of you in a cozy cottage on Vulcan."

Sue couldn't help but smile, especially as she watched Spock's reaction to his remark. "You were right, Spock. I am going to like this guy." She looked at Kirk, who was still shaking his head. "It sure doesn't sound like Fun City, does it? I don't think Vulcan and I will be very compatible. But enough of that for now, Spock, tell me about the escape."

"Susan, you need rest now. There will be time for talk later. Time is no longer our enemy."

"That's true, isn't it?" Her hand was stroking her neck again. "We have all the time in the world. But just stay a few minutes, then I'll sleep, I promise."

"Very well, but only for a few minutes. First, I would like to know how you faired after I left. Were there any repercussions?"

"Oh God, Spock, the computer lab went crazy. Everything they touched turned to sh…crap in their hands. They had to send people from the home world, but they couldn't figure it out either. I don't know what you did, but it was wonderful. They still haven't got it straightened out."

"So there were no sanctions against anyone in cell 9?"

"No, I think they were so busy scrambling to get into the system and straighten out their data that they didn't have time for anything else. Shipping schedules were off, they couldn't get reports; you really did a number on them. But, I want to know how'd the escape go?"

"According to plan until I met up with one of their mountain cats," Spock said shaking his head. "My leg was injured in the attack, and slowed me down considerably. When I finally arrived at the port, I could not manage to board a ship without being seen. It was the most frustrating time I have ever endured…" Spock continued explaining, more to Jim than to Sue, that the initial break had been most critical. The Towans must be convinced that there was an accident and that he had perished with the others. After that, it took almost six months of hiding out and waiting for the opportunities.

They were getting quite animated when McCoy came in. "What in the hell is going on in here?" He looked accusingly from Spock to Kirk. "This woman just had surgery." The doctor was inspecting Kirk. "James T. Kirk, you're drunk!" He turned to Spock, who had anticipated him.

"Certainly not, Doctor."

The feigned remorse on Kirk's face and the indignation on Spock's started Sue giggling, but grabbed her middle in pain. "Oh, that hurts."

"Out of here, both of you. This woman needs her rest."

The look on Jim's face turned serious. He seemed about to say something, then changed his mind. He squeezed Sue's hand and walked away.

Spock leaned over and exchanged a few words with Sue, then turned to follow Kirk. "Jim, I shall walk with you as far as your quarters."

Sue called after him, "Spock, about Thela -- don't leave her alone tonight."

Spock turned. "Yes, Susan, I know. I shall be with her and the children. Now do as the doctor orders." Together the two men left Sickbay.

Sue was quiet while Dr. McCoy checked her and the monitors, and then administered a sedative. When she felt he had enough time to complete all his tasks, Sue asked, "How is my son and when I can see him?"

McCoy studied her as he talked. "If you get a good night's sleep you can see him in the morning. Now, what about you? How do you feel?"

After a wide yawn, that she didn't even try to suppress, Sue said, "Fine, Doctor. Glad to be free of that place and, from what I understand, lucky to be alive. Thank you. In my time, one's chances of surviving a ruptured uterus were very small." She felt her eyelids getting heavy and the wonderful drug induced euphoria spreading through her body.

"Your time? What's that suppose to mean? Never mind, that hypo I gave you must be working." He knew she would be asleep soon. "I was afraid the idea of not being able to bear any more children might be upsetting to you."

Her words were becoming slurred again. "Doctor, I have four living children, five really, counting Thay-an. Isn't that more than enough for any woman?"

"Well, yes, but it's not that. This can be a psychological problem for many women."

"Well, not for me. In fact, for a while there on Towan, I thought I might be forced to reproduce the entire crew of the Enterprise."

McCoy chuckled at this. "Get some rest, you need it. We will talk more tomorrow." He stayed with her the few more minutes necessary for the drug to take full effect. While waiting, he couldn't help but wonder about what a strange set of parents she and Spock made, and how does this Thela fit in? And there was the Andorian child. He shook his head as he left the room.

McCoy's one last duty before retiring was to check the nursery again. He and the night nurse talked. "Color still not good, too listless." The vital signs were not strong, but were not seriously out of line. He considered going to the lab, then decided against it. It was too soon for any results. He sighed as he watched the child in his makeshift life support. The Enterprise carried only full size life supports and this one had to be adapted to fit a newborn. "I see Scotty finally got it to his liking."

"Oh, yes, sir, we had quite a to-do in here a while back. The father came by while Mr. Scott was still working and they made some adjustments together. When they seemed satisfied and about to leave, I asked if there was a name I could put on the baby's record. I've always hated calling them 'baby'. Well, when Mr. Spock told me the name, Mr. Scott got very excited. He took his first close look at the child, then almost dragged Mr. Spock out of here insisting they toast with this 100-year-old scotch he had been saving."

McCoy checked the name on the record. Charles Scott it read. He went off to bed chuckling to himself and trying to remember that hangover remedy he had used after shore leaves.

* * *

Sue woke in a cold sweat and immediately grabbed for her neck then her belly then she relaxed to calm her breathing. It was real. They were free and she had her baby. All was right with the world. She felt the dressing covering her middle. She had had surgery, her uterus had ruptured, but she had survived. All was definitely right with the world.

Her breathing calmed, she opened her eyes and gritted her teeth in preparation for the pain of movement as she tried to pull herself into a more elevated position. She felt sharp twinges as she maneuvered her body, but not the terrible pain she been expecting. Then she remembered Spock's words about surgery not being the trauma it was in her time.

She glanced at the diagnostic panel above her head and watched the indicators slowly rise. As she expected McCoy and a nurse came striding through the door. "I see you're awake," McCoy said, "How are you feeling?"

"A lot better then I have a right too, thank you very much. And I want to see my son."

"In good time," McCoy said, running his hand-held medi-scanner over her. "How about some breakfast, toast and tea perhaps?"

"After I see my son. I was even hoping I could nurse him…"

"Nurse him, Susan, you can't be serious," McCoy stared at her incredulously. "As much as it pains me to say this, your Human mother's milk is not what he needs. We've synthesized a formula to accommodate his Vulcan and Human needs." McCoy's tone changed, "Sue, you didn't nurse the others, did you? The technology didn't go that far, did it? I mean the whole breeding program is incredible…"

"No, of course, I didn't nurse the others. They had a formula, was tailored for each child and they made us go back to work after two weeks." Susan glared at him. "That's why I wanted to…" She waved her arms. "With all the advances I thought you could -- I don't know -- do something so I could nurse him."

"Sue, we're physicians, not magicians."

"That's a very old joke." But as she watched his face her voice grew tense. "Something's wrong, I knew it. You better tell me."

McCoy motioned to the nurse and as she left he pulled up a stool and sat down. "We've got some problems, Sue. I won't lie to you. He's not breathing very well on his own and heart function isn't good. I've examined the other children and they are in absolute perfect condition. From what Spock has told me most of the children there were born healthy. Why should Charles not be? Can you tell me what was different about this pregnancy?"

Sue lay back in the bed and squeezed off the tears. "Everything was different this time, I was sick the whole time, there was bleeding, my blood pressure was up. I just knew there was going to be trouble."

"Pre-eclampsia?" McCoy asked and Sue nodded.

"How do you account for the difference?"

"It's simple, Doctor McCoy, I wasn't on the fertility drugs when he was conceived." Sue watched the doctor's face as he considered this information. Before he could ask questions she did not want to answer, she said. "The doc hadn't started our injections yet, but when I realized I was pregnant I asked him if he should be doing anything like giving me the drug or something. He said no, but he kept close track of how I was doing. He never said anything, but I think he knew that there was going to be trouble. Charles will be okay, won't he, Doctor? I mean with all the stuff you can do now days…"

"I hope so, Susan, we are running every test."

"I want to see him, and to hold him."

"He can only be out of the isolette for about 15 minutes at a time. We can make that his feeding time so you can hold him. Does that suit you?"

Sue nodded, knowing she could not talk without crying. The isolette was wheeled next to her bed and McCoy placed Charles in Sue's arms. The nurse provided the bottle and Sue had to work at getting him to suck. "Doesn't seem much interested, does he?" she said, knowing that wasn't a good sign. They left her to it and Sue was glad to be alone with her son. She looked him over, head to toe, his dark hair was longer then the others had been and the ears, pointed like all the rest. He was so small, barely three pounds. Sue noted the diagnostic band around his middle, knowing if there were any changes in his condition, McCoy would come running. That thought put an ache in her middle and tightened her throat as Sue hugged him to her oh so carefully.

She had gotten him to take three ounces of formula when Spock came into the room. Sue looked up at him and the tears fell harder. "Spock, he's so small, and there's problems…"

Spock took the stool that McCoy had left by the bed. He sat next to her and placed his hand on their son. "I know. The doctor has just briefed me. Susan, you must know that they are doing everything possible…"

"I know, but I'm scared…"

* * *

It was early afternoon as Sue sat anxiously waiting for a visit from the children, she was unthinkingly stroking the robe Uhura had brought her, it was so soft. She hadn't worn anything this nice for a very long time. Sue was sitting in a chair when the children entered. They all ran to her, each demanding her immediate attention. She didn't know where to put her attention. Finally, Spock and Thela had things calmed down and the five children were standing in a line in front of Sue and her heart swelled at the sight, the boys with their neat haircuts and new clothes and real shoes instead of sandals. The girls for the first time in their lives were wearing dresses instead of the throwaway paper coveralls. It was just too much, but when she saw that the ear tags had been removed, she knew they were really free. She held out her arms and they went into them, all except Thone, who held back. She took a closer look at the ears; a small red mark was all that remained of something that had haunted her for the past four years.

They were all talking at once, trying to get Sue to look at their new possessions and to listen to their new and exciting experiences. They had never been with so many people. On Towan, friendships between breeding units had not been allowed and Spock and the women had instructed the children to stay far away from the guards; and of course, they had never had so much 'fussing over' in their lives. They did miss her, though, and asked when she would be with them. Dr. McCoy interrupted and told them that their mother would be with them that very night. Sue smiled at him. At least she had won that battle. After several more minutes, an ensign appeared to take charge of the children. They were scheduled for one more lesson period before lunch. Spock had set up the schedule they were to follow. It was as well balanced with lessons, rest and exercise periods as only Spock could make it. This fact, that Sue would not be responsible for their care throughout the day, was what influenced the doctor to let her leave Sickbay early. He had also let her know that since Spock and family were his only major medical responsibilities while on board the Enterprise, they would be seeing a lot of each other.

The children off to their lessons, Spock took Sue back to Sickbay for Charles' next feeding and Sue was quite pleased that she managed to get another three ounces into him. Every fourth daytime hour Sue was in Sickbay with her son, but McCoy would not allow her to get up for the night feedings. "Ten o'clock is your last one, Sue. You need your rest."

Under protest Sue went back to bed after feeding Charles. She admitted later, but only to herself, that the long nap had felt good.

* * *

The "family" had been given one of the dining rooms close to their quarters for their private use. Trying to eat with the crewmembers had not worked out. This evening's meal promised to be very special. Spock had invited Jim, McCoy and the rest of the former Enterprise crew. After the meal, they broke into small conversation groups and the talk flowed easily. Sue watched Spock as he joined in with his former crewmembers and realized yet again how much he missed this life. When his head came up at some news, Sue moved closer to listen to Jim talk about a new mission to the galaxy center that he had been asked to head. She did not miss the fact that Spock was hanging on Jim's every word.

At one point McCoy approached Sue to say that he had just been notified that Charles was awake and screaming for food. He accompanied her to Sickbay telling Spock to stay with the children. Forty minutes later it was a very happy mother who rejoined the group. "He seems so much better," she told everyone who would listen.

Coming back into the room, Sue had noticed Kirk and Thela deep in conversation. Sue smiled to herself as she watched them. Jim was using all his charm, which he had in abundance, to put Thela at ease. He sensed how out of place she felt on this ship. Sue also wondered if the Starfleet Commodore might be pumping Thela for information. But, Sue knew that there was another reason for her uneasiness: Thela was both dreading and anticipating tomorrow's meeting with the Romulan ship. Sue was concerned, too. After all this time, what kind of reception would she receive?

When it grew late and the children tired, the party ended. Jim walked Thela and Thone to their quarters, while Sue, Spock and McCoy herded the other children down the hall to their rooms.

McCoy supervised the boys while Sue and Spock helped the girls get ready for bed. The concept of pajamas, separate sleeping clothes, was still strange to them. When the doctor had the boys tucked in, Sue told Spock to go with him, she would finish with the girls and join them.

She could hear McCoy chuckling as he said, "They sure are something, Spock. You can be very proud of all of them, but those boys, twins yet." Sue looked up to see the doctor pat Spock on the shoulder as they went through the doorway into the sitting room. "I wouldn't have thought you…"

Sue heard the door swish open and close. "Jim, I was just commenting to Spock on our namesakes. Spock turned out to be a one-Vulcan population explosion. I wouldn't have thought he had it in him."

"I made a special effort just for you, Doctor. I knew that if I returned with a child named after Jim and not one bearing your name, you would be impossible to live with."

Sue couldn't see McCoy's face; she didn't have to, but she could hear Jim's very distinct laugh.

Sue felt a surge of contentment swell up in her. It was going to be all right, she thought, seeing how far he had come to be able to joke about it now. As their voices drifted in from the other room, Sue marveled at how easy and relaxed things were between the three of them, even after all these times. They began talking about old times and one didn't even finish a sentence before another picked up on the meaning and continued with it. As she continued to listen, she decided against joining them. She thought about sneaking off to Sickbay for a peek at Charles, knowing she would miss the midnight feeding, but not knowing her way around the ship very well, she decided against it and went to bed.

* * *

The atmosphere in the briefing room was tense as Kirk, with Thela and McCoy next to him and Spock and Susan several feet behind them were watching the view screen. Through a direct tie-in from the bridge they were looking at five Romulan warbirds. Spock was also keeping a close eye on Susan. Before being allowed to join them for the meeting he had admonished her. "Susan, you are being allowed to be here under the condition that you remain quiet. Jim will handle this without interference. Do you understand?"

Sue smiled up at him. "Of course, I do." She watched as Thela scanned the ships, stopped and went rigid seeming to concentrate on that one ship. They all looked alike to Sue.

When Uhura made contact with the lead ship, the picture changed. Now they were facing an alert, suspicious Romulan captain. "We suspected a trap."

Sue watched Kirk. Though he was tense, he was in control of the situation and knew exactly what he was doing. It was apparent that in these situations he came into his own. Spock took a back seat at this instant, saying it was the logical thing to do. It was so important for him to have Jim with him at this time. Jim was his friend, but it was the military officer that Spock and Starfleet needed now.

Kirk's voice was deliberately casual. "We can appreciate that, Captain. In your place I would have done the same. But this is no trap. As you can see we have come alone, as our message said we would, and we have one of your people here." He gestured to Thela.

The Romulans appeared to be taken aback at the sight of a female wearing their uniform. Noting their surprise, Kirk explained. "Your officer requested she be allowed to meet you wearing her own kind of uniform. Our supply department was able to provide her with this copy."

The Romulan captain studied her intently as Thela greeted him and gave what Sue decided must be the Romulan equivalent of name, rank and serial number. There was a pause as this information was fed into their computers. While the computers were humming, the captain asked Thela to explain the circumstances of her capture. She did this in precise military fashion, short and to the point. The captain was then handed a report.

"This information does correspond to one of our missing junior officers," he turned to Thela, "but we will do a thorough examination when you come aboard. Are you prepared to do that at this time?"

Thela said that she was, but Sue couldn't let it go at that. Ignoring the fact that she he promised to stay quiet, she stepped forward and blurted out, "To what?" Thela spoke sharply, obviously upset, and the Romulan captain demanded, "Who is that human and how does this concern her?"

Kirk motioned the women to silence. "This woman and your officer were cellmates during their captivity. With two others they spent the last five years together. She is concerned about what will become of her friend."

"Since when do Humans and Romulans call one another friend?

"Since they were forced to survive slavery together," was Kirk's reply.

The captain seemed to consider this, then said, "Can she not speak up?"

Kirk signaled to Sue and she nervously stepped forward. "Tha, Thela and I have spent the last five years just trying to stay alive, and we did it. And not only that; we escaped and are now free. I hate to think she did all that to spend the rest of her life doing penance."

Kirk interjected. "I believe what this woman would like to know is, will Thela be accepted back into your society as a full and equal member with all former rights and privileges?"

The Romulan captain cleared his throat before speaking; obviously he did not like being questioned in this manner. "There is closeness among our people, and we have strong feelings for our own. If this female is truly who she claims to be, and if while a captive her actions were that befitting an officer of the Empire, I foresee no problems."

Kirk, Sue and Thela talked among themselves. Now Kirk cleared his throat before speaking. "There is another matter. The slaves kept on this planet were required to breed. There is a child."

This caused quite a stir on the bridge of the Romulan ship. After a time the captain said, "I prefer the remainder of this discussion take place face to face."

Kirk smiled. "Fine. Your place or mine?"

"I think mine." The tension eased somewhat as the captain returned the smile. After some discussion he agreed to allow Kirk, the two women and the doctor to come aboard.

As the four left for the transporter room, Kirk and Spock glanced at one another. No words were needed. Kirk knew what Spock expected from this meeting, he only hoped he could deliver.

Scotty was not at all happy about this beam over, and made no pretense of his feelings. When Kirk refused weapons and monitors, he really got upset. "Aye, sir, but I'll keep you on my instruments at all times and if we do na' hear from ya every five minutes, I'll beam you right back."

When they materialized in a small room on the Romulan ship the captain and several security guards were there, as Kirk had expected.

The guards eyed them narrowly and did a quick scan to make sure there were no concealed weapons. Then a medical officer took Thela to another room. Sue did not like it, but Kirk gave her a warning look and for once she stayed quiet.

With Thela gone Kirk spoke up, "Captain, first let me comment on the conduct of your officer while a prisoner. She is one of the individuals responsible for the discovery and release of all the people being forced into slavery on that planet. She and the human female devised a plan for escape. They then selected a captured Starfleet officer, saved his life and he was able to escape and return and rescue all the rest. If she had elected to just give up and die…"

"That Human female," the commander interrupted, "she could not have accomplished the escape without help?'

"No, when captured, she was brought through a time distortion and was not familiar with the technology of this time."

"I would speak with her," he said.

"Sue," Kirk motioned and taking a deep breath, Sue went to stand before them.

"Tell me about my officer," he demanded.

"I don't know your officer. I only know a woman who survived in the most hellish conditions, conceived a plan of escape and helped put that plan into action." When he made no comment, she continued. "We shared a cell for almost five years and were alone with five children for the last six months. We coped with the suicide of the other female of our group, and the fact that our children could be taken from us at any time."

"Why did the other female kill herself?"

"Because she didn't have the will or the mental ability to survive that Thela has."

"It appears you also have that will. This escape plan, Thela was the originator?"

"Yes, and she's the one who spotted Sp…the Starfleet officer and got him out of the way before the guards found and killed him."

"She spoke to you of Romulus?"

"Often, she only stayed alive for one purpose, to return to her homeland."

Kirk was back in it again. "As a result of this captivity Thela has an almost four-year-old son. I understand she also has a husband with whom she wishes to resume her relationship." He emphasized his next words. "The child also has a father who cares a great deal for him. The father respects the mother's wish to have the child with her, if this is possible. However, in no way will he relinquish any rights to keep in contact with his son."

At that point Thela and the medical officer returned. The officer gave his report to the captain. Kirk felt sure they were satisfied as to Thela's identity. The captain motioned for Thela to approach. "As a Romulan citizen you have the right to return to full citizenship. As to the child's legal status, having a Romulan mother makes him a citizen and guarantees him full rights. But I cannot speak for your personal life. Your mate, who thought you dead, as we all did, is with us. This is a decision you must make with him."

The captain signaled a guard. He left and returned with a tall, tense, young man. Thela looked directly at him, spoke his name softly, then looked down. Ignoring all others, he motioned for her to follow and together they left the room.

While Thela and her mate were gone, Kirk and the captain discussed possible arrangements so that father and son might keep in contact. Kirk also turned over a report given him by the Federation Security Council. This gave the Romulans assurance there would be no more raiding and that any other Romulans found would be returned. The captain wanted to know what punishment the erring planet would receive. Kirk told him that the council was still working on that, but they could be assured that severe action would be taken. Kirk remembered the Council General's last words to him: "Under no circumstances must the Romulans cross the neutral zone."

When Thela and her mate returned they went directly to Dr. McCoy. As Thela introduced them, the doctor noticed now tense the young man was. He hoped he could put him at ease, but the Romulan spoke first.

"Thela has shown me the repairs done on her person. I congratulate you on the fine work, and thank you," he stammered. "She has mentioned another problem, that she may not be able to bear any more children. Have you a medical opinion on this?"

"Well, sir, let me tell you that this little lady was very reluctant to let me near her. So, when I finally got her under, for the skin grafts and breast reconstruction surgery, I did a complete examination. There was some damage, but it was minor and has been repaired. I foresee no problems in future pregnancies."

For the first time since meeting her, the doctor saw Thela smile. She looked from the doctor to her husband. "Thank you."

"One more minor operation later today and a final laser treatment on those burns, then by tomorrow morning I will happily discharge my patient to your doctors with instructions for completing what I have started."

Finished with their discussion, the three joined the rest of the group and completed the transfer arrangements to the satisfaction of all. Before Thela took leave of her husband, she introduced him to Sue and they talked for a few minutes.

Back on the Enterprise, much to Scotty's relief, Sue dragged Thela off so they could talk by themselves. Kirk and McCoy went to report to the captain and to tell Spock of the plans.

Sue could hardly control herself. "God, Thela, I can't stand it. What happened?"

Sue had never seen Thela this excited. "Oh Sue, I think it will be all right. Even though he thought me dead, he did not take another mate. He said he was not yet ready; I was too much in his thoughts. Of course, we can make no promises to each other now. Too much time has passed and we have both changed. All we can do is try, and he is more than willing to do that. He was most pleased that my scars are gone and the breast repaired. He tried to say it did not matter, but I know better. I cannot thank the doctor enough. My people do not have the knowledge of 'cosmetic' surgery; I believe the doctor called it. They could have repaired the damage, but Dr. McCoy restored me to my former state. One cannot tell the accident ever happened. I wonder if things were reversed, if our medical people would have been as generous to their enemy."

"Tha, stop referring to yourself as that. No one else on this ship does."

Thela knew better. She remembered the looks she had received from some crewmembers.

As they walked down the hall, the women promised each other they would not forget each other or their friendship.

"Tha, sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can't believe that we're really here. I wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and am sure we're still on Towan."

Thela agreed.

* * *

Sulu was on the bridge long before his shift, with a Romulan ships that close, he found sleeping impossible. To everyone extreme relief the other four Romulan ships had left after the exchange of information with Kirk. The one remaining would take Thela and Thone when McCoy had completed his medical work. But all the same, Captain Sulu was cautious.

When the small craft appeared on the sensors, he anticipated their concern and reacted. The Romulan command ship was contacted and then the small craft. It was identified and its mission made known. When the Romulan captain was satisfied, permission was given for two people to beam aboard the Enterprise. This accomplished, the small craft left the vicinity.

A few minutes later the Vulcan Ambassador and his wife were following an ensign down a corridor. He led them to a small informal garden area near the transporter room. "If you will wait here, I will get that information." The Ambassador nodded and the ensign left.

Amanda went to the back of the room and sat down behind a large planter containing heavy foliage. She was in a state of anxiety and did not wish to be observed. Sarek followed, sat down next to her and took her hand. They did not speak; they didn't have to.

After a few minutes two women came in and began talking. "Let's wait for Thone in here. I think you're right. He needs this time alone with his father." Sarek and Amanda could see the woman through the greenery, but it was obvious that the women considered themselves unobserved as they continued their conversation. "Oh, God, Tha, you're really going away. You're going home, can you believe it?"

"Susan, you will not cry. Please. I must go, you know that."

"Tha, it's not too late to change your mind. You could stay with…"

"No. You know I cannot. Susan, please do not make this any more difficult…"

"Okay, I'm sorry, but I'll miss you, after all we've been through…

"I know. I did not think I would ever see this day. I thought we would all die on Towan."

"Promise me, Tha, if things don't work out, you and Thone will come back. You always have a home with us."

"Sue, you have said that many times. I understand and appreciate it, but I do not feel…"

At this point a small boy walked in and began talking. Sarek and Amanda would have liked to leave. They felt very uncomfortable eavesdropping on the conversation of others, but realized there was no way they could do so without making their presence known, which would probably make matters more awkward for all.

"And my father told me never to forget the other aspects of my heritage and always be proud of them. He said he would keep in contact with me and that if we ever needed him, he would come. And, Mother, he said that he would miss me." The boy seemed quite pleased and then he held up something to show the women. At this point a yeoman came for them.

"Sue, don't come with us. I…"

"Okay, Tha, I understand." She hugged the other woman, then the child, saying, "I love you both. Take care, and don't forget; if things don't work out as you hope, get a message to any Federation embassy. Spock's father is a very big-high-something-or-other in the Vulcan government, we'll get the message. Good luck!" The woman and boy turned and followed the yeoman while the lone female walked slowly in the opposite direction.

Sarek and Amanda just stared at each other. The two were jolted by the casual mention of their son's name. They were still puzzling over the incident when an ensign came for them.

* * *

The scene in the rather crowded quarters occupied by Spock, Sue and the children was in a state of early morning confusion. Spock was changing his uniform tunic while Sue was laughingly scolding Chukka and explaining that one does not "spit up" on a Starfleet officer. Jamie was trying to roll up the children's sleeping pallets; Len was crawling around on the floor looking for his other boot. Mandy was poised in front of the mirror fussing with a ribbon on her dress, and Thay-an was whining for someone to help with her hair.

Sue asked Spock if he would like to try again with feeding the baby while she had a go at Thay-an's hair. At this the child only whined louder.

"No, Mother," Mandy said while pirouetting, "Daddy do it. You pull too much."

"Oh, Mandy, give me a break! Spock, look at her, two days with that Barbie doll of a yeoman, and she won't get away from the mirror."

Spock gathered Thay-an and the brush, placed her on a chair and began gently brushing the tangled hair. "She does seem rather preoccupied with her appearance."

Sue sat cross-legged on the bed and settled Chukka into a pillow, then began feeding him again. "Well, something has to be done. I won't have it." She pointed with her free hand. "Len, I can see your boot from here."

"I shall speak to the yeoman."

"You know which one she is? She's the one with the big…"

"Yes, Susan, I know which one."

"…hair," Sue finished, raising both eyebrows at him.

The door buzzer sounded and Sue instructed Jamie to answer it. She was muttering to herself, "That'll be McCoy come for Chukka and he hasn't finished his bottle yet."

She glanced up to see Jamie followed by a petite Earth woman and a tall austere Vulcan and shuttered. "Oh, my God, that can't be who I think it is." She tried sinking lower into the bed, wanting it would swallow her up. "It is who I think it is."

They almost fell over Len, who was sitting on the floor pulling on his boot. Sue saw their reaction as they stopped, eyes taking in every nuance of the scene in front of them. Sue could just imagine what they were thinking. Oh, Spock, she thought, this is not the way we planned it and felt her heart begin to race as her chest tightened.

Sue continued to watch as the woman's eyes quickly searched the room, then stopped as she caught sight of Spock brushing Thay-an's hair, while father and child were deep in conversation. Spock looked up and their eyes met. He stopped. "Mother? Sir?" Then moving slowly, never taking his eyes off them, he reached down for the child's hand, placed the brush in it, and closed the hand around it. Then he began moving towards his parents. For the first time in the five years she had known Spock Sue knew he was at a complete loss for words.

Amanda seemed about to fall, as if her knees would no longer support her. Spock reached for her, as did Sarek. Together they guided her to a chair.

"Mother, are you all right?"

Amanda could barely speak. "Spock," she said, never taking her eyes off her son, "I should be asking you that question."

The children were staring at the newcomers and all the chatter of a few seconds ago was gone. Then Thay-an began to cry. Spock went to her and picked her up. With one word from him she laid her head on his shoulder and was quiet.

"Mother, Father, this must…" He looked at Susan and stopped at seeing the look of absolute panic on her face. He had only seen that look once before, so long ago. There was a real physical reason for it that time and he had been the cause of it and couldn't help her. This time it was an emotional fear, but just as real to Susan. He could not predict his parents' reaction to this situation, nor could he alter it. Susan he could help. He crossed the room to her, Thay-an still in his arms. He extended two fingers of his free hand to Susan. Seeing the reassurance in his eyes, she took a deep breath and tried to steady herself before she reached out to match his gesture. Instantly, as their fingers touched, she relaxed. He looked at his parents and said, "This is Susan." He had made the gesture. His parents would know its significance. Now it was up to them.

Sarek's voice was strong and steady as he said, "We welcome you, Susan, and wish you both joy in this bonding."

Sue felt a slight squeeze of her fingers as Spock let out a breath he didn't even realize he was holding. He gave the ritual response. Then turning to the children he instructed them to introduce themselves to their grandparents. Jamie went first and remembered to use Vulcan. Len followed and did well also. Mandy got through the Vulcan introduction, and then lapsed into English. "Amanda Hura." She went over and stood in front of Amanda. "See my pretty dress."

Amanda reached out and touched the dress and made some comment that the others could not hear. Mandy smiled and moved to stand next to her grandmother's chair.

Spock placed Thay-an on the floor and was encouraging her to step forward and give her name. She finally took a few steps, said her name very fast, turned and ran back to Spock where she wrapped herself around his legs. While he was trying to peel her from him, Mandy was saying, "That's Chukka. He can't stay. Dr. Coy keeps him in life-sport."

Sue knew she had to get out of there before she made a scene. Stomach heaving and chest hurting, she scrambled off the bed and began talking too fast. "Tell you what, I'll take the kids for their breakfast so you can visit for a while, then you can join us -- or something, okay?" She didn't wait for an answer. "Come on, gang, let's go." She started toward Spock with the baby. "Dr. McCoy will be in for him any time now."

Amanda interrupted. "Susan, may I?"

"Oh, sure, of course, what's the matter with me?" Sue shifted the baby onto Amanda's lap and sneaked a glance at the woman who was Spock's mother. She was smiling through the tears in her eyes.

Talking all the time and saying nothing, Sue hustled the children out of the room. "Annie, stop crying; I'll finish your hair. No, Len, you can't stay. Because ice cream is not a breakfast food, that's why. Because I said so…" The door shut behind her and Sue sagged against it.

The only noise in the room was the baby sucking on his bottle as three people watched. Amanda, her voice still cracking, said, "He's so small and so pale. Spock, how old is he and what did Susan call him?"

"He is 56.5 hours and his name is Charles Scott, but his mother insists on rearranging it to that unlikely nickname I believe it is called."

Amanda looked up. "After your grandfather?"

"Yes, Mother."

The door buzzer sounded and Dr. McCoy was in the doorway. "I let myself in…" He stopped as he caught sight of Sarek and Amanda. "Well, this is a surprise." He paused, and then moved toward the baby. "What do you think of our little one here?"

It was Sarek who spoke. "One of the other children, Amanda I believe, said something about life support for Charles."

McCoy's face darkened. "Respiratory problems."

"Serious?" His tone showed concern.

"Just not sure yet, the test results are contradictory. We are running them all again. He's just not thriving and he gave us quite a scare during the night." He tried to force a smile. "Well, we'll talk more about that later." He took the child from Amanda and turned to leave. "Come on, little fella, back to your artificial womb."

Spock was very aware of his father's eyes traveling from Charles to himself as the doctor took the child and left.

"Son, are you ill? The medical reports we received assured us you were recovering and there were no serious problems, but you do not look at all well."

"I am well, Father, but there is so much to tell you." And I feel so unequal to the task, he thought, "but where to begin?"

"With Susan, perhaps, it is obvious she was with you on Towan, but…"

"What information were you given before your arrival here?" Spock quickly asked, knowing what he had to say would be painful for him to tell and them to hear.

"That you were alive and had been captured and held on Towan, used as slave labor to mine an illegal substance."

Spock sucked in a deep breath as he considered his words. Taking note of his increased heart rate he attempted to slow it. Get to it, he told himself, have it said. "What they did not tell you is that the Towans were breeding their slaves."

A cry escaped Amanda's lips and Sarek jerked back as if physically struck in the chest. "Forced breeding, how dare they!" Pain showing in his eyes, Sarek said, "The Andorian child… The Romulan woman with the boy…"

Once begun, Spock was determined to have it all out. "Each cell contained one male and three to five females, our cell was made up of myself, Susan, Thela, who is Romulan, and an Andorian named Soy-an."

Amanda, tears running unchecked down her face, "And you managed to survive all that and create a bonding and raise those beautiful children…"

Thank you, Mother, Spock thought, you can always be counted on to see the positive in any situation.

"And then to escape and free them all." Sarek added.

Seeing his father unsteady on his feet, Spock pulled a chair next to Amanda's. "Sit, Father," he said and went to get water. Handing a glass to each of them, he said, "Our group was not used in the mines. Our conditions were good in comparison with those who were forced to work there. And we did build a family, thanks to Susan."

"I cannot begin to even comprehend this," Sarek said.

"But can you accept it, Father? That is what I need to know. It was my plan to bring Susan and the children to Vulcan." Spock hesitated. "I had hoped that we might stay …until I can make other arrangements…"

Sarek stiffened. "You feel unwelcome in your own home?"

"My situation is most unique. I was not sure you would understand."

Sarek's head came up with a jerk. "Not understand. Where is the logic in that?"

"Of course, you will stay at home," Amanda interrupted."

Spock said nothing as his parents exchanged glances and he could only speculate as to what was in their minds.

Sarek watched his wife and bondmate and knew she was remembering their many conversations of the past five years. He returned his attention to Spock. "You and Susan spoke of this, and she is agreeable? She has no desire to return to Earth?"

"Father, that is not possible for Susan. She is one of the many time-displaced on Towan. We have pledged to make a family for the children on Vulcan, if possible."

Sarek persisted in his questioning. "This uncertainty I sense in you both, does it explain why Susan was so uncomfortable in our presence?"

"Yes, she is certain you will find her unacceptable."

"And what of the Andorian child, where is her mother?"

"She did not survive."

"So the Romulan female is gone with her son, your son. And you and Susan will raise these children." It was a statement of fact and when Sarek spoke his tone was decisive. "Spock, you and your family will come to Vulcan and be most welcome." Sarek stood and moved toward his son. "I would like to believe that even I can learn from my mistakes. I should have spoken to you during our journey to Babel, but neglected that opportunity. Then you were gone from me. Now I am fortunate enough to have you back so I can say that I desire that put aside whatever animosity there is between us. I regret my actions and ask that you forgive then."

It was more then Spock could have asked for. He went to them to heal the breach once and for all.

Jamie came bursting into the room, panic on his face, his eyes searching for Spock. "Mother fell down and she won't wake up."

Spock was out the door leaving the others to follow. When they got to her, Len and Mandy were kneeling beside her. Thay-an was tugging at her hand and crying. Spock scooped her up and headed for Sickbay with the rest in his wake.

"Doctor?"

"Spock, she's just been doing too much after all she's been through. It was against my better judgment to let her up so soon, but you know how she is. I guess I felt guilty, about Chukka, so I gave in. She needs a lot of rest. I'm going to put her on the alpha wave machine. She'll have relaxed dream-full sleep till I take her off. I'll also be giving her vitamins."

"Was the machine necessary?"

"Yes! I don't want her to the point where she can argue with me. Besides I prefer it to drugs."

Spock turned to the group clustered around him. Sarek had the boys in tow and Amanda had taken charge of the girls, but the second Thay-an saw Spock turn she reached out to him. When she began to cry, he took her and looked to his parents. "I believe I shall require your help."

"Just tell us what to do," was Amanda's response.

The three adults gathered the four children, convinced them that their mother was going to be fine and then herded them back to the dining room and once there the three adults supervised breakfast.

"Dr. McCoy has approved the pear juice and oatmeal and it seems to agree with them," Spock said as he seated the children around a table. "Thay-an, sit here next to your sister and do not cry. I am right here." He went to the processor to help Sarek with the food.

Amanda got the trays and cutlery and Len went to stand by her. "I can help," he said. "Mother showed me how."

"I would appreciate that," she said and together they gathered the necessary items to set the table.

"I like dishes," he said. "We didn't have them before. We had biscuits and they were wrapped in plastic that made noise when you opened them."

Jamie, not wanting to be left out, joined his brother. "I didn't like them, they tasted bad," he said, "but Father said we had to eat them."

"Yes," Len added, "to be strong and healthy. But I like oatmeal and juice better."

"Me too," Jamie added. "And muffins with honey and ice cream."

"Oh, yes, ice cream," Len said. "That's the best."

"I want ice cream," Amanda called from the table.

"I cream too," Thay-an added.

"Not for breakfast," Spock said. "Perhaps later you may have some."

The children kept a close eye on Spock and the other two adults as they settled into their meal. Spock set a cup of coffee in front of his mother who had seated herself between the girls and across the table from the boys. "I think you should drink this," he said, "you seem a little unsteady." Spock watched as his mother sipped her coffee, glancing at him and then at the children and could imagine what she was thinking as her eyes caressed each one in turn.

"Spock, they are so beautiful, all of them. We have been so worried all this time. All we hoped for was that we would see you again, and when the news came that you were alive we were so grateful … and then to find this." She waved her hand in an expansive gesture. "I can't imagine how you managed under those conditions."

"We were most fortunate in not being in the mines, Spock said. "Our circumstances were so much better than most on Towan." He watched as his father placed a glass of juice in front of each child and then took a chair next to Jamie as the children watched him closely.

"Do you live on Vulcan?" Jamie finally asked.

"Yes, Vulcan is my home and it will soon be yours."

"Will it be like Towan? Do you really have an air car? Can we ride in it? Will we go to school? What is school like? Is it like the dayroom?"

Spock continued to watch this exchange and realized that it was taking a real effort for Sarek to control his emotions as he listened to his grandson's questions. Spock had thought of this scene many times on Towan wondering if he would ever actually have the opportunity to free his family and present them to his parents. He had no concern as to his mother's acceptance of the children, but when he tried to anticipate Sarek's reaction, his thoughts would vacillate. He was finally forced to admit to himself that he did not understand his father and could not predict his actions in this matter. But as he watched the exchange playing out in front of him, his hope for acceptance of his family seems within reach.

Sarek's attention was intent on the boys, Jamie doing the talking, but Len very focused on the conversation. "I hope you will be content on Vulcan," he said. "And, yes, all of you will ride in the air car." This brought smiles to both faces and they exchanged excited glances. "Tell me about the dayroom on Towan?"

"Didn't like it," Len said, "did we, Jamie? All we did was sit. Father gave us lessons to do, but no one else had to do lessons."

"Sometimes they laughed at us and hit us because of the lessons."

"Tell your grandparents about our free days in the woods," Spock said to find a more pleasant subject.

"That was fun," Jamie said. "There were small animals, rodents and birds and we collected rocks and plants and we learned about them."

"Sometimes we would go out in the dark and look at the stars and learn about them too," Len added.

* * *

Sue was taken off the machine the following evening. McCoy cautioned Spock, "Don't upset her. Take it easy. She will most likely be experiencing some disorientation."

"Spock?" Sue's words were slurred.

"Here."

Sue stretched and turned but didn't open her eyes. "Ummmmmm... Was that Annie I heard crying?"

"Yes, she is asleep now."

"All's quiet in cell 9 then."

"Yes, Susan, all's quiet in cell 9."

"Would you rub my back?" Sue rolled on her side and Spock began rubbing. "Did you and Tha get things settled?"

"Yes."

"Good, I don't like it when you two -- Spock?" she exclaimed, becoming more alert.

"Susan, do you know where you are?"

"Yes! No!" She reached for her neck and began rubbing it. "Ohhh, yes, now I remember. I was in the dining room having breakfast with the kids and--"

"You collapsed. You have been asleep for 36.3 hours."

"That's a day and a half! What's been going on? How are the kids and Chukka?"

"Sue, you were asleep 36 hours, not days."

"Why so long?" And how'd you manage with the kids, and the baby, I want to see him."

McCoy stepped forward. "Because you needed it, that's why. Spock and his parents managed your brood just fine. When you're fully awake I'll have your son brought to you for a few minutes. And finally, you wouldn't be awake now if we didn't need you. Does that answer all your questions?"



"Need me?"

"Susan, we have been in contact with the Council on Towan II. The doc is nowhere to be found. In all likelihood Fraunt eliminated him and the medical facility has been ransacked. Federation personnel cannot locate his notes. Since they are too valuable to be lost, they are requesting your help."

"They want me to go back there?" she asked, a sly smile sliding across her face. Spock did not like her tone.

"When?"

"Tomorrow, if possible."

"Can I have one of those phasers?"

"No, Susan, you cannot. You would not even know what to do with one."

"Hell, I wouldn't. I'd kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out."

"So you refuse to go."

"No, I'll go and you know it. Can I see my son now -- and the other kids?"

"Susan, they are already asleep. You shall see them at breakfast."

She gave McCoy a pleading look. "After I see Chukka, can I go back to my own room for the night?"

"No! You will no leave that bed!"

She opened her mouth.

"And no arguments!"

She shut it and then said, "You were right, Spock, he is a bully." She lay there looking smug while Spock looked innocent and McCoy glared.

* * *

Sue woke feeling rested and wanting out the sickbay. Once showered and dressed in the plain black pantsuit she went to have a look at Chukka and found he had already been fed and was sleeping. Her little diversion to Sickbay had put her out of sync with his schedule. Not about to disturb him, she went to see about having breakfast with the other children and found them in the dining room, the boys with their grandfather while Amanda had the girls. Her first instinct was to turn and run, but she knew she had to face these people sometime and it might as well be now. As she went for coffee, the boys spotted her and came running over. "Mother, we are to have computers, our own computers. Grandfather will teach us." This from Jamie. "We are to have our first lesson this morning," Len added.

Having heard this exchange, Mandy came to join them. Hands on hips she stated, "Mandy puter too."

"Well," Susan said, "computers are your grandfather's department. You will have to ask him and you better say please and pronounce the word correctly, it's computer."

Mandy stared at her mother. "Kaputer," she said then turned to look at Sarek who was watching her intently. Staring up at the large Vulcan male, Mandy assessed the situation and then went to Amanda and taking her hand pulled the woman with her.

"Reinforcements," Susan said when Amanda looked to her for an explanation.

Standing before her grandfather, holding tightly to her grandmother's hand, Mandy stated. "Mandy have kaputer too please."

"How old are you, Amanda?" Sarek asked.

After examining her fingers for a few seconds Mandy held up two fingers and looked to her mother who confirmed the number. The child turned back to her grandfather. "This many," she said.

"When you are this many," Sarek said, holding up three fingers, "you shall have a computer. Will that be satisfactory?" Mandy nodded her head and ran to tell her mother the news.

Spock entered the room and went straight to Susan. "I went to sickbay to find you gone. I had planned to accompanied you…"

"Think I need a keeper?" she asked.

"No, Susan…"

"Spock, I'm fine. Go back to what you were doing. I'm sure," she said in response to his look. "Go."

Glancing around and satisfying himself that things were in order, he left. Sue knew he was with Jim and McCoy getting filled in on all he had missed.

Sue ordered herself coffee and toast and when seated at the table Amanda came to sit next to her. "Susan, we have not had a chance to talk and to thank you for all you have given us. When things settle down a bit, Sarek and I would like to have an opportunity to talk with you and get to know you."

"Sure, no problem, look forward to it." Sue said, lying through her teeth. As they continued to eat breakfast Susan noticed Thay-an wander off by herself and went to her. Not yet able to lift the child, Sue took her by the hand and led her back to sit next to Amanda. Once there she had the child crawl up onto her lap and she rocked back and forth as Sarek came to stand next to his wife.

With tear-filled eyes Thay-an looked up at Sue. "My mommy died last morning," she said and laid her head on Sue's chest.

Sue glanced at Amanda and Sarek, trying to judge their reaction as she hugged Annie to her. This was a ritual she went through every few days since her mother's death. Sue wanted Spock's parents to understand it and become part of it in case it happened when she wasn't around. "Yes, she did, but she knew that you had people to love you and care for you, didn't she? Annie, who is your mommy now?"

"Mommy Sue." The child whispered.

"That's right, Mommy Sue. And who else loves you?"

"Daddy, and Jamie and Len and Mandy…" She looked up at Sue. "Tela and Tone gone…" She started to cry again.

"Yes, Thela and Thone are gone, but you have a new baby brother and two new people to love and care for you. You have a grandmother and grandfather, don't you?"

The child cast a sideways peak at the two grandparents and nodded her head, but would not look directly at them. "We all miss your mommy, don't we?" Sue said as she continued to rock the child while Amanda and Sarek could do nothing but watch.

After several minutes Sue caught Jamie's eye and with a nod from Sue, he came to join them.

"Thay-an, come play with us," he coaxed and as she usually did, Thay-an wiped her eyes, slid off Sue's lap and went to be with her brothers and sister.

"That seems to be the best way to handle her when she starts thinking about her mother," Sue said to the two grandparents. "It only happens about once in seven or eight days now, but I'm sure the events of the last few days have stirred her memories again."

* * *

Later that morning found Spock, Sue and his parents in the sitting room, the children off to their lessons. Kirk and McCoy came through the door almost together. Kirk handed Sarek a message and said, "We'll be establishing orbit around Towan II in 20 minutes. Things on the surface seem to be running smoothly enough, considering. The takeover went well and processing has begun." He smiled. "The Towan government is being most cooperative." He let out a small laugh. "The Inter-Federation Relief Committee already has a group here. The communication center is a mad house. Somehow they found out Uhura is here and requested her. They want her to organize operations. She beamed down earlier. There were several pockets of resistance, but they cleared the last one out late last night." He shook his head. "It's going to be a long drawn-out affair, straightening this out." He looked at Sarek. "You diplomats are welcome to the job. It will be years before things are settled. So many implications, the citizenship problems alone are a legal nightmare."

"So what's the plan?" Sue wanted to know.

"You are going to the medical lab to aid the people there," Kirk said watching her reaction. "They're packing up everything and are having trouble getting access to some cabinets and computer files and just knowing what to take. I understand you can help them?" When Sue nodded, he continued. "Spock is going to the computer lab where he will do the same thing. Ambassador Sarek has a meeting with the people in charge of clearing up this mess. Is that what you wanted to hear, Sue?"

Sue turned to Amanda, "So you will be staying here, to be available for the kids if they need anything, and Chukka, you'll take his next feeding?"

"Yes, Susan, I will be here for all of them, and it will be my pleasure."

"Susan," Spock interjected, "perhaps you should not go. I do not believe you are ready to face…"

"No, it's okay. If your mother is going to be here, I'll go." She shifted her gaze to Sarek. "Any chance you'll see any of the Towans who were taken prisoners?"

"I am not sure," Sarek said eyeing her intently. "There was talk of interviews with some of the individuals involved in security…"

"Well, it you should encounter someone named Fraunt, he was the head guard, you give him regards from cell 9." Her voice grew more forceful. "And make sure he knows it was your son who bested him and brought the Federation down on his head. Then watch his face for every nuance so you can tell me…"

"Susan," Spock said, "My father will do no such thing. Besides if Fraunt still lives he knows who is responsible. When he found cell 9 empty, he would have ascertained what happened."

"I want to make sure he knows…" she almost yelled.

"Vulcans do not…"

"I'm Human, I want to gloat! I want to see the look on the face of that mother…"

"Cease!" His tone stopped her and shocked everyone else in the room.

After a very awkward silence, McCoy said, "Maybe Spock's right. Sue, I don't think you're need this kind of stress right now…"

Shaking slightly, Sue gulped in a deep breath and steadied herself. "Sorry," she said, "I'm okay. I guess I just needed to vent a little." The hostility was gone from her tone.

Still not satisfied Spock said, "Susan, give me your word you will not leave the medical complex."

She stood very still fighting to hold back the unacceptable words about to spew forth. When controlled somewhat she said, "Spock, I wouldn't even know where to go. In five years I was never out of the medical complex, remember."

"That never stopped you before." His look told her he wanted more assurance to her behavior.



She wasn't in the mood to fight with Spock and this was certainly not the place. "You have my word," she finally said. "I will only go to the medical lab and our cell. Are you satisfied?"

"Yes," he said knowing she had never broken her word to him.

Kirk, still eyeing her cautiously handed everyone a small badge. "Clearance. You'll need it on the surface."

As he gave Sue hers, he said, "Sue, the Council won't be ready for you till this afternoon. Maybe you should rest this morning and we'll send for you."

"No. I'll go to the lab and show them where the doc's papers are; besides, I want to go with all of you. That transporter thing gives me the willies."

"I know the feeling," McCoy said, obviously trying to lighten the mood.

They materialized into mass confusion and were surrounded by several people all wanting something different from them. After several minutes of confusion, things got sorted out and Sue and McCoy were left alone. They went to the clinic, where they found Federation people packing the doc's things. Sue began pointing out where to look for items on their list. Using her pass code, she opened the doc's file and drug cabinets to allow them to be packed. Next she went to the computer and entered her password. When the files opened a technician thanked her and began downloading the information.

Since they seemed to be finished with her for the time being, she went to stand next to McCoy as he poked through the cabinets and coolers studying the equipment and drugs stored there. "Sue, I have got to study this whole set up. It's incredible what he was doing and, my God, the success he was having. What are these?"

"The fertility drugs, all coded by species. I guess I should stop referring to them like that. There was so much more involved. He mixed concoctions to stop rejection, cut down on sickness. That's what I did, recorded all his notes on what went into each combination... These," she point to a group of three containers at the back of the cooler, "are for cell 9." She picked up the containers. "Mine, Thela's and Soy's."

"Sue, get me a sample of those, would you? I want to…"

"Sure," Sue went to do as he asked knowing he was interested in how the lack of this drug might have effected Chukka.

As McCoy continued his search, Sue said, "Dr. McCoy, since they don't need me right now, I'm going to get some things from our cell…"

"Not alone, you're not. I promised Spock I'd be with you." Taking the vile from her, he placed it in his tunic pocket and fell into step beside her as they walked through the clinic to the hall door. As they went down the hall, she stopped at the closet and grabbed a small storage container.

"Does everybody here think I need a keeper?" she asked as they walked.

"Do you think you need one? Isn't that a better question?"

"Oh, no, we're not going to play that game." Sue said and changed the subject. "This whole place looks so different. I can't believe it's only been six days since we left, feels like years." She felt the goose flesh on her arms; it was so eerie and quiet. She listened to their shoes clicking against the hard floor and remembered how different the flapping sandals had sounded. She stopped at the cell door and entered slowly, McCoy directly behind her. Everything was just as they had left it, the soiled mat, the neck collars lying on the floor.

"Sue, are you all right?"

"Yes, Doctor, Just knowing that there's no collar around my neck and that I can walk out that door makes me feel quiet well."

She began collecting the items she wanted, like the children's homemade games and toys. Mostly she wanted the sketches. She showed them to McCoy. Thela was quite an artist and had drawn them at Sue's insistence. There was one of each of them except Sue. Thela had never gotten around to that one. But there was a group one of Spock with all the children, and a separate one with the boys and the girls. The one Sue cherished most was of Spock alone, drawn from memory after his escape. It was a gift to Sue from Tha after an argument. But the one of him and Thone was by far the best. They looked so much alike. Sue knew that Amanda would appreciate seeing it.

McCoy smiled at Sue -- trying to lighten her mood. "I can't imagine this whole thing."

Sue laughed softly. "I know what you mean. Can you believe nine people lived in here?"

"Tell me, Sue, what did you think of Spock the first time you saw him? Come on, admit it, you were impressed with our first officer, weren't you?"

Sue looked up at him from her position on the floor. "Dr. McCoy, it was the middle of the night, I was tired and in a foul mood. He had almost three weeks' growth of beard, was filthy dirty, and smelled very bad. No, I guess I wasn't too impressed."

They both laughed and then Sue sobered. "It was a good thing it was night and Jacco was on duty. Fraunt would never have missed that uniform, even under all that filth."

He was asking for an explanation of that last remark when the intercom sounded. "Dr. Leonard McCoy, please report to information central."

"Now what do you want me for? Sue, I don't like leaving you here alone."

"I'll be all right, Doctor."

"Sure?"

She nodded.

"I'll try not to be long." He turned and left the cell.

The call repeated and Sue stared at the intercom. How many times in the last five years had it called her? She sat in one of the foam chairs and thought about McCoy's question. She had been flip with him and tried to sound casual about her first meeting with Spock, but there had been nothing casual about it.

* * *

The buzzer kept sounding as Sue groped through the dark cell swearing under her breath. She had just fallen asleep. Now what? Thela was awake and making her way toward Sue. She turned on the light while Sue answered the call.

"Got a new batch for you, just come in." It was Jacco, the night guard.

Sue sighed heavily as she realized there would be no sleep this night. "Release the lock and we'll be right there." Hell, she thought to herself, as she switched off the intercom. Between Soy-an, that freaked out doctor, and now new prisoners, I'll never get any sleep.

The two women checked the sleeping Soy-an and quietly left the cell. They didn't talk as they walked down the hall to the medical complex where all new prisoners were brought for processing. "Complex." Sue laughed at the word. Even by twentieth century Earth standards, it couldn't be called a complex. Ten-bed, small town hospital was more like it. Oh, they did have some drugs and techniques that were quite revolutionary, but that was all. It was all so very curious; advanced technologies in medicine and space travel, and then in other facets of their society they were almost primitive. How such a hodge-podge could ever have come about, Sue could not figure out. It didn't follow any of the rules as she understood them.

Sue gave the new prisoners a quick glance as she readied things and then took her place. This group, like most of the others, was very lethargic. After being in the hold of those ships from three to eight weeks with almost no food, inadequate sanitation and having been fitted with a neck collar, it was a rare prisoner indeed that arrived with any fight left.

'Jack-off,' as Sue called him behind his back, and the other night guards stayed back out of the way. They wanted little to do with what was going on. "You would think," she whispered to Thela, "that after all this time, they would get used to the smell."

The two women began the processing procedure and were working in a well-practiced routine. Sue stayed at the head of the line and performed the physical exams. Usually she just assisted the doc, but since he wasn't here, she took over. She had done it before and knew the procedure, so there was no problem. Thela moved down the line from prisoner to prisoner. She glanced ahead, then stopped abruptly. She stared for several seconds. Nonchalantly she made her way back to Sue and whispered, "There is a male about tenth in line in a Starfleet uniform."

"Are you sure? Tha, be sure, we can't guess about this."

"I'll check again." Thela strolled down the line and back. "I am sure. Sue, that's not all; he is a Vulcan. There may be officer's braid on his sleeve, but with all the dirt I cannot be sure."

"Tha, this is it." Sue was about to burst with excitement and fright. "A Starfleet uniform, a male and the doc's out of his head. What more could we ask for? The Gods are with us. Tha, it's now or never." Sue was thinking about the many evenings spent making and remaking plans. What if the doc was there, what if he wasn't; what if it was day, or night? Possibilities were discussed and changes made for each new situation as they thought of them. Now the time had come. Could they pull it off?

Thela was tense but controlled. Her training allowed her to act more matter of fact about her business. She went from prisoner to prisoner obtaining information and recording the identification numbers from the neck collars. When she came to the Vulcan no one noticed, except maybe the Vulcan himself, as she took the time to perform one extra task on him. Within a few minutes he collapsed. Both women went to his aid.

"Tha, there is something else wrong with him besides the drug we gave him. Looks like some kind of shock." As Sue examined him she tried to determine what was wrong, in addition to malnutrition, exposure, and all the other niceties one picked up on those filthy ships.

"Sue, can you give him something? Can you keep him alive?"

"God, Tha, I don't know. My knowledge of non-human physiology would fit on a head of a pin. His vital signs are almost non-existent."

By now Jacco and some of the guards were showing an interest. Having learned some of their weaknesses in the six months spent as prisoners on the planet, the women had considered these facts in their planning. Sue knew what to do. "Keep away from this man! He could be contagious. I'll isolate him."

Her words had the desired effect. The guards backed away in disgust. As the two women struggled to lift the unconscious Vulcan onto a medi-cart, Sue wished she have saved her contagious comment until he was on the cart. For as skinny as he was, he sure was heavy; even Tha's Romulan strength was straining. Finally Jacco prodded a couple of the other prisoners to help and they got the job done. Then, stopping only long enough to grab a syringe and choose a vial containing a powerful drug, the women were out of the clinic and on their way down the hall.

They were just out of earshot of the guards when Sue could contain herself no longer. "Oh, Tha, when we made these plans, I thought we were just passing the time. You know, maybe giving us a little hope. I never dreamed we would actually get the chance to do anything about it." She felt tears sting her eyes as she thought, maybe, just maybe, a plan conceived by two helpless women and a half-crazy child has a chance. She did not let herself consider the other side of the coin, what would happen to them if this didn't work.

They pushed the cart into their decontamination chamber. All prisoners passed through a portable version of this chamber on they way into the medical complex, but the decease-conscious doc that ran this complex had insisted on the installation of this unit and ordered individuals into it if he had a concern. Now Sue and Thela were using it for their own purpose. Thela set the controls for just the minimum scan and Sue was nervous as they waited, hopping from one foot to the other. That task completed they hurried to get the cart down the hall and inside their cell taking care not to wake Soy-an. This was not the time to explain things to her. "First, we must get rid of this uniform and try to clean up some of the dirt," Thela whispered. She examined the sleeve of his shirt. "Sue, he is an officer."

Sue shrugged. "That's good?"

Thela nodded. In silence they stripped the Vulcan. Sue remembered the fate of the other two prisoners who had been unfortunate enough to be wearing that uniform. They had been killed, just like that. Sue hadn't understood. They were young men in good health, prime specimens for the mines. Why had the guards just eliminated them, why the waste? Sue also knew enough not to ask at the time, but later Tha had told her that those two men were from Starfleet.

The way Sue understood it, the Federation of Planets was a kind of United Nations and this Starfleet was its peacekeeping force. The Towans must really be afraid of Starfleet to kill such men rather than risk putting them to work. Now they had one of the Starfleet people, if she could just keep him alive. She broke the silence. "Tha, we don't have much time. Jacco will be looking for us. I'll go back and you finish here. Then give him this hypo, God, I hope it doesn't kill him." Tha gave her a look. She didn't like to give injections. Sue ignored it. "Get rid of the uniform and come back and help me. Oh, better check Soy. If you can, give her one of the blue pills, it will keep her sedated. See you in a few minutes." Thela responded with a nod of her head.

The rest of the processing went smoothly. Although the women found no time to talk, Thela managed a few hand and eye signals, which Sue took to mean that all was well.

The sun was just coming up over Towan II when they finished. Neither woman wanted to be there when Fraunt, the chief guard, and his men came in to check out and assign the new prisoners. They knew, especially Thela, the process all too well and Sue knew how much it bothered her.

Any chronically ill, who might require prolonged drugs or care had already been tagged, God, how Sue hated that job. At least their deaths would be fast and painless, and there was rarely more than one or two per group, sometime if Sue was lucky there weren't any. Those who needed any special care didn't get in on those ships; most died on the way.

With Sue's encouragement, Jacco and the other night guards were gone before Fraunt and his men came. This made it much easier to cover for the doc. When Fraunt asked where he was, Sue simply lied. "He's been up all night processing this bunch. He went to bed. Said you could handle it from here."

Fraunt just laughed and went about his business. Thela and Sue used the time to duck out for a quick check on the doc. Sue monitored his vital signs. "Still out like a light. It'll probably be another twelve hours before he is up and around." Sue looked around the room in disgust. The evidence of the "party" was still visible. She didn't consider herself a prude, but him with these boys was enough to make her sick. They weren't sure where he got the stuff he got high on. Sue had stolen some once and Tha analyzed it, but neither of them was familiar with it. Sue instructed the boy to stay with him and to call if anything looked wrong.

Back in the medical unit, now clear of prisoners and guards alike, Sue and Thela were deciding how best to spend the day when the outside door buzzer sounded. It was one of the guards with a Tellerite woman in labor.

"Damn," Sue muttered, she had been hoping for an easy day. Turning to Thela, she said, "Help me set up, then I can handle it. You take another hypo, and if our Vulcan friend made it through the night, give it to him. If Soy runs true to form she'll sleep several more hours and at least you can get some rest. I'll call if I need you."

Even though this delivery was the woman's second, it still took all day. Good thing it was otherwise routine, because Sue knew the doc would be no help in an emergency. So far, so good, maybe things would go their way for a change.

The morning passed fairly quickly for Sue. She sent a message postponing the check-ups of the women whose exams were due today. Sue used a pre-signed form she had convinced the doc to let her have for times like these. Of course, they would have to figure out something else once all this information was computerized.

She got herself a breakfast biscuit and made some tea on the lab burner. She even managed the world's fastest shower and a change of coveralls, all the while keeping a close watch on her patient. By early afternoon the hours began to drag.

Since she and the Tellerite didn't speak each other's language, they could communicate very little and Sue found herself with a lot of time to think. She wished Thela would come by and tell her how the Vulcan was. She was anxious to find out what was going on. She toyed with the idea of breaking their rule and calling Tha on the intercom. She wouldn't chance it though. That rule was made for a good reason; you never knew who might be listening. She resigned herself to wait.

As she sat next to the woman in labor, her mind began to wander. What was this Vulcan like? If he was half of what Thela said, they would be very lucky. Sue remembered some of the women she had treated here in the clinic and what their males had done to them. It never took a male long to discover that he had almost complete control over the females in his cell. Most took advantage of it. Sue shuddered. After almost six months together, she and Tha had a good working relationship. In spite of their cultural differences they had become friends and learned to cooperate. It didn't just happen; they knew it was important that they stick together and had worked at it. What would happen now with a male in the cell? Sue knew what they had in mind; but could it work? Soy could present a real problem. How would she react to a male?

The woman's contractions had slowed and Sue found herself getting sleepy. She tried to focus on something. She looked around the clinic and remembered her first days there. Then her mind began to wander to the events that had brought her to Towan. She recalled the flight from Chicago to Nassau, her first vacation in a long time. They were about an hour out of Florida when, without warning, the plane started to tilt and shake. The seat belt lights came on and the stewardess told everyone to remain calm. In the next moment they were all gasping for breath as the oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling. Sue didn't remember losing consciousness, but when she came around she couldn't tell whether minutes, hours, or even days had passed. She looked out the plane window, but all she saw were steel gray walls several feet away. Confused, she wondered if they could possible be inside a building, plane and all. She felt no sensation of movement.

Then both exits opened and Sue sighed with relief. We're rescued, she thought. Screams of terror from those passengers nearest the exits changed her mind. Oh, my God, we've been hijacked! She stood on tiptoes for a better look. Her eyes bugged at what she saw. Atop very normal looking grayish jumpsuits were these elongated heads with fleshy baby pink faces. They had beak-like noses and round eyes topped by close cropped yellowish-pink head fuzz. If they had ears the fuzz hid them. Sue's first reaction was to giggle, then felt her throat constrict and she became paralyzed with fear. The very humanlike hands raised containing large all too familiar shapes, guns.

They began herding the passengers out of the plane. Having no choice, Sue went along. Once out of the plane these beings began to inspect them. A few people tried to ask questions, but that only earned them a blow with a weapon. Three very old people and a lame woman were put into a group by themselves and on signal one being fired his weapon at them. They just faded away. There was no blood, no dead bodies, no nothing, just a little dust on the floor.

The rest were herded down a steel gray corridor and into a room with several others. Sue couldn't make any sense of any of it. At first there was much confusion and fright as the newcomers panicked at the sight of the variety of humanoids already in the room. After a while things settled down, individuals sorted themselves into groups who found a common language and conversation began to flow between old and new inhabitants. Slowly facts were pieced together. The main concern of the newcomers was their fate. They learned, much to their horror, that slavery would be their destiny.

Sue met one of the non-humans, a female from Ontage who spoke her language. She tried to help Sue understand the space/time warp her group had come through. She said little was known about the phenomenon, but research was being done. Sue didn't understand much of it, but the two females passed most of their time in conversation.

After Sue's group had been there long enough to be fed, if one wanted to dignify that sawdust by considering it food, 22 times, the doors opened and they were led down a corridor. They were forced single file through a long narrow room with bright orange lights. Sue felt her skin tingle as she went through.

They were led out of the ship into the bright sunlight. Before Sue could study her surroundings, they were pushed into a building where neck collars were attached -- Sue rubbed her neck at the memory -- as the line moved forward, Sue could see that there was some examination process going on. As her turn came closer she became more and more frightened. She noticed that the man doing the examining appeared to be human and very impatient. Sue was surprised when he yelled in English, "Is there anyone here with any medical training?" He waited, and then yelled again. "If you do have medical training it could keep you out of the mine." He let that sink in. "Of course, if you lie…" Thinking she had nothing to lose, Sue stepped forward. So did a cute young blond. Sue let her talk first, she seemed so…confident.

"I have a degree in Dental Technology."

The man just laughed and shoved her aside. "How about you?"

"I am an R.N. with special training in E.R."

"Well, that's more like it." He turned to one of the men from the ship. "You go over the hump for these?"

The man shrugged. "I don't remember, Doc. Not all, about half I would guess."

The doc turned back to Sue. "You have to be 20th century, last half, of course. Let me see. Late 60's, I would say."

"It's 1976 on Earth, happy two-hundredth birthday of freedom from tyranny," she muttered, "fat lot they care. What's over the 'hump'?"

He ignored the remark and her question and showed her how she was to assist him in the examinations. Sue did what she was told.

When they finished, two people were tagged for maintenance drugs. A guard came and led them away. Another guard, who seemed to be the leader, went down the line pulling out the young and attractive of both sexes. There was a little trouble when a mother would not let go of her teenage son and when they separated a young couple. The rest just stood there watching, helpless. By the way the guards looked at them, all knew for what they were wanted.

After they were led away, the doc read off a list of jobs. The female Sue had talked with, from Ontage, stepped out when he called food processing, and she was led away. No one else responded and they too were taken away. Sue was alone with the doc and a young boy who seemed to fetch and carry for him.

"Well, nurse, I think you're trainable. What's your name?"

"Sue."

He motioned for her to follow him and she did. They went out of the exam room and down a hall where he opened a door and signaled for her to enter. When she went in, he pulled the door shut behind her. Sue turned and grabbed at it, but it wouldn't open. She fell to the floor and cried, for how long she didn't know. When she could cry no more she pulled herself up on her knees and looked around in the dark. All right now, let's get it together. First, we take stock. If this is a living space of some kind, then there should be a light. Where there's a light there should be a light switch. Where would the switch be? By the door you came through, she told herself. She felt her way along the floor to the wall and stood up. She continued feeling her way and found the door, then the handle, a long thing, not a knob. Next to the door her hands found a flat plate and the room was full of a harsh yellow light. When her eyes adjusted, she studied it. It reminded her of an upside-down teacup. There were no seams anywhere and no corners, but there were four molded niches at floor level built into the walls and evenly spaced around the dome shaped room. Closer inspection of one revealed a smooth oval fitting into the bottom of the enclosure. Beds? There was a door and a vent between one set of the enclosures. Sue tried the door, but it wouldn't open. There seemed to be a kind of bathroom between another set. It had no door, but the entrance was constructed to provide minimal privacy. The fixtures were almost recognizable, but the tiny room had no ceiling of its own. The only light that came in was from the top of the dome. On the opposite wall was a similar set up, without the fixtures, however. It had six shelves in it. The door with the switch plate was between the other two bed-like enclosures. The room's only furniture consisted of four foam-like chairs without legs and a low table.

Sue heard a noise at the hall door and ran toward it. A hand placed something on the floor and the door slammed in her face. She cursed, kicked and pounded on it several times and then cried again. After a while she examined the container. It held two biscuits of some kind, a small cup and a jug with a hot drink. Supper? She smelled the drink, an herb tea, she decided. Should I drink it? Don't be stupid, Sue. They wouldn't go to all this trouble to get you here and then poison you. The tea wasn't bad, but the biscuits tasted like sawdust. She slept fitfully that first night…

The Tellerite woman was pulling on her arm and yelling, "Sada! Sada!" Sue jumped to her feet and shook her head to clear it. Good grief, the woman was delivering.

Two hours later Sue settled the woman and her new son in the ward. She hurriedly gave instructions to the old women who watched the mothers and babies at night and was anxiously on her way back to her cell. As she passed the storage closet, she grabbed a coverall and a pair of sandals she hoped would fit their new cell member. On remembering his weakened condition, she prodded herself to think positive.

Knowing the cell door would automatically lock at sundown, she hurried. It wouldn't do to get caught outside her cell now. She didn't want to call attention to herself. Don't make waves, play it cool, listen and don't ask questions; that's what Tha had taught her. They had learned a lot that way, and they used that information.

Sue stopped at the cell door and let herself into the almost dark room feeling very uneasy. Something was wrong. The food basket was still outside and that had never happened before. They should be eating their evening meal now, those biscuits were like eating drywall, but it beat starving. The only light in the room was from a small dim glow lamp they had stolen for Soy-an to use as a night-light. In the time it took her eyes to adjust from the bright hall, Sue set down the basket of food and the clothes she was carrying and looked around the room. The knot in her stomach had grown. Now it was large in her throat. Then she saw Soy in a heap on the floor next to her bed. Sue started toward her. As she got closer she could see that her coveralls were torn and then Sue sickeningly realized what had happened to her.

"Oh, God! Why? Who? Certainly not the Vulcan, he's in no condition. A guard? How can this be?" Sue remembered the other woman in the cell. "Tha, where are you?" She whipped around to see Thela on the other side of the room. Confused, frightened, not knowing what to do first, she started to run across the room. She tripped and hit the floor with a thud. She turned and looked up to see the Vulcan coming at her and as he reached for her. This can't be happening! Her mind screamed, then, as the full implications of what they had brought upon themselves hit her, Sue fainted.

With the return of her senses the first thing Sue felt was pain, waves of pain. She hurt all over and more in some places. When she thought her eyes would focus, she forced herself to open them. It was quiet, but there he was, this thing they had brought into their cell, lying just three feet from her. She started to shake as panic filled her. Think, keep calm, and don't panic. As quickly and quietly as possible, she rolled away from him. He seems to be sleeping, if only I could go…where? Jesus! We're locked in here with him. I'll call…who? The guards? God, how they would laugh. She dropped her head to the floor and choked off a sob. Oh. God, there's no one. The helplessness was more than she could bear as she gave in to it and sobbed for several minutes.

Come on, Sue, this won't change anything. You have seen this so many times in E.R. Only now, you're on the other side of the exam table. She felt a renewed sympathy for all women who had been through this. God, Tha, how could you have been so wrong?

Thoughts of Thela reminded her of the other two women in the cell. Knowing Soy and Tha would need help, Sue began to move. Slowly, painfully, she got up on all fours and started crawling toward Soy-an. Now she was getting angry. Still crying, she began to rage. Who the hell does he think he is? Stinking savage! Animal! Sue was trying to hold her torn coveralls together as she crawled across the room. Pulling at them to cover her body, she felt something in her pocket. She pulled them out as leaned back to stare at the scissors in her hand. She stopped for a second, as she realized she had a weapon. I'll fix him! I'll show him! Pick on women who can't fight back! She took her time getting to her feet, nursing her anger with her pain.

The Vulcan didn't move as Sue went toward him, scissors raised. The closer she got to him, the slower her steps became. Her cries were muffled sobs now. "I'll kill you, you stinking bastard!" As Sue started to bring her weapon down, she glanced at his face and jerked backwards. He was not asleep, nor unconscious; he was watching her. And even more mystifying was that he was making no move to stop her or to protect himself. His eyes had a blank look as if he could look right through her. At the last second, Sue veered. The scissors caught the Vulcan across the neck just below the ear. Sue fell to the floor, sobbing, "Oh, Jesus, I can't even kill him."

In the next second she felt a hand grasp her ankle. Oh, God, no! Not again! She tried to fight, but it was no use. Sue started to cry. No! No, I won't give him the satisfaction! Sue felt herself being turned over and tried not to shake. If I can't get out of this, I'll be damned if he'll see my fear. Let him look at me! Let him face me! She looked into those eyes, so close to hers now. Whatever Sue had expected to find there, it was not the pain mirrored back to her. Where was the hate, the need for power and to humiliate that drove men to this act, certainly not in these pain-filled eyes.

As Sue continued to look into those eyes, strange things began to happen in her mind. She saw images that were not hers; at least, she didn't think they were. No, she was sure now, these happenings were not part of her own experiences. Somehow these thoughts must be coming from him. Her own thoughts became submerged as together they seemed to relive a series of events Sue could not understand. They went on and on and their intensity grew. Sue didn't know what the images signified, but the emotions were only too clear. She had no trouble understanding them. She began to cry and thrash about as they became more than she could stand. Noises, loud noises and bells ringing ever louder and colors and images swirling madly in her mind. When his body finally slackened she pushed away from him, more confused than ever. It had been easier to hate him, much easier. But those thoughts, no, they were more like pictures in her head like a movie film run at high speed. What did they mean? How was he able to do that, through some kind of trick?

As she lay on the floor trying to collect her wits, she remembered some of them. A beautiful woman, probably one of his own race, a ceremony of some sort, yes, Sue was sure that was what it was. But what was that terrible fighting with those strange weapons all about, and all that unhappiness after? What kind of ceremony included that? One man lying so still, was he dead? Another so angry, and was that him so sad? That woman walking away, who was she with?

Soy-an's crying brought her back. The young woman was up and walking around as if in a daze. Can't let her wake him, Sue thought. Sue went to her, but was too weak to remain standing. She sat down and pulled Soy-an next to her. Sue took the young woman in her arms and noticed what a mess she was. Oh, hell, I can't do anything about that now. Sue began rocking back and forth. She had to keep Soy from becoming hysterical; otherwise she would be uncontrollable for several days. Sue spoke softly. "It's okay now, Soy, take it easy, sing to me, Soy, you know, that pretty lullaby." With a little coaxing Soy-an began to sing. Sue closed her eyes, not to listen, but to try to think about what to do next. She didn't understand much of Soy's language anyway. Although in one of her more lucid moments Soy had explained what the song meant.

There was a noise behind her and Sue knew that the Vulcan was moving. Oh Jesus, he's up, now what? Sue froze, but when the noise subsided and nothing happened, she relaxed just enough to continue rocking. We've been lucky until now, without a male. Why, oh, why, didn't we leave well enough alone? she asked herself, knowing that argument wouldn't hold up. Kiear had promised them the first male who knew something about computers. In fact, he'd been searching for some time. Think, Susan! We're stuck here till morning. If we just don't excite him, maybe we'll be all right. Has he had enough? God, what's in his head?

In a little while Soy-an was asleep and Sue was wondering just how she was going to move her. God, it was frustrating to be so weak physically. She opened her eyes and saw the Vulcan standing over them. She clutched at Soy, her heart racing and pounding in her ears. There was nowhere she could go! Nothing she could do. He just stood there, looking at them. Then he went over and put the mat back in Soy's bed. Sue couldn't believe it; didn't know what to think. She noticed that he was wearing the coveralls and she also noticed that he seemed so calm now, but for how long? Could he be schizo? Just humor him, she told herself, then choked of a sob. As if she had a choice. He came towards them and knelt down in front of them. Sue knew he was watching, but could not control her trembling. When he spoke his words were slow and toneless.

"You will require help."

"No! Don't!" Sue clasped Soy-an even closer.

He sucked in his breath. "I shall not harm her, any of you, further." He waited a few seconds, then, when Sue gave no further objection, he slowly reached for Soy-an. Sue watched him closely as he started to shift the young woman's weight from her arms his. He was looking at Soy and Sue saw the change in his eyes. She could guess why and could not resist her chance to inflict pain on him. "She's only fifteen, just a child!"

His head dropped and Sue felt his grip on Soy loosen. He almost lost his balance, but after a few seconds he steadied himself and tightened his hold and easily lifted Soy-an. As he settled her in bed, she began to stir. He rocked her gently for a minute. Sue couldn't believe it. He must have been watching me. She was becoming more confused all the time. It worked though, and Soy settled back to sleep. The Vulcan covered her with the blanket and pulled the curtains closed.

Without thinking Sue blurted, "Don't close it all the way. If she wakes, she'll be afraid. You have to put the light next to her."

The Vulcan nodded and followed directions. When he put the glow light inside the enclosure, the room grew much darker.

"Is there another source of light in this room?"

"Near the door that leads to the hall." Sue pointed, and then realized he probably couldn't see her arm in the dim light. He found the switch and Sue wished he hadn't. What a shock, seeing the whole scene in the harsh light. She dropped her head and shut her eyes. Somehow in the shadows it had seemed easier to deal with. It was all so ugly, so real. 'Oh, hell, Sue,' she chided herself, get used to it. It did happen. Slowly she started to get up. Before she knew it, the Vulcan was at her side trying to help. She instinctively recoiled, then forced herself to relax. 'Don't antagonize him, Sue, cool it.' He helped her cross the room to where Thela was lying unconscious, and Sue began to check her over. Her coveralls were in shreds, and she had bruises and scratches all over her body. Both her eyes were swollen. The knots began forming in Sue's stomach again. Again she had to force herself to concentrate on the needs at hand. Pretend you're in ER and do what has to be done.

She was startled when the Vulcan spoke. "The wall communicator, can you not call for help?"

Sue just shook her head.

"And the doors?"

"Locked."

Then, ever so slowly he reached for Thela and began to examine her right shoulder and arm. Sue was about to object, but instead she watched, fascinated. He seemed to know what he was doing. He had one hand on her shoulder and the other on her upper arm and was manipulating the joint. Sue couldn't contain her surprise. "Do you know medicine?"

"I have had emergency training."

"Well, I say she has a concussion, do you agree?"

"That is correct. Also a dislocated right shoulder."

Sue sighed. "Can we put it back before she comes around?"

"I believe that is possible."

He continued to manipulate the joint. When Sue heard a soft 'pop,' she knew that the shoulder was back in place. Sue went to their storage closet for their extra blanket. The Vulcan tore it into strips and together they bound Thela's injured arm close to her body. Sue watched him as he finished. Now that's more like the Vulcan that Tha described. Together they settled her in bed and made her as comfortable as possible.

Sue began to freeze up again. What would he do now? 'Easy, Sue, there are still several more hours till those doors open in the morning.'

When he turned to face her, she had never seen a more defeated or miserable looking being in her whole life. His voice was choked and he could barely talk. "There are no words to convey my regret. I can only say that I have betrayed everything, everything that I believe in and hold sacred." He shook his head disjointedly. "I do not understand my own actions. I behaved as no Vulcan would." His voice trailed off and be began to shake and Sue had trouble understanding his next words. "Please, if you would tell the others for me. Is there anything else you require before I rid you of my presence?"

"I'll be go to hell!" Sue stood there, dumbfounded shaking her head in disbelief.

With shoulders sagging he almost stumbled to the wall where he sat down. Pulling up his knees, he wrapped his arms around them and dropped his head. Sue continued to stand there with her mouth open. It must be me. I'm losing my mind.

Now what kind of a trick is this? She asked herself as she sat down and watched him. Sue had anticipated a lot of things, but not this. Then her curiosity got the better of her and she moved closer. "What are you doing?" When he didn't answer she gingerly pushed at his shoulder. "Hey. I decided that I require something." His eyelids fluttered. "I said I require something."

He stirred at her words. "You do not understand…this…the pon farr is not yet over. I have 31, incorrect, 29…no, should be able to correlate…approximately another 30 minutes of control left. I must be deep into the Kuxydt by then."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

He gave her a look she couldn't interpret.

"Well, don't I have a right to know?"

Sue watched as he took several seconds to get himself together. Whatever battle he was fighting within himself was agony. Then gradually, by degrees, he drew himself together and his face became impassive. "You do have the right to an explanation. I shall endeavor to provide you with some answers. What do you know of Vulcans?"

Sue sighed. "What do I know of Vulcans?" One of Thela's facts popped into her head. Low mental illness rate, only about .5% of the population. And we had to get one of them. She threw up her hands and pleaded to the ceiling and beyond for deliverance. Why me? Deciding that if she wanted answer, she had better play along, she said, "Only what Thela told me. She said that they were a race ruled by logic and that they held their emotions in check. They were also extremely gentle and tolerant of all life forms." Then thought to herself, reflect on that, you bastard!

"This information is basically correct."

Sue wanted to object, to yell and scream, but bit her tongue instead.

In slow jerky movements he pulled himself up and began walking around the room in a very uncoordinated manner. As she watched him, Sue thought, if this is a Starfleet officer, God help the Federation. She was getting impatient. This silence was hard to deal with and this whole scene was so bizarre.

When he finally stood near her again, he said, "Vulcans learned a long time ago that they would have to control their destructive instincts or perish. Most of our lives are lived within this control." He paused. "But, there is a time in the life of a Vulcan male when logic and control are stripped from him." His voice was detached now, as if he had stepped out of himself. "This is the pon farr, our time of mating. Knowing this time was nearing, I was on my way home to take a wife. I was captured and brought here." When he saw the expression on her face he said, "You do not understand."

All Sue's plans for keeping calm were gone right out of her head as she shouted, "Hell no, I don't understand! What's this 'time of mating' crap? And it can't always be like this with your people. You almost killed Thela …and three of us!"

He shuddered and his voice was full of loathing. "No! No, it is not like that … the female, she controls."

Sue was sputtering. "Controls … a raging bull! How?"

"The bonding. The female's mind is attuned to this time. She is the link to reality."

Sue gave him an unbelieving look. "Oh, come on."

"Our telepathic powers make this possible."

"Tele-- what? Wait a minute! Wait just a minute! Did you say telepathic? This gets crazier by the minute!" She went on talking, almost to herself. "So that's what it was! It must have been. For a while, when you … well, anyway, I was having these, ah, images in my head, and they weren't mine."

A small moan escaped his lips as he dropped to his knees. Sue jerked back. "What's the matter, now?"

"Your mind too, I violated your mind too. I had hoped … too much disgrace."

Disgust, that's what was in his voice, self-disgust. He seemed to go into shock again as Sue sat there staring at him and thinking, what the hell do I do now?

Tha's moan decided for her. Sue struggled to her feet and went to her. Thela was mumbling and only semi-conscious. "No, don't … let me alone." She began murmuring in her own language.

"It's okay, Tha. He's a … asleep. Take it easy."

As Sue examined the injured woman, she lamented, "Oh, Sue, what have we brought on ourselves?"

"God, Tha, I don't know. Don't move or you'll be sick. I'm sure you have a concussion."

Thela rolled her head. "Ohhhh my shoulder." She strained at the binding.

"Don't do that," Sue said. "You'll make it worse. Just lie still…"



Thela relaxed and Sue helped her settle the arm. "How are you … and Soy?"

"I'm not too bad, mostly sore and bruised. Soy may be lucky; I don't think she even realizes what happened to her. You got the worst of it. Tha, what happened?"

"Everything was quiet when I came in and I went straight to the Vulcan and gave him the injection. I thought he woke up disoriented and that was why he was on the floor, but, oh, Sue, then I saw Soy, and I realized… I was trying to help her when he caught me. I … Sue, what are we going to do?" The strain of talking took what strength Thela had. Her breathing became labored and she passed out.

Sue sat there talking to the unconscious woman. " I wish I knew, Tha. Our plan is a failure." Sue remembered how they had planned, how they thought they would have it better than the women in the other cells. "It's ironic, isn't it? We planned so carefully and picked him ourselves, and here we are no better off than the worst of them. It's so crazy. No one would believe it. He's like two different people, so violent before and so guilt ridden now. Probably psychotic." Sue stopped for a second then continued to herself. Guilt. Guilt ridden. Maybe that's it. She turned that over in her mind. If we could play on that guilt, use it; maybe all isn't lost. Thoughts raced through her mind as she tried to consider everything and argued with herself. I have two choices. If I let him die, we may be safe for a while. Can't count on that. They need someone in computers and we've been without a male longer than any other cell. Maybe we could choose better next time? Oh, who am I kidding? We'll never get a chance like this again, and how the hell am I going to explain a dead body? If only I had more time, or could talk this over with Tha. Typical Sue, you can't make a decision on your own. But this time you have to. If this guilt is real, then we should be able to play on it. Besides, she smiled to herself. If I can keep Soy drugged half the time, why not him too?

Her decision made, Sue went over to the Vulcan and began shaking him. When he didn't respond, she wasn't sure what to do. She sure didn't want to set him off again. She tried patting his face and shaking harder. When his eyelids began to flutter she said, "What's the matter with you? Why are you doing this? You can't die, not now, not after all we've been through. You're our way out of this place." She was talking through clenched teeth. "You owe us this, do you hear me?" When she thought he was awake enough to understand, she continued, slowly emphasizing every word. "You owe us this. Besides, we saved your life and now we want something." Now she seemed to have his attention. "I want to talk about this … 'mating time'. If I understand, you're telling me that with your race, the reproductive cycle is in the male instead of the female."

All she got for an answer was a weak 'yes'.

"How often does it occur?"

"Every seven years."

"You're puttin' me on!" Sue felt a mixture of relief and astonishment. "How long does it last?"

"There are several variables to…"

"Just give me an answer!" she demanded.

"Two point five to three weeks."

Sue cringed. "And these three weeks will all be so…"

"No. There will be more control and the times between will grow longer. I do not…"

"Quiet. Let me think. Is there a drug?"

"No. Nothing."

"You don't mean that after this time is over you won't need a female … at all?"

He nodded.

Sue was even more confused. Sue knew from her little experience in the clinic, that some species did have very different sexual cycles, but this was a new wrinkle. Three weeks, then he won't need any of us sexually. Not a bad trade-off, if it's true. "Are you sure about the control?"

He wasn't listening and Sue was afraid that if he slipped back into shock again, she wouldn't be able to bring him out of it. Okay, Sue, looks like you can do one of two things. You can offer to get him through this time or you can let him die and try to talk your way around a dead body in your cell. She sat back to consider this. There's a choice made in hell, she told herself, but knew she had to make it. She watched him for a long moment. "Now listen to me," she finally said. You will leave Tha and Soy alone, and you will, ah, deal just with me."

Her remark startled him. "Unacceptable," he stated flatly. "Would it not be better for all, if I … ceased to exist?"

"No! It may be the easy way for you, but what about us? We would be given another male and have to go through all this again."

"You could allow your … person to be used in such a manner?"

"Hey, you're not listening. I don't have any control over my person, as you call it. We have no rights here and neither do you. At least in this, it's my choice because I have a goal. I want out of here!"

"I could not accept this. It is not our way…"

Sue's arms were waving. "Believe me, it's not my way either! But, I'm not asking you. I want something and you have a debt to pay. You're from Starfleet and we have been looking for you a long time. I'm not letting you off the hook. We'll get through this, this time of yours, then we'll make our plans. You're going to get us out of here!"

His voice was so low now Sue had to strain to hear him. "I would not be able to … this is the only recourse now left me. You must understand … I cannot live with this. You will be found. I have family, fellow officers … friends who will not rest until they know what happened to me. Keep the uniform to prove my presence here. Jim will come. No matter how long it takes, he'll come."

"Jim? Who is Jim?"

"My captain."

"Your captain!" Sue exploded, "of the good ship Lollipop, I suppose! Don't you understand? They kill Starfleet people here. That's why we had to sneak you in and destroy the uniform. No one else knows."

He just kept shaking his head. "I know you will be found. Just accept that I cannot live with this." He seemed to be pleading with his eyes, willing her understand. He began to reach out to her, then jerked back with a shudder. While she watched in horrified fascination he began to withdraw. She could actually see the process. "Forgive. Forgive."

He's turning himself off! He really is! So much for my theory on his guilt. Now Sue was really angry. Goddamn! After all we've been through and what I was prepared to do. I have lost! He'll die and all we'll be left with is … babies. She spit the words at him. "At least tell me your name, Vulcan! So when your children ask, I can tell them that much."

This got a response. He opened his eyes and stared at her. "Children?"

"Yes, children!"

She caught his look of suspicion. "Highly unlikely. The odds of inter…"

"Odds, hell, this is a breeding farm and we are all given fertility drugs, and I deliver inter-species babies all the time."

The Vulcan was stunned. He rolled over moaning, "How much must I endure?" Then he was sick, actually physically sick.

Sue was drained. She couldn't argue anymore. It took her a few minutes to get a basin of water and a towel. As she was cleaning up she noticed the neck wound and cleaned it also. When she was finished, she looked at him. "Do what you want. I don't care. Maybe you can't live with this, but we have to. We've managed this far; we'll manage now, babies and all."

Sue gathered the basin and things and put them away, that done, she began to straighten the room, it hurt her to move, but she needed to keep busy. Later, she would think about what to do. Yeah, Sue, you and Scarlet O'Hara, think about this tomorrow and where in the hell is Rhett Buttler when you need him?

She felt his eyes on her; only now she didn't care. She was too defeated; all hope was gone. Then, as she struggled with the overturned table, he was there, helping her. When the table was in place he looked across it and said, "I am called Spock."

Sue couldn't believe it. "You've changed your mind. Why?"

"You are correct. I cannot neglect this debt. I cannot abandon all of you to face this alone. If you can exist under these conditions, I must also try."

"Can I trust you? You won't change again?"

"No. I have made a decision. I will not change. If you are still willing..." His words became even slower. "...the next three weeks will not be easy for either of us, but…" He didn't finish. When he spoke again, it was almost like he was thinking aloud. "I still do not understand my own actions in this. No Vulcan since the time of Surak would have acted as I did." He shuddered again and it was a minute or so before he could continue. Sue wasn't sure if he was talking to her or himself. It was as if he was repeating a lecture he had heard somewhere. "With no bondmate available, the male's system begins to overload. Control must be maintained until the Kuxydt can be enforced. I was in the beginning stages when I arrived here." He was looking at her questioningly. Sue didn't know if he wanted some response or not, but it seemed so important that he figure this out. When he said no more, she decided to try something.

"Would that look like a state of shock? When you collapsed that's how you appeared. I gave you a large dose of pen-ox III. It's a drug that acts as a stimulant on Tha's people."

He glanced in Thela's direction. "The Romulan?"

"Yes, it seemed the best guess at the time."

He pondered this for a time. "I am not familiar with that drug. What effect would it have on a human?"

"Oh, hell, you couldn't give it to a human. It'd drive 'em crazy, probably kill 'em." Sue stopped as she watched his reaction to this news, then slowly went on. "You were given two doses, why?"

"I am only half Vulcan. My mother is human."

* * *

Sue plugged the drain at the bottom of the shower stall with a cloth. It wasn't designed for that purpose and was cramped and shallow, but when they wanted a bath, it worked. She climbed into the hot water, leaned back and cried, his words still ringing in her head. "My mother is human. My mother…" She almost wished he'd been angry instead of saying it so flatly. "You have no way of knowing. Your actions were correct with the available data."

And to think she had been proud of herself for reasoning out, in all the confusion what would be the best drug for his system. So much for my medical ingenuity. Oh, God, this is not the way it was supposed to be.

When she could cry no more, she washed. The water was quite cold. As she dried herself, she felt her swollen eyes. How could she go to work in a few hours? She put on fresh coveralls. Of course, they had no underclothes. It was a one-piece affair, not attractive to any figure. The fit was not snug, since there was no extra weight on her body. That ten pounds she was always trying to lose had disappeared and taken five more with it. With only that sawdust to eat, overweight was not a problem here.

She felt a little better; at least she thought she could face the Vulcan again. They needed to talk. If she was going to go through with this she needed more answers.

As Sue went toward him, she couldn't help but notice his condition. Oh Lord! So soon. He can't talk now. If he comes at me, I'll... I'll what? she asked herself, knowing she had no answer. What in the hell was I thinking of...to agree to this? I must have been out of my mind. Why didn't I let him die, like he wanted to? I could have explained the body somehow, told Kiear and the doc something. Sure, Sue, and with any luck your bruises would be healed before the next male... She wanted to run. The thought of having intercourse again... If I could get out of here, I would run like hell. I'd leave Tha and Soy and I'd run… And you called him a coward for not facing this situation. Christ, Sue, get hold of yourself. She leaned against the wall and sucked in deep breaths and she pinched the inside of her arm until the pain brought tears to her eyes.

Somewhat more in control of herself, Sue continued to talk to herself and she rubbed her arm. You pride yourself on being a realist; remember. If I could just believe all that he said, about the control, and this being over in three weeks. Then if he would be as gentle and calm as when he was helping with Tha and Soy. Was all that violence really the drug? I've been assaulted twice tonight, how much worse can this be? Oh, that didn't help at all. Sue, you're not a starry-eyed teenager and haven't been for some time. You know both extremes, how good sex can be when it clicks with two people and how it is when you just want it over with. At best, this is going to be something to just get through, a chore. At worst... She watched as the Vulcan's condition deteriorated before her eyes. He had said something about control. Are you going to wait until he has none left? Do something, Nurse. Even if it turns out wrong, do something. Sue went to the switch and turned off the light. When her eyes adjusted, she made her way to him. She didn't know which of them was shaking more. She stopped and tried to calm the fear that was rising in the pit of her stomach. She wiped her sweating palms on her pant legs and tried to sound casual. "I'm Sue." She held out her quivering hand. He hesitated several seconds as Sue held her breath. Then he took her hand.

* * *

Sue woke with a start and was trying to orient herself when she heard the running water and relaxed. He was in the shower. Her head weighed a ton as she rolled over and looked through the curtains and thought how glad she was they had been able to "find" all the materials needed to put them up. Lord, without them. She shivered. It was very early morning. She could tell by the amount of light that came through the vent. That would mean she had only slept about two hours. Lord how her head ached. She rolled back and tried to lie still. Well, Sue, that's over and you're still alive. She was very sore and had a headache, but they had gotten through it. Hopefully, it would get easier ... but three weeks?

So many things had rushed through her mind and she hadn't been able to get a firm hold on any of them. One thing came through; at all costs he wouldn't hurt her again. This telepathic business, a mind link, he had called it. Sue had never experienced anything like it in her life. She didn't even know such a thing really existed. So many of her questions had been answered without words.

His actions told her that this was his first physical mating. There was something about another time, she felt it had to do with that "ceremony" she had glimpsed before, but she couldn't sort it out. Between his awkwardness and his trying not to hurt her, it had been a clumsy, embarrassing experience, but that was better than physical pain.

The water had stopped running. Sue rolled over and saw him coming out of the bathroom. She tried to get up. "My turn." A wave of nausea hit her and she lowered herself face down onto the floor. "OhhhhGod."

He was kneeling beside her and she heard the concern in his voice as he asked what was the matter.

"My head. I'm gonna be sick."

Despairingly he said, "The mind contact. I have caused you pain again. I may be able to help ... if you will allow me?"

"Anything."

Only then did he touch her. His hands moved with such dexterity now, none of the earlier ineptness.

"Ohhh," she crooned, "how do you do that?"

"It is knowing which nerves to touch and how."

Sue almost choked on that statement. With a human male, someone she knew, she would have been able to make a joke of it, but not with him.

He asked her to turn on her back and then he placed his hands on her forehead. Slowly and gently he massaged. Sue relaxed as the pain eased. She let her mind drift. "Tell me your name again."

"Spock."

She spelled it. "S-P-O-C-K?"

"In your language, yes."

She said it aloud a few times.

"It troubles you?"

"No, it's just that it's different and, yet, not all that different."

As he continued to massage, he said, "Susan, I have several questions, if you feel up to it."

"I bet you do. Go ahead."

"How long have you been here?"

Sue raised her head and pointed to some marks on the wall. "I think it's about six months."

"You are from Earth?"

"Yeah, good old U.S. of A."

"And you understand how you got here?"

"You mean about the space/time disruption thing? Yeah, I talked to a woman on the ship that brought us here. She explained it, but I don't understand the technicalities." Sue stopped and then said thoughtfully, "If you knew how many times I thought about that statement, 'stop the world, I want to get off,' then I did." She moved her head slowly. It didn't hurt. She thanked him and asked, "Do you know where we are?"

"The Towan system. Northeast sector of quadrant 832."

Sue shrugged her shoulders. "Sorry, that doesn't mean diddly to me. Where is Earth, no, I mean, Earth's sun? Could you point it out in the night sky?"

"No, not from this distance." Sue was disappointed.

As she lay there with her eyes closed, she continued to answer his questions. After a few minutes she began to detect a change in his voice. He was having trouble concentrating. When he repeated a question she had just answered she opened her eyes to study him. She recognized the signs and without a word she crawled back into the bed enclosure.

* * *

Loud talking in the cell awakened Sue and as the event of the past night came back to her she came fully awake. She struggled into her coveralls. She crawled out of the bed enclosure to see the doc and one of those flunky boys he kept with him. The doc was looking at Spock and yelling, "What is going on in here, and who the hell is he?"

Sue was thinking fast and hoping Spock and the others wouldn't blow it. "What are you talking about?" God, Sue noticed that Thela had vomited and Spock was cleaning up. She knew there was not another male on this whole stinking planet that would do that.

"You know damn well what I mean!" The doc was storming toward Sue and pointing at Spock. "How'd he get in here?"

"Christ, you put him in here! He's out of the new batch that came in yesterday. He knows computers." Sue hoped.

The doc was trying to think, to remember the events Sue said happened.

So far, so good, thought Sue. Thela was too sick to talk; Soy too afraid and confused, and Spock had enough sense to guess what was going on.

The doc looked around the room and leered at them. Sue thought she might be sick. He smirked. "Looks like you have been having quite a party in here. If I had known that, you ladies would have had a male in here sooner, much sooner."

Sue would have liked to kill him.

"Enough of that, why aren't you in the clinic?"

Sue decided to push the bluff one step further. "What do you mean? You gave us the day off."

He gave her a skeptical look.

"I have been covering for you for the past two days. I even delivered the Tellerite without getting you out of bed. You said I could have today, unless you had an emergency."

Sue knew the doc was confused because his head was not yet clear of the drug. "Yes, I saw them, any trouble?"

Sue tried to be flippant. "No, you know those Teller, they all seem to take forever, but no problems."

She was mentally crossing her fingers. If I can only pull this off. "Doc, how about some hot tea and something to eat?"

"Missed your supper, huh?"

She didn't answer.

"Well, all right." He sent the flunky off and went over to examine Thela. "What did you hit her with?" He looked at Spock, then went on without an answer. "She has a concussion."

Sue moved closer. "I know. That's why I want to stay with her today."

After the kid came back with the tea and food, the doc turned to leave. He stopped before going through the door and turned to Spock. "Look, you, what's your name?"

"Spock."

"Well, look, Spock, you are going to have to be more careful." There's that snicker again. "This is my staff and I just got them trained to do things my way. I don't want to have to replace them, you hear? Do you hear?"

The only response he received was a nod.

They could hear him laughing as he closed the cell door and went down the hall.

Sue watched Spock. Nothing changed but his eyes. That pain she had seen before was back again. Then he seemed to mentally shake it off.

Sue asked him anxiously, "You do know something about computers? My bluff will only work if you do."

"I have a knowledge of them. I see no problem there."

Sue let out a sigh of relief. Then she checked Thela. When finished she said, "Let's go outside and give Tha some quiet." She gathered the food baskets. "Come on, Soy, Spock."

It was a warm day and they sat in the yellow-green spongy grass. Sue poured tea and handed them a food bar. After she took a sip she set down her cup, stretched and moved her muscles trying to exercise some of the soreness out of them. Soy-an was eyeing Spock guardedly and from a distance.

Spock was surveying the area. "Susan, will you answer some more questions?"

"Sure, shoot."

His eyebrow went up and Sue wondered how he did that.

"Last night you said you needed me, explain."

"It's really very simple. We want out of this pit, and none of us, even together, have the," she was searching for a word, "knowledge to manage it. Hell, even if we could steal a spaceship, we couldn't drive it." His eyebrow shot up again. "Anyway, we realized our limitations and decided our only chance was if we could select our own male, one with the qualifications needed to get us out of here." Sue went on to explain about the other two Starfleet people. "Tha said that almost anyone in Starfleet would be able to pilot a small craft and should have some knowledge of computers. We would spend our evenings and free days talking and planning, trying to consider everything. In the end we had several versions of our plan to cover different circumstances." Sue became thoughtful and said in retrospect, "A lot of the time I thought we were just three crazy women giving each other hope. Then, there you were in that uniform and the doc wasn't around. It's a good thing Tha had the first part of the plan. Her training carried her through. I don't think I would have been able to get the operation off the ground."

Sue watched Spock as he rubbed his neck around the collar. "You'll get used to it in time. I have some ointment if it gives you a rash."

"Is this simply a tracking collar or can it be used for discipline?"

"Punish? Hell, I never thought about it. Not that I know of. It's just that there's no place on this whole fu…ah, stinking planet that you can't be found as long as you're wearing it. Tha explained how they can track you with an instrument they have, but I don't understand it." Sue shook her head. " There are so many things here that I don't understand."

"I remember standing in line with others," he paused, "then I do not remember anything until much later."

"Tha slipped you a mickey." Sue could tell by the look and the eyebrow that this didn't register. "A drug to knock you out." He understood. Sue went on about the doc's problem, and how they were able to get him out of the clinic and into their cell.

"I am expected to be the male counterpart of this breeding unit?"

Unable to meet his eyes, Sue just nodded.

"Tell me the breeding requirements."

"If the male fails to impregnate at least one female in his cell within three cycles he is replaced. If a female fails to conceive within three cycles, or to produce a living offspring after two pregnancies, she is replaced."

"Explain 'replaced'."

"Sent to the stockade, real slime pits. There are no rules or protection and very little control. During the day when the prisoners are working in the mines, the guards keep order, but once they're locked in for the night the place is up for grabs. It becomes survival of the fittest in the most real terms. It's as bad at the other two mines. The mortality rate is something like 37% and infant mortality was almost 80%. That's part of the reason for this new set-up. Some efficiency expert on the home planet decided that they were wasting valuable goods."

"Are all pregnancies accomplished naturally," now his eyes would not meet hers, "or are they doing in vitro fertilization?"

"In-what kind of fertilization?"

"In vitro fertilization - accomplished outside the womb."

"You mean like test-tube babies? No, not that I'm aware of. Why?"

"So drugs are administered to the female to allow conception to take place and to produce a healthy offspring. There is no manipulation of the fetus after conception."

Sue could only stare at him as she shook her head. "What are you asking?" she demanded.

"I am wondering if the Towans are attempting to create a race of workers for the mines, if they are seeking to limit intelligence and\or breed for physical strength."

"Christ, I never thought of that. I don't think so. We monitor the mother-to-be, but we don't do anything to them or the fetus unless there's a problem. From what I understand some of the species mix the doc tried didn't work out too well, others do better, so he made adjustments to who gets paired with whom. From what I can make of his notes, there was a high miscarriage rate when he first got here, but that has cut way down in the past few months." Sue went quiet for a time as she thought about what he was saying. "If I thought that I was going to have to give birth to a sub-human I think I would off myself right now."

That got his attention. "Susan, from what you have said, there is no indication that is the case…"

"But you think that's were this breeding program is going in the future when he has the bugs worked out of the basics, don't you?"

He did not answer that question, instead he asked, "What is to become of the children after they are born?"

"They are to be left in the unit for the first few years."

"How many?"

"Not sure yet. With this being a new system, they haven't ironed out all the wrinkles yet. I've heard talk of four years."

"The Lenville/Stelle method."

"It's got a name?"

"After the sociologists who classified it, 21st century." He shook his head. "A most inefficient method."

"That's what I thought, but men are more valuable here because of their physical strength. If a woman can't breed, she's not worth much and doesn't last long. Tha and I think the Towans were forced to do something. It was getting to the point where workers were dying faster than they could capture new ones. And Tha said that even the Federation would get wise to what was happening in time." His eyebrow went up again. "How do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Raise that one eyebrow, see like that."

"It is simply a reflex action I do not bother to control."

Sue shrugged. "Well, anyway, we figure they plan to make this breeding program self-sufficient and discontinue raiding. What I didn't understand was why the expensive mixed breeding, but if they plan to start growing workers…"

"Susan, that goes back to antiquity, even to your ancient Greeks. Aristotle once advised the mixing of enslaved races to minimize the changes of rebellion."

"Slavery isn't unique to Earth then?"

"No, almost all inhabited planets resort to slavery at some time during their evolutionary development."

He went back to the main subject. "How are individuals selected for these units?"

"Here in the complex, by job need. A list is kept and they try to fill positions as new prisoners arrive. I was lucky; they needed a nurse and I was in the right place at the right time." Sue got up and motioned for Spock to follow her. As she hobbled along, her aching body made her curious about Vulcan women. They must have the constitution of a horse. Sue didn't think she'd last three weeks. He had said his mother was human. 'Lord, if I ever meet that lady, I'm gonna walk right up to her and shake her hand.'

They crossed the grassy yard to a newly planted hedgerow. She noticed how carefully Spock was scrutinizing the area. He didn't miss a thing. Sue pointed. "Those huts, the mine slaves live there. There are fifty huts in that section. Members are chosen randomly and right now thirty-two huts are occupied. The entrance to the mine is just out of sight to the right. They're almost finished building another fifty huts on the other side."

"That force field, is it always in operation?"

"You can see it from here? I have to be on top of it before I can see it. Oh yes, it's always there. It separates the huts from this complex. There's another one on the other side of that hill that encircles the whole area." Sue was talking about a gently sloping wooded hill that began slanting upward 300 feet in front of them.

"The mine runs under that hill?"

Sue shrugged again. "I don't know, never thought about it."

"What do they mine?"

"Something called Solad, whatever that is."

Now it was his turn. Spock went into a technical explanation of how, from the mineral Soldanten, a hallucinogen could be extracted. It was addictive and after prolonged use in 95% of the cases madness and death resulted. It was illegal on all Federation planets and many others.

Sue wondered if that was what the doc was hooked on.

They went back and sat down and Sue divided what was left of the now lukewarm tea. He was asking yet another question when Soy-an started to cry. She dropped her cup and spilled tea all over herself. Sue went to her. "It's all right, Soy, it doesn't matter." Sue began wiping off the coveralls while Spock picked up the cup. Soy was becoming increasingly upset. Sue tried to hold her. Spock stepped up and said something to her. Soy stopped and answered him.

Sue was amazed. "You speak Andorian?"

"A little."

"That's great. When she gets like this, Tha and I can't even communicate with her."

Spock talked with Soy-an for several minutes and she allowed herself to be led back to the cell where she agreed to rest. Sue followed and watched, feeling more secure about her decision regarding Spock all the time.



While he settled Soy-an in her bed, Sue checked Thela. She was awake and needed help to the bathroom. She tried to question Sue about the Vulcan, but was still too sick. In fact, by the time Sue got her back to bed she vomited again. Sue had just finished cleaning things when Spock joined her. He told her that Soy-an was asleep and asked about Thela. As they talked Sue couldn't help but notice that his words were coming slower and his hands were shaking. She knew it was time again.

* * *

Thela and Soy-an slept most of the afternoon, a blessing for which Sue was extremely grateful. But, during the evening Soy was in one of her talkative moods. She jabbered away constantly switching from Andorian, English, and another language Spock said was Rigellian.

Tha woke for a few minutes, but didn't feel up to even trying tea yet. Sue and Spock tried to talk, but Soy kept interrupting. She decided that Spock was okay and had to show him every one of the few possessions she owned. He was very patient with her and listened and asked questions, which pleased her no end. Sue thought she would never run down. Finally she did slow down enough for Sue to help her bathe.

As Sue helped Soy, she made a mental note to ask Spock what he knew about Andorians. From the way Soy didn't take to water bathing, Sue was sure they had some other method of cleaning their bodies. Soy had several bruises, but when she asked about them, Sue made up something about her falling, if she didn't remember, so much the better. When Soy was finally in bed, Sue flopped down next to Spock.

"Does she always require that much care?"

"No, just when she's had one of her relapses. She should be all right by tomorrow. Then she can take care of herself and follow orders well enough to run errands and do clean up work in the clinic. It scares me thought; the spells are getting closer together." She wiggled in the foam-like mound that passed for a chair. After six months she still couldn't get used to it. The damn thing made her nervous, the way it molded itself to your body; she always had the feeling that one of these times it wasn't going to let go.

"What was Soy-an's condition on arrival here?"

Sue's mood changed when she remembered back to Soy's arrival. "I have no way of knowing. About four months ago she came in with a large group. There was only one other Andorian in the group, an older female. Mind you, if at all possible, neither Tha nor I stay around when the guards are separating the new arrivals. But sometimes we have no choice. Of course, they wanted Soy, her being so young and pretty. When the guard tried to take Soy, the old lady threw a fit, wouldn't let go of her. The guard got angry and pushed her away. Then after some discussion between a few of them, they added both to their collection. I didn't think any more about it. I make it a point not to, or I would have flipped out long ago." Sue was quiet for a few minutes as she held her head in her hands.

"About 12 or 13 days later there was a ruckus in the guards' quarters and the doc was called. He came back with Soy over his shoulder, obviously drugged. He threw her into solitary where she stayed for three days. From what I overheard the guard wanted her killed, but the doc said he could use her in the clinic. The doc and this guard are always at each other; I think it's a power thing between them. The doc won this one. In the next couple of weeks Tha and I were about to piece together a story.

"It seems that the older woman was a chaperone and traveling companion to Soy. I guess the Andorians protect and shelter their young women until they're married. The guards must have been bored and were looking for some diversion, so they made the two women engage in all sorts of … deviant sexual acts. And they forced them to watch while God knows what was done to the other. We are not sure what happened that last day. But when the doc got there the old lady was dead, stabbed, I think. At first we thought they forced Soy to do it, but since then she has said some things, and sometimes she has nightmares and talks in her sleep. That makes us wonder if she didn't kill the old lady to put her out of her misery."

No one spoke for a long time.

"And you believe you can continue to protect her?"

"We're sure as hell gonna try!"

Tha moaned and Sue went to her. When she came back, Spock said, "Tell me about Thela."

"Tha came about two weeks after me. She's a medical tech. One step above a buck private, I think. She was serving on a ship with her husband. There was this storm, ion, I think she called it, and the ship suffered a lot of damage and casualties. You saw her scars?"

He only nodded.

"They were sending a small craft to a base for more extensive medical help. Tha needed what she called 'repair surgery'. Since she could help with the more severely injured, she left her mate and went with the small ship. There were 17 of them. Their navigator began to suffer from blackouts. Tha is sure he got them off course. Said something about crossing the neutral zone, whatever that is. Anyway, they were captured and all the males killed and the females brought here. Three of the females committed suicide and the other two were too old for breeding and sent to the stockade. I think Tha had guilt feelings about not joining the others in suicide and is only staying alive hoping for some revenge."

"Was she chosen for the clinic in the same manner as you were?"

"No, unfortunately, Tha went the same route that Soy did." Sue looked from one occupied bed enclosure to the other. "It was the first time in my life I was glad I was neither young nor beautiful." She seemed to drift off. " Where was I?"

"You were telling me about Thela."

"Oh, yeah, I don't know why they chose her in the first place; they have a real bug-a-boo about deformities. I guess it was because their harem was almost empty at the time. I don't know what happened to Thela in that hellhole and I don't want to. One morning on my way to the clinic I heard a noise down the hall toward the guards' quarters. I went to investigate. God! I was almost sick when I saw her. She had a heavy cloth sack over her upper torso. There were two holes for her arms and a slip in the face part. It was fastened around her waist with a heavy rope. Other than that, she was naked. I ran for scissors and cut the cloth. She just lay there crying softly as I jabbered at her and cursed this place."

"Come on, you can't stay here. The guards will…"

"No, don't let them!"

"You speak English?"

She nodded her head, "Some."

"Come with me."

"She let me help her and I took her to the clinic. We talked a little, but she wouldn't say much. The doc came in and as he examined her he watched her eyeing the medical equipment. He asked if she knew how to run the machines. She didn't seem to know whether to answer or not, so I tried to signal her. Finally she said yes. The doc put her through a few tests, and then he said she'd do and assigned her to this cell. The doc will only have English-speaking people working for him. Translating medical orders just doesn't work."

Sue took a long shower. The hot water felt so good on her aching body. But then it started to run cold and she had to get out. Spock was still sitting where she had left him, with his head in his heads. She went to him and held out her hand. This time he didn't hesitate.

* * *

Before Sue finished her breakfast biscuit, the buzzer sounded.

"Delivery, Susan."

It was almost midday break when she returned to the cell. Thela was awake and wanted to talk. She was also angry. "Why did you go ahead on your own?"

"Tha, I had no choice. There wasn't time. It's all right, he's going to work out."

"Sue, if he comes near me again…"

"He won't! It's too long to explain now. The pen-ox is responsible for most of what happened."

"No, Susan, don't let him try to blame the drug. His physiology is similar…"

"Tha, he says his mother is human."

Her eyes grew big. "Oh, Sue, if that's true!" Her look changed to suspicion. "He could be lying."

"No, I don't think so. And let me tell you another thing! Your Empire's knowledge of Vulcans is sorely lacking!"

"Sue?"

"Well, first off, they are touch telepaths."

"It's true then."

"You knew? Why the hell didn't you tell me?"

"We were not sure. There is speculation of a common ancestry between us, but we are not telepaths. What else?"

"Their reproductive cycle is just the reverse of anything I have ever heard of. Tha, I'll tell you everything later, when we have more time. Just pray that we're all pregnant. If we're not… Oh, that would be the ultimate kick in the head."

Sue found Spock and Soy on the wooded hillside. They were sitting on the grass and he seemed to be explaining something to her. Sue sat down and listened. Before long Soy became bored and wandered off.

Spock turned to Sue. "I must compliment you and Thela on the way you have managed to cope with circumstances here."

Sue shrugged. "At first it was just luck, then we learned how to use every advantage. That little weakness of the doc's has been a godsend." Sue opened a small parcel she had been holding and began placing the contents on the ground next to her: razor, comb, towel, and scissors. "I got most of the things you asked for. All except the mirror, we don't have any."

He examined the razor.

"Not what you're used to, is it?"

"No, I prefer a chemical."

"You can't just shave all that, it'll have to be cut first." Sue was referring to his three-inch scraggy beard. He tried for a few minutes while she watched. She saw him flinch slightly as the scissors pulled the hair.

"Here, let me." She took the scissors from him. "Are you sure you want it off? Trying to shave every day, with that collar on, will leave you raw. Why not just let me trim it, and your hair too?"

Sue caught his look. "Don't worry, I've done it before. I used to cut Michael and Mick's hair all the time." She stopped as their faces flashed into her mind, then shook it off. "I cut mine and Soy's. Of course, Tha won't let me near her crowning glory." They continued to talk as Sue cut. He asked about the morning's delivery.

"Never fails. There's always a delivery or two on our free day. Twins again. I do most of the deliveries now; doc just steps in if there's trouble. I've learned a lot from him."

"Twins? Do you have multiple births often?"

"With the drugs we're given they're not uncommon, even among mixed species. In that area the doc knows his business. Says he can interbreed any humanoid species, takes pride in it. Although most slaves here are human." Sue laughed. "Doc says humans can breed with anything." She laughed again. "We've only lost four babies in the six months I've been here. Our biggest problem is preemies." No, Sue didn't know the doc's given name, but she agreed to try and find out.

"I know there have been advances since my birth, but this is beyond my expectations."

Sue continued to cut and snip away at the soft, fine hair. Every few minutes she would step back to inspect her handiwork. Not bad, she thought to herself, but there was something different about this situation. She smiled to herself as she realized what it was. He was sitting still. How different from Soy's constant fidgeting, and cutting Mick's hair had been like trying to hit a moving target. Even Michael, with mirror in hand, had always inspected every single snip. But this man -- Vulcan -- she corrected herself, just sat there motionless, patiently allowing her to work. She knew he disliked being touched but made no objections, and she tried to keep it at a minimum.

Finally compelled to break the silence, Sue said, "I think that will have to do. That's as close as I can get it to the way I think you were wearing it, and it's not a bad job if I do say so myself." She stepped back for one final appraisal and their eyes met for a brief second.

His dark eyes were grave, but there was a hint of … not pain, certainly not the madness … of, sadness maybe, and when he glanced up at the sky she saw a glimpse of longing, then resignation. It dawned on Sue that until now she had not considered his feelings or even thought of him as an individual with feelings. He had been a means to an end, a way out of here. She could even be carrying his child, as were, hopefully, Soy and Tha. But that was necessary to buy them the time to plan an escape. When they will be free, all the pregnancies would be terminated, probably as much to his relief as theirs.

Suddenly Spock asked about Soy-an. "Oh, she's all right. She knows these woods, has a secret place she considers hers, and usually goes there. Why do you want to know?" she asked and then realized it was time again. God, Sue, you are so subtle. "She's afraid of the dark, be in long before then. I think it's time to check Tha." She removed the towel and tried to brush off the cut hair. Then together they gathered the other things.

"I appreciate the manner in which you are handling this most uncomfortable situation."

Sue kept her head down and mumbled a thank you. She didn't want him to see her face.

As they walked back to the cell, Sue was thinking about how they were just getting through the physical side of this. She had never considered herself a prude, but she sure didn't know what to do in this situation, and neither did he. So together they blundered through. She still ended up with a headache, only not as severe. She felt sorry for him. He seemed to find this mating time very difficult to deal with, and with the lack of privacy, it was almost unbearable.

Later, as he slept, she watched him. She began to think of Michael, to remember how it had been with the two of them. Neither had any experience, but they were so young. They had been able to laugh at their mistakes and to grow and learn together. After Michael's death she had slept with a few men, just to prove how liberated she was. She had found physical release, but no personal involvement. But with this 'mind thing' you couldn't separate physical from emotional. Sue knew that that was one of the big factors that contributed to the awkwardness. The physical differences between Vulcans and humans were another large factor that made matters difficult between them. Sue had tried to let him know that she didn't find it a problem. In her first few weeks at the clinic she had observed enough about alien physiology to make her head swim. She learned that no two humanoid species were exactly alike. There were differences; some subtle, others more obvious. His physiology was not a complete surprise to her, but he seemed to expect Sue to be repulsed or at least upset by the differences. He had taken her initial reaction to be a negative one, and no amount of talking could convince him otherwise. They had finally stopped discussing it. Sue wished she could understand it all.

* * *

Later that evening Thela sat up for a few minutes and was able to sip tea. When she was back in bed and asleep, Sue said, "Time for bed, Soy."

"Oh, Susan, tell me a story first."

"Not tonight, Soy. I'm too tired."

"Yes, oh, yes, please."

"All right, a short one. How about my trip to Colorado?"

"No! No, I want the wedding story!" She turned to Spock. "It's my favorite."

"No, Soy. Not that one, not tonight."

"Yes!"

Sue cringed and bit at her lip. "Oh, all right. Get into bed and I'll sit next to you."

"No, him too." She pointed at Spock. "Tell him too." Soy was becoming agitated now. Sue was chewing on the inside of her mouth and thinking how incredible Soy's timing was.

Spock said, "Perhaps it would be best to humor her."

Sue didn't know what else to do. Soy moved closer to Spock. "It's exciting when Sue tells it." Sue wanted to crawl into a hole. It was one thing to tell this story to Soy and Tha, but this…

"Well, I got married."

"No! No!"

Sue sighed. She knew what Soy wanted, the story in exactly the same words every time. She started again. "It was a beautiful fall day in 1962. I stood at the back of the church in my white dress and veil. Then the music started and I walked down the aisle on my father's arm. The priest was waiting. Through the mass we were married. Then, while the organ played the wedding march, we went back down the aisle. On the church steps everyone congratulated us. There was a reception after -- at my aunt's home. We were given lots of presents, which were displayed for everyone to see. There was dancing; bride and groom first, of course, and lots of good food. then I changed into my traveling outfit and stood on the stairs with my bridal bouquet."

Soy interrupted. "It was a big wide curving staircase."

Sue sighed again, then continued. "I threw the flowers and my friend Jani caught them."

Soy cut in again. "That means she would be the next to marry."

Sue wanted to scream. "More, Sue," Soy encouraged.

"Then the best man drove us to Michael's parents' home. We got into Mike's car."

"No, Sue. You forgot the part about the key."

Damn, thought Sue. "Michael, who prided himself on never forgetting anything, forgot his key. Had to break in through a window in his tux." Soy always clapped her hands and laughed at that part.

Sue droned on. "He changed, we put the suitcases in the trunk and got into the car." Sue remembered the scene and how hard two nineteen-year-olds had tried to act sophisticated. "Mike started the car, put the gear shift in reverse and winked at me. He stepped on the accelerator. We just sat there, the car didn't move. He glanced at me and stepped on it again, nothing. Puzzled, we got out of the car and walked around it. Got back in and tried again. Mike was getting a little red in the face. Nobody messes with his wheels. He got out again, bent down on his hands and knees and looked under the car. Sure enough, it was jacked up just enough so the back wheels weren't touching the ground. Mike jerked out the keys and opened the trunk, grabbed the jack handle and lowered the car. He threw the jack into the trunk and slammed the lid. I got tickled. He got back into the car, jammed the keys into the ignition and started the car again. We moved backward with the most god-awful noise you can imagine. Mike hit the brake. He tried it again, slower this time. The noise was still there. He was raging by now and I was hysterical. He opened the trunk again and grabbed the jack handle to pry off one of the hubcaps. Glass marbles fell out. He pounded the cap back on and did the others. He slammed the trunk lid again and got back into the car, his hands filthy and a streak of dirt on his face. I looked at him determined to comfort him. No use, I broke up. Then he did too. We must have sat there for five minutes laughing like fools. My eye makeup ran and we laughed till we cried. We went back into the house to clean up and decided 'to hell with it'. We left the next morning." Sue sagged against the foam chair. Soy went to bed happy.

Later Spock asked, "Susan, is that story true?"

"Girl Scout's honor; well, except for the staircase. It was really a plain stairway to the basement recreation room, but all else was fact. A few of Mike's friends had done it and were watching from a neighbor's window. Tha and I used stories to communicate with Soy when she first came into our cell because she wouldn't talk. And when she did it was mostly gibberish. She knew English and if she didn't start using it soon doc would have been forced to get rid of her. Tha and I would tell her a story, then try to get her to tell us one. At first we got no response, but the stories seemed to relax her. Then one night I was telling the wedding story and I left out something. She stopped me like she did tonight and said, 'Key, Susan'. After that she began to talk more and more. We encouraged her to tell us stories about herself. She has a few she tells. From them we've learned a few facts about her life. Her father is a merchant and her mother sings professionally. She had one older sister, and her name is Thay-an. Soy wants to be a singer like her mother. She was studying music."

* * *

As they were going out the cell door the next morning, Sue told Spock to come back during the midday break. Then she took him to the computer room and introduced him to Kiear. She turned to leave.

"I have not dismissed you."

She stopped and turned around.

"Come back."

She moved closer. He studied her face. Then he reached out and took her chin in his face and examined the bruise on her cheek. Over his shoulder he said to Spock, "You do this?"

When Spock didn't answer, Kiear looked directly at him. Before he could repeat the question Spock said, "Yes."

"Well, you've started off right. Have to let them know who's in charge. Remember that lesson in here." Then to Sue he said, "You can go now."

Sue went out the door and slammed it full force. It opened again. Sue stuck her head inside and said sweetly, "Excuse me, sir, it slipped." Then she closed it quietly and left.

Thela was asleep when Sue checked her at midday. Spock came in and closed the door. He sagged against it and leaned his head back, his eyes closed. Sue noticed beads of perspiration on his forehead. She couldn't help it; she felt sorry for him. She knew he would rather take a physical beating than go through this.

That evening at supper Sue slipped Soy a pill with her tea. Within fifteen minutes she was asleep. Sue helped Thela to bed. Then she went back to the table where Spock was sitting. He looked at her as she eased into the chair.

"Susan, why did you drug Soy-an?"

She didn't think he had noticed. "I usually do for the first few nights after she'd had one of her spells."

He studied her face. "Is that the truth?"

She squirmed under his gaze. "No. I wanted her asleep and settled for the night, with no more stories."

"I do not agree with the indiscriminate use of drugs."

"Neither do I!" she snapped. "It's very mild, won't hurt her. I wanted time to discuss something with you." She studied him trying to decide how to proceed. "I'm curious about this mating cycle, how is it usually handled? I mean if you know to expect it, then you have to have some sort of plan…"

"Vulcans are bonded as children. I had a bondmate, but she chose … divorce."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry. Lost relationships can be heartbreaking…" There were tears in her eyes and she couldn't stop them. "Sorry," she said. Scrambling to her feet, she ran to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face.

"Sorry," she said one more time when she came back and retook her seat. "It usually doesn't get to me like that anymore, but every once in a while…"

"I noticed that you wear a wedding ring. Have you left a mate on Earth?"

"No." She shook her head. "My husband and two kids were killed in a car accident."

She watched his eyes and saw the sympathy there. "Such a tragedy, you have my profound condolences."

"Thank you. It's been almost two years now, or it was when I left Earth." Sue shook her head to clear the images there. "I want to ask you to do something for me. This mind thing, I know you can control it somewhat. I want you to get rid of the memories of that first night." His answer was in his eyes, deeply sad and ashamed. "Don't do that," Sue said. "I'm not trying to remind you, it just that you keeping remembering and that makes me remember. Get rid of those thoughts so we can get on with this."

"I cannot."

"Can't or won't?" she snapped.

"In my present state I do not have the control necessary to the task. I could damage you, both of us permanently."

"Then make them fade into the background. We don't need to keep reliving them, it serves no purpose."

"In that you are correct, I shall attempt to do as you ask."

They sat in silence for several minutes and Sue felt him watching as she toyed with her supper biscuit. "You should finish that," he said. "You need to keep up your strength."

"Why? Food should be enjoyed. I am sick to death of these things." She threw it on the table and there was silence again.

"Susan, are you regretting your decision to see me through this time?"

"No. And that is the truth. I'm just wondering if it has to be so … gloomy?"

He didn't say anything to that. Sue reached for the biscuit and began turning it over in her hand. "Spock," she said in a desperate move to ease the tension between them, "where you come from, do the people enjoy food -- or is it just eaten to maintain the body?"

"Food, though a necessity, is savored."

"Can you apply that attitude to our present situation?"

"Intellectually, yes."

"I see, but not emotionally or physically?" Sue was still looking at the half-eaten biscuit in her hand. "Well, maybe I can. Will you get all bent out of shape if I try?"

After a slight delay he said, "No, Susan, but will you get all 'bent out of shape' if you fail?"

"What?" She did a double take. His face was impassive, but his eyes gave him away. She laughed. "Tell you what, I won't if you won't. Shake?" She stuck her right hand out and he took it.

* * *

Before Spock would discuss escape plans he wanted information. Thela became angry, said he was just putting them off. Sue found herself in the middle many times.

Their evenings were spent in exchanging information. Spock's technical data gained at the computers and Thela and Sue's gossip, eavesdropped and grapevine news. From this and what he already knew, Spock pieced together the history of the Towan system.

It was a seven planet system of a G-1 star with the third and fourth planets suitable for humanoid habitation. The fourth planet was called by its developing humanoid species, Towan. The third planet was just emerging from an ice age and had no indigenous life forms.

The Towans were at a pre-atomic stage in their development when they were visited by a more advanced race that had surveyed the third planet. They knew what was there, wanted it, and the Towans couldn't prevent it. They were enslaved. Many were sent to work and die in the mines of the third planet, which became known as Towan II. Spock placed this event at approximately 100 years in Towan I's past. Between 50 and 60 years ago the Towans had managed a revolution. They killed or enslaved the aliens, but kept the technology and mines. Only now their pirates raided space for the slaves that worked and died on Towan II.

Sue and Thela were able to gather a lot of facts, but it took an organizer like Spock to put it all together and make usable information out of it. Sue was continually amazed at him. Thela kept pressing him about an escape, but he just put her off with requests for more facts.

As Sue looked back on those first few weeks after Spock joined them she noticed an almost day-by-day change in him. The words he used, his tone of voice, the way he stood and walked and most of all, how much of himself he shared with them; all that changed. He was regaining control -- control over his body and mind -- and control brought distance. The closeness and feelings of togetherness and common purpose were going fast.

One night Sue woke to find that Spock wasn't in bed or even in the cell. She tried the outside door and to her surprise it opened. Spock was sitting out there staring up at the stars.

"How did you get out here? Why aren't you asleep?"

"Vulcans do not require…"

"Never mind! I don't want another lecture on Vulcans!" Sue watched him, getting angrier by the second. "So, your need is gone and you pull away. Well, what about my need and the others?" She waved her arm back toward the cell. "What about the talks we used to have and what about getting us out of here?"

She sighed, went over and dropped down beside him. "Spock, we are all we have in this place. If we are going to survive emotionally as well as physically, we have to communicate with each other."

"We do communicate."

"I don't mean that computerized jargon about 'what percent of the slaves here are human' that you have been spewing the past few days. And don't raise that eyebrow at me! You are pulling away from us and you know it. It's like some defense came down and now you are gaining strength to rebuild it piece by piece. Spock, we need that emotional contact. Soy needs the tenderness you gave her those first few days. She may not have her head on real straight but she can tell that you are pulling away from her. Oh, the actions are still there, but the feelings behind them aren't coming through. You're doing the same with Thela. I know she can be difficult to live with sometimes, and her remarks can be cutting, but surely you know it's only a defense. She needs your acceptance of her. She told me about when you cleaned her up after she was sick. Spock, it made an impression on her that you could look at and clean those scars without batting an eye." Sue ran out of breath and leaned back on her elbows. "You've changed, you know, you really have. I liked the other 'you' better."

"Susan, this is me, the other was not. This is what I am."

She looked at him for a long time. "Well, I'm sorry, Spock, but it's just not good enough. None of us are free to be completely ourselves. We must bend our will for the good of the group. We are four separate cultures living in very close proximity; we all have to give. Especially now, Spock, damn it, look at me! Not that I needed him to, but the doc confirmed it today. All three of us are pregnant."

When she saw him drop his head in his hands, she softened and the anger drained out of her. "I'm sorry, I know how distasteful this is for you, but we aren't crazy about the idea either." She wondered what he was thinking. "Spock, you know what's in your head, we don't. Your silence destroys the trust we were building. When we don't know what you're thinking and feeling, we get suspicious and afraid. Tha says you'll leave us. When you and I had that mind link I knew where you were and I could reassure the others. Now that it's gone I am doubting you, wondering if you didn't trick me until your need was gone." Even in the dim light of the Towan II moon she didn't like the look he gave her. "Well, let's at least have honesty!"

After their one-sided argument Spock returned to their bed, but he seemed there in body only, not in spirit. Sue felt sure that if their fourth bed enclosure had a mattress or even a blanket and not just hard cold floor, there's where Spock would be sleeping.

The four cell members settled into a routine. The mine went into full production, the computer equipment arrived and the second group of babies came due. For two weeks Sue had a delivery, sometimes two every day, and new prisoners arrived constantly. All were kept too busy to think much, and Sue was grateful for that.

Several weeks later as they sat around the table, Spock said, "As I see it, escape from here is not impossible. The plan has a 87% chance of success, but…" He looked at each of the smiling women. "It cannot be attempted soon and only succeed if I go alone." The smiles vanished.

"First, the factors in our favor. The guards and those in power are overconfident and therefore lax. There are two reasons for this. First, in the 57.2 years since the revolution no one has ever escaped from Towan II. Second, the ships that leave here travel only to the home planet, Towan I. They are not equipped for deep space travel and do not even have subspace radios. So, escape must be made twice."

"What are you talking about? Ships land here…" Susan sputtered.

"Yes, the heavily armed and manned battle ships that capture and bring in the prisoners. Do you imagine that this group of one male and three pregnant females could capture one of those?"

That image made Sue smile in spite of herself.

"Escape will have to be made to the home planet and then offworld from there. I learned of the plans to set up computers at all the mines and tie them into a central control center here. I will be traveling with Kiear to do that work as soon as the equipment arrives and preliminary work is completed. That will give me access to more information about this planet. But we already know that the shipments to the home planet leave from the mines only four times per year. I am convinced that this is done to call as little attention as possibly to them. To the outside world, the Towans present this planet as a religious sanctuary and allow no outworlders to visit. I must create some accident and make it appear that I perished in it. This is to guarantee your safety while I am gone. We know that we have four years after the birth of the children in which to make our escape. The plan must be well thought out, as there will be only one chance. The escape itself will be for the most part a waiting game. Timing is vital. The escape must coincide with a shipment. You can see one person has a chance; a group -- especially with children or pregnant women, does not. For your own protection I will tell you no more."

Thela, the mistrust showing on her face, said, "How do we know you would come back?"

"You have my word."

What could anyone say to that? Spock knew that he hadn't told them what they wanted to hear and the women knew he spoke the truth. Disappointed and defeated they all went to bed. Sue didn't know what the others were thinking, but all she could think of was the fact that she would have to carry this child to term. She could no longer ignore it growing inside her; somehow she had to deal with it.

* * *

Sue kept wondering why she always allowed herself to be dragged in the middle between Thela and Spock. From the time she was back on her feet, she was at him. Nothing he did suited her. Finally Sue had had enough. The next time she and Tha were alone she brought up the subject. "Damn it, Tha, you're breaking all our rules. What do you want from him? He's not superman…Tha, what's really the matter? It's this baby, isn't it?"

"Oh, Sue, when I remember how much Morag and I wanted a child … but we put it off, and now…"

"I'm sorry, Tha. I don't know anything to say that won't sound trite."

"You are right, Sue. It is not his fault. It is the situation."

Later that evening Sue saw them talking and would have given her eyeteeth to know what was being said. Of course, no one told her.

* * *

Sue was sitting outside on the log bench when Spock came up behind her. "Tonight it is you who cannot sleep." He sat down. "You are thinking about the child." It was a statement rather than a question. "Tell me."

"Do you really want to know what I'm feeling, or are you just being polite?"

"I wish to know."

Sue wasn't convinced, but that almost never stopped her from expressing her opinion. She stared at him in the light Towan's moon provided. "Well, I am feeling a lot of different things. There are two of them, you know. Twins. And yes, I would like to talk. I need some input, so maybe I can begin to make sense of all this. Today, early this morning, they moved. I felt life again, Spock, do you realize what that means? What have I, we, to offer any child? You have not said word one about your feelings in this. How are you going to behave toward them after they're born? I know you prefer your Vulcan half and try to ignore your human side, but these children will be mostly human. Are you going to pretend they don't exist? I have seen what it's like in some of the other cells. I can't face that for any child of mine. I reconciled myself to never having any more children. Besides I'm too old to be having babies. God, I'm 31 -- 32, I think by now. If my kids had lived… Mickey'd be teenager. And when I remember how much time babies require, and the thought of two o'clock feedings! And how the hell can I let these children be born, raise them, only to know they will be taken from me in a few years?" Sue ran out of breath and went quiet.

After a time Spock said, "Of all the things you have mentioned, the manner of their conception was not among them."

Sue looked at him in disbelief. "The manner of conception! My god, is that still eating at you? Hell no, I didn't mention it. At this point, it's irrelevant." She took his hand and placed it against her abdomen. "Feel that movement? That's two lives, and in about four months they will be born into this stinking world and have many needs. There are two more women in the same condition. We are trying to decide how we are going to be able to meet those needs and you are still wallowing in guilt over their conception." She slowed down a bit to catch her breath. "No, Spock, these children weren't planned. They weren't conceived in love and legitimacy, but let me tell you something, that hardly makes them unique in this universe. They have lots of company. The question is where do we go from here?"

He had no answer for that.

"Lord, I can't even cry."

"If it will help. Do not refrain because of me."

"No, Spock. After Michael and the kids died, I cried for almost two years. I guess I'm all cried out. Now I just feel tired, dead tired. The gloom that hangs over our cell is closing in on me. The hope we once had is gone." Shoulders drooping, Sue trudged back to the cell leaving him sitting there.

The busy routine stayed just as busy, but Spock softened after that night but very slowly, but enough to be noticed by Sue. The gloom began to lift.

* * *

Sue was up and on her way to Soy with Thela right behind her. Spock was already there; her crying had awakened him first. They all knew what was wrong, premature labor. Thela went for the buzzer to call the doc. He wasn't going to like this. Soy's case was important to him. He had been keeping very close watch on her ever since they discovered she was carrying quads. Sue knew that the doc was very specific on the dosage of the drug each female was given. Too much and you had the problem Soy was experiencing now, but since they were conceived he wanted to bring them to term. Soy had become his pet and nothing was too good for her. It made things easier for all of them, having the doc very indulgent of her erratic behavior, but now there was trouble. He arrived within five minutes. Sue tried to talk him into letting Spock come with them to help with Soy, to calm her down. The doc would have none of it.

Without Spock to relax her, Soy made a difficult patient. She really didn't understand what was happening to her. They were sure she'd had no sex education. Sue and Thela had planned to sit down with her and explain in exact detail everything about childbirth, so she would know what to expect. They had waited too long. Now they had to deal with a frightened child in pain and an impatient unsympathetic doctor. Sue cursed herself for negligence.

They started coming one right after the other, four perfectly formed baby boys, but all dead, much too small to survive on their own, even long enough to reach their isolettes. Thela had been busy setting her dials and getting ready for the preemies, but to no avail. Soy seemed to go into shock, which was almost a blessing. Only one baby had breathed on its own for a few seconds.

Then the doc stormed out and left Sue to finish. He was angry and Sue knew why. It would have been quite a feather in his cap if those four had lived. As she worked Sue remembered Spock's reaction to the doc's full name. He had been run out of the Federation for his genetic experiments. Well, from what Sue had seen, he sure knew his work. She wondered how he had ended up here, working for the Towans. He was almost as much a prisoner here as they were.

Spock was waiting as the guard let them in. Sue flopped down on the foam mound and closed her eyes for a few minutes. He waited quietly and then began asking questions. As Sue gave him a minute-by-minute account, she watched him, trying to figure out what was going on inside his head. Nothing showed in his manner, nothing. He asked very technical questions and she provided the correct answers, but she had no idea of what he was thinking.

Spock excused himself and went outside. Sue and Thela went to bed.

Sue was still awake when Spock crawled into bed.

"Susan, how will Soy-an accept this situation? You and Thela have spent the past few months convincing her that having a child is a positive event. Will she now accept their deaths?"

"I don't know. We'll just play it by ear. Answer her questions and not push." She studied him. "You've settled it in yourself, haven't you?"

"Yes."

"That's good. I wish I could learn to do that. In three hours you have dealt with something that will take me three weeks. How do you keep going? My goals are fading into a blur. Some days I don't want to go on. I'm rambling, sorry, I can't sleep. Usually don't have this trouble."

"Susan, you will never sleep as tense as you are. Allow me." He began rubbing her back and shoulders.

"Oh, that feels good. Higher, ahhh, now lower... Ohhh, now my neck... You were about to say something, go ahead."

"It is just that humans frequently find my reactions to these situations cold and unfeeling."

Sue spoke slowly as she stretched and enjoyed the massage. "That's funny. Humans usually find my reactions to these situations overemotional and hysterical. Besides, if I pass judgment on your behavior, I would be breaking my own second commandment."

"Second commandment?"

"Spock, you are not in this universe to live up to my expectations, and I am not here to live up to yours. Frederich S. Perls, 20th century Earth."

Soy was moody for several weeks after her miscarriage, but she never once mentioned the babies. They all paid extra attention to her to make up for the doc's ignoring her. Sue couldn't help but wonder what it would have been like to have those four babies in their cell, and what kind of a mother Soy would have been. She was just a child herself.

* * *

Sue sat on the floor where she had crawled out of the bed enclosure. Everyone else was getting ready for the day's work. After a while Spock noticed her sitting there. "Susan, why are you not up and ready to leave?"

"I can't get up."

"I beg your pardon?"

She raised her voice. "I said, I can't get up!"

He moved closer. "Are you in pain?"

"No! I am not in pain. I just can't get up."

He looked at Thela for an explanation. "Don't look at her! She's four inches taller than me, twenty pounds lighter, eight years younger, carrying her first child -- and only one at that! Of course, she can get up! But the Goodyear blimp here, can't!"

Spock sighed, "Susan, couldn't you simply request help?"

"No!"

As he helped her up, Sue began to giggle. Several weeks back she had begun wearing larger coveralls. Though they bulged over her middle, the shoulders hung almost to her elbows, she had to fasten the top with a surgical clamp to keep from exposing herself and had cut six inches off the sleeves and legs. The pockets were almost at her knees. "I am so glad we don't have full length mirrors around here."

Several times during the last of her pregnancy Sue woke in the middle of the night to find Spock watching her. "I fail to comprehend how you are able to sleep through all that."

Sue looked at her swollen middle. "Self defense I guess, it's me or them. Usually it's not this bad, right now someone has the hiccups." Her abdomen jerked again as she spoke.

Sue woke as the contractions began. Spock was awake and watching her again. He went to the buzzer as the next one hit. In the next hour Spock hit that buzzer at least six times. Sue couldn't help but be amused, between pains, at the sight of him. It was as close to a pacing, expectant father Spock would ever be.

Finally, one of the doc's flunky kids opened the door. Sue and Spock just looked at each other; both knew what it meant, the doc had passed out again.

Thela and Soy-an were up now and they tried to make plans. In the end they really had no choice. Thela would have to stay with Soy-an. She was very upset and couldn't be left alone and to take her with them to the clinic was out of the question. Sue couldn't help but wonder if Thela was glad it turned out that way.

They settled themselves in the clinic. Spock collected the items as Sue directed and between contractions she tried to prepare him for what to expect.

"Susan, you do not seem unduly alarmed by this turn of events."

Sue tried to reassure him that her first two deliveries were neither particularly long nor hard. In fact, her ob-gyn had said she was a 'natural' for childbirth. "See these wide hips?"

When he had all the necessary items ready Spock pulled up a stool. He sat down next to Sue and took her hand. She was explaining what would happen and how he should handle it. As the contractions became closer together Sue began to do the breathing exercises she knew and to practice the simple mind control techniques Spock had taught her to reduce pain and for better concentration. She was uneasy about his handling the actual birth.

"It's messy you know; they won't be all pink and pretty, in fact, they won't even be all green and pretty." This last remark was said through clenched teeth.

"Susan, have I ever given you any indication that I cannot deal with this type of situation?"

Sue thought back to Tha's being sick and when Soy had been in labor. " No, come to think of it, you haven't. Must be my own insecurities. It'll be a while yet, Spock. Babies come in their own sweet time. Talk to me, about something." Sue didn't wait for him to speak. "You know sometimes this whole thing has a very unreal quality about it. Like, I'll wake up and be home. Other times, I feel like I'm still on Earth, only some far away part of it I've never seen before." Sue began licking her lips. " What I wouldn't give for a pepperoni pizza and a cold beer."

Up went the eyebrow. "Susan, is that what you miss from your world, food?"

"Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes music, mostly family and friends. Spock, do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"A half-sister."

"Tell me about her."

"Her name is T'Uriamne. My father's first mate died. She was grown before I was born; we were not close."

"That's too bad. I have two brothers, both younger. When I remember how we fought as kids, but after we grew up we became close." She watched him for a while. "I can tell what you miss, Spock. Aside from this 'Jim', and some people on that ship, you miss being in space. Tell me what it's like."

"There is a certain challenge in space. Exploring a previously uncharted area..."

"Don't give me that technical garbage! I know better now. Admit it, you find it tremendously exciting. Come on, give me details. I've traveled time and space and saw nothing, tell me!"

"It is exciting to discover a new solar system, a new species. Susan, there is intelligence everywhere -- and not just humanoid. Stepping on a planet where no one else has ever been ... seeing humanoids at every level of their development ... the variety of ways they fulfill their needs. And the beings that have gone beyond us in their evolution, even in their need for a physical form, the sight of a sun going nova..." The excitement, like the pain of several months ago, showed in his eyes. Sue was sorry when the next contraction hit and destroyed the mood.

Spock worked quietly except once when Sue heard him mumble something about the good doctor. Certainly he doesn't mean our doc. She couldn't ask him about it now though.

She felt the head push through and then the baby being born. She held her breath until she heard the cry. After several minutes Spock showed her a partially clean baby wrapped in a stiff blanket. "A son." He placed the child in one of the small containers.

"Spock, did you weigh him and record it?" She felt the urge to push again. "Never mind! Another boy?"

"Yes."

With all the medical chores finished, Sue and Spock took a close look at the infants. They pulled back the blankets and inspected them. Sue counted fingers and toes; she examined the ears. Somehow they just didn't fit with the bald heads.

Spock helped the night woman settle Sue and the twins in the mother's ward.

"Don't leave just yet. I won't be able to sleep for a while, stay and talk to me." She watched as he stood staring at the contents of the two baskets. "They're something else, aren't they? You did well..."

"Susan, we did well." He turned and moved closer to her. "Tonight has been a most profound experience." Sue could only silently agree with him.

"Spock, about names."

"You wish me to choose the names?"

"You know I do. You said you were prepared to accept them and to be a father, but I guess I need some sort of reassurance."

"I could give them Vulcan names, but I believe your suggestion, that names should represent more than just tradition, is valid in these circumstances. I have chosen two names that have special meaning for me."

When Spock visited Sue the following day he noticed her red swollen eyes. He checked the babies and then went to her side. He took her hand but said nothing about the ear tags.

Two days later Sue and the infants were back in the cell. Soy treated the boys like new toys and she and Thela were very helpful. Everyone got up with Sue the first night, but by the third night Soy was sleeping through.

At first, Spock just watched as Sue and Thela fed and changed the boys. On the fourth night he told Sue to go back to sleep; he would handle matters but Sue was too curious, she had to watch. She peeked through the bed curtains. He did beautifully. He would! He noticed her watching.

"I did something incorrect?"

"No, dammit, you did everything just right."

"And that displeases you?"

"No, oh, just forget it. It's just another one of my illogical human qualities."

For the next two weeks Spock got up every night while Sue and Thela took turns. Then Thone was born.

It was a difficult delivery. Where Sue was wide in the pelvis, Thela was not. While Sue was experienced and relaxed, Thela was not. Determined to be brave and not call out, Tha was far too tense. Her attitude hindered rather than helped matters. As luck would have it, another patient came in and Sue had to divide her time between them. The doc was there, but he was his old impatient self.

Spock came to check on her midday.

"Nothing yet. At this rate it will be late afternoon before anything happens. Check on your way to the cell this evening.

He did. "No, not yet. You and Soy will have to manage the boys."

By late evening Sue was back in the cell. "Oh, Spock, he's beautiful. Two inches longer than Jamie and Len, four ounces heavier, and the hair, very black and at least two inches long."

"Susan, how is Thela?"

"Sore as hell and tired."

Thela was still sore when she was dismissed from the clinic. Sue had her and Thone ready to go when Spock came. "Sorry, I can't go with you now. I've got someone in labor."

She watched Thela in the bed clutching Thone as if someone would steal him from her. Then she tried to inch her way out of bed while still holding him.

"Tha, you're too weak. You'll drop him."

She lowered her eyes for a few seconds, and then looked at Spock. "Would you carry my ... Thone?"

He went over and took the child from her. It was the first time she had let him hold Thone. Thela could hardly walk. After a few slow and obviously painful steps, she took the arm Spock offered her. Sue shook her head as she watched the three of them leave the clinic.

The next six to eight weeks were a blur for Sue. It was night, it was day, it was night again. The buzzer rang, babies cried, she was in the clinic, she was in the cell. She changed diapers, fed mouths, rocked and walked the floor. There was almost no conversation among the 'family'. Everyone, except Spock, was too tired.

Then it happened. Jamie slept through the night and they had a ray of hope. Three nights after that Thone slept through and a week later Len followed suit. Heaven! Now, at least they had days and nights again.

All three boys outgrew the small baskets and pallets on the floor replaced them. No one in the cell was happy about that.

Sue sat fiddling with a small unbreakable container, some gravel, a stick and some bandi-seal. She had never realized the importance of toys until now, when she had none. How she had cursed them all over her kitchen floor. She threw the mess down. "That's no good! It'll come apart the first time it's played with."

Spock picked up the object and came to sit next to her. "Susan, what were you trying to accomplish?"

"I was trying to make a rattle."

"A rattle?"

"Yes, a rattle! Spock, babies -- children need toys. They learn from them, to grasp, eye-hand coordination, muscle strength and control. You know how they spend their time in the day room. They just lie there. Hell, they're lucky if they get fed and changed. There's no music, or books, at this rate we are going to raise illiterate zombies?"

All he said was, "I see."

Two evenings later he returned from the computer lab with a package concealed in his coveralls. He produced three rattles. They were a clear plasti-material he had somehow fused together and on the inside were small lightweight computer parts. After that, it became a game to see what they could steal and convert into toys and games for the children.

Every time she did it, Sue fought with herself on the matter, but did it anyway. Using a pair of forceps she would poke through the belongings of new prisoners whenever she got the chance. Logically, she knew this stuff was headed for the incinerator, but some how it still felt like grave robbing. She put all the rescued items through the decontamination chamber and was very upset when the first ball she found exploded. The second one she found faired better and she was tickled beyond belief when she bounced it into the cell that evening and saw everyone's reaction.

* * *

Sue entered the cell obviously upset. Jamie was fussing so she picked him up. His fussing increased and within a few minutes he was screaming. Spock took him from her and held him close, placing one hand on the child's face. He quieted. Sue stormed out of the cell. She sat and pulled out the spongy grass. Spock joined her.

"Susan, we need to talk about this."

"I have a feeling you're going to lecture, whether I want to hear it or not."

"You had a bad experience in the clinic?"

"Bad doesn't even cover it. Both mother and child died and there was no need for it."

"Susan, when you held Jamie you were radiating all that emotion and projected all that on to him. He has no defense, it overwhelmed him."

"If you're going to tell me that I can't love and cuddle my own children, well, I won't stop that. I'm a mother ... and human, and that's the way it is!"

"I seem to remember a lecture of several months ago about all of us having to bend for the sake of the whole."

Just like him to throw her own words back at her. "The boys do have this telepathic ability then?"

"Yes. How it will develop, I do not know."

"Does Thone have it too?"

"I have not had enough contact with Thone to discover that yet."

Sue threw a handful of grass. "What do I have to do? Can't I even hold them?"

"Sue, no such extremes are necessary. There are some mind disciplines I will teach you."

"Spock, did your mother have to learn these techniques?"

"Yes."

"I bet she did a better job of it."

"Susan, she was not trying to raise a child under these circumstances."

Sue cocked her head at him. "Was that a compliment?"

"It was meant as such."

"Thank you."

They all thought it exciting when at six months Len learned to crawl. But when the other two caught on they really had their hands full. Spock couldn't understand why everything the boys picked up had to go into their mouths. At nine months Thone walked, Len at eleven months and Jamie at a year.

* * *

One evening at their meal, Spock announced that he would be away for several days. They were ready to begin the work of connecting the computers at the older mines into the central network.

Sue smiled. It reminded her of Michael calling from the office. 'Pack my overnighter and meet me at the airport. I have to catch the 10:15 for Washington.' I wonder if I should pack his extra coveralls? He was gone almost three weeks.

Sue found she missed him, the talking and the backrubs. Late evenings before she fell asleep, that was their time. Early evenings were taken up with the boys and he always tried to give Soy some time. On occasion he and Thela would have a discussion, but they were usually about something technical that Sue didn't understand, so she stayed out of it. She was so glad to have them talking civilly, that she didn't care what it was about.

But when the cell was quiet and everyone else asleep, they would talk. The bed seemed so empty without him. Even though there had been nothing physical between them since the pon farr, Sue felt a growing closeness. They could relax with each other and, even more important, trust was growing.

The evening he returned, the boys were so excited to see him that he spent the whole time with them. Sue watched from across the room. She could tell his heart wasn't in it. He seemed almost preoccupied. After the boys were in bed he went outside and Sue followed him.

"Come on, out with it."

"Am I so transparent?"

"No, but I know where you've been."

"Susan, the scenes I have witnessed. At one time you referred to those places as 'slime pits'. I thought you were exaggerating, but as it turns out, your description was most accurate. I have been taking our position and behavior here for granted, as the norm. It is most definitely not. What I have observed..." He held his head in his hands. "The degradation those beings must suffer, parents mistreating children, starving them, beating them and sexual abuse beyond description. Children running wild like animals. They are civilized beings no longer. Now I understand your deep hatred for this place."

They were still for a long time. Sue was wishing she could get out of her next little chore or at least postpone it, but she couldn't. She plunged ahead.

"Spock, I hate to have to lay this on you now, but we have a problem. The doc started our shots while you were away."

He sighed. "That explains Thela's antagonism."

"Yes. Spock, I'm sorry, what are we going to do?"

"Susan, the pon farr only crates the desire, the ability is always there."

She blew up. "Well, thanks for telling me! I have been nearly out of my mind for the past week wondering how we would manage." She calmed down. "Can you go through with it?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"No, not really." Sue hedged a little and then continued. "One more thing. Did you see the stockade where the non-breeders are kept?"

"Yes, why?"

"Because, if Soy miscarries again that's where they will send her."

"Susan, she is not yet pregnant!" His tone shocked her. It was as close to raising his voice in anger as Sue had ever heard.

"I know, but I won't let her be sent there! I'll kill her first. I want you to know that now, while the memory of that place is still fresh in your mind."

"Susan, the memory of that place will always be fresh in my mind. I agree with you, Soy-an shall never be sent there. If the situation arises there is a method..."

He didn't finish and Sue didn't push it, she had made her point. She got up. "Soy should be ovulating within the next three days. Now I'll leave you alone to try to deal with this."

It was the middle of the night and Sue was up checking a fussing child when Spock came in. From the look of him this was one time the meditation hadn't done him any good. When the child was asleep, he said, "You know that I shall not be joining you."

"Yeah," she nodded, "I know."

The following evening Spock gave Soy-an extra time and attention. Sue went to bed early. All the old uncomfortable feelings were back. Sue wished there was something she could do; she even toyed with the idea of sleeping outside, but she knew he wouldn't hear of it.

The next morning they arrived at the clinic to find the doc hopping mad. Tess, the old woman who worked nights in the mothers' ward, was dead. The other woman depended on her for strength and direction. Without Tess, Maggie was useless, she couldn't cope. Sue saw her opportunity.

"Doc, get me two new women. I'll work nights and train them for you."

He threw her a suspicious look.

"Look doc, things are a little tense in our cell right now; I would like to be out of it for a while." He bought it, the doc was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth and neither was Sue. That afternoon Sue went back to the cell and took a nap. She explained things to the others and for the next two weeks worked nights. She confirmed Soy-an's pregnancy the following week.

Now for Thela. Thela was a problem. Tension in the cell was almost explosive; even the children could sense it.

Sue approached them, separately, about artificial insemination. Neither liked the idea. She felt in the middle again. "Got any better ideas?"

She got Thela alone. "Tha, what about a different donor?"

"No!"

"Why? I thought you didn't like him."

"Susan, he is the only one here closer to my species, he is a genius and if I must bear another child it will be his. I can appreciate him for what he is intellectually. It is just that he is not the type of male that appeals to me." She paused for a moment to consider this. "We are a warrior people."

Sue rolled her eyes. "Well, you better come up with something soon or you can send me a picture postcard from the stockade!"

Sue sat playing a game with the boys, but she couldn't concentrate. She kept glancing at Spock and Thela as they talked.

When Sue went to bed they were still together. Sue crossed her fingers. Then sometime later, Tha's voice grew louder. Sue heard footsteps cross the cell and the outside door open and close. Then she heard Tha crying. She thought about going to her, but decided against it.

The next evening Spock asked Sue to make arrangements for the artificial insemination as soon as possible.

Four days later Sue met Spock at the cell door. "Spock, I can't find Tha and I just know something is wrong."

"Susan, you do not know..."

"Don't tell me what I know! Tha and I have had the same routine for well over two years now and we always come back here together. If one of us can't make it, we let the other know. I've looked; she's in none of her usual places. Come with me now, please, and hurry before the door locks." Sue instructed Soy as to the care of the boys while Spock fixed the door so they could get back in.

"I haven't checked the isolation rooms yet, we'll looked there first."

Running down the hall, Sue checked the first two rooms to find them empty. At the third door Sue froze. Through the observation window she could see Thela, she was naked and God, the look on her face. A guard Sue didn't recognize was rubbing his hand over her uninjured breast. Without hesitation Spock moved Sue out of the way and tried the door. It didn't open; somehow the guard must have jammed the lock. Immediately Spock raised his foot, slammed it into the door and it flew open.

The guard looked up, surprised, then angry. "Get out!" Sue watched in amazement as Spock flashed across the room, grabbed the guard and flung him out of the way. He came up incensed, his weapon ready. Spock was on him. He gripped the weapon arm at the wrist and twisted until the guard turned, his arm behind his back. The weapon fell and he yelled in pain. Then Spock rammed him headfirst into the wall. Sue couldn't believe the power he had. Without a backward glance he went to Thela, who was near hysteria.

It all happened so fast, in a matter of seconds. Sue couldn't comprehend it. She went to the fallen guard. He was dead. Sue felt a lump in her throat and began to perspire. Horrible scenes flashed through her mind. What would they do now? Spock was trying to comfort and quiet Thela.

Sue's voice was cracking. "Spock, his neck is broken."

"I know." He turned to look at her. "Susan, do not panic. I will need you." He glanced around as he spoke. "Give me your lab coat." Sue took it off and handed it to him and he began to help Thela into it. "Susan, I will need a medicart, and blanket, a lab coat for each of us and a sedative for Thela. Can you do that?"

Sue just nodded and started for the door.

"Do not run. Go at a normal pace."

She slowed.

When Sue came back Thela was clutching the lab coat to her, even though she was wearing it, and racking with dry sobs. Sue gave her a hypo. "Couldn't get a sedative, they're locked up. This is a tranquilizer. It will calm her down." They waited for a few minutes and Spock explained the situation to Thela.

Together they pushed the cart down the hall. When they came to the force field that cordoned off the guards' quarters Spock instructed Susan to, "Wait here." He slipped around the corner and Sue was shifting from one foot to the other as she waited. She couldn't imagine what he had in mind. Her mouth fell open as the glimmer of the force field died away and he returned. He checked under the blanket to make sure the weapon was in place. "We will put him in the guards' section. Let them deduce what happened. We must not call attention to our area."

They placed him in an empty storage closet and retraced their steps. Spock regenerated the force field. As they were on their way back to Thela, Sue said, "How long have you been able to do that?" He looked at her but said nothing. "You can undo the neck collars too, can't you?"

"Susan, those are the simpler problems related to any escape. To guarantee your safety, that part of the plan is crucial. As yet I do not have access to the particular areas I need. Susan, we will not speak of this again."

All the way back to Thela, Sue kept thinking how, if he had wanted, he could have been long gone from here.

When they reached Thela, she was calm. In fact, she was positively mellow. Sue had never seen her like that. As Spock carried her to the cell it was all he could do to keep her quiet. She let herself be held and once in the cell she didn't want to let him go. Sue had to help Soy with the boys, but she watched out of the corner of her eye. It didn't take an Einstein to figure out that Spock was going to use this opportunity.

Finally everyone was in bed and it was almost quiet in the cell. Sue was tossing and turning and fuming. Tha was actually gushing, she really was! Sue mimicked Thela, "Oh, Spock, you were magnificent!" Oh Lord, how nauseating! A warrior, she actually called him a warrior! It was positively embarrassing! Why the hell am I so upset about it? Sue rolled onto her stomach and pulled the blanket over her head. God, she wished she had a pillow.

Thela seemed to float, but Sue was hardly fit to live with for the next few days. She wasn't sleeping well and snapped at everything. Six endless days later Thela asked Sue to test her. Later that day Sue told her the results were positive. That night Spock was still with her. Sue sat in her bed almost in a panic. Damn her, she didn't tell him. Oh, my God, maybe she did and that's even worse. Those two are really very well matched intellectually; what if they should get something on, where'll that leave me? Oh, Sue, you're disgusting. You have no claim on him.

The next day she made time to talk to Thela. "Tha, I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was becoming so possessive. If we ever get out of here, you have a life to go back to and Soy has a family somewhere. I can't go home. Spock picked up on my fear almost right away. He said I could count on him for more than financial support. He said I would never be alone. I realize now that I depend on him far too much." Thela said she understood.

* * *

It hit Sue like a bolt. He was just as tense and uptight as he had been that first time over two years ago. She thought it might be like that with Soy and Thela, but not with her. She had believed they were past that. She was forced to admit to herself that she was hurt and bewildered.

Sue had anticipated having the mind contact, hoped to learn more about it this time. She felt so dejected when it didn't happen. She knew he had to be deliberately controlling or blocking it. She kept looking for reasons. Was he hiding something from her?

She tested herself every day and moped. Then she made a special trip to the computer lab to tell him the minute the test read positive. That evening he was much less tense. Sue was confused at the difference. With the conception a fact, he relaxed with her again, and they began to talk and share and relate as they had before. Sue never mentioned it, but she spent long hours brooding.

* * *

The women and children entered the cell. It was her turn, so Sue started setting up for the evening meal. Spock was late, as usual.

"Susan! Susan!" Soy was pulling at her arm. Sue turned to see Thela on the floor and ran to her.

"My God, Tha, you're hemorrhaging! Soy, take the boys outside, now!" Soy started to obey. "You boys listen to Soy-an, go with her."

Jamie and Len were wide-eyed. Thone started to cry.

"It's okay, Thone, your mother's all right. I need to check her, go with Soy."

Tha raised her head slightly. "Thone, stop crying and obey!"

He wiped away the tears and followed the others.

Sue pushed a mat under Tha and tore the legs of the coveralls and began to examine her. "Tha, you can't lose it now. Not after what it took to get you pregnant. Oh my god! What the hell did you use? No. Don't tell me, I don't even want to know. But why?" Sue tried to determine the extent of the damage. "Are you so anxious to be sent to the stockade?"

"I had hoped it would appear an accident."

"No! Not this, never. What did you hope to gain?"

"Sue, I can accept Thone, but not another child not my mate's. I just cannot. I am forgetting Morag, my homeland, my duty to the Empire, everything! Susan, I found myself caring for Spock. First, I learned to respect him. Then I was grateful and most impressed by his actions. He killed for me. When I would try to recall Morag's face, it was Spock's who came to mind. I was getting confused." She emphasized her next words. " I must remember who I am and where my loyalties lie!"

"For the god's sake, why didn't you ask me for help?"

"Sue, I could not put you in that position. I know Spock's feelings on destroying life. I couldn't ask you to choose between what I wanted and the life of his child. Sue … if I am sent away, make doc let Thone stay with you."

Sue nodded and looked up to see Spock coming toward them. The look on his face told her that he heard most of what was said.

"We have to get her to the clinic. I can't stop the bleeding."

Without hesitation he picked her up and they were on their way. As they rounded the corner and entered the clinic, they ran right into the doc, Fraunt, and three other guards. From the looks of it, the doc had just finished bandaging the hand of an injured guard.

Oh, hell, thought Sue, we've had it. Spock put Thela on the table and the doc waited while Sue prepared her. Those damn guards didn't move, they just stood there gaping. The doc did a quick exam and looked at Sue. "What happened? And don't tell me she fell!"

Sue drew a blank, for once old 'magic mouth' couldn't think of a thing. If it was just the doc, they could have managed, but they had no hold on Fraunt.

Spock stepped forward. "I beat her."

This remark startled all of them, mostly Sue.

Fraunt said, "What did you say?"

"I beat her. She had become increasingly disobedient."

The doc, a curious look on his face, said, "There aren't any bruises, are there?"

"I did not intend for there to be any, but when she dared to fight me, I became angry and forgot she was pregnant."

Fraunt smiled and the other guards were laughing, enjoying this. One said, "Yeah, you gotta keep those cows in their place." The other two spoke in Towanese, which Sue didn't understand, but she didn't have to.

She was thinking how well Spock understood them. He's playing right into their mentality. She wondered if he knew the price he would have to pay.

The doc finished his exam. "Well, you got too rough, she's aborted."

"I am not responsible for her clumsiness."

"You cost us a worker!" Fraunt was enjoying this. He didn't believe it, of course, but that didn't matter. Spock would be more fun to punish than an injured woman.

As Sue prepared Tha for surgery, the guards took Spock away. Their eyes met for a brief instant as they tried to reassure each other.

Thela began to mumble as the doc was finishing up. Sue stayed at her side. "You'll be all right, Tha, be still."

"Sue?"

Sue spoke slowly. "I -- said -- it'll -- be -- okay, Tha. Spock admitted what he did to you, that he beat you."

Tha caught her meaning. "Oh, no, Sue. The whirl/wheel!"

The doc's head came up at this remark. Sue tried to cover it. "She's afraid he'll beat her again, because he's being punished."

"Do not think that either of you are fooling me as to what actually happened here," the doc said.

Sue froze at his words waiting for what would come next. When he said no more she continued with her work. With Thela settled for the night, Sue returned to the doc. Her heart was in her throat when she asked, "Can I take some supplies with me?"

She waited for his reaction and sighed in relief when he just nodded and went to unlock the cabinet. "You are in my debt. Don't ever forget that."

Sue only nodded. He was not going to tell Fraunt, there would be no repercussions beyond what was happening to Spock now.



As fast as she could Sue gathered bandages, ointment and disinfectant and left the medical complex. Back in the cell, she helped Soy bed down the boys. She explained to Thone that his mother had lost the baby, but would be fine. Then she paced the floor and waited. She had never seen this whirl/wheel, only its results, of infected burns of its victims. They always did the chest so the individual had to watch it coming at them and smell the searing flesh. She'd been told that it also made an eerie sound. Sue had treated three of its victims since coming here. None of them were critical, just in agony. As far as she knew, one rarely died from its use directly. The killer was infection that set in later, due to lack of proper treatment and care.

The door opened and the guards threw Spock onto the floor. Sue went to him and helped him turned over. His injured chest was bare since they had tied the sleeves of his coveralls around his waist. She cringed when she saw his chest, but started to work. "The doc let me bring some things. First, I have to clean it, this will sting like hell." He lay there breathing deeply as she proceeded. "If we can keep it from infecting, we'll be home free."

When she had he bandages in place he said, "How is Thela?"

"Screw Thela! How are you?"

"Much less affected than I allowed them to believe. I have never seen such a device as that before."

Sue looked away. He took her hand. "Sue, it was not intolerable. What other choice did I have?"

"None. And I know that, but it doesn't help."

"Sue, help me so we can go to bed. Tonight I will need to sleep."

They spoke no more about it. When Tha returned, Thone ran to her. Spock seemed no different, but Sue kept her distance. Within a few days she softened; Sue never could carry a grudge for long.

* * *

Several months rolled by and routine carried them through. Thela got stronger, Soy and Sue got bigger. The boys had their second birthday. Spock was away with Kiear almost one week in every four or five.

Spock was due back within hours when they heard the news. The sphere car had crashed. Details were sketchy. At least two dead and, of the other three on board, one was severely injured. The rescue party had to go in on foot because of the rugged terrain.

Sue was beside herself and Tha kept telling her to calm down or she would miscarry.

Four nerve-racking days later they received a message to expect the rescue party with one injured.

It took all Sue's concentration and control not to run to Spock when they carried him in and placed him on the exam table. She was fighting back tears of relief as she began to work on him. She began by cleaning the wounds; the arm and shoulder were the worst. The dry, caked dressing had to be soaked off. The nerves were exposed. Tha was setting up for surgery while the doc was checking Kiear, who brushed him aside.

"I'm all right, was checked at the scene." He pointed to Spock. "He got the worst of it. Don't know how he's made it this long. Doc, I want him alive! We've done it this far; don't lose him for me now. He's good with the computers and knows my system. I can't afford to lose him…" Sue felt him watching her, noting her concern. "You're one of his brood mares, aren't you?"

Sue bristled at the remark but bit her lip to keep from saying anything. She nodded her head. He gestured at Thela. "Her, too?" Sue nodded again.

Soy-an came in and when she saw Spock she began to cry and shake, tried to go to him. Thela pulled her to one side and tried to talk to her.

Kiear turned to the doc. "The crazy one his, too?"

"Yeah."

"Funniest thing, I never saw mares care for their stud like that before!" He turned to the other guards. " What do you suppose he's got that's so special?" Of course, they all laughed.

Thela had Soy calmed down and sent her on an errand.

Kiear pointed to Thela and asked the doc, "Why isn't that one pregnant?"

"Miscarried, bad. Needs to heal yet."

He just kept staring at Thela. As she passed near him, to get something from a cabinet, he said, "How did Fraunt miss you anyway? The old boy must be losing his eyesight."

Defiantly she pulled back her hair and moved the neck of her coveralls to reveal the scars on her cheek, neck and down her shoulder.

"Oh!" He backed away and became flustered. "Well, I can't stay here all day." He glanced at the doc and said with emphasis, "You're responsible for him, Doc! I'll check with you later." He stormed out of the room.

The doc took his time with the surgery and did it right. As much as she hated to admit it, Sue was grateful to Kiear. Without his interest the doc would have done a sloppy job and Spock would probably never have had full use of that arm again.

When it was over, she settled Spock in one of the isolation rooms. As he began to come around, Sue didn't like what she saw. Thela came in with some charts in her hand and a very worried look on her face.

"Tha, something's wrong. I…"

"Very much so, Sue. They have been giving him quantolene every four hours, by now he must be addicted."

"What! No!"

"Sue, why must you protest every fact you do not want to believe? It is true."

Spock was now delirious and thrashing. They held him to protect the injured arm. "Sue, give him a shot."

"No!"

"He has just had surgery. He must be kept still."

Knowing they had no real choice Sue gave him the drug.

It was almost four hours later before he started to come around again. Between the need for the drug and the anesthesia he was incoherent. He became agitated and Sue was afraid he would open the wound. Sue gave him another hypo. She repeated that act two more times during the night.

Early in the morning the doc came in. "How is he?"

Sue gave him a hateful look. "I think you know! He's addicted to quant."

The doc just shook his head.

"Don't worry, I'll get him off it!"

"Sue, you're dreaming."

"No. I mean it. Kiear doesn't even need to know. Give me a week to ten days. I can do it." She studied him. "Doc, if he goes down, I promise, so do you." Sue wasn't sure she could make good on that threat, but she would give it one hell of a try and he knew it.

"I'll see what I can do."

When Spock came around again Sue tried talking to him. "Spock, it's me, Sue. Do you know where you are?"

"Susan, I -- can -- not -- concentrate -- I -- need -- the -- pain -- cannot -- control -- the drug helps. Give -- it -- to -- me."

"You know then. How did this happen?"

"Gave me drugs. Wouldn't listen -- every few hours. Couldn't -- stop -- them. Sue!" He grabbed her shoulder with his good hand. "Give it to me!"

"Let go, you're hurting me."

When he let go she almost fell backwards. "Sorry, no control."

"You can! Just for a few minutes, then I'll give you a hypo."

"Now."

"No. You must wait ten more minutes."

"Please, Susan. Please, now."

"God, don't beg. Not you. That I can't deal with."

He reached out and had her by the throat. "Give it to me!"

"Ohhh, Spock, I can't … breathe." Tha came in and pulled him off her. Having no choice, Sue gave him the hypo.

"Sue, this will not work."

"Yes it will. I'll make it work."

For the next 36 hours Spock was fighting cramps and nausea instead of Susan.

"So cold." Sue went for more blankets. "So hot." She took them off. He shivered and shook and perspired and was sick and delirious again. She wiped him off for hours at a time.

"Jim, look out! Behind you! Mother? Most go…"

Sue was keeping the injections spaced at every four hours. She knew his system was demanding the drug more often but Sue refused to increase the dosage. Damn those stupid guards. They had no business playing doctor. Spock could have controlled the bleeding and begun a healing trance if they had listened to him and not shot him full of drugs.

Sue wasn't paying attention when he came around again and he grabbed her. She tapped the wound, just hard enough for him to let go. He moaned and fell back.

"Sue, I can't."

"Don't tell me that. I know different."

She began pushing the cart toward the door.

"Where are you going?"

"To our cell, let your children see how their father behaves."

"Susan, no! Don't let them see me, not like this!"

"I'm pulling out all the stops, Spock. I'll fight as dirty as I have to!"

"How long must I wait?"

Sue knew she had him. "Twenty-five more minutes. You can do it. Talk to me, just keep talking."

"Talk?"

"Yes, about anything. Ah, Jim. Tell me about your captain."

"Susan, that is classified information."

"Bullshit. Tell me stuff I could read in any manual."

"He is an excellent officer."

"Big deal. I want to know everything about him. When you are through, I want to be able to pick him out of a crowd. Now, what's his full name?"

"James T. Kirk."

"What's the T. for?"

"Tiberius."

"Oh, boy. How old is he?"

"He is 35 point, incorrect. He would now be 37.7 standard years."

"Good. Where was he born?"

"A farm in rural Iowa."

"Good old Midwesterner like me." Sue continued. "Height? Weight? Color of eyes? Hair? Married? Favorite food? Drink? Hobbies? When did you meet him? Distinguishing marks? Father's name? Mother's name? Brothers or sisters?"

"Susan!"

"Just four more minutes."

"Susan!"

"Okay, okay. That's good enough for now."

Within a few minutes after the injection his breathing had begun to even out and a short time later he was asleep.

"This time tell me about Dr. McCoy."

"Susan, you cannot keep this up."

"Watch me. Tha and Soy are caring for the boys, so all I have is you. I sleep when you do. Besides Kiear wants you well. Now tell me about the doctor." She looked at him, so miserable. "Spock, I know you. You must hate being dependent on this stuff."

"I find it most revolting. But I do not seem to be able to help myself."

"Then let me help you for a change, please. You are improving already. You've been awake about seven minutes and haven't asked for a hypo yet."

"That is a good sign?"

"Yes. We'll make it three quarters of an hour this time. How's the arm and shoulder?"

"There is some pain, but the craving…"

"Talk. The doctor. Married?"

"Divorced."

"Children?"

"A daughter."

"Where's he from? Height? Weight? Hobbies? Etc. Etc."

The next several days and nights ran together. Four hours became five, then six. As Sue increased the time, she continually decreased the dosage. They talked and talked. Sue asked so many questions, and between the chill and fever, Spock answered them. When she couldn't think of any new ones, she repeated all the old ones several times.

"I'm sitting in the captain's chair, what's in front of me? To my right, left, behind me? Scotty's full name is? His favorite drink is? Uhura was born where? Her rank is? Does her name really mean freedom? Sulu is a? His hobbies really change every week? Tell me again, the duties of a science office are? Let me see, Vulcan has two moons…"

"No, Sue. Vulcan has no moon. Rigel III has two moons."

"Oh." She thought about that. "Is that why the Vulcan reproductive cycle is dependent on the male?"

"Highly unlikely."

Sue shrugged. "Your father's name?"

"Sarek."

"Your mother's?"

"Amanda."

"I like that. Your father's parents?"

"Suvil and T'Olne."

"Mother's?"

"Charles and Miriam Grayson."

"Your sister, what's her name again?"

"T'Uriamne."

"She lives on Vulcan?"

"Yes."

"Any children?"

"She is not mated."

"Oh, that's right. Chekov, the Russian navigator; describe him."

Sue's head was swimming from lack of sleep. Her muscles ached from alternating between lifting Spock and trying to hold him down. Everything faded into the background, except Spock. "Tell me again, you spent six months with your Grandfather Grayson on Earth. Where were our folks?"

"Peace conference on Cantrell IV."

"How old were you?"

"Eleven point…"

"Never mind. How did you and your grandfather get along?"

"Very well."

"Did you enjoy yourself?"

"Sue, I was there to learn, not to enjoy myself."

"Well, did you like it?"

"It was interesting. My grandfather lived in a university town and I went to school with many racially mixed individuals. I was different, but so was almost everyone else there. My grandfather and I took trips on the weekends and I learned a great deal from him."

"What else did you do?"

"My mother's brother took me mountain climbing with my cousin."

"Did you like that?"

"Yes, except for my cousin. Most undisciplined."

Sue imagined the scene and smiled to herself. "Anything else?"

"I was allowed to read my grandfather's rare books, and at my request he arranged a tour of Starfleet Academy."

With no help from a healing trance, the arm and shoulder were healing slowly, but they were healing. The first time he could sit up, Sue told him that was a milestone, and again, when he was able to stand and take several steps. Now the tea was staying down and he could eat half a biscuit at a time.

Sue was falling asleep. She could hear Spock droning on, but most of the time she wasn't aware of what he was saying. When his voice stopped, she just encouraged him to go on.

"Your father's mother?"

"She was quite fond of me, considered me special; for her, I could do no wrong. She said parents had to be strict and stern to raise a child correctly, but the prerogative of grandparents was to just accept. Also, she respected and admired my mother very much."

"This desert trial thing, how old were you?"

"Seven."

"And you made it?"

"There was no choice but to make it."

"Was your father proud of you?"

"He never said."

"How did your mother feel about your going?"

"When she married my father, she accepted Vulcan ways."

"Were you proud of yourself for making it? Come on, tell me."

"Yes. I was pleased."

"You expect the children to go through it?"

"Yes, when they are ready. I feel it is a positive learning experience."

Every once in a while things would get turned around and Spock would ask the questions and Sue would parrot back his answers. "Sue, you are sitting in the captain's chair. What is in front of you?"

"Helm and navigation console."

"To your right?"

"Science station."

"Left?"

"Engineering station?"

"Behind you?"

"Communications."

Etceteras. etceteras. Etceteras…

Sue woke to see him pacing. "How long did I sleep?"

"Nine point five hours."

Sue got excited. "And you?"

"Eight hours."

She jumped up and went to him. "You did it! You missed two whole injections! You did it!" She put her arms around him without even thinking. He held her and she didn't sense that he was uncomfortable with it.

"Susan, we did it. It is not over yet, but now I shall be in control. There will be no more injections." For once it was good to see him pull in, become distant. His voice was strong, it held no indecision. "Susan, thank you."

"It is illogical to thank…" She laid her head on his chest. He led her back to bed and they slept.

Two days later Spock was back at work. Kiear was pleased, the doc was relieved and Sue was exhausted.

In her past three years on the planet Sue had been surprised at how well she had been physically. She had reluctantly decided that much was due to the diet. Although it tasted like sawdust, apparently the good biscuits were just chock-full of all the good stuff and none of the bad. The food processing plant, with its computer, was able to provide for the different needs of the many species on the planet. The wrappers were even color-coded for easy dispensing.

The first few weeks had been difficult for Sue. No carbonated drinks, no sugar or chocolate, or spices. Then she noticed she wasn't so tired even after long days in the clinic and interrupted sleep. She began to wonder. No food additives, no preservatives, no junk food, no good stuff!

But now she felt like hell. Those nine days with Spock and the drugs had drained her. Spock commented on her condition. "Susan, you do not look at all well."

"I'm not surprised. I feel like death warmed over."

On top of feeling so tired, she was behind on her paper work in the clinic. She had to take some evenings to catch up. The doc kept very rigid notes on all his work, and when he ran experiments he was extra cautious. Several times he had Sue work with him and record every step. But, mostly he worked alone and had her transcribe -- in his own special code -- his notes later. Spock and Thela offered to help, but the doc said no. He did give her something to build her up, but still she felt dragged out. When she was about seven and a half months pregnant she went into labor.

"Spock!"

He hit the buzzer and came back to her.

"No time. It's coming now!"

Spock delivered a baby girl as the doc came through the door. He shouted for Spock to get out of the way and took over. Then he took them both to the clinic and put the infant in an isolette. Because of her rundown condition the doc let Sue have four whole days in the ward. She slept most of the time. When she was back in the cell, she felt much better. Fourteen days later, when the child's weight reached five pounds, the doc released her.

The boys were intrigued with her, and on seeing her, Soy-an decided that she too would have a daughter. Thela was noticeably quiet.

When the others were asleep, the parents sat watching the child. "Spock, she needs a name."

"I had thought that perhaps this time you might have some preference."

"Well, as a matter of fact, I do. What do you think of Amanda and that Uhura name that means freedom?"

"I believe my mother and the lieutenant will be most pleased."

As they went to bed Sue said, "Spock, your poor parents. I suppose they think you're dead." She inched her way onto her stomach. "Oh, that feels sooo good. Worst thing about being pregnant, not being able to sleep on your stomach. Felt like a turtle on its back. Spock, how are you ever going to explain our little zoo to your parents?" If he answered, Sue didn't hear. She fell asleep.

About six weeks after Mandy's birth, Sue was working late in the clinic, updating more of the doc's notes. She answered the buzzer. It was Spock. "Sue, I believe you should have a look at Soy-an."

"Bring her down." She hit the lever that released the cell door lock. Then she called the doc.

The doc came in, followed by Spock with Soy-an in his arms. "Membrane ruptured."

Spock put her on the table and then moved out of the way. Soy called his name and he moved back to take her hand. Sue was waiting for the doc to order him to leave; but he didn't. The doc took a back seat, as he usually did, and Sue went to work. The next time she looked up, Spock had his hands on Soy-an's face and was talking softly to her. Sue didn't know what he was doing, but whatever it was it helped her. She relaxed and worked with, not against the contractions. Sue kept expecting the doc to do something, but every time she looked at him he was just watching the whole procedure in a detached almost clinical fashion. An hour and a half later a baby girl was born in a textbook delivery.

When Sue showed them the baby and said it was a perfect girl, Soy-an said, "Thay-an, I will name her Thay-an."

Soy was as rational as she had ever been for about six to eight weeks after Thay-an's birth. Sue wondered if it could be some lingering effects of what had transpired during the delivery. She knew it had to be some form of mind contact. Spock didn't volunteer any information and although Sue was very curious, she didn't ask. It was part of their agreement not to intrude on what little privacy they had if group welfare wasn't involved.

Then Sue felt she couldn't ignore it any longer. It became obvious that Spock was continuing to use this mind contact to keep Soy-an well enough to do her work and care for the baby. Although she'd never actually seen him do it, she couldn't help but notice how Soy's abrupt mood changes coincided with his home-away trips. Finally she asked and he assured her it was not harming him. She let it go.

* * *

Spock looked up as the women and children came into the cell. He was early for once and had their study materials out. "There will be time for a short language lesson before the evening meal."

Usually the boys would have gone directly to him. This time they didn't.

"Boys, come here."

Jamie and Len walked slowly toward him. Thone clung to Thela. Spock eyed them sternly and was about to reprimand when he saw the tears in Len's eye. "Come here." This time his voice was soft. Jamie and Len went to him, he took them on his lap.

"Thone, I would like you here also." Thela brought him near and he sat at Spock's feet. "Would you tell me what happened today?"

Jamie, his voice quivering, said, "Guards came and took Minto, Exrha, and Crear away. Why, Father?"

"When will they be back?" Thone asked.

Len wiped his eyes and said, "When Minto's mother came and he wasn't there, she cried. Will they hurt Minto? He is my friend. Father, will he come back?"



"No, Son, they will not be back." Thone began to shake, Len had tears in his eyes again, but Jamie looked directly at Spock.

"Will they take us away, too?"

"No, not if I can help it."

Thone said weakly, "I won't ever go back to the day room again."

"Thone, you have no choice, but I promise you, all of you, I will do my best to never let that happen to you."

Spock was handling the boys beautifully. Thank God for him. Sue wouldn't have known what to say. She busied herself with the girls while Tha and Soy got the evening meal ready. Sue felt sick inside. Sick for the mothers whose children had been taken. Sick for herself, at her fear for her own children, but most of all, sick for those poor frightened children who had been taken from the only home they had ever known. What were they thinking and feeling tonight? Sue knew they would be taken away from this area, to be added to the bands of young children, usually headed by a female too old for breeding. They would search the surface of the planet, gathering the hunks of low-grade mineral that lay about. They would spend about six years doing this. Then at about age ten they would be sent into the mines. Sue was more solid than ever in her conviction that she would see her children dead before she would allow them to be taken from her.

The family spent a very quiet evening. The children were subdued and Thone would not leave his mother's side.

The next morning the adults walked the children all the way to the entrance of the day room. It took much coaxing and Spock reaffirming his promise, to get the boys to go into that room. On the way to their own duties, Spock said, "One way or another, this practice must be stopped."

* * *

She came awake fighting. "Susan, be still. Do not struggle." She became aware that it was Spock holding her and relaxed.

"Susan, what happened?"

"Happened?"

"In the clinic. You were called for a delivery, remember?"

Sue sat up, looked around and rubbed her jaw. "Oh, yeah, where are we?"

"In one of the isolation rooms."

"Why? I don't seem to..."

"I was awakened by one of the doc's boys. He literally dragged me to the clinic. Susan, the place was in chaos and you were out of control. When I arrived you were screaming and actually attacking Kiear. I had to step in and strike you unconscious and apologize for your behavior. If I hadn't, he would have killed you. Later, I convinced the doc to let me bring you here."

"You apologized to that filthy animal! I would have..."

"You would have what? You left me no choice. Now tell me what happened."

"Oh, Spock, it was awful. When I got to the clinic, the doc was there with Fraunt and his wife. She was in labor." This was the usual procedure since the small Towan community that was growing on the outskirts of the mine complex had no doctor of its own. "The delivery was preceding well, Kiear even seemed interested. Then a baby girl was born. The child had a harelip and cleft palate. Otherwise it was a fine baby girl, good apgar and everything." Her words trailed off, then she continued. "Spock, he killed her." She began to shake with anger. "The doc told him it could be corrected, but he wouldn't listen. Kiear just killed her; he broke her neck. I remember screaming and going for him, that's all." She collapsed against him and began to sob.

After a time she tried to stop. "No, let it all out. Susan, this has been building for a very long time. I release my tensions through meditation, you do it this way."

Sue continued to cry. "I'll have such a headache!"

Spock rubbed her forehead and temples. After a time she fell asleep. When she woke it was light and Spock was still holding her. She remembered with a start.

"Spock!"

"It is all right, Susan."

"Ohhhh, I remember. The children?"

"All that has been taken care of. Thela will care for them. The doc will provide an excuse for us today. You need time ... and we must talk. Susan, this breakdown has been coming for some time now. I have been most concerned and have been powerless to prevent it. I need you to be strong now. You are what keeps our cell together. In six days Jamie and Len will have their third birthday." He stopped at those words. They both knew the implications. Then Sue spoke in a small, despairing voice.

"This is it, isn't it? You'll be leaving soon. Oh, Spock, I don't think I can make it without you."

He held her by the shoulders and made her look at him. "Sue, we have no choice. I shall be gone several months. After all these years of planning and waiting, I need to know that you can manage things here. I need to know that I will have someone to come back for, someone to rescue."

Sue felt so drained, so tired. She began to voice some of her unspoken, innermost fears, and wondered for the thousandth time, how he would relate to them away from Towan. "And if we do escape, Spock, this is a very unorthodox family. I can't believe that even centuries have changed people that much. How are you going to be able to deal with us out there -- with your family and friends -- and something else, money."

"Susan, finances will not be a problem."

"Don't tell me your old man's rich."

"My father is not exceedingly wealthy, but there are family resources that can be used if need be. However, that should not be necessary. I have savings and investments."

For the first time since waking, Sue relaxed a bit and even smiled. "I'm glad I won't have to scrub floors."

"Susan, there is no doubt that Soy-an will require extensive treatment. What of Thay-an during that time?"

"Annie stays with the other children."

"Suppose she has grandparents who..."

"No, she stays with her brothers and sister. If she has grandparents, fine and good, they can be grandparents. Spock, about Tha, she has her heart set on going back to her own people and taking Thone with her. What if the Romulans refuse to have anything to do with her?"

"I doubt that they will do that. It is their motives that will concern me."

"Oh, you think they may just want to learn what happened to her then discard her? If that happens, would they let her come back to us?"

"That is what we shall strive for."

"And about her taking Thone?"

"I accept it."

Her smile faded. "Your plans are made then?"

"Yes, they have been for some time now. It was the waiting that was so difficult. Waiting until I was given full access to the computers and could coordinate everything." Then he sighed. "All that time... It has been most frustrating."

"Yet you never shares any of this with us, or me."

"For your own safety, you know that. And before I leave I must blot most of this conversation from your mind."

"No."

He ignored her protest. "There is one subject that we have never discussed. Now we must. If I should fail to return." Sue started to interrupt, but he went on. "Are your plans still as they were before Jamie and Len were born?"

Sue nodded.

"Tell me exactly what you will do."

"About three weeks before the pickup date, the doc gets a list of the children to be taken. We already know the probable date, but that'll confirm it. I already have the drugs. The night before the pickup, after the children and Soy fall asleep, I'll inject them, then Tha and myself."

"Are you sure you can go through with it?"

"Before I'll let them be taken from me to face that kind of existence? Yes, I can do it. Besides, if you're not back by then, I'll know," she looked away and kept her voice steady, "I'll know you're dead and there will be no hope."

"Thela is in agreement with this?"

"Yes, and Soy is in no shape to care for herself and Annie. She can't be left alone or even be let in on this. It will be all of us together."

"It is decided then."

Sue nodded and sagged against his chest again.

"Susan, there is another thing you must do. Before you give yourself the injection, you will go to the clinic. Once there, you will place in the medical computer the following numbers in the sequence I tell you, our children's birthdays, as I computed them, not the Towan dates. You will use these dates in the order the children were born, Jamie first, then Len, finally Amanda."

"That's all?"

"Yes, that is all. Then go back to the cell."

"Oh. I see. How long?"

"There is a thirty minute time delay."

"Will it be a big one?"

"Susan, the computers are tied into the core of this planet."

Her eyes got very big and her mouth fell open. "Oh, for a front row seat."

There was a short silence, and then Sue returned to what was troubling her. "Spock, don't take away these memories. I'll need them to get through the months ahead without you. I'll need the hope they give me. It may not mean much to you..."

"It does have meaning for me. I doubt I would have survived these past years if our relationship had not grown to what it is now. There is a bonding between us. It has grown and strengthened slowly, but it is there. I always knew you trusted me. That has kept me going through many disappointments. And you have been me through two most difficult experiences."

"Do you really mean that?"

"Susan, Vul..."

"I know Vulcans never lie." She pressed her arms tight around him. "Thanks for saying it, anyway."

"Sleep, if you can. Your body needs rest. This one day is not much, but it is all I can give you."

When Sue woke a short time later, she was lying on the mat and Spock was next to her, staring at the ceiling. She watched him. "You must be bored. You don't like laying around doing nothing."

"Susan, I have much to think about, and it is not unpleasant being alone with you."

"Careful, you'll spoil me."

"I do not believe this small amount will do any permanent damage." His tone of voice had not changed, but she glanced over in time to catch the tiniest smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Well, as long as I have you in a good mood, can we get any biscuits? I'm starved."

"Lie still. I'll get them."

He went out the door and returned a short time later with biscuits and tea, sat down opposite her and began to divide the meal.

Sue sat up and gestured with a biscuit. "Well, you did it again. That door locks from the outside."

"It was a simple matter to reverse the polarity."

"Yeah, simple." Shaking her head, wincing slightly. "You never fail to amaze me."

Sue began to chew the biscuit slowly, then stopped, making a face and working her jaw.

Spock reached out to touch each side of her face. "Is there pain?" He moved closer, running his hands along her jaw, gently moving it. "It appears slightly swollen."

She flexed her shoulders forward and back. "No, my jaw isn't too bad, except when I chew. What really bothers me is my neck. I must have wrenched it when I went down."

Spock reached behind her and began to massage her neck.

"Ohhh, that feels good. If I were a cat, I'd purr." As she sagged against him, she didn't see the sudden startled look on his face.

Spock moved one of his hands inside the back of her coveralls to knead her shoulder.

"Spock, that's not fair," then she said slowly, "you know that always puts me to sleep." She slipped both arms around him. "But it feels sooo good." How many nights had she fallen asleep like this, with him rubbing away the tensions of her day?

He stopped massaging and moved his hand from her shoulder, up her neck and into her hair, gently, caressing.

Sue was totally relaxed, enjoying the sensation. She snuggled closer, turning partly sideways, her head still resting against his shoulder.

As one hand continued to stroke her hair, he released the fastener strip on the front of her coveralls with his other hand and began to caress her breasts in a slow circular motion.

Still bemused, eyes half closed, Sue responded instinctively. She turned her face up to his, then realized what was happening, but had no time to consider or to question. Spock bent his head down slightly, his mouth touching hers, first lightly, then harder, his arms pulling her closer as the kiss became deeper and passionate.

Suddenly, the mind link was back, putting to rest all the fears and insecurities to which Sue had been prey since Amanda's conception. His desire was unmistakable, even surprising him by its presence and more so by its intensity.

He eased his embrace slightly as Sue lay back on the mat and he stretched out beside her. She couldn't say anything; the feeling was too overwhelming. But he could see, clearly, in her thoughts, now that the firmly held emotions were released. Love -- she had called it by many other names -- friendship, comfort, or security; it was admitted to be love.

Sue hardly recognized herself as seen from his mind. He had given her emotions and personality, a form and substance. He saw her so differently than she saw herself.

He was stroking her body with a slow gentle touch that Sue found incredibly sensual. She had never done anything that she thought would offend his hypersensitive sexual customs and had never been aggressive in any way. But now, encouraged by the mental contact and his desire for her, she reached the short distance to open the fastener strip on his suit. Then she ran her hand across his chest and around to his back, pulling him to her, moving slightly and continuously against him, delighting in the feel of the crisp hair rubbing against her body, now sensitized by his slow stroking.

Spock tilted her head up again to kiss her, the meld strengthening as the contact became more intimate. Her mouth opened and to her delight he responded, touching his tongue to hers.

Without a word, but with mutual agreement they parted slightly to remove their coveralls completely. Sue had seen him unclothed many time, but had always been determinedly impersonal, professional... Now she took a deep slow breath and reached out to run her hand slowly over his chest, down his lean hard muscled abdomen to his genitals, again marveling at the slender tendrils located on either side of his penis. Usually coiled and concealed in the pubic hair, they were now unfurled, and small ripples shuddered down their length. She touched one lightly, her action eliciting a sharp in-drawn breath from Spock along with a small explosion of rapture in his mind.

She stopped in wonder as the one she'd been caressing curled its short length around her hand, and with it remaining in light contact; she used that hand to stroke his penis. Again she felt the responsive tremors in his body and mind, at both her actions and her delight in giving him such pleasure.

Sue remembered her first reaction to this ultimate proof of his alienness. It had been one of surprise. But he had taken her wide-eyed expression and forceful expletive to be negative, and no amount of talking would convince him otherwise. After that he had always been very careful to keep them coiled out of sight. She came to realize from some of the mental images that they were a normal part of Vulcan mating ritual. The female also had the tendrils, though smaller. During intercourse they curled and twined together to increase the intensity of the mental contact of the two touch telepaths so the female could more strongly project the calming influence that was her important function. That the tendrils were uncoiled now was an important sign of the depth of his feelings and trust.

She was aware of his excitement spiraling higher and higher and she too was shuddering with the effort to control her desire. She slowly moved her hand away from the tendril and around to his back to guide him on top of her. She felt him rub briefly at her entrance as the tendrils positioned themselves on her clitoris, then he penetrated as she voiced a small, throaty moan of pleasure. They were both too wildly aroused to prolong the experience. As he moved within her, she felt herself tightening -- tightening, then the release. As she continued to spasm around him and her mind was filled with the ecstasy of the moment, he too shuddered with release, flooding her mind with the bright flaring of his climax.

After a few moments he eased from her, both too shaken by the experience to say a word and exhausted by the sustained emotional intensity. Spock twisted onto his side. Sue rolled onto hers facing the same way and taking his hand in hers while pressing his arms tightly against her. In no time at all, they were both asleep.

When Sue woke again, it was a clear night; she could see the stars through the ventilation duct of the isolation room. She rolled over lazily and sat up. As usual, he had awakened before her.

"Oh, Spock, our day is almost over. I could cry."

"Tears? I shall never understand why the human female..."

"In your ear!"

His voice was lazy, almost drawling. "I fail to understand how you ever held a position of responsibility in your world. You show such disrespect for authority."

Sue laughed, delighted at his teasing. "Disrespect. I'll show you disrespect!" She lunged at him and together they went over with Sue on top. Still laughing, she messed and pulled at his hair, then bit his shoulder, leaving a faint impression of her teeth.

* * *

Sue was startled back to the present by someone coming down the hall. Lord, how long have I been sitting here? The footsteps became louder. That must be McCoy, thought Sue. She tried to get up but had to go slow. She was stiff from sitting in the same position for such a long time. She began to gather the rest of the things she wanted, mostly Soy's possessions. One day she'd give them to Annie and explain about her mother.

Spock came through the door with Jim and Sarek. Finding her alone, he asked, "Where is Dr. McCoy?"

"Called away."

Spock helped Sue with the container while the others looked around the cell. Sue had a pretty good idea what they were thinking.

"Sue, what in the world is that for?" Jim was pointing to a round tub leaning against the wall.

"There's a story that goes with that tub." She looked at Spock. "It really has to do with Soy." His eyes said go on.

"When Soy-an heard Spock was dead, she fell apart, cried for two days. She had become very dependent on him the last few months he was here. I thought it might help if I told her he wasn't dead, but that only made matters worse. She got hysterical, accused me of lying. Said he wouldn't have left her behind. She never spoke another word directly to me after that day. For a while she would talk to Tha, then she pulled away from her too. She kept bouncing from depression to anger. One day she hit Thay-an; we had to pull her off the child. Once she realized what she had done her depression deepened, the anger was gone. After that there was no reaching her. I asked the doc for some anti-depressants, but he said he didn't have any. I guess it was true, because all my searching didn't turn up anything." Sue shrugged hopelessly at the memory. "The next free day we spent in the woods Tha sent Thone back to the cell for something. When he didn't return, we sent Jamie after him. We heard him yelling and went running. Soy was in the shower. Thone was in a state of shock, just staring at her. Wouldn't go into that bathroom alone and never set foot in that shower again. He had nightmares too. In desperation we stole that tub."

Spock had taken something from Sue's container and was curiously turning it over and over in his had. "Susan, how did you come to have this?"

"That was a gift from Fraunt."

"A gift? I do not understand." He was holding a small clear sealed packet. Inside he recognized a piece of his sandal, his neck collar and a swatch of the blood stained coveralls he had been wearing at the time of the 'accidental' sphere car crash. "He gave this to you?"

"Yeah, said here's what's left of your precious Vulcan."

"I see. And you, of course, said nothing."

"Who me?"

"Is that perhaps how you acquired that new scar on your chin?"

"No, that came later. About four months after you were gone, Fraunt asked me if we had another male yet. I said no, we were waiting for another Vulcan. Then he said, oh, you like those pointed ears, huh? All I said was that they beat the hell out of pointed heads and he hit me."

"Susan, the Towans do not have pointed heads, slightly elongated perhaps, but not…"

Sue giggled while Jim was trying to suppress a smile. Spock and Sarek didn't seem to find anything amusing.

* * *

The communicator demanded their attention and they were immediately beamed back aboard the Enterprise.

They all went bursting into Sickbay and Sue caught the look of grief on Amanda's and McCoy's faces. Those looks said everything. "I'm sorry, Sue, Spock. We tried … even surgery didn't help. There was nothing we…"

"I understand, Doctor."

"Oh, my God, no." Sue groaned, her voice desolate as she stared at the empty life support. "Please God, no."

"Sue…" McCoy started towards her only to have her jerk away.

"No, Don't touch me! Don't anybody touch me! No! No! No!" She repeated, pounding on the now empty life support. She swung her arm across a small table sending the contents clattering to the floor. Spock did not try to approach her. McCoy prepared a sedative.

"No, Doctor. That would postpone what Susan must accept." He turned back to her. "Susan, this time it will not work. No one knows better than I how your will can alter seemingly impossible situations, but not this time."

Sue gave him an angry look. "No! This can't happen, not now, after we're free and safe and everything!" She sagged against the life support. "I can't stand it!"

Then he went to her and she let him hold her. "Oh, Spock, our baby, he was our baby. The others, we had to have them; but Chukka was special, he was just for us."

Still holding her, he turned to the doctor. "Spock, there was massive…"

"Oh, Spock, no! Chukka's gone and I don't want to hear all that medical jargon now!" She looked at him. "Let him tell you later." She began to sob.

Spock looked at his parents. "Father, if you would see to the arrangements."

"Certainly, son, will our procedures meet with Susan's approval?"

"Yes. I would like to be alone with Susan now. Mother, will you see to the other children?"

She nodded. As Spock attempted to lead Susan from the room, Jim said, "Use my quarters."

"Not yet," Sue said. "I want to hold him one last time." When Spock nodded McCoy left the room. When he returned Sue was seated in a chair and McCoy placed Charles in her arms. Spock pulled up another chair and sat next to her as everyone else left the room.

"I think I knew this all along. Nothing about this pregnancy was right and I think I knew this would happen." She held her son tight to her chest and cried, then suddenly looked at Spock. "You never got to hold him, with all that was going on I didn't realize till now…"

Then she saw the look in his eyes and knew differently. "Of course, you held him. You took the night feedings, didn't you? While I slept you were feeding Chukka." Then she hugged the baby to her and sobbed.

When she could cry no more she let Spock take him away and then the two left Sickbay.

"Will you stay with me?"

"I shall stay."

* * *

Late in the evening Sue and Spock went back to their own quarters. Sarek and Amanda were in the sitting room. The children were asleep.

"You explained to the children?"

"Yes, son, we thought it advisable."

"I agree."

Sue sat next to Amanda. "Thank you for taking care of them."

"Susan, you must know it was our pleasure. I only regret the circumstances."

Sue nodded; there were no tears now. She was all cried out.

Sarek and Spock were discussing what to do about the next day's hearings. Sue interrupted. "Spock, can we get this over with? Can I go tomorrow and tell the council what they want to know and then let's get out of here, away from--" she spit out the last words, "--this place."

"I think that would be best. I have no desire to remain here either."

Amanda turned to face Sue. "You will be coming home to Vulcan with us?"

"Yes, those are our plans … if you think the planet is ready for our little zoo?"

Amanda smiled at the description. "Susan, I now have four grandchildren with me. I shall enjoy showing them off. I know several families who will be green with envy."

"Mother! Amanda!" It was a simultaneous chorus from father and son.

Sue went for the pictures she had brought from the cell. Amanda studied them carefully. She lingered over the one of Thone. "He looks exactly like Spock at that age. I know I should be grateful for what I have, but I am sorry that I only caught a glimpse of him."

"Be patient, you'll get your chance."

"Susan?"

"I have a feeling that within a year or so, he'll be with us. Tha won't be able to cope with his problems on top of her own. From what Spock has told me about her people, I don't think Thone will be accepted. In fact, I find myself wondering how Tha will make it. Even if Towan was a slave planet, Tha's had her horizons broadened a great deal in the past five years. I think she is going to find her old life very rigid and confining. She and her mate will have a lot of adjusting to do and I know they want a child of their own…"

"Susan, will she be understanding enough to bring Thone to us?"

"Yes, Tha loves him and wants what's best for him. I know she and Spock have discussed the possibility. He let her take him, but if things don't work out she's to send him to us. Just so there's no government red tape."

"Sarek shall see to that!"

* * *

Sue rang the door buzzer to Sarek and Amanda's quarters. She was nervous. She rang it again, left her hand on too long, and jerked back.

"Come."

She went in and right away she knew. "Oh, I'm sorry. I interrupted you. I should know you meditate at…"

"Susan, it is of no con…"

"No. I'll come back later." She turned to leave.

"Susan, come in, please."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I meditate almost every day. To be interrupted on occasion is of no consequence."

"I would like to talk to you and I am not getting off to a very good start."

"If you will come in and sit down you may be more comfortable."

"I'm sorry. This isn't easy for me. I need something from you and I hate asking someone I don't know very well."

"Do I intimidate you that much?"

"Yes. Yes, you do."

"Can you tell me why?"

"Lots of things, I guess, just who you are, for one thing. And this favor I want. I don't think you're going to give I to me."

"Perhaps you should tell me what this important favor is."

"It's about Spock and this probe mission Jim Kirk is heading. I want Spock on the mission." She watched his response and noticed that he could raise his one eyebrow just like Spock.'

"You want him to go away? Would you explain why?"

"I know what Kirk and McCoy and that life means to him. He never intended to give up Starfleet. I don't want him to have to now, because of us."

"Susan, he has duties and responsibilities now."

"Oh, thanks a lot, but no thanks. I will not spend my life being someone's duty, as in millstone."

"I did not mean…"

"Yes, you did. You meant exactly that. That's exactly what we would become and I won't live that way."

"Susan, my son obviously cares for you and his children."

"I know that, but I also know what he wants to do with his life. Oh, not that he would ever admit it. He would stay with us and do all the correct things all that is expected of him and never let on that he wanted anything else. But, at night, when he thought I was asleep, do you know where I would find him? Where I have so many times before, on Towan. Outdoors, looking up at the stars, wishing to hell he was up there."

"You believe he really wants to go?"

"So bad he can taste it! Just watch his eyes when Jim talks about it."

"And you want him to go?"

"Yes, I do. Spock never asked for all these responsibilities. He made a bargain with us to get us off Towan. We latched onto him because of the Starfleet uniform…"

"Yes, he has told us about that."

"Well, then you know that all we wanted was our freedom. He gave us that. I'll not repay him by depriving him of his. But, it's more than that. He needs to go. The last five years have drained him. The kids, Tha, Soy and even me; we drain him. Kirk and McCoy and his life in Starfleet don't. He needs to be filled back up again. Besides, I would much rather he came back and said, 'Susan, I have missed you', than to have him stay and do his duty."

After several seconds Sarek said, "I see. And how is it that I may help?"

"Well, he won't leave me alone. I don't know how to manage in this time. I'm still overwhelmed by so much. If he knew that you and his mother would help me get settled and teach me how to handle things, that I could have you to call on when I needed advise and had questions…"

"Why have you not approached Amanda on this also?"

"Oh, come on! Because I don't have to. If Spock came home with a two-headed toad and her children, Amanda would…" Sue got tickled to herself as she thought, 'would start catching flies.' She shook it off, "…would accept them. You're the key to this."

Sarek was thinking how right Susan was. Amanda would like nothing better than caring for her grandchildren.

Sue continued. "Spock says finances are no problem. And it seems now that I shall even have a job translating the doc's papers. I could hire someone for the advice I need, but I know Spock. He wouldn't accept that. It has to be family. I know how busy you are and how important your work is. I would try not to bother you unless it was important."

"Your argument is most convincing."



Sue smiled. "Thanks, I rehearsed it enough times."

"My son is not the same as he was five years ago. He has matured. He may not accept my offer."

"In most things, Spock is so superior to me that there is no contest. But, when it comes to stubbornness, I can match him. Besides, I have the advantage. He wants to go. If you will just make the offer and leave the rest to me."

* * *

Jim and McCoy joined Spock, Sue, Sarek and Amanda after the children were asleep. After several minutes of casual conversation they began discussing the events of the day and the progress of the council sessions. Whenever Sue could catch Sarek's eye she tried to urge him to bring up the probe ship.

During a lull in the conversation, a child's cry was heard from the bedroom. Both Sue and Spock started to get up. Amanda stopped them. "You two stay put. I shall go."

Sarek took the opportunity. "James, tell us more about this probe ship that will explore the galactic center, I believe."

Jim's face lit up as he began to talk. "Yes, that's right. I'm very excited about it. Wasn't going to accept it, not knowing about Sp…" He stammered for a second. "Well, anyway, I could have had one of the new advanced starships, but this is new, no one has ever been that far up the galactic arm before. We'll be the first. And the data that's coming back, it's so…"

Spock broke in. "Data? Jim, what data?"

"Spock, you should see it! They have been sending robot probes into the area for some time now and the information that is coming back; all sorts of unexplained phenomena are being recorded. Besides, the space lanes are getting crowded. When we started out, you remember, Spock, Bones -- things were different. Now you can't turn around without running into someone or something. When McCoy, Scotty and I leave here tomorrow, we'll be checking out the ship. I can't wait to see her. They're running the last tests on the prototype and fitting the equipment now."

When he ran down, Sarek said, "And the crew?"

"Well, they'll be hand-picked by me. Shouldn't be too difficult though. Ever since the news got out, I've been hearing from any number of interested people. Scotty's going, of course; the ship's design is mostly his, and Bones will be there. He doesn't think we can do it without him. And, Spock, remember Kevin Riley? He wants to go."

Spock's resigned voice interrupted again. "Only if he promises not to sing for us…" He stopped. A look of dismay crept over his face at the admission.

Sue looked at Sarek, his face was impassive, but she knew he had caught it. Couldn't have been better if I had planned it myself, she thought.

McCoy was glancing from one to the other, trying to fill the hole in the conversation. He blurted out, "Oh, yeah, Jim's heard from Chekov too. He'll give up his position as first officer on the Hood to go."

Jim was able to continue but his enthusiasm was gone. "This is a big budget, high priority project. They say we'll be ready to leave in about six months, but I think that's optimistic, I think it will be more like a year before we launch and then we'll be gone about two years."

Sarek pushed it. "You have not mentioned the science position. Certainly that would be one of extreme importance."

You could have heard a pin drop. Sarek continued. "Why not Spock? Surely there is no one better qualified." He turned to his son. "Spock, I would think you would find that position most rewarding."

"Father, I could not consider it. Surely, you, of all people, know that."

"You plan to resign from Starfleet then?"

"I am uncertain as to my plans. But I could not be gone for two years. I have responsibilities here."

Sue gave Sarek her 'you see' look.

Spock went on. "I am not even sure what Starfleet will do with me. Can I pass the physical? All of my knowledge is five years out of date." He turned to Sue. "This is your doing. Do not give me that look. I know better. You had no right…"

Sue came up out of her chair and was about to explode. "Had no right!" She looked around the room, then sat back down and bit at her lip.

Sarek cut in. "Spock, you feel your mother and I could not be of help to Susan and the children?"

"That is not the point. You and mother have important work of your own and I cannot ask you to put aside your careers to take over my responsibilities."

Amanda, who had come back into the room to hear most of this exchange, said, "Spock, I don't believe you asked. I believe your father offered for us both."

"Yes, Mother, that is correct. And I am grateful, but I cannot accept."

Sue was about to say something. "Susan, we will hear no more on this subject."

Thay-an came into the room crying and rubbing her eyes. "Come here, Annie." The child went to Sue. "We woke you, didn't we? Well, come on. I'll lie down with you. I'm tired too. Tell everyone good night again." As the child was doing this, McCoy said, "Sue, I'll see you bright and early in the morning for your last checkup."

"Oh, that's right, then you'll be leaving before we head for Vulcan. We are going to have breakfast together, aren't we?"

"We most definitely are!"

"Well, I'll say my good-byes then. For now I'll just say good night." McCoy kissed her cheek. She crossed to Jim. "You're not going to be outdone, are you, Captain?"

"Certainly not!"

He leaned over to kiss her. She winked up at him and said in a low voice, "Don't fill that position." She took Thay-an by the hand and they left the room.

THE END

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