DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2013 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG.
The early morning sun was already scorchingly hot, but T'Sai Amanda aduna'Sarek cha'Skon hei-Kh'da'Ni'ikhirch, of the House Taldeen, wife and consort of the Fifteenth Lineal Heir of Surak and First Councillor of Vulcan, contentedly allowed the heat to bake into her aching bones. She had not felt well enough for some time now to sit in her garden and take her morning saya, enjoying the twitter of the little winged creatures that passed for birds or the scratching of the resident qol as it tidied its burrow beneath the overgrown Terran rosebush. Amanda had been upset at first when the small rodent had taken up lodging there, but the rose had seemed to do better than ever. The constant cultivating and fertilizing the gerbil-like creature had provided it was the very thing the rose needed, other than some water. The qol needed water, too, although not much, it being a desert-adapted beast, so the two diverse lifeforms had thrived.
Amanda had thrived here as well, going on 60 years, but time was passing more quickly now, or so it felt to the old woman basking in the sunlight. She was 91 now and her Earth-born body was beginning to feel the toll of living on a planet whose heavier gravity, thinner air and higher ambient temperature she had fought against for those six decades. Her bones were frailer, her joints afflicted constantly from worsening osteoarthritis, and her breath was shorter as well. She found that she needed oxygen more and more often and feared that soon she would not be able to continue to function without a constant supply. Even worse was the fact that she had had several skin cancers removed from her face and hands. Although she dressed in Vulcan fashion, covering as much as possible from the powerful UV rays of the planet's intense orange sun, the exposed portions of her body had gradually reacted to the damage.
And now she knew something that she had carefully concealed from her husband. The last cancer had been discovered within and Amanda had elected to do nothing about it. She was tired and had no wish to undergo the harsh treatments that were necessary in even the most advanced hospitals in the Federation. She was taking medication for the increasing pain, but she had determined that she would die in her own time and way. She had not told Sarek this, knowing that he would plague her with arguments about what was logical. He wouldn't understand. He still had a hundred years ahead of him, barring accident or catastrophic illness.
She gave a small, sardonic chuckle. "Catastrophic illness." That's what applied to her. Well, she had lived a good long life, raised a son to be proud of, and had lived to see her grandchildren grow and thrive. Especially Sapel... So much his father's son, whether Spock realized it or not. The young man was strong and had an independent streak a mile wide. She shouldn't have been so surprised when he had left home abruptly eight months before. Spock had done virtually the same thing at very nearly that age. He had no longer been able to tolerate the strait-jacket restrictions of Vulcan society and had sought his fortunes elsewhere.
Amanda sipped her saya and let her thoughts drift over the last few months. She had been devastated when Sapel hadn't come home, taking to her bed for several days as her weakened body absorbed the shock. She had let Sarek and Spock think that it was because she was simply a silly old woman, unable to handle the strain of losing her grandson. Well, it had been a strain, but then she figured it out and didn't worry about it beyond a concern for the young man's safety. No, she had grown to know Sapel far too well during the three years he had resided in their home while attending the Terran Embassy school. Sapel might have been a quarter Vulcan and the apple of his grandfather's eye, but he was three-quarters Human and a Grayson to boot. There was a core of steel in him that dated back to his Scottish ancestors. He would be all right. She would miss him terribly, but he would do well.
But now Spock and Christine had decided to return permanently to Avalon, taking their other four children with them. Their application for colonization had been expedited and approved, citing extraordinary circumstances, and they were packed and ready to leave within the next ten days.
Amanda realized with a stab of pain that it was almost a complete certainty that she would never see any of them again. She was dying and they would all be so very far away. She would never see T'Jenn blossom into the lovely young woman she was becoming. She would never see T'Kai grow into the stunning Vulcan beauty that the girl promised. And the twins... Soran and T'Larin were precocious and not yet spoiled by the rigid educational system of their father's planet. How she wanted to coddle them and keep them small. She wanted to walk on Earth's beaches with them and gather shells, or sit them on her knees and tell them tales, or bake cookies with them, or...
Without bidding, tears came to her eyes and she leaned her face into her hand, suddenly feeling the strength flow out of her body. Soon they would all be gone ... so soon ...
Sarek stood behind her, concern in his voice. She had no idea how long he'd been standing there, but she hastily wiped the tears away and straightened as best she could. "I'm fine, Sarek."
"You appear unwell." He was beside her now, peering down, not bothering to conceal his distress.
"I was just thinking about the children and how far away they'd be. Forgive me. I let my control slip."
Sarek smiled gently. "There is no reason to ask my forgiveness, t'hy'la. You know that. But perhaps it is time that you come inside and rest."
Amanda became aware that the heat had indeed become unbearable and that sweat was trickling between her thin shoulder blades. Even the qol had gone back underground by now.
"Yes. Help me up, will you, dear? I'm a bit fatigued."
Sarek gently assisted his wife to her feet and supported her as she walked slowly into their home of so many years. As she allowed him to escort her to their bed chamber and then gently remove her outer garments so that she would be cooler, she carefully kept her innermost thoughts behind her mental wall. She could not afford to allow him to read her emotions as his fingers brushed her skin.
At last she lay back on her bed and sighed. "I'm just going to take a little nap, love," she said and closed her eyes. "Would you have me called in time for mid-meal if I'm not already awake?"
"Of course. If you need me, I will be in my office."
She lay still until she was sure he was gone, then opened her eyes and laboriously hefted herself up onto one elbow so that she could reach the drawer on the bedside table. From it she removed a prescription pack of pain pills and put one of the gels under her tongue. She carefully returned the pack to its hiding place, then settled back on her pillow, the drug already spreading through her system.
* * *
Dr. Christine Chapel absent-mindedly ticked the end of the stylus against her front teeth, her concentration centered on the datapadd she was studying. Around her were spread the packed belongings of her youngest children and even more of their things they were leaving behind. Four-year-old Soran had his arms around one of her legs, his face wrinkled in anguish.
"Wanna take it all, Mama!" he wailed.
"Sweetie, we can't take it all. I've told you that before. You may choose one extra, special toy to take, but that's all. There just isn't room in the ship." Christine checked off items from her list. "Clothes ... shoes ... underwear..."
"Noooo!!!!" Soran interjected tearfully. "Want it all!!!"
"One extra toy. That's it."
This was answered by a screeching howl of protest and Soran fell to the floor, kicking and thrashing. His mother simply lifted her eyes to the heavens in silent prayer and went back to her list, knowing that the tantrum would play itself out in a few minutes.
Nevertheless, her husband appeared in the doorway, brows bunched in consternation. "May I ask...?" he said.
"Same old same old," Christine replied. "He wants to take all his toys."
Spock glanced down at his youngest son, who was stepping up his performance now that he had his father's attention. "Perhaps we could squeeze in a few more--"
"Absolutely not!" Christine cut him off. "I've got us packed to the maximum weight we are allowed to take. We've only got about five pounds leeway. And, anyway, I said 'no' to him and I mean 'no'!"
Soran had paused to draw breath and was listening to the exchange. He renewed his assault on their ears. Frazzled, Christine had had enough. Reaching down, she pulled him to his feet and swatted the child's bottom with the palm of her hand. "Time out, mister! Go sit in that chair until you can behave properly!"
The child did as he was told, although his angry sobbing kept up at full volume.
Christine ignored him and turned her back so that she could have a whispered conversation with her husband. "Don't overrule me again in front of him, Spock!" she hissed through clenched teeth. "I'm having enough trouble getting the twins ready for this move. I've got to maintain discipline!"
The Vulcan raised a startled eyebrow, then his expression softened. "My apologies, my wife. You are correct. I violated chain of command." His eyes held amusement and affection. "The Captain would never have overridden my orders without good reason. I was simply reacting to Soran's hysterics."
"I know and that's exactly what he was hoping for," she answered. "He thinks if he throws a big enough fit, he'll get his way." She couldn't help but smile up at her tall husband. "He doesn't realize that I've been through the Terrible Two's and the Terrible Four's and the Terrible Whatevers before. I'm a master!"
"Indeed." Spock reached up to softly run his fingertips down her cheek. "May I return to my work without further interruptions?"
Soran's sobs had lessened to hiccuping sniffs and Christine glanced around at the boy. "I think so. We'll try to keep it quiet in here."
"Thank you." Spock exchanged meaningful looks with his young son and left the room to go back to his office.
Christine turned back to her child. "Are you ready to be a good boy?" Soran nodded, sniffling, and stuck two fingers in his mouth. "All right. Come tell Mommy you're sorry and give me a hug."
The child got down and ran to throw his arms again around his mother's leg, although this time seeking comfort. Christine reached down and picked him up, cuddling him. "That's my big boy," she whispered. "Now, do you want Mommy to help you pick out which special toy to take?" He nodded, fingers still in his mouth. "Okay ... what shall it be ... your model shuttlecraft or your teddy sehlat?"
* * *
The Human women had clung onto each other and cried gallons of tears, which set off all the children, even T'Kai who normally was as stoic as a native-born V'lchani. Sarek and Spock had been hard-pressed to keep their own emotions in check, both from the farewells taking place and from the backwash of intense distress flooding over them.
The last family meal had been a drawn-out affair, not intentionally, but because Amanda and Christine kept breaking down, despite their best efforts. But finally it was over and Amanda had been carried up to her bed, unable to walk, and now the last goodbyes were truly underway. The old woman's family stood around her bed and she beckoned each of her grandchildren to her in turn, holding them close and weeping and kissing them. She had given each one a small item of their choosing that was special to her and them, a keepsake that could be easily carried but would help them remember her. Then she exchanged hugs and kisses with her daughter-in-law, and wiped her eyes once more as Christine ushered the children out of the bedroom, all of them waving and saying, "Bye, Granny! I love you, Granny!"
Finally, only Spock remained at his mother's bedside. He had stayed back until all of the others had left and now he stood stiffly, hands behind him. It was an awkward moment between the two, for there was much to say and neither knew how to begin. At last, Amanda broke the silence.
"May I at least give you one last kiss, Spock? I know you dislike emotion, maudlin or otherwise, but this really is goodbye, you know."
"I know, Mother." He sat on the edge of her bed and leaned forward to take her frail body into his arms, holding her gently.
"You can hug me harder than that, Spock. I'm not that fragile." Amanda had put her arms around her son's neck and her grip was firm.
Spock tightened his hold and then stiffened abruptly. He made to draw away, but his mother refused to release him. Instead, she lowered her mental shields and he was washed with all her pain and emotions. Gasping, he broke the embrace and sat back, staring at her.
"How long...?" he managed to say.
Amanda's gaze and voice were both calm now. "How long have I known or how long do I have?" she asked.
She sighed and looked down at her withered hands on the comforter covering her. "I was diagnosed about seven months ago. I've probably got about that much time left. No one knows for sure."
"But, why aren't you seeking treatment?" her son demanded, appalled. "Surely the doctors would be able to cure you!"
"Yes, but at the cost of weeks of nausea and pain and weakness. And in the end ... I would die anyway." Amanda brought her gaze back up and almost smiled at the expression on her son's face. "Spock, I'm 91 years old. On Earth, in that environment ... or better yet, in reduced gravity on a space station ... I might live another 20 years or so. But I chose to live on Vulcan long ago when I married your father. I knew that eventually my decision would catch up with me. Humans weren't bred to live on this planet. It shortens our lives to do so. No, let me finish! I have had sixty wonderful years with your father. I love him and this planet and the Vulcan people. But everyone dies, Spock. Everyone! Sometimes we get to select the way that end comes and sometimes we don't. This is my decision. I choose to spend my last weeks in my home, at peace."
"But ... does Sarek know this?"
"No -- and you are not to tell him!!" Suddenly her blue eyes were fierce, full of the strength and fire that had sustained her for so long. "I said I want to spend my last days in peace!"
"But ... surely you must tell him before you ... before..." Spock could not finish, stricken. "You know what will happen if he is unprepared when your Bond breaks."
"Yes, I know. And I will give him plenty of warning so he can prepare himself," Amanda assured him. She closed her eyes and looked suddenly exhausted. "I just don't want him fussing over me and making it more difficult than it already is. It's been a struggle to shield from him, but I don't think he suspects anything yet."
Spock shook his head in bewilderment, his thoughts whirling. "We can't leave you, Mother. I'll cancel our arrangements and we will stay with you--"
"No!" Just as quickly, the fire returned to Amanda's eyes. "You are not to cancel anything on my account! Besides ... do you think I could stand saying goodbye a second time? No, this will be our farewell, Spock. Don't worry about me and don't worry about Sarek. Just go and do what you do best ... what did Jim say once? Something about boldly going to new worlds? Go and make that new world a fit one for my grandchildren to grow up in. And ... try to find Sapel if you can. Tell him goodbye for me. And give him that." She indicated a small pewter figurine on her bedside table. It was a tiny dragon, sculpted in exquisite detail, wings about to unfurl, head lifted and curled as if listening, each scale distinct. "He used to love handling it and pondering over it. It really fired his imagination. Your great-grandfather passed it along to me when I was a child and I've always had it."
"I know. I remember it from my own childhood. I will give it to Sapel if ... when I find him, Mother," Spock said solemnly, his throat tight.
"Now ... Christine and the children are waiting for you. They'll be wondering what's keeping you. One last hug, son, and be on your way." Amanda held out her arms and Spock caught her up in a tight embrace once more. "I love you, Spock," the old woman whispered. "You have been the best thing that ever happened to me."
Spock buried his face in her frail shoulder and the tears finally came. "Ko-mehkam," he whispered back. "Mama..."
* * *
Sarek saw them off with none of the emotion that had permeated the private leavetaking. Once they were aboard and settled in their staterooms of the U.S.S. Applegate, a Federation freighter ferrying both colonists and equipment to Avalon, Sarek bade his son's family goodbye and then walked with Spock to the corridor leading to the main airlock. There, he drew Spock aside to speak privately.
"You are clear on your duties, I assume," the older Vulcan said.
"Of course, Father. Should we come into contact with any of the native population, I will act as liaison and interpreter between the Teel'a and Federation colonists and scientists," Spock answered. "I am also to direct all scientific exploration on the planet and report back at regular intervals with our findings."
"Very good. Once the first colony is established, others will be built at various places around the planet. Ambassador Lewis will be the overall planetary authority and official Federation representative. I am not entirely comfortable that you have not been placed in this position, given your extensive experience and knowledge of Avalon, but the Federation Council made this decision over my objections."
"I would have preferred someone assigned to that post with more sensitivity to first contact situations with primitive species. Had you and Christine not already made first contact with several groups of natives, of course, the Council would have placed a planet-wide quarantine on Avalon in any case." Sarek almost sighed in frustration before his iron control reasserted itself. "I have studied Earth history, Spock. The instances of an advanced civilization inserting itself into a primitive culture has almost always resulted in the annihilation of that primitive culture. Please do everything you can to see that this does not occur on Avalon."
"I will do all that I can. I dislike the possibilities of what this colony could mean to the Teel'a. I feel that the Council okayed settlement solely because of Avalon's position on the edge of Romulan space. They want a starbase there to watch the Romulans and I can only hope that it will be constructed far enough away from any Teel'a settlements to afford them a measure of isolation."
Sarek did sigh, then. "Your mother would say, 'I have a bad feeling about this.'"
"Indeed." Spock's face mirrored his father's grim expression.
There was a chime that sounded from the ship's intercom and a male voice announced, "Attention, please! We will be lifting ship in exactly thirty minutes. All non-passengers and crew are requested to disembark immediately and return to the port terminal. All passengers will return to assigned quarters and secure any loose belongings. Repeat--"
"I must take my leave of you, Spock," Sarek said calmly. "If it is possible in the future, I will make the journey to Avalon and ... visit you."
Spock caught the hesitation in his father's words and suspected "visit" was not the term that Sarek had started to use. However, he let it pass and made a quick decision before his father could depart.
"Father, there is something I must tell you ... about Mother," he said quickly. "She asked me not to inform you ... but I ... I believe you need to know."
"About her cancer," Sarek replied quietly.
Spock let his surprise show for a second. "Yes," he answered. "You know then."
"Of course. She thinks that I do not and I have let her believe that. It comforts her to think that her condition is not a burden to me. However, she is not that adept at shielding her emotions and thoughts from me. I have known for months."
"Then you agree with her not seeking treatment?" Spock was shaken by this revelation.
"We all must do what we think is best, Spock. Ultimately, it is her life and death. I will make her as comfortable as it is within my powers for the time she has left. And I will alert you when the end has been reached." Sarek looked up and locked his deep brown eyes onto his son's. "Although I suspect that you will know when it does."
Spock nodded. "Yes. And you? Will you be all right?"
"Yes. I will know in time to break the Bond. And I have arranged a period of rest and therapy to help me recover afterwards."
The departure chime sounded again and the intercom voice said, "Attention! Departure in exactly twenty-five minutes! All non-passengers must disembark now! Repeat--"
Sarek held up his hand in ta'al salute, palm outward, and Spock quickly returned his gesture. "Live long and prosper, my son. I wish you success and well-being in your new endeavor."
"Peace and long life, my father," Spock answered. He wanted to say more, but could not. It was not the proper Vulcan thing to do.
Sarek turned quickly and walked down the corridor toward the airlock, where a few other people were gathered and saying final goodbyes. Spock watched him go and disappear into the crowd, then returned to the quarters where Christine and his children were waiting.
"Are we ready to leave?" he asked his wife as she attempted to make sure her four youngsters were properly secured in their couches. It was a struggle with the twins, who were beside themselves with excitement and refused to stay seated.
"Yes," Christine replied, pushing a stray lock of hair out of her face and looking up at her husband. "Let's get this show on the road!"