DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of M. L. "Steve" Barnes and is copyright (c) 1973 by M. L. "Steve" Barnes. This story is rated PG-13. Reprinted in The Best of Pon Farr #3.
The Other Side of the Mirror
M. L. "Steve" Barnes
The Vulcan ship Tal Saya lingered for a while near the blackened hulk of the Klingon ship. The surviving Klingons were being dealt with in the brief and bloody way of the Tal Saya's crew. Jingus clansman, these crew members were the pirates of the Vulcan fleet.
The commander of the Vulcan ship, a tall, imposing, square-jawed man, returned to his quarters. There was no need to supervise; his men would do what must be done. He relieved himself of the luwan, the short deadly sword intended for close combat, and a suggestion of weariness touched him. His hand as he laid the sword aside was not as steady as he would have liked. His mind drifted a little.
...there is time, yet ... but not long ... there is a need...
His thoughts broke off as he second in command buzzed outside his cabin door.
"Come, Selon." He composed his face and turned to watch as the First Officer and two guards escorted a Klingon captain into the room.
"Commander Sarek, this is Kral, captain of the Franizidez."
Sarek's gaze was impersonally cold as he surveyed the squat, dark-visaged Klingon. He turned to Selon, one eyebrow raised in question.
The First Officer seemed uneasy for some reason; he did not meet his commander's eyes.
"The crew has been despatched, Commander. All save this one. We have proof they were the ones that attached the Vulcan ship Telekrit. There were prisoners on board that were willing to implicate their captors in hopes of saving their own skins. These Klingons were the ones who seized the party of the Vulcan women, and they killed all the men. The women ... well, you can imagine their fate aboard a ship of our enemies. And somehow, this one," Selon indicated the Klingon captain, "found out about T'Shana's connections on Vulcan. He took her for himself." He stopped and glanced fearfully at his commander's face. It might have been carved from jade.
"And what of T'Shana?" Sarek's voice was dispassionate.
"He got no satisfaction from her, Commander. She was able to invoke the Klee-fiah."
The Klee-fiah. The commander's mind examined the familiar word with detachment. It was the last resort of the Vulcan mind. A trance-like state so deep the body was frozen in position, its limbs rigid, the flesh like cold stone. He shook himself back to the present.
"And were you in time?"
Selon ducked his head regretfully. He had reason to be afraid. In this universe, bearers of bad news were often put to death for their trouble.
"N...no, sir. Life functions had ebbed too low. We were unable to have her. The Franizidez will be her monument."
The words had little meaning to men in the small room. Only Selon saw the ripple of muscle as the commander's jaw tightened. Sarek's face remained as impassive as ever, but for a brief second something flared and then died in the deep-set eyes.
"Take him to the agonizer booth." The voice was flat and hard.
"Shall we try to extract information from him, Commander? I think twenty minutes should..."
"Set it at maximum ... and leave him there." The commander turned away in dismissal.
Selon was pleased with the man. Sarek might have claimed the right to kill Kral himself. The provocation was great enough. But his control was absolute. He had chosen the impersonal punishment of the booth instead.
Selon saluted Sarek even though the commander's back was turned. The homage was well earned. Then the group turned to leave.
"What of the female prisoners the Klingons had aboard, Sarek? Shall we kill them also?"
Sarek spoke with some difficulty.
"What worlds do they represent?"
"Mostly of the Terran Empire, sir. And there were two Orions in the group."
"Kill the Orions. They are of no use. But spare the Terrans. We may soon be allied with the Empire. It would not be wise to have their blood on our hands. Leave me now."
The hiss of the door closing was lost to Sarek as he let his gaze rest on the opposite wall, his eyes suddenly gone bleak. He understood now, where before there had only been puzzlement. The silence had not been intentional. There had been no idea of refusal. The Klee-fiah...
His view screen signaled him and he rounded on it abruptly. His clenched fist came down with a thud on its smooth surface. For a second, his hand hovered there, his fingers came uncurled and he stroked the satiny metal absently. Then his eyes cleared and he touched the switch.
"Vulcan Control, Commander," his communications officer said. "War Lord Spann wishes to speak with you."
"Very well, Sonna. Put him on."
The view screen darkened for a second and then the lean face of Spann appeared. Despite his cool face, he seemed pleased.
"Sarek, old comrade. I understand you overtook the Klingon and have exacted our revenge. May your sword rest easier tonight. I suppose there were no survivors from the Telekrit?"
"None, War Lord."
"That is regrettable. We all honor T'Shana's memory." Spann paused to let Sarek collect himself, then went on. "Our alliance with the Empire is imminent, Sarek. You must take the Tal Saya to the Empire's perimeter and await further orders. Under no circumstances must you be drawn into a confrontation with a Terran ship. Do you understand?"
"I understand, War Lord, but..." Sarek hesitated. He had pursued the Franizidez with a two-fold purpose. An unadmitted urgency had been the real goad to his haste. Now he was faced with indecision, a mounting confusion. He shook it off to say: "It shall be done, Spann."
"Good. I know I can rely on you, Sarek. You are my most trusted operative. It was just a matter of time before the Empire capitulated and offered to negotiate with us. The Empire needs our Vulcan logic to strengthen them. And we possess a certain ... ruthlessness, shall I say?" There was a glint of amusement in the War Lord's eyes. Then he sobered. "Serve me in this, Sarek, and I will reward you handsomely. I will trust to your bargaining skills and diplomacy to see to it that our initial rights are protected. After they have agreed to our basic concessions, I will arrange to meet with them personally. Until then, our future rests with you." He paused and his gaze mellowed a trifle. "Do not fail me, old comrade. I have no wish to send my next best operative aboard the Tal Saya with the sole purpose of eliminating my old companion-in-arms."
Sarek bowed his head to the logic of the argument.
"It shall be done, War Lord," he repeated.
The view screen went blank. After a second, Sarek contacted the bridge and gave the necessary orders. Then he switched the view screen to external and watched the shattered hulk of the Franizidez as they pulled away from it. At last he could no longer make out its shape against the black of deep space and he clicked the screen off.
He got to his feet, surprised at his unsteadiness. One hand groped for his chair as he sought for balance. He felt a surge of irritation at his own weakness and that in turn surprised him. Unbidden, a name slipped onto his consciousness.
A shudder convulsed him and for a moment his graven face twisted. At last he drew himself erect and left the room, his manner almost normal.
The guard outside the security cell was unaccustomed to having his commander visit the prisoners. For that matter, he was unaccustomed to having any prisoners. He hid his astonishment and released the force field so that Sarek might enter the small room.
For the most part the women there merely huddled away from his scrutiny. There were two old gray-haired crones and a small girl child. Sarek dismissed them as unimportant. One of the younger women drew away from him, her eyes wide with fear and repugnance. The other girl, for she was no more than that, was a different matter. She stood her ground and her eyes met his steadily. She even gave her dark hair a slight toss as she straightened her stance to look into his eyes so far above hers.
He passed down the line slowly. One part of his mind questioned his wisdom. Why had he come here? What were these women to him that he should find them interesting? His logic rejected any of the reasons he offered it. Still...
The quiet girl suddenly stepped forward and her hand plucked nervelessly at his sleeve. He turned to face her and looked down curiously as she allowed her fingers to remain on his arm for a moment.
"I knew T'Shana," she said softly. "We were imprisoned together before they learned who she was. We shared some confidences in the uncertainty of the moment. I wish to express my deepest sympathy."
He cut her off almost curtly.
"It is illogical to dwell on things that cannot be altered."
She withdrew her hand and her expression changed. There was something of a challenge in her level stare.
"In spite of that, if there is anything I can do. Anything at all..." She let the words trail away.
Sarek felt a tremor run through his body. He spun on his heel and left the cell. By the time he reached his quarters his mind was in a turmoil.
He secured the lock to his cabin door with shaking fingers. He could no longer deny the needs of his body. If something were not done, he would soon die. He paced to the center of the room and stopped, tensing as a wave of desire wracked him. Heat started in his lower body and burned upward. His pulse became a painful throb.
With a desperate cry, his mind reached out.
...T'Shana ... Bondmate ... I have need of you! ... T'Shana?...
The silence was his only reply. His mind cleared of the rising fever for a moment and he remembered. T'Shana ... beloved bond-mate ... Dead ... gone from him forever ... The emptiness within ... the blackness without ... T'Shana ... Gone.
He turned away to clutch at his head as the agony swept him again.
He staggered to his cot and threw himself down on it. His mind was whirling and for once his control escaped him.
This mission ... vital to Vulcan's future ... and mine. Must not fail ... But the need is great ... T'Shana!
He twisted away and buried his hot face in his pillow. Flame seared his body. Every nerve ending was suddenly super-sensitive. He leaped away from the suggestive softness of the bed and sat bolt upright to consider his situation in a quieter frame of mind. What were his alternatives?
No. That was illogical. He had not come this far, fought and schemed his way upward, to die in the insanity of pon farr. If he were on Vulcan and his bond-mate had died or he was yet unbonded, there was a solution. His mind cringed away from the thought, a verdant flush colored his cheeks... The Houses of T'Way ... infamous, unacknowledged, but necessary ... and logical... But he was too far from Vulcan for even their telekinetic relief. And his mission was taking him farther away, across the width of the galaxy.
There were no female crew members aboard the Tal Saya. They had found that feminine crew members greatly increased the rate of incidental pon farr among the males. The presence of a female Vulcan with her subtle mind touch was too likely to lead to arousal. And empires had collapsed when the guilty female had chosen to bargain her favors.
What then could he do?
A disturbing memory rose in his mind. A thought, not wholly unattractive, touched him. The Terran girl in the security cell...
Her slender figure was scorched and seared by the hot winds of approaching maturity. She was ripe for plucking. It was there to be seen in the overly bright eyes as they met the gaze and were quickly veiled. It showed in the high flush of that alien colored blood as it pulsed under the thin skin of her cheeks. When her fingers had rested on his arm, he had felt an almost Vulcan heat in their touch.
The thought of her unspoken suggestion caused him fresh agony. His whole body felt tumescent, engorged. For a second he was out of control as his physical state had its way with him. He drew a shuddering sigh.
Could he accept such an alternative? Would he be able to...? He became aware of an increasing throb in his groin and knew the answer was yes. His mood was betrayed by the tremor in his hand as he activated his intercom.
"Selon, have the young Terran woman, the dark-haired one, sent to my quarters at once. Escort her here and then leave us."
"Yes, sir." If Selon was puzzled by the order, he was too good a Vulcan to reveal it.
Sarek paced the floor restlessly. Now that he had reached a decision, the waiting seemed interminable. He could feel the veins in his neck pulsing as his blood continued to pound.
There was a buzz at his door and he went to release the catch. He stepped back and the Terran girl entered, the door slipping shut behind her. She was close enough to touch and her eyes were raised fearlessly to his.
"Why did you send for me?" she asked when he was unable to speak.
Her words freed him from a paralysis. He lifted one hand to stroke her hair. Her eyes widened and then narrowed at the action but she did not draw away. He wound a strand of the tresses around his hand. Its silky texture as it slipped over his fingers caused a painful ache in his chest. Once again, his mind sought comfort in the past...
...dark like a Vulcan's ... black like...
"I ... There is a need ... I must..." He stammered and stopped, suddenly defect of words.
A faintly amused smile crossed her face. One hand captured his and pressed it firmly to her waist. Her body moved close to cradle his. He suppressed a shudder and his nostrils flared.
"So ... the captor becomes the captive," she murmured. "The great Commander has some need of me after all." She raised her free hand to finger one of his tapered ears. Flame ignited in the depths of his eyes and his body grew rock-hard against hers. "T'Shana told me how it was with you, that she was on her way to be of service to you. That the ... what was it she called it? ... oh, yes, the pon farr had come over you. And am I to be her substitute?"
One of his hands came up to press firmly against her lips, to stop her flow of words and shut out the name that trembled in the air between them.
"You are my prisoner," he said hoarsely. "Booty, taken in battle. I will do with you what I wish." He bent and swept her into his arms and strode into the sleeping alcove. He deposited her on the bed and began to remove his clothing with unsteady hands. She watched his fully aroused body almost with detachment and then unfastened the single tape of her simple garment and wiggled free of it. She could hear the harsh intake of his breath as he looked at her soft body. He lowered himself beside her and took her roughly in his arms. One hand stole out to place splayed finger tips at her temple and cheek.
"T'Shana?" he whispered. Then as a look of discontent crossed his face, "No matter ... no time ... I must do this..."
The girl held him off a second longer. From the touch of his fingers, she suddenly knew his urgency. A palpable need surged from him to pour over her and burn through her body, preparing it somewhat for what was to follow. She trembled as a strange excitation seized her, but she had one more thing to say.
"When this is over," she murmured against a bat-wing brow, "remember that I gave myself to you willingly."
He was unable to respond, by now his eyes glazed and unseeing, his breath rasping in his throat. She saw the silhouette of his tapered ears above her and then he entered her with savage haste.
* * *
Three days had passed. The Tal Saya still made its way to the Empire's perimeter, running efficiently and smoothly despite the commander's absence. Selon was Sarek's private operative as well as the Tal Saya's First Officer; he would serve the commander faithfully as long as Sarek made it worth his while. Now, he was careful to preserve the status quo while the Vulcan commander was absent.
Locked in his cabin, unmindful of the world around him, Sarek slowly began the return to reason.
He sat up in the bed and watched the Terran girl as she brushed her dark hair before the room's one mirror. He saw the marks of his violence on her fair skin but the sight did not distress him. It was part of the life his face must follow. It was another side of Than Ju, the way of his people. His eyes drank in her rounded curves, remembering the comfort they had afforded. He felt a returning of his former passion.
"Woman." His hand was out to her, two fingers extended.
She gave him a level look and remained where she was.
"My name is Amanda."
"Amanda." His tongue savored the name, turning it delicately in his mouth. "It is a ... suitable ... name. It does not have any harsh nuances to it." He paused and considered her. "Amanda, what was your life before the Klingons took you?"
Her hands stilled at their task.
"My father was a mathematics teacher in the Vega colonies. I was his assistant. After his death, I decided to return to Earth to marry."
"M...m...marry?" He stumbled over the unfamiliar word.
"To be joined with my mate by ceremony. But that is all in the past now."
"If you already had a mate, why did you come to me so willingly? Did you fear for your life?"
"No, Sarek. But I have been captive on two alien ships, a young woman among many men. How could I expect Tom to accept me after that?"
He did not answer but his face showed that plainly he did not fathom Earth customs. He looked at her speculatively.
"And so, when you learned of my ... condition ... you decided to ally yourself with me."
She faced him, a little apprehensively.
He lay back on the bed and his face was calm.
"Logical. I would not have suspected an Earth woman capable of such logic." He continued, his eyes on the ceiling instead of the woman in the room. "Amanda, I wish to say something to you. What has passed between us will not be forgotten. I would be honored to have you at my side when we reach the perimeter."
"And perhaps prudent enough to present a Terran wife to the Empire?" She was smiling a little.
He almost smiled himself.
"There is that, of course. You would be a distinct asset to me in our negotiations." He paused. "But aside from that, you have been of use to me. You also saved my life. I will not forget that. Nor that you came willingly to such a violent mating bed. It was worthy of a Vulcan woman."
She turned away to continue her grooming.
"I thank you for the compliment," she said, a trace of irony in her tone.
His ears were sensitive to her moods by now.
"You have nothing to fear. I will not set you aside for a Vulcan when this time has passed. You shall be as my bond-mate to me, despite the fact that we may never share the closeness of bond-mates. And should there be any issue from this ... coupling ... I shall claim it as legitimate. In return I wish you to remain with me until this pon farr has run its course, although I believe I am past the danger now. And bed with me when it re-occurs in future years. Outside this room, you will become my legal consort, my companion. And the one to whom I must entrust my life from time to time."
She was moved by the sincerity of the last words despite her earlier resolve to remain detached. In him she saw a promising future, bright with honor and glory. And the woman at his side would share the acclaim. She nodded her agreement even as she pondered the suggestion.
"Do not spend too long before that mirror," he grumbled as his mood changed. "I still have need of you."
She gazed at her reflection thoughtfully, only hearing the rising tension in his words. The mirror fascinated her. It was a poor piece of glass instead of the usual polished rhonium. She wondered where the Vulcan had found it. Its surface was uneven, making her image wavery and somehow blurring its outlines. She gazed in wonder at the gentle beauty if revealed. She felt a sudden tinge of regret over the almost business-like alliance she had just made with Sarek. Was there nothing better a woman of her time could expect? She stared into the glass a moment longer, caught by the strange image there. Unfamiliar words rose in her mind... Trust ... tenderness ... love. As she rose to return to the Vulcan's side, she mused that perhaps in another world such things did exist. Perhaps there was even another Amanda who would know them.