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"This is a Federation Wide Urgent Broadcast. Repeat, this is a Federation Wide Urgent Broadcast. All channels are now going on hold. Please stand by for a message from the President of the United Federation of Planets and Fleet Admiral Mayweather of Starfleet Command."
"Teri! Get in here quickly!" Cheri called towards the bathroom.
The bathroom door opened and Teri poked her head out, "What? I feel like I'm going to throw up any second, Cher!"
"It's the President of the Federation and the Commander of Starfleet! It's an Emergency broadcast; you've got to see this!"
"Shit, I'll bring a bowl with me then," Teri called back.
Cheri held in a brief laugh, "Did your better half get you into trouble again?"
"No; although a daughter might be nice," Teri half laughed as she came into the living room carrying a small bowl in her hands. "I don't know what that was. I've been feeling odd for the past hour."
"Shhh, they're coming in now!" Cheri pointed at the TV.
"Mama! He's doin' it again!" the four year old Mikey cried out as he pointed to where an eighteen month old blond haired Cory was trying to give a kiss to the eleven month old Sean lying in his crib.
"All rise for the President." came an off-screan voice.
The Andorian President of the Federation came to the podium, and Commander Starfleet, Admiral Mayweather was behind him.
"Ladies and Gentlepersons, my fellow citzens of the Federation; I come before you at this time with distressing news. An accident took place an hour ago with the launch of the first test ship for the well publicised TransWarp Experiment. As we have been made aware of by Starfleet and the Vulcan High Command, this experiment is meant to provide an accelerated version of the Warp Engine, decreasing transit time between the Member worlds and colonies, help expand our discoveries of the surrounding space, and give us more power to our ships in a clean, risk free method.
"I am grieved to say that we were wrong. When the Test Ship engaged their TransWarp Engine, an unforseen event took place, and the entire ship was lost in the largest explosion registered by Starfleet to date. At first, the only loss was material, for the ship was unmanned for it's maiden voyage, and spacial, for many subspace rifts were formed in the area around Mars Orbit. The Enterprise and the Lafayette were on monitor assignment and were the first on the scene to deal effectively with the resulting subspace anomalies. However, what they found less than twenty minutes ago raises the 'cost' of the Great Experiment to a level we never expected. Admiral Mayweather is now going to explain what has occured."
Teri looked at Cheri as she picked up the giggling Cory and cuddled him on her laps, "An hour ago? That was when I was first feeling sick. Are they sure that something to do with the explosion didn't affect Earth?"
"Too far out to happen that fast, Ter," Cheri shook her head as Mikey decided that since Cory was on his mother's lap, he should take Cory's mom's lap. "Aww, you're a little angel!" Cheri said to Mikey.
"Mmm," Teri murmured as they both turned back to the TV as Admiral Mayweather began to speak.
"Richard." The peremptory tone of the intercom roused Richard from his work. Reviewing business plans was not the most exciting thing he could think of to do, but keeping the various divisions of Wayne Enterprises running smoothly, without bad choices by managers without the perspective he and Bruce had gained over the years, was an unpleasant necessity.
He stretched as he started walking briskly through the mansion. Hair nearly all gray now, he looked the part of a business executive in late middle age – in his fifties to all appearances, belying his actual age of nearly 82 years.
Sitting in the easy chair that dwarfed him, Bruce looked haggard, pained. Richard went to him and ran his hand tenderly down the side of his face. "Are you in pain, père-aimé?" he asked. The French phrase, 'beloved father,' and its reverse, fils-aimé, had served them for nearly 70 years as a term of endearment they could use publicly and privately without worry. He looked. "You have your calcium-iron feed disconnected," he added reproachfully.
"Dr. Groman said I'm stabilizing, and that I could disconnect it for a few hours a day when it becomes uncomfortable. I'm still following doctor's orders," Bruce said back, a wan smile on his face.
"But why I called you is something you need to see. Slip in here," he continued. With the skill of long practice, Richard settled into the chair next to Bruce, wrapping his arm around the older man's wizened form. Using his remote control, Bruce swung the monitor screen around to in front of them, and wordlessly called up the news story.
Richard tensed up.
"I called Vulcan," Bruce said. "They're all devastated: Amanda and Sarek, Sanjak, Jonathan, and the others...."
Richard began weeping softly; Bruce held him close.
Kirk looked dispassionately at the three men sitting at the conference table with him. "I need status reports, gentlemen – of the ship and also of him. You all know what decisions I need to face here; I expect your unbiased, logical" – a look as if of inner pain ran across the Captain's face as he used the word – "advice, on both."
Ensign Darryl Freeman looked nervous, not least because of the disheveled state of his uniform. "Speak up, Ensign," Kirk said. "I know you're new to Starfleet and the ship, but we have a policy: rank only matters when it's time for orders. In a way, the Enterprise is like an extended family, and you were there when you were needed. That's why you're in this conference."
"Well, sir," Freeman said, worry evident on his face, "he reacted violently the moment we came into scanner range of the 'Zhuk'Fasek', as you saw. It took both myself and Lt. Tavak to restrain him. But," he continued, not wanting to damage the reputation of an officer already a legend in Starfleet any more than necessary, "I got the sense that at some level, he was holding back his full strength. Even in his pain and rage, he seemed to be taking care not to cause lasting harm."
"That fits," McCoy interjected analytically, "Jim and I have seen him go through a lot over the years, and even in extremity, his training never completely leaves him." Turning to the Admiral, the Doctor added, "He's under sedation, Jim – heavy sedation. I won't know until he comes out of it whether he's salvageable, but my guess is that his consarn emotionless Vulcan state will be back in control when he wakes up. I don't believe you've lost him."
"Scotty?" Kirk prompted.
"Aye, Admiral," the Engineer said. "We have extensive repairs to do after closing all those rifts but they are mostly minor. What yon Vulcan caused with his wee bit of damage to the Bridge is also minor. Despite his grief, he managed, by accident or design, not to destroy anything we canna replace from Ship's Stores. My men should have the Bridge back to normal operating state within six hours – four if you should be needin' it. The rest, though - that will take dry-dock, sir."
"What I don't understand," Freeman said hesitantly, "is why a Vulcan, of all people, would lose control like that."
A look went between Kirk and McCoy at that question. Kirk responded carefully, "The Patriarch of House Suvak, his eldest grandson and three great grandchildren were on the 'Zhuk'Fasek', Ensign. The grandson, Sopak, and his three children were kin to Captain Spock, and he was close to Sopak. They were in the Vulcan Academy of Science together as children."
Freeman nodded with understanding, "Family. Yes, I have read about that, sir. Vulcans can lose control when... I understand."
Scotty also nodded, his eyes forming tears at the news.
Freeman added in a muted voice, "I still can't see how the rifts and explosion went out so far. That Vulcan ship was outside the asteroid belt, for God's sake."
"Transwarp is far more dangerous that anyone expected, Mr. Freeman. It is now in the hands of the scientists and engineers to find out why it happened," Kirk said quietly.
Scotty then added, "We have also had the final scan reports in, Admiral. 213 crew and passengers on board, and no survivors at all. 36 completely unaccounted for; totally vaporized or torn to subatomic particles by all those damned unstable rifts. Of the remaining 177, we have managed to identify them - including all six children on board, two of which were new born bairns in arms." Scotty slammed his fist into the table as tears fell freely from his eyes.
Kirk looked on with equal grief. "Scotty, Ensign; if you could go back to duty now, please. I need to confer with the Doctor."
The two men got up and left quietly, while Kirk and McCoy watched. As soon as the door closed, Kirk hit a button on his desk; sealing the room from all entrance, and also dampening the sound.
McCoy stood up and flung his tricorder into the door as hard as he could. "Damn and fuckin' blast it, Jim! How can I do my job when... that.... DAMN IT!"
Kirk ground his teeth together as he tried to hold in his screams of rage and pain.
"Spock NEVER EVEN SAW HIS SON! I... I cannot imagine... I just..." McCoy colapsed to the ground weeping profusely. "He... His wife... his son... our god-son, Jim... our beautiful little baby god...son..."
Kirk stood and moved to the window. He stared out at the stars that winked back at him. "I know, Bones. I know," he too started to weep. Then, softly and quietly, he started to recite from memory, "Thus says the Lord; He who created you, O Jacob; He who formed you, O Israel:..."
Together, both weeping men completed the scripture...
"'Fear not, for I have Redeemed you; I have called you by your Name... You are mine... When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.... '"
Ensign Hassan looked nervous as they approached the entrance to the Ambassador's home. "Stop jittering," Uhura said to him. "The Bridge Crew of the Enterprise is always welcome here. Sarek and Amanda have been friends to the ship and its crew since Spock was assigned to it many years ago."
The party entered. "Greetings, Sarek!" Kirk said, making the Vulcan salute of greeting, then bowing to the Lady Amanda. Wordlessly, the others followed suit with salute and bow.
"Nonsense, James!" Amanda said. "You know you and your crew are always welcome here. Save the formalities for public appearances; you'll have enough of them, after that last exploit you and your men pulled off."
Kirk smiled. "As you wish, Amanda. At ease!" he said to the party with him.
"I see some new faces here, son," Amanda said to Spock. "Perhaps you could introduce them?"
"Of course, Mother," Spock answered gravely. "You know the Admiral, Lt. Uhura, and Mr. Scott, of course. This is Ensign Hassan al-Misr, who works the Beta shift under Lt. Uhura. And the other gentleman here is Lt. Charles Dodds, our new Helmsman for Beta shift – and his son Justin." Spock's gesture pointed out a ramrod-stiff officer in his mid-twenties holding a five-year-old boy.
Sarek raised an eyebrow at the small child, but said nothing.
Spock continued, "Chip here accompanied Jim and myself on the groundside mission, Father. It was partially his doing that the mission was successful."
"Indeed?" Sarek said. "Congratulations. Your Family must be intensely proud of you."
Amanda noted the touch of pain that came across Chip's face at Sarek's compliment. "Charles? May I ask what is wrong?" she said solicitously.
"Nothing, ma'am," Chip responded stoically.
"In my days in the circus, the appropriate term for that began with bull-" Amanda said. "I saw the look of pain on your face at what should have been a compliment. You willexplain."
"When the Lady Amanda speaks in that tone," Kirk said with a rueful smile, "one hastens to obey. But do not worry, Chip; she will understand perfectly."
Chip looked dubious. "Sir?"
"Trust me, Mr. Dodds," Kirk said. "You are among friends here, and you can speak of your private life without fear."
Chip squared his shoulders and obeyed. "Well, ma'am, my family has disowned me, because I am gay. My husband was killed in a car accident earlier this year. My only family is my son here."
Sarek looked sternly at him. "The boy has no family other than yourself?" he asked.
"No, sir," Chip answered, nervous at Sarek's expression.
Sarek gathered Spock's and Amanda's eyes to his own, and a wordless communication passed between them. Then Spock nodded assent, and Amanda slowly developed a warm smile.
"We are agreed," Sarek said. "Charles, my Family consists in its entirety of my wife and son. There are matters of which I cannot now speak which make this act in accord with the Way of Surak. Amanda and I have long been devoted to ensuring no child of Earth is left without Family." He paused. "Will you and Justin consent to becoming our son and grandson, with us standing a'nirih and m'aih to you, and fa'sa'mekh and fa'ko'mekh to Justin?"
Kirk, Scott, and Uhura's jaws dropped. Chip looked stunned.
"This also means that both you and your son have a Family and House, a heritage, to fall back on. You have support and those who will care and look after your needs if required," Amanda added.
Spock completed, "Should the worst happen, for a Starfleet officer's life is not safe, then your child shall have a Family to fight for his rights, to protect him, and bring him up as you would want."
"I gets a Grandpa and Grandma and an' Unca?" Justy pipped up excitedly.
"You are serious?" Chip said.
"Very much so," Spock told the helmsman. "No Vulcan would ever joke about Family. It was a solemn and serious offer."
"You wish me to become your son?" Chip asked.
"Yes, and little Justy to become our grandson," Amanda replied.
There was a pause. "I'm shocked – but I accept!" Chip answered Sarek.
Spock whispered briefly to his father, and Sarek drew himself straighter.
"Then I, by the traditions and laws of my people, accept you into my Family and into my House," Patriarch Sarek intoned formally. "Charles Bryant Dodds. You are now Charles, child of Sarek of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of Vulcan."
Sarek then knelt down and extended his arms for the child. Chip lowered Justy to the floor, and watched as his little boy ran and jumped into Sarek's arms.
"Justin Lafayette Dodds. You are now Justin, child of Charles, child of Sarek of the Family of Sarek of the House of Surak of Vulcan," he said softly into Justy's hair.
"You REALLY my grandpa?" Justy asked with excitement and wonder as he touched one of Sarek's ears.
"Yes... and I... I would be honored if you would call me 'Fa'sami'," Sarek murmured, a catch in his voice.
Amanda closed her eyes in pain for a moment, then. "And I am 'Fa'komi', if you would like, Justy," she whispered.
"Come here, you little angel!" Amanda then said warmly, reaching out her arms to Justy.
"I ain't no angel!" Justy giggled as she drew him into a hug.
"How does it happen that you have Justin on board the Enterprise, Charles?" Sarek asked. "I was under the impression that that was generally against Starfleet regulations."
"My doing," Kirk interrupted decisively. "I must beg your pardon, Sarek, but that question places Chip on the spot. It was not long after Chip reported to Sulu, while we were still 'in port' around Earth, that Chip's husband Ben died – and we were due to break orbit within a few days. He had no caregiver whom he could trust lined up, and very little time to find one. Rather than leave Justin for six weeks with someone he did not know, after losing one of his fathers, I gave Chip orders that he was to bring the boy with him. You'll recall Starfleet regulation #314?"
Sarek thought, then nodded. "Logical."
"I don't recall what that is," Hassan nervously commented.
"It's not something you're likely to come into contact with, in Communications," Kirk explained to the nervous Ensign. "When a child of a Federation member species requires nurture from its parent and the parent enlists or is commissioned in Starfleet, the child may be carried as supernumerary crew for the period required for its nurture."
"So when Chip had inadequate time to find a reliable, caring caregiver for Justy, it became necessary for Justy's nurture that he remain with Chip?" Amanda asked in a tone of comprehension, as she bounced Justy on her lap.
"Exactly!" Kirk said.
"Unka Jim is really nice, except that sometimes he gets bossy," Justy explained. "Daddy said that's his job, and he's teaching Daddy how to be bossy like him." Kirk and Chip both blushed; a chuckle ran around the others at the table.
"So do you like being on the Enterprise with your Daddy?" Amanda asked him.
"Yeah, it's lots of fun. Everybody's real nice, even when they're busy. But I wish there were other kids around to play with."
A chime announced an arrival just then. Spock rose and left the room, returning minutes later with McCoy.
"Unka Bones!" Justy called out delightedly.
"The Lady Amanda hasn't been giving you sweets, has she?" McCoy asked the boy.
"Leonard, a treat won't harm the child," Amanda said. "Besides, it's my prerogative to spoil my grandson!" McCoy looked startled as her comment sunk in; he glanced quickly at Spock.
"My parents have stood as a'nirih and m'aih to Charles," Spock said calmly. "Even you can follow the chain of logic: Justin is now their grandson."
McCoy shot Spock a baleful look, then, "Congratulations are in order. Sarek?"
"The Way of Surak called for it," Sarek said with reserve.
"What's 'the Way of Surak,' Grampa?" Justy asked. Sarek held out his arms to take Justy onto his lap, and began to explain.
"Mr. Scott, will you please take charge of beaming the other bridge crew back to the ship, along with yourself?" Kirk said quietly to Scotty. "Mr. Dodds and his son will remain here for the night, as of course will Mr. Spock; the Doctor and I need to remain here for a short time.'
"Aye, Admiral." Scotty proceeded to follow his orders as efficiently as always.
"Is the child settled?" Sarek asked.
"Yes, T'hy'la. Chip and I took turns reading him a story until he fell asleep."
"Good," Sarek answered gravely. "Let us be seated for this."
"Chip," Kirk said intently, "as a member of Sarek's family now, you deserve to know the full facts here. For reasons that will become evident, this cannot be told to another soul other than those in this room."
Chip nodded his head seriously.
Spock said, turning to his father, "I believe that it would be appropriate for me to remove myself for the briefing."
"Nonsense, Spock!" Amanda said sternly to her son. "I have respected, and continue to respect, your decision to pursue your Vulcan heritage. But you need not, and should not, hold yourself to a higher standard than either half of your heritage."
"Your mother is correct, Spock," McCoy said compassionately. "Vulcans grieve as passionately as do humans. I would spare you if I could. But your father and I are agreed that Chip should know, for several reasons."
Spock dispassionately nodded assent. "It shall be as you say, my mother," he said to Amanda.
Sarek spoke up. "My offer to adopt you and your son was and remains genuine, and you merit it on the basis of your own family status, or lack thereof. But there are other factors influencing Amanda and myself that you should know."
Kirk and McCoy walked over to Spock, and each placed a hand on the shoulder of the stoic Vulcan, as McCoy picked up the discourse. "You will recall, about twenty years or so ago, that incident regarding the Captain and the Admiral?"
"When he was compelled to fight the Admiral? Yes, I remember," Chip answered. "The tabloid newspapers made a big deal out of it. I was just a kid then."
Kirk nodded gravely. "What is not public knowledge," he continued, "is that in 1990, Spock did marry. His wife was perhaps the most brilliant woman I have ever known, whether we speak of Vulcan or of human women." Spock was tensed up and began to close in on himself.
McCoy went on. "In early '91 we learned that she had become pregnant."
Chip raised an eyebrow suddenly. Gravely, the Admiral drew a deep breath. "She gave birth on Vulcan while Spock was with us at Utopia Planitia working on the Great Experiment. She arranged for transport a little after the birth to bring their son to Spock so that he could Name him." A pause. "The ship they traveled on was the Zhuk'fasek."
"The Transwarp Disaster," Chip breathed. "Did they...?"
"As you know, none survived," Sarek said solemnly.
"Spock never saw, never held his son," Kirk added compassionately.
"This is what you need to know," Amanda said warmly. "Though Justy needs to have a Family, and though you are a man grown, so do you, Chip, our motivations were not totally altruistic. Sarek and I got to hold our baby grandson before they left for Earth – a gift that was denied our son. All three of us have grieved deeply, in the Vulcan manner."
A rasping sob interrupted her, and she rose and walked quickly to her son, who was now weeping openly, in deep, agonizing sobs. She wrapped the Vulcan man in her arms and held him gently, in a near-Pieta pose.
"Justin will be for us the grandson we lost," Sarek said. "It was primarily for him and for ourselves that we made that choice, if choice is the right word for something dictated by logic, by c'thia. You deserve Family, Justin deserves Family, but he and you will fill a gap torn from our ... hearts ... three years ago. My only request beyond your acknowledging Amanda and myself as mother and father, is that you allow Spock to fill the role of uncle to Justy. For it will be a gesture that will help bring healing to him. Normally, he would stand as A'nirih, but..."
"But I cannot bring... bring myself to be a father to..." Spock started to say, but his mother gently silenced him.
"I understand, Captain," Chip murmured softly. He then looked at Sarek, "Why is this a secret?"
"Many reasons, and not least of which was the child was Unnamed. He has no Name in any record held on T'Khasi. He never lived. He is 'Forsaken'. That is a grief the Family and even the House hold, but should not be spoken of to the Outside World."
"All I can say is, you do me and my son great honor," Chip said formally to Sarek and Amanda. Justy is a boy with no family other than me; you are a Family with no grandchildren. I follow the logic. Let it be as you have said, my parents," he concluded in a formal Vulcan phrase.
"I thank you, my brother," Spock breathed as he pulled himself slowly back together.
"You will spend the night here," Amanda said to Chip, "as befits a new son joining a House. I wish some time to play with Justy, anyway, before the Enterprise must return to Earth."
They all continued to speak for another hour while Chip sat next to his new brother and helped comfort him, as well as to learn more about his new Family.
Once they had finished, Admiral Kirk and Doctor McCoy both stood to take their leave.
"Your orders, Mr. Dodds," Kirk said with a sad twinkle in his eye, "are to enjoy your new family until we finish the necessary briefings about the negotiations." Raising his communicator, he said, "Scotty? Two to beam up."