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Brother and sister entered Matron's office hesitantly, noticing she had visitors. The children of the home were almost never summoned when she had visitors, since, as she made clear, they were of not sufficient social class to be presented to those who called on Matron. Richard was, as usual, angry inside, Amanda reserved as always. They knocked timidly; stonefaced, she motioned them in.
"Here they are," Matron sniffed. "I still have no idea why you might want to see them, but since you insisted."
Richard looked at the visitors. He recognized the Chief Inspector of Detectives from the Gotham P.D., of course; the man had questioned him through long hours after their parents were killed. The other gentleman was a tall, darkhaired man in a three-piece black suit, evidently one hand-tailored for him from the looks and fit.
"Bruce, these are the sole survivors of the Flying Graysons," Chief Moody said. "May I present to you Richard and Amanda."
"H'lo," Richard said truculently.
"A pleasure," Amanda said without emotion.
"It was Richard's keen observations that helped us break the case of their parents' death wide open," Chief Moody added. "And both children used their agility to escape Zucco's thugs when they took out the rest of the family. Richard, I have some good news for you --Zucco's bully boys and his three lieutenants are locked up, charged with five counts of murder for the death of your parents and older brothers."
Richard smiled for the first time. "Wonderful!" he said. "I've wanted revenge on them since I got here. But you didn't get Zucco himself?"
"No," the Chief answered. "Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, he was killed by a mysterious vigilante."
"The Black Pipistrelle, isn't that what the newspaper called him?" asked Matron.
"Well, something to do with bats would be appropriate," the man called Bruce said. "He operates alone and at night, like a bat."
"I'm glad," Richard said angrily. "That bastard deserves to rot in Hell."
Matron gasped. "Richard, I've told you before we will not tolerate vulgar language here -- and in front of our distinguished visitors, too!"
Bruce spoke up. "Ma'am, I certainly can understand his expressing contempt for the man who had his parents killed."
"I am trying to teach these young urchins respect for their betters, and the proper decorum, sir! Can you imagine, their parents were taking them all over the country, putting on circus shows with them! We'll soon teach young Richard a respectable trade, and Amanda the homely skills to become a good tradesman's wife."
"Not a secretary?" Bruce's mouth quirked.
"I don't hold with these newfangled ideas of employing women as secretaries," Matron answered. "A woman's place is in the home."
"How, then, do you have this job?" Bruce asked.
"Oh, well, that's different," Matron answered. "One cannot, after all, expect a man to devote himself to the care of children."
"As if," Richard said under his breath.
"What was that!" Matron exclaimed.
"Go ahead, Richard. I'd like to know, myself, what you meant." Bruce's expression was anything but stern, and on the side away from Matron, he winked at Richard.
"Just this. We get meals here, and a bed and a change of clothes. But nobody seems to *care* anything about us. One of the staff told us that Matron forbade fraternization between staff and inmates."
"Why, you little ingrate! You get proper vocational training to make you into a skilled harnessmaker, three meals a day, your own bunk. You'll be going to bed tonight with no supper, I guarantee you."
"I don't think so," Bruce said. "Moody, haven't you told her yet?"
"No, I wanted to wait until after you met them, to give you a chance to back out if you chose."
"Fat chance of that, after this little interview!" Bruce said. "I just regret we couldn't keep them together."
"Together? We see each other twice a day, at luncheon and dinner. I'm forbidden to even speak to my sister!" Richard said angrily.
"Is that the case?" Bruce asked Matron.
"Of course. We must keep the girls properly chaperoned," she answered.
"From her own brother?" Bruce said incredulously. He turned dismissively from Matron, and addressed himself to the children. "I want to stress to you two that what I'm about to offer is your own free choice, though from what I've seen and heard since I got here, I suspect I already know what your choice will be. But what I have to propose is that I will take Richard as my ward, to live with me and my retainers, for as long as he chooses to stay." Richard's eyes bulged. "Amanda, I am sorry but even with the pull I have, the courts would not permit a single man to take a young lady as ward. What I've arranged for you is to be taken by a couple who are close friends. He is a Cultural Anthropologist at the University who has just accepted a position with the State Department, and will be moving to Washington. I will, however, ensure that you and your brother are able to get together as often as possible."
"I shall endeavor to give satisfaction," Amanda said emotionlessly.
"My dear young lady," Bruce said apologetically, "if I have said or done something to offend you, kindly forgive the affront."
"Oh," said Amanda, allowing a thin but warm smile to emerge, "my father taught me to control my emotions. When you're up on the high wire, you need to be completely composed and free of any emotion. He tried to teach Richard that, too, but it didn't take." She smiled at her brother. "Since I came here, I've been practicing it all my waking moments. It's far better than reacting to the behavior of the other girls."
"That's remarkable control for a girl of your age," Bruce said. "I can tell you that Rupert and Lavinia are warm and caring people, who dearly want a daughter. If it's not right for you, though, we can make other arrangements."
"Sir?" asked Matron. "If you don't mind my asking, just how do you propose to dispose of two of my inmates like that?"
"Like this," Bruce said, drawing forth paperwork from a briefcase lying at the side of his chair. "You'll find that everything is made out properly on these except my signature, which I held off on affixing to give the children a chance to choose. Tell me," he continued, again addressing the children, "do you think you would like to give my proposal a try?"
"Anything's better than this place," Richard said. Amanda nodded.
Bruce drew forth a pen and signed the documents, and handed them over to Matron.
"Now, Richard, Amanda, is there one person on staff who has shown you some personal caring, given you comfort, anything of that sort?" he asked.
"I'd rather not say; Matron's firm about no fraternizing," Amanda responded. Richard sat mute.
"You have my word on it that no harm will come to whoever you name," Bruce encouraged.
Richard looked him in the eye, and saw honesty there. "Mrs. O'Brien comforted me the first night I was here, when I was crying, and she gives us quick hugs when nobody's looking and it looks like we're feeling down." Amanda nodded hesitantly, not wanting to get their adult caregiver in trouble.
"I told her to stop that sort of behavior!" Matron exclaimed.
"Would you be a lamb and run get Mrs. O'Brien, Amanda?" Bruce asked.
"It's not your place to be giving instructions to the inmates in *my* facility," Matron said.
"I think you'll find otherwise," Chief Moody spoke up. "Mr. Wayne is Chairman of the Wayne Foundation, your largest private source of support, and President of the Board of Visitors here. He has nearly unlimited authority to do anything that is legal on these grounds."
"Oh," Matron said, wide-eyed.
"And you, madame, should spend the next few minutes retrieving any personal mementoes and things of that sort from this office," Bruce, now revealed as Mr. Wayne, said to her.
"Because as soon as Amanda returns with Mrs. O'Brien, it's my intention to offer her the Matronship of this orphanage, with full authority to ensure that the children are given caring consistent with what you agreed to do when you accepted our funding, and have failed to do," Bruce's voice was low and hard.
"And what will happen to me?"
"Well, Chief Moody here will be escorting you to the street, and I would suspect that thereafter you might find it worthwhile to be looking for work -- in other areas than childcare, I might add, as I plan to ensure you are blackballed from any job having to do with raising children."
Amanda returned with Mrs. O'Brien just then, and Chief Inspector Moody unceremoniously escorted Mrs. Terwilliger, the former Matron, to the street, while Mr. Wayne conferred with Mrs. O'Brien on what he expected to be done at the orphanage.
As they emerged from the orphanage, Chief Moody walked to his police car. "Come with me, children," Bruce said. "Alfred has the Deuzie parked out at the street, since it will not fit through the gates here. I suppose I ought to buy a smaller vehicle, but the size and comfort of the Deuzie suits me." He strode briskly down the walk to the street, accompanied more hesitantly by Amanda and Richard.
As they turned to walk towards the waiting limousine, a burly man clad, incongruously for the weather, in a greatcoat, walked by. "Just a moment, Guv'nor," he said to Bruce as he passed. Bruce looked to see a pistol pointed directly at his chest. "Just hand over your wallet quiet-like and all will be well."
Richard went into a spin-kick that knocked the man's arm to the side and caused him to lose his grip on the pistol, which flew over the cast-iron fence into the grass on the orphanage grounds. He then jumped onto the thigh-high stone wall below the fence, grabbed the fence for balance, and swung his body, feet first, at the man, knocking him off balance onto a nearby car on his back, with the car's hood ornament penetrating a strategic and private part of the man's torso. The man bellowed, a sound like a bassoon trying to transform itself into a piccolo.
Chief Moody pulled up. "What happened, Bruce?"
"This footpad attempted to rob me; Richard disarmed and flattened him, in an amazing show of agility."
Amanda spoke up. "Nicely executed, Richard. You were a little sloppy on the spin-kick, but all in all, Father would have been proud of you."
Richard gave her a wan smile. "Thanks, sis. Can you show me what I ought to have done?"
"Not in these skirts," she answered. "If we're permitted time together and I can wear tights, I will."
"You'll have all the time together we can arrange," Bruce said. "That was amazing, Richard. I believe I owe you my life."
"You don't owe me anything," Richard said truculently.
"Miss Amanda, may I ask where you and Richard learned that?" Chief Moody asked, cuffing the would-be footpad.
"Our father, sir. Beyond the moves we needed for our act, he taught us la savate for our self defense." She gave it the proper French pronunciation.
"Indeed? It hardly seems like a ladylike skill," the Chief responded.
"Being raped by a drunken townsperson after a show is hardly ladylike, either. Father ensured we knew what we needed for our own safety, as well as teaching us as much as he could of academic subjects."
"He sounds like a remarkable man," the Chief said.
"He was. I miss him very much," Amanda answered.
They proceeded to the limousine, where Alfred held the door and handed Amanda in. Bruce and Richard climbed in after her.
"To the Tolhursts, Alfred," Bruce said.
"Right you are, sir," Alfred responded.
"Rupert, Lavinia, may I present to you Miss Amanda Grayson? Amanda, this is Dr. and Mrs. Tolhurst, who will be your guardians. Dr. Tolhurst taught at Gotham University, but is now proceeding to Washington to do some work for the State Department."
"And most mysterious work it is, too, Bruce," Rupert said. "I have been trying to get information on what it is they're offering me a rather large retainer for, but the most I can find out is that they have need of an expert in Cultural Anthropology with a broad experience and open mind, and I was selected, I believe by the new President himself."
"Very peculiar indeed," Bruce said. "I have only just made Miss Grayson's acquaintance myself, but from her files and such time as we've spent together, she seems a warm-hearted individual whom her father schooled to emotional control -- a discipline she has had to exercise steadily to survive in that hellhole of an orphanage. I am certainly glad that my investigations into the Zucci mob led me to check out more thoroughly what I was lending my name to. I spent the afternoon cleaning house there."
"Amanda, it is good to have you with us," Lavinia said warmly.
"Thank you, madam," Amanda said emotionlessly. Lavinia looked hurt.
"Remember what Bruce said, my dear," Rupert interjected. "Give her time to get to know and trust us -- she has certainly been through things' no young lady should have to experience. Amanda," he said, turning his attention to her, "my wife and I wish to give you a home and family again, to the extent we are able, as long as the court sees fit to maintain us as your guardians. I completely understand your reserve, and I hope you will come to find us as good as our word, and be able to let down your guard with us."
"Thank you, sir," Amanda answered, giving him a fleeting smile.
Bruce then took his leave, and took Richard to a tailor, getting clothing appropriate for his new state in life. Richard remained guarded and sporadically sullen.
When they arrived back at Wayne Manor, dinner was quite late, and the cook left promptly for her own home.
"It has been a rather event-filled day, indeed," Bruce said with a touch of irony. "Alfred, perhaps you would show Richard to a room?"
"Of course, sir," the butler replied, allowing the slightest tinge of humor to flavor his 'correct' attitude. "Come with me, Master Richard." He showed Richard up the stairs and to a sumptuously-appointed bedroom. "I have placed your pyjamas on the bed there, young sir; I'll dispose of your other purchases in the morning, if that won't be an inconvenience." Richard nodded.
Bruce yawned, stretched, walked up the stairs to his own room. Richard poked his head out the door to see him do so, then ducked back in.
Bruce undressed, put on a pair of silk pyjamas, turned back the covers, climbed into bed, and closed his eyes in preparation for a good night's sleep. Moments later, he sensed someone at the door. He opened his eyes to see Richard standing there uncertainly in his pyjamas, his face and posture a mixture of eagerness, fear, anger, and above all stoic acceptance. "Richard? Ready for bed?" he asked, a smile on his face.
"Yessir," the boy bit off.
"Well, go ahead and get into bed, then. Tomorrow we have another full day ahead of us."
"All right, sir," Richard said, and began to take off his pyjamas.
"Wait, son! What are you doing?"
"Getting ready to get into bed, sir. I will try ... try to... make you...." the boy broke down.
Suddenly it dawned on Bruce what the boy was thinking. "Richard, stop right there!" he said.
"You don't want me?" the boy said in tears.
"Did you think that was why I brought you here, to be my bed partner?" Bruce said compassionately.
"Well, that's what the boys at the orphanage said, that rich men would sometimes pick a boy or a girl. I promise, sir, I can make you enjoy it. Please don't send me back!" Richard's expression was now completely fearful, and the tears coursed down his face.
"Oh, God, no, lad," Bruce said. "Richard, I chose you to be my ward because we have a great deal in common -- not because I wanted a boy for sex! Slip those pyjamas back on, come up here, and sit. Let us talk about things."
"But you did want me, I could tell. I saw you looking at me earlier!"
"Richard, you are a beautiful, handsome, desirable boy, and between us -- promise me, this conversation goes no further than the two of us and perhaps Alfred...."
"I promise," Richard said, snuffling.
"Yes, I find you very desirable," Bruce continued, "but your body is yours, your private affair, and nobody will ever touch it without your consent, from now on. Ever. Including me." He paused. "Good detecting, by the way, to have noticed that about me. I trust you will keep that confidential between us?"
"Yessir," Richard said.
"I chose you as a possible ward because we share an interest in detecting, and a talent for it, as evidenced by the help you gave the police in catching the gang who killed your parents and brothers -- and because as an acrobat, you're athletic and agile. As you probably know by now, I have an ... avocation ... for detecting, myself. And what you may not be aware is that I lost my parents the same way -- they were taken out by a mob when Father started paying too close attention to what was going on in one of his business ventures. Like you, I helped the police catch the men who killed them."
"If what I hope comes to happen, you and I will not be just guardian and ward, filling the roles of father and son legally, but we will work together to help fight crime, alongside the police. That's why I first got interested in you.
Then, when I found out what Terwilliger was doing in that orphanage in my name -- because I give a lot of the money that funds it and am officially in charge of what happens there as Chairman of the Board of Visitors -- and how you and your sister were being mistreated, it got very personal. That could have been me, ten or fifteen years ago.
I want you as a ward, as a son if you come to care for me, as a partner in fighting crime. As a bedmate? Only if some day, of your own free will, you feel the same sort of desire towards me and freely choose to share my bed. Then, and only then. And frankly, I don't see that happening." Bruce finally ran down, hoping he'd made real contact with the hurting boy sitting on his counterpane."
Richard looked up with new hope in his eyes. "Really? You mean you...."
"Yes. Whatever you meant to finish that sentence with, yes. I'm sure I could hire someone to ... procure..." Bruce looked disgusted at using the term. "...a boy to engage in sexual relations with, if that were what I wanted. What I want is Richard Grayson, talented acrobat and Boy Detective, to work with me in business and in detecting ... and, if I can be permitted a dream, to be the son I never will have."
Richard looked up, shyly. "There's something you need to know, first," he said softly, almost inaudibly.
"What's that?" Bruce said.
"Well, there's not much room in those wagons, when we were moving from place to place with the circus. And my brothers and me, we slept together in one of 'em, and we used to..." Richard paused, and drew a breath, then continued more softly, "And I got so I liked it. You know what that makes me?"
"A normal healthy boy who's been used by his big brothers and had a normal reaction to it, that's what it makes you," said Bruce. "I guess I need to tell you something nobody else knows, whatsoever. You know Alfred is my butler?"
"Yeah," said Richard, wondering where this was going.
"He's only been the butler here since after my parents died; he was my father's valet before that. I refused to come back here, after my parents' death, until my guardians fired the butler they had before him. Nobody ever knew why I was so adamant about that. But what would happen is when my parents were out at their evening social events, Reginald would come to my room.
So trust me, Richard, I know exactly what you're saying -- the guilt and anger at being used, the guilt and shame that you found out you actually enjoyed it... I've been through it, same as you. And, as God is my witness, I would never make you undergo what we have both been through.
Now, we do have a full day tomorrow, one I think you will enjoy. So why not slip on back to your room, and try to get some sleep?"
"My room?" Richard was incredulous.
"Well, it doesn't have to be your room," Bruce said. "I asked Alfred to pick out the room he thought a boy might most enjoy, but you get your choice of any of the rooms in this old place, except that if you pick mine or Alfred's, we would need a good argument from you as to why we ought to give up ours to you!" Bruce grinned.
"I thought that was just where he put me to change," Richard admitted.
"No, that's your very own room -- unless you find one you like better," Bruce said.
"Really? Golly gee whillikers, sir, I didn't expect to get my own room!" Richard was suddenly, enthusiastically all boy.
"Okay, give me a hug and head back to your room boy," Bruce said affectionately.
Richard hugged him, then looked up into his eyes. "Um, Mr. Wayne, sir?"
"Bruce -- unless, someday, you feel comfortable calling me 'father'."
"D'you suppose it would be all right if I slept here with you tonight -- no sex, just cuddled up to you?"
"I'd be honored -- son."
"Did the President give you any indication why he was summoning us?" Secretary William McAdoo asked of Secretary Josephus Daniels.
"No, not at all. I'm perhaps the man he's worked closest with, since he was my Deputy back during Mr. Wilson's time," Daniels answered. "But I've learned he tends to play his cards very close to his vest, seldom letting his left hand know what his right hand is doing. All I know is what we each got in that terse message: 'A matter of utmost importance to the nation.'"
The new President strode briskly in just then, his aristocratic chin holding up his trademark cigarette holder. "I'm glad you all could clear your calendars and come to this meeting," he said. "I know for many of you, this has been a busy time. Ever since President Davis died, we've all had a great deal to cope with. I must ask that what is divulged here today remain confidential among us and those I've called in, unless I myself authorize breaking the news to others. This will include your own staffs and advisors."
"Isn't that a bit extreme, Mr. President?" Daniels asked.
"When you've received the full presentation of the information I have to share with you, you may be a better judge of that. In my opinion, this is a matter requiring the utmost confidentiality," the President answered. He stretched his legs, and winced. "It's a good thing that President Davis sent me on that South American trip before his untimely death. I've just received word that Campobello Island, where my mother's summer estate is, has been hit by an outbreak of infantile paralysis. Had I not been visiting Bogota and Lima, I might have been there right at the worst of it, and who knows what might have happened.
"Now, as you all know, this country was very strongly divided about Mr. Wilson's idea of a League of Nations, God rest his soul. It was a very close thing that Warren Harding, and not I, might not be the one presiding over this Cabinet meeting. Only by Mr. Davis promising to submit the question as if it were a Constitutional Amendment did we eke out the narrow victory we received. But Secretary Lansing was recently contacted by, uh, Diplomatic Visitors, and what they have to tell us may make it incumbent that we revisit that issue again. Robert?"
Secretary Lansing rose. "As you know, gentlemen, foreign dignitaries having business with the United States are expected to present their credentials to me at the State Department. I received a visitor recently in that capacity bearing information of such importance that I immediately contacted the President, and we agreed that it should properly be brought before the Cabinet."
"No stump speeches, please, Robert," the President smiled. "Is Dr. Tolhurst here as I asked?"
"Yes, of course."
"Well, then, have him shown in." Secretary Lansing stepped to the Cabinet Room door, opened it, and summoned Rupert.
"Gentlemen," said the President, "I present to you Dr. Rupert Tolhurst, late Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Gotham University, an acquaintance of mine, and, I should hope, shortly to be our consultant on the matters to be brought before us."
"You do seem to be making a great deal out of receiving a Foreign Diplomat, Frank," Josephus Daniels interjected.
The President smiled enigmatically, picked up a device from before him on the Cabinet table, and raised it to his lips. "Mr. Ambassador? We're ready to have you join us now."
"What is that?" McAdoo asked.
"A sort of radiotelephone," the President answered.
"That small? Ridiculous! Where would you fit the vacuum tubes?" McAdoo scoffed.
At that moment, sparkles in a columnar shape began to form at the far end of the table, moments later turning into the shape of a tall gaunt man with dark hair, ears that rose to a point, and a greenish cast to his skin.
"Gentlemen, I present to you Sarek, Head of the House of Surok, Ambassador of the Vulcan High Council," the President announced in a pleased-with-himself voice.
"I greet you all," Sarek said in a grave, emotion-free voice.
"Are you unwell?" Secretary Daniels asked.
"I am in good health," Sarek said emotionlessly. "Why do you ask?"
"Your complexion, sir. It would appear you've been suddenly taken ill."
"No, Mr. Secretary, this is my natural complexion. My people's blood uses a green pigment for oxygen transport."
"I have never heard of any race on Earth for which that was true," Dr. Tolhurst volunteered hesitantly.
"But my people are not of Earth," Sarek answered. "We live on the planet Vulcan, about..." he paused "... about 150 million, million miles from your Sun."
"We came here because our remote sensors detected the operation of a Warp Core somewhere near or on Earth. Clearly on Earth, since you have not yet mastered spaceflight."
"Before this moment I would have said that was Jules Verne folly," Daniels commented.
"On what study we've done so far, we have found things both good and bad about Earth, and we have a proposition for you." Sarek continued. "I note that your major nations have recently fought a great war, supposedly 'the war to end all wars.' And that many people, particularly in the area you call Europe, favor outlawing war. I wish you luck in that, but I fear the idea is futile."
"Do your people too then make war?" McAdoo asked.
"...Not precisely," Sarek answered. "Vulcan has been at peace since the time of my ancestor Surok. But we have found it necessary to keep up defenses. We are one of four Starfaring Races we know of: the Andorians, the Tellarites, the Romulans, and ourselves. It is believed the Romulans are distantly related to my people. But what all these races have in common is a violent, warlike nature. We have brought it in check by a system of emotional control and operating solely on the basic of the logic and ethics taught by Surok. The Andorians have a rigid code of honor governing when and how to fight."
"And the other two?" the President prompted.
"The Romulans maintain rigid isolation -- they do not leave their area of space, and so long as one does not enter it, one has nothing to fear from them. As for the Tellarites, they are rude and boorish, by Vulcan and Earth standards alike, but by the same token they have not the strategic sense to make a winning war, and they have learned not to attack forces of Vulcan or Andor. So we maintain an uneasy peace.
When my compatriot from Andor and I observed Earth, we noted that you had additional tools, of diplomacy, compromise, shared ideals, and the like, that served you in dealing with conflicts. And you have progressed unusually quickly for an emerging race. Few races master positronics until after they ... well, it would not be logical to go into that."
"So what we have to offer is this: let Earth be our 'experimental laboratory' of sorts, where His Majesty's Government, the new Soviet regime, France, Germany, Japan, and yourselves, and others as you see fit, consciously work out new ways to deal with conflict short of war. We will watch, dealing only with the highest echelons of your governments. In exchange, we will take selected men and women you choose, and train them for space, and guide your efforts to produce aircraft and spacecraft to minimize disasters. Eventually, you will make public your efforts to achieve spaceflight, and at that time the xenophobia we note will have been cut down, to the point that we can actively show ourselves, as your equals."
"There you have it, gentlemen. The Ambassador proposes a program of a few decades of subterfuge, in which we actively strive for dealing with international conflicts short of war, and in exchange gives us some advanced technology. How say you?"
"I maintain we'd be fools not to take it," Lansing spoke up. "We've been looking to promote the League for its own virtues; now we have a reason to do so beyond the quest for world peace."
"I am curious," Dr. Tolhurst said. "In all that message, you maintained an emotionless demeanor, though what you proposed clearly is dear to your heart. Would you be willing to tell me about what it is you do?"
"Vulcans are not emotionless," Sarek answered, "but by purposeful biological modifications and conscious control, we have learned to process emotions at a subconscious level that does not affect how we present ourselves to others."
"Interesting," Dr. Tolhurst said. "It reminds me strangely of my ward, a young woman from a performing family whose father taught her emotional control much like yours."
"Indeed?" Sarek said, raising an eyebrow. "I would find it intriguing to meet this young woman. I believe you would call it 'like a taste of home'."
"Would you care to join us for dinner -- with the President's permission, of course?" Dr. Tolhurst asked.
"That would be acceptable," Sarek responded formally.
"Your salads and vegetables were most acceptable," Sarek complimented Lavinia.
"Was there something wrong with the roast, to your taste, sir? I could not help noticing that you ate scarcely any of it." She answered courteously.
"No, not at all," Sarek said. "My people rarely eat anything involving meat; we have adapted away from it."
"Vegetarians?" asked Rupert.
"No, in the sense I can tell you mean, of its being a conscious choice. We have few meat animals, and little area suitable to raise them. So the eating of meat is confined to the nutrition of the ill, children, and certain specific events each year. In fact, we regularly had meat during my father's last illness, as a means of bolstering his fading strength." Sarek changed the direction of conversation. "I would be grateful for some time to confer with Miss Amanda, as we discussed earlier, Dr. Tolhurst."
"Of course, Mr. Ambassador," Rupert answered. "Amanda, my dear, I mentioned your father's discipline of emotional control to Sarek when I first met him, and he was intrigued, as it seems his people do something of the sort as well. He has asked for some time to chat with you, if you don't object."
"Certainly I don't," Amanda said. "It would be my pleasure to speak with the Ambassador."
"Would you care to use the parlor?" Lavinia asked. "It's right this way."
Half an hour of -- well, not animated -- discussion went on, as the seemingly emotionless Vulcan and the daughter of acrobats trained to maintain emotional reserve spoke of the disciplines they had been taught, shared childhood experiences in learning to maintain control, and generally found a surprising number of things in common in growing up on two different worlds, parts of two races alien to each other. At last Sarek noted an unusual tone to Amanda's reserve, and resolved to try something.
"Miss Amanda, the techniques we have just been speaking of are easy to grasp, once you have the basic concepts, but those concepts themselves were very elusive to me. My father used a mind technique peculiar to Vulcans, called the mind meld, to impart it to me. It is very much against our ethics to use the mind meld on another without consent, except in cases of criminal behavior, but if you agree, I could use it to aid you in assimilating those techniques."
"I would be honored, Mr. Ambassador," she responded. Sarek stood, stepped towards her, and placed his hand on her forehead. "My mind to your mind..." he began the formula for initiating a mind meld.
A timeless interval later, a series of emotions flickered across the Vulcan's face. 'That, then, is what she would not speak openly of. I must reassure her that I feel the same,' he thought, and opened his mind to her.
As he raised his hand from her forehead, her eyes opened. She smiled, and reached out with two fingers, across which he placed two of his own.
"Shall we have coffee?" asked Rupert from the door. Amanda nodded her agreement; seconds later, Sarek did the same.
"I have not yet familiarized myself with many American customs," Sarek said a few minutes later over coffee. "What, for example, are the standard mating customs among your people?"
Lavinia flushed; Rupert chuckled. "We normally do not refer to it as 'mating' though everyone knows that's the goal. 'Courting' is the normal term. I believe generally a young man calls on a young woman whom he believes is receptive to his suit, and they meet in chaperoned circumstances. A more modern trend, decried by the old fuddy-duddies, is for the couple to go somewhere together, a moving picture show or a dance for example --this is referred to, I believe, as 'a date.' In the course of time, the young man will ask the young woman's father for her hand in marriage, generally after ascertaining that she wishes him to do so."
"And how old is the young woman at that time?" Sarek asked casually.
"Oh, anywhere from eighteen, which is considered quite young, to well into her twenties," Rupert answered. Sarek nodded.
"What is the custom among your people?" Rupert asked.
"Marriages are arranged between the Patriarchs of the two houses, to assure that the choice to marry is logical," Sarek said.
"Have the young couple no say?" Lavinia asked.
"Oh, indeed! It would not be logical to arrange a marriage between two people who did not wish it. The custom of arranged marriage ensures that the couple does not act on impulse, but has the benefit of mature wisdom and logic in arranging their affairs," Sarek explained.
Amanda looked up. "Mr. Ambassador, are you familiar with the concept 'orphan'?" she asked.
"No, it's a term I haven't encountered. What does it mean?"
Rupert intervened, "It is a young person whose parents have died. Miss Amanda herself is an example of an orphan."
"Then you are not her parents? What did you mean by 'ward' this afternoon?" Sarek asked.
"Dr. and Mrs. Tolhurst were named by a court to function in lieu of parents. They did not adopt me, but simply serve as guardians for me until I come of age. And while they have devoted every effort to making me feel welcomed and a part of their family, it remains true that a court could remove me from their care and send me back to that hellhole I was in before." Amanda had lost all emotional control, and was fighting tears.
"Is this true?" Sarek asked. "She has no patriarch of her family to defend her rights and assure her emotional and spiritual maturation?"
"As she said, that is my job by appointment of the court, and one I've valued. But no, I am not of her blood lineage, and it remains possible, though unlikely, that a court could reverse our guardianship."
"Sarek!" Amanda said firmly. "You are Pid-Sam of your House, is that not true?"
"And what is the custom when there is no adult male of a house?"
"The senior female of the house serves as Matriarch until a Patriarch qualifies by maturity and wisdom," Sarek answered.
"And is it not true that 'in all things, there must be a first'?" Amanda pursued her line of thought.
"So it is said," Sarek responded gravely.
"My house consists of myself and my younger brother," Amanda continued. "He is barely emerging from childhood, and I do not cede to him the authority of Pid-Sam. It is mine to choose, and I do so choose! Do you find any fault with my logic?"
"I find no fault, T'hy'la," Sarek said, the hint of a smile on his face. "But tell me, there are others like you who have no one to intervene for them?"
"Yes, many, and many dominated by parents who view their children as extensions of themselves as well," Amanda answered.
"In time, you and I will have to take action. Perhaps empowering the children themselves.... It will take time; I must think on this." Sarek mused.
"I believe I am missing something here," Rupert said. "I was following the conversation up through Amanda's revealing of her orphan status, then you began discussing Vulcan custom I am not familiar with."
"It's simple, really, Doctor," Amanda said. "I made Sarek aware of my precarious legal state under Earth law, and then he did me the honor of agreeing with my logic."
"I caught that, my dear," Rupert said. "But what did you prove to him by logic?"
"That he and I should be married," Amanda said triumphantly.
Clan Short Archivist Review Notes:
This is a wonderful piece of historical storytelling, thanks to this story we now have answers to several of the questions that have cropped up regarding the CSU. Thanks to the hard work of D&B we now have a Historical Backbone of the CSU.
D&B are to be commended not only for their creativity but for their attention to detail in this and their other contributions to the Saga that is the Clan Short Universe.
The Story Lover