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Sarek was seated in the reception room of his San Francisco home, staring out at the Golden Gate Bridge as he waited for his son and Captain Kirk to arrive. All that he had been told by Admiral Morrow is that they would personally debrief him on the most recent mission that the Enterprise had been involved in.
He knew from long experience when a human was nervous. He also knew when a human was trying to find the words to spare him or others their feelings. Something was wrong, and the Admiral did not want to hurt him. Sarek pondered quietly - when would Terrans learn that very little could 'hurt the feelings' of a Vulcan? Never, it seemed. Yet that simple fact, that 'empathy' that seemed to be so common to the Human Race, was a beautiful thing.
Most Vulcans did not understand it, and would even grow frustrated at times with the Human need to 'be careful', but Sarek never did. He, if he had to be honest, 'loved' that about his Human friends and family. They cared, and were not afraid to show it.
Just then, he heard the front door open as his security personnel allowed the two expected Starfleet captains to enter.
"This way, Jim," he heard his son saying quietly as the two 'brothers' came closer to the reception room.
The Ambassador stood and faced the entrance to the room: if there was a bad report to be given, then he had better prepare himself to receive it. He tightened his control over his emotions, and waited passively.
"Greetings, Father," Spock said formally as he raised his hand to salute the Ambassador.
Kirk echoed him, while attempting the same salute.
Sarek nodded in acceptance, and gestured to the chairs, "Please, be seated, my son; Captain Kirk."
Once they had taken a seat, Sarek also sat, asking, "What is the report that the Admiral did not wish to relay himself? It must be something he would consider 'bad news' or he would have simply sent me the written version."
Kirk looked at Spock quickly, then squared his shoulders, "Yes, it is, Ambassador. As you are no doubt aware, there was an incident on Nimbus III, and the Ambassadors from the Federation, Klingon and Romulan Empires were held hostage by an unknown group of assailants."
"I had been made aware of this, yes, Captain," Sarek acknowledged with a brief nod of his head.
Kirk took a deep breath. "Their leader was a Vulcan, and on arrival at Nimbus III, he proceeded to take control of my ship; and even did so over the minds and will of my crew."
Sarek's eyes widened. "The Sharing?" he asked, looking at Spock intently.
Spock nodded, then rose and sat by his father.
"Then that can only mean..." Sarek trailed off, his voice losing its strength.
"Yes, Father. It was Sybok, for only he at this time has the knowledge of the Sharing outside the Masters of Kolinahr," Spock said, a hint of sadness in his voice.
Sarek bowed his head and whispered, "You were banished for this, my Sybok; for this and your lack of respect for logic. Why would you do such as this against Starfleet? Why would you risk alienating yourself yet again?"
Kirk waited quietly, and with great respect, while the elder Vulcan regained his composure.
"I take it that my eldest son is now in custody, and that the Federation Council will be given this report?" Sarek asked finally, raising his eyes to look at Kirk.
"No, on all counts, Sarek," Kirk said quietly, sadly. "Admiral Morrow has placed this information under the highest levels of security, and Spock asked the VSO to add the cover of Red One to this."
Sarek's eyebrow raised. "I will abide by that; however, what of my son if he is not in custody?"
Spock placed his hand on his father's shoulder and started to explain. He told of the destination towards the Great Barrier at the Corewards point of Federation Space, and he told of the meeting with the 'being' that dwelt within. "To give us the chance to escape, Sybok sacrificed his life, Father. He threw himself into a meld with that being, and gave us the time to flee to safety."
Sarek looked down at his motionless hands, and the sadness that had been on his face when the first mention of Sybok had been made was now replaced with peace. "He made right what he had made wrong in that action," Sarek whispered. "I am content now. For all that he did, he did what was right at the end."
Kirk's face was mirroring his confusion as he looked questioningly at Spock.
"My brother had a good life, Jim. He was raised well, and his childhood was filled with love and peace. He learned well, and his accomplishments brought honor to our House. It was in my teenage years that he chose to live by emotion rather than logic. That was acceptable; it is a free choice for all who live on Vulcan. However, he did not just forsake all logic, he started to teach others to hate it and turn from it. Such is not acceptable. One can live by emotions, and even enter into conversation based on why they decided such, but you must keep tolerance on both sides. Sybok did not, and he went so far as to misuse his gifts and powers to rip other's minds from the path of Logic. He was banished from Vulcan. He became almost outcast to us all."
"Yet," Sarek finished for his son, "as you humans say, he redeemed himself by his final act. He learned that what he had been seeking had misled him, and then paid the highest price to make a way for you to live."
"But why do you not grieve, Sarek?" Kirk asked gently.
"I do, but our grief is not as yours, Kirk," the Ambassador said peacefully. "For those with a life lived, and with a death that has meaning, we who remain do not grieve their loss as you Terrans would. We take solace in the life we shared with them, and remember them."
Spock then said, pain filling his eyes, "Unlike when a child dies in the womb, or as an infant or even an adolescent. They had no life, and we shared very little or n...none with them. Our grief then is worse than any other. You humans grieve most for what was, and is no more. We Vulcans grieve most for what might have been, and now cannot be. The pain of Sybok is the loss of what had been, yet that which we had shared in. Our grief in this instance is... eased by memories shared." He ruthlessly repressed the pain his human side was feeling; of grief for his big brother now lost.
"I see," Kirk nodded with understanding. "Ambassador, I shall make all records of this mission available to you without limit. Including the reasons for Red One. That, however, is something Admiral Morrow is fully aware of, not I."
Sarek nodded seriously, "I believe I know why. If I am able, I shall bring you in on this as well, Captain. Until then, I thank you for the information you have brought me. I must now meditate... and 'grieve', although as Spock has said, your message allows me to think better of my son, so my grief you have lessened. Thank you, James... son."
The Ambassador rose and left the room quickly. Spock also stood, "You did well, Jim. Come, brother; we must leave him alone, now."
Kirk nodded, stood, and together with his friend, he left Sarek's home.
Studying a copy of the most ancient star-map of Vulcan, Sarek placed a finger on the image of his world: T'Khasi. He traced a line to the world of Earth: Sa'kai-T'Khasi. He then traced it down, towards the centre of the Galaxy, to where something was printed; something that made his spine become as ice: 'Panu Ket-cheleb' - 'World Destroyer'.
He closed his eyes. "Can this be accurate? Ancient legends from a thousand worlds?" he whispered to himself.
He looked back at the map, and then looked at the far side of the galaxy from Vulcan. One more world was labelled large, making four in total on the map that stood out from the rest. "Ish-Hassu, where is your assistance? You said of old that when 'the Destroyer' is found, you would come to the Aid of T'Khasi. Are you coming?"
He sighed, and looked again at that distant world that 'no longer was': 'Panu Pon S'haile', the 'World of the Time Lords'.
"Where are the Lords of Time, Doctor?" Sarek murmured as he again ran his hands over the picture before him, "Where is 'Gallifrey' now that the 'Destroyer' is found?"
He then added almost as an afterthought, "And where is 'It' -- the Blade Reforged?"
"He's 32 today, Jackie," Anne Richardson said sadly to her younger sister-in-law.
Jackie Littrell nodded sympathetically at the stately 56-year-old woman sitting across from her. "You still haven't located Jeremy and Sarah?"
"No; they moved with no forwarding address. Jerald and Jeremy had grown apart after they moved to Iowa, but you'd think they'd at least have let us know." Anne seemed despondent; Jackie noticed.
"Dear, they were there for the two of you when things were so tight. We just have to trust in the good Lord that there's a reason behind all this. Whatever He's got in mind for your little Daniel that involves keeping him away from you, it's all for the good. And you can be sure that he's making good for himself - we come from good stock, and so do the Richardsons."
"I wish I had your unquestioning faith, Jackie," Anne said to the feisty smaller woman. "But what about your search - any luck?"
"Not a thing," Jackie said. "When little Harold brought him back with him from camp for a visit, it was just like he was another of my own kids. I could have wrung Arthur's and Martha's stiff necks when they threw him out. I found out he was living with that Wilson boy I told you about, but then he got killed in that accident and my Little Duck just seemed to vanish from the face of the Earth."
"Maybe he did, Aunt Jackie," Anne's youngest son Tim said as he walked into the dinette. "Remember how he was always so interested in Starfleet? Did you check the Internet?"
"The Internet? Whatever for?" Jackie looked up at Tim with question. Tim rolled his eyes.
"There's all sorts of information available online at a moment's notice," he replied. "Good thing I didn't tear my computer down yet to take with me to college. C'mon up to my room; we'll run some searches."
"Here it is!" Tim said as his mother and aunt watched over his shoulder. "Charles Bryant Dodds, born June 2, 1968, entered Starfleet Academy in 1988, graduated class of 1991. Commissioned Ensign, assigned to Helm duties on board the Yorktown. Promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the Enterprise last year." He chuckled. "That sounds like Chip; Adm. Kirk only takes the best in the fleet for his crew, and he's ruthless in skimming the other ships for the cream of the crop."
"But why would he have cut us off like he did?" Jackie asked sadly.
"Mmmm," Tim temporized. "Aunt Jackie, can I be blunt?"
"Of course, darling."
"Well, anyone who knows you and Uncle Harold at all knows how strong Christians you are. And you've seen the news, all those preachers speaking out against homosexuality. I've got a couple of gay friends at school..." Anne registered surprise "...and they none of them have any use for church, not after all that stuff. 'Why go where you're not wanted?' one of them said to me, and I couldn't answer him. He probably thinks you'll reject him just like his parents did."
"He ought to know better!" Jackie said. "Jesus never turned anybody away, and neither would Harold or I."
"What he 'ought to know' is one thing," Anne said, "but, Jackie, I think the ball is in your court. You need to get in touch with Chip, and let him know you're still on his side. For all he knows, you agree with those hellfire-and-brimstone preachers. You've got to tell him different."
Jackie was taken aback by that. Then a glimmering of resolve started in her eyes, and grew across her face. "I'll do it!" she said firmly. "Thank you, Tim; I hadn't seen it from his eyes, and you made me do that. Can I use your phone, Anne?"
"You know you can, silly," Anne said with a warm smile.
"Mom! Thanks for calling! I was going to call you tonight - good news!"
"Wonderful! If I remember what you told me about your tour right, I have something I want you to do for me. But what's your news?"
"We won the suit! Pearlman has to pay all the back royalties - and we got creative control, too! We can do the music that talks to the fans, not the pre-packaged teeny-bopper bubble-gum stuff. Kev and I are getting together with Nick and the other guys and the backup band to figure out what we want to do - just as soon as the concert dates we're contracted for are over. And Pearlman gets a flat fee for what he did to set them up - no more skimming his cut off the top! You were right - we kept the faith, and it worked out!"
"That is good news! Now, you're supposed to play San Francisco on Labor Day, right?"
"Yeah - a concert in Candlestick."
"And you get in there the day before, to look over the site and rehearse, am I right?"
"That's right. Why?"
"Good. We're flying out for the concert - your father and I, and your Aunt Anne, if I don't miss my guess." Anne was smiling and nodding delightedly. "What I need from you is, can you free up a couple of hours in late afternoon the day before?"
"Sure, if it's important. What's going on?"
"Well, your computer geek cousin did some research for me." Tim looked mock-offended; Jackie chuckled. "The Enterprise makes orbit that morning, and the command crew will be on leave starting at about four o'clock San Francisco time."
"And this is important to me why?"
"Because as soon as you've told your mother that you're doing it, I'm going to make a call to Starfleet Command, and have a message left for Lt. Charles Dodds that his 'little brother' Brian will be meeting him at the spaceport when his shuttlecraft lands - and that he'll be having a late dinner with his Uncle Harold and Aunt Jackie that evening."
"Chip? We haven't seen him in years - what's going on all of a sudden?"
"That's right, Brian. But did you ever wonder why he hasn't been around to see us? Your little cousin Tim..."
"Aunt Jackie! I'm eighteen - I'm not 'his little cousin' anymore!"
"...Your little cousin Tim was smart enough to figure it out. He's been avoiding us because he thinks we're going to condemn him for being gay. Any fool can tell you that that's just the way some people are, and can't help it... they just need to live a moral life as gay men, or women, to stay right with God. But Chip probably thinks we feel the same way as those TV preachers, and you know better than that. Family comes first, and Chip's been family for years."
There was silence at the other end of the line. "Brian? Are you still there?"
"Uh, yeah, Mom. That is good news. I'll go meet Chip, sure."
"All right, Brian. Tim says he'll send you some sort of instant mail thing giving you Chip's schedule. I'll talk to you later; I need to call Starfleet now. Bye."
"Bye, Mom! You have no idea how good news this is! I'll call you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay, son. Bye now."
As she hung up from her call to Brian and rummaged through Tim's notes for the phone number for Starfleet Command, Jackie mused, "I wonder why Brian went so quiet when I was telling him what Tim figured out. That's not like him."
Tim smiled and excused himself. "Gotta get back to packing." As he headed back upstairs, he thought, 'That was close. But it's Brian's place to tell her, not mine.'
"Coffee and desserts all around," Harold said to the waiter, "and bring little Justy your Mount Selaya Sundae, if you please." Justy was all grins at the prospect of the giant dessert.
"Very well, sir," the waiter said primly, and turned away to fill the order.
"Chip," Harold said, "we have all missed you greatly. Jackie and I could not understand why our son's best friend, the boy who was our son in all but name, abruptly turned away from us. It took Tim to figure it out and explain it to his mother and aunt, and it's clear to me that we all failed you. I need to make this fast, since Kevin and Brian need to get to rehearsal. But the bottom line is, when your parents rejected you, we should have sought you out and comforted you, and we did not do our Christian duty by you. Even more, we owe you an apology, in the name of our Lord, for those who have turned His message into a bludgeon to hurt people like you."
Chip was stunned. "I knew Aunt Jackie and you were pillars of your church, and I thought, when I told my parents the truth about me, that you wouldn't want anything more to do with me. So I tried to make a life with Ben, and tried to forget what I'd lost."
"You're family, Chip," Jackie said warmly. "You always have been, and we've missed you. Maybe not by blood, but you're chosen family, and that counts above anything."
"That's what Grampa Sarek always says," Justy piped up. "Family's the most 'portant thing. When I grow up, I'm gonna have lotsa friends, and make 'em all my brothers."
Harold chuckled. "Just like Harold Junior did with your Dad, eh? But who's Grandpa Sarek?"
Chip looked abashed. "Last year, we were on Vulcan, and Captain Spock invited us to his parents' home for dinner. His father is the Ambassador for Earth and to the Federation, and his mother is from here on Earth. Her brother is still alive, back East somewhere. Anyway, when they found out that Justy and I had no family besides each other, they offered to stand as my father and mother, to give Justy grandparents. So I am now Charles Dodds, son of Sarek, of the Family of Sarek and House of Surak, of the Planet Vulcan, and Justy is Justin son of Charles, of that Family and House."
It was Kevin's turn to look startled. "That's like, um, being adopted by royalty or something! The House of Surak is some kind of Big Deal on Vulcan, right?"
"Yes," Chip said. "There's something like twenty Houses on Vulcan, and every Vulcan who is not outcast belongs to one of them. The House of Surak is the senior house, the one the rest of them look up to in respect. And my adoptive father is Pid-Sam, that translates as Patriarch, of that House." Chip smiled with a touch of pride, then recalled his good manners. "But it sounds like I'm not the only one famous here. From the news, it seems you two" - he glanced at Kevin and Brian - "have been making a name for yourselves too."
Brian grinned. "You could say that. I didn't figure, when Kevin called me last year to audition for a singing group, that I'd turn into an instant celebrity. But Backstreet has taken off."
"I'd sort of hoped, with Brian's voice, that he'd get into recording some of what they're calling contemporary Christian music," Harold said. "But their group has been really successful, and it's good music, close harmony love songs, like barbershop music brought forward to,. what are they calling it, the Electronic Age?"
"Right, Uncle Harold," Kevin interjected. "And it's a nice change from heavy metal music of rebellion. There's several other groups being formed in our wake now, one called N*Sync, O-Town, Ninety Eight Degrees, a whole new genre."
"We made friends with a couple of the guys from N*Sync," Brian added. "It's kind of the story of Kev and me all over again. They recruited a guy named Justin Timberlake that used to be on the Mickey Mouse Club, and he brought in a friend he'd grown up with that was also a Mouseketeer with him, a jazz musician named Joshua Chasez. And they're really nice guys, people you can grow close to real fast."
"I'll have to meet your bandmates sometime," Chip said. "Depending on what the Enterprise's schedule is, of course."
"So tell me about your ship," Harold said encouragingly. "The Enterprise is of course famous, Captain Kirk and all that. What is it that you do, anyway?"
"Well, I'm a helmsman," Chip said.
"That's kind of like the pilot?" Jackie asked.
"Exactly!" Chip answered. "The Captain is of course in command of the ship. But the job of keeping it flying to the right place at the right speed is done at the Helmsman's station. I was made Chief Helmsman for Beta shift, the evening shift, after proving myself to the Captain. And Commander Sulu is in line for promotion to Captain and a command of his own next year, and it looks good for me to become his replacement as Chief Helmsman for the ship."
"Really?" Brian said. "Congratulations! I knew you were interested in space, but I never expected that."
Chip looked over at his six-year-old son, who was wearing enough ice cream and hot fudge on his face to make a small sundae. "You're a mess, kid!" he said affectionately.
Justy looked innocent. "Me, Daddy?"
"Yeah, you," Jackie said indulgently. "Come with me, and I'll clean you up"
"Okay, Daddy?" Justin asked, not quite sure who this older woman was.
"Of course, she's your Aunt Jackie; you just hadn't met her yet," Chip answered his son. "Aunt Jackie, you need to be forewarned - when he's had sweets, he gets kind of hyperactive."
"Now, Chip, I raised two boys of my own, and had Anne's four and you around most of the time as well. I do know how to take care of little boys," Jackie said mock-teasingly to him.
Something about that little tease, matching what he remembered from his days visiting Harold Junior and being a part of the Littrell household, touched Chip deep inside. The tension seemed to melt away.
Harold noticed. "It doesn't matter where you've been, or what you've been doing; you're back with family that love you," he said to Chip.
"Hmmm," Kevin mused. "Unconditional love. I bet we can turn that into a love song for the group. 'I don't care where you've been or what you've been doing...' … something like that."
"Needs a little work," Brian replied. "But I see where you're going with it. 'I don't care where you've been...' Pick up on that 'it doesn't matter to me' thing."
"And that," Kevin said, "is a couple of budding songwriters at work. 'It doesn't matter what happened in the past, as long as you love me...' - try working with that, Bri."
"I'm hearing it in my head now," Brian answered. "But we've really got to leave, Chip - rehearsal for tomorrow's show. You and Justy are coming with Mom and Dad and Aunt Anne, right?"
"Tickets are already arranged," Anne threw in. "And Chip knows better than to argue with Jackie or me!"
"Look, Chip," Brian sounded disgusted. "I know now that when Ben was killed, a chunk of your heart died with him. And all this intense always-in-officer-mode stuff is just your reaction to dealing with that. But you do need to let go. He's dead, Chip; bury him, and try to get on with your life. For Justy, if not for yourself or for your family."
"I would be the wet blanket at that party, and I'm just going to stay here and watch the ball drop on TV," Chip answered.
"Look, you promised me you'd meet the people I work with, our backup band, our roadies, the guys in the other bands. This party is for us - Backstreet, N*Sync, O-Town, and the guys who make it possible behind the scenes. And I want my 'big brother' there with me tonight. Now, you're coming along with me, and you're going to have fun, whether you like it or not!" Brian grinned.
Chip sighed. "What about Justy? I can't leave him alone!"
"Covered," Brian answered, motioning his parents in. "Ever since they met the little guy, these two have had an intense attack of Frustrated Grandparent Syndrome. Junior and I keep getting asked when we're going to marry and give them some grandchildren."
"There's a thing at SeaWorld designed specifically for younger kids, early in the evening," Harold said. "We're going to take Justy to that; I've got tickets already. Then we'll take him back to our suite and bed him down, and by that point we'll want to relax some ourselves."
"You are going to go and have a good time, Little Duck," Jackie said in a voice that brooked no argument. "You need it; you know that inside, even if you don't want to admit it. Now get up off your behind and start getting ready!"
"Yes, mother," Chip said with a grin. "Have I told you how much I missed you, Aunt Jackie?"
"Only a couple dozen times, but one more doesn't hurt," Jackie said. "I'm glad to see you'll still behave when you get told what to do. Now move!"
"It's just a New Years Eve party; why's everyone acting like it's something that will change my life?" Chip groused as he walked back with Brian to get ready for the party.
"It worked - better than we hoped," an ebullient Brian told his mother over the phone.
"Oh? Tell me the juicy details," Jackie replied.
"Remember me telling you about Curly's childhood friend - that's Justin Timberlake; I forgot you don't know the guys by nicknames - that he recommended for N*Sync the way Kevin did me? His name's Josh Chasez - JC is what he uses for a stage name. Well, he and Chip met each other last night, and it was a case of love at first sight."
"Oh, good!" Jackie exclaimed. "I gather you approve of this boy?"
"Yeah, I do. Josh is a caring sort of guy, and not someone who would play Chip. I don't know him all that well yet, but I did get a handle on the kind of guy he is, and Curly, who's known him since they were eight, called me - worrying about the opposite side of the coin: would Chip hurt Josh?" Brian paused. "Gotta go; he's making noises like he's stirring. Talk to you later, mom!"
"You asked to meet with me, Mr. Burgess?" Sarek said.
"Yes, Mr. Ambassador. I wanted to brief you on a few measures to be brought before the Federation High Council that I have introduced." Burgess gave what he hoped was a properly ingratiating smile. Doing practical politics with these aliens was a challenge, when he couldn't rely on them to react properly to his tactics like normal people.
"I have reviewed all pending bills," Sarek answered equably. "I found the one mandating Starfleet to buy from only approved vendors to be unacceptable. This is especially so as you state no logical criteria for granting or withholding this 'approval'. The one relating to restrictions on warp drive is unnecessary but unobjectionable. But what is the purpose behind the proposed Family Protection Act?"
"Oh, that," Burgess said dismissively. "I introduced that at the request of a Member of Parliament in the U.K., with the support of two American politicians. It's purely unworkable."
"Then why did you introduce it?" Sarek asked, puzzled.
"I owed my friend the M.P. a favor, and also one of the Americans, for past support. They're quite aware it will be voted down." Burgess essayed another thin smile. "The bill is quite frankly just plain unworkable."
"If it has no chance of passage - and I agree that requiring the diverting of Starfleet crew to handle all family disputes is a misuse of resources - then why introduce it in the first place?"
"My friends are quite liberal, with strong liberal constituencies. The M.P. for Fulham and the Congressman from Iowa are really concerned that their countries aren't doing enough to protect children. I've made a public statement that I've introduced it at their request," Burgess explained in a condescending tone. "This way, they can go back to the family advocacy groups that supported them, and say that they tried, but they cannot get the support to pass it. It looks good for them, they're listening to their constituents, and for me, showing that I'm supportive of their issues. It's all been arranged - it will be voted down in the High Council, and we'll just look good in our constituents' eyes. Certainly you can see the logic of that?"
Amanda walked in at that point. "Here, t'hy'la, review this for me, if you would," Sarek requested, handing her the draft Family Protection Act.
"I'm surprised you bother the little lady with matters of business," Burgess said, nodding politely to Amanda.
"My wife has assisted me for many years in understanding the motivations of Earth humans," Sarek responded. If Burgess had been a bit more observant, he would have noted the slight cold tone Sarek allowed to enter his speech, and Amanda's reaction to the draft law - but he didn't. "I am afraid that I have quite a bit of work to attend to," Sarek continued, adopting the 'human-politeness' mode he had mastered in dealing with Earthmen, "so I must ask you to excuse me."
"Certainly," Burgess answered. "If I can be of any help in understanding the importance of the other two bills, do not hesitate to contact my office." He hefted himself up from the easy chair and made an exit appropriate to the importance he saw himself as having.
Amanda burst into laughter. "That pompous twit!" she said as the sound of doors closing indicated that Burgess was gone. "Lecturing you like you had no clue how humans behave!"
"I find the attitude of some human leaders that others are pawns to be manipulated to be quite... distasteful," Sarek replied. "But did you see what I saw in that bill?"
Amanda's eyes were shining. "At long last!" she said. "This will never work, of course, but with proper modifications, it could serve.... Can you bring Vulcan behind it, though?"
Sarek gave his wife a smile. "I believe I know a way that is in accord with c'thia," he said gravely.
He picked up his communicator from where it had been lying on his desk. After a few short exchanges, he was connected to the High Council's presiding officer. "Skarg," he saluted the Tellarite abruptly, as was their custom. "The Earth humans have proposed a bill called the Family Protection Act, which is to be voted on when next we convene. I wish to have that matter tabled for six months, as is my prerogative."
"It shall be done, Sarek," Skarg responded. "Will you and Amanda join us tomorrow night? There is to be a drinking bout and grand argument. It should be a jolly time!"
Inwardly amused, Sarek excused himself and his wife. Thanking Skarg, he ended the call.
"Sarek." Patriarch Siprak's acknowledgement of his fellow Patriarch was cold and formal.
"Siprak." Sarek returned. "It is long since we have spoken save as opponents. I come today for your aid."
"Indeed? What logic would indicate I should help a friend of the Qom'i-katur?" The term, intentionally rude, conveyed that Earthmen were naturally devoid of logic.
"I bring you a draft of a measure which a human introduced into the Federation Ruling Council," Sarek responded evenly. "It would be logical for you to give it initial review while I await you."
Siprak made a gesture acknowledging the logic. Sarek handed over the draft Family Protection Act, and calmly waited.
"The Qom'i would tell us how to protect our Families?" Siprak said steelily. "They would send their Starfleet in to enforce this law?" He would not permit Sarek to see the rage within him at the effrontery of the race who had killed his family nine years before.
"It must not be permitted to pass in its present form," Sarek said. "This proposal goes too far, and affronts Vulcan commitment to Family."
"For once we see as one," Siprak said. "I had feared association with the Qom'i, and above all your wife, had turned you from the path of c'thia."
"Never," said Sarek. "But just as a child must learn his own emotions in order to master them, I have needed to learn of human emotions to deal properly with them."
Siprak nodded. "You spoke of needing my help."
"To replace this unacceptable bill," Sarek said, "I consider it logical that Vulcan propose an alternative, an Act that stresses the need for member races to assure the safety and nurture of their own young, but enables intervention by the Federation when they fail to do so - as Earth far too often does."
"That is in accord with my thinking," Siprak said.
"To carry the necessary weight in the Federation Council," Sarek continued, "such a proposal would require the united voice of Vulcan. To be blunt, you and I, as leaders of the two factions at odds, would need to bring our supporters together to support what is proposed."
Siprak paused in thought. "That is acceptable," he said at last. "How do you see that we should proceed?"
"I had in mind co-opting T'Sel, of the House of Mazak, to compile the initial revision. I will need to thoroughly rewrite it to correspond to Human ideas of how a law should be written, but I will ensure you are kept apprised, both of the draft version and of what I change and why it is necessary. Are we in agreement?"
"We are," Siprak replied. "The Qom'i cannot presume to tell the sons and daughters of T'Khasi how to raise their young. It is gratifying to know you agree, Sarek."
"As it is gratifying to know that our emnity has not turned you from the paths of c'thia, my brother," Sarek said gravely to his fellow patriarch.
"Did he buy it?" Amanda asked excitedly.
"He did," Sarek responded, a twinkle in his eye. "I merely told him the truth - a choice selection of the truth. He drew his own conclusions, and therefore logically was forced to agree with me."
Amanda broke into a broad grin - a grin mirrored, once he had confirmed they were alone, by Sarek.
Skarg let roar the ceremonial bellow with which Tellarite meetings were called to order. Amid some chuckling, the delegates quieted and turned their attention to him.
"The first order of business today," Skarg said in his abrupt manner, " is the Family Protection Act introduced in November by Delegate Burgess of Earth." Burgess preened himself. "Is there debate or argument" - Skarg grinned at the prospect of a good argument - "about this bill before we put it to vote?"
Sarek rose. "I move that we strike the title and contents of the proposed bill in full, and substitute for it the following measure, which was adopted unanimously by the Vulcan High Council to serve in its stead." He began to read. "'The title of this measure shall be the Safe Haven Act. The United Federation of Planets Ruling Council hereby adopts the following. The purpose of The Safe Haven Act is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children who have been victims of Physical, Sexual or Emotional Abuse. The Safe Haven Act empowers Starfleet as its enforcement arm. This Act will encompass all children in The Federation and supersede all Local and Planetary Regulations regarding these Children. The Federation Safe Haven Act allows for the immediate removal and placement of minor children because of imminent danger to said minor.'" Sarek continued through the full text of the proposed law.
As he concluded his reading, the Ambassador from the Andorian Star Empire was on his feet. "Andoria believes that Honor calls for the protection of the young. We support this measure." Sarek's grave countenance gave no indication of the inward smile he felt as his old friend from Andoria backed his play.
Burgess was on his feet. "Wait, you can't...."
Skarg cut him off. "You proposed the original law, Burgess. How can you object to changes." He smiled, seeing a fight in the offing. "Tellar supports this bill," he announced.
A Rigellian stood. "All four founding races stand for this bill, and Rigel is behind it as well. I call for its adoption by acclamation."
Skarg grinned. Seeing Burgess caught in his own webs amused him. "A call for adoption by acclamation has been made. All agreeing, please so indicate." A loud roar from the delegates answered him. "Are any opposed?" Burgess looked around for help. No one spoke up.
Skarg seemed disappointed that no fight would break out. "The measure is carried by acclamation," he announced formally.
Authors' Notes: We are indebted to Iluvantir, for writing the initial sections dealing with Sybok's fate, and to both him and ACFan for review and critique of the contents.