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"It is the typical Vulcan/human difference in viewpoint once again," Amanda said to T'Mura. The two teenage women were sitting in a large, comfortable area on board the Vakhan-yon, along with the Satos, who were listening raptly. Richard, Trip, Jonathan, Malcolm, and Travis were gathered excitedly around the viewscreen at the other end of the room, which was currently mimicking a window showing the Earth below them. Hoshi was perched happily on Trip's shoulders. "This is termed the Kebitra na'Shom-Ak'shem, the facility for body restoration, and it is regarded as only logical that a crewman should come here at the end of his daily work on board to perform the duty of resting his body in the company of others, so that it is properly functional when exertion is again needed. For humans, such relaxation is seen as a pleasure and reward, voluntarily undertaken when possible. Once again, we do the same things but conceptualize them in quite different ways."
"The keeping of the body to rested fitness is not seen as one's duty to self and House?" T'Mura questioned.
"No, it is an avidly sought after pleasure," Amanda explained.
"How can you sit there talking when we're in space?" Trip asked excitedly. "Look, you can see the coast of Africa down there!"
"For some of us, Trip, the world of the human mind is as fascinating as you find space travel," Amanda said with a gentle smile.
Dr. Phlox and Bruce entered just then. "I have what we hope is wonderful news," Bruce said smiling. "Did you all realize that Dr. Phlox is over 140 years old?"
The faces of all five teens registered shocked, incredulous looks. "He looks like he's in the prime of life!" Jonathan said. "I would have guessed him to be in his thirties, no more than forty at most."
"She who is your brother's wife is in young adulthood, 42 to be precise," T'Mura said. Trip nodded with a shy grin.
"Both Denobulans like Dr. Phlox and our Vulcan hosts have markedly longer life spans than Earth humans, I have learned," Bruce said. "Dr. Phlox and three Vulcans, two healers and a science officer, performed tests on me. Dr. Phlox believes that it may be possible to devise a course of treatment to extend our life spans substantially, to slow the aging process. He has asked all of us who are willing to become his test subjects. He believes the process is likely to work best when entered into before or during adolescence, though you and I, Jonathan, should still benefit from it. I intend to do so, and will give my consent if Richard chooses to participate."
"I had already spoken to he who is my husband about this," Amanda said. "We both find it logical that I should volunteer."
"Then I will step up too," Richard said firmly. "If the two people who matter most to me are both going to, I am too."
Jonathan and Malcolm were dumbfounded. "I think I need some time to think about this," Jonathan said. Malcolm mutely nodded agreement with him.
"Really?" Trip asked with excitement. "Count me in!"
"I had forgotten what it was like, to have the Cosmos open up to you," Dr. Phlox said. "I was just a lad of fifty when I first went into space." He smiled that amazing, face-splitting smile at the teenagers. "If you should need to talk with someone about the feelings it engenders to have so many amazing new things possible all at once, I can remember what it was like. Do feel free to talk with me about them, if you feel it would help."
"Thank you," Trip said. "It's a lot to take in. I'm in space, and best of all married. If you'd told me this last week, I'd not have believed you!"
"Married life seems to agree with you, though, brother," Jonathan said to him, and was rewarded with a bright red blush all over Trip's face.
Richard giggled. "Well, the same could be said for you, my brother," Amanda said to him. His laughter cut off abruptly, replaced by a shocked look. "I can see how you feel about Bruce," she continued, "and I could not be happier for you. Love takes many forms, I've found, and I'm glad you have someone who fulfills you. It frees me, as well, so that I can focus on building a life with he who is now my husband, and not have to worry about your future happiness." She stepped over and embraced her younger brother.
Bruce's expression was nearly equally shocked. "I hope you don't think...," he began.
Amanda cut him off. "I know you would never harm my brother, in any way," she said to him. "That's enough for me. There is far too much hatred and uncaring in the world, without worrying whether someone else's love measures up to some abstract standard. Besides," she continued laughingly, "all those abstract standards come from Plato, and he certainly would have approved."
Jonathan began to ask a question, but before he had had a chance to formulate his thought, Sarek walked in, accompanied by T'Pol and another Vulcan man.
"Ch'mur'yek," Amanda acknowledged him. He made the ritualized response to a senior female of one's House back to her.
"I have come," Sarek said, "to let you all know that all is in readiness. Tomorrow, if none of you object, Ch'mur'yek will assume command of the Vakhan-yon, and you who are the First, with Mr. And Mrs. Sato, will go to Vulcan in the courier ship which brought T'Mura."
Trip was shocked and angry. "You are relieving T'Pol of command?"
"Yes," Sarek said emotionlessly.
"Because she married me, she loses her command? That is not just!"
Amanda and T'Mura exchanged glances. "You are regarding it as a demotion," T'Mura said. "That is not so."
T'Pol spoke up. "It is the logical thing to do. Jonathan must be fitted for command, and that as soon as possible, for it will take him several years to learn all that he must know. There are many Vulcans fit for command, including Ch'mur'yek, who has been a worthy second-in-command to me. But only the Kevet and myself are Bonded to humans. Only we can know what a human commander of a spacecraft will face by intimate knowledge of a human mind. Therefore I am uniquely qualified to assume the responsibility of coordinating the training of Jonathan, my T'hy'la, and the rest of you for your eventual duties, and to serve Jonathan as the experienced First Officer he will need when he assumes command of Earth's first starship. It is a great honor to serve both Vulcan and Earth in that way, and I shall strive to be worthy of the trust my Kalek-sam places in me, in calling me to that duty."
Amanda smiled. "Humans are often rank- and status-conscious," she said. "Vulcans are not. Do not look on it as a demotion in rank. Maybe the best analogy might be to our own Navy. Imagine a Commander captaining a destroyer, who is taken from that duty because of his unique skills to teach new officers at Annapolis. Would he not see that as an honor, not a demerit?"
"Well said, wife of my Patriarch," T'Mura agreed. "I have already begun to realize how much there is to learn about how humans view the world, and how much it differs from c'thia."
Sarek allowed himself a small smile. "You speak truly, daughter of my house," he said to her.
Back at Wayne Manor that evening, Bruce collapsed in a large easy chair. "The past few days have been one surprise after another," he said. "I'm exhausted." He paused. "About what your sister said..." he began.
Richard found a sense of assurance within himself that had not been there a week previously. Resolutely he stepped over, laid an index finger across Bruce's lips, and sat, balancing half on one of Bruce's legs and half on the chair's plush arm. "You have shown me nothing but love and caring, ever since you rescued me from the orphanage," he said to his guardian. "I know that you will never hurt me, and I've come to love you deeply – just as you had said you hoped, that first night, remember?" He snuggled in closer. They sat, speaking of feelings and enjoying each other's closeness, for a time.
At last Bruce turned Richard's face to him and said, quite seriously, "I don't know if you realize what you've given me. Before you came here, I was going through the motions, trying to help others escape what fate had dealt me. But with you as a part of my life, it feels like it's been renewed, like sunlight shining in dark, cobwebby nooks within me for the first time since my parents died. If you hadn't come into my life, I might have gone on, hardening my heart, becoming a dark knight seeking nothing but revenge on the criminals who had destroyed my family. With you, now, there's a new hope, a sense that a life of happiness and love is possible."
"A dark knight seeking revenge?" Richard said. "What a batty idea?"
"Yes," Bruce said, smiling. "Thanks to you, I have a happier future."
"Did you have trouble sleeping, Charles?" T'Pol asked, her eyes still closed.
Trip was on his side and propped up on his elbow looking down lovingly at his beautiful wife. "Kinda," he mumbled happily. "I woke about an hour ago and couldn't get back to sleep. We're nearly there!" he finished, his still boyish face beaming with joy.
T'Pol opened her eyes and regarded her young husband. "I feel your emotions clearly, T'hy'la," she said, smiling slowly up at him. "You will like my homeworld. However, the climate will take you a while to get used to."
"Yeah, it's hot, dry and arid. It sounds both terrifying and exciting! I can't wait!" he bubbled.
T'Pol smiled again, before stating seriously, "I am afraid you will just have to wait, Husband. Time will not speed up for you."
"Oh," he replied, with a shy yet cheeky grin, "I think we could do something to pass the time... since we're awake, that is..."
T'Pol smiled again... and nodded.
"When we land, what will happen to us then?" Jonathan asked the ships Commander.
"You shall be shown to the Academy, where your housing and training shall be. In a few weeks, the Ambassador and his Wife shall return, so you will have familiar faces once more," was the polite response.
"This ship is wild, Jon!" Malcolm said as he entered the Bridge. "Two days and I'm still finding things that are just magical!"
"I assure you," the Vulcan Commander offered, "that there is no magic employed here."
Jonathan laughed lightly, "Well, to any less advanced people, the technologies you have could seem magical, could they not?"
The Commander nodded slowly. "Yes, I see your point."
"Come on, Malcolm," Jonathan said, moving over to the younger teen. "I'm hungry, and I'm betting my brother is too. Let's meet up with the others for breakfast."
"I'd leave Trip alone right now, bro," Malcolm blushed. "I was heading for his room before coming here, but when I got outside... let's say he's 'busy' and leave it there, okay?"
"Ah," was Jonathan's diplomatic response as he led Malcolm off the Bridge.
Soon, they would arrive on Vulcan; and soon, their future would start to get a whole lot bigger than any of them could guess at or dare to dream of.
Sarek, Amanda, and T'Mura joined Bruce and Richard in the drawing room after dinner. "I hope you enjoyed the meal," Bruce said courteously.
"It was most acceptable," Sarek replied. "I am finding the courtesies of Earth culture most interesting; foreign though they are to Vulcan experience, they seem to fill the same role as some of our traditions."
"I would, however," he continued, "like to pursue discussion of what we may mutually do to benefit one another. Jonathan was most helpful, before his departure, in identifying technologies that might profitably be introduced to Earth."
"Yes," Bruce answered, "and my staff are even now determining how best to market them. I thank you for your assistance in ensuring with the government that my companies are sole licensees for them – for now, at least. As we add technologies which my companies are not set to market, I have some like-minded businessmen in mind to introduce to you, who will no doubt be willing to abide by your wishes."
"It was logical to do so," Sarek said, "as you have agreed to aid children in need as we discussed."
"I learned a pithy English aphorism that encapsulates your thought, my Patriarch," T'Mura said. "One hand washes the other."
Sarek raised an eyebrow. "Each acts to benefit the other, and in so doing, ensures benefit to itself. A wise saying; I must report it as an example of Earth's wisdom."
Richard giggled. "What is so funny, brother?" Amanda asked.
"I just find it ... amusing ... to see Sarek, always so grave, intrigued by everyday expressions," he answered.
"It is an example, one among many, of how we may learn from each other," T'Mura said thoughtfully.
"As we have learned the many ways of other races, our own becomes the richer," Sarek said. "Each planet contributes and in doing so receives the wisdom of others. One hand, indeed, does wash the other, across the galaxy. Perhaps someday that diversity will become infinite, with infinite combinations enriching all people beyond measure."
"Infinite diversity, in infinite combinations," Amanda said. "I do like the sound of that."
"Indeed, my wife," Sarek said gravely. "That is, in fact, how my forefather Surak formulated the concept many years ago. It is inscribed on the sigil of our House in just that way."
"To business, then," Bruce said. "I had planned, before any of this began, to take an inspection tour of my business holdings, using my private railroad car. I have moved up the date when I will do this, to next week. Richard will, of course, travel with me. And the public story is that at the request of the State Department, we will be joined by the niece of an ambassador, a reclusive young lady who seldom leaves our car, but who wishes to see America. That will enable T'Mura to pursue her duty to your House with appropriate cover to avoid publicizing the existence of Vulcan as yet."
"That plan embodies much wisdom," Sarek said. "Is this acceptable to you, T'Mura?"
"Yes, Patriarch," she answered. "I trust I will be able to contact you and Amanda for advice if needful?"
"Of course," Sarek answered.
"While I would love to join you, T'Mura," Amanda added, "my place is with he who is my husband, learning what I must know to be an effective wife for him. But I do insist that you contact me as often as you like, for advice and for reassurance. I know what it is like to be young and alone in a strange place, and while you have mastered sa'hat-nahr well, those feelings of loneliness can still become overpowering. That is one thing on which I can speak with authority and wisdom, from my own experience."
"Indeed?" Sarek queried. "Then it is only logical for you to maintain regular contact with she who is my wife, T'Mura, to maintain c'thia in order to most efficiently perform your duties."
"It shall be as you say, Patriarch and Patriarch's Wife," T'Mura said, betraying a tinge of relief in her otherwise emotionless voice.
The train ride was long. T'Mura had never felt so alone. True, Bruce and Richard did their best to make her feel comfortable and welcomed, but the oppression of being away from Vulcan, from her people, grew on her. She found the rich farmlands and forests fascinating. Though, and the great rivers simply amazing. And learning of the people, openly emotional and with tools of courtesy and respect, affection and honor, to cope with their emotions, was even more fascinating to her.
Added to her mood was the lack of any candidates. Though she could have masked herself from the impact of emotions, she – figuratively – dove into the sea of human emotion, priding herself on breasting the waves and maintaining Vulcan control. But though she scanned dutifully, no one presented himself – or herself – as having stukh-aitlun, the desire to go to space.
In another compartment, the Naval ensign sat boredly, reading his copy of Amazing Stories of Super Science over once again. He had been shocked at being abruptly called to Washington from Norfolk as he was about to report for his first tour of sea duty, even more surprised at being taken to the White House, and still more surprised at his orders. He was to accompany some millionare, his ward, and some foreigner's reclusive niece on a train trip across country, to let no one but the President himself and an odd list of people he'd never heard of know of his mission and whereabouts, and to hold himself ready to recruit young boys, possibly way below the age for Annapolis, as special cadets, under the same level of secrecy as his own orders – even from their parents. And which boys they were to be? The ones the recluse pointed out. 'Good thing,' he thought, 'I can obey peculiar orders, just like the men on the Starshine'. Which reminded him of his story, and he picked the magazine up once again.
On the third day, the train entered Kansas, and began passing through cornfields – seemingly endless cornfields. The weather was Kansas-September hot, and they all suffered. Then, as they left one small town, T'Mura called out "Stop!" Bruce immediately signaled the brakeman, who brought the short train to a halt, and then it backed onto the town's siding.
T'Mura emerged from her cabinette, and motioned to Richard. "Them," she pointed. Richard jumped from the car as it was slowing to a stop, tucked and rolled, coming up on his feet and running towards two boys on bicycles.
Robert and Wesley had been heading for the swimming hole, as soon as school had let out, for a much-needed dip – and also for some badly needed relief. They'd stopped and stood, astride their bikes, as the train braked and backed into the siding. As a boy their age jumped from the train and began running toward them, they panicked and began to ride off.
Richard jumped onto a nearby fence, gauged his distance quickly, and vaulted alongside Wesley's bike. He grabbed the handlebars and said breathlessly, "Hey, wait! You're not in trouble or anything; you're needed for a great adventure!"
Robert's eyebrows went up. "Why should we trust you?" he asked, as Wesley was saying, "Where'd'ya learn to do that?" referring to Richard's stunt to catch up with him.
"My father," Richard answered Wesley, then "Hey, Jack, come here!", impatiently motioning Ensign Williamson over to where the boys were standing.
Robert's family were an easy sell, with their military tradition. All Ensign Williamson had to say is that he had been directed by the President himself to offer special youth cadet commissions to certain boys who met special qualifications, and they'd signed off on Robert's enlistment. Wesley's family proved a harder sell, but when Ensign Williamson walked to Western Union and returned, followed ten minutes later by the town's chubby old hotel clerk/Western Union telegrapher, bearing a telegram direct from President Roosevelt himself offering Wesley a cadet commission, they capitulated.
"That's -b-e-r-r-y," Wesley said to Williamson. "And no, my first name is Eugene, but call me Wesley; I hate that name."
"You're interested in motion pictures?" Williamson asked. "Yeah, I used to dream of some day going to Hollywood and becoming a director, making a serial adventure story."
"And you, Robert?"
"Oh, I'd always planned on going into the Navy. That's why this is so keen. It's like everything I ever dreamed of ... except sp-, uh, astronomy." Robert was ebullient.
"You might be surprised about that," Bruce said with a knowing grin.
"You two will want to share a compartment, correct?" the cloaked young lady asked. The boys both blushed and bashfully nodded Yes. Out of their line of sight, Richard glanced over at Bruce and grinned.
"I will explain more to you of what your training and duties will entail, once the train is again under way," T'Mura said in her precise English.
"How come you are the one doing the explaining?" Robert asked, half challengingly and half mystified.
"The answer to that is a part of the explanation," Bruce said mollifyingly.
"Space?!?! For real?!" Robert asked excitingly, as the train lurched its way across Kansas. He was nearly bouncing for joy.
"Yes, for real," Bruce answered him "T'Mura, I believe you may uncloak now." The Vulcan girl removed her concealing cloak, showing her lovely Vulcan features, pointed ears, raised eyebrows, and green-tinged lips. She blushed a pale chartreuse under the boys' stares.
"This is under top secret clearance, by direct order of the President," Bruce went on. "You can be charged with treason for telling anyone not authorized to know. But the major nations of Earth have been in contact with extraterrestrial people, including T'Sura's people the Vulcans. She identified you two as likely candidates for training in Earth's venture into space, with Vulcan help."
"How? Why?" Wesley asked. "We're just kids in a nowhere Kansas town. How could she tell?"
"Vulcans have the power to enter into the mind of another, with their consent, while touching them," T'Mura said. "I am one of a very few of my people who do not need to use touch."
"You read our minds?" Robert was aghast.
"Only your desire for space ... and a few other things," T'Mura said.
Wesley was white. "Um, uh...."
"That, too," T'Mura said, bringing forth a smile in an effort to calm these young Earth people. "My people have never found such a form of caring to be illogical or unethical."
Kansas farmland gave way to the High Plains, then the Rockies, then the Colorado plateau and the basin and range country. No more candidates. At last they crested the Sierra and came down into the Sacramento Valley. Bruce conducted perfunctory inspection tours of Wayne Industries plants along the way, keeping up the cover story.
"Watch out, four-eyes!" the tall blond boy with dark eyebrows called out as he collided with another boy almost as tall, on a trail traditionally used as a shortcut to school. The boy with glasses seethed as he picked himself up from being knocked down. Thoughts of what he could have said, should have said, ran through his mind, if he could only do it over again.
As the train rumbled down the middle of Ninth Street, T'Mura sat bolt upright. "Stop the train!" she called out again.
This time Bruce and Jack emerged from the train, and walked the half mile to the school. The combined magic of Bruce's name, owning as he did two canneries in town, and the Ensign's uniform, evoked cooperation from the Principal, and the boy was called to the office. After a brief and guarded encounter with the Principal present in which the nervous boy learned that he was not in trouble but rather being tapped for a cadetship, they walked back to Bruce's private car, and a fuller, freer discussion of the boy's future
"I'd thought about medical school, and then join the Navy as a doctor," the boy allowed. "But m'dad would never be able to send me. Prob'ly just end up living my life out here growing walnuts like him, and maybe running a store."
"What d'ya like to read?" Robert asked him.
The boy blushed. "Oh, H.G. Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs," he answered. "My teachers all told me it's nothing fit to read, just adventure stories that could never happen."
"I'm not sure that's how I'd describe The War of the Worlds or A Princess of Mars," Robert said musingly.
"You read that stuff too?" the boy asked.
"Oh, yeah," Robert answered. "Though I think we'll find the reality is a bit different from what Wells or Burroughs said."
"We?" the boy scoffed. "Maybe someday humans will make it into space, but *I* sure will never see an alien with my own eyes."
"Come out here, T'Mura," Robert called out.
The look on the boy's face was priceless.
"And you swear to keep the national secrets entrusted in you now and in the future a sacred trust?" Ensign Williamson asked?
"I do," the boy answered.
"Now the boring part," the Ensign said. "Paperwork. First, your name."
"Lucas," he answered, then, "No, that's my last name. Put George in that blank."
"I believe we can accommodate your desire for a medical career, though not in the way you probably think," Bruce said. "I want to have you write to a physician of my acquaintance, named Dr. Phlox."
Clan Short Archivist's Review Notes:
This chapter is a wonderful jaunt into area previously unexplored in a CSU Story. As in all of D&B's stories the characters all have a wonderful lifelike character to them. I am thoroughly intrigued by this glimpse into history.
Unfortunately D&B have been infected by the new malady that has afflicted other Fort and CSU Authors. The malady causes authors to create a minimum of two new questions for every one they answer.
The Story Lover