February 14, 2158. Vulcan.
T'Pol slowly unwound the long, loose white cloth that had protected her face from the scorching afternoon sun during her walk along the edge of the lava field. Vulcan's summer was at an end and the temperature was dropping as T'Khul and Delta Vega slowly traded places in the evening sky. The night breezes brought with them wave after wave of warm air from the flow of molten lava nearby.
She let the cloth fall into a loose pile next to her and gracefully lowered herself to sit beside it in the soft sand. With great care, she slipped a simple bag off her shoulder and unfastened the stone and fiber closure in order to fold back the flap. The rough fabric fell away to the sand, revealing a meditation lamp of alien design.
The fragile object had received several curious glances when the unsecured flap of the bag had fallen away as she set it down on the counter of a small store that morning. The brilliant blue and white swirling colors were not the usual Vulcan aesthetic, nor was the spiral shape familiar to the merchant or the patrons of the small township's spartan, and efficient, supply depot.
"It is made of glass?" one bold youngster had inquired, his dark eyes adding all the unspoken questions that his voice and expression did not.
"It is," she answered simply.
After paying for the necessary supplies for the desert hike, thus ensuring a swift escape from potentially critical gazes, she added, unnecessarily perhaps, "The spiral shape is patterned after the exoskeleton, or shell, of Strombus alatus, a marine gastropod mollusk native to a particular region of Earth." She ignored the infinitesimal elevation of several eyebrows and paused only momentarily, hand on the door, in order to meet the child's unwavering but increasingly curious gaze. "It is a handmade gift from ...a friend."
She didn't look back as she exited the store.
Now, she carefully smoothed out a circle in the sand, arranging her former head cloth in the center as added protection and lay the lamp carefully in the middle of the soft fabric. The vibrant blues and greens of the lamp shone in stark contrast to the rust-red sand that stretched for miles in every direction. The nearby lava flows reflected off the glass, adding streams of flickering orange to the ripples of white on its smooth surface. Reaching into the bag again, she pulled out some oil and a wick and took her time assembling and then finally lighting the lamp.
Satisfied, she glanced around at the darkening landscape. She'd chosen this time and place since she knew the area was not so remote as to be a danger at night due to wild sehlat or a lematya on the hunt, but remote enough that townspeople would not encounter her on an evening stroll. Furthermore, the stillness and tranquility of the landscape was far more conducive to this experiment than the guest quarters of the Vulcan Ministry.
She looked up at the stars that now filled the sky like sparkling sand. But perhaps, she admitted to herself, she had chosen it because he had liked the fire plains so much. And after a long moment she looked at the lamp again to focus her mind.
And then she closed her eyes.
February 14, 2158. Earth.
The gentle bump of the mainsail against the starboard side of the small craft brought Charles "Trip" Tucker out of his doze. He rubbed his eyes and then propped himself up on both elbows to squint at the horizon. The moon was already overhead as Sol was starting to dip below the horizon, scattering vivid colors across the sky that ranged from orange to blue to purple. The water around him was deepening to a midnight blue.
He dropped back down again and slowly stretched where he lay, then zipped up his jacket and reached out a hand to still the mainsail. Weeks of reviewing prototypes and speaking to Matt Jeffries' new crop of engineering students would have ordinarily felt like a holiday compared to his workload on Enterprise. But lately he was the subject of curious stares and whispered comments and this time around he found it wearing. Or maybe he was just tired. He watched for a while as the sunset turned the sky into a painted desert whose waves of colors shifted like sand dunes.
Escaping to this remote cove on the California coastline, just north of San Francisco, had never been more welcome. The location was protected enough that he could lay inside the boat and let the breezes push the tiny craft from one end of the cove to the other, but never out to sea. The aimless wandering around suited him today but, as another chilly breeze filled the sail, he was reminded that if he'd had more time he would have escaped to somewhere warmer. Like Tahiti. He folded his arms around himself and smiled up at the pale moon. Or Vulcan.
Time! Damn! He quickly scrambled to sit up again, grabbing the rigging to secure the sail. T'Pol had said she'd be heading for the fire plains after her final meeting with T'Pau and that was today. He glanced up into the darkening sky, but it was too early for the stars to be clearly visible. He shook his head. It didn't matter. He probably had a half hour at best.
He scrambled to secure the sail and reached for the rudder. Great. The first time they tried this over such a long distance, and he'd be late. He'd been looking forward to this for three weeks and now he'd be late. He couldn't do this out here, on the water! Luckily the sail caught a chilly breeze and pushed him rapidly towards shore. As soon as the boat slid to a stop he hopped out into the water and dragged the small craft the rest of the way up onto the beach and alongside a long pier.
Immediately he dropped to the sand next to the pier and tried to relax and focus but after a moment he frowned; something was wrong. Giving the sky another hurried glance he rubbed his chin and looked at the empty beach in front of him. They usually had a lamp to stare at when they did this but he hadn't thought to bring one along.
Rising to his feet, he quickly sifted through the gear in the boat, only briefly entertaining the idea of one of the marine rescue flares. He'd never hear the end of Malcolm's ribbing if the coast guard showed up. Patting his jacket pockets, he pulled out his Starfleet ID badge, a multipurpose tool and a roll of electrical tape before he found a small flashlight.
It wasn't exactly a lamp but ... he shrugged and stuck the end of the flashlight in his mouth while he flipped open the multipurpose tool, then knelt and dug a hole in the hard-packed sand. When it was deep enough he slipped the flashlight into it so that it remained mostly upright, pushing more sand up around it in a circle of support, like a tiny sand castle. Sitting back on his heels, he surveyed his handiwork.
The light from the flashlight bounced off the underside of the pier, giving the enclosed space a softly lit glow. Shrimp and tiny fish flashed silver in the water that lapped around the pier beams just beyond the boat and the occasional jellyfish added a bioluminescent display as it drifted by.
He glanced up at the stars once more as he peeled off his jacket and grinned. She would have liked it. Settling himself on the sand once again, opposite the buried flashlight, he took a deep breath, relaxed, and focused on the light for several minutes.
And then he closed his eyes.
February 14, 2158. Somewhere among the stars.
At first there was nothing but the sound of the surf or the grind of cooled lava against rock walls.
Then, there was nothing.
And then, after a very long while, there was the sound of the surf and the grind of cooled lava against rock walls.
She opened her eyes.
He opened his eyes.
The blank white space around him slowly filled with the valleys and plains of a volcanic canyon, even as a dark blue ocean began to stretch on endlessly before her.
He slowly stood, and turned around to gaze into eyes as deep and mysterious as the nighttime ocean just as she rose from the sand and turned to face a smile as warm and enveloping as the breezes from the lava field.
Steam rose as the lava flows met the ocean. And, after a very long while, the sands of time settled on newly built land.
February 14, 2229. Earth.
Sarek watched intently as rivulets of water streamed down the windows of the transport vehicle. It had not even rained, and yet the break of day in this place, on this planet, seemed to simply rise out of the water so abundant on its surface.
Fog. He peered out of the window over the shrouded city. He'd never seen such a thing before, even when he'd briefly accompanied Father on one of his official Planetary Visits as the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth, when Sarek was but a child. It was ... fascinating.
It was also slightly chilly. Carefully resisting the urge to touch the window and gaze in any further unseemly curiosity at the mist-shrouded city or the water streaming along the glass, he turned away from the view and gathered his robes around himself with slow and deliberate movements. Though his clan had always been known for an uncompromising command of logic and steadfast adherence to ritual protocol and ancient ways, he found that here - on Earth - even in the smallest of matters such as efficient movement, the discipline of logic was necessary. He brought his fingertips together and reflected on that fact. Despite decades of diplomatic training on numerous planets, a lifetime of the teachings of logic, and a clan-culture of dignified restraint, this particular world unsettled him in a not-unpleasant way.
Just like fog.
The transport dipped and slowed, gently swiveling into a docking port of an island once known as - he checked his father's notes - Alcatraz. He arched an eyebrow as he skimmed the history of the locale.
When the transport came to a complete stop, he patiently waited for the hurried passengers, mostly Human but some Andorians and other Vulcans, to disembark first, then slowly rose and retrieved a satchel from overhead. Satisfied he had everything, he turned to exit the vehicle and immediately colliding with something, or rather, someone, smaller, softer and - as the briefest of psychic jolts from the contact implied - as equally unsettled in a not-unpleasant way.
He gathered his robes about him once again to recover from the unexpected physic contact. As he did so, he couldn't help noting that the Human female he'd collided with had hair the color of the sands of the Forge. Her books and the contents of his satchel were now scattered across two seats and the transport flooring.
"Oh! I'm so sorry. I didn't see you there," she said.
Illogical. Despite the fact that he stood nearly 0.308 meters taller than her, he could clearly see that her eyes, which were a soft and pale blue like the fog, suffered no visual impairment.
She blinked under the silent scrutiny and then slowly frowned, her eyes searching his. "Excuse me, sir? Are you alright?"
He simply nodded. The reason he did not speak was because there was no logical need to, of course. But the silence appeared to be uncomfortable to her, so he ceased to gaze into her eyes and instead leaned down to retrieve his scattered possessions. Unfortunately, she decided to do just the same, at the same time, and they bumped their heads.
Her soft giggle at the injury to them both was even more illogical than the sudden odd sensation in his stomach at this second not-unpleasant psychic jolt, even given that he was in excellent health and had not yet partaken of any suspect Human cuisine.
"Sorry again," she added after she bit back her amusement. He simply stared at her, for once lost as to how to proceed. Her amusement quickly turned to concern as she studied his face. "Are you certain you're alright? Perhaps I should call a doctor."
His ability to speak quickly returned at that suggestion. "That will not be necessary." He straightened up to his full height. "I am in excellent health."
His choice of response only seemed to amuse her even more, so he covered his confusion by silently handing her several of her books as he refilled his satchel with embassy briefings and data cards. She smiled as she graciously accepted the help. "Thank you ... um... I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
"Sarek. Of Vulcan." He blinked. Why had he said that? It should be quite obvious to her that he was from Vulcan.
Now she was openly smiling. "Amanda Grayson. Of Seattle." Her eyes caught his once again and that sensation in his stomach returned. "Thank you, Sarek of Vulcan."
"It is not necessary to thank me." He paused and, remembering his diplomatic training, added, "However, you are welcome."
She took his abandoned seat on the transport. "You're visiting Earth?"
He inclined his head slightly, reluctant to leave - only because of the unique opportunity to speak with a native of this world who was not a member of the diplomatic community. "I am the attaché for the Vulcan Ambassador to Earth. I will be staying for quite some time," he explained as he righted several documents that he'd inexplicably placed in his satchel upside down.
Her blue eyes seemed to grow slightly brighter at the information. "Well," she said with a strangely nervous smile. "Maybe we'll bump into each other again sometime."
He could think of nothing to say to that, and so simply arched an eyebrow as he turned to leave. Just as he was about to exit the transport he caught her eyes once more and her smile, an emotional expression so illogical and alien, strangely warmed him as he stepped out into the chilly fog.
February 14, 2231. Vulcan.
Amanda Grayson never thought she'd be grateful for such long, winding fabric in this heat, but the enormous sleeves completely hid her slightly trembling hands. Incline your head slightly, make eye contact and acknowledge their presence but do not smile. Then straighten, pause briefly, and acknowledge the next in line. The instructions had seemed simple enough but the ‘do not smile' part was difficult, especially when every set of eyes to meet hers seemed to expect a faux pas and her instinct was to smile to alleviate the tension.
Instead, she bit the inside of her lip, kept her hands hidden within the folds of the elaborate sleeves and persevered, allowing only her eyes to convey the smile she could not keep completely contained. She was now, as of eighteen minutes ago, the wife of the recently appointed Vulcan Ambassador to Earth and she would be expected to be an expert in many alien protocols, including, and perhaps above all else, Vulcan social customs. I can do this.
The warmth emanating from the solid presence next to her was not simply a biological difference in body temperature, for she could feel it as a reassuring presence in her mind as well. You can. Of that I have no doubt.
As various members of Vulcan's elite slowly made their way through the receiving line and past the newly husband-and-wife, Amanda tried to ease her growing nervous tension with observations of the diversity of Vulcan society. Until six months ago, her only experiences with Vulcans were those that lived and worked on Earth and she had come to expect a certain austerity and style of dress, even hairstyle. It was almost shocking to observe the - to her mind, highly illogical for the amount of effort they must have required - elaborate hairdos of the women in the upper class clans. The men's dress seemed simpler than their brethren of the ministry, with an almost ancient Roman quality to them, while the women's couture was far more ... geometric ... than anything she'd seen before. Who said Vulcans didn't have a fashion sense?
In fact everything about the ceremony, from the stone steps to the rocky platform above the capital city, to the gates around the fire pit they'd circled once, to the attire of the invited guests spoke to her of a Vulcan aesthetic that was at turns ancient and beautiful or savage and austere. Even the gesture between couples, the touching of two fingers, reminded her of the steep inclines of the massive rocky outcroppings that hugged the western exposure of the city. She ignored the slightly elevated eyebrows as her gaze lingered on the latest hairstyle to pass through the line in front of her. Perhaps that was why the women created elaborately piled hairdos and the fabric flowed so abundantly - as an attempt to balance all the harshness with some softness?
The stark contrasts unsettled her today, though she could not imagine why. It hadn't troubled her before, even though she'd only had the six short months to become accustomed to everything and anything Vulcan. The truth of the matter was that she found her new home, and these people, irresistible. She glanced quickly up at the tall, handsome figure at her side. Or perhaps it was just that she found one Vulcan in particular irresistible.
She quickly bit back a smile and resumed greeting guests with the expected graceful calm and studied focus. At least her years as a teacher had served her well these past months. She'd thrown her self into her new study with relish. While moving and breathing in the higher gravity and thinner air of her newly adopted home would take some time, she'd quickly mastered the art of Vulcan customs, learned millennia of history and even impressed the locals with her fluency in the language.
She'd used the opportunity to teach as well as she set about sculpting her new role as interstellar diplomat's wife by quickly righting a few misconceptions about Human culture with the individuals she met. She was well aware of the political ripples her marriage was creating and working in this way eased her ‘illogically' guilty conscious. Sarek seemed unperturbed by it all, naturally.
She couldn't help but smile, earning herself yet another round of raised eyebrows before she realized what she'd done. She flushed slightly, surprised at her lapses today after so many months of successful acculturation. It was just ... so easy to smile right now, as she recalled circling the fire with Sarek and looking up at him to touch two fingers to his. His was an easy grace and dignity and a calm that didn't seem harsh or hard at all. Especially not when she looked into his eyes.
The line of guests came to an end, and as her father-in-law Skon came to stand by his son, she let out a long calming breath. Sarek's parents seemed to share his grace and presence and they had welcomed her in Vulcan fashion, without reservation. She hadn't expected anything otherwise, as Sarek's fore-father was none other than Sokar, the Vulcan who made First Contact with Earth. Nevertheless, she was grateful for their gracious welcome into their son's clan, given the ripples of political scandal it had produced. Even First Minister T'Pau's brief appearance at the ceremony had done little to quell the murmurs.
As the guests slowly vanished, Amanda couldn't help but feel a wave of homesickness wash over her for the first time since arriving. Thoughts came to her, unbidden: How long would it be before she saw rain again? An ocean? Snow capped mountains? Would her precious roses, now carefully planted in her new garden, survive in this alien climate? Would she?
She knew this was all just the result of the months of immersion and whirlwind activity, the ceremonies, all the changes and the critical gaze of hundreds of curious guests. She took a deep breath, carefully gathered the folds of fabric in her wedding dress - a calming gesture she'd learned from Sarek - and turned to her husband.
It was then she noticed the gift-wrapped box.
Glancing once at her new inlaws, who were engaged in conversation with their son, she walked over to the stone pedestal where the lone box sat. Gift-giving was not a Vulcan custom and this one was complete with silver paper and white ribbon, so her curiosity was immediately piqued as she searched for a card. She found it under one corner of the box, but the brief inscription only deepened the mystery.
For you, Lady Amanda. May it ease the distance from your home, even as it symbolized something else for me. Peace, and long life.
She flipped the card over several times and then searched for an envelope but there was none. There was no signature either, and no clue as to whom had left the gift. She fingered the ribbon. Ordinarily she'd assume it was one of the Human guests, perhaps someone from Earth's Embassy on Vulcan. But ...
She examined the card again. Peace, and long life. Not congratulations or best wishes, or any number of the expected Human salutations. Lady Amanda. Only the Vulcans addressed her this way, while her fellow Humans awkwardly alternated between Ms. Grayson or Mrs. Sarek. But surely a Vulcan would not have wrapped the box in such a manner?
Setting the card down, she pulled on the ribbon and the wrapping fell away. Lifting the lid off the box - somewhat awkwardly because of the long flowing sleeves of her wedding dress - she looked inside. The sparkle of blue and white glass, nestled in the center of soft fabric glistened like a pool of water and she looked up with eyes that were filled with real moisture at the kindness of the anonymous gesture.
Save but for her new family, everyone was gone.
Stardate 1287.5. Utopia Planetia.
Spock quickly sidestepped the oncoming anti-grav sled and merely lifted an eyebrow at a passing crewman's harried "Sorry, sir!" before exiting the frenzied launch bay and proceeding to a turbolift. Once inside, he did not bother with the handholds and simply stood, hands clasped behind his back, looking straight ahead until the lift came to a stop.
Entering his quarters was a welcome respite from the frenetic pace of preparations on the ship. The word had been given to senior staff barely a week ago - a "five-year mission" - and the final hours up to the official launch were drawing near. He'd already dodged at least a dozen Earth dignitaries who wanted to be photographed with the departing crew. Fortunately for Spock, the captain had readily stepped in to, as Kirk put it as he happily steered several female reporters away from his Vulcan First Officer, "take that bullet" for him.
As the door swished closed behind him, Spock sat down in the only chair in the room and removed a small metallic object from his pocket. Setting it down on the desk before him, he contemplated it and his own recent actions with perplexed curiosity. He should have simply placed the object in the nearest materials recycling system but instead it had found its way into his jacket pocket this morning.
In stark contrast to his captain's convivial attitude, Spock had preferred to be alone this morning. In fact, he'd managed to avoid nearly everyone except an exceptionally elderly, retired Starfleet Admiral who only offered the name "Jon" and an outstretched hand. Together they'd watched in silence from a spaceport's viewing platform far from the cameras and reporters as various scaffolding fell away from the ship. Then the Elder nodded to himself and left, a small canine trotting after his wheelchair.
Spock stared at the object as he continued to review the day's events in order. After an early staff meeting he'd received a package from Vulcan. He'd opened the package right away once he'd returned to his quarters, placing the curious and fragile object he found within on the shelf in front of him. He knew the letter would explain it, but chose to wait until the day's ceremonial duties were done, when he could read it in privacy. He had even anticipated the effect reading it would have on him, and preferred to be far from interruptions and prying eyes when he did so. He touched his fingertips together as he remembered.
It was early, and Sol had not yet reached its zenith in Earth's sky. Behind him, an ancient wooden pier creaked dangerously in salty ocean breezes as he leaned against it but he ignored the possibility of imminent collapse. He wanted to be alone and this locale, a small cove just north of San Francisco and Starfleet headquarters, was best suited to the task. The wood felt comforting somehow, and the sand and water reminded him of both worlds he was soon leaving behind.
Checking once more to ensure that he was indeed alone, he slipped the PADD out of a jacket pocket, turned it on and began to read.
I wish I could be there when you embark on this journey, but the doctors insist that I rest for at least two weeks. Your Father, of course, agrees with their very logical advice and I suppose you will welcome the respite from a possible show of tears on my part, knowing that my only son will be away for five long years. I still love you both, despite such nonsense.
Since I cannot be there, I'm sending you something that I know you are fond of.
He read the entire letter, thankful that the protected cove hid any possible emotional reactions to its content from prying eyes. Then he looked up at the sky.
I miss you, Mother.
After a long while, he finally slipped the PADD back into a jacket pocket, straightened, and zipped his jacket against the chilly breezes. Taking a moment to breathe, he found his center again and turned to leave.
As he took a first step he heard a crunching sound. He looked down to a glittering object, buried in the sand. It was fortunate he'd been wearing his boots, despite an illogical suggestion weeks ago that he try to "feel the sand between his toes" as the crunching was glass, a potentially hazardous object to bare feet. He knelt down for a closer look. Perhaps this object would prove the point to the ship's doctor, who'd seemed particularly amused by the way the captain had drawn out the word "feel" when expounding upon the value of bare feet and soft sand.
The sand here, however, was like concrete and would not let go of the object easily. Though the practical solution would have been to simply collect and dispose of the exposed shards, while covering the rest of the object with a heavy rock, Spock persisted in unearthing the artifact. At long last he retrieved what appeared to be, despite the rust and corrosion, a small flashlight.
He turned it over in his hand. It had obviously been lost in the sand for quite some time. Where it was not rusted, a faded metallic blue and white coloring was barely visible. He arched an eyebrow as he examined it with growing curiosity. How had it come to be buried upright in the sand? He could think of no way that could occur by accident and no logical reason for doing so deliberately.
A cold breeze from the ocean behind him reminded him of the present and he quickly stood up. He was due at Starfleet headquarters soon; such questions would have to wait. And, ignoring a conveniently placed waste receptacle at the top of long, winding path out of the cove, he slipped the flashlight into a pocket.
Back in his quarters, he held the PADD in his hands once again. There was no logic in reading the letter again but, at times, illogical urges were difficult to resist. After a moment's hesitation, he turned it on and re-read the last part of the letter.
I received it on our wedding day so many years ago. An anonymous gift, it helped me through my early years of married life on Vulcan, when I felt homesick for oceans, rain and Earth. As a child, you used to take it off the shelf and study it - do you remember?
Yes, Mother. I do.
I hope that it will serve you now, as it did me. I will miss you so very, very much, Spock. Be careful and return to me safely.
He glanced up at the antique meditation lamp that now sat on a shelf in his quarters aboard Enterprise, the blue and white glass sparkling under a spotlight. It had always fascinated him as a child, for he'd never seen another like it. The colors and the shape seemed so alien and yet it was one of Mother's favorite possessions. He sighed. He knew Mother had given it to help him with homesickness, even though she never actually said her son might feel such an emotion.
You were wrong, Mother. I am not homesick.
He looked down again at the deteriorated flashlight on his desk. He could not feel homesick. But not because it was an emotion and he was a Vulcan; that would be inaccurate. It was simple fact he was half-Vulcan, half-Human and, despite his reluctance to admit it, emotions were a part of him.
He picked up the flashlight carefully and turned it over, rubbing a finger over a barely-there etching, a number and a name - NX01. C. Tucker - then lifted an eyebrow at his own illogical actions this morning. It was too late to rationalize keeping the object in order to return it to its owner since, in a matter of hours, it would be five years or more before that was practically possible. If it even was possible. So instead he stood and placed the flashlight upon the shelf where it promptly rolled until it came to a stop against the glass lamp with a soft ‘clink'.
He surveyed his growing assortment of personal objects: a photo of his parents, his letter of acceptance to Starfleet Academy, his lyre. And now, an antique glass oil lamp, too fragile and precious to use, and a deteriorated flashlight that had long since ceased to be operational. Fascinating.
As he stepped out of his quarters and made his way to another turbolift, his thoughts turned back to the letter. He could not feel homesick because he'd only recently found where his home truly lay. It was never Vulcan nor Earth that he missed, but space - the vastness that circled both the planets that called him son. When he walked the surface of the planets, he felt out of place, not one, but the other. When he was on either Vulcan or Earth, he found that he missed the stars. Out there, among those stars, he belonged to neither world, or he belonged to both. Out there, he was responsible for expanding the landscape of the Federation.
He stepped into a turbolift, and stood, hands clasped behind his back. His home was here, on this ship that traveled the stars.
He stepped onto the bridge and inclined his head at the many faces that turned to greet him. His home was here, among the people that traveled the stars.
He found his station and turned around to look at the field of stars on the viewscreen. Indeed, his home was here.