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Within You

Chapter Text

No one can blame you for walking away
Too much rejection, no love injection.
Life can be easy
It's not always swell
Don't tell me truth hurts, little girl
'Cause it hurts like hell’

Underground, David Bowie

 

CHAPTER 1: No One Can Blame Her

 --AMANDA--

Amanda was eating rocky road ice cream and wondering how even her random food choices seem to be mocking her.

He had stood her up again.

She understood he had an important job to do, he was the Vulcan ambassador to Earth. As such he had to respond to crisis, or even the hint of one. It was however frustrating as hell to have three dinner dates and a trip to the opera cancelled in the last two weeks alone.

And this time he had not even bothered to cancel himself. An aide had called her and informed her that Sarek would not be in attendance.

She had thought about going anyway, but realised she would likely be harassed by the media about the absent ambassador. She really could not face questions tonight like, “Why was he not there?”, and, “Had they broken up?”, when she wasn’t even sure of the answers herself.

Amanda sighed. He had not even forwarded an alternative time to meet. She worried that perhaps it was an indirect message that he was no longer interested. Maybe it was all a big mistake on her part.

So many people had told her that he could not love her, that ultimately this relationship would fail. She had thought them all wrong. Was she starting to believe them? After a string of what felt like rejections it was getting difficult to ignore all the warnings, cautionary tales, and even threats she had received, when it was made public that the two were indeed a couple.

And what had he done to convince her that he did in fact want her? A dance at a ball, when he normally danced with no one. A private meeting where he had stated his intention to court her. Invitations to other functions, several public dinners and one memorable private one.

But what had been most important to her was the rare times they spent alone, just the two of them. Their discussions had ranged from the Vulcan language to Earth idioms, from poetry to politics, logical to emotion, from science to culture. Then there had been the quiet companionable silences when he had tried to teach her meditation. And most importantly, the times when he touched her, and she felt his presence in her mind.

Yet that had all been over a month ago. Recently the meetings had become infrequent, and it was never just the two of them. She hadn't even seen him, or spoken to him directly in two weeks. She’d received only a few messages from him, a couple to arrange meetings, and an equal number to cancel them.

She felt like he was pulling away from her.

She took out her communicator and briefly considered calling just to hear him, but no. His aide had said he was in a meeting. She considered sending a message but knew even if he could respond he likely would not. He thought messages were for conveying necessary information and didn't see the need otherwise. If she sent a message saying she missed him, he would think it was just illogical sentiment and would not reply.

Briefly, she considered calling her mother or friends, but could not bear the various versions of “I told you so,” that were sure to follow any hint of complaint about the relationship. Also, Sarek was a very private person and she had no wish to reveal anything personal that might get out. Some of her so called friends, and even some family members, had talked to the media early on in their relationship. This had caused a great deal of tension and break of trust between her and them. It had also earned her a talking to by a rather terrifying Vulcan protocol officer. Not an experience she wanted to repeat even if she had not respected Sarek enough to want to protect his reputation.

With no one to call, Amanda put down her communicator.

Pity party for one then.

She allowed herself to indulge until she completely finished the ice cream and started feeling a little ill.

Get a grip Amanda.

She had a decision to make. Was this relationship something she wanted to continue?

There were certainly complications. Having a relationship with someone from such a different culture was not easy. They often disagreed on things, or failed to understand each other. His was very committed to his job. While he tried to make time for her that obviously hadn't be working so well lately.

Despite all the difficulties though, she did want this relationship. Sarek had become a very important part of her life and she would not choose to part with him.

Yet was it even her choice, or had it already made for her?

Sarek had been so distant lately and she had a feeling that there was more to do with it than just work. As time passed she had become certain that he was hiding something from her. When she asked what was wrong, he always replied, ‘Nothing is wrong’.

The last month she had become resolved to find out what he was hiding, but their lack of privacy when together had afforded her no opening. And now … She couldn't find out the truth if he wouldn't even speak to her.

Surely he would get in contact with her soon. He always rescheduled, or at least contacted her to let her know that he would not be available. When he did call, she would ask to discuss things with him in private.

But he hadn't even bothered canceling himself.

Did he still want to see her?

She was afraid of the answer to that.

Hopefully, she was misreading things. This was not the first time cultural differences had caused misunderstandings between them. Sarek was by nature introverted and extremely private about personal matters.

He had needed to learn how to talk to her. He could speak for hours about stellar cartography, or conjugation of Vulcan verbs, or the proper way to conduct a tea ceremony. But ask him about himself, and he shut down. It was not intentional, he just didn't know how to communicate such things.

Vulcans rarely talked of their personal lives. Those that needed to know, where usually either present or very close family to which they had telepathic ties. They just didn't have the need to share so much about themselves verbally. But she had needed to understand him, to know him, and she didn't have another way to find out.

Gradually she had shown him by example. She told him of her years on Earth and her travels off world with her scientist parents. In return he told her about his home and childhood on Vulcan and his travels in his adult years as first astrophysics and then diplomat. He had even started speaking of things that were important to him, things she suspected he had told no one else. But he was holding back.

It was clear to her that something was bothering Sarek, yet he remained silent on it. Whatever it was, whatever was wrong, she had to convince him to talk about it. He had to let her in if this relationship was to succeed.

Well, she wasn't going to resolve this tonight. Amanda cleaned up and got ready for bed. It was an early night for her but it had been a stressful evening.

 

When no message arrived the next morning she told herself not to panic. Sarek had likely finished his meeting quite late at night. Nor did he have the need for constant communication as she did. He would contact her when had something to tell her. He would likely wait till he knew his schedule to avoid another missed meeting.

She busied herself with chores and groceries. Soon enough evening came again, though she still hadn’t heard from him.

So what if he hadn't called. He was probably in the middle of a trade negotiation or whatever meeting had kept him away last night. Such things often took days.

But he had always let her know before.

On Monday, she had to return to work. Still no message. She focused on prepaingherself for work and walked down to the transit station, hoping on the first downtown bus that passed. She did not look at her phone once during her work day, focusing her mind on encoding the Vulcan language into the universal translator.

Well okay, maybe she had checked it once after it beeped to indicate a received message, but it was not from him.

Perhaps she needed to make the next move here after all.

After arriving back home, she called him. When it didn't get answered, she left him a message. "Sarek please contact me at your earliest convenience. We need to meet, it is important." 

There, short and to the point, with no unnessary emotional overtones.

 

Another two days passed and he still had not contacted her. She left four more messages that varied upward in their desperation.

When she received yet another message that was not from him, she almost burst into tears. She was feeling particularly upset today, but of all the times to nearly lose it, she would have to be at work. Her colleague Sarah noticed her distress and asked her if everything was alright.

Of course Amanda had lied and said everything was fine, just some trouble with the code. Amanda didn't think Sarah believed her but she had let it drop.

Amanda tried to lose herself in her work so she wouldn't think of him.

The week continued with no contact from him. She began to feel sudden bursts of anxiety, and at nights she woke in a cold sweat. Not one prone to panic, she couldn't work out what was happening to her. She had been in far worse situations than this without experiencing anything of the like.

Early Saturday morning, Amanda had had enough. She needed to see Sarek, to speak to him in person and get some answers.

Sarek was often busy, and his schedule changed frequently depending on the most pressing issues were at the time. She had no way to know what he would be doing at any particular time or where exactly he would be. Because he was often not easily accessible, she had got into the habit of letting him determine when they would meet.

When they had first been dating, she had sometimes dropped by unannounced. While she was welcome to do so, she often had to wait hours to get the chance to see him. She had stopped doing that perhaps two months ago, after she had fallen asleep waiting. Now she always arranged when she could meet with him and he let her know if there would be any delay.

She realised she had let the fact that she didn’t have a scheduled time hold her back but she wouldn't anymore. Amanda would go to the embassy and wait in his room all day for him if she had to. He would eventually return there, even if it was quite late.

Decision made, she grabbed her purse and her coat. Checking the times for the bus, she made a run for it.

 

Never once during the journey did she expect to be denied entrance to the embassy. But here she was outside the locked gate with a very unhelpful guard.

Technically the embassy had the right to keep her out. She was not a Vulcan citizen or a legal representative of Earth. But she had always been permitted to enter. Sarek had ordered it so.

The guard would only tell her that, ‘It was orders’. He refused to answer whose, or if it was a general ban, or her in particular that was denied entry. Amanda was strongly suspecting the later.

Just as she was reaching the end of her patience and the height of her suspicion, she saw the object of her desire exit the building. He appeared to be walking towards a waiting ground car. A moment of anticipation. She prepared to shout and get his attention. But the cry died in her throat. To her absolute shock, she observed someone exactly three paces behind him. In the place only a bondmate would be, followed the most beautiful Vulcan women she had ever seen.

Surely no one can blame her if she fled. With her worst fears realised, she ran before he could see her, before she might have to face him.

She stopped several blocks away in a park, and pulled up her coat hood lest someone see the tears streaming down her face. It would not do to be recognised right now. Walking into the cover of the trees, she tried to still the sobs that shook her body.

Well, that was it then. It was over. Sarek had married another.

He’d made it easy for her, the decision had been taken out of her hands. Their relationship was not to continue.

Why did it hurt so much?

She stayed awhile in the park, wandering aimlessly through the gardens. Eventually her feet took her out of the park and into the streets. While she paid no attention to which direction she went, she nonetheless found herself at her own door many hour later. The tears had stopped long ago. All she felt now was emptiness and exhaustion.

Entering into her apartment, she kicked off her shoes by the door and then made her way to the bedroom. Once there, she practically fell into the bed, and with effort pulled the blankets up over her.

The last thing she thought before falling asleep was, “Why did they all have to be right?”

Chapter Text

I saw my baby, crying hard as babe could cry
What could I do?
My baby's love had gone
And left my baby blue
Nobody knew…

David Bowie - Dance Magic Dance

 

Chapter 2: What Could He Do?

--SAREK--

Sarek finished the last item of business he had set for himself today. He was anticipating this evening where he would again be in the presence of Miss Amanda Grayson. He had necessarily had to cancel three of their scheduled meetings the last 13.76 days due to unplanned meetings.

The first had been with other Federation members regarding a new race that the humans had managed to have a skirmish with on first contact. The grNtfs had fortunately responded well to logic, and even now were in the process of writing a peace accord. They would likely make fine additions to the Federation if they choose to apply for membership.

The conclusion of this emergency session, was shortly followed by the Andorian ambassador demanding to renegotiate an essential trade agreement. Why the Andorians consistently insisted on dealing with him, the ambassador to Earth, rather than the Vulcan ambassador on Andoria, was beyond any logical consideration. His private judgement was that Ambassador Sharan liked attempting to insult him, and as such sought him out at every opportunity. Yet despite having to deal with such an emotional and sometimes hostile being, such meetings were his duty, and he did his work well. The trade agreement was now catered more to Vulcan’s current interests. Ambassador Sharan too had seemed pleased, even with the concessions that had been made.

A great deal of time over the last month had also been put to family business. He had needed to take a significant portion of his time reading reports that his parents had sent him, then convincing them of his logical position against them. They had asked him to return to Vulcan for a time, but he had deferred, citing the importance of his work here. They had eventually acquiesced, but with reservations.

He had seen no need to speak of this with Amanda, though she had asked him four times if something had been wrong during that period. Despite what might be, nothing was ‘wrong’, so he denied her allegation. Yet she was a very perceptive woman and did not fully accept his answer, evidenced by her asking him a further three times. Logically, as he had dealt satisfactorily with the matter, he need not trouble her with the details. It would only upset her without reason.

Sarek left his office, and headed for his rooms to prepare for the evening. He was surprised, to find his suite already occupied by another. More so when he recognized her. He tightly controlled his features, not allowing any indication of his surprise to show. Sarek chose the most formal of the Vulcan languages, high Vulcan, to speak to his guest “Pid-kom, thou honour me. I was not notified of thy arrival or I would have attended thee earlier.”

Sarek could not determine T’Pau’s reasons for visiting. She infrequently travelled off Vulcan, and never to Earth. The embassy here must have received detailed travel plans in order to adequately prepare for her arrival and safety while here. The fact he had not been informed, either by her directly, or by the staff, must therefore be intentional. She had not wanted him to know of her travel. Why?

T’Pau kept him waiting for 15.7 seconds before she answering in the same formal language, “I am here nephew on a matter of some urgency, a task that thou have failed to accomplish in the time that was allotted thee. I speak of thy need to choose a bond mate, something thee hast neither done for thyself, nor accepted the advice and selection of thy parents. This will no longer be tolerated and I am here to oversee thy bonding.”

This time he allowed a small show of surprise, lifting one eyebrow. Surprise was not necessarily an emotion, and may on some occasions be demonstrated. However, the anger behind it needed to be quickly suppressed. After a 6.9 second delay where he upped his control, he carefully corrected his Pid-kom. “I have chosen a bondmate T’Pau and await only for Amanda Grayson to understand what I ask in full before I request her to bond with me. I am in the process of courting her as is standard for her people. I expect to have her acceptance within 5.47 months. At that time thou may of course precede over the bonding.”

Something he thought might be distaste or perhaps disapproval passed over T’Pau’s features, but it was so brief he could not be sure. “That human girl, is not to whom I refer. One has been chosen for thee of proper birth and training. Her name is T’Rel cha Sovek and she is of the h’Sktrg clan in the mountains. She has training as an acolyte of Gol which will assist with your own struggles with emotional control. Most importantly, she is prepared and capable of providing thee with a suitable heir.”

“That will not be possible Pid-kom, I reiterate, I have chosen Amanda and I will bond with her.” This time when Sarek spoke he was not able to fully stop the anger from colouring his voice, though perhaps only a Vulcan would have noticed the slight shift in tone.

T’Pau stood up during his words and while she did not shout, the empathic command as she called out “Kroykah!” stopped him immediately.

He knew emotional outbursts in front of Lady T’Pau, when he was trying to convince her of his logical position, drastically weakened his argument. He must not lose control again in her presence and must give her the respect she deserved. “I ask forgiveness for my outburst Pid-kom.”

She nodded her head in acceptance, but if anything her already strict visage hardened. When she spoke again she used the emphatic emphasis which included her formidable mind presence in addition to the formal language. “The fact that you have been considering a human consort, suggests that you are closer to your time than was thought. You can not afford to wait any longer to choose. Nor was the one you were courting acceptable to thy family. Thou would have to reveal our most sacred secrets to her, the Vulcan heart, the Vulcan soul. Even if this were acceptable, and she agreed to it, there is an 89.7 percent certainty that she will not have the strength to survive the fires, resulting in both thou deaths. This is not a logical decision when other options are available to thee.”

If logic could throw punches, this would surely be the sensation. He attributed this odd comparison, to his time spend with Amanda discussing metaphors and allegory. Putting that out of his thoughts for now, he briefly considered his argument. He must convince T’Pau. He would deal with the most damaging arguments first. “I have considered the risks T’Pau and I believe with proper precautions the risk of death will not be significantly higher than for a Vulcan woman.” When T’Pau did not respond, he continued, “After T’Kahle’s death I was not able to immediately take another bondmate. This you know. After 2.14 years, I did start seeking another, but I was unable to find one that was both available and had a mind that was compatible with mine. Amanda from the first meeting has been most suitable, and no other could fulfill that role for me, I -”

T’Pau interrupted him, a most unusual thing for her to do, “I will hear no more Sarek. Thou are to consider thou relationship with the human terminated and have no further interaction with her. Thou will be bonded to T’Rel when she arrives in 3.48 days. In the interim thou art to remain in seclusion and meditate, thou doth not demonstrate the control thou should have.”

Sarek could not disobey his Matriarch directly. He expected he would not be permitted to see Amanda, but he had a great need to speak with her. He tried, “We were scheduled to meet tonight, I should inform Miss Grayson that I will not be making our agreed meeting.”

T’Pau acknowledged his statement with a blink of her inner eyelid, but did not capitulate. “That has already been seen to by thy aide. Thou art not to have further contact with her, she has obviously impaired thy judgement. Thou shalt not be permitted to leave the embassy and thy correspondence will be monitored until thee are bonded to ensure thy judgement doth not fail again.“ She rose to her feet once more. “I will leave thee now. I expect thee to be ready to greet T’Rel when she arrives.”

 

As T’Pau left, she took with her Sarek’s expectations for a future with Amanda. His parents he had defied in courting her, rejecting their alternate choices. But he could not go against a direct order from his clan Matriarch, especially not one delivered in person. Her mental presence was extraordinary, and decades of training to accept her authority all but forced him to obey. T’Pau also had at her disposal tools to ensure he did so.

T’Pau had not directly threatened him with exile, but it was within her power and authority to do so. This was the highest punishment after death, that could be dealt to a Vulcan, and death was only ever used for those that violated another's mind. To be exiled from Vulcan meant excommunication from the family and becoming Vrekasht. His clan would thereafter act like he was dead or never been. His name would be struck from the family rolls, and they would break the telepathic familial bonds that existed. The destruction of so many bonds at once had been known to cause death or loss of sanity to the outcast.

He did not think that would be T’Pau’s first move however. There was a 98.215 percent chance that some lesser form of discipline would be applied first if he went against her orders. The most likely outcome, at 10981:3 was he would lose his position at the embassy, and be returned to Vulcan. With T’Pau also able to deny Amanda entry to Vulcan, that would make it highly improbable for him to able to continue courting Amanda. As this would accomplish T’Pau’s ends, there would be no need for her to use exile.

Part of him was willing to risk the consequences, but family values and respect for elders, particularly this elder, were completely ingrained in his behaviour. To go against T’Pau was to go against everything he had been taught. It was to cease to be Vulcan. As much as he cherished and yes desired Amanda, he wasn't sure if he could give up that part of himself to keep her. For anything less there would not even be a question.

Was there a way out of this, a way he could have both? He had three days to plan and make a decision before T’Rel arrived. He lit his fire pot, adding fragrant herbal incense for clearness of mind. He settled into mediation, refusing to allow the despair within him to take control.

Surely there must be a way.

 

Over the next 2.77 Earth days he alternated between meditation and the work he was still permitted and must do as the Ambassador. Nobody around him would sense the increasing tension and desperation. Not even those tasked with watching him would have any reason to note that there was something amiss with the Ambassador, or determine that his thoughts were primarily focused on something other than that which was before him.

He had neither ate nor slept since T’Pau’s visit but rather let himself enter a state of complete focus. Yet despite the resources he put into the problem, he could not find an acceptable solution. The two options he had been presented with, to either bond with T’Rel and reject Amanda, or to assume that Amanda would bond with him and defy his Matriarch were his only options.

Several times he had been tempted to contact Amanda, and had even conceived of several ways to get a simple message to her. If he could discuss this with her, he was sure he could find some clarity. To begin with, he could discover with absolute certainty if she would bond with him. While he was 91.3% certain it was only a matter of time, but 8.7% was a significant when he risked losing all else.

Sarek controlled a reaction to shudder as he realised that it was not just a matter of asking Amanda. He also needed to have a long discussion with her about Vulcan biology. He did not want that to give her a valid reason for refusal, but she deserved to have full knowledge of pon farr before she committed herself to something that could not easily be undone. No simple message would suffice.

Why had he not discussed these things with her before? But even as he questioned himself he knew the answer. This was a topic that was not talked about except for the need to inform the next generation and by healers to the afflicted. And it was never to be discussed with non Vulcans. The overwhelming need to keep silent on “the Time” had kept him mute. And perhaps there was reluctance for another reason. What if Amanda could not accept what he need ask of her, to experience what even Vulcans feared.

But he could not lose her. The thought of it was so painful he almost cried out. How could they have him choose thus, to give her up, half of his heart and katra. How could they ask him to even consider giving up Amanda and bond to another?

With katra churning inside of him, he now knew he could not do what T’Pau asked of him. She likely thought this was a choice between logic and emotion, but it was not. If it had been, it would have been simple to make the logical choice. This went far beyond emotion, it was need. It was not logical to go through life without half of yourself. He had known from the first time he saw Amanda and experienced shon-ha'lock, that she must be part of his life. Under no circumstances could he give up his k'hat'n'dlawa.

Decision made he finally allowed himself to rest. He would need his strength tomorrow to face T’Pau

 

They came for him precisely at T’Pau’s stipulated time. This morning, Sarek had dressed in his most formal robes, appropriate for receiving the matriarch. After that he had meditated deeply to achieve calm. His resolve would not fail him.

A women he did not know, he deduced this was T’Rel, preceded T’Pau into the room. Sarek noted that T’Rel had considerable esthetic qualities. With nearly perfect symmetry of features, a long lean build, and black hair twisted up into a complicated knot that he was certain utilised the principles of the Satak equation of spatial variance. T’Pau however would not have chosen T’Rel for esthetic qualities, but rather for her family position, and perhaps her mental abilities and intelligence. She would indeed be a desirable mate for most unbonded, but not for him. In his mind he was already spoken for.

T’Pau did not waste time on preamble, and got straight to the point. “Art thou prepared to bond with T’Rel, Sarek.”

Sarek was calm as he potentially gave up everything with a single word. “Negative.”

T’Pau looked back to T’Rel, and commanded “Leave us”. T’Rel left without comment, and T’Pau turned back to Sarek but said nothing for some moments, she just took her time observing him. She finally spoke softly, dangerously, “You are prepared to become Vrekasht for this human.”

Sarek blinked both sets of eyelids, an unconscious reaction due to stress. But his words were spoken with calm and dignity. “If you insist on that outcome I am prepared to accept your decree. Amanda is my choice, the only one I can make.”

T’Pau in no way appeared shocked, but Sarek sensed that she was now less certain than she had been about the outcome today. “I would have thy thoughts Sarek,” T’Pau said as she reached her hand towards the meld points on his face

He did not resist her. Sarek showed T’Pau his current thoughts, his reasoning, and all his memories of Amanda. He did not even hide how he felt about Amanda, in his need to have T’Pau understand, to agree, with his need. He felt her astonishment at the revelations.

She released him from the meld after 73 minutes. “I must consider matters further. I will return after I have meditated on this.”

As she left Sarek dared to hope that he had convinced her. He did not even care right now if hope was illogical. As Amanda had once said to him, sometimes hope is all we have.

 

Sarek too spent more time in meditation. He found he was in great need of it after the meld. He also took time to eat and take care of other needs before returning to the never ending paperwork that came with his position. He was perfectly calm once more when T’Pau returned to him that evening.

T’Pau did not make him wait, and used this time modern Golic, rather than the traditional, lessening the severity of what she said. “I am not at this time going to cast you out Sarek. Nor shall I insist on an immediate bonding with T’Rel. Though I must tell you it would be in the best interest of our clan for you to do so. There has been some tension between the clans, and a bonding resulting in a child would unite the families once more. Rejecting her outright at this point would escalate things. It is unlikely to cause violence, but it would create hostility. There are several important trade deals that would be at risk. They may also deny other bondings to our family if they are insulted, and petition their allies to do the same. This would quite negatively impact our clan which currently has nine males that will soon require bondmates.”

She paused to let him consider, then continued “What I will insist on is that you return with me to Vulcan. It is my determination you have been among the humans too long Sarek. I wish to have my personal healer assess you. I also think it would befit you to be surrounded by your family. It is possible that interacting with such emotional beings has destabilized you, and your judgement many change once you are removed from such influences.”

Sarek acknowledged that his decision could affect more than just himself, but he was not swayed. “My decision will not change no matter my location pid-kom. I must also note that I also have important work here, work that benefits Vulcan and our clan. A position as ambassador that you assigned me to as you will recall.”

T’Pau of course did not forget, but what she had given, she could take away. She answered bluntly, “Your current responsibilities can temporarily or even permanently be given to another. Your aide Tavell would be a suitable temporary replacement. Your most important duty is always to your clan. Would you give up your responsibilities to myself, your clan and Vulcan in order not to come home.”

Sarek was suddenly undecided. If she had still forced him to bond with T’Rel his answer would have been certain. But a command just to return home he had less argument against. He conceded. “I am willing to return home for a time, but I am not prepared to bond with T’Rel. I also need to discuss matters with Amanda before I leave.”

T’Pau indicated disapproval with the slight elevation of her chin. “This last I will not allow. I have already made more concessions to you than I should. I believe that women to be a detrimental influence and I will not have her affect you any further.”

Sarek made himself speak with the proper tone, but his words were a confrontation. “She deserves an explanation T’Pau. If I can not speak with her, then perhaps I should not go to Vulcan.”

T’Pau returned with an ultimatum. “Whether you stay here, or return as bid, you will not be permitted to associate with her. This I have ways of ensuring Sarek. I suggest you do not test my patience further, it will not go well for you, or her. Will you come to Vulcan?“

The risk to himself did not concern him overly anymore but the implied threat to Amanda did. T’Pau did not say what she would do, an excellent tactic that made him consider all the possible ramifications. As a pacifist, it would be unlikely for T’Pau to cause physical harm to Amanda, and certainly not death. But T’Pau had enough resources and influence even on Earth to make Amanda’s life very difficult. She could easily have Amanda removed from her position at work, and make it virtually impossible for her to get meaningful employment elsewhere. Perhaps T’Pau would go so far as to create an alleged infraction against the Vulcan government. Amanda had been in the embassy and had a close relationship to him. While she had never had access to any classified information, even the accusation of her passing on such knowledge could ruin her. At Vulcan’s insistence it may even be enough to have her imprisoned. He was sickened as he considered the possibilities. He could not allow harm to come to her when he could prevent it.

“I will come to Vulcan T’Pau,” he conceded. “I will need five days to prepare my aide to take over in my absence. There are some delicate negotiations that I should complete rather than delegate to another.”

T’Pau knew she had achieved her goal but did not let up. “For now your agreement to go is sufficient, however we will discuss this more on Vulcan. The science vessel T’Pla’na will be arriving in 3.21 days and we will be leaving upon it. That should provide you with adequate time to prepare yourself and your successor. No further delays will be accepted.”

And with that final statement she left him.

 

The next three days were extraordinarily busy. Packing took but a moment, most of his personal belongings remained on Vulcan. But finishing negations with the Telarians, and preparing his aide with what he wanted done with the remaining cases took up the rest of his days and most of his nights. He allowed only short breaks for meditation, and only then because it improved his overall function. Sarek did not have time for sleep while attempting to do at least five days work in the span of three.

By the Earth Calendar, it was early morning Saturday when all was finalized. A mere 17.6 minutes before they must leave for the shuttle into orbit. Sarek took some satisfaction in a job well done, despite the circumstances surrounding him. He was weary now, the last week had taken its toll on him. There would be plenty of time for rest on the 6.2 day journey to Vulcan.

He wanted to see Amanda before he left, but there was neither time nor possibility for him to leave the embassy and seek her out. He put it out of his thoughts for now. Picking up his bag in one hand and his ka'athyra in the other, he headed towards the front of the embassy and the waiting ground car.

Both T’Pau and T’Rel were waiting for him by the door. He had not seen either of them in the last 3.2 days. A guard was currently talking to T’Pau, but she noticed Sarek and motioned to him to go ahead. T’Rel fell in behind him. As he passed out the door he heard T’Pau say to the guard “...not to be permitted entry.” But he heard no more as the great door closed behind him.

He was nearly at the car when he heard the commotion at the gate. He looked up recognising the voice, just in time to see the horror and tears on Amanda’s face. Before he could move towards her she had fled.

It was then he realised where T’Rel was standing. He wondered if it was intentional that she stood exactly three paces behind, in the place of a bondmate. Something inside him broke when he recognised that was the reason why Amanda had fled. She would think he had bonded to T’Rel. Panic threatened to overwhelm him. He had to go after her and explain.

Dropping his possessions, without even care for the antique lyre, he ran towards the gate. He heard, but did not at the time comprehend the command “Kroykah Sarek”. This was followed quickly by “Guards, detain him.” He grappled with the first guard that came at him from the gate and subdued him, but wasn't quick enough to stop the second one from the door from reaching in for a nerve pinch.

 

He woke 47 minutes and 8 seconds later strapped to a bed on the T’Pla'na. They should not have yet arrived there by shuttle. They must have performed an emergency beam out. Probably easier than trying to get an unconscious ambassador through Earth security. He did not say anything to the guards, nor did they speak to him. They stayed in a medical isolation area until the ship entered warp, then they escorted him to his assigned quarters. He was not surprised when they took up positions beside the door.

There was little he could do now. He could not overcome the ship and go back to Earth. The probabilities of him even sending a message were so remote the effort to calculate them seemed wasted. So he lay down on the bed exhausted and in some pain, trying to center his thoughts. But all he could think about was Amanda’s horror stricken face, Amanda’s tears, as she had run from him.

For the first time in his life, he wished he too might cry.

But of course he was Vulcan, and he did not.

Chapter Text

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense to you
Every thrill is gone
Wasn't too much fun.

As the world falls down, David Bowie

Chapter 3: Makes No Sense

--AMANDA--

Amanda awoke groggily, the early morning sun assaulting her eyes through the curtain she hadn’t closed yesterday. Her face felt tight, and her throat felt terribly dry and scratchy. As she sat up her head started pounding too. Remembering the cause of her state, the combined pain and misery nearly brought her to tears again. But she was done with crying. That lying, cheating, two-timing, good-for-nothing Vulcan was not worth it. He wasn't. She could not entirely convince herself but did manage to ward off more than a few hiccuping sniffles.

Pushing herself to her feet, the room seemed to sway for a moment before mostly steadying. She felt hungover but knew she had not had anything to drink. She wasn’t one to deal with her problems that way, nor had she been in a fit state to even think of it as a possible solution even if she did. No, she was just mentally and emotionally exhausted and the long sleep had not helped relive that. In fact if possible she felt worse now.

Hand against the wall, she made it to the bathroom, and pulled out a bottle of analgesics from the cabinet above the sink. She filled up a glass with water and drank down two of the bright orange capsules. Putting away the bottle and closing the cabinet, she caught her reflection in the mirrored door. She turned away from the sad puffy eyed creature she saw there. Half staggering into the living room, she crashed on the full length couch.

She would not think about all the times the two of them had sat there together. She would not think about when they...No don't think about that, don't think about him.

Resting, Amanda experienced a moment of gratitude that today was Sunday, and that she had absolutely nowhere she had to be. She really could not face anyone today. If someone was to ask her how she was right now, she would probably break down again. Oh heavens, if the media saw her like this it would be unspeakably horrible. Everyone would know. She could not bear for anyone else to find out about her pain, her humiliation. That everyone had been right, that he had-. “Stop, stop, stop!” she pleaded to a mind that did not listen.

Her head in her hands, she made herself take several deep breaths, calming down her speeding heart rate, pushing back the waves of sorrow and anxiety. Amanda briefly attempted a full meditation, as Sarek had taught her, but her mind would not settle and her head still hurt too much. She needed a distraction. Turning on the vidscreen she found a show she often watched, and let the story of an imaginary world lull her into not thinking about her own life. When she lay down, it was not her intention to fall asleep, but painkillers and weariness claimed her.

 

She was woken sometime later by the sound of someone laughing. At first she had the terrible impression someone was mocking her, but as she awakened fully she realised she still had the vid on. A moment later a news bulletin came up on the screen.

“Alyssa Kam reporting from the Vulcan embassy,” came through the speakers. At the words Vulcan embassy, Amanda’s whole body went rigid. Unable to move, she begged silently for it to stop, but the reporter continued, “There are unconfirmed reports that the Vulcan Ambassador Sarek -”

Oh God, here it comes. Somehow they found out and they are going to tell everyone he rejected me and married that oh so perfect Vulcan khrikha-ko instead. Dejected, Amanda closed her eyes, only to snap them open a moment later as the report continued with “- was seen unconscious on the embassy grounds Saturday just after nine am.”

“What!?!!?!!?!” screamed Amanda, as if the reporter could hear her indignation. “I was there Saturday morning at the gate around nine. He was fine then what happened?”

The reporter continued, seemingly oblivious to Amanda screaming at her through the vid. “No one at the embassy will say what occurred, but it has been confirmed through outside agencies that an emergency beam-out was authorised for the Ambassador. Apparently he was transferred to a Vulcan ship and is on route to the planet Vulcan as we speak. His medical state is not known, but one can presume it is not good if they had to rush him back home. We will be following this story and will bring you more as information becomes available. This has been Alyssa Kam for SFF breaking news.”

Amanda realised she had stood at some point when her legs collapsed under her. Fortunately she managed to land back in the seat, even if it was still with enough force to knock the breath out of her.

Sarek unconscious? What could have possibly caused that? Had he been attacked? Surely not on embassy grounds. More likely it was exhaustion and collapse from overwork. She was often worrying about that, and he'd always counter her with ‘worry was illogical’. He would then go on to remind her that Vulcans did not need as much sleep as humans, and he was capable of remaining focused for weeks if needed without rest or food. Yet he'd never convince her that his work hours were healthy. He had cut back a little though in order to find time to spend with her.

It could be a medical problem or illness as well. She had a terrifying thought, was it his heart? He had once told her that his grandfather had died of a congenital heart defect. Yet Sarek had told her he was currently in optimal health. Oh what was wrong with him, what had happened? Unconsciously she wrung her hands together as she fretted.

While she was no longer feeling sorry for herself, she was becoming terribly worried about Sarek. As her anger with him ebbed, she began to reconsider her assumptions. Perhaps she had misunderstood the situation. What if that women had not been his new bondmate but a doctor, or even just someone seeking assistance at the embassy. It could have been a coincidence where the woman was standing at that moment. Amanda had no proof, just suspicions and warnings, and oh she had been such a fool. Perhaps everything was fine between the two of them. Perhaps he had been ill and unable to respond to her?

But a part of her wasn't yet ready to forgive Sarek and it eagerly pointed out the flaws in that line of thought. If the relationship was fine but Sarek himself was sick or somehow indisposed, then why hadn’t someone at the embassy informed her of the problem? Furthermore if he was badly hurt, why was she not on that ship with him heading to Vulcan? Was he unable to respond or was he avoiding her? And most importantly whose orders had prevented her entering the embassy perhaps only moments before something happened to Sarek?

Sarek had made it clear to her that she was free to come to see him at the embassy anytime he was in residence. He had informed her that she would be allowed to wait in lobby, or even in his suite if she wished, if he was occupied with official business when she arrived. She rarely took advantage of that offer though, after one incident where she had waiting half the night for him and fallen asleep on his couch.

His staff had also been ordered to treat her with the utmost respect after one nasty incident with a desk clerk who had prevented her from going to see Sarek. The clerk had taken the chance to verbally and rather vehemently disapprove of their relationship, upsetting Amanda greatly. Sarek had come to find her and walked in during the conversation. The look on his face was somehow obviously dangerous without Sarek changing any of his features. He had calmly asked Amanda to go ahead to his suite, then after she she was out of the room, she heard Sarek speak at the clerk in high Vulcan which she was not able to follow. The next time she had come past, a new clerk was at the desk and Sarek would not speak of the matter except to say that the previous clerk had been transferred due to unacceptable behavior.

There had never been a problem again after that until yesterday when she had been stopped at the gate at someone's order. Problem was there wasn't anyone on Earth apart from Sarek that had enough authority to supercede his previous order. No one that she knew of anyway.

Something was not right, something was very wrong indeed, and someone was trying to keep her out of the loop. That last she was absolutely certain of. Whether it was Sarek or someone else, she did not know. So what was she going to do about it then? She realized she had too little information to go on, no proof of what happened to Sarek one way or the other. Time to change that.

Amanda had the vid replay the newscast. As she listened to it again, this time without yelling over it, she realized even the news report was mostly unconfirmed. Only the part about a beam out and heading back to Vulcan seemed to have any proof, the rest was mostly conjecture and hearsay. Her next step then would be to verify would she could of the news report. It was currently her only lead.

She first checked to see if anyone else was covering the story, but what she found either had less information or just sent her back to the same report. Settling onto the couch for the long haul, she grabbed her data PADD and started looking for proof to verify the SFF report.

Amanda needed to research quite a bit of background about her subject matter to track down what she wanted. Apparently, Earth transporters had been developed in the early 22nd century. They had always been plagued with problems, and now even in the 23rd century, they were only something like 99% reliable. This was part of the reason teleporting on Earth was highly restricted, and primarily authorised for emergencies. Due to the ‘Freedom of Information Act 2219’, and ‘2198 Laws of Transporter Beaming within Earth Airspace”, Earth Tele-Transit was required to keep a record of all Earth based transports. This information included any teleportations that were done in Earth’s jurisdiction, even if those teleports occurred from alien ships. However, a quick search on the subnet found only the date, state, and number of people transported were actually publicly available. It did not provide personal information such as names or details of why the teleport was authorised. That would have been too easy.

Of course if you knew how to persuade a semi-public system, which Amanda with years of computer programming did, you could get a little more without tripping any warnings. With a few lines of code, Amanda coaxed the system into giving her the localised area codes and timestamps for Saturday. There had indeed been an emergency beam-out of one person at 9:07:53 local time in the vicinity of the embassy. Getting into the system any further might exceed her abilities to remain undetected. As such she didn’t want to risk hacking further to see if she could find the name. With what she’d found, conjoint with the news report, she could safely assume Sarek had been beamed off Earth.

Next she checked if any ships had departed for Vulcan on that day. It seemed that any vessels entering or leaving the Sol system were required to provide a minimum of ship identification and a course heading. Strictly speaking, only passenger ship information was readily made available to civilians such as herself. From official sites she quickly determined no passenger ships had flight plans registered as heading to Vulcan in the last two days. Widening her search she found non official sites, ranging from official media to space hobbyist groups, posted considerably more information, particularly on ships of non terran origin. Nearly an hour was required to determine that the T’Pla’na left Space dock at 11:45:22 San Francisco time on course for Vulcan. She even managed to find a holo of the ship. A bit more effort yielded that T'Pla’na was a science vessel rather than a passenger ship or diplomatic courier that Sarek usually took on his occasional off world trips.

She found it unusual that the T’Pla’na had been in dock for a little over a week. Vivid in her memory was a conversation between Sarek and a somewhat inebriated starfleet captain who was in charge of Space Dock. He had quite loudly complained that Vulcan ships preferred to spend as little time near Earth as possible. So nearly eight days seemed quite long in port unless the T’Pla’na had needed repairs. She doubted that more than two days would be needed for simple resupply.

What else could have kept them? Perhaps they were waiting for something or someone. Could they have been waiting for Sarek? Or perhaps they even brought that woman she had seen behind Sarek. Bah, she was just guessing now. But she did think it was highly suspicious that the time of the ship’s arrival seemed to be about two hours before she was supposed to last meet Sarek. Based on Sarek’s last trip back from a conference at the star base, that was more than enough time to get from space to the embassy, at least if the person in question had diplomatic clearance to get through security, a waiting shuttle and road transport.

Coincidence? Something told her no, but this line of reasoning wasn’t getting her anywhere with the information she had. Time to move on, and see what else could she find out. She began musing on who might know something about this.

Amanda knew for certain the Vulcan embassy would know what was going on, but she was just as certain that they sure as hell weren’t going to tell her. Even if she could question someone there, she knew from experience that trying to get information out of a recalcitrant Vulcan was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. Amanda also very much doubted they were going to let her waltz in there today to snoop around when they had blocked her at the gate yesterday.

Who else knew anything? The reporter perhaps, though she may have also told all she knew. She thought back to Skal, the protocol officer and what he had told her about talking to the media and the implied penalties. The greatest penalty in her mind being another meeting with Skal and his disapproval but certainly that was not not the Vulcan’s only means of censure. Cringing, she thought that trying to talk to a reporter could actually make the situation worse without much gained in recompense. She would only talk to the media as a last resort.

Hmmmm, maybe someone tipped off the reporter to the story? It was said in the report that Sarek was seen unconscious. Maybe she had even passed by them on the day. She tried to recapture the scene from memory. If she had been in a better state of mind, she might have noticed someone else in the area, but she could not recall anyone nearby apart from the guards, and they would never talk to the media. In desperation, she tried hacking the tip site at SFF news. While she got in, she was unable to find anything relevant. So much for that possible lead. Without a source name she wasn't getting anywhere.

Was there anyone else that would know something and might talk to her? Anyone else that might help her? She couldn't think of anyone and she felt the beginnings of despair; no wait, that was hunger her stomach informed her with a loud gurgle. Glancing at the clock she noted in surprise it was nearly noon, and she hadn't eaten since breakfast the previous day. It likely wasn't helping her mood or ability to think. She got up from nest of blankets on the couch, and left her pad on the coffee table so it couldn’t unnecessarily suck more of her time away. Amanda made herself something to eat, then showered and got dressed. After brushing out her shoulder length brown hair, she dared to look in the mirror again. Better than early this morning she decided, but still far from her best.

As she applied a little makeup to hide the remaining puffiness and blotchiness of her skin, her mind went over what she knew and thought she knew. It didn't amount to much. She felt a great need to do something, but what else was there to do? Time for coffee she decided with a small sigh, setting the kettle to boil.

She sipped the steaming coffee and felt a little more life return to her. Not knowing what else to do, she watched the newscast again. The reporter was standing close to the huge embassy gate as she reported. Because Amanda was looking at the scenery rather than the reporter this time, she noticed something she had not before. Towards the conclusion of the report she saw someone leave the embassy. She recognised him too and was suddenly stuck with the idea that he might know something about what was going on. In fact she was certain he would know more than she did. But would he talk to her? He had absolutely no reason to assist her. Well, she would just have to find a way to convince him. He was her best hope to find out exactly what had happened with Sarek. Now that the risk of action was finally worth the potential gain in information she had to make her move.

She decided not to bother trying to make an appointment. With the little she knew about him, she thought surprise might work in her favour. Amanda checked the time and directions to her destination. Not caring to wait for a bus on Sunday, she ordered a fast cab, damn the expense. It was at her door only three minutes later. She grabbed her warmest coat in one hand and her purse in the other. Rushing out, she slammed the apartment door behind her and then half jogged down the stairs to the cab.

“Where to Miss?” the cabby asked once she was seated. She told him, and the cabby nodded punching coordinates into the onboard computer. They rose into the air above the regular traffic, and headed towards some answers.

Chapter Text

Though we're strangers til now
We're choosing the path between the stars
I'll leave my love between the stars

David Bowie - As The World Falls Down

Chapter 4: Between the stars

--SAREK--

Sarek spend the next three days recovering from the combination of physical exhaustion and mental turmoil. Meals were brought to him on a regular schedule, and once a day the ship’s healer visited. Apart from these two regular disturbances, he was otherwise left alone.

Apparently he was well enough not to need constant medical supervision, so he did not need to be in medbay. However the healer wanted to keep his condition monitored to ensure no relapse was eminent. Isolation was also enforced until his mental shields and emotional control were restored.

He spent extra hours sleeping, but most of his time was necessarily spent on meditation. Sarek had lost his centre, his usual order unobtainable. The meditation was absolutely necessary in order for him to regain anywhere close to rational functioning.

Pushed beyond what he could bear at the embassy, his control had shattered. He had acted both emotionally and violently. At the gate, he had been willing to kill anyone that came between him and Amanda. Nothing mattered but trying to get to her, but to his regret, the guards had overpowered him.

When they first brought him on the ship he had been unconscious. He was certain they had given him something to calm him as well. For after his initial despondency faded, the urge to fight had returned. Only with great effort had he managed to avoid acting on that impulse.

If he could just get past the guards he could...he could what? There were one hundred and nine individuals stationed aboard this vessel. He could not get passed them all. Nor could he take command of the ship and fly it himself. Even if he had the requisite skills, the computer would not respond to unauthorized personnel.

Even permitting the desire to cause harm was a shocking loss of control for any Vulcan not overcome by plak tow. Yet the medic had informed him that he demonstrated no signs of neurochemical imbalance, and that his hormone levels were within normal parameters. His outburst and subsequent desire for violence were not a result of pon farr. However the conditions of his mental shields and his somewhat erratic brainwaves did suggest he was currently experiencing some other mental disturbance. Healer Mestral had only lightly touched his mind to ascertain his mental state. She had recommended meditation, proper nutrition, and rest as the necessary requirements for his recovery. So that is what he did.

 

On the fourth day Sarek was finally successful in regaining his equilibrium and fully restoring his shields. The healer emanated approval at this return of proper functioning. She could no longer detect any thoughts leaking from him, and even his brain wave patterns had returned to normal. Isolation was no longer required. Healer Mestral informed Sarek that he would now benefit from exercise and might walk about the ship. Sarek, who would not admit to restlessness, still found her recommendation quite logical. Serenely he left his quarters, and he remained perfectly calm even when the door guards fell in behind him. It seems he would have an escort as he traversed the ship. No matter.

Though Sarek had not travelled on a kis’la’ka class vessel before, its layout was familiar to him. While somewhat larger, it was nearly identical to the star cruisers he had occasionally frequented in his years as an astrophysicist. As he passed a sensor hub, he allowed himself to recall his days on the Ha’shak’a. Part of his field work as a VSA student had involved 57.4 days gathering data on spatial and temporal anomalies in poorly charted regions of space. During this time he had developed a mathematical model that increased the ship’s ability to detect existing anomalies by 23.89%. He had also created software to predict when certain temporal events were probable to occur. It was now standard coding for all Vulcan sensors.

He did not miss the life of a scientist per se, but it had been a simpler time with less responsibility. The pursuit of knowledge through science had been particularly fulfilling to him. It had been a difficult thing to give up.

The transition to his current profession had come about due to an unexpected negotiation he had become involved with. Sarek had been present on the Katll crystal moon for an astronomy conference when katllen dissidents attacked the area. They killed many, and took the remainder as hostages. Over the next several days Sarek had managed to persuade them to properly treat their prisoners. After 37.4 days, he finally convinced the leaders of the movement to end hostilities, negotiating a temporary truce and the release of all remaining hostages.

It was after this incident that his elders had encouraged him to go into politics, as his father had before him. Sarek did deviate slightly, ultimately choosing the field of diplomacy rather than becoming a Vulcan Councillor like his father. It had been a better choice for his skills and he became very successful. Over the following decades he accomplished much, bringing honour and prestige to his clan and Vulcan. T’Pau had eventually authorised him as Ambassador to Earth, the youngest Vulcan to ever hold such a position.

After walking the ship's decks for 1.245 hours, he determined that a meal would be welcome and headed to the dining hall. It was early for the midday meal, so the room was currently deserted. The guards did not enter with him, but they stayed outside the only door waiting for his exit. Nonetheless as the door closed behind him there was some comfort to leaving his followers behind.

It was pleasant to be able to choose his own meal from the replicator. He ate slowly, taking the time to appreciate it as was proper. The Shavrot stew was especially robust in flavour, and a long flat triangular piece of Katara bread spread with Favinit butter complemented it well. He was halfway finished when he heard the presence of someone behind him.

He did not allow any reaction at all when T’Rel sat down opposite him, a mug of spice tea in her hands. Nor did he say anything to her then. It was typical to remain silent during a Vulcan meal after all. It was not a result of suddenly being rendered speechless.

Sarek continued eating his food slowly though the appreciation of the meal was now absent. T’Rel delicately sipped her tea, also saying nothing. Sarek had the impression she was observing him as intently as he might a specimen under a quantum-scope. When he finished his food, he still had nothing to say to her. He made to rise.

“Wait,” came her lyrical voice. “I have need to speak with you.”

“What is there to discuss?” Sarek questioned her somewhat reluctantly breaking his silence.

T’Rel appeared somewhat indignant for a moment, gazing at him as if he was a misbehaving child. While her voice retained the typical emotionless monotone, she spoke slowly as if he might not otherwise comprehend. “Our families had arranged a marriage for us Sarek, a bond that would have brought our clans closer together. I would know why you have declined what should be an imminently agreeable match between us. You are in need of a bondmate, and I am a suitable female of the proper bloodlines. In what regard do you find me lacking? By what fault do you disregard me?”

Sarek supposed his outright rejection of her might be cause for some insult. As such he chose to speak with some delicacy. “I do not find fault with you T’Rel. However I had already chosen another for bondmate and given my promise to her. I will not set her aside.”

However carefully chosen his words it did not mollify her. T’Rel returned with, “You speak of the human woman at the gate. From what I have seen, her presence causes you errors in judgement, and a tendency towards emotionalism. I in contrast can help bring stability to your thoughts. In my training I have learned advance techniques that would benefit you in your obvious struggles with emotional control. I can see no logical reason to choose such an emotional creature when one who will be Reldai is available to you.”

Sarek did not care for T’Rel speaking of Amanda at all, let alone with such distaste. He did not even want to use Amanda’s name in front of this attempted usurper. “Consider your words carefully T’Rel. I will not tolerate further insult to her. You are incorrect in your assertions about her. Her presence does not cause errors in my judgement. Rather the opposite. It was the separation enforced between us that caused a temporary lapse in my discipline. There are also many logical reasons why I should bond with Miss Grayson. My position as Ambassador to Earth is foremost among them. A marriage to a human would create stronger ties and bring greater accord between two allied races. This could bring benefits to all of Vulcan not just our clans. I have found also her advice and insights have provided me with many benefits in my dealings with humans and other emotional races. Since I have known her, negotiations have been 26.92% more effective and treaties have had a 14.20% increase in success. A vulcan wife could not provide me with the same insight T’Rel.”

“You logic is flawed Sarek.” T’Rel pronounced, outwardly perfectly composed, yet he could sense her building irritation. “There is no guarantee of closer ties between Earth and Vulcan. Many on both worlds have spoken out publicly against an interspecies relationship. There is a 37.6% chance such a marriage would escalate hostility rather than diminish it. As to your second point, a human could be employed to provide insights into the species, it does not require marriage to gain access to such information.”

Sarek responded equally calmly, “There are many other logical reasons I could provide T’Rel. Some you would not comprehend and others you might refute. No matter. I do not require your agreement with my rationale. It should suffice to say I will have no other as wife. No matter how accomplished you are, or how great your bloodline, I do not want you T’Rel.”

T’Rel actually scoffed at the last, shown by the combination of one raised eyebrow and a small tilt of the chin to the left. “Since when has ‘want’ had anything to do with marriage Sarek? Are you under the impression that I want you, that I would have chosen you? I was content in my position, soon to become a Reldai. However when my family made this request of me, I put aside my training and agreed to the marriage, as any proper Vulcan would. You realise, what our families want from this match is not our contentment in each other, but a suitable heir. Your human is unlikely to be able to provide you children of your body. All known hybrids that have been attempted have never survived beyond a year. And even if you were successful, such a child would not be accepted as heir, it likely wouldn't even be considered legitimate.”

T’Rel paused for a moment. When Sarek did not reply she continued in a less disagreeable tone. “In contrast, I am fertile and capable of providing legitimacy and status to our child. Both myself and your mother have considerable telepathic talents. A female produced of the two us would have the qualities to become the next matriarch of your clan. Both our clans have an interest in producing the next Pid-kom of Vulcan. T’Pau herself sought this match that her replacement might have the bloodlines of Surak. Of course even a male born of us could also gain much political power, as you and your father have. This too would bring honour to both clans. I do not require your affection Sarek. All I require from you is a child born unto the bond. After an heir is born, we can go our separate ways and return to our preferred lives. You can even keep this Amanda of yours if you so desire. I do not care if your attention is given to her, so long as the position of wife is mine.”

Sarek pushed down the green fire that threatened to take him. No, he would not lose control again, especially not in front of this one. He managed to speak as if he was unperturbed by her statements. “To bond with you would preclude forming one with Amanda. This is not acceptable. Nor can you be certain when or if a child would be born to us. It has been known to take decades for even a couple who desired children. I will have my chosen as wife, even if this means I must relinquish the chance to have heirs. Your offer is simply not acceptable T’Rel.”

T’Rel rebutted. “You are making a great assumption that you can even bond with this human. Your own telepathy is at most average, and humans are known to be psi null. Few Vulcans have ever successfully bonded with outsiders. And if you care so much about her, how can you even consider exposing her to the Fires without a bond. She is more than three times weaker than you and less than half your mass. You will almost certainly cause her death. As wife I would bear the brunt of pon farr, sparing her the need to do so. Think on what I have said Sarek.”

Sarek responded decisively. “There will be no problems with bonding with her, of that I am certain T’Rel. I have also already considered those other matters in detail and came to a satisfactory conclusion regarding them. I reiterate yet again, I have made my choice and I will not be dissuaded from it.”

T’Rel actually allowed anger in her voice now. “Do not think T’Pau will actually give you any choice in this matter. Our marriage is already agreed to by the two clans. What I am proposing is the only chance that you might associate with your human again. It is in everyone's best interests, including hers, for you to consent to this marriage. However, do not assume that your consent will ultimately be needed.”

T’Rel rose to her feet and left then. A good thing as Sarek’s newly restored controls were seriously overtaxed.

Once she had left, Sarek returned the dishes to the replicator for reintegration, then returned promptly to his room. He did not leave it again for the remainder of his time on the ship.

 

Upon arrival to Vulcan, Sarek was beamed down from the ship to a transport platform located 2.21 km away from his family estate. While Vulcan transporters were far more effective than human ones, beaming was always safest between two transporter pads. Several branches of his family shared this one, and it was situated centrally between them. He picked up his luggage from the pad next to him. His pack went over his shoulders and his instrument case was tucked under an arm.

Even considering the circumstances, returning to Vulcan was not unpleasant. As he stepped out of the small building into the desert, the heat and gravity of his home world enveloped him. He felt himself relax. This place was home in a way no other could ever be. It called to him, welcoming him back to the place of his birth.

His inner eyelid closed to protect him from the sun. His lungs fully expanded in the oxygen thin air and he inhaled the scents of flowering Rallan vine mingled with heated sand. The wind rushed past him, rough with the grains of sand it carried. In the distance he heard the deep cry of a shavok on the wing. A rare sound that some considered a good omen. He turned as he sensed a familiar presence walking towards him.

His father Skon had come himself to greet him. The councilman always had a full schedule and must have cleared some time for his son. Sarek took a moment to appreciate that. His father raised his hand in the ta’al and greeted him. Sarek responded in kind.

“Come my son,” spoke Skon in his deep bass. ”The sands are hot in the sun’s zenith, let us return to the cool of the house. She who is your mother is waiting there also.”

“Father I have much to discuss with you,” Sarek admitted.

Skon acknowledged the statement, “Indeed sa-fu, but let us wait till we are out of the sun to speak of important matters. Your mother too needs to be involved in this discussion.”

Sarek was amenable to this, it would save him having to repeat himself. “Very well sa-mekh, let us proceed.”

The two Vulcans were in no rush, setting a sedate pace across the sands. The walk over familiar ground fortified Sarek, as did the steady presence of his father. The red dunes gave way to flatter and more fertile ground. Cacti, and red barbed grasses, grew ever more prolific as they approached the wall that surrounded the grounds of S’chn T’gai estate.

This wall was both fence and shield. It protected those behind it from desert creatures and also deflected the worst of the hot winds that blew in from the desert. At Sarek’s touch, the locking mechanism recognised him, and the gate swung open. He had not returned to this place in 2.56 years, and his attendance before then had been infrequent for decades. Sarek was pleased to find he still had access.

His mother, T’Vin, greeted them with water in the entryway. They performed the water rites that were most often used to welcome guests, but also family long absent. After the ritual was completed his mother observed him and said in a tone that can only be described as motherish discontent, “Sarek-kam, it appears you have lost mass. Have you been obtaining sufficient nutrition?”

“Yes ko-mekh, I have,” Sarek replied respectfully and somewhat indulgently. “The reduced gravity of Earth has meant my body does not require as much density, and my schedule has prevented me from being active enough to compensate for all muscle loss. The process has already begun to reverse itself on the voyage home, with exposure to higher gravity on board.”

“Regardless Sarek, you will join us for the midday meal.” His mother informed him rather than asking, but Sarek has agreeable to sharing a meal with his parents.

“Of course ko-mekh I would not pass up the opportunity to eat at your table.” Sarek answered.

The meal was exceedingly pleasant, full of the flavours and textures he had partaken in since his childhood. He felt content in his parents company, the familial bonds renewed by small telepathic transferences between them.

It was only at the conclusion of the meal, as he assisted his parents in clearing the dishes, that he began to experience some uneasiness at what must come next. Would his parents also forbid his relationship with Amanda, insisting on the marriage with T’Rel? They had certainly expressed concern at his relationship and had tried to interest him in others. He had thought they had came to accept, if not understand, his choice. To agree with him, that as an adult it was his choice to make. But then T’Pau had arrived on Earth with a chosen bondmate for him. Had it been at his parents request?

Sarek was never nervous. He had spoken with authority to many races, sometimes in hostile conditions, never losing his poise. But even the notion of speaking to his parents on this matter, caused great trepidation to form within him. He had been welcomed home, but would his family deny him what he needed? Would they too threaten to cast him out when he refused to obey them? He didn’t know, and that concerned him.

Longing for Amanda filled him. Despite her tendency towards emotional responses, her presence always soothed him in a way nothing else could. If only she could be with him, she would surely charm his parents into accepting her.

His parents, especially his sensitive mother, recognised Sarek’s agitation, but thankfully did not criticise him for it. That small acceptance assisted him in pushing the unease away. He finally broke the silence. “My parents, as you have likely been informed, Pid-kom T’Pau came to Earth and asked me to bond with the lady T’Rel. You may also know that I have refused this request, but at the pid-koms insistence I have returned to Vulcan.”

“We have been so informed my son,” Skon replied as they returned to their seat at the table. “Furthermore we were told there was an incident at the embassy that required them to use the nerve pinch to enforce your return. This has us somewhat concerned at your possible state of mind Sarek.”

Sarek decided complete honesty has called for. “Indeed father, there was such an incident. As you know, Amanda Grayson and I do not have a bond. The lady T’Pau also prevented me from seeing Amanda in person or communicating with her in any way. Thus I could not inform Amanda of the situation. The day we were to leave for Vulcan, Amanda was at the embassy gate. She observed T’Rel following me in the position of a bondmate. Amanda fled after making a reasonable but incorrect assumption about what she had seen. I needed to explain to she who will be my wife. However, I was obstructed by the guards. To my discredit I did fight to get free of them, but my greater shame is that they were able to prevent me from reaching her.”

“Sarek that does not alleviate our concern,” his mother responded. “You have told us much of this Amanda, and given us many logical reasons why she should be your mate. But I do not think any of those reasons can explain your actions. We must understand this Sarek if we are to make the correct decision. What is the true reason for why you have chosen this woman?”

Sarek consider how to reply then finally confessed. “Ko-mekh, when one discovers one’s other half, none other is acceptable.”

“You claim that the two of you are k'hat'n'dlawa,” Skon said with obvious astonishment and a hint of disbelief. “How is that possible? Even between Vulcans such a thing is extremely rare, and she is human. There is no proof they even have a katra.”

“I can attest to the fact that they do sa-mekh. Or at least whatever Amanda has is similar enough to be recognised by my katra. When I first observed her, I experienced shon-ha'lock. She has expressed that she experienced something very similar. We were and are still drawn together. So when I tell you I will not have another, it is because I can not.” Sarek’s voice betrayed him a little at the last.

There was quiet for a moment as his parents considered this revelation. Finally his mother broke the silent contemplation. “Sarek, if what you say is true, you are correct. There is little choice for you. We would prefer to have this confirmed though. T’Pau has already insisted that you see her personal healer, but if you would permit it, I too should like to see your thoughts.”

Sarek considered for a moment. He had not melded with his mother for many years. Finally he inclined his head in agreement. “I will permit it mother so you may be convinced of the matter. Would you do this now?”

“If you are prepared my son. If you require rest or meditation first, we may wait until that is accomplished.” T’Vin offered.

Sarek answered, “I have had much time for both lately ko-mekh. I am prepared.”

“Very well, let us begin,” she said. She moved to the chair next to him. Mother and son placed their hands to the other’s face. Fingers aligning with the nerve clusters by the eyes, between the nose and mouth, and under the chin. Both chanted in sync, “My mind to your mind, my thoughts to your thoughts.”

Sarek found the experience far less disquieting than when T’Pau had melded with him. His mother’s presence was gentle and did not seek to dominate him or have him show what he would not. So he willingly showed his mother his thoughts of Amanda. It was not so much specific memories, but his impression of her. In the meld he could feel his mother experience surprise that verged on denial. But as she continued to observe, her thoughts were gradually replaced with understanding and acceptance. She withdraw, releasing them from the meld.

“It is as you say.” His mother admitted allowed. “Amanda is the other half of you katra. T’Pau should be informed of this.”

“I expect she already knows,” Sarek replied. “She demanded a meld and saw far more than what you did, ko-mekh.”

“I will be speaking to her,” said T’Vin, her tone was one of extreme disapproval. “She has to know that as things are you can not bond with anyone else. I do not comprehend why T’Pau would still require you to bond with T’Rel?”

Sarek answered his mother. “When she first came to Earth, T’Pau was insistent on an immediate bonding as soon as T’Rel arrived. But after the meld she did relent somewhat, requiring instead that I return to Vulcan. From her words to me, I do not think she accepts what she has observed. She insisted I be examined by a mind healer. As the humans would say, she is seeking a second opinion. T’Pau has also suggested that Amanda’s presence is causing me to undergo a mental disturbance. She seeks to correct this damage by separating us. In contrast, I am of the opposite opinion. Such problems did not exist until T’Pau insisted I bond with another, and forcibly separated me from Amanda.”

“If we had known of this earlier Sarek, we would have interceded on your behalf.” Skon interjected. “As it stands the marriage with T’Rel has already been agreed to, the contract signed by the matriarchs of both clans. It will be exceedingly difficult to counter what has been done.”

Sarek acknowledge his father’s statement, with a quick blink of the eye. “Sa-mekh, this was a difficult thing to admit to myself let alone to speak of to others. Nor did I expect you to believe a claim of shared katras. It is a hard thing to prove even with a meld. I had thought the logical reasons I provided were sufficient to convince you.”

“Indeed, without witnessing such a thing myself I would have doubted him Skon,” confirmed T’Vin. “It will be difficult Sarek, but what we can do now on your behalf we will.”

Sarek was somewhat overwhelmed by his mother reassurance and had to prevent an expression of extreme gratitude. The last two weeks had been arduous, and it had seemed all were against him. To have his parent’s support in this matter was a great relief. “Will you allow me to contact Amanda, and let her know what is happening?”

“T’Pau would not approve, sa-fu. However we must be returning to our duties and it seems that we have not thought of blocking your access to the comms. What you do with that information is up to you.” Skon spoke like a true politician, caught between two factions. Not officially agreeing with Sarek’s request but not preventing it either.

“Of course father, I will take that under advisement”, Sarek replied dryly.

“Come my wife, let us prepare to depart.” Skon raised his fingers in the ozh'esta and T’Vin’s fingers joined his. They left the room together.

Sarek did not race to the comm as soon as his parents departed. He merely quickened his pace by 11% and lengthen his normal stride by 8.2 cm. From memory, he entered the planetary codes followed by Amanda’s personal number. The comm signalled and Sarek waited for it go through subspace relays and connect to the Earth network. Over the next 3.7 minutes, it successfully signalled eleven times. More than enough time for Amanda to accept the call. It was then diverted to an automated voice mail. He left a short message, requesting that she contact him, telling her that he was currently on Vulcan at his Matriarch’s request. That he was being pressured to bond to another, but he had not, and would not marry anyone but her. He left his contact details. Then with nothing further to say to a recording, he disconnected the call.

Why did she not answer the comm? He considered the time in San Francisco, something he should have done before calling. It was approaching midnight, 23:25:05 to be precise. It was late but not unreasonably so for Amanda. She should be home, but even if she was not, the comm would transfer to her personal communicator anywhere on Earth.

Amanda did tend to react emotionally. Would she deliberately ignore his call? His personal details were embedded for identification purposes, so she would know it was him. Even if she were angry or upset, he expected Amanda would still answer. Possible even just to vent at him about his unannounced absence. Surely, she would want to know what had happened. Why would she not answer?

That question triggered a terrible thought. What if something had happened to her? T’Pau had implied life could be made difficult for Amanda, but she wouldn’t hurt her. Surely not?

But Sarek couldn’t bond to anyone else while Amanda was alive and T’Pau wanted him to bond another. A small cry burst out of him. No! She could not be dead. He had to know.

Sarek reached out his mind for her, seeking a bond that was yet to be formed. He called out to her with everything he had. ‘Where are you Amanda? I need you! I beg you to tell me that you are well.”

Impossibly, he thought he heard her reply. But he had extended himself beyond his means and could not focus on the words. Falling, the darkness claimed him.

Chapter Text

I just throw in my hand
With the chilliest bunch in the land
They don't look much, they sure chilly chilly.

David Bowie, Chilly Down

 

Chapter 5: Chilliest Bunch in the Land.

--AMANDA--

To say Amanda was met with a cold reception upon arrival was inadequate to say the least. Amanda hid her discomfort, grateful that she had been allowed in.

The Andorian embassy was of course maintained below freezing for the comfort of the resident Andorians; it was not truly a reflection on how they felt about her. As she pulled on her thick winter coat, she was very pleased to find at some point she had stuffed a hat and gloves into the pockets. She thought it must at least twenty degrees Celsius colder than the already cool weather outside. Poorly adapted to such cold, Amanda found herself shivering before she even reached the front desk. It was no wonder Sarek avoided the Andorian embassy when he could. She had a suspicion that when he did visit, they'd probably welcome him by turning the thermostat down even lower.

Used to the Vulcan embassy, Amanda was almost disturbed by the pleasant demeanor and genial tone of the Andorian female at the desk. The name Rahal was embroidered in An’dor on the short sleeved tunic. Amanda tried not to be annoyed that Rahal seemed perfectly warm in such a flimsy garment. “Greetings,” Rahal said in a whispery voice that hissed slightly on the s sound. “What can the Andorian embassy do for you today Miss -?”

“Miss Grayson, Miss Amanda Grayson,” she supplied. “I need to talk to Ambassador Sharan on a matter of some urgency.”

“No offense Miss Grayson, but the Ambassador is a very busy man. And you do not have an appointment or I would know it. Nor do you appear to be either an Andorian national or an Earth official. Why should he see you?”

The Andorian’s tone had been one of dismissal. Needing to convince her, Amanda decided to switch from standard to An’dor. Hoping she remembered the correct phenological order she hissed out, “Rahal, understand I, Ambassador important, his time many/great demands. Knows I, he want speak/discuss with this female. Tell him, speaking topic Ambassador Sarek, want see me he will.”

The Andorians antennas stood upright, the ends pointed at her. Amanda hoped that was a sign of surprise at how well she spoke An’dor, not shock at how badly she may have garbled it. Rahal replied in the same language, “Contact I will leader Sharan. Him decides seeing/speaking with female one. Sit/wait there for reply. Time could long be.” Rahal pointed to a set of chairs on the far side of the room.

“Wait I will, gratitude express, Amanda replied with inclined head. As she went to take her seat, she heard Rahal speak into a comm, relaying her request. Amanda was thankful the conversation had not gone on much longer.

While Amanda had achieved fluency in eight languages, An’dor among them, Vulcan had been her main priority over the last year. At first it was due to her work at the universal translator, but then of course she had began a relationship with Sarek. Struggling with An’dor, she knew she needed to practice her other dialects more or she would lose all her previous ease with them.

Since she might have a lot of time to wait, she might as well start now. Out of her bag she pulled her PADD and selected a language training program. She pulled up a list of Andorian phonemes and started reviewing. She just might need it before too long.

 

Amanda waited nearly thirty minutes just to hear she could perhaps be seen today. The ambassador would attempt to fit her in between other responsibilities and appointments, but could promise nothing. Of course, if she preferred, she could make an appointment for three weeks hence. Amanda politely responded that she would prefer to wait, and had returned to her current reading on the declension of four gendered Andorian nouns.

Minutes turned into hours. The combination of her innate need for action and the damn cold eventually had her pacing the floor. Her gloved fingers were tucked under her arm, too cold to continue using her PADD. She spent some of her time closely examining the displays that decorated the room. There were small stone carvings that sat on pedestals, and large ice sculptures that towered above her. The walls were covered with woven hangings made from a very thick wool. It rather reminded her of polar bear fur except for the colour, a very pale blue. The hangings looked very warm and she was rather tempted to take one down and use it for a blanket. She decided against it for now. They might be ancient artifacts for all she knew.

Amanda did not observe any one coming or going through the reception. She began to wonder if they were just waiting to see if she would give up and go home. Well, she was determined, she was staying. She would camp out here until they either saw her or threw her out. And if she did end up sleeping here, ancient artifact or no, she was borrowing a couple of those wall hangings.

By hour four she was reconsidering her decision to stay. What could she hope to accomplish here? Vulcans and Andorians rarely had common cause. And while she herself was human, she was here on behalf of Sarek. Ambassadors Sarek and Sharan had known each other for at least a decade, fellow diplomats but usually on opposing sides. There were many reasons for them to be at odds.

The wars between the Andorians and the Vulcans had technically ended hundreds of years ago. However, there had been border skirmishes in recent decades; conflicts that had seen the ownership of planets change hands. Those battles were well within the lifetimes of the two Ambassadors. Sharan had probably even fought in some of them. It was not until the war with the Romulans that the two species to actually find common cause and fought on the same side.

Along with Earth and Telar, Vulcan and Andor had become the founding members of the Federation. Yet even though they were all technically allies now, hostility remained, especially between the Andorians and Vulcans. The Vulcans placed responsibility for the troubles on the passionate and often violently inclined Andorians. Andorians did not respect contracts unless it suited them, often breaking trade deals and even peace agreements. The Andorians, in return, blamed it on the Vulcans for any reason they could think of. Though the underlying reason seemed to be that the Vulcans were too rigid and emotionless to deal with honourably.

To a large extent, the two races were polar opposites: hot versus cold, logic versus passion, pacifist verses aggressors. Their culture values and honour codes were at odds with one another. They had great difficulty finding common ground and negotiations often went poorly between them. However due to initial interactions, both species got along better with humans than they did with each other. Earth often acted as something of a buffer between them, allowing them to function together. During social functions Amanda sometimes felt like that she was a similar buffer between Sarek and Sharan.

Amanda had witnessed, and perhaps been the catalyst for, a change in the two Ambassadors relationship. When she first started coming to events with Sarek, she often had chance to observe the two of them together. Whenever Ambassador Sharan came near, Sarek would stiffen ever so slightly as if bracing for an assault. Sarek while quite terse towards Sharan, was always unfailingly calm and polite, at least from a Vulcan viewpoint.

In comparison, Sharan often seemed antagonistic and demanding. He was always seeking answers, or flinging insults. Strangely, even though Amanda was obviously with Sarek, Sharan had never displayed the same hostility towards her. When she eventually gained the courage to join the conversations, both ambassadors actually listened to her. They would consider thoughtfully what she had to say. They would make relevant comments or ask reasonable questions in return. It was quite fascinating to see the change in their tone and posture when they spoke to her. Sometimes they would even forget to be ill-disposed to one another for a while, actually engaging each other in the conversation at hand. This would last until one of them actually realised they had agreed with something the other had said. Amanda found it both amusing and sad to see that recognition would cause them to revert back to the previous behaviour. It was like they believed that they weren’t allowed to agree on anything.

Sarek’s private meetings with Sharan had continued to be difficult and mostly unproductive. If she saw Sarek after he had dealings with Sharan that day, she could actually see the tightness in his body. His face would be a completely rigid mask of Vulcan withstraint. The symptoms would slowly receded as he spent time with her, the muscles loosening, the mask softening at the edges. It bothered her to see him so stressed.

Amanda had known quite a few Andorians in her time and travels. Students, or scholars mostly, but the odd business class or militia too. She had never had problems getting along with them. Upon meeting, she often used the opportunity to practice An’dor with them. Etoraa Zh'shrellehr in particular had become quite a good friend during their linguistic undergrad. They had shared the love of languages of course, but also exchanged knowledge of cultural practices, history, and traditions. So Amanda felt she had some insights into Andorian behaviour and values, and a good idea of the proper way to approach one.

Eventually she offered Sarek some advice regarding Andorians. She’d explained what she knew of their culture and suggested an alternate approach to dealing with Sharan. Sarek, a diplomat of over twenty years, had many more dealings with Andorians than she ever would. He had nonetheless respectfully listened to her and taken the time to consider what she told him. She had been acceding pleased when Sarek had finally allowed that her method while unorthodox, was quite logical.

Sarek never did tell her what had happened in their next meeting, but he really didn't have to. Thereafter when she had seen the two Ambassadors together, their demeanor had been quite different. Sharan kept looking at Sarek as if wasn’t sure what Sarek would do next. Sarek started looking a little smug.

They still argued after that of course, but rarely with the malice and distrust they had before. Over the following months they had begun to act in a way she could best describe as friendly rivals. While never fully letting down their guard, they seemed to actually enjoy the debates between them. Sarek even admitted to her privately that negotiations with Sharan were now 49.698% more effective.

Despite the improved relationship that now existed between the two ambassadors, Sarek would not approve of her coming to see Sharan alone. Sarek may respect Sharan, but he did not trust him. In truth, she didn’t really either. Sharan followed his own objectives and they were unlikely to coincide with her own. What choice did she have but to try though? Sharan would know more than she did. He would have pieces to the story she had little likelihood of getting any other way. She needed to fill in the gaps of her knowledge before she could act further.

Amanda knew she would have to tread carefully here. Sharan might like her, perhaps even approve of her relationship with Sarek, but he had no reason to help her. He might be willing to trade information but she didn't have much. However, Sharan was quite fond of intrigue, taking delight in secrets and subterfuge. If Amanda could spin this whole thing as one big conspiracy, she might get his interest. By revealing her hand slowly, he might let slip the missing pieces. Sharan was very sharp though. She would need all her wits about her to pull this off.

 

 

Finally more than five hours after she had arrived, Rahal called her over. An aide, Thrain by name, directed her down a passage to the ambassador's office. The interior of the room felt even colder than the lobby. It was also quite bright inside, like sun reflecting off snow. She was directed to a stool that she was reasonably certain was carved from ice. The ambassador sat across from her, behind a desk made of stone.

Attempting to determine what she could, Amanda took a moment to analyze the ambassador. Ambassador Sharan was not a large man. She knew when standing he was only about her height. Of course that was if you didn't count the boney antennas which stuck out midway through his hairline. Despite his slender build, he still managed to seem quite imposing. His years in the militia had given him the bearing of a warrior. This look was completed by the white studded surcoat over a kind of chain mail. A long crooked dagger hung openly at his waist today. The white hair was typical for Andorians rather than a sign of age, but the blue skin had some lines particularly around the eyes. He also bore a slight smile, a tendency that Andorians who lived among humans sometimes picked up. As far as she could tell, he actually seemed pleased to see her. Good.

Sharan began, “Miss Grayson, it has been too long since we have last spoken. I am however greatly surprised Sarek allowed you here unaccompanied. What must he be thinking?” Sharan's whispery voice was laced with both welcome and curiosity. That too was a good sign.

Amanda was pleased he choose standard, he knew she spoke An’dor. However she wasn’t sure how persuasive she could be in that language. She smiled at him and began the game of wit. “Sarek would no doubt say my presence here was ‘most illogical’ were he to find out Mister Ambassador. However as I am sure you have discovered already, Sarek is not currently on Earth. This is in fact what I have come to speak to you about.”

“So Sarek did not send you to speak with me?” Sharan queried.

Amanda misdirected, “I am not here in any official capacity if that is what you asking. Many in fact would not be happy to hear that I am speaking to you. I could get into trouble for coming here. But I have discovered something which the Vulcans are trying to hide and I thought perhaps to pool our information. I know you quite regularly go to speak with Sarek. Have you also found it unusually difficult to see him in person this week?”

Sharan looked as if he was considering whether or not to answer her. She was somewhat surprised when he replied, “Indeed Miss Grayson, he cancelled one meeting, and several further requests were denied. He was far ruder than normal, not even suggesting an alternate time. I really don't know what you see in that one.”

“Perhaps one day I'll tell you Ambassador, but I expect our experiences with him are quite different. But for now please answer me this. This morning, you were at the embassy. Did you attempt to go see him? Or did you know already he was gone?”

Sharan’s antennas twitched forward. “And how do you know I was there at all?”

Amanda really had his attention now. “Oh, I have my sources Ambassador, as I am sure you have yours. This line of questioning is important to establish how much I can tell you. If you already know, then I am not technically revealing anything I shouldn't be.” Amanda wasn’t about to admit that most of her information came from a newscast and a subnet search. By not revealing her sources, he would be left wondering how she was tracking him.

“I had heard a rumour that he was no longer on Earth,” Sharan admitted. “But it was confirmed when I got there. The Vulcans were quite sparse on the details however.”

“Indeed Ambassador, they often are,” Amanda agreed. “Let me be the one to provide you with a few details. Sarek underwent an emergency beam out a little after nine am yesterday. He was sent to the T’Pla’na and they warped out of the system about two hours later headed towards Vulcan. Just enough time between those events to allow others to return to the ship by shuttle. The nature of the emergency however is a closely guarded secret.” It was true enough, they were keeping it from her after all. Sharan didn’t have to know she was as much in the dark as he was.

“How intriguing,” Sharan replied, his head tilted down and his antenna focused on her. “And you will tell me?”

“I can’t tell you everything Ambassador, I wish I was in the position to do so.” Of course Amanda thought privately, if she was in a position to do so, she would already have the information she needed. “Perhaps I can bring your attention to what you already know and you will be able to determine it for yourself. I am aware you keep track of the Vulcans at the embassy. So perhaps you already know of an important Vulcan that arrived approximately a week ago. If I recall correctly it was last Saturday afternoon?”

Amanda only had a hunch that someone with more authority than Sarek had arrived on the T’Pla’na. It had been the start of Sarek’s unusual silence. And if it was true she was certain Sharan would know about it. When she saw Sharan bare his sharp teeth in a scowl she knew she had him.

“Indeed we know of T’Pau’s visit. What of it.” The way Sharan spoke the name T’Pau was as one says something foul. Some bad blood there. Perhaps she could use it.

But the name also triggered a memory for her. T’Pau, T’Pau...it couldn't be the T’Pau? One of the highest authorities on Vulcan, matriarch of the clan of Surak, and Sarek’s aunt by his previous marriage! That T’Pau? Why would she come to Earth? She must have had some personal business that couldn't be addressed over the comm or by proxy. The arrival of someone as important as her should have reached the news, but Amanda’s searches had not turned up anything. Her visit had been kept quiet. Was she there just to take Sarek home? Seemed a bit of a waste of her time to come all that way for that. The other women she had seen with Sarek had turned up recently as well. Could she be there with T’Pau? Could her initial fears have been right or partially so?

The pieces started tumbling into place. She found herself nodding but otherwise kept her expression professional. Amanda had started learning to control her expressions in order to be less offensive to the Vulcans at the embassy. It was proving quite a useful skill as she mixed speculation with fact. The sudden revelations she must also pretend she already knew.

“T’Pau is the one that has prevented Sarek from contacting you this past week Ambassador,” guessed Amanda. “She is also the one that has insisted on his immediate return to Vulcan.”

Guessing wasn't the same as lying. She thought she was on the right track. The past week’s lack of contact with her and apparently ambassador Sharan was out of character for Sarek. Work had previously prevented Sarek from meeting with her. But he had always before taken the time to call himself, to let her know he had to cancel. He had always rescheduled.

T’Pau would have the authority to prevent him from contacting her or others. She would also have the authority to counter Sarek's order that Amanda was permitted in the embassy. Amanda was certain that it was too out of character for Sarek to have acted this way without being forced.

Amanda resumed, “You might be interested to know that I was at the gate yesterday morning before Sarek was beamed out. By T'Pau orders my entry was blocked and they made me leave.” (Okay so the last was kind of lying, but she wasn't about to admit to the ambassador that she had run away crying.) “But before I left, I saw Sarek and another woman coming out of the embassy. This women with him had also arrived I think within this last week. She is young by Vulcan standards. Maybe about forty, long black hair, and dresses like she is from an one of the high families. This woman is involved in this as well.”

Sharan seemed caught up in the story she was spinning. Good. He tapped a sequence into a PADD like device. A hologram of the Vulcan woman appeared to the left of the desk. “Is this the one you are referring to,” Sharan queried. “We had thought her unimportant.”

Amanda nodded, a slight scowl forming on her face despite herself. “Yes. That's her,” she replied voice tight. The hair and clothes were different, and she had been further away when she has seen her in person. But due to the instant dislike that rose up in her, she had no doubt this was the same woman.

“It sounds like you do not like this T’Rel,” surmised Sharan with a small hiss of amusement.

“Indeed not,” confirmed Amanda. “May I ask you something personal Ambassador.”

“I may not answer, but you may ask,” allowed Sharan.

“Of course Ambassador. My question is this, what do you think of the relationship between Sarek and myself?”

“Officially it is not a concern of mine Miss Grayson. Neither I or my government care whether a vulcan courts a human.” Sharan considered further. “Personally though I think you are good for him.”

“Thank you for your honesty sir,” Amanda replied, touched by his personal admission. “I will tell you now what I suspect, because none have had the courage to actually inform me. I have reason to believe they intend for Sarek to marry T’Rel.” Sharan didn't need to know that her reasons were bad first impressions of the woman, and Amanda’s exclusion from events this week.

“And why should it concern me,” queried Sharan. Straight and to the point.

Well that was a good question. How to answer? Amanda had to indicate her value to Sharan. She tried, “You have noticed a change in Sarek's approach to you in recent months? He has told me negotiations between the two of you have improved in effectiveness and efficiency.”

“He has been more tolerable than normal,” agreed the Ambassador. “He has been more understanding of our ways and less overtly offensive in his dealings. I think he even tried to make a joke on one occasion. It was quite terrible actually. However, the fact that he made the attempt was rather amusing. Are you implying that is your influence Miss Grayson.”

Amanda nodded. “Of course sir, what else. He is a Vulcan and it is difficult for him to fully comprehend the reasons of more emotional species such as ours. And more so, you don’t think he is capable of spontaneously developing a sense of humour do you?”

“If you can get Ambassador Sarek to tell jokes you must be something quite special.” Sharan looked quite amused. “Tell me, how did you achieve such a thing. I would have thought it impossible if I had not heard it myself.”

Amanda grinned remembering that discussion. “Normally sir, I would not talk about Sarek’s personal life. But I just might have told him that the concept of humour was a game of wit that he was losing. It was possible I then started keeping score. You can perhaps imagine his reaction.”

Sharan's smile seemed genuine, but his eyes appeared sad. “I do believe I am becoming very fond of you Miss Grayson. You are indeed a desirable influence on Sarek, but you are rather a worthy individual in your own right. I have realised that you are, as they say, pumping me for information. But you have done it in a way I must admire. I did not expect you had the capacity for such duplicity Amanda. I am impressed. You could be in politics yourself if you choose.”

Amanda made a face at the idea. She was a little surprise that Sharan had seen through her tactics, but more so that he had kept playing the game despite it. He had revealed her hand now so she might as well be honest. “I am quite happy to stay firmly behind the scenes when it comes to politics thank you. And despite what you might think, I haven't lied to you Ambassador. Some things I will admit are just suspicions, but my gut feeling tells me I am right.”

“What you have suggested so far is certainly plausible,” Sharan admitted. “But how do you know Sarek did not willing take T’Rel as bondmate? Perhaps he has cast you aside for a more logical choice presented by his pid-kom? Vulcans are ruled by their logic and he has loyalty to his family. He might do such a thing.”

Amanda shook her head, “I had initially considered that he may have chosen to bond to another Ambassador, but I have come to reject it. I do not think it was Sarek’s choice to either bond to T’Rel or to leave Earth. No matter what you might think of his character, he had promised himself to me and would honour that. Even if he had found a logical reason to take another, he would have officially ended our relationship. Instead, he has been unusually silent. I have not been able to communicate with him since the arrival of T’Pau. I know him better than most, Ambassador. I tell you, he would have informed me himself of what was happening if he could.”

“He may still be forced into a marriage Amanda,” Sharan replied surprisingly gently, using her given name for the first time in their association. “T’Pau does have the right to command him even in this, and it might be the reason she came in person. She has quite a presence and it is difficult to go against her will.”

Amanda wondered if Sharan had some personal experience with T’Pau to know such things. Between the two of them they had painted quite a grim picture. She had to agree that it did seem likely though.

After a few moment she responded, “Perhaps so, Ambassador. But if he is to marry another, I still think I have the right to hear it from him. I am owed an explanation. But personally, I think he is in some kind of trouble. He did undergo an emergency beam out. If all was well he would have taken a shuttle up, like he always did. I don't believe it's a medical emergency. He appeared fine when I last saw him, at least as far as I could tell from the gate. He was carrying luggage and heading to an air car with T’Rel behind him. Something happened within a few minutes of me leaving to change that. Whatever is happening, I need to speak with him. I don't think he is being allowed to contact me, and I don't know how to contact him. The only thing I can think of, is that I might be able to get to him on Vulcan.”

“That would be difficult Amanda. If T’Pau is against you, it will not be possible for you to get any normal type of visa. You would need diplomatic clearance to travel to Vulcan now, and without Sarek’s help you are unlikely to get it.”

Amanda considered. Even in the unlikely chance the Vulcan embassy would process a visa for her, it would take months. They were quite restrictive in who was allowed on the planet. She still felt a great sense of urgency and didn't think she could afford to wait. She didn't know why but she felt Sarek needed her help.

Sarek had never provided her with any visa or diplomatic clearance as he had no reason to. Who else had the authority? She stared at the Andorian ambassador. With little hope but needing to ask anyway she said, “There is an Andorian embassy on Vulcan. You have the authority to send me there do you not? You could get me on the planet?”

“Speaking with you Miss Grayson is one matter, but assisting you to get to Vulcan is rather another. You would need to receive a diplomatic waiver to enter Vulcan. This would involve a great deal of risk for me as your sponsor. Even if I would be willing to help you, my government must agree to such a course of action.

It seemed like he wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea but didn't want to stick his neck out for her. She couldn't ask him to go against his government's policies, potentially offending Vulcan in the process. But now that she thought of it, that last would probably be a reason for helping her, not against. His obvious dislike of most Vulcans, T’Pau in particular, could be used to sway him. She knew of nothing else that might motivate him.

“Oh you’ll want to help me Mr Ambassador, as will your government,” she answered with a confidence she didn’t feel. “The Vulcans do not want me there. T'Pau, in particular, does not want me there. By helping me, Ambassador, you will have the opportunity to defy T'Pau’s wishes. How often do you get such a chance? Get me to that planet and let me loose. I intend to accomplish a feat that no outsider ever has. I will marry into the house of Surak, into T'Pau’s own clan. Can you imagine her having to deal with me. The supposedly inferior human who had the audacity to marry an heir of the Surak line. And I will bet you anything she isn't the only important Vulcan I will offend before I am done. Do you know what havoc I will wreck on Vulcan simply by achieving my goals. Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to be part of.”

Amanda had not held herself back, and as she spoke Sharan looked at her with growing admiration and mirth. He began to chuckle part way through her speech, a strange hissing noise. When she finished he actually threw back his head and laughed. The sound was actually quite shocking, perhaps more war cry than laugh. It was the most noise she had ever heard from him.

When he finally calmed himself he replied. “Amanda Grayson, you must have the exoskeleton of an Andorian to have such boldness. The chance that T'Pau might have to accept such a passionate individual as yourself as family, is indeed far too good to pass up. We can agree to work towards this goal. I will arrange transport and even accompany you myself in order to see these events unfold. I look forward to the chaos that will travel in your wake. Now there are many preparations to be made, let me contact my aide and we can get started.”

Thrain entered moments later bearing food with him. He served both Amanda and Sharan some type of stew. It was served in some kind of clay bowl, or perhaps it was more a large handle-less mug. She observed the Ambassador sip directly from the steaming bowl. Trying not to consider what the blue chunks were, she picked hers up and did the same. She did not care at all for the flavour, but the heat of it seeped into her hands and down her throat. She sighed in appreciation and Sharan looked approvingly at her.

The planning began then in earnest. And like that, Amanda suddenly had a way to reach Sarek.

Chapter Text

Chilly down with the fire gang (Hey, I'm a wild child)
Act tall with the fire gang (whoo, walk tall)
Good times, bad food (yeah)
When your thing gets wild
Chilly down, chilly down

Chilly Down - David Bowie

 

Chapter 6: Chilly Down

--AMANDA--

Sharan required time to arrange all the details for the trip. A ship needed to be readied and credentials created for Amanda. Additionally, the Ambassador needed to rearrange his own schedule and instruct his aide on things that couldn’t wait for his return. She was driven home quite late at night when she could no longer contribute anything to the efforts.

Even though she was tired, she had trouble winding down to sleep. Now that the adrenalin had worn out and she was no longer on show, the doubts started to surface. She had talked big, but she didn’t know what exactly she would do when she got to Vulcan. A lot of her working theory was still guesswork. Multiple scenarios kept passing through her head about what she might do depending on what situation Sarek was in. The only thing she was sure of was that she had to get to him.

When she had realised Sharan could help her but might not, she had become somewhat desperate. Amanda was glad the only thing she had really promised Sharan was something she wanted anyway, to marry Sarek. Defying T’Pau and causing havoc in Vulcan society was just a natural consequence of achieving her aim. It just so happened that it was a great motivation for Sharan. Still it could cause a lot of trouble for all involved.

She wished Sarek was here with her. Amanda missed him fiercely, and greatly desired to be able to speak with him, to touch him. She could really use his calm and reason right now. He would surely know what should be done. Of course if he was here, none of this would be needed. A real catch 22 situation.

But she was a step closer to him. The journey would give her more time to plan. Sharan may also give her advice, now that he had an invested interest in helping her. Such an unlikely ally she had found, perhaps even a friend? She still did know how much she could trust him, but as long as their goals aligned she thought he would help her.

When she finally managed to fall asleep, her dreams too were full of worry.

 

The next morning she called into work and asked for indefinite leave. Family emergency was provided as the reason. She made herself eat, shower, and get dressed. Briefly, she called her mother on Jupiter station and let her know she would be out of the system for awhile. The connection from her home comm was not very good, so Amanda felt no guilt in keeping the details sparse.

With those jobs done, she turned to the problem of packing. What to take when one was traveling on a spaceship as cold as the arctic, to a desert planet described by humans as hotter than hell? She did have one set of Vulcan robes that Sarek had given her. The rest of her clothes were a combination of her warmest winter and coolest summer attire. To this pile, she added the things that years of travelling had taught her were absolute necessities for her.

After that, she had little to do but wait, and it grated on her. Trying to read, only ended up in her repeating the same paragraph five times, and still having no idea what it said. She put on the vid instead. Finally, just before two pm, she received a call to say that a hovercar was on its way to take her to the spaceport. Sharan would meet her there.

Amanda went through the house, checking for anything she have forgotten and turning off lights as she went. Pulling on her warmest clothes, she grabbed her bags, and went out the door, locking the apartment behind her. The car arrived shortly after, and the Andorian driver took her bags and stowed them, directing her to the back seat. During the journey, she watched the city, wondering when she would next see it.

She was surprised when they got to the spaceport that she wasn’t taken through security. Instead they were driven right up to a small Andorian shuttle on the landing pad. Amanda got out of the hovercar, and the driver transferred her bags to the shuttle before driving away.

Sharan met her at the hatch and welcomed her in. When she indicated her surprise he remarked, “You are now part of the Andorian diplomatic party Miss Grayson. For the remainder of our journey together, you are hired by myself as the resident translator. You have all the necessary clearances now that you need not pass through human or vulcan security.”

Amanda smiled. “My sincerest thanks Ambassador. I will not forget what you are doing for me.”

“Not entirely for you my dear,” Sharan replied with a return smile. “I am quite looking forward to this myself. Come, we must be on our way, you should strap in.” Once seated he switched to Andorian and spoke to the pilot, “Departure, prepare for Kyr.”

The shuttle pilot bent his head forward in acknowledgment. “Yes leader. Clearance from ground control we have, all ready systems. Now, lifting off.”

Amanda heard the hum of the engines increase, but didn't even feel a lurch as they took off. This little shuttle must have excellent inertial dampers. Amanda watched the ground recede, then clouds appear, before finally rising enough to see curvature of the planet. The ship banked and an orbiting Andorian diplomatic courier came into view. The warp nacelles seemed disproportionately large compared to the rest of the ship.

The shuttle flew into a bay that opened at the back. She was directed to a passenger lounge, which also appeared to serve dual purpose as an eating hall. She and Sharan took seats there, while the shuttle pilot headed to the bridge. A very slight acceleration was initially felt as they went to high impulse. When far enough away from any planets, Amanda felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up as the warp drive came online.

A women often thinks of things she should do when she is not a position to do them. Amanda has never found herself to be an exception to that. As they warped out of the system she had a nagging feeling she had forgotten something. About ten minutes later she finally figured out what it was. She had not changed the automatic message on her comm to let people know she was away. It would ring for quite some time before going to the message bank with the standard ‘I’ll get back to you soon’ message. Off planet, it wouldn't be able to transfer to her communicator either. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now. She wasn't about to ask them to turn the ship around for that. Not likely anyone would call her anyway, since she had informed her mother and work. She let it go. Could have been worse. She had after all remembered to bring coffee on this trip.

 

Now they were underway, Amanda felt far more calm. The first day was spent on a tour of the ship, with Sharan engaging her with conversation. The crew was at first reserved towards her. However, as they saw that she was accepted by the ambassador, they eventually began to socialise with her. This gave her ample chance to practice her An’dor.

Upon being informed she was a linguist, the three crew members were quite willing to teach her obscure words and phrases in several Andorian dialects. Isheb, who worked the helm, enjoyed explaining in detail, the meanings of Andorian curses. Kyr also shared a great deal of new vulgar vocabulary with her. She took notes a plenty, thinking that if she returned to work she could add some rather colourful phrases to the language database.

The three crew took great pride in their ship, the Ngat-Hupp. They boasted of its speed and informed her it could travel far faster than the T'Pla’na. The Vulcans were capable of a higher warp speed than anyone else in the Federation. However this Andorian vessel had a large power to weight ratio. This enabled the small vessel to travel faster, with less energy than would be required for the larger science vessel. The Ngat-Hupp at its current speed would get to Vulcan about 28 hours after the T'Pla’na did, even though they had left Earth about 52 hours behind her.

 

There was one problem on board. While she didn’t complain, Amanda felt cold most of the time. Even wearing several layers of clothes she just never seemed to be warm enough. Her small quarters were set to a comparatively toasty ten degrees centigrade; the maximum the thermostat would allow. Sonic showering and changing clothing, were tasks to be performed as quickly as possible to avoid the risk of hypothermia.

She had been both pleased and amused to find her bed contained a blanket resembling the wall hangings at the embassy. It turned out to as incredibly warm as it looked. One day, feeling particularly frigid, she had wrapped the blanket around her shoulders when she went out for the morning meal. Sharan had seemed amused to see that, and told her she looked like a red-bat curled up in its furry wings. Later that day Jhyzi, the resident engineer, offered her a cloak of the same wool to use for her remaining time on board. Amanda was teased a little that she needed a winter coat in ‘summer’ temperatures. But she didn't mind. She was finally warm.

 

Less than a day out from Vulcan, Amanda was sitting in the dining room with Jhyzi, Sharan, and Kyr. Isheb had been there earlier too, but had left to relieve Kyr from the night watch at the helm. They had just finished a tuber root salad that Amanda had actually found quite palatable. The Andorians were drinking small cups of iced glow ale, and Amanda had a steaming cup of coffee. The discussion turned to the origins of the cloak she was wearing.

It turned out that the wool came from a Gratalka. From its description Amanda imagined some kind of blue hairy behemoth, perhaps a trunk less mammoth. The picture she was shown though looked far more insectoid than pakaderm. The Gatalka shed a lot in the warmer months and this wool was collected and used for many purposes. Weavers often lived near the summer ranges of the herds for this reason. One could also partially tame a Gratalka, and they were often trained to pull large sleds. Though they were generally quite slow moving, one Gratalka was strong enough to pull a whole keth family and their goods to market.

They were starting to describe other Andorian wildlife when Amanda’s head split with pain. Holding her head together with her hands, she had the distinct impression that Sarek was asking something of her. Feeling the urgency of the request she tried to respond to him. His presence was suddenly gone and she heard herself cry out; the sudden loss far worse than the preceding pain.

Waking some hours later, she found herself lying in a bed in the small room that passed for a med bay. Three anxious faces slowly came into focus. Groggily, she asked what had happened. Sharan told her she was fortunate Kyr had such good reflexes. Otherwise she might have smashed her head on the deck when she collapsed. When they asked what had caused her faint, she managed to tell them that Sarek was in trouble and she needed to get to Vulcan immediately. They seemed to accept this, that as Sarek’s partner she would know. She asked if they could get there any faster. Amanda was surprised not so much that they could, but they were willing to do so.

None of the crew were doctors. Kyr had some medical training, but his training and all drugs on board were for Andorian anatomy. At a loss of what else to do with her, they did simple things. They kept her warm, increasing the temperature of the room and bringing her blanket. They turned down the lights and gave her water. Later, they tried food as well, but even the thought of eating caused her nausea.

Amanda dropped in and out of consciousness. She thought they were taking turns to watch over her, as every time she woke a different Andorian was sitting by the bed. When she was lucid enough to think, Amanda was quite touched by their care. Andorians were not known for sympathy towards outsiders. Yet here they were actually concerned and doing what they could for her. She felt she’d been accepted as one of their own.

The Ngat-Hupp was heading to Vulcan beyond the recommended maximum speed. With Amanda in need of urgent medical care, they even contacted the Vulcan hospital in Shi’Kahr to prepare for her arrival. As they got closer her symptoms seemed to get worse. She had a growing level of anxiety, sensing that Sarek was in danger.

Later all she would remember of the last few hours of transit was thinking over and over, “I am coming Sarek. Hold on, I’m coming.”

Chapter Text

How you turn my world, you precious thing
You starve and near exhaust me
Everything I've done, I've done for you
I move the stars for no one

Within You, David Bowie

 

CHAPTER 7: Precious Thing

--SAREK--

When Sarek woke, it was to find himself in a hospital bed. He tried to determine how long he had been unconscious. It was four point...four point...nearly five hours? He could not determine the exact time. That was disturbing.

Sarek was also surprised to find himself alone in the room. He had been certain that Amanda had been nearby. Had she not been just telling him something? Where was she? He needed to find her.

Attempting to sit up, he found himself surprisingly weak. He successfully pushed himself up onto one arm. Trying to reach a standing position, he had trouble coordinating his limbs and fell back to the bed. Before he had fully corrected himself an elderly Vulcan male in healer robes walked in.

Sarek managed to sit upright. He addressed the healer with the most important question on his mind, “Where is Amanda?”

“I know of no one called Amanda,” replied the healer calmly.

“She was with me before I fully regained consciousness,” Sarek insisted.

“No-one has been in here apart from myself. You are in an isolation ward,” the healer disagreed.

Sarek did not believe him, but choose not to argue further. The healer was obviously ignorant of Amanda's presence. Instead he asked, “Why am I here, healer?”

“You were discovered unconscious in your family home and brought to the Shi’Kahr medical facility. Your life signs were weak and your brain waves erratic. You were stabilized and then brought into isolation where your unshielded thoughts will not affect other patients. From what we have observed so far, your symptoms are consistent with an improperly conducted meld.”

Sarek considered, though the memory recall was oddly slow. He had mind linked with someone recently. Remembering, he answered, “My mother requested to see my thoughts. She did not go deep. I did not note any ill effects to either of us at the time.”

“T’Vin accompanied you to the medical facility and we did discuss this. She was 99.932% certain of a successful mind link between the two of you. T’Vin is quite a skilled telepath, and was in control of the transference. We are in agreement that another incident is the cause. This indicates that you have melded with another. No one was found with you, so we are curious to know the other participant in your meld. They should also be brought here for treatment. There is an 87.382% probability that they will develop Pa'nar Syndrome without it.”

Sarek slowly accessed the memories from the time just after the meld. He gradually recalled a conversation with his parents...asking them to use the comm. He had called Amanda, but she didn't answer and then...His lungs could not get enough air. He gasped out, “Amanda. I was trying to contact her. WHERE IS SHE?”

“Calm yourself Shaile,” commanded the healer. “As I have stated she is not here. Who is this Amanda? The phonetics suggest it is not a Vulcan name. Was she the other participant in the meld?”

Sarek was having trouble parsing the questions. Taking control of his autonomic functions, he slowed his breathing and brought his heart rate back into its optimal range. With more control this time he answered the healer, “Amanda is human. I needed to know if she was well.”

The healer postulated, “You melded with a human in your home? Perhaps that explains the extent of the damage. It is surprising she was not found. It is improbable that she would be able to move afterward.”

“Amanda was never in my home,” Sarek corrected. “I last saw her on Earth 6.9 days ago. However I was able to reach her telepathically and I am almost certain she replied.”

“It is quite unlikely that communication would be possible over a bond stretched that far. Particular not with a recipient with a null or low psi rating,” the healer stated.

“We are not yet bonded,” Sarek admitted.

The healer’s eyebrow lifted incredulously. “You are implying that you mentally reached across light years, to a human to whom you are not bonded, and you made contact? You do not possess the telepathic aptitude that would allow this. Not even the high priestess T’Lar would have the strength to do such. It is far more probable that you over exerted yourself attempting such a thing and lost consciousness.”

“I made contact and she responded,” Sarek insisted obstinately. “I would not lie.”

“Your mind is currently damaged and what you have claimed is not feasible. The logical conclusion is that you have been hallucinating. We will talk of this more later but for now there are other pressing matters. I need to further assess your mental state. You are showing signs of anxiety and the beginnings of paranoia. It would be best for you to allow me to observe your thoughts to determine the extent of the psychic damage. Once the assessment is made, it can be determined how to best heal your mind. Will you permit this?”

Sarek considered his options, a harder task than it should have been. He started assessing his own abilities. His time sense was imprecise, his reflexes failing. He started some simple mathematics and found the process slow and tedious. Attempting to calculate pi, he found that he could not retain more than 34 digits at one time. With great effort he could do simple calculus problems but anything beyond that was too difficult. He thought he was still able to reason, but there was a substantial loss of functioning, particularly in processing time. The problems were more extensive than when he had lost emotional control at the embassy. Now he was losing control of mind and body as well. That was...frightening.

The fact he was now experiencing fear was, in of itself, a sign at how much control he had already lost. Finally Sarek agreed, “I can sense the damage healer. I will permit your assistance.”

The healer inclined his head in acknowledgement. “I will start with a mind probe, and progress into a link if needed. I will only be observing at this time, but as I will be going deep, you may still feel this as an intrusion,” informed the healer.

“I understand, I will not fight your presence,” Sarek assented.

The healer moved next to him and reached up for Sarek's temple. Fingers only accessed the nerve clusters around the eyes. Sarek felt the presence enter his thoughts, and his eyes automatically closed.

Like all healers, this one was well shielded, his thoughts inaccessible to Sarek. Sarek was aware of being observed though, and knew the healer was examining his surface thoughts. The grip on his face changed, and the presence started going deeper. Now he could sense certain memories being examined, particularly those of recent events. The memories focused on the events since his loss of control at the embassy. When today’s events were reached, a sense of panic flooded through him as he relived his fear for Amanda. The healer sent him calm allowing Sarek to detach himself from the emotional load of the memory. He watched himself cry out to Amanda in despair, frantic to know she was alive. But the emotions this time had no effect. As he watched himself fall, this time he could hear her faint reply. It was nothing so complicated as words, but he could sense her. She was alive! The healer had made him doubt his senses, but here was proof. She was alive!

For a moment he actually felt astonishment from the healer, but it was rapidly suppressed. The healer’s mind voice asked Sarek to think of Amanda, and doing so brought the memories of her to the forefront. The healer rapidly started examining them, lingering on the memory of Sarek's first meeting with Amanda.

They were in the Federation ballroom attending a function for some overly sentimental Earth celebration. He had seen Amanda across the room. While he had never met her before, he had yet recognized her, and she him. He had experienced shan'hal'lak, what Amanda called love at first sight. Their minds had overlapped across the room and they had shared thoughts. He had needed to stop himself from bonding with Amanda right then and there.

The healer stopped searching his memories and headed deeper. In the physical plane, the healer’s thumbs reached for the nerve cluster under his chin. On the mental plane, Sarek’s internal perceptions followed the healer’s. He found himself in his bonding nexus. Here he could see the familial bonds he shared with his family. The strongest ones were with his parents, but there were many others. Lesser link connected him to his clan, and their bonds connected him to other clans, and so forth. While each subsequent level of linkage got weaker, such connections still allowed for an awareness of all Vulcans. The kash-tel T’Khasi was a constant undercurrent in his mind. The sense of it was strongest when he was among his own people. It was truly what made Vulcan home, and few liked to leave it.

Sarek’s attention was moved from the familial bonds to the area where his marriage bond had once been. When T’Kahle had died unexpectedly, the bond they shared since they were seven had been brutally severed. The experience had nearly killed him. To prevent his mind doing the psychic equivalent of bleeding out, a healer had sealed his end of the bond. The process while necessary had been painful, and it had left scars here.

It took him a moment to realise the healer wasn't observing this broken bond but something else. Sarek detected the tenuous threads of another bond rooting into the marriage nexus. It seemed to flicker in and out of existence, its thickness waxed and waned. He did not recognise this bond, it should not be here. Sarek reached out with his mind to determine what it was.

Amanda. It was Amanda! The link strengthened for a moment under his mental touch and he felt it thrum with life. “I'm coming Sarek, I'm coming,” sang the link. It thinned again, almost disappearing. He tried to increase the flow, to respond to her, but his mind was exhausted.

The healer noticed his state and his mind voice announced he had seen what was needed and would be exiting the mind link. The healer’s presence diminished, commanding sleep as it left. In the physical world, Sarek’s body lay down and his eyes shut. But his mind curled up around the fragile link. “I am here, Amanda,” he sent. “I am here.”

The link rippled acknowledgement and a great contentment welled up in him. Amanda was alive and she was coming. They had the beginnings of a bond that they could complete when she arrived. He allowed himself to rest, all fears dissipating in the light of his new found knowledge.

 

 

Sarek woke up perhaps two hours later. He was no longer exhausted but his thinking was still slow. Waking may have triggered a medical alert, as the healer entered the chamber a moment later and stood by his bed side. As was typical for Vulcans, the healer began speaking without any preamble.

The healer described Sarek's medical state in detail. From what Sarek could follow of the conversation, it seemed his neurochemistry was fluctuating between over and under stimulation. The symptoms were partially consistent with Pa’nar Syndrome. However, the symptoms were far too advanced for a meld that had occurred less than a day ago. The healer’s examination of his mind had now ruled it out as the cause. Sarek’s symptoms were unique to the healer’s experience, and he had needed to consult with some of his colleagues. The highest correlation with Sarek’s symptoms was with bonding sickness.

Sarek had heard of bonding sickness before. It was frequently caused by the death of a bondmate. The loss of a bondmate was especially disturbing to a Vulcan male. A willing mate provided the Vulcan male with security that his life would be protected during the fires. Losing such a mate could cause the male to become emotionally and mentally unstable. The cure was a new bondmate.

When T’Kahle had died, the healers had checked him periodically for several days after to make sure he did not develop bonding sickness. In fact, Sarek had ended up with the opposite problem. For several years he could not bare another in her place. His mind would not have been able to bond in that state. As his next pon farr was still years away, his family had accepted that and allowed him time to heal. But death of a bondmate was not what had happened here. He told the healer as much.

The healer agreed. “This is true Sarek, however my colleagues have informed me that bonding sickness may also occur in cases of shan’hal’lak. If one is prevented from bonding, the bonding nexus would be constantly trying to make a connection. The formation of a bond can be consciously prevented, but tension builds in the mind over time causing the sickness. In 6.021% of documented cases, a proto-bond spontaneously forms to alleviate some of the mental strain. The formation of proto-bonds does not require a meld if the two involved are compatible. Long exposure, especially unshielded touch, is sufficient. From what I have seen in your mind, you have developed such a proto-bond with Amanda.”

“You have shown me its existence,” Sarek agreed. “ However why was I not aware of it before now? Did it just form recently? And how is it even possible for Amanda to share this with me?”

The healer considered for a moment before speaking. “It is likely that your first interaction primed her mind to accept it. Based on the strength of the engulfment you experienced, the proto-bond probably formed early in your association. Due to their fluctuating natures, proto-bonds are exceedingly difficult to detect. One trained to find them can readily do so, but only when they are in an active stage as yours was. Given that you have not been trained for such, it is not surprising that you did not detect it. However, you were likely unconsciously aware of it. A proto-bond needs to be regularly renewed. The bond can fade out of existence entirely if you are separated for long enough. However the sense of it fading would draw the two of you together, and that strengthens it again. I expect long separations would make the bond very unstable, and the experience would be quite stressful for the both of you. It is the likely the reason why you lost control the last time you saw her.”

Sarek considered this. He had been separated from Amanda for nearly four weeks now. First because of his responsibilities at work, then by T’Pau isolating him, and finally by the journey to Vulcan. The longer he had been away from Amanda, the greater his need for her had become. He had managed to control himself on the journey home only with great effort. However, when he had became concerned with Amanda’s safety, he had panicked. None of this was not normal behaviour for him.

If they had a normal bond, it would have have provided him with reassurance. It would not matter the physical separation between them, as part of her would always be within him. But this proto-bond was unreliable and now it was also unstable. “Healer, what is the solution to this?” Sarek inquired.

“The proto-bond is providing partial protection against the bonding sickness. The best solution would be to complete the existing bond immediately,” pronounced the old healer. “If this is not possible, the next best solution is to sever the proto-bond. You would then be required to immediately take another bondmate to stabilise your bonding nexus. Without a full bond, your synaptic pathways will continue to degrade. If the symptoms are allowed to progress, they will soon reach a point where the damage will be irreversible. At its current rate of degradation, you have a maximum of 33.257 hours until you reach this point. Further delay will certainly result in a permanent loss of functioning. And if your symptoms are allowed to progress to their conclusion it will eventually result in your death. The sooner you bond, the better your chances of preventing this outcome and regaining full functioning.”

Sarek understood the danger to himself but there was one important question that had not addressed. “Healer, if my condition is this serious, what about Amanda? Will she too be experience bonding sickness? What risks are there to her?”

“The risks are unknown,” admitted the healer. “A Vulcan female is 74.31% less likely to develop bonding sickness than a male, however Amanda is not Vulcan. Nor is there is any data on how a proto-bond affects a human. She may be completely immune to bonding sickness, or she may be in the same state as you. There is no way to predict the outcome without examining her.”

“I need to find her,” Sarek declared.

“Others are searching for her,” the healer soothed. “Amanda will be found and tended to. But now that you are informed, there is another matter. Your family was notified of your diagnosis while you slept. Your mother would like to speak to you about the decisions that must be made. Are you prepared to receive her?”

Sarek inclined his head in the affirmative, “Yes healer, I would speak with my mother.”

“Very well, I will retrieve her now,” the healer replied.

 

 

The healer left Sarek in a state of shock. Sarek had wanted to bond with Amanda since their first meeting. Thereafter, it had been a constant struggle to not act on that inclination. But he could not bond to her without her understanding what he was asking of her. Amanda had significant understanding of the Vulcan language, but she did not have the vocabulary for this. She had no experience with telepathy, or knowledge of the demands that were placed on a Vulcan bondmate. These were not concepts taught to outsiders.

He had started teaching her the things she would need. They started meditation training and she had begun to learn how to isolate her core self and shield her thoughts. Vulcan’s history and culture were described to her in detail. The ways and traditions of his people were demonstrated. He spoke to her also of his own life, his family, and the desert city he called home. She had shared with him many of her own experiences and values in return.

Sarek had began brushing against her mind in a light touch to demonstrate telepathy. During one evening together, he had progressed as far as a mental link with her. It had been excruciatingly difficult to avoid the progression into the meld that could have bonded them. He had not tried more than a mind touch with her since.

At the rate she was progressing with the lessons, he had thought only a few more months were needed. He then would have revealed everything to her, all the secret things that she must know. At that point she would have the knowledge needed to make an informed decision, and the skills necessary if she agreed to bonding.

But they didn't have months now. He could feel his reason slipping away. Every moment he waited he risked his mind and his life. He desperately wanted to bond with Amanda, yet he did not know where she was located. Was this sickness affecting her too? Would she be mentally damaged, or even die, if he couldn't bond with her? T’Rel would be presented as an alternative to him, but what would happen to Amanda if she too needed to bond? There would be no other for her. What had he done?

If Amanda was still on Earth, it would take a minimum of five days for her to get here. Yet having observed the damage to his mind, he knew he did not have so long. The healer had suggested 33.2 hours, till he no longer possessed the facilities to make repairs. Once he lost that ability, any damage done was permanent.

Of all the injuries and illnesses that could befall a Vulcan, damage to the mind was the worst. He could even admit that he greatly feared this outcome. But Amanda might need him. He could not risk her, no matter the cost to himself.

He would wait for her. He would bond with her.

And if she would not have him in return then he would die.

It was better than living without her.

 

 

T’Vin entered just as Sarek had made his decision. “Sa-fu if you are able there is much I need to discuss with you,” she requested.

“I am alert and able to reason ko-mekh. Though I must admit there is some disarray to my thoughts,” responded Sarek.

“Understood,” T’Vin acknowledged. “I have been speaking with Healer Sorrd and he has told me your prognosis. I have also spoken with T’Pau who -.”

Sarek interrupted, “Is there any news from Amanda or of her whereabouts?”

T’Vin realising that Sarek would not be dissuaded from this topic, presented the facts to him. “Many are searching sa-fu. So far this is what we know. Amanda isn't answering comm calls, nor is her personal communicator registering. Skon contacted the Vulcan embassy on Earth, and asked them to locate her. Someone was sent to Amanda’s apartment, but they found it unoccupied. Her employer informed us that Amanda took leave approximately six days ago. Her family have been contacted, but none have admitted to speaking with her recently. As of yet no one has been able to locate her on Earth. Nor does there seem to be any record of her leaving the planet. The embassy is attempting to track her movements since she was last seen at the embassy gate but have found no indication of where she went since then. Amanda should not have been able to hide so effectively as to avoid the embassy’s detection. It is logical to deduce that she must have had help. Do you know of anyone that she might approach for assistance?”

Sarek contemplated before answering. “Amanda is quite resourceful, but I must admit I am uncertain to whom she would have turned. If she was leaving the planet, she would likely have at least informed her mother, Linda Grayson. Mrs Grayson currently works as a research scientist on Jupiter station. Amanda also has many friends and colleagues that she associates with, but I do not know of any that have the power to help her off world undetected. I am certain however that she has has already left Earth.”

“How could you know that my son?,” questioned T’Vin.

“The healer would have informed you that Amanda and I share a proto-bond. Through it she managed to send me a message that she was coming. I do not know how Amanda managed to get off Earth, but I know she is on route to Vulcan. Each time I do sense something from our bond, she feels closer than she was before.”

“Sarek a proto-bond should not be able to relay thoughts at a distance,” T’Vin answered bluntly. “The healer is concerned that you may be hallucinating. If so, a memory of it happening is not proof.”

“Ko-mekh, it has occurred several times now, I am certain of this,” Sarek insisted. “She is coming and I will wait for her.”

“Sa-fu that may be unwise,” T’Vin warned.

“You once told me that what is necessary is never unwise,” he answered.

T’Vin temporarily looked taken aback, but she quickly recovered and continued her argument. “You could die from this Sarek. And even if you don't, you could be mentally incapacitated. The functioning you have now will continue to decline until there is nothing left of you.”

“I am aware of this ko-mekh,” Sarek responded impatiently.

His mother changed tactics, and brought up another point of contention. “Assuming that she arrives in time are you even certain she will bond with you?”

Sarek internally winced, but gave the truth to his mother. “Amanda has given many indications that she would ko-mekh, but I have not finished instructing her on what she must know. Most importantly, Amanda has not yet been informed about the fires. I am uncertain of her reaction.”

“Sarek, this is not a time for uncertainty,” T’Vin proclaimed. “We do not know where Amanda is. Even if you are correct and she is on her way, we do not know her rendezvous time. Most importantly, we do not know if she will be in agreement with bonding. With all this uncertainty why would you risk yourself when there is another option?”

Sarek understood his mother’s reasoning, she wanted to protect her son. But Amanda was his priority, and he needed his mother to accept that. “Have you considered ko-mekh, that Amanda may be in the same state as myself. What would happen to her if I did not bond with her? What other choice would there be for her?”

T’Vin actually appeared stricken at the thought. “No, I had not considered that she too may be afflicted,” his mother admitted. “Yet Sarek, if she is too far away you will not be able to help her in time. There is no need for you both to suffer and die.”

Sarek was halfway between pleading and anger when he spoke next to his mother. “Komekh you have seen what she is to me. If she is afflicted, it is because of me. How can you ask me to forsake her?”

“I ask because I would not have you harmed Sarek,” T’Vin replied, concern evident in her voice. “Your best chance for recovery is with an immediate bonding. T’Rel is available now, Amanda is not.”

Sarek inclined his head in the negative. “Ko-mekh, Amanda is coming and I must wait for her. This is my decision to make. Do not ask me this again. Instead, I ask that you put your efforts into finding her. As I can not leave here, I beg you to do what you can in my stead. Start by contacting Linda Grayson. I am certain that Amanda will have confided at least partially in her. Mrs Grayson should be able to provide you with some parameters of Amanda's travel. Focus the search on ships that have left Earth in the last 7 days and are heading to Vulcan. Perhaps she is travelling under an assumed name, so circulate a physical description. And most importantly, you must convince T'Pau that Amanda is the right choice, my only choice. I will not accept anyone else as bondmate.”

“I will contact Linda Grayson and refocus the search for Amanda,” she capitulated. “But convincing T’Pau is another matter. I have already spoken with her Sarek. The pid-kom is not willing to risk you. At her command, I was tasked with convincing you that T’Rel is the logical solution. I see that I can not do that. Your decision is dangerous, but perhaps not without reason. I will speak to T’Pau again on your behalf and uphold your choice. But you are aware, ultimately, a pid-koms command exceeds the recommendations of a ko-mekh. Sarek, you must prepare yourself to accept T’Pau’s order to bond with T’Rel.”

Sarek actually sounded dejected as he replied, “I can not ko-mekh. Do you not understand that I can not.”

T’Vin’s exhaled breath was almost a sigh. “As I promised you before, I will do what I can Sarek. Farewell Sa-fu, I will return soon.”

T’Vin strode out of the room, leaving Sarek once more alone with his thoughts. Unable to do anything more about the situation he put it from his mind. Instead he resumed his efforts to contact Amanda via their tenuous bond. “Amanda, where are you? I need you.”

The link strengthened and he heard her repeat, “I’m coming Sarek,” over and over again. He was certain this time she was much closer than she had been. The impression was so much clearer than it had been before.

“Haste k’diwa. I am waiting for you,” he tried to return. Like before, the attempt at contact was exhausting. He drifted into sleep again without the intention to do so. But he kept calling her towards him even as he slept. Her echoing mind voice was in return a great comfort. She was coming!

Chapter Text

But down in the underground
You'll find someone true

Underground - David Bowie

Chapter 8: Someone True

--T'VIN--

T’Vin left Sarek’s room, caught between opposing factions. The pid-kom had bade her convince Sarek that T’Rel was the logical choice, and would be expecting her to report success. But her son had now convinced her that Amanda was the right choice, perhaps the only choice, for him. Sarek had bid her to in turn to convince T’Pau.

That would be difficult. The pid-kom had made her will known and was unlikely to yield. Yet for Sarek’s sake, T’Vin must attempt to ameliorate T’Pau’s decision.

Taking the carved stone stairs back up to the main level, she found a comm booth and placed the call. An attendant answered, and when T’Vin told her she was expected, she was transferred.

T’Pau’s lined face appeared on the screen and she raised her hand in the ta’al. “Greetings clan daughter. Have you convinced Sarek to accept T’Rel?”

“No clan mother,” T’Vin replied. “Sarek is quite fixated on Amanda and is quite determined that he will only bond with her.”

“That is perhaps the effect of the proto-bond,” T’Pau suggested. “When it is removed, he will not longer be so adamant.”

T’Vin hid her strong aversion to the pid-koms statement. A marriage bond was revered. Severing such a bond was rare, and to do so without the permission of either of the two telsu was unethical. While this was only a proto-bond, Sarek had made his intent to complete it known. As such, now that T’Vin knew of it, she would not have considered breaking it without consent. But T’Pau saw it as an obstacle to be removed. How to demonstrate the bond’s value? Perhaps a medically based argument.

“The healer has informed me that Amanda is the best choice for Sarek’s recovery,” T’Vin attempted. “The partial bond he shares with her could be brought to completion. It involves less risk to him than breaking the proto-bond. It is also what he has chosen.”

T’Pau reluctantly acknowledge this. “Perhaps so T’Vin. However Miss Grayson is not available to us; she is an untenable solution. It also remains that S’chn T’Gai and h’Sktrg clans have agreed that T’Rel will be Sarek’s bondmate. You were a witness to the signing of that agreement T’Vin. As his mother you could have spoken out then, but you did not. It was signed uncontended by any. T’Rel can not be set aside now merely because of Sarek’s preferences.”

T’Rel had cause to regret her past actions, but did not have time now to resolve the guilt. Locking down the emotions, she concentrated on her argument.

T’Vin could understand T’Pau’s perspective. Given the circumstances, T’Rel’s availability did make her the most logical option. Sarek’s refusal of her was not rational given the consequences of not bonding. His actions and condition implied he was medically compromised and acting on emotional impulses. Without a logically derived reason, Amanda would never be an acceptable alternative to T’Pau.

But there was the matter of responsibility here.

“It is more than just his preference pid-kom. As one who has seen his thoughts you must know this,” T’Vin countered. “He has made promises to Amanda, that predate the arrangement with T’Rel. Even if that is to be disregarded, Sarek is concerned that Amanda may also be afflicted with bonding sickness. As he would be the cause, it would be his responsibility to help her.”

T’Pau considered this, the argument of responsibility did resonate with her. “The risk of permanent damage to Sarek increases by the hour. If the injury continues to impact his bonding nexus, the only way to cure him will be lost. Under these conditions, what can be done?”

“Sarek is certain Amanda is close by Pid-kom,” T’Vin answered. “They should be allowed to complete their bond.”

T’Pau dismissed this. “Sarek’s mind is damaged, his judgement can not be trusted. I have read the reports on the search for her. Without proof to the contrary, Amanda is most likely still on Earth. Even if she was found this moment, Sarek does not have enough time remaining to wait for her to travel that distance. Amanda should be found, and if she is affected, what can be done for her will be. However, T’Rel must soon be presented to Sarek as bondmate. Time does not allow us other options.”

“What if we do find her closeby?,” T’Vin insisted. “If she arrives before the damage becomes permanent, will you allow Amanda Grayson to bond with Sarek?”

T’Pau considered for 1.31 minutes. Finally she spoke, “If you find Amanda Grayson before Sarek is bonded we can discuss it then. Sarek’s condition is too fragile to wait. I would have had him bonded as soon as we were provided with the diagnosis; but the healer bid us wait. Sarek needed rest, and time for his mind to recover from exceeding his telepathic capacity. T’Rel is now meditating in the temple in preparation for the bonding. When both tasks are complete, Sarek must be bonded. No further delays can be accepted.”

T’Pau had used the empathic tone and T’Vin bowed her head in acceptance. “I understand pid-kom, but I will be joining the search for Amanda. Live long and prosper clan mother.”

“Peace and long life clan daughter,” T’Pau responded. Then the call was terminated and the screen went dark.

When the call finished, T’Vin found herself in great need of meditation. Frustration, regrets, and even anger had been temporarily suppressed during the call to T’Pau, but where now resurfacing. She would be useless to help anyone if she did not master herself.

Finding an unoccupied meditation alcove, she sat herself in front of the glowing coals of the firepot and sought calm. Ninety seven point five nine years of mediation practice made reaching the deeper levels an easy task.

She allowed herself to consider the cause of her emotions.

What came immediately to mind was her past actions regarding her son's relationship. Since the discovery of Sarek’s chosen, T’Vin had been attempting to convince him that his relationship with a human was a mistake.

For 3.241 years after his wife's death, Sarek had not be interested in a bondmate. Due to psychic scarring from the severed bond, he was deemed to be mentally incapable of forming a successful bond at the time. The family had been concerned that he would not recover from T’Kahle’s death.

His resumption of interest in taking a wife had occurred when he was on Earth. As an unfortunate result, he had formed an attachment to a human woman. For many reasons, this was not considered acceptable. The family had decided to make alternate arrangements.

It had been difficult to locate appropriate females that were not already bonded. Yet after many discrete inquiries she was able to provide dossiers of nine eligible females to Sarek. She had been certain that one of them would properly focus his desire for a bondmate. But Sarek had turned them all down, finding fault with all of them.

The h’Sktrg clan, heard their family was seeking a bondmate for Sarek. One point three three months prior, they had approached T’Pau, offering one of their clan daughters. T’Rel met every criteria a Vulcan male might require in a wife. She was fertile, greatly telepathically skilled, highly intelligent, and even aesthetically pleasing. Her training as Reldai, while incomplete, would nonetheless help her deal with the sometimes emotionally volatile S’chn T’Gai male. T’Vin was very aware of that necessity, and had herself been selected for Skon at age seven, primarily due to her superior calm and telepathic skills.

T’Pau herself had been interested in the fact that the marriage had a high probability for producing talented heirs and would also have the benefit of bringing two clans closer together. It seemed like such a satisfactory match that T’Vin could not conceive of any reason at the time that she should oppose it.

Apart from the fact that she knew her son had chosen another.

And that was where the guilt came from. Her son was full grown and capable of making such a choice himself. Yet due to the fact that his chosen was not Vulcan, his provided reasons for courting Amanda had not seemed sufficient.

Amanda Grayson did not have the bloodline of an ancient and noble family; she was not even Vulcan. The research indicated a very low probability of Amanda successfully bearing Sarek’s children. And while Sarek had indicated Amanda was quite intelligent and talented, no human could have the grasp of logic that a Vulcan would. What could she possibly bring to the marriage?

Amanda was also of a physically weaker species, with little emotional control and even less telepathic aptitude. These qualities boded very poorly for her chances of surviving Sarek’s madness during plak tau. Without a strong bond, Amanda would almost certainly perish, and take Sarek with her. It was unacceptably dangerous.

Amanda was not a desirous match. In every aspect that mattered, Amanda was inferior to T’Rel as a mate for Sarek. There was no logical reason for Sarek to prefer her. Yet he continued to do so.

They had asked Sarek to return home and meet T’Rel, but he had refused. He was not even interested in hearing her qualities. His parents could not force him home, not when had such important work ongoing on Earth. However T’Pau herself became involved and was adamant that this bond would take place. She arranged for it to be so, signing the agreement.

T’Pau had travelled to Earth without warning Sarek to avoid him acting foolishly. There was some concern he may preemptively bond to the human girl, effectively circumventing his family’s plan. Unbonded, and with T'Pau personally presenting T’Rel, Sarek would have no grounds for refusal. A Vulcan obeyed their pid-kom.

Skon and herself had actually been appalled when T'Pau informed them what had occurred at the embassy. Sarek had not only refused the match, but had been willing to be declared outcast for his refusal.

No-one had anticipated this response.

T’Vin had not been able to comprehend Sarek’s reasons until she had mind linked with him. Only then had she had understood what he had found in Amanda, why he could not let her go.

In the age of logic and arranged marriage, k’hat’n’dlawa was an extremely rare occurrance. It was considered as something of an emotional connection, but as there was no greater bond possible, it was still highly revered. Sarek’s responses were quite logical when it was understood that their combined actions sought to separate him from his soul mate.

Vulcans did not allow regret to burden them for long. Instead they reviewed their past actions, allowing the deliberations to guide future decisions. T’Vin considered what alternative paths might had been pursued.

If she had understood the situation, she might have accepted Amanda. But she had not understood. Without linking to Sarek she would never have believed that it was possible for a human to be half of a Vulcan's katra. Given the information she had, T’Vin had acted in the only way open to her. Yet, by doing so, she may have caused great harm to both Sarek and Amanda.

Kaiidth.

T’Vin could not change the past but perhaps she could make amends for any damage she had done. While she was not in complete disagreement with T’Pau reasoning, T’Vin would make every effort to find Amanda. If Amanda could be found in time, T’Vin would fully accept her as Sarek's bondmate; even acknowledging Amanda as her own daughter.

With this determination made, T’Rel brought herself back to full awareness. Understanding the emotional basis to her thoughts, allowed her to resolve and relinquish the guilt. Centered once more she was able to consider what else must be done.

Sarek had requested she speak with Amanda’s mother, but he had not provided the details to do so. She did not wish to disturb her son from his rest to seek a number he may not be able to recall. Skon who had been the contact with the embassy, would either have Linda Grayson’s contact information or be able to get it.

She contacted her husband, outlining their son’s condition and requests. Skon agreed to do what he could to determine if Amanda was on one of the ships coming to Vulcan from Earth.

Skon also had Linda Grayson’s comm code. The reports he had received suggested the embassy had recently contacted Mrs Grayson, however they had found her quite reticent in providing information. He suggested T’Vin should be the one to contact her. Perhaps she would respond better one mother to another. Scanning a report, he recited the number for her and they finished their call.

T’Vin had to check the time on Jupiter station, and found it was quite late, 2:31 am. However she did not think this should wait. She entered the comm code and watched as it transmitted. Once it started signaling it took 3.24 minutes for it to be answered.

A human woman dressed in a loose pink robe, appeared on the screen. She was similar in appearance to Amanda but with lines around the eyes, and hair touched with gray. T’Vin estimated that she might be in her fifties, but it was hard to tell with humans.

“Do you know what time it is?,” Linda asked crankily. “What are you doing getting people out of their beds in the middle of the night?”

T’Vin had spent many years as a politician's wife. As such she had experience speaking with humans and spoke standard fluently, though with an accent. She choose her words carefully. “Forgive me for calling you so late, this was urgent.”

“If you are one of those Vulcans from the embassy I've already said everything I am going to say,” Linda cut her off with some hostility.

T’Vin briefly contemplated what she could say to calm the angry woman. “I am not from the embassy Mrs Grayson. My name is T’Vin and I am Sarek's mother. I am calling from the Shi’Kahr medical facility on Vulcan.”

“Has something happened to Amanda?” The woman's tone was completely different, concerning replacing anger.

“We do not know Amanda's condition, but we are trying to locate her,” T’Vin replied. “It is Sarek that has been hospitalised. Amanda's presence would help his condition. Do you know where she is presently? From your concern, you seem to think she would be here?”

“Amanda told me the embassy was excluding her and not to trust anyone there but Sarek,” Linda cautiously answered. “When the embassy people asked me about Amanda, they wouldn't tell me why, so I wouldn't tell them anything either. Is Sarek's condition serious?”

T’Vin was somewhat reluctant to reveal personal information to a woman she did not know, but was she not requesting the same. She would not provide all, but she would contribute enough to elicit this woman’s help. “Sarek has contracted a rare disorder and he could die from it. He has requested Amanda. I am attempting to reunite them,” T’Vin answered.

Linda nodded, accepting T’Vin at her word. “Alright, I'll tell you what I know. It isn't much. Amanda called me Sunday, ahh that's six, nearly seven days ago now. She said Sarek had been taken to Vulcan but they weren't informing her why. They had also prevented her from contacting him for about a week before hand. It was her intention to leave for Vulcan that day to find out what was going on. If I am remembering correctly she should be arriving soon. Certainly within the next twenty four hours if everything went to plan.”

Sarek had been right. Amanda was on her way, and had nearly arrived. Some tension released in T’Vin’s body. “Do you know what ship she is travelling on? If we can contact the ship or rendezvous with them in space, we might be able to expedite her arrival.”

Linda appeared thoughtful, then shook her head. “I don't believe she mentioned the name. I'm sorry deary. But she did mention that she was travelling on an Andorian ship if that helps.”

There were few Andorian ships that came to Vulcan. It would greatly narrow down the search. “I do believe that will be enough to locate her. I am grateful for your assistance Mrs Grayson.”

“It's Linda to you, T’Vin. Please watch over my daughter for me when she gets there. While she is very capable, she gets herself in the most difficult situations. I do hope Sarek makes a full recovery, please let me know how things go.”

“I will keep you informed as time allows Linda.” T’Vin raised her hands in the ta’al, “Live long and Prosper.”

T’Vin was somewhat surprised when Linda not only returned the gesture, but followed it with, “Sochya eh dif T’Vin. Now go find my daughter, she'll take good care of that son of yours.”

 

Through their bond Skon would already know she had news, but details were difficult to relay at a distance. T’Vin rapidly placed another call to Skon.

“What did you discover?,” he asked, 0.8 seconds after he appeared on the screen.

“Linda Grayson confirmed Amanda left Earth six to seven days ago on an Andorian ship. She didn't know the exact details.”

Skon started typing into a computer, and shared his findings. “A search of Andorian ships that departed Earth within 6-7 days time frame yields only two ships traveling to Vulcan. They are both on route. One is a trade vessel the Khith Beek, and the other is a diplomatic courier, the Ngat-Hupp. The trade vessel is still 2.245 days out. It is scheduled to drop off its cargo at the spaceport, but does not have any registered passengers listed as departing there. The courier we have less information on, though it is scheduled to arrive in approximately 3.3 hours.”

Skon paused considering the data. T’Vin waited patiently for him to reveal what he had noticed. It didn't take him long.

“Based on the class of ship, that courier must be exceeding its maximum recommended warp. It should not be arriving for an additional 10.43 hours.”

“Something has caused them to increase their speed and risk their engines? In our space wouldn't they have to gain permission?”

“I do not have that information at hand, it may be classified. A diplomatic mission may easily gain priority travel.”

“Or perhaps it is a medical emergency,” she suggested.

Skon inclined his head. “You suspect Miss Grayson may be on that ship and in distress?”

T’Vin elaborated her reasoning. “It would explain how she got off Earth undetected husband. If she convinced the Andorian embassy to send her, she could be registered as part of their diplomatic party. Sarek has told me that passengers lists on diplomatic vessels are often kept concealed for security reasons. Furthermore, Sarek is also concerned that Amanda may too have bonding sickness. Even if she doesn't she might have sensed his lapse into it.”

“Logical,” Skon agreed. “It is certainly the most reasonable explanation so far. But to contact them will not be a simple matter. If I do it officially, I should ask permission from the Andorian embassy to contact one of their diplomatic ships.”

Skon had mentioned to her before the inefficiency of the Andorians. They might eventually agree to allow it, but it would take them at least several hours. By that time the ship would have arrived. “What if we choose to do it unofficially?,” T’Vin suggested.

“It can not be done through my office; there would be repercussions if a political figure broke policy. However, if a private citizen were to call the frequency it would not be a great breach of protocol.”

As he spoke, Skon held up a document with details on the Ngat-Hupp. T’Vin memorized the information, including the hailing frequency and projected course.

“I will check the other Andorian ship, and thereafter continue checking other possibilities,” Skon said. “You will need to use a long range comm to hail, the public comms will not reach beyond the space station. They should have one at the hospital to contact ships that have medical emergencies.”

T’Vin acknowledged with an incline of her head, and with work to do they ended their conversation.

 

It was unfortunate that the hospital did not allow her use of their hailing comm. A short discussion had yielded that it was only for medical uses by the hospital staff. She had attempted to convince them this was a medical emergency, but it quickly became apparent that she would not convince them. Rather than waste more time on the useless endeavor, she had travelled home.

For the first time she could recall, the drive home seemed tedious. It also seemed unusually long, though of course the distance remained unchanged. She kept to the speed requirements while in the city, but once into the less trafficked desert paths, she overrode her hovercars controls to exceed them. It had still taken 27.87 minutes to arrive home. She parked right outside the door rather than in the hanger, allowing for a quick return.

T’Vin also choose to ignore the adage that Vulcans did not rush. She increased both stride and pace, reaching the office comm on the far side of the house in only 22.1 seconds. It took her a further 1.31 minutes to calibrate the comm to send a hail to the travelling ship.

Nine point seven two seconds after she hailed, an image of an Andorian appeared on the screen. T’Vin did not speak Andor, but the translator program adjusted for her. Unfortunately it did not correct for rudeness.

“This is Ambassador Sharan of the Andorian vessel Ngat-Hupp. Why have you hailed us?” His antennae position indicated hostility.

“Forgive my intrusion Ambassador, but do you have a human woman aboard by the name of Amanda Grayson?”

“And why should I tell you anything?,” Sharan asked suspiciously.

“I am Lady T’Vin. The Amanda Grayson is the chosen of my son Sarek. He is currently hospitalised and he...has need of her.”

The Andorian looked like he was trying to detect a lie. Eventually he said, “Amanda travels with us.”

T’Vin quickly asked, “Can I speak with her?”

The Andorian’s antennae flattened at the tips, indicating a negative. “She is currently unconscious. We do not know what ails her, though the first time she woke she said Sarek called her.”

“She can detect him?,” T’Vin questioned, surprised at the implication. If Amanda could hear Sarek’s mind voice across light years with only a scrap of a bond, what what they be able to share when fully bonded?

“So she says, and I have no reason to doubt her. It was perhaps eight hours ago now when she first collapsed. She has woken several times since. At first she was able to talk, but she has grown more incoherent. We thought she was uttering nonsense until we used a translator, and realised she was repeating “I’m coming,” in at least fifteen different languages.

“She's trying to respond to Sarek,” T’Vin replied, both eyebrows raised in incredulity. “I would not think it possible, but Sarek indicated he had heard her.”

Sharan shrugged. “It would not surprise me, she is quite a determined woman. I’m still not certain how she convinced me to bring her, but she managed it. If there is a thing she wants done, she finds a way to do it. I can see why Sarek wants this one. She is quite extraordinary.”

“Indeed,” T’Vin agreed, surprised at Sharan’s admission. She perceived that she may have greatly underestimated the human woman. “Is there any way we can get her here faster?”

“We are already travelling faster than what we should, and faster than most ships can go. If we try to get more speed we risk cracking the dilithium crystals. Nor would a rendezvous likely be of assistance. At this point, even if you have a faster ship to send, by the time we rendezvous, slow down, and transfer her, you save little time. And you must excuse the insinuation, but we are yet unsure of her welcome on Vulcan. Aboard this ship she will not be sent elsewhere or refused entry to Vulcan. As she is a member of my party, to do so would cause a diplomatic incident. We will see her to the Shi’Kahr medical facility on Vulcan.”

T’Vin had not considered that Amanda may be denied entry to Vulcan, but the idea was not without merit. T’Pau could be quite ruthless when she choose, and she did not want Sarek to bond with Amanda. She might conceivable have Amanda sent to the spaceport or treated aboard ship rather than allow her on planet. Sharan's intervention would prevent T’Pau from interfering.

However he had said Amanda was unconscious. Having her medically evaluated should be a priority. She asked Sharan, “What of Amanda’s medical condition? We could have a medic sent to you if she is in need?”

Sharan shrugged, “We contacted the hospital some time ago, and sent medical scans. From her readings they couldn't work out what was wrong with her, but did not think she was in any immediate danger. They recommended that she be moved as little as possible, and that we tend to her immediate needs. We update the healers periodically with her condition, and they are expecting her arrival at the medical facility.”

“Indeed, that is well considered. Sarek is also located at the hospital. Will you beam her down or use a shuttle. I would meet her at the time.”

“Where we were uncertain of moving her, we had planned to beam down,” Sharan informed her.

“I will be returning to the medical facility shortly to inform my son of her arrival time. If you need to contact me before your arrival, call there and ask for me. Otherwise, I will meet her at the transporter pad, or have someone I trust do so if I am delayed. What is your projected arrival time?”

Sharan turned to someone off screen and asked, “Kyr, arrival time?” T’Vin heard a muffled answer, and Sharan turned back to the screen. “Two standard hours and thirty five minutes until we are in orbit. A few minutes more till we beam down. I will be accompanying her as well to make sure she is well treated.”

T’Vin was surprised that he actually seemed to care for Amanda. Who was this women that inspired such loyalty in others? “She will not be mistreated there Ambassador. The healers will do all they can to return her to health.”

“It is not the healers I am concerned about. It is my understanding Lady T’Pau is opposed to her. It will be of great interest to see Amanda thwart that one.” He barred his teeth as if anticipating a great victory.

T’Vin did not think he cared that he had laid both insult and threat on her pid-kom. In fact she was rather certain it was his intent. She wondered if she should warn T’Pau of this. But how dangerous could one unconscious human be, even if she was escorted by an Andorian?

Regardless, she would not show offense to the ridiculous notion that a human could challenge T’Pau. Instead she replied, “Then I shall see you there also. Unless you need anything of me, I must be on my way Ambassador.”

“There is nothing, though tell that son of yours we will be having a long conversation when he is recovered. Sharan out.” He did not wait for her reply, and cut the connection.

 

 

T’Vin quickly contacted Skon, and let him know Amanda had been found. She then attempted to do the same with T’Pau.

The attendant that answered would not transfer her call. All she would tell her was that T’Pau was no longer in residence and did not wish to be disturbed.

The attendant wouldn’t tell T’Vin where T’Pau had gone, but she did not need to. T’Pau had said she wouldn’t wait much longer. She would be on her way to the medical facility with T’Rel, or perhaps already there with Sarek.

T’Rel needed to get the news of Amanda’s discovery to T’Pau before the proto-bond was severed. But if the pid-kom had asked not to be disturbed, no one would forward T’Vin’s message. She would have to speak to her in person.

She ran through the house to the hovercar. As she drove back, she did not let it concern how how much sand was disturbed by her excess speed.

T’Vin had found Amanda. She must inform Sarek and T’Pau.

She tightly controlled the fear that the news was already too late.

Chapter Text

Your eyes can be so cruel
Just as I can be so cruel
Though I do believe in you
Yes I do

Within You - David Bowie

Chapter 9: So Cruel

--SAREK--

Sarek was woken from sleep by a hiss and small sting just below his left ear. As he opened his eyes, he saw Healer Sorrd standing over him, hypo-spray in hand. The healer turned away from him and started to speak. "He is conscious now, and as stable as he is likely to be before bonding."

Sarek could not turn his head to see who else was there. Attempting to turn his body, he discovered he could not do that either.

He had been restrained. Straps tied him to the bed across his head, chest, arms and legs.

Why? He had not been violent.

When two Vulcans walked into his line of sight, he knew why. As the realisation of what was about to happen hit him, he had a great desire to run, to fight. But he could not move.

His mother had not been able to convince T'Pau. She had warned him of this.

T'Pau began in High Golic, "Sarek cha Skon cha Solkar, thou art nearly out of time. Thou mind and life are at stake. Thou must take a bondmate now. T'Rel stands ready, the choice of thy family and thy pid-kom. Wilt thou accept her willingly?"

He glared at T'Pau, "No, I will not. Thou knoweth my choice Lady T'Pau, and I do not consent to this."

"It would have been preferable for thou to agree, but no matter. This must be done. I will not allow thou to squander thy life." T'Pau turned to face T'Rel. "Thou art prepared child?"

"I am prepared to bond," T'Rel answered.

"You must sever the proto-bond before you attempt to form your own," the healer interjected. "Otherwise, his bonding nexus will not be permeable enough for you to attach a marriage bond."

"I understand," T'Rel replied to the healer.

T'Rel moved to Sarek's side, and her fingers reached up to his face. Both hands spread, her fingers touched above his eyes, by his cheek, and under the chin. He felt her mind touch his and he strengthened his mental shields to keep her out.

"Do not resist me. My telepathic aptitude greatly exceeds your own. It would be unfortunate if I had to damage you in the process of saving you," T'Rel forewarned him.

He ignored her warning and redoubled his efforts to keep her out. The physical word faded away from his awareness as he focused fully on what was happening in his mind. T'Rel's mind presence pushed against his mental shield, looking for weaknesses in his defense. She chose a spot and started to push, gradually increasing the pressure. He strengthened the area, but she merely pushed back harder.

He knew he could not keep her out indefinitely, but he struggled anyway against the constant bombardment. His defences failed but a short time later, collapsing for some distance around the point of greatest pressure. A shockwave rippled through the remaining shield, and he gasped at the force. Sarek barely managed to prevent the whole shield from collapsing, but there was nothing he could currently do about the hole in his defenses.

T'Rel flowed into his mind through the gap. Her presence took on the resemblance of her physical form as she moved into his mind.

But his shield was far from his last defense.

He loosed his emotions, an easy thing to do as he was filled with rage at her violation and his controls had already been failing. The effect was like releasing a great beast on her, and she was pushed back through the gap from the force of his attack. He proceeded to tear into the intruder with tooth and claw.

It did not take her long to retaliate. She was very proficient at controlling her own emotions, and she had little trouble with his. With seemingly little effort, she threw him off her and onto the remaining shield wall. It was a solid barrier even to his own mind, and he was stunned by the impact.

Before he could recover, she acted. With a flick of her wrist and a twist of her thoughts, she had his emotions bound securely against the shield. He raged and growled at her in his confinement, but the beast could no longer attack her.

It was a shame he hadn't injured her enough to force her out of the meld, but as he observed her walk away, she had a noticeable limp. His attack would, at least, slow her down.

Re-entering through the breach, T'Rel travelled into his thoughts and into his memories. Tendrils of her mind wound through the memory centers, examining what was stored there. It was a serious breach of his privacy, and he regathered himself to act.

Sarek's conscious mind took on the resemblance of his physical form. Standing before T'Rel, he blocked her from going further.

This form he had chosen was comprised primarily of his logic. He'd try reasoning with her, or perhaps threatening her. Anything to make her leave. "T'Rel you must desist, it is not the Vulcan way to meld without consent."

T'Rel tried to get around him, but he moved with her. She was forced to deal with him. "Soon it will be too late for you Sarek," she replied. "I can sense the damage the bonding sickness has done to your mind. You are not making logical decisions, and you have been deemed medically incompetent. Your choice in the matter has therefore been overridden by the healer. He has recommended the best course of action to save your life. If you do not allow me to bond with you, the path you are on will lead to the certain destruction of your mind."

"I do not accept your validation for a forced meld T'Rel. Your presence is unwanted here and Amanda is the only one I will bond with. Beware, if you continue, I will fight with everything I have. This will cause harm to us both. Take heed of my warning and go no further."

She scoffed at him, with the raise of one eyebrow. "I am essentially a Reldai, you can not think to defeat me. You lack even the ability to do significant damage. If you continue to struggle against me, you will only cause more harm to yourself. I will do as I have been instructed to do by the Pid-kom and I will bond with you Sarek. I will apply whatever means necessary to this end. Yield to me now and do not make me break your will to accomplish this Sarek."

"You would rape my mind?," Sarek questioned, attempting to suppress the horror at the thought of it. She was perilously close to doing so already just by entering his mind without his permission. Forced entry was sometimes authorised for medical or legal reasons, and the healer may have permitted this instance due to the bonding sickness. But to break another's will for any reason was anathema to Vulcans. Anyone who did such was cast from Vulcan and cut from the Kash-tel T'Khasi.

He knew she could sense his horror, but it did not seem to be one she shared. "I would prefer for you to choose to bond," she answered completely unperturbed. "Simply do as I ask and your pain and confusion will end. When we bond, your sickness will cease and I will assist in reversing the damage that has occurred. It is in your best interests to do so. Your family wants this, the Pid-kom herself asks this of you. Why do you continue to resist what must be?"

"Why do you ask what you already know?" Sarek returned.

When T'Rel's answered it was with some vehemence. "Your insistence on bonding with a human was never logical, and it is less so under the circumstances. You are dying from lack of a bondmate Sarek. Why can you not see reason?" T'Rel paused, drew a deep breath and visibly calmed herself. "I understand that you would prefer Amanda, but with high probability, she is still on Earth. She can not arrive here in time to help you. I am here now, let me save you."

"She is coming," Sarek insisted, his belief in Amanda absolute.

The steel returned to her voice, "The fact remains, she is not here and you are out of time. Even if she could get to Vulcan, do you think T'Pau will allow her to bond with you? She will never be permitted entry to this planet or to gain access to you. You must bond with me or you will die."

"If that is the case then I find death to be preferable," Sarek declared. "I will not accept another. I can not."

"How selfish of you Sarek to consider that when another option is presented to you. You are of no use to anyone dead. Would you die without even leaving your clan an heir to take you name? Would not your Amanda prefer you choose life, even if it is without her? What would your death do to her if you still possess the proto-bond when it occurs? Be reasonable Sarek, your choice hurts everyone you care for. Has it not occurred to you that by bonding with me, you will not only save yourself but your cherished one as well? I have seen from your thoughts that your greatest fear is that she will come to harm by your hands during the fires. Why would you put her at such risk?"

Sarek wavered, uncertain for a moment. He must not hurt Amanda.

His distraction was all it took for T'Rel to get by him. Her forearm snapped back at the elbow, and her fist struck him soundly in the temple. It left him reeling. Her mind tendrils invaded him through her fingers placed on his face. She had fully gained control of his conscious mind. This aspect of himself would not be able to confront her again.

T'Rel travelled deeper into his mind. She was becoming more aware of him and he of her. Sarek found the sensation extremely unpleasant, her presence grating at his mind like the winds of a sand-storm on exposed flesh. He made sure she experienced it too. It further slowed her progress but did not stop her.

She attempted to cross the boundary into his unconscious mind, seeking access to his bonding nexus. He must prevent her from reaching it.

He appeared in his warrior aspect, an aspect of his unconscious self. Garbed in plated fire lizard scales and with a lirpa in his hands he stood his ground in front of her. "Go back while you still can, none can pass without my permission."

She shed her current form, the previous injuries dissipating with that aspect. A trillpa formed in her hands and her clothes were replaced with armour. "I have beaten you three times already Sarek. Stand aside, do not make me harm you further."

"I DO NOT PERMIT YOU TO ENTER HERE," he shouted.

He charged her.

Blows, blocks, and parries were exchanged at the speed of thought. Sarek was the first to draw blood, a smudge of green on T'Rel's arm. T'Rel responded with a diagonal slash across his torso.

This deep into the meld, she could not keep her thoughts completely separate from his. He was able to determine what her next move would be, and he changed his angle of attack at the last moment so as not to give himself away. He let out a triumphant yell when he scored a significant strike to her back, and then cried out a moment later when she sliced his leg in return.

The advantage, of course, went both ways. He struggled to hide his intentions from her, letting himself act on instinct rather than plan a strategy. In this fashion, he successfully fought off several more attacks and gained a strike to her right arm. The cut drew a snarl from her, but she did not drop her blade.

Both were tiring from this, but Sarek had started weakened. He knew he could not hold up for much longer, and she did too. Risking exposing himself, he aimed high past her guard, hitting her in the head with the bludgeon. She was knocked back a few paces, unsteady on her feet. But it was not enough, she reentered the fight but a few heartbeats later.

As the fight continued, the lirpa became heavy in his arms, and his vision began to go green at the edges. The psychic blood loss sapped his strength. He struggled to raise the lirpa to block the next blow. But she had feinted with the blade, and instead of his head, she attacked his grip on his weapon. The blow from the back of her trillpa was enough to knock the lirpa from his stinging hands.

She didn't give him a chance to regain his weapon. The warrior raised his arm in a futile attempt to block the descending blade. As she cut off the protecting arm, he screamed in mingled pain and defiance. He crumpled to the ground, blood rushing from his wounds.

Unable to rise, he reached for his fallen weapon with his remaining hand. She stepped up beside it and kicked the lirpa away and it dissipated like smoke.

She walked past him ignoring his demands to stop. Her mind tendrils invaded the area in her wake and this part of his mind was lost to him too.

 

There was not much left that was just himself now. T'Rel had overridden his own command of large portions of his mind. What remained him, was but a disembodied aspect of will. His mind was far too damaged and fragmented to attempt another form in which to delay her, so T'Rel entered the bonding nexus uncontested.

Hundreds of bonds rooted into the grounds of the nexus and stretched upward into infinity. Each bond represented a telepathic link to a member of his family, some were blood relation, others had married members of his clan, and there were a few who were so close to him as to become kin. These bonds clustered together like trees in a dense forest grove and they swayed slightly due to the turbulence in the nexus.

T'Rel hunted through the bonds, like an Earth tiger stalking prey through a tall forest. Her mind tendrils wound through his thoughts, attempting to determine which of the many bonds here was the one she was seeking. But the knowledge wasn't in his conscious mind, and she found nothing to help her.

There was little he could do to stop her from searching, but he could still resist her passively. He was the keeper of this place and the bonds herein and he would not tell her she was searching in the wrong place.

The proto-bond was currently in a dormant phase and well away from the other bonds. It was currently so weak, that if he hadn't known its exact location, he would not have been able to detect it himself. Without forming a bond, T'Rel could not gain the knowledge of this place, but she couldn't bond here with the proto-bond still active. She would not find it unassisted, and so if he did not tell her its whereabouts, she would never be able to bond.

He allowed himself a small measure of satisfaction. He could succeed in this at least. Eventually, she would realise it was a futile endeavour.

"Which one is she Sarek?," T'Rel demanded. "I know you can hear me."

He remained silent and continued to observe her. She didn't seem so calm and rational now. T'Rel had been forced to change her aspect to confront his warrior, and he had seriously damaged her form and the corresponding part of her psyche. Blood dripped down her arm, cheek, and back, weakening her further. She would need to shed her warrior aspect very soon so it could begin to heal. What was beneath was already beginning to show through, the armour dissolving around the cuts.

It was distasteful that as she passed by each bond, T'Rel reached out and touched it. Without his consent what she did was a defilement of something sacred. Yet it did not help her, and he could tell by her eroding calm that she was becoming vexed.

She looked around at the plethora of bonds. "I will do whatever needs to be done to remove the proto-bond Sarek. If I can not determine which bond she is, I will simply have to cut them all until I find hers."

He didn't answer, more from shock than a continued desire to remain silent. Bond severance was a form of torture. T'Rel would not have been authorised to do this. It would also be apparent to any trained melder that his bonding nexus was violently unstable. Cutting bonds now had a high probability of resulting in either his death or such severe damage to the nexus that he could not bond. She wanted neither of those things, it had to be an empty threat.

Spinning bodily around, T'Rel's gaze focused on a bond. "It is probably one of the weaker ones." Her hand struck out like a sand viper and grasped the thin bond before her, "Perhaps this one." She examined it closely attempted to judge whom the bond linked him too. Yet no matter what effort she put forth, she could not verify who it was.

He knew that this was his bond with his second cousin Vamir. They had not been close. Vamir had left the clan lands to join his wife's house when Sarek was still a boy. But Vamir was still family, still part of Sarek's mindscape. And should always be while both remained alive.

She raised her trillpa above her shoulder, making her intention clear. "Tell me Sarek, is this the proto-bond?"

He didn't reply. She would not. T'Pau and the healer had given her permission to break a proto-bond, not a full bond of family.

She would not, she didn't know who it was. It was unthinkable.

Her trillpa sliced down through the bond, severing it.

He cursed at her, the pain of the cut stinging like salt in an open wound. Loss of such a small bond would normally be barely noticeable, but this had been done as an act of violence. She had meant for it to hurt him.

Worse, he could sense that she desired for it to hurt him.

There was more pain when she sealed the ends of the bond. Apparently, she did not want to risk psychic bleed out, which would likely kill him rapidly in his current state. She let the ends go, and the untethered bond retracted away from him. The stump left to him lost its vitality and hardened till it was like stone.

Vamir would think he was dead.

She reached mentally into the bonding nexus, but her mind could not penetrate the ground. "That does not seem to have been it after all," she mused.

T'Rel resumed walking through the remaining bonds. Again, lightly running a hand over each as she considered her next choice. T'Rel paused at one, thicker than the last. She was just able to wrap her hand around this bond. Again she tried to sense the bond's nature but like before could not without his input. Raising a single eyebrow, she wordlessly commanded him to tell her.

His will to oppose her remained. Sarek would not tell her that this bond was with Sabel, his mother's aunt. Sabel had often watched over him as a young child and he still thought of her with great fondness. Sabel had been the one to introduce him to the concepts of astronomy and star travel. He had listened to her, enthralled for hours, as she told stories of exploring the galaxy on the science ship named Seshan-Gasu. It was what had drawn him to the stars.

T'Rel raised the trillpa threateningly.

"No," he shouted, sudden fear preventing him remaining silent. "That is my connection to my aunt, leave it be."

She hummed in pleasure at his panic. "Hmm. No, I do not believe you. You are protective of it, it is likely the one I am looking for."

"No," he cried out again, feeling a far greater pain this time when she sheared the bond and fused the ends shut.

How could he bear this? His bonding nexus was already in turmoil from his illness. He could sense that the destruction of these bonds was hastening his decline. The roots of this bond had gone deeper and as they petrified, a quiver went through his mindscape. The remaining bonds swayed violently and T'Rel struggled to keep her feet beneath her.

"Yes, that was an important one despite its size. Perhaps now your illogical resistance to bonding will cease." She started to form the bond again. Her mind tendril penetrated a small way into the ground this time, but the bond did not take root. Her mind was rebuffed from the nexus and she growled, "It appears I was incorrect. There is still something preventing me from bonding here."

She was openly furious, and the emotion dissipated the last of her current form. This underlying aspect appeared as a kolinahr master of ancient times. Before the logic of Surak had stilled their violent passions, they had been the worst of all Vulcans. Their great powers allowed them to dominate the wills of other. Revealed from underneath the layers of logic and warrior was a sadistic, merciless, power hungry being. This was how she saw herself.

He now knew she would do all she had threatened. She wanted to break him, and she had discovered the way to do it. Not only would she cut the bonds one by one, but she would enjoy his resultant suffering.

Sarek expected her to repeat her actions with another minor bond, but T'Rel losing patience upped her threat. Directing her displeasure at him, she said angrily, "Perhaps I am mistaken about how strong this bond is. You have memories of communicating across it. Few can do so over a great distance. I must try the strong bonds next."

T'Rel rapidly moved to the center of the grove. He realised she was headed directly for the greatest and oldest bond here, the one he shared with his parents.

He tailed after her, unable to stop her.

His two parental bonds intertwined together so tightly they were almost one bond; a sign of how close his mother and father were to each other. T'Rel reached out and laid her palm flat against it. The other bonds she had held in her hand, but this one was so thick that she could not have put her arms around it.

She had to know this was not Amanda.

Surely T'Rel would recognise a parental bond.

She raised her trillpa anyway.

"STOP," he begged. "That is my parents. You must not."

She paused her blade. "I will stop when I am bonded to you, not before. Tell me where the proto-bond is Sarek, and this can end."

"You have gone mad. You will not get away with this. What you threaten is immoral. As a priestess, you are supposed to uphold the law." Sarek had tried to speak with authority, but his mind voice resonated with fear.

Her master aspect bared its teeth, in a hideous parody of a smile. "MAD? Unlike you, I am in full control of my faculties. I am simply determined Sarek, and I hold to the ancient law, the strong take what they want. I will have what was promised to me, position and power, and a child with the same."

"You had implied before that your true desire was to resume your training as Reldai. Tell your clan we are not compatible and they will allow you to return," he practically begged her.

"It is true that I would have become Reldai soon, but it was made apparent to me by my clan that I did not have enough influence to ever become the leader. So much of the choice is based not on aptitude but politics. Bonding with you means a temporary absence from my position but gains me a much better one in the future. T'Pau herself has promised her support if I produce a suitable female heir, and what T'Pau suggests the rest of Vulcan follows. When I bond with you, I will set in motion my ascension to high priestess, while the daughter I will bear becomes the next Pid-kom of T'Khasi. With such authority on its side, my clan will achieve the supremacy that should rightfully be theirs, and we will be the ones to rule Vulcan. You can do nothing to prevent this. At most your efforts have delayed me, but at what cost to yourself. There is barely anything left of you. Submit now, and I need not break your will."

"Why would I willing bind myself to one who uses torture and threats? You would not leave me unbroken even if I did submit now. I see what you are and I will not help you to gain power over others. You would attempt to take Vulcan back to the ancient paths. It can not be allowed. There is still enough of me left to resist you."

And with that, he reached out to take control of his heart. This deep in the meld his death would likely take her with him. He knew her desire for dominance would not stop with him, and with the authority she gained, few would be willing or able to confront her. She must be stopped now before she did irrevocable harm to Vulcan. His heart slowed, now 200 beats per minute, 186, 131, 98, 45, 19, 0...

But T’Rel now had more control of his body than he did and she saw what he was attempting. She wrenched away his biocontrols, and his heartbeat began to increase against his will. 1, 57, 89, 128, 175, then steady at 234 beats per minute, his resting heartbeat.

“Fool,” she raged at him. “I had intended only to bond with you Sarek, we could have lived our separate lives and come together when the need was there. If you had accepted that, all would have been well between us. But you rejected me in front of T’Pau, you fought and injured me, and now you try to kill us both. You are correct, I can not allow your defiance to go unpunished. By the time I am finished with you, your will shall be bound to mine.”

“Even if I can not stop you, others will,” Sarek challenged. “The damage you have done here is enough to incriminate you.”

“But Sarek, I was ordered by the Pid-kom to bond with you. She understood that you might resist and I would have to fight my way in. And there is so much damage already here, nobody will know what was lost to illness and what I took. When I make you agree in front of the Pid-kom this was the best choice, she will be greatly pleased you have returned to reason and not question any further. No one will know, no one will save you.” She purred in delight as she sensed his panic. All avenues of escape were cut off to him now, she could torment him until he broke.

“It will only take one lapse in your control T’Rel, and I will be able to show everyone what you are,” Sarek threatened desperately.

“Perhaps you have a point, but I can easily erase your memory of what happened here. And while I am at it, I think I'll take the memory of your k’diwa as well. You will be a much more passive and submissive bondmate if you do not remember you have something to fight for. I promise you this, the more you resist me, the more I will take from you. Allow me to demonstrate the penalty for disobedience.” She raised the trillpa and brought it down hard on the parental bond.

He screamed in abject agony and she relished his pain.

Due to the strength of this bond, T’Rel had not managed to sever it with a single blow. However, a deep cut marred its surface and the bond writhed like it was a living thing in great pain.

There was one detail to T’Rel’s action that she had overlooked. Because the bond was damaged but not severed, his parents became aware that something was wrong. Shock and pain reverberated through the link with them, and he received a concerned, wordless query from both of them. At the best of times it was difficult to communicate through a bond without touch, but with their attention focused on him it might be possible. He tried to send a mental image of T’Rel cutting the bond, a request for help. But he did not know if they received his reply, the link was too unstable.

T’Rel seemed oblivious to the attempted communication. She struck the bond once more, deepening the cut. A dark green sap started to flow. His mind quaked in pain and terror, and the mindscape beneath shifted as the roots of the thrashing bond heaved.

If this aspect had eyes, he would be crying now.

He could not bear any more of this.

When the mindscape steadied, she prepared to strike again.

“No, no more, I beg you.”

“If you want me to stop, tell me what I want to know,” T’Rel demanded.

He formed a body though it was hazy and transparent. He indicated to the scarred landscape outside the familial bonds. In a broken voice he whispered, “What you seek is over there.”

T’Rel lowered the trillpa over one shoulder. “At last, you act with reason.”

If the familial bonds were like a forest, the part of the nexus bordering it was a barren desert. The rocks were sharp obsidian, full of jagged edges and at the center was a crater of fused sand. In appearance, it bore a great resemblance to the area of the Forge that had taken a direct nuclear strike.

“Of course!,” TRel said understanding dawning on her face. “This is a large scar from a severed marriage bond. You must have had a sizable bond with your last telsu to cause this much damage on severance. This is also the place where a new marriage bond would form. I should have thought of that, I should have tried here. But I do not see the proto-bond. Where is it Sarek? Do not keep me waiting, I can guarantee you will not like the result.”

Sagging, he knew that he no longer had the strength to resist her. He could not endure any more damage to his parental bond. ‘Forgive me Amanda’, he thought. In a tired voice, he explained, “It is currently in its dormant phase, there is not much to see. It is away from the others, across from this bond scar. Nothing can take root here anymore.”

“Show me,” she commanded.

And despite wanting to do the opposite, he led her across the tortured landscape to the hidden location of the proto-bond.

It was almost invisible at the moment, just one tiny clear thread reaching out of the mindscape. It was less dense than a ribbon of steam from a cooling mug of tea. He could not hear Amanda through it now, but its continued existence was enough to let him know she yet lived.

“This pittance of a bond is what you have fought so hard to protect?” T’Rel asked both eyebrows raised in incredulity. “It is nothing, I could destroy it with a breath.” Huffing air at it, she attempted to prove her claim. The smoke like bond twisted and shifted out of proper alignment, but it corrected itself and did not dissipate. If anything, it seemed more solid now.

“It is everything to me,” Sarek answered bitterly. “Let it be.”

“This - ”, she said gesturing at the bond, “- is somehow the cause of your resistance to bonding. It must be removed. It is so minuscule I doubt you'll even feel this one break.” Her tone implied she would have preferred for it to be quite painful for him.

She raised her trillpa, triumph on her face.

As he watched the blade swing towards the bond, he fell to his knees, the last of his strength gone. “No,” he moaned.

The bond flared to life, transforming from smoke to a flickering fire. The trillpa slowed its descent as if time itself resisted its passage. As the edge of the blade inched closer towards the proto-bond, he felt something inside him shift.

Time stopped as the blade touched the outer edges of the proto-bond, puncturing through the fire. T’Rel was fixed in place caught in a moment in time.

Something erupted up from the ground beneath them.

Time snapped back into place. An energy field enveloped the bond, protecting it, pushing the blade back. The trillpa turned from red to white to blue, as if it was being superheated. T’Rel dropped it and stepped back several paces to escape the radiating heat and force. The energy field continued to expand pushing her back.

He watched her hands blister, her face burn. Yet that same wild energy filled him with strength.

“W-what is that?”, she stammered, her retreating steps increasing in speed.

Indeed, what was it? It was obviously a part of him, but not one he had any control over. The sensation was familiar, its movement triggered a memory.

Seeing Amanda for this first time, a stirring within him.

His katra.

He had no control over it, he could not have called it to help. But of course it would protect this bond. It was a connection to the other half of his katra in Amanda.

No part of him would relinquish her without a fight.

Dropping the illusion of a body, he aligned his will with his katra and together they forced T’Rel from the bonding nexus.

She tried to fight back but she was being pummeled by their combined forces of will and spirit. As she was forced to retreat further, T’Rel began losing her grip on his unconscious. Her mind tendrils were sucked back into her body, or snapped and discarded in her haste.

She was pushed out past his warrior aspect and they reclaimed him. As the lipra reformed, the warrior took it up in his remaining arm. He rejoined the fight, slashing at T’Rel.

They pushed her out of the unconscious mind altogether, and found his logic aspect. The warrior cut the tendrils that bound his reason to her, and logic got to his feet and joined them. The conscious, unconscious, and katra now all united in purpose.

T’Rel had at first struggled against them, retreating only because she was pushed back. As she took more and more damage, T’Rel began to realise that they intended not just to force her out but to destroy her. She abandoned her attempt to return to the Nexus and fled, heading for the breach in his shields.

They chased after her, intent on catching her, but she reached the gap first. As she got there, she ripped out the last tendrils of her mind out from his, not bothering with delicacy.

The pain of that action was nothing to the relief of having her gone. But unbeknownst to them, she had torn something else out of his mind as well.

“I will make you pay dearly for attacking me,” she raged. “You will not remember her and you will die a painful, lonely death.”

They did not know what ‘her’ T’Rel was referring to but they did know this one was not welcome here. The warrior swung his lipra at T’Rel, a blow that would have cut her throat if she had not dropped her physical form making herself intangible to the warrior.

The katra howled and threw a lightning bolt where she had just stood. It hit with a deafening boom and the warrior and logic were knocked down by the force of the radiating blast wave. Sparks light up the area and with a voiceless cry the last of her presence vanished from his mind.

She was gone! They had defeated her and his mind was his own again.

Logic helped the warrior to his feet and together they piled rubble into the breach in the shields. When finished, they turned to face a mindscape in shambles. The damage was both extreme and pervasive, far beyond what any of them here could mend. With no sign of imminent threat remaining, the aspects began to disperse to what do what they might.

Having successfully defended itself, his katra returned to its den underneath the bonding nexus. It was not interested in matters of the body or the mind. It would continue no matter what happened here.

The warrior stayed at the weak point as a guard. No one would be permitted entry lest someone try to harm them again. He tried to ignore the increasing pain for his severed arm and the blood that still trickled slowly down. Without the healer there was nothing that could be done and he had not come when called. Logic left to examine the extent of the damage in the conscious mind and Will to the unconscious in search of the healer.

The beast was still confined outside. The others either hadn’t noticed his absence or didn’t want to risk themselves outside the protection of the shield.

From his position he had witnessed what the others had not. T’Rel had taken parts of him and trapped them beneath the surface. He could not tell what it was she had taken but he knew it must be reclaimed. Lacking the strength to free himself, he settled into wait for another to assist him. Resting his head on his paws he allowed himself to doze, one eye shut, and one fixed on the gate.

Chapter Text

Sister, sister, please take me down (daddy, get me out of here)
I'm, I'm underground (wanna go underground)

Underground - David Bowie

CHAPTER 10 Please Take Me Down

--AMANDA--

Amanda was vaguely aware of cool arms wrapping around her and lifting her from her warm cocoon of blankets. Motion, the swoosh of a door, then cold, so cold. Shivering, she made a small sigh of protest.

Something was spoken in Andorian and her body began to tingle. When it stopped, her body felt far too heavy. Heat engulfed her in place of cold. The rapid change jarred her from her half-awareness.

Opening her eyes into slits, she saw it was Sharan that held her. His face was creased with concern as he lowered her to a waiting stretcher. The whirl of a medical tricorder drew her attention to the right and a female Vulcan passing a scanner over her body.

Words came at her. Vulcan, her brain informed her. But the words were too difficult to parse into something she could comprehend. Attempting to speak only brought forth a small moan.

The effort to stay awake was exhausting. Her heavy eyelids slid shut as the fatigue attempted to drown her once more. Consciousness fading, she resisted the slide into the darkness. There was something important she had to do wasn't there? Something she was looking for?

Contradictory feelings of heaviness and floating caused her stomach to squirm with nausea. ‘Antigrav stretcher in high gravity,' her brain supplied helpfully. ‘Aghh', her stomach replied.

Bitter bile rose in her throat when forward motion was added to the mix. Trapped on the border between wakefulness and sleep, there was little she could do to ease her nausea.

Voices again, at least, three distinct ones. As before the meaning of what was said eluded her.

Muscles clenched when the forward motion stopped and she began to fall.

No, not falling. The board beneath her was lowering.

Rapid discussion between a male and a female, then a sharp sting in the junction of her neck and a loud hiss.

Snake!

No, no...hypospray she thought as the fog in her mind cleared.

Half remembered conversation came back to her. Sharan had told her they were going to the Vulcan medical facility on Vulcan. They must have transported her down. She tried to open her eyes but the exhaustion still held her captive.

Someone said, "Her brain is returning to normal functioning but her body is still in shock." Another sting-hiss at her neck.

Her sluggish heart increased its rhythm and warmth flowed through her. Tingling in her fingers and toes signaled the return of feeling to her extremities. Wiggling them helped remove the numbness. With a stretch and yawn, she broke free of the lingering fatigue, opening her eyes to rather blurry outlines of people. Rapid blinking cleared away the sleep grit and she was able to focus on those surrounding her.

Three Vulcans and Sharan were in the room with her. The closest two were Vulcans in green healer robes, one male, one female. Dark hair and unlined faces gave them the appearance of youth. Standing next to one another by her bed, their differences were accentuated. The male was very tall with pale olive skin, black hair and startling green eyes. The female was quite short, certainly no taller than Amanda, with darker, golden brown skin, hair the colour of espresso, and dark brown eyes.

Turning her head, she saw Sharan by the door. He was dressed in his full Ambassadorial uniform, including the curved dagger at his hip. She was surprised that he seemed unaffected by the heat. Amanda herself had already begun to sweat.

Across from him was a female Vulcan who appeared vaguely familiar. Long brunette hair piled on the top of her head, chocolate brown eyes, and pale skinned. Her deep violet robes were covered in Golic embroidery.

The lady, for she could be nothing else with her manner of dress and bearing, gazed at Amanda intently in return. She prevented her hands from fussing with her hair or clothes at the intense scrutiny.

Did they know each other? She was almost certain they had never met.

Attempting to speak, only a choked noise emerged from her throat. Swallowing thickly, she croaked out, "Wa-ter."

The female healer left the room and came back bearing a metal cup, offering it to Amanda.

Lifting herself on one shaky arm, Amanda took the proffered cup in her free hand. Raising it to cracked lips, she sipped the warm water within. It soothed the dry tissues of her mouth but she spluttered as it caught in her throat. When the coughing stopped she risked drinking again, this time without ill effect. The tightness in her throat loosened after that. Finishing the contents, she handed the cup back to the female healer.

Feeling somewhat revived, Amanda sat up fully on the bed and propped herself up against the wall.

The female healer took this as her cue to speak. "Miss Grayson, I am healer Yehenik. Do you understand me?" Yehenik spoke in fluent standard, though with the typical Vulcan monotone.

"Yes healer Yehenik, I understand. I am alert now and much recovered," Amanda responded.

Inclining her head in agreement, Yehenik responded "That is as it should be, your vitals are significantly improved. I have been monitoring your readings since the Ngat-Hupp contacted us 12.37 hours ago. I was selected as your primary physician as my speciality is xeno-physiology. Only recently, with information provided by Lady T'Vin, was I able to verify that your incapacity originated from telepathic contact. Healer Adenkar was called into consult as he specialises in telepathy and psionic injuries. Would you have as speak of your condition and proposed treatment in present company?" Yehenik pointedly looked at Sharan.

Nodding, Amanda answered, "Ambassador Sharan is welcome to stay and listen if he wishes. He and his crew have done much for me, they have my trust." Amanda had looked over at Sharan while she was speaking and watched his eyes widen and his antenna straighten. Turning her head to the other Vulcan in the room she added, "I presume you are Lady T'Vin. I do not think we have met?"

Stepping to the bedside, T'Vin replied in mixed Vulcan and standard, "Indeed we have not ko-kan. I am Sarek's ko-mehk. He has tasked me with finding you and ensuring that you receive adequate medical care."

Of course! Now she recognised her. Sarek had shown her images of his family when they had shared thoughts. But that revelation brought her mind back to whom she had been seeking. "Where is Sarek? He was calling me. I need to get to him now!"

T'Vin hesitated before answering. "He is also in this medical facility, on the lower levels. Currently, he is undergoing a medical procedure that can not be disturbed. For now, he would want you to stay focused on your own health."

Amanda felt sure she wasn't getting the full story. When T'Vin had replied, her words were much more stilted than before. She was attempting to redirect her from her request. Sarek did that too when he was trying to hide something.

About to question further, she lost her immediate chance when T'Vin's gaze shifted from Amanda up to the two healers standing on the other side of the bed. In Vulcan this time, T'Vin asked in an authoritative tone, "What is her condition? Does she have bonding sickness as well?"

Healer Adenkar gazed up at the readings by the bed. "She has some of the symptoms but not enough to reach that conclusion." He answered T'Rel in Vulcan then turned back to his patient.

In highly accented standard, Adenkar addressed her. "Miss Grayson, you are likely not aware that a proto-bond has formed between Sarek and yourself. It is a telepathic link that can spontaneously develop between two compatible individuals. When Sarek attempted to contact you across a vast distance, he did so via this proto-bond. In the process, he overwhelmed your synaptic pathways. Your brain was overstimulated and lapsed into unconsciousness to protect itself from damage. To counteract this we gave you Dramamine to normalise your theta wave activity and Calophell to counteract shock from the psionic trauma."

The drugs meant little to Amanda, except that they seemed to have helped her. What was of most interest was this proto-bond. "Are you saying Sarek and I are bonded now? Why didn't Sarek tell me?"

"I was also a consultant on Sarek's case so I know something of this," Adenkar informed her. "As to why he didn't inform you, proto-bonds are difficult to detect. Sarek only became consciously aware of it, when a healer at this facility showed him of its existence. To answer your other question, you are not considered bonded. It is true that you are linked together telepathically but the proto-bond differs from a true bond in several aspects. Rapid fluctuations in strength and lack of reliability are two considerations. However, the main difference is that unlike a true bond, a proto-bond not only weakens with long separation but can dissipate entirely. In fact, that has already started to occur. From observation of Sarek's mind, the proto-bond has become extremely unstable. If you have been aware of it at all, its dissipation is likely causing you to seek him out to strengthen the bond. I understand it can cause quite a high state of anxiety."

Sighing, Amanda ran one hand down her face. "Anxiety doesn't begin to cover it, panic attacks are closer to the truth. This might explain why I had such an extreme reaction to separation from him."

Adenkar inclined his head. "Indeed. In addition to the effects of the proto-bond, you may also have been influenced by Sarek's mental state. The bonding sickness lessens his emotional control. He may unintentionally project to you when the proto-bond is active."

Frowning, Amanda inquired, "What exactly is bonding sickness? Is it related to the proto-bond?"

Hands clasped behind his back, Adenkar answered, "Bonding sickness is a disorder in the telepathic center of the Vulcan brain, what we call the bonding nexus. If left unchecked, it causes synaptic pathways failure leading to a reduction in cognitive function. This leads to madness and eventually death. This is what afflicts Sarek and it has likely been a problem for some time. The proto-bond provides a stabilizing effect on his nexus and likely formed as a means to alleviate his symptoms. However in regards to your own health, we are 96.25% certain that you do not have bonding sickness yourself. You do not possess a nexus so it can not become unstable. The symptoms that you are showing are most likely being referred from Sarek to you via the proto-bond. We will, of course, keep you under observation to make certain of that you do not develop further complications."

Closing her eyes, Amanda tried to process what she had been told. Her prior fears at Sarek's lack of contact and seeming abandonment of her had probably been magnified by his own emotions. Sarek had not wanted to leave her. Though she had suspected it before, she was certain now that he had been forced to leave. Now Sarek was ill, possibly dying. A lump formed in her throat that threatened to become a sob. She pushed it down, refusing to cry in front of these people. Opening her eyes, she gazed at the healers and asked in a surprisingly steady voice, "Is there a cure?"

Glancing at one another, the healers seemed to wordless debate what to say. Eventually, Yehenik answered, "If it has not progressed too far, the cure for a Vulcan is to form a marriage bond."

Relief flooded Amanda. They had been planning to bond in a few months anyway. It would just be earlier than they had planned.

Adenkar's voice intruded on her thoughts. "Unlike Sarek, the cause of your problems is the proto-bond. Your best chance for full recovery is to sever it."

"Sever it?" Amanda yelled, somewhere between shock and anger at the suggestion, "Absolutely not. Did you not just say the proto-bond was alleviating his illness?"

"It was," Adenkar replied, unperturbed by her outburst, "However it is unstable because of your separation. Its ability to help him now is minimal. You must think of your own health."

Shaking her head, Amanda replied vehemently, "I will not agree to any procedures that affect us both without discussing it with him. I want to see him now."

"That is not possible," Adenkar replied, infuriating calm in the face of her anger.

"Why not?" she demanded. No one replied. She gazed in turn at the three Vulcans who might hold the information she needed. When she reached T'Vin, she saw her blink both sets of eyelids, the inner followed by the outer. Sarek did that sometimes when he was stressed. She focused on T'Vin, locking their eyes together with her gaze. Slowly, deliberately, she began to speak. "You are attempting to hide something from me. Something important. I know Sarek and I were separated on Earth and I think you are deliberately keeping us apart now. If bonding could save him, why are you keeping me, his chosen, away unless..." Her words drifted off as she realised fully what must be happening. "The medical procedure you spoke of...Sarek is being bonded to someone else as we speak isn't he?"

T'Vin's face became completely rigid but Amanda knew that extra control was confirmation. Through clenched teeth, she added, "Let me guess, it's the woman I saw at the embassy. T'Rel was it?"

Out of her peripheral vision, she saw Sharan nod. The Vulcans maintained their silence but this only confirmed her fears. Vulcans were almost passionate in their need to correct a perceived fallacy. Looking around at all of them she forced an answer by asking a direct question. "Does any of you deny that I am right?"

T'Vin didn't sigh but from the small down twist in her mouth, she looked like she wanted to. "You are correct," she admitted.

Amanda's pulse roared in her ears, anger filling her. "And he agreed to this?" It was an accusation more than a question. He had called her, she wouldn't have chosen another.

"I can not say for certain, I was not present when the bonding began," T'Vin replied, a subtle crease to her brow. "However when I spoke to Sarek earlier he was opposed to the idea. He was quite insistent that he would only bond with you. It is likely that Pid-kom T'Pau overruled him."

"And that's acceptable to you, that he is bonded to another against his will?"

"No," T'Vin admitted, tucking her chin.

"Then why aren't you doing something about it?"

"I do not have the authority to -" T'Vin began.

"Authority!" Amanda interrupted, "When something is morally wrong, you allow your own authority to dictate your actions?"

"It was not morally wrong. The Pid-kom has the right to decide clan marriages," T'Vin corrected. "Sarek may be permanently damaged from bonding sickness. He could die. T'Pau wished to prevent damage to him and bonding as soon as possible was his best chance."

"The best chance for him or the best chance to ensure Sarek didn't bond with a human?" T'Vin's minor flinch at Amanda's allegation was akin to a full recoil in a human. This confirmed for her that Sarek's family or, at least, his matriarch T'Pau, had been opposed to their relationship.

Amanda's anger swelled to fury. "If Sarek was getting anything from the proto-bond at all, he knew I was coming. He asked for me. Why didn't you wait?" The last words were torn from her throat in a scream.

"Miss Grayson, you must calm yourself," Yehenik requested dispassionately.

The lack of empathy infuriated Amanda more. Her voice came out seething. "Why? I am human, I'm allowed to be emotional."

"You are still in recovery from a psionic injury. An emotional response will not assist your recuperation, rather it is taxing your body," Yehenik replied. "Also consider you are connected telepathically to Sarek. Your emotions may be conveyed to him as his have been to you. In his state, this could be quite detrimental to him."

Amanda stopped, locked in position. Any other reason they would have given her would only make her angrier. But if her emotions might be harming Sarek she had to be calm. Drawing in long breaths through her nose, she struggled to rein in her temper. She hadn't realised how ragged her breathing had become until it slowed and began evening out under her conscious control. Yehenik's chin tilted up indicating her approval at Amanda's change in behaviour.

Amanda could not recall a previous time when had felt this level of anger. Normally, she was a calm and reasonable person, tending towards tears rather than anger when upset. Rarely, if ever, had she resorted to shouting to get her point across. While her emotional response might be justified by the situation, it still felt abnormally high to her.

The exaggerated response felt similar to how her concern had morphed first into anxiety and then to panic after Sarek had not contacted her. Finally, it had become near hysteria when she had seen Sarek and T'Rel together. The strength of those emotions was completely unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

The healer had said Sarek's emotional state may have amplified her own. Could some of her anger now be coming from Sarek? Were they able to sense each other on some level? If that was true would it be possible to deliberately send him something, like he had done to her?

If she could do so at all, she expected it would be through meditation. It was certainly worth a try. Ignoring those in the room, she began sending her awareness internally. Her breathing slowed and her eyes slid shut.

 

Sinking into meditation, she focused her mind on Sarek. Memories of him rose to the surface.

...He had taken her hand the very first day they met and led her out to dance. An electric tingle danced through her fingers and up her arm. Gradually it travelled up past her neck and through her jaw bone, where she became aware of a soft hum. It was accompanied by a sense of otherness she could not fully define. A pleasant sensation, despite its unexpectedness. A sense of loss when he finally let her go…

...The feel of his fingers pushing into several points across her face. The zap of energy as he deliberately sought out her mind. The hum that she had come to think of as ‘Sarek', changing in pitch, its volume slowly oscillating. Their minds seeking each other, reaching a kind of resonance. Together like this, they shared thoughts and memories...

...Unable to express in words the sentiment she desperately needed to hear from him he had found another way to show her. Taking her deeper into his mind than ever before, he had revealed his feelings for her.

Admired. Cherished, Precious One. Desired. Needed.

The intensity of his emotions overwhelmed her. He pulled back to let her regain herself. "Never doubt I care for you k'diwa, you are my other half." She delighted in the affection he continued to send her...

As this memory too faded, she searched for these remembered sensations, for the hum of his mind together with hers. But she could not find him. There was no trace of him bordering her awareness.

Perhaps she was going about this the wrong way. The strong sensations she had felt had occurred only when he had been touching her or very near. Only once had she been aware of his mind presence when they had been far apart. How had it felt on the Ngat-Hupp?

The sensation had been vague, somewhat unfocused, yet a definite sense of him. There had been a question, but like a whisper in a wind gale, the words were completely lost.

It had been emotions that had come across strongly; his need for her, his fear. Perhaps that was what she needed to look for.

She let herself slide further into her meditation, seeking his presence deeper in her mind. But she could not find him here either. She began to feel despair. "Sarek, where are you?" she called.

As she called his name, a part of her mind changed. Where the despair originated from came a deep hum. "Sarek?" she called again.

The hum intensified and began to pulse. Reaching towards the hum, she jerked as if she had grabbed a live wire.

PAIN...FEAR...FIGHT!

Gasping, she tried to control the overwhelming fear. "Sarek, it's Amanda."

A thousand eyes inspected her, then, "Amanda!!!!"

"Yes Sarek, I'm here," she answered overjoyed at finding him.

JOY/FEAR "Not safe for you if she finds you here. She is…" AGONY

Waves of pain rolled through the both of them, crashing through her mind and breaking her to pieces. “Too Much, HURTS! MAKE IT STOP!”

The pain broke off suddenly and she sobbed in relief. Yet she was aware that it had not stopped for him. He was blocking his pain from reaching her, still protecting her.

"You must go, I would not have her harm you too." His reply was strained and noticeably weaker.

Afraid for him she asked, "Please, is there anything I can do to help?"

"So tired," he whispered. "No strength left to fight."

"Then take mine," she said, pushing her love towards him.

He basked in the warmth of her affections, like a cat curling up in a sunbeam. A trickle of energy passed out of her into him. The hum of his mind increased and the energy drain trickled to a stop.

"I must close the link now," reluctance evident in the barely perceptible reply. "She is nearly here. If the proto-bond is active it will be easy for her to find and sever it. I would not allow this."

"I am coming for you Sarek," she promised. "I am in the hospital, just a few floors above you."

"I am waiting for you. I will fight with all I have to hold the other back," he promised in return.

The part of her mind that was Sarek diminished. The hum faded to almost nothing though it was not entirely gone.

One thing was for certain, she had to get to him very soon. Even with some of her strength to aid him, he would not last much longer.

 

A tingling spread through her body as she returned to awareness. Shaking, she opened her eyes to find her head pillowed on her raised knees, arms wrapped tightly around herself. Lowering her arms, she lifted her head up to the see Adenkar waving a tricorder scanner over her head.

"What happened," he asked, his voice actually sounding concerned. "You went from low-level meditation to hyper state of awareness that I have not seen documented in humans."

She gazed as steadily at him as she could while still shaking. "I spoke with Sarek."

"That should not be possible," Adenkar stated and Yehenik inclined her head in agreement with him.

Swallowing down her first impulse to scream at him, she took a calming breath before replying, "Nonetheless, I did."

Adenkar's doubt was evident in his raised eyebrow. If she didn't convince him quickly him she wouldn't be going anywhere. "You said you hadn't seen this state before in a human. Where have you seen it?"

"When a Vulcan was communicating with their telsu the scans would be similar," he admitted, eyebrow still lifted. "But you should not be capable of such through a proto-bond."

"I suppose you have observations of a lot of human/Vulcan proto-bond to base that statement on," she asked, raising one eyebrow in mockery.

His eyebrow flattened and his chin tucked in acknowledgement of his error. "You are the first human I have seen with such a bond," he conceded.

"Then please refrain from stating what ‘should be' because you really have no way of knowing," Amanda answered, not completely able to hide her irritation. "Sarek achieved contact before at a much further distance. Why is it so unbelievable that it could be done again, particularly when my scans provide evidence to support it?"

Adenkar and Yehenik looked at one another and had another wordless conversation. Adenkar looked back to her. "You are correct, we should have considered that Sarek had already done so. Due to your lack of telepathic ability, we presumed you would be unable to do so. This bond you share is obviously different from any that have been documented."

Her shaking now subsiding, Amanda, pushed herself quickly up to her feet. The high gravity caught her and she swayed before steadying herself, one hand against the bed.

Both Yehenik and Andenkar placed themselves directly in her path.

"You should not move," Yehenik admonished.

"I am going to see Sarek."

"You can not, he is-"

Amanda was having none of it. "Sarek is being tortured by a Vulcan female that will not take no for an answer. I felt only a small part of what she was doing to him and the pain nearly knocked me senseless."

"That is proof of how dangerous the proto-bond is to you," Adenkar advised. "The harm it can cause you outweighs the benefits. It should be removed."

Shaking her head no, Amanda answered, "Sarek is fighting to protect our bond against one who would sever it. I will not forsake him by removing it."

Adenkar's brow tightened. "If it is in danger of being severed, it is even more dangerous to you. If it were to be cut while active, great damage could be done to the both of you. It would be best if you allowed me to terminate it in your mind now so it can happen in a controlled way."

"No, this is not an option. If you think it is you don't understand at all," Amanda insisted, anger trying to claim her again. Pausing she considered how to convince them.

Looking in Adenkar’s eye she asked, "Do you have someone you care for with whom you share a bond?" she asked.

He said nothing but she saw his gaze track to Yehenik.

"Now if this is possible I want you to imagine that someone was tearing apart the mind of this person you care for."

Adenkar eyes widened, losing their focus on her. He was picturing it.

"Now try to conceive that they are fighting their attacker but their strength is failing. You can sense their agony and fear. What would you do?"

Andenkar's breathing came faster, a feral gleam shining in his eyes.

Amanda spoke slowly and quietly, making him listen closely to her. "Now imagine there is someone standing in your way and telling you that you can not help them. Further, for your own health, you should simply sever your bond and leave them to suffer. Would you think this person was reasonable and go back to bed?"

"No." The ragged whisper seemed drawn out of him against his will.

"Healer, I have just felt this happening to my telsu. I must go to him and help him regardless of what it costs me. Do you understand now why I must do this?"

Head downcast, Adenkar stepped aside.

Yehenik followed suit moving beside him. Offering two fingers to Adenkar, he wordlessly joined them with his own.

Despite wanting to do nothing so much as to collapse in a heap, Amanda forced her trembling legs to walk towards the door. Reaching it, she was blocked by T'Vin who stepped in front of her. Was she going to block her too? She didn't have time for this.

T'Vin reached out and touched Amanda's arm briefly. "Come, ko-fu, I will take you to your telsu."

Mutely she nodded. If she had tried to speak to T'Vin just then she might have cried in gratitude. T'Vin was going to help her!

Letting out a shaky breath, Amanda turned to face Sharan, "Are you coming too?"

Smiling fondly, he answered, "But of course, my dear. I wouldn't miss seeing what you do next. Even half dead, it seems no-one can stand in your way for long." Sharan offered her his arm and she took it, grateful for the support.

Waving her free hand towards the door, Amanda ordered, "Lead on T'Vin, the sooner we get to him the better."

T'Vin inclined her head, then moved towards the door which swooshed open at her approach. Her rapid pace had her halfway down the corridor before Amanda had started.

Amanda moved quickly, trying to catch up. Her legs buckled under her before she made it to the end of the passage. Sharan's arm slipped around her back and under her arms. Supporting most of her weight, he pulled her along. In this fashion, he bore her through several turns in hospital corridors out and to an awaiting turbo lift that T'Vin held open.

Entering into the lift, she turned to face the doors and was surprised to find Adenkar and Yehenik trailing behind them. Adenkar caught the door on its way shut and the two joined them in the turbolift. A frown creased Amanda’s expression as she tried to determine their purpose here.

"You will need a medical override to get into Sarek's room. I shall provide it," Adenkar replied to her unasked question.

"And having just witnessed what you are capable of, I shall provide medical care to anyone that gets in your way," Yehenik added.

Amanda had not suspected she would have a reason to smile today, but she found four of them as she gazed upon those who had joined her.

Yehenik pressed a series of buttons and the lift doors slid shut. Sharan held on to Amanda tightly. It was the only thing that prevented her from being knocked off her feet by the abrupt downward acceleration, followed by a rapid change to sideways motion, then an equally sudden halt.

They exited the lift in a section of the hospital that appeared much older than the floors above. Amanda examined the corridor as she passed through. The underground corridor seemed to be carved from the bedrock. There were no windows here, the illumination coming only from electric lighting in the curved ceiling. The stone walls were lined with regularly spaced metal doors every fifteen feet or so. All the doors were shut, perhaps even hermetically sealed. It looked more like a bunker or a dungeon than a hospital ward.

T'Vin led them straight to the last door on the left. It remained closed at her approach. She stepped aside as Adenkar moved forward and put his palm flat on a plate by the door. A hatch swung open revealing a series of dials. Adenkar rapidly turned them to new positions. As he completed his ministrations there was a small click and the door slid open.

T'Vin walked into the room first. Sharan guided Amanda in next and the two healers followed in behind.

Observing the interior of the small room, Amanda's eyes immediately went to Sarek. He lay strapped to a diagnostic bed, the indicators on the monitor above him far from the centered position that equalled normal function. Sarek was pale, like someone who had lost a lot of blood.

Standing over him was T'Rel. Eyes closed, dark head bowed, her fingers locked to Sarek's face. A furrow in her brow evidence of intense concentration, perhaps strain. A gray-haired male healer stood besides her, his back towards the door, scanning both melders with a tricorder.

In the corner, across from the door, stood T'Pau. Dressed in purple and black, she held a carved ebony staff in her hand that was topped with a large yellow jewel. Braids of black and silver twisted up on top of her head. Age lined her face but strength was still apparent in her regal bearing.

T’Pau’s dark eyes scrutinised the intruders. When they passed over Amanda, her breath huffed out of her in a whoosh as the woman’s presence hit her like a sledgehammer. Beside her Sharan tensed, his muscles locking around her. Obviously, he felt it too.

Tapping her staff on the ground, T’Pau demanded in Vulcan, "What is the meaning of this intrusion?"

Only the rigidity in Amanda’s body prevented her from covering her ears with her hands. T’Pau’s voice was not been loud yet her displeasure penetrated deeply. Amanda could not move, could not speak, could barely breathe.

Raising her hand in the ta'al, T’Vin stepped forward. "Pid-kom T'Pau, I present to you T'Amanda Grayson, my son's telsu. She comes to claim him with my blessing."

Chapter Text

Daddy, daddy, get me out of here (heard about a place today)
I, I'm underground (nothing never hurts again)

Underground - David Bowie

CHAPTER 11: UNDERGROUND

--AMANDA--

T’Vin's words reverberated in Amanda’s mind. “With my blessing.”

Affection for this woman blossomed in Amanda's chest, breaking through the paralysis that gripped her. She could breathe again.

T’Pau, in contrast, looked far from impressed with T’Vin. “That is not possible, Amanda Grayson could not have left Earth without my knowledge. Nor could she be on Vulcan as my orders expressly forbid her entry here.”

So strong was T’Pau’s conviction that Amanda found herself doubting her own presence here. She cringed at the idea of having to confront her.

Considering her options, Amanda quickly ruled out trying to pull apart the two melders. As desperate as she was to help Sarek, a violent disruption of the meld could leave him brain dead. Even touching Sarek might distract him in his fight against T’Rel.

A healer might intrude in the meld with a degree of safety. But it did not seem likely that the healer, who had permitted this meld in the first place, would agree to stop it against T’Pau’s orders.

T’Pau was the key to rescuing Sarek. Yet how to convince someone that was opposed to her before they'd even met? It would be no easy task.

One thing was for certain, though, she wouldn't accomplish anything by cowering in the doorway.

Squeezing Sharan’s arm gently, Amanda met his eyes before turning back to T’Pau. Sensing her intent, he released his hold on her, steadying her with one hand to her back till she adjusted to the extra weight.

Each small shaky step she took towards T’Pau felt like it might be her last. Three steps, four, five....come on, two more. As she reached T’Vin’s side, the paralysis worked back into her legs, rooting her to the spot.

A wry thought flashed through her brain. Not being able to move might actually be to her benefit. No matter how much she might wish to, she could not run away.

The first thing she must say would contradict T’Pau. She swallowed nervously, her throat dry. Come on. She could do this. Just like Sarek taught, be calm and respectful when dealing with an elder. Remember to enunciate in Vulcan.

“Lady T’Pau, I am Amanda Grayson.”

Their gazes locked in a silent battle of wills. A shiver travelled down Amanda’s spine. Her heart, unsure if it wanted to race or stop, tried to do both. The blood rushed from Amanda’s face and her ears rung with an unpleasant buzzing.

Why was she here? She was unworthy of Sarek. Look at how weak and pitiful she was. The gravity crushed her bones and the air did not sustain her. The heat caused her to break out in sweat, wasting precious water. She would die here if she stayed. Disheveled, emotional, weak, inadequate and worst of all, so very human.

Wilting under the scrutiny, her mind refused to take any more. Her gaze shied away from the truth revealed in T’Pau’s eyes. How could she possibly deserve Sarek as flawed and frail as she was?

Through her fears, a memory arose. So vivid was her recollection that she experienced it as if Sarek stood with her and spoke his words to her again.

… A hand pressed lightly against her shoulder and Sarek's presence hummed through her. “You are different from me, Amanda, not less. I, for one, am pleased we have differences. May we together become greater than the sum of both of us.” …

Different, not less. As before, those simple words and the acceptance behind them broke the spell of self-hatred and doubt.

To stand against this woman, she must keep her goal firmly in mind. This was for Sarek. He had called her here, he needed her. For him, she would face anything. Setting her jaw, she raised her chin and met her adversary's eyes again.

Amanda felt the hum intensify around her. She imagined T’Pau’s presence circling her, seeking a weakness in which to exploit. This time, it did not find any.

As her resolve hardened, a small surge of strength passed through her. She took one step closer to T’Pau. There was resistance to the motion, an almost tangible thickening of the air. She took another step anyway just to prove she could.

Standing now but an arm's length from T’Pau, Amanda clearly saw the surprise widening the Vulcan’s eyes.

“Sarek has called me and I have come. You must permit me to help him.”

“Sarek is already being seen to by one far more suitable than yourself. Your help is not required,” T’Pau responded bluntly.

Amanda kept her voice as unemotional as possible. “I have communicated with Sarek via our bond. T’Rel is harming him and he is in excruciating pain. The meld needs to be ended before any more damage is done.”

T’Pau was unmoved. “Sarek resists, there are consequences to that. T’Rel does what is necessary to form a bond. Ultimately, her actions will save his life.”

In the face of such dismissal of Sarek's pain, Amanda’s calm evaporated. Disgust and anger spilled out of her. “He is the process of having his mind raped and you expect him to take it passively? What she is doing to him is abhorrent. How dare you call it necessary.”

Disgust flittered over T’Pau’s face, though she rapidly controlled it, her features stiffening back into an emotionless mask. “There is a difference between a forced meld and a mind rape,” T’Pau replied in a voice that suggested Amanda lacked the mental capacity to understand the difference. “Without a stable bond, Sarek’s bonding nexus will continue to degrade, destroying his mind. T’Rel must reach his nexus to bond with him. This process only causes damage to him if he resists. He knows this and it is regretful that he has chosen to do so anyway. T’Rel’s actions are necessary and they are not the same as breaking his will which would constitute a mind rape.”

“She is ripping apart his mind and must force him against his will to bond. Forgive me if I fail to see the difference,” Amanda retorted, attempting rather unsuccessfully to limit the amount of anger tainting her words.

“There is a clear difference to a Vulcan. The damage that accrues in a forced meld can be mended but a broken will cripples the psyche. T’Rel will only use force until Sarek submits. This is inevitable. Even if he lacks the logic to choose what is in his best interest, he must eventually run out of strength fighting a superior mind.”

Amanda’s blood ran cold at the implication. T’Pau knew what was going on and she saw the damage T’Rel was doing as just an unfortunate result of Sarek’s defiance. But T’Pau was underestimating Sarek’s desire to resist.

In a tired voice, Amanda informed her, “Sarek will not give up. He will fight till his last breath has left his body.”

As if her words were prophecy, the biomonitor started chiming an alert. All eyes snapped towards the bed and the plummeting heart rate displayed on the monitor above.

Frozen in horror, Amanda watched the readings plummet from over two hundred down to zero. A sigh, then his chest was still.

“Sarek, No!” she cried out desperately.

Snatching a hypospray from the drug cabinet on the wall, the healer filled it rapidly and returned to his patient. Poised over Sarek, about to inject, the monitor sounded dah-dahhhhhhhh.

A heart beat!

Ever so slowly, the heat rate indicator increased. The sound changed tempo from a slow double beat to a fast hummingbird whirl that had been a background noise before. A gasp, then Sarek’s chest began to silently rise and fall again.

With a whoosh, Amanda let out the breath she had unintentionally held. Tension eased out of her body. He was alive!

“This is a good sign,” T’Pau said, her tone quite pleased.

Amanda nodded in agreement and T’Pau continued. “As you have just witnessed, T’Rel has gained the command of Sarek’s biocontrols. It will not be long now till they are bonded.”

“What?” Amanda asked incredulously, her horror choking off more words.

A seething rage built inside Amanda. What kind of unfeeling monster was this T’Pau? Did she care nothing at all that Sarek may have just chosen death over the option that T’Pau and T’Rel would have of him? Her hands tightened into fists at her side.

An agonized cry from behind her was the only thing that stopped Amanda from starting a war between Earth and Vulcan. Whipping around she saw T’Vin, hand to her temple, face lined with pain. Pale and shaken, she looked like she might faint.

Concern replaced the anger and Amanda started towards T’Vin. Before she had completed her first step, Adenkar and Yehenik were at T’Vin’s side.

Scanning T’Vin, Yehenik grabbed a hypospray from the pouch at her belt and pressed it to the woman's neck with a hiss. The creases in T’Vin’s face eased, a little colour returning to her face.

“What ails you clan daughter?”

Amanda jumped as T’Pau’s voice issued from right beside her. She had not noticed T’Pau also move closer to T’Vin, putting her shoulder to shoulder with Amanda.

There was a stark contrast to the T’Pau of just moments before. She seemed...concerned.

T’Vin opened her mouth to speak but a moan was all that emerged. A shudder wracked her frame and her legs collapsed under her.

Adenkar caught her, lowering her gently to the floor. Crouching beside her, his hand reached up to touch T’Vin’s temple. Both closed their eyes.

The smallest of frowns creased Adenkar’s brow. Slowly, as if it pained him to speak the words, he answered T’Pau. “There had been an attack on the bond with her son. Sarek was able to convey what was happening. It seems T’Rel has resorted to bond torture. There is only one purpose for doing so.”

“That is unthinkable, why would she do this?” T’Pau demanded.

Recalling why Sarek had wanted the bond inactive, Amanda thought she understood what was going on now. When she thought of how much pain he must be in, she wanted to weep.

“Why does T’Rel want to sever the proto-bond?” Amanda asked, almost sure she already knew the answer

Adenkar looked up from T’Vin who rested against his shoulder. “A Vulcan can only have one bondmate at a time. Even this partial bond would make his nexus impermeable to another attempting to make a marriage bond.”

Amanda closed her eyes overwhelmed. “Sarek put our bond into a dormant state to hide it from her. He has her at an impasse.”

Adenkar’s eyebrows lifted. “Not even trained healer could find a dormant proto-bond, but to resort to bond torture to get the information...it is not only illegal but immoral. If her intent was to assist him, then it is simply not a logical action to inflict more damage on his failing nexus. Even if he survives her methods there is little chance he would recover from it. The only conclusion that I can reach is she that is attempting to break his will so she may have command over him once they are bonded.”

Fear curled in Amanda's stomach at the thought of Sarek bonded to this woman unable to fight back. Why would anyone do this? What motivation could possibly drive a Vulcan to cripple the mind of another? Unable to determine a cause, Amanda asked, “What does she gain from bonding with Sarek that she would not have otherwise?”

T’Pau let out a sharp exhale. Amanda turned her head towards her hoping she would not reignite the staring match by doing so.

Before her eyes, T’Pau aged decades, vitality leeching out of her body as her presence diminished. She seemed smaller than before and far more fragile.

T’Pau had obviously determined the rationale for T’Rel’s actions. With evidence and a motive, T’Pau could no longer deny what harm T’Rel was doing to Sarek. If she could be convinced to stop the meld, now was the time.

“T’Pau I beg you, stop this before there is nothing left of him. End the meld,” Amanda pleaded.

T’Pau avoided Amanda's eyes, looking instead to the healer standing over Sarek. “Sorrd, can it be done?” T’Pau’s voice was uncertain and could it be...afraid?

Sorrd cocked his head to the side, considering. “I would not recommend it, they are in the nexus. A forcible extraction has an 84.12% probability of resulting in death. If either survived, it would be in a persistent vegetative state. There is only a 3.76% chance of recovery from that.”

“Nothing can be done then?” Amanda persisted.

“Anything I might do would only increase the probability of a negative outcome,” Sorrd elucidated, a small down tilt to his chin indicating his distraction pleasure.

Amanda looked to Yehenik and Adenkar, hoping they might have better news.

“He is correct Amanda,” Yehenik confirmed. “Sarek and T’Rel must determine the outcome between them. Only after the meld is complete might we be able to do something for him.”

She could not accept that. After would be too late.

T’Vin lost consciousness, her body slackening against Adenkar. “She needs to go into a healing trance. I will take her to another room and call in attendant to monitor her before returning.” He lifted T’Vin gently and headed out of the room.

While all eyes were focused on Adenkar, Amanda headed towards the bed. Taking a position on Sarek’s right, she reached out her hand...

“Do not touch them, your unshielded mind could harm him if he were unprepared for it,” Sorrd warned without taking his attention from the scan he was taking of T’Rel.

“I understand,” Amanda answered as she released the restraint that held Sarek’s arm. Sorrd’s only response to Amanda's action was a raised eyebrow. As he was not stopping her, she ignored him and placed her hand on the bed beside Sarek's. Less than an inch separated them now.

She watched Sarek's chest rise and fall in a slow, steady rhythm. “Does he know that I am here, Healer? Can he hear me?”

“It is possible but highly unlikely. His focus is directed inward. Even if he can hear you, he would not be able to respond,” Sorrd answered quietly.

“I’ll take a maybe at this point.” Leaning down so her lips were close to Sarek's ear, Amanda whispered, “Sarek, I am here. If you need anything from me, my hand is beside your right.”

There was no response to her words. She hadn’t really expected one but she needed to let him know she was here. There was one more thing to try.

Righting herself, she closed her eyes tightly, reached for the proto-bond.

Where the proto-bond had been was a desolate emptiness. There was no hum, no sense of Sarek to be found, only despair. “Forgive me Sarek, I came too late.”

She gasped in pain. Her right hand was being crushed. Her eyes flew open to see her hand tightly grasped in Sarek's own. “Sarek?” she asked, her voice caught between hope and pain.

Energy crackled through their joined hands. It shot up Amanda’s arm and up through her jaw bone. The steady hum of Sarek pushed into her mind. It called to her, it pulled her, then energy raced back down her arm towards Sarek. She blinked...

And opened her eyes in another place.

The landscape was partially obscured by a moving fog. From what she could see, she appeared to be on the rim of a rocky crater. In the far distance, there was something...some kind of forest? Squinting she made out...giant beanstalks? How odd.

An anguished, “No,” came from behind her. Whipping around she saw Sarek on his knees, a flickering wraith of himself. T’Rel was beside him, some kind of sword-axe held aloft above her.

T’Rel’s face contorted with savage pleasure as she brought the axe down, right towards Amanda.

Amanda screamed.

Crackling energy surrounded Amanda like a shield, slowing the descent of the axe. Yet ever so gradually the blade edged towards her.

While the shield protected her, it also trapped her in place. Amanda raised her arm to block the blade but it too moved unnaturally slowly. Before her hand was halfway up, the axe had punctured the shield and was at her throat.

For a moment, all was still. Amanda flinched as the blade nicked her skin. A drop of red blood slid down the blade then fell to the ground below.

The ground ripped open at their feet, unbalancing her. Something immense and amorphous surged out, crackling with the same energy as the surrounding shield. Towering above her, it took shape, the vaguest outlines of a body, a hint of eyes.

A hand imposed itself between Amanda and T’Rel, pushing back the blade from Amanda's throat. T’Rel’s arms flexed forcing it back again. The entity hummed like a swarm of maddened bees, its body increasing in brightness. The axe, still held by T’Rel, glowed red, then white, then blue. T’Rel was forced to let it go and she staggered back.

Raising her hands to ward off the ever increasing light, Amanda blinked...

And found herself once more by the bed, her free hand clutching at her throat.

No, No, No, No, No. Sarek still needed her, she had to go back.

The energy that had been confined to their hands began sparking off Sarek's skin in multiple places. Every hair on Amanda's body stood up on end. Her ears buzzed with the sounds of surging electricity, or was it swarming bees?

The healer's eyes widened in shock and he stepped well back from the bed.

Sarek released Amanda’s hand with an audible zap. She fell to the floor, nerves tingling.

From her prone position, Amanda watched T’Rel open dark and furious eyes. A moment later, a massive electrical discharge split the air with a loud crack. T’Rel convulsed and was thrown away from the bed, hitting the wall with a thump.

Clutching her injured hand to her chest, Amanda struggled to her knees. Her good hand gripped the bed and she heaved herself up onto her feet. Small sparks still danced on Sarek's skin, concentrated around his face and hands.

Reaching out to touch him, her arm was yanked back painfully.

“Do not touch him now lest you end up like her,” Yehenik advised with a nod in the direction of T’Rel who lay sprawled unmoving on the floor. “You must wait for the discharge to stop.”

Amanda nodded and her arm was released. Yehenik took the tricorder from her belt and began scanning Amanda. Adenkar did the same for Sarek while Sorrd tended T’Rel.

Prevented from immediate action, the exhaustion hit her full force. Yehenik guided her descent to the floor and propped her up against the wall.

The tingling in Amanda’s nerves morphed into an unstoppable shaking.

A hypospray hissed into Amanda's neck. Whatever it was supposed to do, it really didn't help.

Around chattering teeth she asked, “Sa-rek, how - is he?”

Yehenik looked up at the wall monitor. “Not well, but Adenkar will be doing what he can to stabilize him. At the moment, I am concerned with you. What happened just now?”

“I was go-ing to - ask you - that,” Amanda replied with a grimace. “Wh-When Sar-ek took my hand, I think he - drew me in-to the meld. I don’t un-derstand wh-hat I saw.”

“Adenkar and I returned in time to witness the electrical discharge. Such a demonstration is unique to my experience. If I can view your thoughts I might be able to provide more insights,” Yehenik suggested holding up one hand up fingers spread.

“If-ff it will - help.”

Kneeling beside her, Yehenik touched several points on her face. Amanda felt like she was being watched intently but could otherwise not sense the healer. A voice filtered through her awareness. “Recall what happened. I will observe only.”

Amanda recalled the crushing grip on her hand, the electric current through her body, then being elsewhere. Sarek and T’Rel...the axe slowing coming towards her...her scream...something rising from the ground to protect her...some kind of energy being?

“Fascinating, his katra moved to protect you. I did not realise you were k’hat’n’dlawa to him. This explains much.”

Amanda had so many questions but “Hmmmm,” was all she managed in response.

“I see your exhaustion. I shall leave your mind now and I bid you rest. I will see to it that all is prepared for you and your k’diwa, then I will wake you.”

Satisfied that the healer would do as she promised, Amanda let her body slide down the wall to the floor. Sleep claimed her instantly.

Chapter Text

There's such a sad love
Deep in your eyes, a kind of pale jewel
Open and closed within your eyes
I'll place the sky within your eyes

As the World Falls Down - David Bowie

CHAPTER 12: SUCH A SAD LOVE

--AMANDA--

The chain cut her flesh and Amanda could not move. Struggling for breath around the gag in her mouth, she could not even ask why they had brought her here.

Towering above her, the executioner held her axe at the ready. She wore no hood to hide her delicate features.

It was T’Rel.

“Off with her head,” T’Pau ordered.

A wild thumping began in Amanda’s chest.

“He will not remember you and you will die alone. I still win,” T’Rel gloated.

T’Rel’s face contorted with savage joy as she raised the axe.

Amanda could not even scream as the axe descended towards her...

 

The chains held her captive even as she realised she was dreaming. The axe’s descent slowed but drew inexorably nearer. Sweat slid down her face, or perhaps tears. Would she die if the axe struck?

‘Calm down,’ the rational part of her mind told her ‘This isn’t how it happened. Open your eyes now and really wake up.’

 

Her muscles were clenched so hard they hurt. Gradually, Amanda loosened them. Beneath her was a hard mattress. She was no longer on the floor. Was she even still in the same room?

Amanda opened eyes that immediately fell shut again. Again and again, she forced them open only for them to close. Finally, they stayed open.

Her eyes tracked to the occupant of the bed next to hers. Watching the shallow rise and fall of his chest, her heart stopped its frantic fluttering. She drank him in.

Sparks no longer danced across Sarek’s skin and the restraints that held him were gone. He was still far too pale for her liking. And as she listened to the pulse of the machine above him, she feared his heart was too slow. Tenderly, she reached out and placed her left hand on his right. He felt cold.

She shifted to see him better but pain flared up her right arm in fiery waves.

Her hand was a swollen bruise; two of her fingers were splinted and bandaged together. There was a needle inserted just above her wrist connected to an IV tube.

Looking up she saw Yehenik waiting patiently a step away from the bed. Odd that she had not even noticed her before. Glancing around quickly, Amanda determined that Yehenik was the only other occupant in the room.

“How long have I been asleep?” Amanda asked, fatigue lacing her voice.

“You have been resting for 2.31 hours.”

Anger provided a convenient means for ignoring the pain caused from sitting bolt upright.

“Two and a half hours! Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” she demanded.

Yet it was not Yehenik she was angry with. How could she have slept so long when Sarek needed her?

“The time was necessary for recovery,” Yehenik answered. Amanda tried not to be irritated that Yehenik remained perfectly composed. “Sarek used his remaining psionic energy in one burst, overwhelming his tele-nervous systems. It took some time to stabilise him and to get him to a point where a meld might be possible. As for you, your reserves were quite depleted. You needed sustenance and rest to regain your strength, as well as medical aid.”

Yehenik looked pointedly at Amanda’s hand. Amanda would not have cared if they had to cut it off if she could have helped Sarek sooner; nonetheless, she grudgingly admitted the downtime might have been necessary. When the adrenaline had worn off, she had collapsed.

Deliberately, Amanda took several slow breaths through her nose forcing herself to calm. She was not going to help Sarek by panicking. “Yehenik, I need to help him,” she pleaded.

Yehenik inclined her head. “Healer Adenkar returns from meditation in 12.24 minutes. If we have chosen to proceed, he will then assist you with the meld. Healer Sorrd was unwilling to do so. After what has occurred, he concluded there was too much risk involved with melding with Sarek.”

“I would prefer Healer Adenkar over Sorrd anyway. Healer Sorrd allowed the forced meld. I don't think Sarek will react well to him now.”

“Perhaps then it is for the best. However, Sorrd’s reasons for refusing must be considered Amanda. You are already aware of Sarek’s condition and the injury that has been done to his mind. Due to the bonding sickness, this damage will continue to propagate until he has formed a bond. However melding with him involves a great deal of risk to you.”

Amanda’s nose crinkled in her confusion. “I don't think he'll attack me.”

“I would agree that that is an unlikely scenario but there are other dangers. As your ability to shield is limited, you could be damaged just by exposing yourself to his mind. If he dies during the meld, you will as well,” Yehenik warned.

Amanda turned to look at the pale form of Sarek, such a contrast from his usual vitality. “I can't leave him like this Yehenik, no matter the cost to myself.”

“Amanda you should be aware that even if you succeed in bonding with him, he may never fully recover from the trauma he has sustained. Right now his brain function is minimal, enough to maintain vital functions. It is uncertain what faculties he may be able to recover.”

Amanda shuddered as a chill passed through her body. She had not considered Sarek never recovering from this.

Yet it made no difference to what she must do. Turning back to face the healer she saw a sadness in this woman eyes. Amanda found it odd that she wanted to offer Yehenik comfort though she had precious little of it herself right now.

“I may yet help him, Yehenik. I will not abandon him now.”

Yehenik's eyes locked with hers. Amanda knew she did not want to hear what Yehenik was going to say next.

“He may not want to live diminished.”

A sharp pain twisted in Amanda’s chest and, for a time, it was difficult to breathe. Sarek was so self-sufficient, accomplished and composed. For him to lose that, to be less than he was, it would be a torment to him. Should he wish to die, could she let him go?

Her good arm wrapped around herself in a futile attempt at self-comfort. What was the right thing to do?

Chest constricted and a half sob broke free. She met Yehenik’s sad eyes and tried to speak but the words hesitated in her mouth. They come out slowly, reluctantly.

“Unlike T’Rel...I will honour what he requests of me. But until he tells me otherwise, I will do everything in my power to save him.”

Yehenik radiated approval. “Given your dedication to Sarek, I thought this would be your response. I will not attempt to dissuade you from your path now that you are informed. Adenkar and I shall remain with you for the duration. Should you need us, we will be there to assist you.”

Touched, Amanda's mouth curved into a small smile. “That is comforting to know, Yehenik,” Formally she added in Vulcan, “I thank you for your assistance in this matter Healer.”

Yehenik bowed her head returning in kind, “It is an honour to serve as your healer, T’Amanda.”

Amanda almost laughed. The desire to do so felt odd after the tension of the day. “I am hardly a Lady of Vulcan to be owed the T prefix.”

Amusement twinkled in Yehenik’s eyes. “But you are. I was there when T’Vin called you daughter and again when she claimed you as her son’s telsu. Her claim before T’Pau and witnesses made it official. T’Pau was quite displeased with T’Vin’s actions, as by them she was forced to accept you. Even if you did not bond with Sarek, you are now part of the S’chn T’gai clan.”

Amanda was uncertain if both eyebrows remained on her face, so high had they risen.

“That was...acceptance? It didn’t feel like it from where I was standing.”

One of Yehenik’s eyebrow imitated Amanda's. “T’Pau could have had security remove and hold you until Sarek was bonded. I am certain she would have preferred to do so. But as a clan member and with a prior claim to Sarek, you had the right to appeal to her on this matter. T’Pau’s duty as matriarch required that she provide you with an audience and her counsel.”

“Oh!” If T’Vin had not spoken up for her...

It took Amanda a while to realise that Yehenik had continued the conversation. With a start she tuned into, “- and I spoke with T’Pau. I provided my recommendation that you should be allowed to bond with your k’hat’n’dlawa.”

“Did you manage to convince her?” Amanda asked eagerly.

“T’Pau failed to recognise the significance of Sarek's attachment to you. As today's events have proven, Sarek will not accept anyone else and it is exceedingly dangerous for anyone but you to bond with him. T’Pau no longer disputes these facts.”

By the tension in the Vulcan healer’s body, Amanda realised that Yehenik was displeased, perhaps even angry, with T’Pau. As she watched, Yehenik noticeably put more effort into maintaining her composure; her shoulders relaxed and small creases faded from around the eyes.

“She does want him to live Amanda. Whatever her objections to you, she will not oppose your bonding.”

The tension flowed out of Amanda’s own muscles. “That's one less obstacle then. I really didn't want to have to confront her again if she refused. That woman is terrifying.”

A shiver travelled down Amanda's spine as she remembered the feeling of being in T’Pau’s presence.

“Indeed,” Yehenik agreed, not denying the emotional implication of Amanda's words.

Yehenik’s eyes crinkled at the corners, the tiniest sign of amusement. “She is not the only one that is difficult to oppose. Adenkar tells me that confronting you is a similar experience.”

“Me?!” Amanda blurted out, both eyebrows flying up again in surprise. “How so?”

“What you had Adenkar visualise was quite disturbing to him, more so than words alone should have been. As close to him as you were, we think your emotional pain coupled with the imagery you portrayed. For a time, he believed that I suffered from the forced meld. This completely changed his thoughts on the proper actions to be taken. When he shared his thoughts with me, I was also convinced.”

Yehenik peered at Amanda intently. “Have you been tested for telepathy, Amanda?”

“Actually, I have,” Amanda replied with a nod. “Sarek was surprised that I could sense his mind touch. Being able to sense such a limited mental presence suggested I wasn't a true null, so he asked me to get rated. I just barely register on the psi-scale. I am told what skill I have is more of a sensitivity to telepathy rather than any actual aptitude.”

Yehenik tilted her head to the side giving Amanda a thoughtful look. “It is likely you have grown beyond that. The proto-bond you share with Sarek may have enhanced your natural ability. After this is over, you should be retested. I would not be surprised if you had the empathic gift.”

“Ah - What would that even mean?”

“The most relevant factor would be an increased probability of forming a bond. Other implications can wait until we have time to retest you. Adenkar will be returning in 1.721 minutes. Is there anything you require now, any questions I may answer?”

Hundreds of questions filled her mind, but only one was immediately relevant.

“How do I actually bond with Sarek?”

Yehenik steepled her fingers in front of her as she considered the question. “Let me begin by explaining the typical means of bonding as an adult. A mating bond is initiated during the most intimate meld; the two allow their minds to come together without shields so their thoughts overlap. The deepest part of the psyche is the bonding nexus and the two are drawn here by instinct. As the individual nexus merge into one, a bond is formed.”

Amanda’s forehead crinkled. “I don't have a bonding nexus do I?”

“Not as such, but you may have an equivalent. Certainly the proto-bond found a place to root in your mind. Technically you do not need to form a bond, rather, you must complete what already exists. It should also act as a guide you to the nexus in place of instinct. Once there, Sarek’s inclination to bond with you should take over. At this point, it is something his mind desperately seeks.”

Adenkar walked into the room at the tail end of Yehenik’s instruction. He came to stand next to her, hands clasped behind his back. Inclining his head towards them both, he began without preamble, “Amanda Grayson, before we get started there are others that would witness your bonding. A group is waiting outside the door for your permission to enter. However, if you prefer only Yehenik and I will remain with you.”

Surprise flooded her. Amanda had been so focused on helping Sarek that she had completely overlooked the fact that if she succeeded they would essentially be married.

“Invite them in,” she managed to say.

Sitting up straighter, Amanda ran her hand through her hair in a probably useless attempt to straighten it.

Adenkar returned to the door that slid open at his approach. Amanda was just able to decipher Adenkar’s ancient Vulcan greeting, “Come, you have been invited to witness.”

“We come to bear witness,” was intoned in response by several voices.

Amanda hoped she didn’t have to reply in kind. Pronouncing ancient Vulcan left her tongue-tied and she was still shaky on much of the vocabulary.

T’Vin entered slowly into the room, a little unsteady on her feet. A middle-aged male Vulcan, bearing a strong resemblance to Sarek, came directly behind her carrying two chairs. He placed them down by the far wall, then extended two fingers to T’Vin. Together the two approached Amanda.

“Ko-fu,” T’Vin greeted her, “Let me present he who is my husband, Skon.”

“Live long and prosper, ko-fu,” Skon added his fingers held up in the ta'al .

“Peace and Longlife, Shaile Skon, T’sai T’Vin,” Amanda replied formally raising her good hand to make the same gesture.

Amanda was overwhelmed by meeting this man whom Sarek had always spoken so highly of. And had both of them just called her daughter?

“Titles are not necessary for you, ko-fu. Just Skon, or if you would, sa-mekh.”

A blush heated Amanda’s cheeks. “I - ah, yes, sa-mekh.”

Skon did not smile, but as with Sarek, there was something about the eyes that suggested it.

“We honour the one who will return life to our son,” T’Vin pronounced.

Amanda thought the words were ritualistic and she was uncertain of the proper response. It seemed nothing was necessary as before Amanda could reply, both bowed to her. They turned together and moved back to the far wall, T’Vin taking a chair and Skon standing by her side.

Once seated, Sharan sauntered into the room. Reaching her, he folded both arms across his chest and casually leant against the side of the bed.

“Today has been quite eventful hey. It seems like you have kept your promise to this one,” came his whispery Standard. “Would you now have an old Andorian see you married to that one?” Sharan pointed to Sarek with one antenna.

In Andorian, Amanda answered, “This friend welcomed be, while she who is I is joined unto he who is mine.”

Sharan’s antennae twitched in pleasure as he recognised her use of the Andorian wedding greeting. “In joining much joy find. Zhiib bless your union,” he returned in kind. Then he saluted her, fist to chest. With an abrupt pivot, he turned on his heels and marched to the side of the door where he took up a guard stance. He glared at someone outside the room and she glided in.

“Greetings T'Sai T’Pau,” Amanda spoke carefully to the woman who towered over her bedside.

“Clan daughter, thee are informed of the danger in what thou would do?” T’Pau asked her formally in ancient Vulcan but without the hostility that had been there before.

Amanda responded respectfully, though in modern Vulcan where she would make fewer mistakes. “I have been so informed Pid-kom. I have chosen to attempt it despite these risks.”

“Thou do not have to do this child, thy place is assured. Sarek may be beyond saving. The cost to thee may be thy mind, possibly thy life.”

Concern for Amanda was evident in T’Pau’s words, so Amanda risked answering with words from her heart.

“If I do not, the cost will be my soul.”

T’Pau’s eyes widened, then slowly her head angled down in a gesture of respect. “It would seem I have underestimated thee, Amanda Grayson.”

Amanda was shocked when T’Pau also bowed to her; she had heard of no ceremony where the Pid-kom would do so. Should she bow in return? But T’Pau was already gliding across the room and seating herself in the chair next to T’Vin.

“All are here that would be, we should begin now Amanda,” Adenkar announced, breaking Amanda from her inner contemplation.

“What must I do?”

"Lie down and prepare yourself as for meditation,” Adenkar instructed as he moved into the place between the head of her bed and the wall.

Lying back on the bed, Amanda closed her eyes and began the breathing exercises. As her heart rate slowed, she bought her mind internally.

“Good, now reach towards Sarek.”

Amanda reached out blindly. Finding Sarek's hand she interlaced her fingers with his.

“Reach out to him with your mind,” Adenkar rephrased. Amanda could hear the raised eyebrow in his tone. She felt a bit sheepish at her mistake but she kept hold of Sarek's hand anyway.

Amanda sought the proto-bond in her mind. She could hear Sarek’s distinct hum but could not access his thoughts.

“I can't reach him, there is some kind of block.”

“He may be shielded. I am going to touch both your minds to bridge you together. You should be aware of my presence but only thoughts that we choose to send to each other will be transferred. Are you prepared?”

“Yes.” Well no, but she wasn’t waiting any longer.

A hand touched her face, fingers pushing against forehead and cheek. She became aware of a different hum. /Adenkar?/

/Yes. I am going to link us with Sarek now./

She was aware of a hand, not her own, lifting and touching another cheek. The familiar hum of Sarek was now far stronger, and she was pushed/pulled towards its source.

A breeze stirred hair across her face and she reached up to brush it away. Opening her eyes, she found she stood upon red sands underneath an orange sky.

The dress of sapphire blue she wore contrasted strongly with the ochre surroundings. The gauzy fabric and trailing sleeves floated in the wind. On her feet were midnight blue roman sandals with ribbons that strapped up her legs. The change of attire somehow seemed completely natural to her.

Now, where to go? Holding up her hand to shield her eyes from the glaring red sun, she scanned her surroundings. In the far distance, she made out a walled city. Drawn towards it, she began to walk across the dunes.

Some time passed before she remembered Adenkar was supposed to be here too. She stopped and spun slowly in a circle looking for him. The landscape that had been behind her had faded away to black as if it ceased to exist a dozen paces behind her. Amanda was certain the place she had started was within that darkness. Would it overtake her, and if so, what would happen? Her heart fluttered in fear. /Where are you Adenkar?/

/I am present, I have not taken a form. I will do so if you would prefer./

Adenkar materialised before her all at once and she reeled back in surprise. She just managed to stop herself from tumbling backwards into the sand.

He was just as she had seen him last in his healer robes and soft boots, with his tricorder and med pouch at his side. He gestured towards the city, and they started moving towards it again, side by side.

/I can sense your confusion about what you are seeing,/ Adenkar thought at her, his lips unmoving. /Your mind has an interesting way of interpreting what is here. The wall you see before you is Sarek's mental shield, the city beyond it is his mind./

/And behind us, what is that blackness? It seems to be moving towards us./ Amanda asked as she peered over her shoulder to determine if it was still following. Sure enough, the blackness had moved with them.

/That darkness represents what is beyond Sarek’s awareness. His mindscape, what you see as the desert, extended to include us when we joined with him. The edge of his awareness is now retreating back towards the shield. If we walked beyond the edge we would lose connection to Sarek's mind./

Amanda nodded somewhat reassured. /You said this is what I see, do you see something different Adenkar./

/Because we are connected, I am aware of what you see. However, as a healer, I am trained to perceive what is rather than a representation of it. I am aware of both the biological and mental functions that are occurring within the three of us as our synaptic patterns align. I sense your outer thoughts and to a lesser degree Sarek’s. He is watching our approach from behind his shield. We shall meet him there./

/How long will it take to reach him there?/ Amanda asked, a frown creasing her forehead. She was worried about the time this was taking. The city was little closer than it had when they had started and it must have taken an hour for them to get to this point. At this rate, it would take all day to reach the city.

Sensing the thought behind her question, Adenkar looked at her curiously, one eyebrow raised. /It is fascinating how you are perceiving distance and time here as the effort required to reach your goal. Your lack of a time sense must be quite confusing to you. It has in fact only been 19.37 seconds since I touched Sarek's mind. Allow me to guide you./

Adenkar offered his hand and Amanda took it. Together they took a step and the landscape around them blurred. As Amanda placed her raised foot back on the sand, the scenery settled and abruptly the city wall was but a few paces before them.

/What? How?/ Amanda questioned, dropping Adenkar’s hand in her surprise.

/I took the effort to get here upon myself, which in your mind was the same as shortening the distance and time required. Now we must locate a point of entry. I can sense a weak point in the shields but I am yet to determine exactly where./

Amanda closed her eyes and reached for the proto-bond. She felt a tug towards the right and began walking in that direction almost without thinking. Adenkar’s soft footfalls followed behind her.

They drew closer to the sandstone wall, following its long circular arc for what seems like ages but perhaps was only seconds. Reaching a section of the wall that had collapsed, they picked their way through fallen debris until they reached a breach in the wall.

Amanda was filled with dismay when she saw that they could not enter here. The breach had been filled with rubble to a height some meters above them. However, there were holes between the piled stones. Peering through the largest gap she can find, Amanda saw a bricked terrace. Her view was blocked by a pair of eyes staring back at her.

/Sarek?/

/Who goes?/ The voice was far deeper than Sarek's normal baritone yet still recognisably his.

/Sarek it's Amanda, I've come for you./

/I do not know you. You are not welcome here. Leave./ He moved away, then a chunk of rock was wedged tightly in the gap sealing off her view.

/Sarek!/ she cried out.

There was no reply from the other side of the wall.

Chapter Text

You remind me of the babe
What babe? The babe with the power
What power? The power of voodoo
Who do? You do
Do what? Remind me of the babe

Dance Magic Dance - David Bowie

Chapter 13 You Remind Me

--WARRIOR--

The Warrior felt the energy trickle out of him as he reinforced the shield. Turning his attention to the breach, he blocked the small gap the woman had spoken through. The breach resisted any further effort to improve it and he had to desist. Regretfully, the complete restoration was far beyond his remaining strength.

It was unfortunate the discharge initiated by the katra had dissipated. During that time they had been safe from telepathic interference and he had been able to rest. His wounds had gradually stopped bleeding and then began to close. Yet with the arrival of the strangers, he must resume his guard.

Evaluating his condition, he observed the scabs and scars that were revealed through the pierced armour. As he moved, the scars pulled on the underlying muscles reducing his range of motion. It was the arm though that truly hampered his abilities. Terminating half way in a stump, his right arm could no longer wield the lipra.

No matter, he would use his left. Even in his diminished state, he was still the superior fighter. And he would fight anyone, anytime, anyplace; it was his sacred duty.

Time passed and there were no developments. Having readied himself for an immediate incursion, the continued inaction of the two strangers was aggravating. They did not leave as requested yet nor did they attack. What were their intentions?

It was time to find out.

He would not lower the shield but the breach still contained gaps. Kneeling down, he peered through one that would not be readily visible from the other side. Sending out the finest tendril of his awareness, he examined those on the other side.

From the precision and complexity of his shielding, the Vulcan male was clearly a healer. Little could be gained from examining such a tightly controlled and guarded mind. Moreover, if he attempted to examine this one, he would certainly be detected. The Warrior turned his attention to the other.

Her mind was unprotected.

Sending more of his awareness through the gap, he lightly brushed against her surface thoughts before pulling away. When she did not react, he touched her thoughts again and began his evaluation. There was no significant ability to attack or defend, almost psi-blind. Little threat to him.

Yet there was something about her that caused him pause. The sensation of her mind against his was strangely familiar...He probed deeper, questioning. Something in her answered.

A cascade of indefinable emotions flooded through him. Her name was Amanda...She was...

Overwhelmed, he pulled back reflexively. What had he been thinking?

She was...?

She was unsettled. In his moment of distraction, his mind had touched hers more deeply than he had intended. She had reached out blindly towards him, a moment more and she would have found him.

Fortuitously, the healer had chosen that moment to begin a conversation with her, drawing her attention outward.

 

--AMANDA--

Amanda stood frozen. Sarek didn't know her. How could he not know her?

She had come all this way, overcoming every obstacle in her path and now he wouldn't even acknowledge her! The desire to beat at the wall shaped her hands into fists.

No matter what he said, she wasn't leaving. She had to get to him...he was everything. He was…he was here???? Squeezing her eyes shut she reached for him...

Vaguely, she was aware of Adenkar moving to her left.

/Amanda, Sarek's mind is damaged and it is likely that he does not have access to all of his memories./

And just like that, the presence was gone. Perhaps it had never been there at all.

Sighing, she opened her eyes to Adenkar's concerned face. With effort, she forced herself to unclench her fists. Several deep breaths later, she calmed enough to speak.

/Adenkar, is there anything that might be done to help him remember?/

/I may be able to repair damage to the memory centers but only from within Sarek's mind. I can not assist him from outside his shield. It will, however,l be difficult to convince him to allow entry. Paranoia is a common occurrence for an individual who has been mentally attacked. He will be very protective of his mind and will not readily accept that we are here to aid him./

Amanda sighed. /I don't think he will even listen to us now./ She rubbed at her temples which were starting to throb. There had to be a way in.

Looking back at the breach Amanda considered the piled rubble that blocked the entry. It must be a dozen meters high but the rest of the wall seemed to stretch up into infinity. The broken blocks might provide enough hand and footholds to climb.

She reached out her hand. An inch away from the stone, the hair on her arm stood up on end and a tingling sensation went through her fingers. A hand grabbed her elbow and pulled her hand firmly away.

/It would be unwise for you to touch that,/ Adenkar warned, releasing his hold. /What you see as a wall is actually a manifestation of Sarek's mental protection. Not everything is as it seems in this place, Amanda./

/How then do we get through, Adenkar? The shield just goes on and on./

/In order to get past it without harm, he must lower the shield. Alternatively, an entry can be forced as was done here previously./ Adenkar paused with his fingers steepled in front of him. He continued with obvious reluctance. /I would not normally consider this option but the time remaining to help Sarek is limited. It is within my capabilities to breach this barrier. However, there is a 92.53% chance Sarek will resist the intrusion causing further damage to him. Would you have me do this?/

Amanda hesitated, biting her lower lip. The desperation to get to Sarek clawed its way from the nervous knot in her belly up into her throat. The desire to say yes nearly choked her. Yes, do it. Break down the wall so I can save him.

But when the wall was down, what then? Would she and Adenkar fight Sarek all the way to the bonding nexus if he continued to resist?

Would she do what T'Rel had done to him?

A tear slipped down her cheek. /No. It must be his decision to allow us in or not. To force him even to help him...it is wrong. There must be another way./

/That is unlikely./

/I am not giving up on him./

There must be something she could do?

/Sarek, please let me help you,/ she pleaded towards the spot in her mind she thought he had been before.

Oh, if only some part of him would hear her and remember.

 

--WARRIOR--

When Amanda reached out to the shield, the Warrior's remaining fingers tightened on the lirpa's shaft. Unprotected as she was, it would damage her considerably if she came in contact with the repulsive barrier. There was an unexplainable relief when the healer pulled her away.

As the healer advocated breaching the wall, the Warrior sprung up into a fighting stance. Yet the healer did not commence attack immediately, instead deferring to the human woman. Why?

Risking detection, he focused on Amanda's thought processes. His muscles tightened painfully. So great was her desire to enter.

He would fight. He would fight them both if they broke the shield. No one entered without his permission.

/No, it must be his decision.../ she decided and his muscles relaxed their tension.

Even though he had watched her make the decision he could not understand it. She had chosen to honour his choice. Why would she do that when she had the desire and means to enter?

/Sarek, please let me help you./

Startled, he untangled his awareness from hers and drew it fully behind the shield. She had spoken directly into his mind. She shouldn't have been able to do that, she shouldn't have known he was there. Who was this Amanda?

 

--LOGIC & WILL--

Logic had searched the conscious mind while Will had examined the unconscious. They met up on the main pathway between the two regions and discussed their findings. There were long lists of damages shared but neither had located the Healer aspect.

/We have not searched everywhere, we could have missed him,/ Will suggested, unwilling to give up hope.

Logic inclined his head in acknowledgement. /Perhaps so. However, the Healer's last action involved an attempt to stop our heart. His most likely location was in biocontrol. I performed a thorough search of the region in case T'Rel had incapacitated there. He was not present./

/Perhaps he has gone elsewhere?/ Will suggested as the colour leeched out of him.

/If he was still functional we would have seen signs of him. There are no indications of repairs in any sections and there is a further escalation in the frequency of neural pathway collapse. It is time to accept he is lost to us. We must do what we can in his stead./

/Without him, what can be done? We can not repair all of this./ Will's eyes were now the only point of colour remaining in his face, and his edges has lost their sharpness.

/We can make some improvements. I have been rerouting the mental processes through the still functional areas. Admittedly, it is getting more difficult as the damage progresses. We need to.../

The mindscape began to shift beneath them. The sound of grinding stone proceeded the cracking of the walls. Dust filled the air, then increasing larger pieces of stone started to fall. Will vanished. Logic, unable to phase as easily, was forced to dodge the falling debris.

The floor heaved, and Logic fell. A large section of the wall gave out directly on top of him. He rolled to avoid being crushed beneath it and cried out in pain as it pinned his left leg.

The quake stopped. Will reformed and helped him push off the stone. Propitiously, the wall had split into pieces when it fell or shifting it would have been beyond them.

Logic accepted Will's hand to pull him upright, but his left leg buckled under him. Before he called fall, Will grabbed him around the waist and pulled Logic's arm over his shoulder.

/We must leave this place,/ Logic coughed out, the lingering dust irritating his lungs. /I can sense another quake building and this place is already unstable./

/This is the main pathway to the bonding nexus if it goes.../

/We can not change that outcome by remaining. If we stay, we will just be destroyed along with the pathway./

Will looked rapidly down both directions of the passage. /I should return to the nexus./

/No, Will, the nexus is the source of the quake. If you head there, you will be walking into the path of the destruction./

/But I../ Will stopped and inclined his head in acceptance.

Even though Will supported Logic's weight, Logic's injuries prevented him travelling at speed. When the aftershock began rippling through the floor, Will hefted Logic, balanced him over both shoulders and broke into a run.

Stones ground together and a loud rumble followed. Logic turned his head and looked back. In the distance he witnessed the walls falling inward. The collapse progressed along the path in a wave of destruction heading towards them. He relayed the information to Will. Will ran faster.

His speed, while impressive, would not be enough. Logic calculated the destruction would overtake them well before they reached the end of the pathway.

/Will, leave me. Carrying me, you will not reach the end of the passage before the destruction wave overtakes us./

/We will make it,/ Will shouted back over the noise as he dodged around a pile of rubble.

/I have calculated.../

/Of course you have,/ Will interrupted, /but I am not leaving you behind, you are needed. Be silent now and let me concentrate on keeping us BOTH alive./

Will was not going to heed logic so Logic ceased his attempt. The end of the pathway was now in sight, but still a great distance away. He turned back to face the wave of destruction. It had increased in speed. The odds of surviving this were far lower than he had first calculated.

Logic watched their death advance towards them. It would reach them in 11, 10, 9, 8,...

Will shouted at him but the words were lost in the noise of crashing stone.

Suddenly, Logic found himself flung directly at the rightmost wall. Logic tightened himself into a ball to reduce the impact and was surprised when he sailed through the boundary, then fell into empty blackness. 6, 5,...

A floor was coming up to meet him. Rolling to absorb the impact, he cringed as pain flared up his leg. Logic looked up and saw he had landed in a tunnel. The tunnel shifted under him, and he slid down several meters. There was a click, 2,1…

Turning, he watched the entry, through which he had fallen, collapse in on itself. Dust billowed out and he was unable to see more than dim outlines.

/Will?/ he coughed out. Highly improbable he could be heard over the continued destruction of the main passage. /Will?/

The tremors stopped, the noise receded and the dust began to settle. Logic used the nearest wall to assist his rise then limped back up to the entry. It was completely filled with debris. He placed his hand on the rock. There was no way through that, no way.

/Will.../ he whispered, bereft.

/Looking for me?/

Logic spun rounding gripping Will's shoulders tightly. /How did you…?/

/Survive?/ Will chuffed in amusement and under the circumstances Logic choose not to berate him.

/Indeed, I did not observe you enter the tunnel./

/I can move faster in my non-corporeal form./

Logic blinked in surprise. How had he missed such an obvious solution?

/I seem to be overlooking many things,/ Logic concluded. /I did not recall this tunnel was here either./

/It was not here. Normally this subterranean tunnel connects to junction 27 pi. I caused it to move upward and link into the wall of the main pathway. Regrettably, the process had not finished when we arrived. I threw you across the gap, then phased out and followed./

/You...moved it...here? I was unaware that was within your capabilities./

/I am the will to live. Under circumstances of extreme threat, I have extra abilities and can even take over some functions that normally belong to other aspects. When we were young, perhaps before your time, the neural pathways were routinely shifted and even pruned to achieve greater efficiencies. Now that we are older, the brain is less flexible and moving them can cause damage to surrounding structures. Under the circumstances, though, it seemed an acceptable risk./

Logic looked at Will with one eyebrow raised, reevaluating the value of his counterpart. /Are there other skills you posses that I should be aware of./

Will took a moment to consider. /I was able to release the Beast when T'Rel invaded./

/That was you? I was concerned that he had destroyed the emotional containment field I had in place. That is the primary reason I advocated against returning him inside the shields. He is dangerous to us all loose./

Will shrugged. /The Beast would have eventually broken through himself, the field was on the verge of collapse. By releasing him then, there was less damage done to the field or the Beast and more to the violator./

Logic inclined his head acknowledging the logic in that. /If the field is intact perhaps we should retrieve him. His strength could be useful to us if we can prevent him from running amok. We should return to the breach./

Logic moved to head down the corridor, but Will stopped him with a raised hand. /This tunnel currently heads in the wrong direction. We do not want to move closer to the nexus. If I return the tunnel back to its original location it will give us more options./

/By all means, proceed./

Will closed his eyes in concentration and the tunnel gave a small lurch. Logic watched as it detached away from the collapsed pathway and it slowly began to curve in a new direction. Like a snake, the passage slithered back and forth and their end moved down. A few rocks fell from the edge and the end opened into darkness.

Minor cracks started propagating along the tunnel walls but they retained structural integrity. Slowly, a new passage came into view, lighting up the end of the tunnel. The tunnel moved towards it and latched on with a small click.

/Impressive,/ Logic admitted as he hobbled into the new junction.

Will shrugged. /It was a piece of cake./

The expression caused Logic's brow to furrow. He understood the meaning, but the source of the knowledge.../Where did you learn that phrase, Will?/

Will's eyebrow raised. /On Earth. It was something she would say./

/She,/ Logic pressed. /Who is she?/

Logic almost had the answer. 'On the tip of his tongue,' as she would say. He jerked at the thought.

Will grimaced and raised a hand to his temple. /I...do not recall. What were we discussing?/

It was obvious questioning Will further would not obtain answers. Both of them had found some block in their recall.

Who was 'she'?

Logic could not recall but he was certain it was essential to find out. /I think we need to divert to the memory centers. Something is very wrong./

 

--BEAST--

The Beast had been vigilant on his watch, at least as vigilant as he could be trussed up and literally out of his mind. He chuffed in amusement at his pun and then returned to chewing through the tendril that secured his jaw. The tendril's ichor burned his mouth but at least it was something to do.

Eventually, it snapped and he stretched his jaw open in a big toothy grin. Unable to lift or turn his head, he could not reach the others further back. Straining against the bonds he found a little more give than before, but not enough to give him sufficient leverage. Such things took time to weaken.

Why had no one come for him? Were they all dead? How inconsiderate of them not to rescue him first. Waiting was boring. Even more boring than listening to Logic lecture him on emotional control.

Perhaps he would sleep again. His eyes drooped shut and he did not bother this time to keep one open.

His ears pricked up as he sensed the Warrior outside the shield. Was someone finally coming to free him? If they would let him go, he'd only bite them a little.

He opened his eyes and did not see the Warrior. Instead, there were two strangers at the gate. A growl rumbled low in his chest. They should not be so near the breach. Nor were they paying attention to him. Borrowing Logic's most commonly used phrase, that was highly unacceptable behaviour.

He would fix that. Opening his jaws wide, he roared.

Normally he was not permitted such freedoms and he revelled in the release. One of the strangers fell to their knees at the sound. This too was pleasing.The air itself reverberated and his throat burned with effort before he let the sound die away.

The standing one helped the fallen one up and they began to move towards him.

He grinned in anticipation. That was better. At least now something might happen.

 

--WARRIOR--

The Warrior heard the roar of the Beast. Muffled by the shield, it was still loud enough to cause him discomfort. It must be excruciating to those outside.

While it lacked subtlety, it had succeeded in drawing away the two at the breach. That was fortuitous. He had been reconsidering letting them in.

Surely it was his connection to Amanda's mind that had influenced him. Her strong desire to enter had flooded his senses. Almost, it had been enough to sway him. But his resolve must not falter.

There was only one person he would willingly allow entry. She had promised she was coming, she...

The thought broke apart and he was unable to finish it. Was he expecting someone?

Though his head ached with the effort of recall, all that came was a vague idea that there was indeed someone. WHO was he expecting?

His thoughts drifted back to Amanda. Upon arrival, she had told him she had come for him. The implication was that she was asked here. Again, he attempted to recall any association with her.

There was nothing, nothing but a pain in his head.

He did not know her. But if he did not know her, why was her mind so familiar?

/Ahhh,/ he yelled, raising sparks as he struck the shield with bludgeon end of the lipra. Was he waiting for someone? Was it Amanda?

Without knowing for certain he could not act. If he was mistaken and he let in people that would do harm...no he could not risk it. Not again, not ever again.

Was there any way to find out without lowering the shields?

Healer Adenkar had informed Amanda that the memory centers were likely damaged. Considering the havoc T'Rel had wrought, it did seem possible. It would explain why his recall was incomplete. If he travelled there, he might find his answers.

It was his duty to stay, to guard against intruders. But the two he was guarding against had left to seek the Beast. If he went now and returned quickly they would not know it was unguarded. He could not afford to make a mistake here, the mission was indeed vital.

Turning on his heels, he balanced his lirpa on his shoulder and jogged down the pathway that would take him to the halls of memory.

Recent memories were closest to the surface and obscured his path. Still unprocessed for long term storage, their flickered nightmarish visions hazed the air. The Warrior avoided their sphere of influence so he did not experience them again.

It seemed that the haze was thickening in his vicinity. One memory brushed past him with a cool wash of terror. Pushing it away with his lirpa, he hastened down the path.

The ruination of the great copper gates that protected the halls of memories stopped him in his tracks. The doors stood buckled and blackened, one resting partially off its hinges. Nonetheless, at the touch of his lirpa, they swung open stiffly. After he entered they closed with a jarring crash behind him.

Absent was the usual meticulous order of this place. T'Rel had ransacked his memories for anything that could be used by her. Loose memories floated through the room, obscuring his view like the fog in Sans Francisco. These memories at least were not unpleasant to pass through.

Moving through the room, he noticed the twitch of discarded mind tendrils. They had diminished since the meld was broken. However, they would continue to show signs of life until the psionic resonance with T'Rel completely dissipated. He would be most pleased when they faded away removing the last vestiges of her presence.

Certain that nothing in this first room contained what he was searching for, he moved on to the next. This one too showed signs of damage and nothing of what he sought. He branched off to yet another room.

With nothing but a vague remembrance to track, it was difficult to determine where he needed to go. Choosing doors almost at random, his path meandered, sometimes looping back to a room he had already passed. He increased his speed, gradually moving deeper in towards the memory center.

Abruptly, he halted. He had passed through this room thrice before. Brow furrowing in concentration, he scanned the room more slowly, searching for the elusive quality that drew him back here.

A chill went down his spine, the sensation of being watched. Gripping the lirpa tightly, he turned around slowly.

Behind him was a doorway he had not seen on other passes through the room. A writhing mass of tendrils twined across its entrance.

Stepping closer, the tendrils increased their motion and struck out towards him like sand vipers. More life in them than any of the others, they were obviously guarding something under T'Rel's direction. However, judging from their speed, they had lost a great deal of strength since the meld was broken.

Swinging the lirpa, he easily sliced through the grasping ends and pushed through the tangle before they could recover.

Coming in at speed, he barely avoided crashing into a void with jagged edges. Standing on the edge of a black nothingness, the almost remembrance was overwhelming. One lone memory floated in the room, orbited around the void. Grabbing it as it floated past, he tucked it inside his cracked breastplate.

The void pulsed and came for him.

Backing away rapidly he collided with the tendrils he had just pushed through. They tangled around him and he struggled, slashing and hacking at them with the lirpa, even biting in his desperation to be free.

Once out of the doorway, he did not pause, moving rapidly away until the non-remembrance faded to a dull ache. Pausing his flight, he took several long breaths and reason slowly returned to him.

The void had been a forgetting.

He did not forget. He could not forget. T'Rel must have done this.

What had the violator promised as she had been forced out? "You will not remember her and you will die alone."

Fury boiled in hot waves through his body and the Warrior's vision went green.

What had she taken from him? Who had she had taken from him?

In this moment an attack would have been welcomed. None immediately obliged with a suitable challenge.

A mind tendril in the periphery of his vision twitched. Lirpa gripped tight, he sprinted toward the offending tendril, a snarl of defiance twisting his lips. Raising the blade above his head, he leapt high and brought the blade down with maximum force.

The tendril thrashed violently as the edge of the lirpa carved through its center. Black ichor poured from the cut. As the life force drained out if it, the tendril stilled. The pieces disintegrated into nothingness in a very satisfying fashion.

Running back through the rooms, he slashed at anything that had the tenacity to move, relishing that each strike would be felt by the perpetrator of this horror.

Gradually, the anger that fuelled him dulled to low burn. The effort to lift the lirpa for the next strike was suddenly too much. He nearly overbalanced attempting to correct his position.

The fury had been an effective block to his pain and weariness but now both redoubled throughout his body. Muscles ached with fatigue and the scars along his body stung like fire. Yet nothing surpassed the agonising throbbing in the severed arm. That wound was reopened and bled heavily again, staining his armour an emerald green.

The lirpa was unbearable heavy now and he was unable to lift it onto his shoulder. Refusing to relinquish his weapon, he instead let the bludgeon drag on the ground behind him.

Though he was certain he went a more direct route, the distance out seemed exponentially longer. Finally, he reached the gates. He stumbled out of broken doors only to walk directly into a rolling fog of recent memories.

The violent memories swarmed around him demanding to be experienced. He attempted to raise the lirpa to ward them off. It tumbled out of his shaking hand, hitting the ground with a thump. He fell beside it utterly spent as dark visions assaulted him.

 

--LOGIC, WILL, & WARRIOR --

They walked into another dead end and had to turn back to the junction.

/Are you certain we are not lost,/ Will asked, frustrated with all the delays.

They reached the junction, a connection of five tunnels and Logic considered his options. They had come via the middle one, another had been flooded and they had just come from a dead end. The other two lead in opposite direction. Should they go left or right?

Normally Logic would not use the tunnels. Their purpose was for transmission of nutrients and neurotransmitters to various parts of the brain. However, the nutrient flows had slowed to a trickle, so while damp, only a few were flooded. They were structurally in a far superior condition to the neural pathways and there was less risk of complete collapse. It had been the best decision at the time to use them but the route back to the surface was proving elusive.

/We are not lost Will, however, the damaged pathways are forcing us to take a far more circuitous route than I would have preferred. We are approximately underneath the gates to the halls of memories, we just to find a passage slanting upward or../

/A ladder,/ Will interrupted.

/Yes, that would do,/ Logic replied as he limped down the left tunnel. It sloped upwards by 3.2 degrees.

The pain in his leg was manageable and had improved to the point where he could support his weight. It would not truly heal until he took the time to rest. But they could not afford to stop moving yet.

/Logic, a ladder,/ the voice sounded a little more distant.

/I heard you./ He let out a depth breath. It was definitely not a sigh.

/Then why are you walking away from the ladder?/

Logic paused, turned. Will was not in sight. Returning back to the junction, he saw Will part way down the right passage and halfway up the wall.

/Going up?/ Will smirked.

Logic was going to have to remind Will of proper decorum when this was all over. But for now it appeared there was a ladder to climb.

The ladder had passed through the ceiling of the tunnel and they now climbed through a vertical passage of rock. It was difficult to navigate the ladder with a bad leg. Will was now well above him.

/Watch out for that rung,/ was yelled from above him.

He looked up, /What ru.../ Logic raised a hand to protect his head from the object plummeting towards him. He caught it. Ah, that rung.

/That rung. It broke when I put my weight on it. You will have to navigate over the missing one when you get up here. But after that you will have only another 12 rungs until the top. I am exiting now./

Logic did not waste energy on a reply. Dropping the broken rung he continued his climb. The missing rung proved a challenge to navigate, but once passed it, the way to the top was comparatively easy.

Will assisted in pulling him out onto the pathway. Looking back he saw they had come through a drainage hatch, the cover of which Will now shifted back into place.

In the distance the gates could be barely seen, a thick fog had formed in front of them. They seemed to be concentrating in one location. That could only mean...

/We need to get over there now,/ he said hobbling towards the fog.

Will matched his speed. /Is that memories?/

/Yes, unprocessed ones, they still carry the full emotional load./

Will went from pale to transparent. /Recent memories?/

/Indeed. I sense something is very wrong over there. They appear to be swarming someone./

/I will go. I can get there faster phased out./ Will's features blurred and then faded away entirely.

Logic limped towards the memory fog with as much speed as he could summon. Reaching the edge, it surged towards him. As it touched him he felt coldness seep into him, followed by despair and pain. Unpleasant, but memories only. He continued onward, forcing the memories aside. A clear bubble of air appeared around him.

In the distance, he heard Will cry out. /I found the Warrior, he is unconscious. The memories are thickest around him./

/Bring him towards me,/ Logic shouted back. /I will attempt to open a path./

Logic headed into the thickest section of memory fog, attempting to increase his sphere of influence forward. The fog dissipated slowly, now more a mist, now a haze.

Will appeared in the hazy corridor, dragging the Warrior and his lirpa. Both of them were mottled with small lumps as if they had been attacked by a swarm of Helaask.

Running to the two of them, he concentrated his focus on just the area surrounding them, forcing all the memory fog away. Will's shoulders sagged in relief. Trembling and transparent Will nonetheless maintained his solid form in order to carry the Warrior.

Placing his hand on Will's shoulder, he sent waves of calm until the colour spread back into him and the trembling ceased.

/Let us be away from this place,/ Will said quietly as he straightened.

Between them, they carried the Warrior back to the breach. The set him down gently in the shade of the shield, his lirpa beside him. Then they tended his injuries as best they could.

While Will's skin had already begun to heal, the Warrior showed no sign of improvement. His heartbeat had also dropped significantly, now only 129 beats per minute. If nothing changed soon, he would perish.

Logic could do no more than analyze the situation, they needed the Healer for this. But had not Will said he could at times, take the function of another.

/Will, is it within your abilities to heal him.../

Will tipped his chin in negation. /His injuries are far beyond my capabilities, but I might be to quicken his heart beat and even rouse him for a time./

/Do so./

/It could speed up his death./

/We need to have his report. There must be a reason he left his post, and if he made it into the memory halls we need to know what he found. It seems unwise to try and enter there at the moment./

Will closed his eyes, then inclined his head in agreement. /Very well./ He placed one hand on the Warrior's face in meld position and the other low on his chest by the Warrior's heart.

The Warrior came awake screaming.

/He is panicking. I can not.../

Logic placed his own hand on the other side of the Warrior's face and sent waves of calm and reassurance. /Safe now, be still./

The screaming ending with a single choked sob. The Warrior appeared ashamed.

/The cause is sufficient,/ Logic murmured. /We need to know all that has taken place./

The Warrior lifted his hand and touched Logic's face in response, opening his experiences to him in a compressed pulse. Strangers at the gate... touching the human's mind..The call of the Beast..The possibility that woman was important, the need for information...A journey through the halls and the discovery of the forgetting and one single memory...Then anger, so much anger that must have a target...And when it ended there were the memories that burned and stung and….

/Enough. No need to recall that. I have seen what was necessary. Do you still have the memory you recovered from the forgetting?/

The Warrior released Logic's face and reached into his cracked breastplate. When he pulled out his fist, silver light poured through his fingers. /This, is what sustained me during the swarm,/ he said, slowly, reverently.

He opened his fist and a memory formed above it.

/Amanda, K'diwa, I need you./ They called.

/I am coming, I am coming, I am coming,/ echoed her reply without end.

/K'diwa/, Will cried joyfully.

/She is coming,/ Logic added, hope returning.

The Warrior closed his eyes. /You do not understand. Amanda was here and I told her to leave./ His voice cracked on the last word and a tear slipped from beneath his closed lashes.

/Perhaps she is still here,/ Will answered hopefully.

/Indeed,/ Logic replied. From what you shared of her, I do not think she would be easily dissuaded. You said Amanda and healer Adenkar went towards the Beast. They could still be just outside the shield./

/We can pull down the rubble in the breach and go after them,/ Will replied eagerly.

/Or we can just take down the shield. It will be faster than dismantling the barrier,/ Logic proposed.

/We will not be able to raise it again if we take it down. It is our last defence, and I do not trust the healer,/ the Warrior protested.

/If the healer wanted to break through Warrior, the shield would not stand against him. Right now it is only serving to keep our K'diwa out, / Will replied.

The Warrior grimaced. /Very well then, take it down./

Logic redirected the energy that sustained the shield to places to places it was desperately needed. The shield evaporated with a pop. The rubble piled in the breach wobbled precariously. Logic gave it a push on its outward swing and it toppled onto the sand with a boom.

All they could see was the red dunes. There was no sign of Amanda, the healer, or even the Beast. Yet while it was possible the first two might have left, the Beast could not. Perhaps they were together.

/Go find her,/ the Warrior ordered. /I should like to see her again./

Will and Logic walked onto the sands, Will turned right and Logic left. The Warrior watched them rapidly pass beyond his sight.

Cupping his fingers around the precious memory, he cradled it to his chest. /Please come back,/ he begged. /I need you./

'I am coming,' sang the memory in response. 'I am coming.'

Chapter Text

Hip swayin', trouble makin', booty shakin', tripping, passing, jumping,
Bouncing, drivin', stylin', creeping, pouncing, shoutin', screamin'
Double dealin', rockin', rollin', and a reelin'
With the mackin' sex appealin'.
Can you dig our groovy feelin'?

Chilly Down by David Bowie

Chapter 14: Choosing Down

 --AMANDA--

Amanda's hands flew up to shield her ears but it did nothing to dull the terrible noise.

The sound went on and on, becoming impossibly louder. Her legs buckled under her and she curled around herself, her forehead pressed into the sand as if that might quiet the noise.

A hand touched her back and a tingle raced up her spine to her head. She moaned in relief as the noise receded to a dull roar. The pain too reduced. Now instead of feeling as if she was being stabbed, she merely had a thumping headache.

Tilting her head and cracking open one eye, she saw Adenkar knelt on one knee beside her. The surrounding air shimmered with electric currents of green and blue and gold.

Amanda lowered her hands and pressed up into a kneeling position. Her throat felt raw and she rubbed her it with one hand. She hadn’t been aware of screaming. Though she wouldn’t have heard it if she had.

Before, all she had been aware was the wave of deafening sound and the pain it induced. Now greatly muffled, the sound was like the cry of some beast.

/Wh-at is tha-t?/ she stammered around shaky breaths.

A small crease formed in Adenkar’s forehead. He turned to gaze over the dunes towards the origin of the noise. Raising one eyebrow, he answered quietly, “It shouldn't be out here.”

“What shouldn't be out there?”

The noise stopped at the moment, and the colours dissipated from the air a second later.

“Come,” he replied, helping her to her feet. “This requires investigation.”

“But, Adenkar, what -”

Between one blink and the next, their location changed leaving her disoriented and queasy.

Where were they now?

The wall stretched before them in a gentle curve for miles in either direction. The rubble and the broken section of wall had seemingly vanished. No, wait. There it was about a kilometer to her left.

Bearings gained, she more closely examined her immediate surroundings. They were now on the crest of a tall sand dune, several hundred meters back from the wall. This section of wall bore little of interest. All she could see was some type of vining plant growing near to the wall in an area of deep shadow.

“Adenkar why did you bring us here? At least at the gate, we had a chance of speaking to Sarek.”

Adenkar released his hand from her shoulder and pointed towards the shadow. “Look there Amanda. Remember, not everything is as it seems to you. You must learn to see things for what they are.”

Amanda stared into the shadow, trying to see if something resided within it. Even squinting her eyes against the bright sun, she was unable to see into the inky darkness.

She huffed. Why couldn't he just tell her. Turning to face him, she tried to keep the irritation from her voice. “I see vines in the shade.”

Adenkar raised an eyebrow at her, silently bidding her to try again. She turned back to the wall.

“Not everything is as it seems,” she muttered scanning the walls for a clue.

“Oh, the shadow has no source,” she blurted out. Searching some more noticed the sun was directly overhead and there were no other shadows in view. “It’s not a shadow at all.”

“It is not a shadow,” he agreed.

“Then what...oh.”

The darkness was now punctured by two green luminescent crescents. The crescents grew larger, rounder, then blinked.

Eyes.

They were staring right at her.

“It’s alive,” she whispered as she locked gazes with the shadow creature.

“Not in of itself, but it an aspect of a living psyche,” Adenkar clarified.

“A part of...that creature is a part of Sarek.”

“Indeed it is. Unfortunately not a logical part that we might reason with.”

Something clicked for Amanda. “That’s his emotions,” she asked, not needing the incline of Adenkar’s head to confirm it.

Amanda's realisation had a profound effect on the shadow creature. Or perhaps her understanding changed her perception. Like a fuzzy image brought into focus, the outlines of the shadow sharpened, then details followed.

Tufted ears topped a long furry face with longs fangs protruding from the jowls. Large paws laid out before it, though much of its body was tangled in the reddish vines. The creature seemed somewhat bear-like and somewhat cat or dog-like, though none of those descriptions was right.

She had seen an animal like this before…ah yes, the Outback animal reserve in Australia. Sarek had taken her to see the sehlats there after she expressed curiosity in his childhood pet.

There were significant differences. It's fur was far darker coloured, a shade of blue-black like Sarek's hair. Not the browns and mottled reds she had seen. And its eyes...its eyes took up significantly more of its face and shone like pale green jewels with no discernible pupils.

If the distance wasn’t playing tricks on her it was larger, half again the size of the biggest she had seen. And the ones she had seen before had not been small.

“If it is part of Sarek, why does it look like a sehlat?” she finally asked.

“Because that is the form it has chosen. It may hold some significance, as it is common for Vulcans to refer to their emotions as, ‘the Beast’. Now that you can observe it, we may attempt interaction. I am curious to see how it reacts to you.”

Adenkar began to walk towards the creature, but Amanda hesitated. “Isn't it dangerous,” she questioned. “This is what made that sound before?”

“It is very dangerous,” Adenkar agreed. “The psychic cry is one of its lesser attacks. However, it is currently constrained, which limits its ability.”

Amanda hesitated. What if this part of Sarek didn't know her either, would it try to harm her, or drag her away from the wall, what if -

‘I am well able to protect us if needed,” Adenkar informed her interrupting her ruminations. “Come, we cannot misuse our time.”

Drawing in a deep breath, Amanda calmed herself and nodded. She had come to help Sarek, and the Beast...the Beast was apparently part of him. Turning away was not an option.

Getting down to the wall required a steep descent down the sand dune. Adenkar had walked down the slope rapidly, his boots leaving not so much as a footprint behind. She attempted to follow in kind and nearly overbalanced as the sand slipped under her feet.

Resorting to shuffling down sideways, her sandals sank into the soft, hot sand. The floaty dress tangled around her legs tripping her. Falling face first, she braced herself with her arms. Momentum sent her forward and she tumbled rapidly down the slope, a sharp cry drawn from her lips as she picked up speed.

This was really not her day.

Landing with a jolt face down, she wondered at the likelihood that no one had witnessed her graceless descent. Lifting her head she saw she had managed to land right at Adenkar's feet. His left eyebrow was raised higher than she had ever seen it. Heat flooded her cheeks.

Her body responded stiffly as she pushed herself up to stand. As she brushed off the sand, she wondered if she would have bruises later. Fortunately, she had not tumbled right into the wall, or worse, the Beast. That could have been far more damaging.

The wall was only a dozen paces away. The Beast stared at her in what she could only describe as amusement. The creature bore a smirking grin.

Her whole body felt hotter, as irritation joined the embarrassment. “Great way to make a first impression,” she muttered under her breath.

Adenkar looked at her curiously but said nothing, merely indicating towards the Beast with his hand.

As they began towards it, the smirk on the Beast's face changed to a snarl. A few steps more and it began a howl of an unpleasant volume. Amanda feared it would again use the psychic scream.

She had had enough of this.

“Kroykah!,” she yelled, anger propelling her to within an arm length of the huge creature. “That is no way to treat someone who is trying to help you.”

The Beast halted in mid cry as if stunned into silence. Its jaws yet hung open giving it an appearance of astonishment. It looked rather comical now and she chuckled softly, her anger fading as quickly as it had come.

“Don't you want to be free?” she asked more gently.

The Beast jaws shut with an audible snap followed by a plaintive whine.

The sound stirred a new emotion deep within her and her fear of him diminished. Kneeling before him, she brought her eyes level with his. She stared into them for a long minute, watching phosphorescence swirl in them in an almost hypnotic fashion.

“Sarek,” she murmured, “Do you know me?” When he made no response she sighed and shook her head sadly. “No, I suppose you wouldn't if the one at the gate didn't.”

Looking up, she found the Beast was still regarding her closely, perhaps trying to work out what manner of creature was before him. As he seemed to be remaining calm in her presence, she took the chance to examine him closely as well.

While his head was free, his paws and sides were wrapped around with mahogany coloured suckering vines. What was visible of his body midst the tangle of vines was covered in long gashes and scratches. Blood, dried green-black, mattered in the fur. In places it oozed emerald from the deeper cuts. The longest slash ran along his lower jaw and down his neck.

“You have been hurt,” she murmured, and tears pricked her eyes. “Oh, my love.”

The Beast sniffed the air deeply. An expression of recognition flashed over his face. He strained towards her, his long whiskers tickling against her arm. When his bonds would not allow him closer, he let out a desperate cry.

Raising one hand where he could see it, she tentatively reached towards him. When he did not snap or snarl at her, but instead whined like a dog that desperately wanted attention, she lightly pressed her palm on the side of his face.

The Beast pushed his muzzle into her hand. A familiar electric pulse raced up her arm.

“Oh,” she breathed as she felt again the hum of his mind.

Ultimately, no words or images were shared. Nor were they needed. The rush of emotions, hers and his mingling together, told her everything she needed to know.

He knew her, recognising her by the love she bore for him and that which he bore for her.

Sarek had shown her glimpses of his feelings before. Now, unconstrained by control, untempered by logic, nothing of what he felt was held back.

All consuming, needing, possessive, unreasonable and undeniably alien, yet it was unmistakably love. Amanda delighted in the sensations, even as they threatened to overwhelm her.

Even if he never told her, never again showed her, she could never again doubt how much he loved her.

Laughing and crying, she leant her head against the Beast and buried her face in his fur. “I love you too.”

The Beast responded with a low rumbling purr.

“Well done, Amanda. I did not anticipate such a positive reception.”

“Ahh,” she shrieked, jerking away from the Beast and landing on her butt with a thump and an exhaled, ‘Oof.’

 Without touch, the fragile connection between her and Sarek wavered. Her hand clutched to her racing heart, she held her breath as if that might prevent the tenuous link from breaking. It weakened but held.

 Folding her arms, she turned and glared at Adenkar. The Beast responded in kind, shifted his head and growling.

 “Enough of that,” she said to the Beast, laying her hand on the bridge of its nose. As the connection between them sharpened, the growling stopped, though his eyes were still narrowed and focused on Adenkar.

 “Adenkar is a friend and a Healer. He is probably going to be better at removing those vines than I am. But I will agree he has terrible timing.”

 “My timing is excellent,” Adenkar corrected her. “I can tell you precisely to the nanosecond how much time -”

 “Adenkar,” Amanda interrupted with exasperation. “Just get over here and help will you.”

 The phosphor swirls in the Beast eyes went from clockwise to anticlockwise as Adenkar moved to his side, but he did not make any overt sign of aggression.

 As his distrust of Adenkar filtered through her, she sent reassurance back. “It will be alright,” she soothed, stroking the top of his head. The Beast twitched under her hand as Adenkar tugged one of the vines free.

 “I would advise you to avoid all contact with these mind tendrils, Amanda,” Adenkar warned.

 “Mind tendrils?”

 “Essentially, they are the telepathic extension of the Vulcan mind. They act as a conduit to share thoughts and memories. Tightly focused they can be used as a probe, like a Healer’s scan of a patient. Widely expanded and deeply sent, they connect the two minds in the meld. These, however,” Adenkar paused as Sarek often did when he needed to an extra measure of control.

“These,” he continued gesturing towards the vines, “Have been weaponised. Not only were they used to attack and constrain but they also are parasitic, drawing energy from their victim to sustain themselves. If there are others in Sarek’s mind, the damage they could cause would be catastrophic ”

Adenkar shuddered and closed his eyes tightly. The tight pinch to his brow made him look pained. He let out a long breath and his face smoothed.

“Can you remove them?” Amanda asked with concern.

“I can remove these. However, the tendrils are sunk into the essence of the emotional aspect. Removing them will be difficult and painful. If it struggles, I could cause further harm to it either while removing the tendrils or by needing to constrain him myself.”

“I will keep him calm, Adenkar. Just get those things off him please.”

“Previously, I would have questioned how you might accomplish this. Your own ability to control emotions is extremely limited,” Adenkar said as he drew out a laser scalpel. “However, having seen all that you have accomplished today, I do not doubt you will find a way to achieve this as well.”

Adenkar was correct, she realised. She could not control this creature against its will. It was too much of a wild thing. However, contrary to what Adenkar had said earlier, she didn’t think it entirely without reason.

“Well for a start, I plan to ask him if he will allow it. If he agrees he's more likely to be helpful and I think enough has been done here without permission.”

Adenkar met her eyes. “You may be overestimating its ability to comprehend the situation.”

“Perhaps, but will it hurt to ask?”

Adenkar looked thoughtful. “No, you are quite correct. It is preferable to have consent even if it does not change the outcome.”

Amanda turned her attention back to the Beast. “Did you understand what was said?” Running her hand up slowly to his temple, she sent her meaning and feelings along with her words. “Do you accept to free you there will be pain? You will need to stay as still as possible to avoid worse injury.”

“Mrrrawaaarrr,” The Beast agreed, sending a longing to be free to Amanda.

“Begin please Adenkar, we have his consent.”

The laser scalpel glowed red and Adenkar sliced through the tendril he was holding. The severed end curled up then faded into nothingness. Adenkar repeated the process dozens of times, pulling away various lengths of tendrils, slicing the end closest to the Beast, crushing it till it faded, then moving to the next.

The Beast twitched occasionally under Amanda's hand but otherwise did not react.

The process revealed more injuries. In addition to cuts and deep gashes, in some places fur was missing. On one side he appeared burnt as if he had fit a force field. Worst of all though was the remaining tendrils that pierced his skin.

“Removing the root will be more difficult,” Adenkar advised as he shut off the laser and returned the scalpel to the bag. He drew out a metal tool that looked somewhere between forceps and pliers. Clamping onto one of the protruding ends he forewarned, “Prepare yourself,” and pulled.

The Beast yelped and jerked as two inches of tapering tendril came out with a long sucking noise and a rush of blood. The tendril writhed as if trying to burrow back into the flesh. Adenkar held it well away from the Beast and squeezed. Sap, the colour of the Beasts dried blood, oozed out around the pliers. The tendril stilled, faded and then was suddenly gone. The pliers snapped shut with a click.

Adenkar touched the area around the puncture wound and the blood flow stopped. When he removed his hand, a scab was evident underneath. “There are another eight remaining.”

The Beast, now mostly free of the tendrils, turned his head around to glare at Adenkar.

Adenkar gazed back, seemingly unconcerned. “These are not regular mind tendrils Beast; they will not simply fade. If they are not removed, the wounds will never heal. Moreover, I suspect they will eventually grow back, draining your own strength to ensnare you.”

“They need to come out,” Amanda said gently. The Beast turned back to her, and she rubbed behind his ears. “I know it hurts but it will be better once they are gone.”

The Beast made a sound somewhere between a bear’s growl and a dog's whine. It lay its head down between its paws, seemingly resigned to its fate.

As Adenkar pulled another tendril, the Beasts tufted tail thumped on the ground and its claws extended from their sheaves. During the pulling of the third, his paws clenched and the claws sunk into the sand.

Adenkar walked around to the other side of the Beast to reach the others. Amidst the fourth, a ragged purr started. It was from contentment as before, but a means of self-comfort during stress. Stroking his head, she sent as much love and reassurance through her touch as she could.

Adenkar had trouble with the fifth and got to his feet to get more leverage. As he continued to pull, the purr changed to a cry of pain. “Nearly there,” Amanda whispered to the Beast, hoping it was true.

More and more of the tendril pulled out, nearly a foot of tapering root in all, before it came free with an awful sucking pop.

It writhed like a live snake in Adenkar's grip and he held it away from both himself and the Beast. It continued to struggle violently towards the Beast and Adenkar ran several meters away to prevent from burrowing back into the skin. Unable to crush it as he had the shorter pieces, he resorted to throwing it at the wall.

There was a bright flash of light as it hit. Amanda’s perception of the shield changed from one of sandstone wall to an opaque force field as the tendril was incinerated. She was glad at that moment she had not touched the shield. It was clearly not what it had seemed at first to her.

The cries stopped suddenly and Amanda whipped her head back around. The Beast lay still, eyes closed. Unconscious, for his sides, still rose and fell, but the ground was already soaked with his blood.

“Adenkar, the wound,” she cried, though Adenkar was already racing back.

He grabbed an electronic device from belt as he knelt down. It emitted a soft hum as he passed it over the wound.

Amanda bit her lip as she tried not to cry. She could not lose him. She could not.

The wound slowly, so slowly, began to close. First, the blood stopped flowing, then a scab formed, then eventually that lifted showing a scar underneath. Adenkar switched off the device and stowed it.

“He’ll live Amanda, though I think he will always bear that scar. I'll remove the remaining tendrils now while he is less likely to feel them, then I will bring him back to consciousness.”

Amanda nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

The remaining tendrils were all less than an inch long. They were quickly removed and disposed of. Adenkar took some time to heal all the punctures and the major gashes before coming up kneel beside Amanda. Reaching out with his hand, he placed one on the temple and one under the chin. He closed his eyes.

For a minute nothing happened, then both of their eyes snapped open together. Adenkar removed his hand as the Beast struggled to its feet. Amanda sagged in relief.

The Beast towered over her kneeling form, its humped back swaying in his clear exhaustion.

“Perhaps you should rest now,” Amanda said to the Beast. Rising to her feet she stood by his side and lifted her hand to his shoulder. He brushed his head against her body, nearly knocking her back to the ground.

“Normally, I would concur with that recommendation,” Adenkar said as he took up a position at the other shoulder of the Beast. “However, he shared his memories of what occurred out here. T’Rel took something important from behind the shield and buried it out here were Sarek was unlikely to find it. The emotional aspect is certain of its importance and from what I have witnessed of her work here, she seems to have a desire to cause ongoing harm. I believe it requires immediate attention. The emotional aspect could not relay the precise location but he believes he can find the spot once we are close. I'll take us to the general location.”

The scenery lurched and shifted, and for the third time that day she found herself disorientated in a totally new place than where she had stood before. This time her head spun, and she leant against the side of the Beast to avoid a stumble.

The three of them stood on a flat plain of sand, the flatness disturbed only by the occasional rock. The wall was but a haze on the horizon. The Beast lowered his head and began to sniff the ground. They walked beside him in ever widening circles, till his sniffing changed to a loud snuffling. Tail raised, he raced along in a straight line with nose to the ground. Adenkar kept up with him, but Amanda was left behind even at a run.

She was panting by the time she caught up to them. The Beast was now digging in the sand with his front paws.

The spot looked no different from any other to her, apart from the growing pile of excavated sand. Adenkar stood at the lip of the hollow but Amanda stood a little back so she wasn't hit by flying sand.

The hollow was soon a meter deep, then two. “Can you tell if anything is down there?” she asked Adenkar.

“I sense a difference in mindscape nearby, but I cannot say what or where precisely.”

“Look,” Amanda said pointing to the edge of the hollow nearest them. The sand was sinking there as if draining from an hourglass. The Beast moved over to the sinking sand, snuffling. It intensified its digging on that spot, sand sent flying to the other side of the hollow.

A hole appeared, first tiny, but the edges eroded rapidly. Suddenly, a large area caved in. The Beast fell with it vanishing from sight.

Though Adenkar took a step back, it was not enough. He too slid into the widening hole a moment later, and a long rushing followed as the pile of sand followed after.

Standing further back, Amanda managed to stumble away. Falling as the edge crumbled under her, she crawled backwards using her arms as much as her legs. She backed into a rock and knocked the breath out of herself.

Heart pounding in her chest, unable to get enough air, she knew she could not recover in time to get away. The sand slid away from her feet. Clinging to the rock desperately, she felt herself begin to tilt downwards. She closed her eyes tightly.

The sound of shifting sand faded and silence descended. Finally, her lungs began to work again, and she opened her eyes to examine her predicament. Her body hung part way down a large funnel of sand. At its centre was a black void.

“Beast, Adenkar,” she shouted.

There was no reply.

They had to be okay. She could still sense Sarek.

Of course, her traitorous brain reminded her, the Beast was only part of Sarek. And of Adenkar she could sense nothing at all. Wasn't he supposed to be in her head too?

No, they were both alive, she wouldn’t believe otherwise. She called again, but again there was no answer.

Using the rock, she managed to pull herself up a little way. Then the sand slid under her, and she was again hanging by her arms. Looking up, she saw that even if she could get to the rock, she would never get out of the funnel which extended well beyond her anchor. It was simply too steep.

Besides which, her friends were not up there but down.

Looking to where her feet pointed, she made her choice and let go.

Rapidly, she slid down to the centre of the sand funnel, sand grating on her legs. Then there was nothing beneath her and she fell straight down into blackness.

Too late, she regretted her decision. Despite her best intentions, she screamed.

Chapter Text

Live without the sunlight
Love without your heartbeat

Within You by David Bowie

Chapter 15: Love without your heartbeat

--LOGIC--

Logic paused as an acrid scent of smoke reached his nose. A few paces beyond, Logic observed the wide depression in the sand with smaller impressions ranging around it. Logic moved to the centre of the hollow and kneeled on one knee.

Placing his palm on the sand, he found the mental aura of the Beast was strong here. Reaching out to other areas, he sensed two other distinct presences had been here. One was vaguely familiar.

In one place three sets of impressions lead in the same direction. Logic followed these tracks till their abrupt conclusion. Reversing direction, he retraced them back to the hollow.

Two sets of prints lead up the slope of a dune, though one was marred by a long furrow in the sand. Someone had fallen here.

Logic jogged up the red slope, following the furrow. Near the top, at the point where the slide had started, he noticed a faint hint of blue. Crouching, he brushed away the covering sand to reveal a thin strip of blue material.

Pulling it free, he brought the scrap to his nose and inhaled. The image of a young human woman in a blue dress flashed through his mind.

Amanda!

The cloth was a small fragment of herself, a memory left behind. But the memory was fading, the torn edge already fading towards transparency.

He clutched the cloth tightly and stood. Too many memories of her had been lost to him, he would not lose this one also.

Knotting the cloth around his left wrist, he pulled the impressions of Amanda from the cloth into himself. The material braided around his wrist into a tight continuous cord, darkening to a blue that was nearly black. The knot formed a small blue sapphire upon his pulse point.

Logic stroked the gem with two outstretched fingers. Amanda's presence hummed across his fingertips and up his arms. When it reached his mind, he sensed a fragile link flutter to life between them.

Contentment washed over him.

Continuing eagerly up the slope, he found the prints in the sand vanished at the crest of the dune. He closed his eyes, uncertain where he needed to go.

/Where are you, Amanda?/ he sent, though he was certain she could not hear him.

Yet an answer came; not in words, but in a warming of the cord on his wrist.

Logic opened his eyes to a gentle blue glow emanating from the gem. Waving the arm horizontally, he noted that the gem brightened significantly in one specific direction.

Allowing the light to guide him, he moved into the desert.

 

 --ADENKAR--

 With a rush of sand, the area under Adenkar collapsed into the pit taking him down with it.

Craning his head back, he located Amanda laying on the ground, her arms encircling a rock. Their eyes met for an instant before the wave of sand carried him out of sight.

Free failing, he stretched out his arms, seeking a means to stop or at least slow his descent. His fingertips found no purchase; the surface was as smooth as polished duridium.

The light from outside ceased to penetrate, leaving him falling in darkness. The impact came as a shock, knocking the air from his lungs.

Adenkar lay stunned. Rough grains of sand pressed against his cheek and a steady stream of falling sand pelted his back.

"Grrrrrrrr," came a growl from beneath him. The ground under Adenkar lifted, tipping him backwards.

The emotional aspect emerged from the sand. Its glowing green eyes glared at him. The only source of light in the cavern, the eyes illuminated the features of the creature's face and the area around Adenkar.

It came to stand over him, placing one large paw on his chest. Adenkar felt five sharp pricks as it unsheathed its claws. If it attacked him now, there was little he could do to prevent it.

Instead, it proceeded to shake its body vigorously, sending sand flying. Then, perking up its ears, it grunted and shambled away. The Beast's black body merged into the darkness leaving Adenkar alone in the dark.

Still partially stunned, it took Adenkar another 3.7 seconds to struggle to his feet. He sent out his senses after the Beast, locating him some distance away.

The falling sand became a rushing torrent. Directly under the chute, the force of it knocked Adenkar to his knees.

The nictitating membranes in his eyes automatically shut and he forced closed the outer eyelids for extra protection. With one hand, he pulled his robe over his face to protect his airways. With the other, he pushed himself forward out of the direct path of the falling sand.

As he came to his feet, he cracked his head on the top of the chamber, barely avoiding an exclamation of pain.

He had been certain he had moved in the same direction as the emotional aspect. Had he become disorientated and walked into a low alcove instead?

Reaching out with his free hand, he found the obstruction was not only above him but stretched in both directions as far as he could reach.

There should be an opening nearby, or at least there had been one 8.21 seconds before.

Bending to avoid the low ceiling with one hand to the wall, he guided himself around the room.

It took only 13.6 seconds to encircle the inner perimeter. Given the volume of the room and the flow rate of sand, this was problematic.

He moved to the centre up a small hill of sand that had already accumulated. One hand to the ceiling, he found the height increased towards the centre. Adenkar jerked his hand back when the edge of the sand stream abraded his skin.

The only opening he could locate was not a way out.

Sand continued to pile in and Adenkar scrambled on top of it. He was forced to bend his neck to avoid the top of the chamber. At the current rate, it would be perhaps another 4.81 minutes before there was no space left.

He took a deep breath and considered his situation. It was apparent that he was caught in some kind of trap, a trap that the emotional aspect had evaded. Had the aspect simply left before the trap triggered? Or had Adenkar somehow triggered it himself? Perhaps his telepathic scan?

Attempting to scan the area again, his senses ricocheted off the walls. The distorted images that returned to him sent spikes of pain through his head that forced him to stop.

The crash of falling sound grew to a deafening level as the flow increased. If his estimate was correct, he now had only 2.7 minutes.

Adenkar got to his hands and knees to stay between the sand and ceiling. If T'Rel wanted to prevent discovery of what she had done, the trap would have been designed to capture all that fell here. Perhaps instead she had designed it to capture those capable of countering her work, a trap for a healer...

Forced to lie face up on the sand his heart rate spiked as sand started spilling over his body. Engaging his biocontrols he returned it to a normal pace.

How did one trap a healer? The training for the mental disciplines was superior to all but the acolytes of Gol. It should not be possible unless…Ah!

The sand slid over his face but it did not matter.

He released the physical aspect he had taken for Amanda's benefit. As he became intangible, he was aware of the sand reaching the ceiling.

This was not reality, but a meld. He had allowed himself to become trapped in a delusion. It had no power over him.

The deafening noise of the falling sand stilled, followed by a pop as the walls that imprisoned him dissipated. The sand trapped within rushed out settling across the floor of the cavern.

Adenkar moved away from the area until there was stone rather than sand beneath him.

His mind snapped into focus and Adenkar realised just how much the trap had distorted his mind. On the surface, he had sensed something here. But the more he had focused on it, the more vague the sense had become and he had lost interest in pursuing it.

Even then the trap had been acting, subtly supplanting his perceptions. The range was astonishing. It would need vast amounts of energy to power it and some kind of focal device...

What the darkness and delusion had obscured could not be hidden from him now. There, beneath the sand, was a ring of mind tendrils where the walls had formed. It was fed by a thicker tendril that ran out of the chamber down the single tunnel that connected to it.

The long tendril was as an energy conduit. Yet as T'Rel was no longer present in the meld, that could only mean she was drawing from Sarek's strength.

She was using Sarek's own strength to prevent him from receiving aid.

Adenkar allowed the anger brimming under his control to push him into his warrior aspect. He grew broader and taller, robes shifting to copper plated armour. In place of his medical bag, a long blade formed at his hip.

While he could no longer see his surroundings in this aspect, he had memorised the layout. Drawing the blade, he moved alongside the thick tendril, then with one fluid motion, he sliced through it. He heard the slump of sand as the ring of tendrils that formed the walls disintegrated.

Sheathing his sword in its scabbard, he became aware of a noise echoing down the vertical shaft. It took him another 0.16 seconds to recognise it as a scream.

Running under the shaft, Adenkar used his mental skill to slow Amanda's fall. She drifted out of the chute and fell gently into his waiting arms.

Her terror pummeled him.

With long practised skilled, he isolated the emotions away from himself and sent waves of calm into her. Within a few breaths, her fear ebbed and her vitals returned to acceptable levels.

"Adenkar, is that you? I can't see anything down here." Her voice quavered and he could feel her body trembling in his arms.

"Yes, Amanda. I will make a light for you." Something he could have done earlier if he had recalled his ability.

Using a small trickle of energy, he formed an orb of light above their heads. It's soft ruby light, lit the area around them. That accomplished, he lowered Amanda to her feet. She swayed and clutched his arm for support.

Amanda looked up at him, a frown crinkling her brow. "Adenkar, did you...ah...change clothes?"

Ah, she perceived his change of aspect. He shifted back to his preferred physical form.

Amanda watched with a look of fascination. "You can change your appearance?"

"That was a change of aspect Amanda. I allowed a different part of my psyche to become dominant. Though it lacks subtility, the warrior aspect has greater strength and was better suited to destroying the trap here."

Amanda glanced around the room and shivered. "There was a trap down here too? As if the fall wasn't bad enough."

"Indeed. I had hoped you had found a way to avoid it, but your timing was fortunate. Any sooner and you would have been caught in the trap also. Any later and I would have left in pursuit of the emotional aspect."

"The Beast is okay too then," she asked.

"He survived the fall and headed down the tunnel but I have been out of contact with him for some minutes now."

"We must go after him then, he could be trouble."

"There are likely more traps along the route that must be taken. You should wait here and recover while I evaluate the risk."

"I am going," she insisted. At Adenkar's look of disapproval, she added, "Time is of the essence Adenkar, and waiting here accomplishes nothing. I came to help Sarek and I knew there were risks in doing so. I am not going to stay alone here in this cave when I know at least part of him is down there."

Adenkar evaluated the woman who still clutched his arm for support. Fear, pain and fatigue clouded her aura, but she was determined.

Already today he had witnessed her persistence and will defy the odds. If Amanda had decided to go, no amount of logic would dissuade her. Leaving her behind was not an option.

"If you insist," he reluctantly agreed. "But you must stay close to me and do exactly as I inform you without delay."

"Agreed, now let's go."

She let go of his arm and rushed for the tunnel. He grabbed her shoulder.

"I will go first, Amanda. Follow only where I go."

She nodded and allowed him to take the lead.

Adenkar caused the light to travel with them so Amanda could see the path. It illuminated a circle of several meters around them, and as the opening of the tunnel was illuminated, the back of the cavern faded into darkness.

Adenkar paused just before the entry to check for traps. Yes, there was one here. If triggered, it would collapse this end of the tunnel.

Locating the wire like attachment to the energy tendril, he brought forth a scalpel, he severed it from the energy source. The trap disintegrated harmlessly. Certain there was no other risk here, he stepped into the tunnel.

Sending his awareness further he sensed several discordant areas that hinted at more perils. He would need to pass through and deactivate the traps along the route.

Their path sloped gradually upward and they moved quickly. From her erratic breathing, Amanda was struggling to keep up with him but she did not complain. When he motioned for another pause, she leant panting against the wall.

A scrap of singed fur lay on the ground before him.

Using a tiny piece of his essence to form a small stone, he tossed it forward. A small device popped out from an enclosure and a bright red beam shot out and struck the stone. The stone glowed white hot for an instance before it disintegrated. A small gasp came from behind him.

The beam shut off, but Adenkar had observed what he needed too.

"Amanda, move back, I need to get enter into range to deactivate it."

"Won't the beam harm you though?" she asked as moved back to the edge of the light.

"I can shield myself but the beam may ricochet and hit you."

Amanda stepped back several more paces into the darkness. "Is this far enough?"

"It will suffice."

Adenkar activated his shield and shimmers of light hung around him. As he stepped forward into range, the device emerged again from the wall, and the emitted beam hit his shield square on. It pushed him back but did not penetrate his shield. He pushed harder and moved forward.

The red beam intensified as he moved forward, its hue changed to orange, then green that began deflecting off the shield in bright sparks.

Reaching the device, he reached up and yanked it from the wall. Then dropping it to the ground, he crushed it under his boots.

It sparked and its light faded. He scanned the area for any more trouble.

"It is safe to come forward now Amanda," he called, and she rushed forward to his side.

"Are you alright?" she queried, her face creased with concern.

"I am unharmed, come let us proceed."

She looked doubtful and he merely raised an eyebrow. It was true after all, he was unharmed. It seemed unnecessary to mention how much effort that had cost him.

He detected no more traps along the route and eventually their tunnel came to an end. Adenkar paused at the tunnel mouth and held up his hand to halt Amanda yet again. Breathing heavily, she attempted to peer around him.

Adenkar sent his light outward revealing an irregularly shaped cavern, large enough that the back lingered in darkness.

The energy tendril he had followed joined a mass of others in the centre of the room and he sent the light there. Emerging from the ceiling, the tendrils formed a large clump that hung in midair.

The emotional aspect, a new burn across his flank, stood beside the tangle. A rope of tendril was in his mouth, and he yanked and gnawed at it. A figure was partially revealed within the tangle.

"Wait here," he ordered Amanda and at her nod, he ran.

Drawing again on his warrior aspect, Adenkar drew his blade. "Stand aside, Beast so I may cut him down," he ordered. The emotional aspect continued chewing on a tendril until Adenkar was positioned to swing, then it dropped its mouthful and bounded back.

Adenkar swung first at the thick tendril that hung from the suspended figure's neck. Severed, it writhed on the ground like a headless sand serpent. Adenkar kicked the end away. Full of stolen energy, it would take some time to fade.

The suspending tendrils held tight to their captive in a sticky web that anchored to the ceiling. Hacking through them took several swings. When he cut through the last thread, they vanished all at once.

Allowing his sword to fall with a clatter, Adenkar caught the falling figure before he hit the ground, then lowered him gently.

Sarek's healer aspect was pale and cold to the touch.

Reaching out behind him, Adenkar grasped the fallen sword and resumed his own healer form. Pulling out tools, he checked the vitals: breathing steady, pulse weak but regular, pupils dilated, unresponsive to stimuli.

Normally, he would send his patient a steady stream of his own energy to assist with healing. But as he examined the tendril root that emerged between the 4th and fifth vertebrae of the neck, he recognised the futility. The parasitic root would merely absorb the energy and grow stronger.

Amanda arrived at a run and knelt beside the aspect as he was performing the examination. When he looked up at her she was holding the healer aspects hand. The emotional aspect sat on its haunches beside her.

"Adenkar, you must save him," she pleaded.

"I will do what I can Amanda, however, you must understand that he may not survive the process."

She closed her eyes tightly. "Is there anything I can do to help?" she asked in a tight voice.

Adenkar hesitated. She had no skills to assist with this and he should ask her to leave. This would be a difficult process for her to witness and she was likely to become emotional. Yet he knew she would not go.

Perhaps some task to keep her occupied.

"You have had some success in keeping the emotional aspect calm. It would be of assistance if you could do so again. I will need all my focus for this and I must not be interrupted."

Amanda wrapped one of her arms around the Beast's neck and it rubbed its head against her. "Of course Adenkar, he won't interfere."

Adenkar was surprised when the Beast inclined his head in agreement as well.

"I will begin then."

Preparing himself mentally, he took several long slow breaths before opening his awareness and tracing the path of the tendril through the body.

Puncturing through the neck between the fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, it wrapped around the spine to the eleventh thoracic vertebra then branched to the right. Here it passed under the lung and wrapped around the heart, flexing in time with its beat.

That was problematic. If he pulled it free, the tendril could damage the heart or the spinal column. And as the aspect was directly tied to the physical body, any damage to the aspect would produce corresponding injuries to Sarek's body. Another approach was needed.

The fine tendrils that wrapped around the spine drew energy from the tele-nervous system. Without that connection, they could no longer draw energy from the host.

Watching for any reaction, he gradually took control of the tendrils motor reflexes. Only when they were completely subverted did he send the command to uncoil from the spine.

The patient's body jerked as his nervous system was returned to his own control. Adenkar briefly checked his patient's vitals and found they remained weak but steady.

He attempted the same strategy at the heart. Initially, the coil loosened but then it contracted again after a small pause. He tried again with the same result. Andankar was forced to conclude it had been designed not to release.

If he kept the parasitic roots apart from the host, the tendril would eventually fade away on its own. However considering how much energy it had drawn into itself, that process could take days. Too long.

If he burned the tendril while still in the body, it would progress into the patient at points of contact. Perhaps though the transference could be minimised.

Once again he convinced the tendril to release its hold of the heart, stopping just before the point where it automatically retracted.

He readied the kill-bolt in his mind, allowing it to build up to a charge the tendrils could not withstand. When the heart contracted, he released the energy into the tendril.

There was an acrid scent of burning and Adenkar was vaguely aware that his patient was spasming under his hands. But the tendril was fighting him and he could not spare the attention.

First, it attempted to anchor back into the spine. Adenkar locked the motor servers and focused in more energy. The finer tendrils burned away then the main length began burning from the inside out. From the neck it started disintegrating, progressing down the spine. The tendril about the heart resisted the longest but it too faded.

It was done.

The expenditure of energy caught up with him and his consciousness snapped back into his physical aspect. He sagged with weariness, his thoughts lagging and laboured.

It took several uncounted moments to realise his patient was not breathing. Two fingers at the carotid artery found no pulse.

Had he damaged the heart?

Adenkar struggled against his mental fatigue to scan his patient. Yes, the heart bore evidence of damage but it should still be functional. His efforts to restart it failed and he realised he was being blocked.

Another tactic was needed...Manual heart compressions, 204 per minute, alternate every 51 compressions with assisted breathing.

An animal groaned.

"Adenkar, what is happening?" Amanda cried out and in the periphery of his vision, he saw the Beast fall to the ground.

If the other aspects were failing, Sarek was on the verge of brain death. Adenkar discontinued the compressions and got to his feet.

"Amanda, Sarek is dying. We must leave the meld at once."

She looked dazed as if she could not comprehend what he had said. She stared blankly at his proffered hand for a moment then shook her head.

"No, go if you must, but I will not leave him."

There was a crack like thunder and the cavern shook. Debris rained down as the ceilings and walls began to collapse.

"Amanda, his heart has stopped and he is blocking efforts to restart it. He has chosen this, but he would not want you to die as well. We must leave."

It was clear Amanda was not listening. She bent over the still form, one hand over his heart. Leaning down she whispered something in the aspect's ear. Then her eyes rolled up and she slumped to the ground beside him.

Larger stones started to fall and Adenkar formed a shield around the three of them. It flickered faintly, weak and incomplete.

As the entire ceiling caved in, Adenkar threw every shred of his strength into their protection.

It was not going to be enough.

Chapter Text

Falling
As the world falls down.
Falling

David Bowie - As the world falls down

Chapter 16 As the World Falls Down

--WILL--

Will lay crumpled on the sand struggling to take a breath around a rib cage that had grown too tight.

As the breeze stilled, the silence became absolute.

Will's strained to hear a sound that been with him his whole life. Yet even the ever present whir of the heart had stopped.

The sun flickered and dimmed until it was a burning ember of a dying fire. As the darkness settled over him, Will's strength faded. He fought to remain conscious.

He could not be dying. Not now. Not, when there was hope again.

Drawing upon his greatest ability, the will to live, a meager strength trickle back into him.

He still could not take a breath.

Reaching out his senses he sought the cause.

No! It could not be.

The Healer had resumed his task. They were dying at Will's own request.

Will sent a mental cry outward, /LIVE!/

If the Healer heard he did not respond. But another did hear him.

Logic's response was weak and sporadic. /Will I am - underground tu-ielded-foll - Aman- use li-. It-./ The connection cut off abruptly.

Will gritted his teeth. What had Logic been attempting to tell him? It sounded like Logic had entered a shielded region, but the mind shield was down. Logic had mentioned he was underground but where? Will had only moments before they were all lost.

An unexpected voice intruded, loud and irritated as a lematya that has just woken from aestivation. /Are you so oblivious to she who is our other half? Can you not hear her soul song through the proto-link I crafted?/

/Katra?!/ Will exclaimed with surprise. An immortal creature, the Katra was unconcerned with life or death.

A sound that resembled a snort entered his mind. /Our k'hat'n'dlawa is not yet bonded in full with us as she should be. She is with the Healer aspect, trapped within a fullaran. When you retrieve her, see is to be brought to me./

The connection to the Katra concluded with a yawn. In its place, a new connection flared to life.

For a moment, Will forgot his urgency, overwhelmed by the beauty of Amanda's mind.

It seemed then her voice whispered directly into his ear. "I am with you Sarek and I will not leave you. You must live."

Will saw the cavern in her mind, felt Amanda's position beneath the sands at the border of awareness. Taking on his non-corporeal form, he ported directly there only to bounce off a shield.

He struck at the barrier with his mind. The blow bounced off in a wave of exploding sand. Will struck again with the same result. He could find no sign that he had even touched it.

It appeared, the fullaran could not be broken from the outside...but perhaps from within. Whispering into Amanda's mind he showed her what was needed and how to accomplish it.

Her mind struck out and connected, the fullaran shuddered. /Again,/ he urged.

She hit again, harder this time, and something snapped. Her mind slipped from his as she fainted.

But her efforts had been successful. Will sensed a hairline crack marring the defences. Hitting it precisely at its weakest point, the fullaran shattered like an egg.

A piece fell and he saw Amanda lying beside the Healer, the Beast by their feet. Amanda's companion threw himself over Amanda and tried to form a shield.

The cavern ceiling buckled as the walls supporting them collapsed.

Arrowing down at the speed of thought, Will passed through the flickering shield. Taking on physical form, Will touched the Healer aspect and sent the command, zLIVE!/

The Healer gasped and Will felt a pain in his side as the heart jolted back to life.

Another mind briefly brushed against his. Will pushed back unwilling to let the stranger near his thoughts.

"Healer Adenkar," the other offered in a quick introduction. "I am here to assist Amanda, and yourself if you will allow it. At this moment, however, I could use your help with this shield."

Will acknowledged warily and joined his remaining strength with Adenkar to reinforce and expand the shield around them.

Half a second later, debris was raining down on them.

Will held the shield while Adenkar slammed the larger pieces with enough force to send them crashing to the side rather than on top of them. The smaller chunks bounced off and falling sand piled over them.

When the noise ceased, Adenkar angled the shield to repel the sand to the side before letting it fade away. Then he collapsed onto his back, closed his eyes and let out a deep breath.

Light streamed through the broken ceiling, highlighting the dust floating in the air. Will crouched beside the others dropping his head to his knees. He could see right through himself again.

For a time nobody did more than breath. Eventually, the sound of tumbling stone made Will look up. Logic stood on a pile of debris waving his arm left and right while glancing at his wrist.

"Over he-," Will rasped. He coughed, clearing his throat of dust then called again louder, "Over here, Logic."

Logic turned towards his head towards them and began to run towards them. "Status?" Logic demanded when he reached them.

Adenkar stirred beside Will, opening an eye. "We have all overextended ourselves." He said his voice slow. Propping himself on one arm, Adenkar reached over and briefly touched Amanda and the Healer aspect. "It appears, however, that we are all alive which is an improvement to 2.3 minutes ago." He lay back down.

Logic slid down the bank into the hollow and crouched beside Amanda. "What happened to her?" he demanded as stoked her hair back from her face.

"She brought down the barricade so I could get to the Healer," Will answered.

"You used her strength!" Logic accused as he pulled Amanda into his arms. "Joining with her when we were near death may have done her irreparable harm."

"She offered freely, Logic. And she was not going to leave. Even if she had been willing to do so, the shielding here would have prevented it. You know what would have happened if she remained here when we perished. What was done was as much to ensure her survival as ours."

Logic inclined his head accepting the necessity. "Let us get her out of this pit now." Logic stood with Amanda in his arms and nudged the Beast with his foot. "Wake up, I have a job for you.

The Beast snorted opening his glowing eyes to slits. "Grr'rrrr?"

"No, you can not have five more minutes. We must move to a location where there is no risk of further collapse. Based on how everyone appears, you and I will need to assist the others.

"Rrr'rr," the Beast agreed reluctantly, lifting his shaggy head and struggling up to sit. He made as if to shake.

"Not over us Beast, go over there if you must shake out the dirt.

The Beast bared its teeth in defiance.

"You are filthy and I will not have you spatter Amanda."

The Beast whined but obeyed, jumping out of the hole and moving a short distance before shaking vigorously. Nothing touched Amanda, but a clod of dirt hit Logic's head. Logic glared at the Beast, who appeared completely unrepentant.

Logic climbed out of the hollow, laying Amanda face down over the Beast's neck and upper back.

Will stood trying to make himself more than a transparent haze so he could be of some assistance. He failed. "I can not be of much help here Logic. I will take my natural form and search for the best way out. I do not think any of us have the strength to port ourselves out."

"Go. We will find a secure place to wait," Logic answered as he lifted the Healer aspect.

Will dropped his corporeal body with relief and rushed out of the hollow. Examining the remaining walls he found some remained standing but much had crumpled. One side of the cavern had completely collapsed and sand had poured in over it.

If all of them had been conscious and at full strength, they might have climbed out here with moderate difficulty...now it was an unlikely proposition. Will continued his search.

The dark alcove half hidden behind rubble might have been missed in but for the faint blue luminescence that illuminated its entrance. Moving into the alcove, Will saw a roughly spherical mass of tendrils approximately 2.3 meters in diameter. The light originated from within, seeping out between overlapping tendrils.

Will formed a body, concentrating mostly on a physical hand to push aside a tendril. As he did so the light intensified. He stared, intrigued.

"Will, did you locate an exit?" came Logic's shout.

Will returned to himself with a jolt, unsure of how much time had passed. /I am unsure of what I have found,/ Will sent, along with a mental image.

/We are coming to you. If I am correct that is our way out,/ Logic sent back.

The crunch of sand and stone preceded their arrival. Will peaked out of the alcove and saw the glowing green eyes of the Beast. The Beast bore both Amanda and the Healer across his back. Adenkar, though walking, was supported by Logic. They crowded into the alcove with Will.

Adenkar leant against the wall, freeing Logic to examine the sphere with both hands. After a cursory examination, Logic drew a long knife from his robes. As he sliced away several of the major tendrils to reveal a two-meter sphere of light within.

Will watched the shifting patterns on the sphere's surface. "What is it?"

"A memory orb," Adenkar answered tiredly. "In this case, they have been used to repress memories and emotions. I have never observed one of such proportions."

Logic stepped forward holding out his arm. A gem at his wrist flashed blue and the images on the sphere became clear. Location and events rapidly passed across the surface seemingly at random. All, however, bore a common theme, they all included Amanda.

"As I suspected, these are our memories of Amanda that were stolen from us. They must be returned to their rightful place," Logic proclaimed his face more stern than stoic.

"I agree that they must be returned but how does that assist us getting out, that needs to be our priority now?" Will asked.

"The memory orb is our way out," Logic replied slicing through more tendrils. As each one was cut, it fell but faded from existence before they reached the floor.

"You intend to use the inclination of a suppressed memory to resurface and return to their place of origin," Adenkar surmised one eyebrow raised.

"Precisely," Logic agreed, slicing off more tendrils. "With the fullaran dismantled, and the tendrils removed, the memories should return to the memory centers. If we enter into the orb, it will transport us along as well."

As if to prove his point, the orb began first to wobble on its axis, then rose an inch off the floor. The remaining tendril was the only thing that anchored it to the ground.

"How do we get inside?" Will asked, gesturing at the sphere, "I would not want it to leave without us."

"First, touch the sphere," Logic instructed.

They stepped in closer, the Beast pressed his nose to the sphere and Adenkar, Will and Logic each placed a hand. The surface was hard and smooth under Will's hand.

"These are memories of Amanda, so to enter the orb, we must think of her," Logic continued.

The surface of the orb began to ripple where it was touched. The Beast pushed his face into the surface and it broke like water allowing him to pass inside. He stepped in, and the sphere engulfed him and his passengers, pulling them into the orb. Adenkar went next, vanishing once his hand pierced the surface.

Will recalled the link rekindling with Amanda, the sublime feel of her mind against his. The surface under his hand become soft and permeable. Before he was drawn in completely, he saw Logic cut the last tendril and push his own hand into the orb.

Then Will was surrounded by light and memory.

She was before him. He offered her his hand and she took it. As the music swelled around them, he drew her into a Waltz.

"I know you," he whispered into her ear. "Have we met before?

Laughing, she answered, "Once, upon a dream."

Chapter Text

I'll paint you mornings of gold
I'll spin you Valentine evenings

As the World Falls Down, David Bowie

Chapter 17 Spin You

--AMANDA--

Where was she?

There was something important she had to do...there was...something she was looking for.

Images flashed at the periphery of her vision. But as she turned to look at them they flickered away. She was spinning, spinning. The dizziness was nearly overwhelming, but she had to find...find...she had to...

A hand grasped her shoulder and the spinning slowed.

The room came into dim focus revealing a dance hall. The floor was a dark polished wood and the walls were curved mirrors that joined overhead to form the ceiling. Chairs and recliners lined the periphery of the room. At one end a banquet table was laden with food and drink.

Around them, dancers whirled in time to an alien music she could feel more than hear. Their movements were strangely fluid. Trying to distinguish their features made her eyes ache. She focused her attention on her partner instead.

His features were sharp and angular, his long face set with high cheekbones, slanted eyebrows and pointed ears. It was a face both familiar and dear to her.

But who was he?

So many questions rolled through her mind. Putting them into words was surprisingly difficult. She fought to speak.

“Why am I here?” she asked slowly.

“Were you not seeking me?” his baritone voice teased.

She blinked stupidly. Had she been looking for something...someone?

“Yes, I wanted to see you. But there was something I was supposed to be doing wasn’t there?” she asked uncertainly. “I thought…wasn't there something you needed?”

“All I require from you is this dance,” he said as he outstretched his hand towards her.

The way all his attention focused on her left her slightly breathless. She took the proffered hand.

He was an exquisite dancer; his steps perfectly measured as he guided her across the floor. It was so pleasant just to spend uninterrupted time with him. To be close to him, to touch him.

They danced for hours. She never wanted it to end. It was so comforting to have him in her arms after...after what? Why couldn’t she remember?

There seemed to be many questions she could not answer. Where was this place and how had she come to be here? Who was her partner? And who was she?

The last one sent flutters of anxiety through her stomach. She couldn’t remember her own name. The dance lost its enchantment over her.

Her eyes flitted from her partner to the other dancers. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw one couple pass right through a table.

She came to standstill, pulling away from her partner when he tried to continue leading her. Another pair of dancers continued towards them, seemingly oblivious to the impending collision. He stepped aside to allow them to pass but she held her ground. She gasped as the couple passed right through her as if she was the one not there.

“You should not stop mid-dance,” her partner gently admonished. He reached a hand to her shoulder to draw her back to the dance.

She resisted, stepping back. “None of this is real,” she whispered.

“I am real,” he insisted.

He was so alive and vital that she almost believed it. She wanted for him to be here with her with nothing more important to do than enjoying a dance together. But the last time she had seen him, the last time…

The memory crashed over her: a body on the floor, not breathing, no heartbeat, the walls caving in. Sarek was dying, perhaps already dead.

“I have to save Sarek,” Amanda shouted.

Around her the room shook, the lights dimmed. Dancers vanished off the floor. Her partner reached for her again but his hand passed through her.

Amanda ran.

“Wait,” he called, but she wasn't about to stop.

There were no doorways so running brought her to the mirrored wall. Her distorted reflection raced from the other direction to meet her.

His reflection showed him racing towards her, “There is nothing for you out there,” he called. “Stay here with me and you can have everything you have ever wanted.”

This was clearly not Sarek, he would never cajole her like that. He would never want her to accept a comforting lie over a difficult truth.

Amanda grabbed a chair, swung it up behind her and brought it down on the mirror with all the strength she had.

The mirror shattered and shards of glass flew outward. With a cry, Amanda was sucked out of the room.

The ground found her moments later and knocked the breath from her. For a time, all she could do was lay face down and wheeze.

When her chest finally accepted its responsibility to draw regular breaths, she rolled to her back and opened her eyes.

It was dark. Very dark. Waving a hand in front of her face revealed nothing.

“Sarek,” she called out, “Are you here? Adenkar? Anyone?” Her voice sounded weak and seemed to fade away quickly.

Lifting herself to one elbow, she pushed herself up to a crouch. She turned her head and looked directly into a blackness so intense it made the normal darkness seem like midday. It hurt to look at it and she rapidly turned her head away feeling sick.

Whatever that was, nothing could make her go near it.

Something skittered on the other side of her.

“Oh hell. That wasn't a challenge universe.” Her hands clenched.

It skittered again, louder this time. “Oh, if only there was some light!” she cried.

Amanda ran her hands across the floor. “Ow,” she muttered as her hand found what she had been seeking. She picked the large shard of glass up carefully by the middle, attempting to avoid any further contact with the sharp edges.

The skittering got louder. She held her breath, listening intently, trying to judge its position.

Damn it was close.

There came the twisting sound like a branch bending, followed by a snap.

Despite knowing it was coming, Amanda screamed in surprise when the thing suddenly wrapped around her leg. It tightened painfully, yanking her off her feet and pulled her across the floor. Sharp stings bloomed over her bare arms and legs as she slid over slivers of glass.

Lifting her upper body, Amanda brought the shard of glass down with a yell. There was a sound like tearing flesh and liquid fire rushed onto her leg. Amanda screeched in pain.

The hold on her leg loosened. Amanda shuffled backwards across the floor, yanking the shard back with her.

There was a wild thumping as if the thing was thrashing. Then, all noise stopped apart from her own ragged breathing.

A thin beam of light broke through the darkness. Amanda nearly sobbed in relief as greyish light dimly illuminated the room.

A long black tendril lay stretched out across the floor. Even as she watched, the tendril appeared to shrink. As it did so, the light in the room increased to where she could make out the beginnings of colour.

The room she was in was roughly circular, the walls and floor were blocks of white sandstone. There was only one visible opening in the walls. The tendril that had attacked her stretched across the floor and its far end was anchored to it. Many other shorter tendrils also anchored to the thick frame. They writhed away from the dead one, allowing the light into the room.

There was enough light now to see her hand was bleeding profusely and there was a rather nasty bruise burn combination on her right leg. Other small cuts littered her arms and legs.

Using the shard, Amanda sliced off a piece of her trailing dress and wrapped the cloth tightly around her palm. Then, she removed the small slivers of glass from the cuts on her arms and legs. For the burn she could do little; she was afraid to even touch the blackened tissue of her right leg. Finally, she cut another piece of the dress and wrapped it around one end of the shard. She tucked the makeshift blade into the belt of her dress.

Amanda slowly got to her feet, hissing in pain when she put weight on her right leg. Shifting most of her weight onto her left, she managed to stand.

She examined the room, her eyes skipping over the darkness in the middle. It absorbed all light that passed in its direction. It was like a rift splitting the air.

A large sphere appeared from behind it and Amanda flinched. She relaxed fractionally when it did not come towards her. Instead, it orbited around the rift.

When the sphere entered the stream of light, shimmering colours swirled across its surface like a soap bubble. There was one colourless area where a series of cracks propagated around an irregularly shaped hole. The jagged edges looked a lot like the glass scattered across the floor.

Could this be the mirror room from which she had escaped? It seemed too small, but what other explanation was there?

She watched it for a time. On every pass, the sphere got a little closer to the rift. What would happen when the two met? Likely, nothing good. Perhaps she should try and leave before that point.

There was, of course, the matter of the tendrils guarding the door. Turning her head, she examined the gap that the light streamed through. Could she pass through it?

The tendrils seemed fairly still at the moment. It was worth a try.

She hobbled as quietly as she could towards the door, biting her lip to prevent any exclamations of pain. The frenzied writhing that started when she got within an arm's length convinced her to back away. When her back hit a wall, she turned so she could watch both the sphere and the door.

The sphere was orbiting faster. The rainbow swirls did not seem as random as before. They could almost be people dancing.

She squinted. The image cleared, though it was still like looking through water. Yes, two people dancing. Could that be Sarek, dancing with her?

Definitely the mirror hall. But if it was trying to entice her in it wasn't going to work.

On the next orbit, the dancers were replaced with a large black sehlat running across an open desert of red sand. With those glowing green eyes, that could only be the Beast.

She shook her head. No, only a representation of him. It was showing her what she wanted to see.

That image faded and another appeared, clearer this time. Two figures were visible. One, dressed in black, knelt over a prone figure in green healer's robe. Amanda’s heart caught in her throat as she recognised the Healer aspect. The image disappeared before she could tell if the Healer breathed.

Surely an illusion. But what if...

Then Adenkar appeared, his face easily identifiable as it pressed against the glass. He looked directly at her and mouthed something. When she just continued to stare, he thumped his open hand against the sphere. There was a dull thud and the sphere wobbled.

The others were trapped in the sphere! She lurched towards it as fast as her bad leg would allow.

Intercepted the sphere, she shoved her shoulder against it. It pushed her along the floor and she stumbled. She stepped out of the way before she could be knocked into the rift. The sphere orbited behind the rift.

From this angle, she saw Adenkar and several Sareks appeared on different portions of the surface. Only Adenkar seemed to be aware of her and track her movements. He motioned with his fist and hit a spot in front of him. He mouthed something and pointed at her.

When it orbited around again, she was ready with her arm pulled back to punch. When Adenkar appeared in front of her, both of them hit their side of the wall simultaneously.

Amanda expected to hit something solid like glass but the surface yielded like a soap bubble. As her fist went through, there was a subtle pop followed by a brilliant flash of golden light that left bright spots in her vision.

Four Vulcans and a rather large sehlat fell out of the air. In such close quarters, it was fortunate that they didn't all fall on top of her.

Adenkar expressed his regret for knocking her down as he helped her into a sitting position. Then he left to check on the others who lay as they had fallen.

The golden light streamed towards the centre of the room and was absorbed by the darkness. The rift began to shrink. When the last of the sphere’s light finally entered it, the now pin sized rift exploded.

A glowing nebula formed in its place. It bathed the room in warmth and the golden light of a new dawn. As it washed over them, several of the figures on the ground began to stir.

Chapter Text

Think small with the fire gang (It's the only way)
Bad hep with the fire gang (a smile a day keeps the doctor away)

Chilly Down - David Bowie

Chapter 18: Bad Hep

-AMANDA-

Amanda tried to get up and check on the others. Instead of rising, she began to shake. Now that she had stopped the aches in her body redoubled. She closed her eyes, fighting back tears of pain and exhaustion.

Her eyes flew open a short time later at the twin cry of, “Amanda!” coupled with a low “Grrrr.” Two ‘Sareks’ and an overgrown sehlat rushed towards her.

The first to reach her was a Sarek dressed in a black traditional robe. While his face was perfectly composed, he knelt down beside her and clutched her with fierce desperation. Amanda wrapped an arm around him and he leaned his head on top of hers.

The other Sarek was dressed in a burnt-orange meditation robe. It appeared he had learned some tricks from a Cheshire cat for she could see right through his torso. When she pulled him to her chest he felt solid enough. He buried his head into her neck with an exhalation that bordered on a sob. Amanda’s own tears began to flow.

The sehlat lay down behind her and rubbed his large furry head against her back. His purr rumbled through her body. Slowly, her shaking subsided.

Amanda glanced over to where the third Sarek lay. By the green healer's robe, she recognised him as the Healer aspect. Adenkar knelt over him running the tricorder’s scanner over him. Even in the poor light, she could see he was breathing. That was an improvement over the last time she had seen him.

But what had happened since then? And who were these other Sarek’s? She struggled to understand what was going on but her tired brain would not put the pieces together. “Sarek?” she asked, confusion colouring her voice, “What has happened and why are there so many of you?”

The stoic one loosened his hold and Amanda let him up. He took her hand in his as he sat back on his knees.

“We are aspects, each part of the psyche of Sarek,” he began, his voice the controlled baritone to which she was accustomed. “We are named by our function and nature. I am Logic, on your other side is Will. You have met the Beast and the Healer,” he added. “Normally, we are not divided. However, when each of us was defeated by T’Rel, she separated us from the whole in order to weaken us. We have been unable to reintegrate due to the neural damage.”

Amanda squeezed Logic’s hand. “Is that why you didn't know me when I came?”

From the other side of her, Will spoke softly, his lips brushing her neck. “The defiler stole our memories of you. For a time we could not recall you, though your presence called to us. Now all memories of you have been returned to us. K’hat’n’dlawa, Amanda, we remember you.”

Amanda leaned over and kissed Will’s forehead. His eyes squeezed shut in an expression of Vulcan bliss.

Logic began filling her in on what had occurred since she had met the Warrior at the gate. He had just reached the part where the group had entered the fullaran when Adenkar joined them.

“Forgive the intrusion,” Adenkar said. “Now that triage is complete, Amanda’s injuries require care.”

Will leant back from her and three pairs of eyes examined her critically. Adenkar waved his hand held scanner over her outstretched leg while looking at the tricorder slung over his shoulder.

“Your leg appears burnt,” Logic observed, somehow conveying extreme displeasure without a change in tone or expression.

“A tendril grabbed me and I stabbed it. It leaked something that felt like acid on my leg,” Amanda replied with a tired shrug.

Will lifted her left arm. “And your hand?” he asked quietly, his pinched brows and pursed lips making him looked pained.

Amanda noticed the blue cloth wrapping her hand was now stained red. “That came from picking up broken glass in the dark.” She waved her other hand to indicate the fragments of glass remaining on the floor.

All three Vulcans surrounding her blanched and the Beast stopped mid purr.

“That glass that cut you come from the fullaran?” Logic asked slowly as if the idea was almost inconceivable to him.

“Yes, I believe so. I broke a mirror to get out and the glass came with me,” Amanda answered.

“Have you forgotten anything?” Will demanded, his tone concerned.

“If anything, my memories came back once I was free of the mirrors. I don't think I have forgotten anything since, but how would I know?” Three pairs of eyes bored into her. “Why are you all so worried?”

Logic took a calming breath. “Amanda, the extraction and containment of the memories by the fullaran created the forgetting, the destructive void in this room. Only the return of the memories abolished it. A fragment of the fullaran, such as the one you picked up, could cut away memories. If this creates a forgetting within you -”

“Allow me to examine her,” Adenkar interrupted, lifting her hand from Will's grasp.

It hurt when Adenkar unwrapped the bandage. The cut had clotted and now oozed where the fabric had torn the forming scab.

“I do not observe any mental damage propagating from this and it is healing remarkably well,” Adenkar observed. Will and Logic visibly relaxed. “You would eventually heal from this on your own,” Adenkar continued, “but I will speed along the process.”

Adenkar touched his hand to hers. There was an instant of sharp pain that made her fingers twitch. It was followed by a cool pulse that soothed the sting. The gash in her hand healed before her eyes. The wave of cool energy then propagated through her body, small cuts sealing in its wake.

“Now, the leg,” Adenkar said, resting his hand just above the blackened flesh. “There is extensive damage here. Reversing it may cause you discomfort.”

Amanda let out a grunt as the muscles in her legs began to twitch painfully and the black tissue began to itch. She gritted her teeth to prevent herself from screaming and clenched her fists to keep from scratching the skin off. The black scab peeled away from the surface leaving red and blistered flesh underneath. The blisters shrank and the redness faded leaving only healthy tissue. Amanda sighed in relief as the pain ceased.

The energy continued to flow through her body, revitalising her. When Adenkar helped her to her feet, she felt re-energised, her mind fully alert for the first time in days.

“Thank you, that is much better,” Amanda said.

“I come to serve,” Adenkar replied with a small head bow. “It is remarkable how little damage you received considering what you have encountered. I am also curious how you managed to break free of the fullaran when I could not, but we will speak of this later. The matter of bonding the two of you is of utmost urgency. That is still your intent?”

“It is,” Amanda, Will and Logic agreed in unison. Not to be left out, the Beast let out an acknowledging howl as well.

Amanda smiled, turning to place her hand on top of the Beasts head then scratched between his ears. He leaned into her hand and began to purr again.

“You should not encourage him,” Logic said. “He is difficult enough to control.”

“What him? He's just a giant teddy bear,” Amanda cooed as she reached to scratch under the Beast’s chin.

The Beast increased the volume of his purr and looked smugly up at Logic. Amanda almost succeeded in suppressing a laugh.

Logic chose not to respond to the Beast. Instead, he turned towards the doorway. “For us to exit this room, the mind tendrils that guard the door must be dealt with. The Warrior passed through them but he was injured in the process.”

Adenkar turned to examine the tendrils and steepled his fingers. “The tendrils are not as strong as I would expect.”

“It has been a significant amount of time since T’Rel left the meld,” Will offered in explanation. “It is possible they are finally dissipating.”

Adenkar inclined his head. “You are correct that most mind tendrils would not persist after the resonance between minds faded. However, T’Rel’s traps were parasitic on the host; the energy to sustain them came from you. This cluster appears to be similar to the others I have encountered. Amanda, you mentioned that you struck one with a fragment of the fullaran.”

“Yes, I have the shard right here,” Amanda said drawing it from her belt. She stared at it, eyes wide with surprise. “It’s changed! It was just broken glass with a bit of fabric from my dress wrapped around it.”

She held a dagger. The blade was half the length of her forearm and angled sharply to a point. It still seemed to be glass, but it was a smoky grey rather than reflective like the glass that still littered parts of the floor. The hilt was wrapped with a blue bind within which a sapphire was embedded.

Logic responded by lifting up his arm and pulling back his sleeve. A woven band set with an identical blue stone encircled his wrist. “This band was originally a part of your dress that I found in the sand dunes. It changed to this form when I drew the memories it contained into me. Similarly, you have made this glass part of you. As you considered it a weapon, your mind shaped it thus.”

While Logic spoke, Adenkar had been examining the blade in Amanda’s hand. She offered it to him hilt first, though he refused it with a wave of his hand.

“That is a dangerous weapon, Amanda,” Adenkar said sternly. “I can not ascertain how you converted it but the Logical aspect is correct, it is now a part of you. The tendril across the floor was the one you stabbed?”

Amanda nodded. “Yes, that’s it, though it has shrunk a great deal since. I also noticed the other tendrils seemed to be avoiding it. They opened up around where it was anchored to the door.”

“Interesting, I would not have anticipated that behaviour,” Adenkar said with a raised eyebrow. He walked over to the dead tendril, Amanda following a short distance behind.

Adenkar kicked the end with his foot and several meters of its length disintegrated into ash. His brow furrowed. “When I remove a tendril I isolate it from its energy source and once its energy is exhausted it fades away. Your blade has done something quite different. It has bypassed the defences of the tendril and introduced the equivalent of a poison or an infection. It is slowly being passed to the other tendrils in the cluster and destroying them as well.”

“It won’t hurt Sarek will it?” Amanda asked with a frown. “You did say they were drawing their energy from him.”

“That is unlikely. The energy flow is unidirectional from the host to the tendrils.”

“Well, that's a piece of luck then. So are we just going to wait for them to die off?” Amanda asked.

“No, time is too valuable for that. I will remove them myself.” Adenkar stated. “While they are weakened they are still dangerous. Everyone else should stay well back.”

Adenkar assumed his warrior form and drew a sword. As he approached the tendrils, a number of them came towards him. However, from this angle, Amanda could see that many others twitched uselessly or lay limp.

Adenkar brought his blade across and sliced through the ones reaching for him. The severed ends vanished quickly. He then moved in hacking at the remaining tendrils. They fell to the ground like forest vines to a machete.

The last tendril whipped around and struck him across the face. He reacted quickly bring the blade around to cut off the offending end, then again higher up to sever it close to its root. The pieces thrashed for a moment before vanishing.

“Amanda,” he called, “Come, bring your knife.”

Amanda joined him. Green blood oozed from a cut that went diagonally across Adenkar's face. His left eye was swollen shut. Before she could ask if he was alright, he began speaking.

“The tendril roots still remain,” Adenkar said pointing upward. “Recut the ends with your knife. That should kill the roots and prevent them from regrowing. Avoid the rock underneath, for that is part of Sarek.”

Amanda cringed. “Do you want to do it,” she asked holding him the blade.

“No. Amanda, you do not understand what you offering. That blade is part of you, I can not wield it without taking control of you. That is something I would prefer not to do even if I have your permission. Just use caution.”

Amanda nodded and took a deep breath to calm her nerves. Lifting the blade above her head, she gently ran the blade over the edge of each tendril root. As she did so the tendril went from black to grey and began to wither. In concert, the blade progressed from a smokey grey to a brilliant obsidian black.

When she was halfway done, the first few roots began falling from the ceiling as ash. By the time she finished, there was a large pile of grey dust under the doorway and she was filthy.

“Well done Amanda,” Adenkar praised her. Turning to partially face him, she saw he had sheathed his sword. The cut across his face had healed to the point where it was now only a raised welt and his left was eye opened though bloodshot.

Amanda nodded and stepped away from the door. The last few roots dropped from the roof, disintegrating as they fell. She secured her knife back at her belt then brushed her dress with her hands. It sent up a cloud of grey powder that caused her to sneeze.

From across the room came a cough. Amanda whirled to face the source. Somehow, she was across the room in an instant.

--WILL & LOGIC--

When Amanda had joined Adenkar to look at the tendril across the floor, Logic had moved to join her. Will stopped him with a hand to his arm.

“What path do you intend to take Logic?” Will asked quietly. “You will recall the main pathway to the bonding centre collapsed nearly on top of us.”

“I had thought to take the tunnels,” Logic answered.

“That would be unwise,” Will replied, “most of those are out of commission as well. The few that remain are unstable. Any disturbance will collapse them. There is no way out if that happens.”

“What alternative is there?” Logic asked. At Will’s grim look, Logic reached a disturbing conclusion. “No, you can not be suggesting...to pass through there is madness.”

“It is the strongest pathway Logic. You know what it can withstand. It will not collapse even if there is another mind quake,” Will insisted.

“But to take her there is dangerous in its own right. If we encounter him-” Logic said in a harsh whisper.

Will squeezed his arm. “Amanda will encounter him soon enough Logic. It is better that she know of him before we are bonded. She can not truly consent without full knowledge. You were the one that insisted on that.”

“The intent was to explain it to her when she was prepared. Taking her there will be a trial by fire,” Logic exclaimed. He took several deep breaths to calm himself.

“If she passes through, we will know she can survive,” Will answered quietly.

“And if she goes mad?” Logic demanded.

“If she appears at risk, we will dissolve the meld,” Will promised. “Logic, if we wish to bond with her, this is the only way.”

Logic's shoulders slumped by the smallest of amounts. “We can not allow any harm to came to her.”

“I promise she will be protected even beyond our own life. But she is strong Logic. What she has faced already...I believe she can pass through the fires unharmed.”

“Let it be so, for if not all is lost,” Logic replied, his brows pinched tight together in concern.

They both turned to watch Amanda. She stood arms outstretched, using her glass knife on what remained of the tendrils. Grey dust started falling from the doorway.

“Do you sense that,” Will asked, his brows furrowing together. “Something has changed in the mindscape -”

Logic considered, steepling his fingers. As more ash fell from the ceiling, the answer became clear. “All of the mind tendrils are disintegrating, not just the ones here. T’Rel’s presence is fading.”

Logic felt more than saw when the last tendril fell. Gone was the oppressive presence that had occupied his mind since T’Rel melded with him. He closed his eyes, basking in the sensation.

His eyes snapped back open at a cough. The Healer aspect was awakening. Logic took a step towards him and blinked in surprise when Amanda vanished from her position at the door and reappeared sitting beside the Healer. Adenkar appeared a fraction of a second later. Logic and Will walked the few steps to join them.

“Take it easy, don't try to move,” Amanda murmured as she prevented the Healer from rising with a hand to his chest. “You are safe.”

“It hurts,” the Healer rasped. “Everything is damaged. I have to-” he paused coughing, “- have to get to biocontrol.”

“I will take you there and provided assistance,” Adenkar promised. “You are far too weak to attempt healing on your own.”

“The rest of you should proceed to the bonding nexus,” Adenkar continued.

Logic inclined his head, "Agreed," he said. If they were taking the path of fire, separating from the Healer Adenkar would be for the best. Another male would never pass unchallenged. He held out his hand to Amanda, when she took it he pulled her to her feet.

At Logic's acceptance, Adenkar lifted the Healer aspect, cradling him in his arms. Then headed out the door.

"Shall we be off then?" Amanda asked.

The Beast let out a happy huff, then bounded to the door. Amanda let out a small laugh and raced after him. Will and Logic progressed to the door at a slower pass.

“So who is going to explain it to her,” Will asked in a hushed tone.

“It is your plan, you should explain it,” Logic replied quietly.

“But you are better at explaining,” Will argued.

“Not this, this is not logical,” Logic insisted

“Someone must,” Will declared.

“You are someone.”

“Technically only a part of someone,” Will replied with a raised brow.

“As am I,” Logic countered with his own raised brow.

“Then shall we both explain it to her,” Will suggested.

“Agreed. You will speak first,” Logic stated, his posture indicating he would make no further compromise.

Will’s mouth twitched and his left arm went transparent but he did not argue further.

They caught up rapidly with the rest of the group. Planning to avoid the main entry and its dangerous memories, Logic directed them deeper into the memory halls.

They passed quietly through several rooms and passages. There was significant damage evident in each of the memory rooms but the only sign of tendrils was small piles of ash.

They exited the memory hall via a smaller door which branched off to seven different pathways. Two had collapsed.

“The quickest path to biocontrol is this one,” Logic pointed to the third passage. “However, the bonding centre can be best accessed through that one,” he added, pointing to the fifth.

“Then this is the point we separate,” Adenkar said and immediately headed down the third passage.

“Stay to the right,” Logic called after the rapidly retreating figure. He guiding the rest of them into the fifth passage. They made several more turns in silence.

“Amanda,” Will began, “There is information you should have. Logic can explain it best.”

Will and Amanda faced Logic expectantly. Will was closer to smirking then a Vulcan was properly allowed.

Logic was a proper Vulcan. He would not sigh. Instead he took a deep breath and began. “Amanda, there is something you must know. It concerns Vulcan biology -”

Chapter Text

But I'll be there for you-oo-oo
As the world falls down

As the World Falls Down David Bowie

Chapter 19: There for You.

-LOGIC-

Being what he was, the aspect of Logic, he did not feel.

Should not feel.

Fear, anger, hatred, joy, even love, were but the product of chemical reactions in the limbic centre and primal brain. These basic instincts and illogical passions resulted in emotional chaos if left unchecked. By application of reason, truth, and rigid control, Logic produced order and serenity.

Sarek’s control had been slipping for some time and recent events had shattered the remnants. Now there was no serenity, no order. Even a semblance of reason was difficult to achieve. Even the aspect of Logic was no longer pure logic.

Months before Sarek had returned to Vulcan, Logic had noted his decline. The increase in meditation required to achieve a calm state of mind. The difficulty in controlling the feelings for Amanda.

Sarek had desired always to be near her, to touch her, to bond with her...it had taken all Logic’s strength to resist. He must not bond with Amanda until she understood what she agreed to. They were about to bond, therefore, further delay was illogical.

Logic took a long breath and began again. “Amanda, the biology of Vulcans, it, it is dissimilar to human biology.”

Amanda’s brow creased with a puzzled frown. “I know that. It’s actually rather surprising that our species are as physically similar as they are. Internally there are a lot of difference. You have copper, rather than iron based, blood. Your heart is located about where my liver is, and your rib cage is longer to protect it. I know you have different centres in the brain for telepathy and special nerves in your fingers and face for the reception.”

“Amanda, I am speaking of reproductive biology,” Logic blurted when she took a pause for breath.

Amanda’s cheeks flushed scarlet. “Oh, well, it doesn't seem that different. I have seen, erm, pictures of the, ah, Vulcan reproductive organs. It looks like everything would, um, fit.”

Logic briefly considered how she had viewed such material. He pushed the thought aside as unimportant and refocused on the conversation. “Anatomically yes - but that is also not the difference I am speaking of.”

“Then what exactly are you speaking of? It’s unlike you to be imprecise,” Amanda replied with a mixture of exasperation and embarrassment.

“I am having difficulties relaying the information on this topic,” Logic admitted. “Will, perhaps you could -”

“Explore the path ahead,” Will suggested. “That would be an optimal use of time and effort.”

“Will,” Logic began, his brow furrowing.

“I can go faster then you or Amanda in incorporeal form, ” Will continued as if oblivious to the warning look.

“Will, everything is unstable.”

“Which is exactly the reason why an aspect of the subconscious should scout ahead. In incorporeal form, I can check several routes without great risk to myself or the pathways.”

“Will, there is some logic in your suggestion, how -”

“I am pleased you agree,” Will interjected, allowing his lower half to begin fading.

“Will,” Logic said forcefully,” I do no-”

“Beast, do you want to accompany me?” Will asked, glancing his shoulder at the large sehlat. “I think Logic has exceeded the time he should be in your presence, he is becoming irritable.”

A growl of agreement came from behind. The Beast loped forward, rubbing enthusiastically against Amanda’s side as he passed her.

“Whoa there,” she cried with a half laugh. She stumbled sideways into Logic. Logic wrapped an arm around her back to steady her, releasing her once she had regained her balance.

Will’s legs had vanished and lower torso now had disappeared. Logic put his hand on Will’s shoulder to restrain him. “Will, I -”

“We will mark the trail whenever it branches so you know which one to take,” Will interjected, his upper torso now transparent.

“We should not separate, -”

“We will wait for you by the far side of the lava lake,” he continued as if he did not hear Logic. Will’s shoulders lost substance under Logic’s hand.

Beside him, Amanda whispered, “Lava lake?”

The last of Will’s shape wavered, losing colour before vanishing altogether. A breeze brushed over them as Will’s presence passed by. Logic was left holding nothing, his eyebrows deeply furrowed.

The Beast took off at a run, his body elongating and his glowing eyes growing till he was nothing but a roiling green and black streak ranging far ahead of them. They watched till he passed around a bend and was lost to sight.

“Did they just bail on us?” Amanda asked, her lips quirking upwards.

“Affirmative,” Logic agreed dryly. Folding his hands once more behind his back, he turned to face Amanda, “We should continue, there is still a long distance to go.”

“Alright,” Amanda agreed and fell in beside him.

They continued down the passage quietly. Logic was grateful for the silence and tried to compose his thoughts again. Even without the Beast present, he could not find his equilibrium.

He let out a measured breath that Amanda would call a sigh. It was not of course. Vulcan’s did not sigh. It was simply a meditative aid.

“What you have to tell me is really that difficult?” Amanda prompted.

“It is,” Logic answered quietly.

Her hands fidgeted with her trailing sleeves. “You know you can tell me anything right? Even if it is difficult, or if it would be...upsetting.”

“Amanda, it is not a lack of trust in you. This is a difficult topic. Vulcan’s do not discuss it at all, except at greatest need.”

“So sex is a social taboo?” Amanda asked. “I thought, well we have discussed that before...”

“Not sex...Pon Farr,” he choked out.

“Pon Farr?” came her query. “I don’t know that term.”

“You would not,” he agreed. “It is our greatest shame...the Pon Farr...the mating time. Every seven years it, our biology compels us to mate, we, I will have to - ” He stammered out before the tightness in his chest overcame him.

“Okay, so every seven years we have to mate,” Amanda summarised.

He was gratified that she included herself in her statement and inclined his head in assent.

“There must be more to it than that or you would not find this so difficult,” she surmised her fingers wrapped in blue cloth.

“That is apt. There are several ... complications.”

Amanda nodded, “I'm guessing that’s putting it mildly.”

“Indeed.” His jaw clenched as he mind drew him back to the last Pon Farr when an ion storm had delayed his return home. If his bondmate had not met them halfway...he shuddered.

“Why don't you start with the least distressing, ah, complication,” Amanda suggested when he did not resume.

“Very well.”

He considered, steepling his fingers behind his back. There was a myriad of difficulties that resulted from the Time. But there were three of particular concern.

“In the months preceding Pon Farr, our hormone levels begin to shift, and brain and body chemistry are altered. The ability to control the body and the mind is diminished. It takes an increasing amount of effort to retain control. Eventually, all logic is lost. All that remains is the desire to mate.”

Her face twitched in empathetic pain. “I can understand why that would be such a difficult thing for you.”

“To lose control is anathema to Vulcans,” he agreed.

She was quiet for a minute contemplating his revelation. Suddenly her head snapped up. “Wait. That's what you consider the least difficult? What could you consider to be worse than that? You are the aspect of Logic.”

Under normal circumstances, she would be correct. But his desire to involve a human in this matter provided new difficulties, new fears. Acknowledging this brought him a certain calm.

“You are aware that Vulcans do not lack emotion, rather we control them. Without control, Vulcans are irrational and violent creatures. It is compounded at the Time.” He glanced down to gauge her reaction. A crease in the bridge of her nose indicated she was thinking deeply, but she showed no signs of distress. “In the past males fought each other for the right to a female. To minimise this threat, Vulcans are telepathically bonded as children. Then at the proper Time, we are drawn to our bondmate.”

Amanda absent mindedly unwound the cloth she had knotted about her fingers. “Okay, that gives me some context for why Vulcans are partnered as children. But you said that only minimises the threat. Are there still fights sometimes?”

“You are perceptive Amanda. Fighting is uncommon now. But if a bondmate seeks another, the male will fight for the challenger for them.” He paused considering if he should tell her the rest. It would damage her view of Vulcans as a peaceful society. Yet if she was to take part in this, she deserved to know this too. “The fight is to the death and the female becomes the property of the victor.”

The look of shock and horror on her face confirmed his misgivings. “Property! Fights to the death! That's, that’s….Why?”

“We must do this Amanda even though it is barbaric. As a species, we allow it because our biology demands it. For if Pon Farr is not resolved, the male will die. And as the bond is at its height at this Time, his death can take his bondmate also. To die by Pon Farr is a horrendous death, the worst possible for a Vulcan.”

“Die!” she squeaked, her hand clenching tight where it held his arm. “You could die?”

“If you refuse, if you did not aid me, then I would die,” he agreed. A fatalistic calm sufficed him keeping his words steady.

Pulling him to a stop she whirled to face him. “I will not allow it. It came out in a snarl. I will -”

Though he greatly desired this pledge from her, he held up a finger to her lips to still her. “There is more you must know Amanda before you make any promises. “

Her eyes scrunched at the corners and she blinked rapidly. A sign he had learned meant she was trying to hold back tears.

“Amanda, Pon Farr is not sex as you would think of it, not making love. It is vigorous and demanding and the need goes on for days. Vulcans can continue for weeks without the need for food or water. Our bodies are capable of maintained activity for days without sleep. It is unlikely that in the time that I will comprehend that you have different needs. And while I would not seek to harm you, with my greater strength it is feasible that I will.”

He had closed his eyes during his revelation, unable to look at her. Now he opened them.

She stood rigid, her knuckles white where they held his arm. Her mouth stretched in into an o, her pupils dilated.

“Amanda,” he called concerned. “Amanda if this is too much for you, you can..leave. I will not force you to do this against your will.”

She took a shuddering breath and her eyes fixed on him. Very quietly, just at his threshold of hearing, she asked, “And what happens to you if I leave?”

“If I do not bond within the next few hours, the damage to the bonding centre will be permanent. It will propagate through the mindscape. Once the damage reaches critical levels I will die.”

She buried her head in his shoulder, and moisture seeped through his robe. He placed his hand on her back.

“This is why you would not bond with me even though...Why you wanted to wait.” Her voice was distraught.

“You needed to be informed first. I thought I would have sufficient time to teach you about my culture and then inform you of this. But I also needed to seek permission from my family, and they proved to be resistant.”

His own tension increased as he recalled the outright dismissal from his clan mother without even meeting Amanda. Then, when he had continued to see Amanda, the order she had sent forbidding him to bond without her approval. Within a day, his parents had started inundating him with dossiers of Vulcan woman with appropriate bloodlines. Encouraging him to make a logical choice, the Vulcan choice.

“It's why T'Pau wanted you to have a Vulcan bride,” Amanda added as if she read his thoughts.

“A significant part of the reason. She has others.”

If T’Rel’s words were true, T’Pau also wanted a powerful heiress of his bloodline. With Amanda, it was uncertain if a child was even possible. But that was no matter to him if he could have her.

She looked up at him with tear-streaked eyes and a stricken expression. “Would it be better for you to have a Vulcan mate?” Her voice quavered. “You are risking your life on me being able to do this.”

He pulled her tighter to him and brushed strands of dampened hair away from her face. “I can not bond with anyone else Amanda.”

“Because of our link? The proto-bond?” she murmured into his shoulder.

“We do have a partial bond already, but it would not have formed with just anyone. The katra was moved the first time I saw you. I knew then that you were my K'hat'n'dlawa and there could be no other. But you, Amanda, have a choice.”

“A choice to let you die now, or to have you die from Pon Farr!” She pounded her fists into his chest. “That isn't a choice.”

She still did not seem to comprehend the true danger.

“The choice, Amanda, is whether you avoid harm or put yourself at risk. Even if you do bond with me, I could still die from the damage T’Rel inflicted. It would be better if you -" the lump in his throat prevented further utterances.

“Better if I what? Left you to die?”

He nodded.

Her words had been full of pain but her eyes...He would do anything to end the torment there. “I want you to be safe. I can not bear if I was to cause you harm. You should -”

“No, stop.” Her determination radiated off her. “I can not simply walk away Sarek, no more than you could. I will not allow you to die. Not now, and not from Pon Farr.”

“Amanda, I could cause your death.” There was as much pain now in his own voice. For once he did not attempt to hide it.

She pressed her palms to his cheeks, tilting his head down until his forehead touched hers. “Then we will just have to find a way so that we both survive Sarek.”

She was sincere in her declaration and he did not wish to imply he doubted her. Yet he could not help but think that she would feel differently when she witnessed what Pon Farr was like...What Sarek was like. His shoulders drooped.

Again she seemed to read his thoughts. “Even if I feel differently, I will not choose differently. I will be there for you, now and always.” Her hand caught his and squeezed. “Do not doubt that.”

A small bloom of hope warmed him. Perhaps...

He crushed it. Hope would only weaken his resolve.

He must tell her to go, demand it. He would not risk her further. He looked into her eyes.

“Let us continue then,” was what he ended up saying.

Her smile of agreement was a dagger to his heart.

They continued down the pathway, her hand still firmly gripping his. A wave of affection for Amanda rolled over him. She had not shied away from him with the revelation of Pon Farr.

But their path now was a difficult one. Once she understood the Fires, felt the heat beneath her skin as if her blood itself ran flame, she would turn away.

But not yet, not yet. He would have her for a small time longer.

He stroked his fingers against hers.

It was enough. It would have to be enough.

Chapter Text

You've run so long
You've run so far

Within You, David Bowie

Ch 20 Run

-AMANDA-

Amanda paused. There was a weird vibration through her sandals.

There it was again, a definite quiver.

A low pitched rumble began in the distance, rapidly intensifying. Logic grabbed her shoulders and pulled her to a crouch. Amanda let out a startled cry as the ground lurched under them.

Lights flickered overhead, the floor pitched again. Streams of sand fell from the ceiling, then small stones, and finally, chunks of brick. Logic let out a grunt when a fist-sized piece struck him on the back.

The floor settled all at once and the noise receded to the slight hissing of falling sand. The lights returned to a steady, albeit dimmer, glow.

Amanda lowered her hand from her ears. "What was that?" She asked shaken.

"The bonding sickness causes rapid misfiring of neurons, what we perceive as mind-quakes," Logic answered as he helped her to her feet. "The quakes cause decay and eventually collapse of the neural pathways."

He examined her intently for a moment, then he reached up and brushed his fingers over hair, dislodging a trickle of sand.

Amanda returned the favour, brushing her fingers across his hair and shoulders. Their joint efforts swirled up a cloud of dust around them irritating her sinuses. She sneezed.

"It was a relatively minor quake but there will be more. We should exit the pathways before the next quake collapses the damaged sections," Logic said calmly as if they were not currently in such a damaged section.

"Next one?" Amanda queried with the right amount of concern evident for actually being in a damaged section. "Exactly how likely…"

"The quakes will continue until the bonding sickness is resolved. I can not predict the timing with any degree of accuracy. But an hour at best, minutes at worst."

Amanda glanced at the new cracks that cut through the walls and ceiling. A few still streamed sand. She did not want to be here if another quake hit. "Let's run."

They fell into a fast jog, Logic a silent companion by her side. Amanda's sandals slapped against the floor. Her breath sounded harsh and loud in the otherwise quiet pathway. Dodging accumulating piles of sand and jumping over debris became routine.

Amanda looked for exit options, surely there must be a way out of this? But there were no turns, no openings, no anything.

Logic moved tirelessly beside her. But her breath was starting to come hard in her chest. Could she keep up this pace? She had to.

She dug deep, found a little more speed, only to stagger over a chunk of brick hidden under the edge of a pile of sand. She let out of hmpf in surprise and wheeled her arms trying to stop her fall. It wasn't quite enough.

She hit the floor with a thump and a groan. She lay stunned for a second and tried to catch her breath.

Logic approached her side, running his hands over her as he checked for injury. Then he helped her to her feet, her legs feeling slightly shaky under her, a bruise already blooming on her right knee.

"Is there a way out of this path?" she wheezed. "It just goes on and on?"

"This pathway is full of exits, we just need to find the one Will has marked."

"I haven't seen any," Amanda replied with a frown.

Logic raised an eyebrow. "There is one right across from you." Logic jerked his head to the right, his bangs swooshed across his forehead.

Amanda looked at the right wall but did not see an opening. "There's nothing there, it's just a wall."

"Stretch your hand out," Logic instructed.

She did so and took a few steps closer to the wall. Her hand passed through it, the rest of her followed. "Hey, it's an optical illusion." Amanda now stood on a narrow path that paralleled their pathway behind the wall. She could see other exits further down.

"Can we take this?' she called back. "The stonework here looks undamaged, it might be safer."

"We could if necessary, but Will would have indicated if this was the one we should take. We should continue down the main path if you are recovered."

"Yes, of course," she replied, annoyed with herself for becoming distracted.

Logic took her hand as she exited the hidden entry. She entwined her fingers with his and she smiled as the hum of his presence strengthened in her mind. Without speaking, they settled back into a run.

At firse wall and closed his eyes briefly. "It is," he said followed by a slight 'hmm' indicating his displeasure.

Amanda groaned.

They edged around the puddle, backs pressed against the wall. Logic led the way, his hand stretched back to continue holding hers.

With her free hand, Amanda pinched her nostrils shut. The fumes in the confined space were enough to sting her eyes and forced her to blink rapidly.

They entered a passage of a pale red stone unmarked by cracks. As the moved away from the entry, her eyes stopped tearing and she risked removing her hand from her nose. Her nose crinkled in protest. Argh. "I will be having words with both of those rascals when we catch up to them."

"As will I," Logic promised, looking like an annoyed cat with the slight narrowing of his eyes. "I expect the unsatisfactory method was laziness on Will's part." A flicker of disapproval quirked Logic's lips for a fraction of a second. "Will must take his corporeal form to physically interact with the environment. Instead of manifesting, he allowed the Beast to mark the route. It likely amused the two of them."

Amanda imagined the Beast making his growly chortle, while Will leaned against him giggling insensibly. The mental image made her mouth tug up at the corners despite her annoyance at the pair.

The passage widened and they returned to a run with their hands clasped together. It was at most a few minutes before the smell increased again. Ahead the passage split into three, the middle path bearing 'the mark of the Beast'. Amanda moved towards it with a sigh, resigned to another stinky crossing.

"Wait," Logic instructed. He placed his hand against the wall and closed his eyes as he had done before. "I would prefer to take the tunnel to the left. I do not comprehend why...Now I understand, that pathway has collapsed up ahead." He moved a briefly placed his hands against the other entries. "The middle one is indeed the best option out of those remaining."

This entry was too narrow to skirt around the edges of the puddle. Logic jumped over it easily and held out a hand towards her. Amanda took a running leap, holding her breath as she flew over.

She landed awkwardly. Her breath came out in a whoosh and she rocked back on her heels. Logic gripped her elbow and steadied her, preventing her from tipping backwards.

Oh, she would definitely be having words with Will and the Beast. Possibly with some creative cursing and inappropriate gestures thrown in if any part of her made contact with one of their 'markers'.

They kept as much speed as possible down the tightly winding path of grey brick. Logic took the lead when the path narrowed to the point they could not walk side by side. Soon after, the path narrowed again and they were forced to continue sideways at a slower pace. As the walls closed in further, she began to feel the scrape of rough brick against her back.

"If you can tell which is the best path, why did Will need to go ahead?" Amanda asked irritably.

"I know the pathways but I can only sense immediate damage. If the pathways are impassable after a branching point or junction, I would be unaware until we reached it. We would be forced to backtrack to determine the route," Logic explained, his voice sounding flat in the confined space.

"So sending the others ahead will save us some time?" Amanda asked, slightly mollified.

Perhaps she wouldn't yell at them. Or, at least, not for long. Just until they looked a little guilty about those puddles.

Logic let out a huff of air as he squeezed himself into an especially narrow part of the passage. "Their exploring may expedite our journey. However, it is essential that I check that the route remains clear after the mind-quake. If any of the pathways have collapsed, we will need to take another route"

Grunting, she pushed herself in behind him. The walls pressed tightly against her chest and back but she managed to inch forward.

"Why did Will go ahead then?" Amanda asked confused. "Did he not understand we might not be able to follow them?"

Another not sigh from Logic. "Perhaps to avoid our discussion. Will acknowledged that our conversation was necessary but made it known that he did not wish to be the one to speak to you."

"Wouldn't that discussion be harder for you though?" Amanda asked, wincing when she whacked her ankle on the corner of a protruding brick.

Logic cocked an eyebrow. "One of Will's function is the Will to Live. He is especially active in this role during the Time. I have not discussed it with him, but having to survive through it may be worse than my own experience of ceasing to be."

"Hmmm," she considered. "It could be that I suppose. But Will is also the source of your determination isn't he? Doesn't it seem a little odd that he would run from a conversation that he agreed needed to take place?"

Logic stopped suddenly and Amanda nearly bumped into him.

"His behaviour is divergent from normal," Logic admitted before continuing his sideways crawl. "Will, in particular, suffered due to T'Rel. While she harmed the rest of us, she tortured him. He came very close to breaking. He may be avoiding difficult actions when they are not required for survival."

Logic's tone was completely deadpan as if what he had said did not affect him. Yet Logic was much like Sarek in mannerism. And Sarek only lost all inflexion when he must apply rigorous control to hide how distressed he actually was.

"Oh, I...will he be okay?" Amanda asked concerned.

Logic took a deep breath as if he needed to steady himself.

Perhaps Will would not recover.

It was not fair! Sarek had done nothing to deserve this. A tear trickled down her cheek though she held back the sob that wanted to join it.

If only she had reached Sarek a little sooner, she might have prevented at least some of his suffering. She scrubbed her palm across her face smudging tears across her dirty face.

"He improved significantly once he realised you were here," Logic said gently.

"He did?" she asked glancing up at his face.

"You gave him hope," Logic affirmed.

She managed a weak smile. "I did?"

"You gave us all hope."

"Even you?"

"Yes," he answered simply but Amanda's breath caught at the tenderness of his expression.

Logic seemed unable to maintain that level of intimacy. He glanced quickly over his other shoulder. "The tunnel exits ahead," Logic announced as he started to slide forward again.

"Good! I'll be glad to get out of this. Will there be any more confined spaces after this?"

"Difficult to predict. This is not a normal configuration for a pathway, the walls have been warped, probably by the last mind-quake. We are fortunate that it still passable."

Amanda shuddered as she imagined being crushed between moving walls. "Not very safe."

"No," he agreed. "There are no longer any safe paths to the bonding centre Amanda. There are only those that are less perilous."

Logic grunted as he pushed out of from between the walls. He was out of sight for a moment, then poked his face back in the exit. "There is a junction here Amanda," he called back, his voice echoing slightly. "I will check our options." He took a few steps and then disappeared from her view.

Amanda considered the exit. Not only was this the narrowest section yet, but grey bricks protruded at all angles. How had Logic made it through that?

She sucked in her breath and wriggled vigorously. Damn, she couldn't move.

What would happen if she got stuck here? What if there were another quake before she made it out? Her pulse beat loudly in her ears.

Amanda took a few deep breaths. Logic was nearby and would help her if she needed it, no need to panic. Where was she stuck? She tried to move again and glanced down where she felt the tug. There. Her trailing dress had caught around one of the bricks.

She slid partially down between the walls and managed to tug the fabric free, skinning her knuckle in the process. "Ow," she muttered to herself.

With the scrape of rock against her skin, she pushed out from among the stones. Groaning with effort, she pushed out her head and shoulders, then wiggled her hips and legs through

She stepped out into a round room of smooth white quartz shot with pink, the floor lined with pale white cobbles. Four other doors were present, the five openings arranged symmetrically around the circle. Three of those other doors were illuminated, the forth was dark.

Logic stood with his back to her, his hand against the entry of a lit door.

Standing in the middle of the room, she turned in a circle looking at their choices. It was the dark pathway that was marked. She ambled towards it.

The darkness shrouded not just the path but the doorway as well. Amanda picked up a loose stone from the floor and tossed it through the dark door. She didn't hear it land.

A step to the side to avoid the Beasts puddle, and another forward and she stood with her toes at the edge of the darkness. It was a hardline in front of her as if the light could not cross it.

She looked into the entry but could see nothing beyond the line. She reached her hand out, it tingled unpleasantly and all the hairs on arms stood up. Her fingers went instantly numb as they crossed into the darkness.

"AMANDA, COME AWAY FROM THERE," Logic commanded, as his feet pounded across the floor.

Amanda startled at his volume but stepped back. Her outstretched hand came back reluctantly as if she drew it from something viscous like thick oil. Logic pulled her away further then lifted her hand to examine it. In addition to the skinned knuckles, her hand appeared white as if the skin was frost burnt.

She made a distressed noise when she couldn't move her fingers.

Logic discerned her problem and rubbed her hand vigorously between both of his. Pins and needles flooded through her hand. Then a little colour came back and the fingers started to move stiffly when she bent them.

"I thought, isn't this the way we need to go?" she asked shakily.

Even Logic looked troubled, his lips pressed together in a thin line. "It was the way Will and the Beast travelled but we can not follow. That is a failed pathway, Amanda. It no longer exists."

She placed her other hand on his chest. "What would have happened if … if I had walked in there?"

"You would have suffered a great deal of damage and if you were not thrown out of the meld you would have died." His words were deadpan again. She had definitely worried him.

"Good to know, let's not go that way," she said lightly as she tried to dispel the clawing panic.

"Indeed not." Logic took a deep breath. "I should have warned you, Amanda. I failed to realise you were ignorant of the danger."

He was apologising in his own way. She nodded her acceptance even though she didn't think it was his fault. While a warning would have been nice, if she had taken a moment more to think about it, she would have realised it was a bad idea all on her own.

"I should know better than to stick my limbs into a dark abyss. Sorry for scaring you."

The fact that he just inclined his head and did not attempt to correct her emotional term let her know just how much she had rattled him.

Time to change the topic.

"So, did you figure out which of the paths we should take?"

"I have narrowed it down to two." He led her by the hand to the next door around the circle. Apparently, he was taking no chances with her wandering off again.

"This one is passable, it joins another junction much further on. It goes nearly the same direction as the failed path. There is at least one junction before it exits the network. I can not tell from here where those paths lead or if they remain accessible."

He led her to the next path. The lights were noticeably dimmer here and large chunks of bluish stone littered the floor.

"This one has suffered damage that gets progressively worse along the route. I can not sense the far end and I suspect it would prove impassable."

They moved to stand in front of the last one. "This one is passable and leads directly out of the pathways but not in a direction I would prefer."

"Do you know where it goes?" Amanda asked.

"Somewhere in the subconscious. It is not an area I have visited. Will or the Beast would know, it is their territory," Logic answered

Amanda grimaced. "And they marked the path in nearly the opposite direction. They obviously didn't think that was a good place for us to go."

Logic inclined his head in agreement. "This is my thought too. Yet the other functional path is far longer and I am unable to determine the routes after the junction."

"So a short path that goes somewhere we probably don't want to go but at least out of the pathways or longer path that goes who knows where?"

"Precisely."

"So any preference to which one we should take?"

"Without further information, it is difficult to make a choice." A small furrow in his brow indicated his displeasure at not having an answer.

Amanda considered their options. "Well if we need to explore anyway, it makes sense to take this one," she pointed to the one in front of them. "It's the shortest distance if we need to backtrack and potentially gets us out of the network the quickest. You did say we should get out of the pathways before the next quake."

"That is logical," he agreed.

Amanda headed towards the path but stopped when Logic's hold on her hand acted like an anchor.

She turned to face him. He looked tense. "Logic is there something about this path you don't like?"

"Nothing I can be certain of."

"Do you think we should take the other path?"

He hesitated. "No, your logic was sound. It is best to attempt this one first."

"Then we should go."

"Yes," he agreed. Still, he hesitated.

She squeezed his hand. "You want to take the other path."

"Rather, I do not want to take this one. Yet, I can not adequately explain why."

Amanda shrugged. "Perhaps you are sensing some danger without being fully aware of it. I trust your judgement. We'll take the other path."

His muscle relaxed and he allowed her to lead him towards the other path. They had reached the centre of the room when the floor shifted violently.

"Down," Logic commanded, pulling Amanda into a crouch again. He leaned over her, covering her with his own body to protect her from the threat of falling debris. She buried her face in his chest.

There was a loud boom as something crashed close behind them, the displaced air knocked them to the ground. Amanda fell heavily on her hip. The shaking ceased and they rapidly got to their feet.

"Are you alright," Amanda asked, then began coughing from the dust in the air.

"I am unharmed," he replied, his eyes scanning her, no doubt to ensure her own well being.

The boom had originated from they the path Logic had called impassable. A large section of the ceiling had come down blocking the route completely. The path they had come from, the walls had pushed even closer together. It too was out.

On their left, the path Logic wished to take had taken damage. Parts of the path were now obscured by darkness, the remaining lights flickered rapidly. There was enough light to see there had been at least a partial collapse.

An aftershock rippled through the walls and the floor tilted. Both of them were knocked back off their feet. Amanda cried out as she slid on her belly towards the failed path along the sloping floor.

Amanda jerked to a halt as Logic grabbed her heel. She looked over her shoulder to see that he had his heels dug into the ground, and his free hand affixed to a gap between the cobbles. She scrabbled for purchase with her own hands and feet and found tiny cracks to support some of her weight.

Another aftershock rocked them. She watched as the pathway they had come from cracked off from the junction with a grinding snap. The floor began to tip in the opposite direction.

As the floor almost flattened, Logic staggered to a crouch, pulling Amanda up with him. He struggled towards his chosen path with the flickering lights.

They got two steps towards it when all the lights in the room they were in went out.

But a few lights dim lights flickered still in the path they had angled for. She turned her head to look at the short tunnel. The lights from that one blazed brightly in contrast.

Amanda shouted at Logic to turn back but her voice was lost amidst the sound of tortured stones. She pushed his shoulder and pointed backwards.

He shook his head no. He managed one more step upward on the now upsloping floor, before the few lights that remained burned out with bright sparks. The now dark pathway disengaged from the junction with a sound like metal tearing. Another black void was left in its wake.

No choice now. This time Logic allowed her to tug him back and they staggered down towards the only remaining pathway. When they reached the still solid entry, Logic pushed Amanda onto the landing. The noise was immediately lessened, the floor more steady. When Logic remained standing on the threshold gazing around the room she yanked him in after her.

For an instant he seemed startled, then he shouted, "Run!"

They ran. Her in front, but with her hand reached back to grasp his to make sure he followed. They ran harder as the floor shook and the lights began to dim above them.

Amanda fell forward as the floor shook violently. She rose, staggered a few steps and fell again. Blood and dust covered her knees. Logic swept her up in his arms as he ran past.

The ceiling was coming apart! Chunks of brick the size of fists rained down. Amanda cried out as she received a glancing blow across the top of her head. The lights flickered out.

Without the lights from above, she noticed a doorway outlined in redish light. It must be the exit. They were going to make it!

A large section of the wall split and fell into their path. Logic jumped and clambered over it before it even finished hitting the ground. A moment later the ceiling collapsed on top of it with a deafening crash. Dust filled the air and she couldn't see but Logic was still moving forward.

The sudden heat and light hit her like a punch. Sweat immediately began building on her skin. Amanda threw an arm up over her face and squinted her eyes attempted to adjust to the brilliant sunlight. She made out red sand and dunes, another desert.

Logic ran across the flat expanse of sand until he reached a dune. He sank and slipped in the looser sand as he ran up its side. Abruptly, he stopped and whirled to face where they had come.

For a brief time, the outline of a door wavered in the air. Then a blast of dust and crushed rock burst out of it with a reverberating boom. A moment later she felt the air rush past her in a cool dusty wave. The doorway vanished, leaving only chunks of broken stone in a semi-circle on the sand to indicate where it had once been.

They would not be returning that way.

Chapter Text

Thunder or lightning
Something frightening

Dance Magic Dance - David Bowie

Chapter 21: Thunder and Lightning

- LOGIC -

Amanda shouted but it was unintelligible over the sound of warping stone. Logic kept moving, leaning forward as the floor now sloped steeply upwards in his direction of travel. Amanda thumped his shoulder. Logic glanced back at her and she pointed to the short pathway. He shook his head. Not that one.

One more step upward and the few lights remaining in the passage above him flared out. The now dark pathway disengaged from the junction with a sound like metal tearing. The darkness took on a deeper black as the void formed across the entry.

Unable to process what had happened he took another step forward. Amanda tugged him backwards, one hand pulling at his robes, her void damaged hand still firmly grasped in his.

The void! What was he doing, dragging Amanda towards another void? Logic stopped moving forward and looked around them. The junction was collapsing around them, Amanda would be crushed if she stayed here.

This time he allowed Amanda to tug him around and lead him to the remaining door. He pushed Amanda past the threshold out of immediate harm. Logic did not know what caused him to be wary but he could not make himself enter after her.

Gazing rapidly around the shaking junction, Logic sought once more for an alternative. There was none; the mindquake had indeed removed all other options. Amanda's unrelenting grip gave a sudden pull and he stepped over the threshold. There was a significant decrease in the noise and shaking but no event of concern. He released a breath.

The threshold creaked in warning as the twisting junction strained its moorings.

"Run!" he shouted.

The pathway was too narrow to travel side by side. Amanda took the lead, her hand reaching back to hold his outstretched one. Together they gained speed even as this pathway began to shake. Lights dimmed, spurts of dust fell from the ceiling, a collapse was imminent.

A sudden jerk of the floor sent them flying apart. He stumbled into the wall. Amanda fell forward onto her knees with an exclamation of pain.

Larger streams of dust fell and many flickering lights went dark. Amanda rose and made a couple of pained steps before falling again. Scooping her into his arms, Logic broke into a sprint.

A piece of brick stuck his shoulder. A second glanced off his back. Amanda yelped and her body flinched in his arms. She curled up tighter and he leaned forward to provide what protection he could. He ignored the debris that continued to strike him.

The last ceiling lights flared out above them but it was not complete darkness; ahead, the light of day illuminated the shape of a door and the path immediately in front of it.

The pathway shuddered again and the wall alongside them fractured. A huge slab of it broke away and toppled inward in front of them. Logic bolted up and over it. He sprung off the far edge of the slab and hit the ground on the other side at a run. A boom followed as the slab hit the floor. Dust obscured the air.

As Logic stepped into the light the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. There was a mindshield across the exit. Logic's apprehension grew. There was something important, something he should -

The noise from behind them magnified to a painful crescendo as the remaining ceiling and walls thundered down. Nowhere else for them to go.

Logic stretched out his mental protections so they completely encased Amanda. His skin crawled when his protections met the shield. But once he took a step into the barrier, it wrapped around him and forced him through in a rapid blur.

They emerged to a shock of hot dry air. The blinding red light snapped his inner eyelids shut. Even so, it was still uncomfortably bright. Amanda moaned softly and threw one arm across her face to shield her eyes.

The sand around the vicinity of the door quivered as the pathway it anchored to continued to twist. Logic continued his sprint away from the exit across the hot sand, the footing becoming more steady with each step.

Towering red dunes surrounded them in all directions. Logic ran towards the nearest one. As he began his ascent up the steep side of the dune, loosely packed sand resisted his motion. Logic put increasing amounts of energy into his sprint to maintain it. A burning pain started at his feet and spread into a cramp at his calves. His lungs strained at the exertion in the thin dusty air.

As he gained height, Logic observed more of the territory. A desert erg lay before him. Windblown dunes of massive height stretched out in all directions. They lay unnaturally close together with thin shadowed valleys between them. Above them, the red sun blazed in a golden sky. The horizon was hazed orange by suspended dust and wavered with heat haze. To the West, the sky was a solid red. A sand storm in progress. An electrical discharge flashed illuminating the storm from within.

Logic recoiled. Not a storm, the Storm.

They should never have come.

Logic whirled around. If he could force their way back through the barrier, get past the rubble then -

Dust and debris exploded outward from the passage. A shockwave of cool dusty air washed past them. The image of the door wavered in the air as the seams of the mindscape sealed around it. Not even a void was left behind.

The moment the doorway vanished, Logic's connection to the conscious mind shattered in an agonising burst.

Cut-off, cut-off, cut-off!

Logic fell to his knees and lost his grip on Amanda. She tumbled out of his arms onto the sand. He pressed both hands to his head in a futile attempt to dull the pain.

Hands gripped his shoulders. "Logic?" Amanda called. Other sounds followed but they had no meaning.

His corporeal form started to disintegrate. Logic collapsed back on the hot sand as his lower body lost integrity. He screamed and writhed as parts of his body were violently torn from him.

A soothing coolness flowed through his cheek. As it swept through his body, the sensation of being ripped apart ceased. His body still shook with pain though not with the same level of agony as before. It took him some time to recall how to open his eyes. When he did, Amanda's worried face peered down at him.
"Are you alright?" Amanda asked, a hitch in her voice.

She had at some point lifted his head onto her lap, the fingers of one hand rested on the meld points across his cheek.

"I - do - not - know," Logic panted out. His breathing continued to come in small gasps. He could not control it, he could not control anything. A small cry escaped his lips.

"Just breathe, I've got you," Amanda promised. "I'm not letting go. Now breathe in," she inhaled, "And out," she exhaled, then repeated the process.

Following her instructions, his inhales and exhales gradually came to match hers. Some control regained, he calmed. Lifting his head he checked for damage.

Though it throbbed with pain, his right leg appeared to be missing. Logic attempted to twitch his right foot and the sand stirred where it should lie. Completely transparent, it would not bear any weight. His left leg was translucent, the sand partially visible through it. His upper body appeared more solid but still lacked complete opaqueness. Examination complete, he let his head sag back down in Amanda's lap.

It appeared that he was trapped between his corporeal and incorporeal state without sufficient energy to shift to either. This was concerning on its own, but he could sense that the painful transition had only been suspended. If Amanda released her hold on him it would resume.

Logic had always found the transition to incorporeal form difficult, and, unlike subconscious aspects, he could not change instantly. But it had never been painful, certainly not like being torn limb from limb. This involuntary transition had been destructive and it was improbable that he would have survived.

Amanda had halted the progression but he did not understand how. Knowing the mechanism and being able to control would be vital to his continued survival and, given the danger present here, Amanda's as well.

Lifting a shaky hand he placed his fingers against Amanda's cheek seeking answers. The light passed through his semi-translucent arm making it glow green. When his weakened arm trembled, Amanda pressed her other hand over his holding him steady.

Logic focused his mind on her. He discovered a thin thread of connection between them that was transmitting a minute amount of energy. It was just enough to keep him in his current state.

It was not the proto-bond, this weak thread connected Amanda directly to Logic. That was not something Amanda should have been able to initiate. So how?

Logic traced the energy and was initially confused when it focused most intently on his person. Locating the source, he lifted his other arm. His sleeve slid back revealing a blue gem.

Of course! The sapphire had been a part of Amanda's psychic form and was now a part of his. He had forged the connection and used it to find her. It now tied his aspect directly to her.

The sapphire had accumulated a small reserve of power. He drew on it and the gem glowed a brilliant blue. The arm that bore it regained full opacity from his fingers to his shoulder and all pain there dissipated. He wiggled the fingers testing them. Full motion.

"That seemed promising," Amanda said looking down over first his arm then the rest of his body. "Can you finish it?"

"No," he rasped.

The gems reserves were emptied. Cut off from his own source of energy he was now completely reliant on Amanda. With adequate time the thin connection might provide the energy to reverse his fading. But every second spent in this region risked discovery. They could not wait, he required a stronger connection.

Logic leaned up on his solid elbow and with effort, pushed himself up to sitting. He wobbled. Amanda's released his hand and wrapped an arm around his back providing enough support to keep him upright.

"Amanda, I need - strengthen link," he croaked, sentences unusually difficult to form.

"Alright," she consented. "Whatever you need."

When he opened up the connection, Amanda gasped and her flinch knocked their temples together. He grabbed her wrist with his good hand to prevent her from releasing his meld points.

"Hurts," she whimpered.

"Forgive me, you are - sharing my pain, it will be - temporary. I need -," his words faltered the concepts he wanted to explain too difficult to express in his current state.

" 'Kay," she agreed between clenched teeth. "Do it."

As he began the process of strengthening their tie, Amanda made small cries of pain but did not attempt to pull away again. The connection contracted, centring on Amanda's cerebral cortex. Amanda began to sob.

He flexed his fingers, prepared to withdraw. He could not do this to her.

"No, keep going," she ordered him through clenched teeth, "You need to finish this."

So he did, though he regretted her suffering. The connection focused sharply and the new link sent its roots through Amanda's frontal lobe. As it made connections the link between them began to flow. The gem let out a brilliant flash of blue that illuminated them both. The pain ceased as his body regained full solidity and much of his prior strength. The gem continued to glow with a pale light.

Logic released his fingers from Amana's cheek and his hold from her wrist. Amanda sagged against him with a sigh. Drawing her limp form close against him, he kissed Amanda's temple. Her mouth curved upward in a wan smile.

"Have what you need?" Amanda asked wearily.

"I do. When the pathway sealed, my connection to Sarek's consciousness was severed. The link between us is providing energy for me to continue functioning," he explained.

"Good. I was afraid I was going to lose you for a bit there." Amanda closed her eyes.

On the horizon, another flash of forked lightning lit up the horizon. Thunder rumbled towards them increasing in intensity. The small hairs on the back of Logic's neck stood up as the sound washed over them. If the thunder was audible, the Storm had moved closer.

"We must leave this place," he urged as he staggered up to his feet. "The Storm is approaching we are too exposed here." He offered Amanda his hand and began to pull her up. Her legs collapsed under her in the loose sand. Logic caught her before she fell.

"Logic, I can't," she whispered, her distress and exhaustion etched into her face.

Logic picked her up once more. Cradling her in his arms he began his way down the side of the dune.

"Bad?" she questioned tiredly, glancing over his shoulder at the Storm.

"Extremely. We must find a route out of this area, or at minimum, a shelter from the wind and electrical discharges the Storm will bring."

He was uncertain where such a place would be, but they could not linger here. Perhaps the collapse of the pathway had attracted it or possibly it had sensed them. Regardless of the reason, the Storm headed this way and it must not find them.

As he descended the dune, Logic mentally mapped out the route he intended to travel. The dunes here were reshaped by the ever-blowing wind on a timescale not possible in a real desert erg. Travelling would require navigation of a dangerous maze of shifting sand. Keeping his bearing would be difficult and require periodic checks of their position. They must also continue to check for shelter and track the progress of the Storm.

Reaching the valley between two dunes he entered into the thin ribbon of shade the dropped the temperature several degrees. The sand was denser here than on the slopes and he commenced a swift jog.

Amanda yawned. "Rest now," he told her. She laid her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes with a small sigh. Her drowsy mind shifted snuggly against their connection before settling into a deeper sleep. The flow of energy shifted further towards him.

So trusting. So willing to share all she had with him. It had always been so with her. With regret, he realised that the same could not be said of him.

At their very first meeting, the Katra had recognised her as k'hat'n'dlawa, its other half. It had stirred from the bonding nexus and reached for her. The Beast immediately yearned for her. The Warrior vowed to protect her. Will found a renewed purpose that had been lacking since their bondmate died. The Healer had to be reminded to utilise bio-controls. It was Shon-ha lock. 'Love at first sight', as Amanda would call it.

But Logic had resisted the engulfment.

It was not that he did not care for Amanda or found her in any way to be unworthy. Logic greatly valued Amanda's companionship, had rapidly come to respect and admire her. He would cherish her as a bondmate. But from the beginning, he had predicted that she would not remain his. Either she would leave him, finding some aspect of Sarek's Vulcan nature incompatible, or his family would compel him to leave her.

When T'Pau had forced Sarek back to Vulcan, Logic had not thought to see Amanda again. Logic could not have anticipated that Amanda would find a way to follow him to Vulcan and convince T'Pau to allow their bonding. The others had not doubted. Will had called her, and she had come.

Logic had made so many errors in judgement and held so much back from her. All based on the false premise that Amanda would not remain part of his life. But Amanda had proved her commitment.

Amanda would not leave him. She would never give up.

Amanda was his.

The knowledge soothed him and his doubts faded. The engulfment rose up once more and he willing let it claim him.

He was hers.

A simple assertion, yet it changed everything.

Logic finally understood why Amanda had entered the meld with so little chance of saving him. Understood why she had repeatedly refused to leave. Understood why she continued to risk everything.

He would do the same for her.

Logic gazed down at the woman sleeping in his arms. Covered in dirt and sweat, exhausted, injured all on Sarek's behalf. He must do what he could to be worthy of her.

A rumble of thunder drew his full attention back to his surroundings. The sound was louder despite the extra distance he had travelled. He waited for the echoes to die down then climbed up the shaded side of the nearest dune. The soft sand slipped down the slope where his feet disturbed it.

The Storm obscured a great deal more of the sky, it was nearly at the clearing already. Even if it did not yet know of their presence, they could not indefinitely evade the Storm in its own territory. They must locate another way out of this region as soon as possible.

The dunes which they had traversed almost concealed the clearing from which they had come. He turned in a circle and found nothing but more dunes. If there were other exits they could well be hidden. Locating one did not seem likely.

Will would have been more capable here. He could alter the mindscape to his whims especially in the subconscious. When he wanted changes, Will assumed what he wanted was there and it was. Perhaps Will could have created a doorway to another region. At the minimum, he would have been able to form a shelter.

In the conscious mind, something was either there or it was not. Things could be shifted, the balance changed, but creation from nothing was impossible. A conscious aspect like Logic could not comprehend the change inherent in the subconscious and could not manipulate it.

But perhaps Amanda could. She often favoured intuition and was exceptionally creative. If she could somehow be brought to think what they sought was already there…

Simply explaining the situation to her would not be sufficient. She would need to believe without reservation for the changes to take place. Deception on his part was not an option either. Amanda would recognise any prevarication especially with the link between them.

While he did not know there was a shelter, he could accept Amanda could create one. He would not be lying if he told her she would find one. He disliked withholding the information from her but, in this instance, it appeared to be necessary. He would explain all once they were outside of the reach of the Storm. An acceptable compromise.

"Amanda, wake up now," he called gently, tugging mentally on the link between them at the same time.

Her eyes opened into a squint. "Hmm?" she questioned sleepily.

"I require your assistance in locating a shelter or a pathway out of this region. There will be something suited to our purpose nearby," he explained with care.

Amanda lifted her face from where it pressed against his shoulder and shielded her eyes with one hand. "It's difficult to see anything in this bright sun," she muttered. Squinting she kept searching. "All I see is a lot of sand. Logic are you sure there is something out there?"

This would not work if she remained sceptical. "You should see a place of safety nearby," he confirmed, sending his conviction that she would find it down their link.

As Amanda returned her gaze to the dunes, Logic closed his eyes so his own impressions did not lock the mindscape in place. Logic felt the energy between them shift back to Amanda.

"No, I - Wait, maybe. There's something over there," Amanda said. As her hesitancy approached certainty, he felt the energy they shared rush outward. Something was happening.

"How does it appear to you?" he asked, his eyes still closed.

"There are rocks jutting out behind those dunes maybe a mile or so off. It might offer some protection from the wind at least. Is that what you were searching for or should I keep looking?"

Logic opened his eyes and followed her pointing finger. If he had been a different aspect he would have smiled. He had only a partial view, but the standing stones had not been there before. She had done it.

"That is precisely what we require. We will head to the Stones. I will return between the dunes now, there is some shade there."

Thunder rolled over them as he clambered down the loose side of the dune. Again, the sound had increased in intensity.

Amanda shivered. "The thunder sounds odd."

"How so," he asked curiously.

"It sounded almost like, well like laughter," she answered awkwardly.

Logic felt a sudden chill down his spine, particularly odd in this heat. The Storm may have sensed the change Amanda had made to its territory and if so would be aware of their presence and perhaps their current location. It would delight in hunting intruders.

He considered what Amanda might be capable of doing, what changes she might make. It was doubtful she could influence the Storm in any way to their benefit, it was far too powerful. It was more likely that she would inadvertently draw its attention directly to them. As further changes should be avoided, some information was in order.

"The Storm, like everything here, is a part of Sarek's mindscape, it is not a mere weather phenomenon, Amanda," Logic informed her.

"You mean it's like you?" she asked incredulously.

"In a sense. It is not of the same order as an aspect, it is less complex being. I would refer to it as an instinct."

Amanda went still. "What kind of instinct takes the form of a storm?"

Logic hesitated. He preferred not to acknowledge the Storm's nature yet she deserved to know what they faced. "It is a destructive instinct. It seeks the end of all things," Logic explained neutrally.

Amanda was quiet for a time and he was concerned that he had frightened or repulsed her. He made it to the valley floor and began to jog, his best pace noticeably slower than before he had climbed the dune.

"Humans may have something similar," she offered quietly. "I remember learning about the death drive in my psychology class. It's supposed to contribute to both aggressive and self-destructive behaviours. I never expected to be meeting the Vulcan version."

"I would prefer that you did not," Logic replied. "If I had been aware of where the path led, I would not have brought you here."

"There wasn't much of a choice at the end Logic, I understand that. But I think you knew something was wrong, you really didn't want to travel this way."

"I sensed something, but I could not determine what. The Storm was contained around the same time I was formed, I have only vague impressions of it and have never had cause to seek it out. There was also a shield securing the exit that may have prevented a clearer reading."

Amanda was quiet again. Finally, she asked, "So what now?"

"The Storm is still some distance away and it may not know our position," he offered. "You have located a region of safety to which I am heading. For now, you should continue to rest."

"Okay," Amanda agreed though with some unease. She lay her head back down but remained awake her eyes narrow slits.

Logic wound around dunes, heading directly as possible towards the standing stones. Amanda's use of energy to change the mindscape had reduced what he had to work with. The jog he had started was now reduced to a brisk walk. Even this slower pace was taxing.

The wind gave a hot blast, knocking sand from the tops of the dunes. He crouched low, directly behind the dune that showered them further with sand.

"Logic -" Amanda began before a flash of lightning and a boom of thunder sent her shivering in his arms.

This time, he heard the laugh amidst the rumble. There was no doubt now, it was coming for them. Logic let out a long slow breath and attempted to project calm to Amanda.

"I anticipate that we will not make the Stones before the Storm arrives. At its approach, the wind will increase and be heavy with sand," he murmured to her. "It will soon be difficult to breathe and the blowing sand will damage your eyes. If you have means to cover your mouth, nose and eyes, do so."

She lifted herself at the waist so she could pull out the sash that belted her dress. She shook out the cloth, sending dust flying, then wrapped it around her head several times before tying the two ends in a knot behind her head. "What about you?" Amanda questioned, her voice slightly muffled through the layers of fine cloth.

"I have natural protections," he explained. "My inner eyelids are already closed and I have extra membranes in my nose that act as filters. I have our route memorised and should be able to follow it even when the visibility drops."

"And when we get to the stones, what then? They didn't seem like much. I don't see how they will protect us from a sand storm unless there is more to it than I could see."

"We will have protection there," he promised. "We should also be able to gain assistance it is the -" his explanation was cut off by the wind as it changed pitch from a low moan to what was undeniably a scream.

The howling wind ended the possibility of further conversation and whipped the tops off of the dunes, obscuring the air. Logic continued walking till he became uncertain which direction to take next. Climbing a dune was a risk with the Storm so near, but so was wandering blind. He must regain his bearings.

The wind hurled sand at him as he climbed up the side of the dune. Twice he backslid several feet down the precarious slope. As he reached the top, the air was a little clearer. it was difficult to pinpoint the Storm, the whole horizon was obscured with sand. The area around them was partially visible, enough to make out the major features. The dunes had shifted sending him too far North, but they were close. Logic committed the new path to memory.

As he started down the opposite slope a flash of lightning illuminated them against the sky. He sensed the eye of the Storm focus on him and several more flashes of lightning lit up the sky, one after another. Thunder boomed in waves. The Storm front was far closer than he had projected and moved rapidly towards them obliterating dunes in its wake.

"Hold on," he commanded Amanda at a volume loud enough to be heard over the wind. She grabbed his robe and he held her with only one arm as he half ran, half slid, down the steep slope. He barely avoided a tumble and hit the ground at a sprint, pushing through his building fatigue.

The Storm shrieked. The small hairs stood up on his body as the air saturated with charge. The dune he had just stood upon exploded as it was struck by lightning. Logic diverted from his path and ducked behind a dune as shards of hot lightning glass rained down where he had been.

Thunder pounded them two seconds later, painful in its intensity. Amanda flinched against him and he suspected she might have screamed though he could not discern her voice over the noise of the Storm. He dodged around dunes until he found the clearing.

In the centre stood a ring of twelve standing stones. Groups of three supported the weight of lintel stones laid horizontally upon them. The pairs that marked the Northern, Southern, Eastern and Western entrances had no lintels. The Stones were sacred ground and if they could just get within the boundaries, the Storm would not be able to follow.

The clearing was wide, and he paused at the last dune to catch his breath. With the Storm so close open ground would expose them but to remain between the dunes was not an option.

One last push then he could rest. He bolted over the sand with all the speed remaining to him. Without the dunes providing a wind-break, the sand-laden air pelted him, abrading his skin. Amanda curled up smaller against him and buried her face in his chest.

His feet pounded across the hard-packed sand of the clearing. The pillars of stone grew steadily larger but the wind turned against him. As the wind increased in strength it sapped his own. He slowed to a walk. Then, as the wind increased further, he leaned into it and staggered forward. The air was almost opaque but the outline of the stones was just visible. Only a few more steps.

The Storm screamed in fury and the surge of wind from the side nearly knocked him from his feet. The hairs all over his body rose.

Anticipating what was coming, he threw Amanda forward with his last remaining strength. She tumbled through the air between the two pillars that marked the Southern entrance and vanished from his sight.

She was safe. He smiled, allowing it this one time.

The gem at his wrist cracked, its light extinguished. All strength gone, he fell.

Lightning lashed out towards him with an ear-splitting crack. It struck him before he hit the sand sending pain lancing through his nerves.

But she was safe.

He could rest now.

Chapter Text

So when things get too tough

And your chin is dragging on the ground

And even down looks up

Bad luck heh heh

Chilly down - David Bowie

 

Chapter 22: Even down looks up

 

-AMANDA-

The wind was knocked out of her as Amanda hit the ground at speed. She retained enough momentum to skid her some distance across the sand, chin scraping the ground as she came to a stop. Rolling onto her side, she struggled for breath.

Her skin felt like it had been rubbed vigorously with sandpaper but that was better than the sensation of being flayed alive that the wind had caused moments before. Her ears ached. Stretching her jaw there was a pop and her hearing cleared. It was quiet now apart from her ragged wheezing. Had the storm stopped?

Through the face cloth, she could only make out lighter and darker regions around her. Using one finger, she tugged the cloth below an eye, rapidly blinking in the bright light. The air around her was free of sand. Yanking the cloth down to her neck she gulped clear air trying to convince her diaphragm to stop spasming.

Once it did, she croaked out, “Logic,” through her dry throat. There was no reply.

She pushed herself up on one arm and groaned. God, everything hurt. Amanda turned her head, her neck twinging in protest. There were twelve standing stones, groups of three capped with lintel stones. Interspaced between them were a wider-spaced pair with no lintels, probably entrances. The air was an opaque red between the stones.

Logic was nowhere in sight. She pulled on the link between them and sensed nothing . Fear slithered down her throat taking route in her belly. “Logic, where are you?” she shouted desperately.

With the face cloth obscuring her vision, she had long ago lost any sense of direction. Fortunately, the deep impression she had left in the sand made it obvious where she had entered the circle. Amanda sat up and staggered to her feet, ignoring, as best she could, the complaints her body made. She limped over to her entry, unable to suppress a whimper of pain every time she put weight on her right leg. While both knees hurt, the right one had swollen to half again its normal size.

When she made it to the stones, she leaned against one resting her weight against its side. From here, she could see the red haze was the sand-laden air flowing around and above the stones. The occasional glimmer as a larger piece struck revealed the translucent dome that protected the stones. A mindshield.

Logic had promised safety here and the mindshield blocked the Storm. But why was Logic not with her? He must have been close to the shield to throw her within, why hadn’t he just walked them through or at least followed after? Had he become lost in the Storm? If he was hurt or worse...she cut off the thought. Logic was alive, he had to be.

"Logic," she shouted, her voice cracking. Her heart clenched further as no reply followed. “If I can’t hear the storm, he probably can’t hear me,” she consoled herself, forcing down the panic. She would just have to go out and find him, that was all.

Amanda reached her hand towards the barrier but hesitated when the hairs on the back of her hand stood up. Adenkar had made it clear that touching a mindshield without protection was unwise. What if it harmed her, or let her out but not back in again? It had been bad outside, she had to test it carefully.

Ready to withdraw at a moments notice, Amanda tapped the mindshield with a finger. Expecting resistance, she was surprised when her finger passed easily into the barrier. There was a tingling sensation across her skin but nothing worse. As she pushed her hand through the barrier, the wind tore at the exposed skin. She drew her hand back equally unhindered. Amanda considered her options. Stay and hope he would make it here himself or go and find him? 

If Logic was here, he would advise her to stay where it was safe and not to risk herself further. But that was the problem, he wasn’t here. Something must have happened to prevent him from reaching safety. Some reason why he had thrown her rather than make the last few steps here. If he was badly hurt or unconscious out there, he would not make it in on his own. She couldn’t leave him out there. Decision made, Amanda pushed off the standing stone and limped through the barrier.

The noise was deafening. Sand stung her eyes and poured into her nose and mouth. Amanda threw her hands up over her face. A strong gust of wind unbalanced her causing her to step back onto her right leg. The knee crumpled under her full weight and she fell backward through the shield. Hitting the sand hard, she lay there and coughed. Tearing eyes did little to clear her vision. Amanda sat up and wiped her eyes only for them to burn worse. She stopped touching them to avoid grinding the sand in any further.

How could she have been so stupid? She had forgotten her face cloth. Untying the cloth from her neck, she shook it out and rewrapped it around her head. While she could barely see anything through the cloth she couldn't keep her eyes open out there anyway.

Walking upright in that strong wind would not be possible either. Rolling over to her belly she half crawled, half dragged herself along the ground. Pulling with her arms and pushing with her good leg she passed through the barrier again. Ignoring the pain of her right leg dragging through the sand as best she could.

It wasn't much better outside with the mask. Sand blasted painfully against her and she kept her eyes tightly shut against the stinging grains that found their way through the cloth. Amanda took shallow breaths keeping her face down and out of the full force of the wind.

Hands outstretched, she patted the sand in front of her and then angled her body and arms to either side to check there. Not finding Logic, she crawled forward, searching to each side of her before crawling forward again. 

The combination of noise, heat, thin air and being pelted by sand and grit quickly became overwhelming. She was already light-headed and she’s only been out for a few minutes. Thunder rumbled close enough to be heard over the wind, sending a shiver down her spine.

Her condition would worsen the longer she was out her, she could not hope to survive out here for long.  How far should she go out, how wide should she be checking? She was blind out here, it would be all too easy to miss him.

Desperately, Amanda sought the link with Logic again. Emptiness. Through the cloth, she saw a bright flash of blue light to her left. Amanda crawled towards where she thought the light had come from. The sand underneath her increased in temperature as she crawled, burning her palms and knees. It wasn’t long before her outstretched hand found a mound of sand rather than the flatness she had so far encountered. Pushing her hand into the hot pile, she felt hair. She had found him!

With her cupped hands, Amanda scooped away sand from around his head, throwing it to the side and letting the wind take it. Working around his body, she pushed off the mounded sand, pulling his limbs free. He lay face down, his arms by his side as if he hadn’t even tried to stop his fall. A tiny blue light flickered from his left wrist as she released his arm. She reached under him and managed to flip him so he was face up. He was too heavy for her to lift and pull, she would need more leverage.

Crawling up to his head, Amanda swung around so she sat with her legs towards him, feet braced against the ground. Leaning forward, she wrapped her arms under his shoulders and hauled him towards her. She groaned with effort though the wind drowned her out. Her bad knee screamed at the strain but Logic was dragged slowly back to her. Ignoring the bloom of spots in her vision, she gritted her teeth and continued pulling till he was in her lap. Taking a couple of long breaths she scooched back and pulled again hauling him back in the direction she had come.

Or at least, she thought it was the direction she had come. Unable to see anything but a red haze, she tried relying on touch only to find the Storm had scoured away any evidence of her passing. Best guess then. Hopefully, she was heading the right way. 

After three times shifting him back she was gasping, unable to get enough air. Each subsequent time it took more effort to drag Logic towards her and longer to recover before she could pull him back again.  

Surely she had come back much further than she had travelled out.  Had she somehow missed the stones and travelled passed them? There was no way to know if she was even travelling in a straight line. 

A wave of dizziness overwhelmed her as she was pulling Logic and she toppled sideways. Everything hurt. She was too exhausted even for tears. If she could just rest for a bit everything would be better.

A flash of light, followed by a boom a few seconds later startled her out of her near doze. She couldn’t stop here, she couldn't. She must get Logic to safety. 

Amanda forced herself to sit up and pulled Logic towards her. The shelter had to be right behind her. Yes, that was it, it was right behind her. Her vision went black. The world tilted before righting itself again. "Don't pass out, don't pass out," she whispered to herself head bowed so she touched Logic’s laying in her lap.  The dizziness settled to a slow spin. "One more time, come on Amanda, move. This will be the last time. Just move." 

As she leaned backward, her back hit something solid. A wave of relief washed over her. Shifting around the pillar she tugged diagonally to bring Logic with her. She leaned back, her head and shoulders tipping back through the shield.

Reaching up with one hand, she stripped the cloth from her face and took a deep breath of the best air she had ever tasted. The world stopped spinning.

Using the stone for support, she got to her feet then grabbed Logic under the arms. Lifting his torso, she groaned as she used her full weight to pull him through the shield and into the small amount of shade from the nearest pillar. She sank ungracefully to the ground next to him. Forced burning eyes open she looked over him and gasped. 

Green blood trickled from his ears. Sand was embedded in his bleeding skin. There were burns and scars in the form of Lichtenberg figures. He wasn't breathing! She fumbled at his neck for a pulse. She couldn’t find one but that didn’t necessarily mean anything; Vulcan blood pressure was incredibly low. But if he’d been struck by lightning his heart would not be beating properly or perhaps at all.

Amanda cleared sand from his face and mouth before beginning rescue breathing. “Heart where the liver is,” she reminded herself, beginning heart compressions at twice the rate for a human. “Breathe damn you. Breathe! Come on, Logic, please just breathe!” she begged raggedly. Tears rolled down her cheeks and then fell onto his face. She tasted salt when she breathed into his mouth again.

Logic choked. Amanda leaned away and tilted him onto his right side as he coughed up sand and dark blood. The hacking cough stopped so suddenly she cried out in terror.  

“Logic,” she rasped. “Logic, please wake up,” she begged. His eyes didn’t open, but he took a breath, then another.

He was breathing! Unconscious, gravely injured, but alive.

Relief gave way to utter exhaustion. She flopped down next to him in the shadow of the stone, her front against his back. Her fingers brushed against his, down his wrist to a once beautiful gem. The shattered stone flashed a faint blue under her fingers. "I have you," she whispered. "Stay with me."

She needed to get help. Her muscles twitched as she tried to rise and she felt the last of her strength leach out of her, her eyes closing against her will. 

Reaching out with her mind, she sought her connection with Sarek. She could not find the proto-bond. The link to Logic remained silent but something similar stuttered to life. “Help,” she murmured, her voice barely audible. “Sarek, help.” Darkness rushed her.

- THE WARRIOR -

Warrior sat bolt upright, vertigo overwhelmed him. He waited impatiently for the nauseating spinning to stop.

The surface he was on was soft and warm. A mechanical beeping issued from behind him and hums emitted from several other points around him. Nothing appeared to be an immediate threat. As the room steadied he identified the biobed and medical machinery, the healing ward in biocontrol.

Warrior accessed his condition. All of his armour was missing, he wore only a cloth tied low over his hips. A long green scar puckered the flesh across his chest and smaller scars lined his body. His right arm was severed above the elbow but the end seemed to be sealed cleanly. That was surprising.

Why surprising? His brow furrowed as he pondered. It was not the loss of the arm that was unexpected but the fact that it was not bleeding. How long had it been bleeding for him to expect it? His left hand clenched around something so gossamer it was nearly intangible. 

Puzzled, he opened his hand. Silver light shone out. ‘I’m coming, I’m coming,’ the light promised.

This message was important, a reminder. He gazed at the light and listened to the voice again. The voice was familiar, special. It was, she was...this was a memory of his k’diwa.

The revelation sparked others. He was awaiting her arrival and would lower the mindshield when she came. It had to be kept up until then because -? 

He could not remember.

Warrior stared at the silver light, his brow furrowed. An image of a small human woman flashed before his mind's eye. She had been at the breech in the mindshield, claimed familiarity but he had no memory of her. And yet and yet -

"I’m coming," the memory in his hand promised. This was her voice! His k’diwa had the same voice as the woman at the breech.

“No,” he shouted in horror jumping to his feet. The panel behind him beeped insistently. Warrior’s legs trembled and he leaned back against the wall to prevent himself from falling to the floor.

"I need you," the memory continued in Sarek's voice and Warrior clenched the tormenting light tight in his fist. Her reply emerged muffled, "-mmm comm-ng."

His k'diwa had come and he had commanded her to leave. He had sent her away. Warrior pushed himself along the wall his legs trembling with the effort of supporting him. He must find her and beg for her forgiveness, for her to come back. 

There was a whoosh of a door sliding opening. A moment later the Healer aspect was by his side guiding him back to a seated position on the bed. Warrior resisted but did not have the strength to stop him. Healer reached up to touch the panel above the bed and the incessant beeping ceased.

"You should not be out of bed," the Healer admonished running a scanner over Warrior’s body. "We just stabilised you. Any extraneous motion could reopen your wounds and utilises energy better spent on recovery."

“I must find her,” Warrior growled. “She left because of me.”

"Amanda did not leave," Healer soothed, pulling a hypospray from a bag at his hip. There was a hiss against the Warrior's shoulder as the hypospray deployed.

Warrior closed his eyes as more recent memories returned in jumbled fragments. The rescued memory, found too late. Pain and blood and fear. Left behind while others attempted to fix his mistake. His wounds taking their toll. A painful tightening in his side, his heart rate slowing.  Knowing his failure warranted this end.

But Healer had said Amanda had not left. Warrior opened his eyes and locked his gaze with Healer’s. "They found her then, she did not leave? Where is she?" Warrior asked, squeezing the memory fragment. 

"She did not leave,” Healer repeated patiently. “She is beyond loyal, Warrior. Even when we were dying, she would not leave me though it could have meant her life. She has insisted on continuing to bond, though she has been informed of the risks to herself and knows the chances of our recovery are poor. She travels with Logic, Will and the Beast now. They seek access to the bonding nexus.”

Warrior let out a sigh. How they had earned such devotion? He brought his fist up against his chest.

"What is in your hand?" Healer asked curiously. "I removed your armour to have better access to your injuries but you resisted opening your fist."

Warrior opened his fingers and the silver light spilled out. “The only memory that remained of her,” he replied forlornly, head bowed.

“That is no longer so,” Healer disagreed, placing his hand on Warrior’s shoulder. “Our memories of her were retrieved.”

"Why can I not remember her then?" Warrior demanded, his head snapping up as he captured the silver light in his fist again.

Healer raised a brow considering as he ran a scanner around Warrior's head. "What of your personal memories?”

“They are incomplete and I recall them in fragments,” Warrior admitted with a scowl.

“Not surprising considering your level of injury and the damage to the Memory Halls,” Healer replied. “My own thoughts were also disorganised when I first regained awareness.  A healing trance and medical assistance from Healer Adenkar allowed me to recover enough to be functional. I recommend you rest. If your memories do not return on their own as you recover, I can assist you in reconnecting."

"Do it now," Warrior ordered, his hand clenching around the enclosed memory fragment.

“That is unwise,” Healer reproached his expression stern. “You are yet weak.” Healer pushed Warrior shoulder back towards the bed but Warrior resisted.

"I sent her away because I did not know her. I failed in my purpose,” Warrior bowed his head in shame. “I need to know what has happened, I need to remember so I do not make such a mistake again.”

“You are not at fault, Warrior.”

“I forgot her!”

“We all forgot, Warrior, our memories were stolen. But from what Will shared with me, you were the one who recalled enough to seek the truth. The memory you hold was what sent the others after her.”

“But I was the one who sent her away!” he bit out through a clenched jaw.

"Warrior, if Amanda and Adenkar had entered the mindscape at that time it is probable the events would have resulted in a less optimal outcome. They found and released the Beast who in turn led them to me. The mind tendrils T'Rel bound us in would have drained us until there was nothing left. The memories of her would have remained hidden. Amanda has since entered the mindscape. Other aspects guide her where she needs to go and they will protect her. Concern yourself with your own welfare and let the others watch over her. If you do not rest, you will not heal."

“Do you not see that I can not. Since the first time we met, our k’diwa’s protection has been my primary function. Her welfare supersedes mine." The desperation pinched Warrior’s face. “I need to be able to protect her, how can I do that if I don’t know her? Help me remember,” he pleaded.

Healer’s expression softened. "Very well, I can see you will not settle without this." Healer pressed his fingers against the Warrior's cheeks. "Remember," he intoned.

When T'Rel had ripped each of them from the psyche she had shattered that which held them together. The return of unity with another aspect was comforting for both of them. They shared their recent experiences since they had been separated. 

"While present when the memories of Amanda were returned, I was in a healing trance. Healer Adenkar shared this memory with me. It should trigger your recall." Healer explained before bringing forth what Warrior needed to see.

Their k'diwa sat on the floor, surrounded by broken glass and other aspects who lay stunned. Golden light rushed past her towards the forgetting, then burst into a riot of colours. The light played over her skin, illuminated her hair. She glowed. 

“My lady, Amanda," Warrior whispered in adoration. "Ashal-veh." He remembered her, all of her. A laugh spilled out of him, his joy unable to be contained. More memories followed, so many more. His body trembled under the barrage even as he eagerly drew more to him.

"You must rest now," Healer instructed, his hand shifting from Warrior’s cheek to around his shoulders. Healer guided his shaking body down to lay on his side, then lifted his legs onto the bed.

Warrior turned to lay flat on his back and opened his fist. Expecting silver light, he was surprised to instead find a large blue gem laid on his palm. He rubbed the rounded disk with his thumb.  

A recent memory surfaced. He was at the breach in the mindshield, searching the mind of the woman who had no shielding of her own. The feel of her thoughts and emotions were so familiar. It blended with other times he had sensed her. Each time Sarek’s mind had brushed across Amanda’s, Warrior’s desire to protect her had flared. These memories too now resided in the gem.

"A memory stone," Healer exclaimed, startling Warrior from his reminiscence. Healer stroked the gem with one finger. "Fascinating! It specifically contains memories of your aspect's interactions with Amanda. If you will allow me." Healer picked up the stone. Warrior flinched, the sensation of Amanda dissolving. He grabbed Healer's wrist with a growl.

"Just one moment, Warrior, I will return it." Healer focused on the stone and then allowed it to drop between his fingers. The stone was now rimmed in silver and a silver chain spooled out through his fingers. Warrior let go of his wrist and Healer took the chain and looped it over Warrior's head, the blue gem resting on his bare chest.

The growl died in his throat. Wearing the chain made the gem part of him. Even if the Hall of Memories was raided again, these would remain with him.  He would not forget her again.

"Now rest," Healer ordered.

Warrior's eyes closed, his fist clenched around the gem. The memories of his Lady Amanda soothed him as he let go of his corporeal form.  

His thoughts drifted for an immeasurable time until a now familiar mind reached out. Eagerly, he grasped her mind, a tenuous connection forming between them.

“Help! Sarek, help,” came her exhausted cry. Flashes of memory followed: the Storm, Logic near death, a ring of standing stones. The thoughts were cut off abruptly.

“Amanda, My lady,” he called, but her presence was gone. 

He recognised her location intimately; the place of Koon-ut kal-if-fee. What was Amanda doing in his territory? Certainly, she was welcome, but it was not the bonding centre. And how had she encountered the Storm? She should not have been brought anywhere near such danger. 

No matter, he would resolve this. “Have no fear, my lady. I will save you,” he vowed.  Warrior’s eyes snapped open, the memory stone on his chest blazing and bathing the healing ward in bright blue light. The Healer stared at him. “Where are my armour and lirpa,” Warrior demanded as he stood, ignoring the lingering pain and weakness of his body. When the Healer aspect just continued to stare unmoving, Warrior walked over to him, grabbed his shoulders and shook. “Amanda is in need. She has called me, I must go.”