T’Kuht Rising

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Organization: Penn State University
Date: Fri, 18 Oct 1996 01:01:58 EDT
From: Macedon
Message-ID: <96292.010158JRZ3@psuvm.psu.edu>
Newsgroups: alt.startrek.creative
Subject: REPOST: “T’Kuht Rising,” (TOS/VOY) R

SUMMARY: A sequel of sorts to “Out of the Past.” As his daughter
celebrates her second birthday, Sokar is haunted by doubts and demons
from his own childhood. Does he begin instructing her in Vulcan
emotional control, or does he grant her the freedom he so coveted as a
child himself? Told in first person, from Sokar’s point of view.

Reading “Out of the Past” first is recommended. Otherwise, parts of
“T’Kuht Rising” may make no sense–although this story is not
precisely a sequel.

DISCLAIMER: Star Trek is the property of Paramount Studios, the
following a non-profit work of fan fiction. No resemblance to any
person, living or dead, is intended.

T’KUHT RISING
Macedon, rev 1996

“What’s your father like?”
That question is the earliest memory I can recall. I was four
years old, waiting in the ship daycare for my mother to come off-duty.
Waiting was part of the cycle of my days in those years:
wake up to soft chiming, dress quickly and quietly, fetch my datapads
for the day and one game–I was ever only allowed one game–then wait
to be examined by my mother to ensure that my clothing all matched and
I had not misbuttoned my shirt nor forgotten to fasten my tunic. I
would then be taken to ship daycare where I was handed over to the
Instructors. They were Vulcan. Most of the ship was Vulcan. The
last half of my day consisted of waiting for my mother’s shift to end
so she could come retrieve me. She would take me back to our cabin
where I would wait while she prepared supper, then she would ask me to
demonstrate my lesson for the day. If I did well, there was silent
approval. If I erred, I received impatient corrections. I must not
make mistakes. The son of Spock had to be perfect.
“So, what’s he like?”
My questioner was human: six years old with her curly hair
plaited into myriad braids all about her face. I must admit that, at
four, I envied her the hair, wishing mine would curl instead of lying
straight and falling into my eyes.
“Why do you ask?” I wanted to know.
“Because!” She said this as if to a dullard. “He’s *Ambassador
Spock*. So–what’s he really like?”
“I don’t–do not–know,” I told her. I had to be careful of
contractions. My mother disliked it when I used contractions.
She appeared confused. “But he’s your dad.”
“I do not see him often. I do not know what he is…like.”
That statement would come to define my life until I was fourteen.
Then it ceased to matter.

***

Of late, my childhood occupies my attention; it stems from more
than nostalgia. Vulcans are not nostalgic–even me. The past
instructs the present; it should not replace it. And my past has far
too many buried mines to be safe. Yet it is precisely for
instruction-sake that I now sift memories.
Today, my daughter turns two. Two years ago today, her mother
and I were ejected from an unstable wormhole, to be rescued by
Voyager. The strain of that incident sent my wife into premature
labor. Twelve hours later, my daughter was placed in my hands.
I recall that moment in precise detail. Her head exactly fit my
palm and she was no longer than both my hands held together. Her ears
and fingers and toes seemed to me as fragile and perfect as glass
sculpture–and I was terrified, afraid I might break her. I remember
my feeling as clearly as the moment itself. That is significant.
Unless they are powerful, my feelings are rarely so easy for me to
isolate and identify. I was trained out of them too early. Our
childhoods remain with us long after we are able to have children
ourselves.
So now I sit on my piano bench and ponder my daughter as she sits
on the floor by the couch, arranging multicolored hoops in order of
size on a clear plastic post.
“What would you have me do?” I ask her, in Vulcan.
She shakes a blue hoop at me, laughs and puts it on top of the
stack. “Dada!” she says, in English. “All full up!” I wonder if I
should take that for her answer.
If I make her Vulcan, it begins today. At two. I take her hands
and place them together, beginning instruction–at two!–in the proper
method of meditation: the kama kura.
By three, she will be able to sit quietly for half an hour. By
four, she will not run when she is excited. By five, she will be able
to detach her mind from her fears. By six, she will have forgotten
spontaneous laughter. By seven, she will no longer touch me or crawl
into my lap to be held. She will be aloof, quiet, obedient. Vulcan.
Is it my right, my solemn duty, to condemn her to that? Freeze
emotion out of her? It was done to me and I can never completely
recover. I select feelings, I do not have them. Yet my parents did
only what they thought was best, and now the choice circles around to
me. What shall I do, as a parent myself? Today is the crossroad. If
I do not begin her instruction young, she will never be fully Vulcan.
In later years she might learn to master her emotions, if that is her
wish, but it will never be complete.
So–do I condemn her to a frozen childhood? Or would she count
that condemnation at all? Perhaps she would resent it, rather, if I
denied her her Vulcan heritage. She is not me. Sitting here with a
choice before me that will shape another person’s entire life, I find
the responsibility unbearably heavy.
The cabin door opens. Ioanna enters, pauses, looks from one of
us to the other. “Neelix is baking a birthday cake,” she says.
Turning my head, I look up at her. “Should I begin it?”
Baffled, she blinks. My question was a non-sequitur, but I see
understanding dawn slowly in her eyes. We discussed this last night.
For three hours. Crossing to our daughter, she lifts her up and sits
her on a hip. “Why not ask her?”
“Yanna–she is two years old. She does not know what she wants.”
“She may know more than you think, Sokar. She’s hardly a blank
slate. Show her–see if she wants to learn. There’s a big difference
between offering and forcing. As I said last night.”
She had said it several times, in fact. I do not know why I find
it so difficult to hear. Or, not difficult to *hear*–difficult to
accept. Learning was forced on me. The son of Spock had to be
perfect.
Ioanna sets Cleopatra in my lap, then sinks down cross-legged on
the rug before us. I take Cleopatra’s hands–small, pudgy, child’s
hands–and place them together: just so. She thinks it a game and
grins at me. Very gently, I set my fingers on her face, touch the
flicker of her mind. Her telepathy is rudimentary, perhaps will
always be so, but I have been doing this since the day she was born.
I did not wish her to fear my mindtouch, as I had feared my father’s.
What I show her is simple enough, the beginnings of meditative
discipline: How to focus on one object until it fills the entire
vision. Her attention span is very short but I can tell that she has
grasped the principle and–more importantly–does not resist it. I
release her mind.
She climbs off my lap to toddle into her mother’s arms. They rub
noses. “Eskimo kisses” Ioanna calls it, though I have never heard
that the Inuit kiss in such a fashion. Then Ioanna lurches to her
feet, swinging up Cleopatra. “Off to supper,” she says, adding, to
Cleopatra, “*Someone* has a *birthday* cake!” Why do humans insist on
placing undue emphasis on certain words in a sentence when speaking to
children? This is not something I understand. I wonder if I should,
but do not ask Ioanna. I would receive a lecture, and am not of a
mind for lectures today. Picking up the diaper bag, I follow them to
the cafeteria.
To call Neelix’s preparation a “cake” would be overly generous.
It is purple. Yet he has made an attempt to decorate it with plastic
turtles–turtles being my daughter’s latest fascination. They are
purple as well. I suppose I will find purple turtles underfoot for a
least a week.
A small crowd has assembled to share the purple cake. In the two
years since our arrival, Cleopatra has won much affection among
Katheryn’s crew. “Horribly spoiled” Ioanna calls it. Now, she has a
crown of gold cardboard, balloons in clashing shades of neon, and far
too many presents–more “stuff” for her to strew from one end of our
cabin to the other. Sheer quantity aside, one present in particular
troubles me: a toddler-sized sleep jumper in the design of a Starfleet
uniform, with button pips. It is gold, like the one Katheryn has
forced me to wear.
Shades of my past rise to haunt me.

***

“Hey, hey, little scamp!”
Hands lifted me up and swung me around, faint hair on them white
like the hair on the head of the man to whom they belonged. The
uniform he wore was of the new style, without a maroon jacket. My
mother’s ship had received orders for the change two months ago. She
finds it too informal; I had heard her say as much to a colleague.
This man’s uniform was red with four pips on the collar. That made
him a captain; I had learned the ranks in daycare. I might have seen
him before but was not sure. So many people know me, but it is not
really me they know. It is my father or mother or, sometimes,
grandfather. For myself, I am flotsam.
“Do I know you?” I asked him. My mother frowned.
He smiled. “My name is Sulu. Hikaru Sulu. I served with your
father.”
“Oh.” The name, at least, I remembered. Captain Hikaru Sulu.
It came as a piece, as if his rank were a praenomen defining the rest
of him.
He put me down, picked up the package he had brought with him and
handed it to me. “This is for you, Sokar. What with the uniform
changes and all, I didn’t want you to feel left out.” He winked at my
mother. I had come to recognize winks for a gesture which meant the
words spoken were not to be taken seriously. A “joke.” I wished,
just once, that one of my father’s old crewmates would take me
seriously. I opened the package.
Inside, on white tissue paper, lay a small but exact copy of the
new uniforms. In blue. For science. Blue like my father had once
worn, like my mother wore now. “Try it on,” Sulu said.
I looked up at my mother. I did not want to put this on, but I
could see in her face that I must obey. I went into the bedroom and
redressed, came back out. Sulu smiled hugely. “He looks just like
his father.”
My mother forced me to wear the “uniform” to daycare the next
day, to please the captain. I managed to spill very bright red drink
all down the front, staining it beyond even the ability of ship’s
laundry to clean. I did not have to wear it again.

***

I look now at the “uniform” sleep jumper lying neatly in its gift
box. I will not dress my daughter in it.
Yet the gift was meant kindly enough, and given by my partner at
the helm, Tom Paris. Making such a gift is no doubt cathartic for
him. That does not make it more acceptable to me. A shift in my
posture gives me away. Beneath the table where we sit, Ioanna clamps
her hand on my knee: a warning, or silent support? Perhaps both.
“Thank you,” she says to Paris. He beams proudly, just as Sulu had
done twenty-five years ago.
The rain of presents ends and Cleopatra divides her time between
contents and wrappings, still unsure which is the real toy. She would
be content with the bows, I think. Harry Kim and Kes are decorating
her with them. She is laughing. But in the midst of it, she folds
her hands together in the way I showed her earlier and closes her
eyes–as if overwhelmed by laughter and needing to refocus herself. I
feel my spine stiffen. Ioanna’s hand–still on my knee–squeezes even
more tightly.
“The kama kura,” Tuvok says quietly, with approval.
Standing beside his chair, Katheryn looks down at him. “The kama
kura?”
“The Rules of Meditation.”
She turns her eyes on me. “You’re teaching a *two year old* to
meditate?”
“It is the Vulcan way,” Tuvok says.
“I am teaching her only so long as she wishes to learn,” I say.
“She will not be forced.” Involuntarily, my gaze drops to Tuvok.
“It is the Vulcan way,” he says again–but to me, not Katheryn.
We are sitting close together, he across from me. Cleopatra has
quit her demonstration of kama kura and begun plucking off random bows
to stick them back on Kes, who makes appropriate “ooohing” noises in
response. The people are watching my daughter, not listening to Tuvok
and me.
Leaning over the table, I say, in Vulcan, “The Vulcan way is not
always best or right–even for Vulcans–and the kama kura may do a
child more harm than good.”
I can see that he does not fathom my last statement. I have no
wish to explain further. Some things are best forgotten.

II.

“I will not attend.”
“You are his son; it is your duty.”
“I cannot, Sokar. I cannot, in good faith, countenance this
wedding.”
“You mean you cannot stand the thought that he might find someone
to replace Grandmother. But surely you see what Perrin is. He needs
a wife. Perrin is all he can bear.”
“She is not what I can bear.”
“You are not marrying her.” I paused, stared at the nearly-empty
desktop of nas’shiha marble. Vivid green veins threaded flecked
black; it glittered under track-lights. “Had you taken time to come
home even once in the past five years, you would know why he is
marrying again. He is not like you–he cannot live alone.”
My father studied me, hands steepled before him, his face as
devoid of expression as his desk was of datapads or ornament. This
was the posture I knew best, as if he were contemplating the universe
and found me but a curious speck in the midst of it. When I was
younger, I had used to wonder if that fathomless regard stemmed from
having died and been reborn. Now, I knew it was because James Kirk
had died and *not* been reborn.
“I will not go, Sokar.”
I swallowed and, for a while, said nothing. Neither did he. He
had not even rebuked me for the harshness of my words to him. That
lack of rebuke was rebuke itself: my censure fell beneath his notice.
Realizing that, the old wild desert burn took me–red like the sky in
storm. “If you do not,” I said now, “then you are not my father.”
“Ultimatums, Sokar? I had thought by fourteen you might have
outgrown them.”
Turning on my heel, I left him sitting there behind his great
desk with its cold marble veneer. I never spoke willingly to him
again.

***

“I realize the cabin walls are insulated,” says Ioanna, “but the
inner walls aren’t. Must you practice at midnight, Sokar? It’s
keeping up Cleo.” Dressed in a pale blue nightshirt, she stands in
the door to our bedroom, one hand on the jamb. Light from behind
halos her form like some Byzantine painting of the Theotokos, the
Madonna. The room in which I play is lit by nothing, not even the
standlight.
I finish the phrase, remove my hands from the keys. She comes
over to sit down, flick on the light. Then she takes my right hand
and spreads the fingers over hers. Her olive skin seems pink beside
mine, her hand tiny. But my hands are abnormal. If I spread them,
they swallow a third of the keyboard–a freak of nature, or a prodigy.
It enables pyrotechnics: easy octaves and lightening arpeggios. An
unkind reviewer once dubbed me “homme-machine,” along with Liszt,
Thalberg, Dreyschock and Horowitz. I cannot say that I find them bad
company.

A ring of gold winks on my third finger, marking me.

***

“No, no! The *right* hand. It’s supposed to go on your *right*
hand.” Ioanna had that look of upset which I knew was largely for
display. Greek histrionics.
“My grandmother wore a ring on her left hand,” I said.
“Your grandmother wasn’t Greek Orthodox.”
“My grandmother was not Christian at all. She was Jewish. And I
am neither one.”
She plucked the ring out of my fingers, taking my right hand and
slipping the band on the third finger. “Well, you’re doing it for me,
not your grandmother, so put it on the right hand.”
It was the first of many compromises.

***

Ioanna and I are silent a while. For all her Greek prolixity,
she understands the value of silence. In the bedroom, I hear
Cleopatra turn over in her crib and make a baby grunt. She went to
bed in gold and black after all.
“She wanted to wear it, Sokar.”
I say nothing.
“She pitched a temper tantrum.”
I still say nothing.
Ioanna sighs. Grandly. “She thinks you’re mad at her, you know.
I tried to explain that you’re mad about something else entirely but
she’s too young to understand.”
“Vulcans do not get ‘mad’.”
“Bullshit!”
Ah, Yanna. She permits me to lie about nothing, even to myself.
“I do not…want…her to have Starfleet held out before her like bait
to trap the le matya,” I say.
“No, you don’t want to face the possibility your daughter might
actually choose to go into Starfleet some day. Have you thought about
that? What are you going to do when she’s fourteen or fifteen and
comes to you to ask permission to apply to Starfleet? All providing
we get home, of course. But are you going to turn your back on her
like Sarek did to Spock? Repeat the craziness across another
generation–same old recriminations, just change the sexes, and who
wants in and who wants out?”
I rise from the bench and walk to the port to see the stars.
Delta-quadrant stars. Starfleet lies across the galaxy but that
legacy haunts me still. I stand on the deck of a Starfleet vessel.
“I am not my grandfather.”
“You’re not your father, either. Cleo sees you every day, and
worships the ground you walk on. She also sees you put on that
uniform every day so she’s tickled pink to have a sleep shirt that
looks just like it. Sokar, she *wants* to be like you. I should
probably worry about Electra complexes.” She laughs, then sobers and
comes to join me by the window, holds up two fingers. I cross them
with my own. “You didn’t force her into that sleep shirt tonight.
She wants to wear it. Let her. And you’d better think now about what
you’re going to say on the day she comes to you, wanting the real
thing.”
“If she does.”
“If she does.” She meets my eyes. Hers are as dark as wells,
swallowing starlight. Byzantine eyes. Aphrodite the Cypriot.
I set the back of my hand to her cheek. “You need not concern
yourself with Electra Complexes. I do not think our daughter will
ever be confused as to which of you is my wife.” Smiling, she leads
me to the couch, then wedges the bedroom door open a little so that we
can hear if our daughter should wake.

***

T’Kuht’s light dances over the curve of breast and bone,
slowly, like my fingers have done.
etching, etching
a plain, a slope, a valley.
There is no more lovely vale than that between
hip and rib
of woman.

Full of promise,
it holds the red reflection of planetrise
like a bowl, overflowing and spilling
down stomach and back in opulence dazzling
to my poor eyes.

You need no rubies.

***

The mountain peak rose sharp and dark behind, blacking out the
sky. Lights from motels and tabernas substituted for stars. Overhead
a shuttle streaked past, headed to Salonike from Istanbul, or perhaps
Tel Aviv. Black as the sky overhead, the Aegean spread before me,
waves lit by phosphorescence. Night air carried the wail of a
clarinet playing traditional Greek dance music. I could not tell if
it came from a chip or a living player, but the pitch was flat.
Taking off my boots, I sat down on the blanket Ioanna had brought. A
cold wind blew hair into my eyes.
This was Samothrace, island of the Mysteries of the Kaberoi,
grandsons of Hephaistos. Vulcan. God of the Forge.
I was being teased. Ioanna Sophia Traketellis, composer of
complex symphonies, delights in layered meaning. She had brought me
to the isle of Vulcan and managed to intoxicate me with red Macedonian
wine. The sweet grapes of Noussa. I was not used to wine, did not
know how much I could drink. And Yanna had said nothing, kept me
distracted with questions about music while she fed me wine and
baklava until I was embarrassingly drunk.
I should have known better than to trust her blindly. I may have
known her face-to-face only three weeks, but for five years, we had
exchanged letters, notes, comcalls. We had discussed matters from
minor points of composition to controversial interstellar policy.
Yanna was no stranger to me. I had come to respect a mind as clear as
her Greek air. I had also learned to beware her Hermean cleverness
and should have been on better guard tonight. Yet what had blindsided
me entirely was the intoxication of her physical presence. I had not
really needed the wine.
This was Samothrace and I was Vulcan, she wild Aphrodite. Yet I
hoped for more luck keeping my Cypriot than the lame smith had known.
No Ares here to seduce her away, but no Hera to make her marry me,
either. I wondered if she would. My limping feelings made me as
awkward as Hephaistos. What would a passionate Greek want with this
stunted Vulcan? Thrown out of heaven, I had been scarred in
childhood. An emotional cripple. Beside her, I was lame and ugly.
She undressed, shedding clothes like veils protecting mortal
sight from glory. Revealed before me at last, she dazzled. Then
laughing, she fled into the waves, disappeared, reappeared again
further out, her dark head breaking the surface, as sleek as a
dolphin. When she rose from the waves, the phosphorescence fell off
of her. Nereid or goddess?
I undressed and paddled out to join her. “Sokar, you’re drunk!”
she yelled at me. “You’re going to drown yourself, you crazy Vulcan.
You can’t swim!”
At that moment, I did not care. Snaring both her wrists, I
shouted back, “Marry me! Marry me, Ioanna Sophia!”
For a very long time, she did not answer. Fear trembled in my
gut. The wine had loosed emotions I had nearly forgotten how to feel.
Blood thundered in my ears. My head spun, my eyes glazed. For a
moment I looked into white, and silence. Her voice brought me back.
“Yes,” she said.
I carried her out of the waves. There was no one on the beach,
the water too chill for swimming. It had turned her skin rough with
goose-pimples. I warmed it with my hands, all of it, and she did not
resist. She took me up to where the blanket had been spread. Vulcan
had his Aphrodite. I should have been appalled at myself, but to be
inside a woman was a miracle too great for shrinking prim propriety.
Moving beneath her, inside her, my hands full of her breasts, I was
consumed. This was zoe. Life.
Samothrace had been home to more than Hephaistos’ grandchildren.
Dionysus had been worshiped here as well, bright Apollo’s darker
brother. I had spent my life among a people who worshiped only Logos,
but the Greeks had been too wise to exalt reason alone. There was
room for the irrational in the Greek soul. And in the Vulcan soul, I
found. My Cypriot taught me to see it. In her, *inside* her, I came
fully alive. My heart slammed in my side until the world exploded. I
died the small death and was born again on Samothrace. Transfigured.
Covered with grit and sticky with semen, a little dizzy after…but I
was alive. I laughed for the first time since I had been a child.
That was my initiation.

***

She is beautiful when she sleeps, black hair fanning out on the
pillow. It is thick but not straight. Lying behind her on the narrow
couch, I sink fingers into it. A few broken strands curl around my
fingers. Our daughter’s hair will be like this.
Ioanna’s eyelids flicker and the Byzantine eyes open. Turning,
she focuses on me, runs a hand idly down my bare side. “What are you
thinking?”
“I am thinking that our daughter will have your coloring.”
“Olive skin for olive blood?”
I smile faintly. When I have been with her, a bit of Greek
charis comes back. My face remembers how to smile. “Actually, I was
thinking that the color of her hair and eyes would suit Starfleet
blue.”
Her grin turns brilliant.

III.

“I do not understand it.”
Ioanna gave me that look she reserved for my most glaring
demonstrations of Vulcan obtuseness. “What don’t you understand?”
“Tuvok is alive.”
“Of course he is. You didn’t seriously think the captain was
going to let him die, do you?”
“But–” I stopped. My mind refused to acknowledge the obvious.
Logic refused to let me avoid it.
Ioanna brought me dinner–something from the replicator rather
than from Neelix. Three times a week, we used replicator rations and
ate in-cabin. At six months, Cleopatra was just beginning to take a
bit of solid food and her table manners were chancy yet. Throwing
puri slices (or their Delta Quadrant equivalent) was not acceptable
behavior, whether or not Tom Paris found it amusing. Laughing at her
only encouraged her.
Now, I glanced from my wife to my daughter, but Cleopatra would
not understand, was too young to understand. “What it would require
…for Tuvok to still be living….” I trailed off again, silenced by
embarrassment.
“Yes?” Ioanna asked. I think she was enjoying my discomfiture.
“Yanna, please.”
She sat down, smiled, pick up her fork and turned those great
dark eyes on me. “What do you *think* happened, Sokar? You can be so
damn dense.”
“But Tuvok is married.”
“Yes, he is. Eat your vegpie. It’s eggplant. Cleopatra!”
Cleopatra had overturned her bowl of Hakrish puree. Cleaning it
up provided convenient distraction. When I sat down again, I said, “I
could not have made the choice he did.”
Ioanna stopped with her mouth full of pie, looked at me, then
swallowed carefully. “Would you really be that selfish?”
“*Selfish*?”
“Yes. Selfish. You have a wife. You have a daughter. If you
were stranded, and a way presented itself–a *woman* presented herself
–I would thank her for saving you, not resent her. So should you.
So should Tuvok.”
“I am not certain that T’Pel will agree.”
“If she doesn’t, she’s a fool.”
“You speak like a human.”
“*Don’t* you dare throw that up to me, Sokar ch’Spock!” When
Ioanna was truly angry, any hint of histrionics froze into cold rage.
“I am a *wife* and a *mother*–my race doesn’t matter.”
“Doesn’t it?” I held her eyes. “Our culture is not yours. Ways
of expressing what it means to be a wife and mother differ.”
She dropped her gaze. “All right. Granted. But sometimes I
don’t have much patience for Vulcan absolutism. Neither do you.
I find it ironic that you’d be so quick to condemn Tuvok for his
choice.”
“I do not condemn it, Yanna. I am simply uncertain that I can
condone it–or would have made it myself.”
She aimed her fork at me. “Now you listen, and listen well. If
for any reason we should ever be separated during your pon farr, you
will do whatever it takes to come back to me alive. You understand?”
She had no idea of the magnitude of what she had just ordered.
“I do not know–”
“Shut up.” There was something frightened in her face. She
blinked, rubbed at her eyes angrily. “Skata! Don’t do this to me.
This is one time I cannot accept your culture, Sokar. I can’t. I’m
sorry. Promise, *promise*, you wouldn’t commit suicide out of some
overblown sense of Vulcan propriety. Promise for me. Promise for
your daughter. We need you too much.”
“It is not for propriety-sake that I would do it.”
“Then for *what*, goddammit?” she screamed. Startled, Cleopatra
began to cry. Ioanna leapt up to collect her, hold her close as if I
were a monster from whom Cleo must be protected. “Then for what?” she
asked again, more calmly.
“You have been through it; you know what it is.” I dropped my
eyes. “I simply…could not bear it with anyone else.”
I looked back up at her. Her face was stark. Then she burst
into tears.

***

Due to the proximity of our cabin assignments and a culturally-
instilled punctuality, I frequently share the lift to the bridge with
Tuvok. Humans have more tendency to be late, or early–either of
which may be an inconvenience to others. Thus, Vulcan manners require
that one be precisely on time.
The lift arrives and we board. “Bridge,” Tuvok says, then turns
to me, speaks in Vulcan. “How does your daughter’s kama kura?”
It has been precisely three weeks since her second birthday.
“Sporadic,” I reply, in English. “Sometimes she wishes to learn,
sometimes she does not.”
Tuvok’s spine stiffens slightly. At first, he says nothing and I
think that perhaps he will let it pass. He does not. “She is needing
discipline, Sokar.” He is still speaking Vulcan Prime.
“She is two years old.”
He nods. “And if it is not begun now, she will quickly grow
unmanageable. Two is no easy age.”
“It most certainly isn’t,” I mutter, thinking back on the morning
fight to get her out of her sleep-shirt and ready for the day.
Tuvok glances at me, an edge of both knowledge and amusement
showing in a raised eyebrow. “Just so. And for this reason, I stress
discipline.”
We have reached the bridge and the lift doors open. I shake my
head. “Discipline yes–of the common kind. But I will not force the
kama kura on her as it was forced on me.” I descend the risers to my
navigation station.
Tuvok cannot leave it alone. At supper, he joins me in the
cafeteria. Normally, he eats with Katheryn, one of the small
expressions of that relationship. I doubt anyone not involved in the
fiasco of a year and a half before recognizes the true state of
affairs between them. I am not certain of it myself–aside from the
obvious. They eat together, and continue to have private conferences.
If there is more than that, I do not know it. I have been given no
reason to suspect that they have spent a night together since the
first. Perhaps they simply conceal it well. Prudent. I doubt the
crew would accept their affair. Or liaison. “Affair” might be
granting it too much.
I wonder sometimes if Katheryn is happy; I do not think so. I do
not think Tuvok fully understands the needs of a human, and the very
fact that this relationship must be concealed removes all the small
social tokens which support a marriage. I do believe he cares for
her; I have watched. His caring is couched in small ways, Vulcan
ways–things Katheryn would miss. For the sake of my wife, I have
learned to be more demonstrative. For the sake of Katheryn, I wish I
dared speak to Tuvok concerning this matter. But the muzzle of Vulcan
propriety seals my mouth. Unless asked, a youth does not advise his
elder. And never about *that*.
Now, he sits down across from me. Katheryn is eating with her
first officer. Ioanna and Cleopatra have not yet arrived. For a long
time, he simply looks at me, then hesitantly begins. “It is true that
children do not always wish the discipline of the kama kura. They
resist it. My second son did. There were times I was forced to
compel his obedience, but it was in his best interest. While it is
not prudent for parents to compare the accomplishments of one child to
that of the others, still, of my four children, Tayo has been the most
successful as an adult. He understands now why I was strict with him
in his youth and has said, several times, that he appreciates it.”
I set down my fork. “Permit me to ask–how often did you see
your children? Once a year, once a month, once a day?”
He is clearly confused. “I saw them daily, of course, unless I
was gone on assignment.”
“You were not on active Starfleet duty?”
“I did not re-enter Starfleet until the twins were born, then
remained teaching at the Academy until both completed Secondaries.”
I nod. “So. Your son knew you. Yet until I was six years old,
I lived on-ship with my mother and saw my father only five times.
After the ship was…attacked”–my mind blanked automatically–“my
mother sent me to live with my grandparents. Then I saw even less of
both of them.”
He is silent some time. What I just said was not precisely an
answer to what he had said. Finally, he speaks. “Your parents have
made significant contributions to the betterment of the Federation,
Sokar. In such cases, families often find they must make sacrifices.”

***

“Now, Sokar, don’t get your hopes up and be disappointed if they
aren’t here. They said they’d come if they could but you know they
aren’t always able to do what they might wish.”
The voice of my grandmother, weak with age and the bone disease
which was killing her slowly.
“They will not attend,” I said and straightened the cuffs of my
Terran style jacket. I could not play in Vulcan robes; loose sleeves
got in my way. This was to be my first formal concert; I was nine.
It was nothing difficult–some Clementi, a bit of Bach…works suited
to a gifted child’s technical virtuosity without being demanding
interpretively. Yet it was the first time I would do something as
myself, not the son of Spock…and neither Spock nor Spock’s wife
would be present. “I knew they would not come when you invited them.”
She sighed. “It’s not that they don’t want to, Sokar–”
“But their duties do not permit.” By nine, I had learned to keep
the bitterness out of my voice.
It was not the first concert they missed. In fact, my father has
heard me perform only once–and that because he happened to be in San
Francisco at the same time I was touring North America. It was
several years after my grandfather’s remarriage and I would not have
known he had been there at all, had someone not informed me after. He
did send me a letter. I did not open it, though I still have it.
Perhaps one day I will read it.

***

Now, I say to Tuvok, “I realize that my parents have made great
contributions. But I ask you–does ‘saving the galaxy’ absolve them
of any responsibility to their offspring? Why did they have a child
if they had no time to give me?” Standing, I start to walk away.
Tuvok’s hand on my arm stops me, as much for shock as for the physical
restraint. It is rare indeed that my people touch one another.
“Do not permit your…irritation…with your parents to rob your
daughter of a part of her heritage. You said to me once that you
admired Sarek. Was he not also Vulcan?” He releases me. “And your
father may have thought of you more, and thought more of you, than you
know.”

IV.

I am talking with Tom Paris in stellar cartography, plotting the
best route around a nebula which we are due to bypass tomorrow. He
has brought sunflower seeds, pops one in his mouth. The sound of
teeth cracking a shell pushes me to the brink of memory, shoves me in.

***

Red Alert klaxons were blaring. “Intruder alert. Intruder
alert.” The modulated tones of the computer voice clashed with the
gravity of the message.
I was running. The ship bucked again under incoming fire, sent
me sprawling on hands and knees. Picking myself up, I kept going. I
did not know where. Away.
Located right beside sickbay, daycare was the most protected area
on the ship, and the T’Rei only a science vessel in any case. We were
not supposed to fight space battles. Still, the children had been
taught what to do, in case of attack. “Climb beneath your desks and
kneel down with your hands over your heads.” It had been drilled into
us once a week for two years. Three times, it had even been for real.
This time, the kick of the ship firing and being fired upon had
been worse. Then the power had sputtered out, leaving only flashing
red emergency lights. A metallic scream somewhere had told us the
hull was breached. Fear had seized me, stripping all discipline out
of my mind. I had fled. Now, a little calmer, I did not know what to
do, so I just kept running while intercoms warned that intruders had
boarded the T’Rei. I was certain they had come for me: undisciplined,
overly-emotional, unable to control myself enough to do as I had been
taught. I had shamed my family and the intruders were coming now to
take me away to some horror beyond my imagining.
So when I rounded a corner directly into a band of them–Orion
pirates, I learned later–my heart froze in my side along with the
rest of me. I do not think I breathed for a full minute. One of them
grabbed me roughly and slammed me into the corridor wall. I neither
spoke nor cried out, just held utterly still, my belly and bowels
shriveled with terror. The intruders had two other Vulcans with them,
both adults, one of them T’Vei, my mother’s colleague and friend. She
had a cut on her forehead where her captor had struck her.
Pointing to me with the muzzle of his blaster, one of the
intruders turned and asked, “What about him?”
“Too small,” another answered. “He’d cost more to raise and
train than he’d sell for, and he’s not pretty enough to geld. Kill
him.”
The first grabbed my hair and forced the blaster muzzle into my
mouth. I do not recall thinking anything in that moment. My mind was
utterly blank. Yet in the instant before he could fire, T’Vei kicked
her captor’s kneecap, startling him enough that she could free an arm
to strike the one who would have killed me. He jerked the blaster out
of my mouth and aimed it at her instead. One of the others acted
first, swinging her hard into the wall beside me. I screamed once,
short and sharp. Her head struck a support strut. There was a wet
crack. Brain matter and blood splashed the side of my face.

***

“He’s coming out of it.”
Kes’ voice. I am kneeling on the floor in a pool my own vomit.
Remembering cold metal in my mouth, I gag again. Kes’ hand on my
forehead both steadies me and pushes me up and away. *It’s over*, she
speaks into my mind. *It happened a long time ago. You’re here on
Voyager. Safe.*
Of course she would have seen it, Kes the telepath. I must have
been projecting wildly.
“What happened?” Paris asks. He is hovering. So are others from
stellar cartography. Thinking me ill, they must have called Kes.
I cannot explain. I am shamed. Why do I continue to permit
something which occurred when I was six years old to overwhelm me even
years later? I should be better able to control myself. I sit silent
under their gaze.
Kes waves them away just as the door opens and Ioanna enters.
She hurries over. “What happened?”
“He…had a flashback,” Kes says. She glances at me.
“She knows about it,” I say, softly, wiping my chin. I am still
shaking and weak.
Ioanna helps me to stand, walks me to a chair and sits me down
again. Kes follows. I gesture to the mess on the floor. “I must
apologize–”
“The ‘bots will clean it up,” Kes says, cutting me off.
Ioanna is studying my face. “It’s been a long time.”
“I know. I had thought it…might be past finally.” And such a
small thing to trigger it: the pop of a seed, the pop of a skull….
“I should not allow–!”
She puts a hand over my mouth. “Enough. You were six years
old.”
“Six years old is old enough to have shown more discipline.” I
hear these my mother’s words echo in my head even as I speak them. “I
am a Vulcan. I should not have panicked and run. I put myself in
danger and someone was forced to give her life to protect mine. It is
my fault that T’Vei died.”
Kes’ voice is soft with a pity I do not want. “Heavy blame for a
child’s shoulders.”
“But you cannot say it is not true.”
Ioanna is impatient. “Sokar–children panic. It’s normal.”
“*Vulcan* children do not. I was almost seven, almost fully-
trained.”
“‘Almost’ is the operative word in that equation,” Ioanna says,
turns to Kes. “Thank you for calling me. I’ll take care of him now.”
Kes catches the hint, nods, and leaves us. Ioanna kneels down in
front of the chair I sit in, one hand on my knee. We are alone in the
room. “You blame yourself unfairly, you know.”
“Do I? I should have done as I had been taught, climbed under my
desk and stayed put. Then T’Vei would not have died.”
“Maybe, or maybe the Orions would just have found another excuse
to kill her. You can’t know. And whatever your mother may have said,
you can’t fault yourself for being young and scared. I’ve told you
that before.”
I take her hand in mine. “And I have told you before that what
is expected of a human child, and what is expected of a Vulcan child,
differs. You try to judge me as a human.”
“You are, in part.”
“I am not a badly sliced pie, Yanna. This part Vulcan, this part
human. I am wholly myself. My training was Vulcan and should have
prevented me from panicking like I did.”
She does not reply. We have been over this before but never seem
to get anywhere. I know what I know and she does not understand what
is expected of a Vulcan child, especially one whose name is Sokar
ch’Spock ch’Sarek.
Finally, she says, “This is why you’ve resisted teaching Cleo the
kama kura, isn’t it? You’re afraid that if you teach her, she’ll have
to behave perfectly all the time. And if she doesn’t, and something
goes wrong, she’ll be blamed. Like you were.”
I turn hot, then cold. Her words have tripped me with truth. I
had not seen it, not understood my own motivations–but she is right.
I free my hands, frown at them, open and close them compulsively, try
to explain. “I want her to be a child, not a miniature adult.” This
comes hard, like a breech birth, covered in the blood of my Vulcan
pride. “The kama kura is not best for all. It…crippled me. It did
not keep me from running that day, but it did keep me from mourning
after.” I feel a burn in my eyes.
She touches my face, turns her hand to show me my tears. “But
you did learn how.”
“That’s you,” I say. “You gave me back to myself.” She had.
She had taught me what I had so desperately needed to know: how to
feel again, how to come alive after being frozen since six. I had not
been old enough to fully control my emotions, just to repress them. I
had lived amputated at the neck while trying to shock others with some
elaborate masque. Sokar the emotional Vulcan–but it was a lie. All
that had been left me was sour bitterness. Then I had met Ioanna.
But that did not explain why the memory had come back now. “I
had thought–” I made a frustrated gesture. “I had thought it
exorcised finally. But being here….and Cleo so young. How can I
protect her? What if–”
She puts fingers over my lips again. “Be still. There’s no need
to start bailing until there’s water in the ship, you know. And you
demand too much of yourself. Then. Now. Discipline has a place, but
perfection is impossible even for Vulcans. Even for the son of Spock.
Not everyone blamed you, Sokar. Even among your own people, not
everyone blamed you. Sarek didn’t. And neither did your father.
Sarek told me.”

***

“My wife, you expect too much of him. He is only a child.”
“He is nearly of age for his kas-wahn, and his training was all
but complete. Still, he panicked as if he were a human.”
“He is, partly.”
“Then he will have to get over it.”
“No, he will have to learn to integrate it.”
My parents, arguing. They would have said they were ‘discussing’
but truth was, they were arguing. The T’Rei, badly damaged, had
returned to Vulcan for repairs and my father had taken leave to come
home and see us, see me. There was a decision to be made: what to do
with me now. I had wedged myself under a table on the mezzanine above
the gathering room. Hidden by drop cream lace, I listened.
“His human blood is not why he panicked,” my father said. “He
panicked because he was frightened, and even Vulcan children can be
frightened when they are young.”
“The others did not run.”
“But not all of them did as they had been instructed either. How
many hid in the closet? Does the security report not say that five
ran to pile inside, and another curled up in the blanket bin? Hardly
an optative arrangement; they could have suffocated one another. And
young Sempek screamed until he literally passed out from exhaustion.”
“Sempek is four.”
“Sokar is only six. At least he had the presence of mind to run
when T’Vei gave him the opportunity. He leapt into a jefferies tube
and climb inside an air vent. Clever. The Orions did not find him,
did they?”
There was a silence. Then my mother said, “We still must decide
what should be done with him. It is out of the question that he be
taken back aboard ship. He is not recovered.” A hesitation. “The
doctors say that he may never recover entirely, unless they perform
the pan sar.”
Peering out lace eyelets, I wondered how one is supposed to
recover from twenty-seven hours in an air-vent, clothes stiff with
someone else’s blood.
My father spoke again. “No pan sar. I would not have wished
this experience on him, but erasing his memories is not the answer.
He must be taught how to deal with them. I think he should stay with
my parents.”
“Your parents are elderly, my husband. Is it fair to ask them to
care for a six year old? I could prevail on my brother–”
“No. In this matter, age may serve better than youth, and he is
a quiet child. Let him stay here, play his piano and go to a normal
school, watch T’Kuht rise over the desert. There is nothing here to
remind him. Children are resilient.”
So it was decided.

***

“I remember,” I say now to Ioanna. My father had stood up for
me. I had nearly forgotten that. Yet I have turned out less
resilient than he had hoped. Or perhaps recovery is simply a process
and I am still in it.
Rising, I test my balance. I am weak, but can walk. “Let’s go
get you out of that uniform,” Ioanna says. I just nod and follow her
back to our cabin.
When I have changed, I pick up my daughter and sit with her on
the couch for a long time. She falls asleep in my arms. So trusting.
But the universe is not a safe place, however much we might try to
make it so. I hold her close and bury my nose in her hair. She
smells baby-sweet.
In the end, what I have is the now. I cannot control the future,
nor protect her forever. The best I can do is seek to prepare her for
it, as my own parents did. I may fault them–fairly, I think–for not
being there enough. But I cannot fault them for making me Vulcan.
They simply did what they thought best, as I will do now in my own
turn. What happened to me was nothing anyone could have predicted.
Six-year-old children should not witness violence. When they do, it
is always tragic.
But the one person I had thought cared about me least had been
the one to insist I be given the space I needed to heal, as best I
could at the time.
Later that day, I go to my piano bench and open it. The chamber
is shallow; this is no student’s bench designed to hold music. My
music is in my head, or in a library. This bench contains only
memorabilia.
Perhaps I was not entirely honest a month ago when I first began
remembering my past. Vulcans can be nostalgic. I sift through the
contents: a faded solid of a review, a pressed rose, a key to my
grandmother’s piano, an autographed score of Michelyesin, the first
piece of Ioanna’s that I ever played, and a letter. A paper letter,
hand-addressed, postmarked from San Francisco, Earth. My father’s
letter.
I take it out. Time has yellowed the envelope; it feels brittle
and dry in my fingers. With a penknife, I slit it open, carefully
extract four pages and unfold them, begin to read.

*** Finis ***



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