Plans for the consummation of the pair's union are thrown off course when Spock receives a top-secret communication that lures him into the heart of the Romulan empire. Enmeshed in the treacherous political intrigues of the Romulan capital, undone by a fire that grows ever hotter within his blood, Spock must use all his logic and experience to survive a crisis that will ultimately determine the fate of empires!
About the Author
Susan Shwartz is the author of such acclaimed novels as The Grail of Hearts, Shards of Empire, and Hostile Takeover. She lives in Forest Hills, New York.
Read an Excerpt
VULCAN, SAREK'S ESTATE, DAY 2, FIRST WEEK OF SHARVEEN, YEAR 2329
Lieutenant Jean-Luc Picard of Starfleet, twenty-four Earth years old and, for all his Starfleet experience, feeling painfully aware of his youth amid this distinguished gathering, tugged surreptitiously at the hem of his dress uniform's tunic, trying to get the cursed thing to lie properly -- and trying at the same time not to sweat. Tri-ox injections might help a human deal with Vulcan's thinner atmosphere, but the climate was still unbelievably warm, even now when it was barely dawn. It was rather flattering that his captain should have picked him to be part of this ceremonial team, but --
"Already hotter than good old Terran Hell, isn't it?" a voice with an unmistakable Southern United States accent drawled.
Picard turned sharply, and found himself staring into a weatherworn, aged face -- with two of the shrewdest, least-aged eyes he'd seen. "Sir?" Picard began, then hastily upgraded that as the man's trim maroon uniform and metallic ornaments registered (despite the floppy, decidedly nonregulation sunhat): "Admiral!"
God, there was only one Starfleet admiral who would be this old, and this old-fashionedly Southern: "Admiral -- Doctor -- Admiral McCoy!"
"Doctor, please. Sounds more natural."
But this was the McCoy, Leonard McCoy, the one who'd shipped with Captain James T. Kirk aboard the original Enterprise, yes, and with Mr. Spock, Ambassador Spock, too -- Picard had to fight himself not to grab the admiral's hand, reminding himself sternly, You are not a raw cadet, you are a Starfleet lieutenant. Of course the admiral would be here; he was one of Spock's oldest Starfleet friends. But this -- this was like meeting part of living history!
"At ease, son", the famous McCoy said wryly. "This damn climate's no place for military formality."
" But, sir, I -- I know -- "
"You're not going to tell me you read about me in school, are you?"
At Picard's guilty start, McCoy snorted. "Isn't that charming. Lieutenant Whoever..."
"Picard, sir. Jean-Luc Picard, serving with Captain Anton Manning."
"A pleasure, Lieutenant Jean-Luc Picard. But I haven't survived a century just to become someone's folk hero!"
The world-weary grin was infectious. Picard hazarded a smile in return, then abruptly remembered where he was, and why he was here, and went back to attention.
"Nice turnout," McCoy murmured in his ear. "But then, Spock's earned it."
Picard glanced subtly about. He couldn't put names to most of the civilians, although there was no mistaking the strong features of Dr. Mbiti, the Kenyan-born Ambassador to Vulcan, in his flowing red, green, and black robes. There were no less than twenty Starfleet officers, eighteen human men and women, one lithe gray-furred felinoid Ikatr, and one startlingly blue Bolian. All of them, including his solid, middle-aged captain, looked crisp, clean, and uncomfortable in their dress uniforms, a row of muted reds and blues. The Vulcan dignitaries, a I lot of scientists and diplomats, men and women, were still assembling, elegant, lean figures, utterly tranquil and absolutely silent in their flowing white or brown or blue robes. Picard straightened as he recognized one of them, too, a slender woman in a long bronze robe, from the newsvids: T'Sera, who had led the second archaeological expedition to M-113. He'd love the chance to hear her lecture...but not in this climate.
"Not a mussed hair on any of them," McCoy continued. "But then, they're bred for this climate. A little thing like desert heat isn't going to bother them.
"This is Ambassador Sarek's land, isn't it?"
"Sure is. Been in the family for millennia."
The plateau on which they stood would have looked like a Breton stone circle -- if Brittany had suddenly spouted fumaroles and its grassy fields had turned to reddish rock. Picard stifled a cough as the breeze brought him a whiff of sulfur, and watched the dark blue shadows rapidly retreat from the deeper red of the desert plains far below.
"Sir? Isn't that peak Mount Seleya?"
"That it is. The only mountain in the area with snow on it. Watch, now. You'll see something spectacular."
Above the distant Mount Seleya and the other jagged peaks, the thin air was already starting to shimmer. Then with dramatic suddenness, the rising sun, 40 Eridani A, flared off the snow capping Mount Seleya, turning the mountain's peak to blazing copper -- and catching Picard right in the eye.
Wonderful. If the ceremony didn't start soon, the sun was going to be burning his scalp right through his already sadly thinning hair.
"God, what I'd give for some shade," someone muttered and Picard silently agreed. To take his mind off his discomfort, he tried to picture himself sitting in a chair in relatively cool shade, maybe even with a tall glass of iced tea, the real thing, Earl Grey all the way from Earth.
The fantasy wasn't working. Feeling a trickle of sweat tickling its way down his back, Picard fought not to fidget. "Uh...sir?"
"Go ahead, son. Ask away. Takes both our minds off the weather."
"About the betrothal...I understood that it was normal Vulcan practice for formal betrothals to take place between seven-year-old children."
"That's right. And such a betrothal's every bit as important to Vulcans as the actual wedding years later. But yes, today it's two adults getting betrothed, not two kids."
Specifically, Picard's mind filled in, Ambassador Spock, formerly of Starfleet, and Starfleet Commander Saavik, first officer of the U.S.S. Armstrong.
Two people who've been colleagues and friends for decades now," McCoy mused aloud. "And why they're doing this at this stage of their lives..." He shrugged, a little too casually. "There are exceptions to every rule."
And there's more to the story than you're going to tell me, isn't there? "Two people who've been colleagues and friends for decades."
His mind wanted very much to make something romantic out of that. But Picard rather suspected that this late betrothal was more a matter of convenience, or maybe politics. You never knew motives for sure, if Starfleet scuttlebutt was correct, when someone as, well, cunning as the father of the groom, Ambassador Sarek, was involved.
He suddenly realized that a high-ranking officer had moved to McCoy's side -- no, not just high-ranking. This was Captain Truman Howes of the Armstrong, Commander Saavik's ship, his fair skin and pale eyes startlingly out of place in a desert climate.
"Worried about your first officer?" McCoy asked mildly.
"Hardly! Commander Saavik can take care of herself. Best first officer any captain ever had" he added, with a glance at Picard. "It's worth coming down into this...this blast furnace of a world to see this. He'd better be good to her," Howes added to McCoy in an undertone, "or, ambassador or not, he'll hear from my crew. And me."
"Just don't expect Spock to keep her safe," McCoy drawled. "It's her job to go in harm's way, and Spock who taught her that job, remember? If you ask me," he continued, "though, mind you, nobody has, I'd say this is just what the doctor ordered. Since Spock left the Fleet, they've both been too damned alone."
A rustle of the dawn wind brought with it the high-pitched chime of tiny bells.
"Ha," McCoy exclaimed. "Here we go."
The Starfleet officers straightened to attention. So did the Vulcans, though no one could have called their subtle, elegant tensing a military posture.
Two heavyset Vulcans wearing black skullcaps topped with starched frills carried out a large jadeite gong, which a third man struck. Its deep-voiced boom echoed out onto the Forge.
"Right," Picard heard McCoy mutter. "They never did get around to replacing the old one."
That didn't mean anything to Picard. The hot wind from the desert was swirling up here, nearly stifling him. If he blacked out...Silently, Picard breathed the ancient pilot's prayer: Oh God, don't let me screw up. The last thing he wanted to do was embarrass Starfleet, or offend his Vulcan hosts. After all, he hoped to be a captain someday. Stories about the fabulous Captain James T. Kirk notwithstanding, it was rare for any human to be invited to a Vulcan ceremony.
The gong boomed out again, to be answered by trembling showers of bells. As 40 Eridani A blazed in the Vulcan sky, the long shadows cast by the menhirs defining the meeting place converged. The humans hushed; the Vulcans were already silent.
"Here we go," McCoy repeated softly.
A figure in the dark blue-gray robes of a Vulcan ambassador stepped from behind one of the reddish, polished stones. Could this be Spock? No, this Vulcan was too old for that...tall and graying of hair, but surrounded by an air of matter-of-fact dignity --
Ambassador Sarek! Picard realized in awe. So that was what august" looked like.
"Looks like one of the better Roman emperors, doesn't he?" the irrepressible McCoy murmured, almost making Picard choke. "Ah, and there you are, my green-blooded friend."
This had to be Ambassador Spock, just as impressive as his father, his rugged face composed, his tall, lean figure straightbacked in his somber ambassador's robes. Light caught and pooled in the gems of his insignia.
The bells chimed again, rising to a shrill, painful crescendo.
"There! Will you just look at her," Captain Howes whispered.
Commander Saavik glided forward from between two pillars across the central clearing, her dark hair spilling down her back, her strong, elegantly planed face unreadable. As the morning sunlight struck her, her long, traditional silver robes, the edges whispering against the sand, shimmered like water.
Picard drew in a sharp breath. He had not expected this otherworldly serenity. "She looks like something out of the Hollow Hills." Damn! He hadn't meant to say something so whimsical. Please God that no one had overheard! But of course McCoy had, judging from his sly sideways grin, so Picard tried desperately to cover with, "Do you think Vulcans have tales like that?"
"Course they do, son. Just look at the ears."
Just in time, Picard managed to suppress what would have been a disastrous laugh.
Saavik stopped beside Spock, studying the audience as sharply as though looking for threats to security -- or just not approving of being so conspicuous. Her glance flicked to the two tall figures standing by the menhirs. Each guard held what looked to Picard like an unholy combination of machete and bludgeon.
"Lirpa," McCoy explained in a whisper. "They're taking no chances."
Out of nowhere, Picard remembered that Commander Saavik was half-Romulan. Had she had something to say about the security arrangements?
Spock murmured a few words to her, and she looked up at him, something that could almost have been a smile flicking at the comers of her mouth for the barest of instants.
Lucky man! Picard found himself thinking. Even if Spock was a Vulcan, not a man.
For a third time, the gong throbbed out over Vulcan's Forge. Breaking into the fading echoes came the highpitched chime of even more bells. Two of the biggest Vulcans Picard had ever seen stalked into the amphitheater. They, too, carried lirpa Following them were attendants bearing a sedan chair, gleaming with black lacquer delicately engraved in an intricate red geometric design. The chair's occupant was female and very old, so fragile that she seemed carved from translucent alabaster, yet sitting proudly erect, refusing to sway with the motions of her bearers or lean back against the chair.
"Kroykah!" Her voice was strong.
"My God" McCoy said, "it's T'Pau."
Picard drew a startled breath. T'Pau of Vulcan had been one of the most important political forces on the planet for at least two centuries!
"I thought she'd died fifty years ago." McCoy shook his head. "Maybe she won't know me after all these years."
T'Pau turned her head slowly, an empress surveying her domain. Her gaze swept over McCoy, and for the briefest instance, she raised an ironic brow.
McCoy snorted. "Fat chance. I should have guessed."
T'Pau's bearers carefully deposited her chair before the central dais, where empty chains swayed slightly in the hot wind.
"That's where the old gong used to hang." McCoy's voice was suddenly full of tension.
Spock dropped to one knee before T'Pau, who leaned forward to touch the ambassador's temple. Picard saw Spock's face go blank, as though he'd instantly entered trance.
T'Pau beckoned to Saavik. She, too, sank down in a reverence as graceful as a dance, and she, too, sank into trance at the old woman's touch.
The Vulcan guests went utterly motionless; Picard could almost feel the force of their concentration.
Facing each other, Spock and Saavik stretched their hands out to touch each other's temples. The gesture was not an embrace; Picard did not know what to call it. As T'Pau adjusted their,fingers as if they were, in truth, only seven years old, Sarek moved forward, face impassive but eyes keen, to oversee, the ritual.
At T'Pau's nod, the betrothed pair began to speak.
"My mind to your mind," Spock said softly.
"My thoughts to your thoughts," Saavik replied.
"Parted from me and never parted..."
"Never and always touching and touched."
At those words, T'Pau extended her ancient hands to cover Spock's and Saavik's fingers, as if sealing their vows.
The Frenchman in Picard caught his breath...but if Saavik's eyes closed or Spock's face gentled, the moment passed so quickly that Picard could have imagined it.
"Now thee are one," T'Pau intoned. "At the appointed time, thee shall be drawn together."
Sarek nodded in approval, the faintest dip of his head, and stepped back.
At a quick gesture from T'Pau, Spock and Saavik removed their hands from each other's faces as matter-of-factly as if they had merely checked each other for fever.
Spock rose and held out his hand, two fingers extended for the public contact permitted bonded pairs. Saavik brushed his fingers formally with her own and allowed herself to be raised to her feet. For a moment, each studied the other.
Something feels different, does it? Picard wondered.
Then, each raised a quizzical eyebrow, clearly concluding: Not that different.
Spock nodded to his father, while Saavik bowed slightly. The venerable ambassador put out a hand as if to welcome her, but did not quite touch her.
And that was very much that.
What did you expect? Picard asked himself.
It wasn't, he decided after a moment's consideration, that they were passionless -- at least he hoped not -- just so well controlled that there was no gesture of caring, of tenderness that a human might detect. Even in a couple who had known and valued each other for decades.
"Show's over," McCoy muttered. "C'mon, Lieutenant, let's get the rest of the formalities over with."
What happened next was more familiar. The Starfleet officers formed into a long line -- predictably in order of rank, which put Picard near the end. One by one, they paid their respects. Simple enough if you knew the drill. March up to the dignitaries, brace oneself, formally bow one's head, say a few words -- in Vulcan if possible -- and move on before the next person in line collapsed.
Up ahead, he heard Saavik tell her captain, "I am relieved to see that you survived this ordeal." She was almost smiling. "We will have you out of the sun soon."
Finally, it was Picard's turn to bow with the gallantry that was as much his heritage as the vineyards of Labarre, France. He raised his hand in the split-fingered Vulcan salute he had been practicing for days and recited the Vulcan words of polite goodwill he had memorized.
"Welcome to Vulcan," Spock said.
"Your presence honors us," Saavik added. Her voice was clear, but held husky resonances that sent the tiniest shiver up Picard's spine.
Greatly daring, he decided to try one more sentence in High Vulcan, this time to Ambassador Sarrek: "We come to serve."
"Your service honors us," the ambassador replied.
I said it right!
Move along! The sun was growing fierce, and, what was worse, Picard felt his captain's eyes burning holes in him from. a position by the gateway. Oh, but how he would have loved to speak longer with the legendary ambassador! Perhaps Sarek would consent to answer a question or two; the ambassador had spent a good deal of time teaching at the Vulcan Science Academy and as a special lecturer on Earth.
Captain Manning's glare grew hotter. Picard moved along.
After what felt like several geological eras, the reception line ended in a straggle of ensigns. The ambassadors' aides guided human and Vulcan guests into a blessedly cool underground reception hall. There, Saavik poured water for the guests in token of her new responsibilities to come, while a cluster of senior officers and diplomats surrounded Spock.
Captain Howes approached Saavik, his fair-skinned face redder than his relatively brief exposure to Eridani 40 A would warrant. "Ah, Saavik, may I ask you a question?"
She raised an eyebrow at her superior officer's courteous, if tentative, request. "As you wish, sir."
"Will you require more time here on Vulcan? You and the ambassador...Armstrong would be honored to pick you up on our next circuit."
Saavik glanced aside and downward, then at her betrothed. "Thank you, Captain Howes. But I see no logic in postponing my return to the ship. Our joint research projects are in good order, are they not?" she asked her betrothed, who nodded gravely.
"Then there is no need for me to remain here, Captain. Ambassador Spock's duties will soon be taking him offworld. I shall be ready to beam up when Armstrong leaves orbit."
"Oh for Pete's sake, you two!" McCoy's exasperation seemed harsh after the softness of Saavik's voice. He looked from one to the other of the betrothed pair, shaking his head in disgust.
"Honestly, Spock! I wonder sometimes if either of you learned a damn thing from..."
Picard would have delayed his next promotion by six months...no, make that two...to hear what it was McCoy wondered if Spock had learned -- and from whom.
Maybe it's the difference between Vulcan and human customs. But they don't exactly seem reluctant to be parted.
Or perhaps he read them wrongly. Even now, as they stood with their backs to one another, a tenuous awareness seemed to join them. Like, Picard thought with a moment of sudden sharp, unashamed romance, two stars orbiting each other, maybe not touching, but never truly parted at all.
FROM: Spock, son of Sarek, on Vulcan civilian transport Selnar, en route to Earth
TO: Solvar, Department Head, Vulcan Science Academy, Department of Extra-Vulcan Research, ShiKahr
I need not, at this late date, itemize the incidents surrounding the Sundering. However, after careful initial research, I must state that I believe there is no logic in further isolating those who are, after all, our genetic kin. I therefore request that a research team be assembled to study the Romulan culture, with the short-term goal of augmented information, the mediumterm goal of initiating contact with the Romulan people, and, should such discussions prove productive, the long-term goal of introducing a proposal for Reunification of the two branches of our species.
Live long and prosper.
FROM: Solvar, Department Head, Vulcan Science Academy, Department of Extra-Vulcan Research, ShiKahr
TO: Spock, son of Sarek, Vulcan Embassy, San Francisco, Earth
We have considered your request. It does not, however, strike us as logical to initiate a project of this scope at this time, especially in view of the extreme emotionality and tendency toward violence of the Romulans, and the likely Federation response to any such study.
Peace and long life.
FROM: Spock, son of Sarek, Vulcan Embassy, Andor
TO:Solvar, Department Head, Vulcan Science Academy, Department of Extra-Vulcan Research, ShiKehr
Revisiting my request of 2342 that a research team be assembled with the long-term goal of evaluating the potential benefits and philosophical challenges of Reunification with the Sundered, I wish to observe that a study of Romulan linguistics (refer to attached files) does, indeed, point to a closer link between the Sundered and those of Vulcan than the Department of Xenolinguistics initially believed. In substantiation of this hypothesis, I refer you to the work of such linguists as T'Karra and Verrin, who have proven, as is evident in their monograph (also attached), that spoken Romulan is definitely related to the form of Old High Vulcan spoken a thousand years ago.
I also need not remind you that a thousand years, even two thousand years, is not long enough, under natural standards, for any major genetic changes to have occurred in the Vulcanoid somatype, even allowing for Romulus' slightly cooler, slightly more temperate climate.
Surely this link that clearly remains between Vulcan and the Romulans merits further study.
live long and prosper
FROM: Solvar, Department Head, Vulcan Science Academy, Department of Extra-Vulcan Research, ShiKahr
TO: Spock, son of Sarek, Vulcan Embassy, Andor
While the study of linguistics is a perfectly logical pursuit, as is the study of genetic variation, we do not believe that the cause of Vulcan would be served at this time by a research project such as you propose. We further do not believe that the cause of logic is served by an ambassador who would attempt a project, in addition to his current ambassadorial duties, that would require him to venture out of his field of academic specialization and collaborate with the Starfleet of the United Federation of Planets to an extent that we consider would interfere with the objectivity commensurate with the role of a Vulcan ambassador. In the light of continued opposition to your project, which seems ill-judged at this -- or indeed at any other -- time, it is the considered opinion of this department that your persistence in this course is illogical in the extreme.
Peace and long life.
Copyright © 1999 by Paramount Pictures.