DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc and Viacom. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and is copyright (c) 2000 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Spock indicated I should take a seat. He sat down behind his desk and picked up my file. "Impressive credentials, Valeris."
I nodded but said nothing. I knew the grades
were impressive. And I was proud of them because they were all my own. When I
had gone into the databases I had only changed the name from Rise Chapel to
Valeris. And added years to increase my age and deleted all references to
having skipped six grades. Shayla and Cameron had
done most of the creation of my back story. In this new reality Valeris had
grown up in
Spock leafed through the file. "You did not go to an Academy preparatory school?"
"There wasn't one in
"You could have left
"I did not wish to leave Dr. Boyce."
He looked up at me. "Yes, I am surprised at that. Why would you choose to live with a human?"
I kept my face impassive. "He was kind to me when I was rescued. He made me feel safe when I was a terrified and hurt child. I grew attached to him. And he had no one to look after him. I felt that I owed him for bringing me back from the brink of madness that the Orions had left me in." I looked away, as if uncomfortable with the strong memories invoked by this line of questioning. "He was an excellent guardian. He made certain that I had constant exposure to the Vulcans he knew."
"Yes, I am well acquainted with Dr. Boyce's good qualities. I served with him on my first tour."
"Yes, Sir. He told me that. He recommended I come to you to seek sponsorship."
"He could have sponsored you."
I met his gaze fearlessly. "Yes but it would not have meant as much. And as you say I did not go to the right schools. I will need as much help as I can get." When he did not react, I played my trump card. "Sir, I realize you would be taking a chance on me. But you have done it before."
His eyebrow lifted in surprise. "You mean Lieutenant Saavik?" When I nodded his eyes narrowed. "You are right, she did very well at the Academy."
I lifted my chin. "I shall do better."
I saw his head tilt as he took in my arrogance. I did not want to overplay this so I kept my expression stern but let my eyes show amusement. For a moment I thought he would refuse me his help, but then his face relaxed.
"You do not know what you are saying, Valeris. Saavik had an advantage over you." When I looked at him in confusion, he explained. "The academy is an exceptionally difficult environment for a Vulcan. The entire curriculum is designed to build relationships, make you accustomed to working closely and interacting socially with your peer cadre. Everything is based on teamwork. The grades are based on both academic results as well as team evaluations by your peers. Vulcans as a rule are not used to this sort of arrangement. We prefer to contribute as individuals. We generally are not well liked by our teammates and this plays against us. Saavik placed 20th in her class, the highest of any Vulcan to have gone through the Academy. That was because she was half Romulan and could interact with her primarily human comrades with a much greater ease than other Vulcans have been able to."
"I do, Sir. But I too have a unique history. I have been raised with humans. I understand them perhaps far better than most Vulcans, barring yourself of course." He nodded and I continued, "Moreover, there is the issue of Valkyrian."
He looked at me in surprise.
"I was one of the older children, Sir. I was six years old when the massacre happened, so I was old enough to remember why our parents were on the planet in the first place." Valkyrian had been colonized by a small group of Vulcans belonging to an outcast cult. They had left their home planet to escape the harsh coldness of their own culture, seeking instead to establish a balance between logic and emotions. "My first years were perhaps more open, more loving, than a typical Vulcans. Even now I sometimes have trouble hiding certain emotions. For example, when I am amused I am told that my eyes twinkle." I tried to make that sound like a bad thing.
"An interesting point, Valeris. And one perhaps with merit." Again his eyebrow lifted at me in what I was beginning to realize was almost humor.
Without realizing I was doing it I mimicked his movement and cocked my own eyebrow at him.
"I will look forward to seeing your first fitness report." He closed the file.
"Then you will sponsor me?" I had done it. The first hurdle was down.
"I shall talk to Starfleet this afternoon. Be prepared to move into the dormitories next week." He stood and I followed suit, standing as straight as I could.
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."
"You made an excellent case for yourself, Valeris. I would not have chosen you if left to my own devices."
I felt unaccountably pleased at his words. I had impressed him. I reminded myself that this was the man who had treated my mother so coldly, that had hurt us all. Yet as I left his office I did not feel in the least cold or unappreciated. It's just one meeting, I reminded myself. Anyone can make a good first impression, wait till you get to know him, then you'll discover the real Spock.
I left his office and beamed back to Phillip's where all my things now resided as if I had lived there all my life. They were all waiting for me.
"Well?" Shayla said.
I gave her my most Vulcan look. "I was successful in my endeavor." Then I broke into peals of laughter as I flung myself into her arms.
Spock was as good as his word. I received formal acceptance to the Academy the next day. By the following Sunday I was packing up my stuff and preparing to move into the dorms for the two week orientation and testing period. Shayla surprised me as I was closing my bags.
"Hey kiddo. I think you forgot something." She held out a small box.
I opened it and saw my grandmother's ring lying on the cotton. I looked at my aunt puzzled.
"I noticed you had quit wearing it."
"It is too small." I started to shut the box.
"Hey Einstein, you want to try it on before you do that?"
I slipped it easily on my finger. "You had it made bigger?"
"Yeah, sweetheart. And I had them use the gold from those earrings your mom always wore. The white gold studs. I thought that way you'd have a piece of her with you." She smiled at me, that cocky yet tender grin I had grown up loving.
"Oh thank you! I hated not wearing it. Now I'll never take it off. Oh Shayla, I'm going to miss you so." I hugged her and felt her arms tighten around me. Her tenderness undid me. The tears started to fall and I tried to fight them then gave up. "I miss her. I miss her so much."
"Oh Rise, I know you do. It's not too late to stop this. Just turn around and walk away and we'll roam the galaxy in the Miranda and your father will never be the wiser."
I realized she was crying too. I pulled away and wiped her face. "I can't. I wish I could, but I can't." She started to turn away but my hand on her arm stopped her. "I love you Shayla. More than you'll ever know."
She roughly rubbed the tears from her face. "And I love you. If I'd ever had a daughter, I'd have wanted her to be just like you." She picked up my bag and handed it to me. "Now get out of here before I kidnap you and force you to go gallivanting around the stars."
I stood in front of the entrance of the dormitory. Suddenly I was very afraid. The Vulcan was outwardly composed but the twelve-year old Human was terrified and wanted to go home. I took a deep breath and entered through the sliding doors. Inside was pure chaos. Cadets were everywhere, pulling crates, lugging suitcases. Every single one of them looked just as lost as I did. I saw several Starfleet regulars with data pads standing in the middle of the crowd of new arrivals. I pushed in and waited my turn.
"You're in 33, third floor to the right."
I ignored the lift and walked up the narrow staircase. I found the room much smaller than my own at home. Two beds were against opposite walls, bedding stacked on top. Two desks and two dressers faced each other. A tiny closet on either side would hold clothing and other belongings. I stared at the beds, trying to decide which to take.
I spun to check out the speaker. An extremely pretty human girl stood in the doorway. She held a bag and had another over her shoulder. Her smile was open and friendly. She stuck out her hand. "I'm Cassie. Cassie Drake."
I tried to put as much warmth as I could in my voice as I ignored her outstretched hand. "Hello. I'm Valeris. I guess this is our home now?"
"God it's tiny. Are they trying to kill us," she said walking to the left-hand bed. Decision made.
I put my bag down on the floor at the end of the other bed. "I think they are just trying to get us used to the quarters we will have onboard ship." She looked at me suspiciously. I did not want to alienate her so I let my eyes sparkle as I continued, "But it certainly lacks charm."
She laughed. "We can fix that! There are all kinds of great shops outside the academy. We can get posters and lamps and rugs."
I wanted to laugh but I contented myself with an upswept eyebrow. "Can we unpack first?"
She laughed again. "You're funny, Valeris. I like that! When I saw I was rooming with a Vulcan I was really nervous. I mean I'm not very reserved. In that I kind of like to talk. A lot. And I like to have fun. And so I thought you'd be a real drag. But somehow, judging from that twinkle in your eye that you are trying so hard to hide, I think we are going to get along just great!"
I allowed my mouth to twitch up just a tad. "I'll deny it strenuously, of course."
She grinned and started to make her bed. "Bet my corners end up more regulation than yours!"
I reached for the bottom sheet. "You're on."
In the end both of our beds passed inspection. Our floor CO gave us an appreciative nod as we stood at rigid attention. "Well done, Cadet Drake, Cadet Valeris. Keep it up and you'll have no trouble with me."
When he was gone I watched Cassie comb out her dark red hair and refasten it into a neat bun. She saw me studying her, "What?"
"You seem a contradiction. At one moment complaining about the size of the room and the next standing in perfect form, with a perfect bun, and a perfect bed behind you. I must admit to some confusion."
"I really want to be here, Valeris. *Really* want to be here. But that doesn't mean that there won't be time for fun. We can have both." She patted her hair to make sure no tendrils were escaping. " I'll let you in on a little secret, roomie. I'm going to graduate top of our class."
"That is unfortunate."
I raised my eyebrow. "It is unfortunate because I too intend to graduate at the top of our class. I guess that will quickly end our friendship." I felt sadness; already I was losing my first friend.
She gave me a quick knock in the arm. "Are you kidding, Valeris? You think I'd want to be friends with a slacker. What a four years we will have!"
"I plan to do it in three and a half."
She smiled wolfishly at me. "Let's do it in three then. Deal?" She did not offer her hand again but instead made a "why not" gesture.
Another half smile accompanied my answer. "Deal."
We sat inside the Academy auditorium listening to the latest in a long line of orientation speakers. Most of the lectures had been interesting but this topic was unspeakably dull. A movement at the doorway caught my attention and I watched a familiar figure walk into the classroom and take a seat to the side of the podium. The agenda had said the next briefer was still to be determined or I would have been better prepared to see my father.
Cassie nudged me and pushed her notepad toward me. On it she had written "That's Spock. He's a living legend. What I wouldn't give to meet him."
I took my own notepad and wrote, "I'll introduce you someday. He's my sponsor."
Her look of awe almost made me laugh. I hurriedly wrote more, "I don't really know him yet. I've only met him once."
She looked mollified so we turned back to the speaker just in time to hear him finish and ask for questions. There were none so the class dean got up to introduce Spock.
I'm not sure what I expected from my father. Detached brilliance perhaps. Or Vulcan arrogance. But what stood in front of me was a man that in a quiet, dignified, at times even wryly funny way, challenged us to be our best, to do our best, to give our best. He warned us, he urged us, he made us feel special, and he made us feel charged with a mission to succeed. Watching him I began to understand what my mother had seen in him all those years ago. There were many questions when he finished and then thunderous applause. The dean called for a short break.
"Go see him, Valeris." Cassie urged.
Suddenly I was nervous. This must have been how my mother felt. So terrified of his rejection. "Come with me," I hissed to her. I could feel her following me as we made our way to where a small clump of cadets had besieged my father with more questions.
He looked up and saw us approaching. Excusing himself from the group he moved to meet us, nodding a greeting. "Cadet Valeris, a pleasure to see you again. Who is your friend?"
An interesting choice of words, I thought. And one that he had chosen deliberately. "Sir, may I present Cadet Cassie Drake."
"Cadet." He nodded to her.
She looked as if she would burst with excitement but her voice was composed. "Sir, it is a very great honor."
"Are you two roommates?" We both nodded. He leaned in and spoke conspiratorially. "A word of advice. Stay away from the banana pudding."
Cassie giggled and glanced at me. I had nearly gagged on the stuff last night. "Yes sir. We found that out the hard way. Or Valeris did anyway."
"I'm afraid there are many things that you will find out the hard way here. But that pudding should not have been one of them." He looked at me with a slight twinkle of his own in his eyes. "A tragedy, Cadet Valeris."
"One that could have been avoided if you had warned us sooner, Sir." I knew my own eyes were sparkling now.
"Indeed. I must make it up to you. I believe you have a free dinner period tomorrow? I shall collect both of you after your last class and take you to a place that every cadet should know about. The sooner the better."
Cassie looked as if she had died and gone to heaven. I merely nodded, "Most kind, Sir."
He nodded again and left the room.
Cassie in her excitement grabbed my arm. Somewhat stunned myself, I did not even think to pull away. I felt confused. Two interactions with Spock, three if you counted the lecture, and he was nothing at all like what I had expected. I felt as if I was betraying my mother but I could feel myself beginning to like him.
The next day Cassie and I waited outside the auditorium for Spock to show up. We had been there for twenty minutes. I was surprised at how disappointed I was that he was not here.
"Do you think he forgot?" Cassie sounded as dejected as I felt.
"It would appear so." I picked up my books from the bench. "I guess it's the mess hall for us." As I turned I saw two tall figures approaching, one in uniform, the other in a Vulcan robe. "Or perhaps not."
As the men came into view my heart started to pound desperately. The man with Spock was the Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation. Sarek. My grandfather.
"I apologize to both of you. I kept my son delayed on an important matter. I am gratified to see that you were patient."
"Father allow me to introduce Cadet Valeris and Cadet Drake."
Sarek nodded to Cassie politely but seemed to study me intently. "Cadet Valeris, my son's new protégé. I must confess that I am not familiar with your case."
This was one of those situations we had practiced for over and over again. "I have spent no time on Vulcan, Mr. Ambassador. And little around prominent Vulcans. I would be surprised if those on my home planet considered me anything more than an entry in a database."
"Bitterness, Valeris?" The Ambassador's gaze was even as he looked at me.
"No, Sir. Realism. Had I grown up on Valkyrian, as my parents intended, Vulcan would never have known of my existence. It is perhaps the way it was meant to be."
"Logical." Sarek nodded, satisfied. "I will not keep you longer. Enjoy your meal." And he was gone. My father's father. I was in awe.
"Wow," Cassie echoed my thoughts.
"My father *is* rather intimidating upon first meeting." Spock started walking away from campus and we fell in beside him. We walked in silence for several blocks then Spock turned down an alley and disappeared into a dank stairwell. I looked at Cassie and she knit her brows together in suspicion. We followed him down the steps and into a dimly lit but cavernous restaurant. Soft music played and the room was filled with cadets dining in quiet groups or eating alone. I looked at Spock in surprise.
"Sekhmet is always like this. A calm place in the storm that is the Academy. And the food is excellent."
I became aware of the savory smells filling the room. We followed Spock to an empty booth in the back. It was pleasantly warm in the room. A waiter brought us hot cloths, which somehow seemed very decadent. I looked over at Spock but he was taking his time refreshing his hands with the small towel.
"It also has the grace of our home planet, Valeris. You should really make time to visit Vulcan."
I nodded but did not say anything. I was not eager to go there. I was unsure whether my mostly human body would betray me in the planet's thin atmosphere. I could not afford to take the chance.
We let him order an assortment of dishes, and he spent some time finding out more about Cassie and me. When the appetizer came, a large bowl of savory spread with toasted bread, we were all comfortable enough to enjoy the food while we talked. All day I had worried about the evening, afraid that the dinner would be a stilted affair with Cassie's effervescence squashed by Spock's disapproval and me stuck in the middle. But we all seemed to be at ease.
After we had finished our entrees, Cassie brought up our favorite topic. "Sir, do you think it is possible to graduate the Academy in three years?"
He lifted an eyebrow. "I do not understand the question, Cadet."
I rushed to explain. "Cassie and I are both determined to graduate number one. We thought to graduate a year early would help ensure that."
He looked amused. "I am afraid you are both operating under a misunderstanding. There is no graduating early from this particular institution. The idea of much of the curriculum is to help you bond with your peer group, to learn to trust and work together, eventually to be assigned together as junior officers to a ship or shore duty. It would be counterproductive to suddenly thrust you into another class, where you would not have established ties."
I frowned, "Then how does Starfleet know who is excelling? Isn't this system encouraging mediocrity?"
"On the contrary, a student determined to excel can go on to more advanced classes in her discipline, or alternatively might wish to specialize in more than one subject matter. There are always ways to do more than is expected here." It was apparent he could see the gears already whirring in both Cassie's and my mind. "If I might make a suggestion? You would be well advised to allow yourself time to simply adjust to this new environment before you rush off to make academic history."
Cassie turned red and laughed. I let a small half smile loose. "Yes, Sir," we both whispered.
Spock looked satisfied that we had taken his advice to heart. For the next hour or so he entertained us with words of wisdom on the Academy, warnings of the idiosyncrasies of some of the faculty, and a few of the most common mistakes new cadets made in drill. When we finally left Sekhmet and walked back to the campus he was silent, but not in a cold way. As we neared the dorm, Cassie turned to him.
"Thank you so much, Sir, for including me. I'm going to go in now so that you and Valeris can have some time together."
"Most gracious. It was a pleasure having you along, Cadet Drake."
As we stood alone together I was suddenly nervous. His next words surprised me utterly
"What are your plans for the weekend?"
I had originally thought of going home because Cassie was going to stay with a cousin in Sauselito. But Shayla was offworld and I did not feel like being in Seattle without her. "I am unsure of my activities."
"I am staying with my parents while they are on Earth. Saavik will also be here. Why don't you join us for the weekend? They have plenty of room."
I could not believe my ears. Spend time with my father at my grandparents? It was terrifying. It was a dream come true. "I do not wish to intrude, Sir."
"If it were an intrusion, I would not have asked, Valeris. Classes let out at three on Fridays. I will pick you up here at four."
"I will be ready, Sir." I studied him for a long moment. His calm brown eyes did not look away as he too returned my gaze. His look was neither threatening nor particularly academic. It was as if he was getting to know the contours of my face, the variety of my expressions. I felt helpless in the force of that gaze. Finally, in confusion I mumbled a quick "Good night," and turned on my heel walking steadily to the door, when all I really wanted to do was flee.
I was incredibly nervous as I rode with Spock in the airtaxi to his parents' house. He had picked me up precisely at four. We did not speak as we passed the familiar off campus area then headed for the suburbs. We drove past the Chancellery building and stopped at a very grand residence. Spock paid the driver as I got our bags out of the trunk.
"Someone will get those," he said, seemingly unconcerned as he opened the front door and walked through.
I put the bags down and left them in the driveway. As I followed my father, a Vulcan passed me. I turned to see him picking up the load I had dropped. Spock's voice calling my name made me hurry inside. And stop in awe. I had never seen a more beautiful place. It was huge; no doubt they had to entertain large groups here. The furniture was heavy yet graceful. All darks and lights, the colors of shadows and sand. A small fountain was in the entranceway and several others were in the large receiving room. I was surprised to see that the artwork was mostly of Human origin given the overwhelming Vulcanness of the rest of the décor.
"This must be Valeris."
I turned instinctively to the welcoming voice. A small woman was approaching. She was dressed in an outfit that managed to be somehow both Human and Vulcan but she was unmistakably human.
"I'm Spock's mother. Please call me Amanda. My son has told me a great deal about you."
I resisted raising my eyebrow. I did not see that Spock knew much about me to tell. "It is a great pleasure to meet you, Amanda. I thank you for allowing me to visit."
"Don't be silly, dear. We have lots of room." She turned to Spock, "Your father wishes to see you in his office. I'll show Valeris around." He obediently left to seek Sarek out and I followed Amanda around the house as she showed me my room and the various other places I would need to know. We ended up in the kitchen. As Amanda shooed a servant away and put some water on for tea I saw a huge black cat sunning herself in the large picture window. Her copper eyes stared back at me. "Oh how beautiful!" I moved slowly to her and began to touch her head and throat.
Amanda turned around in alarm. "Oh no dear Freya doesn't like Vulc..." She trailed off as the cat flopped over on her back and allowed me free access to her belly.
Her purrs filled my ears as I lost myself in the pleasure of being with an animal again. I was barely aware of Amanda saying, "Well she has never liked a Vulcan until now."
Freya grabbed my hand in a clear "Ok, enough," signal. I pulled away gently and sat down at the table where my grandmother had laid out some cookies to go with our tea. I gave her a tiny smile. "I was raised with animals. Dr. Boyce taught me to care for them. She must sense that."
"What a different life you must have had, Valeris. Tell me about it."
I found myself telling Amanda much more than I would have thought possible, given that so much of the backbone of my new life story was a lie. But I wanted her to know me, the real Rise, or at least as much of me as I could give her without exposing myself as a fraud. An hour flew by as we talked.
A voice sounded from the direction of the front room, "Amanda?"
"Saavik! In the kitchen, dear."
I had seen pictures of Saavik, but no flat image could capture the raw energy of the woman. She filled the room like a hurricane, giving Amanda a quick hug, fake snarling at Freya, then grabbing a cookie and chewing it absentmindedly as she studied me. "So you're Valeris?"
I had to bite back a sarcastic retort. It would not do to alienate her. I simply nodded.
She leaned in and laughed. "How very Vulcan you are."
"Now, Saavik, she's a sweet girl, you go easy on her."
Saavik dropped into a chair. "Oh fine, Amanda." She winked at me and I felt my expression loosen. "So who wants to hear all the latest gossip from Vulcan?"
I learned much from listening to the two women talk. Saavik had elected to take a short leave of absence from Starfleet after Spock's return to life but she planned to resume duty in three months. In the meantime she was doing some independent study at the Vulcan Science Academy. She knew many people on the planet and I filed away the unfamiliar names to look up later. I had little to contribute to the conversation so eventually Amanda steered it back to the Academy. Saavik told me several stories so hilarious I thought I would burst some vital internal organ trying to maintain my Vulcan composure. Then she gave me lots of advice on all kinds of things, from studies to boys.
Two low voices in the hallway signaled that Sarek and Spock were done with their business. We joined them in the front room and talked for another hour before dinner, which was a delicious and formal affair. Sarek seemed interested in me but I found myself slightly tongue-tied around him. I hoped my short answers made me seem more Vulcan and not less so.
I realized that I was exhausted about midway through the dessert course. I fought to stay alert but my tired eyes betrayed me to Spock who had been studying me off and on throughout dinner.
"Perhaps you should retire, Valeris?"
I jerked up at his words. "No, I am fine."
Saavik gave a snort of disbelief. "It's no crime to be tired after your first week at the Academy. It takes a while to get accustomed to the schedule and the constant presence of other people. Just having a roommate for the first time can be rough. I don't think I slept well for the first month I was there. So take advantage of that big comfy bed in your large private room upstairs and say goodnight, Valeris."
I deadpanned, "Goodnight, Valeris."
Saavik grinned back. "You have been around Humans for a while, haven't you? Now skedaddle."
I rose, turned to my hostess. "My apologies."
Amanda smiled. "Don't be silly. Go."
Spock gave me a warm look. "Sleep well, Valeris."
A cold fog hid the path in front of me. I felt my way through the woods.
"Mom?" I started to run. Branches whipped my face, brambles caught in my hair. I fell and scraped my knee. "Mom?"
"Rise, what have you done? What have you done?" She stood in front of me. Just as she had the last time I had seen her alive. Beautiful and glowing from her time on Risa. But she was looking at me with disapproval. "Rise, you have to stop. Don't you see you're killing me."
"No, Mom. No, I'd never do that." I reached out to her face. Where my hand touched her forehead a great gash appeared. Blood poured out.
"See? See what you're doing to me."
No! I jerked awake, trying to get my bearings in the strange room. Seconds passed before I realized I was in my grandparents' house in San Francisco. I sat up in bed breathing heavily, unwilling to put my head back down for fear of returning to the dream. I suddenly wanted milk. I had seen some in the kitchen and perhaps Freya was still down there. I slipped my feet into my soft slippers and stole down the hall. The upper level of the house was silent. As I crept down the stairs I heard a low murmur of voices in the library. A fire glowed behind the cracked door.
"It is logical, Spock. Surely you must see that."
"It is too much to ask." Spock's voice was ragged.
Curious I slipped to the side of the door and listened as Saavik attempted to convince him of something. "Spock, if you have made other arrangements for this eventuality then you have only to say so. But if you have not then the logical thing is to allow me to help you. I did it before to keep you alive, I will do it again."
"I do not wish to discuss this." He moved to the door and I readied myself to rush away but he stopped when she spoke again.
"You have what, a month? Two? We knew it would come again soon, you aged many years on the Genesis Planet between that first plak tow and now. It was just a matter of time. Spock, I love you like a father, not like a lover, but I will do this if it means you will not die. You know that I loved David and that I do not wish to bond with you. But David is dead and you will be too if you do not arrange a resolution to this problem." Her tone was harsh. I realized finally what they were discussing. He and Saavik? And she said they had done it before, but seven years earlier she would have been little more than a child, barely older than I was. It made no sense. Perhaps time moved differently on this Genesis Planet?
Her voice was an entreaty now, "Spock, tell me you will come to me. I will still be on extended leave. Or if you have no need of me tell me that you will make use of another. I cannot bear the thought of you being lost to the Federation. We need you. I need you."
"And in another seven years, will you do this for me then too?" My father's tone was defeated. I realized he was agreeing to her proposal.
There was a smile in her voice. "I hope not. I hope to have found someone to replace David in my heart. I didn't know him for long, but the days I spent with him taught me of love." Spock made a small sound. "Oh you can dismiss the emotion, Spock. But you cannot deny you have found someone that fascinates you. I have a feeling that in seven years you will be well taken care of." She laughed at something he muttered. "You stare at her quite intensely you know." Another sound from my father, too low for me to make out. "No, I don't believe anyone else has noticed. And who cares if they have. I think she will be eminently suitable for you."
I heard them approaching the door and I fled to the kitchen and found the milk. As I stood drinking it from a tall glass I heard the stairs creak as the two of them went up together to their rooms. I wondered who it was that my father found so entrancing. Then I thought of my mother. Had she discussed sleeping with him as dispassionately as Saavik had? I hoped not. She had loved him so much, but did he feel anything for her at all? I decided to keep an eye out for this young woman Spock was interested in. I was curious to see what kind of woman could possibly fascinate him?
The next day we all enjoyed breakfast together before going our separate ways. As we sat at the formal dining table I asked Saavik and Spock about their shipmates on the Enterprise, the most famous ship of the fleet. They talked at length about James T. Kirk. I was surprised to hear from Saavik that the Captain had a lost a son to the Klingons. She did not elaborate and I thought it wise not to press. Then their conversation turned to other members of the crew. I heard about the miracle working abilities of Montgomery. Scott. Learned of the contradictory Hikaru Sulu, so imperturbable on one hand and so impulsive on the other. Wondered at the boyish naivete of Pavel Chekov. Heard admiration in both of their voices for Nyota Uhura and her abilities with a comm panel as well as her talents with her own voice and even the Vulcan harp. And I wanted to laugh at Spock's tales of the irascible Dr. Leonard McCoy.
As their stories trailed off I asked "Surely in all those years aboard the Enterprise there were more people than that to talk about?"
Saavik looked sad but Spock spoke up. "There are those that gave their lives. At the time you believe that you will never forget them, but their memories fade."
You bastard, I thought, what about those that gave their bodies so that you could live. "But those that lived? Surely there are others?"
Spock looked at me curiously. "There is no one else, Valeris, that I would put in the same category as those we mentioned. When I look back on the years on the Enterprise and even after, it is their faces I see."
I fought to keep my expression interested but ambivalent. But inside I felt a hot surge of anger toward him. He didn't even mention her as a side note. She truly did not even exist for him.
"You will find that you will bond with a small group of people. They will remain your friends for a long time. Others will come and go."
No, I thought, others will not go, they will die. I was happy when Amanda rose, signaling the end of the meal. I excused myself and went up to my room to gather my things together. I was surprised to find Freya stretched out on my bed. I opened my mind to her, asking permission to pick her up. She sat up and let me lift her. As I settled down on the bed, I felt her tuck her head under my chin and begin to purr so loudly I could feel it through my bones. I felt the tears begin to well and heard in my mind. *Girl...sad...I help.* The cat pushed her head more tightly against my chin and did not move even as my tears started to fall, dripping down onto her fur. For several minutes I just let go and cried. My heart screamed out for my mother. I no longer enjoyed the charade I was playing. It was no longer a game. There was too much here that I didn't understand.
I pulled my head away from Freya, dropping a quick kiss on her head, which was soaking wet. She squirmed out of my arms and claimed the pillows, where she curled up and went to sleep. I rubbed at my eyes angrily. I might miss my mother more than I ever thought possible. I might hate my father at this moment more than anything. But I had come here to get to know him, and this was part of that. I had known that the warm and caring Spock couldn't last. That somehow the mask would shatter. It just made it harder that he was still open and interested in me. It was the ultimate betrayal of my mother. By him. And by me.
The second week of orientation was mainly comprised of placement and fitness tests. Cassie and I were often together in the advanced science and math exams. We made it a game to see who could come out of the test feeling more secure. I generally won when it came to appearing confident but I was beginning to think that she would in fact outperform me.
On Thursday morning we were given our final class assignments and drill times. Cassie and I had both placed in the advanced calculus course as well as several upper level engineering and science courses. Our drills though would separate us as we had been assigned to different squads. The dean of first year cadets stood up and told us what to expect from our first day of classes. An upperclassman explained in detail the behavior that would be expected from us by our third-year squad and floor leaders. Then we were given a surprise: early release to download our class material and Friday off to go home or see San Francisco. I decided to head for Seattle. I debated whether to inform Spock and ultimately chose not to. After I logged in my whereabouts to the dorm computer I headed for the campus transporter.
In no time I was beaming into the main Seattle transporter hub. I quickly moved to the line that would take me back out to the peninsula stop. Then I hopped on the first airbus going near Phillip's house. He wasn't home but the house let me in, having been programmed to accept my retina scan. I fairly ran to the comm unit and dialed up Shayla. Please be home, I chanted, please be home.
When she appeared on the screen her face went from mildly annoyed to overjoyed. "Rise! What the hell are you doing here?"
"We got off early. I thought I would walk over if you don't mind?"
She laughed. "Don't mind? Are you crazy! And don't move a muscle. I'll be out to get you in a minute. And I do not want to see that damn uniform till you leave. Put on something comfy, we're going to the beach."
I ran to my room and fished around my dresser for some shorts and a t-shirt. I grabbed some hiking sandals from the closet and braided my long hair. I had no sooner finished than I heard a honking outside and I grabbed my beach bag, still sitting exactly where I had left it on a chair, and ran to meet my aunt.
Shayla was leaning against the air car and caught me up as I launched myself at her. Her arms tightened around me and I started to laugh. Too late I realized I was crying too.
"Rise? Rise, what's wrong?" She studied me in concern. "Honey, talk to me."
I swallowed hard. "I'm just so glad to see you. I missed you. I hated not being able to call you."
"I know. I was glad to be off world for your first week. I found the house unbearably empty without you in it."
We climbed into the car and she steered us to the beach. I told her all about Cassie and the tests and my classes. I found myself studiously avoiding the subject of Spock, and Shayla did not ask me for any details.
When we got to the ocean I pulled off my sandals and rushed out to the water, kicking my way through the icy surf. Just let me be a child again, I thought. Just for a little while. Shayla spread out a blanket and lay down to relax in the autumn sun. I took off running down the rim of wet sand, occasionally jumping over a wave but never stopping till I was nearly out of sight of her. I saw her sitting up and watching me. I had the oddest feeling as I stared back at her. Like if I could freeze this moment in time everything would be all right. She suddenly waved and I jogged back to her, throwing myself down on the blanket and breathing hard as I stared up at the sky.
"I always feel better with you, Shayla."
"You can't avoid telling me about him forever." She lay back down on her back and closed her eyes. "So tell me, kiddo. How's your father?"
"He is not what I expected. Most times he is better than I expected." I lay back next to her. "And he is also worse than I expected. But he has accepted me without reservation."
"Yes, he is like that. You are a Vulcan. Why would he even question?"
"Well his father did."
I could feel her turn to look at me. "You met your grandfather?"
"My grandmother too. He scares me. But she is wonderful."
"Well yeah. She's human."
"And the rest of them are not. Oh Shayla, I don't know if this is what I really want to do anymore. It seemed like such a good idea. But I have this awful feeling about everything I am doing. It isn't bringing Mom back. In a way it is dragging me farther away from her. And the Vulcans...I don't want to end up like them. I'm human. But there is another part of me that wants to keep going, to see this out. At least for a little bit longer." I turned over on my stomach and absently gathered a handful of sand, letting it run through my fingers.
"I'll make you a deal, Rise. Stay for another month. That should be plenty of time to find out whether you like the Academy, whether you want to get to know your father more or not. If you do then you do nothing, just stay. But if you don't want to stay you drop out and come back to me and we'll live one great adventure after another."
I laughed, "The smuggler queen and her ward?"
I leaned over and kissed her cheek. "I've missed you so, Shayla. It is so strange to be in a place where no one loves me. I'm not sure I ever realized how lucky I was as a child, to have such affection, to be so assured of love. It is good to know that I can always come home to you."
My aunt stroked my cheek. "Always, Rise. Always."
My first real week at the academy was incredibly tough. And wonderfully stimulating too. I sat next to Cassie in our advanced classes and realized that for the first time in my life I was going to be challenged, truly pushed, by my teachers. I found myself sucking up the information like a little sponge. I also enjoyed the team exercises. My instructors, and probably my team members, were surprised at my ease in fitting in. As Rise Chapel I had been accustomed to working and socializing with others and this carried over to my life as Valeris. Especially in humorous situations, when most Vulcans would have acted indifferent or superior, I had found that a slight turn up of the mouth or a short glimmer of humor from the eyes was sometimes all it took to win someone to my side. They appeared to expect so little back from Vulcans that this must have seemed like a great gift.
I did as well at drill, but did not enjoy it. My form was perfect, but my attitude was not quite so flawless. It was during those early morning hours that I discovered I had a rebellious side. I had never actually been forced to do anything I didn't want to during my childhood. Suddenly everything I did was under scrutiny. And the drill sergeant, a young midshipman, seemed to have it in for me.
"Cadet Valeris? What is this?" She pointed to my finger.
"Sir, it is a family ring, Sir." I tried to straighten my posture even more than it already was.
"It's not regulation, Cadet. Don't let me see it again."
I felt instant anger at her tone. "Sir, regulations permit jewelry as they apply to member planet's cultural norms."
She was suddenly way too close, "Then I suggest, Cadet, that you bring me a copy of the reg that allows this particular ring or you leave it in your room. Understood?"
I wanted to spit in her face, or punch her. I did neither. Staring at her nose I mumbled, "Sir, yes Sir."
Her voice was too loud in my ears, "I can't hear you, Cadet."
"Sir, yes Sir," I yelled back at her.
By the time I made it back to my room I was shaking with rage. I sat down at my computer and began searching through the regulations on personal jewelry while in uniform.
Cassie was just waking up for her first class and was on her way out the door to the bathroom when she saw what I was looking at. "What's up?"
I held up my left hand. "Danzig doesn't like my ring. Says it isn't regulation. I said it was permitted. But I'm not seeing it here." I closed down the machine with an angrier motion than I would normally have used. "It was my grandmother's and my mother's. I said I would never take it off. But now it looks as if I'll have to."
"Hang on." She walked over to her bureau, began rifling through the top drawer. Pulling something out she carried it over. It was a long slender chain. "Give me the ring." She put the chain through the ring, wrapped it once to hold it in place, and put it around my neck. "There. You have it on, but it will never show under the uniform. Problem solved." She gave me a nasty grin. "And screw Danzig."
I couldn't help myself. I gave her a wicked half smile back. "Indeed."
We settled into a routine. Classes all day, studying all night. When things got too much we retreated to Sekhmet for peace and quiet, or one of the other cadet hang outs for a more lively time. Cassie and I were rarely apart but we were building a core group of people that we tended to run with. I was enjoying the feeling of belonging. And they seemed to sense that and accepted me as one of the crowd.
Spock became a constant fixture in my life, usually calling about once a week to take me to his parents' house for dinner, or to some musical event, or to see more of the modern art that he and his mother collected. Sometimes Cassie came with us. Other times Saavik or even Amanda. He disappeared for a few weeks several months after classes began. Saavik too was unaccounted for. I knew where they had gone but tried not to dwell on it. When he returned life went on as normal.
I was torn as to my feelings for my father. I found myself enjoying the time we spent alone together. Or most of it anyway. There were times that I felt uncomfortable around him. Occasions that I would catch him looking at me in a way that left me confused and just a little nervous. At other times though he was excellent company, teaching me things I had not learned with my mother or aunt: the differences between painters of a similar period, the intricacies in a piece of music, the beauty in one of his science equations. I struggled constantly with the feeling that every single moment I enjoyed with Spock was a betrayal of my mother.
Times with my aunt, on the other hand, were pure unadulterated bliss. When I could manage to see her. As the rigors of the Academy bit into more and more of my personal time and her offworld forays became more frequent it was getting harder to link up with her. But when we did get together, Shayla was always happy to see me, and it was a huge relief to be able to let down my guard and be human again. Each time as I was getting ready to walk through the door and go back to school, she would give me a big hug and whisper, "You sure you want to do this?" I would nod and she'd let me go with a quick kiss and a smile. After the first few months it became a game. I knew she was proud of me and of how well I was doing, even though I suspected she would have preferred to have me with her.
Before I knew it, the first semester was over. Then the second and it was time for a short break and then the compressed summer term would start. Spock invited me to accompany Saavik and him to Vulcan but I turned him down, saying that Dr. Boyce had already made plans for my break. For the next month, I stayed in Seattle, sleeping over at my aunt's whenever I could. I wanted more than anything to go out with her on a short delivery in the Miranda, but it seemed like too much of a risk.
"Don't pout, Rise. Pretty soon you'll be piloting something a whole lot bigger than the Miranda." Shayla laughed at my expression. "Hey, I'm not the one that said you couldn't come with me. If you want to come, then come."
But in the end I didn't. She went out with Cameron and I stayed back with Phillip. For three days we amused ourselves and then my aunt and her partner were back and we played for the rest of my vacation.
Returning to school was no longer terrifying because I had Cassie. Our friendship was nearly as strong as our academic rivalry. Fortunately, we had finished the first term tied for first in the class standings. Throughout the year we had vied back and forth for the top honors. I would do better on an exam, then she would ace a lab, then I would get the highest marks on a simulation, then she would give a briefing that was better than mine. Neither of us knew who was in the lead by the time classes ended. I think we were both relieved that so far it was a tie.
We had chosen to room together again for the next year, so we packed up our things and moved out of the plebe dorm. Our room in the new dorm was just slightly bigger but the floor CO's were much more mellow. The upperclassmen with the most sadistic traits, like Danzig who still didn't like me but had never figured out what I had done with my ring, tended to choose those drill positions that would allow them to make the new cadets' lives a living hell. After than it was the plebe dorm postings that allowed for the most hazing. Those upperclassmen assigned to the second year cadets' dorm tended to be more interested in putting down the experience on their resume than tormenting new students.
Summer term was over quickly. Most classes given during this time were pass/fail only, which allowed the students a little breathing space and time to enjoy the largely elective offerings. I had taken a class on the history of inventions as well as a xenoanthropology course on myths across the Federation. This would be the last time we were allowed to kick back in our studies. Our future courses would be hard sciences, math, engineering, computer, and of course military science, ethics, and protocol. Our summers would be spent on short training cruises in a variety of vessels. We were in for a very busy three years.
On the last day of summer term, Cassie and I were walking back to our room from class. We saw a huge commotion in front of the plebe dorm. Students were arriving singly, in pairs, or with their families. We could see the chaos inside the dorm.
"That was us just one year ago."
Cassied nodded and touched my hand gently. "I wouldn't have been so scared then if I had known you were waiting for me."
"Nor would I."
"You? Scared? Nothing scares you, Valeris!"
We made our way around the new arrivals. "Sure it does. I'm just not allowed to show it."
"Hmm." She did not sound convinced. "So what do you say we go out and celebrate? Why don't we hop down the coast and go to LA for a couple of days? I've always wanted to see it, and the Hollywood Museum is supposed to have some amazing exhibits and sims?" She danced around me excitedly, her tone wheedling. "Oh c'mon, Valeris, let's get out of here, let's go have some fun!"
"Ok," I allowed my eyes to twinkle at her. "Let's go."
I hoped the sims wouldn't prove too exciting. I knew from experience that amusement park rides tended to make me squeal in a most unVulcan-like way. I gave a mental shrug. This would be an excellent test of my newfound restraint. And besides, it would be a blast.
We were midway through our second year. Our last midterm was over and we had a short break coming up. Cassie and I were on our way back to the dorm discussing our plans for the upcoming free time. She was going home to Albuquerque tomorrow. I was heading back to Seattle; it had been far too long since I had seen my aunt.
Stunned, I turned too quickly, nearly overbalancing. I felt Cassie steady me. The sight that met me could not have been more shocking. It was Cameron, but his normally handsome face was puffy and his golden eyes were red.
"Cameron?" I turned to Cassie. "It's ok. This is an old friend. I'll catch up with you later."
She studied Cameron curiously. "Why did he call you Rise?"
"It's his pet name for me. I've got to go." I followed Cameron down the trail away from campus. "Cameron, what the hell are you doing here? What's wrong?"
He started walking faster. "Not here, Rise. Just wait."
We walked for some time in silence and I grew more and more worried. Why couldn't he just tell me? Finally he turned off into a small off campus motel. He pulled out his key and let us into a room on the first level. "Sit down, Rise."
I did so as he locked the door and drew the curtains. He stood for a moment at the window as if gathering strength. When he turned back around I was shocked to see tears in his eyes.
"Cameron, what is it? What's happened?" He just looked at me, as if helpless to begin what he had come here to tell me. "Oh god. No. Please not Shayla." I rose and grabbed him by the arms. "Tell me it's not Shayla, damn it! It can't be her." I was crying now too as he just looked at me sadly.
He put his arms around me and pulled me close. "It wasn't even a smuggling run she was on. She had decided to surprise Phillip with a birthday trip to Risa. They were on their way back when it happened."
I pulled away, fought desperately for some measure of control. My whole world was crumbling. "Who did it?"
He shook his head, "Nobody's really sure. The Miranda was completely destroyed. It's disputed territory, Rise. It would just be speculation at this point."
"Who?" I screamed at him.
I paced the room, he tried to catch me up in his arms but I wouldn't let him. "Everything! They've taken everything from me! Damn them! Damn them to hell!" I stopped mid stride. I felt dizzy, the room was spinning. "Help me," I whispered.
He was there, easing me down on the bed, holding me while I wept, crying his own tears. Finally, after what seemed like hours later, I lay still next to him. "I have nothing left," I said flatly.
"You have me, Rise. Don't stay here any longer. You belong with someone that loves you, someone that knows who you are and accepts you for it. Not that damn Vulcan. He may have fathered you, but I've been more of a dad to you than he could ever dream of being. Come with me, Rise. We're all the family we have left."
I felt his lips on my forehead. I felt safe with him. He was right; he was more of a father than Spock would ever be to me. Part of me wanted to go with him but I couldn't. "Will you be there for the funeral, Cameron?"
He accepted my question as the answer it was. "Yes. I'll help you with that and with the houses. Phillip left you everything he had, you know. He considered you a daughter, too."
I was mildly surprised. I had been so wrapped up in my mother and aunt I had never stopped to think that Phillip might have loved me just as much. "I need to go back to the dorm, to sign out."
He got up. "I have Shayla's car outside, let's go."
I looked around for his bags. "You came with no luggage?"
"This room wasn't for me, it was for you. So you could cry in peace and not blow your precious cover." He smiled at me sadly, "I guess I already knew what your answer would be. I had to ask though."
"I know. I'm glad you did, even if I couldn't say yes. Ask me again sometime, you might be surprised."
He pulled me into another quick hug. "I love you, kiddo."
"I love you, Cameron."
I hurriedly signed out on the dorm computer than rushed up to the room. Cassie wasn't in the room but her bags were still on the bed. I grabbed my own bags, started to throw a fresh uniform into it; I would need it for the funeral.
"Rise, what are you doing?"
I spun in anger. "What did you call me."
Cassie looked bewildered. "You said it was a nickname. I thought it was cute. That you might like to hear it."
I knew my eyes were cold, "You were mistaken." I turned back to my packing.
"Valeris," she emphasized the word, "Why are you packing a uniform for break?" When I did not react she physically stopped me, her hands holding me in place. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
My words were barely audible, "My guardian has been killed in an accident."
"Oh god, I'm so sorry." She tried to turn me to face her.
"Please don't," I nearly whimpered. "I am quite emotional. My sponsor would not approve. It is most inappropriate." I shuddered with the strain of holding in the grief and the lies.
She turned me forcibly, "Spock be damned, Valeris. You were raised among humans. I've seen you react just as I would to funny things, to sad things. You don't have to hold this in with me. I'm your best friend. And I love you."
Her last words nearly undid me. I could feel the shudders grow stronger. "I'm all alone, Cassie. All alone."
She pulled me down and held me close. I did not cry but my whole body shook as she comforted me. For one moment it was not my roommate's voice but my mother's whispering, "There, there. There, there."
Mom, I cried out in my mind. Mom, I'm losing you. Now I've lost Shayla too. Mom, help me, please help me.
"Shhh," Cassie urged. "Shh. You'll never be alone, Valeris. Not while I'm alive."
I didn't tell her that her words were scant comfort. People I loved had a habit of dying.
Cassie had offered to come with me to Seattle but I had sent her home to her family. There were many things I would have to take care of and it would just be easier without her there.
"But I don't want you to be alone," she had protested.
"I won't be. Cameron will be there to help me." I had shooed her out of the room. "I'll see you in a week, Cassie. And thank you. You'll never know what your friendship means to me."
Now I stood alone in front of two new graves. The joint funeral service was over. A mixed group of civilian and Starfleet had attended. I had worried about attending, worried that some of the mourners would see me as Rise, others as Valeris. Briefly, I had considered again wearing the black veil that had so effectively hidden me from the world at my mother's funeral but at the last moment had put on my uniform, suddenly not carrying what risks I ran. I was at the point of numb ambivalence. If I were found out then I would leave with Cameron. If not I would keep on the path to my father. The universe could decide for me, I no longer cared to.
And in the end I had not been exposed. The minister was new in town and only knew me as Phillip's ward. Only a few friends of both my mother and aunt attended and they were discreet in their condolences. As I looked at the fresh dirt, so close to my mother's plot, I felt a part of my life closing off. Rise Chapel was well and truly dead. And I didn't know yet who or what Valeris really was.
"Excuse me, Miss." A small man stood at my elbow. "I'm so sorry to intrude on your time of sorrow. But I think you will want to hear what I have to say. I handled Shayla Ross' business affairs."
I raised an eyebrow at him. "I know her lawyer. You are not he."
He nodded agreement, "You're right. I'm the one that handled her more... how shall I put this?... irregular business dealings." When I did not react, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a clear capsule containing bright pink liquid. "Do you know what this is?"
"I haven't any idea. Now if you'll excuse me."
"Rise Chapel," he hissed, "Your aunt wanted you to have a safety net and it is my job to make sure you know how to use it. Now get back here.
I turned slowly. "What is your name?"
"My name is Cassius Miranda. I've been looking out for your aunt's affair for a long time. Kept her out of legal hot water quite a few times," he chuckled. "She was a one, that Shayla. Now are you going to trust me or not?"
I walked over to him. "Alright. I shall trust you, Mr. Miranda."
He fussed with the vial holding the capsule. "Call me Cassius, my dear. Now hold out your hand, palm up."
I did as he said and he laid the capsule on my skin. In seconds it was melting into my palm, the pink liquid burning slightly as it disappeared. The pain was gone quickly. "What was it?"
"Ferengi bank id fluid. Ingenious really. The liquid can't be detected now that it is in your system. But it will subtly alter your blood reading just enough to identify you to a number of bank managers on some off shore worlds that have less than stringent observation of Federation finance laws."
"I don't understand."
"Oh I know that Dr. Boyce left you the bulk of his estate. But if you were to have to leave Earth rather suddenly you might not have access to this money. Plus the Federation knows about it. Your aunt wanted you to have some money you could get to at anytime, and as anyone you needed to be. These accounts are yours free and clear. And you'll find there is quite a lot of latinum in them, too. Shayla was a canny speculator. She always seemed to know where the need was going to open up. You could trust that she would be one of the first in with the product de jour." He smiled fondly as he handed me a list. "You just present yourself at one of these banks. There are funds waiting for you in all of them. Oh and better hurry up and memorize that list, the paper disintegrates 10 minutes after exposure to air."
He was silent as I consigned the names and addresses of the five banks to memory. Just as he said, the paper began to tear apart and soon there was nothing left. I studied him curiously, "You could have used this capsule as easily as I, yes?"
"Sure, they don't care what you look like, or who you say you are. You just have to have the right code running through your blood."
"They why didn't you use it?"
"Because your aunt wanted it for you."
I gave him a full smile. It felt strange to my mouth. "I can see why my aunt named her ship after you, Cassius. You are a man of honor."
"Well I don't know about that, Ms. Chapel." He grinned at me and dug some business holocards out of his vest. "Just in case you ever find yourself in a jam. That's my direct line. Make sure Cameron has one too. I've had to move recently, don't know if he has the new number."
"My pleasure, dear. Good luck with your Starfleet career. If you are anything like your aunt, they're not going to know what hit them." He chuckled to himself as he moved off.
I stared at my palm. My internal numbness had been replaced with a warm appreciation of my aunt's ability to watch out for me, even after she was dead.
In a week I had taken what I wanted out of Phillip's house and sold the rest of the furnishings with the house to a young Starfleet couple just starting out. Cameron and I had taken Phillip's clothing and personal items to a center collecting supplies for offworld refugee. Once we were done I put the money from the sale in my Federation account and moved in with Cameron for my last day. Shayla had left him the house. I had always suspected they were lovers but I had never guessed at the depth of emotion he carried in his heart for her. He was truly devastated by her death.
"What are you going to do?"
He shook his head, "Go off world, make some money, cause some trouble. I don't know."
"You mean you don't *care,* don't you."
"Don't start, Rise. I'm not in the mood."
"Ok. Just be careful. I may need you someday."
He smiled at that. "Nyah. You're always going to be able to land on your feet. But I'll keep tabs on you from wherever I happen to be. Use the house if you want. It'll get lonely without anyone living in it."
"It's just a house, Cameron."
"No, it's filled with memories, of all the love and laughter and anger and fights and passion that ever happened in it. It'll never be just a house."
"I'll take good care of it," I assured him. But in my heart I doubted the truthfulness of that statement. Hodgekiss, the cat that I had taken in all those years ago, had run away the night Cameron and I showed up. I had called and called her but she had not come back. I believed that she knew she had been abandoned by Shayla and was off for greener pastures. I wished that I could be so resilient.
"I grieve with thee, Valeris."
I looked up to see Spock standing in the door to my room. I had made it back from break before Cassie so I was alone. I examined his demeanor, his face. He didn't appear to be feeling anything at all.
"Most kind, Sir."
"If there is anything I can do?"
I shook my head. "Everything has been done. But again, most kind."
He moved into the room, sat at the desk. "Valeris, I hope you know that you can come to me during times such as these. I am in a position to understand feelings, strong emotions, such as the grief you must be feeling now but are hiding so well."
Sure, I thought bitterly. I know how broken up you were by your own wife's death. "I will consider your offer, Sir."
"Valeris, when we are alone, you can call me Spock. I will not be offended."
I was so angry with him at that moment I almost blurted out, "How about if I just call you Daddy, you arrogant bastard!" But I swallowed my rage and said demurely, "I fear that if I were to become accustomed to that I would slip and shame you in some public forum."
His voice was very gentle, "I doubt that you would. You are generally the model of Vulcan propriety. I have had no reason to regret my choice to sponsor you."
"I will consider it, Sir. It is an idea that will take some getting used to." I was relieved to see Cassie enter the room, lugging a new Navaho rug under her arm.
"Hi, Valeris," she noticed Spock sitting to the side, "Oh! Hello, sir!"
"Cadet Drake." He rose. "I will leave you, Valeris. Please consider what I said."
Cassie waited till he was gone then asked, "What did he say?"
I shook my head, "Just some advice on which classes to take." I nodded at the rug. "So tell me about this. And every other thing that happened while you were home."
My 14th birthday passed unmarked. I had expected something from Cameron but he appeared to have disappeared off the face of the Earth, in this case literally, and I had no idea where he might be. My twentieth birthday, on the other hand, was remembered by Cassie, who gave me a funny card and some hair ornaments. She also insisted on buying me dinner at Sekhmet. We walked down to the restaurant through a light rain that blew up under our umbrellas, leaving us as damp as if we had not even bothered with the rain gear. The dank warmth of the cave-like restaurant felt good against my rain-slicked skin. We made our way to a booth in the back.
"Valeris, Cassie, hi." It was Tom Cranston. He was an upperclassman that we had met in one of our advanced science courses. He was sitting with three other cadets and I recognized the female sitting next to him as my drill instructor from hell, Danzig. She did not look very happy when we stopped to talk.
Cassie ignored her. "Hey Tom. It's Valeris' birthday, did you know?"
He shook his head. "No, I didn't. I'll send you a drink, I mean if you drink, well I know you must drink something, but I'm not really sure what you would want if you did drink. Ow." He rubbed his arm where Danzig had elbowed him.
I took pity on him. "I like the mint tea here very much."
He gave me a big smile. "Ok then, it's on its way. Happy Birthday, Valeris."
"Thank you." I gave Cassie a push to get her moving to the booth. Once we sat down a waiter appeared with a pot of the tea and two cups.
Cassie laughed, "I guess what I want is totally irrelevant. He likes you so much. Did you see Danzig's face. God that was so perfect!" Cassie looked at me curiously when I did not react to her gushing. "Valeris, I know you are Vulcan and all, but have you had any experience with, you know, boys?"
I looked at her askance, "That is an extremely personal question."
"Oh come on. Give."
"No. I have not had any as you say experience. I was rather focused as a child and I hardly have time now."
"Well you could make time if you wanted to. Cranston is quite the catch you know. And he is just crazy about you. I love how he gets all tongue-tied when you're around." She took in my indifferent look. "You don't even care do you? I guess I can see your point. I mean as cute as he is, Cranston doesn't really stack up against a living legend." She gave me a little smirk.
"What do you mean?"
She laughed. "Oh don't be coy, Valeris. Anyone can see how he feels about you."
"How *who* feels about me."
Cassie poured some more tea for us and looked at me in disbelief. "Well Spock of course."
I felt sick. Nauseated to the very core of me. She could not be serious. "Take that back."
Concerned, Cassie held up her hands. "Hey I'm not saying you're having wild monkey sex or anything. Just that he really likes you."
I ran then for the bathroom. I got to the stall just in time, and threw up the tea and what little else was in my stomach. Finally, I understood the feelings of unease I had felt around Spock. The thought of him made my stomach heave once more. I felt Cassie's hand on my shoulder.
"Valeris? Are you ok?"
I pushed myself up from the toilet. "I believe I am ill. I have been feeling strange all day. Do you mind if we go back?"
"No, that's fine. I hope I didn't upset you with what I said?"
I replied evenly. "No. You are undoubtedly right about Captain Spock. But he is a Vulcan and will take a long time to express what he feels. As for Cranston, I like him very much as a lab partner, but nothing more. Now, can we go home?"
The walk back took forever and once in the dorm room I tossed and turned for hours in my small bed, intermittently fighting nausea. I had been such a sheltered fool. That conversation I had overheard between him and Saavik, they had been talking about me! And those looks that I had not understood, they too had been about me. What had I gotten myself into? Had I a home to run back to I would have left that night. But I did not, and until I figured out what to do with my life I had no better alternative than to stay right where I was. But I would have to grow up quickly if I were to fend off my father's advances without exposing my true nature.
Finally realizing that sleep was not coming soon if at all, I dug deep into my memories for the mental weapon I had made so long ago. I had not visited it for years. It was time now to update it. I poured every emotion I had into it, concentrating on the horrified and sick feeling of knowing that my father wanted me as a lover. I did not necessarily plan to ever use this against him, because I could never see him forcing himself on me, but it helped me deal with the awful feelings that were assailing me. After a bit I wrapped it back up and shoved it into its safe space. And then, finally, I slept.
When I woke up the next morning, I found that my mind and spirit were calm. Nothing had to change. Spock had been "interested" in me for over a year yet he had done little to press his suit. As long as I stayed a shy student he would probably not rush me. I just had to be sure not to act any differently around him.
This did not prove as difficult as I thought it might. Several days later Spock invited me to his parents' house for a family dinner. I found Amanda and Sarek unchanged, they at least seemed oblivious to their son's true interest in me. Saavik's comments often seemed double-edged but not mean spirited. And as usual when she saw that I did not understand she changed the subject. Spock watched me in his intense way. I ignored him as best I could, just as I had in the past.
But something was different. Something inside me. I could feel myself turning hard somewhere that used to be young and soft. I was overrun with hatred and resentment. I hated the Klingons for taking away the women I had loved. I resented Spock for putting me in this position. I tried to hate him too, but I could not. Other than on the issue of his personal interest, I could not fault his treatment of me. He had opened me up to things that I would never have known, and he had shown me my Vulcan family. I was nervous around him but I stayed in his orbit because I enjoyed his company. And he was my blood father. In my heart I still thought that meant something.
The year progressed and soon we were nearing the time when we would get our first training assignments. Cassie and I were both hoping for a starship, preferably the same one, but we knew that was unlikely our first cruise. We would tease each other that we had heard that the other one was being assigned to a garbage scow, or a cruise shuttle, or anything else we could think of that sounded menial or dull. Cassie had tried to upset me with news that I would be on weapons duty for a hospital ship. I thought longingly of my animals and the little makeshift veterinary I had run for them.
"That wouldn't be so bad," I said with just a tinge of sadness in my voice.
Class was only half over. Commander Biggs had surprised everyone with a pop quiz. Judging from the groans that had emanated at the start of the quiz, and the fact that the rest of the class had not completed what I thought was a fairly easy group of questions, I surmised that I was the only one that had done the reading. I had turned in my exam and now sat waiting for dismissal.
"Valeris, could you get your things and come here?"
I grabbed my bag and walked back to his desk. "I hate to penalize you for being the only one that did the assigned reading. So instead of just sitting there for the rest of the class how would you like to run an errand to Fleet Headquarters for me?"
"Sir, yes Sir." I had never been to the main building before. Headquarters started where campus ended. It was only a short walk, but it might have been the moon as far as we younger cadets were concerned.
He handed me a package. "Take this to Lt. Colonel West, you'll find him in the CINC/Marine Forces area." He handed me a pass with an official looking seal, "You'll need this to get into the executive areas. Oh and please wait for West to accept delivery personally. Do not give this to an aide. If it looks like you are going to end up being late for your next class, ask him for a pass."
"Yes, Sir." I stuffed the package in my book bag and set out. It was a pleasant day and I kept a brisk pace. In no time I was at the main building. My cadet uniform got me through the gates and after checking a few building maps I made my way up to the top level. The elevator opened onto a military guard in front of thick doors.
I handed over the piece of paper that Biggs had given me. He scrutinized it carefully, even called up my name in his computer. Finally he handed back the credentials. "Proceed."
He pushed a switch on his desk and the doors whooshed open. A receptionist sat just beyond, a long hall behind her. "May I help you?"
'"I have a package for Lt. Col. West."
She held out her hands. "I'll be happy to take it."
"For him personally, ma'am."
She indicated a waiting area to the side. "Well then take a seat. It could be quite a while. He's in a meeting right now."
I sat down and waited patiently. For about ten minutes. Then I began to feel fidgety. How long should I wait before I asked her about West's meeting. I noticed people were coming out of the hall. It looked like a meeting had just broken up. The receptionist followed a couple of people out, I supposed to go to the restroom. I knew that I should wait but I was overcome with curiosity. Slipping past the door I moved swiftly down the hall. A conference room stood to my right and I crept in. Two people stood talking. One I couldn't help but recognize. Admiral Cartwright. The other person I didn't know, but he had on a Marine's uniform with Lt. Col. pips.
They did not notice me and I walked silently forward into the large room. In front of them they had a large map of the star system near Risa. It had X's with the names of ships drawn all over it.
"This is the area of the most activity right now, Sir. I think this is where we should strike. We know of at least five incidents with the Klingons in this sector."
"Seven." I said, causing the two men to turn in shock.
The marine had drawn his phaser automatically. "Listening at doors is a dangerous habit, Cadet...?"
"Valeris." I set the package on the table, "This is for you I think, from Commander Biggs. You are Col. West?" I ignored his weapon and walked to the map. Taking a pen I drew a circle around the areas my aunt had mentioned that Klingons were most likely to be waiting in. Then I put X's where we were attacked when my mother died, and where the Miranda was reported to be lost. "Seven."
The admiral studied the map. "How do you know this area?"
I gave him a small smile. "I have friends in unsavory places, Sir. They keep me informed. Some of them died in these locations." I looked at West, who had not lowered his weapon. "You can put that away. From the looks of it I wandered into something classified and perhaps even more delicate than that, but you don't need to worry about me." I gave both men a hard look. "I hate Klingons as much as you ever could."
West put his weapon away. "Maybe we could test that theory out. You must be due for a training cruise. How about trying one out on my ship."
"Fine sir. But only if you intend to kill Klingons on this voyage."
Another voice chimed in, "Are you sure she isn't Romulan?"
I turned to see a stranger walking up. A stranger to me, neither of the other two seemed worried that he was there. He gave me a small nod. "Ambassador Nanclus. From Romulus. At your service, my dear." He studied me. Then frowned deeply. "I have seen you. At the Vulcan ambassador's house. You are the special envoy's protégé, are you not?"
"Spock is my mentor, yes. I don't know this special envoy."
West had his phaser back out. "The special envoy to the Klingons *is* Captain Spock. His father is also heavily involved with the initial talks with the Klingon Chancellor's people. Are you a spy?"
Spock and Sarek were working with the Klingons? It could not be possible. But they had both been off world several times this term. But how could they? Klingons could not be trusted. And apparently neither could the men of my family. I raised an eyebrow at him. "No, I am not a spy. At least not yet. I have told you I hate Klingons, and it is true. I will prove it to you. I will bring you information that you want, that you need, from inside the Vulcan residence. I will find out their plans."
West sneered, "And what do you get out of this besides your life?" The gun was now against my temples.
"It would appear that Captain Spock and I disagree on the nature of Klingons and the need for their continued existence. I have other issues with the Captain; issues that make me less than eager to see him succeed. Couple the two, and I think you can see how I might be of use to you."
The Romulan motioned West to put away the phaser. He touched me on the forehead, not a mind link for there was no connection with his essence, but he seemed to be able to read my emotions. "She speaks the truth. I can sense her hatred of both the Klingons and the Vulcan. I think we have just added an excellent ally, gentlemen."
West did not seem convinced. "I want to see how you do on the "training cruise" before I say you're ok."
I drew myself up to my full height. "I will do fine. You shall see. Now if it would not be too much trouble, could I get a pass from one of you? I expect this third degree will cause me to be late for my next class."
Nanclus and Cartwright smiled. West just stared at me. I met his gaze unwaveringly. Finally he started to laugh. "You've got a pair on you, Valeris, I'll give you that. Come on, let's get you a pass."