Kirk heard Mike’s startled yelp and shot to his feet, following his second mate’s pointing finger to the disaster unfolding in the sky above them – a plume of smoke, trailing behind something falling to Earth, and burning as it fell. It seemed to be coming directly toward the CloudDance, but at sea distances were strangely deceptive, especially in the relative calm they were experiencing today; no large swells, no chop, only the limitless horizon.
“Oh, god help them,” he whispered, his experience and imagination taking him aboard the doomed ship. He whirled around again. “Mike! Mark where they fall, don’t take your eyes off them. North! North! Into the starboard boat now! Kim, get the drifter down and throw out the sea anchor!” Spock, alert SARSAT, there’s a vessel of some sort crashing into the sea nearby.
At once, Jim.
Kirk was scrambling out of the cockpit as he continued giving orders. “Kim, Andros, get rope into the boat. Mike, you still got them?” A horrible whistling noise was growing louder in the air around him.
“They’re gonna hit!”
Too busy getting over the side into the wooden skiff, Kirk didn’t look at the impact but heard the smash and the screeching hiss milliseconds later; they couldn’t be far away. “Eyes on them, Mike! Here’s my hand, step down. Take the tiller. Okay, North, pull! Andros, you and Kim get suited up and into the other boat! Demi!” he bellowed. “Launch the second skiff and take the helm!”
He took an oar, both he and North rowing hard as Mike steered them toward the crash point.
SARSAT acknowledges. Vessel type and occupants unknown. Scans ineffective. They await further information.
Standby the communicator, Spock. “How far, Mike?”
“Another two hundred meters. Here comes the shock wave.” The boat lifted suddenly, then dove down into a trough before settling again into the normal swell of the ocean.
Kirk felt Spock’s concern, and their twin sons’ distress, through their shared familial bond. He tried to remain calm, not wanting to make this worse for the boys than it already was.
The sea was still steaming around the small vessel. Kirk sized it up as they skimmed toward it: half submerged, it had the look of a private yacht, though any markings that had been on the hull had been destroyed in the heat of its descent. As soon as the skiff touched the blackened hull Kirk was out of the wooden boat and up on the hull of the fallen spacecraft. The hatch was topmost; at least they’d had the luck of landing right side up. The wheel mounted in its centre was large and turned easily, and though Kirk knew he was probably burning his hands, his adrenalin level allowed his body to register no pain. He spun the wheel fast, yelling over his shoulder. “Rope! North, get a rope to me.”
The end of length of ten-tonne filament snaked over the hatch even as Kirk pulled it open. Smoke billowed up at him. He peered into the dark interior of the little craft and swore. “Mike, stay in the skiff and secure the rope. North, get over here and brace it, I’m going in.”
“Captain! It’s too dangerous, the whole thing is settling lower!”
“Shut up and get over here, North!” Kirk slid around and lowered his legs through the hatch, then dropped down into the ship, taking the rope end with him. He landed in the shockingly cold water, almost up to his thighs already and with a strong current that suggested a major structural failure below the waterline.
He didn’t have long.
The atmosphere inside was still thick with smoke, but clearing, though the little craft was groaning awfully. Kirk, coughing, swept the small room with his arms wide, finding the central chair, the control consoles, but no people. Then he stumbled as something in the cold water thumped against his hip. Reacting instantly, he pulled the body of one of the ship’s occupants up from the steadily rising water
Vulcan! He felt Spock’s surprise through their bond. He staggered over to the hatch and grabbed for the rope, supporting the unconscious alien with one arm, his task made easier by the rising water. Shifting position, he made to tie the rope around the other’s chest, intending to secure him and search for others, when suddenly the deck below him lurched. There was a screech of distressed metal, and the icy water surged around him. Then, with a thud and a groan, the ship tilted and water began to cascade through the hatch onto his head.
He was swept off his feet, one hand on the rope and the other holding the Vulcan. Out of time. Fighting the flood from below and above, he managed to get the rope around his own torso and tied it tightly, then grabbed the other man firmly under both arms. “Pull! North, pull me up!” he yelled, as the water rose around his chest.
It was like being sawn in half. The pressure of the rope bit into his back and across his chest and under his arms, dragging him up against the force of the water coming down. Before he had time to draw a breath he was under water, the ship sinking around him, the river of water a torrent. Kicking and flailing with his legs he tried to follow the pull of the rope, the weight in his arms almost unbearable. Sparks were dancing behind his eyes when the pressure suddenly eased and he shot out of the hatch to the surface.
He gasped in a great lungful of air, pulling the Vulcan’s head up beside his own, and then looked around wildly, coughing and spluttering. Kim and Andros were pulling up in the second skiff, both in dry suits, with Demi at the tiller. The other skiff was swamped, Mike and North clinging to it and to the other end of the rope under his arms. Kirk kicked toward the second boat, the cold finally beginning to numb his exhausted limbs. In seconds Kim was over the side, helping him to lift his burden into the skiff, then pushing him in after, Demi hauling him by his arms. Andros had already begun mouth to mouth on the unconscious Vulcan. Kirk sprawled in the boat, too spent to even try getting the rope untied from around his chest.
“Is he alive?” he managed. North was hoisting herself into the skiff; she tumbled down beside Andros and felt the Vulcan’s side.
Mike fell in beside him, and then Kim climbed back over the side and attached the other boat’s painter to a cleat on the rail. “You okay, Captain?”
“No. But I will be.” Spock, we’ll need a healer for this fellow.
I have alerted SARSAT. They refuse to give any information regarding his ship or his accident.
I wonder why?
The Vulcan coughed suddenly. Andros rolled him onto his side and a gush of water came out of his mouth. He began to breathe on his own, and Andros sat back with a grin. “Well, that’s good. Kim, Demi, grab an oar, let’s get these folks aboard CloudDance before they all die from the cold.”
“Mike,” Kirk rasped, “drop a dye marker and transponder on the spot, and triangulate a position with SARSAT. There may have been others, but it’s too deep to dive. They’ll need a jason to go after it.”
It was a slow journey back, in an over-loaded boat dragging the swamped skiff behind them. Mike managed to undo the rope from around Kirk’s chest and peeled it gently away; it had cut him through his sweater and shirt, and there was blood staining it liberally. “That’s gonna be sore as hell tomorrow, Captain.”
“It’s sore as hell now, Mike. North, you okay?”
“Ask me after you issue the rum, Captain.” She was hugging her knees, teeth chattering. “God, I hope no one else was on board that thing.”
Many hands helped them lift the Vulcan onto the ship. Kirk accepted assistance as well; he was having trouble lifting his arms and suspected he might have popped a couple of ribs during his battle with the ocean. When he was firmly on deck the twins grabbed a leg each, hugging him tightly, their anxiety coming clearly through the parental bond. Kirk ruffled their straight blond hair and smiled down into identical pairs of hazel eyes. “I’m okay, boys. Let go, I have a lot to do.”
They released him after another moment of sending their worry and love directly to him, and stood back as Spock regarded him gently. “That was, perhaps, an unnecessary act of heroism, Jim. The ship might not have sunk, had you left the hatch closed until we brought out the portable field generator.”
“Maybe. Hard to know. How is he?”
“He is breathing. A doctor should be here within minutes, to see to both of you.” Jim nodded and began to walk toward the cockpit; his knees gave way suddenly, and he found Spock’s arm around his waist, supporting him.
“Damn. That took a lot out of me.”
“Yes. And still is, by the blood on your clothing. Come below, and let me tend it while we await the doctor. There is more trouble than you know of, Jim. Starfleet has contacted us and they are sending down a representative.”
“For the Vulcan? Huh, I wonder what he’s done!” Kirk winced as his shoulder grazed the door of their chamber. “Did they give you any hint?”
“No.” Kirk eased down onto the bed and Spock squatted before him, looking over the ruined sweater. “This would be best cut off.”
“I agree. Last thing I want to do is raise my arms.”
Samuel Sovel Kirk cha’Spock peered into the main companionway of his home, then turned and touched his younger brother, James Sevek Kirk cha’Spock. Younger by a total of seven point two five minutes, his father had told them. It gave Sam precedence in their relationship; anyway, he always had the better ideas. Jimmy nodded and followed his older brother out of the cabin, past the elders, and into the side cabin that held the strange Vulcan. As he eased through the door Jimmy glanced back and saw his father’s dark eyes on him.
“Father saw us,” he hissed.
Sammy shrugged. “Father always sees us,” he replied. “If it was bad for us to be here, he would have stopped us, right?”
“Papa told us to stay put.” Arnold, the ship’s cat, grazed his ankles as she made her way out of the room, and Jimmy stooped to rub her as she passed.
“Papa worries too much.” He tiptoed over to the bed and gazed down at the unconscious man. “He looks like us. I mean, more than like Father.”
Jimmy joined him. The stranger had fair hair, and high pointed ears, and a skin tone that looked like theirs from their mainly outdoor lifestyle, tanned and recently sun-touched. As they watched, the stranger roused and opened startlingly green eyes.
“Hi,” Sammy offered. The green eyes blinked. “You’re okay. Papa rescued you.”
The stranger licked his lips and his eyes narrowed. “Where is this? Why is the room moving?” His Standard was good, although with an unusual accent.
“It’s our ship. We live here. I’m Sam Kirk, and this is my brother Jim.” As was their habit, the boys used their human names when they spoke in Standard. “What’s your name?”
“Kirk?” He looked around the small room. “This is the famous boat of Kirk and Spock?”
“That’s our Papa and our Father,” Sammy replied, accepting as fact that his parents’ home must be famous. “And CloudDance isn’t a boat, she’s a ship. Boats are small. What’s your name?” The stranger looked at him again and sat up slowly, then his eyes shifted toward the door.
“Move away from the bed, boys.”
Jim and Sam turned to see their papa standing just inside the room. Father right behind him. There were others further back, but it was papa, with his sternest voice and fiercest look that the boys paid attention to. “Papa,” Sammy began, “we just wanted to…”
He got no further. The injured Vulcan’s arm snaked out and grabbed him, hauling him onto the bed. Sam cried out in surprise but not fear; in his whole young life no one had ever harmed him or meant him ill. His papa started forward, but froze as the stranger spoke. “Come no further. You will not harm me, for his sake.”
The grip on his arm was very tight, and hurt. Sam turned to the stranger and shook his head. “No one is going to hurt you. Papa saved your life.”
“Hush, child, you know nothing of the ways of your elders. Hush.”
“Ambar l’Ehera, Prince Ambar,” Father’s voice rumbled, speaking in flawless Romulan. No, Sammy thought: Rihannsu. It startled Sammy; he understood the language instantly though he didn’t recall ever hearing it before. Like how he had understood Vulcan two years ago, when he’d first heard it spoken while sitting on his father’s lap. Worse, Sammy could hear the naked anger in father’s voice and feel it down his bond; it made him shiver because it took a lot to make father angry. A lot. “Where is your honour? You are much stronger than he is. You will damage his arm. If you do so, I assure you I will return the favour. He is correct; no one here will hurt you.”
Sammy whimpered softly as the grip on his arm tightened, then bit his lip to hold the sound in as the Rihannsu spoke. “I am not a child, nor stupid. My people have signed no treaties with yours. I will bargain with you for this little one’s safety. I have not come this far to end in prison, or to be tortured for information about my family and my people.”
Father cocked his head. “Why have you come?” Sammy could feel the Rihannsu’s fear through the tight grip on his arm. Fear, and shame, and a feeling that he couldn’t name but remembered from the time he had talked Jimmy out of wearing his life jacket and Jimmy had almost drowned. It made him squirm. He passed those emotions on to his father through their family bond, and his father nodded abruptly. “You know of me, so you must also know that I do not lie, Ambar l’Ehera. No prison awaits your patience, nor does the Federation interrogate refugees seeking asylum here. But if you harm my son, I will not hesitate to kill you.” As father finished speaking, Sam’s papa stepped further into the room, eyes slitted, his hands clenched into fists.
Ambar, the Rihannsu, swallowed noisily. He abruptly released Sam’s arm. Sam rubbed the sore spot lightly. “You spoke rightly; I am without honour, to hide behind a child. Go to your people, little one. I cannot be trusted.”
“Don’t be silly. You were scared, that’s all.” Sam climbed off the bed and turned back to Ambar. “Are you really a prince?”
“No, child. I am nothing.”
“Sam.” It was Papa’s warning voice. “Let the doctor look at your arm.”
“It doesn’t hurt anymore, Papa.”
Sam knew better than to argue with that tone. He padded to the door, where the pretty redheaded doctor waited. Jimmy watched him go and then followed silently at a nod from his father. He paused outside the door and listened, curious about how his papa, whose anger still resonated through their family bond, would deal with this strange prince who wasn’t a prince and had threatened his brother and actually angered his father.
“Was there anyone else aboard your craft?”
“No. No one else.”
“Good.” There was a moment of silence that even Jimmy’s sharp ears couldn’t interpret. “The doctor says there’s nothing wrong with you except too much smoke and not enough food. There’s a head…a washroom area, through that door. Shower, you’ll feel better with the smell of smoke off of you. Mike will find you some clothes; you’re about his size. Once you’re dressed again, come out to the salon and we’ll discuss what to do next.”
Silence. Papa came out the door, followed by father, and Jimmy looked up at them, expecting a reprimand at least. But Papa ruffled his hair and smiled down at him. “Go tell Raven to whip up something for Ambar, son. And tell Mike I want to see him.”
“Yes, Papa. I’m sorry.”
“I know. Next time I ask you to stay put?”
“I’ll stay put. Even if Sam doesn’t. Yes, sir.”
Spock checked that his sons were clear on their instructions to remain in their rooms until they had completed a study session on Humpback feeding patterns in the area. Four Terran years old they might be, but they were as involved with the whales as anyone aboard the CloudDance, and mature in their curiosity with, and ability to understand, the Cetaceans.
That understanding had come back to the forefront of Spock’s mind when he had realized, with a shock, that Sam had understood what Spock had said to the strange Rihannsu in his own language. He had never taught the children the Cetacean languages, simply accepting that they learned quickly, as did all children. He recalled his surprise two years ago that the boys had understood Vulcan without any teaching. At the time he had put it down to their close family bond; the boys must simply have absorbed the language that their father thought in most frequently. But for Sam to understand Rihannsu was beyond Spock’s comprehension. He realized that there was a good deal more to his little sons’ telepathy than merely Vulcan abilities would account for, at their age.
They seemed to be spontaneously absorbing complex patterns directly from foreign minds, without the formality of, or training in, the mind meld. Observing them from the door of their room, he had another strange thought and tested it immediately.
“James Sevek,” he said in Rihannsu, “you have a greater understanding of these feeding patterns than your brother . Be sure to assist him if he fails to comprehend any of the concepts.”
“Of course, Father,” Jimmy answered absently. Spock blocked hard to keep this fresh shock from surging through the family bond, and backed quickly out of the room.
What one knew, both knew. Impossible, and yet…quod erat demonstratum, Jimmy had answered him. It was unfathomable. Spock and Jim had that sort of bond, the ability to understand exactly what was being communicated in any language by either of them; thus Spock understood Universal Bimanual Sign, basic Orion, Tellarite, French and Spanish, and Jim understood Vulcan, Klingon, Latin, Greek, and Rihannsu. The implications of Sammy and Jimmy having that sort of bond were frightening to him. Frightening, distasteful, and potentially disastrous.
They did not share a mind: he knew that, for his sons were very different people who had different thought patterns, and who acted, reacted, learned and played in very different ways. And yet…both now understood formal court Rihannsu, a language they had never heard spoken before Sammy had heard it, just now, while in contact with the alien but while out of contact with his twin.
Could they have picked it up from Spock at some time in the past? Out of a dream, or during one of the odd times he had read in the language these last years? If they had, what other concepts and paradigms had they picked up, stored, and would someday use when a context presented itself? Geon physics? Temporal paradox theory? Adult sexuality?
What, exactly, were his sons?
It was time, and past time, for formal training in the mind rules, regardless of where and how Sammy and Jimmy had learned Rihannsu. Spock filed this resolution to discuss with his mate later, and rejoined the adults in the ship’s salon. Kirk was sitting on the couch, leaning forward with his knees on his elbows. His scorched hands, severe rope burns, sprained shoulders and dislocated ribs had been treated, but he was still uncomfortable. Across from him at the table were Admiral Felix Imhasa, Vice President Mithwendal, and first mate North, who was nursing a tumbler-full of rum. The doctor had departed. Ambar l’Ereha had not yet joined them.
“Spock, sit down,” Jim said, nodding toward the couch beside him. Spock settled in the indicated spot and waited. As was her wont, Arnold immediately appeared and jumped into his lap for attention. Spock absently scratched the cat’s ears and it settled, purring. “It seems that our visitor created quite a fuss, leaving the Empire for Earth. The Federation has been accused of kidnapping him. There might be trouble.”
Ambar appeared in the doorway at that moment, looking rumpled but almost Terran in a cable-knit cream sweater over faded denim pants. An expression of alarm crossed his face. “I left there by my own choice,” he said, having heard Kirk’s last remarks. Mithwendal cleared its throat and swivelled its eyes toward the youth, who visibly flinched. Spock realized that Ambar could never have encountered a Sulamid before. Nor a human, for that matter. His control, given his lack of experience and Rihannan isolationist policy, was admirable.
“Ambar l’Ehera, I presume,” Mithwendal chirped, its translator giving correct Standard over its strange, piping voice. The translator’s voice was mechanical and had strange pauses while it waited for Sulamid grammar to make sense, but Ambar seemed enthralled. “We have received an ultimatum from the Praetor, demanding that you be returned at once or the Federation will face a fleet designed to fetch you back. They are massing along the border of the Neutral Zone. That does not sound as if they believe you came voluntarily.”
“I did.” Spock watched the youth slump into a chair and scrub tiredly at his face. “They will not come after me. It is just a show, a means of rallying people to the Praetor against the Federationists back home. Blame you for kidnapping me, and the treaty gets put back another decade.”
Spock found himself admiring the idiomatic quality of Ambar’s Standard. There was a moment of silence. Spock pushed Arnold off of his lap and the cat, affronted, sat on the floor and licked its shoulder at him. He ignored the animal and steepled his hands in front of him, elbows on knees, and spoke in the youth’s language. “Why did you run away, Prince?”
Ambar winced and responded in Standard. “Don’t call me that. I am not a prince, I cannot be. They would never have let me rule from the Seat of Power. I’m not…I’m not what they want. It is posturing, nothing more. You will see, in a few cycles they will forget all about me and name my younger brother as the successor.”
“Why?” Spock insisted, albeit gently. Ambar coloured a faint green and dropped his eyes. Spock remembered stories about this young man as a boy, snickered tales told in half-whispers. Remembered looks and the hisses of disapproval when the boy was mentioned, even in private. He said a single word, and Ambar turned away even further, colouring more deeply. Agreement. Spock looked up at Mithwendal.
“Mister Vice President, Prince Ambar is homosexual. It is a crime in the Empire. I believe that is the root of his reason for seeking asylum here.”
“Well, I’ll be an albino Tellarite,” Mithwendal hissed. The image startled Spock. “I didn’t know they were still prosecuting on that old law. How barbaric.”
“Barbaric or not, it’s the law on my home world,” Ambar responded, almost whispering.
“You would have to marry in order to assume the Seat of Power,” Spock said, more to illuminate the non-Rihannsu present than to seek Ambar’s agreement. “A forced marriage; and the requirement for procreating. If your family was aware of your homosexuality, you would also face a constant watch, and never be allowed a relationship with another male that might lead to sex, much less love and romance. A life-long subterfuge.”
“Yes.” Ambar looked up. “I argued with my mother about it. Long and hard. I had a friend, you see. But she found out.” He looked away again. “I never saw him again. I don’t think he’s still alive. She could not have allowed him to live, knowing my secret, which was really not much of a secret anymore. I hate her for that. I heard that here, in the Federation, such as me are not persecuted and outlawed, and I wanted her to suffer for what she did. I heard… and now I know for a fact, that even the legendary Kirk and Spock…”
“We’re gay, yes. We understand that it’s a biological imperative, not a choice or a perversion,” Kirk said. Spock nodded, though he personally disapproved of the use of the adjective gay to describe his own irrevocable and unchosen sexual orientation. Vulcans were not, could not be, gay. He left his pondering as Kirk continued. “How the hell did you manage to find out where we were?”
“You are famous, as I said. I… I am not a spaceship pilot, sir. I had to use the computer from the moment I stole my mother’s yacht. I didn’t know how to find you. I just, I asked the computer to fly the ship to the place I was most likely to find you. I hoped that you would understand why I had to come….”
“And your ship flew you within a half a kilometre,” Spock finished. “That was an excessively audacious, ingenious, and dangerous thing to do.”
“I didn’t know that.” He bit his lip and absently rubbed the tip of one ear. “I cannot let her use this against the Federation. The treaty is so close now.”
“If you went back, you yourself could push the treaty through once you assumed power.”
“I? A stronger man might have that courage. You know my mother, sir. Or at least, you know of her and have spoken to her. She will live another hundred years. If I were to take the Seat of Power I would have to live that long in a forced marriage, my every moment watched. I would have to outwardly espouse the policy and law that discriminates against me. And even when I did ascend, it would be as little more than a puppet for the Senate, were my true nature known or even widely suspected. I would have no more power then than I do now, and my people deserve a strong hand on the reins of power. My brother will do well; he is ruthless and clever, and also clearheaded and able for reform and change. He will rule beside her until her death and take over easily. I would not even have a voice in her councils, for she despises me already.”
Silence fell in the little room. As if sensing the sadness and tension, Arnold gave up her bath and scampered out the door. “And if you went back now,” Kirk said softly, “it would be even worse than if you had never left.”
“Prison, for whatever time she allowed me to live until she could arrange a suitable accident, or immure me in some religious house,” Ambar agreed. “But I will not go back, not even to save a war between her people and yours.”
“Her people?” Mithwendal’s eyes were twinkling on their stalks. “Prince – ”
“No. Not Prince.”
“Ambar, then. Would you have the courage to record a message to your mother, telling her what you have just told us? Will you allow us to broadcast this message into the Empire? Even if there isn’t a war, the truth must be told or our relations with the Empire will be set back considerably.”
Spock watched the conflicting emotions play across the youthful face. He understood well how difficult life was for those whose natures were at odds with the rules. He and Jim had faced dismissal, disgrace, even potential court martial if their own relationship had come out in the early days. Back then StarFleet had enforced a strict policy of non-fraternization between officers in the high chain of command aboard a starship, and an unspoken but very real policy of excluding gay couples from any chain of command. It had taken Jim’s death and Spock’s outright and frank discussion of their relationship in his book to explode the last of those myths and rewrite StarFleet policy.
The Empire would be a much tougher nut to crack.
“Ambar,” he said, “the revelation that even the Praetor can produce a child who is homosexual will go a long way toward freeing others inside the Empire. Fewer would report their neighbours and friends, fewer courts would prosecute. You may save countless hundreds, even thousands, of your own people from the current policy of castration and forced labour if your own nature is known.”
“Good god, that’s never the punishment? Surely, you’re joking. That’s barbaric, even for... well, that’s barbaric.” Admiral Imhasa spoke for the first time. “Hell, record that message, Ambar. And make sure you tell her that any gay Rihannsu who seeks asylum in the Federation will be given quick processing and preferred status as refugees from a dangerous law, as a person whose life is in danger. That’s a shocking policy, and it’s based on ignorance and stupidity.”
“My mother is not stupid,” Ambar replied. “Though perhaps ignorant in this area.” He studied his hands for a long moment, then looked up at Spock and nodded. “I will record this message.”
“That is well.” A faint noise from behind him caused him to look around to see Jimmy and Sam peeking through the door into the salon. “I must assume, given your presence,” he said severely, “that you have completed the assignment I gave you.”
Both little heads bobbed. Spock relaxed again. “Come in then. What do you want?”
“We have a couple of questions, Father.”
Jimmy looked at his toes, then at Ambar, then straight up at his father. “Sir, what’s ‘prison’?”
“And Father, what’s ‘castration’?” Sammy piped up.
Jimmy nodded, then blinked rapidly before asking, “And what’s ‘gay’?”
Spock heard the snorts of laughter from the other adults in the room and reflected that perhaps his sons hadn’t pulled as much information out of his head as he had feared. James?
Oh, no, love. They asked you.
We will talk, you and I, later on.
I look forward to it.
Spock sighed deeply and stood up. “I will explain. In your room.”
I remember that when Dusky edited this for the ‘zine, a million years ago, it had a small army of inappropriate commas. There should be (and probably is) a word for that in English, like prolix but funnier… This is the originally third part of my series of colours, which became the fourth after Emerald was written for the KiSCon ‘zine. Circa 2002, I think.
On occasion, Kirk and Spock communicate telepathically through their bond, written in italics.