Earth Year 2293
I sat next to my son on the lounge in our sitting room reviewing my notes and photographs from my last visit to Trianguli V – the world the humans referred to as Hellguard. I had an important speech to deliver in front of Federation Council in two days’ time. I had good news in that regard; Trianguli V was much improved in the years following the discovery of the abandoned camps where all those feral children, among them Saavik, had been rescued. Many of the refugees had gone on to live productive and contents lives even though the scars were present and always would be.
My son sat next to me, enthralled in a televised athletic competition – Earth’s World Cup. My son was a citizen of the galaxy, having travelled often with me when my duties were in a safe environment – such as Earth - and he had become a fanatic of football, among many other sports. Occasionally he punctuated the silence with a soft “yes!” when his team, from the nation-state of Portugal, scored a goal. I kept a small part of my mind on the game; after all, my son had come to our home to share the pleasure of the game with me.
Having thoroughly scoured my notes and images, I began to compose my speech – typing out the words on the padd that I had perched on my knees. I was due to leave Vulcan in the morning to travel to Paris, to deliver my speech on the latest accomplishments of the UFP peace-keeping efforts throughout the galaxy. This year was the year that the organization was reviewed for funding. It was a formality, truly – as no one doubted the importance of the Peace Corps’ intervention in war-torn societies. However, I felt it my duty to do a thorough job nonetheless, and to truly inform the Council of all the progress that we had made in the past five years.
It was nice to be with my son this way – man to man. My wife and I had raised him to be a kind and compassionate person, and he was now grown, in fact a married man - although he had not quite reached the age of his first Time. But within the next four to six years, I suspected, my son would make my wife and me grandparents. It scarcely seemed possible. I? A grandfather?
We still have a small one at home, although Shervic is now nine and is quickly losing his child-like qualities. Every day he looks more and more like Sarek. T’Stala has less than two years left in school, and these days she speaks of nothing else but going to Starfleet Academy. In fact, she is travelling with me to Earth so that we could tour the San Francisco campus once my business in Paris is completed.
Typing, I smiled to myself as my son suddenly leapt forward to the edge of his seat, bouncing, arms tensed, fists balled in victory as yet another of his team’s balls flew past their opponents’ goalie. The crowd roared.
I glanced up at the screen and idly watched the latest news reports crawl on the ticker on the left side of the screen. I went back to my work.
Scowling as something pricked at the back of my subconscious, I looked up again. Did I see what I thought I – yes.
In efficient Vulcan text were the words
Captain James T. Kirk missing and presumed dead.
Retired Captain James T. Kirk, along with former shipmates Montgomery Scott and Pavel Chekov attended the maiden voyage of the Federation starship USS Enterprise-B. While there, they encountered an energy anomaly of unknown origin. While attempting rescue of two refugee ships, the Enterprise became trapped in the energy ribbon itself. While affecting rescue of the trapped Enterprise, Kirk was lost and presumed dead. He is being hailed as a galactic hero to the last.
My breath left my body. I let my padd fall to the floor and I heard it crack as it made contact with the stone floor.
“Father! What is it?”
James Kirk. James Kirk, dead? No!
“Father!” My son gripped my shoulder now, in concern. “What is the matter?” Numbly, I lay a hand on the hand that gripped my shoulder. My eyes welled with tears.
“Mother! Mother come quickly!”
From another part of the house I heard her come, bare feet padding across the polished stone floor. By the time she arrived I had already composed myself somewhat. I could breathe again, anyway. But a tear had fallen, and another, and another.
“Husband,” she said. “Thee weeps?”
“He is lost,” I told her. “James Kirk.”
With a gesture to our son, she indicated that he should give us a moment. He rose. She sat herself in the spot that he vacated and turned off the media set. She took my hand in hers. “I grieve with thee.”
“Father! I did not know that you knew him so well.”
“Indeed. He is the James for which you are named, my son.”
“Why have you never told me this? How did you come to meet such a man as he? And when?” He was clearly astonished.
“It was a long time ago. I was younger than you when we met.”
“Tell me, please,” he implored.
I glanced at T’Pring, who still held my hand. She gave me the smallest of nods, with resignation. “You should have told him long ago.” She rose and left us then.
“Most of it is very private – things that only Jimmy” - James raised his eyebrows at the diminutive form of his name – “and I can ever know about. But I will tell you some of it – as much as I can.”
Forty Years Earlier
In the province of Tat’sahr, in the narrowest section of the Nal'shin Valley Gorge flowed the shallow Aba'kur River, its banks lapping at its high-water mark.
The year had been one of the wettest on record and the valley floor was alive with all manner of flora in bloom, and the land was fecund with newly-born fauna as the life in the ecosystem took advantage of the abundant water and food sources to reproduce. Plants that had not bloomed in a century now burst forth everywhere. Insects that had not been seen in years emerged from the once-barren soil. The mammals and the reptiles feasted themselves on the emerging insects. The skies filled with birds of prey that waited for an unfortunate small creature to emerge from its cover.
That was the summer of 2253 - when everybody still called me ‘Kan-Bu’ and it didn't occur to me to mind. That was the year before the Federation first encountered our warlike cousins, the Romulans; before my father and Sybok had their falling- out, and it was the summer I eagerly awaited going away to school to study political science and to prepare to join the Peace Corps one day. It was the last summer in which I thought I'd never encounter someone as noble and as good as my own father.
That was the summer we went to Aba’Kur Pi'kahr.
The drive from ShiKahr took up the majority of the day. My parents were in the front seat of the sedan and I in the back. We emerged from the valley ShiKahr just past midday, rode through the L’langon Mountains, over and through outcroppings of volcanic glass, through tunnels and over bridges that spanned deep dusty orange canyons.
My parents talked softly among themselves, about issues and people that did not concern me while I watched the scenery roll by.
Our descent into the Nal'shin Valley Gorge began as the sun dropped low and heavy in the sky. The colors of the mountains gradually changed as we moved through the layers of strata exposed by the road cuts; the oranges, viridians and scarlets gave way to ochres, deep browns and black as we submerged ourselves in the rich river valley. Eventually the road turned and paralleled the river. It was rusty-brown with sediments washed down from the mountains.
Soon the Aba’Kur Pi'kahr came into view; the various low stone buildings of the old converted monastery perched high on a crest overlooking the river. In short order we arrived at the high stone entrance gates.
The Pi’kahr was a fascinating place, a hybrid facility that was part spiritual retreat and part recreational resort, the result of the outside influence of many worlds such as Earth and Andor these past fifty years. The old adage that Vulcans never did anything ‘for fun’ was rapidly becoming disproved; here one could watch theatre, song or dance performances from troupes that travelled throughout the galaxy; one could participate in any number of team athletic events, or merely enjoy them as a spectator. One could take lessons in how to paint or weave or dance. One could indulge in a mineral-rich mud bath at the spa or simply spend the day in quiet meditation alone.
We were here as a family for three cycles. Upon my arrival back home I would begin my higher education studies so this was our last vacation as a family.
My father parked the car in front of the grand entrance of the main hotel building. An attendant appeared from nowhere and began to unload our bags from the trunk of the sedan as we exited the vehicle.
We were immediately assailed with a barrage of cheery-sounding announcements, the voice of the announcer unmistakably human in its tone: Ping-Pong in the west arcade, softball in the east diamond. Complimentary dance lessons in the gazebo!
Mother looked worried as she watched the attendant unload onto a cart box after box.
She had placed her palm on her cheek as she often did when she was worried. “I should've brought the coral shoes. I really could use them.”
Father said, “Well darling, you have brought ten pairs.”
“But the coral shoes were the best match for that dress I wanted to wear to dinner tonight. What a tragedy!”
“Amanda, this is no tragedy,” Father said.
I interjected as I assisted the attendant in loading the bags, rather than standing there feeling foolishly idle, “A tragedy is three young women dying in the zienite mines of Merak II.”
“Or the near-genocide of the Horta of Janus VI,” Father added.
“Or the holocaust on Tarsus IV,” I said.
“Alright, Kan-Bu, Sarek. Point taken!”
The announcer continued on in a pleasant voice: Okay, we got horseshoes on the south lawn in 10 minutes! We’ve got a swim class beginning at the boat dock in 30. We have a still-life oil painting class beginning in one hour, and we have sand volleyball starting on the eastside court so come and join up!
“Hassu!” a man called. He had just emerged from the cool darkness of the front lobby. He waved at my father as he hurriedly approached.
“Selmarestral,” my father returned.
“Honorable Hassu, after all these years, I have finally gotten you up to my mountain.”
“Indeed. And how is your blood pressure?”
“It is much improved.” He bowed slightly at my mother at me. “I would like for you to know that were it not for this man, I would be standing here dead today.”
My mother chortled. Indeed it was a myth that Vulcan did not have a sense of humor.
“I have kept the best cabin for your family. Mister Meyers, please. Escort them to cabin six.” The attendant acknowledged with a nod.
“We are honored by your hospitality,” Father said.
Thanks to all of Mother’s clothing, we required a second luggage cart, which I retrieved from underneath the canopy.
“You want a job here?” the young human called ‘Mister Meyers’ asked me, offering a grateful smile.
Selmarestral addressed my mother. “Madam, are you familiar with the old Earth pair dances? There's a merengue class in the gazebo in the next few minutes. The instructor is from Earth. In fact, she used to be Rockette.”
Mother drew a breath in pleasure, and threw an expectant look at Father, who sighed in resignation. He knew that look and had learned not to argue against it or there would be hell to pay.
Although he could not help but to put up a bit of token protest. “It is my first vacation in several years. I thought I might assume a very slow pace.”
“There will be time for both relaxation and activities here. You will not be overtaxed, I assure you,” Selmarestral said.
Soon enough, all three of us were underneath the cool gazebo while traditional Latin music played over the speakers. Father and I dutifully followed the instructor’s calls, stepping through the relatively simply dance moves, neither one of us looking like we were enjoying it.
However, before we departed ShiKahr for our journey here, Father had pulled me aside privately to ensure that I would go along with whatever activities Mother wanted us to do. This place had been selected for her. She had given up so much of her culture to make a life here. The very least we could do was indulge her for this short interval of time, no matter how silly we felt.
After twenty-nine minutes the lesson drew to a close. Softer and slower music was put on and Father drew Mother to him and they danced together, often gazing into one another’s eyes. Mother soon rested her head on Father’s shoulder as they merely swayed together. I watched until it was clear to me that they had forgotten all about me.
I cleared my throat and called to them from where I stood from the perimeter of the activities, “Mother, Father, I’m going to the main building to explore.”
Father acknowledged me with a barely-there glance and off I went.
The grounds were lush and green; I could only imagine the amount of water that went into maintaining the extravagant plant beds; even the most water-efficient plants needed some amount of water, a precious thing on Vulcan. I appreciated the rare opportunity to see so many interesting plants amassed together, and in full bloom, due to the cooler and very wet season. One could go for decades without seeing such a spectacle of horticulture.
I walked the grounds until my curiosity was satisfied, and then I turned my attention toward the old temple which now served as the main dining hall and lounging area for social gatherings.
A door to the still-empty formal dining room was ajar and in it I saw Selmarestral, with several young males – human, Vulcan and Andorian – gathered around him in a semi-circle as he spoke.
He spoke in a low voice and yet I could hear him quite clearly. He seemed very different from the humble man who had greeted us earlier today at the front entrance and ingratiated himself upon my father. This man was arrogant, unpleasant.
“There are two kinds of help here,” he said. “You waiters are from the greatest colleges, universities and institutions of higher learning from all over the quadrant. I sought you out. And why did I do that? Why? I should not have to remind you. This is a place for the esteemed, for the most highly regarded members of the Vulcan elite. You will conduct yourself as such. You must be sure to keep the daughters – and even the sons if called for - entertained, even the ones who are unattractive or socially awkward. Take them for a walk in the moonlight; show them the stars. Romance them. We need them to make sure they come back with their parents year and after year. We want them to see this place as special and unique.”
Then there was a bit of a commotion as a group of roughly- dressed young humans came through the door, talking and laughing, carefree, using the dining room as a shortcut to another destination.
“For them, however, there are an entirely different set of rules,” Selmarestral said sourly.
I glanced back at the noisy crowd, curious as to what he saw that made his mood turn so sour. And that’s when I saw him; blond-haired and hazel-eyed. He was the most handsome man I had ever seen. One lock of hair fell forward on his high smooth forehead. He walked with a bit of a swagger, a step ahead and yet surrounded by his peers. Their body language suggested that he was the leader of this social group and everybody knew it. He smirked at Selmarestral and then deliberately turned to make eye contact with me, in the darkened doorway, where I stood gaping at him like a fool.
Hurriedly, I withdrew, but no before he cocked the same confident smile toward me. I felt my face heating up as I hurried away.