Smooth Runs the Water by logicallyillogical
Summary: Sent to Nimbus III on the USS Grissom on an errand of diplomacy, Sarek has a chance encounter with a Klingon, Councilor Gorkon. Before he can get very far in negotiations, however, Sarek is forced to return to Vulcan upon the unexpected death of his son by Khan's hands.


As he struggles to understand the moral implications of the Genesis Project, Gorkon decides to accompany Sarek and Amanda back to Vulcan -- even as the Klingon Empire prepares for war.


And then there is Curzon Dax: a young man coming to Vulcan in the midst of an identity crisis. Paradoxically he is old enough to remember 150 years of one Vulcan's family history, and unlike Sarek and Amanda, he doesn't feel especially honor bound by Vulcan cultural taboos to keep his mouth shut.


During their strange time together, Gorkon's unexpected wisdom leads to some revelations concerning Sarek's relationship with Spock and his opinions of Spock's bondmate, and it helps guide Sarek's actions as he makes plans to visit Jim on Earth.
Categories: Expanded Universes, Original Series, Crossovers Characters: Ensemble Cast - Multiple, Grayson, Amanda, Kamarag, Kirk, James T., McCoy, Leonard (Bones), Sarek, Spock
Genre: Angst, Drama, Family, Friendship, General, IDIC, Romance, Slash, Tragedy
Warnings: Adult Language, Character Death
Challenges: None
Series: Tapestry
Chapters: 10 Completed: No Word count: 37798 Read: 20353 Published: 30 Mar 2014 Updated: 10 Oct 2014
Story Notes:
"Children wish fathers looked but with their eyes; fathers that children with their judgment looked; and either may be wrong."

--excerpted from Capel Lofft's Aphorisms from Shakespeare (1812), based upon lines of Hermia and Theseus from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

-----

1. An Errand of Diplomacy by logicallyillogical

2. The Fool of Quin'lat by logicallyillogical

3. Tradition Ourselves to Death by logicallyillogical

4. Play Our Parts for King and Country by logicallyillogical

5. Noble Harry of England by logicallyillogical

6. A Moment of Great Upheaval by logicallyillogical

7. The Past is Prologue by logicallyillogical

8. Casus Belli by logicallyillogical

9. Stolen Ashes by logicallyillogical

10. History Lessons by logicallyillogical

An Errand of Diplomacy by logicallyillogical
Chapter 1: An Errand of Diplomacy


Not for the first time that morning, Captain Jonathan T. Esteban tugged on the cuffs of his dress uniform, making sure that the material ended at 1.5 cm above the wrist, as was required by regulations regarding uniform dress. He used one pinky finger as a measuring guide, frowning at the imprecision of his improvised measuring method. He sighed softly, regretting that he hadn’t checked the distance in his quarters using a ruler beforehand.


Standing next to him in the transporter room was Esteban’s communications officer, Lieutenant Mario Marcelino, also in dress uniform. Marcelino cleared his throat quietly. “Captain, permission to speak freely?”


“What’s on your mind, Lieutenant?”


“I don’t think that the Ambassador’s going to perform a dress inspection after we beam him aboard.”


Esteban looked critically over at his olive complexioned officer. “You’ve never worked with Vulcans before, have you, Lieutenant?”


Marcelino shook his head. “No, sir.”


“It shows,” Esteban said patiently. “I have, however. You will never encounter a more logical race of beings, nor a species whose members adhere so strictly to the laws and traditions which govern its society. My taking the time to make sure that my uniform falls completely within regulation is not an affectation of worry, nor vanity, Lieutenant. Ambassador Sarek is the most important person that I have ever been ordered to take on as a passenger since I took command of this ship, and I intend for her reputation to be as sterling after the end of this mission as it is at this precise moment. Is that clear?”


“Aye aye, sir,” Marcelino acknowledged.


“Captain,” said the transporter chief from behind her console, “Ambassador Sarek and party signal from Vulcan that they are ready for transport.”


“Very well.” Esteban glanced over his shoulder, giving a nod to the chief petty officer. “Please bring our guests aboard, Chief.”


As the swirls of light from the transporter beam dissipated in the bay, Esteban snapped his heals together to stand rigidly at attention. “Ambassador Sarek, welcome aboard the Grissom.”


The heavy brown robes of Sarek’s formal ambassadorial regalia swished softly as the edges swept along the floor. Sarek stepped down from the transporter bay and lifted his right hand into the v-shape of the Vulcan hand salute, the ta’al. “We come to serve.”


Esteban lifted his own right hand, mirroring the ambassador’s actions. “Vu dvin dor etwel,” he replied in nearly flawless Vulcan.


[“Your service honors us.”]


Sarek inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment. He broke the shape of ta’al, and formed his fingers so that his right index and middle fingers met while his thumb held down his ring and pinkie fingers. “May I present she who is my wife, Amanda.”


Amanda, wearing far less formal traveling robes, stepped down from the transporter bay. Her fingers met those of her husband, answering the silent gesture that served as a public display of affection amongst Vulcans. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Captain Esteban.”


“Ma’am.” Esteban smiled genially at the elegant looking woman before somberly addressing Sarek once more. “My communications officer, Lt. Marcelino, will show you to your accommodations. I’ve done my best to remove as many of my personal items as possible from the cabin. I know Vulcans prefer a spartan environment.”


“Thank you, Captain,” Sarek acknowledged.


Amanda glanced quickly over at Sarek before looking back towards Esteban. “Your personal items?” she asked with hesitation.


“Yes ma’am. You and the ambassador will be staying in my quarters. They’re the only ones large enough on the ship to accommodate you. We don’t normally have too many VIPs aboard the Grissom. She’s a science vessel,” Esteban explained in an apologetic manner.


“I see. I’m sorry that we have to inconvenience you like this.” Amanda smiled graciously at the handsome brown-haired captain, who appeared to be about ten years Jim’s junior. She wondered to herself whether her husband had anticipated Esteban’s kind demonstration of hospitality. She certainly had not. From the sound of his voice and the impassivity of his face, it appeared to her that he had expected it as a matter of course due to his position as Vulcan’s ambassador to the Federation. “I’m sure we’ll be very comfortable.”


Esteban turned his attention once again towards Sarek. “Our journey from Vulcan to Nimbus III should take us approximately two days, Ambassador. Our ship’s mess hall tends to be busy during duty hours. I’d like to invite you and your wife to join me for meals in the captain’s dining room. Dinner is served at 1930 hours.”


“Your offer is most considerate, Captain. We shall be in attendance.”


Esteban nodded. “Until 1930 hours then, Ambassador.” He pivoted on the ball of one heel, departing the transporter room.


Marcelino gestured towards the double doors leading out into the corridor. “If you will just follow me, Ambassador.”


Sarek walked alongside Marcelino out of the transporter room, with Amanda following a step behind. “Lt. Marcelino, was it?” Amanda asked politely. She wanted to make sure that she had remembered the name correctly.


“Yes ma’am.”


“I am expecting a message from my son, Captain Spock. He and I communicate frequently through written form, and his latest letter has not come through the ordinary Starfleet channels yet. Could you inform me the moment of its arrival, no matter the hour?”


“Of course, ma’am: I will be certain to do so.”


Amanda smiled again. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”


-----


“I hope that you find the pre tarmeeli to your liking, Ambassador.” Esteban passed the serving platter of steaming vegetable curry to Sarek. “Chef doesn’t have much occasion to prepare Vulcan dishes in the galley. I had to give him a few pointers.”


Sarek accepted the dish, and spooned a small amount onto his plate. “I am sure that the meal will be adequate, Captain.”


Amanda took a noticeably larger helping than her husband after Sarek handed her the platter. “It looks delicious. Thank your chef for his consideration. We weren’t expecting non-replicated meals during our trip.” She blew on the food on her fork before taking her first bite. “And it tastes as delicious as it looks. Where did you learn about the preparation of Vulcan cuisine?”


“On Vulcan, actually. When I was a lieutenant, I was stationed there for six months as an adjunct science officer to the Vulcan Science Academy.” Esteban poured glasses of water for both Sarek and Amanda before beginning his own meal. “I tried to put my time to good use while I was there -- picking up the language, immersing myself in the culture, and so forth.”


“Then you must be familiar with the atmospheric condenser designs that my husband plans to present to the Romulan and Klingon ambassadors on Nimbus III, since the technology was developed at the Science Academy,” Amanda said, sounding pleased. Now she understood why Starfleet had detailed the Grissom for their transportation to and from the “Planet of Galactic Peace.”


Esteban nodded. “I am. Though I must admit I’m a little curious why it’s only now that the Federation decided to make this proposal to the other governments. The technology for these condensers has existed for nearly a decade now. If the Romulan and Klingon empires agree to install the technology, the condensers have the potential to turn Nimbus III from a barren desert into a virtual Eden in the space of just a few years. Why wait until now? Why not ten years ago? What’s changed?”


“It has to do with the current political climate,” Sarek answered plainly. “You are aware that the Federation is in the midst of negotiating a peace treaty with the Klingon Empire, correct?”


“Naturally.”


“President Roth believes, once the new treaty is in place, that the renewed spirit of cooperation between the Federation and the Klingons will make this project feasible, whereas it was not previously the case.”


Esteban lifted his glass towards Sarek. “Well, I wish you the best of luck then, Ambassador. Even with the potential goodwill that the treaty might make, getting the Klingons and the Romulans to agree to work together with us on anything on a planetary scale is going to take some doing.”


Sarek gave Esteban a blank look. “Luck has nothing to do with the situation, Captain. It is merely a matter of logic. It is in the best interests of all three governments to implement this project, as they share the burden of governing and developing Nimbus III equally between them.”


-----


After taking the evening meal with Esteban, Sarek retired to the privacy of the small study in what was normally Esteban’s quarters. He folded his hands together in his lap as his sat in silent contemplation, mentally reviewing the facts of his upcoming mission.


Esteban was correct in one thing: it was going to be a challenge to gain the cooperation of the Klingons and the Romulans, even for something as logical as the atmospheric condenser project. Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty that followed the Federation-Klingon War of 2267, the three governments had been tasked with developing the planet together, as Nimbus III was almost equidistant to the territories all three of the political rivals within the Neutral Zone. Little had been accomplished since the establishment of the governing council eighteen years ago. Now, for the first time, it appeared that it might be possible to improve the floundering living conditions of the planet’s unfortunate residents.


Sarek heard the soft clearing of a throat, which broke his train of thought. “Yes, my wife?”


Amanda moved from the doorway of the study towards where Sarek was currently located, kneeling on the floor. She extended a data PADD towards him. “Spock’s letter just came in. I thought you might like to read it.”


“The majority of its content is no doubt intended for you. You are the one to whom our son addresses his communications.” Sarek made no motion to take the PADD from Amanda.


A scowl fixed itself along Amanda’s mouth. “Don’t you care to know how your son is doing?”


“As I recall, Spock is currently on Earth, working at Starfleet Academy with a new class of cadets. He has had a wide range of experiences since joining the service. I am sure that he is an efficient instructor.”


Amanda laid down the PADD on the nearby desk. “There’s a lot more in his letter than just a description of his duties, you know,” she said with a small amount of disgust. Despite all of the years she had been married to Sarek, the general indifference that Sarek seemed to hold in regards to his son’s career and personal life continued to baffle her. “There’s a lot you could learn about your son’s happiness through his letters.”


One of Sarek’s eyebrows lifted. “I doubt that Spock would write of “his happiness,” my wife. He is Vulcan: a fact which you continually seem to forget. However, since the subject of his mental well-being is of importance to you, you may summarize for me the contents of his latest communication.”


“He’s still working with that young half-Vulcan, half-Romulan lieutenant, Saavik. He seems to be pleased with how her command training is progressing. He anticipates that she will pass the final phase of her training on the Enterprise with flying colors.”


“I see,” Sarek answered stoically. This was hardly news worth reporting. Sarek knew Spock to be a good judge of officer potential, as he had served with distinction in Starfleet since his graduation in 2249 -- a service of some thirty-six years now. And naturally, as a Vulcan, his son’s mentee could be expected to excel at her duties. “Is that all?”


Amanda crossed her arms over her chest. “He also wanted us to know that he’s going to be on the Enterprise for the next three weeks, so his duties might prevent him from responding immediately to my return letter.”


Sarek nodded his head with what might have passed as a moment of approval. “Naturally his duties should take precedence over personal matters. He has many responsibilities as an instructor.”


“He also writes about Jim,” Amanda continued, sounding annoyed. “Jim’s birthday is tomorrow, if you’d forgotten, and Spock’s still worried about him. He’s been having difficulty raising Jim’s spirits. It sounds like they’ve reached a new low, and Spock isn’t sure about what should be done.”


“Spock has been bonded with Jim for precisely 15.096 years by Terran reckoning, Amanda. I am sure that he will be able to stabilize his sa-telsu’s volatile state of being,” Sarek replied with a measure of quiet distaste. “I cannot fathom why he chooses to write about such personal matters as they exist between himself and his spouse. It is of no concern to us.”


“No concern to…?” Amanda finally exploded. “He’s asking for a little moral support from us, Sarek! That’s why he’s writing about this. Spock says that nothing he has tried in the past few months has been effective at improving Jim’s mood. All he wants here is a little guidance.”


“You are the expert on human emotions, my wife, not I.” Sarek cupped his right hand in his left behind his back. “You are the logical choice to give Spock guidance in these matters. I will leave it in your capable hands to lend our son the moral support that you claim he needs.”


Amanda shook her head from side to side, quietly stewing in her own anger. She snatched up the data PADD from the desk. “I honestly don’t know why I bother some days…”


-----


St. John Talbot, the Federation’s representative on Nimbus III, opened up the window in his office far enough to let in some fresh air, but not far enough to allow the unceasing and unforgiving winds to blow too much sand inside. He lit up a cigarette and then turned to face Sarek, taking a moment to make an appraisal of the Vulcan. Sarek had come to the capital of Nimbus III, Paradise City, fully decked out in the robes of a Vulcan ambassador. When he had gotten his first sight of Sarek, it had been hard for him not to snort with derision. Talbot didn’t figure that Sarek was going to get anywhere on this errand of diplomacy -- he seemed far too stuffy and formal for the practical denizens of this place.


“Well, Ambassador,” Talbot said while taking a draw on his cigarette, “I’m sorry that you’ve come all this way for nothing.”


Sarek quirked up an eyebrow at Talbot’s air of defeatism. “You believe that these talks have already failed? That would seem to be a premature assessment of the situation, given that I have not yet even met with the Romulan and Klingon representatives.”


Talbot dug around in one of the drawers of his desk, pulling out a bottle of Aldebaran whiskey and two glasses. He glanced at his clock. It was nearly 10 AM -- a more than acceptable time to start imbibing on this miserable planet. “Drink?”


“I do not require refreshment at this time,” Sarek said delicately.


“Suit yourself.” Talbot poured himself a generous glassful of the lime green liquid. He pulled the cigarette from his mouth, but only so that he could swallow the whiskey in his glass in a single gulp. “And to answer your question, yes, I think these talks have already failed. The Romulans recalled Nanclus back to Romulus almost a month ago, and they haven’t bothered to replace him yet. Can’t say as I blame them -- Nimbus III is the ass-end of the galaxy, Ambassador.”


“I was unaware of this development, Mr. Talbot. The news of Ambassador Nanclus’s departure was not included in my diplomatic briefings with President Roth.”


Talbot poured himself another glass of whiskey, which was polished off as quickly as the first. “Yeah, it wouldn’t have been, would it? The boys in the Foreign Affairs office back on Earth don’t ever read the reports I send them. Nobody…not the Federation, not the Romulans, and certainly not the Klingons…has any interest in developing this place. It’s a hunk of dry rock not worth the trouble. There’s no mineral wealth here. The soil, such as it is, is barely capable of supporting sustained agriculture, it’s so sandy.”


Sarek regarded the poorly groomed Talbot with general disapproval. It was no wonder that nothing had been accomplished on Nimbus III, if Talbot was the sort of man whom the Federation thought should properly represent their interests. “Regardless of your personal opinions, President Roth has asked me to present the atmospheric condensers project to the representatives of our neighboring powers, and I intend to do so.”


Talbot shrugged indifferently. “It’s your time to waste, not mine.” He poured himself yet another glass of whiskey, but did not drink this one immediately. Instead he went back to smoking his cigarette. “If you want, I can forward the technical specifications to Nanclus along with your proposal. I wouldn’t count on him reading it, though.”


“That would be appreciated.” Sarek shifted the weight on the balls and toes of his feet. It was hot enough on Nimbus III that even he, a Vulcan, was uncomfortable. “May I at least presume that General Korrd remains available for these negotiations? Or is he likewise indisposed?”


Sarek’s questions rated an amused snort from Talbot. “Oh yeah, the General’s still here. But seeing as how it’s past ten in the morning, you probably won’t get anywhere with him.” Talbot puffed out a ring of smoke. “Not that trying before ten in the morning will get you anywhere with him either, mind you.”


The gaze of Sarek’s eyes narrowed. “I am not certain that I understand, Mr. Talbot.”


“Let’s just say that Korrd is ill-disposed towards any matters of diplomacy.” Talbot let out a hard, sarcastic laugh. “Unless of course those matters of diplomacy involve a shipment of Klingon bloodwine or Romulan ale.”


“In that case, is there another person in the Klingon diplomatic office that I should be speaking with instead?”


“Can’t think of anyone off the top of my head. I’ve never even met Korrd’s attaché, and I’ve been here for three years now.” Talbot swirled the whiskey around in his glass.


“There must be somebody, Mr. Talbot. I find it difficult to believe that Chancellor Lorak would staff the Klingon offices on Nimbus III so inadequately, particularly in light of the negotiations which are occurring between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.”


It was all Talbot could do to keep from rolling his eyes at Sarek’s apparent naïveté. “You’re here. You’ve seen this place. You’d better start believing it.” Talbot set the remains of his cigarette in an ash-tray that was already filled with cigarette butts. He polished off the whiskey in his glass, and then sighed, running his fingers through his greasy mouse-blond hair. “Maybe you could talk to Councilor Gorkon about your condensers. I seem to recall Korrd telling me that Gorkon’s on some kind of inspection tour right now.”


Sarek searched through his mind, but he could not recall ever hearing the name before. “I am not familiar with Councilor Gorkon.”


“He’s one of Lorak’s advisors on the High Council. Supposedly he’s got the ear of the Chancellor.” Talbot shrugged. “Don’t know if the rumor is true or not. I hear a lot of stuff around here, and nine times out of ten it’s complete horse shit.”


“Can you arrange for me to meet with the Councilor?” Sarek asked the question with hesitation. At this point he wouldn’t trust Talbot to be able to tie his own shoelaces with any amount of competence.


“I’ll call Korrd at his office and see if we can’t work something out. Tomorrow morning work for you?”


Sarek nodded his head once. “Tomorrow morning is acceptable.”


Talbot reached for another cigarette from the pack that was lying on his desk. “I’ll let you know when I’ve got a time for you.”


“Thank you, Mr. Talbot,” Sarek said as passively as it was possible to be, given the circumstances in which he found himself. “Your cooperation is appreciated.”


-----
The Fool of Quin'lat by logicallyillogical
Chapter 2: The Fool of Quin’lat


Lt. Marcelino was waiting in the transporter room aboard the Grissom upon Sarek’s return from his mostly unproductive meeting with Talbot. “Welcome back, Ambassador. What’d you think of your first trip to the groundbreaking “Planet of Galactic Peace”?”


As he stepped down from the transporter, Sarek dusted off the grime and sand that had collected on the normally pristine jewels that hung around his neck on a heavy gold band. “It was as I expected to find it, although I believe that the Federation files on the planet are in need of some revision.”


A grin cracked on Marcelino’s face. He’d read the files on Nimbus III that were contained in the computer’s data banks. “I’ll bet. Starfleet files describe the planet as “dry, hot, and inhospitable” -- but I’d be willing to wager a month’s pay that that’s just Starfleet’s euphemistic way of saying that the planet’s about as delightful as Hephaestus’s ass-crack.”


Sarek gave Marcelino a sharp look of disapproval. “I am not at all interested in your opinions concerning either Nimbus III or ancient Earth mythology, Lieutenant. I suggest you keep such poetic notions to yourself in the future.”


Marcelino balked, the grin disappearing from his face. It only took Marcelino about half a second after Sarek had rebuked him for him to remember that the Roman equivalent to the disfigured Greek god of the forge and fire, Hephaestus, was the god Vulcan. In essence, he’d not only belittled Nimbus III and Sarek’s mission there, but he’d also unintentionally made an extremely asinine comparison to Sarek’s home planet that made him sound like a bigoted hillbilly. He swallowed nervously. “Yes sir.”


Sarek folded his hands together at the level of his chest. “Now, if you will excuse me, I wish to retire for the time being. My trip today has been most tiring.” He swooped out of the transporter room, his heavy robes billowing behind him.


-----


Sarek sat down in one of the two chairs located in Esteban’s study. He allowed his elbows to rest on the plush armrests as he held his hands, pressed together with both index fingers pointing upwards, to his lips. His eyes closed as he sought out the peace provided by Vulcan meditation.


“Sarek?” Amanda crossed into the study from the living section of their quarters. She carried a data PADD and a stylus in her right hand. “I thought I heard you return.”


Sarek opened his eyes, exhaling quietly. “Yes, just now.”


“I wanted to know if you wished to include anything in my letter to Spock.” Amanda tapped the stylus against the surface of the PADD. “He’s always…grateful…for your correspondence.”


“No, my wife,” Sarek said shortly, unable to completely mask the current impatience that he was feeling towards her. “As I explained last night, I have nothing to say to him that you cannot say with greater ability. He has no cause to misinterpret your words.”


His eyes closed again as he fought against feelings of dissatisfaction that had long dwelt within him: he was an Ambassador, one of the most skilled that the Federation had ever seen; he could speak at great length and with unparalleled eloquence to the leaders of Federation and non-aligned worlds, yet after all this time, he was still not able to communicate with his own son.


“Sarek, what’s wrong?” Amanda set down the PADD and walked over to her husband’s chair. Normally Sarek projected himself as the ideal Vulcan, a man of stone. Yet now she could hear frustration in his voice, however subtle. She knelt down in front of him, placing one hand lightly on his knee. “Was it really so bad as all that on the planet?”


“I have met an individual such as I never expected to encounter in the diplomatic corp. St. John Talbot is entirely uncouth, with personal grooming habits as foul and unbecoming as his ideas for appropriate manners and methods of discourse between civilized individuals. He lacks both clarity of thought and vision, which prevents him from upholding the true duties of his office. With his appointment as the Federation’s representative on this planet, I believe that the public trust which has been placed upon him by virtue of his position has been sorely betrayed.”


Amanda nibbled softly on her lower lip upon hearing Sarek’s words. Vulcan culture was based on the ideals of steadfast service to the people. There was no greater condemnation within Vulcan culture than to say that an individual had betrayed the virtues and trust of public society. “What do you intend to do?”


One of Sarek’s hands dropped from his mouth, coming to rest on top of Amanda’s on his knee. “I will carry on with my duties, as I must. There is no logical alternative. I have been given a public charge, and I will dispatch that charge to the best of my abilities.”


“Of course you will.” With a small smile for her husband, Amanda cupped a soft hand against Sarek’s jaw, her thumb tracing lightly across his cheek. “I’ll leave you to your meditations.” She stood up, moving so as to leave him alone in the privacy of the study.


“My wife…” Sarek folded his hands once more into the meditative form. “Please inform our son that I hope for his continued good health; that I am grateful that he performs his duties so effectively; and that I expect him to continue doing so, no matter the personal circumstances that may arise between himself and his sa-telsu.”


Looking back over her shoulder, Amanda nodded, understanding the sentiment of the message which Sarek wished to convey. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one: it was a basic tenet of Vulcan society. “Certainly, my love.”


-----


Up on the bridge, Esteban’s legs and feet stuck out from underneath the science station console. Esteban had always been a science nerd to the extreme: he enjoyed recalibrating his ship’s state-of-the-art sensor array in his free time, and with Grissom doing little else but circling in orbit during Sarek’s diplomatic talks, he had the time today to indulge himself.


A proximity alarm went off at the helm. The ship’s experienced helmswoman, Lt. Jeanne Mori, heard from behind her the loud clatter of a metal spanner hitting the deck plating, followed by Esteban swearing softly.


Sucking on a finger that he had just burned on some unsecured optic fiber cables, Esteban scooted himself out from under the computer console as Mori silenced the alarm. “Status, helm?”


“Captain, sensors have just picked up a Klingon vessel entering our sector,” Mori reported with a tense edge in her voice.


Esteban moved down to the helm, calling up the tactical display on the main view screen. “Marcelino, we get anything from Starfleet about Klingons entering the Neutral Zone today?”


Marcelino swirled around in his chair at the communications station, pulling his earpiece from his left ear canal. “No sir.”


“Put the ship on red alert,” Esteban ordered tersely. “And get Ambassador Sarek up here. I have a feeling that he’s going to want to see this.” Esteban regretted that that Sarek’s talks were going to be ended before they even got started. He wasn’t one to cut and run while on a mission, but he also wasn’t dumb enough to stick around when he knew he was outgunned.


“Sir…” Mori glanced nervously up at Esteban, who was watching with grave and silent reverence the formidable vessel closing in on their position, “…that’s a K’t’inga class battle cruiser out there.”


“I’m well aware of that, Lieutenant.” Esteban straightened himself up. Though he made no outward physical motion, mentally he was crossing himself as he stared at the battle cruiser.


The three political rivals all had an agreement under the Organian Treaty: that none would enter the Neutral Zone without first informing the other two as to the exact nature of the visit and logging a detailed flight plan. The Klingons had blatantly ignored that agreement in this case, which in Esteban’s mind could only mean that their intent was hostile. There was no way that an Oberth class science vessel like Grissom could stand toe to toe in a fight with a B’rel class Bird-of-Prey, much less a K’t’inga class warship.


Esteban had never even seen a K’t’inga warship in real life before today, although he had seen just about all of the record tapes that Starfleet had on the design. In virtually every single encounter that had ever occurred between Starfleet vessels and K’t’inga warships, the Klingons had mopped the floor with the blood of Starfleet’s finest. The closest thing that Starfleet had to a victory against those ships had been a stalemate in 2267 between then-Captain Kirk and then-Commander Koloth. The only time Starfleet Intelligence had seen K’t’inga warships defeated in battle was back in 2272, when the V’ger probe had destroyed three of them in the space of a few minutes.


The aft turbo lift doors opened and closed with a soft “scheewoop” as Sarek stepped onto the bridge. “What is our situation, Capt. Esteban?”


Esteban gestured towards the view screen. “See for yourself.”


Sarek took in the image of the warship, which would shortly be entering weapons’ range. He then turned his gaze back to Esteban, his facial expression a perfect picture of tranquility. “Why is Grissom on alert status?”


“Ambassador,” replied Esteban with a fair amount of disbelief at Sarek’s calm, “it seems that the Federation’s brought a knife to a gunfight, if you catch my drift.” He pointed towards the sight of the bulbous black nose of the behemoth, which Esteban was certain was about to turn red as the Klingons activated her torpedo systems. “That ship that you see out there…that’s the top Klingon model,” he explained hurriedly. “We use K’t’inga class ships in the Kobayashi Maru simulation at the Academy for a reason. Those things are designed to take out Constitution class ships like the Enterprise. She could eat Grissom for breakfast, and not even realize that she did so.”


Sarek strolled across the bridge to look at the tactical systems display. “She has not armed her weapon systems. How have you determined her belligerency?”


“By simple virtue of her being here unannounced, Ambassador.”


“Did she enter the system while cloaked?”


“No. But then again, she probably didn’t feel the need to, seeing as how she outclasses us ten ways to Sunday.”


One of Sarek’s eyebrows shot up, wondering at current Starfleet tactical training. Clearly Esteban had forgotten one of the most basic tenets of Klingon battle strategy. “Captain, Klingon commanders begin their attack runs with their cloaking devices engaged as a matter of course, without regards to whatever favorable circumstances that might exist. If she had intended to strike, she would not have entered the system in full view of our sensors. I suggest you hail her and discover her true intentions before you accidentally provoke her into taking a more aggressive stance.”


Esteban stared into Sarek’s deep coffee-colored eyes for a few seconds, weighing the wisdom of the Vulcan’s words carefully in his mind. At last he looked over at the communications station and Marcelino. “Alright, try to get her on the horn.”


Esteban moved back down the bridge towards the helm. He stopped by Mori. “But if you see her weapons systems so much as twitch, I want a course plotted to get us the hell out of here at maximum warp. Our shields are no match for those disrupters.”


As the seconds ticked by, Esteban watched an apparently “superhuman” Sarek trying to stare down the belly of the beast. The Ambassador didn’t seem the least bit concerned about their current predicament. Nobody could be that relaxed in a crisis…


Suddenly the view screen blipped as the display switched from its tactical mode to the communication channel. A Klingon with somewhat squashed looking facial ridges and a beard that was just starting to go gray in places appeared on the screen. “This is the Imperial Klingon Ship Kronos One.” The voice was deep, the words slow and clearly chosen with careful deliberation.


Esteban blinked in obvious surprise. The Klingons had sent their bloody flagship out to meet them! Talk about your overkill.


“I am Councilor Gorkon, of the Klingon High Council. With whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?”


Esteban stepped up towards his command chair, so that he could face the view screen front and center. “Captain J.T. Esteban of the USS Grissom.”


Gorkon inclined his head at the introduction. “How may we be of service to our Federation neighbors today?”


“I’d appreciate an explanation, Councilor.” Esteban crossed his arms firmly over his chest, putting on a show of confidence that he certainly did not feel. “You failed to give my government proper notification of your presence in the Neutral Zone. Your actions could be interpreted as an act of war.”


“My apologies, Capt. Esteban. We did not have the opportunity to contact your Federation leaders,” Gorkon responded. The Councilor was putting on a good show for them, in Esteban’s opinion: he actually managed to sound like he was genuinely sorry for his actions. “Kronos One has been peaceably touring parts of the Empire for the past month. We recently departed Nimbus III, but at the behest of General Korrd we returned to engage in negotiations with your Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan, despite the interruption to our tight schedule.”


Sarek stepped down to the main level of the bridge, coming to stand by Esteban. “For the which, you have my gratitude, Councilor, and that of President Roth. I look to our meeting with anticipation, and I hope that it will have a successful outcome for the future.”


Gorkon nodded his head, an action which Sarek took note of. Here was a man who clearly understood the subtle art of diplomacy. “As do I, Ambassador. Until tomorrow.”


The view screen went blank.


Esteban drew himself up close to Sarek. “Ambassador,” he whispered confidentially, “you can’t be serious about meeting with him. This inspection tour that Gorkon says he’s on -- it’s obviously no more than a farce, a chance to beat the war drums.”


Sarek’s straight, upright stance made Esteban recall an image he had once seen of Marcus Junius Brutus, the very pinnacle of ancient Roman stoicism. “As I reminded you the other evening, Captain, the Federation and the Klingon Empire are engaged in treaty negotiations. Until we see clear and intentionally deliberate acts of hostility, we must operate under the premise that Councilor Gorkon came in good faith.” Sarek placed special emphasis on Gorkon’s title, which Esteban had clearly neglected to use on purpose.


“They may have come to talk,” Esteban replied coolly, “but be aware that you’re opening the door for them, Ambassador. I’ve never known the Klingons to miss an opportunity to establish a beach head, and this time they’ve brought an awfully big flag with them.”


-----


The next morning Amanda helped Sarek dress into his full ambassadorial regalia. The robes of black and russet were so cumbersome that they required two sets of hands to properly secure them. “You are sure you want to wear these? The planet’s surface temperature is hot, even for you.”


Sarek buttoned the last of the tiny fastenings on the stiff, inky collar. “I am certain. As established by my people without exception, these are the appropriate garments for diplomatic functions. Councilor Gorkon is an important figure within the Empire, and I will not allow planetary conditions to dictate my mode of attire.”


Amanda clasped the golden necklace with its polished gems around her husband’s neck. She fixed her eyes firmly upon those stones, unable to meet Sarek’s gaze. “Please take care, dear. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”


Sarek slid a golden ring with a large square cut ruby onto the middle finger of his right hand. “Your fear is not logical, my wife.”


Amanda pulled Sarek’s right hand to her mouth. She kissed the knuckles of his fingers. “Maybe not, but sometimes it’s hard for us mere mortals not to worry about the fates and fortunes of the gods.”


-----


Before he entered the main reception hall in the Klingon diplomatic office of Paradise City, Sarek took a few precious moments to dust off the jewels of his necklace until they glistened with their usual luster. It seemed that it only took a handful of minutes outside for the pervasive sands of Nimbus III to tarnish the highly polished surfaces of those stones.


Sarek secured the heavily wrought door of metal behind him. It was considerably quieter inside the hall than it was without, but even stolid Klingon architecture could not entirely block out the howling of the eternal winds that plagued the planet.


There was nobody waiting in the hall to greet him. As his eyes slowly adapted to the gloom, Sarek was able to see the glint of metal on the walls. Though such objects were banned on the “Planet of Galactic Peace,” here yet was displayed a varied collection of weaponry: mighty bat’leth battle swords, kut’luch and qhonDoq assassin knives, d’k tahg warrior daggers, gin’tak spears, mek’leth sword blades, mevak ceremonial knives, tajtiq long knives, yan sparring swords, Klingon and Romulan hand disrupters, and more than a few Starfleet type-I and -II phasers.


A loud rumbling belch announced for Sarek the entrance of the Klingon representative to Nimbus III into the hall. Sarek turned his attention away from the walls, peering into the murkiness at General Korrd.


Wearing a traditional warrior’s uniform, Korrd walked slowly towards Sarek, but his movement had nothing of pride to it. Korrd cut an imposing figure upon his solid, tree-trunk like legs, yet with his large paunch he had the clear appearance of a man who had let himself go to seed many years ago.


Korrd carried two metal cups in one hand and a curiously spiraled bottle in the other. He shoved one of the cups into Sarek’s hands before pulling out the cork of the bottle with his teeth. He spat the cork off to one side of the hall, not caring a wink about littering the premises. “A novelty for you from beyond your Federation borders -- I believe the trader I bought it from called it kanar.”


Sarek watched with narrowed eyes as Korrd tipped the spiral bottle over the drinking flagon he had been given. The thick black liquid, which possessed an almost sickly sweet odor, literally oozed out of the bottle and plopped into the base of Sarek’s cup. After filling his own flagon, Korrd hit the two cups together before drinking deeply of the kanar. Sarek lifted his glass to his lips, but he was barely able to swallow the tiny sip which he took. Despite its saccharine scent, the kanar was bitter tasting: a strange mixture of burned coffee grounds and molasses upon his tongue.


Korrd waited until Sarek had lowered his glass to begin speaking in his harsh, guttural voice. Flecks of kanar from Korrd’s mouth flew through the air and landed on the stones of Sarek’s necklace. “So…the famous Sarek of Vulcan has come to shout into the winds.”


Korrd turned his back on Sarek, and Sarek took the opportunity to quickly wipe his necklace clean yet again.


Korrd whipped around on his heels, training the daggers of his eyes back upon Sarek. “You waste your time here. The Empire will not hear your words.” He let out a callous laugh. “But shout if it pleases you to do so, for today the fool of Quin’lat is listening.”


The dull thump of bone against the cold stone floor broke through the stagnant air like a sounding trumpet. “Tammohlu’ huxKuv ha’dibah!”


Councilor Gorkon had entered the hall.


-----
End Notes:
A/N1: I did not translate the Klingonese in the chapter text because Sarek does not speak the language. In subsequent chapters, I will translate the language in text for the benefit of readers, so fear not.


A/N2: For the record, Gorkon's words to Korrd were "Be silent, honorless dog!"


A/N3: As when I use the Vulcan language in my stories, any mistakes that are made with Klingonese grammar and punctuation are entirely my own. My Klingon skills, such as they are, come complements of the Klingon Language Dictionary, tlhIngan Qummem
Tradition Ourselves to Death by logicallyillogical
Chapter 3: Tradition Ourselves to Death



Sarek’s eyes moved around the bloated figure of Korrd, taking in the form of Gorkon. Gorkon seemed both lithe and muscular by comparison to the rotund Korrd. And unlike Korrd, there was a deep sense of dignity that seemed to cling to Gorkon’s black and red leather cuirass. In his right hand he firmly held what passed for the Klingon version of a cane: a gigantic pincer finger bone from some unknown beast. He walked with a slight limp. The front of his left foot seemed to drag along the floor, as though his thigh and calf muscles couldn’t quite flex enough to enable him to lift up his foot entirely.



Korrd turned not just his head but his entire body to face Gorkon. He tilted his head to one side, baring his teeth as he spoke. “jIjax jInis. Gajchaj pag Kuv.”



[“I speak as I must. They are the ones without honor.”]



Korrd pointed first at Sarek, and then gestured sarcastically at Gorkon, his hand moving from his chin down towards his chest, palm turned upwards. “jIyin ni’poh gov Koh qamdi’ muXop.”



[“I have lived long enough to recognize a fool when he stands before me.”]



Gorkon moved towards Korrd, almost like a vulture circling around its prey. The creak of stiff leather and the dull thumping of bone were easily heard in the deadly silence of the hall. “Vup bIfo’ qoy “Ramjep’In”.”



[“A pity you are too old to hear ‘the chimes at midnight’.”]



A deep growl emitted from Korrd’s chest. He seemed to half laugh and half spit his next words at Gorkon. “jIqoy neh jevMud dak Quin’lat. HeglIj rurDa’nom!”



[“I hear only the storms at Quin’lat. Your death will be as swift as his!”]



Gorkon slammed the sharp pincer end of his bone cane into the stone floor. “Wa’nohbe’ Devwi’ ni’CeDaj Wiv’a cenmoh.”



[“A leader is not judged by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes.”]



The two Klingons were now standing only inches apart from one another. Gorkon held up his chin with a superior air, looking down his nose at Korrd. “Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam.”



[“It is a good day to die.”]



Korrd let out a harsh breath of air through his mouth. He looked like he was about to strike Gorkon with the back of his hand, but suddenly he backed down and turned his body aside.



Though Sarek had understood none of the exchange between the two Klingons, he could tell through the body language that, whatever the argument had been about, Gorkon had won. Korrd seemed to steal back into the shadows, leaving only Gorkon visible in the dim lighting.



Gorkon’s eyes, two shining points of obsidian, took in the full view of Sarek, dressed as he was in his heavy ambassadorial robes. Gorkon kept his focus longest on the sight of Sarek’s mixture of white and gray hair. Something seemed to amuse Gorkon, because he smiled slightly. “Yes, the thing must be done properly, mustn’t it?” he said quietly, more to himself than to Sarek.



After bowing his head deeply, Gorkon held his head up proudly, his eyes wide open. “I am Gorkon, son of Toq, son of Kolos, from the House of Makok. I hear with the ears of the High Council.”



Automatically Sarek lifted his right hand to form the v-shaped ta’al. “Hgrtcha S’chn Xtmprsqzntwlbf T’gai Sarek, child of Skon, child of Solkar.”



“Your name is known, even in the Empire. I have wanted to meet you for a long time.” Gorkon stepped towards Sarek, so that they were standing almost as close to one another as he and Korrd had been a few moments ago.



Sarek allowed his hand to drop down to his side. He hesitated a moment before he spoke, carefully considering his words. “I must admit that I did not know your name until yesterday.” He held in his breath, wondering whether such honesty would offend the Klingon. Sarek wasn’t about to lie about knowing Gorkon’s name, however: he was Vulcan. The hall was silent for nearly 30 seconds.



Finally Gorkon nodded gravely, once. “Finally the Federation sends someone worthy to treat with the Klingon Empire. No legacy is so rich as honesty.



One of Sarek’s eyebrows lifted towards his hairline. “All’s Well That Ends Well, Act III, scene v.”



Again Gorkon’s eyes fell on Sarek’s white-gray hair. “Forgive me for staring -- yours is a hair color I do not often see.” He seemed to ponder the matter for another moment before moving across the hall towards the doorway. He stopped near a table that was laden with sand-filtering breathing masks. He offered one of the masks to Sarek. “Will you walk outside with me awhile? The air in here is foul.”



Gorkon hissed into the shadows. Coming from the other end of the long hall, Sarek could just hear the groaning of a metal door as it swung shut.



-----



Up on Grissom’s bridge, Esteban rubbed fingers into his eyes as he sat in the command chair. His eyelids felt like they had dead weights attached to them. Esteban hadn’t slept well last night; the looming threat of Kronos One in orbit, far too close to his own ship for comfort, had prevented him from getting a good night’s sleep.



The ship’s surgeon, Dr. Ahsan Puri, held a green mug underneath his nose. “Here, J.T. Drink this.”



Esteban took a sniff of the steam that was rising up from the mug. Whatever it was that South Asian doctor was offering him, it smelled horrible. “What is it?”



“Coffee,” Puri answered evasively.



“Obviously not from the replicators though.” Esteban took the mug, sniffing at it again. He made a sour face of distaste. “This some special blend that you keep on hand just for yourself?”



“Something like that.”



“Hmmmm…” Esteban knew that Puri had an odd sense of taste when it came to food, but he decided to try the coffee since his friend and Chief Medical Officer thought it would do him good. He drank deeply, and immediately wished he hadn’t. He spat the offensive liquid back into his mug.



“Don’t like it?”



“Like it?” Esteban didn’t even want to stick his tongue back in his mouth, the taste had been so bad. “It’s like drinking an oil slick, but without the tangy aftertaste. I thought you said this was coffee.”



“It is. It’s Klingon coffee,” Puri said sagely. "They call it raktajino."



Esteban was barely able to keep the mug from slipping out of his fingers, he was so surprised by Puri’s answer. “The Klingons are breathing down our necks, and you think that it’s a good time for jokes?” He scowled. “Some days you really try my patience, Ahsan.”



“Say what you will about the Klingons, J.T., but they know how to make a cup of coffee. raktajino has about three times the amount of caffeine as Earth coffee.” Puri tapped a finger on the armrest of Esteban’s command chair. “I don’t want you falling asleep at the wheel. Now drink up.”



Whatever sarcastic comment Esteban was going to make in response was cut off by an urgent report from Marcelino. “Captain, I’m intercepting a message from the Klingon homeworld to Kronos One.”



“Is it coded?”



Marcelino held a finger to his ear piece, his eyes closing as he concentrated. Klingon wasn’t his best language. “No, sir,” he replied, sounding confused. “It’s something about a battle that happened yesterday between two ships in the Mutara sector.”



“The Mutara sector? You’re sure?” Esteban’s mind was racing. The Mutara sector was close to Klingon space, but it was still well within the Federation side of the border.



“Yes, sir. It sounds like a Klingon listening post picked it up at the edge of their range: a pitched battle somewhere between the Ceti Alpha and Regula systems, involving two Starfleet ships.”



Esteban grunted. The Klingons certainly had a lot of nerve, attacking Starfleet vessels in Federation space. “Ruddy Klingons -- so this is what they mean when they say they want peace…”



Marcelino pulled the receiver out of his ear. “Sir, I don’t think the Klingons had anything to do with it. There was a lot of confusion in the report. The listening post said it heard a battle, but the only ships it could detect in the area were Starfleet. I don’t think this battle made any more sense to them than it does to us.”



“And none of this was coded?” Esteban felt uneasy. Nothing about this felt right.



“No, sir.”



Puri scratched his head. “What do you think the Klingons are up to, J.T.? Why would they purposely let us hear something like this? They’d have to know we’d be listening.”



“No clue, Ahsan,” Esteban muttered back. “But in the words of Shakespeare, the game’s afoot, that’s for sure.”



-----



Sarek and Gorkon made their way through the streets of Paradise City in virtual silence. The only sounds that passed between them were the sucking and puffing sounds of their masks as the devices worked to filter out the sand particles that flew in the air. Occasionally one would look at the other, only to look away. Neither seemed to know exactly what to say to the other -- it was as if they were each still trying to feel the other out before speaking.



The wind and the dust had quickly settled a thick layer of grime on Sarek’s robes and the jewels of his necklace. Every few minutes he would wipe off the polished stones with one sleeve. Without speaking a word, Gorkon would watch him do this. It was more than apparent to him that Sarek was fighting a losing battle, although it seemed that the same thought had not occurred to Sarek.



Gorkon also seemed to be struggling as they walked. The uneven surface of the streets, combined with the thick layers of sand that sat like miniature dunes across the cobblestones, was making hell for him with his lame left leg.



At last Sarek chose to break the silence. “The last I knew, weapons were forbidden on Nimbus III…yet I saw enough in your embassy to take this city.”



“You wonder why they were there, yes?”



Sarek nodded.



Gorkon grunted quietly. “The war trophies of an old man, on display for all to see. They are all the honor he has left.”



Sarek’s feet stopped as he paused once more to clean his necklace. “Yet he holds an important position for your people, one that would seem to be an honorable one.”



Gorkon caught Sarek’s eye. Sadness was reflected in the Klingon’s obsidian eyes. “Korrd was a great general. He won many battles in his younger days on account of his skill, and therein lays the irony. He did not have the good fortune to die for the Empire, so now he has the misfortune of living past his usefulness. Do not make the mistake of thinking that Korrd’s position is one that comes with honor. It does not.”



Gorkon leaned upon his cane, watching as Sarek tipped his head to one side. It was easy for him to read into the puzzlement that the action indicated. “This confuses you. Why?”



“In the Federation, diplomatic posts are positions that bear great respect. The individuals who hold those posts have great potential to effect change.”



“The same is true in the Empire.”



Sarek folded his hands together in front of him as he tried to organize his thoughts. “So if Korrd’s position is not one of respect…then then your people do not expect him to be able to effect change here on Nimbus III.”



“A sound piece of reasoning. To us, his position is an empty one.”



Sarek dusted the latest layer of dirt from the shoulders of his robe. “If any place in the galaxy needed change, Councilor, Nimbus III would seem to be the place. It is why I am here, after all.”



“Unfortunately the Empire does not share your concern. It is not in our nature.”



“I am not certain I understand.”



“Tell me, what do you know of my world, Ambassador?”



“Federation files are limited. Qo’noS is a Minshara class planet first visited by humans in 2151. Records state that the surface of Qo’noS comprises of a single supercontinent and a vast ocean. In addition, the planet has a severely tilted axis which causes extreme seasonal changes and results in a turbulent atmosphere that is prone to producing intense and prolonged storms.”



“A fair description, though it lacks passion...and so fails to provide true meaning.”



Sarek gave Gorkon a puzzled look. He could not understand how an answer of passion would be any more useful in this case than an answer of logic would be. “Can you explain this statement?”



“Qo’noS is a world of wild extremes, Ambassador. Klingons are a product of that world: we are her children. The world itself runs in our blood. Life is too inconstant, too unpredictable, for logic. It is a world that breeds passion. One minute the air is clear and bright. The next minute you may find yourself in a storm that lasts ten days and that is capable of wiping whole cities off the face of the land. It is a resource poor world, so all creatures great and small hoard what they do possess. Unlike most other M-class planets, there is very little vegetation. The land is rocky and tough: it makes for poor farming, and so one must roam widely to sustain oneself. As a result, almost every species that dwells on my world is carnivorous and hostile in nature. Everything must fight and struggle to survive. Only the strong can endure on my world.”



Gorkon looked away from Sarek, gesturing to their surroundings. “Klingons enjoy the struggle, Ambassador. We like it in ourselves, and we derive pleasure from watching others engage in the same struggle, because the battle may make them stronger. If the people of this world cannot survive through their own means, they should be allowed to perish. To help them…to coddle them…it is a waste of our limited resources. That is the Klingon view of this planet.”



“I find it odd, Councilor. You describe your world as one of passion, one which is wild and unpredictable. But given those traits as a baseline for behavior, Klingon society follows those traits closely. One might almost say that Klingon culture, for all its passions, is predictable. And within that scope of predictability, it becomes logical.”



Gorkon laughed heartily, a full Klingon belly and body laugh. “You are determined to see something of yourself in us, I see. I suppose, in some limited way, we two are very much alike.”



Gorkon slapped a hand firmly on Sarek’s back, which caused Sarek’s knees to buckle under the pressure. He very nearly fell to the ground.



“Let us go outside the city, and view one of the sites you propose for your atmospheric condensers,” Gorkon said, still sounding amused.



Sarek looked at Gorkon appraisingly. The Klingon’s suggestion seemed highly illogical, given what Gorkon described as the prevailing attitudes of Klingons about the planet. “Despite the fact that Klingons have no interest in developing Nimbus III?”



“Yes, despite that. I believe I saw a stable filled with quadrupeds earlier. We can borrow a pair of beasts and ride out to the nearest site.”



A feeling of reluctance rose up within Sarek. “Councilor, I would prefer alternate transportation.”



“Why do you ask for this?” Gorkon asked the question respectfully, rather than with impatience, as a normal Klingon might.



“Vulcans have an inherent respect for all living beings. On my world, it is not proper to ride another intelligent creature or treat it as a beast of burden.”



“I see. Unfortunately, Ambassador, I know of no other means of transport that are available on this planet, besides walking of course. And I will be damned if I’m going to walk 10 kilometers in the sand with this leg.” Gorkon knocked the pincer end of his cane into the boot of his left foot. “If it is any consolation to you, I also find the notion of riding one of those creatures a strange one. On Qo’noS we do not ride such animals. We eat them.”



-----



Amanda paced back and forth in her quarters. She had been feeling restless most of the day. She knew that she was picking up the agitation that was in the air; the entire crew seemed to be on edge. The air itself seemed to breed unease. Every time she had sat down she had felt the need to start moving again.



Finally, while wringing her hands together, she activated a nearby communication panel. “Bridge? This is Amanda.”



Marcelino’s calming tenor answered. “Yes, ma’am? What can I do for you?”



“How long has my husband been down on the planet?”



A pause. “Computer logs show that he transported down about 3 hours ago.”



Amanda nibbled on her lower lip. “And what’s the surface temperature right now?”



Another pause as Marcelino tapped into the ship’s sensors. “Surface temperature in Paradise City reads as 45.3 Celsius.”



“I see.”



“I’m sure that the Ambassador is just fine, ma’am. He would have contacted us if he had needed anything.”



I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Amanda bit back the response. “I don’t suppose you’ve logged a return letter from my son, have you?” Really she knew it was too early for Spock to have responded to her letter. He had told her that he was going to be busy on the Enterprise. She just wanted to hear back from him; no matter the contents, she always found it soothing to read his letters.



“No, ma’am. Sometimes it takes a while when messages have to go between ships -- there’s so many different relay points for intership communications.”



“No, I understand. I was just checking. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”



Amanda closed the comm. channel to the bridge. She strolled over to the sofa that sat in the living section of the quarters. She sat down upon it and stared out the window into space. For a time her eyes watched the planet as it slipped past beneath Grissom, but eventually her eyes were drawn out towards the stars.



-----



After riding for the better part of an hour, Sarek and Gorkon finally reached the nearest proposed location for one of the atmospheric condensers. With a loud grunt, Gorkon dismounted his midnight blue steed. He hobbled for a few steps, holding his left hand to his thigh and leaning heavily on his cane.



Sarek dismounted with a great deal more grace. Noticing the thick layer of grime that had accumulated on his necklace, he began wiping the polished stones clean again. He frowned slightly when he saw that his fingers were leaving streaks on the surface of the jewels: he was actually sweating ever so slightly.



Gorkon rolled some small pebbles and hunks of dried earth beneath his right foot. He lifted his eyes, squinting as he gazed out at a parched landscape, its surface pockmarked with shallow holes. “Ambassador, may I ask you something?”



Sarek wiped trace amounts of perspiration from his brow. “Of course.”



“You seem preoccupied with the task of keeping your robes and your ornate jewelry clean, in spite of the futility of those endeavors. Why do you insist upon fighting this battle against the environment?”



“My attire is dictated by tradition, Councilor. It would show a lack of respect, both to my own people and to you, if I were to allow these ceremonial garments to become soiled.”



Gorkon walked back towards Sarek, a thoughtful expression on his face. “Ceremony. Such a strange thing it is. Show me but thy worth! What is thy soul of adoration? Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form, creating awe and fear in other men? Wherein thou art less happy being fear’d than they in fearing. What drink’st thou oft, instead of homage sweet, but poison’d flattery? O, be sick, great greatness, and bid thy ceremony give thee cure!



Sarek folded his hands behind his back. “Henry V, Act IV, scene i.”



“Yes -- and how that English king bemoaned ceremony. It creates illusions, hiding the true nature of men from even themselves. I tell you truly, Sarek of Vulcan, I do not know what we would be without ceremony. Do you?” Gorkon shook his head, sounding a little discouraged. He looked away.



“It is a difficult question. It is one that cannot be easily answered.”



Gorkon scratched the pincer end of his cane into the fruitless field. “Has it occurred to you that maybe we ought not to change this planet?”



Sarek shook his head. “The thought had not crossed my mind. When I look here, at these fields, I see a world waiting for us to change it.”



“You asked me in the city why Korrd displays those weapons. He does it for ceremony, in defiance of the laws of this planet.” Gorkon turned his dark eyes back upon Sarek. It seemed as though the cares of the world were contained within him, and his obsidian eyes were the windows into his soul. “You wear those robes for ceremony, on a planet that makes them impractical. It seems to me that neither of our cultures is meant for this place, Sarek. Culture drops away here, becoming meaningless. There is such freedom on this planet: its vastness is almost overwhelming unless you are prepared for it. It frightens those of us who live within boundaries, but it leaves its inhabitants free to find their own path. A terrible, wonderful thing.”



After taking in one last, deep breath, Gorkon removed his breathing mask. He exhaled into the air, particles of sand whirling around his face. “Perhaps it is not for us to change this place. Perhaps it is for this place to change us, however we may fight it. And fight it we do, with our weapons and our clothes and our ceremony! I tell thee, Sarek, I wonder if we have that capacity for change. I fear very much that we do not. Unless some great moment of upheaval strikes us all and forces us to change, I fear very much that we shall all tradition ourselves to death.”



Gorkon inhaled deeply, causing him to cough violently. The air of Nimbus III was simply too harsh for him, as it was too harsh for all of its residents, no matter their species. Gorkon replaced the breathing mask on his face. He walked back towards his mount slowly. “Forgive me for waxing philosophic, Ambassador. There is much on my mind these days.”



Sarek watched Gorkon carefully. The Councilor seemed tired. “You need not apologize. From time to time, we must all unburden our minds of their cares.”



“Send me your proposal for the atmospheric condensers.” Gorkon stroked the long neck of his mount gently with a hand. He spoke quietly, more to himself than to Sarek. “When we mean to build, we first survey the plot, then draw the model; and when we figure of the house, then must we rate the cost of the erection.



Henry IV Part 2, Act I, scene iii.”



“Your memory is good, Ambassador.” Gorkon nodded slowly, approvingly. “Tonight I will give you my answer. For now, I must ponder this matter carefully, and weigh the costs of your proposal as they concern the future of the Empire.”



Sarek tilted his head, appreciative and grateful that Gorkon seemed willing to consider his plans.



-----
Play Our Parts for King and Country by logicallyillogical
Chapter 4: Play Our Parts for King and Country



Sitting behind the desk in his ready room, Captain Esteban looked at Dr. Puri. Whenever Esteban had a serious matter on his mind, he often found it helpful to share his thoughts with Puri. In the time honored tradition of ship doctors in Starfleet, Ahsan Puri capably served in the dual role of both physician and bartender. At the moment they were sharing a drink of Altairian brandy.



Puri swirled the royal blue liquid in his glass. “Have you heard back from Headquarters yet, J.T.?”



Esteban nodded. There was a troubled expression on his face. “Yes. It seems that this battle that the Klingons reported is news to the admiralty as well as to us. The brass couldn’t confirm any of it.”



“Do you suppose the Klingons are just playing with us?”



“You mean falsifying reports about fighting in a sector of space so close to their borders?” Esteban shook his head. “No, I don’t think that they’re playing with us, Ahsan, at least not in that respect. I am sure that the Mutara battle happened, though I find it hard to believe that only Starfleet ships were involved in it. That much at least has to be a deception on the part of our Klingon friends. Fleet Admiral Morrow himself told me that Ambassador Kamarag walked away from the negotiating table in a rage this afternoon.”



Esteban grunted quietly; it seemed that Kamarag was always walking away from the negotiating table in a rage for one reason or another. Fury appeared to be Kamarag’s normal modus operandi.



Puri frowned slightly out of concern. As a medical practitioner he was forced to be a student of alien cultures; he’d been following developments in the peace negotiations closely out of that personal interest. The talks had been tense from the beginning, but both sides had continued to work through the troubled debates up until now. “Do you think this might be indicative of a prelude to invasion?”



“I don’t know, Ahsan.” Esteban sighed tiredly. “I can’t think of too many other reasons why Kamarag would storm out of the conference.”



The door chime to the ready room sounded. Esteban took a sip of his brandy before directing his gaze to the doors. “Yes, come.”



A weary but satisfied looking Sarek entered the space. “Captain…Doctor.” Sarek inclined his head to both men.



Puri half rose from his seat upon seeing Sarek: the ambassador’s forehead was shiny with droplets of perspiration. In all of his long years of service, he had never before seen a Vulcan sweating. “Ambassador, are you feeling alright?”



Sarek directed his gaze towards Puri. “I assure you that I am in perfect health.”



Puri nodded, satisfied with Sarek’s answer. As a species Vulcans found it illogical to deny any symptoms or conditions that were indicative of ill-health. If the ambassador said that he was well, that was the truth of the matter.



Sarek turned his attention to Esteban. “Captain, I would like for you to extend an invitation to Councilor Gorkon for dinner this evening aboard the Grissom.”



Esteban’s eyebrows nearly disappeared into his hairline out of shock. “Ambassador, you can’t be serious. You know that it’s against protocols to allow Klingons onto Federation starships without the express permission of the general command staff. What you're proposing would be a security violation.”



“I am aware of the regulation, Captain. Normally I would be in support of upholding the security directive, but I feel we must be flexible in this situation.”



Esteban glanced at Puri. He was sure that he’d seen everything in the galaxy now, now that he’d seen a Vulcan ambassador asking for flexibility in the guidelines of society.



“Councilor Gorkon extended hospitality towards myself on the planet,” Sarek continued calmly. “Moreover, he has demonstrated a willingness to consider the Federation’s proposal despite his cultural inclinations. I wish to return the favor of hospitality to him, in order to demonstrate the Federation’s good faith and our dedication to making this project succeed. It is logical to do this.”



Esteban’s eyebrows knit together over the bridge of his nose. Sarek’s proposal was, in a word, disturbing. “What sort of man do you judge him to be, Ambassador?” If he was going to allow a member of the Klingon High Council onto his ship, he wanted to be sure of the man’s character.



Sarek clasped his hands together at the level of his chest. “You have an interest in ancient Roman history, do you not, Captain?”



Esteban inclined his head. “I do.”



“Then I shall say that I find Councilor Gorkon to be very much like the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius: a true leader for his people, capable of leading them in both times of war and times of peace. He embodies the virtues of his culture and acts within those boundaries, but he seems desirous to understand all perspectives in any given situation. He is a philosopher and a man of reason, one with whom I believe agreements beneficial to both sides can be reached. We could do far worse than allowing him onto this ship and listening to what he has to say.”



Puri smiled slightly as he took a sip of his brandy. “It sounds like he made quite an impression on you, Ambassador.”



“Indeed.” Sarek tilted his head slightly to one side, recalling the long conversation that had taken place between himself and Gorkon on the planet’s surface. “He is a man of many facets. And he seems to have a fondness for Shakespeare, which I find most unexpected and quite fascinating.”



Esteban scratched at the side of his head, a bemused sort of look coming to his face. He could hardly believe that he was going to allow this. No Klingon had ever been permitted to step on board a starship before. Admiral Morrow had told him that they might make history with this mission, but Esteban hadn’t anticipated that he’d be making history in this particular fashion. “Well, Ahsan, I guess you’d better tell Chef to break out the fine china and uncork a vintage of the good French wine from my personal stores, because we’re having a Klingon over for dinner.”



-----



Gorkon sat down behind his computer terminal in his spartan personal quarters on Kronos One. He tapped a finger on the touch screen, opening the waiting communication channel from Qo’noS. He bowed his head deferentially as the screen came to life. “Chancellor Lorak. I am honored to speak with you.”



“I am not so honored to speak with you, Gorkon,” Lorak answered disapprovingly. “Why in the name of Kahless have you interrupted your inspection tour? I wanted a full report of the Empire’s resources by the end of the month.”



“And you shall have it, Chancellor, I can assure you. An unusual situation brought me back to Nimbus III.”



“Nimbus III?” Lorak scoffed in disbelief. “Why do you waste your time with that place?”



“The Federation has brought a new proposal for the planet’s development to my attention. I believe that we have a unique opportunity before us, one which we should seriously consider acting upon in the best interests of the Empire.”



Lorak shook his head slowly. “You know I value your council, my old friend. Upon your advice and against my better judgment I allowed for the negotiating of a peace treaty with the Federation. But now you would do well to find a different cause on which to advocate if you desire to remain alive and a member of the Council.”



“Chancellor?” Gorkon asked quietly, with a slight tone of uncertainty. Up until now Lorak had seemed to be in his camp, pushing for cooperation with worlds outside the Empire. The tenor of this conversation seemed to suggest that Lorak’s opinions were rapidly shifting, however.



“Have you had the opportunity to examine the report from our border post?”



“I had only begun to glance over it when your transmission came in.”



“Then I must tell you that we may shortly need all of our resources for something much more important than playing colony with the Federation and the Romulans,” Lorak said flatly. “Two Federation vessels engaged in a battle near our borders -- not with simulated tactics, but with actual weapons. After a fierce exchange of fire both ships withdrew from the area. General Chang informs me that Intelligence has matched the engine signature of one of the vessels to that of the Enterprise.”



A slight frown came to Gorkon’s face. “That’s Admiral Kirk’s ship, isn’t it?”



“It is indeed.” A frown that matched Gorkon’s came to Lorak’s face. “An engagement involving Starfleet’s finest warrior along our borders must be taken as a sign of coming Federation aggression.”



Gorkon passed a hand along the crest of his forehead in a worried manner. “Chancellor, I strongly urge caution in this matter. Do not let General Chang guide you to a course of rash hostility as he is prone to do. The repercussions may prove to be severe, with unexpected and unfortunate consequences for the Empire. If my inspection has convinced me of anything, it is that we do not have the resources to sustain a prolonged conflict at this time. Renewed warfare with the Federation could easily stretch us beyond our means.”



“The storm clouds are already gathering, my old friend,” Lorak said with quiet sadness. “It is time for you to stop shouting into the wind. Have some sense and heed the lesson that Kahless tried to teach us about the fool of Quin’lat. Your voice is needed, Gorkon, but this is not the time or the place for it.”



Gorkon nodded once in resignation. “I have been invited to dine with Ambassador Sarek this evening. I shall do my duty as you have laid it out for me in this matter. Is there any particular message that you wish for me to convey, either to the Ambassador or the ship’s captain?”



“Indeed, my old friend, I have a very particular message that must be relayed, and I depend upon you to deliver it in an extremely precise manner…”



-----



After removing his ceremonial garb and changing into a set of light weight white robes, Sarek rolled his shoulders as he sought to ease the tension of sore muscles. He was just about to begin the process of putting away his laundered ambassadorial robes when Amanda walked into the bedroom area under a full head of steam.



“I’ll do that.” Amanda shoved a large glass of water into his hand. “You sit down and have a rest.”



Sarek knew this was one of those times when it was best not to argue with his wife. There was no point to it, when she was in one of her illogical moods of distemper. He sat down in a chair and drank of the welcomingly refreshing liquid that she had given him.



Amanda began to hang the various pieces of his robes onto hangers with amazing ferocity, practically beating the other clothes aside in the closet to make room for the heavy black and russet layers of material.



“What upsets you, my wife?” Sarek asked calmly.



“You do, for one! Wearing those robes of yours down on the surface -- when any logical being knows that you should have forgone them...I never...” Amanda threw her hands up in the air in angry frustration. “I don’t care what you say about Vulcan stamina -- you’re lucky that you didn’t collapse.”



“Earlier today I reminded you that my attire is dictated by the traditions of my people. Must I remind you again now?” Sarek looked upon his wife with a degree of impatience. “I cannot ignore the culture of my world in the name of expediency. To do so would betray the public trust of every member of my society. I will not bring that kind of dishonor to my family or my clan.”



“No, you’ve never been able to ignore what your precious Vulcan culture tells you to do, have you, Sarek?” Amanda spat the words scathingly at him. “Not now, not fifteen years ago, not forty years ago, not fifty or sixty! Not with T’Rea, not with me, not with Sybok, and not with Spock! Always your family loses out to culture and tradition.”



“Whether you believe me or not, I act in the manner I do for the benefit my family, not for its detriment -- because I believe that the tenets of my culture are based upon sound principles that have been developed over many millennia. Because I believe in the righteousness of that heritage,” Sarek responded with typical Vulcan aplomb, before actually frowning at Amanda. “All these years we have been married, yet you still do not seem to understand what it is to be Vulcan.”



Amanda flicked an irate hand through the air. “You know, Spock said the exact same thing to me once almost twenty years ago. I didn’t want to know then, and I still don’t want to know now, if knowing means that I can’t love my husband and my son and show them that I care more for them than I do about some ancient philosophy.”



Sarek regarded his wife with puzzlement. Even for her this seemed to be an overly dramatic display of human emotions. “My wife, what troubles you so deeply that you speak in such a hard way?”



Amanda turned away from her husband, her voice becoming softer. “Did you hear that there was some kind of battle yesterday involving Starfleet ships near the border?”



“I did,” Sarek answered stoically.



Amanda sank down in a chair, close to tears. “How can you say that so casually? What if Spock and Jim were somehow involved with it? They could be dead right now, and you sit there as if there was nothing troubling about this at all.”



“It is unlikely that our son or his sa-telsu had any part in a battle. If you will recall from Spock’s letter, the Enterprise is on a training mission. Besides my wife, you know that I would know at once if things were to go ill with our son. You forget about k’war’ma’khon: the vibration felt by all Vulcans between family members. I can assure you that I have experienced no resonance indicating injury, which means that our son remains safe and well.”



Setting aside his now empty glass, Sarek rose from his chair. He held out the fingers of his right hand towards Amanda, passing them down the length of her hand. “There is no reason for you to fear, my dear k’diwa,” he reassured her gently.



Amanda swallowed against the tightness of her throat, her fingers brushing against those of her husband’s. “Forgive me.”



“There is nothing to forgive.” Sarek pulled Amanda up from her chair. He wrapped his arms snugly around her middle as he placed a soft kiss on her lips. “Let us set this matter aside. We must prepare for an important meal. There is duty to be done.”



A small smile came to Amanda’s face. “Yes, my love.”



-----
End Notes:
A/N1: From the Vulcan language dictionary:

(1) sa-telsu: (n) husband, male spouse

(2) k'diwa: (n) beloved, half of a person's heart and soul; shortened form of the word k'hat'n'dlawa
Noble Harry of England by logicallyillogical
Chapter 5: Noble Harry of England



Gorkon sat perfectly motionless in the hard, stiff chair that sat opposite the utilitarian desk in Ambassador Talbot’s empty office. How long he had sat there, waiting for Talbot’s arrival, he wasn’t sure. At least twenty minutes, maybe more.



He knew that this was all an act, that Talbot was making him wait on purpose. Talbot’s purpose was all too clear: by making him wait, Talbot was signaling to him that he, Talbot, was in control of the situation…or at least he wanted to be. This entire meeting was about power, and how far that power extended, and over whom.



Gorkon had received a communiqué from the Federation diplomatic office on Nimbus III requesting his presence at 1800 hours prior to his evening engagement on the Grissom. Ostensibly the meeting was required as a diplomatic courtesy, to make sure that protocols were being satisfied. Of course he knew the true purpose for this meeting -- he had known from the instant Talbot’s attaché had stalled in rising from the chair behind his own desk, had seen the small scanning device that was quickly hidden in the palm of the attaché’s hand before the man had greeted him and led him into Talbot’s office. Talbot wanted to confirm that he was not trying to smuggle any secret devices onto the Grissom.



Gorkon’s fingers flexed and curled around the hand grip of his cane as he reminded himself to keep his temper in check. After all, how could Talbot possibly know the severity of the insult that this meeting represented to Gorkon’s honor? He was not boarding the Grissom in an attempt to steal Federation secrets, but to continue what would ultimately be unsuccessful diplomatic talks. His role this evening was not that of a spy, but that of a courier. Lesser men, even some of the warriors under his own command no doubt, would not hesitate to try and bring surveillance devices with them onto a Federation starship. But not Gorkon. He was a man of principle, and as such spying on the Federation tonight had not entered into his mind.



On the other hand…perhaps Talbot did understand the insult that his actions towards Gorkon implied. The oft-ignored dignitary spent more time in direct contact with Klingons than most other diplomats in the Federation Foreign Service, and thus was far more likely to comprehend what his implied distrust meant in the larger context of Klingon society.



If a Klingon had dared to challenge his honor in the way that Talbot dared to do now, Gorkon would not have tolerated the insult, or the fool who had made it. The belly of such a fool would have quickly become a new sheath for the tri-bladed d’k tahg warrior’s dagger that he carried at his side.



But Talbot was not a Klingon…he was of the Federation, that strange old foe with whom the Empire frequently had clashed against in the past. Talbot would be allowed to live, because Gorkon understood that the insult had originated not from Sarek or even Esteban, but from that small, unimportant man, that minor dignitary who wanted to feel more powerful than he was, if only for a short time.



Strange, that he should find himself in a situation that seemed nearly ripped from the pages of one of Shakespeare’s historical plays -- from his favorite play, as a matter of fact, wherein Talbot played the young Dauphin of France, presenting to a newly crowned Henry V a chest of tennis balls meant to signal that the Dauphin thought very little of the English king due to his past, his origins. And all around him were his advisers, encouraging him to answer the challenge, to rise to the occasion, to show that such insults would not be tolerated…urging the king to “play a set” against the old foe in the court of France, to turn the Dauphin’s mock into gun-stones, and to make the weeping people of France curse the foolish prince’s scorn.



Gorkon shook his head…no, this was not the time or the place to make an answer to Talbot’s insult. Even though he saw all around him signs of the gathering storm that Chancellor Lorak warned of, he was not yet ready to commit himself to the course of war that men like Lorak and Chang felt was inevitable. Like that noble English king, Gorkon first needed to be certain that the reasons to go to war were just if honor was to be served and his place in Sto’Vo’Kor assured. As of yet he remained unconvinced by the extremely limited evidence that was currently at hand…



…and so Gorkon gripped his cane ever tighter in his hand and sought to quiet the urgent beating of his Klingon heart; to fight against the instincts and traditions that dwelt within that heart; and to allow Talbot’s insult to go unchallenged. Now, above all previous moments in his life, was not a time to allow the pride that he took in his culture to turn into hubris…



He deliberately turned his mind back to the conversation he’d had with Sarek earlier that afternoon, to recall the lesson that Nimbus III sought to teach them all:



Perhaps it is not for us to change this place. Perhaps it is for this place to change us, however we may fight it. And fight it we do, with our weapons and our clothes and our ceremony! I tell thee, Sarek, I wonder if we have that capacity for change. I fear very much that we do not. Unless some great moment of upheaval strikes us all and forces us to change, I fear very much that we shall all tradition ourselves to death.



No, he would not allow that. Could not allow that. Somehow he would find that capacity for change, learn to embrace the uncertainty that the future brought.



Gorkon heard a soft swooshing sound as the door to Talbot’s office opened and shut. He glanced over his shoulder, looking back at the dumpy looking Federation ambassador to Nimbus III as he entered the room. Gorkon noted that the reek of cigarettes and alcohol did not hang in the air around the human, for a change.



“Councilor Gorkon -- good of you to come.” Talbot spoke in a voice that was as oily as his unwashed hair. “My apologies for keeping you waiting. I was engaged in affairs of state…couldn’t get away. You know how it is.” Talbot gave him the smile of a used-car salesman.



“Of course,” Gorkon answered, his eyes narrowed. He was trying to mask in his voice the contempt that he held for this man, but it wasn’t easy. His vocal inflection had lost some of the studied projection of calm that he tried to use when he was dealing with alien dignitaries.



“A few days ago I saw firsthand how…consuming…General Korrd’s responsibilities were on his time. I can only imagine how busy you must be kept by your own extensive duties here on Nimbus III.”



Some of the muscles around Talbot’s face twitched. Good, Gorkon thought to himself -- now Talbot was aware of the fact that he had not been fooled by Talbot’s little charade.



And it seemed that Talbot saw no further point in continuing the pleasant façade of civility. The in-genuine smile that had been on Talbot’s face faded. “Tell me, Councilor…what do you think of Ambassador Sarek’s proposal?”



Gorkon quietly regarded the hard line of Talbot’s jaw, the sudden air of practicality and cold-hard realism, tinged heavily with sarcasm, which now hung about Talbot’s person. “I believe the idea has merit.”



“Do you really, Councilor? I must say, this strikes me as a change in the Klingon tune that I’ve gotten accustomed to hearing around here since my posting.” Talbot folded his arms across his chest. “How soon do you think your government can start fulfilling its contractual obligations in installing the technology?”



“It would be…premature…to commit to a fixed timeline at this point, Mr. Talbot. There are many details that Ambassador Sarek and I must discuss. And of course both our governments must also secure approval from the Star Empire before we can begin the shipment of Klingon resources to the planet. We cannot act without the cooperation of the Romulans, which is required by the terms of the Treaty of Organia.”



Talbot leaned back into his desk, rolling his eyes. “Can we please dispense with the bull, Gorkon? You may have fooled Sarek into believing that you are interested in this project, but I know you Klingons better than that. I’ve gotten quite an education from Korrd when it comes to Klingon opinions of this planet.”



Gorkon gave Talbot a cold smile, a dangerous flash of his teeth. “Well, it’s nice to see that Korrd is capable of doing something besides dipping his flagons in his tankards of bloodwine. Just what is it that you think you have learned from our esteemed General?”



“That the idea of cooperation between our two worlds is a laughable idea. Oh, we can try to be friends…but in the end our differing worldviews will get the better of us. The gods of our two worlds have seen to that.”



Gorkon pressed his weight into his cane, struggling against the weak muscles of his bad leg to stand in a single fluidic motion. “I do not think that you have spent enough time around General Korrd, Mr. Talbot.” He grunted quietly as he finally managed to get to his feet. “Otherwise you would know that the Klingons killed their gods eons ago.”



Talbot pushed away from his desk, circling quickly around in front of Gorkon to block the Klingon’s path out of the office. “Why are you here, Councilor? Why do you insist upon bull shitting us like a Romulan?”



For a moment, Gorkon’s body tensed. It was taking every fiber of his inner discipline not to knock Talbot on his ass at this exact instant. “I am here on account of the future, and because of the past. I am here for my daughter Azetbur…”



Gorkon stepped around Talbot, limping noticeably as he went. “…and for my sons. For reasons I do not think you will ever be capable of comprehending,” he answered with uncharacteristic quietness. “You will forgive me for leaving without your permission…I have an appointment to keep with Ambassador Sarek, and I will not show him the same sort of disrespect that you have shown to me by being late.”



-----
A Moment of Great Upheaval by logicallyillogical
Chapter 6: A Moment of Great Upheaval



Captain Esteban had always thought that his personal dining room on Grissom was spacious by Starfleet standards. His dining room was easily half again as large as the captain’s dining room on the original Enterprise, which was saying something considering that Oberth class ships were significantly smaller than Constitution class ships. He didn’t mind the size disparity, despite the inevitable jokes made back at Starfleet Command about the implications of the overall size of a captain’s ship, because Grissom made up for it in other areas. Quality over quantity, Esteban felt.



But it seemed that his dining room could never be big enough for him to feel at ease sitting at the same table as a Klingon, especially when Gorkon’s presence had not been formally approved by Starfleet Command. Esteban was a by-the-book man; he preferred to follow regulations to the letter whenever possible. Having a Klingon on his ship without prior approval from Fleet Admiral Morrow was most decidedly against regulations, and was thus a source of much apprehension for Esteban.



He, Sarek, Amanda, and Gorkon were hardly bumping elbows as they took their seats, but the space felt unaccustomedly tight to Esteban this evening -- not so unlike the feeling that one might get after eating a feast that the waistband of one’s pants had shrunk a size or two during the course of the meal.



“So what do you think of my ship, Councilor?” Esteban asked, pride seeping into the tone of the question.



The gaze of Gorkon’s eyes passed over the range of well polished cutlery on either side of his plate. The wine in his glass was white, not red: an inauspicious drink for an inauspicious evening. The liquid was in fact so pale that at first Gorkon had believed it to be water. Biq ngaS HIvje’ (“the cup contains water”) was an old Klingon idiom which described a person or a situation that was totally off or wrong, and by extension inappropriate as well. White wine that resembled water at the table: it was an ill omen, indeed.



Everything at the table, be it the china plates with hand painted design work around the edges, the genuine silver silverware, the crystal wine goblets, the silk napkins elaborately folded into the shapes of swans, seemed obscenely fragile to him. He was afraid to touch anything for fear of breaking it unintentionally. One didn’t see such opulence on Klingon vessels: it was wasteful of precious resources and promoted softness -- two things that were absolutely ruinous for warriors.



Gorkon shifted his weight uncomfortably in his disconcertingly plush chair, for a split second feeling homesick for the much more practical surroundings of Klingon design and decor. “It is…luxurious,” he answered in a carefully diplomatic tone, trying his damnedest to make his response sound complimentary rather than disparaging. “More so than I anticipated.”



“How is that, Councilor?” Amanda asked politely, her head tilting slightly to one side indicating her curiosity.



Gorkon pushed the swan napkin around once in a circle on his plate with a single finger, both fascinated and repelled by it at the same time. “After his visit to the Enterprise, General Kang wrote an account of his experiences on the ship. The Dahar master’s reports failed to capture the lavishness of Starfleet vessels.”



Finally Gorkon lifted his eyes back towards Amanda, his gaze trickling down her form like water falling silently over marble in a decorative fountain, from the sheer cream colored silk veil she wore over her white hair down her long neck and along the line of her shoulders to where the soft lilac material of her dress began at the curve of shoulder and breast. “The design of this ship is most delicate, Lady Amanda.”



The intensity of Gorkon’s gaze caused Amanda to shudder slightly. After a lifetime living amongst Vulcans, she wasn’t accustomed to men looking at her with that kind of barely contained sensuality anymore. Even Sarek didn’t normally look at her that way, except of course when he felt the burning of his blood every seventh year. She glanced over at her husband while blushing, feeling suddenly ill at ease.



If Sarek was in any way aware of the muted desire that was currently passing from Gorkon to Amanda, his own remarks did not reveal that awareness. His voice was as calm and steady as ever. “As you yourself noted earlier today, Councilor, appearances can be deceiving.” Underneath the table, Sarek took one of his wife’s hands into his, intertwining his fingers with hers. “Some things which are delicate are also strong.”



A beguiling wisp of a smile appeared on Gorkon’s face, though it was impossible to tell whether that smile was meant for Amanda or for Sarek. “Well spoken, Ambassador. In any case, I am honored to visit Grissom under circumstances which are far more amicable than when Kang arrived on the Enterprise.”



Esteban snorted silently to himself. It didn’t take much for circumstances to be more “amicable” than they had been during Kang’s visit, considering that Kang had invited himself on board the Federation’s former flagship at the point of a phaser that was aimed directly at Admiral Kirk’s head. “Yes, tonight certainly marks the passing of a new milestone in relations between our two governments.”



Gorkon gently lifted his wine glass into the air. “Hopefully the first of many to come,” he said quietly. The quietness of his voice did little to hide the underlying sadness he felt within him. There he was, making a toast with white wine -- how appropriate, to salute impending failure with such an inauspicious drink. Gorkon knew that the future he hoped for, and that he was supposedly building here tonight, was not going to begin that evening, or indeed any time soon.



What a terrible thing, to have possession of this still secret knowledge! To desire greater communication, to desire peace between two long warring parties on opposite sides of an argument…and not to have that desire fulfilled, thanks to things like ceremony and culture.



Holding his wine glass at the level of his eye, Gorkon peered through the crystal and across the table at Sarek. He turned the glass slowly in a clockwise direction, watching how the motions distorted the image of Sarek’s face through the crystal, while at the same time reflecting back the shape and form of his own visage to his observant obsidian eyes. “Strange that we should pass this particular milestone of cooperation today, of all days…”



Esteban had partially lifted his glass in the air to meet Gorkon’s toast, but he lowered it as Gorkon allowed his thought to go unfinished. “Strange in what way?”



Gorkon smiled somberly. “Today marks what would have been my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, Captain. My wife was an exceptional woman, and she continues to give me strength, even in death. Raima believed vigorously in the right to self determination and independence. I wonder what she would do if she saw me here.” His mood suddenly turned to one of amusement and he released an easy laugh into the air. “Probably threaten to throw me out of her house while swinging a bat’leth at my head in an attempt to decapitate me.”



Amanda cleared her throat quietly, startled by the Klingon’s candor, and left wondering whether he was speaking literally or not. “It sounds like you two had an…interesting…relationship.”



Again Gorkon laughed. “Raima was a lightning storm born in the form of a woman. Wild. Untamable.” A soft growl emitted from his throat. The mere memory of her was enough to bring back the feelings of desire and pride that he had felt on the day he had finally managed to claim her as his mate. “And utterly impossible to live with for any length of time. I do not think there was a single topic in the universe that she could not find some point on which to disagree with my own opinions.”



Amanda glanced over at her husband, thinking about the heated arguments that she and Sarek frequently had with one another. Strange…Gorkon could just as easily be speaking of Sarek and myself. The names are different, but the story sounds much the same.



“Would you consider your relationship to be typical of Klingon marriages, Councilor?” Sarek asked, his own private thoughts apparently mirroring those of his wife.



“Are you making a study of me, Ambassador? Trying to analyze me with your logic again?” Gorkon responded lightly.



“You yourself called Klingons a people of passion. I merely seek understanding of that culture. I meant no offense by the question.”



“Then I shall take none,” Gorkon answered before taking a sip of wine. “There is a saying amongst my people: jop’ej way’. No good Klingon relationship, be it between two spouses or two friends, or even between parent and child, is without it. A direct translation of the saying would be “lunge and deflect.” The phrase comes from the offensive and defensive movements of two partners sparring with the bat’leth. Of course, not all battles are physical; some are verbal. First one partner attacks, while the other defends. Then the roles are reversed, with the first defending.”



Sarek nodded slightly. “So the concept of jop’ej way’ represents an argument.”



“Not just an argument,” Gorkon answered, “but also encompassing the importance of that sparring, the value that we place upon it, and how it contributes to our sense of self. The verbal duel allows us to continuously examine ourselves, our way of thinking.” Gorkon gave Sarek and Amanda a grin that had a decidedly mischievous bent to it. “There was much jop’ej way’ in my marriage to Raima. I made it a point to be away from her house and in the field performing my duties as often as it was possible.”



“This is not to say that I did not love her, Lady Amanda,” Gorkon continued upon seeing the look of palpable surprise that was written on the face of Sarek’s wife. “Klingons treasure their mates, almost to a fault. They help us to become better warriors. Not to mention they inspire us to improve our reflexes in the face of flying objects.” He rubbed at a nearly invisible scar that graced his left cheekbone.



The obvious sentimentality contained in Gorkon’s words caused Amanda to smile. “You must miss her very much.”



Gorkon nodded once. “I am incomplete without her.”



A steward came into the dining room with the first course of the meal. Seeing the others removing their napkins and placing them in their laps, Gorkon sought to emulate them. Amazing how those swan shapes disappeared at the slightest tug…and completely impractical, like many of the things on Starfleet ships. Gorkon turned his eyes towards Esteban, captain of this wonderland vessel that he now found himself in. “What about you, Captain? Are you married?”



“I can’t say that I’ve ever had the pleasure, no,” Esteban answered as the steward began serving their meal. “Service in Starfleet isn’t exactly conducive to married life. Living space on starships is at a premium; even senior officers’ living quarters would be cramped for two people living together on a permanent basis.”



Gorkon waved a dismissive hand in the air. “Comfort is a matter of degree, Captain. If that is the only matter which stops you…”



“It’s one of the reasons, yes, but not the only one in my case. There aren’t many civilians who find the idea of marrying a member of Starfleet appealing -- the service can be dangerous, and can entail many sacrifices that civilians aren’t accustomed to making. So we find ourselves looking within the ranks for a spouse, but that too provides its own unique challenges, because there is also the matter of the chain of command. Starfleet tries not to make policy concerning private relationships, but it does have to draw the line in certain circumstances.”



“Such as?”



“Well, there are strict regulations on the books regarding who one is allowed to be in a relationship with. No one individual may be involved in a personal relationship with a person in their direct chain of command, either above them or below them. So, for example, the ship’s head science officer can be in a relationship with the ship’s head communications officer, because the two positions are in different chains of command. Neither reports directly to the other. But the same science officer cannot be involved with the ship’s captain, because the captain is the science officer’s direct superior in the chain of command.”



“Why should rank or the chain of command matter?” Gorkon asked Esteban, probing for answers that weren’t immediately apparent to him.



“I believe that the policy exists to avoid a conflict of interest,” Sarek answered, before Esteban had the chance to respond.



“Conflict of interest?” Gorkon now asked Sarek, a blank expression on his face.



“Allow me to use an example to clarify: suppose that two officers, one the direct superior of the other, are in battle together. As you yourself must be aware, there is often a moment that comes where the battle may be won or lost based upon a single decision. What if victory depended upon the superior officer ordering his subordinate lover to take an action that would result in the death of that individual? Would the officer in question be able to give that command, or would the officer hesitate, and in doing so condemn all the other individuals under his or her command to death, either through intent or by accident, solely to save the life of the beloved individual?”



Amanda silently bit down on her lower lip, listening to her husband. She could hear in Sarek’s voice something that neither Esteban nor Gorkon was able to hear: disapproval, even a touch of anger.



“Starfleet is wise to have such a regulation,” Sarek continued. “It eliminates an unstable element from the field of command.”



“An unstable element?” Gorkon frowned slightly. “You mean emotions, correct?”



“Precisely. There is not room in the chain of command for both logic and emotion. Emotion needs to give way to that reality, for the good of all individuals in Starfleet service. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Every Starfleet officer swears to live by certain rules; it is part of being a member of Starfleet. Those who cannot abide by such a reasonable regulation should leave the service rather than risk others with their selfish behavior.”



Gorkon shook his head slowly once from side to side, a thoughtful expression set upon his face. “I am sure there is some wisdom to be found in this policy, Ambassador, or it would not be…but I do not see it for myself. I think, in this respect, our ways are too different from yours.”



Amanda sat forwards in her chair, leaning her elbows into the table as she supported her chin on folded hands. “What is the Klingon policy in such matters, if I might ask?” She asked the question carefully, knowing that for Sarek this conversation had taken a sudden and uncomfortably personal turn: one that was loaded with meanings hidden from Esteban and Gorkon.



“Our policy is a simple one, Lady. There is no rule that governs the heart, nor should we try to do so. Our mythology teaches us that two Klingon hearts beating together are stronger than anything else in the universe. Thus was Kortar, the first Klingon, able to slay the gods who had created him because his wife stood beside him in battle at the gates of Qui’Tu. A man will fight harder and longer on the field of battle for the sake of the lover that fights beside him than he will for any of his other brothers-in-arms, and he will be a greater warrior on account of that love.”



A sad expression came momentarily to Amanda’s face, as she thought about Spock and Jim. How different the lives of her son and his own secret spouse and bondmate could have been, if only they had been born Klingons! They would not have to hide their relationship from others…they could have lived openly together as a couple while still serving together, and lived in a culture where such a relationship was seen as normal and acceptable within that culture’s mores…



Gorkon paused, his head tilting to one side as he considered the best way to explain the matter. “One might even say that such relationships are encouraged, with the approval of the respective familial houses, of course.”



Yes, Amanda thought to herself, how different their lives could have been!



A strange feeling of…unease…began to slowly spread through Sarek’s body. It was a sort of tingling sensation, which was, for the moment, contained to his fingers and hands. Sarek pushed his plate away, his appetite lost. “Councilor, what would happen if two individuals began a relationship that did not meet with the approval of the familial houses?”



Gorkon set down his fork, looking Sarek right in the eye. “It would depend upon how far the relationship had progressed. In the most extreme case the heads of each house would be required to kill the family members for defying the wishes of the house and bringing dishonor to their family names.”



Amanda bit down hard on her lower lip to contain a quiet gasp of horror.



“An unforgiving system,” Sarek stated quietly.



Gorkon held a finger in the air, as if to make a cautious point. “But one which has been well established by tradition. The strictures of Klingon society exist for good reason.”



“I believe I comprehend you perfectly, Councilor.” Sarek gave an understanding nod before he resumed eating, despite the strange tingling sensations that had now spread past his hands into his forearms, and which had begun in his lower limbs as well.



Esteban was the one shaking his head now. “In any case, it is hard to imagine how such an arrangement would work in a command structure.”



“Not so hard as one might think, Captain,” Gorkon said with a somewhat ironic smile. “Your own Admiral Kirk found Kang and the Lady Mara, who was both his wife and his first officer, a formidable set of opponents when they came to the Enterprise.”



Amanda glanced over at Esteban. “It really isn’t a foreign idea to human cultures either, Captain, when you get right down to it. With your interest in classical civilizations, you ought to remember that the ancient Spartans operated by a very similar code of values when it came to love between soldiers in the ranks.”



Esteban gave the ambassador’s wife a polite smile of acknowledgement. “I’d read in your file that you were once a school teacher, Lady Amanda. I hereby consider myself duly taught and reminded by your lesson.”



A look of disbelief came to Gorkon’s face upon learning Amanda’s former occupation. “A school teacher…and now wife to a Federation ambassador. Astounding.”



“Why do you say that?” Amanda asked.



“Such…mobility of position…does not exist within the Empire,” Gorkon explained, his voice taking on, what sounded like to Amanda, an edge of somewhat insincere neutrality. “One’s occupation and career advancement is determined by one’s class.”



Amanda barely managed to contain a grin, wondering what Gorkon would say if he knew that Sarek had been an astrophysicist at the Vulcan Science Academy before embarking on his career in the Federation Foreign Service. “I see.”



“What did you teach, Lady Amanda? I am decidedly curious.”



“Earth History and Literature, primarily.”



Sarek took a sip from his glass, clearing the food from his mouth so he could speak. He was drinking water, not the wine of Esteban’s table: Vulcans did not usually imbibe alcoholic beverages. “You and the Councilor would have much to discuss, my wife, given the opportunity. He is something of an aficionado on Shakespeare.”



“Really?” said Amanda, sounding delighted. “Begging your pardon, Councilor, but I am surprised to learn that Klingons would have heard of, much less read, the works of Shakespeare.”



“What is to wonder at, Lady Amanda? His plays are largely stories of family, love, duty, and honor -- themes which my people never tire of discussing.” A playful expression crossed Gorkon’s face. “Shakespeare himself predicted, in his own way, that his works belonged not just to the confines of his small corner of the world, but far beyond those boundaries. How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown!



Julius Caesar, Act III, scene i,” Amanda instantly responded. She clapped her hands slightly, unable to completely contain her excitement. “Bravo.”



“Of course,” Gorkon said with an amused chuckle, “the Klingon versions of Shakespeare’s works tend to be rather different from the originals. I have read both versions of the complete works, simply for the sake of comparing those variations.”



“Could you give us an example?” Esteban asked rather stiffly, feeling vaguely offended by the idea of a bunch of Klingons altering some of Earth’s finest literature.



“An example…” Gorkon tugged thoughtfully on his chin beard. “Take Romeo and Juliet. In the Klingon version, Juliet is forced to kill Romeo to satisfy family honor after he killed her cousin Tybalt. Of course, after killing her Par’Mach’kai, the only way for Juliet to retain personal honor is to kill herself with the selfsame dagger that she used to kill Romeo.”



“I see,” Esteban replied with narrowed eyes. “Are all of the Klingon versions so replete with…cultural changes?” He had wanted to say “cultural contamination,” but in the interest of diplomacy he was making an effort to not come across as completely insulting.



“To one degree or another; it depends greatly upon the play in question. In the Klingon Julius Caesar, Caesar is not surprised when Brutus stabs him, for Klingons can see in the eyes of their enemies that the intent to kill is there. Frankly, the fact that Caesar did not know in the original that Brutus would betray him is somewhat implausible for most Klingon audiences.”



“I’m curious, Councilor,” Amanda said, sounding far less affronted than Esteban did. Fascinated was a better word to describe her current mood; Gorkon was providing an invaluable peek into the worlds of exosociology and exoanthropology -- two things that were utterly irresistible to the school teacher in her. “Have any of Shakespeare’s plays survived largely intact on your world?”



Again Gorkon tugged thoughtfully on the short gray hairs of his beard. “Henry V has very few changes from the original. I don’t think that there have ever been any ‘altered productions,’ as you might call them, performed on the stage.”



At this point Esteban could hardly contain a scoff of disbelief. “Is that so?”



Gorkon nodded in the direction of Esteban. “The character of Henry V is actually highly regarded on Qo’noS. He is a great leader of conscience who leads his troops to glorious and honorable victory over a pompous and better equipped enemy of superior numbers on the field of battle. Along every step of his journey Henry acts with dignity and nobility.”



Amanda smiled at Gorkon, trying with her actions and words to diffuse some of the tension that had become suddenly present in the room. “It’s easy to see why your people would admire him, Councilor.”



Gorkon tipped his head deferentially to Amanda, appreciating in that moment her graciousness of spirit. “To be plainly honest with you, Lady, the scene wherein Henry seeks to woo Princess Katherine as he is, a simple soldier, is widely felt by my people to be one of the most romantic pieces of poetry in the history of the written word. I am not ashamed to say that I recited some of that scene while trying to persuade Raima to marry me.”



The gaze of Gorkon’s eyes shifted away from Amanda, up towards some corner of the dining room as he imagined Raima standing once more before him, hurling household objects at him as he recited his love poetry. "A good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon; or, rather, the sun, and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly. If thou would have such a one, take me; and take me, take a soldier; take a soldier, take a king. And what sayest thou then to my love? Speak, my fair, and fairly, I pray thee..."



It was only the shifting of Gorkon’s eyes away from her that told Amanda that Gorkon was not reciting those words to her. There was an intense sensuality contained in Gorkon’s baritone voice as he spoke Henry’s lines. The tone echoed the one that she heard in her mind’s eye when Sarek spoke to her telepathically. It made a shiver run corkscrew like through her middle.



Gorkon’s eyes closed, temporarily lost to his surroundings as the memories of those greener days came back to him.



If Gorkon was lost from the moment, Sarek was equally so, but for different reasons. In addition to the tingling sensation that remained in his limbs, he was now finding it difficult to focus on the conversation going on around him. It was extremely disconcerting to him; it was unusual for a Vulcan’s mind to wander in the fashion that his was at this exact moment.



“Is that how you see yourself, Councilor? As a modern day Henry V, filled with purity of intention and nobility in your actions?” Esteban asked, quiet sarcasm encroaching into his diplomatic tone.



A few seconds of silence befell the air in the private dining room. Gorkon opened his eyes, silently regarding Esteban. To Amanda the seconds felt much more like minutes than the two or three heartbeats that it actually was.



Gorkon’s response seemed touched deeply by sudden gravity, a sigh escaping from his lips. Esteban’s words served for him as a powerful reminder that they had spent far too long in idle conversation at this dinner. It was time to take their conversation to the heart of why Gorkon was here tonight: to deliver the sentiment of Chancellor Lorak’s position to the current enemies of the Klingon Empire. “I would answer plainly…but I think that you would not like what I have to say.”



Esteban passed a hand through the air, gesturing towards Sarek. “Earlier today the Ambassador wisely remarked that it could not hurt for us to hear you speak your mind. I welcome your answer, however candid it may prove to be.”



“As you wish.” Gorkon leaned back in his chair, folding his arms over his chest. “From where I sit, it does not seem to matter how I think of myself. In our little story, as told from my perspective, I can look in a mirror, filled with satisfaction at my reflection, taking pride in actions which I believe have been and continue to be honorable. But that does not matter here, now, in this moment. You see, no matter how much I may admire or think of myself as a figure like Henry V, when you look at me…when members of your Federation look at my people…you do not see Henry V standing before you.”



The gaze of Gorkon’s eyes flitted quickly over towards Sarek before being directed back at Esteban. “The ways of my people are often at odds with the values of your own society, and so, in less time than it takes to draw a breath, I have gone from protagonist to antagonist in the switch from my viewpoint to yours.”



“I see,” Esteban responded brusquely. “Who then do I and the rest of the Federation perceive you to be, in your estimation?”



A sad kind of expression came to Gorkon’s face. “I believe that it is Richard III that you see sitting at your table tonight. Still a king, yes, but one who is of a completely different character than the noble Hal.”



“If the Federation sees Klingons in that way, there is a reason for it,” Esteban retorted, his mind wandering back to the previous day's attacks in the Mutara sector. “Like Richard III, your people seem to understand the art of deception.”



A sharp glint appeared in Gorkon’s obsidian eyes; at that instant he knew exactly what Esteban was thinking about. Like any trained Klingon warrior, he could see those thoughts in the eyes of his enemy. “You do not trust us…as we do not trust you.” A moment of silence passed as Gorkon sought to remain in better control of his own sense of outrage than Esteban was. “Trust must be earned, Captain, through honorable actions. How can the Klingon Empire and the Federation negotiate a peace when the Federation continues to act dishonorably?”



“The Federation?” Esteban was livid, his face turning a deep shade of red.



“Yes, the Federation. Do you think that Chancellor Lorak and the rest of the High Council can ignore what appear to be war exercises between two Starfleet vessels in a region of space that lays so close to our borders? Only a fool looks over the fence and chooses to do nothing about what he has seen one way or the other.”



“Then you acknowledge that you have been spying on us?”



“We are all spies here, Captain. You spy on Klingon borders with your listening posts and your border patrols and your sensor nets, just as we spy on Federation borders with our listening posts and our border patrols and our sensor nets.” Gorkon set his napkin calmly on the table, smoothing out the wrinkles in the silk material. “And since we are both well aware of these facts, can we not then acknowledge that we do these things when we happen to share company with one another? Must we at this table consign ourselves to play at false dice and act with the cunning of Romulans?”



“I see. So not only do you see us as dishonorable, but you see us as deceptive too?”



“One must never be too quick to judge character. I have yet to form my opinions of the occupants of this table. We are as yet strangers.” Gorkon inclined his head towards Sarek and Amanda before looking back at Esteban. “But I can tell you that many of your leaders are regarded with suspicion on account of past decisions. For example, it is hard to believe the words of the Commander-in-Chief of your Starfleet, Fleet Admiral Harold Morrow. On the one hand he talks peace with our ambassador, while on the other hand he orchestrates the design and production of a new class of warship -- one that is supposed to have transwarp drive and weapons systems more powerful than any ever before equipped on a Starfleet vessel. I even hear rumors that in some circles this Excelsior that has been built is called “the K’t’inga Killer.””



Esteban cleared his throat, partially to cover his dumbfounded amazement at the depth of detail that a man like Gorkon possessed about the Excelsior project. “Rest assured, Councilor, the Federation does not mean to threaten its neighbors. The Excelsior is merely following the natural course of development for improvements to Starfleet vessels.”



Gorkon regarded Esteban for a moment in silence before he made his reply. “When you bait a bear in the ring, Captain, is it not natural to expect that the bear will bite back to defend itself? There is a saying on Qo’noS: Hoch nuH qel -- ‘Consider every weapon.’ It means that, before one takes action, one should consider all of the possibilities…all of the consequences that might result from that action. I can tell you that there are many on the High Council who do not believe that Admiral Morrow considers every weapon. The development of your so-called K’t’inga Killer is proof enough of that.” Gorkon cut a hand angrily through the air, the leather of his gloves crunching softly as he made a fist with his fingers. “How does he think my people will respond? I will tell you: someone, somewhere, who does not have the same patience for the Federation’s lack of foresight in this manner that I have, will respond by researching in secret…to develop a deadlier ship to match the Excelsior. And so the arms race that we find ourselves trapped in will only continue to escalate, and all because men like Morrow do not possess the wisdom necessary for Hoch nuH qel.”



Esteban threw his napkin angrily on the table, the veins in his neck throbbing visibly. “The ancient Romans had a saying too, Councilor Gorkon: Igitur qui desiderat pacem, praeparet bellum. ‘Therefore whoever desires peace, let him prepare for war.’ Two thousand years ago, Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus unwittingly had the Klingons pegged perfectly.”



Amanda glanced over at her husband. She couldn’t believe that Sarek was just sitting there, allowing the discussion between Esteban and Gorkon to become more and more heated. It was extremely out of character for him: Sarek had always been the one that everyone counted upon to diffuse tense situations in the past. That blasted Vulcan logic of his, while never very endearing, always did cut to the heart of the matter in most diplomatic situations. That logic was much of the reason for why Sarek was one of the finest ambassadors in the Federation.



// Sarek, do something already -- before they think to use their knives for something other than eating! //



Sarek let out a short breath of air, sounding pained. His left hand passed across his chest and drifted down to rest in the lower right region of his ribcage, where the Vulcan heart was located.



“Sarek, what’s wrong?” Amanda darted out of her chair. She had seen Sarek seem to collapse in on himself like this only once before -- on the Enterprise during the Babel Conference, when he was having the fourth in a series of heart attacks that he had experienced at the time.



Suddenly distracted from their argument by the concern and fear contained in Amanda’s question, Esteban and Gorkon also rose from their chairs to look at the ambassador and his wife.



From Sarek’s side, Amanda looked swiftly over at Esteban. “Summon your doctor quickly, Captain. My husband has a past history of heart attacks. I think he may be having one now.”



Esteban strode over to the communication panel in the wall. “Dr. Puri, medical emergency in the captain’s mess.”



Gorkon moved around the table. Despite the difficulty in doing so with his lame leg, Gorkon crouched down on Sarek’s other side. He held a steadying hand on Sarek’s shoulder, keeping the Vulcan safely upright in his chair.



All of the color had drained from Sarek’s face in a matter of seconds. His jaw dropped open and his coffee colored eyes went wide, almost to the point of bulging out of his eye sockets.



“Spock…” he uttered feebly, just as he collapsed into Gorkon’s arms.



-----
Chapter End Notes:

A/N1: I owe a debt of gratitude to Marc Okrand (father of the Klingon language) in this chapter; my knowledge of Klingon idioms stems entirely from his remarkably detailed book "Klingon for the Galactic Traveler."
The Past is Prologue by logicallyillogical
Chapter 7: The Past Is Prologue



46 years ago…

The year: 2239

Location: City of Shi’Kahr, Vulcan




With a slight smile on his face, nine year old Spock scratched his loyal pet behind the ears. The sehlat’s eyes had dropped closed in contentment a few minutes earlier, but suddenly they opened again without warning. I-Chaya’s ears turned forwards and his head lifted from the ground.


Spock’s fingers stopped their repetitive motion. “What is it, boy?” Spock tilted his head slightly, trying to hear whatever it was that his sehlat was reacting to. At first he heard nothing, which caused him to frown. This was yet another instance in the constant stream of reminders in his life that he was part human -- had he been fully Vulcan he would have heard the sound of the skimmer’s engines long before I-Chaya had.



The action of frowning caused Spock to wince: the movement of his facial muscles reignited the pain he experienced from his split lower lip and the sizable bruise on his right cheek. The sudden sting made his eyes water.



A few seconds passed, and at last Spock was able to hear the sound of the skimmer just as the rumbling sound of the engine died away. He glanced down at I-Chaya, and the frown on his face was replaced by another smile. “They’re back! I’ll see you later, I-Chaya.”



Spock dashed through the hallways of his home, going in search of his fifteen year old half-brother. Sybok and their father had just returned from a ceremony at Mt. Seleya commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Sybok’s mother, T’Rea. His own mother had gone to the ceremony as well; as Sarek’s wife, tradition had demanded her presence at the commemoration. Spock had been left behind, however; for reasons not explained to him, his father had told him that his presence would not have been deemed “appropriate.” Spock had only been able to conclude that he was being excluded on purpose…for the same reason that his schoolmates constantly tormented him: he was not truly Vulcan.



It wasn’t an unreasonable conclusion to make. He had been singled out countless times, separate from the rest of Vulcan society, on account of his human heritage. Even his father saw him differently from his classmates, having declared him “so human” on the day of his birth. At best he was the equivalent of a neglected house pet in the eyes of his fellow Vulcans: while he was allowed into the metaphorical house of Vulcan society and would never be chased out, the other residents of that house would never welcome him into their ranks nor do much more than tolerate his presence.



His only true friend, besides faithful I-Chaya, was his half-brother. Ever since Sybok had come to live with them a year ago, he had been a source of sympathy and understanding for Spock. For some reason Sybok had always comprehended the conflicts that he felt within him, and his half-brother had always managed to console him whenever he became angry or sad from the injustices he constantly endured due to his mixed heritage. In return Spock adored him, even hero worshiped him a little bit.



Spock found his half-brother in the inner courtyard of their home, his back facing towards the courtyard entrance. He ran across the garden, heading straight for where Sybok was sitting on a stone bench, his mind already imagining Sybok soothing the emotional hurts that he was experiencing at his exclusion from the ceremony and his most recent fight with some of his schoolmates. “Sybok!”



Sybok did not turn to face his younger sibling. “Leave me in peace.”



The pace of Spock’s footfalls slowed. Sybok’s voice had sounded odd, strained in a way that Spock was not accustomed to hearing. He stopped behind Sybok, stretched out an arm, and touched Sybok on the shoulder. “Brother?”



At the soft question, Sybok turned his head over his shoulder. Spock quickly withdrew his hand. “Brother!” he exclaimed, startled. “You are crying!”



Sybok wiped wet streaks from his cheeks. “What if I am?”



“Vulcans don’t cry,” Spock replied automatically, as though reciting a lesson learned from the cradle.



“On the contrary, you cry a great deal when our father is not looking, and you’re Vulcan.”



“Yes but…I’m not completely…” Spock drifted off before completing the rest of his thought. “…and anyway, you’re an Adept of Gol.”



“The fact that I am studying to become a master of logic does not render me incapable of crying, Spock,” Sybok said quietly.



His own hurts forgotten, Spock slid onto the bench next to his elder half-sibling, determined now to make Sybok feel better as Sybok had always done for him in the past. “Why do you weep, brother? Because of the ceremony today?”



Sybok nodded gravely.



Spock’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “But why? The occasion of your first mind-melding with your mother’s vre-katra ought to have been a satisfying one.”



Sybok shook his head once. “It was not…and the elders have decreed that my first melding was to be my only melding. The priestesses have already entombed her katric ark in a sealed chamber within the Hall of Ancient Thought.”



“Sealed?” Spock looked up at Sybok, trying to comprehend the total meaning of his brother’s statement. The katric arks of important Vulcans were never placed in sealed chambers. The entire purpose of enshrining the knowledge of an individual’s katra within a katric ark was to allow future generations to meld with it and learn from the deceased individual. Sealing the chamber that housed T’Rea’s vre-katra made absolutely no sense to him -- T’Rea had been the High Priestess of Gol once. He could not begin to imagine why the elders would deny all future generations of Vulcans access to her valuable knowledge and unique insight. “Why sealed?”



Sybok looked down at his younger half-brother, a strange fire glinting in his eyes. “Because of what she knew…The elders may say that the ancient stories are false, that they are merely part of a mythology from our primitive past, but I know now that they are wrong. I have seen the truth, Spock.” Sybok closed his eyes, his head tilting back in the air as he drew in a deep breath, as though he were truly breathing for the first time in his life. “I felt its force the moment I joined with her.”



Spock gaped up at Sybok, hanging on his half-brother’s every word. “What did you know, brother?”



“That Surak was wrong, brother.” Sybok placed a hand firmly on his shoulder, gave the joint a tight squeeze. “Vulcans should never have given up emotions in favor of logic. Be grateful that you can feel so freely, Spock. You are purer Vulcan than basically everyone else on this planet.”



After a moment of silence, Sybok released his shoulder and stood up from the bench. He began to walk away.



Dazed from his half-brother’s words, it took Spock a moment to react. He hastened to catch up with Sybok before his sibling could leave the courtyard. “Brother, where are you going?”



Sybok stopped walking out of the garden. For a few seconds he paused before turning around to face Spock once again. “I know that you will not understand this, Spock, but I must bid you farewell. I do not believe that I will be welcome in our father’s house after tonight.”



Spock just stood there. Sybok was right -- at this exact moment, he did not understand at all what his brother was talking about. Why would Sybok, his own half-brother, his confidant and his friend, be saying good-bye to him, as if for the last time?



Sybok continued quietly. “I must release her…they should all be released. But I will start with her. What they have endured is unnatural. Our people should never have condemned them all to endless torture for the simple sake of recording their knowledge as if they were all some kind of glorified history textbook. All things must come to an end, Spock.”



A wild look sparkled in Sybok’s eyes, as though he had been possessed by some unknown righteous purpose. Spock got the feeling that Sybok’s words were no longer directed towards him, but to the silent and deaf air that surrounded them. “She should not have to endure the ages alone. Tonight I shall free her…and one day, I will take her to the place where she can finally rest in peace.”



Sybok laid both of his hands on Spock’s shoulders. “So farewell, my brother. I hope that we shall be reunited some day, when you too have discovered the truth as I have. Until that day arrives, remember that I love you.”



Spock was too stunned by Sybok’s open declaration of emotion for him to be able to make a reply. He was already replaying their conversation in his head, trying to comprehend everything that Sybok had said to him. He knew that he was too young to understand his half-brother’s words, but he also knew that he would never forget them.



-----



16 years ago…

The year: 2269

Location: City of Shi’Kahr, Vulcan




Spock stepped out onto the private balcony that was attached to his personal sleeping chamber in his parents’ home. The sleeping chamber had been his throughout his childhood, and though he had returned home only infrequently since entering adulthood, his mother had kept the room as he had left it all those years ago upon leaving for Starfleet Academy. Faithful I-Chaya, with whom he had shared his room as a child, had died many years ago and left him as the room’s single occupant. But now he could share the room once more whenever he came home to Vulcan: with Jim, his bondmate of four months.



With the delicate flexing of muscles, Spock closed his inner eyelids in order to filter out the excessive heat, dust, and brightness of the Vulcan midday. Vulcan’s primary sun, the giant 40 Eridani A, was a blinding yellow ball in the sky that had yet to reach its zenith. Vulcan’s secondary sun, the red dwarf 40 Eridani C, had just begun its lazy descent towards the western horizon, while Vulcan’s most distant and tertiary sun, the white dwarf 40 Eridani B, glowed a brilliant white low in the sky, hardly more than a pinprick of light compared to its sister stars. On the eastern horizon Vulcan’s sister planet, T’Khut, was just beginning to emerge. The volcanically active planet typically dominated the evening skies, looming large, forbidding, and very…orange…during the night. And if Spock had bothered to squint his eyes just right, he would have been able to make out a tiny dot of white against T’Khut’s orange surface -- T’Khut’s small ice moon, T'Rukhemai.



Beyond the circular imprint of Shi’Kahr on the planet’s surface Spock could see the distant spires of the L-langon Mountains on the northwest horizon. The mountains, ten days distance from the city by foot, rose like sharp craggy knives in all conceivable angles from the desert, as though the mountains were trying to cut the suns and T’Khut from the sky.



Spock shifted his gaze westward, to where a small break appeared in the mountains. A vast desert canyon split the ground at that geographic point. Colloquially it was known simply as “the Gateway,” as it marked the beginning of the great pilgrimage walk. If one were to continue into the canyon past the Gateway, one would enter the Plain of Blood. It was not actually a plain at all, but an arid badland formation known for its intense heat. And if one was brave (or foolish) enough to cross the Plain of Blood, one would then find oneself in the heart of Vulcan’s Forge, which was home to predatory le-matyas and the worst electrical sandstorms found anywhere on the planet. And if the element-beaten traveler managed to survive the long journey on foot through the Forge, one would be rewarded with the sight of Vulcan’s highest and most important mountain peak rising dramatically from the desert: Mt. Seleya.



From behind him, Spock heard his father’s voice. Sarek never spoke louder than was needed, and though his voice was quiet, it was one that demanded the respect of those around him. “Spock, I would speak with you.”



Spock turned around, slightly surprised, as he had not realized that his father had returned from his day trip to Shi’Kahr. He saw that Sarek was dressed in the formal robes of their clan and family: long sweeping layers of brown and gold trim, with a sash of violent purple tied around his waist. From this alone Spock was able to deduce that Sarek must have been speaking with the council of elders. “Of course, father,” he answered while bowing his head as a sign of respect.



Sarek folded his hands stiffly behind his back, his right hand cupped by his left. “Where are your bondmate and Dr. McCoy?”



“I believe mother is giving them a tour of the house and the grounds at present.”



“I see.” Sarek slowly approached, until he was standing side-by-side with him on the balcony, looking out at the landscape. “Did she remember to offer them water?”



Spock tilted his head slightly in the affirmative. “She did.”



“Good,” Sarek answered tranquilly. “Tradition must be observed for our most honored guests.”



Spock flinched at his father’s words about observing traditions. Sarek had used the phrasing intentionally, as a rebuke for his own recent behavior. He and Jim had become bondmates without consulting Sarek first, in a clear violation of tradition. And though he would not have changed the manner in which he and Jim had bonded, Sarek’s words still stung him now.



Sarek continued, the inflection of his voice not changing in the least. “What plans have you made for the rest of the day?”



Spock took a moment to calm his mind before making his response. “Dr. McCoy has requested that we take a trip by skimmer for an activity that he called ‘sight-seeing.’ I was thinking of taking the doctor and Jim to Mt. Seleya.”



“A logical choice as it is Vulcan’s most famous landmark. It will certainly prove to be of interest to them.”



Spock turned the focus of his eyes away from the L-langon Mountains and towards his father. “What did the council of elders wish to speak with you about?”



“You, my son.”



One of Spock’s eyebrows shot up like a bolt towards his hairline. “Indeed.”



“The council has ruled that your essence shall be preserved in a vre-katra upon your death.” Sarek also turned his gaze away from the landscape, towards his son. There seemed to be a faint glimmer of pride in his eyes. “Your vessel is currently located next to my own, on the display pedestal in the main entry. When you return to the Enterprise you must remember to take it with you, so that you may begin the joining process with it.”



The muscles of Spock’s jaw clenched tightly. So, after all these years, the rest of Vulcan had finally decided to accept him into their ranks. Only now, after 15 years of illustrious service aboard the Enterprise, had his life and experiences been deemed worthy of preservation in the Hall of Ancient Thought. “Of course, father. I will not forget.”



Sarek pulled his hands out from behind his back and touched Spock lightly on one shoulder. The touch startled Spock, though his facial expression did not reveal his surprise. The action of that touch was extremely uncharacteristic for his usually stoic father. “I am…most gratified…that one day your vre-katra will stand next to my own, as well as those of your forefather Skon and second forefather Solkar, in our family’s chamber for the ages to come.”



“Yes,” Spock echoed quietly, “it is a great honor.”



Sarek’s hand drifted away from his shoulder.



As Spock watched his father depart, he felt his insides filling with a chilling dread. He walked into his sleeping chamber in a daze, sank lifelessly down into a chair. In the background he could just hear the voices of his mother and his bondmate.



Eternity in a vre-katra: it had been ruled by the council. But what of Jim? With his essence trapped in a vre-katra, his soul would never be able to find Jim’s after death. The thought made Spock shudder, for he could not bear the thought of being denied the peace to be found when twin souls rested together after death had come.



The council had ruled, and Spock had seen with his own eyes the pride that the ruling had given to his father. But what of Jim?



~*~*~



“Mt. Seleya,” Spock said quietly, in a tone of the utmost solemnity.



Jim smiled over at his bondmate. // It’s beautiful, ashayam. //



Spock quirked an eyebrow at his beloved. // It is aesthetically pleasing, to be sure, but that is not why I chose to bring you here, t’hy’la. This is where the Vulcan heart was born. //



Spock and Jim walked slowly side by side, their hands not quite touching, while McCoy trotted on ahead of them up the steps that led to the summit. “You’d think Surak could have chosen someplace a little more hospitable to sit contemplating life, the universe, and everything…” grunted McCoy softly as he wiped away beads of sweat that were running down his forehead. When he’d asked Spock about the possibility of visiting some geographical points of interest, McCoy hadn’t figured on Spock dragging them out to see them all during the hottest part of the day.



The sight of a half dozen Vulcan females, all with long hair that hung down to their waists, caught Jim’s attention. He squinted slightly against the desert glare to better watch them as they made their way single file along what looked like a twisting narrow path up the mountain side, one that seemed like a far more treacherous walk than their own journey up smoothly paved steps. “What’re they doing, Spock?” Any minute now Jim was sure one of the white-robed females was going to fall to a most painful death.



It took Spock a few seconds to figure out where Jim was looking, and to whom he was referring. “Priestesses -- on their way to the Hall of Ancient Thought, no doubt,” Spock said in an off-handed manner, his attention already drifting back to the rigors of their own climb.



Jim paused on a step, holding a hand to the stitch that had formed itself in his side. “The Hall of Ancient Thought?” he panted out, feeling a bit stupid that he didn’t know what his bondmate was talking about. No matter how much time he seemed to spend researching Vulcan culture, it never seemed to be enough to do more than scratch the surface of the who-knew-how-many-millennia-years-old traditions, many of which were still shrouded in mystery to outsiders.



“It is where the memory of Surak is held,” Spock answered simply while offering his own water pouch to his parched sounding bondmate, which Jim quickly seized upon. “It contains the cultural legacy of many of Vulcan’s greatest citizens, preserving their knowledge for future generations.”



Though he was busy taking a drink of water, Jim didn’t miss the tone of quiet…well, he wasn’t sure what to call it…disapproval? distaste?...in Spock’s voice. He shot his bondmate a curious glance, hoping that he would provide an answer without his asking for one.



“It is a practice from ancient times. Out-dated, many would say. And one I would not care to endure myself.” Spock looked away, to some distant point on the hazy horizon. “All things must come to an end.”



His bondmate’s cryptic statements left Jim with more questions than he’d had when this whole conversation had started, but he didn’t pursue the matter any further. Spock had seemed to shut down emotionally while providing his short explanation, which meant that Jim had accidentally stumbled onto a sensitive topic…whatever it was all about, it probably had to do with some disagreement between Spock and his father, which meant Jim likely wasn’t going to get a better explanation any time soon.



-----
Casus Belli by logicallyillogical
Chapter 8: Casus Belli



Present day: 2285



Like a caged animal slowly losing its mind in a confined space, Amanda paced back and forth in Dr. Puri’s small office in the Grissom’s sickbay. The fingers of her right hand were drilling almost continuously against her thigh, and she moved her left hand in an agitated cycle from the top of her head to her chin and then to her waist. Why, oh why hadn’t Sarek listened to her? She had worried all along that the strain of this mission, coupled with those ridiculously heavy and hot robes of her husband’s, was too much for him. Why did Sarek have to be so…obnoxiously stubborn…when it came to tradition?



Waiting with her were Capt. Esteban and Gorkon. Both men seemed to be considerably calmer, at least on the outside. They had both faced their share of death in their respective careers, and were much more capable of dealing with the reality of what had just happened in the dining room with composure than Amanda was.



Inwardly both were more than a little bothered, however. Esteban, who had been so proud to host an important figure like Sarek on this diplomatic mission, could not help but wonder how his ship’s reputation (and indeed his own career) would be damaged if Sarek died. Gorkon’s worries were considerably larger in scope: he had regarded Sarek as the best opportunity that he and the Chancellor were ever going to have to deliver the true sentiments of the Klingon Empire directly to President Roth, rather than through the dramatic intermediary that they had in Ambassador Kamarag: peace was only going to be possible if the Federation changed its ways and started dealing openly with the Empire. Gorkon had seen with his own eyes that Sarek was an honest man, able to pass along Gorkon’s words with a personal impartiality that no one else could ever achieve, in Gorkon’s estimation. Now the delivery of that message was in danger, and Gorkon felt apprehension growing in his heart.



With a decidedly mixed expression of grim seriousness and relief upon his face, Dr. Puri entered his office. “Lady Amanda…Captain…Councilor…” Puri nodded to each individual in turn. “As far as I can be certain, given the construction of the Vulcan heart, Ambassador Sarek didn’t have a heart attack.”



In what her husband would no doubt have considered an excessive display of emotionalism, Amanda rushed into Esteban’s arms, her eyes moistening up with the sudden release of tension she was experiencing. “Thank the heavens!” She looked up towards the ceiling, wiping at her eyes.



“However,” Puri continued more seriously, now that he had delivered the good half of his news, “my scans indicate that Sarek has suffered from some sort of traumatic neurological event in the synaptic pathways of his brain that are related to telepathy. I can’t even begin to speculate what caused this trauma, because physiologically I can’t find anything wrong with him.”



Esteban wrapped a supportive arm around Amanda, holding her steady as her balance faltered. “Will he recover, Ahsan?” he asked.



“Given that I don’t know why this happened, it’s hard to say…but I believe so, as long as whatever happened before doesn’t happen again. I’m going to monitor him for the time being just to be sure, but it should be safe to revive him in a few hours.”



Amanda cleared her throat quietly, trying to regain at least a shred of composure. “Captain Esteban, would it be possible for you to establish a subspace communication channel with the Enterprise?”



Esteban folded his arms thoughtfully across his chest. “We’re pretty far from the scheduled training area for the Enterprise, but I’ll have Marcelino to look into it.”



As Amanda mentioned the former flagship, Gorkon felt a ripple of electricity pass through his body as he remembered Chancellor Lorak’s words from earlier in the day: General Chang informs me that Intelligence has matched the engine signature of one of the vessels to that of the Enterprise.



Gorkon distanced himself a few steps from the others as he stared blankly off into space. Nimbus III wasn’t terribly far from the Mutara sector. He sighed quietly as he quickly processed Esteban’s statement. By asserting that the Enterprise was outside normal communications range with the Grissom, the Starfleet captain was tacitly confirming for him the fact that the Enterprise was indeed in the Mutara sector for the obviously classified war game exercises that the listening post had detected. Clearly the Chancellor’s message about the Federation changing its secretive ways had already fallen upon one pair of deaf ears.



Amanda nodded tensely to Esteban. “Thank you, Captain. I need to let Spock know what’s going on with his father as soon as possible. I’m sure that he already knows that something has happened to him.”



“You’re talking about k’war’ma’khon, right?” Esteban asked.



“Precisely,” Amanda replied back.



Esteban nodded his head slightly. He’d heard of the concept, had learned about it during his assignment to Vulcan, about how it connected Vulcan family members on a physical and psychological level to one another, and to a lesser extent with clan members and the general Vulcan populace. Until now he hadn’t imagined that the effect could be so powerful that Spock might feel the resonance so far from their present position, but Amanda seemed to be implying that it was. “I’ll make sure Marcelino knows this has the highest priority. He’s a top notch comm. officer, so I’d say chances are good that he’ll be able to work some of his voodoo magic to get you that clear channel.”



Esteban turned his attention to Gorkon. “Councilor, considering the circumstances…”



“Yes,” Gorkon interrupted quietly. “I will return to my own vessel for the time being, until the Ambassador recovers. But I would like to be informed when he has regained enough of his strength for me to speak with him again. There is still much that we have to discuss.”



“Certainly, Councilor,” Esteban said.



-----



Gorkon heard the loud, boisterous sounds of laughter coming from the mess hall of Kronos One long before he entered the emotional heart of the ship’s core. The metallic walls and the conduits running within them easily carried the noise of drunken joviality into the corridors beyond the eating area.



Sure enough, when the doors clanked noisily open in front of him, Gorkon saw the tables of the mess hall were crowded with the members of the ship’s crew, his daughter Azetbur among them. A barrel of half empty bloodwine stood off to one side, opened earlier in the day. The broken heraldic seal on the barrel was that of the diplomatic office on Nimbus III, not of his own ship. Korrd must have brought it with him. The faces of his men held easy smiles, their bodily postures at the tables relaxed over their drinking cups. Korrd stood in the center of the room, his voice booming, his arms gesticulating enthusiastically, bloodwine slopping out of his cup and onto the floor, obviously the current center of attention as he regaled the crew with stories of his own glorious past exploits. Azetbur appeared to be the only sober one in the room.



Anger rose in his gut as he bristled at the sight. His men were celebrating, but celebrating what? He could see nothing about the events of this day that were worth celebrating.



One of Korrd’s arms flew through the air, more bloodwine spilling from the lip of his metallic flagon. “And do you know what happened next?” Korrd roared out, clearly enjoying the attention that he was receiving, the adoring eyes of the crowd upon him.



“What, General?” His men merrily crowed out at Korrd. “What did that worthless dog Chulak say?”



A wide smile appeared on Korrd’s face, but he was interrupted by the sound of Gorkon’s cane slamming impatiently into the floor before he could answer the crowd’s drunken questions. Instantly the sounds of celebration died away as the men looked away from Korrd and towards their commander.



“You men disperse. You can hear General Korrd’s tale of victory over the Romulans some other time.” Gorkon limped tiredly into the mess hall, stopped half way between where Korrd stood and Azetbur sat. “Or do yourselves a favor and read about our wars with the Star Empire from the database. You’ll find the official records far less…fanciful.”



Like scolded children, the crew of his ship skulked silently out of the mess hall.



Korrd set his flagon down on the edge of the nearest table, regarded Gorkon carefully, could see in the obsidian eyes a barely restrained fury, a desire to lash out at him. “Forgive me, Councilor. My choice of stories to tell was regrettable. I had forgotten that your eldest son died at Galorndon Core.”



Gorkon’s nostrils flared. There was a creak of leather as his fingers tightened their grip around his cane of bone. “How could you forget, old man? Has your mind grown so feeble? Karel was one of your two brigade commanders. Did you remember to tell the men of Karel’s death while you were recounting your glorious story?” Gorkon glanced at his somber faced daughter, caught the look of annoyance on her face, then looked back at Korrd. “Apparently not.”



“One in a small handful of deaths that occurred that day, hardly worth mentioning considered the scope of my victory.” Korrd picked up his glass of bloodwine again, drank deeply from the flagon, spoke sarcastically after a long savoring swallow of the warm contents. “Your son died well…his was a death that every Klingon should envy. I did not realize you would object so strongly to my telling the story of one of our people’s most decisive victories in living memory.”



A low growl emitted deep from within Gorkon’s chest. He seemed to rise up, to stand tall and proud upon both of his legs, the weakness of his left leg forgotten, his cane falling to the floor, momentarily unneeded. Not with an awkward limp, but with elegant grace he closed the gap between himself and Korrd. Korrd didn’t even have the chance to be surprised, the motion was so unexpected, nor did he have the chance to defend himself as Gorkon struck out at him, hit him soundly on the jaw with the palm of an open hand, and knocked him off his feet entirely with a second quick blow.



As Korrd fell backwards to the floor, Gorkon spat viciously at him, the spittle landing squarely on Korrd’s cheek. “I do not object to the event. I would never deny you the laurels that you so richly deserve from that day. What I object to is the fact that you tell your tale so subjectively. Yes, you remember to tell the men about the glory of that single battle, but you forget to tell them about the cost of the entire war…the price that we paid in men and material. What I object to is what has happened since that day, that the teller of this tale has allowed himself to become a drunken old fool, a worthless petaQ.”



Korrd held a hand to the place where he had been struck, felt the slow trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth. “A fool, you say?” Korrd rubbed his bloodied fingers together. “Consider the source: the man who wants the wind to respect him…the man who argues against our nature, the man who would have us change everything about ourselves that is fundamentally Klingon.” He rose to his feet, laughing haughtily, contemptuously, now. “I may be a drunk, but that is better than being what you are: a toothless tika cat, yowling nervously from the corner for peace. It is fitting that you hail from the city of Quin’lat, Gorkon. Nowhere else could such a fool arise in the Empire…first came the man that Kahless told us about, killed by the storm he railed against…then it birthed your grandfather Kolos, who died a disgraced prisoner at Rura Penthe…and now we have you.”



“Have you finished yet?” Gorkon asked softly.



“Yes,” Korrd answered with a smirk, as though daring Gorkon to challenge him. Yes, he had been caught off his guard earlier, thanks largely to being drunk, but he had regained his senses now. While Gorkon had the advantage of reach over him with his longer arms, Korrd had the dual advantages of his own sheer bulk and Gorkon’s bad leg on his side. If tradition would have allowed it, he would have challenged Gorkon to mortal combat. Certainly he wanted to do so; much of his own fall from favor with the High Council had been as a result of Gorkon’s ridiculous campaign for peace. But he could not challenge Gorkon directly because of rank, because Gorkon came from a House that had greater nobility than his own. So all he could do was goad Gorkon now and hope that the Councilor would grant him the opportunity of the fight that he so desired.



“Good,” Gorkon said, his voice still eerily quiet, not at all Klingon sounding. “Then remove yourself from my ship. I grow tired of having you in my sight.”



“Councilor,” Korrd said as he bowed low, his arms held out away from his sides, but there was no respect contained in the action.



After Korrd left the mess hall, Azetbur lifted her eyes from the floor and towards her father. “I don’t understand why you don’t just kill him, father,” she said, confusion plain in her voice. “The things he says…about you, about our family…the dishonor is great.”



“Is it so great a dishonor for you to bear, that you must challenge my decision to allow him to leave here freely, daughter?”



“No, of course not,” Azetbur responded quickly, wanting to reassure him. “I trust you, father, your judgment. I would never challenge your right to lead our family…I only want to know what it is that you see in him, that you allow him to live. Please tell me it is not merely for the sake of jop’ej way’.”



“No, daughter, that is not the only reason for it, though I would be lying if I said that jop’ej way’ had nothing to do with it. And in part I allow him to live because, if I killed him, I would have to choose another sad and washed-out old fop to fill Korrd’s empty position on Nimbus III -- and that is a fate that I would wish upon no man.” He gestured with an arm, silently beckoning her to help him to the nearest table bench.



Instantly she was at his side, pulling his left arm over her shoulder so that he would not have to put his full weight on his bad leg. Her father had sustained the wound to the muscles in his left thigh a year ago, acquired in a battle against the Kzinti wherein her mother Raima had also received a wound in the chest, though the stab she had taken to one of her two hearts had proved fatal. That battle, so costly to her parents, had been one of many battles in a border war that had also claimed the life of her younger brother Kintazh a few weeks before her father’s wounding.



It pained her heart to see him like this, weak and suffering needlessly: even with the relatively primitive state of Klingon medicine, the doctors on the home world could have easily repaired the damage to the muscle tissue. But for some unknown reason Gorkon had refused all treatment for the wound, and so in the subsequent weeks the tissue had become infected and pustulant. For over a month her father had been bedridden, delirious with a high fever as the wound slowly poisoned the bone and the marrow within it, and for a time Azetbur had feared that Gorkon would lose the leg entirely, or worse still: that he would die, leaving her, ill-prepared as she had been at the time, to lead their family House. But against all odds her father had survived, and the wounds had slowly begun to heal in the last few months, though he would never completely recover from them.



With Azetbur’s heavy assistance, Gorkon was able to sit down on the bench with a minimal amount of pain. He rubbed at the muscle, wincing; he had done far too much standing and walking already today on the planet and on Grissom, and the final lunge at Korrd had been a needless overexertion. He sighed, squeezing his daughter at the shoulder, a silent thanks for her unquestioning and ever present support.



“Korrd may be a drunken old man,” Gorkon said with exhaustion in his voice, “but he speaks the truth as he understands it. The fool of Quin’lat was just that: a fool. And from a certain perspective, your great-grandfather could be considered one as well. Kahless knows that I thought him one in my vegetable days. As for myself, it may well be that I am the modern fool of Quin’lat. I accept this, knowing that history will be my judge. And even if I am judged to be that fool, it is not such a terrible thing, Azetbur…for the fool of Quin’lat died as a man filled with the conviction of his beliefs. Such a man is to be admired -- Kahless must have done so, otherwise we would not have his story of the fool to tell to our children as they lay down in their beds.”



Azetbur sat down beside her father, but she did not look at him. At his words, her eyes fell to the floor, feeling suddenly ashamed.



“And though I may have called him a worthless petaQ, Korrd will never truly be one, my daughter. He has within him a good heart, one that is as constant as the sun. With that heart he has always acted for the good of the Empire, and even though he has lost his way, I believe that the constancy of his heart will one day allow him to once again act in the best interests of the Empire…if only he can recognize that moment when it comes, and not be too besotted with wine when it presents itself.”



Azetbur stared down at her hands. “Forgive me, father…but I think you see more in him than there is. You always put too much faith in others.”



With a single finger, Gorkon lifted her chin, forcing her eyes to meet his. “We all have within us a tremendous capacity to do what must be done despite the trials that we face -- because we know that it is the right thing to do, Azetbur. We must only possess the strength of heart not to doubt ourselves. Korrd will find his…as you will find yours, when you are called to lead our family. Of this, I have no doubt.”



“Father…” Azetbur murmured quietly as she sank from the bench and knelt down before him, placing her head lightly upon his lap, upon the wounded thigh.



Gorkon placed a strong and reassuring hand on her head. “I am quite content in the knowledge that a female shall pick up my mantle after I am gone. Of all my children, you have always been the most worthy to lead our House, my brave daughter,” Gorkon said, stroking his fingers affectionately through her hair. “So much more the pity that all three of your brothers had to die before tradition would grant you the title of heiress…a title which has always been yours by right, if not always by rite and virtue of birth.”



Azetbur lifted her head, held his hand to her mouth, and kissed the battle-worn fingers. “Thank you, father.”



Gorkon patted the space beside him, inviting her to sit beside him once again. “Now tell me…what was it that put our beloved Dahar master General Korrd into such a good mood today? What has happened in my absence, that the men celebrate and sing the old victory songs?”



A slight smile appeared on Azetbur’s face, one that spoke of delight and pleasure at the news she bore. “There is going to be a war, father. War with the Federation.”



“How do you know this?”



Azetbur pulled a PADD from her waist, held it out to him. “Colonel Kerla sent a message from the home world.”



Kerla…Gorkon nodded, recognizing the name: a rising star, trustworthy, already a brilliant military man despite his youth, one who was destined to hold a junior seat on the High Council once he gained the rank of Brigadier. Gorkon held up the PADD, read its contents.



From: Col. Kerla, Imperial Klingon Defense Forces


To: General and Councilor Member Gorkon


Sir -- be advised that there has been an incident in the Mutara Sector. Our borders have been violated once more by our enemies. General Chang has pressed the Chancellor with news from our Intelligence Division, and he agrees that there can be no other course now but war.




Gorkon lowered the data PADD, looked away from it for a moment. Yes, it was to be war then, if the High Council had deemed that the Federation had violated their borders, however slight that violation. There was no such thing as an insignificant corner of Klingon space.



He looked back to the PADD with dread, wondering what the violation had been. He scrolled down…yes, there was more to the message. Bless that Kerla…he really ought to make him one of his own military advisers.



The Enterprise, which as you know Intelligence has been tracking for the past 24 hours, has engaged another Starfleet vessel, destroying it completely within in the Mutara Nebula.



Yes
, Gorkon thought impatiently to himself, but what of this violation of our space? He turned his attention once more to the text.



Further, Intelligence informs us that the Mutara Nebula is gone.



Well then, that explained the so-called violation of Klingon space. The Mutara Nebula was a vast cloud in space, extending itself over nearly a parsec of the Mutara Sector, right into the very edge of the boundaries of the Klingon Empire. But how in the name of Kahless could the nebula be…gone? Nebulas did not just disappear unexpectedly into the vacuum of space.



Our listening posts have confirmed this fact. In addition, there is now a star and a planet where none existed before. All of this happened directly after the Enterprise destroyed the other vessel. There can be no other explanation but that the humans have stolen ashes from Qui’tu.


Kerla.




Gorkon laid the PADD cautiously down on the table. He glanced at Azetbur, said in a voice that contained no joy, “Yes, there will be war. There is sufficient cause for a declaration of war, Kahless help us.”



Azetbur hesitated before she spoke, had not anticipated that response from her father. “You despair, father, on the eve of glorious war?”



biQ ngaS HIvje’,” Gorkon responded somberly. “The cup contains water, Azetbur. I would not have believed it possible that the universe could be filled with such a cruel sense of irony.”



Azetbur shook her head, not understanding her father’s meaning.



Gorkon gestured for his cane, which Azetbur picked up from the floor and placed in her father’s hand. He stood, looking in that moment to her more frail than he had been at the height of his illness. She rose, thinking to help him, but a dangerous glint in her father’s eye told her to keep her distance.



“I expect that Chancellor Lorak will be calling shortly on subspace. I would like you to be present when that call comes in…but in the meantime, seek out the understanding that you lack, Azetbur. Go to my quarters and find my copy of the Paq’batlh. You will find the First Tome of Klavek most enlightening.”



“Yes, father,” Azetbur replied, signaling that she would obey him…though what the story of Kortar had to do with a war against the Federation, or why her father wanted her to take the time to read the holy Book of Honor, she did not know.



“The cup contains water,” Gorkon said again to himself after Azetbur had left the mess hall. The humans had stolen the ashes from Qui’tu…and so apparently had Spock, for he was on the Enterprise. Spock, the son of Sarek.



Gorkon’s eyes closed, a great feeling of pain sitting like a weight in his chest. Could he have been so mistaken in Sarek’s honesty? Could he have misjudged the Vulcan so badly? It did not seem possible, and that contradiction gnawed away at his insides.



“The cup contains water.”



-----
Stolen Ashes by logicallyillogical
Chapter 9: Stolen Ashes



Marcelino glanced up from his communication panel, swiveled in his chair towards the center of the bridge. “Captain?”



Esteban looked up from the PADD he had been making a log entry on. “Yes, Lieutenant?”



“I’ve got that channel…the one that Lady Amanda requested.”



Esteban smiled. “Good work. Patching our communications through half of the com stations in the Federation didn’t take you very long at all. Have you been holding out on me all this time with those talents of yours?”



“No, sir…it’s only…” Marcelino hesitated, stood from his chair, and approached Esteban’s position. “…well, sir…” Marcelino said, in a hushed whisper, “I didn’t have to go through any of our relay stations. The Enterprise…whatever she’s doing sir…she’s in our regular subspace range.”



Esteban’s forehead wrinkled in surprise. “I see,” he murmured back, so that only Marcelino could hear him, and with a mild touch of impatience. “Are you going to tell me where she is, Lieutenant, or do I have to guess?”



“Sorry, sir.” Marcelino straightened up, chastised. “I’m tracking her signal in the Mutara sector -- about a parsec from the Klingon border.”



“Alright, thank you, Marcelino.” Esteban scratched at his chin for a moment, thinking. His finely honed captain’s instincts were on red alert, telling him that something about this whole situation was just…off. Between the message that they’d intercepted from the Klingons earlier in the day, the Councilor being all pissy at dinner, and the Enterprise being most decidedly in the wrong place for a training mission…



Maybe Starfleet had sent the Enterprise out to investigate the mysterious battle that the Klingon listening post had reported, figuring that the Klingons would be a lot less likely to cause further trouble if Admiral Kirk was in the area. It seemed like a pretty big gamble on Starfleet’s part though: even though Jim Kirk was renowned throughout the Alpha Quadrant for his command prowess and tactical ingenuity, he was still in command of an aging ship filled with inexperienced cadets.



“Lieutenant…make sure that you’re using a secure channel for this one, alright? Councilor Gorkon may not care if we’re getting some of his incoming mail, but I’d prefer that he not get a peek into our sack.”



-----



Azetbur scratched the back of her neck as she looked around her father’s minimalist quarters, wondering where he had stowed the chest that contained his copy of the Paq’batlh. She sighed softly out of frustration. Here she was, on the eve of what promised to be the greatest war in modern Klingon history, looking for a box of musty old scrolls. It was such a phenomenal waste of precious time. The hoop was moving: she should be preparing for battle, reviewing military strategy…not sitting around, reading about ancient mythology.



Yet Azetbur resigned herself to the task at hand: though she did not understand his reasons for it, her father had insisted that she review the First Tome of Klavek. It had been that way between them for some time now -- him commanding, and she doing whatever it was that he commanded, even though she frequently did not comprehend why she must do so in the first place. It had not always been that way. When she had been a child, she had been able to follow his train of thought with great ease and clarity. But ever since he had received his thigh injury a year past, her father’s reasoning and motivations had grown ever more and more obscure to her. He had been a changed man since her brother Kintazh’s death. Some days she felt as though she hardly even knew him anymore.



“Ah, there you are…”



Azetbur pulled out the wooden chest from a small storage compartment near the mattress-less bed. She brushed her fingers over the crest of the House of Makok, which had been carved into the chest’s lid, before pressing in a pair of hidden catches that were on either side of the chest’s front face.



The lid sprang open with a quiet “pop,” revealing the chest’s contents: fourteen ancient scrolls made from tanned targ hides that reeked faintly from preservative chemicals that had been carefully applied to the delicate skins. Most Klingons these days were content to read modernized versions of the Paq’batlh from computerized databases, but her father had always been a bit pedantic; he insisted upon carting around the genuine article wherever he went. Their family copy of the Paq’batlh was practically a relic itself: each of the scrolls was easily over a thousand years old and written in ancient Klingon, diligently copied from the original by the High Priests in the lava caves of Boreth.



Azetbur selected the appropriate scroll from the chest and carefully unrolled it, laying it out flat on her father’s desk so that she could read the sacred text:



With fire and steel did the gods forge the Klingon heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out, “On this day we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens. None can stand before it without trembling at its strength.” But then the Klingon heart weakened, its steady rhythm faltered and the gods said, “Why did you weaken so? We have made you the strongest in all of creation.”



And the heart said, “I am alone.”



And the gods knew they had erred. So they went back to their forge and brought forth another heart. But the second heart beat stronger than the first, and the first was jealous of its power.



Fortunately the second heart was tempered by wisdom. “If we join together, no force can stop us.”



And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a terrible sound. For the first time, the gods knew fear. They tried to flee, but it was too late. The Klingon hearts destroyed the gods who had created them and turned the heavens to ashes.



Standing on the field of victory, the first heart declared, “I am Kortar. I call myself ‘Klingon.’”



And then the second heart declared, “I am Lunob. We are Klingons.” And as Lunob named herself, she tore open the gates of Qui’Tu. “Let us leave this place, husband,” advised the wiser heart, leaving the ashes on the ground. “There is nothing for us here.”



“Yes, let us seek our destiny elsewhere,” Kortar answered. But the first heart was weaker than the second, for it had known jealousy. It coveted the power of the slain gods, and so Kortar secretly stole a handful of ashes from the heavens.



The two hearts traveled for many years, searching for a land equal to the strength of their own. And at last they found a land where they knew their descendants would flourish. Soon the children of Kortar and Lunob filled their new world, and the two hearts rejoiced, because they knew that their children would remember their deeds for all the ages.



But the weakness of the first heart remained. As his descendants conquered their homeland, pride joined jealousy in Kortar’s heart, and he began to think himself a god. He consumed the stolen ashes, hoping to gain the powers which had been lost.



And when Lunob learned what Kortar had done, she drew her blade in her hand. The two hearts, once united, now fought each other. And they struggled for twelve days and twelve nights, but at last the wiser heart was victorious. “You should have left the ashes where they fell, Kortar. You dishonored yourself by stealing them.”



Then Lunob plunged her blade into Kortar’s chest. As the beating of the first heart ceased, Lunob faced her children, and they knew that the first heart’s glory had fallen beyond their power to restore. At that moment did the second heart rend the skies with her blade, and she ascended into Sto-vo-kor for eternity. And because of the stain upon his honor, the first heart could not follow. But nor did the first heart descend to Gre’thor, for he had gained great glory when he had slain the gods. Thus was Kortar condemned for eternity to captain the Barge of the Dead and ferry the dishonored dead to Gre’thor.



-----



Amanda nervously sat down at the desk in the study of her temporary quarters. The computer screen flashed its message to her every few seconds: standby. She drummed her fingers impatiently into the desk’s surface, needing an outlet for her anxiety. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to tell Spock about Sarek, simply because there wasn’t much that they knew definitively about Sarek’s sudden illness. But at least Spock would know what had happened, and who knew -- maybe he would be able to shed some light on the situation. In any case, Amanda was relieved that they had been able to reach the Enterprise through subspace, knowing that talking face-to-face with Spock would do much to calm her frayed nerves.



The computer blipped softly as the secured com channel opened.



“Commander Chekov?” Amanda blinked in surprise upon seeing the Russian’s face rather than that of her son’s. “What are you doing on the Enterprise? I thought you were assigned to the Reliant as her First Officer.”



Chekov nodded slowly, grimly. “I vas…and it is a long story. Right now I am in command of zee Enterprise.”



“You command?” Amanda’s heart fluttered in her chest, the feeling of unease in her gut growing. There was a tired, careworn quality to Chekov’s face that she was just now picking up on. The man looked painfully heartsick. “Why? Where are Jim and Spock?”



“You mean you don’t know?” Chekov hesitated, clearly feeling uncomfortable. “I vould have thought Starfleet vould have informed you by now…”



“Informed me of what, Commander?”



Izvinite…” Chekov looked away from the screen for a few seconds, blinking fiercely, before directing his gaze once more towards the computer console. “I am so wery sorry to be zee one to tell you zis,” Chekov said quietly, with words that barely escaped from a tight sounding throat, “but Keptin Spock…he has died, Lady Amanda. A few hours ago.”



Died? For a second Amanda thought that she must have misheard Chekov. Spock has died? No, that couldn’t be right. Spock was on a training mission -- just a basic and routine tour designed to let cadets feel space beneath their feet for a few weeks. Starfleet never put cadets into situations that were inherently dangerous during those missions.



But then Amanda recalled the last few moments before Sarek had collapsed in the dining room. Just as he had lost consciousness, her husband had whispered out their son’s name. Suddenly an icy feeling gripped at her insides, strangling at her stomach and chest, and Amanda knew that she had not misheard Chekov after all. Her son was dead. The sensation of the cessation of life: that had been the source of the “traumatic neurological event,” to use Dr. Puri’s words, which had put her husband in sickbay.



Amanda leaned forward in her chair, her elbows coming to rest on the surface of the desk. She rested her forehead on clasped hands, her eyes closing. “What happened?”



“If Starfleet has not told you yet…” Chekov shifted the gaze of his eyes guiltily away from the computer screen. “…it is not my place to say.”



Amanda lifted her head from her hands. She slammed a fist down angrily into the desk. “Pavel, don’t give me that Starfleet line about official channels of information. We’re talking about my son, here. Spock was your mentor, your friend…and you’re like a son to Jim, which makes you about the closest thing I have to a grandson. I deserve an explanation.”



“I know vhat I vas to zee Keptin, vhat I am to zee Admiral…” Chekov shook his head sadly, apologetically. “…but I do not have zee authority to tell you, Lady Amanda. Admiral Morrow has classified all zee information and events surrounding Keptin Spock’s death.”



Amanda bit down on her lower lip, trying to contain the mixture of outrage and despair that was eating away at her. “Is there anything that you can tell me? Anything at all?”



“Zee Keptin…he sacrificed himself, to save zee ship. And ve are holding a funeral service tomorrow, following zee guidelines which Mr. Spock outlined in his will.”



“Good…that’s good. About the funeral, I mean.” Amanda closed her eyes again. She was still trying to take it all in, to convince herself that this wasn’t all just some horrible nightmare that she was having. She should probably be asking for details about the service, but right now she really didn’t want to know specifics…not about that, at least. No doubt Spock had outlined the details quite precisely in his will, so that the multitude of Vulcan funerary traditions would be properly fulfilled.



“How…how is Jim doing?” Amanda asked the question softly, grateful in that moment that she was talking to Chekov, rather than some random officer who had the current duty shift watch on the bridge. Chekov was one of only a small handful of people who actually knew that Jim and Spock had been bondmates, and that they had been legal spouses by Vulcan law.



“Vhen it happened…Mr. Scott said he was screaming things in Wulcan. They had to sedate him.” Chekov ran a troubled hand through his hair. “Dr. McCoy has declared zee Admiral mentally unfit for command, vhich is vhy I am in command right now.” Chekov was quiet for a moment before adding as a sort of subdued afterthought, “Nobody except Dr. McCoy has seen him since Mr. Spock’s death.”



Amanda swallowed against the tight knot in her throat. “Do what you can for him, when you do see him, Pavel. And let him know that our thoughts…mine and Sarek’s…are with him.”



Da, ya obeshchayu -- I promise.” Chekov nodded heavily. “I am so wery sorry, Lady Amanda. So wery sorry.”



“I know, Pavel.”



The computer screen went black as the communication channel closed.



Amanda laid her head down on her arms on the desk, but she did not cry. At the moment she was far too stunned to cry. What on Earth had the Enterprise been doing, that, within a few short hours of the event, the circumstances of her son’s death had already been designated as classified by Starfleet’s commander-in-chief? What could Adm. Morrow have possibly deemed so terrible about what had happened as to warrant such a swift and definitive action?



-----



While waiting for Azetbur’s return, Gorkon puttered around in his ship’s mess hall, his belly aching with a dull hunger. He had hardly eaten a thing since morning. He had been too busy to eat that afternoon, and the Terran foods served to him earlier that evening had been unappealing: tame, easy, and completely devoid of flavor. A brief search in the galley produced a plate of bregit lung, some leftover rokeg blood pie, and a cup of hot qa’vIn that Gorkon poured a generous amount of ra’taj liquor into. He made quick work of the meal since he did not have to concern himself with using the sort of frivolous utensils that humans deemed necessary for proper meal time etiquette.



He drew in a deep breath of air as he pushed his now empty plate away from him. The caffeine in the qa’vIn was already taking effect, refreshing and revitalizing him. It had been a long day, and it was not yet finished, he knew. He rubbed at the weak muscles of his left thigh, but he barely felt any pain coming from the damaged tissues and ligaments: the ra’taj was also starting to take effect. Thank Kahless for that.



The doors clanked opened. Azetbur had returned.



Gorkon gestured with a hand, indicating that she should join him at one of the long dining tables. “So, daughter, what insight have you gained? Why do we plan this war against the Federation?”



Azetbur sat down on the bench with cautious respect, as a pupil might do under the watchful gaze of a schoolmaster. “They violated our borders. The part of the Mutara nebula which was within our space no longer exists.”



“That answer is too simplistic. It is a child’s answer, one which you could have given without reading our sacred texts. Apply what you have read to our current situation.”



“The humans have stolen the ashes from Qui’Tu.”



“Now you are just repeating what you read in the report from Kerla,” Gorkon said impatiently. “What significance does that have?”



Azetbur was quiet for a minute, mulling ideas around in her mind before she spoke again. She spoke slowly, with hesitation, trying to gauge from Gorkon’s facial expressions whether she was going in the correct direction with her train of thought. “The humans have demonstrated great powers: The power of destruction on a cosmic scale -- as seen in the disappearance of the Mutara nebula. And the power of creation, on an equally cosmic scale -- as seen in the birth of a new star and a new planet where none previously existed. They have dishonored themselves.”



“Why is that, my daughter?”



“Because they have seized powers which were meant to belong only to the gods,” Azetbur answered with growing confidence.



Gorkon nodded slightly, encouragingly. “And how do you know that these powers…the creation of new worlds, new life…were to be held by the slain gods alone?”



“After Kortar and Lunob defeated the gods, the bodies of the slain gods, and by extension the powers of the gods, became the ashes of Qui’Tu. Lunob, possessing the wiser heart, declared that there was nothing for either of them in the ruined heavens. She knew that the Klingon heart was the strongest in all of creation, and so there was no need for the powers of the gods. Without any hesitation she left the ashes behind, and she never looked back.”



“And the humans have gained their dishonor by seeking out this forbidden knowledge?”



“Precisely,” Azetbur answered firmly. “There is simply some knowledge that we are not meant to possess.”



Gorkon leaned forward, looking his daughter in the eye. “And so you believe that our war is necessary? We must fight because the humans have dishonored themselves?”



Azetbur nodded. “Yes, that is exactly so. It is our sacred duty to fight the humans on account of the powers they have gained, just as it was Lunob’s duty to fight Kortar.”



Gorkon looked away for a moment, sipped on his now lukewarm qa’vIn. “What would you think if I told you that your reasoning is flawed? That we cannot know for certain if the humans were meant to have the old powers or not?”



Azetbur shook her head, obviously quite confused by his questions.



“When Kortar and Lunob left Qui’Tu, the gates had been torn open. And more importantly, they did not bother to seal the gates behind them. The ashes were left unguarded. Klingons are not meant to possess the powers of the gods -- that much is made plain in the story of Kortar and Lunob. But the gates of Qui’Tu were left open, Azetbur, and the ashes remained there for any others to find.” Gorkon reached across the table, grabbed a pitcher that had been left there earlier by some of the crew, and poured himself another cup of qa’vIn. “We begin our war with the Federation on ideological grounds that are dubious at best, and which are open to any number of theological interpretations.”



Azetbur scowled, feeling frustration towards her father for the second time in the space of an hour. “Father, this is a pointless academic exercise. What does it matter if the humans are allowed to have this knowledge or not?”



“It does matter, Azetbur. It matters a great deal. For if we fight a war that is not just, one that is not righteous, we will condemn ourselves to Gre’thor, no matter how much glory we may gain in victorious battles against our foe.”



Azetbur looked away, anger welling within her. Had all of this happened a year ago, there would have been no moral debate. Her father would have gone willingly into battle, without hesitation over the moral implications. “This is not Shakespeare, father…not Henry V. Nor are we the English, a ragged band of soldiers who huddle together in the night, any more than the Federation and the humans are the French on the fields of Agincourt.”



“No, it is not.” Gorkon smiled at his daughter, but it was one that was tinged with sadness. Oh, for the moral certitude of youth! How he longed not to be plagued by the implications of the questions that he posed.



Azetbur stood, feeling the need for physical movement, as if she could physically shake off her mental doubts. “Ideology aside, father, I still believe that this war is necessary. You ask questions, but you miss the heart of the issue: whether they should have the power or not, the point is that they do possess that knowledge. That fact is what we should be basing our decisions upon. Ideology will sort itself out through the course of war.”



Gorkon folded his arms across his chest. “Explain what you mean by this.”



Azetbur turned around to face her father, filled with a sudden confidence. She had been the defender in their argument thus far, but now it was her turn to be on the offensive. “With the knowledge that they now possess, humans have the potential to set themselves up as the new gods of the cosmos. At the moment we may have the strongest hearts in the universe…but what is to stop the humans from creating a new heart, one that beats stronger than our own?”



“Nothing, I would suppose. Certainly not a sense of honor for the order of things, as they are not bound to the same codes of behavior that we are.”



“Exactly. We risk our very existence if we do not fight this war, father. If we are in the right, we will prevail. And if we are in the wrong, we will be defeated. But to not fight at all...” Azetbur drifted off for a few seconds, just for the dramatic effect that she knew it would have upon her father. “Would you have us face annihilation because you have personal doubts about the interpretation of ancient stories?” Azetbur shook her head decisively. “Your moral qualms are not enough…at least, not for me. And they certainly will not be for the rest of the High Council. Your fears cannot justify inaction at this time.”



“But we can justify action based upon your fears, my daughter? For that is what drives us now, in this moment. Fear of annihilation, fear of what the future holds for us if the humans retain that knowledge.”



“Yes, I believe we can.” Azetbur sat once again. She reached out and touched Gorkon lightly on the forearm. “Even though it was never stated explicitly in the story of Kortar and Lunob, their actions had to have been at least partially motivated by fear: fear that the gods would bring forth another, one that would surpass the Klingon heart. The precedent for our behavior has already been set, and therefore it can be properly justified. Whether or not the humans should be allowed to have the power of the gods, I know for certain that we have the right to survive.”



Gorkon nodded slowly, fondly placing his own hand on top of hers on his arm. “You argue your point with the same kind of eloquence that your mother had, Azetbur. Our jop’ej way’ has given me much to think about.”



A faint crackling sound echoed through the mess hall as an intraship com line opened. “Councilor,” said the deep male voice of the bridge watch officer, “the Earth vessel signals that Ambassador Sarek is awake, and that he desires to speak with you.”



Gorkon released his daughter’s hand, and rose from the table. “Inform Capt. Esteban that I will be there shortly.”



-----
History Lessons by logicallyillogical
Author's Notes:
-----

There are many Klingon idioms used in this chapter, appearing in their genuine Klingon form. I provide literal translations within the chapter text, but I realize that the literal translations are meaningless to readers without further explanation for each phrase, which is provided in they order they appear in the chapter end notes. I apologize if you find it frustrating, needing to break the train of your reading to seek out an explanation in the end notes, before continuing onwards.

It's a stylistic choice that I've made, because I've put a lot of time into research for this story in order to portray Vulcan and Klingon culture in a way that aligns with what we know from canon. I realize that I could have written the chapter without using those idioms for the sake of immediate clarity, but I still opted to use them. Klingons have a way of perceiving the world that is at times very different from the way humans do. This is reflected in their language. Gorkon and Lorak are talking about things that they are very passionate about, and it seems appropriate that their form of speech becomes more fundamentally Klingon, expressed through the idiosyncracies of their perceptions and culture.

-----
Chapter 10: History Lessons



Sarek gazed out of one of the large windows in Grissom’s observation lounge, waiting for Gorkon’s arrival. He watched the barren surface of Nimbus III slide beneath the trusty science ship’s hull. From this orbital altitude he could pick out about half a dozen of the geographical sites that had been selected for the proposed atmospheric condenser project.



He turned his attention momentarily to a data PADD that had technical schematics and theoretical projections for the project’s long-term goals. Researchers at the Vulcan Science Academy had been able to lay out precise weekly timetables for the project -- expected increases in rainfall, bioproliferation growth rates, soil fertility and productivity increases from additional anaerobic bacteria -- for a ten year period after installation of the technology. The procedure wasn’t quick, by any means. By comparison to current theoretical terraforming models in submolecular biology the techniques used by the condensers were downright glacial in terms of producing results on a planetary scale, but then again those terraforming models were just that -- theory, unproven and as yet unachievable. With this project it would take almost an entire year before there would be significant measurable results of any kind on Nimbus III. But the technology was reliable, to the point that ecologists were able to accurately predict things like average rainfall increases by the project’s tenth year of operation.



With the aid of those timetable projections, Sarek was able to look out at the harsh topography of Nimbus III from orbit and see rich agricultural land and dense forests appearing along new oceanic coastlines rather than the endless sun-baked wastelands that existed now. So much good could be done for the people of Nimbus III, if only the Klingons and the Romulans would consent to the cooperative undertaking. The promise of a better future was there in front of them all, but the longer Sarek watched the planet’s surface moving under Grissom the more he could feel the possibility of that future slipping away from his grasp.



The data PADD shook slightly in his hand. His body was still weak, still reeling in the aftershock that came as a result of feeling death. Sarek’s insides felt all wobbly, like gelatin released from its constraining mold. A headache throbbed methodically behind his temples, the pulses of pain as predictable and regular as the electron distribution stream from a rotating neutron star. The physical side effects of k’war’ma’khon would subside eventually, and be gone entirely within 48 hours. Soon enough he would be of sound body and mind again. Sarek knew this to be true from past experience. After all, he had gone through this four times before: when he had experienced the deaths of his mother T’Rama, his father Skon, his first wife T’Rea, and his forefather Solkar. History had taught him what to expect as his body adapted to the loss of his connection with Spock.



Sarek set the PADD down on the conference table that stood behind him. In an attempt to stop the trembling of weak flesh, he clasped his hands tightly behind his back. His nostrils flared, and Sarek felt anger within him -- anger at himself for not having better control over his own body. The emotion washed over him like the rolling of a tide on the beach, possible only because the aftershock he was experiencing had temporarily weakened his emotional control as well. He ground his teeth together, seeking to regain a modicum of control over both body and mind. It was wrong, undignified, how easily a lifetime’s worth of discipline could be swept away by k’war’ma’khon. It was a bitter betrayal of Vulcan sensibilities by the flesh, one that was unacceptable to him, as it was unacceptable to all Vulcans.



“Ambassador Sarek.” The sound of Gorkon’s voice came from behind him. “I cannot express how relieved I am that you have recovered from your illness.”



Bile rose in Sarek’s throat. An illness. Yes, one might consider the effects of k’war’ma’khon in this instance to be symptoms of an illness, akin perhaps to a temporary version of Bendii Syndrome, since it drastically affected both body and mind. “In truth, Councilor, I am not yet myself.” He turned around slowly, his face set into an expression of stone.



“If you feel unable to continue our talks at this time, I can return later.”



Gorkon’s words were spoken with subtle hesitation. It was not hard for Sarek to deduce that Gorkon doubted the veracity of his own statement. It was more than apparent to him that Gorkon fully believed that were not going to be any more diplomatic meetings after tonight. For one reason or another, Gorkon felt that their time for diplomacy had run out.



“No, it is logical for us to speak now. I must inform you that I am no longer able to continue these negotiations due to personal circumstances.” Sarek moved away from the observation window, unable to continue looking at the planet. He could no longer stand the sight of the barren world, the world that he had been charged to help. Duty to his own world called now, and of course he would fulfill that duty…but that did not make his failure here any more palatable to him. He had been given a public charge, and now he could not fulfill that obligation to whatever end due to his son’s death. It disgusted him. “I will make sure that Ambassador Talbot is completely briefed on the project before my departure. You may continue negotiations with him.”



Gorkon grunted softly out of dissatisfaction. “I can continue nothing with that man.”



“St. John Talbot is fully qualified to conduct diplomatic negotiations on this scale, Councilor,” Sarek heard himself saying, even though he knew that it wasn’t true. Talbot didn’t believe in the project; it would never get past the drawing board with Talbot steering the Federation’s helm. The status quo on Nimbus III would remain unchanged.



“He is without honor. There is no trust, nor truth, in his heart.” The Klingon people would never be able to accept Talbot’s words. Gorkon knew it deep in his gut, from experience. Ambassador Talbot. Capt. Esteban. Fleet Adm. Morrow. Dishonest men: the Federation was filled with them. Relationships could not be built with dishonest men. Out of frustration Gorkon batted the data PADD from the conference table with one fell swoop of his hand. It hit the nearby wall, smashing into countless pieces upon impact. “Why can we not continue to speak, you and I?”



“As I said, there are circumstances of a private nature that demand my attention now.”



Gorkon moved around the table, closing the distance between himself and Sarek. There was a spark in his obsidian eyes, a spark that Sarek recognized as anger. “We are public servants, Sarek. As Shakespeare said in Anthony and Cleopatra, “Small to greater matters must give way.” There is no personal duty that exists that can outweigh the duty we hold to the state.”



Sarek turned away from Gorkon. He put a few steps between the two of them. “In this case my personal duty aligns with my duty to the state.” Staring blankly ahead of him at the bulkhead, Sarek was quiet for a few seconds. “My son has died this day, Councilor. My place right now is on Vulcan.”



Gorkon scratched at the back of his neck, unsure how to respond to this news. If this had been a Klingon vessel and a warrior had just died, he would have performed the Heghtay -- the traditional death ritual. He would have thrown his head back and let out a howl to open the heavens, to warn the inhabitants of Sto-vo-kor that another warrior was about to arrive. But he was not among his people; he did not know how Vulcans dealt with their dead. “My condolences,” he said awkwardly, trying to feel his way to more certain ground. “Do you have other children or grandchildren, ones that will carry on the honor and the deeds of your House in the days to come?”



Grandchildren. The word was a fleeting thought only, one which Sarek did not care to dwell on. No, there were no grandchildren of his blood, although there should have been. He had seen to it that Spock had been pair-bonded to T’Pring when they were both children, thus ensuring the continuation of the family line. But the pairing had not been fulfilled, and before Sarek had been able to make suitable arrangements for a replacement companion Spock had taken Jim as his mate: a selfish pairing which precluded the possibility of offspring.



Sarek’s thoughts turned to Sybok. Of his elder son, he knew nothing. Had known nothing of him for 46 years. He did not even know if his elder son still lived, for Vulcan priestesses had cut the ties of k’war’ma’khon between Sybok and the rest of his family in a t’kaul’ama ceremony after Sybok had rejected Surak’s teachings and chosen to become vrekasht -- an outcast of Vulcan society, sentenced to live forever after in exile from family, clan, and world. In the eyes of his people, his eldest born no longer carried the legacy of his clan and family’s bloodlines. Even his very existence was no longer acknowledged. It was as if his birth had never occurred. “No. Spock was my only heir.”



“Then I mourn with you. It is a dark day, a bitter day, to see the end of one’s House, to know that none shall send their prayers to tend to your soul in the afterlife.” Gorkon pressed his palms into the conference table, leaning his weight forward. “But you cannot allow your private loss to interfere with public interest,” he said urgently. “The present is too stormy to be tended idly, and we must rise to meet the occasion that piles itself high with difficulty, or else lose it all.”



“I have told you already,” Sarek said sharply, “my place is on Vulcan. Tradition has dictated it so.” A fire was suddenly alight in Sarek’s eyes. It grew quickly, a torrid and consuming flame. All at once he was impatient, frustrated, and angry at Gorkon for his lack of comprehension to the actual needs and for his overemphasis of the perceived needs of the present. And it showed, in his voice and in his body language -- in that moment Sarek was displaying passion equal to that possessed by any Klingon.



The unexpected appearance of emotions rearing their ugly head from a Vulcan startled Gorkon, to say the least. He pushed away from the conference table, the wind momentarily gone from his sails.



The emotions rushed through Sarek. They departed as quickly as they had come, only to be replaced by another emotion: embarrassment. Embarrassment at making such an obvious display of his emotions, of shamefully appearing in front of another when his emotional control was so poor. Control. He must remain in control.



Olozhika kel-nen-kov sha’sutenivaya, k’fai’ei etek namautau nezhak, is-tor utvau u’kakhartausu…[Logic is the cement of our civilization, with which we ascend from chaos, using reason as our guide.]



The words that formed the thesis of T’Plana-Hath’s best known lesson came automatically to his surface thoughts, calming the turmoil he was experiencing. He repeated the words of Surak’s teacher once again, allowing the matron of philosophy’s cornerstone concept to become a waking meditative mantra in his mind.



Olozhika kel-nen-kov sha’sutenivaya, k’fai’ei etek namautau nezhak, is-tor utvau u’kakhartausu…



Sarek pressed his hands together, steepling his fingers near his mouth. “Forgive my outburst. To paraphrase King Lear, I fear I am not in my perfect mind at present, and I ask that you forget what you have just witnessed.”



Gorkon shook his head. “I will not. Cannot. We have a tendency to forget the lessons of our past all too easily already. However…I will strive to not take offense at it.”



“Did you mean what you said earlier, about not idly tending to the stormy present? Do you truly attribute such weight to these negotiations between the two of us, that their cessation due to my withdrawal for reasons of tradition will have a profound impact on our two governments?” Sarek looked at Gorkon thoughtfully. The atmospheric condenser project was important for certain, but he could not see any wider implications for the project beyond the planetary scale of a single star system for either the Federation or the Klingon Empire.



“I never say anything that I do not mean, Ambassador,” Gorkon answered gravely, his voice low and deep. “And yes, I do believe that this is one of those moments when strict adherence to the dogmas of a quiet past interferes with our ability to sufficiently respond to the needs of our uncertain present.”



“And thereby enabling a reality wherein we ‘tradition ourselves to death,’ as you predicted this afternoon on Nimbus III?”



Gorkon nodded his head slowly.



Sarek pursed his lips in thought. “Logic dictates that we devise a solution that avoids this outcome. What plan of action would you propose?”



“We need more time, you and I, than you have available before your ship leaves Nimbus III.” The corners of Gorkon’s mouth twitched into a sardonic smile. “Logic dictates that I should accompany you back to Vulcan. Once you have dispatched with all of your personal matters, we may recommence our negotiations there.”



“What you ask for…it is difficult.”



“I would not ask if I did not feel it was important. You will find a way to make it happen, Sarek, for the fates of two civilizations hang in the balance of the choices we make here today.”



“It will take time to arrange.”



“Do not take too much time,” Gorkon said, looking Sarek directly in the eye. “vIHtaH gho.” [The hoop is moving.]



-----



“You want to do what?” Chancellor Lorak shouted through the subspace communication channel at Gorkon.



“I am going to travel to Vulcan with Ambassador Sarek,” Gorkon answered calmly.



mevyap!” [Stop, (it is) enough; your words hurt my ears]



The Klingon High Chancellor held a hand up in the air, cutting off Gorkon’s line of speech. He could not believe what he had just heard. His advisor and friend had obviously taken leave of his faculties, because no sane man would propose such a thing at a time like this. Lorak exploded in a fit of fury, slamming a fist down onto his desk. “I forbid it.”



latlh HIvje’Daq ‘Iw HIq bIr yIqang! [Pour the cold bloodwine into another glass!] I am not seeking your permission, Lorak. I am merely informing you of my decision. I intend to go; your desires are inconsequential to me.”



“Damn you to Fek’lhr’s care, Gorkon, and damn your grandiose visions of the future to Fek’lhr too. The undiscovered country that you dream of will never come. We are on the brink of war with the Federation. It is plain enough to me, not to mention to the rest of the High Council, that there can be no peace made with a band of intergalactic criminals. I have been a fool, allowing you to convince me that we could ignore 130 years worth of history when it comes to our dealings with the Federation. No more.”



Lorak paused, trying to find a way to explain reason to a man who apparently had none left. “In the morning I am issuing a recall directive to Kamarag in protest of the Federation’s latest act of military aggression, ordering him to withdraw from the peace conference and depart from Earth with his diplomatic attaché in all possible haste for our borders. If all goes according to General Chang’s plan, the first clash between our forces will occur by the end of the week. I will not run the risk of having you shamefully taken as a prisoner of war in the enemy’s territory while you are on a fool’s mission.”



“Chancellor, we gain nothing and risk much with a swift declaration of war. If you put the declaration proposal before the Council now, I will not support the motion.”



A deep growl of impatience and irritation escaped from Lorak’s chest. “Your name carries too much weight amongst our people to allow this kind of disloyalty. If you oppose the Council it will split the Empire and plunge us into civil war. And if we become divided now, now that the humans possess the ashes of Qui’Tu, we will all perish. This I will not allow to happen. The Empire will face the Federation as Kortar and Lunob faced the ancient gods: as a united force.”



Lorak leaned forward in his chair, a threatening presence even on a computer screen. “If you will not support me, I will unburden you of your family’s hereditary seat on the Council. Your ancestral lands on Qo’noS will be seized, your demesne holdings on all of our colony worlds will be abolished and redistributed to the rivals of your House, your goods and resources repossessed. The ships which your family has commissioned in the Defense Forces will be impounded, your fleet commanders replaced by new leaders not loyal to your House, and the warriors who serve under your banner will be scattered to the winds. I will see to it that your name and the names of your progeny for seven generations are cursed as blood traitors in all corners of the Empire. Everywhere you go it shall be decreed that feeble bodied women and fat men with long silver beards must spit at you when you pass them and that small children should set their pet targs upon you without fear of reprisal. You will no longer be seen as a man in the eyes of your fellow Klingons, only as a thing -- an ‘it’ creature incapable of earning glory and honor in its existence.”



Gorkon’s hands balled themselves into tight fists on his desk, but otherwise he managed to keep his temper in check. “Do Qui’Tu’s ashes frighten you so much that you will not permit me to explain my position before you seek to take away my sash? Is your position so weak that you can permit no debate?”



tlhoS ngaQ lojmIt.” [The door is not yet locked.] The muscles around Lorak’s jaw tightened as Gorkon questioned his leadership abilities. “HIchuH!” [Throw your spear at me!]



“I do not oppose the war to come. The Federation has provided us with reasonable justification. When I say that I will not support the motion, I mean only that I will not support it as we are today.”



“You say that as though you think us weak and unprepared for the fight ahead.”



“Yes, Chancellor, that is exactly what I think.”



chatlh chojat, ghorQon.” [You speak soup to me, Gorkon.] Lorak smiled smugly, flashing his teeth across the computer screen. “We are Klingons. We need nothing more than a good blade and our honor to lead us to victory.”



“We lack the knowledge we need to win the day. We need to know more about the new powers of the humans.”



“Did Kortar and Lunob need to know how the powers of the gods worked before they chose to fight them?” Lorak asked, mocking Gorkon now. At that moment his advisor sounded as cautious as a Terran. It was vile. “No, it was enough that the gods held those powers. Did Lunob wait to see if Kortar really had gained those same powers after he swallowed the ashes? No, it was enough that he had tried, and without hesitation or delay she made the decision to slay her own mate. We have all the facts that we need already. Honor is on our side, just as it was for Lunob.”



Gorkon shook his head. Every fiber of his being rebelled against the stance that Lorak was taking. “Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war.”



The communication channel was filled with the sound of laughter as Lorak threw back his head in amusement. “You sound like General Chang.”



ghe’torvo’ narghDI’ qa’pu’. cha’ DoSmey DIqIp.” [When spirits escape from Gre’thor. We hit two targets.] Gorkon remained as dour as ever. “If we declare war now, many will die. They will die gloriously, demonstrating how brave they are, as brave as Lunob for taking on a greater opponent, but they will die. I respect honor, bravery, and glory, Lorak, and I would respect the warriors that fell in that reality. But the point of this war is not to show how brave you are and how you can die in an appropriately Klingon fashion, face to the enemy. It’s easy to die. Anybody can die. The point of this war is to be victorious, to survive and become stronger. We cannot survive if we fight now, blind to our enemy’s abilities, because that blindness leads us to our deaths.”



Lorak looked away from the screen for a time. “What would you have me do, Gorkon?”



“Do not recall Kamarag from Earth. It is more advantageous for him to remain where he is, for the time being.”



“Advantageous? How?”



“Kamarag has already proved invaluable to us -- recall all the knowledge about the Excelsior project that he has been able to pass on to us since he arrived on Earth for the peace conference. Let him stay where he is, so that he may gather information about this new ability. How is it deployed -- from a planet at great distance, or does the intended target need to be within visual range on a warship? How many of these weapons already exist, and where are they kept? How long does it take the humans to manufacture them? Where are they manufactured? If we are to fight this war effectively, we must have answers to these questions.”



“And how will this information be passed along to us? The Federation allows Kamarag use of a communication channel in order to allow him to keep in contact with us during the peace process, but we must assume that it is monitored.”



“This is where my trip to Vulcan becomes a tactical advantage, Chancellor.”



“Oh yes?”



“The Federation knows we monitor our borders closely. They will expect quick action from us after what has happened in the Mutara Sector. They will anticipate a fight. But if Kamarag remains on Earth…if he goes back to the negotiating table…it will put the Federation at ease. They will relax when they see no aggressive moves from us. They will think we are still intent on peace. My trip to Vulcan will seem to confirm this for them. After all, a member of the High Council would not travel in the land of a people who were about to become his enemy.”



Lorak’s sharp teeth made another appearance as he smiled. He was beginning to see the mastery of his advisor’s plan. “Go on.”



“After Kamarag has the information we need, he can send it with his attaché for delivery to me on Vulcan. The Federation will not think twice about a travel request for Valkris, because to them it will simply seem as though Kamarag wishes to send his aide in order to confer with me about the peace negotiations.”



The more Lorak heard, the more his approval for this plan grew. He nodded, satisfied. “And the Federation will allow you to travel freely from their territory, because they will believe that you and Sarek have come to some kind of understanding about his little proposal and that you need to take word of that agreement back to me.”



“Thus enabling me to bring back the information we need to be victorious in the war to come.”



“I will delay the war declaration before the High Council. It shall be as you wish it.” Lorak bowed his head as a show of respect. “You serve the Empire well, my old friend. Qapla’!” [Success!]



The encrypted communication channel from Gorkon’s ship to Qo’noS closed.



-----
Chapter End Notes:

A/N1: Klingon idioms:

vIHtaH gho (The hoop is moving): An expression that states an activity or event of finite length has started. Used to encourage somebody to make a decision quickly, with the implication that one should be sure to do whatever is required before it is too late, before the opportunity passes, as the hoop cannot continue rolling forever.

latlh HIvje’Daq ‘Iw HIq bIr yIqang (Pour the cold bloodwine into another glass): This means something along the lines of "I don't believe you" or "That is irrelevant to me; maybe someone else will care." Klingons prefer their bloodwine warm, so to offer cold bloodwine is to offer something undesirable. Hence the order to pour it into another person's glass, because it is not wanted in your own.

Ha'quj nge' (Take away a sash): The equivalent of "wound one's pride." The sash represents a Klingon's heritage, and so if the sash is removed, so is one's ancestral identity, dignity, and self-esteem. Basically it is the greatest punishment one Klingon can meet out on another, short of Discommendation from the Empire.

tlhoS ngaQ lojmIt (The door is not yet locked): A door or gate is a symbol of escape, so a door that is locked means there is no escape or no way out of a situation. Essentially when a Klingon says that the door is locked, he means one of two things. (1) "The situation has an unavoidable outcome." (2) "The plan or commitment is firm and cannot be changed."

HIchuH (Throw your spear at me): A slang phrase, where the spear chuH represents a thought or idea; in essence, the idea is a mental weapon. So if person requests that you throw your spear at them, they are saying that they want you to explain yourself in a very precise manner.

chatlh chojat (You speak soup to me): Another slang expression, in this case meaning "You speak nonsense" or "Your words make no sense to me." Though even Klingons themselves are at a loss to explain how the word for soup, chatlh, came to be associated with the idea of nonsensicalness.

ghe’torvo’ narghDI’ qa’pu’. cha’ DoSmey DIqIp. (When spirits escape from Gre'thor. We hit two targets): Gorkon is actually using two separate expressions. The first (when spirits escape from Gre'thor) expresses the belief that something is impossible, as it is generally held that a spirit cannot leave Gre'thor once arriving there. The second (we hit two targets) expresses the thought that two individuals disagree on a subject. Basically what Gorkon is saying here is that he believes it is impossible for he and General Chang to agree on anything, even if what he and Chang are both advocating (gaining information on Genesis) appears to be the same goal. On the surface it may seem that way, but the purpose and motivations of Gorkon and Chang are very different.



A/N2: As in other chapters, I've drawn a great deal on outside sources to establish my understanding of Gorkon's character and his possible motivations, and I need to pay homage to some of my source material here.

At one point Gorkon speaks of "a stormy present", "the dogmas of a quiet past" being inadequate, and rising to the occasion of "difficulties piled high." These words and ideas were first used by Abraham Lincoln in an address to Congress in December 1862. You may read the closing remarks of that address as they appear in their original form here.

While speaking with Lorak, Gorkan says "Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war." He later goes to discuss the point of the war, saying that the point is not to die, because "It's easy to die. Anybody can die." These words come from the historical novel The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. It is set in the time of the US Civil War, and it is a favorite novel of mine. These particular words are spoken in the novel by Confederate general James Longstreet to a British observer during the opening day at the battle of Gettysburg.

-----
This story archived at http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=1880