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Again My Beloved, by Linda
Disclaimer: Paramount owns these characters but does not really appreciate them like the fans do.
Date: Submitted to the Strange New Worlds contest in September 2005, but not chosen for their anthology. Submitted to Soval’s Annex in January 2006.
Chronology: This is the order of some of the Soval and Amanda Cole stories:
For the original Soval and Amanda stories, some set in an alternate universe, see those of ShouldKnowBetter on Soval’s Annex.
Who Says a Vulcan Needs a Bodyguard? by Myst123
That Which Hides Under the Bed by Linda
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Twenty-second Century Style) by Linda
Again My Beloved by Linda
Yours In Solidarity by Linda (work in progress)
And at least one other writer has a Soval and Amanda story in progress!
Historically, Amanda means beloved, and history is known to repeat itself.
After the Vulcan Civil War, Ambassador Soval returned to Earth and settled into a routine pattern, if not a logical one. San Francisco was humming with Starfleet activities because of increasing trade initiatives, diplomatic requests, and talk of possible alliance between the three worlds of Vulcan, Earth, and Andoria. Since hostilities between Vulcan and Andoria had ended, both worlds were clamoring for trade agreements to be made and prices brought down on goods that had been secretly trickling through to both planets anyway. Soval was being careful to maintain equity between the three worlds in planning trade routes, contracting with freight carriers, and establishing monetary exchange rates. In addition, Soval and Admiral Gardner were conferring on a daily basis over the endless details of joint Vulcan-Earth exploration missions. Soval also tried to keep Andoria and Earth informed of continuing relations Vulcan had with worlds that were not yet ready to talk alliance. Some of these worlds needed assurance that the ‘Big Three’ would not gang up on them. These activities were encouraging. However, there was a dangerous undercurrent: always in the background lurked the hard-core isolationists who kept pointing to ‘The Xindi Ditch’ and blaming the Vulcans. Because of this, Soval retained a cadre of bodyguards.
Amanda Cole had been assigned to Soval as a bodyguard on board the Enterprise after his return from his abduction by the Andorians. During his convalescence overseen by Dr. Phlox, Amanda was at Soval’s side for days. At first uncomfortable with each other, they began to talk out of boredom and discovered they could understand each other’s sense of humor. Whether this humor was innate to Soval or whether he acquired it on Earth, is hard to say. But the two of them grudgingly started to admit a fondness for each other. They played PADD games, then talked politics, spirituality, and literature. Amanda surprised Soval with her wide cultural knowledge, despite having joined the MACOS right out of secondary school. Since Soval himself had risen from the defense forces, he saw in Amanda the youth he had been a hundred years ago. Consequently, Soval began to mentor Amanda, asking her commander if he could borrow her, as a Human bodyguard dressed in civilian clothing would serve as discreet backup to the highly visible uniformed Vulcan security people. After six months of being ‘on loan’ Soval asked her to resign from the MACOS and work as his private employee. To her own surprise, Amanda accepted the offer, as she was having too much fun with Soval, learning things she otherwise never would be able to. She was even beginning to appreciate, if not like, his curmudgeonly demeanor.
Soval was curious about the rumor of Amanda’s relationship with Commander Tucker, as T’Pol had made a disparaging remark about it once. He coaxed the story out of Amanda, learning the relationship had been sandbagged by none other than T’Pol herself. Women! Getting the full story from them was like trying to interrogate an Andorian - not that he had to face that thankless task anymore. He used sympathy for Amanda’s aborted amorous affair as a lead in to plead his own suit. The first night they spent together dispelled a cultural stereotype held by Humans and promoted by Vulcans that Vulcans were on a strict seven-year cycle. Well, it might take more to arouse the typical Vulcan male than the typical Human male, but Amanda discovered she was up to it. Besides, Soval informed her, after she made an offhand comment about ‘Vulcan silverbacks’, grey hair usually signaled the arrival of an increased libido in Vulcans.
“Maybe its nature’s way to insure the survival of the species by keeping those in their declining years active in reproduction,” suggested Amanda.
“Who is in their declining years?” asked Soval. “You will be just as in need of the ministrations of the geriatric healers by the time I will need them.” But Soval thought Amanda’s insight into the purpose behind nature’s tricks with Vulcan physiology was logical. After all, Vulcanoid populations were spreading swiftly through the quadrant well ahead of the spread of Human populations.
“Now who was it that said Humans bred like rabbits?” asked Amanda.
“If it was a Vulcan that said that, it certainly was not I,” protested Soval. “They must have been looking at the shorter Human life span and generation cycle. There are a few Vulcans who remain ethnocentric, and would do better to remain on the home world.”
“A few?” Amanda retorted. Once in a very great while she could debate Soval to a standstill, but not often. Amanda was showing a talent for negotiation that Soval often encouraged by goading her into heated arguments. When he had her on the edge of anger, he would remind her that if she were to retain her logic at this point while others were abandoning theirs, her views would most likely be agreed with in the end. Amanda was a quick study, which pleased Soval, though instead of offering praise he would push her even harder.
After a few months of maintaining the fiction that they lived in separate residences, Amanda stopped paying rent on her studio apartment and moved the few possessions that that were left there into Soval’s condo in the Vulcan compound. On the next trip Soval took to Vulcan to confer with members of the Vulcan Assembly, Amanda went with him. They took a day off to secretly undergo a bonding ritual done at his family home by a priest he had confided in. Since Soval’s parents were dead and his crustiness repelled relatives as well as Humans, only his mentee T’Pol was present for the ceremony. T’Pol approved of the relationship only because it meant she had no more female rivals for her own love interest. After meditating on the question of Soval’s sanity, she had to admit there was more to Amanda then she had thought.
On returning to Earth, Soval and Amanda thought it best to wait until the political climate improved on both Earth and Vulcan before making a public announcement of their marriage. In the meantime, Amanda’s presence in his condo, at the Vulcan embassy, and at his speaking engagements, was explained by the fiction that she was still his bodyguard.
Soval had obtained copies of many of the Terra Prime documents and medical research that he and Amanda reviewed in an attempt to circumvent such organizations in the future. They had a very personal stake in this. The genetic research was of special interest. Soval passed this on to a Vulcan research institute that espoused the IDIC principle and was working closely with colleagues on Earth. Amanda started making regular visits to their San Francisco clinic.
With the passing months, Soval and Amanda found hiding their relationship was becoming more difficult. They stayed home a lot. Soval would quietly peek in on Amanda in their sitting room; she usually would be intent on that rug she was making for the baby’s room and did not notice him watching her. This craft kept her reasonably quiet and content. Usually she swore and undid any knitting she tried, but rug hooking did not require the skill that knitting did. It was near her time and Soval was trying to stay close by, keeping his schedule open so he could be with her for the birth. He would watch her for signs of labor, then silently slip back to his den to review the reports of the history of Earth’s space program over the years of his ambassadorship. Soval was starting to write his memoirs and he wanted people to have a clear understanding of his part in Earth’s history of this period.
Amanda was aware of Soval peeking in on her regularly. Although she was uncertain how often he did this, it was comforting. This was her first child and Amanda, restless in the last days of her pregnancy, felt huge and clumsy. It was hard to water the plants on the deck. Being an indifferent gardener, she let them die.
Impatient with forced inactivity, Amanda had been in need a hobby. She tried the culinary arts, but was an indifferent cook at best. This rug-hooking thing seemed manageable, so she designed her own pattern of interlocking red and green circles, a kind of motif for the mixed heritage of the child she carried. It was turning out all right - good enough for a child’s room. She knew Soval thought late pregnancy was a time of mysterious female moods best left to themselves. Did this male perspective mask the same underlying worries that she had? For instance, how would the first half Vulcan, half Human child be treated in a world with xenophobic underpinnings?
Some time later…
In his den, the Vulcan ambassador put down Archer’s reports to reflect on the nature of the man. He sighed, retrieved his meditation robe from the closet, and went out on the deck that stretched the length of the side of his residence. Amanda was so good at needlework, especially knitting. But by now, she would have put down that new sweater she had been making for him, to start preparing their dinner. She was probably picking fresh herbs from her kitchen window box garden. Amanda was a skilled gardener and an excellent cook. Dinner would be ready soon, and the ambassador wished to complete his meditation before eating.
Unbidden, thoughts of Captain Archer rolled through the ambassador’s mind before he sank into the calm depths of meditation. Archer, a resentful man, had been eager to prove the worth of his father’s warp engine. Had it really been Vulcan policy to hold back the Earth space program? That was so long ago now. Perhaps there had been no delay intended. It might have been the longer time perspective of a Vulcan compared to a Human - a time perspective that naturally reached beyond the span of Henry Archer’s life. Soval had not expected Henry Archer to die so young in any case. He had said to Admiral Forrest at the funeral: “It is difficult for a Vulcan to see a Human acquaintance grow old, when he himself is still in the prime of life.” Soval’s words were right there in his memoirs, sitting on the Vulcan ambassador’s desk.
Amanda walked into the ambassador’s den looking for her husband. She picked up one report and skimmed through it. “Such violent times. I am glad we live in times where I never thought it necessary to train in weapons myself.”
Her husband, having finished his meditation, walked in from the deck and addressed her. “I overheard what you just said, Amanda. You are a teacher. I am glad you did not decide to join Starfleet when they asked you to before we were married. Even as a linguistic specialist you would have had to be checked out in many types of side arms. Really, Amanda, I cannot see you in a Starfleet Uniform anymore than I can see Spock in one. Spock must learn that the quiet life of a scientist is better than the glitter of a military uniform. No son of mine…”
“Sarek,” Amanda interrupted, “I am sure our son will choose a career that will make you proud of him. Come to dinner now.”
After dinner, Sarek returned to his den. Sifting through the historical documents from a previous century was not easy. There were gaps in every historical record that vital information on policies and personalities could slip through. Soval’s memoirs just did not tell the whole story. This Vulcan was an enigma, even if he had held the same position as Sarek himself.
For one thing, Soval was not from an aristocratic family. He had to prove his ability in the lower ranks of the security forces and claw his way up. This developed a more confrontational attitude in the man that was laced with the emotion that Vulcan’s sometimes let surface in that time a century ago. Sure, they meditated then, but refinements in technique had been developed since. Mind melds were now allowed, and properly done, contributed to Vulcan tranquility. Sarek had never had to dirty his hands with the things Soval had to. His family saw to it that he had the best education Vulcan could provide, followed by a high level apprenticeship with seasoned diplomats when he switched from computer and science studies to diplomacy. Sarek had some self-defense training, but not military experience. All this made it difficult for Sarek to understand Soval.
Sarek pondered the life of his fellow Vulcan. Soval had treated the Humans with a heavy hand whereas Sarek had always used reason and rarely raised his voice. When he did raise it, it was well planned and not like the impulsive outbursts of Soval. Yet it seemed to Sarek that Soval had enjoyed his interactions with Humans. There was this rumored friendship with Admiral Forrest. It was probably true, as the two had spent more time together than was necessary for business. But Soval could not have understood Humans in the intimate way that Sarek thought he did, mainly because Sarek could feel their passionate nature through his Human wife. Soval had lost a Vulcan wife to death as had Sarek, but the historical record had stated that Soval had not remarried.
Sarek set the PADD down for a moment’s reflection. “My fellow ambassador, I am in agreement with you. But from a position of a century of hindsight, I must say you lacked patience with the Humans of that time.”
Soval seemed to respond when Sarek picked up the PADD again: “You may think I was impatient with their eagerness and was depriving Vulcan of a valuable ally that could have been providing ships to help patrol the Andorian border systems. But at that time, the Humans saw us as totally dispassionate and it would not have been in our best interest to let them see the passion in our relationship with the Andorians. It would not have been good for them to witness our intensity in the border skirmishes with Andorians or even the clashes with Klingon aggressors. I feared their emulation of our behavior and their own impulsiveness might have created situations that even we could not have mediated. If they were to join us on these fronts, it must be under our direction and they must be in complete control of their emotions.”
“Like you were in complete control of yours, ambassador?” whispered Sarek as he gazed at the statue of Surak across his office on a bookshelf. This volatile Vulcan of a century ago made him think his people were fortunate history unfolded as it had. They were fortunate that Archer had taken his ship into the Expanse, as Soval later admitted, was an action that saved not only Earth, but Vulcan.
The planetary assembly on Vulcan had made its decision. V’Lar, as Soval’s friend and supporter, brought him the bad news. “If you go public with your marriage, you will be recalled to Vulcan. They feel that Earth is not ready for such a relationship between a Human and a Vulcan.”
“You mean the members of the Vulcan Assembly are not ready!” Soval exclaimed as he paced his office in San Francisco. “This is an insult to Amanda and her world! How am I supposed to promote closer relations with these people who are trying to overcoming their violent past and have saved our world - saved the whole quadrant of this galaxy - from the Xindi and their allies? What do I say to my pregnant wife?”
V’Lar inclined her head. “I don’t approve of this decision, but it has been made. They want you to ensure the silence of anyone who knows about your marriage: her parents, any friends. They are not saying you have to reject your marriage, but you have to keep totally silent about it.”
“Hide my wife? Hide my child?” Soval was aghast. “Where?”
“I will speak with Amanda. We have become friends.” V’Lar felt certain Amanda was strong and logical enough to take this blow. “She is your wife and I will always respect her as such. But we must come up with a plan to save your home life, raise a psychologically healthy child, and also keep your career. Vulcan needs you. Earth needs you.”
“My family needs me.” Soval sank into his desk chair and indicated that V’Lar also sit.
They spent the whole afternoon trying to come up with logical damage control plans for Soval and Amanda’s life together. Since Enterprise was in space dock above Earth, Soval called T’Pol into the discussion, and it was T’Pol who came up with the answer. There was only one place she knew of where a child of this type of mixed heritage was welcome.
It was several days before Sarek got back to the study of his predecessor. Spock had returned from one of his unsanctioned sojourns in the desert to be punished, again, by his father. Sarek waited a day, then once again tried to reach the boy with some quality time over a game of three-dimensional chess followed by a father-son trip to attend a lecture by a monk with a deep understanding of Surak’s teachings. It pained Sarek that there was always this wall between them. Sarek hoped that somehow he was actually getting through to the boy. Alone with Amanda, Sarek could indulge his emotions a little. After all, she was Human and needed this. But with his son, he remained the archetypal logical Vulcan, for this is what Sarek thought was required of him as a father.
Soval’s communicator vibrated. He excused himself from the committee meeting and found a quiet spot in the hall outside the conference room: an alcove with carpeting and a large fabric wall hanging. These dampened the echo when he answered the call.
“Dad! When are you coming to see us? Soon? Mom wants you to see our school grades. Can you help us build that tree house? Remember, you promised!”
“Yes of course I will. Now let me speak to your mother.” Soval glanced down the hallway while he waited to hear the voice he so missed. No one was watching him. “Amanda. Yes… Yes... soon.” There were footsteps approaching in the uncarpeted hallway around the corner. “I have to go. I will call again soon. I miss you all. Good-bye.” Soval sighed, slipped the communicator into the inside pocket of his ambassadorial robe and resumed the poker face he needed for telling the committee it was on the wrong track with these tariffs they wished to impose on certain trade goods. He looked down for a second, then squared his shoulders and returned to the committee room.
Sarek had given an assistant the tedious job of sifting through the huge number of media coverage clips that spanned Soval’s entire career as ambassador to Earth. The assistant did not have Sarek’s sharp eye and intelligence, so he missed the significant clues about this Human bodyguard employed by Soval. “She had been one of the MACOS on Enterprise and it was probably quite shrewd for Soval to employ her,” the assistant stated in his notes for Sarek. “It must have looked good to the Humans that a Vulcan would give a member of their species such a position of trust.”
The assistant concentrated on selecting clips for Sarek to review that showed Soval’s demeanor after he returned to Earth following the demise of the High Command. They showed Soval working hard to counter the effects of Terra Prime and the Xindi attack. You could hear the angry anti-Vulcan comments from the crowds in these clips. Many remarks were personal insults. There was added venom because Soval had not endeared himself to the general public in his early years on Earth. But this time Soval kept his cool. Perhaps he had grown more patient with age. Perhaps he had a confidant or a lover who had become a source of support. In any event, the assistant noted that the post-High Command Soval was different. He was more circumspect, more cautious, as was evident by his cadre of bodyguards. The guards tried to be unobtrusive, dressed as fellow diplomats. That Human bodyguard was always near Soval in these clips. She dressed stylishly in the women’s clothing of the times, not her former MACO fatigues. A great beauty. Good cover, thought the assistant.
As the years passed in these clips, Soval retained his patient public facade and started exhibiting a sense of humor. The clips clearly showed a finesse that paid off, though there was always a small faction that wanted all aliens to leave Earth. There had been a couple of assassination attempts, but Soval had not sustained severe injuries. One attempt had been captured in news clips. Sarek’s assistant selected a clip that showed two Vulcan security guards holding down a disarmed young Human male. He discarded the clip that showed Soval’s Human bodyguard throwing herself in front of him and knocking the weapon out of the man’s hands. This was unseemly to the assistant, as was the clip that showed the woman supporting a stunned and wounded Soval as they walked away slowly in the background. That looked too intimate for employer and employee, but that was probably because they had spent many years together, the assistant assumed. He was sure that showing familiarity with Humans would not help Sarek’s research to promote a better public view of Soval.
There was another strange clip a few years later that the assistant also discarded. The woman bodyguard in this clip was sitting in a balcony of a conference room where Soval was busy leading a discussion on opening Starfleet Academy to all the member worlds of the Federation. Two children sat beside the bodyguard bundled up with heads covered, though it did not appear to be cold inside the building. The children were leaning on a railing and looking intently at the people talking below. When Soval spoke, one child smiled and nudged the other with his elbow. The woman bodyguard stood, and faintly in the background of the clip you could hear her whisper: “Sammy and Annie, come back now to the hotel with me.” Sarek’s assistant frowned at the clip. He did not approve of security operatives borrowing children to use as cover when they were at work. Soval should not have approved of this.
The last clip where he noticed the woman was years later. Standing unobtrusively behind a group of diplomats, she wore a pert business suit to blend in as one of them. She had gray streaks in her hair and lines etched into her forehead. There were lines at the sides of her mouth, but on her they seemed to give dignity and authority rather then suggesting the frailty of approaching old age. She was too old now to use children as cover. The two she had used before must have long ago grown to adulthood. Soval looked tired. He was still a handsome man, but this clip was about a year before he retired.
The assistant made some final notes for Sarek. At the point of Soval’s retirement, the man had many accomplishments to his credit. The trade routes were secure thanks to the multi-world nature of Starfleet Academy that Soval was so instrumental in promoting, and also due to the curriculum shaped by his own experience in the security field. The establishment of the Federation Credit System, designed under Soval’s leadership, was the envy of many unallied worlds and was rumored by a Ferengi trader to be studied on his home world. It had taken long tedious sessions to develop a stardate system that was acceptable to the growing number of Federation worlds, but Soval who chaired the committee, had cajoled and bullied until it was pulled off. After his retirement, Soval refused further public appearances. He disappeared completely from public view; no one knowing where he went. An occasional article by him or a quote from a reporter he had contacted, is all the worlds of the Federation heard from him until his memoirs were published after his death.
The research of Sarek and his assistant had uncovered all that was available on Soval. Sarek had broken through the veil of the enigma somewhat, but he did not plan to give the public the better view of Soval that the man deserved. Soval, through his actions, had given the Federation the image he wanted them to have. Sarek would respect that. But Sarek was glad that he knew Ambassador Soval was more than he had seemed. Soval’s fans had just grown by one, a fan who himself was becoming an icon of the entire United Federation of Planets.
For Spock’s fifteenth birthday, Sarek and Amanda decided to take him with them on their next visit to Earth. They planned to tour major cities “to expose our son to the culture that is also part of his heritage” as Sarek put it. They wound up their tour with a road trip in a vintage gasoline powered vehicle along the eastern part of the North American continent following the Appalachian Trail. Sarek wanted Spock to appreciate why such vehicles had been discarded as environmental hazards, though a few were allowed in these mountains as tourist attractions or were used by those who just preferred the old ways. After all, they had just been through an area where horses were the main mode of transportation, the farmlands of the Amish people.
As he drove, Sarek mulled over an idea he had about a memorial to Soval. Sarek planned to propose that one of a new line of Starfleet science vessels be named after Soval. Knowing that Soval’s reputation would work against him, he planned to write a glowing piece on the man’s accomplishments. He would skim over the questionable actions like opposing the High Command from an Earth vessel that was instrumental in bringing down a Vulcan government, even if it was the best thing to happen to Vulcan at the time. The public perception of Soval as ‘the bad boy ambassador’ ran deep, even with students at the Academy that Soval helped to reform to better reflect the composition of the Federation. An informal tradition among cadets was to confer the ‘Soval Award for Diplomacy’ on the first year cadet who made the worst intercultural faux pas. It might take a hundred years, but Sarek was sure he could bring about this memorial. He was a patient diplomat who could work for decades with a newly discovered world and finally bring it into the Federation fold. With patience this memorial would become a reality.
They drove along the mountain road in silence. Spock was off in his own world again, sitting in the back seat. Amanda knew he had always been lonely in his unique mixed heritage. Surely there had been others? Where were they hiding? The attraction between Vulcans and Humans was so natural and so deep when a few individuals got brave enough to explore it. But in general, Vulcans were very private people and they did not seek out relationships with people of other worlds. Perhaps that was best, each culture staying separate but respecting their Federation neighbors. It preserved the uniqueness that the IDIC principle promoted. But IDIC also was about the new combinations that Spock represented, wasn’t it? Hopefully Spock would do something with his life that would prove worthy of the principle.
The temperature indicator climbed rapidly on the dashboard. Sarek took his foot off the gas and turned to Amanda. “We must stop soon and replenish the coolant in this vehicle. In fact, we will pull off the road at this gravel siding. Perhaps it is a car park for a nearby home.”
Spock jumped out and went around to the hood of the car.
“Do not open the engine compartment yet, son. It may be too hot.” Sarek got out of the driver’s seat and scanned the woods along the road for a path to a residence. He found a trail winding away from the car park area, but he joined Spock at the front of the car to wait for it to cool.
Amanda got out to stretch her legs. She walked back along the road, thinking she had seen a mailbox. She had. Painted in faded lettering it said ‘The Coles, Sami-K. & T.Ann’. The driveway behind it angled into the woods. Walking back toward her family, Amanda noticed the path near the car also angled back into the woods as if it would intersect the driveway behind the mailbox. “Sarek, I think that path does lead to a residence.”
“Excellent, my wife. I am going to see if anyone is home and if they can help. Both of you remain with the vehicle.” He then strode off along the path. The path was a bit overgrown, quite secluded and lovely. The coolness under the trees was a little chilly for Sarek, but he appreciated the quiet presence of nature far from the bustling conference centers that were his usual venue. Sarek thought that every Vulcan should have a refuge like this path seemed to be leading toward. Of course on Vulcan he had his own mountain retreat. The path turned sharply and a small log cabin came into view. A woman was squatting over a garden bed up against the cabin wall with her back to him. Sarek stopped a couple of yards from her. “Greetings.”
The woman ducked her head and pulled up the hood of her sweatshirt, stood, turned to face him. “Hello.”
“I did not mean to startle you. My name is Sarek and I request some help if you will give it. I need some coolant for our vehicle. We are on our way to Harrisburg.” Sarek thought the women furtive, but he had disrupted her solitary gardening. He was an imposing figure and well aware that he could appear intimidating to strangers, especially to a woman like this one who was slightly built and only of medium height.
She smiled. “I am Ann. I think I have some coolant in the trunk of my car. You are traveling with others?”
“My wife and child.” Sarek thought that the woman would relax on hearing it was just a family that was stranded and not a bunch of males out for a joy ride. “My wife might like a glass of water if you would. She is a bit tired.”
“Of course. Come inside.” The woman stepped up on a porch and walked past some deck chairs into the house. Sarek followed. The shades were drawn in a large room, which took up most of the space in the cabin. There was a fireplace made of round rocks tightly fitted with a little cement between them. The furniture was worn, but of an expensive and formal style from about a half-century ago.
The woman surveyed the musty room. “I am in the process of opening up this cabin and cleaning it. I actually live in a town nearby. This cabin is seldom used now, but has a beautiful view of our mountain valley.” With that, the woman went out a back door and returned with a coolant container. She also got a glass of water from a tap in the kitchen, brought it back into the main room and set it down. The women kept her hood up even thought the day was warm, and she remained standing in deep shadow whenever she could.
Sarek glanced around the dark cabin. The bare oak floor squeaked wherever he stepped. A very old and ragged throw rug, with a faded red and green interlocking circle pattern sat in front of a comfortable old chair to one side of the fireplace. The woman noticed Sarek’s interest in the cabin. “This has been a quiet getaway for family members for decades. That stuffed chair is my mother’s cozy corner. I come here to read, meditate, and reminisce. My father finished his memoirs here when he did not want to be interrupted by grandchildren underfoot. Since people were always dropping by unannounced at home, this refuge has served well over the years. But this evening it will be filled with many voices. My brother and his family are coming, and my own children. It is my mother’s birthday.”
Sarek put on his best conversing-with-Humans manner. “Well, birthday greetings to your mother from a stranger. May she live long and prosper.”
Even in shadow the woman’s face took on a nostalgic look. “Her life is over. But my parent’s graves are nearby and we will tend them with fresh flowers today. They had a long and happy life together, so this will be a happy reunion for the family.”
Sarek inclined his head slightly in respect. He ran a finger over a dusty glass tabletop which was a display case of sorts. Brushing away a layer of dust over a memento beneath the glass, he discovered of all things, a piece of an old Vulcan meditation robe that appeared to be ancient lettering from the lapel. How strange. This place was haunting. “Was this Vulcan script from a robe of someone you know?”
The woman stiffened. “My dear… a family… friend. From long ago. You are not the first Vulcan to visit our mountains. Nor the second.” She gave Sarek a wide and amused smile. “You could say their time here has created a community of semi-logical people.” The woman’s smile faded. She looked sharply at Sarek and closed up again, as if she had said more than she had intended.
“I see.” Sarek did not press the woman, as she seemed to want to preserve her privacy. He sensed that her last statement was some kind of local joke, which came quickly to the lips but was not really for outsiders. She had stepped back into deeper shadow as if she now repented being so open with him about her family. But she was doing him a favor, and Sarek the diplomat knew when to back away from an awkward situation and preserve the dignity of strangers. “I thank you for your aid.” He picked up the coolant container and the glass of water before turning toward the door. “Shall I return these here?”
“Just leave them by the side of the road and I will retrieve them later. Have a good drive to Harrisburg.” The woman took a step toward the kitchen while keeping her eyes on Sarek as if to make sure he was leaving.
Sarek bowed. “I thank you. Peace and long life.”
The woman stopped backing away. “Long life? That is not so much a wish as it is an acknowledgement…comparatively speaking, for some of us, isn’t it, Mr. Sarek?” Then she smiled briefly, nodded, and disappeared into her kitchen.
Strange, very strange, thought Sarek as he traced the path back out to the road. Coming round the bend in the path, he saw that the vehicle had stopped steaming. Amanda’s eyes settled on the glass of water, so he handed it to her. Spock had the cap off the coolant reservoir, and Sarek bent over the engine to give it its drink.
The car was running fine again. Amanda was enjoying the undulating country with the trees arching over the road as it dipped and climbed. She noted the vintage farmhouses in the steep mountain fields. Some buildings were planted close to the road and a few of them were houses with small storefronts built in. Sarek was intent on driving, lost in his own thoughts. And Spock, who looked the bored teenager he was, had picked up a book. Amanda, however, wanted to stop, find a restroom, and get another cold drink. “Sarek dear, there is a store coming up on the top of that next hill. Wouldn’t you like a break? We could switch drivers.”
“I am fine, my wife. I would rather keep driving to Harrisburg where we have hotel reservations. Then we can have a leisurely dinner.”
“Mother, I can wait too. If we continue, we may reach Harrisburg before dark and see something of the city.”
Amanda sighed. She usually deferred to the wishes of her family. That was the way of a wife and mother. But she looked with longing at the road sign which enticingly announced that Stone Grove was five miles off to the left and Carbon Creek, two miles to the right. Intriguing names. She wondered what secrets these old mining towns held. But Sarek drove on toward Harrisburg.
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Again, I'm going to give you some advice. Again, you are free to do whatever you want with it, from following it slavishly to tossing it out and never giving it a moment's thought. Since you've submitted these stories for publication, I'm going to assume you want to be a published author, so my advice is geared that way. If you have any original short stories, I'd suggest going to Baen's Bar (accessible from Baen.com) and finding the magazine conference (I believe it's titled "Astounding" or something) and posting your story there. You should get a lot of critiques by a wide variety of people, and if a lot of people like it you have a shot at getting published in their new e-zine. The rates are pretty good for short story work, too.
This story has the same problem as the one about Koss. You have paragraphs and paragraphs of telling us what's happening followed by two lines of actual storytelling followed by paragraphs and paragraphs of telling us what's going on. It's like the cliff notes version. And it's frustrating, because I like the idea. I like Soval and Amanda. I want to get involved in the story, but there isn't enough actual story (as opposed to story summaries) to get involved in. Go through each paragraph and think it through. Is there a scene or series of scenes that illustrates what you're trying to say in that paragraph? What happens that you could show? Then write out all the scenes that come to mind from that paragraph like you were describing a scene in a movie. What does each character say, what do they do, what expression do they have on their face, what does the room look like, what are they wearing, etc. Then use that as a basis for the story. You may wind up cutting some of it out (maybe even a lot of it), and some of it will probably end up being rearranged/edited severely. But it should go a long way to solve the telling problem. I guarantee you that what you end up with will be a lot longer story than what you have now, but it will be a better one.
Also, if you're going to be submitting your fiction, you need to work on your opening few paragraphs. To sell a story, the first few paragraphs absolutely _must_ grab the reader and pull them in to the story. Here's why. I don't work in the fiction publishing industry, but I have friends and acquaintences who do. Here's the sad reality of the slush pile (the huge number of stories sent in by unpublished authors without agents). Any fiction publisher gets thousands upon thousands of manuscripts each year. About 90% of them will be utter crap. About 9% of them will be decent, but nothing to write home about. About 1% is really, really good. It doesn't sound so bad, on the surface. I mean, you're obviously not in the 90%, which means you've got a good chance of getting in, right?
Wrong. Let's examine the numbers a bit, shall we? Most new authors lose money for the publisher. Between paying the author and the publication costs, first books (and often even second and third books) do not sell anywhere near enough for to cover what the publisher spends. Publisher publish new books because some authors grow in popularity and future books will sell well, and cover the cost of the earlier books. Besides, they need new authors to replace ones who retire or whatever. However, they can't afford to publish more than a couple of new authors a year.
So lets look at the numbers. Say a publisher receives a thousand unsolicited manuscripts from unpublished authors each year. That's a conservative number, but we'll go use it because it's easy. 900 are crap and can be tossed, but someone still has to wade through them, because 90 are decent and 10 are really good. That someone is going to be overworked and underpaid, because this is not an area of the company that makes money so they're going to spend as little as possible there. The first reader isn't going to waste their time reading whole manuscripts, as they'd never ever get through them and most you can tell aren't good in the first couple of paragraphs. If they think the first page is really good, they might read the first chapter. But they know their company will only publish maybe two stories a year from the slush pile, so they can afford to be picky. To get a first reader to actually read the whole story, the first page has to be incredibly good. And the odds are against you: remember, out of that thousand there are maybe ten really excellent stories. But they can only publish maybe two of them. So expect to get rejected a lot as you're trying to become an author. And really polish your first few paragraphs.
Thanks (again) Beatrice! Your advice WILL be followed, but I don't know about slavishly, LOL. It is something I have been needing for a long time and I do appreciate your taking the time to give it. It just may be the spark that turns my writing around. In any case, I can't seem to stop writing since I got started, so I might as well try to improve for my reader's sakes as well as my own.
Oh, as a writer myself I understand the need for constructive criticism, and as long as you're not making any huge mistakes (characters completely ooc, horrible Mary Sues, bad spelling and grammar, etc), it's hard to get anything besides "Great chapter!" Which is a great boon to the ego, but not necessarily the most useful comment in the world. Most people do not notice the craftsmanship of a story; they know that they like it or don't like it but not _why_. And if they do notice the craftsmanship, usually they don't comment either because they're not willing to take the time to say anything or they don't want to risk offending the author. And the thing is, usually it's not the story or plot itself that makes or breaks a fic, it's the skill and craftsmanship with which it is told.
I do notice the writing itself (I'm pretty picky about it, honestly), and I don't care if I offend the author with honesty; I don't flame, but I do critique. Being busy, I don't generally take the time to review in detail, however. It's only when I see stories like yours, which are so close to being really good, that I say something. Most stories, I don't think are good enough to bother with.
Beatrice, I try to give constructive comments also as I feel that to deserve people taking time for me, I should return the favor. I just wish I had time to read all the stories on the T&T site, and as well as this one.
And I will start exploring other sites too, especially the one you suggested. I think trying to critique other's work improves my own. I know you have to work at it and I am willing to do that. I got such a thrill when I encouraged another person to actually put her story up, almost the same feeling as when I submit a story of my own here. I plan to take a creative writing course soon, as I have only had technical writing courses for IT stuff - kinda dull actually, but useful for my 'day job' which pays the bills.
I've only taken one creative writing course, in college, and it was pretty much useless. I learned far more from having my stuff critiqued by other writers; a good beta is worth his/her weight in gold. Unfortunately, my first beta is dead now, so I can't recommend him to you. But the crowd at Baen's Bar should be helpful for any original stories you have; if you don't have any I'd still recommend going there just to check out the kinds of stuff they say. The conferences devoted to critiqueing short fiction for possible publication are called either Baen's Astounding or Baen's Universe, I forget which. The one labelled Slush is where the story itself goes; the one labelled Comments is where the discussion of that story goes. Only original fiction is allowed. Stories posted in those conferences are officially submitted for consideration to be published in their new ezine.
There's also a lot of writing groups out there on the web. I'm sure you could find a trek group or something if you wanted to.
I liked it! Too bad Soval's family had to remain secretive, it would have been nice (maybe not realistic, but nice) for there to have been public recognition of his wife and children. Well done, thank you! :)
I like this. While it does ramble a little that is not a bad thing. It is very nice to find a story that has details. I dislike reading fiction that has holes in it. It has an intresting tone to it. I would have liked for them to have allowed Sarek and Amanda at least to know the truth. It may have made their lives and spocks easier.