"You denied him his future! Only his body was in death, Kirk!"
-- Sarek, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Saavik knelt on the floor in a corner of the rudimentary quarters given to her while she stayed on Hranure. The dimmed lights barely touched the maroon robe with black Vulcan script that wrapped softly around her. Under it, she wore a white insulated bodysuit to better protect her against the cool temperature and dampness.

A splash of white under red and black... her eyebrows quirked at the irony of unintentionally donning her old uniform colors. But in those long ago years, her hair had been completely dark. Unlike now when gray wove its way through some of it.

Meditation brought the familiar warmth and quiet it always did, and she moved deeply into the tranquillity, opening her mind to only itself. That made the sudden touch all the more startling.

She knew without opening her eyes that whoever called to her was not physically in the room. This was a mental perception, an *awareness* of another mind reaching out to hers. No one she knew was at a close enough distance to attempt such a thing, and the touch felt like none of them anyway.

And yet, a feeling of familiarity stirred. Whoever this was, she once had felt something of this mind before, somewhere at another time. Still, she hesitated about opening herself when it meant being vulnerable to an unknown.

Except... that sense of remembering...

Unconsciously, her steepled fingers pressed tighter together and then leaned forward as if her hands drove her mental actions.

She called back silently to whoever it was. "Yes?"

*It is good thee has answered, young one.*

No one had called her young for a century, but her mind was no longer so undisciplined as to dart back to her youth. Instead, her first thought was how overwhelming this presence was, and how that power was kept reigned in so she wasn't hurt. Her early concern about being open to it was pointless; the presence could have torn her apart and left her mindless before she knew it was happening.

*Thee knew me as T'Pau.*

T'Pau of Vulcan! One of the wisest and most influential leaders in her people's history! But T'Pau had died many years ago, and her katra rested in the Hall of Ancient Thought.

*Thee knows not the true life of the ancient Hall.*

Most likely she didn't, Saavik agreed. After all, how could she? Not only was she still very much alive as defined by those on this plane, she was also not a Gol master allowed to contact those katras inside of it.

"Are you no longer T'Pau?"

*I am, and I am more.*

Saavik felt not just the increased power of T'Pau's katra, but the flavors of the other katras T'Pau had met and learned from in the years since her death.

"How have you traveled here? I am far from Vulcan let alone the area of the Hall."

*Thy katra need not stay in the great Hall. Thy future does not end there. It begins.*

The katras could leave the Hall of Ancient Thought! Never had Saavik heard this proposed by anyone. All Vulcans who believed in the katra ritual knew it gave another life after the body died. But Saavik had always been told a katra needed the containment the Hall provided. Without the unique stone, where the released minds ran like vein work through the walls, touching each other and learning from one another, they were lost.

*Thee speaks the truth. It is the first stage, the infancy of our new existence. Then our new life learns to contain itself so it may at last venture further.*

"As a child learns to walk."

*And to mature. So it may grasp greater concepts. This is our growth.*

Fascinating! The future ahead of her... the time to meet so many others in the Hall, to experience their experiences, to grow in their knowledge while she developed the ability to hold herself into a form on her own. Then, another future ahead of her with a universe of open vistas where she may go anywhere, learn and experience everything, with no constraints of needing air, food, or water for her physical form.

Instantly she remembered the benefits of her body, as if it were a separate entity begging not to be shed. She relived the sheer pleasure from Spock's slightest touch, the intimacy of the simple stroke of his paired fingers against hers, and the awed privilege of his minded bonded to hers. Holding her children, of holding her children's children, and seeing them grown and accomplished... the sights, sounds, and feels of a new world, the experience of meeting a new people... the unmistakable touch of Vulcan as her home and the sight of the stars spread above her head in a sparkling mural that pulled at her even now.

T'Pau saw all this and her presence grew warm in response. *I do not call thee to the death of thy body. Thy time to learn of the touch and sensations of this form is not this moment.*

She sounded like Saavik had when she long ago watched her children fumble at parenthood, the way Sarek had sounded when he had watched she and Spock fumble with their children.

"Do you know when my death will take place?"

*We are not gods, but life forms.*

Of course.

*Time is of the essence, young Saavik. Evolved katras are in danger on this world from the mining at the Dowhelat caverns.*

"Computer! Priority transmission for the USS F'ssar. All mining operations in the Dowhelat caverns are to be halted temporarily with my authorization. They are to standby and await further explanation."

The admiral in Saavik replaced the Vulcan and scientist. She lacked a great deal of information, such as how these life forms were threatened, but T'Pau, in any form, would never make such a statement without good reason.

After a slight pause for communication relays to take place, the communication officer for the starship in charge of the emergency mining came back. "USS F'ssar standing by."

Saavik once more spoke only through her mind. "I cannot shutdown the mining permanently, T'Pau. The Vidrmal needs the ores from those caverns."

*I am aware of the situation. I was briefed before contacting you by the one who discovered these lost kin.*

Briefed. Saavik imagined a large network of beings like T'Pau, and the once great leader still having those who reported to her before selecting one who would carry out this mission.

An overwhelming, compact burst of thought and feeling blossomed on the perimeter of Saavik's mind. It was like a Ska-plak, a Vulcan memory globe, except this one was powered by something stronger than the greatest starship's warp engines. It gave a burst of contact that summarized all knowledge, all experiences, and the meaning of self in one bright piece of extremely dense matter that rivaled the Universe's fabled Big Bang. Even with the indirect contact and restraint, the shockwave froze her mind briefly like a powerful intoxicant. T'Pau answered this in a similar fashion, both katra beings dimming their volume to shield Saavik.

She wondered who this other presence was. She couldn't interpret the mental language T'Pau and the other spoke, but got the impression that the other was once male and felt a hint of a relationship to her.

Sarek!

She called out to him and he paused. Then another pulse, this one infinitely gentler that combined everything he experienced when he thought of 'Saavik' and 'Daughter'. She luxuriated in it, letting it take her back to another golden time.

But why did he stay so far away? Why did he come but not really speak with her?

T'Pau turned back to her. *He stays at the site of the endangered lives. It is he who discovered them.*

Then why, Saavik wondered, hadn't he contacted her himself instead of through T'Pau? But the admiral in her stayed in the forefront, stifling the words before her tongue could utter them. She had committed not only herself, but a starship. She couldn't indulge in any of her questions, not the ones of a Vulcan or scientist, and not the ones of Sarek's daughter-in-law.

She spoke like the command officer she was, one who only had time for essential information with lives in danger. She had learned somewhere around the age of forty that she didn't have to jump in immediately with all her questions. Sometimes, the other person was about to tell her what she wanted to know when her questions interrupted them.

The only scientific impulse she bowed to was having the computer run scans for life forms in the room. To save time, she configured the sensors as she spoke with T'Pau. "I do not understand how the mining could threaten the katras."

T'Pau had given such briefings to Vulcan's commanders over the centuries. She knew exactly what she must give now. *We are still life forms. We can die.*

"I know, but without a body, how does a physical process like mining affect you? We use nothing that differs from the excavating process on Vulcan, and I have never heard of this process affecting those in the Hall."

*To explain, I must give tangents. These katras are the few survivors from the VSE Lailara.*

Lailara (translation Harmony)! The Vulcan Science and Exploration ship that was destroyed in this quadrant 32.26 years ago.

*In rare places, another substance will display the same properties as the stone in our Hall. Those who died without a katra bearer to bring them to Mt. Seleya have irregularly survived in these objects. It happened on the world that gave birth to you.*

Hellguard.

Over five hundred Vulcans murdered with only one katra finding a bearer to bring her home: T'Pren, the Vulcan woman who had escaped the brutal colony only to die from her injuries on the Enterprise.

Saavik couldn't stop the next questions. "Some survived? How many?"

"Eighty seven."

Only 15.65% of those who had died....

But when all had been thought lost....

The very old wound of feeling responsible for her Vulcan parent's death resurfaced and throbbed. Its pain reminded her that it was for her conception that her parent was raped, and after seeing her born that he had killed himself. His katra never found home, but was as lost as he was to everyone important to him. All done for her.

The reopened wound surprised Saavik since she had thought it healed long ago. Why was it that she thought herself at peace, clear of blaming herself for Hellguard, only to be jerked back there sharply?

No, she was not that tortured youth anymore. She must soothe away the old wound again. She served the memory of her lost parent better by being strong of mind and at peace rather than wallowing in shame.

She at least had the comfort that she had aided T’Pren’s escape, T’Pren who had cared for her, and whom she still held dear in her memory. She hoped -- trusted that Sarek at least, if not those other Vulcan/Romulan hybrids who died on Vulcan, had told T’Pren that Saavik was safe and well.

Yes, T’Pren would tell her not to feel blame for Hellguard.

Feel blame... A sudden thought came to her.

*No,* T'Pau reassured her without being asked. *Those katras were retrieved long before you returned to the planet. Your causing its implosion did not kill any survivors.*

"And you sought to retrieve those from the Lailara? Is that how you discovered the problem here?"

*It takes an Elder's maturity of experience to make such a retrieval to the Hall.*

To Saavik, an Elder meant those Vulcans sought out for their wisdom and experience, but from this T'Pau, she learned a different meaning of the word. She had the impression of a great being as beautiful and powerful as the nebulas she had seen, and its touch to one of its kind like a gentle breeze off the desert.

*Those that endure the body's death, like the one hundred and nine who survive the Lailara, have their katra drawn to the rare substance such as the Hranure ore, but the katra cannot endure such a journey without damage. It begins to dissipate immediately upon physical death, and portions of the identity is lost. It can be healed within the Hall, from the memories of those who knew that person."

"However, to make the journey to Vulcan, you need an Elder?" Saavik asked.

*Yes. The Elder must embrace the survivor, and, through the embrace, provide the necessary containment until the survivor is released in the Hall. I have not achieved such a level to perform such a rescue.*

Saavik fastened on two words: the ore. The rare ihlmetite ore in the caverns held wounded katras until they could be rescued, but those living energies would be killed when the ihlmetite, which was needed desperately by the Vidrmal, was mined and processed from the rock.

"Why not have Elders ready to embrace those katras when they are released from the ore?"

*Ihlmetite appears to be weaker than the tl'khoto stone of the Hall. The katras' strength is fading. Even now we cannot hear them speak. Damage was already done to their identities with the journey from physical death to the ore and the ihlmetite caused more. We fear an Elder's strength will cause the rescued to lose all sense of self and die.*

One hundred and nine survivors: the VSE Lailara had a crew of 2,389. Why hadn't more reached Hranure?

*They were convinced their katras would die without a bearer, as well as having no time to prepare before a sudden death.*

It explained the new practices coming from Gol on preparing the katra to leave the body.

*But we divert from the main focus. An Elder tried retrieving the survivors, but ihlmetite is different in another way from tl'khoto stone. We can enter and it will give us Form, but we cannot find a way to leave. Not even one of that Elder's expertise. She is trapped with the others and she weakens as well. Her voice is the only one we can hear, but already it grows quiet.*

So, Saavik needed to find a way out of the ore for those one hundred and ten lives, but immediately into another containment field, at least for the Lailara survivors. The way out was simple; finding the other containment substance was more difficult. The obvious answer was to excavate the ihlmetite and leave it intact, getting the katra life forms to Vulcan that way.

That would be the solution she'd propose to the F'ssar and Starfleet. She already knew the arguments against it.

*We are fortunate you were already on Hranure, a Vulcan and one in a position of authority to help. We might have lost these kin otherwise. But we have spoken enough for now, young one. We will join you at the site.*

T'Pau was gone that quickly, and Saavik crashed to the ground. At her age, the jarring jolt to her bones could be dangerous if she didn't have too much experience at falling hard and didn't keep herself in good physical shape. Not to mention, 170 years might be getting old, but not ancient. After all, T'Pau had been older when she presided over Spock's aborted wedding to T'Pring.

Saavik had misunderstood T'Pau's words about talking for long enough, not seeing the warning for what it was. She fought the exhaustion in her body from maintaining such an intense mental contact, pulling energy from settling her mind and drawing from her reserves. She had to get down to those caverns, speak with the F'ssar, and make other arrangements for someone to take over her original responsibilities. Coordinating the mining and shipping operations during the Vidrmal emergency did put her in the perfect position to rescue these katra lives. But once she did have them safe, they remained her greatest priority as she took them home to Vulcan. Someone else would have to manage here. She had to convince Starfleet Command of that.

She sent several hurried messages to Vulcan, to Starfleet, and to the waiting starship. She then ordered her computer to transport her from her quarters to the platform outside the Dowhelat caverns.

Three F'ssar officers waited for her, the captain flanked by the other two. He was Caitian and like all the males in his species, he had no mane. The lower cut uniform tunic he wore, looser fitting than her own so it didn't pinch his fur in the wrong direction, revealed a striking band of black fur around his throat, like a necklace against the russet color on the rest of his body except for matching black tufts on his ears and the tip of his long tail.

She heard the big Klingon next to him speak in his native language:

"Sir, do you know who that is? Saavik of Vulcan! My people sing numerous songs in her honor."

He said it in a Klingon whisper which she meant she heard it across the distance separating them. She wondered if he meant her to overhear him. Even if he surprisingly didn't realize she spoke his Klingonese, he must have known she carried a Universal Translator chip, notwithstanding it being out of sight inside the pointed tip of her right ear. Everyone wore a chip, and they weren't so far away that she couldn't hear him. Not to mention the human at the Caitian's other shoulder.

"Admiral Saavik... she holds the record for the longest career in the Fleet. They say there's not a position she hasn't held or influenced in the admiralty."

A slight exaggeration, but she had even commanded all of Starfleet for a few years. Back in those dark days following the destruction of Federation headquarters and Starfleet Command on Earth by human supremacists who hated the growing diversification. She had spearheaded moving those institutions offworld with the support of some on the Council and in Command. Others argued they were first built on Earth and should remain there, while those agreeing with the move insisted the Federation was more than just Earth and should reflect it.

Saavik hadn't cared about either argument. Federation headquarters, including the Council chambers, was far more secure and easier to defend on its planetoid with Starfleet Command in the orbital station. And any attack on them didn't endanger a planet's civilians. That's what mattered to her.

And despite the fact that the planetoid and the station weren't twin worlds, more like a world and its moon, the Romulans grinned whenever they visited. She was still being teased about how ‘the Bird of Prey in her blood’ had picked the location.

The only sign Captain Tuh'r'ict gave of feeling any of his officers' awe at the sight of her was the slight increase in his tail swishing to and fro.

A countdown started ticking off in her head.

The weak sunlight came from behind the Caitian, seeping through the thinner pinna flap of one thick ear just enough to reveal a translator chip. "You wanted to speak with my chief engineer and science officer. Let me introduce Lieutenant Commander Aktuh."

"Son of Kiltarc, of the House of Toq," she said. The big Klingon's chest rose with pride and appreciation that she mentioned his lineage. She had made time to rapidly research all three officers before beaming down. She had needed to know what their records said about their character; she was going to ask a great deal of them.

"And my science officer, Lieutenant Commander Aricin Ravndal," Tuh'r'ict finished. The rumble he made in saying any ‘r’ sounded too deep to be called a purr.

"Mr. Ravndal," she said, "I read your paper High Energy Physics in Modern Science. I found it quite informative."

The human's light Norwegian features glowed under such praise and then flushed when his captain noticed. Even his cybernetic hand grew red just as his flesh and blood one did. Artificial limbs had come a long way with the findings of Voyager's holopicic doctor, based on his experience with Borg implants combined with research into Dr. Noonien Soong's work.

"If you will follow me," she said and indicated the way into the caverns. Tuh'r'ict's tail swished again, echoing her own wish to move forward.

"After you, Admiral," he said.

She took the point, and soon the hollowed out rock surrounded them as they made their way to the lift. It was made for the ore containers so the four of them easily fit. They could have transported directly down to the mined cavern, but Saavik didn't have exact coordinates from T'Pau and she didn't want an additional risk to her party or the katras they were trying to rescue.

As the lift took them deep into the planet, Saavik held out her left hand and pressed the ring on her middle finger. The holopicic controls for her tricorder appeared immediately, and she began configuring the sensors for the new energy pattern.

She saw Tuh'r'ict watching her. "You should speak freely, Captain."

He nodded in one deep bow, his eyes staying focused on her. "You must know Command contacted me, Admiral."

"I do. They contacted me as well. The Vidrmal have already filed a complaint about the delay despite the fact no delay has occurred."

As of yet, she finished silently.

The disadvantage of improved communication systems: she had to file the halt in the mining which immediately notified the Vidrmal, and they just as immediately filed a formal protest with the Federation Council. The countdown running in Saavik's head was the time she had before she did create a delay; how long she could hold off Starfleet and the Vidrmal while she worked on a solution for the katra life forms.

If they were still alive.

"Captain, who in Command contacted you?"

"Admiral Olsen, ma'am."

Just as she expected. Olsen never liked her, not only because of their oppositions on many issues, but because of the two times she was given command over projects he wanted. The final blow came when he tried to force her into retirement, but competency tests and reviews of her work proved she was plenty capable of staying in the Fleet. When she warned him that playing such a maneuver again would have her issuing tests on his ability, he began looking for her to make one mistake, just the slightest one, so he could justify removing her from the admiralty.

This might give him that leverage.

But wasn't the one hundred and ten lives in danger here worth her career?

Politics. She had no concept of how Spock, their daughter T'Pren, or Sarek ever withstood making a career of them.

A large chunk of time suddenly dropped from her countdown with Olsen monitoring her.

"Captain," she said, "I have classified this mission under my authority, including the F'ssar. By doing so, I assume the repercussions for the actions of this mission."

His ears flattened back against his head. "Admiral, my crew and I know our duties. You told me a previously unknown life form is in danger from the mining. I know what that means, and I am not shirking my responsibilities."

Her mind sensed Sarek again somewhere slightly below her, but he abruptly left. Even so, that brief, restrained touch let her pinpoint what cavern she needed on her tricorder's schematic.

She also noticed that the tricorder's sensors didn't register Sarek's energy pattern on any frequency modulation.

Her job just got tougher.

"Captain," she said. "I do not call you or your crew incompetent. I inform you that your ship is not involved in an argument within the admiralty."

She halted the lift on the level where Sarek had just left. "Shall we meet this life form, Captain?"

His ears came back up as gleaming, sharp teeth peeked out. Aktuh and Ravndal mirrored his enthusiasm by rapidly activating their own tricorders, that old current of excitement of meeting the new and unknown that lived in the best explorers running through all of them.

Tuh'r'ict again indicated he'd follow her lead. "We're with you, Admiral."

They passed through a natural cavern where stalactites and stalagmites were lit brilliantly with different colors, and then they ducked into a tunnel carved out by Starfleet's Corp of Engineers. Saavik attached a shoulder lamp and turned on its power, the other three officers doing the same. They squeezed past a MDV, an unmanned mining drill vehicle, that had shutdown when Saavik's desist orders where sent through the caverns. The bulky machine took up most of the tunnel, its drill pointed towards the large ihlmetite vein that held the katra lives.

Since she was the slimmest, Saavik had a few moments to herself in the cavern while the males squeezed towards the vehicle's controls to move it out of the way. She scanned and then re-scanned the chamber with the recalibrated sensors.

Nothing.

Light activated from the MDV filled the cave and she switched off the one on her shoulder. Aricin Ravndal was through and came next to her, his own tricorder sweeping the walls. "I'm not picking up their readings, Admiral."

"Nor am I. The difficulty is their energy pattern is unknown. I have calibrated for energy forms we have encountered before, but there is no data to indicate it is a good basis to use." She hadn't found any sign of T'Pau's presence on her room scans either; if she had, she might know what to look for now. "I am going to scan the ihlmetite in this vein. I need you to give me the readings for the ore found in the rest of mining caverns. I want to compare both sets of scans."

"To see if the life forms influence the readings? Good idea, Admiral."

He didn't look up as Tuh'r'ict reached them. "It's amazing to think about, isn't it, Captain? A life form that, in its way, mimics the butterfly's stages of development. Except this one starts as a physical form, cocoons inside ore, and emerges as an energy being. Amazing."

"Have we found them?" the Caitian asked.

The large holopicic panel from each tricorder filled the air in front of them. Each officer could see the results for themselves, but Saavik answered anyway. It was her party.

"No, not as of yet." There must be some sign, something that pointed to the katra forms existing inside the cavern. But what should they look for? T'Pau told her that they could only hear the Elder trapped in the ihlmetite and even she grew fainter. If Saavik opened her mind, would she be able to pick up on the Elder's thoughts, and if she did, would that be enough to convince anyone else?

She stopped at her own words. The Elder's thoughts...

She first started her team on solving another problem so they might be ready when she discovered a way to read the katra lives. If she found a way... if they were still alive.

The time left in the countdown dwindled rapidly.

"Mr. Ravndal, if you will..."

Aktuh started coming over to her with the Norwegian, and then stopped when he thought he might be interfering. She waved him to come forward.

"Mr. Ravndal," she said to the science officer, "I gave your department full scans for both tl'khoto and i'tiahavh stone. I need you to compare them to the ihlmetite and discover the similar properties which enables them to contain such life forms. Mr. Aktuh."

The Klingon watched her as Aricin Ravndal attacked his tricorder, speaking to his departments through its comm line. The engineer's passion came not only from the challenge, like Ravndal's, but also from the opportunity to see if she was the woman sung about in all his people's songs.

If she could keep their excitement stirred for this mission, if she could do that for all three of them, that would keep them moving forward with her when the inevitable argument came up.

"Mr. Aktuh, once the scientists have the answer regarding the stones' natural properties, you and your people must devise a synthetic that will provide the same containment ability. You will not have much time."

He nodded and joined his tricorder to the science officer's. The air took on the undercurrent of their murmuring back and forth.

Now she must work on her task. She stepped closer to the cavern wall and the rich ihlmetite vein.

"Computer," she ordered the tricorder, "contact the F'ssar's medical database for the energy pattern made by Vulcan brain waves."

Tuh'r'ict came up next to her. Fortunately, he lowered his voice so the other two officers didn't hear and stop their work. "Vulcan brain waves? Admiral, just what specifically are these life forms you have us looking for?"

"Clearly, Captain, I have you looking for Vulcans." She said it in a matter of fact way, but she knew the unavoidable argument was here.

"Vulcans... who have died? And now live in that rock? With all due respect, Admiral, why didn't you mention it was Vulcans before?"

"For the obvious reason, Captain, that it would make you jump to the conclusion you are now thinking. Do not hesitate to say it. I have already stated you should speak freely."

His lips curled back from his fangs, not as a threat, but the normal Caitian gesture of being defensive. "Evolution demands I play devil's advocate, Admiral."

Of course, he didn't say those words. He spoke in Caitian, unfortunately louder than he had before. Aktuh looked up sharply and mouthed in Klingon "Qatlh yoj", and her translator chip rendered it as the Vulcan concept of mesyut-zan-tor. But something about the way Tuh'r'ict had said it reminded Saavik of a debate between Spock and his late friend, Leonard McCoy, and her mind added the old Federation Standard translation.

"Of course you must," she agreed.

The captain's eyes searched hers before he looked back at his officers and motioned them to return to their work.

He said what he had to. "It sounds like you have us hunting ghosts."

"It does, especially when I add that my only evidence of these life forms comes from a conversation with one of them. Despite that, Captain, I do not ask you for spiritual faith."

"Even with the scans unable to find any more evidence that this is a life form?"

"Yes, because you have the experience to know that the most advanced technology has limitations. It is how we progress, by finding those limitations and going beyond them. Captain, there was time in the history of every one of the four people represented here when they announced they were alone in the universe because their technology found no one else. And yet here we are in defiance of those findings. You are too young to know the time when everyone in Starfleet had to speak one language because technology couldn't accommodate us doing anything else. Now we can communicate in our native languages with even your ship bearing a name foreign to Earth."

"With that being said, Admiral, you must admit that not even all Vulcans believe in the concept of katras. It's still disputed by a big part of your planet."

"Yes, it is. Imagine how this mission will stimulate those debates."

Tuh'r'ict's head swung to stare at her, his ears perked up and forward. After a beat, his sharp teeth gleamed again, this time in a smile. "Do you play a hunch, Admiral?"

She arched her eyebrows in response. "In that, I must disappoint you, Captain. I am merely following information from a reliable source."

Saavik was more than capable of carrying on this discussion while she checked the sensor readings. But Tuh'r'ict had to take a moment while he thought of his answer. At last, he spoke.

"I attended a lecture in my last year at the Academy where a panel described what it meant to be a good officer. I particularly remember one person saying 'it is a fine balance of knowing when to question and when to listen'. I think I have reached the moment to stop questioning and start listening."

She nodded in appreciation of his support, but he suddenly grinned. "You handled me very well, Admiral. Very diplomatically."

"I have not been married to an Ambassador for this long without learning some skills."

They turned back to her tricorder as she made one last comment. "I remember the lecture to which you referred. The hosting committee did not appreciate my words as much as you did, especially my brevity."

"Speaking as a member of that audience, Admiral, we appreciated your brevity. And you said more in twenty-five words than the rest of the panel did with their long speeches." He looked at the tricorder panel suspended in the air. "Still no readings. Maybe, as you said, they are on a spectrum we can't scan."

"Possibly. Or... the ihlmetite traps them within the stone, unlike tl'khoto and i'tiahavh. Perhaps that property also blocks their pattern."

He finished the thought for her. "A probe?"

A thin probe might be safe, if introduced just inside the ihlmetite to prevent major damage to the containment, and slow enough so any katras forms still alive would be warned it was coming. "Agreed."

"I'll get one from the MVD."

Saavik was Vulcan so she showed nor felt the strain of waiting and watching the probe. Tuh'r'ict was a starship captain, so he showed no stress either, but his eyes dropped twice to the tricorder's chronometer.

The probe reached the ore vein, and Saavik sensed a heightened awareness. She missed the fur suddenly standing up along the Caitian's neck and head as she got only a slight distance from the cavern wall and began opening her mind's shields.

"Admiral--" Tuh'r'ict began.

Her fingers barely brushed the rock. A violent charge, first like an implosion, erupted under her fingertips. Someone dashed in front of her, too fast for her to identify if it was T'Pau or someone like her, and then, in the same second, an explosion like a concussion grenade detonated behind the other's presence. Whoever it was crashed into her, blowing her off her feet and sending her flying across the chamber. She went limp and blacked out.

When she came to, the Caitian leaned over her, filling her vision. Just behind him, blocking out the rest of the light, was Aktuh and Ravndal.

"A medical team is standing by in our Sickbay," the captain said. "We're beaming you up right now."

"No."

She needed Sickbay's care and most likely at least a full night in a Shantip healing sleep. Her mind and body felt short-circuited, her nerve endings either trembling from the explosion or burned. But until those katra lives were safe, she would not leave them.

She struggled to her feet, almost falling again. Tuh'r'ict and Ravndal suddenly became shy cadets, overly gentle in taking her arm as if afraid to offend an admiral by implying she was too weak or too old to help herself. Aktuh was more pragmatic. He grabbed a big fistful of her uniform and swept her up and onto her feet. All three of them hovered around her, watching.

She gathered herself as best she could. "What is our status?"

Ravndal spoke, the one person of the F'ssar who best understood what this meant to her. "Admiral, you found your evidence."

He gestured to her tricorder ring, and she activated it. In less than a split second the holopic took to appear, she registered that the shock that burned her nervous system had come through her mind. If it had been a physical charge, her tricorder ring would have been destroyed.

That thought faded from importance when she saw the readings: wave patterns, some barely registering, and one stronger than the others. Their patterns, especially the last one, were altered from the one in the medical databanks, but unmistakably, she had found them: the Lailara katra survivors and the lost Elder. Still alive.

But her countdown had reached zero.

"Mr. Ravndal, what is the situation with your research?"

"That isn't such good news, Admiral. We came close to a theory, but despite the parallels we found between the ihlmetite here and the Vulcan tl'khoto stone, we came to a deadend with the i'tiahavh. The only thing it has in common with the other two is that it's stone. We found none of the properties we see in the other two. Vulcan has contacted the F'ssar and offered whatever help we need."

"I spoke with them before transporting to the caverns. I told them you might require their resources."

Ravndal looked overwhelmed at the thought of having all of Vulcan's resources for the asking. "They even rescanned a new tl'khoto sample, but it's the Romulan i'tiahavh data that's old. Can't we get a new sample for it? They might have missed something back when they scanned this one."

"A new sample from that planet is impossible, Mr. Ravndal. It no longer exists." She had destroyed Hellguard back when she was a cadet. "But that scan is reliable. My husband made it."

Tuh'r'ict jumped in. "No one questions the Ambassador's abilities, Admiral Saavik. It's as you pointed out: the limitations of technology. What we have now, Ambassador Spock did not have then."

She had to agree. "We will contact the Romulans and ask where else i'tiahavh exists, but it will take time."

The captain's eyes met hers. "Without another containment substance, you want to take the ihlmetite vein -- with the life forms inside -- right to Vulcan."

"I cannot allow that vein to be mined, not without a way to protect those lives."

"Admiral... I can't allow you to divert the F'ssar for that long. The Vidrmal need that ore. I know we have one hundred and ten lives needing to get to Vulcan, but the Vidrmal... well, they number in the hundreds of thousands. It's not fair, but it's the truth."

Her eyes bored hard into his. "I know the mathematics of command as well as you, Captain. But the F'ssar is not the only ship taking ihlmetite to the Vidrmal, and while they are a nomadic race living in severely damaged ships -- damaged through their absurd experiment -- the Vidrmal will not die if we do not deliver this shipment on time."

His voice was sad. "We don't know that, Admiral. The humans have a saying: for want of a nail... the kingdom was lost." He took a step forward. "We don't have to fight this battle now, Admiral. Give my crew the time it takes to reach the Vidrmal. By then, we could find a solution, the Romulans could get us the fresh scan we need, or we'll find some other way."

"And if they don't?"

"Then I promise to help you fight for every extra second it takes until we make those katra forms safe. We already re-started the mining in every cavern but this one. With cargo bays full of ihlmetite, we can better negotiate to keep this vein to ourselves for one trip to Vulcan."

She thought over his argument, then dipped her head in appreciation. "Quite logical, Captain."

A low, deep thrum of pleasure sounded in his chest. "We should contact the Romulans for that i'tiahavh right away." The fur all over his body stood straight on end, and the pleasing thrum turned abruptly into a low growl. "It's back."

Saavik sensed again, at last, the unmistakable presence returning.

*I apologize, young Saavik, for not meeting you here as I first promised. We were needed on Vulcan.*

The power to travel with only a thought... "T'Pau, you may need to seek help from your kind again. I have been unable to, so far, provide another containment substance. Our research has reached an obstacle with the i'tiahavh. We will continue with our attempts, but we cannot leave for Vulcan immediately."

The F'ssar officers stared around them, each in turn either repeating "T'Pau..." in a low voice or just mouthing the name.

*I heard this as I approached. You misunderstood my earlier meaning.*

"She's overflowing the tricorder buffers!" Ravndal exclaimed. He was ecstatic.

Now that they knew what to look for, Saavik saw that when T'Pau spoke to them, her energy model appeared on the high end of the tricorder's spectrum with an even more evolved wave pattern. But when she didn't need to dampen her power to create a mental speech that wouldn't hurt them, her energy went off the scale. The tricorder couldn't hold the amount of data streaming in from the scans.

She was certain that when she crosschecked this scan with the one made in her rooms, she'd find the pattern.

*Those rescued from the Romulan colony did not survive in the mountains. It was the weapons cases that served as an alternative containment substance.*

Weapons cases...

A shadow force within the Romulan Empire at that time had created a weapon on Hellguard which, when detonated, neutralized oxygen molecules in the air. One had been detonated in Starfleet Command, making Saavik’s lost memories come back and lead her return to Hellguard. That was the mission where she had destroyed the planet that had, as T'Pau elegantly put it, gave birth to her.

She still pictured it clearly. A clear case, bright with contained energies, so very beautiful and so sickeningly deadly. The Vulcans in sealed testing booths clutching for air and dying in mere seconds... for her sake.

She cleared her mind of the memory. It served no purpose.

Since the weapon's case could hold the energies that dispersed the oxygen destroying molecules, Saavik could believe it held a katra albeit with possible deterioration.

"Captain Tuh'r'ict, contact the USS Discovery. Tell them to divert to an intersect point with your course. They will be taking all your ihlmetite to the Vidrmal."

Saavik pulled very old records, as old as Spock's i'tiahavh scan, from one of her secure databanks. She reduced the information to the weapon's case itself and transmitted it to Aktuh's tricorder, handing hers to Ravndal.

"Mr. Aktuh, I need you to build me a very large box. You have until we rendezvous with the Discovery."

Two days later, Saavik stood on the largest cargo deck on the F’ssar, Tuh’r’cit next to her. They watched as Aktuh and his team re-checked the clear container holding the chunk of ore that took up nearly the whole bay. Ravndal fine-tuned the sensors inside the container.

Saavik once had the illogical thought that seeing such a container again would bring back the memories of seeing them on Hellguard. But when it was so much larger and the deadly dance of energies were missing, this container made no connection in her mind with the weapon that spawned it.

The Caitian smoothed down the fur sticking straight up on his neck and head. “I wished it would stop doing that!”

Saavik silently agreed, for his sake. He brushed down the fur on his arms, and she imagined the pelt on his body being pinched by his uniform, all in reaction to T'Pau and one Elder waiting outside the ship.

Sarek was noticeably absent.

“Permission to speak freely, Admiral?”

She glanced to her left where he waited. “I thought we had progressed past the time where you needed to ask, Captain.”

A sound like a contented, miniature thunderclap rumbled in his chest. She still thought it too deep to be called a purr.

“Sickbay is complaining you left too early.”

“My compliments to your medical staff, Captain, but I had no need to stay for such a routine procedure as a bone knit scan. I suffered no broken bones on Hranure, and the full skeletal regeneration process can wait until my scheduled appointment on Vulcan next month.”

After all, it was merely a preventive health measure meant for people over a certain age based on species and way of life. It re-fused and strengthened each bone so it returned to the strength and health of her youth. She would take it, as she did every other year as recommended, but it took almost half a day and she would not have any delays until she had these life forms safe.

Tuh’r’ict’s whiskers flexed in a gesture of Caitian amusement. “Not to mention, depriving Admiral Olsen and his allies the chance to reassign you away from this project.”

“Sound tactical thinking, Captain.”

He cursed in the next second, not over what she said, but over his fur standing up again when T’Pau darted inside the ship and then back out again to the Elder. No doubt reporting on some detail. Saavik had found it... entertaining to have her first image corrected of T’Pau still commanding the situation. With the arrival of the Elder outside, Saavik was reminded of how young and less experienced T’Pau was in her katra form, the way Saavik was to her.

“Admiral, I admit I envy you.”

Tuh’r’ict watched the activity going on around the deck, but his eyes took on a faraway look and his tail swished at the tip. “To have such a future,” he said with the same distracted note that his eyes held.

Saavik didn’t interrupt him, unsure if he made conversation or was lost in his thoughts and best left uninterrupted.

“I don’t know if I would consider myself spiritual. I was taught the different beliefs of my people, of other people, but as an adult, I was so focused on going wherever the stars led me, that I didn’t think about something beyond... here. The way I was so focused on getting these life forms safe that I didn’t consider anything beyond it.”

He looked at her. “But now I am. You know what comes next, you know the answer to the question of 'is this all there is'. I’m beginning to envy you Vulcans for knowing what comes after death.”

She took her time answering, watching the deck activity as he had done while she weighed her words. Something very private about her people was naked in front of him. A part of her recoiled at that exposure, but she wouldn’t have gotten to this point as quickly as she had without his efforts. And he had just revealed something very private about himself.

At last, she said, “In the cavern, I told you I did not ask for spiritual belief. I must tell you I cannot give spiritual guidance either. You speak of a possible life following true death, where the new form cannot die or be killed. These katra forms are not that life. To use Mr. Ravndal’s first metaphor, they are similar to butterflies. Death to the body provided the necessary cocoon. They emerged from it in their new form, but they are still subject to the rules of life.”

He leaned his forearms on the rail in front of them, listening as she went on.

“If they have died, as their crewmates on the Lailara died, I do not know if they then would exist in the type of spiritual life you suggest. I say that not to refute your people’s beliefs or anyone else’s. I have heard a number of reputable people state we all go through this stage. That would make Vulcan’s process merely our way of evolving in a manner all life experiences. I simply do not know.”

He nodded and grew quiet again for a moment. “I understand what you’re saying. But, Admiral, I wonder if you see the enormity you face. This is going to throw Vulcan debate into a storm of questions. Such as why haven’t the people like T’Pau ever contacted you before? Are they Vulcans or something else now? If they are Vulcans, should they have a say in Vulcan policies like they did when they were... well, in their bodies. I’ll back you up that this has really happened, that the readings are real and that I’ve spoken with T’ Pau myself. So will Ravndal and Aktuh. But even with that, some are going to say you are talking to ghosts while others will claim the whole thing is a delusion.”

“I know. And I know the other questions as well. Are there anymore lost out there and how do we avoid losing so many like the Lailara?”

And Hellguard.

“If I convince enough of Vulcan that I have experienced the truth, detractors might nevertheless force the current situation to continue the way it is. They will cite either a growing belief in something which does not exist or that the deep seated fear of dying without saving the katra will become worse. And what of the Romulans? Are they capable of this growth and change, and if they are, do we build another Hall or do they enter ours? What will be their reaction to losing so many without having this opportunity before?”

“What will be the reaction of anyone in the Federation?” Tuh’r’ict thought out loud. “ Will humans, the Andorians... any of us resent Vulcans for having something we may not? And I hate to say this, Admiral, but what happens when this knowledge gets into enemy hands or the people who will resent this? Did we just hand them a new weapon to torture Vulcans?”

“I have thought of that Security risk. Which is why I have issued the following order. The Vulcan aspects of this mission are strictly classified. The logs will show a discovery of a new life form, energy based, voluntarily taken to my homeworld for further research.” She met his eyes. “My people need time to deal with the affects on ourselves in order to prepare for the affects on the Federation.”

“You didn’t have to explain your order. I have to obey it regardless, Admiral.”

“You are correct. I am not required to explain.”

His tail had stopped swishing lazily awhile ago. “And I don’t have say what I’m about to. If you gave this order before our conversation just now, I’d think you were overreacting and I’d resent it. But now...”

His ears flattened against his skull, maybe thinking if it was his world facing this. He finally lifted them. “You have a helluva Cause to champion, Admiral.”

I can imagine Spock’s reaction. That eyebrow climbing up, that look of part mockery and feigned innocence at their positions being reversed. That she, and not him this time, had this crusade.

Such thoughts were interrupted when the crew gave Saavik their ready status. She signaled for the next step in the procedure to begin.

A fine pulse sifted through the ihlmetite. Almost as an anticlimax, it made no sound as it collapsed into small chunks and dust.

"Transporters," the captain ordered, "lock onto the ore and beam it into the containers."

The ihlmetite disappeared from the deck. Tuh’r’ict checked with his deck crew to make sure the final beam out was done as well. Then he called out, “Discovery, you’re all set. Safe journey and thank you.”

The other Starfleet ship acknowledged and signed off.

Saavik already reeled from the mental power coming from the katras' containment chamber, but she still waited, not realizing she held her breath. They didn't know how much damage was done to the survivors during their journey to the planet or while they stayed inside the rock. If the katras had lost too much of their identities, they might never recover.

The Elder inside did so first, and Saavik heard something similar to a mental, warbling call, like a mother to her young.

An eternal pause happened before the first one answered.

*I am.*

*Yes,* the Elder encouraged.

*Yes. I am. I am... was... am T'Feht*.

*I am,* another said in answer to her call. *I am Syvlik*.

More spoke, sometimes hesitating, then growing stronger, until the worst happened.

*We-* someone began.

*No,* the Elder corrected. *I, not we. You are separate, you have your own identity that you need to remember. Who are you?*

*We...*

The katra joined to the first tried pulling away. The Elder helped until the second could say, *I am Mw'kur.*

The first in the pair floundered, even with the Elder's support. Saavik drew close to the container, not knowing how to help.

A new voice suddenly spoke to the first. *I remember you. You are Ts'Ul.*

...*Ts'Ul?... No, we...*

Saavik's hands clenched.

*Yes. Yes... Ts'Ul. I. I am... Ts'Ul*.

“Is everything all right?” Tuh’r’ict asked.

Before Saavik could answer, the real disaster happened. Three separate katras called out to the Elder, weak and thin.

*You are?* she asked.

No answer.

*You know you exist, you have identity. You are?*

One spoke. *I... that is unknown.*

The other two echoed the first. The Elder asked the rest of the surviving crew, but the injured three could not give enough information about themselves for anyone to identify them. Their voices dimmed as they weakened more.

“Elder, what can be done?” Saavik answered. “Would katra bearers help? Perhaps providing a better containment, the type they were prepared to enter?”

Tuh’r’ict had most likely heard the Elder, even barely, but not the other katras. Even so, he had heard Saavik. “I volunteer,” he said without hesitation. “I know others in my crew will as well.”

Ravndal stepped forward. “I volunteer with the captain, Admiral. How many more do you need?”

Aktuh joined him. So did a number of the other personnel on the deck.

*Their service honors us,* the Elder answered and Saavik passed this along to make sure they heard it. *And the theory is a sound one. However, these three are too weak. Even with you who is a trained bearer, they might be lost in your own identity and damage you in return.*

*You remember something of your lives,* she spoke to the three severely injured katras. *Focus and recall one memory. Where did you serve on your ship? Think of no other detail but your station.*

The silence stretched so long, Saavik thought it was too late.

*Engineering.*

Another too long wait before they heard the second one answer, *Navigation.*

The third answer mercifully came right after it. *Communications.*

*Good,* the Elder encouraged. *Were you male or female? Only this one detail. Your shipmates will aid you in finding your identity as we focus on one more detail. Only this one.*

It took two more details after that before the other survivors identified them -- Kamil, T’e, and Sirl. Except hearing their names did not make them remember the way it had worked for Ts’Ul.

“I can recall the Discovery,” Saavik said. “If they require the ihlmetite.”

*No,* the Elder said. *Notice they retain their Form and they slowly remember. I will stay with them. Together with the others, we will keep them until they reach the Hall where they will be healed.*

Saavik dared to say, “You are weakened yourself, Elder.”

*It cannot be helped. I cannot allow another to take my place. It is my weakened state which prevents them from being overwhelmed. I will be well. On Vulcan, we will all heal.*

Saavik nodded to Tuh’r’ict. “Bridge,” he ordered. “Best speed to Vulcan. And I mean our fastest speed, Mr. Terrouh.”

“Aye, sir.”

*Young one.*

Saavik couldn’t help the impulse of turning around when the Elder called her, illogical as it was. She didn’t need to face the container for the katra Elder to hear her. “ Yes?”

*I was known as Ryis when I was in your form. In our language now, I am-*

Saavik heard that mental burst and felt everything that Ryis was. The names were a gift of thanks.

“I am honored, Ryis.”

She stayed on the deck as Ravndal began giving his people final orders, then followed the captain to the lift.

“You did it, Admiral.”

She glanced over at him. “The three who suffer the worst wounds are of some concern, but yes, I do think we will reach Vulcan with all one hundred and ten. My compliments to your crew.”

“Ravndal thinks you’re going to inspect his labs,” Tuh’r’ict confided. “I don’t know if he’s more nervous or excited by the thought.”

“What makes you believe so?”

“Because I’ve been wondering if you’re going to inspect me commanding my bridge.”

She lifted her eyebrows. “I will spare you all the Admiral’s inspection.”

“Spared an admiral’s inspection is a relief,” he agreed. “Your opinion would be welcome. Perhaps first thing in the morning?”

“I look forward to it, Captain.”

She left the lift and went to her cabin. She felt the peace of ‘All was well’. Even with the more injured katras, the Elder spoke confidently of their survival.

She began preparing for their arrival to Vulcan. Not for taking the katras to the Hall of Thought; that would be done in the same, perhaps overly careful method she had used to bring them on board. To avoid the risk of transporter energies affecting them, she had three shuttles with tractor beams tow the ihlmetite on board. She would have the container landed on Vulcan outside the Hall in the same way.

No, what she had to prepare for was what Tuh’r’ict called the enormity of the situation. A vastness of debate and struggle. Change. It could go in so many different directions. The detractors forcing them nowhere (But these lives will still be saved). Or would she and those like her create a way to spread a lifeline of alternative katra containment amongst the fleets and stations. And how could she create a solution where the alternative containment would be destroyed with a ship?

T'Pau came into the room, letting her slow approach warn Saavik.

*You always have more questions.*

"Of course. I am Vulcan."

*And seeking solutions is most important. We will find answers to your questions, but not tonight. I am here for a different purpose.*

Before she could ask what that was, Sarek appeared again on the edge of her awareness. He spoke with T'Pau in that mental language Saavik couldn't speak, but could only draw hints of meaning. This time, she felt the word ‘reward’ and she didn't hold her tongue.

"I ask for no reward. However, if I did, it would be for Sarek to speak with me himself. If he distances himself because I have wronged him in some way, I wish to know how so I may correct the error."

*You were already granted a reward,* T’Pau answered. *You would have died in the cavern when you touched the ore. Did you not feel it draw your katra? If he--*

Saavik heard that burst of mental summary that represented all of Sarek's self.

*--had not interceded, your body would have died and your katra would have been trapped with the others.*

Saavik kept her thoughts organized so she could best say what she wanted. "I am indebted to him, for his saving me this time and for all the moments before this. But I am now even more confused. Why does Sarek think so highly of me and yet stay distant?"

*I never claimed he was Sarek.*

On her boundaries, the other presence called to T'Pau. She ignored him.

*You earlier translated correctly his relationship to you, but you wrongly attributed that identity to Sarek.*

The pieces came together. Her interpreting the presence as her father, because Vulcans did not use the term in-law within the family. She had thought of how much Sarek’s support meant over the years, how much it especially had meant a few nights ago when she relived the pain of what had been done on Hellguard to create her life.

But... T'Pau had told her that Vulcan katras had survived Hellguard and were rescued to the Hall. Now as kinswoman, T’Pau told Saavik she had misidentified this presence with her translation. It had never meant Sarek, but her father.

Her biological father. The Vulcan who had been captured, raped, and who had died on Hellguard.

The old wound opened again and bled disgrace and hurt.

He approached her slowly, letting her grow used to who he was, and perhaps even hesitating lest she was disappointed that he was not Sarek. Parts of his identity had the feel of scars in some places, and others felt as artificial as Ravndal's cybernetic arm. As she touched them, as hesitant as he was, she saw these were the parts lost when his katra began dissipating on Hellguard, before his willpower to not let go of his bond with his betrothed found shelter in a weapon casing. These pieces were given back to him from the memories of his family, friends, and from his betrothed to make him whole.

"Your betrothed?"

His wife's face appeared again.

"T'Pren... the T’Pren I knew on Hellguard -- she was your betrothed?"

She didn’t hear a worded or thought response, but a deep sense of truth.

"Did she know I was... yours?"

His voice came at last, sensing her need; full now, deep and rich. *Yes.*

"Because my appearance closely resembles yours?"

*Yes.*

"Then she also saw... the part of me that was not you. What was... Ajeya." How could she bear--

Any hesitancy he had before disappeared as her pain grew between them -- and for the first time, between her and T’Pren. *Because she saw you. It is why you remain so important to her. Not for me, not in spite of Ajeya. Because she saw you are Saavik. It is the gift of sight she gave me.*

A quick blossom of memory: a squirming baby held in a healer's hands while she kicked and punched the air.

*It is you.*

She looked through his eyes at herself, a newborn covered with Ajeya's blood, shivering in the air.

She knew he died shortly after this moment.

"I beg forgiveness." The words were torn from her in a tremble. "It was for me that they did this to you. It was for me that they took you from T'Pren. If not for me--"

He hushed these words, and focused her again on the scene. He once looked on this moment in a far different way. For the first time in his life, the calm and inner peace that came so easily to him before, a trait inherited by Saavik’s son, fled his grasp. He knew anger, pain, and bitterness on Hellguard. It took too many years in the Hall for him to regain harmony and put aside the memory of Saavik from the memory of Ajeya, the Romulan woman who forced herself on him. Now when he looked at this moment, he did it to share the only time he and his child had together. Until now.

His child, Saavik thought

Her old wound had reopened at hearing of the surviving katras from Hellguard. She was too intelligent not to consider, even subconsciously, that her parent might be one of them. That idea brought with it the possibility that he blamed her, or at least saw her as a painful reminder that he couldn't accept. His was the last rejection that still could have touched her.

It was the reason she stayed away from his family and never spoke his name.

Now to learn that T'Pren and he had planned a life together, how that was torn from them, and how T'Pren had to look into Saavik's eyes and see Ajeya... If their positions had been reversed, Saavik did not know if she could open her heart to a child of the woman who had raped and destroyed Spock.

Such speculation, however, had no purpose. T’Pren had accepted her which was so hugely important on its own, but now to know she was accepted for the good qualities that made her who she was, not because she was the child of T’Pren’s betrothed.

Some of the light from that understanding made Saavik also able to see her father had kept his distance from her knowing the reawakened possibility of rejection hurt her.

*I did not mean to bring you pain.*

It was why he sought to mentor the younger, less experienced T'Pau as a liaison when the decision was made to contact Saavik for aid. Except T’Pau had insisted avoidance of pain wasn’t healing, and that if Saavik began to heal with his help now, she would be spared the trial of doing it in the Hall when the wound had grown deeper with each passing year.

*Here.*

He showed Saavik again his memory of her as a newborn, squirming in the healer's hands as she was presented to him, and how he had learned in his years in the Hall of Ancient Thought to no longer think of this daughter as a symbol. He gave this memory, cleansed of all negativity, as a gift.

*T'Pren and I will return to the Hall to teach you when you arrive, young one.* The sense of hesitation came back. *If you will have me.*

"If I will have you?"

Again the memory and his pain as his younger, physical self did not reach out for his daughter. As a parent, he should have held her and feel that first touch of her presence. He had done nothing but watch her, distant.

*You have the right to reject me for that act.*

She reached out to him, needing the touch as much as he did. She had been wrong when she had thought she was no longer that tortured youth, but she could at last begin putting that part of her at ease.

At one hundred and seventy years old, it was about time.

"Father."

She gave him her memory of how he had looked from her newborn eyes. It wasn’t as easily cleansed as his had been, since his not reaching out for her was clear, but she gave him something else. She had not looked at this memory for the majority of her life, especially after learning Ajeya was biologically her mother. She had avoided the risk of realizing which of the drab garbed figures was him and not one of the science team, the same way she had avoided his family and name.

Now she looked at it, at him, and saw their resemblance.

He surprised her by putting his thoughts now into the expression of his younger self that look down at his baby daughter. He could not change his not reaching to hold her, but he could show the pride and, yes, the love he felt as he watched her move strongly and look up at him from the hands that presented her to him.

Saavik layered around him the births of Setik, T'Kel, and T'Pren: her children, his grandchildren. Behind them, she added the births of her own grandchildren, his great-grandchildren. He already had seen them, he must have, especially after he left the Hall. But that was not the point.

She spoke out loud, instead of only through her mind, the traditional gift of words a Vulcan said at these moments. Spock had given them to Sarek when he handed his father his first grandchild. She said them for the same reason with an added meaning: to show she rejoiced in their relationship.

"Father, thy House continues."