(Standard Year 2249)
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“Captain’s Log: the Havens have finally done it; they’ve decided to join the Federation. Whether or not this is good for the Federation is not for me to say. However, it is my and the Enterprise’s job to pick up and transport the Haven delegation, as well as all the other delegates of the founding worlds of the Federation, to Babel for the signing of the final agreements. We will be meeting the ambassadors of Terra, Indi, Vulcan, 61 Cygni and Alpha Centauri at Starbase Seven. The Haven shuttle is due to dock with us en route.

“Also, I had authorized the production of a play by members of the crew for members of the crew. I thought this would be good for morale purposes. Someone in Starfleet who is undoubtedly named Calvin got wind of this, and we have been ordered to give a performance for the ambassadors. I hope my crew of amateur actors will someday forgive me for this.”

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The Ambassador took the time to finish a rather large pipe of Rigellian before leaving his quarters on board the Leather. He’d had a long and checkered career in the Haven Empire, having been called on to do a number of things that were technically unrelated to his specialty, but he’d never before been an ambassador. Not that he wasn’t qualified for the job – he’d spent years traveling in and out of the Federation on business, and had negotiated quite a number of profitable deals. He was one of the Empire’s Senior Traders, having achieved the rank of Dealer Extraordinaire at a very young age. It was as respected a position as any Haven could have. Which is why he couldn’t figure out why he’d been stuck with a job on which he was obviously not going to make a profit.

“Somebody probably found out about my getting cocky on Naois,” he muttered to himself, taking a long, final draw on the pipe. “Not only do I lose a quarter up, but I’m given the thankless task of shepherding ex-Slavers, clandestine dissidents and may Devri help me a Monolem around what is potentially the most boring and certainly the least lucrative group of beings in the known galaxy.”

He sighed, then stood, straightening his comfortably formal attire, glancing in the mirror to check his appearance. “At least I know a few people there,” he said to the handsome visage. “It might not be a total loss.”

Tomor Rand, one of the few aides he really trusted, stuck his head around the door. “Ready, boss?”

“Sure,” Ambassador Lane Gage replied. “Why not?”

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“Ladies, gentlemen,” Jade Han said loudly enough to be heard above the small riot that was taking place before her in the briefing room that was serving as a rehearsal hall, “shut up!” It got everyone’s attention, although she thought for a moment that they were going to unite against her. To her relief, her cast simply waited impatiently for her to continue. “I don’t care what Commodore Calvin wants,” she told them, “we’ve promised the crew this little entertainment and we aren’t – I repeat, are not backing out now.”

“We can’t anyway,” Dav Miller pointed out in a mutter loud enough for everyone to hear. “We’re under orders.”

Jade sighed and the complaints broke out again.

“Have you seen the costume Daffy’s whipped up for me?” Sulu asked the group in general. “I’m not wearing that in front of – oh my god, do you know who I‘ll be wearing that in front of?!”

“Yes,” Jade answered, “and as you’re still doing penance, yes, you will.” He gave her a hopeless, pleading glance that she expected and ignored.

Ruth Valley, who had been slumped sullenly in her chair, abruptly sat up very straight, a look of sheer horror on her face. “That song!” she gasped. “Goddess, not in front of them! I won’t. I didn’t want to do this in the first place. Jade, you know I can’t act.”

“But you can sing,” Jade informed her. “You’ll do it.”

“’Sides, it a part you born t’ play,” Noel DelMonde drawled, then added in a mutter not much softer than Dav’s had been, “you done ‘nough rehearsin’ over th' years.”

“Considering your role, Del,” Sulu countered, “I wouldn’t talk.”

“I seen your costume,” Del returned with a nasty grin. “It you.”

Sulu leapt up. Dav and Ramon Ordona grabbed his arms and pulled him back down.

Jade said, “Enough,” then immediately added, “and shut up. We are all mature, responsible people and I don’t want any more of this childishness.” Mrraal made a low growling sound and Jade spun to him. “Well?

“I was just agreeing with you,” the big black-furred Caitian said hastily.

“Good.” The doctor and director again faced her cast. “Now, shall we continue the rehearsal?” It took a while, but she finally got her troupe’s grudging consent.

I can hardly wait till I’m done with this, she thought as she switched on the music disc. What I need is a hot bath, a pipe or two of Rigellian, and time to contemplate whether to murder them or Dave Calvin.

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As the shuttle settled gently onto the pad in the starship’s bay, Gage took the opportunity to study the four people who were accompanying him. The Haven Trading Empire had no official diplomatic service, so all the members of the ambassadorial party had been drafted from various other professions to represent the Empire on this grand occasion.

Tomor Rand was with Imperial Security. He worked mostly in Intelligence and knew the Federation from years of spying on it. He also happened to be Gage’s personal Security advisor, which, from Gage’s point of view, was a definite plus. Rand was in favor of the HTE joining up with the Federation. Not only did it make less work for him, it opened up what to him were wonderful opportunities for his love life.

Then there was Lita Monolem. She was one of the large, powerful Monolem Family whose first loyalty was always to itself. Monolems tended to want what was most profitable for the Empire since they fully intended to own it outright someday. He was almost certain she could be trusted – as long as he didn’t try to intrude on Family business.

He was going to have to watch the other two.

Captain Relf Coron was the representative of the slaver faction. They were a very large part of the Haven Gross Imperial Revenue and were very wary about the Fed’s anti-slavery policy. Understandably, they were opposed to joining the United Federation of Planets. Gage didn’t exactly blame them. They had the most to lose. The slavers were definitely not happy campers, but rather than get themselves outlawed, they’d decided to go along with the Monolem’s – the majority’s decision, Gage corrected his thought smoothly – hoping the Feds wouldn’t insist on banning the trading of sentient flesh within Imperial borders. Since Coron had already had contact with the crew of the Federation ship that was to transport them, the Emperor thought it might be amusing to include him in the party.

Selli Oran was about eighteen, pretty, delicate-looking, and Gage had high hopes of getting her into bed before the mission was over. She was also a member of a rather odd faction who thought the Haven Trading Empire should conquer the galaxy. Her bunch wasn’t taken very seriously at home, but the Emperor had appointed one of them to the delegation to keep the rest of them quiet. It was officially Rand’s job to keep the silly girl from doing or saying anything too terribly offensive for the duration of the visit. Unofficially it was a part of Gage’s responsibility – which was only one of several reasons he had for wanting her pretty little body under, over, or in any other compromising position with his own.

He sighed. Thankless tasks did nothing to arouse his enthusiasm. “Well, let’s get this over with,” he said to his staff, and signaled for the shuttle’s doors to be opened. “Smile, children,” he added as he stepped forward.

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Jim Kirk straightened his dress uniform and reflected that all this dressing-up did nothing for his mood. He’d be practically living in his formal wear all the way to Babel. And it was ten days distant from their present position. I’ve had it worse, he reminded himself. I suppose. No chance of being stabbed by Orion pirates this—

His thoughts stopped abruptly as the craft’s doors opened and he caught sight of the Haven delegation. Two of the members looked a little more familiar than Jim liked. Coron. As I recall, the last time we met I was leading a boarding party onto his ship. Illegally. But it worked. Havens appreciate that. And what’s a slave dealer doing in a diplomatic delegation anyway?

Anything that earns a profit is a respected profession among the Havens, that’s what.

Why are we letting these people into the Federation?

This is no time to get xenophobic. And I can always refer Captain Coron to Lieutenants Valley and Majiir’s husbands if he causes any trouble. I’m sure Sulu would love to take him down to the gym.

The other familiar face almost made Jim groan; Lane the next time I’m “not” here, make damned certain I never find you and yours “not” here Gage. They’d never met face to face, but the interaction over the viewscreen between their two ships a year and a half previously had made an impression – and not a positive one. How such a man ever got included in a diplomatic party was quite beyond Jim’s comprehension.

The boson’s whistle sounded and Jim automatically stepped forward to greet the Havens. To his utter and everlasting consternation, the man who stepped forward, in the position of ambassador, was Gage himself. The tall Haven, younger-looking than Jim, was dressed in a soft but tight-fitting black suede jumpsuit with black leather boots that came just up over his knees. He wore a great deal of gold and black enameled jewelry. Several small velvet pouches hung at his waist.

Jim did his best to fix a smile on his face. “Welcome to the Enterprise, Ambassador Gage,” he said with all the appropriate sincerity, and ignored the cynical amusement in the Haven’s dark eyes.

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Ah, the Grand Tour, how nice, Gage thought as Captain Kirk escorted him, his people, and a brace of honor guards along the corridors of the great Federation starship. So this is what Fleet’s finest is like. And soon our boys and girls will be serving on board these magnificent ships instead of out earning a decent living like they should. Isn’t peace and cooperation wonderful?

“Nice place you have here,” he said cordially to Kirk.

“Thank you, Mr. Ambassador,” the Federation captain replied with a gracious if somewhat forced and definitely wry smile. “I’ll be certain to tell Starfleet it meets with your approval.”

Gage heard Rand’s stifled snort beside him. Okay then, points to Jimmy for being able to carry on in normal Haven conversational style. He was about to continue when, from the corner of his eye, he caught a familiar face. He smiled with genuine delight. A business opportunity right off the bat.

“Groupie!” he called.

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Daffy Gollub was on her way back to the chemistry lab after having run a test result down to Sickbay. For once, she wasn’t looking forward to being off duty. Meshugah performance, she muttered to herself. So why wasn’t I smart enough to avoid getting conned into this in the first place? Couldn’t I’ve suddenly come down with the plague, or a Pharaoh’s curse, or…

She glanced up at Kirk’s voice. Oy geveult, it’s Bwana and some hot-shit ambassador…

“Groupie?”

Gage?!?

Daffy gasped, went pale, did an abrupt about-face, and fled back the way she had come.

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“Miss Gollub?” Kirk began, then turned to the Ambassador. “Groupie?” he repeated.

Rand cleared his throat. Gage scowled at him, then turned his urbane smile on the captain. “An affectionate nickname,” he explained.

“You know the young lady?”

Again Rand snorted, and again Gage ignored him. “Yes, Captain, we are – acquainted.”

Kirk gave him an odd look but didn’t ask for details that Gage wouldn’t have provided anyway – not without giving the Groupie a chance to buy his silence. “Shall we continue, Captain?” the Haven asked, doing his best to do his duty, despite the longing to hunt up a guaranteed profit.

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“I’ll fall down and break both my legs and you can heal them and be unconscious and we’ll both get out of it.”

“You won’t let me heal you, Roy. And even if I did, you'd be able to perform.”

“Yeah. Shit.”

Sulu and Ruth has just gotten off duty and were deep in trying to find a way to avoid that afternoon’s rehearsal.

“I’ll stab Ramon in the heart causing massive blood loss and you can heal him and be unconscious and I’ll be in the brig,” Sulu tried again.

“And just how are you going to get the star of this fiasco to cooperate?”

“I’m sure Monique can give me a few pointers…”

Neither one noticed Daffy’s headlong rush until she crashed into them.

“Hey, whoa!” Sulu said as he grasped the chemist’s shoulders.

“Bwana’ll have your stripes if you act up with all the VIPs on board,” Ruth added.

“Gage!” Daffy gasped in explanation.

“Gauge?” Ruth questioned, staring perplexedly at her.

“Gage Gage!” Daffy clarified.

“Oh, of course,” Ruth nodded, then shrugged at Sulu. He shrugged back, letting Daffy go. She raced away from them without another word.

“Gauge gauge gauge?” Ruth tried.

“Maybe she’s trying to be engaging for the ambassadors,” Sulu suggested.

Ruth made a face. “You must be really worried, Roy. You’re making bad jokes.”

Sulu scowled. “And wouldn’t you be if you had to wear that outfit?”

The Antari grinned. “For once I agree with Del. It’s you.”

“Not nice, Spike.”

“Penance, Roy.”

The helmsman sighed. “Yeah, okay. But come on, in front of the Indiian ambassador?”

Ruth’s smile didn’t fade. “Oh yeah. I almost forgot.”

“Hell, I’d wear it on the street if it wasn’t…” Sulu muttered.

“I’m sure you would, sugar,” Ruth broke in with a leer and her best Uhura imitation.

“Save those lines for Del.”

“Not nice, Roy.”

“Penance, Spike.”

Ruth frowned, then stuck her tongue out at him. Then she suddenly brightened. “Maybe we could both come down with Rigellian Kasaba Fever?”

“Or laryngitis?”

They walked on, continuing their discussion, completely forgetting Daffy’s warning.

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Lady Amanda sat in the VIP lounge of Starbase Seven, seemingly taking in the colorful bustle that surrounded her with serene dignity. How little they know, she thought as she nodded pleasantly to a passing Indiian. The silver-skinned young man stopped, turning to her.

“Are you well, Lady?” he inquired, his grey eyes anxious with concern.

“Yes, I’m fine,” she replied, knowing better than to argue emotional states with a sensitive. “Just a little nervous. I’m meeting my daughter-in-law for the first time.”

The young man smiled. “Ah, I understand. Tor-zina on your good fortune.” He pressed his left hand to his chest and gave a small bow, then straightened and went on his way.

There’s really nothing to be nervous about, she told herself as she continued her silent monologue. Spock has chosen well, I already know that. Ruth is young, but there’s less difference in their ages than in Sarek’s and mine. And keheils live practically forever.

She sighed, but so softly that no one else would notice. She rearranged the wrap across her shoulders;carefully, so that she could not be accused of fidgeting. I wonder if I should tell him that I knew he was in love with her? After all, he mentioned her in half a dozen tapes or more in the past three years. Amanda smiled to herself. Spock had never said ‘Ruth’ of course. It had been “Miss Valley” this, and Ensign, then “Lieutenant Valley” that. It hadn’t been until she had nearly lost her son to cordrazine addiction that she had learned Keheil ani Ramy was the Ruth Valley he played chess with and enjoyed music with and recommended books to.

I do hope she’s good to him, Amanda mused. And that he’s good to her, too, of course. I hope they make use of the rug. I hope she’s not too career-oriented to want children. Not that The Time will give her much choice – except that she is a keheil. Could she regulate such a thing? That thought sparked both hope and dismay. If Spock could be spared the trials of it… but at the cost of grandchildren? And does she even know about it? Perhaps I should have a talk with her. She’s not Vulcan, and it is the duty of a Vulcan mother-in-law. After all, it was T’Pau who informed me – such as it was. Ruth probably won’t be embarrassed by it. And there’s no real reason for me to be either. She chuckled at herself, wondering if her husband was aware that, after all these years, she sometimes forgot that she wasn’t Vulcan. Not, of course, that Sarek ever did. I’m glad Spock didn’t marry T’Pring – or any other Vulcan, she found herself thinking. Not that it wouldn’t have been nice to have a guarantee of seeing him more than once every ten years… Still, knowing that he’s in love with the woman he’ll be bonded to is more than enough recompense.

Amanda glanced up at the familiar footsteps approaching her. She rose, placing her fingers gently on those of the man she had loved for over forty years, and accompanied Sarek to the transporter room.

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“There is really no need for you to be so nervous,” Spock told the figure that was pacing back and forth across the rug.

Ruth stopped her anxious movement and turned to him. “Someday,” she said, raising a finger at him, “when I’m taking you to Terra to meet Savta we’ll see how you feel.” She scowled. “Of course, to a man who has faced the dangers of space for as long as you have…”

“My grandmothers are named Ingrid and T’Pau,” Spock told her. “Be glad you are not meeting them.”

Ruth’s scowl deepened. “Like that’s supposed to make me feel any better.”

“It was intended to,” Spock returned. “My parents are nowhere near as formidable.” He paused. “You will like my mother, Ruth. And my father is worthy of respect.” The last was said with eyebrows lowered in warning.

Ruth flashed him a smile. “Of course, husband,” she said mildly, then resumed pacing. “Man doesn’t speak to his son for eighteen years and I’m supposed to respect him,” she muttered.

Spock blinked in surprise. “How did you know that?” he asked his wife.

She turned once again, and cleared her throat and admitted, “Uh… Bones told me.”

“Bones,” Spock repeated. “Indeed.”

Ruth took a deep breath. “We were talking about how obstinate some patients are me meaning Roy and him meaning you and he told me about how you were so stubborn about your father’s heart surgery and I said what heart surgery and he started to tirade about how Jim nearly killed himself so that you wouldn’t let your father die even though maybe you had a right to want to and that your mother begged you and you told her just think of what Sarek would say to that and I asked what the problem was and he told me how your father disapproved of your going into Fleet and so you hadn’t spoken to him since you were eighteen and since you were about thirty-six at the time I did the math.”

“Dr. McCoy has no right to discuss the medical history of…” Spock began with a stern frown.

“I’m your wife,” the Antari replied with a shrug. “And a keheil. I’m entitled.”

“Perhaps,” Spock conceded grudgingly, “but any personal difficulty between my father and myself should not be a part of a medical case history.”

Ruth ‘s hands went to her hips. “In case you haven’t noticed,” she told the Vulcan, “Leonard McCoy cares for you. He’s your friend, whether you know it or not. He was upset about the relationship between you and your parents, and was worried that it had been a factor in the decisions that were made, and about its effect on you. He thought I should know.” She paused, her scowl returning. “And so do I.”

Their gazes locked for a long moment, neither one willing to back down. At last, Spock said, “Nevertheless, it should not effect your behavior. My father is worthy of respect.”

This time, Ruth kept her mouth shut. Spock was certain she hadn’t changed her opinion, but she kept her mouth shut.

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The Chief Engineer was almost embarrassingly impressed with him. Jole Costain had no false modesty about his contributions to warp technology, and was used to dealing with the emotional excesses of others; but after all, this was Montgomery Scott. The Human’s expertise and innovation were well known in the engineering field, and more than well-respected. It was flattering to hear Scott’s effusive praise, and Jole returned it whole-heartedly, but it was, to the Indiian’s tia, a bit uncomfortable when done in front of his aides. As ambassador he had always encouraged those who worked under him to consider him a respected equal, not their superior in anything other than the chain of command. They were already snickering at the Human engineer’s enthusiasm and Jole could well imagine the teasing he would get in the Indiian quarters.

He found it fascinating to listen to Scott. There were many aspects of practical engineering that Jole was no longer familiar with. His own theoretical designs, when implemented, had a number of surprising effects, some positive and some negative, and the Indiian was interested in all of them. It had been many years since he had conversed with another engineer in anything but a tutorial relationship. To talk with an equal, to discuss without the necessity of explanation – more, importantly, to feel the understanding … It was wonderful and Jole’s senses drank it in like fine wine. He returned the Human’s zeal and praise in more than equal measure.

They talked for nearly two hours, losing themselves, as engineers tended to do, in the particular joys of the occupation. Then Scott asked if Jole would like to see the engines. The Indiian couldn’t say “yes!” fast enough, and the engineer’s proud eagerness warmed him.

Scott let him right into the outer chambers of the main engines. Jole’s skin shimmered with pleasure. It had been a long time since he’d been around anything other than prototypes.

“Ah,” Scott was saying, “here’s the wee bairns. Beauties, aren’t they?”

Jole understood the sentiment if not the word. “Yes, they are beautiful,” he agreed.

“I almost trust no one else to take care of ‘em,” Scott smiled benignly. “Exceptin’ young Mr. DelMonde - have ye met Noel, Mr. Ambassador?"

"Jole, please," the Indiian returned. "No, I haven't had the pleasure."

Scott chuckled. "Ah, well, then, you might not think of it as a pleasure after the fact. The lad's a fine engineer, but he can be a bit caustic. 'Tis his giftedness, ya ken."

Jole didn't but remained silent, nodding politely.

"And, of course, your lassie, Jole,” Scott enthused.

All the camaraderie that had developed between the two men shattered abruptly. Jole stiffened. “My lassie, Mr. Scott?”

“Aye. Your bairn. Little Jilla.”

The quiet noises from his aides stopped. Jole’s heart thudded painfully and he had to fight to swallow. “I do not know to what you refer, Lieutenant Commander,” he said tightly.

Scott looked confused and Jole felt himself flush at the lie. It is not a lie! he told himself fiercely.

“Your daughter,” the Human said carefully. “Jilla.”

“I have but one girl-child, and her name is Kera,” Jole returned though his heart was breaking. His pain radiated to his aides and from them back to him. Jilla, my child, my poor child…

“It’s said Indiians canna lie, Ambassador,” Scott returned gravely.

“You do not understand Indiian custom, Mr. Scott.”

“I understand you’re denyin’ your own flesh!” the engineer rumbled.

“The child to which you refer no longer exists.” Jole tried to explain.

“The hell she does, man!” Scott shouted. “I can take ya to her right now!”

NO!” Jole realized he was returning the Human’s shout and deliberately calmed himself. “Mr. Scott, I ask you to leave what you do not comprehend.”

“Jilla’s like my own child, Ambassador,” the Human rejoined darkly. “I willna see her harmed by a man too cold to…”

Jole spun on his heel, marching away from the irate Terran. He said nothing to his aides during the seemingly interminable trip to his VIP quarters, then dismissed them with one angry look. Once inside, he quickly dropped to one knee, left arm extended, palm up. He murmured a prayer of entreaty to Aema, then closed his eyes and covered his face with both hands. He was glad, more than glad that the imminent arrival of his newest child kept Karina home. She could not have borne his anguish, nor his concern. And he could not have borne her righteous fury – as proper as that fury would be.

Jilla, daughter, how can I continue this? I should not have come, despite my duty. This can only bring pain for us both. I cannot acknowledge you – but how can I not? You are what you are, Aema have mercy, but you’re still my child! How can I set such a horrible example? I am representative for the Emperor himself, for all of Indi, for that of Roshi in Aema! How do I dare defy Her one inviolate, even for my own flesh? My own flesh. Jilla, my child, my child…!

He wept bitterly for his pain and that of his daughter. Then Scott’s words came back to him, ‘she’s like my own child,’ and he thanked Aema for giving her one to watch over her, to replace the one who could never do so again. And with that came the immediate thought of the other who would care for her, the one he didn’t want to know about. One he would not thank Aema for. One whose very name burned his heart and eyes. The one who his daughter called husband.

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“Hon, you home?” Sulu’s voice rang out after the soft hiss of the door. Jilla sat at her desk trying to pretend she wasn’t hiding in her design work.

“I am,” she answered softly.

“Everyone’s on board,” Sulu said,

“I know.”

He came up behind her, sliding his arms around her shoulders. She tensed, shrugging them off. Immediately guilt and shame flooded his tia, along with a sense of feared but not undeserved rejection. “I’m sorry…” he began.

She shook her head vehemently. “No,” was all she said. She had tried to assure him that, unlike most Human varieties, her forgiveness was genuine. She would not hold his infidelity over him, nor even mention it again, and it would most definitely not effect the way she acted or reacted to him, nor – most especially – the way she felt about him, the way she desired his touch.

He took a deep breath and she could feel him reassuring himself. “Then is something wrong?” he asked.

“I have much to do,” she returned.

There was a short silence, and it was his turn to simply state, “no.”

“I – wish to finish recording the idea I have while it is still fresh in my mind,” Jilla tried again.

His fingers gently stroked the sides of her neck, moving up toward her ears. “I don’t think so, hon,” he murmured.

“Please, Sulu…” she began again, then shivered as his touch reached the sensitive points. “I am trying to keep busy,” she admitted.

“So keep busy with me,” he whispered, leaning down to add the soft press of his lips to his fingers’ explorations.

Jilla moaned, then silvered sharply, her hands coming up to cover her suddenly glowing face. She felt Sulu turning her chair. “Honey, what’s wrong?” he asked concernedly.

The Indian took a deep breath of her own. “Everyone is on board,” she replied miserably.

Sulu looked confused. “Yeah. So…” A light of understanding dawned behind his eyes. “Oh.”

“Yes.”

He took her shoulders, bringing her into a comforting, carefully non-sexual embrace. “It’ll be all right, baby,” he told her. “There’s no need for you to see – anyone.”

“I do not need to see him,” Jilla replied into his chest.

Sulu sighed. “I know. But don’t let it get to you. I love you.”

“And I you.” She glanced up at him. “Will you allow me to…”

“Hide in your work?” He chuckled. “Sure. In fact, I think I’ll join you.” He gently kissed her forehead, then released her and headed for the long table of plants that had taken up one wall of the cabin ever since – the events of which they would never again speak – calling softly, “Gertrude!”

Jilla smiled warmly after him, then sat down again. She ignored the dull throb in her left hand.

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Go To Part Two

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