AMOK TIME by Oscar Wilde

In a tidy little apartment on the Federation's most civilized planet, Vulcan, a dark eyed-little girl stood by her parents bed as, hand in hand, her parents breathed their last.

"Come," said her aunt, taking her by the hand.  "There is no logic in remaining here with these empty bodies.">

"What will happen to me now?" asked the girl, trying hard to look stoic as her father had always wanted her to.

"You will be taken to an orphanage and sold into drudgery to the highest bidder.  There is no money for your upkeep," said her aunt.  "Your parents were dreamers, always planning for things that will never happen and failing to consider the here and now.  Why, they died even before the crops could produce enough revenue for their funerals.  So careless were they."

The little girl said nothing to this, as her parents had taught her that the opinions of grown-ups always took precedence over hers.

When they arrived at the orphanage the aunt was very glad to see that the girl could be left on the doorstep and they would not have to go inside.  The aunt had never cared much for any children, much less orphans.  Orphans tended to disrupt everyone's plans.

So the little girl was renamed T'Pring and she was sold as a scullery maid and taken to the finest restaurant in Shi-Kahr.  The walls were trimmed in gold and latnum and the tablecloths were woven from the finest silk.  They were used only once and then discarded, to ensure that no patron would have to tolerate eating from stained linen.  T'Pring glanced around as she was presented to the owner before being taken to the scullery.  It was just as well that she did as it was the only time she would ever see that fine dining room that thrived just through the plaster in the ceiling over her head.

T'Pring was taken through the back door and down into the scullery where it smelled of rotting roots and the walls were stained with sweat and toil.  There she stayed for ten years cleaning up the leavings of the elite of the hallmark planet of the Federation.

In T'Pring's little scullery, there was only one small window up towards the ceiling.  In the summer and winter and fall T'Pring could stand across the room and look up at the window and watch the glamorous patrons walk by.  Then she could dream of someday being wrapped in finery and gems as they were.

In the spring the window was blocked, as a pair of Vulcan's famous silver birds would always return to nest in the very same window.

T'Pring didn't mind as she loved to watch the silver birds, maybe even more than she loved to watch the painted patrons themselves.  She especially loved watching them as they spread their wings and flew away, so high, up in the sky.

One day I will fly away like those silver birds, she thought.  For T'Pring had a secret.  Her parents had given her a glorious gift before they died.  One better than houses, or land or even pressed latnum.  They had bonded her to a beautiful prince, who would one day swoop down from the stars and carry her away.

So daily she toiled away, never complaining, never afraid, for she knew in her heart this would one day end.  She would emerge from the nest and fly away too.  She would mother many darling babies and raise them in warmth and love, as her parents would have wanted to do for her.

Daily she waited for the seaweed-monger to come.  She would take the smelly packages from him and unwrap them so carefully, stowing the produce away.  She would be so careful as to not tear the newspaper wrapping. Later that night she would curl up on her mat and scour the newsprint for stories of her prince on the silver bird in the sky.  She clipped those stories and slept with them under her pillow.  When the clipping were new and fresh, her dreams were always the sweetest.

One day her body began to bleed and she welcomed it for she knew that this meant soon his body would need hers too.

But ten more revolutions of Vulcan around the sun came and went and still he did not come for her.

One day a plumber's mate came to fix the sewer in the restaurant.  He was coarse and rough and he moved like an injured sehlat when he walked.  He took her by the arm.  "Come.  Attend me," he said.

"I cannot!" T'Pring cried.  "I am promised to the dark prince who flies among the stars.  We are souls bonded together forever."

"Foolish girl," Stonn said.  "Everyone knows your parents were dreamers.  You don't believe this bedtime story they told you, do you?  Has he come for you?  Has he given any indication he intends to?"

Stonn grunted harshly.  "Look at you.  Even if it were true, what prince would want an aged scullery maid?  You are not fit to serve his meals.  You have already wasted your youth on a fantasy.  Will you also waste your family?  I can give you the children you desire.  Come, attend me, woman."

So T'Pring went with Stonn.  The first time he brought himself to her as a man, she clutched her face frantically to his bare chest and held on so tight.  Stonn prided himself on his prowess.  He did not know she did so only to hide her tears.

The day she felt the baby move inside her was the same day that she felt the decades old bond flare in her head.

The mores of Vulcan were most strict in these matters, so T'Pring had little choice.  Her body burned in the Vulcan way, but it was nothing compared to the pain burning in her heart.  Although no prince would want her now, she must present herself to him in order to submit to his needs.  And so she painted herself for her wedding in the manner of countless women before her.  She practiced before the mirror to perfect that stoic face her father had always wanted to see on his little girl.

But before she could leave the dressing room, she found she had to paint her face some more.

When she arrived in the arena, it was almost too much to bear.  There before her stood the prince of her dreams, the prince of the castles of her mind.  He wore the uniform of another land and he brought with him, as his closest friends, handsome men, too alien for her to understand.

His world could never be hers and her scullery could never be his.  She knew then what she must do.

Although her heart was breaking, she walked up to the firepit.  Perhaps the ringing of the gong would disguise the final cracking of her heart.  "Kal-i-fee!" she said.  And then she knew the silver birds would wither and die, unhatched, in their nest in her breast.

There was only one last action for her.  Her prince must return to the sky to soar again.  Discreetly she surveyed the crowd.  It was said that humans were weak.  The one in blue looked to be the frailer of the two.  She walked toward him with her father's face held grim and still, not a crack in sight.

But wait!  The alien thoughts wafted over her mind.  Not this one!  The golden one would never take his life.  The golden one would give up his life for him, as she would do; as she was doing now.  The golden one would understand.

"I choose this one."  And she left her prince in his hands.   She called upon all the strengths of Vulcan to see her through with dignity.  And they did.

When the horror, at last, was over, Stonn took her home.

"Wait," she said.  "I must go to the fields to pick some litvis for our stew."

But T'Pring did not go to into the field.  Instead she went to the high desert and laid her body down on the stone.  For six days and nights she lay in the heat of the day and the chill of the night as the pon farr took her body away.  Her unborn son, to his mother, went soon after.

On the sixth day a silver bird flew down to her side.

How untidy to litter the desert like that, thought the bird to itself.  But perhaps I can use something of this debris for my nest.  He picked a wedding ornament out from the decaying tangle of her hair and flew away.

Up on the Enterprise, Spock prepared to move from his solitary quarters to his new ones.  He began to disconnect his personal computer.  Almost as an afterthought, he opened the personal files and deleted all references to T'Pring.  An unpleasant nuisance, he thought, just as well gotten out of the way.