A Work of Art
By Dusty Jones (aka L.L. McLeod)
Printed originally in the fanzine Liapita.
The heat of the last week had finally given way to more bearable weather, and Sarek of Vulcan had taken the opportunity to accomplish some items of business downtown. After arranging for a physics symposium for a few weeks in the future, he had made his way to the director’s office for an interview. The woman was now securing the proper forms.
A widower of almost three years, Sarek had finally decided to commission this project on the day he had spent wandering through an art gallery, whiling away the afternoon in the Hall of Sculpture. It had been the sight of the painted, life-sized statues quietly observing the endless spray of many fountains in the overly-cool room which had reminded him of how low they had had to keep the temperature in the house for Amanda and how empty and arid it seemed now without her. Now, at least, there would be some image of her to keep his memory alive.
“We will need a full description, of course,” said the woman, bringing him the questionnaire. “We try to fulfil the client’s expectations to the best of our ability, but this depends heavily upon the amount of specific information supplied us.”
Sarek reached into his carry-bag and extracted a slide-tape, “This is what I had in mind.”
The interviewer looked at him questioningly after scanning the tape.
“Yes, a Human.”
Sarek nodded. He looked down at the data sheet that he was filling out, wondering how a few multiple choice questions and several lines of free description could ever capture the essence of what had been Amanda Grayson. He began to write, careful to use the correct words to describe the personality of his wife but, as he wrote, it occurred to him that what he had found desirable and pleasing about her, the interviewer and the technician might consider improper. Nevertheless, the description had to be complete and honest to be of any use and so he carefully wrote it all down and handed back the questionnaire. The preliminary paperwork done, Sarek got up to go home. The interviewer promised a rough sketch by the end of the week.
He took the lift back to the house to find the mail recorder full, one of the messages being from Spock who wanted to set the date for his yearly visit as soon as possible. Sarek decided not to write his son about his plans for awhile, instead to wait until Spock came out from Earth with his wife and then surprise them both …
Just now it was too new, too personal, to share with anyone and so he kept it to himself.
The end of the week came and the interviewer was ready with the first draft, spreading several color charts out before Sarek and pointing to a mixing diagram, “The technician assigned to this work has computed all the possibilities of the various combinations from the information that you have supplied us, and we believe that a suitable result may be obtained after all.”
Sarek nodded formally. Technician. At times he wondered about the manner his people had of taking the natural and complicating it to an absurd degree. He had never been able to see that fact before he had known Amanda. She had taken special interest in his stubbornness, slowly melting it away with precise, logical arguments, applying generous amount of patience along the way. It was when he was being stubborn and had no one to scold him that he missed her.
She had gone quickly in her sleep. No pain, no worry – although before he had left for lyre ensemble practice that evening she had said goodbye to him and wished him peace and long life, quite an unusual farewell for a few hours separation. He felt that he should have known that something was wrong when he returned home, felt a parting in his mind when he had opened the front gate; but instead, he had had to find her body lying on the lounger in their bedroom, still warm from the stroke that had taken her. And he had felt emotion…surprise.
The day the work was begun, Sarek went to the initial mixing and stood by, feeling a smidgeon of embarrassment and more than a smidgeon of excitement. The excitement was well-founded, but the embarrassment lay only in his mind’s association. His part in the project had effectively ended on the day that it had received the go-ahead. Even so, he waited by until the project had officially begun before leaving to attend the symposium that he was heading.
The visit with Spock and his wife had to be rescheduled. Sarek wrote to them and explained what was happening, how he wished to stay until the project had been finished: supervising every step, watching it grow more in likeness every time he saw it. The decision was that when the project was terminated, Sarek would come out to visit them instead – an idea applauded by his son’s wife who declared that the quietness of Vulcan was much too stifling for him.
Sarek had gone to watch everyday at first but had slowly eased away. After watching the basic structure being formed and the placing of features, the other changes were too slow and minute to hold much interest for him. He complimented the technician on her skill at mixing pigments - for the skin tone was perfect – the same as Amanda’s had been in life. And the first touches of hair showed golden brown as hers had been before the grey.
“There has been trouble with the hands,” admitted the technician one day when they were nearing the end of the project. “And I do not believe the eye color to be exactly as you prescribed.”
Sarek shook his head, “I expect variations. They make things interesting.”
The former ambassador glanced at the troublesome hands. They looked perfect to him, seemingly beckoning to be taken in his, although he knew that as yet they were unfinished. Besides, the department had stringent rules against things like that.
Two months before his scheduled departure for Earth, the call came from the director informing Sarek hat they were ready for the unveiling. He assured them that he would be there.
When he reached the building, the technician was there in the lobby to meet him. He suspected an accident.
“We’re already begun,” she said, leading him down the familiar hallways. “A most successful result, in spite of the Earth factors. I believe you will be quite satisfied.”
The director was there with another technician whose uniform was a different color. When she saw Sarek, she told the technician to proceed.
Sarek felt his chest muscles suddenly contract painfully. He had not prepared himself adequately for this. He knew he showed no outward signs of his feelings, but inwardly he was having second thoughts. Should he have done this? What right had he? What would people think when they saw this blatant expression of his emotions? What if…
He heard a hacking cry and looked to see the technician lifting the infant from the slowly draining tank, and then place it on its stomach to massage the fluids from its lungs to ease the separation from its artificial placenta.
“Heart normal, lungs normal, EEG normal…”
The first technician surveyed the readings on the portable medical scanner, then turned to Sarek.
“All post-natal readings are perfectly normal.” She paused, then added with friendly nonchalance, “… for a Human.”
She is very much a Human, thought Sarek, waiting to board the star-liner. Amanda’s eyes, Amanda’s face, Amanda’s hair – even the tiny rounded ears and flat eyebrows - everything to his specifications - a perfect image of Amanda Grayson. He had been assured by her paediatrician that she was strong enough for the trip to Earth, and so here he was with a load of diapers and formula to hold her until they were settled abord and he could call the purser.
There was a crib by his bed when Sarek reached his quarters aboard ship, and he placed her in it on her back so that she could watch him as he put things away. She made noises at him and, when he spoke to her, she opened her blue eyes wide and stared at him, kicking her legs – just as Amanda used to do when he tried to speak to her when she was asleep.
The baby was sucking on one of her feet now.
“That is very unsanitary,” he told her firmly, then picked her up and carried her to his bed where his lyre lay. “You lie there quiet now, tiny one.”
He sat down and began to play Morning Desert, one of Amanda’s favorites. The baby waved her hands and smiled.
Spock and his wife met them when they disembarked, Spock saluting and his wife planting a kiss on Sarek’s cheek when he got to the car. They insisted that he and the baby stay longer, almost twice as long as he had planned. Also, since their lab was looking for a physicist of his calibre and experience to act as consultant on a series of experiments, and since they had plenty of room…
Sarek eyed the two of them knowingly. “Do I sense a conspiracy?”
Spock straightened and averted his eyes. She would not give up so easily, though.
“Now, Sarek, you know it’s not good for you to be rattling around that big empty house in ShiKahr,” she said. “We live in a lovely neighbourhood and the people are very friendly, and you know we both love you.”
Statements such as those did not bother Sarek anymore. Life was too short to allow gentle words to embarrass him. He promised them both that he would consider their offer.
The baby made Spock uneasy. Even as she slowly became used to him, not crying when he came near, the knowledge of who she was troubled him. It was definitely unsettling to bathe his mother in the kitchen sink, or carry her through the shopping center, or change her diaper in the men’s room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was true that she was only an infant now, but what of the future? How would she address him in the years to come - brother, uncle, cousin? And when she was of age, to see his father marry her – again…
How could he be her son again? She was more than half a century younger than him now and it would be him teaching her, not the other way around. Which brought Spock to another problem: how could Sarek be assured that she would grow into the Amanda he wanted? The woman who had married the Vulcan ambassador had been Earth-born, Earth-raised and Earth-educated when they had met some sixty years ago. Even with the same genetic material, how could this child ever come to be the Amanda Grayson they had known if she were raised by Sarek? Would she be told who she was, or led to believe differently? And where was the assurance that she could learn to love as her husband the man who had raised her as his daughter?
Spock was truly beginning to understand the reasoning behind the Federation’s cloning laws and was wondering how his father had gotten a permit. Why hadn’t he left well enough alone? Amanda was gone and there seemed little logic in bringing her back again – in any form.
Sarek and the baby had been on Earth for over three months now and he was beginning to make moves to go home.
“We meant it when we said we wanted you to stay, Father,” Spock said one afternoon while they were sitting out on the patio.
“No, Spock. That was before you knew. Having two small children underfoot would be too much.”
Sarek cleared his throat, “Besides I have work waiting for me back in ShiKahr.”
Spock suspected that his father truly wanted to stay on Earth but that he felt that he was intruding. To convince him otherwise would involve the baring of the feelings of both parties and so, the two would be silent and Sarek would go back to Vulcan.
“Have you decided on a name for the child?” asked Spock, changing the subject. It was not unusual for a Vulcan baby to go unnamed for several months until the proper name could be ascertained and cleared by the clan registrar.
“An Earth name would be most appropriate in his case,” Sarek admitted. “Unfortunately, I am somewhat unfamiliar with them.”
Spock raised an eyebrow. He could no longer let it go unspoken, “I surmised that her name would be ‘Amanda’. She is my mother’s clone.”
“I am at a loss as to how you managed it, though. I was unaware that Mother had ever received an F-2 rating.”
Sarek was shaking his head, “It seems that I did not make myself clear in my letters, Spock. I did not clone your mother.”
Sarek paused, unsure of whether to continue now that he saw Spock’s line of reasoning.
“Amanda Grayson is dead,” he said finally. “She had her life. She lived it. It is over. I see no logic in a repeat performance.”
Spock was silent for a time and suddenly he understood the situation and all its implications. He began to wonder at the countless philosophical excuses his father must have had to make back on Vulcan - the Nome and its symbol, the IDIC, certainly not being one of the least. His father’s attempt at indifference did not fool Spock any longer. It was now absolutely clear to him why Sarek had stayed beyond his original itinerary.
“You will stay, Father.” Spock said firmly, “Both you and my sister.”
Sarek did not answer. In that moment, both men realized there was nothing for them to say to each other that they hadn’t secretly understood for years. In silence, they had admitted what a torrent of emotional verbiage never could.
Without a word, father and son went in to unpack Sarek’s and the baby’s things. For all its frailties, Earth was the place for them. Humans might be masters at asking questions of the painfully obvious, or of blowing things out of proportion; but they weren’t ones to demand logical reasons for things that didn’t need them. Simple things like a work of art - or an act of love.