The thoughts came, unbidden, as Saddik attempted to meditate.
Eriecho is not mine. There is no blood relation. We could, at Pon Farr ….
He banished the thoughts from his mind, but it was difficult to concentrate. It was never easy to concentrate at Canamar.
He thought back to when he had first come to Canamar Prison – when they both had, actually. Their ship had gone to Keto-Enol, to do trading with Enolians in preparation for a survey run. And nothing more, it was not like they were sightseeing or anything. But the Enolians had mistaken them for thieves. There had been no trial, just a talk with a biased Judicial Administrator. And the Administrator had sentenced them all to Canamar. T'Kef had been with child, and she went into labor while on the prison transport.
He had delivered the infant even though he had no medical training whatsoever. The other prisoners on the transport had hooted and hollered, getting a free show of female Vulcan genitalia as T'Kef screamed, for there were no medicines. T'Kef had not survived much longer than that, a victim of untreated massive blood loss. It seemed that her daughter could not possibly live. Saddik knew it was not logical for the child to go on.
But at Canamar there was one female prisoner, a Suliban named H'Shema. She was an angry thing, prickly and understandably concerned about preventing violations to her person. When she first saw Saddik, she had threatened him with a metal shank. But then she had seen the infant, and her demeanor had softened. She had come voluntarily, once she had heard there was an infant. It did not matter that the infant was not Sul.
Saddik had needed her. She could not nurse the infant – she was far from her childbearing years – but H'Shema was resourceful, and was able to get powdered milk and the semblance of swaddling and Saddik never asked her how she got it. He was just grateful – an emotion, to be sure, but a thoroughly appropriate one – whenever she did so.
He even allowed her to name the infant. He had not been T'Kef's husband, and that man, Sterrik, had, too, died on the Enolian transport, fighting to save his wife and deliver his own child. So H'Shema had named the infant – Eriecho.
The name meant nothing, so far as Saddik knew. It was just a pleasing sound for H'Shema, a bit of euphony amidst the harshness of Canamar existence. The three of them had, somewhat, lived together, a semblance of a family in that terrible prison realm. It had been over thirty years. He was eighty-seven. Eriecho was thirty-one, beginning to come into her own as, almost, an adult. And H'Shema was gone, and had been so for four years.
And so he had no one for Pon Farr this time around, which he knew would be happening fairly soon. H'Shema had been a poor substitute for a Vulcan woman, but she had tried. He had not loved her, and she had not loved him, but he was grateful – there, that word again – that she was willing enough to help him out with Pon Farr, and on more than one occasion.
And now, Surak help him, he was considering satisfying Pon Farr with Eriecho.
=/\="Are you sure?" Kerev asked. The Communications Officer nodded and then departed. Kerev sighed. Off-worlders would come, look into Canamar and undoubtedly they would not like what they saw, like they had a century before. But it would have to be done. They had heard the news. Everyone in the sector had. The planet Vulcan was gone, destroyed and now a rapidly fading memory, a swallow departed after the last of summer's many nights.
And now the remnants of the Vulcan High Command was calling for all Vulcans, of any age, both genders, any factions, and even prisoners, to be returned. They had not only contacted Canamar. They had also contacted the Romulans' old Gemara Prison, on Berren Five, and even the Klingon prison, Rura Penthe, in the hopes that there would be at least one Vulcan, even in those godforsaken realms. The reason was for the highly logical concept of attempting to repopulate the species, and put back what had been pulverized by Nero, whose murderous run had resulted in the loss of an Earth starship – the USS Kelvin – and the Vulcan home world. Nero had been busy.
It was also highly illogical, Kerev figured. He was but a prison commandant, but he knew this much – put all the targ in one pen, and then set a flamethrower to it, and you barbecue all of the targ at once. Or put all of the surviving Vulcans together, on a planet or a moon or a convoy of ships, whatever, and then a few well-aimed phaser blasts or so, and the Vulcan race would be no more. Or perhaps an old-style Xindi weapon, like they had tried to use against Earth in 2153 and 2154. A few disgruntled Xindi engineers could, perhaps, be convinced to revive the old schematics and the like. He shrugged. It was useless to speculate. That was not his job.
His job, instead, was to keep his prisoners together, and in line. Most of them more or less fended for themselves. He supplied the food and water, a roof and rough blankets, enough for all. How could it possibly be his fault if distribution broke down? Was it his doing that there were stronger or craftier inmates who took more than their share, or extorted seconds from the weaker prisoners? If he had known who Charles Darwin was, he would have said it was Darwinian. Survival of the fittest – Canamar was an exemplar of evolution, resplendent in red – or green – tooth and claw.
And now he had orders from his government to let go of two of his most compliant prisoners, the only Vulcans he had – Saddik and the only female anywhere in Canamar, Eriecho.
He did not relish the loss of the only bit of femininity, even though Eriecho was far from gentle or sweet. Prison life can do that to nearly anyone, even Vulcans, turning them hard and angry, bitter at the universe and mistrusting of all. Eriecho was no exception. It was the only life she had ever known.
=/\="Is this a ruse?" Saddik inquired of the prison guard who had come to their, well, home was too strong a word for it. It was their sole patch of belonging. It was where he and Eriecho slept, and where H'Shema had, as well, in her later years. It held their few meager possessions.
"It is no ruse. You are both to come with me."
Saddik held his hands out for cuffing, and Eriecho did the same. This was a not unfamiliar posture for them. What was unfamiliar and strange was that the guard did not cuff either of them. They looked at each other, but it was, of course, foolish to tell the guard that he had erred. It was, perhaps, an opportunity. They both looked around, eyes searching for what to do and how to best take advantage. They knew that departure from the grounds would bring forth a search. They knew that there were usually some sorts of ships nearby, for supplies or prisoner transport or the like, but those pilots generally did not accept unexpected passengers unless some sort of major bribe was offered. And what did they have to offer? The extra wooden spoon, which had belonged to H'Shema? Eriecho's body for ravishing? They had few options. Saddik gave Eriecho the eye – just, see what happens, he was trying to, wordlessly, communicate with her. Nothing more.
She nodded slightly. They were far from telepathic. It was just that they knew each other. And H'Shema had known them as well. There were always chances. What one did with them was what mattered.
The commandant was in his office. "I'll be right outside the door," said the guard. The door was partly closed but not shut. He could burst back in, at any moment, if Commandant Kerev was in any real peril.
"Welcome," Kerev said, tight smile playing across his lips, "I don't have plomeek broth, of course, or really much that you would enjoy, but there is fresh immature olowa fruit. Help yourselves." He gestured at a bowl of dark purple fruit on his desk.
Eriecho and Saddik both hesitated. The commandant wasn't just going to give them something for nothing. The olowa, no matter how wonderful its pear-like flavor and eggplant-like color and grapefruit-like consistency was, could potentially come with a rather hefty price tag.
"Go ahead!" Kerev smiled. "Here, I will start." He took a great dark purple globe and laid it out on a napkin, and then plunged a small knife into it. He sliced off quarters. One each, with an extra, perhaps for the guard. Or maybe they would be pushed to fight over it for Kerev's own amusement.
He practically had to press the pieces into their hands. Eriecho tentatively tasted it. Olowa changes in flavor, from pears to spicy to, eventually peanutty and then, after that, as the fruit pales from dark purple to a medium violet to lavender, it finally goes ashy grey and becomes thoroughly inedible. It petrifies, and one can readily break a tooth. This olowa was going spicy. Still good and still messily juicy, but the dark purple skin betrayed its turning innards. It had been artificially ripened. Its exterior was a lie, like so many exteriors she had seen in her short life on Canamar.
Saddik remembered his manners. "Thank you, Commandant Kerev." He bowed his head slightly and nibbled a little on the olowa. It was turning, but still it was far better than the thin gruel they normally got. Much of the time, their fare was not vegan. It troubled him to be eating that way. This, at least, was solely composed of plant matter. He tried to savor it and eat it slowly, but something so luscious, even artificially ripened, was such a rarity in his life. He practically swallowed the remainder whole.
"You may be wondering why you are here," Kerev said. A rhetorical question, to be sure. Of course they were wondering. "I have received orders from the government at Keto-Enol. You are to be freed at once. Gather whatever you are taking. The transport will be here in," he paused to check a display, "less than one hour."
"What has happened?" Saddik inquired. He did not wish to look this gift horse in the mouth, but it wasn't every day that one was suddenly freed from over three decades of hell. Had they, perhaps, finally been exonerated? If he had known this one old Earth expression, he would have recalled it then – the mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine. But he knew no such expressions.
"Vulcan has been destroyed. The populace is at a critical point; your species is close to extinction. So they will take anyone in for breeding, even old yard birds like the two of you." He got up and smacked Saddik on the back, hard, "Old man, you're gonna get your pick of fine young Vulcan honeys. And you," he addressed Eriecho, "you'll be squeezing out pointy-eared sehlats soon!"
Eriecho was about to call him some sort of a name but a look from Saddik squelched that impulse. "We must prepare, and pack," she said.
They departed, but not until after Kerev had pressed the final quarter of olowa fruit into her hands. "A baby gift!" he had roared into her bewildered face.
=/\=Back at their little patch, they looked around. "Do we need?" Eriecho would ask about something or other, and Saddik would just shake his head. There was no need for wooden spoons or metal bowls or raggedy old blankets. The flattened mats could stay. The laundry – their single change of undergarments – they could leave that behind as well. There was but one thing. A small bit of green cloth – Saddik took that. Eriecho looked at him, and at the cloth. "That was H'Shema's," she said.
"Yes," he replied, "it is just about all there is left of H'Shema."
They were escorted to the waiting transport, which was nearly empty, apart from them and the transport's staff. There were no other Vulcans aboard. Apart from a few bored guards, no one saw them off.
=/\="What is a sehlat?" Eriecho finally asked, after they had been flying for a while.
"Oh, uh, it's a large mammal on Vulc –" he stopped in mid-syllable. Vulcan was no more. What hope had the sehlats ever had?
There was a long silence, and he was alone with his thoughts.
Vulcan women! They will know what to do during Pon Farr! My salvation! Perhaps I really will enjoy several, or a younger one, or …
"What shall we do with our time?" Eriecho asked, interrupting his silent musings.
"Yes, time," Eriecho said, "for I have never had free time, unrestricted and unfettered before. I am afraid I will not know what to do with myself." She reached into her ratty old cloak and took out H'Shema's old metal shank – that was what she had grabbed of their Spartan possessions before they had left.
"Is that for a reminder, or is it for protection?" Saddik asked.
"Both. No one should bother us. We are armed."
"Canamar is not the way the rest of the galaxy is."
"I am not so sure I believe you," Eriecho said, "for are we not facing extinction? I would say that, if Vulcans are not normally aggressive, perhaps we should start being so."
He smiled wryly, and then caught himself. "The Vulcans you are going to meet, they are not going to smile or threaten or weep. They suppress their emotions and meditate every evening. And they use logic to solve their problems, not an old Sul woman's metal shank."
"This is logical," Eriecho said, brandishing the shank a little, "for we are off to parts unknown. It is reasonable to carry a piece. As for the remainder, I have seen your attempts to meditate, you know. You do not seem to get much out of it. Did meditation take you away from Canamar? Were you able to escape in your mind?"
"It was not for that purpose," he said, but now, for the life of him, he could not quite recall the true purpose of Vulcan meditation. It seemed useless to him, as unnecessary as she had undoubtedly seen it over the years.
"Then what was the purpose?"
"To calm me, to center me," he said, trying to defend an ancient way of life that had done him no good in prison and, now, seemed to be equally bereft of meaning on the outside.
She was about to answer that when a transport attendant came over. "We have plomeek broth," she said, "I can replicate it for you."
"Yes!" Saddik was perhaps overly enthused. The transport attendant, an Andorian, waggled an antenna at him, but she did bring over two bowls.
Eriecho tried hers, and then pushed it away. "This is not much better than prison fare."
"This is the food of our people," Saddik said, "please, at least try it two more times. Then if you continue to despise it, I will not ask you again. Please?"
She complied, and ended up finishing the bowl. "What other things are there to eat? Are sehlat eaten?"
"No, sehlat are not eaten," he said, "and our people are vegans."
"Vegans! How dreadful!"
"It is our way."
"It is not my way," Eriecho complained.
"Just … try."
The attendant returned with two PADDs. "I thought you might want to see what has been happening recently."
"I, I do not know how to use this," Saddik said, bewildered at the thoroughly unfamiliar layout. Technology had marched on in the past three decades, while he had been cooling his heels in Canamar.
"A moment," said the attendant. She clicked around a bit. "Here, just use the stylus here or tap there with a finger."
"What should I read?" Saddik asked.
"Whatever you like. Feel free to keep the PADDs." The attendant walked back to her station.
"I have had nothing to read for decades," he said, "all that we had was when H'Shema and I would trace the letters in the dirt, do you remember, Eriecho? We taught you to read in the dust."
"I do not think I trust this device," Eriecho said, looking dismissively at the PADD. It had slipped back to a sleep mode and it showed the date – August seventeenth of 2262 – and the time – 1430 hours – and the temperature on the transport – 18 C.
"Try," he repeated.
"There is so much to try," she said, and it wasn't said out of a sense of wonder, more it sounded like a bit of resignation.
"I know," he said, "and it will keep coming at us, as we get used to the outside world."
"It is all coming so fast," Eriecho said, "I am afraid I cannot process it. I do not trust enemies and differences, problems and changes that come and cannot be fended off with a metal shank. It is all too much."
"I, I know," he said, "but there may be others like us, unused to the open spaces and the free time and the unfettered air. Surely there are others who are adjusting."
=/\=They landed on a red planet with dusky skies. Plenty of people came to greet them, but none had the familiar Vulcan pointed ears. "What are these people?" Eriecho asked.
"I believe they are humans, but I am unsure. I have never actually seen one before."
"Welcome to Mars," said a big man and, if they had known, they would have recognized his accent as the gentle Southern drawl common to all who have grown up either in the Earth's Carolinas or on Titania. "I'm Colonel Jack Shaw, and I'm here to get ya'll settled. You have bags?"
"No, no bags," Saddik said. Just baggage.
The corridors were lined with humans. It seemed an immense security risk. Perhaps Eriecho was right to have the shank with her. They were smiling and all, but Saddik knew that smiles could often hide true intentions. And why would these people want to help them? Surely they would want something. Of course they must want something! That was the prison way – everyone wanted something. Every act, every deed, even every sin, had an equal and an opposite counteract, counter-deed, counter-sin. And on and on throughout there was a tangled web of obligations.
They stepped out into weak sunlight. The air was chilly and a little damp. "There'll be a debriefing tomorrow," Shaw said, "For now, just get settled and get acquainted," he paused, "ah, here's your driver now."
A vehicle pulled up, driven by a male Vulcan. Shaw left them, and they were driven, in silence, to a small settlement with tiny homes that were little more than Quonset huts.
They were showed into one such hut. It was small and a bit dimly lit. There were two sleeping chambers, a little bathroom, a small eating area with a replicator and another room for meditation, into which someone had thoughtfully placed two Communicators, two candles and a flint striker. Eriecho twirled around the meditation room – "It's so big!" she cried out joyfully.
"Yes, it is far larger than our space at Canamar. But you will learn; this is actually rather small," Saddik told her.
"I don't care. To me, it's big. Where are the clothes hung?"
"They aren't," he replied; "we replicate more as we need them, and throw them down this chute at night. The kitchen garbage goes there as well. It is all sorted out in some mechanical fashion. I do not know the details."
"And there's a bathroom! Do we have to open our door and share it with the others?"
"No," he laughed a little at that, "they have their own, I imagine."
"Such luxury," she said, "they will want something from us, the humans, right?"
"Probably," he agreed, "we shall see what that is. In the meantime, perhaps you will replicate yourself a new tunic and pants? I know I would like to be out of prison garb, once and for all. I bet you would want that, too."
"Yes, of course. Would something in green be too hard a reminder?" she indicated the bit of green cloth, which he had placed on what was apparently their new kitchen table.
"No, it would be good, and appropriate. We can imagine that H'Shema came along with us." He helped her replicate her new clothes, and then had the machine make him some as well.
Eriecho went into the little bathroom to change – they had not yet decided who would get which of the bed chambers. Saddik turned on the PADD again and clicked around, finding a search feature. He typed Suliban H'Shema family. The response came back – seventeen records. He found an address and typed a letter, telling them of H'Shema's death at Canamar, and informing them that she had been kind to two Vulcans who had needed her. He also asked what the name Eriecho meant, if anything. A response of thanks came quickly, with a small photograph of H'Shema in early years, before prison life, when she had almost been pretty, and it had the answer to his question.
=/\=Colonel Shaw stared out the window of his office. Jack Shaw – jackdaw, Jack Straw, jackass, even – it didn't matter. He had heard them all. He knew what it was like to be the new kid, and to try and fit in. He wondered, a little bit, about how the community would fit together, in particular considering the newcomers. The place was like a summer camp for Vulcans – did any of them appreciate it? It was so hard to tell. Vulcans, for sure, they weren't supposed to have emotions. But they had to have some sort of a reaction, right?
They had held humans back for so long, in the beginning, for maybe a century after first contact. And now, suddenly, they needed humans. The shoe was, most definitely, on the other foot. Who knew how they felt about that? It had to be, to quote Vulcans he had known … unsettling. Bah! It was a lot more than that, but no one would admit it, of course. They were vulnerable now. It was up to him and to others like him, to not exploit that vulnerability.
He frowned as he looked over the reports on his PADD. He was currently in charge of six hundred adult Vulcans, and had been tasked with quintupling that number every other year. Naturally, that would not be simply through the application of some sort of Pon Farr acceleration – if there even was such a thing. Rather, there were plenty of human women on Mars who had heard about the loss of such a close ally's home world. They were stepping up to the plate, more than willing to act as surrogate mothers.
Rent a womb, as it were.
And then there was the process of figuring out who was to be paired off with whom. The individuals would marry – or not – as they desired, even going to other locations if there was no one desired among the six hundred available on Mars. But parentage was another matter entirely. Old Vulcan law had not permitted relations or marriage between individuals with a closer than third degree of kinship. A zero degree was the individual himself, or herself. One degree was parents, offspring and full-blooded siblings. Second degree was grandparents and grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews and first cousins. Third degree was great-grandparents – the thought of relations with his great-grandmother made Shaw shudder a little – great-uncles and great-aunts, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, great-grandchildren and second cousins, e. g. persons with at least one great-grandparent in common.
But the limited gene pool made such niceties obsolete. The Vulcan High Command, such as it was, had given permission to mix gametes with as little as a second degree of kinship. Anything less was deemed too risky for genetic problems. Plus, he suspected, it probably gave even the Vulcans the willies to be interbreeding siblings.
Hence a thriving trade had been set up, among all of the other Vulcan sanctuary administrators, including him. For that was what the Martian location was – a settlement known as a Vulcan sanctuary. There were others, on Andoria, and Proxima Centauri and even in more remote locales like Betazed and the Lafa system and on some of the deep space stations.
In order to assure maximal genetic diversity, the trade had begun. I've got a blonde gal with hazel eyes; trade ya for a middle-aged guy with great teeth! If the Vulcans had known the details, they would have been the Vulcan version of appalled, he was sure.
But he smiled to himself. Two newcomers! The idea of going after prisoners had been his. And these two had a degree of kinship that was no less than eighth with any of the ten or twelve thousand or so known surviving Vulcans and their descendants in any of the sanctuaries. This gave him a lot more bargaining chips. Perhaps he'd be able to get that little house he'd had his eye on for a while? Trade ya a sullen yet powerful female, looks to be a runner and a weight lifter, and an old guy with a Roman nose, for a house on Tandar Prime. Julie had said she loved the house. Yeah, that could work.
A siren sounded. Eriecho and Saddik both froze. "Are we being returned?!" she asked, voice rising in panic.
"I, I don't know. This seems a cruel irony if that is so." He peered out a window. Several Vulcans were coming out of their homes, perhaps a few hundred, and were all walking toward a much larger central building. He had scarcely noticed it before, but it was clearly the focal point of the settlement. He rushed out. "What is happening?" he asked the first people he saw, a young couple.
They looked at him strangely, and he realized just how much emotion was in his voice. "I meant to inquire," He modulated his voice a lot better this time, "as to what the siren means, and where you are all walking to?"
"We are going to the evening meal," said the man – husband, perhaps. They walked away.
Saddik rushed back in. "It is all right. There is, I did not realize, but they provide an evening meal. I have not yet read the literature. Perhaps, after our meal, we should, so that there are fewer of these seemingly unpleasant surprises."
Eriecho nodded, and then adjusted her new green tunic and pants. Wordlessly, she placed the metal shake in her tunic, just in case.
They walked over with the others. The tables were long wooden benches, not much better than for a picnic. There were no private tables. They sat together, on an end, near a middle-aged man with an older woman who was possibly his elderly mother. There was another empty seat as well. Steaming bowls were set in front of them. Eriecho was about to begin when the old woman gave her a stern look, so Eriecho waited.
Shaw came in and stood at the front of the room. Everyone became quiet almost immediately. "I'd like to welcome our two newest guests, Eriecho and Saddik. They come to us from Canamar. I am sure they'll need a little adjustment time, not only to get used to their new living situation and all of you, but also to get used to the fact that the Vulcan home world is no more. I would have hoped, for their sakes that freedom would not have to be tainted with such bad news. I'm sorry about that."
Several people stared at them, and Saddik saw all manner of Vulcan females looking. He knew he was old, and that he had never been what anyone would have called handsome, but he had one big thing going for him – novelty. There were some males looking at Eriecho, as well. Saddik wasn't so sure what he thought about that.
Shaw paused and coughed once before continuing. "For their benefit, I'd like to recite the schedule. I know that everyone else has heard it before. Kindly humor me, all right? There is a morning siren at oh six hundred hours, for you all to wake up. You are responsible for your morning meals. At oh seven hundred hours, there is another siren, indicating the start of morning activities. There are a lot of things you can sign up for. Children, naturally, are in school. For adults, we have cultural lectures and art classes, or you can garden or enjoy exercise. We do not mean to overly structure your days but we are trying to keep you safe while you are all here. I do hope you understand our motivations, even as we may be a bit clumsy in executing them."
The room was silent except for Eriecho, who chuckled a little bit. The other Vulcans stared. Shaw continued, "There is another siren at noon. You are responsible for your own midday meals. This is free time until fourteen hundred hours. Then there is another siren indicating afternoon activities, which are similar to the morning activities but also include work units. We have tried to accommodate your specialties as much as possible but I admit that the fits are not necessarily perfect ones. So, please, I hope you'll be a bit forgiving of any disconnects. A siren at eighteen hundred hours indicates that afternoon work is concluded and you've got an hour to prepare for the evening meal. Of course, there's another siren at nineteen hundred hours, then please come here for the evening meal. There's no rule that says you can't make your own evening meal and enjoy it at home. We provide this because we think you should get to know one another. As you might have guessed, the Vulcan High Command considers such a move to be logical." He said the last word with a little relish and Eriecho chuckled again.
"Then the evenings are your own. Of course there are also doctor's visits. Those appointments can and do happen at pretty much any time of the day. These are for pregnancy testing and prenatal care, and for gamete harvesting and extraction. Plus there are a large number of human surrogate mothers; they are anxious to spend time with you and I hope that you will be able to foster some bonds with them. We have truly excellent volunteers. Some of them are even carrying twins and triplets, and they're doing it all for you. We are committed to helping your species through this rough patch. In many ways, we feel we owe it to your species, for your friendship throughout the years. This is our motivation. Eventually, we will, working with the Vulcan High Command, find you a new home world. For now, I hope you will consider this sanctuary to be your home. But if you need to transfer, there are other sanctuaries, including on Callisto and Oberon just here in the Solar System. But for my own selfish reasons, I do hope that you will stay. Thank you."
There was no applause, they just started eating. The middle-aged Vulcan male stared at Eriecho. "You show emotions."
"Yes, I do," she said, bristling a little, "and I wonder why none of you do. You seem to be repulsed by feelings. No, wait, that's an emotion. How can you be so paradoxical?"
"What my –" Saddik began.
"You need not defend me," Eriecho said, hand on the end of the shank within her tunic, "I can defend myself."
"No doubt," said the old woman, "and not even a proper Vulcan name," she sniffed.
"My mother gave me a perfectly good name," Eriecho said, "And I do not know yours. I would consider that rude, for you to judge me without me so much as even knowing you."
"Lecturing on manners and civility when one is little more than a wild animal! It is not logical to pretend to have a specialty that you do not," said the old woman.
"We wish for peace here," Saddik said, looking meaningfully over at Eriecho. She still had her hand on the end of the hidden shank, "and for courtesy. We recognize that acceptance may take longer."
"Convicts. This entire scenario is much like a prison," complained the matron.
Eriecho laughed, an act that made their dinner companions appear even more discomfited. "If you knew of prison life, you would see that this is a garden of delight in comparison. There are open spaces. There are no guard towers. You do not share a bathroom. You do not need to do laundry. Your movements and activities are structured but are not forced," she paused and then added, "It is not logical to pretend to have a specialty that you do not."
The old woman's companion was impassive but he did look around. "I do not see any other empty seats," he finally said, "It is logical for us to refrain from any more small talk."
"Agreed," Saddik said.
A young man ran in, late. The only seat was next to Eriecho. He ran over and then stopped short. "I, is this seat taken?"
"I do not believe so. Will you be insulting my name and my mother?"
"No," he said cautiously, "I am here for the evening meal."
She laughed a little more. "Now that is logical."
And Saddik, watching, thought about how there would be, perhaps, someone for Eriecho, if she could hold her tongue once in a while and make more of an effort to subsume her emotions and fit in with the others. Perhaps she would learn to do so, in time. And maybe there would even be someone for him, if he was careful and played the no-emotions logic game a bit better and with more finesse. He was rusty and needed to get back in the swing of things. If he could find someone before Pon Farr, that would be ideal.
And Eriecho, who was already conversing with her new companion and smiling and there was the tiniest of smiles in her companion's eyes as well – Saddik looked at her and her hand was off the metal shank and she was indeed trying, so very hard.
He knew the meaning of Eriecho, what H'Shema had said to him, and to Eriecho, all those years ago when she had claimed them as her own – daughter.
This will be my release, and this will be yours.
She is my daughter.