Icheb must accompany his fellow cadet, T’Kara, back to Vulcan when she goes into pon farr.
Written by Jeffrey Harlan
Released 10 Jul 2002
Cadet Dormitory Complex
19 May 2376, 1611 hrs
“What the hell are you reading, anyway?” Caleb Fromme asked, peering over Icheb’s shoulder. “‘Tactical Analyses of the Romulan War’? That’s a full year ahead! We’re supposed to both be second-year cadets, Icheb.”
“I am in an accelerated program due to the war,” Icheb replied dryly. “One would think it would be a given that my coursework would proceed faster than the normal track.”
“Doesn’t seem to be cramping you at all,” Fromme muttered. “I’ve got enough trouble just trying to keep up now, but you’re still just sailing by! Must be that computer in your skull.”
“Granted,” Icheb admitted, “the processors in my cranial implant do aid in my studies by giving me, in effect, a photographic memory. But the pace of my advanced classes is still taking its toll. I have had little time for any extracurricular activities in the past month, for example.”
Before Fromme could deliver another retort, there was a knock at the door. Since he was already standing, Fromme moved to answer it, and Icheb took the opportunity to resume his reading.
Even Fromme wasn’t prepared for what awaited him on the other side of the door: a girl, maybe fifteen or sixteen, who looked human except for the row of spikes down her forehead. No way could she be there for Borg Boy, Fromme reasoned. Might as well have fun while it lasts.
“Hey, there,” he began, his voice coy. “I guess my reputation preceeds me. What’s your name, sweet thing?” She looked somewhat familiar, but he couldn’t place it.
The girl rolled her eyes in disgust. “Naomi,” she said. She tried to step into the room, but Fromme blocked her path.
“Well,” he drawled, “aren’t we movin’ a little fast? Not even a kiss first?” He puckered his lips. Naomi gave him the harshest glare she could, one she’d seen Captain Janeway use on numerous occasions. “Ooh, you’ve got spunk!”
Tired of his antics, Naomi pushed Fromme aside and stepped into the room. “Icheb!” she called.
Icheb pulled himself away from his reading, rising to greet his friend from Voyager. “Naomi,” he greeted. “How are you?”
“She’s here for you?” Fromme asked in surprise. “Man, where did you find her?”
Naomi rolled her eyes in disgust once more.
Cadet Dormitory Complex
19 May 2376, 1620 hrs
“Thanks, Icheb,” Naomi said as she and the cadet stepped outside. “Your roommate is such a pig.”
“I am glad to see you,” Icheb said. “Is there a particular reason that you came all the way to the academy, rather than just contacting me over the communications network?”
“Sometimes, it’s just better to see people face to face,” Naomi said. “But some people are best to be avoided at all costs, like that roommate of yours.”
“He does take some ‘getting used to,'” Icheb admitted. “You still didn’t answer my question, though. What brings you all the way here?”
“Okay,” Naomi admitted. “You’ve got me. I just wanted to talk to you about it in person, and I’ve been trying to get up the nerve for weeks.”
“Nerve?” Icheb asked.
“I,” Naomi began hesitantly. “I like you, Icheb. I mean, I like like you. You know?”
Icheb looked at the girl in surprise. “You have romantic feelings toward me?”
“Yeah,” Naomi said. “I know, it’s stupid. I shouldn’t have come.”
“No,” Icheb said. “I’m glad you had the courage to do so.”
“Then you like me too?” Naomi asked, suddenly hopeful.
“It wouldn’t work between us,” Icheb said.
“Why not?” Naomi asked, crestfallen.
“Although it’s true,” Icheb replied, “that you have matured considerably since we first met, I’ve been placed in an accelerated training program, as I told you in my letter three weeks ago. My schedule has become so busy, I often find myself studying almost from the moment I wake in the morning until I go to bed at night.”
“No time for fun, huh?” Naomi asked.
“That’s right,” Icheb said. “Unless I am placed back among my peers before I complete my training, I doubt I will ever have the time for any extracurricular activities: sports, Nova Squadron–“
“Or girlfriends,” Naomi interrupted sadly.
“Yes,” Icheb acknowledged. “I will continue to correspond with you, of course. My schedule is not so hectic as to preclude writing letters.”
“Maybe when you graduate,” Naomi said hopefully. “Maybe then you’ll have time.”
“Perhaps,” Icheb agreed. “Until then… I hope this does not alter our friendship, Naomi.”
“No,” she replied quickly. “No, we’re still friends. I was just being a dumb kid by thinking we could be something more.”
“Naomi,” Icheb admonished her, “you are not a ‘dumb kid.'”
Malcolm Reed Hall
20 May 2376, 0947 hrs
“Today,” the voice of Lieutenant Andrew Tyler boomed over the amphitheater-style classroom’s speakers, “we’ll be looking at strategies used by various known species against the Borg. We’ll discuss what did and — with the help of one of your own classmates — what didn’t work against them.” Nearly everyone’s attention turned toward Icheb for a moment. As Tyler continued, Icheb noticed that T’Kara was still looking at him. Had she been doing so the entire time before he noticed?
“We’ll start with what’s most familiar to you,” Tyler continued, “the known Borg encounters with the Federation.” Icheb’s attention wavered when he felt something brush against his leg. He looked down, only to see that T’Kara had shifted in her seat so that she was that much closer to him.
Granted, it was unusual behavior for the typically reserved young Vulcan woman, but they had been spending a great deal of time together in the past month. Could she be attempting to initiate a romantic relationship between them? In the middle of class?
“Cadet Icheb?” Tyler’s voice caught his wandering attention just in time. “Unless it’s too disturbing a subject for you…”
Icheb knew what Tyler wanted to discuss: his time with the Borg, and most likely the circumstances surrounding his own assimilation. “No, sir,” he replied, aware that, despite his feelings, the information he could share would most likely aid his fellow cadets in the future.
“Where would you like me to begin?” he asked, bluffing his way past the fact that he’d missed the lieutenant’s actual question.
“How about with your parents,” Tyler suggested, “and the Collective’s interest with your homeworld.”
“Yes, sir,” Icheb said. “The Brunali homeworld is located less than one light year away from the terminus of a transwarp conduit. The Collective would routinely send a sphere or cube there to determine if the population, of which it had left large numbers unassimilated, had developed any interesting new technologies since the last visit. If they had, the Collective would assimilate not only that technology but also anyone in the area with the intent that those with specific knowledge of the technology in question would be added to the hive
He paused, clearing his throat. He had the undivided attention of his peers. “My parents, like many Brunali, were — are — highly skilled genetecists. They surmised that, since attempts to hide from the Collective had failed, then they would make a preemptive strike. Using their own DNA samples, they created a child that they then modified to emit a virus that would kill the organic parts of every adult drone on whatever ship was infected, hoping the virus would spread and destroy, if not all Borg, then most of them. That child was me.”
Icheb heard gasps and murmurs from his fellow cadets as he spoke. “I was sent into space and assimilated soon thereafter. The virus was successful: every adult drone on the cube died. But the cube was in an isolated part of space, so the infection never spread.”
“Was the virus ever used again?” one of the cadets asked.
“Yes,” Icheb replied, choosing his words carefully to avoid disclosing any information classified beyond the cadets’ security clearance. “Shortly before Voyager’s initial return to the Federation, Kathryn Janeway managed to infect the Borg Queen herself, an action many believe led to the current unpredictable nature of the Borg.”
“Thank you, Mr. Icheb,” Tyler said. “We’ll come back to you in a moment, to discuss other Delta Quadrant races that either were assimilated, or resisted assimilation.”
Cadet Dormitory Complex
20 May 2376, 1937 hrs
Icheb deposited his tray into the replicator’s alcove after finishing his dinner. The dishes and what little remained of his meal vanished, their matter to be broken down and recycled back into the system. That done, he turned and made his way to the exit, climbed
the steps, and briskly crossed the commons area and entered his dormitory building, Nogura Hall.
Opting to use the stairs rather than take the lift up one level, Icheb soon found himself walking down the corridor to his room. In the distance, he could see his roommate, Caleb Fromme, leaving their shared room. As they passed, Icheb noted Fromme’s unusual silence,
and grew uncomfortably concerned about the irrepressible smirk on his fellow cadet’s face. As he reached out to turn the manual door’s handle, Fromme lost what self control he had and let out a stifled snicker. Odd behavior, even for Fromme. When he opened the door, Icheb knew immediately the cause of it.
T’Kara was sitting on his bed. In a very seductive pose.
“Good evening, T’Kara,” Icheb said. “What brings you here?”
Without warning, T’Kara lunged forward from the bed. She grabbed Icheb by the front of his uniform, then threw him onto the mattress. With muscles honed in the twice-Earth-normal gravity of Vulcan, she literally lifted him off the ground before pinning him face up on his bed. She leapt back onto the bed, and straddled his waist.
“T’Kara,” Icheb began, struggling to contain his shock and confusion, “this is most… unlike you.”
“You must take me!” T’Kara hissed. “You must take me now!”
Her phrasing sounded suspiciously like the twentieth-century Earth slang that Lieutenant Paris frequently used. Deciding that she was most likely unaware of the double meaning of her words, he chose to take them at face value and reply as such.
“Where?” he asked, staring up and noticing for the first time the increasingly crazed look in her eyes.
“To Vulcan!” she replied. And with those words, it all made sense. Her condition could be explained, in full, with two ancient Vulcan words: pon farr.
Icheb was aware of the Vulcan mating drive from both his short time in the Collective and from his longer stay aboard Voyager. He knew of the physiological changes it caused, the imbalances in hormones, the loss of emotional control, and the overpowering compulsion for
Vulcans to return to their homeworld and take a mate. He also knew how intensely Vulcans wished to keep it a private concern. That T’Kara sought him for aid spoke volumes.
“I will speak to Admiral Satelk in the morning,” Icheb said, pushing T’Kara off him. “As a Vulcan, I am sure he will be sypathetic to your condition.”
Commanding Admiral’s Office
21 May 2376, 0803 hrs
“Cadet Third Class Icheb reports, sir,” the young Brunali said as he stood before the desk of Starfleet Academy’s commanding admiral, a Vulcan man named Satelk.
“Sit down, cadet,” Satelk said, nodding toward one of the chairs in front of the desk between them. Icheb sat as ordered, and the admiral continued, “What is it you wished to see me about this morning?”
“Cadet Third Class T’Kara,” Icheb replied.
“Is there a problem with Cadet T’Kara?” Satelk asked.
“In a manner of speaking, sir,” Icheb acknowledged. “For the past several days, she has been behaving… erratically. Last night, she approached me in my room. She was rather… aggressive, sir.”
“Do you wish to file a complaint against her, then?” Satelk asked. “If so, you should be speaking with campus security.”
“No, sir,” Icheb said. “If you will pardon the breach in ettiquette, sir, I have reason to believe she is experiencing the pon farr.”
Satelk raised an eyebrow in surprise. “You are aware of the pon farr?” he asked. “That is a most private matter for Vulcans.”
“Yes, sir,” Icheb replied. “That is why I sought you, sir. As a Vulcan, you would understand the need for… discretion in this matter.”
“Indeed,” Satelk noted.
“She has requested that I escort her to Vulcan,” Icheb continued. “Her unusual behavior, coupled with her… fervent request has led me to conclude that this must be the pon farr, and the plak tow cannot be far behind.”
“Where, may I ask,” Satelk queried, “did you learn so much of the mating habits of Vulcans?”
“Many Vulcans were assimilated by the Borg,” Icheb replied. “Some of their knowledge was passed on to me through the mind-net while I was still a drone.”
“I see,” Satelk said. “You are correct. Discretion is prudent in this… situation.”
“Then you will allow T’Kara and myself to travel to Vulcan?” Icheb asked.
“Yes,” Satelk replied. “I will arrange civilian transport for the two of you on a medical leave. The orders will be posted shortly.” He rose, then spread his right hand in the traditional Vulcan salute. “Live long and prosper, cadet.”
Icheb rose and returned the salute. “Peace and long life, admiral,” he replied.
SS Stellar Queen
Passenger Liner en Route to Vulcan
22 May 2376, 1511 hrs
Icheb was convinced Satelk had a demented sense of humor that even a Klingon would envy. He and T’Kara, who was in the throes of pon farr, were not only on what had to be the slowest civilian liner in the quadrant, but they were forced to share the same room.
From his seat at the table under the viewport, Icheb looked over to the lower bunk where T’Kara lay, presumably in meditation. Her breathing was irregular, her face twisted into a most un-Vulcan-like scowl of concentration. Perhaps, Icheb mused, conversation would help her more than meditation at the moment.
“T’Kara,” Icheb began, “I assume you have a bondmate waiting for you on Vulcan.” Her scowl deepened. “T’Kara?”
“Yes,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Would you tell me about him?” Icheb asked. “What’s his name?”
“Xon,” she said.
“This is your first pon farr, isn’t it?”
T’Kara’s eyes snapped open and she fixed an intense glare that could melt duranium on Icheb. “Yes,” she said after a moment. Icheb said nothing more, and T’Kara finally continued on her own, “You know of
the pon farr?”
“Yes,” Icheb replied. “My knowledge is limited to what was shared in the Collective while I was still a neonatal drone in my maturation chamber.” T’Kara stared at him a while longer, then turned her head back to look at the underside of the top bunk.
“Tell me about Xon,” Icheb prompted.
“Why?” T’Kara asked.
“Curiousity,” Icheb replied.
“I had hoped this day would never come,” T’Kara said softly. “Xon is dull. Boring. The exact opposite of what I would seek in a mate.”
“Then you were ritually bonded as children,” Icheb concluded, “per ancient custom.”
“Yes,” T’Kara replied. “The few occasions when I have seen him since, we have always been at odds. We hold to completely different interpretations of Surak’s teachings. I’ve told you in the past that I view individuals as being defined by the challenges in their lives; Xon is best described as challenge-averse. He prefers life in intricately planned and controlled conditions, and never takes chances, never appreciates the inherent diversity of the universe.”
“Then pon farr must be even more difficult for him than for you,” Icheb noted. “While it disrupts your life, it completely shatters his carefully controlled existence.”
“That is why I could never be his mate,” T’Kara said. “I could never be with one whose entire existence is so easily destroyed.”
City of de’Khriv
Residence of S’Rol and T’Serra
23 May 2376, 2154 hrs
Icheb sat on the edge of the bed in the spartan guest room at T’Kara’s parents’ home on Vulcan, the heavy, red-shouldered jacket placed carefully atop the nearby dresser. It had been a very long trip from Earth: from long waits at the civilian spaceport in San Francisco, to the ship that apparently never exceeded Warp Four the
entire trip, to the side trip to Andor… Icheb was exhausted, having been unable to get much time for sleep or regeneration.
Dinner with T’Kara’s parents, S’Rol and T’Serra, had been quiet, but not uneventful. Due to her advancing pon farr, T’Kara had all but hurled her meal back at her mother. She refused to eat; indeed, she hadn’t eaten more than the smallest bites of food since they had left
He reached into his travel duffel, which was sitting to his right at the foot of the bed, and withdew a PADD. He activated it, and began his reading assignment for his course in first contact procedures and Federation law.
Icheb had been reading for approximately ten minutes when the door of the guest room opened silently. A moment later, T’Kara was standing before him, dressed in simple desert robes common on Vulcan and arid
regions on other worlds.
Without warning, T’Kara hurled herself onto the bed with Icheb. The PADD clattered to the floor, and Icheb found himself once again pinned under T’Kara’s body. She grabbed his wrists, holding them firmly above his head, then suddenly kissed him.
“T’Kara,” he gasped after forcing his way out of the uninvited — yet not entirely unpleasant — embrace. “You forget yourself!”
Ignoring him, T’Kara released Icheb’s hands, thus freeing her own to pry open the front of his uniform shirt. Her hands caressed his bare chest, the faintest of smiles on her lips.
“T’Kara,” Icheb repeated sternly, “you are a Vulcan, trained in the mental disciplines of Surak. You forget yourself.”
Icheb’s words finally seemed to register in her pon farr-maddend mind. She released him, then stepped away from the bed.
“My apologies, Icheb,” T’Kara said at last. “It would seem the plak tow, the blood fever, has descended not only over Xon, but now over me as well. It was the mental bond we share that triggered my own pon
farr at the onset of his; this will all be over tomorrow. I shall declare kal-if-fee.” She turned, and quickly exited the room.
Kal-if-fee. Icheb recalled the Vulcan he had been learning in the past year. It was the second half of koon-ut-kal-if-fee, which meant ‘marriage or challenge.’ He wasn’t sure he liked where this was heading.
Near the City of de’Khriv
24 May 2376, 1123 hrs
Icheb marched behind T’Kara in the procession to the ancestral lands of Xon’s family. Ahead of them was the matron of his family, an elderly Vulcan woman named T’Mari. Behind them were several of Xon’s adult male cousins in ancient ceremonial battle garb.
When the entourage reached the site, Icheb saw a round, open-air area several meters across, with a pit of coals under a hanging, hexagonal gong nearly two meters tall, a repeated diamond shape carved successively into its surface. Xon stood next to the gong, a hammer in his hand. Another man — friend or relative, Icheb wasn’t sure — stood to his left.
The pair carrying T’Mari’s litter stopped, and placed it carefully on the ground. The men behind Icheb and T’Kara briskly made their way forward, and took their places on either side of the litter. Xon stepped forward, clearly believing that T’Kara would simply fulfill the koon — the marriage. After all, one could count on a single hand the number of individuals in the last century who had invoked kal-if-fee — the challenge — and still have fingers left over.
“I invoke kal-if-fee,” T’Kara announced. There was silence. Utter silence, with the wind and the distant call of a le matya the only sounds to break it. The uncontrolled fury in Xon’s face was palpable.
T’Mari glared at T’Kara. “Doest thee realize the consequences?” the elder Vulcan asked in the formal high Vulcan, which Icheb’s universal translator obediently converted into an ancient dialect of
“I do,” T’Kara replied.
“Kal-if-fee has been declared,” T’Mari intoned. “Who shall be thy champion?”
“Icheb,” T’Kara said, and inclined her head toward the young Brunali, “shall be my champion.”
T’Mari appraised the former drone before addressing him. “As an off-worlder,” she began, “thou hast the option of declining T’Kara’s decision. Knowest thou of Vulcan traditions?”
“My knowledge is limited,” Icheb admitted.
“Shouldst thou accept,” T’Mari explained, “thou shalt face Xon in ritual combat, a tradition dating from ages past. Shouldst thou prevail, thou shalt have the option to bond with T’Kara yourself, as is thy right by Vulcan law, in the koon-ut so’lik.”
Icheb pondered her words carefully, then announced, “I accept.”
T’Mari nodded. “Bring forth the lirpa!” she commanded. Two of Xon’s cousins stepped behind the litter and opened a large compartment. When they returned, each bore a large, metal weapon: A long shaft, just over a meter long, with a heavy, blunt weight on one end and a curved, frighteningly sharp blade on the other. Icheb considered the weapon he was handed. The balance was excellent, the blade even sharper up close than it had appeared at a distance. He realized with sinking finality that this contest could only have one victor: it was doubtless to the death.
“Begin,” T’Mari ordered.
Immediately, Xon charged Icheb with his lirpa. In his pon farr-crazed state of mind, the Vulcan had apparently cast aside all strategy in the hope that he could catch his opponent off-guard and off-balance from the crushing gravity. That, Icheb decided, was a distinct
miscalculation on Xon’s part. He ducked the wild swing of the lirpa‘s bladed end, thankful that his Borg implants allowed his muscles to compensate for the increased gravity of this desert world. He would never equal the brute speed or strength of his adrenaline-charged opponent, true, but the conditions wouldn’t cripple his movements, either.
Xon swung again, and it became clear to Icheb that, indeed, the Vulcan was fighting madly and without any thought or strategy. He held his lirpa out horizontally, blocking the blow, then pushed against Xon’s blade, knocking his opponent off-balance. He used the opportunity to flip the lirpa so the flat, weighted end was facing Xon, then hit him hard in the belly with the lirpa.
It had the desired effect. Xon was rendered breathless for a moment, and his offensive stopped completely. Icheb repeated the same attack, and pummeled Xon in the abdomen again and again. Xon took a step back with each blow, and his grip on his own lirpa began to slacken. Then, Xon noticed the heel of his foot catch on the edge of brickwork. He looked down, and saw he had been backed all the way to the firepit.
When Xon looked down to catch his bearings, Icheb delivered the final blow of his calculated strategy. Again taking the blunt edge of the lirpa, he sent a crushing blow into Xon’s face, presumably breaking the Vulcan’s nose and shattering his balance. Xon completely lost his tenuous grip on his own lirpa. He stumbled backward, the back of his head impacting against the gong. He tripped, and found himself crashing, back first, into the hot coals within the firepit.
Xon shrieked in pain, and scrambled to his feet. Pushing the pain aside, he rushed Icheb. Lirpa or no, he intended to rip the Brunali’s trachea from his throat with his bare hands.
“Kroykah!” T’Mari bellowed. Xon either didn’t hear her, or ignored her. Icheb blocked the anticipated counter-assault by holding his lirpa horizontally in his extended arms, catching Xon by the throat.
“Kroykah!” T’Mari repeated. Xon’s cousins surged forward, and two pulled him away from Icheb while the other two retrieved the lirpas. Once Xon was restrained, T’Mari commanded, “Bring forth the ahn
As the pair who had retrieved the lirpas stowed them in the case behind the litter and retrieved the proscribed ahn woon — whatever that is, Icheb thought — the Brunali briskly stepped over to T’Kara’s side.
“You did not warn me,” Icheb said harshly, “that you would choose me as your champion when you declared kal-if-fee.”
“My apologies,” T’Kara replied. “I had erroneously assumed that you would deduce that on your own, given my behavior.”
One of Xon’s cousins stepped up to Icheb, and handed him a long leather-like strap: the ahn woon. With that, the brief respite from the ritual combat was over.
“Begin,” T’Mari intoned.
Icheb was trying to determine if it was possible to conclude the ritual combat without a fatality. During his research into the pon farr, very little information was available, given the Vulcan proclivity for privacy. Apparently, a similar situation had occured a century earlier during Captain Kirk’s original five-year mission aboard the Starship Enterprise, and by reading between the lines of the log entries recorded by the senior staff at the time, it was apparent that Kirk had faked his own death while fighting Spock in this same ritual combat.
Icheb avoided a series of lashing attacks by Xon while he continued to consider his tactical options during this situation. Kirk had apparently been strangled by Spock with the ahn woon. And it seemed, from comments and cryptic log entries aboard Voyager, that it was possible for a pon farr to be resolved without death in the ritual
combat, if he had interpreted the information regarding Ensign Vorik’s pon farr correctly.
At that moment, Xon’s ahn woon struck Icheb in the side of the head. A moment later, the solution presented itself to him.
Striking aggressively at Xon to put his opponent on the defensive, then feinting attacks once that had been achieved, Icheb managed to position himself behind the Vulcan. He leaped forward and wrapped his ahn woon around Xon’s neck. Xon dropped his own ahn woon to free his hands in an attempt to pull the leathery strap far enough away so that he could breathe once more. The pair struggled in this position for several seconds, then Xon’s arms fell limply to his sides, and Icheb immediately released his grip.
One of Xon’s cousins quickly stepped forward, feeling for a pulse. He looked to T’Mari and said, “He lives still.”
T’Mari looked to Icheb. “Thou must finish thy opponent.”
“No,” Icheb said. “I cannot.”
“Thou must,” T’Mari repeated. “The kal-if-fee is to the death.”
“There is evidence,” Icheb countered, “from the Starship Voyager that the ritual combat itself can help purge the plak tow. Is it not illogical to insist upon the death of an opponent when it is still possible to let him live? The conditions of the pon farr were not of his choosing.”
T’Mari considered his argument. “Thou claims evidence.”
“Ensign Vorik,” Icheb began, “of the Starship Voyager entered his pon farr nearly four years into that ship’s journey through the Delta Quadrant. He attempted to bond with the ship’s chief engineer, but when she rejected him in the koon-ut so’lik and instead chose Voyager‘s helmsman, he declared kal-if-fee. They fought to a standstill, and his plak tow passed after both had been rendered unconscious.”
“Thou witnessed these events?” T’Mari asked.
“No,” Icheb admitted. “It was before I became part of Voyager‘s crew. But Vorik still lives, and can attest to these facts.”
“Thy argument has merit,” T’Mari conceded. “Thy opponent shall be spared.”
City of de’Khriv
Residence of S’Rol and T’Serra
24 May 2376, 1454 hrs
Icheb and T’Kara sat in silence in the living room of her parents’ house. T’Kara, now once again in control of herself as her plak tow had passed and her pon farr in its final stages, looked to Icheb, who saw in her eyes the emotions she still struggled to control. Sorrow. Rage. Shame. S’Rol entered the room, his stride measured and all but silent.
“Word has come from Xon’s family,” S’Rol announced. “His injuries were relatively minor, and his plak tow has passed following the ritual combat. It would seem, Icheb, that you were correct. However, his family is already beginning a search for a new bondmate for Xon.” The message delivered, S’Rol turned and left the room.
“I realize this could end our friendship,” T’Kara said a moment later.
“You had little control,” Icheb replied, “over your hormones and your emotions. I understand.”
“I should have told you that you would be my champion before the ceremony,” T’Kara said.
“I will not seek to terminate our friendship,” Icheb said.
“Then you will accept the koon-ut so’lik?” T’Kara asked.
“I did not say that,” Icheb replied. “I offer instead the challenge of exploring our friendship, which has been decidedly altered by these events. I do not wish to commit to a bonding at this point, because I do not know if I am that which you seek, nor if you are
what I seek.”
“I see,” T’Kara said.
“However,” Icheb said, “should we still be as close of friends as we are now when your next pon farr is due to occur… I will be willing to reconsider the koon-ut so’lik.”
T’Kara looked into his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile on her lips, and he met her gaze.