Portrait of Promise
|Title:||Portrait of Promise|
|Fandom:||Star Trek: The Original Series|
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.
It was published in the print zine Scattered Stars #9.
"Kirk is entranced by the portrait of a Vulcan warrior found in the office of the presumed dead ambassador, a portrait said to be in the exact likeness of its owner."
Reactions and Reviews
Another fast-paced, plot-filled, exciting story from a wonderful author. Ms. Falken beautifully captures Admiral Kirk's character along with a complex murder-mystery plot that really holds your interest.
The beginning sets up the intrigue with some fine scenes of Kirk and McCoy in conversation that makes excellent use of imparting information through their dialogue. This technique may have been used a little too much, but on the whole it really piques our interest as we know things will be leading somewhere.
This author also is adept at weaving a very complicated scenario and never once losing strands or leaving plot holes. Definitely a talent!
The whodunit plot is important, and although I won't go into it here, it's maybe a little too important, but it does not completely overshadow the more important K/S.
As I said before, her characterization of Admiral Kirk is right on the money, but I must say I especially liked her McCoy—he truly comes to life in all his crusty yet compassionate manner. Her Spock is the least of the three, but then the focus is really on Kirk anyway.
Clear, strong writing—not overly fanciful or poetic—the kind of writing that lends itself perfectly to this type of story. Totally appreciated was the single POV that never once faltered. One minor difficulty that once I noticed, I couldn't ignore, was the overuse of exotic sounding analogies (I think that's what they are). It's when someone is doing something like a "insert futuristic or otherworldly thing here"—like "Kirk walked away like a Denebian Slime Devil." Dont ask.
There's also some terrific humor in the story, with a great barroom brawl and a cute McCoy moment with a transvestite.
And what would a Brianna Falken story be without some dynamite sex? It's definitely here.I would be remiss if I did not mention the handsome Admiral Kirk done by the late Chris Soto. 
I Know Brianna worked long and hard on this story, and It shows. This is a K/S story with a very developed complicated plot If you are reading K/S for a quick thrill, forget this story. There's not much sex. if you want a story that grabs you and holds your attention, all the while you're asking: "When the hell do they ever get to bed?", then this story is definitely for you. But do not think this is a gen story with just a little explicitness thrown in so that Robin Hood will print it. Lust and romance figure into the story quite early.
The characterizations of McCoy and Kirk are familiar These are the men we know. The Spock here is more different from the series one, and this is easily explained because this is an MU story...as if you didn't know from it being in a Scattered Stars. There's a lot of dialogue in this, and most of it sounds real. Both characters and plot are well crafted.
I recommend the story, unless you can't sustain your concentration for long periods of time without the bedroom scenes. I started reading this and couldn't put it down until I finished.
Okay, everyone says LOC's are more helpful if some constructive criticism is thrown in. Two things bothered me— neither of them terribly significant. On page 85, on the balcony, as I am frantically reading along saying, "Now! Do it now! Come on!", I was taken aback when I got to "Kirk tightened his legs around the slim waist..". I stopped dead and went, "Huh?" I had to back up and see what I had missed. And I hadn't really noticed a significant sentence as I was reading faster and faster, hoping to finish the story and finally get to sleep. (I started the story after ten P.M. in bed.) But I still think this scene needs a little more description of what they are doing and how they are moving.)
The basic idea is that Kirk falls in love with a portrait. We have a lovely Chris Soto Kirk on page 33a. (Actually my copy has two Soto 33a's) and two T'Rett's on pages 10a and 19a of Spock. I am assuming the 19a one should be where the 10a is—unless this isnt supposed to be the actual portrait. And I'm confused about whether it is or not. Frankly, if we have a drawing of a magnificent picture—one so fantastic that a certain James T's heart will start going pitty-pat, and his cock will start getting "interested", then this drawing has got to be one of the best ones ever done in fandom. This story definitely either needs a fantastic A/U warrior Spock portrait as described in the story, or it should have none at all. Maybe all the pictures should be of Kirk? (Works for me...but then I'm a Kirkie.)Anyway, "Portrait Of Promise" is an excellent story. It's different, but not to the point of absurdity the way some A/U stories can get. The dialogue sounds right and is quite witty in places. McCoy gets a nice part in this. I never felt like skipping through any of the parts; in other words, it's not boring or a story that adds a bunch of details we really don't give a hoot about. There are original characters, but the main emphasis is Kirk and Spock. (I don't care for stories where original characters hog the limelight.) So, if you haven't bought SS9 yet rush your order to Robin. Definitely, two thumbs up. Or should that be...two cocks up?? 
If you like some plot along with your K/S, have I got a story for you! This author has always written well-plotted, interesting stories, but she's outdone herself this time.
Yes, it's AU, but only the conditions by which Spock and Kirk first meet each other, first learn to care about each other are variables. These are the characters we love. Kirk is his adventurous, charming, introspective self, and Spock...well. Spock displays his hidden sense of humor, his passion, and his strong sense of duty to perfection. I know these characters, and care about what happens to them.
Essentially Portrait of Promise is a murder mystery. I am loathe to give away too much of the plot, since this zine is hot off the press, but the story revolves around a murdered man discovered in the newly arrived Vulcan ambassador's quarters on Earth. It is at the end of the first five-year mission, and Kirk finds himself cut adrift from his ship and his stars, but he is unwilling to go back out into space and lose more people who have been entrusted to his care. He is also searching for that one person with whom he would have been able to share his life. And he finds him...in a wondrously beautiful portrait of an ancient Vulcan warrior. This portrait is extremely well-realized, perfectly depicted, and the reader has no problem in seeing the attraction and understanding the hold the portrait comes to have over Kirk.
My favorite scene has to be the one that takes place in a seedy bar where Kirk, Spock and McCoy have gone to seek out some necessary information. Kirk never looks for trouble yet it seems to find him, and the question becomes just how much "fun" can the admiral stand. We watch as Spock compiles fact after fact about Kirk in an effort to discover what makes the man tick, and becomes ever more fascinated by his discoveries.
The author stays completely in one close-in POV and anyone having trouble with telling not showing should take heed. It's done really well here. The author has taken the time to show us why the two men are drawn to each other. No leaps of faith are needed.Cleanly written. Well-detailed and plotted. Humor and good drama and mystery to boot. Eighty-five pages of pleasure. 
There are some points I'd like to touch.
Why kill Kirk immediately? Of course this is a personal opinion, but wouldn't it have been better to find out what he had discovered before taking such a drastic step? There's bound to come an investigation into a Starfleet Admiral, especially in Kirk's case, who must have enemies in the line of duty. Logically his last hours would've been retraced, resulting in finding out that he was making inquiries into the death of Chris Langford. Probably that would result in the reopening of that case.
No police inquiries after his car has been blown up? No Starfleet Security to notify when it involves a Starfleet Officer? No precautions taken by Kirk and co when they return to his apartment? You could assume that anyone who planted that compound is going to check to see if his/her work had a satisfactory result.
Why wasn't that boat searched too? If they can get inside that Starfleet Security net the second time Kirk and Co are on that boat, they could also do it before Kirk even knew that boat existed.
Beaming down to Starfleet Marina? What about that security net? And how did they know when to show up? Lucky chance or did Kirk let that information slip?
I don't know exactly what doesn't feel completely right with that scene on the top half of page 87, but it jars somewhere. Is it because I am drawn into Kirk's wanting and miss savouring that first touch of flesh to flesh. Kirk's anticipation is building and then I have to wait to savour his response.
Kirk has an idealistic vision, a complete trust of mind, body and soul but once he's confronted with reality, he staggers back and then jumps in. I don't have the feeling as if I was given sufficient insight into his dealing with the real thing.
"We can bond, Spock." Kirk cried out in desperation. "If that's what it takes, then so be it." This feels out of synch with the rest. If that is what "whaf takes? I don't get it. The only thing I can come up with is a last ditch effort on KinVs part, adding "if that is what it takes" which doesn't exactly imply a free consent but making the best of a bad scenario.I love that Kirk, deciding on the pros and contras, and deal with them. He takes his chances. I love that scene where Kirk falls in love with a portrait. In fact I love it all. The surprising twists, the way Kirk handles "his Vulcan," the way Spock replies with his unique sense of humour, the doctor's teasing reaction, the way the characters bounce off each other, interreacting fluently, the hot scenes ... etc., etc. 
Much has already been said about this story and I won't go into detail, about the technicolor mystery plot, the love, the sex, all of it. So I'll just make a few other comments.
I liked the premise that Vulcans have only served on all-Vulcan ships so far. Now other peoples want this exemption, too; so that Starfleet must get Vulcans on all-worlds ships to forestall this potentially chaotic development. This is an interesting and useful thing as a story element for A/U.
Such a beautiful thing, that both Kirk and Spock separately had always had deep longings to find their soulmates, to serve in space together. Spock had already abandoned his search for the one true friend...t'hy'la. And Kirk had never had that joined-at-the-hip command team, either, and longed for it. (Regarding this, I was somewhat surprised that when Kirk gets aroused the first time, he is shocked at this. I would have thought he already would have realized that his lifelong yearning for a brother-in-arms, felt probably more intensely than most of his fellow captains, might very well include the sexual.)
Of course prior to all this, they had been in situations where they almost might have met up. So it's very satisfying when they do now.
Sometimes I wasn't really feeling what Kirk was feeling. For instance, when Kirk sees the portrait of the Vulcan warrior and gets such strong feelings, we may indeed be shown what he feels, but maybe there wasn't enough of an emotionally stimulating framework so that we could feel it. A number of times there are lovely, sensual words about how Kirk feels, but the problem is, these are put into such a complex story that the plot is what engages us, rather than a focus on emotional build-up.
We're told something "magical" passes between them. (I'm not saying Brianna tells instead of shows, not at all; I'm commenting on something else here.) This keeps happening, this electrical feeling between them. But it felt forced, only because it isn't until later that we learn what it is—a very real psychic connection for very good reason. It's the K'reesh Talar, the spontaneous joining of two halves of one soul. A primal need that must be satisfied—oh boy. However, at the time of reading it when these electric moments first were happening, it felt like over-obvious writing. So a beautiful concept got tainted for me beforehand. I realize this is a challenge in our writing, when we want to express the "magic" that very definitely does spark between them. I felt their intimacy was a bit rushed (not in the sense of the writing of the story, but in their interaction as it was depicted); that they started teasing each other about intimacy so soon, that Kirk is too forward so soon. I felt this, I believe, because of the serious, mysterious atmosphere that had been built up to that point.
Wonderful lines such as this from Kirk: We were never strangers; we just hadn't met yet.
I dug it when at this bar, a cross-dresser tries to pick up McCoy; and McCoy doesn't mind at all. And of course a guy tries to pick up Kirk, and I always enjoy when he just loves how it feels when Spock gets protective of him.Okay, Brianna knows this but I have to say it here. At the Ambassadors Ball, when they were both so gorgeously handsome in tuxedos, I couldn't stand it that she didn't have them dance. 
O.K., I’m going to admit something here. I have but one day to review something for the July KSP and I have been so busy I’ve read nothing during the past month. I had no idea where to start to find something I could read rather quickly—and I must also confess my heart wasn’t really into it. Off the shelf came Scattered Stars 9. I’m not a huge fan of AU, so I’ve only lately acquired some used SS zines. But I knew the name Brianna Falken and it was attached to the first story, so I thought, “here goes.”
It’s unbelievable how quickly I became immersed in this story. Exceptionally well written and smooth, it immediately introduces me to a Kirk and McCoy who are not strangers to me, but old friends. Kirk is an Admiral and McCoy has gone on to research following the five- year mission. So what’s AU about this, you ask. I’ll tell you what. There is no Spock. After some prompting, the visiting McCoy manages to get Kirk to open up and he reveals the depth of his loneliness, a loneliness he’s managed to hold at bay throughout their time in space but which is now closing tightly around him. There is nothing short of beautiful insight into Kirk’s feelings and his longings for the other half of his soul, which he is convinced is out there somewhere. He’s equally certain it’s too late to find him. I am mesmerized by his revelations to McCoy that the person he’s been looking for all these years has, in his mind, always been male. McCoy is acting medical examiner, covering for a friend, and takes Kirk along on a call about a deceased person. Though the features are indistinguishable, the victim of a phaser blast to the face is believed to be one Ambassador Spock, whom Kirk has been expecting to meet with to settle political differences between the Federation and Vulcan. Ms. Falken has woven a very intricate plot, the complexity of which has only begun to be realized at this point. This might make you believe she has concentrated on plot to the detriment of K/S. Not so! What happens next is very sad. Kirk, investigating the murder of Spock, but with only a stranger’s perspective of the crime, stumbles across an amazingly lifelike portrait of a Vulcan warrior and suddenly his world comes crashing down around him. Remember, this is not the Kirk we remember from TOS, this is a man who has practically given up, who has become resolved to the fact his life will never be what he once dreamed: traveling the stars with one who possesses the other half of his soul. The portrait speaks to him in a way he could not have imagined. Listen to these words, “Kirk stood mesmerized, falling under its dark power. The portrait was so life-like and vivid that he almost expected the Vulcan sorcerer to step off the canvas demanding his soul. He felt an instant of mad, aching desire to surrender it.” Powerful, is it not? Kirk learns the warrior in the painting bears an uncanny resemblance to Spock and he is completely bereft because he somehow knows now that this Vulcan ambassador he never had the chance to meet was that other half of his soul. Something that adds a great deal of believability to this story is the author’s erudite usage of familiar quotes from TOS and the movies. Things we’ve heard Kirk, Spock and McCoy say, yet in subtly different circumstances, are employed very effectively to help us envision the scenes. When a very much alive Spock interrupts Kirk’s lament as he sits in front of the portrait is a stunning piece of writing and shows us just how true to the originals these alternate reality characters are. This is just grippingly real. There is so much more here for the reader than waiting to see what the fates hold in store for Kirk and Spock as far as sharing their lives. So very much stands in their way, not the least of which is a decades-long Romulan conspiracy. But most important to me is still the concept that these two are destined to be together and absolutely nothing in the universe is likely to prevent it. Dialogue between the two as we wind our way through the story is just marvelous! I can see their expressions and hear their voices. As an example, as their physical attraction is making itself known, Spock admits he has never had “fun”. Kirk responds, “You will, Spock. Just stick with me and you will.” Whereupon Spock says, “Admiral, that is rapidly becoming my greatest fear.” Doesn’t that just make you smile all over?A superbly constructed story filled with excitement on many levels, all the action you could ever want and Kirk and Spock at their best. What more could K/S readers ask? Thank you, Brianna. The K/S Press has its review and I had a very moving and memorable adventure with Kirk and Spock! 
- from The K/S Press #14
- from The K/S Press #12
- from The K/S Press #12
- from The K/S Press #13
- from The K/S Press #15
- from The K/S Press #130