This story begins immediately after The Search for Spock, circa 2285-6 AD, in the alternate-StarTrek ASTERIA Universe created by Midge (Clark) Baker, 1985.
Scanned and OCR'd by Midge (Clark) Baker, 2008
Text editing for website: Karen L. MacLeod, 2008
ASTERIA: Memories Of Otherwhen
©1986, 2008 by Midge Clark (Baker)
The red-streaked, darkening sky backlit the plateaus surrounding the canyon, as the dying rays of Vulcan's setting sun struck on millions of tiny mica flecks which were an integral part of the left cliff face. There, tediously chipped from the living rock by archaic hands, and yet barely visible through the sparkling glare, an awesome staircase led up, and up, and ever upward to the towering, mesa-topped peak of Mt. Seleya.
Atop it, perched like a tarnished tiara crowning an aged brow, stood the dateless, timeworn edifice that is the Hall of Ancient Thought.
Within that antediluvian temple, the most revered on Vulcan since time out of mind, a desperate need, called for a desperate attempt.
For the sake of a man's love for his son, and made possible by the love of a group of humans for their friend born of an alien world, the attempt was made.
In the Ritual of the Rejoining, the very existence of which was once relegated to the realm of legend, Spock's katra was made one with his rejuvenated body.
He lived... but the shock of the Rejoining had left his memory impaired. He recognized Sarek, his father. And he recognized Kirk and the others. Yet his memory was not complete...
PART I BONDS
The temple personnel led Spock away.
"What will happen to him now?" Kirk asked.
Sarek replied, "Spock will be taken to the Vulcan Hospital. There the Healers will treat him in order to restore his memory. Forgive me. I must go with my son." Sarek turned away to follow Spock and the priests. He paused, then turned back. "And what will all of you do? You realize that you have been outlawed by the Federation. There is an order out for your capture and arrest."
Kirk looked at McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Saavik...
No one said a word, but the looks on their faces gave ample proof of their thoughts and desires. Kirk nodded, casting his vote thereby. It was unanimous. He looked back at Sarek. "We know the Federation wants us, and we fully intend to turn ourselves in, eventually. But first we want to make sure Spock is made well again. We've decided to go into hiding."
Sarek said, "It will not work; not on Vulcan. The Starfleet Orbital Base which orbits us would find you eventually."
Saavik rebutted, "I have not been implicated in the Federation's charges, Sarek. We have decided that I will return with the Klingon prisoner, and will testify for the defense before the Board of Inquiry."
Kirk added, "And for the rest of us, well, we're willing to bet that we can outwit Starfleet long enough to accomplish our purpose."
Sarek made his decision. "Enough. You have, all of you, given me back the life of my son. I acknowledge that Debt. What I do now, I do for my own Honor. I grant you Sanctuary in my home, in defiance of the Federation itself, if need be. I, Sarek of Vulcan, have said it."
The Healers escorted Spock down the hallowed halls of the Hospital. Rounding a bend, they came upon a diminutive Vulcan woman, aged almost to decrepitude, who approached them in a wheelchair unit that did double duty as a life support module.
Sesic, the eldest of the Healers, held out his hand in the Vulcan salute, and addressed her. "Live long and prosper, Ancient One."
Though she eyed them pertly, her answer was a senile babble. "To be or not to be... not our equals, males are not our equals...area equals pi r-squared..." She repeated herself, and seemed likely to do so forever.
The Healers, with Spock following their lead, executed profoundly deep bows, in a gesture of reverent respect, then continued on their way.
Once they had settled Spock in his room, Sesic and most of the others left to attend to other duties, leaving the youngest of their number with Spock. As she had been assigned, she attempted to meld with him, but met with failure. His mind-barrier was too strong. She could not penetrate it. After making Spock comfortable, she left him to report to Sesic.
In the days following, several of the youngest Healers, each one a little older or more experienced than the last, strove with valiant efforts to achieve a meld with Spock. Despite these repeated attempts, none met with success. And each day, when Sarek or Amanda visited the Hospital to see their son, Healer Sesic was obliged to give them the unhappy news.
On this fourth day, as on the preceding ones, Sarek returned home from the Hospital to report to Amanda, Kirk, and the others that again, no progress had been made.
Amanda commented, "Well, I refuse to be discouraged. So far, only the younger, newly-trained Healers have tried."
McCoy asked her, "Why don't more experienced Healers try to help Spock right off? They know his case is a different one. It doesn't seem to make any sense."
Amanda replied, "I think, Dr. McCoy, that you have been too much alone in your work. Too much rising to alarms, because seconds count."
Bones sighed. "You're probably right, Amanda. Patience has never been one of my main virtues."
Sarek added, "Worry not, Dr. McCoy. Sesic, the chief Healer, has said that Spock's case is not one that can be forced. In that event, it is only logical to give the younger Healers their chance. For if they succeed, they have made a step toward the mastery of their craft. If they fail, well, they learn from that also."
Uhura said, "I think it's just that we're all jumpy from being cooped up so long. I, for one, want to go to the Hospital and see Spock for myself."
Kirk and the others echoed agreement.
Sarek shook his head. "That is not possible. You may not set foot off of my lands. The Admiral has been assigned to secure your arrest if you do."
"T'Pava?" Amanda queried.
Kirk ejaculated, "If Starfleet knows we are here, we must leave at once! It is not right for us to put you in any danger."
Sarek gestured him to silence. "Starfleet has known you were here since the first day. On the day I granted you sanctuary, I made public proclamation of the fact. It is our way."
The humans gasped. Chekov asked, "Will a Starfleet Admiral honor such a proclamation?"
Sarek replied, "T'Pau has forbidden that the Sanctuary be violated."
Scotty commented, "Aye. But will the Admiral acknowledge that?"
Amanda snickered. "My friends, Starfleet Admiral T'Pava is T'Pau's own daughter. She would not dare defy her mother's decree."
Sarek added, "But the moment you set foot outside of my boundaries, the Sanctuary is dissolved. T'Pava will be waiting for you."
More days followed. Carrying on up the list, the older and more experienced Healers attempted to achieve meld with Spock.
Now there was some reaction from Spock, but it took the form of increased resistance, fear, and finally pain. At last, Sesic himself was obliged to try. The result of that session left Spock screaming and Sesic weeping in exhaustion -- to no avail. For some unknown reason, Spock could not bear the touch of the mind-meld. Sesic advised Amanda of the fact.
The next day, Sarek returned home. "Sesic says that all of the Healers have now tried to reach Spock. Tomorrow he will ask of the Ancient One that she make the attempt."
"Who is this Ancient One?" Kirk asked.
Amanda answered him. "The Ancient One is the oldest living Vulcan. She is domiciled at the Hospital, since her retirement many years ago. The Ancient One is T'pau's predecessor, the High Lady T'Pralin."
Kirk, McCoy, and the others looked puzzled.
Suddenly, Chekov's face brightened. "T'Pralin! I was just reading about her the other day. Let me see if I can find the tape." He rose from his seat and went to Sarek's computer terminal.
While Sulu and Uhura rolled their eyes over his enthusiasm, Chekov shuffled through the tapes, found the one he wanted, then stuck it in the slot, running the tape forward to the appropriate place.
"Here it is." He began to quote, "T'Pralin, whose present title is Ancient One, roughly equivalent to Queen Dowager, was Matriarch of Vulcan at the time of the first encounters between Vulcans and humans. It was she who negotiated the treaty resulting in the Romulan Neutral Zone, nearly two hundred years ago; and it was she who later impelled Vulcan to join the Federation."
Sulu murmured, "That T'Pralin... I thought she would have died by now. How old is she?"
Sarek replied, "T'Pralin is 408 standard years old."
McCoy asked, "At the risk of sounding a fool, I just have to ask. How on earth could anyone expect such an aged lady to be able to help Spock?"
Sarek answered him. "In her youth, T'Pralin was the greatest Healer of her time. She founded the Hospital in which she now resides."
Amanda added, "As you might expect, her present mental state is a variable one. In her senile moments, she is tended and cherished. In her lucid ones, she is honored for her great wisdom. Even T'Pau still consults her."
Kirk queried, "If T'Pau succeeded T'Pralin as Matriarch, does that mean that T'Pralin is her mother?"
Sarek replied, "Her grandmother. T'Pralin is greatly revered among our people. Not even T'Pau would dare to defy the Ancient One's expressed command."
Later the same afternoon, Admiral T'pava sat at her desk, in her office in the Vulcan Starfleet Orbital Base. Her intercom wheeped. She answered it, to be informed by her adjutant that a message from Starfleet was coming in. T'Pava acknowledged, then switched on her viewscreen.
On the viewer, a face formed. "This is Commanding Admiral Nogura, Starfleet Executive Council, to Admiral T'pava, Orbital Base Vulcan."
"Admiral T'Pava here, Sir."
"Admiral, I hereby advise you, by a special dispensation voted on in Federation Council, His Imperial Highness, Prince Talak, son of the Imperial Matriarch of the Romulan Empire, will be brought to Vulcan for treatment by the Healers. The young Prince was injured in a transporter accident. Though Romulan doctors have cured his bodily injuries, they have been unable to help his now-deranged mind. It is hoped that the Vulcan Healers can cure his psychosis. I do not need to advise you of the excellent opportunity this event provides for us to place the Empire in our debt. You will take all necessary precautions. Prince Talak and his retinue will arrive on Vulcan in two days."
"Orders received and understood, Admiral Nogura. Orbital Base Vulcan will comply."
"Very good. Admiral Nogura, Starfleet Executive Command, out."
In her room at the Hospital, Sesic quietly approached the Ancient One, as she lay in her bed. He greeted her respectfully.
She babbled her nonsense at him.
Gently, he reached out his hand and held it before her eyes. She stared at it quizzically for a moment, then grasped it and placed it against her cheek in the mind-meld position. In a minute or so, her entire countenance changed — from senile old lady, to the very epitome of serene and ancient wisdom.
Sesic softly whispered Spock's name.
She nodded. "Yes...the boy's need is great. Take me to him." T'Pralin, again in her wheelchair, and accompanied by Sesic, entered Spock's room. Motoring her conveyance to the side of his bed, the diminutive lady placed her tiny hands in the mind-meld position. Then with all of her talent, she reached for Spock's mind. And met resistance. Yet, such was her skill that she caused Spock no pain, and learned enough to determine his problem. Breaking out of the meld, she calmly accepted Spock's homage, and bade his rest. She and Sesic left the room.
Out in the hallway, she looked up at the tall, middle-aged Healer. "The boy is half-human. His Vulcan half is dormant — he has denied it. That is why he could not stand the touch. He must meld with his friends. Tomorrow, Kirk and the others must be brought. I, T'Pralin, have said it."
"How did you know about the humans, Ancient One?"
With just the ghost of both pride and humor in her tone, she replied, "I know many things, young Sesic. Has it not always been so?" Abruptly, her expression changed, and she began babbling again.
His hand held out in the Vulcan salute, Sesic bowed very low. "It shall be as you have commanded it, Ancient One."
Amanda, Kirk, and the others exchanged small talk as they finished breakfast, with occasional comment from the bedroom, where Sarek was dressing to visit the Hospital. Though they all tried to hide it, the underlying tonal qualities of their voices gave proof of their nervous anxiety. For today they would learn if the Ancient One had been able to help Spock.
A sudden rapping at the door caused heads to turn. Sulu and Chekov jumped, startled at the unexpected sound. Embarrassed, they relaxed as Sarek came out of the bedroom, and answered the next knock.
It was Healer Sesic. As Sarek ushered him in, Sesic said, "We must go to the Hospital at once."
"Come then. I am ready."
Sesic shook his head. "The humans must come also."
Sarek denied this possibility. "Healer, you know that that cannot be. My son's friends are in sanctuary, and may not leave my lands."
Kirk and the others perched on the edges of their seats; mouths open to protest that they would risk it. They could somehow sense that this was to help Spock. Sesic waved a hand for silence. In formal tones, he stated, "T'Pralin herself has summoned them. They are under her aegis. Let us go."
Sarek intoned, "The Ancient One commands it. It shall be done."
Excitedly, Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu conferred hurriedly, then scattered for their rooms to dress more appropriately. Serenely, Lady Amanda rose from the table and took her place at Sarek's side. "I will go, too, My Husband." He looked down at her. "As you wish it, My Wife." Sarek was pleased. He knew how much it disturbed her to see their son in his present condition, and yet she gave no outward sign of the distress he knew she was feeling at that moment.
Out of the corner of her eye, Amanda saw Sesic stiffen, and read the tiny signs of his intense disapproval. Turning her head in the direction of his stare, she saw Kirk and the others emerging from their rooms. Each was wearing a Vulcan cloak, with the cowls pulled forward to hide their features. They intended to bring no censure on Sarek and Amanda by being recognized in public.
Sesic asked stonily, "Do you thus dishonor the Ancient One's protection?"
Hastily, Amanda turned to him. Eyes lowered, she dropped into a deep curtsey. "Healer Sesic, I beg forgiveness for the Guests of My Husband's house..." She rose and glanced at the others. Kirk and company stood rooted, their mouths hanging open, now not in protest but in surprise. Her voice laden with warning meant for their ears, Amanda added to Sesic, "As mere humans, my son's friends are ignorant of this aspect of our customs. They do not know that those summoned under aegis go BARE-HEADED and in SILENCE..."
Six human mouths snapped shut.
Sesic was mollified. "Lady Amanda, for a 'mere human,' you are one of the most dignified of Vulcan women I have ever met."
Sarek gestured for the others to divest themselves of their cloaks. "Remember, my friends, until you are in the presence of T'Pralin's own self, you may not speak."
And bare-headed and in silence did they go.
In her room in the Hospital, T'Pralin concentrated intently, preparing herself. Since her abdication in favor of T'Pau, the lack of other duties had allowed her time to explore and expand the capabilities of her mind. At a time now many years in the past, she had stumbled on a technique that had long been relegated to the sphere of myth. She learned to cast forth her spirit-body, or katra, and to project it to any destination she wished, leaving only a small portion of herself in her material body to sustain it. She had never told anyone of her ability, for if they knew of it, her people would have called her Goddess, and she would not have it so.
Though she accepted her position as Ancient One as her just and fitting due, a goddess she was not — for that lay in the Province of that Power which lies behind and beyond all other powers, called "Maker" in the Vulcan tongue.
She knew that she had lapses of senility now and again, to babble ceaselessly in phrases garnered from the books from which she had taught herself to read English. She knew also, for she had watched herself — that her body lapsed into that senile babble when she left it behind. It made for good camouflage. Enough of this pondering. T'Pralin closed her eyes, then cast forth her katra, her consciousness soaring up, up, through the roof, to stop at great height.
Directly below her she could see the Hospital, with the ramp that led up to it, and with the plaza spreading out before it. Several streets began at the plaza, radiating out from it like spokes from the hub of a wheel. At the far end of one, she could see the Spaceport. Idling a moment, she watched a large and impressive shuttlecraft land. Three streets over from the port, and at a point mid-way down its length, she espied the group of people she sought. Her astral-self swooped down to observe them, unnoticed.
As Sarek and Amanda, their Guests, and the Healer made their way along the street, Sesic explained to Kirk and his friends what they must do to help Spock. "Spock's memory suffers because he wars within himself. He seeks only to be human, and he has denied his Vulcan half. He is incomplete, and needs to be made whole again. You will each meld with him. He has forgotten, so you all must remember for him, himself as he was."
T'Pralin's telepathic awareness was pricked. Her mind moving up over buildings and streets, she traced the disturbance to its source. There, she watched the large group of people making their way from the spaceport to the Hospital.
Admiral T'pava and a small army of Starfleet personnel formed an escort, their numbers of a size to nearly match the small army of Romulan men and women who made up the retinue and entourage of Prince Talak. The Prince himself walked in the care of, and under the vigilant eyes of, two of his own personal guards.
T'Pava walked at the side of the Praetor: present Consort of the Imperial Matriarch, and now Envoy to the Federation. He was also the majordomo of the Prince's retinue.
After a discussion of the Prince's accident, the Praetor turned the topic to current events. "Admiral, what became of the plans for the Genesis device?"
Taken aback, T'Pava blurted, "What do you know about it, Praetor?"
The Praetor smirked. "Don't play the innocent with me, T'Pava. We know the device was detonated. We know that Spock was rejuvenated on the Genesis planet and that the planet itself, later exploded. And we know that the plans were lost beyond recall with the unfortunate death of Kirk's son. The Romulan Empire is glad the device is destroyed. It was too dangerous."
Admiral T'Pava struggled to control herself. Obviously, the Empire was much more aware of recent occurrences than she, or the Federation itself for that matter, wished it were. She must make a full report of this to Starfleet later. With the tiniest of shrugs, she replied, "Your information is correct, Praetor. It is not logical for me to lie about it. How did you know?"
The Praetor gave an off-handed shrug also. "Our erstwhile allies, the Klingons, spy on us as much as they spy on the Federation. Think you not that we would spy on you both?"
"No Romulan spying ships were sighted in Federation space during the entire incident."
He laughed inwardly. He had no liking for T'Pava, and little respect for her. He enjoyed baiting her. "Have you forgotten, Admiral, that the cloaking device is a Romulan invention? Why, twenty years ago the Federation sent the Enterprise to steal the device from us. Are Kirk and his crew still in Starfleet?"
Some things were just too much. T'Pava did not deign to answer.
The progress of the retinue and its escort was measured in fits and starts, due to the behavior of the psychotic Prince Talak. His mood changed constantly through moments of active violence, megalomaniac shrewdity, and near-total passivity, interspersed with bursts of almost-rational remorse in which he wondered what was wrong with him and begged for help. For the moment, Prince Talak walked passively between his two guards. One of them was very young, perhaps the equivalent of eighteen on a human scale. The other, about ten years older, was of an age with the Prince.
Suddenly, Talak sprinted away, his two guards hot on his heels as he viciously attacked one of the women of his entourage. She screamed, but before she could be seriously harmed the two guards pulled Talak off of her, and she took refuge in the Praetor's arms. As the guards grappled with him Talak's mood altered again, this time to one of remorse. The guards released him. Apologetically, he addressed the woman, "My Lady, I beg forgiveness.
From her haven of safety, she sniffed, "It is as nothing, My Prince. You are not well... you could not help yourself."
The Praetor motioned for them to go on, leaving the Prince and his guards to follow. The Starfleet escorts, as ordered, wisely allowed the Romulans to handle their demented Prince themselves.
Talak turned to the younger guard and murmured, child-like, "Tuvik, I am not well... I could not help myself. Why is that?"
Before Tuvik could answer, Talak slapped his hands to the sides of his head. "Tuvik! It is a demon! There is a beast inside of my head. It makes me do evil..."
Tuvik embraced him while he sobbed, wrackingly. "It will be all right, My Prince. That is why we have come to Vulcan, so the Healers here can help you."
Tuvik held the Prince, comforting him like a babe until his sobbing had subsided. Tears streamed from Tuvik's own eyes. His mood changing to passivity, Talak allowed the guards to lead him in the wake of the others. Abruptly, he stooped over to peer under one of the many bushes lining the streets. Going down on his knees, Talak reached under the bush, gently lifting out a small furry creature that had become trapped in a wad of string. Carefully changing position to sit cross-legged on the ground, Talak laid the creature in his lap and patiently and tenderly disentangled it. He watched as, freed from its bonds, the creature fled.
Tuvik bent over and gently touched his arm. "Prince Talak?"
His expression mirroring bestial rage, Talak shouted, "I am Salakah... Salakah!"
The older guard rushed over to help, but Talak relapsed into passivity, and they helped him up, and led him away.
T'pralin's katra shuddered. There was a psychic stink emanating from the Prince... a smell of death... both Talak's and ...her own! She winced. She feared death; that was why she had lived so long. Her mind retreated, and checked on the progress of Sesic and the others.
At the rate the two parties were progressing, Sesic and the others would arrive at the Hospital a little ahead of the Prince and his escort. Wearied of her psionic efforts, T'Pralin looked for the invisible shining psychic cord and followed it back to her body, to wait and to rest.
A while later, T'Pralin sensed the approach of the humans.
Leaving her babbling body to follow along behind, she sent her mind to the top of the ramp leading up to the Hospital.
Sesic, Sarek, Amanda, and the humans were halfway across the small plaza, approaching her straight on. T'pava and her party entered the plaza from the side street, their destination the same.
T'Pralin maintained vigil as they all came nearer.
Just as Sarek reached the foot of the ramp, T'Pava recognized Kirk and his comrades. They had violated Sanctuary! Snapping out commands, T'Pava ordered her Starfleet personnel to surround them. She came after at a more sedate pace, followed in turn by the Romulans, who murmured among themselves at being abandoned by their escort.
The Starfleet personnel made way for T'Pava, and she went directly to Kirk. The Romulans stopped at a polite distance, but well within earshot and listened curiously.
While Sarek's protests fell on deaf ears, the Admiral started to place Kirk and his crew under arrest. A voice rang inside her mind. Cease, T'Pava.
Guiltily, she glanced quickly at the top of the ramp, then did a double take. That had sounded like the Ancient One's voice, but she wasn't there...
Sesic pushed his way through the crowd, announcing loudly, "Admiral T'Pava, the humans are here under aegis. You may not touch them. They have been summoned, to aid Spock, by the Ancient One of Vulcan, T'Pralin herself."
At the sound of her name, the Romulans exchanged shocked glances and whispers. Their attitude altered from idle curiosity to tense alertness.
T'Pava protested to Sesic, "Healer, I, too, am of Vulcan. But I have a duty to Starfleet to arrest Kirk and his crew."
The Praetor motioned to his people. Except for the Prince and his two guards, all of them followed him. Though the Praetor and the retinue were unarmed, each of the Starfleet escorts found that his shoulder had suddenly sprouted a Romulan hand, ready for a disabling neck-pinch at any moment. The Praetor gave a friendly tap to Sesic's shoulder. The Healer bowed and relinquished his place.
Sternly, the Praetor asked, "Admiral, this Ancient One...is she the T'Pralin who was Matriarch before T'pau?" T'Pava nodded.
"Then she is the Ancestress of our own Imperial Mother. No Romulan would dare to disobey her. No Romulan will allow her to be disobeyed."
"You overstep your bounds, Praetor. My duty to Starfleet—"
He cut her off, replying hotly, "Spare me your petty pieties, T'Pava. We Romulans know that your precious Starfleet only made you an admiral to please T'Pau, your mother. You are ambitious and you seek to gain status from this arrest. You rationalize, and call your mouthings logic. Art thee Vulcan,T'pava, or art thee human?"
With a disdainful wave of his hand, he turned from her. "Admiral Kirk, I am authorized to say this to you and your crew. The Imperial Matriarch bids me tell you that should you require Sanctuary, you are welcome to it in the Empire. The word is given to you as an Oath, on the honor of the Imperial Mother herself. We of the Empire count ourselves great that we have had you for enemies. Now we would have you as our friends."
Kirk's jaw dropped. His mouth working, he turned to look at Sesic, his eyes begging for permission to speak. Sesic hesitated... He is in the Presence, Sesic. He may speak. The Ancient One's voice! Sesic acquiesced.
Kirk bowed. "Praetor. Please extend to Her Imperial Majesty our gratitude for her most gracious and surprising offer. However, we delay on Vulcan only to be certain that Spock is made well again. Then our own honor demands that we give ourselves up to Starfleet." He paused. "Will that satisfy you, Admiral T'Pava?"
As T'Pava began to gather her wits for a rebuttal, all heard the whoosh of the Hospital doors. She looked toward the source of the noise.
At the top of the ramp, in her wheelchair, sat T'Pralin. Her visage was stern. Looking down, she caught and held the Admiral's eyes. She never said a word. She didn't have to.
T'Pava straightened her shoulders in defiance, then gave up, defeated. Bowing, she muttered, "I accede to the will of the Ancient One."
In a conference in his office, Sesic explained what Kirk and the others must do. Each of them would mind-meld with Spock. Each must strive to project for him those of their memories which most typified the Spock they had always known. It was the only way he could again accept his Vulcan half; he must know that they liked and respected him not despite it, but in part because of it.
Further, Sesic advised them not to be discouraged if Spock's reactions seemed limited at first. If this tactic worked at all, it would be a progressive affair, each meld necessary for the cure, and each one making the succeeding ones easier, and more efficacious. Finally, Sesic questioned them in detail as to how closely they had worked with Spock in the past, and how often they had melded with him before. In this way, Sesic was able to determine which order of melding would (he hoped) be best for Spock.
At last, they entered Spock's room, where Sarek and Amanda waited with their son. Spock's face seemed to light up with joy as he recognized his human friends. Taking Chekov first, Sesic placed Spock's hands in the proper meld position, then covered them with his own. Using his own talent, Sesic guided them into the rapport of the mind-meld. As the meld ended, Spock whispered, "Chekov, my young friend."
Sulu was next. Sesic again started to attune the meld, but this time Spock accomplished it for himself. It was a good sign. Thereafter, as each meld ended, Spock became more aware, more his old self, as he acknowledged each of his friends in turn...
The meld ended. A smile twitched at the corner of Spock's mouth. "How appropriate, Dr. McCoy. Still subtle with the knife. The Wizard to the Tin man, is it not? I have long suspected that your secret heart dwelled in Oz."
McCoy grinned. "Spock, I always thought that with that green blood of yours, you should live in the Emerald City."
Spock, nearly himself again, reached out his hands to Kirk. "Jim."
As Kirk moved forward to join Spock in the mind-meld, the Ancient One entered the room, to sit watching quietly.
Still in the meld, Spock said, "I have been… and ever shall be… your friend."
Kirk, his eyes closed, replied, "The needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many."
Suddenly, Kirk and Spock both jerked as if they had received electric shocks. The meld ended, and they gazed at each other in surprise. Each naming the other "Brother," they embraced, weeping.
T'Pralin stared at them. As a look of awe registered upon her face, she whispered, "Koon-i-fahraht..."
Sesic, Sarek, and Amanda gasped, as McCoy and the rest exchanged puzzled glances.
The Ancient One continued, intoning, "Koon-i-fahraht, the Bond of Brothers. It cannot be bidden, cannot be forced. It comes of itself, or not at all. Rejoice, O Vulcan, for the rarest of bonds. I, T'Pralin, have seen it. Sarek and Amanda, greet your sons."
She and Sesic left the room.
Sarek and Amanda moved toward the bed. Kirk tried to yield his place to Amanda, but Spock kept a hold on his arm. Speaking formally, he said, "O My Father, O My Mother, the Family is enriched. I give you your other son."
The happy parents embraced Kirk and Spock in turn. Sarek and Spock locked glances. Spock said, "Jim, our father reminds me that you risked everything to save my soul."
Jim glanced from Spock to Sarek and back again. He shrugged. "If I hadn't, I would have lost my own." Spock laid a hand on his arm. "The Thousandth Man, Father?"
McCoy and the others, forgotten for the moment, huddled together. They exchanged quizzical looks. In an aside, Uhura whispered, "The thousandth man?"
Scotty brightened and whispered back, "Aye. By Kipling. 'One man in a thousand, Soloman says, will stick more close than a brother, but the thousandth man will stay by your side, to the gallows’ foot, and after’...”
Amanda, finally overwrought, collapsed weeping in relief on Spock's chest. Jim placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, while Spock stroked her hair. “Emotional, isn't she, My Father."
Sarek looked fondly at his wife. "Quite."
In a reprisal of a scene that had once taken place many years earlier, Spock added teasingly, "Why ever did you marry her?"
Sarek shrugged, though his mouth twitched. "It seemed logical at the time."
Amanda, good humor restored, sat up and batted at Spock's chest in mock anger, while Kirk and his friends dissolved in laughter. Sarek and Spock again locked glances, each with eyebrow humorously on the rise.
Dinner that evening found a much larger than usual number of people making use of the Hospital's combination lounge and dining room. On the upper level, which ran the entire periphery of the oval room, the Ancient One occupied herself at one of the computer terminals stationed at points along the walls. Prince Talak, with his two ubiquitous guards, wandered the upper level also; passively examining the many Federation exhibits and works of art covering the remaining wall space.
At the four cardinal points of the large room, ramps led down to the lower dining level. Here, too, the walls were lined with art objects and technological exhibits, these of a more uniquely Vulcan nature or manufacture. Interspersed in a seemingly random fashion about this lower enclosure were dining tables, occupied by people in various stages of repast or after-dinner conversation.
At one small table, Sarek and Amanda, their sons, and their friends relaxed, talking. At another, several young Healers hurried through their meals before returning to their duties.
At the largest table were Healer Sesic, Admiral T'Pava, the Praetor, and several members of the entourage. Though she made some effort at conversation, T'Pava relied mostly on the Healer to keep the Praetor occupied. Inwardly, she was still stinging from the Praetor's words. Further, she noticed that Spock seemed remarkably fit. There was still her duty to Starfleet. If Spock were, indeed, well again... Still, she watched him surreptitiously. This time she wanted to be certain before she made her move.
The young Healers, their meals finished, got up from their table. They stopped to congratulate Spock on his recovery before returning to duty. On the upper level, Prince Talak noticed the movements, and walked over to the railing to watch. This placed him at a point midway between two ramps, directly above Sarek's table, and to the left of T'Pava's.
Scotty, seated facing in that direction, looked up at Talak. Seeing the vacant look on the young man's face, the Engineer shrugged and looked away. As he did so, his eye spotted a familiar mechanism in one of the displays. Grinning, he commented, "Ach, the universal translator. D'ye remember when we used to haul yon beastie aboot wi' us? It's soo much easier noo, wi' the ear implant we use today."
Spock added, "Indeed, Scotty. I trust you are aware that my parents invented both of them..."
T'Pava, watching him, was convinced. But for absolute certainty... "Excuse me, Healer Sesic. I can't help noticing how well Spock seems. What is his condition?"
Sesic replied, "The technique was successful, Admiral. Because of his human friends, Spock has regained his memory."
"In that case, I must congratulate him on his recovery. If you will excuse me." She rose and went to the other table, catching the eyes of Spock's parents. "Sarek, Amanda, I rejoice with thee on thy son's recovery. Spock, I am pleased to see you looking so well."
Spock answered, "I give thanks, Admiral."
"Unnecessary, Spock. The honor is mine. Admiral Kirk. I trust you remember your vow of this morning?"
Kirk replied, "Indeed I do, Admiral. Though if I may say so, I think your timing is atrocious."
Kirk, McCoy, and the others started to rise.
From the upper level, across the way, came the voice of T' Pralin. "T 'Pava."
T'Pava met her eyes. "Ancient One."
T'Pralin continued, "Great-Granddaughter, this very nooning, Kirk and Spock shared in the koon-i-fahraht."
T'pava's mouth dropped open. "Koon-i-fahraht... So be it. Kirk is therefore no longer an alien fugitive on Vulcan. He is of Vulcan. If Starfleet wants him and his friends, let it extradite."
She returned to her seat.
The Praetor said, "Admiral, accept my apologies for my hasty words earlier."
T'Pava mumbled. "What else could I do? It was the Ancient One's wish."
The Prince still watched, but his expression was now one of animal cunning. He recognized him now, from record tapes at home. Pretending passivity, he resumed his walk, his guards following, until he reached the next ramp... then he darted down it, and attacked Kirk.
As his weary guards once more subdued him, his mood switched to remorse. The older guard called him by name. The Prince whirled and snarled, "I am Salakah! Salakah!"
The Prince lapsed into passivity again, this time actual, and his guards led him back up the ramp to renew their slow clockwise circuit of the room.
Kirk watched Talak for a moment, then asked, "What was that he called himself? Sall-something."
Sarek replied, "Salakah. It is a diminutive of the name Salak. "
Uhura chimed in, "But what does it mean? When he used the word he sounded so evil."
Sarek answered her. "Salak is the name of a being out of our joint vulcano-romulan myths. He is also called the Dark Lord… or the Defiant One."
Spock added, "Our mythological equivalent of Earth's Satan. Mother?"
Amanda nodded. "Yes. In my language studies, I have noticed that certain myth structures occur almost universally. The names change, but the same characters recur over and over. This is one of them."
The Ancient One finished reading and shut off her computer terminal. Lapsing into her senile babble, she too began to circuit the upper level, in a direction widdershins to that of the Prince.
Along the wall of their converging paths, another terminal was lit up with flashing red lights. Across its screen appeared the legend: "Audio Malfunction. Please use another terminal."
The Prince and his guards came level with the computer, and Talak stopped to stare at the screen, fascinated by the flashing red. Judging that he would remain so for some time, the guards decided they might safely take turns getting something to eat. As the older guard turned to leave, Tuvik stage whispered after him, "Please hurry." A jerk of his head indicated the Prince. "I feel as if I had been guarding him forever."
Before Talak's staring eyes, the malfunctioning terminal printed out, "The Guardian of Forever. Information classified. Input Security Code for second-level access."
T'Pralin came even with Tuvik. He bowed low. "Ancestress."
She looked up at him and babbled pertly, "To be or not to be...not our equals, males are not our equals... area equals pi r-squared..."
The terminal printed out 2Br(-r)=πr. The screen flashed, and repeated, 2Br(-r)=πr Security Code Confirmed."
With malignant shrewdity, Talak memorized the code and cleared the screen.
A few days later, the late evening reigned as a festival occasion in Sarek and Amanda's home. Spock had finally been released from the care of the Healers, and was to spend his first night at home. A grand dinner was planned in celebration. By a fortuitous temporal synchronicity, the event coincided with a traditional holiday time on Vulcan. It was the night of the Feast of the Winter Solstice.
"If there were a winter here, which there isn't," McCoy jibed.
"Oh, be hush, Bones," Amanda teased back at him. "Different planet, different climate. You know that. Uhura! You look marvelous, my dear."
"Thank you, Amanda, honey," Uhura replied, blushing. Now that they were free to go anywhere on Vulcan, they had all been making up for lost time — and lost wardrobe. Uhura looked exceptionally lovely in the Vulcan dress she had purchased.
"Well, dinner smells wonderful, and I'm starved," McCoy remarked. "Where's Jim?"
"He went out shopping," Scotty offered.
"He's not back yet," Chekov amended.
"That figures," Sulu concurred.
At that moment, Kirk was leaving a Vulcan shoppe a few streets the other side of the spaceport district. He was the last customer. As the proprietor ushered him out, to for the Feast night, Kirk asked him for directions to the home of Sarek.
The Vulcan merchant pointed. "Go down this street. In three kilometers you will come to the Hospital gardens. Go around to the front of the main building, to the plaza. From there..."
Kirk said, "Thank you, Friend Merchant. I can find my way from there. Live long and prosper." Unthinkingly, he gave the Vulcan hand salute, a trick he had never been able to accomplish before. Kirk stared down at his own hand.
Friend Merchant noted it. "You are Sarek's bondson, are you not?" Kirk nodded. The proprietor bowed. "You visit honor on my establishment. Peace, and long life, Kirk of Vulcan."
Kirk bowed, and ambled off, his heart happy.
Prince Talak lay in his bed, feigning sleep. Tuvik stood guard outside his door, and the older guard had gone for his meal. Soon, the normal Hospital sounds dwindled into quietude. Talak rose as noiselessly as he could, made his stealthy way across the room and up behind Tuvik, and put the younger man out with a neck pinch. Catching him as he fell, Talak dragged him into the room, and laid him in concealment on the floor the other side of the bed. Peeking out the door, he made sure the hallway was empty, then went out, headed for the recreation and dining lounge.
He made the journey swiftly, occasionally lurking in shadows to escape detection. Somehow he had planned better than he had hoped. There were very few people in the halls.
He reached the lounge, and skulked outside it, listening intently. No sounds. He peered inside. It was empty. A part of his mind wondered why. The other part took advantage of the opportunity. The Guardian of Forever! It pulled him, compelled him, obsessed him. The driving purpose gave him the strength of mind to meet its demands. The nearest terminal beckoned to him. Talak took two steps toward it, then paused. This was wrong; it was criminal! He tried to break out, to pull back, to retreat. No use. The demon in his mind had possession of him now. The ethical part of himself watched helplessly as his body yielded to the summons.
Seating himself at the terminal, he told it to access the desired information, and input the second-level code he had stumbled upon.
The screen printed out: "The Guardian of Forever. The time portal giving access to the time lines of history. Discovered by the USS Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk, commanding. For further data, input third-level Security Code."
Angry and frustrated, Talak spent several minutes trying out random combinations of buttons, but failed to come up with a code.
Deep in the computer's bowels, a flag tripped, and the screen printed out "Security Alert," the flashing of the screen repeating the message over and over.
Thousands of kilometers overhead, in an equipment-filled room in the Orbital Base, another terminal flashed the message: "Security Alert." The young Ensign sitting before the screen activated his control board as the alert signal began to sound. Behind him, in the small central command seat, the Security Chief slewed around toward the sound. "What is it, Ensign?"
"A failed security access code to classified data, Sir. One of the terminals at the Hospital."
From across the room, a young Vulcan officer added, "Confirmed, Sir."
The security Chief pondered a moment. "It's probably one of the mental patients playing around again. Lord knows, it happens often enough. I don't think any of us will ever forget the time it was the Ancient One herself. Whew! Admiral T'Pava is presently on-planet. Inform her at once."
Amanda answered the door. T'Pava entered, bearing Feast gifts and a pleasant surprise. Saavik was with her. In between greetings and hugs, Saavik explained that she had just returned from Starfleet HQ. The Klingon prisoner had made a full confession. With that and her own testimony, HQ had decided to forego all charges and to drop extradition procedures. They were all to report to HQ for reassignment
. McCoy grumped. "Uh huh, that means that all is forgiven if we keep our noses clean for the next ten years. And it will never be forgotten."
T'Pava confirmed it. "That was the impression I was given also, I am to arrange transportation for you 'at once'. But it is Feast night, and it would be illogical, as well as unkind to deprive Sarek and Amanda of their sons this night. I have decided that 'at once' means 'in the morning.'"
Sarek said, "I give thanks, T'Pava."
"It is as nothing, Sarek. Where is Kirk?"
Spock replied, "He is supposedly shopping, Admiral. But he has a whole new planet to explore."
T'Pava's communicator wheeped. She answered it, to receive the Ensign's report. "The Security Chief is quite probably correct. It is likely to be nothing serious."
In the Orbital Base, the Ensign scanned his board. "The signal has stopped, Admiral."
T'Pava's voice wafted out of the intercom. "Very well, Ensign. I will investigate in the morning. Admiral out."
At the Hospital, Talak had picked up an object d'art, and was determinedly bludgeoning the obstinate computer into scrap metal.
The older guard, returning from his meal, and on his way to relieve his comrade, rounded the turn in the hallway leading to the Prince's chamber. He stopped. Tuvik was missing. The older guard closed his eyes and listened intently. His super acute hearing picked up the sounds of breakage. He followed the sounds, and with a sudden prescient fear he broke into a run.
In a bestial rage, Talak was wreaking general havoc in the lounge, sending tables and exhibits flying. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a movement. Afrighted, he started to flee, and looked over his shoulder. It was the Ancient One. Angered at her for scaring him, he retaliated, kicking over her wheelchair. With a bitten off scream, she slid halfway across the floor, to lie shaken and babbling. Her senile prattle angered him further. "Be silent, old woman!" he snarled, and jumped for her. As his full weight landed on her, and with a sickening snick, her spine snapped. Talak started to rise, but was suddenly bowled over as the older guard tackled and grappled with him. With maniacal strength, the Prince battered him nearly to death, and left him unconscious on the floor.
His insane fury at last spent, Talak looked around. Something inside his mind snapped, and the beast in his head lost its hold on him. Horror! Heartache! Weeping, he knelt at the side of the Ancient One. She was still conscious. Taking her hand, he held it tenderly to his cheek. "Ancestress... Ancestress! May the Goddess forgive me, what have I done?"
T' Pralin looked at him, and said weakly, "I see thee… and I know thee, whose mother's mother's father was my daughter's son." She melded with him. "Remember."
As Talak picked her up and cradled her, she died quietly in his arms. Talak kissed her, laid her down gently, and covered her face.
The guard roused, and saw that the Ancestress was dead. Incapacitated by broken bones and with blood flowing from his mouth, he watched Talak's expression change. Talak gave a cackling laugh and yelled, "Kirk! The Guardian of Forever!" The sound of his running footsteps faded away.
The guard passed out.
Talak walked out of the Hospital door and stopped at the top of the ramp to take stock of the situation. It was full night, with darkness everywhere except for the light from one street lamp. All the shops along the street, all the shops he could see across the plaza, were closed for the holiday. The plaza and the streets were nearly deserted. One solitary individual strolled toward Talak, coming from the direction of the Hospital's gardens.
Talak watched him. As the lone walker passed under the street lamp, the beast in his mind recognized Kirk. The obsession encompassed him again, and he followed. At the first opportunity that presented itself, he jumped the unsuspecting Kirk, and knocked him out.
At that exact second, Spock collapsed at home, unconscious.
His parents and friends, fearing a relapse, called an ambulance and rushed him to the Hospital.
Talak stood over the unconscious Kirk, and looked around. Seeing no one else, he hoisted Kirk to his shoulders and headed for the spaceport.
Sarek and Amanda, McCoy and the others, and T'Pava arrived at the Hospital with Spock. They were met inside the door by an agitated young Healer. The girl informed them that the Ancient One was dead, killed, that the Romulan guards were injured, and the Prince fled. Logically, one would deduce that the three incidents were connected. Losing control of herself, she broke down, weeping. "The Ancient One — her katra was lost."
Healer Sesic waited in the lounge. Most of the wreckage had been cleaned up, and the body of the Ancient One had been removed. He heard the hum of a transporter beam, and watched as the Praetor materialized in the room. Sesic escorted him, and the two of them entered a wardroom having three beds. Spock and the older guard occupied two of them. McCoy, Sarek and Amanda, T'Pava, Tuvik and the others were standing or sitting around the room.
The Praetor addressed them. "O Vulcan, the Romulan Empire grieves with thee on the death of the Ancient One. That her katra was lost is the greatest of tragedies. Admiral, the Prince has not yet returned to our ships."
Suddenly, Tuvik threw himself at the Praetor's feet, begging for death for failing his duty.
The Praetor bent down and raised him to his feet. "No, my son. Long before we left the Empire, you tried to warn me that your half-brother, the Prince, could be cunning in his madness. The fault is mine for not providing more guards. If your life is demanded, mine shall stand forfeit for it. I vow it." He paused, then asked, "Admiral T'Pava, is it known for certain how the Ancient One died?"
Before she could answer him, her communicator wheeped. Starfleet Orbital Base reported that one of the Romulan vessels, a small scout craft, had taken off from the spaceport a few moments before. It would not respond to hailings, and it had already gone into warp drive before it could be intercepted or its course determined. She acknowledged the message.
Just then, the older guard roused from his coma. "Salakah...he killed the Ancient One... dishonor... dishonor... what is the Guardian of Forever?" He fainted, as a young Healer moved to attend him.
All of a sudden, Spock began to scream in pain.
Somewhere else, out in the depths of space, Kirk, too, screamed in pain. Talak had drugged him with a chemical which increased the body's reactions to pain, and now, with Kirk strapped to a bed in the scout craft, Talak was torturing him. "Where is the Guardian of Forever?"
Back in the Hospital, Spock stopped screaming. At first mumbling, and then shouting, he said, "The Guardian of Forever... no... NO! ...I will not tell!"
In the scout craft, Kirk fainted.
Agonized, Spock opened his eyes. "Jim. Where are you? Jim!!!" His face smoothed out and his body relaxed. In sepulchral tones, Spock murmured. "Salakah..."
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