The next morning when Kirk arrived at the Committee Room, spectators and delegates already overflowed the banked seats and filled the aisles. On the stage, the parabolic curve of the committee table---shaped after Andorian custom---looked to Kirk like a huge mouth ready to swallow any hapless creature brave enough to sit in the witness chair before it.
Among the many Starfleet uniforms sprinkled through the audience, Kirk spotted a group of Vulcans from the ___Kongo___, a number of Andorians from the __Hood__ and several humans from the __Exeter__, but no Spock.
Kirk turned, searching the crowd. It was Spock’s voice but where . . . ?
Then one of the Vulcans detached himself from the knot of __Kongo__ crewmen and Kirk saw it was Spock.
"Our seats have been reserved over there, Sir." The First Officer indicated the front row where a long, gray ribbon was stretched across several seats.
"Thank you, Mister Spock, but I was looking for you."
"Oh?" Spock’s eyebrows rose in mild question.
At the Vulcan’s blank look, Kirk realized he actually didn’t know why he wanted to see Spock. "Uh, did you check with Scotty this morning?"
"Yes, Sir. He plans to send the last of the crew down within forty-eight hours. He has already shut down the life-support for decks eight through eleven and plans to dismantle the Recycling Auxiliaries today and start on the main filters tomorrow."
"Good." Kirk nodded. When Scotty did a thorough overhaul, Scotty did a thorough overhaul. They’d have to sit here for a good four weeks while the crew was called to testify and it was an excellent opportunity to get everyone out of the living quarters at once. In two days, the Engineer would have the whole main hull of the ship uninhabitable. He’d keep only thirty of his men to complete the maintenance work and they would have to live in the Engineering hull.
Kirk added, "Who’s in charge of the computers?"
Spock said, "Ensign McClintok."
"That new boy . . . the one who was a Chess Grand Master at the age of fourteen?"
"Is he competent?"
"But he’s so young. Just up from the Academy . . ."
"He already holds an A-6 computer rating, Sir. With Mr. Scott in Command, he’s perfectly capable of dealing with the computers."
"Provided," said Kirk ruefully, "you can drag him away from his chess boards long enough."
"Dr. McCoy tells me that McClintok should mature into a well-rounded . . ."
Just then a chime rang melodiously, calling the session to order and Kirk and Spock took their seats. It promised to be a long morning.
As the Chairman’s proctors cleared the floor, Kirk examined the seventeen members of the Starfleet Sub-committee. Eleven were humans from Earth-colony worlds and six were nonhumans; the under-Ambassador from Rigel V, a Coridian, an Andorian, a Schillian, a Tellarite and Sarek, the only full Ambassador on the committee. Strangely enough, the Chairman was a bald-headed human by the name of Pierpoint Adamson III who occupied the center seat of the parabolic table with the no-nonsense air of an experienced administrator. He was the Senior Attache from Rigel II, a planet which maintained amiable relations with all other planets . . . which was the probable reason be was chosen. Nevertheless, a human Attache ranking a nonhuman Ambassador . . . ?
For the first hour of the hearing, they listened to the end of the testimony of one of the Andorians from the __Hood__. Kirk had been too busy the last few months to follow the news reports of the testimony very closely and he was shocked by the blistering indictment handed down by the soft-spoken Andorian biologist.
Could it really be true that life in the service was that out of touch with the needs of nonhumans? If so, it was a wonder the Federation had lasted in its present form for nearly a century. Perhaps it really was time for a thorough housecleaning?
Then Kirk was called to the stand and sworn in still expecting the ends of that parabolic table to swoop in on him like the jaws of a predator. He sat down and looked out at the audience acutely aware of the multitude of recorders aimed at him. He licked his lips as the computer started to speak, "Kirk, James T., Service record: Serial number SC937-0176CEC: rank, Captain. Starship Command; commendations, Palm Leaf of Axanar Peace Mission; Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence; Prantares Ribbon of Commendation, 1st and 2nd Class; Awards of Valor: Medal of Honor; Silver Palm with Cluster; Star Fleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry; Karagite Order of Heroism; Regulan Circle with cross."
The Computer stopped and the Chairman leaned forward cradling a glass of water between his hand; like a staff of office, "Captain, we want you to understand that you are not on trial here. This is not a military court and we are not here to sit in judgment or to call you to account for past decisions. We have all studied the logs of your command, the __Enterprise__, but my colleague, the Delegate from Andoria has made the __Enterprise__ his special interest and will speak for this committee." Adamson turned toward the Andorian, three seats to his right and nodded, "Thirlev?"
The Andorian folded his blue-skinned hands on the table and tipped his head slightly forward to aim his antennae at the Captain, "The __Enterprise__, under your command Captain Kirk, has encountered many situations which required moral decisions both on your part and on the part of your Senior Officers. I wish to discuss with you several of the more spectacular instances. Let me refresh your memory.
"I cite the events surrounding the recovery of the U.S.S. __Exeter__. You found her orbiting Omega IV. All the crew were dead of a plague which a landing party had brought back from that planet’s surface. You found that the conditions on the surface immunized against the plague. But you also found Captain Tracey of the __Exeter__ trapped on the planet. According to Starfleet Records, Captain Tracey had used his hand phaser to alter the balance of power in a local war in order to save his own life. A flagrant violation of the Prime Directive. Is that correct?"
"Finding yourself in similar difficulty, you gave the Omegan culture certain information which re-directed their development. Is that correct?"
Kirk conceded, "I reconnected them with the roots of their culture."
"Are you a trained anthropologist or xenologist?"
"Then, on whose expert advice were you relying when you decided that the Omega culture was indeed one familiar to you?"
"There was no xenologist in the landing party. But, the evidence was clear enough. Documents . . ."
The Andorian interrupted smoothly, "We’re not here to argue, however tempting that may be. Let us go on."
"The planet Ekos. You found that another human, John Gill by name, had introduced a Terran culture pattern, Nazi-ism, and as a result the Ekosians were provoking a war with the peaceful neighboring planet, Zeon. You took it upon yourself to divulge the existence of the Federation to the Zeons and to act to remove the Terrain influence from the Ekosian culture. Is that correct?"
"Essentially . . ."
"Modern Terran culture evaluates Nazi-ism as ‘wrong’ culture from their own midsts. Yet you took it upon yourself to violate the Prime Directive of Star Fleet a second time in order to remove this ‘wrong’ culture, thus depriving the Ekosians of the therapeutic effect of self-correction."
"The Zeons were on the verge of doing it themselves. We only helped a little. After all, a human was responsible in the first place."
"Yet you are not a cultural xenologist nor a socio-ecologist."
"No, Sir. But I was right. Star Fleet Command concurred."
"That is beside the point. Let us move on.
"A similar situation occurred on a recently explored planet whore you confronted the Klingons. The balance of power between a pacifist culture and an activist culture had been upset by the Klingon’s introduction of primitive firearms. Again your antidote to an initial infringement of the Prime-Directive was a second and more massive violation of the Directive. Specifically, you incited the pacifist culture to violence and provided them with firearms and instruction in the use thereof. You also gave evidence of the Federation’s existence. Am I correct?"
"Essentially. However . . ."
"Yes, I know. The human-dominated Admiralty upheld your decision. Let us continue. On the Planet Dana Iotia Two you discovered that a hundred years ago, the U.S.S. __Horizon__, one of the very first Federation patrol Starships, left a Terran book which the natives seized upon as a cultural model. By modern human standards, this culture is a ‘moral inversion.’ You took it upon yourself to violate the Prime Directive again in an attempt to nullify the effects of the prior cultural infusion. On Earth, this ‘morally inverted’ culture was destroyed by the surrounding culture. No outside assistance was necessary. Yet you deemed it necessary to intervene on Iotia to the extent of mis-representing the Federation. Is this correct?"
"Yes, but . . ."
"And in the process, a device of modern technology was left on Iotia?"
Kirk reddened with embarrassment. As Captain, he was responsible for McCoy’s loss of his communicator. "Well . . ."
"Tell me, Captain, on the planet Iotia, on whose expert opinion were you relying? Your Science Officer’s?"
"No, Sir . . . he and the sociological computers were completely baffled."
"I see . . ."
"But . . ."
"Yes. The Admiralty upheld your decision. Reluctantly. Though the Federation Council may yet overrule.
"Let us proceed to the planet Triskelion. Here we have a case of a different nature. No previous violation of the Prime Directive had occurred and it is still a moot point whether the Directive applies to Triskelion due to the fact that they possess advanced technology of a star-spanning capability. However, you again took it upon yourself to pass judgment on the existing order and, finding it wanting, you undertook to change it. And you succeeded. Is this correct?"
"Slavery . . ."
"Yes, of course. Now, these five cases are typical of your various decisions when dealing with non-human cultures. Let me point out several similarities. In each case you singlehandedly passed a value judgment on a non-human society. In each case you took action to mold that society into the form of human social health lauded by modern Terran culture. In each case, the First Officer’s Log records doubts about the necessity of your chosen action. In each case, the human dominated Admiralty upheld your decisions. I ask you now, are you totally satisfied that you did the ‘right’ thing in each case?"
"Yes, I am . . ."
"Your First Officer, Mr. Spock, is a Vulcan whose view of morality differs from yours. Did he ever express his views to you while you were making your decisions in these cases or in any similar cases?"
"Yes, he has on a number of occasions, though I don’t recall specifically which."
Thirlev consulted his notes and supplied, "Beta Three. The destruction of Landru, for example. The First Officer’s log records an objection to your planned violation of the Prime Directive. It also records your reply," Thirlev read "as having been that the Prime Directive applied only to living and growing cultures. Nowhere in Starfleet regulations is such a qualification made . . . and if it were, I don’t see how a non-xenologist could judge the critical rate of growth. Your First Officer’s judgment seems, to me, to be sound. Have you actively sought his counsel on such matters?"
Inwardly, Kirk groaned, Civilians! "Mr. Thirlev, a Captain must make his decisions in the solitude of Command. He must sit in moral judgment on himself . . ."
"Yes," Thirlev glanced at the audience then back at Kirk, "Again, a typical human attitude colors your judgment. An Andorian Captain seeks counsel where it may be found and is constantly judged by his crew. He cannot isolate himself amid an aura of pseudo-infallibility as do human Captains for he would then lose the respect of his crew . . . and their confidence."
Thirlev consulted his notes once more and Kirk considered the blue-skinned humanoid in a new light. Perhaps the long-winded diplomat knew more about Starship command than Kirk had thought. It was true that Andorians were rare among the Command trainees. Though many were undoubtedly competent enough, they seemed able to hold the respect only of other Andorians. Perhaps the real problem was lack of inter-cultural understanding. It was a new thought, and Kirk filed it for future consideration as Thirlev resumed.
"Captain, think carefully now. In every instance where you have been forced to make a moral decision, do you feel that you have represented the Federation fairly and properly by relying so strongly on your human sense of values?"
"Yes," answered Kirk without hesitation. "I must believe that or I could not function."
"Ah. Human psychology again."
"And what other psychology do I have? What other values do I . . ."
Thirlev interrupted the budding tirade smoothly, "Let us move on to my last point. In each of these instances we have just discussed, you were forced to deal with an urgent situation without taking time to consult higher authority. In each case, you dealt with nonhumans who were not members of the Federation. The last case that I wish to examine concerns a nonhuman Federation member in an instance where you were in touch with the Admiralty.
"I refer to the events that occurred on your way to the inauguration at Altair VI several years ago."
Kirk stiffened, casting an anxious glance at Sarek. The Vulcan Ambassador had remained immobile during the grilling, eyes fixed firmly on his clasped hands. Even now, he didn’t move, but Kirk could see the increasing tension, the iron control.
Thirlev ploughed on apparently oblivious to his colleague’s pain. "In this instance you received direct orders from Admiral Komack at Star Fleet Command to proceed to Altair VI and to arrive in time for the rescheduled Inauguration Ceremonies. Correct?"
Dry mouthed, Kirk only nodded.
"You then requested permission to divert to Vulcan which would cause you to arrive late for the rescheduled ceremonies. Correct?"
"Permission was denied?"
"What did you do?"
"I diverted to Vulcan."
"In direct violation of the orders of Star Fleet Command?"
Kirk clenched his jaws and swallowed hard.
"Why, Captain? Why did you risk your career to violate a simple order to take your ship to a certain place for a good reason?"
"Because my Chief Surgeon insisted my First Officer was in grave peril of his life if he weren’t taken to Vulcan immediately. The appearance at Altair of my ship wasn’t worth more to the Federation than the life of a highly trained Science Officer."
"In your judgment."
"In my judgment, yes." Kirk was sweating now.
"And the only thing that vindicated you was the intervention of a highly respected Vulcan official?"
"You consider that your own individual judgment is sharper than that of the Admiralty?"
"No, Sir. In that instance, the Admiralty was not in possession of all the facts."
"That it was a matter of life or death against a mere political flourish."
"Why wasn’t the Admiralty informed?"
"Because" Kirk stopped. He’d been about to say Komack hadn’t given him time to explain, but that wasn’t so.
Kirk bit his lip. Anything he said would be an unthinkable breach of Vulcan propriety.
"You hesitate to answer? Why Captain? Why do you hesitate to answer so simple a question? Do you, perhaps find yourself in a moral dilemma?"
Kirk met Thirlev’s eyes across the fifteen feet of stage that separated them. The Andorian knew! He knew all the answers already!
Thirlev propped his elbows on the table and folded his blue-skinned hands, leaning his chin on them as he regarded the human penetratingly, "Captain James T. Kirk who has acted with swift decisiveness in matters involving __whole__ __civilizations__, who has based his decisions unhesitatingly and exclusively on his human values, and who has just testified that he is satisfied with the results of his value judgments, finds himself in a moral dilemma? How could this be?"
Kirk met the Andorian’s gaze steadily, letting the question pass as rhetorical. Now he understood. Thirlev was __using__ him to do some personal ax-grinding . . . with Federation-wide news coverage.
Thirlev raked a triumphant glance across the audience then regarded Kirk, "Could it be, Captain, that your dilemma involves . . . Vulcan values?"
"I wouldn’t say so, no. Or, only insofar as Vulcan and human values overlap. I’m not a physician so I’m not protected by the Hippocratic Oath. But, if a non-physician comes into possession of information which should be available to a physician, he should be protected, at least by the spirit of Hippocrates. And remember, Hippocrates was not only human . . . but Terran as well!"
That seemed to surprise Thirlev who again consulted his notes while everyone waited. Kirk allowed himself to feel triumphant. Human ethics may be under attack here, but humans had made some of the greatest . . . and most widely accepted . . . contributions in the field of ethics.
But then it was Kirk’s turn to be surprised. Thirlev looked up as if mildly confused, "Hippocrates? Oh, yes, now I remember. The Terran Thonvel. The Terran Sukar. The Terran Gind." He addressed the audience, "Need I go on? Surely, we all recognize one of these names. Great men of Andor, Vulcan, and Tellar . . . and even Terra. Interesting that Federation law recognizes only the Hippocratic Oath. In this case, I would expect the Oath of Sukar would be a more appropriate citation."
Thirlev aimed his antennae at Kirk, "Though the Hippocratic Oath cannot apply to you, Captain, since you are not a physician, the Oath of Sukar would apply if Federation Law but recognized it. Interesting you didn’t think to invoke it. But the question remains. Why didn’t Admiral Komack grant permission to divert to Vulcan?"
"Because he didn’t realize a life was at stake."
"Then the question becomes, ‘need he have been told that a life was at stake?’"
Thirlev now addressed his colleagues around the table, "The answer, Gentlebeings, is ‘no.’ He need only have been told that a Vulcan had requested home leave. That request should have been sufficient to bring a Starship all the way across the Federation . . . at warp eight if necessary . . . no questions asked. Captain Kirk had to jeopardize his career because Star Fleet regulations are inadequate.
"Because Star Fleet regulations are oriented to the needs of humans, countless nonhuman members of the Service are daily put through personally agonizing experiences . . . which are totally senseless. Because of this deplorable situation, Captain Kirk had to risk his career . . . to save the life of his First Officer. I submit, Gentlebeings, that had there not been longstanding . . . friendship . . . between the human Captain and his Vulcan First Officer, that First Officer would be dead today . . . an incalculable loss to Star Fleet, to the Federation, and to Vulcan."
"Now, I ask you to consider what would have happened had the Vulcan in question been an Ensign assigned to a research laboratory instead of the First Officer of the ship?"
He paused eyeing each of the Committee in turn. "I submit that this is one reason so few Vulcans volunteer for Star Fleet. I have documented evidence that on twelve other occasions, Vulcan Star Fleet Officers have undergone even worse experiences. There have been __two__ cases of unexplained deaths of Vulcans who were taken ill and hospitalized following denial of their requests for home leave. Yet Star Fleet regulations have not been changed in spite of the repeated requests of the Vulcan authorities.
"Under similar circumstances, Andoria would have withdrawn from the Federation. Andoria’s official sympathy lies with the Vulcans." He swung back to Kirk, "Captain, do you have any further comments you would care to address to the Committee?"
Kirk felt he must be filled with things to say. Every time he’d started to speak, Thirlev had cut him off. But now, all he felt was a kind of battle-shock from the verbal whipping. Human values? Of course, he’d used human values. What others did he have? But there __were__ others . . . What was he trying to defend, anyway? Himself? He wasn’t on trial. The Admiralty? No. They didn’t need defending. Star Fleet Regs? He was becoming more and more convinced they were grossly unfair. Humanity in general? But he’d lived his whole life on the principle that there__was__ no race-based inequity in the Federation. Confused, he shook his head.
Thirlev said, "Thank you, Captain. You may step down. Mr. Chairman?"
Dazed, Kirk climbed to his feet.
Adamson said, "Captain, you will be provided with a tape on which to submit any further comments you’d care to make. Please hold yourself available for recall and consultation. Thank you."
As Kirk moved toward the stairs leading down from the stage into the audience, Adamson took a sip of his water and announced. "The Committee calls Mr. Spock, First Officer of the __Enterprise__."
It was what everyone had been waiting for and there was a general stir of excited comments as Spock stood aside to allow the Captain to descend before mounting the stage. As they passed each other, Kirk thought he detected an approving twinkle in the Vulcan’s eye.
The computer ploughed through the list of Spock’s commendations with relentless thoroughness: Vulcan Scientific Legion of Honor, Awards of Valor, thrice decorated by Star Fleet Command, Prantaries Star of Wisdom, Nobel Laureate of Science, Medusan Cross of Honor, Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry, the Antares Order of Valor, Star Fleet Cross, and on and on through honorary doctorates and earned doctorates some of which Kirk couldn’t recall hearing before. When the mechanical voice finally stopped after A-7 Computer Expert, the audience heaved a collective sigh.
The Chairman cradled his glass of water between well-manicured hands and said, "Mr. Spock, you are not the first Star Fleet Officer of mixed heritage to be called before this Committee, nor will you be the last. However, in view of your distinguished record and unusual position, we consider your testimony extremely important. Please bear that in mind." He turned to the Andorian, "Thirlev?"
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman."
"Spock, did you hear my discussion with Captain Kirk just now?"
"I heard your discussion."
"Were you present at the time of each cited occurrance?"
"Had you been in Command of the __Enterprise__ on those occasions, would you have issued different orders? Would you have taken different action than Captain Kirk elected?"
"Possibly." Spock eyed the Andorian levelly. "And possibly not."
Thirlev consulted his notes. Kirk thought the Andorian had expected an unqualified affirmative and was now confused. Apparently he didn’t know Vulcans very well, after all.
Thirlev found his place. "You recall the events at Cestus III when you discovered the base destroyed?"
"Yes. The Gorn thought our occupation of Cestus III was an unwarranted incursion into their territory."
"Precisely. But when you arrived at Cestus III, you didn’t know that. All you found was a destroyed base and a hostile enemy ship. The __Enterprise__ gave chase. What was Captain Kirk’s avowed purpose in pursuing the Gorn ship?"
"He wished to destroy it."
"Did you oppose his viewpoint?"
"Did you express your opposition . . . even before you knew the Gorn attitude?"
"Did Captain Kirk heed your advice?"
"No. He advanced counter-arguments which he considered convincing."
"But he was wrong?"
"He had been hasty. He changed his mind when he discovered that the Gorn felt themselves to be the aggrieved party. He was instrumental in opening diplomatic relations with the Gorn and with the Metrons, also."
"Yes, of course. __After__ the incident of the Gorn misunderstanding, did Captain Kirk seek your advice on moral matters?"
"Did he ever accept your viewpoint?"
"Did you make a habit of offering your evaluation of the ethical aspects of Command Decisions?"
"Captain Kirk makes his own decisions. Where knowledge is required he seeks advice of his specialists, but he regards Evaluation as his responsibility."
"A very human attitude."
"Indeed. But a highly successful one. My training has been primarily in the sciences. I was not originally trained for Command. The Captain’s training has always been oriented toward Command and he is an excellent Captain. There is much that may be learned from such a man."
"You originally chose Star Fleet Sciences as your career. Did you not realize that such a choice would eventually lead you to Command Rank?"
"And you have commanded the __Enterprise__ quite ably on a number of difficult occasions?"
"My record speaks for itself."
"Spock, why did you choose a Star Fleet career?"
"It is illogical to fail to develop one’s abilities."
"Has Star Fleet made optimum use of your abilities?"
"Yes. To the extent which it is able to do so."
"Has your Vulcan ancestry ever caused you excessive discomfort in your daily life in Star Fleet?"
"Yes. On numerous occasions."
"I would like to request that you submit a list of representative incidents to this Committee sometime within the next few days. Will you do that?"
The Andorian consulted his notes again. An unnatural hush gripped the audience. Someone coughed. Finally, Thirlev said, "Spock, I want you to consider carefully now. Has your Vulcan ancestry ever been a handicap to you in gaining recognition in Star Fleet?"
Unhesitatingly, Spock said, "No."
"Do you expect to rise above the rank of Captain?"
"I have the ability."
"Do you expect the Admiralty will recognize that ability?"
"They may, but that is not the determining factor."
"What __is__ the determining factor?"
"Whether there is a place for a Vulcan flag officer. One thing I have learned from Captain Kirk is that Command consists of more than making correct decisions. A Commanding Officer must have a certain talent for interpersonal relationships . . . if he is to command a crew of humans."
"Do you have that talent?"
"I do not know."
Thirlev consulted his notes, tapping angrily at the reader controls as if Spock wasn’t giving the expected answers. Kirk noticed that the Andorian never cut Spock off in mid-objection and Spock seemed to be using that to lead the questioning in spite of Thirlev’s remarkably thorough preparation.
The diplomat found what he’d been looking for. "Spock, on one occasion you noticed a sudden change in Captain Kirk’s behavior and simultaneously a woman who was said to be suffering from radiation poisoning claimed that __she__ was Captain Kirk . . . that the Captain’s mind had been transferred to her body. Do you recall that occasion?"
"How did you determine that this improbably circumstance was in fact true?"
Spock stiffened. For the first time, Kirk noted a reluctance to answer Thirlev’s barbed questions. At length, he replied, "By a Vulcan mind-touch."
"You were absolutely certain of your identification?"
"At that point, what legal steps were open to you to restore your Captain to the bridge of his ship?"
"Telepathic evidence is not admissible in a court of law . . . nor is it acceptable in a court-martial."
"Is this how Star Fleet makes optimum use of your abilities?"
"I freely admit that the law should be changed. Many other changes should also be made. But let us not destroy the good with the bad. Remember, the Federation was originally designed to govern the Earth Colonies. Only after the nonhuman membership had grown to ten percent was the legal structure changed to accommodate nonhumans. But those changes were made by humans. The philosophical structure of the Federation is still primarily human even though nonhuman members and affiliates now outnumber the human members.
"But . . . the Federation is unique in our part of the galaxy. It is viable. It is vigorous. It is governed democratically. And it is relatively peaceful. Do we want to change __that__?"
Thirlev said, "No. Of course not."
"Then we must identify the factor which makes the Federation viable before we make wholesale changes in its structure. Do you know what that factor is?"
"No," said Thirlev, "I don’t."
Spock addressed the Committee. "As you may know, I am an amateur student of Earth history. My interest in Earth was sparked . . . mainly . . . by the threat humanity poses to the Vulcan way of life.
"Throughout their early planet-bound history, humans searched for a form of collective government which would allow their nations to live in peace. Empire after empire took over the territory of many nations. In each case, the conqueror imposed his values, his religion and his mores on the conquered.
"And in each case, the conqueror was destroyed. This cycle continued until the spectre of world holocaust brought humanity to its senses and a world government was established. In outline, Earth’s history is not unlike that
of many nonhuman worlds. But then, Earth began massive colonization of other planets . . . a much more massive effort than any other modern race. A much larger governmental agency was required and humanity constructed the Federation.
"The United Federation of Planets does not conquer by force of arms. But the other activities of twenty-third century humanity are __disturbingly__ similar to those of their ancestors." He let that sink in for a moment as his gaze drifted pointedly across the audience. The innuendo was unmistakable. Everyone had heard what had happened to Amanda.
Thirlev took a breath, but Spock cut him off, "Forty-three percent of the Federation population is of Earth Ancestry. Seventy-four percent of Federation commerce is owned by that forty-three percent. Obviously, humanity is remarkably successful. They have constructed a government which allows them to live with their highly aggressive natures . . . __without__ __waging__ __war__. Though they no longer impose their religions and mores on the ‘conquered,’ they have not eradicated their tendency to sell their values with their merchandise.
"And herein lies a difference between humans and nonhumans. Few nonhuman races have colonized so extensively in recent times. Few nonhumans engage in commerce with such single-minded acquisitiveness . . . and few have such strong tendencies to sell their values with their merchandise. Though many nonhuman races have had space travel long before humanity came into space, no nonhuman race constructed the Federation or a viable counterpart.
"I ask," he addressed the Committee, "if perhaps it isn’t humanity’s confidence in their own values that is responsible for the peace in the Galaxy today?
"The Klingons and the Romulans rule Empires as diverse as the Federation. But they are constantly engaged in internal and external wars while we live in peace with the humans who are destroying our values wherever they differ from the human norm. A most curious circumstance."
Spock paused to survey the audience and Thirlev pounced. "Are you suggesting that telepathic evidence should not be admissible in a court of law?"
"No. That is one change I strongly advocate. However, if I do not understand why the Federation is viable, how can I say what will destroy its viability?"
"Are you saying we should allow humanity to destroy our cultures?"
"Not at all. Every culture should defend itself. The question is, with what weapons and to what purpose?"
"You do not believe that we should risk destroying the Federation in an attempt to defend ourselves?"
"I do not."
Thirlev consulted his notes once more, then looked up, "Do you have any further comments you would care to address to the Committee?"
"I do not."
"Then you may step down." Thirlev turned to the Chairman conceding the floor, "Mr. Chairman." Then he sat back, his thin form almost swallowed by his chair. He looked exhausted.
Adamson shook himself as if awakening from a daze, "Mr. Spock, you will be provided with a tape on which you may submit further observations. Please hold yourself in readiness to be recalled for further questions. Thank you."
"Next, the Committee calls Captain Sutar of the U.S.S. __Kongo__."
Spock descended nodding cordially to Sutar. Then he caught Kirk’s eye and raised one brow in question as he continued down the aisle toward the exit.
Kirk was torn between a desire to hear the Vulcan Captain’s testimony and a desire to go with Spock. Well, he thought, he could listen to a tape of the session later. He rose and followed Spock out the door onto the Concourse of Planets.
"Mr. Spock. Where are you going?"
"To the hospital. Sarek will be busy the rest of the day with the hearing."
"Oh, yes. Amanda may be getting lonely."
The Vulcan gave him a penetrating glance and continued walking. Kirk paced him and said, "I’m sorry."
Spock stopped and faced the Captain, head cocked quizzically to one side, "Sorry? Why?"
"For making light of a very serious situation." He shook his head, "Look, Spock, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so devastated by any . . . well, I mean, it’s horrible . . . what happened to Amanda."
"Horrible?" The Vulcan walked on slowly, savoring the descriptive. "Yes, perhaps. I don’t know."
"Well, I know. And it is horrible. Spock, why don’t we ask Bones to come and have a talk with her?"
Again the Vulcan stopped to regard Kirk, "Doctor McCoy? Why?"
"He’s . . . well, he has a terrific bedside manner when he chooses to use it. He’s a damned good psychiatrist. And Amanda respects him."
"You mean to consult him professionally?"
"Yes. Why not?"
"I couldn’t do that without Sarek’s consent."
"Amanda’s not a child. If she wants to talk to Bones, she’ll talk. If she doesn’t, she won’t. I just think we ought to go tell him what happened."
"He’s probably heard by now. It was on the morning news."
"There’s plenty that wasn’t on the morning news. Let’s go talk to him."
Spock hesitated again, then took the corridor that led to the transporter lounge, Kirk right on his heeds.
Craning his neck, Kirk searched above the sea of bobbing heads for a familiar profile. "There he is, Bones. Over by that alcove."
The Captain pointed and McCoy followed his finger. "That’s Spock, all right. Let’s go."
They threaded their way through the crowd and drew up beside the Vulcan who, together with many others, had paused to watch a large viewscreen at the back of the alcove.
It was Babel’s Evening News with a Tellarite reporter interviewing the chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee who was also the Chief of Delegation from the Centauran Worlds, one of Earth’s oldest and most influential colonies.
"Ambassador Cunard," challenged the blunt-snouted reporter, "it is said that the Jurisprudence Committee does not favor admission of telepathic evidence to jury trials even where at least one of the disputants is telepathic . . . is this correct?"
"Yes, it is . . ." Cunard’s studies self-assurance seemed to waver under the Tellarite’s belligerent gaze.
Seeing this, the reporter pressed his advantage, "I’ve also been informed that the Committee favors the admittance of the Vulcan Oath-Binding as a substitute for bail security in certain criminal cases. Do you personally favor such a recommendation?"
"Possibly . . . strictly on a trial basis, of course." But it was obvious that he thought little of the chances of it becoming permanent.
"Would you view such a move as a change in human policy toward nonhumans?"
"There’s no such thing as ‘human policy toward nonhumans.’ The Federation is an association of civilized worlds. There is no racial dichotomy."
Kirk felt someone move up behind him and turned to find Sarek, Amanda and a Babel-uniformed man watching the newscast with him. As he turned back to the screen, the Tellarite was saying, "Ambassador Cunard, the Andorian Ambassador has called the attack on the Vulcan Ambassador’s wife ‘a shocking crime, but hardly surprising in view of the human attitude toward nonhuman values.’ Just what is the ‘human attitude toward nonhuman values?’"
Cunard coughed nervously, "Respect. Nothing but the highest respect. In general, all humans share a deep reverence for other people’s ways of life. I personally don’t understand all this talk about values. The greatest damage
is done by the disproportionate publicity given to every incident, however minor."
The Tellarite’s blue snout twitches. "Then you think this attack on the Vulcan Ambassador is a minor incident that’s been over publicized?"
Cunard squirmed. "Yes. Definitely. Is not respect for privacy a Vulcan value? And, after all, nobody was actually hurt." He looked pointedly at the Tellarite whose own people were well known for their volatile spirits. "Humans are not the only race whose normally law-abiding citizens are subject to crimes of passion. In fact, Vulcans are the only people who do not admit the existence of such crimes among themselves."
As if on cue, the reporter swiveled his stout body to face directly into the pickup and said, "Thank you, Mr. Ambassador and good evening, guests of Babel."
The screen went blank and the tiny alcove erupted with a dozen conversations as the listeners dispersed. Soon Kirk and McCoy were left facing Spock and his parents. Amanda was indignant. "Not __actually__ hurt! Where does he get the nerve to talk about Vulcan privacy and then to imply that any Vulcan could ever behave . . ."
Sarek interrupted firmly, "Ambassador Cunard has a right to express his opinions, however ignorant he may be."
But Kirk detected an iron control under the diplomat’s mild tone. The morning’s hearing had certainly taken its toll.
The man in the Babel uniform who’d been standing at Sarek’s elbow apologetically cleared his throat and stepped forward. Kirk looked directly at him for the first time. He was a small, middle-aged human who spoke in quick, breathless bursts. "Mr. Ambassador, I would like to assure you that Babel is doing everything possible to apprehend the guilty parties."
"I’m certain you are, Mr. Hilcron," replied Sarek absently. "Allow me to introduce Captain Kirk of the __Enterprise__, his Chief Surgeon Dr. McCoy, and his First Officer Commander Spock."
Hilcron bowed to each in turn, ignoring the Vulcan custom of placing the employee above the employer in social status. "Welcome to Babel, gentlemen. I am Kerb Hilcron, Manager in Residence at Babel. I’m here to make your stay with us as pleasant as possible."
Kirk said, "I’m sure you will. Babel is certainly an impressive place."
Hilcron nodded eagerly. "We do try, Captain. We do try."
"Mr. Hilcron," Sarek eyed the blanked viewscreen abstractedly, "you mentioned that Babel has Kirton Tsu’."
"What? Oh the Vulcan restaurant . . . yes . . . but I thought . . ."
"I’ve reconsidered. When are they serving tonight?"
"In about half an hour. The staff arrived only this morning. We always try to open the Kirton when we have a large number of Vulcan guests. But we’ve had such embarrassing trouble with the M-IV environmental controls . . ."
"Yes. We understand. These things do happen." But Sarek was still not looking at his companions. It was most unusual, thought Kirk, for a Vulcan to change his mind.
"Oh, that reminds me," said Hilcron into the awkward silence, "Mr. Spock, I really must personally apologize for the dreadful inconvenience we’ve caused you. The whole M-IV level is still practically unlivable. I’ve had to put all the Vulcans into M-III and M-I accommodations."
Spock nodded, "When do you expect to have the malfunction corrected?"
"I’d like to say definitely by tomorrow . . . but actually I just don’t know. Which reminds me. Mr. Spock would you be so kind as to stop into my office tomorrow morning? There are a couple of matters I’d like to discuss with you." Spock nodded. "Oh, and Captain Kirk, if you would find time, I d like to talk to you also."
Kirk nodded and started to form an urbane reply, but Sarek suddenly rejoined the group. "Mr. Hilcron, do you know the coordinates of the Kirton Tsu’?"
"It’s at DTK-1742-IV."
Spock said, "But that’s on the M-IV level . . ."
"Yes. But it’s near a main duct so we’re supplying air from the M-I level. It will be a bit chilly for you, but I’m told the food is excellent."
"I imagine it is," said Sarek. "Thank you, Mr. Hilcron."
"Yes, yes, of course. My pleasure. I’m sorry for any inconvenience. May I bid you a pleasant evening . . ." he bowed his way around the group and hurried off about some other pressing duty.
When the manager was gone, Spock said, "Father? Are you certain you want to go to Kirton Tsu’? We had planned . . ."
Amanda said, "I’ve never been to Kirton Tsu’. I think I’d like to go."
Reluctantly, Spock conceded, "We do form a group of sorts." Setting his guidebeam on the coordinates he led the way."
When they stepped out of the turbo lift, they found themselves in the midst of a systematic disarray that reminded Kirk of the current condition of the __Enterprise__ under Scotty’s zealous hands.
To their left, an airtight bulkhead closed the corridor, while along the walls, access panels were open, spilling pipes and bundles of colored components across the floor. But there were no workmen in sight.
Ahead of them a bead curtain screened a narrow tunnel that seemed molded from frosted ruby. Father and son led the way through the curtain and now Kirk could see it wasn’t a bead curtain, but a bell curtain. Each bead was a tiny, hollow sphere, some as small as a pea, others the size of tangerines, and each intricately carved and tuned to a shimmering harmony. They rounded a curve, went through another bell curtain and entered a triangular waiting room.
The floor and walls were fashioned of the same deep ruby material as the corridor, but there the walls glowed, lending the air an almost tangible luminescence.
Kirk counted thirty-two Vulcans, some seated on ruby benches, some standing talking softly as they waited. Gravity here was set at the Vulcan norm, so when Sarek gestured them to be seated, Kirk and McCoy seized the opportunity gladly. While Amanda took a seat opposite them, Sarek and Spock stood peering into the darkness beyond the inner bell-curtain.
"Amanda," said McCoy, "just what is Kirton Tsu’?"
"It’s a blend of a very ancient tradition with modern philosophy . . . a peculiarly Vulcan sort of blend. For example, this room is triangular, the next is circular. Topologically identical, yet functionally complementary. Sound familiar?"
McCoy snapped his fingers, then looked apologetically sheepish when twelve pairs of eyes turned to stare at him. When the attention dispersed, he said quietly, "The IDIC."
Amanda nodded, "Yes, representing infinite diversity in infinite combinations. If you’ll notice the ceiling . . . ?"
"It’s hemispherical," said Kirk.
"When the Kirton opens, the ceiling will show a view of the night sky of Vulcan. It represents the universe itself, of which all of us are a part. When you think about it, gazing into the night sky is a very humbling experience . . . but also very ennobling. In Logic, the universe, what Sarek called the Set of the All, has a special significance."
Kirk frowned, trying to recall what he knew of the Philosophy of Nome, meaning All.
"Why all the red color?" McCoy looked around at the walls which reminded him of the expanse of red curtains in Spock’s quarters aboard ship.
Amanda answered, "The Vulcan eye doesn’t perceive red the same way we do. I’ve been told this appears as a peculiar not-light that sheds light. Kirton is the name of the color in one of the pre-Reform languages."
McCoy nodded. "The Vulcan eye is adapted to light with a stronger blue component, but can distinguish shades of red well down into the infra-red."
"The bells," said Kirk, "They must have some significance too?"
"Yes, they do. But I don’t understand tonal symbology well enough to explain it."
McCoy pursed his lips. "You seem to understand quite a lot about Vulcan."
Kirk thought Amanda blushed at that but the red shadows made it hard to tell.
"Thank you, Doctor. Thank you for . . . everything you’ve done for me." She smiled quizzically, "I’m not accustomed to flattery any more."
As Spock detached himself from the doorway and came to stand behind her, McCoy said, "I didn’t mean to flatter."
"Then," she assumed a Vulcan severity, "your statement was merely inaccurate. What I do not understand far outweighs what I do."
"Your knowledge," said McCoy matching her severity, "seems an incredible accomplishment to me." He cocked an eyebrow at Sarek’s back. "What I do not understand is why Sarek chose to bring us here. It doesn’t strike me as the sort of place the tour guides take offworlders."
"You are correct, Doctor," said Spock balancing on the balls of his feet. "The Kirton Tsu’ is a very . . . Vulcan ceremonial. It is intended to create harmonious unity among a small group of disparate strangers. There is a disparity among us, intensified by this division of humans from non-humans. So we do form a group of sorts."
A sudden rippling of bells announced the opening and the lights came up in the adjoining room and the dome overhead became a glorious desert sunset in throbbing complement to the ruby walls.
Sarek rejoined the group as ten young girls marched in, creating cascades of music with the bells that adorned their swishing red robes. The hostesses broke up and moved out among the groups of guests to marshal them through the bell curtain and into the round dining room.
Standing just inside the curtained doorway, Kirk looked around but could find no tables. The center of the room was a circular dais mounted by a triangular stairway, the point of which was just off center of the dais, the IDIC motif once more. Two intersecting bell curtains divided the dais into four segments in each of which sat a musician playing a stringed instrument. Still craning his neck unobtrusively, Kirk followed their hostess to one of the many bell curtained doorways that lined the walls. Then he saw that all the tables were set in private booths partitioned from each other and from the main floor. The table in their booth was semi-circular with all five places set on one side only so that the diner’s backs would be to the central room. Before them, on a pedestal in front of an expanse of red drapery, sat a figurine presiding over a long trough in which a low fire glowed redly. Above the figurine, a mirror reflected the main room and the night sky visible through the bell curtain behind them.
Kirk thought the fire must be the same as the one Spock kept in his quarters aboard ship. If so, it was the cold fire Vulcans called the Culling Flame and was used primarily to enrich that meditation trance as necessary to the Vulcan mind as dreaming to the human.
The hostesses retired as a group and Kirk started to ask about the flame, but before he could utter a sound Spock clamped a hand on his wrist and then made a quick, negative gesture, rejoining his hands in the position of contemplation with his elbows propped on the table before him.
For the first time Kirk noticed he’d been seated between Spock and Amanda while Sarek was placed between Spock and McCoy. It was by far the most awkward arrangement he could imagine and he had no idea how it had come about.
Presently, the hostesses returned bearing trays heaped with hot and cold delicacies in multitudes of red glass dishes which she deposited before them with elaborate ceremony. They ate in the Vulcan customary silence that was not awkward but companionable.
At length, the last course of the meal had been cleared away and Spock said, "The __liktyeu__ was excellent."
Sarek answered, "It seemed too highly spiced for me. However, the __torniel__ was superb."
"I found everything done to perfection," added Amanda diplomatically.
Bracing his elbows on the table, Sarek steepled his fingers and regarded the red, glowing fire before him, "Yes, as a whole the meal attained a satisfactory standard of excellence. An excellence unmatched by other events of the last two days."
"Events," Spock frowned dubiously, "Cannot be compared to cuisine."
"No? I submit that there is a reasonable basis for constructing an analogy. A meal is the end result of a time matured blending of basic ingredients. A social event is the time matured result of a blending of basic ingredients. The basic ingredients of a meal are extracted from the biosphere while events may be composed of ideas extracted from what might called the psychosphere. Organic substances nourish the body; ideas nourish the mind. A meal occurs at the interaction of the body with blended foods. A social event occurs at the interaction of the mind with blended ideas. A chef creates meals; a diplomat creates events. The analogy is of the variety __djykyet__."
"Yes, I see," conceded Spock, "a tenuous, but valid, __djykyet__."
Feeling mischievously illogical, Kirk interposed, "The meal __was__ excellent, but I can think of one of matching quality that occurred only this morning."
McCoy leaned forward to view Kirk around Sarek’s steepled fingers, "And what would that be?"
"The way Spock cooked Thirlev’s goose at the committee hearing."
Spock’s eyebrows rose as he considered that and Kirk felt obliged to add, "Yes, Mr. Spock you served stuffed Thirlev on a silver platter."
McCoy nodded enthusiastically. "That you did, Mr. Spock. I saw the tape. The way he went after Jim, I didn’t think anything could stop him."
"Yes, Spock," said Amanda, "you did a splendid job of defending humanity."
"Really? That is interesting."
Kirk said, "You seem surprised."
"I am surprised, Captain. I was under the impression that I had done just the opposite."
"Which side are you on, Spock?"
"Both. Of necessity, Doctor. There are a large number of grave injustices built into the Federation. Many are the result of basic human character traits . . ."
"For instance?" prompted Kirk.
Spock steepled his fingers, elbows propped on the table, and stared into the ruddy flame before them. "Most non-human species possess a fairly constant reproductive drive, directed only at their own females. It is true that some non-humans have been known to attack strange females, but only humanity has been known to do this in groups. And only with humans is such activity considered merely criminal and not perverted."
There was a long silence while each waited for the others to make some comment. Even if the purpose of the KirTon Tsu’ was to emphasize differences, Spock was surely overdoing it. "Spock," said Kirk, "do you remember when that energy being transported a group of Klingons onto the Enterprise and set us to hating each other in order to feed on our emotions?"
"Indeed I do, Captain."
"Even you felt a brief flash of racial bigotry. Doesn’t the current situation seem hauntingly familiar? Almost as if an outside force were pitting us against one another . . ."
Spock was silent, thinking.
"Jim, you’re right!" said McCoy. "It does seem we’re reacting all out of proportion. Certainly there are injustices, but they are not intentional. And they can be corrected. Legal flaws are no reason for individuals to square off for a fight on first meeting. And I’ve seen far more of that here on Babel than I ever thought possible."
Sarek stared fixedly into the flames. "You miss the point, Doctor, as badly as Ambassador Cunard. The origin and method of discovery is irrelevant. A flaw is a flaw." He placed both hands flat on the table and pushed himself to his feet. "It was a mistake to bring you here tonight. I can see that my continued presence has no meaning. Spock, you will see your mother safely to her door. Good evening, Gentlebeings."
The Ambassador turned and marched out of the curtained alcove, across the circular room and disappeared, stiff-backed, into the darkened waiting room beyond. The others turned to watch him depart and then stared at each other.
"He must be ill," said Amanda. "Spock go after him."
"Mother. I cannot. I have been instructed to escort you."
"Spock," she said pleading, "it is forbidden to leave the Kirton Tsu’ before the __t’kromaa’e__."
"Yes, mother. But it is also forbidden to construct __t’kromaa’e__ without a firm toma. Our group has failed to coalesce. Our presence here no longer holds meaning. I suggest we leave before the ceremonies begin."
"But, Spock. Couldn’t you . . ."
"I could conduct. But it would be an exercise devoid of meaning. We have failed. We should leave before we disturb the others."
She rose, "Very well. We will try again another time."
Kirk and McCoy followed them across the star-domed chamber.
"Goodnight, Mr. Justice," said Ambassador Imram Cunard to his companion.
"Goodnight, Mr. Ambassador, and thank you. It has been a very rewarding evening. Perhaps we can have dinner again sometime?"
"Perhaps," said Cunard perfunctorily
The two men parted at the corridor intersection and Cunard made his way toward his rooms. The Jurisprudence Committee could make recommendations which would send every attorney in the Federation back to school for a year . . . not to mention those sitting on the benches of the High Courts. Larkin of all people should realize that, thought Cunard. All this furor over the Vulcan Oath-of-Honor, for example. Not half the people favoring it realized the chaos it could create . . . the precedents . . .
He palmed the lock of his door and didn’t bother to turn on the light. The bright lights that Tellarite reporter used had already given him enough of a headache for one day. Or perhaps it had been the man’s staccato belligerence. Whatever the cause, Cunard knew he’d said the wrong thing in the wrong way and now had a first class migraine as reward.
His first warning of danger was the whistle of something whipped through the air behind his head. Automatically, his right hand dropped to the sheath of his ceremonial dagger as he crouched, turning.
The object crashed into his right shoulder, numbing the arm as if the shoulder were broken. Cunard grabbed his dagger out of his numbed hand and jabbed into the air where his assailant must be.
The sharp point of the dagger connected with live tissue and he drove it forward and up, hoping to penetrate vulnerable torso. But the unseen attacker danced back too quickly, a vague shadow in the dark room, now that the door had closed.
The Ambassador crouched into his best left-handed stance, his useless arm dangling as he peered into the blackness. The assassin must have hidden across the hall and followed him into the room. Well, it had been many years since he’d duelled, but his reflexes were still good.
Perceiving a shadowy form against the black background, Cunard lunged and felt his dagger connect, slicing through fabric and skin. But then his assailant was gone again and he was left only with a vaguely familiar smell . . . flat . . . acrid . . . alien.
He turned, trying to follow shadow against shadow. How could his opponent see him in the dark? Infrared lenses? Nonhuman night vision? He could dazzle the coward if he could get to the light switch.
Licking his lips nervously, he calculated the distance to the panel. He brought the dagger to his nose . . . that smell . . . he had it. Vulcan blood. That was the smell of Vulcan blood. No chance of dazzling a Vulcan . . .
Suddenly, he heard a whisper to this left as if someone had brushed against a chair. He whirled and lunged again . . . but he never finished the motion.
Steel-hard fingers closed on his neck and severed his spinal column as cleanly and painlessly as a surgeon’s incision.
He never felt his head hit the soft edge of the chair.
Kirk marched along the busy corridor beside his First Officer, still blinking sleep from his eyes and smothering yawns. "Mr. Spock, I’m sorry I spoiled the dinner last night."
"There is no need to apologize, Captain."
"Sarek must have been . . . well, no, not angry but at least displeased with me."
"Negative. The group fragmented spontaneously."
"That may be, but why did he rush off like that?"
"We all have needs."
"Ummm," Kirk recognized Spock’s phrase as a formal barrier of privacy, so he changed the subject. "So why do you suppose Hilcron needs us?"
"I suggest we ask him." The Vulcan gestured at the ornate door that barred the end of the corridor . . . Hilcron’s office.
Within, they faced a gleaming counter that divided visitors from the neat rows of desks. Presently, one of the staff clerks noticed them and came to the counter, "What can I do for you, gentlemen?"
"We’re here to see Mr. Hilcron," said Kirk.
"I’m sorry, but the Manager only sees people by appointment."
"We have an appointment . . ." said Kirk.
"Oh? Your names?"
Kirk told him and the clerk checked a list. "I’m sorry, but you’re not on the calendar and the Manager is in private conference just now."
"Perhaps," suggested Kirk, "you should tell him we’re here." The Captain wasn’t accustomed to being given the runaround.
"Mr. Hilcron has asked not to be disturbed. I’ve no idea when he’ll be free."
Spock said, "Why don’t you flash the announcement on his viewscreen for just a moment? That shouldn’t be too disturbing."
The human clerk gave the Vulcan a peculiar glance and then shrugged and turned to his desk. Kirk thought possibly Hilcron had instructed his staff to be especially careful not to offend nonhumans.
A few moments later, a door in the far corner flew aside and Hilcron plunged out into the sea of desks. His uniform drooped around his stout body while his hair stood up in sharp, gray spikes testifying to the long, hard night he’d put in.
"Come in, gentlemen, come in. I’m glad you thought to stop by." He slid a section of the counter aside to admit them. "I was about to call you."
Kirk said, "You did ask to see us, Mr. Hilcron, but if you’re too busy . . ."
"I asked to see you? Why yes, I remember now. But so much has happened since then. Come into my office where we can talk."
Kirk and Spock followed the manager between desks and into the office where green carpet, large chairs and an enormous oval desk created the spacious atmosphere that was Babel’s trademark. At the moment, however, two uniformed staff members presided over portable computer consoles while a civilian looked on from his seat at the end of the oval.
Hilcron collapsed into the largest chair and gestured his new guests to the two remaining places near the other end of the table. "Gentlemen, this is Justice Larkin of the Federation District Court of Babel . . ." the civilian nodded ponderously. He was a large man in his mid-sixties with a full head of shockingly white hair offset by a richly tanned, deeply creased face.
Indicating a lanky redhead at one of the consoles, Hilcron continued, "And this is Captain Tyler, my Chief of Security . . . and," he gestured toward the remaining man, "you’ve already met Lieutenant Southridge."
Seated behind the desk, the small Manager seemed to dominate the five larger men as he said sternly, "Captain, Mr. Spock, this is a top security matter, and I must ask you to refrain from commenting on it outside of this office . . . at least temporarily."
"Of course, Mr. Hilcron," agreed Kirk.
Spock nodded in turn.
"You see, gentlemen, we have had this past night . . . for the first time in Babel’s history . . . a murder!"
Kirk said, "Who’s been murdered?"
"Are you quite certain," said Spock, "that it was murder?"
"A man cannot break his own neck in that fashion."
"In what fashion?" asked Kirk.
"Doctor Harrington has described it to me as Tal Saya, or something very similar." He turned his fatigue-rimmed eyes onto Spock. "I know Vulcans don’t have a monopoly on neck-breaking techniques, but there are other circumstances that point to Vulcan hands."
Kirk prompted, "Which are . . . ?"
But Southridge interrupted, "Mr. Hilcron, I have the lab report on that blood specimen. It’s a Vulcan type . . . T-Negative. They’re still working on the other factors."
Hilcron turned to his Security Chief, "Tyler, show us a list of all Vulcans on Babel with type T-Negative blood."
Tyler punched the command into his data unit and shoved a small viewscreen out onto the table where they could all see it, "Here you are, Sir."
The screen flashed a rainbow then settled down into a printed list . . . containing just two names, Spock and Sarek.
Hilcron shook his head annoyed. "That’s impossible, Tyler, check it."
Spock said, "It is possible, Mr. Hilcron, that the readout is comprehensive. Less than two percent of all Vulcans . . ."
"Possibly, Mr. Spock, but that blood sample was taken from Cunard’s ceremonial dagger which was found near his body."
"You mean," said Kirk, "you think he was defending himself and wounded his assailant?"
Larkin cleared his throat, "Let us not jump to unwarranted conclusions . . ."
But Tyler interrupted, "In court, we will plod through the case in a thoroughly logical manner, but while I’m chasing a murderer, I’ll leap to whatever conclusions seem intuitively justified."
"Tyler," said Hilcron, "do you have the correct list, now?"
The Security Chief forgot his indignation and checked a screen at his elbow, "Yes, Sir. You’re looking at it."
Hilcron snorted, "This is absurd. I know that both the Ambassador and Mr. Spock were at the Kirton Tsu’ at the time of the murder."
Spock said, "And when was that?"
"Twenty-one-hundred, plus or minus five minutes."
"We left the Kirton thirty minutes earlier."
"But . . . but . . . that’s impossible . . . they didn’t finish until . . ."
"We left early."
"I thought . . ." Hilcron frowned. "Oh, this is terrible."
Tyler worked his computer controls briskly, the keys making tiny clicks that tore into the silence like the ratchets on the Andrinian Wheel of Doom. "Mr. Spock, I’m afraid you’ll have to submit to a physical examination for wounds. And so will your father . . . if we can find him."
Kirk said, "Call his suite."
"We have. He hasn’t been home all night and he doesn’t answer the paging system."
"You mean," said Kirk, "your security system can’t even locate a man known to be on the premises?"
Hilcron recoiled indignantly, "Captain Kirk, Babel is NOT a prison or a Starfleet Base. Our security systems are designed to guard our guests’ privacy . . . not to spy upon them. In that, Babel is unique in interstellar diplomacy and . . ."
Kirk raised a placating hand, "Yes, of course. Babel’s reputation is unimpeachable . . ."
Hilcron subsided. "And at this time we are so crowded we can’t spare personnel to search for someone who doesn’t answer the pages . . ."
Spock interrupted, "Crowded, Sir? I understood you were operating at one-third capacity. According to the figures in the __Enterprise__ databanks . . ."
"Our limiting factor at the moment is trained staff, not space. This is the largest gathering we’ve had since the Coridan Admission. We have delegations from every Federation member, alternates, secretaries, witnesses called to testify, lobbyists, hoards of newsmen and five, count them, five Starships sending down liberty parties. I have five hundred borrowed employees from Hilton Rigel, Hilton Earth, and Hilton Deneb . . . but with the trouble on the M-IV levels, I just don’t have the staff to cope with all of it. That’s why," he turned to Kirk, "I asked you both to come up this morning. I was hoping you could spare me a few life support technicians."
To Spock, Hilcron said, "And seven of my technicians have asked to invite you, personally, to look over the problem. Your reputation . . ."
Tyler interrupted, "Yes, but I’m afraid that’s impossible . . . at least until this business is cleared up."
"My crew," said Kirk, "is at your disposal. I’ll tell my maintenance chief to send you ten men."
Tyler’s viewscreen flashed and he announced, "Dr. Harrington is here."
Southridge rose to admit the Doctor who looked as if he hadn’t slept since treating Sarek and Amanda. He glanced once around the grim faces and sighed, "Where’s the emergency?"
"We need your certification that Mr. Spock has not received a knife wound in the last twelve hours. You may use my study," said Hilcron gesturing toward a door in the corner.
Harrington led the way to the study saying, "You’ll have to disrobe completely, Mr. Spock . . ." and the door closed behind them cutting off the doctor’s soft voice.
"You’re wasting the doctor’s time," said Kirk. "Spock’s blood has several easily identifiable human factors."
"I know," replied Tyler, "but it’s my job to get all the evidence."
"Besides, Spock and I were with Amanda in the Ambassador’s suite at the time of the murder."
"Was the Ambassador with you?"
"Why," interposed Southridge, "did you leave the Kirton Tsu’ early?"
Kirk bit his lip. "Justice Larkin, do I have to answer that?"
"No, Captain. This is not a trial nor even an Inquiry. I am here because, except for the murderer, I was the last to see Ambassador Cunard alive. We are all very anxious to identify the killer before the public learns of the incident."
"I can see that." Kirk sighed. Spock would, no doubt, describe every detail of the evening with tricorder accuracy, so there was no real harm. "Ambassador Sarek decided that we were unable to participate in the ceremonies, so he left. Then we all left."
"You left after the Ambassador?" asked Tyler.
"Did you see the Ambassador afterwards?"
"No. He was gone when we reached the corridor, so we escorted Amanda home and stayed with her to keep her company."
"Until the Ambassador returned?"
"That was our intention, but he didn’t come."
"What time did you leave?"
"Just before midnight. We figured he’d be along any minute and we were all very tired."
Tyler nodded thoughtfully and tapped the keys of his computer, "Do you know if Sarek saw Cunard’s interview on the evening news last night?"
Kirk hesitated, but Hilcron provided, "Yes. He saw the last part of it. I was with him at the time."
Tyler turned to the Manager, "Did Sarek seem . . . upset . . . by Cunard’s statements?"
"No. Not at all . . . but then, you can never tell with a Vulcan."
"True," said Tyler, "but right after that he breaks custom by leaving the Kirton Tsu early. And you can’t tell me he wasn’t upset by the attack on his wife. A classical motive - opportunity - method, coupled with his disappearance, it is, well, indicative . . ."
Spock’s voice interrupted, ". . . indicative of nothing more than that further investigation is required."
"Yes, of course," said Tyler. "But we’ve got to find Sarek first. Do you have any idea where he could be?"
"No," said Spock taking his seat again.
Harrington made his formal statement into Tyler’s computer pickup and clicked off the machine. Tyler said, "Thank you, Doctor." And when Harrington had left, he turned back to Spock, "Can’t you guess where Sarek might have gone?"
"Wherever he’s gone, he’ll return to his suite eventually."
"We’ve stationed a guard, but we can’t spare many more men for such jobs."
"Mr. Spock," said Hilcron, there’s no further point in your remaining here. Since the Doctor’s findings were negative, we’ve no legal grounds to detain you." He turned to Kirk, "Captain, why don’t you both go and look for Sarek. The sooner we find him, the sooner we can clear him and find the real murderer."
Kirk rose, "I think we’ll do that, Mr. Hilcron."
"Just don’t mention this to anyone," the Manager cautioned. "We’ve got to have some answers before people start asking questions."
Southridge escorted them out with poker-faced solemnity and, when they were once more marching along Babel’s wide corridors, Kirk said, "Tal Saya is the technique we suspected Sarek might have used on Ambassador Gav . . . given sufficient logical motivation."
"Spock, Sarek seemed very disturbed last night. First he didn’t want to go to the Kirton Tsu; then he wanted to go; and in the end, he left early and just disappeared. Do you think he was disturbed enough to do . . . something like this?"
Kirk thought he detected an expression of pain cross Spock’s face. "If my father found it necessary to end a life, the reason must have been . . . compelling. As far as I am aware, no such reason was known to him when we saw him last."
"Compelling?" repeated Kirk. "He seemed disturbed enough to be compelled by something. I can’t imagine what __logical__ . . ." Kirk stopped in his tracks as if impaled on a sudden thought.
Innocently, Spock asked, "Yes, Captain?"
But Kirk suspected his First Officer was concealing triumph at having conveyed a message without speaking an improper word . . . and if any word about pon farr were improper, how much more so a word spoken by a son about his father?
The Captain began to walk again, considering. If Sarek were indeed compelled by emotion rather than logic at this moment . . . how long ago had it started? Before the rape? If so, the experience must have been . . . well, even mentally deranging. Even so, the Captain knew that Sarek would consider himself responsible for his actions, no matter the reason. But it just didn’t make sense. Why would Sarek turn on Cunard? Unless . . . unless he had discovered that Cunard was in some way responsible for the attack on Amanda. Then Vulcan emotion might have driven him to strike back. But that would be a demonstration of just the sort of ‘crime of passion’ Cunard had accused Vulcans of concealing.
Kirk shook himself. No. He just couldn’t believe Sarek might be guilty. "Well, shall we try the roof first and work down? There are a number of all-night restaurants and entertainment centers up there."
"A creditable suggestion, Captain. As you know, it is my father’s way to seek out high places for deep thoughts."
Kirk and Spock emerged from the turbo-lift onto the lowest terrace of Babel’s roof. Beyond the parapets, the mountain peaks fell away below them like waves defeated by the cliffs of a Berengarian atoll. Kirk dragged his eyes away from the view to examine the Directory’s schematic diagram.
The roof was occupied by twenty luxurious restaurants and nightclubs housed in a conical tower served by two interlaced spiral ramps, one climbing the cone clockwise, the other descending counter-clockwise.
Kirk pointed to the schematic before them, "The upper levels are mostly bars. Hardly the type of place I’d expect to find Sarek. I’ll start at the top and work down. You start at the bottom and work up. We’ll meet at Raphael’s, here in the middle." He tapped a glowing blue sign that read - ‘Seafood and Salad Specialties From Twenty Worlds.’ "That looks like a good place to have lunch and decide on our next move."
"Let’s go." Kirk marched to the nearby up ramp and stepped onto the moving strip thinking grimly that if the men who’d attacked Amanda had decided to eliminate Sarek, just in case he could identify them, then he and Spock might well find themselves on an urgent rescue mission.
The Captain rode the ramp to the top of the cone, giving each open-fronted restaurant a cursory glance. Most of them were about half full and entertainment was being offered in many of the bars. He noted the preponderance of Starfleet uniforms in certain spots, especially in the casinos where liberty parties gathered to fraternize with their opposite numbers from other ships.
Every so often, he passed a cluster of benches set out on a small balcony. Some were occupied, but none of the occupants was Sarek.
At the top, the Captain followed the moving strip under a glowing rainbow arch to the Sky Room which occupied the entire top of the cone, roofed only by a forcefield dome so that nothing obstructed the magnificent view. Calculating the expense of maintaining that dome, Kirk estimated the cover charge and felt way out of his class. Fortunately, he didn’t have to enter to see that Sarek wasn’t there.
He walked around the dome, alternately casting glances at the majestic view and scanning the interior while self consciously trying to seem disinterested.
Finally, he placed his hands on the railing and took a deep breath, drinking in the view. Here he was truly at the top of the world. He wished he’d brought Spock up here. He’d like to hear the Vulcan reaction. A computer couldn’t fail to be gripped by it.
Then, resolute, he mounted the down ramp and followed a sign to the Aerie. Soon, he came to a large terrace surfaced with undressed stone. The entrance was a gaping cave mouth protected by a windscreen driven up from a grid in the floor and sucked into a grid in the ceiling. Primitive . . . but less expensive than a forcedome. However, Kirk judged that the noise would discourage Vulcans from choosing to dine at the Aerie.
He ducked into the cave mouth, let his eyes adjust to the dimness and looked around. As he’d suspected, of the nearly twenty patrons, not one was Vulcan.
He went on down the ramp toward the Earth Room. Here, the entrance was closed by a heavy glass door swung on hinges. He pushed it open and was confronted by a potpourri of motifs, garnered from the early days of the Earth colonies. There was very little that suggested the planet of his birth to him.
When his eyes became accustomed to the confusion, he surveyed the customers, paying special attention to those seated in dim booths along the back wall. The three men standing at the bar looked like reporters to Kirk, so he quickly scanned the group at the Roulette table sniffed the aroma rising from a rotisserie on which a side of beef turned and decided this was not a place where he’d be likely to find Sarek.
Nevertheless, when one of the uniformed attendants approached to inquire, "May I help you, Captain?" Kirk replied, "Perhaps. Have any Vulcans been here recently?"
The attendant, a human . . . Kirk judged him to be about forty . . . said in a deep, cultured tone, "No, Sir, not here, Sir." His emphasis was so delicate that at first Kirk didn’t realize what was meant. Then, the set of the attendant’s features penetrated. He’d been discretely informed that such people did not patronize this establishment.
Kirk nodded smoothly, "I’m Captain Kirk of the __Enterprise__. Some of us wanted to get together to give a birthday party for my Science Officer. He’s a student on earth history, you see, so we thought this might be a good place for it. Do you have facilities for a private gathering of about thirty?"
"Yes, Sir. We’d be delighted to serve you. Reservations are available through the Accommodations Clerk.
There is a bank of Intercom Units right over there," he indicated a dim corner and a door labeled, ‘Rest Rooms.’
Kirk said, "Thank you. I’ll call in after I’ve spoken to the others." He gave one more look around, then marched out the door. As he turned to let the door swing shut, he saw another attendant approach his informant and gesture excitedly after him. Good, he thought, let them stew. It was a wonder the first fellow hadn’t connected him with Spock, but then not everybody knew that his First Officer was also his Science Officer. Now he was glad he hadn’t brought his friend up here.
Glancing once more behind, he caught sight of the rapidly growing argument he’d started. Eventually, someone would tell them Vulcans don’t celebrate birthdays. Kirk felt a wry chuckle building but he pulled his face straight and stepped onto the down ramp toward the next place, The Grotto.
Here the walls were decorated in the sea-cave motif popular on some of the Rigilean colonies. Green coral was festooned with a feathery purple moss that writhed in the air currents. The rear half of the floor was a large pool of clear water lit from beneath by a bluish glow.
To the right of the entrance, broad steps led down to a lower level tavern where it was possible to see into the pool through its transparent sides. Kirk wandered toward the edge of the pool to read the small print on a sign posted below the "Lunch Now Being Served" sign.
He read, "Class M-II patrons are allowed to swim provided regulation tank suits are worn. (see the Rest Room Attendant.) Please do not eat the display fish." Then in smaller letters, "No copulating. No defecating." Then in still smaller letters, "The management regrets these unreasonable regulations. However, may we respectfully point out that private facilities are provided at GQX-1983-II."
Kirk had served briefly on an M-II ship as a Third Officer. He didn’t remember any such facilities being provided for the amphibians. Perhaps Starfleet __was__ unduly harsh on M-II’s.
A musical chord sounded behind him and he turned to see a Schillian dressed in little more than a wisp of a loincloth mount the central dais to join another Schillian who was seated at a large, harp like instrument.
The musician struck out a strong rhythm and the singer joined with an inarticulate melody that reminded Kirk of mermaids and sirens. Schillians were M-II class amphibians and so right at home here. They were also bisexual telepaths who didn’t like being thought of as "she." But this singer seemed very feminine to Kirk in spite of the lack of mammalian curvature. There was a delicate grace in the supple body that transformed the toad-like proportions into beauty. Even her voice was a sultry contralto.
He shook his head to dispel the impression and drove his mind back to business. It was obvious this place catered to the nonhuman guests, so he might very well find Sarek here. And, thought Kirk, they’d better find the Ambassador soon, too, or there’d be hell to pay. He hoped Spock was having better luck.
The musician struck a sour chord and the singer stopped, favoring him with an offended glare. While the musician tuned his instrument, the singer scanned the handful of early customers waiting to be seated and then descended from the dais approaching Kirk purposefully, "Captain Kirk, you seek one who wished not to be sought."
Kirk remembered the apparent understanding between Ambassador Ssarsam and Sarek. And it had been Schillians who’d rescued Amanda. Could Sarek have taken refuge among the Schillians? He said, "You might put it that way."
"Last night there was one like unto the one you seek meditating on the private balcony," ‘he’ gestured to the left and Kirk turned to see loops of hanging moss that curtained a darker entrance. The Schillian added, "Search might avail."
When Kirk turned back to thank the singer, ‘he’ had returned to the dais to continue the rehearsal. With one last glance at the Grotto, Kirk plunged through the moss and into a dark tunnel. When his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw that it appeared to be cut out of living rock with a channel in the center of the floor carrying a stream that flowed into the grotto’s pool. Faintly, Kirk could hear the rush of a waterfall in the distance.
As he followed the tunnel, he passed signs indicating rest rooms, intercoms and kitchens. Toward the end, he came upon a cascade that fell across the exit onto a balcony where Babel’s sun made rainbows in the spray.
There was only one way out onto the balcony . . . through the falling water. Kirk approached, squinting against the spray. Then, when he saw the non-skid stripping on the other side of the catch-basin, he hopped across and out into the noonday sunlight.
Momentarily dazzled, he waited for his eyes to adjust. The balcony was warmed by hot air flows from grids hidden behind potted plants. Benches and chairs were scattered among the foliage that screened the balcony from people below, but the place was deserted except for a Vulcan who sat gazing out over the mountain peaks. His elbows were propped on the chair arms, hands clasped, two fingers raised in the familiar manner.
Kirk approached cautiously, unwilling to disturb a stranger. But when he got closer, he saw it was indeed Sarek . . . and on the back of his right hand a long, jagged scratch was just beginning to heal.
The Captain moved into the edge of Sarek’s field of vision and stood waiting to be noticed while the doubt that had been nagging at the back of his mind flowered.
Meanwhile, Spock walked out of the ninth place he’d checked, and took the up ramp to Raphael’s. The front entrance was built to resemble an ancient, square-rigged sailing ship moored at a dock complete with a strip of dark water sloshing between dock and hull. A glowing sign admonished customers to beware of the swaying deck.
Wondering what happened to patrons who fell into the ersatz ocean, Spock negotiated the plank and stepped aboard. There was a momentary blackness, then his vision cleared and he found himself in an enclosed room decorated in the style of Earth’s ancient oceanfront taverns. "Fascinating," he thought, "a holographic projection."
The deck under his feet had the unmistakable sway of a floating vessel and around the walls, rows of portholes held a view of a nineteenth century waterfront . . . San Francisco, if he was any judge. The coordination between the view and the sway of the deck was perfect, but the illusion was shattered for him by the lack of appropriate odors.
Eleven years ago, he’d been stationed briefly on Earth and he’d visited San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. He’d gone there impelled by curiosity; he’d stayed from fascination; and he’d departed with a permanent aversion to the pungent stench of Earth’s oceanfront. Here, there was no trace of any of those odors.
The Vulcan examined the handful of customers with care. Seven men were gathered around the bar . . . three of them wore Babel staff uniforms, the other four seemed to be off-duty Babel maintenance personnel. They were all human.
Several of the tables were occupied by diners, among them five Starfleet uniforms from the __Kongo__ and the __Hood__. All the patrons were human.
He took a seat at a table for two where he could easily watch both the entrance and the arch that led to the service corridor. He calculated he had about fifteen minutes to wait, so he busied himself trying to discern the repetition of the ship’s sway pattern.
Shortly, the bartender approached Spock’s table, "This table is reserved for customers, Sir . . ."
"I’m waiting for someone. We’ll order when he arrives."
Spock didn’t need any telepathic sensitivity to see that the waiter was restraining himself from open rudeness. He dropped the menu on the table, nodded frostily and went back to the group at the bar, his authentic leather boots raising hollow echoes on the authentic wood deck.
Still waiting for the sway-pattern to repeat, Spock turned part of his attention to the menu. It was printed on a seemingly appropriate stock, and in English only.
He read through the offerings, noting wryly that the items that might have interested him were crossed out or marked for the evening meal only. The message was plain enough.
Then, he felt the sway-pattern of the deck begin to repeat. A ten minute tape. He doubted if any of the humans would notice even after several hours.
The bartender came back, wiping his hands on his authentically wilted apron, "Sir, are you quite certain you wouldn’t care to order something from the bar?" His tone implied ‘order or leave . . . preferably.’
Spock said, "You may bring a Saurian Brandy."
Craftily, the man said, "Any particular vintage? I would recommend Jubilee Twenty."
"Jubilee Twenty is rather flat. Do you have Fifty?" He knew that was one of Kirk’s favorites.
"Yes, of course. We carry the very best private stock." His tone said it would cost this particular customer plenty. He went back to the bar.
Spock expected Kirk at any moment, but he hadn’t appeared by the time one of the maintenance men followed the bartender back to Spock’s table. Just as the bartender was about to present the drink on a cloth-covered tray, the other man stumbled and shoved the bartender toward Spock. The glass tumbled onto the tablecloth and bounced with an un-authentic resilience.
Rising to his feet to avoid the spilled liquor, Spock caught the bartender’s shoulders and set him back on his feet, "My apologies." Then he scooped the glass off the edge of the table and placed it back on the tray, "It appears you must refill this."
The bartender scowled, "You haven’t paid for the first one, yet."
Spock eyed the maintenance worker’s green coveralls. "I shall . . . on delivery."
The workman glowered at Spock as if it were the Vulcan’s fault he’d tripped over his own feet. Spock donned his most innocent expression. "Don’t look at me, Vulcan. I only came over here to ask where the rest rooms are."
The transparent excuse hung limply in the silence. When it became obvious that it was harder to provoke a fight with a Vulcan than he’d thought, the workman said, "Look, I’m not going to pay for your drink."
"I didn’t ask you to," said Spock, "And, as yet, I have received no drink." He covered the spreading stain on the table cloth with one of the cloth napkins, noting that the absorbency was not like any natural fibre. Then, he seated himself, plainly declining the gambit.
One of the other maintenance workers detached himself from the group at the bar and approached, followed by the others in a tight knot. "I saw the whole thing. This one," the lead man pointed at Spock, "tripped Frank, here," he indicated the bartender, "and Frank’s feet tripped Bart," he gestured at the first maintenance worker.
All the customers were watching now. The Star Fleet men traded glances across the room, ready to come to Spock’s aid, but the Vulcan raised his hand in a gesture meaning, "Let me handle this." Then he waited for someone to make the next move.
One of the others from the bar spoke up, "That’s right. We all saw it."
The bartender switched his gaze to Spock. "That’s what it felt like to me."
Spock’s personal inclination was to pay for the drink to avoid a conflict. But he knew it wouldn’t work. The price of the drink wasn’t the issue. They wanted him to leave and spread the word to other Vulcans not to come here.
Spock knew this was the beginning of just the kind of ugliness the Federation couldn’t afford. Also, it was strangely uncharacteristic of the prevailing Federation culture. He couldn’t understand how it had gotten started. But, apparently, it was well developed, at least here on Babel.
Bart said, "I always knew Vulcans were fist-shy, but I never knew them for cowards . . ."
"Your ignorance," observed Spock, "may well be based in sound fact."
When he’d deciphered that, Bart said, "Tripping a waiter when he’s not looking seems pretty cowardly to me."
"Indeed," said Spock agreeing enthusiastically. He was looking straight ahead, across the room at the portholes, apparently paying no attention to the threatening formation the humans had taken about his table.
The workmen traded glances, then Bart frowned, "Are you calling me a liar? Where I come from . . ."
Spock interrupted, "Where I come from, accurate observation is a highly prized art. Those who lack the skill are required to rely upon others of proven ability."
The bartender said, "Look, this is getting us nowhere. Pay your bill or leave."
"Shut up, Frank," said Bart, "This," he glanced at the two lines of gold braid on Spock’s sleeves, "Commander is calling me names in fancy language and I don’t like it."
Spock sat quietly, timing the swaying of the ship, ready to move instantly. Bart walked around in front of the table, "Look at me when I’m talking to you, Vulcan. Didn’t Star Fleet teach you any manners?"
Spock didn’t move.
Another workman said, "Look, Vulcan, you owe my friend here," he indicated Bart, "an apology."
The bartender added, ". . . and me the price of a Saurian Brandy. Three credits."
Spock rose and addressed Bart, "Sir, if I have offended you, I apologize most sincerely. He sat down, "I will tender payment for the drink upon delivery."
"It’s due now," said the bartender.
The other workmen grabbed Spock’s chair and Bart said, "Stand up and pay the man."
As the chair was jerked from under him, Spock stood, but made no move to obey.
Bart repeated, "Pay the man or I’ll take it out of your yellow skin."
Still with his eyes fixed on the far row of portholes, Spock gauged the roll of the deck. "There is no easily defined relationship between skill in close-order combat and skill of accurate observation. However, those accomplished at the latter are likely to excel at the former."
The bartender glanced disgustedly at the ceiling translator. The First Officer added, looking directly into the bartender’s eyes, "I was speaking English. The translators cannot give you concepts which you do not already possess."
The second technician said hesitatingly, "Frank, I think he just called you stupid."
Bart said, "That’s what it sounded like to me."
Another workman said, "Are you going to let him get away with that?"
In the far corner of the room where two men from the __Kongo__ were sitting, Spock heard the twitter of a communicator opening. He declared, "I will not pay for merchandise which was not delivered."
Suddenly, the bartender growled, "Get out of here, and don’t come back."
Obediently, Spock started to turn toward the entry, but too late, he sensed a foot placed to trip him. As he skipped to avoid falling, two hands slapped his back sending him sprawling into the bartender who fell backward bringing his knees up into Spock’s stomach, using the momentum to boost the Vulcan over his head.
Spock tucked his head in and took the roll on his shoulders, coming around onto his knees. Bart launched himself at the Vulcan, a snarl on his face and a hard glint in his eyes that would have chilled the stoutest human heart.
Just then, the long awaited pitch of the deck came, throwing Bart off balance. Spock sidestepped the lunge and with his right hand, got a grip on Bart’s right shoulder from behind applying enough pressure to drop a human. But, the workman twisted away. As the contact broke, Spock’s fingers brushed Bart’s neck and the Vulcan received a strong impression of raw viciousness, like a predatory animal, together with a wariness born of fear and, yes, and hatred.
Before the Science Officer could recover his balance, another man jumped him from behind and a second threw a kick that would have been lethal had Spock not caught the boot in both his hands.
At that moment, two of the men from the __Kongo__ tore the kicker away and Spock rolled free. But the bartender hauled the Vulcan to his feet and launched a left jab at Spock’s jaw.
Blocking with his right arm, Spock searched for Bart and found him running for the exit. Instantly, he launched himself in a flying tackle, hitting the fleeting man just below the knees. Momentum carried them through the holograph and out onto the terrace.
Snarling, Bart kicked at the Vulcan’s face and Spock was forced to let go. Stumbling, he gained his feet, leapt the strip of water, and lunged. But Bart was running down the ramp, dodging through a group of Star Fleet men and in a moment had disappeared into the crowd at the next level down.
The First Officer stumbled full tilt into the Star Fleet men and strong hands gripped his shoulders. A voice said, "Sorry, Commander," in a very unregretful tone.
Spock straightened up to see that he’d met a full contingent of Shore Police from the __Hood__. He glanced down the ramp after his quarry and saw him melt into the crowd around the turbo lifts.
Two of the SP’s went into Raphael’s while one of the remaining three said, "All right, Commander, let’s go."
Spock nodded, "Very well," and started down the ramp, the three in close order behind him. When they reached the roof level bank of turbo lifts, he turned to glance back. In front of Raphael’s, he could see the glint of gold among the SP’s red and he was certain it was Kirk. Then the silver sashed black tunic beside the Captain came into sight, and just before the lift doors closed, shutting off his view, Spock knew it was Sarek beside the Captain.
"But, Mr. Hilcron," said Kirk for the fiftieth weary time, "at least you could let Spock go. Granted you have reason enough to hold Sarek; Spock is my responsibility."
The manager’s office was quiet now that the security men and their computers were gone. Kirk stood facing Hilcron across the oval desk while Justice Larkin, seated again at the far end of the oval tapped absently at the recessed computer input keys before him.
"Yes, Captain," agreed Hilcron, "but Spock was seen fighting with Babel staff members. We can’t let him go until we locate the man he assaulted. Such a victim might wish to prefer charges. A full investigation . . ."
Larkin interrupted the worn repetition, "Captain, we realize that Star Fleet has its own methods of dealing with brawling, but . . ."
Kirk turned to him, hands out, pleading, "But, Sir, he’s my First Officer, and he’s a __Vulcan__. You’ve heard the testimony. He didn’t start the fight. And, legal formalities at a time when Sarek has been virtually convicted . . ."
"Please, Captain," Larkin held up one finely groomed hand and intoned with impeccable diction, "The Law is nothing but formality, and for a very good reason. The same formality you are objecting to is what has saved many an accused from lynching at the hands of a mob."
"Yes, yes, I understand that," said Kirk, "but justice is not achieved by rote recitation of the letter of the statutes. Occasionally, the intent of the law must be considered. That is, after all, what this convention is all about."
Turning and pacing away from the sleek desk, Kirk warmed to his subject, "You are now applying human standards to a Vulcan. You are assuming that, if Spock were guilty, he might attempt to leave your jurisdiction before the victims could bring charges. You’re assuming that if he is guilty of one crime, there is a reasonable chance that leniency would tempt him to commit yet another crime. Such assumptions might be applicable to humans, but they are totally invalid for Vulcans."
Larkin said, "But he is only half-Vulcan."
Kirk held out his hands, "He has worked under me for more than ten years. I know his commitment to the Vulcan way is greater than a priest’s commitment to his religion. Threat of eternal damnation couldn’t grip a soul more strongly, or control actions more completely."
"That may well be . . ." said Hilcron.
Kirk interrupted, approaching the manager across the wide expanse of carpet, "It is. Look, why don’t you have him brought here where you and I can talk to him . . ."
"He’s already made a formal statement," said Larkin.
Kirk waited while Hilcron chewed his lip. Finally, the manager hit a switch before him, "Mr. Dubrill, bring Mr. Spock up to my office right away."
Kirk threw himself into a chair and essayed a smile, thinking, oh, Spock, don’t fail me now.
They passed the few minutes in silence. Finally, the door opened to admit Spock followed by Dubrill, a tall, dark human who moved with the grace of one accustomed to a higher gravity. A suitable guard for a Vulcan prisoner. Larkin said, "Mr. Dubrill, thank you. You may go."
Dubrill measured Spock with a glance, nodded to Larkin and left. Hilcron said, "Mr. Spock, you realize that attacking my staff is a very serious offense."
"It is, indeed," asserted the Vulcan positively.
"Would you do so again?"
"A hypothetical question since I haven’t done so a first time."
"You deny that you were involved in a brawl? I have witnesses . . ."
"I deny nothing. I have not been accused."
"We’re trying to find the victims to see if they wish to level any accusations. Meanwhile, we have witnesses . . ."
"You will find no victims who will level accusations against me in a Federation court."
"Why?" asked Larkin.
"Because, Mr. Justice, the only ‘victim’ who might have a complaint is not a Federation citizen."
Hilcron spluttered, "Mr. Spock, how can you possibly make such a statement? Everybody here on Babel is a Federation citizen."
Spock’s brows climbed in gentle negation, "At least one person, dressed in a staff coverall in NOT a citizen of
this Federation. He is Klingon. And not likely to prefer charges against me in a Federation Court."
Larkin gasped, "Klingon! That’s preposterous. How could you know . . ."
Kirk snapped, "Explain."
Spock clamped his hands behind his back. "When I was attacked, I applied a nerve pinch that should have rendered a human unconscious instantly. However, the assailant called Bart was unaffected, and his mental aura was unmistakable. He is Klingon."
Larkin frowned. "Telepathic evidence only?"
"Regrettably, I have no other to offer."
"Spock is one of the few Vulcans who have had enough close contact with Klingons to be able to recognize their ‘mental aura’," said Kirk. "On Organia . . ."
Larkin shook his head, "I can’t swear out a warrant on such flimsy evidence."
"Of course," agreed Spock, "but now you know there is at least one Klingon present who was involved in creating an incident aimed at increasing tensions between Vulcans and humans."
"Now wait a minute," Larkin protested, "I know nothing of the sort."
"Then," said Kirk "you’d better start studying Klingoni. You’ll be practicing under Klingon law before long if they get away with this. Spock, do you suppose there was a Klingon in that group that attacked your parents?"
Hilcron looked at Larkin’s stricken face then turned to Spock, "Why didn’t you mention this before?"
"In front of all the guards and without security clearance? On a record tape that would be placed in public file? Breach of security is a far more serious charge than brawling."
Kirk said, "Spock, have you any idea where this Klingon might be now?"
"Do you suppose," Hilcron rocked his chair thoughtfully, "the Klingons could be involved in the murder of Ambassador Cunard?"
"Probability, eighty seven point two five percent," answered Spock.
Larkin pursed his lips, "Then how did Sarek’s blood get on that dagger?"
"Have you asked him?" said Spock.
"He claimed," supplied Hilcron, "that he was jostled in a turbo-lift and somebody’s dagger nicked him. At the time, he thought it was accidental, so he ignored it."
"The truth of that," said Larkin, "will have to be determined in a Court of Law."
"Yes, of course," said Kirk, "we’re all agreed on that. But, Sir, as you now can see, Spock had every reason to chase his attacker. The pity is that he wasn’t able to catch him."
"I see nothing of the sort," said Larkin carefully. It was plain he wanted to help but couldn’t see any way.
"But," said Hilcron, "if there is a Klingon loose in Babel . . ."
"Then," finished Larkin, "your security men will catch him."
"Why do you think so," said Kirk, "when they haven’t caught him yet? Even if I ordered all my crew to help . . ."
"If there is such a person," Larkin interrupted, "I don’t see that implies he’s been here for long . . ."
"He and his ideas," said Spock, "were accepted by your other presumably genuine employees before I arrived on the scene . . ."
"Which bespeaks," added Kirk, "an efficient organization behind this lone agent."
"Pure conjecture." said Larkin.
"Sir," Spock said, "Vulcans are not given to conjecture. And I never offer a probability estimate which does not include all reasonable uncertainties."
Hilcron interrupted, "How are we going to find this Klingon?"
Larkin corrected, "Hypothetical Klingon."
"Yes," agreed Hilcron, "hypothetical Klingon. But we’ve still got to find him. Babel’s internal security is not designed to deal with this . . . preposterous . . . suspicion. Even with all SP’s on emergency duty . . ." he shook his head.
"If," said Kirk, "Spock says there’s a Klingon here on Babel, then there is. No ‘hypothetical’ about it."
"But," said Larkin, "where’s the evidence? How can I authorize the general invasion of privacy that a regulation search would entail? Babel is a Diplomatic Sanctuary with internal laws unlike any other place in the Federation."
Quizzically, Kirk murmured, "Loose a plague of tribbles."
"What was that, Captain?"
Kirk cleared his throat, "Legally, your hands are tied, Justice Larkin. Legally, you can do nothing. But think, have people here been behaving normally? Has there ever been such, yes, bigotry in Federation society?"
"Well," said Larkin, "if you put it . . ."
"Yes," said Kirk, "I do put it that way. And doesn’t it seem wrong to you that your hands are tied by the law in a clear case of a miscarriage of justice?"
"Not so clear . . ."
"Clear enough. I submit, Sir," said Kirk gesturing vigorously, "that the law is wrong on this point. It is within your power to let Spock go. If you do, perhaps he can find you a Klingon, and clear the Vulcan Ambassador of all suspicion."
"Perhaps he could," said Larkin, "but it is not within my power to let Mr. Spock go, however much I might like to."
"But," said Hilcron, "if you paroled him in the Captain’s custody . . ."
"How can I parole him? He hasn’t even been accused of a crime yet, let alone convicted and sentenced."
"Well, then let him go on bail."
"He hasn’t been booked. The law says the authorities can hold him another twelve hours without preferring charges . . ."
"But twelve hours will be too late," said Hilcron, "Sooner than that, the news of the murder will be out. We’ve got to have the case settled by then."
Larkin pondered that, grey eyes locked on Spock’s impassive features. The First Officer’s record included the Vulcan Scientific Legion of Honor. As far as Larkin knew, no non-Vulcan had ever achieved that status since it involved more than excellence in science. The Vulcan term was translated ‘Legion’ because it demanded a level of personal discipline far exceeding that of any military organization. It was a Legion of Honor not because membership was a privilege, but because certain lofty standards of ethics were demanded of designates. It was the only decoration recognized by Star Fleet that was not awarded for some outstanding accomplishment but for an unblemished record. And it was a continuing endorsement that could be withdrawn. Once withdrawn, the fact that it had been held would be stricken from the record and it could never be regained.
Larkin said, "Mr. Spock, would you be willing to take Oath of Honor to guarantee your behavior if I let you go?"
Without hesitation, Spock answered, "Yes, of course, but Oath Binding is not recognized in Federation Court."
"True. But times are changing. The Jurisprudence Committee favors legalizing the Vulcan Oath of Honor. I believe it would be particularly binding in your case since violation would jeopardize your Legion status."
Kirk gasped. That Legion of Honor endorsement was worth more to Spock than life itself.
"There would be no question of jeopardy since there would be no question of violation of such an Oath," said Spock. "However, there is no need for Oath-Binding. There is nothing that I could gain by deceiving you. A deception which injures the deceiver would be an act of such illogic as, in itself, to cast suspicion on Legion status."
"If there is no question of violation, then whether you take Oath or not is immaterial," said Larkin. "Correct?"
"Negative. The Registration of such an Oath is no simple matter. The construction of the Oath also requires careful deliberation."
"I’ve been attending the sub-committee hearings on this topic and I think I’ve gained a practical understanding of it. Registration procedures are well enough outlined in the literature. As to construction . . ." he reached forward and activated a computer. A screen rose out of the desk and glowed to life. He spoke a few words and a display flicked onto the screen.
Kirk recognized the upper portion as Vulcan script. The lower half of the screen showed three items, presumably a translation of the Vulcan:
[Karen note: Form below is three numbered sections, in a different type face. It should be centered on the page, please, and a different face than your reading text.]
When everyone had examined the screen, Larkin said, "The subcommittee on Vulcan Problems worked out a series of standard forms. I realize this is quite different from the traditional procedure but I am assured that it is acceptable and it occurs to me that this form might well solve our problem.
"At most, I might be guilty of a misdemeanor. This is enough to release a convicted felon who has announced his intent to repeat the felony."
Hilcron spoke up, "Uh, I’m afraid, Mr. Spock, that on Babel, assault is a felony when committed by one trained in close order combat."
Kirk said, "Gentlemen, this is absurd. We all know that Mr. Spock is the one who was assaulted. If anybody is guilty of anything, those men were guilty of inciting to riot . . ."
"But," said Larkin, "none of the witnesses will swear to that."
"True," said Spock, "and I will not swear to this," he indicated the screen.
Kirk rose to pace nervously before the oval desk. "For heaven’s sake, Spock, give them your word and let’s get out of here. Every minute we sit here arguing is a minute lost. Do you realize your father could be convicted of murder if we don’t find that Klingon. And the political repercussions of that . . ."
"Captain, you don’t seem to appreciate what is involved here."
With two strides, Kirk confronted his First Officer almost toe to toe, "I appreciate that it’s a matter of the stability of the Federation. The Vulcan Ambassador killing a human Ambassador at a time like this, there’s no telling where it would end. __Spock__, let’s get out of here."
Larkin offered. "I’ll fill in the blanks so that you’ll be required to return to this office in twenty-four hours. If nobody has preferred charges against you by then, they’ve lost the right to do so. We’ll assign Captain Kirk as Warder . . ." he looked up, "JAMES T., isn’t it?"
Kirk nodded. Larkin continued, "And I’ll post this for Vulcan immediately." As he spoke, he worked the controls before him and the screen display recorded the entries. "There," he added, "is that satisfactory?"
"Negative," said Spock. He riveted Larkin with his eyes, "Do you understand all that the Warder Liege relationship implies?"
"Certainly not," said Larkin, "no human could, but . . ."
"Mr. Justice," said Spock, raking his eyes over the other two humans, "the Warder Liege relationship is a tool for instilling respect for mature judgment. It is a method that utilizes a highly artificial set of values . . ."
"Perhaps, these terms are too harsh," said Larkin, "but as you surmised, they were designed to parole an intractable criminal. At the moment, however, this form is the closest to the requirements of this case that has been developed. If it won’t hold you to your word, it certainly wouldn’t suffice in the more serious instance. I can let you go on these terms and call it an experiment, or I can hold you until morning. The choice is yours."
Hilcron said, "That seems fair enough to me, Mr. Spock. You did say you had no intention of violating the terms. So why refuse to take Oath to that effect?"
Spock looked from one face to the next. Refusal would damage the Vulcan reputation. Hilcron and Larkin weren’t willing to listen to any logical argument and Kirk was rapidly losing his patience. The Vulcan rose and leaned over the desk to inspect the viewscreen carefully. "It would appear that I have no choice but to comply. Are you ready to record Mr. Justice?"
Larkin tapped his keyboard, "I’ve tied into my office file." He raised his finger from the key and three electronic notes chimed out. "Court is in session for the purpose of recording a Vulcan Oath-Binding, pursuant to the release of suspect number," he consulted a screen set flush with the desktop, "778920."
Larkin read in the complete identification of Hilcron and Kirk as witnesses, had them voiceprint and then he nodded to Spock.
The Vulcan spoke into the pickup grid. It was a long melodious speech in the most precise Vulcan dialect but came to the others as a flat-toned recitation. After he’d finished reading the text, Spock continued for several minutes while the translators slipped and slid through the rapid-fire Vulcanir failing to produce anything recognizable.
At length, Spock paused and Larkin leaned forward to cut the recorder, but the Vulcan stayed his hand and continued more slowly, "In my judgment, this matter is trivial and Oath-Binding is unnecessary since there exists no logical motive to deceive. Although I shall execute the terms of the Oath with scrupulous dedication, I decline responsibility for any unforeseen consequences. I accept the Oath because refusing it might be taken to imply intent to deceive."
For a moment Spock’s eyes met Larkin’s in silent challenge. Then the Justice nodded curtly and clicked the recorder off, "Well enough. You may go."
Kirk rose, "Come on, Spock. We’ve got work to do." In four rapid strides he was at the door waiting.
Out in the hall once more, Kirk headed for the nearest turbo-lift. They had been in Hilcron’s office all afternoon and most of the evening. It was too late to call Amanda. McCoy had placed her under sedation again and she was no doubt, sleeping. Kirk hit the lift call plate and turned to Spock, "I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. We never did get any lunch. Shall we try the place where I found Sarek, The Grotto?"
When the turbo-lift doors swished open, Kirk put his hand out to hold them, "All right, Spock, out with it. What’s eating you?"
Spock considered for a moment, then frowned, "I do not believe you appreciate the seriousness of the situation."
"With regard to the . . . relationship . . . you and I have assumed."
"Oh, come on, forget that . . ."
"Sir, I cannot forget it."
"Well, ignore it, then."
"That is possible; provided events allow it."
Kirk stepped into the Lift, "Come on. We’ll just have to hope our luck holds out."
Spock followed him and the doors closed, "I do not place great reliance on ‘luck’."
"Roof," said Kirk. "Look, Spock, I don’t know anything about being, what did you call it? Warder Liege?"
Spock nodded, "That, Captain, is precisely the problem. It is a complex and extremely artificial relationship. Your ignorance could be disastrous. And there isn’t time to instruct you in even the rudiments."
"I can well believe it. Isn’t it enough that I’m already your superior officer?"
"There are some similarities. But, in Star Fleet, Officers are encouraged to display a certain amount of initiative while a Designate is required to function __only__ within the confines of an unreal system."
"I don’t understand the purpose of that."
"It is a powerful tool for training the mind in the logical disciplines."
"If you say so"
Just then the doors parted to reveal the roof terrace, scintillating with multicolored lights that pushed back the darkness. He followed his Captain up the ramp, past Raphael’s and on into The Grotto.
Here several tables were occupied, some by humans, some by Andorians, and there was one mixed party of humans and Vulcans.
In the pool, two Ziturians frolicked exuberantly; Kirk remembered the Ziturians he’d served with, and smiled. They were the most unselfconscious people you could imagine, and had the most exotic ideas of good manners. Now that he thought about it, that sign beside the pool made good sense. A Ziturian would do all of those things without thinking twice.
Kirk chose a table for two in the rear of the restaurant and sat down where he could watch the door and the pool at the same time. Spock moved his seat so his back was to the pool and when the waiter came, ordered without consulting the menu.
Kirk toyed with a fork until the waiter went away and then said, "In the Kirton Tsu, I drew an analogy between this current surge of bigotry and the effect that energy creature had on us, pitting us against the Klingons and each other, do you remember?"
"You never answered my question. Doesn’t the way people have been behaving lately remind you of that?"
"Vaguely. But Father was correct. The point is not who pointed out the flaws but rather what is being done about it."
Kirk spun the fork between two palms, then clutched it as if it were a Klingon neck, "It makes sense, Spock, it really does. That Kang is nobody’s fool. He could be engineering this whole thing and laughing at our backs."
"Very possibly," Spock paused, considering the propriety of his question, "Captain, does it bother you that a Klingon might be laughing at you?"
Kirk slammed the fork down on the table making the water glasses jump, "Yes, dammit, it does. Don’t you have any ideas where we could look for your Klingon?"
"No, Sir. Klingons think more like humans than like Vulcans. I would expect you would have a better chance to outguess one."
"Well," said Kirk, "We could wait for the next disturbance and then just look at the heart of it. But that could take all night, or even a couple of days."
"And we might not be on the scene. Babel is large."
"Yes, it is . . ."
The food arrived and Kirk fell to with keen appetite. But all the while his mind chewed at the problem. When he finished, he ordered a bottle of strong, black coffee and loaded it with sugar. Nursing his cup, he watched the swimming Ziturians. Evidently, they’d become so involved in each other, they’d completely forgotten the prohibitions on public behavior. The female had loosened her clothing, or perhaps the male had helped her, and Kirk admired the way her iridescent membranes trailed gracefully in the water like the fins of a prize tropical fish.
But they obviously weren’t paying attention to him, so why should he pay attention to them? Kirk shifted his gaze to Spock who sat swirling a goblet of pale golden liquid. It coated the glass with an oily film that emitted a purple vapor which the Vulcan studied much as a human might examine tea leaves.
Kirk’s eyes drifted to the table just out of earshot behind Spock. A Vulcan wearing a Newsnet armband was speaking earnestly with two humans from Babel Computer Operations. Watching them, Kirk took a sip of his coffee and suddenly he had an idea.
"Spock, the M-IV levels, they’ve been closed off for weeks. Could that be sabotage?" But his First Officer seemed not to hear him.
"Spock . . . Spock!" Kirk reached across the table and waved a hand before the Vulcan’s eyes. No response. He took the glittering salt shaker and flashed light across his face. "Spock . . ."
"Yes, Captain?" But he spoke to the swirling purple vapors.
"Whew. Thought you were gone for the night. What’s so interesting?"
"More than interesting, Captain. Fascinating. Did you see the group at the table just behind me?"
Kirk glanced toward the Vulcan newsman but he was gone and the humans were watching the Ziturian swimmers. "Yes. But," Kirk glanced toward the door where he could see the Vulcan just leaving, "it seems to have broken up."
"Indeed. Did you hear what they were saying?"
"No. These ceilings seem to have an unusually effective acoustical damping field."
"Hmmm. It was a very professional job of, I believe the correct term is ‘hate mongering’."
"Captain. That reporter is Romulan."
"Rrrom . . ." Kirk swallowed and started to rise, "Let’s follow him."
"Sir . . ."
Kirk sat down. "What?"
"Not too closely."
"Yes, of course." Now that he’d taken a moment to think, Kirk said, "We should inform Hilcron immediately."
"Inform him of what, Sir?"
"That . . . uh . . . how do you know he’s Romulan?"
"Captain, the universal translator is a quasi-telepathic device, but it is possible to blank out the projection and actually hear the original utterance."
"You did that?"
"The ‘Vulcan’ seemed to be making very little sense. I attributed this to the translator because, with my mixed linguistic background, the machines often slip out of phase."
Kirk cast an anxious glance at the door where the reporter seemed to be lingering to appreciate the view. "Well, go on. What was he saying?"
"According to the translator, he was telling the two humans that they could never excel a Vulcan in computer sciences while at the same time he took great care to display an incredible incompetence in the field."
"And without the translator?"
"The meaning proved to be accurately rendered. However, he was speaking Vulcanur in a rare and heavily accented dialect."
"Is that unusual? I thought it was Vulcan policy to preserve cultural distinctions."
Spock paused to sip his drink, then said very softly, "Captain, it was an assumed accent well chosen to mask his Romulan inflections. It would take an extensive computer analysis to prove it, objectively. And there’s no recording to analyze."
Kirk nodded. Now that the shock had worn off, he could easily believe the depth of enemy infiltration of Babel. Since the Organian treaty, he and Spock had been involved in many attempts to combat the new wave of Klingon-Romulan espionage. "Could many Vulcans detect his Romulan accent?"
"No, Captain. In fact, a native speaker of the Turenn dialect would simply assume he had a slight Vennur accent. Very few linguists could distinguish a Turenn/Vennur mix such as he is using from a Romulan accent."
Kirk nodded. In preparing for the mission that had acquired the Romulan cloaking device for the Federation, Spock had made a thorough study of the Romulan languages. "O.K. I’ll follow him. You report to Hilcron."
"Sir . . . ? Telepathic evidence is inadmissible. We must bring objective evidence."
"Yes." Kirk thought a moment. "Newsnet identification can’t be forged. Let’s force an identity check."
Spock only raised one skeptical brow.
Kirk looked toward the entryway again. The Romulan was stepping onto the down-ramp. "Come on. Let’s not lose him."
When Kirk and Spock reached the bottom of the down ramp, the Romulan had disappeared into one of the turbolifts. Kirk stopped short, "Damn. Now we’ll never know where he went."
"He ordered KXQ-5334-A."
Kirk threw his First Officer an appreciative glance. Vulcan ears! Then he ducked into an adjoining lift.
KXQ-5334-A proved to be the shuttlecraft hangar located in one far flung buttress at the foot of Babel Tower. The turbo-lift let them out just as a robo-truck piled high with spools of heavy cable rumbled by.
When they could see beyond the mountain of equipment, the Romulan was gone. To their left, Babel-uniformed technicians swarmed over two shuttlecraft while on the other side of the cavern, one was being drawn to the parking tower, another was being extracted and a third landed under the direction of a dispatcher.
As it slid to a halt, Kirk saw that the craft was the __Enterprise’s__ __Galileo VI__ . . . no doubt carrying the last of the crew Scotty would send down. A bit ahead of schedule, but then that was Scotty.
"There he is," said Spock pointing to the right.
Kirk followed the Vulcan’s gesture. About a hundred yards away, three windows spilled greenish-yellow light onto the floor. One was labeled, "Parts and Maintenance," the second, "Rentals, Tours, Guides," and under the third sign, "Parking and Storage," stood the Romulan . . . claiming his vehicle.
Kirk glanced out into the cavern. Yes. The vehicle being extracted from the parking tower carried Newsnet identification. It looked authentic, but then so did the Romulan.
"Come on, Spock, we’ll claim the Galileo and follow him."
Feeling like an ant in a cathedral, Kirk led the way out onto the floor. As the senior officers approached, the liberty party braced to attention. The Captain nodded amiably, "Mr. Flagman, report."
"Mr. Scott has torn down the transporters, Sir. That’s why we brought the shuttle. Decks One to Eleven of the Primary Hull are without life support . . . flushed with inert gas." He shifted his attention to Spock. "And, Sir, I finished the lubrication of the Deck Seven computer access panels. We won’t have any more trouble with them."
One Vulcan eyebrow rose a minute fraction but before Spock could ask how he’d accomplished that without the proper lubricant, the Captain said, "Thank you, Mr. Flagman. I think we will just pay Mr. Scott a little courtesy call."
Out of the corner of his eye, Kirk saw the Romulan climbing into the Newsnet craft. Flagman moved his group toward the turbo-lifts, determined not to get conscripted into the Captain’s inspection party.
"O.K., Mr. Spock, climb aboard."
The Vulcan hesitated.
"What’s the matter?"
"Sir, does not leaving the planet constitute leaving the jurisdiction of Justice Larkin’s Court?"
"Well, technically, I suppose it does, but we’ll be right back. Maybe the Romulan isn’t going to leave the planet."
"But, if he does?"
"Then we’ll follow. After all, how far can he go in a shuttlecraft?"
"Two thousand . . ."
"Don’t answer that. Spock, we have to see this through. Think of your father. Do you imagine he’s enjoying sitting in detention?"
"No, Sir. I am certain he is not."
"Look, you only promised to come back, not to stay here. And you are required to do what I say, to follow my judgment, right?"
"All right. Let’s go."
"Aye, aye, Captain."
Kirk climbed in and took the co-pilot’s chair as he activated the three forward viewscreens. The safety shields slid up and the forward, side, and aft views of the hangar appeared on the screens.
The Newsnet craft was sliding cautiously toward the huge hangar doors, preceded by the dispatcher and a gaggle of scurrying technicians. Spock sat down in the shiny black pilot’s chair and swiveled to face the communications board where he initiated a rapid-fire exchange with the dispatcher’s computer. Within fifty seconds he had obtained clearance for an orbit that would rendezvous with the __Enterprise__.
The Newsnet ship took off through the parted hangar doors and Spock lifted out right behind him.
"Let’s gain some altitude, Mr. Spock. All sensors lock on and track."
The Newsnet craft kept low, skimming along like a tourist out rock hunting until he was half-way around the planetoid. By then, Spock was riding a stratospheric orbit and climbing toward the __Enterprise__ with the caution of an experienced pilot lifting into crowded lanes.
Suddenly, the Newsnet craft disappeared from their plates. Kirk leaned forward, "Where’d he go?"
Frowning into the hooded viewscope, Spock murmured, "Unknown, Captain . . . correction. He’s climbing at ten g’s . . . more than such a civilian craft should do. Apparently aiming for a solar orbit."
"Yes, Sir. Respectfully offer the suggestion that he will detect us."
"Oh, cut it out, Spock. This is no time for nonsense. we’re spaceborne, behave like a First Officer, not a cadet fresh up from Academy Graduation."
"Aye, aye, Sir." He bent to the plotting scope. "Hunting cover on a parallel orbit, Sir."
"That’s better. Got anything?"
"Possibly. There is a belt of debris, an asteroid zone of considerable density."
"Deflectors on full. Duck into the junk. Kill all unnecessary power. Let’s not leave an ion trail."
"Yes, Sir." The lights went to dim and the low hum that was such an unnoticed part of the craft’s operation whirred down spectrum to a low growl. Presently, the viewscreens showed hunks of rock bouncing off the deflector shields in every direction and Kirk had all he could do to keep from wincing. Every few minutes, the shields absorbed enough momentum to shake the miniscule craft making Kirk acutely aware of the fragile walls that separated him from the endless void.
The Captain kept his eyes roving from screen to screen, trying to second guess their quarry. Abruptly, the jouncing ceased. Kirk checked the pilot’s board and found that Spock had put them within the rock-swarm, but on the same orbit so that now, instead of trying to cross streams of asteroidal traffic, they were riding with the current.
Kirk loosed his grip on the edge of the control desk, surprised at the ache in his fingers. It had been a rough ride.
The shuttle’s computer lights were ablaze with the overload demand and Kirk guessed that Spock, himself, had handled a large portion of the computations. As if to confirm this, the First Officer blanked the screens and then threw a schematic diagram onto the center one depicting the Newsnet craft’s orbit, the asteroid belt, and their own orbit in the heart of the belt. "Our quarry will intercept the belt here," he tapped the screen, "in approximately eight point seven two minutes."
"Move up within sensor range of the intercept point. I’ll bet a year’s pay there’s a ship there waiting for him."
"Sensor range. Acknowledged." Guiding their craft carefully so as not to leave a trail of perturbed orbits to mark the passage of the __Galileo VI__, the Vulcan placed them in position and turned to Kirk, "We are within a cleared zone that might be the wake of a Starship . . . or a Romulan Warbird. I’ve cut our deflectors to avoid detection. The pilot computer is on auto-evasive."
"Excellent. Sensor readings?"
Spock bent to his scopes, shifting the readout selector from electromagnetic to gravito-tronic to tachyonic. He correlated the data mentally as he ordered the computer to display the result on the center screen. "Readings indicate a large, refined metal mass in orbit. Probably a ship since there are pressor beams deflecting the asteroids . . . not full deflector shielding, which would leave them open to detection from Babel."
"A Romulan Warbird! They have some nerve, less than three A.U.’s from five Federation Starships. We’ve got to find out what they’re doing here, and why they think they can get away with it."
"The Newsnet craft has made rendezvous, Captain."
"Can we get any kind of signal . . . find out what’s going on inside that ship?"
"Negative, Sir. Not from here, with only the shuttlecraft’s instruments, and without being detected."
"What about planting a contact-mike on the skin of the bird. A little old fashioned Fourier analysis of the vibrational modes could yield clear speech, couldn’t it?"
"Using the full capacity of the Enterprise’s main computer . . . it is theoretically possible."
Kirk chewed his lip. If they threw any kind of probe signal at that ship, they’d probably be blown out of space on the bounce echo. It would have to be a physical contact. "Couldn’t a tricorder make such a vibrational mode recording?"
"It could, with certain sensitivity adjustments . . ."
"Then one of us will have to go over there and get the recording." Kirk opened a wall panel and rummaged within the vacuum suit locker. Extracting one of the tall helmets, he glanced at it distastefully. He could never forget the time he’d been lost in hyperspace and had almost suffocated in one of them.
"Captain," the First Officer joined Kirk at the locker, "respectfully suggest that I should go. The tricorder is not equipped to do the analysis and I doubt if you could estimate quickly enough to tell if you were recording speech or noise."
Kirk nodded. He doubted if he could do any such estimations given all eternity. He had only a vague notion of how it was done and hadn’t used any of his math-theory in years.
The Vulcan selected a tricorder from the recess and began plucking at the innards as he walked back to the pilot’s seat. In a moment, he had parts spread out neatly on the control desk and was bent over them intently.
Kirk pulled a vacuum suit out of the locker and began the preliminary inspection routine, pulling the adjustments out to fit Spock’s measurements.
Suddenly, a loud hissing broke the silence, followed by a crackling sputter. Billowing clouds of dirty smoke poured from the control desk. Coughing, Spock reeled back from the desk, one arm flung across his face. He paused a moment to survey the disaster, then flung himself to the floor where he clawed open one of the panels in sudden desperation.
Eyes streaming, Kirk peered over his shoulder as he yanked loose a bundle of circuit elements.
Instantly, the smoking stopped and within two minutes the air was clear enough to breathe comfortably. Spock gave one last cough and Kirk knuckled away a tear, "Spock, what happened?"
"Unknown, Captain, but that smelled like tetralubisol burning." He examined the smudged control desk, then snapped a few switches and knelt to remove one of the cover panels and inspect the circuitry within.
Kirk frowned. "Tetralubisol? There shouldn’t be any tetra forward of the . . ."
"Correct, Captain," came Spock’s voice from the crawl apace. He was on his back, hands lost in the darkness over his head. Then a light came on illuminating his work and giving his face an eerie, green glow. He coughed once more as some of the remaining acrid fumes reached him. "But, Sir, it appears that someone has substituted tetralubisol for pentalubisol, here in the scanner and sensor alignment mechanisms."
He snapped off the light and eased his body out of the confined space. Seated cross legged on the floor, he looked up at Kirk, "Ordinarily, such a substitution would be quite reasonable. However, regulations are quite explicit about the lubrication procedure for shuttlecraft. Tetralubisol is acceptable for the alignment mechanisms aboard ship, but the shuttle is designed for compactness, and the computer circuits overlay and surround the working parts. Tetralubisol vapor leaches barium ions out of the HoDcolcrystals, reversing the polarity . . ."
Kirk nodded. "Never mind. I get the picture. Can you fix it?"
Spock took his time about getting to his feet, "I’ve cut the burned circuits out. I’ll reconnect the power and ascertain the extent of the damage to the computer."
Throwing himself into one of the passenger chairs, Kirk swiveled around to watch Spock run the computer through its paces. For several minutes, all three viewscreens lit up with a succession of lissajou patterns and colored gibberish. At length, the Vulcan rendered a verdict. "Ten percent of the computer circuitry is beyond repair. The rest is functional."
"Ten percent? Can we get out of here without full use of our computer?" Kirk threw a significant glance at the center screen which now showed the star-studded blackness with a curtain of dim sparks between them and open space.
"Yes, Captain, I can pilot us through that, but not without difficulty."
"Good, then we won’t have to call for help and tip off our friends up there," he glanced in the direction of the Romulan ship he presumed must be there. "We can still get that recording."
"Captain . . ."
"I don’t believe __you__ could pilot the shuttle out of the debris without the computer’s full capacity . . ."
Kirk nodded. He doubted if he could do it __with__ full capacity. "It’s a tricky orbit. One of those big rocks could disable the shuttle and I’d have to call for help."
"Giving the ship ahead a perfect fix on your position. One phaser . . ."
"And, " finished Kirk, "no more shuttlecraft."
"Which would leave me in a very awkward position with the Legion’s Examiners . . ."
"But in that event, you’d be dead anyway."
"Immaterial, Captain. Death does not absolve."
Kirk bounced to his feet and paced the length of the cabin. Driving one fist into the palm of the other hand, he rounded on the Vulcan. "All right. I’ll go."
Spock sighed heavily. "That would also produce complications. I cannot allow you to go, and yet I am powerless to prevent it. In addition, I doubt if you could accomplish the mission quite as easily as I could. The logical thing to do would be to retreat. Now."
"And allow Sarek to be framed for murder? And imprisoned for the rest of what might be a very short life?"
He eyed the viewscreens distantly, "There is that."
"Spock, calculate the probability that ship up there would spot us if we head back now."
"Approximately forty-one point two percent. But the risk will be substantially the same, or even higher after we obtain a recording."
"Precisely. But after we obtain the recording, we’ll be taking a risk against a large probable gain whereas right now we have practically nothing to gain."
"Yes. I see. There exists a substantial probability that the ship will be gone by the time we could report it." He went on as if thinking aloud, "Even if we get Captain Sutar to bring the __Kongo__ out here . . ." he trailed off, still staring deeply into the viewplate.
Kirk sat down to watch his First Officer think. It was plain to the Captain that Spock was deeply troubled by his multiple obligations; to the Legions of Vulcan, to his father, to his Captain, to his Warder Liege, to the Federation. At length, he turned to face Kirk. "At this time, I am not required to render judgment. You will choose and I will follow, as I must, though at this moment, I am at a loss as to how I shall explain my actions."
Snatching the vacuum suit from the chair where he’d dropped it, Kirk erupted into a flurry of motion. "Get dressed while I check out the other suit. You finished adjusting the tricorder?"
"Almost," he replied snapping the components back into place one by one.
"Good. You’ll jet over there and get that recording. If you don’t make it, I’ll try to get a message through to Babel, and to the __Kongo__."
Three minutes later, they fastened each other’s faceplates and ran the triple check of the life-support packs. Satisfied, Kirk activated the pump that would reduce the shuttle’s internal pressure and helped fasten the jet-pack units onto Spock’s back and chest. By the time they finished the final checklist, they stood in vacuum.
Kirk opened the door eyeing the step that automatically extended, "Watch that first one, Spock. It’s a long way down."
"Aye, aye, Captain," the Vulcan answered solemnly and stepped out into the void.
Leaving the shuttle evacuated, ready for Spock’s return, Kirk closed the door. Then he threw himself into the pilot’s chair and fingered the viewplate controls. Soon, he had a tiny dot moving across the field. At higher magnification, he could see it was Spock. But soon even that was lost.
Then, the Captain sat for two hours with his eyes glued to the screen until they watered. And he systematically hated himself for every man he’d ever lost on a mission, however unavoidably.
But somebody had to go and Spock was the logical choice. They couldn’t just send a Starship out to run the intruder off . . . they had no real idea of the extent of the infiltration . . . or the extent of the sabotage already committed. No, they needed that recording and scuttle this Warder Liege nonsense. If the Oath caused Spock any trouble, Kirk swore that he, himself, would square it with the Legion, somehow.
As soon as he was clear of the shuttlecraft, Spock let his momentum carry him out of the deflector screen ‘shadow.’ Then he lined up with a man-sized chunk of rock and collided with it feet first, gathering himself in like a cat to avoid a rebound. Then he paused to examine the tricorder.
The success of the mission depended wholly on his not being noticed. Because of their own fear of detection, the Romulans could not afford to throw out sensor probes indiscriminately. They would depend almost totally on reception sensors and thus be half blind. It was that blindness that he hoped to utilize.
Good, he thought, working the tricorder, the rock he’d chosen was rich in ferrous ores, rich enough to conceal his own unavoidable emanations.
He estimated the center of mass by eye and placed the spare jet pack from his chest in a convenient crevice. Within fifteen minutes, the orbit change was accomplished and he rode behind his shield without so much as peeking around the edge for a visual sighting of his target. A scant ten seconds before the pressors hit his rock, the Vulcan launched himself free.
Only then did he take a moment from his monitoring of the tricorder to glance at his destination. And it was indeed a Romulan Warbird, complete with flamboyant warpaint. But the pressor antennae were all pointed at the rock he’d just vacated, not at him. So far, his strategy had worked. He was safely inside their blind zone.
Slinging the tricorder, he began the intricate maneuver of landing on the Romulan ship, mentally reviewing the interior layout. He chose a location over the main briefing room just off the bridge and landed hands first so the sound of his boots would not attract attention. Then he placed his feet carefully into contact with the hull, pulled out the modified tricorder probes and connected them to the struts that penetrated both hulls and supported the walls of the briefing room.
For the next several minutes, he moved his probes from point to point while carefully monitoring the tricorder screen, but he could get nothing of the right wavelengths.
There was no choice. He’d have to risk it. He crept cautiously to an antenna node that he thought, from his knowledge of Romulan security methods, must connect directly into the briefing room screen, giving the ship’s commanding officer an outside transceiver that didn’t feed through the bridge. Gingerly, he made the connection and was immediately rewarded with a vibrational mode recording that looked like speech.
While he waited, he bent his mind to plotting his retreat orbit. He mustn’t draw their sensors in the direction of the shuttlecraft and yet, he couldn’t spare the energy to go too far off line. He needed a diversion.
Spock on hull of the ship.
Gently disengaging his boots from the hull, he moved around toward the sensor antennae that surveyed the side of the ship away from his line of escape. Here he was dangerously close to the hangar deck’s doors but that couldn’t be helped.
The Science Officer squatted down to examine the sensor’s delicate shaft with its complex of nodes copied from an old Federation design. But as he began to pry at the access plate, he felt the rumble of the hangar doors opening. There was no cover. And his vacuum suit stood out against the painted hull like an error in a Berengarian tapestry.
He threw himself flat, watching and waiting. Presently, three Romulans pulled themselves up onto the hull. If one merely glanced his way, he’d be spotted.
But apparently all their attention was on some malfunction in the door sealing mechanism. One of them hauled up a lubricating gun and they bent to work on the seal. Being Romulans, they wouldn’t waste air sightseeing as would a human crew, but all it would take would be a random glance to earn one of them a commendation.
Motionless, Spock waited.
Almost ten minutes passed before the Romulans finished their task and lowered themselves back into the ship. As the last one prepared to follow his companions, he did rake a casual glance across Spock’s position, but he gave no sign that he’d seen anything suspicious.
As soon as the last head disappeared, Spock dashed for the spot where the men had been working. An instant before the door closed, he swiped up a daub of the plastic sealant and snatched his forefinger away just in time to avoid amputation.
Then, while the vibration of the big doors locking into place still masked his steps, he hurried back to the antenna he’d chosen and speckled fresh sealant over the receptor nodes as if a lubricating gun had discharged accidentally. Retracing his steps, he gathered up the tricorder, made a quick estimate and jumped off toward Babel, the one direction completely safe from the Warbird’s sensor pulses and rich in background noise against which he was virtually invisible.
While he drifted, he worked out a careful directional fix on the shuttlecraft, and at the right point in his orbit, applied a single correctional thrust. Then he took time to regret the unearned censure he’d arranged for the Romulan technicians. If the opportunity arose, he’d do his best to vindicate them.
Kirk shook himself out of his reverie. He’d been dreaming up ever more hair-raising disasters until he was sweating enough to make his vacuum suit unbearable. Throwing himself to his feet, he paced the cabin giving each chair he passed a smack that set it spinning. Spock ought to be back by now.
A few moments later, the alarm pinged and Kirk pounced on the viewplate like an expectant father. The tiny speck grew to a blip until he could see it __was__ Spock. The Captain threw himself into the routine and, by the time he had the Vulcan aboard, he was in command of his nerves once more.
"Mission accomplished, Captain. It is a Romulan Warbird, but one of their smaller and newer ships. I recorded what I believe to be a conversation that took place in their main briefing room, just off the bridge."
"That sounds promising."
"Did you have any trouble?" Kirk eyed the red stain on Spock’s glove.
Kirk shrugged. No doubt the whole harrowing tale would be in Spock’s formal report, sounding as dull as a midnight watch.
As they stowed the suits in the once again pressurized cabin, Kirk said, "Now, to withdraw. Any ideas how to improve the odds?" The only thing he hadn’t considered in the last few hours was the possibility that Spock would complete the mission flawlessly.
"I do have one idea, Sir."
"Let’s have it."
"The reporter’s cover identity is so valuable, I doubt if it will be abandoned. It therefore follows that the Newsnet craft should be leaving the Warbird soon. If we slip away in the opposite direction while their attention is on the Newsnet craft, we increase the probabilities in our favor . . ."
"Right. Go to it."
They took their places at the controls and Spock began to ease the shuttle back the way they’d come, finger hovering over the deflector switch as they ghosted between careening chunks of erstwhile planet. When they’d put a screen of debris between them and the Romulan ship, they waited for the blip of the Newsnet craft to reappear.
They didn’t have long to wait. Suddenly, it was streaking across their starboard viewplate as if slung into space by a giant catapult. Instantly, Spock sent the __Galileo__ away in a long loop that would bring them back to Babel about half an hour after the Newsnet craft.
"If only we knew what name that Romulan agent is using," said Kirk, "maybe we could find him when we get back."
"Suhav is the name he was using in the Grotto. It seems to be a well-established identity and I expect he chose the name with some care."
"Romulan humor. ‘Suhav’ was a historical figure well known as a spy."
Kirk chuckled. It felt good so he laughed heartily, washing away the grim tensions of the last hours. Finally, he said, "We’ll drop you off at the __Enterprise__ so you can put the tape through the computer and get Scotty onto this tetralubisol business. Meanwhile, I’ll take another shuttlecraft and go down to see if I can find this . . . Suhav. When you finish, bring the results down and we’ll turn them over to Hilcron."
For a long moment, Spock looked at his Warder Liege, a slight frown playing around the corners of his eyes. Obviously, he didn’t like the idea of parting from Kirk. "Aye, aye, Captain. But let me adjust your communicator to emit a square wave pulse on the __Enterprise__ frequency so I can find you without the tricorder."
"An excellent suggestion, Mr. Spock. You do that." Kirk handed Spock the palm-sized communicator from his belt, "Now, I’m going to take a nap. Wake me when we match with the __Enterprise__."
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