Spock's Nemesis Continued from here.
(Website note --The previous chapter was marked FOUR. Sometimes in creating a paper fanzine all those years ago, numbering is off, or completely missing. This is the case here. The story content is intact and matches the original paper issue.)
When the sun began to dip below the horizon, they started on their night’s journey. The dusk passed swiftly and full night enveloped them as they toiled up low rolling hills and down. The whole universe consisted of a small puddle of light just where the next foot must be placed.
Spock had wired together an assemblage of his "raw materials" insisting that, if they stayed together, it would keep the natives from getting a reliable fix on them. He carried the talisman swinging from his equipment belt like a monk’s rosary and often fingered it absently as he led the group with a sure footed ease the humans envied. He’d chosen the heaviest pack for himself and seemed hardly to notice the added weight.
They climbed, scrambled, slid and suffered through the heat of the night. Scotty toiled behind Spock, carrying a tricorder. Christine and McCoy trudged after the Engineer and Kirk brought up the rear with the other tricorder set to flash a warning at the approach of natives. Spock insisted the tricorders were useless, but Kirk kept them working none-the-less. At the very least, they could record for the ship’s log.
Even with the sun gone, sweat streamed from every fold of Kirk’s skin. It soaked through the clothes around his waist, the crooks of his elbows, the backs of his knees, and, worst of all . . . the crotch. He had to wear his shirt to ease the backpack and the sweat stained the golden knap to brown wherever the heavy load touched him.
He fell into a rhythm of ten paces and a swing around with the tricorder followed by another ten paces. Always in the back of his mind was Spock’s apprehension that his mind grenade had injured their attackers more seriously than anticipated. If they __were__ badly hurt, they might not attack again . . . and so much the better, as far as Kirk was concerned. Even through all his little miseries and big worries, he could almost laugh at the Vulcan. Considering his attitude toward the native’s way of life, Spock ought to take pleasure in the death of a few of them . . . but, no, he’d suffer a genuine, Vulcan regret over the death of even such an enemy.
At midnight, Kirk called a halt and they all circled around, dropping their burdens and collapsing almost too tired to unlimber their canteens.
After allowing herself two huge sighs, Christine rummaged around the packs and presented each man with his ration packet as if it were vital medication prescribed by a particularly strict physician.
She looked around for Spock, wondering whether she dared urge him to eat.
He was scuffing at the sand at the base of a hulking, black shadow about ten yards downhill, almost beyond the range of the field lanterns. She shrugged and turned away, laying out his potion (sic RBW portion or ration) tidily on a nearby rock. It was always nicer when patients took care of their own needs. And she couldn’t help but think of him as a patient.
But the Vulcan returned with a large, ellipsoidal object balanced on one shoulder. It was about the size of a small watermelon. He lowered it to the rock Christine had set his ration packet on. Absently, he swept the ration pack out of the way, and concentrated on examining his find.
The field lantern showed a dull grey stone with a porous, pitted surface. He took out a tricorder and made a swift series of readings, even pulling out a contact probe to check something.
Seeing that the others were too exhausted to even take an interest, Christine gathered her courage and approached the Vulcan. "Mr. Spock, you really should eat something. We’ve got a long way to go yet."
As rigid as the stone he was working on, Spock said, "I find your rations unacceptable, nurse. I prefer my own discovery."
He stood and raised the stone above his head. For one horrible instant, Kirk thought the Vulcan was going to hurl it at Christine, but he smashed it, end first on the rock before him.
And it split open, falling apart in neat sections like the petals of a flower, or the sections of an orange. Kirk thought that it was very lucky that the thing was coral red inside. If it had been orange . . . Kirk shuddered. He’d rather not think about that.
In the center of the soft flesh of the melon was a flat, black ellipsoid about as large as a man’s hand. Spock removed it and reverently buried it in the sand at his feet.
Then, the Vulcan seated himself at his "table," "Would anyone care to join me?"
Horrified, McCoy said, "You’re not going to eat that, are you?"
"Yes, Doctor, that is precisely what I am going to do."
"But . . . but . . ."
Kirk had never seen Bones so close to apoplexy He said. "Spock, do you think it’s wise?"
"Captain the body requires fuel to function. Certain types of fuel are acceptable . . . when others are not."
Kirk took a deep breath. He could order Spock not to eat from the native foods. But the Science Officer had, conspicuously, run the required tests. Obviously, he knew the species. He also knew his own screwed up metabolism better than any other living being.
Heaving himself to his aching feet the captain went over and wordlessly accepted a piece of the self slicing melon. Scotty and Christine joined him, but McCoy declined.
The melon was cool, tender and tartly moist with a firm, smooth texture not unlike cantaloupe and it had a fragrance not unlike roasted zalt nuts, a Denevian delicacy Kirk had learned to like. One bite seemed to lead to another until the rind lay empty in his hands and his stomach lay peacefully content under his belt. His mouth and throat were gratefully moist and the pervasive thirst was also gone.
He started to thank the Vulcan, then remembered his manners. He’d been invited. No ‘thank you’ was required or welcome. Instead, he went to where Spock had buried the seed and inserted the rind beside it with the care he’d learned on Vulcan. His duty to the generous plant discharged, Kirk turned to find the Vulcan regarding him soberly. For a moment, Kirk felt a warm glow of approval in the Vulcan’s glance. Then it was gone . . . like a door shutting.
Kirk took a deep breath and gave the order to move out.
They’d only been on their way again a few hours when, suddenly, Spock doused the light he was carrying and silently motioned them to take cover.
Like a ghost in the dark night, the Vulcan flitted between the humans and came to rest beside Kirk. "Captain a party of twenty natives. Ahead and to our left."
Kirk jiggled the tricorder. "I don’t get a flicker."
"They’re there. Though I don’t know if they are looking for us."
"Can they spot us?"
"I doubt it."
"These hills should be adequate cover. Are they camped or moving?"
The First Officer brought out his orange and green stones and struck a picture for the Captain. Deep in the green crystal a tiny scene glowed.
There was a fire . . . the friendly red-orange of a wood fire . . . and huddled about it were ten, no, fifteen natives. Tall, thin, expressionless men with long, black hair tightly drawn back and bound at the nape of the neck. They were dressed in scanty, black and white uniforms vaguely reminiscent of ancient Egyptian cup bearers. Another five men, cast from an identical mold, walked sentry in a large circle about the camp. One of the self slicing melons lay open and partially eaten on a rock, its black seed left carelessly to dry in the open.
The humans waited a few minutes. Then Kirk said, "If they’d spotted us, they’d have moved by now."
"Yes. I think if we circle wide enough, we can avoid them. They must be a logging team."
Kirk felt a new surge of disgust well from Spock.
"What is it?" He asked, his hand reached toward the Vulcan in the darkness.
The picture flicked out and Kirk couldn’t even see Spock’s face. He felt the unvoiced rejection and withdrew his hand. He didn’t need to guess the source of the disgust. The sentries walked under the control of one mind.
They unlimbered a climbing rope, set one of their lanterns at very dim and crept off at a tangent from their original path, linked by a rope clipped through belt loops. Kirk was certain the Vulcan would come back on course like a homing eel-bird. Nevertheless, he set Scotty to check with the tricorder.
If the going had been rough before, it was vicious now. Stumbling in this gravity was severe shock and falling was true disaster. Several times, when someone fell, they all waited anxiously for McCoy to check for broken bones and then heaved sighs of relief at narrow escapes.
Even so, Spock’s anxiety at the long detour made him quicken the pace until they were all ready to cry for mercy. Eventually dawn paled the sky and the voracious sun began to suck the juices from their bodies. They were about where they’d planned to be according to their map, if they could trust the tricorder at all. Topping the crest of another of the infinity of low rippling hills, they paused for breath and Kirk said "Spock, it’s time to think about shelter."
"Past time, Captain. But it should be no problem. We’re still in the logging forest. Do you see that cluster of saplings on the far slope?"
Kirk peered through the growing dazzle, trying to sort out the long shadows, "All I see is boulders. I need a tricorder to tell a tree from a rock even after sun-up."
"There’s a hole in the pattern of growth that must represent a harvested nodule."
"If you say so. All right, let’s go."
They struck off again, drawn forward by the thought of a comfortable haven from the growing heat. And it seemed only two or three lifetimes until they crawled into their new shelter. Kirk hadn’t ached so much since field-basic and he was so tired he honestly didn’t care if he never moved again. He fell sound asleep without even removing his pack.
The others fared little better, but McCoy’s professional conscience wouldn’t let him rest until he’d seen everybody properly bedded down. After refilling the canteens for the humans, even Spock placed sleep highest on the list of priorities.
But the Vulcan only allowed himself four hours of replenishment and rose to work on the mindshields. That night they would enter the fringes of the field, and it was essential the humans be protected.
By mid-afternoon, he’d done all he could without testing his handiwork against the dze-ut’ field so he went out to sit where it was warmer and drier.
A little later, McCoy woke to find the First Officer seated just outside the shaded entrance staring at the dazzling, rock strewn barrenness. The Doctor lay watching the lanky silhouette while he brooded over his own professional problems. Spock would take care of himself. But Tanya?
He might have one very sick young wife on his hands before long. And, as he thought about the various aspects of that, he became more and more worried. Human females were notorious for severe psychological disturbances during pregnancy. Half of obstetrics was psychology. In this particular case, the physiological half alone might prove more than he could handle. Add the unknown effects of her involvement with this . . . gadget . . . and he could well be in over his head.
He climbed onto his sore feet, made his toilet, and took his canteen out to where Spock
sat. They were on the east side of the hill this time, so the front porch was in shadow. Nevertheless, going out of their hole was like walking into a solid wall of red-hot air, but McCoy ignored the heat as he sat down opposite the Vulcan and swigged thoughtfully while waiting to be noticed.
Recognition came soon in the form of a slight shift in the focus of those dark, brooding eyes and a faint arching of one elegant brow.
McCoy opened, "Tell me about Tanya."
"Tell you about . . . __Tanya__?"
"Amy has told me about the forces that shaped her into the . . . woman she is. Of course, I consider it privileged communication . . ."
"Of course." Spock’s unblinking delivery would have been sour skepticism from a human. McCoy was not quite sure how to interpret it. Painful reluctance at this invasion of privacy? Or was it just that Spock felt so strongly about her?
Brushing his speculations aside, McCoy waded in swinging a blunt scalpel, "How did you meet her?"
When Spock turned that somber gaze on him, McCoy thought for one frightfully heart-racing moment he’d gone too far.
"That, Doctor, is not . . ."
"Yes it is, Spock. For all her Vulcan training, Tanya is still human. Under stress, her mind and body will react in the human mode . . . overlaid and distorted with absorbed cultural patterns, but human none-the-less. I have to know how you came to your . . . agreement."
McCoy had never seen a face so . . . __shut__ . . . __closed__ . . . before. It was as if Spock had dismissed his questioner, leaving him to find his own way out the door. McCoy had to try again, "Spock, the human mind has a peculiar way of . . . coming apart at the seams . . . Tanya has already had one such episode. It could happen again. I’ve no idea of what’s involved in being hooked up to this gadget . . . or in being unhooked. And if she comes out of it half loopy only to find you . . . well, further demands placed on her . . . Spock, I’ve got to know where the seams in her mind are . . . and how strong they’re likely to be."
Speaking in the remote, mechanical way that McCoy has only seen when Spock was technically unconscious, the Vulcan enumerated the factual details of his relationship with his bride. He made it dry enough for a court of law. And when he’d finished, McCoy prompted softly, "But does she love you?"
"I doubt if she is any more capable of ‘love’ than I am. Our bonding is totally within the Vulcan pattern. The durability of such a union is far greater than any I have observed among humans." Then he lapsed into trance-like silence, refusing to be called forth again.
At last, McCoy left him, not failing to notice that in spite of rigid Vulcan control, the tips of Spock’s fingers wandered in a nervous dance. Perhaps he’d pushed too hard. But he’d __had__ to know.
That evening when they resumed their march, there was no more time or energy left for discussion. They plodded through the increasing darkness in grim silence.
And, late that night, they hit the dze-ut’ field.
It was an utterly unspectacular event.
They were descending one of the infinitude of low, rocky ridges, scrambling and sliding in the loose, unseen gravel when Spock, ten paces in the lead, suddenly halted, flashing his light back to signal caution.
Then he backed up three paces, set his hand torch down on a rock and advanced again. One pace. Pause. Two paces. Back half a pace. At that point he swayed back and forth for several seconds and then decisively drew a line in the gravel with the toe of his boot.
He turned and came up the hillside toward the group of humans. "This is the fringe of the dze-ut’ field."
Kirk said. "All right, we’ll take our break here while you get your mindshields ready."
With a weary sigh, Scotty shed his pack and went to help Christine off with hers. He admired her courage with quiet, Scott intensity.
Kirk settled himself on a high boulder and twiddled the useless tricorder. He was well aware of the morale-sapping fatigue among his crew. And he had an instinctive grasp of the importance of morale at a time like this. It could be the difference between success and failure.
So, when Scotty wandered off behind a boulder to visit with a sandpile, the captain climbed down and went to where Christine was listlessly groping in a pack.
(RBW Note. Drawing of Scotty with flower behind his back in front of Christine.)
Before he could get well into his pep talk, Scotty came back holding something behind his back and smothering a grin that could have lit up a half-square-mile of terrain.
Spock was seated uphill from Christine, working over his rock collection. He didn’t notice the Engineer until he said, "Lass, I’ve got something here that must have been put here by the Great Bird of the Galaxy just to cheer your heart." He brought his hand out from behind his back and presented a large, floppy yellow flower. The yellow petals were laced with a delicate white tracery of veins and the ruffled edges of the petals were outlined in phosphorescent purple. It looked like a cross between an orchid and an iris created by a royal botanist just to grace a queen’s bridal bouquet.
Christine glowed like a young girl presented with her first corsage. She reached out her hands to cup the fragile blossom, feeling the soft texture, and sniffing for the scent. "Oh, it’s beautiful Mr. Scott! I’ve never seen anything so lovely! Where . . ."
Suddenly, Spock cried out, leaping to his feet, hands balled into white knuckled fists, wide eyes riveted on the colorful bloom in Scotty’s hands.
Scotty froze in the act of handing the bright yellow flower to Christine. Christine froze in the act of accepting it. McCoy slowly drew his medical scanner, knowing it wouldn’t tell him anything he couldn’t see already. Kirk looked from the shocked group to his First Officer, who shifted his weight from one foot to the other as some horribly potent rage gripped him and seemed to shake him loose from his foundations.
Scotty was the first to move. He took one step uphill toward the towering Vulcan, holding the flower out until it was scant inches from Spock’s chest. Spock stared at the blossom as if he were hypnotized by a swaying serpent’s head.
Scotty said placatingly, "Mr. Spock, it’s only a flower. A wee thing to warm a brave lass’s heart. It may not . . ."
Spock roared a full-throated bellow of outrage and launched himself at the engineer.
The two went rolling downhill in a tangle of arms and legs with McCoy and Kirk scrambling behind them. Before the wild Vulcan could throttle the engineer, the other two men grabbed his arms and heaved him back onto his feet.
Scotty picked himself up off the gravel, staggering a bit to avoid stepping on the forlorn remains of his beautiful joy offering.
But Spock wasn’t through. With a single thrust of his powerful arms, he sent both his captors flying and leapt at Scotty with a savage ferocity Kirk hadn’t seen since Spock had almost killed him in the arena of Challenge.
McCoy motioned frantically to Kirk not to use his phaser and fumbled at his belt for his hypo-gun while Scotty clutched Spock’s wrists to keep those steely Vulcan fingers off his throat.
But Kirk crouched on the dark hillside, struggling with a memory. What had been the word T’Pau had used to bring the Challenge to a standstill? It had worked on Spock even when he was deep in the . . (sic RBW . . .) the __plak__ __tow__. What was the word?
Suddenly, Scotty’s arm collapsed and the Vulcan fingers closed about his throat.
Kirk took a deep breath and bellowed, "KROYKA!"
Spock froze. He shook his head dazedly. Then he eased off his pressure hold, rose, stepped back and looked down at the motionless body at his feet. Stupefied, his gaze passed around the circle of human faces. Then, with stiff jerks, he moved off to the fringe of the lantern light and stood with his head thrown back, hands elapsed tightly in front of him, staring out into the impenetrable dark.
Kirk could see Spock’s shoulders quivering as the Vulcan made a desperate effort to control the uncontrollable.
McCoy knelt beside Scotty, laboring feverishly to restore breath to that limp body.
Christine got her hand out of her mouth and went to help the doctor.
Shortly, Scotty groaned . . . a small, rusty gurgle. McCoy said over his shoulder to Kirk, "He’ll be all right. Some bad bruises, but nothing serious."
Relieved, the captain nodded and turned his attention to his First Officer. The Vulcan’s shoulders had resumed their natural slump and his breathing had quieted. Kirk went cautiously up to the Vulcan and spoke in a soft whisper, "Spock?"
He thought he saw a slight nod. He said a little louder, "Spock, are you all right?"
With a deep sigh, the dark figure turned, "No, Captain, I am __not__ all right. But it doesn’t matter."
The wan light from the distant lanterns showed an older Spock, fatigue lines etched
in charcoal down his face. The rough voice was lax, almost toneless in defeat.
"Spock, what happened? What __was__ that flower?"
The Vulcan took another breath of the warm night air, blinked once and turned to stagger up the hillside. Kirk followed sensing an explanation formulating somewhere behind those sunken eyes.
But when they reached the small circle of light and the pile of back packs, Spock seated himself on a stone, propped his elbows on his knees and folded his hands. Kirk waited while McCoy helped Scotty up the slope. Christine set about straightening up.
At length Spock looked at Kirk and said, as if no time had passed since his question, "It doesn’t matter, Captain. Tonight, the Blooming will finish . . . everything."
Spock gestured in the direction of the smashed blossom, "That is the flower of a plant that Blooms about every eighty years. The species is very old. And it is dying out. But there are still a few areas where the Blooms cover the land on the Night of the Blooming."
He paused, then drew a deep breath, "Now I know why T’Aniyeh is frightened."
"I still don’t get it. Why be afraid of a pretty flower?"
"Not a flower," Spock corrected wearily, "the Blooming. The natives we fought by the shuttlecraft must have known it was coming. They knew there was nothing I could do."
Kirk’s frustration was mounting. Spock was often a bit obtuse in his "explanations" but he usually made sense in his fact-mincing way. "Now, wait a minute. Let’s start over again. What will the . . . Blooming . . . finish? And why?"
"Everything. Because the whole plan depends on me, and I’m no longer functional."
"I’ve seen you function in worse condition. What’s so bad now?"
"In a few minutes there will be more Blooms." He shook his head, looking off into the darkness, dismissing the whole affair. "It’s no use. It doesn’t matter."
"I don’t recall ever hearing such a defeatist attitude from you, Spock. What’s got into you?"
"It’s the Night of the Blooming, Captain."
"Damn it, Spock, this isn’t Vulcan."
"I know, but it’s too late."
"Not while I breathe, it isn’t."
"But the whole plan depends on __my__ continued breathing, and that’s almost finished."
"Because this is the Night of the Blooming."
"And how is that going to stop your breathing?"
"It’s in the fragrance, Captain. It does . . . something . . . accelerates . . ." averting his face from Kirk’s eyes he whispered, "it’s . . . undeniable . . ."
The evasiveness rang a bell in Kirk’s mind. "Ohhh! I begin to see." He thought a moment, then added, "But so infrequently" Eighty years? I’d expect seven years, perhaps . . . ?"
"There is a theory that we are not native to Vulcan, captain. If that is so, the plants we’ve seen here that are also found on Vulcan may well have been imported too."
"You don’t think this could be the original home world?"
Spock shook his head, "This world is no more hospitable to the Blooming species than is Vulcan." He sighed hugely, "We almost wiped ourselves out with the wanton slaughter . . . with the Bloomings coming less and less often with fewer and fewer plants. We solved our problems. These people chose another road. The road to extinction. And they are well along it."
Kirk thought hard. The Blooming intensified the chemical imbalance that led to pon farr. On the home world, the plant probably tied the Vulcan physiological rhythm to the seasons. But, transplanted to a new environment . . . Vulcan . . . or here . . . the rhythm was broken. In spite of this the Vulcans had stabilized their population. But these people were committed to racial suicide. He’d have to see they didn’t take the __Enterprise__ with them. He said, "I’m beginning to understand the problem. But why did you jump Scotty?"
Face averted . . . in pain? . . . or shame? . . . the Vulcan half-whispered, "It is forbidden to touch a Bloom. They are as precious as the life of a child. My reaction was not logical. I would apologize. But it does not matter."
"It does matter, Spock, but apologies can wait. We’re wasting time, have you finished the mindshields?"
"Yes. But I must adjust them to the individual patterns."
Kirk rose to tower over the seated First Officer. "Well, then, get busy. We’re obviously not going to have all night."
Unmoving, Spock said, "I don’t trust myself. My control is normally somewhat erratic. At the moment it is virtually non-existent."
"I didn’t ask for excuses, mister. That was an order."
The Vulcan looked up at the Captain, the lantern light turning his face a jaundiced yellow and his uniform shirt a sickly purple. For a moment Kirk thought he’d get solemn defiance, or simply passive disobedience. But after long consideration, Spock moved to obey.
As he gathered up the strings of colored stones he’d laid out on one of the waist high boulders, he moved like a robot, lacking both the will to defy and the drive to succeed. He wasn’t stalling. He simply didn’t believe there was any use to his actions.
When he had his equipment in hand, the Vulcan turned to survey the humans who were watching him warily. The choice seemed difficult, but finally he said, "Mr. Scott, come with me . . . please." His tone was the impersonal one of Command. He was relaying an order from a superior. That, after all, was the prime function of a First Officer.
Scotty hesitated, looking dubiously at the captain. Kirk nodded and the engineer followed Spock down the slope to where he’d drawn the line marking the edge of the dze-ut’ field.
Just before they crossed the line, Spock halted, placed the four strings of uncut stones on a boulder, took one and faced Scotty. From where Kirk sat, the conversation was inaudible, but Kirk was certain they were exchanging apologies. Shortly, they joined hands and took the remaining steps across the line.
Scotty’s knees buckled, but before he crumpled to the ground Spock placed two fingers on the Engineer’s forehead and he straightened up as if nothing had happened. Kirk noted the placement of Spock’s fingers was the same he’d used to key the Flame-spheres . . . oh so long ago and far away.
Spock slipped the loop of stones about Scotty’s neck and released his contact. The Engineer looked around as if saying, "Is that all there is to it? I don’t feel a thing."
Spock nodded and strode back up the hill to where he’d left the other necklaces. Scotty rejoined the group, motioning McCoy to go down next.
The process was repeated. Then it was Kirk’s turn.
As they faced one another near the line of demarcation, Spock said formally, "I regret the necessity, Captain . . ."
"Just get on with it, Spock. We’ve got work to do."
"There is greater danger for you than . . ."
"I realize that, but there’s no choice, is there?"
"I wouldn’t know. But it doesn’t matter. Come with me."
He marched into the field zone and turned just in time to stay the captain’s collapse.
For one fleeting instant, Kirk glimpsed the seething cauldron of molten flame that was consuming Spock’s body. Then it was shut from him as impenetrable lead baffles slammed into place, locking him into the solitary confinement of his own skull. It was like being isolated in an asensory environment. A scream of hysterical panic bubbled up in his throat.
Then, two powerful hands gripped his shoulders, drawing him a few staggering paces uphill. "Jim! Relax. Give in to it."
But his heart slammed in his chest, his brain throbbed with increasing pressure, his lungs ached as if laboring to draw vacuum.
Suddenly it was gone. As if it had never been. The world was a clear, totally three dimensional sensory realm. The panic dissipated, leaving only the minor throb of an incipient migraine.
He looked up. Spock stood before him holding the chain of stones, looking concerned for the first time since he’d throttled Scotty.
"What happened?" asked Kirk.
"What I expected. You panicked. I tried to explain . . ."
"All right. Explain now. Did I do something wrong?"
"No. The shield works both ways. A non-telepath doesn’t notice. But you felt the cutting-off of an awareness that’s only just developing. Normally, you don’t notice it’s there. But when it’s gone . . ."
Lips pursed, Kirk considered. He hadn’t really believed Spock’s theory. James Kirk a telepath? Ridiculous idea. But the others hadn’t reacted like this. That seemed objective proof. Well, there wasn’t time to worry about it now. "The question is, can I endure that long enough to do our job? Is there any way to lessen the effect?"
"None that I know of. Just remember that you’ve spent most of your life relying on your other senses. You should adjust readily enough."
Kirk nodded bracing himself, "Let’s try it again."
This time Spock merely handed the string of rocks to Kirk. He put out his hand to touch it and was instantly plunged into madness.
He hung on, fighting for breath, grimly determined. He’d not lose his ship through cowardice!
Slowly, the world became visible again . . . solid reality.
Spock offered, "The brain is a remarkably adaptable instrument. It can learn to interpret almost any coherent signal pattern."
Kirk nodded, panting a little, "I’m beginning to see." He put the circle over his head, "Will this stop the development of . . . what you feared so much . . ."
"No. It would hasten it if we were to live long enough." Serenely, he added, "But it doesn’t matter."
"Spock," Kirk reprimanded severely, "I don’t want you to say that again. I will not tolerate a negative attitude. It undermines morale."
The Vulcan looked at his captain then off at the horizon, "Yes, sir."
"I’ll send Christine down." He turned to march up the hill, then had a second thought. Spock had been avoiding Christine so diligently. He paused, inquiring with a cocked head. Spock nodded passively, fingering the remaining chain. He didn’t say it. He didn’t have to. His negative attitude shone like an overloaded deflector screen.
Kirk shrugged and plodded up the hill cursing every centimeter of elevation climbed against the merciless gravity. It wasn’t really all that much more than one standard g, but it was beginning to feel like twelve g’s.
Spock went through the procedure for Christine with more clinical detachment than the most experienced bedpan jockey.
Then they formed up in marching line again and trudged off into the deserted night carrying their bubble of reality with them . . . a pale white radiance shed by an artifact of hard, physical science. Kirk clung to that symbol to balance the nightmarish effect of all the para-psychic wizardry.
About an hour later they topped another rise and came in sight of the dze-ut’. Looking at it, Kirk thought the name had an onomatopoetic sound to it. The deep guttural, ut’ was very descriptive of the truncated cone erected on a jumbled heap of undressed stone that had been piled on the top of the highest hill in the whole . . . ‘forest.’ It was still several miles away, but it glowed with a pulsating orange fire that made it visible against the black night. Strangely, in spite of its light, it shed no illumination.
A tall, orange ghost of a flame seemed to leap upward from the cratered center of the shorn top, pointing insolently at the heavens where the __Enterprise__ rode its dreaming orbit.
The flame seemed like the voiced nasal, "dze-," the crackle of a whip. At that moment Kirk would have bet his life that ‘dze-ut’’ meant Candle of Dreams.
He said, "Spock. Do you suppose their guards will be out in full force . . . tonight?"
"Yes. Certainly." He eyed the Captain gravely. "It normally takes several days."
They’d passed a few more of the Blooms and spotted their phosphorescent outlines in more distant nooks. They appeared to be unfolding constantly. The Captain was surprised his First Officer was still in control of himself.
Kirk said, "My tricorder has quit completely. Can you spot any patrols with that green stone of yours?"
Spock reached into his beltpouch for the pair of crystals and brought them out. As he began to touch them together, his hands trembled uncontrollably. His fist closed over the stones grinding them fiercely into his palm and his breath caught as if smothering a cry of pain.
Then, he swallowed and took a deep breath and his face became again a mask. He struck the picture and swept the tandem receptors in a small semi-circle.
Watching intently, Kirk counted twelve small groups of natives . . . all males. They were effectively surrounded.
The picture winked out and Spock staggered. The Blooms were everywhere now and even Kirk could smell the heavy, bitter odor that rode the gentle night breeze. It intensified the feeling of nightmarish unreality that gripped him.
He only wanted to get back to the ship and take her far away from this mad planet. He said, "Spock, there are too many of them. We can’t hope to slip through undetected. And we’ve seen what they can do when they catch up with us. Our phasers are useless against them. We’ll need some kind of a weapon. What about that grenade you threw at them?"
The Vulcan looked grimly uncooperative, "Remember, Captain, these devices most often destroy the user."
The other humans, smelling another lengthy conference, shed their packs and settled into a circle about their trail lantern as Kirk and Spock found seats on a boulder.
Kirk shrugged out of his harness and rubbed a sore spot on his shoulder, "What are our chances of getting through these guards without a weapon comparable to theirs?"
"Virtually zero," the Vulcan conceded with one eyebrow.
"That’s what I figured. So what can we do?"
"You ordered me not to say that."
"What would you do if I ordered you to build us a weapon?"
"I’d ask what, specifically, you had in mind."
"Something with offensive potential that could be used from a distance."
"Any of us."
"That limits it quite severely. I can think of only one possibility. But I doubt if I could do it at the moment."
"Will you be any more capable an hour from now?"
"Then hop to it. And remember you’ll have to teach us how to use it."
"Since we were speaking hypothetically, I am curious to know what you would do if I refused to obey a direct order."
"I’d probably cry. Now shut up and get to work. That is a direct order."
Those upswept eyebrows climbed in real surprise and Spock shook his head wonderingly, "I shall never understand humans."
Kirk didn’t give him a chance to elaborate. He just walked away leaving the Vulcan with his problem. Kirk knew that as long as a shred of Vulcan sanity remained, he could count on his First Officer. The real question was just how many more minutes Spock’s mind would remain rational.
He dropped down among the humans and wiped his sweaty palms on his knees. McCoy said, "I don’t like it, Jim."
The Engineer contributed, "Aye. He’s like a flywheel with a crack in it and a drive that’s pumping in just a wee bit more momentum than’s healthy. I for one don’t want to be anywhere
near when he breaks apart . . ."
"I agree with you, Scotty. But we haven’t much choice. "Bones, isn’t there anything you can do for him?"
"No. Nothing. If I try to use a tranquilizer on him, it would only weaken his will to resist and he’d come out of it on a rampage."
Kirk frowned. "But you were going to use something like that when he had Scotty by the throat?"
"I didn’t really know what was happening, then. Besides, a phaser stun would have been worse. The Vulcans’ nervous system is strange enough . . . and who’s to say just exactly how much of Spock is Vulcan? There just isn’t anything I could do. But it doesn’t matter." Kirk gave him a sharp glance and he added, "He wouldn’t let me. You know how they are about that sort of thing."
Kirk nodded, Scotty looked neutral. Christine was a silent automaton with a haunted look. Kirk made a mental note to recommend her for a commendation and a promotion when they got home. And a big fat bonus. And a leave to spend it on.
"Nurse Chapel," Kirk said crisply, "break out the rations. Looks like we’ll be staying here for lunch."
"Yes, Sir." Her smile at his attempted levity was strained, but genuine.
Meanwhile, Spock struck a small magnesite nitron tablet in a shelter of rocks he’d piled on top of a large, flat boulder that stood about waist high. Then he emptied his belt pouches onto the bench before his fire. Even from where he sat, Kirk could see the Vulcan’s hands shaking. Every few seconds, Spock threw a glance at the dze-ut’ tower and Kirk could see the desperation build in those haunted eyes. Kirk felt that at any second, the First Officer would just cut and run.
The Captain rubbed his forehead, smearing the grime in the oily sweat, and ransacked his brains. There must be something they could do for Spock. He climbed to his feet and went toward his friend, determined to do something though he had no idea what.
Suddenly, Spock dropped one of the stones he was working on and clutched his hand as if burned. Then, he bent double over the painful hand, kneeling on the coarse gravel as his whole body was racked with convulsions that forced a grating moan between tight lips.
McCoy came running as Kirk knelt beside the Vulcan, grabbing his shoulders, "Spock?"
Spock shook off the touch with a jerk of his head . . . a soundless but frantic negation.
McCoy pointed his medical scanner and stared at it unbelievingly. He shook his head. That much pain? Impossible. And . . . good-lord-in-heaven . . . the man actually had some blood pressure! He concluded his scanner must be as useless as the tricorder. "Spock, let me see that hand." McCoy knelt beside the First Officer, "Did you touch the fire?"
Again that jerk of soundless negation.
Kirk said, "Bones, you better not touch him."
McCoy sat back on his heels biting his lips in frustrated concern. Christine joined the group bringing McCoy’s backpack, ready to produce whatever improbable bit of equipment the doctor should request. Kirk thought that if she said anything, she’d either scream or cry and she just wasn’t about to do either.
The magnesite-nitron fire struck dazzling yellow, blue, and red highlights in the necklaces that dangled against their uniforms. Kirk was nearly shaking by the time Spock took a deep breath and sat up, examining his hand, "It’s no use, Captain. I can not."
McCoy captured the injured hand, opened the fingers looking for something to treat. "What happened, Spock?"
The Science Officer turned to Kirk and said, "Do you believe in God, Captain?"
Startled, Kirk answered, "Well . . . I suppose I do, in a way. I guess it depends on what you mean . . ."
"What’s your point?" Kirk was intrigued. He’d never heard Spock discuss religion in personal terms.
But the Vulcan rounded on the Doctor who was vainly searching for an injury on the hand Spock seemed to have abandoned in his custody, "Doctor. When is life?"
"What? Spock, this is no time for one of your philosophical jags!"
"Can you answer the question?"
"No. What do you mean, ‘when’?"
"When does a conglomerate of particles pass the border between the living and the non-living?"
"The more we learn, the less we know about that. In fact, it’s debatable whether there is a border."
Spock picked up the rock he’d been handling, held it out to McCoy, "Is this alive?"
McCoy took it, pointed his scanner at it dubiously, turned it over in the flickering light. It was a blue-green crystal, clear as glass . . . no, it had internal facets like a diamond. It caught the light of the fire and threw it back multiplied. It was beautiful.
"Well, I don’t know. It looks like a gemstone to me. It’s certainly not like any life I’ve ever encountered before . . . which doesn’t mean much."
"Your caution is commendable, Doctor. But you don’t really believe it to be alive. If it were life, say on the order of the hydra or a coral colony, would you hesitate to destroy it for your own ends?"
"Depends. Not senselessly. But to save a life of a higher order . . . myself for example . . . yes. We do it all the time. Even you do that routinely."
"True." He continued to gaze into the blue-green depths as if searching for an answer . . . or seeking to apologize.
When it was clear Spock wouldn’t continue, Kirk said, "You pick the damndest time to wax philosophical."
Those dark eyes flicked to Kirk and locked stares with him, "Jim, I cannot. I am not able to do this thing. Millennia ago, my ancestors chose a different path. That decision is not mine to change."
"I’m not asking you to change it. Only to meet these natives with force in kind. We do that routinely on the __Enterprise__, too."
"This is not the __Enterprise__."
"But the discipline of the Service extends even to this situation."
"True. Up to a point."
"And a bit beyond."
Spock didn’t answer that. Kirk motioned the others away. He wanted to try to reach Spock in private. When the humans had settled around their lantern, about ten yards away, Kirk said very quietly. "I’ve never known you to give up like this."
"Nature’s . . . imperatives . . . cannot be defied."
"I . . . I’ve brushed up against one of those imperatives . . . lightly . . . second hand . . ." Kirk pursed his lips, nodding appreciatively. His recent contacts with Spock’s mind had given him a deep respect for the power of the pon farr. "But, Spock, if you were really trying, you’d have found another way. What are you going to do? Just sit here until . . ." Kirk bit his lip. He’d absorbed some Vulcan manners in the last few years . . . and there were some things that just weren’t spoken.
Kirk watched Spock’s face. There was anguish there or he’d turn in his captain’s braid. Spock’s answer, when it came, was a fierce whisper. "What do you know of it?"
"Oh, you’ve given me a jolt now and again. Or have you forgotten what happened when you plucked me out of dreamland?"
"That? That was nothing. Fringe effect. Spurious noise."
"I got another whiff of smoke when you gave me this." He fingered the necklace.
"Twenty orders of magnitude less than significant."
"That was hours ago. I’ll grant it’s much worse now. I’m not asking . . . or expecting . . . you to go much farther. But we need that weapon, Spock. If there’s any conceivable way you can give it to us . . . we need it . . . if you’re to accomplish your own . . . private . . . goals."
Spock looked off into the impenetrable night, "Suvil . . . my father’s father . . . died experimenting with these things. He was an expert. He spent decades winnowing through fragmentary documents classifying, systematizing, searching for something useful among the dross."
"And he taught you everything he knew?"
"Yes. But it wasn’t enough to save him."
Frowning, Kirk asked, "Are you afraid to die?"
"At the moment, I am incapable of endangering my life. Soon that will pass. Then it will be too late."
"Well, we’re not going to wait around for that to happen. We’ll find a safer way to do the job."
"That is impossible."
"Oh? Have you tried?"
Suddenly, Spock looked at Kirk, "No."
Kirk pounced on that, but in a low whisper that could not carry through the thin air to the other humans, "Now that’s what I call illogical. Spock, you’ve been sulking like a spoiled brat denied an ice cream cone before dinner. Next you’ll be crying crocodile tears into your beer and singing the blues. I’d like to impress your engrams on a computer . . . the resulting torrential flood of illogic would be most amusing."
For a moment. Kirk thought Spock had suddenly lost the ability to understand English.
Then the corners of the Vulcan’s mouth quirked upward and crinkle lines appeared under the upswept eyebrows. Slowly, as if cracking a sarcophagus mask, the stone face softened, melted and poured itself into a smile that grew until little snorts of unsuppressible laughter bubbled out of the tense, Vulcan throat.
A phrase popped into Kirk’s mind, "Like sunrise over a dark swamp." As the transformation took place before his eyes, Kirk became dismayed. But laughter is infectious. Suddenly, he saw the perfectly ridiculous picture he’d painted and he began to chuckle.
Spock laughed experimentally.
The other humans were attracted by the noise and plodded over to see what wee going on. Hands on hips, the two men looked from their Captain to their First Officer and back again.
Deeming his experiment a success, Spock laughed heartily.
Kirk joined him.
In unison, McCoy and Scotty chuckled.
Spock was laughing with a single minded concentration which loosed peals of laughter from the others.
Kirk gasped and tried to wipe the grin off his face with the palm of one hand, "Oh, come on now, it wasn’t that funny."
Spock was kneeling, doubled over with his head on his knees, wheezing helplessly. He seemed to be giving himself to the job enthusiastically, making no effort to restrain the mirth or to conserve energy for other tasks.
Worried now, Kirk said, "Spock? Honestly, it wasn’t all that funny."
But the Vulcan’s eyes were streaming as he shook soundlessly to wave after wave of convulsions, each stronger than the last. Without measuring, McCoy was certain that no human would ever attain such a state from laughter alone. Suddenly, the sight of Spock laughing didn’t seem funny any more.
Then the Vulcan gasped and went under for the third time.
McCoy knelt beside the Captain, "Jim, what did you say to him?"
"I doubt if he’d appreciate my telling you. Why don’t you ask him?"
"I’d be afraid to . . . if he ever stops laughing."
McCoy was awed by the scene . . . and more than a little apprehensive. Just how much of that Spock’s system could take, he didn’t know.
Kirk was beginning to be frightened by what he’d done.
Shaking his head, Spock drew a deep breath and let out another unrestrained howl of excruciating mirth. Now, Kirk concluded, he was laughing because he was laughing. He knew from experience, that that was a positive feedback that could go on for hours. Resigned, he said, "Well, go ahead and laugh, but try to keep it quiet. We don’t want to attract any unwanted attention."
At the next gasp, the First Officer massaged the unfamiliar ache in his jaw and went right on laughing, but more quietly.
McCoy and Kirk traded looks.
Kirk checked his tricorder for the time.
After McCoy’s awe had turned completely to grave concern and Kirk’s fear had transmuted to despair, the Vulcan’s guffaws turned to chuckles, subsided to snickers and vanished. His face transformed from an ear-to-ear-grin to ghost-of-a-smile that vanished into solemn stone sarcophagus. Eyes closed, relaxed, opened again to reveal . . . Spock. The familiar, lively but unemotional Spock.
One elegantly disdainful eyebrow arched slightly, "I see. Yes. Most curiously useful capacity." He frowned, "A secondary, cathartic channel. Not total . . . and far from complete . . . but, useful." Both eyebrows in innocent surprise "Fascinating!"
The humans traded glances all around. Spock took the opportunity to rise.
Kirk checked his tricorder. Fifteen minutes. Undoubtedly a Vulcan record. Human blood! Scandalous.
Rising, McCoy said, "Tears are a third channel, Spock. Don’t underrate them. They can be even more effective than laughter. And, under some circumstances, humans have been known to laugh and cry at the same time."
Thoroughly his old self again, Spock annunciated, "So I have observed, Doctor."
Kirk made a mental log entry, "Commander Spock has demonstrated an intuitive grasp of human psychology under field conditions."
Spock was examining the array of ‘raw materials’ laid out in front of his fire.
"I’m going to attempt to summon a ghost. But all I may accomplish is to create one. I am half-human and somewhat . . . distant . . . from the Vulcan racial memory. But I am also kataytikhe-trained and Affirmed. I am the Continuity when I so choose. Perhaps I can use my human half to insulate myself from the . . . ghost . . . of one who might have helped us had he lived in our time. If it works, it will be the first time any Vulcan has lived through a Summoning. If it fails, I shall be dead. I doubt if there can be any median degree of success . . . but . . . if" he drew a shaky breath, "Doctor, see to it that he does no harm to anyone else."
"I understand," McCoy whispered.
Spock chose several items from his stock and paced out a large circle around the humans, placing his stones on the perimeter at precise intervals so that the magnesite-nitron fire occupied the circumference just opposite a large, gold crystal. Then he motioned the humans to leave the circle.
McCoy stood on Kirk’s right, Scotty and Christine on his left as they watched the strange performance. All four humans were too dazed to say or do anything.
Spock took one of the other stones from his makeshift workbench, bound it to a long shaft which he produced from his pack, and held it into the hottest part of the magnesite flame.
Kirk knew the flame wasn’t really very hot, but presently the stone began to glow . . . that peculiar, clear orange color that he’d learned to fear. Spock took the glowing stone and planted its shaft in the center of the circle. Then, he took another shaft, another stone, and held it in the fire. Soon, it glowed blood-red . . . a fearsome, rich color far more chilling than the clear orange. This one he set aside as he repeated the procedure once more, obtaining a blue-green glow.
Then he took the red one in his left hand and the blue-green one in his right and traveled the perimeter of his circle, touching each of the markers with the red stone and then with the blue-green. As each marker-stone was touched, it took fire and glowed with its own hue until the circle was a rainbow against the dark night.
Kirk didn’t notice when somebody extinguished the trail lanterns. The fire and the multi-color glowstones were the only source of light under the stars.
When he’d finished his circuit, Spock seated himself crosslegged facing the fire still holding the red and blue glowstones on their short, black poles. The top of the Vulcan’s head came almost level with the bottom of the magnesite fire enshrined on top of the boulder.
Then nothing happened. Nothing happened for so long that the humans sat down too.
The steady glow from the circle of lights, the darkness around and the silhouette of Spock with his deeply lined face lit by the eerie blue-green and blood-red glowstones he held,
combined to create an hypnotic effect that soon had Kirk’s eyes drooping.
He fought that drowsiness valiantly for many hours. But, the gravity, thin air, and fatigue finally won.
Hot fingers of sun were burning his neck when Kirk woke. He squinted against the brilliance. Scotty, McCoy and Christine were beginning to stir beside him. The circle had been dismantled, but the magnesite fire still burned. The three glowstones, planted to form a triangle in the center of the circle, still glowed visibly against the sunlight of early morning.
Spock stood before the waist-high rock table where the blue fire still dwelt behind its rock shield. His back was to Kirk, his arms braced still, propping his shoulders up while his head drooped on his chest. He looked like a deflated scarecrow.
Kirk staggered to his feet, ignoring the sharp ache in his joints. "Spock?"
The Vulcan shifted his weight. But he gave no other response.
Kirk stumbled forward, cocking an eye at the bright sky and the swiftly vanishing shadows, "Spock . . ."
The Vulcan turned, a hundred years older, drained, but taut as a lytherette string. Gesturing to the three glowing stones, he said in a rusty whisper, "Take them. No living thing will menace you as long as you hold them."
"Fine. But what about you . . . ?"
There was a haunted desperation beneath the Vulcan’s dry cracked surface. He was breathing hard, his usually neat hair standing in dirt-encrusted spikes. His face glistened with the oily Vulcan perspiration. His eyes were wild, shifting pits of darkness that returned again and again to the dze-ut’ tower.
"Spock . . ."
"Leave me alone! LEAVE ME ALONE!!" It was the scream of an outraged animal pushed beyond fury, beyond madness.
Before Kirk could move, Spock bolted down the hill, careening in a wild gallop around the largest rocks, leaping others, heedless of scrapes and bruises.
"Bones! We’ve got to stop him!" Kirk snapped as he took off after his First Officer.
Unable to control his headlong dash down the hill, Kirk leaped a small boulder, climbed the next and launched himself in a flying tackle at the Vulcan who was starting up the far slope.
The Captain landed soundly on top . . . and rolled desperately, trying to evade the sledgehammer blows of flailing arms.
Scotty arrived just as Kirk tripped the Vulcan and knelt on his back, capturing his right arm in a hammerlock. The Engineer threw himself on the First Officer’s left arm, heedless of the clouds of dust. McCoy came between them with a hypo to the base of Spock’s spine.
Five seconds later, Spock was out cold and the humans relaxed.
Scotty looked down at the prone body. "Well, what now?"
"Bones, how long will that hold him?"
"Eight . . . maybe ten hours. But when he comes out of it, nothing will stop him this side of the grave."
"Except . . ." said Kirk.
"Right. Except . . ."
Kirk sighed, scanning the hills, thinking. He could see patches of Blooms everywhere. The bitter smell had turned stifling-sweet. Thankfully, he spotted a dark hole that promised some shelter and an opportunity to refill their canteens.
"Help me get him up there." Kirk pointed out this refuge, "We’ll take the dze-ut’ apart in broad daylight since we’ve no choice."
Sweat streamed off them, making two-inch rivulets in the accumulated grime before
the air could dry up the rare moisture. Drops fell from Scotty’s chin and evaporated almost before striking ground. But, somehow, the three of them hauled the limp, dust caked body up the hillside and into the shelter.
Kirk staggered back outside wiping his brow in the crook of his elbow, "Come on let’s get Christine and the packs."
An hour later, the three men were out on the desert-forest staggering under the burden of the vicious sun. They’d left Christine with Spock because McCoy insisted someone had to be with a man under such heavy sedation . . . and because he’d privately informed Kirk she just wouldn’t be able to walk half a mile in the sun . . . pride or no pride.
They left their packs and took only their canteens, phasers, communicators, belt lights and the glowstones mounted on the short sticks . . . which Kirk now recognized as the legs of a tripod from the exploring kit. McCoy had his belt medikit, Scotty had a tricorder slung over his shoulder and of course they still wore the mindshield necklaces.
And that was almost too much. They were all sagging well before the sun hit zenith. Kirk called a halt as he took a new line-of-sight reading on their target, plotting a course around the worst obstructions up the side of the next hill.
McCoy swigged sparingly from his canteen "The one thing Spock didn’t bring is sun-glasses."
Scotty said, "I didn’a know we stocked them."
Kirk said, "We don’t. I have a pair in my cabin."
"Aye. Me, too."
McCoy snorted, "Vulcans probably never heard of them."
Kirk nodded ruefully and plunged down the hill with his improvised burnoose flapping in the breeze of his passage. There were a lot of things Vulcans had never heard of. Sometimes he wished he were one of them.
After miles of up-and-down-and-detour, Kirk noticed that the Blooms first exposed to the rising sun were wilting. They wouldn’t last the day.
Later, he seemed to remember that 140 degrees Fahrenheit was the most the human body could tolerate. He was certain it was hotter than that already. His feet burned inside his boots his nose and throat would never be the same again and what he wanted most in all creation was to plunge into the cool, green depths of the __Enterprise__’s swimming pool and set up housekeeping. No Vulcan would ever find him there!
He couldn’t believe it when he tore his sweat-glued eyes open and saw the orange glow of the dze-ut’ right above his head. Some effort of will moved his numb legs one after the other until he’d swayed and staggered the last hundred yards uphill. He looked back to see Scotty helping McCoy get up off his knees . . . or was it McCoy helping Scotty?
He lost his balance and plunged through the insubstantial, glowing orange wall . . . and sprawled headlong on the cold wet floor. The air was dense with fog droplets that glowed like orange-gelatin swallowing the light from the red glowstone scepter he still clutched in one sharply aching fist.
He picked himself up, turning this way and that. Which way had he come in? Which way to damsel in distress? He felt giddy. He stifled a giggle and was suddenly seized by a gooseflesh shiver and a fit of trembling at the icy cold air.
Wrapping his arms about his torso, he pulled his head into his shirt collar and remembered how Spock had shivered with cold after he’d accidentally contacted Tanya. She __must__ be here.
He called, "Tanya?" But it came out a miserable croak that barely carried to his own ears. He swallowed gritty sand, unlimbered his canteen and tried again, "Tanya!"
McCoy’s voice answered, "Jim?"
"Over here, Bones. See any sign of Tanya? Or of anything else?"
"No. They’ve captured a genuine Kentucky fog in here."
"I dinna think so." said Scotty, "it’s a prime example of an Aberdeen fog . . . except for the color."
A warm hand joined Kirk’s elbow and then another on his other side. Kirk peered hard and could just make out the tousled hair of his Engineer. McCoy’s touch was distinctive enough.
"O.K. Spread out in a line and move forward carefully. The first one to encounter something, sing out. And hang onto your glowstones. It’s a long way back."
McCoy nodded, remembering all those natives that had eyed them cautiously, from a respectful distance. Then he manned the end of their line and advanced.
(RBW Note. Female (Tanya) chained down with glowing stones and a glow around her.)
The line jerked, and Scotty let out a juicy, Gaelic curse, "A wall here, Captain."
They converged on the discovery to find a large, rectangular box standing on its small end and open on the far side. They circled around until they all stood in front of the open site of the box. The fog was clearer here.
Kirk surged forward, "Tanya!"
McCoy pulled him back, "Hold it, Jim. Don’t touch her. We’ve no idea what we’re doing."
Kirk subsided. He had absolutely no idea what to do next.
"All right, Scotty, have a look at it."
"Aye, Sir. But mind you, I’m not this kind o’ engineer."
"I know. Just see if you can untangle this mess into its components."
Kirk surveyed the ‘mess’ soberly. A cocoon of strings, ropes and cables was woven about the girl. Glowing stones hung in festoons from her shoulders pulsated in madly clashing colors. She stood on a clear, orange pedestal, rigid as a statue and as conscious as marble. Her eyes were open, but she did not see. Nothing appeared to support her weight or maintain her balance, but she stood.
Kirk left McCoy and Scotty at work and circled around the box, keeping the fingers of one hand brushing the wall while he flailed the fog with the other. He struck something, and let go of Tanya’s box to go see what he’d found.
It was another box nearly identical to Tanya’s, but it contained the biologist who’d gone down with the landing party. He’d been a small man. Now, he was a crumpled mummy, shriveled and blacked grotesquely, and shrouded in strings of dead jewels.
Shaken, Kirk circled back to the group and reported his find.
McCoy said, "She’s alive, Jim . . . but more than that, I can’t say."
"I canna make anything out of this. Captain. There are no circuits in the conventional sense."
Kirk chewed his lip speculatively examining the misty ceiling. Far above, the __Enterprise__ slept in orbit. His closest friend lay dying in a dirt cave. Neither could survive much longer.
Decisively, the Captain slipped off his necklace, dropped it into McCoy’s hands along with his blood-red scepter, and reached over to cup Tanya’s stone-rigid, ice-cold cheeks in his hands.
He had no idea how to establish mental contact deliberately. He concentrated on his need to know how to disconnect her from the circuit.
Suddenly, his skull was riven asunder by a diamond chisel, split like a coconut smashed onto a gleaming machete. His mind was fragmented and sucked out by an irresistible vacuum quick-frozen by an intense cold that turned him . . . inside out . . .
She was ensnared at the center of a complex web of forces, laid in intricate patterns throughout her mind. The dynamic throb of energy pouring in through some of those lines had to be re-vectored, focused and sent coursing out along other lines before the next surge arrived. She could stop the outward flow, dam the energy within herself and refuse the compulsion laid upon her. That much she’d accomplished by will alone. And it had been no small task. But, it had taken too long. She no longer had the will to suicide.
HIS CALL BURNED IN HER!!
It could not be denied.
She must break the web that bound her. She must be gone before those . . . savages . . . settled their quarrel and returned. It didn’t matter which of them won first-rights to her. She would not allow another’s touch. She was already possessed. And she burned.
Her hands. She must move her hands. She must unweave the net that held her. First this thread. Now this. And the next. Carefully. None must touch the next. Freedom is dear, but not so dear as life. And danger is great where there is such power. The web is tangled. First this half of this line, then half of the next. Back to the first. Quickly now. Control diminishes. Fury rages. Body wild. It cannot be controlled. And it should not be. It is wrong to try. Swiftly new hands. We must leave. We are CALLED. When one cannot move, the other must. The way is long. Time is short. But not so short as life. Calm and steady hands . . . or all is lost. This line is alive. Handle it gently. I am nexus and focus. All power resides in me . . . the others are all dead. They were too weak of body and too strong of ignorance. They fought the power line and died. This line is the life of the hundreds above and of us below. Lift it stone by stone from my body, place each link carefully, oh so gently down on the base, make the circle exactly inscribed in the square, then spiral inward to the center. Now the right foot. Lift it toe first, then heel, put the next stone in its
place. I am falling. It does not matter! Quickly, the last stone . . . exactly where the left toe was! Before the heel loses contact!!
The scream tore from two open throats, undulated, instinctive terror. The explosion numbed the mind, tinting every brain cell, every blood cell with bright, clear orange gelatin lit in a searing flash destroying, welding, healing.
Kirk opened his eyes. Aside from a throbbing ache that pervaded his body, he felt reasonably well. The fog was already dissipating, revealing far to one side a steaming trough of water and two other upright, rectangular boxes near the wispy orange walls that were fading slowly, allowing more daylight to filter through. In places, the skeleton of the tower was becoming visible where the mist had already thinned.
The captain climbed to his feet, Scotty at his elbow. The Engineer seemed bewildered, but apparently unhurt. Tanya lay on her back, a tiny figurine, on the rough, clammy stone floor. McCoy bent over her as if afraid to do anything but read her vital signs. Kirk went to her, glancing at the medical scanner over McCoy’s shoulder. Most of the readings were off the top of the scale.
"Jim, I’ve never seen anything like this . . ."
Suddenly the lifeless doll rolled onto her stomach, got her legs under her and stood.
Kirk said, "Tanya?"
Her back to the humans, she seemed intent on the horizon that was still invisible beyond the misty orange walls. She took three jerky steps toward the wall. Then, slowly, as if moving under water she broke into a run, leapt the water trough, and disappeared into the ragged orange mist.
"Jim! She’s barefoot! And bareheaded!"
Kirk grabbed the blood red scepter and took off after the girl at a dead run.
Scotty and McCoy traded glances and plunged after.
When they broke out of the mist, Tanya was already half way down the hill running lightly, oblivious of the scorching rocks. Kirk was a hundred yards behind and not gaining. As she made the bottom of the hill, Scotty and McCoy launched themselves after the captain.
On the far upslope, Tanya hardly slackened pace but Kirk fought a losing battle against the gravity and air.
McCoy pounded up the hill, "Jim, wait! You’ll never catch her like this."
Huffing, the doctor slapped at his medikit, "Tri-ox . . . and a stimulant. Take a couple swallows . . . water."
When they’d all had the prescribed treatment, they took off again, at a saner pace. Scotty took the lead setting their line with the tricorder which now worked fairly well on some circuits. They caught occasional glimpses of Tanya’s head as she topped the next ridge. Several parties of natives watched from a distance. Every time they paused, Kirk tried his communicator, but without luck. Fear pumped his heart as his body mechanically executed the grim task his mind had set. It was almost beyond human endurance.
Panting at the top of one ridge, Kirk checked the tricorder. Spock would be coming out of it any minute. He shuddered to think of Tanya, such a fragile doll of a woman, confronting a berserk Vulcan almost twice her size.
The same thought was crossing Christine’s mind as Spock tossed feverishly on the damp earthen floor. For the first time in her life, she was scared to death of the Vulcan. What would happen if he woke before the others got back?
In his peculiar way, he was the most gentle man she’d ever met. The tragedy of his very existence melted her heart . . . all the more because he never allowed it to show. She still wanted to be his. She had to admit that to herself. Yet, he’d chosen another. And even though she felt terribly possessively jealous, still she prayed that Tanya would give him the happiness he deserved. Who was to say his choice wasn’t the wisest?
In all honesty, she asked herself, if she’d been chosen, could she face him when he was like . . . this? She didn’t know. And she was sure her tempestuous, contradictory emotions destroyed her attractiveness for him. He’d known it for years. She told herself sternly that she must learn that lesson and learn it well. Now.
But still, she wanted him. She called it "love" because she knew no other name for such tender desire. And yet, his life was now tied to another. Tears started to her eyes.
This would never do. A nurse must not become so personally involved with a patient. She sniffed, knuckled her eyes, and ducked out into the merciless sun.
After a quick glance all around, she scrambled up the slope and peered in the direction of the tower. Would they never come?
Spock groaned. It was the first sound he’d made since the doctor had injected the sedative. And the demanding urgency in that simple, unarticulated sound sent a shiver down her spine.
She squinted hard against the sun. Where was that tower? Hadn’t it been . . . it was gone! She stood up to get a better look.
The hills danced with heat shimmer, and her eyes streamed from the painful brilliance, but she thought she could make out several moving figures. Heart thumping, she made her way back to the refuge to prepare rations, water, and skin salve.
Then she tried to raise the ship on the communicator.
Another dreadful groan from the Vulcan.
She went outside with the communicator, keeping one eye on her patient and one on the top of the ridge above her head. There was absolutely nothing she could do except keep trying to raise the __Enterprise__. If the captain were moving, he wouldn’t have breath to chat with her . . . and nothing could make him come faster, of that she was certain.
The hillside was in shadow now that the sun had passed its zenith and she bore the heat with steadfast determination. It seemed like the longest . . . and most helpless . . . vigil she’d ever kept. The groans came more and more frequently. She’d removed all the rocks from his vicinity so he couldn’t hurt himself as he thrashed about. But he’d rolled in the dirt so much he’d become covered with damp soil. All she could do was listen and keep out of the way.
Eventually, she heard a rock-rolling scramble up the far side of her hill and she dodged into her cave mouth, under the protecting umbrella of Spock’s sensor-nullifying device. At least it was supposed to confound the directional fix of the natives’ . . . whatever-they-used.
The purposeful, frantic scramble came down the near side of the hill above the cave and dislodged several rocks that went careening past the entrance followed by a mud-caked apparition in Starfleet red.
The body sprawled headlong into the soft, dry sand and lay prone for an instant before rising onto __bare__ feet. Black hair, whitened with dust, prominent nose, flared nostrils, mouth open in a snarling pant, cracked lips, red blood oozing into the sweat caked dirt. It __was__ Tanya Minos . . . but a frightening visage, hardly the same crisply pert girl who was always so patiently willing to teach and so burningly curious to learn.
Stunned Christine didn’t know what to do. Where was the captain? What had happened out there?
Another agonized groan rent the air and the feverishly tossing Vulcan rolled to his knees, panting wildly. His hair stood out straight from his head in a spikey crown and he was totally covered with black, red and ochre dirt.
With a stomach knotting thrill of fear, Christine realized that she stood between the two. Tensely, she backed off and sidled around to stand outside the cave and behind Tanya. There, she froze, transfixed by the tightly leashed ferocity of the confrontation.
Spock crouched within the moist, dark cave; Tanya faced him on the dry, shadowed sand and it seemed as if an elastic cord binding them together, was contracting, drawing them inexorably into each other’s arms. Slowly, with tiny steps, they seemed to float toward each other, almost as if afraid of the inevitable contact.
Suddenly, Christine felt the captain’s arms around her waist and she collapsed gratefully against his solid strength. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Scotty and the doctor slide to halt just behind Kirk, but she couldn’t take her eyes off the vignette enacted before her.
As Spock straightened, Tanya glided into the tunnel, walking smoothly, unmindful of her feet. As the couple approached each other, they traded low murmuring sentences that didn’t carry to the humans through the thin air. Finally, the Vulcans raised both hands, fingers separated in the Vulcan way and joined in a delicate contact, palm to palm . . . finger to finger . . . eyes locked in silent communion.
The captain pulled his communicator, "Kirk to __Enterprise__."
"__Enterprise__. Chen here. Captain?"
"I’ll explain later. Lieutenant. Get a fix on this communicator. Wide scan. Six to beam up. Energize then take the ship out of orbit course one, one, seven mark zero warp factor six."
"Aye sir. One, one, seven, mark zero . . . warp six."
Presently, the forest/desert vanished in a sparkling whirl while Kirk was laying odds with himself that Spock’s first words when he returned to duty would be, "Captain, striking a fellow officer is a court martial offense."
Somehow, Kirk didn’t think that Scotty would remember the incident. Most likely it was all a hallucination.
The familiar soft blue walls of the transporter coalesced around him.
Suddenly, bright orange gelatin exploded behind his eyes and his right arm went numb with a searing cold that oozed up to his shoulder and down his spinal column and sent him pitching forward into blackness.
Shocked by the sudden glare of the disintegrating glowstones, Spock turned to see Scotty, McCoy and the captain collapse.
Distantly, he knew what had happened. The artificial stresses he’d constructed at the gravity-field nexus had collapsed under the influence of the transporter beam; the tangential shear planes that intersected the adjacent living beings had disorganized their nervous systems.
All of this he knew, but it didn’t seem important. It was so difficult to focus his mind on such irrelevant trivia.
As his hands sought T’Aniyeh’s, he heard his voice giving instructions to Nurse Chapel for immediate treatment of the three victims. But afterwards, he had no memory of what he’d said.
Captain’s Log, Supplemental: Stardate 7-2759.9
Mr. Spock assures me that there will be no further after-effects of the disintegration of the glowstones that nearly killed Dr. McCoy, Mr. Scott and myself, provided we do not encounter further phenomena of that order for several years. I recommend First Officer Spock for a citation for Dedication Above and Beyond the Call of Duty for his performance throughout this entire action.
The __Enterprise__ is now on course for the dark star cited above as ‘anomalous.’
First Officer Spock has the con.
Key to numbering system:
(RBW Note. The following short section is in two columns)
aI stories coming before I
I main series stories
AI stories coming during a main series story
IA stories coming after a main series story
IA(1) stories coming after IA before IB
KRAITH cI untitled, Joel Davis (?)
bI SUNDERED DUTIES, Zawacky, Deneroff & Bielowitz (KC VI)
aI IMMOVABLE OBJECT, Morgan Ives
I SPOCK’S AFFIRMATION, Lichtenberg (KC I)
AI untitled, Jan Snyder (?)
IA SHEALKU, Lichtenberg (KC I)
IB ZYETO, Lichtenberg (KC I)
IC YEHAENA, Lichtenberg (unwritten)
ID A MATTER OF PRIORITY, Anna Mary Hall (KC I)
IE THE LESSON, (outline only, see Kraith Creator’s Manual #1)
IF SSARSUN’S ARGUMENT, Lichtenberg (KC II)
IG THE WAY HOME, Anna Mary Hall
IH T’ALYEN -- A CHRISTMAS STORY, Theresa Holmes
II SPOCK’S MISSION, Lichtenberg (KC I)
II(1) LEARNING EXPERIENCE, Jean Sellar (KC III)
IIA T’ZOREL, Lichtenberg (KC I)
IIB THE DISAFFIRMED, Ruth Berman (KC I)
IIC OPERATION TRANSPLANT, Lori Dell (KC VI?)
IID unwritten but reserved, Ruth Berman
IID INITIATIVE, Lichtenberg (KC IV)
IIF NI VAR, Claire Gabriel (sold to Bantam Books for ST: The New Voyages)
There is a Kraith version for which Jacqueline Lichtenberg wrote a scene, somewhat different from the Bantam version, yet they won’t let us publish it.
IIF(1) KIRK BEAMS DOWN, Lichtenberg
IIG DIANA, Pat Osborne (first draft only)
BIII TO BE APART, Ellie Bach
AIII THE TANYA ENTRY, Pat Zotti (KC I)
III SPOCK’S ARGUMENT, Lichtenberg (KC I)
III(1) THE OBLIGATION/THROUGH TIME AND TEARS, Lichtenberg & Winston (KC III)
IIIA FEDERATION CENTENNIAL, Lichtenberg (KC II)
IIIA(1) unwritten but reserved, Lichtenberg
IIIB SECRET OF GROSKIN, Lichtenberg (KC III)
IIIC COUP DE GRACE, Lichtenberg (KC III)
IIIC(1) COUP DE PARTIE, Ruth Berman (KC III)
IIID JH’NFREYA, Lynn & Goldstein
IIIE OPERATING MANUAL, Anna Mary Hall (KC VI)
IIIF THE GALLILEO (sic RBW GALILEO) AFFAIR, Sr. Leo Frances (may be renumbered IIIA(2) )
IIIG WHAT ARE TELEPATHS MADE OF, Morgan Ives
IIIH A HOUSE DIVIDED, Zawacky & Deneroff
IV SPOCK’S NEMESIS, Lichtenberg (KC III)
IVA THE SAFRIK FILE, Paula Smith
IVB THE SELET FILE, Beverly Clark
AV BONES’S VISION, Eileen Roy
V SPOCK’S DECISION, Lichtenberg (KC IV)
VA CHRISTINE’S DECISION, Sharon Emily
VA(1) ONE FINGERED SYMPHONY, Eileen Roy
VB reserved but unwritten, Eileen Roy
VC reserved but unwritten, Connie Faddis
VD SPOCK’S PILGRIMAGE, Lichtenberg (KC IV)
VE THE MAZE, Joan Winston (KC VI)
VI AN EDIFACE (sic RBW EDIFICE) OF VALUE, Lichtenberg
VII SPOCK’S CHALLENGE, Lichtenberg
VIIA T’URIAMNE’S DECISION, Sondra Marshak
VIIB H’L’VINGREY, Lichtenberg
VIII SPOCK’S MEMORY, Lichtenberg
THE SATHERIK AFFAIR, Theresa Holmes, lingerdeath series, unnumbered
(RBW Note. The back cover is light gray card stock)
(blank page, used as back cover)
End of Kraith Collected Volume 3
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