Kraith Collected

Volume 4 

Part 3 

Note: Compare this page to Kraith Collected Volume One -- we expect to have this file conformed to that format in the near future.   Here italics are indicated __thusly__ and you will find editorial comments regarding graphics and other adjustments to be inserted still embedded in the text.   To be notified of upgrades to these pages, please subscribe to kraith-l.  


Spock's Decision continued

Eventually, the blackness of unconsciousness claimed him. He believed it was death and welcomed it.

 

CHAPTER SIX

First there was sound . . . the low, musical, murmur of the diagnostic panel over his head. Then there was an awareness of chill air flowing over his body, the discomfort dispelled only by the infra-red projectors in the ceiling. Then there was a name. Spock. An identity, whole and healed . . . and alone. Again.

The unmistakable aroma of sickbay brought him fully awake and he sat up blinking, laboriously focusing his thoughts.

Auxiliary Control . . . the reaction setting in against his will . . . a vague impression of movement . . . then, nothing. Now. Here.

He glanced to his right at the Captain, automatically reading the life-signs over that patientís head. Condition almost unchanged. He checked the time--two hours past breakaway!

Quickly he jumped down from the bed and charged for the corridor. But before he reached the door, it flew aside and McCoy strode in. "Spock! You shouldnít be out of bed! Here," he set the clipboard heíd been carrying down, "let me help you back."

"No," the Vulcan brushed the proffered arm aside, "Weíve got to engage the warp engines and . . ."

"Scotty already took care of all that! Weíre free of the starís influence and Iíve started reviving the crew. Now you just get back on . . ."

"No, no, Doctor, Iím quite all right . . . now."

"But Iím still the Chief Surgeon and I havenít discharged you yet. You canít take command until I do, so. You might as well get back up on the bed and let me finish my examination."

There was nothing Spock could say to that, so he hoisted himself back onto the bed and waited grudgingly.

"Now," said McCoy, going over the Vulcanís body with a scanner, "just what exactly happened down there? By the time I got there, you were delirious--ranting about freezing to death and Schillian Schlugtamer and trying to tell everyone there was nothing wrong. Iíve seen healthier looking corpses, so donít try that routine on me!"

"It was nothing serious, Doctor. Merely a momentary side effect of the starís radiation."

"Oh? What kind of side-effect?"

"Doctor," answered Spock scathingly, "Even I do not yet fully comprehend all . . ."

"Oh, come on now, said McCoy, "level with me. Iíve never yet seen you struck down by something without your knowing the reason."

Spock didnít answer that and McCoy made some notations, then handed the Vulcan a small bag, pointing toward the narrow door in the corner. "Urine specimen. Then right back to bed. Iím prescribing a hearty meal and a good nightís sleep. If all the lab tests are negative, you can go back to work in the morning."

Silently obedient, the Vulcan donned his best long-suffering expression and went. When he returned, Christine Chapel was waiting with a steaming tray and two empty blood specimen cylinders.

Wordlessly, Spock hitched himself up on the bed and presented his arm. The nurse collected the green blood and swung the tray in front of him.

It was fully twelve hours later that Spock finally set foot on the bridge. The regular day-crew was there; Sulu at the helm, Uhura at communications, Chekov navigating and Scotty working over the engineering panels.

The First Officer made the rounds, checking each station in turn and finally coming to engineering.

Scotty said, "Iíve logged the status reports. Structural damage minimal; only five dead; power and life-support functional. Weíve restored the gravity throughout the ship and Iíve got a crew outside right now replacing the tractor beam projectors."

Spock nodded. "What we really need is a complete overhaul."

"Well, now, I donít know. I think we can manage for the next two years."

Spock shook his head. "Your spare parts inventory is depleted, the shipís skeleton

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is warped and buckled, the di-lithium crystals are . . ."

"I didnaí say we . . ."

Uhura interrupted softly. "Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy wants you right away. The Captain is worse!"

"On my way. Mr. Chekov, plot a course for Vulcan and stand by."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Spock was out the door in four strides and at the Captainís side in less than two minutes.

McCoy was fretting over the instruments. "Heís dying, Spock! Heartbeat, respiration, blood pressure . . . all down. Iím going to have to wake him. Just pray that . . ."

"No, Doctor, you must not . . ."

". . . no, what? I must not save his life?"

Spock grabbed the hypo from Nurse Chapelís hand as she passed by. "Once this becomes real to his conscious mind . . ."

McCoy jerked the hypo from Spockís grasp. "There wonít __be__ any conscious mind if I donít wake him now! Whoís the Doctor around here, anyway?"

Without waiting for an answer, McCoy injected the stimulant into the Captainís arm. Seeing that there was no more point objecting, Spock subsided and they all watched the hesitant wobbling of the life-signs indicators.

Presently, Kirkís eyes opened, unfocused and very heavy-lidded. His head tossed from side to side feverishly and then a grimace of exquisite terror transformed his features and he loosed a scream of agony.

McCoy dropped the hypo and grabbed the Captainís shoulders. "Nurse, get the restraints on him! Jim! Jim! Take it easy. Nothing is going to hurt you now. Itís all over."

Quietly, between Kirkís hoarse screams, Spock said, "I beg to differ with you, Doctor. For him, the worst is yet to come. His mental barriers have been totally demolished and he has no training . . . no way of coping with the torrential influx of foreign thought."

McCoy said, "Well, canít you do something for him?"

"No. Nothing very useful. I have the training, but it would take at least three strong minds to help him now."

McCoy examined the diagnostic panel. Four of the six needles hovered near the top of the scale. "Nurse, another dose of the theragin derivative."

Nurse Chapel administered the injection and they all stood waiting for the needles to fall. But they did not and Kirkís voice had worn to a husky whisper.

"Doctor, now that youíve endangered the Captainís sanity why donít you put him back to sleep?" Spock folded his arms across his chest and watched McCoy narrowly.

The Doctor leaned across the bed, shoving his face at the Vulcan. "Why donít you try to do something to help instead of just standing there like . . ."

"Calm yourself, Doctor, your anger is literally killing the Captain.

"Spock . . . __do__ something!"

The First Officer took a deep breath and then strode over to the wall intercom. "Spock to bridge."

"Bridge, Sulu here."

"You have the course for Vulcan, Mr. Sulu?"

"Mr. Spock? Is that you? Whatís that noise?"

Spock raised his voice and moved closer to the grill. "Ignore it, Mr. Sulu. Do you have the course for Vulcan?"

"Aye, Sir."

"Lay it in. Warp factor seven."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"Spock out."

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Blankly, Nurse Chapel said, "Vulcan?"

"What are you trying to do, Spock?" asked McCoy.

"Save the Captainís life. Which is more than I can say for you. How much longer are you going to make him suffer?"

McCoy looked down at his patient who was still screaming with unabated fury. Then he glanced at the overhead panel. The theragin derivative hadnít helped. Spock couldnít or wouldnít . . . He turned to the Vulcan. "Canít you put him into some sort of light trance so I donít need such a massive dose?"

"I might have . . . with TíAniyeh to help. By myself . . ." He shook his head.

"Try, Mr. Spock," urged Christine, "at least try. How can you forget what he did for you and Tanya at the dze-utí?"

"Thatís right, Spock," McCoy picked up. "You owe him at least a try."

Spock looked from Christine to McCoy and then down at the Captain, face still contorted with unspeakable suffering. Spock felt himself shaking in the backwash of that terror.

McCoy paced nervously. "Spock, why canít you give him some sort of mind shield like you did against the dze-utí? The necklaces survived the disintegration."

"I beg to differ with you, Doctor. The mind-shields did not survive--in operational order. And if they had, the application would kill the Captain within minutes. No, his only hope is the training available on Vulcan. In seven weeks . . ."

"Seven weeks! Spock, I canít keep him alive that . . ."

"Doctor, you have no choice. Allow this," he gestured at the Captainís gradually weakening frenzy, "to continue and he will be hopelessly lost to us within the hour."

McCoy slapped his hand on the foot of the bed, leaning over to thrust his face at the impassive First Officer. "No! Spock, itís you who have no choice! There __must__ be something you can do. You spent the first eighteen years of your life learning . . ."

"Seventeen years, Doctor. My grandfather died when I was seventeen. Then my father . . ."

"Nevermind that! Just think! There must be some way to relieve the pressure on Jimís mind without killing his body! Even if it means some sacrifice . . ." McCoy trailed off. Heíd seen that thoughtful look in the Vulcanís eyes before.

Spock lifted the Captainís clenched fist and examined it with clinical detachment. A slight frown brought steeply pitched brows together as the Vulcan regarded the suffering man. There was no doubt in McCoyís mind that some part of Spock harbored a tender compassion perhaps even greater than any known to humans.

After a moment, Spock looked up at McCoy. "There may indeed be a way, but it is dangerous. If we do not survive, tell Mr. Scott to take the __Enterprise__ home."

And then, before McCoy could protest, Spockís hands engulfed the Captainís head and the Doctor could see the rigor of Kirkís body transmitted up Spockís arms to stiffen the Vulcan body. The diagnostic panel went crazy and McCoy moved swiftly to turn it off. With spare parts so scarce, he couldnít afford to burn it out.

Christine stood frozen in wide-eyed stasis as McCoy looked helplessly from one patient to the other. Heíd never really understood the link that bound those two. For Jim, it was a real human friendship. But for Spock? What was the Ďlogicalí motivation behind his interest in this one human? That it was a logical motivation, McCoy did not doubt. Heíd seen Sarek accept Kirk as a son.* Under Vulcan common law, Jim __was__ Sarekís adopted son . . . and brother to Spock. But the why of it escaped the comprehension of a simple, country doctor.

From somewhere far, far away Kirk heard Spockís voice reverberating within his head, displacing a part of the terror. The voice seemed to grow louder and, gently, almost hypnotically repeated: Warder, is it permitted to allow your Liege to suffer even a momentary discomfort? No, My Liege, Kirk answered the voice silently. Warder, your uncontrolled turmoil is affecting me. Focus then on the training . . . let us remember the training together . . ."

The fiery heat seemed to permeate his very bones as they walked together among the rising foothills. These past weeks on Vulcan had added yet another dimension to the bond between the two men. They had shared adventures, traumas, responsibilities, a devoted friendship in what had been lonely existences--and now they shared a family and a heritage. Kirk suddenly knew that Spock was also thinking of this. The human, as always, wanted to put into words what this past month here had meant to him.

"Spock, I . . ."

"It is necessary that you always remember to use a proper form when addressing me during

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the time of the Warder-Liege Compact."

"I ask your pardon, Sir."

"It is granted. You may speak."

"Sir, I have been wondering--doesnít a Vulcan ever balk at these restrictions, at always being required to follow his Liegeís judgment, at owing him 100% respectful obedience? Even in Starfleet, officers are urged to display some initiative, but a Warder must show nothing but total subordination to anotherís will." Kirk suddenly smiled, the lighthearted sunny expression which he knew others usually found so contagious. "What would happen if a Warder refused an order, if, for example, I refused to go on this eight mile mountain-climbing hike in the middle of the afternoon heat to visit a tokiel school? What if I refused to take another step?"

"A Vulcan would not Ďbalkí at performing what was expected of him for he has been trained to understand the special nature and purpose of the Warder-Liege Relationship, which is an artificial, highly complex system within the confines of which the Designate __must__ function. This method has evolved as the most efficacious, and thus the most logical manner in which to train a neophyte in the Disciplines which he is required to know, and in Tsaichrani. A Vulcan would not balk at the constraints for he can appreciate how our rituals relate to objective reality. He would realize that in a living, growing, changing culture--Tsaichrani--there is a need for established continuities. A ritual, or a tradition which has remained exactly as it was for millennia, facilitates the maintenance of equilibrium in a society." He paused, then added, "And if you refused to accompany me to the Enclosure-of-the-Study-of-the-Tokiel, since the discipline involved is vital, I would, of course, simply carry you there."

The Captain looked incredulous. "Spock!" Then he recovered smoothly. "Liege, may I respectfully suggest that carrying me there does not answer my question."

"Specify."

"Well, itís one thing for a Vulcan to overpower a human, but what if the Warder were a Vulcan and the Liege therefore did not have the physical advantage that you have over a Terran?"

"A logical question."

Kirk looked gratified. "Thank you, My Liege.

"The outcome would probably be the same. A Liege is usually older than his Student, for it takes many years of study to acquire expertise in the Disciplines. Since he is older, his strength is greater. A Vulcan, unlike a human, does not reach his physical peak until he has lived 43.2 solar years, so he would still be possessed of a physical advantage over his Warder. But not, of course, as pronounced as my advantage over you."

Kirk nodded ruefully. "I see. You are now even stronger than you were when I first came aboard the __Enterprise__?"

"13.4% stronger, to be exact."

Spock found himself almost smiling again now at Kirkís thoughtful, "Oh."

Kirkís mind-scene suddenly altered and he found himself in the spacious room in his home on Vulcan which had been fitted with the accouterments necessary for a private gymnasium. Each piece of equipment had been carefully chosen for maximum benefits, yet the austere effect was interrupted by the natural waterfall which served as the gymís shower. Kirk felt the sensuous pleasure of the flowing water on his hot skin. It seemed to restore the strength to his enervated, utterly exhausted body. Not for the first time, he wondered what else was in that water besides H2O. Another half minute, thought Kirk, of that workout, and I would have collapsed.

"My Liege, I am glad that you ordered a physical-training program to balance the mental-training, but may I respectfully inquire why you chose three hours of it every day?"

Spock briskly toweled dry his sinewy form as he answered, seeming as fresh as before they began the vigorous, long workout. "The Vulcan belief in the connection and interaction between mind and body is quite vital to our system. Total control of oneís body is a desired end, and you understand the necessity for this. In addition, your habits over the past eight years made it necessary. As McCoy has pointed out repeatedly, it would be advantageous for you to discard excess poundage. With your diet here, and your training, you appear now as you should. How do you feel?"

"Hauling around twenty less pounds, I feel much better, My Liege. Stronger. More--vibrant. But, may I inquire, you mentioned this morning that you were setting up an __additional__ daily hour of practice. I donít think I could manage one minute more of your idea of a workout. Practice what, My Liege?"

"It is necessary to establish optimum routines for meeting many of the emergency conditions which we frequently encounter during the voyages of the __Enterprise__. You have learned that one of the Disciplines is to attempt to foresee, through logical projection, any misfortune that can befall us and then to take all steps to prepare to meet it. If its prevention is unavoidable, it is necessary then to be prepared to cope with the situation."

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"Yes, but what has that to do with a training practice here in the gym?"

"Do you remember when Sylvia transmuted herself into that giant cat2, and how we escaped the cell it was about to enter?"

Kirk shivered, remembering. "I do, My Liege."

"Then you will also recall that the attempt almost did not succeed. You did not move with the required alacrity, and when you jumped up and I reached down to pull you up and out of the room below, it should have been a smooth, facile maneuver. It would have been so if the necessity for this type of escape had been anticipated and our methods of extricating ourselves rehearsed. But it was not. Therefore, we will begin with practicing that particular maneuver until it can be done in only a few seconds. Then we will discuss and formulate other methods to increase the odds of surviving the many risks which we can anticipate in a Starfleet career."

Spock paused for a few moments and then began to speak again in a cool, even tone. "Since we have been discussing the risks associated with our work in Starfleet, we shall now consider a highly illogical tendency on your part. On many occasions, you have chosen to jeopardize yourself when the person most capable of assuming the risk was myself. Thus, it has often been necessary for me to extricate you from the difficulties you encountered, sometimes only moments away from your highly probably demise. It is illogical for you to assume risks when I am usually the better equipped to accomplish the task. It is also illogical to subject another to unnecessary disquietude. If you acted in this totally illogical manner on Vulcan, you would be severely reprimanded, and if the Warder-Liege Compact were in effect, you would be punished according to custom. However, on board the __Enterprise__, a First Officer is powerless to stop his Captain, and I must obey you. It is my . . . hopeful anticipation . . . that the training you are receiving here will serve to nullify such irrational behavior in the future."

Kirk took a long sidewise look at the tall Vulcan. Irrational behavior, indeed! In his heart, Kirk was certain that heíd always acted as a man should. He filed the matter away for future discussion. He would have to learn enough Vulcan logic to prove that emotion is logical--at least for humans.

Secure in the knowledge that, one day, he would teach his Liege a thing or two, Kirk let Spockís mind guide him back to the penetrating peace that seemed to exude from the very walls of DíRíHiset, Spockís ancestral home. Together they explored the nature of that peace. Spock knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it--this was one of the primary ingredients of that inexplicable Peace of Vulcan.

Kirk felt himself sinking into deeper relaxation as they recalled the evening hours when the family would gather in the shaded garden after the evening meal. And, as he had noticed that last night in the Kirton Tsu restaurant on Babel, when Sarek and Spock were resolving an intriguing problem, Spock would come vibrantly alive under his fatherís guidance. He would seem almost as an eager boy, imbibing the wisdom and experience of Sarekís century of living.

His reverie dropped away when Sarek addressed him.

"James, the __Enterprise__ will return for you and Spock in 2.4 days. You have learned much here these past two months, and I am well pleased. When you return here, the second phase of your training will commence, after which TíPau and I must again discuss the problem of a marriage for you."

Kirk was washed with shock and, for once, was totally speechless. Finally, he managed to say, "A--marriage, Sir?"

"Indeed. You have studied the statistics and figures involved in the Vulcan Population Curve. Would it not be fitting for you, the human brother of a Kataytikh of the First Realm, to marry a woman of Vulcan and bring forth new life to live the Philosophy of Nome? There is so much you can show us, teach us. The child of such a marriage would have infinite possibilities before it. The effects on the Vulcan-Federation Problem alone could be significant indeed."

Sarek almost smiled at the stunned expression on his younger sonís face. "The problem requires much thought. There is no hurry. We will discuss it when you return here for the Ceremony-of-Naming."

Sarek turned so that he was now facing both his sons. "Tomorrow the present Warder-Liege Arrangement ends, since it is not meet for a Starship Captain to be under the control of his First Officer while in command of the ship. Although, James, I suggest that you should defer more readily to Spockís wisdom. Spock, your brother needs to learn much more. His potential is as yet unrealized."

Spock met his Fatherís eyes.

"Spock, if an emergency of sufficient magnitude arises, you may re-invoke the Warder-Liege Control. You will be aware of the proper time."

Oh, Spock, he __knew__ all along that I was a latent telepath! Certainly he knew, Jim. And the time has come, my Brother, my student. I order you to return to Vulcan with me and to receive the training necessary for a telepath to survive. And now you must try even harder to control your condition for it has been causing me suffering. That is not permitted, Student.

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You must assist me in my efforts to help you. I beg forgiveness, My Liege. I will try . . . .

After what seemed half an hour of motionless concentration, the tension began to dissipate and the rigid, double statue melted back into flesh and blood. Then, abruptly, all turgor went out of the pair and Spock collapsed over a limp body that might have been dead.

Instantly, McCoy pounced on his diagnostic panel. "Nurse, get Dr. Mbenga in here. Hurry!"

She left and McCoy squinted at the readings anxiously. At least one of them was still alive, but with two bodies in the scannerís field, there was no way of telling which lived and which had just died.

McCoy heard Mbengaís steps and snapped, "Help me get Spock onto the other bed. Probably some sort of Vulcan trance."

The big black doctor heaved the slender Vulcan body onto a shoulder and laid it out on the adjacent bed . . . where, just hours before, TíAniyeh had died. McCoy snapped the diagnostic panel on and went back to Kirk.

The human was still alive--after a fashion. Body functions were almost low enough to qualify as suspended-animation. McCoy swung the encephalograph unit over the Captainís head, eyed the readout, and said jubilantly, "Youíve done it, Spock! Iíve never seen Jim look so relaxed."

"Yes, Doctor," said the now conscious Vulcan, "but for how long? We must reach Vulcan--soon."

"Well, that Vulcan tranquility Jimís been murmuring about seems to have done a lot of good . . ." he eyed Spock quizzically, ". . . for both of you. No, donít get up. Youíre in for a complete physical. Nurse, life-support for the Captain. Dr. Mbenga, you can start by running a dermal-optic on our First Officer and then a full set of psych profiles."

"I donít have time . . ." protested Spock.

"You have," said McCoy acidly, "at least seven weeks. I only hope Jim has that long."

Spock took a deep breath and lay back on the pillow, expelling the moist, cold air slowly, resigning himself to yet another of McCoyís dissections. By the next time he breathed, he was sound asleep . . . the only condition in which Federation instruments could get an intelligible tracing of the Vulcan brain waves.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

The briefing room was silent except for the quiet thrumming of the computer and the breathing of the three occupants. Spock was seated at the computer console at the end of the table, McCoy and Scotty faced each other across the tri-view screen. Theyíd been there for some time, engaged in a pointless, circular discussion, a discussion theyíd held nine times in the last three and a half weeks.

Scotty said, "But what are you going to tell Starfleet Command when we turn up home without the location of that raiderís base? Isnít that what we really came out here for?"

"That, Engineer, is my worry, not yours," said Spock wearily. Privately, he was on the verge of making a pact with himself. If Starfleet ever promoted him to Captain and gave him a crew of humans to command, heíd resign on the spot rather than spend ten years engaged in this type of useless __xsjugkrar__. The Vulcan slang term was the only one he knew sufficiently damning to apply to what the humans were doing.

McCoy said, "No, it isnít your worry, Spock. Itís the Captainís. But youíre going to have to explain to him why youíve aborted his mission without his orders."

Scotty added, "Would the Captain abandon the mission for the sake of one crew member? Has he ever regarded his own life as more valuable than anybody elseís?"

McCoy tapped the table. "And it was a Vulcan ship that was attacked by these people. Vulcan wants and needs that planet out there. Why, the colony would pay for itself three times over within a decade just on pharmaceuticals alone."

"Gentlemen, I am well aware of these facts. And you are aware of my cognizance. Would you prefer to continue the mission and let the Captain die?"

They shook their heads and Spock continued, "During the Captainís incapacity, I am commanding this vessel . . . and her destination is a Command Decision."

"Based on what, Spock?" asked McCoy. "Logic or emotion?"

The First Officer rose. "I see no reason to sit here and be insulted by . . ."

"Wait," said Scotty, "he didnít mean anything like that. Sit down, mon, and letís

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finish what we came here for."

Eyes fixed on the table, McCoy said, "I didnít intend to be insulting, Spock. Itís my medical judgment thatís confused. Youíve changed . . . all your graphs . . ."

"I thought I explained that, Doctor. The effect of our experience with the dze-utí and the subsequent . . ."

"No," said McCoy, tapping the table in emphasis, "that does not explain it. Even Mbenga agrees . . ."

"Mbenga knows practically nothing."

"There are physiological changes too, Spock, you canít deny that. And we arenít certain what they indicate."

"Iíve told you itís nothing that wonít clear up with time. Not even an inconvenience."

"And," said McCoy, "youíve __told__ us that itís the cumulative effect of para-psychological events, what is called in humans, esper-shock. It may be trivial in a Vulcan, but that doesnít mean itís trivial for you."

"I do not find myself incapacitated . . ."

"But," interrupted Scotty, "How do __we__ know?"

"Yes," said McCoy, "how __do__ we know what this decision of yours is based on? Iím no expert in reading Vulcan dermal-optics, but even I can see the increased instability . . ."

"Doctor," said Spock reproachfully, "my Stability Index has come __down__ to the Vulcan average, which is still a good seventy-two per cent above the human average . . . and some seventy per cent above Starfleet requirements."

"True," said the Doctor, "but it is the significance of the change that bothers us. Your family has a uniformly higher than average Stability Index, so the low reading is abnormal for you."

"For my __Fatherís__ family, yes."

"Oh, this is hopeless!" McCoy leaned back, letting the chair sway slightly. "We have miles of computer tape on you, but weíve no idea how to interpret it!"

Spock corrected, "Not Ďmilesí, Doctor, five thousand . . ."

Scotty interrupted, "Never mind. Just give us one good reason we should ignore it all and trust your judgment. Maybe the only help for the Captain is back there!" He waved a hand toward the aft bulkhead.

Spock corrected his line by forty degrees. "More . . . that . . . direction, Engineer."

McCoy snorted impatiently. "Spock, I donít know of any living being who could go through the series of systemic shocks youíve sustained, suffer repetitive esper overloads, and come out of it in mint condition. It would be no discredit to you to declare yourself unfit to . . ."

"I would not hesitate," said Spock, "to relinquish command if there were some reason I might be unfit. But there is no way I could justify doing so at this time."

McCoy slapped the table with an open palm, half rising from his chair. "It looks like a clear case of clinical fatigue to me."

The First Officer sighed hugely and rubbed his forehead with one hand, a singularly human gesture seldom seen before. Presently, he said, "It is a private matter, Doctor, and none of your concern."

"Itís my concern if it involves the safety of this ship or the sanity of her Captain . . . or her Commanding Officer."

"Very well, since you insist on invoking regulations."

McCoy frowned. "Iím afraid Iím going to have to, Spock, much as I hate to do it. My medical log shows certain entries; I have to account for them. And I have to act on them."

The Vulcan seemed to inspect a point in mid air, halfway between him and the table top, as he said, "The changes youíve noted in my psychological profiles are due, in part, to the link which I am still maintaining between the Captain and myself."

"But," said Scotty, "isnít that against Star Fleet regulations, for a shipís commander to be . . ."

"That regulation, Mr. Scott, was made to prevent races like the Schillians from attaining Command positions. It was born of human xenophobia and will die in the light of human reason, along with a number of other highly questionable routine practices."

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"But," said McCoy, "it is a regulation that is now in effect."

"We donít know that," said Spock.

"But, itís still in effect aboard this ship," argued McCoy.

"All right," said Spock wearily, "if Dr. McCoy removes me, that puts you in command, Mr. Scott. What will you do? Continue the mission?"

Scotty examined his hands carefully, then laid them on the table. Very quietly, he said, "No. I guess not. All things being equal, I guess Iíd stay on this course."

"And what would you do if, suddenly . . ."

The intercom whistled. "Mbenga to Mr. Spock."

"Spock here."

"I think you and Dr. McCoy had better have a look at the Captain. He seems restless."

"On our way. Spock out."

"What do you suppose . . . ?" said McCoy, rising.

Spock stood and faced Scotty across the long, shiny table. "All right, Engineer. The situation has changed suddenly. Youíre in command. The Captain is dying . . . has only forty hours to live. The Science Officerís own life is inextricably tied to the Captainís. Lose one, you lose both. Forty hours, Engineer. What are you going to do? Quickly! A command decision!"

Scotty looked stricken. "I . . . I . . . suppose thereís nothing I can do . . ."

"Youíre in command, and youíre going to let your Captain __and__ your First Officer die because of an obsolete Starfleet regulation which makes my advice illegal?"

"You mean," said Scotty hopefully, "thereís a way out?"

Spock turned to McCoy. "Now itís your decision. Whoís commanding this ship?"

McCoy cocked his head to one side and raised one eyebrow. "How do you know . . . ." He shook his head. "Youíre just making up a crisis that doesnít exist."

"You believe that, Doctor? Then go examine the Captain. I __know__ because itís happening to me, too."

McCoy swallowed hard, staring at the graphs on the tri-view screens.

Spock said, "We must act now if we are to act at all, Doctor. Who is commanding this ship?"

Tightly, McCoy said, "You are, Mr. Spock."

The Vulcan hit the intercom stud. "Spock to bridge."

"Bridge. Sulu here."

"Change course for Schillia, Mr. Sulu. Lay it in as it is computed. Iíll be in sickbay. Spock out."

Without waiting for the humans, Spock strode out the door. Thirty-one hours to Schillia. They might just make it. A poor second choice was better than a non-existent first one.

On the first leg of the journey, they were pushing warp ten for several hours, but then, as they entered the more congested Federation lanes they had to slow down. Spock passed the whole thirty-one hours beside the Captainís bed, grave lines etched deeply into his face as he strove to ease his friendís discomfort.

They came into standard orbit around the sparkling blue and green planet on a Priority Three Emergency clearance and it was only minutes later that they received beam-down co-ordinates. The beam-down point was within the largest, and greenest of the shoreline buildings of Schilliaís planetary capital. With remarkably little difficulty, Spock had received permission for his group to enter the Temple of Serenity, the Schillian version of a hospital, cathedral and parliament all rolled into one.

At the moment that Spock, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy materialized, the Hall of the Silent Fountain was deserted. Immediately, Spock pulled out his communicator to check with the __Enterprise__, as McCoy knelt beside Kirkís stretcher, distrustful of the effects of beam-down on the weakened human body.

As the First Officer snapped his communicator shut again, McCoy looked up querulously. "Where is everybody? I thought there was supposed to be a team of experts here to meet us.

"Restrain yourself, Doctor. Thereís plenty of time."

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McCoy snorted, but rose and looked around the high-domed room. It was noon outside and the sun shone through the semi-translucent dome casting warm, green light on everything. In the center of the rotunda was a large pool of deep green water. To McCoyís eyes, it looked bottomless. From the dome directly above the pool, translucent filaments were stretched tautly down to the ornate rim of the pool, forming a cone. Along the filaments at irregular intervals, drops of crystal clear water slid silently into the pool like slow, orderly raindrops in conical cascade. The air was warm and humid with the heady scent of tropical ocean, lightly laced with Schillian tinglespice. And it was quiet . . . almost too quiet for comfort.

Suddenly, the placid fountain waters erupted and spewed forth a sleek dull-gray Schillian dressed only in a body leotard. He levered himself onto the wide lip of the pool with casual grace and McCoy watched fascinated as he paused to convert to his air-breathing system, retaining only a bit of seawater in the bottom of his complex lungs to comfort his gill tissues till his next immersion.

With a discrete cough, the Schillian drew his first breath of air, then parted the curtain of filaments and stepped out beside the land dwellers, somehow managing to convey the impression that they were the victims of some awkward disability for which he didnít blame them.

At that instant a second Schillian emerged from the pool somewhat less gracefully and hastened toward the group. "Spock, I came as quickly as I could." He knelt beside the Captain. "Dr. McCoy, how is the Captain?"

With a little shock, McCoy recognized Commander Ssarsun, the Schillian who had saved Spockís life almost five years ago. The Starfleet Security Officer was now the slightly bluer gray of the maturing Schillian and had shed the plumpness of early youth, but he had the same crisp accent so unexpected of his race. McCoy said, "Uh . . . heís in bad shape. Critical, Iíd say. Spock says your people can . . ."

"Yes," said Ssarsun, rising. "I think we can help." He gestured to his companion. "This is Elder Zzlviash. Heís the Planetary Resident in Alien Psiochometry."

McCoy nodded. "Pleased to meet you, Doctor."

Zzlviash blinked his nictitating membranes in greeting. "May your pleasure increase with deepening acquaintance."

Ssarsun said, "The Elder understands that the Captain has been under your care for many years, Dr. McCoy. Perhaps you can explain the current problem in detail?"

McCoy gestured to Spock. "Our Science Officer knows more about this than I do. Iím a psychologist, not a psichometrist."

The Schillian turned to Spock, who stood with downcast eyes, as if wishing he could sink into the floor.

Ssarsun said gently, "Spock, you need not shoulder guilt. It would have come sooner or later, and in truth, sooner is better than later."

"But," Spock met the veiled Schillian eyes, "This was not the natural fruition we expected."

"Perhaps," said Zzlviash in the blurred accent more usual among Schillians, "we would learn faster in total link?"

Stepping between Zzlviash and Spock, Ssarsun objected vehemently, "Elder, no! Spock is __Vulcan__ . . ."

"But," said the Psichometrist, "the total link will be required since Spock is holding nerve-blocks for the Captain."

Ssarsun looked from Spock to the recumbent form and back. Then he said, "Ah, I see." He raised all his eyelids in the equivalent of a grave frown. "Spock, you understand what will be required of you?"

"Yes. I do." The Vulcan turned to Zzlviash. "But will you not require an additional operative? Your Varate technique . . ."

Zzlviash interrupted, "Ssarsun will serve. He has considerable experience with both humans and Vulcans."

"I was chosen," added Ssarsun, "because I have extensive knowledge of this particular type of esper-shock. The latent telepath developing in post maturity . . ."

"Not __developing__," corrected Spock. "His barriers were destroyed."

Zzlviash stepped around Ssarsun, offering Spock his hand, fingers spread to reveal the pearly membranes still glistening wetly. "Weíre wasting valuable time. Spock, come!"

Spock retreated one step, shaking his head. "No, not like that. Allow me to bring you

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both in, one at a time."

Zzlviash dropped his hand, blinking assent. "Very well, but hasten."

Spock nodded, all business now. "Try to phase to me. You are familiar with the Vulcan melding technique, Elder?"

Zzlviash blinked, "Yes. I shall follow your guidance."

Spock raised his hands, turning first to Ssarsun. The Starfleet Officer had been raised in the interracial community on Vulcan and was unusually well versed in the peculiarities of the Vulcan mind. He allowed Spockís fingers to encircle his skull, lighting briefly, searching out certain brain centers and firmly rejecting others. The Vulcan mode was superficial compared to the usual Schillian contact, but it would suffice for the task in hand.

An instant later, Ssarsun relinquished his place to Zzlviash, who bore the Vulcanís touch without a trace of the distaste which was practically a racial reflex. He could not have become Resident Alien Psichometrist without adequate training.

For several minutes, the three telepaths stood linked in silent consultation. McCoy knew that beneath the calm exterior, a rapid-fire exchange of information was taking place. He felt suddenly, acutely aware of being psi-null. And, although he knew he was close to the human average, he felt somehow deficient . . . disabled . . . yes, and even a bit jealous.

Then, in unison, the three telepaths moved to kneel beside the Captainís stretcher, linking hands across the body for all the world like spiritualists conducting a seance over the recently dead. The circle swayed back and forth gently as if blown by some invisible wind, but other than that, there was nothing to see. McCoy knew that, in theory, what they were doing was capturing Kirkís mind in a web of forces and weaving a wall of protection about him that would preserve the integrity of his personality until he could be trained to handle his new sensitivity.

It was strictly an emergency measure, Spock had explained. It would still be necessary to take the Captain to Vulcan where a group of experts would train him as they had other members of normally psi-blind races.

Before the Federation developed such interplanetary co-operation, such individuals went into a prolonged withdrawal and eventually died. If for nothing else, thought McCoy, the Federation should be preserved for this one function alone. Just before theyíd left on this mission, the Federation had undertaken a complete restructuring of the Constitution, and McCoy wondered just how far theyíd gone with that. Would they have to testify against Spock at a Court Martial?

McCoy definitely hoped not. What Spock had done had been right, even if it was illegal and against all regulations.

At length the three psi operatives sat back on their heels. Zzlviash said, "It is a great Pleasure to work with one of your training, Spock. I thank you for the opportunity."

"You are most gracious, Elder," replied Spock in a manner so courtly that McCoy scarcely recognized the Vulcan.

Ssarsun broke in, "Should not the Captain stay here on Schillia to learn of himself?"

"He would be most welcome," said Zzlviash. "I would personally see that he is well instructed and trained."

"Your generosity is easily a match for your graciousness, Elder. But the Captain will be going to Vulcan with us."

At this point, McCoy saw that Kirkís eyes had flickered open. He knelt reading his medical scanner, as Kirk said, ". . . some kind of a vicious nightmare, Mr. Spock. I seem to be all right now, though. Put that away, Bones!"

"Jim! Arenít you even going to ask where you are?"

As if just thinking of that, Kirk raised his head to look around. "Uh." He surveyed the two Schillians, the fountain, the green light. "Uh. How did we get to Schillia?" Then he brushed vaguely as if clearing cobwebs from his eyes. "And what are you doing to my head?"

"We are holding the nightmares at bay," said Ssarsun.

"Until we can get you to Dakainya, Captain, where they will teach you to guard your own mind."

"Dakainya?" said Zzlviash. "Why, thatís the best of the Vulcan schools. There is rarely space for an emergency student there."

Spock nodded. "It has already been arranged."

"It has?" said Kirk.

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"Yes, Captain," said Spock. "All will be in readiness by the time we arrive."

Kirk blinked slowly as if he still had trouble focusing his eyes. "I wish somebody had consulted me!"

"There will be time to discuss it later."

"Spockís right, Jim," said McCoy. "I think you should try to sleep. Weíll be beaming up now."

"Yes, Captain. Sleep would be good," said Ssarsun. "But Spock, Iíd like a word with you before you go."

Ssarsun beckoned the Vulcan aside while McCoy induced the Captain to lay back on the stretcher. Zzlviash murmured his goodbyes and disappeared into the pool with hardly a ripple, leaving McCoy tending a sleeping human and watching Ssarsun and Spock pacing slowly toward a darkened archway at the far side of the rotunda.

The Schillian said, "You come to me at a time of great need, Spock. I would ask of you service perhaps greater than you would care to render."

"You have served my Captain generously. I cannot do less for you."

"I speak of a different type of service. I ask your aid in the name of your Fathersí Fathers."

"Then tell me of your problem."

"It is difficult for me to speak of this in words, but I feel your aversion to further mental . . . invasion . . . at this time."

"I apologize. I cannot control . . ."

"I understand. The Vulcan mind has need of withdrawal. And I must offer my deepest condolences. I must take an improper liberty and point out that TíAniyehís sacrifice would have been your own had the roles been reversed."

"You speak a truth I had not considered. I am not offended; I thank you. But do not tell the Captain that she died in her efforts to protect him. He would feel guilty and be unable to penetrate the emotion to the greater truth."

"Agreed." The Schillian paused, collecting his thoughts, selecting words. "I come now upon a time of life when I must choose between two paths. To cleave unto my mates and devote myself to the affairs of family, or to remain forever apart. I have returned here, at this time, to consult the Oracle. But the matter is complicated by two things.

"First, I was not raised within the lifestream of my people. I am not Vulcan, but then, neither am I wholly of Schillia. Secondly, the reorganization of Starfleet has begun. I have been offered the Captaincy of a Starship--a post never before held by a Schillian. It would be a good thing, for Starfleet, for Schillia, for the Federation, to have such a Captain. And there is none other so qualified as I. I have spent the last four years training for this. Now that the time has come, I do not know if it would be good for __me__. And the Oracle cannot help. Do you understand how the Oracle works?"

"It is based on the racial mind-link among all Schillians, is it not?"

"Yes. The Racial Summation can be tapped by the Elders in such a way that our limited, individual precognizance can be focused on one individualís far future."

"What is it you would have of me?"

"The Elders say that since I am not wholly of the Lifestream, I must bring one who shares that part of my other Life so that a balance can be achieved . . . much as we just did for the Captain. There is none who suits this role better than you. You and I are both products of mixed traditions, and we share devotion to Starfleet. No ordinary Vulcan could endure the deep contact of the Oracle. It must be a kataytikh."

"I see." Spock walked on gravely silent.

"Is it not written," said Ssarsun, "that the kataytikh shall be a never failing source of strength?"

"True. But it is also written that when strength is given the giver must refresh himself at the First Source."

"Yes. You have undergone enormous strains lately. You would be constrained to set a retirement date . . . and Starfleet would lose a Vulcan Captain to gain a Schillian one. Hardly an equitable trade. Iím sorry. I am not entitled to ask such a sacrifice."

"The pattern of my life was set when the Kraith was stolen. The time for my retirement would come soon anyway. Also, there are debts which cannot be reckoned this side of Eternity.

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No, Ssarsun, you are entitled. We must remain accountable for the effects of exposure to Tsaichrani on any resident alien."

"Then you will come and consult the Oracle with me?"

"I will try, though I do not know how effective I can be. I, myself, am very close to a state of . . ."

"I know. But there is healing power in the Oracle, Spock, a power which may strengthen you, if youíll open yourself fully to the rapport."

Spock stopped and turned to look back at McCoy and Kirk, tiny figures in the distance.

Ssarsun said, "It wonít take long. Come, the Oracle awaits us. It will be for you a Joy to pale the glory of the Greatest Joy . . . a blending of differences and a rejoicing in them such as you have never known."

Spock sighed and looked at the amphibian who was practically jumping up and down with excitement. He found it distasteful to speak the Formula of Service to one in such a condition, but he steeled himself and said, "I live to preserve the past for the future . . . you live to mold the present . . ."

"Spock, no!" Ssarsun interrupted. "I have not Affirmed the Continuity. I cannot accept . . ."

"What you are asking of me is a depth-meld attainable only within the Affirmation. Accept less and you are committing murder."

"Very well. But not here, not like this. There is another way. Come."

The amphibian led the way through the darkened archway to where five Elders of Schillia sat half immersed in flowing seawater, joined to the Totality of the racial mind to create the Oracle of Schillia. What transpired then was not spoken of by either suppliant for more than one hundred standard years.

Captainís Log, First Officer Spock recording: Stardate 1078.6. On course from Schillia to Vulcan. We have on board Commander Ssarsun of Starfleet Command, who is aiding me in maintaining neural shielding for Captain Kirk, who is still suffering greatly from esper-shock. When we reach Vulcan, Commander Ssarsun will report to Star Base for assignment. Commander Scott will take the __Enterprise__ to be rebuilt and I shall remain for a time on Vulcan with the Captain. Confirmation of official requests pursuant to these plans expected momentarily.

THE END

________________________

*. Spockís Nemesis, KRAITH IV, in __Kraith__ __Collected__, Volume 3.

1. Federation Centennial, KRAITH IIIA, in __Kraith__ __Collected__, Volume 2.

2. __Catspaw__

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AUTHORíS PREFACE

Here starts what promises to be a long and fruitful collaboration. What you are about to read is the result of the concert of two minds, though the actual words were drafted by Jacqueline Lichtenberg. In the not too distant future, it is hoped that you will read more words drafted by Sondra Marshak---and if you can detect a difference, I/we hope you will tell us about it since it would be Most Instructive.

The current Story, __Pilgrimage__, is a combination of material that had been pruned out of Kraith VIís outline with an idea that occurred to Sondra as a method of fixing what is wrong with Kraith I-F, __Ssarsunís__ __Argument__. (BABEL 4 or KRAITH COLLECTED, vol. 2.)

For technical reasons, Sondraís idea would not have worked in __Ssarsunís__ __Argument__. But I liked the idea itself and suggested she turn it into a story of its own which she would write. For those of you who donít know Sondra---well, suffice it to say that when it comes to logical argument, Spock had just better watch out if he goes up against her! (I lost.)

Sondraís idea was, basically, that the Other Spock of __Ssarsunís__ __Argument__ who had lost his Kirk would not--__could__ not--pass up an opportunity to get Kirk back. It was her idea that the Other Spock would not stop at temporary kidnapping to get a chance to convince our Kraith Kirk to stay with him in this alternate Kraith universe. Then Sondraís incredible mind went to work on enriching and deepening the symphony of conflicts between one Kirk and two lonely and desperate Spocks.

Into this situation I brought the material I had been planning to include in Kraith VI (until I learned enough about plotting to realize It Couldnít Be Done.) That material is essentially the intimate view of Vulcan which you glimpse through Kirkís eyes at Dakainya. The opening at Dakainya was originally written for Kraith VI and then discarded as it became obvious that it would be impossible to move the scene of action from Dakainya out to the special quadrant where __Nemesis__ took place without ruining the structure of the story. Furthermore, Kirk had to have his adventures on Vulcan before going into the situation awaiting him in VI.

I had planned for Kirkís Vulcan education to soak up about a year of his life. Several of Sondraís brainstorms later, it seems it is going to take Kirk several years to extricate himself from increasingly complex entanglements with Vulcan women, Vulcan politics, Vulcan customs, and Spockís Warder-Liege Control. It makes for several hundred thousand words of good drama if any of us have the courage to publish it. Weíve been talking in a semi-facetious way about a volume of Kraith for Grups Only! Otherwise, thereís going to have to be some hatchet editing done!

Some of you may be wondering what ever happened to Kraith V-A, V-B, V-C. Actually, they havenít been written yet. They were to have been done by Pat Zotti (and may yet be, you never know,) but to date none of that material has come to light. As you recall, Kraith V, __Spockís__ __Decision__, ends with Ssarsun embarking on a career of Starship Captain. In Kraith VI he is already an experienced and celebrated Captain. V-A, V-B, & V-C are the stories which detail his adventures in between.

Though he hasnít appeared much yet, Ssarsun is a major character in Kraith, as I tried to indicate with the title of the first story devoted entirely to him, __Ssarsunís__ __Argument__. The Kraith there that emerges in __Federation__ __Centennial__ (KRAITH COLLECTED, vol. 2)--the human/nonhuman dichotomy, can be explored very neatly through Ssarsunís adventures. During Kirkís training period and while the __Enterprise__ is being refitted and rebuilt for this special mission of Kraith VI, the rest of the crew is on leave, in advanced training courses in the Academy (or teaching there), etc. These three stories, V-A to V-C, were intended to cover both Ssarsunís exploits during this time and McCoyís personal life. However, the author who finally does fill those slots may change that somewhat. We shall see.

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Creating Kraith is always an adventure into uncharted stellar regions. The conjunction and interaction of minds in Kraith is as unpredictable as an explosion but a heck of a lot more fun. We all try to give each other enough room to explode in, and as yet we have been hard put to find a story idea that canít be incorporated into Kraith.

With __Pilgrimage__, weíve begun to open up the alternate universes, and (though thereís no structured numbering system for them yet) we hope to see those who disagree with one or another Kraith premise using these alternate realities as fictional stages on which to construct their arguments. For example, what would have happened if (as Devra Langsam suggests) TíRruel had not died because McCoy found a way to remove and later re-implant the fetus? Or what kind of Vulcan would exist if the entire theses of __In__ __Defense__ __of__ __TíYuzeti__ were wrong and Vulcans not only could but did use contraceptives?

Many adventures await us before Kraith VI, and sometimes I wonder if weíll ever get there. According to the original plan, VI was to be the story of Spockís final selection of the mate with whom he would live happily Ďever afterí and by whom he would have children. (With Sondra along for the ride, though, things may get a bit hairy there.) Kraith VII is a complex novel set entirely on Vulcan and pits Kirk and Spock against Romulan-instigated germ warfare. TíPau dies in that story, and TíUriamne and Spock clash in the final and ultimate confrontation. But that wasnít enough for Sondra. She had to have repeated and infinitely complex battles fought between TíUriamne and Spock before that ultimate, decisive clash. Sondra made TíUriamne into a Character--a character that youíll never forget.

Sondra and Joan Winston started kicking around some of these ideas, and as a result Joan has a couple more short pieces to contribute (short but incredibly intense) to Kraith. Between the three of us, at this date (September 1973) we have a lineup of titles, about 100,000 words drafted, and at least that much outlined, concerning Kirkís sojourns on Vulcan.

The tentative lineup of titles goes like this: Kraith V-E, __The__ __Maze__, by Joan Winston. Kraith V-F; __The__ __Punishment__. Kraith V-G, __TíLelís__ __Option__ (TíLel is a name which appears briefly in __Pilgrimage__ and Sondra said, "Whoís she?" and I said, "I donít know; you tell me." And so Sondra did! At the time I didnít know Sondra was a fan of Modesty Blaise. Now Kraith has an interstellar Modesty Blaise whoís also a Vulcan!) Kraith V-H, __Spockís__ __Defection__. Thatís right, Spock defects to the Romulans (apparently) and Kirk defies all Vulcan law and custom to go to his rescue. Youíll never believe the weapon Kirk uses to get loose from TíLelís custody! They say the inclined plane was the basic invention man had to make before he could invent the screw. Harumph!

Then thereís Kraith V-I, which occurs when Kirk gets back to Vulcan to face the music. ĎThis is Going to Hurt You More Than It Will Meí; or Kirkís Cure-All. After all of this dreadful adventuring, our two heroes were so frazzled we decided they deserved a rest. Hence, Kraith V-J, __Beom__ __Interlude__, where Kirk actually gets taken into the wheerr at Beom and Spock teaches him to make his own idlomputt. Spock has some ulterior motives involved in this--mostly Sondraís ulterior motives. The repercussions arenít over yet and Kirk has some legal ensnarlments to disentangle. (Ever seen a kitten wound up in a ball of yarn? Thatís the kind of plot Sondra turns.) So, Kraith V-J(1), which was simply supposed to resolve all the problems and get us back to Kraith VI.

Kraith V-J(1) is titled __Kirkís__ __Auction__. In __Pilgrimage__ you are going to read about two Spocks locking horns over one Kirk--now imagine Spock and Spockís older pure-Vulcan sister fighting for custody of Kirk. At this point, neither Sondra or I are quite certain whoís going to win. Itís a fairly even match. But we do know thereís another set of events growing out of Kirkís reaction to being the bone of contention. Kraith V-K, __Spockís__ __Temper__-__Tantrum__ (when Sondra drives a hero to the brink, she really drives him! Youíll see that tantrum--and youíll __believe__ it!) is the result.

And Sondra never lets go when she gets her teeth into a worthy hero. After Kraith VII, __Spockís__ __Challenge__, we have Kraith VII-A, __TíUriamneís__ __Decision__ (she made me start drafting that one on Chapter 4 and before I finished the story, she made me go on to some middle chapters of other stories that had occurred to us. But then genius is supposed to appear chaotic and slightly demented to mere ordinary mortals like us, isnít it? Anyway, if not, then sheís a terrific actress.) I just hope we can calm down enough to deliver half of the promise inherent in these planned stories. Weíre going to need all the help we can get from the other Kraith Creators, too, because just this segment between V and VI is turning out to be twice as long as the entire series was supposed to be. But we think itís twice as interesting--and 100 times better written and more intelligible. We are anxious for your response. Please write us.

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(RBW Note. Jacquelineís signature)

Signed Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Monsey, New York

September, 1973

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SPOCKíS PILGRIMAGE

 

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Spock.)

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JACQUELINE LICHTENBERG

SONDRA MARSHAK

 

PROLOGUE: THE PLAN

__That__ __woman__, thought Commodore Spock, __is__ __going__ __to__ __ruin__ __everything__.

He was seated in his office, looking out over the spreading fields of Starbase Vulcan. It was his Starbase, and he ran it the way heíd always run his laboratories on the __Enterprise__, efficiently. Now TíUriamne was turning that very efficiency against him. Among the immaculate records of Starbase Vulcan, his nefarious activities were more prominent than a pair of Vulcan ears on a Tellarite.

__Iíll__ __just__ __have__ __to__ __make__ __my__ __move__ __before__ __she__ __gets__ __here__ __with__ __that__ __auditing__ __crew__. He knew her excuse for auditing the Starbase records was flimsy. There wasnít enough increase in contraband traffic to warrant it. Besides, the contraband wasnít coming from his base. __Could__ __it__ __be__ __that__ __she__ __knows__?

He sat up, alarm galvanizing him to action, but checked himself in time. No, he wouldnít panic now. He would attempt to complete the plan. He went to the wall-safe, played out the combination, and extracted a stack of tapes, the visual records of his experiments. He knew them by heart.

As he held them in his hands, his mind raced through the scenes they contained, recorded through a window into that other universe where his grandfatherís name was Suvil, and a strange race of amphibian telepaths lived in some kind of communal race-mind from which they could not be separated alive.

The earliest scenes heíd managed to record were little more than a year after meeting the Schillian. Heíd used Kirkís Brain Circuitry Print to calibrate his instruments. It hadnít been difficult to obtain the tracings from the Deceased Records Officer. And his theory that the other Kirkís BCP would be a fair match for the deceased Kirkís Print and paid off handsomely.

His first attempts had produced only fragmentary flashes of contact, but they had been enough to confirm his belief that his alter-ego, the Spock whose grandfatherís name was Suvil, was some kind of demented sadist who seemed actually to enjoy torturing his most loyal comrade, his most valuable friend, his Captain Kirk.

That first glimpse had been in a dank, subterranean cavern, filled with people outlined by a ghastly blue light. All he could see clearly had been Kirk kneeling on the cold stone while Spock stood watching in obvious pleasure. The scene had slipped out of focus before he could identify the place.

His next contact had been an audio-Portion only. Kirk had been pleading with that Spock not to subject him to a public branding for having made an honest, human judgment. __A__ __public__ __branding__! Such barbarisms hadnít been practiced here since Surakís time. That Spock seemed to think adopting Kirk gave him the right to humiliate him, even before TíPau!

After that, heíd worked frantically to perfect his technique. Heíd recorded numerous scenes, most of them moments of excruciating torture for Kirk. Heíd developed the theory that the focusing device homed in on the emotional peaks. Heíd altered his adjustments until he

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began to pick up lesser peaks, and later, as his promotion to Commodore and appointment to Starbase Vulcan had made his secret research easier, heíd refined his equipment until he could pick up Kirk at will.

And now that he was almost ready to attempt to rescue Kirk by transferring him to this universe, TíUriamne was forcing his hand. Clicking the tapes together, Spock thought rapidly. He couldnít take her into his confidence just yet. She had been too strongly attracted to Kirk to be able to remain objective about this new Kirk, especially if he should refuse to believe they meant him no harm.

But later, after heíd convinced this new Jim Kirk that life here would suit him well, his half-sister would prove to be an invaluable ingredient in sustaining Kirkís happiness. In the meantime, she was a threat to his plan.

He strode to his desk and began issuing orders that would cover his absence. The crisp replies came from his Department Heads, "Aye, aye, Commodore." "Yes, Commodore." "Immediately, Commodore." "Affirmative, Commodore." "Acknowledged, Commodore." "Aye, Commodore, your aircar will be ready in twenty minutes."

He swiveled his chair to look out once more over the neat ranks of the Starbase buildings lying deceptively still under the arching red sky. His mind cast forward in time, trying to imagine what it would be like to stand once more beside Jim Kirk, to be once more half of a perfectly matched team.

As if heíd summoned a ghost, Kirkís presence seemed to fill the room. "Spock, the contortions of your logical mind never cease to amaze me! You knew exactly what you were doing every step of the way, didnít you?"

From somewhere deep inside him, yet also strangely far away, an answering echo tumbled toward the fading Kirk-presence. "Affirmative, Captain."

What Commodore Spock did not know was that both the Kirkian admiration and the quiet admission of culpability were not figments of his overly active human imagination, but rather an aborted exchange of actual, living thoughts. Not being trained in the arduous Vulcan science of mind, the Commodore naturally mistook the intrusion for his own thoughts. It was the mistake that would ultimately prove to be the source of his greatest difficulty.

For the moment, however, Spock unconsciously drew himself to his full height, staring unseeingly at the buildings below, and the lonely ground vehicle wending its way between them. It would only be a matter of hours now, and he would have the chance to earn that admiration again. He wasnít aware of drawing a deep breath and holding it as if savoring the rebirth of a sudden spring day.

 

CHAPTER ONE

DAKAINYA

Kirk woke.

His throat was dry when he swallowed. The inside of his nose hurt. The air smelled baked to a dusty dryness. It had the unmistakable flatness of desert in it.

He rolled over on the air mattress and glanced at his window. Heíd left it open and forgotten to couple it to the thermostat. It was easily ninety degrees in the small room he called home at Dakainya. He rolled off the bed and closed the window. Immediately, cool, moist air flooded the cubicle. He shivered and turned the thermostat up to eighty-five.

After stretching hugely, he went to his desk which occupied one corner. On the shelf over the desk sat the Culling Flame, the Idlomputt theyíd given him when he came to Dakainya eight months before. Kirk never thought about that time any more. Heíd been a gibbering wreck on the verge of total breakdown, never knowing whether his thoughts were his own or borrowed from some passing stranger.

The Idlomputt had set him free. It wasnít a real Culling Flame, and he knew it. It was hardly more than a toy by comparison to the elaborate and finely tuned, dreadfully energetic devices the adult Vulcans used. But it served him well enough. He dropped quickly into a grazing rapport with the field and then withdrew using his newest relinquishment exercise. The throbbing red flame brightened briefly in response to his contact, and then subsided. The exercise left Kirkís mind firmly barricaded against stray thoughts. His mind was his own.

With a little salute to the skull-and-crossbones that guarded his Idlomputt in place of the usual Vulcan gargoyle, Kirk stripped off his shorts and stepped into the shower, a stall erected in the other corner of his room. While he soaped and rinsed, he debated whether to have breakfast sent or to go to the mess hall--refectory, he corrected himself. Dakainya wasnít a Starbase, it was a school. Sometimes, he thought, monastery was a closer descriptive and he delighted in the comparison. Sex wasnít forbidden, it was just that his only fellow-student who was female was just five years old. The other women were all Vulcan (except for one Schillian, which didnít help much.) Kirk was determined to win that four-day pass Soled had promised him if his performance were good enough today. He was ready to leave Dakainyaís secluded protection, and he knew it.

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Dressed, he took one last look around his room. It was about three meters by four, walls of a dusty clay that fended off the sunís heat. In one corner was his bed, another the shower room, and another his desk. A closet with shelves for clothes filled the remaining corner. The window was double-glazed for insulation, and was polarizable. The floor was made of some soft fabric with an intricate, curlicue design in it. The desert sand he tracked in seemed to sift through the fabric and disappear. It was never dirty. The room was designed to be lived in with minimum maintenance. But it was drab. Kirk resolved to use his four-day pass to shop for suitable brighteners.

Cheerfully confident, he headed for the mess-hall--refectory, he corrected himself again. And that was when it happened for the first time. Waves of vertigo came and went swiftly, like a receding tide. He leaned against the wall until it was over. Then he shook his head sharply to clear his mind. It was gone as if it had never come. All that was left was an image of Spock seated before a bank of controls, calmly adjusting knobs and dials, and smiling ever so slightly.

Panic rising into his throat, Kirk charged back into his cubicle and fetched up hard against his desk. With hands and mind he groped toward the Idlomputt, sending the quiescent glow into a cascade of red-orange brilliance. Eyes drinking in that almost palpable color, Kirk relaxed. While he maintained rapport with the Idlomputt, nobody could break in on his thoughts, nobody could or would touch him in any way because this particular instrument was attuned only to his mind. Any other telepath who touched that field, or who tried a meld with Kirk while he was in phase with the Idlomputt field, would get on helluva shock. That is, any telepath but a trained kataytikh who could phase with any such device without endangering himself.

It had taken long hours of practice for Kirk to master the Idlomputtís shielding function, but once Soled, his teacher, had shown him the privacy he could once more have, Kirk had been willing to do anything to attain it.

Heíd been master of the Idlomputt for five months now, and he used it with comfortable familiarity. Within the privacy of that field, Kirk turned over and over the image of Spock seated before a bank of controls. It wasnít a familiar place, nor a familiar instrument, but it WAS Spock. And that, he realized, was bad.

Heíd been warned that he must not attempt to reach Spock through the rapport-link that still existed between them. Spock was on Pilgrimage, recovering from the telepathic overload which their latest adventures had brought about. He must not touch Spockís mind, and the easiest way to avoid that was to avoid thinking about Spock--especially in such vivid, visual terms. Kirk didnít even know where the thought had come from. But thinking about the mystery of that would only conjure more thoughts of Spock.

He had to admit he missed his foster-brother in a most un-Vulcan way. It would be several more months before he could rejoin Spock at home. They would be long months.

Kirk put these thoughts aside. He was hungry and wanted his coffee. He completed the Idlomputt exercise that focused his mind securely on his own thoughts. It was a difficult exercise that heíd mastered only recently, but it had been worth it. By using the Idlomputt in this way, Kirk could now establish and hold his own mind-barriers again. He was free to move and think at will, just as before this unwelcome talent had surfaced. And now that he was once again his own master, Soled was willing to let him out of Dakainya for short periods.

Keeping that four-day pass firmly in mind, Kirk relinquished the Idlomputt contact and once more set out for the dining commons. In a hurry, he took a short cut through the inner court yard of the building where the Gardens of Thought were located. The sun was still low on the horizon and the sky arched above, a somber carmine bowl presaging another scorching hot day.

As he wound through the Garden, a cloaked figure detached itself from a shaded bench and came toward him. Silently, they walked together out of the Gardens, and into the dining hall.

"Síchames," said the figure, giving Kirkís name a lilting accent common to the western provinces, "I thought youíd like to know that Iíve approved your request."

Kirk squinted at the man in the dim morning shadows. The cowl of the cloak further hid hits features. "Which request?"

"For an additional work period in the fields."

"Oh, thank you, Doctor." Now Kirk placed the accent and the man. "Itís been so long I was wondering if youíd found something wrong with me."

"No you are in perfect physical condition. In fact, your stay here has strengthened you."

"Iím glad to hear that. I feel fine, and I see no reason I shouldnít begin to pay my own way here like everybody else."

The schoolís doctor departed with an incomprehensible comment, and it was then that Síchames Kirk realized heíd been speaking Vulcanur. Hastily, he checked to make sure that he hadnít been reading the manís mind. No, his barrier was still intact--fragile bubble that it was. The language sessions were beginning to take effect.

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Kirk was inordinately pleased with himself. He paused on the threshold of the refectory. It was a peculiar room, one which Kirk had come to find both fascinating and repulsive. No, he corrected the thought, __not__ __the__ __room__, __but__ __the__ __people__ __in__ __it__.

The room itself was pleasant enough for both humans and Vulcans as well as most Federation humanoid races. It was larger than a comparable facility at an all-human institute would be. The main floor stretched almost fifty yards in every direction from the entrance where Kirk stood. Above rose terraced balconies, five levels of them, and on the mezzanine floor there were several smaller rooms for private dinner parties.

Windscreens around various well-marked areas provided control of the food-aromas, though most people didnít use them after the first few weeks. In places, people had pushed the smaller, individual tables together to form dining groups. In a far corner, near the three-story high arched windows that looked out over the valley, a group of Vulcans had formed a square ĎUí out of their tables. They were always there, every mealtime, eating Ďfamily-styleí, but they were no family.

What repelled Kirk about the room was the way the various groups at Dakainya tended to pull apart for their meals. They lived, worked, learned, and played together. But they didnít __eat__ together. And that bothered Kirk. His Captainís mind kept telling him that it was a symptom that something . . . something drastic . . . was very wrong with the morale of the place. There seemed to be a kind of . . . no, not racial, but __cultural__ prejudice.

That would be easily explained if eating habits and foods varied greatly. But humans could just as well eat Vulcan foods, and though Vulcans wouldnít eat most Terran cuisine, Kirk knew that they would eat at the same table. But the fact was that here at Dakainya, even the humans who ate mostly Vulcan foods ate alone or only with human companions.

And that was why Kirk was always discomforted in this room. On the __Enterprise__, he could take a tray and move in on any of his senior officers without thinking twice. If he invited himself to a table among junior officers, he always tried to be sure his rank wouldnít be an embarrassment. But here, he was at a loss.

Kirk worried the problem as he shoved his tray along beneath the delivery windows, selecting his breakfast. At the end of the service area, he paused to survey the room once more. Several of the Vulcans had left the U tables, but others had joined the group. A few humans were scattered in ones and twos on the main level. He made his decision and went back to pick up a large, chilled serving bowl arrangement of fruit with an attached bowl of a creamy, tart dip.

Then he brought his tray to the U tables. In the center of the U, which was formed of seven square tables, there was an eighth table on which each person to join the group placed something he wished to share. Kirk put his fruit-bowl and dip down among the other partly consumed serving dishes. Then he chose a place at the center of one side of the U, and sat down to eat.

It wasnít the first time heíd eaten among this group, but none of the others who ate here ever ate with other groups as Kirk did. It wasnít enough for the Captain that he was equally welcome wherever he went among the students, and even for the most part among the staff and people there for other reasons.

Presently, one of the late-joiners, Sildon, finished his tray and went to the center table. He chose from the items left there and put his plate back at his place. He was a big, tanned, blond Vulcan with startlingly black eyes. And he was the closest to a friend Kirk had at Dakainya. He picked up the fruit-bowl Kirk had brought, dipped one of the partially peeled fruits for himself, and passed the bowl around the table.

When it got to Kirk, it was almost empty. He took a piece, and passed the bowl to the man on his left who returned it to the center table. When everyone had finished eating, the blond said, "Bit of yunyon finishes off a good breakfast. You ever picked yunyon, Síchames?"

"No, not yet. Maybe next year."

"Well, you certainly know the sweet from the sour," said Sildon and the company agreed with ready affirmatives. "Well-chosen, Síchames."

"If you come back next year," said Sildon, "Iíll be sure to draft you for my yunyon crew."

One of the other men at the table, a slight, dark-skinned man named SíBrenth, said, "There may not be any offworlders at Dakainya next year, Sildon. So donít draft your harvesters before the seeds are planted."

Kirk turned to SíBrenth, seated at the end of the U. "I didnít know they were planning to close the school."

SíLor, one of the kataytikhe working as instructors, said, "He wasnít referring to closing Dakainya. Havenít you been following the news?"

"My Vulcanur isnít up to following the local news."

"It may not remain local very much longer," said Sildon.

"Not if TíUriamne prevails over SíRewn," said SíBrenth.

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Kirk knew that SíRewn was the current Planetary President. His knowledge of the Vulcan political structure was a couple of decades stale, but he could recall that it was vaguely analogous to a representative democracy, which made the Planetary President the head of the administrative branch of the government. For the most part, however, the average citizen had little contact with the elective officials. They regarded them very much as Kirk regarded his Yeomen, useful but not irreplaceable.

"SíBrenth," said one of the older men, SíKaz, "do you realize what that would imply?"

"I do."

Sildon arched an eyebrow, looking very much like a blond Spock, "She wouldnít attempt to influence SíRewnís political decisions, would she, Síchames?"

"Youíre asking the wrong person. Iíve never met the lady."

"The Daughter considers herself quite desperate," said SíLor, "as you must be aware from the Argument. Yet I donít think she would dare to express an opinion on a political matter."

"The question of to whom and to how many should visas be granted isnít wholly political," said SíBrenth. "Who do you suppose it was that raised the question in the first place?"

"It was TíLyehq, according to the record," said Sildon.

SíBrenth let his gaze roam the circle before answering. "Is not TíLyehq the wife of a kataytikh?"

SíLor was suddenly intent. "Which implies?"

"Nothing directly. But is she not well-known among the Daughters as the mother of a Daughter?"

SíLor was dangerously still, now. "Are you impugning her qualifications to serve the Planetary Legislature?"

"I was merely pointing out that the person who raised the question regarding visas was known to TíUriamne who has seized upon this issue as if it were made for her opportunity."

SíLor said, "I do not know TíLyehq, but I do know that her husband is deceased and her daughter was Pledged before she was elected. She does not even hold Name Rights in any kataytikh family."

"If there were any wrong-doing," said SíBrenth, "it would be on the part of TíUriamne, not TíLyehq. You need not defend her."

"I wasnít defending her. I shall withdraw from the discussion."

Sildon called out, as SíLor was about to leave, "No, donít go." To the group at large, he said, "Is it not disgraceful that a kataytikh canít sit among us without being drawn into a political discussion?"

"Is it not," countered SíBrenth, who was himself hardly more than a youth, "a symptom of the times? We were discussing TíUriamne. When a Daughter mixes into politics, is it not inevitable that kataytikhe will be questioned on the matter?"

"It may be inevitable," said Kirk, "but it is none-the-less disgraceful." Suddenly, Kirk found the whole group looking at him. His mouth went dry, but he finished what he had to say. "I come from a country on Earth where the founding fathers saw fit to separate functions of law-making from that of implementing the laws and from enforcing the law. It was a revolutionary concept of checks and balances when they invented it. In the time Iíve been here at Dakainya, Iíve come to wonder if perhaps we might not have avoided a lot of bloodshed if theyíd separated not only religion and politics, but ethics and politics as well. But those founding fathers didnít have Surakís very elegant Construct. So we ended up trying to legislate morality, ethics, and sometimes even basics of philosophy. We found from experience that it doesnít work. You donít even have ignorance for an excuse. So itís disgraceful."

"Well put, Síchames," said Sildon.

At that single word of praise, Kirk glowed almost as if Spock had approved of his logic. He missed the next few comments, and was brought back to attention by SíKazís voice. "I believe Síchames would make a good recruit for the Runtek. He seems to have all the requisite qualities."

Sildon brightened at this new thought. "You have a good point there. What do you think, Síchames?"

"I . . . I, ah, havenít given the matter much thought," Kirk temporized. In fact, he hadnít given the matter any thought at all. ĎRuntekí was, as far as Kirk knew, the Legion of Merchants which had made the Vulcan Merchant the most intrepid traveling salesman the galaxy had ever known. Kirk had never visualized himself in the role of a merchant. From the perspective of the __Enterprise__ bridge, the merchant vessels had always seemed rather un-glamorous. "I suppose

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it is inevitable that Iíd affiliate with some Legion eventually. But somehow I canít quite see myself operating a merchant vessel."

SíKaz said, "Thatís not exactly what I had in mind. Runtek isnít only involved in staffing merchant vessels, you know. I think that your talents would probably lead you into becoming a Representative . . . hmmm, Sildon, is there a term which translates Runtek more precisely?"

"Delegate?" suggested the blond.

"No," said SíBrenth. "I think you mean Ďtrouble-shooterí, a person who works directly for company managementís home office and is sent into the field to investigate and correct faulty performance."

"Yes," SíKaz agreed. "Such a job requires the highly original, creative logic that seems to be Síchames most prominent attribute, and it would utilize his training in command-responsibility."

"I understand," said Sildon. "A Runtek . . . Ď__trouble__-__shooter__í must make field decisions that implement home-office policy and assume the responsibility for the results. Yes, it fits Síchamesí talents and would absorb much of his propensity for what he calls Ďgamblingí."

Kirk watched the conversational ball bounce from Vulcan to Vulcan with a quirk of a bemused smile turning the corners of his mouth. Somehow, being talked about as if he werenít even listening didnít offend him, it warmed him just as if Sarek and Spock were conferring over him. __Thatís__ __it__, he thought, __theyíve__ __taken__ __a__ __family__ __interest__ __in__ __me__.

"Gambling," said SíLor. "Isnít that the running of illogical risks?"

"Not always," said Sildon. "A good gambler calculates the odds in his favor and takes only risks where success would achieve a greater end than failure would destroy. I think Síchames main shortcoming is not the illogic of his risks, but merely faulty arithmetic."

"Then," said SíKaz, almost smugly triumphant, "Síchames, you should join Runtek. They have the best mathematics department outside of the Legion of Science."

"Well, I donít know. Iíll have to look into it. But I suppose all of that is for the future."

"Not necessarily," said SíBrenth. "The Runtek viyw which is involved in Ďtrouble-shootingí is holding a seminar here next yahvee. You might do well to attend a few meetings, Síchames."

Kirk made some swift calculations. Yahvee was the basic three-day period Vulcans used in place of the week. This was the first day of such a period, so in two more days, the Runtek seminar would be here. "Well, yes, I just might do that. I think my schedule will allow it."

"If not," said SíLor, "Iíll arrange it for you. The subject matter should be of particular interest to you."

Sildon pulled a skeptical face. "I donít see that the theory of psichometry as applied to the mathematics of probability interphases would be of much interest to the best bydo harvester in Dakainya."

"Wait a minute," said Kirk. "Letís have that again? What about probability interphases?"

SíKaz cleared his throat. "It has to do with the phenomenon of transference between two alternate-probability universes. Sikarís Unified Time Theory states that every event in space-time both is and not-is, and the assemblage of a complete Set of events which constitutes a universe can consist of any combination of events so long as one of each unique event is included. Thus the number of possible universes is simply the factorial . . ."

"Ah, yes," Kirk interrupted, "Spock never tires of trying to explain that to me. The __Enterprise__ has encountered that situation a number of times, and I think Iíve a laymanís grasp of the principle. But what was this about psichometry?"

"Havenít you been keeping up with your reading of the __Correlationist__ __Abstracts__?"

"As a matter of fact . . . no," said Kirk. "Thatís one of the scientific journals I never seem to get around to."

SíBrenth said, "The last issue had a splendid article on the connection between precognizance inaccuracies and interphase phenomena. The mathematics, especially in the gravitic equations, was a work of art."

"The really unusual part of the article," said SíKaz, "was simply that it was authored by a Schillian."

"That seems reasonable," said Kirk. "Schillians and precognizance are practically synonymous."

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"True," said SíKaz, "the Schillians are the only racial precogs with a reliability factor above 70%. However, the Schillians are not known for mathematical prowess. They are competent enough, but this article displayed an unusual amount of imagination."

"Thatís easily explained," said SíLor. "The author is Zzvliash, the psichometrist who used to work here at Dakainya."

"I didnít know that," said SíKaz thoughtfully.

"And," said SíBrenth, "heís the one whoís giving the seminar."

"In that case," said Kirk, "Iíll be sure to be there. I met the gentleman briefly before I came here."

Sildon said, "Sikarís Unified Time Theory would seem to be somewhat . . . rarified . . . an interest for you, Síchames. I never realized you were interested in theoretical physics."

"My line is more practical physics; youíre right."

"The seminar announcement said nothing about Sikarís Equations," said SíBrenth. "The discussion was centered on the recently uncovered correlations between the more ancient theories of the Vulcan Science of Mind and the recent discoveries in the field of interphase phenomena."

"Now that," said SíLor, "is something I would definitely not want to miss. I have always held that almost all of our standard mind-devices from the kraith right on up to the utsulan use multi-universe phase-anchors as their chief stabilizers."

"Nobody believes that superstition any more," said Sildon. "The universe-binder story was concocted to scare the ignorant peasants into being afraid to overthrow the rule of Top of World."

"So we have believed," said SíLor. "But it is always wise to seek the grain of truth before discarding an old superstition."

Kirk muttered, "Donít throw the baby out with the bathwater."

"What was that?" asked Sildon.

"Nothing, nothing," said Kirk, "just paraphrasing. Isnít it time we got to work?"

 

Soledís studio was located on the third floor of an adjoining building, and Kirk decided to walk up rather than take the lift. He enjoyed the exercise, his calf-muscles stiffening against the slightly greater Vulcan gravity, his chest expanding to capture every oxygen molecule. He was still on low dosages of tri-ox, but his body was slowly adjusting. It had been years since heíd felt so good. Even his back no longer bothered him thanks to the Vulcan doctors who took such concern in the Dakainya students. He felt ready to live to a thousand years and die still hail and hardy.

He entered the classroom almost whistling. It was a fine morning and he could see from the wide, panoramic windows of the studio that the harvest crews were already half done with the dayís work. Far out in the fields, almost to the shores of the placid lake that filled the central part of the valley, he could see the line of picking machines and an occasional, tiny figure guiding them. On the other side of the building, steep hills rose precipitously. A roadway descended boldly, straight down into the valley. Along the bottom of the hills in the far distance, obscured by heat-shimmer, Kirk could make out the buildings of the Vulcan school from which Dakainya took its name.

"Peace and Long Life, Captain Kirk."

"Peace and Long Life, Soled."

"Come. We have much to do today. Have you prepared the relinquishment exercise?"

"Yes." Kirk didnít waste time being startled. The old man seemed to take a secret glee in sneaking up on people. "But first I have a question. I was reading a book on Vulcan history last night. There was a reference that puzzled me. It seemed as if the author meant to explain something with it, but it means nothing to me."

"Iím not here to teach history, but go ahead."

"It said," started Kirk, pulling out his note board and flipping the handle rapidly until the screen showed his hand written note, "ĎEons of neglect saw crumbled . . .í Thatís all it said, in quotation marks."

"The meaning seems obvious. Even the most enduring edifice can be destroyed by neglect."

"What enduring edifice? It was a quotation, but Iíve no idea what itís from. I couldnít find it in the Book of Fragments Index."

Soled ran a knobby hand over his bald pate and sat down carefully in his teaching chair.

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He swiveled the chair this way and that for a moment. Kirk had deduced that that was his gesture of total exasperation with an impossible student. He took his own seat, in front of the training console, and said, "Iím sorry, but I did try."

"Captain. Iíve never yet known you to fail at something you really tried. It seems to me you could utilize some of that energy in trying to contain your human curiosity."

"Iím not just being idly curious in a random fashion, Sir. As the adopted son of a kataytikh family, I feel it my obligation to learn at least some of the things that are common knowledge on Vulcan."

"Yes. Your family would expect it. Tell me," he said with apparent irrelevance, "have you climbed Hílvinígrey?"

Kirk knew that Hílvinígrey was the plateau behind DíRíhiset, Spockís home. . . and his, now, too. "Once, I did, with Spock and a group of young people."

"He must have told you the prophecy of Aivahnya."

"Prophecy? Not that I recall. That was long before my adoption."

"Let us see if you have ever heard the __Ballad__ __of__ __Dokamralínor__. Set for Recall Drill Three." Nimble old hands flew over the console before him. The wide windows opaqued and a deep hush fell over the room.

Kirk turned to the banks of screens and controls before him. Running the training console was even more complicated than running the __Enterprise__. He set his hands on the broad levers that controlled his screens. The object of this drill was to make three of the screens light up in bright, clear green. That would signify that his Brain Circuitry Pattern and other emission readouts indicated that his brain was ready to energize any desired memory-circuit, even the unconscious ones of something heíd seen or heard without noticing or understanding.

It took him five minutes to coax a flicker of green into the first screen. Two was the easy exercise. Three screens would bring up those really illusive memories. Kirk was sweating by the time he got that flicker of green on number two.

"Would you like me to set the thermostat?"

"No thank you," said Kirk, "Iíd just start shivering."

"Then youíd better let me show you Recall Three again. You havenít got it right, yet."

Kirk tried once more to will that third screen to light. It wouldnít. He released his grip on the levers in which the sensors for the apparatus were humming away. His hands tingled from the vibration. When he did the exercises correctly, there was no vibration.

He sat perfectly still, watching the screens as Soled came up behind him and placed dry-skinned fingers around his head in the now-familiar teaching-meld. As the Vulcanís mind filtered gently through his barriers, matching quietly with his thoughts, Kirk experienced, as always, a deepening respect for the trained Vulcan mind. He could never be such a master. Their control was superb, their accuracy unbelievable. Never once in the eight months and hundreds of hours that Kirk had studied under him, had Soled invaded his mind. Never once had the old kataytikh missed the exact brain-areas he aimed for.

Now, Soled seemed to be taking him by the hand and guiding him through the exercise. There was no way to explain this in words. It had to be taught by direct mind-meld contact, and Kirk realized you had to already be telepathically aware in order to know what had been done to your mind, so you could do it yourself voluntarily. Everyoneís brain-circuitry is affected by the thoughts of those around them. But the effect is so minute that most humans forever remain unaware of it. Telepathy is not a separate and unique talent. It is merely the ability to perceive oneself and to interpret what one perceives.

Spock had inadvertently opened Kirkís awareness of himself, of his own mind and all its responses to the thoughts of others. It took training, however, to learn to interpret those responses. Many times, Soled had had to enter Kirkís mind and show him how it was done. Then, Kirk would practice until he could do it.

He did it now, following Soledís gentle guidance. And before him, all three screens pulsed bright emerald. Soled withdrew and Kirk maintained the state by himself. Kirk said, "The __Ballad__ __of__ __Dokamralínor__? What does it sound like?"

Soled hummed a note and then sang in quavering baritone,

In the days when Aivahnya came to DíRíhiset

To quench the green flame of Dohmahay

The birds danced till the sun had set

On the bare rocks of Hílvinígrey.

Kirk let his mind follow the tune, realizing vaguely that the words had been in Vulcanir . . . or perhaps something older than that. From somewhere deep and far away, another stanza swam into his mind. It was as if he were composing it on the spot.

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DíRíhiset, the last retreat from Top-of-World

Where mighty rulers held their seats

Among lightning flame and boulders hurled,

Counting enemyís defeats

The thread petered out, leaving Kirk with a tune floating teasingly through his mind. Soled picked it up,

When winter closed in to stay

The mighty flea to DíRíhiset

In the valley of the Hyboleye Fay

Name unspoken to them they met.

Then Kirk had it! The chanting of many voices, young voices, breathless from dancing all night atop Hílvinígrey around a fire leaping higher than the dancerís heads. Oh, it had been a grand night, that. But he hadnít know a word of Vulcanur then, let alone this:

Ancient, the revered Hyboleye Fay

With powers feared a world away

Dwelt in shadow of Hílvinígrey

From time unknown, none can say.

Kirk asked, letting the song unfold in his mind, "But you spoke of a prophecy?"

"You tended the temroc plant when you climbed?"

"Temroc?" repeated Kirk and the strange word echoed and re-echoed down the suddenly lengthening corridors of his mind.

At dusk, a ruddy dusk that seemed to smear cheek-rouge over the upthrust bones of the world upon which they climbed, they set out on a trail that snaked up the nearly vertical mountains. McCoy beside him, Kirk had fallen to the rear of the group, puffing against the pull of the planet. Even so, he could hear snatches of conversation now and again, wafted back to him on the faint breeze that came down the valley at sunset like a weak sigh that the day was at last over.

At the time it had been incomprehensible Vulcanar, and heíd suspected these kids of illogical chatter, a holiday from the strictures of their upbringing. Even Spock had seemed more talkative, socializing in a most uncharacteristic way.

Now, as if a tape were being played back for him, Kirk heard that conversation again. Only this time, he picked up isolated words which he recognized. The most frequent were, Hílvinígrey, DíRíhiset, Aivahnya the wife of Domahay, Dokamralínor their son and his wives Thtis, Lyad, and Fainz. There was much talk of Spock, but in a way which made it obvious they werenít talking about Sarekís son, but rather the first man by that name, the son of Thtis and Dokamralínor.

But, as kataytikh, Spock had been constrained to discuss the political decision of Vulcanís membership status in terms of abstract ethical principles, never mentioning the application of those principles to the practical problem under consideration. He had used the legend of Aivahnyaís prophecy, and the behavior of the two humans accompanying the group, to make several unique points about the philosophy of Nome-Idic. And all the while Kirk had thought he was with a bunch of kids on holiday!

The strange tempo of the dance came back to him then, rising up from his feet to buoy his head to the star-pierced sky. The tang of that peculiar woodsmoke filled his nostrils as the chill winter wind rose from the valley of DíRíhiset. He danced once more in the circle of young Vulcans, only this time his mouth formed the words of their song and his breath came easier in the Vulcan air. The Prophecy of Aivahnya had been fulfilled by his hands, and now he sang out his Joy in the living memory of his family, kataytikh of the First Realm.

When Dohmahay, his bride had freed,

She ate of largest fruit in hand

And made him bury seed

On that barren land.

Then did she care to prophecy

That long as sweet fruits shall grow

Dokamralínor would never die

But his seed would sow.

And it had, he realized. He could look back down the corridors of his life and see how the children of Domahay had multiplied. Two hundred years ago, when heíd been trained by his grandfather, it was a mighty to-do to get the Affirmation together. At one time TíPau, so young and so uncertain under the burden of office so untimely thrust upon her, had proposed to raise the age of Affirmation. But at the last minute, his grandfather had sent him forward in Daughterís Council, a lad of but seventeen brief years. TíPau had placed her slender fingers upon him and said, "Soled, are you prepared to take your place as __Kataytikh__, by your grandfatherís hand, but not in your fatherís place?"

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And he had answered, voice trembling, "I am prepared."

Her eyes had bored into his then with the steadiness that was later to become her hallmark. It was the penetrating look that could only be given by The Daughter, the one who held the summation of the Traditions of all-Vulcan. She was young, then, but her memory was clear and unbroken back to the life of Domahay, as was his own. They were each the last of their line, as was Suvil. The last three of the First Realm. The First Realm families had dwindled, but the Second and Third Realms had grown. The Tradition would live on.

Kirk shook his head violently. His eyes saw himself seated in the studentís chair, gripping the sensor-probe levers, face bathed in green light from four of the screens. Soled, his teacher, had been chosen for him because they were cousins. Heíd had no idea the old man was that often mentioned Third family of the First Realm. No wonder heíd been so patient with Síchames and his incessant questions. He hoped the boy appreciated it. Old eardrums seemed to become more sensitive each year, and the human vocal chords were geared to nothing short of a loud yell.

But then Spock had chosen his foster-brother well, and he owed it to Suvilís memory to give him all he could absorb. Spock, having been Liege during Síchamesí Interim, was disqualified. Besides, Spock was on Pilgrimage, and the Pilgrimís mind was sacrosanct. Soled was personally willing to execute anyone who dared touch a Pilgrimís mind. Sarek, as foster-father, was disqualified. Suvil was dead. TíPau had no brother to carry the Tradition of her family. His own son, Siyr, was in the eighth year, and thus not a good risk. It would be highly improper to expose the human to the instability of a pre-pon farr male.

The eighth year. The doctors said it would be all right. He was still young and in good health. It would be all right. It would have to be all right. Soled must have a grandson. He had a foster-grandson, bound in kraith-adoption, and well prepared to carry the Tradition for him. But it would be the end of First Realm if Siyr produced another daughter.

If only there would be a Blooming somewhere. Anywhere. But the plague had reduced the Bloomings to near non-existence. All attempts at simulating the effect with synthetic chemicals had failed. At best it produced the Linger Death, and at worst . . . at worst . . . he refused to think about that.

Last year he had forbidden his son to try that experiment, though he had been desperate with the low-level anxiety building inside him. Siyr had been certain he was entering Linger Death, but the days passed and he became no worse . . . but neither did it break into fever and terminate. He had sought strength in Pilgrimage, but even that did not help.

Kirk stared glassy-eyed at the five screens swimming before him, pulsing green, blue, green, blue, violet, blue, green, blue, violet, blue, green. Hypnotically, the colors rippled from one screen to the next and back like waves of time lapping the shores of reality. Like waves of sand lapping at his feet, pulling on him as he waded toward the Great Utsulan of Beom.

There was a tiny knot of offworlders, tourists, gathered at the gate outside the fence around the utsulan. They were so small, he couldnít tell if they were mostly human or what. Far off to his left, a cluster of buildings hunkered down into the loose sand, their sculptured walls ready to withstand the onslaught of the worst of hte (sic RBW the) legendary Beom Storms. The tourist buildings.

Equally far to his right, the second cluster of buildings that served the resident Utsulan Attendants of Beom and the occasional Donor presented their streamlined curves up-valley toward the Great Pillars which were supposed to be relics quarried for Top of World but never moved to that locale.

A sand buggy detached itself from the tourist cluster and plowed its way toward him.

He glared at the array of screens on the console before him. His limber hands flew over the switches as he adjusted the sensor probeís focus. The dim violet light cast his face in a ghoulish shadow. Heíd been through innumerable Bloomings, one a year for as many years as heíd happened to be on Vulcan during the season, and it had never sent him into pon farr. His human genes seemed to have spared him that agony, though they left him many others. He felt one of them now . . . extreme, uncontrollable frustration. Heíd almost __had__ him! Almost. Then, suddenly, his screens were reading that other Spock trudging through and toward (of all unlikely things!) a __functional__ __utsulan__. Despite his curiosity to see the thing more clearly, his hands had flown to the board and sought Kirk again. It was Kirk that heíd worked all these years to find, not his other self.

And heíd have him if it took a century. Thanks to that Ssarsun person, he had learned a great deal about this other Kirk, a man so very much like his own Kirk, but quite vitally alive. He would bring him here, and he would find a way to make him happy. It was happiness that humans sought, and this time, Kirk would have it, and in the having, unknowingly perhaps, he would provide one half-human with his own peculiar requirements for contentment.

Heíd been working too long, he decided. The screens kept dissolving before his eyes into bleary arrays of greens and purples. But the frustration drove him, and the failure tore at him like howling winds eroding the stone of Top of World. It was slow, but in the end it would destroy him. He didnít have the ability of a true Vulcan to dissolve that frustration before it became a physical thing eating at his body like acid. It burned him, stomach and nerve, body and brain. He heard his throat give a strangled sigh that was almost a sob.

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He found his muscles stiff, locked against the surges and currents, the frustration, the anger that came in its wake, the ever-present and always growing loneliness and the constant reaching toward the only friend heíd ever known, or who had been able to know him.

By gathering the shreds of a will now almost exhausted, he loosened his hands, then his arms, his body, and let his legs relax. It was relief when his head fell forward onto his arms, outflung across the console, and he sprawled into unconsciousness.

He didnít see the old man in the instructorís chair fall forward and slowly topple to the floor. He didnít see the riot of clashing colors that warred with each other on the six lighted screens before him. Nor did he see them wink out as a tiny puff of black smoke curled from the back of the machine. The acrid smoke didnít even activate the choking-reflex when it hit his nostrils, as it certainly should have.

 

CHAPTER TWO

BEOM

Feeling suddenly weak, as if totally drained by the effort of walking through the sands, Spock halted to wait for the sand buggy. At first he thought it must have been the long trek over the hills from where the pump-station crew had let him off. But, no. Theyíd driven up the canyon to where the road cut through the range of hills, and theyíd let him off right at the tunnel-mouth. He hadnít walked so far in the sun that he should feel weak.

A few moments later, the weakness passed. It was like a sudden silence after hours under a dangerously loud noise bombardment. It left his mind Ďringingí in the silence. Then, he knew what it had been. Some telepath groping for contact with his barriered mind. No Vulcan would do that. Not even Kirk. So it must have been someone in the tourist crowd wondering who it was coming across the desert. Well, no harm done.

The sand buggy slewed to a halt and the Chief Attendant, Sinzu, jumped out, hastily adjusting his green robe. Exercising his Pilgrimís right, Spock remained silent. He didnít feel up to exchanging greetings after that attack on his barriers. He merely gathered his glittering black and gold Pilgrimís cloak, and climbed into the open-topped vehicle. He was content to ride the rest of the way.

The late afternoon sun played through the translucent shapes enshrouding the utsulan. Spock traced the shadowy outline of the pyramid beneath the layers of resounders. His eye measured the angles with professional shrewdness. The Beom Attendants were meticulous on maintenance. The last time heíd been here, one of the uprights had been just a hair off true perpendicular to the pyramid face. That had caused several of the resounders on the lines strung between the top of the upright and the edge of the pyramid to be out of place. It hadnít been off enough to affect his donation, but he could see that now the discrepancy had been corrected.

His eye rose to the summit of the huge pyramid. Beom was the largest and oldest utsulan still functional on Vulcan. And it had the largest wheerr. The wheerr, the room atop the shorn-off peak of the pyramid, was englobed by a geodesic dome whose facets glittered with all the colors of the spectrum.

From the wheerr, Spock knew he would soon be able to look down into the brilliant orange crystal that filled the central shaft of the pyramid and formed the memory-core of the device. The last time he had been here had been just after TíAniyehís Donation. Together, they had delivered so much energy that the basic memory-pattern of the crystal had been reflected through three axes. Her death hadnít erased that contribution. It was there waiting for him, and he was suddenly eager to be aloft the crystal, and to drop into rapport with it. The Pilgrimís Meld would erase the last vestiges of the assault that had been made upon him. Suddenly, he knew that at Beom heíd find the healing which had eluded him for eight months now. Beom was special. Beom was different.

It was no legend. Beom had been the site of the construction of the only dze-utí erected on Vulcan. It had been the tangling with a dze-utí that had, in part, caused his current exhaustion. Somewhere, deep in that crystal, was stored the healing combination. It had to be there, and Spock had come to dig it out. He knew he was ready.

The sand buggyís great tires threw up clouds of dust that trailed behind them like giant pale yellow wings against the ruby sky. As the car drew up to the fence that kept the tourists away from the utsulan, those wings caught up with them and enfolded them in a miasma that settled down quickly in the Vulcan gravity field.

The little knot of tourists, all apparently Earth-human from their dress, closed in as soon as the dust settled. They were babbling excitedly, recorders pointed at the occupants of the buggy. Their guide, a young Vulcan boy, climbed up on his lectern and waved his arms for attention. His reedy voice couldnít cut through the babble, and he didnít succeed.

The Chief Attendant climbed up on the buggyís seat and bellowed in a parade-ground bass voice, "Your Attention Please!"

The clamor subsided to a murmur, then a whisper, and finally the group fell silent. "Gentlebeings, it is regretfully that I must inform you of a change in plans. The utsulan will begin to function shortly. All tourists must leave the area immediately . . ."

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Spock's Pilgrimage continued

 

 


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