Kraith Collected

Volume 6 

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.  

(page break)

"My wife was a teacher. I think she would not hesitate to become one again. Sleep well, my guest."

Oddly enough, Christine did.

 

It was a much calmer Christine who stood before Spockís ancestral home, taking leave of her host and hostess. Sheíd learned the proper words; now she tried to speak them in the Vulcan tongue, knowing that Sarek and Amanda would forgive her for mispronouncing the subtle articulations.

Amanda spoke the words of parting, then with a swift side-long glance at her husband, she stepped forward to give Christine a quick hug. Immediately, she turned and went back into the house. Christine understood, for she knew that Amanda wanted to spare her husband the sight of the tears that had risen unbidden to her eyes, so close had she and Christine grown during this visit.

Sarek moved a step nearer, but Christine no longer felt that nervous fear that sheíd known when she had first come her. This tall Vulcan had engaged her in conversation whenever the pressures of his work had allowed him to do so, teaching her to understand the Vulcan way, and also teaching her not only to see herself but to understand and accept herself as well.

"The time has come to part," he said quietly. "You have given me much to consider. And, you?"

"You have given me much to consider as well, sir. I think you knew that I would have a decision to make after I heard you talking to Amanda. Somehow, I feel that you have a very keen insight and understanding of us humans."

"You have made your decision."

"Yes." She knew he wouldnít ask, even if he were burning with curiosity. "Iím going to tell you because you, of all concerned will understand why I have made this decision. Of course from time to time Iíll fail to keep this promise Iíve made to myself. After all, Iím only human."

He didnít smile, but there was a gentleness in his eyes that made her feel that inwardly he was amused and approved of her brave attempt at humor.

"Iíll stumble and fall flat on my face; Iíll make errors, but Iím going to try to do my best. Iíve accepted the fact that nothing will ever come of my love for Spock. All right. Then Iíll do my utmost to become worthy of his respect and of his friendship. Farewell, sir. Peace and Long Life."

[KC06IL23.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Amanda on the left bottom of the page.)

[KC06IL24.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of possibly Sarek on the right bottom of the page.)

73

(page break)

The following words are centered on the left hand side of the page with a drawing to the right of it. There is a drawing underneath it which has words to the right of that drawing.)

The

 

VULCAN

 

as

 

SUPER HERO

 

Randy Bathurst

[KC06IL25.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Vulcan in something like a green lantern hero outfit.

[KC06IL26.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Vulcan with a cape like a superman costume.)

(RBW Note. The following words are to the right of the above drawing.)

AND FOR THOSE OF YOU

WHO ALWAYS THOUGHT

KRAITH

TURNED SPOCK INTO

SUPERMAN . . .

74

(page break)

ONE FINGERED SYMPHONY

 

EILEEN ROY KRAITH-VA(1)

Passing the mirror, Christine saw her eyes looking darkly back at her. A face like a sheep, topped with dust-mop hair. Imbecile. As if there was comfort there.

She left her room an automatic three minutes before the hour, long ago calculated to get her to her shift on time whatever the vagaries of the turbo-elevator. She saw no-one, nothing. She heard only the weary phrases sliding through her brain, ringing the changes on the same old argument, the end predestined at the beginning. But it was so hard, sometimes, to force herself to the inevitable conclusion . . . Poor __baby__, she jeered at herself.

Wail alone, baby. Wail alone.

The morning shift was much as usual. A sprained ankle, a broken finger, a cold or two, notes to make, records to keep up to date. After her afternoon break there was a hiatus of sorts, and she escaped to her lab. She only had one series of tests going on at the time, and they were winding to a close. She moved with blind knowledge amid the complicated tangle of equipment. The __Enterprise__ had taught her well how to improvise. For the moment she was safe; even her own thoughts ceased to torment her. She simply worked.

Until a slight noise startled her and she whirled around, a beaker of indicator dye slipping from her fingers to fall slantwise across floor and cabinets. "Sorry," the orderly said cheerfully. "Youíre wanted in Sickbay. Routine physical." He disappeared.

"No, Itís . . ." she began to answer his departing form, before bending abruptly to mop up the dye, her fingers shaking slightly. Stupid, stupid, __stupid__, she castigated herself. Alone, it was OK somehow, but let someone watch her and sheíd fall over her own shadow. Wreck the lab, easy as not. Clumsy, ungainly, totally undesirable. Speech tripping five seconds behind events, leaving her isolated, never to catch up. Useless.

There was the physical of a new crewmember to get through, endless errands and pettifogging details. Leila DíAngelo stopped by for a few minutes. When Christine greeted her casually, Leila said reprovingly, "Itís the fourth, you know."

"Oh, of course." Christine said blankly, and went to get the implants. The waxy-like contraceptives were injected in every unmarried female crewmember once a month. And Leila was one that never needed a reminder.

Leila DíAngelo. So bright, so young and vigorous, and oh, so promiscuous. It was said she had to look at the room number to find out which man she had slept with the night before. So Leila visited Sickbay regularly each month--Christine finally unearthed the sterile box. What had it been doing under the anti-histimine?--while Christine would give her soul for a child and there is none . . . .

You? Your parents dying young, your own childhood bland and stunted--any children you would raise would be as misshapen in soul as yourself, tainted by your touch . . . . You wouldnít be fit as a mother. There is no life in you.

"There you are," she said, releasing the hypo. Professional voice. Professional smile. Come on, smile, let that little ray of sunshine brighten up the day. It couldnít possibly make you look worse. Bed-pan trotter and smiler, fulfill your function for the day. Smile.

God help me, God help me, but I still love him.

It was the final betrayal.

The end of her shift. Night for most of the ship. She stood, palms caressingly against the cool, smooth glass of the pharmaceutical cabinet. Rows and rows and rows of pills, glowing like jewels in the sunshine. A bright casket . . . . She had read once, "Death is the last refuge from pain." Somewhere, somehow, there had to be an end to pain.

She turned at last, wearily, beaten. Those shining pills were out of reach. For now

75

(page break)

"Why?" she demanded.

The barest sigh before a quick answer. "Why what, Christine?"

"Why?"

"I saw you, and Iíd been worryiní about you, so I stayed. Thatís not the answer, Christine."

It was a moment before she spoke, face turned away.

"Useless . . . ."

"__You__ are __not__ useless," he said calmly. "You are the head primary-care nurse on the __Enterprise__, a competent and occasionally brilliant research doctor, whenever youíre left in decent privacy--"

"Why does it matter, what does it mean? Noise . . . ."

He pinched her chin urgently between thumb and forefinger, bringing it up to face him. Their eyes were of a level, his blazing blue icicles.

"Then listen to this. How dare you risk death before youíve risked life!"

"Why should I? Why?"

"Because being alive is the only way you can love."

She flinched as if heíd struck her. "And when loving someone is wrong, glory-seeking, self-serving and egotistical . . . ." she whispered. She stood firm, not swaying at all as each word rolled easily out of her memory, to hit with implacable force.

"Who . . . You were on Vulcan a week, werenít you? With Sarek and Amanda? Did that son-of--?"

"He was right, he was right, he was . . . ." She swallowed the phrase reverberating on its well-worn path of agony, every muscle stiff-tense till it was gone. Rationality must be preserved, at all costs.

As if through a far-away window, she saw one of Bonesí hands, a fist, carefully unclenching.

"No. Heís wrong."

"But . . . ."

"Heís wrong. One, love may be unwise, or needlessly painful. But it is never __wrong__."

Her eyes were on him now, sad, doubtful. She wanted to believe.

"Two. If you canít live with love, then you must live without it."

"Alone?" the cry tore from her.

"Yes. Even alone."

Alone. The word had a ragged, cold sound to it. But it felt, maybe, as if it could be something to hang on to. Sheíd been falling for so long . . . .

"Alone . . ." she repeated softly. It was acceptance.

He waited a moment, then drew her firmly away from the cabinet. "Now, Iím going to give you something to help you sleep."

"A pill?"

"No. A hypo, just a mild sedative. You can bed down in the back room for the night. Let me get a blanket."

She knew he wanted her there so he could keep an eye on her, but she didnít really mind. She was shivering slightly, with aftermath or whatever, and pulled the blanket gratefully around her shoulders, to snuggle deep into. She barely noticed the shot.

She was so tired. Not with the drug, but with years on years of trying so hard to win the approval of those around her and the constant fear of failing. Years of being afraid of that limping sound, me and ---, me and---. Now, just me.

"Itís like a one-fingered symphony," she murmured sleepily.

"What?" McCoy asked, startled, hand falling away from the light switch.

"Being alone," she said, not very lucidly. "Like you know the whole score of a symphony, but you can only play the piano with one finger. Itís not much--but itís better than silence."

"Yeah," McCoy said softly. "A one-fingered symphony." He touched the switch. In the darkness, he looked suddenly older, a little stooped, and before she slipped into warmth and dark, she heard his footsteps, almost seeming to tap the rhythm of a jangling, single-line melody--alone.

76

(page break)

(RBW Note. There is a drawing on the left of the page with the title on the right of the drawing and another drawing under the title with the author at the bottom left of the page.)

[KC06IL27.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Christine.)

DAYS

 

of

 

FUTURE

 

PAST

[KC06IL28.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of a reptilian with tricorder, probably a Schillian.)

CYNTHIA LEVINE

77

(page break)

Kraith VC

(With special thanks to Fran Zawacky)

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

WORD HAS JUST REACHED THE __ENTERPRISE__ OF YOUR ASSIGNMENT AS CAPTAIN OF THE __ENDEAVOR__! CONGRATULATIONS! (HAVE ALL YOUR GHOSTS BEEN LAID TO REST NOW?) THE ATMOSPHERE HERE HAS BEEN ONE OF DEEP CONCERN FOR CAPTAIN KIRK AND SPOCK; YOUR PROMOTION WAS JUST THE NEWS NEEDED TO PERK UP A WORRIED CREW.

AS YOU KNOW, THERE HASNíT BEEN MUCH REASON FOR ANY SORT OF CELEBRATION HERE LATELY. THE CAPTAIN HAS BEEN AT DAKAINYA FOR A MONTH AND, ACCORDING TO THE REPORTS TO DR. McCOY, THE PROGNOSIS IS GOOD . . . BUT IT MAY BE A LONG TIME BEFORE HE WILL BE ABLE TO RETURN TO STARFLEET . . . AND HE MAY NOT WANT TO. FROM WHAT I CAN GATHER, HE HAS A PLACE ON VULCAN . . . THE QUESTION IS: WILL HE WANT TO REMAIN THERE?

AS FOR SPOCK . . . ALL WE KNOW IS THAT HE IS ON PILGRIMAGE. WE HAVE RECEIVED NO OTHER EXPLANATIONS FOR HIS INDEFINITE LEAVE AND DO NOT KNOW WHEN, OR, AS SEVERAL RUMORS HAVE SAID, EVEN IF, HE WILL RETURN. BUT, SPOCK HAS NEVER CHOSEN TO EXPLAIN HIS ACTIONS TO THE CREW. (FUNNY, I CANíT PICTURE THE __ENTERPRISE__ WITHOUT EITHER OF THEM.)

IíVE DISCOVERED THAT I REALLY MISS OUR QUIET TALKS. SOMEHOW, WHILE YOU WERE HERE, I FOUND MY THINKING WASNíT SO MUDDLED. YOU HAVE THE KNACK OF MAKING SIMPLE WHAT APPEARS TO BE INSOLVABLE. (ARE YOU SURE THEREíS NO VULCAN LURKING IN YOUR FAMILY TREE?) BUT I GUESS THESE LETTERS WILL HAVE TO CONTINUE TO BE THE SUBSTITUTE. AT LEAST UNTIL OUR PATHS CROSS AGAIN.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

I DIDNíT THINK THAT STARSHIP CAPTAINS EVER FOUND TIME FOR ANYTHING BUT LOG ENTRIES!

YOU KNOW, YOU UNDERSTAND ME TOO WELL. I DONíT KNOW WHETHER ITíS THE TIME WE SPENT TOGETHER HERE ON THE __ENTERPRISE__ OR THE FACT THAT IíVE EXPOSED TOO MUCH OF MYSELF IN MY LETTERS, BUT I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN YOU WOULD REALIZE I WAS LOOKING FOR INFORMATION . . . AND SUPPLY IT WITHOUT MY HAVING TO ASK. YOUR EXPLANATION OF SPOCKíS PILGRIMAGE DID NOT MAKE THE PICTURE CRYSTAL CLEAR, BUT NOW I UNDERSTAND -- AT LEAST A LITTLE BIT -- THE WHYS AND WHEREFORES OF HIS LEAVE. I HOPE YOU DONíT MIND, BUT I PASSED SOME OF YOUR LETTER ON TO THE CREW . . . PARTICULARLY YOUR STATEMENT THAT THE CAPTAIN MUST BE MUCH BETTER IF SPOCK HAS LEFT HIM FOR A PROLONGED LENGTH OF TIME. YOUR STATEMENT HAS BOLSTERED MY FAITH IN THE PROMISING REPORTS WE HAVE HAD FROM DAKAINYA AND HAS STRENGTHENED CREW MORALE IMMEASURABLY. OF COURSE, SCOTTY HAS HAD A LOT TO DO WITH THAT. HE HAS SLIPPED INTO COMMAND AS IF TO THE MANNER BORN ALTHOUGH HE CONSTANTLY WORRIES ABOUT HIS "WEE BAIRNS"! I HAVE SEEN CHANGES IN HIM -- CHANGES WHICH INDICATE HE IS COMING TO TERMS WITH THE "LONELINESS" OF COMMAND. HE HAS OUTWARDLY STOPPED WISHING TO BE DOWN IN ENGINEERING DURING EVERY MINOR CRISIS, ALTHOUGH IíM SURE THAT INWARDLY IT WILL TAKE QUITE AWHILE FOR HIM TO FULLY TRUST ANY ENGINEERING CREW. (IF SPOCK AND THE CAPTAIN DONíT RETURN STARFLEET WOULD BE MAKING A MISTAKE IF THEY DONíT GIVE SCOTTY PERMANENT COMMAND OF THE __ENTERPRISE__. AND TO HELL WITH THE FACT THAT HE DIDNíT GO TO THE ACADEMY!)

I HAD BEEN DOING CONSIDERABLE THINKING ABOUT WHAT WE DISCUSSED YOUR LAST EVENING ON THE __ENTERPRISE__. (HAS IT BEEN ALMOST THREE MONTHS ALREADY?) AND, YOU WERE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT! NURSING IS NOT ENOUGH. SO, I GATHERED UP MY COURAGE AND APPLIED TO THE ACADEMY FOR MY M.D. I JUST RECEIVED MY ACCEPTANCE TODAY AND IíVE DEFINITELY DECIDED TO GO. (SEE WHAT OUR TALKS HAVE DONE?)

78

(page break)

FORTUNATELY, THE TERM WONíT BEGIN FOR SEVERAL MONTHS AND, ALTHOUGH WE ARE ON PATROL, I SHOULD ARRIVE IN TIME. IíM LOOKING FORWARD TO IT WITH GREAT ANTICIPATION. I CANíT REMEMBER EVER FEELING THIS EXCITED. (DR. McCOY SAYS I SOUND LIKE A GIGGLING SCHOOLGIRL!) BUT ITíS A GOOD FEELING -- AND IT WILL HELP ME GET THROUGH THESE DULL MONTHS ON PATROL.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

DID I SAY SOMETHING ABOUT PATROLS BEING DULL?

NEWS OF THE DISASTER ON ETHLANA MAY NOT HAVE REACHED THE __ENDEAVOR__ AS YET, BUT EVEN IF IT HAS, YOU PROBABLY DONíT KNOW (OR DO YOU?) THAT THE __ENTERPRISE__ WAS RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT . . . WHERE ELSE?

ABOUT A MONTH AGO, STARFLEET COMMAND RECEIVED A CALL FROM THE VULCAN SCIENCE ACADEMY REQUESTING ASSISTANCE IN DISCOVERING THE CAUSE OF A PLAGUE THAT WAS DEVASTATING ETHLANA. APPARENTLY THE CREW OF THE VULCAN RESEARCH VESSEL WORKING THERE HAD BEEN UNABLE TO ISOLATE THE CAUSE BECAUSE THEY THEMSELVES HAD BEEN INFECTED. THOUGH THE __ENTERPRISE__ WAS DUE IN DRY-DOCK, WE WERE GIVEN THE ASSIGNMENT.

WHEN DR. McCOY AND I BEAMED DOWN (AN ENTIRE MEDICAL TEAM HAD VOLUNTEERED BUT SCOTTY WOULDNíT LET THEM TAKE THE RISK WITHOUT KNOWING IF HUMANS WERE SUSCEPTIBLE) WE WERE GREETED -- AT LEAST I THINK IT WAS A GREETING -- BY THE PRIME MINISTER WHO THOUGHT THE DEVASTATION OF HIS PLANET WAS A RUSE BY THE FEDERATION TO TAKE OVER CONTROL OF ETHLANA. I TOOK AN INSTANT HATRED TO THAT MAN; HE WAS THINKING POLITICS WHILE HIS PEOPLE WERE SUFFERING AND DYING ALL AROUND HIM. I FELT EXTREMELY ASHAMED OF MYSELF LATER WHEN I REALIZED THAT ETHLANA, BEING SO FAR OUT IN THE GALAXY, HASNíT HAD MUCH CONTACT WITH OTHER CIVILIZATIONS AND IS NATURALLY SUSPICIOUS OF PEOPLE THEY DONíT KNOW. HOWEVER, I THINK WE MAY HAVE CHANGED HIS MIND; HIS ATTITUDE WAS CONSIDERABLY WARMER WHEN WE LEFT.

WITH THE EFFORTS IT TOOK TO CHANGE HIS MIND, WE WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MOVE MOUNTAINS IF DISASTER HADNíT STRUCK -- AGAIN. WE WERE CORRELATING THE LOG FROM THE __SURAK__, AND FOUND THAT THE VULCANS __HAD__ ISOLATED THE CAUSE -- A MUTANT VIRUS STRAIN IN THE VULCAN BLOOD. ONE OF THE VULCANS, WHILE EXPLORING THE ETHLANIAN FLORA, HAD RECEIVED A MINOR CUT FROM ONE OF THE PLANTS. NOTHING SERIOUS . . . BUT, THE PLANT VIRUS COMBINED WITH ELEMENTS IN THE VULCAN BLOOD AND CAUSED THE MUTATION. UNFORTUNATELY, IT SPREADS QUICKLY AND IS FATAL IF LEFT UNTREATED. NEVER HAVING COME IN CONTACT WITH THIS MUTANT STRAIN, THE ETHLANIANS HAD NOTHING WITH WHICH TO COMBAT IT. THE VULCANS DIDNíT HAVE TIME TO FIND THE CURE BECAUSE THEY -- AS WELL AS THE ETHLANIAN MEDICAL PERSONNEL -- HAD ALL BECOME INFECTED. (THE STRAIN IS NOT VERY SELECTIVE, STRIKING ALMOST ANYONE WHO COMES IN CONTACT WITH IT.)

CORRELATING ALL AVAILABLE DATA WITH THE SHIPíS COMPUTER TOOK RELATIVELY LITTLE TIME -- THERE WASNíT THAT MUCH DATA -- AND THE RESULTS WERE NOT TOTALLY PROMISING FROM THE FIRST BASIC TESTS RUN. STARTING FROM SCRATCH (PARDON THE PUN), WE RAN THE TESTS AGAIN, HOPING TO FIND SOMETHING WE MIGHT HAVE MISSED THE FIRST TIME. WHILE WAITING FOR THE COMPUTER TO SPEW FORTH ALL ITS INTELLIGENT GLORY, DR. McCOY SUDDENLY BROKE OUT WITH DIZZINESS, A COLD SWEAT, SHAKING HANDS, AND BLURRED VISION. I HELPED HIM TO A BED IN THE CORNER OF THE LAB, AND WE BOTH REALIZED THE __SPIRILLUM__ __PARASITUS__ __VULCANUS__ (THE NAME WE GAVE TO THAT "LITTLE BEASTIE," TO BORROW ONE OF SCOTTYíS FAVORITE PHRASES) HAD STRUCK AGAIN. I DID MY BEST TO MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE, BUT WITH A FEVER INCHING TOWARDS 105, THERE WAS LITTLE THAT COULD BE DONE EXCEPT PACK HIM IN ICE. I COULDNíT EVEN SEND HIM BACK TO THE __ENTERPRISE__; I SUDDENLY BECAME BOTH NURSE AND SOLE RESEARCHER.

YOU SEE, THE COMPUTER HAD CHOSEN THAT MOMENT TO COME UP WITH A PROMISING LEAD, AND IT WAS BACK TO THE CULTURE GROWTHS FOR ME. McCOY TRIED TO GIVE SOME DIRECTION TO THE TESTS, BUT WITH HIS HIGH FEVER AND DELIRIUM, HE WASNíT MAKING MUCH SENSE, SO I TOOK THE BIT IN MY TEETH, IGNORED HIM, AND PRAYED I WASNíT MAKING A BIG MISTAKE IN DOING SO. THE ETHLANIANS COULD NOT OFFER MUCH HELP EITHER, ALTHOUGH THEY WERE ABLE TO ASSIST WITH THE SIMPLE TASKS IN THE LAB. IíM CONVINCED SEVERAL COMMUNICATION CIRCUITS WERE BURNED OUT -- I WAS RELAYING MY IDEAS AND CORRELATING DATA ALMOST FASTER THAN THE COMPUTER COULD DIGEST IT -- OR SO IT SEEMED. TEMPERS STARTED TO FLARE AND MANY TIMES I FOUND MYSELF WISHING FOR SPOCKíS CALM PRESENCE TO COOL EVERYONE OFF. BUT, ON THE OTHER HAND, HIS NON-REACTIONS TEND TO INFURIATE PEOPLE EVEN MORE. AND THE ETHLANIANS ARE A VERY EXCITABLE RACE. I CANíT WIN!

AFTER ABOUT A WEEK OF THIS NON-STOP ACTIVITY (AND IF A NEVER SEE ANOTHER CULTURE DISH IT WILL BE TOO SOON!), THAT PROMISING LEAD DEVELOPED INTO SOMETHING SUBSTANTIAL. FROM THAT POINT ON, IT SEEMED SO EASY -- DEVELOPING THE SERUM AND WAITING FOR COMPUTER CONFIRMATION. TYPICALLY, DR. McCOY INSISTED ON BEING THE FIRST ONE TO RECEIVE IT. IT WAS NERVE-WRACKING TO SIT THERE AND WAIT FOR THE SERUM TO TAKE EFFECT, AND I WOULD NEVER HAVE FORGIVEN MYSELF IF ANYTHING HAD HAPPENED TO HIM. FINALLY HIS FEVER BROKE. THERE WAS SUCH JUBILATION AMONGST THE ETHLANIANS; ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS FIND A CORNER TO CRAWL INTO AND SLEEP.

WE WERE FORTUNATE TO HAVE DEVELOPED THE SERUM IN TIME TO SAVE MANY OF THE INDIVIDUALS WHO HAD CONTRACTED A LESS VIRULENT FORM OF THE DISEASE, BUT WE LOST THREE-QUARTERS OF THE VULCAN CREW AND 63% OF THE POPULATION OF THE CAPITAL CITY. I MOURN WITH THE SURVIVORS . . . THE ETHLANIANS HAVE JUST

79

(page break)

AS STRONG A REGARD FOR LIFE AS THE VULCANS. AND I UNDERSTAND WHAT THE LOSS OF SO MANY LIVES WOULD DO TO VULCAN AS A WHOLE.

THE VULCAN SCIENCE ACADEMY WAS MOST PLEASED WITH OUR REPORT. THEY HAVE INDICATED THAT RESEARCH WILL SHORTLY BEGIN ON METHODS TO PREVENT AN ACCIDENT LIKE THIS FROM RECURRING. PERHAPS THEY CAN DISCOVER WHY I WASNíT INFECTED. AT THIS POINT, I DONíT CARE WHY . . . IíM ONLY GRATEFUL I WASNíT SO THERE WAS SOMEONE TO DO THE RESEARCH.

SSARSUN, I AM GOING TO END THIS RIGHT NOW. YOU HAVE TOO MUCH TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT ON THE __ENDEAVOR__ WITHOUT MY ADDING TO IT. BESIDES, I SHOULD REALLY LEARN TO STAND ON MY OWN TWO FEET. THE EXPERIENCE ON ETHLANA CONVINCED SCOTTY THAT I DESERVED A COMMENDATION. MAYBE IT WILL CONVINCE ME . . .

TAKE CARE, SSARSUN. MY THOUGHTS ARE WITH YOU.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

TOMORROW WE ARRIVE AT STARBASE 25 WHERE IíLL GET TRANSPORT TO THE ACADEMY.

FOR THE PAST FEW DAYS, DR. McCOY HAS BEEN STALKING AROUND SICKBAY LIKE A WOUNDED MUGATO, RANTING AND RAVING THAT IíM LEAVING HIM WITH NO HELP AND, HE CLAIMS, NO ONE ABLE TO FIND ANYTHING. I HAVE TO LAUGH (TO MYSELF, OF COURSE) BECAUSE ITíS NOT AS IF I WONíT BE REPLACED. AND EVEN THOUGH HE WONíT SAY IT, I KNOW HE IS PLEASED BY MY DECISION.

THANK YOU, KIND SIR, FOR YOUR PLAUDITS ON THAT COMMENDATION . . . NEWS DOES TRAVEL FAST. (I THOUGHT ONLY BAD NEWS WAS INSTANTANEOUS!)

OH, BY THE WAY, THEREíS A FOOTNOTE TO THE ETHLANIAN SITUATION. THE FEDERATION WILL HAVE A NEW MEMBER. OBVIOUSLY, WE CHANGED THE PRIME MINISTERíS MIND!

UHURA JUST CAME BY TO DRAG ME TO A FAREWELL PARTY.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

SORRY I HAVENíT WRITTEN, BUT IíD FORGOTTEN HOW HECTIC A STUDENTíS LIFE CAN BE!

THE FIRST DAYS WERE AN ABSOLUTE WHIRLWIND. I SET UP MY COURSE AND LAB SCHEDULES, COLLECTED MY TAPES, AND SETTLED IN. IT WAS ALL WORTH IT -- THE ADMINISTRATION DECIDED THAT MY R.N. AND RESEARCH DEGREES AND EXPERIENCE WERE ENOUGH TO CHOP OFF ALMOST THREE YEARS FROM THE REQUIREMENTS -- IíLL FINISH AND HAVE MY M.D. IN TWO!

I HAVE FINALLY SETTLED INTO A ROUTINE, BUT IT GIVES ME ONLY A FEW MOMENTS OF FREE TIME EACH DAY . . . AND THOSE MINUTES HAVE BECOME PRECIOUS. I THOUGHT I WAS BUSY ON THE __ENTERPRISE__, BUT WHO EVER HEARD OF BEING OFF-DUTY FOR ONLY TWO HOURS A DAY? I SEEM TO RECALL THAT HISTORY CALLED THAT "SLAVE LABOR." AND I THOUGHT SLAVERY HAD BEEN ABOLISHED!

IíVE ALREADY MET SEVERAL INTERESTING PEOPLE IN THE THREE MONTHS SINCE THE START OF THE TERM . . . BOTH CLASSMATES AND FACULTY. AND WAIT UNTIL YOU HEAR THIS -- ONE OF MY PROFESSORS IS DR. PHILIP BOYCE, THE BIG EíS OLD CMO! (AND DONíT YOU DARE SAY ITíS A SMALL UNIVERSE OR IíLL THROW SOMETHING AT YOU . . . THE NEXT TIME YOUíRE WITHIN MY REACH!) WEíVE SPENT SEVERAL HOURS REMINISCING ABOUT OUR MUTUAL FRIENDS. APPARENTLY SPOCK GAVE PHIL THE SAME HEADACHES THAT HE NOW GIVES DR. McCOY. OUR DISCUSSIONS HAVE HELD A MUTUAL FASCINATION FOR BOTH OF US. DR. BOYCEíS DESCRIPTIONS OF SPOCK IN THE "OLD" DAYS AND MY DESCRIPTIONS OF HIM NOW ARE AN INTERESTING CONTRAST. NEITHER OF US CAN BELIEVE THAT WEíRE BOTH DESCRIBING THE SAME MAN!

80

(page break)

I RECEIVED A NOTE FROM UHURA THE OTHER DAY. AFTER LEAVING STARBASE 25, STARFLEET ORDERED SCOTTY TO TAKE THE --__ENTERPRISE__ TO CANOPIA FOR LONG NEEDED REPAIRS AND LEAVE FOR THE CREW. IT SHOULD TAKE ABOUT SIX TO EIGHT MONTHS TO COMPLETE THE OVERHAUL AND UHURA HAS PROMISED SHE WILL DROP IN AND VISIT DURING HER R&R. BY THE TIME THE __ENTERPRISE__ RETURNS TO ACTIVE DUTY, SPOCK SHOULD BE READY TO RETURN TO COMMAND. OR SO SAYS THE GRAPEVINE? OR SO STARFLEET HOPES?

HOW GOES IT ON THE __ENDEAVOR__? I HEARD ABOUT THAT LITTLE ALTERCATION YOU HAD WITH THE KLINGONS ON ARTEMIDI IV. SCUTTLEBUTT HAS IT THAT YOU SOLVED THE SITUATION BEFORE THE ORGANIANS HAD TO STEP IN, AND STARFLEET COMMAND SEEMS PLEASED WITH THE OUTCOME. FROM THE TALK, ONE WOULD THINK THAT STARFLEET CAME UP WITH THE GREATEST IDEA SINCE THE DISCOVERY OF THE WARP-DRIVE WHEN THEY GAVE YOU COMMAND. BUT THEN PEOPLE DO TEND TO CONVENIENTLY FORGET HOW LONG ONE RIDICULOUS REGULATION WAS IN EFFECT BEFORE THE BRASS WAS CONFRONTED WITH YOUR SERVICE RECORD KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

ALL RIGHT, I WONíT APOLOGIZE FOR NOT WRITING.

THESE PAST FEW MONTHS HAVE BEEN BUSIER THAN I EVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED! FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT, HAS BEEN MY WORK. IN ADDITION TO MY REGULAR CLASSES, IíVE BEEN DOING RESEARCH ON THE ETHLANIAN BLOOD PLAGUE. I SPOKE TO PHIL BOYCE ABOUT IT AND HE ARRANGED WITH THE FACULTY THAT I NOT ONLY BE ALLOWED TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THE RESEARCH BUT THAT IT SHOULD BE COUNTED AS PART OF MY DEGREE. HOWíS THAT FOR KILLING TWO BUGS WITH ONE TEST TUBE?

THE RESEARCH HAS BEEN PROGRESSING RAPIDLY AND I SHOULD HAVE THE PAPER FINISHED IN A FEW MONTHS. THEN COMES THE HARD PART . . . WAITING TO SEE HOW IT IS ACCEPTED, NOT ONLY BY FACULTY BUT BY THE VULCAN SCIENCE ACADEMY. THEY HAVE EXPRESSED INTEREST IN MY RESEARCH AND, OF COURSE, HAVE REQUESTED MY FINDINGS.

THEN CAME UHURAíS VISIT. HER TIMING COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE OPPORTUNE -- RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TERM BREAK. WE SPENT A MARVELOUS TEN DAYS DOING WHATEVER WE WANTED WHENEVER WE WANTED . . . NO SET ROUTINE FOR US. I MUST ADMIT WE SPENT MOST OF THE TIME TALKING AND I DIDNíT GET ANY WORK DONE, BUT THERE WAS SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ON. SHE FILLED ME IN ON ALL THE GOSSIP. SCOTTY IS SPENDING AT LEAST PART OF HIS LEAVE ON CANOPIA TO SUPERVISE THE OVERHAUL. HOW VERY LIKE HIM! AND MOST OF THE CREW IS TAKING THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO HOME.

DR. McCOY IS GOING TO VULCAN. I DONíT THINK ANY EXPLANATION OF __THAT__ VISIT IS NEEDED. HE HAS WRITTEN TO ME ABOUT THE REPORTS HEíS RECEIVED FROM DAKAINYA AND I KNOW HE IS CURIOUS ABOUT THEIR TECHNIQUES. HE CLAIMS THAT BY GOING TO VULCAN HEíLL BE ABLE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT VULCAN MEDICINE AND THEREFORE BE ABLE TO COPE WITH SPOCK. PERSONALLY, I THINK HEíS USING THAT AS AN EXCUSE -- HE MISSES THE CAPTAIN AND SPOCK MORE THAN HEíLL ADMIT.

THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL RUMORS FLOATING AROUND HERE THAT THE __ENTERPRISE__ WILL HAVE A NEW CREW ONCE HER REPAIRS ARE FINISHED. I WONDER WHATíS BEHIND THAT MANEUVER? UHURA WAS A BIT RELUCTANT TO TALK ABOUT IT. A SHADOW OF FOREBODING CROSSED HER FACE EVERY TIME I TRIED TO BRING UP THE SUBJECT. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING BIG AFOOT IF COMMAND IS CONSIDERING BREAKING UP THE MOST EFFICIENT CREW IN THE ENTIRE FLEET. OH WELL, THE ONLY SURE THING IN THIS UNIVERSE IS CHANGE.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

YOU SHOULDNíT HAVE DONE THAT! THOSE ROSES WERE ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! I DONíT KNOW HOW YOU MANAGED IT . . . AND IíM NOT GOING TO ASK. I DONíT WANT TO KNOW!

MY HEAD HAS BEEN SPINNING FROM ALL THE CONGRATULATIONS THAT HAVE BEEN FLOWING IN FROM WHAT SEEMS TO BE ALL FOUR CORNERS OF THE GALAXY. I NEVER DREAMED THAT PAPER WOULD CREATE SUCH A FUROR! I EVEN

81

(page break)

RECEIVED A STARGRAM FROM THE ETHLANIAN PRIME MINISTER -- BUT THE TWO STARGRAMS THAT MEANT THE MOST WERE THE ONES FROM YOU AND DR. McCOY.

THE ACADEMY HELD A RECEPTION IN MY HONOR YESTERDAY. ALL THOSE FAMOUS PEOPLE, INCLUDING TíSHANN, THE HEAD OF THE VULCAN SCIENCE ACADEMY. I FELT TOTALLY OUT OF PLACE, AS IF IT WAS ALL FOR SOMEONE ELSE. I NOW UNDERSTAND WHY CAPTAIN KIRK ALWAYS GRUMBLED ABOUT DIPLOMATIC FUNCTIONS. SSARSUN, I SYMPATHIZE WITH YOU!

I KEPT WISHING I COULD ESCAPE TO MY LAB AND WORK. THERE IS SO MUCH I HAVE TO CATCH UP ON FOR CLASSES THAT I DONíT KNOW WHERE IíLL FIND THE TIME. BUT IíLL FIND IT -- THIS TERM ENDS NEXT WEEK AND IíVE GOT A LOT OF STUDYING FOR EXAMS IF I EVER HOPE TO GRADUATE.

INSTEAD OF GOING HOME FOR THE BETWEEN-TERM BREAK, IíLL BE STAYING HERE AT THE ACADEMY. A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS FROM DELTA VII APPARENTLY HAS BEEN WORKING ON RESEARCH SIMILAR TO MINE AND THE HEAD OF THE TEAM, DR. MICHAEL GRAHAM, HAS INVITED ME TO CONTINUE MY RESEARCH WITH THEM. IíVE ACCEPTED.

I DONíT KNOW WHY, BUT I HAVE THE FEELING THAT STRINGS ARE BEING PULLED FOR ME. WHEN I ENTERED THE ACADEMY, I DIDNíT EXPECT ANY SPECIAL TREATMENT BUT IT SEEMS THAT EVERY TIME I TURN AROUND, DOORS OPEN THAT NORMALLY WOULD STAY CLOSED. FIRST, IT WAS THE REDUCTION OF TIME NECESSARY FOR MY DEGREE; THEN PERMISSION FOR THE INDEPENDENT RESEARCH, AND NOW THIS OPPORTUNITY TO WORK WITH DR. GRAHAM. SOMETHING IS GOING ON AND I DONíT UNDERSTAND IT.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

YOU SEE STANDING BEFORE YOU ONE CONTRITE AND REPRIMANDED WOMAN. I DESERVED EVERYTHING YOU THREW AT ME . . . AND I DIDNíT DUCK. IT __WAS__ CHILDISH TO CONSIDER THE THOUGHT THAT SOMEONE WAS PULLING STRINGS ON MY BEHALF. AFTER DUE CONSIDERATION I CONCEDE THAT MY ABILITIES OPENED THE DOORS. WILL YOU CONCEDE THAT LUCK ALSO PLAYED A PART AND THAT I WAS IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME?

THE RESEARCH WITH MICHAEL IS PROGRESSING NICELY. WE THINK ALONG SIMILAR LINES, WHICH ELIMINATES "ARGUMENTS" OVER THE DIRECTION THE EXPERIMENTS WILL TAKE. WE ARE MAKING HEADWAY AND ENCOURAGEMENT FROM TíSHANN SPURS US ON. WE HOPE TO FINISH THIS SET OF EXPERIMENTS BEFORE THE NEW TERM BEGINS. IíD HATE TO HAVE TO LEAVE IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS -- I FIND THE RESEARCH (AND THE COMPANY) FASCINATING.

BUT, AS FASCINATING AS IT ALL IS, IíM ITCHING TO GET BACK TO CLASSES . . . ONLY ONE MORE YEAR TO GO. I FIND MYSELF IMPATIENT TO FINISH. I MISS STARSHIP DUTY AND CANíT WAIT TO GET BACK.

YOUR LETTER COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE WELCOME. I PASSED ON THE NEWS TO UHURA THAT CAPTAIN KIRK APPEARS TO BE ALMOST READY TO RETURN TO DUTY. IíM SURE SHE WILL MAKE SURE IT REACHES THE REST OF THE CREW.

THOSE VULCAN TECHNIQUES HAVE DONE WONDERS. I WONDER WHAT DR. McCOY THINKS OF THEM? I GUESS IíLL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT MONTH TO FIND OUT . . . HE SAID HEíLL BE STOPPING AT THE ACADEMY ON HIS WAY BACK TO THE __ENTERPRISE__. IíM LOOKING FORWARD TO HIS VISIT. ITíS BEEN A LONG TIME, AND, WHILE LETTERS ARE A GOOD WAY OF KEEPING IN TOUCH, AS YOU ARE WELL AWARE, ITíS JUST NOT THE SAME.

AND SPEAKING OF LETTERS . . . (WERE WE?)

STARFLEET COMMAND HAS STARTED TO MAKE SUBTLE INQUIRIES REGARDING MY PLANS AFTER GRADUATION. I GET THE DISTINCT IMPRESSION THAT FLEET IS PLANNING TO RE-SHUFFLE PERSONNEL. THIS ONLY STRENGTHENS THE RUMORS REGARDING THE __ENTERPRISE__ CREW. OTHERWISE, WHY HAVE ME MAKE MY DECISION A YEAR AHEAD OF TIME?

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

I CANíT BELIEVE THAT I CAN ACTUALLY SEE AN END TO THE PAST YEARíS MADNESS . . . ONLY EIGHT MONTHS TO GO . . .

82

(page break)

UNFORTUNATELY, I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THAT RESEARCH WITH MICHAEL . . . WE HAD A MINOR SETBACK IN ONE SET OF EXPERIMENTS WHICH PUSHED THE SCHEDULE BACK TO THE POINT WHERE I HAD TO LEAVE FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE NEW TERM BEFORE WE FINISHED. MICHAEL HAS WRITTEN THAT THE EXPERIMENTS WERE FINISHED SHORTLY AFTER THAT AND TíSHANN WAS MOST PLEASED WITH THE RESULTS.

AND SPEAKING OF RESEARCH . . . IT SEEMS THAT FOR ONCE BEING A TERRAN WOMAN HAD ITS ADVANTAGES. IT WAS THE ESTROGEN IN MY BLOODSTREAM THAT IMMUNIZED ME FROM THE DISEASE.

NO, SSARSUN, I WAS NOT HINTING FOR A NEW JOB . . . BUT I THANK YOU FOR THE OFFER OF A POSITION ON THE __ENDEAVOR__. YES, I PROMISE THAT I SHALL THINK ABOUT YOUR OFFER, BUT I MUST CONSIDER IT ALONG WITH MY OTHER OPTIONS . . . AND THERE ARE SEVERAL. STARFLEET COMMAND HAS INDICATED THAT MY WISHES WILL WEIGH HEAVILY IN THEIR DECISION OF WHERE I SHALL BE ASSIGNED AFTER GRADUATION.

WHICH LEADS ME TO DR. McCOY. . .

HE ARRIVED LOOKING HAPPIER AND MORE CONTENTED THAN I CAN REMEMBER SEEING HIM IN QUITE AWHILE . . . AND THE REASON IS FAIRLY OBVIOUS. HIS VISIT TO VULCAN DID HIM AS MUCH GOOD AS IT DID CAPTAIN KIRK.

WHILE DR. McCOY (sic RBW MC COY) WAS HERE, HE HAD SEVERAL OPPORTUNITIES TO TALK WITH PHIL. FROM THE SNATCHES OF CONVERSATION I HEARD, I THINK THEIR MAIN TOPIC WAS VULCAN AND VULCAN MEDICINE. (OF COURSE, THERE WERE "SIDE TRIPS" ABOUT SPOCK. McCOY HAD THE SAME REACTION AS I . . .)

I MAY NOT HAVE HEARD ALL OF THE CONVERSATIONS, BUT THE ANIMATED LOOK ON McCOYíS FACE WAS ALL I NEEDED TO SEE TO KNOW THAT HE IS GOING TO DELVE DEEPER INTO THESE HEALING TECHNIQUES. HE SAYS HEíS GOING TO NEED THEM MORE THAN EVER BEFORE . . . HE NOW CLAIMS HEíLL HAVE __TWO__ VULCANS ON HIS HANDS!

ALL IN ALL, HIS VISIT WAS A WELCOME BREAK IN THE ROUTINE OF LAB AND WARDS. HE OFFERED ME A POSITION . . . AS ASSISTANT MEDICAL OFFICER ON THE __ENTERPRISE__. IT WAS A COMPLETE SURPRISE . . . AND I WAS A BIT DISTURBED. AFTER ALL, MíBENGA HAS BEEN McCOYíS ASSISTANT FOR QUITE AWHILE. WHEN I ASKED HIM WHAT THAT WOULD DO TO HIM HE JUST SAT THERE AND GRINNED. SSARSUN, IF YOU DONíT TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON, IíM GOING TO SCREAM!

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

 

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

WORD HAS JUST REACHED THE ACADEMY! YOU KNEW I WAS RIGHT (WELL, I WAS THINKING IN ALL THE RIGHT DIRECTIONS AT LEAST) AND YOU NEVER SAID A WORD!!! YOU CAN STOP LAUGHING RIGHT THIS MOMENT -- YOU -- YOU ALDEBARAN SHELLMOUTH!

A COMMAND FLEET OF THREE STARSHIPS! THERE HAS TO BE A GOOD REASON FOR THAT MILITARY TACTIC . . . (I SUPPOSE YOU KNOW WHAT IT IS AND NO DOUBT ITíS CLASSIFIED SO IíLL NEVER FIND OUT!) AND, AS IF THAT WASNíT ENOUGH, AN EXTENSIVE CHANGE OF PERSONNEL. I KNOW CERTAIN PEOPLE WHO ARE GOING TO BE VERY UNHAPPY ABOUT THAT . . . I WONDER HOW CAPTAIN -- NO, BETTER MAKE THAT COMMODORE -- KIRK IS GOING TO TAKE IT. HEíLL HAVE TO USE THE __PEGASUS__ AS HIS FLAGSHIP -- THE BRASS WONíT TAKE KINDLY TO HIS NOT USING THE NEW SHIP AS A SHOWPIECE. BUT, IíVE ALWAYS HAD THE FEELING THAT HE BELIEVED THE __ENTERPRISE__ WAS HIS OWN PERSONAL PROPERTY AND IíM SURE HEíD MUCH RATHER HAVE HER . . . OH WELL, IF HE HAS TO SURRENDER HER, IíM SURE HEíS PLEASED THAT IT WILL BE TO SPOCK. HEíLL HAVE TO SHARE THE __PEGASUS__ WITH CAPTAIN AILYEA (WELL, HE CANíT FAULT HER SERVICE RECORD . . . ALL RIGHT, SSARSUN, SO WHAT IF I DID DO SOME CHECKING . . .). BUT ARE THE RUMORS TRUE? DID SHE ACTUALLY HAVE MICHAELSON "DECLARED UNFIT FOR DUTY"? SHE TOOK A BIG CHANCE -- IT COULD HAVE BEEN CONSTRUED AS MUTINY.

DID YOU NOTICE SCOTTYíS PROMOTION? NOT THE CAPTAINCY I WANTED FOR HIM, BUT HE MORE THAN DESERVES TO BE FIRST OFFICER.

McCOY MUST BE FIT TO BE TIED. WITH HIS TRANSFER TO THE __PEGASUS__ ALL HEíS REALLY DOING IS SUBSTITUTING AN ANDORIAN FOR A VULCAN! I CAN HEAR HIM MUTTERING "BACK TO THE TEXTBOOKS". AND YES, I DID SEND HIM A CONGRATULATORY STARGRAM.

AND YOUíVE GOTTEN LT. COMMANDER UHURA! SHEíS A PERSONAL FRIEND AND A FINE OFFICER. MARK MY WORDS SHEíLL BE A CAPTAIN SOMEDAY SOON. PLEASE MAKE HER FEEL AT HOME.

IíVE JUST RE-READ THIS LETTER. IT SOUNDS LIKE A PROMOTION LIST! I THINK IíLL QUIT WHILE IíM AHEAD.

FONDLY,

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

83

(page break)

STARDATE:

[MESSAGE FOLLOWS]

DEAR SSARSUN:

I CANíT BELIEVE THAT ITíS ALL OVER . . . THAT I CAN NOW SIGN LT. COMMANDER CHRISTINE CHAPEL, M.D. IT WAS WORTH EVERY BIT OF THE EFFORT!

OF COURSE I FORGIVE YOU FOR NOT BEING HERE FOR THE CEREMONIES AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THE STARGRAM AND THE SCULPTURE. ITíS BEAUTIFUL BUT IT MUST HAVE COST YOU A SMALL FORTUNE.

DR. McCOY ALSO SENT HIS CONGRATULATIONS -- AND REGRETS. HE WAS UNABLE TO GET AWAY FROM THE __PEGASUS__ SHAKEDOWN CRUISE AND HE SAYS THAT HE WONíT FEEL AT HOME UNTIL HE PUTS SOME ACID BURNS ON THE LAB TABLES!

BURIED AMONGST ALL THE MESSAGES FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS WAS A STARGRAM WITH GOOD WISHES FROM SPOCK AND I WAS SURPRISED TO RECEIVE IT. IT WAS VERY THOUGHTFUL OF HIM TO TAKE THE TIME. AND WHEN I READ IT, I SUDDENLY REALIZED THAT I HAVENíT THOUGHT ABOUT HIM IN MONTHS.

YOU PROBABLY HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED WORD FROM THE SURGEON GENERALíS OFFICE, BUT IíD LIKE TO TELL YOU MYSELF. I AM YOUR NEW ASSISTANT CMO. I ALSO WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT IT DIDNíT TAKE LONG TO MAKE THE DECISION. IT FELT SO RIGHT . . . !

THAT IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM MY FEELINGS OF TWO YEARS AGO. I NEVER TOLD YOU THIS, BUT RIGHT AFTER THAT INCIDENT ON ETHLANA, TíSHANN OFFERED ME A RESEARCH POSITION AT THE VULCAN SCIENCE ACADEMY. I HAD DECIDED TO GO BACK FOR MY M.D. IT WAS A VERY DIFFICULT DECISION FOR ME TO MAKE -- THE RESEARCH POSITION WAS VERY TEMPTING. BUT I HAD TO LEARN IF THE TEMPTATION WAS BECAUSE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES IN MEDICINE OR BECAUSE IT WAS ON VULCAN AND THE ONLY WAY I COULD BE CERTAIN WAS TO REMOVE MYSELF FROM THE TEMPTATION. I TURNED DOWN TíSHANNíS OFFER, AND, IN RETROSPECT, I MADE THE RIGHT DECISION. SHE RECENTLY OFFERED ME THE POSITION AGAIN AND THIS TIME I TURNED IT DOWN -- WITH NO HESITATION WHATSOEVER. MY PLACE IS NOT ON VULCAN.

FONDLY,

[KC06IL29.TIF]

(RBW Note. Signature of Christine)

CHRISTINE

[MESSAGE ENDS]

[KC06IL30.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Ssarsun on the left side of the page.

[KC06IL31.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Christine on the right side of the page even with the above drawing.)

[KC06IL32.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of building with shuttlecraft taking off in the bottom center of the page below the above two drawings.)

84

(page break)

[KC06IL33.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawn symbol on the left of the following title.)

BONESíS VISION

[KC06IL34.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawn symbol on the right of the above title.)

(RBW Note. The same symbols are on the top and bottom of the authors name which is spelled out from top to bottom instead of left to right to the left of the main drawing with the bottom characters aligned.)

[KC06IL35.TIF]

(RBW Note. Symbol at the top of Eileen and Roy)

[KC06IL36.TIF]

(RBW Note. Symbol at the bottom of Eileen and Roy)

Eileen

 

Roy

[KC06IL37.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of McCoy with star field background holding a bubble or lens.)

85

(page break)

Kraith AV

Beneath the diagnostic panels Lt. Minos and the Captain lay limp and motionless, readings on both panels oscillating in unison. Bones sighed and rubbed his tired neck--not an easy task in a pressure suit. Four hours to perihelion, he noted. Might as well get some rest. He sure couldnít help Spock or the ship now. In spite of the tension, the heat, his uncomfortable outfit, he was almost instantly asleep. And he dreamed.

At first there were only fragments, like bright pieces of a broken mirror. Tanya, looking so small beside Jim--would she make it? Sheíll live, he reassured himself. Itíll be close, but sheíll live to raise that child she bears . . . . Johanna? Sheís on Spica VII now, with that young med officer. They make a nice couple. Nothing will come of it, though. Pity. Time you were up and doing, girl!

Wait a second, I havenít seen Joanna in seven years! And how do I know Tanya is pregnant? Thoughts calming, he almost spoke aloud, turning a little in his sleep. It must be the star, he thought drowsily The star--the star . . .

 

They were a year and a half outside Federation borders when Bones confirmed Lt. Minosí pregnancy, six months after their last planet fall. Like it or not, the __Enterprise__ was going to have to serve as part-time nursery until this mission was completed. Bones didnít like it. The medical problems of the pre-natal care, delivery and raising of the first 3/4 human, 1/4 Vulcan child--in a small sickbay __not__ designed for children, with only the resources available to him--worried him severely.

For weeks now he had set away some time each day for going through the computer. It was time-consuming, but if heíd done what Spock had suggested, setting a program to look for the words Ďpregnancy,í Ďbabyí and so forth, he would have had to spend even longer sorting through every piece of junk that machine would come up with--and heíd bet it would miss the most important things at that. No, a human could do this better.

He was busy looking up cross references when the intercom beeped. "McCoy here."

"Could you come to my quarters, Doctor?" Spockís voice said, sounding strained. "TíAniyeh has fainted."

"On my way." Bones grabbed his med kit and was out the door. A moment later he knelt by the girl, now weakly trying to get up.

"Nothing seriously wrong," he said. "But itís sickbay and bedrest for the next month for you, young lady." Without prompting, Spock picked Tanya up and carried her smoothly to sickbay. There he stood over her until she fell asleep.

Bones turned from examining Tanya to look at Spock closely. "You look as pale as Tanya, Spock. Anything the matter?"

"We are linked," Spock said quietly. "At such times the bond is especially strong."

Bones went through that flat statement several times, digging out every implication. "If Tanya dies in childbirth . . . ."

"There is a 36% chance that I will also die." Spock turned away to stand again over Tanya, eyes hooded. Bones went back to his research, fervor re-doubled. He had to find something!

Soon only the noiseless flicker of pages marked his fruitless search. Some corner of his mind noticed a soft murmur of voices from the other room. Abstractly, he wondered what the two were saying to each other.

 

Bones fumbled for a moment with a kind of passionless curiosity. One scene blurred and another came into view as he changed focus slightly . . . .

 

"How do you feel?" Spock asked softly.

"Shaky. All right." She sighed and her eyes fluttered wearily open. "It does not go well."

"If we were on Vulcan, Saptiir and SíVeg . . . ."

"But we are not on Vulcan, and we have only Dr. McCoy, who growls like a busy sehlat and

86

(page break)

is so gentle inside." She added, even more softly. "And sometimes I get so scared . . . ."

"McCoy has sworn he will deliver the child as soon as possible."

"But she is so still within my body." Somewhat plaintively, she observed, "I havenít felt one kick."

"A fact for which I cannot help but feel the most profound gratitude." Relenting slightly, he said, "Her mind is strong and vigorous. Physically, she is doing as well as can reasonably be expected."

"That isnít good enough. This body is so frail. If I were Vulcan . . . . Oh, Spock, Iím so afraid of failing you."

"TíAniyeh. Look at me." Gently he turned the delicate face to him, keeping his fingers in the near-mind touch position for emphasis. "If you were Vulcan, you would not be you. And you could not fail me if you tried."

There was silence for a long moment, and in TíAniyehís eyes that searched his there was only doubt.

"There is no Naming Committee here, but I believe that I may make up an adequate list of available names. There is one that I would choose, if you agree," Spock remarked matter-of-factly, removing his hands.

"What?"

"TíEkitah."

"TíEkitah . . . ." She repeated the name slowly, tasting its multiple associations, its lineage, its history. Suddenly she almost, not quite, chuckled. "Such a tall name for such a small baby!"

"She will grow," he prophesied confidently.* "There is time."

"Not much." As he looked at her sharply, she said, "There is, for example, exactly five minutes before you go on duty."

"I would stay . . . ."

"But you must go--and somehow, I will survive. Lower the lights as you leave?"

Before he turned to go, he stood for a moment, looking at the door behind which Dr. McCoy sat. "I do not trust him," Spock said.

"That is all right," she answered calmly. "I do."

Spock looked at her, startled for a second, thought it over and blinked in assent. He dialed the lights to a dim, velvety red and left to go on duty.

The big room was empty except for TíAniyeh, and utterly still. There was no one who could have heard her murmur, "TíEkitah," as she lay there, staring alone into the darkness.

 

Bones stood at the observation window, too worried even to fume. The tiny baby within the small sterile room was completely motionless. He had to check the monitors again and again to reassure himself that she still breathed, even though he knew alarms would ring loud enough to rouse half the ship if that small sound ever stopped.

He examined her with his eyes once more, looking for something, anything. Though she barely weighed four pounds, she already had a soft cap of fluffy black hair. Her ears might be just slightly pointed, but her delicate eyebrows swept upward in true Vulcan fashion. Yet her color was not either the angry red of newborn human infants, nor the plush green of Vulcan infants, but the paleness of thin porcelain, the color of pearl or ivory. Under half closed lids her eyes could be glimpsed. They were green--not the light color humans called hazel, but the true deep green of emeralds or four-leafed clovers.

She was nestled within an automated crib, or "spider" as the medical personnel had promptly nicknamed it. A pair of hands hung limply at each corner, from alpha pair with enough strength to move the whole crib and life support system, to gamma pair that was too small to see and needed its own microscopic eyes. Beta and delta were child size, suited to handling an infant. Bones inserted his hands in betaís controls aimlessly; as he flexed his fingers the hands above the crib copied exactly every move the control made. A vial of thick, opalescent liquid hung over the crib; he removed it and placed it neatly on a nearby shelf. Withdrawing his hands, he made some miniscule, needless adjustment to the heat controls.

"You were right about the environmental controls," he remarked. "The extra heat made all the difference. Sheís breathing easily now; not choking in her own phlegm. If only sheíd breathe

(Karen note. There is an underscore two lines after the last word "breathe" above, below which is an asterisk, and Authorís note. The underscore goes partially across the page just above the authorís note.)

__________________________________

*Authorís note: TíEkitah means, as far as can be determined, a creative blend of authority and responsibility. It has been traditionally associated with areas power, for good or evil.

87

(page break)

on her own!"

Spock stood at the other side of the observation window. His hands were pressed flat against the glass, his eyes never moving from the small figure within. He didnít respond to Bonesí remarks.

Bones, knuckling his sandy eyes, wondered just how long Spock had been standing there. Then, going a bit further, he wondered how long he himself had been up. It had been--what--the evening of two days ago that he had started the Caesarian section? He had been kept busy that night and the day after with first Tanya and then the baby. And then last night he hadnít been able to sleep. Tossing and turning, wild ideas and theories jostling in his head, he had finally given up and come down to the lab again. He hadnít even seen Tanya since the operation.

"Where is Tanya?" he asked idly.

Spock jerked his chin in what might have been the direction of sickbay.

"She is still in sickbay?" Bones asked, astonished. "She could be up by now . . . ."

"She bends her will to the child. What would you have her do, __Doctor__?"

"Sorry, sorry." Bones sighed. He turned again to look at the child. Sudden frustration made him slam his fist against the control panel.

"I donít know whatís wrong! Sheís breathing all right, and the artificial blood is functioning perfectly. Everything checks out OK . . . . She just isnít trying to live! Sheís letting that machine do it all!"

"What was the matter with her blood to begin with?" Spock asked.

Perhaps fumblingly trying to make amends? Bones wondered. No matter. He remembered vividly Spock, during the operation, standing at Tanyaís head, her hand between his, eyes closed and bearing rigid, hardly seeming to breathe. Glad that something, finally, had broken Spockís withdrawal, he turned to explain.

"She hadnít been doing well for some time. But there was no indication of anything specifically wrong. Two nights ago, though, the tell-tale warned of a complete circulatory collapse.

"It wasnít her heart; her heart was fine," he continued. "It was the oxygen carrying blood cells themselves. Red blood cells are larger than green blood cells, almost four times as large. But, conversely, there are four times as many green blood cells. That means that a volume of green blood cells can carry almost twice the oxygen as the same volume of red blood cells."

Spock was still again, a graven statue staring into the room. But Bones knew somehow that Spock was listening. He plowed on determinedly.

"As the baby developed, she started to need more oxygen than a completely human baby would. Sites in her bone marrow were manufacturing green blood cells at that time. But those sites were not responsive to need, as human sites would have been. Eventually the difference became too great and she had the equivalent of a heart attack. I had thought that that might be the trouble. Replacing her blood with fluorine polymers did the trick--luckily, before any damage could be done."

"How long will it last?" Spock asked abstractly.

"Theoretically forever." Bones shrugged. "Of course, sooner or later sheíll need more of it. But itíll be easy to tell when. Weíll just have to watch for her blood turning pink, as she grows bigger and needs more oxygen . . . ."

Bonesí voice died away. Neither of them said it, but Bones was sure that they were both thinking it. "If she grows bigger . . . ."

The silence that reverberated with that thought was broken by Spockís voice.

"I canít reach her mind," he said softly. "It is as though--as though she were dead."

"She was."

"What?"

"Well, technically. For a few seconds. Not long enough to do any damage to her brain."

Spock was staring at him. "She died within her motherís womb," he said slowly. "And since then the only one to touch her has been a psi-null . . . . Oh, fool! Doctor, I must get in to touch her."

Though considerably startled, Bones was not forgetful of the facts. "You canít."

"Doctor, she is not trying to live because she does not know that she is alive. If I could touch her, tell her . . . ."

"It would kill her. Spock, that baby has no resistance whatsoever to disease. Tanya

88

(page break)

carried her this long only because I dosed her up to the eyebrows with parity tolerance enhancers. And until we know what extrinsic antigens wonít react fatally with her own cells . . . ."

"Unless she can be awakened within 2.3 hours, it will be too late anyway. In other cases such as this, two days was the limit. After that time she will die, despite all your machines can do."

Bones stared at Spock, at the baby, made an agonized choice. Cursing, he slapped the intercom button for Sickbay.

"Christine, you can handle the spider controls, canít you? Get up here and bring the vials of human-Vulcan antigens with you. Stat!"

Christine arrived three minutes later--with Tanya, who looked pale but determined. "There is need." she explained quietly. Bones didnít waste time arguing.

The vials were soon sterilized and inside the room. "Weíll take them one at a time, waiting five minutes between each injection," he instructed Christine.

"But--" Christine said.

"The reactions weíll have to handle as they come up--and God help us all."

Christine looked as though she wanted to say amen to that.

It was the fourth vial that did it. The baby shivered convulsively, went rigid and then completely limp. Bones, mumbling something under his breath--he didnít know whether it was a prayer or a curse--gave her one drop of cordrazine. She didnít respond. Repeating over and over, "Come on, Kitten, come on. Live!" he carefully gave her a quarter of a drop more. It was enough. The baby sighed softly as her heart started beating again. The rest of the series continued with no overt problems, though Bones knew he would probably be fighting pneumonia, measles, and kirrlian rot in the baby for the next month to come. But for now she was at least partially protected.

With a sigh he released the seal on the door to the sterile room. "All right, you two. You can go in and see her--if you want."

With a look at Bones that Bones preferred not to translate, Spock and Tanya went inside the room.

Bones didnít stick around to see the baby receive her name and first conscious thought from her parents, or to hear the hefty yell with which TíEkitah greeted that information. He didnít know about anyone else, but personally, he was going to get some sleep.

 

Bones muttered slightly in his sleep. That peace wouldnít last long. Damn Spock! His stubbornness could have hurt Kitten! Of course, he admitted, he himself could bear some of the blame . . . .

 

Bones glared at Spock, tight-lipped. Spock glared right back. "Look, Spock. I was right about the formula. Youíve got to admit Iím right about this too!"

"A lucky guess, made at the last possible moment. And your projected environmental controls would have . . . ."

"Sheís human, Spock! The combination of a half-human father and a fully human mother could produce nothing else."

"She is also a citizen of Vulcan. She will be raised in Tsaichrani even as her mother was, and none of your interference will be allowed to change that fact. With her telepathic potentialities, human society would destroy her. As it is, even with our full protection . . . ."

89

(page break)

The tableau was broken as the intercom beeped. It was Lt. Minos, sounding rather harried. "Lt. Minos here. Doctor McCoy, could you come to my quarters? TíEkitah is upset and I cannot quiet her." The two men moved together to the door, differences forgotten.

Bones braced himself before entering the 98įF temperature of Lt. Minosí cabin. The baby was indeed crying lustily. He took quick readings on his medical scanner.

"I canít spot anything wrong. Just general feelings of discomfort. Nothing like this has happened before?" Tanya shook her head. "I guess that schedule works--for her." He studied the red and squalling infant again. Something clicked in his mind. At four months? Nevertheless, he inserted a finger in the babyís mouth and ran it gently over the gums. Yes, there was a definite swelling.

"Mysteryís solved. Sheís teething."

"So soon? In those books you gave me . . . ."

"Itís precocious, but not unprecedented."

Tanya turned to Spock. "Have you got the liíka ready yet?"

He shook his head. "I was not expecting it to be needed this soon. But we can manage now that we know what is wrong."

As the two Vulcans encircled the tiny face with gentle fingers the crying thinned and stopped, transformed into quiet gurgles. As the small fists waved aimlessly Bones felt a newly familiar wrenching at his heart. It had been so long since a tiny hand had curled around his finger, or grabbed at his hair.

The arguments didnít stop--couldnít stop, such was the nature of the problem. A Vulcan does not allow unwarranted interference in his private life, and McCoy had not proven himself one to be given that authority. Yet TíEkitah was human, or nearly so. Any part of the normal child-care routine for the hardy Vulcan infant could prove superfluous, impractical, or downright dangerous when dealing with a more helpless human baby. The two men had to work together. And Spockís attitude of being a dedicated father protecting his child from the foul suggestions of an African Witch-Doctor, Bones told himself resentfully, was not an asset in reaching that goal.

Bones was trying to remain completely objective--and failing miserably. His growing affection for the small girl-child was stirring up memories he thought had been buried safely long ago, buried with the death of his second daughter and his marriage. He had never looked back. With practice heíd stopped thinking about the past at all. A new life among the stars. And now this little girl . . . so precious a life. Spock may be Kittenís father, but he doesnít know everything. He could hurt her without even meaning to. Bones __had__ to try and protect her.

And so the two men faced each other, each caught in their private traps of cultural teachings, memories, buried quilts, and tradition.

It happened finally. Spock terminated a long, almost totally pointless wrangle with one tired question. "And you the expert? How many daughters do you have, Doctor?"

Bones gulped. Images, scraps of memory whirled through his mind without rhyme or reason. The small grave, Joanna grown and smiling, Kittenís rare smile that was given to him alone, Ethel--oh, what a mess we made of it--Kitten again. She was the important one, really. It was like throwing away a shield and deliberately exposing tender flesh to a rain of fire, but he did it. "Two, Mr. Spock," he said evenly. "One died as a child. The other is doing fine, thank you." Slowly he relaxed, waiting for Spockís response. He wondered a little about his own reaction to the admission. It felt--it felt sort of free. Bones unconsciously stood a little straighter.

Spock froze. His mind moved as fast as the Doctorís but much more coherently. He wasted no time damning himself for somewhere picking up the peculiarly human habit of ignoring the obvious. The doctorís manner and behavior over the years Spock had known him--never mind. The facts were: McCoy had had the experience of raising at least one human female. No one else aboard the __Enterprise__ had had that experience and medical training also. McCoyís affection for the child was obvious, but he had not been possessive to a degree that Spock couldnít handle. His opinions concerning TíEkitahís physical well-being had met with only 71.5% success, but every prediction of her behavior had proved itself. Spock came back to life in a final, though not total, capitulation. "What do you want me to do, Doctor?" After all, it was a simple matter of statistics.

 

Bones mused over what would become memories. Kitten grew so fast those two and a half years. She went from creeping directly to walking--didnít want to spend time on crawling. She was talking before she was two, and among her first English words--Bones. Apparently her own idea, too (at least, Jim adamantly denied coaching her.) The first time she was ever on a planetís surface--he still swore she waited deliberately until her parents were out of sight before tumbling into that mud puddle. Oh, she was a wriggling, giggling mess. Later, falling asleep as he carried her--her eyes were a perfect match for the emerald sky.

He remembered her listening docilely as Spock reprimanded her sharply for inattention--then bursting into a wailing tantrum over a pinched finger when alone with Bones. That crystallized a decision for him. Emotion without controls is wrong even for human children. Kneeling beside her,

90

(page break)

[KC06IL38.TIF]

(RBW Note. Full page drawing of McCoy and TíEkitah as a 2 year old with TíAniyeh in profile in the upper left corner and Spock in semi profile in lower right corner.)

91

(page break)

he spoke gently. "That finger isnít hurt, Kitten, and temper tantrums wonít help. Iíll come back and see you later, when youíve calmed down." He turned and walked away, not looking back at her shocked face. She never needed a second lesson.

It hadnít all been that smooth. There had been that rather dreadful scene when Spock discovered Bones telling a wide-eyed TíEkitah a fairy tale. One of Grimmís, he thought. In something very like a cold and implacable rage Spock had forbidden TíEkitah to visit Bones again and whirled the child away. He rescinded the decision only when it became apparent that Bones was genuinely penitent, that the stories hadnít seemed to do TíEkitah any harm, and that TíEkitah was slowly fretting herself into illness without her beloved Bones. Their reunion broadcast quiet deep happiness all over the ship. After that Bones OKíd her reading list with Spock.

Much later, there was that truly monumental drunk in Jimís cabin. Safely back within Federation borders, they had just returned from relinquishing TíEkitah to her grandparentsí care. Holding off black depression with both hands, Bones had discovered a bottle so well hidden he had completely forgotten it through almost five years on board ship. Somewhere between the first and second halves of the bottle, Bones found himself waxing philosophical.

"You know, Jim, that child is going to be a Bombshell in the Federation when she grows up. The offspring of a Daughter and a Kataytikh of the First Realm . . . a genius, steeped in science from the minute she was born . . . a telepath of her power . . . both Vulcan and Human as Spock could never let himself be . . . . That kid is going to be able to do or be anything she wants."

It was Jim, curiously sober, who asked the key, the crucial, question. "What will she want?"

There were visits, with TíEkitah taller and prettier each time. Her graduation. The memories grew dark and troubled. Ahead of him loomed a terrible foreknowledge. Somehow Bones sensed it, tried to hold it off. But it swept toward him as inexorably as time itself.

He saw her die, slowly, agonizingly, at the hands of a mob the likes of which had not been seen on any civilized world for centuries. Some of the reasons behind it were hidden from him indeed, some he would not know, even then. But her presence in the tense, turbulent atmosphere of interstellar politics, twenty-five years from now, would form a catalyst. The group of young people who had hijacked the __Enterprise__, looking for Eden, had not been alone. In twenty-five years such groups would grow enormously, joining young, rebellious people in other worlds and races. They lacked only a head, a leader, a--a martyr. Bones, again, saw her die.

And the start of it all? A few careless remarks made by Bones himself, about the well-nigh intolerable conditions for youth on the more civilized, restricted and crowded worlds.

The knowledge had come too swiftly for grief, only a numb disbelief. Kitten, he thought and, not again, not twice! Yet still the knowledge came. The movement, given direction for so short a time, did not collapse with her death. The hard-core fanatics gained control, inevitably. Aims and direction perverted, momentum snowballing, it became a Jihad. Holy War, storming through the stars, leaving blood and death and barbarism in its wake. Bones stared aghast into a future he could not accept and not deny.

"No!" he thought. "It can be changed! It doesnít have to happen!" Then he did something with his mind; he wasnít sure quite what. The universe expanded around him enormously and he was looking at the future from the outside, seeing each turning point that determined its form, each small choice that molded the future.

Slowly and carefully at first, he tried changing those factors, almost at random. Each choice gave him a different view of the future, like a pre-atomic train switching to different tracks. They were clear and detailed, or fuzzy and unsubstantial, according to the chance they had of coming true. Each track differed--but not quite enough. The Federation was just not ready for the kind of person TíEkitah would be if Bones was a part of her life. The clash was inevitable. In most futures TíEkitah lost, in political double-dealing or a disastrous marriage or a peculiarly Vulcan tragedy Bones didnít understand. In some futures it was the Federation that lost; in some, both. But always, in some manner, Bones bore part of the blame.

In his anguished indecision, Bones reached out instinctively for help, further and further. The black star flared briefly and his range increased ten-fold. For a moment he became one with the __Enterprise__, traced every tortuous circuit with his fingertips, knew every bulkhead and vent shaft as intimately as he knew his own body, and felt her mighty struggle for life as his own. In one brief second he even glimpsed why Spock and Scotty and all the others loved machines so--but that was not what he was after. Blindly seeking, he narrowed his search, focusing in closer, closer.

Next door, in sickbay, TíAniyehís body arched in shock as Bonesí raging confusion made contact with her own turmoil. Drawn together by need, divided by their own self-focused retreats from pain, two minds became one.

Under normal circumstances a mind-meld could not proceed so casually. But these were not normal circumstances. The dark star loomed ominously close, diffusing its baleful influence through the __Enterprise__. Slowly, inexorably, the normal barriers men use to shield mind and soul were being distorted, broken, destroyed. With strength lent it by the dark starís influence, Bonesí mind fought the mind-meld even as it reached eagerly for the contact on a subconscious level, sending tendrils of thought that laced into each intricate crevice of TíAniyehís mind. He had time for one agonized thought before the linkage was complete. "No! I canít show her Kitten. I canít tell her what Iíve seen. It would destroy her. Got to conceal--protect--" Then the linkage was complete, and Bonesí mind went very still.

92

(page break)

TíAniyeh was not really aware of what had happened. She knew the mind-meld was now a triple, a both more unstable and more dynamic entity; she sensed the intruderís identity, but she refused to pay any attention to those facts. TíAniyeh had won a precarious refuge from the swirling confusion of Kirkís mind, locked safely in her own memories, and she consciously refused to imperil that safety. Her life and sanity--and ultimately perhaps the safety of Kirk and Bones also--depended on it.

Mainly she strove for memories of Spock. His presence pervaded them; they simultaneously steadied and comforted her. She remembered; long peaceful evenings together, of talk, music and study; absorbing discussions, usually ending up on the one subject that was of primary interest to them both--humans. Their motivation, value systems, unique (cock-eyed) understanding of the universe--how to live with them without going completely insane. In these discussions Spock used impeccable logic, but combined it with a creative insight that sometimes surprised them both.

Oh, he was not a total computer, that tall bond-mate of hers. She had watched him on the bridge, close to the captain. More than once she saw flashes of pride for his brother, pride that he could conceal from everyone but her. And Spock was proud of his brother, she realized. In the new security of Ďmarried lifeí he was loosening up, showing more and more gleams of almost human humor and compassion. By Vulcan standards, he was becoming increasingly vulnerable. And oh, she couldnít bear to hurt him!

Their union had to be fertile. There must be a child. The scars left by TíRruelís death--TíRruel! Bonesí mind literally blazed forth, startling TíAniyeh out of her self-imposed exile. If TíRruel hadnít died--if he hadnít killed her-- Without further thought Bones hurtled down probability tracks that seemed to him to be almost palpable in their reality, dragging TíAniyeh helplessly along.

Uh-huh--it was starting to take shape. Delicately Bones shifted three minor factors and brought uncertainties into equal and opposite balance. The future snapped into crystal clarity, like the opening of a sensura, and he skimmed it quickly as he might one of those immersions in fantasy. But his desperation made the similarity tenuous. This was all too real. Every action, every moment of despair or joy could have happened, if only--if only . . . . Resolutely, Bones wrenched his thoughts away from contemplation of those mind-dissolving words.

If the cyborg pilot had not crashed, there would have been no need for Spock to enter into a premature pon farr, to draw TíRruel to him. The Bonding would have been entered into properly, well after the rigorous Affirmation that had taken the lives of TíRruel and Spockís unborn son. But Bones perceived with growing dismay, this future was no better than the one he had fled from. TíRruel was, if anything, too Vulcan for Spock. There grew an increasing conflict between the perfectly impenetrable Vulcan Spock forced himself to be for TíRruel, and the person that time, circumstance and a very mixed heritage had made him into.

This future split neatly into two paths. In the brighter path, Spock left the Service, left his friends, for a post at the Vulcan Science Academy. Split by desperate internal conflict, he nevertheless took the reins of the movement opposing TíUriamne, opposing secession from the Federation. And between them, they managed to tear Vulcan in half. Kirk, unprotected by the training and security Spock had been able to give him when Kirk was formally adopted into Spockís family, died of esper shock within two years. Bones didnít scan the darkened path. What he could sense of it was enough to warn his numbed brain well away. But Bones knew that there, too, he was a pivot point.

The next second TíAniyehís reaction burst like Peace Day firecrackers. The glimpse she had caught had startled her out of her self-imposed shell. "What? __What__ __was__ __that__!?"

Before he could formulate a response, he sensed a flood of chaos surrounding them, encroaching from the darkness. Lightning streaking through spaghetti-tangled webs of circuitry, nebulas turning into hands that reached and grabbed, faces that gibbered without meaning--a rolling confusion that sundered mountains at a word and cowered from shadows. But beneath that, way, way beneath, something felt familiar, something . . . .

"Jim!" Bones yelled. His mind and Tanyaís had been busy trading information on an almost subconscious level. He knew without having to think about it that this was what Tanya had endured for days now, linked to the mind of an uncontrolled telepath.

"But this isnít necessary," Bones told her, almost roughly. He concentrated and did--something. Again, he wasnít sure just what. TíAniyeh was a trained telepath, yes, but she could not know all of the more esoteric branches of that science. And the psychic influence radiated by the dark star made it hard to put into practice what she did know. But for Bones, normally psi-null, the star furnished power which he could use where any more sensitive person would have shorted out. He was in his element, doing things by instinct that Vulcan Elders would do with many safeguards and doubts, if at all. He Ďfocused iní to a small lonely kernel of sanity in the exact middle of the roiling cloud of confusion that was James T. Kirk.

"Jim!" Bones asked worriedly, establishing contact. "Are you all right?"

"No," Jim answered flatly. "Itís . . . (Itís a storm of emotions, rage, fear, love, jealousy, grief, contentment, despair, following each other swiftly and departing without discerning cause. Itís a voice repeating insanely again and again, "Two plus two is __five__. Two plus two is __five__." Itís dying a hundred different times, a hundred different ways: blood spouting like a boiling fountain from eyes and ears and mouth and nose in a ruptured spacesuit; lungs bursting, crying for air and finally you breathe and the water rushes in, tasting flat and heavy; gravity pulling flesh

93

[KC06IL39.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Kirk and Spock against a star field background.)

94

(page break)

off bones and squeezing bones into the floor; the sweet acrid smell of flesh burning and itís __yours__. You think, "Wake up, wake up," and you wake up and for a moment itís all right and then you start dying again. Itís seeing something through a dozen pairs of eyes and they all see something different! They call it one name and they see twelve contradictory objects. She--she sees blue and calls it green! And itís being Ensign Freeman and Bones and Lt. Minos and Spock and where am I? __Where__ __am__ __I__?) Itís--bad," he finished.

"What is the situation?" he asked in his command voice, needing something, anything, to concentrate on. Bones told him quickly. Before he finished. Jimís interest was no longer pretense.

"The __Enterprise__ has been trapped by the black star, and unless Spock pulls a major miracle or three, itís an even chance whether she fries or breaks up in the gravity surges," Bones assented gloomily.

The captain thought about it. Yes, heíd known that sooner or later the __Enterprise__ would die, but not with her captain helpless in sickbay, unable to fight to save her life. He had to get out.

"Captain, you canít!" Tanya half-wailed. "Iím protecting you as much as I can. Without that shielding youíd go insane in seconds, probably die in minutes. And," her mental Ďvoiceí sounded defeated, "even if you ordered me, Captain, I donít know if I could. The black star--" She muttered a Martian phrase, "I am only an egg," and lapsed into silence.

Jim considered her statements. "Bones?"

"Jim, I donít even know how I got in here," Bones answered miserably.

Jim tried to sum up the possibilities in his own mind. It wasnít easy to think rationally; the outside horrors were pressing closer and closer. How had Dante __known__, he thought for a moment, then shunted the thought aside.

"If the __Enterprise__ dies, it doesnít matter what I do. And even if the __Enterprise__ survives, the chance that Iíll emerge from this alive or sane are--" he mentally measured, as dispassionately as possible, the effects of what had been happening. He did it awkwardly, but for a rank beginner, quite competently. He finally knew the purpose of some of the mental exercises Spock had made him practice, again and again. The results were not good. I.V.ís can only do so much, and the amount of adrenalin floating in his system was not doing his heart, liver or kidneys any good at all. As he again grew aware of the insanity, creeping insidiously closer, he was struck by a chilling thought. If he were bearing up so poorly under this burden, what must the other two be going through?

It took a direct order before Lt. Minos would respond at all to his question, and then only indirectly. "I can handle it, Captain, until Spock gets us to Vulcan. I have to."

Bones was more honest, once the captain had succeeded in rousing him from his private miasma of grief. "With the star, the heat, the heavy sedation Iíve had to keep you both under--itíll be close, Jim. Mind-melds are nothing to fool around with. And with Tanyaís--" he stopped abruptly. Even if Tanya lived through the mind-meld, would she be able to conceive and bear TíEkitah afterward? The thought was tangled and fleeting. Jim didnít notice. "Of course Iíll be in bad shape pretty soon too. No telling how long itíll be till someone puts me under life-support. And without even the minimal training youíve had . . . ." He made his diagnoses abstractly, fitting the pieces together with an absent-minded professionalism. It didnít seem to matter.

"Then maybe none of us will make it to Vulcan," Jim summed it up. "Lt. Minos, you canít handle a triple mind-meld alone. And if I canít escape into life--" There is another escape, a voice said from deep within his mind. He half smiled, remembering. ĎA beast fears death; a child denies it. Wilt thou seek for the hidden waters and not drink when they are at hand? Wilt thou die alone?í __Book__ __of__ __Life__. He would join his ship after all, if not fighting with her for life, then sharing her death.

"Lt. Minos--Tanya--I canít take this for the weeks weíd need to get to Vulcan," he told her soberly. It might give her strength to fight. No, without him to focus and relay the mass-meld unconscious, she would have no problems, would she? At least she would no longer have a triple to contend with, the immediate pressure would be taken off. There would be a chance for TíAniyeh and Bones, then. "Take care of Bones," Jim ordered softly, even as he let go of, one by one, the bonds that held him to life. Above Jimís and Tanyaís heads, the diagnostic panels seemed to go crazy for a second, then started a slow march downward. In the next room, Bonesí heartbeat slowed, breathing became shallow, skin pale.

Bones saw what was happening, but some how did not care very much. The reaction to all he had seen and done and felt in the last few hours (hours? years) had finally caught up with him. There was an invisible, impenetrable shield between him and everything else, protecting like a cocoon of foamed sofsilk. He watched numbly as Jim started slipping away into darkness and chaos. Tanya called frantically for help, but Bones seemed frozen, unable to move. He could only watch as Tanya tried to stop Jim alone, as she failed.

Slowly, inexorably, a third future formed itself in his mind. He didnít even have to skim this one; the salient facts laid themselves out for inspection to his ever more proficient precog sense. He coldly calculated that the chances were at least three out of four that none of them would survive. But even if only Jim died, something would die in Spock as well. He would act the same, behave if anything even more the properly detached Vulcan. But in his second great trial of strength with TíUriamne, he would lose miserably. Before the resulting procession of tragedy could

95

(page break)

present itself to his vision, Bones stopped it with an effort of will that left him shaking. With the clarity of weakness he saw that this __could__ __not__ __be__. But they were at the end of their rope. His mind searched frantically for an escape.

"Spock!" Bones yelled, his desperation finally cracking the shell that had enclosed him, not knowing that he was going to do it until the summons echoed within his own mind. "You get up here!"

 

Lying asleep on a cot in Engineering, mentally and physically exhausted from the enormous task of getting the __Enterprise__ out of range of the dark star, Spock woke. Though his body lay lax and quiet, his mind, fully alert, homed in on the source of that urgent call. He assessed the relevant facts (what was McCoy doing in the meld?) and acted on them almost instantaneously.

"Kroyka!" roared Spock, Guardian of the Tradition, Kataytikh of the First Realm, and, for the duration of this emergency, Kirkís __Liege__-__Lord__.

Kirk stopped so fast it was as if heíd been poleaxed. Kirk had to obey his Liege-Lord; he couldnít obey him. It was right that he should die; it was wrong. He had to think about what to do, but he __couldnít__ think. Faced with an unresolvable conflict, Kirk did a uniquely sensible thing. He fainted. Retreating deeply into unconsciousness, tendrils of identity curling tightly around the central kernel of being, he didnít have to face conflicts that, at the moment, he was unable to handle. Spock almost sighed in relief. Then it hit him. What was going on here?

No time for questions. Jim had thought that the death of one component of a meld would free the others. Actually, it was far more likely to drag the others along with him into death. And TíAniyeh was not as strong as the others.

"No, my love," TíAniyeh said calmly, "it is no use. Even if the mind-meld were broken now, the drain has been too great."

For Spock, time seemed to stand still. "You are sure?" he found himself asking.

"Quite sure," she answered calmly. "The added strain was just too much. I could survive after the meld is broken--mindless. Spock, life is given us for a purpose, though the giver is unknown and the purpose only dimly sensed. When life becomes a useless burden, meaningless, instead of a Joy, it is not logical life should continue. Your people taught me this. They taught me how to live, and die. Krosai kali maríeelaw nídali?"

"I can not," he said heavily. "The other two; they could not stand the shock. Iíll have to protect them."

"Oh, Spock!" she said, with a moment of aching sorrow for him. Then, calm again, "What must be must be. Remember that I love you. Remember."

He did not reply. He did not have to. He moved, instead, swiftly and competently, catching the two human minds in a web of bracing that would, hopefully, cushion them against a full empathic participation in what was to come. Using his own mind as both a support and a shield, he bore unprotected the full brunt of the savage tearing of delicate telepathic ties. As TíAniyeh died--alone.

No march to the gates of death, together. No careful disentangling of mind from mind, the two comforting and caressing each other as it proceeded. No moment of final, irrevocable farewell. The __kali__ __maríeelaw__ __níil__, the farewell of two bound closer than life, was aborted before it began. Instead there was merely an amputation, brutally swift. The pain and loss seared his very soul.

Finally, he wearily turned to life again. Later he would pay for this sacrifice, and pay, and pay again. But just now there were duties to perform, two humans to protect and try to heal, a ship to save. He relaxed the shields he had erected and settled a little into their minds, skimming surface thoughts.

Jim? Still deeply unconscious, aware of nothing outside his own pain. Spock could have thanked heaven for that. Jim must never know that he was the unwitting cause of TíAniyehís death. The knowledge would destroy him, as surely as . . . as surely as his own unasked-for telepathic ability was doing now. Once more Spock grimly reaffirmed his own responsibility for that mischance.

The other mind was like the surface of a dark pool, shocked still. Spock gingerly reached in a little farther. He had to discover what damage had been done, and repair it, if he could.

Underneath the surface, in black undercurrents coiling futilely, McCoyís mind was mumbling to itself. "Iíve killed them all. Erin, TíRruel, Kitten, Tanya. Theyíre all dead and itís my fault. Iím a doctor, Iím supposed to save lives, and I touch people and they die. I should die too. I must die."

As the tenor of the thoughts became more and more obvious, Spock learned an emotion he had known only briefly before: despair. The unquenchable epitome of emotion, coming to this!

"Itís like a jinx dogging the three of us," the doctor continued. "Three . . . ." Then it happened. Spock, unprepared and weary, caught only Bonesí emotional reaction to what he saw. At first a kind of hurt flinching away, then astonishment, disbelief, and the slow dawning of hope.

96

(page break)

"Spock!" Bones burst out. "There is a chance! Vulcan and the Federation can both survive, with no Jihad, nobody dying. Thereís a chance. I saw it!"

"You have precognizant abilities?" Spock asked slowly.

"What a monumental piece of analytical reasoning!" Bones said blisteringly. "Listen! There is a chance for all of us. But it depends on my being whole and sane. I . . ." the thought wavered, "I canít take this much longer now. I couldnít handle it for the years weíd need. Remembering, always remembering. Every time Iíd make a decision Iíd wonder how many people would die, how many worlds would be destroyed, and Iíd see her die again." The doctor was shaking, his thoughts disconnected, spurting, accompanied by bursts of emotion Spock could only interpret as pure pain. "I killed them, I killed them, I killed them all," beat a dirge around and through the background of Bonesí mind.

From somewhere Bones drew strength, spoke with a dry semblance of normality. "Spock, I am one of the pivot points of every future I can see. Every time I make a non-trivial decision, whichever way I make it, people are going to die. Knowing this, I wonít be able to make any decisions at all. And __that__, Mr. Spock, will bring about the worst future of all. The __only__ road to safety is if I am totally unaware of that responsibility. I __canít__ remember what Iíve learned this night; therein lies destruction for us all. I __have__ to be as sane, as whole, as unmarked as humanly possible. I canít remember this night, even as only a nightmare."

Bones paused. Not daring to look for Spockís reaction, he forced himself forward, to the final, irrevocable step. "Spock, can you, as kataytikh, wipe memories?"

"No," said Spock firmly. "It is forbidden. Memories are vital components of the personality."

"Even when they would destroy that personality?" Bones asked desperately. At the end of his resources, he dropped back to the half-remembered phrasing of an earlier time of need, underneath an ember-red sky. "I . . . plead with thee. I . . . beg!"

This had gone on long enough, Spock decided, more disturbed by that echo from the past than he cared to admit. There was enough justification for nratíla, at any rate.

Bones felt invisible fingers gently tracing the contours of his mind, suppressing gland secretions here, increasing blood flow there. The uppermost level of his mind, the part that had seen and felt and suffered through so much, was being carefully separated from the rest of the identity called McCoy and just as carefully anesthetized. A numbness crept over Bones, a cool, healing paralysis. Below that numb self there was another, smiling, faintly tense. Himself? Yes. All right, you take care of it, Bones thought sleepily to himself, not caring that he wasnít making much sense. His last thought before consciousness fled: "Who ever said Vulcans have no concept of mercy?" The nratíla was complete and he was only watching, without the slightest flicker of interest or concern.

"Thatís a relief," the other Bones said easily.

"You have been experiencing episodes of precognition?" Spock asked.

"Yes. At least I think so." He gave Spock a quick resume of events over the last few hours, not going into details of each future. He concluded with, "It must be the star. Iíve never had anything like this happen before. You yourself have said Iím psi-null. Joining the mind-meld must have been a pure accident." He paused a moment. "Spock. Iím sorry about Tanya."

"It was her choice to make," Spock said colorlessly and changed the subject. "You cannot be the only crucial variable?"

"No . . . . But that reminds me. Thereís something Iíve been wanting to try for quite a while."

Bones reached out, almost too casually, and gathered first Jim, then Spock into a mental linkage as deep as their previous contacts had been shallow. The bundles of thoughts, images, memories and reactions, dim and confused for Jim, crystal clear for Spock, were drawn inexorably together. A startled Spock tried to break away, but it was already too late. New ties were forged, small areas of resistance were simply plowed through, boundaries merged and disappeared. The three had become one.

Union. There was nothing left uncompleted or unfulfilled. Each of them, at one time or another, had become aware of the loneliness that is the birthright of each solitary speck of consciousness, forever alone in a darkly immense universe. They had yearned inarticulately, the while never knowing what was lacking. No longer. Every jagged edge fitted smoothly, every stab of loneliness answered, every weakness shielded by a corresponding strength. They were complete, with an almost physical ecstasy. More than human or Vulcan, far less than what they could be, they knew Joy. No longer alone.

Then Jim moaned softly and broke the contact.

"He canít take it for long, not now. Heís really the pivot point, you know," Bones said somberly. The universe seemed grey and lifeless around him. Taking himself firmly in hand, he told himself that that was all the universe heíd known before, and if necessary, it would do quite well for the rest of his life. The surge of longing abated, slowly.

"But that is impossible." said Spock, sounding dazed. "A triad is inherently unstable."

97

(page break)

"You mean a triad of Vulcans isnít stable," corrected Bones, sounding smug. It wasnít every day he got to correct Spock on logic. "What a triad made up of a human telepath, a Vulcan kataytikh, and a human psi-null is, remains to be seen . . . . We could never have done it, though, if you and I hadnít been so much alike." he said thoughtfully.

"Alike?" Spock echoed numbly.

"Well, of course," Bones said impatiently. "Why else are we always fighting?"

Spock considered that eminently sensible notion for a full half-second before rejecting it out of hand.

"You saw a future in which both Tsaichrani and the Federation may survive," Spock began again. "Does this--ability--have any part to play in that future?"

"That future has no chance at all unless I emerge from this sane and whole, as if this night never happened. I just wonít be able to handle it, Spock!" As Spock started to interrupt, Bones continued. "Iím not asking you, Spock, Iím telling you! As Chief Medical Officer of the __Enterprise__, Iíll make it a direct order. The lives and continued sanity of too many people, not excluding myself, depend on it to let some silly, weak-kneed Vulcan ethos stand in the way."

"You are sure your assessment of the situation as regards this one factor is correct?" Spock asked.

"God-damnit, Spock! yes!" Regaining control with an effort, (some day youíre going to have to stop losing that temper, he thought, briefly to himself. Granted itís fun, but . . .) he tried to speak reasonably. "Look, Jimís not the only one whoís been studying those Vulcan textbooks. Isnít it true that a kataytikh can be regarded in some instances as a servant to the people, and can be Ďhired,í when there is a task only he can do?"

"Yes."

"OK, then, Iíll do it!" Bones yelled. "Uh--I, Leonard McCoy, here and now contract Spock as Kataytikh for a service to the present, future and past. Accepting this gift of skill, I nevertheless take upon myself the full responsibility of all consequences thereof."

Yet, unaccountably, Spock still hesitated. "Leonard. Do you know what I will have to do to you?"

"Iíll risk it," Bones said gently. "Come on, Spock, youíre wasting time."

For a moment nothing seemed to happen. He waited. Around him his surroundings melted and changed, merging so imperceptibly into the familiar sickbay that he was not aware of the transition. Under the diagnostic panels Lt. Minos and the Captain lay limp and motionless, readings on both panels oscillating in unison. Bones sighed and rubbed his tired neck--not an easy task in a pressure suit. Four hours to perihelion, he noted. Might as well get some rest . . . .

Step by step, Spock moved Bones through every thought, memory half-completed association, emotional and physical reaction from the beginnings of the night until the argument with Scotty. There he released Bones from the memory chain. "Hold everything that happened clearly in your mind," Spock ordered tersely. After shaking the fog from his brain, Bones tried to obey. It took a bit of fumbling, but finally he had it to Spockís satisfaction. The tiny electric impulses traced a consistent path, touching each RNA molecule in turn. Trace chemicals drifted, osmotic pressures altered subtly, new pathways quickly dissipated. The scene wavered and melted in Bonesí hands like spun sugar, leaving nothing behind but a kind of apathy, a disinclination to pursue any interest further, and a mind-numbing fatigue.

Spock moved to stand closely behind Bones, a dark presence. His silent offer of support stiffened Bonesí backbone. "Iím all right," Bones said. "Letís get on with it."

For Spock, the task was not a difficult one, although it was seldom done for another. His reserves of strength as Kataytikh were more than adequate. It was basically a straightforward piece of work. He was startled, therefore, when the pathway of memory he was following abruptly pinched out, then resumed after a brief dead space. Scouting the area gingerly he saw that the missing loop of memory was hidden behind walls of scar tissue too strong for even him to penetrate casually.

Questing further, he saw subtle lines of stress radiating from the blocked-off area, touching gently into every facet of Bonesí personality, making large sections of his brain inaccessible even to Bones himself.

Spock brought Bones out of it carefully. "McCoy, why did I change my mind and accept your advice? You gave me a logical reason, but I cannot trace it."

"What?" asked Bones, real puzzlement in his tone. "I donít know what youíre talking about."

Spock regarded Bones sharply for a moment. The doctorís bewilderment was genuine, he was sure of it. Something was wrong. But now was not the proper time for an investigation. He dropped the matter immediately, and they continued with the careful, tedious work of complete memory erasure. Soon the periods of rest between each segment of memory lengthened, and Bones no longer disdained Spockís help. But every night comes to an end.

98

(page break)

Spock released Bones for the last time, then waited, without speaking, letting him rest. He waited, marshalling his thoughts, until a little of Bonesí dazed numbness had begun to clear. He then spoke carefully.

"Doctor, there was a portion of memory I was unable to trace or destroy, it being behind a privacy block of considerable strength. That is, of course, purely your own business. However, stress lines emirate from the block to many vital functions of your mind. The probability that the presence of this abnormality will effect your behavior significantly approaches 100% over a period of five years, plus or minus two point seven months. What do you advise?"

"100%? I donít know what . . . . But within five years . . . . Didnít you get anything?" Bones finally asked greyly. Deep within him a tiny pulse of forbidding beat, but he was just so tired--He just wanted to let go and float.

Somewhat reluctantly, it seemed to Bones, Spock transmitted two items. One, a name, Erin; and two, the sight of an open grave. For almost a full second the shell of fatigue protected him, but then it hit him and he started to tremble.

"No! But you have to," something argued invincibly. "I canít, I canít." He was falling, falling through darkness and chaos and pieces of sanity that wouldnít fit together any more, falling forever until Spock caught him and lowered him gently to the ground.

It was the fastest nratíla Spock had ever done, and the most complete. He had to extend deeper and deeper to forestall the trauma, blanking out the thalamus, pineal body and pituitary, leaving finally only the uppermost layer of the cerebral cortex still fully active. At this point, Bonesí Ďvoiceí sounded rather like a computer read-out. All emotional nuances were gone, although mental characteristics, reasoning capabilities, and memories were, of course, intact.

"Who is Erin?" Spock asked quietly.

Bones hesitated, running over the facts. It appeared there was only one course of action open to him. So he took it. No higher praise of Spockís skill in administering the nratíla can be given.

"She was my daughter," he said. He told the story simply and drably. Bones had married right out of med school. As two girls were born and grew, increasingly bitter arguments began about the amount of time Bones spent working, away from his family. They ended when Bones arrived home late one night to see his younger daughter, Erin, die in a drop-tube accident while his wife was at work. If he had been there he could have saved her life.

His wife sued for divorce and Bones didnít contest it. On the brink of mental collapse, he was considering suicide when Venerian plague broke out from a contaminated mining ship. That gave him something to fight. When it was over and he, somewhat surprisingly, was still alive, Bones turned to space. Escaped to space.

"It was not your fault," Spock said finally.

"I am a doctor. Iím supposed to save lives. And I killed my own daughter."

That was enough. Spock had the sin-guilt-punishment cycle pinned down now. It wasnít difficult--the cycle was worn so deeply into the doctorís mind it could almost be felt directly. The memories themselves were, in fact, too deeply embedded to be erased. But the false causal links between them; yes, there was a point of attack there. But whether its short or long range effects were good or bad, this event was of first-magnitude importance in McCoyís life. Did he have the right to nullify it? Did he have the right to withdraw now and do nothing? Spock had jumped at the chance McCoy had given him to do what, logically, must be done to save the future and his friend. But if all that had been accomplished was only to involve him in a still deeper conflict between right and necessity, duty and pity, debts and-- wait. A--a __paveríro__!

"Doctor. When I agreed to perform a certain service as Kataytikh for you--specifically, erasing your memories of this night--no mention was made of payment." Bones maintained a slightly puzzled silence. "I state and demand it now. It is, that you allow me to destroy certain narrowly circumscribed causal links in your memory."

Bones thought about it for a moment. "Thatís insane," he stated flatly.

"Not at all. It is a contract of the __paveríro__ type. One does not encounter such a perfect example twice in a lifetime," Spock said, somewhat reverentially.

"Oh, all right. With this deed, all debts are fulfilled, all false bonds are broken, all harmony is restored, for now and throughout eternity."

For just a second, Spock allowed curiosity to distract him. How many of the textbooks Spock had given Kirk had the doctor gotten to?

"All of them." Amazingly, impossibly, there was a faint flicker of amusement from the doctorís mind. "And Jim was having the time of his life watching me trying to avoid you."

Not wasting time in reactions, Spock got down to work. Tracing that invisible circle once more, he found and grasped the weakest link. "It was not your fault," he said softly. The words echoed and reverberated within Bonesí mind. Bones waited, silent. The second link flared

99

(page break)

[KC06IL40.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Kirk, Spock and McCoy.)

100

(page break)

brilliantly and died. "You are not to blame." The next step, and the next. "The responsibility is not yours, or indeed, anyoneís. It was an accident." The last and strongest link. Spock braced himself and pulled.

"No, it wasnít my fault, was it," Bones said, sounding dazed.

"No," said Spock calmly, and began removing the nratíla, a level at a time.

Completely and fully conscious once more, Bones stared emptily at nothing for seven seconds, shook himself once and re-integrated violently. "Wow," he said. He showed signs of repeating himself for quite a while. Spock cut him short.

"It is time this meld was broken," Spock said. "We both have our duties to perform. You will sleep, Doctor, and you will remember nothing." There was a stretching, a drawing fine, a--a break. Bones found himself floating alone in his own skull again. He opened his eyes a little. Yes, there was still a world out there, busy with hums and clicks and small movements just glimpsed out of the corner of his eye. There was Nurse Chapel, trying to be quiet, tiptoeing through the small cubical. From nowhere a small vagrant thought intruded.

"Rest, Doctor," it said.

On the very edge of obeying, Bones barely hesitated. The black star still radiated, closer and more menacing than ever. Not pausing to think what exactly he was doing Bones took a long, last glimpse into the future. Jimís wife would be a surprise to all of them. A Vulcan, yes--but what a Vulcan! Then Bones let go of everything, collapsing gratefully into the warm comfort of sleep. This time, there were no dreams.

 

Spock did not disengage from Kirkís mind immediately. Running through the knowledge he had unwillingly acquired from Bonesí mind, he realized that he could not risk anyone else learning what had chanced that night. It must be behind privacy blocks before he ventured in the world again. Spock skimmed the data carefully, placing a value on each bit of information (from 1, light block, to 5, bury in deep hole immediately and forget where the shovel is hidden. The list was weighted toward the 5ís.)

But he slowed almost imperceptibly and stopped after one particular set of transferred memories--Bonesí memories of TíEkitah, the daughter Spock might have had. The thought came softly, without his bidding. "Of such a daughter," he murmured, "one could be proud." Then he calmly completed the block. But deep within him, where Vulcan and human merged, a tiny flame was born--a flame that would last when will to life itself was gone.

He checked on Jim once more. The captain was slowly coming out of the deep, almost frantic unconsciousness he had retreated to. There was a 73% chance he would be able to hear thoughts directed at him.

"Jim. Hold on. It is difficult; it will become more so. But you must hold on. There is a chance now. Hold on." Waiting beside his captain, for the first time Spock dared to hope.

101

 

Bone's Vision Continues

 

 


          All rights reserved to the authors and artists. Not intended to infringe on copyrights held by Gene Roddenberry or Paramount Corp.




  Contents  

[ Sime~Gen Home | Star Trek Home | Kraith Home  | Jacqueline Lichtenberg Home]

Get Kraith and Jean Lorrah's NTM fanzines on paper:

Get Kraith Printed on Paper