Kraith Collected

Volume 6 

Part 4 

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.  

EDITORS ARE GHOULS AND CANNIBALS

It appears that "Editors are Ghouls & Cannibals" has become a regular feature of Kraith Collected. At least in this issue, we only have two minor glitches (that we know of!) to apologize for.

Eileen Roy has written two wonderful stories for us in this issue and we have changed the titles of both. "One Finger Symphony" has become "One Fingered Symphony", due to an overzealous use of press-type lettering on a very late night.

While "Bonesí Vision" has been published before, a long and tedious search through the grammars of the English language has convinced us that it should be "Bonesís Vision." In case youíre interested, it has to do with the possessive case for a proper name ending in Ďs.í

Eileen, weíre very sorry. If you want them changed back, weíll do it for the next printing.

 

(Karen note. After the above word "printing" there are two blank lines, then a whole line of dashes completely across the page. Two blank lines under the dashes, then start a new paragraph which begins: Weíre also goingÖ)

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Weíre also going to use this space to stand on a soap-box and orate. Weíre giving you fair warning now to stop reading if you mind that sort of thing or donít like to see it in fanzines. None of the following is directed against any specific person or type of story. We read, and enjoy, nearly every fan publication in every media fandom that we find. But we are increasingly disturbed by the trends that we see running across all fandoms.

Kraith is an oddity these days. You hold in your hands a fanzine that has neither descriptive sex nor wanton violence, nor even a blatant Ďhurt/comfortí story to thrill the heart. Not that we have anything against sex, violence, or hurt/comfort stories; it just seems that few stories are being written these days that donít fall into these categories. Personal and emotional growth is not necessarily best accomplished to the W accompaniment of tears, screams, groans, blood and orgasm.

We think thatís because it is much easier to write blood and sex than it is to write characterization and plot, that so many people try to substitute one for the other. Blood only comes in so many places and consistencies. Sex can only be done in so many places and ways. The search for more and different sensation is the road to decadence and, considering that STrek fiction as a whole has only been around for 15 years, weíre a little young for that. We canít possibly have exhausted all the plots and permutations that donít call for sex and/or violence.

Continued on page 142.

(Karen note. After the Continued on page note above, there is a blank line, then two complete lines of underscores, one under the other, to denote two solid lines one above the other.)

 

 

(RBW Note. There is a drawing of Debbie on the left and Carol on the right in the middle bottom of this page. Carolís comments are on the right and Debbieís on the left, though I will put them all together in the same column to understand the conversation better.)

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Debbie and Carol.)

CAROL:

__Iím__ not a ghoul, but you, Debbie, are definitely a definitely a cannibal.

DEBBIE:

What?! Youíre the one who used to crouch down behind cars in foggy parking lots and yell out the witchís chant from __MacBeth__ in a fake falsetto. And how you talked two other people into doing harmony . . .

CAROL:

Oh, that. Well . . . Remember the second time we met? I gave you a piece of blood temperature raw meat and you gnawed your way through it?

DEBBIE: Yeah?

CAROL:

I only __told__ you it was steak.

DEBBIE:

See, I knew you were ghoul!

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The Affirmation

of Nellie Gray

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(RBW Note. Drawing of an earth woman between two Vulcan women.)

Roberta Rogow

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"Personal Log, Spock recording. The __Enterprise__ has made its semi-annual stop for repairs at Star Base Ten. I have agreed to receive a representative of the Vulcan personnel on this Star Base on a matter of personal importance. The representative, Lt. TíRass, has not been explicit as to the nature of the meeting. I suspect, however, that it may involve my position as kataytikh. Only that would cause Lt. TíRass to call upon my assistance again. Spock out."

The tall Vulcan woman in the blue uniform of a computer officer stood in front of Spock and said in even, dispassionate tones, "Commander Spock, I have been chosen to speak to you on this matter because we are kinsmen, through your fatherís fatherís mother. The time of Affirmation is approaching, and fifty-five Vulcans are now on Star Base Ten. We cannot leave this Star Base for logical reasons. There are medical personnel whose presence is necessary, several scientific experiments require constant attention, economic factors prevent some others from continuing their journey to Vulcan. In short, we ask you to officiate as Kataytikh here at Star Base Ten."

Spock steepled his fingers. "I am honored to be asked to officiate," he said. "May I point out to you one error in your computations? You have mentioned fifty-five Vulcans. I need not remind you that fifty-seven are needed for Affirmation."

"I am as aware of the lack as you," TíRass said. "However, I believe there is a remedy. You have, on board the __Enterprise__, one who has already had dealings with Vulcan, and is somewhat familiar with our ways. This person has had close ties with a Vulcan, has formed a bond of sorts with that Vulcan, and has even taken part in a marriage ceremony on Vulcan."

"The Captain would be honored," Spock said.

TíRass open her eyes wide in surprise. "I would not dare to ask Captain Kirk to do such a thing. I was referring to Ensign Ellen Gray, who serves as Captain Kirkís Yeoman."

Now it was Spockís turn to be surprised. "I have observed Miss Gray in the performance of her duties," he said. "She is undisciplined in her demeanor and careless in her speech. She has taken part in several missions, and has been more or less successful in doing what was required of her, but I have not been impressed with either her deportment or her intelligence."

"I admit Ensign Grayís upbringing was not of the best," TíRass said. "She is, however, capable of great personal loyalty, and will make any sacrifice for those who win her devotion. Moreover, she possesses certain telepathic abilities, albeit on a subconscious level. She could serve as a conductor for the telepathic mind even though she herself was not aware of it. She is what is called a "sensitive," rather than being a true telepath. I believe that this ability, coupled with her friendship for me, will permit her to accept Affirmation.

"Indeed," Spock said. He flipped on the intercom. "Spock here. Yeoman Gray, Yeoman Ellen Gray, please report to my quarters. Spock out."

Down in Rec. Room B, Nellie Gray, that product of the Spacetown slums, who had managed to find herself a home on the __Enterprise__, nearly choked over a glass of brew. While she coughed and spluttered, her red-shirted friends in what she called "the Scuzz Squad" speculated on what could have made Spock send for her.

"You didnít hype anything of his, did you, Nellie?" asked one brawny type. "A couple of computer tapes, maybe? Or his lytherette strings?"

"Hot jets, I donít know," Nellie said between coughs. "Do I look all right?"

"No worse than always," the red-shirt said.

Nellie ran a hand over her tousled curls and asked. "Where is Mr. Spockís roost anyway?"

"Level Five, three doors right from the Captainís. Good luck, Nellie." The security crew waved her off, and returned to their speculations.

Nellie arrived in her usual state of breathlessness and saluted smartly to Spock. Then she recognized her old schoolmate, TíRass. "Hey, whatís the good word, Shipmate? I was waiting greenie-time to come and see you. Howíre all the Brains doing down there?"

"Miss Gray," Spock said, cutting short the flow of pleasantries. "Lt. TíRass has a personal request to make of you."

"Ask away. Shipmates stand together, you know that."

TíRass said, "I wish you to join in the Affirmation."

Nellieís customary grin faded. "WHAT!"

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"We affirm the Continuity of tsaichrani," TíRass explained. Nellie took a deep breath.

"You want ME -- Dirty Nellie Gray, out of Spacetown -- to stand up for you at this Affirmation? Youíve been at the Happy Juice, girl. I canít do that. Ask Mr. Spock, heíll tell you."

"Lt. TíRass is convinced of your willingness to assist her in anything she might ask," Spock said.

Nellie looked from one impassive Vulcan to the other. "Look," she said. "Iím not the one for this kind of job. Iíd just blow it all to pieces. Iíd laugh or sneeze or something. I know, you could ask Cap Kirk. Heíd do anything for you, sir."

Spock raised an eyebrow as if to say, I told you so. TíRass said, "TíEllen, fifty-six Vulcans depend on your presence at this Affirmation."

"Thatís exactly fifty-five more of them than I give two toots about," Nellie said flatly.

TíRass let one muscle twitch at the corner of her mouth, betraying her annoyance. Then she said, "I place this on a personal basis. It is important to me, to my well-being, and to that of my future spouse, Stavek of the __Intrepid__, with whom I have become acquainted since our last meeting. The crew of the __Intrepid__ has been recalled to Vulcan for Affirmation, while I am trapped here, away from him. He will Call soon -- and I would not go to him Disaffirmed."

"What about the last moke you were supposed to marry?" Nellie asked shrewdly.

"We would have Affirmed the Continuity at the same time," TíRass said.

"And this is different?"

"A marriage with Stavek would be suitable in every way. Our tastes and thoughts are in harmony."

"You love the moke," Nellie stated. "All right, Iíll do it, but only because Iím a sucker for love stories with happy endings. Where is it, and when?"

"That is for Spock to say," TíRass said.

Spock bowed his head, concentrated intently, and decided: "The Affirmation will take place at 1400 hours, Standard, in the Chapel of Star-Base Ten."

TíRass bowed, Nellie saluted, and they left for the Transporter Room, with Nellie talking away. "The things I do for my shipmates! First we fizz an old boy-friend of yours and now this! What happens, what do I wear?"

"You have some tapes with the background information here on the __Enterprise__," TíRass said, as they entered the transporter chamber. "As for dress, you may wear any garment but one pertaining to war. Therefore, NOT your uniform. White is appropriate for a human. I shall see you at the appointed place." TíRass disappeared in a shower of sparks. Nellie leaned against the transporter panel lost in thought until the voice of Captain Kirk from the intercom reminded her that she was supposed to be on the Bridge, on duty.

Kirk sat in his chair looking edgy. Spock stood in his usual place looking stolid. Nellie scampered in, and Kirk said, "Miss Gray, Mr. Spock tells me that you have been offered a great honor."

Nellie looked puzzled. Then she shrugged and said, "Oh, the Affirmation thing. Yeh, Iíd like to get shore leave, if itís all right with you, Cap. I mean, sir."

"Iím glad you remembered to ask for it."

"Oh, I was going to, as soon as it came up."

"Very well, permission granted, Yeoman. Anything else, Mr. Spock?"

"All is quiet, sir," the Vulcan reported, after a brief check with the scanners.

"Then, Yeoman, you are dismissed. I have some reports to be transcribed for the permanent files, and then you may take shore leave."

"Thanks, Cap!"

"And Yeoman," Kirk added, as Nellie headed for the doors, "I hope you realize just how much depends on your presence."

Nellie stiffened and turned to Kirk. "Itís for a shipmate, Cap. Iíll be there."

Some hours later, Ensign Ellen Gray joined the group of Vulcans in the stark chapel of Star-Base Ten, the only room large enough to hold this many people in relative privacy. She had invested several credits of her pay in a startlingly low-cut dress whose full skirt billowed around her ankles. It was, indeed, basically white, but with a pattern of wildly-colored birds perched in trees of every shade of eye-tingling green imaginable. She felt dreadfully out of place among the tall, classically-robed Vulcans. She recognized TíRass, and waved to her friend, who nodded briefly.

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As if it were a signal, the group formed a circle around the sole light in the room, a flickering lamp.

Nellie stood close to TíRass, completely silent for once. A music tape began to play, weird music with strange quarter-tones that raised the hair on Nellieís neck.

Spock entered ceremoniously, bearing in his hands a Cup -- the Kraith, Nellie remembered from the brief tapes she had read. The Vulcans raised their hands, formed the Symbol, and joined their minds and their hands in the circle. Nellie followed the actions around her, feeling totally baffled. In this setting, she was the Alien, the Outsider, the Intruder. She could feel the force of the Vulcan minds beating against her, but she was unable to discern the content of what was happening.

Spock lifted the Kraith. Then he strode over to TíRass, as leader of the group, and offered her the Cup. TíRass drank. Nellie saw it was clear liquid and wondered what it was: water? wine? gin? Spock continued around the circle. As each person took a sip from the cup, Nellie thought, How unsanitary! We never did THAT in Spacetown. Youíd think we could all have paper cups at least.

She was uncomfortably aware of the straps of her new shoes cutting into her toes. Her arms were beginning to ache from the strain of being raised for so long in a unnatural position. Her nose had started to itch, and she dared not drop her hands to scratch it. The music was grating on her eardrums. Finally Spock approached her and offered the Cup. She obediently took a sip of the liquid and thought, Hot jets, it IS water!

Spock stared coldly down at her. She met his gaze with her most Finnegan-like grin. He raised an eyebrow and returned to his place.

The circle held for an eternity (actually one minute) more. Then there was a deep sigh, and the circle broke. The Vulcans began to file out of the room, bowing to each other as they went. Spock put the Kraith into a case as if it were a live proton torpedo, ready to explode.

Nellie turned to TíRass and burst into speech, as if the enforced silence of the last few hours were almost too much for her to bear.

"So thatís an Affirmation, is it? Well, I hope I did all right by it."

TíRass let the corners of her mouth raise one millimeter, and Nellie realized that her friend was smiling broadly.

"All is well, TíEllen," TíRass said. "You have enabled fifty-six Vulcans to attain full status in Vulcan society."

"Thatís nice," Nellie said cheerfully. Spock would have thrown up his hands if he were given to such displays of emotion. Instead he simply walked away, leaving the two young women to enjoy each otherís company. He was now convinced that Yeoman Gray was either a brilliant young officer, or the worst mistake Star Fleet had ever made.

As for Dirty Nellie herself, she wished her friend good luck in her new marriage. "Iím glad I was able to give you a hand," she said. "Just tell me one thing: How the hell did I do it?"

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Kirkís Triumph

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Spock holding Vulcan cup.)

Linda Deneroff

 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

 

Fran Zawacky

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Kraith VD(2)

It was past midday at Dakainya--one of many that Captain James T. Kirk had spent there, days which seemed to go on endlessly under the crimson sky of Vulcan.

The psionic lab was silent except for the regular click of the advancing tape in the reader on the desk that Kirk had appropriated. The dayís work was still incomplete, one more sign of failure to master his newly awakened esper abilities. Frustrated by his tenuous control, he had punched up a beginnerís exercise and prepared to start again.

The machinery caught the low rays of the sun, casting drifting shadows over the desk. One shadow caught his attention. It was longer, deeper and wider than those cast byó

He swiveled his chair. Sobruck, the Director of Dakainya, and an unknown Schillian were standing behind him.

"SíChames," Sobruck said with his usual directness, "Zalinja has agreed to be your new teacher."

Kirk, who had already had three Vulcan instructors since Soledís death twenty-two days before, glanced at the broad shouldered, scaly reptilian. They must be pretty desperate to involve a Schillian.

As if reading his thoughts, the Director continued, "Zalinjaís constant contact with-- and ability to draw upon-- the Schillian mind-net may be of assistance to you."

Kirk sat thoughtfully for a moment. A Schillian. __Why__? He shrugged mentally. __As__ __a__ __cripple__ __Iím__ __of__ __no__ __use__ __to__ __Vulcan__ --__or__ __Starfleet__. He rose from his seat and determinedly addressed the Schillian. "If you are willing to make the attempt, so am I."

Zalinja nodded silently, then spoke in a deep, rasping voice. "When would you like to begin?"

Kirk had an overwhelming Ďsooner the betterí feeling. "What about right now?"

Sensing their involvement, Sobruck quietly withdrew from the room.

"If a meld is to be successful," the Schillian warned, "you must learn to trust me completely. Before we proceed with new exercises, we must review the old."

"Iíll do my best," Kirk replied.

"You will have to do better than your best," Zalinja countered. "Until your training is completed, you will remain here at Dakainya. Use that fact as motivation, Captain Kirk. Your personality profile indicates that given the proper motivation, you succeed." He glanced at the material on the viewer, then flipped a switch. The screen blackened. "We will not use the psionic equipment today. I want you to feel relaxed here, and with me, before we commence your formal lessons. We shall talk, and when this room is as comfortable to you as your own quarters, we will proceed." He seated himself in another of the contoured chairs around the console.

Kirk spent the next few hours exchanging personal information with Zalinja. The Schillian proved both a good listener and an excellent story teller, and James Kirk was surprised at the immediate rapport that arose between them. Kirk told him about his adoption by Sarek and Amanda and his fear that he would never understand all its implications; the Schillian responded with a story about his young child, Shardar, who had a penchant for "living like the Vulcans." They exchanged other stories about their lives, their careers, hopes and disappointments.

When Zalinja called a halt to the session, Kirk was surprised at the amount of time that had passed. "Well," he asked in jest, "do we move on to psionics next time?"

"I caution you against impatience, James Kirk", Zalinja replied, a hint of warning in his voice, "if you wish a successful meld."

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Kirk was waiting for Zalinja at the door of the lab for their sixth meeting. The Schillian was late and puffing heavily as he approached his pupil. "My apologies," he rasped, "I was looking for this." He held up a holographic album. "Are you ready to attempt a shallow link today?"

Kirk nodded, wondering what the album had to do with his lessons, but refrained from asking. Zalinja would tell him when he was ready.

As they prepared themselves, the therapist spoke. "I wish to test two things. One is your ability to use psionics and transmit messages to others. The other is how well you receive."

The first test proceeded smoothly. Kirk felt the lightest of telepathic touches. He braced himself, then, releasing a long-held breath, accepted the Schillianís probe without pain or fear. Zalinja came close to Kirkís barrier, tested its strength, not attacking or trying to surmount it, then withdrew, leaving Kirk drained of energy.

"Good," Zalinja said, rising. He picked the album off the console and handed it to Kirk. "These are holos of Shardar. Pick one and see if you can mentally transmit it to me. You will initiate and control the probe."

As Zalinja reseated himself, Kirk leafed through the holos. He found one he liked; it was Shardar playing in a small shallow pool beneath his home. Kirk smiled, reminded of another picture one of himself taken at a vacation resort on Earth when he was an infant. He closed his eyes, and attempted the transmission of the image to Zalinja. Gently. Gently. Mustnít let it get out of control. He kept his breathing even, slow and deep. For a second he felt the Schillianís mind. Iíve done it!"

Agony replaced the pleasure of the accomplishment.

 

Spock paused at the top of one of the many rolling hills overlooking Dakainya. He had lost weight and was more gaunt than the year before when he and Dr. McCoy had brought James Kirk there. Spock had left the aircar and had proceeded to walk the 2-1/2 kilometer distance to the main entrance. The cool, fresh air of the early evening felt good after his convalescence and the walk left him time for thought. The wide, dusty gravel roadway beneath his feet, an artifact of Vulcanís past, descended steeply into the valley and past the school. He was tired, more so than the trip from DíRíhiset, and the walk should have left him. Another symptom, he noted clinically, to report to Soled. The thought brought with it the impetus to continue.

Finally he stood outside the walls of the school and set the visitorsí chimes within echoing hollowly. The setting sun cast a huge shadow before him as he made his way to the Directorís office.

"Fear no enemy within these walls," Sobruck greeted him formally.

"Nor shall I bear any weapon," Spock replied.

"You are here to see your brother?" Sobruck asked as he ushered his visitor into a chair in the small office.

"No," Spock said flatly. "I am here to see Soled."

"Spock," Sobruck paused before continuing, "Soled died twelve yahvee ago." A look of disbelief swept across Spockís face. Sobruck continued gently, "He never recovered his strength . . . You did not know?"

"No," Spock replied, ignoring the note of inquiry in Sobruckís voice.

They sat in silence for some time. "Is there anything I can do?"

Spock shook his head. "I think not."

"Then, will you remain and see your brother? Soled was convinced that he was breaking through SíChamesí barrier and teaching him full control over his abilities. But each time they tried, SíChames complained of severe pain which Soled associated with the higher levels of control."

"I . . ." Spock paused, lines of tension increasing the angularity of his face.

"SíChames was - disturbed - at Soledís death. He will not speak of the matter, but I believe he felt Soled die."

"__And__ __I__ __did__ __not__ . . ."

"He has not made any further progress. I am hoping Zalinja can change that. Being a Schillian, his mind techniques are stronger and more sensitive."

"He must succeed." Spockís tension increased.

". . . Perhaps if he left here for awhile. Go with him, take a - what is the Earth term - a vacation. He can resume his lessons with Zalinja when he returns. We are concerned about his distress. It would be best to take him to a place where he will not be called upon to use his telepathic abilities."

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(RBW Note. Drawing of James Kirk.)

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"I will speak to him," Spock agreed finally. He rose reluctantly, left Sobruck and went to meet his brother. __I__ __had__ __hoped__ . . . __no__, __I__ __did__ __this__ __to__ __him__ . . . __the__ __time__ __has__ __come__ __to__ __tell__ __Jim__ __the__ __truth__ . . . __will__ __he__ __believe__ __me__?

Jim sat stiffly in the contoured chair, his right hand on the control knob of the book-viewer and his left hand rubbing his neck. Frustration was building inside him and only the confidence derived from the fact that each day he became more proficient in his mental exercises kept the situation bearable. He could now keep five green lights steady without the aid of his idlomputt, but even Zalinjaís most recent attempt at a mind link had left a sharp, searing pain running through him like the short-circuiting of an electric current.

He closed the viewer, suddenly aware of another presence in the room. He turned to see who it was.

"Spock!" Jimís surprise and pleasure were evident in his face. Spock stepped forward, his hands crossed in front and extended palms outward in the ritual kinsmen embrace. Jim quickly stood up and duplicated the gesture, touching his palms to Spockís. Their hands lingered together but a moment.

"Iím pleased to see youíre well again," Jim said in his best Vulcanur, then lapsed into English. "I was worried. Howís everything at DíRíhiset? And on the __Enterprise__? - Has Starfleet . . . ?" Jim suddenly sensed Spockís somber mood.

"Everything is well," Spock replied as they sat down. "Sarek and Amanda send their regards . . ." - Jim silently amended that to, ĎAmanda sent her loveí - "and Starfleet has extended our leave as the __Enterprise__ is still being refitted with new equipment."

"Thank you, Spock. With Scotty in charge, I know sheís in capable hands."

"But what of you, Jim? Sobruck said you have been suffering."

Jim framed his answer carefully. "Only occasionally. Itís nothing. Soled told me that this might happen and that it was only temporary. I only wish . . ." he stopped, silently cursing himself for mentioning Soled. Somehow, in some unknown way, his and Spockís passage into that alternate universe had caused the elderly Vulcanís death. Kirk hadnít forgiven himself and he was sure that Spock was feeling the same guilt. He was almost afraid to find out how the rest of Vulcan felt - especially their family. After all, as head of the third family of the first realm, Soled had been a patriarch, and he had also been Spockís cousin.

"Sobruck also told me that you are permitted a leave," Spock continued, understanding Jimís need for a change of subject. "He feels that the pain might cease if you were to take some time and relax."

"I seem to recall saying that to you on the __Enterprise__ once or twice."

"You have also said that a change of scenery helps focus oneís perspective. You have been through much." Spock paused. "You have never managed to turn down R&R before."

Kirk smiled. "But my kind of R&R isnít available here."

Spock ignored the remark. "I am monitoring a group of children who are going on Rhys-lor. They will be unaware of my presence, and I thought that you might like to come along and see some more of Vulcan."

"When?" Jim asked, his resolve slowly weakening.

"Tomorrow, but we could leave as soon as Sobruck agrees."

"Spock!" Jim said suddenly. "Couldnít you --"

"SíChames," Spock used his Vulcan name, giving the moment a strange formality. "I was hoping to avoid this; I had hoped that Soled could help you and all would be as it should have been before." Kirkís expression turned puzzled, but Spock held up a hand before Jim could interrupt. "No, listen now -- and try to understand. I committed a grave injustice and left you in ignorance of it." Again Kirk threatened to interrupt, but Spock forestalled him. "The mind link should not be so painful a thing to contemplate and it is my fault that you suffer now."

Quietly, Spock took Jim Kirk back to their search for the Kraith . . .

 

The air of Briefing Room Six vibrated to the pulse of the engines, straining in the chase.

Kirk turned from the viewscreen. "Okay, Mr. Spock, we should be closing on the Romulan vessel within five minutes. Youíre sure theyíve got the Kraith aboard?"

Spock turned to his left where a second table held his Vulcan instrumentation, six specially tuned psionic sensors. It was hard to work in the presence of such a strong mind as Kirkís, and Spock could just barely sense his instruments registering the heavily-insulated Kraith carried by the ship ahead of them. "Yes, sir, the readings indicate they have not only __a__ Kraith, but indeed the very one which was stolen from the Federation exhibit. The implication is that these are in fact the thieves, or accomplices of same."

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"Good. Your presence will be required on the bridge, Mr. Spock." Kirk rose and made for the door.

"I would prefer to work from here."

Kirk paused by the door. "There may be a fight. We may have to fire on them. Iíll need you there." The thought lay heavily between them: __And__ __Sarek__ __is__ __probably__ __a__ __hostage__ __on__ __that__ __ship__.

Spock looked up at his captain. "Very well, sir. A moment please."

"Iíll wait outside for you." Kirk left, granting his friend the privacy he sensed was necessary.

Spock methodically closed down his psionic instruments. They had done their job. The Kraith was located. Now, two futures stretched before him. Either they would retrieve the Kraith in good condition, or they would destroy it in trying. Either way, his life as he had built it aboard the __Enterprise__ was over, shattered beyond repair.

He shut all thought of the future from his mind. The task now was to survive the holocaust of the next hour or two. It would be worse than the shattering deathscream of the __Intrepidís__ four hundred crewmen. This time, it would be amplified by the Kraith - even through its insulation - to mind-ripping proportions. __And__ __he__ __expects__ __me__ __to__ __endure__ __that__ __on__ __the__ __bridge__, __even__ __to__ __help__ __cause__ __such__ __deaths__.

With sudden insight, Spock realized how deeply Kirk was suffering for his first officer, his friend - for the wrong reasons, but truly suffering. __Emotional__ __pain__ __is__ __nevertheless__ __real__. __How__ __can__ __his__ __reason__ __function__ __at__ __all__ __in__ __the__ __midst__ __of__ __such__ __agony__? __Why__ __doesnít__ __he__ __stop__ __it__? It was the oldest question of Spockís life.

All at once he paused, tantalized on the very brink of grasping an elusive insight. Kirk was the key. He stood perfectly still, nursing that spark of Vulcan-trained intuition. But it evaporated under the full focus of his mind. As Spock fell back from the brink of insight, he found he had forgotten to breathe.

Gulping in huge lungfuls of the chill, dank air of the __Enterprise__, he turned back to his task. Another hour or so at this peak of induced psionic sensitivity and he would have been able to bring that insight up to focus. But he could not afford the hour. He was needed on the bridge and he could not work there without barriers.

The last of the equipment boxes snapped shut and locked, Spock rose and turned toward the door. Denying himself the insight he almost had, he closed his eyes and raised his concentration to white heat, carefully focusing on the inner mechanisms of his mind. Within thirty seconds, he had rebuilt his barriers, brutally rendering himself psi-null in the process.

He strode from the room without a backward glance.

At the turbo-lift, Kirk held the door for him. He entered and Kirk let the door close behind them. "Bridge," ordered Kirk. Trapped in the tiny cubicle with the human, Spock marvelled that his barriers were now so tight: for the first time since they had begun the search for the Kraith, he could scarcely feel the rhythmic beat of Kirkís alpha waves, the pre-battle setting of Kirkís mind. And he was getting none of Kirkís deeper theta waves at all.

From previous experiences of peak telepathic sensitivity, Spock knew that Kirkís command training brought these deepest brain waves to a high intensity prior to a battle situation. The strength of that alpha-theta combination overriding stress before a battle was what made Kirk such a formidable commander. Usually, Spock would find himself drawn into Kirkís pattern and rhythm, alien though it was to his own BCP pattern. It had become a curiously steadying routine to him.

But today, the most crucially important day of his life, it was missing. In his determination to avoid crippling trauma, he had shut Kirk out, immunizing himself to the battle rhythm of his commander. Kirk could only barely understand the results - and definitely not the reasons for the necessity of the barriers, but if the __Enterprise__ had to engage in battle in the presence of the Kraith, Spockís only chance of survival would be total telepathic blindness. It had been the only logical choice open to him.

Spock did not want his Starfleet life entangled with that other life -- his life before his grandfatherís death, his life as a kataytikh-trainee. The battle for the Kraith brought the moment of choice which would surely follow the artifactís return much too near. The doors flew open onto the bridge, which was bright and throbbing with the Red Alert.

As he took his station, Spock realized how he had come to depend on his telepathic awareness to assist him in the most ordinary work. He tried to establish the sense of timing, of unity with Kirk which had always been the core of their teamwork. But it would not come to him. This time, he stood on the outside as Kirk drew the rest of the bridge crew into tune with himself -- a few soft words asking for reports, a command to raise magnification on the main screen, a flippant remark to a yeoman as he handed back a clipboard. In the space of forty seconds, Kirk had taken command of the humans and brought them easily to battle pitch.

The whole bridge crew seemed attuned wholly to Kirk, extensions of his hands and will. Only Spock himself was left out.

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"Coming into sensor range, Captain," said Chekov.

"Magnification twelve, Lieutenant Uhura."

"Magnification factor twelve." Her finger was already on the selector when Kirk spoke.

The spread of stars blurred and re-focused. The Romulan vessel was a bright point at the center of the screen.

"Well, Mr. Spock?"

Startled, Spock gazed fixedly at the captain for one bewildered second, and then realized he should have given the sensor readings. He read them off his scope: size and probable armament of the vessel, power readings, crew complement, defensive armament. He was only a fraction of a second slow, but it was enough to throw the whole bridge team out of step. Kirk had to ask for his next datum also.

They hadnít even made contact yet, and already the battle was going badly. Spock knew it, and simultaneously knew that it was not Kirkís fault. The human captain could draw his human crew under his control by non-psi human methods. Spock would have to bring himself into tune or risk destroying the Kraith -- the most ancient of the telepathic amplifying devices to survive the Reformation, possibly the most valuable single artifact of Vulcan.

__We__ __do__ __not__ __know__ __how__ __to__ __make__ __them__ __quite__ __like__ __that__ __any__ __more__. __And__ __it__ __spans__ __thousands__ __of__ __years__. __To__ __touch__ __it__ __is__ __to__ __live__ __our__ __history__.

"Ready phasers, Mr. Chekov."

"Phasers ready, sir."

Sulu cut in. "Romulan vessel approaching dangerously close to a binary star -- with five gas giants in outer orbits." He shot a glance over his shoulder at Kirk. "They look like they are going to enter that system, sir."

"Mr. Chekov, take over all functions from Mr. Suluís board. Sulu, I want you to run a continuous plot on that star system. If we get within Zone ĎAí of any object large enough to damage us, use your manual override to veer us away.

"Well, Mr. Spock?"

Kirk was looking at him again. The fractional secondís lag before he began his report on the stellar system they were approaching irritated Kirk. For the third time, Spock had thrown the well-oiled machine out of timing. He gave his report smoothly and fed Suluís board all the data they had on the planetary orbits in question. "And," he finished, "there are three inner planets. Two are Class ĎM,í capable of supporting Romulan or human life. No intelligent life due to the extreme variability of the smaller sun."

"Closing rapidly, Captain," said Chekov. "Theyíve gone sublight and seem . . . Correction: they are entering the binary system."

"Scanning all frequencies, Captain," said Uhura, right on cue. "No signals. Shall I hail?"

"Yes. On all frequencies. Standard identification. They are still deep in Federation territory. Mr. Chekov, take us in after them. With extreme care."

"Aye, aye, sir."

Spock cut in. "Verification coming in on scanners now, Captain. There appears to be no intelligent life in this entire system."

"A good battlefield, Mr. Spock. What do you suppose they want here?"

"An interesting question. I have no data."

"Let me know when you get some."

"Yes, Captain." Spock wished he had time to run one more sweep of the Romulan ship. If he could sort Sarekís readings out, perhaps they could beam . . .

"Theyíre waiting for us, Captain," said Chekov. "Theyíre going to turn and fight."

"Arm photon torpedoes."

"Photon torpedoes armed and ready, sir."

"Lieutenant Uhura . . . all frequen . . ."

The deck shifted under their feet, throwing them to starboard for a moment. "Hit on number four shield, Captain. Holding," said Spock. Now that the battle was joined, he found himself moving and speaking more in tune with Kirk, but still lacking true rapport. It was only habit and drill which had instilled the moves in him. It would not hold much longer in this emergency.

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(RBW Note. Drawing of Spockís face.)

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"Ready number one phaser," Kirk ordered.

"Number one phaser bank ready, sir. Tracking automatically."

"Fire."

"Phaser one fired. -- Solid hit amidships."

"Spock bent to his scope. "Captain, their number six shield has weakened slightly."

"Good. Number two phaser bank this time, Ensign. I want to hit their number five shield. We donít want to blow them out of space, only scare them a little."

Uhura reported, "Theyíre making no attempt to communicate, sir. Continuing to hail them."

"Make it an ultimatum. Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir."

"Mr. Chekov," Kirk said slowly as he inched forward in his chair as if to put some body-English on the shot, "number two phaser on their number five shield . . . Now!!"

On signal, Chekov fired. Again a hit, but the number five shield showed no sign of weakening.

Spock knew that his own mental blocks were protecting him perfectly from any disturbance picked up by the Kraith. He hoped Sarek was as well protected.

Routinely, Spock had been running the sensor readings through the computer. The ready bleep sounded in his earphone now and he listened intently, rechecking through his direct scope.

"Captain," he said, "I know now what they are doing in this system. Their ship has lost twenty-point-two-three-two tons -- the mass of a large shuttlecraft. It probably dropped away before we were in range to pick it up. I suspect the Kraith is aboard."

"Find it, Mr. Spock."

"Data coming in now, sir."

"All right, Mr. Chekov, think you can hit their number seven shield without touching their six?"

"Iíve logged forty hours on the simulator, sir, in the last two months. I havenít missed one in three weeks."

The __Enterprise__ lurched hard while the computer was printing a digested read-out onto Spockís viewscope. His screen went dark. He shifted circuits and read out the damage control report. "We took that one at our number twelve shield, Captain. Three computer relays are out but the banks themselves are still functioning. Iím recircuiting now."

He sat down and worked his board around the obstruction. Meanwhile, Uhura routed the damage control crews to the trouble spot. As she worked, he reached over with his right hand and completed the re-routing of her boardís sensor access controls. When he had finished, she flashed him a secret smile. "Thank you, Mr. Spock."

He let his eye linger, recording the moment for future analysis. "My pleasure, Lieutenant," he responded almost by rote.

Scottís voice came over Uhuraís speaker and she routed him to Kirkís chair. Spock stood to read his scope again, and found the completed printout he had tried to get earlier.

"Captain," said Scott, "weíve got a computer malfunction."

Upon hearing that, Spock blanked the printout and went to his Engineering Monitor. "I have located it, Captain," he reported.

Scott went on, "Weíre controlling the flow by Emergency Manual Override. Those battle drills you ordered are going to pay off today."

"Confirmed, Captain," added Spock. "It will take at least half an hour for my crew to replace and reprogram the flow-control computer units that blew. They have been on it only two and a half minutes."

"All right. Mr. Scott, how soon will I have full power to the phasers?"

"Yeíve got that . . ." Scott hesitated, checking something, ". . . __now__, sir."

At that point, the __Enterprise__ bucked under another hit despite the evasive maneuver pattern they had been running. "Captain," Spock reported, "direct hit on the Engineering hull. All the starboard shielding is down."

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Kirk shook his head, staring into the starfield ahead of them. "What kind of devilish firepower does that ship mount, anyway?"

Spock consulted his scope again, comparing prior and current readings. "As I told you, only fifteen percent greater than standard for their model, sir, but they are desperate: we have hit them only lightly, but their power readings are dropping. I suspect they are overloading themselves for each shot at us. Correction: their power readings are rising again, sir, very rapidly."

Scott interrupted. "Captain, one of my laddies got the starboard shielding back up before he bought it. That was a photon torpedo that hit us. Radiation down here is fierce."

"Some new kind of guidance system on that torpedo," muttered Kirk. He was sweating now. "Spock, whereís that shuttle?"

"Sir, I do believe it was the shuttle that dropped that photon torpedo, though how a shuttle could do that is unknown. Trajectories match. The shuttle is now aground on the second inner planet. Since we took that last hit, I cannot reconfirm, but I did have an image of __two__ ships down there: the shuttle and another one with a much higher mass and energy consumption curve."

"Okay, Mr. Spock. We can assume that the Kraith is down on that planet being transferred to a faster ship and weíre facing a suicidal rear-guard action."

"That does seem logical." There was no trace of tension in Spockís voice. He might have been passing on the reasonableness of the latest shoreleave roster.

For the first time since the battle was joined, Kirk swiveled to look directly at Spock. Their glances locked for an instant. What passed between them was the knowledge that it was only an assumption, one upon which they would take a calculated risk.

Kirk swiveled front again and bounced out of his chair. "Mr. Chekov, weíre going to take them out of the sky this time. Maneuver Alpha."

An electrifying shock passed across the bridge crew as all eyes turned toward Kirk. The __Enterpriseís__ "Maneuver Alpha" was the tactical maneuver that had won Jim Kirk the Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence. He had not used that maneuver since he had taken over the __Enterprise__. Although extremely complicated and intricate, its value lay in the enemyís complete surprise and relative inability to defend against it.

Stationing himself between the helmsman and navigator, Kirk issued instructions, co-ordinating Suluís running calculations on the orbits of the gas giants with the intricate maneuver he wanted Chekov to program into the helm battle computer.

In the meantime, Spock had nothing to do but wait. He watched Kirk go through the standard procedure of challenging the other vessel, warning them that they would be destroyed even as he maintained a watch on his sensor readings.

While Kirk pleaded, offering a promise that they would be returned safely to the Romulan Zone if they would surrender, the __Enterprise__ was hit two more times. Monitoring his instruments, Spock reported the damage and routed crews into the malfunctioning areas. Still Kirk delayed. Spock expected to see one of the grounded ships lift off any second. A couple of more hits like the last two and the __Enterprise__ would not be able to follow the speedster.

__He__ __knows__ __he__ __is__ __going__ __to__ __destroy__ __that__ __ship__, __and__ __he__ __does__ __not__ __want__ __to__ __do__ __it__, thought Spock. He suddenly felt as if a door had opened up inside his mind, a door through which he could see Kirk clearly for the first time. __His__ __emotions__ __are__ __at__ __war__ __with__ __his__ __reason__. __But__ __he__ __is__ __using__ __his__ __reason__ __to__ __placate__ __his__ __emotions__. Kirk was not making excuses for an emotional desire to kill, but rather making sure that he would not later regret ordering the kill strike.

(Karen note. The next two paragraphs. Each word is underlined except for two words in the first paragraph: THOUGHT SPOCK, Please underline each word within these paragraphs, as I didnít note them.)

At the O.K. Corral, thought Spock, he wanted to kill, but did not. Here he does not want to, but will. Yet he will not move until both reason and emotion are in harmony, until he wants to do what he knows he ought to do. He is not offering them mercy for their sakes; he is offering it for his own. He will not move until he has found wholeness within himself. He is not always like that, but today, this is James Kirk at his best.

He trusts his emotions . . . but only selectively. That is the key to James Kirk - perhaps to all of humanity. But by what criteria does he select which emotions to trust?

(Karen note. End of the two underscored paragraphs)

A sudden chill washed through Spockís mind, like the cold, humid shipís air - alien. Incomprehensible. It was like confronting a thing which stood outside of reality. On a deep, cellular level, a Vulcan knew that his reasoning faculties, subject to the overwhelming stresses and subtle ever-present currents of the pon farr cycle, could never be wholly trusted in this one area: the critical evaluation of emotion.

The very idea of using reason to evaluate emotion was unutterably alien, even repulsive. And yet . . . Spock experienced an enticing leap of curiosity. What was true for Vulcans was not always true for him. Perhaps one day he would truly understand.

Kirk turned from the main screen to look searchingly at his first officer. "Something, Mr. Spock?"

"Negative, Captain. The situation remains unchanged."

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__Fascinating__. __Did__ __he__ __pick__ __up__ __my__ __thought__? __That__ __would__ __mean__ __extraordinary__ __sensitivity__ -- __considering__ __my__ __blocks__ -- __and__ __great__ __conscious__ __receptivity__ __for__ __information__ __gained__ __telepathically__.

Just then, the ship lurched once more. "Correction, Captain. Number six shield has just buckled. We cannot take another hit on that flank."

Kirk turned decisively back to his helmsman. "Lay in the maneuver. Rig automatic firing."

As the computer took over, the ship veered steeply to starboard and dived down the gravity well of the nearest gas giant planet. As they swung around, the full power of the engines pulsed for one nano-second, kicking the __Enterprise__ through subspace into position above and behind their prey.

Five rapid hits with their phasers and the __Enterprise__ was past the Romulan. The computer released a spread of photon torpedoes in their wake, and, at precisely the correct split instant, again cut in the warp engines for one short pulse. They cleared the explosion just ahead of the photon wave front.

From first to last engine pulse was less than three and a half seconds. The Romulan ship had no chance to respond.

[KC06IL46.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of Romulan Bird of Prey with Enterprise in the lower right corner against a starfield.)

Afterwards - for about two minutes - Kirk stood between the helm and navigation stations, gazing at the main screen as the light shields faded and the stars returned to normal. He did not look like a man who had won a battle. Yet, he looked like a man who would do it again, if he had to.

The intercom on the command chair arm bleeped, and Scottís voice came over. "Captain, just like I warned you: the ship hasnít been built can do what you can dream up. Youíll have to get us back ta the battle on impulse power while we replace the dilithium crystals. Itís our last set of spares, too."

Kirk wearily eased himself into his chair, leaning to one side. "Good work, Scotty. And get your men out of there until itís cooled off!"

"Iím workiní Ďem in shifts. In armor. Decontam Chief says another twenty minutes."

Nodding, Kirk issued the orders that would take them back to the second planet of the binary. The bridge crew had disintegrated into separate people again, each bustling about his tasks.

And still, in some odd way, Spock found himself on the outside looking in. Always before, battle was the time he found himself at one with the human bridge crew - and that only through Kirkís power to bring them into a unit. Today he had shared none of it with them, though the entire affair may have been the single most important event in his life, and possibly the last battle he would ever fight in Starfleet.

Never again to feel his whole being pulling energies out of space through the sensors: sifting, sorting, digesting the data and sending it on in a steady stream through the high intensity lens that was Kirkís mind focused to command reality.

(Karen note. Next two paragraphs, each word is underscored, though I did not note them. Please underscore each word for me.)

I can trust him never to abuse, never to turn any power I give him back on me. I trust him as if -- as if he were Vulcan, alien emotions or no. He has given me -- yes, I had not realized it, but of course, he has given me ĎMurhyl.í

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What would that be in English? My Vocation? The one single creative act that truly matches the nature of my being.

(Karen note. End of underscored paragraphs.)

Spock leaned back in his chair, then swiveled around to watch the main viewscreen as the __Enterprise__ hurtled back toward the binary system. Though he gave no outward sign of it, he was deep in meditation.

(Karen note. Next paragraph, each word is underscored, though I did not note them. Please underscore each word for me.)

 

I am not ready to be human. Nor am I ready to be wholly Vulcan. I dare not assume the position of kataytikh, to mold the public value system to my will through the Kraith. Every way I turn, I perceive contradictions. I dare not move until I understand what I have seen today. Yet, if we do not find Sarek down there, I will have to be the Vulcan I was trained to be; I will have to take Sarekís place. By my Grandfatherís hand, my Fatherís place -- No! I cannot! I dare not! Yet, the job must be done, and there is no one else.

(Karen note. End of underscored paragraph.)

"Sensor sweep, Mr. Spock."

"Scanning on automatic, Captain. We are picking up the ionization from the destruction of the Romulan vessel. Other than that, there is nothing to report. The second inner planet is still out of range behind the smaller sun."

"Order up a security team, fully equipped to take those two ships on the ground if we have to. Meet me in the transporter room in five minutes."

"Yes, sir."

Spock issued the necessary orders, then left for Engineering, climbing down the Jeffries tube, inspecting it for damage. When he arrived at the core of the transporter mechanisms, he found Kirk already there with a belt light and a maqnetowrench.

Scarcely looking around, Kirk said, "Give me a hand here, Spock. Weíve got to get this holoizer out. Itís blown. Scottyís gone to get a replacement. Half his crew is in sickbay with burns." Grunting out the short sentences as he worked, Kirk inched aside to give Spock room to get a purchase on the fitting. "Here we go. Watch your fingers."

The two men wrapped hands alternately, first Kirkís right, then Spockís right, then Kirkís left, then Spockís left, around the heft of the wrench as the captain counted, "One, two, three!"

Together they heaved mightily, and with a squeal, the fitting gave. Spock took the wrench away while Kirk twirled the fitting off its screws and extricated the damaged holoizer. "Whew! Bet that hasnít been removed since they built the __Enterprise__!" he laughed.

"It was checked and replaced two point three five . . ."

"Ssspooockkk! A joke."

Spock conceded with a raised eyebrow.

Suddenly changing the subject, Kirk said, "Perhaps youíd like to tell me what went wrong up there on the bridge."

"Wrong, Captain?"

"I canít remember the last time your work was so ragged. It threw the whole crew off -- or didnít you notice? Ordinarily, Iíd order three weeks of intensive battle drills for a performance like we turned in today, but drill never improves your performance once youíve learned a procedure."

"It . . . will not happen again, sir."

Kirk set the twisted, melted crystal holoizer on the deck and leaned the upper point against the transporter housing. It was evident that he was stalling for time to think. "Spock . . . Spock, what the hell is eating you? Call it a hunch, but I know it isnít Sarek."

"You are correct," said Spock without thinking. He accepts telepathic information as hunches.

"Okay, Spock. But if you ever need a shoulder . . ." Kirk clapped a hand on Spockís arm, gave a little shake, and let go. ". . . ĎI donít hear too good, but I listen real great.í Oh, here comes Scotty!"

Scott and one of his technicians had the new holoizer installed and clamped down in less than sixty seconds. Then they were on their way to the transporter room with Scott in the lead.

When they arrived, Scott checked over the panel quickly. Then he crawled under the console, ripping out the access panels and pulling at the circuit boards. ". . . sheíll be just a moment in the fixing, gentlemen."

Kirk turned to line up the security detachment as they came in the door. Double file, twenty earnest young men faced their captain, ready to do mayhem at his bidding. He lectured them on the objective and tactics of the mission while Spock busied himself at the viewscreen in the corner focusing on the primeval rain forest on the world below them.

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He swept the focal point across the continent beneath them to the point at which he had seen the two ships grounded, side by side. "Sir, readings show the faster ship is readying for take-off."

Kirk stepped to the screen while, under the strokes of Spockís fingers, the focus shifted closer, resolving into greater detail.

"No time for that, Spock. Scotty, is it fixed yet?" He turned to the engineer impatiently.

"A perfect adjustment, Captain. Sheís ready to go."

"Weíll beam down with four men. Scotty, put the other groups down just as I told you." He made for the transporter pads as he gestured to the first complement of shock troops.

"Letís go!"

As Spock and the others took their places, McCoy arrived with his stand-by equipment and stood silently as Kirk issued his final instructions before the transporter grabbed him. "We will arrive within fifteen yards of the two ships. You two will knock out the shuttlecraft. You and you, stay with us. Weíre going to breach and board that speedster. Scotty, back-up squads forty seconds behind us."

"Aye, Captain."

Kirk knew he was unhappy by the tone of his voice. "No, Scotty. You canít go. I need you here to pull us back if necessary."

"Aye." Scott exchanged glances with McCoy.

The transporter gripped them. The whirling sparks broke the scene into tiny bits. The bits became brighter, changed from gray/blue/red to purple/brown/yellow-green, then merged once more into a cohesive whole.

Visibility came first. They were on a rocky knoll in a large clearing overhung on all sides by giant grasses, tall as buildings, bowing in the heavy humid breeze. They were etched black against the bright yellow-green sky.

As the transporter effect faded, details became visible: the hulking black shuttlecraft with its ramp still down and its door invitingly open behind a semicircle of raw chiseled boulders, ocher like the dust.

__Some__ __kind__ __of__ __ore__. Spock knew when he could register the new thought he was already visible to anyone there, but his senses were still out of touch with this new reality. The transporter had wiped all the nerve currents from his body when it broke him down for transport. It took perhaps a second of subjective time to rebuild the autonomic functions before the field would release him. In that second, he saw doom and was helpless to prevent it.

Two bodies lay twisted on the shuttleís ramp, spilling carelessly over the sides as if their owners had died running pell mell for safety. Three more bodies sprawled around the foot of the ramp. Their arms had been flung protectively about their heads.

Farther from the ramp, among the boulders, the victims had not even had time for self-protective gestures. Their faces were sculpted in terror, the agony of a mind short-circuited into itself.

There, among the Romulan corpses, stood the insulated carry-box of the Kraith, wide open -- empty. The Kraith itself had toppled forward, out of the box and lay with its bottom at the edge of the box, the open top of the cup facing toward the materializing humans, focused directly at Jim Kirk. At first, the jewel-encrusted ceramic goblet was dull and lifeless. But as the materialization was completed, the Kraith received the first life emanations from the humans and began to glow.

It had been imprinted with the agonized deathscreams of nine Romulan minds, untrained minds but close kin to the Vulcan patterns. Energized now by the rising emotions of five humans -- one of them a developing telepath whose natural barriers had been weakened by repeated mind melds with a Vulcan -- the Kraith automatically completed the circuit between Kirk and the other humans, pouring the stored contents of those nine Romulan minds, as well as the four human ones, directly into James Kirk, the human most conductive to the energies present.

As Spockís nerve currents re-established themselves, his blocks protected him from the onslaught. He was only dimly aware of the forces activated around him. Part of his mind noted the speedster as it rose into the air to his left; it was already above the treetops when his first perceptions cleared. He also noted that among the corpses within his field of vision there was no sign of Sarek.

The next tenth of a second was perhaps the longest of his life. He had to wait until the transporter released him before he could fling himself between Kirk and the Kraith. He had to wait that interminable tenth of a second before he could begin to demolish the impervious barrier he had built within his mind -- a barrier which now might well result in Kirkís death by keeping Spock from gaining control of the Kraith.

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As the field released them, the humans went into bone-bending convulsions. Spock fell in front of Kirk, hands outstretched toward the Kraith simultaneously ripping the veils from his unprepared mind in one savage, nearly suicidal rending.

In that instant it was already too late for the four human security guards. They died in the same convulsive agony as the Romulans. Their muscles locked. they hadnít even exhaled the last breath they had taken aboard the __Enterprise__. Behind Spock, Kirk writhed in the dust, his body bent backward, arched in seizure. The back of his skull and his heels beat a tattoo in the dust and a strangled gurgle escaped his locked throat.

Prone in the granular dirt, Spock dragged himself toward the Kraith. The training of his earliest years was alive in him now as if he had never known or done anything else. He was kataytikh, genetically equipped, carefully trained to handle these forces, to command this power and survive. For the first time in his life he was glad to be who and what he was -- it would let him save James Kirkís life.

To do that, though, Spock had to wrest control of the Kraith from Kirk - away from that tremendously powerful mind - and shut off the flow until the Kraith could be blanked, or destroyed.

Spock gathered his knees under him and rose as he concentrated on the lines of force between the Kraith and his captain. He made himself a channel of less resistance to the flow than Kirk was and, spreading his hands wide, he gathered those lines together in his own body, ignoring the pain, ignoring the raw agony of death.

Deep in the back of his mind, he could hear his grandfatherís voice coaching, "Steady. There is no hurry. You have plenty of time - at least three seconds. Very still now, do not let the influx mar stillness."

He became the point of eternal pause at the center of all. The forces flowed through him but he did not partake of them. They were in him, but not of him. Until, having accepted in stillness, he became not a refracting lens but an opaque, reflecting lens, turning the forces back on themselves.

An external observer would have seen Spock dash forward, pick up the Kraith, and lock it once more safely into its box. Yet, throughout this apparent motion, he held himself perfectly still within, perfectly quiet, perfectly untouched, perfectly reflecting.

It was a feat very few of the kataytikhe could have performed under those conditions. Spock, being what he was - a half-breed born to the First Realm - had had to make himself the best. As he threw the catches home on the insulated box, he realized in this act, he had served Kirk - a human - as kataytikh. His life was still fragmented into two separate compartments, but the two compartments were now linked through Kirk. Whether he and Kirk were ready or not, whether Kirk had addressed him as kataytikh or not, it was already fact. __One__ __day__ __he__ __will__ __know__ __what__ __it__ __means__ __to__ __address__ __me__ __as__ __kataytikh__. __On__ __that__ __day__, __I__ __will__ __be__ __whole__.

With three of the seven locks dogged into place, Spock turned back toward Kirk. The clenched rigor had drained from the human and his sphincter muscles had relaxed as if in death. Without even touching the clammy forehead, Spock knew that McCoy would have pronounced Jim Kirk dead, irrevocably gone from his body. And, in a way, McCoy would have been correct. All the cardiostimulators and life-support apparatus of Sickbay could only sustain the body. Kirk had retreated from all of that; he had gone where he could not be harmed by the forces unleashed against him. Cardiostimulators would only seem to Kirk as more of the torment he had already endured.

Astride the body, Spock made his mind a beacon, bright with the promise of refuge. And the fuel of that beacon was his need for what Kirk could teach him - his road to totality, a thing he had admitted before only in the brutal honesty of private meditation, a thing which on this day had been more clearly defined than ever before.

 

__Captain__, __you__ __cannot__ __leave__ __yet__. __We__ __have__ __much__ __work__ __to__ __do__. __Together__.

Fear vanished. Stillness came. Brightness was. In one sudden translation, the distant substance became __here__, and __within__, then __without__. Somehow, in a way that could not be put into words, they passed each other. It was in that passing that Spock knew the depths of Kirkís pain.

It hit him in crisp flashes, bright explosions of pain, sear shafts scorching raw wounds, cauterizing, sealing. Afterwards, he found himself in the dust beside Kirk, fingers still locked for lifeís sake to certain brain centers inside Kirkís skull. Once, mere moments before, those brain centers had been open, sensitive, feeding the conscious levels of Kirkís mind.

Now, though the tissue lived and currents surged within those specialized brain centers, it was a disorganized current - disordered, traumatized, walled away from consciousness in defense of sanity.

__I__ __have__ __failed__.

From the moment he became conscious of the Kraith during transport, Spock had never really considered the possibility that he might save Jim Kirkís life yet fail both himself and his captain at the same time. He had never failed before. Full success had often been delayed; some successes had been marred by clumsiness and error. He had thought that that was what it meant to fail. Now he learned what real failure was. __I__ __have__ __failed__ __as__ __kataytikh__. __I__ __did__ __not__ __protect__ __him__ __sufficiently__ . . . __and__ __now__ __heís__ __psi__-__blind__. When a world depends on performance, there are no excuses. Such are the standards of the First Realm.

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Kirk opened his eyes. He smiled weakly at Spock. When he tried to speak, all that came was a whisper. ". . . you okay, Mr. Spock?"

"We live, Captain."

". . . happened . . . what . . . I donít remember . . . rough beamdown?"

"Iíll explain later, Captain." Spock took out his communicator which he suddenly realized had been beeping. He cut Scott off in mid-sentence and ordered Kirk beamed up to a waiting stretcher. Then he ordered the Security detail disbanded and had the __Enterprise__ wait while he finished what had to be done to the Kraith.

He forced his mind to the business at hand. When the Kraith had been finally blanked as best he could do without proper tools and when it had been secured in his quarters for safe-keeping, when all the details of cleaning up the bodies and taking the Romulan shuttle aboard the hangar deck had been finished, when he had written the log of the single minute they had spent on the surface and signed the damage control reports and tested the repaired warp drive and brought the ship onto course for the nearest starbase and reported his responsibility for letting the rest of the Romulans escape with Sarek still hostage -- when it had all been properly attended to, he went to sit beside the Captain in Sickbay.

Save for a few brief, oddly quiet but intense exchanges with Dr. McCoy, he sat there the rest of the night in silence, meditating as he never did except in strictest privacy, both to heal himself of this day and to assimilate the new data.

 

Spock fell silent, allowing Jim time to accept and absorb the information. When he remained silent, Spock continued. "Because of that accident, your minute telepathic sensitivities were crippled. You locked them behind the strongest barriers your mind could construct. But that could not protect you for long."

"You told me I was a latent telepath when we encountered the dze-utí."

"Yes. And by that time, your defenses were starting to come down again. Only now you faced the death screams of thirteen terror-stricken minds, imprinted and amplified by the Kraith, if you turned to those channels without protection."

"Why didnít you tell me this?"

"Jim, to have accepted such a reality at that time would have driven you insane. If I had told you all this, would you have believed me?"

"No," he answered hesitantly. "But I accepted the gold flame-sphere as a gift . . ."

"For Dr. McCoy, it was a gift. Yours, however, gave you some protection from yourself. I had to maintain your control until you could be trained. I should have brought you to Dakainya immediately after the destruction of the dze-utí. However, I allowed my scientific curiosity regarding the black star to affect my judgment. I could not have foreseen the result that decision would have on the entire ship - and on you and TíAniyeh in particular."

Jim Kirk studied his brother - intensely aware of the pain the Vulcan was experiencing at the recollection. But Spock finished stolidly, "With the flame-sphere gone and TíAniyeh dead, there was no way to protect you. The Schillians helped erect a new barrier until I could get you to Vulcan. Soled taught you to use the idlomputt until he could train you to use your abilities."

Jim sat staring at his hands.

"So you see, I cannot instruct you. I share with you the moment of memory which is causing your problem. I am the last one with whom you should link."

"No," Jim denied.

"It is true," Spock said quietly.

"Dammit, Spock. You did what you had to do." He jumped out of his chair and started pacing the small room.

"It was not enough and it almost cost you your life."

"You also saved my life." Again the room was silent.

"Jim," Spockís voice was gentle, "I do not have the technical proficiency with which to help you. It will have to be someone else."

"Iíll join you on that hike, Spock. I need the exercise and we need to talk. Meet you in ten minutes."

 

Rhys-lor is a ten-day hike of skill and endurance, a test not only of brawn and stamina but wits and brains, an arduous sojourn in the mountainous deserts of Vulcan.

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Kirkís thoughts were in a tumble as they climbed. __The__ __Vulcans__ __are__ __not__ __the__ __only__ __ones__ __who__ __believe__ __in__ __training__ __the__ __body__ __as__ __well__ __as__ __the__ __mind__. His memory drifted back to the infrequent times he and Sam had gone camping with their father, then flitted forward to recollect the grueling survival training Starfleet Academy instilled in its cadets. It had served him in good stead on several occasions.

He brought his mind back to the task of following the rough and rocky terrain through the foothills leading up to the Kardih plateau. The air was hot and the excessive gravity tiring, but to his surprise, Kirk realized he was enjoying the hike. The tension of the previous weeks had melted away like butter in the heat.

The second morning dawned clear . . . and uncomfortably warm. By afternoon, the sun was beating on his back with unrelenting intensity as he and Spock continued to climb. Spock extended a hand to help him across a wide crevice in the ground.

"We could have gone around," Jim grumbled.

"But it is faster this way," Spock reminded him. "The terrain will begin to level off shortly."

The two brothers walked on in companionable silence. The dust kicked up by his feet stuck to Kirkís sweat-soaked shirt. He removed it and tied it around his hips. Suddenly a discordant rumble filled the air and made them stop.

"A rock slide!"

They started off at a run -- fear for the safety of the children ahead of them uppermost in their thoughts. Jim wondered if Spock actually knew where they were going until they rounded a bend in the mountain trail and started picking their way slowly through the rubble. All they could see was dust and rock and dirt, and a small Schillian child lying amidst the debris. He had apparently been caught by the trailing edge of the slide, or perhaps had fallen from the broken ledge above. They soon extricated him.

"Spock, itís Shardar - Zalinjaís child."

"The question, Jim, is what is he doing so far from the Enclave?"

Jim covered the child with his shirt. Though the air was hot, he wanted to prevent him from going into shock; he realized that he knew little about Schillian physiology and as he moved away to allow Spock to take his place and examine the unconscious child, he wondered how much the Vulcan knew. __If__ __only__ __Bones__ __were__ __here__ . . . A momentary twinge of guilt interrupted his thoughts; he turned his attention back to the child. A feeling of dread gripped Kirk even before Spock spoke.

"Physically, there are two broken ribs, and I believe he has damaged a gill. I would also surmise that his link with the mind-net was broken when he lost consciousness. A healer will be able to tell us more."

"It should be a simple matter for you to re-establish his mind-bonds." Again Jim felt his stomach wrench when Spock did not reply immediately.

Spock was at a crossroads. If he didnít tell Jim the truth now, the child would die. If he did, his brother - and friend - as well as the child might die. Kill or cure. Jim would insist on trying. If it would save the child, Jim would sacrifice himself. Spock knew his captainís actions for what they were: self-sacrifice, not suicide. But the child might die anyway. It was win or lose - and the winner take all. The mathematics were on the side of both Jim and the child, but only by a few percentage points. Spock had gambled on less. He took a deep breath.

"I am psi-blind, Jim. I cannot tell how long the child has gone without contact. I cannot link with him to provide a new one."

Kirk tried to turn away, to change the subject, not to hear the words he knew would follow, but at the same time he knew he must hear and listen. There was nothing he could say, no comfort he could give. He couldnít. He must. If once again he gave into his fears -- he didnít want to think about that.

Spock broke the long silence. "You will have to do it, SíChames." His Vulcan name brought back all his memories of what Vulcan had done for him, given him, meant to him, and was now asking of him.

"I canít," he barely croaked out as he stared at the child.

Spock was dismayed. "You __can__ do it, SíChames. You __must__. Soled trained you well; you know how and you can do it."

"But the pain, the __fear__. Spock . . . itís not cowardice. I -- I canít explain but I feel agony at the thought. Itís as if I were putting my hand in a fire after knowing the sensation of a great burn. Itís not rational, but itís there." A shudder passed over him as he fought for control. Calm once more, he continued. "My training isnít finished. Iíve never done anything without the idlomputt for assistance. And the child is a Schillian. I donít even know if I can link with him. I havenít been able to link with Zalinja."

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"Soledís training reached those levels that you have conditioned yourself to fight against. Your past experience has colored your reactions and you have felt pain each time the barrier was breached. But the fact that you have been able to deal with it thus far is a sign of exactly how far you have advanced. But perhaps you are right. Perhaps you cannot do it. It will serve nothing to risk both you and the child."

Grim determination appeared on Kirkís face. "Iím not about to let him die." He lifted himself off the boulder and walked back to where the child lay, unconscious and breathing raggedly. "Go for help, Spock. Iíll manage." He almost added, "but hurry," then realized it was unnecessary. Within seconds Jim was alone with the child.

Tense and nervous, his fingers reached for the contact points on the childís skull. He wasnít sure which he feared more, the contact itself and the pain it would bring, or failure, and with it the childís death.

He realized he had to control his fears if he were to succeed. He withdrew his hands and quickly ran through a calming breathing exercise.

He immediately found himself more relaxed and once again placed his fingers on the childís temples. He touched the outermost thoughts, felt the need to withdraw, but ignored it and continued. Now that the Schillian child had the mental contact he needed -- minimal though it was -- Kirk took his time penetrating to the deeper layers of the childís mind, probing for injury. The small childís breathing became less ragged, although he did not - even through the telepathic contact - respond to any of Jimís questions.

__Why__ __doesnít__ __the__ __child__ __awake__? __The__ __contact__ __should__ __give__ __him__ __strength__. __Heís__ __slipping__ __away__. Summoning all his courage and straining to the utmost, Kirk attempted to penetrate to the childís subconscious. He could feel himself being pulled down, drowning in a black bottomless abyss; he was swiftly falling into nothingness, yet he was always reaching for the childís mind. Suddenly an image focused. He was sprawled face down on brick-red sand. He no longer had even the strength to crawl. He was hurt, bleeding; his blood blended into the sand which greedily sucked away at his life force. A searing burn ripped through the shreds of what discipline he had left. He screamed and then suddenly realized that the scream did not come from him alone. He fell back, breaking the contact, but an image of death upon death pervaded his mind and his gut tightened just before he passed out.

Jim Kirk never knew how long he lay there, but when consciousness returned, guilt stung him. __How__ __long__ __has__ __Shardar__ __been__ __without__ __contact__? The child could not survive much longer this way. He couldnít lose the trust Spock had placed in him, and what would Zalinja believe if the child died? He picked himself up, dusted his hands on his pants, and resumed the contact. Quickly this time, he ploughed through the outer layers until he again faced the barrier that was the Schillian childís subconscious. Fear prickled at the back of his neck, but he resolutely continued, damping his own sensitivity to pain although he couldnít control it completely, and let the Schillianís own pattern pull him in. Finally, as though a curtain had parted, he was through the barrier, and on the other side.

A wave of pain - distinctly the childís this time - washed over him. He tried to locate the source even as a second one began. __Schillians__ __have__ __no__ __equivalent__ __of__ __a__ __healing__ __trance__, he realized, and set about using his Vulcan training to block what he could. Several times his own agony threatened to take control, but he pushed it back, ignoring it in the heat of the more important fight.

Hours seemed to pass, although Kirk was sure it was only his own poor subjective time sense. Suddenly he felt a stirring amid his own thoughts and gratefully realized that Shardar was responding, regaining consciousness.

//Relax. Youíre safe now,// Kirk said soothingly. He was answered by tears in the childís eyes and a soft whimper. //Weíve sent for help. Theyíll be here soon.// For answer, he received another wave of intense discomfort. //Can you tell me what happened?// he asked in an attempt to distract the child.

//I wanted to go on Rhys-lor. Like Sorel. Followed him here. I was okay until I slipped and . . .//

Kirk was later to wonder how long he and the child had "talked." He suddenly became aware of a hand on his shoulder. "Iíll take over now." He heard the Healerís voice as if from a distance. He gently broke contact and moved out of the way to allow the Healer to examine the child.

 

Jim Kirk lay quietly in bed, his eyes closed, drifting in and out of consciousness and thinking/dreaming of the events of -- Was it only yesterday? The feel of the bed under him, the quiet coolness, told him he was home. For a few moments longer, he savored the lassitude that a new awakening brings before the demands of the present intrude and bring it to a halt. __The__ __Healer__ __did__ __come__. __I__ __remember__ __Spockís__ __voice__. __Shardar__! Suddenly he bolted upright and jumped out of bed. He grabbed the robe laid out at the foot of the bed and headed downstairs.

Though concern for the child was uppermost in his mind, Jim Kirk savored the peace that being at DíRíhiset always gave him. __Itís__ __good__ __to__ __be__ __home__, he thought as he entered the main foyer which connects all the different wings of DíRíhiset, heading for the kitchen.

He found Zalinja there alone, finishing a substantial meal. "Zalinja!" He gave little thought to the Vulcan custom of silence during meals. "When did you get here?" he asked as he dialed for coffee. "How is Shardar?"

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"Recovering. The Healer says that I may move him home this evening. And you?"

"I melded with him, Zalinja. Necessity made the torment bearable - and then it disappeared. After that, controlling Shardarís anguish was easy."

"I thought as much."

Kirk looked at him with a puzzled expression and went to get a second cup of coffee. When he returned, Zalinja continued, "There are certain facts of which you should be made aware, SíChames" he began formally. "The first is that your need for instruction at Dakainya is over. You are in control of your psionic abilities." Zalinja paused to allow Kirk to digest the information.

"I can return to the __Enterprise__", he whispered.

"If that is your wish."

Kirk didnít really hear him. __Bones__ . . . Scotty . . . __the__ __Enterprise__ __again__ . . . space . . __the__ __feel__ __of__ __the__ __command__ __chair__ . . . Could he remain here on Vulcan? He seriously doubted it. There was time to make the decision - now that there was a decision to make - after all, the __Enterprise__ was still in drydock.

"I would suggest you get something more substantial to eat. We can discuss the other matters later - after Sarek has returned." With that, Zalinja rose and left the room.

And Jim Kirk suddenly realized how hungry he was.

 

Late in the afternoon, Sarek returned from the Science Academy and by request joined Spock in the aerie.

"Father, I am at a loss. At the same time that Jim is finally in control of his psionic talents, I seem to have lost mine. The Healer performed the tests last night after we had returned when Jim and the child were sleeping. His findings were inconclusive. There is no physical cause for my psi-blindness -- at least none that he could determine. Nor could he tell me whether or not the condition is permanent."

Sarekís fingers steepled themselves as he meditated on what Spock had just told him. It was only in the past few years, since their reconciliation and even more since Jimís adoption, that Spock had asked his father for advice. Why was it that he rarely received any answers?

"If there is no physical reason for the loss of your telepathic abilities, might there be an emotional one? You have been subjected to many stresses in the recent past and even Vulcans are not immune to stress."

"I do not understand, Father."

"You have gone through the severance of three Bondings. You entered an alternate universe and came face-to-face with yourself - a self with entirely different motivations and principles. You returned with the Blooms - Blooms dangerously close to maturity - from that universe. Perhaps you have simply used your telepathic talents, which have never been stable, to a degree that has taxed your strength. The fact that the Healerís report was inconclusive need not be taken as a diagnosis of a permanent disorder. And," a small, frown appeared around Sarekís mouth, "in this condition, you cannot attempt another Bonding."

"Father!"

"How long has it persisted this time, Spock?"

"It has been 47.4 days. It is the longest time I have gone as a non-telepath. If the impairment continues, the Warder-Liege will have to be terminated, or a new Liege found."

"You have time in which to make your decision. Do not be hasty. The Warder Liege may come to a natural end."

 

James T. Kirk, Captain of the __Enterprise__, adopted son of Sarek and Amanda, member of the xtmprsqzntwlfd family, sat in the Garden of Thought, pondering his future. The coming days and weeks would be as no others in his life and he relished the thought of new challenges. A smile spread across his face as he realized the new freedom he had found.

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~ equity ~

". . . as if he had ceased to exist . . . ."

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joyce

 

yasner

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"You may resign if you wish to, Samijahr," Saida said, settling himself into a more comfortable position on the padded floor mat that ran around the circumference of the low mojk table. "I am not going down to the University Center."

"Custom requires that you resign," Samijahr insisted, incredulous at Saidaís attitude.

"I see no reason to honor so illogical a custom. I have been released from the University. For me to pretend that I left voluntarily serves no logical purpose."

"The custom does not require that you pretend to have left voluntarily," Samijahr said. "Its purpose is to permit you to acknowledge your place in tsaichrani."

"And what place is that?" Saida asked, brows raised. "I am Disaffirmed. Tsaichrani will want nothing much to do with me. It only seems logical, therefore, that I shall want nothing to do with it." Saida set his mojk bowl aside and selected a honey-glazed sweet cake.

"What are you going to do?" TíEris asked.

"Me?" Saida said, and allowed a brief, wry smile to play across his mouth. "I donít intend to do anything."

"You seem pleased at the prospect of being a parasite," TíEris said, her voice harsh with disapproval.

"Pleased?" Saida repeated. "No. I am not pleased. My life has been destroyed by an accident I was powerless to prevent. If I am to be a parasite, it is not by choice."

"I donít suppose you plan to go down to the Social Resources Office?"

"Certainly not," Saida said. "Logic demands that I accept my fate; it does not require that I be humble about it."

"You are behaving most illogically," Samijahr said. "I am at a loss to understand your attitude. We are all Disaffirmed. Defying our situation will accomplish nothing. It is not necessary that you resign. This is true. But you must ask yourself how you will live, and what you will do."

"I already have a profession," Saida pointed out. "I am a teacher of ore-Reform Agasaaran literature."

"No. You are not. You are no longer qualified to pursue your profession, Saida. None of us are qualified to pursue our professions. That we accidentally missed the Affirmation is irrelevant. We missed it."

"And there is, therefore, a supposedly logical choice to be made?" Saida demanded. "We can do whatever the Social Resources Office finds for us to do or we can accept the charity of the culture. But how are we going to live on a job the Social Resources Office finds for us, Samijahr? What kind of work do you think they will let us do?"

"Whatever kind of work there is, weíll do," Samijahr said quietly.

"And make a virtue of necessity?" Saida asked. "Whatever kind of work weíll do will be without meaning. We cannot be trusted to make decisions. Our judgment is no longer valid. The only work we can be permitted to do is that which maintains the status quo. And when it comes to the efficient implementation of a pre-determined program, a machine is much better suited to that work than we. A machine, at least, does not tire of the monotony."

"What youíre saying is true, Saida," TíEris agreed, "but the fact remains we have no other alternative. If we donít want to live on charity, weíll have to work at whatever we are given to do."

"No. Youíre wrong about that, TíEris. There is a third alternative, although it is not a very pleasant one."

"Indeed? Whatís that?"

"We can all die." Saida got up to leave. "I believe the proper thing to say is, ĎMay you not live long and prosperí?"

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Samijahr sat for several minutes after Saida had gone, staring at the brown sludge of mojk left in his bowl. He was a very practical Vulcan, not much given to introspection, and Saidaís behavior had disturbed him.

"That was most . . . interesting," TíEris said, after waiting patiently for Samijahr to speak. "What do you think is wrong with him?"

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Samijahr looked up. "I do not know. I have never seen Saida behave so strangely before. People have been known to become unstable as a result of Disaffirmation. Perhaps that is whatís wrong with him."

"If you are referring to Seitoís Theory," TíEris said, "there is no medical evidence to support it. Besides, both you and I are Disaffirmed, and while I cannot speak for myself certainly, you are not showing any signs of mental aberration."

"Seito is a kataytikh."

"Yes. But heís not a physician. There can be any number of reasons why a Disaffirmed person would become unstable: social pressure, the trauma of alienation. No physiological changes have ever been observed. I have no objection to Seito or any other kataytikhe speculating on the course of this society, Samijahr, but I would prefer them to leave medical matters to those of us best qualified to debate them."

"Then what is wrong with Saida?"

"I think we have to take into consideration the one factor that significantly distinguishes him from us," TíEris said carefully. "We are married and he is not. He may be going into pon-farr."

Samijahr blanched, then colored with embarrassment. "Pon-farr?" He was unwilling to consider the ramifications of such a possibility.

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"He is fifty-five, the average age of the initial onset," TíEris pointed out. "He was restless on the ship and is now showing signs of emotional stress. At first I suspected he was in shock. We all came very close to dying when the ship blew up. But his condition has never improved. Pon-farr is the only logical explanation."

"Then he must go to koon-ut-kal-if-fee."

"Under ordinary circumstances, I would agree. But he cannot go. His betrothed will challenge the marriage, and given Saidaís psychological condition, his prospects for surviving are not at all good. He cannot refuse to fight; the executioner would kill him. And if he does not go, he faces death in plak-tow."

"There is little we can do to help him, TíEris, if he refuses to go to the ceremony. His only hope for surviving lies in combat."

"Are you willing to stand with him?"

"Of course; if it will be permitted. But he has to be persuaded to go first."

"Then it is up to you to persuade him."

"Me? I am not unwilling to try, TíEris, but at least establish that he is in pon-farr first."

"That should be simple enough to do, however, awkward; you will have to come with me.

"Now?"

TíEris had already gotten to her feet.

"I am concerned that he may injure himself."

 

The streets were deserted but for a few people straggling home from business or entertainment in other parts of the city. Samijahr and TíEris made their way quickly to Saidaís home, a garden apartment in the Punjaffe district.

They went in by the garden gate and signaled.

"He should be home by now," Samijahr whispered.

TíEris stared at the door. Several minutes had elapsed since they had signaled, and still Saida had not replied. She said nothing to Samijahr of her fear; he was thinking the same thing she was. "I donít like it," TíEris said. "He should have responded by now." Reaching out, she keyed the door release. The door cycled without protest. "Saida?"

They went in.

Saida was lying on his side in bed, his knees drawn up to his chest. His color was good, a deep burnished gold against the blood green sleeping gish he wore, but his breathing was abnormally slow. TíEris opened her medical kit and ran a scanner over his body. "Attempted suicide. Heís in a tjdak trance. Iíll get a blood chemistry profile." She pricked a vein in the inside of Saidaís elbow, drew off a blood sample, and processed it through her kitís biocomp unit. She studied the figures for a moment, then turned to Samijahr.

"The testicular hormone levels are very high," she said, her expression grave.

"Then he is in pon-farr. Can you wake him up?"

"Yes. But I wouldnít advise it. He would probably go into plak-tow."

"What can we do then?"

"Iíll call an ambulance and have him taken to a hospital."

"Can they help him?"

"His bondmate will be contacted. If she is willing to mate with him, she will be brought in. If not, he will be placed in isolation and monitored."

"Saidaís bondmate will not want to mate with him, TíEris. We know that. If heís taken to a hospital, he will die."

TíEris sighed. She had thought out the problem in all its ramifications and had carefully considered each of the possible courses open to them. This, however, was the worst possible situation and she knew that Samijahr would be reluctant to accept her solution to it. Still, logic demanded that she present him with it, no matter how unpleasant it might seem, and that he consider it. "There are precedents for multiple bondings among the pre-Reform Kennacians of the Southern Vastnesses," she said. "If I mate with him, he can be saved."

Samijahr was stunned. "You cannot mate with him. Multiple bondings are nothing but adultery, and I will not permit you to pollute our mating."

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"I suppose," TíEris said, "That under normal circumstances multiple bondings are nothing but adultery. But they were conceived by the Kennacians precisely to circumvent the dilemma Saida finds himself in. Because he is Disaffirmed it is as if he has no Bondmate and, although Tradition requires that we take him to the ceremony, we cannot. It would be immoral to take him against his will."

"But is it any less immoral to force yourself on him?"

"In choosing death Saida has chosen to live within the Tradition. But, because he Disaffirmed, the Tradition requires his death. It is necessary that Saida mate; biology demands it, and biology must always take precedence over culture. For any other condition to exist is illogical."

"We know that there are other Disaffirmed -- SíDarmeg, for one. Possibly there will be a woman among them who would be ideal for Saida. Until then, he will have to depend on me."

"And you are willing to live outside the Tradition in order to save him? You must understand that I am a civil arbiter, and cannot predict how the Daughters of the Tradition will react. We may both find ourselves in considerable difficulties because of your decision."

"I am aware of that. I am also willing to do what is necessary to save Saidaís life."

"And what of us?" Samijahr asked.

"Nothing is changed."

"Everything is changed," Samijahr said, walking across the room. "Everything will change once you have shared minds with him. You will no longer be mine."

"I was never yours, not as you mean it now. You do not own me, Samijahr. I give myself to you because I want to."

"And once you have given yourself to him, what then?"

"He will be alive, and I will not have to give myself to him again."

Samijahr stood staring out the window. When he spoke again, TíEris could barely hear him. "He will hurt you. I do not know if I can endure his hurting you."

"I will control the pain. There is nothing else I can do."

"And you would do this for him?" Samijahr asked, turning to her at last.

"Yes, I would."

Samijahr nodded. "Do you want me to stay until you revive him?"

"No. It will be too dangerous. I can manage."

"You will come home afterward?"

"Iíll contact you as soon as I can. You had better go now."

"Be careful, TíEris."

"Yes, of course. Live long and prosper, Samijahr."

"And you."

 

 

As he left Saidaís apartment the despair that up until this time Samijahr had succeeded in holding off came over him. TíEris, the one person he might have relied on, had betrayed him. Of course, it was logical that she save Saida. Samijahr could not deny that. But in so selflessly sacrificing herself to their friend, she had Samijahr adrift. He needed her; he needed her to be the one thing he could rely on not to change. But TíEris had slipped through his fingers.

It was late. Not ready to face going home to an empty apartment and confronting the knowledge that Saida and TíEris were having intercourse, he began to walk.

He had no career to return to. Earlier he had taken Saida to task for insisting that they could no longer meaningfully contribute to tsaichrani, but Saida had been correct. What work could the Social Resources Office find for them? Most industry was automated. Machines were infinitely more efficient than people in performing redundant tasks, but the machines themselves required supervision. Such work, he imagined, required little judgment, and could safely be given to the Disaffirmed. He liked being outdoors. Could he be given supervisory work in agriculture? Samijahr wondered if a Disaffirmed could be trusted to determine when a field of plomeek was ripe.

There were other jobs he could do more pleasurably. Samijahr had always taken an interest in archeology, and had spent several summers working on digs. The work was too delicate to be done in any other manner than by hand. Even if he could not contribute to analyzing the finds, he could not be stopped from thinking about them. Or could he? If no one would accept his contributions to the study, would he soon stop thinking about the work?

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Over the months on the long trip back to Vulcan, one question had begun to torment him. TíEris claimed they were not suffering from any mental aberration, but if she was afflicted as well how could she know? Was it possible that he was, in some subtle way, different? Had something happened to his mind discernible only to the Affirmed that made him worse than useless in his culture? Was he, in fact, a threat? If he was incapable of assessing what effect his actions had on tsaichrani, then he could, quite unwittingly, set in motion a chain of events that would destroy it. He refused to consider the thought. If he wasnít insane at present, dwelling on such an idea would certainly make him so.

At home the coals in the mojk table brazier still glowed faintly. He poured himself a bowl and sipped, frowning at how bitter the drink had become. There was cream in the refrigerator, but that would simply mask the flavor, not improve it. He did not want to wait the time it would take to brew a fresh pot.

He went into the bathroom and undressed for bed. Saida had once remarked that he had the build of a pre-Reform warrior, tall and heavy through the shoulders. Looking at himself in the mirror, Samijahr wondered whether he would have been able to stand idly by and watch Saida be slaughtered at kal-i-fee. Thinking about it, he realized that the executioner would have made short work of him. He had never been physically injured beyond the usual scrapes and bruises of childhood. The concept of death by violence held no meaning for him, nor could he imagine himself killing anyone, no matter what the provocation. He could never have talked Saida into fighting, and if he had, he would never have been able to forgive himself.

He knotted his gish around his loins and went to bed. Mercifully, sleep came quickly and was without dreams.

 

TíApasya Ashokminh, Saidaís bondmate, was deeply disturbed when, early the following morning, she realized she had lost contact with Saida. There were only two possible explanations for her severance from him. Either Saida had died, a possibility that TíApasya discounted, as the pain of her severance from him would have awakened her; or, he had found relief with another woman. But no Affirmed woman, TíApasya knew, would willingly accept a Disaffirmed male. Saida must, therefore, have turned to rape. The Daughters of the Tradition would have to be informed.

It was several hours past dawn when Samijahr rose to bathe, dress, and eat. It was late summer in Agasaar; the sun, bright and hot, reflected from the windows of the city, filling the streets and the faces of the people with light. Samijahr dawdled over breakfast, hoping for a call from TíEris. It didnít come.

Indistinguishable amid the crowds of passersby, Samijahr made his way slowly to the monorail station off Sikora Street. There was nothing left to do but go down to the University Center and resign.

At sixty-five years of age, Samijahr was in the prime of his life. He had been a member of the Agasaar University faculty for ten years, rising from instructor to associate professor in that time. Respected by his colleagues and recognized as an expert in civil law, he had been called upon with growing frequency in recent years to arbitrate civil disputes. Now his career was cut short by Disaffirmation.

Agasaar University was the same as Samijahr remembered. Classes were in session and the vast campus was silent but for the whir of the custodial robots maintaining the grounds and the conversation of a group of students who, free for the hour, shared a rock garden beside the archeology complex.

Samijahr, watching the familiar life going on around him, was filled with rage. He no longer belonged to Agasaar University; the life that until three months ago had been his to share was his no longer. It was illogical to feel resentment, but he was keenly aware of the injustice of his situation and much though he tried to suppress his emotions, he could not. He was no criminal. He had not chosen to be Disaffirmed. But Vulcan law had cut him off from his former life as effectively as it would have had he been convicted of a crime.

There was no one waiting for an elevator in the lobby of Wole Senghor, the faculty office building. Sorosh, head of the law department, had his office on the third floor, and Samijahr went toward it dreading the reception he would receive. Sorosh and he had been friends for many years, but their friendship could no longer continue. Signaling, Samijahr waited for the order, "Come," then stepped inside.

Sorosh was seated at his desk working. Samijahr would have been hard pressed to describe Soroshís expression when, at last, he looked up and saw Samijahr. It was the kind of confused horror rarely seen in any Vulcan, and it pained Samijahr to see it in his friend. Sorosh put his stylus down and got up.

"May you live long and prosper, Sorosh," Samijahr said.

"Samijahr," Sorosh said.

"I must admit I did not think I would see you again, Sorosh. Our ship exploded on the way home and we only just managed to escape. A Federation vessel picked us up a week outside Vulcan."

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"Have you come on business, Samijahr?" Sorosh asked. Although there was no hostility in his voice, Samijahr detected no familiarity there either.

"I have come to resign," Samijahr said, and produced the tape he had recorded the night before, prior to Saidaís arrival.

"Leave it on my desk," Sorosh said, resuming his seat.

Samijahr set the cassette down.

"Is there anything else?"

"I would like to clean out my office."

"See the building manager. I had your office closed pending the disposition of your case."

"Thank you," Samijahr said.

Sorosh said nothing.

When, after a brief search, Samijahr found the building manager and the man had generously provided him with cartons, he was nevertheless unable to begin packing. He didnít know when his office had lost its impersonal air, but there was no doubt in his mind that this office was, somehow, an intimate part of him. To abandon it, to take out all the objects that made it his, would be, in some strange way like killing a part of himself. Once he was gone, there would be nothing to connect him with Agasaar University. It would be as if he had ceased to exist.

He began by packing his tapes first, as if he could concentrate on storing them in a specific order. Next he packed his papers, the notes he had made for pending cases or articles he proposed to write. Last he wrapped up his mojk bowl and the wall hanging TíEris had given him, in a tape sack he had had since his student days; these items he would carry home himself.

In a few hours the office was stripped. Samijahr extinguished the office lights and turned his voice print key into the building managerís office together with instructions for the shipment of his things. Leaving Wole Singhor was difficult. Samijahr knew he would never return.

As he rode the monorail home from the University Center, Samijahr admitted to himself that Saida had been correct about Vulcanís attitude toward them. At first it had been difficult to believe that, just because he was Disaffirmed, tsaichrani would want nothing more to do with him but the finality with which Sorosh had rejected him confirmed this fact, and Samijahr was filled with a very real and unpleasant sense of isolation.

 

At home, there was a plate of cold stuffed youbash in the refrigerator for lunch. As he ate, Samijahr thought of TíEris alone with Saida, and the knowledge of the agony she was enduring for anotherís sake was almost too much to bear. He had experienced the horror of Disaffirmation for himself, now, and understood why, confronted by the prospect of kal-i-fee or suicide, Saida had chosen the latter, but TíErisís courage in the face of certain suffering was a wound in him. All that had permitted him to accede to her plan to save Saida was logic and his reverence for life. Nothing palpable had lain behind his decision.

He had just put his dishes into the servowash when his desk communicator buzzed. For a moment he thought that it was TíEris calling, and hurried to his desk to answer. But, rather than TíErisí face appearing on the viewscreen as he expected, the screen was filled with the image of a white idic on a blue background. Samijahr blinked at the symbol for a moment, before it was replaced by the face of a young woman.

"May you not live long and prosper, Samijahr Malhotra," she said.

Samijahr nodded dumbly in acknowledgement. His caller was a Daughter of the Tradition.

"I regret that I must be the bearer of ill tidings," the woman said, "but we have reason to believe there has been a pollution of your mating."

Samijahr felt the blood drain from his face, "Indeed?" he said, when he had recovered enough to speak. "What has occurred?"

"We have been informed that the Disaffirmed, Saida Bhímar, bonded to TíApasya Ashokmihn, did not appear in his time at the place of kun-ut-kal-i-fee. TíApasya Ashokmihn was examined by the Kataytikh Seita; Saida is not dead."

"Of what significance are these facts to me?" Samijahr asked.

"Your friendship with Saida is well known to us. You returned to Vulcan in his company, TíEris is the only woman with whom he might have hoped to consummate his madness."

"So she has taken to his bed," Samijahr said tonelessly, putting the Daughterís suspicion into words.

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"I know it is difficult for you to accept this information, Samijahr. Logic, we know, becomes progressively more difficult for a Disaffirmed. But consider the situation for a moment. Are there any Disaffirmed women who would give themselves to Saida? Or whose favors he might buy?"

"No."

"Do you know where TíEris is?"

"No, I do not."

"Then, as we have received no reports of rape and TíEris is, after all, Disaffirmed, from a purely logical standpoint the situation must be as I have described it to you."

"I do not doubt that your argument is logical," Samijahr said. "But your conclusion is based upon a hypothesis unsubstantiated by fact."

"We are, of course, aware of the need to verify our premises," the Daughter said. "Be assured that we will do so prior to taking any action."

"Then why have you called me?"

"TíEris and Saida will have to be located and questioned. If we learn that there has been a pollution of your mating, they will be sterilized."

"I see," Samijahr said. "And am I to be sterilized as well?"

"Yes, regrettably you must be. Arrangements have been made with the Genetics Center at Punjaffe Hospital to perform the operations with the greatest possible dispatch. You will report there at your earliest possible convenience."

"I see."

"We will contact you as soon as we have determined whether your mating has been polluted. May you not live long and prosper."

"May __you__ not live long and prosper," Samijahr responded automatically, but the screen had gone blank, the Daughterís face replaced by the image of the idic.

Switching off the communications unit, Samijahr realized that some part of him was trembling in reaction to his conversation with the Daughter, but he suppressed it firmly. He must think clearly, logically.

TíEris and Saida must have gone out after their initial mating. That was the only explanation for their not being already in the Daughtersí custody. There were not very many places they would have gone. Logically, Saida, upon finding himself saved from immanent death, would take up life where he had left off and go down to the University Center to conclude his business there.

Samijahr punched up the call numbers of Saidaís office and waited impatiently while the machine signaled three, four times. When, after the seventh ring, there was still no response, Samijahr cancelled the call and tried Saida at his carrel in the rare manuscripts division of the University library. Saida responded immediately.

"I am relieved to have found you. Is TíEris with you?" Samijahr said, slightly breathless.

"She is," Saida said.

"I have just received a call from the Daughters of the Tradition. They suspect that you and TíEris have mated. When they confirm it we are all to be sterilized."

"Sterilized?" Saida said, brows raised in surprise. "No one in the history of Vulcan has been sterilized for breaking with Tradition."

"As far as we know," Samijahr said. "Logically, of course, the Daughters have no choice but to sterilize us. Our continued existence is a threat to tsaichrani; to allow us to mate compounds the threat immeasurably."

"Then why didnít they sterilize us immediately when we returned?" Saida asked.

"You answered that yourself last night. What kind of life do we face as Disaffirmed? We have no meaningful work. All TíEris and I have is each otherís company. How long could we survive on that? But now the three of us are bound together and form a community, a community separate from and yet as viable as tsaichrani. Why? Because TíEris is a woman, and with her we might soon have children. And how many other Disaffirmed are there?"

"You make us sound like a conspiracy," Saida said in fascinated horror.

"Arenít we?"

Saida blinked.

"Unless you are prepared to be sterilized, I would suggest that we make plans to get off planet immediately. The Daughters are already looking for you."

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"But where can we go?" Saida asked.

"Logically, the Terrans should prove the most sympathetic. They have had experience with eugenics problems in the past. I suggest we seek asylum with them. We may claim that our civil rights are being violated."

"Surely we canít explain our situation to them," Saida said, aghast at the thought of describing pon farr to aliens.

"We will explain as little as possible. If worse comes to worse and we are forced to go into detail, TíEris can explain for us. She is a physician, after all, she has had experience explaining such matters in the past."

"I suppose it is the only solution," Saida said, unconvinced. "I only hope we wonít regret making so precipitate a decision."

"Unfortunately, there is no time to consider alternatives. The Daughters expect me to report to Punjaffe Hospital immediately. Go to the Terran Embassy now. Iíll meet you there."

"I would advise you to be cautious, Samijahr," Saida said. "The Daughters already know where you are. You may be under surveillance."

"I will be careful," Samijahr assured him.

It had not, in fact, occurred to Samijahr that the Daughters would have him watched. Now, alert to the possibility, he began to plan how best he might escape. Consulting a directory of the city, he learned that the Terran Embassy was located in Lower Agasaar, fifteen kilometers from Punjaffe. Walking there was out of the question; he would have to take the monorail and avoid, as best he could anyone sent to follow.

Any thought of leaving his apartment building undetected, however, was quickly abandoned. No sooner had he emerged from his building than an enforcer, standing in plain view across the street, made it obvious that he had recognized him. Under less serious circumstances, Samijahr would have been amused by the officerís admonishing stare. As it was, he was obliged to heed the threat, and turning on his heel, walked down Sikora Street, heading in the direction of Punjaffe Hospital.

As one of the most expensive residential districts in Agasaar, Punjaffe had been laid out with an eye toward the comfort of the residents. Parks and plazas, courtyards and cool, garden-shadowed mews dotted the area, turning the streets into a veritable maze where anyone not familiar with the area was liable to, and frequently did, get lost.

One hundred meters down Sikora Street was a short and narrow alleyway that, seemingly leading nowhere, was rarely used by anyone. Samijahr, however, had lived in Punjaffe for fifteen

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years and knew that, despite its unpromising appearance, the alleyway was the entrance to Ein Gehii, one of the most beautiful contemplative gardens in Punjaffe. Designed to simulate the oasis at Amrahon where Surak spent the summer of his first pilgrimage, Ein Gehii had been laid out in an intricate pattern of terraced pools and pathways around which plants grew in such profusion that the garden resembled nothing so much as a tropical rain forest. Once on its pathways, Samijahr would be invisible to anyone not directly in front of or behind him, and that fact, coupled with the knowledge that anyone ignorant of the gardenís Sikora Street entrance would probably walk past it, made it ideal for Samijahrís purposes.

Hurrying down Sikora Street, Samijahr put as much distance between himself and the enforcer following him as possible. It was late afternoon; shops that had been closed earlier against the heat of the day were now open, their striped and stippled awnings flapping colorfully in the sunlight, and the streets of Punjaffe were filled with shoppers. Samijahr reached the entrance of Ein Gehii undetected and ducked inside. The monorail station was four blocks further on.

Moving quickly along the paths of the garden, Samijahr imagined the frustration of the enforcer who had been following him. Once the officer realized that he had lost Samijahr, he would check each of the streets that intersected Sikora, questioning passersby, the shopkeepers and their clients. He would call his partner, for the enforcers routinely worked in pairs, to see if perhaps he had seen Samijahr. Eventually, however, they would realize that Samijahr had escaped and an all-points bulletin would be issued for his arrest.

Arriving in Lower Agasaar ten blocks short of the embassy, Samijahr found himself growing apprehensive. The ten blocks he had to walk now were all that stood between him and safety, but they were also the ones most fraught with danger. By now, Samijahr knew, all of the enforcers in Agasaar were looking for him, and he did not relish the thought of being captured.

Crossing Makor Plaza, Samijahr paused for a moment to get his bearings. The delay was almost fatal. A shouted command from an enforcer standing across the square sent the people passing on either side of Samijahr scurrying to safety. Caught out in the open, Samijahr had no choice but to run, flinching in anticipation of an immobilizing dart.

Across the plaza the grounds of the Terran Embassy were surrounded by a two-and-a-half meter shade wall. Samijahr threw himself onto it, desperate to scale it before the enforcer caught up with him. The impact of the immobilizing dart, when it came, was much less painful than he had anticipated, although the drug it contained took effect with surprising rapidity. He lost control of his body just as his center of gravity shifted, and fell headlong into the embassy garden below.

Lying helpless, with his vision restricted to the few meters he could see in front of him, Samijahr listened anxiously to the activity around him. Incredibly, the enforcer who had pursued him across Makor Plaza had scaled the embassy wall and the Terran guards were quick to order him down and take him into custody. Next, Samijahr was examined for injuries and, while one of the guards led the enforcer away, others lifted Samijahr onto a stretcher and carried him indoors.

He was bursting with questions. Had Saida and TíEris arrived? Were they safe? Did the Terrans realize that he was not a criminal who, in fleeing Vulcan law enforcement officials, sought to impose himself in them? His tongue was thick in his mouth, and he was salivating heavily.

He was carried into the embassy dispensary and transferred to an examining table. The Terran doctor thoughtfully placed a towel under his head and positioned him so that his saliva could drain off safely.

"My wife and friend," Samijahr said, struggling to speak clearly. "Did they arrive?"

"Yes, theyíre here," the doctor said. "Youíre safe now."

Relieved, Samijahr allowed himself to relax while the doctor went to work removing the needle of the immobilizing dart.

 

"The third Vulcan you were expecting just came in over the south wall, Ambassador Bailey," Sergeant Larry Genisco, the man who had been on guard when Samijahr arrived at the embassy, reported. "An enforcer managed to get a dart into him. Iíve got the enforcer in the security staff lounge. Potter or Horvath took the Vulcan in to Dr. Goldstein."

"Was he injured?" the ambassador asked. Across from her, TíEris sat anxiously listening to the conversation.

"I doubt it. He was paralyzed when he fell from the wall and landed limp."

"Did the enforcer give you any trouble?"

"No, maíam. He just looked mad enough to spit, thatís all."

Bailey snorted in appreciation of the image. "All right. You keep an eye on the enforcer. Iíll be there in a moment."

"Right."

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"Shall we go, TíEris?" Ambassador Bailey led the way. In the lounge, she turned TíEris over to Genisco.

"This is TíEris, Sergeant. I would appreciate it if you would show her where Samijahr is. The enforcer and I will finish up here."

"Yes, maíam. TíEris."

At the dispensary door, Genisco knocked, and allowed TíEris to go in ahead of him. Samijahr was lying face down on an examining table. His gish had been unfastened and lay spread loosely across his buttocks. TíEris suppressed a twinge of embarrassment for him.

"I got the dart out," Dr. Goldstein, an aging, pleasant-faced man, told TíEris, showing her a kidney dish in which a long needle lay. "The dart was fired at such close range that the cartridge broke off and lodged the needle under the skin." He shrugged. "Nothing serious. Heís beginning to get some sensation in his extremities. He should be able to sit up shortly."

"We are grateful for you assistance," TíEris said. "But I would like to be alone with him now."

"Certainly, my dear."

"Doctor." Genisco held the door open for him.

When the two humans had gone, TíEris went around to the head of the table and stood in Samijahrís line of sight.

"Saida and I got here without any trouble," she said. "When we realized that you had a half-hour trip in front of you, we became concerned. I am pleased to see you arrived safely."

"Safely, but not quite unscathed," Samijahr said thickly, his expression wry. "I had quite an adventure."

"But you are here now," TíEris said, "and that is all that is important at the moment."

"And you," Samijahr said, studying her face. "Are you well?"

"As well as can be expected."

"I am sorry you had to suffer," Samijahr said quietly.

"It was necessary, and I knew what to expect."

"At times I believe you are much more courageous than I can ever be," Samijahr said.

"Perhaps. But do not envy me my decision."

"I donít."

"Would you like to try to sit up now?"

"Please."

With TíErisí assistance, Samijahr swung his legs off the table and sat up carefully, clutching the edge of the table.

"Ambassador Bailey wanted to wait until you arrived before we began discussing the question of asylum," TíEris said. "Have you given any thought to what we might tell her?"

"The truth," Samijahr said. "What else is there left at this point?"

"That may prove awkward," TíEris commented.

"Then we will have to be circumspect. Letís not keep the ambassador waiting."

When they returned to Ambassador Baileyís office, they found Saida waiting for them. The tension Samijahr had seen in him the day before was gone, but it had been replaced by an apprehensiveness Samijahr was unsure he was prepared to deal with. For a long time the two men stood staring at each other.

"Samijahr," Saida said at last.

"I am pleased to see you, Saida," Samijahr said. "I trust you are well?"

"I am -- much better," Saida said, flushing. Then, making a fierce effort to overcome his embarrassment, he went on, "What TíEris and you did for me was beyond any requirement of friendship. I want to thank you for it."

"One does not thank logic," Samijahr said. "Surely we could not permit you to die because of an accident?"

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"No," Saida said, considering the question, "I suppose you could not. It would have been illogical."

"Most," Samijahr agreed. His words, he was pleased to see, had had the desired affect. Saida had relaxed, confident that despite the trauma his relationship with Samijahr had suffered, at least there was the possibility of their still remaining friends. TíEris merely looked amused.

"Now that Saida has conceded the logic of our saving him," she said, "I think we must consider our next problem." She grew serious. "The Terrans may refuse to grant us asylum. If they do, we will undoubtedly be sterilized and, I suspect, separated."

"Indeed," Saida said. "The Daughters cannot permit us to remain together; we are an affront to tsaichrani. Separate, they may hope to wear us down, reduce us to a point where we may be dealt with more easily."

"Then we must resolve now to leave Vulcan," Samijahr said "and direct our individual and collective efforts toward that end. No matter what happens, even if we are sterilized and separated, we must escape."

"I agree," TíEris said. "There is no alternative."

"Shall we sit down?" Samijahr asked. "The Ambassador should be back shortly."

They had no sooner settled themselves than Ambassador Bailey came in. She took the chair behind her desk, clasped her hands in front of her, and sat looking at each of them in turn.

"All three of you want asylum. Is that correct?" There was an alert aggressiveness in her manner that inspired confidence in the Vulcans.

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"Yes," Samijahr said.

"What are you seeking asylum from?"

"The three of us are to be sterilized," Samijahr said.

Ambassador Bailey frowned.

"What crime did you commit?"

"Samijahr and I are married," TíEris said, "I committed adultery with Saida."

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"I see. Is sterilization on the books as punishment for adultery?"

"No, it is not," Samijahr said. "Adultery comes under civil jurisprudence. In order for a person to be punished for it, it is necessary that the offended party bring suit. For example, were I to bring suit against TíEris, which would obviously be my prerogative as her husband, and were she found guilty, then legally I could require her to become my chattel. Were I the one accused of adultery and found guilty, it would be within TíErisí prerogative to divorce me."

"How do you know all this?" Bailey asked.

"I am a civil arbiter," Samijahr said.

"A lawyer?"

"The functions are similar."

"And there are absolutely no provisions for sterilization for adultery under Vulcan law?"

"None for any crime. Our population problem, as you undoubtedly know, has always been the opposite of yours."

"Then why are you to be sterilized?"

"We are Disaffirmed," Saida said simply.

"Ah," Ambassador Bailey said.

The Vulcans looked at each other. "You know what the Affirmation entails?" Saida asked.

"I was under the impression it was a ceremony in which you affirmed your commitment to Surakís Construct. Apparently itís a bit more complicated than that."

"The kataytikhe," Saida explained, "are responsible for conducting the Affirmation. They are given the authority to determine what course tsaichrani -- our culture-- will take. Those who miss the Affirmation are considered incapable of participating in tsaichrani; their values are no longer those of the culture."

"And this entitles the government to interfere in your sex lives?"

Samijahr closed his eyes in horror.

"I am sorry if I am offensive. It is essential that I understand your situation fully."

"We are considered a threat to tsaichrani," Saida said. "We cannot be permitted to reproduce."

"Because your values are different from everyone elseís?" Bailey asked. "Do you mean to say that everyone on Vulcan has the same values?"

"That is one of the Affirmationís functions," Saida said uncomfortably, acutely aware that Bailey found it next to impossible to believe.

"So now that you are Disaffirmed, the laws that apply to everyone else no longer apply to you."

"That is essentially correct," Samijahr said. "We ask only to be judged by the same laws that everyone else is judged by. Our government has chosen to deny us this right."

"So now you want out -- or off, I should say."

"Yes."

"You understand that I am obliged to listen to your governmentís side in this affair?"

"Yes."

"All right. I want you to understand that I canít promise you anything. Personally, I am inclined to favor your position, but the decision will ultimately rest with my government. For now, you may consider yourselves guests of Terra. Iíll have the third floor of the embassy closed off for your use. Dinner is an hour after sundown."

"Thank you," TíEris said.

"Thank me when Iíve gotten you your asylum," Bailey said. "It wonít be easy."

When the Vulcans had gone, Bailey put through a call to the Daughters of Tradition. She wasnít looking forward to talking with TíUriamne. The Daughter had always impressed her as too arrogant to be trusted. "This is Melinda Bailey, Terran Ambassador to Vulcan," she said to the

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woman who answered her call. "May I please speak with TíUriamne?"

If the Daughter was surprised by her request, she didnít show it. A moment later, TíUriamneís face appeared on the viewscreen.

"May you live long and prosper, Ambassador," TíUriamne said.

"Peace and long life, TíUriamne," Bailey said, acknowledging her greeting. "TíUriamne, I have a problem. An hour ago, three Vulcans walked into my embassy requesting asylum."

"Samijahr Malhotra, TíEris Purjda gat-Malhotra, and Saida Bhímar. I am aware they sought refuge with you." TíUriamne said.

"They claim they are being persecuted."

"Did they say what the nature of this persecution was?"

"They say theyíre going to be sterilized."

"And knowing us as you do, do you believe them?"

Bailey considered the question for a moment. "Yes, I do."

"Did they also tell you why they are to be sterilized?"

"TíEris says she committed adultery with Saida."

"Did they tell you that they are Disaffirmed?"

"Yes."

"These facts are a sufficient reason for us to require their sterilization, Bailey."

"Samijahr claims there is no provision for sterilization under Vulcan law."

"He is correct. We are making an exception in this case."

"Would you care to tell me why?"

"Unfortunately, I cannot. You will have to believe me when I tell you it is essential that Samijahr, TíEris, and Saida be sterilized."

Bailey frowned. "Iím sorry, TíUriamne, but that doesnít make much sense."

"The fate of Vulcan hangs in the balance."

Bailey looked doubtful. "Why? Why are three people so great a threat to Vulcan that you have to have them sterilized? Why, if being Disaffirmed is so terrible, werenít they sterilized in the first place? Why did you wait until now?"

"I cannot answer your questions."

"Then I have no choice but to recommend that they be granted asylum."

"If you were a Vulcan, Bailey, you would understand my position. Try, for a moment, to think like a Vulcan."

"TíUriamne, Iím trying to understand your position the best I can, but youíve refused to give me the information I need to do precisely that. I canít surrender three peopleís lives to you on the basis of a hypothetical threat to Vulcan. Explain to me why these people have to be punished so severely. Iím willing to understand your position."

"I cannot explain."

"Then you leave me no choice but to go ahead with my recommendation."

"Do so," TíUriamne said, and the screen went blank.

Melinda Bailey sat drumming her fingers on her desk for a long minute after TíUriamneís image had vanished from the screen. It was just like the Daughters to demand that Samijahr, TíEris, and Saida be extradited and yet refuse to explain what crime they had committed. Three months ago, the Daughters had contacted Starfleet Command with the same request regarding Lt. SíDarmeg, a military scout who had also missed the Affirmation. He was mentally incompetent, the Daughters asserted, but Starfleet psychiatrists could find no evidence to support the Daughtersí claim, and Starfleet refused to discharge him from the service and send him back to Vulcan.

Bailey gave up trying to understand the Daughters. They were forever warning the Federation that its ill-considered moves threatened Vulcan, and yet, with no understanding of what constituted such a threat, the Federation was left in the frustrating position of being unable to

140

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protect its own interests and respect Vulcanís integrity. Already a large percentage of Federation members, Terra among them, were ready to leave Vulcan to its own devices; the remainder were convinced that they were being played for fools.

Bailey had lived on Vulcan long enough to know that tsaichrani was fragile. In constructing it, the Daughters had failed to take one very important factor into consideration. For all their logic and devotion to empiricism, the Vulcans were people. The laws they obeyed were not absolute, but written by other Vulcans, and only so long as those laws were responsive to the peopleís needs would the people obey them. If the laws proved arbitrary, or threatened the well-being of the people they were meant to protect, it was the laws that would ultimately be destroyed--and those who profited by them.

For Lt. SíDarmeg, life outside tsaichrani would be relatively easy; he had made a break with his culture before Disaffirmation severed him from it permanently. For Samijahr, TíEris, and Saida, compelled to leave their homes and their world, life would be more difficult. But they would survive. Melinda Bailey, and the people of the Federation, would see to it that they had their chance.

[KC06IL53.TIF]

(RBW Note. Drawing of profile of Vulcan female.)

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Acknowledgments

SUNDERED DUTIES reprinted with permission, from Sol Plus #4

SAREKíS MEDITATION reprinted with permission, from Idic #6

OPERATING MANUAL reprinted with permission, from Saurian Brandy Digest #1

THREE STEPS BEHIND HIM reprinted with permission, from Off the Beaten Trek #3

A HOUSE DIVIDED reprinted with permission, from Probe 4

CHRISTINEíS DECISION reprinted with permission, from Berengaria #4

ONE FINGERED SYMPHONY reprinted with permission, from Warped Space #43, Enter-Comm #2

DAYS OF FUTURE PAST reprinted with permission, from Idic #6

BONESíS VISION reprinted with permission from, Interphase #1

AFFIRMATION OF NELLIE GRAY reprinted with permission, from Grip #1

KIRKíS TRIUMPH reprinted with permission, from Idic #6

EQUITY reprinted with permission, from Interphase #4

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS courtesy of Trex-Index by Roberta Rogow

(Karen note. There are two blank lines, then an underscore running completely across the page to signify a dividing line between the above material, and a different articleís continuation. Please insert the dividing line.)

 

"EDITORS ARE GHOULS AND CANNIBALS"

__CONTINUED FROM PAGE 102.__

The subtle shades of meaning, the various levels of maturity that can exist within a person, the evolving steps and plateaus of multiple friendships cannot be conveyed by the Magic Christian school of writing ("He/she __blanked__ his/her __blank__." The movie called it participatory pornography). If half the energy and inventiveness that went into thinking up new and different tortures or different convoluted ways that Kirk and Spock can do it with each other or the rest of the crew went into other channels of plot devices, there might be more stories out there that are worth buying.

Now all stories that donít contain sex and/or violence are not necessarily good ones. We hope we never go down on record as thinking that. But a little __variety__ in the types of stories that are written would be an awful welcome relief to these particular individuals.

The thing we disliked most about the book __Star__ __Trek__ __Lives!__ was the harping on the theme of sexual and violent stories in the section that described fan fiction. Maybe the fans who found us through that book think that that is the way it has to be done. We hope not. There were good stories then that didnít depend on sensationalism, and there are good stories now.

(Karen note. There are two blank lines, then an underscore running completely across the page to signify a dividing line between the above material, and ordering information with price list. Please insert the dividing line.)

 

(RBW Note. The following section of the page is in two columns.)

This is Ceiling Press Publication #26, January, 1981

KRAITH COLLECTED, VOLUME VI, FIRST EDITION

Printed by National Reproductions, Detroit, Michigan

Available from: Carol Lynn

(address omitted for website purposes)

(column break)

Price: $4.75 -- Fourth Class

$5.75 -- First Class

$5.75 -- Overseas, SURFACE

$6.75 -- Overseas, AIR MAIL

(column break, begin single column)

142

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(RBW Note. The back cover is on thicker card stock a pale gray shade.)

(blank page, inside back cover)

(page break)

(blank page, back cover)

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End of Kraith Collected Volume VI

-----------------------------

Anyone interested in adding a story to Kraith, please join kraith-l and tell us about it.  We can create ways for new stories to be posted if there is interest.  But please read the Kraith Creator's Manual first.  It contains the instructions other contributors used.  Think of it as the "bible" of this alternate universe.  Check the index page here or subscribe to kraith-l to gain access to the Manual.  

Note: Alternate Universe Four (a series of ST:ToS fanzines) mentions Kraith.  Send me a link if it's posted online yet, please.  Alnita, the British fanzine series likewise mentions Kraith terms.    

Jacqueline Lichtenberg's original universe, Sime~Gen invites fans to contribute stories and many have been posted.  Find out all about Sime~Gen here or dive into Sime~Gen fandom here, and read free stories in Rimon's Library.  

Find Jacqueline Lichtenberg's other universes.  

Subscribe to newsletter-l, the simegen.com domain newsletter to be notified when Jean Lorrah's Night Of The Twin Moons fanzines are posted here for free reading.  

 


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




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