(A Star Trek Romance)
S h a r o n E m i l y
-Inspired by Stay!, by Norma M. Smith-
Star Trek characters and situations
STARDATE: 5845.2 Personal Log of Lorna Mitchell, Special
Passenger - USS ENTERPRISE
"'...what would you do?'" It really makes little difference what you -- the listener -- would do, does it? No one else can make this decision for me.
I must think carefully and conquer my fears.... Ambassador Sarek is the most fascinating individual that I have ever met, there is no denying that. I consider him to be quite unique in that he is so strong physically, mentally, and spiritually that he can dare to be gentle and to follow the pathway of Peace in a galaxy that has experienced much violence. How ironical, therefore, that because of Sarek I must now make this terrible decision -- one which may either end his life or, in a manner of speaking, end my own.
Right now, I am on a planet named Aries XI, sitting beneath a tree and clasping the Ambassador's hands tightly between mine -- maintaining a mental/empathic contact which enables him to stay alive, in spite of the terrible injuries which a trio of Klingons inflicted upon him a short while ago. The ship's laboratories have nearly finished the antidote which will save the Ambassador, but until then his life literally seems to be in my hands. To complicate matters, I have just been informed that if I do not return to the 20th Century within a matter of minutes, I'll be stranded in this era.
Sometimes, I wonder if all this is really happening or if I am dreaming. Will I soon be awakened by the sounds of bells ringing and of sirens wailing as they usher in the New Year of 1970? No, this is not a dream; it is happening.
Is it possible that the malign entity which Mankind has named Kismet really exists? Right now, I could well believe it. Why else would I have been snatched from all that I knew to journey forward in time with three friends -- who were really strangers to me? And, is Kismet responsible for this new problem -- a thing that happens only once in ten billion times, if at all? A technician checking a formula for the antidote discovered that a figure "seven" was printed so poorly that it looked exactly like a figure "one." Mr. Scott was informed immediately, and he quickly checked the coordinates he had used to determine when I was to return to 1969. He must have been acting on a hunch to be able to think of something so relatively minor when the entire crew of the ship was preoccupied with the Ambassador's state of health. After Mr. Scott called to tell me that I must leave for 1969 this very night, I'd hoped that I'd have enough time to help Sarek gain enough strength that he'd be sure to live before I had to beam up. However, Scotty's explanation has terrified me: New computations have confirmed that my era will be outside the "Guardian's" influence earlier than had been determined. I must leave soon -- Scotty insists that it must be now.
Ten minutes might make all the difference.... Can I possibly wait that long? I don't want to be stranded here, centuries from my family! However, I don't want to be responsible for Sarek's death, either. If only I could be a Vulcan for just a few minutes so I could solve this problem with logic and calm reason. But I am a human, and I must think with my heart, as well as with my mind...could I ever really justify the possible sacrifice of Sarek's diplomatic mission to fulfill my own desires? Would it be right to put my own welfare ahead of the welfare of countless billions?
SPECIAL PASSENGER'S LOG -- SUPPLEMENTAL
SCOTTY IS CALLING AGAIN! DOCTOR McCOY IS HOLDING THE COMMUNICATOR FOR ME SO I CAN TALK YET MAINTAIN EMPATHIC CONTACT WITH SAREK AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.
"Lassie! Beam up!"
"I can't! It's too soon."
"You must! The Galactic Barrier has increased its force. It's startin' to affect the magnetic currents of every planetary body on this side o' the Galaxy. It's puttin' your era beyond the 'Guardian's' reach right now -- you've got less than seven minutes left."
"Scotty, will you be able to pinpoint my return to 1969 to the exact moment after I was snatched by the transporter beam? I understand that none of this may have to happen if you can do that."
Silence, then I heard the Chief Engineer utter a very strong expletive.
"SCOTTY." I demanded.
"That blasted Barrier's tossed a spanner in the works for sure, Lassie."
"I was afraid of that. Oh, Scotty! I'm so confused -- I need time to think."
"Sixty seconds, then, an' that's all. I'm cuttin it fine as it is."
SIXTY SECONDS. One minute to decide the course of a lifetime.
Those seconds are rushing by, and I must decide. However, the effort of maintaining the tenuous empathic contact with Sarek has drained my strength. It is difficult for me to think clearly.
What should I do?
SUPPLEMENTAL LOG -- CONTINUED
IT'S ALL OVER. I FEEL AS THOUGH I HAVE BEEN EMPTIED OF ALL EMOTION. NO, THAT ISN'T QUITE TRUE -- I DO FEEL A DEEP SENSATION OF RELIEF, AND I DREAD THE INEVITABLE QUESTIONS....
"What else could I do?"
"How could you just abandon...?"
"Don't pronounce judgment upon me until you have asked yourself what you would have done."
"The same thing, I suppose, but...."
"Then why do you find it necessary to question my motives, Doctor McCoy?"
Of course, I had stayed. What else could I have done?
Scotty, Doctor McCoy, even Captain Kirk had questioned my decision. Finally, I had clung tightly to Sarek's hands so I couldn't be beamed up against my will, then I had concentrated so deeply upon my task of projecting the will to live into Sarek's mind that I was able to ignore all their voices.
"Lorna!" Captain Kirk had finally demanded, so forcefully that I had had to listen. "There are ninety seconds left -- plenty of time to beam you up and return you to the 20th Century. I want you to consider the cost carefully. You realize there's no way we'll be able to send you back, once your time runs out. Do you hear me?"
"Please, sir!" My voice had been thick with unshed tears. "That doesn't make any difference. I am needed here. Don't you understand that?"
"Yes, Lorna. I'm sorry, but I had to be sure."
"But, Captain. She still has thirty seconds....!"
"Never MIND, Scotty."
The time passed so quickly and so quietly that it is almost an anticlimax to know that I am now irrevocably committed to this era. I do not know what lies ahead of me, but my current task keeps me so preoccupied that I cannot worry about the future. I am glad that Sarek does not know what I have done. I am sure he would not approve.
But he won't die now. Not as long as I can continue to....
I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN I WAS ASKING FOR TROUBLE WHEN I SAID THAT....
Spock had believed he had killed all three of the Klingons, but one of them had held on to his life and had summoned the strength needed to struggle back to make sure the Ambassador was dead. Doctor McCoy and I were too busy to be aware of our danger until a cruel hand grabbed my arm to jerk me away from Sarek, and a violent blow fell against the back of my head.... I was unconscious for only a few minutes, but that was long enough for Sarek to lose ground. He was much weaker by the time I revived enough to clasp his hands between mine again.
Doctor McCoy told me that the Klingon who had attacked me died right after he had struck me, but the body is not in my line of vision. McCoy checked the Ambassador again, then he shook his head. He has done all he can. So far, I have been able to maintain the empathic contact, but I don't know how long I can continue. It is childish of me to complain about my personal discomforts, I know, but I've been sitting in one position so long that my back aches and my limbs are absolutely numb. However, I could ignore these discomforts if only I weren't so tired, and if only my head weren't hurting so much. It feels as though a heavy iron plate were pressing against the back of my skull.
SPECIAL PASSENGER'S LOG - SUPPLEMENTAL
I STARTED MAKING THIS LOG WHEN DOCTOR McCOY TOLD ME THAT IT WOULD ENABLE ME TO CONCENTRATE MY MENTAL POWERS WHILE HELPING SAREK. I SEE NO REASON TO STOP NOW. PERHAPS THE COMMENTS OF ONE FROM ANOTHER TIME WILL BE OF VALUE TO SOMEONE IN THIS ERA....
"Lorna!" Doctor McCoy cried after another routine check. "He's stronger. He'll make it -- if you can keep it up...?"
"I'm getting tired, Doctor. Can you give me something to help? What about that stimulant you gave Mr. Spock?"
"I'm not sure how it might affect you."
"Doctor, if it wouldn't hurt a half-human, surely it wouldn't.... I'm sorry; I have no right to argue with you."
"Ordinarily, I'd hit the roof if one of my patients tried to prescribe for himself, but I'm willing to make allowances in your case. Poor woman. You are about ready to collapse. All right, I'll give you half the dosage I gave Spock. That will pep you up without giving your nervous system too much of a shock. Hold still."
He adjusted the setting on the hypo spray, then he pressed it against my arm and released the stimulant into my bloodstream. The medication did relieve the worst of my fatigue, but it did little to relieve the pain in my head. However, I ignored that pain and redoubled my efforts to maintain that empathic contact with Sarek.
His face is so expressionless; I find it difficult to believe that he asked me to stay. Only his weakened state could have caused him to make such an admission. If -- when he recovers, will he avoid me because the empathic mind touch has enabled me to see that part of his nature, which he has always kept hidden?
Thirty minutes after I had forfeited my chance to return to 1969, the technicians reported that they had completed the antidote and that Mr. Spock was already showing improvement. Someone would beam down at once with an ample supply of the antidote for Sarek. It was quite apparent that the Ambassador could not have maintained his own life all this time. Evidently, my decision to stay has saved him.
The air began to tremble, then Scotty materialized near us.
"Here you are, Doctor," he said as he gave McCoy a small vial of golden liquid. "You're to give him ten drops, wait eight minutes, then give him five more. That should do it."
And it did. Only moments after Doctor McCoy had administered the second dose of the antidote, I could feel Sarek's strength increasing.
"Don't let go of his hands, Lorna. He'll need your help until he can stop the bleeding from his internal injuries."
"You bet I won't let go." I retorted.
Slowly. Sarek's strength increased and his breathing became deeper and steadier. Then, between one breath and the next, the Ambassador -- slipped away from me.
"Doctor McCoy!" I cried. "He's -- he's...."
McCoy examined Sarek, then he looked up at me and grinned wearily:
"No, Lorna, he isn't dead. He's finally entered that healing trance. We'll be able to beam him back up to the Enterprise and get him settled in Sickbay before long."
I started to release Sarek's hands -- only to find that his fingers had tightened around my left hand. I could not get free unless someone helped me to pry his fingers loose.
"I've never heard of that happening before. Lorna, maybe you'd better not try to get free. It's possible that he can't maintain this trance unless you reinforce his mental powers with yours."
For a moment, I had to fight to keep from crying in sheer weariness. Of course, I would not stop giving mental support to Sarek, but it certainly would help if I could just lean my aching head against something softer than the tree behind me.
"Poor Lassie. You've nearly worn yourself out." Scotty exclaimed, recognizing my difficulties at a glance. "McCoy must be free to help the Ambassador, but there's no reason for me to stand here like a lazy lump. Come, you can lean against me."
He sat down beside me and put an avuncular arm about me to draw me against his strong chest.
"What a headstrong, foolish lassie you are," he said gently, and I groaned in protest.
"Please, Scotty, don't scold me. I can't face up to a real, old-fashioned tongue-lashing right now."
"I'm not goin' to scold you, for you've done a brave thing. Rest now, and save your own strength."
Despite his concern for Sarek, Doctor McCoy was amused to see the generally-aloof Scotsman cradling me against his shoulder. But I didn't care. Scotty's shoulder seemed almost as comfortable as a pillow, and I was very, very tired. In fact, although I seemed to be nothing but one vast ache, I could have gone to sleep quite easily. However, I don't think I slept more than a moment or two, if at all; ever and always, I was aware of those fingers that were imprisoning mine.
Shortly before dawn, Doctor McCoy examined Sarek again, then he reached for his communicator.
"He's done it. McCoy to Enterprise. McCoy to Enterprise."
"Enterprise here," Kirk's voice responded. "What's the problem?"
"No problem, Jim. Four to beam up, and clear the halls to Sickbay."
"Good! We're ready for you."
When we appeared in the Transporter Room, Kirk and Spock were waiting.
"What are you doing here, Spock? You're supposed to be sick." McCoy snapped as two interns lifted Sarek to a litter. This was a bit difficult, for the Ambassador was still clasping my hand, and McCoy had felt that it would still be too risky to attempt to break our empathic contact.
"The antidote killed the organisms rapidly, Doctor. Once they were weakened, I regained my strength and was able to dispose of the infection swiftly. I thought it logical to wait here to see if I could possibly try.... But Sarek has already begun the technique of self-healing. Doctor, you actually amaze me."
"Don't thank me, Spock. Miss Mitchell deserves all the credit. We found out last night that she possesses a very high degree of empathic telepathy. For her sake, I wish it were possible for you to take over, but I don't think it would be wise to take that chance -- not just yet."
"A semi-empath?" Spock mused, and I saw him lift an eyebrow when he observed that Sarek's fingers were holding mine tightly. "Yes, there have been indications that such might be the case.... We will have to conduct tests to see if her mental powers can be developed...."
"Can't we do that later?" I was too tired to care that I was being rude. "It's been a long night, and I don't know how much longer I can...."
"My sentiments, exactly." McCoy agreed. "Save your theories until later, Spock. Let's get the Ambassador to Sickbay before Miss Mitchell collapses. Jim, Star Fleet ought to award her a citation, at least...."
"Doctor, I didn't stay here in hopes of receiving a reward. However, if you think I have one coming, then let it be in the form of a promise that neither you, nor anyone else on this ship, will tell Ambassador Sarek why I did not return to 1969."
When we reached Sickbay, I sat beside Sarek and leaned my head against the wall beside the diagnostic bed. Doctor McCoy insisted upon examining me, then he frowned. It was evident that I had a severe concussion -- at least -- and I would have to have treatment soon. However, I refused to break the empathic contact, and Doctor McCoy reluctantly agreed that my condition would grow no worse as long as I remained quiet.
"Sarek's trance is nearing the crucial phase." McCoy said eventually. "When he gives instructions, either do what he tells you or call for help."
When Sarek spoke, he ordered me to strike him.
Strike Sarek? I wouldn't -- I couldn't. Besides, even though Doctor McCoy had told me to obey Sarek's commands, I was just too tired to try.
"Woman," Sarek whispered. "You must strike me, else I cannot break free of this trance."
"Doctor McCoy!" I called. He knew at once what was needed.
McCoy struck the Ambassador several times. At last, Sarek opened his eyes and lifted his arm to block the doctor's hand.
"No more, Doctor."
Doctor McCoy studied the readings on the panel and nodded. "For a Vulcan, the readings are normal. It seems incredible, for you were near death."
Sarek rose from the diagnostic bed.
I sighed, feeling absolutely euphoric with relief. Sarek would be able to complete his mission now. Inadvertently, I'd learned what that mission was -- to convince Mauretania that it would be to her advantage to join the Federation and to also enter into a bondship agreement with Vulcan. Such favorable results would be well worth any price.
The Ambassador had released his grip upon my hand as soon as he'd started to regain consciousness. Everyone had gathered around him.... I was so tired. Doctor McCoy had said that I needed medical treatment, but all I wanted was a chance to get to my quarters, where I could rest in peace.
When I stood up, the room seemed to whirl about me. I had to close my eyes to combat a sudden nausea, then I gritted my teeth to hold back a moan of pain. The motion of rising had caused the throbbing agony near the base of my skull to become almost unendurable. I pressed my unsteady hands against my temples, though I knew it wouldn't ease the pain. The next moment, I heard Sarek's voice directly behind me:
"Doctor, Miss Mitchell has ignored her own pain quite long enough. She has need of your medical skill."
"No! I'll - I'll be all right. I - I just need some sleep. Oh...." I swayed. Knowing that my strength was gone, I extended my hands to break my fall as my knees gave way beneath me.
Powerful arms caught me, then I felt myself being lifted up against a hard chest. Even though I was overwhelmed by pain, I wondered if it had been Sarek who had caught me, for I could hear no heart beating beneath my cheek. I heard Doctor McCoy telling someone to lay me down on my side; I felt a sharp pain when he touched the back of my head, then -- I knew no more....
I DON'T KNOW HOW LONG I FLOATED IN THAT OVERWHELMING DARKNESS. EONS PERHAPS? AT LAST, A THREAD OF LIGHT GLEAMED IN THE FAR DISTANCE, AND I SEEMED TO FEEL MYSELF DRIFTING TOWARD IT. THE NUMBNESS THAT HAD PARALYZED MY MIND WAS EBBING, AND I BECAME AWARE OF A FEELING OF TOTAL EXHAUSTION. I DIDN'T WANT TO REGAIN CONSCIOUSNESS, FOR THE DARKNESS WAS COMFORTING. NEVERTHELESS, THE LIGHT EXPANDED INTO A LARGE SQUARE AND TURNED INTO AN ALL-ENVELOPING GLOW....
Finally, I half-opened my eyes then closed them tightly as I gave voice to a low moan of protest.
"Lorna!" A man's voice spoke sharply. "Lorna! Try to stay awake. I've got to test your reflexes."
I opened my eyes fully, to see Doctor McCoy leaning over me. That's when it hit me:
I'M TRAPPED IN THIS TIME. I CAN'T GO BACK -- NOT EVER.
The knowledge was more than I could endure, and I retreated into unconsciousness again....
Eventually, however, I awakened. I recognized Sickbay as soon as I opened my eyes, and a wave of awful homesickness swept over me -- a longing for everything that was once mine but now had been lost forever. I moaned again and turned my head involuntarily; fortunately, no pain followed.
A shadow fell across my face, then Doctor McCoy's features and form swam into focus as he bent over me.
"So, you're with us again. Can you tell me how you feel?" He began to pass his medical scanner over me.
"Doesn't the Body Functions Panel --tell you that?"
"It can give me your blood pressure, your pain-level, and other physical signs. It can't measure your attitudes, nor your emotions." He studied the responses of my pupils with a small light. "Now, let's try that again.... How do you feel?"
"Very - tired. I - I am going back to sleep and - and I don't want to wake up...." Again, darkness swept over me.
STARDATE: 5847.10 -- MEDICAL LOG
CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER LEONARD McCOY SPEAKING. I AM DEEPLY CONCERNED ABOUT OUR SPECIAL PASSENGER, LORNA MITCHELL. THOUGH THE OPERATION I PERFORMED TO RELIEVE PRESSURE UPON HER BRAIN WAS SUCCESSFUL, SHE IS NOT RESPONDING. SHE BECOMES CONSCIOUS AT INTERVALS THEN, AS SOON AS SHE BECOMES FULLY AWARE OF WHERE SHE IS, LAPSES INTO UNCONSCIOUSNESS AGAIN -- RETREATING FROM REALITY.... SHE IS GROWING DANGEROUSLY WEAK, IN SPITE OF INTRAVENOUS FEEDINGS. I AM GOING TO TRY CORDRAZINE....
STARDATE: 5847.15 CHIEF SURGEON'S MEDICAL LOG
MINIMAL RESPONSE TO CORDRAZINE. PATIENT REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS BRIEFLY AND SEEMED TO BE RALLYING, THEN SHE FOLLOWED THE SAME PATTERN OF RECOGNIZING HER SURROUNDINGS AND RETREATING INTO UNCONSCIOUSNESS. HOWEVER, SHE DID WHISPER A NAME. MR. SPOCK CHECKED THE LIBRARY COMPUTERS AND REPORTED THAT THE NAME MISS MITCHELL HAD WHISPERED WAS HER MOTHER'S. I SUSPECT THAT THE SHOCK OF KNOWING THAT SHE IS TRAPPED IN THIS ERA HAS PRECIPITATED MISS MITCHELL INTO A SEVERE DEPRESSION. SIGNS INDICATE THAT THIS DEPRESSION MAY BE SUICIDAL -- THAT SHE IS TRYING TO WILL HERSELF TO DIE. PATIENT IS REGAINING CONSCIOUSNESS AGAIN.... I AM GOING TO TRY A DIFFERENT MEDICATION. IF SHE DOES NOT RESPOND TO THIS, MY DIAGNOSIS OF SUICIDAL DEPRESSION WILL BE CONFIRMED....
Tired...so tired.... Why must I wake up? Sleep.... I need sleep.... No matter, I am awake now -- maybe I only dreamed that I have been trapped in the future....
I opened my eyes, but the face bending above me was still that of Doctor Leonard McCoy, not my mother's.
"Lorna, can you hear me?"
"I - hear you.... Why won't you let me sleep? I'm so - tired.... What - what is in that hypo spray? What are you - giving me...?"
"Something to help chase away that tiredness."
"N-no!" I gasped. "I don't want it...."
But he pressed the spray against, my shoulder and released its contents into my bloodstream. I felt a brief surge of energy; my heart seemed to beat a little faster and breathing was no longer such a chore. However, the feeling of total depression, which had been created by my deep sorrow, had not eased very much. I closed my eyes again, vainly hoping that I might be able to drift back into unconsciousness.
"Lorna." McCoy exclaimed. "Don't do this to yourself."
"Bones, I just received your latest report about Miss Mitchell." I did not have to look to know that it was Captain Kirk who was speaking. "Is she doing any better?"
"No, and I'm worried, Jim."
"Why? Her injury wasn't that serious -- was it?"
"Not by modern medical standards -- but she must have been suffering terrible pain just before she fainted. I found a fine-line skull fracture, one that probably wouldn't have shown up on X-rays in her former time. For her sake, it's just as well that it was impossible to return her to 1969 after she was injured. She would have suffered a gradual build-up of pressure on her brain. It would have created an ever-increasing paralysis and, eventually, a lingering, painful death."
"What will happen to her in this era, Doctor?"
My eyes flew open. I felt a mild astonishment in spite of my depression, for I would recognize Sarek's musical voice anywhere.
"She should be all right, Ambassador. I was able to operate before the pressure had a chance to do any serious damage...."
"Yet her readings are dropping, Bones." Kirk exclaimed. "There must be some complication...."
"Jim, there are no physical reasons for that drop."
"Doctor, do you attribute this decline to psychosomatic difficulties?" Sarek asked quietly.
"Ambassador, I can help the body heal its injuries, and I can use various techniques to help heal diseases of the mind, but I don't know how to heal a sickness of the soul."
"Bones, why don't you try that medicine that cured Captain Garth and the other inmates of the asylum on Elba II?"
"That's what I was giving her when you two came in. The readings indicate that it has reversed the effects of the minor brain damage she suffered, but that's all. I've tried everything; the rest is up to her, but she doesn't seem to care. If she won't try to fight, we'll lose her."
Hands gripped my upper arms firmly.
"Lorna. Lorna Mitchell. Open your eyes and look at me." Captain Kirk demanded sternly.
Knowing how persistent the Captain could be, I obeyed.
"Good." He approved when I glared at him resentfully. "Listen to me, Lorna. You've proved that you have a lot of courage; why are you giving up now? Do you really think that we'll let you just -- drift away from us?"
"Captain," I said with difficulty, "don't try to be - kind. You know as well as I do - that I am nothing but a - problem to you - now...."
"No, Lorna. No," he protested, but I closed my eyes again and refused to answer him.
5847.17 -- CAPTAIN'S LOG
LORNA MITCHELL, OUR SPECIAL PASSENGER FROM 1969, IS DYING. DOCTOR McCOY HAS TOLD ME THAT THE SHOCK OF KNOWING SHE'S REALLY TRAPPED IN THIS TIME HAS CREATED A SUICIDAL DEPRESSION. WE CANNOT LET HER DIE. I HAVE AUTHORIZED DOCTOR McCOY TO USE EVERY POSSIBLE MEDICAL TECHNIQUE. IN THE MEANTIME, WE'VE CONFIRMED THE KLINGONS' ESCAPE AND ARE GOING ON....
I AM AWAKE AGAIN, BUT I AM SO TIRED THAT I CANNOT OPEN MY EYES. WHY BOTHER? I KNOW PERFECTLY WELL WHERE -- AND WHEN -- I AM. VOICES ARE SPEAKING NEAR ME....
"Bones ... do something.... It's been too long...."
"...nothing I can do.... As you said earlier, Ambassador, she has lost all desire to live...."
"Most illogical. I know from recent experience that total exhaustion can seriously deplete one's reserves of strength. Even so, why should she be weary of life? She will soon be returning to her own era.... What is it? Why do you look at me so strangely, Doctor?"
"You mean -- no one has told you, after all?"
"'Told me' what, Doctor?"
Anxiety surged through me, giving me a sudden burst of strength. I opened my eyes and tried to sit up.
"No, you promised...." I was too weak; I couldn't make it. A tall, saturnine figure moved into my range of vision.
"Captain, you should have allowed me to tell Sarek the truth earlier. Miss Mitchell would have been spared this additional emotional distress."
"What 'truth', Spock?"
"Don't...." I pleaded.
Mr. Spock looked down at me for a moment, then he shook his head. "I have no choice, Miss Mitchell."
He turned to Sarek. "A technician discovered that one digit in the computers printed at least two incorrect calculations during the past four solar weeks. One error was found in the first formula they were testing while developing the antidote. The other error was in...."
"...the coordinates which Mr. Scott was to use to determine the exact moment to return Miss Mitchell to the 20th Century." Sarek completed the statement when Spock paused.
"That is correct."
"Is it also correct to state that the proper time for her return came during that interval immediately after the Klingons had attacked me and before I was given the antidote?"
I drew a sobbing breath, trying to will oblivion to sweep me away so I would not hear the Ambassador express his disapproval of my decision. This time, however, oblivion would not come.
"So," the Ambassador said thoughtfully, "Miss Mitchell chose to remain in this time. I find her decision fascinating, but it is also most...."
"Ambassador." Doctor McCoy's deep anger was quite evident. "I suggest that you think very carefully before you finish that statement. I don't suppose Lorna can even come close to measuring up to your cold-blooded Vulcan standards of logic but.... Well, by Heaven, I was with her nearly every minute after you were hurt. I can testify that she has gone through Hell to help you. She deserves something more from you than to be told that her actions have been 'illogical,' or...."
"Doctor McCoy." Kirk roared.
"It is all right, Captain." Sarek said quietly. "Miss Mitchell is most fortunate to have such a loyal and plain-spoken advocate. Doctor, I am well aware that Miss Mitchell is capable of thinking clearly in a crisis. Thus, I agree that the term 'illogical' would be highly unsuitable. However, she was so anxious to return to her family that I consider her decision to remain in this time quite unexpected. I would have survived...."
"Ambassador." I heard Doctor McCoy interrupt. "Miss Mitchell is dangerously weak. It is unwise to continue this discussion where she can hear us. Will you accompany me to the next room?"
What is McCoy planning? What is he telling Ambassador Sarek? Why won't they just leave me alone?
It is silent in Sickbay now. Ah, that blessed darkness is coming back.... No. Those voices are drifting about me again, chasing the darkness away....
"Captain, will you verify that Miss Mitchell requested that I should not be told of her decision to remain in this time?"
"That I do find illogical...."
"It is not...."
"You interrupt, Spock?"
"I beg forgiveness. Nevertheless, the circumstances justify this interruption. Miss Mitchell wanted to make sure that nothing would distract you from completing your mission."
"Naturally. Miss Mitchell would think more of the importance of my assignment than of herself. Such generosity is a great asset."
"Then you are no longer offended because we did not tell...?"
This discussion is more than I can endure. If I try hard enough, will I be able to call back that darkness?
"Captain, only a human would take offense. I understand her motives... expects no reward...her action...not ignored.... If my mission...prevented, results...most unsatisfactory for all...value freedom.... The Federation... most grateful...."
"...all very well, Ambassador.... Gratitude won't help...her readings... dying...."
"Interesting. Doctor, she's convinced...no reason to live...? Can...be retrained...?"
"Yes...Miss Mitchell...astonishing quickness of mind...picked up... information....just looking.... Break through that depression... stop mourning the past.... But, everything I've tried has had no effect...."
"Everything except ask Spock if he'd consent to a mind-meld."
The words "mind-meld" startled me into opening my eyes -- to see Captain Kirk moving toward his First Officer.
"Yes, Spock." Kirk's hand moved, almost as if he wanted to extend it in a pleading gesture. "The mind-meld, She'd never ask it for herself. Nevertheless, it's evident that it's her only hope."
"The mind-meld is a very personal thing, Captain. I...."
"So is death." Kirk came back to the bed to look down at me, and I saw myself reflected in his eyes -- a ghostly face against a dark pillow. "Spock, you can't refuse."
"Captain, if you would allow me to complete my statement...."
"I would never order you to undergo such an ordeal, Spock, but surely...."
"Captain," Sarek finally interrupted for the sake of peace. "Why do you ask this of Spock? Has he not said that it is a personal matter? If the mind-meld is required, then I...."
"Ambassador, you don't have enough time. We are going into orbit over Mauretania soon, and you wanted to beam down the moment we arrived."
"A task must be completed here before I leave the ship, Captain. It is required -- especially by Vulcan standards -- that I do everything within my power to help Miss Mitchell before I leave this ship. However, because the mind-meld is such a deeply personal thing, you and Doctor McCoy must leave."
"Just a minute...."
"Bones, he's right. You've tried everything you know, and it hasn't helped. The mind-meld is the only thing that can save her, and we have no business staying. We're leaving now, Doctor -- and that's an order."
I had been listening to their conversation with as little interest as though they had been discussing some obscure scientific theory. When I heard the doors slide open and shut, however, I roused slightly.
Sarek approached the bed, but I managed to lift myself up on one elbow, then I held out my other hand with the palm facing outward to fend him off.
"Do not - waste your time, Ambassador." I gasped. "My death - is the only - solution to this problem."
He paused beside me and pressed his hands together. Was he starting to gather his mental forces? I had to stop him.
"No, don't! Please, I am a - guest that no one has invited - an archaic - misfit. How can I ever hope to become a - useful citizen of this era?"
"Woman, you underestimate yourself." Oddly enough, he had said that as if -- coming from me -- such an error was "most unexpected." "You have already learned enough to understand the importance of my mission to Mauretania. Its outcome will be your first contribution to this era." He leaned closer, until his face completely filled my shrunken universe. "No, you must not die. You shall grasp your life, and you shall mold it to your own will. Let me teach you to learn joy in living and in learning -- and then you will teach us to see ourselves as no one else ever could."
"You - mock me, Ambassador." I protested as I sank back onto the bed. Tears sprang to my eyes and I averted my face, my right arm over my eyes to shield them from his piercing gaze.
Gentle fingers closed about my wrist as Sarek moved my arm down and away from my face.
"You know better than that, Miss Mitchell." He was very stern. "Vulcans do not 'mock' anyone. I offer you a chance to regain your life. Why are you so determined to throw it away?"
"What difference does it make?" I said dully.
"Your courage in meeting a totally different environment has been a source of great strength for you. Yet, you ignore the prospects of the new life that is waiting. Interesting. I have heard you express a belief in an Almighty Father Who guides the universe -- a Father Who will create good, even from misfortune, if only His children believe in Him. Your faith is very weak indeed if it breaks after the initial challenge."
Which, of course, was a polite way of telling me that I was behaving like a spineless coward.
He was right, of course. It was hypocritical of me to just give up without trying to fight.
"All - all right. Try your mind-meld." I sighed with resignation.
Sarek bent over me and laid his right hand against my face, his fingers spreading out to touch my temple and my jaw. I closed my eyes, waiting, but nothing happened. After a few moments, though, I sensed that an image was rising from the depths of my subconscious mind -- an image of a huge impenetrable wall, with Death standing guard at the top.
At last Sarek straightened, lifting one eyebrow as he looked down at me. "The experiences on Aries XI have strengthened your latent telepathic powers."
I did not bother to answer or even to open my eyes. So he could not help me? It was just as well.
Footsteps. Sarek was walking away from me. Giving up and leaving to transport down to Mauretania, perhaps?
"Spock, Miss Mitchell is able to block me out of her mind. However, she is not strong enough yet to block out the combined forces of two Vulcan minds."
"True. But I am the only other properly-trained Vulcan aboard."
"Are you suggesting that we employ pekrro...?" Spock's voice vibrated with surprise, forcing him to pause to regain control. "Mind-melds between father and son are not encouraged," he continued, his voice as completely free of inflection as though he were repeating a lesson committed to memory long ago.
"But the practice is permitted if it will save a life. Even if it were not so, this situation would justify setting a precedent."
"Perhaps. But, have you considered the risks involved? Melding with one's own flesh and blood increases the danger of losing our respective identities -- permanently."
"You state the obvious, Spock. But the danger is minimal. You are half-human, and that difference will shield us."
"I agree. Very well, I concur that pekrro is the only way...."
"W-what are you saying?" I tried vainly to sit up once more. "If - that's so dangerous...you needn't think I'll allow you to do it."
"Nor should you think that we will allow a needless death, no matter what the cost is to us," replied Sarek gently.
"The - the price would be too high."
"Let me be the judge of that, Miss Mitchell."
"Surely I have the right to - refuse to let you - pay it?"
"We have agreed that this situation justifies the use of...Terrans would call it a 'filial mind-meld.' If it becomes necessary, this situation would also justify the use of force."
"Considering the use of force creates an added element of danger," Spock warned.
"Of course. But, if that is what Miss Mitchell...."
"Am - am I hearing correctly?" I demanded. "If - I do not agree to accept your help, you - you will use force?"
"Doctor McCoy tried everything in his efforts to help you -- I can do no less."
"Wasn't - wasn't one encounter with death enough for you? Why must you endanger your life again? How - how can I convince you that you - must not try to help me?"
"What - what will become of this - element of danger if I - if I agree... if I let you and Spock employ the filial mind-meld to help me?"
"It will not exist."
"Then -- I agree." I sank back upon my pillow, totally defeated by their unwavering determination.
"Spock, the lighting in this room is too bright. Please adjust it to the proper level."
After a moment, I sensed a difference in the quality of the light that was shining upon me, and I opened my eyelids slightly. Spock had adjusted the lighting to darken all of the room -- except right around the bed. He had also changed the color of the light; it was now a shadowy red glow -- very mysterious and yet strangely soothing.
For a moment there was a deep silence, then Spock moved to stand on one side of the diagnostic bed while Sarek moved to the other. A pause, then Spock reached across the bed and pressed his palm against Sarek's waiting hand. An electric stillness descended while the two -- so alike and yet so different -- joined in a mind-meld, sharing each other's thoughts, memories and dreams. At last, linked in perfect understanding and total acceptance, they turned with one accord to join their minds to mine.
"Wait! Are you sure it is safe for you to do this?" I cried wildly, clenching my fists so hard that my nails cut into my palms. "There are such - terrible things buried within the depths of my mind..."
"There is a beast buried within each of us. What matters is how well we control that beast." Mr. Spock assured me. "Yours can be no worse than ours -- merely different. Believe me, Miss Mitchell, both the Ambassador and I have shared the thoughts of beings whose most casual memories were worse than anything you could possibly ever imagine. I assure you that you will be able to block out anything that is not directly responsible for this desire for death which has taken possession of you."
"All - all right."
The Vulcans continued to keep their hands pressed together across the bed as they reached down with their free hands and carefully touched my temples -- gently, but inexorably linking my mind with theirs.
My body arched and became as rigid as if I had received a violent shock, but really there was no pain involved. Rather, it was like what happens when a cupful of salt is thrown into the waters of a great river. Just as the rushing stream dissolves the salt, so did the combined mental forces of the Vulcans dissolve my instinctive resistance to the mind-meld.
I lay perfectly relaxed after that first shock of contact, but my subconscious mind still resisted the forces that were seeking to flow into my mind. I re-created that image of Death, making it even stronger than before. The Vulcans revealed unexpected, deeply-buried senses of humor when they quelled that resistance by projecting an image of a white-winged angel -- with Vulcan features -- who touched the wall with a flaming sword. The wall crumbled into rubble, which was immediately hidden from view by a tangle of brilliant flowers, and the image of Death fled from the image of Life.
And, it was at that moment that I became aware of what the "danger" was that Spock had mentioned. It had not been danger to Sarek, himself, but it had been danger in that he had an ingrained reluctance to engage in a mind-meld by using force; he might not have been able to complete it if he had tried.
Very clever, these Vulcans. Now that our minds were touching, I could feel their quiet amusement at the Vulcan joke they had played on me. Too late to do anything about it now. When the mental image crumbled, so had my resistance, and they had started their relentless healing therapy.
Long-buried memories awakened to life in response to their careful guidance:
The first day at another new school, wondering why I had to wear ugly, long, brown cotton stockings instead of white anklets like my sister, Kathy's.... Church picnics in a park near one of our parsonages, where I had sat by the small lake and had talked with the ducks that lived there.... What was that? The scent of new-mown hay....? Reviving memories of my grandparents' farm, where Kathy and I had spent so many happy summers.... The beautiful, hand-blown, hand-painted, china ostrich egg that my grandmother had given me just before she had died.... Again, I felt the egg's cool hardness against my palms as I lifted it carefully from its nest of cotton and put it on a glass-enclosed shelf in my room -- only to return a few hours later and find the egg lying shattered on the floor.... "I'm sorry, dear; I thought it would be safer in the living room bookcase, but it slipped out of my hands. Kathy was supposed to sweep it up before you got back from the store; I guess we both were so busy that we just forgot...."
Faces of friends who had come and gone as we moved from one town or city church to another...letters recalling pleasant experiences at church camp and at youth gatherings.... The smell of cinnamon toast on Saturday mornings when the family was not rushing off for school or to work but had time for a brief period of togetherness before scattering to begin the weekly cleaning....
My father's face, pale against the darkness of his robe as he stood behind the pulpit ready to begin his sermon.... Frowning in anger when my mother or one of us said or did something that skirted the fringes of one of his many strict rules.... Uncommunicative after a long day of conversing with parishioners and associates...shut away in solitude working on reports or sermons and reading; impatiently shushing us and sending us away if we tried to talk to him while he was listening to a ball game on the radio or, in later years, watching a game on television.... The tenderness, gentleness and laughter that we shared at certain times...gleaming Christmas trees with their modest piles of gaily-wrapped packages -- mainly practical items because a minister's salary would go just so far. Yet, my father always managed to squeeze out enough to get a panda for Kathy and perhaps a book or a record for me.... Vacations on the farm where my father would become tanned and more relaxed while working with his hands out under God's blue sky...only to immerse himself in his work to the exclusion of everything and everyone else once we had returned to the Parsonage....
My mother, shy and retiring, yet expected to be in almost constant contact with strangers from all walks of life.... On her good days, smiling sweetly and patiently explaining the best way to complete an assigned task...on her bad days, complaining and finding fault with everything that I did, and sighing over lost opportunities. She would be smiling with anticipation concerning some planned family outing or project; then sighing and blinking rapidly to hold back the tears when she would be told that the outing or project had been forgotten when a meeting had needed to be written in on the church calendar.... The attempts to adjust and make do in house after house...the longing looks into store windows as we made our weekly grocery purchases...the skillful fingers taking hand-me-downs or discards and turning them into garments as nice as the brand-new ones other children wore...the laughter filling the house some Sunday afternoons...and the angry words which always seemed to be directed toward me on others....
//Ah, I caught a vague pattern of self-rejection then,// said a voice from somewhere within my mind. //Let us trace that pattern.//
A pause, then voices from the past seemed to resound through the room:
"...John and I never had much of a chance to really get settled after we got married. He had to finish his last year of seminary, and we would never have made it if we hadn't moved in with his parents. Maybe we might have adjusted to each other after that, if only Lorna hadn't been born on our first anniversary. After she came, of course, we just never had much time to ourselves...."
"Now, Lorna, you know your mother hasn't been well since you girls were born. You're aware that she had a rougher time with you than she did later with Kathy -- the least you can do is help her with the housework. Kathy, there you are. I'm going to call on the Simpsons, and their collie had a litter of puppies last month. Do you want to come with me and see them...?"
"What did I ever do to deserve such a self-centered daughter? Don't you realize that Mrs. Anderson only invited you because she knew Kathy wouldn't feel right about going if you weren't invited? I don't think you should go. Besides, I'm not feeling too well today; you'd better stay home and finish the ironing...."
"What do you mean, 'I never have a good word to say to Lorna any more?' She has to learn to apply herself and to think...when she does something right, she'll have the satisfaction of knowing it. When she makes an error, I'll tell her about it so she won't do it again...."
"Lorna, you're not being fair. You and Kathy do get a regular allowance; I lay out three dollars for music lessons for each of you, two-fifty apiece each week for your school lunches, and a tithe for the collection plate every Sunday morning....."
"Lorna, it's too bad that your hair is such a mouse-brown color. Now, if you had black hair like Kathy's, it would set your blue eyes off beautifully. As it is, you'd better develop an interesting personality."
"Lorna, your mother has gone back to work so we can afford to send Kathy and you to college. I don't think it's asking too much to expect you to come straight home from school to do the housework and start supper, Kathy is pretty young, but probably she'll help as much as she can. Since she's cheerleader and class president, she doesn't have much free time...."
"Lorna, I don't understand why you aren't as popular as Kathy; she's always going out, but you just stay home. What are you doing wrong that no boy has ever asked you to go out with him...?"
"No, you can't go to the movies with Carl Friday night. We have a committee meeting here that evening, and you'll have to give the Parsonage an extra cleaning and get something ready for refreshments...."
"Lorna, I don't see how we can afford to let you go back to college next year. Kathy and Carl want to be married in June, and the wedding is going to take everything I've saved since I started working. Of course, you can go if you work full-time this summer and then work after hours...."
Had my life really been like that? Had I always felt so terribly guilty for being born that I had spent my life trying to justify my existence by doing more than my share and by making sacrifices? I had been prevented from socializing with my peers, and I had missed out on all the fun of dating. As the popular member of the family, my sister had had little time to help me, and the burdens of a family with a working wife and mother had fallen on my shoulders. Of course, there had been times when I had rebelled against being "left out" of so much, but then I had been made to feel guilty about that....
Nor had the pattern changed after Kathy married; she had had two children which she brought over every Saturday night for Aunt Lorna to take care of while she and Carl went out. Not that I had minded, but sometimes I had wished that she would check to see if I might have plans of my own -- but she knew I never had any....
Then I was in my twenties; very few single men looked my way, and I wanted nothing to do with the married men who hinted that they might be interested in straying....
Now and then I was invited out by the son of one of father's parishioners, but nothing ever came of it. He cared nothing for me, and I cared nothing for him; neither of us wanted to marry for the sake of getting married, we went out only to, please our parents.
And I turned thirty; still alone, and no prospects in sight. It had become useless to socialize with my contemporaries. I certainly could contribute nothing toward the problem of raising children in a mobile society, and they weren't really interested in the experiences that fill a telephone operator's day.....
Finally, there I was, on the wrong side of thirty, as alone as ever. Yet, I was still foolish enough to hope that I might someday meet a man with whom I could share a life of happiness and contentment --a man who would both love me and allow me to be an individual in my own right. The morning of my thirty-fifth birthday, however, I had laid that hope aside and had told myself to accept the fact that my life would never change....
I saw myself from the Vulcan point of view now, and I found myself to be a creature of vast contradictions. I'd accepted the dull life which seemed to be destined for me, but I still had felt a yearning for new experiences -- yes, yearned for them, but not deeply enough to break away and strike out on my own. There I was, past thirty-five and still living with my parents because I "owed it to them." If the chains of guilt had not been severed by the Transporter beam, I would never have found a way to break out of that prison of myself. I suppose that I would have gone on in the same old way, eventually growing hard and bitter -- resenting my family for accepting my sacrifices, and then despising myself for needing to make those sacrifices.
Why, it had gotten to the point that I had felt that I had had no right to ask for anything -- to expect nothing except a lot of hard work with very little in return. That is why I had not protested when my father had told me that I shouldn't lose a week of pay just to go with them to visit Carl's family over the holidays. As usual, I had meekly accepted his counsel and had stayed behind, then I had met.... My parents must have been confused -- perhaps even frightened -- when they returned and found that I had vanished without a trace and without taking anything with me. Heaven knows what the neighbors told them! In spite of everything, I loved my family, though, and it hurts to know that I shall never see them again. Now, however, this gulf of Time and Space which has opened between us may be the best thing that could have happened. After all, I had never really been happy in my former life.... But, what kind of life could I have now? Is there anything here to replace what little I had had?
No sooner did this thought cross my mind than the memories of my former life became dull, flat, and hazy images. They faded -- to be replaced by vivid pictures of the present: Faces of the new friends I have found aboard the Enterprise -- Scotty's twinkling eyes and secret smiles; Uhura's lovely face and beautiful songs; Sulu's calm voice and steadying presence; Chekov's attractive accent and endearing charm -- good friends who have made me feel like a member of the crew instead of like a stray from the past.
The next moment glorious rivers of stars scattered throughout the galaxy rose before me, to be replaced by exciting glimpses of one unbelievably exotic planet after another -- vermilion clouds and turquoise grass, magenta seas and carmine shores.... These faded in turn, to be replaced by a vision of the Earth. But this was not the war-torn, tension-filled planet that I had known. This was a new Earth, a world that had been reclaimed and restored to its original purity!
And then, the Vulcans guided me to face a hitherto unadmitted truth about myself: It is true that I had been torn between loyalty to my family and a sincere concern for Sarek and for his mission. When I examine that situation with the light of honesty, however, I realize that I had felt doubt that I would be able to endure living in my former time after having experienced briefly the wonder, the beauty, and the freedom of this era. I have felt more at peace with myself here, because I have had a chance to find my true self instead of trying to adapt to a mold cast by others.
If Sarek's life had not hung in the balance for so long -- giving me a chance to consider every side of the question -- I probably would not have had enough courage to stay. When I did choose to stay, my psychological patterns remained with me. Once I knew I was trapped in this era, my over-active conscience began to accuse me of running away from my problems. That accusation, combined with the effects of the head-injury and the strain of maintaining that empathic contact with Sarek had been too much for me. My thinking had become so confused that I had become firmly convinced that I must atone for my actions by dying.
"The life of an unwanted child is not a very pleasant one; you had many reasons to become weary of life -- but they no longer exist." Sarek informed me calmly, speaking aloud because he knew it would be easier for me to accept his words. "Shortly after you left your time, a saying became very popular. You would do well to accept it as a motto for your new life. It said: 'You are a child of the Universe, and you have a right to be here.' The number of stars in this Universe is so great that the number of planets capable of supporting life is beyond your comprehension. Yet, there is only one Lorna Mitchell; there has never been one like you, and there shall never be another like you. Instead of apologizing because you are alive, you should experience joy because of your unique qualities."
As he had intended, those words encouraged me -- so much so that the Vulcans were able to take advantage of the sudden surge of vitality which had come to me. Before I knew what was happening, they seized upon my excessive grief, my abnormal guilt, and my sensations of unrealistic worthlessness, forcing the worst of these emotions to turn back and vanish into the Limbo from whence they had come.
More swiftly than it can be told, the Vulcans began to heal the worst psychological scars in my mind -- each of them gave me instructions in ways to accept everything that had happened, both in my former life and in this era. Once and for all, they enabled me to realize that my family was dead and gone, that the grief I was experiencing was doing neither myself nor anyone else any good, for all those things had happened too long ago to make any difference now. While they were at it, they showed me that I had not been running away from my problems when I had decided to stay and help Sarek. Though they did not dwell upon the subject at the time, it became quite apparent later that I had run into problems far more complicated than anything I would ever have faced in the 20th Century.
Most important of all, the Vulcans taught me to at least begin to value myself as an individual, to start to forgive myself for the mistakes of the past. They even enabled me to become imbued with a sense of optimism concerning the future. For the first time, I began to believe that it might be possible to make the person that I am and the person that I would like to be one and the same.
Then, when the mind-meld was nearly completed, something happened which astounded even the Vulcans -- and especially me:
NOTE: Later, the computers had no difficulty explaining what had caused the unexpected event. At the time, however, that which took place was so totally sudden and so unusual that, as Mr. Spock told me later, he had thought they might have unleashed a telepathic monster.
I have already said that I did not know that I possessed a latent telepathic empathy until Sarek had linked minds with me during a difficulty in communication. Evidently, a great amount of power had lain dormant within my brain. The blow on my head had had an effect upon my mind -- and so had that prolonged empathic contact. The operation and all those wonder drugs had not only repaired any brain damage that I had suffered, they had also probably improved the pattern of my brain waves. And, if those things were not enough to create some startling effects, there was also the proximity of the magnetic forces of the Galactic Barrier to be considered. All those factors, combined with the influence of the two Vulcan minds linked with mine, freed my mental powers so completely and so swiftly that they came forth in an almost-uncontrollable burst of energy.
The Vulcans knew the exact moment that I decided to live, for the medical readings began to resume normal levels. However, the needle indicating mental activity suddenly slammed against the top of the scale. Later, Spock told me that when I opened my eyes after that needle rose, the pupils of my eyes had been filled with a phosphorescent lustre.
This strange reaction succeeded in startling the Vulcans just enough that they relaxed their mental contact with me to the extent that I was able to catch them off-guard. Knowing instinctively what I should do, I inhaled deeply a couple of times then -- I rose swiftly and reached out to grasp Sarek's and Spock's wrists before they could anticipate my action.
I held on desperately as they tried to get free. Since they did not exert their full strength because they did not wish to hurt me, I managed to gain several empathic impulses from both of them. Judging from those impulses, I could now initiate a mind meld -- with their consent. Not only that, if I could convince the Vulcans to enter into a second mind-link with me, I would be able to ease many of their emotional burdens.
They succeeded in getting free, but I had time to speak before they could retreat:
"Did you discover things within my mind, after all, that were so ugly you cannot endure to bring this mind link to a proper conclusion? If so, then you should have let me die."
Sarek lifted his hand in a demand for silence.
"Your mind contained only the usual traits and emotional patterns particular to one who has experienced the training and the environmental pressures of your former era. There is no real ugliness in you."
"Then why did you and Mr. Spock push me out of your minds?"
"We were astonished to feel your thoughts reaching out to ours," Sarek replied. "An illogical reaction upon my part, of course, since I knew you can do this. Yet, telepathy is rare in this galaxy, and your powers are quite unique. Also, we have a natural reluctance toward initiating mental contact with emotionally-motivated beings."
"Well, that's your problem," I retorted with a newfound boldness. "You initiated a mind-meld with me to help me. Will you now allow me to initiate a mind-meld with you -- with each of you -- so I may share your burdens of sorrow and...?"
"Vulcans bear no emotional burdens, Miss Mitchell." Spock said sharply.
"Don't they?" I challenged, meeting his eyes steadily. "How will I ever know, if you don't let me -- see?"
The two Vulcans looked at each other, then they mutually yielded to a curiosity to find out just exactly what my empathic powers could do.
"Will you accept the consequences?" Spock demanded. "Are you prepared to give us your vow of silence?"
"I will. And I swear by all that I hold sacred that I shall not betray anything that I may learn."
"You first, Spock. I anticipate no danger, but if you should experience a loss of identity, I shall be here to help you." Sarek advised.
Spock laid his fingers against my left temple. I laid my fingers against his face in a similar fashion as, for the first time, I initiated a complete mind-meld.
Because I respect Mr. Spock so much, I will not record all that I was allowed to learn of him during the time that our minds touched. It's best that such information remain unspoken until I learn how to record and store it in such a fashion that no one else will be able to hear it. Suffice it to say that I was both humbled and proud to share the thoughts of such a great mind. Also, I felt great admiration and compassion for this man who is so obviously involved in a conflict between his two natures. He is lonely beyond all description, but I am betraying nothing when I say this -- anyone who has met him knows it.
There was one interesting side-effect of this second mind-link: While my thoughts were linked with Spock's and then later with Sarek's, I was able to speak their native language as fluently as though it were my own. Thus, when I forgot and began to speak aloud, even if anyone else had been there to hear, they would not have been able to understand what was said....
"Mr. Spock, I wish there was some way we could make amends for our thoughtlessness. If only there were some way I could make the others realize.... Would it be of any satisfaction to you to know that there now is someone else aboard this starship who must walk in loneliness?"
Spock's eyebrow lifted when he heard those difficult sounds falling so easily from my lips, but he replied mentally:
"What a pity that this understanding could not have come at a time when the one who was closest to you both could have seen.... I am sorry, I am treading upon forbidden...."
//If, as you believe, she has entered into a new life, perhaps she does know and rejoices that the one event which she wanted most has finally come to pass.//
"I am sure that she does, Mr. Spock. Come. Your heart is burning with grief and your mind is weighted with many cares and problems. The Almighty Father has given me power which can help you. Will you let me share this burden which you have patiently borne for so long?"
I met his gaze unflinchingly. After a moment, he bowed his head slightly against my hand in agreement. I then allowed some of the energies created by his deeply buried feelings of sorrow for his mother to flow into my consciousness. When I had assimilated as much as I could endure, I cast this burden from me by converting those energies into a form of mental force. This force then radiated outward from my brain via the electrical charges of my brain waves and dissipated harmlessly into the atmosphere.
We looked deeply into each other's eyes, renewing our promises not to betray what we had learned, then -- we resumed our separate individualities.
Spock stepped back, moving with a freedom that he had never displayed prior to that mental exchange. However, it was apparent that the two mind-melds had taken a heavy toll of his strength. Perhaps this may be one time that he will go to his quarters and rest before returning to duty.
I sighed, then I turned and let my feet dangle over the side of the bed. I was in a quandary, for I could think of no proper way to ask permission to initiate a mind-meld with Sarek. He solved the problem for me by stepping forward to place his fingers against my temple before I could speak. Slowly, I lifted my fingers to his temple, then I entered into empathic communication with Sarek at a somewhat more personal level than we'd ever achieved before.
Foremost in his memories, of course, was the gracious, brave, and very beautiful woman who had shared his life and had given him a son. The name Amanda means either "lovable" or "worthy of being loved." She had certainly been all that -- and more, as I found while the images Sarek allowed to rise to the surface of his mind crossed over to mine....
"Ambassador Sarek, my name is Amanda Grayson. I am a school teacher from Earth. Welcome to our planet."
"Oh, Ambassador! I - I didn't know that you took walks along this beach.... Yes, the Pacific is only one of two such great bodies of water on this world. We have several great seas, and other bodies of water as well. Sometimes, I think our world should have been called 'Oceania' instead of 'Terra'...."
"You would like to take a tour of this city, and you would like for me to be your guide? Very well, Ambassador, I'll try...."
"We humans are entitled to our customs, too, Ambassador. We don't consider that a 'blatant display of emotion.' That was simply a husband greeting his wife after a separation of many weeks. Actually, we would judge him very harshly if he hadn't greeted her like that...."
"Of course, I don't mind if you join me while I'm walking on the beach early in the morning, Ambassador. Beauty such as this seems to increase when it is shared...."
"We humans have never tried to live without emotion...Sarek. I don't think it is wise for us to even try. If I couldn't laugh or cry, I think life would be very dull.... Yes, I agree; we could learn to restrain the excessive emotional outbursts.... It is too bad that there is not some sort of middle-ground where we could meet and resolve our differences...."
"What happens when a Terran husband kisses his wife? Sarek, I am not sure I know what you mean.... I have never been married, so I can only suppose that they touch lips.... Well, then you will have to explain what you mean.... Oh, well, no; we are not telepaths. There is no touching of the minds during a kiss. Love? I'm not even going to try to explain that to you...."
"So Vulcans touch fingers when they kiss? How unusual. I don't think it would be as much fun.... You are willing to demonstrate....? Of - of course, I'm not offended.... How do you....? Oh, like that...I see. It is a very lovely gesture.... Oh! So that is why Vulcans do not kiss Earth-fashion.... Sarek, I wish you hadn't.... If you - hadn't caught me off guard, I would never have let you know. Well, I'm sure it isn't logical, but.... Yes, I am in love with you."
"You have chosen me to be your wife, Sarek; I am not afraid to go to your world and to live by the laws and the customs that guide you."
"Sarek, my love, you have been concerned ever since you detected a flaw.... I told you it was just a superstition. Listen, I am going to give you a child; I hope it is a son...."
"My love, if I do not recover from this fever.... We both knew that we would not be able to live out our entire lives together. I regret nothing and am content that we had this long...."
Indeed, the love that Amanda and Sarek had shared had been so great that it had been fortunate that he had had his work to fill the void which her death had left in his life. I could understand now why he had retreated the first time our minds had met. He had had no way, then, of knowing how I, an emotional human, would have reacted to the discovery that Vulcans were capable of feeling love and bereavement. Perhaps I shouldn't record the thoughts and impressions that I received from him, yet, I think these are things that I should not let myself lose....
"My heart aches in sympathy with your sorrow." I said softly, again speaking in Vulcan. "She was a very lovely person -- one of those special individuals who appear among us so rarely. Will I overstep the bounds of courtesy if I say that I wish I could have met her?"
Sarek had tried to retreat mentally when I had first touched his memories of Amanda, then he had yielded and had allowed me to share those few. As I'd hoped, he did experience some lessening of tension, but meditation had already eased the worst of his sorrow.
//No,// came his gentle thought. //For you reveal great respect for her. You would have found great pleasure in talking with her -- and she would have enjoyed meeting you.//
For the first time, I realized that I had been speaking aloud, and I tried to answer him mentally:
//I am honored. It has been said that even the greatest sorrow ebbs if one can only endure it long enough. May Time work its magic and lessen your remaining sorrow.//
Sarek looked at me intently for several seconds, as though he wanted to ascertain visually as well as mentally that I was not speaking polite, empty phrases.
//I accept your condolences in the spirit with which you have offered them, Miss Mitchell. However, grief does not mean quite the same thing to Vulcans as it does to Terrans. We do not cling to our memories but turn our thoughts and our energies toward the future. Now come, let us finish this.//
I became filled with deep humility during the remainder of that mental encounter -- perhaps "humiliation" would be a better term. When I compared my life with all that Sarek has done, I realized that I have accomplished very little of lasting value.
Of course, Sarek knew what was happening to me, and he took immediate steps to restore my self-esteem:
//Do not allow yourself to become disturbed. Remember, you have not had access to the training and to the opportunities that were made available to me. Indeed, it may well be that you have done much more than you may realize at this moment, and you have the potential to do much of value in your new life. All you lack is training, and that lack can be remedied swiftly. You do not believe me, but time will prove that I speak the truth.//
//Your words are most encouraging, Ambassador. I shall try to justify your confidence in me.//
//"Try?" You must do more than "try." Nevertheless, I assure you that there is a place for you in this era. It will be up to you to find it.//
We finally broke the mind-link, and I realized why this technique was considered such a drastic form of treatment. Perhaps my lack of skill had something to do with it, but I was absolutely numb with fatigue -- yet, I was too tired to sleep.
Sarek knew that I needed rest. Instead of summoning Doctor McCoy to give me a sedative, the Ambassador laid his fingers against my forehead. "Sleep, and renew your strength," he said softly, then he put his hand over my eyes for a moment. "You have endured much, but your initial trials are finished. Sleep -- and awaken to a new life."
Obediently, I closed my eyes and sank down against his supporting arm as drowsiness swept over me. That arm lowered me gently to the bed, and I drifted into peaceful slumber -- gentle, dark eyes and a calm, inscrutable face my last clear memories.
WHEN I AWAKENED, NURSE CHAPEL WAS STANDING BESIDE THE BED, LOOKING DOWN AT ME WITH A BEWILDERED EXPRESSION THAT CHANGED TO A SMILE WHEN SHE SAW THAT MY EYES WERE OPEN.
"Good morning, sleepyhead," she said cheerfully. "How do you feel?"
"Confused; otherwise, fine." I sat up. "How long have I been asleep?"
"Almost a full day."
"Good grief! I know I was tired, but that is a bit much. Have we reached Mauretania yet?"
"Yes. The Ambassador beamed down shortly after you went to sleep."
"Then I suppose we'll be leaving soon?" I felt disappointed because I had not had a chance to say a proper farewell to Sarek.
"'Leaving'? Lorna, have you forgotten that we were ordered to remain in orbit and then pick up the Ambassador after his mission is finished?"
"Oh, that's right. I did forget. What on E...what will everyone be doing...?"
"We won't be idle, I can tell you that. Three landing parties are out exploring some of the asteroids, and more will be going out. The rest of us will be giving the Enterprise a -- I believe that you used the term 'a good housecleaning.' There won't be a square inch of this ship left dirty by the time we're finished. I may wish that I could ask Mr. Spock to set up some sort of training program for me so I can get away from the hustle-and-bustle that will be going on around here."
I stared at her for a moment. Had that last remark been a bit spiteful, or was I merely being overly sensitive?
"Don't dawdle, Lorna. I'm sure you would like to take a vibro-shower, but Doctor McCoy is waiting for you."
"Is he? Okay, I'll hurry. I don't mind telling you, though, that I don't think I'll ever get used to bathing in sound instead of in water. Yet, sonics certainly have solved the problems of dry skin and of dandruff."
Christine nodded. "I suppose I would never be able to get used to sitting in a tub of water to get clean. Maybe it's all in how one has been brought up. Get along with you!"
Though my shower was brief, I felt an invigorating tingle in my limbs as I reached for my uniform. "Hey, Christine!" I called. "Somebody goofed. I'm supposed to wear black, but this is blue, and it has an insignia."
"That's what Ship's Stores sent. You'll just have to make the best of it, Lorna, for I put everything else in the recycler. Don't worry about it. Sit down and let me help you do your hair."
She worked swiftly and soon had my hair arranged in an attractive, business-like style. While she was working, I picked up a strong aura of hostility radiating from her once more; before I could stop it, that aura jumped the gap between our minds and enabled me to know why she was so upset.
Prompted by a sincere concern, I laid my hand on her arm. "Oh, Christine. I'm sorry.... I didn't realize.... Look, I didn't read your mind on purpose, but I'm glad the thoughts reached me. My dear, you are worrying needlessly. Mr. Spock has no interest in me as a woman."
"He - he doesn't? But he helped to save your life.... Anyway, that's what everyone is saying, and I...."
"I regret that people are talking of something that should not be discussed lightly. Christine, I assure you that anything Spock did for me was prompted by his reverence for life -- nothing else."
"I - I don't understand." she protested.
"Well, I probably shouldn't do this but -- will you let me demonstrate what might have happened?" When she nodded, I reached out to touch her temple. "Put your hand against the left side of my head then try to clear your mind of all thought."
She obeyed reluctantly. After a moment, I was able to project thoughts into her mind -- to reassure her that she did not have to worry that I would take the First Officer away from her, or rather, from what little claim she had on him. It did not take me long to soothe her fears and her hostility -- convincing her that Mr. Spock and I were friends, as far as the Vulcan allowed himself to experience friendship -- but nothing more.
"Good grief." Christine gasped. "Could you do that when you first came aboard?"
"The potential may have been there, but I did not know how to do this. Even now, I cannot read anyone's thoughts completely except through touch, and even then they can block me out. You don't have to be afraid of me, Christine. My power is more empathic than telepathic. I won't start moving furniture without touching it or any other mind-over-matter tricks."
"Oh, Lorna. I'm sorry. I guess I'm just being foolish...."
"I think that Mr. Spock would say that you were just being a human female, Christine. I understand. I suppose I'd feel the same way if our positions were reversed. You don't need to worry that I'll tell anyone what I've just learned, either. I have no desire to become a telepathic busybody dredging up everyone's secrets and then spilling them all over the ship."
She smiled -- all hostility forgotten now that she knew I was no rival. "Lorna, I have a feeling that you're going to be one of the most interesting passengers that has ever set foot on this ship. I'm sorry that I misjudged you, and I hope we can become friends."
"Of course, Christine. Lord knows, I need as many friends as I can get." I responded and clasped her hand warmly.
"Come on. Doctor McCoy will be wondering what has happened to us. I'd hate for him to start yelling at me this early."
She led me to the adjoining room, where Doctor McCoy was seated at his desk, studying some files.
"Hello, young lady," he exclaimed when we came in. "It's about time you woke up. How about joining me in a cup of coffee?"
I have never been able to resist a chance to play with words.
"Won't it be a bit crowded?" I asked as I sat down across from him.
He glared at me for a moment, then he gave a mock groan, shook his head and grinned. "That's all we need on this crew -- a punster. Thank you, Nurse," he continued when Christine set two steaming cups of coffee before us. "Drink up, girl. I'd have ordered breakfast for you, but I think you're probably too nervous to be interested in food right now."
"That's true. I don't like to think of what is awaiting me when Star Fleet Command learns that I didn't go back to 1969. They'll probably throw the book at me. Doctor McCoy, what will they do to the Captain when they find out that he let Sarek and me get into that mess on Aries XI in the first place?"
"You don't have to worry about Captain Kirk. Star Fleet gave him full rein on making decisions in the field. Besides, since Vulcan refused a seat on the Federation Council, Jim couldn't do much of anything when Sarek decided to go along with the landing party. Never mind all that now. You know, I could almost envy you, Lorna, for you have a lot of interesting experiences ahead of you. I'll bet you've never seen a flower like that one." He pointed to a plant that was enclosed in a large, clear case at the far end of the room. "I picked that up on Omicron Ceti III quite some time ago."
From what I could see from where I was sitting, the flower looked like a cross between the regal white Easter lily and a pink Canna.
"Lovely. Does it have a name?"
"We call it a 'pod plant'." McCoy replied casually.
"Ugh. What an ugly name for such a lovely flower. Does it smell as nice as it looks?"
"Why don't you go over and find out? Go ahead -- lift the lid. I assure you that the plant won't -- bite you."
I didn't need a second invitation. After lifting the lid, I bent down and inhaled the fragrance of one bloom while I touched another one that was facing the wall, of the case. The scent was something like a tea rose mingled with the penetrating sweetness of a honeysuckle.
"It has an exquisite aroma." I exclaimed as I glanced over my shoulder. "But, won't the change in temperature hurt the plant?"
"Not unless you keep the lid up for hours. You've missed the most interesting feature of the plant. Look at it again."
"What the...? Those blossoms can move."
The flower that had been facing the wall of the case had swung so far around on its stem that I was looking directly into its blushing throat. I started to draw back, but the plant shot a mist directly into my face.
Countless solid particles touched my flesh, stuck fast, then painlessly blended into my skin. I felt an instinctive fear, then an all-pervading sensation of peace and well-being swept over me -- a feeling of tranquility and utter contentment created by the influence of an Outer element which was communicating with me telepathically even while it took possession of me. The solid particles "told" me that they were semi-intelligent organisms which required host bodies to complete their life cycles. In return, they would give me perfect mental and physical health.
My blood seemed to rush through my veins in an ever-freshening flood, and I could almost feel the spores neutralizing the few poisons that still remained in my system.
"You wanted that to happen." I said quietly as I closed the case and turned toward the others. "May I ask why?"
"Surely you realize we only did it to help you." McCoy exclaimed as he rose and came toward me. "You have several minor physical defects. I could correct most of them, but the processes involved would interfere with your training schedule. The spores were the only reasonable solution."
"I see. Very well, if you approved the use of the spores, I will not fear them."
"Good girl. Here. Sit down and drink your coffee before it gets cold."
I obeyed, then he tucked my hand into the crook of his arm and turned toward the outer corridor:
"Captain Kirk ordered me to bring you to the main Briefing Room as soon as you were ready, Lorna. Come along."
For the first time, I realized that he was wearing his full-dress uniform. A few minutes earlier, I would have wondered why; now, I was content to let events happen as they would.
When we entered the Briefing Room, I found that the various departmental heads were sitting at the table -- all wearing full-dress uniform. Either they were expecting a very important guest, or else they were preparing to conduct a court martial.
Captain Kirk rose from his chair and motioned for me to take the only vacant seat in the room -- one that had been turned to face the large conference table.
I hesitated, waiting for further instructions. Again, he indicated that I should be seated.
"Computer, identify the subject," he ordered as I placed my hand upon the identification plate set in the arm of the chair.
"Working. Subject -- Lorna Mitchell. Formerly lived in 20th Century on planet Earth. Was caught by Transporter beam and brought forward into this era. Subject had been unofficially assigned to the Medical Department for the length of time she was required to wait before she could be returned to her own time. Performance of assigned duties has been rated as excellent. Subject's potential for retraining is unlimited. Subject possesses an empathic telepathy which may reach a high degree of efficiency if properly developed. Most recently, subject has rendered a great service to the Federation by using this empathic telepathy to save the life of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan. Subject is unable to return to the 20th Century and is now awaiting a decision upon her case."
"Let the records confirm that Miss Mitchell cannot return to the 20th Century because she chose to remain here and assist Doctor McCoy in the task of keeping Ambassador Sarek alive until an antidote which would heal him was developed." Captain Kirk said sternly. "This hearing has been convened to decide how we may best help Miss Mitchell to become a part of this time and culture."
I took a deep breath, thankful for the presence of the spores. If it had not been for their calming influence, I would surely have been crying from sheer nervousness by now.
"Miss Mitchell, please tell us why you decided to remain in this era instead of returning to 1969." Kirk demanded.
"I can only confirm what you have just said, sir." I answered. "However, I request that no credit be given me for what I did. It was merely a stroke of luck that I possess this empathic talent and that I happened to be in the right place at the right time."
"Your modesty is most commendable, Miss Mitchell. Computer, incorporate the appropriate Medical records into your banks. Do you have anything more to add, Miss Mitchell?"
"Yes. Please let the records show that I did not really want to return to 1969, and that my decision to remain in this era demanded no great sacrifice of me."
"Let it be so recorded. There are some rather dramatic aspects of this case which also must be incorporated into this record. Mr. Scott, if you please?"
"Aye, Captain." Scotty rose. "When Miss Mitchell was supposed to return to the 20th Century, a flare in the energies of the Galactic Barrier was raisin' hob with the magnetic forces in this entire sector. I couldn't pinpoint the moment of Miss Mitchell's return."
"Was Miss Mitchell aware of this?"
"Thank you, Mr. Scott. Mr. Spock, please give us your report." Spock rose and began his dispassionate narrative....
"We intended to return Miss Mitchell to her own era, if it was safe to do so. First, we had to determine what difficulties, if any, would be created by such a return. Shortly before we were scheduled to pass Aries XI, I completed programming three questions for the main computer. 1) What major contributions would Miss Mitchell have made to our history if she had not met us on December 26, 1969? 2) What contributions would she have made to our history if she had met us but had not been captured by our Transporter beam? 3) What effect would her return to 1969 have upon our history?"
"What were your findings?"
"If we had not materialized in that dark parking lot and had not frightened away the man who was trying to steal Miss Mitchell's purse, he would have killed her. If Miss Mitchell had not been brought forward with us when we left 1969, she would have been involved in a personally fatal traffic accident while she was driving to her place of employment on January 1, 1970. I have copies of the two obituary notices which appeared on the screens while I was tracing each line of probability."
"So...she had already made her contributions to our history?"
"Yes. After December 31, 1969, there was no record of a living Lorna Mitchell on either time track."
"What if she had returned to 1969?"
"There was a 30.8% chance that she would have returned to the time-stream in 1969 several weeks before we were scheduled to appear. Two Lorna Mitchells would have been existing simultaneously, but her earlier self would have refused to heed any warnings. A never-ending cycle would have resulted, causing an eternal repetition of recent events."
"That's not a very pleasant prospect," the Captain exclaimed.
"Indeed not, sir. There was a 69.2% chance that she would have returned to 1969 several weeks after we left our era. Her memories of her stay aboard the Enterprise and of everything that she learned while she was here would have been intact. Revelation of her accurate knowledge off certain future events would have been inevitable, and she would have soon been subjected to an intensive interrogation that would have revealed everything -- too late. The computers stated that Miss Mitchell would not have been able to survive for more than six months after her return to 1969. She would have suffered a most painful death from the effects of the spores which invaded her system on Aries XI, and she would have been the source of a plague which would have destroyed 87.361% of the Earth's population. There would have been no Federation of Planets. There would have been no Enterprise. Indeed, nothing would have been as we know it, and the odds against any of us ever having been born would have been astronomical...."
"Did Miss Mitchell know of these findings?" Captain Kirk demanded.
"Even I did not know the answers to the third question when we beamed down to Aries XI. The computers had just accepted the problem, and they had indicated that it would require several hours to correlate all available data and to trace every line probability. When I returned to the ship, I was in no condition to check the computer's findings. Therefore, no one knew."
"Thank you, Mr. Spock." Kirk said, and the First Officer resumed his seat.
"Well, Miss Mitchell," the Captain turned to me. "You have indeed rendered the Federation a very great service. No, please don't take your hand away from that plate. I have a few more questions to ask. Computer, lock onto Miss Mitchell's responses and be ready to report them verbally."
"Working," replied the metallic feminine voice.
"Miss Mitchell, when Mr. Scott confirmed that he could not pinpoint your return to 1969, you requested time to think. Did you suspect that returning to your own era would change our history?"
"Captain, 20th Century science -- by your standards -- was primitive. I was not a scientist, anyway; how could I have known...?"
"Untrue," the metallic voice interrupted. "Subject was not a trained scientist, but she had read widely in a field of literature known as 'science-fiction,' which explored concepts and theories not technologically possible to the culture of her era. Because of this interest, the subject has acquired knowledge of the theories of faster-than-light travel. She has long believed that there is intelligent life on other worlds. She has also revealed great interest in the possibility of traveling through time. Subject was fully capable of visualizing that her return to her former era might adversely affect our history."
"Blabbermouth." I snapped, then I blushed, both chagrined and amused to find myself arguing with a machine.
"I have felt like saying the same thing myself at times, Lorna." Kirk said gently. "But now you know that evasions won't work. Would you like to rephrase your answer?"
"All - all right." I resigned myself to the inevitable. "Yes, I felt sure that there were so many factors involved that it would be impossible for me to return to 1969 and not cause some kind of change. Something, perhaps this weird empathy of mine, told me that the price you would have to pay to grant me what I thought I wanted was far too high. I think the Vulcans would say that it was more reasonable for one person to lose everything than for everything to be lost for the sake of one person. However, I had no idea that my decision to remain would save so many lives. Nor did I have any idea that Death was waiting for me in my former time."
"And so, you have no complaints about staying here?"
"Anxieties, yes. 'Complaints?' No."
"Very well, ladies and gentlemen. You have the facts. What are your recommendations?"
After several moments of low-voiced discussion, Scotty rose.
"Captain, we recommend that when you send your report to Star Fleet Command, you inform them that Miss Mitchell has rendered the greatest possible service to the Federation -- aye -- to the entire known galaxy. We also recommend that you request highest commendations for her."
"Thank you, Mr. Scott. Yes, Mr. Spock?"
"As Second-In-Command, I confirm these recommendations. I also suggest that Miss Mitchell be made an honorary Yeoman while she remains with the Enterprise -- with the same rights and responsibilities that she would have if she had been trained at the Academy and had then signed on for a tour of duty with us. I further suggest that this honorary post should place her under no obligation when she has finished her retraining. I need not remind you that, since we brought her into this time, we must be responsible for re-educating her."
"I fully agree,; Mr. Spock. Ladies and gentlemen, do any of you have anything to add? Yes, Doctor McCoy?"
"Captain, even an honorary Yeoman must be assigned to a department. Miss Mitchell worked for me while she was waiting to return to 1969, and I have already reported that I found her performance above reproach. I requested that Ship's Stores issue her a regular Medical Department uniform and insignia for this hearing. Unless she would prefer to go elsewhere, I should now like to confirm my previous request that she be allowed to remain with my staff, under my direct supervision, unless or until she discovers that her main talents lie in some other area."
"Doctor McCoy, I accept the post with great pleasure. Thank you for your kindness."
"Excellent," the Captain exclaimed. "Welcome to the crew of the USS Enterprise -- Yeoman Mitchell. I hope you will enjoy your tour of duty with us."
He shook hands with me, then the others gathered around to welcome me --all except Mr. Spock, who merely stood with his arms folded across his chest, watching. Yet, I knew that -- in his own way -- he also wished me well, for the Idic gleamed upon his chest; he could have worn it only as a silent way of honoring me for my unknowing service to the Federation.
The clammy fear which used to bother me whenever I was in a group of people troubled me no longer, thanks to the spores. The calmness they gave me enabled me to respond to these best wishes with the proper degree of humility and self-assurance.
"This is very good for my ego." I said finally. "But this is not going to teach me everything I must know about this era. When do I begin studying...?"
"There is no reason why we cannot begin at once, Yeoman." Mr. Spock said as he stepped forward. "If you will come with me, I shall arrange for you to study several tapes that will present a thorough picture of history from 1970 until the present."
MY TRANSITION FROM UNWILLING GUEST TO HONORARY YEOMAN WAS MADE WITH A MINIMUM OF FUSS AND BOTHER....
The spores which Doctor McCoy had managed to have induced into my system began to repair my physical defects as soon as they entered my body, and they were very busy for several hours.
Even while I was studying the elementary tapes that Mr. Spock had prepared for me, I could see changes beginning to take place. Among other things, a couple of scars that had been on my left arm since childhood, were being replaced by healthy, unmarred skin.
When I awakened this "morning," I found that not only had all the fillings in my natural teeth been replaced by healthy enamel, but also that new teeth had taken the place of the ones that had been capped.
After taking further inventory, I found that my hair had taken on the luster and body that is characteristic of youth and perfect health. There were no blemishes or scars anywhere. My eyesight had improved -- I'd probably register perfect 20/20 vision. Also, while I'd been asleep, every unnecessary ounce of fat had vanished, and my muscles were now as resilient and as well toned as those of a professional athlete. The spores had promised that they would give me perfect physical health, and they had certainly kept that promise. In addition, they had erased the telltale lines at the corners of my eyes and the other signs of approaching middle-age.
Doctor McCoy had ordered me to report to him first thing, so I lost no time in obeying. Naturally, he put me up on the diagnostic table to see just what changes the spores had made internally, too.
"Doctor," I asked while he was giving the computer the tapes of my previous examination to set up a comparison. "Why didn't you use those spores on Aries XI? Couldn't they have helped the Ambassador?"
"I would have, if the plant had been ready. It takes several hours to mature, and we didn't have several hours."
"Then why didn't you use them for me instead of suggesting the...?"
"Your desire for death was so intense that the spores could not possibly have helped you," he interrupted bluntly.
I shuddered. "Was I - was I -- insane?"
"No, Lorna. No!" He laid his hand over mine in reassurance. "You'd just had much more than you could possibly take after a while. You got the help that you needed, so you won't have to worry about going through a depression like that again. Don't worry about it. It's what you are and do now that matters, not what happened to you in the past."
"It is? Just out of curiosity -- what does the panel tell you that I am now?"
"Right now, you're the most perfect physical specimen aboard this ship, Lorna."
"No kidding? Why, most of the time, I've felt very -- inadequate and even inferior...."
"You won't have to any longer," he promised me. "The physical benefits from those spores are permanent. All right, young lady, don't stay there all day. You promised to start that listing for me, remember?"
The hours flew as I worked with the computers. I was correlating all of the new tapes in Doctor McCoy's files, cross-indexing them and printing them on micro-dot listings that he could keep in his case. It was very exacting, time-consuming work which Doctor McCoy and his staff had had to sandwich in between the rest of their normal duties. With typical bureaucratic efficiency, Star Fleet Command had never seen fit to designate a post making one person responsible for this job. Actually, many of the computers did do most of the actual work -- the detailed "busy work," that is -- however, there were many tasks that only a living intelligence could do.
This was work that I could handle with only a minimum of training. Thanks to my unique status on the Enterprise, this project did not cut into other tasks. Yet, it was rewarding work, not just something to keep me out of mischief; this task was vital to the smooth functioning of the ship. As the day progressed, I found it very gratifying to know that I was doing something important -- and that I was doing it well.
Later, Mr. Spock brought my next batch of study-tapes to Sickbay -- which I considered a bit unusual. Not at all. He had to come to Sickbay for an examination anyway. He then informed me that Reading Room IV was being converted into a special teaching center for me. It would be ready for use in a few more hours. When I was not using the room, other members of the crew would use it to refresh certain aspects of their own training. This teaching center was something that had been wanted for a long time; now, thanks to me, they had it.
The news was most welcome, for the activity that is a natural part of the medical area of a starship is hardly conducive to study. When I tried to express my gratitude, however, Mr. Spock merely nodded, then he went on to the diagnostic section. I immediately yielded to curiosity and looked at one of the tapes he had brought.
But I couldn't make any sense out of it. The material wasn't that complicated, but there was one part of my mind that seemed to refuse to pay attention. It was almost as if that part of my mind were poised, waiting for something, but I couldn't figure out what it was...then.
I read the same segment of tape three times without making sense out of it. At last, I pushed the viewer away with a wordless exclamation of impatience.
"You are experiencing difficulty?" Spock asked quietly behind me.
"Yes." I had not expected that his examination would be over so soon. "I don't know what's wrong; I just can… can't seem to grasp...."
"Let me see."
He scanned the section of tape rapidly and then reset the viewer. "It was slightly out-of-focus. Please try again."
This time, even though he was standing there watching me, I was able to understand the segment without any trouble.
"Do you understand?" he asked when I pushed the viewer to one side.
When I heard those three words, I knew what had been wrong. The words were right, but the voice speaking them did not have the quiet, soothing resonance in its tones that I had come to know so well. The features of the face bending above me were cast from the same mold, but this was not quite the image that apparently has been etched in my memory.
To put it simply -- I was missing Sarek. I had come, to trust his guidance so much that I was reluctant to accept instruction from anyone else -- even his son. As soon as I acknowledged this fact, I felt an unexplainable longing to see the Ambassador and to hear his voice.
"Do you understand, Yeoman?" Spock insisted.
"Yes, Mr. Spock." I replied. "I understand -- everything. I'm sorry; I don't think this will happen again."
Spock might have pursued the matter further, but I had returned to my listings. When I looked up, the Vulcan was gone.
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