Words Of The Prophets
*"The Misfit", STAR TREK SHOWCASE I, February 1974.
**"...Simple Song", SHOWCASE III, December 1976.
--- written by Sharon Emily to introduce. . . .
WORDS OF THE
It was "evening" on the Enterprise. The ship was in orbit around Star Base Eleven. The greater majority of the crew had received mail and most of them, now off duty, were in their quarters, lost in time and in space with letters and remembrances from "home," wherever that might be. The ship's corridors and Rec Rooms were strangely deserted, and a quietness had descended all over the ship.
Leonard McCoy had been relaxing in his office reading a new medical journal (he didn't receive much personal mail), when he became conscious of someone standing in his doorway. It was the Captain, James T. Kirk, standing silently, holding a packet in his hands. The expression on his face brought McCoy to his feet with a rush.
"Jim, what's wrong?" he asked anxiously, moving quickly to Kirk's side.
"Bones, I - this just came - well, not really - it came earlier, but I just - it was in my mail bag. Yeoman Healy - opened it," he laughed a little, a humorless laugh. "Guess it shocked her - she looked sorta funny when she handed it to me--"
"Jim! For God's sake, what is it?"
Kirk drew a long breath then said: "Well, Bones, it seems I - I'm a father! I have a - son - on Planet 892-Four."
"What?" McCoy's eyebrows shot up the way Spock's often did. "How? I mean, when--how do you know?"
"This says so, Bones, also says its proof that the boy is mine. Here." He thrust the packet into McCoy's hands, then, threw himself into a chair near McCoy's desk.
Leonard McCoy stood for a moment looking down at the packet. It appeared to be a regulation dispatch packet. It was addressed:
Captain James T. Kirk
c/o Star Base Eleven
"Go ahead, Bones, read it," Kirk said over his shoulder.
McCoy looked inside the packet's flap. Enclosed was another smaller packet and a letter, written on a sheet of parchment-like paper. It read, after the salutation:
Captain Kirk: This is to inform you that your son, born out of wedlock ten months previous to this date, has been orphaned by the death of his slave mother, Drusilla. Since the child is the son of a freeman, even though illegitimate, he has certain rights, primary of which is the right to proof of his lineage. Regardless of the fact that you, his father, are not a Citizen of this planet, certified proof of parentage by a freeman, as above stated, will entitle the child to certain benefits granted by this government, including care and schooling, and the right to become a freeman at age 16.
Enclosed are biological specimens taken from the child which, when matched with your own, and returned to this office in proof, will grant him these rights. If this proof is not returned, said child will revert to his mother's status as a slave and will remain so for life.
Due to the unusual nature of this case, it will be necessary for you to appear at this office in person. At that time you may see your son, but under no circumstances may you remove him from this, his home planet.
Also, at the time you appear at this office, you will arrange for payment of all costs hitherto incurred for the child's care, since his mother's death and up until such time as his future status is decided.
The child's status must be determined before he attains the age of two years. Therefore, it is necessary for you to arrive here before that time.
Marcus Anglus, Director
Flavius Caesar Orphanage
"My God!" McCoy breathed softly, when he had finished reading the letter.
"Yeah," Kirk said. "Bones, what am I going to do?"
"Jim, I'm only your old Country Doctor. I don't know what to tell you. What's in the little package?" He moved around and sat down at his desk.
"I don't know. Must be the 'biological proof' they talked about. I didn't open it; will you, Bones? You know more about those things--"
McCoy pulled the sealing tab and shook out the contents: a spool of tape and a small sealed tube. "Looks like a specimen tube, Jim." He placed the tape in a slot on his desk top. "Let's run the tape."
The tape had to be adjusted since it had obviously been recorded at a rate different than that which Starfleet used, but shortly they could hear a voice reading off a series of figures and formulas. They didn't mean much to James Kirk, but at the end he heard: "Specimens taken from male child, Claudus, son of Drusilla, now deceased, former slave of Proconsul Marcus; natural child of Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation of Planets Starfleet. Specimens to be used to prove parentage of child by comparison with same from the father. . . ."
"Does that mean anything to you, Bones?" Kirk asked.
"Yes, it's a description of the specimens; their terminology is very similar to ours. I can test them out, anyway. But, Jim--all this seems very strange. . . . Why do you suppose they are so interested in proving who this child's father is? And, besides, who's this 'Drusilla' they keep referring to? I was there on 892-Four with you. I didn't meet any--"
"No, Bones, you didn't. You and Spock were locked in that cell, remember? I wasn't. . . . The Proconsul decided to be--well, I guess he was trying to. . . Oh, Hell! Bones! He left me alone with that girl for the afternoon. She was - beautiful; she - kept pouring more wine - I. . . . Bones! Can you compare those - things with mine and prove anything?"
"I'm just a Country Doctor, Jim!"
"Bones, if you say that just once more, I'll fire you!" Kirk threatened.
"Jim, even with all this fancy equipment, I can't perform miracles!"
"Bones, I've seen you 'perform miracles' with a lot less to work with than what you have now. I have to know! Can't you match up the chromosomes or whatever those things are? You've got plenty of mine in your biocomps, and it says right there, on that tape that--"
"Yes, Jim, I know! It says that these cell samples were taken from the boy, but, Jim--is it possible? Could he be your son?"
Kirk looked away from McCoy; for a time he didn't speak. He was lost in a bygone time. Then, still not looking into McCoy's face, he said softly: "Yes, it's possible."
"Okay, so it's possible. What the Hell are you so embarrassed about? You've already told me about the girl--I'm not judging you--I'd have probably done the same thing--"
"No, not you, Bones. I've - I have regretted it, ever since. She was a slave, Bones. She had been ordered to please me! Dammit, I shouldn't have--!"
"Jim! It's too late now to worry about that! What we do have to worry about is why, all of a sudden, this has arrived, and what do they want? Come on, Jim! Stop worrying about your conscience and start thinking with your brains!"
Kirk sighed, straightened up in his chair, and cleared his throat. "Yes, you're right, Bones. It does seem strange. Look, let's call Spock in on this. He was there; I need his unemotional opinion." Kirk turned to the intercom on McCoy's desk, activated it.
"Mr. Spock, report to Sick Bay."
Spock soon appeared at McCoy's office door.
"Show him, Bones," Kirk said, without looking up at the tall Vulcan.
McCoy handed the letter to Spock and turned back to his equipment. He had already opened the specimen tube and had started the testing.
For a time, the only sound in the room was the "click" of his instruments. Then, Spock uttered a sound that McCoy later thought of as, "Humpff," but he really didn't believe that he'd heard it, for when he glanced up at Spock, he only saw the usual cold Vulcan mask bent over the paper.
Kirk finally looked up at his Science Officer and friend. "Well, Spock?"
"One question, Captain--Jim." Spock's voice softened on the familiar name. "Could the child be yours?"
"Then, my next question--which I am certain, has already occurred to you--is: Why have they sent this to you at this time?"
"Spock," McCoy spoke up, turning, "Jim's had quite a shock. He--"
"Thanks, Bones," Kirk broke in, getting to his feet and facing them. "It's time I snapped out of it and started thinking. You have both brought up the same question: Why? From what we know of that culture, the ruling class doesn't worry that much about anybody's rights. Sure, they told us that slaves were 'protected,' old-age benefits and all, but they're still slaves. And why would they go to all the trouble to prove a slave's child's lineage--and--what happened to Drusilla? I think that might be an important question. I don't know why maybe I want to know because--because we shared - something--" His voice broke and he paused. Then: "I intend to find out!" he concluded grimly.
"Jim!" Spock said quickly. "You do not intend to follow the instructions in this letter, do you?"
Kirk looked up at him. "Of course. Why do you ask?"
"Sir," Spock was all rigid formality. "You cannot! If you were to appear on Planet 892-Four, I am certain that they would immediately arrest you, and since the Federation has no authority there, there would be no way to extricate you from their hands. Surely you are aware of this?"
"Spock," Kirk flared. "They have my son!"
"Jim," McCoy broke in, "we don't really know that--"
Kirk whirled on him--strode over to the side of the table where McCoy had been working. "Doctor. Can you, or can you not make a match?"
"Well--," McCoy hesitated, shot a look at Spock, then back at Kirk. "Well, yes. . .they match--"
"Jim, they match a little too perfectly. I can't explain it, there should be more of the mother's genes in the specimens, there are only traces. If you want my honest opinion, this is a trick. As Spock says, you'd be crazy to fall for it--!"
"Jim. You can't! You know it's a trick--"
"No. . .I don't know it's a trick, Bones, and if I don't learn the truth, it will haunt me the rest of my life! Bones. Spock--I lost one child with Mirimanee--I can't sit back and let this one be taken from me, too!" Kirk's voice shook with the emotions pent-up within him.
"I'm going, Spock," Kirk had heard disapproval in Spock's voice.
"Sir, may I respectfully remind you of your duty as the Commander of the Enterprise? Is finding this truth more important than that?"
Kirk winced. "You know how to hurt a guy, Spock."
"Sir--Jim. . .I do not wish to 'hurt' you. I can understand your dilemma. If I may make a suggestion?"
"Could you not--'hire' I believe is the term--someone to investigate this claim and so find the truth?"
"No. It specifically says that I must appear---in person. Besides, there isn't time. Look at the date on that letter; the time is almost up. I'd just about have time to get there myself, if I leave tonight!" Kirk started walking toward the door.
"Jim!" McCoy called after him.
"I'll pick up your report before I leave, Doctor, have it ready," Kirk said as he disappeared out the door.
McCoy looked helplessly at Spock.
"What are we going to do?" he asked. "We can't let him go."
"Doctor, I believe it is out of our hands. James Kirk is a very determined man--as you know. When he sets his mind on a course of action--"
"I don't care about his course of action, Spock! This will ruin him! Starfleet Command will never allow him to go, not after what happened on 892-Four last time we were there! You know we only got out of there by the skin of our teeth--and don't tell me teeth don't have skin! Go after him, Spock. . . ."
"I will try, Doctor McCoy," said Spock and moved rapidly from the office.
"No, Spock--I know what you're trying to do," James Kirk turned his back on the Vulcan and moved into his sleeping quarters. He opened a cabinet and took out a traveling case.
Spock stood in the doorway between the two rooms. He had tried every argument he could think of, but Kirk had refused to listen.
"I have the right to take Shore Leave--any way--any place I want to, Spock!"
"Then I am going with you, Jim."
Kirk spun around. "You will not, Spock. You will stay right here on the Enterprise. This is my affair. If I go alone, I may be able to slip in there, find out what this is all about, get my--son out, and get away! If you go--well, you do stand out in a crowd, Spock--admit it!"
"No! You must stay, Spock--if anything does happen - to me, the Enterprise will need you! Spock--you must give me your word. I--after all we've been through--I think I have the right to ask this of you-- Spock--take care of my ship!" he demanded.
Spock nodded--just once.
After spending three days at home on Earth, James Kirk liquidated his not inconsiderable assets (he'd rarely spent his Starfleet pay), said "goodbye" to his family--saying he'd had a message to return to the Enterprise, and left quickly.
It was then that James T. Kirk, Captain, Federation Starfleet, dropped out of sight. Eventually, a business man, Thomas Sprague, booked passage on a Star Liner bound for Antares Three. From there, he transshipped to a planet orbiting Nunki in the Sagittarius region where, in turn, Thomas Sprague disappeared.
Later, Frank Fisher, a geological scout, on a still-more-distant planet, paid cash for a new scout ship, bribed the salesman to "forget" him, and took off on a prospecting trip through an uncharted region of space. Once beyond the scanner range of that planet, the tiny ship changed course and eventually made its approach to the planet known in Starfleet records as 892-Four, dipped into the atmosphere on the dark side of the planet, slowed, and silently landed in an isolated canyon.
By the time dawn lit the sky, the ship's sole occupant was miles away, moving at a fast pace in the direction of a well-remembered, hidden cave.
The sun rose, casting its rays along the tops of the mountains, and a sharp whistled note, like that of a waking bird, echoed through the valley--to be picked up and passed along. The walking figure had been seen. James Kirk heard the sound and recognized it as a signal, for he'd heard one like it almost two years before--but he kept moving.
Dressed in rough, nondescript clothing, far removed from Starfleet, he walked on down the secluded valley. He began to recognize landmarks and knew it was only a question of time until he would be stopped.
Rounding a large rock, he halted in his tracks, his journey over.
Standing on the rocky trail before him was a group of men--men dressed as he was, holding very efficient-looking handguns.
James Kirk raised his hands--he was carrying nothing in the way of a weapon. He knew if his plan to contact the slaves of the planet failed, nothing, nor no one else would help him--for the extended Shore Leave he'd been granted to take care of personal business had expired. He was now A.W.O.L., and his career was at stake--but a man's son was worth any career.
"I come in the Name of The Son," he said simply.
Firelight flickered on the walls of the cave, drew glints of reflected light from bits of metal and glass in the furnishings. The cave had been occupied for years; it was the headquarters of the Underground--the escaped slave Underground. Comfortably furnished: tables, chairs, desks, it had a lived-in look--books, magazines, and other items, scattered around.
Once before James Kirk had sat in those chairs and had looked at the books and magazines. Then he'd worn the uniform of a Starfleet Captain--had been accompanied by two other officers, Science Officer Spock and Doctor Leonard McCoy. This time, he was alone.
He was sitting in one of the chairs now--a straight, wooden one. His arms were twisted painfully behind him--tied at the wrists with crude cords. They hurt. He'd been treated roughly, for no one had recognized him. The men had not appeared to know who he was--nor did they respond to any of the names of the people he'd known before.
They'd hardly spoken to him--had searched him roughly and thoroughly, found only the reports relating to his son, and the small packet of gems he carried--hopefully, to use to cover the "costs" his child had "incurred," as the letter had stated. He'd suspected the officials would not accept Federation credits, so he'd converted all his remaining funds to precious stones. He'd done this before in far-off worlds that had never heard of the Federation.
Now, the reports and the small bag of stones were being examined by a large, hard-looking man, whom the others seemed to consider their leader. His face and arms were scarred--he must have been a veteran of the arena, the horrible "Circus" in which men fought and died so their masters could receive high ratings on their TV programs. As long as a man could win, he would live--death was the only escape, unless--as a few had done--a man could actually escape and lose himself in the wilderness surrounding the city.
The men who'd captured James Kirk were such--almost to a man. Kirk looked in vain for the gentle Septimus, asked for him, and was gruffly told that no such person existed.
"Tell us again--spy--where did you get these pretties?" growled the harsh voice of the leader.
"I bought them. Look--I told you before--I'm from another place. You read the letter--surely you know--you've heard of men who - who came from the sky nearly two of your years ago. Men who fought in the arena--even as you--" Kirk's words were halted by a savage blow on the side of his head that almost stunned him, causing him to slump against his bonds, head hanging.
Through the ringing in his ears, he could hear a voice shouting: "Blasphemer! Only The Son comes from the Heavens!"
"No--no--," Kirk shook his head, trying to clear it. "I'm not--I wouldn't blaspheme--I - am not lying! You must--believe me!"
"Why? Why must we believe you?"
"Because I'm telling you the truth! I mean you no harm--I need your help. I am James Kirk--I come from - from another place. I came openly--I did not try to come unseen!" Out of the corner of his eye, Kirk saw a fist swinging at him, tried to duck, but again was struck violently.
"Liar!" shouted the leader. "You are a spy, sent by the Proconsul! How else would you get a paper with the official seal on it?"
A thought began to register in Kirk's aching head: Had the man read the paper--could he read it?
He pulled himself painfully upright by tightening his arm muscles against his bound hands. He looked around the room. There were five men besides the leader. Four of them were sitting or leaning on chairs or tables. The one who'd been hitting him was standing just behind him--a huge man, dressed in a leather jerkin and rough trousers--his bare arms bulging with muscles.
Kirk twisted his head around to look into the man's face. "Why are you hitting me?" he asked.
"You are a spy! A blaspheming spy," the man growled.
"Who told you I was a spy?" Kirk asked, looking into the man's eyes, trying to reach him.
"Jaris, there, told--"
"Shut up, you fool!" shouted the one Kirk now knew was named Jaris.
Kirk didn't turn his head, but he kept looking up at the man behind him. "You're letting him call you a fool? Him? A man who sits there, pretending to read my papers when all he can really do is recognize an official seal?" Kirk knew he was in terrible danger, caught between these two men. He saw the giant hesitate--look at Jaris--a frown beginning to form on his face.
"Jaris? What does he say?"
"He's lying again, Arno! I have read the paper!"
"Then, ask him exactly what the paper says," Kirk prompted quickly, for Arno's arm had lifted again at the word "lying." The arm stopped--again Arno looked across Kirk's head at the leader. Kirk could also see the other men turning to look at Jaris.
"Tell us, Jaris--what does it say?"
Another voice: "Yes, Jaris? Tell us, can you read it or not?" This, from a man sitting beyond Arno, his face almost hidden in the shadows.
"What difference does it make?" Jaris shouted. "The paper says nothing, means nothing. He's a spy! We kill him--now!"
Jaris jerked a gun from his belt and leveled it at Kirk.
James Kirk was close to death; he knew it. Well, he'd tried. Oh, God! How he'd tried! He stared with fascination at Jaris' finger pressing the trigger on the old-fashioned gun. If it had been a phaser, he'd be dead--if it had been a good gun, he'd be dead. But the pin was worn, the bullet old--the gun didn't go off! It only clicked. Jaris' finger tightened again for a second try.
"Wait, Jaris!" The man in the shadows rose and came forward. "It's a sign. He isn't meant to die at your hand!"
James Kirk sagged in his chair--the reaction to his brush with death set in--his head was aching horribly--he must have blacked out. . . .
Suddenly, it seemed, he was lying on a hard pallet, his hands were free, and someone was pressing a cup to his lips. He drank instinctively--a cool, but strange liquid, biting but refreshing. He opened his eyes, looked up--into the face of a lovely girl kneeling beside him.
"Feeling better?" she asked pleasantly.
"I - think so," he said. "But--?"
"'What happened?' Is that what you wish to know?"
He nodded, which made his head ache again.
"Well, I can't tell you much, but you are safe now. The men that captured you were only doing what they thought was right--they thought you were--"
"...a spy. Yes, I remember!" Kirk struggled up to his elbows and looked around. He was in a small alcove off the main cave; he could see figures moving about in the main part--men and women. "Where were they before?" he asked. "And you--who are you?"
"I am Loel. The rest were in hiding. We thought you might be bringing others. We know now you were not. If you feel strong enough, there is one who wishes to talk to you." Loel stood up and beckoned to someone outside the alcove. "He's awake now, Theo," she called.
A tall, heavy-set man moved into the alcove and stood looking down at Kirk. He, too, bore the scars of a gladiator, a livid scar ran down one side of his face, twisting it into a perpetual scowl. But his voice was gentle: "You are James Kirk?" It was the voice of the man in the shadows.
Kirk lay back. It was easier to see lying flat. The man towered over him. "Yes, I am. Do you know me? Should I know you?" he asked.
"Your name is known to me. For a long time, I have. . . hated you!" The last words were snapped out, and for a moment the scarred face hardened, the scowl deepened. Then, as suddenly, it softened and the voice continued: "But The Son has taught us to forgive those who have wronged us. I believe. I still. . .hate you for the wrong you did, but I forgive you."
"Forgive me for what?" Kirk asked, "I've never seen you before. What have I ever done to you?"
"You--," the man paused, drew a deep breath. "You seduced my daughter. Because of you, she is dead."
If he had struck James Kirk across the face, it wouldn't have hurt more. He winced, closed his eyes, and turned his head away. Ever since the night on the Enterprise, when he'd first read the letter informing him he had a son, his conscience had been eating at him. It had driven him to abandon his ship, his friends, his career. It had brought him to this distant planet, to this cave, to the feet of this man.
He'd steeled himself to all contingencies; he was prepared to meet and face disapproving officials; marry Drusilla, if she were alive and would have him; even die--but not this! James Kirk had known many women; he had almost married several--for various reasons, he had not--except Mirimanee. The others had meant nothing more to him than he had to them. He had never before thought of sons or fathers of wronged girls--dead, wronged girls.
He felt--dirty. He wished he could crawl away and hide. If the man--Theo--had railed and shouted at him--kicked or struck him, he could have stood it. But, no, the man had said: "I forgive you."
For a long moment, neither man moved. Then, James Kirk sighed, sat up, swung to the floor, to his knees before Theo. He couldn't look at the man standing silently above him.
"You forgive me, Theo?" he said in a broken whisper. "How can you? No faith in divine words can forgive what - what I did to your daughter--to you. Why don't you--kill me?"
James Kirk was at his life's lowest point. He'd lost or given up everything that had meaning for him. He was prepared to die; at this moment in time, he wanted to die. He knelt there and waited for death to come.
"No," the quiet voice above him said. "No, I will not kill you. You will not be harmed, James Kirk. You are the father of my grandchild. Before she died, my daughter, Drusilla, told me what happened--how it was that day, long ago."
Kirk felt a hand on his arm--a large, gentle hand, urging him to his feet.
"Stand up, James, Look at me," Theo ordered, a sharper edge to his voice.
Kirk staggered to his feet, still dizzy from the beating, still reacting to the agonizing emotional shock he'd just experienced. He raised his eyes and looked into those of the giant man standing before him. The man who, by all rights of fatherhood, should have killed him--or let him be killed. Kirk realized that Theo had known almost from the time he'd come, who he was--what he was! Yet, he'd been the one to tell Jaris that the misfiring gun had been a sign that he should be saved.
"Why?" James Kirk asked. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because I believe in the Words of The Son: 'Thou shalt not kill--thou shalt forgive'!" He paused, then continued: "The Son was--is right. I believe He brought you here--"
"What?" Kirk was dumbfounded. "Yes. There is a reason."
"I - I received a letter from some - official, telling me I had a - a son, here." Kirk explained. "How can you think--?" He swayed a little, dizziness swept over him again.
Theo put his hands on Kirk's shoulders and steadied him. "Come," he urged, taking Kirk's arm. "Come and sit down." He led the way out into the main part of the cave and helped Kirk to a chair beside a table.
"Loel," Theo called. "Bring James some wine."
"No - no. I'm - I'm all right," Kirk murmured.
"It will strengthen you, James," Theo said. "You need it."
Loel brought a jug and glasses, and Theo filled two, then gave one to Kirk. "Go ahead, James. Drink it. I'll join you." He lifted his own glass and drank.
Kirk wanted the drink, needed it, but still hesitated.
He looked around the cave. A number of men and women were there, all busily occupied with various tasks. Several had glanced at him as he came out of the alcove with Theo, but now they were going about their own affairs, ignoring him completely.
"Do - do they know - who I am?" Kirk asked, turning back to Theo.
"Yes. I told them while you slept."
"They know? About your daughter--the child - me?" Kirk felt his face burn. He started to rise - to leave - to get away, somehow. Theo again caught his arm, pulled him back to his chair, forced him to sit down.
"Yes, James. They know - they have also forgiven you. Now sit down and drink your wine!"
Kirk sank back into his chair, took up the glass, and drank deeply. The curiously-tasting wine was refreshing. He could feel a warmth spreading out from his stomach, realized his hands were icy--not because the cave was cold--the shock and injury had done it. He drank again--began to feel better. At last, he drew in a long, shuddering breath and looked squarely into Theo's eyes. "Why? Why do you believe I was 'brought here'?"
"Because I believe you may be the one whose coming the Prophets foretold," was the amazing reply.
"Yes. It is written: 'He who is lowest, most despised, shall deliver you from bondage.'"
Again James Kirk winced. Now he knew where he stood--he was "forgiven," but still despised.
"Theo," he said slowly, explicitly. "I was sent a letter--from this planet--by regular space mail, telling me I had a son here. There was nothing - miraculous about it! We--I--thought it was a trick to get me here, for what reason, I do not really know. The Proconsul, Marcus--he is still Proconsul, is he not?"
"The Proconsul hates me because I made a fool of him the last time I was here. He'll do anything to--" A sudden bought hit him. "Theo, tell me, please. What happened to Drusilla? Why did she die? Because of me?"
"She tried to take her child from the palace of the Proconsul. She was--forced--she died in the arena. The show received the--highest ratings of the season!" Now it was Theo's voice that broke.
"Oh my God!" Kirk whispered softly. He felt a growing rage building within him. He slammed his fist against his thigh--again and again, while tears of fury and anguish filled his eyes.
"James!" Theo's voice broke through his rage. "James--it is done! It was the Will of The--"
"No!" Kirk shouted, starting up from his chair, which crashed backwards noisily to the floor. Everyone in the cave turned to look at him.
"No!" he shouted again, the echoes of his cry resounding from the walls of the cave. "It was not the Will of The Son! You cannot believe that! It was done by a man! A horrible, monstrous man! The same monster who - who gave her to me! Can't you see that?" He rounded the table and clutched at Theo's jerkin, pulling him to his feet, his rage lending him strength.
"James, James." Again Theo's quiet voice reached him. "We believe. It is our reason for being. Once I was an unbeliever--a bitter, angry man. I hated. . .I cursed Fate for making me a slave. I killed--took pleasure in killing--was proud of my record! I was given women--Drusilla's mother - I never married her! She died giving life to my daughter!" Theo raised his arms and almost casually broke Kirk's grip on him. "I was one of the few who were released from the arena, James. I was made a trainer--a trainer of killers!" The scar on Theo's face flared vividly. Kirk fell back a step, then Theo's face softened as he continued:
"One day, I met Septimus, who taught me of The Son. I escaped from the Circus--I could not rescue my daughter, nor her child--" He paused, then went on: "But, since then, I have known a Peace and Purpose that I had never dreamed possible. A while ago, James, you called on your God. Do you not gather strength from Him?"
"Not such strength as you do, Theo. I wish--oh how I wish I did!" James Kirk confessed. Then he asked eagerly: "Where is Septimus? May I see him?"
Theo shook his head. "No. Septimus has been called to The Son. He died peacefully in his sleep about three months ago. The others here have asked me to lead them."
Kirk felt a sense of loss sweep through him. He had hoped to meet again the gentle, kindly man who had believed in him the last time he'd stood in this cave. He turned away from Theo and walked slowly back to the overturned chair. Bending down, he carefully righted it and sat down again at the table, then he looked up at Theo, who still stood where Kirk had left him.
"What can I do, Theo? In some small way, can I atone for the wrongs I have done?" he asked, spreading his hands in resignation.
"Fulfill the prophecies, James Kirk, Release our people from bondage!" Theo said, returning to his place across the table.
"How? What can I do? What---that you and your Underground haven't been able to do these two thousand years?" James Kirk's agony was evident in the trembling of his voice.
Theo looked long and hard at him, then he spoke: "It is written--'The despised one will deliver you from bondage. He will deliver the one who will reign! He will destroy the persecutor!' It is written!" Theo's voice had risen with the words, until at the end he was shouting. The echoes answered: "Written--written--ten--en--," from the far reaches of the underground cave.
Those words were still echoing through James Kirk's mind the following day as he entered the gates of the Flavius Caesar Orphanage. He was one of a line of several porters carrying supplies, and a large carton rested on his shoulder.
James T. Kirk's former associates in Starfleet would have had great difficulty in recognizing him. Gone was the proper, fastidious Starfleet Captain. His clothes, not his own, were rough and torn. He'd not shaved since he'd left his mother's home in Iowa, nor had he cut his hair. His Starfleet regulation pointed sideburns had grown in, and his hair, although not too long, was unkempt and matted. He shuffled along in broken sandals, bare-legged below the short, kilt-like garment he wore. He had on the sleeveless jerkin of a slave; a roll in a muddy ditch had stained his arms and legs so he was indistinguishable from the rest of the ragged crew.
Porters were the lowest of the many categories of slaves. They received the least amount of benefits; they lived in rough barracks, and were "owned," if the term could be used, by the state. Any business or service needing human muscle could rent as many as were needed. They were usually cheaper to hire than renting a truck or other vehicle.
It had been an easy matter for James Kirk to slip in with the group. He'd been guided via back streets to the vicinity of the Orphanage during the night. The Underground knew there would be a delivery today; they knew the schedules better than the managers, and often used this method of infiltrating buildings.
Kirk had been given careful instructions never to raise his eyes above the knees of a guard or other authority. He'd also been given explicit directions regarding how to answer when spoken to, and how to escape from the building when the time came.
A map of the Orphanage was tucked under his belt. One of the younger escapees had worked there after having grown up in the rambling, old building. Kirk also carried suspended from his neck under his jerkin the tiny packet of gems, as well as the letter and biological proof of his son's identity, wrapped in a fold of leather. It lay against his skin, warmed by his body's heat--a reminder of other times and other places.
He had no definite plan--the escaped slave girl had told him where the Infants' Wing was; he knew he could find it--but just what he would do then--he did not know. There might be someone who would find the gems worth turning their head away for--
The line of porters wound its way down into the basement of the old building, through dim corridors of stone, feebly lit by small, cobwebby bulbs. The porters were not guarded; this was a regular delivery. Most of the slaves were old, feeble, and worn. A foreman for the delivery service led the line; he had long before been heavily bribed not to notice "extra" porters in his crews.
When the line reached the storage rooms, the foreman stepped to one side to allow the men to enter. His eyes flicked over the line, then he casually moved down the passageway to a drinking fountain and turned his back.
Kirk, who'd been told this would happen, slipped into a side corridor and hurried away. He stopped just once to slip off the broken sandals, then--still carrying the large carton--he silently made his way along the dim corridor until he came to a doorway marked "Stairs."
Opening the heavy door, he moved into the stairway. The stairs led up and up through the tall building. Twisting his head to look up, he judged there to be at least six stories above him.
He put down the carton and drew the map out of his belt. He had some difficulty with the dim light, but finally was able to determine where he was in relation to the Infants' Wing. Apparently he had to go up four flights. Picking up the carton again, he started the long climb. Still barefoot, he made no sound as he went. As he rounded the steps on the second floor, he heard the sound of a door opening--right behind him! Heavy footfalls echoed through the stairwell.
Kirk kept going, but moved to the side of the stairs, the box on his shoulder hiding his face.
"Hold it, Slave!" a harsh voice said. "Where the Hell do you think you are going?"
Kirk froze. "They - the man - he told me - I'm supposed to take this to the fifth floor, Master," he whined, bending his knees to the steps and keeping his head down.
"Yeah? How come they aren't using the freight lift?"
"I don't know, Master," Kirk murmured. He didn't offer to explain, just prayed silently that the man would go on.
"Oh well--it's none of my affair." The man proceeded up the stairs.
Kirk didn't move. He stayed, head bowed, until the man had turned up the next stair corner and gone on out of sight, then he stood and moved on up the stairs.
At the third floor, he stopped and again put on the broken sandals. Pushing his way through the door, he entered the corridor leading toward the Nursery.
He'd spent hours the night before, discussing with Theo and the others what he could do. At first, he'd considered going directly to the Front Office and presenting himself with his "proof." Theo had discouraged that, saying: "They are just waiting for you to come, James. You would be captured immediately and probably would be dead before the day was out. I'm sure the Proconsul has something rather horrible in mind for you." He'd paused and thought for a moment, then he'd said: "That must be it!"
"What?" Kirk had asked.
"The Proconsul has been announcing a big 'Special'--scheduled for a date still to be announced. He has been having trouble with his program ratings--the Circus isn't as popular as it was last year--the people are not tuning in."
"I believe the people are beginning to listen to us, James. More and more freemen are coming to believe in The Son. There is word of a movement underway to permit open worship. The Proconsul is fighting it in the Forum."
"What does that have to do with the 'Special' you spoke of, Theo?" Kirk had prompted.
"About two months ago, ads began to appear in the TV News, hinting at something very big. As time went on, the ads grew bigger. I think, James, the Proconsul knew you would come. He plans to capture you, and, as I said, has some very special plans for your death--televised in 'Full Living Color'!" Theo had explained grimly.
"I thought you said people were tired of that kind of program." Kirk had said, suppressing an involuntary shudder.
"James, there are always sadists and curious ones who will tune in for something like that."
"Then I'd better plan not to be captured," Kirk had said. "But," he'd continued, "I intend to rescue my son!"
So, despite all of Theo's objections, here he was, standing in a corridor on the third floor of the Flavius Caesar Orphanage, looking carefully around, trying to orient himself. He pictured in his mind the layout according to the map and began moving along to his right, keeping the box between his head and the few people he passed. No one stopped or spoke to him, and he finally came to the doorway leading to the infants' room. He could hear a child crying as he moved carefully around the corner of the door to look into the room.
It was a large room, lined on both sides with cribs. Something was strange however, the cribs were empty! All except one. Halfway down the left side of the room, one crib was occupied--a small child was sitting forlornly in the middle of it, crying pitifully.
James Kirk stepped into the doorway. He smelled a trap--knew it was a trap, but could not help himself. He lowered the carton he'd been carrying and placed it gently on the floor, then he moved on into the room, drawn towards the sobbing child as though by a magnet.
All his years of training in Starfleet, training to avoid just such a trap, were screaming to his subconscious mind: "Danger! Danger!" but the sight and sound of the little child overrode all the signals. He walked slowly down the aisle between the cribs toward that child that might be his son.
Arriving beside the crib, he stood motionless for a time, gazing down at the little boy. Was this his son? The child had blond hair, like he'd had as a youngster. The child's eyes were hazel--but many children had blond hair and hazel eyes--
The child became aware of Kirk's presence, stopped crying between one sob and the next, and sat looking up at him. Suddenly, his tiny face broke into a smile, and he put his little arms up toward James Kirk.
Kirk leaned over and took the child up into his, arms.
Immediately there was a flood of brilliant light and a raucous shout of laughter!
"So! You finally got here, James T. Kirk! Smile, Kirk. You're on live television--you and your bastard son!"
Kirk had whirled at the first flash of light, but it was too late. Standing behind him were three guards, machine guns aimed at his head.
Again he turned. The other end of the room was also lit now. Standing there, fists planted on his hips, rocking back and forth with glee, was Proconsul Claudius Marcus. Behind him, more guards.
The Proconsul glanced up at the ceiling--Kirk's eyes involuntarily followed and saw the lenses of several cameras protruding through a slot in the ceiling. One was trained on him, another on the Proconsul, and still others on the guards.
The Proconsul was playing to his audience: "This Special Bulletin has interrupted regular programming in order to bring you live--full coverage of the capture of the barbarian known as Kirk! Many of you will remember the time, nearly two years ago, when this same barbarian and several of his followers appeared on our Circus Program. Through the treachery and deceit of the late, unlamented Mericus, they managed to brutally overcome our loyal guards and make their temporary escape.
"Now, one has returned--the leader of the barbarians--to attempt to kidnap from the safety of our State Orphans' Home, the child he sired by raping one of my helpless servants. However, by clever anticipation, I expected this to happen, and now you see him standing trembling before you--clutching the poor, frightened baby to his filthy chest. Guards! Take the child!"
"No!" Kirk shouted, glancing up at the camera. "The child is mine! I did not rape his mother! She - came to me - willingly - although under orders of the Proconsul himself! You--out there--you sat in your safe homes and watched her being butchered on your TV screens--not a month ago! By order of the same Proconsul--" A heavy weight smashed against Kirk's head and he sank to the floor. As he fell, a guard snatched the now screaming child from his limp grasp.
The cameras zoomed in for a tight close up of James Kirk sprawled unconscious on the floor. The O.S. voice of the Proconsul could be heard: "This is just the first in a series of programs covering the trial and execution of the barbarian, Kirk. Tonight--at eight P.M., you will see the Special you have all been waiting for--when this barbarian, known as James T. Kirk, will pay for his crimes! Be sure to tune in--we now return you to the regularly scheduled programming."
Kirk was brought to consciousness by having a pail of water dashed over him. He had no idea how long he'd been out--he came to in a cell--a familiar cell--one he and the others had occupied once before.
He had little time to think of that, however; he was seized roughly and--still dripping wet--rushed into an adjoining "Court Room"--in reality a stage setting, with no ceiling and false walls, bright lights above, and cameras that recorded the proceedings.
The "Proceedings" were his "trial"--at which he was not allowed to speak. Two attempts had been abruptly halted by slaps from his guards, and after the third time he'd been gagged. He'd been allowed no defense--the list of charges against him had gone on for pages, it seemed: treason; robbery (of the gems the guards had found under his jerkin); espionage; kidnapping; assaulting an officer; resisting arrest; impersonating a freeman; and finally--rape.
"...and, Your Honor, we hereby present proof of the last charge--biological reports made in our laboratory and also in some barbarian stronghold--proof which, without a doubt, proves this man is the father of this poor child you now see before you!" And the child Kirk had held in his arms so fleetingly was carried in by a white-uniformed "nurse." Kirk had already realized that most of the court "officers" were probably actors--even the "jury" was being directed from behind a screen by a man unseen by the cameras. Now they were directed to smile at the little child, held in front of them.
The little boy looked solemnly around at the strange faces about him. Kirk's heart thudded in his chest--the child had to be his, he could now recognize his own features, in miniature. He thought of a baby picture of himself that he had seen only recently at his mother's home--the boy was his son!
The trial didn't last long--the jury didn't even leave its box, although there was a break--a "commercial break," during which the jury foreman was openly told what to say in a quiet conference with the director.
Kirk was prodded from his seat and the gag removed from his mouth--he was warned to be silent.
When the break was over, Kirk was motioned forward, to stand before the judge. The foreman of the jury was asked for the verdict.
"Guilty on all counts, Your Honor. We also recommend that our society be purged completely of this barbaric strain!"
The judge turned to James Kirk, who stood unsteadily before him, still weak from his injury,
"Prisoner, James T. Kirk. You have been found guilty of all charges. The penalty is death. The sentence will be carried out during the TV Special 'Face the Executioner!' at eight tonight. Be sure to tune in--don't miss this greatest special in TV history!" The judge was no longer talking to Kirk he was looking directly into a zoomed-in camera. "There will be an extra added surprise--don't miss it!" he smiled. "I'll give you a hint--you heard the jury's recommendation!"
The cameras turned and focused in on James Kirk's face. Realization began to trickle through his mind--he'd wondered about the wording. No! They didn't--they couldn't mean--the horrible thought kept building and growing, and burning into his brain--
"No--," he whispered hoarsely. "No! Oh, My God! Not my son, too!" he screamed, lunging against the grip of the guards--
That had been several hours ago--he'd been dragged bodily from the "courtroom," fighting every step of the way. He'd raged and struggled, but to no avail--had finally been shoved violently into the cell, and had had the door slammed behind him. The guards had withdrawn quickly, and he'd been left alone. No one had come near him since.
He had fought and strained against the bars of his cell, had exhausted himself in his effort to break out--torn his fingernails to the quick on the walls, and shouted his throat raw, trying to make someone hear him.
His face was streaked with tears of rage and anguish, and he'd finally collapsed onto the stone shelf from sheer exhaustion. He shivered--the cell was cold and damp--he'd lost all touch of time--not that it mattered. He had cursed, he had prayed--now he lay face down, motionless, lost in despair.
After a time, he stirred and raised his head--seemed to be listening. Then, he moved, slid off the stone shelf to his knees, his head bowed, resting on his clasped hands on the shelf.
Someone had heard!
More time passed. Not a sound could be heard, except Kirk's breathing. Then, slowly, his head lifted again. His face seemed transformed--filled with quiet confidence. "Yes," he whispered. He bowed his head once more, sighed, and then got to his feet.
Soon afterward the heavy door at the end of the cell block clanked open. A squad of heavily armed guards marched in. Following closely behind them was Proconsul Claudius Marcus.
The guards formed a double line before the cell, and Marcus moved through to stand in front of the door, a look of surprise crossing his face.
James Kirk stood gazing quietly back at him--a slight smile playing about his lips. This wasn't what Marcus had expected. He'd not been present at the "trial", inst instead had watched it on TV from his office. The last sight he'd had of James Kirk had been of a screaming, raging, almost insane man being dragged from the "court room".
"Well, Kirk. For a man who is about to die, and whose son will die with him--you seem very calm."
"Yes! But, I promise you--your death won't be pleasant!"
"No. I'm sure you have something very 'unusual' planned for me--and for my son," Kirk said quietly.
Claudius Marcus licked his lips. This wasn't going as he'd planned. Kirk should be raging and shouting at him, or down on his knees begging for his life--or, at least, for his bastard son's life! Marcus frowned. Had he pushed Kirk too far? Was he mad? No matter!
"We certainly have!" he snarled. "But first, you're going to watch your son die! And nothing you can say or do will stop that! We'll see how calm you are then!" The Proconsul's face was flushed with anger and frustration. "Get him out of there!" he shouted at the guards, falling back from the cell door.
One of the guards unlocked the door and swung it back.
The others raised their weapons and trained them on the prisoner. Kirk walked to the cell door and stepped out.
Somewhere he'd lost the sandals. The ties on his jerkin had been broken when he was searched, and it hung open. The kilt he wore was mud-stained, his hair was matted, and his face unshaven.
Yet, as he walked between the rows of well-groomed guards, he seemed to project a look of dignity and quiet strength that made the others around him, including the flashily-toga’d Proconsul, appear slovenly and unkempt.
The guards, their prisoner, and the Proconsul moved up out of the depths of the prison and into the adjoining TV studios. The studios had been built there in order to save transporting prisoners across the city for trial and, usually, immediate execution.
At no time did the procession move outside. However, at one point, they passed a large window which looked out over the city.
"Halt!" ordered the Proconsul. Moving around outside the line of guards, he came to stand near James Kirk. He smirked. "Just to show you I'm not entirely without feelings, Kirk, I'll let you look out at the stars one more time. I know they mean a lot to you."
Kirk smiled. "Yes--they do." He glanced up at the myriad lights gleaming in the black sky, but he didn't gaze at them long. Instead, he turned and looked into the faces of his guards. Not one of them was able to meet his gaze. For a moment, no one moved.
"Well--go on!" Marcus shouted finally. Looking around, he noticed that all the guards were looking at the floor, their guns hanging limply in their hands.
"What is this?" he shouted. "Attention!"
The guards, to a man, started guiltily and snapped to attention. James Kirk stood quietly in their midst, still smiling slightly.
The procession moved on and soon entered the huge, barn-like studio.
One end of the room was brilliantly lit. The setting represented a giant arena--painted backdrops gave the impression of a large space.
James Kirk had been here before--but under vastly different circumstances. His mind touched on that time--on the friends who had stood with him and who now were lost to him forever.
But he had very little time to dwell on bygone days. The guards moved faster now, and soon they reached the stage.
"Air time in five minutes!" a voice called.
The Proconsul moved up to Kirk's side. Other guards stood nearby now; he felt safe here.
"It's been a long time, Captain," he murmured. "But now I'll have my revenge! You made me appear a fool the other time. It was months before my friends forgot what you did! But I didn't forget! Now, Captain, it's my turn to make you appear foolish, and then to end your existence!"
"I'm no longer a Captain, Marcus," Kirk's voice was still quiet. "I gave up my command, my career--my life, it appears, to satisfy your pride."
"So? Even better than I thought! There will be no miraculous rescue this time, Kirk--neither for you nor for your bastard!" Marcus gloated, turning to point. "There he is now!"
His pointing finger led Kirk's attention to a raised portion of the arena, where the lights were just coming up. There, inside a cage-like structure, was the little child Kirk had come to accept as his son. The baby was standing holding onto the bars of the cage, looking around at all the excitement, and lights, and people around him. He didn't seem frightened, only interested.
James Kirk took one step in his son's direction, then stopped, even as the guards around him began to raise their weapons.
"Well--here we go, Kirk," Marcus said. "This Special will certainly draw the highest ratings of all time!" he crowed. Then he looked closely at his prisoner. "Aren't you even interested in how your son and you will die?"
"Thirty seconds, Proconsul!"
Marcus shook his head and walked out onto the brightly lit set. He took a position just in front of the cage-like structure and turned to the waiting cameras. The lights behind him faded, and only he could be seen against the darkness.
The sound of the preceding program's finale boomed over the speakers. The station's call letters were announced and after a short pause, a rattle of drums and an off screen voice announced: "Welcome to 'Face the Executioner!' Brought to you by Centurion Shaving Creme. 'When you shave with Centurion, you shave with the best!'
This is the Special you've all be waiting for, Citizens! It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the man responsible for tonight's exciting show--who will tell you what it is you are about to see! I give you--Proconsul Claudius Marcus!"
A flourish of unseen trumpets blared, and an equally unseen audience cheered and clapped furiously. There was no audience, only pre-recorded electoral tapes, whose volume was raised and lowered by an engineer.
"Thank you. Thank you!" Marcus waved to the "audience," which finally quieted, allowing him to continue: "It is a great honor for me to present to you this evening, after long and careful preparation, a program that will thrill and delight all of you--an Official Execution!"
The "audience" cheered and was only quieted after several more bows from the Proconsul.
"As you know from the evening news and from broadcasts earlier today, a barbarian called Kirk--through the combined efforts of our illustrious police force, the staff of the Flavius Caesar Orphanage, and. . .myself," he allowed his gaze to drop modestly, "has been captured, tried in our impartial court, and found guilty of--" he chuckled. "Now, let me see," he hesitated, as though at a loss to remember--all the while the list was before him, out of camera range, printed in large letters on cards a crewman was holding up for him to see.
"Oh, yes. Now I remember. There are so many charges: treason; robbery; kidnapping--oh, excuse me, that was attempted kidnapping; assaulting an officer; resisting arrest. Ah, now, let me think--there is another charge-- Oh! Of course--rape!" A wicked leer crossed the Proconsul's face, and a roar of laughter rose from the "audience."
"Now--what makes this program so unusual is that we also have--right here in our arena--the fruit of that horrible act of violence! An act perpetrated on an innocent girl--who could not help herself--who was forced to submit to the barbarous advances of this -- this monstrous being!
"A poor, innocent girl, who in her crazed despair, attempted at a later date to steal her child from the foster home in which he was being lovingly cared for! Of course, sadly enough, she had to pay the supreme penalty for her crime--an event you all witnessed on the last episode of this Special series, 'Face the Executioner!'" He paused as though to make a decision, smiled graciously, and continued:
"On the outside chance that some of you may have had to miss that great program, we are now going to rerun the final portion of it, so that tonight's exciting events will have more meaning for all of you. Mr. Director," he turned to one side, as though to speak to someone off-camera. "Will you please rerun that exciting tape?"
There were monitors placed strategically around the set--one of them was directly in front of James Kirk. He turned his attention to it, in spite of himself.
The scene depicted on the screen was of the same set that lay before him, except for different "players." Standing at center stage was Drusilla, the lovely girl he'd met almost two years before. Around her were positioned three giant "warriors," heavily armed with swords and shields.
Drusilla was also "armed," if such could be called arms, with a short dagger and a very small shield. She stood looking helplessly at them and then at the men around her, while an off-camera voice intoned the "Rules": "...and if the prisoner should succeed in defeating her opponents, she will, of course, be declared innocent of all charges and allowed to go free!"
There was a roll of drums and the voice announced: "Face the Executioner!"
It didn't last long. The warriors toyed with the frightened girl for a time--two of them got into a mock argument and fought each other--obviously to stretch the program, but finally the three of them converged on Drusilla and, with a very few well placed strokes, cut her down.
Trumpets blared, then the off-camera voice intoned: "Justice has prevailed!" while the camera zoomed in for a close up of the dead girl's face, still lovely despite the blood.
James Kirk hadn't moved since the tape began. He didn't now, but his eyes filled with tears, which finally spilled over and ran down his cheeks. Only then did he move, to raise one hand and wipe the tears away.
At this point in the present show, there was a commercial break, and the stage manager of the show directed the guards to move James Kirk to a point at center stage--the same spot that had recently held the dead body of Drusilla. The guards fell back and left him standing alone, but at least eight guns were trained on him, and he was ordered not to move.
Another flourish of trumpets, and the lights on the Proconsul went up.
"Wasn't that exciting, Citizens?" he crowed. "And now--we take great pleasure in presenting tonight's episode of 'Face the Executioner,' entitled 'Execution of the Barbarian.' The barbarian, who calls himself 'James T. Kirk--who claims to come from the stars! Think of that, Ladies and Gentlemen!" The cameras now swung to focus on Kirk. "From the stars! Could this be the One that a few of your misguided slaves call The Son?"
A loud roar of taped laughter followed his words, an uproar that lasted for some time, while the cameras panned slowly over the dirty, ragged, disheveled figure standing before them.
At last the laughter faded and Marcus continued: "To recap, Ladies and Gentlemen, some of you with long memories may recall a time almost two years ago--" Marcus proceeded to relate the events that had occurred then. He concluded with: "...the other two Barbarians were slain in their attempt to escape justice. Through the treachery of the former Proconsul, Mericus, this one--who calls himself Kirk--did escape.
"Now, finally, he will--'Face the Executioner!' But--before he does--!" Marcus stepped to one side. "As an extra--and as a TV first! We will carry out the recommendation of the jury that found James Kirk guilty, and we will eliminate from our society the barbaric stain that has been forced upon us!" Marcus raised his hand and pointed; the cameras panned to show the child in the cage behind him.
The little boy had grown tired and was now sitting down, a tiny thumb popped into his mouth. His large hazel eyes were still taking everything in, and still he did not cry--even when the bright lights flashed on the enclosure.
Marcus spoke again: "Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, we realize that what will follow may be slightly frightening to some--especially the small children in our audience. Therefore, we will now have a station break, so that you may, if you wish, have the smaller children leave the room. Be sure, however, that they are called back in time to see the barbarian 'Face the Executioner!'"
Marcus waited until he was sure the camera was off, then he swung on James Kirk. "Aren't you going to even try to save your son?" he asked angrily--he'd hoped that Kirk would repeat his "performance" at the trial, when he'd realized what the jury's recommendation had meant.
James Kirk shook his head. He had been standing, hands clasped behind him, ever since the director had positioned him--unmoving, only his head had turned so he could see his son.
"It will not be necessary," he said quietly, now looking at Claudius Marcus. "Someone Else will do it for me."
"What?" Marcus shouted and turned. "Run a commercial!" he screamed. "Guards--lock the doors and search the studio! He's expecting help!" He whirled back on Kirk. "It won't work! No one can get in--I've set up a sonic barrier to your transporter--"
"That wasn't necessary, Marcus. I've told you--there's no Starship up there. I came alone. No--our Help will come from another direction. I'm sorry to spoil your--show, Marcus. I know it means a lot to you." He smiled again--the same quiet smile he'd had ever since the guards had come for him--except for when he'd watched Drusilla die.
"We'll see how long you smile, Kirk!" Marcus snarled then strode back to his "spot" on the stage. The lights came on and he turned to the cameras.
"Now!" he said excitedly. "Let us proceed!" He raised and lowered his hand in signal.
Trumpets blared. Lights came on behind the cage--revealing still another cage. A man on top of it bent down and pulled up a sliding gate. Through the opening bounded a great, lion-like cat--an immense feline, easily twelve feet long from whiskers to tail.
It stopped, just inside the back gate, and looked around.
A guard behind James Kirk suddenly moved up and gave him a push, which sent him staggering up against the bars of the cage--just above where the child sat.
The movement caught the attention of the cat and it crouched. It opened its huge fang-lined mouth and roared, then it began a slow, but steady stalk across the cage towards its prey, the little child sitting just beyond Kirk's reach. A camera was quickly moved to a position across from Kirk, to record his expression, and a microphone dropped down to pick up any sound.
Kirk dropped to his knees against the bars. The great cat moved closer to the child. Kirk bowed his head--the cameras showed his lips moving silently.
"He's praying!" Marcus shouted gleefully. "Now you will all see the futility of your Son worship!"
The cat drew closer, slinking along on its belly, closer - closer. The child saw it--and laughed! A gurgle of baby laughter issued from his tiny mouth, and he put out his little hands toward the huge animal.
The great beast stopped in its tracks--then raised its massive head and rubbed it gently against the little hands!
A concerted gasp went up from the men in the studio--guards, camera and sound men, technicians of all kinds. No one moved, except the little boy. He reached up, buried his hands in the long fur of the cat's mane, and pulled himself to his feet beside the creature's head. He gurgled and cooed, and patted at the animal's face. A low rumble began, grew louder; the cat sighed, stretched out, and lay down--purring loudly.
For a few seconds, no one moved.
"Kill him! Kill them both!" Marcus shrieked at last.
James Kirk stood up. He walked slowly to where the Proconsul stood and took hold of the man's arm. With a sudden motion, he twisted the now terrified man's arm behind him and forced him to his knees.
"Guards! Kill him--help me!" Marcus cried.
"No, Marcus--they will not kill me. They will not help you. You are--finished. Your cruel, despotic reign of terror is over. Listen--"
A loud hammering was sounding on the doors of the studio. Suddenly they burst open and a crowd of people surged in. The guards in the studio dropped their guns and raised their hands above their heads.
"Keep the cameras operating!" a voice from the darkness behind the cameras ordered.
James Kirk turned toward the voice.
"Theo!" he called. "Come up here, please." He still held the arm of the quivering Marcus, but now he changed his grip and pulled the Proconsul to his feet. "Stand up, Marcus, and meet the man who has brought about your downfall!"
Claudius Marcus shrank away from the approaching ex-slave, but Kirk held him firmly by the arm as he taunted: "Come, Marcus. This is still your 'Special.' Don't run out on your audience."
"Wh-what are you - going to do?" Marcus was trembling with fear and had turned deathly pale. He looked frantically about--from Kirk to the giant ex-slave.
"Why--nothing, Marcus," Theo said quietly. "We do not have to. You have already done it--to yourself!"
"What do you mean?" Marcus gasped.
"You have damned yourself to eternal punishment--by your actions, your thoughts, your lusts and cruelties--- But you can still save yourself, Claudius." Theo's voice softened; he almost seemed to be pleading. "If you will only repent and turn to The Son--"
"Rubbish!" Marcus blustered, regaining a little of his composure. "That's all nonsense!"
"Is it, Claudius Marcus? Can you be sure? Theo's quiet voice asked. A microphone had been lowered to catch his words, and the cameras were now focused on the three men. The crowd that had entered through the great doors was silent--standing behind the cameras--listening. The guards had lowered their arms and, since no one seemed interested in them, they too stood listening, their discarded weapons forgotten on the floor.
Marcus looked around--licked his suddenly dry lips nervously. The only sound to be heard was the low, rumbling purr of the great cat. It lay majestically half upright--its great legs extended before it, its head raised. Curled up now between its massive paws was the little child. One of the cameras was kept trained on the animal and the baby, who had put his thumb into his mouth again, had leaned back against the chest of the beast, and appeared to be falling asleep. The engineer, quick to see a vivid contrast, kept switching back and forth between, the child and the shot of the frightened Marcus. The contrast was devastating!
Marcus finally broke. He backed away from center stage. Kirk released his hold on his arm, and Marcus retreated further--his eyes wild and full of panic.
"You won't get away with this! The Imperial Guard will--"
"...do nothing, Marcus," Theo said. "They are deserting the Emperor and you by the thousands! The Empire is falling. The people have had enough. Already, they have opened the slave-pens, and the gladiator stockades. No one will help you. No one, except--," Theo's voice had been rising, so that his words would carry to the retreating man. Marcus paused--back pressed against one of the painted flats--he seemed to be spread against the distant sky.
"'Except' --who?" he croaked. Theo turned.
"You, James Kirk. You are the wronged one. This man--Claudius Marcus--has brought this about. The decision is yours--whatever you decide will be done!"
Theo's words echoed through the silent studio. James Kirk didn't move. He seemed to be lost in thought. He stood looking through the bars of the cage that held his son--sleeping now, cradled between the paws of the great cat.
"James?" Theo said.
Kirk roused--looked up at Theo--then back to Marcus. He began to speak, softly--a camera moved in for a tight close-up: "If I had had to make this decision just four hours ago, I would have said, 'Let me kill him with my bare hands!' -- and I would have done so, gladly.
"But, that was four hours ago before--Something happened to me. I cannot explain it. Some may call what has happened--will call what has happened--what is happening now--," he gestured toward the sleeping child, and the camera followed his hand. "They will call that--a miracle. I believe it is. You may call it what you will.
"Because of that miracle, I cannot wish the death of this - miserable man. My son--" he stumbled slightly over the word, "would not desire his death. Marcus." Kirk turned to where the Proconsul still stood spread-eagled against the painted sky. "We, my son and I, forgive you for what you attempted to do. You are free to go--and may The Son have mercy upon you."
For a moment, Marcus stood without moving. Then, as James Kirk's words penetrated his fear-filled mind, he scuttled away.
The engineer in the booth couldn't resist. His finger hit the laugh track button and a burst of raucous laughter followed the scurrying figure, then quickly died away.
Under the laughter Theo said very quietly to Kirk: "He won't get far. The slaves and gladiators who are not Believers will find him soon enough."
Theo glanced at the cage containing the cat and the child. "What about the child, James? Will the beast give him up?"
"Yes--to you, Theo," Kirk said.
"Why to me? Why not to you?"
"I have - no right. I'm not--" for the first time since leaving his cell, James Kirk faltered. He swayed, began to tremble. Theo reached out and grasped his shoulders.
"James. James! What is wrong?" he asked anxiously.
James Kirk turned anguished eyes toward the giant ex-slave. "I don't know, Theo--," he whispered. "Make them turn off the cameras before I--" He stopped and turned away.
Theo looked at the cameras and spoke quietly: "Peace to you all. Seek ye The Son," then he signaled the director to close the program.
The lights in the studio dimmed. People began to mill around, talking quietly--guards and cameramen, people from the street.
Kirk stood against the bars of the cage, looking in at the sleeping child. A low rumble sounded in the cat's throat--not a purr this time--something else. Its yellow eyes gleamed in the dimmer light.
"Theo!" Kirk whispered again--urgently. "Get the child out of there!"
"I don't know but--somehow, I think if you go in, you'll not be harmed!"
"If you say so, James," and Theo opened the gate leading into the cage.
The cat didn't turn to look at Theo, it just continued to glare at James Kirk. Even when Theo leaned over and lifted the sleeping baby from between its paws, it didn't move. But--the second the gate clanged shut behind Theo, the beast charged Kirk! It slammed against the bars of the cage, rattling the whole structure, while roar after roar issued from its throat.
Kirk turned his back and walked away towards a darkened corner of the studio.
It took the combined efforts of four handlers to get the enraged beast back into its traveling cage.
Meanwhile, Theo had carried the child across the studio floor to where Kirk was standing. "Here is your son, James," he said, holding the baby out to him.
"No - no, I cannot," Kirk said brokenly. "I don't deserve--"
"Take him, James! What you have done today erases any guilt or blame you may have had."
James Kirk reached out and took his son in his arms, held him closely. The little boy had awakened now. He snuggled against Kirk's chest, and began to play with the end of one of the broken thongs on his jerkin, cooing softly to himself. James Kirk bent his head and pressed his cheek against the tiny head. His son--his own son. A thought struck him--he didn't know his own son's name!
"Theo--what is the child called?" he asked, looking across the curly head to the child's grandfather.
"Drusilla named him Jaeo--part your name, part mine, James. I do not know how he is listed in the official records."
"Jaeo," Kirk repeated. "Yes--that is his name--it fits him," he sighed--then straightened. "Theo, what now? he asked. "I don't know how I knew the Empire was falling, but I knew--as I seemed to know so many things. . .but now--it is gone."
"What is gone, James?" Theo asked gently.
"The - the knowing. I could see in my mind--that Marcus would fail; that I would not die; that the child--that Jaeo would be safe. I can't explain--now I only know I'm standing here--my son in my arms--talking to you. I don't know more than that, about what is to be."
"James--tell me. Did you ask The Son for help?"
"Yes, back in the cell."
"And? Did you believe He would help you?"
"What do you believe now, James?"
"I - I don't know. He must have--Someone must have helped. I did--nothing."
"You believed, James?"
"I believed then--I still believe--" he hesitated. "I do believe, Theo--but Something. . .a Presence-- That is gone. I cannot explain--but now - now I'm - I'm alone and--" He was stopped by a sound--a hum, that grew and grew--a light and sparkle that began, built--a sound and light that James Kirk had never again expected to hear or see--the transporter beam!
He turned toward the stage setting in time to see three forms solidify--the Vulcan, Spock; Doctor Leonard McCoy; and Commodore Josť Mendez--James T. Kirk's three closest friends in all the galaxy!
"Oh no!" he breathed. "No! Not them!"
"Jim! Jim Kirk--where are you?" he heard McCoy shout.
"Theo--take the child," he thrust Jaeo into his grandfather's arms and walked out into the brighter part of the studio.
"Here I am, McCoy," he said, moving out of the shadows toward the three Starfleet officers.
"Jim! Thank Goodness you're safe!" McCoy cried, running forward to meet him.
"No, Bones," Kirk said quietly. "Thank The Son."
Two weeks had passed since Spock, Mendez, and McCoy had found James Kirk standing on the stage set of an old Roman arena. The same four men now sat around a table in Commodore Mendez's quarters on Star Base Eleven, a place far removed from Planet 892-Four.
McCoy was speaking--he had been for some time. "...and that I'll never understand, Jim!" he finished.
Kirk sighed and drank deeply from the glass he held in his hand, then he said: "I've told you why--so many times, Bones. If you can't understand, I'm sorry."
"It is Doctor McCoy's softhearted, illogical mind that prevents him from understanding, Captain," Spock said smoothly.
"Dammit, Spock! There's nothing softhearted nor illogical about not understanding why Jim didn't bring his son back from that planet! Anyway--what would you know about it, you cold-blooded Vulcan?"
"Doctor McCoy--my blood is not cold. You know--"
"Yeah--I know! Your body temperature's--oh, Hell! That's not the point! The point is--"
"Bones," Kirk broke in. "The point is--my son Jaeo belongs on Planet 892-Four. It's his home. No--let me finish, please, Bones. Let me try once more to make you understand.
"You know what happened there--the Empire has collapsed. The people need something--someone to rally around. Jaeo is the--symbol of their new way of life. They need him. He's cared for, loved, and respected by all--he'll never want for anything--"
"Except his father's love!" McCoy broke in hotly.
"Bones - Bones, please don't make this any harder! He has Theo and the others, and--maybe someday, who knows? Maybe someday I can--" Kirk didn't finish--just sat and stared into his glass.
"McCoy," Mendez broke in. "I'll never forget your face when you saw Jim standing there on that stage. Lord! He was a mess!" Mendez laughed and McCoy, after flashing a look at him, joined in. He realized he'd pushed at Kirk long enough.
"Yeah! It took a whole day just to get that mud off him! I think Nurse Chapel's still trying to get the dirt off the examining table. Talk about faces, remember hers when Jim walked in?" He chuckled at the memory: Christine had had her back to the door when they'd entered, and when Kirk had said "Hello, Nurse Chapel," she'd turned around, taken one look at him, and had screamed! Not a loud scream--more of a yelp--one that McCoy was going to enjoy teasing her about for a long time to come.
Kirk smiled too then turned to Spock. "I still don't understand how you talked Jose', here, into coming with you, Spock. I should've known you'd show up, and Bones--but Josť--!"
"Captain, he insisted upon accompanying us--once we had told him what had happened."
"That's right, Jim!" contributed Mendez. "After all, one of my most valuable starship Captains was A.W.O.L., and I had to get him back! The fact that he brought a new, valuable planet into the Federation with him when he returned sorta cancelled out the short--delay in his return."
Mendez suddenly slapped his side. "That reminds me!" He reached under his jacket and took out an envelope, which he handed to Kirk.
"Your back pay, Jim. Took a little fast talking to get the Paymaster to give it to me, but I thought you'd need it--"
"Oh, Lord!" Kirk sat bolt upright in his chair. "What is it, Jim?" McCoy asked.
"The scout ship! I forgot all about it. It's still sitting there on 892-Four! I've got a lot of money tied up in that ship!"
McCoy and Mendez broke into a roar of laughter. Even Spock's face registered amusement.
"Didn't we tell you, Jim?" McCoy laughed. "'Frank Fisher's' scout ship was back on the Enterprise before you were! Where do you suppose he wants it delivered? Jim - Jim, you'd never make a successful spy. You left a trail a blind man could have followed! My advice to you is to try to stick to what you know--what you are--Captain of the USS Enterprise!"
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