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Personal Log, James T. Kirk, Stardate 15103.8

In ten standard minutes, I am scheduled to begin my watch on the bridge of the Enterprise. Another day, with all the decisions and problems, duties, frustrations, its little sorrows--and its little joys. There is a certain amount of routine associated with the life of a starship commander. Today, however, is far from routine. Today is James T. Kirk's last day as commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise. On this day, the saddest day of my life, I have reached mandatory retirement age. Today, I am eighty-five years old.

Admiral James T. Kirk, captain of the Enterprise, Fleet Captain of Starfleet Command, snapped off the record button on his command console. He ran a hand through his mane of silvery hair. The years had been kind to him, for despite the bone-crushing pressures of command, the loneliness, the devastating personal losses he had suffered, he looked thirty tears younger than his eighty-five. Indeed, he was in top physical condition. Many of the younger crewmembers marveled at his strength and stamina.

Now his time was up.

Funny, he didn't feel any older than he had the day before. But the bureaucrats at Starfleet had decided long ago that a man his age was too old to be a line commander. Maybe this was true for most men, but not for James T. Kirk. He wasn't washed up, wasn't over the hill. True, he wasn't the man he used to be, even though he was a remarkable specimen. He was slower, less agile, more prone to injury. His mind, his intellect, his ability to command, however, were as sharp as the day he first boarded the Enterprise. You can't arbitrarily cut off a man's entire life because of age, he thought. You might as well cut off his head.

Kirk sighed audibly. All this mental anguish would do him no good. The decision had been made, and it was out of his hands. There was nothing he could do about it; he would have to accept it, and live with it, or spend the rest of his life tormenting himself. It was an unpleasant experience, being put out to pasture.

His eyes swept the expanse of the bridge. In a few minutes, the first shift personnel would report to stations, relieving the third shift, and the Enterprise would cruise at warp speed to Starfleet Headquarters and the gala retirement ceremonies that awaited Kirk there.

Except when that time came, the retiree would rather not be in attendance, thank you. A host of memories came flooding back to him, some pleasant, some joyous, some downright painful. He had spent more than half his life as the captain of this vessel. Some of the toughest decisions a man would ever face had been made right here in this command console, decisions affecting the fate of an entire galaxy. It had been a vastly rewarding, satisfying experience, albeit a lonely one. He never had the time to look after his personal life. He was too busy watching out for 430 other lives. He had never taken a wife or started a family, for he was married to his ship just as surely as if she were a flesh and blood woman. And their children were his crew...

But that would all change now. Soon he would be free of all burdens and responsibilities, free to pursue his own life.

Free--to do what?

The turbolift doors hissed open behind him. Kirk started, jolted from his morose reverie. He swiveled his chair toward the science station, knowing full well that the early bird could only be Spock, padding silently, catlike, to his post. Spock, the Vulcan enigma, his dear friend and first officer. The finest (and as commodore, highest-ranking) science officer in Starfleet.

Here is an amazing man, Kirk mused. The Vulcan was brilliant, a genius, one of the finest scientific minds in the galaxy. He could have had a ship of his own, any ship in Starfleet. And yet out of his loyalty and friendship to his Human captain, he remained on the Enterprise as her first officer.

"Good morning, Admiral," came Spock's greeting.

"Mister Spock, how are you?" He watched as the Vulcan calibrated his instruments in the semi-darkness, straightening when he was satisfied with their readings. Spock had served with him throughout most of his career in Starfleet. And yet, he looked little different from the way he did when Kirk convened his first staff meeting as the captain of the Enterprise. Because the Vulcan life span was more than twice that of a Human, Spock aged the equivalent of a few Terran years as his commander passed from young manhood into old age.

Kirk stood and stretched, closing his eyes. He was surprised to find Spock at his side. So quietly had his first officer moved, he might have been a ghost.

"Captain, a word with you." The Vulcan was using such a soft voice that only Kirk could hear him.

"Go ahead, Spock," Kirk replied in the same voice. The admiral grinned fondly at the Vulcan's formal bearing, his 'at attention' stance with hands clasped behind his back. He looked somewhat ill at ease as he cleared his throat.

"First of all, sir, I will refrain from wishing you a 'happy birthday,' as I realize today is anything but happy for you. I myself deeply regret that you will no longer command Enterprise." He paused, and Kirk caught a fleeting glimpse of something deep in his dark, steady eyes. But it only lingered a second or two. "May I say, Captain, that it has been both a pleasure and an honor to serve with you. Indeed, being your first officer has been the greatest privilege of my life."

He raised his right hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Jim."

Kirk lifted his shaking hand in return, but he did not trust his voice enough to speak. Then his already tightly-strung emotions nearly snapped. Spock gripped his hand in a firm, friendly handshake.

And with that, the Vulcan strode back to his station as if he had merely been reporting energy consumption statistics.

A trembling Kirk sat down abruptly at his console and glanced around the bridge. The third shift crew had been diligently monitoring their stations rather than paying attention to a private conversation. He gazed in the general direction of the holographic main viewing screen, but his eyes were too moist to see anything. Spock--a Vulcan shaking hands with a Human. That was tantamount to a slap on the back among Terrans. It would be his simply, direct way of saying "Thank you, and good luck." There would be plenty of time for good-byes at the retirement party, but his science officer wished to say his piece, and Kirk was deeply moved.

The first shift bridge crew came filtering in a few moments later. Kirk hastily composed himself for "good mornings" from the first shift coming on duty and from the third shift going off duty.

He took stock of the first shift bridge crew. They were a good group, young and competent. Starfleet's finest. Lieutenant Jerrod, communications officer. Lieutenant Commander Senderhaal, Chief Engineer, a Human from Asimov, one of the Martian colonies. Ensign Sirkal, his Andorian navigator. And Lieutenant Krisene, the helm and gunnery officer, a fiery Klingon woman.

He and Spock had been instrumental, in their own small way, in arranging the Federation-Klingon Alliance some years ago. Now there were Klingon personnel serving on several starships, and Starfleet officers on Klingon cruisers. And while tensions and tempers still flared on occasion, things had gone rather smoothly.

Senderhaal moved to his console. "Engineering reports are ready, sir."

"On course for Starfleet Headquarters," reported Spock.

"Our present speed is Warp Factor Nine."

Kirk acknowledged his officers with a nod. He then closed his eyes and leaned back, hoping for a quiet, uneventful trip.

He should have known better.

They were about a half-hour's cruising time from Earth when Jerrod's agitated voice cut through his catnap.

"Admiral! I'm picking up a Priority One distress call from the U.S.S. Procyon! She's under attack, sir!"

Kirk whirled, startled. "By whom? Have they identified the aggressors?"

"No, sir," The communications officer's face sudenly darkened. "They've been cut off, sir. All channels are dead."

Kirk sat back, stunned. There had not been a major space battle since the Federation-Klingon Alliance. The Romulans? Not likely; this was too far from their sphere of influence, almost at Starfleet's doorsteps. Who then? Who would have the audacity to penetrate this far into peaceful territory on a mission of war?


We will arrive in the vicinity of the Procyon in five point three standard minutes at Warp Fifteen, Admiral," the Vulcan replied to the unanswered question.

Too long, thought Kirk, but what choice do I have?

"Sirkal, go to Red Alert. Lay in a course at Emergency Warp," he snapped. "Lieutenant Jerrod, inform Starfleet that we'll be slightly delayed. Krisene, arm phasers and photon torpedoes. I don't know what we'll find when we get there, but we'll be ready!"

All through the gigantic ship, personnel scurried to battle stations, accompanied by the teeth-rattling screech of the alert klaxon. And on the bridge, a frustrated Kirk could only sit and pound fist into palm as the minutes dragged on. Even at the unfathomable speed of Warp Factor Fifteen, they might be too late.

"There she is, sir."

It was too quiet. No enemy ships, no explosions or debris. Just the ominous picture of the Procyon on the main viewscreen, a Constitution-class starship like the Enterprise, one of the most powerful vessels in the galaxy. Only the Procyon hung dead in space, listing drunkenly to starboard. She displayed no signs of damage, yet neither did she show any signs of life. The heavy cruiser was completely dark; even her running lights were extinguished.

"Spock, what happened to her?"

"Unknown, Admiral." The Vulcan looked up, frowning. "There are no energy readings of any kind. All crewmembers to the last man and woman are dead, all the ship's systems totally inoperative. Yet there are no signs of violence, no clue as to what could cause this destruction on such a massive scale."

Kirk stared in horror. "All dead? And we don't know what killed them?"

"This is most peculiar," Spock continued. "Those crewmembers could not have died more than a few moments ago, yet there is no chemical breakdown evident in the bodies, no energy readings whatsoever. The matter-antimatter nacelles are totally inert. Admiral, a state of entropy exists, as if every last erg of energy has been drained out of the ship and its occupants."

"Captain! Three targets coming in, straight for us!" chimed Sirkal. :"Bearing zero-zero-zero mark zero-zero-zero."

"Phaser crews, standby!" barked Kirk. "It looks as though we're about to find out the cause of the Procyon's destruction! Deflectors on maximum!"

"Admiral, I have identified the alien vessels," Spock said. "They are Gorn raiders, equipped with standard phasers and engines." He looked up again, puzzlement showing on his face. "Sensors indicate no mysterious weaponry capable--"

The Enterprise rocked violently as the three smaller ships fired their phasers in unison. Battle had been joined.

Kirk watched the viewscreen intently. They were about the size of a small Federation scout ship, their shape similar to a stylized manta ray, a Terran sea creature. Each ship peeled off in a different direction.

"They're trying to divert attention and send one of them in to blindside us!" Kirk exclaimed. "Krisene, full spread of photon torpedoes, one hundred-eighty degrees dispersion!"

The Klingon woman's strong but delicate-looking hands flew over her fire and control panel. A feral grin lit her face; Klingons were born to combat, and Krisene reveled in the excitement of the moment. The Enterprise bucked as her full complement of photon torpedoes were launched.

Split seconds later, the viewscreen lit up with doomsday hellfire as the awesome missiles found their marks. A blood-curdling howl rent the air on the starship's bridge, and it took a startled Kirk some time to recognize the savage Klingon victory cry that had burst from Krisene's lips.

"Got all three of them, sir!" she crowed. "Dead-on!"

"Admiral! Another ship coming up on starboard at..." Ensign Sirkal hesitated, astonished. "At Warp Thirty, sir!"

Kirk caught a glimpse of an ungainly, inelegant bulbous shape about the size of a Saladin-class destroyer before all hell broke loose. The larger ship emitted an energy beam that vaguely resembled a scarlet bolt of lightning. It enveloped the Enterprise, and everything went dark.

"Admiral!" Spock shouted. "We are in the grip of an energy damping field of some kind. All systems are totally down; we are at power zero!"

"We're completely helpless, sir!" Senderhaal put in.

It was then that Kirk began to feel it, the sudden and rapid ebbing of strength, as though his very lifeblood were being drained from him. He tried to rise from his chair, but found that he couldn't.

"Jim!" It was Spock, but his voice was labored. "Th-the alien's sapping the energy from our bodies also. C-can do nothing. We'll be dead in minutes..."

There was a heavy thud as the Vulcan slumped to the deck. Kirk tried to call out for him, but found that he no longer had the strength even to speak.

So this is how it ends,, he thought. It was ironic, in a way. After surviving almost a half-century of the most terrifying menaces in the galaxy, he was ambushed on the way to his own retirement ceremonies! At least he would die in space. His only regret was that he couldn't say goodbye to Spock, his lifelong, loyal friend.

It was not unpleasant, he decided. Sinking into a dark, airy abyss that seemed to be lined with soft cotton and downy pillows. It was easy to just let yourself go and slip on down, down...

Abruptly, the lights came back on, and a lethargic Kirk found himself staring at the dying embers of an explosion on the main screen. Kirk heard a muffled exclamation from Spock as the science officer got back up on his feet.

"Spock, what's going on?"

"Scanning now, Captain," the Vulcan reported. "Apparently, the enemy vessel has been destroyed. Picking up a..."

A Klingon heavy cruiser swam into the field.

"That, Captain," Spock finished.

"Sir, the captain of the Klingon ship is hailing us," Jerrod reported.

"Put him on , Lieutenant," Kirk said.

The white-haired satanic features of a grizzled old combat veteran came into focus. His seamed, leathery face was stretched in a broad grin. "You should be more careful where you pick your fights, Jim, my friend."

"Admiral Kor!"

Kor the Klingon! The nemesis of his younger days, and, since the Alliance, one of his staunchest friends.

"Apparently, the Gorn ship had to use all of its power to maintain the damper field effect," Kor explained. "We had no trouble annihilating them. It's lucky for you that we also picked up the Procyon's distress signal. A few more minutes..."

"We're very grateful, Kor."

"Now we must be returning to our patrol. I'll be at your party later this evening, Jim," the Klingon said. His face fell. "I don't envy you one bit. It won't be too long before I'll be forced to take that road myself. Anyway for now, take care of yourself so you can collect your pension! You deserve it."

"Thanks, Kor," Kirk said softly.

Kor's image winked out, to be once again replaced by the battlecruiser. The ship began to pull away, waggling its aft "wings" twice in salute before disappearing in the distance.

Kirk turned to Spock. "The Gorn! After all these years, they decided it was time to make their move. But the power of that ship was awesome! Warp Thirty! And the energy damper weaponry! Collate all your sensor tapes, Spock. I want to be armed with all possible information before we go out on our next mission."


Kirk suddenly realized that he would not be going out on the next mission. He settled back resignedly in his console for the rest of the trip.

It wasn't long before Earth and Luna began to resolve themselves at extreme magnification. Soon the majestic expanse of Starfleet Headquarters would come up on the screen, and that would be it--the final cruise of Admiral James T. Kirk.

"Captain, there is a Federation starship vectoring our course to headquarters," Jerrod reported, a conspiratorial grin crinkling at the corners of his mouth. "It's the U.S.S. Tolstoy, sir, and her captain wishes to speak with you."

Kirk's jaw dropped. "The Tolstoy! But that's--"

"Commodore Pavel Andreivich Chekov, commander of the U.S.S. Tolstoy, extending greetings to Admiral Kirk. Congratulations, sir!" said the voice from the screen.

Even in his early seventies, Pavel Chekov had retained his cherubic, innocent, good looks. His hair was graying, and there were some wrinkles and a bit of extra padding, but there was still a hint of boyish michievousness on his round, smiling face.


"Yes, sir. I vwas on my vway in for your ceremony, and I picked up a few friends."

The viewscreen pulled back for a wide-angle shot of the group gathered around Chekov on his bridge. Uhura, captain of the U.S.S. Lexington, her classic loveliness undimmed by time. Captain Sulu of the U.S.S. Rolf, balding and white haired, but as trim as ever. And to Chekov's right, two of Kirk's oldest and dearest friends, a pair of septuagenarians in civilian clothes.

"Bones! Scotty!" Somehow Kirk found his voice. "Uhura and Sulu! Pavel, how--"

"Vwell, sir, I just thought you might like a little surprise for your party. Your communications officer, Lieutenant Jerrod, was a big help. He kept any of the news from leaking through to you."

"And it's gonna be one hell of a party before we get through, Jim boy!" McCoy cackled. "I got word that Doctor Christine Chapel is already at Starfleet H.Q. The whole gang from the old days'll be there!"

"Aye, Captain, it'll be just like old times!" Scotty put in.

Chekov came back on. "Vwe're going into our approach now, Jim. Vwe'll all see you in a little while!"

As the screen faded black into starfield, Jerrod spoke again. "Starfleet is transmitting our docking coordinates, sir."

"Acknowledged, Lieutenant," Kirk answered. He caught the young man's eye. "And thanks, Paul."

Jerrod blushed and turned back to his console.

It ended quickly; the Enterprise docked smoothly and effortlessly. For James T. Kirk, it was the finale to a long and illustrious career in space. There was nothing to do now but go to his cabin, clean up and prepare for ceremonies. And start moving out all of his carefully-packed personal effects.

Personal effects. That smacked too much of a funeral rather than a retirement party. Personal belongings might be a better choice.

Kirk rose from the command chair. "Mister Spock, if you please." He froze suddenly as it finally hit him. This was the last time he would ever stand on the bridge of the Enterprise. He couldn't move. He looked around, his gaze lingering on each station and crewmember. Finally, he signed and straightened up.

"Thank you, all of you," he said. That was all.

He could feel the emotion rising in him during the interminably long turbolift ride. "Maybe the Gorn will decide not to attack for awhile when their ships fail to return," he said to Spock, trying to make idle conversation.

"Indeed. It may give the Federation and Starfleet ample time to prepare effective countermeasures."

The turbolift stopped, its doors hissing open.

Kirk found the walk down the corridor to his quarters even more painful. Crewmembers stopped to wish him well. Congratulations and salutes bombarded him from all sides. He was finding it harder and harder to maintain his composure.

At last they had reached his cabin. Spock gripped his shoulder reassuringly, then wordlessly strode to his own quarters in the adjoining room. Kirk managed somehow to get inside before he lost it altogether.

James Kirk was finally alone, out of sight of everyone else. He sat on his bunk and buried his head in his hands, sobbing quietly as the tears flowed freely down his cheeks.


"He's been like that for almost ten minutes now, sir."

An anxious Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant Sulu peered through the darkness into the shallow pit below. Spock gripped the railing tightly and leaned further out, using his superior night vision to get a closer look at the captain.

Ten minutes ago, an entranced James Kirk had sat on the ground and buried his head in his hands, sobbing quietly as the tears flowed freely down his cheeks. A large stone almost in the center of the pit glowed eerily, its baleful radiation bathing the Human in its ominous light.

The Enterprise had been dispatched to the newly-discovered, dilithium-rich planet Laruian III, which lay very close to the Federation-Klingon border. Their task was to establish diplomatic relations with the super-intelligent feline race native to the planet and try to persuade them to join the Federation. And they were well aware that it was a race against time. When a Starfleet probe had discovered Laruian, the Klingons had also become aware of its existence and begun making overtures to the M'kzar, the governing body.

The Laruians were nocturnal creatures; Lord T'gyr, Prefect of the M'kzar, was ideally quipped to see in the dark. Dressed in a long white robe trimmed in gold, the furry biped looked for all the universe like an extremely large tabby house cat that could stand erect. His fur ranged in color from buff through light and dark brown. His body was criss-crossed with striking black stripes; the coal black tip of his tail contrasted with his pure white muzzle and salmon-pink nose. He stood a little over a meter tall. His large, bat-like ears and crest of fur atop his skull were the only characteristics that could truly be called alien.

His great golden eyes radiated intelligence and wisdom as he turned his somber gaze on Spock. "Commander, I am truly sorry for this misfortune. Captain Kirk is under the influence of the m'sa-thak, or, as one of your probe scouts poetically dubbed it, the Lotus Stone. It is a strange mineral unearthed by an archaeological team eons ago. Apparently it is the remains of a meteor fragment that crashed here in the Dim Ages before intelligent beings walked our planet."

"But what is it doing to the Captain?" Sulu asked.

T'gyr signed. "The m'sa-thak apparently came here from a different universe altogether. When a sentient being falls under its effect, the stone warps the time lines of that being's life, totally within his own mind, of course. But that person experiences events of his own past or events of his possible future. It is as though these events, past or possible future, were actually consciously occurring. Captain Kirk is, for all intents and purposes, not here at all. He is living in the time he is experiencing in his own mind."

"If only the Enterprise were here," Chekov said.

"Indeed," Spock rejoined. "It would be possible to beam the captain up and away from its influence."

But the great starship had been called away by a Class One distress call for the U.S.S. Kansas, a Federation ore freighter. And Spock's own attempt to rescue Kirk had almost ended in disaster.

They had tied a line around the Vulcan's waist, and he had entered the pit, hoping that the tremendous mental disciplines of his powerful mind would shield him from the m'sa-thak's effects long enough to rescue Kirk. He almost succeeded. But in the end, the radiation's were too powerful; just before he reached the captain, Spock found himself back on Vulcan as a small child, surrounded by unthinkingly cruel playmates who were ridiculing him for his displays of emotion.

It was everything Chekov and Sulu could do to haul him back.

Now Spock turned back to the Laruian ruler. "Lord T'gyr, why have you not destroyed the fragment?"

The feline laughed softly. "Mister Spock, that rock has a hardness thirty times that of duratronium. A field phaser has absolutely no effect on it. This pit is too close to inhabited areas to try to blasting it underground, and work crews cannot get close enough to it to bury it for fear of being trapped."

He looked at the Vulcan, his expression grave. "I'm not sure if you realize the full implications of this, gentlemen. A person who is exposed to the m'sa-thak for an extended period of time goes hopelessly insane. And there is an additional danger." He turned back to gaze into the pit. "Captain Kirk is living in another period of his life. If he is in a possible future and encounters the time of his own death in that future, then he will surely die, only he will die now! In this case, the timelines of all your lives could be drastically affected."

The Starfleet officers looked at each other, stunned. They were only too aware of what occurred when timelines were altered, as the Enterprise's experiences with the Guardian of Forever bore witness.

"Then we must make all attempts to extricate him at once," Spock said.

"No, Vulcan, you will do no such thing."

The voice came from behind them, and they whirled to face a dozen armed Klingon warriors, their disruptor pistols aimed with deadly accuracy. Their leader, who wore the insignia of a full commander, stepped forward. His cruel, deadly smile was laced with triumph.

"I am Commander Kregar of the Klingon Imperial Fleet. You, of course, are prisoners of the Klingon Empire." He laughed harshly. "We overheard the misfortune that has befallen your beloved Captain Kirk. It couldn't have happened to a more deserving Earther!"

The Klingon commander faced T'gyr. "And you, you overgrown pussycat, have one last chance to voluntary submit to Klingon rule before we take over this wretched planet! I believe we can make use of that m'sa-thak, too, as a weapon to use against these spineless Federation bloodworms."

Large, glowing eyes calmly regarded the swaggering figure. "Commander Kregar, the Laruians will never submit to your rule. We have decided to join the Federation; at least those individuals will use our dilithium for peaceful purposes."

Kregar's face suffused with blood as a white-hot fury possessed him. Then you'll die, scum, and we'll take over anyway!"

One of the soldiers suddenly lifted T'gyr off the ground, grabbing the front of the felines robe. He pointed his disruptor right in the prefect's face.

"No!" Sulu cried out as he rushed forward, but was stopped cold by a brutal stiff-armed chop across the face. He went down like a sack of sand.

The soldier holding T'gyr was momentarily distracted; this was all the Laruian needed.

A blood-curdling hiss rent the air. The feline unsheathed four-inch claws and whipped his paw down and through the Klingon's shoulder. The soldier screamed in agony and dropped T'gyr. His severed gun arm lay on the ground, still pulsing blood, still gripping the disruptor pistol in its hand.

T'gyr turned his attention tot he rest of the warriors. His eyes seemed to glow more brightly and grow larger, until they resembled twin golden moons. "Look at my eyes, all of you," the feline commanded. "You see there the most horrible things your warped, twisted minds can imagine! Fear! Utter and complete terror! You will all return to your ship and leave this planet forever!"

The Klingons' faces went chalk-white. They cowered, some of them screaming in abject terror. They rapidly backed away from T'gyr. Kregar tried to force his trembling hands to work his communicator. "Korath! Beam up the landing part, immediately! We have one casualty!"

The commander spun to face his executive officer. "I mean to have the m'sa-thak stone, Kreith. When we return to the ship, put the transporter on intraship override and beam that rock directly to the bridge where I will examine it."

The exec's comments faded out as transport dissolve engulfed them.

Spock and Chekov rushed to Sulu's aid. The helmsman groaned and sat up. There was a dark, ugly bruise on his left cheekbone, but other than that, he was little the worse for wear.

T'gyr bent solicitously, extending a paw to help Sulu up. "Mister Sulu, I am quite capable of defending myself, as you are now well aware. There was no need to endanger your person."

"I'll remember that in the future," Sulu said ruefully, trying to shake the cobwebs out of his head.

"We are still faced with the problem of rescuing the captain," Spock pointed out.

"Meester Spock! In the pit! Look!" Chekov shouted.

They turned.

The m'sa-thak stone shimmered and faded as the Klingon ship's transporters went into operation. Kirk stopped sobbing and looked up, a blank, dazed expression on his face.

"Mister Spock, is it too late?" Sulu queried.

"I do not know, Mister Sulu. We'll have to discover that for ourselves." The Vulcan looked quizzically at Lord T'gyr.

"Yes, gentlemen, it is now safe to enter the pit," the prefect said. "Apparently the Klingons' greed was too much for them. They must hope to turn the m'sa-thak into some type of super weapon, for all the good it will do them. I suggest that we see to Captain Kirk."

They cleared the railing and rushed to the center of the depression. Kirk still wore the same dead, empty expression. Spock gripped the captain's shoulder and gently shook him. "Jim?"

Kirk looked up. Slowly, the clouds in his eyes dissipated, and recognition dawned in them. "S-Spock? What the hell's going on here? The last thing I remember is being pushed into the pit by a couple of Klingon goons, and then--" He stopped. "I-I can't remember after that. I think I was having a very strange dream."

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.

"Captain, it is a very long story," Spock said "and I believe that Lord T'gyr can explain it to you with a bit more facility than I could."


...and the Enterprise returned to the Laruian system after being lured away by a false, Klingon-planted distress call, Chief Engineer Scott tracked a Klingon D-7 battlecruiser following an erratic course. This same ship, apparently Commander Kregar's cruiser, eventually plunged into the system's sun. This disaster was undoubtedly caused by the Klingons' beaming aboard the m'sa-thak stone, the radiation of which I was subjected to after a Klingon ambush.

Kirk snapped off the log recorder, grimly contemplating the Klingons' fate. It was amazing, the things intelligent beings would do out of greed. He tried to put it out of his mind.

The captain sighed contentedly, his gaze sweeping the bridge. It was good to be back here where he belonged. He turned to Spock, who had come over to stand by the command console.

"Think of it, Spock! To be able to see into one of your own possible futures, or to go back and relive your past! And I can't remember any of it! Although from what you told me of my reaction, I don't think I'd want to remember!"

"Indeed, Captain," Spock rejoined. "I can recall my experiences under the influence of the m'sa-thak, and they were most assuredly not pleasant. There are some phenomena in the universe that are best not experienced at all, if possible."

A slow grin spread across Kirk's face. "Amen to that, Spock. I'd just as soon forget the whole thing." He turned his attention to Sulu. "Ahead Warp Factor Four, helmsman. The Federation Diplomatic Outpost on Aria II is eager to welcome Lord T'gyr for swearing-in ceremonies!"

Kirk settled back in his command chair, relaxed. He hoped today would be just another routine day.

Another day, with all its decisions and problems, duties, frustrations, its little sorrows--and its little joys.

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