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Linda McInnis


In three hundred years, the coast line had not changed. The thought stunned Gillian as she meandered down the beach, though she knew it wasn't exactly true. She knew that the beach she walked on now had probably not been beach when she had last walked the shores of California. She knew that what had been bays, inlets, reefs and tidal pools were now gone, or so restructured and repositioned as to be unrecognizable.

But still. The waves crashed and sloshed around her knees with the same inexorable rhythm, the salt air tasted the same and left the same tart film on her face, and the sand was still emery-board rough under her feet. She wondered if emery boards still existed in the twenty-third century.

Gillian squinted her eyes to look beyond the low-tide waves out to the open sea beyond. They were out there. She knew it. Perhaps even now, Gracie was giving birth to a whole new generation of her kind. She caught back a sob before it could be sucked out by the brisk wind. She had lost them, even as she saved them.

Her actions had caught up with her. Now that the whales were safe, and the crisis of world destruction behind her like yesterday's news, the absolute finality of what she had done swept over her like one of the giant waves she watched far out to sea. She could never go back, and the only two things familiar to her in this whole, new, exciting, terrifying world--no, make that galaxy for God's sake!--were out there somewhere, and she would never see them, or talk to them, or be comforted by their bulky presence again.

Tears welled up and burned her eyes. Gillian shook her head, and continued her trudge along the beach. They were willing to make a place for her, these shining people of the twenty-third century. And she knew she did have a function--teaching this generation of marine biologists about humpback whales. But then what? Once they had taken her knowledge, the only thing that made her valuable, what would they do with her? What use would she be?

She thought about the remark she had made to Jim Kirk when they had last seen each other. "Three hundred years of catch-up learning," she had said. What a joke! She could never catch up. Not even if she did nothing but study the rest of her life. She would be a freak, a laughingstock, unable even to carry on an intelligent conversation with an average citizen.

Her fantasy of self-pity threatened to consume her, so Gillian forced herself to slog on through the foamy waves. As she walked, she spotted a form, far down the beach. At first, she thought it might be a piece of driftwood thrown into the sand by the force of the water, because it seemed rooted in the earth. But as she got closer, she realized it was a person. For a moment, she considered turning back and simply extending her walk, in order to avoid even the remote acknowledgement of a stranger, but she was growing tired, and her destination was ahead of her, so she went on.

As she walked closer, she was able to discern the features, and surprise grew in her as she recognized the lean face and counterpoint ears of Captain Spock. Even now, there was a brief chill, deep within her, as she realized who he was; an alien. She knew they were as common to this century as Frenchmen or Australians had been in her San Francisco, but still... she was not used to them, and the palpable difference she felt in Captain Spock was not one that his very Human appearance could overcome easily.

Gillian hoped she could walk behind him without attracting his attention, but even as she altered her path, she caught the slight movement of his head, from almost fifty meters, and knew he recognized her. So much for avoiding him. Kirk had told her about his lack of emotions, so she realized that it probably would not matter to him if she passed by without acknowledging his presence. But that would be rude in her book, and besides, he was one of the handful of people in this century that she knew.

"Doctor Taylor." Even with the sea breeze, that deep voice carried to her clearly.

"Hello, Captain Spock. How are you?" She had no idea if Vulcans exchanged pleasantries, but she did, so what the hell?

"I am well. And yourself?"

"I'm...fine." After all, it was only a pleasantry. She was sure he did not actually want to know how she was.

"Indeed." There was no change in his expression, none in his inflection, yet Gillian felt that he knew that she was not fine, and exactly why she was not. She wanted to leave, to get away from this--person who noticed too much, but something that had nagged her for weeks resurfaced.

"Captain Spock, may I ask you a question?" She felt that permission was necessary.

"Certainly, Doctor." He made her title seem so formal.

"How did you know that Gracie was pregnant? Before we left...the twentieth century?" She had almost said, "Before we left Earth," but caught herself in time.

Spock turned his dark, light-absorbing eyes to her for just a moment. She could hardly bear the honesty of that gaze. As he turned back to look once more out to sea, Gillian thought there might have been a smile on his face, but it was gone too quickly for her to be sure.

"She told me."

Gillian checked again. There was no smile. "You're joking."

"Vulcans do not joke." She could well believe that, but she couldn't believe a whale had told Spock that she was pregnant. "Captain Spock, please. I really do want to know. If it's classified information or something, just tell me what you can."

Again, Spock turned to face her, and again Gillian forced herself not to draw back. She did not want to be afraid of him; if Kirk thought highly of him, he must be trustworthy, but he was so different, imposing.

"Vulcans have certain--telepathic abilities," he said.

Had she heard this? Had they told her? She didn't think so, or surely she would have remembered. What did he mean--telepathic?

"You mean--you read her mind? Oh, my God," she breathed, as his statement took full meaning. "Then you can, are you...I mean..." And she actually did back away a step.

Spock's face became very cold. "The ability is linked to touch. That is why it was necessary for me to be in the water with--Gracie. Touch directs the focus."

His detached manner helped her regain her composure. Telepathy! That had only been a parlor game in her century, and he spoke of it as easily as saying he played the piano.

"And when you aren't touching--do you--get--anything?" Her scientist's curiosity was beginning to get the better of her nervousness. Spock let out a small sigh. Gillian realized that she might be too nosy. "Please, I don't mean to be rude, but if you communicated with Gracie, I would, that is, I need to know what it was like." She knew her voice was full of longing, but she couldn't help it. He had actually talked to Gracie! She had spent years working with the humpbacks, and had never achieved that kind of rapport. She had to know about it, even if it was only second hand.

"When I communicated with Gracie, I attempted to explain what Admiral Kirk and I were planning. That was when I became aware of the pregnancy, and her concern for it. wordless. It is a meshing of thoughts and concepts, often not fully understood until much later, when one has had a chance to analyze the experience."

"And now?"

Spock's eyebrows went up. "You will need to be more specific, Doctor."

"I mean, could you talk to her again? Would it be easier? Can you only do this with a direct touch?"

"The briefest answer to all three questions is yes, however, the emotional state of a person is always sensed, particularly if that person is in close proximity and/or feeling very strong emotions. For example, I sense you are agitated, but this would be easy to determine even without telepathy. Rest assured, Doctor, Vulcans are taught from earliest childhood not only to refrain from sending unwanted emotion, but also not to receive it from others."

Gillian felt guilty for her misgivings. "I'm sorry, Captain Spock. I don't mean to pry." She sighed, the sound lost in the wind. How could she explain this need to him? "I know George and Gracie are safe, but I feel like I've lost them, that I'll never see them or touch them again."

Again there was the brief, instantly disappearing smile. "Their names are not George and Gracie," he said.

"What are they?"

"I cannot pronounce them. But they were not averse to what you called them. As I said before, they like you very much."

Gillian fought hard to keep back the tears now. She felt it would be an imposition to inflict her emotional state on Spock. Still, she had questions.

"Can you sense them now? Or are they too far away?"

"Usually the link fades quickly once contact is broken. However, while I cannot sense clear thoughts or concepts, I am very aware of their presence. Perhaps it is because they are the only ones of their kind on the planet."

"How far?" she breathed.

Spock concentrated for a moment. Gillian felt that, although his body was still beside her, he had left her completely.

"There. South," he pointed. "Several miles out. I cannot be exact." He sounded as if that annoyed him.

An idea was forming in Gillian's head. It frightened her, excited her, and made her wonder if she were crazy, all at once. She tried to be calm as she faced Spock. "Captain Spock, would it be possible for you--I mean for me...let me start over. Could you help me communicate with them the way you did?"

"It is possible." He held up his hand as she tried to move toward him. "You are a scientist, with a trained mind. You must be aware of the dangers. You are already attuned to the whales, and your desire to communicate is very strong, perhaps too strong. Linking with another being can be...seductive, and breaking that link can be traumatic."

Gillian had already made her decision. If Jim Kirk had relied on Spock for years, then she could, too. "I don't care, Captain Spock. If you'll help me, this is something I have to do. I'll do whatever you say--please!"

Spock gave her such a look she shivered, but she met it steadily. He was no longer an alien; he was her way to George and Gracie. He nodded briefly. "Very well. I presume you can pilot a boat?"

"I took a crash course. I'll manage."


If Gillian had any doubts about the importance of who she had come to the twenty-third century with, they were quickly and absolutely dispelled by a few minutes of watching Captain Spock in action after coming back to her living quarters.

She had been given space at the Starfleet apartment-condominium complex adjacent to Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters. It was a small cubicle with only the bare amenities of bed, desk, lavatory and computer. This assignment was pending her departure on the science survey ship, so she had not bothered to augment the austere room in any way. She was hesitant to admit Captain Spock, but once in the room, he had headed for the BellComm terminal and never noticed anything else.

Whoever he had contacted must have been in high authority. He spent about five minutes in concentrated conversation, detailing their needs, then broke the connection without saying good-bye. He turned to where she stood by the door.

"We will be able to leave in two hours. Is there any personal equipment you need?"

"Did you ask for diving gear?" She was so awed and excited by what was about to happen that she had not even listened to what he had asked.

"Yes, as well as wet suits, and supplies for several days out, if necessary."



"Don't you have, be somewhere? Like at work, or on the ship, or something?"

"This is part of my work, and the ship is in orbit pending a new assignment. Admiral Cartwright will inform Captain Kirk of our whereabouts."

"Oh. Then let's go." How simple and logical it all was. Part of his work. And he could call an admiral and tell him what he needed and get it. She thought of her days of scrounging time, equipment and permission for everything back at the Cetacean Institute, and knew that she had made the right decision when she had leaped into Kirk's arms. When?--days, months, lifetimes--ago. She was here, the whales were here, and she would make a place for herself. This must have been what explorers and pioneers over the centuries had felt when they viewed their promised lands.

They went.


They were lucky, and had calm seas. Their craft, a forty-meter cabin cruiser with dual inboards, took the small waves with ease. They sped out past the beach where Gillian and Spock had met, and soon left land behind them.

This was where Gillian felt most at home. There was no difference between now and then, past and future--it was always the present at sea. Perhaps that was why she loved it so much. She watched Captain Spock as she held the helm. Though she knew he always kept even the smallest emotion under tight check, he seemed unusually quiet. She was uncertain how to approach him. Should she pretend that she didn't notice, or should she mention it? She decided the best thing would be to stick solely to what they were doing. Small talk would only make them both uncomfortable.

Presently, Spock told her to slow down and then to stop. As she turned off the engine, he said, "Drop anchor here, if you will, Doctor."

"Aye, sir, dropping anchor. Are the whales nearby?"

"For their standards. The link is not measurable in quantitative increments. I believe that this will be the best place to wait."

"In other words--you made a guess?"

Spock turned sharply to her, and she again had to resist the urge to draw back, but she did not. Seeing that she meant no harm by the remark, Spock's face lightened.

"Exactly," he said, deciding not to elaborate.

"And now?" she prompted.

"Now we wait. In your line of work, I'm sure you are familiar with that." Spock moved back inside the cabin, effectively ending any chance for conversation.

Salt breeze ruffled her hair and tickled her nose. She caught the delicate balance of deep water, fish, salt, rotting seaweed, her own sweat and the myriad of other smells that blended together to tell her "ocean." It was a scent that had called her since she was a child, one of which she would never tire.

She stood by the railing astern their craft. Her body swayed with the movement of the water all around her. She longed to don her diving gear and glide beneath the sun-warmed surface into the green-blue depths under her. There, she would find quiet, and soul-cleaning solitude. She knew, too, that there was savagery; the tearing jaws of feeding sharks, the starfish drilling its way into an unlucky mollusk, a moray eel waiting in hiding for its unsuspecting prey. But this ruthlessness was different from that of the people she knew. This was life and death, open and honest. She could accept it. What she could not accept, and deep-down, what she knew she had been trying to escape by leaving her own time, was the hidden viciousness, the deliberate deception, the smile that killed, the endless bitter battle of wills and wits that was her own kind. She had not been in this time long enough to know if those things still went on here and now, but what she had seen so far had encouraged her. Perhaps man's reach still exceeded his grasp, but now they were grasping so much more.

The whales. They were almost here. She could feel it. She had not realized until she had spoken to Captain Spock on the beach just how much she had missed her daily contact with the gentle behemoths. Soon, they would be here; soon they would be hers again. She clung to the railing and stared into the water as if she would bring them by wanting alone.

"You are anxious."

So intense had her concentration been that she had not heard Spock approach. She had to tear herself back to the boat. "That's putting it mildly."

"You are comfortable here, out on the water?"

"I love it. I think this is the only place I feel completely at ease."

Spock nodded. The boat gave a lurch in response to a large, cresting wave, and Spock moved away from the railing.

Gillian simply bent her knees to absorb the shifting of the deck. "I take it you're not a boating enthusiast, Captain Spock?"

"My world is a desert. The mountains and high reaches are where I am most comfortable. I had never seen a large body of water until I came to Earth. I still find it--disconcerting."

"Can you swim?" She had visions of trying to rescue a drowning Vulcan, missing her chance to talk to the whales.

"You almost had me arrested for swimming, if you recall." A tiny smile toyed with the corners of his mouth.

"Of course. How could I forget? I must say, I envy you that swim."

The boat lurched again. Spock stumbled and grasped the railing. "I shall wait in the cabin," he said, ending their moment of rapport.

Day slid into night. Spock stayed in the cabin, and Gillian remained on deck, watching and waiting. The sea was calm, with only a few clouds in the sky to break the sun beating down on the small craft.

Once, Gillian heard the "whoosh" of air from a blowhole, and ran to the side of the boat, but it had only been a pod of dolphins, come to investigate them. They chittered and clicked happily for a few minutes, then glided under the surface, only to resurface meters away as dots on the horizon. Gillian was glad all over again seeing them, knowing for sure that they had not died out. Perhaps George and Gracie would have playmates for their offspring.

Just after sunset, Spock came out on deck and stood with her.

"Are they coming?" She felt like a child on a long trip. Are we there yet, Daddy? Are we there yet?

"This boat is equipped with sensors for movement and sound. The speakers will broadcast any whale song that comes within range. Provided, of course, that they sing. The other sensors will detect any large mass moving in our vicinity." With that bit of information, he retreated back into the cabin.

Gillian sat long into the night, listening for the speakers to announce the whales' presence, and watching the stars. Jim Kirk has traveled out there, and so has Spock, she thought. What was it like? she wondered. Is it so different from the sea, where stars are important tools? Will I actually get there? If this jaunt turned out the way she hoped it would, her science survey ship might be heading for the Pacific Ocean rather than the Big Dipper, or whatever they called it now.

Sometime after midnight, she dozed in her deck chair, swayed by the motion of the sea. She woke shortly before dawn, stiff from her awkward position, realizing that she was hungry and badly in need of coffee. She headed to the small galley and met Spock on the way.

"I trust you slept well, Doctor?"

"Like a baby, Captain Spock, like a baby. Wouldn't have traded that hard deck chair for all the feather beds in the world. Would you like some breakfast?"

"Thank you, not at this time." That was the extent of their morning conversation.

The sun came up blazing and hot, and still Gillian waited. Her coffee went cold, and she longed to put on her diving gear and head out in search of the two whales, but she had learned long ago that the more impatient she was, the less likely she was to have a successful day of whale-watching. Her best sights had come when she and her boat seemed to merge with the sea, existing only in the now, waiting to be absorbed by the hugeness of the water. She tried to recapture that feeling, blanking her mind to conscious thoughts and desires, simply being aware of what was. Simply waiting.

The sun climbed higher, and Gillian lay back in her chair. What will it be like? she wondered. Will I speak, will they sing? A shadow fell over her face, and she opened her eyes to see Spock standing next to her, gazing out at--what? She again had the feeling that though he were physically next to her, his essence was far away. In a moment, he was back with her.

"What is it? Are they coming?" To her own ears, she sounded ridiculous. She could imagine what he thought of her, but she didn't care. She might never have this chance again, and she had the right to be excited.

"They know we are here. They will be here--when they get here. I must inform you now about what will happen. In order for you to be able to communicate with the whales, we must form a mental link. That means that, in only a few seconds, we will know more about each other than perhaps we would ever wish to know."

His words sank in. She had not given much thought to how they would accomplish what she wanted to do, but now she realized that he would actually be inside her mind. Could she handle it? Did she want to be that exposed, that raw and open? She had never been terribly intimate, even with her few lovers--could she be that unmasked to a complete and alien stranger? How much did she really want to talk to the whales?

She wanted it that much. It didn't matter what she had to do. She wanted this. It was what she had always wanted. If she had to be open to Spock, so be it. If he saw her as she was, unhidden by contrivance, so be it. They would both have to accept it.

"What do you have to do?" She hoped she had kept her voice steady.

"To form the link, I must touch you--so." He placed his fingers on his own face at the proper points. At her unspoken, almost unthought, question, he replied, "It will not hurt, though it will feel different from anything you have experienced before."

Gillian stood before him, her decision made. If Jim Kirk trusted him, if Gracie had told him she was pregnant, who was she to doubt?

"I trust you," she said quietly. She thought she heard him say "Humans!" under his breath, but when she thought about it later, she never saw his lips move. He stepped closer and reached for her. She stood still, neither pulling away nor leaning forward. As he touched her, she was surprised by the heat of his fingers, and then the sensation vanished, as though his fingers had sunk into her face.

Suddenly, she was within Spock, seeing out of his eyes, seeing herself. Almost, almost, she began to panic, and her perception quickly shifted back to her own eyes. Even as fear began to grow, her desire to see, to know, re-established itself, and the fear was gone, lost in wonder and curiosity.

Thoughts and images flowed, and shifted back and forth between them, faster than words, sharper than pictures. They shared, knew each other in those brief moments as few people who are together for a lifetime might know each other. No longer was he an alien and she a displaced visitor from another time. He was Spock and she Gillian, and they were totally separate and wonderfully joined at the same time.

The touch was gone. Gillian had no idea how long they stood there, but the light had barely changed, so it could not have been very long. She felt as though she had been on a pilgrimage, and had seen Truth at the end of her journey. She drew a deep breath and looked up at Spock.

Without warning, she began to laugh. "Different!" she hooted. "Oh, yes, it's different all right. 'Different from anything I have ever felt before.' Oh, Captain Spock, you are so right!" She laughed until her face was wet with tears and her sides ached. Spock watched her until she began to subside, then moved starboard, and began his own vigil.

When they get here, she thought, they'll be here when they get here. She did something with her mind--reached out, beyond herself, like looking over the ocean for a single whale spume. She felt a faint, watery presence that she had not been aware of before.

Oh, yes! she thought. That must be them. They are on their way. Her body quivered in anticipation. She felt like she had been lying under the hands of the most expert lover, who had been teasing her and teasing her closer to climax, taking his time, stroking and caressing her until she could stand it no more. And now they were on their way. She reached out again, feeling the presence more strongly this time. Hurry, she thought to them, oh, please hurry!

Spock's hand was firm on her arm. "I will control the link. If I sense you are becoming too deeply involved, I will pull you out. If that happens, there is a potential for physical shock, so I warn you--hold on to yourself."

She sensed that he wished he had tried to make her wait, to study with him for a while before attempting this, but he had known her loneliness and her desire, and so he had obliged her, if only this one time.

"I'll do my best, Captain Spock," she said.

The second night crashed down on them. At sea, that was the only way to describe it. One moment, the sky blazed with color, vivid and vibrant, purples, oranges, reds and royal blues, and then--crash--it was dark. It didn't happen like that on the beach, only at sea. Gillian watched the night fall, and knew the whales were coming.

The feeling of a presence nearby had grown steadily since she and Spock had linked. She tried to analyze it in order to remember later, but it was difficult, as she had nothing to compare it to. She forced herself not to reach out again, doing her best to heed Spock's advice, but it seemed that they were calling, reaching out to her. At times she had to bite her lips to keep from crying out, "Here! I'm here!" They knew she was there; they were on their way to her.

Spock had settled himself on the deck this evening, cross-legged, eyes closed. He looked like he was deeply asleep, but Gillian, through their link, knew the opposite. He was vibrantly awake. She, unable to be still, paced the deck, looking out to sea on either side of the boat. The presence, while nearly all-consuming, was not directional, and it maddened her.

Just when she thought she would scream from inactivity, Spock, after hours of sitting, rose in one smooth motion and went into the cabin. He came out moments later with their diving gear. He handed it to her for inspection, but she shook her head. "I won't need it, Spock. You swam without it. So will I."

"I was in an enclosed tank of water. This is open ocean."

"They won't let anything happen to me. I have to be close to them. I can't let all that stuff interfere. Just this once." Spock did not reply, but he took the equipment and put it back into the bin.

Thus prepared, they settled back to wait some more. In the heavy dark, Gillian could see the different colors of the stars. She wondered which one had given her Captain Spock.

"That one," he said, pointing.

"You're doing it, and we're not touching," she chided, gently accusing. She was long past her fear of "mind-reading."

"We are linked, and you are an exceptionally strong broadcaster. That is one of the reasons you were able to establish such a deep relationship with the whales."

Gillian drew a breath to answer him, but before she could say anything, the water on the starboard side of the boat exploded. Briny spray washed over the deck and its two occupants, drenching them soundly. Then the crash of a whale hitting the water broadside followed, and another wave sloshed over them, eliminating any dry spot that might have been lurking about.

"Yes! They're here!" Gillian jumped up and down, heedless of wet clothes, slippery deck, everything but the voices and the presence reverberating in her mind. She shook with the sheer force of their nearness, and wondered how she could have been so blind not to have noticed it before. Spock was afraid she would throw herself unprepared into the ocean, where even his night-vision would be hard-pressed to find her. He reached down and grabbed her arms, focusing on the link and damping it down.

"What--what are you doing?" she almost screamed. "I can't hear them anymore, I can't hear them! Are they gone? Are they...?"

Her frantic questions were answered by a burst of whalesong, directly from the source. She shivered at the sound; it spoke to longings deep inside her. For just a moment, before Spock had brought her under control, she had not been Human. Gillian gasped and stopped struggling against Spock, coming back to herself.

"All right," she gasped. "You can let go now, Captain Spock. I'm here. I won't go off again."

Spock released her, and she folded her arms across her chest, hugging hard to see if she were really there and not swimming down in the water under the boat.

"I see what you mean," she said, her voice trembling. "For a minute there, I forgot that I don't have flippers and a blowhole. I was ready to swim to the Bering Strait and never look back. It was the song...his song. Listen..."

They were still singing.

The sound vibrated through her, into her. She heard it through the air, and through her mind, sinking into her very soul. The wailing tones spoke of lives and dreams far beyond her knowing, but they hummed with invitation.

The whales sang and beckoned her. Not with words, but she knew what they said. She felt, more strongly than she had felt any emotion in her life, what they wanted for her. They wanted to share their secrets, to let her know their joy as they plied their way through the seas, unbound by space, by time, by convention.

They told her their names, and she found that Spock was right--she would never be able to pronounce the infinite, bubbling syllables that formed in her mind, but she would be able to think them, and know what they meant, and that would be enough.

She ran to the side of the boat as Dream-Singer slid underneath it and emerged out the other side. Mother-of-Ages rolled lazily on her back, extending one huge dorsal fin as if she were waving. As she slipped under the water, still on her back, even Spock could see the bulge in her belly, straining to be free. Gillian watched, entranced, as the feelings and sensations washed over her like the water in which the whales swam. She was aware of Spock's stabilizing presence, but she did not feel the need for stability--she was floating, flying, soaring in a world that she had only dreamed of before.

Finally, she gave in to Spock's persistence, moved away from the railing, and turned to him. He found it difficult to field the waves of intense emotion coming from her. He rarely dealt in the senses, and Gillian was nothing if not sensual. Her entire communication with the whales had an earthy, erotic foundation. Her joy at being so near the whales, her wonder at their thoughts, and her sheer physical pleasure at their love for her and for each other was almost more than he could take without becoming involved himself, and he knew he must not let that happen. She must be pulled back.

She turned to him, her eyes wide and far away. "I know their names," she breathed. "I can't pronounce them, but I know what they are and what they mean. They're talking to me. It's all because of you. Bless you. Thank you."

Then, without warning, Gillian climbed on the gunwale, and before Spock could move toward her, executed a form-perfect swan dive off starboard, cutting the water cleanly between the two whales. In the dark of night, she melted into the water, lost even to Spock's efficient night vision.

The cold Pacific water closed over her head, taking her breath and blotting out what little star light there was overhead. But as she lost, temporarily, one of her senses, her newly awakened sensitivity throbbed within her. She felt the immense, warm presence of the whales near her, and knew that they would not allow her to come to harm. No danger, now, of whalers finding her, of drift nets catching her and dragging her to a watery, drowning death. They were all free, and the whole of planet Earth's seas was their playground.

She swam as they did, with her whole body, rubbing and caressing the swimmers with hands and arms and feet as she longed to do when they were in their tank-prison in the twentieth century. She felt them hold her in their thoughts, letting her see their long history, as huge and impressive as they were. She heard--saw--touched everything they had ever done, and gave them the same gift, showing them what it was like to walk on legs, to fly over the ground, and to use hands to touch and hold.

They swam, communing, for minutes and millennia. As she sank deeper and deeper into the whales' thoughts, she began to sense a new presence, and felt, in Mother-of-Ages, small ripples that were uncomfortable and pleasurable at the same time.

The baby? Gillian's question went between them.

Soon, came the answer, not in words. Little-Swimmer is ready.

Dream-Singer came up under her, lifting, lifting, and for a moment, she was up out of the water, almost on a level with Spock who was still on deck. She saw him straining, looking out for her with body and mind-touch, but she had hidden herself in whale thought, and would not let him find her. She relented.

"Over here, Captain Spock, here!"

Spock whirled, the only time Gillian had seen or would see Spock disconcerted. He crossed the deck as if to grab her off Dream-Singer's back, but she knew he could not.

"Come on in; the water's fine!"

Dream-Singer lowered himself slowly until Gillian was free of him, then he dove deep and burst into new song. His mood had changed. His voice deepened, became reverent. Gillian swam close to Mother-of-Ages, sensing the movement within her. She felt the whale's love for her baby, and for Gillian herself, for giving her the chance to have the baby. Gillian trod water, feeling the waves of emotion wash over her like surf. She knew Spock was back with her, still on the boat, anchoring her. But this was her moment, and she hoped he would not intrude too much.

Mother-of-Ages shivered with her birth-throes. Gillian felt them through her own body, a delicious combination of pain and liquid pleasure. Little-Swimmer was indeed ready, and he wanted to come out. Dream-Singer swam beside his life-mate, singing encouragement, nuzzling her, caressing with his snout all her most tender and erotic places.

Gillian gasped as the birth burst over her like an orgasm. Mother-of-Ages was circling, circling, her body working to bring the new one out into the life-giving sea. There! He was free! Now his mother must show him how to swim to the surface where he would take his first breath.

For a moment, Gillian froze as the birth cord hung around Little-Swimmer's snout, holding him under. Then, without thinking, she dove blindly down into the dark water, led only by the strength of the new life she felt beating within her, and doing with fingers what could not be done with fins. She freed him, urging him with her hands, as his mother urged him with her snout to swim up, up into the free air.

Little-Swimmer took his first breath with a squawk, and Gillian was there to steady him, to add her thoughts to the birth-song that his father was singing. She rubbed his smooth new skin with her hands, watching as his eyes took in what little he could see in the dark. There was no fear in him, and none to learn now. The three of them could start a new generation, and grow strong in numbers and in song.

We will sing a new song. It will be our song, but yours as well. We will weave your life with ours, and you will never be gone from us, though you travel far.

Again, the not-words flowed through her mind, filling her up, and the salt ocean washed away the salt tears that ran down Gillian's face as she listened. The link was dying now. No, not dying, but fading. Spock was strongly back in her mind, but she knew that he had not lessened the link; it was the whales' doing. Even now, they wanted what was best for her, and she must go back. She swam to the side of the boat, where Spock had the ladder down for her. She climbed over, and collapsed onto the deck, sobbing, but happy. He let her be until she had cried herself out. She rose and looked out over the ocean. Dawn reddened the edges of the horizon landward. Far out to the open sea, still swimming in darkness, she fancied she could see Dream-Singer rising to breach, but she could not be sure. Perhaps it was only in her mind. time...any are to us...we will answer... The not-words were faint, only a shadow of what they had been, but she now realized that she would always hear them.

She turned to Spock. She wanted to thank him, to owe him, to promise him anything, but she had learned a bit about him during this time as well. So she only said, "I'm beat. Will you drive the boat home?"

Spock allowed himself one gesture. Reaching out, he touched Gillian's cheek very gently. "I would be honored, Doctor," he said.

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